Friends of the late Stacey Smelser Webb, a Tallahassee-based lobbyist with Southern Strategy Group, say they’ll honor her memory by wearing red on the 2019 Session’s opening day.
The 46-year-old died in 2015 from complications after heart surgery.
The firm said that though she was “small in stature, she carried within her a champion’s heart, and she tirelessly worked to help her clients and her partners … We will always remember her remarkable presence and the beauty of her spirit.”
Webb led the lobbying firm’s education practice.
Before that, she was Assistant Chancellor for Community Colleges and Workforce Education at the Florida Department of Education, and a senior analyst at the Florida House of Representatives on education appropriations.
Southern Strategy Group co-worker Kelly Cohen called her “a true team player (who) cared deeply about her family, friends and our firm … She is greatly missed but never forgotten.”
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@GovRonDeSantis: @FLCaseyDeSantis and I are praying for the families who have lost their loved ones in Alabama due to the extreme weather that has impacted the state. Please know that the people of Florida are here in your time of need.
—@SamStein: Every elected official who was consumed by scandal in Virginia is still in office. A campaign worker accused the president of sexually harassing her less than two weeks ago and barely anyone cares. We just keep moving on, crazy news cycle to crazy news cycle.
—@IsaacDovere: Asked Matt Gaetz last week about call someone told me they’d overheard him having with [Donald] Trump. Didn’t deny, told me “I don’t do read outs on my convos w POTUS.” Later, he said he’d actually been speaking to Gov. DeSantis. And DeSantis now says he was the one speaking with Gaetz.
—@RealMichaelWilliams: Today is the last Monday before 60 days of Mondays.
—@CordByrd: As we get ready to kick off the 2019 legislative session let’s remember the words of Milton Friedman, “government should be a referee, not an active player.”
—@JaredEMoskowitz: My wife sleeps in an “I’m with @ShevrinJones” t-shirt.
—@MDixon55: If you want to pass changes to tax laws this session, might I suggest SB 878. Feels like thing could develop into monster, but it might be a ride for you.
—@BSFarrington: So after a couple of weeks sitting alone in the office, this morning I had @Miamicurt join me in the AP’s historic Park Street digs, occupying the seat once held by @fineout. Curt’s already on the prowl in the Capitol. Say hi if you see him.
—@AGGancarski: OK, let’s talk 2023 mayor’s race…
—@Sepinwall: As the breakout star of 90210, Luke Perry also became an easy target for jokes about adults who look too old to play high schoolers. To die at the much too young age of 52 painfully flips that perception around. RIP.
—@CJMoose: For any national media reporting on the tornado in Cairo, GA, it’s pronounced “kay-rōh” like the syrup, not like the city in Egypt.
— DAYS UNTIL —
‘Captain Marvel’ release — 3; Players Championship begins — 9; St. Patrick’s Day — 12; Jacksonville municipal first election — 14; Major League Baseball opening day — 23; Scott Maddox corruption trial begins (maybe) — 23; Final season of ‘Veep’ begins — 26; Masters Tournament begins — 37; Final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ begins — 42; Easter — 47; 2019 Legislative Session ends (maybe) — 59; Mother’s Day — 68; Memorial Day — 83; 2020 Democratic presidential primary debates start — 94; 2019 General Election — 248; Iowa Caucuses — 335; 2020 General Election — 609.
— TOP STORY —
Lawmakers have their eyes on different prizes ahead of Session.
We know because we asked.
And we got answers, like this read about the Miami-Dade delegation’s art funding objectives. Or these insights into how the Tampa Bay-area delegation — with a legacy of power — intends to approach transportation issues this Session.
Stakes: Looking for as much wiggle room in the spending plan as they can find, lawmakers in Hurricane Michael’s path will be focused on making sure the Big Bend and Panhandle regions get a seat at the table. But the budget will be tight, according to Senate Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley, whose area is well-positioned to make gains.
Lifeblood: It’s said to be the keystone of Florida’s economy, so it’s no surprise environmental concerns are the most frequent talking points across all regions of the state. In South Florida, some lawmakers are pushing bills that would facilitate septic-to-sewer transitions. In Brevard County and along the Space Coast, fracking and the Indian River Lagoon cleanup are on tap. Southwest Florida has a powerful voice fighting foremost for better water quality in state Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, also majority leader of the chamber.
