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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 10.16.19

The best mornings are ones that start with Sunburn.

Um, Sen. Rick Scott? Oh, honorable one?

You might want to think twice, three times, or maybe a hundred before going ahead with another juvenile stunt like the one you just pulled. Troll is not a good look for you, not when everyone examines the big picture.

Florida’s former Governor and current junior U.S. Senator sent letters to the governors of six states, “outlining his concerns about rising debt in their states, and the actions he took as Governor to turn around Florida’s economy.”

Oh, really? Rick Scott tries to tell Governors how to run their states successfully.

That’s how his office phrased it in a news release.

I’m sure the Governors of Illinois, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Delaware, Connecticut, and New Jersey were thrilled to learn of Scott’s concern and paid rapt attention. Coincidentally, or maybe not, they are all Democrats save one.

Take the blueprint he provided to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, who no doubt gave it due attention before asking, “Who is Rick Scott?”

“When I was elected Governor of Florida in 2010, our state faced enormous challenges: rising rates of unemployment, growing state debt, thousands of burdensome regulations stifling our small businesses, and taxes increased by more than $2 billion in the previous four years before I took office,” Scott wrote.

“In two terms as Governor, we turned Florida from a state in financial free fall to the best state to live, work, and raise a family.”

What else did Gov. Scott accomplish in his two terms as Florida’s top pol, besides turning us into the Wawa capital of the world?

Well, he gutted environmental regulations, and his Department of Environmental Protection couldn’t utter the words “climate change.”

It might be a coincidence that two major toxic algae blooms occurred on Scott’s watch. Or, it might not.

Each state is different, with diverse needs. It’s easy for Scott to take a potshot at those other states, but he never had to run them. He doesn’t know what challenges those governors face. He doesn’t know what their citizens need or prioritize.

Scott doesn’t need to be throwing stones. I mean, one of those Governors might just throw a jar of green algae goo back at him. That stuff smells bad, too.

— SUNRISE —

The Department of Children and Families wants its employees to “be well,” creating a state Office of Well-Being. The agency’s mission is to “ … decrease employee trauma and burnout … increase employee physical (and) mental health, well-being, and retention … ensure that the Department of Children and Families promotes a resilient, fulfilled, and balanced workforce …” Applications are being accepted through Tuesday on People First, the state job-website.

Also, on today’s Sunrise, hosted by Jim Rosica, filling in for Rick Flagg:

— Lawmakers continue to grind it out in the latest committee week.

— First Amendment defender Barbara Petersen gets a big sendoff.

Beth Matuga talks about candidates, causes and campaigns as well as her work in Carrabelle, where she works to save the oysters.

— A Florida man (with the same name as a famous actor) was booked on charges of drunken driving and threatening a public servant in Brevard County. Officers couldn’t perform any test because he started hollering profanity and threatened to shoot one of them.

To listen, click on the image here:

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@CHeathWFTV: .@realDonaldTrump nominates two from Florida’s Supreme Court to federal bench; 11th in Atlanta. Justice Barbara Lagoa & Justice Robert J. Luck. Nominations go to the US Senate

Tweet, tweet:

@tparti: Wayne Messam is reporting he raised $5 in Q3 and spent $0. Has $31k on hand

@Bencjacobs: Florida man who is still included in polls for some reason raised exactly five dollars in the last quarter

@averyjaffe: More to come here but @RossSpano‘s Q3 is one of the worst FEC reports I’ve ever looked at, and his campaign’s atrocious spin is an insult to the written word. The bar was on the floor and Spano found a way to trip over it. #FL15 #flapol

@RepJoseOliva: Congratulations @WiltonSimpson for being named Senate President-designate. All the best wishes to you and your family on this day.

@GrayRohrer: Every time there’s an egg pun during Sen. Simpson‘s President-designate ceremony, Vincent Price gets a royalty

@Mdixon55: .@TomLeeFL announces former Florida Senate President Don Gaetz as the “father of @RepMattGaetz

@mattgaetz: I’m sure President Gaetz was honored to spend time with his good friend, Laurel Lee’s husband.

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

— DAYS UNTIL —

“Watchmen” premieres on HBO — 4; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 13; Brexit scheduled — 15; 2019 General Election — 20; 3rd Annual Florida Internet and Television FITCon starts — 22; “The Mandalorian” premieres — 27; New season of “The Crown” streaming on Netflix — 33; “Frozen 2” debuts — 37; TaxWatch 40th Annual Meeting — 47; “The Rise of Skywalker” premiers — 65; 2020 Session begins — 90; Florida TaxWatch State of the TaxPayer Dinner in Tallahassee — 91; Super Bowl LIV in Miami — 109; Iowa Caucuses — 110; New Hampshire Primaries — 118; Florida’s presidential primary — 153; “Black Panther 2” debuts — 203; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo begin — 282; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 314; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 357; First Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 365; Second presidential debate at Belmont — 372; 2020 General Election — 384.

