Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 4.4.19

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

Hot off embargo — The newest approval ratings are out for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ inaugural Session. And it appears his numbers have not yet hit their ceiling.

A survey from Mason-Dixon polling now has DeSantis earning a 62 percent approval rating, with 24 percent of Florida voters disapproving of his job as Governor and another 12 percent unsure.

Mr. Popularity: Ron DeSantis’ approval ratings haven’t quite found a ceiling yet, according to the latest poll. Image via Twitter.

Those approval numbers are a high mark so far, and are up since the last time Mason-Dixon polled Floridians. The firm’s January survey saw DeSantis at 48 percent approval and 17 percent disapproval. The latest numbers show a net increase of 7 percentage points for the first-year Governor.

DeSantis is also up a net of 3 percentage points from a late-March survey by Florida Atlantic University, which saw him at a 54-19 split among registered voters.

Mason-Dixon’s latest results have DeSantis even among Democrats, with 41 percent approving of his job and 41 percent disapproving. Black voters gave DeSantis a 39-38 split. Every other demographic polled had DeSantis at a 53 percent approval rating or above.

The firm also looked at the implementation of the voter-approved sale of medical marijuana. While 66 percent said the program is not meeting patient needs, 65 percent say efforts by DeSantis will help patients. Those efforts include a push this Session to legalize a smokable form of the plant.

On the latest episode of ‘He Said, She Said’ — State Rep. James Grant visits to discuss a wide range of topics, from Auburn basketball to Amendment 4 — a huge issue in Tallahassee right now — where he clarifies the need for an implementation bill. It’s a move that has put him at the center of a national debate, particularly over the section that says ex-felons must “complete all terms of their sentence.” Some consider unpaid fines a “poll tax” for former felons. The Tampa Republican also describes how constitutional amendments can be dangerous.

In the hot seat: James Grant joins Peter and Michelle on ‘He Said She Said’ to discuss the details of implementing Amendment 4, something that has put him in the national spotlight. Image via Colin Hackley.

Michelle and I also talk #TallyMadness, which is in full swing: The biggest upset so far? The No. 16 seed just took down the No. 1 seed. Michelle gives her insight as to who she hopes will win.

Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida stops by to talk the latest budget news coming out of Tallahassee. “It’s a fascinating time,” Dixon says. “Everyone’s got both their parochial and their partisan knives out, and we’re going to see how they figure out a way to cobble this together.” He also predicts that VISIT FLORIDA will not fully go away, but get a substantial “haircut.”

On the home front, we take a deep-dive into #DanceMom and #DanceDad culture, considering Ella held her first dance competition in Lakeland, as well as explain why “Veep” is the funniest and most relatable show on television, particularly for anyone who has ever worked on a campaign.

‘He Said, She Said’ is available now on iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher.

Round two of TallyMadness is over, and as of Wednesday night, it looked like there were a bundle of upsets.

The only 1-seed still who is still in the mix for sure in the mix is Matt Bryan of Smith Bryan & Myers. Nick Iarossi of Capital City Consulting trailed 9-seed Steve Shiver of The Advocacy Group by just seven votes, while Bill Rubin of The Rubin Group fell to No. 8 Hayden Dempsey of Greenberg Traurig.

The Cinderella run of Metz Husband & Daughton’s Alli Liby-Schoonover (16) continues unimpeded, too. Liby-Schoonover moved past No. 9 Jason Unger of GrayRobinson.

The other matchups indicate 2019 may be another “Year of the Woman” — a half-dozen women made the round of 32, and five advanced. In addition to Liby-Schoonover, Ashley Kalifeh of Capital City Consulting, Katie Webb of Colodny Fass, Tracy Mayernick of The Mayernick Group and Heather Turnbull of Rubin Turnbull & Associates secured spots in the Sweet 16.

Round three of TallyMadness, sponsored by Table 23, is underway. The next round of voting ends 1 p.m. Friday.

Happening tonight — Newest cigar bar in the Capital City hosts grand opening — Cigars of Tally Bar & Lounge will hold a grand opening 6-10 p.m., at 926 N. Monroe St. The location is “home to Tallahassee’s largest humidor, private conference rooms, and an outdoor covered patio with beer and wine available,” a news release says. The store also will debut its “Diamond Crown” status, bestowed by Florida’s own J.C. Newman Cigar Co., meaning they will offer exclusive brands from the cigar maker, including the “Black Diamond.” The bar is an offshoot of Cigars of Tally, the Market Street outpost owned by Saed and Lila Jaber; Lila also is Regional Managing Shareholder for the Gunster law and lobbying firm and was a Public Service Commissioner.


@GovRonDeSantis: Thank you @BayCountyEM and firefighters for your bravery and immediate response in the fight against the recent wildfire. This area has experienced pain and devastation and will continue to have my full support. Northwest Florida will not be forgotten.

