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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 2.27.19

Make your bed. Then check out your morning rundown of the day in Florida politics.

If you can rip yourself away from watching Michael Cohen testify before Congress, the Florida Chamber of Commerce has a major news conference set for today that is worthy of your time.

The Chamber, along with school, law enforcement and workplace leaders will announce the formation of a new institute focusing on school and workplace safety, 11 a.m., Florida Press Center Conference Room, 336 E. College Avenue, Suite 100, Tallahassee.

To watch a sneak preview of the new institute, click on the image below:


@HCTrudo: Scoop: @JoeBiden has made job offers in New Hampshire, a source directly familiar tells me.

@JamesHohmann: At a House intelligence committee hearing, Madeline Albright just formally apologized to Mitt Romney for making fun of him in 2012 when he said Russia was our biggest geopolitical foe. She says the now Utah senator was prescient.

@JorgeRamos: I really want to thank the U.S. State Department and the American Embassy in Caracas for making sure that we were protected and safe in Venezuela. Their help was instrumental in our safe departure today from Caracas after being detained yesterday by the Maduro regime.

@IsaacDovereMatt Gaetz is very self-aware that when he says outrageous things, it makes him more a center of attention in DC and with Trump. Ratings are what define Washington to him: “I take it for what it is. It’s not a good thing or a bad thing. It’s a condition,” he told me last year

@SpeakerPelosi: I encourage all Members to be mindful that comments made on social media or in the press can adversely affect the ability of House Committees to obtain the truthful and complete information necessary to fulfill their duties

@DinahVP: I have repeatedly emailed @RonDeSantisFL press office over about the John Miklos ethics complaint. No response. Also emailed @SJRWMD office repeatedly to find out what’s status of board members whose appointments were rescinded. Was referred back to the gov’s press office.

@MattCaldwell_FL: Fascinating discussion today. Diagnosed #ADHD in 3rd. Took Ritalin til 8th. Told my parents I didn’t want to depend on meds and quit. Had to develop/still developing strategies to balance those assets/liabilities. Grown to view it from a differently-abled perspective.

Tweet, tweet:


Fat Tuesday — 6; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 6; Tampa mayoral election — 6; ‘Captain Marvel’ release — 9; Players Championship begins — 15; St. Patrick’s Day — 18; Jacksonville municipal first election — 20; Major League Baseball opening day — 29; Scott Maddox corruption trial begins (maybe) — 29; Final season of ‘Veep’ begins — 32; Masters Tournament begins — 43; Final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ begins — 46; Easter — 53; 2019 Legislative Session ends (maybe) — 65; Mother’s Day — 74; Memorial Day — 89; 2020 Democratic presidential primary debates start — 100; 2019 General Election — 254; Iowa Caucuses — 341; 2020 General Election — 615.


Matt Gaetz insists he’s not threatening Michael Cohen by suggesting he’ll expose ‘girlfriends’” via Sam Stein of The Daily Beast — One day before Cohen appears before the House Oversight Committee, Gaetz accused Donald Trump’s former lawyer of straying from his marriage and suggested that his wife would leave him once he goes to prison. “Hey @MichaelCohen212 — Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she’ll remain faithful when you’re in prison. She’s about to learn a lot …” In a phone interview shortly after he posted the item, the Florida Republican insisted that he was not engaging in witness intimidation at all. “No,” he stressed, “it is challenging the veracity and character of a witness. We do it every day. We typically do it during people’s testimony.”

Update — 2:02 a.m.: “Gaetz apologizes for threatening Cohen” via Andrew Restuccia and Darren Samuelsohn of POLITICO — “While it is important 2 create context around the testimony of liars like Michael Cohen, it was NOT my intent to threaten, as some believe I did,” the Florida Republican wrote shortly before midnight, quoting Pelosi’s statement. “I’m deleting the tweet & I should have chosen words that better showed my intent. I’m sorry.”

