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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 10.7.19

Get up to speed fast with Sunburn.

Our deepest sympathies — Pete Galvano, younger brother of Senate President Bill Galvano, died unexpectedly Saturday. Senate President Pro Tempore David Simmons notified members of the Florida Senate on Sunday.

“While Pete had faced health challenges in recent years, his passing was sudden and unexpected,” Simmons wrote.

Funeral arrangements have yet to be formally announced. It’s unclear if the tragedy will impact the Florida Senate schedule, including an upcoming Special Session.

“Please keep President Galvano, Pete’s wife, Karrie, and the entire extended family in your thoughts and prayers during this most difficult time,” Simmons wrote.

Peter, the son of golf pro Phil Galvano, was fifth of six children.

In November 2018, Florida voters approved “Amendment 4” to restore voting rights for nonviolent felons who had completed “all terms of their sentence including parole or probation.”

The Legislature implemented this measure during the 2019 Session, requiring those with felony records to pay all financial obligations (fees, fines and restitution) that were part of their sentence before voting rights can be restored.

Despite being consistent with what Amendment 4’s lawyer, Jon Mills, said was the intent of the language, the requirement to pay fees has been decried by some as “draconian,” a “poll tax,” “unconstitutional,” and “undermining” the will of Floridians.

Beyond public commentary, however, there is no data to indicate what was in the minds or intents of the 5 million or so Floridians who voted “yes” on this measure.

In other words: while a majority of Floridians voted to approve a measure that referred to “all terms of their sentence” there’s no formal indication of whether this was assumed by people to include fees, fines or restitution.

At Gov. Ron DeSantisrequest, the Florida Supreme Court will likely provide a nonbinding advisory opinion on this very question.

In the meantime, however, we wanted to bring the question to Floridians directly — to learn more about what voters assume “all terms of sentence” means and whether sentiments about this differ when framed as fines or restitution, or whether sentiments change when told that the issue relates to voting rights.

To do this, Sachs Media Group conducted a statewide survey of 1,100 Florida voters Oct. 1-2, 2019. The survey is representative of Florida voters in terms of age, race, gender, political affiliation and region of the state, with a margin of error of 3 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

SMG’s Karen Cyphers found that a majority of Florida voters interpret “all terms of sentence” to include fines and restitution, both independently and when framed specifically relating to the restoration of voting rights.

Voters feel even more strongly about the obligation to pay when framed in terms of restitution to victims, and these findings hold across all political parties.

To read about the specific numbers Cyphers and Co. arrived at — and to understand how she and her team arrived at those numbers — continue reading here.

We spent this weekend in Orlando where Ella Joyce took part in a dance convention. That left a lot of time for bloggin’:

Ron DeSantis had nothing to do with Gwen Graham’s removal — and Democrats know it” via Florida Politics — One of Graham’s critiques of DeSantis is his relationship with the President, calling him a “Mini Donald Trump” and the President’s “acolyte,” implying he’ll bow to whatever Trump wants. When you look at what the Governor has actually done to advocate for Hurricane Michael victims, Graham’s narrative falls apart pretty quickly. While it’s true that DeSantis is viewed favorably by the President, he has leveraged that relationship to Florida’s advantage.

… and …

The legislative campaign finance reports we can’t wait to see — Part 2” via Peter Schorsch and Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — After analyzing the latest numbers for Florida congressional candidates, we turn our attention to fundraising in state legislative races now that we’re essentially a year out from the primary.


Impeachment fever is sweeping Washington, and Florida Republicans are trying to figure out how to deal with the mess. While North Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz plays defense, he also thinks House Democrats will impeach Trump by Thanksgiving.

Also, in today’s Sunrise:

— Florida’s Craig Fugate, who used to run the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state Division of Emergency Management gives us his take on Sharpie-gate. Fugate says it was a simple mistake that should have been corrected instead of trying to make forecasters cover for the president’s gaffe.

— A Florida veteran laid to rest last week died without any family — according to the obituary — so the word went out on social media, and thousands of people showed up. However, Ed Pearson did indeed have two sons and a good reason they didn’t attend. They thought he was dead.

— The Florida Department of Education launches a “listening tour” about new academic standards for public schools, starting this afternoon at Sebring Middle School.

Bruce Campbell, a 63-year-old Loxahatchee man, lucked into a treasure trove of recordings made during World War II on a machine called a “RecordGraph.” One of those recordings was of a war correspondent George Hicks, on a Navy communications ship during the D-Day invasion, complete with anti-aircraft fire off the coast of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

To listen, click the image below:


@RealDonaldTrump: Somebody please wake up Mitt Romney and tell him that my conversation with the Ukrainian President was a congenial and very appropriate one, and my statement on China pertained to corruption, not politics. If Mitt worked this hard on Obama, he could have won. Sadly, he choked!

@MarcoRubio: Before we nullify the results of an election or dismiss some very serious accusations as an attempted coup, maybe it would be a good idea to try and gather all of the facts & then give some thought to what would be in the best interest of our country I don’t know,just a thought

@TheRickWilson: ALL of y’all electeds…every ONE of you…running this “The President was joking! Hahaha! Hilarious trolling!” line are walking into a meat grinder. I know you *think* it’s a clever angle, but if you haven’t observed his pattern by now, no one can help you.

@Reaganista: Hey @JoeNBC, you may be right about this, or you may be wrong. But remember YOU gave Trump the most airtime and positive attention during the 2016 GOP Primary, only to make a 180° turn as soon as he secured the nomination. So spare us your self-righteous indignation.

