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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 1.11.19

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

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

Some surviving family members of the Groveland Four have waited 70 years for full consideration of whether the four young black men were victims of a grave and racially motivated injustice (background here).

Now it looks as if Board of Executive Clemency will begin discussing the case today.

Relatives of the Groveland Four stand outside the Lake County Sheriff’s Office in 2016, the location of the old jail with the Groveland Four were held. (Image via the Daily Commercial)

Anticipation was building for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ first Cabinet meeting after he declared justice was miscarried in the 1949 case.

The new governor’s promise to take up their cases at his first Cabinet meeting means the process starts — an important first step.

Advocates were advised that DeSantis, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, Attorney General Ashley Moody, and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis will receive presentations, but could withhold decisions on pardons until a special meeting, probably as much as a month.

“I was told — and this was (by) the Chief of Staff (Shane Strum) — that the Governor needed to review the material,” state Rep. Geraldine Thompson said.

“He needed to know more about it and wanted to discuss it. And that’s what my understanding is what tomorrow will be all about,” added Thompson, who has been crusading on behalf of posthumous pardons for Ernest ThomasSamuel ShepherdWalter Irvin, and Charles Greenlee.

Yet with DeSantis, Moody, and Patronis all expressing a desire to consider the pardons soon, and Fried declaring she’s ready to vote ‘yes,’ the family members do have something they’ve lacked for much of the 21 months since the Florida Legislature urged the Cabinet to provide expedited pardons:

Hope that it actually can happen.

The matter is on the agenda for the Board of Executive Clemency meeting, immediately after the conclusion of the 9 a.m. Florida Cabinet meeting.

Must-read editorial — “To the community and the families of the Groveland four: We’re sorry” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — We’re sorry for the Orlando Sentinel’s role in this injustice. We’re sorry that the newspaper at the time did between little and nothing to seek the truth. We’re sorry that our coverage of the event and its aftermath lent credibility to the cover-up and the official, racist narrative. We’re sorry that reporters and editors failed in our duty to readers, to the community, the Groveland Four and their families. The newspaper, then called the Orlando Morning Sentinel, published many stories about the incident and the aftermath.


Happening tonight — The inaugural Junior League of Tallahassee holds its 2019 Sunshine State Ball, to help identify unmet community needs and create solutions. Sponsors continue to support JLT’s ongoing efforts to improve the lives of children and families. The event begins 6:30 p.m., Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, 505 W. Pensacola St., Tallahassee. Tickets available at


@JonFavs: Pumped for the next Democratic president to use “emergency powers” for a Green New Deal (climate emergency), Medicare for All (public health emergency), and a new Voting Rights Act (democracy emergency)!

@POLITICO_Steve: Did we ever find out if Beto O’Rourke has any cavities?

@MattGaetz: For all my warranted criticism of how Team Scott treated Team Desantis (after Desantis got more votes), I’m fairly sure that this isn’t true. I’ve never known Rick Scott to care whether anyone comes to his parties. He barely stays for them himself.

@JimmyPatronis: We need science-based solutions to stop blue-green algae. Thank you to @GovRonDesantis on your leadership on this important issue for Florida’s future generations, and I applaud your vision for creating a Chief Science Officer!

@Bob_Rommel: Governor DeSantis said protecting our natural resources was priority, and he acted 48 hours after being sworn in BAMM.

@AnnaforFlorida: Waiting for climate change to be said — I think we can get there

@Fineout: Hmm. On the day @GovRonDeSantis announces his sweeping water/environmental proposal the @FloridaGOP reports it has gotten $350k from US Sugar since the election … Money for the inauguration events flowed thru the Florida GOP account & is co-mingled with normal donations. US Sugar was not listed as a sponsor.

@NewsBySmiley: DeSantis has been spelling out [ScottIsrael‘s fate all week. By Wednesday, he’d made it to S-U-S-P. On Thursday, the E-N-D was nigh.

@BSFarrington: I’m pleased to announce that @GovRonDeSantis has confirmed he’s attending the annual AP Florida legislative preview meeting Jan. 30. It should be another great event.

@BruceRitchie: Unless they’re from TV stations, streaming live announcements via Facebook just never quite seem to go off quite as expected.

