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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 1.10.19

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

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

Look for Gov. Ron DeSantis to announce today that Noah Valenstein will continue serving as Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, sources briefed on the personnel decision tell Florida Politics.

Look for Noah Valenstein to stay at the DEP.

That makes Valenstein, who was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott last year, a survivor of the new administration’s shake-up of other state leaders.

The DeSantis transition team named Valenstein to an environmental advisory panel, hinting that the current DEP Secretary would remain a player in the new administration. 

During the transition, Valenstein and other advisers met publicly to discuss the environmental concerns facing the state, like toxic blue-green algae and red tide. As a candidate, DeSantis delivered tough talk on these issues. He waged an early war on sugar interests and described himself a “Teddy Roosevelt” Republican.

Before DEP, Valenstein served as the executive director of the Suwannee River Water Management District.

Valenstein had previously served as Scott‘s environmental policy coordinator before Scott in May 2017 appointed him to lead DEP. Valenstein replaced interim Secretary Ryan Matthews, who filled in after former Secretary Jon Steverson quit to join the legal-lobbying firm of Foley & Lardner.

Assignment editors — DeSantis will make a significant water policy announcement joined by First Lady Casey DeSantis and Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez, 7:30 a.m., FGCU’s Vester Marine and Environmental Science Research Field Station, 5164 Bonita Beach Road, Bonita Springs. At 12:45 p.m., the trio will also hold a news conference at The New Pass Room in the Keating Marine Education Center at Mote Marine, 1600 Ken Thompson Pkwy., Sarasota. And at 2:30 p.m., they will also make another water announcement at Flagler Place, 201 SW. Flagler Ave., Stewart.


@RealDonaldTrump: Just left a meeting with Chuck [Schumer] and Nancy [Pelosi], a total waste of time. I asked what is going to happen in 30 days if I quickly open things up, are you going to approve Border Security which includes a Wall or Steel Barrier? Nancy said, NO. I said bye-bye, nothing else works!

@Fineout: As @GovRonDeSantis & Cabinet meet on Fri to discuss the Groveland 4 case — let’s make something clear. There’s nothing in Fla that requires clemency records to be hidden from the press and public. Instead it’s been done by a wave of the hand by past governors & Cabinet members

@SkylerSwisher: I can’t stop typing Gov. Rick DeSantis.

—@SenChrisSmith: I would humbly suggest that attorney @RonDeSantisFL read Judge [Mark] Walker’s decision today on Brenda Snipes removal before taking swift action to remove @ScottJIsrael

@DJGroup: Lots of sleepy #FLInauguration folks on this early Delta flight to the ATL. Some may have come straight from @GovClubTally.


Office of Insurance Regulation’s OIR Summit begins — 8; MLK Day — 11; State of the Union address — 19; Super Bowl LIII — 24; Scott Maddox trial begins — 32; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 33; Pitchers and catchers begin reporting for MLB Spring Training — 33; Valentine’s Day — 35; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 54; Tampa mayoral election — 54; ‘Captain Marvel’ release — 57; St. Patrick’s Day — 66; 2019 Major League Baseball season begins — 69; Easter — 101; 2019 Legislative Session ends (maybe) — 113; 2020 Democratic presidential primary debates begin — 148; Iowa Caucuses — 386; 2020 General Election — 663.


Ron DeSantis picks female Cuban-American for state’s highest court” via Adriana Gomez Licon of The Associated Press — Barbara Lagoa, for the past 12 years a judge on the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Miami, was introduced by DeSantis at an event at Miami’s Freedom Tower. “In the country my parents fled, the whim of a single individual could mean the difference between food and hunger, liberty or prison, life or death,” Lagoa said. “Unlike the country my parents fled, we are a nation of laws,” DeSantis said Lagoa, 51, has an impeccable judicial background and that her Cuban-American upbringing gives her extra appreciation for the rule of law. He noted that she has considered more than 11,000 cases and written 470 legal opinions. “She has been the essence of what a judge should be,” the Governor said. “She understands the rule of law, how important that is to a society.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis appoints Miami Judge Barbara Lagoa, third from left, to the Florida Supreme Court. First Lady Casey DeSantis, second from the left, and members of Lagoa’s family look on. (Image via Miami Herald)

