Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.29.19

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Florida politics and Sunburn — perfect together.

Today is a historic one. The Florida Cabinet will hold a ceremonial meeting in Israel. It’s taking place at 8:30 a.m. EST and can be viewed on the Florida Channel.

But the novel meeting abroad hasn’t come without criticism. The First Amendment Foundation (FAF) requested a judge block the meeting, arguing reasonable notice had not been provided. A judge denied the request, and counsel for the plaintiffs filed an emergency motion for reconsideration. 

In other news from Israel, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried wrapped her individual trade mission Tuesday. She had sought out conversations about Israeli technology for crops, including pot. “She said Israel is basically situated in a desert but has been able to create ‘survivorship’ by emphasizing agricultural technology,” reports Jeff Schweers for USA Today. 

Collaboration is a key theme emerging from the overseas excursion. Our reporter A.G. Gancarski caught up with Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz here about the parallels in disaster response in Israel and Florida. Commercial space collaboration is a thing of the future, too. VISIT FLORIDA CEO Dana Young met with “Israeli marketing companies and tour operators to promote Israeli-U. S. tourism,” Schweers reports. 

Those collars, reports Gancarski, are making Sen. Wilton Simpson — next in line to lead his chamber — optimistic. 

“It’s big. Whether it’s agriculture or space or our university systems,” Simpson said, “it’s a unique opportunity … a win-win.”

Airbnb, which prompted scrutiny earlier this year from state leaders over its move to delist West Bank properties, is now in the clear. The vacation-rental giant reversed that policy in April. “I welcome that,” DeSantis said in Israel. He’s agreed to back off the sanctions he had threatened initially. 

Israel isn’t foreign to conflict. And tensions this week are rising with Syria, though that’s yet to affect scheduling. Of course, Israel is in friction with Palestinians. When it comes to that issue, DeSantis is making clear that he believes one side is at fault. 

Ron DeSantis embraced by U.S. Ambassador in Israel” via Jeff Schweers of the Tampa Bay Times — A marathon of partnership signings was followed by a victory lap at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Tel Aviv with the anticipation of a celebratory Cabinet meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. DeSantis was greeted at a networking reception as a conquering hero by U.S. Ambassador David Friedman, who said: “Israel has no greater friend in all the 50 governor’s mansions than Ron DeSantis.” This was the first visit DeSantis made to the residence, saying he “was always trying to move the embassy to Jerusalem.”

Tweet of the Day:

And this tweet is just funny:

A look at the complex politics behind DeSantis trip to Israel” via Randy Schultz for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — DeSantis may not be targeting Jewish voters, much as he would welcome their defections from his Democratic opponent. He likely is targeting Christian Zionists — evangelical Republicans who form the core of the GOP base and shape the Donald Trump administration policy toward Israel. Trump reversed U.S. policy in 2017 when he moved the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Trump claimed that many other countries would follow. Only Guatemala has done so. Jerusalem would be one of the final status issues in a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. Though some American Jews praised the move, Christian Zionists overwhelmingly supported it.


@MarcACaputo: On @MeetThePress Daily, George Will compares the “situational ethics” of Republicans doing whatever Trump wants to the American Communist Party supporting and then opposing Hitler depending on Stalin’s position in WW2

@JimBrindenstine: Proud to announce that Sen. Bill Nelson, an astronaut, will be joining us next week as one of the newest members of the @NASA Advisory Committee. He is a true champion for human spaceflight and will add tremendous value as we go to the Moon and on to Mars.

Tweet, tweet:

@AGGancarski: One consequence of embassy move to Jerusalem is the sale of that swank Tel Aviv ambassador residence. $80M+ property with the plushest lawn you could imagine. It’s like a carpet. Friedman’s take? “Enjoy it while it lasts.”

Tweet, tweet:

@JoeKimok: @SAAramisAyala⁩ has been a trailblazer for progressive prosecution, especially here in Florida. Folks in Orange and Osceola counties have been lucky to have her. Wishing her the best on her next venture.

@SteveLemongello: Floridians, I’ve learned, are so focused on storm strength and dismissive of Cat 1s (or even Cat 2s) or tropical storms, but the destruction and death tied to Katrina, Harvey and Sandy were from floods and storm surges. It’s not just the wind speed.