@JimRosicaFL: Press Corps Lesson of the Day for new PR folks: Don’t start a press release in Tallahassee with “Freshman House Democrat Files Bill …”


Office of Insurance Regulation’s OIR Summit begins —4; MLK Day — 10; State of the Union address — 18; Super Bowl LIII — 23; Scott Maddox trial begins — 31; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 32; Pitchers and catchers begin reporting for MLB Spring Training — 32; Valentine’s Day — 34; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 53; Tampa mayoral election — 53; ‘Captain Marvel’ release — 56; St. Patrick’s Day — 65; 2019 Major League Baseball season begins — 68; Easter — 100; 2019 Legislative Session ends (maybe) — 112; 2020 Democratic presidential primary debates begin — 147; Iowa Caucuses — 385; 2020 General Election — 662.


Ron DeSantis announces sweeping fixes meant to clean up Florida water woes” via Jenny Staletovich of the Miami Herald — DeSantis unveiled sweeping measures to clean up Florida’s troubled waters Thursday, including spending $2.5 billion and launching more aggressive policies to address algae choking Lake Okeechobee and polluting the state’s coasts. The newly minted governor, who angered environmentalists on the campaign trail by dismissing climate change as a significant threat, also promised to establish a resiliency office to address looming dangers. Included in an executive order: increase water monitoring around the state and establish a task force to address blue-green algae, a growing threat worsened by pollution and a warming planet that now regularly fouls rivers flowing from a massive lake half the size of Rhode Island; clean up septic tanks; ban fracking; and focus on more green infrastructure. DeSantis also ordered construction sped up on a 17,000-acre Everglades reservoir in farm fields south of the lake and said he would work with federal officials to end polluted discharges.

Gov. Ron DeSantis unveiled several major environmental reforms, including an additional $1B and for water quality protection. (Image via

—“Red tide: In Sarasota, DeSantis touts action on environment” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Tweet, tweet:

Is DeSantis really that pro-environment?” via David Smiley of the Tampa Bay Times — In a state threatened by saltwater intrusion and suffering from red tide and toxic blue-green algae blooms, DeSantis’ green platform received bipartisan applause. He’s opposing fracking, creating a new office to integrate scientific research into the state’s environmental policies and pushing to quickly begin the process of cleansing the state’s distressed Lake Okeechobee. For some environmentalists and Democrats, the proposal fell short of hopes. During three stops around the state, DeSantis never said the words “climate change,” and they weren’t included in his executive order. Nor were there any references to humans’ role in rising temperatures, which scientists project will cause several feet of sea rise before the end of the century and contribute to extreme weather events.

Tweet, tweet:


DeSantis asks all SFWMD board members to resign” via Ali Schmitz of the Naples Daily News — DeSantis, on his third day on the job, asked for the immediate resignations of all South Florida Water Management District board members. The Senate would have to remove any board members who decline to resign, such as Vice Chair Brandon Tucker of Palm City, who said he plans to serve the last two years of his term. “I believe I made a commitment to serve out my term,” Tucker told TCPalm. “I haven’t had an opportunity to meet with the governor and his staff and tell them about the issues and my positions on them.” Tucker said he wasn’t surprised by DeSantis’ request. “Everybody figured it was coming,” Tucker said. “But I don’t believe it was correct.”

SFWMD board member won’t quit till he talks to Ron DeSantis” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Sam Accursio, a member of SFWMD’s Governing Board since 2015, said he has no plans to resign, regardless of a request by Gov. DeSantis for all members to tender their resignations effective immediately. But Accursio said he would be happy to talk to the new governor. “If he has a good reason, and if he has a person to replace me that’s better than myself, I will discuss it,” Accursio said. Accursio’s term ends in March anyway, so his own departure may mean little. The owner of Sam S. Accursio & Sons Farm, he was appointed to the board by Gov. Scott to represent Miami-Dade County.

SFWMD member Sam Accursio isn’t going quietly. (Image via the South Dade News Leader)

DeSantis expected to name Broward’s first African-American sheriff, replacing Scott Israel” via Marc Caputo and Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida — DeSantis is expected to name former Coral Springs Police Sgt. Gregory Tony to Broward County’s top law enforcement job, according to three people familiar with his decision. Tony, who would be the county’s first African-American sheriff, was recommended by a father whose daughter was killed in Parkland school shooting last February. The announcement is expected at 3 p.m. Tony runs a security firm that specializes in active-shooter training, which appeared to be lacking in Broward when multiple deputies failed to engage Nikolas Cruz immediately, before he killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Feb. 14. Andrew Pollack, the father of murder victim Meadow Pollack, told POLITICO Florida that Tony is a good friend and a police officer who had retired as the “most-decorated sergeant” in Coral Springs, which borders Parkland.

