It’s off the beaten path as we head into the final days of Session, but here’s another thing-that-makes-you-go-hmmm story from the ineffable Noah Pransky.
Eighteen months after Tom Price resigned as Secretary of Health and Human Services over his misuse of private and military aircraft, the Georgia Republican may be plotting a comeback.
A $19,500 expenditure for “polling” was disclosed on the first-quarter finance report for Price for Congress, the campaign account the veteran lawmaker never closed down, even as he served in President Donald Trump‘s Cabinet for six months in 2017.
FEC guidelines limit what lawmakers are allowed to do with campaign funds when they aren’t actively campaigning; the polling expenditure suggests Price is conducting campaign activities on behalf of himself.
Price resigned in September 2017 amid allegations, first reported by POLITICO, that he and his staff violated federal rules and wasted tax dollars by taking dozens of charter and military flights when commercial alternatives were available.
The rest of the story is right here.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@RealDonaldTrump: Welcome to the race Sleepy Joe. I only hope you have the intelligence, long in doubt, to wage a successful primary campaign. It will be nasty – you will be dealing with people who truly have some very sick & demented ideas. But if you make it, I will see you at the Starting Gate!
—@GNewburn: In a couple of months Biden is going to say something like “LGBTQ people are just like us normal folks,“ and he’ll genuinely have no idea why he’s being criticized for it.
—@BernieSanders: Enough with the racist and unconstitutional efforts to deny people the right to vote. If you are an American citizen, you must be able to vote. End of discussion.
—@MarcoRubio: On this # a reminder that even after hundreds of hours of film study, interviews, background checks, combines & private workouts, evaluating what kind of professional a 20/21-year-old will become is basically a high stakes educated guess.
—@RepGusBilirakis: Saturday is National Take Back Day! This important event offers a safe way to discard unused prescription drugs-which helps prevent theft, abuse, and contamination of our water supply. Visit takebackday.dea.gov for more information on the drop-off location closest to you.
Happy Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day at the Florida Capitol! pic.twitter.com/JZIR6R4oJH
— Florida GOP (@FloridaGOP) April 25, 2019
—@Fineout: @GovRonDeSantis was also asked about the Mueller report and concerns about Russian hacking. He chided the feds for not letting Fla know about it at the time. The FBI actually warned Fla in 16 & held conf call with local supervisors. But Fla didn’t want to acknowledge it at time.
Thank you to my fellow senators for passing my bill, SB 910, to expand Veteran Treatment Courts off the floor today. This is a great step towards better access to the treatment and support veterans deserve. I appreciate your support! 🇺🇸
— George Gainer (@SenatorGainer) April 25, 2019
—@CarolMolinares: I’ve only ever cried twice watching House floor sessions, one was out of anger but today was bc of this amazingly powerful speech on sanctuary cities by @. You spoke for families like mine and for that, I thank you for being our voice.
—@CHipLaMarca: Late breaking news from your Florida House: Under House Bill 1219, you can bring your dog or cat to a brewery or distillery, but not a “dangerous dog.” Just in case you had concerns. #DayIsWearingOnUs
— @BSFarrington: I will say that the air over here in the Senate press gallery is much fresher than the air over in the House press gallery. We are much more refined.
—@MelissaGomez004: Working @ shaped my college experience and my career. I know so, so many talented professional journalists who started out working at their student publications, so please share your stories! Love that # is still going strong.
— DAYS UNTIL —
White House Correspondents’ Dinner — 1; 2019 Legislative Session ends (maybe) — 7; National Orange Juice Day — 8; Kentucky Derby — 8; Star Wars — 8; Mother’s Day — 16; Florida Chamber Florida Business Leaders’ Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 29; Memorial Day — 31; Florida Democratic Leadership Blue conference and fundraiser — 43; U.S. Open begins — 48; Father’s Day — 51; Florida Chamber Learners to Earners Workforce Summit begins — 56; First Democratic presidential debates in Miami — 61; Independence Day — 69; Second Democratic presidential debates in Detroit — 95; St. Petersburg primary election — 124; “Joker” opens — 161; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 185; Scott Maddox trial begins — 192; 2019 General Election — 193; 3rd Annual Florida Internet and Television FITCon begins — 195; Iowa Caucuses — 283; Florida’s presidential primary — 326; 2020 General Election — 557.
— TOP STORY —
“FBI to brief Ron DeSantis, Rick Scott on Russian hacking attempts” via David Smiley of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis and Scott each said the FBI has reached out about scheduling a meeting within the next few weeks to discuss elections hacking. Both the current and former governor have been critical of federal authorities for remaining silent in the weeks since Robert Mueller’s Russian elections interference report said the FBI believes Russian hackers were able to “gain access” to “at least one” Florida county government computer network. “They won’t tell us which county it was. Are you kidding me? Why would you not say something immediately?” DeSantis said. “We’re looking for answers. I think finally next week we’re going to get somebody, or maybe the week after we’re going to have somebody come brief us on what happened.”
— THE ADMINISTRATION —
“Ron DeSantis joins in on ‘Ocean to Everglades’” via News Service of Florida — DeSantis is using the Super Bowl as a platform to mix his love of sports with a push to preserve Florida’s environment. After a week that included a trip to Augusta, Georgia, to watch the Masters, an Orlando Magic playoff game, and first pitches with his 2-year-old daughter, Madison, at a Florida State University softball game, DeSantis joined an effort to reduce the environmental impact of Super Bowl LIV, which will be played in Miami Gardens next year. DeSantis participated in the kickoff of “Ocean to Everglades,” or “O2E,” which involves NFL Green, Ocean Conservancy and The Everglades Foundation. “You really see how just the average citizens, regardless of party, regardless of the part of the state, they all want to see Florida’s environment tended to,” DeSantis said.
