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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.16.19

Hit the ground running with Sunburn.

To be frank, this headline had us — oh — a wee bit incredulous: “Florida Democratic Party, Andrew Gillum Announce Partnership to Launch Voter Registration Program in Florida.”

“Earlier this year, both FDP and Mayor Gillum announced investments in voter registration, committing to expand the Florida Democratic electorate in the lead up to the 2020 elections,” the news release goes on.

It may be all well and good that Andrew Gillum is investing in a voter registration effort, but it also begs the question: Why didn’t he invest in himself?

“As part of those efforts, Mayor Gillum and Forward Florida Action will announce a yearlong partnership — and significant investment in FDP’s efforts to register 200,000 voters in advance of the 2020 Presidential Primary.”

But wait. One asks, ‘Why didn’t Gillum invest in himself?’

At the risk of venturing into BrokenRecordlandia, we know Gillum’s political committee, Forward Florida, left $3 million in the bank on election night.

As I’ve said before, that left Republican Ron DeSantis “as Governor-elect. Meanwhile, Gillum is just another Democrat waiting for what’s next.”

So why now should Democrats believe that Gillum is willing to go the extra mile and be the Democrats’ savior? Is it because he’ll be spending OPM (“other people’s money”)?

You can find out the nitty-gritty today at 11:45 a.m. at the University of South Florida’s Amphitheater at Marshall Center, 4202 East Fowler Ave. in Tampa.

Let me know how it goes.


@JenAsheyWright: Every woman sobbing on election night knew what was coming.

@SDonnan: White House plans to delay imposing tariffs on auto imports for now. Trump’s deadline to decide on the tariffs is May 18, but aides at WH meeting yesterday discussed delaying for up to six months. Idea is to let the Japan and EU trade negotiations play out.

@Fahrenthold: And yes, God Bless Florida and its public-records laws. When we asked for details on @realDonaldTrump‘s company challenging its tax assessment at Doral, they sent us video of the hearing. From TWO camera angles!

@RepTedDeutch: In the hours and days after the deadly attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue, Google searches for hateful anti-Semitic language like “Jews must die,” “kill Jews,” and “I hate Jews” reached 12-month highs. Anti-Semitism is a deadly threat.

@DavidJollyFL: Legit question re 2 of 67 FL counties whose election data was illegally accessed in ’16: Are DeSantis & intel confirming *only* 2 were hacked, and the other 65 definitely weren’t; or is obfuscation by feds because they only know of 2, but can’t confirm yes or no on the other 65?

Tweet, tweet:

@Book4Senate: NO VOTE ABOUT WOMEN WITHOUT WOMEN — it’s that simple. I want 2 give FL voters the power 2 require 50% representation in both bodies 2 take up anything related 2 women’s repro health care. There R no laws in existence that regulate men’s bodies.

@Msynan: I just got a fundraising email from @FlaDems with the following headline: The GOP is admitted Florida elections were hacked

@JimRosicaFL: … Yet another month goes by, and @mcclatchy’s market cap has now fallen below $20 million and is trading south of $2.50 a share. And yet, I fear the worst is yet to come.


Florida Chamber Florida Business Leaders’ Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 6; Florida TaxWatch Spring Meeting & Education Summit begins — 6; Memorial Day — 11; Florida Democratic Leadership Blue conference and fundraiser — 23; U.S. Open begins — 28; Father’s Day — 31; Florida Chamber Learners to Earners Workforce Summit begins — 33; First Democratic presidential debates in Miami — 41; Independence Day — 49; Second Democratic presidential debates in Detroit — 75; Florida Gators opens vs. Miami football — 100; St. Petersburg primary election — 103; USF open vs. Wisconsin Badgers football — 106; UCF Golden Knights open vs. Florida A&M football — 107; FSU Seminoles open vs. Boise State football — 107; Labor Day — 109; “Joker” opens — 141; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 165; Scott Maddox trial begins — 172; 2019 General Election — 173; 3rd Annual Florida Internet and Television FITCon starts — 175; Iowa Caucuses — 263; New Hampshire Primaries — 271; Florida’s presidential primary — 306; 2020 General Election — 537.


Marco Rubio is following through on a pro-work agenda that has come to define his latest term in the U.S. Senate.

The senior Republican Senator on Wednesday unveiled a 37-page report: “American Investment in the 21st Century.

In a new report, Marco Rubio extols the American work ethic.

It makes the case that American companies compromise long-term benefits for more-immediate, short-term returns. To correct that, Rubio wants companies to invest in domestic production.

Context: Rubio’s report comes as the U.S. and China bicker over trade. Rubio faults corporations for seeking short-term gains with China. “You make money, and you look good in front of your shareholders, but you’re also turning over your intellectual property and eventually they’re going to replace you,” Rubio told James Hohmann in an interview for The Washington Post’s Daily 202 newsletter. “But who cares? You won’t be CEO in 10 years when that happens.”

