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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.14.19

Only one way to start your morning right — a healthy dose of Sunburn.

Happiest of birthdays to the 🐐of Florida’s political consulting class, Susie Wiles.

Speaking of Wiles, lobbying firm Ballard Partners is being called up by the majors.

According to federal lobbying disclosure filings, the Florida-based firm has inked a deal with Major League Baseball for congressional lobbying work.

The disclosures cover firm founder Brian Ballard as well as Syl Lukis, both of whom will focus on helping the 30-team league on “issues related to combating human trafficking.”


The new client comes a month after President Donald Trump axed a deal between the MLB and the Cuban Baseball Federation that would have allowed professional players in the latter league to play in America on an official basis.

The official status did have a catch — the Cuban government would be entitled to a 25 percent cut of the players’ contract as a “transfer fee.”

For the rest of the story, click here.

Ripping a page from his predecessor’s playbook, Gov. Ron DeSantis took a trip to the Big Apple Monday to tout Florida’s business environment in an effort to recruit more job makers to the Sunshine State. 

An untimely schedule update posted by DeSantis’ press office late Monday evening showed DeSantis, flanked by Enterprise Florida President and CEO Jamal Sowell, had by 4 p.m met with six different financial and data technology companies — an itinerary that could rival those of the newly minted Ivy League finance graduates likely combing New York this time of year.

DeSantis — who spoke with leaders at companies like the publicly traded Jefferies Financial Group — said in a prepared statement that he discussed “the many advantages and benefits available to businesses located in Florida.” 

That should sound familiar. Former Gov. Rick Scott had made waves during his tenure by trumpeting Florida’s business-friendly climate in states like Illinois and Connecticut. 

“In contrast to New York and other high tax states, our welcoming regulatory environment and top-ranked university system make Florida the ideal setting for new and growing businesses across a range of industries to be able to succeed,” DeSantis added. “I want the financial, technology and banking sectors to see the Sunshine State as a place where their business can thrive without being impeded by high taxes, burdensome regulation or political demagoguery.”


@RealDonaldTrump: I say openly to President Xi & all of my many friends in China that China will be hurt very badly if you don’t make a deal because companies will be forced to leave China for other countries. Too expensive to buy in China. You had a great deal, almost completed, & you backed out!

@RealDonaldTrump: My Administration will be fighting for $200 million for the Army Corps Everglades restoration work this year. Congress needs to help us complete the world’s largest intergovernmental watershed restoration project ASAP! Good for Florida and good for the environment.

@MarcoRubio: After one year of good faith efforts by @CommerceGov it appears tomato growers in #Mexico are rejecting doing a fair deal with our American growers. Since anti-dumping case couldn’t bring them to the table it might be time for a subsidy investigation as well.

@NellSco: Daenerys will fall short in her attempt to claim the Iron Throne after focusing all that effort on Kings Landing and not spending enough time in Wisconsin and Michigan.

Tweet, tweet:

@EvanDonovan: I respect how hard the @TB_Times always fights for Tampa’s (rightful) place atop the Cuban sandwich debate


Florida Chamber Florida Business Leaders’ Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 8; Florida TaxWatch Spring Meeting & Education Summit begins — 8; Memorial Day — 13; Florida Democratic Leadership Blue conference and fundraiser — 25; U.S. Open begins — 30; Father’s Day — 33; Florida Chamber Learners to Earners Workforce Summit begins — 35; First Democratic presidential debates in Miami — 43; Independence Day — 51; Second Democratic presidential debates in Detroit — 77; Florida Gators opens vs. Miami football — 102; St. Petersburg primary election — 105; USF open vs. Wisconsin Badgers football — 108; UCF Golden Knights open vs. Florida A&M football — 109; FSU Seminoles open vs. Boise State football — 109; Labor Day — 111; “Joker” opens — 143; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 167; Scott Maddox trial begins — 174; 2019 General Election — 175; 3rd Annual Florida Internet and Television FITCon starts — 177; Iowa Caucuses — 265; New Hampshire Primaries — 273; Florida’s presidential primary — 308; 2020 General Election — 539.


Should FPL customers get $772 million tax windfall? A decision to come Tuesday” via Marcia Heroux Pounds of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The Florida Public Service Commission, which regulates electric utilities, is scheduled to consider the tax issue at its regular conference in Tallahassee. Last week, the commission’s staff issued a recommendation saying the tax savings should be returned to customers. And while it doesn’t have to do so, the commission often follows its staff’s recommendations. “FPL should reduce its base rates by the $772.3 million in annual tax savings stipulated to by the parties,” the staff recommendation says of the Florida Public Counsel and other watchdog groups that petitioned for a rate review.

Happening today — The Florida Public Service Commission will meet to consider several issues, which include a proposal where Gulf Power could collect extra money from customers to pay costs stemming from Hurricane Michael, 9:30 a.m., Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.


