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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 1.24.19

Your morning review of the issues and players behind Florida politics.

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

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

Florida voters are as down on President Donald Trump as they ever have been, but the embattled POTUS’ poll numbers aren’t weighing down Gov. Ron DeSantis.

A new survey from Mason-Dixon found Trump underwater 50-47 among Sunshine State voters, with just 3 percent of the pool unsure how they feel about him.

Tanking: Donald Trump’s approval rating is dropping in Florida, but that isn’t weighing down Ron DeSantis. Image via The Associated Press.

His numbers improved a bit when it comes to his 2020 re-election chances, though not by much. The poll found 46 percent of voters say they’re tired of winning compared to 45 percent who want another helping.

It would be fair to assume Trump’s baggage is directly tied to DeSantis’ approval rating. After all, he was the President’s pick to take over for Rick Scott, and that endorsement was nothing short of monumental for the former Congressman, especially in the general election.

But DeSantis has managed to put some space between himself and Trump in the eyes of voters. A full 48 percent of Floridians say they’re behind the new Guv, while just one in six has a bone to pick with his brief tenure.

That’s not without cause. DeSantis has taken decisive, public actions to solve some big issues — touring the Hurricane Michael disaster zone, asking for the resignations of SWFWMD board members and his call to nix the “no smoke” medical marijuana rule all come to mind.

At the end of the day, DeSantis’ plus-31 favorability rating not only makes him more popular than Trump, but it also makes him the most-liked Republican pol in statewide office. By comparison, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio managed a respectable plus-21 while Scott, now a Senator himself, notched a plus-4.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is bringing on another batch of top-level staffers.

The new additions include a trio of and legislative affairs hires, with Stephanie McClung tapped to serve as External Affairs Director for the office.

Staffing up: Nikki Fried is beefing up her top-level staff, many of them veterans of Democratic campaigns.

McClung is a veteran of Fried’s campaign for the Cabinet post, working as a Senior Finance Adviser. The fifth-generation Floridian has an extensive resume in politics, including high-level stints working for Chris King’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist’s successful 2016 congressional race and his 2014 gubernatorial bid.

She’s also done work for Ruth’s List, an organization that works to get Democratic women into elected office.

McClung will get a helping hand from Matthew Alford and Carlos Nathan, both of whom will serve as Deputy Legislative Affairs Directors.

Alford comes from state Sen. Linda Stewart’s office, where he worked as the Orlando Democrat’s legislative aide. Nathan joins the administration from the Florida Legislature where he served as a Legislative Analyst, for two years in the Senate Democratic Office and seven years for the House Democratic Office.

Fried also announced her picks for a pair of regional director jobs. Shahra Anderson Lambert, who spent 14 years as a regional director for former U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, will man the Southwest Florida post. Ricardo Alvarez, who has heaps of experience in sustainable agriculture development, will be the regional leader in South Florida.

“We’re building a Department that’s accessible, in touch with Florida’s communities, and pursuing the people’s priorities. Stephanie, Shahra, Ricardo, Matthew, and Carlos add a multitude of expertise and experience to our team, as we begin working to implement our bold agenda on behalf of Florida’s farmers and ranchers, consumers and families,” Fried said.


@MarioDB: 215 Dems just voted against paying furloughed workers. Why not vote to give them their paychecks during the shutdown? Thousands of families are struggling to put food on the table + pay their bills. It should have been an easy “yes” but Dem leaders advised their members otherwise

@MarcoRubio: Even in America, on the issue of #Venezuela, this time is different. #Venezuela is trending #1 on Twitter.

@TheDaraKam: After just two weeks on the job, @GovRonDeSantis is offering support & prayers to victims of another mass shooting in Florida.

@MDixon55: A freshman member getting hazed over a red light camera bill is the clearest indication that legislative session never actually ends.

@MitchPerrry18: Things you may not have known: @SheriffPinellas Bob Gualtieri says that next to the @FBI, the #PinellasCounty Sheriffs Office has the largest facial recognition system in the U.S.

@Fineout: @JimmyPatronis tells Fla House panel that championship rings belonging to former NFL kicker Martin Gramatica were left in a safety deposit box and the unclaimed property is currently in the hands of the state of Florida

@JohnRobertsFox: When did journalism devolve to the point that stories are written about people “thinking” something should happen because they “suspect” something is going on. Reporting used to be based on facts and evidence, not rank speculation and supposition.

@HalpernAlex: I’m at the Villages in Florida, which is kind of like a giant college campus for seniors, 130,000 of them, and it is fuckin lit here, and I’m not even kidding. Live music every night, bars on every corner with cheap booze … it’s Tuesday, and 500 people are out dancing.


State of the Union address (maybe) — 5; Super Bowl LIII — 10; Scott Maddox trial begins — 18; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 19; Pitchers and catchers begin reporting for MLB Spring Training — 19; Valentine’s Day — 21; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 40; Tampa mayoral election — 40; ‘Captain Marvel’ release — 43; St. Patrick’s Day — 52; 2019 Major League Baseball season begins — 54; Final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ begins — 80; Easter — 87; 2019 Legislative Session ends (maybe) — 99; 2020 Democratic presidential primary debates begin — 134; 2019 General Election — 285; Iowa Caucuses — 372; 2020 General Election — 649.