Looking back: Rubio in the report dissects the Great Recession and calls into question the belief that shareholders should be a company’s first priority. “Productive business firms are valuable to the U.S. to an extent far beyond their net present value to shareholders.”

Still GOP: Though the report critiques a byproduct of capitalism, Rubio does not fault the economic ideology itself. “We have a free market, but that free market operates under the conditions created for it by policymakers,” he told Hohmann.


‘We won’t tell you’: Ron DeSantis, a onetime firebrand, is stonewalled by the FBI” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — DeSantis shaped his political identity in Congress by taking on the FBI and criticizing its Russia investigation. But as Florida governor, not only has DeSantis toned down the FBI bashing, he’s even doing the bureau’s bidding. The governor signed a non-disclosure agreement with the bureau in exchange for a briefing Friday on Russian hacking into voter systems in two Florida counties — a decision one fellow Republican described as complicity in a cover-up. The DeSantis evolution has exposed the new governor to rare criticism from other Republicans, county election supervisors and government-transparency advocates who say his decision to sign the non-disclosure agreement — and keep information from the voting public— hurts his political brand and erodes trust in the election systems of the nation’s biggest swing state. “It was definitely a misstep,” said Mike Bennett, the conservative Republican election supervisor of Manatee County.

DeSantis signs $121 million Florida tax-relief package into law” via John Haughey of The Center Square — The package includes a seven-day “holiday” — May 31 through June 6 — from sales taxes on emergency supplies such as batteries costing $30 or less, tarps costing $50 or less, self-powered radios costing $50 or less and generators costing $750 or less. Floridians have become “battle-tested” after hurricanes Matthew in 2016, Irma in 2017 and Michael last year, DeSantis said. The tax package also includes an Aug. 2-6 back-to-school “holiday” from sales taxes on clothes costing $60 or less, school supplies costing $15 or less and personal computers costing $1,000 or less. Among its primary features is a reduction in the sales tax from 5.7 to 5.5 percent on commercial leases, otherwise known as Florida’s “Business Rent Tax.” [BRT].

Ron DeSantis signs HB 7123, which includes tax relief to assist residents of Northwest Florida devastated by Hurricane Michael.

DeSantis calls for pre-K improvements” via the News Service of Florida — Pointing to a new report showing 42 percent of children who participated in the state’s voluntary prekindergarten program were not ready for kindergarten, DeSantis directed Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to come up with a plan for improvements. “A 42 percent failure rate is simply not defendable and certainly not good enough for Florida’s youngest learners,” DeSantis said in a statement. “I have asked Commissioner Corcoran to prioritize this issue and direct available funding to make enhancements.” A release from DeSantis’ office did not detail steps that might be taken.

Secretary post remains empty at health agency” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — More than four months after DeSantis took office, the Florida Department of Health does not have a secretary. DeSantis’ nominee — Scott Rivkees — continues to serve as chairman of the University of Florida College of Medicine Department of Pediatrics and as physician-in-chief of UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital, according to UF Health spokeswoman Melanie Ross. Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez, who was charged by DeSantis to oversee health care issues, appears to be playing a key role in running the department. Though state law requires that the department secretary be a Florida licensed medical doctor, Nuñez is not. She is a former lawmaker from Miami and a one-time hospital lobbyist.

New Florida emergency director shaped by Parkland massacre, Hurricane Michael’s wrath” via Rick Neale of Florida Today — The night of the Parkland school shootings, Jared Moskowitz returned to his alma mater and met with families of slain students: “I saw what it looks like to see blood in your high school, and bullet holes through windows.” Then after Hurricane Michael devastated Florida’s Panhandle, Moskowitz witnessed widespread destruction across Bay County. He remembers hearing the eerie chorus of smoke detectors and alarms, going off across entire blocks. “These are the reasons why I decided to do this job, when Gov. DeSantis asked me to join his administration,” the Coral Springs Democrat said Wednesday during the Governor’s Hurricane Conference at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.

Assignment editors — First Lady Casey DeSantis will make a major announcement, joined by Gov. DeSantis, Education Commissioner Corcoran, Department of Children and Families Secretary Chad Poppell, and Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Simone Marstiller, 9 a.m. Eastern time, Roland Park K-8 Magnet School, Multipurpose Room, 1510 North Manhattan Avenue, Tampa.


How non-compete clauses could sink Jose Oliva priorities” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — After several volleys between the House and Senate, HB 843 cleared the Legislature with an amendment that would void those non-competes. The text passed by lawmakers: “A restrictive covenant entered into with a physician who is licensed under chapter 458 or chapter 459 and who practices a medical specialty in a county wherein one entity employs or contracts with, either directly or through related or affiliated entities, all physicians who practice such specialty in that county is not supported by a legitimate business interest.” According to the legislative staff analysis, however, that language brings forward a slew of constitutional issues — courts would have to determine whether or not the change is meant to be retroactive, and both the state and federal constitutions prohibit the state from passing any law “impairing the obligation of contracts.” If found unconstitutional and vetoed, the rest of the reforms in HB 843 would be tossed, too.

