Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 3.15.19

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Florida politics and Sunburn — perfect together.

Let’s stipulate that Bob Buckhorn loves everything about being Mayor of Tampa. But of all the things that it will pain him to surrender when he leaves office in a few weeks, turning the Hillsborough River green might hurt the most.

The River O’ Green Fest is the St. Patrick’s Day tradition that Buckhorn started in 2012. It has grown into a must-attend celebration of life, fun and kelly-green river water. The fact that it is always held on a Saturday and has only fallen on the actual St. Patrick’s Day once doesn’t matter at all.

The end of an era: This weekend, Bob Buckhorn will hold his final River O’Green St. Patrick’s Day celebration as Tampa Mayor.

The fun runs this Saturday at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park in downtown Tampa from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. It includes music, food trucks, various Irish beers, games and activities, along with perhaps tears from Buckhorn’s Irish eyes as he contemplates the end of it all.

The festival suits Buckhorn’s outgoing personality and agenda perfectly. During his two terms as Mayor, he has worked to transform Tampa’s once-sleepy downtown into a place where people from all over the city can gather at all times.

A non-toxic dye, safe for humans and pets, is used to turn the Hillsborough into Tampa’s version of the River Shannon that winds 224 miles through Ireland.

The celebration has received notice outside of Tampa. Last year, Wallet Hub ranked Tampa 10th in the country for the best St. Patrick’s revelry.

Happy 10th anniversary to Bascom Communications and Consulting, the state’s premier political comms consulting and public affairs firm. When there is a legislative battle that needs fighting, a message conveyed or a high-stakes campaign, few are better suited and motivated to win than the Bascom team. We can’t wait to see what the powerhouse firm of Sarah Bascom, Kristen Bridges, Lyndsey Brzozowski, Kelsey Switchers and Sarah Demont have in store for their next decade — and beyond.

On the new episode of ‘He Said, She Said: Two-For-One’ — Peter Schorsch and Michelle Todd Schorsch talk the latest in pop culture and news from Tallahassee, as well as interview two major players in Florida politics — Senate President Bill Galvano and state Rep. Chris Sprowls, in line to become Speaker in 2021. Both guests will discuss the top priorities of the Legislature and what is important in their respective chambers. Galvano shares his MCORE infrastructure plan; Sprowls explains the intent behind the University of South Florida consolidation. Michelle will also touch on the passing of Luke Perry, and talks #MeToo and the women’s soccer gender pay gap. Peter discusses one of his favorite topics — Game of Thrones, as it enters the final season — and compares anti-vaxxers to flat earthers.

To get the podcast, visit, iTunes or Stitcher.


@RealDonaldTrump: VETO!

@DDale8: Trump to Breitbart on how the left plays tough: “I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump — I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point and then it would be very bad, very bad.”

@JoeHaganSays: As Twitter chews over Beto O’Rourke, worth noting that O’Rourke himself criticizes Twitter as “mean.” “No human, least of all me, is strong enough to completely withstand the impact that has on you, and it can’t be healthy,” he says.

@GusCorbella: The media’s fascination with the likes of O’Rourke, OcasioCortez, Gillum and other photogenics without any substantive experience is a major reason for the mess we find ourselves in our national politics.

—@KaraScannell: SAVE THE DATE: Roger Stone‘s trial in DC is set for November 5, 2019.

@VernBuchanan: I just voted to make the Mueller report open to the public. The American people have a right to see what special counsel Robert Mueller presents to the attorney general.

@JimRosicaFL: A spokeswoman for @TheFlaBar said no decision has yet been made on a complaint filed against attorney and Congressman @mattgaetz: “Still at the staff level.”

@SkylarZander: When the debate about Education Scholarship Accounts turns to arguing that the income threshold is too high, you are making the argument that not all kids are created equal. This bill is a great step in the right direction hopefully it will be universal one day.

@GNewburn: For the life of me I will never understand how “this rich person can afford private schools, so of course he’s for a school choice!” is a thing. It’s literally the opposite of the entire point of school choice.

@SaraSClements: Ummmm someone in back of the House Education committee room just called Rep. [Randy] Fine an a**hole. Classy, people. Very classy.

