Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 4.23.19

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Here’s the day that was — and will be — in Florida politics.

Today is the 50th day of the 2019 Legislative Session. As the Orlando Sentinel’s Gray Rohrer noted on Twitter, here are all the issues which have not yet gone to Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ desk: Amendment 4 implementing bill, arming teachers, 5G deregulation, AOB reform, ban on texting while driving, ban on so-called sanctuary cities, beer ads/promotions, changes to the amendment petition-gathering process, criminal justice reforms, health care deregulation, professions deregulation, tort reform, university spending changes, affordable housing pre-emption, sunscreen pre-emption, tobacco 21 marketing pre-emption, VISIT FLORIDA extension, and/or voucher expansion.

Ron DeSantis’ desk may soon be much more crowded.

Although there are still ten days before Sine Die, it’s not too early to think about who is emerging from Session as a winner or a loser. That’s why we’re asking for your nominations now for the W&L columns.

Think about which bills have already died. Or who or what issue is a winner no matter what happens during the final two weeks.

Please avoid nominating the big-ticket items like the Governor or the budget. We’re looking for specific people and issues. We will publish your answers (but your identity will remain confidential); send them to [email protected].

For now, we plan to publish the annual “Winners & Losers of the Legislative Session” post next Friday evening, assuming there’s a hanky drop then. Stay tuned…

The last couple of years taught us that elections are won at the ballot box, not by opinion polls and endorsements. So, Jane Castor will have to wait until Tuesday night to learn if the seemingly overwhelming edge she has in the traditional pre-election metrics translates to victory in the race to be Tampa’s next Mayor.

Her opponent, businessman and philanthropist David Straz, has out-spent Castor by about 4-to-1 to paint the former Police Chief as another agent of a corrupt status quo.

Hersonor: Despite being outspent 4-to-1, all signs are pointing to a blowout for Jane Castor to become Tampa’s next Mayor.

His latest attacks have focused on Castor’s connections with many of Tampa’s business and political leaders. Straz has called that the “old boy network.”

Most of the $4.7 million Straz has invested to win the office came from his own considerable bank account. On April 8 he loaned his campaign another $600,000 and has not slowed up his attacks on Castor, despite lagging badly in polling.

A University of North Florida poll last week gave Castor a 36-point lead, while St. Pete Polls had her in front by 27 points. Ominously for Straz, 70 percent of Castor’s supporters in the latter poll said they had already cast ballots.

All but one of Tampa’s living former Mayors endorsed Castor, including current Mayor Bob Buckhorn, along with U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, state Sen. Janet Cruz, and former Florida House Speaker H. Lee Moffitt.

Multiple unions, the Hillsborough County LGBTA Democratic Caucus, and the Tampa Bay Area Chiefs of Police Association also endorsed her.

Throughout the campaign, Castor stressed her knowledge of the city and its neighborhoods from 31 years she spent with the Tampa Police Department.

Tampa will swear in a new Mayor May 1.

—“One more day until Tampa picks its next Mayor” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times

Assignment editors — Castor will hold an election watch party, 6:30 p.m., The Vault, 611 N. Franklin St., Tampa.

Peter Schorsch will be the featured speaker at Tuesday’s meeting of Capital Tiger Bay Club. That’s 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, 505 W. Pensacola St., Tallahassee.  For info on last-minute attendance, contact Debby Kent at [email protected] or call (850) 320-2019.


@RealDonaldTrump: My friend Herman Cain, a truly wonderful man, has asked me not to nominate him for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board. I will respect his wishes. Herman is a great American who truly loves our Country!

@BarackObama: Young people all over the world are leading the way in the fight to protect our planet because they know their future depends on it. This Earth Day, I want to celebrate the courageous, committed young leaders who are stepping up to save the one planet we’ve got.

@MattGaetz: Had a great call with @LtGovNunez today coordinating our efforts to support the commercial & military space missions in Florida. @realDonaldTrump — Florida is the right home for the #SpaceForce!

@MearKat00: Tomorrow is the first day of the real Session.

@AGlorios: Last night I dreamt I was trying to negotiate an out-of-network hospital charge of $7,700 in outerspace while I was on a super secret mission. We must be entering the budget conference soon for the 2019 legislative session.

@FarmerForFLSenate: I was sickened by the actions of the BSO deputies last week. This was police brutality, plain and simple. This family deserves justice, and these deputies must be relieved of their duties immediately.

@JaredMoskowitz: Dear @NSYNC @jtimberlake Will you please announce a reunion tour, so I don’t have to hear or see this BTS BS. Thank you, World


“Avengers: Endgame” opens — 3; White House Correspondents’ Dinner — 4; 2019 Legislative Session ends (maybe) — 10; Mother’s Day — 19; Florida Chamber Florida Business Leaders’ Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 32; Memorial Day — 34; Florida Democratic Leadership Blue conference and fundraiser — 46; U.S. Open begins — 51; Father’s Day — 54; Florida Chamber Learners to Earners Workforce Summit begins — 59; First Democratic presidential debates in Miami — 64; Independence Day — 72; Second Democratic presidential debates in Detroit — 98; St. Petersburg primary election — 127; “Joker” opens — 164; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 188; Scott Maddox trial begins — 195; 2019 General Election — 196; 3rd Annual Florida Internet and Television FITCon begins — 198; Iowa Caucuses — 286; Florida’s presidential primary — 329; 2020 General Election — 560.