Drama: In Central Florida, lawmakers — some a surprise — have prepared to back the troubled university nearby. On a smaller scale, disruption could come from some liquor bills that seek to ease regulations on craft distilleries. A refined film package that focuses on reimbursing productions could also spark heated debate.
— THE ADMINISTRATION —
“Ron DeSantis meets with NYC businesses amid Amazon fallout” via Bernadette Hogan and Carl Campanile of the New York Post — After Amazon announced it was abandoning its deal to come to Queens because of vocal opposition, DeSantis swooped into the city to tell major financial firms that they won’t have such problems in his state. “Florida is a place where businesses can do well without having to face some of the political hostility that they deal with in other parts of the country. Our posture here is one of welcoming, not one of demagoguery and prejudice.” Government watchdog E.J. McMahon warned that other firms would notice the Amazon ordeal: “DeSantis couldn’t have picked a better time to work on poaching New York businesses, especially high earners in finance. More than a few will no doubt find it tempting to at least listen to Florida’s pitch.”
“Florida’s new Governor redefines what it means to be a Trump Republican” via Greg Allen of NPR — In Florida, two months into the job, Florida’s new governor is showing what it means to be a Trump conservative, Florida-style. Ron DeSantis was elected governor after narrowly defeating Tallahassee’s Democratic mayor Andrew Gillum. It was a hard fought contest that went to a recount. But as he took office, DeSantis said he planned to be the governor for all Floridians, including those who didn’t vote for him. “If someone is on the other side of a political issue from me,” DeSantis told reporters, “It doesn’t mean you’re not somebody I want to work with. It doesn’t mean you’re not somebody who’s a good Floridian.”
“Marco Rubio’s older brother is now working for DeSantis” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Mario Rubio started as the new Director of Community Development on Jan. 22, a position that puts him in charge of millions of dollars of federal and state grants earmarked for local communities. Rubio will make $115,000 a year. For his part, DeSantis personally interviewed Mario Rubio but did not speak with Sen. Rubio about the appointment to the Department of Economic Opportunity, the agency’s spokeswoman Tiffany Vause said.
Ashley Moody forms ‘Senior Protection Team’ — The Attorney General announced the intra-agency group of experts working together to fight fraud and abuse on Monday. It’s made up of the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution, Consumer Protection Division and Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. Seniors v. Crime and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will also assist. The team will bring together “attorneys and investigators specialized in fighting civil, criminal and health care fraud together to develop strategies to protect Floridians 60 and older.” Many seniors “have served our country and economy in countless ways,” she said in a statement. “We owe it to them to make sure they can enjoy their golden years free from the threat of financial exploitation and physical abuse.”
DeSantis invites Tampa Bay area residents to State of the State — DeSantis announced his invitation to Donna Holt and her family, Kris Hager, Wendy Hager, Vickie Lee Lyon and Glenn Wester III to attend as his guests. Donna and Michael Holt will attend with five of their seven children. One of their children, Levi, who has down syndrome, is currently being homeschooled and is on the waitlist for a Gardiner Scholarship. Kris and Wendy are a gold star family. Vickie Lyon is an Angel Mother who lost her daughter, Dennielle Nikole “Nikki” Schermock, when she was killed by a criminal alien who was driving drunk on the wrong side of the road. Wester is a student at Tampa Bay Technical High School. Amy Hyers is an English teacher at Armwood High School who received the Best and Brightest Teachers program bonus five years in a row.
Progressives say they’ll counter State of the State speech with ‘The People’s Response’ — Progressive lawmakers and advocates will provide a “people’s response” to DeSantis’ State of the State address, including the debut of a Sunrise Agenda, a “series of proposals that works for all Floridians, not just the wealthy and well connected,” a news release said. Related events are set for Jacksonville, West Palm Beach, and Orlando. “Republicans have had a stranglehold on state government for two decades, pushing an agenda that delivers tax breaks to big corporations and rolls back investments in our schools and protections for workers and the environment,” said Damien Filer, spokesman for Progress Florida. “The Sunrise Agenda puts Floridians first.” That’s immediately after DeSantis delivers his address, 4th-floor rotunda of the Capitol.
