Connect with us

Emails & Opinions

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 3.13.19

Politics shouldn’t be pale. Get ‘Sunburn’ed — right now.

One week into the 2019 Legislative Session and Florida’s top consultants, fundraisers, PR mavens, lobbyists, and top staffers are ready to weigh in on what’ll happen between now and Sine Die.

Florida Politics asked more than 100 plugged in politicos which way the wind was blowing for a half-dozen issues.

The two surefire bets in the bunch: the Legislature will re-up funding for VISIT FLORIDA and lawmakers will pass a measure expanding Florida Tax Credit Scholarships, a priority of Gov. Ron DeSantis. Those two outcomes were predicted by more than 90 percent of those polled.

Priorities: Florida Influencers say Ron DeSantis will get at least one thing on his wish list this year: expansion of Tax Credit Scholarships. Image via Colin Hackley.

While it’s not so much in the policy realm as the political one, the Florida Influencers panel also agreed that the Legislative Session would conclude May 3, right on schedule.

Further down the survey, a majority of Influencers said they expect more significant changes to the state’s MMJ laws than the no-smoke repeal and that anyone banking on a successful gambling bill was chasing an inside straight.

Another topic with a clear consensus: Certificates of Need. And the Influencer opinion doesn’t bode well for House Speaker José Oliva’s dream of a full repeal.

Less than 10 percent of those polled think that’ll happen. Still, 60 percent said Oliva will walk away with a consolation prize while about a third said the issue had no legs.

Fresh off embargo — Quninnipiac University Polling gives Gov. Ron DeSantis the highest approval rating for Sunshine State governor in 10 years. Florida voters approve 59 to 17 percent of the job DeSantis is doing, according to the poll released this morning. Even Democrats approve of DeSantis, 42 to 28 percent.

It’s a serious issue, but I had a little fun blogging about “butt lifts and Dr. Miami.

On a completely different matter, I had to call out U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney for a boneheaded comment he made about the agriculture community.

_

Happy 20th wedding anniversary — China is the traditional gift, platinum is the modern one — to one of the best couples in all of Florida politics, my dear friends, Christina and David Johnson.

Happy anniversary to Christina and David Johnson, who are celebrating 20 years.

Spotted — At the annual Red Dog Blue Dog Celebrity Bartender Event in Tallahassee: Anna Alexopoulos, Ellen Anderson, Frank Artiles, Slater Bayliss, Halsey Beshears, Greg Black, Christy Daly Brodeur, Joe Clements, Chuck Clemons, Carlecia Collins, Katie Crofoot, Chris Dawson, Nick Duran, Matt Farrar, Jay Ferrin, Shawn Frost, Billie Anne Gay, Eddie Gonzalez, Estella Gray, Mike Grieco, Cory Guzzo, Nicole Hagerty, Christina Johnson, Ryan Mathews, Kionne McGhee, Christian Minor, Corinne Mixon, Jonathan Reese, Richard Reeves, Mark Reichelderfer, Bob Rommel, Steve Schale, John Wayne Smith, Stephanie Smith, Chris Spencer, Sarah Busk Suskey, Brad Swanson, Matt Willhite, Patricia Williams. Event organizers: Sara Clements, Angela Drzewiecki Kate MacFall, Sandi Poreda.  Bartenders: Red — Byron Donalds, Joe Gruters, Kathleen Passidomo, Dana Young; Blue — Tracie Davis, Shev Jones, Jared Moskowitz and Annette Taddeo.

Joe Gruters and Jared Moskowitz enjoy a post-shift moment after bartending at Red Dog, Blue Dog.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@RealDonaldTrump: Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly. Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT. I see it all the time in many products. Always seeking to go one unnecessary step further, when often old and simpler is far better. Split second decisions are needed, and the complexity creates danger. All of this for great cost yet very little gain. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want Albert Einstein to be my pilot. I want great flying professionals that are allowed to easily and quickly take control of a plane!

@PhillipRucker: The purchases Trump celebrated in Hanoi two weeks ago included VietJet buying 100 Boeing 737 MAX jets.

@JohnMorganEsq: If these $BA planes fly while the investigation continues I believe they will face punitive damages should a third #Boeing737Max fall out of the sky. The accidents are eerily similar. A third grader can see that. #BanTheseBirds✈️

@MaryEllenKlasMarty Baron of @washingtonpost says he would have ‘needed a higher standard’ — such as new info — before he would have printed the anonymous op-ed that ran in @nytimes criticizing Trump admin. ‘What was new was that it was written’ and that wasn’t high enough.

@MattGaetz: Climate change is real. Humans contribute.

@GrayRohrer: Out of context Rep. [Cary] Pigman after presenting a strike-all amendment expanding his nurse practitioners bill: “Everything we do here is 11th hour”

@MCIMaps: Already one big improvement out of Broward. Polls for the city elections closed at 7, and right as the hour changed, we had VBM data. I swear under [Brenda] Snipes it still took 20 minutes.

@CHeathTV: I now wonder what quasi-legal things Doug and Kathy did to get me a spot at the University of North Texas …

@ALAtterbury: Today marks the first day someone in Tallahassee wanted to hurl obscenities at me because they thought I was @Mdixon55 from behind

Tweet of the day:

— DAYS UNTIL —

Players Championship begins — 1; St. Patrick’s Day — 4; Jacksonville municipal first election — 6; Florida Capitol Press Corps skits — 6; Andrew Gillum makes a ‘major announcement’ in Miami — 7; Major League Baseball opening day — 15; Scott Maddox corruption trial begins (maybe) — 15; Final season of ‘Veep’ begins — 18; Masters Tournament begins — 29; Final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ begins — 32; Easter — 39; Tampa mayoral runoff election — 41; 2019 Legislative Session ends (maybe) — 51; Mother’s Day — 60; Memorial Day — 75; 2020 Democratic presidential primary debates start — 86; 2019 General Election — 240; Iowa Caucuses — 327; 2020 General Election — 601.