“The Handmaid’s Tale” premieres — 6; “Black Mirror” premieres — 7; Florida Democratic Leadership Blue conference and fundraiser — 9; U.S. Open begins — 12; Madonna and Bruce Springsteen each release new studio albums — 16; Father’s Day — 18; Florida Chamber Learners to Earners Workforce Summit begins — 20; “Toy Story 4” opens — 23; First Democratic presidential debates in Miami — 28; “The Loudest Voice,” about Fox News and Roger Ailes, premieres — 32; “Spider-Man: Far From Home” opens — 34; Independence Day — 36; “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” premieres — 58; Second Democratic presidential debates in Detroit — 62; Florida Gators opens vs. Miami football — 87; St. Petersburg primary election — 90; USF Bulls football opens vs. Wisconsin Badgers — 93; UCF Knights football opens vs. Florida A&M — 94; FSU Seminoles football opens vs. Boise State — 94; Labor Day — 96; First Interim Committee Week for 2020 Session — 110; “Joker” opens — 128; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 152; Scott Maddox trial begins — 159; 2019 General Election — 160; 3rd Annual Florida Internet and Television FITCon starts — 162; 2020 Session begins — 230; Iowa Caucuses — 250; New Hampshire Primaries — 258; Florida’s presidential primary — 293; 2020 General Election — 525.


Florida’s new voucher program could prompt lawsuit” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida’s teachers union is considering a legal challenge, likely in partnership with other education advocacy groups upset more public money could soon go to private, often religious, schools that are unaccountable to the state government funding them, said Fedrick Ingram, president of the Florida Education Association. “It’s a plainly unconstitutional program,” said Alex Luchenitser, associate legal director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “This program should be dead on arrival. It doesn’t matter what religion these schools are. Public funds should not fund anyone’s religion.”


DeSantis backs lifting Airbnb sanctions” via the News Service of Florida — While traveling in Israel this week, DeSantis has twice said Florida should lift economic sanctions on the home-sharing platform Airbnb after the company reversed course on a move to delist about 200 West Bank properties. Early this year, the Governor said the company’s policy to remove listings in the West Bank was “dumb” and “discriminatory,” and pushed for sanctions. In early April, the company changed its policy. “I welcome that,” the Governor told reporters after a news conference in Israel. “I don’t know what we have to do procedurally — if we take another vote or if we can do it unilaterally — but they shouldn’t be penalized for doing the right thing.”

Sides battle over superintendent’s ouster” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — Lawyers for ousted Okaloosa County Superintendent of Schools Mary Beth Jackson and DeSantis squared off before a special master in an appeal by the schools chief. DeSantis cited “scathing” grand-jury reports that alleged “dereliction of duty” when he issued an executive order stripping Jackson of her post. The reports focused on alleged abuse of developmentally disabled students — including pre-kindergartners — by former teacher Marlynn Stillions during the 2015-2016 school year. Grand-jury reports alleged that Jackson, among other things, failed to implement proper procedures for reporting abuse to the DCF and the Department of Education and failed to have a proper process for removing teachers. But Jackson maintains that she hasn’t done anything wrong.

Blaise Ingoglia: Democrats angling for votes of undocumented immigrants’ children” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Ingoglia charges in a new internet video that Democrats oppose everything from a southern border wall to immigration reform because they want immigrants’ children to grow up angry at Republicans and therefore voting Democratic. Ingoglia makes his charges in the newest installment of his rebooted political internet video series, “GovernmentGoneWild!” The latest episode, entitled, “The Illegal Immigration Video Democrats DON’T Want You To See,” sets its premise by noting that many undocumented immigrants bear children in the United States, who are American citizens. He contends that as the children reach the age of 18, they are registering as Democrats, turning border states blue, with the big next prize, Texas, sliding from solid red to purple in recent years.

To view the video, click on the image below:

New law aims at stopping AOB abuse” via Blaise Gainey of WFSU — DeSantis signed a bill whose primary goal is to stop bad actors in the homeowners insurance market. Since 2012, a costly loophole has been causing homeowners insurance policies to rise. Bob Ritchie, president and CEO of American Integrity Insurance Group, thinks he knows the cause: “There are several major thorns and AOB is among the largest. This is a $4 billion hidden tax that has developed over the series of years, or $400 for every homeowner in the state of Florida.” Specifically, the law would allow a policyholder to rescind an AOB if it’s within 14 days of signing the agreement, or at least 30 days after work was scheduled to start and the contractor hasn’t done substantial work.


