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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 12.17.18

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

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

From college freshmen to the most powerful politicians in Florida, all called him simply “T.K.”

Florida State University President Emeritus Thomas Kent Wetherell, who passed away Sunday at the age of 72, leaves a legacy as one of higher education’s most dynamic and lifelong champions.

After a brief hospice stay, FSU President Emeritus T.K. Wetherell has died at age 72. (Image via FSU)

At the helm of his alma mater from 2003 to 2010, Wetherell was the first alumnus of Florida State to become its president and brought a wealth of experience and dedication to the institution that raised its stature on many levels.

After retiring from the presidency, Wetherell continued working to improve higher education as a professor in the College of Education and director of the Center for Higher Education Research, Teaching & Innovation.

“As a veteran lawmaker, tireless supporter of higher education and then as president, T.K. used his energy and intellect not only to lead FSU through a severe budget crisis but to make sure it flourished in so many ways,” said President John Thrasher. “He was a remarkable person and a great friend.”

The latest notes from the Ron DeSantis transition:

Jim Poppell will likely continue in his role as Secretary of the Florida Lottery. An announcement could come as soon as Monday.

Another carry-over from the Scott administration will likely be Rebecca Kapusta at the Department of Children & Families.

The transition is still searching for the right candidates at AHCA, DOC, Juvenile Justice, etc. A source inside the transition says many solid candidates are giving strong interviews, but there hasn’t been an ‘aha moment’ during the interviews for those departments.

The leading contenders to be the next Secretary of the Department of Transportation are Ron Howse, Jeff Littlejohn, and Kevin Thibault.

An announcement on who will lead the Department of Environment Protection is close. Look for an announcement Wednesday/Thursday.

Alex Garcia, most recently a Deputy State Director for Hispanic Initiatives for the Republican National Committee, will serve as Chief of Staff to Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez.


@RealDonaldTrump: Secretary of the Interior @RyanZinke will be leaving the Administration at the end of the year after having served for a period of almost two years. Ryan has accomplished much during his tenure and I want to thank him for his service to our Nation

@MaggieNYT: Mulvaney was one of the few chief-of-staff choices who openly lobbied for the job, telling Trump at one point that he is the only person leading an agency who hasn’t been mired in scandal, per a person familiar with the discussion.

@SeemaCMS: The recent federal court decision is still moving through the courts, and the exchanges are still open for business and we will continue with open enrollment. There is no impact to current coverage or coverage in a 2019 plan.

@USRepKCastor: It’s irresponsible and cruel for Republicans to rip lifesaving health coverage away from American families. Over 1 Million Floridians have signed up this year already and millions more w pre-existing conditions are protected under #AffordableCareAct

@Fineout: The governor-elect keeps turning to people who were allies of @richardcorcoran to fill out the ranks of his administration — with Corcoran himself set to take over the Dept. of Education next week

@MattGaetz: Fmr FSU President & FL House Speaker TK Wetherell was a mentor and friend. I wish his family comfort during this time of loss. We will miss TK across Florida and especially throughout the Seminole family.


116th Congress convenes — 17; College Football National Championship — 21; Florida’s gubernatorial inauguration — 22; Scott Maddox trial begins — 28; Office of Insurance Regulation’s OIR Summit begins — 29; Super Bowl LIII — 48; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 57; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 78; Tampa mayoral election — 78; ‘Captain Marvel’ release — 81; Iowa Caucuses — 413; 2020 General Election — 687.


Texas judge strikes down Obama’s Affordable Care Act as unconstitutional” via Abby Goodnough and Robert Pear of The New York Times — At issue was whether the health law’s insurance mandate still compelled people to buy coverage after Congress reduced the penalty to zero dollars as part of the tax overhaul that President Donald Trump signed last December. When the Supreme Court upheld the mandate as constitutional in 2012, it was based on Congress’s taxing power. Congress, the court said, could legally impose a tax penalty on people who do not have health insurance. But in the new case, the 20 plaintiff states, led by Texas, argued that with the penalty zeroed out, the individual mandate had become unconstitutional — and that the rest of the law could not be severed from it.

After stripping away penalties for not having medical insurance, a federal judge in Texas struck down the Affordable Care Act as unconstitutional.

>>>Marco Rubio‘s reaction: “The ruling against Obamacare, on behalf of Florida and others, serves as a stark reminder of the millions of Americans who are suffering under the law. Americans should have the ability to buy a health plan that meets their needs, rather than what Washington tells them. This ruling is a first, not a final step, in a long legal process and will not impact next year’s coverage. Ultimately, Congress must take action. We should look at opportunities that gives families flexibility in obtaining health care while also allowing states the ability to innovate.”

