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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.8.19

Florida politics and Sunburn — perfect together.

Happy birthday to Ashley Walker, the savviest Democratic consultant in Florida (please don’t tell Eric Johnson we wrote that.)

President Donald Trump will be in storm-damaged Panama City tonight for a campaign rally to enhance his 2020 re-election bid.

But the main issue that will be on everyone’s mind is how to break the political gridlock in Washington that has kept federal aid from reaching Panhandle areas struggling to recover from Hurricane Michael.

Donald Trump is heading to Panama City Beach, but disaster relief will be on everyone’s mind.

Democrats want an aid package that provides money to help areas in Puerto Rico trying to recover from Hurricane Maria in 2017. Trump has refused, saying Puerto Rican officials haven’t properly used the aid they were given.

He tweeted that Puerto Rico has already received $91 billion from the U.S. for hurricane relief. A Washington Post fact-check said, “It’s simply false for the president to assert that Puerto Rico has received $91 billion. It has been allocated less than half of that …”

The $91 billion figure, the Post said, was from an estimate of potential liabilities for the island over the next 20 years.

Expect the President to repeat that figure at the rally though because it could enhance the narrative that Trump is fighting for mainland states like Florida while Democrats turn a deaf ear.

Conditions remain harsh in many areas around Panama City. Nearby Mexico Beach, which is where the Category 5 hurricane slammed ashore, has a makeshift town hall in a FEMA trailer.

Mexico Beach’s town hall is a trailer.

“We have no gas station. We have no bank; we have no grocery store. We’re what you say limping along, but our spirit is high, and attitude is everything,” Mexico Beach Mayor Al Cathey told ABC3340.com.

Sewer service and running water haven’t been fully restored to many seaside properties.

A large crowd is expected for the rally and Gov. Ron DeSantis is scheduled to attend.

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Florida residents want Trump to see post-hurricane suffering” via Jay Reeves of The Associated Press — Residents in parts of the Panhandle devastated by Hurricane Michael seven months ago hope Trump gets a glimpse of the continued suffering in the region when he arrives for a campaign rally this week. Area officials said the communities in the storm’s bulls-eye — Panama City, Mexico Beach, and surrounding Bay County — had received about $1.1 billion in federal aid through mid-April. Mountains of debris have been removed, traffic lights work again, and countless homes and businesses have been repaired. Yet disagreements in Washington left communities still waiting on other funding and many structures and neighborhoods appear much as they did the day after the storm with trees still atop splintered homes and blue roofing tarps flapping in the breeze.

Florida Republicans warn Trump not to arrive in storm-torn Panhandle empty-handed” via Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida — Florida Republicans have warned the White House that a planned campaign rally in Panama City needs to include an announcement of aid for the storm-torn region, but as of late Tuesday, the Trump administration had made no guarantees. Party officials have told Trump to arrive in the Panhandle with something more than rhetoric for residents. Trump will arrive at Tyndall on Air Force One with Republican U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn, whose district includes Panama City. Dunn said his office helped the White House make plans for the rally. “I think one of the reasons he’s going there is because of our constant nagging,” Dunn said. “We’ve been doing that since day one.”

The Florida Panhandle needs help, Mr. President” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — The Panhandle has become an unintended casualty in the fight in Washington, making an already dire situation worse. Hurricane Michael caused $25 billion in damage in October. Since then, much of the short-term aid has run out. Many housing vouchers expired last month. Residents live in badly damaged homes. Mounds of tree limbs, shattered buildings and other garbage line the streets. Residents worry that the next storm could turn all the debris into dangerous projectiles. The 72 million tons in downed trees heightened the risk of wildfires. The state has done what it can. This nation rises to the occasion after hurricanes to assist fellow Americans, and the president and Congress have an obligation to provide that assistance now.

Florida state Republicans delivered this year — for themselves and for Trump in 2020” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida — Uniting around an agenda that Democrats were powerless to stop, the GOP-controlled Legislature spent 61 days sending signals to its base and delivering on promises to faithful party donors, flexing its muscles on immigration, school vouchers and everything in between. If that wasn’t enough to deliver the state’s crucial electoral votes to a polarizing president next year, the party also threw up roadblocks to voting, imposing conditions on tens of thousands former felons who thought they’d had their rights restored after Floridians overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment in November. “It’s all battlefield preparation,” said Rick Wilson, a Florida-based GOP consultant and Trump critic. State GOP leaders downplayed the political implications of the session. But as lawmakers wrapped up their work on Saturday, the Capitol was full of smiling, boisterous Republicans eager to bask in their victories.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@MitchPerry18: Extremely early presidential survey in Florida via @SaintLeoPolls has JoeBiden dominating the 2020 Democratic race

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@EvanAxelbank: Gas pump prominence is easily the biggest political advantage state ag commissioners get. Putting a picture on it? Genius.

@AGAshleyMoody: I’m proud to announce the 1st arrest in connection w/our new Senior Protection Team. SPT investigators looked into reports that a senior fell victim to contractor fraud after Hurricane Michael. SPT worked w/@GulfCountySO detectives to arrest the suspect

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@ClayYarborough: I strongly endorse @TFreemanJax for City Council. Terrance is a consensus-builder, not a divider, and cares deeply for our city. Every Duval voter will see Terrance on their ballot. Vote early through Sunday or next Tuesday for Terrance Freeman!

@BiancaJoanie: Happy to announce I will be joining the stellar team at the @MiamiHerald as a general assignment reporter next month. My time at the @orlandosentinel covering the PRican community has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. I will continue to do so down in the 305.

