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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 4.24.19

Wake up right: Get your scoops and other news about Florida politics.

Jane Castor pummels David Straz in landslide election” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Former Tampa Chief of Police Castor will become the city’s next Mayor after trouncing her opponent, Straz, 73 percent to 27 percent in the runoff election. Castor’s victory is not a surprise. One poll put her 36 points ahead while another put her at a 23 point advantage. Castor’s victory was almost immediately apparent when results from the vote by mail ballots dropped shortly after polls closed. With only those results, Castor led 74 percent. Castor’s victor serves as a referendum on heavy spending and intense negativity that marked the last six weeks of the race to succeed Mayor Bob Buckhorn. “It sounds a resounding message to the nation — that Tampa celebrates its diversity and lifts everyone up,” Castor said.

Not even close: Congratulations to Tampa Mayor-elect Jane Castor, who won with 73 percent of the vote. Image via Twitter.

Fourth time’s a charm: Joe Citro finally lands a spot on Tampa City Council” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The four-time candidate bested Walter Smith II for the District 1 seat Tuesday night in a 58 to 42 victory. Citro, a hairdresser by trade, is a regular face at City Council meetings and has participated on numerous boards and city initiatives including work on the city charter, code enforcement, and civil service boards. Citro’s “CITY Plan to Put Tampa to Work” emphasizes careers, infrastructure, transportation, and youth development.” Citro finished first in the March 5 election with 31 percent of the vote, about 11 points ahead of Smith. He also had an advantage in fundraising. Citro raised $53,000 compared to Smith’s $18,000.

Former Tampa City Councilmember John Dingfelder comfortably beats newcomer Stephen Lytle” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Dingfelder will return to council May 8 when he’s sworn in with four other new members and two incumbents. Dingfelder previously served on the City Council from 2003 to 2010. After leaving office, Dingfelder returned to his full-time job as a lawyer, including a stint representing the ACLU when Tampa hosted the 2012 Republican National Convention. He has also been involved in some real estate transactions and served as an alternate on the city’s Variance Review Board. As a former City Council member, Dingfelder supported sensible growth, improving sidewalks and street lighting, increasing access to mass transit and preserving the city’s tree canopy.

Orlando Gudes narrowly defeats Jeffrey Rhodes in East Tampa City Council matchup” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Gudes pulled out a 51 to 49 victory over Rhodes in the Tampa City Council race for District 5. The District includes downtown, Ybor City and parts of East Tampa. Gudes is a retired Tampa Police officer and staunch proponent for youth development. He founded the Unity Football Conference, a football and cheerleading league focused on athletic and academic achievement for underprivileged youth in 2005 and continues to serve as its executive director. Gudes’ platform includes economic empowerment, affordable housing, jobs, and youth development. Gudes raised more than double his challenger, but despite a steady fundraising lead, he finished second in the March 5 race two points behind Rhodes.

LGBTQ group LPAC welcomes historic night in Castor race against Straz” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Castor will be the first openly LGBTQ Mayor to lead a southeastern U.S. city and the third of such elected to a major American city this year. Her win marks a progression in LGBTQ equality not only locally, but also nationally. “I think it shows that Americans at the municipal level and the local level are choosing people who can get stuff done,” said Stephanie Sandberg, executive director for LPAC, an equality group that supports LGBTQ women. “The 2019 cycle may seem like a quiet off-year, but queer women are recreating what local leadership looks like in America’s major cities,” Sandberg said. Earlier this year, lesbians were elected in Chicago and Madison, Wisconsin; Jolie Justus faces a June runoff election in Kansas City, Missouri, as well.

Joe Henderson: Mayor-elect Castor ready to accept the baton in Tampa” via Florida Politics — After she takes office on May 1, Castor will bring a much different feel to being Tampa’s Mayor than her predecessor, Buckhorn. Get used to it. We won’t get the same soaring oratory Buckhorn delivered. We probably won’t hear the word “swagger” coming out of the Mayor’s Office about 27 times a day as it did under Mayor Bob. Everyone can be confident that the new Mayor-elect is ready for this job. It’s time to look forward now. Castor will have a full plate. Transportation is the biggest issue. Mosaic is moving its headquarters here. That was a major coup, and Mayor Castor will need to see that it isn’t the last one. Navigating all that while keeping touch with neighborhood needs is a learned skill. Fortunately, Castor has walked all those streets and is ready to take the baton from Buckhorn.


@RealDonaldTrump: You mean the Stock Market hit an all-time record high today and they’re actually talking impeachment!? Will I ever be given credit for anything by the Fake News Media or Radical Liberal Dems? NO COLLUSION!

@DDale8: Things the president called people and entities before 8 AM today: — Joe Scarborough “Psycho” and “Angry, Dumb and Sick” — Democrats “totally insane” — New York Times “Fake News” and “Enemy of the People” — Paul Krugman “stupid” — Twitter “very discriminatory.”

@BillKristol: The third Article of Impeachment against Richard Nixon charged him with failing “without lawful cause or excuse to produce papers and things as directed by duly authorized subpoenas issued by the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives.”

@BradHeath: Cesar Sayoc, the man who pleaded guilty to mailing explosives to Trump critics and the press, says in a new letter that he “was on the front lines of war between right & left.”

@JeffBurlew: Neither the FBI nor the Florida Attorney General’s Office will comment on whether the undercover agent who posed as developer Mike Miller will testify in @AndrewGillum‘s ethics hearing.

