Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 2.6.19

Sunburn Orange Tally (8)
Good morning: Here's your first look at the issues behind today's Florida politics.

Look for Nikki Fried to name Nashville consultant as Director of Cannabis — Ag. Commissioner Fried is expected to name Nashville consultant Holly Bell to be her Director of Cannabis at a Wednesday press conference.

Florida Politics and POLITICO Florida reported the pick Tuesday night, relying on unnamed sources and Bell’s own professional website, which as of Tuesday said she is “currently on permanent assignment as the Director of Cannabis for the state of Florida.”

Fried’s office had issued a media advisory of a “major announcement related to cannabis in Florida” at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in The Capitol. 


@EsotericCD: I didn’t watch the SOTU, but from the Twitter responses (particularly the grudging ones from people who dislike Trump or are Dems) he actually did an unexpectedly good job. No matter, we’ll all forget about it tomorrow.

@HelenPoleo: Yes, that was awful. Still, as I watch, I’m still waiting for @MiamiDadeDems and @FlaDems to recognize @jguaido as the legitimate president of #Venezuela. Actions speak louder than words.

@GrayRohrer: Exhibit A for how @RonDeSantisFL has already flipped the FL Supreme Court: Justices reversed decision made last year to accept case over Miami Beach’s minimum wage ordinance. Retail groups said it violated pre-emption in state law.

@ChristineSexton: I never realized before how much Sen. Bill Montford sounds like Sam Elliot when he speaks. Funny this realization hit me during a discussion about music programs n high school. #AStarIsBorn

@Fred_Guttenberg: Dear NAACP, do not make this about race. My daughter and 16 others were murdered on his watch. This is about the Superintendents. I was supportive of him at first, but not any longer. For me, it is about my daughters empty bedroom. He needs to resign

@CODonnell_Times: Think government meetings are dull? Hundreds turn up at ⁦@HillsboroughFL⁩ meeting to voice concerns about affordable housing.


‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 6; Pitchers and catchers begin reporting for MLB Spring Training — 6; Valentine’s Day — 8; Federal government runs out of funding (again) — 9; Fat Tuesday — 27; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 27; Tampa mayoral election — 27; ‘Captain Marvel’ release — 30; Players Championship begins — 36; St. Patrick’s Day — 39; Jacksonville municipal first election — 41; Scott Maddox corruption trial begins — 51; Major League Baseball season begins — 51; Final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ begins — 68; Easter — 74; 2019 Legislative Session ends (maybe) — 86; 2020 Democratic presidential primary debates begin — 121; 2019 General Election — 272; Iowa Caucuses — 359; 2020 General Election — 636.


State: 83,000 voters in Florida didn’t cast a valid ballot” via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press — According to a new report prepared by state officials, More than 8.2 million votes were cast in the high-profile race for Governor that attracted national attention. The total number of “non-valid votes” was 1 percent, which was a lower rate than either the 2016 presidential election or the 2014 Governor’s race. These “non-valid votes” include ballots with write-in names such as Mickey Mouse and ballots that were left blank. It also includes those with votes for more than one candidate. More than 50,000 of the invalid ballots were left blank, suggesting that some people opted to skip the Governor’s race. In the report, state officials said the “data do not show anything to suggest or conclude that voter confusion existed during the election as a result of ballot design and/or ballot instructions issues, or that the voting equipment manifested any anomalies.”


Anthony Sabatini dismisses Florida Democratic chair’s call for his resignation over high school ‘blackface’ photo” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — A high school photo of state Rep. Sabatini became a source of controversy again after Florida Democratic Chair Terry Rizzo called on Sabatini to resign. In a statement, Rizzo wrote, “Gov. Ron DeSantis did the right thing in accepting Michael Ertel‘s resignation — and he and Leader José Oliva should do the right thing and ask for the resignation of Rep. Anthony Sabatini. In calling out racist behavior Florida Democrats and Republicans should stand united.” Sabatini, 30, denied the photo was racist, saying it had been “decontextualized” from its origins as a teenage prank between two friends at Eustis High School. His friend, Brandon Evans, agreed. “Every year at high school homecoming week, we had things like ‘80s days and celebrity days,” Evans said. “We said, ‘I’m going to be you, and you’re going to be me.’ I don’t know how it got to be seen as racial. That’s all it was.” As for the calls for Sabatini’s resignation, “Of course I disagree with that,” Evans said.

Double down: Anthony Sabatini is standing firm in the face of Florida Democratic Party calls to resign over photos of him as a teen in blackface.

