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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 3.14.19

Coffee is for closers. So is Sunburn, your morning rundown of Florida politics.

During this afternoon’s Senate floor Session, lawmakers will pause to recognize the one-year mark since the death of Air Force Staff Sgt. Carl Enis.

Husband to lobbyist Angela Drzewiecki, Tallahassee resident Enis was killed in action while deployed in Iraq.

Joe Clements took the photo below of Carl Enis on a Wyoming trip early one morning. No filter added. Photo via Facebook.

One person who knew Enis well was Joe Clements, the co-founder of Tallahassee based Strategic Digital Services. Clements eulogized his friend in “Honoring Carl Enis, a genuine American hero,” an op-ed he wrote last year based on a Facebook post describing his friendship with Enis and his wife.

Please take a moment to read this touching tribute to an amazing person.

Tony Soprano once advised: “‘Remember when’ is the lowest form of conversation.”

That shouldn’t apply to the political junkies who read Sunburn.

Two attorneys of Florida-recount fame will on Thursday night dive into the debacles that followed the 2000 and 2018 elections.

Barry Richard, who represented President George W. Bush in 2000 and Andrew Gillum last year, will be joined in discussion by David Boies, who was retained by former Vice President Al Gore.

The “Recount Redux” event is hosted by the First Amendment Foundation as part of the organization’s annual Sunshine Week.

A 6 p.m. award reception will take place at the Florida State University law school Rotunda. The discussion follows at 7:15 p.m. in Lecture Room 101. Tickets are available here.

Keeping with a theme of involving those who witnessed history, Sun Sentinel columnist and Capitol Press Corps veteran Steve Bousquet will moderate the talk.

The conversation is expected to focus more on the 2000 presidential recount, but Richard and Bousquet are certain to chip in with insights from the most recent ballot headache.

Before the talk, FAF will honor the 2018 Sunshine Award recipients.

This year’s winners of the Lucy Morgan Award for Open Government Reporting are Kathleen McGrory and Neil Bedi of the Tampa Bay Times for their investigation into the heart surgery unit at All Children’s Hospital.

As well, Florida Supreme Court Communications Director Craig Waters will be recognized with the Pete Weitzel/Friend of the First Amendment Award. FAF is honoring Waters for his role as the public face during the 2000 recount.

Waters also is credited with bringing the Supreme Court “into the digital (and social media) age,” FAF President Barbara Petersen said. Alongside former Chief Justice Gerald Kogan, Waters also kick-started the practice of televising oral arguments at the high court.

Fresh off embargo — A bare majority of Florida voters, 51 percent, say they definitely won’t vote for President Donald Trump if he is the Republican candidate in the 2020 presidential race, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Another 31 percent say they definitely would vote for the president and 14 percent say they would consider voting for him. More from the Q-poll here.


Be sure to read the blog post that really pissed off @ChrisLatvala — Jack Latvala’s spending in Jacksonville’s mayoral race is just more harassment.


@Poniewozik: What if Beto [O’Rourke] just sends out a massive text blast tomorrow that he’s re-forming his band?

@GovRonDeSantis: I thank the Florida Legislature for taking action on medical marijuana and upholding the will of the voters.

@JohnMorganESQ: I wish Wally’s was open. Or even Boots N Buckles. I’d head down there and have a few with my BFF @PolkCoSheriff Grady Judd. But I guess I’ll just have to go to @ChrisDorworth‘s house and have a drink with @MattGaetz.
@JimRosicaFL: The inevitable blowback: … Various unnamed people upset that the House did not pass the bill allowing smokable medical marijuana at 4:20 p.m.

@Fineout: Top politicians in Fla. such as @GovRonDeSantis @SenRickScott said on the campaign trail that their friendship with @realDonaldTrump would yield benefits for Florida. Today @MarcoRubio Scott and other members of Congress are saying Trump’s proposed budget shortchanges the state

@ALAtterbury: Committee meetings feel like Thanksgiving dinner, says @CarlosGSmith. Topics come up and there are disagreements but still love at the table. To that point, he really dislikes that whole “intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity” survey.

@GrayRohrer: OH in the Capitol: “I feel bad for people who have to go through this on a daily basis”

@AnaCeballos_: “Fabulously no” should be how every member says nay on a bill from now on.

@NateSilver: People think the takeaway message of 538 is “polls are awesome and we can solve everything with numbers!!!” when really it’s “human judgment is full of shit so you might as well go with the polls because every other way of forecasting elections sucks even worse.”

@ComfortablySmug: Very happy that Twitter is hiding engagement numbers on tweets. As an established account with a large following, I’m pleased that this essentially freezes the growth of smaller accounts and prevents any competition to my content.