Assignment editors — The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce hosts a Legislative Wrap-up, featuring Senate President Bill Galvano and Florida Politics founder and publisher Peter Schorsch, noon, Maestro’s Restaurant in The Straz Center, 1010 N. Macinnes Place, Tampa.


Florida’s Cannabis Director says hemp permits could be issued before the year is out” via Ryan Dailey of WFSU — Holly Bell is the state’s first Director of Cannabis under the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “Once we get our rules done, we’ll post them to the system called FAR (Florida Administrative Register), then the public can review them and make comments. The internal group will review them, make sure we’ve done our job. If we have no objections, then we can adopt our rules and start a program,” Bell said. “We’re looking at late fall, at the earliest, where we would be able to implement permits.” Bell gave a talk to the Network of Entrepreneurs & Business Advocates in Tallahassee. Her message? Florida has an opportunity to seize on the huge demand for hemp products, particularly CBD.

Holly Bell, Director of Cannabis under the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, suggests permits for growing hemp in Florida could come as soon as the end of this year. Image via Ryan Dailey/WFSU-FM.

Storm season could be met with ‘skittishness’” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — With the new hurricane season approaching, Mexico Beach resident David Kiser simply shrugged when asked about the approach of another storm season. “I always pay attention to hurricane season,” said Kiser, a longtime Panhandle resident who has lived in Mexico Beach for 16 years. “I’m not going anywhere, but I’m not riding them out.” Saturday marks the start of the six-month 2019 Atlantic hurricane season. Mark Wool, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Tallahassee, said the state’s recent hurricane experiences have led to talk about tempering the tone of storm updates. “The entire population of Florida has a heightened sensitivity to perceived threats,” Wool said. “In fact, this year, there may be a little bit of skittishness.”

Department of Emergency Management still struggling to address years-old problems — The state office responsible for billions of dollars in federal disaster funding will enter hurricane season without rules to prevent bookkeeping discrepancies and unauthorized access to sensitive information, reports Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida. The findings are part of a May 7 report from state Division of Emergency Management Inspector Susan Cureton, which warned the agency about unauthorized users who can access a database that tracks funding provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Federal judge orders top Carnival executives — including chairman Micky Arison — to court” via Taylor Dolven of the Orlando Sentinel — The Miami-based cruise company, the largest in the world, is charged with violating its probation. Federal prosecutors announced last week that they reached a deal with Carnival Corp. on the charges, which include dumping plastic into Bahamian waters and falsifying records. At the June 3 hearing, Judge Patricia Seitz will review the deal, and she wants Carnival Corp.’s C-suite to be there. The probation violations stem from Carnival Corp.’s 2016 conviction for environmental crimes on its Princess Cruises ships. The company paid $40 million as part of its guilty plea and began its five-year probation in April 2017.

FPL preaches major solar expansion. But only under its control, documents show” via Samantha J. Gross of Miami Herald —When FPL announced earlier this year that it set a massive goal of 30 million solar panels by 2030, the announcement was made with fanfare. Television advertisements and social media campaigns boasted the large commitment, and the ‘SolarTogether’ program is now aiming to build 20 solar power plants over the next two years.

Miccosukee Tribe tax appeal turned down” via the News Service of Florida — The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up an appeal about whether gambling revenues distributed to members of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida are subject to federal income taxes. The tribe appealed to the Supreme Court last year after the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the distributions are taxable. The Supreme Court did not explain its reasons for declining to take up the case. In its appeal, the tribe cited a federal law that allows untaxed “general welfare” distributions to members. It also said the case could have far-reaching implications for tribes across the country that operate gambling facilities.

Why doesn’t my SunPass work in every state?” via Noah Pransky for Florida Politics — The Florida Department of Transportation is years behind where it should be on “interoperability” — the ability to use your SunPass in other states, and Northern visitors’ ability to use E-ZPass in Florida. Congress passed the “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act” in 2012, mandating all toll agencies be interoperable by October 2016. Florida is among many states not bothering to break a deadlock on how to merge multiple tolling technologies. According to FDOT insiders, the state was on the verge of a partial E-ZPass interoperability deal several years ago but pulled the plug. It wasn’t customers with anything to lose with the agreement; it was the interests behind SunPass who were apparently concerned about losing market share.