“Florida joins ‘Network of Age-Friendly States’” via News Service of Florida — DeSantis, Florida’s first Generation X governor, has teamed up with the AARP to try and make the Sunshine State accommodating for people of all ages. The governor’s office announced Tuesday that Florida has become the fourth state to join the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities. “As our state continues to grow, we must ensure that we do all that we can to meet the needs of our residents,” DeSantis, 40, said in a press release. “I am proud that Florida is leading by becoming the largest state to commit to this important effort.” New York, Massachusetts, and Colorado are already participating in the program, as are at least 25 Florida communities … Membership isn’t an endorsement by the AARP as a place to live, the organization’s website states.
“DeSantis names two appellate judges in Miami” via Florida Politics — DeSantis named Monica Gordo and Fleur Lobree to the 3rd District Court of Appeal. The Governor’s Office said Thursday’s appointments “mark the first time four women are seated” on the court, based in Miami. Gordo and Lobree join Judges Norma Lindsey and Bronwyn Miller. In a statement, the Governor said “these two brilliant legal professionals understand the proper role of the courts and have demonstrated a firm commitment to our Constitution.” DeSantis announced at the Alan R. Schwartz Atrium of the newly-renovated courthouse.
— CONFERENCE CONTINUES —
There will be more budget conference meetings on Friday.
Originally, lower-level negotiators planned to stop meeting by Thursday evening. But that’s changed.
By the end of Friday, we should know what’s getting bumped to budget chiefs Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Travis Cummings.
— Plane paper: The Legislature is shaping up to spend $3.8 million on staff, maintenance and a plane for DeSantis.
— VISIT FLORIDA: The public-private agency is shaping up to get a big cut. Both chambers have stuck by the $19 million appropriation to the tourism-marketing entity. The Tampa Bay Times reports that the cut will carry over to local chapters.
— Pulse money: After widespread news reports pointing out the discrepancy, lawmakers agreed on $500,000 in state funding toward a Pulse memorial in Orlando, to honor the lives lost in a 2016 mass shooting at the gay nightclub.
— Health budget: It’s coming together, reports The News Service of Florida.
— ‘Super-preeminence’: That’s how Rep. Randy Fine described a pool of money the Senate wants for Florida State University and the University of Florida. Fine and the House want to spend the $13 million on regional universities instead.
“Senate budget chief: ‘A’ grade on budget talks” via Ana Ceballos, Christine Sexton and Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — Lawmakers haggling over the House and Senate state spending plans have a little extra time before the chambers’ budget chiefs step in to try to resolve the differences, Senate Appropriations Chairman Bradley told reporters. Bradley said he and House counterpart Cummings — Republicans who are both from Fleming Island — are giving budget conferees until Friday morning to try to hammer out disparities in various areas in next year’s state budget, which totals about $90 billion. Overall, Bradley said he is pleased with how the talks were going thus far. “I would give negotiations an ‘A’ grade. We kept on schedule. We are right where we need to be,” Bradley said, adding “things are closing out.”
“Budget conference: Could it be? A new(ish) EOC?” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — House and Senate budget negotiators are a half-million dollars apart regarding a “planning and redesign” line item for the state’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Tallahassee. The Conference Committee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development/Transportation & Tourism wrapped up its fifth meeting Thursday night. The House is willing to spend $1.5 million; the Senate came back with an even $1 million … Lawmakers are split on replacing the building, or renovating the existing one.
— SESSION —
“Senate immigration bill now weighed down with last-minute changes” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A bill that would ban sanctuary policies in Florida, which generated intense debate in the Senate, has been bogged down with amendments … The idea behind the bill, which is shared by Trump, is that state and local governments and law enforcement agencies should “support and cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.” The House passed its own version earlier this week, and that legislation includes more punitive provisions, including fines for officials implementing sanctuary policies. Whether the two chambers will have time to agree on one bill to send to DeSantis is unclear.
“‘Fracking’ ban proposal likely dead” via News Service of Florida — A proposal backed byDeSantisto ban “fracking” in Florida appears dead for this legislative session. Sen. Ben Albritton, a Wauchula Republican who sponsored a fracking-ban bill (SB 7064), said Thursday evening he doesn’t think the measure has much of a chance of passing with just more than a week remaining in the 60-day session. “My hopes were much higher,” Albritton said after a Senate floor session. “I intend to file another bill next year.” The controversial proposal to ban “hydraulic fracturing,” or fracking, cleared two Senate committees but was not taken up by two other panels. The House version (HB 7029) to ban the controversial oil- and gas-drilling technique also did not make it through all of its assigned committees.
“Senate passes wide-ranging health insurance proposal” via News Service of Florida — The Florida Senate on Thursday passed a sweeping health insurance bill that could protect hundreds of thousands of Floridians with pre-existing conditions while at the same time blunting the impact of the federal health care law. The bill (SB 322) is “comprehensive in nature,” sponsor Wilton Simpson, a Trilby Republican, said during floor debate Thursday. Simpson’s bill would require insurance companies and health maintenance organizations to offer at least one policy that does not exclude, limit, deny or delay coverage due to one or more pre-existing medical conditions. “What’s sweeping about this is that Florida is going to change its policy on health care to say we are going to require our insurers to cover pre-existing conditions,” Simpson said.
“Senate passes major education bill that creates new school voucher” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — The measure, Senate Bill 7070, passed 23-17 along party lines, a major victory for advocates and parents wishing to expand different school options paid for by the state. It steers money from the state’s per-student funding currently reserved almost solely for Florida’s 67 public school districts into private school vouchers for students from low-income families, called Family Empowerment Scholarships. “It’s paramount that our students have opportunity, regardless of their ZIP code or status, to reach the best educational environment possible,” said Sen. Manny Diaz, Jr., who sponsored the bill. “I think it’s a monumental day today in Florida.”
“Surprise addition to sanctuary city bill sends Republicans scurrying” via Ursula Perano of POLITICO Florida — The bill would prohibit state agencies and other entities from adopting policies to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation. An amendment by state Sen. José Javier Rodriguez would exempt the Department of Children and Families and its employees from the law. The amendment was one of the dozens proposed by Rodriguez and its passage took Republicans — some of whom weren’t in the chamber for the vote — by surprise. Consideration of the bill was quickly postponed when the majority learned what had happened. Senate sponsor Joe Gruters told POLITICO the addition to the bill was a mistake and he is trying to figure out a way to remove the language before the bill passes the Senate.