Carlos Guillermo Smith cleared of harassment allegation, but accuser alleges conflict of interest” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — An investigator hired by the House has cleared Orlando Rep. Smith of harassing Rep. Anika Omphroy, a fellow Democrat, at a party event in February. But Omphroy isn’t letting the matter drop. Special master Jim Waldman found no probable cause that Smith violated House rules or codes of conduct. Waldman’s report states that “Rep. Smith’s conduct falls into the category of expressive conduct.” Even so, Omphroy wrote an email alleging that Waldman only interviewed one of her witnesses and that as a former Democratic state representative from Broward County, he had a conflict of interest and should have recused himself.

Lauren Book, Anna Eskamani bash Alabama abortion bill” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — After Alabama lawmakers approved a bill that would outlaw virtually all abortions in that state, two Florida Democratic lawmakers are hammering that proposal and vowing to prevent a similar measure from passing in Florida. Sen. Book and Rep. Eskamani both issued statements following the approval of the bill late Tuesday. That legislation still must be signed by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey. Ivey has not commented on the bill but reports say she’s expected to sign it. “Alabama is waging a war on women with their ban on abortion care,” Book said.

Anna Eskamani promises to continue the fight for safe and legal access to abortion in Florida.

Spotted — “State efforts to quell Israel boycott movement raise free-speech objections” via Michelle Hackman of The Wall Street Journal — “It’s no coincidence that as political leaders have sanctioned anti-Semitic speech, other people translate that into action,” said state Rep. Randy Fine, the only Jewish Republican in the Florida Legislature and sponsor of a bill to expand its definition of anti-Semitism in public schools and universities to include certain criticism of Israel’s government, putting such expressions on par with racist epithets.

Disney could still build nuclear power plant after bill fizzles in Legislature” via Gabrielle Russon and Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — A bill before Florida lawmakers that would have revoked Walt Disney World Resort’s ability to build a nuclear power plant died when the session ended this month. Six lobbyists were registered on the bill for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. A 1967 state law has always allowed Disney to construct a nuclear power plant, however unlikely it was that Walt Disney World Resort would ever actually try to use it. Instead of an expensive nuclear plant, Woodson 12 seconds of seconds Disney is pursuing a vastly different option. Last month, Disney invited reporters to tour a new solar farm facility that’s roughly twice the size of the Magic Kingdom and generates electricity back into the grid to help operate its theme parks and hotels.

What happened to requiring a financial literacy class at public schools? Lawmakers watered it down” via Diane Rado of Florida Phoenix — In fact, the Legislature eliminated current law that required at least some financial literacy education as part of an economics class required for graduation. But the House and Senate did approve some legislation to require all school districts, moving forward, to offer a stand-alone financial literacy class — distinct from economics — beginning in the 2019-2020 school year. It would be an elective class worth at least one-half a credit. However, the class would be optional, and teens wouldn’t have to take the financial literacy course to graduate.


It’s that time again: The 23rd annual Phil Galvano Classic is set for Longboat Key Club and Resort today and Friday.

The yearly event is in memory of golf pro Galvano — Senate President Bill Galvano’s father — and raises funds for the Manatee Education Foundation. In previous years, some of the money was made available for “mini-grants,” for teachers to enhance their classrooms.

The elder Galvano was no run-of-the-mill golf pro. Born in 1915 to Sicilian immigrants, Phil Galvano grew up in New York City and started caddying on Staten Island to make some money. He would caddie two or three rounds of golf a day, with a bag on each shoulder.

It was through caddying that he became interested in golfing, eventually becoming a PGA pro.

But when he went looking for jobs, he was turned away. No one was interested in offering him a job; they instead told him he should be a dance teacher.

Galvano didn’t give up. He decided if he couldn’t get a job at the clubs, he would create his own golf instruction studio.

He had a friend who was J.P. Morgan’s niece and told her about his idea, and she let him borrow $2,000 to secure a space on 42nd Street to create an indoor golf studio.

Clients would hit balls into a canvas, and the elder Galvano would offer instruction just by looking at his swing.

He became successful, and soon scored a client with big-name connections — Bob Hope’s manager started coming in for lessons, and called Galvano his “secret weapon.” The manager soon told Hope, and Galvano was eventually coaching Hope and other celebs.

Phil Galvano died in 1996, but his memory lives on through this event.

— FEA —

Florida’s new voucher program could be a billion dollar drain on the state’s public schools over the next five years, according to research from the Florida Education Association (FEA).

The FEA works on behalf of teachers and public education workers and has starkly opposed putting increased money toward the state’s private schools.