St. Patrick’s Day — 3; Jacksonville municipal first election — 5; Florida Capitol Press Corps skits — 5; Andrew Gillum makes a ‘major announcement’ in Miami — 6; Major League Baseball opening day — 14; Scott Maddox corruption trial begins (maybe) — 14; Final season of ‘Veep’ begins — 17; Masters Tournament begins — 28; Final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ begins — 31; Easter — 38; Tampa mayoral runoff election — 40; 2019 Legislative Session ends (maybe) — 50; Mother’s Day — 59; Memorial Day — 74; 2020 Democratic presidential primary debates start — 85; 2019 General Election — 239; Iowa Caucuses — 326; 2020 General Election — 600.


In landslide vote, Florida House agrees to end ban on smoking medical marijuana” via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald — The Florida House affirmed the right to smoke medical pot, approving the Senate bill to include “smoking” to the language in the medical marijuana constitutional amendment. The bill allows patients to receive up to 2.5 ounces of whole flower cannabis every 35 days as recommended by their qualified doctor. The bill passed 101-11. In addition to repealing the ban on smoking, the bill passed also establishes a Medical Marijuana Research and Education Board. The board will oversee a research consortium established by the state university system’s Board of Governors, which will receive $1.5 million for the program. Instead of only including the University of Florida as the previous law did, all universities can apply to participate.

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:


The people have spoken.

Scratch that, they’ve been surveyed.

The latest issue poll from Quinnipiac University shows that “Floridians are willing to support paths to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, want stricter gun control, are worried about climate change, and also are fine with providing tax dollars for scholarships for lower-income students to attend private schools,” Scott Powers reports for Florida Politics.

Timely: So-called sanctuary cities are a hot-button issue. It’s a partisan discussion inside the Legislature, and outside, too. Ninety-percent of Republican voters in the poll backed Gov. Ron DeSantis’ immigration proposal, compared to just 37 percent of Democrats.

A vast majority of Florida Republicans are behind Ron DeSantis’ immigration stance, new polling shows. Image via Colin Hackley.

Hmmm: DeSantis wants to use taxpayer dollars to expand a school choice scholarship program. The kicker? A larger percentage of Democratic voters than Republicans sampled support this idea.

No-no word: Sixty-six percent of voters polled are “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” that they or a member of their family “will be personally affected by climate change.” Meanwhile, 45 percent of those sampled agreed that climate change is going to have a “significant negative effect on Florida” in their lifetime.


Quinnipiac poll: Ron DeSantis’s approval rating highest of any Fla. governor in 10 years” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Florida voters approve 59 — 17 percent of the job newly-elected DeSantis is doing, the highest approval rating for a Sunshine State governor in 10 years, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Even Democrats approve of DeSantis, 42 — 28 percent. A total of 67 percent of Florida voters are “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with the way things are going in the state today. Another 30 percent are “somewhat dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied.” DeSantis may be benefiting in part from starting with the robust economy, which emerged under Scott and remained as DeSantis took office. The Quinnipiac Poll found 71 percent of voters say Florida’s economy is “excellent” or “good,” the highest level ever for this measure.

DeSantis lobbies for PGA Tour to make Miami return“via Garry Smits of the Florida Times-Union — DeSantis visited the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass On Wednesday and took the opportunity to do a little lobbying with PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan to have a Tour event returned to the Miami area.

’White Boy Rick’ to remain in Florida prison for now” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida — Richard Wershe Jr., a felon known as White Boy Rick, will remain in prison after DeSantis took no position on his request for an early release. In one of his first high-profile clemency decisions since taking office, DeSantis said he would consider Wershe’s case, but questioned the incidents that led Wershe to be charged in Florida. While in jail in Michigan, Wershe became involved in a multi-state car theft ring that also involved his sister. “When he’s described as a model prisoner, a model prisoner doesn’t commit additional felonies in prison,” DeSantis said. “I think it undermines the case to say that.”

After spending more than 30 years behind bars, Richard Wershe Jr., known as White Boy Rick, will remain in prison after Ron DeSantis took no position on his request for early release. Image via Twitter.

 More arrests in $17 million investment fraud scamJeremy Kee Anderson and Nick Nicholas, Jr. have been arrested and charged in the scheme, where seniors were allegedly scammed via investments backed by fake medical receivables. The announcement was made by the Florida Office of Financial Regulation. Alleged co-conspirators Irwin and Eric Ager have already been convicted in the plot that snatched $17 million from various victims. “We are aggressively fighting fraud to protect Floridians’ hard-earned money and to encourage continued investment in Florida’s future,” said Attorney General Ashley Moody. “Preying on Florida’s seniors for your own financial gain is absolutely despicable,” added CFO Jimmy Patronis. “Our seniors worked their entire lives to build a nest egg and we must do all we can to protect them.”

Nikki Fried says her blind trust is an ‘obligation’ to avoid conflicts of interest” via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald — While bills to repeal Florida’s blind trust laws move through the state Legislature, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Fried quietly became the second statewide officer to have a blind trust. Former Gov. Scott was the first. Fried said she created the trust in January to stick to “an obligation not to have any conflicts of interest.” Some say creating a blind trust actually creates the perception of a conflict of interest, but Fried said it’s more preventive than that. “I wanted to make sure that there were no conflicts of interest, and so I’ve done everything that I needed to do and to make sure that is the case,” she said. The only asset in the trust is Ignite Holdings LLC, which was incorporated the same day the blind trust was created.