State estimators figure minimum wage hike will cost state $540 million in 2027” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A proposed hike in Florida’s minimum wage could cost the state about $540 million in 2027, according to official estimates. And millions more would be lost in the five prior years. The Financial Impact Estimating Conference submitted calculations Monday of financial ramifications from a ballot proposal seeking a $15 minimum wage. Florida For A Fair Wage, chaired by Orlando attorney John Morgan, wants the question in front of voters in 2020. Most of the direct costs from impacts hit public schools.

John Morgan’s bid for a $15 minimum wage, if successful, could come with a hefty price tag, state estimators say.


Assignment editors — DeSantis will deliver remarks at the AARP ‘We Hear You’ Prescription Drugs Town Hall, 9:30 a.m. Eastern time, Florida State University, Augustus B. Turnbull Conference Center, Room 108, 555 W. Pensacola St., Tallahassee.

Ron DeSantis seeks federal funding boost for Michael recovery” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — “I am officially requesting an increase in federal funding for Hurricane Michael recovery from 75 to 90 percent,” DeSantis said. “It was clear that the efforts to rebuild and recover were far from over. An increase in the federal share will help Northwest Florida tremendously, and I thank President Trump for his previous commitment to fully fund the first 45 days of recovery from this storm.” Florida Division of Emergency Management head Jared Moskowitz echoed DeSantis’ request saying, “We recognized the devastation this storm caused and took action in January by putting in place new processes and procedures to get funding out as quickly as possible.”

DeSantis announces launch of Super Bowl LIV Environmental Initiative “Ocean to Everglades” — Gov. DeSantis joined the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee to help launch Ocean to Everglades (O2E). The initiative is a partnership between the host committee, NFL Green, Ocean Conservancy and The Everglades Foundation to raise awareness and reduce the environmental impact of the Super Bowl. “Florida is prime for marquee sporting events, and we are honored to host the Super Bowl in Miami next year,” DeSantis said. “Preserving our environment is important to many Floridians … I am thankful to the host committee and the partners involved in this initiative for putting a plan in place to ensure that our environment will be safeguarded from our oceans to the Everglades.”

Ron DeSantis joined the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee in Key Biscayne to help launch Ocean to Everglades (O2E), the Super Bowl LIV environmental initiative.

Environmental groups demand action from DeSantis DeSantis received an Earth Day card encouraging him to take strong action to fight climate change. The Florida Clean Energy for All (CEFA) said Florida is the state most vulnerable to climate change, and quick action is needed. “Climate change is the single biggest threat facing Florida, and Governor DeSantis is the single most powerful voice in Florida government,” said Florida Conservation Voters head Aliki Moncrief, who called on DeSantis to speed up the state’s transition to clean energy. Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s Florida director, Susan Glickman, took an economic angle, adding that “advancing clean energy will keep energy dollars in the state, create high-paying local jobs and spur economic development. The choice is clear.”

Okaloosa Superintendent case teed up again” via the News Service of Florida — After the Florida Supreme Court ruled against suspended Okaloosa County Superintendent of Schools Mary Beth Jackson last week, the legal battle over her ouster is ready to start again in the state Senate. Senate Special Master Dudley Goodlette will hold a prehearing conference as he prepares to consider Jackson’s challenge to her suspension by DeSantis. The Senate case was put into abeyance when Jackson also challenged DeSantis in the Supreme Court. But justices ruled last week that the governor acted within his authority when he suspended her. The dispute is playing out in the Legislature because the state Constitution gives the Senate the power to reinstate or remove elected officials from office.

After being denied by the Supreme Court, Okaloosa County School Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson’s removal hearing now goes to the Senate

DeSantis picks for Miami Dade College Board zip through Senate panel” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — In a brief hearing Monday, the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee voted to advance the nominations of Dr. Anay Abraham and Carlos Migoya to serve on the Miami Dade College Board of Trustees. Abraham and Migoya are two of five nominees selected by DeSantis to serve on the board in late March. Their nominations will now go to the full Senate for approval. Abraham is the Managing Director of Developmental & External Relations at City Year Miami. DeSantis selected her to serve a full four-year term on the Board. Migoya, however, will fill a term with only two years remaining. He’s currently working as the president and CEO of the Jackson Health System.

Vaping ban lands on DeSantis’ desk” via the News Service of Florida — DeSantis received SB 7012 that would carry out a voter-approved ban on vaping and the use of electronic cigarettes in workplaces. DeSantis will have until April 29 to act on the bill, which the House and Senate passed unanimously. Voters in November approved a constitutional amendment that combined the workplace-vaping ban with a ban on offshore oil drilling. The amendment was placed on the ballot by the state Constitution Revision Commission. While voters overwhelmingly approved the measure, it still needed lawmakers to implement it.


Proposed reform could cut prison costs by $860M over five years” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics The Office of Economic and Demographic Research determined that a plan to decrease the mandatory time-served threshold for certain offenders would result in the most significant drop in prison beds when compared to other proposed statute changes. That adjustment to what’s known as “gain time” is embedded in the Florida First Step Act (SB 642), the Senate’s criminal justice overhaul. Specifically, the provision would lower the time-served threshold from 85 percent to 65 percent for certain first-time, non-violent offenders. It currently requires prisoners to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences.

This is a crappy way to frame this story; way to go LB for pushing back — “Opioid lawsuit bill stalls in Florida committee chaired by sister-in-law of Walgreens lobbyist” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — A bill critical to the lawsuit moving forward has stalled in the committee of a powerful lawmaker — Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, who said her committee won’t hear it because of concerns it could invade the privacy of patients. She said her objections aren’t related to her brother-in-law. That would be Chris Hansen, a lobbyist whose clients include Walgreens — one defendant in Moody’s lawsuit. “I haven’t spoken to him about the issue, and I’ve actually been chair of the committee for three times longer than I’ve been his brother-in-law,” she said.