@GovRonDeSantis: .@FLCaseyDeSantis and I offer our deepest sympathies to Senate President@BillGalvano on the unexpected passing of his younger brother, Pete. Words cannot express how saddened we are to learn of your loss. We are here for you and Julie, and Pete’s wife Karrie.


CNN hosts candidate town hall on LGBTQ issues — 3; Debut of Breaking Bad movie on Netflix — 4; Fourth Democratic debate outside Columbus, Ohio — 8; New season of “The Crown” streaming on Netflix — 11; “Watchmen” premieres on HBO — 13; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 21; Brexit scheduled — 24; 2019 General Election — 29; 3rd Annual Florida Internet and Television FITCon starts — 31; “The Mandalorian” premieres — 46; “Frozen 2” debuts — 46; TaxWatch 40th Annual Meeting — 56; “The Rise of Skywalker” premiers — 74; 2020 Session begins — 99; Florida TaxWatch State of the TaxPayer Dinner in Tallahassee — 100; Super Bowl LIV in Miami — 118; Iowa Caucuses — 119; New Hampshire Primaries — 127; Florida’s presidential primary — 162; “Black Panther 2” debuts — 212; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo begin — 291; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 323; 2020 General Election — 393.


Florida law that critics call ‘poll tax’ faces federal court test” via John Kennedy of the GateHouse Capital Bureau — While a pivotal hearing takes place Monday inside a federal courtroom, voters’ groups plan to rally outside and demand an end to what they call Republican-built hurdles to grant voting rights to 1.4 million Florida felons. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle is scheduled to open a hearing in Tallahassee into a lawsuit that seeks to overturn a new state law that allows those with felony convictions to regain their power to vote — but only after paying court fines, fees and restitution. Voting rights organizations say the financial requirement is unconstitutional and would continue to keep most felons off the voter rolls. They are urging Hinkle to invalidate the law signed by DeSantis. But the Governor and Republican lawmakers who pushed the legislation defend it as simply meeting the intent of Florida voters who approved Amendment 4 last November to restore felons’ voting rights. Now, 11 months since that vote, Florida Democrats worry that Republican leaders are primarily seeking to delay Amendment 4′s impact to the point voter registration efforts will be blunted heading into the 2020 election season.


Attorneys for CIA officer behind Donald Trump complaint say they now represent ‘multiple whistleblowers’” via Dustin Volz of The Wall Street Journal — At least one additional whistleblower with firsthand knowledge of the circumstances around President Trump’s July call with his Ukrainian counterpart has come forward, according to lawyers representing both the individual and the CIA officer whose initial complaint helped spark an impeachment inquiry. The existence of a second whistleblower comes as Trump repeatedly has sought to attack the credibility and motive of the first individual, whose whistleblower complaint in August details efforts by the president to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival.

Mounting evidence buttresses claims in whistleblower complaint” via Rosalind Helderman of The Washington Post — Over the past two weeks, documents, firsthand witness accounts and even statements by Trump himself have emerged that bolster the facts outlined in the extraordinary abuse-of-power complaint. The whistleblower’s assertion that records related to the phone call were transferred to a separate electronic system intended for highly classified material has since been confirmed by White House officials. And the whistleblower’s narrative of the events that led up to the call — including a shadow campaign undertaken by Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani and the attempts of State Department officials to navigate his activities — have been largely confirmed by the text messages of three diplomats released Friday, as well as Giuliani himself in media interviews.

Trump pins Ukraine call on Rick Perry” via Alayna Treene of Axios — Trump told House Republicans that he made his now-infamous phone call … at the urging of Energy Secretary Perry — a call Trump claimed he didn’t even want to make. Trump made these comments during a conference call with House members on Friday, according to 3 sources on the call. Per the sources, Trump rattled off the same things he has been saying publicly — that his call with Volodymyr Zelensky was “perfect” and he did nothing wrong. But he then threw Perry into the mix and said something to the effect of: “Not a lot of people know this but, I didn’t even want to make the call. The only reason I made the call was because Rick asked me to. Something about an LNG [liquefied natural gas] plant,” one source said, recalling the president’s comments. 2 other sources confirmed the first source’s recollection.

AP sources: Trump allies pressed Ukraine over gas firm” via Desmond Butler, et al. of the Associated Press — As Giuliani was pushing Ukrainian officials last spring to investigate one of Trump’s main political rivals, a group of individuals with ties to the president and his personal lawyer was also active in the former Soviet republic. Their aims were profit, not politics. This circle of businessmen and Republican donors touted connections to Giuliani and Trump while trying to install new management at the top of Ukraine’s massive state gas company. Their plan was to then steer lucrative contracts to companies controlled by Trump allies, according to two people with knowledge of their plans.

>>>There’s always a Florida connection: “At the center of the Naftogaz plan, according to three individuals familiar with the details, were three such businessmen: two Soviet-born Florida real estate entrepreneurs, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, and an oil magnate from Boca Raton, Florida, named Harry Sargeant III.”

Mike Pompeo: State Dept. will follow law as Dems seek documents” via the Associated Press — Secretary of State Pompeo said the State Department intends to follow the law in the House impeachment investigation and vigorously defended President Trump, dismissing questions about the president’s attempts to push Ukraine and China to investigate a Democratic political rival. Pompeo, speaking Saturday in Greece, said the State Department sent a letter to Congress Friday night as its initial response to the document request and added, “We’ll obviously do all the things that we’re required to do by law.” He has allowed Democrats to interview a series of witnesses next week. Among them is Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, another key figure in the probe.

