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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.10.19

Sunburn — giving you all you need to know in Florida politics.

After it became clear Hurricane Dorian was no longer a threat to the Sunshine State, Florida politicians turned their focus to helping the Bahamas.

One effort is helping those who have family in the United States get off the island and onto the mainland.

U.S. Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio have championed the idea. Still, the country has been slow to act.

Evacuees from Freeport, Bahamas, rest onboard the Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas cruise ship after it arrived in Freeport. Image via CNN.

The Florida Democratic Party attributes the delay to the “pettiness” of the President.

Donald Trump’s hostility to granting temporary protection status and documentation waivers to the people of the Bahamas because the United States is also recovering from Hurricane Dorian is petty, and it is small-minded,” FDP chair Terrie Rizzo said.

“The Bahamas has a population of less than 400,000, the idea that the world superpower of the United States would somehow be burdened by providing aide to our neighbors in their desperate time of need is absurd and appalling.”

But there is some movement on the issue. On Monday, Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan said the Bahamian refugees would be allowed to stay in the United States temporarily.

Scott welcomed the news saying, “I’m glad Commissioner Morgan has agreed to allow Bahamians fleeing the destruction on the islands to temporarily come to the United States. We should all be there to support our friends from the Bahamas.

“I would urge everyone at the state and local level of government to join us in supporting those fleeing the Bahamas. If the American Red Cross asks any county in Florida for temporary assistance housing refugees, I hope they will accommodate. We all have a responsibility to help our neighbors.”

—“Democrats, Rick Scott blast decision to leave Bahamians at Freeport dock” via Steven Lemongello and Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel

Bahamas hurricane survivors, desperate for respite, seek passage to U.S.” via Rachel Knowles, Frances Robles, Caitlin Dickerson and Patricia Mazzei of the New York Times — Destitute survivors of Hurricane Dorian who lost much of what they had to the powerful storm packed a government office in the Bahamas on Monday, desperate for a document that could be their ticket off the overwhelmed islands: a clean criminal record. Hoping to reach Florida, they took every available seat inside the stuffy Criminal Records Office in Nassau, the capital, to request a piece of paper that, along with their passports, could free them to travel to the United States.”

’Bad people’ from storm-ravaged Bahamas not welcome, Donald Trump says” via Michael Wilner, Alex Daugherty and Tara Copp of McClatchy — Trump said that Bahamian evacuees seeking refuge in the United States in the wake of Hurricane Dorian need “totally proper documentation” to enter the country despite his own Customs and Border Patrol head saying otherwise just two hours earlier. “Everybody needs totally proper documentation,” Trump said on the South Lawn of the White House. “The Bahamas has some tremendous problems with people going to the Bahamas that weren’t supposed to be there. I don’t want to allow people that weren’t supposed to be in the Bahamas to come into the United States, including some very bad people and some very bad gang members and some very, very bad drug dealers.”

Donald Trump is dismissing visa waivers for Bahamian evacuees from Hurricane Dorian, saying he doesn’t want to let in ‘bad people.’

Shevrin Jones, Scott Plakon unite on appeal to Trump for Bahamas relief” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — In a letter to Trump that they co-signed, their call joins that of many of Florida’s Congressional delegation including Republicans Rubio and Scott. They’re all appealing for help for the tens of thousands of Bahamians suffering after the 220-mph Category 5 Hurricane Dorian demolished the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama Island. Trump has not shown any interest in doing what they ask, warning that opening to undocumented Bahamian evacuees could lead to “very bad people” coming into the United States. He told reporters he does not want anyone entering the United States from the Bahamas who does not have all the proper documentation, even though for many all documentation was lost with the wind.

Correction: In Monday’s Sunburn, we accidentally credited Jessica Bakeman as being with The Tampa Bay Times. She works for WLRN News.


@BrianStelter: Trump just said there are people in line for his rally, and “they are soaking wet.” Per CNN’s @betsy_klein, “it is 88 and sunny here in Fayetteville. It has not rained here today.”

@MarcoRubio: Some useful facts for those who don’t follow The #Bahamas regularly: 1. Unlawful immigration by Bahamians is very rare; 2. Unlawful immigration into The Bahamas has been a problem for them 3. U.S. & Bahamian govts have an exceptionally close & long-standing working relationship

Tweet, tweet:

@alevine014: The @FLBOG made a policy decision years ago to use the US News rankings. We measure 10 consistent performance metrics and reward results. Our performance has led to FL State University System being ranked #1. We think that’s good

@MDixon55: If there is going to be this much hype for academic rankings, they should just do weekly polls like college sports. It’s all anyone would talk about. “Up next on ‘Around the Campus,’ will that admissions scandal knock Tufts out of the top 30?”

@ShevrinJones: Some are blaming the ferry company; others are blaming CBP for making the evacuees get off the boat for not having documentation. This is another reason why the US govt should suspend requirements, so confusion like this won’t happen. Our neighbors are depending on us.

@SteveCrisafulli: Would this be the appropriate time to say … I TOLD YOU SO! It’s high time the courts rein in activist groups. You don’t get to pass an amendment and then sue the legislature for doing exactly what your language said.

@ScottGottliebMD: I wrote to Juul in 2018 requesting documents to evaluate whether it was lawfully marketing its products. Based on the FDA’s letter to Juul today, Juul might not have provided a full set of documents to FDA when it was first investigated in April 2018.

@Keribla: As millennials, we have killed so many things, from Applebee’s to mayo. But top on my personal #MillennialKillList goals is mugshot galleries. I wanna see those things die.

@Scott_Maxwell: Just stumbled back across one of my favorite reader insults: “I rarely agree with your viewpoints. Today is no exception.” — Steve

@WmPatFL: Strange times: FSU (the school) ranked MUCH higher than its football team.