@MDixon55: The veggie garden bill might be biggest example of Twitter impacting the standing of a bill. A bunch of puns and social media buzz and it became a high profile bill. Compared to other issues, it’s not. Policy worth taking up during the 60, sure, but it’s not a top-tier issue

@JimRosicaFL: … Reminder that @HealthyFla will do rulemaking for smokable MMJ but @FDACS doing rulemaking for edibles.


St. Patrick’s Day — 2; Jacksonville municipal first election — 4; Florida Capitol Press Corps skits — 4; Andrew Gillum makes a ‘major announcement’ in Miami — 5; Major League Baseball opening day — 13; Scott Maddox corruption trial begins (maybe) — 13; Final season of ‘Veep’ begins — 16; Masters Tournament begins — 27; Final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ begins — 30; Easter — 37; Tampa mayoral runoff election —39; 2019 Legislative Session ends (maybe) —49; Mother’s Day — 58; Memorial Day — 73; 2020 Democratic presidential primary debates start — 84; 2019 General Election — 238; Iowa Caucuses — 325; 2020 General Election — 599.


Economic ‘angst’ dims Florida’s state budget forecast” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — State revenues will remain level heading into next fiscal year chiefly because of about $200 million in unspent reserves that will roll over from the current year, a top state economist said Thursday. “The result over the two years is essentially zero” difference, said Amy Baker, coordinator of the Office of Economic & Demographic Research. “We’re going to add approximately $200 million to this year, and we’re going to subtract approximately $200 million from next year” from the revenue forecast, she said. “Which, for legislative purposes, means that they’re essentially at zero — they’re back to where they started from.”

Revenue estimate tweaked as budget work nears” via Dara Kam and Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Bottom line, not much changed. Economists scoured data and estimated that lawmakers would have about $7.4 million less in general revenue than forecast in December. But that is just a fraction of the $33.5 billion in general revenue that the state is projected to bring in during the 2019-2020 fiscal year. The economists huddle periodically throughout the year to update estimates of general revenue, which plays a crucial role in the budget. Senate President Galvano expects the Senate to start going through the budget process early next week before the full Appropriations Committee approves an initial 2019-2020 spending plan. Galvano, speaking to reporters before the economists released the updated forecast, said he anticipated the estimate “may come down a little bit.”

Tweaking the budget: Bill Galvano expects the Senate to pore over next year’s budget starting sometime early next week.

—“State economists estimate small hit to Florida’s general revenue fund” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times


Ron DeSantis files motion to dismiss ex-Sheriff Scott Israel’s lawsuit” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — DeSantis filed a motion asking a judge to dismiss former Broward Sheriff Israel’s lawsuit challenging his authority to suspend him from office. “It is unfortunate that Scott Israel doesn’t like the facts,” DeSantis wrote on Twitter, announcing he was challenging Israel’s petition in court. Israel, a Democrat, filed a petition earlier this month in Broward County Circuit Court challenging DeSantis’ suspension order. The lawsuit accuses DeSantis of overstepping his authority and engineering a “political power play.” Israel, a Democrat, filed a petition earlier this month in Broward County Circuit Court challenging DeSantis’ suspension order. The lawsuit accuses DeSantis of overstepping his authority and engineering a “political power play.”

Tweet tweet:

DeSantis steps up Alzheimer’s efforts” via the News Service of Florida — DeSantis is directing the state Department of Health to add Alzheimer’s disease and related types of dementia as a priority in the State Health Improvement Plan. An estimated 560,000 people have Alzheimer’s disease in the state. That figure is projected to increase by nearly 29 percent by 2025. In addition to directing the department to include Alzheimer’s in the plan, DeSantis also directed the agency to apply to be a Center of Excellence under what is known as the Federal BOLD Act. That 2018 law authorizes $20 million annually over five years to, among other things, help educate the public about the disease.

Tweet, tweet:

— 2019 SESSION —

House voucher expansion bill passes its first committee after emotional debate” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — “This bill right here is the reason why I ran for the Legislature,” said Rep. Byron Donalds, who’s a prominent school choice advocate. “It’s about favoring the parents who have one goal in mind: the best education of their children … It’s a crime we have not done this sooner.” The House bill, like its Senate companion, proposes to create a new voucher called the Family Empowerment Scholarship, which is designed to eliminate the waiting list of about 14,000 low-income students for the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship. Both chambers propose to fund the voucher through general revenue dollars typically set aside for school districts. However, the House version represents a much more aggressive approach.

