Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.19.19

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Start your morning with the essentials, coffee — and Sunburn.

The latest expansion at Bascom Communications should cement the perception that the firm is the most-powered of the state’s Tallahassee-based “powerhouse” PR and political communications concerns.

Today, the firm is announcing it was growing into full-service video and digital production with the addition of award-winning creative director Mark Spaeder.

“Mark joins our team with decades of experience in graphic design, videography and editing,” firm President Sarah Bascom said. “With statistics showing approximately 65 percent of Americans learn through visual communication, Mark’s award-winning ability to illustrate and tell a story visually will be integral to delivering results for the brands who trust us.

“We are excited for Mark to join our team and share his talents with our clients.”

To view the video, click on the image below:

Spaeder will lead the graphic design and video production arm of the firm.

He boasts a wide combination of creative skills: Art direction, graphic design, creative conceptualization, copywriting, branding, photography, illustration, videography and editing, among others.

Moreover, Spaeder has won numerous Addy Awards developing creative strategies in government, public relations and issue-based advertising.

To put all this into context, remember that Bascom was named a “Great Communicator” in INFLUENCE Magazine‘s Spring 2017 edition and was twice named to the INFLUENCE 100 List as one of the most influential people in Florida politics.

She consulted for Richard Corcoran when he was House Speaker-designate. More recently, she’s been an outside communications consultant for Senate President Bill Galvano, and now for state Rep. and future House Speaker Chris Sprowls.


This week, lawmakers are parsing Florida’s budget in Tallahassee as state Rep. Sprowls — the newly designated House Speaker for next year — says they have a spending problem. But Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Rob Bradley disagrees, saying: “not really.”

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is asking state legislators to ante up for the Florida Forest Service. With the threat of wildfires looming in the Panhandle due to Hurricane Michael devastation, Fried says the agency is still using Vietnam War-era helicopters.

— A newly released Florida Atlantic University poll shows Elizabeth Warren gaining ground on Joe Biden in the Sunshine State. Warren, Biden and Bernie Sanders are each in a statistical tie against Donald Trump in Florida. But political guru Steve Vancore has some concerns about the poll’s methodology.

— Adventures of Florida Woman: Police in Ocoee are searching for a Florida woman accused of attacking employees of a local Burger King. She was in the drive-thru when something set her off, where she then left her car, went inside and battered several workers and damaged some fixtures. The burger basher was last seen driving off in a bright orange Dodge Charger.

To listen to today’s Sunrise, click on the image below:


@SenRickScott: Hey @tedcruz, we know Florida has better beaches, better weather, and better food than Texas. At tonight’s #BrewDemocracy cup we’ll see that Florida has better beer too. RT to show Ted that FL > TX!

Tweet, tweet:

—@GovRonDeSantis: I am traveling to Chicago today with @EnterpriseFL President & CEO @JamalSowell to meet with financial firms Keystone Capital, @KPMG and @LoopCapital. Florida’s economic posture is one of welcoming, and there is no better state to start or grow a business.

—@DanaYoungFL: Labor Day travel to Fla was dramatically impacted by Dorian, causing major losses to our vital tourism industry. To promote fall travel across the Sunshine State, @VISITFLORIDA is hosting “Live from FL Friday” this Friday. Post your sunny views on 9/20 & use #LoveFL!!!

Tweet, tweet:

—@JoeGruters: Florida loves President @realDonaldTrump, and we will deliver the 29 electoral votes he needs to win reelection. #MAGA2020 #FloridaGOP.

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

—@SteveLemongello: The 2018 Florida Senate race may have ended up the most important election of 2020

—@TheDaraKam: Wow. Sentencing reform for possession of illicit drugs for personal use. Note: @Rob_Bradley, a Republican who is a former prosecutor, is @FLSenate budget chief. #FlaPol #Sayfie

—@fineout: Former LG @LopezCantera is becoming the first president of the Hemp Industries Association of Florida. Anything can happen, but this could be seen as a signal that Lopez-Cantera will not run for Miami-Dade mayor in 2020

—@KarlEtters: The city has smooth moves. Make a records request on Tuesday. Press release detailing the information you asked for goes out on Wednesday


