Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 3.12.19

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Heat up your day with a dose of Sunburn, the premier first read of Florida politics and policy.

As you should be able to tell from the emailed version of today’s Sunburn, tonight is the night when Florida politicians from both parties meet in a bar just to share a few drinks. Or even pour out a couple of rounds for the house.

That seeming fantasy becomes a reality once again at the annual Red Dog Blue Dog Celebrity Bartender Event in Tallahassee. The event will bring teams of Republican and Democratic bartenders behind the bar 6-9 p.m. at Township, 619 S. Woodward Ave.

The heady dream remains to raise thousands for the distinctly bipartisan cause of boosting animal shelter budgets in the Tallahassee area.

Team Red will include Visit Florida President Dana Young, Senate Majority Leader Kathleen Passidomo, Republican Party of Florida Chairman Joe Gruters and Lakeland State Rep. Colleen Burton.

Team Blue will include Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz, Miami Sen. Annette Taddeo, Broward Rep. Evan Jenne and Jacksonville Rep. Tracie Davis.

“We have influential lawmakers from both sides of the aisle,” said Sara Clements, event spokesperson. “They’re not being paid. They’re not getting anything out of it other than hopefully a positive experience.”

With luck, everyone involved leaves knowing there’s a stronger foundation for several Tallahassee-area shelters.

Read more about the history of Red Dog Blue Dog here.

Tweet, tweet:

Sunburn has learned that, at long last, the Florida Democratic Party may be moving to a new headquarters. The downtown Tallahassee real estate community is abuzz that the FDP is close to inking a deal to move into the third floor of the Exchange Bank Building (also known as the Midyette-Moor Building) located on the corner of College Avenue and Monroe Street. The Exchange Bank Building was designed by architect William Edwards and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. FDP Executive Director Juan Peñalosa confirmed the party’s interest in the space.

Spotted: Marion Hammer in Incendiary N.R.A. videos find new critics: N.R.A. leaders” via The New York Times — In a rare airing of internal debate at the National Rifle Association, two prominent board members expressed concerns about NRATV — its streaming service — to The New York Times. Their statements were released amid what was described as an internal review of NRATV and its future. “Since the founding of NRATV, some, including myself and other board members, have questioned the value of it,” Hammer, the group’s most formidable lobbyist and a key adviser to its chief executive, Wayne LaPierre, said in a statement. “Wayne has told me and others that NRATV is being constantly evaluated — to make sure it works in the best interest of the organization and provides an appropriate return on investment.”

Happiest of birthday wishes to my friend Frank Mayernick, one-half of the powerhouse couple which founded The Mayernick Group. Why is Frank on my very short list of folks with whom I’d embark on a Disney Cruise (well, any cruise would be Frank and his wife, Tracy, and their kids, along with Michelle and Ella)? Because he works as hard anyone in The Process while recognizing that no matter how hard he does work, people will forever approach him — as they do me — and talk about how he out-kicked his coverage when he got married.

Happy birthday, Frank.


Tweet of the Day:

@RealDonaldTrump: At a recent round table meeting of business executives, & long after formally introducing Tim Cook of Apple, I quickly referred to Tim + Apple as Tim/Apple as an easy way to save time & words. The Fake News was disparagingly all over this, & it became yet another bad Trump story!

@RonBrownstein: Democratic choice of #Milwaukee for convention underscores what so many D strategists already believe: with MI & PA trending back toward Ds after 18, & OH, NC & FL all still looking very tough, WI is the single state most likely to pick the winner in 18 (with AZ maybe next).

@DeFede: Watching the @DNC news conference announcing Milwaukee as site of the 2020 convention. They are promising “beer, brats and cheese.” So in other words, Milwaukee promises to be the most constipated Democratic convention ever held. Good luck with that.

@MattGaetz: No person should seriously be judged by decade-old comments on “Bubba the Love Sponge

@Scott_Maxwell: Now that Daylight Saving Time’s here, most Central Florida high schools start in darkness. Kids start walking to bus stops @ 6 am. Many students walk to school. (Buses aren’t provided to most who live w/in 2 miles) There’s a reason 90% of U.S. high schools have later start times.

@FLInternetTV: When a major storm is bound for #Florida, we plan and prepare — just like you, your family, and your business. FIT’s members are committed to keeping Floridians protected and connected

@MattZollerSeitz: Predictable and sad that people are so eager to circulate juicy bits of interviews from media outlets but always somehow forget to mention where it came from or a link back to the original source. And then we all act surprised and sad when media outlets close.

@AlbertBreer: Three highest paid non-QBs in the NFL, by APY … • Bears OLB Khalil Mack $23.5M • Rams DL Aaron Donald $22.5M • Raiders WR Antonio Brown $19.8M Holdout, holdout, trade demand. Same as it ever was — if NFL players want to get paid, they have to be willing to get muddy.


Players Championship begins — 2; St. Patrick’s Day — 5; Jacksonville municipal first election — 7; Florida Capitol Press Corps skits — 7; Andrew Gillum makes a ‘major announcement’ in Miami — 8; Major League Baseball opening day — 16; Scott Maddox corruption trial begins (maybe) — 16; Final season of ‘Veep’ begins — 19; Masters Tournament begins — 30; Final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ begins — 33; Easter — 40; Tampa mayoral runoff election — 42; 2019 Legislative Session ends (maybe) — 52; Mother’s Day — 61; Memorial Day — 76; 2020 Democratic presidential primary debates start — 87; 2019 General Election — 241; Iowa Caucuses — 328; 2020 General Election — 602.


