Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.30.19

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Here's your AM rundown of people, politics and policy in the Sunshine State.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet met — ceremonially — yesterday in Israel, closing out the culmination of the Israel excursion and arguably the most controversial aspect of the trip.

The lead up to the Jerusalem meeting was met with legal hiccups. The meeting itself encountered procedural issues when a prayer, phoned in from Tallahassee, was cut off.

Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet hold its first (albeit ceremonial) Cabinet meeting on foreign soil.

The essential agenda item for the meeting was a reaffirmation of the Israel-Florida relationship that made the delegation’s trip possible. “Presentations on victims of terror, water quality, and emergency management” also were included, reports Florida Politics’ A.G. Gancarski.

For Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, things got personal. “She told of her tour of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp a quarter century before,” Gancarski writes.

While the meeting had been livestreamed, free press advocates like the First Amendment Foundation are continuing to pursue legal action — although a judge Wednesday again rejected the Sunshine Law complaint from the First Amendment Foundation, reports Elizabeth Koh for the Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau. DeSantis called the complaint “frivolous,” suggesting those behind it are attempting to create a “ruckus.”

Following the historic Cabinet meeting, DeSantis signed into law a bill ushered by Rep. Randy Fine this past Session. The new law, which prohibits religious discrimination in public schools, means a lot to Fine, a Jewish Republican lawmaker from Palm Bay who sees anti-Semitism as a growing problem, reports Jeff Schweers for the Florida Society of News Editors.

Ron DeSantis delivers the keynote address Wednesday at the 2019 Israel-America Business Summit.

Before the delegation left for Jerusalem, international politics emerged in Tel Aviv. There, DeSantis fielded questions regarding the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement and any political calculations to bring Jewish voters to the Republican side. Gancarski documents those interesting exchanges here. 

And in a disputed territory for an anti-BDS event, DeSantis doubled down. “The one constant throughout the modern history of the Middle East and the State of Israel is that Palestinian Arabs always wanted to get rid of the Jewish state more than they wanted their own state,” DeSantis said.

Already, the international rhetoric from DeSantis has prompted opinions suggesting he’s positioning himself for a 2024 presidential bid.

That’s not an outrageous idea. DeSantis, who delivered the keynote address at the Israel-America Business Summit and planted a tree yesterday in Kennedy Peace Forest to commemorate John F. Kennedy’s birthday, sure seems to be embracing more than what’s demanded abroad from the state’s chief executive.


@RealDonaldTrump: Nothing changes from the [Robert] Mueller Report. There was insufficient evidence, and therefore, in our Country, a person is innocent. The case is closed! Thank you.

@JoeNBC: English translation of Mueller: [Donald] Trump would have been indicted if he weren’t president.

@RepValDemings: Today is a big news day (Mueller saying he wasn’t allowed to charge the president with a crime, for example), but it’s important to remember that a new study showed that the GOP Tax Scam gave a trillion dollars to big corporations while working families got almost nothing.

@AlexTDaugherty: Worth noting that [Val] Demings was in favor of beginning impeachment proceedings after the Mueller report was released, so nothing he said today changed her view

@CallTallahassee: Looks like former Gov. Charlie Crist has found an issue. “As Special Counsel Mueller passes the torch, we must ensure justice is carried out by continuing our Congressional investigations to get the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

@DebbieForFL: “If we had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”

@GwenGraham: There are some members of Congress that always do their homework. Always read the classified documents. Know what they are voting for (or against) and why before they walk on the floor. @justinamash is one of those members. I would 💯 expect him to know what he is talking about.

@SteveBousquet: While @GovRonDeSantis is on trade mission in Israel, Republican Party of Florida sends fundraising pitch from him to help re-elect Donald Trump “at a time when the President is being attacked on all fronts.”

@MikeVanSickler: Sign from God? A minute into Florida’s first-ever Cabinet meeting in Israel … technical difficulties. The invocation prayer piped in from Tallahassee was lost. Reason No. 3,542 on why it’s not a good idea to hold a public meeting 6,000 miles away.

@JohnMorganEsq: The legislature passed # to try & stop my effort to raise Florida’s minimum wage I hope @ vetoes it, but if he doesn’t: Minimum wage WILL BE on the 2020 ballot & IT WILL PASS! We have 600k signatures & will be close to finished by the time the law takes effect

@NewsBySmiley: I hope Florida is prepared for news conferences about Hurricane Preparedness. Because I’m predicting an above-average season

@JKBjournalist: I get a kick out of it when you call someone who works in government on their cellphone, and they say: “How did you get my number?”