@AGlorios: When a lobbyist/lawmaker tells you rural hospitals will be hurt by Fla. Medicaid cuts/redistribution, don’t take their word for it. They’re typically held harmless by lawmakers. They start out w a higher reimbursement rate & are usually made whole.

@MDixon55: “First time House and Senate has agreed to language on this particular issue.” We are on AOB bill. I fully believe the banner plane flying over the Capitol made the difference

@Fineout: Um….hey somehow with most legislators over the floor more than 60 members voted against an amendment on sanctuary cities bill. Rules don’t allow someone to push another legislator’s button if they are off the floor

@MtichPerry18: In debate on making distracted driving a primary offense, Rep. @traciedavisjax says she lost her sister to in a car crash who was distracted while driving.

@BobBuckhorn: Could not be prouder of Mayor-Elect Jane Castor. Would not have picked anybody else to pass the torch to and I am excited about what our future looks like. Jane is the right person at the right time and she will take the momentum of the last 8 years and write TPA’s next chapter.


“Avengers: Endgame” opens — 2; White House Correspondents’ Dinner — 3; 2019 Legislative Session ends (maybe) — 9; Mother’s Day — 18; Florida Chamber Florida Business Leaders’ Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 31; Memorial Day — 33; Florida Democratic Leadership Blue conference and fundraiser — 45; U.S. Open begins — 50; Father’s Day — 53; Florida Chamber Learners to Earners Workforce Summit begins — 58; First Democratic presidential debates in Miami — 63; Independence Day — 71; Second Democratic presidential debates in Detroit — 97; St. Petersburg primary election — 126; “Joker” opens — 163; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 187; Scott Maddox trial begins — 194; 2019 General Election — 195; 3rd Annual Florida Internet and Television FITCon begins — 197; Iowa Caucuses — 285; Florida’s presidential primary — 328; 2020 General Election — 559.


Budget conferences are underway. For those living under a rock, you now know that $33.6 billion in allocations — the agreed-to amount of General Revenue lawmakers have to work with for each overall spending silo — dropped Tuesday afternoon.

The first of a series of budget conferences took place late Tuesday night. They were preliminary but substantial.

VISIT FLORIDA: It looks bad for the public-private, tourism-marketing agency. The House “has stuck to its position of $17 million,” said Sen. Travis Hutson, a St. Augustine Republican. The Senate so far has acquiesced. Editor’s note: The VISIT FLORIDA appropriation is actually $19 million. 

Things don’t look particularly good for VISIT FLORIDA, despite Travis Hutson’s assurance that the Senate ‘still cares’ about the agency. Image via Twitter.

Higher-ed:  Initially, the House higher-ed silo — led by Rep. Randy Fine — included a $100 million cut in university base funding and a $20 million cut in pre-eminence funding. It also slashed $15 million from special faculty and graduate programs. Now, only a $35.3 million cut to university base funding is included.

Overall: Lawmakers are optimistic about finishing on time. Well, at least that’s what House Speaker José Oliva has said.

The House and Senate remain apart on environmental spending, according to LobbyTools and POLITICO’s Bruce Ritchie. The Senate stuck to its $45 million line item for land buying through the Department of Environmental Protection and offered another $1.5 million for the Working Waterfronts program. The House spending plan allocates $20 million for land acquisition through DEP. Among the other issues up in the air is funding for state park improvements and Florida Forever land acquisition programs.

Pulse memorial funding zeroed out — As of Tuesday, the Senate went to the House position of zero for a Pulse Memorial and Museum in Orlando, on the site of the former night club where 49 people were killed by a gunman on June 12, 2016. The Senate initially had $245,000 in their original TED budget for the site. Besides the 49 killed, 58 were wounded. The shooter, who had pledged allegiance to ISIS, was himself shot and killed by police. It was at the time the deadliest single-day mass shooting in U.S. history. “If the House wants to offer (the funding) back, they certainly can,” budget conference chair Hutson said.


Florida Supreme Court rules against Parkland sheriff” via The Associated Press — Florida’s highest court agreed DeSantis was within his authority to suspend Scott Israel as Broward County sheriff earlier this year. The justices noted that under the Florida Constitution, the state Senate is responsible for deciding whether the removal should be permanent. Senate leaders agreed first to let the case go through the courts. DeSantis said Israel displayed poor leadership and failed to keep students safe during the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people. Israel has said DeSantis overstepped his constitutional authority and interfered with the public’s right to elect their sheriff.

Denied, again: Florida Supreme Court upheld Ron DeSantis’ suspension of former Broward Sheriff Scott Israel.

Tweet, tweet:

Ron DeSantis signs first death warrant — Gov. DeSantis ordered a May 23 execution for Tampa-area serial killer Robert Joseph Long, according to the Florida Supreme Court website. Long was sentenced to death in the May 1984 murder of Michelle Simms after picking her up on Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa. In 1985, Long also pleaded guilty to seven additional first-degree murder charges and numerous charges for sexual batteries and kidnappings. Long, now 65, is serving multiple life sentences, along with the death sentence, at Union Correctional Institution. The Department of Corrections website indicates all eight murders occurred in 1984 in Hillsborough County, though Long also has convictions on other charges from Pinellas and Pasco counties.