Tweet, tweet:

@Fineout: Hearing that House will not put certain bills — i.e. the voucher bill — into budget conference. The Senate apparently will announce also it was not interested in doing that as well

@GrayRohrer: Flashback to 2015 when Sen. @BillGalvano said Medicaid expansion plan would be “cornerstone” of budget. House then did … not take kindly to being “dictated to” by Senate by putting policy in budget talks.

@CallTallahassee: Fascinating debate in Florida House on spending bill. Don’t know if I have ever seen the opposition party so prepared. Democrats have notes and figures to drive their arguments on affordable housing and hurricane recovery

@LMower3: I see the Florida Senate is back to calling the minority party the “Democratic caucus.” It had been referring to @FLSenateDems this session as the “Democrat caucus” on calendars. (It’s considered a pejorative, but one that has become mainstream.)

@RyanSmithFL: Charter schools are public schools.

Tweet, tweet:

@BiancaJoanie: National reporters, please stop contacting local reporters you don’t know to ask for access to their community sources for that one story you’re not going to follow. We have work to do and bills to pay.


Masters Tournament begins — 8; Final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ begins — 10; Deadline for federal candidates to report what they raised during Q1 — 11; Easter — 17; Frank Artiles is eligible to register to lobby the Legislature — 18; Tampa mayoral runoff election — 19; “Avengers: Endgame” opens — 22; 2019 Legislative Session ends (maybe) — 29; Mother’s Day — 38; Florida Chamber Florida Business Leaders’ Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 49; Memorial Day — 53; Florida Chamber Learners to Earners Workforce Summit begins — 75; First Democratic presidential debates in Miami — 83; Second Democratic presidential debates in Detroit — 117; St. Petersburg primary election — 145; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 207; Scott Maddox trial begins — 214; 2019 General Election — 215; 3rd Annual Florida Internet and Television FITCon begins — 217; Iowa Caucuses — 305; Florida’s presidential primary — 348; 2020 General Election — 579.


Records suggest Scott Rivkees inflated claim to be ‘Nobel’ speaker” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — DeSantis’ Surgeon General pick has an impressive resume, but he stretched the truth on at least one bullet point. When the University of Florida hired Dr. Scott Rivkees in 2012, a news release touted a prestigious speaking invitation for the “42nd Nobel Symposium.”

According to Ann-Mari Dumanski, the press officer for The Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine, he didn’t. Dumanski did speak at an event funded by the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine, but it was a “mini-symposium” in the “Frontiers in Medicine” lecture series.

Little white lie: While Scott Rivkees’ resume is impressive, he may have stretched the truth just a bit about a speaking engagement at the 42nd Nobel Symposium.

Rivkees’ attorney, Robert Bauer, told Florida Politics his client never personally claimed to have spoken at a Nobel symposium, though his curriculum vitae and faculty page still list the speaking engagement. Helen Ferre, director of communications at the Governor’s office, provided documentation confirming the mini-symposium appearance and said Rivkees “caught his error” when he applied for the surgeon general post.

Senate won’t act this year on Surgeon General” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — Citing a past sexual harassment investigation at the University of Florida, Senate President Bill Galvano said the Senate would not vote during this year’s legislative session on confirming … Rivkees. Galvano said he and other Senators have concerns with Rivkees’ appointment and that there is not enough time left in the 2019 Session to fully vet a nominee who has “faced these types of allegations.” “The very serious allegations against Dr. Rivkees are troubling, to say the least,” Galvano said.


Ron DeSantis, joined by First Lady Casey DeSantis, spoke at the kickoff of the Captains for Clean Water Skiff Challenge, an annual test of endurance in which teams circumnavigate the state to highlight Florida’s water quality, Everglades and environment.

Florida might break with Trump over Obamacare lawsuit” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of Florida Phoenix — No decision has been reached yet, but Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody said Tuesday that she is studying a legal brief filed by Republican attorneys general from Ohio and Montana that asks a federal appellate court to overturn a court decision that says the entire Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. DeSantis says he doubts that Florida’s current challenge against the Affordable Care Act will be successful, but he’s leaving the decision to Moody about whether the legal fight is worth continuing.

Enterprise Florida Board of Directors meet, position organization for ‘Bold Ventures’ — The Board of Directors for Enterprise Florida met Tuesday on the campus of Florida A&M University to map future initiatives and opportunities. Gov. DeSantis, chairman of the Board, addressed directors on his vision for future economic growth and opportunities. “The private sector plays an integral role in our success, and I appreciate the work Enterprise Florida does to drive business to our state,” he said. Added Joe York, Vice Chairman: “Florida’s future is bright, our governor is bold, and Enterprise Florida is ready … for the economic growth and diversification that our citizens deserve.” The Board also received updates on Opportunity Zones and EFI strategies for financial services and aviation/aerospace industry job creation in Florida.