“From Indiana cowgirl to Florida’s first pot czar. Meet Holly Bell.” via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald — For the past several years, the Nashville consultant and banker has been boosting young entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry. Bell says her main goal is to bring that entrepreneurial spirit to Florida. “Helping people, making it a better place … the older you get, the more you realize that it’s what it’s all about,” she said. Her older sister, now an anesthesiologist in upstate New York, said Bell has always been passionate about agriculture, but that the new job is a path she didn’t see coming. “I don’t know I would have predicted it, but she’s well suited for it,” Melany Rookstool-Welch said. “Life takes you down paths you can’t predict.”
— 2019 SESSION —
“Jose Oliva will support plans for teachers to join school guard program” via CBS Miami — In an interview, House Speaker Oliva said he would support bills that would allow teachers to be armed in the classroom. “When someone says a teacher with a gun, you know the first thing in your mind is your second-grade teacher [mine was] Miss Murphy and you thought my goodness Miss Murphy couldn’t possibly carry a gun,” he said. Critics worry introducing more guns into schools could lead to more shootings. “Isn’t that a terrible assumption though,” Oliva added. “You’re saying that if a teacher gets a gun all of a sudden, it starts to seem like that’s the weapon they should use. They should use that instrument to solve all problems.”
“FEA seeking $743 bump in per-pupil funding” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — During a “Fund Our Future” conference call Florida Education Association VP Andrew Spar gave an executive summary of FEA’s take on Florida education funding, saying the state Legislature has “underfunded and diverted funding from public schools over the past 20 years.” That’s been the line from FEA for a while, but some other issues facing the state are compounding the cash crunch. Spar said Florida is amid a “silent strike” — college students aren’t pursuing education degrees anymore, and Florida is 10,000 teachers short statewide. To rectify that, Spar said FEA’s ask for the 2019 Legislative Session is a $743 boost in per-pupil spending, or about 10 percent. The current state budget provides $7,408 a student.
“Senate fracking bill draws criticism” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — The Senate Agriculture Committee delayed a vote until at least next week on the latest Senate anti-fracking proposal (SPB 7064). The delay will give time to consider changes based on testimony, committee Chairman Sen. Ben Albritton said. Environmentalists raised concerns about part of the bill, saying it would leave open the possibility of a drilling technique that uses many of the same chemicals as fracking. Albritton made clear after the meeting that, while he’s “open to discussions about changes” to the bill, the main issues raised by opponents wouldn’t be part of the revisions.
“’AOB’ changes get on track in Senate” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — A Senate committee moved forward with a proposal that would revamp the controversial insurance practice known as “assignment of benefits.” The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee voted 5-3 to approve the proposal, which Chairman Doug Broxson overhauled after an earlier version did not have enough support to get out of the committee. Assignment of benefits is the biggest insurance battleground of the year. Insurers and business groups lined up behind Broxson’s proposal (SB 122), while plaintiffs’ attorneys and several officials from home-repair and windshield-repair firms were opposed.
“Criminal justice reform bill passes first committee despite Amendment 4 concerns” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — It’s sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes, who’s been trying for years to overhaul a prison system he says focuses far too much on punishment over rehabilitation and needlessly costs the state millions. Some highlights include: Doing away with mandatory minimum sentences for certain, nonviolent drug trafficking charges; setting up for the creation of an entrepreneurship program to teach inmates new skills while in prison; and providing inmates who are released a document that lists all the outstanding terms of their sentence, including court fees and restitution. That last point was the source of concerns from civil rights groups and Democrats on the committee, who said they feared that this bill would be tied to the implementation of Amendment 4.
“Police drones clear Senate panel” via Florida Politics — A Senate bill that would expand what police can do with crewless aircraft cleared the Senate Criminal Justice Committee Monday. The vote was unanimous for SB 766, sponsored by Sarasota Republican Joe Gruters, which allows law enforcement to use drones to survey traffic accidents, to collect evidence at a crime scene, and to assist in crowd control. The House version has one more stop before the floor. In the Senate, there are still two committees to go.