House bill to lift MMJ smoking ban more restrictive than Senate’s — The House version of a bill nixing the “no-smoke” provision from Florida’s medical marijuana laws wouldn’t make it easy for patients to get ahold of combustible cannabis. According to Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida, the measure would require a panel of medical professionals to sign off before a non-terminally ill patient could legally get smokable marijuana. Terminally ill patients would be allowed access to smokable formulas without a panel’s approval. It wouldn’t come in a bag, either — the legislation would only allow smokable pot be dispensed in pre-rolled wrappers. The Senate version would require a second doc to greenlight the prescription, though that provision came about an amendment adopted Monday over the objections of the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jeff Brandes. The Senate bill doesn’t require marijuana to come in pre-rolled wrappers.

Tweet, tweet:

Senate Education Committee hears testimony about scholarship waitlist” via David Hudson Tuthill of redefinED — Step Up For Students President Doug Tuthill told a Florida Senate committee today that nearly 70,000 additional students could have been awarded Florida Tax Credit Scholarships had the requisite funding been available. While nearly 13,000 students were found conditionally eligible for the scholarship and placed on a waitlist, the number of overall applicants was much higher. “I don’t know what the full demand is,” Tuthill said. “We haven’t kept the application open for a full season the last couple of years because demand is so high.”

Senate moving fast on single-subject measure” via the News Service of Florida — Florida Senators continued moving forward with a proposal aimed at preventing “bundled” ballot measures in the future. The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee unanimously approved a proposal (SJR 74), filed by Sen. Rob Bradley, that would put a single-subject requirement on constitutional amendments placed on the ballot by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission. The commission, which meets every 20 years, combined seemingly unrelated issues into single ballot proposals in the November election. Critics of such bundled proposals said voters could have conflicting opinions about issues in the same proposed constitutional amendment. “The bundling of several issues in one constitutional amendment is a terrible way to amend our Constitution,” Bradley told the committee.

Senate starts carrying out vaping ban” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — The Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee backed a proposed bill (SPB 7012) that would carry out part of Amendment 9, a ballot measure that passed in November and includes a ban on vaping in indoor workplaces. Committee Chairman Wilton Simpson said he intends to keep a “clean” bill as it advances through the Senate and called the argument to add the tobacco definition to vaping “as a little bit of an overreach.” The measure mirrors a long-standing ban on smoking tobacco in indoor workplaces and would add vaping to a state law that bars people under age 18 from smoking tobacco within 1,000 feet of schools. The proposal would allow people to use e-cigarettes and other devices in “vapor-generating electronic device” retailers and “retail vape shops.”

No vape: Wilton Simpson is speeding up the implementation of a constitutional amendment banning the use of vape pens in Florida workplaces.

State pension fund will need more cash to stay healthy” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of Florida Phoenix — Under a bill (SB 7016) advancing in the Florida Senate, the additional contributions include: county governments ($48 million); school boards ($35 million); state agencies ($23.7 million); universities and state colleges ($9 million); and other agencies ($7.3 million). The extra payments are necessary because the state is continuing a five-year trend of lowering its expected rate of return for the $156 billion pension fund, which pays retirement benefits for teachers, county workers, state employees and university workers. As of June 30, about 643,000 active workers were participating in the pension program, with some 416,000 retired workers relying on the benefits. Teachers and school district employees represent nearly half of the active workers, followed by county workers at 23 percent and state workers at 20 percent.

Out-of-state PAC slams Joe Gruters for LGBTQ bill” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Texas-based Courageous Conservatives PAC wants Florida’s Governor to take a stance against “virtue-signaling” LGBTQ workplace protections. Christopher Ekstrom, the committee chairman, called on Gov. DeSantis to pre-emptively threaten to veto the Florida Inclusive Workforce Act. “If signed into law, the bill would encourage a frenzy of frivolous but costly lawsuits from troubled men who believe they are women,” Ekstrom said. “Worse, it would force school districts to hire transgender teachers — even for the younger grades.” The bill (SB 438), sponsored by state Sen. Gruters, would outlaw workforce discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The legislation has drawn criticism from the left and the right.

Stuck in the middle with you: Joe Gruters gets flak from both sides over a bill outlawing workforce discrimination for sexual orientation or gender identity. Image via Colin Hackley.

Should high schoolers be taught how to balance a checkbook? Bill filed again to require it” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — The idea of making “financial literacy” a high school graduation requirement is far from a new idea in the Legislature, but this year its foremost champion has a different face. State Sen. Dorothy Hukill sponsored the measure for years, with the idea that students should be able to balance a checkbook, calculate interest rates and otherwise know how to manage their money before they fully join the workforce. But after Hukill died last year, Sen. Travis Hutson has taken up the effort. “She was a good friend,” Hutson said. “So it’s an emotional bill, and I’m looking forward to getting it across the finish line in her honor.”