Planned in Cohen’s testimony: a litany of accusations against Donald Trump” via Maggie Haberman of The New York Times — Cohen, Trump’s former fixer, is planning on portraying his onetime client in starkly negative terms when he testifies before a House committee, and on describing what he says was Trump’s use of racist language, lies about his wealth and possible criminal conduct. Cohen’s plans were laid out in broad strokes by a person familiar with what he intends to say in his testimony. And they indicate that Cohen will use documents and his personal experiences to support his statements. In a statement, Sarah Huckabee Sanders denounced Cohen. “Disgraced felon Michael Cohen is going to prison for lying to Congress and making other false statements,” she said.

—“20 questions that Cohen could answer for lawmakers when he testifies on Capitol Hill this week” via Matt Zapotosky and Rosalind Helderman of The Washington Post

—“D.C. bars to open early, offer specials for Cohen testimony” via Judy Kurtz of The Hill


Ron DeSantis not sounding ‘optimistic’ that Trump’s wall will get built” via Jack Evans of the Tampa Bay Times — “I’m not necessarily optimistic that you’re ultimately going to see the things get done that need to get done,” DeSantis told reporters during a news conference in Hernando County. “But we’re going to do our part here in Florida to protect folks.” DeSantis said he’s directed state law enforcement to look for other ways to cooperate with federal immigration officials, and voiced support for Senate Bill 168, which aims to expand cooperation between federal officials and local agencies. He pointed to such collaborations as pivotal in tightening immigration enforcement while downplaying the demand it would place on the local agencies.

DeSantis pushes ‘sanctuary cities’ ban” via Jim Turner and Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — DeSantis called on lawmakers to pass a controversial measure to ban so-called sanctuary cities during the Legislative Session. The Republican governor also urged Florida sheriffs to join a handful of their colleagues participating in a federal immigration enforcement program in which U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, deputizes local law officials. Also, DeSantis instructed the state’s prisons chief, Mark Inch, to come up with a way the state Department of Corrections can also participate in the federal program, which allows state and local law enforcement officials to investigate, apprehend, detain and transport undocumented immigrants facing deportation.

No sanctuary: Ron DeSantis joined the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office to announce their implementation of the 287(g) immigration enforcement program. Image via Governor’s Office. 

DeSantis, Florida Cabinet approve $2.54 million in Florida Forever land acquisition” via Patrick Farrell of the Miami Herald — The 83.4-acre property acquired in Lake County includes five continuous lakefront properties as part of the Wekiva-Ocala Greenway Florida Forever project. The parcels, which line Lake Norris, are worth a total $540,000. The corridor is rich with diverse habitats, including forested pinelands and floodplain that are home to the largest black bear population in the state. Lindsey Stevens, the land program manager for Nature Conservancy, said since the greenway is in a “rapidly urbanizing” part of the state, the smaller parcel of land is important to conserve. She pointed out the crystal-blue water of the springs, which she said are crucial to preserve. “It’s an important piece to build this green connection,” she said.

Status of two TCC trustees in limbo after DeSantis retracts appointments” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — The latest list included TCC trustees Eugene Lamb and Eric Grant. Lamb, a retired educator and coach, was reappointed to the board in August 2018. Grant, president of Municipal Code Corporation, was appointed in February 2018. “The College has not been officially notified of any retracted appointments to the TCC Board of Trustees,” TCC spokesman Al Moran said. “We have, of course, seen the media accounts that include several of our trustees on lists of withdrawn appointments. TCC will work with Gov. DeSantis as appropriate on this matter.”

Assignment editors — DeSantis will make an announcement, 8:30 a.m., Memorial Regional Hospital Conference Center, 3501 Johnson Street, Hollywood.

Noah Valenstein to stay as state environmental chief” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — The unanimous vote by the Cabinet — Attorney General Ashley Moody, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis — supported DeSantis’ recommendation to keep Valenstein as secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Former Gov. Rick Scott first appointed Valenstein to the job in May 2017. Fried said she was encouraged by Valenstein’s commitment in recent talks to work on water-quality issues with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which she leads. “We’ve got some major work and issues to address, like red tide and toxic blue algae, Lake Okeechobee releases and so much more,” Fried said.

You like me, you really like me: Noah Valenstein gets to stay on at the DEP.


