Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 12.14.18
Sunset at a crowded Naples Pier at 878 5th Ave South in Naples, Florida on January 22, 2012

Sunset at Naples Pier

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

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

First in Sunburn — Jose Oliva names chairs for House appropriations subcommittees — The House Speaker on Thursday filled out the top posts for the chambers seven appropriations subcommittees.

House Speaker Jose Oliva has filled leadership roles in the all-important appropriations subcommittees.

Ascending to the top spot for the Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee is Key Largo Rep. Holly Raschein, who chaired the Natural Resources & Public Lands Subcommittee under former House Speaker Richard Corcoran. Taking over the Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee is Pace Rep. Jayer Williamson, who chaired the Government Accountability Committee over the past two sessions. Tequesta Rep. MaryLynn Magar, is moving on from the chair post for the Health Innovation Subcommittee to head up the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee. Brevard County Rep. Randy Fine will take over the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee. He previously served as vice chair on the Careers & Competition Subcommittee.

For the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, Oliva has tapped Jacksonville Rep. Clay Yarborough, who most recently served as vice-chair on the Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee. Clearwater Rep. Chris Latvala will preside over the PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee, having previously chaired the PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee. Finally, Panama City Rep. Jay Trumbull will command the Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee. He moves up from chairing the Energy & Utilities Subcommittee and the Select Committee on Triumph Gulf Coast.

Some exclusive notes from the Ron DeSantis transition:

—The Gov.-elect this week met with Wisconsin U.S. Senate candidate, state Senator and nurse Leah Vukmir. Speculation was that she was in consideration for a post in the incoming administration (perhaps at AHCA), but their talks were more about policy than a position, sources say.

—A name that keeps popping up as one under consideration for a post in the DeSantis administration: Former Republican state Sen. Dana Young. She has a lot of friends inside and outside the transition. We wouldn’t be surprised if she landed somewhere in Tallahassee. One source suggests she might be tapped to lead the Office of Medical Marijuane Use.

Welcome to the worldConnor Reid Stevens, the brand new addition to the Stevens family. The baby weighed in at 7 lbs 11 oz. Congrats to Jodi and Monte.

Welcome to the world Connor Reid Stevens.


@SherylNYT: @NancyPelosi says House Ways and Means Committee will ‘take the first steps’ toward obtaining @realDonaldTrump‘s tax returns.

@MarcoRubio: The good news is that the U.S. economy is booming The bad news is that the benefits of this boom aren’t reaching all Americans We need policies that address the serious structural problems in our economy & help restore opportunity & the dignity of work

@AndrewLearned: Trumps Inaugural Committee broke campaign finance law, and it looks like folks will go to jail. Not a good omen for @RossSpano who did the same, laundered the cash personally, and stole a seat in Congress

@PriestJax: To “stall” is a verb that means to avoid doing something or delay in a deliberate way because you need more time or do not want to do something. (i.e., some members of the Florida legislature want to stall the implementation of Amendment 4 to suppress the vote.)

@RepTedDeutch: There is no evidence that arming teachers will make our students safer. There are many stories of students being accidentally hurt when teachers have guns in their classrooms. Reminder. MSD commission took no testimony on arming teachers but recommended it anyway.

@CortesBob: There are many things I will miss from being a legislator but stuck in traffic on I-75 won’t be one of them. #trafficsucks

@ShevrinJones: @EvanPower is a good man; a good man that has owned up to his mistake. He will come out of this better.


116th Congress convenes — 20; College Football National Championship — 24; Florida’s gubernatorial inauguration — 25; Scott Maddox trial begins — 31; Office of Insurance Regulation’s OIR Summit begins — 32; Super Bowl LIII — 51; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 60; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 81; Tampa mayoral election — 81; ‘Captain Marvel’ release — 84; Iowa Caucuses — 416; 2020 General Election — 690.


Ron DeSantis says Amendment 4 should be delayed until he signs bill from lawmakers” via Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis said the amendment, which would restore voting rights for most ex-felons who have served their sentences, should take effect after state lawmakers pass “implementing language” in a bill that is then sent to him for his signature. That means at least a two-month delay in restoring felon rights. Advocates of Amendment 4, like the American Civil Liberties Union, say the measure should go into effect Jan. 8, but Session doesn’t start until March 5. This could deny voting rights for many in Tampa hoping to cast a ballot in the mayor’s race. DeSantis sounded blasé about the delay, framing it as a mere formality. “They’re going to be able to do that in March,” DeSantis said, referring to the 60-day Legislative Session. “There’s no way you can go through this Session without implementing it.”

Ron DeSantis says he wants to wait for the legislature before enforcing Amendment 4.

>>>Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo released the following statement in response to DeSantis’ decision to wait to implement Amendment 4: “Floridians have spoken and overwhelmingly voted to restore voting rights for felons. Ron DeSantis and Republicans don’t get to decide whether to implement what is now law — they must fulfill the will of the people. This is another act of voter suppression by Republicans who want to pick and choose who should have the right to vote.”

