Rep. Chris Sprowls already chairs the Florida House’s Rules Committee, but this afternoon he’ll take on a title that supersedes those influential positions: House Speaker-designate.
The Palm Harbor Republican has been slated to take over the top spot in the Chamber since the 2014 Republican class anointed him three years ago.
His ascension was in no ways guaranteed. He and former Rep. Eric Eisnaugle battled for the job down to the wire.
An early backer of Sprowls’ bid was Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, who lobbied members of the 2014 class to throw their support behind the Pinellas County Republican.
While Sprowls’ support from his Republican colleagues is strong, he’s also earned respect from across the aisle — Democratic Rep. Jennifer Webb, who like Sprowls, represents a piece of Pinellas County, said his rise to leadership bodes well for the Tampa Bay region.
The predicted boon for the bay area is a near certainty, as Sprowls’ tenure will coincide with Trilby Sen. Wilton Simpson’s term as Senate President. In addition to both men representing the region, the pair show a strong willingness to work together, which isn’t always the case between House Speakers and Senate Presidents.
“I think he’s got all of the qualities of a great speaker,” said Sen. Wilton Simpson who is slated to become Senate President at the same time Sprowls ascends to Speaker. “He’s principled, he’s smart, and he knows how to get things done.”
— TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Committee week in the Florida Capitol begins as the state Senate starts discussion about gun violence in the aftermath of mass shootings in Texas and Ohio. Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— More about Chris Sprowls’ designation.
— Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission is facing an existential threat from state lawmakers, who are seeking a public vote on a proposal to abolish the panel outright.
— Wilton Simpson, the GOP leader in the Florida Senate, says there’s a lot of crap at his Central Florida chicken farm, which pales in comparison to what comes from the state capital.
— And the latest on Florida Man … and Woman, with a story that includes sex in the back of a patrol car.
You can listen on whatever platform you listen to podcasts or by clicking on the player below:
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@MarcoRubio: # saying [Donald] Trump administration has “abandoned our leadership in the hemisphere” is laughable. Over 50 nations followed U.S. lead on recognizing @ . And just last week U.S. leadership helped get 12 nations to invoke # at the @ .
—@Fineout: Please clap the sequel. After @gave some remarks in Jax, he invited @ to speak. Patronis asked that everyone applaud DeSantis.
—@FLCaseyDeSantis: As we begin #HispanicHeritageMonth, we recognize that Florida is particularly rich in Hispanic history and culture and we celebrate the great Hispanic leaders and public servants who enrich our great state.
—@AGAshleyMoody: Great conversation with @Surgeon General Scott Rivkees about combating the teen vaping epidemic in Florida. We are dedicated to this fight and to protecting youth from a lifetime of addiction or even worse.
—@DannyBurgess: Not every day you get to testify before Congress outside of our Nation’s Capital. Important discussion on ending veteran homelessness. Thank you to #’s own @ & Chair @ for hosting, & former FL House colleague @ ossSpano for attending.
—@ChrisLatvala: Tomorrow will be one of my proudest days as a State Representative. I am so proud to call you friend and soon to call you my Speaker
—@NikkiFried: Glad @, a Florida institution, is back on the air.
—@NateMonroeTU: A column that will forever be on the editing floor, but that I return to often: The Jaguars mirror the political problems in City Hall perfectly — poor leadership, unmet potential, shoot-itself-in-the-foot miscues, huge spending on bright objects instead of underlying problems.
—@KarlEtters: TPD will be on this season of A&E’s “Live PD.” The question is, how will TPD maintain its broad interpretation of Marcy’s Law during a live broadcast?
—@BillGalvano: Congrats @, @ ! Anthony has been an invaluable member of my team since day one, from walking door-to-door together in the rain during my first House race, to working to maintain a Republican Senate Majority during the 2018 cycle.
— DAYS UNTIL —
MSNBC hosts candidates event on climate in D.C. — 3; Emmy Awards live on Fox — 5; 850 Hemp Summit begins — 15; “Joker” opens — 17; Triple Force Friday: the next generation of Star Wars products arrives — 17; SNL season premiere with Woody Harrelson — 18; Debut of Breaking Bad movie on Netflix — 24; New season of “The Crown” streaming on Netflix — 31; “Watchmen” premieres on HBO (watch the trailer and let us know what you think) — 33; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 41; Brexit scheduled — 44; 2019 General Election — 49; 3rd Annual Florida Internet and Television FITCon starts — 51; “Frozen 2” debuts — 66; TaxWatch 40th Annual Meeting — 76; “The Rise of Skywalker” premiers — 94; 2020 Session begins — 119; Florida TaxWatch State of the TaxPayer Dinner in Tallahassee — 120; Iowa Caucuses — 139; New Hampshire Primaries — 147; Florida’s presidential primary — 182; “Black Panther 2” debuts — 232; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo begin — 311; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 343; 2020 General Election — 413.