’We’re dying out here’: Will film production ever return to Florida? A new bill would let counties dip into tourism funds” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — The bill, S726, filed by state Sen. Linda Stewart, would allow counties to use the 6 percent tax charged on short-term rentals, mostly hotels and motels, to “promote or incentivize film or television productions in this state.” The definition of “production” in Florida’s statutes also includes video games, meaning incentives could also go toward companies such as EA Sports in Maitland. Kelly Paige, past president of film and TV production association Film Florida, stressed the bill isn’t a traditional sales tax exemption, but “only gives [productions] the opportunity to present each case individually, on its own merit,” to county boards.

Loan repayment program pitch for dentists” via the News Service of Florida — Florida dentists could qualify for up to $250,000 in student-loan repayments under a bill filed by Sen. Ed Hooper. The bill (SB 716) is a priority for the Florida Dental Association and would establish the Dental Student Loan program at the Florida Department of Health. It would seek to provide incentives for dentists to practice in public health programs or in areas of the state that lack dental professionals or are medically underserved. The bill would limit to 10 the number of dentists who could annually benefit under the program. Dentists could qualify for up to $50,000 annually in loan repayments for up to five years. The costs of books, dental equipment and supplies, uniforms and living expenses could be covered under the program.

Today’s legislative committee meetings:

The House Energy & Utilities Subcommittee will discuss telecommunications law, 8 a.m., 212 Knott Building.

The House Health Quality Subcommittee will discuss a 2017 law that was designed to carry out a constitutional amendment broadly legalizing medical marijuana, 8 a.m., 306 House Office Building.

The House Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee and the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee will receive presentations about DeSantis’ proposed 2019-2020 budget. Transportation & Tourism, 8 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building. Also, Agriculture & Natural Resources, 8:30 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee will consider a nonbinding memorial that would call on Congress to intensify financial sanctions against the regime of Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro and support urging the Venezuelan government to allow humanitarian assistance, 8:30 a.m., 12 House Office Building.

The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee takes up a bill to expand the circumstances in which law-enforcement agencies can use aerial drones, 9 a.m., 404 House Office Building.

The Senate Appropriations Committee will receive a presentation about DeSantis’ proposed 2019-2020 state budget, 10 a.m., 412 Knott Building.

The House PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee will take up a proposed constitutional amendment that would ask voters to place eight-year term limits on county school-board members, 10:30 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The House Health Market Reform Subcommittee will receive a presentation on the “certificate of need” regulatory process for new health care facilities and programs. Also, it will hear a presentation on ambulatory surgical centers, 10:30 a.m., 306 House Office Building.

The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee and the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee will receive presentations on DeSantis’ proposed 2019-2020 budget. Higher Education, 10:30 a.m., 212 Knott Building. Also, Justice, 10:30 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Workforce Development & Tourism Subcommittee will receive overviews of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Enterprise Florida and VISIT FLORIDA, 10:30 a.m., 12 House Office Building.

The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee and the Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriation Subcommittee will receive presentations about Gov. DeSantis’ proposed 2019-2020 budget. Health and Human Services, 1:30 p.m., 412 Knott Building. Also, Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development, 1:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.

The House State Affairs Committee and the House Oversight, Transparency & Public Management Subcommittee will hold a joint meeting to review issues in the 2018 general election, 3 p.m., 212 Knott Building.

The House Public Integrity & Ethics Committee will receive an update from Marshall Criser, chancellor of the state university system, about improper spending on university building projects particularly at the University of Central Florida, 3 p.m., 404 House Office Building.

The Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, the Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee and the Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee will hear presentations on DeSantis’ proposed 2019-2020 budget. Agriculture, Environment and General Government, 4 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building. Also, Criminal and Civil Justice, 4 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building. Also, Education, 4 p.m., 412 Knott Building.

Assignment editors — A group of woman lawmakers will hold a news conference and rally in support of “legislation to combat limited economic opportunities for women.” Among those slated to appear are Sens. Linda Stewart, Lori Berman and Janet Cruz, and Reps. Dotie Joseph and Fentrice Driskell, 3:30 p.m., 4th floor Rotunda, The Capitol.