Bill goes after ex-deputy’s retirement benefits” via the News Service of Florida — Accusing former Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson of neglect during last year’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a House Republican proposed a bill to strip Peterson of his benefits in the Florida Retirement System. Rep. Spencer Roach filed the bill (HB 1091). Peterson, who was the school resource officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, has drawn widespread scrutiny and criticism for not entering the school as a gunman killed 17 students and faculty members. Roach’s bill calls for Peterson to lose his benefits in the state retirement system, except for contributions that Peterson made.

Denied: State Rep. Spencer Roach is seeking to strip retirement benefits from former Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson after he failed to enter Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as a gunman shot 17 students.

Report: House staffers proposed hitting UCF for $38 million it misspent” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — House staffers proposed in September to hit UCF with a budget cut covering the $38 million state officials say it misspent on a new building. The recommended response to the spending scandal is the only one punishing or even specifically targeting UCF in a document that also proposes numerous potential policy and law changes to clarify and shore up how Florida’s 12 state universities spend state money. The university responded with a statement that read, “From day one, our top priority [is to minimize] any negative impact on our students. It would be sad if students were affected, as they had nothing to do with this.” The House is now undertaking a full investigation of a variety of financial questions at UCF related to its use of up to $85 million in money reserved for operating costs. Much of what UCF did involved E&G Fund carry-forward money and investment gains from it, which state officials were not tracking closely. … The scandal, which broke last summer, has led to the resignations of several top staffers at UCF, with President Dale Whittaker’s exit being the most recent.

More university building projects scrutinized by state House — The University of Central Florida funding fiasco has led the state House to expand its probe to other state universities, and already discovered several red flags. According to Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida, the Public Integrity and Ethics Committee has questions about 23 building projects at six of Florida’s 12 public universities. Construction costs for those projects tallied $252 million last year, and some of the cash used to pay for them may have come out of education and general, or carry forward, funding. That’s the same silo UCF used on projects including Trevor Colbourn Hall. The suspected misuse of funds took place at Florida Atlantic University, Florida State University, the University of Florida and the University of West Florida. UCF and the University of South Florida already copped to using E&G funds to cover construction projects.

Lee school district called to Tallahassee to answer questions about audit” via Thyrie Bland of the Fort Myers News-Press — Superintendent Greg Adkins was called to appear before the Joint Legislative Audit Committee to answer questions about the audit. The audit, released in September, was performed by the Florida Auditor General and included 15 findings against the district. They ranged from whether the school district misspent millions in taxpayer money to whether background checks were conducted on volunteers at a district school. “It’s not a shock that there were findings,” said Sen. Jeff Brandes, chairman of the committee. “I think it’s more that we want to make sure that corrective action takes place so that these things don’t happen again.”

Got some ‘splainin to do: Lee County Schools Superintendent Greg Adkins was called into Tallahassee to answer questions from lawmakers over a recent audit.

In Miami-Dade, state and local lawmakers don’t get along. Especially on MDX tolls” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — “State and local lawmakers from Miami-Dade gathered over coffee and pastelitos Monday morning. That’s where the sweetness ended. ‘We hope our delegation will not cut off our noses to spite our faces,’ County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava said of a bill by a Miami-Dade representative that would ban spending the county’s half-percent transportation sales tax on operating new transit lines.”

Tampa Bay legislative delegation endorses long-term funding for Mote red tide research” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The delegation, led by Senate President Bill Galvano, met at the Sarasota scientific facility. There, the 25 members unanimously endorsed delivering $3 million over the next five years for a red tide institute there. The Bradenton Republican, who founded the Bay Area delegation and chaired it this year, said the choice of Mote as a meeting venue was intentional this year. Lawmakers heard presentations from Mote, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation and the Department of Environmental Protection. Scientists at Mote promised efforts are already underway to better forecast and contain red tide. But they also said it’s important to fund research at all times, not just after harmful blooms.