5 fatally shot inside Florida bank, suspect arrested” via The Associated Press — The shooter called the police to report that he had fired shots inside the bank in Sebring. Negotiations failed to persuade the barricaded man to leave the building. The SWAT team then entered the bank, and the gunman eventually gave up, police said. “Today’s been a tragic day in our community,” Sebring Police Chief Karl Hoglund told a news conference. “We’ve suffered significant loss at the hands of a senseless criminal doing a senseless crime.” Authorities identified the suspect as 21-year-old Zephen Xaver, who was arrested at the SunTrust branch, Hoglund said. Xaver briefly was an online student of Salt Lake City-based Stevens-Henager College. A spokeswoman for the college, Sherrie Martin, confirmed that Xaver was enrolled from September 2018 until December, when he withdrew. She said his residence was listed as Sebring.

Zephen Xaver, 21, was arrested as the suspected shooter at a SunTrust branch in Sebring. Five people were killed. Image via the Orlando Sentinel.

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Meanwhile … “Carlos Guillermo Smith, Gary Farmer trying again with assault weapons ban bills” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising — Smith filed his bill and Farmer is planning on filing a companion bill, to ban the civilian purchase or possession of military-style assault weapons and large capacity magazines. House Bill 455 calls not just for a ban on future sales, but for the relinquishment of currently owned assault weapons, which the bill explicitly defines as any of dozens of specifically listed makes and models, or similar weapons the bill contends are “selective-fire firearm capable of fully automatic, semi-automatic or burst fire at the option of the user.” The bill makes possession after July 1, 2020, a third-degree felony, punishable by a year in prison.


Ron DeSantis expects White House announcement on storm aid” via Florida Politics — DeSantis, U.S. Sens. Rubio and Scott met with Trump for a discussion primarily focused on the Maduro regime in Venezuela. But DeSantis said during an appearance in Miami that he also talked about Florida transportation issues and storm-relief efforts in the Eastern Panhandle. “You guys in Miami, I think the closest analog would be Hurricane Andrew, in terms of destruction,” DeSantis said. “Since Hurricane Andrew, and I grew up in Florida, nothing compared to what I’ve seen in Michael,” DeSantis continued. “I think we’re going to have a pretty big announcement tomorrow (Thursday) about the president helping out there, which is going to be phenomenal. So, stay tuned.”

Marco Rubio, Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis visited the White House to talk Venezuela, Florida transportation issues, and Panhandle storm relief efforts.

Assignment editors — DeSantis will make a major announcement in the Panhandle, joined by Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez, CFO Jimmy Patronis and Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz, 2 p.m. Central time, Jackson County Road Department, 2828 Owens St., Marianna. Media are requested to arrive at 1:30 p.m. Central time.

DeSantis focuses on infrastructure in South Florida” via Florida Daily — Along with local officials including Miami Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Secretary Kevin Thibault, DeSantis “visited the construction site of the I-395/SR 836/I-95 Design-Build Project in Miami to listen to the concerns and suggestions of local officials regarding the transportation needs of the city and the state.” DeSantis weighed in on the importance of improving the state‘s infrastructure. “Infrastructure is critical to ensuring the continued growth of our economy and the safety of Floridians,” said DeSantis “This morning we heard from city and county officials who know firsthand the transportation challenges and opportunities throughout South Florida. Our administration is committed to enhancing safety for our motorists, relieving congestion throughout our roadways and a strong embrace of technology and innovation to meet our infrastructure needs.”

Ashley Moody opioid working group asks for input from members by Feb. 15 Moody’s Transition Advisory Committee Working Group on Opioid Abuse met Wednesday for an introductory conference call. Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma helmed the group, speaking for much of Wednesday’s call laying out the severity of the crisis. Lemma asked a fellow member to submit written summaries on “how to improve” the situation many counties are dealing with regarding the drugs. Moody was scheduled to be on the call but was pulled away to respond to the shooting in Sebring.


Jeff Brandes says he’ll file a ‘First Step Act’ for Florida” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — The St. Petersburg Republican said he’s filing a bill this week adopting some of the “best ideas” from the Congressional bill, which passed with widespread bipartisan support and Trump’s backing. “It was great that the federal First Step Act passed, but it only applied to federal prisons,” Brandes said. “So how do we take those ideas, ideas that have already seen positive support while they were in Congress, and bring those ideas to Florida?” Brandes said it would include ideas like easing mandatory minimum sentences and allowing judges to hand down lighter sentences. “We know these ideas work,” Brandes said. “We’ve seen them work in other states. These aren’t new ideas. They’re just new ideas for Florida.”

Jeff Brandes is talking about filing a ‘First Step Act’ for Florida, patterned after the newly signed federal bill.