“The Handmaid’s Tale” premieres — 6; “Black Mirror” premieres — 6; Florida Democratic Leadership Blue conference and fundraiser — 8; U.S. Open begins — 11; Madonna and Bruce Springsteen each release new studio albums — 15 Father’s Day — 17; Florida Chamber Learners to Earners Workforce Summit begins — 19; “Toy Story 4” opens — 22; First Democratic presidential debates in Miami — 27; “The Loudest Voice,” about Fox News and Roger Ailes, premieres — 31; “Spider-Man: Far From Home” opens — 33; Independence Day — 35; “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” premieres — 57; Second Democratic presidential debates in Detroit — 61; Florida Gators opens vs. Miami football — 86; St. Petersburg primary election — 89; USF Bulls football opens vs. Wisconsin Badgers — 92; UCF Knights football opens vs. Florida A&M — 93; FSU Seminoles football opens vs. Boise State — 93; Labor Day — 95; First Interim Committee Week for 2020 Session — 109; “Joker” opens — 127; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 151; Scott Maddox trial begins — 158; 2019 General Election — 159; 3rd Annual Florida Internet and Television FITCon starts — 161; 2020 Session begins — 229; Iowa Caucuses — 249; New Hampshire Primaries — 257; Florida’s presidential primary — 292; 2020 General Election — 523.


Robert Mueller, in first public remarks, says charging Donald Trump was ‘not an option we could consider’” via Bart Jansen and Kevin Johnson of USA TODAY — Mueller pointedly refused to clear Trump of criminal wrongdoing but said charging him with obstruction was “not an option” because of Justice Department policy against prosecuting a sitting president. In a 10-minute statement delivered from the Justice Department, Mueller defended the investigation he supervised, said it was unnecessary that he testify before Congress and announced that he was leaving the department and closing his office. His remarks largely echoed the text of the 448-page report he submitted in March, but this time, he delivered them himself, on camera and in public. Mueller recounted his report’s overall findings, saying Russia launched a “concerted” effort to interfere with the election.

Robert Mueller, in first public remarks, says charging Donald Trump was ‘not an option we could consider.’ Image via Getty.


DeSantis calls in campaign contributions” via the News Service of Florida — DeSantis’ political committee reeled in more than $430,000 from more than 30 different contributors, including Disney and ABC Liquor, in the first three weeks of May, according to information posted on the Friends of Ron DeSantis political committee’s website. The amount raised by the Republican Governor’s political committee this month makes up half of the total amount raised all year, the latest campaign records show. The largest donations came from Disney Worldwide Service and the Florida Chamber of Commerce PAC, each of which contributed $50,000 to the governor’s political committee. Adrian Fernandez, a Mexican race car driver, also contributed $10,000 in late May. Since DeSantis assumed office on Jan. 10, he has raised $850,000 through his political committee.

Ron DeSantis is raking in campaign cash since taking office.

Florida financial regulator says his suspension was political retribution” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Ronald Rubin says he was suspended from his job as retribution for refusing to hire a political ally of his boss. CFO Jimmy Patronis coordinated with a lobbyist and other political allies to pressure Rubin to install the person in a top job at the Office of Financial Regulation, Rubin wrote in a statement. When Rubin refused, he said he received a string of angry texts from the lobbyist, Paul Mitchell. The next day, Rubin was accused of sexual harassment and Patronis suspended him from his job. Soon after, the woman he refused to hire, Kimberly Grippa, filed her own sexual-harassment complaint against him, Rubin said. The investigation, Rubin wrote, is the product of efforts to force his resignation.

Ousted superintendent testifies in Senate appeal” via Ana Ceballos of the News Service of Florida —Ousted Okaloosa County Superintendent of Schools Mary Beth Jackson defended her leadership role in a last-ditch effort to challenge DeSantis’ decision to remove her over allegations that she failed to properly handle alleged teacher misconduct. The reports focused on alleged abuse of developmentally disabled students — including pre-kindergartners — by former teacher Marlynn Stillions during the 2015-2016 school year. “If someone ever said the word child abuse to me, it’s like your blood pressure goes up, the red flag goes up, and you know you have to do something. But that was never said to me,” Jackson testified.

Mary Beth Jackson argues against her ouster, saying no one ever told her there was ‘child abuse.’

Abortion rights supporters demand Senator’s ‘racist’ comments be condemned” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — State Sen. Dennis Baxley has suggested in recent interviews that abortion is causing Europeans to be replaced by immigrants and paving the way for the end of Western civilization. “When you get a birthrate less than 2 percent, that society is disappearing,” he said of Western Europe during an interview. “And it’s being replaced by folks that come behind them and immigrate, don’t wish to assimilate into that society and they do believe in having children. So, you see that there are long-range impacts to your society when the answer is to exterminate.” At a news conference, Laura Goodhue, executive director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, said Baxley’s remarks crossed a line.