— 2019 SESSION —

Senate panel advances DeSantis’ Lottery, DMS appointments” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday considered DeSantis’ appointments for Florida Lottery secretary and Department of Management Services secretary, approving both picks. James Poppell was tapped by Gov. Scott to take over the Florida Lottery in June 2017. That appointment was confirmed unanimously last year, and DeSantis opted to keep Poppell in the position. The committee also considered sitting Department of Management Services Secretary Jonathan Satter, who has led the department since he was appointed by DeSantis six weeks ago. Both Poppell’s and Satter’s recommendations cleared the Senate panel with a unanimous vote.

Senators target childlike sex dolls” via The News Service of Florida — The Rules Committee unanimously approved the measure (SB 160) focused on “obscene or lewd materials,” with lawmakers pointing to a need to combat pedophilia. Sen. Lauren Book, who was sexually abused by a nanny as a child, said the anatomically correct dolls “are rampantly used by sexual deviants to act out pedophilic desires.” A committee staff analysis said the importation to the U.S. of sex dolls that resemble children is becoming increasingly prevalent. “Such dolls are manufactured in China, Hong Kong, or Japan and are shipped to the U.S. labeled as clothing mannequins or models in order to avoid detection,” the analysis stated.

Dollhouse: Lauren Book says childlike sex dolls “are rampantly used by sexual deviants to act out pedophilic desires.” The Senate is seeking to ban them in Florida. Image via Colin Hackley.

Senate ready for bundling ban” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — A bill ending the practice of “bundling” Constitutional amendments cleared the Rules Committee and now heads to the Senate floor … single-subject limitation for the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) … would bring the CRC into accord with the Legislature, which already has a single-subject limitation for proposed amendments. The House version has just one stop before the floor also, showing momentum on both sides of the rotunda.

Senate panel targets ‘retroactive eligibility’ for Medicaid” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations committee approved a bill that would restrict eligibility for Medicaid claimants … non-pregnant adults would have to enroll in a plan within the calendar month. Eligibility was cut to 30 days last year at legislative request effective Feb. 1, but that sunsets at the end of June, creating a sense of urgency.

Senate panel OKs veteran homestead exemption amendment” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A proposed constitutional amendment to extend a homestead property tax discount for disabled veterans to a surviving spouse was approved by the Senate Military and Veterans Affairs and Space Committee Wednesday. The measure (SJR 886) was put forward by Sen. Jeff Brandes. While some of the homestead exemptions currently provided to veterans already carry over to a spouse upon death, the committee’s Senior Attorney Cindy Brown said that’s not the case for the exemption for disabled veterans. “We currently provide five exemptions or tax discounts on homestead property to veterans,” Brown said. “Of the five that we provide, and they’re very specific in what’s required, the only one that does not currently carry over to the surviving spouse is the one where the veteran is disabled due to it being combat-related.”

’CON’ health care proposals continue rolling in” via the News Service of Florida — While House Speaker José Oliva seeks to eliminate “certificate of need” regulations in the health care system, Florida hospitals continue to submit CON applications to the state. The Agency for Health Care Administration received eight applications for new hospitals and services this month. Three competing companies have submitted applications to open rehabilitation hospitals in Hillsborough County. The House Health & Human Services Committee is scheduled to take up a bill (HB 21) that would eliminate the CON program.

House files bill with broader school voucher expansion than the Senate’s proposal” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — The Florida House Education committee filed a major education bill that would create a new private school voucher paid for by general revenue dollars in an aggressive expansion of voucher programs much broader than what was proposed by the Senate. According to the bill analysis, the House version would offer 28,000 of the new vouchers, called the Family Empowerment Scholarship, for next school year. That’s about double what the Senate pitched for its first year of the program. Both plans are designed to eliminate the waiting list of about 14,000 students currently approved to receive the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, which is offered to low-income families.

House seeks to revive malpractice caps” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — A Florida House panel backed a proposal that would cap damages in medical malpractice cases and, according to a sponsor, send a message to the state’s highest court. The proposal (PCB CJS 19-02) would reinstate caps on noneconomic — commonly known as “pain and suffering” — damages in medical malpractice cases that the Legislature initially approved in 2003. A sharply divided Supreme Court in 2017 found the damage limits unconstitutional. The bill also would put into law a finding that the Supreme Court rulings were “decided contrary to legislative intent and existing case law interpreting the equal protection clauses of the state and federal constitutions.” The approval was the second time that the Civil Justice Subcommittee supported placing caps on jury awards.

Bill to give tax refunds to job training orgs passes House panel” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A proposal from Rep. Jay Trumbull to offer sales tax refunds to job training organizations was approved by the House Workforce Development and Tourism Subcommittee. The measure (HB 643) states that an eligible organization “is entitled to a refund of 10 percent of the sales tax remitted to the [Department of Economic Opportunity] during the prior state fiscal year on its sales of goods donated to the organization.” That money must be used to boost employment hours or offer job training services to disadvantaged individuals, low-income workers or veterans. “Potential companies that would be eligible for something like this would be Goodwill, Salvation Army, EasterSeals,” Trumbull said.