DaVita participates in Florida Kidney Day — DaVita, a leading provider of kidney care services, will participate in the 15th annual Florida Kidney Day at the state Capitol, and they have a stacked agenda for the Wednesday event. Topping the list are free kidney screenings to legislators, staff and the public to bring awareness to chronic kidney disease and kidney health. … “We want to thank the Florida Renal Coalition and their partners for making Florida Kidney Day happen year after year,” said Dion Atchison, DaVita Kidney Care’s regional operations director. “It’s important for people at risk for kidney disease to take the vital step in prevention by getting screened. For those with kidney failure, learning about treatment options like transplant and home dialysis is key to maintaining a high quality of life.” … The company said there are more than 29,169 dialysis patients in Florida, and its 3,700 Florida employees care for 14,000 of them at 246 centers throughout the Sunshine State.

Happening tonight:

Save the date:

Two sheriffs back Jason Shoaf for HD 7” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Madison County Sheriff Ben Stewart and Gulf County Sheriff Mike Harrison endorsed Shoaf, saying the Port St. Joe Republican will support law enforcement if elected. Stewart, who served as Madison sheriff for more than a decade, believes Shoaf will “focus on the safety and well-being of our citizens” and “support the mission of our law enforcement officers for a safer and stronger community.” “He’ll be a great leader in helping our area through the difficult times following Hurricane Michael,” added Harrison, elected Gulf sheriff in 2012. The sheriffs’ vouch comes after Shoaf recently picked up support Wakulla Superintendent Bobby Pearce. He also secured an endorsement from Wakulla County Commissioner Ralph Thomas, who had at one point planned to compete in the special election.

Richard Corcoran backs Randy Maggard for HD 38” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Maggard announced Tuesday that he’d landed the support of former House Speaker and current Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. “I have known Randy for more than two decades and have witnessed his strong character, integrity and leadership firsthand. Randy’s top priorities are his faith, family and our community. Randy Maggard is well suited to represent Pasco County in our state.”

Well-suited: Randy Maggard gets the thumbs-up from former House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

Lauren Book bid for 2022 re-election officially a govia Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — State Sen. Book, a Plantation Democrat, has officially filed paperwork with the Florida Division of Elections for a re-election run in 2022. Book was first elected to Senate District 32 in 2016 for a two-year term following Senate redistricting. She was unopposed that year and won re-election in 2018, again unopposed. Book has achieved a high profile during her short time in the Senate. She’s one of only two Democrats who will be heading a committee this session. Book was named chair of the Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs in November. Given the ease with which she won her previous two contests, Book is set up to be the favorite in 2022. No other candidates have filed to challenge the incumbent as of yet.

Governors Club lunch buffet menu — Tortilla soup; corn salad; yucca salad; chicken fajitas; beef steak churrasco; pork empanadas; steamed rice; sautéed chayote; black beans; and tres leche cake for dessert.


What this long economic expansion means for Florida’s next recession” via Graham Brink of the Tampa Bay Times — In this case, the fuel is less-than-optimal economic relationships. Think of it this way: With low unemployment, companies are forced to hire workers that don’t fit the requirements. The longer the expansion, the higher the pile of these flawed relationships. When the economy plunges, that leaves more workers vulnerable to layoffs, which can make a recession worse. Not buying it? Good news. Neither are researchers from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. Senior researcher Murat Tasci and Nicholas Zevanove looked at the nation’s nine recessions and 10 expansions since World War II and found little support for the theory. Recessions that follow long expansions were not consistently more severe than those that follow shorter expansions, they concluded. For instance, the recession that followed the long dot-com expansion was one of the mildest on record. So was the recession that followed the long run-up in the 1960s.

Jimmy Patronis visits Boca Raton for a renewed commitment to the relationship with Israel with a pledge to invest an additional $10 million in Israel bonds in 2019. Image via the Chief Financial Officer’s Office.

Court clears way for Everglades drilling” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal ruled the department improperly rejected a recommended order by an administrative law judge, who said in 2017 that a permit should be approved for Kanter Real Estate LLC. The 14-page ruling said, in part, that Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein improperly rejected “factual findings” by Administrative Law Judge E. Gary Early. Those findings included that the site targeted for exploratory drilling was environmentally degraded and was isolated from surface water and groundwater. “Appellant (Kanter Real Estate) correctly asserts that (part of Early’s recommended order) is made up entirely of factual findings and that the secretary improperly relied upon or created an unadopted rule by basing its decision on a ‘long-standing policy to deny oil and gas permits within lands subject to Everglades restoration,’” said the appeals court ruling.

Florida greyhound racing tracks begin to close ahead of deadline” via Carson Chambers of Fox 4 News — As some greyhound racing tracks in Florida begin to close before the 2020 deadline, adoption groups say dogs are scarce. So far, three greyhound racing tracks have shut down. “We can’t get dogs, and you’ll find that most of the rescues are in the same situation,” said Don Goldstein, Greyhound Rescue Adoptions of Tampa Bay. A spokesperson for Derby Lane in St. Petersburg says they will race dogs until the December 31, 2020 deadline.