@SenRubioPress: Congratulations to the 332 graduates at @fsupc on their graduation this weekend. Despite the impact & setbacks from #HurricaneMichael, FSU students showed incredible resilience & completed their degrees on time.

@AGlorios: There is no better feeling than paying down my debt. Thank you, Tallahassee, for being the most affordable city I have ever loved

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@Scott_Maxwell: SeaWorld earnings call this morning: mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah WE’RE BRINGING BACK FREE BEER THIS SUMMER. mwah mwah mwah. Admittedly, that may have just been what I heard.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Mother’s Day — 4; Florida Chamber Florida Business Leaders’ Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 14; Memorial Day — 19; Florida Democratic Leadership Blue conference and fundraiser — 31; U.S. Open begins — 36; Father’s Day — 39; Florida Chamber Learners to Earners Workforce Summit begins — 41; First Democratic presidential debates in Miami — 49; Independence Day — 57; Second Democratic presidential debates in Detroit — 83; Florida Gators opens vs. Miami football — 108; St. Petersburg primary election — 111; UCF Golden Knights open vs. Florida A&M football — 115; FSU Seminoles open vs. Boise State football — 115; Labor Day — 117; “Joker” opens — 149; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 173; Scott Maddox trial begins — 180; 2019 General Election — 181; 3rd Annual Florida Internet and Television FITCon begins — 183; Iowa Caucuses — 271; Florida’s presidential primary — 314; 2020 General Election — 545.

— TOP STORY —

Elections officials alarmed by Legislature’s imposition of new petition responsibilities” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A last-minute amendment to a bill tightening restrictions on petition gathering inspired new nightmares for Florida’s election supervisors. The provision requires state and county elections officials to become the source of citizen petition forms and to track the documents. Added onto a bill (HB 5) hours before session’s close, an amendment applies existing procedures for third-party voter registration to signature gathering. State Rep. James Grant called the measure an extra safeguard against fraudulent petition drives. But elections officials disagree and say the change creates a new duty they have no desire to take on. “This is a world of headaches waiting here for about every one of us,” said Paul Lux, president of the Florida Association of Supervisors of Elections. Most notably, every organization asking for a stack of voter registration forms gets the same documents. In contrast, every citizen initiative effort will have its own petitions. Put another way, the Young Republicans and Young Democrats can show up to a county fair and gather the same forms. That’s not true for those supporting Marsy’s Law and others backing a Medicaid for All referendum.

— THE ADMINISTRATION —

DeSantis to sign felons’ voting measure” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — DeSantis will sign a controversial measure that would require repayment of financial obligations before felons’ voting rights are restored. “I’ll sign it,” DeSantis said while at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science to discuss environmental issues. “The (constitutional) amendment says, if you read it, you have to complete your sentence,” DeSantis continued. “And I think most people understand you can be sentenced to jail, probation, restoration if you harm someone. You can be sentenced with a fine. People that bilk people out of money, sometimes that is an appropriate sentence. That’s what the constitutional provision said. I think the Legislature just implemented that as it’s written.”

Veto, please — With the Legislature’s work wrapped, some progressive-leaning organizations are making a final pitch to Gov. DeSantis, asking him to veto controversial legislation. The groups — which include the League of Women Voters of Florida, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center — are asking DeSantis to reject legislation that would restrict restoration of voting rights to felons. They also want the chief executive to halt plans to build or expand highways. Along with other bills, the groups came out against a measure that would allow volunteer teachers to undergo training to carry a firearm in the classroom. “This Legislative Session was the most harmful and devastating for Floridians’ civil rights and civil liberties in a decade,” said Kirk Bailey, a political director with the ACLU. 

Moms and students come to Ron DeSantis’ office to say: No teachers with guns, please veto” via Mitch Perry of Florida Phoenix — Members of the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Students Demand Action for Gun Sense in America came to the Capitol to hand off a letter signed by more than 13,000 Floridians urging DeSantis to veto the bill. The governor was out of town in Miami when the activists came to his office. DeSantis is expected to sign the bill. “We have said from the beginning that the idea of putting guns in classrooms arming teachers is a terrible idea, and we are urging Gov. DeSantis to veto this idea, and we are not going to stop until we have made sure he has heard from every person,” said Beth DuMond, a volunteer with Moms Demand Action’s Tallahassee chapter.

Members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Students Demand Action for Gun Sense in America to Ron DeSantis’ office in The Capitol to drop off a petition to veto a bill to arm teachers. He was in Miami at the time. Image via Florida Phoenix.

Waaat? Big Pharma asks DeSantis to veto Canadian drug importation plan” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — PhRMA President and Chief Executive Officer Stephen Ubl, head of the officially known as the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing and Research Association, sent a letter to DeSantis politely congratulating the Republican governor on hitting the milestone of his first 100 days in office. Then Ubl asks DeSantis for what seems impossible — a veto of HB 19, the Canadian drug importation program. Getting Canadian drugs into Florida is DeSantis’ top health care priority. “When this bill is officially sent to your desk, I encourage you to consider vetoing it.,” Ubl wrote. “While your goal of lowering the costs of prescription medicines for Floridians is one I share, the biopharmaceutical industry has serious concerns with any proposal that could put patient safety at risk.”

DeSantis tackling climate change with ‘Chief Resilience Officer’” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — DeSantis is preparing to hire a Florida Chief Resilience Officer, someone whose job will be to coordinate Florida’s preparations for “environmental, physical and economic impacts of climate change, especially sea level rise,” according to a job posting. The position would report to the governor’s office. Applications are accepted through the end of the month. The creation of the position, and the upfront declaration that Florida must prepare for climate change, not only mark a break from the position of former Gov. Rick Scott, a fellow Republican, but hearken to ideas offered by the most fervent of climate-change crusaders among the Democrats.