Three names for transpo Sec’y forwarded to DeSantis” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — DeSantis will consider three former or current employees of the Florida Department of Transportation to be the next head of the state agency. The Florida Transportation Commission agreed to a shortlist of contenders on Thursday after interviewing potentials for the job. Richard BiterKevin Thibault and Phillip Gainer made the cut. The names won’t come to DeSantis with any hierarchy; all are considered equally viable.

Moody won’t tolerate ‘opioid fatigue’” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Florida’s newest Attorney General sees the state’s drug problem as something that evolved during her predecessor’s tenure. Moody said during an interview with Florida Politics that former Attorney General Pam Bondi is “known” for coming into office and addressing a pill mill problem. But today, “we face a different crisis.” Moody, a Hillsborough County Republican, plans to sharpen the focus on tackling drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil — synthesized and deadly opioids that she said Floridians are using to satisfy a “dependency.” Moody is a fresh face. The drug epidemic isn’t. Opioids aren’t a new talking point, and she hopes that doesn’t mean they fade from the fore.

Attorney General Ashley Moody plans to sharpen her focus on opioids while in office. (Image via Colin Hackley)

Ashley Moody addresses human trafficking” via Diane Rado of Florida Phoenix — In one of her first actions, Moody called on Floridians to take an active role in combating human trafficking, or what she described as “modern-day slavery.” “Human trafficking is a plague that we cannot give up on combating in our state and nationwide,” Moody said in a news release highlighting that January is human trafficking prevention month. Human trafficking encompasses trading humans for commercial sex trafficking, exposure and forced labor, according to the release. Moody called on Floridians to spot human trafficking signs, including physical injuries, such as burns and scars, and people who display fear or are reluctant to discuss injuries; speak as if coached and suffer from drug addictions, infections or sleep deprivation.


‘Fetal heartbeat’ abortion bill filed in House” via News Service of Florida — Pensacola Rep. Mike Hill filed a proposal that would block physicians from performing abortions if fetal heartbeats have been detected. HB 235 would lead to third-degree felony charges for any “person who knowingly or purposefully performs or induces an abortion on a pregnant woman with the specific intent of causing or abetting the termination of the life of the unborn human being whose fetal heartbeat has been detected,” though it would include limited exceptions in situations such as when a woman’s life is in danger. So-called “fetal heartbeat” legislation has drawn heavy debate in other states and, in some cases, has led to legal battles about whether it violates abortion rights. For example, Iowa lawmakers last spring passed a fetal-heartbeat bill, and a judge heard arguments in December about its constitutionality, according to numerous news reports.

’I think we’re there’ on AOB reform, House insurance chairwoman says” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — Through two straight years of political stalemate over assignment of benefits reform, legislative leaders have declared it would take a crisis to deliver a bill to the Governor’s office. Finally, according to state Rep. Cyndi Stevenson, “I think we’re there.” The new chairwoman of the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee spoke after the panel’s first hearing of the year. The Republican from St. Johns cited the repeated hits from hurricanes Matthew, Irma, and Michael, plus a trend toward increasing litigation costs widely blamed for driving insurance premiums higher. “Assignment of benefits is eroding our ability to accumulate reserves to absorb these large events. That’s not right. And to see that it’s driving increases in people’s insurance premiums, we need to address these things,” she said.

On assignment of benefits reform, St. Augustine Republican Cyndi Stevenson is optimistic: ‘I think we’re there.’ (Image via Florida House)

School board term limits back on table classroom” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Lawmakers discussed the concept in 2018 but dumped their efforts when it became clear the Constitution Revision Commission planned to tackle the matter. CRC members intended to get the issue on the November ballot. But they failed, as the Florida Supreme Court killed the three-pronged initiative because of other aspects within the proposal. Sen. Dennis Baxley and Rep. Anthony Sabatini have resurrected the idea with legislation that would let term limits stand on their own before voters. HJR 229 / SJR 274 would ask voters to limit board members to two consecutive four-year terms. In a nod to concerns that such a proposal could at its outset remove sitting elected officials from their seats, the measures would not count any service completed before Nov. 3, 2020, making it forward-looking only.

What Joe Gruters is reading — “Alabama bans smoking on public beach” via The Associated Press — The sugar-white sand in Gulf Shores is Alabama’s most popular half-mile stretch of public beachfront. This area also is undergoing $15 million in renovations and city officials want to keep it looking nice. So, in June, city officials adopted a wide-ranging list of regulations that included an Alabama first: The public beachfront became smoke-free. The ban is part of a national trend as politicians try to keep popular attractions from looking like ashtrays and turning away tourists. In Florida, lawmakers are considering legislation that would implement a wide-ranging ban on smoking at any public beach, empowering law enforcers to cite offenders. “What Florida is doing is not surprising,” said Grant Brown, recreation and cultural affairs director with the city of Gulf Shores, comparing smoking bans on beaches with restrictions to smoking at outdoor athletic stadiums.