William Barr’s request for foreign help prompt backlash in Australia, Italy, U.K.” via Aruna Viswanatha, Sadie Gurman and Giovanni Legorano of the Wall Street Journal — Barr is stoking tensions in several foreign capitals, going outside usual channels to seek help from allies in reviewing the origins of a U.S. counterintelligence investigation begun during the 2016 presidential campaign. By meeting directly with foreign leaders — rather than relying on investigator-to-investigator channels — Barr has stirred up domestic politics in some of the countries he has tapped for assistance. In Rome, the national-security committee of Italy’s Parliament this past week asked Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to appear and answer questions about his contacts with Barr. Far-right opposition lawmakers criticized Conte for deferring to Barr’s request.

Mike Pence makes clear there is no daylight between him and Trump” via Michael Crowley and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times — He held firm when the “Access Hollywood” tape nearly ended President Trump’s 2016 campaign. He did not waver through even the most trying moments of the special counsel’s Russia investigation. And once again, Vice President Pence has risen to Mr. Trump’s defense at a moment of crisis that some Republicans fear could inflict lasting damage on them both. Amid questions about Mr. Pence’s role in the campaign of political pressure directed at Ukraine’s government that has become the subject of a House Democratic impeachment action against Mr. Trump, the vice president appeared before reporters in Arizona on Thursday and was all in.

The impossibility of matching Trump’s impeachment polling against Richard Nixon’s” via Phillip Bump of the Washington Post — So far, Trump doesn’t look like Nixon. Nixon saw the two metrics move in opposition to each other: As his approval dropped, impeachment support rose. Trump just watches both of them float along next to each other.

Gaetz: House will OK articles of impeachment by Thanksgiving” via Jim Thompson of the News Herald — President Trump likely will be facing articles of impeachment within a matter of weeks, according to U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, one of the president’s staunchest defenders in the Democrat-dominated House of Representatives, where articles of impeachment must be approved before any trial is held in the Republican-majority U.S. Senate.


Assignment editors — Gov. DeSantis will make a major announcement at Middleburg High School in Clay County with Senate Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. That’s at 9 a.m., 3750 County Road 220, Middleburg. 

Assignment editorsDeSantis also will make a major announcement with Corcoran at Bayview Elementary School in Broward County. That’s at 12:20 p.m., 1175 Middle River Drive, Fort Lauderdale.

Assignment editors — First Lady Casey DeSantis will deliver remarks at UF Health Jacksonville. That’s at 11:30 a.m., 655 8th St W., Jacksonville. 

Bill Galvano pledging action on gun violence” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Legislative committees have begun meeting, most notably to discuss gun violence. The gun debate was poised to take center stage in Congress this fall after a string of mass shootings across the nation over the summer. Now it’s on the backburner as Congress is consumed by impeachment. But Florida Senate President Galvano said in an interview that he plans to have a robust debate on gun violence, one that will include the possibility of new gun restrictions such as increased background checks and expanding Florida’s red flag law. But Galvano’s support for keeping the gun question in the spotlight is one of the more notable aspects of his early agenda, especially his openness to increasing background checks.

Not that one: Jeff Brandes files non-Trump-related whistleblower protection bill” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Sen. Brandes refiled a bill Friday streamlining and strengthening the state’s whistleblower protections. The bill (SB 45) is mostly the same as another filed last year that died. It does not, Brandes said, have anything to do with the White House whistleblower who is at the center of an impeachment inquiry about President Donald Trump. “We did have some discussions about the timing, but we were planning to file for months,” Brandes said. “ We just got it back from the Auditor General and it’s just the timing of the review from the Auditor General’s office.” Brandes was referring to a review of the legislation to ensure it was ready to file.

Kevin Rader brings back bill setting up a ‘top-two’ primary system” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Sen. Rader is once again trying to reshape Florida’s primary system by reintroducing a bill to set up a top-two primary system within the state. The Delray Beach Democrat filed a similar bill last Session, but it failed to advance through a single committee. His renewed push joins a separate effort being introduced through the ballot initiative process from a group called “All Voters Vote” (AVV). Like last year’s version, Rader’s 2020 bill would alter the way party primaries are conducted in elections “for Governor and Lieutenant Governor, any Cabinet office, the Legislature, United States Representative, United States Senator, the office of state attorney or public defender, or any county, municipal, or district office.”

Delegations meet — The Polk County legislative delegation, 1 p.m., Polk State College, Center for Public Safety, 1251 Jim Keene Blvd., Winter Haven. The Escambia County legislative delegation, 5:30 p.m., Pensacola State College, Jean and Paul Amos Performance Studio, 1000 College Blvd., Pensacola.

Happening today — State Rep. Cindy Polo hosts a public meeting, 7 p.m., Florida International University Miramar Campus, Room 422, 1930 SW. 145th Ave., Miramar

Florida Lottery inks new deal with Scientific Games” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The state lottery finalized a contract with the scratch-off provider of choice, continuing a 30-year partnership. “We set out to sign a contract that allows us to continue offering the best games possible at a cost-savings to the state,” said retiring Florida Lottery Secretary Jim Poppell. “In collaboration with Scientific Games, the Lottery will continue to offer best-in-class Lottery products, emphasize our responsible gaming initiatives, and maximize revenues in support of Gov. DeSantis’ bold vision for education in our state.” A new contract means product from Scientific Games, the world leader in scratch-off tickets, will stock Florida convenience store displays through at least 2027.

Happening today — The Office of Insurance Regulation hosts a series of meetings, 9:30 a.m., 116 Larson Building, 200 East Gaines St., Tallahassee. Call-in number: 850-413-1558. Code: 587255.