MSNBC hosts candidates event on climate in D.C. — 1; Emmy Awards live on Fox — 3; 850 Hemp Summit begins — 13; “Joker” opens — 15; Triple Force Friday: the next generation of Star Wars products arrives — 15; SNL season premiere with Woody Harrelson — 16; Debut of Breaking Bad movie on Netflix — 22; New season of “The Crown” streaming on Netflix — 29; “Watchmen” premieres on HBO (watch the trailer and let us know what you think) — 31; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 39; Brexit scheduled — 42; 2019 General Election — 47; 3rd Annual Florida Internet and Television FITCon starts — 49; “Frozen 2” debuts — 64; TaxWatch 40th Annual Meeting — 74; “The Rise of Skywalker” premiers — 92; 2020 Session begins — 117; Florida TaxWatch State of the TaxPayer Dinner in Tallahassee — 118; Iowa Caucuses — 137; New Hampshire Primaries — 147; Florida’s presidential primary — 180; “Black Panther 2” debuts — 230; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo begin — 309; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 341; 2020 General Election — 411.


Floridians are split on who they want in the Oval Office come 2021.

That’s no surprise for a perennial swing state, but Florida Atlantic University did unearth something new in its most recent poll of Florida voters — former VP Joe Biden’s primary lead is evaporating, much to the benefit of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Florida Democrats are still splintered on who they think should face off against Trump on the 2020 ballot, but Biden has seen his strong plurality erode five points since May. Warren, meanwhile, has doubled her support. As of now, Biden leads 39-24.

Photo from ABC
In Florida, Elizabeth Warren rises, but Joe Biden still leads the pack.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders is 10 points back from Warren, while no other Dem broke double digits.

Another semi-bright spot for Warren: she’ll fare best in the general election. She trails POTUS by two-tenths of a point compared to a one-point deficit for Biden and Sanders.

While the presidential poll purports a divided Florida, that’s not the case when it comes to universal background checks — a full 75 percent of Florida voters want them. Just one in seven are opposed.

That bipartisanship didn’t extend to the Chinese tariffs, however. Two-fifths say they hurt America, a third say the opposite and 27 percent don’t believe they have an effect either way.

The opposition to the trade war is mainly composed of Democrats and independents. Given the economy is their most important issue among Florida voters, any presidential hopeful looking to flip the state would do well by talking tariffs.

People want action on guns ― but they’re not confident elected officials will deliver” via Anthony Man and Aric Chokey of the Sun-Sentinel — As the death toll from mass shootings continues to escalate, public opinion polls in Florida and nationally show most people want their elected officials to take action to reduce the access to weapons, especially to people who might be dangerous. The public supports stronger background checks, curbs on assault weapons, allowing courts to order the seizure of weapons from people who may be dangerous, banning high capacity ammunition magazines and more. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel analyzed detailed breakdowns from 19 Florida and national polls conducted since 17 people were killed and 17 injured in the February 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.


Gov., Cabinet poised to replace state’s chief administrative law judge” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — The next head of the body that acts as a legal check on agencies under Gov. Ron DeSantis’ control is likely to be a lawyer who already works for him. The agenda for next Tuesday’s meeting of the Governor and Cabinet shows an item for “Interview and Appointment — Chief Judge And Executive Director, Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH).” At a Wednesday meeting of Cabinet aides, DeSantis’ chief cabinet aide Beau Beaubien said the Governor wanted to interview only John MacIver for the job, currently held by Bob Cohen. MacIver is DeSantis’ deputy general counsel.

Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet are about to replace Bob Cohen, the state’s chief Administrative Law Judge. The Governor only wanted to interview John MacIver, currently his deputy general counsel.

Cabinet could take closer look at job candidates” via News Service of Florida — A deeper vetting of prospective agency heads may be in the works as state leaders select a new top financial regulator. Nearly two months after Office of Financial Regulation Commissioner Ronald Rubin was fired following sexual-harassment accusations, DeSantis and members of the Cabinet are slated next week to discuss how they want to fill the position. At the urging of Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office, DeSantis and the Cabinet members will also discuss how to fill other positions they oversee and address the background examination process. During a Wednesday meeting, Moody’s chief Cabinet aide said the vetting process should include comprehensive Florida Department of Law Enforcement background checks and credit checks of job candidates shortlisted for interviews.