TaxWatch Productivity Awards — 1; First Interim Committee Week for 2020 Session — 6; “Morning” Joe Scarborough releases “This Ends Badly: How Donald Trump Conned America” — 7; MSNBC hosts candidates event on climate in D.C. — 9; Emmy Awards live on Fox — 12; 850 Hemp Summit begins — 22; “Joker” opens — 24; Triple Force Friday: the next generation of Star Wars products arrives — 24; SNL season premiere with Woody Harrelson — 25; Debut of Breaking Bad movie on Netflix — 31; New season of “The Crown” streaming on Netflix — 38; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 48; Brexit scheduled — 51; 2019 General Election — 56; 3rd Annual Florida Internet and Television FITCon starts — 58; TaxWatch 40th Annual Meeting — 83; “Frozen 2” debuts — 101; “The Rise of Skywalker” premiers — 101; 2020 Session begins — 126; Florida TaxWatch State of the TaxPayer Dinner in Tallahassee — 127; Iowa Caucuses — 146; New Hampshire Primaries — 154; Florida’s presidential primary — 189; “Black Panther 2” debuts — 239; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo begin — 318; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 350; 2020 General Election — 420.


UF tops in Florida, UM, FSU tied for No. 2, new college rankings show” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The University of Florida (UF) has taken the top spot among Sunshine State schools in the latest U.S. News and World Report college rankings. UF came in at No. 34 overall, tied with the University of California-Santa Barbara. But it was ranked as the seventh-best public school in the nation. U.S. News also ranked UF highly in other categories, placing its real estate program seventh as well. The UF marketing program ranked 10th, while its accounting and biological/agricultural programs both placed 11th in the country. Mori Hosseini, chairman of the UF Board of Trustees, released remarks after the rankings were released. “I am incredibly excited by this news,” Hosseini said.

FSU President John Thrasher joined Ron DeSantis and other state officials to celebrate FSU rising to No. 18 among national public universities in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings. Image via FSU Photography Services.

—”Florida public universities shine in U.S. News and World Report’s college rankings” via Colleen Wright for the Miami Herald


U.S. emergency workers recover more bodies in Bahamas” via Marko Alvarez, Ramon Espinosa and Gonzalo Gaudenzi of The Associated Press — U.S. emergency workers found five bodies in the debris left by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas, and they said they expected to find more victims a week after the devastating storm hit. Bahamians, meanwhile, were also searching the rubble, salvaging the few heirlooms left intact by the Category 5 storm that has killed at least 44 people. Members of the Gainesville fire department were operating in the remains of The Mudd, the Bahamas’ largest Haitian immigrant community. “We’ve probably hit at most one-tenth of this area, and so far we found five human remains,” said Joseph Hillhouse, assistant chief of Gainesville Fire Rescue. “I would say based off of our sample size we’re going to see more.”

Amid crush of Dorian refugees, Bahamas capital ‘not built to handle this,’ official says” via Jim Wyss of the Miami Herald — The government says more than 3,500 people have been evacuated to Nassau from hard-hit regions of the Bahamas and more are arriving daily. The Kendal G.L. Isaacs Gymnasium in Nassau is the country’s largest shelter, home to about 1,500 evacuees, and it, like New Providence, the island of which the capital is a part, is reaching maximum capacity, said Carlos Reid, the spokesman for the shelter. Nassau “is not built to handle this influx at this particular time,” Reid said, as about a hundred people were standing in line under a blazing sun, waiting to be checked into the complex. “We don’t have enough schools to do it; our hospitals and health care system can’t handle it. Our goal has to be how we can help these people and then get these people back to their islands so they can rebuild it.”

Bahamas capital of Nassau was ‘not built to handle’ the crush of Dorian refugees.

Dorian survivor films storm’s terrifying wrath in Bahamas as it pounds against his home” via Tim Walters of FLORIDA TODAY — As Dorian approached Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas, John Slack thought better of staying in his house in Coopers Town. Slack’s home is on the ocean on the east side of the island. He had ridden out storms there before, but after staying put for Hurricane Sandy in 2012, he knew staying for Dorian would be a bad idea. So Slack, a former TODAY newspaper photographer, decided he and his wife would go farther south on the island to ride out the storm at a friend’s house. The house where Slack hunkered down contained nine people, including a 4-year-old boy and a man with pancreatic cancer. It started to breakdown as the storm got worse.

Stigma of being Haitian in the Bahamas reignites after Dorian” via Tonya Alanez of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Haitians in the Bahamas are scorned and associated with illegal status, poverty, lack of education and violence. Since Hurricane Dorian, social media fueled the fires of prejudice and bias. Posts denigrating Haitians and blaming them for looting and violence have been a frequent theme. Although people have been migrating to the Bahamas from Haiti for hundreds of years, they are a disdained population. They are the country’s largest migrant group and make up 20 percent of the population in some areas. “In common with migrant groups elsewhere, a stigma has become attached to being a Haitian migrant in The Bahamas,” said an article in The College of The Bahamas Research Journal entitled The Stigma of Being Haitian in The Bahamas.

Florida’s seniors left vulnerable to hurricanes because generator requirements were not enforced” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the Sun Sentinel — As powerful Hurricane Dorian threatened Florida, thousands of elderly at nursing homes and adult living facilities were at risk in facilities without generators or back-up power. It was a situation that Florida regulators had tried to correct in the wake of a dozen heat-related deaths at a Hollywood nursing home after Hurricane Irma, two years ago.

