Here’s Brunch, a pop-up, weekend email about the 2020 Legislative Session — 10.20.19

Cafe brunch background
A brunch buffet’s worth of real-time reporting on weeks leading up to Session.

Good morning and welcome back to our “pop-up” email newsletter, Brunch. It will be coming to you on the Sundays of legislative committee weeks and during the Session. 

After that, it’s gone like a Cadbury Crème Egg.

Like last time, we’ll be serving up a buffet’s worth of real-time reporting during the lead-up to, and during, the 2020 Legislative Session. So grab your Bloody Mary, Bellini or Mimosa, settle in for a few moments and enjoy … Brunch.

Speaking of Mimosa’s, here’s a first-in-Brunch item about one of our favorite people to share a nice bottle of Veuve: Caitlin Murray is leaving her job as director of government affairs for the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation for a to-be-announced job in D.C. 

A rising star: Murray, picked as one of the “30 Under 30″ rising stars in Florida politics by SaintPetersBlog (‘memba that?), began in 2015. Murray handled oversight of the agency’s government affairs initiatives in both the Legislature and Cabinet.

She’s a Nole: A graduate of Florida State University, Murray has built a solid political résumé through working with Fowler White Boggs, the Republican Party of Florida, the Dorothy Hukill for State Senate campaign, and for state GOP Sens. Jeff Brandes and JD Alexander.

Other quick hits from over the weekend:

President Donald Trump dropped plans to host the G-7 at his Doral golf resort.

U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney will not run for re-election.

A federal judge ruled Florida must allow felons to vote if they can’t afford to pay back their court-ordered fees, fines and restitution

The Houston Astros defeated the New York Yankees, 6-4, and will play the Washington Nationals. First pitch is 8:08 p.m. Tuesday.

Guess who’s coming to dinner?

After a history of skipping the event, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott will be going to the Republican Party of Florida’s “Statesman’s Dinner” in November, a source close to Scott tells Florida Politics. 

Getting excited: The Senator “looks forward to attending and speaking at the (event), as he did last year,” this person said. 

Awkward small talk much? The 2019 Statesman’s Dinner’s honored guest, however, will be Gov. Ron DeSantis, with whom Scott has had a frosty relationship. 

Rick Scott says he is excited to attend the Republican Party of Florida’s ‘Statesman’s Dinner’ in November, despite having skipped it in the past.

Mystery guest: The event has been promoted as also featuring “a very special keynote speaker.” It’s not clear whether that, in fact, is the two-term former governor. 

For the GPS: The event will be Saturday, Nov. 9, at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, 1000 W. Buena Vista Drive, Orlando.

Pay raise pushback

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal to raise the salary for starting teachers to $47,500 has been coolly received in some corners of the Capitol. To wit:

The Florida Education Association wonders where the compensation bump is for veteran teachers, while House Speaker José Oliva framed the proposal as another ask in over $2 billion of increased spending requests from the administration.

We asked House budget chief Travis Cummings to weigh in: “It is too early in the 2020-21 budget process to fully evaluate … The big question will be, are there enough taxpayer dollars to support all of these spending priorities. I know that the Governor and Legislature will work hard to tackle these issues in a responsible manner.”

His Senate counterpart, Sen. Rob Bradley, was on hand in Middleburg earlier this month when DeSantis rolled out the proposal. 

Bradley stands by it: “That Monday morning in Clay County will, I believe, prove to be a pivotal moment. Everyone in Tallahassee and in the 67 school districts is now talking about increasing teacher compensation. There is major disagreement on how to do it, which is not surprising, but it’s now a big part of the agenda.”

There’s more: “We have a teacher retention problem and erratic bonus programs won’t address it,” Bradley added. He refers to the “Best and the Brightest,” which teachers in less-than-perfect schools don’t qualify for.

The DeSantis proposal would phase that out, and all indications are the House and the Senate will joust about this one this winter. 

— ‘Let Your Love Flow’ —

With a room packed with his hometown neighbors, it seemed only fitting that Simpson would tap Dade City country music band the Bellamy Brothers to serenade the crowd.

Prayer and a song: The band, making music and touring the country for forty years, belted the national anthem after a spirited prayer.