Assignment editors — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried will join Florida growers at a Subway restaurant to highlight a Fresh From Florida-Subway partnership to promote Florida-grown produce, 10:30 a.m., 1214 South Monroe Street, Tallahassee.


If Mar-a-Lago is the Southern White House, where will Miami’s ‘Capitol’ be?

Tip o’ the hat to Steve Bousquet for digging up this nugget from the proposed budget implementing bill: A provision that allows for Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez of South Florida to designate an “official headquarters” in Miami-Dade County that “may only serve as (her) personal office.”

Office space: A line item in the proposed budget implementation bill gives Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez permission to designate an ‘official headquarters’ in Miami-Dade County.

The caveat: But it also says the “Lieutenant Governor may not use state funds to lease space in any facility for his or her official headquarters.”

The allowance: It does make Nuñez “eligible for reimbursement for transportation expenses … between the Lieutenant Governor’s official headquarters and the State Capitol to conduct state business.”

‘State security’: In a related provision, she can also ask for “one or more patrol officers (from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles) … for security.”

The assignment of a patrol officer “shall include a Cabinet member … if deemed appropriate … or in response to a threat and upon written request of such Cabinet member.”


Senate unanimously backs $90.3B budget for 2019-20” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics The Florida Senate unanimously passed a $90.3 billion budget (SB 2500) for the upcoming fiscal year. The House teed up its $89.9 billion budget (HB 5001) later on Wednesday. With a vote expected Thursday, that primes the two chambers for budget conferencing as early as this weekend. The Legislature is required to pass a single budget each year to submit to the Governor. “I think this budget truly is a function of the priorities of the people that you all represent,” said GOP Sen. Rob Bradley, who oversaw the spending plan as Appropriations Chair. The House and Senate are far apart on funding for preK-12 and higher education services.

Students travel to Tallahassee with a message — don’t arm our teachers” via Skyler Swisher of the Sun-Sentinel — About 200 students lined the pathway into the House chamber and held the photos of people lost to gun violence. The bill to allow the arming of teachers was scheduled to be debated Wednesday afternoon in the Florida House, but it was postponed. The measure would allow teachers to voluntarily carry guns if they complete training and local school boards agree. The demonstrations played no role in the decision to delay debate on the bill, said Fred Piccolo, a spokesman for House Speaker José Oliva. A disagreement between the House and the Senate on how to align the policy with the budget was the reason, Piccolo said. The speaker is confident those issues will be resolved, he said.

Disappointment: About 200 students arrived at The Capitol to protest a proposal to arm teachers. They were disappointed when the House delayed a vote.

Several high-profile education bills keep moving in Legislature” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Byron Donalds, did not offer any amendments to HB 7061, despite suggestions at a previous committee stop that he planned to revise sections to deal with needs specific to career and technical educators coming from the world of work into schools. Donalds also made no mention of concerns raised by observers including former education Commissioner Pam Stewart and longtime Jeb Bush education adviser Patricia Levesque that creating a waiver to the general knowledge test requirement could diminish state expectations of teachers. Instead, members cheered the idea of finding a way to help would-be teachers who struggle with the test, saying it would in turn aid schools that have trouble finding qualified applicants to fill all their vacancies.

House committee approves bill for THC caps on medical pot” via Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida — The 12-5 procedural vote allowed the measure to attain full-fledged bill status. Ray Rodrigues said the THC cap would place Florida among 15 other states that already govern concentration. “When we look at the science that’s available internationally, there’s science there that shows us we should have a tremendous amount of concern,” Rodrigues said. The bill would limit smokable medical cannabis to 10 percent concentration of THC, and edible versions of the drug should limit patients to 200 milligrams each day. It also only would allow patients under age 18 to consume high-THC products if a physician and a pediatrician approve them.

Lawmakers again move to expand needle exchange program” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A bipartisan bill to expand Miami-Dade County’s needle exchange program throughout the state has cleared a second House panel. The Judiciary Committee OK’d the bill Wednesday morning. State Reps. Shevrin Jones, a West Park Democrat, and Rene “Coach P” Plasencia, an Orlando Republican filed theT measure (HB 171). Jones also testified in front of the committee. The Health Quality Subcommittee has already approved the legislation. It will head next to the Health and Human Services Committee. “The opioid epidemic has been crippling each of our communities,” Jones said.

Felony thrift increase ready for House vote” via Ana Ceballos of the News Service of Florida — A House proposal that would increase a threshold for felony theft charges from $300 to at least $1,000 passed its final committee, preparing it to go to the House floor for a vote. (HB 589) has steadily moved forward in the House, as criminal-justice reform advocates say there is momentum to pass such measures. Yet, past arguments against the proposal have re-emerged during this year’s legislative session, as demonstrated during a House Judiciary Committee debate. The Florida Retail Federation, whose members include Target, Walmart and Walgreens, opposes easing retail theft sanctions.