DeSantis breaks with House on advanced nurses” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — DeSantis said he would have to be “convinced” about allowing advanced practice registered nurses and physician assistants to work independently from physicians. The House passed such a measure (HB 821) last week. “My general view is that if you go to medical school and you go through all that training to become a doctor, be a doctor,” DeSantis said. “My mom’s a nurse, so I have great regard for nurses,” he added. “But it’s a different thing. And so, I would have to really be convinced that kind of expanding scope of practice would be good.”

DeSantis says late-Session gambling deal could be too heavy a lift” via News Service of Florida — With time already an enemy, DeSantis injected more uncertainty into a gambling deal reached by a Senate Republican leader and a representative of the Seminole Tribe, suggesting its passage would be too heavy a “legislative lift.” Less than two weeks remain in the annual Session. “There’s a lot of stuff to go through,” DeSantis told reporters. “I’d like to get a deal, but at the same time I’ve got to make sure that what we’re doing is right for Florida.”

DeSantis names three new circuit judges” via Florida Politics — DeSantis announced the appointment of three new circuit judges. Brian Welke, 54, and Danny Mosley, 60, were named to the 5th Judicial Circuit bench for Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion, and Sumter counties … Also, the Governor appointed Sharon Franklin to the 10th Judicial Circuit bench for Hardee, Highlands and Polk counties.

Assignment editors — DeSantis will deliver remarks joined by state Rep. Scott Plakon and the Alzheimer’s Association, 1:30 p.m.  Capitol Courtyard, Senate side.


Riding Trump wave, Florida Republicans poised to adopt sanctuary city ban” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO —(T)he GOP-led Legislature is heeding DeSantis’ call and poised to pass legislation cracking down on so-called sanctuary cities. The bill would mark a triumph for a wing of the party that has pushed to call the bluff of moderates and Democrats who have long predicted that anti-immigration policies would mean electoral catastrophe for Republicans. “The last two elections were in part a referendum on the broken illegal immigration system,” said Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. “Both President Trump and Gov. DeSantis ran on platforms of fixing a broken illegal immigration system and being strong under the law.” Democrats and advocates for immigrants have sharply criticized the proposed legislation, which would ban “sanctuary” or “safe” cities, municipalities that limit cooperation with federal immigration officials. They’ve invoked the national controversy over immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border by labeling the measure a “family separation bill,” a callous political ploy and “spiritual evil.”

Senate passes bill that allows classroom teachers to be armed — nearly along party lines” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — Only one Senator, Sen. Anitere Flores kept it from being a complete party-line passage when she voted against the bill with all the Democrats. Senate Bill 7030 cleared the floor with its most contentious piece intact: an expansion of the “Guardian” program created last year that would allow teachers to volunteer to carry guns after undergoing screening and training by a sheriff’s office. The bill also includes a slew of other follow-ups. Those include specifics on how schools should implement mental health services for their students and clarifies districts’ shared a responsibility to help ensure charter schools have armed security. The bill also would create a standardized “threat assessment” tool for schools to keep records of students they feel may pose a “behavioral threat” to themselves or others.

Hold out: A sole Republican Senator, Anitere Flores, kept the Senate vote for the school ‘Guardian’ program from falling completely along Party lines.

Senate Amendment 4 bill drops some, not all, financial requirements for votingvia Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The Senate bill aimed at defining what it means for felons to complete their sentences before they can vote under Amendment 4 has dropped some requirements that they first pay all their fines and fees, but a committee held fast to the requirement that they must first pay restitution. The Senate Committee on Rules approved Senate Bill 7086 through a split vote that had most, though not all, Democrats opposing and is heading to the floor. The bill and its House companion, HB 7089, seek to flesh out what was required when Florida voters approved Amendment 4, allowing felons, except for murderers and sex offenders, to register to vote again once they have completed their sentences.

Assignment of benefits bill teed up in Senate for final vote” via the News Service of Florida — Senators took up the House version of the bill (HB 7065), setting the stage for a final vote on the highest-profile insurance issue of the legislative session. Assignment of benefits, or AOB, is a decades-old practice in which policyholders sign over claims to contractors, who then pursue payment from insurance companies for work. Insurers contend changes are needed because AOB has become riddled with fraud and litigation, driving up homeowners’ insurance rates. Plaintiffs’ attorneys and many home-repair firms contend assignment of benefits helps ensure that insurers correctly pay claims.

Bill to ban genetic test results for insurance heads to Senate floor” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Legislation barring life insurance companies from using genetic testing data against policyholders advanced out of the Senate Rules Committee. The committee cleared the bill 8-4, sending it to the Senate floor. The panel actually OK’d the House version of the bill (HB 879), which passed there on an 88-26 vote. “The number one concern here is consumer protection,” said Aaron Bean, the Fernandina Beach Republican who backed the Senate bill (SB 258). But concerns over House language limiting individuals’ use of their own data drew resistance among senators. “My DNA is mine,” said Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican. “This infringes on my rights.”

Senate approves mandatory cancer benefits for firefighters” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Senate unanimously passed a measure to increase insurance benefits for firefighters diagnosed with cancer. Senators voted 38-0 in favor of the legislation (SB 426). The House companion (HB 7129) is ready for the floor. The bill is what’s called a “presumptive cancer law,” meaning that should a firefighter in good health get cancer it is presumed the cancer stemmed from his or her work as a firefighter … Cancers usually develop from repeated exposure over years and decades to cancer-causing agents, rather than from one specific incident.