Florida Influencer Poll: Donald Trump in good shape, Matt Gaetz treading water” via Florida Politics — Florida Politics reached out to more than 100 of the state’s top political minds to get their take on President Donald Trump’s re-election odds and U.S. Rep. Gaetz standing with his campaign trail bestie, Gov. Ron DeSantis. A recent poll from Bendixen & Amandi International found the first-term POTUS is “in trouble” in the Sunshine State — the survey found just Florida voters wanted him gone in 2020 by a margin of 53-40 percent. Influencers shrugged off those numbers, however, with 70 percent saying that assessment was malarkey. Florida Politics also asked its influencer panel whether Gaetz’s sway in the Governor’s office has taken a tumble after an inadvisable tweet earned him admonishments from Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Scott and Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist as well as a Florida Bar investigation. About two-fifths of Florida Influencers said the second-term congressman is worse off while a slim majority of said he hasn’t risen or fallen in the new Gov’s eyes.

Rumors of Donald Trump’s trouble in Florida may be premature, say Florida Insiders. Image via Twitter.


Ron DeSantis hitches ride to New York on South Florida gambling mogul’s jet; GOP picks up tab” via Steve Bousquet of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — DeSantis’ Feb. 28 excursion to New York — paid for by the Republican Party of Florida — was on a plane owned by Jeffrey Soffer, an Aventura real estate executive who owns the Fontainebleau resort hotel in Miami Beach and the Big Easy Casino, formerly Mardi Gras Casino, in Hallandale Beach. The trip perpetuates an arrangement used in the past by Governors and legislative leaders that at times has led to controversy. The GOP confirmed that Soffer accompanied DeSantis on the trip, giving the executive extended and prized access to a new Governor who as a candidate last year promised to “drain the swamp” in Tallahassee — a phrase popularized by Trump that refers to rooting out potential corruption.

Flying in style: Records show Jeffrey Soffer’s plane, paid for by the Republican Party, shuttled Ron DeSantis to New York to meet with members of the financial sector.

Sheriffs look at options amid DeSantis immigration push” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — Following the Governor’s lead, the state Senate is moving forward with a proposal that would require state and local law enforcement agencies to “use best efforts to support the enforcement of federal immigration law.” A Florida sheriff, who’s emerged as a national law-enforcement leader on immigration, is encouraging his county colleagues to adopt a newly hatched program that’s inexpensive, requires just hours of training and would satisfy the governor’s and Legislature’s goals. The Senate measure (SB 168), which has become known as the sanctuary-city bill, is aimed At forcing local officials to honor requests from the federal government, known as “immigration detainers,” that ask law enforcement agencies to hold people believed to be “a removable alien under federal immigration law.”

Assignment editors — DeSantis will make an announcement, joined by representatives of the Special Olympics Florida, 1 p.m., Cabinet Meeting Room.

Simone Marstiller approved for DJJ head” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The Senate Criminal Justice Committee voted to approve DeSantis’ pick to lead the Department of Juvenile Justice. DeSantis selected Marstiller, a veteran of the Jeb Bush administration who once led the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, to head up DJJ earlier this year. Marstiller said her main goals in the position would be to “increase prevention and make sure that we’re providing the combinations of services to the children that we serve.” Marstiller received unanimous approval from the panel. She still must be OK’d by the whole Senate.

— 2019 SESSION —

Parkland, Pittsburgh tragedies spawn budget asks” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The House Transportation and Tourism Committee meeting included two asks from Democrats dealing with the response to high-profile tragedies … HB 2897 would allocate $250,000 to Margate for a new Mobile Command Vehicle … During the mass murder at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the [outdated] Margate mobile command unit “was deployed to assist and provide resources to the responding officers” … HB 2207 seeks $853,000 for security upgrades at St. Petersburg’s Florida Holocaust Museum … in the wake of … the 2018 slaying of 11 congregants of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, Pennsylvania.

Wilton Simpson wants $30 million event center for his home county of Pasco” via C.T. Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times — Simpson and Rep. Amber Mariano are seeking a multimillion-dollar appropriation in the 2020 state budget for a “Pasco Events Center.’’ Simpson asked for $3 million for initial design and other work. Mariano put in for $10 million. Either way, the appropriation would be just the first-year funding. State documents show the legislators’ project the center could require $10 million annually for three consecutive Tallahassee budget years. The proposed appropriation would “stimulate economic development in a quickly growing region of Pasco County with access via a major highway (I-75) and to provide the Tampa Bay region with a large-scale, multipurpose event center,’’ according to the funding request from Simpson.

A big ask: Wilton Simpson is pushing a $30 million event center in his home region of Pasco County.

Homestead property tax change could cost Florida school districts millions” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — A proposal to cap the education property taxes for Florida senior citizens who have owned and lived in their homes more than 25 years has captured the attention of school district leaders who already complain they can’t make ends meet with their annual revenue. As lawmakers debate the merits of the legislation, which would require ultimate approval by voters, superintendents have begun asking their property appraisers just how much money they stand to lose if the measure goes through.