Keep in mind what middle class really means:

Senate backs VISIT FLORIDA as House Speaker balks” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — The Senate proposal (SB 178), unanimously backed by the Senate Appropriations Committee, seeks to fund and reauthorize — with no end date — the Florida Tourism Industry Marketing Corp. which does business as VISIT FLORIDA. Sen. Joe Gruters, who is sponsoring the bill, said he hasn’t spoken with Speaker José Oliva but hopes the House “comes around” on the agency. He “What Visit Florida does for our economy as challenges come up in all of our local areas, it’s critically important for our success,” Gruters said. “We are a tourism-driven economy, and they are our marketing arm. And when Florida is at its lowest points, they’re there helping prop us back and letting people know we’re back in business.”

What James Miller is reading —Senators compromise on new felony-theft threshold” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Senate Appropriations — typically a key step in the legislative process — coalesced around a proposed $750 felony-theft threshold, up from the current ceiling of $300. That’s a more modest increase than the $1,500 value provided in a bill (SB 406) carried by state Sen. Jeff Brandes, who voted in favor of the smaller threshold that came out of the budget panel. Brandes told reporters afterward that he’s ultimately seeking a “more reasonable” felony ceiling than what’s currently in law. He said he doesn’t want “to die on the hill of $1,500 versus $750, or $1,000 or $1,200.” “If we’ve got to move beyond this one hurdle, then that’s something I’m willing to do.”

Vaping ban ready for Senate vote” via the News Service of Florida — Without comment, the Senate set up a vote on a measure (SB 7012) designed to carry out a prohibition on vaping in indoor workplaces. A final Senate vote on the ban could come as early as March 21. Meanwhile, the House Health & Human Services Committee approved a similar measure (HB 7027). The proposal, sponsored by Lithia Republican Rep. Mike Beltran, is now ready for a House floor vote. The standards, which mirror a long-standing ban on smoking tobacco in indoor workplaces, would add vaping to a state law that bars people under the age of 18 from smoking tobacco within 1,000 feet of schools.

No vape: Mike Beltran is behind the House bill that would implement a vaping ban approved by voters in a constitutional amendment last year.

Tom Leek: Let’s ‘close the book’ on UCF misspending probe” via Annie Martin and Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — The House Committee on Public Integrity and Ethics met to review a staff report on how the University of Central Florida spent or planned to spend $85 million in leftover operating dollars on construction, a violation of state rules. “I think this report is fair and accurate and it’s not unnecessarily harsh or inappropriately lenient,” said committee Chairman Leek. “I think it strikes the right tone and I think it’s supportable in every respect.” He added, “I want to close the book on this unfortunate chapter in UCF history.” The report did find trustees didn’t know they couldn’t use operating dollars on construction but also found they “neglected to review information closely and failed to ask detailed questions.”


What Joe Clements is reading —Florida Senate honors local airman who died in Iraq crash, and death of Liberty County couple” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — Senators began a floor Session with a moment of silence to honor the life of Air Force Staff Sgt. Carl Enis of Tallahassee. And they ended with a reflection on the life of Liberty County baseball coach Corey Crum and his wife Shana, were both electrocuted and killed during a volunteer workday at the county’s baseball field. The 31-year old Enis was a pararescue jumper — someone who provides emergency medical aid in humanitarian and combat environments. He and six others perished March 15, 2018, in a helicopter crash in western Iraq. “When the Navy SEALs get into trouble PJs are the ones who rescue them,” said Bill Montford. “They are known as the guardian angels of the military.”

The Senate held a moment of silence for Air Force Reserve Pararescuemen Staff Sgt. Carl Enis, who was among the seven Airmen killed in a helicopter crash in Iraq, March 15, 2018.

Certificate of need repealed teed up in House” via the News Service of Florida — The bill (HB 21) is a priority for Speaker Oliva. Just hours after it cleared the House Health & Human Services Committee, it was placed on a list of bills that will be considered by the full House. The Senate Health Policy Committee is scheduled to take up a certificate of need measure (SB 1712). The bills are not identical, and Senate President Galvano has made clear he doesn’t endorse the complete elimination of the regulatory program, as the House bill would do.