— TOP STORY —
“An on-the-rise surprise: Florida Bar exam results are up over last two years” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — The number of Florida bar exam takers who pass on the first try has jolted to nearly 74 percent, from 67.2 percent last year, the state’s Board of Bar Examiners announced Monday. The latest overall passage rate of 73.9 percent for this July’s examination is a 6.7 percent jump from last July’s results, and up from July 2017’s 71.3 percent pass rate … The summer results are a turnaround from poor showings in Florida and in other states in recent years, as law schools lowered admission standards to fill seats as the number of overall applicants declined.
Hard work pays off!
Congratulations to everyone who just passed their #BarExam.
Go out and do good work, and if you have a passion for service, consider applying for a career at the Florida Attorney General’s Office. https://t.co/ayZjNNmYG3
— Fla. AG Ashley Moody (@AGAshleyMoody) September 16, 2019
— DATELINE: TALLY —
“Never say never? Laurel Lee noncommittal about Supreme Court opening” via Florida Politics — Secretary of State Lee said she had had no conversations with anyone in the Governor’s Office about becoming a state Supreme Court justice. Lee spoke with reporters after a meeting of the state’s Restoration of Voting Rights Work Group in the Capitol. Earlier Monday, Florida Politics publisher Peter Schorsch wrote a column touting Lee — ”a former federal prosecutor, private sector attorney and judge for the 13th Judicial Circuit” as “check(ing) all of the right boxes” for Republican Gov. DeSantis.
Scoop — “Personnel note: David Clark named Deputy Chief of Staff for Ron DeSantis” via Florida Politics — Gov. DeSantis has decided to bring Clark to the Capitol to replace James Blair as a Deputy Chief of Staff. Clark most recently has been Chief of Staff for the Department of Management Services, serving Secretary Jonathan Satter. The department acts as the state’s real estate manager, among other things. Previously, he was Deputy Secretary of Land and Recreation at the Department of Environmental Protection.
“Florida budget outlook bleak, House panel hears” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — British pop group Simply Red once sang that “money’s too tight to mention.” But for House Appropriations Committee members, it was all they could talk about Monday. The budget panel’s first 2020 Committee Week meeting kicked off with a jolting jeremiad from Amy Baker, who leads the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research, one that will govern the dispensation of member projects and much else this Session. The Long-Range Economic Outlook is bleak, trending $867 million lower over the next two years than expected.
“Financial answers sought for hurricanes” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Members of the House Appropriations Committee said they need to discuss changes to hurricane funding after getting an updated economic forecast from Amy Baker, who leads the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research. “North Florida was great to us (South Florida) when we had Irma come through. I think we tried to do the same thing back to the Panhandle when Michael came through,” said Rep. Evan Jenne. “It’s just something I think we as a state need to look at for the long-term protection of our citizens.”
“As lawmakers face more pressure on guns, is the NRA up for the fight?” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Gun reform activists are organized and well-funded. Retailers are banning guns from stores and pulling ammo off shelves. Poll after poll shows Americans think it should be harder to buy a firearm and a majority think certain weapons, the ones most used in extreme acts of violence, should be banned outright. But there is another factor that could determine how far lawmakers are willing to go to address gun safety: The weakened state of the National Rifle Association. The gun lobby group is in crisis over its finances and its leadership. Its standing with the public is lower than at any point in recent memory. The organization’s troubles could reverberate more in Florida than perhaps anywhere else.
“Better gun background checks ‘makes sense,’ key Florida Republican says” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — “Of all the things I’ve reviewed, and all the ideas that have come forward, that’s the one that seems to me to make the most common sense, not just to me, but to the average Floridian,” said Sen. Tom Lee. “I don’t know if there’s any appetite for (improved background checks) in the process,” Lee said. “I honestly don’t.” Lee chairs the Senate’s Infrastructure and Security Committee. His comments in support of tougher background checks came at the end of the committee’s first hearing. For two and a half hours, they largely danced around what Lee called “the elephant in this conversation”: people who take advantage of the easy access to high-powered weapons to kill people in public places.