Key lawmakers now saying they may need to interpret what voters meant in approving Amendment 4 to restore felon voting rights” via Mitch Perry of Florida Phoenix — In the weeks since more than 64 percent of Floridians approved Constitutional Amendment 4 to automatically restore voting rights to more than 1.4 million felons, there has been growing concerns that the Republican-led Legislature may find ways to “slow-walk” the process. The central question is: Does Amendment 4 automatically kick-in next month, or will the Legislature need to get involved? “I would dislike the Legislature from taking any steps that might be perceived as thwarting or slowing down the voter’s intent,” Pinellas County Democratic state Sen. Darryl Rouson said at a meeting of the Legislature’s Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Committee. Rouson believes the law automatically kicks in on January 8 and said other legal experts interpret it the same way. But Secretary of State Ken Detzner has questioned whether the state’s 67 county Supervisors of Election can go ahead and start registering felons to vote without an edict from the state Legislature.

Tweet, tweet:


DeSantis is real close to Donald Trump. Check it out.” via Michael Van Sickler and Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — Not that anyone needs a reminder, but Florida is really important to President Donald Trump. Exhibit DDD: During a meeting with governors-elect, it was DeSantis who got the prized seat next to Trump. Why does Florida matter so much? Think 2020. Governors, who appoint the Secretary of States who oversee Florida’s election system are very important come presidential elections. Who says? None other than Steve Bannon, who was Trump’s campaign manager. “If Rick Scott was not Governor, it would have been very hard for us to win Florida” in 2016,” Bannon said.

Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis are close, just see for yourself.

First on #FlaPol —Ken Lawson tapped to head DEO under DeSantis” via Florida Politics — Lawson, a veteran of Gov. Scott‘s administration, will next lead the Department of Economic Opportunity when DeSantis becomes Governor. That’s according to sources inside the transition team who spoke with Florida Politics, and later confirmed via an official news release. Lawson is now president and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s public-private tourism agency, and was Secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation before that … He’s “held numerous regulatory positions within the private sector and federal government,” according to one bio.

>>>Even Americans for Prosperity digs the Lawson pick: “We look forward to working with DEO Executive Director, Ken Lawson, to ensure Florida has a great climate that sets a level playing field for all businesses and avoids picking winners and losers in the marketplace,” said interim State Director Skylar Zander.

First on #FlaPol —DeSantis wants Jamal Sowell to lead Enterprise Floridavia Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — DeSantis has recommended Sowell to serve as the next President and CEO of Enterprise Florida, Inc. (EFI). Most recently, Sowell served as chief of staff for Port Tampa Bay. DeSantis praised him for his work in that role, in a statement. EFI’s Board of Directors officially must appoint Sowell, but DeSantis’ imprimatur all but guarantees him the job. “A native Floridian, Jamal Sowell is a person of integrity who has served his country and, now, has successfully helped to lead and grow the Port of Tampa Bay — one of the largest economic engines in the region,” DeSantis said. “I am proud to recommend Jamal to serve as the next president and CEO of Enterprise Florida. I know he will bring his acumen to the department and will keep our state competitive and ensure our workforce has opportunities.”

Ron DeSantis is looking toward Jamal Sowell to head Enterprise Florida.

DeSantis education advisory panel calls for more choice, accountability in Florida schools” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Participants called for improved accountability for achieving desired results, maximized and expanded opportunities in education, and as much individualized attention and personalization as possible to meet each student’s unique needs. “The closer we can get to individualizing education for each child, the more success we will see,” said Marva Johnson, Florida Board of Education chairwoman and co-chair of the transition committee. Key to achieving that goal, members said, is ensuring that parents and students have adequate information about the options available to them from kindergarten through college and university. That means greater transparency in the accountability measures that are available, they said.

When it comes to MMJ, DeSantis will do what Scott won’t — It’s been two years since Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana, but under exiting Gov. Scott’s administration the rollout has been sluggish — the state has only issued half of the grower licenses created by the implementation bill, for instance. Republican Sen. Rob Bradley, the chamber’s budget chief, told Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida on Wednesday he expects that to change once DeSantis is in the Governor’s Mansion. “One of the things that has frustrated me is that a lot of the issues both perceived and real in the rollout of medical marijuana have been related to the implementation of laws rather than the underlying laws themselves,” Bradley said. “So I’m encouraged that Gov.-elect DeSantis has taken a real interest in making sure that law is fully implemented and that there is going to be, I believe, focus on the executive branches of making sure that we do things as quickly as possible.” DeSantis pledged to implement the will of the voters on the campaign trail, and state Rep. Ray Rodrigues said he is “confident” the former congressman would keep his word.

Assignment editors — DeSantis will visit Bay County to assess damage and ongoing recovery after Hurricane Michael. All times Central: 8 a.m., Springfield City Hall, 3529 E. 3rd St., Springfield; 9 a.m., Everitt Middle School, 608 School Ave., Panama City; 10 a.m., Bay County EOC, 700 Hwy. 2300, Southport. After this stop, DeSantis will be available to the media outside the EOC.

