We’re two-thirds of the way through the 2019 Legislative Session, but Florida Influencers expect plenty more action on the policy front.
Nearly half of the state’s top consultants, fundraisers, PR mavens, lobbyists and staffers expect a texting-while-driving ban with teeth to pass this year, while more than a quarter said the same about assignment of benefits reform. When it comes to a gambling bill, however, only two percent are willing to ante up.
Influencers also said the odds are high that Senate President Bill Galvano’s pet project — a major expansion to the state highway network — will get the green light. But most say House Speaker Jose Oliva will have to wait until next year to get his certificate of need repeal through the Legislature.
Florida Politics also asked influencers about whether Joe Biden will survive “Touch-gate” and whether “Exoneration Day” (or “non-Exoneration Day, depending on where you stand) will shift Donald Trump’s poll numbers.
Breaking overnight via Noah Pransky, reporting for Florida Politics — New documents, released in response to an inquiry from state Sen. Tom Lee, raise new ethical and legal questions about how the Florida Department of Transportation paid off a firm vying for the state’s lucrative SunPass contract in order to secure the deal with politically-connected contractor Conduent.
The procurement is getting new attention in 2019 from Lee and other state Senators after a series of investigative reports about Conduent’s massive SunPass technology and customer service failures.
At the center of the SunPass saga in 2014 and 2015, when the state paid the Cubic company $3.6 million to end its formal bid protest, was then-FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad, whose close ties to engineering firm HNTB may raise more eyebrows.
More on mezuzahs — “Takeaways from Tallahassee” reader Eli Feinberg reacted to our story on Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried placing a mezuzah on her office door jamb. Feinberg told us that former Secretary of State (and later U.S. Sen.) Richard Stone also had mezuzahs in his Tallahassee office (in the old Capitol) 1970-74, and in his Washington office, in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, 1975-81. Feinberg should know: He was deputy secretary of state under Stone, then was his senatorial chief of staff in D.C.
POLITICO Playbook notes that presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar is scheduled to visit the Capitol today. The Minnesota Democrat and U.S. senator is expected to meet House Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee and other House Democrats at the House Democratic office on Tuesday.
“Florida TaxWatch celebrates ‘Taxpayer Independence Day’” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The organization calculates Sunday as the first day of 2019 where most state residents make every dollar for themselves. For the average Florida family, the first 103 days of work go toward federal, state and local tax obligations. “Florida’s economy is steadily and modestly growing, and that is boosting state and local tax collections,” said Florida TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro. “Even with the federal tax cuts of 2017 and the Florida Legislature’s tax-cutting policy, tax collections paid by Floridians grew faster than their income in 2019 so Taxpayer Independence Day is coming one day later this year.”
For your radar — The Pulitzer Prizes, considered the highest award for newspaper journalism in America, will be announced this afternoon. Among those Florida-based entries in the mix:
— The Sun-Sentinel is seen as a top contender to win the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for its coverage of the horrific school shooting in Parkland, writes Michael Calderone of POLITICO.
— The Miami Herald’s stunning Jeffrey Epstein sex-abuse investigation was a mega-blockbuster last year, and Epstein is now back in court as a result, per Pulitzer handicapper Joe Pompeo of Vanity Fair.
Steel yourselves, would-be lawyers — The results of the February Florida Bar exam are scheduled to be released today.
— MASTERS AWARENESS —
— Masters Tournament (@TheMasters) April 14, 2019
—@RealDonaldTrump: Congratulations to @TigerWoods, a truly Great Champion!
—@BarackObama: Congratulations, Tiger! To come back and win the Masters after all the highs and lows is a testament to excellence, grit, and determination.
—@JackNicklaus: A big “well done” from me to @! I am so happy for him and for the game of golf. This is just fantastic!!!
—@SerenaWilliams: I am literally in tears watching @this is Greatness like no other. Knowing all you have been through physically to come back and do what you just did today? Wow Congrats a million times! I am so inspired thank you buddy.
—@MattYGlesias: The next important test for 2020 Democrats — who will tweet bad Game of Thrones jokes
—@BillGalcano: Congratulations @#!
—@ChrisSprowlsFL: Nothing America loves more than an incredible comeback. Wow. Congratulations to @#. The legend continues. A great day in the history of American sports.on winning the
—@DJGroup: Grateful we got to see that.
—@FSUGolf: This was Golf Heaven. Congratulations to @BKoepka on another great Majors performance. And congrats to you @TigerWoods
—@Jon_E_Johnson: Is just me or is Francesco Molinari a dead ringer for @AnthonyPedicini
—@Alex_Patton: If you’re the ‘get in the hole” guy, reevaluate everything about your life. #
— DAYS UNTIL —
Easter — 6; Frank Artiles is eligible to register to lobby the Legislature — 7; Tampa mayoral runoff election — 8; “Avengers: Endgame” opens — 11; White House Correspondents’ Dinner — 12; 2019 Legislative Session ends (maybe) — 18; Mother’s Day — 27; Florida Chamber Florida Business Leaders’ Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 38; Memorial Day — 42; Florida Democratic Leadership Blue conference and fundraiser — 54; Florida Chamber Learners to Earners Workforce Summit begins — 64; First Democratic presidential debates in Miami — 72; Second Democratic presidential debates in Detroit — 106; St. Petersburg primary election — 134; “Joker” opens — 172; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 196; Scott Maddox trial begins — 203; 2019 General Election — 204; 3rd Annual Florida Internet and Television FITCon begins — 206; Iowa Caucuses — 294; Florida’s presidential primary — 337; 2020 General Election — 568.