Housing advocates pressure Ron DeSantis to veto Sadowski sweeps” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — In a letter recently hand-delivered to the Governor’s office, the Sadowski Coalition implored DeSantis to use his line-item veto power to reject the Legislature’s plan to sweep $125 million from state and local housing trust funds — funded by what’s known as the Sadowski Trust. A tax remitted on real estate transactions funds the dedicated pool of money. Historically, the Legislature has raided the Sadowski Trust to fund other parts of the budget. Although more money in this year’s spending plan goes toward affordable housing, the Sadowski Coalition wants DeSantis to send a message to lawmakers that he won’t tolerate sweeps.

Toll road bill goes to DeSantis” via the News Service of Florida — DeSantis will have until May 28 to decide whether to sign it. The bill (SB 7068) was a top priority of Senate President Bill Galvano during the Legislative Session. It would take initial steps to expand the Suncoast Parkway from the Tampa Bay area to the Georgia border; extend the Florida Turnpike west to connect with the Suncoast Parkway; and add a new multiuse corridor, including a toll road, from Polk County to Collier County. Galvano argues the projects would help lead to economic development in rural areas, handle future population growth and provide additional hurricane-evacuation routes.

Tweet, tweet:

—“DeSantis pushed to veto major toll road expansion” via John Kennedy of the GateHouse Capital Bureau

Happening today —Environmentalists to stage protests against toll road expansion” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Sierra Club will stage three major protests to convince DeSantis to nix a toll road expansion. A news conference in Hollywood, rally in St. Petersburg and a flash mob in Gainesville will each aim to increase skepticism. But a veto by the first-term governor also runs the risk of making an enemy of Senate President Galvano. The Bradenton Republican made the roadways his top priority of this Legislative Session. It’s no shock the Sierra Club holds a distaste for the roadway. The group delivered sharp rebukes over several months against the plan. Earlier this month, state leaders for the environmental lobby called approval of the project a “declaration of war.”

Gun rights group calls on DeSantis to remove FDLE commissioner” via Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida — A Florida gun rights group has filed a class-action lawsuit arguing the state Department of Law Enforcement forced some firearms consumers to wait longer than the 24-hour period allotted for pre-purchase background checks. The suit filed (Monday) by Florida Carry Inc. in Leon County Circuit Court, claims that state law gives FDLE 24 hours to complete a pre-purchase background check. But in March 2018, the agency began to place checks into a pending status, sometimes lasting several months.


The Latino who could have stopped Florida’s draconian anti-immigrant law, but chose not to” via David C. Adams of Univision — A bill banning so-called ‘sanctuary cities’ that passed the Florida legislature last week is causing widespread indignation in South Florida, home to the state’s largest immigrant population, many of whom are undocumented or face losing their current legal status under changes proposed by the Trump administration.

Democratic groups target José Oliva, Manny Diaz over Legislative Session” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A new front page ad in the Miami Herald is targeting House Speaker Oliva and state Sen. Diaz, both from South Florida, over several bills approved by the Republican majority this past Legislative Session. Among the measures highlighted by the ad are proposals to expand private school vouchers, allow teachers to be armed after undergoing training in the state’s Guardian Program, and ramp up penalties for so-called “sanctuary cities.” The ad was paid for by pro-Democratic groups such as the Family Action Network Movement (FANM in Action), the New Florida Majority and Organize Florida. Oliva and Diaz, both Republicans, each represent legislative districts in Miami-Dade County.

Voucher expansion has put José Oliva in the crosshairs of a new Democratic attack ad in South Florida.

’A little darker than we were before’: Public records exemptions further limit access” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — “We’re a little bit more in the dark than we were before,” said Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation. The Legislature only passed 174 general bills, and 25 of those were either new public records exemptions or re-enactments of existing ones that were scheduled to sunset. That’s 14% of all general bills, Petersen noted. “It’s like the only thing they can agree on,” Petersen said. “It’s not a partisan issue by any stretch of the imagination.” Petersen said from the perspective of making government more open, most of the bills that passed this Session are not good.

Did Big Tobacco influence lawmakers on smoking legislation?” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of Florida Phoenix — Major tobacco companies entered the 2019 Session flexing their influence. It was reflected in about $3 million in campaign contributions to lawmakers, political parties and other state officials since 2017. A review of those records by the Florida Phoenix shows: RAI Services, a subsidiary of the Reynolds American tobacco company, made $1.95 million in contributions. Altria, the parent company for Philip Morris USA, had $752,000 in contributions. Swisher, a Jacksonville cigar manufacturer, had more than $230,000 in contributions. Anti-smoking advocates say allowing Florida cities and counties to retain the ability to regulate cigarettes and vaping is crucial because historically some of the most robust tobacco regulations in the country have originated with local governments.