Richard Corcoran pushes changes in state college system” via News Service of Florida — Florida education czar Corcoran bristles at being called a disrupter. He prefers the gentler label of “transformer,” a brand Corcoran burnished during his two-year tenure as House Speaker. As Speaker, the Republican father of six pushed through a series of what were touted as “transformational” education policies that included major expansions of charter schools and private-school vouchers. And now, as education commissioner, Corcoran is aiming to make changes in the state college system. Less than a year on the job, he has convinced the State Board of Education to sign off on a new funding formula for the 28-college system, which, with more than 320,000 students, is widely viewed as one of the finest in the nation.

Corrections chief Mark Inch wants to convert prison guards back to 8-hour shifts” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Contending that 12-hour shifts for prison guards implemented under the Gov. Rick Scott administration led to dramatic rises in guard turnover, stress for guards, violence by prisoners and costs for the department, Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Inch asked for an additional $89 million to begin switching back to eight-hour shifts and to address other staffing problems. Inch made his comments Wednesday as he described the corrections system’s situation to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice. He described a corrections system that is seeing dramatic increases in staffing problems, with 3,000 vacancies and a high turnover rate, and said that’s directly leading to more violence and overtime costs.

Tom Lee calls Senate committee a front for insurance industryLee called the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee — on which he sits — a “front” group for the insurance industry and says the state‘s insurance regulator had presented the panel with information that was loaded with “value judgments.” As reported by Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida, Lee stopped short of saying OIR Commissioner David Altmaier had presented information that specifically benefited insurers. But at the end of a committee meeting, Lee asked Altmaier how he viewed his role in government. “If I had more time, I would have gone further,” Lee said. “I just think we hear one side of the story here. We’ve just become a front for the industry in this committee, and it’s just kind of embarrassing.”

Tom Lee calls the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee — on which he sits — a ‘front’ group for the insurance industry. Image via Colin Hackley.

House panel talks springs, Everglades restoration” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The House Agriculture and Natural Resources subcommittee contemplated the ongoing project of water-quality improvement, including Everglades and springs restoration. Restoration efforts, a legislative priority in recent Sessions, will continue to be one going forward.

Student-athlete injuries in Florida: aAmystery to the FHSAA, legislators” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee heard from the Florida High School Athletics Association and the Florida School Boards Association about health concerns for student-athletes. The forum was relaxed: the packet of material was fragmentary at best, not reflective of a formal presentation so much as a good-humored colloquy. Whether this was productive is another matter.

House panel mulls budget asks for economic incentives, election security” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The House Transportation and Tourism Subcommittee looked at departmental budgets, including the Department of Economic Opportunity and the Department of State. DEO head Ken Lawson offered a familiar “spiel,” defending VISIT FLORIDA’s $50M ask. Secretary of State Laurel Lee asked for money to replace the “cumbersome” campaign finance database, which “poses a security risk … has exceeded its operable life and needs to be replaced.”

José Javier Rodríguez and Anna Eskamani declare climate change responsibility, opportunity” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Democratic state Sen. Rodríguez and Democratic state Rep. Eskamani rolled out their latest renewable energy bills Wednesday expressing optimism that new acceptance of climate change challenges among Republican leaders presents the Florida Legislature with fresh responsibility and opportunity. The Democratic lawmakers unveiled Rodríguez’s Senate Bill 256 and Eskamani’s House Bill 97 at a news conference Wednesday in the Capitol. Both bills set the goal of Florida having fully renewable energy for electric power by 2050, and authorize various programs at the state level to begin working toward that.

Hurricane Michael flattened homes built on older code. What can lawmakers do now?” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The age of Panhandle homes served as the most significant predictor of whether Hurricane Michael would flatten structures, witnesses told the House Business and Professions Subcommittee Wednesday. State officials surveying storm damage found an enormous difference in sustained damage for homes built under modern building codes. Dr. David Prevatt, a Civil Engineering professor at the University of Florida, said differences were stark for newly developed homes: “Those built under older codes were destroyed or severely damaged,” he said, “where new codes, [the storm] caused minor or no damage.”


The Industrial Hemp Advisory Council will meet, followed by a meeting of the Hemp Advisory Committee. The council is at 8 a.m., followed by the committee at 9:30 a.m., Cabinet Meeting Room. 

The House Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee will receive a presentation on a report about placement options and services for victims of commercial sexual exploitation, 9:30 a.m., 12 House Office Building.

The House Higher Education & Career Readiness Subcommittee will receive presentations about “developmental education reform” in the Florida College System, 9:30 a.m., 306 House Office Building.