Military lease relief bill gets nod” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A bill that would give active-duty service members a break in signing leases and provide other support for assignments in Florida got rousing approval in the Florida House Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs and Space Wednesday. Similar bills have been shot down in the past couple of years because they, like HB 620, would require landlords to waive some deposits for members of the military and their families who’ve just been transferred in, and opponents have charged that is taking away property owners’ rights. But on Wednesday, the HB 620’s sponsor Republican Sen. Doug Broxson of Gulf Breeze made an impassioned argument that military members and their families are sacrificing much and deserve breaks, especially in Florida’s hyper-heated rentals market.

Senate unanimously passes ban on sex dolls that look like kids — The bill (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, has said the anatomically correct dolls “are rampantly used by sexual deviants to act out pedophilic desires.” And a 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,” it said.

Veterans group commends state lawmakers for backing VA MISSION Act resolution — The Florida chapter of Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) praised state Sen. Manny Diaz Jr. for sponsoring the VA MISSION Act Memorial, a resolution to urge Congress to support the law of the same name and work with the administration on implementation. The group also singled out Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs and Space Chairman, Sen. Tom Wright, for his leadership in hearing the bill. Diego Echeverri, coalitions director for CVA-Florida, said: “We thank Sens. Diaz and Wright for their work to make sure Florida’s veterans can get the most from the law and for sending a message to Washington that Floridians want to see it implemented with the veteran, not the bureaucracy in mind.”

Assignment editors — Faith in Florida is joining the Florida Immigrant Coalition, faith leaders, and community allies for a prayer vigil in front of state Sen. Tom Lee’s office to oppose SB 168, a bill seeking to end sanctuary cities in Florida, 6 p.m., 915 Oakfield Drive, Suite D, Brandon.

Today’s legislative committee hearings:

The House will hold a floor Session at 1:30 p.m., House Chamber.

The Senate will hold a floor Session at 2:30 p.m., Senate Chamber.

The Senate Special Order Calendar Group will set the special-order calendar, 15 minutes after floor Session, 401 Senate Office Building.

The House Commerce Committee meets 8 a.m., 212 Knott Building. Agenda includes a bill to exempt front-yard vegetable gardens from local government regulation.

The House State Affairs Committee meets 8 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building. Agenda includes a bill to make texting while driving a primary offense.

The Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee meets 10 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building. Agenda includes a bill that authorizes the Statewide Task Force on Opioid Drug Abuse.

The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee meets 12:30 p.m., 412 Knott Building. Agenda includes the confirmation hearing for Secretary of Health Care Administration Mary Mayhew.

The Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee meets 12:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building. Agenda includes a bill on autonomous vehicles, also known as self-driving cars.

The Senate Finance & Tax Committee meets 12:30 p.m., 401 Senate Office Building. Agenda includes a bill that would create a sales tax exemption for diapers and incontinence products.

Governors Club Thursday lunch buffet menu — Lentil and sausage soup; mixed garden salad with dressings; pickled beet, onion, walnut and goat cheese salad; antipasto salad; deli board, lettuce, tomatoes, cheeses and breads; beef bourguignon; chicken piccata; grilled salmon with pesto cream; Buffalo cauliflower; ratatouille; rice with prosciutto, peas and Parmesan; tiramisu for dessert.


Sen. Travis Hutson has his hands full.

He’s a key budget writer this year. He also is competing in a tight race to lead the chamber in 2022.

In a sit-down with Ana Ceballos of The News Service of Florida, the St. Augustine Republican talks crafty legislation and his surprisingly “cordial” race against Naples Republican Sen. Kathleen Passidomo.

Travis Hutson has his hands full. Image via Twitter.

Lather up: Hutson has tied local governments’ ability to receive money from VISIT FLORIDA to their regulations. If they ban sunscreen, they’ll get nothing from the tourism-marketing agency. “We are not going to spend millions of dollars inviting people down into South Florida areas, and then they realize they can’t buy sunscreen to protect your children from harmful UV rays.”

The race: Hutson keeps his friends close and his Senate President opponent closer. “It is not the knockdown drag-out fights that you’ve seen before, but at the same time we are locked dead on a lot of the issues, and at the end of the day we are going to figure this out over a nice, cordial dinner,” Hutson said. “I couldn’t ask for anybody better as a friend and adversary at this time.”

Rosy Session: This year’s 60-day lawmaking process is different, Hutson said. “It’s a breath of fresh air having a different approach to say it’s going to be a member-driven process,” Hutson said. “There’s not any one thing that’s linked to another, but at the same time, I know the [Senate] President is constantly talking to the [House] Speaker and the Governor.”