— TOP STORY —
“ACLU: So-called ‘sanctuary cities’ ban leads to infringement of citizens’ rights” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — “If these bills pass, it would undermine local governments’ ability to protect the civil rights of their residents,” writes Micah Kubic, ACLU of Florida executive director. SB 168 and HB 527 require cooperation between local authorities and federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Senate legislation as of now requires jails check ICE records and hold individuals in custody for two days if detainer orders exist. In a memo to editorial boards, Kubic makes the case such a statute will lead to infringement of individuals’ rights. State Sen. Joe Gruters, the bill’s sponsor, said the bill would impact only criminals previously deported or those who committed violent offenses before. He lashed out at the ACLU’s travel advisory earlier this week.
Please spare me all the false info @ACLUFL , the fact is these people are here illegally and if ICE has a hold it’s the least we can do to try to hold them accountable. Everyone impacted is breaking the law so… https://t.co/YtGf7FvVZX
— Evan Power (@EvanPower) April 14, 2019
— THE ADMINISTRATION —
Assignment editors — Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, and Florida State University President John Thrasher will hold a news conference, 8:30 a.m., Florida State University, The Heritage Museum at Dodd Hall, 641 University Way, Tallahassee. DeSantis, along with Visit Florida CEO Dana Young, Enterprise Florida CEO Jamal Sowell, and TPA CEO Joe Lopano, will make an announcement at Tampa International Airport at 12:30 p.m.
“Suspended Sheriff Scott Israel’s fight to get his job back gets a step closer to the state’s Supreme Court” via Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Israel’s attorneys filed a request for oral arguments before the state’s highest court. In a separate court filing, they argued that DeSantis went beyond his constitutional authority when he “imposed his will on the people of Broward County to decide who should be the Sheriff of Broward County.” DeSantis has blasted Israel for not accepting his fate, saying the former sheriff “continues to live in denial.”
“Surgeon General sidestep” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — Some outstanding questions are still revolving around Scott Rivkees, who was picked by DeSantis to become the state’s next surgeon general and head up the Department of Health. And it’s not clear when some of those questions will be answered. So far, the Senate has not received the official paperwork formalizing Rivkees
“Ron Bergeron cleared by ethics commission for spot on SFWMD” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Bergeron has been cleared by Florida Commission on Ethics after questions were raised regarding a $25 million contract he signed with the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD). He’s now been officially nominated for a seat by DeSantis. Bergeron was chosen to occupy a seat on the board by DeSantis back in late January. But after questions surrounding that contract began to arise, DeSantis said his appointment of Bergeron would remain pending until the ethics investigation was complete. The commission on Friday voted 8-0 that Bergeron’s business dealings did not present a conflict of interest which violated state law. DeSantis followed up with a statement on the ruling late Friday afternoon, confirming Bergeron would be nominated to the SFWMD board.
— SESSION —
“What’s left for lawmakers in final 3 weeks? A lot” via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press — Senate President Galvano’s goal of building rural infrastructure? Still not done. Speaker Oliva’s goal of bringing down health care costs? Still not done. DeSantis’ goal of expanding school vouchers? Still not done. And the list goes on: Bills to prevent human trafficking still haven’t passed both chambers. Neither have bills to create new restrictions on abortion. And a widely discussed bill to ban fracking is stalled. The Legislature is behaving like a college student who suddenly realizes finals are coming up and it’s time to get serious about studying. “The thing about Session, is in the last few weeks, we really start to use every hour of the day,” said Oliva.
“Senate urges Congress to send hurricane relief money, now” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — The Florida Senate unanimously backed a resolution to urge Congress to send hurricane relief and recovery money to north Florida immediately. Sen. Bill Montford introduced the measure co-sponsored by Sen. Fred Gainer and Sen. Doug Broxson. But by the time Montford and Broxson had explained the extent of the damage Hurricane Michael created, the entire chamber signed on as co-sponsors. “The crisis continues today,” said Montford, who added the storm hit the part of Florida with the state’s highest poverty rates. “This recovery will take decades.”
“Florida disasters command huge share of state spending” via John Kennedy of GateHouse Media — Disasters which rocked Florida last year are now complicating efforts to finalize a new state spending plan, with Hurricane Michael recovery and work to ease toxic water outbreaks commanding a huge share of the $90-billion budget.
Top Senate Republicans still backing ‘guardian’ program expansion — Despite claims from Democratic Sen. Perry Thurston, the top Republicans in the state Senate aren’t considering scrapping a plan that would allow teachers to carry guns in Florida schools. “I remain committed to following through on the recommendations of the [Parkland] commission,” Galvano told Andrew Atterbury and Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida. Senate budget chief Rob Bradley was just as resolute, saying he supports “the bill as it’s currently written.” The Parkland commission, formed after last year’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, has pushed heavily to allow teachers to enter the guardian program. The current program only allows other school personnel — not teachers — to be trained to carry guns on campus.
— MORE SESSION —
“Bill Galvano’s influence: Big money for Sarasota and Manatee in state budget” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — From $15 million over five years for red tide research at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota to $10 million for a road project in Manatee County and $3 million for two new hangers at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, the Senate is looking to steer more than $1 million to at least nine projects in the two-county region. There also is $1.5 million for the All-Star Children’s Foundation’s new Sarasota facility that will help abused children, $1.64 million for the last phase of New College of Florida’s growth plan, $2.15 million for a new Nursing Center of Excellence at State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, $1.75 million for two projects at Port Manatee, $1 million for a Cedar Hammock Fire Control District training tower.