— “Is Ron DeSantis Florida’s environmental governor?” via The Miami Herald

— POST-SESSION —

Florida’s new texting & driving law: What you need to know” via Mark Harper of the Palm Beach Post — First, it makes texting (including messaging, emailing and other forms of typing on a mobile device) a primary violation. That means cops can stop you solely on suspicion of texting while driving. Next, it more broadly bans any use of a handheld cellphone while operating a motor vehicle in a designated school crossing or school zone or a road work zone. Hands-free uses remain legal. A noncriminal traffic infraction that carries a $30 base fine plus court costs and fees for a first violation; a second violation within five years after that is considered a moving violation, carrying a $60 base fine plus court costs and fees. Drivers caught texting will also be dinged 3 points against their licenses.

Venezuelan activists join Democrats in hammering ‘sanctuary cities’ bill” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Key Venezuelan activists said “thanks for nothing” to the Florida Legislature Monday for approving SB 168 to crack down on undocumented immigrants, saying it will hit Venezuelan refugees to Florida hard. At a news conference in Orlando, William Diaz of Casa de Venezuela-Orlando, Vicente Perez of VeneLegal and others were joined by three Orlando Hispanic Democratic lawmakers, state Sen. Victor Torres, and state Reps. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Amy Mercado, in charging that the bill heading toward Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ desk is not only bad for immigrants in Florida but hypocritical for Republicans trying to support freedom and democracy in Venezuela.

Aaron Bean talks ‘triple whammy’ for hospitals, import drugs” via AG Gancarski — Senate Health Policy Chairman Aaron Bean encountered a mixed bag of outcomes for his sector in the just-completed Legislative Session. For one: the repeal of Certificates of Need, which will disappear for general hospitals in July, and specialty hospitals in 2021. “It’s a delicate time for hospitals,” Bean said. In happier news, one of Sen. Bean’s priority pieces of legislation backed strongly by DeSantis, now has a partner in the federal government. Trump has charged Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to work with DeSantis on Florida’s plan to import drugs from Canada and other countries. Bean met with White House officials on the plan during Session in Tallahassee, doing his part to lower resistance and skepticism amid the White House bureaucracy.

A ’delicate time’ for hospitals: As for health care, Aaron Bean faced a mixed bag in the 2019 Session. Image via Colin Hackley.

That $91.1 billion state budget doesn’t include so much for Pasco County” via C.T. Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times — The $91.1 billion budget approved by the Legislature includes $7.65 million for four local budget requests, plus $1.635 million for a charter school and three social service agencies. The dollar figure pales to the local haul a year ago when legislators earmarked more than $36 million for Pasco-specific spending. A year ago, however, the speaker of the Florida House of Representatives was then-Rep. Richard Corcoran of Land O’ Lakes. The county had no such high-level influence in the House this year and lacked a full delegation with a seat left vacant by the resignation of Danny Burgess, who is now chief of the state Department of Veterans Affairs.

Bear-proofing money get scrapped” via the News Service of Florida — A program to help local communities reduce bear interactions with humans failed to make it into next year’s state budget. Lawmakers had considered earmarking $500,000 to help local governments provide bear-resistant garbage containers. However, the “BearWise” language was not included in the final $91.1 billion budget approved by lawmakers, as overall funding for nuisance wildlife control was reduced by $1.1 million before the plan passed.

Lake County legislators bring little home for residents” via Lauren Ritchie of the Orlando Sentinel — Though the county has at least three senior legislators, they were mostly engaged in unsuccessfully trying pass kook laws about carrying guns anywhere and protecting Confederate statues. The result is that none of Lake’s legislators can claim to have brought significant money home to voters. Mount Dora Republican Jennifer Sullivan, as the powerful chair of the House Education Committee, simply did the bidding of her masters, as she does each session. She filed a bill to create the “Family Empowerment” scholarships that will give $130 million of tax dollars to schools so unregulated that they can hire high school dropouts to teach children. Sullivan’s bill ended up dead at the end of the session, but the issue lived on.

Olivia Babis changed the conversation on straw bans. Now what?” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Babis sought to make history last fall as the first disabled Florida lawmaker, but ultimately lost in a heavily GOP district. But she ended up a fixture in The Capitol this Session, nonetheless. Now, she holds a different reputation, one she never expected. “I’m apparently the evil straw ban lady,” said Babis. The Legislature passed HB 771, pre-empting governments from instituting bans on plastic straws. It’s likely no lobbyist played as a significant a role as Babis in resetting terms of the debate. Born without arms, Babis needs straws to consume any beverages. And while she has a visible disability that instantly tells her own story, many disabled individuals have similar (but less apparent) needs as well.

2020 Legislative Session dates set” via the News Service of Florida — Circle Jan. 14 on the 2020 calendar. That is when next year’s regular Legislative Session will begin, with the session slated to end March 13, according to a schedule posted on the Senate website.

— PORK IN THE ROUGH —

A closer look at the 2019-20 fiscal year budget that the Legislature passed last week yields some interesting finds. 

Unique spending items put money toward everything from avocado tree preservation to lionfish hunting contests, reports Jim Turner for The News Service of Florida. 

Small items, big issues: Some of the low-flying budget appropriations show what the state is prioritizing. Take for example a $5.5 million coastline resiliency line item, or a $2.8 million cybersecurity-improvement grant for elections departments. 