Lottery warning labels headed to Senate floor” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — A new warning label could be coming to Florida Lottery tickets. Last week, the full House approved a bill by Bradenton Rep. Will Robinson (HB 629) that would place a large warning label on every ticket sold as well as on video displays at ticket retailers and machines. Though the bill sped through its committee stops in the House, the Senate version (SB 1264) was never heard in committee. The seemingly dead plan re-emerged Tuesday when the Senate Rules Committee took up the House version and gave it the green light, with strong support coming from Senate budget chief Rob Bradley and despite opposition from Lottery Secretary John Poppell who said the labels could slash education payouts by more than $64 million in their first year.

Texting while driving bill passes House” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The House has voted to allow law enforcement to pull over drivers for texting while driving. Lawmakers approved the measure (HB 107) on a 104-9 vote during a Tuesday floor session. A companion bill (SB 76) filed by Sen. Wilton Simpson has been placed on the Senate calendar for a final vote. Currently, texting while driving is only a secondary offense, meaning drivers can only be cited for the violation if pulled over for some other reason. The present measure, sponsored Reps. Emily Slosberg and Jackie Toledo, would make the violation a primary offense, which allows officers to pull a driver over for that reason alone.

Autonomous vehicles aligned with Senate version for House vote — HB 311, a bill that would jump-start Florida’s autonomous vehicle sector, featured on the Special Order calendar and emerged with an amendment. The amendment brought the bill in line with the Senate version, including “reasonable fees” from airports and seaports to support these vehicles. The amendment also stipulated at least $1M of primary liability coverage for operators. The bill would open the door for an automated ride-sharing platform and allow The Florida Turnpike Enterprise to “fund, construct and operate test facilities” to study AV technology.

Street racing bill shoots for misdemeanor arrests” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Senate Bill 116, from Democratic state Sen. Linda Stewart, had been easily through three previous committees without a single dissenting vote. It would allow law enforcement officers to build cases against street racers without actually witnessing the race and make arrests without seeking a warrant. The bill provides for the use of video, witnesses and other evidence to bring charges. SB 116 had called for the crime to be upgraded to a third-degree felony, to provide police the priority crime status. Stewart offered the Senate Committee on Rules an amendment to reduce the crime back to its current so that the law does not “over-criminalize the behavior,” by providing a misdemeanor exception.

Crusin’: After offering an amendment, Linda Stewart’s proposal to allow law enforcement to build charges against street racers without having to see the race is cruising through the Senate.

Senate OKs harsher hazing penalties” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Florida Senate approved 36-0 legislation that would allow prosecution of fraternity and sorority members involved in hazing. Third-degree felony charges would apply to those involved in hazing, including the planning of the act, when it results in permanent injury to the victim. Planning the act without such injury having been incurred could mean first-degree misdemeanor charges. The House version is on the Calendar already.


Ashley Moody says legislation for opioid lawsuit will save millions, shave years” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — “We feel it’s very important to make sure that we can be successful in this effort to stop this epidemic and ensure that people have treatment and that Florida is made whole,” Moody said. “I was surprised and disappointed that it wasn’t agenda’ed.” The bill (SB 1700) cleared two of three committees in the Senate with only one ‘no’ vote against it but was stopped in the Rules Committee by chair Lizbeth Benacquisto who raised privacy concerns. A House companion (HB 1253) is ready for a vote there. The bill will only give Moody and her lawyers information from the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) on the age, “county, city, and ZIP code” of Floridians prescribed opioid medication.

As Medicaid expands elsewhere, lawmakers seek to shrink it” via Elizabeth Koh of the Tampa Bay Times — As they hash out an approximately $90 billion budget, leaders in both the Republican-controlled House and Senate are considering permanently shortening the time period for retroactive payment of hospital bills and debating whether to push more privatized care for people with disabilities. They’ve also considered implementing work requirements for people on the program, not unlike those already being used for temporary cash assistance. Though other states have pursued similar policies, with some recently challenged in federal court, Florida stands alone because of its reluctance to expand Medicaid. Every other state that has secured federal permission to implement such changes has also expanded Medicaid coverage to childless, non-disabled adults.

Speaker José Oliva is no fan of Medicaid expansion. Image via Colin Hackley.

Bright Futures standards could rise, hurting students of color — again” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — Bills moving through both chambers of the Florida Legislature propose to raise the required scores for who could get one of the merit-based scholarships. For students who would receive the “Academic” scholarship, which covers full tuition and fees at state universities and colleges, the required SAT score will rise from 1290 to around 1330. For the second-tier “Medallion” award which covers 75 percent of tuition and fees, the benchmark would climb from 1170 to about 1200. Senate bill sponsor Kelli Stargel has said the change is in keeping with the “integrity” of that’s scholarship’s purpose of awarding only students whose scores fall into a certain percentile compared to the national average. “That particular scholarship, at its inception, was meant to be for our brightest students,” she said.

Jose Oliva says gaming bill still possible — House Speaker Jose Oliva says lawmakers could still tackle a gaming bill this session, but it would have to address all aspects of the industry, not just The Seminole Tribe of Florida. Even though only a week remains in the 2019 Legislative Session, Oliva said the possible bill would need to support the pari-mutuel industry and professional leagues pushing to legalize sports betting.  “I’m sure we’ll have time to do that and a lot of those folks are sharing those opinions now,” Oliva told Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida after Tuesday’s marathon floor session.