Here’s how to attend Andrew Gillum’s ‘major announcement’ in South Florida” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Gillum has now released a time and location for his already-teased “major announcement” in South Florida. Gillum now says he’ll be appearing March 20 at Florida Memorial University’s Smith Conference Center for his announcement. Doors open at 5 p.m. A page has also been set up for those wishing to RSVP for the event. “I hope you’ll join me as I outline my vision for how we can turn Florida blue in 2020 — and ensure Donald Trump is a one-term president,” Gillum said in a statement announcing the site. After losing the 2018 Governor’s race to DeSantis, Gillum has still received buzz as a possible 2020 presidential candidate.

Gird yourself: Get ready to attend Andrew Gillum’s ‘major announcement,’ which is quickly approaching.

Democrat Phil Ehr files to take another run at Matt Gaetz in 2020” via Jim Little of the News Journal —Phil Ehr filed paperwork Tuesday to make a second run as a Democratic candidate in the 2020 election in the heavily Republican 1st Congressional District currently represented by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Pensacola. Florida’s 2020 primary for non-presidential candidates is still 16 months away. Ehr sought the Democratic nomination in 2018 against Jennifer Zimmerman. Ehr, a retired Navy officer and former Republican, led the fundraising race against Zimmerman but lost the 2018 primary more than 20 percent.

Shevrin Jones state Senate campaign crosses $100K fundraising mark” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Shevrin Jones‘ Senate District 35 campaign is set to a report a $105,000 fundraising haul in its next filing report with the Florida Division of Elections. The $105,000 total spans from the beginning of Jones’ campaign on Jan. 4 until the start of the 2019 Legislative Session. It includes money raised both by the campaign itself as well as Jones’ PC, Florida Strong Finish, and is made up solely of outside contributions. Jones, a West Park Democrat term-limited in the House, is pursuing the seat currently held by Sen. Oscar Braynon II. Braynon is also being forced out by term limits, making the 2020 contest for SD 35 an open one.


The same as Mexico? Florida’s GDP is actually comparable: report” via Joe Mario Pedersen of the Orlando Sentinel — The Sunshine State’s gross domestic product is about the same amount as the entire country of Mexico, according to a new report by, which compared the top 10 highest economic-producing states in America to the GDP’s of other nations. The United States produced $20.5 trillion in goods and services, comprising a quarter of the world’s total GDP, according to the report. Florida’s GDP topped over $1 trillion in July of 2018 and has grown faster than Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, and Argentina’s economy as a result of rising manufacturing jobs, University of Central Florida economic analyst Sean Snaith told the Orlando Sentinel.

 “As marijuana gets legalized, companies drop THC testing of employees” via Jeff Ostrowski of the Palm Beach Post — Florida is one of many states that have legalized cannabis for medical use, and more than 190,000 patients are on the state registry of medical marijuana users. Some states, including California, Colorado, Nevada, and Washington, have legalized weed entirely, and employers have begun to rethink whether marijuana use should disqualify new hires. “Quite a number of our clients are no longer testing for THC,” said Joyce Chastain, a human resources consultant and former president of the HR Florida State Council. “They don’t want to lose good people.” In the context of changing attitudes toward pot — and with unemployment at 50-year lows — even employers in staid industries like the auto business are loosening their rules about marijuana use.

Parkland parents push for background checks on ammunition” via Alex Daugherty of the Tampa Bay Times — Parkland parent Fred Guttenberg and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz are offering a new plan to require universal background checks on ammunition purchases. The background checks for ammunition would work the same way as background checks for firearms. Every time someone of legal age attempts to purchase ammunition, the buyer would be subject to a background check, which Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy said would take 30 seconds to one minute to complete. “Even though ammunition is every bit as necessary for the operation of a firearm as the firearm itself, federal law does not require a background check to prevent prohibited purchasers from purchasing ammunition,” Wasserman Schultz said. “Jaime’s Law will close this ammo loophole.”

Ammo check: Fred Guttenberg is teaming up with Debbie Wasserman Schultz to require universal background checks for the purchase of ammunition.

Stop selling data, Jimmy Patronis tells genetic testing firms” via Jacob Ogles at Florida Politics — Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis said companies providing genetic testing should think twice about selling that data. After FamilyTreeDNA admitted to sharing test data with the FBI, Patronis said companies must treat such information like medical records. “Before medical records can be released, explicit consent is required,” Patronis said. The statement came days after a state Senate panel debate outlawing the use of genetic testing results by life insurance companies.