In memoriam: Chris Connell, head of Capitol Police” via Florida Politics — Connell, the director of the Capitol Police in Tallahassee, died Friday. Attorney General Ashley Moody tweeted Sunday, “…Director Connell dedicated his career to protecting Floridians. He will be dearly missed by our Capitol family.” Capitol Police fall under the Florida Department of Law Enforcement; an FDLE spokeswoman on Sunday confirmed Connell’s death but said it was not yet clear when the department would issue an official statement on his passing. Information about services was not yet available.


What Jeff Brandes is reading — Bootleg film shows Florida prison in all its danger, squalor. An inmate shot it on the sly” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Miami Herald — Scott Whitney, inmate No. U21924, filmed a documentary on the Florida prison system and nobody knew. At least the guards didn’t. Over a period of years, the convicted drug trafficker used specially rigged, almost cartoonishly oversize eyeglasses fitted with hidden cameras and a hollowed-out Bible with a lens peeking through the O in HOLY to capture the gritty, ugly, violent world inside Martin Correctional Institution, one of Florida’s more notoriously dangerous prisons. The video was smuggled out of prison and given to the Miami Herald. To get a more realistic glimpse of life behind bars, you’d have to be convicted of a felony or be one of the officers along the wall.

Toll road projects lack big support, except from road builders” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Months after lawmakers signed off on the expansion, it appears road builders are the only members of the public voicing support for the idea. Out of hundreds of public comments solicited by the Florida Department of Transportation about the largest toll system expansion in 60 years, only two dozen came from people in favor of building the three roads. Of those, nearly all came from road builders, contractors and engineers who sent their endorsements via personal email addresses. About half of favorable comments came from employees of one of the transportation agency’s biggest contractors: HNTB, which has won nearly $1 billion in engineering and construction work since 2002 and is likely to win millions more if the roads are built.

DNA testing scams in Florida, other states costing Medicare billions” via Jay Weaves of the Miami Herald — Armed with cotton swabs, battalions of healthcare marketers are swooping into senior centers, health fairs and parking lots in Florida and other places to prey on unsuspecting elderly citizens for DNA samples, federal authorities say. Many vendors then turn over the cheek swabs to clinical laboratories, which authorities say pay kickbacks for the referrals to fleece the federal Medicare program for costly genetic tests that patients largely don’t need or even know are billed in their names. While authorities caution that the expanding genetic-testing industry has many legitimate operators, there’s a rising number of scofflaws in the field making it the fastest-growing area of Medicare fraud. And it’s costing the U.S. government billions in taxpayer dollars.

Happening today — The state’s new Talent Development Council will discuss workforce education, 10 a.m., 404 House Office Building.

Happening today — The Florida Department of Education begins a listening tour on new school standards, 5:30 p.m., Sebring Middle School, 500 East Center St., Sebring.


Leaders urged to take ‘risks’ in Michael recovery” via Jim Turner of Florida Politics — Northwest Florida does not have the luxury of time as it slowly recovers from devastating Hurricane Michael, one of the nation’s best-known disaster recovery experts advised a group trying to rally support for the region this week. With the first anniversary of the deadly Category 5 storm, Fugate, a former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Florida Division of Emergency Management, implored leaders of the recovery effort not to quibble about some recovery spending. “I see this tendency of bureaucracy that it likes to do things with no risk,” Fugate said. “But you’re going to have to cut some people some slack. You want this fast. You’re going to have to take some risks.”

’Collectively we’ve forgotten them’: Michael survivors hanging on one year later” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — A year after Hurricane Michael struck North Florida, thousands of Panhandle residents still live in tents, trailers and hotel rooms, homeowners continue to fight their insurance companies over repairs, and children attend school in portable classrooms, flinching every time it thunders. Folks on Florida’s Forgotten Coast fear the media and the nation have moved on from Michael. Worse, they feel abandoned by a government they came to count on in times of need following a major natural disaster. Even Trump, who was elected with the help of this heavily red-leaning region, said he was not sure he had ever heard of a Category 5 hurricane when Dorian was bearing down on the Bahamas, 11 months after Michael had wiped Mexico Beach off the map.

Insurance companies have been ‘terribly unhelpful,’ former Florida House speaker says” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Allan Bense is bashing insurance companies handling Hurricane Michael claims, saying they were the “No. 1 obstacle” to recovery and accusing them of being “terribly unhelpful.” “I’m on my seventh adjuster for my home. Seventh adjuster!” Bense, a Republican, said at a news conference advocating for more help in the Panhandle, nearly a year after the hurricane made landfall. “Insurance companies, just frankly, try to beat you down,” he said. “They’re trying to wear me out. I’m not the type of guy to pick that fight with. But still, it’s a problem.”

Bay County has recovered 70 percent of hurricane recovery spending” via Patrick McCreless of the Panama City News-Herald — With the Federal Emergency Management Agency agreeing to reimburse $159 million, the county will have $161 million in federal money allotted for recovery costs. It’s a process that typically takes years — but has been shortened by procedural changes at the state level and close, detailed work with state and federal overseers. The process has mostly worked better than what many Florida communities have dealt with since Hurricane Irma, which struck just two years ago, they say. Still, some cities in Bay haven’t seen as speedy a response from FEMA.

Lynn Haven officials talk progress ahead of Michael anniversary” via WJHG — As Hurricane Michael recovery continues throughout the Panhandle, we’ve been visiting with different communities to speak with officials about the progress made so far. Jordan McCool joined us live from Lynn Haven with more on what has been done there.