First in Sunburn — Business voices slam immigration bill — A group of prominent Florida business owners joined the chorus of opposition for a so-called “Sanctuary Cities” ban. The letter (available here) was released by and signed by 44 business and community leaders and says Florida needs immigrants in its workforce, but Senate legislation (SB 168) threatens the state’s economic vibrancy. “For too long, our country’s broken immigration system has locked people out of the American dream — and our economy,” the letter reads. Signatories include representatives from a range of industries. That includes real estate (The Crew at Green Street), manufacturing (Best Rest USA), political consulting (Seaborn Strategic) and more.

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 Monday 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.

’Tobacco 21’ proposal draws debate in Florida” via Dara Kam the News Service of Florida — “Tobacco 21” focuses on raising the smoking age from 18 to 21, a concept that’s supported by the American Heart Association. Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris USA, purchased one-third of e-cigarette giant JUUL Laboratories for nearly $13 billion late last year. JUUL’s exponential growth is linked closely to the skyrocketing increase in youngsters’ e-cigarette use. JUUL is pushing the Tobacco 21 legislation, in part to keep federal regulators at bay. In Florida, bills (HB 7119 and SB 1618) are ready to go to the full House and Senate. While most components of the proposals appear to have widespread, bipartisan support, other provisions could put them in jeopardy. The Senate proposal includes an exemption for cigars, an apparent attempt to win over votes by Senate Democrats, whose leader, Audrey Gibson, represents a district where Jacksonville-based Swisher International, known for its “Swisher Sweets” cigars, is based.

Peter Schorsch at Capital Tiger Bay: State government deserves better coverage” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Democrats run like the Washington Generals. Rick Scott broke the Republican Party. And local newspapers won’t cover state government with the same rigor anymore. Yet for all of these observations, Florida Politics publisher Schorsch spoke in an upbeat tone about the future of statewide media in Florida. Schorsch, featured speaker at the Capital Tiger Bay Club on Tuesday, promised to insult everybody in the roomful of political aficionados. But as the force behind the most-read news source for Florida lawmakers, he started with jabs at the news media. “To keep track of the Capitol Press Corps, you don’t need a guide from the House Clerk’s office,” Schorsch said. “You need a missing person report.”


Florida Alliance for Consumers and Taxpayers (FACT) called a proposed expansion to the state’s highway system “visionary” and the “a smart investment for state taxpayers.”

SB 7068 would extend the Tampa-area Suncoast Parkway to the Florida-Georgia line, connect the northern terminus of the Florida Turnpike to the Suncoast Parkway, and construct a Southwest-Central Florida Connector between Polk and Collier counties.

The legislation is a priority of Senate President Bill Galvano and is awaiting a vote on the Senate floor.

In its endorsement of the plan, FACT cited projections that Florida’s population will hit 26 million by 2030 and said recent hurricanes exposed the state’s need for more effective and reliable evacuation routes.

“Florida’s population has been steadily growing faster than its road network can keep up,” said Lee Hinkle, a director of FACT.

“President Galvano’s proposal would create desperately needed new expressways that will keep Florida moving forward, easing daily transportation, and during hurricane season these roadways will be helping to protect and save lives, while keeping the cost to taxpayers at a minimum.”

Fellow FACT director John Thomas also praised the infrastructure plan, saying it wasn’t a band-aid like some past transportation plans but was instead forward thinking.


The Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice will hold its first conference meeting, 9 a.m., room to be assigned.

The Senate is scheduled to hold a floor Session, 10 a.m., Senate Chamber.

The House will take up numerous issues during a floor Session, including a proposal (HB 7111), that would place additional restrictions on ballot initiatives, 10:30 a.m., House Chamber.

The Senate Special Order Calendar Group will set a special-order calendar, which lists bills that will be heard on the Senate floor, 15 minutes after the floor Session.

Assignment editors — Advocates from across the state will mark World Meningitis Day, highlighting the importance of protecting Floridians from the deadly disease, 8 a.m., Senate Office Building, Room 227.

Assignment editors — Former state Rep. Irv Slosberg joins state Reps. Slosberg, 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.


KC beef soup; mixed garden salad with dressings; buffalo mozzarella and tomato salad; Ramen noodle salad; deli board; grilled Rosemary chicken with honey mustard glaze; Italian-style beef with giardiniera pickled vegetables; fish and chips, malt vinegar and tartar sauce; roasted red bliss potatoes; cauliflower au gratin; green beans almandine; assorted cookies for dessert.


Hurricane aftermath leaves Florida with years of major wildlife threat” via Kevin Begos of Scientific American — The scars left by the strongest storm ever to strike the region have ramped up the risk of another type of natural disaster for years to come: across millions of acres of forest, the carcasses of pine trees — snapped like matchsticks by the storm’s winds — pose a significant wildfire threat. One blaze has already broken out in Panama City. A minor fire that started in yard debris got into the fallen timber and grew overnight into a 600-acre-plus blaze. Officials are hamstrung by the vast numbers of downed trees and limited funding. And the problem is unfolding against a backdrop of rising temperatures, which are changing the conditions that affect wildfires in the region and posing challenges to existing disaster mitigation strategies.

Fallen timber from Hurricane Michael could fuel wildfires for the next several years.

Everglades drilling fight goes to Supreme Court” via the News Service of Florida — Broward County and the city of Miramar are asking the Supreme Court to take up the dispute. The county and city are challenging a ruling by the 1st District Court of Appeal in favor of Kanter Real Estate, LLC, a major Broward County landowner that has battled the Florida Department of Environmental Protection over a permit to drill a well on about five acres in the Everglades. A panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal ruled Feb. 5 that the DEP improperly rejected a recommended order by an administrative law judge, who said in 2017 that a permit should be approved for Kanter to drill the exploratory well on land it owns.