The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee will receive presentations about budget requests and potential reductions for the Department of Education and the Office of Early Learning, 9:30 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.


First on FlaPol: “Another SunPass error will cost state $1M more” via Noah Pransky for Florida Politics — A preventable coding error — that went unnoticed by Florida’s Department of Transportation for 15 months — meant a million dollars’ worth of toll transactions were not properly billed to drivers on I-595 in Broward County. Florida Politics has confirmed FDOT failed to collect tolls from more than a million trips on I-595’s reversible express lanes, the result of the agency not realizing it was time-stamping transactions in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), rather than Eastern Standard Time (EST). As a result, the SunPass system — which was supposed to function better than it did before the upgrade — failed to recognize the reversible lanes were open and active during their busiest hours.

State Dem chair calls AG Moody’s attempt to block gun ban ‘shameful,’” via Blaise Gainey of WFSU — Moody wants the courts to block a proposed assault weapons ban from going in front of voters. Last month she asked the Florida Supreme Court to block the proposed constitutional amendment because it was misleading and deceitful. Now, Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo is calling State Attorney General Ashley Moody’s attempts to block the ban “dishonorable.”

‘They’re not listening to us.’ Florida families hurt by opiates oppose Purdue settlement” via Ben Conarck of the Miami Herald — Since losing her son to an opioid overdose nearly three years ago, Cindy Dodds has been a fervent advocate for educating public officials on addiction and destigmatizing the crisis in Florida. Dodds, of Key Biscayne, has pushed for more needle exchanges to prevent the spread of disease, organized families who have lost loved ones to opioid addiction and called for harsher laws to punish dealers.

What Martha Lenderman is reading: “You’re trapped. They’re cashing in.” Via Neil Bedi of the Tampa Bay Times — A Tampa Bay Times investigation has found that North Tampa Behavioral makes huge profits by exploiting patients held under Florida’s mental health law, known as the Baker Act. The hospital illegally cuts patients off from their families. Then it uses loopholes in the statute to hold them longer than allowed, running up their bills while they are powerless to fight back. Some patients describe getting virtually no psychiatric treatment. Meanwhile, people at risk of suicide have been allowed to hurt themselves, and helpless patients have been attacked on the ward. For this, the hospital charges up to $1,500 per night.

After new law, Florida police issue few tickets for texting while driving” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Police in Florida have ticketed just 542 drivers for texting while driving since a new law took effect July 1, a highway patrol official told lawmakers. That translates to about seven tickets per day for a state with a population of 21 million, not including tourists. But that low number is intentional. Florida Highway Patrol troopers, along with most police in the state, are opting to warn drivers rather than ticket them so that they can alert them about the new law. “We’re asking our troopers to spread the word through warnings,” Florida Highway Patrol Chief Mark Brown said.

Sweatshirts with school shooting themes causing backlash for fashion company” via Doug Phillips of the Sun-Sentinel — A streetwear fashion company is getting a lot of social media heat for school-shooting themed sweatshirts it rolled out during New York Fashion Week. The hoodie-type sweatshirts have distressed detailing resembling bullet holes and bearing the names of places where mass shootings have taken place — including Stoneman Douglas, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and Columbine. “Under what scenario could someone think this was a good idea?” Fred Guttenberg, the father of Marjory Stoneman Douglas mass shooting victim Jaime Guttenberg tweeted. The so-called “Samsara” collection was unveiled Saturday by designers Brick Owens and Dieter Grams. In a statement to TIME, Bstroy co-founder Grams said he and Owens were hoping to shed light on important issues such as gun violence in schools.

Hoodies with the names of school shootings have been cropping up, much to the dismay of grieving families. Image via


What Marshall Criser III is reading — “New Mexico aims to set a new bar for affordable higher education” via Rolling Stone — New Mexico isn’t going to wait for federal action to make public colleges and universities more affordable. On Wednesday, the state went ahead and said it hopes to make them all tuition-free. Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the ambitious plan to allow all of the state’s residents to attend all of its public colleges and universities for free.

What Florida Forest Service Director Jim Karels is reading — “Colorado is first state prepared to fight fires from air at night” via — There are costs and hazards involved, but the move could also help firefighters get the most threatening blazes under control more quickly. The Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control has trained two pilots so far this year to fly over fire sites with night vision goggles. They work with a ground team that helps guide them. Vince Welbaum, Aviation Chief for the fire agency, said it’s “basically ready to activate in an operational mode when that opportunity arises.”