Pam Bondi’s (and Rick Scott’s) Texas-sized role in Affordable Care Act fight” via Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times — (L)et’s not forget the critical role that Florida Attorney General Bondi and Gov. Scott played in this legal fight. Bondi was a little-known prosecutor from Hillsborough County who had grown her profile with regular appearances on Fox News. She made it clear that she fully supported a lawsuit filed by Florida’s then-Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum that challenged the Affordable Care Act. … Scott, a former health care executive, ran for office vowing to repeal the law, too. His campaign website in 2010 stated: “Rick led the fight to defeat President Obama‘s government-run public option” and that he “supports a state constitutional amendment in Florida that prohibits the federal government from imposing President Obama’s individual mandate.” After getting elected, he told congressional leaders in December 2010 that “I am going to focus on the repealing of the health care bill because I think it’s the biggest job killer ever in the history of this country.” Upon taking office in 2011, Bondi and Scott were relentless.


Ron DeSantis, Jeanette Nuñez thank local voters” via Jim Thompson of the NWF Daily News — DeSantis’ first priority when he takes office next month will be to make appointments to the state Supreme Court “to fill the spots of these retiring liberal justices,” he told a cheering crowd at AJ’s Seafood & Oyster Bar. DeSantis and Lt. Governor-elect Nuñez were in Destin as part of their “Thank You Tour” around Florida. DeSantis told Saturday’s crowd of a few hundred people that he already had chosen three names, intended to signal “that we have ended judicial activism in Florida.” In other comments, DeSantis said he would pay attention to electoral procedures around the state during his term. DeSantis also played up his Washington connections, telling the crowd he had recently met with Trump and his new acting chief of staff, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney.

—“ After wooing Miami Hispanics, DeSantis takes ‘Thank You’ tour to Little Havana” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald

—“Ron DeSantis speaks at Naples business as part of ‘Thank You’ tour of state” via Andrew Atkins of the Naples Daily News

Governor-elect Ron DeSantis toured Bay County Friday to look at the damage and ongoing recovery from Hurricane Michael. DeSantis was at Springfield City Hall and Everitt Middle School and got a briefing at the County EOC.

First on #FlaPol — Danny Burgess recommended to become head of Veterans’ Affairs” via Florida Politics — DeSantis has recommended state Rep. Burgess as the next head of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs. The DeSantis transition team announced the executive director pick over the weekend. (Florida Politics had first reported that Burgess was under consideration for the position.) It will have to be approved by the Governor and Florida Cabinet. If OK’d, Burgess would replace Executive Director Glenn Sutphin. “Danny’s commitment to our nation and especially to Florida’s veteran community make him the perfect fit,” DeSantis said in a statement. “His relentless advocacy for veterans in the Florida Legislature is proof of his commitment to the well-being of our veterans and addressing the important issues they face.”

Tweet, tweet:

DeSantis names more key advisers” via the News Service of Florida — Helen Aguirre Ferré, who left the Trump administration in August to become director of public affairs for the National Endowment for the Arts, is headed to Tallahassee as DeSantis fills out his executive office. Former Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Stephanie Kopelousos is taking over as director of legislative affairs and Roger “Beau” Beaubien moving from the Attorney General’s Office to become director of Cabinet affairs. The transition team also announced a pair of deputy chiefs of staff, James Blair and Adrian Lukis, who have ties to Florida House leaders. Blair was an adviser to former Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran. Lukis, a senior adviser in the House, is the son of Sylvester Lukis, a managing partner of Ballard Partners’ Washington, D.C., office.

They advise DeSantis. They were also top campaign donors.” via Emily Mahoney and Langston Taylor of the Tampa Bay Times — At least 22 of DeSantis’ biggest campaign donors are playing an official role in shaping his policies. The most high-profile of these donors may be Kent Stermon, the chief operating officer of a company that contracts with the federal government to relocate military members. Stermon leads DeSantis’ committee on public safety. Along with the CEO of the same company, Matt Connell (who’s on DeSantis’ economy committee), Stermon rented DeSantis a beachside condo while he was in Congress — prompting an ethics complaint. In DeSantis’ entire political career in federal and state races, Stermon and his wife have given DeSantis nearly $40,000. Others include Ronald Howse, who spoke in September about his donation of time on a private plane that he subsidized. Howse was appointed to DeSantis’ economic committee. He joined Frederick Sontag, the president of a venture capital firm and a nonprofit who donated $500,000 to DeSantis’ state PAC in May and thousands more since.

—“Local union leader, school board member concerned over Richard Corcoran appointment” via Travis Gibson of the St. Augustine Record

—“If you like charter schools, you’ll love Corcoran; if not, buckle up” via Gil Smart of TCPalm

Happening today — The DeSantis Transition Advisory Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources & Agriculture will hold a conference call at 1 p.m. The call-in number will be provided at

Happening today — The State Board of Education meets to, among other things, consider “the Appointment of Commissioner of Education.” DeSantis has recommended former House Speaker Richard Corcoran. That’s at 10 a.m., Cabinet Meeting Room, lower level of The Capitol, 400 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee.


Hurricane Michael tops Irma in impact to state budget” via the News Service of Florida — A new report reviewed by the Senate Appropriations Committee showed the state’s costs for emergency-relief and recovery efforts related to Michael would exceed the costs for Hurricane Irma, a 2017 storm that damaged a larger portion of the state. The hurricane impact and factors showing slower economic growth are enough for state analysts to now project that a potential $223 million budget surplus for 2019-2020 — outlined in a September report — “has likely disappeared.” Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley said the new report means lawmakers will have to be “even more diligent in making sure that we are very, very conservative” in their approach to the new state budget and revenue projections.