Proposed law makes petting dog, applying makeup illegal” via the Ocala Star-Banner — Rep. Jackie Toledo and Sen. Wilton Simpson are sponsoring legislation to bring stricter laws to Florida for safer roads. While the original House Bill 107 would have made holding a cellphone while driving a primary offense, the amended bill, Senate Bill 76, makes many other things illegal if done behind the wheel, including: reading; writing; performing personal grooming; putting on makeup or similar products; interacting with pets or unsecured cargo; using a “personal wireless communications device” such as a cellphone. The bill also includes a clause that could apply to any number of actions not listed: “engaging in any other activity, conduct, task, or action that causes distraction,” but according to Sen. Jeff Brandes, this could be a problem.

Anna Eskamani, Victor Torres push to allow rent controls” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Eskamani and Torres want Florida to lift a statewide pre-emption and allow local cities and counties more freedom to consider implementing long-term rent control. Eskamani is characterizing her proposal as a tool for local communities such as Orlando to address shortages of affordable housing, a crisis in some places where rents have been rising rapidly as housing stock has come into short supply. Under Florida law, local governments can apply controls on rent only if a housing emergency is “so grave as to constitute a serious menace to the general public and that such controls are necessary and proper to eliminate such grave housing emergency.” Local governments can only do so one year at a time. Her House Bill 6053 would remove the one-year renewal process on rent control.

Happening today — State Rep. Mike Caruso will speak to the Republican Club of the Palm Beaches about the November recount in his victory over Democrat Jim Bonfiglio in House District 89, noon, Holiday Inn Hotel and Conference Center Palm Beach Airport, 1301 Belvedere Road, West Palm Beach.

Happening today — State Rep. Geraldine Thompson hosts a town-hall meeting about election reform issues, 5:30 p.m., Windermere High School, Performing Arts Center, 5523 Winter Garden Vineland Road, Windermere.

Happening today — State Sen. Kevin Rader and Rep. Matt Willhite host a town-hall meeting to discuss issues in advance of the 2019 Legislative Session, 7 p.m., Village of Wellington, 12300 Forest Hill Blvd., Wellington.

Public visitation, funeral announced for wife of Deputy Majority Whip Stan McClain — In a statement, state Rep. McClain, his children, and his entire family say they are “deeply thankful for the outpouring of support and encouragement over the past several days as they mourn the loss of their wife, mother, and grandmother, Mrs. Ricki McClain.” Public visitation will be at 10 a.m.; funeral service will be 11 a.m., Good News Church, 5600 SE 24th Street, Ocala. Website: The family requests that instead of flowers, make donations in the name of Ricki McClain to one of the two following charitable organizations: Women’s Pregnancy Center of Ocala, 1701 E. Silver Springs Blvd, Ocala, FL 34470. Website: Veterans Helping Veterans, 2730 E. Silver Springs Blvd, #200, Ocala, FL 34470. Website:


Cardenas Partners banked up to $6.2M in 2018” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners logged $975,000 in earnings from their 80-plus clients in the fourth quarter of 2018, garnering the consulting firm an estimated haul of $4.2 million for the year. The Q4 haul includes $520,000 in income via legislative lobbying with the $455,000 balance coming in via executive branch lobbying compensation. Despite a couple of roster shake-ups last year, TAG’s quarterly hauls were consistent throughout 2018. The firm’s first-quarter report edged out the rest at $1.1 million, though the fourth-quarter numbers reflect an improvement over TAG’s $945,000 Q3 performance. If TAG’s contracts hit the max in each quarter, the annual rake could have cracked $6.2 million.

Cold hard cash: Cardenas Partners brought in more than $6 million lobbying fees for 2018.

Colodny Fass surpasses $2.3M in 2018 lobbying pay” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Full-service law firm Colodny Fass rang in the new year with $575,000 in fourth-quarter earnings advocating for their clients before Florida Legislature, Governor and Cabinet. The October through December reporting period saw the firm achieve median earnings estimates of $330,000 in legislative lobbying pay with another $245,000 coming in via executive branch efforts. … Those estimates show quarter-over-quarter growth as Q3 saw the notch a median earnings estimate of $530,000 — $305,000 in the legislature and $225,000 in the executive. Their top-end estimate last quarter came in at $780,000. … The sum of all of Colodny Fass’ 2018 reports puts their annual median earnings estimate at $2.35 million, with the top-end tally hitting $3.4 million.

