Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.20.19

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Like a strong cup of joe, there's nothing that gets you going like Sunburn.

Welcome to the worldKeyna Cory reports that the Public Affairs Consultants team “has grown” with the addition of Jett Francis Ballas earlier this week. He’s the new son of Erin Daly Ballas. “You will be reporting to your big sister Dayton the Intern in six weeks,” Cory posted on Facebook. “And yes Dayton is being promoted to Senior Intern. Congrats Erin & James (his dad). Cannot wait to meet Jett!”

There’s a new social media campaign aimed at attracting visitors to Florida communities following the Hurricane Dorian-induced interruption of travel over the Labor Day holiday weekend. No surprise: It’s from VISIT FLORIDA. 

The marketing campaign, which runs through Sept. 20, features “concentrated social media activations, influencer content, live videos across social media platforms, and Live from Florida Friday — a statewide call for user-generated content on Sept. 20, the final Friday of summer,” a news release said. 

“We are committed to ensuring Florida’s tourism industry remains strong and visitors from around the world recognize the broad diversity of Florida’s unbeatable travel experiences,” said VISIT FLORIDA President and CEO Dana Young

“Following the disruption of Labor Day travel in Florida, we knew it was important to share the great vacation opportunities we offer in the Sunshine State. Through collaboration with the tourism industry and local communities, this campaign will amplify the message that Florida is the perfect destination for fall travel. 

“I encourage Floridians and visitors alike to participate in Live from Florida Friday on September 20 with VISIT FLORIDA and our state’s tourism industry.” The two primary efforts are:

Live from Florida Friday: The hashtag #LoveFL has long been used to unite Florida residents and visitors online. On September 20, the last Friday of summer, VISIT FLORIDA and the state’s entire tourism industry invite residents and visitors to share their real-time views from Florida using #LoveFL. In addition, VISIT FLORIDA and the tourism industry will share fall travel deals on a dedicated Expedia landing page and tourism business websites. Potential visitors can follow #LoveFL on social media to keep up-to-date with the fall promotions. For more information and ways to participate in Live from Florida Friday, go to

A Day at the Beach: On Sept. 10, VISIT FLORIDA shared a first-of-its-kind road trip showcasing some of Florida’s best east coast views. From sunrise to sunset, VISIT FLORIDA highlighted eight coastal destinations in Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River, Brevard, Volusia, Flagler, St. Johns, and Duval counties, to provide potential travelers with live looks at Florida’s Atlantic coast on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The daylong initiative resulted in more than 1.2 million total impressions and 23,500 engagements.


Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried takes aim at now-Sen. Rick Scott, accusing the former Governor of an ‘ideological war’ against Floridians with HIV.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— After years of avoiding any talk about climate change, Republican leaders in the Florida Legislature finally say they’re ready to face up to the problem.

— A new study from Florida State University says criminals born in American are far more likely to be repeat offenders than immigrants from other countries.

— The Secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections asks lawmakers for help — and money — to change the culture of the agency.

— The latest with Florida Man: 37-year-old Erick Russell has worked as a school guardian in Pinellas County since April, but investigators say Russell pawned the Glock handgun issued to him by the sheriff’s office three times in one month.

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


@SenRickScott: Yesterday, @Twitter claimed suspending @NicolasMaduro’s account “would not change facts on the ground.” What world are they living in? Providing a murderous dictator with this platform is a danger to the people of #VZ. Maduro must go, but let’s at least start with his Twitter.

@Drudge: It’s Elizabeth Warren‘s nomination to lose …

@GovRonDeSantis: Maurice Ferré was a tremendous Floridian, thoughtful visionary and great mayor of Miami, and our state will miss him. @FLCaseyDeSantis and I extend our most sincere condolences to his family, including his daughter-in-law and my communications director, @helenaguirrefer.

@AmandiOnAir: Maurice A. Ferre was not only the first Hispanic Mayor of a major American city, he was, without a doubt, the greatest Mayor in the @CityofMiami’s storied history, whose visionary leadership transformed the Magic City into a world-class metropolis. May he forever Rest In Peace.

Tweet, tweet:

@GabbyGiffords: I am in awe of Brandon Wolf’s strength and resolve. @bjoewolf honored the memories of his loved ones today before Congress. It’s past time the Senate honored them — and every victim and survivor of Pulse — with action.

@CHeathWFTV: Last election, I personally suppressed 43 votes by dressing like a werewolf and scaring people away from polling places until my antics were foiled by a gang of teens and a talking dog.


Emmy Awards live on Fox — 2; Bob Iger‘s memoir, “The Ride of A Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company,” is released — 3; 850 Hemp Summit begins — 12; “Joker” opens — 14; Triple Force Friday: the next generation of Star Wars products arrives — 14; SNL season premiere with Woody Harrelson — 15; Debut of Breaking Bad movie on Netflix — 21; New season of “The Crown” streaming on Netflix — 28; “Watchmen” premieres on HBO — 30; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 38; Brexit scheduled — 41; 2019 General Election — 46; 3rd Annual Florida Internet and Television FITCon starts — 48; “Frozen 2” debuts — 63; TaxWatch 40th Annual Meeting — 73; “The Rise of Skywalker” premiers — 91; 2020 Session begins — 116; Florida TaxWatch State of the TaxPayer Dinner in Tallahassee — 117; Iowa Caucuses — 136; New Hampshire Primaries — 146; Florida’s presidential primary — 179; “Black Panther 2” debuts — 229; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo begin — 308; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 340; 2020 General Election — 410.