“Research shows putting young prisoners in solitary confinement is dangerous. Some lawmakers want to ban the practice” via Mitch Perry of the Florida Phoenix — Sponsored by state Sen. Bill Montford, the bill says prisoners younger than 19 could only be held in solitary confinement in an emergency or if they need to be isolated for medical reasons. Scott McCoy with the Southern Poverty Law Center Action Center says solitary confinement for young prisoners is “an incredibly dangerous practice.” “Among incarcerated youth who commit suicide, 62 percent of them have been held in solitary confinement,” McCoy said. Rep. Ramon Alexander has filed a similar bill in the House. And two other bills in the Senate address solitary confinement — from Sens. Gary Farmer and Perry Thurston.
“Pro-Trump lawmaker files bill to protect social media users banned for ‘hate speech’” via Jerry Iannelli of the New Times — One of the most pressing issues for the pro-Trump wing of the internet is that it’s getting increasingly difficult to be racist and misinformed online nowadays. Since 2016, the world’s major social networking sites — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, et al. — have cracked down on hate speech, racism, propaganda, and conspiracy theories to prevent American politics from becoming any more psychotic and depraved than they already are.
“Senate panel approves 5-year delay on plastic straw bans” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A proposal from Sen. Travis Hutson to pre-empt local government from banning plastic straws (SB 588) was approved Monday by the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee. Hutson, a St. Augustine Republican, sits on that committee. During the hearing, he explained that he was amending his bill to set up a study by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on the effects of single-use plastic straws. Local governments would be barred from passing a single-use plastic straw ban before July 1, 2024, during which time the DEP study would be conducted.
“Dental loan repayment gets backing” via the News Service of Florida —The Senate Health Policy Committee approved three bills dealing with dental care, including a measure (SB 716) that would create a student-loan repayment program for dentists who are willing to practice in areas with dental-care shortages. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Ed Hooper would provide up to $50,000 per year for each eligible dentist. It also would create a program that would establish a network of volunteer dentists and other providers who would offer dental services to low-income, disabled and elderly people.]
“This bill could keep shorter limits on Medicaid coverage of past medical bills — and it has support” via Elizabeth Koh of the Tampa Bay Times — A bill that would permanently shorten how long patients can have Medicaid cover past health care bills narrowly cleared its first state Senate committee hearing, advancing an estimated $104 million policy that could affect about 11,500 Floridians’ care. SB 192, which passed 6-4 in the Senate Health Policy committee on party lines, would cement a policy that restricts the period patients are eligible for Medicaid coverage to the calendar month before their application. The prior policy, which the Legislature changed last year, allowed patients to have the safety-net program take care of health care costs up to three months before the date they applied for coverage.
“Pre-existing condition coverage supported” via the News Service of Florida — A Senate panel moved forward with a bill that would require insurance companies to sell policies to people with pre-existing conditions, along the lines of Obamacare. The Senate Health Policy Committee unanimously approved the bill (SB 322), which would require insurers and health maintenance organizations to offer at least one comprehensive major medical policy or contract that does not exclude, limit, deny or delay coverage because of pre-existing conditions. If passed by the Legislature, the requirement would take effect if Obamacare — the federal Affordable Care Act — is repealed by Congress or struck down by the United States Supreme Court.
Tyler Sirois tells U.S. Space Force to ‘land in Florida’ — The first-term Cocoa Republican filed what’s known as a ‘memorial’ in the Florida House, “urging the creation of the United States Space Force and the establishment of the Space Force and the United States Space Command in Florida.” It follows a recent White House proposal by Trump, and Gov. DeSantis’ call for the Space Force to be headquartered in Florida. “We are the home to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center,” Sirois explained in a statement. Memorials do not have the force of law, but instead, are official requests for consideration. If passed, it will go to Congress and the White House.
Today’s legislative committee meetings
The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee will consider a bill to revise criteria used by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in ranking beach-management projects for funding, 1 p.m., Morris Hall.