“The ostriches who write Florida’s tax laws” via Steve Bousquet of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Year after year, the legislature cobbles together a no-new-taxes budget that shortchanges schools, public services and state workers. This year, in typical fashion, they’ll shift hundreds of millions of dollars from funds set aside for affordable housing and other programs, to make sure the budget balances, as the law requires. State prisons are falling apart. Some state agencies have operating deficits and long waiting lists for services. The Florida Highway Patrol has long been hobbled by rampant turnover because of low salaries. But fear not — the state is providing tax relief! The status quo will endure. In Florida’s ostrichlike Capitol, the repeal of a narrowly focused special interest tax break is a tax increase.
“Florida’s hate crime law marred by holes, advocates say” via Kate Santich of the Orlando Sentinel — This year’s bills to update the state’s hate crime statute — House Bill 743 and Senate Bill 940 — languished in committees where they were never discussed or voted on. Forty-five states, including Florida, have hate crime laws, though only 31 cover gender and 17 cover gender identity — including Missouri and Utah, both conservative-leaning states. Florida’s current statute covers crimes targeting people based on “race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, advanced age” or homeless status, added in 2010. Though some critics object to hate-crime statutes on principle — arguing they punish people for their thoughts — supporters say the crimes inflict damage beyond the immediate victim.
Adjacent — “Randy Fine calls Jewish Facebook commenter a ‘Judenrat’ Nazi collaborator” via Steve Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Fine twice called a Jewish Facebook commenter a “Judenrat,” a term used to describe Jewish Nazi collaborators, for his supporting an event to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian situation. Fine… who is Jewish, has been embroiled in controversy before for his social media comments, which include calling commenters who criticized Israel “Nazi” or “anti-Semitic” in 2017. The comments came the same week that Fine called state Senate Democratic Leader Audrey Gibson’s no vote on his bill to require public schools to treat anti-Semitism the same as racism, “unconscionable.” Gibson called the bill “an intentional piece of legislation to divide.”
“Could Florida raise smoking, vaping age from 18 to 21?” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — With the surprising support of big tobacco maker Altria, Florida lawmakers are moving forward with bills that would increase the minimum age from 18 to 21 to buy tobacco, e-cigarettes and vaping products, but there’s a catch. A House bill (HB 7119) would raise the age limit with an exemption for active duty military members. But it would also prevent cities from adopting their own minimum tobacco age and pre-empt local regulations on tobacco sales and marketing, something the large tobacco companies want. And the bill also increases the age requirement for medical marijuana patients to get parental consent from 18 to 21.
“Jay Trumbull: We aren’t beggars, but wells are running dry after Hurricane Michael” via the Panama City News-Herald — So here we are six months after the storm. We’ve lost a large unknown large portion of our population. Every business sector and every person has been deeply affected. Every day homes and businesses are being demolished and hauled off. Virtually every school was damaged or destroyed. Our people are not beggars, and we don’t live off handouts. Our people hand out; our people give out. Our people are good people. They’re the best people. They suffered great losses and continue to sacrifice for the well-being of our whole community. I rise to plead for the deep and continued support of this body as we try to survive back home. If we can survive, we can thrive.
To view Trumbull’s speech on the House floor, click on the image below:
— LEGISLATIVE SCHEDULE —
Happening today — The Senate Special Order Calendar Group will set the special-order calendar, which lists bills that will be heard on the Senate floor, 5:15 p.m., 401 Senate Office Building.
Happening today — The Criminal Justice Estimating Conference will hold what is known as an “impact” conference, which typically involves estimating potential costs of legislation, noon, 117 Knott Building.
Assignment editors — State Rep. Anna Eskamani will join advocates and faith leaders to ask the Legislature to support The Working Families Tax Credit — HB 1411/SB 1786, 12:30 p.m., 4th-floor Rotunda.
— $$$ —
Politicians and their committees hauled a healthy amount between last year’s election and the March 5 start of the Legislative Session when fundraising comes to a halt for the 60-day lawmaking process.
In fact, reports Langston Taylor for the Tampa Bay Times, “state politicians and committees recorded $61.2 million in donations during this last stretch between ballots and bills, a flurry of activity greater than any such period in at least 20 years, even after adjusting for inflation.”
Who brought in the most through their committees? The lawmakers with influential roles in Tallahassee — including some future chamber leaders.
Ice breaker: Special interest groups aren’t foolish. They’re getting on the good side of lawmakers who matter. Sen. Wilton Simpson brought in more than $925K over the 16-week period. The future Senate President from Pasco had the second-highest haul, according to Hughes’ analysis.
In the House: Rep. Paul Renner, set to become House Speaker in 2022, raised more than $854K — more than any other House member.
Purse strings: Powerful budget chiefs Bradley and Travis Cummings both ranked among the top 5 fundraisers in Hughes’ analysis. Bradley amassed about $591K, while Cummings brought in $547K.
“Disney’s pre-Legislative Session donations are tops, at $366K” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Disney has been the biggest contributor to parties and lawmakers for the 2019 Legislative Session so far, donating at least $366,000 to party funds and lawmakers’ or candidates’ campaigns in the first quarter of 2019. Disney Worldwide Services Inc. and at least nine other Disney companies such as Walt Disney World Co., Magic Kingdom Inc., and Disney Gift Card Services Inc. combined to be the top contributor to the state elections’ funds in January, February and March. The review does not count any donations the companies and committees may have made to leadership political committees various lawmakers and state officials control. Nor does it count any donations the companies may have passed through other committees to the parties or candidates.