Buddies: Simpson is friends with the country music duo, brothers who live in his district. In 2016, the brothers played at one of Simpson’s fundraisers.

Senate President-delegate Wilton Simpson and his good friends the Bellamy Brothers.

I’m with the band: Clad in their token cowboy hats and country-western button-downs, the brothers rocked the stage with Simpson’s son, Wilton Simpson Jr., on the drums.

Quite the catalog: The country duo has a resume of songs spanning four decades. While their sound varies based on the decade, they have a sort of traditional country twang with chicken pickin’ guitar and singsong, storytelling lyrics — pickup trucks, pretty girls and guitars included.

“Down-home feel”: Simpson secured the duo for his soiree not just because they’re friends, but because the band brought the down-home feel of his district to Tallahassee. 

— The after-party —

Some Senate security staff called Simpson’s party after his designation ceremony last week “the biggest designation turnout since Don Gaetz.” 

Bucking the typical former and current electeds only, Simpson’s party was chock-full of residents in his district, many of whom have scarcely traveled outside of Dade City. 

And there were kids. Lots of them. Playing with Play-Doh and dancing with glow sticks. Some of them even decorated a grown-up or two (looking at you, good sport Dennis Baxley.)

Tee-totaling: It wasn’t a drinking affair. Simpson doesn’t imbibe, as noted by his designation-day admission to Florida Politics that a case of Heineken once sat untouched in his fridge for two years, which reminded him he should probably replace it in case someone stops by thirsty.

— We’ll do it ‘unilaterally’! —

The Senate is scheduled to “convene, unilaterally, in Special Session” this week to consider whether to remove or reinstate suspended Broward Sheriff Scott Israel

Spokeswoman Katie Betta sent out a “media advisory” Friday that was striking for this reminder: The state Constitution allows President Bill Galvano “to close any proceeding when considering appointment to or removal from public office.”

Here’s why: Special Master Dudley Goodlette “received a death threat,” Betta explained in an email: “The Senate is coordinating with Capitol Police to ensure the safety of all visitors, staff and Senators … President Galvano has requested that enhanced security precautions and protocols, which are confidential, be in place for the proceedings.”

Let us in: Don’t fret, however. Betta also said Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, is “committed to keeping these proceedings open to the media and the public to the greatest extent practical.” 

Don’t act out: But, she warned, “all attendees must be mindful of the serious nature of these proceedings.” That means no signs, no outbursts. 

Mind your P’s and Q’s: Even then, Galvano “will not hesitate to close any proceeding in which proper legislative decorum is not maintained,” Betta added. 

Here’s what kind of pressure the Senate will be under:

Here’s the rundown for the Special Session:

Monday, Oct. 21.

9 a.m.: Senators will meet in the chamber. “This session is procedural, and required in order to formally enter into the Special Session.”

10:30 a.m.: The Rules Committee meets in 412 Knott to review Goodlette’s advisory report and recommendation that Israel be returned to the job. 

Lawyers for Gov. Ron DeSantis, who wants Israel gone, will give a presentation, as will Israel’s lawyer, and public testimony will be taken. The Rules Committee will then come up with its own recommendation. 

Wednesday, Oct. 23

2 p.m.: The full Senate meets in the chamber to consider the Rules recommendation and may vote. 

More information is here

— A history of fail —

Signs point to yes: Senate President Bill Galvano and House Speaker José Oliva last week opened the door to the possibility — nay, likelihood even — that the chambers will again run another big gambling bill in 2020. 

Galvano, in particular, has a lot of riding on a bill’s success this upcoming year, his last Legislative Session before he term-limits out of office. 

Here’s why: Gambling has been a signature issue for him; years ago, while in the House, he helped draft the Seminole Compact that led to billions of dollars in blackjack revenue sharing for the state. 

Bill Galvano has a lot riding on a big gambling bill in 2020. Image via Colin Hackley.

— Why nothing passes: This is oversimplifying things, but votes get fractured between anti-gambling expansion lawmakers — say, those with a Seminole Tribe casino in their district or friends of Disney, which hates gambling — and those with pari-mutuel interests among their constituency — dog or horse tracks that may also have slots or card rooms. 