Rick Scott made 84 last-minute appointments. That’s not going over well with DeSantis.” via Emily Mahoney and Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis told reporters he would “definitely rescind” some of the “lame duck appointments,” and that he’s “going to look at all of them.” Behind the scenes, Scott’s handiwork received a cooler reception. U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, who served as a co-chair on DeSantis’ transition team, said the team was “frequently frustrated” with Scott. Gaetz said he was personally “put off” by Scott’s flurry of last-minute appointments. “When he stood up [to leave during DeSantis’ inaugural ceremony] I was wondering if he was running back to the office to make nine or 10 more appointments,” Gaetz said. “He should pull back every single appointment. That’s the advice I gave him.”

With Gov. DeSantis likely to rescind many or even all of Scott‘s last minute, Senate-confirmable appointments, here’s a cleaned-up version of some inside dirt I unloaded on Twitter yesterday:

The bad blood (a bit of an overstatement) between the outgoing and incoming governor began post-election when it was clear Scott was headed to a recount … Scott did not like facing a recount and really did not like that DeSantis – although he too was in a recount – was already pivoting to transition. (Scott’s race was much closer.)

It has not yet been reported the resistance Scott put up to the DeSantis transition team about getting official office space. According to top sources close to DeSantis, Scott would not sign off on getting DeSantis the space until DeSantis would meet with Scott.

… DeSantis, of course, went to meet with Scott … At that meeting and in subsequent meetings between Scott, DeSantis and their chief advisers, including Susie Wiles, transition chairs, and Brad Piepenbrink, Scott made it clear that he wanted Cissy Proctor kept on at DEO, Julie Jones at DOC, and EOG Communications Director John Tupps … well, somewhere.

DeSantis agreed to take this all under consideration and his transition team got the office space.  But when the DeSantis transition announced that someone else was going to lead DEO, that was another turning point, and that’s when Scott really bared his fangs.

For the original Twitter thread, click here.

— “Rick Scott blindsides DeSantis on his way out” via Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida


DeSantis visits Mexico Beach: ‘really, really devastating’” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — At one stop on the governor’s tour, the sea breeze was no match for the smell of raw sewage from the city’s damaged sewer system. Homes reduced to mounds of rubble were still waiting to be picked up. More than two dozen ovens and refrigerators were stacked just a few feet from the city’s white sand beach. “You knew that it got whacked when you looked at the pictures,” DeSantis said later. “But when you’re actually there and see the concrete slabs where the homes used to be — really, really devastating.” It was DeSantis’ first trip to Mexico Beach, which took a direct hit from the historic October storm, and he vowed to stay committed to the devastated area.

On his first day since taking office, Gov. Ron DeSantis visits Mexico Beach with CFO Jimmy Patronis. DeSantis said a firsthand look shows how Hurricane Michael was ‘really, really devastating.’

DeSantis uses seized plane to travel state” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — DeSantis made his first trip out of Tallahassee aboard an upgraded King Air aircraft that law-enforcement officials had seized in a drug bust. A trip from Tallahassee to Miami to announce his first state Supreme Court appointment, before shuttling off to Mexico Beach to view hurricane damage, involved him taking the seized aircraft maintained by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. “It’s a drug seizure that’s been upgraded, and it’s their opinion and I think it’s our opinion in terms of being legal, that that is something because they have the responsibility to protect and transport the governor, that that can be used for my transportation,” DeSantis continued. “Now, that’s not going to be like the old state planes where the Cabinet and other people could do it. It flows from their responsibility to protect me.”

DeSantis disappoints the LGBTQ community” via Mitch Perry of Florida Phoenix — Just hours after he was sworn in as Governor, DeSantis issued an executive order stating that it is the policy of his administration to prohibit discrimination in employment based on age, sex, race, color, religion, national origin, marital status or disability. Missing from the list: Any mention of protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. That sparked almost immediate concern with Democrats. “The fact that on Day One the governor conspicuously omits protections that are in our law already … for state workers and contractors. How soon are you going to fix this?” asked Miami Senate Democrat Jose Javier Rodriguez at a news conference in the Capitol. “You can fix this, this afternoon.”