Scientists: Red tide is back in Florida’s southwest coast” via The Associated Press — Biologists at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute said samples taken from the waters off the shore of Collier County found high concentrations of the toxic algae where they also received reports of dead fish and cases of respiratory irritation. Red tide is a natural occurrence that happens due to the presence of nutrients in saltwater and an organism called a dinoflagellate. The 15-month bloom caused respiratory irritation in people and killed sea turtles, manatees, dolphins and fish. Scientists also observed low concentrations of the red tide algae in Lee County, according to the institute’s red tide status report.

Happening today — Florida’s Blue-Green Algae Task Force meets, 8 a.m., University of Florida Levin College of Law, 309 Village Dr., Gainesville.

Seawall projects swallow up homeowners’ docks as cities battle rising seas” via Susannah Bryan and Brooke Baitinger of the Sun-Sentinel — Let’s say you spent a quarter of a million dollars building a concrete boat dock and raising the adjoining seawall 20 years ago. But the seawall doesn’t belong to you; it belongs to your city, which is especially vulnerable to king tide flooding and sea level rise.

South Florida just had a King Tide. time for dirty beaches” via Jenny Staletovich of WLRN — Dirty beaches in the wake of record-setting king tides across South Florida this week should come as no surprise, scientists say. “No, there’s not any coincidence,” said Florida International University geochemist and water quality expert Henry Briceno.

Trappers capture record-setting python in Everglades” via the Associated Press — Officials say Florida trappers have captured a record-setting python as part of a growing effort that encourages hunters to remove the invasive snakes from the Everglades. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says the 18-foot, 4-inch-long female python weighed 98 pounds and 10 ounces. A statement by the Fish and Wildlife Commission says it was the largest snake captured by the new Python Action Team and the largest ever captured at the Big Cypress National Preserve, west of Miami. The agency says it is the second-largest python ever caught in the wild in Florida. The commission says hunting female Burmese pythons is critical because they add between 30 and 60 hatchlings each time they breed.


When Trump visited Florida, why wasn’t the state GOP chairman there?” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — When Trump made a visit to The Villages retirement community, he called out, by name, each state Republican leader in the audience. DeSantis and the first lady, Casey, Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nùñez, Attorney General Ashley Moody and a handful of Congressmen were all there. But there was also a notable absence: Joe Gruters, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida and state Senator from Sarasota. The GOP chairman said he had a prior commitment to touring two state prisons with Sen. Brandes, as part of their work on the Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee. But Gruters’ absence has fueled speculation that his relationship with DeSantis may be on shaky ground.

Don’t expect immediate changes in Medicare following Trump’s executive order” via Denise Royal of WLRN — Trump is pledging to protect Medicare. The president visited The Villages in central Florida – a collection of communities for residents 55 and older. He announced and signed an executive order aimed at protecting and improving Medicare coverage.

Trump Org: Extremist group will ‘absolutely not’ hold event at Mar-a-Lago” via Nicholas Nehemas of the Miami Herald — The anti-Muslim organization ACT for America, whose founder once wrote that terrorist attacks represent the “purest form of what the Prophet Mohammed created,” will have to find another venue for its planned Nov. 7 gala — President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club is yanking the welcome mat. “This event will absolutely not be taking place at Mar-a-Lago,” Amanda Miller, a spokeswoman for the Trump Organization, said in an emailed statement Sunday. Miller did not respond when asked if the Trump Organization had allowed ACT for America to book Mar-a-Lago but then canceled, or if the group had somehow started advertising tickets for an early November event at a venue it had not yet secured.

Matt Gaetz to target Charlie Crist with ‘Stop the Madness’ pro-Trump rally in St. Pete” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Congressman Gaetz will be in downtown St. Petersburg Monday to defend President Trump and call on Pinellas County Democratic Congressman Crist and his party to drop impeachment proceedings against the President. Gaetz is speaking on behalf of a new effort called “Stop the Madness” that aims to curb what supporters see as “extreme actions and politically motivated behavior” related to the impeachment process. The Republican National Committee launched a website to go along with the new campaign aimed at protecting Trump. It’s in addition to a $2 million television and digital advertising blitz targeting more than 60 Democrats nationwide the Republican Party views as vulnerable. Gaetz will speak at Crist’s downtown St. Pete office at 1 p.m.

Donna Shalala bill aims to stop sudden shuttering of for-profit colleges” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Shalala is pushing new legislation that would require additional oversight of for-profit colleges aimed a stopping those schools from suddenly closing and leaving students in the dust. “Pursuing higher education in America requires a significant investment of time and money,” Shalala said. “When colleges and universities unexpectedly shutter, students are often cheated out of years of hard work and thousands of dollars with nothing to show for it. It is the accreditors’ job to ensure institutions have the proper procedures in place to act in the best interest of our students and maintain the integrity of the accreditation process. Prior to entering Congress, Shalala served as President of the University of Miami.

Happening today— Congresswoman Lois Frankel hosts a roundtable discussion of child care, 2:30 p.m., Palm Beach State College, Count and Countess DeHoernle Historic Building, 812 Fern St., West Palm Beach

Happening today — Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell host a discussion on health care issues, 10 a.m., West Dade Regional Library, 9445 S.W. 24th St., Miami.