Meanwhile …Tropical Storm Gabrielle and other systems remain out in the Atlantic” via Lisa Huriash and Brett Clarkson of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — We’ve reached the statistical peak of the hurricane season, with Tuesday marking the day a tropical cyclone was most likely to be in the Atlantic. And there has been no shortage of activity — with the presence of Tropical Storm Gabrielle and a few other systems. The regenerated Tropical Storm Gabrielle was spinning far out in the Atlantic, more than 1,000 miles west of the Azores, zipping northward at about 21 mph on Monday. But Gabrielle, weakening over cooler waters, was expected to diminish as the week goes on. Closer to South Florida, but still far away in the eastern Atlantic, was a system of disorganized clouds and showers that were moving west-northwest in the general direction of the Bahamas. This so-called Disturbance 2 was being met by strong upper-level winds, which were expected to inhibit its development over the next couple of days.

And don’t forget about this …Panama City seeking FEMA aid for cemetery repairs, recruiting volunteers” via Patrick McCreless of the News Herald — “Panama City is seeking federal money to repair its cemeteries damaged by Hurricane Michael and recruiting volunteers to help clean the sites. City officials want to use Federal Emergency Management Agency money to repair and replace damaged fencing around the city’s five cemeteries. Meanwhile, cleanup and maintenance at the sites have been sparse since the Category 5 hurricane last year, prompting the city to host a major volunteer cleanup next month.”


Ron DeSantis silent on visa requirements for Bahamas evacuees” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida — DeSantis refused to weigh in on a request by Rubio and Scott that Trump ease visa requirements for Bahamas citizens with relatives living in the U.S. All four of the elected officials are Republican. “They’ve got to figure out how they are going to do the immigration stuff,” DeSantis said. Neither Trump or the Bahamian government want to facilitate “a big migration,” he added, given that part of the island chain escaped severe damage. The state has long had a close relationship to the Bahamas, and an estimated 20,000 Bahamians live in south Florida. Parts of the island chain are roughly 50 miles east of the Florida coast.

During a news conference at Florida State University, Ron DeSantis refused to weigh in on visa requirements for Bahamas evacuees. Image via FSU.

DeSantis says feds, not Florida, have role to play in Bahamian crisis” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — “This is a relationship with a foreign country. The federal government is doing it,’’ DeSantis said after an appearance at Florida State University. He said that after an aerial tour of the Bahamas, he concluded that the U.S. Coast Guard is “doing a great job.” “The idea that it should be the state’s responsibility, if you think that, then you have no idea how our system of government works,” he added. “I’ve been in contact with them. The idea that I would overstep the State Department is just absurd.”

Assignment editors — DeSantis will make a Bahamas relief announcement with Florida Power & Light Company representatives, 10:30 a.m., FPL Command Center, 4255 Up-the-grove Lane, West Palm Beach.

Déjà vu —Gary Farmer, in line to lead Senate Democrats, is in a relationship with lobbyist paid influence Florida Legislature” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Senators said Farmer phoned them — some a couple of weeks ago, others last week — to let them know about the relationship with the lobbyist. State Sen. Perry Thurston, a Broward Democrat whose district borders Farmer’s, said that based on what he knows, he did not see a professional or ethical concern. “As far as our [Democratic] caucus is concerned, I don’t see this being an issue at all,” Thurston said. As far as a potential conflict of interest, “I don’t see it on its face, but I guess we’ll have to evaluate it. But I don’t see it as being a conflict.” Thurston said his response to Farmer was personal, rather than political or governmental.

Gary Farmer’s relationship with a Florida lobbyist is not a ‘professional or ethical concern’ for some of his Senate colleagues.

Senators to get update on school safety” via News Service of Florida — The Senate Education Committee is scheduled next week to discuss how new school-security measures are being carried out by school districts, as lawmakers start holding committee meetings in advance of the 2020 legislative session. Katie Betta, a Senate spokeswoman, said in an email that the purpose of the conference is to provide an update on the implementation of major school-security bills passed in 2018 and 2019. Those two measures, passed after the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, require all public schools to follow several security measures, including having trained, armed security personnel on-site at all times.

Senate again targets constitution revision panel” via News Service of Florida — State senators next week will again consider an effort to do away with the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, a powerful panel that sparked controversy last year by linking unrelated issues in proposed constitutional amendments. The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled Sept. 17 to take up a proposal (SJR 142), filed by Sen. Jeff Brandes that would let voters decide whether to abolish the commission, which meets every 20 years to consider changes to the Florida Constitution. During the 2019 legislative session, Brandes launched a similar effort that was approved by the Senate, but it died in the House.

Assignment editors — State Rep. Randy Fine will hold a news conference announcing his first piece of general legislation for the 2020 Legislative Session, dealing with the Indian River Lagoon, 11 a.m., Castaways Point Park, Palm Bay.

Happening today — Democratic lawmakers will hold a workshop for nonprofit groups and the community about how to apply for state funding through the legislative appropriations process. Participants to include Sens. Oscar Braynon and Jason Pizzo; Reps. Barbara Watson, James Bush, Joe Geller, Dotie Joseph, Cindy Polo and Sharon Pritchett, 10:30 a.m., Miami Dade College, 11380 N.W. 27th Ave., Miami.

—“Ranking members named for House committees, subcommittees” via Florida Politics


Lauren Book, Michael Grieco bills would place feminine hygiene products in public school bathrooms” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Sen. Book and Rep. Grieco are introducing legislation requiring school districts to ensure feminine hygiene products are available in public school bathrooms. Book, a Plantation Democrat, filed her bill (SB 234) on Friday. Grieco, a Miami Beach Democrat, added his measure (HB 123) on Monday. “Girls pay a price when these products aren’t free — and providing them will go a long way toward equity in education,” Book said in a statement. If approved, school districts would be required to “[p]rovide feminine hygiene products, including sanitary napkins and tampons, free of charge in each gender-neutral bathroom and bathroom designated for females located in all public middle schools and high schools within the district,” according to Grieco’s bill.