Marva Johnson’s comments point to successful Richard Corcoran appointment” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Johnson, who chairs the board and also helps lead DeSantis’ education and workforce advisory committee, didn’t acknowledge a potential conflict after asked whether her spot on the transition committee, which met in Tallahassee, would influence her vote on Corcoran’s appointment hearing scheduled for Monday. But she did draw a parallel between her roles on the Board and the advisory panel, suggesting that she’s keeping DeSantis’ recommendation in the fore of Monday’s decision because DeSantis was elected to statewide office. “I think it would be irresponsible of us as transition team members to not remember the significance of [DeSantis’] thoughts when [he was] elected statewide,” Johnson said, drawing the parallel.


State updates GR estimate — LobbyTools reported that the Florida Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research (EDR) updated its General Revenue Fund Financial Outlook Statement. General revenue is unrestricted money that can be used, among other things, to provide state services. The total funds available for the fiscal year 2019-20 are now estimated to be $34.7 billion. “This figure is down $15.6 million from the November outlook,” LobbyTools said. The current budget is $88.7 billion, which includes state ‘trust fund’ dollars and money from the federal government.

Bill Galvano says Senate won’t act on Brenda Snipes suspension” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Senate President Galvano said his chamber wouldn’t act on Snipes‘ suspension by Gov. Scott. The reason: Not enough time. Galvano also points to a 1934 Florida Supreme Court advisory opinion that suggests Snipes’ rescinding her resignation doesn’t count. Under the state constitution, the Senate is responsible for deciding whether a suspended public official should be permanently stripped of one’s position or reinstated. Snipes had offered to quit and did so after facing criticism over her tenure heading the Supervisor’s office. That resignation would have taken effect on Jan. 4, but Scott stepped in on Nov. 30, suspending her immediately and naming Enterprise Florida CEO Pete Antonacci as her replacement. That action prompted Snipes to attempt to take back her resignation and challenge Scott’s suspension.

Bill Galvano says the Senate does not have enough time to act against former Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes.

Galvano ‘open’ to arming teachers” via The Associated Press — Galvano will consider the proposal the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission passed 13-1. The commission is investigating the Feb. 14 massacre that left 17 dead and making recommendations to the governor and Legislature. Supporters argue that even the best response by law enforcement will likely take two to three minutes to confront a shooter, while teachers could immediately Galvano said he wants a “realistic conversation” about what arming teachers would accomplish and that he plans to speak to opponents like the state teacher’s union and PTA. They say adding guns will make schools less safe and that teachers should not also have to be armed guards.

Galvano considers lifting cap on MMJ licenses  Galvano said he would consider lifting the cap on Florida medical marijuana growing licenses. Galvano told Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida he was open to cutting the restriction from Florida’s medical marijuana law because it would allow more patients to access the drug. In an October ruling, Leon County Circuit Court Judge Charles Dodson struck down the license cap, but the decision is currently tied up in appeals. On Wednesday, Senate budget chief Bradley and state Rep. Ray Rodrigues, who sponsored bill implementing the medical marijuana amendment, said they were optimistic DeSantis would keep his campaign pledge to implement the will of the voters, who voted 71-39 in favor of the amendment two years ago.

Proposed ‘fracking’ ban re-emerges in Senate” via News Service of Florida — After failed attempts to pass such a bill in the past, a Senate Democrat filed a proposal Thursday that would ban the controversial oil- and natural-gas drilling process known as “fracking.” Orlando Democratic Sen. Linda Stewart filed the proposal (SB 146) for consideration during the 2019 Legislative Session, which will start in March. Environmental groups and some lawmakers have long wanted to block potential fracking in Florida, but bills have died. Last year, former Sen. Young, a Tampa Republican, filed a bill (SB 462) to ban fracking. It passed two Senate panels before dying the Appropriations Committee. A similar bill in the House of Representatives died before being heard in committee. Fracking, in part, involves injecting water, sand and chemicals underground to create fractures in rock formations, allowing natural gas and oil to be released.

Will Robinson looks to restore septic inspections” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — “I heard about nothing else more than red tide during the course of my campaign,” Robinson said. “Even at my victory party, a supporter said to me, ‘Will, do something. Big or small, do something about red tide.’” This may fall into the former category. Septic tank leakage this year was frequently cited among the sources of nutrients feeding both the blue-green algae in Lake Okeechobee and the red tide blooms on the east and west coast. Now, Robinson has filed his first piece of legislation (HB 85) with the aim at curtailing nutrients seeping from the coast to the sea. “A critical issue I heard about was faulty septic tanks, which have in my view contributed excess nutrients into the waterways,” he said.

Will Robinson’s first priority — restoring septic tank inspections to help curb red tide. (Image via the Sarasota Herald-Tribune)

Proposal targets emergency transportation for patients” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — Insured patients in Florida shouldn’t have to pay large bills if they require emergency medical transportation services. They also should have access to copies of their medical records free of charge, a state advisory board agreed. Members of the Florida Health Insurance Advisory Board unanimously approved submitting the recommendations to lawmakers for consideration during the 2019 Legislative Session. In part, the board is recommending that the Legislature amend the state’s “balance billing” ban to include emergency medical transportation. Balance billing involves situations in which out-of-network medical providers bill patients for amounts above what the patients’ insurers pay. Current law protects insured patients from being billed by out-of-network emergency care providers such as hospitals and urgent-care centers. It establishes a standard for determining reimbursement rates and authorizes providers and insurers to settle disputed claims under a dispute-resolution process.