The newest voucher program, dubbed “Family Empowerment Scholarships,” will offer up to 18,000 new vouchers at an estimated cost of about $131 million.

That’s money the FEA argues could instead be sent to Florida’s public schools. The group’s researchers looked at existing private voucher programs, such as the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, and projected a 21 percent growth rate year-to-year for the new program.

With costs increasing at that rate, the FEA’s numbers show more than $986 million will be spent on the program through the 2023-24 school year.

The new program’s supporters have pushed back on that math before, arguing the money is following students. In other words, they argue if a child utilizes the new scholarship to move from a public to a private school, that public school no longer needs funding to support that student.

Meanwhile … Florida clears teacher certification backlog from January” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Back in late January, the Florida Department of Education had 31,666 teacher certification applications open, with 15,290 of them in hand longer than the statutory processing limit of 90 days. On Wednesday, Education Commissioner Corcoran announced all those requests had been completed, meeting the 120-day deadline he had set. To get the work done, the department added six employees to the certification division, and told superintendents to send in names of any teachers that needed priority attention. Corcoran said at the time that unreasonable wait times would become a thing of the past. Approved certifications had dropped 55 percent since 2017.


Department of Financial Services settles complaint of ‘boys’ club’ discrimination — The Department of Financial Services paid nearly $250,000 last month to settle a case filed by former staffer Christine Taul, who said a “boy’s club” culture edged her out of her job. As reported by Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida, Taul received a settlement of $248,600 though DFS admitted no wrongdoing. Taul filed the suit against CFO Jimmy Patronis last year, claiming she was fired due to her gender and insinuating Patronis may have retaliated against her when she declined to attend a campaign fundraiser. Patronis has refuted those claims and Taul has since walked back the fundraiser claim. Patronis, for his part, says Taul was let go because of “management deficiency.”

‘Equal Ground’ launches to educate Florida’s voters in underserved communities” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A new progressive organization called “Equal Ground” says it’s looking to level the playing field in Florida by increasing voter education, and ultimately turnout, in underserved communities across the state. “Engaged communities are powerful communities,” said Glenton Gilzean Jr., incoming Chairman of the Equal Ground Education Fund and President and CEO of the Central Florida Urban League. “I’m proud to help lead the launch of Equal Ground. There is important work to be done in Florida, and our organization will be the forefront of it.” In a release sent out Wednesday morning, the group highlighted its aim to educate voters on issues such as health care, a living wage and climate change.

Glenton Gilzean Jr., chair of the Equal Ground Education Fund and President and CEO of the Central Florida Urban League.

As hurricane season looms, Florida leaders offer stern warning: ‘Michael was a punch in the mouth’” via Joe Mario Pederson of the Orlando Sentinel — “That’s how I felt,” said Bay County director of emergency management, Joby Smith, reflecting on the fallout of Hurricane Michael. Smith’s words of what he learned after Michael echoed around a room filled by hundreds at the 33rd Annual Governor’s Hurricane Conference in West Palm Beach. Smith’s experience in Hurricane Michael is a testament to how the best-laid plans of emergency management can go awry. There was a vision of a plan, but it was cast to the wind when forecasters released the developments on Michael, Smith said. “We knew we weren’t completely ready for what was coming,” he said.

Smaller Northwest Florida farmers to benefit from new loan program” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — During the annual Hurricane Conference in West Palm Beach, DeSantis announced the activation of a $25 million bridge loan program available to crop farmers in the storm-battered counties still reeling from the Category 5 Hurricane Michael, which swept through a sliver of the Panhandle last October. DeSantis told conference attendees that the money would aid “the many field crop farmers affected by Hurricane Michael.” The Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program will provide short-term, interest-free loans to agriculture producers only in Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Okaloosa, Wakulla, Walton and Washington counties. The application period for the loans will last through June 30. Each applicant can receive up to $200,000.

Native American tribes share concerns over quality of water flowing into the Everglades” via Karl Fortier of Fox4Now — Representatives from the Seminole and Miccosukee Tribes of Florida went before the Collier County Board of Commissioners to voice their concerns about the water quality flowing into the Everglades — which the tribes call home. “We’re killing the tree islands,” said Gene Duncan, Director of Water Resources for the Miccosukee Tribe. “More water will be the death of the Everglades.” Amos Tiger of Seminole Water Resources joined Duncan in a presentation to the commissioners. Tiger said that while stormwater treatment areas might remove phosphorus from runoff water flowing south from Lake Okeechobee and other areas north of the Everglades, they leave in a lot of other contaminants.

Space Florida lays groundwork for Florida-Israeli space tech deals” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Space Florida gave final approval to a state grant plan and a list of 12 finalists for such partnerships competing for a piece of a $1 million pile Florida has set aside for the grants. The 12 proposals add up to almost $4 million. So only a small handful will win the state awards. DeSantis is expected to announce the winning deals when he and the Florida Cabinet visit Israel late this month. That trip begins May 25. The state money would be offered as matching grants, requiring equal or greater matches by the partner companies. Israel also may be offering matching grants.

