Happy year of the Pig — Today marks the Lunar New Year (or Chinese New Year). This annual celebration represents a different animal in the Zodiac calendar. Last year was the year of the Dog; this year, we welcome the year of the Pig, the last Zodiac animal in the Chinese lunar calendar. Chinese astrology believes those born during the year of the Pig (1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, and 2019) are philanthropic and generous, but also disciplined and hard-working.
The style and tone of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech Tuesday will be analyzed and dissected ad nauseam. There will no doubt be heavy doses of border security spelled W-A-L-L. But those won’t be the most important things for Florida.
The speech may be political theater at its highest level, but what people want to know is, “What’s in it for us?”
The speech is often an opportunity for the President to score popularity points through proposals that benefit targeted states. As the third-largest state in the Union, Florida is key to Trump’s re-election road map.
He has promised the speech will be “aspirational” and “visionary.” That’s great, but Florida has some basic needs that can’t wait, starting with lots of federal cash to deal with storm damage.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, whom Trump endorsed in the Republican primary, announced recently that the President authorized additional federal money to pay for relief from Hurricane Michael.
Thank you, but don’t stop there.
The Panhandle is going to need billions in long-term help to get back on its feet, and that’s crossing our collective fingers that it doesn’t get floored by another monster storm.
This speech would be the perfect setting to say Florida will get the help it needs. Trump would get applause from both sides of the aisle on that one.
While he is at it, the President could pledge billions for transportation so the state can deal with its enormous population surge.
There should be some appealing visuals, too.
U.S. Sen. Rick Scott has invited Andrew Pollack, whose daughter, Meadow, was a victim of the Parkland massacre.
U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg has invited a U.S. Coast Guard family that was hurt by the partial government shutdown over the W-A-L-L.
Floridians furloughed during that shutdown will want reassurance that they won’t be back on the street by Feb. 13. That’s the deadline Trump set to make a deal on border funding.
Without one, he has threatened to shutter the government again.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@RepMattGaetz: My fellow Floridian Carlos Trujillo @USAmbOAS has been a key adviser to @realDonaldTrump and @VP on #Venezuela policy. Freedom burns brighter in our hemisphere as a result of his bold work. I’m honored to have him as my guest to the State of the Union.
—@AnnaforFlorida: Today is #WorldCancerDay. We lost our Mom to cancer 15 years ago. Everyday folks are diagnosed w/cancer, majority are fighting back & some won’t make it. Get screened, fund cancer research, & support those going through treatment & those who have lost someone. It all matters.
—@JohnMorganEsq: I don’t know if Broke Barney went to college. There is a reason Broke Barney has no clients and his clothes are from the 80s. His suits Johnny Cash reversible #BrokeJokeDontSmoke
—@Barney_Bishop: John, your [sic] the author. You could have/should have put the language in to smoke. You didn’t because it wouldn’t have pissed. What other excuse do you have for not putting in succinctly in the amendment? So you could litigate it and get more publicity? #PublicityHound
—@GNewburn: As a native Floridian who’s supported medical marijuana for about 25 years, the significant, very recent shift in how the issue is discussed is astounding. Everyone’s for it now! Crazy.
—@DanTallahassee: Most committee meetings that I’ve covered this year have used up most allotted time (2 hours). One take: Our lawmakers are hard at work! Another take: Our lawmakers need to be meeting more often.
—@DaveWeigel: Netflix has endless data on what content Americans want to see, and its answer is nonstop serial killer and apocalypse shows. Cool, cool
—@Mike_Dyer13: A 4-month-old baby in Boston has seen more championships than a 45-year-old Mets-Jets-Knicks fan
—@TashanReed: FSU’s 2015 recruiting class was ranked No. 3 in the nation. 5 players declared early, 3 were dismissed, 1 ran out of eligibility, 1 was academically ineligible, 2 transferred and 2 were medically DQd. Only 3 played their senior year in 2018, and 3 remain
— DAYS UNTIL —
‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 7; Pitchers and catchers begin reporting for MLB Spring Training — 7; Valentine’s Day — 9; Federal government runs out of funding (again) — 10; Fat Tuesday — 28; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 28; Tampa mayoral election — 28; ‘Captain Marvel’ release — 31; Players Championship begins — 37; St. Patrick’s Day — 40; Jacksonville municipal first election — 42; Scott Maddox corruption trial begins — 52; Major League Baseball season begins — 52; Final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ begins — 69; Easter — 75; 2019 Legislative Session ends (maybe) — 87; 2020 Democratic presidential primary debates begin — 122; 2019 General Election — 273; Iowa Caucuses — 360; 2020 General Election — 637.