Senators say issuing bonds not ‘off limits’” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida — Sen. Tom Lee raised the issue at a Senate Appropriations Committee meeting after Senators reviewed a revised long-range financial report that showed hurricane recovery costs and slowing economic growth could impact the next state budget. “I think given where we are in the 11th year of an economic expansion, the downside risks in this economy are much greater than the upside potential,” Lee said. Lee suggested Senators look at the state’s capacity to borrow money, within bonding limits set by law and the state Constitution, if the economy softens in the coming years. “We don’t have a lot of tools in our toolkit to stimulate the economy here in this state. Bonding capacity is one of those,” Lee said.

After 11 consecutive years of economic growth in Florida, Tom Lee is not ruling out issuing bonds in case the economy softens.

Michael Grant named House Republican Whip” via Florida Politics — State Rep. Grant, a Port Charlotte Republican, was selected to serve as the House Majority Whip for 2018-20. … “I am extremely pleased with the selection of Michael Grant,” said House Republican Leader Dane Eagle in a statement. “He brings a wealth of knowledge, experience, and collegiality to the position, and I expect he will immediately become an important and effective member in House leadership,” Eagle added.

Jose Oliva names ed policy subcommittee chairs” via Florida Politics — Republican state Reps. Cord ByrdByron Donalds and Ralph Massulo to chair the House education policy subcommittees. Byrd, a second-term Republican representing Nassau and Duval counties, will chair the House Higher Education & Career Readiness Subcommittee. Massulo, a second-term lawmaker representing Citrus and Hernando counties, will chair the PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee. Donalds, who represents Hendry and Collier counties, will chair the PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee.

House’s health care policy subcommittee chairs named” via Florida Politics — Second-term Rep. Mel Ponder will take over the Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee. Ponder’s lieutenant is set to be St. Johns Republican Rep. Cyndi Stevenson. House Speaker Jose Oliva selected Avon Park Republican Rep. Cary Pigman to lead the Health Market Reform Subcommittee. Last Session, Pigman chaired the Health Quality Subcommittee. The Health Market Reform sub is new for the 2019 Legislative Session, replacing the Health Innovation Subcommittee. Fort Myers Republican Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen will serve alongside Pigman as vice-chair. Chair of the Health Quality Subcommittee is Lakeland Rep. Colleen Burton. Orlando Republican Rep. Rene Plasencia has been tapped as the Health Quality Subcommittee’s vice chair.

Cary Pigman will chair the Health Market Reform Subcommittee. (Image via Colin Hackley)

Holly Raschein earns leadership spots on House subcommittees” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — State Rep. Raschein of House District 120 was named Vice Chair of the Agriculture and Resources Subcommittee. And Chuck Clemons of HD 21, a Newberry Republican, will chair that committee when the 2019 Legislative Session begins. Raschein was previously tapped to chair the Appropriations Subcommittee for Agriculture and Resources earlier Friday. She joins Bryan Avila of HD 111 as the only representatives from the southeastern tip of the state to receive committee leadership positions. Avila will chair the House Ways and Means Committee.

Meanwhile … Dotie Joseph, Nick Duran begin 2020 re-election bids” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Joseph and Duran have officially filed paperwork to run for re-election to the Florida House in 2020. Campaign accounts for each candidate now appear on the Division of Elections website. Joseph is set to begin her freshman term in the state House after handily dispatching Libertarian candidate Riquet Caballero in the general election for House District 108. Duran has represented House District 112 since he defeated Republican Rosy Palomino in 2016. Duran was re-elected after again prevailing over Palomino in November.

Happening today — The Pasco County legislative delegation — state Sens. Wilton SimpsonEd Hooper and Tom Lee; state Reps. Amber MarianoArdian Zika and Rep. Danny Burgess — will meet ahead of the 2019 Session, 1 p.m., Pasco County School Board, 7205 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., Building 3, Land O’ Lakes.

Happening today — The Alachua County legislative delegation — state Sen. Keith Perry; Reps. Chuck BrannanChuck Clemons and Clovis Watson Jr. — will meet ahead of the 2019 Session, 2 p.m., Santa Fe College Northwest Campus, Fine Arts Hall, 3000 N.W. 83rd St., Gainesville.

Happening today — The Leon County legislative delegation — state Sen. Bill Montford; Reps. Ramon AlexanderLoranne Ausley and Halsey Beshears — meet ahead of the 2019 Session, 5 p.m., Leon County Courthouse, commission chamber, 301 South Monroe St., Tallahassee.

Happening today — The Escambia County legislative delegation — state Sen. Doug Broxson; Reps. Alex Andrade and Mike Hill — meet ahead of the 2019 Session, 5:30 p.m., Pensacola State College, Jean and Paul Performance Studio, 1000 College Blvd., Pensacola.