— TOP STORY —

Florida GOP chair downplays donations, influence of arrested foreign businessmen tied to Rudy Giuliani” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — “What happens is you have these people that host these fundraisers and people show up, you don’t always know who’s going to bring checks,” Joe Gruters told reporters. “These guys, my guess is never dealt with anybody directly other than fundraisers.” Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were charged with using a company to donate large sums to Republican campaigns across the country. Federal campaign finance law bars donations from foreign sources. A file photo from The Associated Press showed Parnas and Fruman standing next to Ron DeSantis at his victory celebration in Orlando. The Governor’s spokeswoman said DeSantis has had no “one-on-one” contact with the duo. “We need to continue to make sure that any type of these foreign players that are caught are fully prosecuted, and I’m glad our guys returned the money,” Gruters said.

Lev Parnas takes the stage behind Ron DeSantis during his victory in 2018.

— DATELINE: TALLY —

Ron DeSantis brings in legal firepower for Scott Israel’s hearing” via Skylar Swisher of the Sun Sentinel — Levesque, an attorney with the GrayRobinson law firm, has been brought on as the governor’s outside counsel. Levesque has been meeting with senators and will present the governor’s case next week when the Senate is expected to vote on whether to give Israel his job back or remove him from office. “I was very honored to get the call and very happy to help the governor in this matter,” he said.

Assignment editorsDeSantis will make a major announcement, 8:30 a.m., Loxahatchee River District (enter through Gate 2), 2500 Jupiter Park Drive, Jupiter.

Cabinet mulls termination of farmland leaseDeSantis and the Florida Cabinet will discuss the early termination of a lease on farming land in the Everglades next week, Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida reports. The termination of the lease between the state and a subsidiary of Florida Crystals Corp. could see the state payout $2.4 million. The decision follows Florida Crystals’ announcement earlier this month that it would voluntarily terminate its lease on the 6,170-acre tract, which covers part of the site for a planned water storage reservoir. In a separate case, The Florida Department of Environmental Protection recommended the Cabinet pay $1,940 per acre for terminating a lease that was renewed by the state for 30 years in 2015. The Cabinet meeting will be held at 9 a.m. Oct. 22.

Wilton Simpson puts focus on businesses, water, children” via Ana Ceballos of the News Service of Florida — Shortly after Trilby Republican Simpson was formally elected Tuesday as Florida’s next Senate president, he characterized himself as a farmer and an entrepreneur — and not a politician. And with that introduction, the 53-year-old owner of an egg farm and an environmental-remediation company vowed to tackle Florida’s economy with “common-sense, fiscally conservative principles” and to foster a business-friendly environment. “If you are a Florida business, we will do all we can to keep you here,” Simpson said. “If you are a business located in a high-tax, over-regulated, unwelcoming state — consider moving to Florida, where we believe the American dream and the Florida Dream are one in the same.”

Wilton Simpson takes the gavel for 2020. Image via Colin Hackley.

Senate panel approves Job Growth Grant Fund change — The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee voted unanimously in favor of a bill that would allow DeSantis to pump Job Growth Grant Fund cash into training programs at charter schools, reports Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida. For a charter school to be eligible for the funds, it must award high school diplomas exclusively through the Career and Technical Education graduation pathway. That pathway requires CTE and work-based learning program credits and must result in the completion of an industry-recognized certification. SB 130, sponsored by Sen. Travis Hutson, has two stops to go before hitting the chamber floor.

State officials promise legislation to speed up payment of hurricane insurance claims” via Lawrence Mower of the Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau — Florida’s insurance consumer advocate will propose legislation to ease frustrations of Panhandle residents about the slow rate of payments for Hurricane Michael claims, she said Tuesday. Consumer Advocate Tasha Carter told state senators that she and her boss, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, are working on a consumer protection-focused package of ideas that lawmakers could vote on when the next legislative session starts Jan. 14. “Insurance consumers are very frustrated with their insurance companies,” Carter said. “They’re frustrated that their claims have not been closed and that they have not been handled appropriately.

Before House panel, critics raise alarm over legalizing ‘adult-use’ of marijuana” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Bertha K. Madras, professor of psychobiology at Harvard Medical School, warned the House Health & Human Services Committee that legalization would have negative effects. “I am opposed to legalization for obvious reasons,” Madras said. “Marijuana is not benign. It is not safe. It is addictive. It is psychotomimetic. It interferes with learning and memory.” Madras paid particular focus to studies in recent years showing levels of THC rising in marijuana. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive ingredient that causes marijuana’s “high.” As an NPR report detailed: “One study of pot products seized by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration found the potency increased from about 4 percent THC in 1995 to about 12 percent in 2014.”

Bertha K. Madras, professor of psychobiology at Harvard Medical School, speaks during the House Health and Human Services Committee meeting. Image via Colin Hackley.

Democrat lawmakers call for leniency for nonviolent offenders” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Sen. Randolph Bracy, along with House Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee and fellow Rep. Dianne Hart, called a news conference to discuss “gain time” legislation that would let nonviolent offenders out early. They were flanked by people who traveled from across the state to stand with the legislators as they made their case for a bill that appears to have no Republican backing — generally a death knell in a Legislature controlled by the GOP. The legislation (SB 394, HB 189) would allow first-time nonviolent offenders to get out after serving just 65 percent of their sentences, instead of 85 percent. Murderers and other violent offenders would still have to serve 85 percent of their time before being eligible for early release.

Assignment editors — State Sen. Lori Berman will join state Rep. Kamia Brown and the Susan G. Komen Florida organization to talk about upcoming legislation they have filed to stop the price gouging on lifesaving preventive care and diagnostic tests for women in the fight against breast cancer, 10:30 a.m., 4th Floor Rotunda.