Israel: When DeSantis and other state leaders head to Israel later in May, they could come bearing good news. “Space Florida, the state’s aerospace arm, is in line for $1 million to further an already-entered memorandum of understanding with Israel about research, development, and commercialization of aerospace and life-science projects.” 

The big but: DeSantis, of course, has promised to decrease the dollar figure of the overall budget using his line-item veto.

— STATEWIDE —

Are new stickers on Florida’s gas pumps public service or subliminal campaigning?” via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald — The seals signifying that the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has inspected gas pumps are in the process of being replaced by new stickers with a colorful blue and green design and the face of Agriculture Commissioner Nicole “Nikki” Fried. The sticker includes a phone number to report fraud and the web address for a consumer portal, and it replaces the traditional seal from administrations past — none of which had the face of the commissioner. While the new sticker has drawn the ire of some critics on social media, Fried’s staff insists that having her face on the sticker is not free campaign advertising but an “innovative approach” to “raise awareness” of gas pump fraud.

Warning to skimmers … or campaign ad? You be the judge. Image via Twitter.

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Assignment editors Fried will join environmental groups, agricultural stakeholders and others for an announcement related to the state’s water and environment, 9:45 a.m., South Florida Water Management District, 3301 Gun Club Road, West Palm Beach.

Under investigation by the Army, Florida National Guard’s No. 2 leader steps down” via Zachary Sampson of the Tampa Bay Times — A top-ranking Florida National Guard leader resigned amid a sexual misconduct investigation, according to a spokeswoman for the force. Brig. Gen. Mike Canzoneri, the Guard’s No. 2 commander, decided the issue was “a distraction” for the soldiers under him. An investigation by the Army Inspector General is still underway. The Tampa Bay Times reported in March that a civilian contractor had previously accused Canzoneri of rubbing her bare shoulder during a conference, making sexual gestures toward a bartender and having an affair with a soldier whom he transferred when she declined to have sex with his friends. She also said he helped cover up allegations against another officer.

Officials now say four shelters in Bay County are ‘usable’ ahead of hurricane season” via Eryn Dion of the News Herald —After fears that Bay County would be heading into hurricane season with only one shelter, local officials now are saying more options have become available. Joby Smith, emergency management chief with Bay County Emergency Services, said four local shelters now are usable in the event of a storm — Deane Bozeman School, Northside Elementary School, Rutherford High School and Deer Point Elementary School.

GEO Group’s own shareholders concerned about human rights and the company’s prisons” via Jerry Iannelli of the Miami New Times — GEO, now considered the largest private, for-profit prison firm in America, held an annual shareholder meeting in New York City — and a majority of shareholders passed a resolution demanding that GEO better report human-rights policies and violations to investors. The activist shareholders — who work with the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), a group initially founded to force companies to divest from apartheid South Africa — pushed GEO in 2013 to develop its first human-rights policy. Since reports of human-rights abuses have continued, the investors now want GEO to release a new human-rights report by September. GEO’s board initially told investors to vote against the resolution, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Regulators poised to decide FPL tax, storm case” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Florida Power & Light should be able to use federal tax savings to cover the costs of restoring power after Hurricane Irma, according to a recommendation by staff members of the state Public Service Commission. The issue pits FPL against the state Office of Public Counsel and the Florida Retail Federation and the Florida Industrial Power Users Group. The issue involves FPL’s decision to use money from a reserve to pay for Irma restoration costs and to use savings from a 2017 federal tax overhaul to replenish the reserve. FPL contends the move spared customers from extra storm costs on monthly bills; critics argue the tax savings should go to customers in the form of lower base electric rates.

CFO Jimmy Patronis was joined by members of the Tampa fire service community to announce the passage of legislation that provides cancer benefits to Florida’s firefighters.

Mike Fernandez antes up for ‘jungle primaries’ amendment” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The political committee behind a pair of constitutional amendments that would open up Florida primaries to all voters brought in $2.25 million in contributions last month. All but $5,000 of All Voters Vote’s haul came from Miami health care magnate Fernandez. Including his April contributions, he has pitched in $2.38 million of the $3.1 million the committee has raised. All Voters Vote is aiming to get two initiatives on the 2020 ballot, one that would open primary elections for state legislature, governor, and cabinet and another that would do the same for congressional elections. Both proposed amendments would have all candidates appear on the same ballot, with the top two vote-getters advancing to a general election.

— FRAMING FLORIDA —

Florida’s metropolitan cities are facilitating population growth by leveraging diversity. 

Cities like Tampa, Orlando and Miami bank on a heterogeneous culture to attract high-growth startups and investors, reports Kim Hart for Axios. 

“Florida’s biggest cities see diversity as the key to attracting entrepreneurs and investors to back them, spurring job growth and keeping younger workers in the state,” Hart writes. 

Implications: Florida has the second-highest population growth rate compared to other states. It’s also the biggest swing state, meaning all political eyes are on who’s moving to Florida ahead of even-numbered years. 

Branding a city: Miami and Orlando have made diversity a key component to their city’s brand. The Miami tagline, notes Hart, is “An ecosystem built by immigrants, led by women.” In Orlando, the city united against the tragic, hate-filled 2016 Pulse shooting. 

Pros and cons: Summed up succinctly by Hart, Florida offers a low-tax atmosphere, “but knocks include rising housing prices, inadequate transportation infrastructure, and climate change concerns.” 