Andrew Gillum team lashes out at Ethics Commission as judge blocks hearing delay” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — Gillum‘s hearing on ethics charges won’t be delayed over the availability of a key witness for the state, and an undercover FBI agent will have to appear in person to testify, a judge ruled Wednesday. Gillum’s surrogates seized on a decision by Administrative Law Judge E. Gary Early to reject a request by the Florida Commission on Ethics prosecutor to postpone the hearing. They said it was a sign the state’s case was weak and falling apart. 

Andrew Gillum’s team is blasting the Ethics Commission after a judge’s decision not postpone his hearing. Image via Twitter.

Flattened by Hurricane Michael, Florida town tries to stave off big development” via Arian Campo-Flores of The Wall Street Journal — Carol Bonanno and her husband are wrestling with a wrenching question: Can they afford to rebuild? Mexico Beach is struggling with a balancing act: rebuilding to stricter standards that can guard it against future storms while not increasing costs so much that they drive away homeowners who give the town its character. The community prides itself as a destination for retired teachers, military personnel and others who can’t afford million-dollar beachfront homes. Despite the city’s need for a hefty financial infusion, it is intent on fending off developers who want to build denser and pricier projects.

Marsy’s Law was meant to protect crime victims. Lawyers say it may lead to an innocent person’s execution” via Michael Williams of the Orlando Sentinel — Advocates for the law — versions of which passed in at least 10 other states — say it was designed to protect people victimized by crime by placing their rights “on the same legal level as the rights of the accused.” But defense attorneys say Marsy’s Law could create chaos in the state’s court system. One provision in the amendment says “all state-level appeals … must be completed within two years from the date of appeal in non-capital cases and five years in capital cases,” unless a judge requests an extension with a specific explanation for why the deadline could not be met.

The 2019 hurricane names are out, and it could be another busy season” via Josh Fiallo of the Tampa Bay Times — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released 21 potential storm names ahead of 2019’s season. Last year, the Atlantic hurricane season had 15 named storms, with eight strong enough to be classified as hurricanes. According to early AccuWeather predictions, 2019 is expected to be more subtle than the past two years, but still more active than a typical season. Here are the storm names for 2019, released by the NOAA: Andrea; Barry; Chantal; Dorian; Erin; Fernand; Gabrielle; Humberto; Imelda; Jerry; Karen; Lorenzo; Melissa; Nestor; Olga; Pablo; Rebekah; Sebastien; Tanya; Van; Wendy.

Actual news release — “Sound waves could save Florida from algal bloom devastation.”


Republican restaurateur Irina Vilariño to challenge Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in CD 26” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Democratic freshman U.S. Rep. Mucarsel-Powell has already courted a challenger for 2020 after Irina Vilariño announced she would be joining the race on the GOP side. “I’m so grateful for the opportunities my family has had to live the American dream,” Vilariño said in a release launching her campaign in Florida’s 26th Congressional District. “I am passionate about preserving the possibility of achieving success for other families in search of freedom and a better life. It’s imperative that we protect and promote our free enterprise system rather than give way to calls for socialist policies that may sound appealing but always end up leading to bankruptcy and misery.”

Republican Irina Vilarino, the owner of Las Vegas Cuban Cuisine, is challenging Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in CD 26. Image via The Washington Post.

Kayser Enneking complaint dismissed, linked to Republican operatives” via Andrew Caplan of The Gainesville Sun — Records tied to a recently dismissed Florida Elections Commission complaint against former state Senate candidate Enneking confirm that a local consulting firm, used by Republicans, worked with an independent party challenger to defeat her. The complaint was filed a week before the November 2018 election against Enneking by independent candidate Charles Goston. The complaint was based on emails obtained by Republican operatives working to re-elect Sen. Keith Perry. The FEC determined the claims against Enneking were “legally insufficient” and that she didn’t break campaign laws during her quest to unseat Perry, who narrowly won re-election.

Anthony Sabatini draws House challenger” via the News Service of Florida — Clermont Democrat Ryan Morales opened a campaign account this week to challenge Sabatini in 2020 in Lake County’s House District 32, according to the state Divisions of Elections website.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer kicks off re-election campaign with event, new video — Dyer’s event was jam-packed, diverse, and bipartisan — with over 200 host committee members and special guests Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings and former U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

To view the video, click on the image below:

Meanwhile … “Teresa Jacobs endorses Sam Ings for Orlando mayor” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Jacobs, who was elected last year as Orange County School Board chair, on Wednesday endorsed City Commissioner Ings in his bid to oust Dyer from the mayoral seat he’s held the past 16 years. Ings’ campaign announced the endorsement, with Jacobs, a Republican who served two terms as Orange County mayor, touting the city commissioner’s 30-year law-enforcement career and his “unwavering dedication to the citizens of Orlando.” Ings, like Dyer, is a registered Democrat.