Rick Scott makes Pensacola stop to promote hurricane preparedness” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News-Journal — Scott made the first stop of his statewide tour in downtown Pensacola, where he spoke at Pensacola Hardware flanked by Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson, Escambia County commissioners, sheriff’s office deputies, police and firefighters. Scott said: “We had the horrible flooding here a couple of times, while I was Governor, in Pensacola. But we had tornadoes, four hurricanes. We had Matthew, Hermine, Irma and Michael, which we’re still trying to get our money for.” As Senator, he said, his role is to make sure the federal government has the resources it needs to respond to emergencies with programs offered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Small Business Administration and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Rick Scott holds a news conference in Pensacola to stress the importance of hurricane preparedness.

Assignment editors — Scott holds two news conferences on hurricane preparedness ahead of the start of the 2019 hurricane season: 10 a.m., Toole’s University Ace Hardware, 3755 Alafaya Trail, Oviedo and 3 p.m., Shell Lumber and Hardware, 2733 SW 27th Ave., Miami.

Floridians buy ad in Texas newspaper to hit Chip Roy for holding up hurricane funding” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — An ad in the Austin American-Statesman is going after Republican U.S. Rep. Roy for stalling a $19.1 billion funding package that would have helped victims of Hurricane Michael, Hurricane Harvey and other natural disasters. The ad was paid for by several businesspeople from the Panhandle including Jay Trumbull Sr., whose son serves in the Florida House. “When Texas was hit by Hurricane Harvey, Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis and a group of friends went to Beaumont, Texas to help. He served the Texans with his own time and money … After Hurricane Michael, Chip Roy served himself with a political stunt that prevented relief to the suffering victims of Florida.”

‘Brutal contempt’: Debbie Wasserman Schultz calls out GOP after storm relief bill blocked again” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie became the second House Republican to block a $19.1 billion funding package that would aid hurricane victims in Florida, Puerto Rico and Texas. Now, U.S. Rep. Wasserman Schultz is trying to tie the actions by the duo to Republicans in the House writ large. “Natural disasters have mercilessly ravaged so many American communities, but instead of providing swift relief, Republicans again today offered only prolonged misery,” Wasserman Schultz said. “The brutal contempt that House Republicans continue to show for those suffering in the Midwest, Florida’s Panhandle, Puerto Rico and our military base communities is dangerous, cruel and costlier over the long term.”

Charlie Crist meets with local LGBTQ leaders as equality bill heads to U.S. Senate” via Sara DiNatale of the Tampa Bay Times — Equality Florida CEO Nadine Smith said the meeting was to thank Crist for his support of two federal bills. One would provide equal protection under the Equality Act, making it illegal to end someone’s employment or kick them out of their housing because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. The second calls to amend the Older Americans Act, which helps pay for programs to keep seniors healthy and independent, to be inclusive of elderly LGBTQ people’s needs. Smith wanted the meeting’s guests to provide real-life examples to support why advocates don’t want to see legislation “watered down,” as lawmakers attempt to balance religious freedom and civil rights.

Assignment editors — U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz hosts a roundtable discussion with state and local leaders to examine transportation and infrastructure issues in Florida’s 6th Congressional District. Speakers include former U.S. Rep. and former chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee John MicaAnne Reinke of the U.S. Department of Transportation and Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault, 8:30 a.m., Daytona Beach International Airport, 700 Catalina Drive, Daytona Beach.

Assignment editors — Congresswoman Lois Frankel hosts a news conference on the Women’s Health Protection Act, which she reintroduced with her colleagues in Congress, to address the “state-based attacks on abortion rights, including the recent bans in Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia.” Joining Frankel will be Laura Goodhue, Executive Director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, 10:30 a.m., 401 Clematis St., West Palm Beach.

Florida farmers struggle to compete with Mexican imports” via Shawn Mulcahy of WFSU — Subsidies, along with lax labor standards and farming regulations, mean it’s incredibly cheap to grow produce in Mexico. To put that into numbers: for every dollar spent by U.S. blueberry farmers, their Mexican counterparts spend just 10 cents, according to a University of Georgia study. For distributors, it’s a no-brainer. They can buy the Mexican-grown fruit at a lower price, leaving a larger profit margin. But that comes at a price for domestic growers. The Mexican blueberry season is during winter in the U.S. — the offseason for domestic growers. The Mexican government has invested large sums of money into building greenhouses across the country, the UGA study shows. This extends their season far into the time American growers usually harvest.