— TOP STORY —

Another poll finds Donald Trump’s approval underwater in Florida” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The latest survey gives Trump 47 percent approval and 49 percent disapproval in the Sunshine State. The tracking numbers had shown a strong start for Trump, but then his Florida ratings dipped underwater by June 2017. They have remained tight in monthly reports ever since, with Trump sometimes coming out a couple of points ahead, most recently last November, and more commonly a couple to a few points behind. More broadly, in a look at potential electoral college challenges for his re-election chances, Trump’s numbers are weaker in several other states he won in 2016 in putting together a new election map for Republicans.

Underwater: Another day, another poll finding Donald Trump underwater in his Florida approval.

— THE ADMINISTRATION —

Ron DeSantis on trip aboard billionaire’s plane: ‘it’s not me getting anything’” via Samantha Gross of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis said his recent plane ride to New York City, chartered by a South Florida billionaire owner of a resort hotel and gambling casino, was “no favor done.” The Feb. 28 excursion was paid for by the Republican Party of Florida and accompanied by Jeffrey Soffer, an Aventura billionaire. “It’s not me getting anything,” DeSantis told reporters. “It’s all been done through the proper legal channels.” Under a 2008 ban on gifts, lawmakers are prohibited from taking any expenditure from a lobbyist or the lobbyist’s clients. The goal of the ban was to stay clear any perception of influence. According to state ethics rules, private air travel must cost the same as coach fare for the same route.

S’all good, man: Ron DeSantis says his New York trip in February on a plane chartered from a South Florida billionaire was all above board. Image via Colin Hackley.

DeSantis says ‘fresh blood’ needed at administrative hearings agency” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Nothing personal, said DeSantis, asked about his ouster of the state’s chief administrative law judge, adding that he wouldn’t mind if he had appointment power over those judges. The Governor spoke with reporters after a Cabinet meeting at the Capitol. Bob Cohen turned in his resignation earlier this week after a meeting with Joe Jacquot, DeSantis’ chief legal adviser. He told Cohen the Governor wanted “to re-examine and re-evaluate the leadership” at the Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH). “I don’t know the guy,” DeSantis told reporters, referring to Cohen. “ … Sometimes you just need fresh blood.”

DeSantis proposal to import Canadian prescription drugs clears first House committee” via Elizabeth Koh of the Miami Herald — The House Health Quality subcommittee voted 12-2 to advance HB 19, which would direct the state Agency for Health Care Administration, via a vendor, to establish a list of drugs and Canadian suppliers that might yield savings for the state. The bill also proposes a similar “international” program that would allow private citizens to import drugs from other countries, permitting wholesale drug distributors and pharmacies abroad to export medication to similar drug distributors, pharmacies and pharmacists registered with the state. Under federal law, the proposal would need the approval of the federal Department of Health and Human Services to take effect. Past federal Health and Human Services secretaries, including current Secretary Alex Azar, have declined to do so.

As Republicans move to scrap blind trusts, Nikki Fried launches one” via Dan Christensen of Florida Bulldog — After years of embarrassing news about mega-wealthy former Gov. Rick Scott’s financial conflicts of interest, state Republicans in the House and Senate are pushing bills to repeal Florida’s controversial qualified blind trust statute. Repeal would outlaw future blind trusts. But that won’t affect a new blind trust quietly set up by … Fried one week after taking office in early January.

— 2019 SESSION —

Hundreds call on legislators to fully implement Amendment 4” via Tori Schneider of the Tallahassee Democrat — More than 500 Florida residents with past felony convictions who should regain their right to vote with the passage of Amendment 4 last year rallied in the Capitol courtyard. The advocacy day was organized by the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition to bring the constituents from all over the state to the Capitol to meet with their local legislators. Attendees highlighted three key issues: full implementation of Amendment 4, eliminating barriers that keep felons from getting jobs and raising the threshold for felony theft from $300 to at least $1,000. “We are here advocating for policies because we want to move the ball forward and help change lives,” said Neil Volz, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition political director.

Implement now! Hundreds of Floridians with past felony convictions rally for lawmakers to fully implement Amendment 4, giving former felons the right to vote. Image via WJCT.

Amendment 4 exception may deny voting rights for felons sentenced for attempted murder” via Emily Mahoney and Langston Taylor of the Tampa Bay Times — Since November, Republican lawmakers have talked about bringing legislation to clarify the law. Now, that clarification is coming in the form of a soon-to-be-filed bill. And one of the key Senators on the committee drafting that bill says he wants to make attempted murder a disqualifying offense. “The question is, ‘What does it include?,’” said Sen. Jeff Brandes. “Obviously murder — first degree, second degree — to me, that means attempted murder, because there’s intent.” But that’s an interpretation Amendment 4 supporters consider too broad. “I don’t think attempted murder is written anywhere within our constitutional language,” said Desmond Meade, president of the Florida Rights Restoration Council.