Maurice Ferré, Miami’s first Hispanic Mayor, dies at 84” via Patricia Mazzei of The New York Times — During the years that shaped modern Miami, Ferré held on to power for more than a decade despite race riots, a chaotic mass migration of Cubans arriving by boat and the unpredictable boom-and-bust cycle of neighboring Latin American economies. Ferré, who led Miami through a defining period of growth and tumult beginning in 1973, died at his home in the Coconut Grove neighborhood. The cause was cancer, according to a family statement. Ferré had been sick for two years, but he still showed up at City Hall in recent years, in one instance to oppose a plan to develop a waterfront park renamed in his honor.

RIP: Maurice Ferré was Miami’s first Hispanic Mayor, and helped shape the city into the modern metropolis it is today.


Ron DeSantis makes sales call to Chicago” via News Service of Florida — Gov. DeSantis visited Chicago, less than a month after saying he would pitch Florida to financial-sector companies in the Windy City. A schedule released by the governor’s office said DeSantis would hold morning meetings with CME Group and Northern Trust Co. DeSantis told the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors last month that he wanted to try to lure companies from Chicago. “I think there is an opportunity to talk to some folks and drive some investment here in Florida,” DeSantis said during the Aug. 28 meeting. Tim Vanderhoof, senior vice president of business development for Enterprise Florida, has said a return to New York and a trip to Connecticut are also being mapped out.

Ron DeSantis is making a sales call to Chicago, with future trips to New York and Connecticut.

DeSantis and the war against trial lawyers” via Michael Moline of Florida Phoenix — DeSantis is firmly behind a renewed Chamber of Commerce campaign against lawyers who sue companies on behalf of consumers and said the need for a more business-friendly court system is guiding his appointments to the Florida judiciary. Businesses he has attempted to lure to Florida were aware of the state’s low taxes and otherwise friendly business climate but sometimes balked at the legal climate. “There was a lack of trust and confidence in Florida’s judiciary. There was a sense that the Legislature could enact reforms but the chance of that getting rewritten or unwound in the courts, more based on policy reasons than legal reasons, was way too high,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis announces over $1.4 million to City of Fanning Springs for infrastructure — The Governor said more than $1.4 million in awards to tiny Fanning Springs (pop. 764) would come through a Rural Infrastructure grant and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to help fund improvements expected to attract new businesses and tourists. He said in a statement: “We will continue to assist these communities by utilizing every resource available so they may attract businesses and support a highly-skilled workforce.” The improvements will include storm drains and other drainage features associated with road construction, water line and sanitary sewer line improvements, sidewalk improvements and updating street lighting and electrical connections. The city straddles the Gilchrist/Levy county line.

Senate’s new security rules — Members of the public will no longer be able to approach Senate budget writers at the dais before meetings. In the past, it was common for lobbyists, reporters and other people to approach lawmakers in the minutes before meetings started to make pitches for budget items, conduct quick interviews, or just to say hello. But the new rule and metaphorical premeeting velvet rope come amid concerns about people doing “weird stuff” and certain messages sent via social media platforms, according to Senate Appropriations Chair. Rob Bradley. But Bradley stressed the move wasn’t because of any individuals or specific threats. “There is nothing specific that has happened that I am aware of, period,” Bradley said. “This is long-term security planning issues.”

Gary Farmer says there is no conflict of interest over his relationship with lobbyist” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — Farmer said he hasn’t broken any laws or Senate rules by engaging in a relationship with a lobbyist and dismissed any notion of conflict of interest. “Look at my voting record and compare it to her clients before you do any kind of story,” Farmer said. Farmer also rebuffed the suggestion there could be a conflict of interest over his duties to the Democratic Party. “I’m still doing my job, man,” Farmer said. “I’ve worked my ass off to get (state Rep.) Javi Fernandez in there, we got him.” But his efforts to recruit a strong candidate in SD 9 have been questioned. “Farmer, I don’t think, is out recruiting,” said Sen. Linda Stewart. “I don’t know who he’s recruiting.”

GOP lawmakers mull ‘E-Verify’ issue” via News Service of Florida — Two months ago, Sen. Joe Gruters said he intended to file an E-Verify proposal. But this week, he told The News Service of Florida he is not so sure. “I want to hear what people have to say,” Gruters said, referring to feedback he was unable to receive because of calling off a planned statewide “listening tour” on immigration. “I will try to make a decision soon on the tour and then will make a decision (on E-Verify),” Gruters said. While Gruters said his hesitance is tied to the listening tour, Rep. Cord Byrd, told the News Service he would champion an E-Verify bill during the 2020 Legislative Session.

Prekindergarten, early education get limelight from House committee” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — “This is where it starts. It starts with early learning,” Education Committee chairwoman Rep. Jennifer Sullivan said to introduce her panel’s two-hour workshop. Prekindergarten should put youngsters on a track for success, Sullivan remarked. “Are we doing that? That is the question that faces us today.” The lawmakers heard reports on how the model currently looks, as well as commentary from providers about how it might be better. Among the things they learned was that the system needs a cash infusion, so centers can afford to pay and train their teachers, and provide the best possible services to their students.

Education Committee Chair Jennifer Sullivan says that the road to success starts with prekindergarten.

Lawmen join Sept. 11 survivor to unfurl 50-pound, 60-foot flag at Old Florida Capitol” via Tori Schneider of the Tallahassee Democrat — A flag on a journey to visit all 50 state capitals made Florida’s Capitol its 38th stop Thursday morning. Mitch Mendler, the president of World Memorial Project #2978, and retired New York Fire Department Lieutenant and 9/11 survivor Joe Torrillo have been traveling with their Patriot Flag since Sept. 11, 2016, the 15th anniversary of 9/11, when the flag was displayed at Battery Park in Lower Manhattan. Torrillo survived the collapse of both World Trade Center towers and was the last firefighter found alive after the terrorist attacks. They brought the flag to Tallahassee where around 20 local law enforcement officers, firefighters and EMTs helped to unfold the flag below the steps of the Historic Capitol.

