Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 11.15.19

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Coffee is for closers. So is Sunburn, your morning rundown of Florida politics.

A note from departing Senior Editor Jim Rosica: 

Florida Politics Publisher Peter Schorsch has graciously given me his prize platform to say goodbye to readers after my nearly 4½ years writing and editing here. Today is my last day.

In 2015, he took a chance on this mainstream media refugee, then the Tampa Tribune’s man in the capital. Little did I know I was to be the second-to-last Tallahassee correspondent for that now-defunct paper. In any event, there aren’t enough ‘thanks’ to say to him.

Jim Rosica says farewell.

Over the years, I honed my expertise in all things booze, pot and gambling-related as the in-house ‘sin beat’ reporter.

I also covered Legislative Sessions, more committee weeks than I care to remember, a Constitution Revision Commission, the comings and goings of the lobbying corps, and much more.

I broke some news — and, as Peter reminds me, I occasionally got scooped. That’s the nature of the business. And I’m not going to check, but I trust it was more of the former than the latter.

At some point, in a gin-soaked moment of inspiration at the Governors Club lounge, I morphed into a “senior editor.” It’s kind of like the old BASF commercial: I didn’t write a lot of the stories you read … I made a lot of the stories you read better (at least, I’d like to think so).

That editing experience is what led me to jump at the opportunity to return to my alma mater — the Tallahassee Democrat, where I worked 1997-2005 — as its News Director, the second in command of the newsroom. The new challenges are enormous — and exciting.

#FlaPol’s Tallahassee presence is now in the very capable hands of veteran Jacksonville correspondent A.G. Gancarski and ‘new guy’ Renzo Downey, most recently with the Austin American-Statesman.

I’ll still be around the capital, and maybe even around the Capitol this Session, just to check-in. My new email is [email protected] and my second office remains The Hideaway coffee bar on Thomasville Road. Till I see you next, keep reading.


Again, students with “March for Our Lives” held a protest in The Capitol over gun violence, offering a six-point plan to help reduce the epidemic of mass shootings. This time, they’re hoping lawmakers will listen.

Also, on today’s #Sunrise:

— The Constitution Revision Commission only meets once every 20 years in Florida. But if state Rep. Brad Drake gets his way, it will never meet again.

— Bad news if you’re a green iguana. A newly filed bill seeks to put them on the restricted reptile list, making them illegal to own or to sell. But you can kill as many as you want.

— Rosica gives his exit interview, talking about the state of the newspaper business.

— And the latest on Florida man, who tried to take a couple of derringers on a flight out of Pennsylvania. It did not go well.

To listen, click on the image below:


@realDonaldTrump: Where’s the Fake Whistleblower?

@HattersleyforFL: Corruption like this is why Americans are sick and tired of politics. @RepRossSpano should put his oath of office first, finally tell the truth, and consider resignation for the good of the district. #fl15 #sayfie #flapol

@anthonypedicini: I’d like to announce that @NeilCombee and I (that’s not really the real Neil Combee btw), are starting the @RossSpano defense fund. Any monies raised will be used to defend any immoral and illegal acts of the congressman from the 15th. Any monies raised will be illegally loaned.

Tweet, tweet:

@JasonFischerFL: After Palestinian terrorists fired 450 rockets into Israel the last 2 days, I prayed at the Western Wall for safety for the Israeli people & end of Hamas & Islamic Jihad. Visiting this holy site was so moving. Important for America to always #StandWithIsrael. #jaxpol #FlaPol

Tweet, tweet:

@TooMuchMe: Tomorrow, the City of Miami will vote on whether to grant a 30-year contract on light poles that will have cameras, license plate readers and flood sensors. For free. The catch: Nothing would stop the contracting company from keeping all your data and selling it to others.