Hepatitis A rapidly spreading in Florida” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Despite giving out more than 6,900 free hepatitis A vaccines last week, Florida saw its most significant weekly increase in new cases of the contagious liver disease. The Florida Department of Health reported an additional 92 hepatitis A cases during the week ending May 11, bringing the total since the beginning of the year to 1,129 people. The 92 new cases — four of them in South Florida — represent the most reported in one week since the hepatitis A outbreak started in 2018. Every county in Florida now has at least one reported case of hepatitis A.

Ashley Moody calls harassment allegations against state regulator ‘deeply troubling’” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of Florida Phoenix — Ronald Rubin, the newly appointed commissioner of the state Office of Financial Regulation, was placed on administrative leave, after an unidentified employee filed a complaint. It was first reported by the websites Florida Politics and Sunshine State News. In the complaint, the woman described a series of incidents with Rubin that left her feeling “awkward and uncomfortable.” She said Rubin asked her to lunch last month but then included a detour to his private condominium near the state Capitol complex. He asked her to return to the condo after the lunch, although she remained in the hallway, she said. In a tweet, Moody said if the allegations against Rubin are true, the Governor and Cabinet “should strongly consider his termination.”

Deeply troubling: AG Ashley Moody has serious concerns over sexual harassment accusations against OFR chief Ronald Rubin, if true.

State seeks to bolster human trafficking fight” via Ana Ceballos of the News Service of Florida — DeSantis could soon sign legislation that creates a statewide registry for pimps and johns to crack down on human trafficking. With their eyes on the Super Bowl and WrestleMania, both of which the state will host in 2020, officials are looking for new ways to ensure victims are not trafficked for sex or labor. During this year’s Legislative Session one of the last bills passed would create new requirements for the operation of massage parlors, strip clubs and hotels. Under the proposal, strip club owners and operators would be charged with misdemeanors if they do not keep records of their employees’ driver’s licenses or documents with photo IDs and age verification.

Florida, other states say generic drug firms conspired” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Florida is one of 43 states and Puerto Rico taking part in the lawsuit filed in federal district court in Connecticut against numerous generic-drug companies and executives. The lawsuit, which comes after a multiyear investigation spearheaded by the Connecticut attorney general’s office, contends that the companies colluded to raise drug prices. “Inflating and manipulating the pricing of essential drugs prescribed to those with chronic conditions is shameful,” Attorney General Moody said. “Routine health care can already be a burdensome cost for individuals, not to mention those suffering from life-altering and critical illnesses, and patients should not have to further worry about rising prescription drug costs of medicine they may desperately need.”

Florida sets aside $15 million to settle Best and brightest bonus lawsuit” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Tucked into another part of the budget — line 142A, to be precise — the Legislature had placed $15.5 million for settling a federal lawsuit referred to as “Educ. Ass’n v. Dep’t of Educ., Case No. 4-17-cv-414-RH/CAS.” That case, it turns out, is a nearly two-year-old challenge to the bonus that now appears to be over. And thousands of Florida’s black and Hispanic teachers stand to benefit. To reach the deal, the money had to be included in the budget. The test-score requirements also had to be removed from the bonus eligibility. Lawmakers did both. They, along with DeSantis, agreed that granting bonuses based on a teacher’s SAT or ACT college entrance exam scores “didn’t make sense” and deleted that criterion.

Report finds faults with Hurricane Michael wireless outages” via The Associated Press — A Federal Communications Commission report says wireless carriers’ poor preparation and coordination lengthened communication outages in the Florida Panhandle after Hurricane Michael. The FCC report makes several recommendations for improvement in the future, such as wireless providers having pre-storm roaming agreements, mutual restoration deals and cooperation with local utilities. Verizon is investing $25 million to install its latest 5G wireless service in Panama City later this year, making it one of just 30 U.S. cities to get the new technology.

Eglin loses squadron, hopes to gain wing” via Jim Thompson of the Panama City News-Herald — The 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron, a unit of the 53rd Fighter Wing that evaluates air-to-ground weapons systems, is moving from Eglin Air Force Base to Utah’s Hill Air Force Base. U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz whose district includes Eglin, had a mixed reaction to the memo, but noted that Eglin would be gaining an F-35 training squadron soon. “We always hate to lose any piece of any mission for any reason,” Gaetz said, “but the trend lines in Northwest Florida remain very strong.” “For example,” he added, “the new F-35A training squadron is expected to bring roughly 10 times the uniformed personnel as we will lose from the 86th.”


Medicaid expansion plan tops 63,000 signatures” via the News Service of Florida — The political committee Florida Decides Healthcare, Inc., had submitted 63,714 valid petition signatures to the state, nearing a 76,632-signature threshold that would trigger a review by the Florida Supreme Court. The committee has presented more than 40,000 signatures since mid-April. The proposal, which would go on the November 2020 ballot, would expand Medicaid coverage to low-income adults who currently are not eligible. Florida lawmakers have repeatedly rejected such an expansion, which is optional for states under the federal Affordable Care Act.