Three former Tampa mayors ‘pass the torch’ to Jane Castor” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — All but one of Tampa’s former mayors are backing Castor for mayor. Current Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who already endorsed Castor, joined former mayors Pam Iorio, Dick Greco and Bob Martinez in front of City Hall Wednesday to announce the group’s “passing of the torch.” Sandy Freedman is the only living former mayor not to endorse Castor. She also did not endorse Castor’s opponent, David Straz. The news conference looked and felt more like a mini-inauguration; a coronation of one leader by her predecessors.

Ethics board finds East Lake fire commissioner likely broke law” via Tracy McManus of the Tampa Bay Times — Tom McQueen‘s nonprofit American Family Foundation could buy 35 behavioral assessment tests wholesale, saving the district hundreds of dollars, he said. McQueen bought the tests from TTI Success Insights for $731 and then billed the district in two phases. By April 2018 the district paid McQueen $1,225 for the program. The Florida Commission on Ethics on March 13 found probable cause McQueen violated two state laws by doing business with the agency where he serves as an elected official.

Robert Kraft’s attorneys attack prostitution investigation” via Terry Spencer of The Associated Press — In a 92-page court filing, Kraft’s high-profile attorneys allege Jupiter police misrepresented evidence to obtain a search warrant that allowed them to secretly install video cameras at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa. Police say those cameras recorded Kraft twice paying to have sex with spa employees. Kraft’s attorneys argued that using the cameras to prosecute misdemeanor crimes violated constitutional privacy protections and prohibitions against unreasonable searches. Also, a Florida law says police can only make secret recordings when investigating certain serious felonies. Kraft is charged with solicitation, which is not a felony.

Wait, what — “Mayor proclaims Confederate Memorial Day” via Carlos E. Medina of the Ocala Star-Banner — Tuesday’s Ocala City Council meeting ended with Council President Mary Sue Rich suggesting Mayor Kent Guinn may, indeed, belong to the Ku Klux Klan and questioned whether he even deserves the office after his approval of a proclamation recognizing Confederate Memorial Day.


In health care fight, Donald Trump puts national spotlight on Rick Scott — and his Medicare fraud scandal” via Steven Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Trump inadvertently returned the national spotlight to a scandal that has dogged the former health care executive’s entire political career. Scott resigned in 1997 as CEO of Columbia/HCA, one of the country’s largest hospital networks, amid a federal investigation. At the time, it was the largest health care fraud settlement in U.S. history. While the investigation’s findings covered Scott’s time at the company, he was never charged with any wrongdoing. Floridians are well-versed in the case. It came up often during Scott’s two bids for governor and in last year’s U.S. Senate race. After Trump’s comments last week, a controversy once contained to Florida spread from coast to coast.

Marco Rubio, Scott propose ‘opportunity zones’ for disaster relief areas” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — U.S. Sens. Rubio and Scott announced a bill that would create “opportunity zones” much like those identified in the 2017 tax cut act, which would allow governors in states hit by natural disasters to target low-income areas for additional relief. Their “Disaster Opportunity Zones Act” borrows from the strategy outlined in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, allowing governors to affected by the 2018 hurricanes and wildfires to nominate up to 25 low-income census tracts, which then would be places where investors could receive tax breaks for investing in companies or property.

New book details Trump’s topsy-turvy relationship with Congress” via Ashley Parker of The Washington Post — The 399-page tome — written by two longtime congressional reporters at POLITICO who also anchor the publication’s flagship newsletter, “POLITICO Playbook” — chronicles Congress in the age of Trump, largely beginning on Election Day 2016 and stretching through the end of 2018 … In another scene, Rep. Bill Posey urges Trump to stop the “tweets and whining about crowd size” — an admonishment that prompts the president’s ire. “‘Who the f— are you?’ Trump shot back, before once again incorrectly positing that he had had the ‘biggest inauguration’ ever,” the pair write.

Trump’s MAGA hats inspired Make Lake O Great Again hats, but can they save polluted lake?” via Ed Killer of Treasure Coast Newspapers — They closely resembled and were inspired by Trump’s Make America Great Again hats that have become part of our pop and political culture for three years now. Speak to a resident living near one of the coastal estuaries in Stuart or Fort Myers, and they’ll say someone needs to shut off the downstream faucet. Speak to a resident of the Glades communities, and they’ll say the dike has to be the top priority for water managers. Speak to a farmer, and they want to be sure there is a sufficient reserve of water. Ecologists have said there is a fine balance of where the lake’s level needs to be managed to maintain the lake’s important environmental balance.

Homestead child migrant camp to add almost 1,000 more beds this month” via Jerry Iannelli of the Miami New Times — The Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children is already the largest federal camp for child migrants in America. As of last December, the federal government had closed a similar camp in Tornillo, Texas, and said the 1,300-bed Homestead shelter would hold an additional 1,000 kids. But yesterday, federal officials announced in a letter they’ll be adding another 850 beds to the facility by mid-April. That will bring the camp’s total population to 3,200 kids.