Amendment 4 leads to massive daily registration numbers for a non-election year” via Langston Taylor of the Tampa Bay Times — Hillsborough and Pinellas counties processed a combined 872 applications to register to vote on the day, the first day Amendment 4 expanded voting rights access to most felons who had completed their sentences. You can look at that number in two ways. In one way, it’s tiny: There are likely more than 130,000 people who just gained their right to vote in those counties. In another way, it’s enormous. There is no general election in 2019, and off-years rarely see a day where more than a few hundred people register to vote in the region. But that excitement apparently faded fast. On Wednesday, just 78 people registered to vote in Hillsborough.

The relatively large wave of ex-felons registering to vote on Amendment Four implementation day slowed down to a trickle in some counties the day after. (Image via AP)

Here’s looking at you, Enterprise Florida!” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — According to a release issued by the public-private agency this morning, EFI will lead a delegation of small and mid-sized Florida manufacturers and services providers to Morocco from April 14-18. Registration for the trip closes on Feb. 8. Morocco, home to 35 million people, is the sixth-largest economy in Africa, according to EFI, and is considered the “gateway to sub-Saharan Africa.” For interested businesses, $2,300 will buy “one-on-one Gold Key meetings with Moroccan companies interested in their product line, coordinated by the U.S. Commercial Service (USCS).” We’re guessing fezzes likely are not included.

Star-studded coalition calls for continued focus on Hurricane Michael” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — A high-profile, bipartisan coalition is re-upping a plea to the public to chip into relief efforts for the storm-battered Panhandle. The effort, dubbed REBUILD 850, has funneled $400,000 to the Florida Disaster Fund. But financial needs remain for those affected by Hurricane Michael, the nearly-Category 5 cyclone that made landfall exactly three months ago. “We really are hurt in our world,” said former House Speaker Allan Bense who launched the initiative last November alongside Will Weatherford, another former Republican House Speaker. Bense, speaking at a Thursday conference hosted by Sachs Media Group in Tallahassee, showed coalition members a picture of an overturned trailer. “This is four blocks from my house that I used to live in,” Bense said of the picture. “This is three months later, and this is what you still see everywhere you go.”

Assignment editors — Elephants stampede Orlando: The Republican Party of Florida hosts its 2019 Annual Meeting this weekend at the Rosen Centre in Orlando. Expect state Sen. Gruters, chair of the Republican Party of Sarasota County, to win the role of state chair over Charlotte County State Committeeman Bob Starr. That election should be decided Saturday morning at the annual state executive committee meeting. Another Sarasotan, State Committeeman Christian Ziegler, also seems to enjoy a clear path to the vice chair. The party will also send off outgoing chair Blaise Ingoglia, who will not seek another term in charge of the party. Other happenings at the Rosen? The Chairman’s Caucus meets at 6 p.m., followed the State Committeeman/State Committeewoman Caucus. Everyone enjoys breakfast Saturday morning, and the RPOF executive board holds a closed-door session on Saturday afternoon.


First on #FlaPol — “Poll finds fading support by Miami-Dade Cubans for ending embargo” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A new survey from the Cuban Research Institute (CRI) at Florida International University (FIU) shows a slight majority of the Cuban community in Miami-Dade County now favors maintaining the embargo between the U.S. and Cuba. That’s a shift from the last version of FIU’s poll in 2016, which showed 54 percent opposing continuation of the embargo. The 2018 version of the survey was conducted from Nov. 14 to Dec. 1 and is the first version that has run since President Donald Trump was inaugurated. That could indicate Trump’s shifting of Cuba policy from the Barack Obama administration is affecting the South Florida Cuban community, which still leans Republican. The newest poll shows 51 percent of Cubans favor continuing the embargo, while 49 percent oppose it.