“Law enforcement head rejects that mass shooters have mental illness” via Mitch Perry of Florida Phoenix — Saying there’s no single demographic or social profile of what constitutes a mass shooter, the head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said it would take a shift in strategy to contend with high profile mass shootings that have plagued Florida and the nation. FDLE head Rick Swearingen told a Florida Senate committee that he believes the only way to get ahead of mass shootings is to utilize what he calls “behavioral threat assessment management.” That means identifying a potential attacker, assessing the risk of violence he or she might be capable of, and managing that risk.
“DeSantis, lawmakers consider changes in troubled guardianship program” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — Changes could be coming to Florida’s system for overseeing the guardians of elderly, including beefing up monitoring and increasing penalties for those with valid complaints against them. Legislative leaders and officials of DeSantis’ administration met with judges, guardianship trade groups, state attorneys and representatives of the Elderly Law section of the Florida Bar to discuss ways to protect seniors from exploitative or neglectful guardians. “More must be done to enhance the structure of accountability for guardians to monitor compliance with established standards of practice and ensure that guardians are acting in the best interests of their wards,” Department of Elder Affairs Secretary Richard Prudom said.
“Bill seeks to compensate descendants of Ocoee massacre victims 100 years later” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — A bill introduced by Democratic state Sen. Randolph Bracy would split $10 million among descendants of victims of the Ocoee massacre. The bloody Election Day fray in 1920 led to a lynching and the exodus of virtually every black resident in the west Orange community for more than half a century.
“Bill would mandate breast, prostate cancer education for high school students” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — State Sen. Kevin Rader filed a bill (SB 276) that would update the state’s public K-12 education statute. Section 1003.42 lays out several topics that are required to be covered as part of the public school curriculum, including the development of the Declaration of Independence, the history of the state and the conservation of natural resources, among other items. Rader’s measure would add a provision to the portion of the statute covering health education. “The health education curriculum for students in grades 9 through 12 shall include a breast cancer and prostate cancer awareness component that includes, but is not limited to, the characteristics of and measures to prevent breast cancer and prostate cancer,” the bill reads.
“Windshield repair incentives targeted” via the News Service of Florida — State Rep. Richard Stark filed a proposal that would prevent auto-glass shops from offering cash, gift cards and other incentives to motorists to attract windshield-repair work. The bill (HB 169) could be an opening salvo in a renewed debate about the controversial insurance practice known as assignment of benefits. In assignment of benefits, policyholders sign over claims to contractors who then pursue payment from insurers. Lawmakers during the 2019 Session placed restrictions on assignment of benefits for property-insurance claims and debated restrictions for windshield claims. Ultimately, lawmakers did not address the windshield issue, but state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis has already said he will pursue it during the 2020 Legislative Session.
— LEG. CMTE. MTG. SKED. —
The Senate Agriculture Committee will receive an update from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services about hemp issues, after lawmakers this year approved a measure aimed at developing a hemp industry in the state, 9 a.m., 301 Senate Office Building.
The Senate Health Policy Committee will receive updates on a series of issues, including one from the Department of Health on a hepatitis A outbreak in the state, 9 a.m., 412 Knott Building.
The House Health & Human Services Committee will receive a briefing on the health-insurance market from state Deputy Insurance Commissioner Craig Wright, 10:30 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The House Judiciary Committee will receive an update about the implementation of a criminal justice database and a uniform arrest affidavit, 10:30 a.m., 404 House Office Building.
The House Education Committee will receive an overview of early learning and an update about implementation of recent legislation, 10:30 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will consider an effort to do away with the Florida Constitution Revision Commission. The committee will 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, 11 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building.
The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee will have an appearance by Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier, 11 a.m., 412 Knott Building.
The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee will host a panel discussion about suicide prevention and mental health, 11 a.m., 301 Senate Office Building.
The House Republican Conference will meet to formally designate Palm Harbor Republican Rep. Sprowls as the next House Speaker, starting after the November 2020 elections, 2 p.m., House Chamber.
— STATEWIDE —
“With Ron DeSantis looking on, Buc-ee’s breaks ground in Daytona Beach” via Frank Fernandez of the News-Journal — Gov. DeSantis joined local community leaders and a larger-than-life beaver mascot on Monday for the first groundbreaking in the state of Buc-ee’s, described as a Texas-icon that could be the largest gas station/convenience store in Florida when it opens in early 2021.