Bill Nelson named to NASA advisory committee” via Steven Lemongello and Chabeli Herrera of the Orlando Sentinel — The former Senator and astronaut was appointed to serve on NASA’s Advisory Council, where he can help the space agency gain support for its goal of returning to the moon by 2024. “Proud to announce that Sen. Bill Nelson, an astronaut, will be joining us next week as one of the newest members of the @NASA Advisory Committee,” wrote NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a tweet. “He is a true champion for human spaceflight and will add tremendous value as we go to the Moon and on to Mars,” Bridenstine said.

Two delegation comms directors move on — The communications directors for U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ross Spano are moving on to new jobs. Katrina Bishop, who worked in Diaz-Balart’s office for seven years, took a position as public affairs manager at the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. Spano’s communications director, Daniel Bucheli, announced he would be leaving the job Friday. “After some of the most professionally rewarding months serving FL-15 residents and my beloved State of Florida, I have accepted a position in the President’s re-election campaign,” he said in an email. Bucheli had worked in the U.S. House for about seven years before signing on as Spano’s first communications director. Spano’s deputy chief of staff, Scott Bedrosian, will fill in for Bucheli until a new communications director is named.

— 2020 —

Dems institute rule to prevent ‘undercard’ debate in June” via Zach Montellaro and Steven Shepard of POLITICO — A new rule adopted by the Democratic National Committee and NBC News will evenly divide top-tier candidates across two nights in the first Democratic presidential primary debates in June, a move to maintain viewer interest in both events by making sure well-known contenders are on stage both nights. Democrats getting at least 2 percent support in the polling average will be randomly and evenly split between the two nights, which will each feature 10 candidates, according to the formula. Candidates below that threshold will also be evenly and randomly divided between the two debate lineups.

How Joe Biden would address K-12 and early childhood education” via Michael Stratford of POLITICO — Biden unveiled his first major education plan — targeted at increasing teacher pay, making preschool universal and boosting investments in K-12 school support services like mental health. The centerpiece is a tripling in the federal funding that’s allocated to low-income school districts under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which is currently funded at about $16 billion. Increased funding would be targeted at eliminating the funding gap between majority white and nonwhite school districts. “This new funding will first be used to ensure teachers at Title I schools are paid competitively, three- and four-year-olds have access to preschool, and districts provide access to rigorous coursework across all their schools, not just a few,” the plan says.

Joe Biden’s first major education plan proposes a significant expansion of federal money for K-12 schools.

Personnel note: ⁦‪Marisol Samayoa‬⁩ joins Pete Buttigieg‬⁩ presidential campaignSamayoa‬⁩, communications director for the Florida House Democratic Caucus, will next be a deputy national press secretary for the presidential campaign of Democratic candidate Buttigieg‬⁩, mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Samayoa‬⁩ previously was a “digital organizer” for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and worked on Robert Garcia’s successful 2014 campaign to become mayor of Long Beach, California. The California State University-Long Beach graduate also has interned for Democratic U.S. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard of California.


Electrical union warns Energy Choice hazardous to workers” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Brian Thompson, vice president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 5th District, said the constitutional amendment threatened workers’ livelihood. “The deregulation amendment would dismantle the currently affordable and reliable electric grid and industry,” Thompson said, “all to give electric utility market profiteers a chance to get a financial advantage at the risk of leaving electricity customers without their current reliable and safe providers who they now turn to when service is needed.” “Studies have revealed many shortcomings of utility deregulation including unproven capacity to provide adequate power, weakened customer relations, disruption of progressive solar energy construction and higher prices for residential customers,” said Randall King, FEWA President.

Ray Rodrigues rallies Lee County Mayors around state Senate bid” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Estero Republican announced endorsements from every Mayor in Lee County. That includes Randy Henderson of Fort Myers, Joe Coviello of Cape Coral Mayor, Bill Ribble of Estero, Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane of Sanibel, Anita Cerecita of Fort Myers Beach and Peter Simmons of Bonita Springs. “Lee County’s Mayors have built an effective coalition that fights for the issues important to their cities and the county,” Rodrigues said. Rodrigues is term-limited from seeking another term in the Florida House. He’s running in Senate District 27 to succeed term-limited state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto.

Aramis Ayala will not seek re-election as Orange-Osceola state attorney” via Jeff Weiner of the Orlando Sentinel — Ayala, who was elected in 2016 as Florida’s first African American state attorney, leads the agency that prosecutes crimes in Florida’s Ninth Judicial Circuit. She revealed her decision not to seek re-election in a video posted to her office’s Facebook page. In the video, she linked the decision to her opposition to the death penalty and a Florida Supreme Court decision that upheld the reassignment of dozens of cases to another state attorney as a result of her position on capital punishment.