Hillsborough delegation Democrats: Hands off Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — During a Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce legislative wrap-up, Sen. Darryl Rouson and Reps. Wengay Newton and Dianne Hart lamented the Republican-controlled Legislature’s continued raiding of the William E. Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust fund established to provide state financial aid for affordable housing projects. Despite calls from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to leave the fund untapped in this year’s budget, lawmakers approved sending $125 million of the $332 million available into the general fund. “If you tell the public that funds are held in trust for a specific purpose then they should be spent for that purpose,” Rouson said. “If we’re going to continue raiding funds like Sadowski, we ought to start calling them the ‘maybe funds.’”

On sanctuary cities bill, Pinellas sheriff tells immigrant community, ‘You should not be concerned.’” via Kavitha Surana of the Tampa Bay Times — Sheriff Bob Gualtieri sat down at the front of the sanctuary. Centro Cristiano El Shaddai in Clearwater was packed with members of Pinellas County’s Hispanic community. It was the first public discussion since the passage this month of a Florida sanctuary cities ban that Gualtieri helped craft. Gualtieri had a simple message. “You should not be concerned,” he said, aided by a Spanish translator. “Our job on the street, as the police, has nothing do with enforcing immigration law.” But if a person is arrested for a crime? That’s a different story. Gualtieri said he would have no choice to let ICE officials come and get them from the county jail if they wanted.

North American lottery group: Don’t gamble with warning labels” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Add the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries to those betting against a lottery bill in Florida. Executive Director David Gale called on DeSantis to veto legislation requiring warning messages on Florida lottery tickets. “Since 1988, the Florida Lottery has generated more than $35 billion for education, with over 800,000 students receiving a Bright Futures scholarship,” Gale writes. “It is almost certain that the funding generated for education each year will be substantially hurt.” The bill (HB 629) would require labels taking up 10 percent of the face of the ticket. That’s granting more space to a warning message than can be found on any ticket in North America, according to Gale.


Florida’s plan to import prescription drugs from Canada has created a schism between the state’s top conservatives and libertarian thought leaders nationwide. 

The latest example: a report from the free-market Heartland Institute that weaves together several potential flaws in the plan. 

“The plans are meeting stiff resistance from the drug industry, taxpayer and conservative groups,” writes Rocco Cimino for Heartland. 

Apples to oranges: That’s essentially the argument posited by free-marketeers like Heartland’s research director Ed Hudgins. Hudgins argues that prices in other countries are cheaper because they are set up by governments. The anticipated effect? Domestic prescription companies incurring losses that could stifle innovation. 

Safety: Concern over drug oversight abroad led to criticism of the drug importation programs as they were ushered through Session. “From a political standpoint, it is foolish to push importation. If deaths occur, the politician who promoted it will take the blame,” said Merrill Matthews, a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation

Nothing new: Florida isn’t the first to attempt to pioneer drug importation. And the data on other pilots isn’t promising. “Several states and cities have set up importation programs over the past 15 years or so and they have failed for lack of use,” Matthews said.

Recall: Grover Norquist with Americans for Tax Reform made similar arguments to lawmakers during Session, something POLITICO Florida chalked up as a loss.


Ashley Moody warns of revamped phone scam” via the News Service of Florida — In what Moody’s office called “a new twist on an old scam,” the fraudsters are using robocalls and “spoofing,” which disguises the number displayed on targets’ caller IDs, to impersonate the Social Security Administration. The latest ploy is a variation of a long-standing tactic in which scammers claim to be from the Internal Revenue Service. “The Federal Trade Commission reports a rise in the number of SSA impostor scams while IRS impostor scam reports are on the decline,” a news release issued by Moody’s office states. The attorney general’s office advised people to never provide their personal information, such as Social Security numbers or financial account numbers, in response to a solicitation.

Ashley Moody is setting up a new consumer fraud alert; this time, for a revamped phone scam. 

Dept. of Emergency Management struggling with old problems — With hurricane season on the horizon, the state’s Dept. of Emergency Management is still working to resolve issues with bookkeeping and access to sensitive information. As reported by Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida, the agency was warned several times that unauthorized users could access a database that tracks funding from the FEMA. Former DEM head Wes Maul had promised to make changes recommended by state Auditor General Sherrill Norman before May 6. That responsibility was transferred to his replacement, Jared Moskowitz, when he took the job in January. Moskowitz said he has focused on eliminating mandates that communities wipe out cash reserves while awaiting federal assistance. “The biggest, most important issues had to be fixed,” Moskowitz said last week.