— LOCAL —

Prosecutors want Robert Kraft defense attorneys held in contempt of court” via Jorge Milian of the Palm Beach Post — Prosecutors want two attorneys for New England Patriots owner Kraft held in criminal contempt of court for their actions during hearings on the release of videos allegedly showing the billionaire businessman paying for sex at a Jupiter day spa, according to a court motion. Among the allegations made in the motion are that Alex Spiro and William Burck lied during questioning of Jupiter Police Officer Scott Kimbark and that Spiro should be held in contempt for “threatening, extorting, and tampering” with Kimbark in the hallway outside the courtroom where a hearing was taking place.

Prosecutors accuse Robert Kraft’s defense team of contempt of court, for ‘threatening, extorting, and tampering’ a Jupiter police officer.

Tampa parents want to use medical marijuana rather than chemotherapy on their cancer-stricken son” via Tony Marrero of the Tampa Bay Times — Joshua McAdams and Taylor Bland-Ball appeared in a Tampa courtroom to fight the state’s efforts to require chemotherapy for their 3-year-old son Noah, who was diagnosed last month with acute lymphoblastic leukemia — a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. “I feel he needs to receive the treatment that we were really we’re pushing for right away, not necessarily the chemotherapy,” said Bland-Ball, 22. The Department of Children and Families disagrees, filing a motion last week to get permission to treat Noah according to recommendations from oncologists. Documents in the case are not available because of medical privacy laws, but McAdams, 28, and Bland-Ball, 22, say the state wants to continue chemotherapy as soon as possible.

St. Petersburg Housing Authority asks court to block board firings” via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — In a lawsuit filed in circuit court, the St. Petersburg Housing Authority is accusing St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman of illegally seeking to remove housing agency CEO Tony Love by replacing board members with people who will “follow his directive to terminate the CEO.” The lawsuit claims that the “neglect” and “misconduct” Kriseman cited in his decision to remove board members is just a pretext to bring about Love’s termination indirectly. The Housing Authority will be irreparably harmed if an injunction is not granted to stay the removal. It also asks the court to declare that Kriseman can’t remove board members just because he disagrees with their decisions.

Politics, not public input, is to blame for Landing stagnation” via Nate Monroe of the Florida Times-Union — Jacksonville Landing, downtown’s notorious underachiever, and divisive redevelopment puzzle. Taken at face value, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s argument about the defunct waterfront mall is appealing. It has indeed languished for years, and now Curry, after spending an enormous sum — $18 million — is on the brink of tearing it down. The critics — those ninnies who now complain that it’s not wise to tear a structure down without a plan to replace it — they would just have us talk the issue into oblivion. But not Curry, Man of Action. The Decider. Savior Curry. Reform Curry. The Quarterback. This is nonsense, a dangerous myth that would grant a secretive mayor already inclined to bypass public input permission to continue doing it.

Orlando ‘extremely pleased’ with first weekend of Uber and Lyft ride-share hubs” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Orlando’s first weekend of prompting patrons leaving downtown to designated hubs to catch their Ubers and Lyfts was mostly smooth, city officials said, though slight tweaks will be made to fix bottlenecks in traffic. “There was no chaos,” said Dominique Greco, Orlando’s nighttime economy manager. “We were extremely pleased, operationally speaking.” Greco said the hubs closed on time at 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and Orange Avenue — blocked off to drivers on busy weekend nights — was reopened at 2:40 a.m. Most weekends, that usually doesn’t happen until 3 to 4 a.m.

Naples to spend $500K on security camera system despite low crime rate” via Lisa Conley of the Naples Daily News — According to a report released in January by the National Council for Home Safety and Security, Naples is the fourth safest community in Florida. The Naples Police Department reported 157 crimes from January 2018 to June 2018, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. In comparison, the Fort Myers Police Department reported 1,424 crimes during the same period. Even with the city’s relatively low crime rate, city spokesman David Fralick said the security camera system improvements are necessary. “Security of residents and visitors is always a priority to the police department,” he said. “If you are a victim of a crime, that one crime is one too many.”

Polk fire chief to retire amid fallout from report” via John Chambliss of The Ledger — Polk County Fire Chief Tony Stravino, faced with an outside report critical of how the department handled a fatal fire in November, is retiring. Stravino, 62, told County Manager Jim Freeman on Tuesday he planned to leave in 30 days. The meeting with Freeman came a day after a report brought to light a number of errors that occurred in the department during the response to a Nov. 23 fire on Rockridge Road in North Lakeland that left a 76-year-old woman dead.

Teachers getting raises, but they say it’s not enough” via Susannah Bryan of Sun Sentinel — After months of tense negotiations and controversy, Broward teachers will get their raises. The raises are retroactive to January under a contract approved Tuesday by all nine School Board members.

Fort Pierce to Virgin Trains, Audubon: Impress us but have cash to pay for what you build” via Keona Gardner of TCPalm — If Virgin Trains USA and Audubon Development want to build a mixed-use commercial project on the H.D. King site in downtown, they would have to show a top-notch site plan and have the financing to build it. The City Commission, acting as the Fort Pierce Redevelopment Agency, established the seven criteria it will use to judge the two proposals for the last vacant, publicly owned site downtown. The criteria with the number of points are preliminary development plan — 25; acquisition/financing — 20; economic feasibility — 15; schedule — 15; qualifications — 15; preliminary traffic assessment — 5; meeting community redevelopment goals — 5; total — 100.

Cemex wins ruling and can expand lime rock mine near Brooksville” via Barbara Behrendt of the Tampa Bay Times — CEMEX Construction Materials Florida has won the legal case that blocked its expansion into new mining territory west of Brooksville. Administrative law Judge Suzanne Van Wyk ruled that the opposition had not proved “beyond fair debate” that the Hernando County Commission decision last year to rezone the 730 acres south of Fort Dade Avenue was contrary to the county’s comprehensive plan for growth. Of the total, 572 acres are slated for lime rock mining. Van Wyk also ruled that the county did not fail to protect the adjacent residential community, as the plan required. She also found the neighbors’ argument that the mining expansion could negatively impact the Bayfront Health hospital across the street “was not persuasive.”