To watch the video, click on the image below:


Scott Wilson elected Jacksonville City Council president” via David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union — Fellow council members unanimously elected Wilson as council president and Tommy Hazouri as council vice president for one-year terms. The special meeting for electing them brought together the 19 people who will take office July 1 on the City Council. Coming out of the gate, they were all on the same page. The City Council president is the second-most powerful elected leader in city government. The president appoints council committee chairs and can shape the legislative agenda, usually in tandem with the Mayor’s Office but sometimes in opposition.

The only story that matters —Florida-Georgia game not bound to Jacksonville” via Garry Smits of the Florida Times-Union — University of Georgia football coach Kirby Smart made cryptic remarks about the future of the Bulldogs’ annual game in Jacksonville against the University of Florida, saying that “nothing is off the table” in regards to keeping keep the game at TIAA Bank Field or moving it to another neutral site or rotating it as a home-and-home series. However, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry knows what’s on his table: keeping the game in town, where it has been since 1933. Curry said the city is in communication with the two schools on a contract extension to go beyond the current deal, which expires after the 2021 game.

University of Georgia football coach Kirby Smart made a cryptic remark about the location of the annual game against the University of Florida, which has been held in Jacksonville since 1933.

St. Petersburg to consider boosting LGBTQ small business contracts” via Florida Politics — The city of St. Petersburg is taking steps to increase the number of LGBTQ-owned businesses it contracts with. Next week St. Pete City Council will consider an ordinance enhancing business partnerships with majority-owned or -operated LGBTQ businesses. “The city of St. Petersburg is committed to providing all business owners, including historically underrepresented business owners, with equal opportunities to compete and succeed, and is committed to increasing the number and diversity of supplier options,” the ordinance reads.

As e-scooters launch in Tampa, issues already surface” via Veronica Brezina-Smith of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Over the weekend, e-scooter companies Bird and Spin launched their products downtown as part of the city’s new Shared Motorized Scooter Pilot Program. However, Jean Duncan, transportation and stormwater services department director, said people have been abandoning scooters in areas that are not corrals and people have been seen riding them on the Riverwalk and in the middle of streets. Users cannot ride the scooters on the Tampa Riverwalk, Bayshore Boulevard sidewalk, 7th Avenue and on any private property. “We are hopeful operators, and users will behave in using scooters in a safe manner. We were very specific on how we wanted them to follow the rules,” Duncan said, stating there have not been any further complaints as of yet.

Economy ‘going gangbusters’ as Seminole, Lake show big increases in tax roll” via Martin Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — Property Appraiser David Johnson said Seminole County’s tax roll is estimated to reach nearly $35.7 billion this year, an 8.2 percent jump from last year. That tops the previous high in 2007, when Seminole’s taxable value reached $33.5 billion, just before the Great Recession. “It’s a supply and demand issue,” Johnson said. “We have a significant demand for property with new people moving in … And our supply [of residential properties] is increasing but not at the same level as our population growth.” It’s not just Seminole. Lake County’s tax roll will increase by a similarly healthy number, 7.3 percent, pushing the tax roll to $22.1 billion and just shy of the $22.4 billion high-water mark of 2007.

Prosecutors want Parkland suspect’s medical records” via Terry Spencer of The Associated Press — Prosecutors want records from an orthopedist who treated a broken arm or hand Nikolas Cruz suffered about three weeks before the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and a psychologist who may have treated him. Assistant State Attorney Justin Griffis told Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer that in social media video posts made almost two weeks before the shooting, a person believed to be Cruz is seen wearing a cast and in one it appears the person had tried to cut it off. In the videos, the person talks about his plans to carry out a massacre at Stoneman Douglas with hopes of killing at least 20 people.

Okaloosa School Board approves guardian program” via Kaylin Parker of the Northwest Florida Daily News — The Okaloosa County School Board on Tuesday unanimously approved the implementation of the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, which will allow trained school employees to voluntarily carry weapons. The vote came after 23 people offered their opinions about the program, some for and some opposed.