That’s in part why, historically, the bigger the gaming bill, the harder it falls. Here’s a quick history of recent Sunshine State gambling fails:

In 2012, former state Sen. Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff pushed a measure to permit three destination hotel-casinos in South Florida. That effort died.

The next year, realizing they had bungled it, lawmakers hastily moved to ban internet gambling cafes. That was after a multistate investigation netted dozens of arrests and threw egg on the Legislature’s collective face.

Two years after that, then-House Republican Leader Dana Young of Tampa sponsored her own sweeping legislation to permit two destination resort casinos in South Florida and allow dog tracks to stop live racing but continue to offer slot machines, among other provisions. It fizzled. 

In late 2015, the Las Vegas Sands Corp. gave up efforts to build a destination casino resort in Florida: luxury rooms, convention space, high-end retail and celebrity-chef restaurants, along with Las Vegas-style gambling action.

Slot machines killed a 2018 attempt. A conference committee melted down over an impasse related to expanding slots to eight counties that approved them in local referendums.

And the House has long been intransigent on designated player games, a hybrid of poker and blackjack that’s proved lucrative to pari-mutuel cardrooms.

This past year, the Seminole Tribe quit paying the state millions each month from its casino gambling revenue amid an enforcement dispute, and yet another omnibus gambling bill failed.

That deal, pushed by the Senate, would have included a renewed revenue-sharing agreement with the Seminoles, among other provisions.

But hey, if at first you don’t succeed, try … lots more times. See ya at the tables. 

Fundraising look-ahead

Some of you will be reading this from Orlando, fresh off a weekender at Florida House Victory’s fundraiser in EPCOT.

Those who couldn’t make the party, worry not: You’ll have an opportunity to chip in to at least one Florida Democrat’s 2020 House campaign this week. Freshman Rep. Dan Daley is holding a reception at Clyde’s & Costello’s Tuesday starting at 5:30 p.m.

If a weekend enjoying EPCOT’s International Food & Wine Festival wasn’t in the cards for partisan reasons, this week won’t disappoint — Republican lawmakers have a grand old slate of fundraisers planned for the third interim committee week.

First up is a reception benefitting Rep. Jay Trumbull. It’ll be held in the Library Room of the Governor’s Club on Tuesday starting at 5:30 p.m. Trumbull’s event shares a timeslot with a joint reception for Reps. Stan McClain and Bobby Payne, who’ll be across the way at the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association offices.

Wednesday features a packed schedule — get ready to spend some time at the Governor’s Club. The evening gets underway with an hourlong reception benefitting Reps. Scott Plakon and Rene Plasencia. The 4:30 p.m. event will be held in the Library Room and when it wraps, guests won’t have to go far to find the next stop on the circuit.

The marquee event will be hosted by House Speaker José Oliva and the three men in line to replace him. They’re helping out Reps. Vance Aloupis, Elizabeth Fetterhoff, Toby Overdorf and Ardian Zika. That shindig gets underway at 5:30 p.m. in the Governor’s Club B.C. Room.

Minglers will be delighted to know they can get their drinks refilled at another funder without even leaving the building. Reps. Randy Fine, Jason Fischer and Rick Roth are teaming up for a reception down the hall in the Governor’s Club Board Room — it also starts at 5:30 p.m.

— Watch the ‘Watchmen’ —

Damon Lindelof didn’t take lightly the challenge of adapting “Watchmen,” the most acclaimed graphic novel of all time. “There was immense trepidation and it was never overcome,” he told The Associated Press. 

Lindelof will see how he’s done when the first of his nine-episode “Watchmen” follow-up debuts tonight and the fanboys and fangirls weigh in. 

Damon Lindelof talks about the upcoming HBO ‘Watchmen’ series, which continues the story of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons‘ groundbreaking 1986 graphic novel.

— “We treated the original 12 issues as canon, as an Old Testament, as it were,” Lindelof said. “The Old Testament has given us some clues as to what direction to head in but we also want to land in a place that’s a direct commentary on our time.”

— The original “Watchmen” was built around the dread of the Cold War and so the creators of the HBO series also looked for a unifying theme. 

— The new series paints a bleak portrait of race relations in America, with well-intentioned good guys fighting an endless wave of white supremacy. Its carefully crafted scripts explore vigilantism, torture and even eugenics.

— The original comics also were bursting with social and historical references, with plenty of varied musical allusions. Lindelof and his team have matched that ambition, with references to everything from Greek tragedies to Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals. The soundtrack includes the Bee Gees, Beastie Boys, Eartha Kitt, Devo and Tchaikovsky.

— The creators have managed to lure an eclectic list of actors, including Regina King, Jeremy Irons, Louis Gossett Jr., Jean Smart, Tim Blake Nelson and Don Johnson.

Here’s a primer on what you need to know from the comic

Also on HBO tonight: “Axios on HBO” returns this week with Sens. Lindsey Graham and Mitt Romney talking impeachment and a dive into the future of esports. 6 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.

Brunching out

We don’t know of too many spots where we can chow down on biscuits and gravy under the glimmer of crystal chandeliers. 

But the downtown Egg Cafe & Eatery in the Plaza Tower is that place, exuding comfort and class. 

Egg Cafe & Eatery offers some upscale brunchin’ in downtown Tallahassee.

With wood and brick accents plus eclectic art, The Egg offers an upscale atmosphere well-suited to business meetings, outings with friends or indulging in cinnamon roll French toast with the kids.

This Egg is a branch of the longtime location on Austin Davis Avenue. Both sites are locally owned by Michael Schmidt and serve the same extensive lineup with favorites like Bayou Cakes, the Garden Benny and a housemade black bean burger. 

If you fancy a Bloody Mary and it’s Tuesday, this is the place for you. 

The deets:

Hours: 7 a.m.-2 p.m., Tuesday to Sunday. 

Location: Plaza Tower, 300 S. Duval St., Tallahassee (a short walk from the Capitol). 

Phone: 850-907-3447.

As an exclusive for those of you reading “Brunch” on your desktop, Joe Henderson is serving up some sports items:

What are you gonna believe? Your lying eyes and an 0-5 record, or Roger Goodell?

As an organization, are the Miami Dolphins trying to win? It depends on whom you ask. And at last week’s NFL owners meetings in Fort Lauderdale, the Miami Herald reported Commissioner Roger Goodell said, “The good news is we don’t see that (tanking).”

Circumstantial evidence and logic says otherwise. The Dolphins traded most of their good players for this season and have the lowest payroll in the National Football League. They have lost all five games by an average of 27 points.

But the prize? They are considered the front-runner for the No. 1 draft pick in 2020. That’s widely assumed to be Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Hence the battle cry in South Florida this season has been “Tank For Tua.”

Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie echoed Goodell, saying: ”I think they’ve got a great strategic plan. Well managed. I have high hopes for the future of the Dolphins.”

The immediate future though, not so much. Miami is a 16 ½ point underdog Sunday at Buffalo.

NFL, America has its eye – well, lots of eyes – on you 

Television ratings are up 3 percent for NFL games this season from a year ago, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The average game attracts 16.3 million TV viewers, a 9 percent increase from 2017 when the league was under fire over the Colin Kaepernick protests.

There are several theories about what’s driving the increase. Legalized sports betting is more widespread, and the interest in fantasy football shows no signs of slowing. Exciting young quarterbacks like Pat Mahomes of Kansas City and Baker Mayfield of Cleveland are engaging new legions of fans.

They’re watching the Tampa Bay Rays, too. TV viewership up substantially in 2019

Fox Sports Sun reported TV ratings for Rays games this season increased by 23 percent over 2018. The team made the playoffs for the first time since 2013 and pushed the Houston Astros to five games in the American League Division Series.

Pesky thing that First Amendment; Chinese government doesn’t take criticism well

The controversy over a tweet – A TWEET! – by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey supporting protestors in Hong Kong against the Chinese totalitarian regime could cost the NBA and many of its players many millions of dollars.

The Washington Post reported NBA Commissioner Adam Silver admitting the league has already had “substantial” financial losses in China because of the kerfluffel. He said the government there asked the league to have Morey fired.

“We said there’s no chance that’s happening,” Silver said. “There’s no chance we’ll even discipline him.”

China denied it asked for that.

NBA China is worth a reported $5 billion and represents major growth opportunities for the league. That now is in jeopardy.

Peter Schorsch

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


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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

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

Phone: (727) 642-3162
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