— “Pre-Session fundraising a mixed bag for Northeast Florida lawmakers” via A.G. Gancarski
— STATEWIDE —
Scoop — “Not-for-profit formed with similar name, mission as Andrew Gillum’s PAC” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Former gubernatorial candidate Gillum built up some serious hype when he launched a voter drive. That work will be done with his Forward Florida political committee, which he now chairs. But it appears Gillum also formed a corporation with a similar name and function. Division of Corporations records show on April 5 paperwork was filed for the Forward Florida Action not-for-profit corporation. The corporate filing lists Gillum and Andrew Gay as the officers for the not-for-profit. The two men also appear in Division of Elections records as chairman and treasurer for the Forward Florida political committee.
“Spread the Vote founder: Florida could be ‘game-changer’ in 2020” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — You may have heard that Florida can be a pretty important state in presidential elections. As 2020 nears, Spread the Vote founder Kat Calvin said her group is more than aware of that fact. The organization works in states with voter ID laws to help prospective voters get their hands on those IDs. With an expanded group of Florida voters available in 2020, courtesy of Amendment 4, Calvin said her organization will be working overtime to make sure those residents who want to vote will be able to cast their ballot. “With this new pool of voters, as well as the whole new group of Puerto Rican citizens who are here, there’s potential for Florida to be the game-changer, or one of, in 2020,” Calvin said.
— MORE FROM AROUND THE STATE —
“Can better data fix Florida’s prisons?” via Nicole Lewis of the Tampa Bay Times — Last year, the Sunshine State became the first in the country to require its jails, prosecutors, public defenders, courts and prisons to coordinate data collection, enabling lawmakers and the public to track how someone moves through the entire criminal justice system, from arrest to release. The new information will be sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which will publish it online. Supporters of the new law hope it will bring transparency to an opaque justice system, illuminating where racial disparities begin while testing the merits of Florida’s strict sentencing policies. Research shows that long sentences increase prison costs, without improving public safety. Now, backers say, the legislature can craft reforms that are informed by facts.“
“CDC, state and local officials looking for sources of hepatitis A, no leads” via Sara Marino of the TC Palm — State and local health officials are working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention trying to pin down the source of hepatitis A in Martin County. As of Friday afternoon, all three agencies didn’t have any specific leads and are not investigating specific restaurants in the county.
“Sewer crisis in the state of Florida” via Josh Salmon, Jennifer Borresen, Daphne Chen and Dak Le of GateHouse Media — During the past decade, deteriorating sewers have released 1.6 billion gallons of wastewater, much of it polluting the state’s estuaries and oceans. More than 370 million gallons of that was completely untreated. Experts say the sewage has fed the blue-green algae blooms wreaking havoc on Florida estuaries and exacerbated red tide in the Gulf of Mexico. Florida’s sewers failed nearly 23,000 times over the past 10 years — a clip of more than six sewer spills each day. The top cause for the spills was breakage, often from tree root intrusion and exacerbated by the deterioration of aging lines. Flooding and power loss from storms also pounded the systems in coastal areas, causing massive amounts of sewage to flow out.
“Simmering hostilities greet tourists in South Walton” via Tom McLaughlin of the NWF Daily News — It is telling that the two sides in Walton County’s bitter battle over its beaches don’t even agree about what it was last year that blew apart decades of harmonious relations along one of Florida’s most beautiful coastlines. The dispute has evolved to the point in which it now pits the Walton County Commission against more than 600 beach property owners in an all-or-nothing legal fight that will decide whether 26 miles of county beach are considered open and accessible to the public. “There’s going to be a profound winner and a profound loser,” said attorney David Pleat, who represents some 60 property owners.
Bizarre — “Large, flightless bird attacks and kills its fallen owner” via The Associated Press — The Alachua County Fire Rescue Department said a cassowary killed the man on the property near Gainesville, likely using its long claws. The victim was apparently breeding the birds, state wildlife officials said. “My understanding is that the gentleman was in the vicinity of the bird and at some point fell. When he fell, he was attacked,” Deputy Chief Jeff Taylor said. The county sheriff’s office identified the victim as Marvin Hajos, 75, and said a death investigation has been opened. “Initial information indicates that this was a tragic accident for Mr. Hajos,” said Lt. Brett Rhodenizer, a sheriff’s office spokesman.
— SIX MONTHS LATER —
A half-year has passed since October when Hurricane Michael made landfall in the Panhandle. But in the eyes of one Marianna woman, recovery is not nearly what one would expect.
“We have had hundreds of tragedies and events that have occurred as a result of this storm that have set us back — and so many of them have changed our lives forever,” Ali Wiggins writes for the Tallahassee Democrat.
— “We have been completely forgotten,” she adds. Replaced by topics like “an avocado shortage, of all things.”
— Among the unending tragedies: A coach and his wife electrocuted while working on a scoreboard for the local school. While cleaning out his backyard, a tree crushed another neighbor. And there were at least two suicides (that Wiggins is personally aware of) resulting from the continuing crisis.
— Residents of the Panhandle still deal with settling and shifting foundations of homes, caved-in roofs, rain-flooded rooms and hurried evacuations from unsafe houses. Tent cities remain — and are growing — in North Florida. Insurance policies canceled. A significant lack of licensed contractors and roofers.
All this has made overwhelmed North Florida residents feeling frustrated, heartbroken and exhausted, living in an area that will never be the same.
“Please pray for us all,” Wiggins pleads. “The folks in the Panhandle are not OK, and all we know to ask for now are prayers as we try to piece back together our towns and communities.”