Utilities subcommittee weighs post-disaster aid to homeowners” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — State government should consider providing aid to Floridians with homes damaged during hurricanes, the chairman of the House Energy & Utilities Subcommittee said. Ocala Republican Rep. Charlie Stone cited electric utilities’ post-disaster loan programs as a possible model. These loans can help homeowners cover their share of reconnection costs — utilities’ responsibility ends at the conduits connecting the grid to individual homes. “Maybe the state needs to play a part in that as well. Like provide some state funds,” Stone said following testimony by larger and smaller power providers. “We need to make sure we have enough employees in a general area,” Stone said.

Fight over Republican support for LGBTQ rights divides Florida activists” via David Smiley of the Tampa Bay Times — SAVE, a Miami-based nonprofit, has announced its support for a bill filed in the Senate by Sen. Joe Gruters, chair of the Republican Party of Florida, that would prohibit employers and labor groups from discriminating against employees or applicants based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill would amend the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 to include mentions of gender identity and sexual orientation for the first time. It is supported by Translatina Florida and the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council. But it is not universally celebrated by gay and transgender rights activists. While Gruters’ bill would stop employers from discriminating against LGBTQ people, it would not block landlords or private businesses, such as restaurants or hotels, from refusing service to gay and transgender people.

Jennifer Webb confident Florida Competitive Workforce Act will pass” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — “An opportunity lies in having a very large freshman class,” the St. Petersburg Democrat said. Florida’s first openly lesbian lawmaker, the freshman believes there’s broad bipartisan support for the Florida Competitive Workforce Act (HB 485). And more than ever, she said major parts of the business community had championed the issue. When she and state Sen. Darryl Rouson filed legislation, Florida Competes sent out a piece praising the bill. The business organization said there’s a growing demand from corporate America to have employee protections in place that include LGBTQ workers.

Red light camera ban bill speeds through House committee” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising — Efforts to get rid of red light cameras in Florida got another boost when a bill introduced by Republican state Rep. Anthony Sabatini sailed through the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee. House Bill 6003 is similar to measures proposed in several previous Legislative Sessions. With opposition stated from the Florida League of Cities and the Florida Police Chiefs Association, the bill was approved 12-1 by the subcommittee of the House State Affairs Committee Wednesday. Democratic U.S. Rep. Fentrice Driskell of Tampa voted no. Sabatini, a freshman from Howie-in-the-Hills, argued that since their introduction in Florida in 2010, red light cameras have not brought about a decrease in traffic crashes in Florida, have not provided any deterrence, and have turned into cash cows for municipalities and the private companies that operate them on cities’ and counties’ behalf.

Senate Prez willing to ‘revisit’ red-light camera ban As in years past, a state House measure to ban red-light cameras is notching early committee wins. Unlike past Sessions, however, Senate President Bill Galvano thinks his chamber could give the proposal a chance. The Bradenton Republican told Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida that he’s willing to “revisit” the contentious issue. Via his comms director, Katie Betta, he added that his concerns over the cams “have grown” since they were authorized by the legislature nearly a decade ago. Betta said the Senate bill to ban the cameras — Sen. Brandes’ SB 306 — could get the green light to go before committees as soon as this week.

Bill Galvano

Bill Galvano hits that he may give the green light to red-light camera legislation in 2019. 

Red-light cam report a boon to both sides” via Florida Politics — As usual, Florida’s red-light camera report has something for everyone. … The short story is that traffic volume, measured by vehicles on the road and the miles they travel, has increased nearly 14 percent while crashes at intersections have remained flat. Camera supporters point to this statistic as a positive because cameras are typically placed at the most dangerous intersections. To them, no wrecks mean cameras are working. As logic would follow, the increased number of vehicles traveling through an intersection should bring about more crashes. That’s exactly what has occurred at all other intersections — according to DHSMV data, the number of crashes has increased by nearly 300,000. … DHSMV has taken steps to minimize some of the issues that have plagued previous reports, such as jot down the coordinates of intersections and locations where crashes occurred and whether red-light running was a factor, be it a “Boston left” or a “California roll.” … Nevertheless, there’s probably enough in the analysis for both supporters and opponents of cameras to restock their talking points for the upcoming Legislative Session. Bottom line, cams can’t drive cars; they do, however, seem to have an impact on the way people drive through an intersection.

Bill would label criticism of Israel in Florida schools ‘anti-Semitic’” via Jerry Iannelli of the Miami New Times — If enacted, the measure from Palm Beach County Rep. Mike Caruso would ban both obvious and abhorrent cases of anti-Semitism (denying the Holocaust, calling for attacks on Jewish people, etc.) and criticism of the Israeli state. The bill would force all public institutions in Florida, from kindergarten through public university, to “take into consideration anti-Semitism when determining if a practice or act was discrimination on the basis of religion.” “Discrimination,” however, would also include government criticism almost certainly protected by the First Amendment. Under the law, Florida residents could sue or otherwise file complaints against teachers or administrators who criticize the Israeli state.