Jason Shoaf entry sets up dogfight race for Halsey Beshears’ seat” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Two notable Republican candidates are stepping up to the plate to replace state Rep. Beshears just days after the lawmaker was tapped by Governor-elect DeSantis to lead a regulatory agency. Shoaf, a businessman and member of the Triumph Gulf Coast Board of Directors, told Florida Politics he’ll compete in the impending special election to replace Beshears. Shoaf’s entry comes after Republican Mike Watkins, a child-welfare advocate who filed in February to run in 2020 for Beshears’ House District 7 seat, earlier this week said he’ll compete in the upcoming race. Watkins already has amassed more than $120,000 for his bid. Shoaf, who launched a campaign account this week, has yet to report any fundraising. But the cash disparity is no worry to 39-year-old Shoaf, who described himself as a natural “problem solver” during an interview with Florida Politics.

Meanwhile … “Ralph Thomas weighs running for state House as Beshears leaves” via the Wakulla News — Wakulla County Commission Chair Thomas is considering a run for the seat opened when Beshears moves into the administration of DeSantis. Thomas said he was weighing his options and seriously considering throwing his hat in the ring.

Assignment editors — State Rep. Matt Willhite will be the keynote speaker at the Palm Beach State College fall commencement ceremonies for more than 3,000 expected graduates, 2 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 19, South Florida Fair Expo Center, 9067 Southern Blvd., West Palm Beach.


Parkland shooting panel concludes work, sends 400-page report to Governor” via Colleen Wright and Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — Commission chair and Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said the investigative phase of the commission, which will sunset in 2023, is “significantly done.” “As we move forward, we’re more focusing on the solutions and figuring out what could be done to make it safer and better,” he said. On Wednesday and Thursday, the commission went over the recommendations, which touched on failures at the school level like leaving the front gates open and no one calling for a lockdown, BSO’s haphazard response to the scene and holding school districts accountable for reporting threats and crimes on campuses. The recommendations called for more internal investigations and possible disciplinary measures for personnel at BSO and Stoneman Douglas.

Police cleared to use ‘Stand Your Ground’ defense” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Siding with a Broward County sheriff’s deputy who fatally shot a man, the Florida Supreme Court unanimously ruled that law-enforcement officers can use the state’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law to be shielded from prosecution. Justices upheld the dismissal of a manslaughter charge against Deputy Peter Peraza, who contended that he acted in self-defense and, as a result, was immune from prosecution under “Stand Your Ground.” Peraza in July 2013 shot Jermaine McBean, a man with a history of mental illness who had pointed an air rifle at officers, according to the Supreme Court. In an 11-page opinion, Justice Alan Lawson wrote that two parts of the controversial “Stand Your Ground” law make clear that a “person” is justified in using deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if that person believes it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm.

The Florida Supreme Court cleared Deputy Peter Peraza to use ‘Stand Your Ground’ as a defense against charges of manslaughter.

Hazing conviction upheld and FAMU band death” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — More than seven years after the death of Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion, the state Supreme Court upheld the conviction of a fellow band member and rejected arguments that a hazing law was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court unanimously rejected an appeal by Dante Martin, who was convicted of manslaughter and hazing charges. During the ritual, members of Florida A&M’s renowned “Marching 100” band were struck repeatedly as they crossed from the front of the bus to the back, and Martin was “president” of Bus C. Champion passed out after finishing the crossing and later was pronounced dead at a hospital. Martin, now 31, was sentenced to 77 months in prison after being found guilty by an Orange County jury of manslaughter, felony hazing resulting in death and two counts of misdemeanor hazing. But in appealing, he argued that the state’s hazing law was unconstitutional because it was overly broad and vague.

South Florida water managers cancel lease option, ending historic deal to buy sugar land” via Jenny Staletovich of the Miami Herald — The South Florida Water Management District agreed to terminate the option worked out by former Gov. Charlie Crist, a move crafted by lawmakers two years when they drafted the law creating an Everglades reservoir now at the center of dispute between water managers and the state’s new governor. Last month, water managers angered DeSantis when they agreed to continue leasing land to sugar farmers. The reservoir will occupy the leased land and was also part of the reservoir deal. DeSantis campaigned on a promise to fight the sugar industry that owns much of the land south of Lake Okeechobee critical to fixing the Everglades. “The only choice we have today is are we going to comply with the Florida statute or are we going to violate the Florida statute,” said board member and former chair Dan O’Keefe.