What Florida’s lobbying corps is reading — “To rein in cities, Texas tried to ban their lobbying” via PEW Stateline — For weeks, local officials and lobbyists watched anxiously as a bill that would have severely restricted lobbying by cities, counties and other local government entities advanced through the legislature. The bill died in the Texas House just days before the session ended. The measure would … have barred cities and counties from spending money on outside lobbyists. Those firms earn millions of dollars arguing for local officials before state lawmakers during each biennial Session.


Donald Trump names hostage envoy Robert O’Brien national security adviser” via The Associated Press — O’Brien, the fourth person in two years to hold the job, becomes the administration’s point person on national security amid rising tensions with Iran following the weekend attack on Saudi oil installations and fresh uncertainty in Afghanistan after the halt in peace talks with the Taliban. The announcement of O’Brien’s selection comes a week after Trump ousted John Bolton from the post, citing policy disagreements. O’Brien, who made headlines in July when he was dispatched to Sweden to monitor the assault trial of American rapper A$AP Rocky, was among five candidates Trump said were under consideration. “I have worked long & hard with Robert. He will do a great job!” Trump tweeted.

Donald Trump names chief hostage negotiator Robert O’Brien as his new National Security Adviser.

Trump says border wall ‘can’t be climbed’ — The President visited a segment of the wall in southern California, speaking about the wall’s features, saying the government had “20 mountain climbers” try and scale the structure to test its effectiveness. “This is the one that was hardest to climb … this wall can’t be climbed,” he said, according to White House press pool reports. He added: “You can fry an egg on that wall,” noting it’s designed to absorb heat, making it more difficult to scale. Trump also told reporters that three other countries are studying the wall, made of metal slats, in hopes of building one of their own. He said he would disclose the countries if he could get their approval.

White House circulates gun background check proposal to lawmakers” via Marianne Levine and Burgess Everett of POLITICO — The White House this week began circulating a much-anticipated gun background check proposal to Republicans on Capitol Hill, though it’s unclear if President Donald Trump supports it.

White House withdraws nominee to head FEMA” via Marianne Levine and Daniel Lippman of POLITICO — The White House will withdraw its nominee to lead the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to a White House official and a source familiar with the matter. They confirmed that the Trump administration will pull the nomination of Jeffrey Byard to head FEMA. The official said that Byard withdrew his nomination after an accusation surfaced that he was in an altercation. The official also said that the FBI determined that the accusation was unsubstantiated.

Having zero kids at Homestead has cost $33 million so far — that number will rise” via Monique O. Madden of the Miami Herald — The government has spent more than $33 million in 46 days to keep the Homestead detention center up and running even though no children are housed there, according to federal officials. Jonathan Hayes, the acting director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement — the agency in charge of housing unaccompanied migrant children — testified at a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing, along with other Department of Homeland Security leaders, about mental health services for migrant children.

— 2020 —

Why Joe Biden is winning — but hasn’t won — the race for Florida’s presidential rainmakers” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — “Florida isn’t ready to be campaigned for yet. But it’s a very rich donor state,” John Morgan, who raised $1.7 million for Biden at his home in May, told the Miami Herald. “Florida has a lot of money to be tapped into.” Florida, with a critical mass of wealthy, liberal donors, is among the most prolific states in terms of political giving to Democratic candidates. The state has also been lucrative for Republicans, with Trump’s June stop at his Doral resort bringing in $4 million. And even though there’s currently a sense among some political veterans like former Florida Democratic Party chairwoman and fundraiser Allison Tant that fundraising has been “unusually quiet,” the money has been pouring in this year.

Close but no cigar, yet: Joe Biden may be in the lead, but he hasn’t quite won the race for Florida’s top money men.

Elizabeth Warren taps Planned Parenthood policy director to lead Florida campaign” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Warren, a Democrat whose polling numbers are rising in Florida and across the country, has hired Kimberly Diaz Scott as her campaign’s Florida state director. Diaz announced her jump to the Warren campaign on Facebook, saying that she was leaving the Florida Planned Parenthood Alliance after five years with the organization. “I won’t be far from the movement, as I’m humbled and proud to announce my transition as the Florida State Director for Warren for President, assuring that we will continue to fight like hell to elect a brilliant leader who will work to protect the health, safety and future of ALL people,” Diaz wrote. “2020 is not for the rich or selfish, 2020 is for us.”