Environmentalists try to derail toll-road plan” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Sierra Club Florida Director Frank Jackalone said during a news conference in St. Petersburg that his group will “declare war” on lawmakers who sponsor the bill (SB 7068), which is a priority of Senate President Bill Galvano. “We will amass the most massive campaign the Sierra Club has ever done in Florida, in our history, to stop those toll roads from being put in place,” said Jackalone, who predicted the projects would bring sprawl, harmful wildlife impacts and water pollution resulting from paving large stretches of rural lands. “The whole state will change.”

Florida House Democrats’ ‘New Sunshine Deal’ still in Session shade” via John Haughey of — When House Minority Leader Rep. Kionne McGhee introduced the “New Sunshine Deal,” he acknowledged the chamber’s 47 Democrats faced tough sledding. Components that could not gain traction as bills would be proposed as amendments to other legislation through the committee process, he said. With two weeks remaining before the Legislature concludes on May 3, and committees adjourning for the Session, it is unlikely any “New Sunshine Deal” initiatives will be introduced this year. The 17-page “New Sunshine Deal” includes a $500 annual tax rebate for low/moderate-income households, a 13-percent salary increase for schoolteachers, a $1,000 raise for state workers, a 700,000-resident expansion of Medicaid and full funding for Florida Forever and affordable housing.

Happy #HoopsDay — Look for several female folks in The Process to be sporting hoop earrings. Hosting Hoops Day are Reps. Anna Eskamani, Amy Mercado, Kamia Brown, Cindy Polo, Fentrice Driskell and Kim Daniels, along with others. They encourage participants to share their #HoopsStory. Lauren Cooper, who works with Eskamani, tweeted: “Our interns were told during legislative orientation that hoop earrings are unprofessional.” She added: “Well we know hoops exist across many minority groups as symbols of resistance, strength & identity thus the unapologetic #HoopsDay has been born!” 


The Senate will hold a floor session and could approve a wide-ranging bill aimed at bolstering safety in Florida schools. Other measures expected for consideration: A proposal to toughen the state’s texting-while-driving ban; a proposal to build or expand three toll roads; a proposal dealing with the controversial insurance practice known as assignment of benefits, 10 a.m., Senate Chamber.

The House will take up a series of bills during a floor session, including a measure that seeks to prevent so-called sanctuary cities in Florida. Also expected: A controversial proposal to carry out a November constitutional amendment designed to restore voting rights of many felons who have fulfilled their sentences, 12:30 p.m., House Chamber.

Senate Special Master Dudley Goodlette will again take up a case stemming from DeSantis’ suspension of Okaloosa County Superintendent of Schools Jackson. The process had been on hold pending a court challenge that Jackson lost. That’s at 1 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building.

The Senate Rules Committee will consider dozens of bills, including a measure to prevent life insurers from using customers’ genetic information in decisions about selling policies or pricing premiums, 2 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.

The Senate Special Order Calendar Group will set a special-order calendar, which lists bills that will be heard on the Senate floor. That’s 15 minutes after the Rules Committee meeting ends, 401 Senate Office Building.

The House Rules Committee will meet 15 minutes after the floor session, 404 House Office Building.

Assignment editors — The Florida Education Association (FEA) will hold a news conference, 9:30 a.m., 4th Floor Rotunda.

Assignment editors — Lawmakers, the We Are Florida Coalition, immigrants, civil rights advocates, and faith leaders will hold a news conference and then pray in opposition to ‘family separation’ bills. Event begins 11 a.m., 4th Floor Rotunda.

Assignment editors — Former state Rep. Irv Slosberg joins state Reps. Emily Slosberg, Jackie Toledo, Ana Rodriguez, Geraldine Thompson, Mike Caruso, Jennifer Webb, Eskamani, Dotie Joseph, Sam Killebrew, Michael Grieco; state Sen. Annette Taddeo and Lori Berman; FDOT Secretary Kevin Thibault, the Florida Highway Patrol Chief of Public Affairs Captain Thomas Pikul, and NTSB Safety Advocate Stephanie Shaw, and Demetrius Branca and Debbie Wanninkhof, both who lost loved ones because of distracted drivers, will host Road Safety Day at The Capitol, which highlight road safety bills and specifically the distracted driving bills moving through the Legislature, noon, The Capitol Courtyard.


Split pea soup with ham; mix garden salad with dressings; beet salad with goat cheese and toasted walnuts; broccoli salad; deli board; chicken Caprese; grilled ham steak with grilled pineapples and cherries; cod Francaise with piccata sauce; Yukon gold mashed potatoes; vegetable medley; Creole okra; warm peach cobbler for dessert.


Assignment editors — Attorney General Ashley Moody will speak during the Leon County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner, 7 p.m., Florida State University, University Center Club, 403 Stadium Dr., Tallahassee.

Nikki Fried spotlights ‘America’s forgotten disaster” via Florida Politics — Hurricane Michael, now officially recognized as a Cat 5 storm, devastated Florida’s Panhandle. More devastation looms in the form of potential wildfires. To that end, a new video from the Agriculture Commissioner that “documents Commissioner Fried’s tours of Panhandle communities devastated by Hurricane Michael, features visually powerful reminders of the damage to forests and timber farms and the looming threat of wildfire.”