Peebles, Smith & Matthews notched $1.9M in lobbying pay last year” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The quadrumvirate of lobbyists at Peebles, Smith & Matthews collected an estimated $515,000 in lobbying pay from their 39 clients during the last three months of the year. … The Q4 haul is an improvement over the firm’s third-quarter receipts — the July through September reporting period saw Bill Peebles, John Wayne Smith, Ryan Matthews and Angela Drzewiecki log median earnings of $405,000. Using the median figure for each contract across all four reporting periods, the firm earned $1.9 million. If each of their contracts weighed in at the max, the PSM team could have earned more than $2.9 million. Consulting firms are also required to list their overall compensation range each quarter. The bottom number of those ranges show PSM cleared no less than $1.2 million last year.


Amendment backer says constitution does not limit voting to citizens” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — “Efforts are underway across the country in liberal cities to allow noncitizens to legally vote. San Francisco, Chicago, several cities in Vermont and Maryland already allow noncitizens to legally vote in some or all local elections. Boston and New York City council leaders are pushing to allow noncitizen voting in their cities,” John Loudon, chair and treasurer of the Florida Citizen Voters committee, said in a text. That organization is circulating petitions in Florida to get a proposed Florida constitutional amendment on the 2020 ballot that would change the wording from “every citizen” qualified and registered in Florida can vote, to “only a citizen” qualified and registered can vote.

Tampa voter turnout on pace to exceed 2011 mayoral race” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — In 2011, overall voter turnout was 22 percent: 13 percent voted on Election Day with 4 percent voting early and 5 percent voting by mail. Vote by mail turnout this election has already exceeded 2011 with 6 percent turnout so far. As of Tuesday morning, before polls opened for Day Two, 670 voters had cast a ballot at one of Tampa’s seven early voting locations. If a similar number of people vote each of the seven days during early voting, that turnout will be less than 2011. However, the bulk of early voting is likely to occur this weekend as more people have time to make their way to the polls.

Could the Republican vote swing the Tampa mayor’s race?” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — Monday’s poor attendance at the umpteenth mayoral forum doesn’t mean the candidates are discounting the Republican vote. “I think they’re the determining vote in this election,” Ed Turnachik said in an interview, noting the Democratic vote was sure to be split among the seven candidates registered with the party. (Jane Castor and David Straz have also been registered Republicans in the past.) Republicans make up about a quarter of the Tampa electorate. That’s not enough to elect a Republican mayor. There are fewer registered Republicans in Tampa than there are voters without a party affiliation. But if one candidate can grasp a sizable portion of the GOP vote, it may be enough to tip the scales.

Happening tonight:

Happening tomorrow:


Florida enters top-10 in long-term care quality” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — A report released Tuesday by the Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) shows the Sunshine State has top-flight long-term care and it’s getting better. The report, which uses state and federal data on several standard quality measurements, shows Florida had the seventh-best long-term care system among all states last year. That’s a nine-spot improvement over 2017 when Florida earned the No. 16 spot. “Florida’s long term care centers are extraordinarily dedicated to providing the best care possible for our residents, and the Legislature has been an outstanding partner by providing resources to make these improvements possible,” said FHCA Executive Director Emmett Reed. … Last year, the Legislature boosted funds heading to long-term care facilities, earning lawmakers some praise from FHCA. … “Funding and quality improvements go hand in hand, and we appreciate the support of the Legislature for recognizing that in recent years,” Reed said.

Long-term quality: A new report by the FHCA shows Florida as one of the Top 10 states for providing long-term quality health care. That’s a big improvement over the year before, says FHCA Executive Director Emmett Reed.

Hotel group challenges validity of state’s Airbnb agreement” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The Asian-American Hotel Owners Association is challenging the state’s negotiations with Airbnb and HomeAway that have the companies collect sales taxes from their client vacation rental-home operators and remit them to the Florida Department of Revenue. The hotel association petitioned the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings, charging that 2015 agreement and HomeAway’s 2018 pact were negotiated in secret, outside of usual rule-making protocol, do not provide sufficient accountability, and should be voided. The company argues that its efforts have coordinated delivery of taxes from numerous operators that might otherwise have been overlooked, and brought in $62.5 million in sales taxes just last year, nearly doubling receipts from the year before.