Jason Brodeur continues fundraising prowess in SD 9 bid” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Republican former state Rep. Brodeur continued to show he means business in his bid for the seat opening up in Senate District 9, picking up $7,700 for his official campaign and another $16,000 for his independent committee in April. Brodeur now has raised more than $1.8 million in those two funds in his bid to be elected to the Florida Senate in 2020. And though his campaign and Friends of Jason Brodeur have spent much of that, investing in campaign support and campaigns of fellow Republicans, he entered May with about $186,000 in his campaign fund and $221,000 in the independent committee.

Jackie Toledo denies rumors of possible Hillsborough Commission bid” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — La Gaceta publisher Patrick Manteiga wrote last week about rumors he heard that Republicans were trying to convince Toledo to run for Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman’s District 1 seat so that Murman, in turn, could run for Toledo’s House seat. Toledo said she has no plans of doing that: “I am proud to have led the efforts during the recently completed Session to make our roads safer and pass a distracted driving bill that will save lives.” Toledo said she’s looking forward to continuing her work “looking out for all Floridians and helping make their lives better.” She’s also planning a campaign kickoff event for House District 60 next month.

Tweet, tweet:

Allison Tant readies more than $150K for House bid” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Tant is the lone candidate lined up to replace Democratic Rep. Loranne Ausley in 2020. But the former Florida Democratic Party chair isn’t taking isolation granted. Tant’s raised more than $150,000 since opening a campaign account in January. Tant announced she’d run for the Tallahassee seat shortly after incumbent Ausley said she would forego a third term to run for Sen. Bill Montford’s nearby District 3 seat in 2020 — when Montford, also a Democrat, will be termed-out. Pointing to money from supporters and nearly 500 petitions signed, Tant said she’s “grateful” for the momentum behind her candidacy.

Erik Arroyo dropping out of House District 72 race” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Sarasota attorney will most likely run for Sarasota City Commission instead of the highly competitive House contest. The departure comes after his primary opponent, Sarasota Charter Review Board Member Donna Barcomb, posted strong April fundraising numbers. After a couple of months of low activity, Barcomb kicked her efforts into gear in April and raised $24,905 in April. That surpassed the total Arroyo has raised over three months. Barcomb has now raised a total of $31,015, and also pulled a $9,000 candidate loan.

Wengay Newton banks $11,000 for what will likely be an easy re-election” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — State Rep. Newton raised nearly $11,000 so far and isn’t facing a credible challenge in his 2020 race to keep the seat he secured four years ago. The Democrat represents House District 70, which includes parts of southern Pinellas and southern Hillsborough counties and snakes through a portion of Manatee and Sarasota counties. He didn’t raise any funds during the most recent campaign finance reporting period covering April (sitting lawmakers are prohibited from accepting contributions while the Legislature is in Session) but posted strong early fundraising activity in February when he raised $7,800. Newton brought in another $3,000 in March. Most of Newton’s campaign contributions are top-dollar donations from special interest groups.

Jenna Persons holds onto significant fundraising lead” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Fort Myers attorney raised another $9,500 in April, bringing her total contributions to $130,435. She’s the only candidate in the House District 78 district race posting significant outside contributions so far. Meanwhile, GOP opponent and local foundation leader Roger Lolly raised just $800 in April and about $6,175 in total. Democrat Shawn Michael Williams raised nothing in April, his first reporting period since entering the race April 8.

Brian Johnson leads money race in South Florida’s HD 101” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — West Park Vice Mayor Johnson led the field with his April fundraising haul, bringing in just over $24,000 in the month. That was nearly double the money raised by the second-highest-grossing candidate in any South Florida House race. Johnson is looking to replace term-limited Rep. Shevrin Jones, who is seeking a state Senate seat. “It has only been a month since we got into this race, and the people of this district have already started to make their voice loud and clear: my connection to this district, and the issues that I have been fighting for throughout my career best position me to serve House District 101 in the Florida Legislature,” Johnson said in a statement.

Happening today — The Florida Elections Commission will meet to take up cases from across the state, as well as receive a legislative update, 8:30 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building.


In Jacksonville, today is Election Day … though the excitement is not palpable.

After what turned out to be a decisive First Election in March, five races remain on the ballot. Of those five, three are particularly compelling for those curious to see if the Lenny Curry machine can go three for three on the ballot.

Election Day: Time to see how much juice the Lenny Curry machine has in Jacksonville politics.

Big money runoff: Whether Republican Randy DeFoor or Democrat Sunny Gettinger ultimately wins here, the race in Jacksonville City Council District 14 may be most noteworthy for the liquidity of both first-time candidates.

The two raised over $550,000 in hard money throughout the campaign. Of that sum, DeFoor raised over $337,000, along with another $88,000 in committee.