The office of newly named Senate President Bill Galvano has named more staff members for the upcoming 2019 Legislative Session. Earlier this year, the Bradenton Republican selected Lisa Vickers to be his Chief of Staff. Vickers had served as a senior policy adviser to Galvano’s predecessor, former Senate president Joe Negron.

Senate President Bill Galvano staffs up.

Katie Betta will also remain in the Senate President’s office as Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications.

As of Monday morning, Galvano’s announced staff includes:

— Vickers as Chief of Staff.

— Betta as Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications.

Reynold Meyer, Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative Policy.

Allie Cleary, Senior Policy Advisor for Healthcare.

Jeremiah Hawkes, Senior Policy Advisor for Criminal Justice and Judiciary.

Theresa Klebacha, Senior Policy Advisor for Education.

Andrew Mackintosh, Senior Policy Advisor for Innovation, Industry, and Technology.

Jacqueline Peters, Senior Policy Advisor for Econ. Dev., Infrastructure, and Security.

Christie Letarte, Special Counsel.

Kathy Galea, District Staff Coordinator.

India Steinbaugh, Scheduler and Office Manager.

Cara Campbell, Receptionist.

The office of Senate Democratic Leader Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville is also beginning to take shape, with a list of additional staff members released over the weekend.

Gibson’s Senate Minority Office staff now includes:

David Cox, Staff Director.

Stephen Thomas, Attorney.

Carlos Nathan, Legislative Analyst.

Margaret Thomas, Legislative Analyst.

Gail Vail, Legislative Analyst.

Michelle DeMarco, Communications Director.

Sherese Gainous, Administrative Assistant.


Health outreach group could lose state money” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — Florida Covering Kids & Families has for 11 years received state funding to conduct outreach for the Florida KidCare health-insurance program for children. Now, Gov Scott’s administration wants to eliminate state money for the group and direct it instead to the Florida Healthy Kids Corp., an agency whose board the governor controls. The state Agency for Health Care Administration has contracted in the past with Florida Covering Kids & Families, a program based at the University of South Florida College of Public Health that performs outreach activities for Medicaid and KidCare. But AHCA argues in a legislative budget request that state law requires the nonprofit Florida Healthy Kids Corp. to develop and implement a plan to publicize KidCare, which provides subsidized coverage to children ages 5 to 18 who live in families with incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

Happening today — The Department of Management Services’ Dozier Memorial & Monument Review Committee meets to “evaluate memorial site plans and discuss artwork media and themes.” That’s at 9:30 a.m., Betty Easley Conference Center — Room 152, Southwood State Office Complex, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.


Jacksonville has the unwanted distinction of being “Florida’s murder capital,” as well as leading the state in “kids who kill,” according to a report by First Coast News.

Tessa Duvall of the Florida Times-Union led a 20-month investigation by the Florida Times-Union looked at Duval County children and teenagers involved in homicides, attempting to understand their circumstance and motivation. The children in the report, titled “When Kids Kill“:

— Two were only 13 years old.

— Three were just a few months shy of turning 18.

— Four committed their crimes in this decade, and just as many have spent more than 30 years behind bars.

— At least two sold sex for money.

— One witnessed his father being shot.

— Another was given beer for the first time when he was 4 years old.

— All but four had been arrested before. For most, they’d lost count of exactly how many times.

The common thread: They all played a part in ending someone’s life; their crimes were committed in Duval County, and those crimes happened when they were still children.

To view the first Coast News report, click on the image below:


’We’re going to follow the law:’ Q&A with new Broward elections chief Pete Antonacci” via Larry Barszewski of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Q: Why do you think Gov. Scott selected you for the position? A: I hope that he believes that at my previous points of service in our government, that I have performed well enough to trust me with this responsibility. Q: Did the governor give you any instructions or marching orders? A: The same marching orders he gave me when I became state attorney [in Palm Beach County], which is go down there and do a good job. Q: Do you know how your office will implement the registration of eligible convicted felons now that voters approved Amendment 4 in November? A: I’m going to be seeking the guidance of the Florida Legislature. I have somewhat of a different insight there because of my experience as a prosecutor. And so, the constitutional amendment says that when your sentence is complete — you’ve done everything you’re supposed to do in your sentence — then you’re eligible to vote.

Lenny Curry promised safer city; 3 years later, its violence is up” via Andrew Pantazi of The Associated Press — When Curry defeated Alvin Brown and swept into the Mayor’s office in 2015, his campaign had a central message: violent crime is up, and he will fix it. But after three years of increased police budgets and new crime initiatives under Curry’s leadership, the murder and violent crime rates in Duval County are worse. Duval County continues to have the highest murder rate and the highest violent crime rate among the state’s 20 most populous counties. And Sheriff Mike Williams’ office is solving fewer crimes. This trend of Duval’s increasing violence came as the state’s crime rates hit their all-time low.