The House Health Quality Subcommittee will examine a proposal that would allow pharmacists to test and treat patients for influenza and Streptococcus, 1 p.m., 212 Knott Building.
The House Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, will take up a bill that would make it harder to raise local sales taxes. The bill would require sales-tax referendums to be held at the time of general elections and would require two-thirds approval from voters, 1 p.m., 12 House Office Building.
The House Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee will consider dozens of budget requests for local projects, 1 p.m., Reed Hall.
The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee will take up a bill that includes lowering the minimum age for correctional officers from 19 to 18, 1:30 p.m., 404 House Office Building.
The Senate Community Affairs Committee will consider a proposal that would increase benefits for firefighters diagnosed with cancer, 2:30 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building.
The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee will consider setting aside $50 million a year for projects in Northwest Florida counties hit by Hurricane Michael, projects such as reforestation, debris removal and beach renourishment, 2:30 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building.
The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee will consider a proposal that seeks to end public financing of statewide campaigns, 2:30 p.m., 412 Knott Building.
The Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee will take up a bill that would take the initial steps toward building three major highway projects, 2:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.
The House Commerce Committee will consider a proposal that would place additional restrictions on local impact fees, 4:30 p.m., 212 Knott Building.
The House State Affairs Committee will take up a proposal that would prevent the state Constitution Revision Commission and the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission from “bundling” multiple subjects into individual constitutional amendments, 4:30 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
— MORE SESSION —
“Senate to quickly take up smokable medical marijuana” via the News Service of Florida — The bill (SB 182), sponsored by Brandes will be among the first bills the Senate considers during its first full floor session Thursday. Lawmakers in 2017 approved a wide-ranging bill to carry out a 2016 constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana. But the 2017 law banned smoking medical marijuana, drawing a legal challenge. A circuit judge ruled the ban violated the constitutional amendment, leading former Gov. Rick Scott’s administration to appeal.
Lauren’s Kids announces 42-hour treadmill walk at Capitol — The child sexual abuse prevention organization founded by Democratic Sen. Lauren Book will host the nearly two-day continuous walk on the Capitol’s Plaza level. The event honors “the more than 42 million survivors of child sexual abuse living in the United States,” a news release said. The event is on April 2-4. April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month and National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Book and advocates, legislators, other state leaders, and survivors will walk on a treadmill donated by Premier Health & Fitness Center in Tallahassee. All are invited to show support at the walk and to register for a 15-minute walking shift here.
Florida Anesthesiologists launch new ad touting safety, cost savings — The Florida Society of Anesthesiologists are rolling out both a 15- and 30-second digital campaign during the newly opened 2019 Legislative Session. “Our message is simple and clear: Physician-led anesthesia care is the safest, most cost-effective model of anesthesia medicine,” says a statement announcing the campaign. “Through social media platforms, video sharing sites, and even major search engines, we look forward to reaching those who care about the safe practice of anesthesia medicine.”
To view the 30-second ad, click on the image below:
“Health plans group announces legislative priorities” via Florida Politics — One of the top priorities of the Florida Association of Health Plans unanimously cleared the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee. The measure would shore up the long-term care insurance market. The association issued a written statement endorsing the legislation (SB 626) by Sen. Brandes addressing “insurer guaranty associations.” The measure would “address instability in the long-term care insurance market and protect Florida’s seniors who purchased long-term care insurance, by broadening the safety net for potential future insolvencies and ensuring seniors receive the benefits of these policies they purchased when planning for their future,” association President Audrey Brown said. Jacksonville Republican Jason Fischer is carrying the House version (HB 673).
— GOV. CLUB BUFFET MENU —
For Fat Tuesday, a Cajun theme: chicken and andouille sausage gumbo; Cajun corn and bacon maque choux salad; mixed greens with condiments and dressing; deli board, cheeses, lettuce, tomatoes & breads; crispy fried catfish with Cajun rémoulade; everything jambalaya; bourbon chicken; dirty rice; braised cabbage; Southern-style green beans; and chocolate bread pudding with bourbon sauce for dessert.