Senators back effort to collect ‘remote’ sales taxes” via the News Service of Florida — The bill (SB 1112) comes after years of debate about efforts to collect sales taxes on such “remote” sales. If out-of-state businesses do not collect Florida sales taxes, the burden has technically fallen on consumers to pay the taxes — though few do. A U.S. Supreme Court decision last year in a South Dakota case, however, helped clear the way to collect sales taxes from out-of-state businesses. Parts of the bill approved by the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee are similar to the South Dakota law. For example, it would require “remote” business to remit sales taxes if they have more than 200 sales a year of property delivered to Florida.

‘Go after the buyers’: Senate panel hears fixes for human trafficking” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Punish buyers. Provide services to victims. Raise awareness at sites where human trafficking takes place the most. Those were the top-line recommendations Monday as the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee heard testimony from experts on the issue. The panel is chaired by Sen. Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat. Book has a bill (SB 540) moving through the Senate designed to cut down on human trafficking. Monday’s speakers all voiced support for that legislation. The issue has earned attention in recent weeks after the high-profile arrest of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

Increased oversight of children’s heart surgery programs clears first Senate committee stop” via Elizabeth Koh of the Miami Herald — The Senate Health Policy Committee voted unanimously to advance SB 1126, which would let teams of physician experts make unannounced visits to children’s heart surgery departments and inspect the facilities and outcomes. Those teams would then report back to the state’s Pediatric Cardiology Technical Advisory Panel, which would recommend corrective action. “When you are dealing with any kind of cardiac surgery in children, it is probably the most difficult procedure you can do,” said Senate Health Policy Committee Chair Gayle Harrell, who sponsored the bill. “We want to make sure those children are protected.”

Health bills cruise in first committee stop — Another bill sponsored by Harrell cruised through its first committee stop. The Senate Health Policy Committee approved a measure (SB 1124) that would allow emergency rooms fill scripts for two days’ worth of drugs so patients that find themselves somewhere without a 24/7 pharmacy can get the meds they need.

Senate committee backs more regulation of plastic surgery centers” via Elizabeth Koh of the Miami Herald — Members of the Senate Health Policy Committee voted unanimously to approve SB 732, filed by Sen. Anitere Flores which would direct the state Department of Health to set requirements for registration of such clinics and require them, if not completely owned by a licensed doctor, to show financial responsibility for claims against them. The bill would also increase the state’s ability to enforce those regulations by revoking a center’s registration, restricting offices from reopening and imposing fines. Flores cast the bill as a way to demand accountability from clinics where patients had died and said it would give the state “the tools they need to shut down these butcher shops.”

Plastic fantastic: Anitere Flores is seeking tighter controls on Florida’s plastic surgery facilities. Image via Phil Sears.

Bill addresses sexual misconduct at health care facilities” via The Associated Press — Florida could require every health care facility in the state to put in place a policy mandating employees report acts or suspected acts of sexual misconduct involving patients. The Senate Criminal Justice Committee unanimously approved a bill that would make the sexual misconduct reporting policy a condition for licensure. The vote came after 75-year-old Ed Bowman told the committee his wife was sexually assaulted by a male nurse 13 years ago and he has since fought to change the law to protect patients. Health care employees who fail to report sexual misconduct could be charged with a misdemeanor.

Bill would block use of genetic tests against insureds” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Legislation aimed at stopping genetic testing from being used by life insurance companies against clients advanced in the Senate. Sen. Aaron Bean’s bill (SB 258) would stop life insurers from yanking, lifting or denying coverage based on test results from companies like 23andMe. Bean’s greatest concern, he told committee members, was that those testing companies would start selling health information to insurance carriers. “Most people would shudder to think that type of health information could be sold without their knowledge,” he said. But the law allows that type of practice today. But representatives from the insurance industry testified that Bean’s proposal would encourage clients to withhold information.

Do it for ‘Fang’: Jimmy Patronis shepherds K-9 protection bill” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — A bill that would increase punishment for those targeting dogs or horses working for police and fire departments cleared its second Senate panel. SB 96 would render targeting or killing a canine a second-degree felony … targeting horses, meanwhile, subject to a third-degree felony charge. On hand to support the legislation: CFO Jimmy Patronis, accompanied by an “accelerant detection” dog from the Department of Financial Services. “The resource that she provides is invaluable,” Patronis said.

Do it for Fang: Jimmy Patronis is promoting a K-9 officer protection bill that would make targeting dogs or horses working for police and fire departments a second-degree felony.

You say you have an ‘emotional support’ animal? This bill says, ‘not so fast.’” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Sen. Manny Diaz wants to crack down on people who claim their pet is an emotional support animal to get out of paying pet deposits — or get into buildings that don’t allow pets. “We’ve had a problem where folks have just started to claim these things,” Diaz said. Senate Bill 1128 takes aim at those dubious certifications by requiring Floridians to be instead certified by a real doctor that they see for other physical or emotional ailments. “If I wanted to claim an emotional support animal that’s an iguana and I went on the internet, I could not get that certified,” Diaz said, “because it has to be a health care practitioner that you’re already seeing for other things.”

State could expand anti-hazing law” via The Associated Press — The Senate Criminal Justice Committee unanimously approved a measure that would make people who organize hazing culpable if someone is seriously injured or dies, even if the organizer didn’t participate in the event. It also prohibits hazing of former members of fraternities or other organizations. Current law addresses pledges and active members. The vote came after the parents of Andrew Coffey made a tearful plea in support of the bill. The Florida State University student died of alcohol poisoning in November 2017 at an off-campus fraternity party. Investigators say the 20-year-old was coerced to drink an entire bottle of bourbon.