DeSantis signals he may suspend Sheriff over Parkland shooting” via Patricia Mazzei of The New York Times — During his first full day in office, DeSantis indicated that he planned to take action quickly on Broward Sheriff Scott Israel’s future, though he has not suspended him yet. “All I can say is, to the people of South Florida: I shall return very soon,” DeSantis told reporters in Miami when asked about the sheriff’s potential suspension. “It’s not going to take forever.” Sheriff Israel has not yet heard from the new governor, said Stuart Kaplan, the sheriff’s lawyer. “We have received no word whatsoever from his office,” Kaplan said. The sheriff is “at work and tending to the responsibilities of making sure the citizens of Broward County are kept safe.”

Tweet, tweet:

Panel to interview five candidates for FDOT Secretary” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — The Florida Transportation Commission will soon submit to Gov. DeSantis a shortlist of three candidates to lead the Florida Department of Transportation. Commission members whittled the list to five and will attempt to interview each before deciding on three names. Those still in contention include Phillip Gainer, an FDOT district secretary based in Chipley. Scott Collister, a transportation contractor with former ties to the agency; Kevin Thibault; a veteran of FDOT who currently works as the southeast regional vice president of TranSystems; Richard Biter; the former assistant secretary for intermodal systems at FDOT; and Katharine Nees, a Texas-based transportation consultant with decades of experience in Texas’ transportation system.

What new AHCA head Mary Mayhew is(n’t) reading — “Governor proposes state-run health care option in Washington state” via — Gov. Jay Inslee introduced Cascade Care, a plan to provide a state-run health care system akin to “Medicare for all.” “We believe it is a just thing to do for all of our citizens to have access to affordable health care,” Inslee said at a news conference. “ … I am pleased to announce that we will be proposing a public option in the State of Washington, to take yet another significant step in the goal of universal coverage in the state.”


House tax committee opens debate over taxing online sales” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — Members of the House Ways & Means committee hankered openly to collect potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in sales taxes on online sales. What wasn’t clear is whether Florida’s new supermajority requirement to raise revenues would allow them to do that. Nevertheless, committee members from both parties expressed interest in going after this revenue. “It’ll be one of the biggest issues before the Legislature this Session,” Committee Chair Bryan Avila, a Hialeah Republican, said following the hearing. He didn’t know how much money is at stake. “All I can say is hundreds of millions. I really wouldn’t be able to give you an accurate number.” … Freshman Delray Beach Republican Mike Caruso said there is little appetite for targeting smaller retailers. “There’s an economy of scale. To go after 1,000 little guys that add up to one Amazon is always a challenge for any regulatory body,” he said. 

Bryan Avila says taxing online sales is one of the most significant issues before the Legislature in 2019. (Image via AP)

Senate panel briefed on septic tanks’ contribution to algae outbreak” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Septic tanks are one of the primary triggers for toxic algae blooms throughout the state, the Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee was told. A presentation was given by Dr. Brian Lapointe, who has worked as a research professor at Florida Atlantic University and has studied water quality in the state for decades. He has previously produced work, funded by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, showing that septic tanks are a large contributor to the pollution that allows algae blooms to spawn in Florida’s waterways. “I personally consider this the most important and urgent issue facing our state,” Lapointe said of septic tanks’ contribution to the algae blooms.

UCF misrepresented spending for years, committee says” via Orlando Rising — According to findings from the House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee, the University of Central Florida had a strategy in place to obscure nearly $85 million in construction spending between 2013 and 2018. First reported by Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida, UCF had a “multiyear stratagem” to misrepresent how it spent state operating funds, which earmarked for instruction and research projects. … The new report from House Ethics Public Integrity Chair Tom Leek says the university’s state operating fund budgets listed the construction spending under deferred maintenance and general expenditures. Additionally, the report states administrators didn’t inform the UCF board of trustees where the money for those projects was coming from. … The first inkling of a violation was uncovered in August when an audit found the university used $38 million in operating funds to build the 137,000-square-foot Trevor Colbourn Hall.

Lawmakers continue to look for ‘alternative pathways’ to high school graduation” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Despite the climbing percentages, many students cannot pass the state’s required tests in reading or math. Some turn to alternate exams, some to adult education. Some walk away. For more than five years, legislators have discussed what they call “alternative pathways” to graduation. These would create substitute courses, different testing options and other methods to arrive at a diploma and cross the stage. “It’s still a big goal of mine,” said Rep. Ralph Massullo, who this year chairs the House PreK-12 Innovation committee. SB 226 by Sen. Jeff Brandes would allow middle and high schools that adopt a “mastery based” academic program to adopt alternative methods to assign letter grades and course credits.