Lake Okeechobee drops below 11 feet; water users aren’t panicking but praying for rain” via Tyler Treadway of TCPalm — On Wednesday morning, Lake O’s elevation was 10 feet, 11⅓ inches. That’s about 2 feet, 2 inches below the average for May 29. The Army Corps of Engineers this year dropped Lake Okeechobee lower than normal with discharges to the St. Lucie River from Feb. 23 to March 31 and discharges to the Caloosahatchee River, which are continuing at a rate of about 500 million gallons a day, in order to: Forestall the need for large-scale discharges during the summer rainy season because of high-water threats to the Herbert Hoover Dike; stimulate the growth of underwater plants that are a vital part of the lake’s ecosystem.

AAA: Florida has most bicycle deaths in the nation” via Crystal Chen of News4Jax — According to the latest figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 783 bicyclists were killed in the United States with Florida taking the lead with 125 deaths. Most commonly reported factors for bicycle fatalities: Failure to yield right of way — 38 percent; not visible (dark clothing, no lighting, etc.) — 10 percent; failure to obey traffic signs, signals or officer — 8 percent; making an improper turn — 8 percent. According to a recent AAA survey of Florida cyclists: 36 percent do not wear a helmet while riding a bicycle; 56 percent ride with traffic; 21 percent ride against traffic; 74 percent of those who ride against traffic do so because they prefer to see approaching vehicles.

Sharks popping up all around Florida for summer beach season” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — With Memorial Day weekend’s traditional summer season kickoff, there are now thousands more people venturing to Florida’s beaches, so that means more shark sightings. That’s still no excuse not to heed warnings, which is what lifeguards did when a hammerhead shark hung around Nokomis Beach near Venice off Florida’s Gulf Coast. The 8- to 12-foot shark kept swimmers out of the water for more than an hour. Historically, the International Shark Attack File notes that since 1882, Florida has had 827 unprovoked shark attacks. Volusia County is No. 1 by far with 303 while Brevard is No. 2 with 147 and Palm Beach County in third with 76.


Vice President may arrive for five-day Sanibel visit on Friday” via Stacey Henson of The Daily News — The Federal Aviation Administration’s website shows a very important person is due to arrive on Sanibel on Friday for a five-day stay. Past similar announcements, stating ‘VIP Movement Notification’ were related to Vice President Mike Pence. If it is him, he would leave Southwest Florida on June 4. The White House and Pence’s website did not respond to emails asking for verification.

Rick Scott on hurricanes: Federal bureaucracy wants you to protect your paperwork” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — If Florida gets hit again this year, the federal bureaucratic response may be slow and tedious, but it’ll be a lot slower and a lot more tedious if Floridians don’t secure their deeds, titles, insurance policies, and other documents, Scott and others advised. Scott also expressed confidence that the $19.1 billion federal disaster relief bill that was approved by the U.S. Senate should pass the House in coming days, providing a long-awaited, and politically-stalled relief package for 2018 Hurricane Michael victims in Florida’s Panhandle, and $600 million in nutrition relief for Hurricane Maria victims in Puerto Rico, still suffering from that 2017 storm. Scott pushed for both.

Rick Scott is on a hurricane preparedness tour, reminding Floridians to protect their important documents.

Assignment editors — Scott will hold news conferences on hurricane preparedness: 10 a.m., Turner Ace Hardware, 13164 Atlantic Blvd., Jacksonville and 2:15 p.m., Carrollwood Window and Door, 6025 North Hwy. 301, Tampa.

Assignment editors Marco Rubio joins Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón of Puerto Rico for a joint news conference during an official visit to the island, approximately 11:15 a.m. local time, U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Juan, 5 Calle La Puntilla, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Al Lawson commemorates fallen soldiers post Memorial Day” via T’nerra Butler of the Tallahassee Democrat — On Wednesday afternoon, the congressman, along with the Buffalo Soldiers of Tallahassee and Tallahassee Urban League, planted American flags at 90 grave sites to commemorate the fallen soldiers who were missed Monday. The group underestimated the number of unrecognized soldiers and planned to go back to the cemetery throughout the week to finish their commemoration of the remaining sites. Greenwood is a city cemetery, and there is no requirement to mark the graves on national veterans holidays, Lawson said. Volunteer groups often take on the duty, but Greenwood as not recognized, so he rounded up some of his legislative staff and purchased the flags.