Paramedic gun bill clears Senate panel — The Senate Judiciary Committee also gave its stamp of approval to a bill that would grant trained gun owners in certain medical professions the right to carry a gun on the job. SB 722, sponsored by Republican Sen. Ed Hooper, would not automatically grant any authority to paramedics or doctors to carry weapons — it would require EMTs, paramedics or doctors take a special training course and adhere to a rigorous set of requirements to get the privilege of carrying a gun on the job. The rule would only apply when those medical professionals are in “high-risk” situations, such as hostage negotiations or drug raids.


Voter-approved victims-rights amendment spurs clarifying legislation. But questions linger.” via Tony Marrero of the Tampa Bay Times — SB 1426, filed by state Sen. Book, skips over two of the main questions that have arisen over the amendment. At issue is language in the amendment to protect the victim’s right “to prevent the disclosure of information or records that could be used to locate or harass the victim or the victim’s family, or which could disclose confidential or privileged information of the victim.” “One of the issues we’d like to see clarification on is whether or not the victim confidentiality provision is automatic or if victims have to opt-in, and we don’t see anything in this bill that resolves that question,” David Marsey, general counsel for the police chief’s association.

Randy Fine wants colleges treating BDS backers like the KKK” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Fine says one group delivers as racist a message as the other and wants state institutions recognizing as much. The Palm Bay Republican presents a new bill (HB 741) to the state House Criminal Justice Subcommittee. If passed, Florida law will specifically include anti-Semitism in its hate crime statute and require public institutions from grade school through universities to recognize that. “The primary purpose is to make sure anti-Semitism is treated the same way as racism,” he said. The Jewish lawmaker said that includes the controversial BDS movement, a global campaign encouraging companies to boycott, divest and sanction Israel.

Democrats say ‘sanctuary cities’ ban creates problem it claims to avoid” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Democratic lawmakers say Florida has no sanctuary cities, but Republicans might create them by passing a supposed ban. “Why create this phantom of sanctuary cities?” asked Sen. José Javier Rodríguez, a Miami Democrat, at a Monday news conference. “Frankly, it’s to keep the issue of immigration alive.” Sanctuary cities may happen anyway as Venezuelan refugees flee violence and oppression for genuine sanctuary in America.

Film production grants have bipartisan backing in both chambers” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — SB 526, sponsored by Sarasota Republican Gruters, has already unanimously cleared its first committee. Since then, four Democrats signed on as co-sponsors: Minority Leader Audrey Gibson, Lantana Sen. Lori Berman, Orlando Sen. Linda Stewart and Miami Sen. Taddeo, who led the film funding charge in the 2018 Legislative Session. The bill would make studios eligible for a grant from the state covering the lesser of 20 percent of production costs or $2 million. Freshman Rep. James Buchanan is leading the charge in the lower chamber, and his bill, HB 1401, premiered with a trio of bipartisan co-sponsors: Lighthouse Point Republican Rep. Chip LaMarca, Orlando Democratic Rep. Amy Mercado and Key Largo Republican Rep. Holly Raschein.

Blind trust law targeted” via the News Service of Florida — The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee is scheduled to consider a bill (SB 702), filed by Sen. Tom Lee that would repeal part of state law that has allowed such use of blind trusts. Scott, the wealthiest Governor in state history, put his assets in a blind trust, contending that it would prevent potential conflicts of interest. But in doing so, he also did not have to detail his specific investments and business interests for much of his time as governor — a requirement that other officials face when they file annual financial-disclosure forms. Rep. James Grant filed a House bill (HB 6041) last week that also seeks to repeal the blind-trust law.

Nurse anesthetists launch new ad ahead of House bill hearing — The Florida Association of Nurse Anesthetists (FANA) has released a 30-second digital ad statewide in advance of a hearing of the House Health Quality Subcommittee, which will be taking up HB 821. According to the FANA, the bill would allow APRNs to provide safe, low cost, quality health care to patients — particularly in rural areas that have limited access to health providers — without physician supervision or protocols.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Assignment editors — Equality Florida hosts a news conference to highlight the danger of Florida House Bill 3 to local LGBTQ protections and Florida’s tourism reputation and economy, 1:45 p.m., 4th-floor Rotunda, House Chamber side.


Assignment editors — State Sen. Darryl Rouson and Rep. Dianne Hart will hold a news conference to bring attention to HB 491, which would exclude pain related to sickle-cell anemia from definition of acute pain, 11:45 a.m., 4th-floor Rotunda.

The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee will take up a bill that would make a series of changes in state law to combat anti-Semitism, 8:30 a.m., 404 House Office Building.

The House Health Quality Subcommittee will consider a proposal that would create a program aimed at importing cheaper prescription drugs from Canada, 8:30 a.m., 212 Knott Building.

The House Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee will take up a bill that would seek to increase “transparency” about local taxes, 8:30 a.m., 12 House Office Building.

The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee and the House Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee are slated to take up numerous bills seeking money for local projects or programs, 9 a.m., House Office Building.

The House Business & Professions Subcommittee will consider three bills that deal with the regulation of alcoholic beverages, 12:30 p.m., 212 Knott Building.

The House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee will take up a proposal that would make a series of changes related to the Department of Transportation, 12:30 p.m., Reed Hall of the House Office Building.