— THE TRAIL —
“John Morgan’s law firm gave big to the Florida GOP in past few months” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Morgan’s Orlando law firm has given the Republican Party of Florida $135,000 since Morgan left the Democratic Party in 2017 to become an independent — but unlike in the past, the firm did not give any similar contributions to Democrats during the same period. Morgan, a prominent fundraiser for Democrats, wrote in an email, “I don’t pick parties, I pick people.” Morgan said Galvano is “my long, long time friend.” “His children call me uncle John,” Morgan wrote. “He asked. I gave.”
“Ballot measures for 2020 on the move” via Jim Turner and Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Among the amendment ideas that are continuing to move forward: raising the minimum wage; expanding Medicaid; overhauling
Happening today — The Financial Impact Estimating Conference will hold a workshop about a proposed constitutional amendment that would raise the minimum wage in the state, 8:30 a.m., 117 Knott Building.
“Jason Shoaf, Ryan Terrell offer two distinct options for HD 7 voters” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — A lifelong Panhandle resident, Shoaf will tell you House District 7 voters want to elect someone who holds traditional values. Someone who balances family and business. Someone who is an unflinching conservative and principled through faith. Terrell, on the other hand, will say voters want a candidate who promises to help reweigh the scales of power and rebuild the district. The 26-year-old Democrat doesn’t perceive the same “singular identity” that Shoaf sees. And as a gay man, he believes his candidacy is an opportunity for any marginalized group in the district to elect someone with compassion and understanding.
“Davis Straz spends another $680K on race against Jane Castor” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Straz cut a personal check for $500,000 into his campaign and another for $180,000 to his campaign’s affiliated Electioneering Communications Organization, Tampa’s Bright Future. Straz raised just $1,500 from outside sources. That puts the total amount of money the philanthropist has spent on his bid to replace Bob Buckhorn at nearly $5 million. His campaign has raised a total of $4.2 million as of April 5 while his electioneering group has raised $430,000.
“Exonerated: Expert debunks crime reporting allegations against Castor” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — A criminology expert from the University of South Florida doesn’t agree with recent allegations against former Tampa Police Chief Castor claiming she manipulated crime data to make crime rates look lower than they actually were. Bryanna Fox holds a Ph.D. in psychological criminology from the University of Cambridge in England. She also used to work for the FBI. She’s well-versed both academically and in practice in the Uniform Crime Report methodology at the center of the recent allegations. “There were year-over-year crime decreases after the department changed the way data were reported,” Fox said. “But crime continued to drop.”
“Runoff in Miami Shores Village Council race scheduled for April 30” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — After a pair of candidates ended Tuesday night in an exact tie for the fourth and final seat available on the Miami Shores Village Council, a runoff in that race has now been set for April 30. Political consultant Christian Ulvert and lawyer Stephen Loffredo ended with the same total of 893 votes. The two will now face off one on one for a two-year term on the Council. Ulvert announced his candidacy back in February. He has worked as a consultant for Democratic candidates and as a political director of the Florida Democratic Party. Ulvert is also the founder and president of Edge Communications, a consulting firm. Loffredo has 18 years experience on the Council.
— LOCAL —
“Larry Keefe is formally sworn in as U.S. Attorney” via Tallahassee Democrat — Keefe was formally sworn in as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida at an investiture ceremony Friday afternoon … Keefe — son of a World War II fighter pilot and a librarian — was one of seven lawyers nominated by Trump in his 17th wave of nominees for U.S. attorneys back in August. The University of Florida Levin College of Law School graduate has been a trial attorney for more than 30 years … He spoke to his “new work family” at the U.S. Attorney’s Office. “We are here to be loyal to the constitution and the cause of justice by always doing the right thing the right way for the right reasons in every case. We will treat our legal adversaries with fairness, dignity, and respect,” Keefe said.
“Developers dodge new questions about past struggles, abandon Berkman 2 plans” via Christopher Hong of the Florida Times-Union — Not one for surprises, Jacksonville City Councilman John Crescimbeni wanted to know whether a Mississippi development firm had any unflattering episodes in its past before awarding them up to $36 million in public incentives to transform downtown’s vacant Berkman 2 property into a hotel and family oriented resort. A representative from the company told Crescimbeni he wouldn’t find any bad press about the hotels they built on the coast of Mississippi and assured him they developed good relationships everywhere they’ve worked. When a City Council auditor found troubling information weeks later about financial judgments and unpaid taxes they believed were tied to the firm, the developers insisted the information was wrong.
“There is no replacing Sam Mousa, a lion of city government” via Nate Monroe for the Florida Times-Union — The impending retirement of Mousa — Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s brilliant, chain-smoking, skull-cracking and more-than-occasionally choleric chief administrative officer — will leave a gaping hole in the administration that can’t be filled. Hiring Mousa remains the single best decision Curry has made in office, finding in him an administrator with an unusual ability to make Jacksonville’s vast and often sluggish bureaucracy lurch forward by simple edict. He’s not a visionary or a political mastermind. I don’t think those things interest him. Mousa is something better and more practical: He is instead the instrument through which the mayor of the largest city by area in the contiguous United States can ask for anything and rest comfortably in the knowledge it will be done.
“Orlando more than doubles its federal anti-terror funding with $3.5 million in 2019” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — The region received $1.5 million in Department of Homeland Security’s Urban Area Security Initiative grants in 2018, after Orlando was left off the list of anti-terrorism money for three straight years from 2015 to 2017 despite the shooting at the Pulse Nightclub that killed 49 people in 2016. The grant is part of more than $590 million being parceled out to 31 “high-threat, high-density” cities and urban areas to help pay for training and equipment. Last year’s grant was divvied up among surrounding counties. Public safety organizations will put together another wish list of equipment for 2019 including firearms, bomb squad materials, and active shooter kits, but the money can’t be used to hire people or pay salaries.