Planned Parenthood Florida gives transgender hormone therapy” via Kelli Kennedy of The Associated Press — The services are starting with two health centers in Miami this week. It plans to expand statewide within the year. The services could help a patient who, for example, was born as a female and still has female organs but identifies as male. Oral, topical and injectable hormones would address issues like facial hair, redistribution of fat and muscle and thicker vocal chords. The prescriptions are written after extensive medical and blood tests and are only available for patients 18 and older. The cost varies based on insurance and ranges from roughly $250 to $350 if paying out of pocket. Planned Parenthood is also training staff on how to better serve the transgender population.

Florida lawsuit attempting to combat ban on ‘bump stocks’ tossed out by judge” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — More than a year after the Florida Legislature passed gun restrictions, a Leon County circuit judge has dismissed a lawsuit that alleged a ban on ‘bump stocks’ was an unconstitutional taking of property.


Oviedo mayor threatens to kill neighbors after incident involving daughter: report” via Martin Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — Oviedo Mayor Dominic Persampiere cursed at and then threatened to kill his neighbor during a heated argument involving his adult daughter and a lost cat, according to a police report. Persampiere wasn’t arrested because the incident didn’t rise to the level of an aggravated assault, and the mayor didn’t have a firearm. The fireworks began when a cat belonging to Persampiere’s daughter, Krysta Persampiere, 26, ran out of their home earlier in the day on Suncrest Drive. As Krysta Persampiere looked for her pet in front of the home owned by Christopher and Jennifer Bain, the couple thought she was taking photos of their property for a possible homeowners association violation. Persampiere’s wife is president of the homeowner’s association.

Oviedo Mayor Dominic Persampiere was not too neighborly. Image via WFTV.

Attempted coup, scheming at Orlando airport raise bright red flag” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — A few weeks ago there was an attempted coup. State Sen. Dennis Baxley — an Ocala Republican who has nothing to do with the Orlando airport — filed legislation to kick Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings off the airport’s board of directors. Yes, a politician from Ocala tried to kick Orlando’s mayor off the Orlando airport board. “The city of Orlando actually owns that airport,” Dyer said this week. OIA officials also say state law requires both mayors to serve on the board. Baxley’s move seemed both sketchy and nonsensical. Baxley’s attempted ousting didn’t get far. It was so clumsily handled that, by the time exposed the filing of his amendment, he’d already withdrawn it.

Lawyer for J.T. Burnette and feds argue over ‘sensitive’ evidence in FBI corruption probe” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — Burnette was arrested in the same investigation that led to federal corruption charges in December against City Commissioner Maddox and former Downtown Improvement Authority Executive Director Paige Carter-Smith. Government court filings include one revelation suggesting the FBI probe in Tallahassee isn’t over. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Kunz wrote that discovery materials, including nearly 900,000 pages of documents and about 70 recordings, “may relate to ongoing investigations.” Tim Jansen, representing Burnette, asked Senior U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle to order prosecutors to comply with federal rules requiring the government to turn over discovery within seven days of arraignment.

Grandmother arrested for CBD at Magic Kingdom hires Ben Crump, threatens lawsuit against cops and Disney” via Karina Elwood of the Orlando Sentinel — They said their dream turned into a nightmare when Hester Burkhalter, 69, was arrested at the gates of Magic Kingdom for carrying CBD oil in her purse. At a news conference outside the Orange County Courthouse, Crump announced plans to sue Disney Corporation and Orange County Sheriff’s Office on Burkhalter’s behalf. The lawsuit has not yet been filed, but Crump said he sent a notice to the Sheriff’s Office and county government indicating he intends to sue, alleging is based on the illegal detainment, false imprisonment, defamation of character, intentional infliction of emotional distress and violation of Burkhalter’s civil rights.

Miami cop accidentally shoots Publix shopper when reaching in pocket, police say” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — The officer had been waiting in line at the Publix at 16800 North Kendall Dr. when he reached into his pocket and accidentally fired his handgun about 12:15 p.m. A bullet ricocheted off the ground and “grazed” the shopper. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue treated the woman for a minor injury, but she was not taken to a hospital, Miami-Dade police spokesman Detective Lee Cowart said. The off-duty officer is not expected to be arrested because the incident was an “accidental discharge of a weapon,” Cowart said. But police are investigating.

South Florida construction boom could grind to a halt thanks to new tariffs” via Rob Wile of the Miami Herald — There are some 80 major active construction projects in Miami-Dade, making it one of the hottest real estate markets in the country. Broward has as many as 50.