The Senate Education Committee will take up a bill that would direct the state university system’s Board of Governors to adopt regulations about the naming of buildings on university campuses, 1:30 p.m., 412 Knott Building.

The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee will consider a proposal that would prevent local governments from regulating employment issues such as wages, employee benefits and hours of work, 1:30 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building.

The Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Halsey Beshears as secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, 1:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.

The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee and the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee will consider proposals that could lead to spending $50 million a year on projects to restore the Indian River Lagoon. House subcommittee at 1:30 p.m., 12 House Office Building. Senate committee at 4 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building.

The House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee and the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee will take up numerous bills seeking money for local programs and projects, 1:30 p.m., House Office Building.

The Senate Community Affairs Committee will take up a bill to take steps to try to curb human trafficking, 4 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building.

The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee will take up a proposal that seeks to impose eight-year term limits on county school board members, 4 p.m., 412 Knott Building.

The Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee will consider a bill that would seek to block so-called sanctuary cities in Florida, 4 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.

The House Ways & Means Committee will take up a proposal that would take a series of steps aimed at increasing the use of “telehealth” to provide services to patients, 4 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.


Farmhouse corn chowder; mixed green salad with dressings; egg salad; carrot raisin salad; deli board, cheeses, lettuce, tomatoes and breads; honey fried chicken; Irish shepherd’s pie; baked cod with shrimp cream sauce; Colcannon; cauliflower polonaise; squash casserole; and chocolate Guinness cake for dessert.


Election watchdog hits Jeb Bush’s super PAC with massive fine for taking money from foreign nationals” via Nihal Krishan of Mother Jones — The Federal Election Commission has hit Right to Rise USA, the super-PAC that backed Bush’s 2016 presidential bid, with a record fine for accepting a seven-figure donation from a company owned by Chinese nationals who were in business with Bush’s brother, Neil. The total combined fine against Bush’s super-PAC and APIC, which has not previously been reported, is $940,000, the largest amount levied in a single case against anyone since the 2010 Citizens United ruling. The penalty is also the biggest fine that the FEC has ever handed down due to foreign national participation.


Florida jobless rate ticks up to 3.4 percent as Florida adds 10,900 jobs in January” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Florida’s unemployment rate ticked slightly upward to 3.4 percent while its private-sector job growth again outpaced the nation in January, according to new data from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. In the past 12 months, through January, Florida added 207,000 new private sector jobs, according to the department’s monthly report. This comes even as Florida’s labor force grew by 161,000 workers during the year, an annual growth rate of 1.6 percent. In January the department reported a statewide unemployment rate of 3.3 percent. The December numbers had shown 241,000 new jobs and 140,000 new workers over the running 12-month period.

Help wanted: Even as Florida’s job growth outpaced the nation in January, the unemployment rate ticked up ever so slightly, to 3.4 percent.

If you need medical marijuana, you better not be in a Florida nursing home or ALF” via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald — Fears over losing Medicaid and Medicare funding — because federal law still considers all marijuana use illegal — keep most nursing homes and assisted living facilities pot-free, despite recommendations from doctors to card-holding patients who reside there. Despite an environment where the Legislature is dialed in on the expansion of access to medical marijuana in all of its forms, one of the largest groups who would benefit is being left behind. While using the drug has had success in treating chronic pain, Parkinson’s, glaucoma and other diseases that come with age, many seniors in Florida don’t have access to medical marijuana.

What Tom Leek is reading —State report: UCF plagued by poor oversight, training” via Christopher Heath of WFTV — The Florida House of Representatives’ Public Integrity and Ethics Committee draft report based on records obtained by the Florida House and UCF staff depositions shows what the report calls an “institutional culture in which employees aware of misspending failed to raise the issue with audit or compliance officers, the general counsel, or the BOG (Board of Governors).” The report also raises questions about former UCF President Dale Whittaker, who resigned last month, finding that “Dr. Whittaker failed to learn about legal constraints on spending, despite responsibility to do so.” Of the ten findings listed by the committee, most deal with poor training and oversight.

Sean Shaw: Investigate ICE tracking of pro-immigrant protests — The People Over Profits founder and president called for a federal investigation into the Trump Administration’s tracking of pro-immigrant protesters in New York, demanding immediate action and support from Florida U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Scott. Shaw said in a statement: “Florida is one of the most diverse states in the nation — a state with a proud history of accepting immigrants. Who knows how deep this wrongdoing goes? If we have learned anything over the last two years, it is that the answer is worse than we know now.”

Latest edition of Florida’s ‘Sunshine Manual’ available online for free — In recognition of National Sunshine Week, Attorney General Ashley Moody made available the 2019 Government-in-the-Sunshine Manual on the requirements and exemptions of state open government laws. The Florida Attorney General’s Office writes the manual, and printing is through a 41-year partnership with the Florida First Amendment Foundation. “Open government laws are a vital tool in making sure citizens know how their tax dollars are being spent and how the people they elected to represent them are performing their duties,” Moody said. The latest edition incorporates laws, judicial decisions and Attorney General Opinions in place as of Oct. 1, 2018. Additional information is available at The manual is available here.

Free sunshine: Ashley Moody is making the latest edition of Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine manual available for a free PDF download. Image via Twitter.