— MORE ON SOTU —
“President invites bullied Delaware sixth-grader named Trump to SOTU” via Brent Griffiths of POLITICO — “When the teacher is like, ‘Joshua Trump, are you here?’ I’ll go, ‘Yes,’ and almost everybody will laugh, besides my friends,” Joshua told “Inside Edition” in an interview, before his invitation was announced. Joshua’s parents tried to briefly home-school their child and then enrolled him in another school, but the bullying continued. The abuse was so bad, “Inside Edition” reported, that teachers decided to not use Joshua’s last name at all. He is now considering changing his name. … Joshua will be joined by other guests who range from the first prisoner freed as a result of the bipartisan criminal justice overhaul and a former prisoner whose case Kim Kardashian West personally lobbied the president about, to the family of a couple whose killer is suspecting of being in the U.S. illegally and a father of a U.S. Navy sailor killed aboard the USS Cole in 2000.
— “A divided Congress prepares pointed protests for Trump’s address” via Sheryl Stolberg of the New York Times
“Rick Scott invites Parkland father to State of the Union” via The Associated Press — Scott announced he’s bringing Pollack to the speech. Pollack’s daughter, Meadow, was one of 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Just before leaving the governor’s office, Scott appointed Pollack to Florida’s education board. But when Republican Gov. DeSantis took office, he rescinded dozens of Scott’s last-minute appointments, including Pollack’s. Pollack appeared in ads for Scott during his Senate campaign. Pollack has also praised Trump during a White House visit.
“Central Florida Congressmembers invite federal employees affected by shutdown to State of the Union” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Doug Lowe of Orlando, a chapter president for the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists union and Federal Aviation Administration employee, will be the guest of U.S. Rep. Darren Soto. U.S. Rep. Val Demings invited a federal employee at Orlando International Airport, Ralph Velez, who was also personally affected by the shutdown. U.S. Rep Michael Waltz invited Coast Guard Senior Chief Jeffrey S. Graham. Graham first reached out to Waltz during the shutdown, when Coast Guard employees such as those posted at New Smyrna were furloughed. U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy invited Uma Menon, a Winter Park High School student whose essay on the importance of youth civic engagement was chosen as the winner of a contest sponsored by Murphy’s office. U.S. Rep. Ross Spano will be attending with his wife, Amie. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio invited Chargé d’affaires of the Embassy of Venezuela to the United States Carlos Vecchio.
“Living like there’s still a shutdown, Coast Guard wife joins Charlie Crist as State of the Union guest” via Howard Altman of the Tampa Bay Times — Chelsey Gutierrez, 30, of Palm Harbor, will attend the event live as a guest of U.S. Rep. Crist. She was chosen because her husband Chris, 33, is one of more than 1,100 area Coast Guard members who missed a paycheck during the longest-ever government shutdown. Gutierrez, a mother of two young boys, was selected after responding when Crist’s office asked about the impact of the shutdown. Even without a paycheck, the Gutierrez family had to double up its food purchases to provision her husband for deployment to a small island outpost. “We don’t know when that reimbursement is coming through,” she wrote to Crist. “We don’t know when our paycheck will come.”
“South Florida congressional delegation announces SOTU guests” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Like Sen. Scott, Rep. Ted Deutch has chosen to invite a parent who lost a child during last year’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Deutch’s guest will be Manny Oliver, whose son Joaquin died in the attack. Others affected by the shooting will attend as well. Fred Guttenberg, who lost his daughter Jaime, will be a guest of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Rep. Donna Shalala says she’s inviting a constituent who has utilized the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for undocumented immigrants. Edwin Herrera was born in Honduras before his parents brought him to the U.S. illegally at the age of eight. He is now a graduate student at Florida International University. Fellow freshman Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell says she’s bringing Miami women’s health advocate Michelle Garcia to the event. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz says she’ll be joined by Morgan Somma, a Coast Guard family member. Somma and her husband, a Coast Guard aviator, have three children. The Coast Guard went without pay during the recent government shutdown.
“Fox and Friends to broadcast State of the Union segment from Viera” via John McCarthy of Florida Today — Fox & Friends, Fox News’ popular morning show, will broadcast live segments from the Indian River Colony Club Wednesday. A Fox news reporter, likely Todd Piro, will be talking to patrons at the community’s At Ease Club as part of the program’s ‘Breakfast with Friends’ feature.
“March for Our Lives co-founder Cameron Kasky will be State of the Union guest” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — He’s the guest of U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat. Swalwell said he’d grown frustrated by the refusal of Republicans, who controlled Congress from 2011 until this year, to advance legislation dealing with gun violence. “But the clear, loud, unwavering voices of the Parkland generation have inspired me to renew our efforts,” he said. Kasky captured national attention after the Feb. 14 massacre at his school in Parkland when he challenged U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio during a CNN town hall for accepting campaign money from the National Rifle Association. Now 18, Kasky co-founded the student-led Gun Violence Prevention advocacy group Never Again MSD and helped organize the March for Our Lives student protests in March 2018.
— THE NEW ADMINISTRATION —
“Ron DeSantis: No more ‘standardized testing machine’ in Florida schools” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — In Jacksonville, DeSantis discussed the elimination of Common Core and the future of education in Florida. “Input” would be sought “from parents and teachers and other folks,” with Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran running point on that. “Basically, you look at the intersection of standards, curriculum, and testing,” DeSantis added. “You want to make sure we’re doing that in a way folks have confidence in.” DeSantis also noted his prioritization of “civics education,” asserting that “everyone’s going to be a citizen. We really need to prepare people for citizenship.” “We’re going to look to make sure that civics is a priority in Florida. [Corcoran] is going to be traveling the state, meeting with people, talking about what has worked in the past and what hasn’t. What other states have done to be successful,” DeSantis said.