Could this team win Southwest Florida’s first medical marijuana license?“via Patricia Borns of the News-Press —A Fort Myers nursery owner is competing for one of Florida’s coveted full-service medical marijuana licenses and facing one challenge after another — even suing the state for a license he says he’s owed. The owner of FTG nursery, John Allen, and his partner William Reese, a third-generation farmer, hand-delivered their application to the Department of Health last November with a cashier’s check for $60,830 to grow, process and distribute cannabis.

In Sarasota-Manatee, a miserable stone crab season nears an end” via Amy Diaz the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Crabbers in Cortez have found themselves traveling north as far as Tarpon Springs and Hillsborough to catch any crabs — and even then they’ve harvested only a fraction of what they have in previous years. “I used to get 800-900 pounds around here,” said Danny Barrett, the crab cook at A.P. Bell Fish Co. in Cortez. “There were a couple hundred-pound catches here and there, but mostly when they do bring them in now, it’s been 40, 50 or 60 pounds. There has really been nothing out here in Cortez; I had seven pounds yesterday come in from two guys in our local waters.”

Spring tourism not detoured by Michael” via Ed Offley of the Panama City News-Herald — The first month of the 2019 spring tourist season showed strong gains over the same period in 2018, according to bed tax collections for March. For Panama City Beach, revenue from the 5-cent bed tax on tourist lodgings for March 2019 was $2,017,252, a 13.4-percent increase over the $1,778,549 collected in March 2018, according to a report by Bay County tax specialist Tyler Miller to the Tourist Development Council. “Collections in March, the kickoff to the Panama City Beach tourist season, are significantly higher than in the previous months,” TDC President Dan Rowe said. “This increase … is important because it helps demonstrate that leisure travelers are returning to the beach as the season heats up.”


Amendment 4: New report shows who’s out of prison and registering to vote” via Langston Taylor of the Tampa Bay Times — Amendment 4 led to 99 times as many formerly-incarcerated Floridians registering to vote as normal, and those new voters are more likely to be black and residents of lower-income neighborhoods than the rest of the electorate, according to a new analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice.

Carlos Curbelo won’t rule out another congressional run” via Anthony Adragna of POLITICO — Curbelo refused to rule out running again for his south Florida congressional seat after the Ways and Means Committee pulled his invitation to testify at a hearing on climate change. Curbelo said the episode had “provoked a lot of introspection” about his political future and he accused Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of putting politics ahead of seeking solutions to address climate change. “The only question I have for him: Is my political future more important than building consensus to address climate change in a meaningful way?” Curbelo told reporters. “By his actions, he indicated that, yes, one congressional district and what could potentially happen there is more important than solving what is probably the greatest threat to humanity.”

Carlos Curbelo is not counting out another run for Congress.

GOP congressional candidate defends promoting birther conspiracy, other controversial tweets” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Republican congressional candidate Irina Vilariño is defending several controversial posts on Twitter, including a retweet of a clearly-faked video promoting the Barack Obama birther controversy Vilariño was confronted with those tweets by a Talking Points Memo (TPM) reporter. “I don’t think any of these tweets warrant an apology, and I am not going to fearfully pander every time someone thinks they might be offended,” Vilariño said, according to the report. The retweet of the Obama birther conspiracy came from March 2019. “It’s true, I’m not American,” Obama appears to say to a crowd in the obviously doctored video. “I was not born in Hawaii. I wasn’t born in the United States of America. I come from Kenya.”

Ray Rodrigues announces state Senate bid” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — State Rep. Rodrigues became the first candidate to file for Florida Senate in District 27. “I am excited to embark on the next chapter of service to our community,” Rodrigues said in an announcement. “We have accomplished great things during my time in the Florida House and I look forward to building on that foundation in the State Senate.” In an interview, Rodrigues said he’s seriously contemplated running for the seat for about a year. Facing term limits in the House and living in a district with a Senate seat opening up, Rodrigues said the biggest questions surrounded his outside personal and professional obligations.

Nick DiCeglie sets date for re-election campaign kickoff” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Freshman state Rep. DiCeglie will hold a fundraiser for his House District 66 re-election campaign June 5 in Clearwater. According to the invite, the reception will kick off at 6 p.m. at Island Way Grill, 20 Island Way. The fundraiser features an extensive host committee that includes several Pinellas County politicians such as former state Rep. Larry Ahern, former St. Pete Mayor Rick Baker and state Sen. Jeff Brandes, among others. Those looking to attend can let the campaign know by calling 407-849-1112 or emailing

Richard Stark, term-limited state lawmaker, announces run for Weston Mayor” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — In a post to his personal Facebook page Wednesday, state Rep. Stark confirmed speculation he will run to be the next Mayor of Weston. “Announcing my campaign kickoff for Mayor of Weston,” Stark wrote. “Working together we will ensure that Weston maintains its special HomeTown feel, high quality services, and cost effective government now and into the future. Looking forward to seeing you all on May 22!” The May 22 fundraiser will be held at the home of Joel and Susan Fass in Weston from 5:30 to 7 p.m.