‘Sanctuary cities’ bill clears second hurdle, but it gets ugly” via Samantha Gross of the Tampa Bay Times — After the vote advocates for the immigrant communities erupted into shouts of “shame on you,” and many were escorted out of the committee room by security. Dozens of advocates left the room and formed a prayer circle “for our undocumented brothers and sisters,” one said. Others waited to thank Democrat Senators for their push back. The Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee voted 5-3 along party lines in the final minute of the meeting, approving the much-contested Senate Bill 168, which died in the Senate last year. While there is no such thing as a sanctuary city in Florida, committee chair Sen. Tom Lee said defining it in law is important for addressing a potential sanctuary city in the future.

Tweet, tweet:

House committee eases gun restrictions at schools, churches” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — A proposal (HB 403) to allow concealed weapons in churches operating on the same grounds as schools cleared its first hurdle in the Florida House, with lawmakers contending it would protect clergy and parishioners. The Criminal Justice Committee also advanced legislation to bar school districts from preventing adults over 18 from storing a firearm in their vehicle on school grounds. Both bills had the strong support of the National Rifle Association. “This bill corrects and problem with the current statute,” NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer said of the latter measure (HB 6005), sharing that she sometimes picks up a great-grandchild from school and has a weapon in her car.

House investigation into UCF calls for more checks and balances” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The misspending of operating money on buildings that took place at the University of Central Florida demonstrated a lack of checks and balances not just between the university’s administrators and its board but also between UCF and the Florida Board of Governors, a House of Representatives investigative report found. The report, released Tuesday, focuses on why the UCF Board of Trustees did not stop misdeeds, and why the Florida Board of Governors did not seem to offer much direction to the university or notice something was amiss, until the Florida Auditor General first revealed $38 million in E&G misspending on Trevor Colbourn Hall last summer.

Senate committee advances school board term limit proposal” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Citing the need to infuse fresh ideas into the decision-making process regularly, Sen. Dennis Baxley urged his colleagues on the Ethics and Elections Committee to support SJR 274. “This is an issue I’ve actually evolved on,” Baxley said. “I’ve always taken a position that the people decide.” What convinced him, he explained, was a meeting with a lawmaker from another state where term limits do not exist. “He had been in his seat for 40 years,” Baxley said, adding that the lawmaker had chaired the state’s banking and finance committee for 15 of those years. “Can you imagine if you had a great idea and this guy didn’t like you? … That became very symbolic.”

House anti-Semitism bill advances with bipartisan support” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Legislation aimed at elevating the fight against anti-Semitism easily advanced in the Florida House Tuesday. The Criminal Justice Subcommittee offered unanimous bipartisan support following emotional testimony from Jewish leaders and students. “As we have seen in recent weeks, anti-Semitism is alive and well in this country,” said Rep. Randy Fine, the bill’s sponsor. Brooke Hurt, of Jewish Students at FSU, noted statistics showing a 45-percent spike in anti-Semitic activities on college and university campuses. “I urge you to support this bill for the safety of myself and those around me,” she said.

Dennis Baxley opposes removing B.K. Roberts’ name from FSU law school building” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Baxley told fellow lawmakers that he could not support legislation repealing the state designation that created B.K. Roberts Hall. It was named after a late state Supreme Court Justice who helped found the law school at FSU but also wrote a pro-segregation opinion, going against the U.S. Supreme Court. “This is a road that I hate to see us go down,” Baxley told fellow lawmakers. “None of us lived in the time of those who came before us.” FSU President John Thrasher is seeking to remove Roberts’ name from the edifice after a university group recommended it.

Slippery slope: Dennis Baxley believes renaming Florida State’s B.K. Roberts Hall is a ‘road I hate to see us go down.’ Image via Phil Sears.

Should genes determine what type of coverage you have? Debate is on.” via Elizabeth Koh of the Tampa Bay Times — The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee voted 5-3 to advance Senate Bill 258, which would prohibit insurers from using genetic information to decide on granting or limiting coverage. Supporters say the bill protects people’s privacy and falls in line with the federal government’s ban on health insurers using that information to decide someone’s health coverage. But opponents, many from the insurance industry, cast the bill as unripe amid a still burgeoning genetic testing marketplace and warned that a wholesale ban on the use of such tests in underwriting could cause rates to rise substantially in Florida compared to the rest of the country.

Booze bills on the move in House — A quartet of alcoholic-beverage related bills found favor in various House panels on Tuesday. HB 261 permits “cooperative advertising,” allowing a beer company to sponsor a concert or festival within a park, for example. HB 1229 benefits craft distillers by letting them hold tastings at events and ship product out-of-state directly to customers. HB 903 would allow smaller craft brewers to “self-distribute,” and HB 1219 would allow spirits makers to produce up to 250,000 gallons a year and still be designated a “craft distillery.”

— MORE SESSION —

Senate President puts suspended Sheriff Scott Israel’s hearing on hold” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Former Broward Sheriff Israel’s hearing in the Senate is on hold until his lawsuit challenging DeSantis’ suspension is resolved, according to a newly released memo. Senate President Bill Galvano wrote to senators that he is accepting a recommendation to delay proceedings until Israel receives a ruling from the courts and exhausts all appeal options. “My decision is not in any way a reflection of the merits of the proceeding, but is necessary to ensure due process,” Galvano wrote.

Delayed: Former Broward Sheriff Scott Israel’s Senate hearing has been delayed pending the outcome of his lawsuit against Ron DeSantis. Image via the Sun-Sentinel.

