Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 12.11.18

Miami Sunrise

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Joe Henderson, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.

With a new administration about to take over in Tallahassee, it would be a good time to make major changes to the way Florida elections are conducted.

That is, of course, unless lawmakers enjoy being mocked on national television like they were last month.

It wouldn’t be that hard to do, either. A couple of simple fixes by the Secretary of State would help immensely.

When Ron DeSantis takes over, he may do well by updating Florida’s election system. (Image via Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images)

First, and most obvious, is to require all Florida counties have the most up-to-date equipment to count the votes. That was the problem in Palm Beach County during the highly watched recount for the U.S. Senate race.

It might be good for the state to quickly focus on that while also decertifying the current voting equipment in Palm Beach — in case anyone is tempted to use the duct tape solution for one more election.

The state also should standardize the placement of instructions, which are printed in multiple languages, on the ballot. It currently allows for them to be placed in the center, left or right side of the ballot.

Why is that an issue?

Actually, one big change has already been made that should improve Broward County’s woeful election track record. On his way out of Tallahassee, Gov. Rick Scott summarily replaced embattled elections supervisor Brenda Snipes with Republican and Scott loyalist Pete Antonacci.

In the usual tight Florida elections, time becomes the enemy as the results drag out and conspiracy theories take hold. Speedy returns with top-of-line equipment and standardized ballot designs are the best way to minimize post-Election Day drama.


—@MerriamWebster: Today in Spellcheck Can’t Save You: ‘Smocking’ is a type of embroidery made of many small folds sewn into place.

—@ScottMaxwell: Chill in the air tonight. Tempted to light a fire … but worried it will get too smocky.

—@MarcoRubio: Our incredible staff conducted a 3-day Recovery Assistance Center in Panama City, Florida, this weekend. They helped 1950 Floridians impacted by the recent Hurricane obtain the help they needed. I am blessed to have them on my staff & grateful to them for a job well done.

—@DaveWeigel: Every once in a while I remember that the freshman House Democratic class includes Donna Shalala.

DWSTweets: Last week I celebrated my 11th year as a breast cancer survivor. This week I’m celebrating that insurance companies can no longer discriminate against those of us with pre-existing conditions. Visit to Get Covered before December 15th!

—@DanaYoungFL: The storms have passed, and the sun is shining this morning in Tampa. The first of our two daughters has arrived home for Christmas Break. Number two home soon! Blessings!

—@Fineout: According to state officials Thousands of mailed ballots in Florida were not counted in the state’s razor-thin elections because they were delivered too late.

—@DanTallahassee Cheesin: @GovRonDeSantis‘ committee spent more than $20,000 on “photography” after election

—@MitchEPerry: Governor-elect @RonDeSantisFL stepped outside of Capitol today to speak briefly at wreath ceremony honoring veterans and fallen service members.

—@SMTravis: I’m not just a skank. I’m a verified skank. I’ve been trying to get my Twitter cred for more than a year now, and all it took was a viral moment of a PR woman calling me the skank who stank.


116th Congress convenes — 23; College Football National Championship — 27 Florida’s gubernatorial inauguration — 28; Office of Insurance Regulation’s OIR Summit begins — 35; Super Bowl LIII — 54; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 63; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 84; Tampa mayoral election — 84; ‘Captain Marvel’ release — 87; Iowa Caucuses — 419; 2020 General Election — 693.


Transition panels to meet — Governor-elect Ron DeSantis’ Transition Team announced this week’s meeting schedule for his Transition Advisory Committees. A public conference call number will be made available on before the meetings for members of the public and news media who would like to listen in. Otherwise, meeting locations will be provided on the site soon:

— The Transition Advisory Committee on Health & Wellness (Lt. Gov.-elect Jeanette Nuñez, Alan Levine, and others) meets Wednesday, Dec. 12, 1 p.m., location TBA.

— The Transition Advisory Committee on the Economy (Will Weatherford and others) also meets Wednesday at 1 p.m., by phone.

— The Transition Advisory Committee on Education & Workforce Development (Marva Johnson, Mori Hosseini, and others) meets Thursday, Dec. 13 at 1 p.m., location TBA.