Webinar explores new idea for workers’ compensation — Imagine a world in which the workers’ compensation system rewarded medical providers according to patient outcomes. Dr. Randall Lea, an orthopedic surgeon, will spell out the possibilities in a webinar the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute plans for 2 p.m. on Jan. 1. The system is called value-based care — as opposed to fee for service, which pays doctors and hospitals according to services provided. “Some believe VBC will never come to pass in workers’ compensation,” Lea said. “Others believe the conditions are ripe for its expansion into injured-worker medical treatment and that we are only a few years away from broad adoption. The purpose of this webinar, like all of WCRI’s research, is to educate without making recommendations or taking a position.” There’ll be room for 500 participants only, so you might want to go here to register right away.


Cities hitting Airbnb over Israel West Bank listings policy” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — An international backlash against Airbnb’s November decision to not work with Israeli rental home hosts in Israel’s West Bank settlements is emerging in Florida with Surfside declaring the vacation rental home marketing platform is in violation of its law and Miami introducing a resolution condemning the company. Airbnb insists it is a close friend of Israel and its decision was not tied to the anti-Israel “boycott, divest, and sanctions” movement. But that’s not how some municipal officials see a policy that lists Arab-owned properties, but not Israeli-owned properties in the West Bank. “I think that makes the policy anti-Semitic, and our resolution, in fact, terms their policy as anti-Semitic,” said Surfside Vice Mayor Daniel Gielchensky.

Indictment traces Scott Maddox dealings with undercover FBI agents” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — The 44-page federal indictment of former City Commissioner Maddox on racketeering and fraud charges includes a five-page section detailing his interactions with Company F, otherwise known as Southern Pines, the front FBI undercover agents used to infiltrate Tallahassee. Southern Pines served as a fake business for agents posing as Atlanta real estate developer Mike Miller, environmental consultant Brian Butler, and medical marijuana entrepreneur Mike Sweets, who were seeking city approval on rezoning or annexing property. Their go-between was Person G, identified in the indictment as a local real estate developer and entrepreneur believed to be John “J.T.” Burnette, who is one of several business people named in the FBI subpoenas that dropped on City Hall in June 2017.

A 44-count federal indictment details several dealings between Scott Maddox and undercover agents. (Image via the Tallahassee Democrat)

Indictment: mysterious ‘person E’ refused to pay Maddox for CRA vote” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — The public corruption indictment against now-suspended Commissioner Maddox and his close friend Paige Carter-Smith doesn’t mention the individual by name. The indictment, unsealed in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee, refers to him simply as “Person E.” But the indictment includes details pointing to the developer of The Onyx, a sprawling, mixed-use development on the edge of Florida State University’s campus. The Onyx, which occupies a once-vacant lot, was developed by Tallahassee real estate developer Mike Steiner. The Chicago-based CA Ventures built it. According to the indictment, another individual, Person F, described in court documents as “a local business owner and associate of Maddox,” tried to get Person E to pay up. Person E was told to make the payment through Governance, Maddox and Carter-Smith’s lobbying and consulting firm.

The only story that matters — “Gus Corbella applies to replace Maddox on Tallahassee Commission” via Florida Politics — “The entirety of my career and civic life has been devoted to public service and advocacy,” Corbella said in a letter to the commission. “From my formal education at New York University and Florida State, to my decade of service in the Florida Legislature, to the numerous state and local organizations I have been privileged to serve on and lead, I believe my qualifications would provide the Commission with an able and experienced partner in managing the affairs of our great city, and in collegially working with you all in setting a vision for where were are destined to go next.” Corbella, the senior director of government law and policy for Greenberg Traurig, also put in the application for personal reasons — Tallahassee is his home.

All the prayers — “T.K. Wetherell, former House Speaker and FSU president, now in hospice” via Florida Politics — Ginger Wetherell told friends earlier this week that her 72-year-old husband, who has fought cancer for roughly the last decade and a half, wished no further treatment. “I am saddened to hear this news about my friend,” current FSU President John Thrasher said. “We have been in touch with the family, and our prayers are with him and his loved ones,” he added. “The university has reached out and offered any assistance that they might need.” Wetherell, a Democrat, served in the House 1980-92, eventually rising to Appropriations chair and then Speaker, before becoming president of Tallahassee Community College in 1995-2001 and FSU president in 2003-10.

Prayers to T.K. Wetherell, the former FSU president and House Speaker who entered hospice this week.

Raquel Regalado lost to Carlos Gimenez in 2016 but she’s ready for a 2020 rematch” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Regalado, a former school board member and 2016 county mayoral candidate, plans to run for the Miami-Dade Commission seat that Xavier Suarez is vacating in 2020. That’s the District 7 seat that Gimenez held before he won his first race for Miami-Dade Mayor in 2011. He’s seen as a potential District 7 candidate himself once term-limit rules force him and Suarez to leave their posts two years from now. Regalado, who lost by 12 points to Gimenez in a November runoff in the 2016 mayoral race, said she made the decision knowing her former rival may be her 2020 opponent, too. “It will be interesting,” Regalado said of the potential matchup. “The irony is there.”