“Commission could be on Senate chopping block” via the News Service of Florida — Without comment, the Senate positioned the proposal (SJR 362) for a vote, which could come as soon as Friday. The proposal would ask voters in 2020 to eliminate the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, which meets every 20 years. Lawmakers are unhappy about how the commission last year put seemingly divergent topics into the same ballot questions. They also have expressed concerns that the panel has exceeded the intent of voters. Last month, the Senate unanimously passed a proposal (SJR 74) that seeks to ban the commission from “bundling” multiple topics in single constitutional amendments.
“Democrats cry foul as House votes to tighten rules for amendment petition drives” via Curt Anderson of The Associated Press — Legislation making it more difficult to change the Florida constitution via petition drives passed the Republican-led state House amid complaints from Democrats that it would strip away a fundamental citizens’ right. The measure cleared the House on a 71-41 vote and now moves to the Senate, where a similar bill is pending. GOP supporters called it a necessary tightening of petition drive rules that would clarify when out-of-state interests are involved. Democrats, however, cast it as an improper roadblock to the ability of citizens to participate directly in their government, especially when the Legislature refuses to act on certain high-profile issues.
“Lawmakers expand ‘Good Samaritan’ law” via the News Service of Florida — The Senate unanimously passed a measure (HB 595) that would expand the state’s Good Samaritan Act, enacted in 2012. Under the current law, individuals who are in possession of a controlled substance cannot be charged, prosecuted or penalized if the substance is discovered as a result of a “good faith effort” to seek medical help, for themselves or others, for a drug overdose. The proposal now on its way to DeSantis would extend the immunity to people who are in possession of drug paraphernalia or less than 10 grams of a controlled substance if they seek medical assistance with a drug or alcohol overdose.
“House bill allows guns in religious institutions” via The Associated Press — The measure was approved on a 79-35 vote, moving on to the Senate where a similar bill is pending. The House bill would permit a church, synagogue or other religious institution to authorize a licensed person to carry a concealed firearm on property it owns, leases or otherwise uses. Republican Rep. Eric Grall of Vero Beach, the chief sponsor, says that would include religious schools. Current law does not necessarily prohibit a person with a concealed carry license to bring a gun to a place of worship, but because schools are often located there, it would be a violation. The House bill changes that, but it is also voluntary.
“House passes bill on teaching human trafficking” via The Associated Press — Children in Florida public schools would be taught about the dangers and warning signs of human trafficking under a bill passed by the state House. The vote was 112-0 for the bill sponsored by Democratic Rep. Patricia Williams and Republican Rep. Rene Plasencia. The measure would include human trafficking in the health classes currently taught in Florida public schools. The curriculum would focus on how to recognize and understand human trafficking, as well as child abuse. Twenty-two Florida school districts already include human trafficking information in their health classes.
“Senate passes child care car van alarm bill” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Child care centers that use vans or cars to transport children would have to install alarm systems that should prevent drivers from forgetting children in the back seat, under a bill approved Thursday by the Florida Senate. A similar but not identical bill was approved in the House last month so the two bills will have to be reconciled before heading to Gov. Ron DeSantis for a signature. Democratic state Sen. Linda Stewart’s SB 94 was approved 37-1, with just Republican state Sen. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg voting no.
“Hemp could join oranges as a Florida ag product” via The Associated Press — The bill passed with glowing praise from senators who want to help an agriculture industry that’s taken a lot of hits in recent years. It would create a state program to administer and oversee the growing of hemp for industrial uses to make everything from ropes to building materials to animal feed. Republican Sen. Bradley said agriculture has suffered setbacks ranging from citrus diseases to hurricanes over the last two decades. He said he wants Florida to become a national leader in the hemp industry.
“Roll Tide? Maybe on a license plate” via the News Service of Florida — The House unanimously approved a bill that would lead to Florida specialty license plates for the University of Alabama, Auburn University and the University of Georgia. The bill (HB 505), sponsored by Tampa Republicans James Grant and Jackie Toledo, deals with a series of issues related to specialty plates. While Florida universities have long had specialty plates, the state has not had plates for schools in other parts of the country.
— MORE SESSION —
First in Sunburn — SBA List demands action on parental consent — National pro-life activists called on President Galvano to bring a ‘parental consent’ bill to the Senate floor. Susan B. Anthony List also asked Gov. DeSantis to take leadership and save the seemingly stalled legislation. While praising Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, for his “pro-life principles,” the group expresses disappointment legislation hasn’t moved in his chamber. “This is the hottest pro-life topic in the country right now and Florida should take a seat at the head of the table to both save lives and engage in the most winning pro-life issue we’ve ever seen,” the letter states.
“Banning access to voter information opposed by civil rights groups” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — The League of Women Voters, Common Cause and other civil and voting rights groups are urging lawmakers to reject a measure that would prohibit members of the media and grassroots organizations from gaining access to voter information. In a letter to the Florida House, the coalition said the bill with its proposed amendments would eliminate transparency and voting rights, and violate both the National Voting Rights Act and the Equal Protection Clause under the 14th Amendment. “There can be no transparency into Florida’s process of maintaining the accuracy of its voter lists without the disclosure of information that this bill and its proposed amendments attempt to shield from public view,” the letter said.
“Tentative higher ed funding is a win for UF and FSU, but is that costing USF?” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The Senate added a $13 million budget item for the University of Florida and Florida State University in its budget conference for “national ranking operational enhancement.” The funding is intended to ensure both universities continue to rise in the U.S. News and World Report higher education rankings. The Florida Legislature included financing for national ranking enhancement in last year’s budget, too. But while there’s no mistaking the value in having nationally ranked universities to attract talent and business to the state, the funding appears to come despite the University of South Florida’s recently acquired pre-eminent status. So far this year, no money has been allocated for pre-eminence by the House or Senate, though conferences are ongoing.