Green thumbs up: Veggie garden bill starts moving in Housevia Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A bill (HB 145) protecting homeowners’ ability to have vegetable gardens in their front yards has cleared its first hurdle after advancing through the House Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee Wednesday. Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff who represents House District 26 in DeLand, introduced the bill. Fetterhoff says she was motivated to file the bill in response to a story from Miami Shores. In 2013, the city changed its zoning ordinance to prevent homeowners from maintaining a vegetable garden in their front yard. The move prompted one Miami Shores couple, who had grown vegetables for 17 years, to sue the city. Officials had begun charging the couple $50 per day for failure to comply with the ordinance.

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Proposal to fill dental hole draws debate” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — A coalition calling itself Floridians for Dental Access is asking lawmakers to sign off on a new health care license for what are known as dental therapists, who could perform a bevy of activities such as basic clinical dental treatment and preventive services under the supervision of dentists. “I think it’s a bold idea,” Sen. Brandes said. “I’m somebody who spent the last eight years of my legislative career working on trying to find the one big idea in every area of policy. This, I think, is the one big idea in health care.” Approving a license for dental therapists is opposed by the Florida Dental Association, which contends there are better ways to help improve access to dental care in the state. Joe Anne Hart, chief legislative officer for the Florida Dental Association, said there would be a lag between approving a new license and actually graduating students who could then begin working.

Court sides with lawmakers in lease controversy” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — An appeals court is rejecting arguments that lawmakers violated the Florida Constitution when they blocked tax dollars from being used to lease space at a Tallahassee office complex where state workers had complained about mold and other poor conditions. The landlord Northwood Associates, LLC filed the lawsuit in 2016 after lawmakers inserted fine print in the state budget cutting off funding for leases at Northwood Centre. Lawmakers took action after allegations that conditions at the complex — which included reports of finding bat feces — had led to health problems for state workers. The lawsuit contended that the budget’s fine print, known as proviso language, was an unconstitutional impairment of the leases. Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers ruled against Northwood Associates, which then took the dispute to the Tallahassee-based 1st District Court of Appeal. A three-judge panel of the court upheld Gievers’ decision.


— The House Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee will receive a presentation about the Department of Children and Families’ response to Hurricane Michael, 9 a.m., 12 House Office Building, The Capitol.

— The House Civil Justice Subcommittee will hear a presentation from the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice, which was created by Supreme Court Justice Jorge Labarga to increase access to civil courts, 9 a.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.

— The House Gaming Control Subcommittee discusses gambling revenues, 9 a.m., 212 Knott Building, The Capitol.

— The House Higher Education & Career Readiness Subcommittee will hear presentations about performance funding in the state university system and the state college system, 9 a.m., 306 House Office Building, The Capitol.

— The House Oversight, Transparency & Public Management Subcommittee will hear a presentation by Secretary of State Mike Ertel about election litigation in 2018, 9 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building, The Capitol.

— The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee will receive a presentation about the Florida Education Finance Program, which is the main funding formula for public schools, 9 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building, The Capitol.

— The Joint Legislative Budget Commission will consider pumping an additional $25.3 million into the Bright Futures scholarship program amid higher-than-expected student participation this year, 11:30 a.m., 212 Knott Building, The Capitol.

— The Joint Administrative Procedures Committee will debate rules about the state’s medical marijuana system, 1:30 p.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.

— The Joint Legislative Auditing Committee will receive overviews of the Office of the Auditor General and the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, 1:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.


Shrimp and corn soup; mixed green salad; charcuterie, cheese and bread; coleslaw; tomato, onion and parsley salad; fried catfish and hush puppies; beef tenders; chicken and sausage casserole; Yukon wedge fried potatoes; buttered corn; broccoli; bread pudding for dessert.


Florida’s 2018 youth vote swells over previous midterm” via Kelli Kennedy of The Associated Press — Newly released data reveals that young Florida voters did hit the polls at a significantly higher rate — 15 percentage points more — compared with the previous midterm election. About 37 percent of the state’s 18- to 29-year-olds voted in November, compared with 22 percent who voted in 2014. That’s especially notable for midterm elections when turnout is typically low. “Turnout was up across the board; it was up at a higher rate among younger voters without question,” said Dan Smith, a University of Florida political science professor who analyzed voter data released by Florida’s Department of State last week.

First on #FlaPol —External economic factors making Florida businesses uneasy” via Florida Politics — Florida business owners aren’t too hot on the economy right now, a Florida Chamber of Commerce survey found. The First Quarter Small Business Index Survey put economic uncertainty atop the list of concerns held by Florida businesses for the first time in nearly three years.  “When job creators see uncertainty in financial or international markets, they are less likely to invest,” said the Florida Chamber Foundation’s chief economist, Jerry Parrish. “To ensure Florida remains competitive, we must continue the momentum built since the last recession, and renew a focus on signaling to the world that Florida is open for business and ready for economic development investments.” … Nearly a quarter of those surveyed said economic uncertainty was their main concern, displacing workforce quality — the top pick for 18 percent — in the No. 1 spot. Other worries: the growth management process, government regulations and access to capital. Each of those responses made up less than 10 percent of the whole.