New College of Florida falling short of enrollment targets” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A growth plan for Florida’s public liberal arts college called for 830 students to be enrolled in Fall of 2018. The school came up 28 students short. That may not sound like a huge deal, but President Donal O’Shea said: “small numbers can make a big difference to us.” More alarm, the school saw fewer students return in the spring than expected, and now has 756 contracts. The school wants to have 860 enrolled next fall, but calculate in 190 expected graduations, and the school will need roughly 300 new enrollments to hit the goal. School officials anticipate 250.

New College of Florida might fall short of its ambitious enrollment goals.

A Florida pediatrician exposes suicide tips for children hidden in videos on YouTube and YouTube Kids” via Lindsey Bever of The Washington Post — Free Hess, a pediatrician and mother, had learned about the chilling videos over the summer when another mom spotted one on YouTube Kids. She said that minutes into the clip from a children’s video game, a man appeared on the screen — offering instructions on how to commit suicide. One on YouTube shows a man pop into the frame. “Remember, kids,” he begins, holding what appears to be an imaginary blade to the inside of his arm. “Sideways for attention. Longways for results.” “I think it’s extremely dangerous for our kids,” Hess said about the clips. “I think videos like this put them at risk.”


Broward School Board to vote next week on whether to fire Runcie” via Scott Travis of the Sun Sentinel — The newest board member, Lori Alhadeff, has placed on the agenda for the March 5 meeting a request to terminate Runcie’s contract … Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa was killed during the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High on Feb. 14, 2018, cited Runcie’s `many failures of leadership,’ including his handling of the tragedy, as well as the slow progress on the $800 million bond passed by voters in 2014…It’s unlikely there are the needed votes to fire Runcie. Five of nine board members — Ann Murray, Laurie Rich Levinson, Patti Good, Rosalind Osgood and Donna Korn — have voiced support for Runcie in recent weeks.

Mike Ertel, who left state post over blackface scandal, lands work at Seminole elections office” via Martin Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — He said his days as a candidate are over. “Regardless of what ended my public career, it doesn’t change my knowledge and my experience,” said Ertel, speaking publicly for the first time since he stepped down abruptly Jan. 24. “I’ve now transitioned into a role where I’m helping others.” Chris Anderson, Seminole’s new supervisor of elections, confirmed that he awarded Ertel, his predecessor, a three-month contract for a total of $15,000 as a consultant and to help his office prepare for the November elections for Lake Mary, Altamonte Springs and Oviedo. Anderson, 37, said he turned to Ertel because of his expertise and “to provide guidance” to him and his staff.

Fort Meade vice mayor arrested on charges of aggravated stalking” via Daniel Figueroa IV of the Tampa Bay Times — She was accused of making harassing calls to a friend whom she suspected of having an affair with her husband. According to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, 59-year-old Maurice Nelson Campbell was arrested following an investigation into the apparent harassing phone calls. The Sheriff’s Office said a female victim had previously made complaints to authorities about repeated harassment but declined to pursue charges because Campbell would stop harassing her. That changed after a series of phone calls in early February, according to a release from the Sheriff’s Office. Campbell called the woman more than six times from various numbers between the afternoon of Feb. 8 and the early morning hours of Feb. 9, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Stalker: Fort Meade police arrested Vice Mayor Maurice Nelson Campbell for aggravated stalking after a series of phone calls accusing a friend of sleeping with her husband.

2 Orlando spas shuttered, women arrested in statewide sex-trafficking investigation” via Michael Williams of the Orlando Sentinel — The investigation led to the arrests of Lan Yun Ma, 49, and Yaping Ren, 27, and the shuttering of East Spa & Massage in Winter Park and Rainbow Spa in Orlando. Police say Ma was responsible for the day-to-day operations at a parlor also called East Spa in Indian River County. Her listed address is on Grand Central Parkway, off John Young Parkway in Orlando. Ren’s address is on Kilgore Street in Orlando. Vero Beach police say Ma was seen purchasing food, water and condoms for the Indian River parlor. Inside the business, which police outfitted with surveillance cameras in November, Ma was also seen collecting money from customers and performing sex acts, according to court documents.