High schools could be required to offer Bible classes” via Florida Politics — Rep. Kim Daniels, a Jacksonville Democrat known for championing legislation that brings religion into public schools, filed legislation Tuesday that would require high schools to offer an “objective study of religion.” Subjects include Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament of the Bible, and the New Testament of the Bible. The courses would still be electives: the state’s public schools would have to offer these, but no one student would be required to take them.

Democrats seek repeal of law defining marriage as only between man, woman” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation validating same-sex marriage in Florida, the same day equality advocates criticized DeSantis for failing to address LGBTQ rights in a new nondiscrimination order. The oversight added urgency to legislation formally repealing Florida’s Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1997 statute declaring Florida only recognize marriage between a man and a woman. The Florida law was signed by Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles a year after President Bill Clinton signed similar federal legislation. Both laws since have been declared unconstitutional, but the Florida language remains on the books. “As we embark on this administration, we must do our part to set a tome on equality,” state Rep. Anna Eskamani said. “The idea of repealing DOMA is easy.”

House panel to split health care oversight” via the News Service of Florida — House Speaker Jose Oliva promised to shake up the state’s health care delivery system during his two-year tenure. A lot of the work will fall on two health care panels: The Health Quality Subcommittee and the Health Market Reform Subcommittee. Health Quality Chairwoman Colleen Burton told her subcommittee the group would focus on Florida Department of Health issues. In addition to regulating health professionals, the department is charged with issues such as public health, procuring health care for medically complex children and environmental health. The Health Market Reform Subcommittee, which is chaired by Rep. Cary Pigman will have oversight of issues involving the state Agency for Health Care Administration, including certificate-of-need regulation and health care facility regulation.

Health Quality Chair Colleen Burton will have her subcommittee focus on Department of Health issues.

New laws allow military, families to keep Florida professional licenses” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — New laws have allowed hundreds of soldiers and veterans to maintain their professional licenses in Florida even as deployments sent them overseas, according to state officials. G.W. Harrell, executive director of the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation, told state representatives that changes put in place in 2017 have allowed more military personnel to remain in good professional standing for work in Florida. A total of 349 licenses have been issued to veterans, their spouses or surviving spouses since the change took effect in July 2017. That includes 112 construction contractors, 140 real estate professionals and even 22 veterinarians. And fees waived for military personnel and their families also saved about $198,000.

Brad Drake bill would bring BP money to inland Northwest Florida” via Florida Politics — Republican Rep. Brad Drake filed a bill Wednesday that would redirect settlement money from the BP oil spill into a new economic development fund in Northwest Florida. HB 191 would create the Northwest Florida Rural Inland Affected Counties Recovery Fund, which would receive 5 percent of all payments the state receives from BP after July 1, 2019. … Five years after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the state and BP reached a settlement that would see the oil company pay $2 billion to the state over 17 years. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity would oversee Drake’s proposed fund, paying for projects ranging from workforce programs to tourism marketing in Calhoun, Gadsden, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Liberty and Washington counties.

Kim Daniels willing to say she filed false financial disclosures” via Andrew Pantazi of the Florida Times-Union — Daniels, a Jacksonville Democrat who has repeatedly faced ethics and elections complaints during her eight years in politics, filed an agreement recently with the state that she would confess to filing false financial disclosures. In return, the agreement says, the commission should refer the case to House Speaker Oliva for any further action. The statewide ethics commission will meet Jan. 25 to decide whether or not to accept this deal. Daniels has agreed to admit she filed inaccurate disclosures in 2012, 2013 and 2014. But ever since her time on Jacksonville City Council, she has also sparked ethics complaints. She previously agreed to pay a $1,500 fine related to a 2015 Florida Election Commission complaint that she illegally used campaign funds on personal expenses. In that case, she agreed that the commission could prove the facts.