Two view the video, click on the image below:

Jimmy Patronis announces “Scam Tracker” partnership with Better Business Bureau — As a part of his Fraud Free Florida initiative, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Patronis announced a new partnership with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to track and expose scams in Florida. The BBB’s online Scam Tracker tool will now be integrated into CFO Patronis’ website to help keep Floridians informed of growing trends and emerging scams in their area. “I am incredibly proud to partner with the Better Business Bureau and to highlight their innovative Scam Tracker,” Patronis said in a statement. “By informing Floridians about the latest scams in their area and how to avoid them, we will battle the fraud epidemic our state is facing.”

’Marsy’s Law’ requests records from prosecutors” via the News Service of Florida — The group Marsy’s Law for Florida, which led efforts to pass the amendment, said it had requested records from state attorneys in all judicial circuits. Among other things, Marsy’s Law for Florida is looking for documents about changes in policies and procedures in judicial circuits and information about victims’ privacy protections. “The passage of Amendment 6 … sent a strong signal that Floridians believed victims were entitled to rights equal to those provided the accused and convicted, and they were entitled to have mechanisms in place to ensure they are receiving those rights and protections,” attorney Paul Hawkes, who represents Marsy’s Law for Florida, said in a statement.

BP money eyed for two storm-damaged counties” via the News Service of Florida — More than $9 million of BP oil-spill settlement money could be targeted to help a pair of Panhandle counties struggling with the costs of Hurricane Michael. Board members of the nonprofit Triumph Gulf Coast on April 29 will review recommendations to provide grants of $2.65 million for property-tax assistance to Gulf County and $6.67 million to property-tax aid to Bay County. Created by the Legislature, Triumph Gulf Coast oversees three-quarters of the $2 billion the state will get over the next 12 years through the BP settlement from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Algal blooms reported throughout lower basin of St. Johns River” via Brendan Rivers of WJCT — The St. Johns Riverkeeper says multiple blue-green algal blooms have been reported in the Welaka, Satsuma and Palatka areas of Florida. “In some cases, it’s extremely thick, and there are reports of it crossing the entire river in the Palatka area,” said Lisa Rinaman, St. Johns Riverkeeper. She said the algal blooms are caused by nutrient pollution in the St. Johns River — mostly nitrogen and phosphorous which frequently flow into the river from septic tanks and fertilizer. “Sadly, phosphorus levels are elevated throughout the St. John’s,” Rinaman said. “We’ve been dealing with trying to reduce the amount of sewage sludge that’s permitted near the St. John’s.” And warmer temperatures are causing the blooms to thrive and spread.

Number of hepatitis A cases in Florida surpasses 2018” via Naseem Miller of the Orlando Sentinel — As of April 20, there were 883 cases of hepatitis A in Florida, compared with 548 in all of last year, according to the Florida Department of Health data. There have been 78 cases of hepatitis A in Orange County, compared with the previous year’s total of 93. In Lake County, 40 cases of the infection have been reported, compared with 12 last year. Volusia County also reported a notable increase, from 5 cases last year to 39 cases in the first four months of 2019.

Streamlining edible cannabis rules promises sweet flavor for Florida patients” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Medical cannabis represents more than a business buzz for Peter Barsoom, founder of Colorado-based 1906. His wife, Ghita, after being prescribed pharmaceuticals for anxiety and depression, felt significant adverse effects. But cannabis proved to be a treatment without the same side effects. “It became our mission to improve access to this amazing plant medicine,” Barsoom said. After years of research, he also perfected an edible product that’s fast acting with easily measured dosage. But for the moment, the chocolate products created by 1906 remain available only in Colorado. The company has plans to expand into several other states and wants Florida to be one of them.

Women seeking discount plastic surgery paid with their lives at clinics opened by felons” via Michael Sallah and Maria Perez and Steve Reilly of the USA TODAY — Nearly a dozen miles from the iconic beaches of South Florida, the four convicted felons ran facilities that became assembly lines for patients from across the country seeking the latest body sculpting procedures at discount prices. And at those businesses, at least 13 women have died after surgeries. Nearly a dozen others were hospitalized with critical injuries, including punctured internal organs. The state health department was alerted to the casualties. Plastic surgery experts warned lawmakers to take control of the centers by screening owners and boosting regulation. Four times, legislators tried. Four times they failed to muster enough support to change the law, even as the toll at the four businesses continued to rise.



Brightline, soon to be known as Virgin Trains, has closed on $1.75 billion in private activity bonds and has launched its official re-brand with Sir Richard Branson.

All that, within the last 30 days.

Image via Brightline/Facebook.
Brightline (soon to be Virgin Trains USA) is on the right track to provide unprecedented transportation options in Florida. Image via Brightline/Facebook.

The plan: With the bonding secured, the train could provide rail-passenger service from South Florida to Orlando within three years. “Virgin Trains sees the Central Florida connection as the linchpin to a business plan that would provide it with potential access to millions of paying customers a year,” wrote David Lyons of the Sun-Sentinel.

The re-brand: In a move that marked Brightline’s first major transition to Virgin Trains, Branson unveiled Virgin MiamiCentral earlier this month. “Connecting Metrorail, Metromover, Brightline and soon, Tri-Rail, the destination offers unparalleled transportation options for the millions of commuters, visitors and travelers who will be accessing the station,” the company said in a news release.

The overlap: “The company wants to add a stop at PortMiami to provide a link to Branson’s Virgin Voyages cruise line, which is slated to start operating next year,” Lyons wrote.


Hispanics are the fastest-growing voting group in Florida.

Alex Daugherty with the Miami Herald reported on new data showing Hispanic voters grew by 81 percent between the last two midterms and that Hispanics who registered to vote as independents grew by 101 percent.