A revamped Florida Supreme Court says no to Miami Beach’s own minimum wage law” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — The move by the now-conservative majority was a victory for business groups who have fought an ordinance that Miami Beach passed in 2016 to raise the minimum wage locally. The Supreme Court effectively let stand lower-court decisions that blocked the ordinance. Justices also dismissed three other cases that the old majority had decided to hear. The decisions were a clear signal that three new justices — appointed since Republican Gov. DeSantis took office — and three conservatives already on the bench intend to forge a sharply different path from their predecessors. The dismissal keeps intact lower court rulings that said state law bars Miami Beach from gradually increasing its minimum wage to $13.31 an hour in 2021. The case drew attention from local governments, which sided with Miami Beach.

After election debacle, Palm Beach County to spend $16M on voting machines for 2020” via Jeff Ostrowski of the Palm Beach Post — Hoping to avoid a repeat of 2018′s chaotic vote counting, Palm Beach County commissioners voted unanimously to spend $15.7 million on new voting machines. Supervisor of Elections Wendy Link said she’s “very confident” that the investment means Palm Beach County won’t face another election like the one in November. The order for new machines includes 900 scanners, 75 scanner components, 10 high-speed digital scanners and 525 ExpressVote terminals that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The March 2019 municipal elections will take place on the county’s old machines. The new voting system should debut in March 2020, Link said, a vote that will feature the Democratic presidential primary.

Newly appointed Palm Beach County elections chief Wendy Link is ‘very confident’ that $16 million will have her voting machines ready for 2020. Image via the Sun-Sentinel.

Out-of-state buyers flock to Miami” via Laura Kusisto, Arian Campo-Flores and Jimmy Vielkind of the Wall Street Journal — A growing list of public officials in high-tax states are expressing alarm that big earners are bolting to low-tax states as new data suggests some home buyers are moving in response to the year-old change in the federal tax law. … Preliminary data show a jump in Florida home purchases by buyers from high-tax states. Home values in lower-tax areas have been rising faster than those in places where limiting the ability to deduct high state and local taxes eroded some of the savings from the federal tax reduction, according to an analysis by real estate and data firm Zillow. One of the biggest winners from this shift has been Miami. The city is experiencing more activity than usual from buyers living in states like New York, New Jersey and Illinois. People are drawn to the city by mild weather—as always—and by deals on condos and lower taxes. They are stepping in after foreign buyers, who helped lift Miami’s condo market out of a tailspin following the financial crisis, have pulled back.

Deondre Francois’ uncle says QB has entered name in transfer portal” via Bob Ferrante of The Associated Press — Putting his name on the list allows other schools to contact Francois, who was dismissed by the Seminoles by coach Willie Taggart after a social media post included audio of an alleged argument between the quarterback and his girlfriend. Pat Julmiste, Francois’ uncle, told The Associated Press that the audio is old, that his nephew is no longer dating the woman and that no incident occurred last weekend. “I just want people to know that the image painted on Deondre is not him,” Julmiste said. “He’s a great kid. He made a couple of bad decisions that affected him big time. He’s not a womanizer. He’s not a woman beater.”

Triumph Board to meet amid conflict of interest allegations in state House race” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — A nonprofit corporation that oversees distribution of money from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement has become a flashpoint in the Republican primary for the Florida House District 7 seat. Triumph Gulf Coast will discuss using some of the money BP paid for damages to help with Hurricane Michael recovery in Panama City. Jason Shoaf is on the Triumph board, and his opponent in the HD 7 race has called for him to step down from the volunteer group for the duration of the campaign. Mike Watkins said Shoaf had used his board position to raise money for his political ambitions. Watkins maintains Shoaf creates a conflict of interest whenever the board votes on economic development projects — a charge the Shoaf campaign dismisses as a “shameless stunt.”

Why is Panama City Beach advertising for spring tourism after Hurricane Michael?” via Patrick McCreless of the News Herald — To help the beach recover faster from Hurricane Michael, tourism advocates want more visitors, not fewer. Red McClain, an area resident, recently asked the News Herald through its Bay Asked, We Answered series, “Why is the Panama City Beach government spending thousands on advertising to get folks to visit for spring break when we’re still in recovery?”