Halifax halts legal fight over new hospital” via the News Service of Florida — Halifax filed a notice at the Florida Supreme Court dismissing the case, six days after lawmakers gave final approval to a bill that would clear the way for the new hospital. The issue stems from a decision by Halifax, which is based in Daytona Beach, to build a hospital in Deltona, which is outside the taxing district’s boundaries. After a legal challenge to the decision, a circuit judge ruled that Halifax did not have the authority to issue bonds for the hospital outside the boundaries. The Florida Supreme Court upheld the circuit judge’s decision last month, prompting Halifax to file a motion for a rehearing.

Fernandina Beach Mayor cited for serving alcohol to minor” via Ashley Spicer of News4Jax — It was during an undercover sting in Fernandina that Fernandina Beach Mayor Johnny Miller, a bartender at the iconic Palace Saloon downtown, was cited by the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco for serving alcohol to an underage customer. “The incident at the Palace Saloon was under the auspices of the State Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco. It is that agency that will apply, if warranted, appropriate penalties to either the establishment (Palace Saloon) or the server (Miller),” City Manager Dale Martin said.

Fernandina Beach’s Johnny Miller, a bartender at Palace Saloon, has been cited for serving alcohol to a minor.

Maker of Ryobi, Milwaukee tools chooses Fort Lauderdale for new U.S. headquarters” via Marcia Heroux Pounds of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Techtronic Industries — the maker of many tools and popular appliance brands — is moving its U.S. headquarters to Fort Lauderdale, which business development officials say is another corporate headquarters win for the region. The Hong Kong-based company is behind brands such as Ryobi and Milwaukee power tools, as well as Hoover, Oreck and Dirt Devil vacuum cleaners. The company, which employs more than 20,000 worldwide, has leased offices at 450 E. Las Olas Blvd. and plans to create 75 jobs. Techtronic, which was previously based outside Baltimore, is moving some top executives to Fort Lauderdale and hiring for finance, human resources, audit, legal and other professional jobs. Techtronic’s biggest customer is Home Depot.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Trump’s $4.5 billion border demand slows disaster aid talks” via Jennifer Shutt of CQ Roll Call — “I don’t know of a disaster aid bill in recent years that has been this protracted,” Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby told reporters. The Trump administration wants the package to include $4.5 billion in additional border-related spending, but that’s a nonstarter with Democrats, according to the Alabama Republican. “That’s something the Democrats have signaled they are not interested in at all,” he said. Shelby added some policy requests from Democrats are “not acceptable” to Republicans, without going into detail. “The Democrats want some (items) we don’t want, we want some they don’t want, the president wants some that the Democrats don’t want. It’s a merry-go-round.”

Mitch McConnell: Pass disaster aid before Memorial Day recess” via Marianne Levine of POLITICO — “We need to get this done,” McConnell said at a news conference. “We need to pass it out of the Senate before the Memorial Day recess. That is my hope — that Sen. Shelby, Sen. [PatrickLeahy, the administration and others will be able to come together to deal with this disaster like we have others. There’s no excuse to politicize this situation.” Negotiations around disaster aid have stalled in recent weeks over how much money to give to Puerto Rico, stemming from Trump’s comments to Senate Republicans that the island was getting too much disaster aid funding. Two hurricanes hit the island in 2017.

Mitch McConnell is looking to get this disaster aid issue wrapped up by the Memorial Day break.

The Rick Scott-Matt Gaetz blood feud has a new front: Venezuela” via Sam Brodey and Asawin Suebsaeng of The Daily Beast — It began with Scott, who on April 30 publicly called on Trump to “immediately position American military assets” to deliver aid to Venezuela, which is grappling with a violent political crisis as strongman Nicolás Maduro clings to power in the face of a challenge by the U.S.-backed opposition leader, Juan Guaidó. Four hours later, Gaetz issued a statement of his own, which praised Trump’s policy but also just happened to take aim at those calling for military action. “Direct U.S. military involvement,” said Gaetz, “risks allowing Maduro to externalize conflict, scapegoat his failures, and delegitimize the organic desire of Venezuelans to choose their own brighter destiny.”

The ‘Velvet Hammer’ leads resurgent Blue Dogs” via Sarah Ferris of POLITICO — Speaker Nancy Pelosi took a veiled shot at Rep. Stephanie Murphy during a closed-door meeting after the centrist Florida Democrat bucked party leaders on a contentious immigration vote. Pelosi said Democrats newly enjoying exclusive committee assignments — like Murphy — can’t be breaking ranks. Murphy didn’t respond. But months later, she remains unapologetic about the vote, arguing battleground Democrats shouldn’t be expected to fall in line simply to avoid embarrassing leadership on procedural votes. In just her second term, Murphy is suddenly a critical figure in the House as co-chief of the moderate Blue Dog Coalition. And Murphy and the Blue Dogs are proving themselves to be a force — challenging leadership and the caucus’ progressive wing with real success.

Human trafficking prevention educator challenges Stephanie Murphy” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Republican Central Florida businesswoman Jan Edwards, who runs a foundation aimed at stopping the cycle of child trafficking, is challenging Murphy in Florida’s 7th Congressional District. Edwards, 58, of Orlando, pledged to bring strong business experience and tireless advocacy to her campaign. “Many people say you can’t get anything done in Washington, yet I’m fighting one of the most difficult battles in the human rights arena, in ending child trafficking, making an impact and continue to be undaunted,” Edwards stated in a news release. She is the second Republican to declare for the race, following Armani Salado, a Winter Springs Republican who filed to run in March.