Jay Trumbull is boosting tax breaks for workforce training organizations. 

Recovery care centers clear House panel” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The House Health Market Reform Subcommittee approved a bill by Rep. Cyndi Stevenson that would clear the way for recovery-care centers. In such centers, patients who are in stable condition would be able to stay for up to 72 hours after surgical procedures or hospital discharge. Stevenson said that $55 million could be saved annually if this program is implemented, big savings with health care cost increases outpacing any revenue stream.

Lawmakers weigh use of genetic information” via The News Service of Florida — The House Health Market Reform Subcommittee approved one of the proposals (HB 879), filed by Rep. Jayer Williamson. Health insurers are already barred from considering customers’ genetic information, and the bills would extend that prohibition to life insurers. Supporters say the bills are needed to shield private health information. But the insurance industry is fighting the proposals.


Tom Lee wants answers on toll road settlementLee wants more info from the Florida Department of Transportation on why it picked Conduent to overhaul the Florida toll roads billing system, Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida reports. Hiring Conduent required dumping the previous vendor, Cubic Transportation Systems. Cubic sued and the department paid $3.6 million to settle the lawsuit in 2015. Lee wants to DOT Secretary Kevin Thibault to provide “documentation justifying this settlement and payment” as well as all correspondence between the department and Cubic regarding the settlement payment. Conduent bungled the SunPass overhaul, leading to many billing problems, and Lee has also asked Thibault whether DOT reviewed the company’s work on toll systems in other states, some of which experienced the same problems.

SunPass woes: Tom Lee is demanding an explanation about SunPass issues from DOT Secretary Kevin Thibault, shown here with Minority Leader Kionne McGhee. Image via Twitter.

Budget-wise, will this be ‘biggest trade-bait’ Session in years?” via Florida Politics — House communications director Fred Piccolo quickly nipped a morning rumor in the bud: “No allocations have been released” by House Speaker Oliva and Appropriations Committee chair Travis Cummings. Piccolo did add, “Subcommittee chairs have been informed that the Speaker envisions the budget produced by the House to reduce spending per capita. Member projects would obviously be a part of that discussion.” (Per capita means on average for each state resident.)

DCF proposes to keep foster parent names secret” via Daphne Chen and John Kennedy of the GateHouse Capital Bureau — A bill proposed by the Florida 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. 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. According to Roach, also a Guardian ad Litem volunteer who works with abused and neglected children, the measure is necessary to protect foster parents from reprisal from biological parents.

Proposal for university ‘intellectual freedom’ survey sparks debate” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A proposal that Florida survey its universities to gauge “intellectual freedom” sparked sharp debate in a House committee over whether the state’s institutions are indoctrinating students in liberalism or whether the move is being proposed because conservatives want a reason to crack down on academic speech they don’t like. “There is a concern that there is more indoctrination than education taking place,” in Florida’s state universities, declared Republican state Rep. Cord Byrd, chair of the House Higher Education and Career Readiness Subcommittee. “The idea that we don’t have intellectual diversity in our state university system is wrong,” declared Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando.

UCF pulls request for PECO money” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Misty Shepherd, UCF’s interim vice president for administration and finance, surprised the Florida House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee by announcing the withdrawal of the university’s request for legislative authorization for $20,379,277 Public Education Capital Outlay money to address deferred maintenance on the school’s 30-year-old-plus building. Shepherd said the request was withdrawn because the Florida Board of Governors was not forwarding the project on its PECO priority list this year. She did not say anything to imply that the university was pulling the proposal in part as an act of penance in response to the misspending scandal. “My understanding is never has a project, once on the PECO list, been taken off the PECO list,” committee chair Randy Fine said.

Criminal justice reformers lobby Legislature for change” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — The Florida Campaign for Criminal Justice Reform is backing legislation (SB 734) by state Sen. Darryl Rouson that would prevent the state from suspending driver’s licenses for nondriving offenses. The group views the punishment as one additional barrier for someone who otherwise wants to be a productive citizen. There’s been a general push to give felons who’ve completed their sentences more liberties once they’ve returned to society. FCCJR is now prioritizing removing occupational licensing barriers.

>>>Today is Clay County Day at the Capitol. Home county of Charles Merrill of Merrill Lynch, Harlem Renaissance artist Augusta Savage, Olympic Gold Medalist Caleb Dressel, NFL Superstar Cliff Avril, and oh yeah, both Appropriations Committee Chairs.”

Today’s legislative committee hearings

The Revenue Estimating Conference will update projections of general revenue, a key source of funding for schools, health care programs and prisons, 9 a.m., 117 Knott Building.

The Senate Appropriations Committee meets at 10 a.m., 412 Knott Building.

The House Commerce Committee meets at noon, 212 Knott Building.