“The growth of Hispanic voters was double the growth rate of the entire electorate between 2014 and 2018, and 1.3 million Hispanics voted in 2018 compared to 748,000 in 2014,” Daugherty wrote. “The voter turnout rate among Hispanics jumped from 38.1 percent of eligible Hispanic voters in 2014 to 53.7 percent in 2018.”

Hispanics are the fastest-growing voting bloc in Florida.

Turnout, too: Hispanics aren’t just registering in greater numbers, they’re actually going to the polls. “The voter turnout rate among Hispanics jumped from 38.1 percent of eligible Hispanic voters in 2014 to 53.7 percent in 2018.”

— Implications: Part of the growth is tied to an influx of Puerto Rican migrants. As one Democratic pollster said, “If the Republicans show up, and the Democrats don’t, the Hispanic voter is likely going to go with the candidate that’s there versus the candidate that’s not there.”

Remember that?: During his successful bid for the U.S. Senate, then-Gov. Rick Scott “focused heavily on Hispanic voters in his successful 2018 campaign, spending millions to run Spanish-language ads during major events like the 2018 FIFA World Cup and touting his visits to Puerto Rico throughout the campaign.”


Buddy Dyer picks up $140K for Orlando mayoral re-election bid” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Orlando Mayor Dyer pulled in more than $140,000 in March to support his bid to be re-elected for an unprecedented fifth term, the latest filings show. Among the other Orlando mayoral candidates, City Commissioner Sam Ings reported raising $16,375 in March, for a total raised of $16,475. Aretha Simons picked up only $625 in February. Through the end of March, her campaign has raised just over $34,000 and had just over $22,500 of that in the bank at the start of April. Shantele Bennett has raised less than $500 to date.

Buddy Dyer gets a significant boost in his re-election bid.

Assignment editors — Donna Barcomb, a Republican running in Sarasota County’s House District 72, is holding a fundraising event. Barcomb is trying to unseat Sarasota Democrat Rep. Margaret Good, 5:30 p.m., Signature Events and Catering, 4870 South Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.


Pinellas elected officials celebrate Earth Day with call for increased environmental preservation funding” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The group Florida Conservation Voters, led by former state Senate candidate Lindsay Cross who serves as the group’s Public Lands Advocate, hosted a rally and cleanup event at Bartlett Park in Southeast St. Petersburg. “Creating parks and preserves is more than something that’s nice to do, it’s an economic driver and a reason we continue to attract new jobs and talent to our region,” Cross said. But those efforts are threatened. The group, which included U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, Pinellas County Commissioners Janet Long and Ken Welch, St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman and St. Pete City Council Member Gina Driscoll, urged residents to call or email members of the Legislature to fund Florida Forever fully.

Lindsay Cross is leading the charge for a call for increased Forever Florida conservation spending.

Hillsborough’s booming growth makes Tampa Bay one of the country’s fastest-growing regions” via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press — More than 51,000 people moved into the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area last year, earning the ninth spot on the Census’s Top 10 Metropolitan Areas in Numeric Growth: 2017 to 2018 list. Hillsborough County came in 10th for the nation among individual counties for population growth last year with almost 27,000 new residents. In Tampa Bay, the growth was completely driven by new arrivals. Without that inbound migration, Tampa would have lost population since deaths outnumbered births by almost 900 people. About two-thirds of the new arrivals came from U.S. states.

Andrew Gillum’s brother subpoenaed to testify in ethics hearing” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — The prosecutor for the Florida Commission on Ethics subpoenaed Gillum’s brother, Marcus Gillum, to testify live during the former mayor’s ethics hearing. But Andrew Gillum’s lawyer, Barry Richard, tried to block the move in a motion after they deposed Marcus Gillum in the case. Richard wrote that Marcus Gillum appeared for deposition under the assumption it would be allowed instead of live testimony. He noted the commission advocate, or prosecutor, didn’t object. Richard wrote: “Mr. [Marcus] Gillum was fully deposed, including extensive cross-examination by the advocate. There is no reason to believe that anything new could be elicited from Mr. Gillum.”

Assistant county administrator out, marking fifth resignation in wake of EMS allegations” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News-Journal — A fifth Escambia County senior official has resigned in the wake of allegations surrounding the Public Safety Department that include accusations of falsifying training documents. Assistant County Administrator Matt Coughlin turned in his 90-day notice of resignation, citing “tribalism” in the county. Coughlin oversaw the beleaguered Public Safety Department as well as the Corrections, Public Works, Engineering, Development Services, Building Services, Waste Services and Parks and Recreation departments. “Regrettably, today in Escambia County there is neither the ability or willingness to rise to the occasion and lead together,” Coughlin wrote. “Rather, those with the capability to help reverse this downward progression have resorted to tribalism … Unfortunately, along the way, our mission has become a failure and our citizens have become the casualty.”

Jupiter day spa customers sue authorities, alleging they were unlawfully videotaped” via The Associated Press — The lawsuit by 31 ‘John and Jane Does’ alleges that prosecutors and the Jupiter Police Department violated their rights to privacy by videotaping them “without their knowledge or consent” at Orchids of Asia Day Spa in January. The lawsuit also alleges Jupiter police unlawfully obtained ‘sneak-and-peek’ warrants, which allowed detectives to install hidden cameras at the spa. None of the 31 plaintiffs have been charged with a crime.