Gus Bilirakis wants to simplify Medicare enrollments” via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News — Noting that almost 760,000 Americans are paying fines for late-enrollment in Medicare which increases Part B premiums, on average, by 28 percent, U.S. Rep. Bilirakis is backing the “Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) Act.” Other champions of the bill include U.S. Reps. Raul Ruiz, Brad Scheider and Jackie Walorski. The bill “would direct the federal government to provide advance notice to individuals approaching Medicare eligibility about basic Medicare enrollment rules, filling a long-standing gap in education for older adults and people with disabilities” and “would also eliminate needless multi-month coverage gaps in Medicare enrollment periods and align Medicare Part B enrollment periods with those in private Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug plans.”

Former Cape Coral resident now leading the ATF. She’s the first woman to head the agency” via Brooke Baitinger and Michael Braun of the News-Press — The new acting deputy director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — the first woman to head the federal agency — has her heart in Southwest Florida despite leading an agency based in Washington, D.C.

— 2020 —

Two more years? Trump’s retweet sets off a furor over the idea of bonus time.” via Ashley Parker of The Washington Post — Trump shared a tweet by Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, in which Falwell complimented Trump for “no obstruction, no collusion” and a soaring economy, before adding, “Trump should have 2 yrs. added to his 1st term as payback for time stolen by this corrupt failed coup.” White House officials and others close to the president said he was joking and is not serious about trying to increase his first four-year term by 50 percent — an extension that would violate the Constitution and has no historical precedent. But Trump’s suggestion came as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also raised concerns about the president potentially refusing to accept the legitimacy of a Democratic victory in the 2020 presidential election.

Two more years? Donald Trump retweeted Jerry Falwell Jr., who said the President should get ‘two more years’ to his term, promptly setting Democrats’ hair on fire.

Who’s most electable? Candidates point to themselves.” via Chelsea James of The Washington Post, Sen. Kamala Harris is not the only candidate trying to redefine “electability” for her own purposes, a task that has grown more acute since Joe Biden announced his candidacy last month. The dispute over what kind of candidate is most electable reflects a divide that has convulsed the party since Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016. One camp believes the way to victory in the 2020 general election runs through the Rust Belt, with a nominee who can recapture the white blue-collar voters who backed Barack Obama in 2008 before siding with Trump. Another camp argues that the Democrats’ best chance in 2020 will be to mobilize the blocs of voters that would more likely not vote than vote Republican.

John Morgan says Joe Biden endorsement doesn’t mean he’s back in the Democratic Party” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — “I support compassionate capitalists and people with character,” Morgan said in an email about his Biden endorsement. Morgan left the party in 2017 to become a “no party affiliation,” or NPA voter, after deciding not to run for Governor in the Democratic primary. “Joe went home to his family in Delaware on the train every night while others lived second lives in D.C.,” Morgan wrote. “Joe is a compassionate capitalist and so am I. I trust Joe!”

— OPINIONS —

The Legislature’s done … so what the hell happened?” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Now that the storm has subsided, it’s time to figure out what happened. Two months ago, House Speaker José Oliva claimed he was going to stop asking taxpayers to subsidize the advertising budgets of Florida theme parks and hotels. I knew he was full of it. No big-time politician in this state has ever stood up to tourism. And I was confident Oliva wouldn’t be the first. So when Oliva vowed to defund VISIT FLORIDA, I vowed to deep-fry my column and eat it if he actually kept his word. Well, Oliva did not. Really, my bet was pretty safe. Betting a politician won’t keep his word is a bit like betting a Florida sand skink won’t win a Nobel Peace Prize. Now, Oliva did help trim VISIT FLORIDA’s budget from $76 million to $50 million. But that’s still double what the agency got a decade ago. Public schools, special-needs families and the state’s pre-K program would love to suffer similar fates.????

Florida is trying to silence me with a poll tax” via Bonnie Raysor for the Tampa Bay Times — When my father-in-law took ill, I used to get headaches and fell into opioid addiction. I got caught selling and served 15 months behind bars. I came out clean and kicked my addiction. Voting is important to me. Far too many people who don’t vote say that your vote doesn’t count. But it does. But hanging over my head are these never-ending court fees that I must pay off. I currently make $13 an hour and have a mortgage and car payments, so I don’t have $4,000 to hand the court. As a Floridian, I badly want to vote. People should be able to get their rights back without jumping through all these hoops.

As Florida hosts 39th Trump rally in the state, proof that the Trump agenda is working is profound” via Mike Huckabee for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — For more than two years, America has thrived under Trump’s policies, which can be summed up in a single word: “prosperity.” After decades of economic mismanagement that culminated in a lackluster recovery under Obama, we’re finally putting people back to work and reclaiming America’s economic dominance. The America First economic agenda has leveled the playing field for American workers, bringing manufacturing jobs — particularly in the steel and aluminum industries — back to the U.S. by pushing back against the unfair practices of foreign competitors with targeted counter-tariffs. That strategy has succeeded in bringing some of our biggest trade partners to the negotiating table to hammer out new agreements that treat American workers fairly, such as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

Teachers with guns only makes sense to lawmakers who have lost their minds” via Carl Hiaasen — It’s not hard to imagine a newly certified armed guardian — scared and jacked on adrenaline, as any average person would be — firing with unsteady hands at an assailant but accidentally killing fleeing students instead. Such heart-wrenching mistakes have been made by soldiers in combat, and by veteran street cops and detectives. One day before the Legislature voted to let teachers bring firearms, a resource officer at Weightman Middle School in Pasco County was leaning against a wall in the crowded cafeteria when the gun in his holster went off. Luckily, neither the deputy nor any of the kids got hurt. The wall got a bullet hole. And every waiting mom and dad got a knot in their stomach.