What Jeff Kottkamp is reading — “At Palm Beach Kennel Club, a vilified sport and a way of life end” via CityLab — Forty states have already enacted laws banning the races. Florida had been greyhound racing’s strongest holdout, home to 11 of the remaining 17 dog tracks left in the country. Last November, Floridians overwhelmingly voted in Amendment 13, which bans greyhound racing in the state by 2021. The Palm Beach Kennel Club will close its dog racing track in 2020, and club workers and devotees aren’t sure what they’ll do next … Andrew Holmes worked his way up at Palm Beach Kennel Club to become a supervisor … “Everything I learned here I can’t take nowhere else,” Holmes said with tears welling in his eyes. “This ban is taking everything away from me.”
What Kevin Sweeny is reading — “City looking to get in front of growing nightlife issues” via Stuart Korfhage of the St. Augustine Record — Several shootings and suspected DUI-related crashes in downtown St. Augustine in the past few months — some as recently as the past two weeks — have prodded city officials and business owners into discussions about what action to take. They’re afraid for the safety of the residents and visitors and worried that continued incidents would mar the reputation of a destination that has enjoyed a clean image for decades. “I never thought we would turn into the bachelor or bachelorette destination,” said St. Augustine Police Commander Jennifer Michaux, speaking at the Chamber of Commerce event. And yet she said on weekends, partyers out after 2 a.m. — which is the cutoff for alcohol sales — can number 3,000 to 5,000.
“EEOC complaint details Marco police discrimination, information leaks, potential perjury” via Devan Patel of Marco Eagle — Explosive allegations contained in an EEOC complaint filed against the Marco Island Police Department not only allege gender discrimination but state Chief Al Schettino leaked information about a battery investigation into the former city manager and along with a former councilman, sought his ouster.
“The Coast Guard is giving away historic Florida Keys lighthouses. But there’s a catch” via Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald — Four Florida designated historic lighthouses have been “determined to be excess to the needs of the U.S. Coast Guard” so the government agency is giving them away at no cost after the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000. There is, of course, a catch. You’re not going to be hosting your next wild Stiltsville-styled boat party at any of them over the Fourth of July weekend. The lighthouses offered to eligible entities the preservation act defines as federal agencies, state and local agencies, nonprofit
“SeaWorld lays off undisclosed number of workers in ‘efficiency’ move” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — “Like most companies, we regularly evaluate operations to ensure we are properly organized for performance and efficiency,” spokesperson Suzanne Pelisson-
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Undisclosed cash flowed at Trump inaugural ball with ties to China, embattled Saipan casino” via Lulu Ramadan of the Palm Beach Post — The lavish Asian Pacific American Presidential Inaugural Gala drew more than 900 people who paid at least $75 per ticket and a handful of sponsors who shelled out much more. But there’s no trace of the money raised that night. One man in charge of raising money for the event told The Post that the host, the National Committee of Asian-American Republicans, collected between $5,000 and $15,000 each from up to 20 listed sponsors. It also took in hundreds of smaller contributions. The committee’s executive director, Boca Raton tech entrepreneur Zhonggang ‘Cliff’ Li, told The Post that he knows where the money went, ”but I don’t want to tell you.”
“John Bolton coming to Miami to discuss U.S. action on Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua” via Nora Gámez Torres of the Miami Herald — “[I am] pleased to announce that I will be joining the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association on April 17 in Miami to deliver remarks on the important steps being taken by the Administration to confront security threats related to Cuba, Venezuela, and the democratic crisis in Nicaragua,” Bolton tweeted. Also, the Treasury Department announced more sanctions against nine vessels that have carried oil from Venezuela to Cuba. Bolton is expected to announce more sanctions related to Cuba during the speech.
“New York federal judge blocks Trump administration from ending TPS for Haitians” via Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald — In a 145-page federal ruling, U.S. District Judge William Kuntz of the Eastern District of New York issued a nationwide temporary injunction preventing DHS from terminating Temporary Protected Status, TPS, for Haitians. Kuntz said 50,000 to 60,000 Haitians and their U.S.-born children would suffer “irreparable harm” if the legal protection ended and they were forced to return to a country that is not safe. Kuntz’s ruling came out of a lawsuit filed by Haitians in Florida and New York, challenging the Trump administration’s decision to end TPS granted to Haiti by the Obama administration after its 2010 devastating earthquake.
Assignment editors — Rick Scott will hold a news conference following a meeting with SOUTHCOM Admiral Craig Faller, 11:30 a.m., El Porton de la Flaca, 1460 NW 107th Ave Suite B, Doral.
— 2020 —
“Trump campaign raises $30 million in first quarter of 2019” via Zachary Baso of Axios — Trump’s reelection campaign is set to report that it raised more than $30 million in the first quarter of 2019, edging out his top two Democratic rivals combined, according to figures it provided to The Associated Press. The haul brings the campaign’s cash on hand to $40.8 million, an unprecedented war chest for an incumbent president this early in a campaign. The Trump campaign said nearly 99% of its donations were of $200 or less, with an average donation of $34.26.
“Trump campaign eyes chances to vie for states lost in 2016” via Zeke Miller of The Associated Press — Trump will visit one of those states, Minnesota, where he lost to Hillary Clinton by fewer than 45,000 votes in 2016. The campaign also is targeting New Mexico, Nevada, and New Hampshire. The visit to Minnesota is meant to highlight the effect of Trump’s signature legislative accomplishment, the 2017 tax overhaul, in a historically Democratic-leaning state. “We see trends in the state that we like,” said senior campaign adviser Bill Stepien. “We like what we see on the ground. We like the energy we’re seeing.” With record fundraising for this stage in a presidential cycle, both the Trump campaign and the RNC are largely unrestrained financially, allowing them to make riskier investments in states won by Clinton.