Treasure Coast agencies make plans to handle potential future influx of migrants” via Sara Marino of TCPalm — If migrants from the southern borders were to arrive here with little notice, local officials said they’d be ready to receive them. “The plan would be to have communication with the Chamber of Commerce, local nonprofit organizations and churches in the area to work to provide food and other resources to people,” said Susan Gibbs Thomas, mayor of Indiantown. “Our community spirit is that of a family, and that spirit is still alive and well.” Thomas said she saw an outpouring online of residents offering to donate food and belongings to help in any way they could if migrants showed up. “It warmed my heart to see the community outpouring,” she said.

College freshman fooled Secret Service, slipped into Mar-a-Lago while Donald Trump was in town” via Jane Musgrave of the Palm Beach Post — An apologetic Mark Lindblom told a federal magistrate he had no evil intentions when he decided to try and enter the club on the day after Thanksgiving while Trump and his family were visiting. The Washington, D.C. teenager just wanted to see if he could do it. And, according to accounts, it was pretty easy. Visiting his grandparents, who are members of the nearby Palm Beach Bath & Tennis Club, Lindblom simply walked down the beach the two clubs share. Once at a tunnel under State Road A1A that gives Mar-a-Lago members exclusive access to the beach, Lindblom stood in line with club members who were waiting to pass through a metal detector manned by Secret Service agents.

Miami Dade College faculty warn of an effort to rig the search for a new president” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — A push by new members of the Miami Dade College Board of Trustees to drastically lower the bar to become the college’s next president is fueling speculation that the search to replace the retiring Eduardo Padron is being rigged to favor a specific candidate.


Rick Scott: Hurricane preparedness saves lives” via Florida Politics — Florida is resilient because we prepare for storms. I cannot stress this enough: preparedness saves lives. This year’s state Disaster Sales Tax Holiday begins Friday, May 31, and extends to Thursday, June 6. This is a great opportunity for Floridians to fully stock their disaster supply kits with vital supplies, like food, water, flashlights, batteries and other necessities — tax-free. I’m also urging every family and business to make or revisit their emergency plans. You can find resources and information on creating a personalized emergency plan at Don’t put your family and loved ones at risk. Don’t wait to take action. Get prepared TODAY. Find more information on hurricane preparedness, visit

Joe Henderson: GOP Rep. Thomas Massie prolongs delay for hurricane relief” via Florida Politics — Kentucky Republican Massie duplicated the grandstand move by fellow GOP Congressman Chip Roy and again bottled up a $19 billion hurricane relief bill. Of course, Massie and Chipper must be feeling pretty smug about this ploy. It’s just politics to them. Worse, it hurt people. That’s never a factor though, is it? The people hurt by this legislative prank are just collateral damage in this never-ending game. Scoring points are all that matters. Here’s something to keep in mind about Massie. In 2015, he had an estimated net worth of $2.6 million. I doubt he knows what it’s like to have everything he owns flattened by the most powerful hurricane to make U.S. landfall since 1992. He is quite fortunate.

Republican lawmakers, Governor undermine education at Florida’s public schools” via José Javier Rodriguez for the Miami Herald — Legislation has already been signed by DeSantis creating an expansive system of private vouchers. The private-education voucher provisions in SB 7070 will divert $130 million that would otherwise go to public education. There is no evidence linking vouchers to student achievement gains. One reason is that they are not held accountable for teaching and learning like our public schools are. Private voucher schools do not have to hire certified teachers. Their students do not have to take the same state-required tests. Florida Republicans have shown they are intent on privatizing public education. The data show that the effect is also to resegregate schools and open up gaps in achievement on racial, ethnic and economic lines.

FPL’s CEO says Sun-Sentinel is hypocritical and misleads readers” via Eric Silagy for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Stating that “power bills are rising” might be a convenient narrative, but it blatantly ignores the simple fact that FPL bills are lower today than they were 10 years ago. They are also lower than 45 other states and nearly 30 percent lower than the U.S. national average. The Sun Sentinel knows this firsthand because their FPL bill is 24 percent lower today than it was just a few years ago. At the same time, the paper has repeatedly exorcised FPL for what it claims is a “$772 million tax windfall” due to the government’s lower corporate income tax rate, even as the paper’s parent company, Tribune Publishing, recorded its own tax-savings benefit in the millions during the same period.

Bucs attempt to get BP settlement money makes them look awfully oily” via John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times — It is not necessarily sleazy for an NFL team to seek damages from BP’s Deepwater Horizon settlement funds. There are legitimate reasons why the oil spill might have affected revenues. So please do not hate on the Buccaneers just because they filed a claim. Feel free, however, to heap scorn on them because their claim sounded bogus.