Unsealed warrants show how cops got into massage parlor” via Marc Freeman and Lisa Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Police still haven’t said how they tricked two women out of a Jupiter day spa to set up surveillance cameras secretly. But records show it was referred to as a “tactical ruse” to get them to step outside of the spa that authorities believed was actually a brothel. While the women stood out in the Orchids of Asia Day Spa parking lot, three cops discreetly hid the cameras inside the lobby and four treatment rooms so they could watch — in real time — the male clients paying for sexual favors, according to the search warrants.

Star fighter Conor McGregor arrested on Miami Beach, accused of smashing fan’s phone” via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — McGregor was arrested after police said he smashed a fan’s phone outside the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel. McGregor, 30, was charged with felony strong-armed robbery and criminal mischief. According to an arrest report, McGregor and the fan were walking out of the resort, home to the LIV nightclub, just past 5 a.m. When the fan tried taking a photo with his cell, McGregor “slapped” the phone out of his hand, then stomped on it several times, the report said. McGregor picked up the phone, valued at $1,000, and walked away with it, police said.

Anger management: Police in Miami Beach arrested Conor McGregor for smashing a fan’s phone after he tried to take a picture of the star UFC fighter. Image via Getty.

Former Tallahassee credit union lending director charged in banking fraudKevin Robert Lee, 35, of Tallahassee, was arraigned Friday in U.S. District Court after a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging him with twenty counts of bank fraud, aggravated identity theft, theft from a lending institution, and three counts of filing a false tax return. The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced the news Monday. The indictment alleges that Lee was the lending director of FSU Credit Union (FSUCU), a position that allowed him to open new customer accounts and approve lines of credit. The indictment also alleges that Lee served as treasurer of the Tallahassee Chapter of Credit Unions (TCCU), a nonprofit organization that advocates pro-credit union legislation.

North Florida bingo operators ordered to forfeit $5.8 million — Striking a blow against illegal gambling operators who “profit behind a facade of good causes,” U.S. Attorney Lawrence Keefe announced that the owners/operators of Racetrack Bingo in Fort Walton Beach were ordered to forfeit $5,813,584. In February 2018, a federal jury convicted Larry L. Masino, 68, of Gulf Breeze, and Dixie L. Masino, 66, of Pensacola, of operating an illegal gambling business and money laundering charges. Assistant U.S. Attorney Alicia H. Forbes prosecuted the Masinos after a joint investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Internal Revenue Service — Criminal Investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office.

Maryland man appears to attack federally protected pelican in viral video” via Lillian Reed of the Baltimore Sun — Hunter Hardesty posted the widely criticized video to his Facebook account, geotagged to Key West. The video begins with Hardesty appearing to lean over a harbor’s edge holding out something in his hand. The pelican floats closer, and Hardesty appears to jump into the water on top of the pelican, causing both to dunk beneath the water’s surface. When the two re-emerge, Hardesty looks to grasp the bird with two hands while others not pictured on camera can be heard laughing. A woman not pictured asks Hardesty to get out of the water or else she would call authorities. The pelican seizes on the opportunity and snaps its beak across the man’s face, causing him to release the bird.

To view the video, click on the image below:

Florida is home to the most stressed city in the United States” via Johnny Diaz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Hialeah is the most stressed-out city in the U.S. That’s according to a new study by Babylon Health which looked at 5 million tweets related to stress over a period of two weeks. Researchers explored where “people are most likely to tweet with words relating to stress, frustration, and anxiety” as well as negativity and anger on a scale 1 to 5 from no stress to extreme stress. And a lot of that social media chatter came from Hialeah, which led the country with 13.03 percent of the tensest tweets.


White House declines to offer Donald Trump’s full confidence in Alex Acosta” via Brett Samuels of The Hill — White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to say whether Trump has full confidence in Labor Secretary Acosta, telling reporters that Acosta’s involvement in a 2007 plea deal with alleged serial sex offender Jeffrey Epstein is “currently under review.” “Because of that I can’t get into a lot of specifics, but we’re certainly looking at it,” Sanders said at a press briefing, adding that she’s “not aware of any personnel changes.” Sanders said she’s unsure of any timeline on the investigation into the handling of the case.

Losing faith: The Donald Trump administration seems to have less than full confidence in Labor Secretary Alex Acosta after investigations were launched into his sweetheart deal with Jeffrey Epstein. Image via NBC News.

Donald Trump is the ‘worst perpetrator of purveying anti-Semitism,’ Wasserman Schultz says” via Anthony Man of the Sun Sentinel — “Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz condemned President Donald Trump on Monday for his weekend claim at a Mar-a-Lago political gathering that Democrats ‘hate Jewish people.’ Wasserman Schultz said it is Trump who has “repeatedly and intentionally’ trafficked in anti-Semitic tropes, both as a candidate and since becoming president.”

Year-round daylight-saving time? Trump is on board with Marco Rubio’s idea” via Stephen Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — “Making Daylight Saving Time permanent is O.K. with me!” Trump said in a tweet, giving a presidential thumbs up to Rubio’s proposal to keep the clocks moved forward permanently. Under Rubio’s Sunshine Protection Act, filed last week and co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Scott, Americans would set their clocks ahead one hour and keep them there, giving them an extra hour of sunlight in the evening during the winter months when DST usually ends. A companion bill was filed in the House by U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan and Greg Steube. It was unclear whether Trump’s endorsement of the idea of permanent DST, if not Rubio’s bill specifically, would help or hurt the Sunshine Protection Act.