— 2020 —

Trump piles up Florida enemies” via Marc Caputo of Politico — He publicly doubted Hurricane Maria’s death toll in Puerto Rico and spread conspiracy theories about it. He reportedly called Haiti a “shithole.” He balked at the idea of allowing Bahamians displaced by Hurricane Dorian into the U.S., explaining that it risked bringing in “some very bad people.” Since taking office as president, Donald Trump has alienated what looks like a mini-United Nations of voters with deep connections to other countries, tens of thousands of whom live in the state that’s essential to his re-election — Florida. Taken individually, these groups are just a marginal problem for a statewide candidate. But Florida is a state historically won at the margins — Trump won the state by just 1.2 percentage points in 2016.

Ask Orlando: Did Trump stiff the city on his campaign visit?” via David Whitley of the Orlando Sentinel — This week’s Ask Orlando question: “This past summer President Trump held a rally at the Amway Center. As I recall, the Orlando Sentinel reported that neither Trump nor the RNC had paid the rent for this event. We are wondering if the rent was ever paid, and if it was not what is being done to collect it.” As a taxpaying citizen, I am pleased to report the $154,579.08 bill was paid in full. The final installment was actually paid before the June 28 rally, but it’s understandable someone might think we got stiffed.

Joe Biden’s most formidable opponent is not another Democrat” via Michael Kruse of POLITICO — This event, like every Biden event, couldn’t help but highlight one of the defining realities of his 2020 candidacy: Next month, he turns 77. His age is the subtext, and increasingly the text, too, of not only his bid but the Democratic Party’s primary as a whole. Even as fading poll numbers loosen his status as the favorite and the mounting impeachment fervor over Ukraine threatens to exact a collateral toll, Biden’s age remains an overarching issue. It’s an issue because of the simple math: Only three presidents have served in their 70s — Trump, Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower — and no president ever has finished a term at the age Biden would begin his.

Elizabeth Warren campaign fires senior staffer for ‘inappropriate behavior’” via Alex Thompson of POLITICO —Warren’s presidential campaign has fired its national organizing director, Rich McDaniel, after an investigation into allegations of what it called “inappropriate behavior.” “Over the past two weeks, senior campaign leadership received multiple complaints regarding inappropriate behavior by Rich McDaniel,” campaign spokesperson Kristen Orthman said in a statement. “Over the same time period, the campaign retained outside counsel to conduct an investigation. Based on the results of the investigation, the campaign determined that his reported conduct was inconsistent with its values and that he could not be a part of the campaign moving forward.” A person familiar with the investigation said that there were no reports of sexual assault, but could not comment further due to confidentiality.


First in Sunburn — Oz Vasquez starts congressional campaign bigVasquez is announcing his campaign for Florida’s 18th Congressional District raised $100,000 in the first 48 hours. “This grassroots campaign is only just getting started,” Vasquez said in a statement. “And I’m excited to hit the ground running to carry our message of better health care, protecting Social Security, and ensuring a clean environment all across this district.

This far-right provocateur is banned from social media, but she’s still running for Congress” via Christine Stapleton of the Palm Beach Post — Laura Loomer is living the worst nightmare of every millennial, social media provocateur and political candidate: A ban on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Medium, PayPal, Venmo, GoFundMe, Uber and Lyft. Her banishment from social media for using hate speech means the 26-year-old South Palm Beacher and GOP candidate for Democrat U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel’s seat in Congress can no longer ignite tweetstorms with her far-right rants against Islam, which she believes is “a cancer on society.” Loomer is not able to reach her “millions” of fans to solicit donations for her guerrilla-style journalism and activism.

Daniella Levine Cava to submit 5,000 petitions supporting mayoral run” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — “This first submission of 5,000 signed petitions will bring her closer to making Miami-Dade history as the first county Mayoral candidate to qualify by petition,” read a release from the Levine Cava campaign. “Reaching this milestone demonstrates Team DLC for Mayor’s strong grassroots and the hundreds of volunteers who have banded together to propel Daniella’s campaign for Mayor.” According to qualifying information from Miami-Dade County, mayoral candidates must receive at least 14,254 signatures to qualify. That number equals signatures from 1 percent of total registered electors in the county. Those signatures must be submitted by April 28, 2020.

Miami Beach candidate likens self to Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela in campaign ad about ethics probes” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — Miami Beach commission candidate Kristen Rosen Gonzalez has been investigated at least five times by the Florida Elections Commission and the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics. This isn’t opposition research. This is what she’s using to raise money. Rosen Gonzalez, a former commissioner, penned a campaign email in which she said political disagreements are to blame for the “countless” investigations lodged against her since 2015. In the email, which featured the subject line “I’ve been investigated five times!” she likened opponents’ treatment of her to the persecution of Gandhi and Mandela. She then plugged an upcoming fundraising event to feature Miami Beach luminaries like former Mayor Matti Bower.

First in Sunburn — Maria Sachs has $70K on hand of Palm Beach County Commission bid   Former Sen. Sachs had a monster haul in her first month campaigning for the District 5 seat on the Palm Beach County Commission. The finance report weighs in at $71,500. Sachs, a Democrat, put down $50,000 of that total with the other $21,500 coming from donors. The report puts her far ahead of her opponent, Karen Brill, who has raised just $19,000 through seven months in the race. Announcing the news, Sachs stated: “Since filing last month, I’ve seen an outpouring of support from this community. Far and wide, people are coming together and supporting my campaign because they want a leader with a proven track record of delivering results for the residents of Palm Beach County.”


Florida woman obsessed with Columbine arrested with pipe bombs, pistols in her bedroom, police say” via Doug Stanglin of USA Today — Acting on a tip from her parents, Tampa Bay area authorities said Friday they arrested a 27-year-old woman obsessed with the Columbine and Oklahoma City mass killings and discovered pipe bombs, weapons and bomb-making materials in her bedroom. Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister told reporters that Michelle Louise Kolts, of Wimauma, Florida, was arrested shortly after midnight. She was charged with 24 counts of making a destructive device with the intent to do bodily harm or property damage, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. “If used, these bombs could have caused catastrophic damage to hundreds, if not thousands of people,” Chronister said. “Something tremendous was prevented.”

Bryan Fulwider’s accuser represents a victory for sexual assault victims who often don’t report” via Shannon Green of the Orlando Sentinel — We’re still waiting to fully understand what happened between Central Florida Rev. Fulwider and a young woman who accused him of sexually assaulting her 14 years ago. But I do know we should feel grateful this young woman found the courage to speak up. In fact, maybe that is among the first emotions we should start shifting toward these days when we learn about such incidents, because so many victims often feel unsupported in the process of reporting rape. It took incredible courage for her to report a sex crime against a pastor held in such high regard in the Orlando community. We don’t know her name but, sadly, we know far too many other names of women who have been victimized by powerful men.

A $110,000 bribe, an empty chair and a hotel denied: Inside the J.T. Burnette allegations” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — When the federal grand jury in Tallahassee handed down a new indictment against businessman Burnette, it sent a strong signal prosecutors are trying to expand and solidify their case against him using information about crooked City Hall deals from his one-time associate, former City Commissioner Scott Maddox. “The (new indictment) has ‘Maddox debrief’ written all over it,” attorney David Moye said. “Maddox is very much cooperating. In other words, taking direct bribes from J.T.” The indictment details how Maddox killed a major downtown hotel project in exchange for a $110,000 bribe from Burnette because it would have rivaled his own hotel and office building interests nearby.

Federal judge strikes down Tampa’s ban on LGBTQ ‘conversion therapy’” via Muri Assuncao of the New York Daily News — On Friday, U.S. District Judge William Jung ruled that the law can interfere with patient’s rights to privacy, and it may conflict with the rights that parents have in choosing health care for their children. He also said that the medical boards overseeing mental health licensing already serve as a check for any malpractice. The ban, which was enacted by the City Council in 2017, aimed to protect young people from having to endure the dangerous and potentially harmful practice, which has been linked to increased risk of suicide in teens. It called for a $1,000 fine for first-time violations, and $5,000 for any subsequent instances.

JEA for sale: bid price at least $6.8 billion” via David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union — At 2 p.m. Monday, an ordinary room inside JEA headquarters will take center stage for a bid opening that could set off a history-making chain reaction that ends up selling the utility that Jacksonville has owned for 125 years.

Survey finds big opposition to Sarasota County’s redistricting plan” via Zac Anderson of the Herald-Tribune — A survey asking for input on the Sarasota County Commission’s plan to redraw commission district boundaries has generated more than 2,000 responses, and the comments are overwhelmingly against redistricting.

Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg gives $3.5 million in consultant contracts, salaries to friends and associates” via Lauren Ritchie of the Orlando Sentinel — Since taking office, Greenberg has filled new, high-paying jobs and handed out lucrative consulting contracts with vague and sometimes overlapping duties to friends, business partners, childhood chums, campaign associates and a half dozen folks who either were part of his wedding party or close enough to attend the tony affair just months before he was elected. So far, the 34-year-old first-term tax collector has bestowed $3.5 million on more than a dozen of these new outside consultants and new employees, including a lawyer married to his aunt while Greenberg was growing up and three of his groomsmen, who together have been paid $640,000 so far. A campaign adviser got a contract worth $677,000.

State plans to build roundabouts on busy S.R. 434 to ease traffic congestion” via Martin Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — After years of studies, discussions and residents’ gripes, Seminole and state transportation officials say they have come up with a solution to ease the heavy traffic congestion on the roughly 3.5-mile stretch of S.R. 434 between State Road 417 and Mitchell Hammock Road in Oviedo: Constructing large roundabouts at three intersections of the two-lane road.

Volusia charter case heard by Tallahassee appeals court” via John Kennedy of the GateHouse Capital Bureau — Volusia County’s bid to preserve its almost 50-year-old government structure went before Tallahassee appellate judges in a long-running fight against changes approved last November by voters statewide. The reorganization, which a lower court has said should take place, would give more authority to top county officeholders. But the Volusia County Council narrowly agreed to continue its challenge to voter-approved Amendment 10, which would overturn key provisions of the county’s home-rule charter enacted in 1971. County Attorney Dan Eckert told a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal that Volusia’s position is that the changes made by state voters may apply to future action by counties but shouldn’t retroactively change how local voters decided a county should be governed.


Trump won’t destroy me, and he won’t destroy my family” via Joe Biden for the Washington Post — And to Trump and those who facilitate his abuses of power, and all the special interests funding his attacks against me: Please know that I’m not going anywhere. You won’t destroy me, and you won’t destroy my family. And come November 2020, I intend to beat you like a drum.

Joe Henderson: Marco Rubio shrinks again in the spotlight” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — Rubio fumbled yet another opportunity to show some gumption. I know, you’re shocked, right? When the spotlight is on Florida’s senior U.S. Senator, he becomes the incredible shrinking man. You know the story by now. He casually said President Trump was just trying to “gig you guys” (reporters) when he said China should investigate Biden and his son, Hunter. Oh really? The leader of the free world sure is a prankster. Do you think the Chinese leader called Trump later on a secure line to share a laugh about the goof on gullible reporters and Democrats? Well, there is nothing funny about this, except maybe Rubio’s lame dismissal of the indefensible.

Nikki Fried: Time to face the facts on energy, climate” via Florida Politics — It’s time to face the facts on energy and climate. Here are a few of those facts: Since 1950, greenhouse gas emissions have increased by over 400 percent. Here in Florida, 92 percent of our electricity comes from burning fossil fuels — the leading driver of accelerating climate change. We’re the third-largest state, consuming the nation’s third-most energy, including 800,000 barrels of oil per day. Florida faces the nation’s highest coastal flooding threat, with 3.5 million people at risk, and the nation’s highest risk of extreme heat by 2050. Up to 30 million people will call Florida home by 2045 — so we need to change how we use energy and how we approach our looming climate crisis. I’m not sitting back and waiting until it’s too late.

How to make money on Confederate statue” via Lauren Ritchie of the Orlando Sentinel — This summer, however, Dallas City Council members turned their statue of Robert E. Lee, best known as commander of the Confederate Armies, into a win for the community: They sold it for $1.4 million to someone known only as “LawDude.” If Lee is worth $1.4 million, what might the controversial Confederate statue of General Edmund Kirby-Smith fetch for us? Hey, our guy in bronze, who is due to be moved to Tavares, has stood in the U.S. Capitol in National Statuary Hall for decades. That counts for something, doesn’t it? Let’s do it! The county could make a little money that it surely needs.


Personnel note: Marc Dunbar reappointed to Citizens Insurance board — CFO Jimmy Patronis asked Dunbar, a Tallahassee-based lawyer-lobbyist, to remain on the Board of Governors of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. until July 2022. Citizens is the state’s insurer of last resort. “Your diverse background in regulated industries, and your legal expertise in dealing with complex statutory and constitutional matters, will serve the Board well,” Patronis wrote in a letter. Dunbar is a shareholder in the Dean Mead & Dunbar law firm, focusing “his practice on governmental relations and legislative advocacy, commercial transactions and gaming.”

First in Sunburn —Personnel note: Corcoran Partners promotes Andrea Tovar to lobbyist” via Florida Politics — Add Tovar to the powerhouse Corcoran Partners lobbying team. Two years after joining the firm to support its South Florida operations, Tovar has risen to the role of lobbyist. She will be taking on a full roster of clients ahead of the 2020 Legislative Session. “Andrea has impeccable character and a strong work ethic, which transforms into success in any walk of life,” said Michael Corcoran, the firm’s founding partner. “It is going to be exciting to watch Andrea grow in this business, and we are blessed she chose Corcoran Partners as her home.” Tovar started at Corcoran Partners in 2017 to do marketing and business development in South Florida. “It’s been a perfect fit,” Tovar said.

First in Sunburn —Personnel note: Alejandro Alamo—former aide to Jeanette Núñez—joins Becker” via Florida Politics — Becker, a multi-practice commercial law firm with attorneys, lobbyists and other professionals at offices across the East Coast, today announced that Alejandro Alamo has joined the firm as a Government Relations Consultant in its Government Law and Lobbying practice. He was a Legislative Assistant to then-state Rep. Jeanette M. Núñez, now the state’s Lieutenant Governor. “I’m thrilled to be joining Becker and using the public policy skills I’ve developed as well as my government and regulatory agency contacts to help Becker’s premier list of clients,” Alamo said in a statement.

— ALOE —

Employees at this Florida bar pulled about $14,000 off the walls — and they’re donating it to Hurricane Dorian relief” via Allison Klein of the Washington Post — It’s been a tradition at the Siesta Key Oyster Bar for years: Customers staple a dollar bill or two onto the wall for a laugh, and to help decorate the neighborhood bar in Sarasota. But for the past month, dozens of employees have been gingerly peeling the money from the walls and ceiling for a purpose — to donate to Hurricane Dorian relief in the Bahamas. General manager Kristin Hale brought the wads of cash to a bank, and it totaled $13,961. She said restaurant employees have worked diligently for the past month to dislodge the bills without tearing them in an effort to help the Bahamas.

Riders on Disney World’s new gondolas stranded for hours; Skyliner now closed” via David Harris and Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Riders aboard the new Skyliner gondola ride at Walt Disney World were stranded for hours late Saturday night after an apparent malfunction, according to witnesses. The aerial transportation system will be closed while Disney investigates the incident, the company said in a news release early Sunday morning. There were no reported injuries, a Walt Disney World spokeswoman said. It was “unexpected downtime” on the Skyliner, the spokeswoman said. Riders were starting to be evacuated from the ride after 11 p.m.

Security, NY incident leave some unsettled after ‘Joker’” via Jay Reeves of The Associated Press — A young man who was loudly cheering and applauding on-screen murders sent some people heading toward exits in a crowded theater in Manhattan’s Times Square. Other patrons yelled at the man, who spit on them as they left early, said Nathanael Hood, who was in the theater. “I was scared. I’m sure a lot of other people were,” Hood said in an interview conducted by private messages. Social media users posted photos of police, security sweeps and safety notices at theaters in California and Florida. And in Tennessee, a drive-in theater banned moviegoers from wearing costumes to a screening of the R-rated “Joker,” which scored an October box-office record with $13.3 million in earnings.


A belated happy birthday to the great Jim Rimes of Enwright Rimes Consulting. Also celebrating this weekend were Sen. Kevin Rader and David Clark, Deputy Chief of Staff to Gov. DeSantis. Celebrating today are Joe FollickRandy Osborne, wordsmith Jon Peck of Sachs Media Group, Thomas Philpot, Chief of Staff at DPBR.


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

Written By

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

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
Phone: (727) 642-3162
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St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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