RNC raises record-setting $23.5M in August, as GOP momentum builds” via Gregg Re of Fox News — The Republican National Committee raised a record-setting $23.5 million in August and had $53.8 million cash on hand as of the end of that month — signaling growing GOP momentum heading into the 2020 elections. It isn’t unusual for a committee to perform well when its party controls the White House. But, even accounting for that advantage, the RNC’s numbers were significant: the August fundraising total was the highest recorded in August during an off-cycle year by either the RNC or DNC, and the RNC has not had as much cash on hand since September 2016, just before Election Day. RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told Fox News that Democrats actually helped boost the fundraising totals.


As Doug Belden announces retirement, April Griffin will run for Hillsborough County tax collector” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Former Hillsborough County School Board member Griffin plans to run for Tax Collector. Griffin’s announcement on Facebook came after she was outed by the Ybor-based publication La Gaceta. “[La Gaceta publisher] Patrick Manteiga heard it right. I will be formally filing to run for Hillsborough County Tax Collector on November 4, 2019.” Griffin’s news came just hours before incumbent Tax Collector Belden told his employees that due to declining health, he was suspending his reelection bid. Belden is struggling with a neurological disease called CIDP, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy. It’s a degenerative disorder he said would not get better. That leaves Griffin the only candidate seeking the seat so far.


Florida man to plead guilty for selling energy equipment to Iran — A Florida Panhandle CEO indicted on federal criminal charges of conspiring to sell high-tech equipment to Iran illegally is expected to plead “guilty” during a U.S. District Court hearing. James Meharg was charged with a scheme to sell and export power generating equipment to a recipient in Iran. “The security of the United States depends on protecting our nation from threats, whether those threats originate with foreign nationals or with American citizens who put their own profits ahead of the national interest,” U.S. Attorney Lawrence Keefe said. According to the indictment, Meharg conspired from October 2017 to June 2019, to violate the embargo by attempting to export a turbine core and parts from the U.S. for delivery to Iran.

Pensacola CEO James Meharg is pleading guilty for selling energy equipment to Iran. Image via WKRG.

Clearwater may soon have electric scooters downtown. Who’ll use them?” via Kriby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — The city will one day be home to electric scooter sharing. But there will be limits. Chief among them: Clearwater’s scooter pilot program will be limited to downtown. No scooters on the beach, no scooters in Countryside, Morningside or any other neighborhood. That raises a key question in a city that for decades has struggled to remake its downtown: Who is going to use scooters? City Manager Bill Horne said he believes downtown residents with short commutes will use the electric “micromobility” devices, which are activated by a cellphone app and can reach speeds of up to 15 miles per hour. But even if residents don’t flock to the vehicles, Horne said, the city isn’t overly concerned with scooter economics.

Nate Monroe: JEA’s self-proclaimed innovator CEO needs help writing tweets” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — While JEA executives have sketched a dire financial future for the utility — a situation so desperate, they say, privatization may be the only way out — it can still afford to hire an outside public-relations firm on a $25,000 monthly retainer to handle a dizzying list of tasks: Updating social media profiles of agency leaders, crafting tweets, tracking media coverage and working on booking JEA leaders as speakers at high-profile events. This tweet from CEO Aaron Zahn, for example, cost JEA ratepayers $37.50, according to detailed invoices: “Happy to spend Sunday morning at First Timothy Baptist Church. Rev. Frederick Newbill, one of our @NewsfromJEA board members, has been a tremendous community leader for 30+ years. Thank you, Rev. Newbill, for your guidance and friendship.”

Questionable expenditures draw scrutiny to Carmine Marceno committee” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A political committee tied to Lee County Sheriff Marceno donated tens of thousands to a business belonging to the Republican’s political confidante. Conservative Champion Leaders, a committee set up in April, has already spent nearly $242,000. Most of that went to a $212,521 media ad buy with Waterman Broadcasting. But the committee also spent $24,000 with AMCAR Consulting. While AMCAR Consulting doesn’t have its own filing with the state Division of Corporations, AMCOR, an Estero-based company managed by Carmine Dell Aquila, has been doing business in Florida since 2017. Dell Aquila has been a close confidante of Marceno throughout his campaign efforts. Notably, Dell Aquila and Marceno are both listed as authorized parties with the inactive company, Compassionate Cops.