¡Qué fracaso! Miami loses to Milwaukee for 2020 Democratic convention” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has chosen Milwaukee to hold its 2020 presidential nominating convention, selecting the Wisconsin city over Miami and Houston. The decision ends a months-long search by the DNC, which saw South Florida reach the final stage before ultimately losing out. “It’s a missed opportunity for our nation that we won’t be able to roll out the red carpet this summer for the DNC attendees in our unique way that no other city can top,” said Miami Mayor Francis Suarez in comments flagged by reporter Patricia Mazzei. With a 2020 matchup against Trump in the cards, Democrats’ selection of Milwaukee could be seen as an olive branch to Midwestern voters.

Federal court moves to unseal documents in Jeffrey Epstein sex scandal” via Julie Brown of the Miami Herald — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit gave the parties until March 19 to establish good cause as to why they should remain sealed and, failing to do so, the summary judgment and supporting documents will be made public. The court reserved a ruling on the balance of the documents in the civil case, including discovery materials. “We’re grateful that the court ruled the summary judgment papers are open and they are moving to expedite having them unsealed,’’ said Sanford Bohrer, the attorney representing the Miami Herald, which filed the motion last year to have the entire case file opened.

NASA budget, Jim Bridenstine begin detailing moon mission” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — President Trump‘s 2020 budget fully funds NASA’s newly redirected mission heading to the moon and then to Mars as well as commercial space and earth science research, Administrator Jim Bridenstine declared in unveiling the proposals Monday. Overall, the President’s NASA budget proposal for the fiscal 2020 year is $21 billion, with scientific research programs taking most of the budget cuts. That’s down slightly from $21.5 million in the current fiscal year. The NASA budget request does not detail any specific new construction programs at Kennedy Space Center. Budget requests and Bridenstine’s emphases on the moon and Mars missions and development of a broad and robust commercial space industry all point to increased activity at KSC and Cape Canaveral.

Former House Speaker Paul Ryan focuses on policy, gridlock in Vero Beach lecture” via Ali Schmitz of TC Palm – “Ryan … said [during a Vero Beach speech] he believes there are some Democrats who could beat President Trump next year. He said Trump needs to define through policies, and not his personal brand. ‘The person who defines that race is going to win the race. If this is about Donald Trump and his personality, he isn’t going to win it,’ Ryan said.”

— 2020 —

Iowa poll: Not even in the race, Joe Biden leads herd of Democrats; Bernie Sanders close behind” via Brianne Pfannenstiel of the Des Moines Register — Seventy percent of respondents say they believe Biden’s political views are neither too liberal nor too conservative, but instead, are ‘about right’ — the highest percentage of any candidate tested. And 64 percent — including a majority in every demographic group — say they think Biden’s experience is an asset and he should enter the race. A majority — 54 percent — agree that Sanders’ 2016 candidacy ‘has pushed the party in a good direction, and he should be in the race again.’ But 43 percent say the time for Sanders as a candidate has passed and he should not be in the race. More are open to a Biden run. Nearly two-thirds say he should get in.

The man: Joe Biden appears to be the man to beat for the Democratic 2020 presidential nomination, while Bernie Sanders takes a solid second place.


Do school reformers sound Republican but vote Democrat?” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A new academic study indicates a level of schizophrenia within the movement. The analysis by Jay Greene of the University of Arkansas and Frederick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute finds a disparity in the image and foundation of school choice. Findings include the fact 87 percent or more of political contributions by staff at school-reform organizations go toward Democratic candidates and causes. The analysis looks at contributions from employees getting grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Walton Family Foundation, as well as scholars focused on education reform. The authors found 99 percent of staff for Gates Foundation grantees like Achieve, Teach for America, Chalkbeat and KIPP back Democrats.

Legislature should approve smokable medical marijuana” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — The work on medical marijuana is not done after the House passes the bill allowing the smokable form and DeSantis signs it into law. Jeff Brandes should continue to work on legislation that reworks the regulation of the medical marijuana industry. State law now requires medical marijuana treatment facilities to grow, process, distribute and sell marijuana. That vertical integration model and a limited number of licenses have created valuable cartels, inhibited competition, reduced access for patients and driven up costs. The House should pass the legislation allowing smokable medical marijuana. Then lawmakers should get back to work on creating a better business model for an industry that is not going away and benefits Floridians who need pain relief.

Marijuana bill is appropriate compromise” via the St. Augustine Record editorial board — While the House version (HB 7066) and the Senate version (SB 182) contain minor differences, they announced that “as far as policy goes, yes, that reflects what the House and Senate have mutually arrived at,” Rep. Ray Rodriguez said. What’s that mean? Patients — and this is about medical, not recreational marijuana — will be able to purchase 2.5 ounces of pot every 35 days. The plan does ban smoking pot in public places and allows terminally ill children to smoke it armed with a second opinion from a doctor. Patients can buy buds at state-licensed medical treatment centers, along with pot-smoking devices. The compromise seems appropriate. The limit per 35 days of 2.5 ounces seems, in fact, pretty generous.