Tweet, tweet:


New season of “The Crown” streaming on Netflix — 2; Fifth Democratic debate — 5; “Frozen 2” debuts — 7; Next government shutdown (maybe) — 7; TaxWatch 40th Annual Meeting — 17; Florida Chamber’s Transportation, Growth and Infrastructure Summit — 20; UK votes on Brexit — 27; “The Rise of Skywalker” premiers — 35; College Football National Championship — 59 2020 Session begins — 60; Florida TaxWatch State of the TaxPayer Dinner in Tallahassee — 61; New Brexit deadline — 77; Super Bowl LIV in Miami — 79; Great American Realtors Day — 80; Iowa Caucuses — 80; New Hampshire Primaries — 88; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 119; Florida’s presidential primary — 123; “Black Panther 2” debuts — 173; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo begin — 250; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 284; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 327; First Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 335; Second presidential debate at Belmont — 342; 2020 General Election — 354.


Florida Democrats vote for the party’s presidential nominee on March 17, and there’s no telling how many of the candidates running for the job will still be in the field.

If one of the candidates gets early traction, the Sunshine State’s primary could prove irrelevant. But the odds of that happening are slim according to the list of 100-plus top political experts who participated in Florida Politics’ Influencer Poll.

Elizabeth Warren is the pick in Florida Politics’ Influencers Poll.

Two-thirds of those asked said the Democratic nominee will still be a question mark in four months, and that margin held firm among both Republicans and Democrats. For what it’s worth, all independents felt the same.

Among the tuned-in crowd, the odds-on favorite for the nomination is Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who was the pick of 44%, including 44% of the Republicans and half of the Democrats polled. Former Vice President Joe Biden was No. 2 at 36% while Michael Bloomberg was in a distant third at 3%.

But just because Influencers think Warren will win doesn’t mean they want her to — half of the partisans on each side of the aisle said Biden’s their preferred nominee. Warren was the pick for a fifth of those polled, while “unknown” made up the bulk of the rest.

Influencers also issued a warning to any Democrat thinking about tapping Andrew Gillum for VP: run, don’t walk.

As far as the latest Donald Trump World development — hiring former Attorney General Pam Bondi for his impeachment defense team — about half of Influencers say it was a good call while a quarter says it was another error from the White House.


Ron DeSantis pitches new teacher bonus program” via Ana Ceballos of the News Service of Florida — DeSantis wants the Florida Legislature to abandon the embattled “Best and Brightest” bonus program and replace it with a new plan to offer bonuses to public-school teachers and principals. The Governor said his proposed bonus program aims to provide incentives to teachers and principals to work at schools in low-income areas. He said he would propose spending $300 million on the program. “We think this is an improvement on the Best and Brightest program,” DeSantis said at a news conference in Vero Beach. DeSantis said his plan would provide bigger bonuses to teachers and principals who work at Title I schools, which serve the highest percentages of students living in poverty.

Ron DeSantis is touting teacher bonuses in some of the most low-income school districts.

DeSantis pushes for nearly $1 billion for public-school teacher pay raises. But will it happen?” via Diane Rado of Florida Phoenix — “This is the most far-reaching robust package that has ever been offered in this state for a long, long time,” DeSantis said while speaking at Vero Beach High School. Where all the money would come from remains a question, and lawmakers would have to sign off on the pay increases. Teacher unions aren’t big fans of “bonus” programs, favoring regular, across-the-board salary hikes. “Teachers and all school employees should be paid fair, competitive salaries,” Florida Education Association President Fedrick Ingram said. “Our educators do not want another bonus scheme, especially not one built on the back of a flawed school grading system. Bonuses don’t help you qualify for a mortgage; they can’t be counted on from year to year.”

Assignment editors — DeSantis will participate in the launch of the SSG Michael Ollis, 1:30 p.m. Central time, Eastern Shipbuilding Shipyard #2, 13300 Allanton Rd., Panama City.