— LEGISLATIVE MEETINGS —

The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 9 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Health Quality Subcommittee will discuss regulations for legalized recreational marijuana, 9 a.m., 212 Knott Building, the Capitol.)

The House Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee will discuss three new toll roads approved last Session, 9 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The Senate Military and Veterans Affairs and Space Committee will hear from Danny Burgess, executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs, among others, 10 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building.

The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee meets to hear from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 12:30 p.m., 12 House Office Building.

The House Business & Professions Subcommittee will examine alcoholic beverage laws, 12:30 p.m., 212 Knott Building.

The House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee will hear budget requests and consider possible cuts to the Department of Financial Services, the Public Service Commission, and the Office of Financial Regulation, 12:30 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 12:30 p.m., 404 House Office Building.

The Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 1:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, the Capitol.)

The Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee will discuss the Department of Corrections, among other issues, 1:30 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building.

The Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee meets to hear budget requests by the Department of Education, the Office of Early Learning, and the State University System, 1:30 p.m., 412 Knott Building.

The House Health Market Reform Subcommittee meets to discuss “balance billing” for medical expenses, 3 p.m., 306 House Office Building.

The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee meets to discuss budgets, 3 p.m., 212 Knott Building.

The House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee meets, 3 p.m., 404 House Office Building, the Capitol.)

The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee meets to discuss budget requests, 3 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee meets to discuss school improvements, 3 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 3:30 p.m., 412 Knott Building.

The Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee meets to discuss affordable housing, 3:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.

 — GOVERNORS CLUB WEDNESDAY LUNCH MENU —

White bean and farro soup; mix garden salad with dressing; Moroccan carrot salad; Panzanella (Italian bread salad); deli board, lettuce, tomatoes, cheeses & breads; roast chicken with tomatoes, green olives and preserved lemons; spicy pork kebabs with Moorish flavors; grilled grouper with lemon and capers; grilled eggplant with red pepper and walnut purée; sautéed zucchini, squash, tomatoes and red onions; BLT cheese tortellini, and dulce de leche cake for dessert.

— STATEWIDE —

Jimmy Patronis appointed to FEMA National Advisory Council” via Florida Politics — Chief Financial Officer Patronis has been named to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Advisory Council, his office announced. The Council is an “advisory committee established by federal law to ensure effective and ongoing coordination of federal emergency management activities,” a news release explained … Patronis said in a statement, “I’m honored by this appointment and look forward to advising FEMA on important disaster response and recovery issues, especially financial and insurance matters.”

Jimmy Patronis is the newest member of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Advisory Council.

Happening today — The Florida Department of Education continues a listening tour on new school standards, 5:30 p.m., Collier County school district office, 5775 Osceola Trail, Naples.

Baker County case alarms school safety commission” via Ana Ceballos of the News Service of Florida — In early September, law enforcement officers arrested a 15-year-old student who they say scribbled in a notebook six pages of specific and well-researched strategies to carry out a mass shooting at Baker County High School. The student wrote he wanted to “kill officers and then the gatekeeper — then go one by one” and that he would have nine minutes to gun down as many people as possible, considering the distance between the Sheriff’s Office and the school. But after the student was arrested, a judge dismissed the case saying prosecutors did not prove the threat was “transmitted” under state law, Baker County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Terry Crews told the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission.

Happening today — The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission meets, 8:30 a.m., Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate, 1500 Masters Blvd., ChampionsGate.

DCF mental hospitals administrator steps down amid questionable African safari, Aramark deals” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Robert Quam, chief of state mental health treatment facilities, resigned days ahead of the release of an Inspector General report that confirms he committed several ethical violations involving state vendors, including going rhino hunting in Africa with an Aramark executive. A Department of Children and Families spokesperson did not have an initial comment and could not immediately confirm whether Quam’s resignation Oct. 7 was related to the findings in the Inspector General’s report, which was posted on its website today

Guardian at center of Florida scandal appeals judge’s ruling that she broke state rules by misusing DNRs” via Monivette Cordeiro of the Orlando Sentinel — Former Orlando guardian Rebecca Fierle is appealing a judge’s ruling that she violated state rules by misusing “do not resuscitate” orders on incapacitated clients and improperly billing AdventHealth nearly $4 million for services she provided to their vulnerable patients. An attorney for Fierle, who resigned as a guardian statewide July 25, filed two petitions asking the state’s 5th District Court of Appeals to reverse the ruling from Orange County Circuit Judge Janet C. Thorpe and remove the judge from the case. Fierle’s attorney argues Thorpe overstepped her authority by disciplining his client and wrongly suggesting the Orlando guardian needed permission before signing DNRs from the judge or wards’ family members.

Florida insurance companies took months to pay Michael claims” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida insurance Commissioner David Altmaier told lawmakers that he hadn’t seen “even an instance” of insurance companies breaking the law following Hurricane Michael. But records show his office was notified of at least four cases of insurers failing to pay their claims on time, with the companies paying penalties in each instance. The notices came from employees at the Department of Financial Services, which operates an insurance complaint line that has fielded more than 1,700 complaints following the storm. The department sent the most serious cases, including at least four involving companies violating the 90-day statute, to Altmaier’s office.