Jimmy Patronis: Florida’s financial software 30 years overdue for upgrade” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The government for the state of Florida for more than 30 years has depended on the Florida Accounting and Information Resource, or FLAIR, to manage all of the state’s financial accounts and resources. Florida Chief Financial Officer Patronis told the House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee his top priority this year remains to get the state off the archaic software. Instead, he wants everyone on Florida Planning, Accounting, and Ledger Management, or PALM, new custom software designed to address the government’s modern needs. “The state budget has grown billions of dollars in the last decade,” Patronis said. Patronis said over the past year, staffers in the Department of Financial Services had to rig a way to transfer funds in the system for Managed Medicaid Services. That’s a duty FLAIR programmers never envisioned.

Jimmy Patronis spoke with the House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee Wednesday to provide an update on the Florida Planning, Accounting, and Ledger Management (PALM) Project and Hurricane Michael recovery.

Florida has settled with Dollar/Thrifty over misleading rental car fees” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — The allegations against Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group, the companies’ parent group, revolved around how they charged their rental car customers who passed through cashless tolls. The companies charged a $15 fee each time, up to a maximum $105. And an optional service, known as PlatePass, cost $10.49 for each day of the rental period, regardless of whether a customer went through a toll or not. Customers who rented a car from Dollar or Thrifty between Jan. 1, 2011, and Jan. 7, 2019, and were misled about the fees can file a claim with the Attorney General’s Office for a full or partial refund. All claims must be filed by July 6.

Board sets up Airbnb to be blacklisted as future state investment” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Administrators for the State Board of Administration (SBA) have cleared the way for Airbnb, the vacation rental website, to be blacklisted as a ‘Scrutinized Company that Boycotts Israel’ for purposes of the state’s investments. Its transgression? Removing listings of rentals in the contentious West Bank region east of Israel, fought over by Palestinians and Israelis. Airbnb simply calls it a ‘disputed territory.’ John Kuczwanski, the SBA’s manager of external affairs, mentioned the proposal at a Wednesday Cabinet aides meeting, in preparation for the Cabinet meeting slated for next Tuesday.

Florida’s timber industry has fallen on hard times” via The Associated Press — Florida Forest Service Director Jim Karels told the Senate Agriculture Committee that about 1.4 million acres had severe or catastrophic tree loss, meaning 75 to 95 percent of the pine trees were damaged or destroyed. He said a 20-mile (32-kilometer) swath from the Gulf of Mexico to the Georgia border was the worst-hit area. More than 16,000 private landowners were affected overall, including moderate damage far beyond the storm’s eye, he said. Karels recommended the state provide $20 million to help landowners clear fallen trees and start replanting the forests. He also recommended spending nearly $9 million for equipment and programs to help reduce the fire threat. “It would help landowners remove their debris,” he said. “It’s really geared toward getting that rural economy back on its feet (and) reducing the fire threat.” The timber industry suffered about $1.3 billion in damage during the storm.

Enterprise Florida to lead trade mission to Hanoi” via Kathryn Lewin of Miami Today — Small to mid-sized Florida businesses are going to Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, Vietnam, from May 31 to June 8, led by Enterprise Florida Inc. for the first time on an export sales mission. For exports from the U.S. to Vietnam, the state economic development agency says, the best sectors are environmental and pollution control equipment and services, health care and medical, information and communication technologies, power generation, franchise industry, education and training, aviation, defense sector and agribusiness. According to a news release, the U.S. is Vietnam’s largest export market and “a major source of foreign direct investment, helping fuel Vietnam’s remarkable economic growth.”

Ho Chi Minh City is among the stops for enterprise Florida during a trade mission to Vietnam in 2019.

Bets off: ‘Pre-reveal’ games remain illegal as Supreme Court nixes appeal” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — The Florida Supreme Court has declined to consider a lower-court ruling that video consoles known as “pre-reveal” games are illegal slot machines. The court, in a short ruling earlier this week, said it “determined that it should decline to accept jurisdiction” … and “no motion for rehearing will be entertained.” That means last year’s unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal is, for now, the law of the land … But one person behind the games said not to be surprised if she’s seen walking the Capitol this year, drumming up support for a bill to expressly legalize them.

UCF president Dale Whittaker could lose performance bonuses over construction misspending” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — Whittaker could lose his performance bonuses for two years because of his involvement in the planning process for Trevor Colbourn Hall, which was constructed using $38 million in leftover operating dollars, a violation of state rules. The Board of Trustees will consider suspending Whittaker’s performance pay, which is based on factors such as graduation rates and donations. Those bonuses amounted to $34,012 for 2018 and would have totaled as much as $88,281 for 2019. A law firm hired by the university determined that Whittaker, the university’s former provost, couldn’t “have fairly understood the significance” of a budget document he signed in August 2014, less than two weeks after he became the university’s provost. That document recommended that then-President John Hitt approve the use of $18 million in leftover operating funds on a new building.