Prosecutors: North Port foster father accused of sex abuse kills himself” via Daphne Chen of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Gilberto Rios, the 64-year-old North Port foster father on trial for the alleged sexual abuse of a toddler, took his own life, according to prosecutors. Rios sat through court proceedings Tuesday and Wednesday and heard testimony from two girls who said they had both been abused by him when they were 3. A verdict had been expected Thursday, but Assistant State Attorney Ryan Felix said the judge declared a mistrial before closing arguments began and sent jurors home instead. “This is a terrible tragedy for his family and those close to him, but it’s his actions that put him on trial for capital sexual battery,” Felix said. “We have zero doubt he is guilty of abusing those children.”

Ahead of David Beckham soccer stadium deal, Miami might kick golf charity out of Melreese” via Brittany Shammas of the Miami New Times — Miami officials have long been supportive of the First Tee, a nonprofit that teaches golf and life lessons to thousands of kids at the city-owned Melreese Country Club. More recently, Mayor Francis Suarez became an honorary chairman of the nonprofit’s Young Ambassadors Board. But the Mayor himself is now sponsoring an item on the city commission agenda that says the First Tee has been operating “without authorization” at the golf course. The measure, which commissioners will consider Thursday, includes a draft of a lawsuit that seeks to eject the charity and 12 other entities from the golf course. Some see the mayor’s move as an attempt to oust the nonprofit amid the effort to bring Major League Soccer to the Melreese site.

Amid uncertainty over cannabis, Tallahassee CBD retailer opens second store” via Florida Politics — Despite a raid and the seizure of thousands of dollars’ worth of cannabis-derived products, a Tallahassee CBD retailer has opened another store. Manager Alex Petrick said the second Natural Life shop is now open on Thomasville Road in Midtown, in a former Chop Barbershop location just down the road from Whole Foods Market. A grand opening is set for May 4, when the shop “intend to put the same product, that was seized five months ago, back on the shelf,” he said.

Todd Weaver takes office as Winter Park commissioner, Carolyn Cooper begins final term” via Lisa Maria Garza of the Orlando Sentinel — Weaver ousted incumbent Pete Weldon on April 9 in the Seat 4 race, receiving 52 percent of the 6,129 total votes to Weldon’s 48 percent. He’ll serve a three-year term for the city in Orange County of about 30,000 residents. During his first meeting, Weaver appointed a new member of the Charter Review Advisory Committee and asked that the city revisit the parking and tree-removal ordinances. Commissioners unanimously voted for Greg Seidel to replace Weldon as vice mayor. Commissioner Carolyn Cooper, who was first elected in 2010, took the oath at the meeting for her final term.

The Easter bunny literally beat someone up in downtown Orlando last night” via Monivette Cordeiro of Orlando Weekly — In what is probably downtown Orlando’s weirdest fight yet, someone dressed as the Easter bunny ran into an ongoing brawl and beat up a man on Orange Avenue. An Orlando promoter who goes by Workkk caught the whole thing on video and told Orlando Weekly the fight started when a man bumped into a woman with dreads. The two were already punching each other when the fluffy vigilante suddenly jumped in and started swinging. Meanwhile, onlookers yelled, “Beat his ass! Beat his ass!”

To view the video, click on the image below:

—“Easter bunny in downtown Orlando fight video explains why he threw punches” via Vanessa Araiza of


Rick Scott uses Senate seat to push legislation benefiting his investments in natural gas pipeline companies” via Dan Christensen of — Scott and his wife own hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of stock in two companies that supply, or are seeking to supply, piped natural gas to liquefaction plants where it is turned into LNG for export: Energy Transfer Equity LP and The Williams Companies. Eagle LNG Partners expects final approval soon from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regarding construction of a nearby LNG Export Facility capable of producing up to 1.65 million gallons of LNG – predominantly methane – for export per day. Williams has ambitious expansion plans. The Scotts own stock in The Williams Companies worth between $150,000 and $350,000. The two-page Small Scale LNG Access Act would amend the Natural Gas Act to speed up approvals of exports of up to 51.750 billion cubic feet per year to nations “with which there is in effect a free trade agreement.” The change “shall be deemed to be consistent with the public interest, and applications for…exportation shall be granted without modification or delay.”

Rick Scott tours the Panama Canal this week, meeting with the Panama Canal Authority to learn more about the Panama Canal expansion project. Scott is visiting Panama, Colombia, and Argentina to discuss ways the United States can work with each country to free Venezuela

Political opposites Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Matt Gaetz join forces to push ban on oil drilling off Florida’s coasts” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — She’s announcing the plan or the Marine Oil Spill Prevention Act — on Earth Day and the ninth anniversary that the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig sank in the Gulf of Mexico, causing an environmental catastrophe. Wasserman Schultz, one of Florida’s most prominent liberal members of Congress, is joined in the effort by U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, one of the state’s most prominent conservatives and a staunch ally of Trump. Two other original co-sponsors of the legislation are U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who represents part of Miami-Dade County and the Florida Keys.

Strange bedfellows: Matt Gaetz and Debbie Wasserman Schultz are teaming up to oppose offshore oil drilling off Florida’s coasts.

Brian Mast blasts Army Corps’s Lake O discharge policy” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Mast submitted comments as the corps goes through the process of replacing its Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule. That LORS policy governs when, why and how much water is discharged from the lake into rivers to make its way to the east and west coasts. The corps is formulating the new policy, dubbed the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual, and accepting public comment, because of a section Mast got included last year. “LORS has been a total and absolute disaster. Under the false pretense of ‘shared adversity,’ the entire system was designed to benefit certain water users at the severe detriment of the east and west coasts of Florida,” Mast wrote.