Insurer argues justices should uphold ‘AOB’ ruling” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Attorneys for Ark Royal Insurance Co. filed a brief at the Supreme Court in a St. Lucie County case stemming from water damage to a home. Restoration 1 contends that the 4th District Court of Appeal improperly backed restrictions included in the homeowners’ policy with Ark Royal Insurance. Restoration 1 of Port St. Lucie filed a lawsuit against Ark Royal Insurance Co after policyholders John and Liza Squitieri sustained water damage to their home. Liza Squitieri contracted with Restoration 1 of Port St. Lucie to do cleanup work and assigned the benefits to the firm. Ark Royal refused to pay the full amount, pointing to an insurance contract that required approval for benefits to be assigned to the contractor.

Marsy’s Law protects privacy for victims and families, legal opinion says” via Jacob Ogles at Florida Politics — Advocates for Marsy’s Law released a new legal opinion supporting the right of crime victims to have their identities withheld from release. Tallahassee attorney Barry Richard of Greenberg Traurig wrote an opinion letter that identities, including names, fall under the “right to prevent disclosure of information or records that can be used to locate and harass the victim.” That line appears in a constitutional amendment approved by voters in November. Marsy’s Law creates a victims’ bill of rights in Florida. But there remains a dispute about exactly what new protections exist after the amendment’s approval.

Right to privacy: Attorney Barry Richard believes that victims’ names and identities have the right to stay private.

Army Corps plans to halve discharges from Lake Okeechobee into St. Lucie River” via Ed Killer of Treasure Coast Newspapers — For the west coast, the Corps plans to continue discharging lake water into the Caloosahatchee River estuary at the same rate it has for the past three weeks. However, the Corps said it would cut in half the discharge rate heading into the St. Lucie River estuary to accommodate oyster spawning. Beginning Saturday, the Corps will reduce the flows to the St. Lucie River estuary down to an average seven-day pulse release of 250 cubic feet per second, or 161 million gallons per day, as measured at the St. Lucie Lock and Dam. Since Feb. 23, discharges have been flowing at an average rate of 500 cubic feet per second, or 323 million gallons per day. According to the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule 2008, the Corps attempts to get the lake level down to 12.5 feet by June 1 in preparation for the start of the hurricane season and rainy season.


In new Bubba the Love Sponge lawsuit, controversial radio host claims Nielsen, Cox conspired against him” via Pam Huff of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — The complaint from Bubba Clem is against Cox Media Group, which is his former employer, Cox Radio Inc., radio host Michael Calta and Matthew Christian Lloyd, a former employee of Clem’s. He claims interference resulted in the termination of his network contract, loss of major advertisers, and loss of program syndication. He claims losses in the tens of millions. Among the allegations: “Upon information and belief, throughout 2015, Cox pressured Nielsen to use its monopoly power over the audience measurement and ratings for the Tampa market to eliminate Clem from broadcasting on WBRN in competition with WHPT by improperly manipulating Nielsen’s ratings for the Tampa market simultaneously to increase WHPT’s share to the benefit of Cox,” the lawsuit says.

Conspiracy theory: Bubba the Love Sponge is suing his former employer and rating company Nielsen conspired to keep him off the air, costing the infamous radio personality ‘tens of millions of dollars.’

Trulieve adds 25th Florida dispensary in Miami Gardens” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Medical marijuana provider Trulieve now has 25 dispensaries across the state of Florida, with a new Miami Gardens location opening its doors Thursday morning. But it dampened expectations, after Wednesday’s legislative vote to repeal the state ban on smoking medical marijuana, that it would be offering smokable “whole flower” any time soon. The new dispensary is at 18350 NW 47th Avenue in Miami Gardens. The move follows the opening of a storefront earlier in the week in Clearwater. “As the patient registry continues to grow and new rules are adopted, we remain dedicated to providing reliable access to the patients that are looking for natural, direct relief,” Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers said.