The grease that keeps Florida’s business wheels moving” via Don Deising for Florida Politics — There is another insurance market that flies under the radar. It covers risks that typical insurers either consider too risky to cover, or just don’t have the knowledge and experience to know how to cover. It is the surplus lines market, and it is increasingly important here in Florida, a state with its share of unique risks and economic growth. The surplus lines market insures businesses from risks not covered by traditional carriers. It’s not surprising that Florida, with its unique risks — particularly when it comes to storms and flooding — is the country’s third largest market for surplus lines coverage with nearly $6 billion in annual premiums.

Hurricane resilience and building codes should be important discussion” via Bill Newton for the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida continues to attract thousands of new residents. We need to ensure those people are relocating to areas that are safe, with homes built not just to the minimums required by the Florida Building Code but built to survive with resilient construction materials and techniques. That means more stringent requirements for those building on the coast. It may also mean some coastline is not suitable for development and should be preserved as parks or wildlife habitat. For the safety of Florida’s residents, and in our state’s financial best interest, the Florida Legislature should make resiliency and the protection of vulnerable lands a priority this Session.


New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Fred Baggett, Hayden Dempsey, Greenberg Traurig: Florida State Parks Foundation

Brian Ballard, Michael Abrams, Brady Benford, Chris Dorworth, Monica Rodriguez, Ballard Partners: Southern Glazers Wine and Spirits

Slater Bayliss, Chris Chaney, Stephen Shiver, Sarah Suskey, Jeff Woodburn, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: Health Plan Intermediaries Holdings

Mary DeLoach, Deno Hicks, Southern Strategy Group: City of Miami, Florida Petroleum Marketers Association, Synagro Technologies

Rhett O’Doski, Sean Stafford, McGuireWoods Consulting: Northwestern Mutual

Kirk Pepper, GrayRobinson: Miami Downtown Development Authority

Nicola Powell, One Eighty Consulting: Telaforce

Karl Rasmussen, Meenan: Ecosystem Investment Partners

Paul Wharton, Paul W. Wharton Ph.D. Consulting: Florida Certification Board

Larry Williams, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart: Town of Havana

Jeffrey Schweers to join Capitol press corps for USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida” via Tallahassee Democrat — Schweers, who has watchdogged local government for the Tallahassee Democrat, is stepping into a new position as Capital Correspondent for the USA TODAY NETWORK — Florida. He will focus on statewide coverage … “We’re glad to have someone of Jeff Schweers’ caliber help us leverage our position as the primary news source in the state’s capital and bring in-depth political and statehouse coverage to the network’s audiences across Florida,” said Cindy McCurry-Ross, regional editor for USA TODAY NETWORK — Florida.

— ALOE —

Traveling around Florida? Ditch the car and ride the rails, says Virgin” via Tariro Mzezewa of The New York Times — As fewer people in the United States apply for driver’s licenses and more take ride-sharing services, the team behind Virgin Trains believes that this is the perfect time to make train travel a new American habit. “We recognized this major mobility problem that was starting to present itself between densely populated too-short-to-fly but too-long-to-drive areas, and we saw it as an opportunity,” said Patrick Goddard, president of Brightline. The company, to set itself apart, has invested deeply into the details in its stations and on its trains. “The transportation business is rife with stories of bad experiences, whether it is airplanes or public transit or even a bad Uber driver,” Goddard said. “We wanted to be the antithesis of that.”

Image via Brightline/
Riding the rails: Brightline (now Virgin Trains) is taking on Florida to develop rail travel across the state, urging travelers to ditch the cars when visiting the Sunshine State. Image via Brightline/

Disney Cruise Line completes land purchase, enters agreement for second Bahamas destination” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — The Lighthouse Point property on the island of Eleuthera has been purchased by Disney and the government has entered into an agreement with Disney to develop the property, according to Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis: “The government of the Bahamas is satisfied that it made the best decision in the interest of the Bahamian people, a sustainable future for the people of Central and South Eleuthera and the economic development of the country.” The statement said Disney’s development of the 700-acre property would amount to an investment of between $250 million and $400 million.

New ‘Freebee’ electric cars offer you a ride in downtown Fort Lauderdale” via Brittany Wallman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Users can download the “Ride Freebee” app on a smartphone, then request a ride. The process is similar to ride-hailing apps like Uber, but there is no fee, and the all-electric cars are meant for short trips, like from work to lunch. The Downtown Development Authority announced the unleashing of the small fleet, underwritten by commercial advertisers for a three-month trial period. The pilot program is Freebee’s first foray into Broward and is meant to win over local decision-makers so service can continue — and expand to other pockets of Broward — with subsidies from local government or the new county transit tax, one of the company founders said.

What Vivian Myrtetus is reading — “Bill would regulate lightweight electric scooters in state” via The Associated Press — An Ohio House transportation budget bill now in the state Senate for consideration includes regulations over lightweight electric scooters, which have been showing up in some Ohio communities. The two-year budget bill passed by the House last week creates several laws regulating the low-speed scooters currently regulated under various municipal rules. Scooters couldn’t go over 15 mph and would have to use lighting at night. Operators would have to yield to pedestrians at all times and give an audible signal when overtaking and passing a pedestrian.


Best wishes to Sen. Alan Hays, Steve Bousquet, the brilliant Brian FranklinSarah Revell, the communications director at the Florida Department of State, Abby MacIver, and money man Jeff Ryan.

Today’s Sunburn was written by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel 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, Jason Delgado, Renzo Downey, Daniel Figueroa, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Joe Henderson, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, Mike Wright, and Tristan Wood.

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