’Why are we the guinea pig?’: Climate change project divides a Miami Beach neighborhood” via Alex Harris of the Miami Herald — Miami Beach’s answer to sea levels pushed higher and higher by climate change — raised roads — has been endorsed by international experts and scientists as the future of infrastructure in a warming world. But at home, the idea has split a tiny, tony neighborhood in two, with some residents developing an opposition homeowners’ group to battle what they call a “coup” from the original association. They say the elevated roads will push water onto their yards and sink their property value. “Why are we the guinea pig for every coastal city on the planet?” said Bob Kunst, president of the newly formed nonprofit We Love Lakeview. “What the city is doing is putting our homes up for sale.” Residents insist Lakeview has no flooding problems and worry that the project will ruin the peaceful neighborhood they call their “Garden of Eden.”

Brightline expects trains to roll into Orlando as soon as 2021” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Brightline expects to start construction this winter on its planned, privately-owned, higher-speed passenger railroad connecting South Florida to Orlando and envisions the first trains to start rolling into Orlando International Airport as soon as late 2021. Until now the company had not stated specific timelines, with the only clear indication in contracts that called for service to begin no later than 2025, as it has muddled through years of opposition litigation, but most of that is over now. “We’ve initiated early works and have selected our contractors,” company President Patrick Goddard told the Central Florida Expressway Authority Thursday. “We are essentially looking at a 30-36 month construction period.”

When kids kill” via Tessa Duvall of the Florida Times-Union — In the last decade, 73 Duval County children have been arrested in cases of murder and manslaughter. Why is this happening? What leads kids and teens to kill? What inmates reveal in hundreds of handwritten pages is wrenching in its repetition: Their fathers were absent. Their mothers and caregivers did the best they could but struggled. They fell in with the wrong crowd. They slid into crime. They needed help they never received. What research showed with stark clarity was the number of children who face many or all of these challenges: 1. Trauma. 2. Family dysfunction. The strain in families is often generational. 3. Violent environment. Violence is nothing new to most of the teens who end up in prison for killing. 4. Dangerous peer influences. When kids commit crimes, they’re more likely to do so with a friend or in a group.


Donald Trump plans 16-day holiday visit to Mar-a-Lago” via Christine Stapleton of the Palm Beach Post — President Trump is expected to spend 16 days at Mar-a-Lago over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, according to an alert issued by the Federal Aviation Administration. The alert warns pilots to avoid the airspace over Mar-a-Lago during the more than two-week time frame, from Dec. 21 to Jan. 6, but does not indicate when Air Force One will arrive or depart Palm Beach International Airport. The upcoming visit is longer than last year’s 12-day visit, putting Trump in Palm Beach a day earlier than his arrival last year and four days later than his Jan. 2 departure. It would be his longest retreat at Mar-a-Lago, dubbed the Southern White House, since the president’s inauguration in January 2017.

Donald Trump is set to begin a 16-day vacation at his Mar-a-Lago resort, the longest of his presidency.

NO-bamacare? Affordable Care Act sign-ups down” via Florida Politics — Year over year, fewer people are signing up for Affordable Care Act protections, a trend solidifying ahead of the Dec. 15 deadline. Per the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), 799,118 Floridians enrolled in December … down from 802,711 the previous year. When national numbers are rolled in: 3,198,163, versus 3,604,440 last year … Florida, per the Kaiser Family Foundation, has over 631,000 people who could get the costs of a Marketplace policy defrayed entirely by premium tax credits. However, there is a catch: those plans have an average deductible of $6,258, a number daunting to many. Some deductibles are as high as $15,000.

Marco Rubio seeks protected status for Venezuelan immigrants” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — The Venezuela Temporary Protected Status and Asylum Assistance Act was introduced by Rubio, chair of a Foreign Relations subcommittee on Western Hemisphere issues … It would grant Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for eligible Venezuelans “fleeing the dire conditions in their homeland,” according to a statement from Rubio’s office. It would also provide support for migration systems in the countries surrounding Venezuela. More than 33,000 Venezuelans lived in Central Florida as of 2016, a number that doesn’t include those who fled since 2017 as violent protests roiled the country.


Rubio: America needs to restore dignity of work” via Florida Politics — To feel the absence of the American dream, and to desire to re-create an America in which it exists, is to experience nostalgia, but of a particular kind. It is not necessarily a desire for the old things, for low-tech assembly lines, male-only colleges or debilitating labor disputes. It is a desire for an old promise, that no matter what America looks like or how it has changed, a stable and prosperous life should be attainable for the many. It’s an undying spirit that defines and unites us as Americans. We’ve done better before, and we can do better now. At its core, the American dream is about the opportunity to earn happiness. This kind of happiness is only made possible for most Americans by the dignity of work. The “dignity of work” is not an ideology, nor is it a total theory of what is wrong with our country, however much we may crave one in a polarizing time. It is the lived reality of Americans: the day-in, day-out work to provide for their families and build a future for their children that is better than what they had to begin with. The “dignity of work” is both a recognition of how hard it is to achieve the American dream, and the reward for getting there. To begin rebuilding a flourishing nation, we need to remember that and make dignified work possible for the many.