State officials promise legislation to speed up payment of hurricane insurance claims” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Consumer Advocate Tasha Carter told state Senators that she and her boss, Florida Chief Financial Officer Patronis, are working on a consumer protection-focused package of ideas that lawmakers could vote on when the next Legislative Session starts Jan. 14. “Insurance consumers are very frustrated with their insurance companies,” Carter said. “They’re frustrated that their claims have not been closed and that they have not been handled appropriately.” For a year, people in the Panhandle have been complaining about insurance companies giving low estimates or taking months to pay their claims. Nearly 12 percent of insurance claims remain open a year after the Category 5 storm made landfall near Mexico Beach.

Consumer Advocate Tasha Carter says she is working with CFO Jimmy Patronis to speed up hurricane insurance claim payouts.

Dorian estimated insured losses at $19 million” via the News Service in Florida — Only 5,764 claims from Dorian had been filed in Florida as of Oct. 4, with estimated insured losses at $19 million, according to the information posted on the state Office of Insurance Regulation. By comparison, Hurricane Michael, which devastated parts of Northwest Florida last year, has generated about 150,000 claims and $7.16 billion in estimated insured losses. Hurricane Dorian flattened parts of the Bahamas and threatened Florida before staying off the state’s East Coast. Of the 5,764 claims filed, 3,113 involved residential property, the Office of Insurance Regulation numbers show. As of Oct. 4, 62.7 percent of the claims had been closed.

Maggy Hurchalla case headed to state Supreme Court, a call for protection of First Amendment” via Joshua Solomon of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Hurchalla, on the hook for $4.4 million from a 2018 court ruling, will seek a new decision from the state Supreme Court. The case, her high-profile supporters argue, is a referendum on free speech and the right to challenge the government.

Florida’s lack of dental care hurts low-income and rural residents” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of Florida Phoenix — As of Sept. 30, 5.46 million Floridians — about one in four residents — lived in areas lacking dentists, according to the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration’s latest report on “designated health professional shortage areas.” It would take an additional 1,230 dentists to resolve that unmet need in Florida. Many of those people without access to regular dental care are poor or live in rural communities, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts. Additionally, Pew found that the more than 55 million children and adults nationally who have some dental coverage through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program “also face a scarcity of care” because many dentists don’t accept public insurance.

Hemp hype? Some observers fear the state is setting up small farmers for failure” via Laura Cassels of the Florida Phoenix — Nikki Fried … has been particularly active in promoting hemp as an alternative for farmers in the Panhandle who suffered devastating crop losses during Hurricane Michael one year ago.Experience in other states raises questions about whether farmers would be wise to bet the farm on hemp absent more work toward developing production chains and best practices for this crop. Fried is aware of the risks. “She’s made it a top priority to align all the moving parts to ensure Florida’s hemp program becomes the nation’s best,” said Karol Molinares, the commissioner’s deputy communications director, in a written response to questions raised by the Florida Phoenix.

— FLORIDA’S SOBRIETY INDUSTRY —

South Florida has 478 licensed facilities for drug treatment, notes Colton Wooten in The New Yorker. That’s more treatment centers than elementary schools.

Wooten describes his experiences in the Florida drug treatment “shuffle,” cycling between addiction and recovery — and the industry that keeps the cycle going.

For years, South Florida has been known as a “haven for 12-step programs.” Wooten writes: “In 2007, the Times described the constellation of sober homes in Delray Beach as ‘a funky outpost of sobriety,’ and ‘the epicenter of the country’s largest and most vibrant recovery community.’”

One of the factors is Delray Beach’s appeal to private residential-rehab facilities, offering their own outpatient treatment plans — which developed into the so-called Florida Model, a less expensive option for those seeking recovery who have either bad credit, criminal records or lack the resources to live alone.

By 2010, the Affordable Care Act changed the landscape of addiction treatment, mandating that insurance companies cover services for substance-use disorders — and prohibiting limits for preexisting conditions. While addiction alone is not a preexisting condition, relapse — which is common among addicts — could count as one. This made it easier for treatment centers to bill insurance, making it fall within the reaches of the middle class.

“Little in medicine is as ill-defined or as anecdotal as addiction treatment,” Wooten writes. “Like any industry in a period of explosive growth, addiction treatment attracted wrongdoers. Insurance fraud became rampant.”

Along with rehab centers, urinalysis for drug use is also became profitable — a “liquid gold mine” — despite the lack of regulation defining best practices.

“The kids who arrived for treatment soon saw that their insurance policies could be used as expense accounts for detox or sober living,” Wooten notes.

— NOTES FROM ELSEWHERE —

What Jeff Brandes is reading — “Illinois drivers have paid $1 billion in red light camera tickets in last 10 years” via CBS2 Chicago — Illinois drivers have forked over an astounding $1 billion in red light camera fines in the past 10 years, according to a new study. Now, some lawmakers in Springfield are reviving a push to ban the cameras. At least two state representatives have introduced proposed legislation to eliminate red-light cameras in Illinois, although both proposals remain in the infancy stages.