“Financial literacy graduation requirement fades away in Legislative Session” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — For the sixth consecutive year, the Florida Legislature appears unwilling to add a financial literacy course to the list of high school graduation requirements — despite several lawmakers saying they wanted to do so in memory of the late Sen. Dorothy Hukill, who pushed for the concept throughout her tenure. Sen. Travis Hutson amended his workforce education bill (SB 770) to include a mandate that high schools offer financial literacy as a half-credit elective, instead of a graduation requirement. He did so after his bill singularly focused on having all students take the course (SB 114) languished in the Rules Committee, and its House companion (HB 73) failed to be heard in the House PreK-12 Appropriations Committee before it closed.
“Florida Virtual School board would be disbanded under House proposal” via key Beth Kassab and Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — House leaders are advancing the plan just two weeks after a report detailed turmoil inside the administrative ranks at the public online school and revealed a series of cozy relationships between FLVS board members and Frank Kruppenbacher, the school’s former general counsel. The House proposal, made as part of legislative budget negotiations, calls for the State Board of Education — which oversees Florida’s public schools and state colleges — to help manage FLVS and to appoint an executive director for the school. That administrator would report directly to the state education commissioner.
“Is Florida law template for stopping child marriages?” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — An A&E documentary feature stories that helped shape the landmark policy. Since the passage of the statute, Florida saw marriages to minors drop from 125 between July and December of 2017 to 48 during that same period in 2018. “That’s a substantial decrease in one year,” noted Gus Corbella, a lobbyist with Greenberg Traurig who helped craft Florida’s law. “That will improve as word gets out internationally that Florida is no longer a place to marry child brides.” Florida leaders hope that’s helped by the premiere of I Was A Child Bride: The Untold Story, the new A&E documentary scrutinizing the surprising number of child marriages taking place in America.
“Senate compromise could slash license requirements for barbers, cosmetology specialists” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A strike-all amendment in the works for Florida Senate bill (SB 1640) will bring the legislation in line with a House version (HB 27). The House version, sponsored by Spring Hill Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, cuts requirements for Florida barbers to need just 600 hours of training, as opposed to 1,200 required hours now. That would be the lowest requirement of any state in the union. Michael Halmon of the Florida Association of Cosmetology and Technical Schools said while it sounds as if lowering licensing rules will help professionals, it is unlikely. First, the drop in hours for cosmetology specialists puts education needs so low students can’t qualify for federal Pell grants.
“Condo owners, firefighters at odds over sprinkler requirements” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics —Hotels, timeshare and condo complexes over 75 feet tall have to have fire sprinkler systems, and condos are lagging behind. If lawmakers don’t act this Session, condo owners face a Jan. 1, 2020, deadline to get up to code. The Legislature is considering two different plans to put the issue to bed finally. SB 908 would set benchmarks for complexes to get sprinkler systems installed, extending the runway for completion out to Jan. 1, 2024. HB 647 would set the date at Jan. 1, 2023. However, it would also allow condo associations to forego installing fire safety systems altogether with a two-thirds vote among owners. The critical reason condo owners want to keep the opt-out is cost, while firefighters say getting sprinkler systems in place would make their jobs safer.
“Online contacts, glasses orders could get the ax” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The House and Senate telemedicine bills are both in the Senate, and Clearwater Republican Sen. Ed Hooper filed amendments to each that would block Floridians from ordering prescription contact lenses and glasses online unless they get “a contemporaneous eye health examination. ”Essentially, customers can still pick up their specs online, but they won’t be able to skip a trip to the ophthalmologist. Opposing the amendments are Americans for Vision Care Innovation, which sent a letter to House Speaker José Oliva urging him and other lawmakers to chuck the change. The group said 1 million online exams had been performed in the past four years and they are “unaware of a single adverse event.”
“Post-Michael, Farm Share is ripe for state investment” via Florida Politics — Lawmakers are starting to dive deep into the budget and helping the state recover from Hurricane Michael and prepare for the next storm will be a focus. Government can’t meet all needs, but there are some strategic investments and partnerships with high-impact nonprofits the state should consider. One organization deserving of attention: Farm Share. In the first two weeks after Hurricane Michael, Farm Share was able to deliver 2.2 million pounds of food and supplies to the hardest hit areas despite their Quincy warehouse going without power for eight days. … Lawmakers likely won’t be able to find enough space in the budget to cover every aspect of the post-Michael recovery process, but by empowering nonprofits like Farm Share to continue doing what they do best, the Legislature can genuinely impact the lives of Floridians.
“Kim Daniels beats ethics charge levied by House Speaker” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Daniels will face no penalty for ethics charges dating back to her tenure on the local City Council. In January, House Speaker Oliva referred Daniels case to the Florida Ethics Commission. Daniels admitted culpability regarding filing multiple erroneous financial disclosure statements as a Councilwoman. However, Oliva took a narrow view of the House’s disciplinary authority in this case. “The actions referenced by the Commission occurred outside of the time of service by Rep. Daniels in the House. The Speaker expects all Members to abide by House Rules, ethics laws, and Florida Statutes. Any violation of those rules while a Member will be addressed by the Speaker,” asserted spokesman Fred Piccolo.
— LEGISLATIVE SCHEDULE —
The Senate is scheduled to hold a floor Session at 10 a.m., Senate Chamber.
The House is scheduled to hold a floor Session at 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.
The House Rules Committee will meet 15 minutes after floor session, 404 House Office Building.
— GOV. CLUB BUFFET MENU —
Next week’s Governors Club menus will include a special treat — an extension of the weekly breakfast buffet to Friday, as well as a post-Sine Die treat (details to follow). Stay tuned.
— POLAR OPPOSITES —
Battles over abortion access are likely to continue to feature two lawmakers who perhaps couldn’t be more different from each other.