— 2020 —

Trump wins over big donors who snubbed him in 2016” via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO — Deep-pocketed Republicans who snubbed Donald Trump in 2016 are going all in for him in 2020, throwing their weight behind a newly created fundraising drive that’s expected to dump tens of millions into his re-election coffers. The effort involves scores of high-powered businesspeople, lobbyists and former ambassadors who raised big money for George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney — and who are now preparing to tap their expansive networks. The project, which is closely modeled after the famed Pioneers network that helped to fuel Bush’s 2000 campaign, is slated to be formally unveiled on May 7, when well-connected Republican fundraisers from around the country descend on Washington for a closed-door event with Trump 2020 aides.

Drawing the money: Donald Trump is drawing some big donors for his re-election effort, many who stayed away from the Republican candidate in 2016.

Dems hope Florida Puerto Ricans’ dislike of Trump translates to actual votes next time” via S.V. Date of the Huffington Post — Hazel Bryant has spent 25 of her 35 years in Puerto Rico. She lives in Florida. She thinks Trump’s words and deeds about the island show he’s a racist. ‘He has failed as a president.’ Unfortunately for Democrats, she also does not vote. Latino activists worry that Democrats are yet again failing to lay the groundwork to ensure a healthy turnout among the Puerto Rican community in the 2020 presidential election. “It’s a gigantic opportunity,” says Alex Barrio, Alianza for Progress’ political director. “But I’ll tell you right now, not a single Democratic presidential candidate has reached out to us. None of them have come down here.”

Elizabeth Warren proposes $640 billion student debt cancellation” via Alex Thompson of POLITICO — The plan would eliminate up to $50,000 in student loan debt for each person with less than $100,000 in household income. The $50,000 in relief would gradually diminish for people with household incomes between $100,000 and $250,000 ($1 less relief for every $3 earned). Warren couples the student debt forgiveness with a proposal to eliminate tuition and fees at all two-year and four-year public colleges. [She] also proposed changes aimed at closing the racial wealth gap. That includes a prohibition on public colleges using an applicant’s criminal history or citizenship status in its admissions decisions and a $50 billion fund for historically black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions.


Joe Henderson: To claim middle ground voters, Democrats can’t lean too far left” via Florida Politics — The battle by Democrats over how far they can lean to the left without scaring off millions of middle-ground voters came to Florida recently. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi named U.S. Rep. Crist regional vice chair for the DCCC operations in the South. It was a move to keep Democrats focused on a message of “so-called kitchen table issues.” Pelosi designated him because Crist represents centrist politics. It’s where elections are won or lost. One reason Trump won is that he convinced enough voters in swing states that Democrats no longer understood or cared about them. As a key operative in the South, Crist can craft a moderate message that could resonate in 2020.

This is ridiculous. It’s been 6 months since Category 5 Hurricane Michael hit. These counties need more help than they’re getting” via Julie Hauserman of Florida Phoenix — Still, Congress has not passed a comprehensive disaster aid package. Democrats blame Republicans. Republicans blame Democrats. The plight of people in the Panhandle is now mixed up with politics over massive hurricane damage in Puerto Rico, wildfires, and floods in the Midwest. Of all the things the federal government does with tax money, helping people who live in places that are flattened and flooded should be at the top of the list. Instead, Hurricane Michael survivors watch politicians breeze through the region to “tsk tsk” at the rubble piles and snapped-off forests. They are still waiting for Washington to give a damn.

Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte: Legislature must support Amendment 4’s plain language, chief purpose” via Florida Politics — On its face, the amendment is clear and unambiguous. The Court said: “The chief purpose of the amendment is to automatically restore voting rights to felony offenders, except those convicted of murder or felony sexual offenses, upon completion of all terms of their sentence.” Proposed legislation substitutes legislative judgment for judicial determinations of criminal penalties. Not only does this proposal unconstitutionally usurp judicial authority, it creates a new unjust system in place of the old. It establishes two classes of returning citizens: a group wealthy enough to get their voting rights back and another group too poor to get their voting rights back.

Greg Newburn, Sal Nuzzo: Nothing to fear from Florida First Step Act” via Florida Politics — The proposed legislation is ready for a vote in the Senate, so some special interests that benefit from the status quo have begun their annual ritual of trying to scare lawmakers away from approving it. The smart move would be to ignore them. Here’s why. The most important element of the Florida First Step Act is long overdue sentencing reform. For example, the bill creates a “safety valve,” which would allow for departures from mandatory minimums in drug sentencing under certain narrowly defined circumstances. The bill retains mandatory minimums for defendants who used or threatened violence, used a deadly weapon, or participated in an ongoing drug conspiracy, as well as anyone with a violent criminal history.


Personnel note: Abigail Vail becomes Chief of Staff at Office of Financial Regulation Vail comes from the State Board of Administration, where she was a senior external affairs specialist. She previously was vice president of external affairs for UnitedHealth Group, senior cabinet aide for the Florida Department of Financial Services, and an attorney with Blank & Meenan. The FSU Law grad has been a member of The Florida Bar since 2008. OFR Commissioner Ronald L. Rubin said in a statement: “Abby is enthusiastic about my goals of fighting financial fraud, encouraging financial innovation, and reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens in Florida. She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to this position, and I am excited to have her join my team.”