Changes to FDOT Secretary post part of transportation bill” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — A transportation package that would overhaul the requirements to become head of the Florida Department of Transportation passed its first House committee stop. The bill, (FL HB905 (19R)) makes more than a dozen changes to laws that govern the Florida Department of Transportation, including many directly recommended by the Florida Transportation Builders Association, according to a list of that group’s priorities. It would require that the FDOT secretary be a professional engineer or have an advanced degree in a field such as business administration. Candidates would need five years of transportation experience or 10 years of industry experience. The bill removes the Florida Transportation Commission‘s role in picking the secretary.

DCF proposed to keep foster parent names secret” via Daphne Chane of GateHouse Florida — A bill proposed by the Department of Children & Families that would conceal the names of foster parents from public view will be heard for the first time by a House subcommittee Wednesday. The bill is a response to a records request made by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and GateHouse Media last July as part of an ongoing investigation into alleged misconduct on the part of foster parents. Co-sponsored by freshmen lawmakers Rep. Spencer Roach and Rep. Toby Overdorf the proposed legislation would mean that the press and members of the general public will no longer be able to access the names of foster parents for any reason, making it harder to uncover wrongdoing.

Homestead property tax change could cost Florida school districts millions” via Jeffrey 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. Pasco County property appraiser Gary Joiner informed his school district that, if the law eliminates school taxes for anyone age 65 or older who meets the criteria, Pasco schools would see a decrease of about $744,567. Bill sponsor Sen. Manny Diaz Jr. said he got the idea while on the campaign trail. He met several elderly residents who told him they felt they were unable to afford the taxes on their longtime homesteads and needed relief to be able to remain.

Legislature renews debate over licensing of dental therapists” via Michael Carroll of Florida Watchdog — Two state Senate bills about the issue were introduced this month. Their aim is to begin the process of providing training programs for dental therapists, who would receive three years of dental training and be able to perform basic treatments, including the extraction of primary teeth, taking X-rays, diagnosis and applying sealants. Supporters of dental therapy, including a coalition of 50 groups called Floridians for Dental Access, see the training of dental therapists as a way to expand access to dental care in shortage areas and among Medicaid patients. About 25 percent of Floridians – more than 5.5 million – are residents of regions where the federal government has identified shortages of dental services, according to the James Madison Institute in Tallahassee, which supports licensing dental therapists.

From spittoons to phone-booth-like, soundproof ‘pods’ for Florida Senators” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of Florida Phoenix — Spittoons have long been relegated to history, but the Senate continues to find ways to accommodate its members. In the latest innovation, Galvano approved the installation of three phone-booth-like, soundproof “pods” in a small room at the back of the chamber. The pods include 10-millimeter, tempered glass, with hardwood trim. Inside is a small desk, a whiteboard, a power outlet, LED lighting, a two-fan ventilation system and a “high quality upholstered seat with (an) ergonomic backrest,” according to the manufacturer. The three pods will allow senators to come off the Senate floor and have a place to talk privately on their phones, recharge their phones or work on their laptops.

Assignment editorsRep. Paul Renner, expected to be House Speaker in 2022-24, will speak during “Broward Days at the Capital.” The Palm Coast Republican’s first job out of law school was with the Broward County State Attorney’s office. That’s at 11:30 a.m., Room 216, The Capitol.

Today’s legislative committee hearings

The Senate Military and Veterans Affairs and Space Committee will take up a proposed constitutional amendment that would expand a homestead property-tax exemption provided to disabled veterans, 10 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building.

The Senate Rules Committee will consider a proposal that would prevent the Constitution Revision Commission from “bundling” multiple issues into single proposed constitutional amendments, 10 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building.

The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee meets, noon, Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The House Health Market Reform Subcommittee meets, 12:30 p.m., 306 House Office Building.

The House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee meets, 12:30 p.m., 404 House Office Building.

The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 12:30 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee meets, 12:30 p.m., 212 Knott Building.

The House Workforce Development & Tourism Subcommittee meets, 12:30 p.m., 12 House Office Building.

The Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee will hold confirmation hearings for Lottery Secretary Jim Poppell and Department of Management Services Secretary Jonathan Satter, 1:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.

The House will take up a proposal that would allow patients to smoke medical marijuana in Florida, 3 p.m., House chamber.

The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee will consider a proposal that would make permanent a policy requiring people to apply for Medicaid the same month they become ill or suffer catastrophic injuries, 4 p.m., 412 Knott Building.

The Senate Transportation, Tourism & Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee will hold confirmation hearings for Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Ken Lawson and Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault, 4 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.

— GOV. CLUB. BUFFET MENU —

New England clam chowder; 3 potato salad; tomato, cucumber and feta salad; deli board, cheeses, lettuce, tomatoes and breads; corned beef and cabbage with mustards; grilled pork chop with blackberry BBQ sauce; black and blue sugar stake; boiled red bliss potatoes; vegetable frittata; buttered carrots; and chocolate Bailey’s pecan pie for dessert.

— MONEY WATCH —

It might be the offseason, but political fundraising churns on. 

First, h/t to The News Service of Florida, which compiled the top personal legislative fundraising totals from February, the last full month before barring lawmakers from collecting contributions during Session. 

That Session ban is not a problem for Jenna Persons, a Republican lined up to replace state Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, or Fred Hawkins Jr., a Republican who will be seeking Mike La Rosa’s seat when he is term-limited in 2020. Persons crossed the $110,000 mark last month, raising more than any other legislative candidate. Hawkins hauled in more than $104,000 for his race. 

No problems here: A ban on fundraising during Session does not affect Jenna Persons, who is seeking to replace term-limited Republican Heather Fitzenhagen in House District 78.

Upper chamber: Where the fundraising is upper echelon. Democratic Sen. José Javier Rodriguez is playing it safe. He hauled in more than $66,000 last month for re-election. Republican Sens. Travis Hutson and Debbie Mayfield followed close behind, each around the $60,000 mark. 