What Amanda Taylor is reading —New report shows cattle industry is a significant part of the local economy in urban areas” via Danielle Prieur of WMFE — The University of Florida report found more than 5,700 people in Orange County were employed in the cattle industry in 2017 and those jobs produced more than $860 million in revenue. Lead author Alan Hodges says that means urban areas like Orange competed with more rural ones like Polk and Okeechobee when it comes to the local economic impact of the cattle industry. Hodges says that’s because rural areas grow the cattle but then: “All those beef and dairy products get moved to the urban centers for processing and value-added manufacturing. And in the case of Orange County, in particular, it has a very large dairy manufacturing sector.”

Orange County kicks off contracting for convention center expansion” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Orange County’s efforts to expand its convention center, already recognized as the second-largest in the country, entered the contracting process Thursday toward building another 340,000-square-foot in space that would include a show and concert venue capable of holding 20,000 people. The proposed $605 million project, approved as a budget item by the Orange County Commission in October, is being put on a track to open in the summer of 2023. While much of the expansion would provide basic convention space, the venue would offer something new: an in-house entertainment or keynote speaker hall that could host national acts, and give the International Drive tourism district a facility that could compete with venues in downtown Orlando.

Fed up with losing power in hurricanes? FPL kicks off program to bury power lines in trouble spots” via Marcia Heroux Pounds of the Sun-Sentinel — The pilot program focuses on how FPL can cost-effectively bury portions of neighborhood power lines “to enhance reliability in good weather and bad,” said Bill Orlove, FPL spokesman. Orlove said there’s no additional cost to residents for the undergrounding. The pilot project is part of FPL’s total grid-strengthening program that it has proposed to the Florida Public Service Commission. Once FPL identifies a possible undergrounding project, it reaches out to the customers involved to discuss the project and easements required.

Man critically injured removing debris from Hurricane Michael” via Jeffrey Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — A private contractor removing debris from Hurricane Michael on the side of the road in Jackson County was badly hurt after he was struck by a tree. The man was working Tuesday afternoon on Sandridge Church Road near Grand Ridge when the accident happened, said Charlie Brunner, chief of Jackson County Fire Rescue. “To our knowledge, the patient was operating the boom lift on a debris truck, and a tree fell toward the truck and struck him in the face,” Brunner said, adding the man fell about 15 feet to the pavement.


Rick Scott vows to fight for Everglades, ports funding” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — “There are many priorities critical to Florida’s future that I plan to fight for in the United States Senate, including lowering the cost of prescription drugs, promoting freedom and democracy in Latin America, strengthening our economy and reforming Washington to make it actually work for families,” he said in a statement. “In addition, the appropriations process is about to begin in the U.S. Senate, and I plan to aggressively fight for key investments for Florida’s families.” Some of these projects will require more work than others. Scott spotlighted a request for $200 million more for Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades.

Donna Shalala calls for end to college corruption despite her own ties to college corruption” via Jerry Iannelli of the Miami New Times — Shalala called for an investigation into nationwide corruption at top-flight colleges. There’s a problem, though. She might be forced to investigate herself. That’s because, when Shalala ran the University of Miami from 2001 to 2015, she directly oversaw a university that flouted national athletics rules — including some related to admissions — so blatantly the football program was almost trashed in 2011. Amazingly, the University of Miami even reportedly has ties to this current FBI sting — the company at the center of the probe “donated” money to UM in 2015 and 2016.

Be careful what you wish for: Donna Shalala is calling for an investigation into corruption at top-flight colleges, despite her formerly leading a college that faced admission scandals of its own. Image via Monica Herndon.

Assignment editors — U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell will host a roundtable discussion on economic development in South Dade with local business and community leaders, 3 p.m., Schnebly Redland’s Winery & Brewery, 30205 SW 217th Ave., Homestead.

New deadline for attorneys in Jeffrey Epstein victims’ rights case” via The Associated Press — U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra ordered the U.S. Justice Department and the victims’ attorneys decide by May 10 how they want to proceed with the case involving victims of 66-year-old Epstein. Marra ruled last month that former Miami U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta’s prosecutors violated the victims’ rights by secretly reaching a 2008 non-prosecution agreement with Epstein. Under the agreement, Epstein pleaded guilty to state charges, spent 13 months in jail, paid settlements to victims and became a registered sex offender. Marra had initially set a March 8 deadline but agreed to move it back after federal prosecutors in Atlanta took over the case.