Keep your eyes on Jacksonville today — Candidates hoping to run countywide on the 2019 Duval County (Jacksonville) ballot face a noon Friday deadline to qualify. Mayor Lenny Curry qualified late Thursday. Thus far, the former Republican Party of Florida chair hasn’t drawn serious competition. But City Councilwoman Anna Brosche (like Curry, a first-term Republican CPA) is expected to get in. And Democratic City Councilman Garrett Dennis believes he’s the only “real Democrat who can beat Lenny,” as one source put it. The first election (a blanket primary) is in March. Curry’s goal is to clear 50.001 percent and avoid that pesky May runoff against Brosche or Dennis.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry makes it official, qualifying for re-election. (Image via Twitter)

Miami Gardens Mayor says he’s running for County Commission in 2020” via Doug Hanks of the Miami Herald — Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert said he was running to replace Barbara Jordan as the District 1 commissioner when Jordan is forced to leave her seat in 2020 after 16 years in office. Miami-Dade voters approved a two-term limit in 2012 for the 13-member board, and the rules are set to trigger their first mandatory departures eight years later, with the 2020 elections for five seats. Two incumbents, District 5’s Eileen Higgins and District 11’s Joe Martinez, won their seats after 2012 and are free to run for re-election next year. The commission rotates elections between odd- and even-numbered districts every two years, so the remaining incumbents who were in office during 2012 will be forced to leave by 2022.

Miami prepares for Super Bowl, Democratic National Convention” via John Charles Robbins of Miami Today — Leaders in the City of Miami are preparing for the events, with promises of local cash support and plans to work with all-important host committees. Legislation covering both events is scheduled for discussion and possible action by the city commission. City commissioners are to consider a resolution authorizing City Manager Emilio González to appropriate and to pay the city’s $500,000 contribution for fiscal 2018-2019 to the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee. The city has previously hosted, participated in, and assisted with community events for such national sporting events in a variety of ways, and in previous national sporting events involving the city there have been donations to the city, improvements to city-owned properties, and in-kind services provided by the city, the resolution says.

What Bloomberg’s Climate Challenge award means for St. Petersburg” via Cathy Salustri of Creative Loafing Tampa Bay — Over the next two years, St. Petersburg will have a climate adviser paid for by Bloomberg Philanthropies — from the National Resources Defense Council; the city will also have access to experts across the world who will help make city facilities as energy efficient as possible (the goal, Wright tells us, is to “ultimately include renewable energy” in all city buildings). While the city must spend its own money to make the physical changes — for example, to make most city vehicles part of a “green fleet” of electric vehicles — the Challenge gives each city access to experts who can offer advice on how to make successful changes. Think of it as St. Petersburg having a carbon-reduction sherpa.

What does the Bloomberg Climate Challenge Award actually mean for St. Pete?

Group knocks millions spent on legal ads” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A new report from the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) shows trial lawyers spent about $9.2 million on advertising in the Tampa-St. Petersburg and Miami-Fort Lauderdale media markets during the third quarter of 2018. As its name suggests, the ATRA advocates for various forms of tort reform. The group has voiced its concern over the amount of these ads current hitting the airwaves. “While these ads may be irritating, they also have negative effects further down the line,” said ATRA President Tiger Joyce. “These advertisements affect jurors’ perceptions of certain issues or products and increase the chance that a juror will enter a case with preconceived notions they would not have otherwise held.”

Ray Sansom leaps into superintendent race” via Wendy Victora of the NWF Daily News — Nearly two years before voters will go to the polls to decide, the first candidate has prequalified to run to become superintendent of Okaloosa County School District. Sansom, who is no stranger to politics or political scandal, prequalified. The 56-year-old Niceville former commissioner and state legislator said he talked to hundreds of people before making his decision. Sansom served eight years on the Okaloosa County Commission before being elected to the state legislature in 2002. Since stepping down in 2010, he has worked in various administrative positions with the Rader Group, which runs schools for at-risk students.


Marco Rubio targets China from Small Business Committee chair” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — “America’s small businesses represent economic dynamism and a sense of community that is often missing from American life. Amid rapid technological advances, shifting global economic trends, and rising foreign adversaries, we must fight to protect our small businesses,” Rubio said. To that end: five bills the Senator said aims to help “American entrepreneurs to innovate, thrive, and grow so that we can keep our economy competitive on the global stage.” Primary among the bills is one targeting “rising foreign adversaries,” barring Small Business Administration help from going to China “by preventing loans and guarantees — money intended to stimulate the growth of American businesses — from going into the pockets of Chinese-owned firms.”

Rick Scott on ‘ridiculous’ government shutdown: I’m going to work hard!” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — The former Florida governor called the shutdown, which has affected roughly 800,000 federal workers and contractors, “ridiculous.” “We shouldn’t be shutting down government. … We’ve got to figure out how to bring people together,” said Scott, words that might not reflect the thoughts of his close pal Trump. As he did while he was governor, the uber-wealthy Scott said he’ll forgo the $174,000 government salary. “I’m going to work hard. I’m going to work on building relationships, and I’m going to take the time to learn the issues and how to get things done,” Scott said.