Close to home: Candidates for Tallahassee legislative seats are building war chests. Rep. Loranne Ausley, who is hoping to replace Bill Montford in a nearby Senate seat, hauled in more than $100,000 during February. Meanwhile, Allison Tant, the former Democratic Party chair looking to fill in for Ausley, brought in more than $67,000 through the same period. 

Honorable House mentions: Rep. Randy Fine raised $55,500 last month. Rep. Jackie Toledo collected more than $46,000 for her re-election bid. Freshman Republican incumbents Chip LaMarca and Vance Aloupis each crossed the $35,000 mark. 

— THE TRAIL —

—“Nick Fouraker elected Belle Isle Mayor, Karl Shuck succeeds in Council comeback attempt” via Jerry Fallstrom of the Orlando Sentinel

—“Former Mayor Scott Brook wins special election in Coral Springs” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

—“Fort Lauderdale voters approve new police headquarters and improved parks as bonds pass” via Brittany Wallman the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

—“Voters give Hollywood green light to borrow $165 million” via Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

—“Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam cruises to re-election” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

—“Windermere voters say yes to borrowing $5.2M for new police headquarters, town offices” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel

Pinellas elections: Tarpon Mayor Chris Alahouzos wins second term; Pinellas Suncoast Fire raises taxes” via Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times — Alahouzos won a second consecutive term, besting former Mayor David Archie by earning about 56 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results. About 25 percent of voters turned out. Former Recreation Director Doug Andrews, fired from his post when the new council took office, won District 3 with 53 percent of the votes cast. He defeated J. Robert Pryor, chairman of the city budget committee. Residents serviced by Pinellas Suncoast Fire & Rescue District voted to increase their fire fees, greenlighting the latest attempt to increase revenue for a district plagued by financial issues. Nearly 53 percent of the approximately 4,000 votes cast were in favor of the fee increase.

Tweet, tweet:

A week from election, Lenny Curry holds nearly $1 million cash advantage over Anna Brosche” via Christopher Hong of the Florida Times-Union — Brosche will enter the last week of the mayoral campaign with a meager war chest as she tries to keep Curry from surpassing the 50 percent mark that would give him an outright re-election victory. Neither Brosche or Republican Jimmy Hill will be in striking distance of Curry in the March 19 election. Instead, they will spend the final days of the campaign fighting to keep him below a majority, forcing a runoff in May. Brosche’s strategy is focused on winning support from Democrats, while Hill will need his outsider message and conservative background to resonate with Republicans.

War mode: Lenny Curry has a nearly $1 million fundraising advantage over Republican opponent Anna Brosche.

Money race tightening in uber-competitive GOP primary in HD 7” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Shoaf, a Port St. Joe businessman, reeled in nearly $100,000 in true fundraising to his campaign account during January and February. He also loaned his campaign another $20,000 during the same period. A political committee affiliated with Shoaf, Protect Our North Florida Values, had raised $41,000, more than $30,000 of which was still unspent at the end of February. That means Shoaf had by March amassed nearly $211,000 since he entered the race in the middle of December. Of that total, $50,000 have come through personal loans.

Ryan Williams raises $37K in first month for State Attorney run” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The challenge to Orlando’s controversial State Attorney Aramis Ayala is heating up behind her fellow Democrat Ryan Williams, who is running to take her post in Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit. Williams raised more than $37,000 in his first month of fundraising after announcing his intention to challenge his former boss. Ayala became a controversial figure, and a national symbol of opposition to the death penalty, when she renounced capital punishment soon after taking office in 2017. Williams is among those who protested that decision, quitting as one of her assistant state attorneys and is now challenging her. She has not yet filed for re-election.

— STATEWIDE —

Gov., Cabinet briefed on disaster zone caused by Hurricane Michael” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — The storm deposited 920,000 cubic yards of debris in waterways, only 110,000 of which have been removed to date, at the cost of $19.4 million. The final price tag could hit $167 million, Barbara Goodman, deputy director for lands and recreation at the Department of Environmental Protection, told DeSantis and the Cabinet. Meanwhile, state officials estimate agricultural losses at nearly $1.48 billion, including $1.3 billion in timber, according to Jim Karels, director of the Florida Forest Service.

Hurricane leaves behind major fire threat” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Forestry officials expressed concerns that Northwest Florida communities still struggling from a deadly hurricane in October will soon face the threat of massive wildfires and flooding. Depending on how much debris isn’t cleared or picked up, the state could face costly new disasters, Florida State Forester Jim Karels warned DeSantis and members of the Cabinet. “Without being able to clear that land, the fire threat is, California doesn’t have this kind of fire threat,” Karels said. “If we have three weeks without rain and a windy day, we’re ready to go.”

Firetrap: Hurricane Michael not only left devastation but also created a massive fire threat to the Panhandle. Image via Getty.

Jimmy Patronis ‘incensed’ at Florida Bar chief’s letter” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — “You talking about the form letter they sent me?” Patronis said. “I’m not mad. I’m incensed.” He referred to the reply by Bar President Michelle Suskauer to Patronis’ own letter last week seeking the organization’s help against attorneys he suspects of ginning up dubious lawsuits under assignment of benefits agreements. Suskauer essentially said that Patronis might want to contemplate filing ethics complaints against such attorneys. “It is incredibly troubling to me that the solution The Florida Bar has is, ‘Please go to our website and file a complaint,’ ” he said.