“Job growth fund’s long-term future is cloudy” via Florida Politics — Gov. DeSantis is continuing the $85 million Job Growth Grant Fund started by his predecessor. At least for this year. Scott, a believer in economic incentives, began the fund at the end of his term, a compromise struck after spirited legislative debate about the future of Enterprise Florida. “The $85 million, which is what the Speaker and Gov. Scott compromised on, my view on it is we’ll see if that can be put to good use. I put it in there because it had been in there, Gov. Scott recommended it. But at the same time, if I don’t feel like there are opportunities to use that in a good way, then it may not be something I recommend next year.”
“More money for special needs scholarships” via Florida Politics — At a Jacksonville school of special education, DeSantis announced that a current 2,000 student waitlist for special needs scholarships would be eliminated next year. This continues a trend of budget rollout events in which DeSantis signals an interest in increased spending; something few predicted when he was a candidate. These Gardiner Scholarships, beginning in the 2019/20 school year, will be fully funded. Calling the program a “proven success,” DeSantis said he “looked forward to getting the Legislature to allocate these funds.”
“Budget counts on federal, state money for storm recovery” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — DeSantis’ proposed budget banks on at least $1.5 billion in federal money for Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Michael, a total the governor’s office anticipates could go up as damage estimates continue to mount from both storms. DeSantis introduced a $91.3 billion budget proposal for the 2019-2020 fiscal year that includes at least $323.6 million in state funding tied to the two storms. The money would go to needs such as debris collection, housing and educational programs. Meanwhile, the Federal Emergency Management Agency would put up an estimated $561.7 million for Irma and $942.6 million for Michael.
First on #FlaPol — “DeSantis names Jonathan Satter as DMS Secretary” via Florida Politics — DeSantis named Satter as Secretary of the Department of Management Services (DMS), the state’s real estate manager, among other duties. “With his extensive experience in real estate development and property management, I know the department is in fantastic hands, and I am confident in his ability to use our tax dollars wisely and strategically in his new role at DMS,” DeSantis said in a statement. Satter served as managing director of U.S. operations for Avision Young, the world’s largest private commercial real estate services firm from 2013-18. Before that, he ran his own real estate firm, WGCompass, from 1999-2013, until its acquisition by Avision Young.
— ROAD TO SESSION —
“Anthony Sabatini’s opponent calls for resignation over past blackface scandal” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Sabatini faces calls for his resignation over a blackface controversy predating his election. Democrat Cynthia Brown, Sabatini’s general election opponent, called on the Howey-in-the-Hills Republican to step aside. “I don’t care what age you are, where you grew up, what political party you belong in, this is not where we belong,” Brown wrote on Facebook. Brown posted a link to an October article about high school photos that surfaced of Sabatini wearing blackface. Sabatini at the time labeled the story “fake news” and said the pictures showed him dressed as a friend who also dressed as Sabatini that day in school. The friend, Brandon Evans, confirmed that story. … Sabatini has not responded to an inquiry about Brown’s call for his resignation. However, he earlier dismissed criticism of the photograph. … Brown said as other stories grabbed the spotlight, supporters have called on her to speak up about Sabatini’s pictures.
“After vote switch, marijuana smoking bill advances in Senate” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — After a last-minute switch by Sen. Darryl Rouson from a ‘no’ vote to a ‘yes,’ a bill allowing medical marijuana in Florida to be smoked cleared its first committee. The Senate Health Policy Committee on Monday OK’d the bill (SB 182) by Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, but that was after amending it with language from chair Gayle Harrell, a Stuart Republican and health care consultant, that divided the panel … Harrell’s amendment, opposed by Brandes, requires most medical marijuana patients to get — and presumably pay for — a second doctor’s opinion agreeing with their primary physician that smoking is the best method of delivery for them. She recited a litany of medical research that smoking any substance is harmful, causing respiratory problems, cancer and heart attacks.
“Future of marijuana in Florida could be hazy” via Evan Donovan of WFLA — Since DeSantis took office, he’s made it clear how he feels about medical marijuana — he is pushing to end a state ban on smokable medical marijuana. Patients finally have a governor who supports a doctor’s recommendation on how to take their medicine.
Measure moves forward to abolish ‘Jumanji’-like Constitution Revision Commission” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A resolution put forward by Brandes to abolish the state’s Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) cleared its first committee. The Senate Judiciary Committee heard the measure (SJR 362) after the CRC took flak over several of its amendments that appeared on the ballot in 2018. Every 20 years, the commission meets as an alternate way to put forward potential amendments to Florida’s constitution. But Brandes compared the panel to the Robin Williams version of the movie “Jumanji,” where those at the mercy of the game are often surprised at what gets thrown at them. “There aren’t really rules to how it plays out. We never know what is going to come out of the game next, and sometimes it’s good, and sometimes it’s terrible.”