Claire McNeill for The Tampa Bay Times recently profiled the two House legislators: Republican Mike Hill and Democrat Anna Eskamani.
— At stake: A conservative shift in the state and U.S. Supreme Courts could potentially pave the way for restrictions on the right to terminate pregnancies.
— Heartbeat bill: Hill’s legislation to prevent abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected likely won’t become law.
— Pro-choice bill: Eskamani’s proposal to expand access to abortion never moved, but she’ll reintroduce it next year.
— Contrast: The story is a must-read for anyone interested in the differences between some of the lawmakers elected from different parts of the state.
— THE END IS NIGH —
Think you know when lawmakers will end, or Sine Die, this Session?
Taking bets again this year is communications guru Kevin Cate.
— How it works: Think of a time on May 3 (or later) and tweet it with #CateSineDie.
— How to win: Guess the closest time without busting (see “The Price is Right rules”). The winner will choose a charity to which Cate’s CateComm firm will donate $300.
— Consolation: The closest ten forecasters will receive “some sweet Session socks by DivvyUp.” Students at Florida State University started the sock company a few years ago. The business produced the infamous #GainerSocks earlier this year.
— STATEWIDE —
“Florida officials demand US lawmakers pass storm relief” via The Associated Press — Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, Attorney General Ashley Moody, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and lawmakers said they were infuriated that Congress had failed to pass relief legislation. They say partisan politics shouldn’t play a role in getting the package passed. The law would also aid victims of disasters in Georgia, California, Alaska, North Carolina, and Puerto Rico. Trump’s opposition to aid to Puerto Rico sparked a standoff with congressional Democrats demanding more aid for the island. Separately, DeSantis announced Florida is getting a $5.8 million federal grant to pay Floridians left unemployed by the hurricane to work in cleanup jobs.
“Judge tosses suit challenging Airbnb’s agreement with state” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A state administrative judge has dismissed a suit brought by a hotel group that had challenged the validity of Airbnb’s agreement with Florida to collect and remit sales taxes on behalf of thousands of vacation homeowners. State Administrative Judge Robert Telfer III issued an order Thursday ruling that the Asian American Hotel Owners Association failed to show that it or its members have been harmed in any way by the Airbnb’s deal with the Florida Division of Revenue.
“State plans to construct new CSX railroad bridges over I-4 to accommodate future high-speed rail” via Veronica Brezina-Smith of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — The bridges would go between the Bella Vista Street overpass and the Kathleen Road interchange, which will replace the existing bridge, according to plans submitted to the Southwest Florida Water Management District. Designs show the I-4 configuration that accommodates a multimodal envelope in the median for high-speed rail and provides the flexibility for two-lane ramps without bridge reconstruction, should the traffic need arise in the future. Although the document doesn’t expressly state Virgin Trains USA, formerly known as Brightline, being the high-speed rail operator, the company has plans for connecting from Orlando International Airport to Tampa.
EASY AS C-B-D
A federal change clearing the way for hemp production resulted in a boom for CBD products.
As is custom, private-side production and sales have outpaced regulation of the product, reports Sara DiNatale for the Tampa Bay Times. Globally, DiNatale writes, the hemp industry reached $3.7 billion in sales last year. By 2022, U.S. sales of CBD alone are expected to reach $1.7 billion.
— In Tallahassee: Creation of a state hemp program is underway. “Florida lawmakers are drafting the rules now. But the Sunshine State’s hemp-preneurs aren’t waiting.”
— One caveat: As has been reported, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services currently does not believe CBD products can legally be sold.
— Opportunity cost: For what it’s worth, a student planning to become a dentist in the Times story ditched that effort to pursue CBD retailing.
— THE TRAIL —
“Amy Pope Wells launches congressional bid in North Florida” via Kevin Derby of Florida Daily — Conservative businesswoman Wells has launched a bid for the congressional seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho. “I am extremely excited about and humbled by the task ahead of me. I look forward to meeting the voters of District 3 and sharing my conservative vision to address our country’s acute challenges,” said Wells. “The skyrocketing cost of health care, the crisis at our southern border and the opioid epidemic are immediate problems that need comprehensive solutions.” Wells has ties to the White House, being named to a group helping the United States-Canada Council for the Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders.
“Ben Diamond to House leadership could be seismic for Pinellas politics” via Florida Politics — St. Petersburg Rep. Diamond was elected Democratic Leader for 2022-24 Wednesday night, and that could have big implications for Pinellas County. Diamond was considered a top-flight pick to take over for current St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman. Diamond’s ascendency to the top post come 2022 will likely rule out a mayoral bid, but being House Democratic Leader could also cause a ripple effect in the state Senate. Polls pegged SD 24 as semi-competitive last year and Democrats made a play for the seat. However, St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Brandes cruised to re-election. He can’t run again, and the lack of an incumbent in the increasingly purple district could help Democrats pull off the flip — especially if a well-known and moderate candidate like Diamond runs under their banner.
— LOCAL —
“Ex-officer sentenced to 25 years in black motorist’s killing” via Terri Spencer of The Associated Press — Fired Palm Beach Gardens officer Nouman Raja was the first Florida law enforcement agent in nearly 30 years to be convicted and sentenced for an on-duty killing — and one of only a few officers nationwide. Circuit Judge Joseph Marx sentenced the 41-year-old defendant as family and friends of the 31-year-old victim, Corey Jones, looked on in a hushed courtroom jammed with supporters from both sides. Marx said sentencing defendants is the hardest part of his job, something he loses sleep over even when dealing with a hardened, career criminal. Raja is not that, he said. He could have given Raja a life term, a sentence prosecutors sought.