Questionable committee expenditures are just the latest eyebrow-raising questions surrounding Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno.

Ahead of Super Bowl 2020, NFL presents $1.2 million new football field in Miami Beach” via Johnny Diaz of the Sun-Sentinel — We don’t know yet who will be playing at Super Bowl 2020 at Hard Rock Stadium, but we do know who will be grinding up a new gridiron in South Florida. Miami Beach Senior High, home of the Hi-Tides football team, is getting a $1.2 million football field upgrade, thanks to the National Football League’s Legacy Project and the Miami Super Bowl Committee. Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho along with Super Bowl Host Committee members, the Miami Dolphins, Miami Beach city officials and students teamed up for a ceremonial groundbreaking for the new field which will replace the uneven grassy one at the school.

Jane Castor cleared of ethics complaint over ‘monitoring’ Miami police” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The Florida Commission on Ethics dismissed a complaint against Tampa Mayor Castor over her handling of a contract with the city of Miami as a ‘monitor’ for its police department. Castor was paid $150 an hour before she was elected Mayor to analyze policing practices in the city and make recommendations for changes as the city grappled with a stream of officer-involved shootings of black men. At issue was a complaint filed in June alleging Castor had defrauded the city of Miami out of more than $154,000. Miami doctor Christina Paylan — claimed Castor should have returned the money because she did not complete the terms of her contract. The Commission dismissed the complaint due to lack of legal sufficiency.

New York accuser of Jeffrey Epstein, who says she was recruited for sex at 14, sues estate” via Emily Michot and Julie K. Brown of the Miami Herald — A woman filed a federal lawsuit against the estate of Epstein, claiming that she was recruited in New York and sexually abused for three years, starting when she was 14. The suit, filed Wednesday in the Southern District of New York, names Epstein’s executors, Darren Indyke and Richard Kahn, as defendants. Epstein’s estate, valued at more than $500 million, has been placed in a trust, the details of which have not been made public. Epstein was awaiting trial in New York on sex trafficking charges. On Aug. 10, he was found hanging in his cell at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Manhattan. His death was ruled a suicide.

Thousands of gallons of raw sewage spills in Sarasota County neighborhood” via Alan Shaw of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — About 25,000 gallons of raw sewage spilled into a South Sarasota County neighborhood Tuesday, the state reports. According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, an 8-inch sewer pipe broke behind a lift station in the 11000 block of Dancing River Drive. County crews replaced the broken pipe. About 25,000 gallons of raw sewage spilled onto a grassy area and retention pond. Staff were able to recover about 20,000 gallons of sewage.

Mayor Lenny Curry says Jacksonville’s Cure Violence zones went nearly a month with no shootings or homicides” via Andrew Pantazi of the Florida Times-Union — Even as Jacksonville grapples with the highest number of homicides in decades, Mayor Lenny Curry said the city has begun to see success in the two areas where it has implemented new anti-violence measures, with its two zones both experiencing nearly a month of no shootings or homicides.


Higher salaries for legislators? A wildly unpopular idea … that may still have merit” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — I’ve had some bad ideas in my time. Like when I was a kid and thought it was a swell idea not to wear seat belts. But I’ve also had one idea as an adult that readers have deemed just as bad. Pay legislators higher salaries. Believe me; I understand the instinctive repulsion. But here’s a reality: With annual salaries of $29,697, Florida attracts people who are independently wealthy and often woefully out of touch. The latest disclosures show the average state senator is worth about $6 million. Working-class Joes can’t afford to abandon their jobs or businesses to go to Tallahassee for months at a time. Neither can teachers, cops or social workers — people whose perspectives are sorely missing.

Corey Lewandowski just made the Democrats look utterly bloodless” via Rick Wilson for Medium — The former Trump campaign aide’s outrageous contempt before the House Judiciary Committee was a sign of the profound weakness of the Congressional Democrats, a warning about the critical flaws in their continued practice of pre-Trump politics, and a caution flag on the people pushing impeachment as the tentpole strategy of the Congressional Democrats for 2020. The hearing was a political test, and the House Democrats failed it. They’re shudderingly terrible at this work; they lack the bloodthirsty instincts of political killers. Trump and the House GOP are playing nuclear hardball, and the House Democrats were playing the old normie politics of the days before social media, reality television and the Insane Clown President.