The House Public Integrity & Ethics Committee meets at noon, 404 House Office Building.

The House State Affairs Committee meets at noon, Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The Senate will hold a floor session at 1:30 p.m., Senate Chamber.

The House Education Committee meets at 3 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The House Health & Human Services Committee meets at 3 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Judiciary Committee meets at 3 p.m., 404 House Office Building.

The Revenue Estimating Conference will discuss what is known as “outlooks” for the Tobacco Settlement Trust Fund and general revenue, 4 p.m., 117 Knott Building.

The House Rules Committee meets at 5:30 p.m., 404 House Office Building.

Assignment editors — State Rep. Kamia Brown will hold a news conference to discuss issues faced by black women and girls in Florida, 10 a.m., 4th-floor Rotunda.

Assignment editors — Government watchdog group Florida TaxWatch will present new research about the economic impact of the Florida College System, 12:30 p.m., 4th-floor, outside of Senate Chambers.

George Gainer socks: how this year’s Florida Senate gag gift got people talking about Hurricane Michael again” via Katie Landeck of the Panama City News-Herald — Covered with oversized polka dots of a photo Sen. Gainer’s face, the blue dress socks have been worn by state senators, cabinet members, lobbyists, and many, many more. Photos of people lifting their pant leg to show a little bit of sock have been posted to Twitter by various lawmakers. They’ve already had to reorder an extra hundred pairs. Twice. “Everywhere I go, there are the socks,” Gainer said. “They’ve gone viral.” And when he’s not there to talk about the socks, “they look down and see my face, and that has everything to do with Hurricane Michael,” he said. “We are not forgotten.”


Irish bacon and cabbage soup; mixed green salad; tropical fruit salad; pickled beets, onions and goat cheese salad; deli board, cheeses, lettuce, tomatoes and breads; fish and chips with malt vinegar; Irish lamb stew with parsley dumplings; grilled Bailey sausage with sautéed peppers and onions (bangers and mash); Irish champ; broccolini polonaise; buttered corn; chocolate cream pie and old-fashioned apple pie for dessert.


New ‘rough-cut’ mobile ad supports Jason Shoaf — A new campaign video is supporting Republican candidate Shoaf in HD 7, which covers the rural reaches of North Florida. The extremely low-cost production is from Carl Thomas, the brother of Wakulla County Commissioner (and incoming President of Florida Association of Counties) Ralph Thomas. While going through several wardrobe changes, Carl Thomas says: “When you’re making 500,000 (dollars) off taxpayer money, how in the world can you get a raise without raising taxes? On April 9, do you want someone who makes loopholes so they can raise their salary, or do you want someone to raise your salary? The choice is clear.”

To view the video, click on the image below:

Allison Tant clears $130K for state House bid” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics  Former Florida Democratic Party chair Allison Tant has raised more than $130,000 since entering the race for Leon County’s House District 9 six weeks ago. Tant’s fundraising total includes $67,625 in hard money raised last month as well as $1,131 raised through her new political committee, People First Leadership for Florida. The February haul follows a strong performance in January. “I am beyond grateful for the early support my campaign continues to receive. I am running for the state legislature for one simple reason: to get things done for our community,” Tant said in a news release. Tant filed for HD 9 in mid-January after current HD 9 Rep. Loranne Ausley announced she would forego a third term in order to run for Sen. Bill Montford’s District 3 seat in 2020. Currently, Tant is the only candidate running in the Democratic-leaning district.

Money race heating up in HD 22” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The Republican primary to replace term-limited GOP Rep. Charlie Stone is starting to get competitive. Former Rep. Kurt Kelly, an Ocala Republican, cracked the $20,000 mark in both campaign finance reports he’s filed since entering the race in January. With the primary election around 20 months away, Kelly has raised $46,225 and had more than $42,000 on hand heading into March. Joe Harding, the second-in candidate, filed for the District 22 seat last month and his first finance report was only just behind Kelly’s — for what it’s worth, it did best Kelly’s inaugural report. The Williston Republican trapped $22,025 in hard money last month, with $14,000 of that total flowing in via max checks. He started this month with $21,830 on hand.

Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam launches presidential exploratory committee” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Just one day after celebrating their re-election, most Mayors would power through the hangover, get back to work and start plotting out their new term. Instead, Mayor Messam has announced he’s exploring a run for President. “Washington is not working for the American people, and these big issues need fresh eyes and bold ideas from someone closer to the people, so our voice can be heard,” Messam said in a statement announcing the move. “Together, we can fundamentally change our country for the better and tackle these challenges with actions that match the scale and urgency of this moment. I do not believe that the best ideas come from Washington.”

Next stop, D.C.? Newly re-elected Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam has launched an exploratory committee to examine a presidential campaign.