How Vero Beach police landed the only human trafficking charge in recent Florida busts” via Mary Helen Moore of TCPalm — Police are under no illusions about how far they’ve reached into the seedy human trafficking organization believed to be rooted in China and loosely tied to New York, Texas and California. “I think we’ve only scratched the surface on this,” Detective Sgt. Phil Huddy said. Martin County Sheriff Will Snyder previously told reporters it was “the tip of the tip of the iceberg.” Video surveillance played a key role in capturing the major players like Ma, Huddy said, because detectives could not do anything illegal, even undercover. “It takes time,” he said. “We have to keep this investigation going because it takes us so long to establish a human trafficking charge.”


A bloody omen is the latest messaging from Miami Republicans on Venezuela” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — After 24 hours of minute-by-minute updates on the failed push to deliver humanitarian aid in Venezuela, Marco Rubio tweeted his first omen at 2 a.m. Sunday. On the left was a picture of a machete-wielding Manuel Noriega, the leftist Panamanian dictator. On the right was Noriega’s jail photo in Miami. Fourteen hours later, Rubio posted a picture of a grinning Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi next to an image of his bloody face minutes before his death. He followed it up with a photo of communist Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu being led to his death after a military tribunal. Many Venezuelans praised Rubio. Critics said the graphic photos don’t help Rubio’s cause of ending the humanitarian crisis and questioned the use of Gaddafi in particular.

Thousands of migrant youth allegedly suffered sexual abuse in U.S. custody” via Caitlin Owens, Stef Kight, Harry Stevens of Axios — Allegations against staff members reported to the DOJ included everything from rumors of relationships with UACs to showing pornographic videos to minors to forcibly touching minors’ genitals. From October 2014 to July 2018, the HHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement received 4,556 complaints, and the Department of Justice received 1,303 complaints. This includes 178 allegations of sexual abuse by adult staff. U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch said these documents were included in HHS’ response to a House Judiciary Committee request for information made in January. “This behavior — it’s despicable, it’s disgusting, and this is just the start of questions that HHS is going to have to answer about how they handle these and what’s happening in these facilities,” Deutch told Axios.

First in Sunburn — Kathy Castor announces first staffers for Select Committee on the Climate Crisis — U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor hired the first two staffers for the for Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, which she chairs. Ana Unruh Cohen will serve as staff director and Alison Cassady as deputy staff director. … Cohen comes to the committee from Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) where she was the managing director for government affairs. … Cassady is moving over to the committee from the Center for American Progress (CAP), where she served as Managing Director of the Energy and Environment team and Director of Domestic Energy Policy since 2014. … “The urgency of the climate crisis demands that the Select Committee get to work immediately. Ana Unruh Cohen and Alison Cassady are experienced climate professionals who will launch the Select Committee’s work and build a dynamic staff to work with me and my colleagues to press for urgent action to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build an equitable clean energy economy with a qualified workforce and a just transition,” Castor said.

Happening today — Florida’s congressional delegation will hold a hearing on water-quality issues such as red tide and algae blooms. Speakers during the hearing, chaired by Republican Vern Buchanan and Democrat Alcee Hastings, will include Valenstein, secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, 8:30 a.m., 2261 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.


How the upper middle class is really doing” via David Leonhardt of The New York Times — Politicians should recognize that there are three broad income groups, not just two. The bottom 90 percent of Americans does deserve a tax cut, to lift its stagnant incomes. The top 1 percent deserves a substantial tax increase. The upper middle class deserves neither. Its taxes should remain roughly constant, just as its share of economic output has. So, here’s some good news: The 2020 Democratic candidates are moving in this direction. The upper middle class doesn’t deserve the blame for our economic problems. But it doesn’t deserve much government help, either.

Legislature should not interfere with local referendums” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — State Sen. Tom Lee opposed the referendum in Hillsborough County that voters approved in November and raised the local sales tax to pay for transportation improvements. Now the Thonotosassa Republican has filed a bill for the upcoming legislative session that he says addresses serious problems the vote exposed. In reality, the referendum was a model for how citizens can govern themselves and shape their own communities. The petition process is fine, and it doesn’t need any meddling from Tallahassee.