Governors Club Thursday lunch buffet menu — As committee week begins for the 2019 Session, the Governors Club starts up its lunch menu with tomato basil soup; mixed green salad; Napa cabbage salad with Asian vinaigrette; charcuterie, cheese and bread; Bob’s BBQ ribs; vegetarian walnut meatloaf with leek and mushroom gravy; Tennessee pulled turkey sandwich with white barbecue sauce; steak fries; fried green tomatoes; grilled brook trout; corn on the cob; and Tennessee banana crème pie for dessert.


First on #FlaPol — “Brenda Snipes gets partial win in court fight over suspension as Broward elections supervisor” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Snipes, the former Broward County Supervisor of Elections, won a partial court victory after a federal judge decided she must have a hearing on her suspension by former Gov. Scott. That hearing must be held before March 31, according to north Florida Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker. Snipes filed a lawsuit against Scott and Senate President Bill Galvano regarding Scott’s decision to suspend and replace Snipes as Elections Supervisor. While Walker sided with the Senate, he also said Snipes’ request for an injunction against the Governor was valid. “The issue here is whether Scott could suspend and publicly vilify a constitutional officer without a meaningful opportunity for her to be heard,” Walker wrote. “The answer is no.”

Former Broward elections chief Brenda Snipes wins the right for a court hearing on her dismissal by Gov. Rick Scott. (Image via AP)

Pardon for Groveland four? Accuser’s family says no” via Stephen Hudak, Ryan Gillespie and Beth Kassab of the Orlando Sentinel — Norma Padgett, who was just 17 when she said the men assaulted her, is still alive and her family is trying to halt efforts to posthumously vindicate Samuel ShepherdWalter IrvinErnest Thomas and Charles Greenlee. Two of her sons said the family is writing letters to DeSantis, insisting that Padgett told the truth when she identified the men as those who kidnapped and raped her. Padgett and her husband, Willie, said the four men approached them on a dark stretch of road near Okahumpka, where the couple’s car had broken down, and at first helped, but then hit Willie Padgett and took his wallet. The four put Norma Padgett in their car, drove away and raped her in the back seat, she told police. “My mom don’t lie,” Curtis Upshaw said. “She’s a good Christian lady.” He didn’t offer any counterpoint to evidence that suggests the crime never happened.

Hurricane brought ‘moderate’ erosion to Panama City Beach” via The Associated Press — A coastal engineering consultant says Panama City Beach suffered only moderate beach erosion during Hurricane Michael. On Tuesday, Lisa Armbruster told the Bay County Tourist Development Council that the 4-and-a-half-foot storm surge during the Oct. 10 storm, the northerly winds on the western side pushed the water back out to sea. But 33 miles to the east, the storm brought a “phenomenal” surge of 16 to 20 feet in Mexico Beach. Armbruster told the council one of her firm’s ongoing priorities is the planning and permitting process for what she says will likely be a $20 to $25 million beach reconstruction and nourishment project for Mexico Beach.

Carlos Beruff appointment to wildlife board draws criticism from environmental advocates” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Former Gov. Scott’s recent appointment of Bradenton homebuilder Beruff to serve on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is generating controversy, with some arguing that the developer has a poor record of environmental stewardship. Beruff has been criticized for development plans that critics viewed as detrimental to the environment, a vote he took as a member of the Southwest Florida Water Management District board that allowed a friend to cut down mangroves, the removal of a pine tree with a bald eagle’s nest on one of his properties, and other actions related to the environment. “I don’t understand why someone would be appointed that has absolutely no abiding interest in fish and game,” said James Zacharias, a Cortez resident who spent nearly 30 years as a charter fishing captain. “And, obviously, his track record does not show any abiding interest in stewarding the environment or conservation or anything like that.”

Joe Negron’s next stop could be the South Florida Water Management District” via Eve samples of TCPalm — Two months after the water district flouted incoming Gov. DeSantis’ request to delay approval of a controversial sugar land lease, almost half of the district’s governing board seats are poised to change hands. One board member resigned suddenly this month. The terms of three others are set to expire in March. Guess who gets to fill the seats now that he’s the sitting governor: DeSantis. And guess whose name is among the recommended board members: Negron, former president of the Florida Senate. U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, who chairs DeSantis’ environmental transition committee … has recommended Negron for one of the seats in play on the district’s nine-member governing board. Considering Mast’s tight relationship with DeSantis, there’s a good reason to believe the appointment will happen.