“Family, black leaders lash out against deputies who slammed teen’s head into pavement” via Charles Rabin of the Tampa Bay Times — A week of anger and frustration over the violent head-slamming arrest of an unarmed Broward County high school teenager boiled during a gathering of mostly black leaders. “The newly appointed sheriff seems to not have a problem with the behavior” of some of his deputies, Marsha Ellison, president of the Fort Lauderdale/Broward County chapter of the NAACP said during a gathering in Fort Lauderdale at the Broward Public Defender’s Office. “Perhaps he’s confused about what’s political because he wasn’t elected.” Though attorney Benjamin Crump said the family hadn’t filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Office — yet — he demanded that the deputies who made the arrest be punished.
“Lawyers fight daylong battle to prove Indian River lawmen butchered prostitution cases” via Lawrence Reisman of TCPalm — About 20 attorneys representing more than 90 defendants spent more than 10 hours in three hearings in Indian River and Martin counties arguing why the videos should be excluded. Friday in Palm Beach County, attorneys for Robert Kraft will make their own arguments why videos recorded inside Orchids of Asia spa in Jupiter that led to prostitution charges against the New England Patriots owner should be excluded from the case. As attorney Andrew Metcalf noted, orders signed by judges allowed installation and monitoring of the cameras. There was no mention of “recording.”
“How an elimination of VISIT FLORIDA would impact Tampa Bay tourism” via Veronica Brezina-Smith of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Florida’s tourism marketing agency VISIT FLORIDA is on the chopping block, which could have a major impact on local direct marketing organizations. “Folks, it’s not looking good,” Visit Tampa Bay CEO and President Santiago Corrada
“As new voting equipment arrives, PBC election supervisor makes plea for more poll workers” via Emily Sullivan of the Palm Beach Post — On the day new equipment arrived at the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Tabulation Center, Wendy Link brought her push for dedicated poll workers to a Coalition of Boynton West Residential Associations (COBWRA) government affairs committee meeting. She also told the committee for COBWRA, which represents 112 community associations west of Boynton Beach and Lake Worth Beach, that she’s considering adding an early-voting site to accommodate trends and the bump in new western communities. That additional site would cost around $100,000 per election, she said. But she emphasized to ensure an efficient 2020 election, she needs good poll workers.
“Orange GOP committee member claims racism in spat over spilled water” via Stephen Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — To hear Beverly Burgess tell it, her son was forced by an Orange County Republican committee member to get on his hands and knees to clean up a spill “like a slave” at a January meeting. But a party investigation concluded Burgess left her son to clean up a spill she herself had made; leaders want Burgess to apologize to her own son. “You mean to tell me I need to apologize to my own kid? It’ll be a cold day in hell before that happens,’’ Burgess said. “I’m not going to apologize for defending my son.” The incident over a single spilled glass of water has led Burgess to accuse the Orange GOP of being “a Whites Only organization.”
“Okaloosa County School District could see $4 million deficit” via Susanna Vasquez of the NWF Daily News — Substantial cost increases in health insurance, retirement funding, and ESE education may create a substantial budget deficit for the Okaloosa County School District, according to Superintendent Marcus Chambers. State funding for the public school system has remained almost stagnant for the past 11 years, leaving local school districts with a challenge to make ends meet. Budget cuts to the tune of nearly $4 million may be needed. Chambers said in an email that with a probable $2 million increase in health insurance costs, a $600,000 increase in the Florida Retirement System and $1.3 million recommended additional spending in the Exceptional Student Education Program next year, he is trying to get ahead of a foreseeable deficit.
“Miami’s federal police monitor — Tampa’s new mayor — wants to end federal oversight” via Joey Flechas and Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — Jane Castor, a former Tampa police chief who was elected Mayor, also serves as Miami police’s $150-an-hour independent monitor under an agreement with the Justice Department that stemmed from a federal investigation into a spate of police shootings in Miami. She said she believes Miami’s department has satisfied the agreement’s requirements regarding policies for the investigation of police-involved shootings, the provision of adequate training and supervision for rank-and-file cops, the employment of special units and use of the force. “I’m in discussions with the Department of Justice,” Castor said. “It is my opinion that Miami has satisfied all of the requirements of the agreement.”
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Trump administration reevaluating offshore drilling plans” via Matthew Daly and Ellen Knickmeyer of The Associated Press — The Trump administration is reevaluating its controversial plan to sharply expand offshore drilling as it responds to a court ruling that blocked oil and gas development off Alaska and parts of the Atlantic. Governors and lawmakers from both Republican- and Democratic-led states have strongly opposed the expanded drilling. And a federal judge last month ruled against Trump’s executive order to open the Arctic and parts of the Atlantic to broader oil and gas development, saying Trump had exceeded his authority. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt told The Wall Street Journal that the legal challenges might be “discombobulating” to the administration’s overall drilling plans.
“Marco Rubio: At their own peril, countries embrace China” via Breitbart — For the last two decades, China fooled the world into believing it would embrace the rules-based international order and become a responsible stakeholder. Instead, China has used its membership in the World Trade Organization as an instrument for its economic advancement aimed directly at the expense of other more developed member states. And it is building up its military’s might — including new capabilities to menace Taiwan, Japan, and other neighbors to threaten U.S. forces in the Indo-Pacific region, and to project power globally. China now is trying to fool the world again by luring foreign governments to join its Belt and Road Initiative with extravagant promises of Chinese investment for their infrastructure projects.
“Rick Scott warns Venezuela will become ‘this hemisphere’s Syria’ if Nicolás Maduro not ousted” via Jim Wyss of the Miami Herald — Scott sees Venezuela in the starkest of terms: a toxic brew of hunger, desperation and “bad actors” that are threatening to turn the country into “this hemisphere’s Syria” and swamp the region in trouble. And he’s become one of the few voices on Capitol Hill openly advocating for U.S. boots on the ground. After visiting the Colombian-Venezuelan border for the first time, the former Florida Governor said the world needs to wake up to the crisis and redouble its efforts to oust Maduro. “People in America don’t know how bad this is. They don’t know that people are dying of starvation,” the Republican Senator told reporters in Bogotá.