Joe Clements: Donald Trump and America’s political realignment” via Florida Politics — The politics seem crazy because Trump has catalyzed political population exchange that has been decades in the making. The change is simply that working-class white voters are now Republicans and suburban white women are now Democrats. The great untold story of American society for a half-century has always been the simmering, patronizing, contempt of wealthy, educated whites for blue collar, high school educated whites. In effect, Trump sympathizes with their economic issues and is relatable. Trump is in the same vein as drag racing, Jeff Foxworthy, Skol, Natural Light and Caterpillar Boots. He is not a brand designed for upper-class women. We are in a period of transition similar to 40 years ago when the southern states moved from red to blue. The cities and upscale suburbs are trending safely Democratic and the rural areas and exurbs are moving reliably Republican. The tide is turning, and the strategy of the past can’t be the strategy of the future.

The Groveland Four: A ‘shameful chapter’ continues” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — It is hard to imagine the offender-review commission is even competent to deal with the issues of such an ancient case. It normally concerns itself with whether living people have earned release from prison or should have their civil rights restored. It does not have the expertise to reinvestigate the circumstances of a miscarriage of justice that the Legislature’s resolution took four pages to describe. Scott and the Cabinet should cast away the crutch of “procedure” and deal with the ancient wrong as straightforwardly as the Legislature unanimously did. In fact, they have the power to waive procedure and take up the case, or any other, whenever they want. The obvious conclusion is they simply don’t want to.


Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) elects new chair, vice chair — At its December meeting in St. Augustine this week, the FWC elected Robert A. Spottswood of Key West to serve as chairman and Michael W. Sole of Tequesta to serve as vice chairman, the agency announced. Spottswood replaces Chairman Bo Rivard of Panama City. Spottswood has served on the Commission since September 2015 and is the chief executive officer of Spottswood Companies Inc. Sole, on the commission since May 2017, is vice president of environmental services at NextEra Energy Inc. The FWC protects Florida’s “natural resources, including fish, wildlife and the environment, while providing a safe atmosphere for residents and visitors to recreate,” its website says.

Congrats: Robert Spottswood of Key West has been named the new chair of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Personnel note: Alberto Moscoso joins McNicholas & Associates — Moscoso has been Communications Director for the Florida Division of Emergency Management (DEM), “where he provided rapid response and crisis communications for Gov. Scott and the Division during Hurricanes Michael and Irma,” a news release said. He’ll next be statewide Director of Communications for McNicholas & Associates, a PR firm with offices in Palm Beach Gardens and Tallahassee. Tom McNicholas, President of McNicholas & Associates, said Moscoso’s “unparalleled experience working with the public and private sectors during times of crisis and his experience leading men and women in the armed forces is going to make our team even stronger.” Moscoso was a combat aviator in the Army National Guard and served in Afghanistan. He also was Press Secretary for the Department of Corrections. He will work in the Tallahassee office along with Ryan Smith, the firm’s Public Affairs Director.

Not-so-lame duck: Rick Scott makes six judicial appointments” via Florida Politics — Gov. Scott appointed six new judges, less than a month before he leaves office and joins the U.S. Senate. Topping the list of appointments are two new names for the 3rd District appellate bench. Eric Hendon will replace retired Judge Richard Suarez on the 3rd District Court of Appeal. Hendon, 62, lives in North Bay Village. Scott also appointed Bronwyn Miller to the 3rd District appellate court. Hendon and Miller, 46, are 11th Circuit Court judges. Hendon received both his bachelor’s degree and a law degree from the University of Florida. Miller received her bachelor’s degree from Barnard College and her law degree from the University of Miami. Miller replaces retired Judge Leslie Rothenberg.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Jason Allison, Robert Hosay, Foley & Lardner: Splunk

Patrick Bell, The Legis Group: Florida Public Defender Association

Adam Blalock, Hopping Green & Sams: National Marine Manufacturers Association

Rosanna Catalano, Jerald Paul, Capitol Energy Florida: Sarasota Family YMCA

Elizabeth Dudek, Greenberg Traurig: Sunshine Kids Pediatric Care

Cesar Fernandez, Converge Government Affairs: Insikt

Justin Hollis: Beer Industry of Florida

Teye Reeves, Smith Bryan & Myers: Health Network One/HN1, HS1 Medical Management

Katia Saint Fleur, KSF and Associates: League of Women Voters of Florida

Mike Griffin to head USF Consolidation Task Force following Jonathan Ellen’s resignation” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The task force oversees recommendations for phasing out separate accreditations at USF St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee as the school moves toward a single accreditation. “I have complete confidence that this task force will continue its forward momentum under Mike Griffin’s leadership,” said Ned Lautenbach, chair of the Board of Governors. “The State University System remains committed to a seamless consolidation for USF and its students.” Griffin, former chair of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce and the USF alumni associated, was appointed to the consolidation task force when it was established earlier this year and has served as chair of the task force subcommittee on student success, academic programs and campus identity.

Mike Griffin, former chair of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, is now overseeing the task force on USF consolidation.