Michael Waltz bill would tie Afghanistan withdrawal to Taliban concessions” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Florida Republican U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz, an Army veteran of the war in Afghanistan, has joined three other Republican congressmen introducing a bill that would require the Taliban to capitulate on most of its positions and support U.S. counterterrorism efforts before American troops are significantly withdrawn. Whether the bill that Waltz’s office announced Wednesday goes anywhere or picks up any bipartisan backing, it draws lines in the sand for his support of any drawdown below 10,000 American troops. Waltz has become a key and active voice in representing a small but growing bipartisan cadre of Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans in Congress.

DCCC digital ad highlights Mucarsel-Powell health care stance” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — As Trump attempts to make health care an issue in the 2020 contest, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is out with a new digital ad highlighting U.S. Rep. Mucarsel-Powell‘s defense of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). “Republican attacks on our health care make us sick,” reads the ad. “That’s why Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is fighting back.” The ad, which will be targeted toward voters in Mucarsel-Powell’s district, come as Trump had offered a somewhat jumbled message regarding Republicans’ plan on health care.

Morning must-read on former Rep. Jeff Miller — “The congressman who turned the VA into a lobbying free-for-all” via Jasper Craven of POLITICO Magazine — What has not been publicly revealed until now is the extent to which the VA — a sprawling agency with a $180 billion (FY2017) annual budget that includes the nation’s single largest health care system — has become a massive feeding trough for the lobbying industry. The VA’s then secretary, David Shulkin, was at a previously undisclosed meeting, along with current and former members of Concerned Veterans for America, known as CVA, an advocacy network largely backed by conservative donors Charles and David Koch. But it was the presence of the most powerful lobbyist for the companies now trying to get a piece of the VA’s budget — former Florida Congressman Jeff Miller — that would have raised the most eyebrows. A lobbying analysis from Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting found Miller has facilitated a gravy train of government largesse to his clients—a list that includes a disgraced hedge fund magnate pushing unproven treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder and a trade group for proton beam therapy, an expensive radiation application.

Counterpunch: A new DCCC ad highlights how Debbie Mucarsel-Powell pushes back on Republican efforts to end the Affordable Care Act.

— 2020 —

Joe Biden in new video: I will be more mindful about respecting personal space in the future” via Arlette Saenz and Jeff Zeleny of CNN — The video comes in the wake of allegations Biden made women feel uncomfortable in their encounters. “Social norms are changing. I understand that, and I’ve heard what these women are saying,” he wrote on Twitter. “Politics to me has always been about making connections, but I will be more mindful about respecting personal space in the future. That’s my responsibility, and I will meet it.” The response comes as Biden and his team gear up to announce his plans for the 2020 presidential race this month. “Folks, in the coming month I’m expecting to be talking to you about a whole lot of issues, and I’ll always be direct with you,” he said.

Beto O’Rourke’s 2020 campaign raises $9.4 million in 18 days” via Axios — O’Rourke‘s campaign announced Wednesday he raised $9.4 million in the first quarter, 18 days after launching his 2020 bid. O’Rourke raised an average of $520,000 per day, with 218,000 total donations. A majority of the donors are new, with 98% of donations coming in at under $200, his campaign said in a news release. The campaign did not release the total number of donors or the average donation.


I’m a veteran who respects the Second Amendment, and I oppose arming teachers.” via Adam Hattersley for the Tampa Bay Times — I’m one of the few, if not only, members of the Florida House to have been in a gunfight. I understand the chaos, adrenaline, and confusion inherent in an armed confrontation. When I served a tour of duty during Operation Iraqi Freedom, I witnessed even the most highly trained soldiers — men and women with years of firearm training and conditioning — make mistakes with their weapons they were trained to overcome. This is why I am deeply troubled by proposed legislation to allow Florida teachers to carry firearms in their classrooms

(L)awmakers, don’t let juvenile justice reform die” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Last week, members of the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee unanimously supported a measure that would require that a judge first determine if prosecutors should charge a juvenile as an adult. If the judge says No, the youth’s case would return to the juvenile system. Lawmakers in the House must keep HB 575 moving forward, bringing it to the floor of the full House for a vote. Though approved by the subcommittee, as of Tuesday, the bill had not been scheduled for two more committee votes required to bring it to the full House. Similarly, the state Senate has not yet acted on a companion bill. Leading the nation in sending children to adult court is nothing to be proud of.


Jeb Bush joins board of directors for Protect My Car in St. Pete” via Crystal Owens of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Bush has joined the board of directors for Protect My Car after the Tampa Bay area company received a minority stake from Dock Square Capital, a Coral Cables merchant bank. Bush is managing partner and chairman of Dock Square Capital, which manages portfolios for a variety of global networks and families. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Protect My Car, a portfolio company of Crestview Capital, is a provider of extended warranty products for vehicles, including vehicle service contracts.