Michael Grieco joined Lauren Book in filing bills that would provide feminine hygiene products freely in middle and high school restrooms.

Bill looks to reduce use of solitary confinement for youth offenders” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — State Sen. Thurston is out with new legislation heavily regulating the practice of solitary confinement for youth prisoners. The Fort Lauderdale Democrat’s bill (SB 228), governs the use of solitary confinement for both emergency and disciplinary reasons. The measure mandates that emergency cell confinement — the use of solitary for inmates that pose a danger to themselves or others — cannot be used “unless all other less restrictive options have been exhausted.” Staff must document the decision and explain why other methods were not sufficient. That confinement must not exceed 24 hours.

Going to the dogs: Bill would make shelter animals official ‘state pet’” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Democratic state Sen. Kevin Rader is attempting to give forgotten pets a little bit of the spotlight with a new bill designating shelter animals as the “state pet.” “Any shelter animal that resides at or has been adopted from an animal shelter or an animal rescue organization is designated as the official Florida state pet,” the legislation reads. Rader, who represents Senate District 29, filed the bill (SB 240) on Monday. The bill was filed just a day after reports found nearly 300 dogs and cats were killed at the Humane Society of Grand Bahama due to the destruction of Hurricane Dorian.

Court backs lawmakers in conservation fight” via News Service of Florida — In a blow to environmental groups, an appeals court overturned a circuit judge’s ruling that said state lawmakers improperly diverted money that flowed from a 2014 constitutional amendment designed to boost land and water conservation. A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal found that Tallahassee-based Circuit Judge Charles Dodson erred when he ruled that money from the amendment could only be used on land purchased after the voter-approved ‘Amendment 1’ took effect.

Environmentalists could continue land spending fight — Environmentalists said Monday they will continue to fight the Legislature over conservation spending after an appeals court ruled in favor of lawmakers, Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida reports. A panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal reversed a trial court decision that the Legislature had misspent some of an estimated $20 billion fund created by voters in 2014. Some of the groups that sued the Legislature said the reversal doesn’t resolve some of the major issues with the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, or LATF. Plaintiffs attorney David Guest, who represents the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, the St. Johns Riverkeeper and Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, said the groups haven’t decided whether to appeal. 

Florida Chamber voices concern over public nuisance law in wake of opioid verdict against J&J” via Marian Johns of Florida Record — The recent landmark case in Oklahoma brought against Johnson & Johnson over prescription opioids that resulted in a $572 million judgment has caused some concerns among business organizations, including Florida’s Chamber of Commerce, that fears the application of the public nuisance law could reverberate in other industries. Many critics of Johnson & Johnson ruling question applying public nuisance law to the case since it does not call for proving a certain action by a company that resulted in harm. Florida Chamber President and CEO Mark Wilson said he has concerns if the ruling could open up Florida companies as well as those in other states to a flurry of public nuisance law claims. “The short answer is yes.”

Another 49 hepatitis A cases in Florida” via News Service of Florida — Florida had 49 new cases of hepatitis A reported last week, bringing the total number of cases this year to 2,461, according to the latest data from the state Department of Health. In an outbreak that caused state Surgeon General Scott Rivkees last month to declare a public health emergency, Pasco County continued to lead the state with 385 cases this year, as of Saturday. Hepatitis A is a virus that attacks the liver. The virus can spread through the feces of the infected. It can be transferred through food or drink if, for example, people have not washed their hands thoroughly after going to the bathroom


Two of three Florida legislators are millionaires, according to an analysis by the News Service of Florida.

In the Senate, the average net worth is $5.9 million; it’s $1.7 million for the House.

Topping the list is state Sen. George Gainer; the Panama City Republican owns a fleet of auto dealerships in North Florida.

Gainer, a former Bay County commissioner, reported his net worth at $46.46 million as of the end of 2018.

George Gainer, the wealthiest member of the Florida Senate, has nearly 47 million reasons to smile.

Second on the list, and first in the House, is Republican Rep. Ralph Massullo, a Lecanto dermatologist. Massullo reported a net worth of $42.4 million as of April 30. Massullo came into office in 2016 with a net worth of $26.8 million, growing than 16 percent from $36.4 million as of March 2018.

Overall, of the 40 Senators, 27 reported a net worth of more than $1 million. Nine Senators exceeded the chamber’s $5.9 million average.

In the House, 43 of the 120 members reported a net worth of more than a $1 million.

Every year, lawmakers must file detailed disclosures that list assets, liabilities and calculate net worth. Most of the newly registered reports reflect information from the end of 2018.

Reports are due July 1, but there is a “grace period” to file without incurring penalties. On Friday, notices of fines went to Reps. Kamia Brown and Anika Omphroy, who not yet filed reports. Both received postcard reminders from the state Commission on Ethics Aug. 20 and messages left with their aides three days later. Fines run $25 a day with the maximum total capped at $1,500.


What Ash Williams is reading — “Hackers get $4.2 million from Oklahoma pension fund” via The Oklahoman — The FBI is investigating a cybertheft of $4.2 million from the state’s pension fund for retired Oklahoma Highway troopers, state agents, park rangers and other law enforcement officers. The Oklahoma Law Enforcement Retirement System (OLERS) posted an announcement online about the investigation Thursday, 10 days after the money went missing. “We are certain the stolen funds will be recovered,” the state agency said. “Most importantly, no pension benefits to members or beneficiaries have been impacted or put at risk. All benefits will continue to be paid in a timely fashion as always.”

What John Morgan is reading — “ ‘Pakalolo’ profits have yet to light up in Hawaii” via The Honolulu Star-Advertiser — Two years after Hawaii’s first medical marijuana dispensary opened on Maui, the legal pot industry has yet to achieve profitability. Since the start of the year, gross sales have been growing, with $2.3 million in statewide sales and 293 pounds of cannabis sold in July, up from $1.6 million and 203 pounds in January, according to new statistics from the state Health Department. But the dispensaries are still waiting for a return on their investment.