Happening tonight:

Jennifer Webb gets early start in Ray Blacklidge 2020 rematch” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — In an email to supporters, the House District 69 Democrat asked supporters to begin contributing now to her re-election battle. “Several sources, including Ray’s Facebook, tell me that Ray wants a rematch in 2020,” Webb wrote, referring to her 2018 challenger, Republican Ray Blacklidge. “In order to fend off Rematch Ray, I must continue raising funds, and I need your support.” “Rematch Ray” is a tongue-in-cheek nickname offered to the man who started running for the seat again less than one month after he was solidly defeated in the Nov. 6 election. In her email, Webb asks for contributions of $21, $56, $147 or $239. She also suggests supporters make “small, monthly recurring” contributions, up to he $1,000, the maximum allowed under state law. Webb is collecting contributions through the ActBlue fundraising platform many Democrats use to raise funds.

HD 97 mayors back Dan Daley for state House” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Coral Springs Commissioner Daley has secured the support of every local mayor inside House District 97 as he continues his run to be the area’s next state Representative. Daley announced his bid in December after Jared Moskowitz, who was representing the district, was tapped by DeSantis to lead the Division of Emergency Management. Tamarac Mayor Michelle Gomez, Sunrise Mayor Michael Ryan, Plantation Mayor Lynn Stoner and Coral Springs Mayor Pro Tempore Joy Carter all say they’re endorsing Daley in the upcoming special election for HD 97. DeSantis has not yet issued an executive order for the special election.

Photo with actor Danny Glover, admirer of Fidel Castro and Nicholás Maduro, backfires on Miami pols” via Fabiola Santiago of the Miami Herald — When it comes to Cuba and Venezuela, Glover comes across as a clueless caricature, a prisoner to the left-wing politics that worship Latin American dictators who push the narrative that they’re the great liberators of the minority masses. You wouldn’t know it by the Miamians — including prominent politicians — going for a photo-op with Glover, a keynote speaker at the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project breakfast on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Among the many000 photos he took at the event, Herald photographer Jose Iglesias captured newly elected U.S. representatives Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Donna Shalala in a smiling pose with Glover. A Spanish-language radio commentator called the Shalala-Mucarsel-Powell photo “an embrace” — an exaggeration — and took Mucarsel-Powell to task for it, likening it to a Republican having his photo taken with a white supremacist.

Actor Danny Glover raises eyebrows with this photo taken with Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell at a Miami event for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Image via José Iglesias/Miami Herald.

Jeff Vinik backs Jane Castor for Tampa mayor” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Tampa Bay Lightning owner Vinik is throwing his weight behind Castor for Tampa Mayor. Vinik is leading the investment group behind the $3 billion Water Street Tampa development. “Tampa is growing and changing in so many exciting ways. As police chief, Jane’s leadership helped lay the foundation for our economic progress by securing the safety of our community and reducing crime by more than 70 percent,” Vinik said in a statement. “I know as our next Mayor; she will continue to strengthen our economy and make Tampa an even better place to live and work.” “As our city begins to implement the All for Transportation plan, Jane will ensure those new funds are spent efficiently and effectively,” Vinik said. “I am thrilled to see where Tampa will go under her leadership.”

David Straz says he won’t seek Times’ endorsement” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — Retired banker and philanthropist Straz told the Tampa Bay Times editorial board that he isn’t seeking the newspaper’s recommendation in the Tampa mayoral race because he was approached more than two years ago to invest in the company. “Because of that discussion of financial support of the newspaper, for me to now ask for your endorsement would, I believe, be inappropriate,” Straz wrote in a prepared statement he presented to the board. Times chief executive Paul Tash told Straz the newspaper would evaluate his candidacy on its merits. Straz said he wanted to make his position public about “what appears to me to be a clear conflict of interest.” He acknowledged that he didn’t disclose an interest in running for political office when he and Tash met.


Florida pols react after U.S. recognizes Venezuelan opposition leader as rightful presidentvia Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Trump says the U.S. will recognize Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country’s Interim President. The move brings into focus a high-stakes battle for power within the troubled country. Several South Florida lawmakers have urged Trump to back Guaidó amid concerns that last year’s re-election of Nicolás Maduro was tainted by corruption. On Wednesday, several of Florida’s state and congressional legislators took to Twitter to endorse Trump’s decision to support Guaidó.

’Fatigue has set in’: South Florida federal workers are bracing for continued shutdown” via Sam Turken of WLRN — With no end in sight to the partial shutdown, federal workers across South Florida are increasingly preparing for more months of no pay. Some are considering second jobs. Others are relying on spouses and families to buffer the impact. At the same time, airport operations at airports remain compromised as airplane inspectors and air traffic controllers are furloughed. U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Ted Deutch repeated Democratic calls for Trump and Congress to reopen the government before negotiations over border security continue. The funding lapse at the USDA also threatens millions of poor and working-class Floridians who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) program, also known as food stamps. The Agriculture Department has given out February benefits early due to the funding lapse. Officials have not committed to providing payments in March.