Must-read —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 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.

FPL income up in first quarter of 2019” via the News Service of Florida — Amid investments in power plants and a larger number of customers, Florida Power & Light saw its net income increase in the first three months of 2019. FPL had net income of $588 million, or $1.22 per share, during the quarter, up from $484 million, or $1.02 per share, during the same period in 2018, according to an earnings report from its parent company, NextEra Energy. NextEra said FPL’s number of customers increased by about 100,000 from the first quarter in 2018 and pointed to completion of projects such as an FPL power plant in Okeechobee County and solar-energy plants.


The Florida Council of 100 released “Project Sunrise,” a report laying out an economic road map for the Sunshine State.

The key takeaway of the Project Sunrise report is that Florida needs to focus on improving in “tradable sectors” that can be easily exported to other states.

“Given Florida’s maturity as a worldwide economic powerhouse in recent years, we have a unique opportunity to lead and chart a path to help Florida become that ‘It’ State — the place where dynamic and exciting innovations lead the way,” said Chris Corr, FC 100’s chair.

“With this framework, Florida can apply the proper mix of talents, efforts, and resources to drive the state’s economy to thrive, en route to an improved quality of life for our citizens.”

FC100 said its recommendations attempt to break down the walls of traditional economic development strategy and integrate all of the considerations that are critical to quality of life.

“Simply put, the policy ways of the past are not necessarily adequate for present-day Florida,” Corr said. “Project Sunrise is intended to provoke this point to create a better path forward.”

To that end, the report offers more than 20 policy options and 90 initiatives to help get that done, with each of them falling into one of six silos: human capital, strategic repositioning, economic development organizations (EDOs), public investment, R&D/innovation and health.

The full Project Sunrise report is available online.


Florida voter turnout in 2018 buoyed by youth, Hispanics” via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press — Turnout by voting-age citizens between ages 18 and 24 in Florida went from 17.6 percent in 2014 to almost 30 percent in the 2018 midterms, the most significant jump of any age group, although all age groups saw increases, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Hispanic turnout in Florida jumped from 36 percent in 2014 to more than 44 percent in 2018, going from 892,000 voters to almost 1.4 million voters in pure numbers in four years. In Florida, women voted in more significant numbers than men, and seniors voted in a higher concentration than any other age group in the midterm elections last year.

First on #FlaPol — “Kevin McCarthy to headline fundraiser for Greg Steube” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — House Minority Leader McCarthy is headlining a fundraiser for Steube in Sarasota. Friday evening’s reception and dinner will have a high entry price: $500 for the reception and $2,800, the maximum allowable campaign contribution, for the reception plus dinner. Steube’s re-election bid so far has gotten off to a slow financial start, raising just $27,371 in the first quarter of the 2020 election cycle, with much of that coming from D.C. interests. Still, with money rolled over from his 2018 election, the freshman congressman’s re-election committee had $147,366 tucked away at the end of March. Florida’s 17th Congressional District most likely won’t be considered a battleground district. Steube, a Sarasota Republican, handily won election to the House in November.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy will be the headliner of a fundraiser this week for Sarasota Republican Greg Steube.

St. Lucie voters approve tax to boost teacher pay” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — In the first-ever all mail-in ballot held in St. Lucie County, voters chose to approve a proposed one-mill property tax increase that would go toward funding teacher pay and school security. Unofficial results show 66 percent of voters approved the referendum. The tax hike, which will last for four years, is projected to raise about $22 million per year. Of the money raised, 70 percent would go to boosting teacher pay, 25 percent would be used on school safety improvement, 4 percent would help expand mental health services, and 1 percent would go toward other school programs. Starting teachers in St. Lucie currently make $37,760, which is lower than teachers in surrounding counties.

Jorge Fors wins runoff for Coral Gables Commission seat” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Lawyer Fors has narrowly defeated former Coral Gables Commissioner Ralph Cabrera in a runoff election for the Group IV seat on the Coral Gables Commission. That unofficial results show that with all precincts reporting, Fors led Cabrera 51.4 percent to 48.6 percent. Neither candidate reached the necessary 50 percent of the vote during the April 9 election. That night’s results saw incumbent Coral Gables Mayor Raúl Valdes-Fauli narrowly re-elected over former Coral Gables Commissioner Jeannett Slesnick. Fors is also the former president of the Coral Gables Bar Association.


Judge: Robert Kraft day spa video to be released after case resolved” via Jorge Milian and Olivia Hitchcock of the Palm Beach Post — The public won’t be seeing videos of New England Patriots owner Kraft allegedly receiving sex at a Jupiter day spa until his case is resolved, a circuit court judge said. In an order, Judge Leonard Hanser ruled that Kraft’s right to a fair trial trumps the media’s request for the videos to be released immediately. However, the videos — that reportedly show Kraft paying for and receiving sex acts from spa employees — will be released as soon as a trial jury is selected, a plea agreement is reached, the state drops the charges or the court determines Kraft’s right to a fair trial won’t be at risk, Hanser said.

A judge ruled the video of Robert Kraft taken at a massage parlor cannot be released to the public until the case is closed.