What veteran Tallahassee restaurateur Mike Ferrara is reading — “Mississippi: Veggie burgers must be clearly labeled” via The Associated Press — Mississippi is considering new rules that let companies continue to use food-labeling terms such as “veggie burger” and “vegan bacon,” as long as the terms are prominently displayed, so consumers understand the products are not meat … The regulations were published weeks after a nonprofit organization that advocates plant-based foods and an Illinois food company sued Mississippi over a labeling law. Meat producers have been trying to protect meat terminology by pushing for state laws that restrict labeling of products such as meatless meatballs.


Commerce chief threatened firings at NOAA after Trump’s Dorian tweets, sources say” via Christopher Flavelle, Lisa Friedman and Peter Baker — The Secretary of Commerce threatened to fire top employees at NOAA after the agency’s Birmingham office contradicted Trump’s claim that Hurricane Dorian might hit Alabama. That threat led to an unusual, unsigned statement later by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration disavowing the office’s own position that Alabama was not at risk. The reversal caused widespread anger within the agency and drew criticism from the scientific community that NOAA, a division of the Commerce Department, had been bent to political purposes.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is accused of threatening firings at NOAA for making statements contrary to Donald Trump’s Dorian tweets.

Michael Waltz: Trump’s Taliban decision was smart — He’s showing leadership where Obama failed” for Fox News — President Trump made the right call this weekend when he decided to call off peace talks in Afghanistan. For months, the Taliban has assured the State Department Afghanistan it will promote ‘peace’ and will no longer be a haven for terrorists. That couldn’t be further from the truth — and current events have made that abundantly clear.

New Debbie Mucarsel-Powell ad pushes for increased gun regulation” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Mucarsel-Powell is out with a new ad pushing for new gun control laws as Congress readies to return to work. The summer break for lawmakers ended Monday, as they returned to Washington, D.C. Mucarsel-Powell’s new ad recounts her reaction upon hearing her father was shot and killed while Mucarsel-Powell was a 24-year-old student. “I was pulled out of class to tell me that my father had been shot and killed by a criminal with a gun,” Mucarsel-Powell said in the ad. “My life, at that moment, changed forever.” The audio in the ad comes from an August rally in Miami featuring gun reform group Moms Demand Action.

Florida mayors go to Washington to lobby for gun background checks” via David Smiley and Alex Daugherty of the Tampa Bay Times — The mayors of Parkland and Miami flew to Washington to participate in a bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors delegation lobbying for bills in the House and Senate for universal background checks on gun purchases. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky flew to Washington ahead of a 2 p.m. meeting at the White House. The delegation — which Suarez said is comprised of nine mayors — is meeting with Trump’s counselor, Kellyanne Conway, the director of his Domestic Policy Council, Joe Grogan, and perhaps others, according to an itinerary.

— 2020 —

Trump’s new math: Inside the plan to flip blue states in 2020” via Brian Bennett of Time magazine — When Trump steps on stage for a campaign rally in Rio Rancho, New Mexico next week, even his own campaign staffers know he will be facing long odds. Nonetheless, Trump’s campaign is betting it can win in New Mexico. Flush with cash, the campaign is planning to announce a state director and additional ground staff there in the coming weeks. The move is part of a series of bets Trump is making to win states that went for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner says that voter data has convinced the reelection effort to fund robust field operations in a much larger number of states than in 2016.

The Donald Trump campaign is making a series of bets they can turn certain blue states red in 2020. Image via CNN.

Internal Kamala Harris document acknowledges ‘summer slump’” via Trent Spiner of POLITICO — The document detailed intricacies of her campaign’s relationships with Granite Staters she was set to meet last weekend — from how much her campaign has donated to local politicians to the advice she received from a local TV reporter. It included talking points to rebut expected criticisms from voters or reporters, such as the limited number of visits she’s made to the first-in-the-nation primary state and her lackluster poll results. “You haven’t traveled to New Hampshire as frequently as some of your Democratic rivals,” the memo, titled “Briefing and Talking Points,” said. “Is the state a priority for your campaign?” Harris has struggled to break out of single digits in nationwide and New Hampshire polling over the past several weeks.


Alan Cohn says he’ll file to run for Ross Spano’s congressional seat” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — State Rep. Adam Hattersley is already running for the nomination for Florida’s 15th Congressional District. Cohn’s announcement presages a tough primary battle. Cohn, formerly with WFTS-Ch. 28 in Tampa, ran unsuccessfully for the congressional seat in 2014 against its previous occupant, Republican Dennis Ross. He then became anchor and managing editor of a news and talk show on Sarasota’s WWSB-Ch. 7, and now has a local communications consulting company. Cohn said he’s running because the economy “is not working for middle-class families in this district,” most of whom he said haven’t fully recovered from the 2008 financial collapse or are living paycheck-to-paycheck. “I will focus on that like a laser beam.”

Former newscaster Alan Cohn is taking another shot at Ross Spano’s CD 15.

First in Sunburn —Ray Rodrigues raises another $129,000 … just because he can” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The fundraising continues to rise for state Rep. Rodrigues. The Estero Republican through August pulled in more than $500,000 to support his state Senate bid. “Our hope is that we continue to be successful in fundraising, anyone who would considering running would rather find an easier race in which to engage,” Rodrigues said. Reporting dollars has become a bit of a monthly ritual for Rodrigues, who thus far has scared off potential challengers. For August, Rodrigues’ campaign raised $64,896. That’s on top of $45,500 raised through his long-standing political committee Free Markets for Florida and $19,000 raised for the new-this-year committee Friends of Ray Rodrigues.