Joe Negron’s next move may be joining the SFWMD. (Image via TCPalm)

State audit shows FSU needs tighter control over access to data” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida State University needs to establish stronger controls over employee access to sensitive information such as student Social Security numbers and strengthen its protocol of assessing if security risks exist within its IT units, a state audit has revealed. … The report, released in late December, covered January to December 2017. Among the findings … Auditors discovered that while 27 cash collection points on campus had been properly reauthorized, 57 sites had been operating for three years without authorization. … Auditors also advised tighter control was needed over access to students’ identification information. … The review found that some employees had unnecessary access to the information, while others who had access, didn’t need it on a continuing basis.

Worst story you’ll read today — “Holly Hill father accused of burning his son with a lighter” via Tony Holt of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — Jesse Colaw was charged with aggravated battery on a child. He was booked at the Volusia County Branch Jail and held without bail. The boy showed up at the preschool that morning with a “fresh” injury on his right wrist and he told staff that his father had burned him. When the child’s mother was interviewed she said she and her husband had noticed a burn mark on her son’s bedroom door, so they started instructing him on the dangers of fire, the report stated. At one point, the mother had to go to another room to tend to her other child and moments later she heard her 4-year-old son screaming and crying, police said. Colaw decided on his own to burn his son with a “torch-style lighter” to teach the boy a lesson, according to police. Colaw didn’t think the boy’s mother was disciplining him properly, the report stated.


Daphne Campbell attempts return to Senate, files in SD 35” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Former state Sen. Campbell ended speculation she’d seek a return to the Senate, filing to run in 2020 for the open seat in Senate District 35. “I know the district, I know the people,” Campbell said in comments to Florida Politics confirming her run. Campbell lost her seat in Senate District 38 after attorney Jason Pizzo defeated her in the Democratic primary last August. But Campbell sees the loss as a blessing in disguise, allowing her to run in SD 35, where her home is located. Campbell has faced criticism in the past for at times moving outside the boundaries of her district. “God gave me an opportunity to go back home, and I am home,” Campbell said.

Tweet, tweet:

Allison Tant to launch campaign for Florida House” via Florida Politics — The former FDP chair will seek the seat currently held by Loranne Ausley, who is foregoing a third term in the House to seek the District 3 seat in the Florida Senate in 2020. … Tant has long been rumored to run for House District 9. Florida Politics reported early last year that she was planning to run for the House seat in the event state Sen. Bill Montford left the Senate early to run for Tallahassee Mayor. … She has the name recognition and the connections to cruise in a state House race, especially in a seat like HD 9, which covers the bulk of Leon County and has a built-in advantage for Democrats, though she almost certainly will face a challenge come Election Day 2020.

Roy Hardemon files to reclaim HD 108 seat” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Hardemon lost his bid for re-election in a three-way primary contest last August. Dotie Joseph defeated both Hardemon and Joseph Beauvil. She then went on to take the HD 108 seat with an easy win over Libertarian Party candidate Riquet Caballero. The primary contest saw some drama, with Hardemon taking shots at Miami-Dade Democratic leaders. In confirming his 2020 run, Hardemon told Florida Politics he’s looking beyond those fights and is focused on attempting to run a winning campaign. “I took it like a man and (went) back to work,” Hardemon said. “You just gotta outrun them the next time.”

“You just gotta outrun them next time,” says Roy Hardemon. (Image via Florida House)

Lawyer announces bid for St. Petersburg City Council” via Josh Solomon of the Tampa Bay Times — Scott Orsini joined two other candidates who have already tossed their hats in the ring. Orsini filed to run in District 1, which encompasses much of the Tyrone area. That seat is currently held by Council Chairman Charlie Gerdes, prohibited from running again due to term limits. Orsini joins Anthony Cates III, a former mayoral candidate, and Deborah Figgs-Sanders, a member of the South St. Petersburg Community Redevelopment Area Citizen Advisory Committee and former executive director of the Childs Park YMCA, who have already filed to run. Orsini said Gerdes and Mayor Rick Kriseman endorse him, both of whom are also lawyers.

Hearing set in lawsuit challenging appointment of City Commissioner Elaine Bryant” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — A hearing has been set for Jan. 17 to determine whether the City Commission violated the Sunshine Law when it appointed Bryant to fill a vacancy left by the suspension of City Commissioner Maddox. The hearing could have major implications for City Hall. If Leon Circuit Judge John Cooper rules against the city, Bryant’s appointment as commissioner could be overturned. Under that scenario, the appointment could be handed to DeSantis to make.