First poll of Tampa mayoral runoff gives Jane Castor a sizable lead” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — A Frederick Polls internal survey shows Castor with a 58 percent to 24 percent landslide lead over David Straz with the remaining voters undecided. While that one figure is bad enough for Straz, further questions paint an even more grim picture. Castor’s positive message resonates with voters more than Straz’s. After pollsters described each candidate’s basic positive message, Castor jumped to 63 percent while Straz only gained three points. “Jane Castor is poised to win the Tampa mayoral runoff election, according to the latest polling,” said Keith Frederick, the pollster at Frederick Polls. “Jane is popular, on the right side of what voters want in their next Mayor. The current trends show no path to victory for David Straz.”

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 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. Crenshaw represented Jacksonville from 2001 to 2017. A month later, he converted his candidate campaign fund, with $59,867 remaining, into a political action committee, which has more freedom on how it spends contributions.


Florida falls in national teacher pay ranking to 46th” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — According to the report, which became public this week in North Carolina, Florida’s teachers earned an average of $48,168 in 2017-18, slightly below the $50,000 mark that some state lawmakers have sought and $12,294 less than the national rate. The national average teacher salary increased from $59,534 in 2016-17 to $60,462 in 2017-18. Average teacher salaries in 2017-18 ranged from a high of $84,227 in New York to a low of $44,926 in Mississippi. For 2018-19, the teachers union projects Florida’s gap will grow to $13,387.

Pinellas sheriff urges Florida superintendents to adopt Guardian program, arm school personnel” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Sheriff Bob Gualtieri sent a letter to school superintendents across Florida, calling on them to “maximize the use of the school Guardian Program authorized under Florida law.” Gualtieri, chairman of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, said the commission recently voted to urge all 67 school districts in Florida to adopt the Guardian Program signed into law last year. Several school districts have balked at the idea of letting teachers and other personnel carry guns, including the Leon County School Board, which approved a resolution that only sworn law enforcement officers are permitted to have guns on campus. Gualtieri expressed disappointment at how many districts have not adopted the Guardian Program.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri is frustrated by the number of Florida school districts not participating in the Guardian Program. 

FPL ready to launch largest community solar program in U.S.” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — If the Florida Public Service Commission signs off, Florida Power & Light is ready to roll out a program allowing customers to get their homes onto its expanding solar grid. Dubbed “FPL SolarTogether,” the new community solar program will allow ratepayers to subscribe to a portion of FPL’s new solar power capacity. In return, they’ll get credits that the will reduce their monthly bills over time. “This program will more than double the amount of community solar currently in the U.S.,” FPL CEO Eric Silagy said. “More importantly, FPL SolarTogether will allow individual customers to personally support Florida’s affordable, clean energy revolution while lowering their electric rates and bills over the long term.” Major power users committed to subscribing on day one include Broward County, 7‑Eleven, the City of Coral Springs, The Wave Condominium Association in Hollywood, Broward College and Florida Atlantic University.

Waste Management attorneys shut down court hearing after judge refuses to exclude reporter” via Dan Christensen of — In November, Broward Chief Judge Jack Tuter ruled that the Davie recycling company suing Waste Management for $126 million in damages had provided sufficient evidence to establish efforts to conceal certain corporate records was phony, and that the trash giant may have sought legal advice to perpetrate a crime or fraud. But things unraveled shortly after the hearing began when Miami attorney Frederick Fein asked the court to clear the courtroom of “all non-parties” to prevent leakage of any information contained in confidential documents. “Who do you want to exclude, the Bulldog?” said Tuter. “Yes,” said Fein. Fort Lauderdale attorney Chris Fertig, representing Florida Bulldog, told the judge that the hearing should be an “open proceeding” for the public and the media.

Florida A&M University President Larry Robinson guests on newest “Fluent in Floridian” — Robinson has been a steadfast presence at FAMU since joining the faculty as a visiting professor in 1997. A nuclear chemist and researcher by trade, Robinson went on to serve as interim president at FAMU on three separate occasions. In 2017, he was finally named the 12th president of Florida’s only historically black public university. He talks with SalterMitchell PR President (and FAMU grad) Heidi Otway on the role of historically black colleges and universities, his vision for the future, and details about a new partnership with tech giant Google. The podcast can be heard here.


Volusia loses Amendment 10 challenge; could appeal to higher court” via Dustin Wyatt of the Daytona Beach 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.

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.

Going out with a bang: Bob Buckhorn’s approvals soar as he prepares for post-City Hall life” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — A Frederick Polls survey of Tampa voters this week found 71 percent of respondents had a favorable opinion of the incumbent Mayor. Of those, 51 percent indicated a “very favorable” opinion of Buckhorn. Only 17 percent indicated an unfavorable opinion. Buckhorn’s administration has been marked by his unwavering enthusiasm for his city, undeniable charisma (what he likes to call his “Tampa swagger”) and some pretty sizable wins for the city. He brought the city through the Great Recession while also managing economic development and growth throughout the city, with a particular emphasis on downtown and along the city’s iconic but previously underutilized riverfront.

Exiting on a high note: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is leaving office with soaring approval ratings. Image via Tampa magazine.