Javier Fernandez earns SD 39 endorsement from Senate Dems” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Rep. Fernandez, who is running for the Senate District 39 seat in 2020, received the endorsement of the entire Senate Democratic Caucus. The caucus had signaled their support for Fernandez before Monday. But that endorsement was all but finalized with Friday’s news that former Rep. Robert Asencio would forego a run for the Democratic nomination in SD 39 and instead pursue a Miami-Dade County Commission seat. The Asencio news was first reported in Friday’s Sunburn. Fernandez remains the only Democrat declared in the SD 39 contest. Term-limited Republican Sen. Anitere Flores will vacate the seat.

Senate Democrats are lining up behind Javier Fernandez in his bid for SD 39.

Republican Lee Steinhauer enters HD 44 contest” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Attorney and lobbyist Steinhauer joins lawyer Frank Blanco and businessman Bruno Portigliatti in seeking to flip back the seat won by Democratic state Rep. Geraldine Thompson in 2018. “I am a conservative, who believes in low taxes, secure borders, free-market solutions, and strongly supporting our military and veterans. I am also a problem solver with the ability to bring people together and a passionate and effective advocate for our schools and affordable housing.” Steinhauer said. He is president of the government affairs and land use law firm the Steinhauer Group, an Orange County lobbyist, a member of the Orange County Charter Review Commission, and a member of Mayor Jerry Demings‘ Orange County Housing for All Task Force.

Dan Crenshaw endorses Fiona McFarland for HD 72” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Texas U.S. Rep. Crenshaw endorsed fellow military veteran McFarland in her bid for House District 72. “Fiona has served our country in the Navy, and she’s bringing that same sense of duty to her community in Florida,” said Crenshaw, also a Republican. The formal endorsement comes months after Crenshaw appeared at a Hamptons fundraiser for McFarland. After that event, the candidate explained she had a family connection to Crenshaw. “I am honored by Congressman Crenshaw’s endorsement and friendship,” McFarland said of the endorsement. McFarland currently faces Sarasota Public Hospital Board member Donna Barcomb in the GOP primary in 2020. Democrat Drake Buckman, a Sarasota attorney, has also filed for the seat.

Stephanie Murphy endorses Buddy Dyer’s reelection for Mayor” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Florida’s 7th Congressional District covers much of northern, eastern, and central Orlando, through downtown, though Murphy makes her home in suburban Winter Park. She’s been making her mark in Congress as a growing leader among the moderate Democrats, as co-chair of the Blue Dog Coalition and is a part of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus. “Under Buddy Dyer’s leadership, Orlando has transformed into a world-class city that leads in inclusiveness, sustainability and job growth. I am proud to endorse Mayor Dyer and look forward to continuing to serve Central Floridians alongside him,” Murphy stated in a news release.

Former state Sen. Maria Sachs seeks Palm Beach County Commission seat” via Brooke Baitinger of the Sun-Sentinel — Sachs, a former Democratic senator who represented parts of Palm Beach and Broward counties, announced her candidacy Monday for the District 5 seat on the Palm Beach County Commission. That seat is currently held by term-limited Commissioner Mary Lou Berger. District 5 is made up of West Boca, West Delray and West Boynton. Sachs represented a similar district in the Florida Legislature for a decade but decided not to run for reelection in 2016 after the district was redrawn.

Former Sen. Maria Sachs is setting her sights on the Palm Beach County Commission.

Indian River County Commission Chairman Bob Solari won’t seek reelection in 2020” via Colleen Wixon of TCPalm — “My service as an elected (official) has been a great experience and very rewarding for me as an individual,” the District 5 commissioner said in a prepared statement. “I have worked hard for the citizens of Indian River County and have learned much, on many levels, during my period of service. I can only hope that the benefits of my work were as good for Indian River County as they have been for me personally.” Solari said he wanted to announce early to give potential candidates time to launch a campaign. “People were asking whether I was running,” he said.

Florida GOP could try to gerrymander seats again, Democrats warn” via Steve Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — A U.S. Supreme Court ruling and changes at Florida’s top court leave the door wide open for Republicans to gerrymander political districts in their favor, Democrats say — and the party is already preparing for a battle. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that gerrymandering for partisan reasons — though not along racial or ethnic lines — was not explicitly banned by the Constitution, leaving it to states to be the final arbiter of how far parties can go in drawing maps.


U.S. Attorney gives city of Tallahassee go-ahead on Scott Maddox-related vendor audit” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — City officials were hesitant to engage in a review of contracts associated with Maddox and a pay-to-play scheme he pleaded guilty to last month, saying they would like to wait until an ongoing federal investigation was complete. But they may not have to wait. “It is the policy of the Department of Justice that this Office shall take no position on the actions of a separate sovereign, such as the city of Tallahassee,” wrote U.S. Attorney Larry Keefe in an Aug. 26 letter to City Attorney Casandra Jackson. “The city is free to take whatever action it deems necessary and appropriate.”

Hearing on Parkland shooting prosecutor removal effort” via Curt Anderson of The Associated Press — A judge has set a hearing on an attempt by defense attorneys in Florida’s high school massacre case to remove the state prosecutors because they won’t reconsider seeking the death penalty for the defendant. Attorneys for 20-year-old Nikolas Cruz say in a court motion that Broward State Attorney Michael Satz informed them he will consider no evidence that would argue against capital punishment, known as mitigation, such as mental health or other issues that could be involved. The motion says Satz has compared Cruz to serial killer Ted Bundy, claiming he said Cruz is “evil, worse than Ted Bundy.” The defense lawyers say Satz is “in violation of his constitutional duties” as a prosecutor.