Matt Gaetz blasts DOD, FBI for handling of Russian hacking investigation” via Marc Caputo and Natasha Bertrand of POLITICO Florida — Gaetz suggested that DoD, the FBI and others in the intelligence community aren’t sharing information or working closely together, a conclusion he drew after a defense officials gave a closed-door classified briefing to the House Armed Services Committee. “I left that briefing deeply disappointed at the lack of cooperation and synergy among the agencies dealing with this challenge,” Gaetz told POLITICO. “I would expect DOD to know a lot more than they do about the tactics, targets, and methods of Russian election interference.” Gaetz said he couldn’t disclose details of the investigation or the briefing because the information was given in a classified setting.

Matt Gaetz is blasting the FBI for its handling of the Russian interference investigation. 

Charlie Crist quietly visited Cuba as tensions over Venezuela escalated” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — The trip spanned April 25 through April 27, according to travel records maintained by the House of Representatives Committee on Ethics, and was not announced by Crist’s Congressional office. There are no details about it on his House website. The sponsor of the trip was the Center for Democracy in the Americas, an organization that “promotes a U.S. policy toward Cuba based on engagement and recognition of Cuba’s sovereignty,” according to its website. Crist said his visit focused on “advancements in US-Cuba policy and relations made during the Obama Administration, and the impact of the Trump Administration’s change in course.”

Rick Scott calls Crist’s Cuba trip an ‘absolute disgrace’” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Republican U.S. Sen. Scott blasted Crist Wednesday over the latter’s newly-disclosed April junket to Cuba, calling it an “absolute disgrace” at a time when Cuba is supporting Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro. Crist, of St. Petersburg, acknowledged his trip weeks after returning, when confronted with travel records obtained by the Tampa Bay Times. Scott, whose rivalry with Crist goes back to when the two ran bitter campaigns against each other in the 2010 governor’s race, denounced him for giving any credence to the regime in Cuba. “Congressman Crist’s secret trip to Cuba is an absolute disgrace,” Scott declared.

Crist’s questioning of William Barr was a breakthrough for Democrats — and for Crist” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Crist may have stumbled into this flashpoint, but that he was in position to ask the question is a testament to how the St. Petersburg Republican-turned-Democrat is thriving in his new party. Crist’s quizzing of Barr came during a meeting of the House Appropriations Committee, one of the most powerful committees in Congress. Crist earned a coveted spot on the committee in just his third year in Washington, no small feat.

The Internet & Television Association ‘flies-in’ to D.C. — Among the topics discussed ranged from 10G deployment, net neutrality, and privacy. During the meetings, the NCTA group — including Sarah AllenDerek CooperBill FerryMadeline HolzmannMarva JohnsonAllison KinneyChristopher LordBrian MusselwhiteCarla RoderickDawn Stagliano and Brad Swanson  met with the Florida delegation, including Sens. Rubio and Scott, U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz BalartGus Bilirakis, Kathy Castor, Crist, Val Demings, Ted Deutch, Alcee Hastings, Brian Mast, Stephanie Murphy, Francis Rooney, John Rutherford, Donna Shalala, Darren Soto, Ross Spano, Greg Steube, Michael Waltz, Frederica Williams and Ted Yoho. Also, there was Michael Powell, President of NCTA (and General Colin Powell’s son).

Rick Scott meets with cable industry executives as part of NCTA — The Internet & Television Association fly-in.

Assignment editors — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried will appear before members of Congress from Florida to discuss critical issues facing the agriculture industry, Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2020 (ground floor), Washington, D.C.

— 2020 —

’Slow and steady’ strategy pays off for Joe Biden” via Natasha Korecki and Marc Caputo of POLITICO — As his opponents in a sprawling primary field scramble to build their early-state profiles, the Biden campaign is taking a different, more deliberate approach. The number of events per day are limited. The size of the venues are modest. Careful attention has been paid to his exposure to the press, with a slow ramp-up of his availability to the media over time. Biden has led in every national poll taken since he announced his candidacy. He’s also established wide early-state leads in New Hampshire and South Carolina while lapping up endorsements. By dictating his own tempo and setting his own terms of engagement, Biden has only underscored his stature as a party eminence — and subtly reinforced his status as the field’s front-runner.

Slow and steady is becoming Joe Biden’s campaign strategy.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to announce presidential bid” via Alex Seitz-Wald of NBC News — De Blasio will make the formal announcement and then travel to Iowa and South Carolina for multiple stops over four days. His wife, Chirlane McCray, who has been a highly visible presence and close adviser during his six years at City Hall, will join him for part of the trip. The mayor plans to highlight his record of liberal accomplishments in the nation’s largest city, including enacting universal prekindergarten, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and overseeing a drop in crime to an all-time low. De Blasio is not particularly popular back home, nor in early surveys of Iowa and New Hampshire, which vote first in the primary process.