Gus Corbella: It’s ‘a brand-new day in Tallahassee’ ” via Florida Politics — Corbella, the senior director of government law and policy for the Greenberg Traurig firm in Tallahassee, has applied to become interim City Commissioner. If selected, he would fill in for Scott Maddox, who was suspended by Gov. Scott after a federal indictment in the wake of an FBI public corruption investigation. Corbella’s much more than a lobbyist: He’s Chair of Opening Nights, Chair of the Tallahassee Leadership Council for Shands Children’s Hospital and a trustee of the Leon High School Foundation. We sat down with him this weekend to ask him five questions about his desire to serve.

Gus Corbella wants a ‘brand-new day’ in Tallahassee.

What’s not in the Scott Maddox indictment is as intriguing as what is included” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Just as eye-opening are the things the indictment doesn’t address, and an assistant U.S. it’s attorney’s comments that the investigation is ongoing. Assistant U.S. attorney Steve Kunz said the FBI public corruption investigation is ongoing “with respect to these matters” when he argued not to release the names of witnesses. What did he mean by “these matters?” Was he referring to the issues outlined in the indictment or other people? The other names on the subpoenas read like a who’s who of the business community: John “J.T.” BurnetteKim Rivers, IB Tallahassee, Inkbridge Acquisitions, Chad Kittrell, Hunter and Harp Holdings, Duval Partners, Frank Whitley, Whitley Construction, Melissa Oglesby, KaiserKane, Catherine BakerShelton Dean, Sunnyland Solar. No mention of Rivers, the brains behind much of the so-called “financial engineering” behind many of Burnette’s and Kittrell’s projects, including ones that received tax credits or funding from the CRA.

While the iron’s hot: Candidates seek to replace Maddox” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — A seat on the Tallahassee City Commission is up for grabs, and more than a dozen candidates already have pursued the rare opportunity to hold elected office without having to campaign. Gov. Scott suspended City Commissioner Maddox last week after Maddox and former Downtown Improvement Authority Executive Director Paige CarterSmith were indicted by a federal jury for public corruption. Both are pleading not guilty to the charges in the 44-count indictment. During a news conference last week, Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey said he and City Commissioners Jeremy Matlow, Curtis Richardson and Dianne WilliamsCox “are dedicated to finding the most talented individual that can help move this community forward.”


Bill Nelson lawyer: Unopened ballots exceed Rick Scott victory margin” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — U.S. Sen. Nelson’s legal team says the number of uncounted vote-by-mail ballots exceeded incoming Sen. Scott’s margin of victory when he defeated the incumbent in November. “Remember when we thought 6,670 mail ballots in Florida were rejected due to failure by the post office to deliver them in time to the counties?” said Nelson attorney Marc Elias on social media. “Well, we now know it was 6,882 ballots. And over 4,000 ballots were thrown out for signature mismatch. Nelson lost by 10,033 votes.” But Jessica Furst Johnson, National Republican Senate Committee counsel, said Scott’s margin of victory remained insurmountable.

Bill Nelson’s lawyer says the uncounted votes were greater than Rick Scott’s margin of victory.

They served their time and are promised the vote — now what?” via Gary White of the Lakeland Ledger — The summary of Amendment 4 that appeared on ballots seems straightforward: “This amendment restores the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation.” A second sentence says those convicted of murder or sexual offenses would not receive automatic restoration of their voting rights, though they can appeal for clemency to the governor and the state cabinet. That is currently the only option for Floridians with a felony record. The ballot language says the measure takes effect Jan. 8. But Governor-elect DeSantis said in an interview that he wants to wait for the Legislature to pass a bill with “implementing language” in the session that starts March 5. So far, Florida’s Division of Elections has provided little insight into its plans for addressing Amendment 4. The director of the Florida Division of Elections spoke to elections supervisors from the state’s 67 counties earlier this month at their annual conference in Sarasota, but Polk County Supervisor Lori Edwards said she was disappointed with what she heard.

Florida election 2018: Ballot confusion hits GOP harder than Dems in PBC” via Chris Persaud of the Palm Beach Post — Voters in Republican-heavy areas of Palm Beach County botched their votes for governor more than Democrats and more than the county as a whole, an analysis of November election results reveals. The number of spoiled votes in the governor’s race far exceeded botched votes in any other race on the Palm Beach County ballot … the analysis confirms a flaw in how candidates are described on the ballot, as first noticed by elections officials in November as votes were counted — and recounted. All ballots statewide used the abbreviation REP for Republicans and REF for Reform Party candidates. It caused some voters mistakenly choosing both the GOP and Reform candidates for governor. Voting for more than one candidate is called an overvote. Palm Beach County voters in the governor’s race recorded 4,565 overvotes but only 238 in the U.S. Senate race.


Donald Trump weighs next move on border wall as shutdown looms” via Lisa Mascaro, Matthew Daly and Catherine Lucey via The Associated Press — The ball is in Trump’s court, both sides say, and the president met with top aides to discuss his spending strategy. There’s an expectation on Capitol Hill he’ll reach out soon to offer lawmakers a plan. The president said this week he’d be “proud” to shut down the government over the $5 billion he wants for the wall on the southern border, but he has since taken a softer tone, tweeting, “Let’s not do a shutdown, Democrats — do what’s right for the American People!” But Trump doesn’t have the votes from the Republican-controlled Congress to support funding for the wall at the level he wants. “The president made it very clear: He does want a border wall. He does want border security. He wants to protect the American people,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told reporters.