Brian Mast outlines early path for Ron DeSantis’ algae battle” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Leading up to the election, DeSantis campaigned heavily on curbing the recurring blue-green algae that plague southern coastal waterways. Will the Governor-elect follow through after his Inauguration in January? Absolutely, according to Republican Congressman Mast, who chairs DeSantis’ agriculture and environment advisory panel that met Monday in Tallahassee to preview Florida’s water quality and supply. Mast, whose Treasure Coast district suffers from the near-annual and toxic algae outbreaks, said DeSantis’ immediate actions as the state’s chief executive will likely be to “reweigh the scales” of the parties involved in and affected by water in Lake Okeechobee. Discharges of nutrient-rich water in Okeechobee have been faulted for the outbreaks in southeastern waterways. According to Mast, DeSantis could wield his influence to change when and why those discharges occur.

Ron DeSantis and Brian Mast during a boat ride out of downtown Stuart — accompanied by state Sen. Joe Negron, environmental advocate Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch. (Image via TCPalm)


Taking on the status quo: Freshman Democratic lawmaker says no thanks to attending exclusive corporate-sponsored event” via Florida Phoenix — Newly-elected Orlando Democratic state Rep. Anna Eskamani says she plans to fight for her constituents in Tallahassee, and that means the battle has begun in the status-quo world of Florida’s capital … State lawmakers will be in the Capitol this coming week for their first committee meetings leading up to the 2019 legislative session, and Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) is slated to entertain freshmen lawmakers at the exclusive Governors Club on Tuesday. But in a tweet, Eskamani said she won’t be there.

Medicaid cuts inbound, according to state economists — The $98 million cut to Medicaid is likely to be repeated in the 2019 Legislative Session, state economists say. Lawmakers removed the cash, earmarked to provide retroactive coverage to new enrollees, last year and will have to reapprove the cut this year. Democrats said the cut costs the state more than it saves, but Republicans in the GOP-controlled legislature disagree. State economists included the cut as recurring in their forecasts despite the law needing to be re-upped this year, a break from how they usually handle similar budget issues. With looming costs related to hurricane recovery, however, it’s likely lawmakers will have to raid that silo of the budget again in order to meet their mandate of passing a balanced budget.

Happening today — The Senate will hold a memorial service for Sen. Dorothy Hukill, a Port Orange Republican who died Oct. 2 after a recurrence of cervical cancer, 3:30 p.m., Senate Chamber, The Capitol.


Happening today — Members of the late Gov. Lawton Chiles‘ family and staff mark the 20th anniversary of his passing this week. He died in office in 1998, three weeks short of completing the eighth year of his second term as Florida’s chief executive. Those who plan to attend include Bud (Gov. Chiles’ oldest son) and his wife Kitty; youngest son Ed; daughter Rhea; Tom Herndon, a former Chief of Staff; Jon Moyle Jr., a former legislative director; and Ron Sachs, who was Chiles’ communications director. That’s at 10 a.m., in the conference room at Sachs Media Group, 114 S. Duval St., Tallahassee.

Former Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles, who died 20 years ago this week, will be remembered by staff members, friends and family. (Image via the Tallahassee Democrat)

Florida school shooting survivors are finalists for Time magazine’s 2018 Person of the Year” via Florida Phoenix — The shortlist of candidates for Time magazine’s 2018 Person of the Year was unveiled Monday morning, and among the top ten candidates are the March For Our Lives student activists from Parkland. The group was formed in the immediate aftermath of the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 students and school administrators were shot and killed … The other shortlisted nominees for Person of the Year include President Donald Trump, Special Counselor Robert Mueller, Black Panther film director Ryan Coogler, slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Christine Blasey Ford (the woman who accused Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh of assaulting her), and more. The winner will be announced Tuesday morning on the Today Show.

FDLE investigation finds Brevard school officials manipulated process for hiring lobbying firm” via Florida Today — State law enforcement officials have been investigating the Brevard County school district for more than a year, unbeknown to the public, and found that leaders in the district manipulated the process for hiring a lobbying firm … But while the FDLE report was critical … it said no laws had been broken. Still, the school officials’ conduct was “highly improper, highly unethical and very disturbing” … A July 2016 meeting at which the district’s bid review committee selected a new lobbying firm … came down to Mixon and Associates, the district’s firm of almost 20 years, or a new firm, Capital City Consulting. Investigators found that district officials purposely altered numbers during the bid process so that Mixon and Associates would not be chosen.