Assignment editors — U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, chair of the Hispanic Caucus’ Women’s Task Force and member of the Judiciary Committee, will host a conference call following her series of meetings to discuss further expanding access to quality care, addressing the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs, protect people with pre-existing conditions, and strengthen the Affordable Care Act, noon. RSVP for dial-in information to [email protected]
— 2020 —
“Joe Biden goes to the dark side in launch video” via Marc Caputo and Natasha Korecki of POLITICO — Filled with extensive footage of white supremacists marching with torches, scenes of Nazi and Confederate flags and pegged to Trump’s reaction to the 2017 racist march in Charlottesville, the 3-minute, 30-second spot was an unlikely announcement video — especially for Uncle Joe, one of the last of the happy warriors. Where other 2020 Democratic candidates talked about their biographies and offered sunny visions of the future, Biden launched his campaign with a nod to one of the nation’s darkest moments in recent years, casting the election as a referendum on the president and a need to return to core American values.
“Biden expresses regret to Anita Hill, but she says ‘I’m sorry’ is not enough” via Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Jonathan Martin of The New York Times — Former Vice President Biden called Hill
“Gwen Graham gives Joe Biden an early endorsement” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Graham, a moderate who narrowly lost her bid for the Democratic nomination for Florida Governor in 2018, says electability matters. “My number one criteria is WINNING. We have to have a nominee that can beat Donald Trump in November 2020. I believe that Vice President Biden is the one who can keep Trump from having another term. Can you imagine the damage Trump WILL do if he has another term without concern for reelection? It is a horrific thought,” Graham remarked. “In the purple state that is Florida, I believe that Vice President Biden has the best chance of winning Florida in November. And, with Florida in your column, your path to the presidency is much easier,” Graham added.
“Bernie Sanders gets tough reception at minority women’s event, signaling challenges ahead” via Holly Bailey and David Weigel of The Washington Post — The groans erupted halfway through Sanders’s appearance at a presidential candidates’ forum sponsored by She the People, a group that aims to drive up voter participation among women of color. Before an audience of about 1,700, many of them African American and Hispanic women, the moderator asked Sanders how he would handle the rise in white supremacy. Sanders spoke of fighting discrimination and running a campaign “to bring our people together around an agenda that speaks to all people” — then returned to a familiar message on universal health care. For many in the audience, that was insufficient. “Come on!” a woman shouted from the back, as others began to jeer and boo.
“Cory Booker to raise money in Miami Beach Sunday evening” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — New Jersey Sen. Booker is bringing his presidential campaign to Miami Beach, where he’ll attend a Sunday evening fundraiser at a Venetian Islands home. Booker, one of several U.S. Senators seeking the Democratic nomination for President, is scheduled to visit the Rivo Alto Island home of Ed Nicoll and Helen Kent-Nicoll in the early evening. An invitation for the event shows that tickets range from $500 a person to $5,600.
“Latino Vote Project says greater funding key to increased engagement 2020” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Pew Research Center is projecting that in 2020, for the first time, Latinos are set to be the largest minority group in the electorate. The new LVP report analyzes the top issues motivating Latinos ahead of that election, as well as the budget shortfalls for interest groups in previous elections that hurt turnout among Latinos. “The majority of the grassroots organizations received late funding, impacting the planning and execution of their programs, hindering their programs and field efforts, and ensuring these did not reach their full potential,” reads the report. The project was headed by Catalist and Latino Decisions, featuring research done on behalf of The Immigration Hub and America’s Voice.
Meanwhile … “Chris Christie says drug import plan could sink Donald Trump” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics
— OPINIONS —
“Vindication for Andrew Gillum? Not really” via the Tallahassee Democrat editorial board — Former Vindicated people don’t pay $5,000 fines. And if Gillum, as Mayor, didn’t “knowingly” accept expensive favors from people seeking favors from his city, it’s because he didn’t try to know. And certainly, nothing says “trust me” like delaying a public hearing for a couple of hours while lawyers confer privately with the Ethics Commission staff. We don’t necessarily think Gillum acted corruptly. We think he was blind to the obvious reason behind the blandishments of business interests trying to butter up the mayor of a city that had something to offer them — or to withhold. He’s certainly not the first high-ranking public official to think he could dine at their table and still fairly consider their business proposals.
“Robert Yelverton, Stephen Snow: House deserves credit for advancing legislation to serve expectant mothers” via Florida Politics — The Florida House passed HB 25, by Rep. Cyndi Stevenson, which would open the door for advanced birthing centers (ABCs) — free-standing, non-hospital
“Sidewalk-brawling Florida Easter Bunny has a lot in his basket” via Frank Cerabino of the Palm Beach Post — of the Palm Beach Post — The fluffy bunny turned out to be quite a pugilist, landing some solid blows with his furry paws against a man who was wrestle-slugging with a woman in a sloppy, shirt-pulling tussle. But it didn’t become a full-fledged Florida story until two days later when it was revealed that the Florida Easter bunny was also a fugitive from New Jersey. Antoine McDonald couldn’t help himself. The 20-year-old man was just trying to make the most of his moment of fame. Once the video of his sidewalk scuffle had traveled around the world, he decided to take off the costume and make himself a celebrity. He created an Instagram account — Badbunnyof19 — and started doing interviews.
— MOVEMENTS —
Jayer Williamson named to 2019 GOPAC Emerging Leaders program — The representative from House District 3 is one of 30 state legislators around the nation to be selected as an Emerging Leader. A summit is planned in Charleston, South Carolina where Williamson and other will network with lawmakers and policy leaders to kick off their yearlong involvement with the program. “We welcome being a part of the success that this year’s Class of Emerging Leaders will achieve,” GOPAC Chairman David Avella said. “These men and women will contribute much to our mission to build a roster of Republicans ready to lead in their state legislature and run for higher office.”