Donald Trump is committed to shutting down the government in a standoff over funding his border wall. (Image via AP)

Marco Rubio, Brian Mast: Corps of Engineers can’t ignore Congress on Everglades reservoir” via Florida Daily — Rubio and Mast reached out to Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works R.D. James on an Army Corps of Engineers proposal that would “disregard clear congressional intent and delay the review of the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) Post Authorization Change Report (PACR) by more than a year.” “The Corps cannot simply ignore the parts of federal law that they find inconvenient or don’t want to comply with,” Mast said. “If they fail to submit their report to Congress by January 18, they will have violated the law, and that’s absolutely unacceptable. Delays will not be tolerated.”

Will Scott follow through on health care, Puerto Rico promises?” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — “It’s frankly inconsistent for someone taking Senator-elect Scott’s position opposing [Obamacare] to say he wants to make sure pre-existing condition [protections] remain intact,” said Miriam Harmatz, executive director of the progressive Florida Health Justice Project. “It’s like taking one leg off a three-legged stool. It can’t be done.” Scott made his name in 2009 by becoming one of the earliest critics of the Affordable Care Act which mandated that insurance companies couldn’t refuse to cover someone because of a pre-existing condition. With Scott as Governor, Florida is part of a multistate lawsuit that seeks to have the pre-existing conditions provision declared unconstitutional. But in an October campaign ad entitled, “It’s Personal,” Scott said, “I support forcing insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions,” surprising observers accustomed to Scott’s previous opposition to Obamacare.

Val Demings willing to impeach Donald Trump” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Demings Sunday told MSNBC that Trump could face impeachment proceedings once Democrats take over as House majority. During an interview with host Alex Witt, the Orlando Democrat said representatives will take whatever action warranted once Special Counsel Robert Mueller provides information to Congress. “We are going to do our job,” Demings said. “If the Mueller investigation leads to impeachment, we’re going to do our job up to and including impeachment.” Demings serves on the House Judiciary Committee.


Restoring voting rights isn’t hard, if lawmakers want to do it” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — When three-fifths of those voters say they favor a particular policy, it’s time for the politicians to just do it. So it’s a bit dismaying to see some of our leaders questioning Amendment 4, which directs the state to let most felons register to vote when they’ve done their time and met all conditions of their release from prison. DeSantis last week said enforcement of the amendment may need to wait until the Legislature enacts implementing laws. But the amendments’ language is straightforward, effective next month. Their job is to implement the will of the voters. That requires nothing more than getting out of the way.

Joe Henderson: Um, Republicans? You own health care now — it’s all yours” via Florida Politics — If the ruling by a federal judge in Texas that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional holds up, Republicans will officially own whatever passes for health insurance in this country. If we have something called Trumpcare, Harrumphcare, Chumpcare, or, more likely, I-Don’t-Care (do you?), it’s all theirs. The way GOP members, including Trump, celebrated the news was basically an open window into what they think about this issue. They say they’ll come up with something better, but they won’t. They still don’t have a clue what to do if the ACA finally passes away, and they don’t seem interested in finding out. That’s because I believe they have nothing but loathing for the whole concept. They don’t believe health care insurance is a basic right of citizenship. If you can afford it, fine. Most of them can afford it. But if you can’t, you should have been born with more money or found a way to make it — especially in Florida.


Gwen Graham appointed to city of Tallahassee Independent Ethics Board” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — State Attorney Jack Campbell appointed Graham, an attorney, to a three-year term on the board. She will replace attorney Cecil Davis, whose term wraps at the end of the year. Campbell called Graham a “fantastic public servant” who can help the city during a time of difficulty. Earlier this week, City Hall was rocked by the indictment of City Commissioner Maddox on numerous counts of federal corruption charges. “As an attorney, she can certainly understand where there are violations of ethical and potentially criminal statutes,” Campbell said. “And I think the citizens of this community are served when they have confidence in the city government. And it’s my hope Gwen can help to restore that confidence.”


Holiday rush: 112.5 million Americans, 5.9 million Floridians will travel this season” via Mark Skoneki of the Orlando Sentinel — Their No. 1 destination again being Orlando, according to the auto and travel club AAA. In all, nearly 112.5 million Americans will take at least one holiday trip, among them 5.9 million from Florida, the report found. It’s the highest number since the club began tracking holiday travel in 2001. Cheap gas and a strong economy continue to “drive up demand for seasonal travel,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman for AAA — The Auto Club Group.

$12,999 breakfast? Yup, and it’s in a life-size gingerbread Castle in the Ritz-Carlton” via Rod Stafford Hagwood of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The offer is being billed as the “Fully Wrapped: The Ultimate Christmas Experience” by the Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale. Once the Dec. 24-26 event is booked by one party (up to four guests), it’s a done deal for everyone. The “Fully Wrapped” package includes: A two-night stay at the Ritz Carlton; A professional photographer capturing the experience for you; breakfast for four guests with Santa Claus; dinner for four in Burlock Coast’s Rum Room; full day spa package for one; poolside cabana with a cabana captain; and snacks and in-room holiday movie. The castle took Burlock Coast’s pastry chef Carlos Salazar months to complete, starting back in August with planning, and baking for the last two months.