Ready for hard work: Rick Scott calls the continuing government shutdown ‘ridiculous,’ refuses again to take any pay as Senator.

Former FEMA boss says border situation is not an emergency” via Seth Borenstein of The Associated Press — Craig Fugate, who ran the national disaster agency for nearly eight years under Obama, said the push of refugees seeking asylum on the border with Mexico is not a national emergency. Trump has called it a crisis and is weighing a national emergency declaration to bypass a reluctant Congress and fund his long-promised border wall. It is the issue that has led to the extended partial government shutdown. Fugate ran recovery operations to numerous hurricanes and other disasters and managed the issue of separated migrant children. “And that was a crisis,” Fugate said in a phone interview. It was an issue of mass care, he said. “I’ve yet to see anything physically stop illegal immigration,” Fugate said. He said it would be cheaper and more effective to spend money to reduce crime and poverty in areas the refugees are fleeing from to stop illegal immigration that way.

Brian Mast pushes bipartisan bill to pay Coast Guard during shutdown” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — As the government shutdown entered its 20th day Thursday, GOP U.S. Rep. Mast introduced a bill ensuring members of the U.S. Coast Guard still get paid. The Coast Guard is the only branch of the military whose members are not being paid during the shutdown. More than 41,000 active duty members, 6,200 reservists, and 8,500 civilian personnel are affected. Members of the Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy receive pay through Department of Defense funding. That funding was approved in a separate measure back in September. But the Coast Guard is funded by the Department of Homeland Security, which is one of several government agencies hamstrung by the current partial shutdown.

NASA contractors struggle without pay during government shutdown — and may never see the money” via Chabeli Herrera of the Orlando Sentinel — Nearly 60 people had turned out for the meeting of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 2061 in Cape Canaveral seeking answers about how to endure the stalemate between Trump and Congress over a border wall with Mexico. About 1,200 employees at Kennedy Space Center whose jobs have been deemed “nonessential” — 600 of them represented by this union — have been at home since Dec. 22. To bridge the gap, many of them are using paid vacation days, burning through savings accounts, cutting back on expenses and trying to get extensions on their home and auto payments. And for contractors, like the members of the union, nothing is guaranteed. They’re not government employees, so they are not assured back pay once everything is resolved. Until then, the repercussions are already widespread — and they’re mounting.

Federal workers in Tallahassee rally for end to government shutdown” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — On Thursday, several dozen federal employees and retirees marched a short distance from the AFL-CIO office on South Monroe Street to the Historic Capitol. Nicole Trawick, a single mom who works as a correctional officer at the federal prison in Tallahassee, led the workers in a loud chant demanding paychecks from the government. Some drivers honked and waved in support. “Build the wall,” one passer-by said. Trawick said leaders in Washington “need to be adults and sort that out” so she and some 800,000 other federal workers can resume their normal lives.

No payday: Angry federal workers in Tallahassee hold a rally to call for an end to the extensive government shutdown. (Image via WFSU)

Assignment editors — U.S. Reps. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Donna Shalala will hold a news conference with federal employees, union workers and Miami-Dade County residents to highlight the local impact of the ongoing government shutdown, 5:15 p.m., Concourse D #4 TSA Checkpoint, 2nd level, Miami International Airport, 2100 NW 42nd Ave., Miami.

Stephanie Murphy grabs seat on powerful Ways and Means Committee” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising — Murphy, just starting her second term, has been appointed to the chief tax-writing committee, with oversight on federal programs such as Medicare, Social Security and trade. She will be the only Florida Democrat on the committee in the 116th Congress controlled by Democrats and the first since 2010. “It’s crucial that Florida — our nation’s third largest state — have a strong voice on this influential committee working to strengthen our economy, secure our nation, and protect the promises we’ve made to our seniors,” Murphy stated in a news release. “In particular, at a time when rising trade tensions continue to directly impact tourism, agriculture, travel, and our state’s overall economy, I will utilize my experiences in the private sector and at the Pentagon — where I helped negotiate bilateral security agreements—to find bipartisan cooperation that moves our nation forward.”