The Villages proves the big Florida lie: Growth does not pay for itself” via the Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board — The Villages is the fastest-growing metro area in the nation. In. The. Nation. If growth pays for itself, as we’ve so often heard in Central Florida, then local governments like Sumter County — the epicenter of The Villages’ development — must be swimming in cash. Instead, it’s acting like a government drowning in the costs of growth.


Q&A: GrayRobinson’s new president on the firm’s future and culture of ‘libertarian professionalism’” via — Dean Cannon, a GrayRobinson lobbyist and former Speaker of the Florida House, officially took the reins as president and CEO of the Am Law 200 firm in September. He succeeded Mayanne Downs, a forceful leader who trimmed the firm’s head count and boosted the firm’s profits and revenue per lawyer. Cannon spoke with the Daily Business Review about lessons he learned as a lawmaker and how he plans to maintain the firm’s culture of unilateral leadership and individualism.

GrayRobinson’s Dean Cannon talks about lessons learned from his tenure as Florida House Speaker, among other topics.

Personnel note: Carrie Patrick launches new Care-Comm public relations firmPatrick, formerly with Tallahassee-based CoreMessage, has struck out on her own to “help connect messages to the media and provide client information and representation,” she said in a news release. “Care-Comm (also based in the capital) is a strategic communications and consulting firm designed to tailor to client public relations needs year-round. With more than 17 years of experience in communications, government policy and politics, Care-Comm can assist with crisis communications, everyday community relations, grassroots and grasstops efforts, as well as manage social media platforms and more.” Her new website is here.

AppointedCarlos Martinez, John Patrick Schirard (reappointed) and Jonathan Hancock (reappointed) to the Florida Citrus Commission.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Susan Anderson: LeadingAge Florida

Mario Bailey, Yolanda Cash Jackson, Nicholas Matthews, LaToya Sheals, Becker & Poliakoff: City of West Park, Heart Gallery of Broward, Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, National Health Transport, Virgil Hawkins Florida Chapter National Bar Association, Ygrene Energy Fund Florida

Christina Brodeur, Ballard Partners: Pure Storage

Justin Day, Capital City Consulting: Axon Enterprise

Hayden Dempsey, Greenberg Traurig: Qualtrics

Mike Haridopolos, Mike Haridopolos: City of Melbourne

Seth McKeel, The Southern Group: Mote Marine Laboratory

Paul Jerald, Robert Shave, Capitol Energy Florida: American Great Loop Cruisers Association, Charlotte County Airport Authority, City of Key Colony Beach, City of Punta Gorda, Dennis and Graci McGillicuddy for the benefit of All-Star, FIRM (Fair Insurance Rates in Monroe), Florida PACE Funding Agency, Lee Memorial Health System, Poseidon Resources, Suncoast Humane Society.

— ALOE —

A small harvest leaves Florida stone crabbers in a pinch” via Manelle Kheireddine of WGCU — Estimates show only 1.9 million pounds were collected during the season, reports The season ran from Oct. 15, 2018, to May 15, 2019. An average season ranges between 2.5 and 3.2 million pounds. According to Bill Kelly, the executive director of the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association, red tide is to blame. The algae bloom cut off oxygen to the seafloor in Florida’s southern waters, forcing the crabs to move to other areas in search of better conditions. “Stone crabs are typical burrowing animals, we affectionately call them ditch diggers, and they didn’t have any mud to dig a ditch, and so they had to move on,” said Kelly.

World Cup-winning U.S. women’s soccer to play in Jacksonville Nov. 10” via Clayton Freeman of the Florida Times-Union — The U.S. women’s national soccer team will conclude its 2019 Victory Tour with an exhibition match against Costa Rica at TIAA Bank Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m., with a television broadcast on ESPN2. The game comes four months after the U.S. women defeated the Netherlands 2-0 to bring home their record fourth FIFA Women’s World Cup from the tournament in France. November’s match will be the fourth for the U.S. women in Jacksonville and their first since April 5, 2018, when they defeated Mexico 4-1 in a game noted for a burst of two goals in three minutes by Alex Morgan and the 99th career international goal for veteran Carli Lloyd.

The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team is heading to Jacksonville to conclude its 2019 victory tour. 


Happy birthday to Kate Bascom‘s dad, Mike, as well as Ali Glisson of Strategic Property Partners, Andy Marlette, and Josh Wolf.


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

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

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

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