What Ida Eskamani is reading — “In historic first for Idaho, Governor’s office recognizes Indigenous Peoples Day” via Idaho Statesman — With Capitol offices closed around her for Columbus Day, 13-year-old Danielle Keith read the first proclamation of Indigenous Peoples Day in Idaho … Keith read in front of a crowd gathered in the rotunda. Idaho’s Republican Gov. Brad Little issued a proclamation designating Oct. 14, 2019, Indigenous Peoples Day, joining a national movement of localities adding to or replacing Columbus Day.

What Erin Gillespie is reading — “Across Pa., lucrative Donald Trump tax break isn’t delivering for the struggling places that need it most” via SpotlightPA — A federal tax incentive program passed in 2017 by Republicans in Congress has been hailed by Trump as a lifeline for ailing Rust Belt cities … The central premise of the program is simple: Offer wealthy investors generous tax breaks for putting money into real estate or businesses in distressed areas. Those areas were designated “opportunity zones.” In Pennsylvania, however, early signs suggest the program is not living up to the claims of transformative change, and is unlikely to be a cure for communities most in need. 

— PEACHY —

Nancy Pelosi holds off vote to authorize Trump impeachment inquiry — for now” via John Bresnahan, Sarah Ferris and Heather Caygle of POLITICO — Democratic leadership sources caution, however, that the decision could be “reassessed at some point.” Trump, White House official and Republicans on Capitol Hill have seized on the absence of such a vote as an unacceptable break with House precedent and have vowed to resist what they describe as an illegitimate probe. Democrats defended their current impeachment process, which has multiple House committees interviewing witnesses in private and gathering evidence related to allegations that Trump and his personal lawyers, Rudy Giuliani, pressured Ukrainian officials to begin an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son or risk losing U.S. military aid.

Nancy Pelosi is holding off a House floor vote on impeachment.

Trump’s impeachment barricade crumbles” via Kyle Cheney and Andrew Desiderio of POLITICO — The President’s former top Russia adviser, Fiona Hill — the first White House official to cooperate in Democrats’ investigation of the Ukraine scandal — has detailed for lawmakers a trail of alleged corruption that extends from Kyiv to the West Wing. In dramatic testimony, she roped in some of Trump‘s top advisers as witnesses to the unfolding controversy. And Tuesday, a senior State Department official, George Kent, appeared on Capitol Hill to testify about his knowledge of the episode despite an attempt by Trump administration lawyers to block him. It’s the latest evidence that the White House’s stonewalling against congressional requests for documents and testimony is crumbling — and Democrats are feeling a new sense of momentum.

John Bolton’s eruption shows that Trump’s defenses are collapsing” via Greg Sargent of The Washington Post — Trump’s explicitly declared position in the scandal consuming his presidency is that pressuring a foreign power to “investigate” a leading domestic political opponent absolutely falls within his rightfully exercised authority. But this defense is cracking up. That’s because we’re now learning, one after another, that all the people around him knew that it was grievously wrong — that is, all except for those who were carrying out Trump’s corrupt scheme. The latest domino to fall is John Bolton, who grew so alarmed by efforts to pressure Ukraine to launch “investigations” into Biden and his son that he instructed an aide to alert White House lawyers. That aide is Fiona Hill, a former senior White House adviser on Russia and Europe.

Lara Trump: Impeachment ‘hysteria’ will die down” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — “Impeachment hysteria, as I continue to call it, will ultimately die down,” said Trump, who is married to Trump’s son Eric and is an adviser to the President’s reelection campaign, Donald J. Trump for President. She was speaking in one of two briefings the Trump campaign held for journalists, essentially offering the “Stop the Madness” protests as a short-term response to pressure moderate Democrats in swing districts, such as U.S. Reps. Charlie Crist and Stephanie Murphy, while the long-term strategy focuses on organizing ground operations nationally, while pushing the messaging of a booming economy.

What’s up with Giuliani’s associates and Florida? 5 things to know” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — It’s been less than a week since two South Florida businessmen and associates of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani — Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman — were arrested on charges of campaign finance violations.

Conservative Christian pastor says he ‘asked and begged God’ for Trump’s impeachment” via Anthony Man of the Sun Sentinel — The Rev. O’Neal Dozier, an outspoken and often controversial conservative pastor from Broward County, says the impeachment of President Donald Trump would be an answer to his prayers.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Republicans buckle to Trump on Syria” via Burgess Everett, Melanie Zanona and Marianne Levine of POLITICO — Republicans unleashed perhaps their most aggressive outcry of the Trump era after he abandoned the U.S.’s Kurdish allies and ceded northeastern Syria to Turkey. But now GOP lawmakers are dialing back their direct criticism of the President — instead working with Trump, dinging Democrats and trying to move forward. Senior Republicans are coordinating with Trump’s top officials to try to rein in Turkey with sanctions and protect the Kurds, and while they’re still dissatisfied with the situation, they’ve shifted gears away from confrontation with the President.

— 2020 —

Bernie Sanders to be endorsed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez” via Sean Sullivan and Dave Weigel of the Washington Post — Ocasio-Cortez of New York, one of the most influential voices among young liberals and a rising Democratic star, plans to endorse Sanders for president and appear with him at a rally on Saturday, according to two people with knowledge of her plans. Rep. Ilhan Omar, another member of the “Squad” of four liberal congresswomen, also announced late Tuesday that she was backing Sanders.