“Senate panel hears of ‘stupefying’ increase in insurance litigation” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — Florida isn’t the only state that allows assignment of benefits, or AOB agreements, involving insurance policies. It is the only state, however, that allows the one-way attorney fee, requiring insurers to cover policyholders’ legal costs in litigation over claims since 2013. That, an actuary with a National Insurance group, explains a near doubling of AOB-related lawsuits against carriers in Florida. “No other state has experienced a phenomenon remotely like this,” James Lynch of the Insurance Information Institute told members of the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee. He also cited a Florida Justice Reform Institute study that found a more than a hundredfold increase in AOB litigation since 2000. “This is a stupefying increase,” Lynch said. “I can comfortably say that no other state has experienced a phenomenon remotely like this — either in insurance or anything else.”
‘Nuclear option’: Tom Lee hits Doug Broxson’s AOB bill — Broxson, the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee chair, is set to bring his AOB bill to a vote next week and Lee is a vocal opponent. As reported by Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida, Lee is the swing vote on the committee, which is made up of five Republicans and three Democrats — if he leans the other way, the bill will fall just short of advancing. AOB is a process where policyholders sign over their insurance benefits for a quick repair. The contractor or attorney who receives those benefits often attempts to collect a payout from insurers in court. Broxson’s bill, SB 122, would block homeowners from signing over some of those benefits, which Lee says is “the nuclear option.” … “You tend to want to support your chairman,” Lee said, “but I’m sort of up in the air right now.” Lee, a homebuilder by trade, said he wants the door left open for emergency water damage repairs so homeowners can act quickly to avoid mold damage at their properties.
“Lee to quiz transportation officials on Sunpass disaster” via Noah Pransky for Florida Politics — Lee, Senate Infrastructure and Security Chair, says he plans on quizzing FDOT officials at the committee’s 2 p.m. meeting today, where Senators will receive an update on the SunPass system meltdown crisis, now in the ninth month of what was supposed to be a six-day upgrade. Lee says Conduent, the struggling, but politically-connected company that won a contested FDOT bid for the project, has declined multiple requests to attend the meeting and answer senators’ questions.
“Quick time frame set for Okaloosa superintendent’s appeal of suspension” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — The lawyer for suspended Okaloosa County Superintendent of Schools Mary Beth Jackson told a hearing officer he needs more information of “specific wrongdoing” she’s alleged to have committed. “We’re struggling to identify what we’re defending against,” George Levesque told Dudley Goodlette, a former lawmaker serving as special master for the Florida Senate. That’s where Jackson is appealing her executive suspension by Gov. DeSantis. Goodlette held a case-management conference with Levesque and Nicholas Primrose, a deputy general counsel for DeSantis. Primrose agreed to come up with a “statement of particulars,” a detailed document of charges or claims, by next Friday (Feb. 15).
“Senate to consider teachers as armed ‘guardians’” via the News Service of Florida — The Senate Education Committee next week will take up a school-safety bill that would allow trained classroom teachers to carry guns as school “guardians.” The bill (SPB 7030) is a follow-up to a safety law that the Legislature passed last year after the mass shooting at Broward County’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people. The law included creating the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, which allowed guardians — school personnel whose primary job duties are outside the classroom — to be armed. A commission also created by the law released a report in early January that recommended allowing teachers also to be armed.
“Could grapefruit GIFs be next? Citrus marketers find success online” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — FDOC executive director Shannon Shepp told a panel of lawmakers that her agency is getting a strong return on investment — nearly $10 for every dollar spent — by promoting citrus online. “The good news is we’re not having to do media buys or multi-thousand-dollar television commercials, we’re doing all of this production digitally on a much better and efficient scale,” Shepp told the Senate Agriculture Committee. “It’s teaching us something about how we’ll communicate with consumers moving forward.” The agency — which Shepp described as “nimble” and “efficient” — takes a narrow approach to its marketing effort, which focuses heavily on promoting Florida orange juice. Millennial moms, Shepp said, have an “enormous purchasing power,” and they’ve been identified as the target audience for orange juice.
What Helen Levine is reading — “Key legislators are emphatic: make St. Pete a branch campus” via Nancy McCann and Whitney Elfstrom of the USFSP Crow’s Nest — That’s welcome news to faculty, administrators and friends of the university who fear that the campus might become an instructional site instead. Through an aide, Rep. Chris Sprowls said he agrees with the Consolidation Task Force’s draft recommendations for what he called “a united and pre-eminent USF that includes two strong and unique branch campuses” in St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee. “I fully expect the goals of the report to be implemented,” he said. Brandes echoed Sprowls’ comments. “We (legislators) have always maintained in every conversation that USF St. Petersburg would be a branch campus,” Brandes said. “I continue to express my desire that it be maintained as a branch campus.”
Today’s legislative committee meetings
The Senate Education Committee considers a bill that would require students entering ninth grade beginning in the 2019-2020 school year to earn one-half credit in personal financial literacy and money management, 10 a.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.
The Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee will consider a proposal to carry out a voter-approved constitutional amendment that bans vaping in indoor workplaces, 10 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.
The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee will consider a proposal to set contribution rates for government agencies in the state retirement system, 10 a.m., 301 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.
The House Appropriations Committee will receive a presentation about Gov. DeSantis’ proposed 2019-2020 budget, 10:30 a.m., 212 Knott Building, The Capitol.
The House Education Committee will take up issues related to career and technical education, including a presentation by the Foundation for Excellence in Education about the impact of industry credentials, 1:30 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building, The Capitol.
The Senate Community Affairs Committee will consider a proposal that would place additional restrictions on the use of impact fees by local governments, 2 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.
The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee will take up a proposal that would impose a single-subject requirement on measures placed on the ballot in the future by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, 2 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.
The Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee will hold a workshop and panel discussion on distracted driving, 2 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.
— ANOTHER RALLY IN TALLY —
The Florida Coalition for Children and its membership of over 60 child welfare providers hosted the annual “Rally in Tally” this week.
The event marks the beginning of the legislative season, bringing together child welfare advocates, community leaders, official the Department of Children and Families (DCF), elected leaders, foster families and youth in care from throughout the state.
The event offered advocacy training and discussions on legislative priorities affecting children and families during the 2019 Legislative Session.
The rally ends today with a Legislative Breakfast for child welfare community members, legislators, foster families, and youth, featuring Sen. Aaron Bean.
It’s on the 22nd floor of the Capitol, 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. It will conclude with what’s being teased as an “exciting announcement.”
— STATEWIDE —
“Docs, dentists skip opioid training” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — About one in four Florida health care providers failed to take a two-hour continuing education course on proper opioid prescribing by the required Jan. 31 deadline. The Florida Department of Health now is preparing to send noncompliance letters advising the providers that they have 15 days to take the mandated course or face disciplinary action, said agency spokesman Brad Dalton. “If the department does not receive a response within 15 days from receipt of the notice, a formal complaint will be initiated,” he said. In Florida, physicians, podiatrists, dentists, physician assistants and advanced registered nurse practitioners can prescribe controlled substances for the treatment of pain. But before a law passed last year, only physician assistants and advanced registered nurse practitioners were required to take continuing education courses on controlled substances as part of their licensure requirements.
“Trulieve’s number of dispensaries can get as high as patients want” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A judge ruled Florida’s limit on locations for licensed medical marijuana provider adds an unconstitutional restriction and threatens patient health. “The evidence clearly and conclusively establishes beyond any doubt that the imposition of regional and statewide caps on the number of dispensaries for each licensed [medical marijuana treatment center] does not support voter-approved constitutional goals,” wrote Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers. Ruling in favor of Trulieve, Florida’s fastest growing medical marijuana provider and the one on track to hit the statutory limit first in Florida, sued over the cap a year ago. The ruling issued clarified a decision Gievers made in Trulieve’s favor in January.
“New crops proposed after Michael devastation” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Glen Aiken, director of the University of Florida’s North Florida Research and Education Center, said the need for alternatives has grown as farmers in an eight-county region suffered most of the estimated $1.5 billion hit to the state’s agriculture industry in the October storm. But Aiken, in addressing the Senate Agriculture Committee, said the first step is convincing growers and ranchers about what could be best for their fields, particularly those in the timber industry, which accounted for more than $1.28 billion of the losses. Timber operators face the prospect of decades before new trees mature. Aiken said tomato and cotton crops were a near total loss as they were both close to harvest. Meanwhile, cattle deaths were significant, and, because of damaged fencing, it took weeks to round up and return surviving animals. Aiken said hemp, which has been promoted by Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, has multiple uses, including medicinally through the extraction of cannabidiol, as a high-quality fiber for rope and clothing and even as food.
“Never Forgotten Coast microgrants boost Mexico Beach businesses” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The new round of grants measured in at $1,000 apiece and headed to 11 local businesses. Most of the businesses will use the cash to replace items not covered by their insurance policies or to tide them over while they wait on claims payments. “Businesses in Mexico Beach are starting to get up and running again, and we’re excited to see how these grants will help that recovery continue,” said Alex Workman, Never Forgotten Coast co-founder. “The road to recovery is long but they are making incredible strides, and we are honored to continue to help share their stories and partner with them to keep rebuilding.” The grant program is part of a partnership between Never Forgotten Coast and the Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association, nonprofit that has worked in Mexico Beach for more than two decades and has successfully managed millions of dollars in federal grant programs.
— LOCAL —
“Panel decides to interview all applicants to replace Karen Gievers” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — A judicial nominating panel has opted to interview all 19 applicants to replace outgoing Circuit Judge Gievers, who faces mandatory age-related retirement this year. Fred Dudley, a former lawmaker and Tallahassee attorney who chairs the 2nd Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission, announced the decision. The open judgeship has added significance in the capital, home of state government and the Legislature: Circuit judges can grant special court orders, called writs, which force state officials to perform an action or prevent them from doing so.