Polling shows DeFoor, the Curry choice, ahead.

Inside baseball: In At-Large 1, Democrat Lisa King and Republican Terrance Freeman are two sides of the same coin.

Both campaigns have charged the other with being lobbyists and serial candidates devoted to expediency and self-promotion. Regardless of the outcome, Tuesday’s ballot won’t be the last time you see the name of either candidate.

Freeman is Curry’s pick here, and donors like the Rick Scott appointee also.

Freeman’s political committee raised $35,000 in April, with Republicans like Tom Petway leading the push. As well, he raised nearly $209,000 in hard money, well ahead of King who raised just under $145,000.

Last hurrah: Jacksonville City Councilman Tommy Hazouri called his re-election campaign a “last hurrah” in a recent interview, and indeed it is.

Polls and fundraising give him a major edge over Republican Greg Rachal.

In the 2019 First Election, Hazouri got nearly 45 percent of the vote, a number bolstered by co-branding with Curry (a former head of the state Republican Party), but was held below an outright win by a Democratic challenger whose presence on the ballot served only as a spoiler.

The test of Tuesday’s election: will those disaffected Democrats come home to Hazouri? And will Republicans and NPAs vote for Hazouri in a binary battle against a Republican?


Judge: Robert Kraft’s prosecutors cannot use massage parlor video” via Terry Spencer of The Associated Press — In his 10-page ruling, Judge Leonard Hanser wrote that Jupiter police detectives and the judge who issued the search warrant allowing the secret installation of cameras at the spa did not do enough to minimize the invasion of privacy of customers who only received legal massages. Hanser also ruled that detectives cannot testify about what they saw on the video or when they stopped Kraft. If upheld on appeal, Hanser’s ruling could lead to prosecutors dropping the second-degree misdemeanor cases against Kraft and other men charged with paying for sex at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa. Kraft, 77, has pleaded not guilty but issued a public apology.

Another teen’s rough arrest by Broward Sheriff’s Office caught on camera, outrage mother wants answers” via CBS Miami — Attorneys for Jordan Bennett say they are coming forward in part because of what happened to another teenager outside of a McDonalds. Bennett’s mother Debbie shows a photo of what her 17-year-old son looked like when she arrived at Blanche Ely High School on February 21. “After getting through and seeing him there with his head wrapped up, bleeding all over the place, I was just in awe,” she said. “What happened? What happened to my child?” According to Debbie Bennett and their civil rights attorney Jasmine Rand, Jordan was involved in a verbal altercation with another student that day in the school’s Cafeteria. They claim a custodian handled the situation but as Jordan was walking away a Broward Sheriff’s deputy got involved.

Attorneys for 17-year-old Jordan Bennett say he was roughed up by Broward County Sheriff’s deputies. Image via CBS Miami.

Rick Kriseman travels to Israel as part of Mayor delegation” via Josh Solomon of the Tampa Bay Times — St. Petersburg Mayor Kriseman is spending the week in Israel on an educational trip run by the American Jewish Committee. Kriseman is one of five mayors on the delegation, which is led by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. The journey is “designed to further enhance U.S.-Israel relations at the important municipal level,” according to a news release. Topics include development, startups, revitalization and city administration. Mayors are also set to meet with figures across the Israeli political spectrum, including leaders within the Palestinian Authority.

Controversial Francis Eppes statue finds new home north of Westcott building at FSU” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — The statue was installed just north of Westcott, west of the Eppes Building. It contains a plaque that acknowledges the controversy that led to the statue’s overnight removal last summer. “While recognized as a strong advocate for education and dedicated public servant, Eppes also is noted for a record tainted by slavery. As a prominent owner of several plantations, he owned numerous slaves, using their labor in his fields and family homes,” the plaque reads. “As it openly acknowledges this history, Florida State University today celebrates and embraces a richly diverse and inclusive campus community. The new location for the statue is known as Mina Jo Powell Green.

Happening today — Committees of the University of South Florida Board of Trustees will meet to discuss issues such as a five-year capital improvement plan, meetings begin 8 a.m., University of South Florida, Marshall Student Center, Tampa.


Donald Trump touts Democratic playbook in crackdown on drug costs” via Sarah Karlin-Smith and Sarah Owermohle of POLITICO — Conservatives howled when Democrats pitched importing drugs from Canada and giving the U.S. government a more active hand negotiating with drugmakers to drive costs down. But since Trump pitched both of those ideas a year ago in his blueprint for lowering drug prices, the conversation has shifted. When conservative leaders like Republican DeSantis are embracing previously “liberal” ideas like reimporting drugs from Canada, something has changed. “Republicans no longer simply can be counted on to be a permanent ally of the industry,” said Bill Pierce, a former George W. Bush administration health official who works with health industry clients, including drugmakers. The momentum may yet fizzle with the 2020 election looming.