’Corrupting influence’: Congress slams Florida GOP official’s time at VA” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Congressional lawmakers hammered Florida GOP Executive Director Peter O’Rourke as a “corrupting influence” during his leadership of a whistleblower division of Department of Veterans Affairs, where his successors are still sifting through dozens of complaints against him. A VA subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee questioned witnesses about O’Rourke’s tenure at the agency. O’Rourke led the office from June 2017 through February 2018. In August, he was appointed the head of the Republican Party of Florida. “Ultimately, O’Rourke was fired, and that’s a good thing,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the subcommittee that reviewed the report. “He appeared to be a corrupting influence that had to be revamped after he left.“

On day of another school shooting, Parkland-inspired group rallies at empty Florida Capitol” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — Just hours after the nation’s phone screens lit up once again with the alert of another school shooting, a group of about 100 high school and college students fanned out behind a podium in Florida’s Capitol building and faced TV cameras. In sometimes shaky voices, they demanded that the violence end. “America knows the pain and knows this outrage. To the community of Santa Clarita, we stand with you,” said University of Central Florida student Serena Rodrigues, 20, referencing the high school shooting that left at least two students dead. “I should be planning my 14th birthday party,” said middle-schooler Zoe Weissman. “Instead, I am here missing a day of school to ask my lawmakers to make change.”

March for Our Lives held a rally at the — mostly empty — Florida Capitol.

Darryl Rouson files bill to reduce outdated drug sentences for inmates” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — State Sen. Rouson filed a bill which would set a framework for judges to resentence inmates who are serving outdated sentences no longer in state law. The problem was highlighted in a Times/Herald investigation showing how Florida’s continued changes to its drug sentencing laws have not been applied to anyone already behind bars serving outdated sentences. Until recently, an obscure clause in Florida’s constitution dating back to the Jim Crow era had prohibited state lawmakers from retroactively applying sentencing changes to old cases. “At the end of the day, it’s about saving lives,” Rouson said. “Keeping families intact and returning citizens back to the community.”

House looks again at abolishing ‘dangerous’ panel” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — The House Civil Justice Subcommittee overwhelmingly backed a pair of proposals (HJR 301 and HB 303) that would seek voter approval in 2020 to abolish the Constitution Revision Commission, which drew across-the-aisle scorn for the manner in which it successfully put seven amendments on the November 2018 ballot. The House proposals are filed for consideration during the 2020 Legislative Session. House sponsor Drake said he remains encouraged about the prospects of eliminating what he believes has become a “dangerous” commission. “I think we’ve got a good shot,” Drake said. “What happened last year, it got caught in the bundle” of bills as the legislative session ended.

Audit looms for clemency backlog” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — A bicameral committee wants answers as to how appropriations made last Session are helping with the state’s clemency backlog. On Thursday, the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee approved a proposal from Sen. Jeff Brandes for a “targeted operational audit” of the Florida Commission for Offender Review. Brandes is “very concerned” about the backlog in hearing clemency cases, one that exists despite $750,000 budgeted last Legislative Session to hire investigators to resolve what was a 24,000 case queue. This was more than the $500,000 sought, which was expected to help halve that queue.

Ana Maria Rodriguez could land $7.5M in member projects — While only in her first term, state Rep. Rodriguez could land more money for member projects than any other member of the Florida House. As reported by Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida, Rodriguez earned committee approval for seven community health care projects totaling nearly $7.5 million — the most of any House member, both in quantity and funding. The South Florida Republican is the GOP-backed candidate for Senate District 39, which is expected to be competitive. But she said that has nothing to do with her funding success. House Speaker José Oliva echoed that: “Member projects are approved through the committee process because they have merit,” he said. “To ascribe motive without any basis misrepresents what today’s committee action means.”

First-term state Rep. Ana Maria Rodriguez could have the honor of landing an unprecedented $7.5M in member projects.

No more pet iguanas? Bill would ban possession and sale of invasive species” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A bill introduced by state Sen. Gary Farmer is again seeking to help rid the state of the invasive green iguana by banning the sale or possession of the animals. Farmer’s legislation (SB 906) would update the statute restricting the possession or trade of various reptiles by adding both the green iguana and the Argentine black and white tegu to the banned reptile list. Both of those species are nonnative to Florida. The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) labels the green iguana in invasive species. The animals are native to Central and South America but have now become prevalent in South Florida and parts of the Gulf Coast near Fort Myers.