— MOVEMENTS —

Volunteer Florida hires for emergency role — Col. TerranceTerryMcCaffrey, U. S. Air Force (Ret), will serve as Emergency Management Director at Volunteer Florida. Agency CEO Clay Ingram announced the news Tuesday. “His experience will be instrumental in the advancement of our mission, allowing us to serve as state’s lead agency for mobilizing volunteers and coordinating donations before, during and after disasters,” Ingram said. McCaffrey boasts more than 25 years of service in the Air Force. He has since served as Assistant Director of the Division of Recreation and Parks with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. He later worked as the Planning and Design Administrator with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

’Fiercely loyal and immensely talented’ Ashley Bauman to stay on with Jane Castor administration” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Former Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s longtime Communications Director Bauman will stay on for new Mayor Castor, and that’s probably a good thing for Castor. Bauman joined Buckhorn’s team late in the game, coming on board in 2015. Bauman’s unique style and millennial pizazz (an attitude toward the job Buckhorn often called “hipster”) immediately stood out. Bauman not only took on the task of the day-to-day media relations required of the job, but she also added a social media and digital presence like never before. “Ashley is one of the best I have ever worked with. Fiercely loyal and immensely talented, she Tampa’s media presence tenfold,” Buckhorn said of his time working with Bauman.

‘Loyal and talented’ Ashley Bauman will stay on as Communications Director for Jane Castor.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Brian Ballard, Chris Dorworth, Ballard Partners: FarmaceuticalRX

Edgar Castro, Wansley Walters, Southern Strategy Group: Avant-Garde Holdings Americas, Pharma-Natural

Richard Watson, Richard Watson & Associates: Builders Notice Corporation

— SUNSHINE SPORTS —

Jason Pierre-Paul could miss a season for Buccaneers.

Offseason woes: Tampa Bay’s quarterback sack leader in 2018 suffered a neck fracture in a car accident and could miss the upcoming season.

Despite dominating the game, The Tampa Bay Rays are having trouble attracting crowds.

Anybody there?: Attendance for Monday’s game between the first-place Tampa Bay Rays and Arizona was a season-low 8,124. The Rays continue to languish near the bottom of Major League Baseball in attendance.

Don’t forget your earplugs, Florida.

Big truck time: The Monster Jam World Finals are set for this Friday and Saturday at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.

A former University of Miami quarterback could have a shot with the nearby pro team.

Redemption: Malik Rosier has been invited to the Miami Dolphins rookie camp this weekend. His career at UM ended when he was benched after throwing three interceptions in the Pinstripe Bowl.

The University of South Florida could be a softball school.

Go lady Bulls: The USF softball team clinched its second consecutive American Athletic Conference title. The Bulls (39-17 overall) were 17-4 in conference play, the best record in league history.

College rivalries are coming back.

Trolling for Gators: Think the University of Miami is looking forward to playing the Florida Gators in the opening game of the football season on Aug. 31? Check out the message ‘Canes’ fans left on Gainesville’s Graffiti Wall.

— ALOE —

New Star Wars movies are now scheduled every other year” via Anthony Breznican of Entertainment Weekly — The Walt Disney Co. has released its new release calendar for the next several years, and the “pause” that Lucasfilm has talked about with its Star Wars films is going to last three years, with new titles dropping every other year after that. Following the Dec. 20 debut of Episode IX, now known as The Rise of Skywalker, we won’t see another movie from the galaxy far, far away until December 2022. From there, we’ll get two more Star Wars films — one in December 2024, and another in December 2026. Disney did not specify which projects those would be, but Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are developing a new trilogy, and so is The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson.

A hurricane-ravaged, alligator-infested ‘Florida’ is the star of the upcoming horror movie ‘Crawl’” via Brett Clarkson of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The aftermath of a Category 5 hurricane and the freakishly huge gators that emerge to harass the storm’s survivors fuel the plot of ‘Crawl,’ a horror flick set to open in theaters this summer. “The state of Florida has issued a Category 5 hurricane warning,” the ominous voice of a fictional governor warns in the movie’s trailer. “All residents must evacuate immediately. Grab your families, your loved ones, and get out. We won’t be able to come for you.” The trailer shows determined main character Haley Keller, played by Kaya Scodelario, battling relentless floodwaters and even more relentless alligators as she tries to rescue her father from a submerged house.

Art imitates life: A Category 5 hurricane in Florida — creating all sorts of havoc — is the setting for the new horror movie ‘Crawl,’ set to hit theaters July 12.

Kentucky Derby winning horse Country House has ties to Thomasville” via the Tallahassee Democrat — Thomasville resident Maury Flowers Shields co-owns the chestnut colt along with several other shareholders, the Thomasville Times-Enterprise reported. Another co-owner, Guinness McFadden, is the brother of Thomasville resident Haile McCollum, who is also Shields’ niece. “They decided to run Country House very recently,” McCollum told the Times-Enterprise. “We are all just thrilled.”

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Happy belated birthday to U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch. Celebrating today are U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, Juan del Cerro, Libby Alexander Pigman, and our all-time favorite CateElizabeth Ray.

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, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
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Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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