Volusia loses Amendment 10 challenge; could appeal to higher court” via Dustin Wyatt of the News Journal — Volusia’s challenge against Amendment 10 has been denied by a Leon County Circuit judge, setting up a potential appeal in the county’s bid to preserve its nearly 50-year-old structure of government and right to home rule. The ruling is expected to come in writing this week. County Attorney Dan Eckert and County Chair Ed Kelley said an appeal would be appropriate, though it would have to be approved by the full council at its March 19 meeting.

Florida Supreme Court to hear PB County mass shooting case” via Jane Musgrave of the Palm Beach Post — At the urging of parents whose children died in last year’s massacre in Parkland, the Florida Supreme Court agreed to decide a Palm Beach County case that also involves a horrific mass shooting. The deadly rampage that claimed 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and a 2010 shooting in Riviera Beach that left two adults and four children dead are far different. However, both involve allegations that government wrongdoing contributed to multiple deaths. How much victims of mass shootings can recover in damages from lawsuits filed against government agencies is unsettled, said the 4th District Court of Appeal when it in January asked the high court to weigh.

Judge sides with charter schools and safety fight” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Administrative Judge John Van Laningham sided with Renaissance Charter School Inc., which operates six schools in Palm Beach County and wanted the School Board to provide “safe school” officers. The School Board refused, leading to the legal battle. Van Laningham pointed to a law passed after the February 2018 mass shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that included a requirement for safe-school officers. “(The law) clearly and unambiguously requires school boards and superintendents — not charter school operators — to ‘establish or assign’ SSOs (safe-school officers), with the assistance of local law enforcement agencies, to every public school within their respective jurisdictions, including charter schools,” Van Laningham wrote.

For your radar —Former South Fla. Water Management District board member dishes in interview” via AgNet Media — In an exclusive seven-minute interview, former SFWMD board member Brandon Tucker talks straight and shares several of his many concerns. Tucker doesn’t mince words when discussing misinformation he says confuses the public and pits some interests against others, often at the expense of progress. He also describes directly how he feels agriculture is being unfairly singled out for blame, while the Governing Board is now being stripped of any voice from the farming community at the same time.

Straight talk: Former SWFMD board member Brandon Tucker shares many concerns about public confusion and conflicts of interest at the board in a new exclusive interview. Image via The Tucker Group LLC.

Algae plaguing Florida’s iconic springs triggers major legal battle” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — Clay Henderson, executive director at Stetson University’s Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience, said authorities, with a nod from the new Governor, could regroup and revise their springs strategy. Otherwise, environmentalists say, what remains is a do-or-die fight. Many citizens groups have labeled the state’s approach as so feeble for regulations, projects and funding it would lead to further degradation of springs even if it succeeded as designed. Their legal challenge, to be conducted in September as a state hearing, will be immersed in pollution rates, sources and remedies, Floridan Aquifer dynamics and nature’s limits.

Rainy days don’t quench Florida-Georgia water war” via Jonathan Ringel of the Daily Report — Florida wants more water to counter ecological harm damaging Apalachicola’s oyster industry. The Chattahoochee River supplies most of metropolitan Atlanta’s drinking water, and the Flint River supports South Georgia agriculture. Last year, the high court sent the case back to a federal judge. His mandate: Decide if Florida has shown its injuries can effectively be redressed by limiting Georgia’s consumption of water from the basin without a decree binding the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Georgia said “it is simply impossible” for the state to increase flows by the amount Florida wants. Florida said Georgia “has drastically overstated the costs of a decree. The true annualized costs would be at most $35 million — a very small fraction of 1 percent of Georgia’s state budget.”

Florida gas prices head toward a 5- to 10-cent spike” via Malena Carollo of the Tampa Bay Times — State gas prices averaged $2.46 a gallon Monday, down a penny over the week, while Tampa Bay gas was $2.43 per gallon, down 4 cents from last week. “Gasoline supplies are beginning to tighten as refineries conduct seasonal maintenance and switch to summer-blend gasoline,” said Mark Jenkins, AAA spokesman, said. Nationally, gas was $2.48 a gallon on average Monday.

— LOCAL —

Partner in Little Haiti project, IMG Academy director charged in college admissions probe” via Rene Rodriguez and Colleen Wright of the Miami Herald — Robert Zangrillo, one of the main investors in the controversial Magic City Innovation District project in Little Haiti, has been charged by the Department of Justice with conspiracy to bribe athletic department officials at the University of Southern California to gain admission for his daughter. The CEO of the Miami-based investment firm Dragon Global, Zangrillo was one of 33 parents accused of cheating on college exams and posing their children as athletic recruits to gain admission at prestigious schools such as USC, Yale and Harvard. Mark Riddell, the director of college entrance exam preparation at IMG Academy in Bradenton, was also charged with taking SAT and ACT exams in the place of students and correcting students’ exams for money.

High-profile Miami real estate developer Robert Zangrillo is among those charged in a national college bribery case that ensnared actresses Lori Laughlin and Felicity Huffman. Image via CBS Miami.

Post by Hillsborough County Republican Party compares Democrats to Nazis” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — An incendiary Facebook post has once again created controversy for the Hillsborough County Republican Party — this time, one comparing Democrats to Nazis. The post appeared on the party’s Facebook page and a similar tweet was sent from the party’s Twitter account last Thursday night. “Democrats do a lot of projection with the word ‘Nazi,’ but it’s THEIR platform that resembles it, not Republicans,” the post and tweet said. It went on to say that Democrats and Nazis both advocated “socialism,” “no guns,” “censorship,” “media mind control,” “abortion,” “hate Jews” and “worship the government.” Both were deleted by the next afternoon after a social media storm including outrage from prominent Republicans.