“Joe Biden to campaign as extension of Barack Obama’s political movement” via Thomas Beaumont and Julie Pace of The Associated Press — The former vice president has begun testing the approach as he nears an expected campaign launch later this month. After remarks at a recent labor union event, Biden said he was proud to be an “Obama-Biden Democrat,” coining a term that his advisers define as pragmatic and progressive, and a bridge between the working-class white voters who have long had an affinity for Biden and the younger, more diverse voters who backed Obama in historic numbers. Biden’s strategy will test whether anyone other than Obama can recreate the coalition that delivered him to the White House twice but was something Clinton was unable to do in 2016.
“How Mayor Pete started looked presidential” via Adam Wren of POLITICO Magazine — Pete Buttigieg is beginning to get attention from the GOP machine, a sure signal that he is no longer considered an absurd long shot. A tonal moderate who espouses a progressive program of democratic reforms, the cerebral Buttigieg balances high rhetoric and policy specifics. He talks about cybersecurity but also drops in metacritiques of Trump’s signature campaign slogan: “There is no such thing as an honest politics that revolves around the word ‘again,’” a line he is almost certain to use when he’ll make his 2020 bid official. “The way he talks about issues is refreshing to a lot of people,” his campaign manager, Mike Schmuhl said. “It’s not just litmus tests and platitudes, and what do you want to hear. It’s values, and then he goes to ideas, and then he goes to policies.”
“Kirsten Gillibrand raises $3 million for 2020 presidential campaign” via Axios — Communications director Meredith Kelly did not disclose the number of donors or donations Gillibrand‘s campaign received but said the average online donation was $25 and that 92% of contributions were under $200. Two-thirds of the donations came from women. Gillibrand also has $10.2 million in cash on hand — which Kelly says puts the campaign in the top 4 of Democratic candidates running in 2020.
— OPINIONS —
“Florida politicians loathe citizen activism. So they’re trying to thwart it. Again” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — A majority of you voted to change the laws yourselves to support basic principles — be it cleaner water or better public education — for the people who live here. Politicians hate it when you empower yourselves. They like to be gatekeepers. Keep in mind: These same legislators have tried to amend the constitution far more often than you. And now GOP legislators are at it again. They want to make it tougher for citizens and groups to collect signatures. They want to threaten petition-organizers
“Joe Henderson: Rick Scott correct about Trump making everyone crazy” via Florida Politics — Trump said he wanted to be an unpredictable President, but he is anything but that. Whether that is enough to drive him from office in 2020, I guess we’ll find out. I wouldn’t bet on it at this point, no matter what the polls say. Millions of Americans still don’t trust the government. Trump sits atop the government depth chart, but his supporters believe the other guys who don’t follow him are the problem. So, sure. I think Rick Scott is absolutely right. The threat to send migrants to sanctuary cities is empty and offered only for effect. That wouldn’t be presidential and probably is against the law, but we’re talking about it. And President Trump is laughing his backside off the whole time.
“Panhandle family farms desperately need Gov. DeSantis’ help” via Bud Baggett for the Tallahassee Democrat — I am saddened and disappointed that in the zeal and rush to bring much-needed infrastructure relief to the Panhandle counties, totally forgotten are the family farms that collectively make up our state’s peanut and cotton industry. For the rural counties in the Panhandle, agriculture is the backbone and lifeblood of the entire economy. Not only were entire crops lost just days before what was to be a better than average harvest season, but the loans given to the individual farmers from area financial institutions pledged against the harvest yields are also in jeopardy. When farmers cannot pay the banks their loans default, making it virtually impossible to ever recover from that setback.
“Challenges remain, but a glimpse of hope for Amendment 4 emerges” via Desmond Meade and Neal Volz for the Orlando Sentinel — For the first time in weeks, actions by the Florida Legislature have provided a glimmer of hope for the millions of voters who supported Amendment 4. While real challenges remain, such a hopeful moment represents quite a turnaround from the recent acrimony we have seen surrounding Amendment 4. This is especially true for those of us who remain frustrated by lawmakers for introducing what we felt was unneeded legislation to begin with — something that was only made worse when the bills that were initially introduced included harsh restrictions on the recently won voting rights of people with past felony convictions. So, why have hope? Because hope is what got Amendment 4 passed in the first place.
“The good and bad in Florida’s criminal justice reform effort” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Criminal justice reform suddenly has emerged as a big issue in Tallahassee. House and Senate bills would start to reform the system in ways similar to the First Step Act, which Congress passed last year to modernize the federal system. True reform, however, won’t come until Florida gives judges more flexibility in sentencing. The Senate bill would do that. The House bill wouldn’t. The core problem remains that too many people enter prison needlessly. That practice wastes money by raising the inmate population and providing no public benefit. To fix that, Jeff Brandes’ bill would allow judges to depart from mandatory minimum sentences in drug trafficking cases, under certain conditions.
“Melanie Brown-Woofter: Reducing stigma of mental health is key to reducing suicide deaths” via Florida Politics — In Florida, death by suicide is the second leading cause of death in the 15-24 age group. More teenagers and young adults die by suicide than from motor vehicle accidents or homicides. Somehow in our society, we talk openly about cancer, diabetes and heart disease yet we whisper about diseases of the brain like mental illness, depression and bipolar disorder. Together each one of us can raise the public awareness of suicide deaths and the role we can play in saving lives, by merely talking about it and messaging that is safe to seek treatment. Post-event intervention activities are those which reduce risk and promote healing after a suicide death.