Jacksonville employees shouldn’t campaign in uniform, City Council bill says” via Steve Patterson of the Florida Times-Union — Councilman Garrett Dennis’ bill would add uniformed appearances in ads or using city vehicles or equipment for campaign purposes to a list of things forbidden to city workers under Jacksonville’s campaign rules. Dennis said the bill follows limits familiar to members of the military and other uniformed services that Americans traditionally have avoided politicizing. “I’m not saying that city employees can’t express who they support. But there’s a line we can’t cross,” he said. Ads featuring uniformed police were widely aired on TV before the city’s March elections, and Dennis said: “The citizens of Duval County were really upset how the city resources were being used to help these campaigns.”

Is Darden Rice running for St. Pete Mayor? She’s raising money like she is.” via Josh Solomon of the Tampa Bay Times — The fifth-year progressive is raising money for something — political committee Friends of Darden Rice has collected more than $30,000 since its inception in January. Rice said it’s to “lay the groundwork for my next step.” “If you look at the numbers of what’s been raised in previous mayoral races, it means that people have to start earlier,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with reaching out to people early on and reaching out to people as early as possible.” Rice isn’t the only one eyeing Rick Kriseman’s office. Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch has also said he’s considering a run.

Easter bunny brawler is Pasco man and fugitive from New Jersey with violent past” via Daniel Figueroa of the Tampa Bay Times — The man in the suit — 20-year-old Antoine McDonald — is wanted in New Jersey in connection with a vehicle burglary last fall. He was also recently a “person of interest” in a carjacking and two armed robberies in Pasco County, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office. McDonald could have relished in anonymity, his face and identity hidden by the pink nose and tall ears of the bunny costume. But after the video went viral, McDonald spoke to multiple media outlets, including TMZ and Orlando’s WKMG. He even created the Instagram profile, badbunnyof19. He said he’s not a violent person.

Fugitive rabbit: The Easter bunny in the viral video Orlando brawl is Antoine McDonald, wanted in New Jersey and a ‘person of interest’ in Pasco County.


Trump is not going to be impeached, Rubio says in WINK News interview” via Britni McDonald and Michael Mora — “President Trump not going to be impeached,” Rubio said. “It really doesn’t make sense. If people don’t like the president and they don’t agree with him, they’ll have an election next year. The American people can judge that.”

Marco Rubio urges administration to increase Hurricane Michael match” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Rubio wrote to Trump, urging him to approve Florida’s request to increase the federal cost share to 90 percent, from 75 percent, for specific permanent and emergency Hurricane Michael recovery work. The request comes after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration formally upgraded Hurricane Michael last Friday to a Category 5 hurricane when it struck Panama City last October, cutting a path of devastation through Florida’s panhandle. That made Michael only the fourth Category 5 hurricane to hit the United States and the first since Hurricane Andrew hit Florida in 1992.

Marco Rubio is pushing for the federal government to give a bigger share of Hurricane Michael recovery money.

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 the 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.”

— 2020 —

The rude awakening creeping up on Kamala Harris” via Christopher Cadelago of POLITICO — Joe Biden has yet to declare his presidential bid formally, but he’s already complicating Harris‘ path to victory in a must-win state: South Carolina. African-Americans and women make up strong majorities of Democratic primary voters here, and Harris aggressively courted local support last weekend in her fourth visit of the young campaign, which focused on rural areas. Biden, meanwhile, starts with broad, across-the-board backing from an array of establishment Democrats to rank-and-file black voters. His overall early support skews toward older South Carolinians that form the most reliable voting bloc — and who are assembling to support Biden right away when he jumps into the race this week.

Joe Biden’s entry into the presidential race could put a crimp in Kamala Harris’s campaign.

’There’s still a lot of sexism’: Dem leaders frustrated by double standards facing female candidates” via Alex Roarty and Katie Glueck of McClatchy — EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock’s frustration with perceived double standards for women candidates is shared by many influential Democrats, who argue that their party’s half-dozen female presidential candidates have been repeatedly hindered by unfair treatment in the early stages of the campaign. In interviews, a group of leading Democrats sought to sound the alarm about what they regard as embedded sexism in the 2020 primary — both from their own voters and in some media coverage — that has resulted in a tilted playing field. “I feel frustrated because I don’t feel that the women candidates are getting the same kind of coverage,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.


Florida Virtual School CEO says she’s a knighted ‘genius.’ Um … what?” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — The Sentinel has learned that the school’s new CEO — the woman who is supposed to clean things up — claims she’s not only a knighted dame (something an expert says she isn’t) but also one of the “500 Greatest Geniuses of the 21st Century” (a designation from a bogus and bankrupt organization). Now we’re reading a story about how the new CEO likes to be called “Lady Dhyana Ziegler.” She even had the school print the title on the placard she uses at meetings — though a royalty expert told the Sentinel that the title wasn’t bestowed by the Queen of England, but rather by a “fake” group that usually charges money “for a completely worthless piece of paper.”

Esteban ‘Steve’ Bovo: Traffic and toll relief for Miami-Dade” via the Miami Herald — The Miami-Dade Expressway Authority has failed to meet its obligation under the law by ignoring mandated toll relief and financial transparency. We have an opportunity to improve our transportation system and provide toll relief. The proposed legislation in Tallahassee will ensure local control, freeze toll increases for an extended period, and institute the Florida Sunshine Rebate Program. Since elected to the county commission in 2011, I have introduced and passed legislation that prioritizes corridors, creates free ride programs, established ride-share, new zoning along transit lines to help establish density and increase ridership, and transportation funding options that don’t require increases in taxes. The Greater Miami Expressway Authority (GMEA) can assist our efforts to make mobility options a reality.