Warren wins big in Broward Young Democrats straw poll, far ahead of Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The U.S. Senator from Massachusetts received 27 first-choice votes (her closest competitor received 15). She received 19 second-choice votes (her closest competitor received nine). Biden, a former Vice President who is well-known, and Andrew Yang, a former technology executive who isn’t, effectively tied for second place. Kamala Harris and Sanders tied for fourth place. “Now it seems like people are really consolidating,” Clay Miller, president of the Broward Young Democrats, said after the voting. “They are falling in love,” something he said wasn’t as widespread in June, when the group held its first straw poll.

Elizabeth Warren is the big winner in a Broward County straw poll.

— THE TRAIL —

Eight ain’t enough: Ted Yoho keeps fundraising, almost as if a 2020 candidate” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Congressman raised $49,410 in the 3rd quarter of 2019, which ran through Sept. 30. This is nearly two-thirds of the $76,614 he has raised this cycle. Of that money, just two checks totaling $5,000 came from Florida political action committees, with one more individual contribution from Florida. Yoho’s campaign committee has nearly a quarter-million dollars on hand. This is factoring in third-quarter spending of over $26,000, including a $318 tab at a Trump Hotel in D.C.

Ted Yoho keeps fundraising but does not explain precisely why.

Ross Spano (barely) digs himself out of the red in latest campaign finance activity” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — He’s out quite a bit of cash thanks to loan repayments to his botched 2018 campaign loans. Reports show Spano raised $117,000 from July through September, bringing his total amount raised this year to $400,000. But he repaid $110,000 to loans that fueled his 2018 campaign that Spano admitted amounted to illegal campaign contributions. That leaves nearly $60,000 in loans that still need to be paid, which means Spano’s campaign still owes almost as much as it’s worth.

DCCC roasts Spano in ‘here I fixed it for you’ news release rewrite” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — After Spano’s campaign sent out a news release morning defending its 3rd quarter fundraising, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee wasted no time in picking it to pieces. The DCCC offered a simple edit, striking through the campaign’s words and replacing them with “worst quarter of 2019” and “historically weak.” Spano’s release said the campaign had repaid loans, which the DCCC added were illegal, at the advice of “staff from the Federal Election Commission,” which resulted in nearly zeroing out Spano’s campaign’s worth. With loans still owed, Spano’s campaign is worth just $10,000, a fact the DCCC noted in its edit was “one of the lowest account balances of any member of Congress.”

Adam Hattersley rakes in six figures in first congressional campaign finance report” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — State Rep. Hattersley raised $115,000 during the third quarter report period for his Congressional campaign. That quarter covers July through September. Hattersley didn’t enter the race until the end of July. Hattersley’s earnings came from more than 1,800 individual contributions. None of his funding came from corporate political action committees. Hattersley is running for Florida’s 15th Congressional District, which represents eastern Hillsborough County. He faces fellow Democrat Alan Cohn in the primary. The winner will take on incumbent Spano.

Candidates for Orlando mayor disagree on sales tax hike, donor restrictions during debate” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and two challengers City Commissioner Sam Ings and Aretha Simons sparred on transportation, gentrification and the region’s low wages during a debate Tuesday evening. Dyer, a 16-year incumbent, reiterated his support for a proposed 1-cent sales tax to fund transportation, as well as running SunRail to the airport and offering more frequent service. That spurred disagreement between the three, with Ings and Simons hesitant on the added penny, which would bring the county tax to 7.5 cents, and instead suggested alternatives that would be charged to tourists.

Laura Loomer raises $154K for CD 21 bid — Far-right activist Loomer has raised $154,000 for her bid to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel in Florida’s 21st Congressional District, Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida reports. Loomer is one of several Republicans challenging Frankel in the reliably Democratic congressional district. “Despite the radical left, big tech tyrants and the fake-news media doing everything they can to hinder my campaign, this early showing puts career politician Lois Frankel and the do-nothing-Democrats in Congress on notice that no seat is safe and that I’m running to win,” Loomer said. Frankel has posted her third-quarter fundraising numbers, but she raised nearly $328,000 in the first half of the year.

Laura Loomer raises $154K, but compared to her opponents, she has a rough road ahead.

Maria Elvira Salazar brings in $504K in 3Q, topping Donna Shalala” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — That hefty haul was helped in part by a $50,000 loan from Salazar to her campaign. But even just looking at outside contributions, Salazar’s $454,000 number tops Shalala’s third-quarter figure by about $140,000. Indeed, Shalala’s biggest quarter this year, her second quarter, showed Shalala raising $422,000. Salazar’s number tops that as well. This is, however, Salazar’s first filing with the FEC this cycle. Candidates typically shoot for a significant number in their first fundraising report, so it remains to be seen whether Salazar will keep up the fundraising pace as she continues her challenge against Shalala.

Joe Harding takes fundraising lead in HD 22 contest” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Republican Harding added more than $13,000 to his campaign account last month, putting him ahead in the contest to replace term-limited Rep. Charlie Stone in House District 22. Harding’s haul brought him past the $85,000 mark. With candidate loans included, he has raised more than $99,000 and has about $97,000 in the bank. Also seeking the Republican nomination is Russ Randall, who reported $1,075 in September receipts. The report was his lowest of the cycle. All told, Randall has raised $81,225 and has about $79,600 on hand. Harding’s campaign called the month a “turning point” in the race, citing the exit of former Republican Rep. Kurt Kelly and an endorsement from current Republican Rep. Stan McClain.