Morning must-read — “A Donald Trump tax break to help the poor went to a rich GOP donor’s superyacht marina” via Pro Publica — The Rybovich superyacht marina lies on the West Palm Beach waterfront, a short drive north from Mar-a-Lago. Superyachts, floating mansions that can stretch more than 300 feet and cost over $100 million, are serviced at the marina, and their owners enjoy Rybovich’s luxury resort amenities. Its Instagram account offers a glimpse into the rarefied world of the global 0.1% — as one post puts it, “What’s better than owning a yacht, owning a yacht with a helicopter of course!” Rybovich owner Wayne Huizenga Jr., son of the Waste Management and Blockbuster video billionaire Wayne Huizenga Sr., has long planned to build luxury apartment towers on the site, part of a development dubbed Marina Village. Those proposed towers, and the superyacht marina itself, are now in an area designated as an opportunity zone under Trump’s 2017 tax code overhaul, qualifying them for a tax break program that is supposed to help the poor.

H. Wayne Huizenga Jr. is enjoying a massive tax break — thanks to Donald Trump — that was meant to help the poor.

… then-Gov. Rick Scott bestowed the tax break on the marina after a direct appeal from Huizenga Jr., according to a 2018 letter Huizenga Jr. wrote that ProPublica obtained. Huizenga and his family have been major donors to Scott. Even though the opportunity zone program is supposed to subsidize only new investment, Huizenga cited the already-planned Marina Village in his appeal to Scott. Noting the “significant private sector investment that is poised to take place,” Huizenga wrote, “This project has been planned for some time as part of the larger Marina Village initiative which incorporates the Rybovich working waterfront marina.” The state of Florida, based on an analysis of unemployment and poverty rates, had not originally intended to pick the census tract containing the superyacht marina for the program. But those plans changed in response to Huizenga’s lobbying, according to documents from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity obtained by ProPublica.

The cost of not expanding Medicaid? Nearly 2,800 deaths, a new report estimates” via Ben Conarck and Elizabeth Koh of the Miami Herald — A report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said states that expanded Medicaid showed significant reductions in death rates for older adults who fell into the income brackets that allowed them to gain the coverage. The report cited research estimating that, between 2014 and 2017, some 19,200 people who gained access in expansion states would have otherwise died. But Florida is on the opposite end of that equation. According to the report’s estimates, Florida likely suffered the second-highest total of deaths in that period — 2,776 — attributed to not expanding Medicaid, trailing only Texas, which has an estimated 2,920 deaths. The CBBP report used a data analysis by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

State appeals in battle over prison shifts” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — DeSantis’ administration is appealing decisions ordering state corrections officials to drop efforts to switch from 12-hour to eight-hour work shifts without negotiating the changes with a union representing prison employees. Siding with the Florida Police Benevolent Association in the contract dispute, Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson upheld an “opinion and award” issued arbitrator Marc Winters. “Arbitration awards are afforded a high degree of conclusiveness and courts do not attempt to substitute their judgment for that of the arbitrator,” Dodson wrote in the Oct. 16 order. Dodson’s decision was another setback for the embattled Florida Department of Corrections, which has run yearslong financial deficits, chronically grappled with staffing vacancies and high turnover rates and struggled to maintain aging facilities.

Denise Grimsley to head state domestic violence organization” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Former state Sen. Grimsley will step in to lead the state’s top domestic violence organization beginning Thursday, filling in as interim President and CEO. Outgoing chief executive Tiffany Carr is retiring from the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV), citing a quiet yet significant health battle. “I am honored and saddened to step into the position of interim president/CEO, but do so knowing that my dear friend, Tiffany, badly deserves to step away at this time and focus on herself and this battle she’s been privately facing,” Grimsley said in a statement. Carr, who spent 26 years at FCADV, will remain involved with the organization as a member of the board and as a consultant.

State university presidents’ pay and bonuses rival those of CEOs” via Kylie McGivern of WFTS — An I-Team review found: Salaries for all state university presidents surpassed the annual pay for Gov. Ron DeSantis and in one case, is seven times higher than DeSantis’ $130,000 salary; nearly all presidents at Florida’s public universities receive perks, such as free cars and free housing, which often includes utilities, housekeeping and landscaping services; some presidents even receive country club memberships paid for by the taxpayer-funded universities. “I had no idea … that presidents of colleges get a country club access,” said Julianna Kirschner, a senior majoring in psychology at the University of South Florida.