— STATEWIDE —
Jimmy Patronis announces ‘Fraud Free Florida’ initiative — Patronis, the state’s Chief Financial Officer, launched the new initiative to “better coordinate collective investigative efforts, protecting Florida’s population — especially seniors — from scam artists.” Florida currently ranks first in fraud and second in identity theft nationwide. “This is unacceptable,” Patronis said in a statement, “and we must use innovative ways to stay two steps ahead of criminals.” The initiative will bring together law enforcement, prosecutors, and Patronis’ fraud investigative teams. The goal? Take on public assistance fraud, identity theft, cybersecurity issues and unscrupulous opioid treatment centers, to start. For details, go to FraudFreeFlorida.com.
“Florida, Georgia square off again in water war” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Florida says the case is the “last, best hope” to save the Apalachicola River region from destruction. Georgia says Florida’s arguments threaten to cause hundreds of millions of dollars in “real harm” to the Peach State. Now, a federal appellate judge will have to sort out the long-running battle between Florida and Georgia over water in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system, which starts in Georgia and flows south into the Florida Panhandle. Both sides filed briefs last week as they attempt to sway Senior U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Paul J. Kelly Jr. in the debate about whether limits should be placed on Georgia’s water usage in the river system.
“Will energy competition empower consumers — or electrify prices?” via Jacob Ogles at Florida Politics — Will an effort to end energy monopolies in Florida create better competition or crush consumers? “This has been going on outside of Florida for over 20 years,” said Bill Kinneary, CEO of Powervine. Citizens for Energy Choices gathered enough petitions to put a constitutional amendment before voters in 2020. But Florida AG Ashley Moody has concerns. “Attorney General Moody’s top priority is the protection of Florida’s consumers and this amendment fails to do so,” said Lauren Schenone, Moody’s public affairs director. “States that have adopted similar policies to this amendment have caused irreparable damage to their citizens.”
“State economists having tough time pricing energy deregulation” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — The state’s top economists sat down Monday to figure out what deregulating Florida’s energy market would have on state and local tax receipts. They didn’t get far, given how little is known about what deregulation would mean for electric and gas rates, the value of utilities’ assets, and how the Legislature would structure a new system. “There’s no way we put a number on this,” Amy Baker, coordinator for the Office of Economic and Demographic Research, said during a discussion of property taxes.
PSC marks ‘National Consumer Protection Week’ — The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) is taking part in National Consumer Protection Week (March 4-10) by sharing helpful scam awareness and conservation tips with consumers in central Florida throughout the week. “The PSC protects consumers year-round,” PSC Chairman Art Graham said. “We’re hosting several events during NCPW, but I encourage consumers needing utility-related information or assistance to call the PSC at 800-342-3552 any time of the year.” Over the week, the PSC will make presentations to consumers in Polk and Lake Counties; locations and times are here. For more information about National Consumer Protection Week, visit here and check out the PSC at www.floridapsc.com.
FMEA recognizes lineworkers, public power communities — The Florida Municipal Electric Association (FMEA) held its annual Florida Lineman Competition banquet last weekend, recognizing the lineworkers who won the competition, as well as public power communities for their commitment to worker safety and mutual aid efforts during post-hurricane restoration efforts. “It was such as pleasure to shine a spotlight on all the things that make public power special,” said Amy Zubaly, FMEA Executive Director. “Congratulations to all our winners and award recipients.” For a list of winners and other honorees, go to www.publicpower.com.
What Jeff Sharkey is reading — “Liberal Hawaii decides again not to legalize marijuana” via The Associated Press — On the political spectrum, Hawaii is among the bluest of states … But when it comes to legalizing recreational marijuana for adult use, the islands are out of step with liberal stalwarts such as California and Vermont that have already done so, and other left-leaning states such as New York and New Jersey that are racing toward joining them. On Friday, a legalization bill that made it farther in the legislative process than previous efforts died when lawmakers failed to consider it in time for a deadline.
— ELECTION DAY —
An expensive and at-times contentious race to be Tampa’s next Mayor reaches a significant step Tuesday. That’s when voters go to the polls to choose among seven candidates vying to succeed term-limited Bob Buckhorn.