Ex-Margate Commissioner David McLean sentenced to 5 years in corruption case” via Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — It could have been worse for McLean, convicted last month on charges of bribery, unlawful compensation and official misconduct. He could have been legally sentenced to a maximum of 50 years. The prosecution was not inclined to throw the book at him. Prosecutor Catherine Maus told Broward Circuit Judge Michael Usan she would be satisfied to see McLean sentenced within the guidelines — anywhere from four to nearly eight years. McLean used his influence as a commissioner to secure political favors for Lutchman “Chris” Singh, the landlord of Dave’s Tiki Bar. In return, Singh gave McLean a break on $8,000 in rent and two cash payments totaling $6,000.

— D.C. MATTERS —

How did Li Yang go from spa owner to Trump selfie queen? ‘She likes to show off,’ mom says” via Sarah Blaskey, Nicholas Nehamas, Caitlin Ostroff and David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Ever since a photograph surfaced of President Donald Trump smiling with a Florida woman who owns a chain of Asian-themed massage parlors with a reputation for selling sex, cable news and social media have been overrun with theories about how Li ‘Cindy’ Yang metamorphosed from an anonymous businesswoman in a sometimes unsavory industry into the selfie queen of GOP galas and Mar-a-Lago fundraisers.

Lawmakers again seek to pressure Iran over fate of hostage Bob Levinson” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Levinson, of Coral Springs, disappeared 12 years ago. He’s the longest-held American hostage in U.S. history. On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, a Democrat whose district includes Coral Springs, and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, introduced legislation calling on Iran to fulfill its promises to assist in the Levinson case. Deutch and other Florida leaders have been calling attention for years to Levinson. Deutch, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism was joined by other lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, a Palm Beach County Democrat.

Under pressure: Marco Rubio and Ted Deutch are among the Florida lawmakers seeking to put pressure on Iran to release hostage Bob Levinson, the longest-held American hostage in U.S. history. Image via Alex Wong.

A zombie campaign spent thousands on dinners and a trip to Disney, watchdog group says” via Noah Pransky for the Tampa Bay Times — The Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan watchdog group in Washington, filed a federal complaint Monday against a political action committee created by Jacksonville Republican Ander Crenshaw, saying the group spent Crenshaw’s leftover donations on Apple products, expensive dinners and a $5,000 trip to Disney World. “It appears to be another example of a former member of Congress thinking they can use leftover campaign funds as personal slush funds,” said Brendan Fischer, the center’s director of federal reform. The personal use of campaign funds violates federal law. But a January 2018 Tampa Bay Times/10News WTSP investigation found more than 100 former politicians running zombie campaigns that kept spending long after their political career had ended, often financing their lifestyles, advancing new careers and paying family members.

— 2020 —

Trump’s budget proposal offers preview of upcoming campaign” via Zeke Miller and Katherine Lucey of The Associated Press — Trump’s budget plan increases spending on his border wall and the military but is light on fresh ideas heading into his re-election campaign. His budget for the next fiscal year, which has little chance of advancing in Congress, largely focuses on deep spending cuts and pushing more money toward established goals such as his long-promised wall, improving the care of veterans and combating opioid abuse. Trump’s latest also offers an early window into his upcoming campaign. “I think, as he gets closer to 2020, he will need to lay out what a second term would look like,” said Republican consultant Alex Conant. “Voters always want to know, ‘What have you done for me lately?’”

Preview of coming attractions: Donald Trump’s budget proposal could be a foreshadowing of his strategy for re-election in 2020.

‘Who is real, and who isn’t?’ Pollsters struggle to measure huge 2020 field” via Steven Shepard of POLITICO — The logjam of nearly two dozen declared or likely Democratic presidential candidates is overwhelming public pollsters trying to measure the 2020 primary. New surveys are cramming up to 23 Democrats into their questionnaires after the [DNC] set a low, 1 percent polling threshold to gain admittance into the party’s first primary debates. The miles-long list of candidates has created an unusual set of methodological challenges for pollsters already battling declining engagement with their surveys. But pollsters say the criteria also put them in a no-win situation: A pollster’s decision about whether to include a candidate or not could be a make-or-break choice for that campaign, especially the lesser-known and first-time White House hopefuls hoping to make the debate stage.

— OPINIONS & ANALYSIS —

Swampy: DeSantis appointees have financial conflicts, tax debt” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — DeSantis is replacing Scott’s picks with his own people … and the swamp stink is creeping back. DeSantis announced his decision to appoint “AlligatorRon Bergeron to the water district on Jan. 29. Bergeron’s construction company inked a $25 million contract with the district eight days later. One of DeSantis’ appointments to the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority racked up a tax lien of $115,000. First, it doesn’t seem like too much to expect a public official to get his own financial house in order before trying to run anyone else’s. Second, it’s a recipe for trouble to put people with financial problems in positions of power. Don’t take it from me. Take it from the feds.

Remake state water policy with remade district board — minus Bergeron” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — At last month’s meeting, the district’s governing board couldn’t hold any votes because there wasn’t a quorum. DeSantis has yet to name a board member from the area north of Lake Okeechobee. His choice to be Broward County’s representative, Bergeron, has been delayed. Bergeron’s expertise would enrich the board’s knowledge. Nevertheless, he should pull himself from consideration. After his appointment, Bergeron’s company signed a $25 million contract with the district to construct a stormwater treatment area. This is a substantial contract, one that could force him to recuse himself on any number of related issues. Plus, the arrangement would do nothing to change the optics of a board long viewed as too close to the industry it oversees.