— 2020 —

Beto O’Rourke confirms to El Paso TV station that he’ll run for president” via KWTX 10 News — O’Rourke, who captured national attention in his ultimately unsuccessful bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018, will announce his candidacy. O’Rourke is planning a series of stops in Iowa. Two people familiar with O’Rourke’s planning told AP the Democrat is expected to visit Burlington Iowa, a working-class community on the Mississippi River in the southeastern part of the state. He had already planned to visit the University of Northern Iowa on Saturday to campaign for a Democrat running in a special state Senate election, AP reported. He has added events, including a house party Saturday evening in Dubuque, a Democratic hub in northeast Iowa.

Making it official: Beto O’Rourke will announce his intentions to run for President, starting with the campaign swing through Iowa.

Howard Schultz offers vision for an independent presidency” via Juana Summers and Ellis Rua of The Associated Press — In a speech at Miami Dade College, Schultz laid out his plans for protecting democracy and free enterprise and sought to show how a president elected outside the two-party system could repair the current dysfunction in Washington. Schultz also vowed to sign only legislation that has bipartisan support and to not put forward any Supreme Court nominee who cannot be confirmed by two-thirds of the Senate. “The courts have become yet another battlefield in the ongoing war between Democratic and Republican leaders,” Schultz said. “These battles have undermined our faith in the rule of law and the impartiality of the entire judicial system. All of this has to change.”


Florida leaders blast Donald Trump’s budget for Everglades” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Florida’s Republican U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Scott and U.S. Reps. Brian Mast and Francis Rooney are among Florida leaders decrying the budget proposal released by Trump for providing only about $70 million for Everglades restoration projects instead of the $200 million that Florida had requested. The criticism included a statement from The Everglades Foundation, which turned its hope toward lobbying Congress for the money that Trump is not proposing in his budget. DeSantis and Florida’s entire bipartisan, 29-member congressional delegation had requested $200 million for this year. The President’s budget calls for $63.3 million for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for South Florida Everglades Restoration and $5.5 million for Operations and Maintenance.

Bill named for Tampa Bay area veteran seeks to expand benefits for those exposed to toxic herbicides” via Steve Andrews of News Channel 8 — Reps. Gus Bilirakis and Michael San Nicolas of Guam introduced into Congress the Lonnie Kilpatrick Central Pacific Herbicide Relief Act. If passed, the legislation would grant presumptive herbicide exposure status to U.S. service members who served on Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands and Johnston Atoll. “It’s going to give us that first step toward giving care to our veteran community and hopefully that will be the first step in acknowledging that all the people of Guam who suffer the diseases at an extraordinarily high rate that are affiliated with these dioxins that they will finally be able to get some help as well,” Rep. Nicolas said. “They’ve waited too long,” said Bilirakis.

Tampa Bay area Vietnam veteran Lonnie Kilpatrick finally received benefits for exposure to Agent Orange before he passed away from cancer in 2018.


The public’s right to know is threatened in the Legislature” via Lucy Morgan for Florida Phoenix — One potential gift for the NRA includes a little bill that would make photographs, video or audio recordings that depict the scene of a mass killing exempt from the public records law. It has sparked objections from First Amendment advocates and news organizations that have used videos and audio recordings to chronicle the response to shootings in several instances. Many of us have used crime scene photos to question whether law enforcement did its job. If the bills pass as written, Floridians would have to wage a costly court battle in order to see the kind of scene that might make a voter support gun control. As hard as it is to view the aftermath of mass violence, we need to preserve the right to do so. You never know when it might save lives.

Keep digging on SunPass contract” via the Tampa Bay Times — Sen. Lee is right. The Thonotosassa Republican says someone should be held accountable for the fiasco involving a lucrative state contract to process SunPass tolls. The entire episode reeks of favoritism and conflicts of interest, and state lawmakers and the state inspector general should investigate. The FDOT paid a company $3.6 million in 2015 to drop its bid protest over the SunPass contract that went to Conduent State & Local Solutions. What is clear is that Conduent had friends in high places in Tallahassee during Scott’s time as governor. Taxpayers deserve more answers about how and why Conduent won it — particularly when its performance record was less than stellar and the governor at some point had undisclosed financial ties to the company.

Sanctuary city bill keeps making a comeback in Florida for one reason: Politics” via Fabiola Santiago of the Miami Herald — The chair of Florida’s Republican Party, Sen. Joe Gruters, is the sponsor of a bill that bans “sanctuary policies” in the state and requires all local governments and law enforcement agencies to support the implementation of immigration law. Gruters’ GOP colleagues are pushing SB168 through Senate committees as if it were a hot ticket item. The measure is nothing but a scam to intimidate and harass immigrant communities — and an excuse to arrest and detain people who aren’t criminals to feed the for-profit federal immigration detention system, a booming industry in Florida. Most importantly for the GOP, it’s a way for Gruters, who co-chaired the 2016 Trump campaign in the state, to show support for Trump’s rhetoric with the base.