When it comes to cracking down on drug prices, Donald Trump rips a page from the Democratic playbook.

Florida Republicans warn that Trump’s Venezuela policy is at risk of backfiring” via Sean Sullivan of The Washington Post — Trump has tied his toughness toward Venezuela’s authoritarian leader, Nicolás Maduro, to his domestic political message, citing it as evidence that he is fighting socialism while he accuses Democrats of embracing it. But without Maduro’s ouster, Trump’s policies could look weak, and his effort could seem a failure — turning Venezuela into a political liability. “This could be another Bay of Pigs as far as Cuban sentiment is concerned,” said Al Cardenas, former chairman of the Florida Republican Party, referring to the failed U.S. military invasion of Cuba in 1961. If Maduro is toppled, he said, “Trump’s name is gold in South Florida,” but if not, “it’s going to hurt him.”

Rick Scott: ‘Don’t blink’ on Venezuela” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — On Monday in Colombia, U.S. Sen. Scott again … continued to stress that the United States and its allies cannot back down from the Cuban-backed MaduroScott admitted that expectations of a civilian uprising to … install Juan Guaidó were too ambitious in retrospect. “The uprising a few weeks ago may not have achieved the results we hoped for in our time frame, but that should not deter us,” Scott said.

Trump says he’ll push for $200 million for Everglades work” via The Associated Press — That’s more than triple the $63 million Trump requested in a budget proposal in March, and the new figure would be more in line with what Florida’s governor and lawmakers have said is necessary annually. Trump tweeted Monday that his administration “will be fighting for $200 million” and that “Congress needs to help us complete the world’s largest intergovernmental watershed restoration project ASAP!” The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers serves as the lead federal agency for restoring the Everglades from damage due to development and hurricanes over the past decades. It does planning, design and construction in partnership with the South Florida Water Management District.

Trump says he’s adding $1.6 billion to NASA’s budget” via The Associated Press — “Under my Administration, we are restoring @NASA to greatness and we are going back to the Moon, then Mars,” Trump wrote. Vice President Mike Pence has called for landing astronauts on the moon within five years, and has said NASA needs to achieve that goal “by any means necessary.” This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the first manned moon landing. Trump told a rally crowd in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in March that he was reversing course on the proposed cuts and would support allocating $300 million this year for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative after three Republican lawmakers from the state lobbied him during a ride from the Grand Rapids airport.

Mike Pence headed to Jacksonville, pitching trade deal” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Monday sees the Vice President return to Jacksonville. Pence, appearing under the auspices of America First Policies, will be in Duval for the event “USMCA: A Better Deal for American Workers.” The Jacksonville stop is the first on a 26 city tour of battleground states. Pence has already done a dozen stops with the group, which is well-funded by anonymous donors.

Marco Rubio calls on DOJ to investigate John Kerry over alleged foreign meddling” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Rubio is again urging an investigation of former Secretary of State Kerry to determine whether Kerry violated the Logan Act or the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). Trump argued Kerry should be prosecuted, alleging Kerry was holding unsanctioned discussions with the Iranian government. “What I would like to see with Iran, I would like to see them call me,” Trump said. “John Kerry, he speaks to them a lot. John Kerry tells them not to call. That’s a violation of the Logan Act. And frankly, he should be prosecuted on that. But my people don’t want to do anything. Only the Democrats do that kind of stuff, you know? If it were the opposite way, they would prosecute him under the Logan Act. But John Kerry violated the Logan Act.”

Rubio’s year-round Daylight-Saving Time bill gets a boost from other end of America” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — U.S. Sen. Patty Murray of Washington signed onto Rubio’s Sunshine Protection Act last week after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill similar to one former Gov. Scott approved in 2018 that would make Daylight Saving Time permanent if Congress gives its approval. Minnesota is considering a similar bill in its Legislature, and The Hill reports nearly three dozen states are looking at similar measures.

Central Florida Democrats request briefing on I-4 Ultimate project” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — In a letter to Florida Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault, U.S. Reps. Stephanie MurphyDarren Soto, and Val Demings, write that their constituents in Florida’s 7th, 9th, and 10th Congressional Districts regularly tell them the massive I-4 project “is complicating their commutes and compromising their safety, due to constantly shifting and indistinct lanes, unfamiliar terrain, and the unpredictable placement of concrete barricades.” The most recent progress report prepared by the builder and submitted to the Florida Department of Transportation estimates the project is now running about nine months beyond schedule. A Department of Transportation spokesman said the FDOT “is reviewing communications from the Central Florida delegation in reference to the members’ concerns about the I-4 Ultimate project.”