“Joe Harding files to succeed Charlie Stone in HD 22” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — A second Republican has entered the race to replace term-limited Republican Rep. Stone in House District 22. Williston Republican Joe Harding filed paperwork to run for the seat on Friday, joining former Republican Rep. Kurt Kelly of Ocala in seeking to represent Levy and Marion County-based district come 2020. … In his campaign announcement, Harding said he wants to end illegal immigration, outlaw so-called “sanctuary cities,” boost agriculture and stem rising health insurance and prescription drug costs. He also said he is a staunch supporter of gun rights and anti-abortion. … “Too much government involvement in the wrong issues is harmful, but so is inaction on issues like opioid addiction, which I’ve also had the experience of witnessing firsthand in friends and employees,” he said. … Harding and Kelly are the only two candidates who have filed for the race. HD 22 covers all of Levy County as well as southwest Marion County. It is a Republican stronghold.
“Webster Barnaby files to run for HD 27 in Volusia County” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Barnaby describes himself as a “Frederick Douglass Republican,” a conservative and is a naturalized American citizen who has lived in Deltona since 1991. “I’m so grateful for the opportunities this country and community have given my family and me,” Barnaby said in a news release. “I am passionate about making sure the blessings of liberty we’ve enjoyed continue to be available to future generations. I’m excited about this new avenue of service, and I look forward to connecting with District 27 voters, listening to their concerns and making the case for a conservative approach to state government.” In the release, he listed protecting constitutional rights, with an emphasis on the First and Second Amendments, and ending illegal immigration as top priorities. He also pledged to focus on policies that promote strong economic growth and job creation, including lower taxes and fewer regulations.
“Randy Maggard piles on more endorsements in HD 38 special” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Dade City Republican Randy Maggard has added a couple more endorsements to his quiver as he seeks to replace former Rep. Danny Burgess in Pasco County’s House District 38. The nods came in from Pasco Superintendent of Schools Kurt Browning and Pasco Commissioner Ron Oakley. … “Randy’s character and integrity are second to none and I know he will fight tirelessly for our children and families in Tallahassee,” Browning said. … Oakley added that “Randy doesn’t seek headlines, he just works hard every single day to improve the lives of the people of Pasco County. We need more people like Randy Maggard in our state capitol, fighting hard for us.” … The pair of pratiques add to the pack of Pasco pols backing Maggard. In the past week Trilby Sen. Wilton Simpson, Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco, Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasano and Pasco Commissioner Mike Moore have all endorsed the former Pasco Republican Party chair.
“Erik Arroyo becomes second GOP candidate eyeing Margaret Good’s seat” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — He’s the second Republican to file in House District 72. “I went to high school in the district, I live in the district, and I work in the district,” Arroyo said. “As a business attorney and product of the public school system, I understand that we need someone that will fight for our community’s safety, our jobs, and our quality of life.” A veteran of numerous local Republican campaigns, Arroyo said he never expected to run himself, but supporters began approaching him about a year ago regarding the seat.
“A month before early voting begins, Anna Brosche’s mayoral campaign shows signs of life” via Christopher Hong of the Florida Times-Union — Brosche, a Republican, hired Scott Arceneaux, a political consultant and former head of the Florida Democratic Party, to advise her campaign. He will bring a much-needed Democratic perspective into Brosche’s camp, as she must attract strong support from Democrats to prevent Mayor Lenny Curry from winning the March 19 election outright and advance to a runoff. She also is raising money. Her state political committee will not report its first month of fundraising until Feb. 11, but a campaign spokeswoman said she’s raised roughly $345,000. She has $60,000 in her campaign account, which is bound by donation limits but can buy media advertising at cheaper rates than a political committee, which can receive unlimited sums of money from donors. Brosche will stick to grassroots campaigning, like speaking with voters and attending church services, until Election Day gets closer.
“St. Petersburg housing agency refuses to release documents to a member of its own governing board unless she pays for them” via Chris O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — As a commissioner on the St. Petersburg Housing Authority’s governing board, Terri Lipsey Scott considers it her duty to scrutinize how the agency is run. So Scott was taken aback when she recently received an email from the agency telling her she would have to pay $280 for agency records she requested to review. The cost would rise up to as much as $400 if she wanted paper copies.
“Is Tampa sewage polluting the bay? No, says city. Yes, says environmental group” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — An environmental group is asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to step in to correct what it says is the state’s failure to fix repeated violations at Tampa’s wastewater system. Tampa officials are vigorously contesting the group’s findings, saying it took data out of context and misrepresented the city’s wastewater spills. They also question the timing of the complaint, saying it might be aimed at sabotaging the city’s drive to persuade Tampa Bay Water to allow the city to convert highly-treated wastewater into drinking water. The state chapter of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which made the complaint, is requesting that Mary Walker, the EPA’s regional administrator, take over the city’s permit and begin civil enforcement proceedings. The group says the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has failed to adequately police the city “egregious records of environmental noncompliance.”