Assignment editors — State Rep. Chris Latvala will appear at Café Con Tampa to speak about PreK — 12 education and child welfare, 8 a.m., upstairs at Oxford Exchange, 420 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa.


Hurricane Jerry gets stronger as the former Imelda dumps up to 45 inches of rain on Texas” via Brett Clarkson, David Schutz and Tonya Alanez of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Hurricane Jerry is about 400 miles from the Caribbean and getting stronger, according to the National Hurricane Center’s latest public advisory. Beyond those two storms there were another four tropical systems of varying size and intensity scattered throughout the Atlantic tropical region, none of them a threat to Florida or the U.S. as of Thursday afternoon. The remnants of Tropical Depression Imelda are dumping catastrophic amounts of rain on parts of Texas, garnering comparisons to 2017′s Hurricane Harvey. Through Friday, the former Imelda is expected to drop up to 45 inches of rain in some areas, according to the National Weather Service.

Hurricane Jerry is one of four tropical systems of various size and intensity scattered throughout the Atlantic. But none are a threat to Florida or the U.S.

Dorian spins off insurance claims” via News Service of Florida — Though Hurricane Dorian stayed off Florida’s East Coast, it has led to nearly 4,000 insurance claims and $18.8 million in estimated insured losses, according to the information posted on the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation website. In all, 3,961 claims from Dorian had been reported as of Monday, with more than half — 2,288 — involving residential property. The information indicates 36.5 percent of the residential-property claims had been closed. The massive Dorian caused widespread fears in Florida early this month before it steered away from the coast, sparing residents, businesses and insurance companies from costly damage. As a comparison, last year’s Category 5 Hurricane Michael, which decimated parts of Northwest Florida, caused an estimated $6.9 billion in insured losses, according to the Office of Insurance Regulation.

Oil company wants to walk away from 30,000 gallon a day spill in the Gulf” via Chad Gillis of the Fort Myers News-Press — The most significant offshore oil leak in the nation’s history has been belching thousands of gallons of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico for nearly 15 years, and more platforms may be in danger at a time when the current administration is rolling back offshore regulations and pushing to open new areas for oil exploration. Taylor Energy’s Mississippi Canyon site, about 19 miles off the southeast coast of Louisiana, was toppled by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and had since been releasing upward of 70,000 gallons of crude oil a day, recent estimates show. “The issue is nobody was holding Taylor accountable,” said Chris Eaton with Earthjustice.

Felons’ voting fight ratchets up at Supreme Court” via News Service of Florida — Gov. DeSantis, Secretary of State Laurel Lee, and legislative leaders filed “interested party” briefs defending a state law that implemented what appeared as Amendment 4 on the November ballot. But critics of the law counter that part of it requiring felons to pay fees and costs to be eligible to have voting rights restored contradicts what Floridians thought they were approving last fall. In one of the briefs filed Wednesday in opposition to the state law, the Fair Elections Center said that costs and fees “are categorically not terms of sentence because they bear none of the hallmarks of sentencing,” in part because they are “non-punitive and simply serve to compensate the government for the costs of administering criminal justice.”

’They’re not listening to us.’ Florida families hurt by opioids 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. But even though she’s been a leading voice on several facets of the opioid issue, Dodds said she and other Floridians personally affected by the epidemic have been shut out of the process as the state’s attorney general has negotiated to reach a multibillion-dollar settlement agreement “in principle” with Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin. “We’re very close to a settlement, and it’s not something any of the families want to happen,” Dodds said. “They’re not listening to us … We want them to face their day in court as criminals — drug lords in suits.”

Agencies see good money for drug importation, hepatitis A” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — Top officials from six health-care-related agencies appeared before the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee and made pitches for spending boosts. Some of the wish-list items for next year included $15.2 million to help control outbreaks of diseases such as hepatitis A and address potential infectious-disease threats; $25 million to hire a contractor to help get the state’s Canadian drug-importation program off the ground; and $12.6 million to improve health-care data collection. Chad Poppell, secretary of the Department of Children and Families, presented a request that included $156 million in increased general revenue — which is the primary funding source for state government. He said the proposal was something that he didn’t “lightly.”

DCF Secretary Chad Poppell is asking for another $156 million for drug importation and hepatitis A control.

Court allows DOJ lawsuit over ‘fragile’ kids” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — In a long-running dispute stemming from concerns about “medically fragile” children placed in nursing homes, a federal appeals court backed the U.S. Department of Justice’s authority to pursue a lawsuit against Florida over alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, overturned a lower-court ruling that said the Department of Justice did not have legal standing in the case. The issue of care for medically fragile children, who have severe health conditions, drew attention in 2012 after a DOJ investigation found Florida was unnecessarily institutionalizing children with disabilities in nursing homes.

If a Florida inmate is gravely ill or brutally beaten, are kin promptly informed? Not always” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Miami Herald — Her son lost so much blood he passed out. His body started to shut down. He was rushed into the hospital. It was, just as his file noted, acute ulcerative colitis, which left him vulnerable and sickly.

Documents: Top Florida officials ‘don’t know’ how to verify felon voting eligibility” via Daniel Rivero of WLRN — In a sworn deposition, one of Florida’s top voter registration officials repeatedly found herself unable to answer questions about who is legally eligible to vote, signaling ongoing confusion in the state agency tasked with making those determinations. Toshia Brown, the chief of Voter Registration Services At the Secretary of State’s office, acknowledged that since the passage of SB 7066, the state has been relying on information from the Department of Corrections that “may not be reflective or up to date,” in determining who is eligible to vote or not. Brown also acknowledged that it was unclear how someone with a felony conviction might be able to verify if they still owe money in fines and fees related to their case.

No one regulates CBD vape products in Florida even as usage raises serious concerns” via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald — A shocking seven deaths and 530 hospitalizations in 38 states have spurred state lawmakers to propose raising the legal age to buy vaping products, and the state’s health and education departments are readying to roll out a three-hour anti-vaping course for Florida’s schoolchildren. While the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation regulates tobacco, and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Division of Food Safety regulates ingested products like CBD food and drink, the state is left with a major question. Who is responsible for regulating CBD vaping products that line shelves at head shops and convenience stores statewide? According to Steven Hall, general counsel for the state’s Department of Agriculture, “There appears to be a hole.”

Under state control, Florida Virtual School hires new executives with ties to GOP leaders” via Leslie Postal and Beth Kassab of the Orlando Sentinel — In the spring, Gov. DeSantis and lawmakers disbanded the virtual school’s independent board because of allegations of mismanagement and had the school’s president report directly to Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. One of the new virtual school “chiefs” hired this summer is a former Republican lawmaker from Orange County who served in the Florida House when Corcoran was Speaker. Another worked at the DCF and listed Corcoran, who he knows from church, as a reference on the resume he sent to the virtual school. The two others helped run Republican campaigns in Florida or worked for Republican leaders in the state Capitol. All four were hired outside the online public school’s traditional interviewing process, the school’s hiring documents show.

Florida’s courts among nations worst for businesses, survey says” via Wayne Garcia of WUSF — The Harris Poll survey for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said Florida is the fifth-worst for having courtrooms unfriendly to businesses. The poll of more than 1,300 business owners and their attorneys found that the state ranks lowest for what they perceived to be partial trial judges, unfair juries and treatment of class-action lawsuits. Eighty-nine percent of the business leaders surveyed nationally said their growth and jobs have been unfairly hurt by litigation.

Technology, regulations not enough to keep Florida safe from drilling, critics say” via Chad Gillis of the News-Press — With an administration pushing for more oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico, drilling watchdogs say they don’t trust the infrastructure used to collect the oil nor the government regulations and policies that oversee oil and gas companies.

State considers land purchases to expand Nokuse Plantation” via Tom McLaughlin of Northwest Florida Daily News — The state of Florida is considering two land purchases that would “fill in gaps” within Walton County’s Nokuse Plantation conservation area and further the dream of its founder, M.C. Davis, to establish a longleaf pine forest extending “as far as the eye can see.” DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet will consider proposals at their Tuesday meeting to purchase conservation easements in Walton and Putnam counties. In Walton County, two deals are being considered that would add just under 2,600 acres to what is known as the Seven Runs Creek Final Phase Florida Forever project. The total price for the state to obtain the two parcels is approximately $2.7 million, according to the Cabinet agenda.


What José Javier Rodríguez is reading Jeff Bezos pledges that Amazon will swiftly combat climate change” by The Verge — Bezos on Thursday announced a climate pledge from his company Amazon. Amazon, he said, will meet the emission-reduction goals of the Paris Accords 10 years early. The company also will measure and report emissions on a regular basis, implement decarbonization strategies, and offset remaining emissions with carbon offsets. 

What House Republicans are reading — “GOP’s Medicaid expansion compromise is back on the table” via The News & Observer — Medicaid expansion is getting renewed attention after state House Republicans surprised Democrats with a budget vote while most of them were absent. (An expansion bill) was added to the House floor calendar at the same time as the budget override veto. The issues were tied together: Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the budget primarily because it did not expand Medicaid as the Obama-era Affordable Care Act allows and as 36 states (Florida not among them) and the District of Columbia have decided to do.

What Ken Lawson is reading — “Audit: Maryland Commerce Department failed to verify that companies receiving incentives created jobs” via The Baltimore Sun — The Maryland Department of Commerce oversees a range of taxpayer-funded incentives meant to help spur job creation in the private sector. But the agency has failed to verify that companies receiving incentives actually created the promised jobs, according to a new audit. In many cases, the department relied on information provided by the companies or on infrequent reviews by its internal audits office — steps that were “insufficient to ensure compliance” with program regulations, state auditors found.


U.S. Marine Unit wants to hold annual ball at presidential venue: Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club” via Nicholas Nehamas and Tara Copp of the Miami Herald — At a time when taxpayer and foreign-government spending at Trump Organization properties is fueling political battles, a U.S. Marine Corps reserve unit stationed in South Florida hopes to hold an annual ball at a venue that could profit the commander in chief.

Marco Rubio blames the Iran nuclear deal for leading to attack on Saudi oil facilities” via Joshua Nelson of Fox News — “I think this proves why the Iran deal was so flawed,” Rubio told “Fox & Friends.” “That’s why the president was right to get out of the Iran deal,” he said. Rubio said that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA], approved during the Obama administration, “allows” Iran to build the missiles and drones that were used in the attack and continue to sponsor terror groups that want to attack American troops.

Rubio, Rooney meet to discuss Florida drilling ban” via Anthony Adragna and Ben Lefebvre of POLITICO — Florida Republicans Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Francis Rooney met today to discuss a possible path to extending an offshore drilling ban in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico that could pass muster with the White House, the lawmakers’ offices said.

Let Florida snowbirds from Canada stay longer, Rubio and Rick Scott urge” via the News Service of Florida — The Florida Republicans announced they introduced legislation dubbed the “Canadian Snowbirds Act,” which seeks to allow Canadian citizens over age 50 who own or rent U.S. homes to spend up to eight months a year in the country. Currently, the annual U.S. stay is capped at six months. The Senators pointed to the impact of Canadians on Florida’s economy. “Tourism is a crucial part of Florida’s booming economy, creating and supporting thousands of jobs all across the Sunshine State,” Rubio said in a prepared statement. “This bill will be a huge boost to our state’s economy by allowing the millions of Canadian snowbirds who visit Florida each year to stay two months longer.”

Marco Rubio and Rick Scott want snowbirds to stay in Florida just a little longer.

VA office eviction of Congress members shows nothing is safe from political warfare” via the Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board — Good luck trying to make sense of the political squabble between Florida representatives and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs over … an office space. Staffs for U.S. Reps. Stephanie Murphy and Darren Soto, both Democrats, were given free, part-time office space at the Orlando VA Medical Center at Lake Nona. Meeting with their veteran constituents at the hospital created a convenient, one-stop service for people needing help with things like accessing their health benefits. Four additional U.S. representatives — including Republican Brian Mast — have a similar arrangement with the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center. But the VA gave them all a bipartisan boot. Their arrangement was legal, logical and purposeful. Now, it’s also defunct.

— 2020 —

How Trump’s ‘field general’ was kneecapped” via Marc Caputo, Matt Dixon and Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO — In the homestretch of the 2018 campaign for Florida governor, Trump walked into the hold room before a big rally, looked GOP nominee Ron DeSantis in the eye and pointed to a nearby political operative. “Smartest thing you’ve ever done,” Trump told DeSantis, according to a source who witnessed it, referring to the Florida Republican’s decision to hire Susie Wiles to rescue his flagging gubernatorial campaign. Trump was speaking with first-hand knowledge.

Legalizing marijuana, with a focus on social justice, unites 2020 Democrats” via Trip Gabriel of The New York Times — The issue today is a pillar of progressive politics, but not because of graying hippies who like their Rocky Mountain High. Rather, for many Democrats, legalization has become a litmus test for candidates’ commitment to equal treatment for all races in policing and criminal justice as well as fighting economic inequality. “A Democrat who is not on board with legalization or addressing it in terms of repairing harms brought by prohibition for decades is going to have a tough time convincing any voter they’re serious about racial justice,” said Vincent Southerland, executive director of the Center on Race, Inequality and the Law at New York University Law School.

Marianne Williamson explains deleted Dorian tweet, says she’s not ‘anti-science’ ” via Florida Politics — Democratic presidential candidate Williamson recently tweeted and deleted that the “power of the mind” could deter Hurricane Dorian. Now, she tells MSNBC host Ali Velshi, she regrets only that she took down the tweet, gaining it more attention … “The only problem there is that I deleted that tweet,” Williamson said. “I’m Jewish; I go to the doctor. There’s nothing anti-doctor about me. There’s not anything anti-science about me.”

Marianne Williamson explains (with no apologies) a tweet she deleted about Hurricane Dorian, insisting she’s not ‘anti-science.’

Biden flexes 2020 muscle with new Black Caucus endorsements” via Bill Barrow of The Associated Press — Biden sought to demonstrate a broad appeal to Democrats on Thursday with new endorsements from leading African American lawmakers and a former governor of a pivotal swing state. The backing from Reps. G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri and Charlie Crist of Florida reflects Biden’s play both for the party establishment and for minority voters who are critical in the early stages of the primary. Crist said Biden offers a moral alternative to Donald Trump and can best serve a fractured electorate. “I’ve known Joe Biden for a long time,” Crist said, describing Biden as “an empathetic figure” with a “keen intellect and a deep soul.”

Charlie Crist endorses Joe Biden for president” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — The St. Petersburg Democrat said Biden is the best candidate to help the party recruit “independent and disaffected Republicans” needed to win Florida and deny Trump a second term in office. “Joe Biden’s record of getting things done speaks for itself,” Crist said in a statement. “He has always put the American people above party lines and will continue to as President.” Biden has won quite a bit of support from Florida’s Democratic establishment, including former U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and former U.S. Senator and Gov. Bob Graham.

Cory Booker bags endorsement from DNC Member Nikki BarnesBooker earned support from Barnes in his bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. “My cousin committed suicide by a gun when we were 16 years old,” Barnes said in a statement announcing her endorsement. “The fact that Cory is willing to remove the stigma in his administration and appoint someone who will normalize the conversation about suicide and put forth initiatives that could possibly aid someone else in seeking help means a lot to me.” In May, Booker proposed a plan aimed at cutting down on gun suicides. That plan included pushing safe storage laws, appointing a federal coordinator to address the issue, and extreme risk laws to remove guns from individuals showing suicide risk factors.

Kamala Harris bets it all on Iowa to break freefall” via Christopher Cadelago of POLITICO — Harris huddled with top campaign officials in Baltimore to discuss the next steps as a series of polls show her plummeting into the mid-single digits. She’s not expected to alter her message significantly. Instead, Harris is planning to make weekly visits to the state and nearly double the size of her 65-person ground operation. The re-engagement in Iowa — where the California senator held a 17-stop bus tour in August but hasn’t returned since — is part of a broader acknowledgment inside the campaign that she hasn’t been in the early states enough. It’s designed to refocus her campaign and clarify her narrowing path to the nomination.

Kamala Harris is betting big on Iowa to save her free-falling campaign.

The surprising surge of Andrew Yang” via Michael Kruse of POLITICO — It’s a phenomenon hard to figure — until you get up close and take in some strange political alchemy. At the heart of Yang’s appeal is a paradox. In delivering his alarming, existentially unsettling message of automation and artificial intelligence wreaking havoc on America’s economic, emotional and social well-being, he … cracks jokes. He laughs easily, and those around him, and who come to see him, end up laughing a lot, too. It’s not that Yang’s doing stump-speech stand-up. It’s more a certain nonchalant whimsy that leavens what he says and does. He’s attracting support from an unorthodox jumble of citizens, from a host of top technologists, but from penitent Trump voters, too.

Sabato’s Crystal Ball keeps Florida leaning Republican in latest 2020 prediction” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — While Sunshine State pols gear up for a 2020 battle, one prognosticator maintains Florida won’t be a swing state. Sabato’s Crystal Ball, run by University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato, leaves Florida in the “Leans R” column. That’s not new; the outfit colored Florida pink when it issues its first 2020 map in March. But after three statewide races in Florida went to recount, the Sabato ranking still stuns with its stubbornness. Interestingly, the map appears somewhat foreboding for Trump. The incumbent Republican counts 248 electoral votes on the map, including Florida’s 29 votes. The map puts Democrats, who have yet to set a contentious nomination process, on equal footing.


Stan McClain endorses Joe Harding for HD 22” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Republican Harding picked up another endorsement for his campaign to succeed term-limited Rep. Charlie Stone in House District 22. On Thursday, Harding’s campaign got the nod from Republican Rep. McClain, who represents neighboring House District 23. “I have no doubt in my mind that Joe Harding has what it takes to get things done in Tallahassee,” McClain said in a news release. “His roots in the district, his business experience, and his strong conservative values all make him perfectly suited to effectively serve the people of District 22.” McClain’s endorsement comes a week after Levy County Tax Collector Linda Fugate lined up behind Harding. HD 22 covers all of Levy County as well as southwest Marion County.

Stan McClain goes all in for Joe Harding in his neighboring HD 22.


Toxic soil under golf course is a legacy of Miami’s dirty past. There’s a lot more out there” via Adriana Brasileiro of the Miami Herald — Since the early 1960s, Melreese Country Club has been used by golfers. Next door at Grapeland Heights Park, kids have hit baseballs for 40 years and can also play at a water park that opened in 2009. Both were built on top of an old incinerator ash dump full of dangerous toxins. Last month the city suddenly shut down Melreese for three days after soil testing done by a consultant revealed higher-than-expected levels of lead, arsenic and other contaminants. City officials said they were surprised and Miami-Dade demanded immediate action at the site eyed by David Beckham and partners for a proposed $1 billion soccer stadium and shopping complex.

After Rebecca Fierle scandal, Central Florida judge requires hearing before guardians file ‘do not resuscitate’ orders” via Monivette Cordiero of the Orlando Sentinel — A Central Florida judge is now requiring hearings be held before guardians file “do not resuscitate” orders for their incapacitated clients, a change made in the wake of the scandal surrounding disgraced Orlando guardian Rebecca Fierle’s refusal to remove an unwanted DNR from a ward who later died. Guardians are court-appointed decision-makers who make legal, A Central Florida judge is now requiring hearings be held before guardians file “do not resuscitate” orders for their incapacitated clients, a change made in the wake of the scandal surrounding disgraced Orlando guardian Fierle’s refusal to remove an unwanted DNR from a ward who later died. Guardians are court-appointed decision-makers who make legal, medical and financial decisions for incapacitated adults, known as wards.

Search for new UCF president to start right away” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — Setting aside concerns about how the construction spending scandal, which drew rebuke from lawmakers and the state university system, might discourage applicants, trustees decided to forge ahead with the search, with the goal of having a new president by next summer. Chair Beverly Seay said as early as Friday the school could start forming a search committee that’s to include employees, students, trustees and other community leaders. “I believe that until we move on with this, no one’s going to believe that we’re finished with the problems we’ve been living under for the past year,” she said.

UCF Trustee Beverly Seay wants to get the search for a new president underway immediately. Image via UCF.

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 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. The city began implementing Cure Violence in June of this year with two zones set up. A Times-Union analysis from nearly 15 years of homicide data shows those areas have long led the city in homicides. “Cure Violence is having a positive impact on violence in the target areas,” Curry said. “Both sites have had a stretch of at least 25 days in a row without a shooting or killing.”

Jury selection starts slowly in fraud trial for ex-Jacksonville City Council members” via Steve Patterson of the Times-Union — Publicity and political profiles both complicated the hunt that started Wednesday for jurors to impartially weigh federal fraud charges facing former Jacksonville City Council members Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown. Fifteen of the 65 potential jurors screened during the day were excused because of concerns about bias or personal circumstances that made sitting through a two-week trial in downtown Jacksonville impractical.

Two accused in FSU Law professor slaying to face jury” via — More than five years after Florida State University law professor Dan Markel was gunned down in the driveway of his home, two key players in what prosecutors believe was a plot hatched by the academic’s former in-laws to get him out of the picture are set to stand trial. Sigfredo Garcia and Katherine Magbanua are scheduled to go to trial Sept. 23 in Tallahassee for their alleged roles in Markel’s 2014 killing.

City staff recommends extending Tallahassee E-scooter pilot for 6 months, adding bikes to mix” via TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Electric scooters in Tallahassee may be sticking around a little longer. City commissioners will consider a staff recommendation to extend a three-month pilot program that started on July 15 for another six months and expand it to allow bicycles and e-bikes and other “micro-mobility” options. As of Monday, the scooter program had more than 60,000 rides in the first eight weeks. Five vendors — Bird, Gotcha, Lime, Spin and Veoride — landed bids to participate in the city’s scooter trial run, which has been welcomed by some residents and shunned by others. The pilot program allowed up to 1,000 scooters (200 each vendor) to be dispatched, although the city reports only 500 total scooters were deployed.

FDACS orders closure of Broward County’s Penn Dutch Meat & Seafood Market for ‘endangering public health’ — Commissioner Fried’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said it shut down the Margate market after it “violated multiple stop-use and stop-sale orders” and “possibly distribut(ed) food products contaminated with listeria.” The bacteria “can be very serious for pregnant women and people with impaired immune systems,” as well as those over 65, according to the Mayo Clinic’s website. Positive listeria samples had been found in the deli area, special cuts room, seafood display, seafood cutting area, and on slicers, among other places in the market, the department said. The CDC says listeria infections kill about 260 people a year.

Nikki Fried’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services ordered the closure of Broward County’s Penn Dutch Meat & Seafood Market, saying it’s a ‘public health danger.’

Pinellas school guardian pawned his gun and body armor, deputies say” via Kathryn Varn and Brandon Meyer of the Tampa Bay Times — A former Pinellas County school guardian is accused of pawning the Glock 17 9 mm semi-automatic pistol he was issued to protect students, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Erick Russell, 37, also pawned the body armor and magazines he was issued, deputies said. Those allegations came to light after Russell was arrested Sept. 5 on charges of domestic battery and false imprisonment. That arrest led to his termination from the Pinellas County School District, spokeswoman Lisa Wolf-Chason said. During that investigation, deputies discovered Russell had pawned his sheriff-issued Glock and two magazines on three occasions during a one-month period from July 2 to Aug. 1. Russell admitted to pawning the items while being questioned Wednesday evening.

Broward student suspended for handing out climate change flyers. He can’t attend prom now” via Jack Brook of the Miami Herald — South Broward High School senior Elijah Ruby had been handing out flyers advertising a climate change protest when a school administrator told him he would be suspended from campus for a day and barred from attending prom and other special class events. “I feel disappointed because those are the sort of things you remember for a long time,” said Ruby, 17. “You remember going with your girlfriend to prom.

Judge tosses lawsuit, for now, against family that took in future Parkland shooter” via Rafael Olmeda of the Sun Sentinel — The Parkland couple who took Nikolas Cruz into their home after the death of his mother in late 2017 will not have to defend themselves against a civil lawsuit related to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a Broward judge ruled Thursday.

Pulse responder Omar Delgado sues Eatonville over firing” via Tess Sheets of the Orlando Sentinel — A former Eatonville police officer who responded to the Pulse nightclub shooting and was fired the following year is suing the Town of Eatonville, alleging he was discriminated against for developing post-traumatic stress disorder after the massacre.

Dunedin mayor faces questions over home conditions” via Kylie McGivern of WFTS Tampa Bay — In early August, the I-Team responded to a tip and found a tarp covering the roof of Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski‘s Dunedin home and a trailer in the driveway. Dunedin’s website lists the condition of structures and recreational equipment among the city’s top code violations. The tip came as the city of Dunedin defends itself in a legal and public firestorm for fining a man $30,000 for high grass. “I think the mayor’s situation really highlights how easy it is for basically anybody to run afoul of Dunedin’s very extensive code enforcement ordinances,” Institute for Justice attorney Ari Bargil said. “You could probably find something wrong with almost everybody’s house in Dunedin. That’s how petty some of these violations are.”

Man spends 8 hours atop 400-foot WKMG-TV tower before climbing down” via Daniel Dahm of Click Orlando — Nearly eight hours after a 43-year-old man scaled a tower outside the WKMG-TV News 6 studios Wednesday, he descended from the 400-foot structure where Orlando police negotiators and first responders were waiting. He was transported to a hospital for a physical and mental evaluation, according to Orlando police. When the man climbed the tower Wednesday morning, authorities closed access in and out of the station as Orlando police crisis negotiators attempted to talk him down. Around 3:45 p.m. the man started to climb down. When he took his final steps onto the ground, first responders with Orlando fire and police were waiting to escort him to a nearby ambulance.


Battleground Florida with Christopher Heath: Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham stops by to discuss running, cycling, her bid for governor, her backing of Joe Biden, and if the party is moving too far to the left to win in places like her former district.

Dishonorable Mention: State Rep. Latvala, activist Becca Tieder, Tampa Bay Times Columnist Ernest Hooper and communications expert Dr. Karla Mastracchio discuss politics and culture: national, state, local, but from a place of love. Talking about Hooper on social media with his final column and job segue at the Times; debate on campaign finance reform; they discuss Mayor George Cretekos of Clearwater who made an interesting statement; looking at reboots of Golden Girls, Saved by the Bell and more. Becca tells a story about one of Latvala’s constituents reaching out to him about the pod, and there are not one, but two #FloridaMan stories.

Gradebook from the Tampa Bay Times with hosts Marlene Sokol and Jeffrey Solochek: The first week of committee meetings has offered a glimpse into the education priorities the Legislature is poised to tackle. Among them are school security (no surprise there) and early education. What else is on tap?

Inside Florida Politics from GateHouse Florida with hosts John Kennedy and Zac Anderson. Members of the Florida Legislature returned to the state capital to begin committee hearings in advance of the 2020 Legislative Session, which kicks off in January. Guns violence was the biggest issue on the agenda. Kennedy and Anderson discuss the committee action and a new poll showing Trump faring well in Florida.

REGULATED: Christian Bax interviews Dylan Conley, chair of the City of Providence Board of Licenses, on his innovative proposal to protect and grow the city’s nightlife. The Board of Licenses has broad regulatory authority over the city’s liquor licenses. Conley is a practicing attorney in Rhode Island and a graduate of Tallahassee’s Florida State University law school. 

RoundTable Politics: On this week’s episode, host Jordan Kirkland speaks with state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, who represents HD 32. An advocate of the 2nd Amendment, Sabatini talks about his dedication to promoting values and issues important to constitutional conservatives.


Legislators don’t have a monopoly on wisdom” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Again this year, there is legislation to abolish the Constitution Revision Commission. Politicians always claim to trust the people, but they don’t mean it. This assault is cut from the same cloth as last year’s House Bill 5, which made it much harder and costlier for citizens to mount initiative campaigns. The initiative process is the only recourse available to people when lawmakers refuse to listen. But legislative leaders think they — and the special interests who back them — know best. They forget that same arrogance of power is what led to the creation of the revision commission and the initiative process in the first place.