Poll: Many say high school diploma enough to succeed” via The Associated Press — Although most young Americans believe in the value of higher education, many still consider a high school diploma alone to be enough for success, according to a survey of teens and young adults by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Federal labor data shows a wide earnings gap between Americans who do and do not have a college degree, and unemployment rates are far lower for those with a bachelor’s or master’s degree. More than half of Americans ages 13 through 29 do see college as a path to economic success. Still, about 4 in 10 believe a bachelor’s degree prepares people only somewhat well, or even poorly, for today’s economy.

Attorney: Nothing wrong bringing Donald Trump Jr. to campus” via the Associated Press — An attorney for the student body president of the University of Florida says his client didn’t violate any university policies or laws by bringing Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend to campus last month. Michael Murphy’s attorney said Thursday in an email that efforts to impeach him for hosting Trump and Kimberly Guilfoyle is reflective of intolerance for conservative views on campuses. Attorney Daniel Nordby says the president’s son was brought to campus to promote his new book, and it wasn’t a campaign event.


Allan Bense, Bill Montford: Appreciating children’s services workers after Michael — and supporting them going forward” via Florida Politics — As we reflect on the anniversary of Hurricane Michael, we continue to hear stories of heroism and generosity from the Panhandle. We want to take this opportunity to shine a light on the role of children’s services workers in the wake of the storm. This Saturday, a group of organizations will hold an appreciation event for their staff and volunteers, who will be publicly thanked Nov. 16 in Lynn Haven. The organizations include the Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center, Big Bend Community Based Care, Prevent Child Abuse Florida, the Guardian ad Litem Program and the Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida. Please consider how you can help. And please thank our children’s services first responders for a job well done.

Building reservoir to cut Lake O discharges to begin in May; SFWMD board OKs 1st contract” via Tyler Treadway of TCPalm — Construction of the reservoir project to reduce Lake Okeechobee discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers should begin in May. The South Florida Water Management District board paved the way Thursday by approving a $1.25 million contract for work to prepare land for the project’s intake and outflow canal. The work will begin as soon as the district gets a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers to clear a 700-foot-wide strip of land, about 690 acres, to prepare for building the canals and the perimeter levee for the project’s stormwater treatment area, Executive Director Drew Bartlett told the board.


New poll reveals how Floridians feel about impeachment & removal of Trump from office” via Kelsey Sunderland of WFLA — Most Florida voters oppose the impeachment and removal of Donald Trump from office, according to a new poll released Wednesday, prior to the start of the public impeachment hearings. Conducted by Siena College Research Institute and the New York Times Upshot, the polls asked voters in six battleground states— including Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin— how they feel about the impeachment proceedings.

2nd U.S. official heard Trump call with Gordon Sondland” via Desmond Butler, Michael Biesecker and Matthew Lee of The Associated Press — A second U.S. Embassy staffer in Kyiv overheard a cellphone call between Trump and his ambassador to the European Union discussing a need for Ukrainian officials to pursue “investigations.” The July 26 call between Trump and Sondland was first described during testimony by William Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Taylor said one of his staffers overhead the call while Sondland was in a Kyiv restaurant the day after Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that triggered the House impeachment inquiry. The second diplomatic staffer also at the table was Suriya Jayanti, a foreign service officer based in Kyiv.

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland arrives for an interview with the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Capitol Hill.

For the Florida men at the heart of impeachment, shady dealings or business as usual” via Nidhi Prakash of BuzzFeed News — Four men with connections in Florida politics are at the center of the international quid pro quo scandal that launched a federal investigation and an impeachment inquiry into Trump. But the investigation has hardly made a dent in Florida’s capital, despite ties to state officials, including the Governor. There’s one overarching reason: Allegations of corruption and shady characters are already so pervasive. “We have colorful people in Florida,” said Mac Stipanovich, a veteran Republican consultant. “It is certainly not unknown in Florida politics that someone who appears to be above board turns out to be skeevier than you would have thought in the beginning. As a matter of fact, it happens with some frequency in Florida.”