—“HD 7 candidates go back to school at Wakulla High for debate” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat

Prosecutor who handled capital cases taken away from Aramis Ayala files to run for state attorney in 2020” via Gal Tziperman Lotan of the Orlando Sentinel — Ryan Williams departed the Orange-Osceola State Attorney’s office in 2017, after Ayala announced her office would not seek the death penalty against anyone. When Rick Scott reassigned the circuit’s capital cases to Ocala-based State Attorney Brad King, Williams joined King’s team to prosecute those cases. As of Tuesday morning, Ayala had not filed re-election paperwork for the November 2020 election. Only four of 20 state attorneys in Florida had, according to state and local records. Williams has been a prosecutor for 10 years, moving from county court to handling sex crimes, major crimes and death penalty cases. He ran for Orange-Osceola state attorney in 2012 against longtime incumbent Lawson Lamar, but dropped out of the race before the election and backed fellow challenger Jeff Ashton.

Ready set go: Former Orange-Osceola prosecutor Ryan Williams is looking to challenge his former boss, Aramis Ayala. Image via the Orlando Sentinel.

Attorney Khurrum Wahid files to replace Coral Springs Commissioner Dan Daley” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — “I am running because I have always worked to champion individual rights, fight for the little guy, and advance the cause of the average citizen,” said Wahid in a statement announcing his run for Seat 2. “Speaking for those who do not have a voice is what I have done for the past two decades in the courtroom and through the causes I support. In a time of great political division, I want to bring people together through common sense, community-focused leadership here in the Coral Springs City Commission.” Wahid is a partner at Wahid Vizcaino LLP, which specializes in family law, white collar criminal defense and corporate litigation. He is also the chair of EmgageUSA Foundation and Emgage Action, a pair of organizations aimed at increasing the political activity of Muslim-Americans.


The State of the Union in one word, according to Florida politicians” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times What is the state of our union? The Tampa Bay Times on Monday asked Florida’s two Senators and the 27 members of its Congressional delegation to provide one word that summarizes their own view of the nation’s outlook. ‘Divided.’ ‘Dynamic.’ ‘Strong.’ ‘Angry.’ Responses reflected the divisions in the state’s political parties but also the diversity of its representatives.

Senate approves bill that includes Marco Rubio’s anti-BDS measure” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The Senate approved Senate Bill 1, the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019, by a 77-23 vote, sending it to the House, where it’s expected to reveal the divides among Democrats, some of whom have shown discomfort with American rebukes of the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement that has been targeting Israel. SB 1 packages several bipartisan bills from the last Congress including authorizing U.S. security assistance to Israel, reauthorizing the U.S.-Jordon Defense Cooperation Act of 2015, and imposing new sanctions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and its supporters. But the political linchpin has been the provisions that declare the BDS movement as discriminatory economy warfare against Israel, and grant authority to state and local governments to fashion their own sanctions against nations, companies and individuals participating in the movement.

Marco Rubio’s Middle East bill, which just passed the Senate, seeks new sanctions on Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. Image via Reuters.

Matt Gaetz: Gulf Test Range ‘my top legislative priority’” via Jim Thompson of the NWF Daily News — Protecting the Gulf Test Range from encroachment by oil and gas exploration “is my top legislative priority,” Gaetz told hundreds of defense contractors and other defense professionals at the Air Force Contracting Summit. Currently, oil and gas leasing are prohibited within 125 miles of the Florida coastline under the federal Gulf of Mexico Energy and Security Act of 2006. The ban is set to expire in 2022. The Gulf Test Range, covering more than 120,000 square miles, is used by a wide range of military units, including Eglin Air Force Base’s 33rd Fighter Wing and 96th Test Wing, and the Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field. The range accommodates air combat training, air-to-air missile testing, drone targeting, hypersonic weapons testing and space launches.

Ross Spano named head Republican on Small Business subcommittee” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Spano … was appointed Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Investigations, Oversight & Regulations by Small Business Ranking Member Steve Chabot. “I’m humbled to have earned the confidence of my colleagues, “Spano said in a statement. “This leadership position will enable me to continue fighting for small businesses across Florida and now throughout the rest of the country.” Spano was also appointed to the House and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee

AFP taps Matthew Dickerson as new policy manager — Conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity has brought on Dickerson to serve as its policy manager. Dickerson’s resume includes working as the policy director for the Republican Study Committee, a caucus of GOP members of Congress. He also worked as a legislative assistant to the late-U. S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, who represented Florida in Congress for more than four decades. Dickerson’s new duties include managing the information flow between AFP’s state chapters, developing research reports and tracking the effectiveness and engagement rate of the group’s policy efforts.

Congratulations to Matthew Dickerson, the former senior policy staff member with the House Republican Study Committee, who will become policy manager for Americans for prosperity. Image via Graeme Jennings/Washington Examiner.