Surterra’s Texas move” via Florida Politics — Surterra, one of the leading companies in Florida’s booming medical cannabis industry, expanded its Texas product lines this week. The latest formulation is called Tranquil™: a high-CBD, low-THC medical cannabis tincture for patients living with intractable epilepsy … Much like “Charlotte’s Web,” the cannabis strain that opened the door to greater understanding of the plant’s healing powers in Florida and beyond, Tranquil™ is heavy on CBD, light on THC, with added terpenes to accentuate the formula’s “anticonvulsant” properties. Only those [Texans] diagnosed with intractable epilepsy are permitted to medicate with cannabis, and that only after two doctors’ prescriptions and documented failures of two FDA-approved patent medicines.


Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable with Tampa Bay Times Government and Politics Editor Michael Van Sickler; Fight for the Future Digital campaign manager Laila Abdelaziz; Republican political consultant Mark Proctor; Tampa Bay Times Political Editor Adam Smith.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion of holiday giving and what community resources are available for the less fortunate. Joining Walker-Torres are Deanna Willsey, chief marketing officer, United Way Suncoast; Thomas Mantz, executive director, Feeding Tampa Bay; Captain Ken Chapman, area commander, Salvation Army; Gus Martinez, founder, Miles of Help Through Christ; and Dan Samuels, director of philanthropy, Second Harvest Food Bank.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: U.S. Rep. Crist will discuss bipartisanship in Congress, the battle over immigration and his vote for Speaker of the House; and PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter will rate a claim about voter ID requirements.

Sunday Morning Politics with Evan Donovan on News Channel 8 WFLA (NBC): Donovan will hold a panel with Barry Edwards and consultant Michelle Todd Schorsch.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon speaks with former Congresswoman Gwen Graham and Sachs Media Group founder and CEO Ron Sachs.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week’s guests: Visit Jacksonville CEO Michael Corrigan, International Longshoreman’s Association President Vince Cameron and Bryan Burt of the USO Jax Pathfinder Program.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg will discuss Governor-elect DeSantis and newly elected Broward Mayor Mark Bogen. Also, the roundtable will give their take on the news of the week.


Skulls, salt and snow: 200 years of ‘Silent Night’” via John Malathronas of CNN — “Silent Night” might be one of the sweetest Christmas carols there is, but following the trail of the man who wrote it exactly 200 years ago involves an unexpectedly macabre twist. “The skull is embedded behind there,” says guide Sepp Greimel, pointing at a nativity scene over the altar of the chapel we’re stood in. The skull, mercifully not visible, belongs to Josef Mohr, the Catholic priest and joint composer of the Christmas carol that has been translated from its original “Stille Nacht” into more languages than there are countries in the United Nations. Its final resting place, the small Austrian town of Oberndorf beibei Salzburg, is aptly named for his most famous verse: The Silent Night Chapel. Silent Night with its mournful melody and message of hope struck a chord among the destitute community of barge workers, coming as it did after the devastation of the Napoleonic Wars and the distressing split with the neighboring town of Laufen.

200 years of ‘Silent Night’: Josef Mohr, the Catholic priest and joint composer of the Christmas carol that is been translated into more languages than there are countries in the United Nations.

Central Florida stores say holiday shopping is going strong” via Kyle Arnold of the Orlando Sentinel — The final days of the holiday shopping season are here, and shop owners say sales are living up to the lofty expectations analysts set before the season started. The initial forecasts predicted the average family would spend more than $1,000 each, and total spending would increase between 4.3 to 4.8 percent compared with last year. Yes, in-store traffic continued to decline this year during the Thanksgiving shopping weekend as consumers shifted to spending more online. But store managers and owners say businesses have been busy and they are expecting the usual rush of shoppers in the final gift shopping days. Local shops and national retailers are finding ways to counter the flight of customers to online purchasing, by offering custom gifts and even using online shopping to lure consumers into stores.

— ALOE —

Mint launches commemorative coins marking moon landing” via The Associated Press — The U.S. Mint in Philadelphia is marking the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing by launching a new commemorative coin. The children of Apollo 11 crew members Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were on hand at the mint at the first pressing of the 2019 Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Proof Silver Dollar. Congress has directed the mint to strike and issue up to 50,000 gold coins, 400,000 silver dollar coins, 750,000 clad half dollar coins and 100,000 five-ounce silver proof coins. The coins will not be available to the public until January.

The US Mint marks the Apollo 11 mission with this coin design.

Orlando Ritz Carlton, JW Marriott reportedly sold for nearly $900 million” via Marco Santana of the Orlando Sentinel — The Grande Lakes Orlando Resort, one of the most luxurious hotel complexes in Central Florida, has been sold to an investment group for a reported amount of nearly $900 million just four years after a hedge fund bought it. The sale of the resort, which includes both a 582-room Ritz Carlton and a 998-room JW Marriott, means even more renovations are on the way, its new owners said. The purchasing group includes Fort Worth, Texas-based Trinity Real Estate Investments and New York’s Elliott Management Corporation.


Celebrating today is his honor, Judge Terry Lewis, as well as state Rep. David Santiago. Best wishes to Julie Ingoglia, Kyra Jennings, and Ian Whitney. Early best wishes to one of our absolute favorites in The Process, state Rep. Holly Raschein.

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.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
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