Tweet, tweet:

Adam Putnam named head of Ducks Unlimited” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics  Former Agriculture Commissioner and GOP gubernatorial candidate Putnam has a new gig: CEO of the conservation group Ducks Unlimited (DU). “I joined Ducks Unlimited when I was 16 and have a lifelong appreciation of the conservation work the organization accomplishes,” Putnam said in a news release announcing the move. “It’s humbling to be chosen as DU’s CEO, and as a lifelong hunter, angler and conservationist, I look forward to building on our record of success.” Putnam will take over the CEO position from Dale Hall starting April 1. He and his family plan to move to Memphis, where the group is headquartered. Putnam’s pay package wasn’t disclosed but Hall’s last reported salary was nearly $510,000 in 2016.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Melissa Akeson, Rubin Turnbull & Associates: Florida East Coast Industries

Keaton Alexander, Silver Palm Consulting: Florida Polytechnic University, Garcia Family Farm, The Nature Conservancy

Don Bell: The Partnership for Safe Medicines

Brady Benford, Ballard Partners: Foundation for Seminole State College of Florida

Carole Duncanson, CLD & Associates: Tampa Bay Watch

Jonathan Johnson, Hopping Green & Sams: Hobe Sound Ranch

Kenneth Kniepmann, Unshaken: Florida Charter School Alliance, The Arza Consulting Group

Jessica Love, Mary McDougal, Kirk Pepper, GrayRobinson: AvMed, Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta, Rx Development Associates

Will McKinley, Erik Kirk, PooleMcKinley: DISYS

Joel Overton, Larry J. Overton & Associates: Florida Pace Providers Association

Jerald Paul, Capitol Energy Florida: The Wrightway Emergency Water Removal

Gary Rutledge, Jonathan Costello, Diana Ferguson, Corinne Mixon, Rutledge Ecenia: Outdoor Amusement Business Association

Thaddeus Seymour: University of Central Florida

— ALOE —

Same tournament, new course with Players moving to March” via Doug Ferguson of The Associated Press — The field is as strong as ever, with everyone from the top 50 in the world ranking in the 144-man field. The prize money is richer than ever at $12.5 million, with $2.25 million going to the winner. And it would seem to be the same Stadium Course at the TPC Sawgrass that has hosted the PGA Tour’s signature event since 1982. But it’s not. A move to March changes everything. Rye overseed making it lush, green and longer than when it was held in May on Bermuda grass that could be fast and fiery. The prevailing wind can come out of an entirely different direction, which can make that island green on the par-3 17th look a little smaller.

Whole new game: The Players Championship is an entirely different course in March than in May. Image via PGA Tour.

Players Championship picks, predictions: One of these nine golfers will win at TPC Sawgrass” via Kyle Porter of CBS Golf — 1. Justin Thomas: My pick to win and the most likely player in the field to do so. 2. Xander Schauffele: X-Man is hiding in plain sight. 3. Brooks Koepka. 4. Rickie Fowler. 5. Francesco Molinari. 6. Justin Rose. 7. Tommy Fleetwood: As is my wish for Thomas, I wish this course was baked to hell and running forever for Fleetwood. 8. Ian Poulter. 9. Rory McIlroy: Statistics tell me that even without winning he’s been the best golfer on the PGA Tour in 2019.

Walt Disney World shakes up ticket prices again” via Richard Bilbao of the Orlando Business Journal — Disney apparently bumped up a single-day ticket by as much as 23 percent to $159, depending on when you visit. For example, the lowest single-day tickets to Magic Kingdom will cost around $109, while the same single-day ticket from Dec. 25-31 will cost $159. Tickets during the Thanksgiving time frame is $139 for a single-day pass. Many price changes are spread across several options: One park per day, for one-day range from $109-$159 — previously $109-$129; Four days (must be used in 7 days): $101-$141 — previously $93-$109; Park Hopper, for one day: $169-$219 — previously $164-$184; Four days: $121-$161 — previously $112-$128. It also doesn’t hurt that Disney will open the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge land at Walt Disney World in August.

The new Star Wars-themed foods coming to Disney parks are out of this world” via Shahrzad Warkentin of Red Tricycle — Blue & Green Milk: The very same farm-fresh blue milk made famous by Luke Skywalker in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Outpost Mix: This sweet and salty popcorn mix with a hint of spice. Ronto Wrap & Turkey Jerky: A protein-packed snack of Turkey Jerky or Ronto Wrap filled with spiced grilled sausage and roasted pork. Kaduu Ribs: Smoked, sticky short ribs served with a blueberry corn muffin and cabbage slaw. Fried Endorian Tip Yip: Enjoy this decadent Endorian chicken dish served with vegetable mash and herb gravy. Ooga’s Breakfast Drinks. The Outer Rim, Bespin Fizz, Yub Nub and Fuzzy Tauntaun are some of the handcrafted alcoholic beverages you can find at Ooga’s Cantina.


Happy birthday to Wilbur Brewton, Seth Platt, and Jeremy Susac. A special shout  to my fellow DMB road warrior, Drew Heffley, who when he’s not listening to DMB is a lobbyist for the Florida Medical Association.

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

Written By

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

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

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