— 2020 —

Florida Insider Poll: Joe Biden gives Democrats best chance to beat Trump” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Seven in 10 believe Biden has the best chance of winning Florida’s primary. Only one of the other 13 candidates topped 10 percent: Kamala Harris, the California Senator. It’s no surprise that the man with the most name recognition also has the best odds. But Insiders on both sides of the aisle think he also has something else going for him: Broad appeal. “Joe Biden is the ONLY option that the Democrats have to appeal to moderates, Independents and disaffected Republicans who are sick of Trump,” one Democrat wrote. “Joe Biden can appeal to every side of the spectrum and has the experience and qualifications that NO other Democrat running for the White House has.”

The man to beat Donald Trump: Florida insiders believe Joe Biden has the best shot at toppling Trump.

Dems push for Florida debate” via the News Service of Florida — In an email, the Florida Democratic Party has been pushing support for a petition imploring the Democratic National Committee to hold a primary debate in Miami. “With so many qualified and inspiring Democrats stepping up to run against Trump in 2020, the Democratic primary debates will be more important than ever,” the email said. The request takes on more importance for Florida after the DNC picked Milwaukee over Miami-Dade County to host the 2020 party convention. The Florida Democrats’ petition effort comes as the national party announced it would not hold 2020 presidential primary debates on Fox News.


It ain’t easy gettin’ greasy with Trump.

Lobbyists who want Oval Office eyes on their interests have had to evolve their approach to fit 45’s style. Luke Mullins writes for The Washingtonian that new strategies involve advanced marketing tactics — like geofencing the President’s coordinates to get an ad on his Twitter feed.

Push notification: Lobbyists looking to get hold of Donald Trump are turning to high-tech methods, like triangulating his Twitter feed.

“This tactic is part of what’s known, in the parlance of the industry, as the ‘audience of one’ strategy,” Mullins writes.

Golden folder: Aides reportedly deliver news to Trump in a folder every morning. “When consultants and lobbyists learned about the folder, they saw a fresh opportunity.”

Television: It’s no secret Trump watches Fox News. How do you get him to pay attention to policy in between spots? “Well, the influencers decided, you find old footage of Trump discussing the issue on the campaign and make him the star of the commercial.”

Hack-for-hire: Guests on shows known to be viewed by Trump could be charging private interests to get a message out. “The strategy, a GOP consultant says, works like this: Companies or trade groups pay talking heads to tout their message on the air.”


What’s the end game with school vouchers?” via Paula Dockery of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Does the state have so much money that it can fully fund our public education system, meet our other needs and then throw some money at those wanting to send their children to private schools using tax dollars? The answer is no. Corporate donations have fallen, so the Legislature is attempting to create a new voucher program directly using tax dollars. Little by little, further efforts are made to remove students and the education dollars that follow them from our public schools. What’s the end game? Some fear it is to do away with public schools through total privatization for profit and control. We can’t let that happen.

Randy Fine’s anti-sewage-spill bill a powerful blow to local government lethargy” via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News — The Republican state representative from Palm Bay is using his position and bully pulpit to hold local government accountable to stop the dumping of raw sewage and restore the Indian River Lagoon — and, frankly, a host of other state waterways. He did it by introducing House Bill 141, which would require a written notice to be sent to residents by mail every time there’s a spill, and the note would provide the names and phone numbers of the authorities responsible for the plant’s oversight. He said, “Our constituents would be astounded … they don’t know how common this problem is.” It would also require a $2 fee for every gallon of raw sewage released, Fine said.

Freshmen city commissioners need to earn public trust before proposing costly projects” via Lee Hinkle for the Tallahassee Democrat — It’s important to listen and watch the early work of our new officials closely. I find that particularly true in the city of Tallahassee, where three of the five commissioners — Jeremy Matlow, Elaine Bryant and Dianne Williams-Cox — form a majority, even as they are brand-new to the job. While we’re always grateful for the willingness of people to serve us in public office, it takes more than a few weeks for newly elected officials to get beyond the steep learning curve. They should exercise caution during that learning period — out of respect for the weighty responsibilities they have just been elected or appointed to shoulder — rather than display easy comfort floating proposals for expensive new programs and policies.