Shawn Frost: Confessions of a former school board member” via Florida Politics — Confession #1: Term limits are extremely popular with candidates for office and voters, but most politicians, special interests and lobbyists don’t want term limits. Confession #2: Those of us who have been elected, begin to think we know better than the voters and don’t see our own biases. Confession #3: The unfair advantage of incumbency allows for easier fundraising and earned media, blocking candidates from even filing. Confession #4: The voters know best and should decide. Term limits will create competitive, open seat elections. Trust the voters. Call your legislator and tell him or her you want HJR 229 and SJR 274 moving to let voters weigh in on term limits for school board members.


Davis Bean, John Delaney, Shannan Schuessler, The Fiorentino Group: CSX Transportation, Flagler County Clerk of Circuit Court and Comptroller, Florida Court Clerks and Comptrollers, HDR Engineering, Intuition Ale Works

Matt Bryan, Jeff Hartley, Lisa Hurley, Teye Reeves, Smith Bryan & Myers: AVE Airside, Florida Health Care Association, Summit Care, TicketNetwork,

Christian Caballero, Foley & Lardner: Caulkins Citrus Company, Florida Emergency Medicine Practice Alliance, Telehealth Association of Florida

Carlos Cruz, Jonathan Kilman, Paul Lowell, Converge Government Affairs of Florida: Arviv Medical Aesthetics, Greater Miami & The Beaches Hotel Association

Brandi Gunder, Executive Office of the Governor

Felicia Jordan: Disability Rights Florida

Glenn Kirkland, Jonathan Menendez, Kaleo Partners: World Wide Technology

Deborah Linton: The Arc of Florida

Melissa Joiner Ramba, George Chamizo, Floridian Partners: City of Panama City Beach

John Rodriguez: City of St. Petersburg

Timothy Stanfield, Greenberg Traurig: Florida Surplus Lines Service Office

Michelle Strenth: Health Central Hospital

Elisabeth Thibodaux: Advent Health

— ALOE —

Clearwater Beach is again named best beach in America by TripAdvisor” via the St. Augustine Record — Clearwater Beach holds onto its 2018 title as “TripAdvisor’s #1 Beach in the United States.” With nearly 11,000 reviews on TripAdvisor, 73 percent of them rate Clearwater Beach as “excellent,” and a featured review of the beach states: “The sugar fine white sand is a trademark of this fabulous beach. Perfect for a day in the sun. You might even spot a dolphin or two playing on the horizon.” A visitor from Minnesota bragged about the inexpensive cabana rental on the beach in his TripAdvisor review, while one from Orlando noted that he “really enjoyed the white powdery sand as well as the various shops and restaurants all around.”

No. 1 again: Clearwater Beach has once again been rated one of the best beaches in the country by TripAdvisor.

MLB makes last-minute push to ban bets on spring training” via Regina Garcia Cano of The Associated Press — The league asked for the ban last week — the day before the first scheduled spring training game — arguing in letters to regulators that the exhibition games are “more vulnerable to manipulation” because teams are focused on getting players ready for the season, not on winning. MLB said its concerns have grown because of the spread of legal sports gambling after a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court last year opened the possibility of new American markets. The games have historically attracted little to no betting action in Nevada, where casinos in Las Vegas and elsewhere have taken bets on spring training games for decades.


Celebrating today is our fellow Nole, Cormac McCarthy acolyte, Disney Cruise aficionado, and Will Weatherford fanboy, Ryan Duffy of U.S. Sugar, our dear friend, former Rep. and now Pinellas Commissioner Kathleen Peters, as well as former St. Pete City Councilman Bill Dudley, Logan McFaddin, our former colleague Mitch Perry, and Kathleen Rohrer.

Happy belated wishes to one of the legends of Adams Street, Dave Ericks (sorry Dave for not mentioning this yesterday; Claudia reminded us, we forgot!)

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

Written By

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jim Rosica, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Dan McAuliffe, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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