Burlock Coast, the restaurant inside the Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale has made a life-sized Gingerbread Castle made of 3,000 dough bricks, 450 ornaments, and 16 hand-made chocolate sculptures. (Image via Ritz-Carlton)

At Manatee Village Historical Park, a taste of Old Florida Christmas” via Tim Fanning of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — What does a Florida Christmas look like? How about orange pomanders, those citrus decorations from the Victorian period stuffed with cloves and shipped to Northern relatives? How about donning a pair of gloves, snatching up a long stick and hoisting yourself onto a horse for a good-natured community joust? “Yeah, you heard me right. You can add jousting to the host of awesome Florida holiday traditions,” said Bridget Donahue-Farrell, the curator at Manatee Village Historical Park. “In some ways, it was a chance for young men to impress the ladies.” Although you’re unlikely to find jousting the centerpiece of Christmas Day entertainment today, many other rich, old Florida traditions were on display during the annual Old Florida Christmas Festival at Manatee Village Historical Park. In the early half of the 19th century, many Americans did not exchange Christmas gifts and it was a common belief that presents were only for servants. But by the turn of the 20th century, that view changed and homemade gifts were exchanged. In Florida, adults would get palmetto scrubbers, pens or other things small enough to fit inside stockings. Children often received books, wooden toys or games.

This isn’t the family I thought I’d have. I’m sending holiday cards anyway this year.” via Allison Langer of The Washington Post — When my twins were born in 2007, I took pictures at every stage. For their first holiday photo, I dressed them in matching white sweaters and tiny pink bows. My last holiday photo with the twins was taken nine months later and still hangs at the bottom of my stairs. Maclain didn’t like pictures. She didn’t like most things. Perhaps she was cranky because of her medical condition that made it difficult for her to eat and breathe. A month later, she died after she choked on a French fry. Maclain was born with a vascular ring … eating and breathing were hard for her. Her surgery was already scheduled. She didn’t make it to the surgery. It took two years and a new baby to inspire me to send another holiday card. I think I sent it to assure the people around me that I was OK. Look, I survived. It’s been 10 years since Maclain died. This past summer, we went on vacation to celebrate her and us, and I got lucky. The kids jumped off a dock while I had my camera pointed at them. They were in colorful bathing suits, holding hands and smiling huge. Right then, I decided this was the year. That’s the thing about grief. At first, you’re sure you’ll never laugh again. Just breathing feels wrong without her. And then one day, your kids jump off a dock and you look at these people you love so profoundly, and you think about how they lighten your pain, how they are a counterweight to the grief. And you accept that you can’t always keep everyone you love.

Opioid overdoses unite 2 families for a little Christmas magic” via Beth Kassab and Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — Jack and Donna Fletcher lost their firstborn son to the deadly scourge of opioids and were looking for some way to find light. So they decided to give Christmas to strangers. The Fletchers, who live in Orlando, raised $1,600 through a GoFundMe campaign created in the name of their son, 31-year-old Jason Fletcher. How, they wondered, could they spend the money in a way that would honor his life? Then Jack Fletcher stumbled upon an Orlando Sentinel story about three small boys who were orphaned on the side of Interstate 4 on New Year’s Eve 2016 after both of their parents died of a fentanyl overdose. It was the same drug that killed Jason and the deadliest drug in Florida last year, with more than 3,300 fatal overdoses. The Fletchers felt a connection to the boys they had never met. “We don’t have grandkids, but my wife just loves buying for kids,” Jack Fletcher said. “These boys, they’re too young to even know the tragedy they went through.”

How ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ went from parlor act to problematic” via Jacey Fortin of The New York Times — To some modern ears, the lyrics sound like a prelude to date rape. The woman keeps protesting. “I think the song has always been creepy, but we didn’t have the words to explain why,” said Lydia Liza, 24, a singer-songwriter. But some believe this to be a case of political correctness run amok. The composer Frank Loesser, known for “Guys and Dolls” and other Broadway hits, wrote it in 1944 for himself and his wife Lynn Loesser to perform for friends in their living rooms. There had been criticism over the years, too, but it seems to have reached a crescendo this year. “We’re all kind of mystified,” daughter Susan Loesser said. “The #MeToo movement, which I approve of, has really overstepped in this. You have to look at things in cultural and historical context.” Decades later, as discussions of date rape and consent became widespread, listeners began to notice just how often the woman says “no.” But the song has been defended by some feminists who argue that it tells the story of a woman who wants to spend the night. They note that her stated reasons for leaving are not all her own — she mentions a worried mother, talkative neighbors and one vicious aunt — and that she’s looking for excuses to stay.

In the era of #MeToo, the controversy surrounding ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ has heated up.