Ted Deutch says Congress must conduct inquiry that could lead to Donald Trump impeachment” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, said Congress needs to conduct an inquiry into whether Trump “violated his oath of office, broke the public trust, and committed high crimes and misdemeanors.” Deutch didn’t use the word “impeach” during a series of posts on Twitter, but the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” is the language in the Constitution that describes grounds on which Congress may impeach a president. Deutch serves on the committee that would conduct any impeachment inquiry into Trump. He was commenting after the statement from Special Counsel Mueller, in which he reiterated critical findings of his office’s investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia’s moves to influence the 2016 presidential election.

— 2020 —

The Democratic debates in Miami just became more important for most 2020 candidates” seventy via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — By requiring candidates improve their showing in polls and register donations from at least 130,000 people in order to make the party’s third and fourth debates, DNC Chairman Tom Perez also made it more important that the lesser-known of the current 23 presidential hopefuls make a splash in Miami next month. That could make for more aggression on stage, and more aggression on the campaign trail from third-tier candidates trying to ensure they get a spot in the debates. The June 26 and 27 debates have been capped at 20 candidates, and Perez set the bar so low for the event that already 19 of the 23 candidates in the race have qualified through polling, according to 538.

Democrats up requirements for 2nd round of primary debates” via Bill Barrow of The Associated Press — The parameters are likely to help cull a crop of 24 candidates and, in the process, intensify scrutiny on Democratic Chairman Perez and his pledge to give all candidates a chance to be heard. The DNC’s outline for its September debate decrees that candidates can participate only by reaching 2 percent in four approved polls released between June 28 and Aug. 28 while also collecting contributions from a minimum of 130,000 unique donors before Aug. 28. That donor list must include a minimum of 400 individuals in at least 20 states. About a half-dozen candidates have demonstrated the capacity to hit the new marks with relative ease.

Bernie Sanders 2020 looks like Sanders 2016, challenges and all” via Steve Peoples, Juana Summers and Hunter Woodall of The Associated Press — The 77-year-old entered the Democratic race with an organized donor base, name recognition and experience earned from 2016. His front-runner status, however, proved short-lived. Sanders is not alone in the stasis. Many in the 23-candidate field are looking for ways to break out of the pack, and Sanders, at least, appears to have an edge over all but Joe Biden. As some of his frustrated rivals made changes, Sanders has stuck close to the message, stump speech and campaign style that powered his failed underdog bid in 2016. His 2020 effort may test whether Democrats are hungry for that do-over or want a new face to rally the left wing of the party against the more moderate Biden.

The Bernie Sanders of 2020 is not all that different from the 2016 version.


Former ‘Canes coach Mark Richt to speak at Demetrius Jackson fundraiser” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Jackson, the ex-defensive lineman for the Miami Hurricanes now running in House District 109, is set to be joined by his former head coach at a June 22 fundraiser. Richt is listed as a speaker for the event, along with Jan Sokol-Katz, a senior lecturer at the University of Miami (UM). Jackson started playing for the school as a freshman in 2015. Richt took over as coach the following year, coaching Jackson through the remainder of Jackson’s time at UM. Richt announced his retirement at the end of last season. The June 22 fundraiser will take place at Lil Greenhouse Grill in Miami. Tickets are priced at $25, $50, $75, $100 and $1,000. The event will run from 3 p.m. until 5 p.m. Jackson said Wednesday that only 20 tickets remain for the event.

Former Hurricanes Coach Mark Richt is the special guest at a fundraiser for Demetrius Jackson, his one-time defensive lineman now running for the Florida House. 


Aramis Ayala: No return to the old status quo” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Ayala would not comment on whether she suspects her re-election chances would have been strong or weak, saying she is leaving such speculation to others. But she made it clear that the death penalty remains a powerful issue for her personally, as does her frustration the Florida death penalty laws that she unsuccessfully challenged. She also made clear that she is determined to continue other reforms she has overseen, departing with what she called a “status-quo” vision of justice; adding more racial and gender diversity in the State Attorney’s Office; and reforms on everything from juvenile justice, support for victims of sex crimes and domestic violence; to bail bonds. Two candidates are vying for the job so far.

While Aramis Ayala is not seeking re-election, her policies may disrupt the old status quo.

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. That’s not just me talking. A district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals both intimated it in recent rulings against the Bucs. They had grave doubts about the accounting procedures the Bucs used to make their case. I’ll go a step beyond the technicalities of the legal argument. The logic behind the team’s $19.5 million claim was preposterous and deserving of ridicule.

Jacksonville City Council cracks down on ‘simulated gambling’” via Steve Patterson of the Florida Times-Union — Jacksonville’s City Council voted to ban casino-style games used at internet cafes and shops around the city, tying them to robberies and shootings that compound the city’s crime problems. “This is about public safety,” said Councilman Al Ferraro, who introduced legislation that declares “simulated gambling devices” a public nuisance. “We have a problem where people are coming from outside our state and outside our county because they’re thinking that these gambling devices are not illegal. And we need to do something about it,” Ferraro said. “We have families that are reaching out to us, and they’re begging us to do something about it.”