 Ron Wyden wants answers on Florida hacking  Oregon U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden wants to know what happened with VR Systems, the Florida voter-registration software maker that the FBI apparently believes Russia hacked. As reported by Kim Zetter of POLITICO Florida, Wyden wants to know whether the company ever engaged a third party to conduct a forensic examination of its computer networks and systems since the hacking assertions first came to light. “There are troubling inconsistencies between the special counsel’s report and statements by VR Systems. For the United States to stop future attacks on our democracy, we need to know exactly how our election was attacked in 2016,” Wyden said. In a letter sent to VR Systems, he asked whether the company had implemented basic security standards as proposed by NIST’s cybersecurity framework since 2016.

— 2020 —

Joe Biden jolts Dem fight for big donors” via Maggie Severns of POLITICO — Lining up early support from wealthy and influential backers have long been a critical step on any presidential campaign checklist. But this year, many Democrats did less outreach and kept their groundwork hushed, opting to not release early lists of “national finance committees” or name campaign “co-chairs” of volunteer fundraisers. Instead, they poured energy into showing voters and small-dollar donors that they prioritized their support ahead of “the 1 percent.” Biden was the only candidate who took the step of lining up financial staff to court donors in each region of the country ahead of his bid. But candidates can tap out their networks of friends and die-hard supporters after the initial wave of excitement surrounding their campaign launches.

Joe Biden is shaking things up for big Democratic donors.

3 Florida radio stations vow to broadcast Trump speeches daily until end of 2020 election” via Tiffani Theisen of the Orlando Sentinel — The stations will broadcast two-minute snippets of Trump speeches every hour of every day — perhaps sometimes twice an hour — until the end of the presidential race, station owner Samuel Rogatinsky said. “Nobody’s offended by it. It’s not an issue.” He said Panhandle residents who have felt forgotten in the seven months since the Category 5 storm devastated the region were heartened by Trump’s speech at his rally Wednesday in Panama City Beach. Rogatinsky’s newly formed company, Gulf Coast Media, recently purchased Classic Rock WRBA-FM 95.9, Country WKNK-FM “Hank FM” and Adult Hits WASJ-FM “BOB FM,” whose signals cover Bay County.

Charlie Crist draws second Republican challenger” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Amanda Makki is seeking the Republican nomination for Florida’s 13th Congressional District, which includes parts of Pinellas County including St. Petersburg and Clearwater Beach. Makki is a former Senior Health Adviser to Alaska Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski who she served for seven years, according to the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian-Americans. Makki is Iranian. Makki formerly served as a partner with K&L Gates, a nationally ranked public policy firm. She also currently served as Director of FDA Legislation and External Affairs for the Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk where she led the company’s external affairs and managed Food and Drug Administration-related legislation.


Joe Henderson: DeSantis has different approach to Republican leadership” via Florida Politics — DeSantis has been a welcome surprise on the environment after eight years of Scott and his band of Florida trashers who couldn’t use the words “climate change.” DeSantis appointed Thomas Frazer as the state’s first Chief Science Officer and, guess what? He believes climate change is real. DeSantis’ vetoing a snarky bill to overturn the ban some Florida cities have on plastic straws, was met with widespread applause. Those bans, DeSantis said, have “not frustrated any state policy or harmed the state’s interest.” Along comes DeSantis, winning praise from even those on the left. No one expected him to shout “FREE STUFF FOR EVERYBODY” from the Governor’s mansion, but it’s refreshing not to feel at odds with everything the chief executive does.

Despite rhetoric, guns won’t be in many classrooms” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — The legislation allowing some teachers to be armed was a shock to the senses. Nobody likes the idea. It is horribly sad to think that, on top of everything else we expect of them, some of your kid’s teachers might be asked to take on the truly awesome responsibility of a life-or-death decision in an emergency. But they don’t have to. In fact, some who might be willing will be rejected from the “guardian” designation. The authorization is voluntary. No teacher will be issued a gun and ordered to start taking marksmanship training. Is that enough? No, of course not — certainly not when children are concerned. But neither is looking at only the mental-health side of the situation and hoping the unthinkable won’t happen.

DeSantis should veto latest raid on affordable housing trust fund” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Back in 1992, the Legislature created the William F. Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Funds to help lower-income Floridians stabilize their lives. A rare coalition, ranging from builders, to Realtors, to environmental groups, has long supported the Sadowski program. So what’s the problem? Shortsighted politicians who want to spend the money elsewhere. Last year, they raided $182 million for school security. Since 2012, they’ve made $1.2 billion worth of “sweeps,” as Tallahassee calls them. And in the $91-billion state budget lawmakers just approved, they raided another $125 million from the affordable housing trust funds. DeSantis should keep that $125 million in the Sadowski funds.