Shutdown fatigue: Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Ted Deutch are among the Democrats in South Florida repeating calls for Donald Trump and Congress to end the stalemate and reopen the federal government. Image via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

White House seeks list of programs that would be hurt if shutdown lasts into March” via Damian Paletta and Juliet Eilperin of The Washington Post — White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney has pressed agency leaders to provide him with a list of the highest-impact programs that will be jeopardized if the shutdown continues into March and April. Mulvaney wants the list no later than Friday, and it’s the firmest evidence to date that the White House is preparing for a lengthy funding lapse that could have snowballing consequences for the economy and government services. The request is the first known inquiry from a top White House official seeking information about the spreading impact of the shutdown, which has entered its fifth week and is the longest in U.S. history. So far, top White House officials have been particularly focused on lengthening wait times at airport security, but not the sprawling interruption of programs elsewhere in the government.

Rick Scott signs on to term limits bill” via Florida Politics — Scott signed on to a push for term limits in both the House and Senate Wednesday. The bill, introduced by Republican U.S. Sen Ted Cruz of Texas, would require a Constitutional amendment, and accords with Scott’s push for term limits announced when he was running for office in 2018 … The current bill would cap limit Senators to two terms (12 years) and Representatives to three (six years) … Scott isn’t the only Florida lawmaker who has shown support for the bill. U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney, who represents Florida’s 19th Congressional District, is the primary sponsor of the House version.

Rick Scott gives the thumbs up to a new bill establishing term limits for federal lawmakers.

Darren Soto bill would protect military spouses from deportation” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Soto introduced two bills aiming to prevent immigration deportations of military spouses such as Alejandra Juarez, a Polk County U.S. Marine’s wife who was deported to Mexico last year for being an undocumented immigrant. Soto’s bills are the House Resolution 557, entitled the “Protect Patriot Spouses Act,” and House Resolution 591, a private bill specifically to allow the return of Alejandra Juarez, who now lives in Mexico with her younger daughter, Estela, 8; while Pamela lives with her father in Polk County. HR 557 would give priority for green cards to spouses of military service members, and also would allow for discretion to be practiced in deportation procedures involving immigration violations.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz named to powerful House Oversight Committee” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Democratic U.S. Rep. Wasserman Schultz of South Florida was named to serve on the Committee on Oversight and Reform late Tuesday, the panel charged with launching congressional investigations. The Committee, for instance, has the power to investigate Trump‘s 2016 campaign and his presidency. Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, was scheduled to testify in front of the Committee in early February. Cohen delayed that testimony Wednesday citing perceived threats from President Trump, as Trump has suggested Cohen’s father-in-law should be investigated. Wasserman Schultz issued a statement late Wednesday in response to Cohen’s decision. “President Trump has left a lengthy and disturbing trail of statements and actions that have likely influenced ongoing federal investigations,” Wasserman Schultz argued.


Pam Bondi, once popular with lobbyists, joins lobbying firm” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Four years ago, Bondi played a starring role in a blistering New York Times investigation into attorneys general taking freebies funded by lobbyists who wanted prosecutors to leave their clients alone. Bondi, the Times found, had taken more than $25,000 worth of travel comps — posh hotel stays, a trip to Hawaii and more — courtesy of trade associations funded by gambling interests, tobacco companies, pharmaceutical reps and more. After that, The Associated Press dug even deeper and found that Bondi had actually taken $51,000 worth of meals, hotels, trips and other freebies. Bondi always denied that she did lobbyists any favors. And she bristled at suggestions that her office was a “revolving door” for staffers who went straight into lobbying gigs. Well, this week, Bondi announced she was going to work for a lobbyist — one of the most powerful in Washington.

Talking a good game about higher education isn’t enough” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — At a recent editorial board meeting, representatives of the Florida Chamber Foundation presented their latest Florida 2030 report. It’s an impressive document, filled with research and colorful charts and aspirational goals, many related to education. When the discussion turned to higher education, an official with Valencia College remarked that by 2030 Central Florida will have tens of thousands more freshmen enrolled in the region’s colleges and universities than it does now. Where do colleges and universities get the money to deal with all those 2030 freshmen? Higher education has long relied on a tax on utilities and communications (like your electric and cellphone bills). That money gets divvied up among universities, colleges and school districts and pays to maintain buildings and build new ones. But the annual amount is wildly inconsistent. Florida is, as usual, mediocre in spending on higher education when compared with other states. What’s the Legislature going to do about that?