State arts lobbyists seek smaller piece of state budget” via Jay Handelman of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Sherron Long, executive director of the Florida Cultural Alliance, told a conference call of arts group leaders that the organization is pressing now for $27.5 million for cultural and museum matching grants in the Legislature’s budget plan, down from the initial request for $42.1 million. The lower total would fund about 65.5 percent of the grant requests that have been approved through a long-established vetting process. In all, the Alliance is seeking $43 million in four different categories, down from the initial request of $61.6 million before the legislative session began. “We have been led to believe that full funding is not a realistic ask,” Long said.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Brian Ballard, Michael Abrams, Carol Bracy, Chris Dorworth, Ballard Partners: Florida A & M University Foundation, Pringle Lane Farm

David Custin, David R. Custin & Associates: The Special Committee for Healthcare Reform

Jerry Haag: Florida Baptist Children’s Homes

George Levesque, GrayRobinson: Sarasota Memorial Health Care System

Kenneth McKay: Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America

Antonio Verdugo, Winning Strategies: 32nd Ave Rebuilts, Best Rebuilt Specialist, Dealer Motor Vehicle Rebuilt, EZ Rebuilt Inspections, Miami DMV, Venecurrier


Few forecasters give the Magic much of a chance to defeat the Raptors when the teams convene tonight for Game 5 at Scotiabank Arena. The website FiveThirtyEight gives Toronto an 89 percent chance to win.

— But, as Josh Robbins writes in The Athletic, “something intangible also will be at stake Tuesday night: the Magic’s heart and soul, the culture the team is trying to build, the culture that was in tatters when (coach Steve) Clifford became coach last May.”

—A hard-fought performance tonight, even in a series-ending loss, would at least solidify the culture the team started to establish down the stretch of the regular season.

The NFL Draft begins later this week, but the big news from last week was the announcement of the league’s schedule.

The 2019 NFL draft begins Thursday.

In Miami, the Brian Flores era starts with four of the first five games at home in the South Florida heat, including a September 15 visit from the New England Patriots. The downside means four of the last six are on the road against cold weather teams in Cleveland, back-to-back games in New York, and the season finale in New England.

Bruce Arians begins his stint as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach with a home game against San Francisco on September 8. The Bucs will face division rival Carolina in London on October 13, preceded by two tough road games against the Rams and Saints. Tampa Bay will end the season with home games against Houston and Atlanta.

Over in Jax, former Eagles passer Nick Folesfirst regular season game as the quarterback of the Jacksonville Jaguars will be against offensive powerhouse Kansas City on September 8. The Jags’ annual trip to London comes on November 3 against division rival Houston. They will play Jacksonville’s only intrastate game on December 1 Tampa Bay visits TIAA Bank Field.

Can’t wait for Thursday? You’re in luck. The Los Angeles Times asked beat writers from all 30 NFL franchises to project their team’s first-round pick.

Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times said the Buccaneers would take University of Houston defensive lineman Ed Oliver with the fifth overall pick.

At No. 7, writer John Reid of the Florida Times-Union said Jacksonville would select offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor from the University of Florida.

At No. 13, South Florida Sun-Sentinel writer Omar Kelly said the Miami Dolphins would take Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray.

Plenty of good seats are available at Florida’s two Major League Baseball stadiums. The Tampa Bay Rays and the Miami Marlins are at their accustomed positions at or near the bottom in attendance.

Despite leading the American League East, the Rays rank 28th overall with an average of 15,109 through 13 home games at Tropicana Field.

The Miami Marlins are 30th and last, averaging only 9,951 after 16 home games.

— ALOE —

Experience the gourmet dining of Wolfgang Puck’s Spago at Disney Springs event” via Marta Madigan of the Orlando Sentinel — During the one-night event, “The Spago Experience,” dine as the beautiful people of Beverly Hills do. The flagship of Puck’s culinary empire, Spago serves East-meets-West fusion food synonymous with Southern California cuisine. To deliver “The Spago Experience” dinner for up to 350 guests, Puck enlists his pack of experienced chefs — Aram Mardigian (Wolfgang Puck American Grille, Atlantic City, N.J.), Andrew Skala (CUT, Washington, D.C.) and Tetsu Yahagi (Spago Beverly Hills) — to Michael Tiva’s kitchen at Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill in Lake Buena Vista. When: 5-10 p.m. Cost: $98 (beverages, tax and gratuity are not included) Reservations: Visit or click the link in the restaurant’s bio on Instagram: @wpbgorlando.

The Wolfgang Puck Spago Experience is coming to Disney Springs.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park attraction delayed” via Richard Bilbao of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, which is replacing The Great Movie Ride, will open up in spring 2020 instead of this fall, said the Disney Parks Blog. Disney’s post gave no reason for the new opening date, but it was part of a larger announcement that the same attraction also would be built at Disneyland Park in California. And with a 2020 opening, it would further provide an incentive for tourists who are waiting for crowds to slow down to visit Central Florida. The new ride also may offer a nice alternative new experience for what is expected to be a very busy and crowded Star Wars area.

A welder in Kentucky made a homemade replica of the throne in ‘Game of Thrones’” via Ryan Prior of CNN — Michael Hayes, a 32-year-old welding student in Louisville, worked with welders at the Knight Welding School to build a life-size version of the throne in the hit HBO show, according to CNN affiliate WLKY. Early in their relationship, he and his wife, Kacie, bonded over their love of the show, and he asked buddies at the welding school to help him build her a wedding present. His bride, Hayes said, just happens to look a lot like Daenerys Targaryen. Anthony Williams, an instructor at the Knight School, told WLKY building the throne took 110 hours and over two months.


Best wishes to Sen. Randolph Bracy, Katie Crofoot of Strategic Digital Services, and Laura Lenhart of Frontier Communications.

Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jim Rosica, Dan McAuliffe, and Drew Wilson.

Peter Schorsch

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


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

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