How much to buy everything on the ‘Santa Baby’ wish list? At least a billion.” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — In 1953, Eartha Kitt recorded “Santa Baby,” a song that is a testament to the more capitalist tendencies the season can evoke. So let’s figure out just how much fulfilling her Christmas wish list would cost — “Santa baby, slip a sable under the tree for me … ” Sable: $88,000; “Santa baby, a ’54 convertible too, light blue … ” Convertible: $1.75 million; “Santa baby, I want a yacht and really that’s not a lot … ” Yacht: $455 million; “Santa honey, one thing I really do need, the deed / To a platinum mine … ” Platinum mine: $461 million; “Santa cutie, and fill my stocking with a duplex and checks … ” Duplex: $17.95 million (Kitt lived mostly in the New York City area, so we figured it made sense to find a nice duplex somewhere in Manhattan). Checks: Free (Santa hands over some checks he got free from the bank). “Come and trim my Christmas tree / With some decorations bought at Tiffany … ” Ornaments by Tiffany: $24,400. “Santa baby, forgot to mention one little thing, a ring … ” Ring: $71.2 million (Kitt’s last request is a simple one: A ring. So, let’s go all out. Meet the Pink Star, a 59.6-carat oval-shaped flawless pink diamond.) It’s a lot of money, certainly.

Eight simple tricks to keep hackers from ruining Christmas shopping” via Geoffrey Fowler of The Washington Post — 1. Don’t click on links in emails. Not even the “order confirmation” ones. 2. Use PayPal, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or Android Pay whenever possible. 3. When a site asks you to set a password, don’t reuse an old one. 4. Only interact with Amazon merchants through the Amazon website. 5. Don’t put too much faith in Amazon ratings. 6. Turn on alerts for all credit card transactions. 7. Don’t shop on Wi-Fi at the mall, airport, coffee shop or hotel. 8. Look for the lock logo in your Web browser — but don’t rely on it.

— ALOE —

Behind the scenes with the Hamilton cast ahead of next week’s South Florida debut” via Rod Stafford Hagwood of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — “Hamilton,” the buzziest Broadway show to ever run the boards is playing Fort Lauderdale for an unprecedented five weeks. So we hit up the hottest cast in the theater world for a few questions about their stage secrets and what their offstage plans are here in South Florida. Joseph Morales (Alexander Hamilton): “Have fun! We feed off the energy of the audience. The show is absolute magic when we’re vibing with the crowd. Sometimes patrons don’t realize that they are part of the show and the experience.” Ta’Rea Campbell (Angelica Schuyler): “I want everyone to enjoy the show! An easy way to get lost in the story of ‘Hamilton’ is to leave your expectations behind and keep your cellphones off.” Nik Walker (Aaron Burr): “The show moves fast and the language is one that not a lot of theatergoers are used to, so it’s the kind of thing that demands your full and engaged attention to appreciate it.”

The national tour of ‘Hamilton’ is coming to South Florida.

What Jim DeFede is reading — “’The worst I’ve ever seen it’: Lean stone crab season follows red tide in Florida” via Patricia Mazzei of The New York Times — Stone crabs are becoming increasingly tough to catch in Florida’s southern waters, the apparent victims of prolonged toxic algae bloom known as red tide. Their disappearance from the Southwest Florida coast, where the red tide has hit hardest, has imperiled the livelihoods of experienced fishermen who have survived bad seasons before, but never such a lengthy downturn with no end in sight. “People ask, ‘How’s the crab?’ and I say, ‘There ain’t any,’ and they think I’m kidding,” said Eddie Barnhill, 43, a third-generation crabber from Pine Island, off the coast of Fort Myers. The red tide “basically killed the ocean floor.”

Comcast exec reportedly promises big investments in Universal parks” via John Gregory of Orlando Rising — According to Theme Park Insider, NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke made the bold promise that Comcast would invest more money in its theme park business than it spent to acquire NBCUniversal. That would mean the company spending anywhere between $6.7 billion (what Comcast paid to acquire a controlling stake in NBCUniversal in 2011) to $23.4 billion (the total expenditure after Comcast paid another $16.7 billion to buy the company outright two years later). This major investment would ensure, as Burke reportedly said, that Disney no longer gets “a free ride” without aggressive competition in the Orlando market.

’123456’ Is 2018’s Worst Password, study says. But this year, ‘Donald’ joined the list” via Glenn Fleishman of Fortune magazine — The password-management firm SplashData released its annual list of the 100 worst character combinations it found among leaks of about five million passwords. “Donald” entered the list at position 23. You’ll also find “qwerty” (#9), password (#2), and baseball (#32). The worst of the worst passwords? “123456,” which has been sitting on top of the worst password chart for five years running. Bad passwords are short, easily guessed, often contain words or common abbreviations, and are used by many other people. If one of yours is on the list, the right time to change it is right now.


Belated wishes to Ken Lawson, whose birthday was Saturday, and state Rep. Holly Raschein, who celebrated Sunday. Celebrating today are loyal reader Holly McPhail and smart guy Andrew Wiggins of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Written By

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 Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also 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.

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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

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jim Rosica, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Dan McAuliffe, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
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St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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