Citizens pitches insurance rate hikes” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Residential customers of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. could see an average 8.2 percent rate increase next year, according to a new proposal. The proposal, which would take effect in September 2019, will go before the Citizens Board of Governors during a meeting Wednesday. If the board signs off, the proposal would need approval from the state Office of Insurance Regulation. The average 8.2 percent hike would hit “personal lines” policyholders, including owners of single-family homes, owners of condominiums and renters — though increases would vary across the state depending on factors such as location. Commercial policies could see an average 9 percent increase. Citizens blamed water-damage claims and the controversial practice known as “assignment of benefits” for driving up costs and spurring a need for higher rates.

State gets win in tribe tax dispute” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower-court decision that dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Seminole Tribe of Florida against the Florida Department of Revenue. The cases have involved issues such as tribal sovereignty and federal limits on the power of the state to impose taxes on tribal land. After losing the first case, the tribe filed a second lawsuit that more narrowly focused on the constitutionality of taxing 14 types of activities on tribal land, including law enforcement, education, health care, agriculture and gaming. But in upholding a decision by U.S. District Judge Robert Scola to dismiss the case, the appeals court ruled that the lawsuit was effectively an attempt to relitigate issues from the earlier case — even though the tribe focused on the 14 types of activities.

Andrew Fay shared ‘cybersecurity expertise’ at Harvard — The Public Service Commissioner was invited to address the security of electricity grids at the Harvard Electricity Policy Group (HEPG) meeting last Thursday in West Palm Beach. Fay said the reliability and stability of the electric grid are “at the core of any analysis in relation to cybersecurity protections.” He addressed how risk-based security design requires expert knowledge of both electricity operations and complex IT systems. The discussion explored the monitoring, oversight, and analysis of cyber security designs. “Participating in this discussion … is timely and vitally important,” Fay said.

Andrew Fay will be talking cybersecurity at Harvard University.

Deadline to apply for Statewide Prosecutor is this week — The Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) is accepting applications to fill the position of Statewide Prosecutor, which becomes vacant on Jan. 8, until 5 p.m. this Wednesday, Dec. 12. Application forms are here. An original signed, unredacted paper application must be mailed to JNC Chair Jason Unger, GrayRobinson, 301 S. Bronough St., Ste. 600, Tallahassee 32301-1724. Also, an unredacted copy of the original application (including all attachments) and a redacted copy must be emailed, in pdf format, to all Commission members by the same date and time. Applicants selected for personal interviews will be informed of interview times by email. On Monday, only one application had been received: current Statewide Prosecutor Nicholas B. Cox reapplied for the position.

Pam Bondi’s dog adoptions could be coming to a close” via the News Service of Florida — On the last meeting for Bondi, Scott and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam — Bondi thanked her fellow Cabinet members for “indulging me” in a “highly unusual” step to “save a lot of animals.” Despite efforts to get returning Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis or one of the newly elected Cabinet members to take over the reins of the program, no one has publicly declared they will carry on Bondi’s mission. Bondi’s pet drive began after she suggested that Humane Society of Florida’s state director Kate MacFall bring a rescue dog to a Cabinet meeting. “There is no other elected official that has done what Pam Bondi has done for dogs, and she’s used this platform to help a lot of dogs.” The effort has a perfect record in finding the dog-of-the-day a home, MacFall said.

What Taylor Patrick Biehl is reading — “You can ask PA to legalize marijuana use for anxiety” by via Billy Penn — Pennsylvania currently recognizes 21 conditions that qualify residents for a medical marijuana card, but that number could soon grow. A just-approved application process allows people to fill out a form requesting the state’s Department of Health add additional predicaments to the qualifying list. Some common ailments advocates feel should be included, but so far are not: anxiety, depression and ADHD.


Marco Rubio focuses on small-business issues on Capitol Hill” via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News — Rubio paired up with U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown to unveil the “Small Business Fair Lending Act.” The Senators insist their bill will “protect small businesses by closing a loophole used by nefarious lenders and allowing the ability for them to be heard in a court of law” and “bill codifies the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) 1985 ban on confessions of judgment and extends it to include small business borrowers. Confessions of judgment require a borrower to give up his or her rights in court before obtaining a loan, and allows the lender to seize the borrower’s assets, without warning, in order to satisfy the debt.”

Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown has paired with Marco Rubio on a Senate bill focusing on small business.

Bill Nelson’s Senate farewell to space speech urges exploration forever more” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — In a floor speech that moved from touting science and economics to the future of human life, Nelson essentially said goodbye to being part of America’s space policy and urged his colleagues to support science, space, and exploration forever more. When Nelson departs in January, he’ll take with him a great, career-long passion for space exploration, NASA, and Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral in Florida. While Scott accused Nelson, during the election campaign, of not doing enough in Washington for NASA and KSC, no one could credibly question Nelson’s zeal. Nelson put that devotion on full display covering both the intimate and the implications, during a 22-minute U.S. Senate floor speech Monday that may well be his last there on space. “Will humanity still exist far in the future if we chose to stop exploring now? The cosmos offers us limitless opportunities to expand, not just survive, but to thrive,” Nelson said.

House Democrats call on John Kelly to apologize to Frederica Wilson” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Will White House Chief of Staff Kelly issue an apology to Democratic South Florida U.S. Rep. Wilson before he heads out the door? A growing number of House Democrats say his regrets remain long overdue. “Before General Kelly steps down, I hope he will offer a long overdue apology to Congresswoman Frederica Wilson for lying about her in the press,” said U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, a California Democrat. “He absolutely owes her an apology, and his refusal to do so isn’t a sign of strength — it’s cowardice,” added U.S. Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

SPOTTED — Matt Gaetz at No. 10 on the POLITICO Playbook Power List 2019 — The controversial Florida Republican and ardent Donald Trump supporter, who just won re-election, will continue making his plea to protect the president … Although he believes defending Trump’s presidency will be an uphill battle, Gaetz also said he’s willing to work across the aisle on some issues, such as medical marijuana. “I made mention to some of my Republican colleagues that I thought there might be some bills that we would support that Republicans were not interested in hearing that Democrats might be interested in hearing,” he said. “And one of my colleagues said to me, ‘Well, I agree with you, but we wouldn’t want to give Nancy Pelosi a win.’ That is very counterproductive in my view.”

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen gives farewell speech in U.S. House” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Retiring U.S. Rep. Ros-Lehtinen gave her farewell speech on the floor on the U.S. House Monday, offering a retrospective of her career and a “thank you” to her constituents in Florida’s 27th Congressional District … Ros-Lehtinen was born in Cuba and was the first Latin American woman elected to Congress. “America opened its arms to my family and to me as we fled the Communist (Fidel) Castro regime,” Ros-Lehtinen recalled. “When we arrived in Miami, it was in one of the last commercial flights out of Cuba. I was only 8 years old.” She routinely disagreed with Trump on immigration, once again voicing her support for the acceptance of refugees in her Monday speech. “We are a country that says you can be successful no matter where you started. And that is something that we do not ever take for granted in my South Florida community.”

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen says her goodbyes after three decades in the U.S. House.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell names Laura Rodriguez as Chief of Staff — Mucarsel-Powell announced the appointment ahead of the 116th Congress. Rodriguez formerly served as a Senior Advisor to outgoing U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. “As someone who was raised in the district, Laura is very familiar with the needs of the communities I will represent,” Mucarsel-Powell said. “Her experience working on Capitol Hill and her work ethic will serve our district very well.” Rodriguez said she and Mucarsel-Powell hope “to help all residents of her District access affordable health care, fight for common sense gun reform, address the unique challenges South Florida faces with Climate Change and Sea-Level Rise and protect our environment.” Mucarsel-Powell will be sworn in on Jan. 3. She defeated incumbent Republican Carlos Curbelo for the 26th Congressional District seat.


Thousands of mailed ballots in Florida were not counted” via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press — The Department of State informed a federal judge that 6,670 ballots were mailed ahead of the Nov. 6 election but were not counted because they were not received by Election Day. The two counties yet to report their totals are Palm Beach and Polk. Under Florida law, ballots mailed inside the United States must reach election offices by 7 p.m. on Election Day. Overseas ballots are counted if they are received up to 10 days after the election. A group called VoteVets Action Fund along with two Democratic organizations filed a lawsuit a few days after the 2017 election that argued the ballots should count if they were mailed before Election Day. But U.S. District Judge Mark Walker said the restriction was reasonable. He turned down an emergency request that all properly postmarked ballots received up to 10 days after the election be counted. The lawsuit, however, is still pending.