“Deondre Francois’ former girlfriend recants accusations on Instagram, apologizes” via the Tallahassee Democrat — A day after quarterback Deondre Francois was dismissed from the Florida State football team after allegations of domestic abuse, the woman who made the claims against Francois posted a lengthy apology on social media. The woman said the video was old and was “to scare him not to ruin anything he had going for hisself (sic).” “If it was serious, I would have took legal action instead of making the Instagram post,” the woman, who signed the message Diamond Lindsey, wrote. “Love can make you do some crazy things and I’m sorry for leading people to believe he was hitting me along with all the trouble that I have caused.” FSU coach Willie Taggart‘s decision to dismiss the redshirt senior was announced after the quarterback’s former girlfriend posted an expletive-filled, 24-second video on Instagram alleging abuse by Francois.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Global support grows for Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s president” via Lawrence Noble and Ryan Dube of The Wall Street Journal — Several European Union countries recognized Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president in a push for fresh presidential elections to end a deepening political crisis and an economic meltdown. Their declarations came as the Lima Group, a coalition of countries in the Americas that backs Guaidó as Venezuela’s rightful leader, was meeting in Ottawa to discuss a solution to Venezuela’s turmoil. The European move deepens the split between Western countries and others over the Venezuelan crisis. Russia and China have strong ties with Maduro and officials in Moscow slammed what they called Western interference in the country. Spain, Portugal, France, the U.K., Austria, Denmark, Lithuania, Latvia, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Germany were among the governments consider Guaidó to be the country’s president. Other European governments were poised to follow suit.
“Trump-linked lobbyists help Nigerian politician gain U.S. access” via Christian Berthelsen of Bloomberg — Nigerian presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar had been blocked from entering the U.S. under a State Department edict applying to officials linked to foreign corruption. One of them said the Nigerian had been seeking a waiver to enter the country for years and expressed surprise when told that the effort was ultimately successful. Abubakar’s rehabilitation was driven in part by Washington lobbyists and lawyers with links to Trump’s 2016 presidential race. Ballard Partners — run by Brian Ballard — helped set up meetings for the candidate in the U.S. Law firm Holland & Knight lobbied the State Department, House of Representatives and National Security Council on Abubakar’s behalf on visa issues, according to a disclosure filed with Congress. The firm’s lead lobbyist on the effort was Scott Mason, who previously directed congressional relations for Trump’s campaign and transition team.
“Final tab: Florida’s U.S. Senate race cost almost $205 million in 2018” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Nearly doubling the state’s previous record, Republican U.S. Sen. Scott fueled his election with nearly $64 million of his own personal fortune while Democratic former U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson relied on $55 million in support from other groups. In the end, Scott’s campaign spent $85.2 million, including his own $64 million, and Republican outside groups spent another $32.3 million in Florida in 2018 to help elect him. He Nelson’s campaign spent $32.4 million, none of it his, while Democratic outside groups tossed in another $54.8 million in a failed attempt to re-elect him.
— OPINIONS —
“The freedom-seeking people of Venezuela will prevail” via Jeanette Nuñez for the Miami Herald — The Nicholás Maduro regime plundered the wealth of the nation for personal gain; he and his cronies have enriched themselves beyond belief, while the Venezuelan economy collapsed leaving many families in poverty. As the daughter of immigrant parents who fled Fidel Castro’s communist rule in the 1960s, Venezuela’s fight to restore democracy and civil rights is one I know all too well. Peace and prosperity are not logical outcomes of repression and political violence. A nation cannot flourish without the rule of law and respect for human rights. Just like the people of Cuba, Venezuelans deserve better.
“Balance? Are you kidding? Florida SB 330 is educational quackery” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — It was filed by conservative Ocala Sen. Dennis Baxley, who proposes that “controversial theories and concepts shall be taught in a factual, objective and balanced manner.” Let’s look at that in a factual, objective and balanced manner. We learn it’s another straight out of looneyville stab by those say there is no proof climate change is real. If it is real, they say humans had nothing to do with it. That’s dangerous quackery because climate scientists around the globe have warned it is real and getting worse. But, oh wait, let’s take on Charles Darwin and evolution, too. LiveScience.com says of Darwin’s theory: “Evolution by natural selection is one of the best-substantiated theories in the history of science.” in some corners of the Florida Legislature, this is controversial and needs balance. Spewing state-ordered malarkey at the front of a classroom in the name of balance is educational malpractice.
“Barry Gilway: Solid Citizens data supports push for reform” via Florida Politics — Over the past several years, Citizens Property Insurance Corporation has worked with Florida regulators, legislators and other stakeholders to address rising premiums brought on by increased litigation and claims abuse. Citizens’ data show unequivocally that litigation is increasing and claims with an assignment of benefits are more likely to result in litigation. Meanwhile, litigation data submitted to the Florida Department of Financial Services show the number of AOB lawsuits filed against all Florida property insurers rose from 4,613 in 2013 to 17,421 in 2018, a 270 percent increase. Once a “South Florida problem,” litigation rates are rising across the state. As we work toward a solution, Citizens will continue to provide stakeholders with accurate and timely data while protecting the confidentiality our policyholders expect and Florida law requires. Together we can find a solution that benefits all Florida consumers.