“We want Publix for cucumbers and cupcakes, not controversy” via Sue Carlton of the Tampa Bay Times — As the Times Steve Contorno reported this week, the Florida-based chain sure sounds all-in as Mount Pleasant, S.C., readies for its new environmentally smart ordinance against plastic bags in favor of shoppers using paper or reusable ones. And good for them. A Publix spokeswoman sounded pretty positive in the local paper when asked about compliance with the new rule, waxing on about “taking care of people and minimizing the impact to our planet while remaining profitable” and how “sustainability is ingrained in our culture.” A culture that dies at the Florida-Georgia line, apparently. Back here at home, Publix has been a force against cities and counties that want to adopt environmentally conscious local ordinances to ban plastic bags.
“New airfare tax would crash Florida’s travel industry” via Armando J. Ibarra for the Orlando Sentinel — The chairman of the powerful transportation and infrastructure committee is pushing a bill that would charge travelers extra fees on each leg of their itineraries. He claims that airports desperately need extra cash for infrastructure investments. This isn’t true. Airports are actually flush with cash. The tax in question is the passenger facility charge. Congress created the PFC to raise revenue for airport upkeep and upgrades. Today, the PFC can add $9 to every nonstop, round-trip flight. Tack on a single layover in each direction, and a family of four can quickly spend more than $70 on this tax alone on a trip to Florida. Some of these folks would scale back their travel in response to the higher taxes.
— LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS —
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Brian Bautista, Southern Strategy Group: Lake Nona Property Holdings
Slater Bayliss, Chris Chaney, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: Breakthrough Behavior
David Browning, Rachel Cone, Chris Dudley, Erin Rock, Southern Strategy Group: Computer Aid, Lumina Analytics
Will McKinley, Angela Dempsey, Fred Dickinson, PooleMcKinley: The Association of Plastic Recyclers
— IN MEMORIAM —
Flags at half-staff for Freddie L. Warmack, Newberry’s first black mayor — DeSantis ordered flags at half-staff to honor the first black mayor of Newberry in Alachua County. Warmack died earlier this month. His order applied to the Alachua County Courthouse, City Hall of Newberry, and at the Capitol in Tallahassee sunrise to sunset Saturday. Warmack was first elected to the Newberry City Commission in 1974, serving as a commissioner for 10 years. In 1984, he became Newberry’s first African-American Mayor and served in that capacity for another 10 years.
— SUNSHINE SPORTS —
After suffering a drought of six years without making the NBA playoffs, the Orlando Magic let it be known that its appearance this year is no fluke. Just ask the Toronto Raptors, who were felled at home by the Magic 104-101 in the opening game of their series.
Guard D.J. Augustin drilled a 3-pointer with 3.4 seconds to play to provide the margin for Orlando. It brought the Magic all the way back after Toronto had a 20-2 run midway through the game to seemingly take control.
Game 2 is Tuesday at 8 p.m. at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. The game will broadcast on Fox Sports Florida and TNT.
“We’ve been doubted our whole season … but we’ve always believed in each other. We’re a family.” – D.J. Augustin. pic.twitter.com/3m4mKRKk4Q
— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) April 14, 2019
The NBA Coach of the Year Award will be announced in late June. Several candidates have a shot, but no one has done a better job than the Orlando Magic’s Steve Clifford.
On January 31 they stood at 21-31 heading into a game with their longtime nemesis Indiana Pacers. They won that game and 21 of their last 30 to make the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
It took a few months, but the Magic bought into Clifford’s philosophy. Coming down the stretch, they finished on an 11-2 run to finish at 42-40 and win the Southeast Division and earn Clifford the distinction of being named the Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for March and April.
The first-year coach deserves serious consideration for CoY. Whatever happens in the playoffs is not considered, but another win in Toronto on Tuesday would be welcome.
— ALOE —
“’Star Wars: The rise of Skywalker’ trailer: watch Rey prepare for battle in episode IX” via Dave Itzkoff of The New York Times — The new teaser trailer for the next installment, for which J.J. Abrams returned to the helm, begins with a tantalizing glimpse of Rey, alone on a desert planet and wielding her lightsaber as a mysterious starcraft charges at her. The voice of Luke Skywalker is heard to say: “We’ve passed on all we know. A thousand generations live in you now. But this is your fight.” There are all-too-brief looks at characters new and old, including Billy Dee Williams as the interstellar cad Lando Calrissian and Carrie Fisher as Leia, using footage shot for “The Force Awakens.” A piece of on-screen text vows: “The saga comes to an end.” The new film is scheduled for release on Dec. 20.
To view the trailer, click on the image below:
What Ryan Smith is reading — “’The Mandalorian’: First look at ‘Star Wars’ series revealed by Jon Favreau” via Jordan Moreau of Variety — Disney debuted four new stills and roughly three minutes of teaser footage showing Pedro Pascal’s Mandalorian warrior, Carl Weathers’ character Greef Carga, and Gina Carano’s character Cara Dune during the Star Wars Celebration in Chicago on Sunday. Pascal’s titular character is modeled after iconic bounty hunters Jango and Boba Fett. The panel revealed that Carano’s character, Cara Dune, is an ex-Rebel Shock Trooper, while Weathers’ Greef Carga is the head of a guild of bounty hunters. The series is set between “A New Hope” and “The Force Awakens,” sometime after the fall of the Empire and before the rise of the First Order. The series will premiere on Nov. 12, the launch date of the Disney+ streaming service.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to Celeste Camm, Director of Operations for Rubin, Turnbull & Associates.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jim Rosica, Dan McAuliffe, and Drew Wilson.