Personnel note: Nic Breeding, former White House official, joins Moore’s South Florida office — Breeding will be managing director to lead the West Palm Beach office. The Virginia native’s 18-year background includes serving as VP with Direct Impact and associate director of political affairs at the White House. His service in the George W. Bush administration included appointments under Secretaries Mel Martinez and Alphonso Jackson at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. He also served under Mitt Romney at both the Republican Governors Association and Romney’s PAC. “Our decision to appoint Nic to this role underscores our commitment to our South Florida clients,” Moore President and COO Terrie Ard says. “Both our future and existing clients will benefit from Nic’s expertise.”

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Ralph Azra, Mountain Moving Strategies: EdisonLearning

Ronald Brise, Larry Williams, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart: City of Quincy

Carlos Cruz, Jonathan Kilman, Paul Lowell, Converge Government Affairs of Florida: Del Favero

Laura Donaldson, Manson Bolves Donaldson Varn: City of Cape Coral

Candice Ericks, Robert Holroyd, TSE Consultanting: GreenBlock Capital

Ken Granger, Dean Izzo, Capital City Consulting: Atkins North America

Fred Karlinsky, Greenberg Traurig: Green Peak Innovation


One of the Tampa Bay Rays’ ace pitchers is scheduled to return to the mound Wednesday.

Blake Snell, “threw 18 pitches off a mound Saturday and an eight-pitch bullpen session Monday,” The Associated Press reported. The team faces the Kansas City Royals.

The Rays placed pitcher Blake Snell on the injured list after a bathroom accident.

The report comes after manager Kevin Cash said Snell “would not ready to be reinstated from the 10-day injured list for the game.”

The injury: Snell hurt fractured his toe moving a decorative display April 14.

Good for the game: Snell was the 2018 Cy Young Award winner, so fans are eager to welcome him back.

Welp. Duke has signed three of the first 21 players on ESPN’s Top 100 basketball recruit list.

Ominous news: Those are three players that FSU hoops and the rest of ACC will miss out.

Meanwhile: Cole Anthony, the No. 2-ranked player on the list, will play for North Carolina. The Florida Gators have the No. 9 overall player committed, Scottie Lewis of Colts Neck, New Jersey.

Could Thunder bring silence? A big story in the NBA playoffs is what happens to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Roster shake-up: The team stands to lose their star, Russell Westbrook.

Coach stays put: Those wondering about the future of former University of Florida Coach Billy Donovan can relax. The Thunder picked up his contract option for next season.

The Suns are still the Suns. Good news, Florida pro sports fans. None of the franchises in the Sunshine State, regardless of the sport, can match the dysfunction of the train wreck known as the NBA’s Phoenix Suns.

Quick can: They just fired Coach Igor Kokoskov after one season on the job.

Sure, Tiger Woods just won The Masters.

Extra credit: We’re wondering how he’d fare in the sport of Hornussen, otherwise known as Farmer’s Golf. It’s said to be a combination of golf, baseball and tennis. They’ve been playing it in the Swiss countryside for about the last 400 years.

— ALOE —

Florida gas prices are down, but recent sanction news could change that” via Malena Carollo of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida’s gas prices averaged $2.74 a gallon Monday, down 5 cents over the week, while Tampa Bay prices were $2.71 a gallon on average, down 7 cents over the week. What happens now with the gas process is unclear, said AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins. Trump said that beginning in May, countries that import oil from Iran would be subject to U.S. sanctions. Some countries, including Japan and China, were previously exempt from sanctions. “How the market digests this news will tell the story of where pump prices go from here,” he said. “So far, it’s looking like a 5-cent hike, but that outlook could be different by Monday night.”

Disney tests evacuation procedure before gondola passengers take flight” via Stacy Shanks of — Disney had heavy equipment and officials out Tuesday testing the gondola’s evacuation procedure, according to a blogger with who was at Hollywood Studios. A fire department was also on hand during the test with a fire truck ladder lifted into the air toward a gondola cabin. The Skyliner is a gondola system that will connect Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot to four hotels throughout the resort — Art of Animation Resort, Pop Century Resort, Caribbean Beach Resort and the proposed Disney’s Riviera Resort.

Disney tests evacuation procedure before gondola passengers. Image via

What John Lux is reading — “’Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ will film in Miami Beach. We don’t think this will close MacArthur Causeway” via Lesley Abravnel of the Miami Herald — It’s sunny, Rat Packy, fabulous ’50s-era marvelous Miami Beach. And the best news yet is that the showrunners aren’t dressing up the Buckhead area of Atlanta to resemble the shores of South Beach. The actual cast and crew of the Amazon Prime comedy will be down here for a week in June to do some filming for the series’ third season. The news was broken by actor Tony Shalhoub, who said “I think I’ve heard that we’re going to Miami in June. That’s all I know . . . It’s about [Midge’s] tour, but that’s all I got.” The award-winning show, about a sassy, brassy Borscht Belt housewife, will be filming here June 17-30.


Happy birthday to Berny Jacques, our favorite St. Petersburg City Councilmember, Ed MontanariSamantha Pollara, and Corcoran & Johnston’s Amanda Stewart.

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

Written By

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

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jim Rosica, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Dan McAuliffe, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
Phone: (727) 642-3162
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St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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