What Dave Shepp is reading —Lakeland airport gets $4.7M grant for hangars” via Mike Ferguson of the Ledger — This is part of a continued effort to expand cargo and Maintenance Repair and Operations at a 40-acre section of the airport. “It’s really part of our next step,” said Gene Conrad, airport director. “This will help us grow. We’re just trying to have as many tools in our tool belt as we can.” Construction got underway on the MRO cargo development site in November, Conrad said. The total site plan is estimated to cost about $40 million. About $13 million will go toward site preparation, and $8 million to $10 million will be spent on hangars. The grant, Conrad said, will pay for about half of the hangar construction.


4 ways you didn’t know the government shutdown is affecting Florida” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — 1. The National Weather Service has lost staff. Essential forecasters can work during the shutdown, albeit without pay. 2. Domestic violence shelters dependent on federal funds could run out of money. 3. Academic research has been disrupted. If the government stays shut down through the fall, grant money for new projects would freeze up, and research would become much more difficult to pursue. 4. It’s open season at Florida’s national parks, advocates worry. Trash is going uncollected in many national parks. That could be especially harmful in the Everglades … With each passing day, the park’s animals could be learning that overfilled trash cans are a reliable food source.

Marco Rubio elected chairman of Senate Small Business Committee” via the Sunshine State News — Rubio released the following statement: “I’m grateful to have the confidence of my colleagues who have elected me chairman of this committee. For the past two years, the Small Business Committee achieved real victories for small businesses, and it did so in a bipartisan way that is unique for Washington. I look forward to building on those successes this Congress. I will continue to seek ways to improve Small Business Administration (SBA) resources intended for homeowners and businesses that face hardship after hurricanes, floods, and other disasters that threaten their livelihoods.”

As chair of the Senate Small Business Committee, Marco Rubio says he will continue the panel’s successes and continue to ‘seek ways to improve Small Business Administration resources.’

House Democrats pick Ted Deutch as ethics committee chairman” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The leadership role was expected. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi formally announced it after the House Democratic Caucus approved the pick. Pelosi said in a statement Deutch’s “towering integrity and firm commitment to fairness and justice will be invaluable to our mission to restore transparency, ethics and accountability to the Congress.” She also called him “a powerful voice for the American people and a relentless champion for the public good.”

Larry Keefe sworn in as North Florida’s top federal prosecutor — Keefe, a Shalimar attorney, took the oath of office Wednesday from Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker. Keefe, a Donald Trump appointee, is now the 41st U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida. The office prosecutes federal crimes and defends the United States in civil cases. It includes 23 Florida counties, from Escambia in the west to Alachua in the east, with offices in Pensacola, Panama City, Tallahassee, and Gainesville. Keefe will be based in Tallahassee. Chris Canova, who had been interim U.S. Attorney, will return to his role as First Assistant U.S. Attorney.

Shalimar attorney Larry Keefe takes the oath as North Florida’s top federal prosecutor.

Personnel note: Kyle VonEnde named press secretary for Brian Mast — The Mast campaign is bringing in VonEnde to the new role after VonEnde spent much of last year on the communications team for the House Republican Conference. The announcement was made by Mast’s Deputy Chief of Staff Brad Stewart, who has also served as Mast’s press secretary. VonEnde also has experience working as director of communications for Bradley Baseball Academy in Washington, D.C.

Government shutdown: 2 Lake County towns offer federal employees break on water bills” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Jim Gleason, the city manager of Mascotte, wrote in an email to officials that the city would not disconnect or charge a late fee for any resident who works at one of the closed federal departments. About 800,000 federal employees are affected nationwide. He said residents would have to verify their employment with a closed federal agency, adding any deferral of the January utility bill would need to be paid in full in February. Minneola Mayor Pat Kelly also posted on Facebook that Minneola is also offering payment deferrals on water bills for federal employees caught up in the shutdown, “without any interest or penalties.”