Bob Poe leaves Florida, partisan politics” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Poe and his husband Ken Brown have maintained residences in both Orlando and Los Angeles for many years. Poe said he sold his final Florida home, in College Park, and they are now full-time California residents, though he promised he’d be back frequently. Poe expressed frustration with the nature of partisan politics overall and frustrated with politics in Florida under 20 years of Republican leadership, particularly investments in quality of life issues. He said he would focus his fundraising activity on supporting the Rev. William Barber, a North Carolina, nonpartisan social justice crusader associated with The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, and Moral Mondays. “I think it’s time for folks my age; I’ll be turning 65 in August, to pass the torch.”

All Voting Is Local names Brad Ashwell as Florida state director” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Ashwell has been named Florida state director for All Voting is Local, a national group seeking to expand and protect voting rights access, and which now is targeting Florida among several key states for ground games. Ashwell has more than 15 years of state and federal legislative experience with nonprofit advocacy groups, mainly working on improving election administration systems and voter access. He previously served as a research associate with Integrity Florida, as legislative director for the Florida Alliance for Consumer Protection, as state policy director for the State Voices Florida Civic Engagement Roundtable, and as state director at Florida Public Interest Research Group.


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. Mastracchio talks about her love for true crime. Hooper discusses his appearance in the true crime show Blood Relatives. The hosts examine Hillsborough County’s newly passed tax to better fund public schools.

Gradebook from the Tampa Bay Times with host Jeffrey Solochek: Tallahassee bureau education reporter Emily Mahoney joins Solochek for a review of the recently ended Session, with some hints too of what might come next with the 2020 session set to begin in less than eight months (with committee weeks sooner than that).

High Tops & Politics: Hosts Brian Crowley and Mary Anna Mancuso discuss whether Trump can win without Florida, or will Biden become the next Jeb Bush.

Inside Florida Politics from GateHouse Florida with hosts John Kennedy and George Bennett of The Palm Beach Post discussing Trump’s visit to the Panhandle and wonder where DeSantis will use his veto pen.

Fluent in FloridianAn interview with state Rep. Anna Eskamani, the first Iranian-American to hold public office in Florida, about her fight for women, children, immigrants and all her constituents in HD 47. Eskamani has become representative of a new age of American politics, and she hopes to shape the conversation through that position.

podcastEDAn interview with state Sen. Jeff Brandes on what he thinks the education world will look like in the year 2040.

REGULATED from hosts Christian Bax and Tony Glover: Former regulators Bax and Glover, host check-in on the trends, opportunities and threats to the cannabis, alcoholic beverage in gambling industries. 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.


Some might say “Game of Thrones” needs a Hail Mary.

— Aaron Rodgers suits up: Green Bay’s superstar quarterback makes a cameo as an archer in the next-to-last episode of the insanely popular HBO show.

Bounce … bounce … bounce … bounce

— It’s good: Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard had an insane shot at the buzzer to beat Philadelphia 92-90 in Game 7 of their NBA Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series.

Autism awareness is personal on the field in Tampa.

— Just ask Bucs’ OL Donovan Smith: The 10-year-old nephew of the Tampa Bay tackle has nonverbal autism. Smith is raising money for Autism Speaks.

May Madness is in flux.

— NCAA Tournament time for softball: Defending national champ Florida State is hosting the Tallahassee Regional starting Friday and opens against Bethune Cookman. USF plays South Carolina in the other half of that double-elimination bracket. Florida also hosts a regional in Gainesville and will play Boston University on Friday.

— Could Tiger be toothless this weekend?

Not a factor at PGA Tournament: A simulation model for the golf’s second major predicts Tiger Woods won’t crack the top five finishers. The tournament begins Thursday at the rugged Bethpage Black course on Long Island, N.Y.

— ALOE —

Disney CEO posts new photos at Star Wars land” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — How does Robert Iger impress his famous friends? The Walt Disney Co. CEO teased that question over the weekend on social media. “Give them a personal tour of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge,” Iger wrote, posting new photos that showed him at the land with directors Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams as well as Kathy Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm. One photograph showed the group posing behind the full-scale Millennium Falcon set in the backdrop of the rock spires in the land that opens May 31 at Disneyland and Aug. 29 in Orlando.

What Sean Pittman is reading — “Orange Bowl switched from Jan. 1 to Dec. 30 for prime-time” via The Associated Press — This season’s Orange Bowl is moving to Dec. 30, with a prime-time kickoff, after initially being scheduled to be played the afternoon of New Year’s Day. The Orange Bowl has traditionally been played at night, but the earlier kickoff was first planned when it became part of the six-bowl rotation that hosts the College Football Playoff. The Orange Bowl will not be hosting a national semifinal this season. Had it stayed on Jan. 1, the Orange Bowl would have been competing against other traditional New Year’s Day games and kicked off around 1 p.m. EST. The switch gives it an exclusive television window on Monday night, two days after the CFP semifinals are played on Dec. 28.


Best wishes to Audrey Henson and Todd Reid.

Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter SchorschPhil AmmannJim RosicaDan 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.
Phone: (727) 642-3162
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St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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