A damning report on UCF, but university budget cuts aren’t the remedy” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — The good news is the state report makes multiple recommendations that, if followed, should help Florida’s universities avoid future accounting fiascoes, while strengthening boards of trustees and the Board of Governors, which oversees universities. You know what the report does not recommend? Cutting the budgets of Florida’s universities. Last week, House Speaker Oliva hinted that might be coming, saying a “course correction” is needed for universities. House Republicans have been jonesing for higher ed budget cuts. That’s so weird. The reason UCF took money from the wrong fund to construct a new classroom building was too little money, not too much, as Oliva supposes.

It began with anti-Semitism, but it’s about even more” via Randy Schultz for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Hypocritical partisan ranting and social media have left our political landscape tinder-dry. Ihan Omar deserved her party’s rebuke for doubling down on anti-Semitism. But then Fox News provocateur Jeannine Pirro yelped that Omar violated the Constitution by wearing her hijab, for which Fox apologized. Islamophobia is real, too. Republicans who rail at Omar’s comments show their hypocrisy. Most GOP lawmakers were silent in 2017 when Trump refused to condemn neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, chanting, “Jews will not replace us!” Political provocateurs claim that they are promoting free speech and debate. In fact, most are promoting themselves and the extremes are fracturing our democracy. The sensible center must make the right points.

— MOVEMENTS —

Personnel note — Courtney Coppola named state’s medical marijuana ‘czar’ — The Department of Health confirmed that Coppola, who has been “acting” in the position, was offered the job of Office of Medical Marijuana Use director permanently (or as permanent as can be in state government) and accepted. She will be paid $100,000 a year. Coppola replaces former director Christian Bax, now in private consulting. “She regularly worked 12-plus-hour days … Much of the progress the (office) made is directly attributable to Courtney’s efforts,” he told Florida Politics. “She should be incredibly proud of what she has accomplished, and I’m excited to see the great things she does as Director.”

— ALOE —

Need a ‘safe’ place to wear your MAGA hat? A new app will help conservatives find one.” via Amy Wang of The Washington Post — Earlier this month, an Oklahoma developer launched “63red Safe,” described as “an app to keep conservatives safe as they eat and shop.” The idea, according to founder Scott Wallace, is to “simply get these politics out of restaurants and businesses” — by gauging whether they would be friendly to conservatives. “Reviews of local restaurant and businesses from a conservative perspective, helping [ensure] you’re safe when you shop and eat!” reads the app’s description. Wallace, who describes himself as a lifelong Republican, said he conceived the idea in November when he was out with his youngest child and considered buying “one of those MAGA hats.” He wondered if it would make them targets for harassment, even in Oklahoma City.

Aladdin’s new trailer finally gives us something to sing about” via James Whitbrook of Gizmodo — Disney’s just dropped the new Aladdin trailer, and it really gives our first properly good look at the movie, instead of just awkward teasing. Try not to be surprised though, because after all, this a Disney remake: it just looks like the Aladdin you’ve known and loved for years, but not animated. Thanks to that we get to hear a few snippets from the best songs in the original film — “Friend Like Me” and “A Whole New World”— in the process, and they’re not half bad! Aladdin’s magic carpet rides into theaters May 24 with Mena MassoudNaomi Scott, and Marwan Kenzari.

To view the trailer, click on the image below:

New Harry Potter coaster goes into forest, backward, at 50 mph” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — New descriptions of the ride provide facts such as speed, maneuvers, height requirements and characters seen in association with Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. The ride debuts at Islands of Adventure theme park June 13. Riders will “experience a freewheeling coaster flight where they’ll twist, turn and rush forward — and backward — at speeds up to 50 mph,” said a news release. The coaster’s storyline involves a trip into the Forbidden Forest, a dark and dangerous locale referenced in all seven of the original “Potter” books by J.K. Rowling.

Special Olympics USA Games coming to Orlando in 2022” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — “I’m proud of us being able to host the games in 2022,” DeSantis said. “It’s an incredible opportunity for athletes, volunteers, coaches, particularly those who call Florida home. But it will help economic activity in our state, you better believe that.” Sherry Wheelock, president and CEO of Special Olympics Florida, said Orlando beat out five other cities to host the event, but she didn’t name which cities. Orlando’s large amount of venues, access to waterways and theme parks put the city over the top, she said. “There’s just a lot of potential from venues, and I think it’s going to be a great family-friendly place, a destination to bring athletes,” Wheelock said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis joined Special Olympics Florida to announce a historic membership milestone of serving more than 50,000 athletes. Orlando will also host the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games.

— BIRTHDAYS —

Happy birthday to Rep. Scott PlakonBob Asztalos of the FHCA, Jennifer Wilson of Schumaker Advisors, and Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore.

 

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

Written By

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

Hugh Culverhouse calls for boycott of University of Alabama

Headlines

State lawmakers object, district apologizes, after Orlando valedictorian blocked from giving speech on immigrants

APolitical

Greyhound racing supporters ready lawsuit to ‘overturn’ Amendment 13

Headlines

Raccoon Thomas Cope Raccoon Thomas Cope

Justice for the raccoon? Petition launched to disbar lawyer who forced animal off boat

APolitical

Sign up for Sunburn

Receive our team's agenda-setting morning read of what's hot in Florida politics. Delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday.

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

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

Connect
Sign up for Sunburn

Receive our team's agenda-setting morning read of what's hot in Florida politics. Delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday.