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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 10.4.19

Florida politics doesn’t get any hotter than Sunburn.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried isn’t sitting at her desk, waiting for 5 p.m. to roll around. Quite the opposite, really.

In the past few weeks alone, Fried has been chugging along, holding news conferences, making announcements, and launching initiatives that cover nearly every aspect of the department voters elected her to lead.

Nikki Fried may be the hardest working politician in Florida.

When she wasn’t nudging the Florida Cabinet into meeting on the restoration of felon civil rights, she was holding the first statewide summit on climate change since 2008, announcing enhancements to Florida’s model prescribed burn program, and urging utilities to adopt energy efficiency and conservation measures.

Fried even managed to work into her busy schedule a “Fresh from Florida” tailgate at the Florida Gators’ football game in Gainesville last weekend.

That’s just a small slice of the work Fried has put in since she took office less than nine months ago. She’s left no stone unturned within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Under her leadership, she has also streamlined the concealed weapons permit process, almost single-handedly stood up a regulatory framework for Florida’s industrial hemp and marijuana industries, and made a name for herself as a strong advocate for transparency and competence in state government.

Recognizing her role as the only statewide elected Democrat, Fried has also separated herself from her Republican colleagues in higher office by establishing positions like LBGTQ Consumer Advocate, which was created in March.

As the de facto leader of the state party, Fried’s has also been keeping an active political calendar, keynoting the all-important Palm Beach County Truman Kennedy Johnson Gala in September and the Leadership Blue Dinner in Orlando in June, among other Democratic Party events.

That’s not to imply she’s let partisanship bleed into her official duties as Ag Commissioner.

The South Florida Democrat is well aware she was elected in a nail biter. When she came out on top, she firmly pledged to represent all Floridians — even, and especially, the ones who didn’t vote for her in November.

It’s yet another promise kept.

Fried made multiple trips to Washington, D.C, scoring hugely critical federal dollars to help save Florida’s troubled citrus industry. She’s also put in countless hours helping do the same for those still suffering in the wake of Hurricane Michael — that’s in addition to her hemp advocacy, which could genuinely revitalize Northwest Florida’s decimated agriculture industry.

Her efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. From a Palm Beach Post editorial shortly after the election that hailed her as “of a different cut entirely,” to a recent South Florida Sun-Sentinel one that asserted she has “performed this role admirably,” Fried consistently earns well-deserved plaudits from newspaper editorial boards across the state.

In the latter piece, the Sun-Sentinel cited her leadership in the dismissal of financial regulator Ronald Rubin, accused of sexual harassment.

In that case, Fried was instrumental in bringing to light some of the problems with the process in how the Florida Cabinet heard the Rubin case, pushing for public notice and transparency before the vote on Rubin’s dismissal.

A year ago, Fried’s focus on fully implementing the state’s medical-marijuana program may have made her seem like a single-issue candidate. But as an elected official, she has proven she has a knack — if not mastery — of many issues.

And in a town dominated by Republicans, Fried seems undeterred and at home while building a strong record for her future, whatever it may hold. One could even say she’s the hardest working person in Florida’s government.

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More bloggin‘ — “The legislative campaign finance reports we can’t wait to see — Part 1” via Peter Schorsch and Drew Wilson of Florida Politics

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Brian Ballard makes Vanity Fair’s “New Establishment” list — The magazine, calling Ballard, “king of the swamp,” rated him No. 8 in the “Swamp” part of the list. His entry says, “After stints on Trump’s transition team and inaugural committee, Ballard revolving-doored at hyper speed, adding dozens of clients — and a reported $28 million — to his lobbying firm since 2016. Rivals dismiss it as a pure Trump play, but Ballard says he’s planning for the future.” The whole list is here.

— TODAY’S SUNRISE —

It’s been almost a year since Hurricane Michael devastated the Florida Panhandle. Leaders of a group called Rebuild 850 say recovery is underway — but there’s a lot more work to be done, and progress is slow.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— NPR’s chief economics correspondent Scott Horsley visits Florida to talk about reality-based reporting in a time when Americans seem to be living in different realities. Horsley says we’re all in this boat together; we’d better start acting like it.

Donald Trump visits The Villages to talk about supporting Medicare and opposing socialized medicine, which is somewhat a contradiction in terms.

— After just 20 days, backers of a proposition to legalize recreational marijuana for adults in Florida say they’ve already collected more than 100,000 signatures. It’s enough to trigger a review by the Florida Supreme Court.

— A bill legalizing open carry of firearms has been filed for the 2020 Legislative Session. If passed, you wouldn’t need a concealed carry permit … or any license at all.

— A Palm Harbor woman was pulled over for driving while drinking a can of White Claw, which is seltzer water spiked with alcohol. The woman apparently thought it was OK because they’re only 5 percent alcohol.

To listen, click on the image below:

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

—@kaitlancollins: Before Trump said China should investigate the Bidens — unprompted — he noted that a delegation from China will be in the U.S. next week for trade talks

—@DrNealDunnFL2: Great event in Florida today with @realDonaldTrump — we will keep fighting in Congress to #KeepAmericaGreat

@ToluseO: During a speech in The Villages, FL, Trump attacked CNN and floated a state-run news operation as an alternative. “We ought to start our own network and out some real news out there,” he said. “We are looking at that.”

—@RepTedDeutch: Ronald Reagan (1961): releases “Ronald Reagan Speaks Out Against Socialized Medicine” to oppose Medicare. Donald Trump (today): visits The Villages, FL to sign an “Executive Order Protecting Medicare from Socialist Destruction.”

—@SteveLemongello: Tim Trebil of The Villages said it wasn’t proven Trump asked Ukraine to investigate [Joe] Biden. Told Trump did so again an hour earlier, Trebil said, “Then I believe Biden should be investigated. … If, in fact he said that, I’m in complete support of that.”

—@GaryLegum: Fun to listen to a crowd at The Villages chanting “four more years” for Trump when actuarial tables suggest half of them will be dead before then.

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

@Conarck: A local Starbucks — a franchise not known for its eco-friendliness — is getting rid of newspaper rack sales in an effort to “reduce waste.” The “Say Farewell to Newspapers!” header is a little too on the nose.

— DAYS UNTIL —

CNN hosts candidate town hall on LGBTQ issues — 6; Debut of Breaking Bad movie on Netflix — 7; Fourth Democratic debate outside Columbus, Ohio — 11; New season of “The Crown” streaming on Netflix — 14; “Watchmen” premieres on HBO — 16; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 24; Brexit scheduled — 27; 2019 General Election — 32; 3rd Annual Florida Internet and Television FITCon starts — 34; “The Mandalorian” premieres — 49; “Frozen 2” debuts — 49; TaxWatch 40th Annual Meeting — 59; “The Rise of Skywalker” premiers — 77; 2020 Session begins — 102; Florida TaxWatch State of the TaxPayer Dinner in Tallahassee — 103; Super Bowl LIV in Miami — 121; Iowa Caucuses — 122; New Hampshire Primaries — 130; Florida’s presidential primary — 165; “Black Panther 2” debuts — 215; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo begin — 294; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 326; 2020 General Election — 396.

— TOP STORY —

Donald Trump support unwavering in Florida retirement community” via Mike Schneider of the Associated Press — As retirees living on a fixed income, Paula Bedner and her husband don’t have a lot of money to spare. But when Democratic House members announced last week they were carrying out an impeachment inquiry against Trump, her husband, Don, went online to donate to Trump’s reelection campaign. “In The Villages, if anything, it has gotten people more determined not to let them get away with it,” said Bedner, who is active in the local Republican women’s club. “People have had enough of this. They see the president is doing good things and the economy is going well.” Referring to the nickname Trump has given official Washington, she said, “The swamp is fighting hard.”

Donald Trump speaks to adoring fans at The Villages, one of his staunchest strongholds.

Trump cites support for Medicare, slams Medicare for All” via The Associated Press — Trump accused Democrats of an all-out attempt to “totally obliterate Medicare” and portrayed himself as the program’s defender as he signed a directive to expand the program’s private insurance options. Trump skipped past his own proposals for Medicare budget cuts, and he ignored the fact that no Democrat is proposing to take coverage or benefits away from seniors. During a visit to The Villages, Trump was trying to turn attention away from House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry and focus on pocketbook issues instead. “That’s why they do the impeachment crap, because they know they can’t beat us fairly,” he told the friendly audience, which included many seniors.

In The Villages, Trump signs Medicare order amid jabs at political opponents” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Trump said he would protect the federal government’s Medicare program from “socialism” and praised Gov. Ron DeSantis’ prescription drug importation law during his visit to The Villages on Thursday. But at his first large event before a friendly crowd since Congress began impeachment hearings last week, he couldn’t resist attacking his political opponents, despite the event being billed as nonpolitical. “These people on the other side, these people are crazy, by the way,” Trump said of Democrats. “They want to take it away, give you lousy health care. As long as I’m president, no one will lay a hand on your Medicare benefits.”

Trump baselessly accuses drug industry of fueling impeachment push” via Sarah Karlin-Smith and Sarah Owermohle of POLITICO

— PEACHY —

Trump publicly urges China to investigate the Bidens” via Peter Baker and Eileen Sullivan of The New York Times — “China should start an investigation into the Bidens, because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine,” Trump told reporters as he left the White House to travel to Florida. The president’s call for Chinese intervention means that Trump and his attorney general have solicited assistance in discrediting the president’s political opponents from Ukraine, Australia, Italy and, according to one report, Britain. In speaking so publicly, a defiant Trump pushed back against critics who have called such requests an abuse of power, essentially arguing that there was nothing wrong with seeking foreign help.

First, it was Ukraine; now Donald Trump is openly calling on China to investigate Joe Biden.

Trump raised Joe Biden with Xi Jinping in June call housed in highly secure server” via Kylie Atwood, Kevin Liptak, Pamela Brown, Jim Sciutto and Gloria Borger of CNN — When Trump suggested — without prompting — that China should investigate Biden and his son, he thrust another political grudge into what was already the world’s most complicated and consequential relationship. The move startled Chinese officials, who say they have little interest in becoming embroiled in a U.S. political controversy. During a phone call with Xi on June 18, Trump raised Biden’s political prospects as well as those of Sen. Elizabeth Warren. The White House record of that call was later stored in the highly secured electronic system used to house a now-infamous phone call with Ukraine’s President and which helped spark a whistleblower complaint that’s led Democrats to open an impeachment inquiry into Trump.

Trump letter dares Nancy Pelosi to hold vote on impeachment inquiry” via Axios — The White House is planning to send Speaker Pelosi a letter as soon as Friday arguing that Trump and his team can ignore lawmakers’ demands until she holds a full House vote formally approving an impeachment inquiry. By putting in writing the case that Trump and his supporters have been making verbally for days, the White House is preparing for a court fight and arguing to the public that its resistance to Congress’ requests is justified. While a letter to Pelosi and the committee chairmen had been drafted, it had not been finalized or signed as of Thursday night.

In Florida, Pelosi says Trump ‘has confessed’ to violating his oath of office” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Appearing with three South Florida congresswomen in Weston, Pelosi took part in a 75-minute roundtable on Venezuela. Her attempt to focus on Venezuela worked only so well. The focus of the throng of news reporters was when Pelosi answered questions about the impeachment inquiry into Trump. “The president has confessed to his violation of his oath of office,” she said, suggesting that she expected a relatively fast inquiry by House committees. “You don’t need too much inquiry.”

Nancy Pelosi doesn’t see the need for ‘too much inquiry,’ since Donald Trump already confessed to violating his oath of office.

Pelosi: ‘I’m very worried’ about whistleblower’s safety” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — Pelosi said on Thursday she was “worried” about the safety of the whistleblower who first reported that President Donald Trump tried to pressure Ukraine into investigating one of his Democratic rivals, Joe Biden.

Impeachment war room? Trump does it all himself, and that worries Republicans” via Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni of The New York Times — Trump has long believed that he is the best communicator in the White House, but as the presidential campaign picks up its pace and the prospect of his impeachment becomes more real, he seems to be its only empowered communicator, a one-man war room responding to developments almost hour by hour. For now, the White House has no organized response to impeachment, little guidance for surrogates to spread a consistent message even if it had developed one, and minimal coordination between the president’s legal advisers and his political ones.

Odd markings, ellipses fuel doubts about the rough transcript of Trump’s Ukraine call” via Carol Leonnig, Craig Timberg and Drew Harwell of the Washington Post — “This is an exact word-for-word transcript of the conversation, taken by very talented stenographers,” Trump said. White House officials previously had portrayed the document as not a verbatim transcription but rather a summary. But the whistleblower complaint that spurred the investigation described an “official word-for-word transcript” of the call — words closely matching the ones used by Trump — creating uncertainty about what was included in the document the White House released last week and what may have been left out.

 Trump envoys push Ukraine to commit to investigations” via Kenneth Vogel and Michael Schmidt of The New York Times — Two of Trump’s top envoys to Ukraine drafted a statement for the country’s new president in August that would have committed Ukraine to pursue investigations sought by Trump into his political rivals. The drafting of the statement marks new evidence of how Trump’s fixation with Ukraine began driving senior diplomats to bend American foreign policy to the president’s political agenda.

Australian ambassador rejects Lindsay Graham’s description of diplomat’s role in Russia probe’s origins” via Quint Forgey of POLITICO — Australia’s ambassador to the U.S. confirmed to Sen. Graham that the Australian government is assisting Attorney General William Barr’s investigation of foreign interference in the 2016 election — but disputed the lawmaker’s reference to an Australian diplomat involved in the Russia probe’s origins. Graham had asked the prime ministers of Australia, Italy and Britain to continue to aid Barr in his inquiry, which critics say represents another effort by Trump to discredit the work of former special counsel Robert Mueller. Ambassador Joe Hockey wrote that the Australian government “is cooperating” with Barr’s inquiry and has “been public about our willingness to cooperate.”

Historians on Trump: we’ve never seen anything like this” via Elizabeth Cobbs, Kyle Longley, Kenneth Osgood and Jeremi Suri of CNN — Trump‘s documentary record differs dramatically from his predecessors. A worrisome thread runs through each conversation. Trump appears laser-focused on his own fortunes to the exclusion of the national security of the United States. Unfortunately, this is part of a larger and startling pattern of Trump promoting his personal agenda ahead of the nation’s interests. Many examples exist. 

White House officials weigh appeal to Democrats in GOP districts to stop impeachment of Trump” via Rachael Bade and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — The nascent outreach campaign would target some of the 31 Democrats from congressional districts Trump won in 2016, many of whom ran on rebuilding infrastructure, improving trade deals and lowering the cost of prescription drugs, according to multiple officials familiar with the strategy. The officials said the appeal would be based on these Democrats’ 2018 election promises to work with the President — accompanied with a warning that impeachment would hamper possible legislative victories.

In a deep red district, impeachment elicits sighs, not anger” via Laura Krantz of the Boston Globe — Many people are already weary of this new round of accusations against Trump, who they say still deserves the benefit of the doubt. They sigh and call this latest controversy just another sign of partisanship and dysfunction in the nation’s capital. “It’s just Washington at work,” said John Cabbage. “As long as we’re divided, nothing’s going to be done.”

— DATELINE: TALLY —

‘Cold war’: GOP conference call latest in Rick Scott-Ron DeSantis feud” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Sen. Scott surprised Florida Republican leaders Wednesday by using an internal party conference call to praise embattled Chairman Joe Gruters, the latest volley in an intra-party “cold war” between Scott and Gov. Ron DeSantis. aOn the call, Scott thanked Gruters for his “hard work to support Republicans across the state,” according to a veteran Florida Republican who was on the call.

The cold war between Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis heats up just a bit during an RPOF conference call.

Lawyers ask for Governor, Secretary of State to be dropped from Amendment 10 case” via Florida Politics — Lawyers for DeSantis and Secretary of State Laurel Lee argued they shouldn’t be sued over a state constitutional amendment passed last year that requires certain county officers to be elected and not appointed. A three-judge panel at the 1st District Court of Appeal heard the case brought by Volusia County against DeSantis and Lee, the state’s chief elections officer. A circuit judge already granted summary judgment against the county.

No landing yet for Florida’s new state plane” via CBS Miami — DeSantis’ $15.5 million business jet still doesn’t have an estimated arrival time at Tallahassee International Airport. But the plane is being built as attorneys hammer out final key details.

Assignment editors — DeSantis will participate in the CAE groundbreaking ceremony, 11 a.m., CAE Construction Site, corner of Air Cargo Road and West South Avenue, Tampa.

Nikki Fried proposes statewide energy conservation measures” via Steve Newborn of WUSF — Backed by fellow Democrats Charlie Crist, Congresswoman Kathy Castor and Sarasota Rep. Margaret Good, Fried said she would ask state lawmakers for a list of measures. They range from reporting greenhouse gas emissions of state buildings to studying the effects of climate change on Florida. Fried also proposed creating a clean energy research center at one of Florida’s state universities, with funding estimated at $20 million over five years.

Ronald Rubin lawsuit ordered moved to Tallahassee — A Miami-Dade circuit judge granted Tallahassee lobbyist Paul Mitchell’s request to transfer to Leon County a lawsuit filed against him by former Office of Financial Regulation Commissioner Rubin. The suit alleges civil RICO violations and defamation. In a 20-page change of venue order, Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman said: “Rubin’s claim to venue (in Miami-Dade) because [he couldn’t find] lawyers in Leon County … is hardly a basis” to keep the case in South Florida. Indeed, Hanzman added, Rubin himself “is not even a resident of Miami-Dade (or Florida for that matter).”

Florida Specialty Insurance to shut down — Florida Specialty Insurance Co. will offload nearly 90,000 policyholders as the state begins to shut the domestic carrier down, reports Alexandra Glorioso for POLITICO Florida. The company reported a “sudden and significant” decline in profitability and surplus from 2018 to 2019. Florida Specialty reported “substantial doubt” to its continued viability. Last year, Florida Specialty posted a net underwriting loss of $6.8 million and an income loss of $6.6 million. Since 2014, its surplus plunged from $32.2 million to $10 million — the legal limit. “While we never want to see an insurer go into receivership, the good news is that we have a safety net in place to protect consumers,” OIR Commissioner David Altmaier said in a statement.

Happening today — The Office of Insurance Regulation will discuss a proposal by the National Council on Compensation Insurance that seeks to reduce workers’ compensation insurance rates by 5.4 percent, as of Jan. 1, 10 a.m., 401 Senate Office Building.

Will legislators pass a bill in 2020 prohibiting LGBTQ discrimination?” via Lawrence Mower of the Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau — In much of Florida, your boss can fire you, or choose not to hire you, for being gay, bisexual or transgender. More than four years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage to be legal, blatant discrimination is perfectly legal. A bipartisan group of state lawmakers, backed by big business, is — again — trying to change that.

James Madison Institute weighs in on genetic testing issue” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The Institute has weighed in on a proposed ban on the use of genetic data for life insurance underwriting, citing a concern about rising insurance costs. During the 2019 Legislative Session, a measure was introduced that would have barred life insurers from using — in any form, even if it is part of the medical record — the results of genetic test results when underwriting a policy. Insurers feared such a ban would incentivize purchasers to lie about their actual medical situation. Opponents also noted that once consumers learned of the prohibition, those with bad news in their genetic tests would then buy more policies.

Flags at half-staff in honor of late House Speaker Donald L. Tucker” via Florida Politics — Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered flags at half-staff to honor the late House Speaker. DeSantis directed the U.S. and state flags at half-staff at the Leon County Courthouse, Tallahassee City Hall and the Capitol from sunrise to sunset this Friday. Tucker died from cancer Sept. 24 in Tallahassee. He was 84.

— STATEWIDE —

FSU, UF and USF seek a combined $150M for rankings rise — Florida’s three highest-ranked universities — FSU, UF and USF — want $150 million in the 2020-21 state budget to help them continue their climbs in the national rankings, Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida reports. The money will mostly be used to hire faculty members. FSU, the No. 18 public school in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report, submitted two requests totaling $50 million, including $34.6 million tied directly to faculty. UF, No. 8 among public universities, requested $50 million to hire 125 new faculty members in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The money would also fund 35 staff. USF, No. 44 on the same list, is seeking more than $50 million, including $31.2 million to bring in 175 new faculty members in various fields.

After spending controversy, university system tells UCF: Use leftover operating dollars for facilities” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — A year after the state university system blasted UCF for tapping leftover operating funds to build a new academic building, they told school leaders they should use $14.6 million from reserves to renovate two aging facilities instead of requesting capital money from the state. Spending more than $2 million on a single project was forbidden by the state until earlier this year, when the Legislature agreed to allow state universities to use that money, which comes from state appropriations and tuition, for construction and renovations. The law changes came after the University of Central Florida’s use of operating cash for capital projects, a violation of the previous state rules.

A school choice scholarship saved Elijah’s life — and allowed him to be who he is” via Ron Matus of redefinED — For Elijah Robinson, the harassment at his high school was cruel punishment for his sexual identity. Bullying led to depression. Depression spiraled into a suicide attempt. Once Elijah got out of the hospital, his mom decided to send him to a place called The Foundation Academy. A friend assured Elijah’s mom that the eclectic little private school was warm and welcoming — to all students. To pay tuition, the single mother secured a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship for lower-income students. Without it, Elijah’s mom said, she wouldn’t have been able to afford the school. Without it, Elijah said, he wouldn’t be alive.

Elijah Robinson was bullied in his public school because of his sexual identity, but thanks to The Foundation Academy — and the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship — he’s in a safe place. Image via redefinED.

Sugar growers agree to give up leased land to expedite Lake O reservoir project” via Kimberly Miller of the Palm Beach Post — A deal that undid the governing board of the largest water management district in Florida was rewritten this week to allow for expedited construction on a reservoir project south of Lake Okeechobee. Environmentalists heralded the new plan, which was announced by DeSantis and calls for sugar-cane farmer Florida Crystals to relinquish thousands of acres of land it leases from the South Florida Water Management District in the western reaches of Palm Beach County. The 6,170 acres the company agreed to give up in pieces is slated for a stormwater treatment area that will clean Lake Okeechobee water before it can be sent south into the Greater Everglades.

The word from the Panhandle: ‘We don’t have time’ for delay with hurricane recovery” via Laura Cassels of Florida Phoenix — Time is running out for hurricane victims in Northwest Florida, a group of state and local leaders warned. Some post-storm assistance has arrived, but the hardest-hit counties were already impoverished when Michael hit and may never recover unless they can regrow their tax bases within five years, predicted Craig Fugate, former administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Money and expertise are urgently needed, even at the risk of bypassing safeguards designed to prevent fraud, waste and abuse, the officials agreed. “We can’t wait for perfect. We don’t have time.”

State panel reins in elephant rides” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — A state panel approved new rules for elephant rides in Florida, including adding fencing requirements after rides have been offered within makeshift barriers such as hay bales and portable toilets. Also, future ride operators will need more training, according to rules approved by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission during a meeting in Cape Canaveral. The changes don’t go far enough for animal-rights activists, who would prefer that elephant rides be phased out. 

Florida moves forward on plans to bury more power lines” by Jim Saunders of News Service of Florida — State regulators moved forward Thursday with a new law aimed at building more underground power lines and making Florida’s electric grid better able to withstand punishing hurricanes. The Florida Public Service Commission approved proposed rules to carry out the law, which is expected to lead to residents and businesses paying more in their electric bills for storm-protection projects. Deputy Public Counsel Charles Rehwinkel, whose office represents consumers in utility issues, described the rule-making as the “most significant in a generation” because of issues such as potential costs over time that could total hundreds of millions or billions of dollars.

— NOTES FROM ELSEWHERE —

What Ashley Moody is reading — “Company claims Oklahoma judge miscalculated opioid award” via The Associated Press — An Oklahoma judge made a $107 million miscalculation when he ordered consumer products giant Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million to help clean up the state’s opioid crisis, attorneys for the company argued in a court filing. The company also is asking for a reduction in the judgment based on pretrial settlements totaling $355 million that the state reached with Oxycontin-maker Purdue Pharma and Israeli-owned Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. 

What Jeff Brandes is reading — “Solar permits more than doubled in D.C. last year” via WAMU.org — Solar energy is having a moment in D.C., after years of efforts to get more people to make the switch. There were more than two times as many solar installation permits issued in the District in fiscal year 2019 compared to the previous year, and more than three times as many permits as 2015. Said Mark Ballantine, executive director of D.C.-based solar installer Universal Renewables, “I’ve noticed a very big uptick in interest, probably in the last three years.”

What Steph Smith is reading — “Boozy ice cream to go? Ohio House OKs delivery of alcoholic treat” via The Cincinnati Enquirer — Buzzed Bull Creamery wants to sell their boozy ice creams outside the walls of their shop. The only thing killing their buzz? Ohio law … Buzzed Bull can’t sell their products at restaurants or grocery stores, let a customer take their milkshake to go, cater a wedding or deliver alcoholic ice cream through Uber Eats. But this week, lawmakers in the Ohio House passed a bill that allows alcoholic ice cream businesses to ship their product to stores and individuals if the person is older than 21.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Trump to expand private-sector version of Medicare” via Amy Goldstein of the Washington Post — Trump is scheduled to issue an order that expands the private-sector version of Medicare, as he slams some Democratic presidential candidates’ plans to build the program into a government-financed health system. The order will direct federal health officials to make a set of changes to Medicare Advantage; the private managed care plans currently enrolling 22 million people — one-third of the participants in the federal insurance program for Americans who are 65 and older or have disabilities. The changes are intended, in part, to give Medicare Advantage plans the option to cover a greater array of health-related services, such as adult day care.

Donald Trump is looking to expand Medicare Advantage, the private-sector managed care plan that covers 22 million people.

Assignment editors — U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell will host a “Conversation with Debbie” meeting with constituents, 9 a.m., Murray Nelson Government Center, 102050 Overseas Hwy., Key Largo.

Koch-backed groups take on immigration starting in Miami” via Adrian Gomez Lincoln of The Associated Press — A new effort funded by the influential Koch network wants to reframe discussions about immigration by calling for bipartisan consensus on the issue amid Trump-era divisions. The initiative “Common Ground” launched an outdoor installation in a Miami parking lot to share positive personal stories of immigrants who are young entrepreneurs, war heroes and farmers. Visitors are encouraged to open several doors to watch short clips on large vertical screens that hang by the doorway. The groups say the exhibit is merely educational and not aimed at swaying viewers to the Republican Party despite the network’s history of bankrolling the GOP. 

— 2020 —

CNN rejects two Trump campaign ads, citing inaccuracies” via Michael Grynbaum and Tiffany Hsu of The New York Times — CNN’s decision could foreshadow a more protracted conflict between Trump’s political aides and network executives tasked with reviewing the accuracy of the information that reaches viewers. The Trump ads were recently posted online as part of what the campaign said was a multimillion-dollar advertising buy on national cable stations and digital platforms. One, “Biden Corruption,” repeats unsubstantiated allegations about Biden’s activities in Ukraine. No evidence has surfaced that Biden intentionally tried to help his son Hunter Biden by pushing for the dismissal of the Ukrainian prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin.

Next Democratic debate will have 12 candidates on stage, the most ever” via Michael Grynbaum of The New York Times — Never before have so many presidential candidates shared a single stage in a primary debate, according to political historians who keep track of such things. The 12-candidate milestone had yet to be reached, setting up a challenge for the event’s moderators, the CNN anchors Erin Burnett and Anderson Cooper and the national editor of The New York Times, Marc Lacey. The Ohio debate will feature the 10 candidates who appeared at last month’s matchup in Houston. Also, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and Tom Steyer qualified to appear, the party said.

The next Democratic debate will be one night — and 12 candidates.

Biden ads focus on early-voting states as he counters Trump” via Bill Barrow of The Associated Press — The ad buy comes as the former Vice President steps up his counterattacks after disclosures about Trump’s effort to use the Ukrainian government to try to tarnish Biden, which has driven the Democratic-controlled House to undertake an impeachment inquiry. Biden’s buy also will include digital platforms YouTube, Hulu and streaming services for news and sports. The campaign says the effort will highlight Biden’s “core messages.” Those have combined dire warnings about Trump as a threat to the nation with policy proposals aimed at improving health care, education and economic opportunities for the middle class. Biden’s first two television ads in Iowa offer clues for how the campaign hopes to promote Biden’s candidacy while making his arguments against Trump.

Biden invests in an insurance policy against Elizabeth Warren’s surge” via Natasha Korecki of POLITICO — Biden’s campaign is ramping up its investment in Super Tuesday states, anticipating a Democratic race that narrows to two candidates by early March. The increase in staffing across the 14 states comes as Biden’s polling figures have declined and Warren’s have surged, particularly in states like Iowa and New Hampshire, where she’s heavily invested in field organization. The former Vice President’s campaign is still counting on strong finishes in the four early nominating states. But in the event of weaker-than-expected performances, a built-out Super Tuesday organization would provide a fail-safe for Biden.

Bernie Sanders is now facing something he hates: Physical limitations and a focus on himself” via Ruby Kramer of BuzzFeed News — In the middle of his second presidential campaign, Sanders is bedridden in a Nevada hospital after doctors performed a procedure to open a blocked artery. He’s had to step off the campaign trail, halting his typically relentless schedule of town halls and rallies. And in Iowa, he’s postponed a $1.3 million television ad, his first of the race. At age 78, two things he hates are converging: real physical limitations, and a focus on his health and personal life that will distract from his “political revolution.” 

Bernie Sanders has been forced to contend with two issues he’d like to avoid: His age and a focus on himself.

Kamala Harris: ‘emphatic but elusive’” via Molly Ball of Time magazine — On Trump: “This guy has completely trampled on the rule of law, avoided consequence and accountability under law. For all the sh-t people give me for being a prosecutor, listen. I believe there should be accountability and consequence.” On questioning Attorney General Barr: “It has become clear to me that these are the kinds of questions you have to ask members of this administration. What kind of unethical requests has this President made of you?”

— THE TRAIL —

Happening today — The Financial Impact Estimating Conference Principles Workshop looks at a proposed constitutional amendment that would similarly regulate marijuana to alcohol, establishing age, licensing and other restrictions, 8:30 a.m., 117 Knott Building.

Supporters have high hopes for recreational marijuana in Florida as petition drive kicks off” via Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — A new petition drive to legalize recreational marijuana has gathered 100,000 signatures in its first 20 days, giving supporters high hopes that Florida could be on its way to joining other states in ending the prohibition of cannabis. The goal is to put the legalization question before Florida voters in next year’s election, said Nick Hansen, chairman of Make It Legal Florida, the group circulating the petition.

Andrew Learned to launch House campaign at Riverview ‘new urbanism’ community” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Learned is hosting his official campaign kickoff Oct. 23 at The Patio at Winthrop Liquors beginning at 5 p.m. Learned is running for House District 59, currently represented by Adam Hattersley, who is leaving office to run for Congress. “Over the last two years, people like YOU joined forces, and together we came so far together. Putting this battleground district on the map, fighting for peoples’ health care, better schools and teacher pay, a cleaner environment, and an end to partisan games in Tallahassee,” a Facebook event page for the kickoff reads.

Harry Cohen files to run for Hillsborough County Commission” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Cohen filed to run for District 1, dispelling speculation. “Over the past decade, we have seen historic economic and population growth in Hillsborough County — and that growth is projected to continue. The vibrancy and dynamic nature of our region bring many new and exciting opportunities, but also some complex challenges,” Cohen said. “I’m running for the Hillsborough County Commission to address these issues head-on.”

Harry Cohen files to run for Hillsborough County Commission.

— LOCAL —

After five years and an ‘ugly’ process, Miami-Dade is still trying to buy helicopters” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade’s purchasing process may be the messiest ever for a county famous for extended procurement fights. Ethics investigators issued scathing reports accusing bidder Agusta and administrators in the county’s fire department of flouting rules governing how local governments are supposed to select vendors. The report detailed an “alarming” amount of texts and phone calls between an Agusta sales executive and administrators at the county’s fire department at a time when purchasing rules barred private communication. The report also said it “strains credibility” to believe that the communications had nothing to do with Agusta’s helicopter bid.

Orange County charter proposal on schools overcrowding shot down” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — After Orange County School Board Chair Teresa Jacobs criticized the proposal, a panel looking at revising the Orange County Charter killed an initiative that could have radically changed how the school district and local governments work together to address growth and overcrowded schools. The proposed Orange County Charter amendment reworking school concurrency requirements, offered by Orange County Charter Review Commissioner Lee Steinhauer, died a silent and awkward death when no other commissioner would second his motion. At the same meeting, the Charter Review Commission also moved forward on a proposal to create a county ethics commission.

Universal Orlando’s new road deal with Orange County is lopsided, critics say” via Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel — Universal Orlando and Orange County are negotiating a final deal to split the tab for a new road to the company’s planned Epic Universe theme park. Universal, which will build the road itself and get partially reimbursed by taxpayers, recently submitted a cost estimate to Orange County that puts the price tag for the 1.7-mile-long Kirkman extension at just over $315 million. That works out to more than $185 million per mile. And if the extension comes in under that estimate, Universal — rather than taxpayers — would get most, if not all, of the savings.

Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson campaigned on taking half of Mayor’s $150K salary. Now he’s in line for $52K raise.” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Apopka City Council members unanimously voted Nelson a pay raise after a taxpayer-financed salary study suggested he was underpaid as mayor of Orange County’s second-largest city at $75,000 a year — the salary he promised voters he’d take in his successful campaign to unseat Joe Kilsheimer. In campaign mailers, the first of several priorities Nelson listed was, “Cut the Mayor’s salary in half!” Nelson didn’t vote on the measure Wednesday nor participate in a public discussion of it. He said he didn’t ask for a pay raise but intended to accept it.

Bryan Nelson campaigned on a pay cut, gets a raise instead.

End of an era: Live greyhound racing will end at Daytona in March” via Godwin Kelly of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — Daytona Beach will see the end of an era when the Daytona Beach Racing & Card Club discontinues live greyhound racing at its track with the hopes of placing these thoroughbred dogs in adopted homes. DBRCC will host a doubleheader (matinee, evening) of greyhound races on March 28, then shutter the racecourse. The facility will continue to offer simulcast betting and its popular poker room. “Our plan is to gradually reduce the number of live races and greyhounds here at Daytona Beach before ending racing,” said Fred Guzman, president and general manager of the racing facility. “At that point, we hope to have cut our roster of active greyhounds in half.”

— MORE LOCAL —

’Burn this letter xoxo’: Fake weight loss nurse tried to hire a hit man from Florida jail, police say” via Antonia Noori Farzan of The Washington Post — Jesusadelaida “Jesse” Lopez wasn’t exactly subtle about her intentions, police say. Faced with felony charges for operating an unsanctioned weight loss clinic in central Florida, the 40-year-old allegedly decided her husband, Daniel Lopez, was the key witness whose testimony would keep her stuck behind bars. So, when a strange man contacted her in the Polk County Jail and struck up a conversation, it didn’t take long before the inmate revealed what she really wanted: her husband dead. “Can it be like an accident like a robbery gone wrong or something that cannot come back to me like it was a plan,” Lopez wrote in the undated letter. “You are my angel.”

Jesusadelaida “Jesse” Lopez faces charges for solicitation to commit first-degree murder. Image via Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

Want to buy an island? At least eight are for sale in the Florida Keys” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — In 2017, Realtor Patti Stanley sold a 40-acre private island off Lower Matecumbe Key for $13.8 million. Now, another one of Stanley’s listings is making a splash: a 16-acre island connected to Upper Matecumbe Key by a 2,000-foot driveway. It’s known as Terra’s Key and has been on the market since May, with an asking price of $17 million. Stanley said she gets lots of calls about the island from potential buyers — but many have sticker shock. “They say, ‘Oh, $17 million,’ “ she said. The property is one of at least eight small islands for sale up and down the Keys, according to Privateislandsonline.com.

Tallahassee goes pink and serves up lemonade to raise funds for breast cancer awareness” via Alicia Divine of the Tallahassee Democrat — Local businesses around town have gone pink. There are more than 80 vibrant pink lemonade stands around town raising money to support breast cancer survivors. Teresa Hamrick and Jen McConnaughhay‘s kindergarten class traded pink lemonade and sprinkled cookies for donations. Pre-K student Jack Rendleman, 4, went all out for the occasion by having his hair colored pink for the day. For eight years, The Tallahassee Democrat, in partnership with Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, has led a Go Pink campaign in October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. All donations from the lemonade stand go to Joanna Francis Living Well, which provides support and financial assistance for those living with breast cancer.

If Miami-Dade pays to bring Virgin trains to Aventura, will Tri-Rail get derailed?” via Doug Hanks and Rob Wile of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade’s plan to earmark as much as $76 million to build a Virgin Trains station in Aventura has left many wondering: What about Tri-Rail? The publicly owned commuter line has long been slated for a second route, known as Coastal Link, that would carry passengers along Florida East Coast rail’s tracks. As early as the 1990s, discussions have centered around taking passengers from Miami up to Jupiter. Now that Virgin (previously known as Brightline) wants its own local stop in a tax-funded station in Aventura, leaders of the county’s transit system are publicly raising doubts about whether the additional Tri-Rail leg is still viable.

Formula One auto race at Hard Rock Stadium could be blocked by Miami-Dade County” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — The Miami Dolphins face a new hazard in the team’s bid to bring Formula One racing to Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. Neighbors of the proposed track are pushing Miami-Dade County to step in and possibly block the planned yearly event, which would debut in 2021.

Sexual harassment, whistleblower claims leveled against AIDS Healthcare Foundation” via Ron Hurtibise of the Sun Sentinel — The work environment at AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Broward County operation has come under fire in three separate lawsuits filed since March by former employees.

— OPINIONS —

Eric Trump: Hypocrisy creates unlevel playing field in politics” via The Hill — One might say it comes with the territory, and that is absolutely true. As a Trump, I am held to an incredibly high public standard. But can you imagine, if they were willing to try and destroy a “kid” who dedicated his life to pediatric cancer and philanthropy, what the media would say if I had secured a $50,000 a month job on the board of a Ukrainian company, with no discernible duties, in an industry I knew nothing about, in a country where I did not even speak the language? How about if my father on camera threatened to cut off military aid to that country unless the prosecutor investigating that company for corruption was fired?

All Americans should support Trump impeachment inquiry. Here’s why” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — It’s essential for the House’s impeachment inquiry to play itself out. The whistleblower complaint that outlined the President’s abuse of office during that phone call contains many more elements that need to be thoroughly examined. All Americans should be able to agree that we deserve to know the facts. But just like 20 years ago, a portion of the American public is unwilling to hold our head of state to a presidential standard. There is a key difference between Bill Clinton and Trump as they conducted the presidency under the cloud of impeachment. Clinton knew how to work with opponents to get things done. He knew the art of the deal. Despite his book title, Trump does not.

Florida needs oil drilling bans, not Trump’s promises” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — House Resolution 205 would make permanent the ban on oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico near Florida’s coast. House Resolution 1941 would create a permanent ban on drilling off the Atlantic coast. The ban also would apply to Pacific Ocean areas on the outer continental shelf. The House passed both bills on Sept. 11. Unfortunately, the Republican-led Senate may not even take up the bills. Failure to pass them would leave Florida at the mercy of Trump. When it comes to the environment, that’s a bad place for a state to be.

Joshua Simmons: Thoughts of a young American” via Florida Politics — I love this country and all its perpetual promise, and because I love it so, I have no issue pointing out the issues and deficiencies, that, if addressed, would push us closer and closer to perfection. I do not know of any other home, and I want my home to be better. We can improve, own up to our shortcomings. This is one of the reasons why I wanted to become an elected official, to add to and improve this experiment. Race will always continue to be an issue in this country because there are too many Americans who will not accept, or fail to understand, the generational effects of slavery.

— MOVEMENTS —

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Christopher Carmody, Christopher Dawson, Katie Flury, Jessica Love, Robert Stuart, GrayRobinson: City of West Palm Beach, Florida Roofing & Sheet Metal Contractors Association

Thomas DeRita, Resource Group NA: City of West Palm Beach

Scott Jenkins, Carlton Fields: Florida Financial Services Association

Danny Jordan, Nicola Powell, Don Yaeger, Jeanette Yaeger, One Eighty Consulting: TekStream

Michael Kesti, Government Relations Group: Limitless Boats

Tim Meenan, Karl Rasmussen, Joy Ryan, Alan Williams, Meenan: Florida Insurance Council

Anthony Tilton, Cotney Construction Lobbying: Florida RACCA

Jeffrey Woodburn, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: Florida Conference of Circuit Judges

— LISTEN UP —

Battleground Florida with Christopher Heath: Veteran political analyst Liam Donovan joins the podcast from Washington D.C., where Congress is on recess, the President is on Twitter, and the Georgetown University Hoyas are getting ready for another season on the hardwood. Donovan works at a D.C. government relations and strategic communications firm.

Dishonorable Mention: State Rep. Chris 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. Is the city of Clearwater electing a sea turtle for Mayor? In this episode of “what the hell Chris!” DeSantis’ call for donations to the Protect the President fund and more conversation on the President; the love and affection toward Hooper after his reassignment and a column about Northwest High School senior Jacquez Welch; talk about Hooper’s trip to California. 

Gradebook from the Tampa Bay Times with hosts Marlene Sokol and Jeffrey Solochek: DeSantis says the state’s youth need improved civics lessons so they can become better citizens. Tony Pirotta, a social studies teacher at Hillsborough County’s Armwood High School, sees the answer already exists — give students a hands-on experience to involve themselves in the government. Each year, he works with a group of teens to discover an issue that matters to them, and what they think needs attention in law. They study the subject, write a proposal, find lawmakers to sponsor their measure, and lobby in the halls of Tallahassee. All of this, Pirotta says, makes civics both understandable and meaningful.

Inside Florida Politics from GateHouse Florida with hosts John Kennedy and Zac Anderson. Trump travels to Florida for an event at The Villages, a massive retirement community. Anderson and Kennedy discuss Trump’s efforts to court a friendly audience as impeachment swirls, comments by Florida Senate President Bill Galvano about taking action on gun violence and the latest developments in the push for felon’s voting rights.

REGULATED with Christian Bax and Tony Glover: There has been a firestorm in the vaping industry since the first vaping-related death in August. Congress has held hearings; law enforcement is investigating, and, yes, the White House is involved. While the likely culprit appears to be black market THC vape products, this week’s REGULATED assesses the state of the crisis and some of the collateral effects it is already having.

RoundTable Politics: On this week’s episode, host Jordan Kirkland speaks with Steve Stewart, the editor of Tallahassee Reports, an investigative news outlet that covers stories related to Tallahassee. His website publishes watchdog reports on local government, politics, consumer affairs, business and public policy.

The Rotunda with Trimmel Gomes: Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham tells Gomes that she was ready to join the Andrew Gillum campaign to help him win, but says they never engaged. Graham explains how she has returned or donated all her leftover funds from her gubernatorial campaign war chest, including recent checks from unspent ads. Graham is a vocal critic of both the DeSantis and Trump administration and is calling for swift changes. Currently, Graham works closely with Biden’s presidential campaign and serves on multiple boards, including the Tallahassee Ethics Commission. She is also helping her father write his autobiography.

— WEEKEND TV —

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 Tampa Bay Times Senior Deputy editor Amy Hollyfield, state Sen. Wilton Simpson, Tampa Bay Times columnist Hooper and former state rep. Ed Narain.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion of Hurricane Dorian reaction, relief, and recovery in Florida and the Bahamas. Joining Walker-Torres are Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, state Rep. Shevrin Jones; and Captain Ken Chapman of the Salvation Army of Orlando.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: This week’s show will discuss Trump’s visit to The Villages; PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter will rate a claim by President about the homicide rate in Baltimore, and state Rep. Ben Diamond will talk about becoming the House Minority Leader designee.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Gary Yordon speaks with pollster Steve Vancore and Dr. Ed Moore.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week’s guests are former House Speaker and current Florida State University President John Thrasher, Jacksonville City Council Member Reggie Gaffney, and Willie Hall of Saul Roundtree & Branson Randolph. Hall is part of the 5,000 Role Models of Excellence Project in Duval County schools.

— THE JOKER (INSTEAD OF ALOE) —

Duh —Joker movie too violent for kids, Alamo Drafthouse warns parents” via Gael Fashingbauer Cooper of CNET — Kids might take Batman lunchboxes to school, or sleep on Batman sheets, but that doesn’t mean they should see the upcoming Joker movie starring Joaquin Phoenix as the Caped Crusader’s nemesis, the Alamo Drafthouse says. In a Facebook post, the theater chain warned parents that the R-rated film, which opens this weekend, is inappropriate for kids. “Parental warning (this is not a joke),” the post reads. “Joker is rated R, and for good reason. There’s lots of very, very rough language, brutal violence, and overall bad vibes. It’s a gritty, dark, and realistic Taxi Driver-esque depiction of one man’s descent into madness. It’s not for kids, and they won’t like it, anyway. (There’s no Batman.)”

Kids may love Batman, but ‘Joker’ is absolutely not for them.

Reviews:

Yes, Joker is a very serious drama. No, that’s not a compliment.” via David Sims of The Atlantic — He may think life is tragicomic, but the movie he’s in is very much a drama — a pompous, grim, relentlessly one-note adaptation bent on proving just how far removed it is from its comic-book heritage. No set piece involves more people than could fill a subway car, there are no CGI embellishments or superhuman action sequences, and Todd Phillips successfully translates New York City and its environs into a fictional burg that feels only slightly removed from reality. But, Joker gets grimmer and descends further into bloody violence, it becomes little more than a horror show, bludgeoning its viewers out of any chance at insight.

First-class clown: ‘Joker’ a chilling, absorbing supervillain origin story” via Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times — As embodied by an emaciated, maniacal, wild-eyed Phoenix, who dances like a life-size marionette, laughs uncontrollably at the most inappropriate times and feels alive for the first time in his life only after he kills, “Joker” is a chilling character study centered around the series of events in Gotham City that resulted in the transformation of the sad loner Arthur Fleck into one of the most storied (and psychopathic) comic book supervillains of all time. At times the film overdoes it with the clown metaphors … but with Phoenix appearing in virtually every minute of this movie and dominating the screen with his memorably creepy turn, “Joker” will cling to you like the aftermath of an unfortunately realistic nightmare.

“Joaquin Phoenix creates an interior world of pain. His movie is a pain, period.” via Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune — “Joker” starts in with the pain straight off, in its opening second. As Fleck, a perpetually humiliated, bullied and marginalized Gotham City clown for hire dreaming of a career in stand-up comedy, Phoenix regards himself in a makeup mirror. The audience subconsciously begs for relief, settling in for two more hours. The stand-up comedy angle comes from “The King of Comedy,” but also (and first) from Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s graphic novel “Batman: The Killing Joke.” Years later, author Moore recanted his effort, saying: “I don’t think it’s a very good book. It’s not saying anything very interesting.” He may as well have been reviewing “Joker.”

‘Joker’ toes fine line in portraying the making of a monster” via Brian Lowry of CNN — “Joker” might bring to mind a caped crusader, but it’s another vigilante, “Taxi Driver’s” Travis Bickle, who provides the movie’s spiritual sire. Phoenix’s electric, disturbing performance is thus dogged by history and questions about the “why” of it all — that is, a Joker without Batman — an answer that isn’t really in the cards. Director Phillips — best known for “The Hangover” trilogy — has seemingly overcompensated for his comedy roots by delivering a movie virtually devoid of humor. Ultimately, “Joker” is about the making of a monster, told in a manner that seeks to evoke empathy without rooting for him — a fine line, underscoring a level of ambition beyond what’s usually associated with comic-book-adjacent fare.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Celebrating today are Bob Burleson, Amy Christian, and St. Petersburg City Councilmember Amy Foster. Celebrating this weekend is the great Joe York, no doubt at the Auburn vs. UF showdown in Gainesville. Also celebrating on Saturday are Chris Hart, Trey Price, Katie Waldman, and my dear friend, political consultant Gregory Wilson.

___

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

Written By

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

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jim Rosica, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Dan McAuliffe, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
Email: Peter@FloridaPolitics.com
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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