Thousands of ballots were uncounted in 2018, according to The Associated Press.

Vote-by-mail scandal in North Carolina exposes Florida’s lax laws” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — In North Carolina, a Congressional race might get a rare election do-over after allegations surfaced that a political operative helped the Republican candidate win by illegally collecting absentee, or vote-by-mail, ballots. Although Florida has imposed strong voter ID laws for casting a ballot at a polling place, it’s done virtually nothing to stop fraud in the vote-by-mail process. Most everywhere in Florida, it’s not illegal to collect ballots. Rather, it’s only illegal to pay someone to collect ballots in Florida, a loophole that allows campaign volunteers and even candidates themselves to go door to door collecting voters’ ballots. Another safeguard, requiring the signature of a witness, such a family member, on the vote by mail ballot envelope, is not required in Florida. Florida used to have both protections, but Florida’s Republican-led Legislature stripped them away.

Meanwhile, in The Peach State … — “Georgia House election do-over separated by just two votes” via Politically Georgia — A Republican incumbent appears to have lost a rare repeat election for a Georgia House seat by just two votes, but he has yet to concede the race and is considering his legal options. Chris Erwin’s lead over state Rep. Dan Gasaway narrowed from three votes to two votes. The repeat election was ordered because dozens of voters received ballots for the wrong districts in the May GOP primary. No Democrat was on the ballot, so the winner will represent the district spanning three northeast Georgia counties. While Erwin has declared victory and said he’s ready to “put campaign politics behind us,” Gasaway is raising the specter of a court fight.

Andrew Gillum’s committee still reeling in donations” via Florida Politics — The last few weeks of November Gillum receive almost $1.25 million in contributions to his affiliated political committee, Forward Florida. According to a newly filed campaign finance report covering Nov. 2 through Nov. 30, the soft money account cashed nearly $1.5 million in checks, with the vast majority of those receipts coming in after the general election wrapped on Nov. 6. … The committee report shows a handful of large contribs — $150,000 from Teamsters Florida PC, and two $100,000 checks from Florida-based law firms. Another two-dozen donors chipped in $10,000 or more after the election, with thousands more small-dollar donors rounding out the report. … Gillum’s committee only reported $146,000 in spending during from Nov. 2 through Nov. 30.

— 2020 —

Four more lawmakers open 2020 campaign accounts” via Florida Politics — Three incumbent Republicans and one Democratic member of the Florida House opened campaign accounts for their 2020 re-election bids last week, making for 50 House incumbents who’ve taken the first step toward re-election. Tops on the list was Palm Coast Republican Rep. Paul Renner, who filed for another term in HD 24. He is set to take over as House Speaker after the 2022 elections. … Renner was joined in filing for re-election by two freshman Republicans: Osprey Rep. James Buchanan, who represents HD 74, and Land O’ Lakes Rep. Ardian Zika, who represents HD 37. … Also filing for re-election was Wellington Democratic Rep. Matt Willhite, who won his second term in Palm Beach County’s HD 86 last month.

Paul Renner is one of several House members lining up for 2020. (Photo: Florida Times-Union)

No go: Parkland parent Max Schachter declines run for HD 97 seat” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Schachter, who lives in Coral Springs, had said he was weighing a run for the seat after state Rep. Jared Moskowitz was tapped by GOP Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis to lead the state’s Division of Emergency Management. That appointment will trigger a special election once Moskowitz resigns from his seat. But in a Twitter announcement, Schachter said his work preventing future mass shootings in the state is best accomplished outside the Legislature. “The next school mass murderer is already out there,” Schachter wrote. “The gun he is going to use is already out there. My mission is to educate every school in the U.S. to mitigate the casualties when this happens.”