McClatchy buyouts could claim chain’s full-time Guantánamo reporter” via Erik Wemple of The Washington Post — Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald witnessed the arrival of the first al-Qaida and Taliban prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba on Jan. 11, 2002. Over the intervening 17 years, a great many reporters have dipped in and out of Guantánamo coverage as the news has warranted. That whole time, however, Rosenberg has stayed, monitoring the lawsuits, the hearings, the repatriations, the transfers and quite a bit more. She is the only reporter covering Guantánamo Bay on a full-time basis. Rosenberg’s permanence on the Guantánamo beat, however, has now come into question: On Friday, McClatchy, the chain of 30 media brands including the Herald, the Sacramento Bee, and the Kansas City Star, made a predictable announcement for a 21st-century newspaper company. Four-hundred-and-fifty employees would be receiving a voluntary early retirement offer, noted president and chief executive Craig I. Forman in a memo to colleagues.


USFSP should be a branch campus” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — There is a bright spot for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg as the maneuvering continues over consolidating USF’s three campuses into one major research university. A key task force has recommended that USFSP become a branch campus that still would have its own authority to hire faculty, develop budgets and respond to the particular needs of its students and the community. USF President Judy Genshaft and the university’s Board of Trustees should embrace this approach, which would help ensure the St. Petersburg campus remains vibrant and distinctive. As a branch campus, the campus chancellor and faculty leaders can continue to tailor spending and programs to meet the needs of students who seek a smaller academic environment. They can ensure individual attention remains a priority and that USFSP remains closely aligned to the community. They also will have a better shot at attracting and keeping quality professors.

Matt Willhite: The value, perspective of special districts” via Florida Politics — I recognize that many Floridians have heard of special districts, but few really understand what they are. Simply, special districts are units of special-purpose local government. In many cases, they’re needed because there is no local government nearby to do the job. I became a supervisor of the Acme Improvement District when I was elected to the Village Council in my hometown of Wellington in 2008. Members of the Village Council wear two hats, sometimes serving as council members and other times as district supervisors. In each case, the job represents public service at its best. I learned about the issues facing the Acme district by asking questions and visiting facilities. Everything I did prior to 2016 helped prepare me for being a member of the Legislature, and my work with the Acme special district and the association played an important part in that. We’ve all heard the expression that “all politics is local.” That may be true, but sometimes you need to take a broader perspective to best meet local needs.


Headshot of the day:

Personnel note: Steve Crisafulli opens own consulting firm” via Florida Politics — Add “lobbyist” to the résumé of former Florida House Speaker Crisafulli. He announced the opening of Crisafulli Consulting, “a boutique governmental, political, and business consulting firm with clients in Florida and across the country,” according to a news release. “I look forward to serving clients from a wide array of industries with my decades of business and political experience,” Crisafulli said … Although a new constitutional provision — OK’d by voters in November — extends the state’s lobbying ban on former elected officials to six years from two years, Crisafulli is grandfathered in under the old 2-year ban.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Elizabeth Bahnsen: Marathon Petroleum Corporation and its Subsidiaries

Slater Bayliss, Jeffrey Woodburn, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: Medallion Home

Ron Book, Rana Brown, Kelly Mallette, Ronald L. Book PA: American Resource Management Group, Spin

Mike Corcoran, Jeffrey Johnston, Anita Berry, Matt Blair, Amanda Stewart, Corcoran & Johnston: Go Learn Network

Claudia Davant, Adams St. Advocates: Advanced Systems Design

Rebekah Dorworth: Kyra Info Tech, Kyra Solutions

Eduardo Gonzalez, Sun City Strategies: Florida Assisted Living Association

Ron Greenstein: C3 Investment Group US, Seed & Bean Market

Samantha Hobbs: Florida Engineering Society

Gary Landry, John Rich, Michele Tallent: Department of Health

James Linn, Lewis Longman & Walker: Florida Association of Nurse Anesthetists

Douglas Mang, Mang & Santurri: First American Title Insurance Company

Kim McDougal, GrayRobinson: Brown and Caldwell

Jo Morris, PinPoint Results: GA Foods

Mark Pinto, The Fiorentino Group: North Florida School of Special Education

William Prater. Cooperative Strategies: Greater Orlando Aviation Authority

Woodrow Simmons, Hopping Green & Sams: Ducks Unlimited

Sharnese Thompson: FMR

Ashlee Tising, Akerman: Village of El Portal

Emmanuel Tormes: The Boeing Company

Brandon Chamber recognizes Ron Pierce with Community Leadership Award” via Florida Politics — Pierce, president and CEO of RSA Consulting Group, was honored with the 2019 Greater Brandon Community Leadership Award. The award puts him in the company of former Attorney General Pam Bondi, former House Speaker Johnnie Byrd, former Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee, Dr. Earl Lennard, former state Sen. Malcolm Beard and County Commissioner Sandy Murman all of whom received the award, the highest honor handed out by GBCC. “Ron Pierce’s personal and professional selfless contributions have not only had a significant impact on our community, but he has made an indelible, lasting impact on so many societal issues that he has touched. He is a leader among leaders, and our community is so fortunate to have him,” said Chuck Burgess, GBCC immediate past chair.