Hillsborough foster care agency hires former interim DCF secretary” via Chris O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — Rebecca Kapusta started her new job as Eckerd Connects’ vice president of community based care on Monday. She will be paid $135,000 annually. Her appointment is the second time in the past year that a senior official of the state agency has resigned to accept a high-paying job with a nonprofit group that has a contract with the agency. Long-time department Secretary Mike Carroll resigned in August and was hired by Lutheran Services Florida as executive vice president of programs. His salary is $225,000.

Ex-Surgeon General named to California job” via the News Service of Florida — Former Florida Surgeon General Celeste Philip, who led the state Department of Health until January, is headed to California. The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors hired Philip to serve as director of health services for Sonoma County. The commission agreed to hire Philip after a national search. She will be paid $221,380 annually, according to the newspaper. In Florida, Philip served in the dual role of Surgeon General and secretary of the Department of Health.

Former Gwen Graham staffers on the move via Florida Playbook — Former Gwen Graham communications director Matt Harringer and deputy finance director Eva Gavrish … are joining the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee as the organization’s new national press secretary and director of corporate relations, respectively. They’ll be working together on legislative seats in Florida and targeted states across the country.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

George Anderson, Matt Brockelman, David Browning, Mary DeLoach, Deno Hicks, Erin Rock, Southern Strategy Group: 1211 Overseas, Sogeti USA, Southern Regional Education Board, Synagro Technologies

Brian Ballard, Christina Brodeur, Bradley Burleson, Mathew Forrest, Ballard Partners: Cornerstone Group Partners, Pondera Solutions

Kristen Barry: Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops

Slater Bayliss, Jeffrey Woodburn, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: K.M.C. Citrus Enterprises

David Custin, David R. Custin & Associates: JATH Holdings

James Eaton, Capital Strategies: The Special Committee for Healthcare Reform

Cesar Fernandez, Paul Lowell, Jon Yapo, Converge Government Affairs of Florida: Village of Palmetto Bay

Susan Harbin: Florida Association of Counties

Kari Hebrank, Scott Jenkins, Wilson & Associates: PFS TECO

Cynthia Henderson, Cynergy Consulting: EMD Serono c/o MultiState Associates

Foyt Ralston, Capitol Advocates: Therap Services

Bill Rubin, Heather Turnbull, Rubin Turnbull & Associates: JATH Holdings

Personnel note — Steve Bousquet added to South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Editorial Page Editor Rosemary Goudreau O’Hara announced the move late Tuesday. Bousquet, until recently the Tampa Bay Times’ longtime correspondent in Tallahassee, will be a part-time writer and editor, remaining in the capital. She said Bousquet told her, “My metabolism won’t allow for consideration of the R-word (retirement).” He’s been a freelance columnist for her since December. “He’s now agreed to join our Opinion team on a more permanent basis, writing columns, editorials, and opinions with a twist,” O’Hara said.

Tweet, tweet:

— ALOE —

‘Game of Thrones’ Oreos are coming” via Meredith Cash of Insider — Oreo will release “Game of Thrones”-inspired cookies just in time for the series’ final season. The limited-edition “Game of Thrones” Oreos, which taste like the original cookie, come emblazoned with one of four different decals inspired by the show. Three of the cookies feature the family sigils of the major houses vying for the Iron Throne, while the fourth cookie comes carved with a profile of the Night King.

Dessert is coming: New ‘Game of Thrones Oreos’ will be available starting next week. Image via Oreo.

Disney worlds collide: Epcot food and wine fest, ‘Star Wars’ land debut on same day” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival will begin on Aug. 29, the same day that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is set to premiere at Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park. The food fest will run through Nov. 23 (the Saturday before Thanksgiving). That’s a record 87 days for the event, Disney says. However, the festival’s Eat to the Beat concert series will wrap up a few days earlier on Nov. 19. That’s to strike the stage and get it set up for Candlelight Processional, one of the musical aspects of the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays.

Uber’s JUMP e-scooters coming to Miami” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The scooters will be accessible within Miami’s District 2, which encompasses Brickell, Coconut Grove, Downtown Miami, Edgewater and Morningside. Uber began offering electric bikes back in 2017 as an eco-friendly alternative to using its ride-sharing system. The scooters were made available in the fall of 2018. “Riders have told us they like having multiple transportation options available within a single app to fit their various needs,” said João Barbara, JUMP’s Miami General Manager.


Best wishes to the brilliant Beth Sweeny (Kevin‘s better half), Dave DeCamp of Crowley Maritime, former state Rep. Reggie Fullwood, attorney (and our fraternity brother) Jorge Gutierrez, Dan Pollock, Bridget Spurlock, director of scheduling and operations for U.S. Sen. Marco RubioMike Synan, and HD 7 candidate Mike Watkins.

Peter Schorsch

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


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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jason Delgado, Drew Dixon, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.

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