DeSantis to give priority to financial technology startups — DeSantis unveiled several initiatives that would encourage financial technology (FinTech) companies to start, relocate and expand in Florida. Joining DeSantis at the announcement in Jacksonville was Chief Financial Officer Patronis, Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Ken Lawson, Mayor Lenny Curry as well as local business and community leaders. “From day one, we’ve made it a priority to create a regulatory environment that provides opportunities for businesses in the financial technology and banking sectors to thrive without being impeded by high taxes and burdensome regulation,” DeSantis said in a news briefing. “The initiatives announced today demonstrate that we are committed to making Florida the top destination for FinTech companies to grow and succeed.”
Happening today — The Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments in two cases, including an appeal by Death Row inmate Randall Deviney, who was convicted in the 2008 murder of a neighbor in Duval County. The neighbor, Delores Futrell, was 65 years old and had multiple sclerosis and is described in court papers as having treated Deviney like a “grandson.” The appeal centers on issues about jury selection and instructions, 9 a.m., Florida Supreme Court, 500 South Duval St., Tallahassee.
Happening today — The 1st District Court of Appeal will hear arguments in a battle over a major state law-enforcement radio contract. Harris Corp. (now called L3Harris) is challenging a decision last year by the Florida Department of Management Services to award the contract, which is expected to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, to Motorola, 2 p.m., 1st District Court Appeal, 2000 Drayton Dr., Tallahassee.
“Citing health issue, Susie Wiles leaves Ballard Partners” via Florida Politics — The political strategist behind Trump’s 2016 Florida win and the successful gubernatorial campaigns of Rick Scott and DeSantis, is leaving her lobbying job at Ballard Partners. Wiles’ exit stems from a health issue that began last fall. Wiles says the move is not a retirement, but a temporary break. “Due to a nagging health issue, it’s time for me to focus on taking care of myself, so out of fairness to the firm and its clients, I have decided to separate from Ballard Partners,” she said. As far as her Ballard goodbye she said, “I cannot begin to express my gratitude to all of them for all the successes we have achieved together, and for their friendship, which I will always cherish.”
Meanwhile … “Tropical wave’s odds increase to 90% of development as it moves toward Florida” via Joe Mario Pederson of the Orlando Sentinel — September is proving why it’s considered peak hurricane season as another tropical wave with very high chances of developing into a tropical depression moves in the direction of Florida, according to the National Hurricane Center. A low-pressure system located over the central tropical Atlantic has become more organized as it slowly moves west where environmental conditions for tropical storm development are ideal. The system has a 60 percent chance of becoming a tropical depression in the next 48 hours, and a 90 percent chance of doing so over the next five days, the NHC said. It could eventually become Tropical Storm Imelda. A second system in the Gulf of Mexico has lost steam and structure, according to the NHC.
— NOTES FROM ELSEWHERE —
What Nikki Fried is reading — “Dreaming big for a risky hemp crop” via PEW Stateline — Farmers are rushing to plant newly legalized hemp in hopes of striking it rich, or at least making a good chunk of change in a period of low commodity prices. Hemp is a non-psychoactive form of cannabis. But as growers across 34 states start to harvest as much as half a million acres of hemp this fall, many newcomers have no idea who will buy their crop or even who will prepare it for sale. One farmer … said he doesn’t know what kind of return he’ll get on his $8,000 investment.
What the Florida Senate is reading — “Pa. lawmakers are among the highest paid in U.S., but they’re doing less and less actual lawmaking” via The Patriot-News of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania — Pennsylvania has the largest full-time legislature in the nation and its lawmakers are among the highest-paid in the country, yet, increasingly, they’re doing less and less actual lawmaking. The number of bills introduced in the legislature has fallen by more than 20 percent from its peak in the early 1990s, and the number of bills actually passed into law has fallen even more dramatically in the years since …
What Jackie Toledo is reading — “New York moves to ban flavored e-cigarettes by emergency order” via The New York Times — Amid a surge of vaping-related illnesses and deaths, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he would pursue emergency regulations this week to quickly ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. The governor’s action comes days after Trump announced an effort to ban similar vaping products at the federal level. If New York does outlaw flavored e-cigarettes, it will become the second state to move toward such a ban, following Michigan, which announced earlier this month that it would prohibit such products.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Spurned by championship teams, Donald Trump handpicks athletes for White House ceremonies” via David Nakamura of The Washington Post — Trump, whose tenure has marked a new high — or low — in the politicization of White House sports ceremonies, basked in the reflected glow of a sporting legend nonetheless. In a 20-minute ceremony in the East Room, Trump presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Mariano Rivera, the Hall of Fame relief pitcher for Trump’s hometown team, the New York Yankees. In all, the ceremony was the kind of feel-good, controversy-free photo op that is rare in the Trump era, and it represented something of a new model for this president to deal with athletes at a time when many — especially those who are racial minorities — have publicly boycotted the Trump White House and denounced his policies and rhetoric.