DeSantis should be consistent on limited government” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — It would have been easy for DeSantis to let the ban on straw bans for five years become law. But DeSantis stuck to his limited government philosophy last week in his straightforward veto message: “The state should simply allow local communities to address this issue through the political process. Citizens who oppose plastic straw ordinances can seek recourse by electing people who share their views.” That might be why a conservative Republican governor was praised for his veto of the ban on straw bans by progressive Democratic mayors such as St. Petersburg’s Rick Kriseman, who called it ‘‘a victory not just for local control and home rule, but common sense as well as the environment.’’ Home rule and state policy could use more of this kind of bipartisan common sense.

Redefining private school vouchers In Florida” via Carl Ramey for the Gainesville Sun — The plan is obvious. Start small, but establish the legal premise that Florida’s annual per-student budget for public schools can be regularly dipped into in order to fund private school vouchers. Then, just as lawmakers have done in recent years, continue to earmark larger and larger funds for more and more private school students. Wait a second, you say. Didn’t the Florida Supreme Court emphatically declare direct funding of private school vouchers to be unconstitutional? Yes, but it’s a new ballgame on Florida’s highest court, with Gov. DeSantis having appointed three new judges supposedly more aligned with his view that any type of public funding makes the recipient (religious or nonreligious) just another element of the larger public education system.


Metz Husband & Daughton snags up to $1.9M in quarterly lobbying pay” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Through the first three months of the year, the firm brought in nearly $1.9 million in lobbying fees. Just over $1.2 million of that sum came their way lobbying the Legislature, while the $690,000 balance came from their work in the executive branch. The top-end estimate matches the firm’s haul during the first quarter of last year, which included the entire 2018 Legislative Session. This year, Q1 only covered the first half of the Legislative Session. The new figures also far outpace MHD’s fourth-quarter haul, which saw them reel in $656,000 legislative lobbying pay and earn a spot among the top-10 highest earning firms.

With a solid Q1, MHD has entered the Top 10 list of lobbying firms


New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Brian Ballard, Chris Dorworth, Ballard Partners: The Pharm

Abigail London Vail: Office of Financial Regulation


Golf’s second 2019 major is underway.

Tee talk: Can Tiger Woods keep the magic going at the PGA Championship starting today at the notorious Bethpage Black course on Long Island, N.Y.?

It’s no easy 18 at the rare public course.

WARNING: How the iconic sign at Bethpage Black advising that only “highly skilled golfers” tackle the course came to be. Unlike most major championship courses, this one is open to the public. Out of state residents pay $130 for 18 holes on weekdays and $150 on weekends.

Only highly skilled golfers need apply.

Here’s something to look forward to, football fans.

Mark your calendars: Today marks 100 days until Florida and Miami open the college football season in Orlando.

J-E-T-S Jets! Jets! Jets????

They never cease to amaze: The team fired general manager Mike Maccagnan on Wednesday just as preparations for the upcoming season are heating up.

The NBA Draft lottery always surprises.

Pelicans score big: New Orleans scored the top prize in the NBA draft lottery with the No. 1 overall selection. Rumor has it the Pelicans seem to like Duke’s Zion Williamson.

— ALOE —

Donald Trump figure, wearing ‘Keep America Great’ hat, arrives at Presidents Hall of Fame” via Jerry Fallstrom of the Orlando Sentinel — A newly installed figure of Trump does something none of the other mostly wax likenesses of chief executives at the Presidents Hall of Fame, a venerable roadside attraction. While a handful of other presidential figures are animated, the arms of the museum’s new addition move from side to side as the embodiment of the 45th president flash two thumbs up. “You don’t have to push a button or anything,” the 82-year-old owner John Zweifel said. “Every couple minutes he moves for about 30 seconds.”

A wax figure of Donald Trump just arrived at the Presidents Hall of Fame in Clermont. Image via Jerry Fallstrom/Orlando Sentinel.

This houseboat of the future is a $5.5 million floating home designed for sea level rise” via Linda Robertson of the Miami Herald — The Arkup houseboat was designed with the ingenious engineering feature of four hydraulic pilings that stabilize the vessel on the sea floor or allow it to lift like a house on stilts above floodwaters, king tides, and hurricane-whipped storm surges. South Florida sea levels are projected to rise 6 to 12 inches by 2030, 14 inches to nearly three feet by 2060, and 31 inches to almost seven feet by 2100, according to the Southeast Florida Climate Change Regional Compact Sea Level Rise Work Group. Miami Beach and the Keys may be inundated first. In this brave new waterworld, Arkup will keep you high and dry on your floating home.


Best wishes to state Sen. Tom Wright, Rep. Bobby Payne, Kate Bradshaw, Matthew Ubben, and Rick Watson.

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.
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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