However, there is a strong likelihood that the general election won’t be the end of the campaign. If no candidate exceeds 50 percent of the vote, there will be a runoff April 23 between the top two finishers.
Former Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor is widely expected to finish first, with polls showing she will likely receive about 35-40 percent of the vote. It’s a toss-up after that, however.
Retired businessman David Straz has spent $2.7 million thus far, much of that from his own bank account, in his first attempt at public office. The remaining six candidates have spent a combined total of $1.097 million, according to campaign finance records.
The latest survey by St. Pete Polls shows Castor with a significant lead at 36 percent. Straz was second in that poll with 14 percent while Dick Greco Jr., son of a former a Tampa Mayor, had 13 percent.
Tampa City Councilman Harry Cohen was running fourth with about 10 percent.
The remaining candidates, former Hillsborough County Commissioner Ed Turanchik, Tampa City Councilman Mike Suarez and businessman Topher Morrison, came in fifth, sixth and last place in the poll with 8 percent, 7 percent and 3 percent, respectively.
While the candidates generally haven’t presented sharply contrasting ideas for the future of Tampa, Straz has raised eyebrows at least a couple of times.
At a forum, if elected he would investigate what he called “graft and corruption” in the city but was not specific about where he received that information. He later floated trimming the city’s approximately $1 billion budget by about $100 million.
He would accomplish that, he said, with an audit to look for “waste and inefficiency” and by re-directing money in areas he believes need more attention.
“Final poll of Tampa mayoral race shows it’s a question of who will finish second” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The question from Tampa’s municipal election is not ‘who will win,’ rather it’s, ‘who will face Castor in a runoff?’ The latest St. Pete Polls survey shows Castor holding on to a sizable lead in the seven-way contest with 36 percent. Straz is more than 20 points behind with 14 percent and he’s trailed only slightly by retired judge Greco Jr. who came in third in the poll with 13 percent. Cohen could also be a wild card; more than 12 percent of respondents said they voted for Cohen, which is higher than Greco.
— LOCAL —
“Firefighter union wades into HD 7 race to support Mike Watkins” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Florida Professional Firefighters endorsed Watkins, the CEO of Big Bend Community Based Care. It’s the second major union endorsement for the Panacea Republican, who last week announced support from the Florida Police Benevolent Association. The approval helps Watkins distinguish himself in what’s shaped up to be a crowded GOP field. More than 24,000 firefighters and EMS personnel belong to FPF. That membership could go a long way in HD 7, which touches or covers 10 counties in the Big Bend and parts of Northwest Florida.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Top Trump allies go to war in Florida” via Marc Caputo and Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida — A feud between Rep. Gaetz and Sen. Scott has broken into the open. After simmering behind the scenes for months, the conflict came to a boil when Scott accused Gaetz of witness intimidation for threatening Michael Cohen via Twitter. Gaetz had already apologized for his actions — publicly and repeatedly. Scott decided to pile on anyway. “You might not like what somebody is going to say but you shouldn’t be trying to intimidate them or their family. It’s wrong. I think it’s disgusting. And I’m glad he apologized. But no. I’m very disappointed,” Scott told reporters. The broadside highlighted the toxic feelings between the freewheeling Gaetz and the oft-scripted Scott, who seldom speaks ill of a fellow Florida Republican.
— OPINIONS —
“Joe Henderson: Honeymoon about to end for Gov. Ron DeSantis” via Florida Politics — They loved his moves to the environment and pardoning the Groveland Four was widely praised. He preached common sense about smokable marijuana. But you know what’s coming next, right? Here is your morning wake-up call Governor. Many of those people who sang your praises will soon be screeching in protest. Florida voters elected a staunch conservative and DeSantis will make sure that’s what they get. That likely includes a renewed push to arm some public-school teachers. What’s it all mean? Well, you know that 60 percent approval rating? Remember it fondly, because it will be going away soon.