Rick Kriseman talks the Rays, the marina, affordable housing and Israel” via Josh Solomon of the Tampa Bay Times — Those who dock their boats at the city’s marina know: it needs work. A complete renovation, the Mayor said, could cost $50 million. Whether the city decides to go at it alone or contract with a private entity, Kriseman said rates would have to go up. “There’s no way we can maintain them at the current level and do the improvements,” he said. “Living on a boat in our marina is the best deal in all of downtown.” As far as Kriseman knows, Stu Sternberg is still on schedule to tell him by the end of the summer whether the Tampa Bay Rays will double down on St. Petersburg as the team’s future home or go elsewhere. Kriseman maintains that St. Petersburg is the best place for the team.

Testimony from brother of Andrew Gillum, others surfaces in ethics case” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — In the days leading up to the hearing date, Gillum‘s brother, Marcus Gillum, and a couple of other witnesses answered questions about the excursions under oath. None of the three planned to be in Tallahassee for the hearing, and prosecutors agreed to at least consider using the video depositions in place of live testimony. Others deposed were Audra Pittman, former executive director of the Council of Culture & Arts and the wife of lawyer, lobbyist and longtime Gillum adviser Sean Pittman, and Mary Kucek, a friend of lobbyist Adam Corey and an investor in his Edison restaurant.

Fort Pierce police adopt FirstNet — The Fort Pierce Police Department is connecting officers through FirstNet — the nationwide communications platform design for public safety and law enforcement, giving personnel reliable access to critical information while in the field. FirstNet allows first responders to communicate with one another easily and quickly during everyday situations, big events or emergencies, solving a common communications roadblock from the past. Fort Pierce Police Department will be using FirstNet on department-issued phones and hot spots. “A disaster can strike at any given time, and it is critical that our officers be able to communicate with other first responders during a crisis,” said Fort Pierce Police Chief Diane Hobley-Burney.

Miami Yacht Show cites success, staying downtown” via Catherine Lackner of Miami Today — The show, which had been held on Miami Beach for 30 years, generated $484 million in direct economic impact in February when it moved to the former Miami Herald site, now owned by the Genting Group. The Biscayne Bay property is sandwiched between the MacArthur and Venetian causeways and has its own Metromover stop. “We’re here to stay,” Paul Flannery, executive director of the International Yacht Brokers Association, which co-owns the show, told the Downtown Development Authority board members. The show drew about 32,000 people, up 7 percent from last year, said Andrew Doole, general manager of Informa Global Exhibitions, the show’s producer and co-owner. There were 189 exhibitors, up from 150 last year, he added.

Plastic bags, straws and Styrofoam products could be on the way out at Orlando parks and venues” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — City Hall brought the policy forward this week at its Internal Operations Committee, vowing to stop using the materials at city-owned parks, facilities, venues and permitted events, diverting tons of waste from landfills. That means the millions who attend large-scale events at the Amway Center, Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, Camping World Stadium, as well as celebrations like Come Out With Pride could be using alternative, more eco-friendly materials later this year. “We feel it is a major step in the right direction,” Orlando Sustainability Manager Chris Castro said. If the City Council OK’s the plan Monday, it will be enacted Oct. 1.

Attorneys ask legislators to investigate FAMU’s legal tactics in rape allegation” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — Attorneys representing a former Florida A&M University student who reported to authorities she was raped three times are saying the university is “trying to dodge a Title IX claim” by unnecessarily trying to force the woman to identify herself. Attorneys Michael Dolce and Takisha Richardson of the Cohen Milstein Sellers and Toll law firm sent a letter to more than 40 members of the Florida Legislature, asking them to investigate the university’s actions. The former student, identified as S.B., filed a lawsuit in September 2016 against FAMU. She says the assaults occurred between October 2012 and December 2013. She finally withdrew from FAMU in 2014 to study elsewhere.


The I-4 Ultimate project isn’t a smooth one.

So much so that it’s elicited attention from The Wall Street Journal, which recently published a critical article about the Orlando highway revamp.

Revamping one of the nation’s busiest highways is challenging, dangerous and full of headaches.

It “has resulted in hundreds of damage claims from drivers and property owners, including some who were flooded when a retention pond burst. Four workers have been killed on the project, an atypical toll according to one analyst,” Arian CampoFlores and Paul Overberg for the Journal. “The lead contractor, from Sweden, has said it doesn’t plan to tackle a project of this kind as an investor in the U.S. again.”