Personnel note: Samantha J. Gross to cover 2020 campaigns — The Miami Herald reporter had been filling in temporarily for Tallahassee bureau chief Mary Ellen Klas, who was selected as a Nieman Journalism Fellow this past year. Gross starts next month in Miami as part of a team of Herald and other McClatchy newspaper reporters covering the lead-up to the 2020 election. “I can’t wait to continue my career in the Herald newsroom, where I completed one of my most impactful reporting internships nearly two years (!) ago,” she tweeted. During her time in Tallahassee, she specialized in medical marijuana coverage, among other beats. Gross, an Indiana native, is a journalism graduate of Boston University’s College of Communication.


It’s upgrade season.

Jags, Bucs get better: They both made ESPN’s list of the Top 25 NFL position upgrades in the offseason.

Want a spot on the Dolphins?

You’ll have to earn it: New Miami Coach Brian Flores said every position on the team is up for grabs. He is stressing competition.

It’s the world’s largest outdoor cocktail party but is it here to stay?

Florida-Georgia game plan: At the SEC meetings in Destin, Georgia football coach Smart said: “nothing is off the table” as far as keeping the annual game in Jacksonville.

It pays to be in the ACC.

FSU raking in big money: Seminoles received $29.7 million from the conference for the 2017-18 fiscal year, a $2.5 million increase from the previous year.  

Soccer vet still wants to be in the game.

Carli Lloyd balks at reserve role: As the U.S. prepares for the Women’s World Cup, the two-time FIFA Player of the Year wants to prove she still has what it takes.

— ALOE —

A ‘Noah’s Ark’ project for corals: scientists race to save Florida reef from killer disease” via Adriana Brasileiro of the Miami Herald — In Dania Beach, a dozen scientists unloaded crates full of corals from a dive boat and onto a pickup truck. They removed each piece from large tanks on the deck and placed them inside smaller containers. The operation is part of what scientists describe as a “Noah’s Ark” mission to save corals from extinction as a mysterious disease ravages the Florida Reef Tract. The disease has killed colonies already weakened by impacts from climate change, including frequent rounds of bleaching and rising ocean acidification. As the “Ark” reference suggests, the mission is to preserve healthy examples of species that can be cultivated in labs, then later transplanted back to the barrier reef that parallels much of the Southeast Florida coastline.

Florida expects ‘typical’ avocado volume, delayed harvest” via — Peter Leifermann, Brooks Tropicals vice president of sales and marketing, elaborates: “Overall acreage is down here — due to development and some grove loss to the Laurel Wilt virus — but our overall industry estimates are comparable with a typical year.” This is a positive change from the previous two years’ crops, which suffered damages caused by Hurricane Irma. “2018 was a regenerative year for the trees, we’re happy to be heading into a more normal season, with promotional volume this summer,” he comments. Meanwhile, growing conditions this season have been closer to ideal, he says.

Despite land development and losses to the Laurel Wilt virus, growers expect a ‘typical’ Florida avocado harvest in 2019.

Florida gas prices reach lowest since March” via Malena Carollo of the Tampa Bay Times — According to AAA, Florida gas prices were $2.60 on average Monday, down 3 cents over the week. Tampa Bay gas was $2.52 per gallon, down 5 cents from last week. “Gas prices took an early summer slide due to growing domestic fuel supplies and the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China,” said Mark Jenkins, AAA spokesman. Nationally, gas was $2.81 on average Monday.

More filmmakers join slow-moving protest against Georgia’s abortion ban” via Orion Rummler of Axios — Netflix’s Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos suggested that the streaming service is considering boycotting Georgia in light of the state’s abortion ban. Netflix isn’t making a concrete promise, but it is the first major Hollywood studio to make a public statement on the issue. Emmy-award-winning director Reed Morano canceled a scouting trip to Georgia. “Bridesmaids” writers Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo pulled their upcoming comedy “Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar” from Georgia this week, citing the bill. David Simon, the creator of “The Wire,” said: “I can’t ask any female member of any film production with which I am involved to so marginalize themselves or compromise their inalienable authority over their own bodies.”


So many friends are celebrating today, including the awesome Sarah Proctor Demont of Bascom Communications and Consulting, the tailor to the political stars, Arron Gober, and Golden Rotunda winner Helen Levine of the University of South Florida. Happy birthday to Jenna Callena Gordon and Alex Setzer.

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

Peter Schorsch

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.


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 @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

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