“Brad Drake, Jayer Williamson: Life in the Panhandle four months after Hurricane Michael” via Florida Politics — It’s now been more than four months since Michael tore through Northwest Florida, leaving many communities and even more lives shattered. It caused damages estimated at more than $25 billion, leaving countless of our neighbors in desperate need of assistance. Florida long ago learned the invaluable lesson that hurricane response must be a shared function, with responsibilities at every level: the individual or family, local emergency managers, the State of Florida, the federal government, nonprofit organizations and the business community. One of the greatest challenges in any natural disaster is how to get relief items to victims in the earliest days after it strikes. That’s when high-performing public-private partnerships can make all the difference — because government can’t do it all.
“Robert Garvy: Zero tolerance for improper education spending — Taxpayers deserve nothing less” via Florida Politics — No embezzlement or theft was found after these exhaustive investigations, nor is there any evidence of personal gain by anyone involved. However, this failure of fiduciary trust seriously harmed UCF’s standing at home, in Tallahassee, and most importantly, with the public. Those responsible have been punished. There is never an excuse to ignore statutory limitations on the use of funds. Ever! The University of Central Florida has a well-deserved reputation as one of the most innovative and efficient institutions of higher education in America. It stumbled badly with the Trevor Colbourn Hall episode. Now is the time to move forward and advance our focus on providing a world-class education to our students.
— LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS —
Ralph Arza, Mountain Moving Strategies: Carnegie Learning
Mario Bailey, Becker & Poliakoff: Foundation for Sickle Cell Disease Research
Davis Bean, John Delaney, Shannan Schuessler, The Fiorentino Group: Clay County Clerk of the Circuit Court, Flagler Hospital, Mitchell International, Mylan Specialty, PGA TOUR, St. Johns County, St. Johns County Clerk of Circuit Court and Comptroller, St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, UF Health Jacksonville, YMCA of Florida’s First Coast
Anna Walker Higgins, Walker Strategies: Florida Blockchain Business Association, Studer Community Institute
Joshua Romero: Audubon Florida
Katie Webb, Colodny Fass: Feeding South Florida, HERT Coalition, c/o MultiState Associates
— ALOE —
“Tallahassee’s florist to the Legislature” via Rosanne Dunkelberger of Florida Politics — Valentine’s Day is the No. 1 busiest day of their year, but at Elinor Doyle Florist, the start of Session is definitely No. 2. The team worked long hours over the weekend to assure their flowers arrived in peak form. The Saturday before was the dish gardens, which would get the colorful addition of red mini carnations and white cushion mums on Monday. Sunflowers were lined up, soon to be arranged in 160 bud vases that would be delivered to each member of the House and Senate, courtesy of Florida’s chiropractors. Spray roses were waiting to be fashioned into unisex boutonnieres the Florida Democratic Party ordered for its members. Other flowers would be made into arrangements on Monday, with an eye on a 5 p.m. deadline.
“Publix reports all-time high for sales, profits in 2018” via Kyle Arnold of the Orlando Sentinel — Publix sold a record $36.1 billion in groceries and goods in 2018 and netted $2.4 billion in profits, the supermarket chain reported. Publix Super Markets reported fourth-quarter and year-end earnings, saying that same-store sales were up 1.1 percent for the three months leading ending Dec. 29, and up 2.1 percent for the whole year. Publix’s fourth-quarter sales came in at $9.3 billion, climbing 3.8 percent from the same period in the prior year. Net earnings were down considerably to $407 million, compared with $766.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2017. The company said earnings were lower because of new accounting standards.
Supreme Court spokesman, Tampa Bay Times win Sunshine Awards — The 2018 Sunshine Award recipients are Craig Waters, Director of the Public Information Office for the Florida Supreme Court, who won the Pete Weitzel/Friend of the First Amendment Award, and Kathleen McGrory and Neil Bedi of the Tampa Bay Times, who won the Lucy Morgan Award for Open Government Reporting. Waters was recognized for “bringing the Court into the digital (and social media) age” and helping to “televise the Court’s oral arguments.” The Times reporters were lauded for an investigative series into the heart surgery unit at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. The awards will be presented March 14 at the Florida State University law school in Tallahassee. A program will follow; details are at www.floridafaf.org.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Celebrating today is David Lawrence of The Children’s Movement of Florida and Melissa McKinlay.
Today’s Sunburn was written by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.