Rock and a busy place: The surrounding environment makes the project no easy task. Utility infrastructure fills the ground beneath, followed by shaky limestone below. “Construction crews have to work in a tight highway corridor flanked by office towers, malls and arenas, with little room to maneuver or put their equipment.”

Not alone: Billion-dollar-plus projects to revamp and overhaul federal highways are going on across the country. “Price tags like that once earned politicians the chance to cut the ribbon on a big new bridge or whole freeway. Today, such budgets may cover only some improvements to get an old highway to work as well as it once did.”

Consequences: “The U.S. Department of Transportation is auditing the Federal Highway Administration’s oversight of the project.” Nearby residents have taken legal action “for misfortunes such as separated floorboards and tile cracks from the vibrations of nearby pile-driving.” The state has issued “high numbers” of “noncompliance points” that could affect the contract itself.


Joe Henderson: Governor misses the point about Florida Sunshine Law” via Florida Politics — DeSantis dismissed complaints that the Cabinet meeting in Tel Aviv violated the Florida Sunshine Law. “This is being streamed multiple different ways … I guarantee you; more people will watch it because we’re in Jerusalem than if we were in Tallahassee,” DeSantis said. “ … we’re totally compliant with Sunshine.” Well, not totally. The Governor overlooked the part of the law that says government meetings can’t be held anywhere “which operates in such a manner as to unreasonably restrict public access to such a facility.” How many people from Florida can afford to travel to Tel Aviv to watch their government at work? Sounds restrictive to me.

The much-maligned Florida Cabinet makes a cameo on the world stage — glitches and all” via Steve Bousquet of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — For the first time in Florida history, DeSantis and three elected Cabinet members met on foreign soil at the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. The 40-minute meeting, carried live on the Florida Channel and livestreamed on its website, was ceremonial by design. The Governor used the moment to showcase Florida’s support for Israel. It got off to a shaky start as they tried to pipe in the sound of a clergyman’s invocation from Tallahassee. “Let us pray,” he said. “Creator of the universe … ” The audio went dead, and a disembodied female voice was heard saying, “Hello. Welcome to the conferencing system. Please enter the conference number, followed by the pound key … ” Everyone had a chuckle.

Logan McFaddin: Prepared for hurricane season? A few easy steps now can go a long way in storm recovery” via Florida Politics — Start with checking the amount of insurance coverage you have. If your home is insured at its assessed value, ask if that will be enough to rebuild in the case of a major catastrophe. Don’t forget to consider additional coverage options, such as flood insurance. It takes 30 days for a flood insurance policy to go into effect. Make a home inventory every year. Use your smartphone to video the inside your home and its contents. If you sustain storm damage, call your insurer as soon as possible to start the claims process. Your home inventory will expedite the claims process. Beware of signing any documents from contractors before you talk to your insurer.

Pinellas schools should not arm teachers or staff” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — The Pinellas County School Board took the prudent approach last year when it rejected arming school staff and hired trained school safety officers who carry guns at elementary schools. Superintendent Mike Grego reassured parents earlier this month that the district’s position had not changed even after the Florida Legislature voted to allow school districts to train and arm classroom teachers. The school district has acted responsibly, and it should not waver now just because Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri has changed his mind about who should be carrying guns in schools. Fortunately, it remains up to local school boards to decide how to proceed.

Sneaky amendment a bad response to doctors’ no-compete contract dispute” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — There is something about the word “no” that the Florida Legislature apparently can’t understand. The Florida Constitution says no “law impairing the obligation of contracts shall be passed.” It couldn’t be any plainer. But on April 29, every Florida legislator acted as if the constitutions were written in a language they couldn’t understand. In passing a committee substitute for House Bill 834, they unanimously voted to let four Fort Myers physicians out of a contract that forbids them from competing against their former employer, 21st Century Oncology, for three years. It also was aimed at taking the matter of enforcement away from two federal courts, where the doctors might have feared they would lose. The legislative relief was recklessly irresponsible.

Aramis Ayala’s transparency in announcing no re-election bid is too little, too late” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — The candor was refreshing, but it raised an obvious and nagging question: Where was the candor in 2016? When Ayala ran for state attorney, she owed voters transparency. Her lack of it led to the controversy that redefined her legacy in office. Instead of being remembered as the first African American elected state attorney in Florida, Ayala will be largely remembered as a state attorney who dropped a policy bombshell two months into the job, saying she would abandon death penalty prosecutions. Ayala’s behavior serves as a cautionary tale to political candidates: Be forthcoming, give voters credit for having common sense and don’t think the ends justify the means. Such traits were missing when Ayala announced her intent to never seek the death penalty. Period.