Father of slain Parkland student writes book with new details about shooter’s history” via Emily Maloney of the Miami Herald — When Nikolas Cruz, the confessed Parkland shooter, was still in middle school, his therapist and school psychiatrist took the unusual step of jointly writing a letter to his private psychiatrist. “Per recent information shared in school he dreams of killing others and [being] covered in blood,” they wrote. That letter is included in a book out Tuesday, titled “Why Meadow Died: The People and Policies that Created the Parkland Shooter and Endanger America’s Students.” It was written by Andrew Pollack, the father of Meadow Pollack, one of the 17 people killed on Feb. 14, 2018.

A prosecutor calls Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz ‘worse than Ted Bundy.’

Florida Senate joins House in opposing Hillsborough’s transportation tax” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — A lawyer for the Senate told the state Supreme Court that the chamber wants to weigh in against Hillsborough County’s transportation tax, joining their colleagues in the House. “The Senate agrees with and supports the House position, which respects and protects the voters,” the lawyer wrote. The court granted the motion a few hours later. Tyler Hudson, the chair of All for Transportation, the advocacy group that helped pass the charter amendment, called the move a “deliberate effort to silence the voters.” “This is just another example of Tallahassee thinking it knows better than the voters they are sent there to represent,” Hudson said in a statement.

Problem foster kids could be locked up in ‘secure’ facility under new plan pushed by Tampa Bay child welfare agency” via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — More than anywhere else in Florida, Hillsborough County has struggled with older foster children refusing placements, according to Florida Department of Children and Families data. Now leaders of the agency are pushing a controversial recommendation from the Hillsborough Juvenile Justice Advisory Board for a new law allowing children to be forced into placements — including a secure facility at a Tampa juvenile justice campus — for up to 90 days through a court order. The court could extend the stay for an additional 90 days, if a judge says it’s needed. The plan has outraged child welfare groups who say the state would essentially be locking up children and causing them more emotional harm.

Pasco teachers union rejects school district’s pay plan” via Jeff Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — United School Employees of Pasco president Don Peace on Monday denounced the school district’s teacher pay raise proposal first aired in June. Peace said the union’s survey of about 1,600 secondary teachers — those he said who would be most affected by the proposal — showed widespread disapproval for the latest iteration. A majority of the teachers who got the questionnaire responded, he said, and nearly 80 percent said they would rather stay with the current work arrangement and accept lower raises than agree to the district’s plan.

What Carol Marbin Miller is reading — “In fight to potty train, Riviera toddler denied food, tied up, police say” via The Palm Beach Post — When a Riviera Beach woman struggled to potty-train a 3-year-old, she stopped feeding her. No food meant no poop. When the toddler began eating from the garbage, she tied together the child’s arms and legs. By the time police learned of what was happening at the home on Avenue F, the 3-year-old weighed 22 pounds and looked like a skeleton, officers said.

This is why we can’t have nice things —Several e-scooters found submerged in downtown Kleman Plaza fountain” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Several electric scooters were found submerged in the Kleman Plaza fountain, rendering them useless, as the city’s pilot program enters its final two months. And fair warning: Lime scooters, which owns four of the five captured in a photo, pursues prosecution against vandals. A Lime spokesman said vandalizing their scooters hurts people who use their products. It encourages people who see vandalism to report it to a customer service representative. Vandalism only happens to about 1 percent of the company’s fleet nationwide. But when a scooter is immersed in water, the battery is damaged, and the scooter is stripped for other working parts.

E-scooters submerged in the downtown Tallahassee Kleman Plaza fountain. Image via the Tallahassee Democrat.


Cut visa paperwork and get Bahamas’ Hurricane Dorian refugees to U.S.” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — Bahamians usually need a visa to visit the U.S., but the requirement can be bypassed if they present a passport and a recent police certificate showing they don’t have a criminal record. A lot of people didn’t have such documents or lost them in the wind and water. Obtaining them now is next to impossible since the Bahamian government is literally swamped with bigger problems. A lack of proper paperwork wasn’t the big problem on Sunday night. It was a surplus of confusion. The ferry company, Balearia Caribbean, told passengers U.S. Customs and Border Protection told it to remove everyone who didn’t have a visa. The whole fiasco might have been avoided if visa requirements had been waived.

Lessons learned from Hurricane Dorian” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Remembering the lessons of Hurricane Irma two years ago, Fort Lauderdale inspectors visited construction sites to ensure no cranes would fall from on high. As in other cities, they checked to ensure assisted living facilities had a working generator or evacuation plan. Debris-collection crews were staged. The police department staffed up. Public Works crews tested generators and cleared storm drains. And an organized team of volunteers checked on vulnerable people. Broward County opened shelters for people with special needs, but held off calling for evacuations, given the uncertainty of where the slow-moving storm would hit. Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry and her staff deserve kudos for not over- or underreacting to Dorian but demonstrating good judgment under stressful conditions.

Mixing politics and hurricane forecasting is not funny” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Professional weather forecasters should not be transformed into political pawns. “You have science organizations putting out statements against their own offices,” Craig Fugate, Florida’s emergency management chief under Republican Gov. Jeb Bush and director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency under Democratic President Barack Obama. “For the life of me, I don’t think I would have ever faced this under President Obama or Gov. Bush.” The integrity and objectivity of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service cannot be compromised, regardless of who is president. Hurricane warnings and weather forecasts are not political statements, and public trust in them is essential.