Charlie Crist lands on House Appropriations Committee” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Crist will be taking a seat on the A-list committee responsible for funding for most of the functions of the federal government. He takes the lead in a Democratically controlled 116th Congress on a committee on which the late former U.S. Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young of St. Petersburg served for nearly 40 years, including a tenure as chair. In the release Crist identified his priorities as Protecting the Everglades; combating Harmful Algal Blooms, including red tide and blue-green algae; bolstering community development and aid programs for underserved communities; funding for FEMA flood mapping and disaster mitigation efforts; funding for Army Corps shore protection projects; increasing funding for NOAA marine research; supporting the four U.S. Coast Guard stations in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, MacDill Air Force Base, and the many critical defense installations in Florida; and protecting and strengthening benefits for the 1.5 million veterans who call the Sunshine State home.

Pinellas legacy: Charlie Crist lands a seat on the House Appropriations Committee, the same committee where the late Congressman C.W. “Bill” Young served for nearly 40 years. (Image via Twitter)

Val Demings gets key post in Democrats’ congressional campaign committee” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising — The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee appointed Demings to be one of two national co-chairs of that organization’s recruitment committee, which identifies, recruits and promotes Democrats around the country to run for Congress in 2020. Demings herself was once targeted by that committee, leading to her successful 2016 election. She will co-chair that committee with U.S. Rep. Donald McEachin of Virginia. Both of them have just started their second terms in Congress. The announcement was by DCCC Chair Cheri Bustos, the Illinois congresswoman who just succeeded New Mexico’s Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján in leading the Democrats’ campaign committee.

Ross Spano forgoing pay, more campaign issues” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — The Federal Elections Commission has sent the Spano campaign a letter requesting information about discrepancies in campaign finance reports, including what appears to be failure to list names of contributors who gave to the campaign through the Club for Growth PAC. Spokeswoman Sandi Poreda said the problem is minor and blamed former campaign treasurer Jamie Jodoin. But Jodoin said the problems were in a report filed by her successor after she left the campaign, and that the contributors actually were listed. She said a software problem made it appear there were unnamed contributors.


Ending tribalism, promoting civic education are good goals for DeSantis” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — On the plus side, politically, our new Governor spoke about ending the fierce partisanship of state government — he called it “tribalism” — and improving civics education for Florida students. Maybe those two go together; perhaps people wouldn’t be so easily led to blind belief in their party’s most extreme positions if they better understood the proper roles of city, county, state and federal governments. Thus it’s probably good that DeSantis comes to Tallahassee from six years in Washington, referring to himself as a “recovering U.S. congressman.” He’s obviously a partisan Republican, a Trumpeter from the start, but it’s encouraging that he sees the need for teaching government, not just politics.

Gov. DeSantis, stand your ground. Rescind all those lame-duck appointments by Scott.” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times — In his final days as governor, Scott made dozens of political appointments to state agencies and boards, including more than 70 late Friday. Nothing to see here, handlers and allies said. Just routine vacancies being filled. Hooey. Either because he wanted to stick his thumb in the eye of his successor or because he couldn’t resist giving last-minute rewards to political allies and donors or because of simple arrogance, Scott snubbed DeSantis and had to know it. DeSantis is just introducing himself to Floridians. His appointments so far show competence and governing experience are a higher priority with him than rigid conservative ideology. He remains undefined as a leader but pushing back against Scott would demonstrate his independence and backbone.

Job seekers beware: Study shows political affiliation can win, lose the job” via Karen Halperin Cyphers for Florida Trend – Sachs Media Group recently tested this through an experimental design we built into a random sample survey of 1,000 Florida voters. Respondents were randomly assigned to see one of two resumes for a position as a junior-level IT specialist. These two resumes were the same but for one exception: For half, the resume identified the applicant as Vice President of the “Fairfax County Young Republicans,” while the other half showed the same position with “Fairfax County Young Democrats.” The findings show that a strong — and statistically significant — bias favoring members of one’s own political party takes hold in the context of hiring. The extent of this bias is the same for Republicans and Democrats, each favoring “their own” in about equal measure. Voters without a party affiliation (NPA) show less bias overall, but at a base level have more favorable views toward Democratic applicants.

Lawsuits are hurting Florida’s nursing homes and patients” via William Large for the Orlando Sentinel — One of the trial lawyers’ favorite targets is the nursing-home profession. They spread the message that nursing homes and their staff are failing our seniors. Their objective is to use the guilt faced by family members who must make the difficult decision to place their loved one in a nursing home. Sadly, lawyers seek to profit by exploiting these experiences and using family members as leverage in settlement negotiations. These lawsuits also create problems for the people entrusted with caring for our elderly friends and family members. Without action, the future is not bright for our nursing homes and our seniors. It is time for our legislators to enact measures that will get rid of excessive litigation while protecting those who want nothing more than to provide the aid and assistance so many families desperately need.