UFO sightings over Florida! Should we tell the aliens there’s no intelligent life here?” via Fabiola Santiago of the Miami Herald — Five pilots confirmed to The New York Times that they saw these “strange” oval-shaped machines with no visible engine or exhaust plumes flying at hypersonic speeds and reaching altitudes of 30,000 feet. The Defense Department released some of the videos they took between the summer of 2014 and March of 2015 over the skies of the East Coast, from Virginia to Florida. This goes way beyond glowing auras. I believe them. You were casing the hot real estate market — otherwise known as overdevelopment without infrastructure in place — in the third most populated state in the union. I get why you might think Florida is a perfect fit for you. But, there’s no sanctuary here, the Legislature has ruled.


Cesar Fernandez, Jon Yapo, Converge Government Affairs of Florida: Zillow Group

Dominic Magnolo, Duane Morris Government Strategies: Green Medicine

Chris Smith, Tripp Scott: Diplomat Hotel Owner, Diplomat Landings Owner

Christopher Snow, Snow Strategies: Banyan Pediatric Care Centers

Michael Vitali: Emergent BioSolutions


America’s pastime could use a jump in Tampa.

Rays set dubious attendance mark: Tampa Bay attracted just 5,786 fans Tuesday at Tropicana Field against the Blue Jays. That was the smallest ever at the Trop for a Rays game in 22 seasons, and the lowest in MLB this season.

There’s a, um, unique sense of optimism about South Florida football this year.

Any press is good press: The Palm Beach Post offers five reasons why predictions that the Miami Dolphins will be the worst NFL team this year are wrong.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won’t be getting any BP oil spill money.

Pirates need not apply: A court ruled against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ claim of more than $19 million in damages from the ecological disaster.

For those who follow baseball, the following is not a misprint!

Miami Marlins on winning streak: After walloping San Francisco 11-3 on Tuesday, the Marlins have won eight of their last 11 games.

The worst first-pitch ever just happened.

Another media attack?: The ceremonial opening toss to start the Royals-White Sox game Tuesday in Chicago hit a photographer who was standing about 10 feet away and well to the left of the mound. Seriously.

— ALOE —

6 cruise ships dock at Port Canaveral, for 1 day only” via FLORIDA TODAY — Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas, Disney Dream, Carnival’s Liberty and Elation, Norwegian Sun and Dawn docked at Port Canaveral on Memorial Day 2019.

To watch a video of the docking, click on the image below:

Hit-or-miss hauls end another unpredictable Florida stone crab season” via Christopher Spata of the Tampa Bay Times — The effects of a long-lasting red tide that persisted since the previous season left crab traps woefully uncrowded from Marco Island north to Tampa Bay, said Ryan Gandy, a research scientist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The red tide finally cleared in February, but no one knows when or to what extent the crabs will return to the waters off southwest Florida. They certainly didn’t seem to bounce back before the 2018-2019 season ended May 16. Meanwhile, those crabbing to the north, from around New Port Richey to the panhandle, saw some giant hauls, especially early in the season, which started in October.

St. Augustine lauded as No. 1 foodie town by Southern Living” via Colleen Jones of the St. Augustine Record — “St. Augustine, Florida, worked its way from the bottom to be our overall champion with their ever-burgeoning food scene anchored by restaurants like Preserved, which shows off the wealth of local ingredients in a modern way in the country’s oldest city,” the magazine proclaims in its The South’s Best Food Town 2019 issue. Other local go-to eateries mentioned in the article were The Ice Plant, The Hyppo and The Floridian. And those are just a few examples of how the gastro landscape in St. Augustine has grown up, catering to more sophisticated palates while staying true to its southern comfort origins.

Why did Ariana Grande just cancel two Florida shows? The reason has to do with tomatoes” via Madeline Marr of the Miami Herald — “I woke up incredibly sick today,” she wrote soon after the concert promoter’s tweet, adding that her doctor recommended she postpone the two shows. “I’m so incredibly devastated.” The 25-year-old was set to play Amalie Arena in Tampa on Tuesday night and the Amway Center Wednesday night. So what was the problem? Grande gave fans a little more intel on Instagram: “Update: we discovered that I had an unfortunate allergic reaction to tomatoes and my throat pretty much closed.” “I will make this up to you, I promise,” the Boca Raton native added. “Please forgive me. I love you, and I will be back and better than ever as soon as possible.”


Best wishes to attorney Sean Bevil, one of our Top 2 favorite Cates, Ashley Claire, former state Reps. Dwight Dudley and Julio Gonzalez, as well as smart tech guy Phil Vangelakos.

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

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jason Delgado, Drew Dixon, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.

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