#FlaPol Stat of the Day — Last year, Ballard Partners made $9.9 million from its federal lobbying practice. The latest disclosure shows lobbyist Brian Ballard’s firm earned $18.5 million in 2018.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Mark Anderson: Woz U Education

Robert Beck, PinPoint Results: Florida Community Care

Douglas Bell, Metz Husband & Daughton: Florida Academy of Family Physicians

Kenneth Bell, Gregory Black, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart: Mobility Orthopedics, Personal Insurance Federation of Florida

Angela Bonds, Dean Mead: CEV Multimedia, DecoBike

Ron Book, Rana Brown, Kelly Mallette, Ronald L. Book PA: City of North Bay Village, Seminole County Board of County Commissioners, Society of Neurointerventional Surgery, Wellpath Recovery Solutions, Wellpath, Yates Enterprises

Jodi Bock Davidson, Colodny Fass: Uber Technologies Affiliates

Stephen Dyal, Dyal Consulting: Jacobs Engineering

Warren Husband, Metz Husband & Daughton: Florida Academy of Family Physicians

Jon Johnson, Johnson & Blanton: SAS Institute

Kevin Larkin: Bank of America

Jonathan Paone, Paul Quartararo: New York Life Insurance Company

Evan Power, Ramba Consulting Group: Cedar Hammock Fire Control District, Indian Trail Improvement District

Nancy Black Stewart: METRC

New on the Twitters@ATTPolicyFL, the official place to get political and regulatory updates on Florida public policy.

Deadline extended to apply for Judicial Nominating Commission vacancies — The Florida Bar has extended the deadline to receive applications for one lawyer vacancy on each of the 26 Judicial Nominating Commissions (JNCs). The Bar must nominate three lawyers for each JNC to Gov. DeSantis for his appointment. Each appointee will serve a four-year term starting this July 1. Lawyers interested in applying can click here to download the application, or can call Bar headquarters at (850) 561-5757 to get an application form. Completed applications must be received no later than 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 4. Resumes will not be accepted instead of the application. The Bar’s Board of Governors will review all applications and may request telephone or personal interviews.

Attorney Randall Berg, defender of downtrodden, retires after ALS diagnosis” via Jane Musgrave of The Palm Beach Post — For more than 40 years, Berg fought for the rights of the downtrodden, disabled, disenfranchised and even the despised. As founder and executive director of the Florida Justice Institute, the soft-spoken 70-year-old Miami attorney battled powerful landowners and intransigent state agencies — most notably the Florida Department of Corrections — to right wrongs suffered by people who society often comfortably ignores … Berg retired last month, far earlier than he planned. Dealing with the ravages of ALS, a rare disease that snuffs out the brain’s ability to send messages to the muscles, he said he no longer has the strength to launch legal battles that changed so many lives.

— ALOE —

Will Donald Trump tweet during the Super Bowl? Will anyone kneel like Colin Kaepernick? You can bet on it now” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — The BetDSI Sportsbook released its list of prop bets for the Feb. 3 Super Bowl LIII between the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots — but the shadow of the government shutdown and the trials and tribulations of the Trump administration means many of the usual silly wagers are more politically focused this year. Bettors can wager on not only whether President Trump will attend the game in Atlanta — the odds are against it, at Yes +800, No -1500 — but also whether he will actually do his scheduled pregame interview on CBS. The odds are against even that, at Yes -200, No +150. Gamblers can also bet on Trump’s prodigious Twitter habit. The over/under on how many times Trump tweets during the game is at 1, so bettors need to hope he is either so into the game he doesn’t tweet or switches to Fox News during halftime and gets angry about something. The government shutdown itself is the subject of quite a few bets.

James Gandolfini’s son cast as young Tony Soprano in prequel movie” via Daniel Figueroa of the Tampa Bay Times — We’re going back to Jersey with David Chase’s “The many Saints of Newark,” a feature film set in the world of his legendary HBO series The Sopranos. The prequel movie will be based around characters from and inspired by the show, including the recent casting of Michael Gandolfini as a young version of the character made indelibly famous by his late father. “It’s a profound honor to continue my dad’s legacy while stepping into the shoes of a young Tony Soprano,” Gandolfini said in a statement to entertainment news website Deadline. “ Chase, the creator of The Sopranos, wrote the film with Sopranos writer Lawrence Konner. It’ll be directed by Alan Taylor

James Gandolfini’s son Michael will play a young Tony Soprano in a new prequel movie to the iconic HBO show ‘The Sopranos.’ Image via Getty.

The only story that matters — “Tallahassee Golden Corral reopens following extensive renovations” via TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Located on North Monroe Street near Lake Ella, the redesigned store includes a stone fireplace, modern decor, new carpeting, lighting and flatware. “Rest assured, our friends and neighbors will find all their home-style buffet favorites at the newly redesigned Tallahassee Golden Corral – everything from market fresh salads to fried chicken, mashed potatoes, yeast rolls, and the legendary Chocolate ‘Wonderfall.'” said Operating Partner Charles Danzey, in a statement about Monday’s reopening. The Tallahassee restaurant has 120 employees.


Happy birthday to the woman you want on your side if you’re running for office in Central Florida, Dana Cashin Loncar, as well as ace photographer Scott Keeler.

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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