Personnel note: Brittany Dover starts at State” via Florida Politics — Dover, who last was Deputy Finance Director for Republican Matt Caldwell‘s campaign for Agriculture Commissioner, now is Legislative Affairs Director for Secretary of State Mike Ertel. Her rise over her short years in politics and The Process has been nothing short of meteoric. She worked her way from the Republican Party of Florida, where she got her first break, to working in legislative affairs at the departments of Corrections and Environmental Protection, to a job as a lobbyist at Hopping, Green & Sams.

Congratulations to Brittany Dover, who will now become Legislative Affairs Director for newly appointed Secretary of State Mike Ertel.

Florida conservationist Manley Fuller leaving state for new job” via Julia Hauserman of Florida Phoenix — Florida Wildlife Federation Executive Director Fuller is leaving Florida for a new job in North Carolina. Fuller has headed the Florida Wildlife Federation for 32 years, and been at the forefront of most every Florida environmental battle to preserve the state’s natural resources, including fighting offshore oil drilling and fracking, passing the conservation land-buying initiatives, protecting endangered species like the Florida panther, and promoting wildlife crossings to prevent animals from being killed on highways. His organization often took to the courts to enforce environmental laws. He Fuller will return to his native North Carolina, where he will be Vice President for Conservation for the North Carolina Wildlife Federation.


Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides an in-depth look at South Florida politics, along with other issues affecting the region.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable with Democratic political consultant Victor DiMaioAakash Patel, the founder and president of Elevate, Inc.; Tampa Bay Times editorial writer Molly Moorhead; investigative reporter Noah Pransky.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion of the inauguration of Gov. DeSantis, the Florida Cabinet, and the potential direction the new Governor will take with the Florida Legislature. Joining Walker-Torres are state Sen. Janet Cruz and state Reps. Byron Donalds and Susan Valdes.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: This week’s show will discuss the inauguration of Gov. DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet; special guest state Rep. Anna Eskamani will discuss her win in House District 47. Political Connections will also take to the streets to ask viewers about their opinions on local politics.

Politics on Your Side with Evan Donovan on News Channel 8 WFLA (NBC): Tampa City Councilman and mayoral candidate Harry Cohen.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon will speak with Tallahassee physician Dr. Thomas Serio.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Featured guests are House Speaker José Oliva, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Frederick Ingram, president of the Florida Education Association.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg will focus on the new Florida Governor and the continuing government shutdown. Also, the powerhouse roundtable will take on the week’s news.

— ALOE —

Macklemore, Pitbull, Steve Miller Band coming to Universal’s Mardi Gras” via John Gregory of Orlando Rising — Universal Orlando has announced most of the headliners for its upcoming 2019 Mardi Gras concerts. The event will run nightly from Feb. 9 through April 4 at Universal Studios Florida. On 13 of those nights, concerts will take place on the park’s Music Plaza Stage. The full lineup includes BushGavin DeGrawDan + ShayMacklemoreBecky GSean PaulSteve Miller BandZiggy MarleyNF and Pitbull. … Along with the concerts, the event will also offer Cajun food and other New Orleans favorites. “Our culinary team has whipped up new and returning fan-favorite food and drink options,” Universal Orlando content engagement representative Denielle Ricci said. “We’re talking beignets, frog legs, crab étouffée, and crawfish! Plus, we’re going to have a signature Mardi Gras cocktail, craft beer and more.” … The concerts are included with regular admission to Universal Studios Florida.

Macklemore, Pitbull, Steve Miller Band are among the headliners announced for Universal’s 2019 Mardi Gras.

Tim Tebow pops the question to former Miss Universe Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters” via Kate Feldman of the New York Daily News — “Thank you for saying YES and making me the happiest man in the world,” he wrote on Instagram with a trio of adorable photos. “You’re the love of my life, and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you. Nel-Peters, 23, was crowned Miss Universe in 2017. “Any dreams I’ve ever had, you’ve exceeded them all!” she wrote on Instagram. “I love you, and I can’t wait to spend forever with you!”


Best wishes to the smartest guy from the Panhandle you’ve never met, Rusty Branch. Celebrating this weekend is our dear friend Francisco Gonzalez, as well as Tony GloverBarbara Petersen of the First Amendment Foundation, Rebecca Roman of Adams Street Advocates, Chester Spellman of AmeriCorps, and Jeff Woodburn of The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners.

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 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.

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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.
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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