Congratulations to Ron Pierce, who was honored with the Brandon Chamber’s highest award for community leadership, joining the likes of former Atty. Gen. Pam Bondi, former House Speaker Johnny Byrd and former Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee.

Lawyer applicants sought for Board of Bar Examiners — Lawyers are being sought to fill two vacancies on the Florida Board of Bar Examiners, the organization overseeing the exam to admit new attorneys in the state. A joint screening committee of The Florida Bar Board of Governors and Board of Bar Examiners will recommend six nominees for two lawyer vacancies at its May 24 meeting. The nominations will then be forwarded to the Supreme Court to fill two five-year terms commencing Nov. 1 and expiring Oct. 31, 2024. To apply, download the Application for Special Appointment or call Bar headquarters at 850-561-5757 to get an application form. Completed applications must be received no later than close of business on Friday, March 22. The joint committee may request telephone or personal interviews.

— ALOE —

Miami party boats can be lethal” via Brittany Shammas of the Miami New Times — Day trips aboard pricey yachts stocked with free-flowing booze and swimsuit-clad revelers are quintessentially Miami. But the general public’s lack of familiarity with licensing requirements, coupled with the sharing-economy-era mentality that anyone can make a buck renting out their boat, has created a thriving but risky cottage industry. To legally carry paying customers, the operator of a boat must have a captain’s license. Getting one is no joke. The U.S. Coast Guard requires documentation of at least 360 days of boating experience and a passing score on a written exam. There’s also a background check, a drug test, and a physical exam. All licenses must be renewed every five years, and all captains and crew members must submit to random drug testing. All boats must be outfitted with fire extinguishers, distress signals, and lifesaving equipment. Meeting all those requirements is expensive and time-consuming. In coastal communities across the country, some operators have decided they’d rather skirt the law and try to avoid getting caught.

At what price: Expensive day trips on yachts with unlicensed pilots and poorly equipped vessels can quickly turn deadly.

Countdown begins until 2020 Super Bowl in South Florida” via Peter Burke of — One day after the New England Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 to win Super Bowl LIII, the Miami Super Bowl LIV Host Committee released its hype video, showcasing Miami as a premier destination for NFL fans. The video, narrated by Miami rapper Pitbull, ends with the slogan, “Super Bowl LIV: Live It Miami.” Miami Super Bowl LIV Host Committee Chairman Rodney Barreto said: “It’s a celebration of the vibrant culture and rich history unique to Miami. Our campaign is an invitation for the world to join Miami and live it, and we couldn’t be more excited to have someone like Pitbull bring this to life.” Super Bowl LIV will be the 11th Super Bowl held in South Florida (more than any other location, at least until New Orleans hosts Super Bowl LVIII in 2024) and the sixth to be played at the stadium.

To view the promo video, click on the image below:

Email I didn’t open: “The Biggest Thing in Fear is Coming” via Universal Studios for Halloween Horror Nights, which starts September 6. A reminder: it’s only February 6!

Rare right whale, calf seen off Daytona Beach Shores” via Dinah Voyles Pulver of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — “It was unbelievable,” said Nebraska resident Karen Stute. “We just happened to look outside from the pool area and we saw this huge critter out there.” She was one of the dozens of residents and visitors lucky enough to see a critically endangered North Atlantic right whale along the beach in Daytona Beach Shores. Researchers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Marineland Right Whale Project responded, hoping to identify the whale to determine if she was one of the four mothers known to have delivered a calf already this winter, or if it was a new mom. They suspect she was one of the four whales that already had been documented with a calf.

Ahoy Ahab: Dozens of residents and visitors spotted a rare right whale and calf off the shore of Daytona Beach. Image via the Daytona Beach News-Journal.


Celebrating today are our friend Fred Karlinsky of Greenberg Traurig, Katie Kelly, Cissy Proctor (now with LSN Partners), Rep. Clay Yarborough and former Reps. Bill Hager, Eric Eisnaugle and Mike Weinstein, which reminds me to click on this. Good luck getting that out of your head today.

Today’s Sunburn was written by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Joe HendersonDaniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.

Peter Schorsch

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.


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 @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

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