“Marco Rubio, Rick Scott, push for tax law changes to boost Dorian donations” via Mitch Perry of Florida Phoenix — Rubio and Scott want to change the U.S. tax code to encourage businesses to donate to Hurricane Dorian relief, co-sponsoring legislation that would temporarily suspend existing limitations on qualified charitable contributions for individuals and corporations. The two Florida Senators are co-sponsoring the bill with fellow Republicans Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Johnny Isakson of Georgia. Miami Republican Mario Diaz-Balart is sponsoring a companion bill in the U.S. House. “The conditions on Abaco and Grand Bahama Islands are shocking and, with tens of thousands of Bahamians now homeless, it is clear the island nation is in urgent need,” Rubio said in a written statement.
Assignment editors — Rubio will co-chair a Congressional-Executive Commission on China hearing to examine developments in Hong Kong and the future of U.S.-Hong Kong relations, 10 a.m., 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington D.C. The hearing will be livestreamed on the CECC’s YouTube page.
“Miami lawmakers agree on TPS for Venezuela, Haiti. Why is the Bahamas different?” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Members of Congress from South Florida, home to the country’s largest Bahamian community, are split on what they want. Though Democratic presidential candidates are demanding TPS for the Bahamas, South Florida Republicans are opposed to it and even South Florida Democrats acknowledge that TPS is not the most pressing immigration concern for the Bahamas. Plus, the Bahamian government hasn’t asked to be part of the program. Instead, the Bahamian government wants U.S. visa requirements temporarily waived so hurricane victims who lost everything can enter the United States for a limited period of time if they lack proper documentation. State Rep. Shevrin Jones said TPS isn’t defining the post-Dorian immigration conversation for Bahamians. It’s much different, he said.
“Nuclear Regulatory Commission proposes fining FPL, bans former executive for retaliation” via Tyler Treadway of TC Palm — The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission has proposed a $232,000 fine against Florida Power & Light and has barred a former FPL executive from NRC-licensed activities for five years for retaliating against a contract employee who raised a safety concern at the St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant near Fort Pierce.
— 2020 —
Bigger than you might think — “Working Families Party endorses Elizabeth Warren” via Astead Herndon of The New York Times — The labor-aligned progressive group whose electoral influence has grown since the 2016 election, has endorsed Warren, a boon to her candidacy as she attempts to position herself as the main challenger to former Vice President Joe Biden. “Sen. Warren knows how to kick Wall Street kleptocrats where it hurts, and she’s got some truly visionary plans to make this country work for the many,” said Maurice Mitchell, the Working Families Party’s national director. “We need a mass movement to make her plans a reality, and we’re going to be a part of that work.” Mitchell brushed off the possibility that the group’s endorsement would be seen as a sign of a splintering of the progressive left.
“The fight for the Latino vote in Florida” via Jonathan Blitzer of the New Yorker — The Latino electorate is younger, more numerous, and more diverse than ever before, with mostly progressive views on health-care and social-justice issues. These trends should work in favor of the Democrats. Still, the Presidential election is more than a year away, and disaffection with Republicans is hardly a guarantee of Democratic votes. Florida Democrats remain bitterly divided over how they lost statewide races in 2018, and many have complained that the national Party leadership is not investing enough resources in voter-outreach and registration efforts. In an Op-Ed in the Times, Andrea Cristina Mercado, the head of the progressive group New Florida Majority, warned that the Democrats “assume demography is destiny and think their policies speak for themselves.”
— THE TRAIL —
FDP rolls out “game-changing” campaign toolkit — On Monday, the Florida Democratic Party said it was rolling out a suite of digital campaign resources for municipal candidates. “Campaign Blueprint” includes training videos, an automated campaign plan generator and campaign materials. FDP Chair Terrie Rizzo called the platform a “game-changer,” adding, “when more Democrats run in the Sunshine State, more Democrats win and nowhere is this more evident than in municipal races.” Lisa Peth, the party’s Municipal Victory Program director, said Campaign Blueprint “will provide a candidate with a unique plan that includes all the basics — a win number, field timeline, voter contact plan and recommendations for finance, political and communications plans — as well as guided training in the key aspects of running a winning campaign.”