DEP’s Drew Bartlett named executive director of SFWMD” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The new-look South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Board met for the first time Thursday, naming Bartlett as the group’s executive director. Before his selection, Bartlett served as a deputy secretary and engineer at the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Chauncey Goss, one of DeSantis‘ new appointees to the board, was also named the board’s chairman. Scott Wagner was named vice chairman. “The action taken today by the South Florida Water Management District board sends a clear message that they are ready to change the culture at the district,” DeSantis said.

New leadership: Drew Bartlett is the new executive director of the SWFWMD.

— “New SFWMD direction: ‘Nothing is going to get in our way’” via Kimberly Miller of the Palm Beach Post

First on #FlaPol — Personnel note: Katrina Bishop leaving as Mario Diaz-Balart press secretary for new gig — After serving in U.S. Rep. Diaz-Balart’s office for the past seven years, Bishop is departing Friday as press secretary for a job with the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. She’ll be serving as the group’s public affairs manager starting March 25. Taking over for Bishop will be Laura Hernandez, who was serving as a caseworker in Diaz-Balart’s district office. “Being able to serve my hometown Congressman and work for our community has been the opportunity of a lifetime, and it is something I will always cherish,” Bishop said in a statement announcing the departure. “Thanks to all of you who I have met along the way. I appreciate your kindness, professionalism, and willingness to answer my calls at all hours of the day.”


Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues affecting the region.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable with Digital Campaigner Laila Abdelaziz of Fight for the Future; WFLA News Channel 8 anchor/reporter Evan Donovan; Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano; radio political commentator Barry Edwards.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion of the Guardian Program in Florida and the potential expansion to arm teachers in the classroom. Joining Walker-Torres are state Sen. David Simmons and state Rep. Wengay Newton.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: This week’s show will a have an update on the latest from Tallahassee; state Rep. Mike Beltran shares what issues he plans to tackle in the new session, and PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter will rate a claim by DeSantis’ State of the State Address.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC)Gary Yordon speaks with pollster Steve Vancore and political reporter Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week’s guests are Clay County schools Superintendent Addison Davis; Clay County Schools Police Chief Kenneth Wagner; Jacksonville City Councilman Matt SchellenbergBrandon Griggs from Lee High School, who serves as MYLAC (Mayor’s Young Leaders Advisory Council) secretary; Andrea Moran-Melendez from Paxon High School and a MYLAC member; and Eleana Cummins from Paxon High School, another MYLAC member.

— ALOE —

A tournament for the players, a course for the fans” via Garry Smits of the Florida Times-Union — In the relatively young history of the tournament, 11 winners have been enshrined in the World Golf Hall of Fame. More are sure to come, such as Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott and Jason Day. The Players also has become a worldwide sporting event. It is broadcast to more than 1 billion households in 226 countries and in 30 languages. Its local impact is massive: an annual economic impact of $151 million and more than $100 million raised for charity since 1977 — $9.5 million last year. The feeling is strong among the members of the PGA Tour — the namesake of its “Gold Standard” tournament — that it will elevate the event even more. “It’s the strongest field in golf,” Rory McIlroy said.

The strongest field: Rory McIlroy, ranked No. 6 in the PGA Tour, faces a strong field in the Players Championship, which takes place this week.

— “Why the Players Championship is not a major” via Daniel Rapaport of Sports Illustrated

NCAA tournament selection on CBS to show bracket 1st again” via Ralph Russo of The Associated Press — The NCAA Tournament selection show is returning to CBS and its traditional bracket-first format for revealing the field for March Madness. The plan for Sunday is to drop the alphabetical reveal and get right to the bracket. The show will be one hour, start at 6 p.m. EDT and hosted as usual by Greg Gumbel. “We’re going back to basics,” Sean McManus, chairman of CBS Sports, said. “We’re going to release the brackets as fast as we can.”

Avengers: Endgame’ trailer: A new face appears” via Bruce Fretts of The New York Times — It all seemingly culminates with the conclusion to the cliffhanger from last year’s “Avengers: Infinity War,” in which many of the titular crime-fighters disintegrated, and the survivors vowed to, yes, avenge their apparent deaths. Finally, after the film’s title flashes on the screen, there’s a new face: Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) — fresh off her $500 million-plus opening week at the worldwide box office — appears, and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) declares, “I like this one.”

To watch the trailer, click on the image below:


Best wishes to former Senate President Mike Haridopolos and Kristen McDonald of Hill+Knowlton.

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

Peter Schorsch

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


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

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