Mark Wilson: Preparing Florida’s infrastructure for smart growth and development” via Florida Politics — Florida is already the third largest state in America and we’re growing by over 1,000 new residents every day. We have 21 million residents and we’ll grow by 5 million more by 2030. The good news is that Florida’s business leaders have a plan and it’s getting traction. This is good for Florida, good for job creation and it’s a great way to Secure Florida’s Future. As Florida’s population changes, it is important that our infrastructure systems respond to their changing needs. Creating long-term investments in Florida’s transportation, energy, water, telecommunications and agriculture infrastructure is essential. Governor-elec DeSantis, Senate President Bill Galvano and House Speaker Jose Oliva have all signaled an interest in keeping innovation and infrastructure at the core of Florida’s economic development future. This is great news as we fight to Secure Florida’s Future.


Personnel note: Stephanie Haridopolos named chair of Florida Healthy Kids” via Florida Politics — CFO Jimmy Patronis appointed Dr. Haridopolos as Chair of the Florida Healthy Kids Corp. Board of Directors. Haridopolos, a family practice physician, is married to lobbyist and former Senate President Mike Haridopolos. “Dr. Haridopolos’ medical expertise and her leadership will bring a fresh perspective to Florida Healthy Kids,” Patronis said in a statement. Healthy Kids is a “nonprofit, public-private partnership created by the Florida Legislature to expand access to affordable, child-centered health insurance,” a news release explained.


Every state has a favorite Christmas movie, says study. Florida’s is a little, um, dark” via Madeleine Marr of the Miami Herald — Movie industry news site Streaming Observer conducted a study on Americans’ cinematic tastes state to state. Using data from online movie review aggregators Rotten Tomatoes, SO created a list of the most popular Christmas movies of all time. That list was then compared to Google Trends data to determine which film each state was “obsessed with,” and the results, especially for Florida, were a little surprising. Floridians apparently aren’t pining to watch anything sentimental or romantic … The Sunshine State’s overall favorite Christmas movie is 1992’s classic “Batman Returns.” Hmm, is there something about nice weather and beaches that make people want to watch twisted holiday superhero movies? See the movie map here.

Hmmmm: Florida’s favorite Christmas movie?

Heartwarming Christmas: “88-year-old Florida mom reunited with the daughter she thought died 69 years ago” via Eric Glasser of WTSP — “I knew that I was adopted from the beginning,” Connie Moultrop said. For decades, Moultrop had been searching for her birth mother. Her adopted parents both died when she was young. last year, she tried something new. One of those popular DNA ancestry kits. The result? It turns out Connie had two half-sisters on her father’s side. She also found a cousin who told her Connie’s mother was still alive and living at an apartment complex for seniors in Tampa. At 88-years-old, Genevieve Purinton can still hardly believe it. She’d been told her daughter — the only child she ever had — died at childbirth. Last week, after nearly seven decades, the Christmas wish Connie had made every year finally came true. Moultrop traveled to Tampa and met her mother.

— ALOE — 

Scientists solved a decades-old swamp-monster mystery in Florida” via Ephrat Livni of Quartz — A mythical and mysterious swamp monster — also known as a species of giant salamander — the reticulated siren is found in the shallow freshwater marshes of Florida and Alabama, and locally known as a “leopard eel.” Rarely spotted and never previously studied by herpetologists, the siren made its scientific debut on Dec. 5. In a study in PLOS ONE, researchers from Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas, and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center in Jekyll, Georgia, described, classified, and named the salamander species for the first time, placing it in the Siren family. The first such giant salamander was captured in 1970 and was at the time suspected to be an undescribed new species. But few of them have been seen since, so there hasn’t been any formal work in the intervening half-century.

Mythbusted: The mysterious swamp monster — a species of giant salamander — is found in the shallow freshwater marshes of Florida and Alabama, and locally known as a ‘leopard eel.’

Disney makes industry box office history again with $7B+ global haul” via Anthony D’Alessandro of Deadline Hollywood — Broken down, Disney earned an estimated $4.069B overseas through Dec. 9, marking the studio’s second-biggest year and the third biggest in industry history. With Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns set to open on Dec. 19, Disney’s domestic box office through Dec. 9 is an estimated $2.948B, approaching the $3B industry record set by the Burbank, California lot in 2016. Recently Deadline reported that 2018 is passing the $11 billion mark at the domestic box office at a record clip besting its pace in 2016. To date, four of the top eight global releases of the year are from The Walt Disney Studios, including the top two global and top three domestic releases.


The best of birthday wishes to our friend Dominic Calabro of Florida TaxWatch, who is celebrating today.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, Wes Wolfe, and Mike Wright.

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