“Fifth Republican joins fight to topple Charlie Crist” via Janelle Irwin Taylor Florida Politics — Air Force veteran Anna Paulina Luna announced she was joining the race to bring conservative values back to the district. Luna joins an already crowded field in the Republican primary for Florida’s 13th Congressional District. Also running are former U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski staffer Amanda Makki, former attorney Sheila Griffin, Matt Becker and perennial candidate George Buck. Bucking conservative stereotypes, the Republican crowd is diverse. It now includes an Iranian American (Makki), an African American (Griffin) and, now, a Latina.
Happening tonight — Majority Leader Kathleen Passidomo joins Chairs Lizbeth Benacquisto, Anitere Flores and Kelli Stargel for a fundraiser benefitting the campaigns of state Sen. Gayle Harrell for SD 25, state Rep. Ana Maria Rodriguez for SD 39, state Sen. Debbie Mayfield for SD 17 and Jennifer Bradley for SD 5, 5 p.m., Governors Club Jim Krog Room, 202 S. Adams St., Tallahassee.
“Nancy Detert gives key endorsement to Donna Barcomb in HD 72 race” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Sarasota County Commissioner Detert, a former state Senator, endorsed the Sarasota Republican. “As a longtime business owner, member of the Sarasota Hospital Board and a smart woman, you have all the skills necessary to be a strong and effective leader for Sarasota,” Detert said of Barcomb. Barcomb filed in February for Florida House District 72. She originally planned to challenge Democratic incumbent Margaret Good, who has since decided to run for Congress. Now, Barcomb faces Naval Reserve office Fiona McFarland in a heated Republican primary. Sarasota attorney Drake Buckman remains the only Democrat in the open race.
— LOCAL —
“Judge declines to reveal Jeffrey Epstein’s secret non-prosecution agreement” via Danielle Haynes of UPI — U. S. District Judge Kenneth Marra said he couldn’t reveal the details of the secret agreement in which the 66-year-old was allowed to plead guilty to lesser state charges to avoid serious federal sex crimes charges. His victims sued, saying that under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, prosecutors should have notified them in 2007 that Epstein would not face federal charges. “As a result of Mr. Epstein‘s death, there can be no criminal prosecution against him, and the Court cannot consider granting this relief to the victims,” Marra wrote.
“Miami and Fort Lauderdale have highest rate of new HIV diagnoses in country” via Johnny Diaz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — In a new story, Science Magazine highlights how Miami and Fort Lauderdale lead the country with the highest rates of new HIV diagnoses per capita. The magazine used 2016 numbers from a report by the Centers for Disease Control, which found that the infection rate per capita in Miami was 47 per 100,000 while Fort Lauderdale was 41 per 100,000. Those figures were double those of other big cities, including New York City and Los Angeles. South Florida has long been known for its high infection rate, with Miami-Dade and Broward counties leading the nation in new HIV infections.
“Four nursing home employees formally charged in death of patients after Hurricane Irma” via Carli Teproff of the Miami Herald — Four healthcare workers who police say “didn’t do enough” to care for patients after Hurricane Irma caused a Hollywood nursing home to lose power leading to the deaths of 12 people were formally charged Monday in connection with nine of the deaths, the Broward State Attorney’s Office announced.
“Sybrina Fulton campaign to return barred donation for second straight month” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Fulton’s campaign says it will be refunding an August contribution from an organization called “Zion Hill Baptist Church Truth” in order to avoid a potential campaign finance violation. According to state campaign finance law, candidates “may not solicit contributions from any religious, charitable, civic, or other causes or organizations established primarily for the public good.” Fulton is currently running for the District 1 seat on the Miami-Dade County Commission. It is the second straight month Fulton’s campaign has triggered a potential violation. In July, Fulton accepted a $2,800 check from big-time Coral Gables donor Barbara Stiefel. That’s more than double the legal limit of $1,000 for candidates in countywide races.
“Clearwater mayor calls for assault weapons ban: ‘my prayers aren’t working’” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — George Cretekos urged his fellow City Council members to support a sweeping resolution calling on Congress to ban “military-style” assault weapons and high capacity magazines; pass a national “red flag” law and expand gun background checks to cover private sales. “I’ve gone to church, I’ve prayed,” Cretekos said. “My prayers aren’t working.” Though state lawmakers have long banned Florida cities from regulating firearms on their own, it was a remarkable symbolic move for the normally politically adverse City Council. “In the past, council and I have stayed away from national issues,” Cretekos said. “But I think this issue is something that we need to consider to let people know where we stand as a community to encourage safety.”