Happening today — Republican Ned Hancock is holding a fundraiser in his bid for HD 55, 5 p.m., The Capital Room, The Governor’s Club, 202 South Adams Street.

— LOCAL —

With Dems’ support, Eleazar Meléndez runs to represent Miami’s District 1” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — Meléndez served as Commissioner Ken Russell’s chief of staff from 2015 to 2017. He’s worked for the Democratic Party and as a political consultant since, and now he’s campaigning to represent a district he’s called home since March 2018. The first-time candidate, born and raised in Puerto Rico, sees his youth and recent move into the district as assets more than liabilities. He counters any criticism of his newness to the district by comparing his candidacy to the political rise of immigrants who move to the United States, a narrative that he said should resonate with families in the diverse District 1. “For [critics] to use that kind of message here, it’s disappointing,” he said.

David Richardson dubbed ‘the budget Guy’ in Miami Beach Commission ad” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The 30-second ad features two Richardson supporters as they discuss the upcoming election. “It’s election season, Sunny,” says Liz Regalado, Board Chair of SAVE. “Yes,” Sunny replies. “Have you decided who to support?” “Well, in Group 6, I’m voting for ‘The Budget Guy.’” “Who?” “‘The Budget Guy,’ David Richardson,” Sunny explains. “David Richardson? He’s great, a forensic auditor and CPA, always looking out for our community.” “Right.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Universal Orlando gets a new road. You might get higher taxes” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — You could argue Universal — whose parent company posted $11.7 billion in profits last year from families like mine — should pay for its own darn road, since the park is clearly the prime beneficiary. (So much so that Universal is in charge of construction. That’s unusual.) Second, if we’re going to subsidize businesses, I’d rather subsidize businesses with high wages. Third, there’s the price tag. After the state throws in another $16 million and Universal pays $174 million, it’s more than $300 million for a 1.7-mile stretch of pavement. That’s more, per mile, than the mammoth 10-lane, I-4 Ultimate project. Fourth, if construction comes in under budget, the theme park — not taxpayers — get most, if not all, of the savings.

Orlando drivers among best in U.S., survey finds” via Tiffani Theisen of the Orlando Sentinel — That’s according to QuoteWizard, an online insurance comparison company owned by LendingTree. The company admitted “our study analysts haven’t driven in Orlando,” but said they derived the rankings from incidents reported by QuoteWizard users, including the number of accidents, speeding tickets and other citations, and DUIs. So, while it may not be as comprehensive as Florida Department of Transportation database, still, Orlando is right there — at No. 23 out of 35 — under a bold heading “2019 best driving cities in America.”

F-1, Hard Rock strike deal to hold race in Miami Gardens. Will county give green light?” via Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald — A race months in the making is one step closer to reality. Formula One has finalized an agreement in principle with Hard Rock Stadium to bring annual F-1 racing to South Florida beginning in May 2021. Now it’s up to Miami-Dade County commissioners. There has been pushback from Miami Gardens residents, Commissioner Barbara Jordan, whose district includes Hard Rock Stadium, and the Mayor running to replace her, Oliver Gilbert. Both Jordan and Gilbert have come out publicly against holding the event. Jordan proposed legislation to require a commission vote before Formula One could win county approval for the temporary closure of Northwest 119th Street during race weekend. A decision on the legislation could come later this month.

— MORE LOCAL —

Focus on victims at town hall on Jeffrey Epstein saga; Herald to launch investigative fund” via Bianca Padró Ocasio of the Miami Herald — The Miami Herald’s ‘Perversion of Justice’ investigative team joined leading sex trafficking experts Tuesday night as they discussed the challenges, rewards and remaining questions of reporting on ‘one of the most lenient plea deals of a child sex trafficker’ in the country.

Jury recommends life without parole for Sigfredo Garcia, the gunman who killed Dan Markel” via Blaise Gainey and Regan McCarthy — During the sentencing hearing, Assistant State Attorney Georgia Cappleman pointed to aggravating factors she said made the death penalty warranted — including that she says the crime was committed for financial gain, and that it was calculated and premeditated. “Calculated means having a careful plan or a prearranged design to commit murder. In this case, they were careful enough to follow and stalk their victim,” Cappleman said. But Garcia’s defense attorney argued Katherine Magbanua was controlling Garcia, which he says is a mitigating factor. Police say Magbanua was the link between Garcia and Markels in-laws in an alleged murder-for-hire plot.

In the Dan Markel murder trial, Sigfredo Garcia may have his life spared, but prosecutors will target Katherine Magbanua next.

Markel murder trial: Garcia gets life; now prosecutors turn their attention to Katherine Magbanua” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Assistant State Attorney Cappleman said she was satisfied with the jury’s decision. But she was setting her sights on retrying Garcia’s longtime girlfriend, Magbanua, whose case ended with a hung jury. “We will be going forward with that case,” Cappleman said after Garcia’s sentencing. “The state will retry Ms. Magbanua.” The 34-year-old faces charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and solicitation of murder. Cappleman, who argued for death, said Garcia, 37, killed Markel for financial gain in a cold, calculated and premeditated manner.

Markeith Loyd says he was in ‘warrior mode’ during slaying of pregnant ex, as trial testimony concludes” via Monivette Cordeiro of the Orlando Sentinel — Under questioning from prosecutors, Loyd testified he was in “warrior mode” when he shot his pregnant ex-girlfriend Sade Dixon, killing her and their unborn child. On the witness stand in his trial at the Orange County Courthouse, Loyd said the shooting wasn’t his fault because Dixon’s brother had attacked him and “just was reacting” when he gunned the siblings down. “You’re really the victim today here, aren’t you?” Assistant State Attorney Ric Ridgway asked the accused killer in front of jurors. “Of course,” Loyd said.

Rest in peace —Lou Frey, Orlando congressman, radio commentator, dies at 85” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Frey Jr., who represented Central Florida in Congress for 10 years, founded a UCF institute for politics and had a long career as a commentator on public radio, died Monday at a hospice center in Winter Springs. Frey was best known in later years as a political commentator with former Democratic state Rep. Dick Batchelor at WMFE-90.7 FM public radio. The duo first appeared together on WUCF-TV in 1996 before moving to radio for their show “The Notebook” in 1998, according to WMFE. They later appeared on a continuing segment on the show called “Intersection” from 2007 until 2016.

— OPINIONS —

Ron DeSantis already a winner even if he loses on teacher raises” via Mac Stipanovich for the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis knows a good first impression is proof against a multitude of subsequent sins. DeSantis went on a press tour touting a proposal for a statewide minimum salary for teachers of $47,500. His proposal is, however, so light on specifics that it is more of a sketch than a plan at this point. But regardless of whether DeSantis achieves all, some, or none of his stated goal, he has already won. He is now an education governor. And even his continued cooperation with the Republican-controlled Legislature in vandalizing traditional public education in the name of “school choice” is unlikely to alter this good first impression. At least in the short term.

José Oliva: in policy debates, the public should speak up, not ‘shut up’” via the Orlando Sentinel — In a recent piece supporting the proposed teacher pay raise, Orlando Sentinel columnist Lauren Ritchie fired off a literary cluster-bomb into the public debate. She does deserve credit for having titled her work with “shut up.” That is precisely what she would have everyone do. It is not difficult to see why I would take exception to being told to “shut up,” but to be told to “shut up” for the specific reason of lacking a college degree requires a response. It requires a response as 60 percent of our nation is made up of such citizens, and they ought not to believe they should “shut up” on just the basis of not having completed college.

— MOVEMENTS —

DeSantis appoints one circuit, two county judges” via Florida Politics — Gov. DeSantis‘ office announced he had appointed Stephen M. Whyte to be a circuit judge in the 12th Judicial Circuit, named Bruce Carney a Citrus County judge, and made Andrea Totten a Flagler County judge. The three new judgeships were created by a courts-related bill (HB 5011) passed in the 2019 Legislative Session.

— ALOE —

Former Buc Warrick Dunn surprises St. Pete single mother with new home” via Monique Welch of the Tampa Bay Times — As a single mother to her 18-year-old son, AnTrez, LaToya Reedy worked hard as a certified nursing assistant to provide a stable lifestyle for him. “I got tired of paying the high rent,” she said. Thanks to Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties and its partnership with furniture company Aaron’s, health care provider Cigna, and former Buccaneer Dunn’s nonprofit, Warrick Dunn Charities, Reedy and her son received a fully furnished two-bedroom, two-bathroom home at no cost. Habitat for Humanity bought an empty lot near Childs Park and built the home, which spans nearly 2,000 square feet, while Aaron’s donated $10,000 toward furniture, appliances, and interior design, and Cigna donated $10,000 toward down payment assistance and groceries.

Warwick Dunn, joined by Aaron’s and Cigna, surprised a St. Petersburg single mom with a new home.

Claws for optimism: Florida stone crab season looks promising” via Helen Freund of the Tampa Bay Times — Bill Kelley, the director of the Florida Keys Commercial Fishing Association, is remaining “cautiously optimistic” despite last year’s dismal crab haul stateside, which was the lowest ever recorded in Florida’s history. “It’s looking promising,” Kelley said. “We’re seeing a couple of crabs turn up in some of the lobster traps, which can be a good sign.” Another harbinger for good news? The initial results from a statewide crab monitoring program show an increase in crab populations in areas where last year there were little or none. “It’s not a banner year, by any means, but there are a good amount of crabs around,” said Ryan Gandy, a research scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Film Florida podcast Season Two offers exciting new changes, powerhouse guests” via Florida Politics — Last year, Film Florida introduced a podcast series highlighting the state’s entertainment industry. The second season of the Film Florida podcast series will feature a miniseries-style format, each with a cast covering a range of topics. But the statewide entertainment production trade association is also previewing 2020 Legislative Session — meaning lawmakers will also be joining them in the studio. So far, they recorded an episode with Republican state Sen. Gruters, who sponsored a film production grant bill last year supported by Film Florida. In the podcast, Gruters said his support for the industry has a lot to do with its presence in his Sarasota-based district.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to my wonderful mother-in-law, Robin Todd, as well as Rep. Loranne Ausley, Cesar Hernandez, Mark Maxwell, a partner SCG Governmental Affairs, Rebecca O’Hara, Carrie Patrick, Beth Switzer, and Becca Tieder.

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.
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St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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