7 takeaways from Gov. Ron DeSantis’ inauguration” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — 1. Some parts of the speech were downright eloquent. 2. He touted the environment. A lot. 3. He did not stress tourism. 4. The day was steeped in swampiness. Despite promises to “drain the swamp,” DeSantis’ big day featured an abundance of entrenched special interests. 5. He cited his faith as a guiding value. 6. He bashed the courts. This has been a common refrain among Tallahassee Republicans furious that the courts have made them follow the U.S. Constitution — and the voters’ will. 7. His fate is undecided. That may sound obvious. But DeSantis won this race as an outsider and underdog.


Spotted — At the Fox & Stag in Tallahassee, celebrating Shane Strum‘s appointment as DeSantis’ Chief of Staff, a gathering of former Charlie Crist administration and campaign staffers including: Strum, Stephanie Kopelousos, Stephanie Smith, Eileen Stuart, state Rep. Dane Eagle, as well as Anna Alexopoulos Farrar, Katie Bohnett, Michelle Dennard, Jennifer Hartshorne, Leah Marino, James McFaddin, Jim McKee, Kathy Mears, Melinda Miguel, Meredith O’Rourke, Bret Prater, Judge Lori Rowe, Bob Sparks, Carrie Thompson, Carolyn Timmann, Emmanuel Torres, Jen and Greg Ungru, Mikey Yaworsky, and (of course), Troy Kinsey.

Happening today — The Junior Leagues of Florida State Public Affairs Committee (SPAC) is hosting the inaugural Leading Ladies Luncheon from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Governors Club in Tallahassee. Keynoting the event is Attorney General Ashley Moody. Several other Legislators will also participate. “This event celebrates Floridian women who lead the way in making this a wonderful place to live, work, and raise a family,” said SPAC chair Traci Deen. “We look forward to celebrating the women leaders who embody our core values: promoting volunteerism, developing the potential of women, and improving communities through effective action and leadership.”

Personnel note: David Clark heads to DMS — Clark, who had been Deputy Secretary of Land and Recreation for the Department of Environmental Protection, now is Chief of Staff for the Department of Management Services. The department acts as the state’s real estate manager, among other things. Clark first began with DEP in 2004, where he worked in the Division of State Lands and then the Office of Cabinet Affairs until 2010. After four years in the U.S. Army, he returned to DEP in 2014, serving as both Director of Cabinet Affairs and Deputy Director of State Lands. In 2016-17, he was Director of State Lands, lastly moving up to Deputy Secretary.

Personnel note: Shane Smith joins Jim Moran InstituteSmith, an entrepreneur and marketing professor, joined Florida State University’s Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship as director of Central Florida operations, the university said in a news release. Smith has more than 15 years of marketing and entrepreneurial experience, primarily as the founder and president of SaleFish — a consulting firm focused on helping small-to-medium-sized businesses increase their revenues using online courses and other entrepreneurial training. He also worked with a variety of organizations, including Allied International, Tampa Bay Rays, Kennesaw State University and the University of Tampa. During his tenure at the University of South Florida, Smith taught sales and helped corporations improve their strategic marketing and sales efforts.

Personnel note: Former Mast, Carlos Beruff spokesman now working for New York GOP congresswoman Elise Stefanik named Maddie Anderson as her new communications director, the Post-Star newspaper reported. She most recently was Southeast and Midwest regional press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee. Before that, Anderson was communications director for Mast’s 2016 campaign, worked on Beruff’s 2016 U.S. Senate race and for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s presidential campaign in Iowa in 2015.

— ALOE —

Disney buys 1500 acres in Osceola County” via John Gregory of Orlando Rising — A Disney subsidiary has purchased 1,575 acres in Osceola County for $11 million, though the land will likely be used for conservation rather than any expansion of Disney attractions in Central Florida. The parcel west of Poinciana Boulevard is adjacent to the 965-acre BK Ranch property Disney purchased last month for $23 million — more than three times the price per acre. The difference may be owed to the BK Ranch having existing zoning permits for commercial and residential use which have never come to fruition. The land is expected to be used for wetland mitigation and water management as a result of new construction on existing Disney World property. … “Walt Disney World Resort acquires parcels of land for a variety of uses, which may include water management and conservation,” a Disney spokesperson told Orlando Rising.


Best of wishes to the wonky — but also dapper — Albert Balido of Anfield Consulting. And happy birthday to one of Pinellas’s best, Ricky Butler.

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.

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