“Group of Jacksonville parents, grandparent sue city for blocking Duval school sales tax” via Emily Bloch of the Florida Times-Union — A set of Duval County parents and grandparents sued the City of Jacksonville for blocking the School Board’s proposed half-cent sales tax from appearing on voters’ ballots this year. In August, City Council voted 14-5 to withdraw bill 2019-380 — a measure originally introduced in May to allow voters to decide on a $1.9 billion sales tax referendum targeting school maintenance and repairs. The controversial vote had members of the crowd up in arms. Now, they’re doing something about it. On Sept. 16, Tad Delegal and James Poindexter of the downtown firm Delegal and Poindexter Law Offices filed the complaint. Timothy Albro and Laura Heffernan, Eunice Barnum and Ann Gipalo are all plaintiffs.
“Lake moves forward with Groveland Four monument, plans further displays of black history, civil rights” via Jerry Fallstrom of the Orlando Sentinel — The memorial honoring four black men falsely accused of raping a white woman in 1949 will be placed on the front lawn of the historic courthouse in Tavares. That’s also the home of the Lake County Historical Museum, which has been the source of controversy over plans to display a Confederate statue there. Commission Chairwoman Leslie Campione said that she wants additional displays about black history and civil rights to be under the auspices of the commission and not the museum. Talk of expanding the focus on black history and civil rights came as commissioners voted unanimously to approve a $12,870 contract with Monument Warehouse LLC in Elberton, Georgia, for design, construction and installation of the monument.
“Work starting on dog park that will honor Eustis official” via Roxanne Brown of the Daily Commercial — Construction of what is being dubbed the “GT Dog Park” — being erected in honor of late Commissioner Carla Gnann-Thomspon, a known dog lover who died unexpectedly in March — is starting this week. This comes after an announcement by city officials that the project is being mainly funded by one of Gnann-Thompson’s family members.
“Charter school fights school board takeover” via the News Service of Florida — A Davie charter school is challenging a Broward County School Board decision to take over the school’s operations because of an alleged failure to comply with security requirements. The challenge by Championship Academy of Distinction at Davie was filed in the state Division of Administrative Hearings. It stems from a decision by the School Board to terminate an agreement with the charter school and to take control of the school’s operations. Charter schools are public schools but typically run by private organizations. The Board alleged that Championship Academy failed to comply with a law passed after the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. That law requires armed “safe school” officers on each public-school campus.
“Police: DNA links Florida man to ‘serial’ slayings of women” via Terry Spencer, Kelli Kennedy and Mike Schneider of The Associated Press — Three women shot in the head, each dumped a month apart — the 2006 killings scared Daytona Beach’s street people. And then suddenly the slayings stopped. Ten years later, a prostitute’s body was dumped along a road, 180 miles south in West Palm Beach. DNA and ballistics showed that one man did Rachel Bey’s strangulation and the gun deaths of Laquetta Gunther, Julie Green and Iwana Patton, but detectives couldn’t identify the killer — until last week. Palm Beach County sheriff’s investigators charged Robert Hayes, 37, with murder for Bey’s death and Daytona Beach detectives said he is the prime suspect in their investigation, though he has not been charged there.
“Florida man who dressed as Capt. Jack Sparrow found dead in bay near Crystal River after search” via Richard Tribou and Tiffani Theisen of the Orlando Sentinel — Joshua Hensley’s body was recovered by Marine Unit Deputies in Kings Bay. Hensley, known as “Captain Jack” because he dressed as Capt. Jack Sparrow from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, “was a beloved figure in the community and will be missed,” the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office said. He had last been seen Saturday evening on his stand-up paddleboard leaving Hunter Springs Park, reportedly heading to Shell Island to watch the sunset. Deputies on Monday morning found his paddleboard in King’s Bay near Pete’s Pier.
“Candidates from home and cities like Chicago, New Orleans and beyond apply for Tallahassee police chief job” via Kate Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat— Law enforcmeent candidates from near and far — 52 of them — have applied to take the hel at the Tallahassee Police Department. Several of them already work at TOD, including Interim Police Chief Steve Outlaw and two of his command staff.