— MOVEMENTS —
David Altmaier elected VP of National Association of Insurance Commissioners — Altmaier, Florida’s appointed Insurance Commissioner, fills the vacant position of the office of Vice President effective immediately. Altmaier joins other 2019 Officers, including President and Maine Insurance Superintendent Eric A. Cioppa, President-Elect and South Carolina Director of Insurance Raymond G. Farmer, and Secretary-Treasurer and Idaho Insurance Commissioner Dean L. Cameron. The Association is the U.S. standard-setting and regulatory support organization created and governed by the chief insurance regulators from the 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories. Altmaier, who remains in his state position, said it was his “distinct honor and privilege to join such a distinguished group of individuals … Florida plays a significant role in the national and international insurance community … and I plan to help thoughtfully guide the (association).”
“Personnel note: Cissy Proctor to lead new Tallahassee office for LSN Partners” via Florida Politics — LSN Partners announced that former Department of Economic Opportunity head Proctor will lead the firm’s expansion, starting with a new Tallahassee office, where she will be Managing Partner. “Re-establishing an office in Tallahassee allows us to better meet our clients’ legislative, regulatory and public policy needs,” said Alexander P. Heckler, Co-Managing Partner. “With a seasoned professional and policy guru such as Cissy leading this new office, we can continue to deepen our firm’s relationships in the state.” Proctor served at DEO under Gov. Scott for six years as Deputy Legislative Affairs Director, Director of Strategic Business Development, Chief of Staff and finally as Executive Director.
First in Sunburn — FIT taps Madeline Holzmann as comms manager — The Florida Internet & Television Association announced Monday that it had brought on Madeline Holzmann as its new communications manager. Holzman most recently worked on Attorney General Ashley Moody’s successful statewide campaign, earning her some early praise from her old boss … “I congratulate Madeline on her position with the Florida Internet & Television Association. Without a doubt, I know she will be an asset to the team just as she was during my campaign for Attorney General.” FIT President and CEO Brad Swanson added that Holzmann is an outstanding addition to our team, bringing a data-driven approach to the office of communications. Madeline will create new opportunities for the advancement of FIT’s mission, and we are looking forward to all she will accomplish.”
GrayRobinson expands in Southwest Florida — GrayRobinson has upped its Southwest Florida presence with the addition of Matthew Roepstorff to its Fort Meyers office. “His depth of experience in business and corporate law will greatly benefit our clients’ needs,” said Michael Randolph, managing director at GrayRobinson’s Naples and Fort Myers offices. Roepstorff specializes in government relations, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate law. He serves as counsel and liaison between community development and redevelopment entities and local government to foster and facilitate economic growth. He is also a member of the Lee County Bar Association, where he serves as vice president/president-elect, has a seat on the board of Bishop Verot High School and is on the board of directors for the Children’s Advocacy Center of Southwest Florida.
Nick Van Der Linden named LeadingAge Florida comms director — LeadingAge Florida, which represents the elder care industry, has hired Nick Van Der Linden as its new director of communications. “Nick is a tremendous addition to our association,” LeadingAge CEO Steve Bahmer said. “He has proven experience and diverse background in communication that will be vital to informing our members and increasing our outreach.” … Van Der Linden started at the state Department of Health as a public information specialist, working his way up to interim communications director. He is an alumnus of Auburn University, where he earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in communications.
— ALOE —
Email I didn’t open: “Peter, did you need a last-minute boat rental to join the party for Miami Boat Week?” from GetMyBoat.com
“Disney: Super Bowl celebration includes Patriots stars Tom Brady, Julian Edelman” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Brady and Edelman, stars of the New England Patriots and champions of Super Bowl LIII, visited the Magic Kingdom theme park for a parade and celebration. Edelman was named the most valuable player of Sunday’s game, a 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. It marked Brady’s sixth Super Bowl win in his NFL career, a record.
“Historians irked by musical ‘Hamilton’ escalate their duel” via Mark Kennedy of The Associated Press — Ishmael Reed, who has been nominated twice for a National Book Award, has chosen to fight fire with fire — collecting his critique of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s acclaimed show into a play. Reed’s “The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda” is an uncompromising takedown of “Hamilton,” reminding viewers of the Founding Father’s complicity in slavery and his war on Native Americans. “My goal is that this be a counternarrative to the text that has been distributed to thousands of students throughout the country,” said Reed, who teaches at the California College of the Arts and the University of California at Berkeley and whose latest novel is “Conjugating Hindi.” Reed, whose play had a recent reading in New York and who is raising money for a four-week production in May, is part of a wave of “Hamilton” skeptics — often solitary voices of dissent amid a wall of fawning attention — who have written journal articles, newspaper op-eds and a 2018 collection of essays, ”Historians on Hamilton.”
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Happy birthday to newly named Volunteer Florida CEO Clay Ingram and top fundraiser Christina Diamond.
Today’s Sunburn was written by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Joe Henderson, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.