Dorian coverage brought more hot air than the hurricane did” via Carl Hiaasen for the Tampa Bay Times — Now we can reclaim our beaches, jetties and fishing piers, where for nearly a week we dodged TV crews and bleary-eyed correspondents. Yes, these people are just trying to do their jobs, and they work hard, but too much of what gets on the air is laughably obvious, inanely melodramatic or just plain useless. Oh, and Hurricane Dorian has moved on, too. Meanwhile, we were breathlessly being told that portions of a boardwalk along Vero Beach were in grave danger of being damaged by high surf. The report was accompanied by close-up shots of possible cracks in the foundation. To put it kindly, the correspondent’s bug-eyed excitement seemed somewhat out of proportion to the situation.

Brevard’s Bahamas response shows when chips are down, we’re there for others” via Randy Fine and Paul Alfrey for FLORIDA TODAY — What we all worried about might happen actually did happen. Just not here. Just over 150 miles away, historic levels of death and destruction have been inflicted on the people of the northern Bahamas. There, but for the grace of God, went we. A remarkable thing began. A mother of two Boy Scouts with previous disaster recovery experience, Korbel Ballard, somehow got through to the Bahamian prime minister’s office to ask if she could help bring supplies. His office said yes and offered to work with her directly. Ballard’s Scouts BSA Troop and their Girl Troop sibling, 4323 and 323 of Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy, offered to take their trailer and pick up supplies — not knowing how essential their role would become.

Joe Henderson: Hey! Keep your oil drilling mitts away from Florida waters” via Florida Politics — Drilling for oil in the Everglades or off Florida’s coastlines is a horrible idea. That is just a fact. Sure, 69 percent of voters approved Amendment 9. That prohibited oil or natural gas drilling in state waters. That only covers between 3 and 10 miles off the coast, though. The rest of the water is under federal jurisdiction. Therein lies the tale. Last spring the American Petroleum Institute pushed to expand drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Trump reportedly considered a plan to auction spots off Florida’s coastline for drilling. Just as quickly, DeSantis vowed to “raise Cain” if the plan proceeded. It did not. These situations tend to come up every so often, though, so we stay on guard.


Personnel note: Julie Hauserman departs The Florida Phoenix, joins Earthjustice — The outgoing editor-in-chief of the Phoenix, a progressive state-news website based in Tallahassee, announced she was “moving on to do environmental advocacy work … at the national nonprofit law firm Earthjustice.” She will remain in Tallahassee. The year-old operation now will be headed by Diane Rado, currently the deputy editor. Both are alumni of the St. Petersburg Times’ Tallahassee bureau (now Tampa Bay Times) and have worked for Press Corps veteran Lucy Morgan. “State government reporting is more important than ever,” Hauserman wrote in her farewell column. “The policies and spending choices that affect you the most happen in state government.”

Personnel note: Becker firm expands in D.C., Florida” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Commercial law firm Becker is expanding its lobbying efforts with the addition of two new hires. The firm announced Monday that Alfonso Lopez is joining its Washington D.C. practice. Lopez is currently a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, where he serves as the Whip of the Virginia House Democratic Caucus. The Fort Lauderdale-based law firm is also expanding on its home turf with the addition of Latoya Sheals to its State Legislative Lobbying team. Sheals is no stranger to Tallahassee — she’s the former chief of staff and legislative assistant to Orlando Democratic Sen. Victor Torres.

— ALOE —

An iPhone 11 Pro? What to expect at Apple’s big event” via Samantha Murphy Kelly of CNN Business — Apple will likely unveil new iPhones during a closely watched media event — but don’t expect anything foldable, 5G capable or radically different from the year before. At the event, which will take place in its Cupertino, California, headquarters, Apple will likely to show off three new high-end iPhones — the iPhone 11 Pro, the iPhone 11 Pro Max and the iPhone 11 — replacing its XS, XS Max and XR models, according to reports. It may also introduce a much cheaper model starting around $450. The iPhone business — still Apple’s single biggest moneymaker — has been lackluster at best of late. Revenue from iPhones has declined by double-digit percentages in recent quarters.

Disney thanks boy who helped Hurricane Dorian victims flee storm with a trip to Disney” via Jennifer Sangalang of Florida Today — Happy birthday indeed! Jermaine Bell got the surprise of a lifetime Sunday — his seventh birthday — after Mickey Mouse and Disney World cast members arrived at his Jacksonville home to thank him for helping Hurricane Dorian victims. The boy had saved up for a year to visit Animal Kingdom in Orlando, but instead used the money to help those fleeing the storm. Disney rewarded his grand gesture with a grand gesture of its own. Mickey’s birthday gift to Jermaine? A VIP Disney getaway for him and his family later this month.

Jermaine Bell used the money he had saved for a Disney World vacation to feed people fleeing Hurricane Dorian. He and his family will now be guests of Disney for a VIP getaway to the vacation kingdom later this month. Image via Disney.

Thank you for being a friend —Out with the old: Galaxy’s Edge now sits where Golden Girls house used to be” via Kevin Cortez of AV Club — To make room for Galaxy’s Edge, Imagineers had to demolish some of its old buildings and attractions, including old rides, restaurants, backdrops, and some open areas that used to get visited during the park’s Studio Backlot Tour. Someone recently asked Disney World nut and Bay Lake Society member Howard Bowers if they could explain where the Golden Girls house would be today in relation to Galaxy’s Edge. He didn’t just answer the question, he also provided some useful photographs. The house was located in between Ronto Roasters and Docking Bay 7.

Not Ella Joyce — Florida girl’s 7th birthday party so epic the cops showed up” via Tiffini Theisen of the Orlando Sentinel — As a Florida girl was celebrating her birthday over the weekend, a neighbor became so irate at the commotion that they called 911. But it was just Alondra and her friends having a good time. When a deputy showed up to investigate, she was so amused at what she found that she treated the kids to a tour of her patrol vehicle. The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office posted a photo of the deputy with Alondra and other partygoers in front of the patrol car outside the home.


Best wishes to the incredibly talented Katie Ballard.


Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jim Rosica, 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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