New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Amy Bisceglia, Rubin Turnbull & Associates: Western Governors University

Angela Bonds, Dean Mead: Lee County Board of County Commissioners

Michael Corcoran, Jeffrey Johnston, Matt Blair, Amanda Stewart, Corcoran & Johnston: Ygrene Energy Fund Florida

George Feijoo, Floridian Partners: Liberty Mutual Group

Beth Mitchell: AmerisourceBergen

Leah Popoff: Google

John Wayne Smith, Angela Drzewiecki, Peebles Smith & Matthews: City of Maitland

Michael Spinelli: South Florida Quarter Horse Association

Katherine Webb, Colodny Fass: Collegiate Prep Realty dba Windermere Preparatory School, North Broward Preparatory School


Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues affecting the region.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable panel with Democratic state Rep. Fentrice Driskell of HD 63; South Florida Sun-Sentinel Reporter/Columnist Steve Bousquet; Tampa Bay Times reporter Caitlin Johnston and Republican political consultant April Schiff.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion of legislation designed to curb illegal street racing in Florida. Joining Walker-Torres are state Rep. Amy Mercado; Orange County Sheriff Lt. Michael Crabb; Tampa Police Capt. Barry Moskowitz and attorney Jonathan Rose.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: This week’s show will discuss gun reform at the local, state and federal level; host Al Ruechel will hit the road to Pinellas County to talk with Pinellas County Commissioner Karen Williams Seel and Administrator Barry Burton. PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter will rate a claim made by Sen. Bernie Sanders about payday loans.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week’s guests are 4th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Melissa Nelson, Juvenile Director Laura Lothman Lambert of the state attorney’s office for the 4th Judicial Circuit and University of Florida President Dr. David Szymanski.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg will focus on the upcoming Legislative Session, school safety, gun reform and climate change. The weekly roundtable also have a take on the news of the week.

— ALOE —

How ‘The West Wing’ was won: Aaron Sorkin on the show’s legacy” via Joy Press of Vanity Fair — The West Wing’s vision of liberal, populist President Jed Bartlet (played by progressive mensch Martin Sheen) and his staffers served as a fantasy bubble for battered Democrats. It seems to be providing the same painkilling function for a new fan base of viewers seeking shelter from the Trump presidency in Netflix binges or by listening to the contemporary podcast The West Wing Weekly. The idea of a West Wing revival pops up from time to time. Will it happen, and what would it look like? “Sure, I would love to do it. I love these people, and I’d love to revisit the area, especially nowadays, but I simply don’t have an idea that wouldn’t feel like ‘A Very Brady Reunion.’”

Aaron Sorkin reflects on the legacy of ‘The West Wing,’ and entertains the idea of a revival.

Florida Polytechnic University lands its largest National Science Foundation grant ever” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The $600,000 grant will help strengthen professional ethics in the school’s engineering students and future STEM professionals. The grant funds research that analyzes the motives and barriers to ethical behavior in academic settings for students and continues that research to evaluate how ethical behavior learned in school translates into professional work after graduation. “As we try at Florida Poly to differentiate our product, and our product is the students, we want them to be the absolute best in terms of their technical training,” said Grisselle Centeno, principal investigator of the research. “However, it would all be worthless if they engage and practice in an unethical manner.”

Petition: Stop replacing Disney PhotoPass photographers with camera boxes” via Ashley Carter of Bay News 9 — Disney World has installed more automated cameras at character meet-and-greets across its theme parks, replacing live PhotoPass photographers at those locations. Not everyone is happy with the change. An online petition circulating online asking Disney to keep PhotoPass photographers at those locations had gathered more than 45,000 electronic signatures as of Thursday afternoon. The petition, started by a person named Martin Martsartuk, says the switch to automated cameras “deflates the magic.” “A Disney photographer can capture more than just a picture,” the petition says. “They are there to give you the best experience possible. They bring out the best of you in each and every snap of the lens. It’s an added magical touch that can’t be replaced.”

A petition is circulating urging Disney to remove PhotoPass automated camera boxes and bring back actual photographers.

Rutherford High School teacher starts ‘Adopt a Senior’ program to help seniors in need” via Kathy Griffitts of WJHG — Hurricane Michael left 15-20 percent of Rutherford’s 196 seniors homeless, which is why one teacher stepped up to help out all of the senior class. Lin Byrd, Teacher & Senior Class Adviser at Rutherford, said, “‘Let’s raise some money, let’s see if I can raise enough money to cover all of the costs for seniors for their cap and gowns,’ which run between $35 and $40 apiece, so it’s not cheap.” Byrd started the “Adopt a Senior” program at Rutherford to help relieve some of the financial burdens her students are facing. “My main goal is to raise the money for the cap and gowns and stuff because that’s such an important part of graduating,” said Byrd.

The only story that matters —Shake Shack said to be looking at Midtown Tampa, downtown St. Petersburg” via Ashley Gurbal Kritzer of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Real estate sources say that Shake Shack is back in the market with renewed interest and focusing on two hot retail sites: Midtown Tampa, the mixed-use district under construction at Interstate 275 and North Dale Mabry Highway, and downtown St. Petersburg. The company bills itself as a “modern-day roadside burger stand.” It has a simple menu — burgers, fried chicken sandwiches, crinkle-cut fries, milkshakes and frozen custard — and focuses on quality ingredients in a fast-casual setting. In 2018, it began to roll out online ordering.


Best wishes to our great friend, Rep. James Grant, as well as Rep. Jason Shoaf, former Rep. Frank White, Kevin Derby and “Master of the House,” Barry Shields.


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 @PeterSchorschFL

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

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