— OPINIONS —
“Helping Bahamians rebuild is a matter of basic morality — and thwarts China, too” via Marco Rubio of the Miami Herald — Directing resources to assist Bahamians is the right thing to do. But there exists an additional imperative on the national security level, as well: if we fail to rise to the occasion, China will step in to seize the moment and exploit the recovery for its own nefarious purposes. In recent years, China has sought to expand its presence and influence in the Bahamas. With many airports no longer operational and ports rendered unnavigable, the post-Dorian situation is tailor-made for Chinese exploitation. China reaches out to interested nations with promises of a hefty investment. After reaching an agreement, Beijing hijacks the country’s resources and infrastructure, often dramatically ramping up the lending terms after initial negotiation. It’s debt-trap diplomacy.
“Bottled water is sucking Florida dry” via Michael Sainato and Chelsea Skojec of The New York Times — At least 60 springs discharge from the Floridan aquifer into the Santa Fe River, which runs 75 miles through north-central Florida. This aquifer is the primary source of drinking water in the state. The state and local governments have continued to issue water bottling extraction permits that prevent the aquifer from recharging. The answer to this problem is simple: No more extraction permits should be granted, and existing permits should be reduced with the goal of eliminating bottled water production entirely in Florida. “When the bottling companies come in, they’re taking the water away, and we get no benefit,” said Michael Roth, president of Our Santa Fe River, an environmental nonprofit.
“For a new Supreme Court Justice, DeSantis need only look to his Secretary of State” via Peter Schorsch — After more than eight months in office, Gov. DeSantis will get a unique opportunity — to again appoint legal eagles to the Florida Supreme Court to replace newly appointed Justices Barbara Lagoa and Robert Luck, who were selected to serve on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. DeSantis may not have to look too far: Secretary of State Laurel Lee represents an experienced and widely respected option. Lee, a former federal prosecutor, private sector attorney and judge for the 13th Judicial Circuit, would check all the right boxes as a DeSantis pick. As a bonus, her husband is Florida state Sen. Tom Lee, making Lee already a DeSantis-vetted insider.
“Advice to lawmakers: if you’re going to have an affair, don’t have it with a lobbyist” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Marital infidelity is nothing new in the Florida Legislature. And ordinarily, if a lawmaker leaves his or her spouse for someone else, it doesn’t make news. But if the affair involves a lobbyist, who is paid to influence how lawmakers vote, the potential for conflicts of interest becomes obvious. Enter Sen. Gary Farmer who has told colleagues he has separated from his wife and is involved with another woman. She is Andreina Figueroa, a Republican who lobbies for charter schools, trial lawyers, Duke Energy and the city of Hialeah, among other clients. The far greater problem in Tallahassee are the ties between legislators and lobbyists that involve campaign money, the real poison in the political bloodstream.
— ALOE —
“Dolphins’ odds of winning Super Bowl now 20,000 to 1” via Steven Wine of The Associated Press — The Dolphins are 0-2 and have been outscored 102-10; no team since 1961 had a worse point differential after two games. Miami’s odds of winning the Super Bowl have soared to 20,000 to 1, or 20 times worse than any other team. The Dolphins were shut out at home for the first time since 2010 and netted 38 yards in the first three quarters. An awful offensive line might make it impossible to quarterback the Dolphins, but rookie coach Brian Flores is weighing whether to switch from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Josh Rosen as the starter Sunday at Dallas.
“Duke says electric bills will be reduced in 2020” via the News Service of Florida — Duke Energy Florida expects to see a reduction in customers’ monthly electric bills in 2020 because of factors such as lower fuel costs for power plants. For residential customers who use 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity a month — a common benchmark in the utility industry — bills would be reduced $4.69 beginning in January, according to Duke, which serves about 1.8 million customers in the state. Commercial and industrial customers would see decreases between 3 percent and 9 percent.
“SeaWorld’s CEO quits after 7 months on the job” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — SeaWorld CEO Gus Antorcha, who took over the Orlando-based company in February, abruptly resigned Monday after feuding with the board of directors. “Mr. Antorcha informed the Company that his resignation was due to disagreements over the Board’s involvement in the decision making at the Company,” SeaWorld said in a new SEC filing. Antorcha, 45, is a former cruise line executive who started his $600,000 a year job on Feb. 18. He is not entitled to nor seeking severance benefits, the SEC filing said. “While I may have a difference of approach, I continue to believe in SeaWorld’s strategy, mission, team and prospects,” said Antorcha in a prepared statement.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Belated wishes to U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy. Celebrating today are Tampa Bay Times reporter Charlie Frago, J.T. Foley, St. Petersburg City Council Charlie Gerdes, Ashby Green, Tallahassee Democrat reporter Jeff Schweers, and INFLUENCE Magazine contributor Mary Beth Tyson.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.