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Ron Book: Coca-Cola Beverages Florida
Al Cardenas, Steve Schale, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: U.S. Term Limits
Erik Castaneda: 1-800 Contacts
Tyler Coward: Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)
Chris Dorworth, Ballard Partners: The Geo Group
Kenneth Granger, Dean Izzo, Capital City Consulting: Veritas Technologies
Jeff Johnston, Amanda Stewart, Corcoran & Johnston: Aura
Alex Miranda, Miranda Advocacy: City of Sweetwater
Chris Moya, Jennifer Ungru, Dean Mead: FCMC
Erin Rock, Southern Strategy Group: Florida Barber Academy
Nick Schilligo, NAS Strategic Consultants: 1-800 Contacts
Frank Tsamoutales, Tsamoutales Strategies: Jensen Hughes
— LISTEN UP —
Dishonorable Mention: State Rep. Chris Latvala, activist Becca Tieder, Tampa Bay Times Columnist Ernest Hooper and communications expert Dr. Karla Mastracchio discuss politics: national, state, local, but from a place of love. And with an emphasis on funny. Latvala talks about his father, former Sen. Jack Latvala, and managing to stay humble once being elected to office. Tieder discusses what it means to be a community activist and what the future holds.
Gradebook from the Tampa Bay Times with host Jeffrey Solochek: Thousands of students in Hillsborough County schools — the nation’s eighth largest district — struggle to read at grade level, despite years of effort and millions of dollars directed at helping them. Why isn’t the system seeing improvement? Reporter Marlene Sokol has some insights into what drives the problem. One takeaway: Reading is now a requirement — rather than a passion, making it harder to hold distracted children’s interest.
High Tops and Politics from Brian Crowley and Mary Anna Mancuso: Among the topics: A problem with Starbucks and cellphone? Will Florida drones be wearing badges? Are Florida elections safe? Is the GOP undermining local government?
Inside Florida Politics from GateHouse Florida with host John Kennedy: Florida presidential money chase, hurricane-proofing utilities, and JFK & Trump in Palm Beach. Kennedy speaks with George Bennett of The Palm Beach Post and Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
podcastED: An interview with state Sen. Brandes on what he thinks the education world will look like in the year 2040. The Pinellas County lawmaker has pushed innovative education policies every year in the Legislature, but new leadership more focused on education choice is resulting in his ideas getting more traction. His signature education bill this Session, SB 226, would expand a mastery-based education pilot program from the three Florida counties currently testing the concept to any district in the state that wishes to participate.
REGULATED from hosts Christian Bax and Tony Glover: Former regulators Bax and Glover, host a mid-Session check-in on the trends, opportunities, and threats to the cannabis, alcoholic beverage in gambling industries. This week the pair discuss an administrative filing into to the legality of BYOB Jell-O shots shops in Florida.
The Rotunda with Trimmel Gomes: A look at the student-powered enterprise news operation about Florida government making waves in The Capitol. Gomes chats with student journalists Katie Campione and Max Chesnes at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications “Fresh Take Florida” news service.
— WEEKEND TV —
Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues affecting the region.
Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable panel with Dan Maduri, host of the “The Dan Maduri Show” on AM 820 WWBA; Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee Chair Ione Townsend; Aakash Patel, founder and president, Elevate, Inc.; and independent journalist Joe Henderson.
In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion of the fight against Alzheimer’s disease in Florida. Joining Walker-Torres is state Sen. Audrey Gibson; state Rep. Scott Plakon; former state Rep. Mike Miller; Dr. Kiminobu Sugaya, Neuroscience Division Leader, UCF.
Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: This week’s show features a discussion about Tampa Mayor-elect Castor; U.S. Rep. Greg Steube will discuss being a new face in Washington D.C.; and an exclusive interview with Beto O’Rourke about his 2020 run.
Politics on Your Side with Evan Donovan on News Channel 8 WFLA (NBC): Donovan speaks with Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times, Janelle Irwin of FloridaPolitics.com, and Topher Morrison, a former mayoral candidate.
The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Gary Yordon speaks with Florida Politics publisher Peter Schorsch.
This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week’s guests are Randy Wyse, president of the Jacksonville Firefighters Association, who talks about the bill sent to Gov. DeSantis concerning Cancer Benefits for firefighters. Also on the show: Candidates for Jacksonville City Council, At Large Group One: Lisa King (Democrat) and Terrance Freeman (Republican).
— SUNSHINE SPORTS —
The NFL Draft is underway, and maybe Florida should think about hosting one in the future.
— Big $$ for Nashville: Officials in Dallas said the 2018 NFL Draft had a $125 million impact on the area. Nashville, site of this year’s three-day draft-a-palooza that opened Thursday, expects to have an even bigger impact.
Television business companies also are raking it in from the player-selection process.
— Last year: Dallas had record TV ratings for the event, increasing 20 percent over 2017. It outdrew even the Stanley Cup finals.
Sports betting notwithstanding, next year’s Draft will be in Las Vegas
— Perfect pairing: The draft, Vegas … it has the makings of Armageddon.
Are the champs in trouble?
— It’s close: The two-time defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors lost Game 5 of their best-of-seven series against the L.A. Clippers. They still lead 3-2, but people are starting to wonder about the Warriors.
— ALOE —
Tweet, tweet (with a spoiler warning):
— The Avengers (@Avengers) April 25, 2019
“’Avengers: Endgame’ is what Marvel — and Hollywood — have been building toward for a decade” via Daniel Arkin of NBC News — The superhero saga’s potentially record-smashing opening weekend — projected to bring in $260 million to $300 million in the United States alone — will deliver a megawatt prize to Disney’s content empire. But the massive grosses will represent the ultimate payoff for the American film industry writ large, too. The Avengers series would not be the behemoth it is today were it not for the meteoric rise of the Chinese box office — and that country’s insatiable appetite for special effects-driven epics and big-budget fantasy sagas. “Endgame” promises to be the biggest draw yet.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to former Rep. Larry Ahern, Alex Barrio, the wonderful Gina Evans, Andres Malave, director of regional communications at In Pursuit Of. Celebrating this weekend is sharp guy Mark Pinto of The Fiorentino Group.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jim Rosica, Dan McAuliffe, and Drew Wilson.