Trump asks Supreme Court to shield his tax returns from prosecutors, setting up historic separation-of-power showdown” via Robert Barnes and Ann Marimow of The Washington Post — The case involves Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s attempt to enforce a grand jury subpoena issued to the President’s accountants for eight years of Trump’s tax records. Trump went to court to block the subpoena, making a broad claim that presidents are immune from investigation while in office. A district judge and a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled against him, saying the subpoena was proper and the President’s longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, must comply. Vance’s office agreed to hold off on enforcing the subpoena if Trump’s lawyers quickly asked the Supreme Court to hear the case this term.

Donald Trump is asking the Supreme Court to shield tax returns from prosecutors.

Trump proposed sending migrants to Guantánamo, claims book by anonymous author” via Ed Pilkington and Martin Pengelly of The Guardian — Among the many incendiary details contained in A Warning is the revelation that the President floated the idea of changing the legal designation of migrants. The change would effectively have condemned all undocumented migrants to the same legal treatment as the al-Qaida architects of 9/11. The migrant plan, the author writes, stemmed from Trump’s unfounded conviction that unlawful migration across the border with Mexico was “the biggest crisis in American history.” When his proposed solution of labeling all undocumented migrants “enemy combatants” began to circulate, it provoked astonishment and mortification. “Are you fucking kidding me? This is completely batshit,” an unnamed state department official is quoted as saying.

Leaked emails: Stephen Miller pushed for negative coverage of Marco Rubio” via Rachel Sandler of Forbes — Miller—responsible for some of the Trump administration’s hard-line immigration policies—attempted to get Breitbart to publish negative stories about then-presidential candidate Rubio in 2015 because he previously supported bipartisan imigration reform, according to the latest batch of leaked emails reported by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Soldiers should be able to sue military doctors for poor medical care, Rick Scott says” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — The measure has already passed the House, and it has been introduced in the Senate, where Scott says he will sign on as a co-sponsor. “As a U.S. Senator and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, taking care of our military members, veterans and their families is my top priority,” the Florida Republican said in a statement. The bill is called the SFC Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act of 2019, named after a green beret dying of lung cancer. Doctors initially misdiagnosed Stayskal with pneumonia by doctors at Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

Assignment editors — Scott will visit the VFW Sunshine Post to recognize Florida veterans for their service to the nation, 3:15 p.m., Veterans of Foreign Wars Sunshine Post 3233, 124 S. Tuttle Ave., Sarasota.

DOJ investigating GOP Rep. Ross Spano over alleged campaign finance violations” via Scott Bresnahan of POLITICO Florida — Spano has denied any wrongdoing. The revelation came in an announcement by the House Ethics Committee, which has been asked by DOJ to defer its own probe into Spano while the criminal investigation unfolds.

Ethics Committee to investigate Alcee Hastings’ employment of longtime girlfriend” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Hastings employed Patricia Williams for more than two decades. In that time, Williams has been paid nearly $3 million in salary according to pay-tracking service “LegiStorm.” Taxpayer money funds that salary. A House rule, approved in 2018, states members “may not engage in a sexual relationship with any employee of the House who works under the supervision” of the member. The rule exempts married couples, though Hastings and Williams are not married. Hastings’ relationship with Williams came under renewed scrutiny after the resignation of U.S. Rep. Katie Hill of California.

Alcee Hastings is facing an ethics probe for a longtime romantic relationship with a staffer.

Congressional delegation tackles ways to preserve Florida tourism” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — At a special meeting of Florida’s Congressional delegation, industry leaders said tourism depended on ecological treasures surviving. “We have launched efforts to showcase some of our natural attractions and pushing people to some of our more rural areas,” said Dana Young, president of VISIT FLORIDA. “Once people see the natural beauties of our state, they will be more inclined to do things to maintain them and protect them.” Record tourism means fresh demands on roads, ports and other infrastructure. Delegation co-chair Vern Buchanan asked what the industry needs in terms of federal support to stay competitive. “With nearly one-thousand new residents moving to Florida every day, how does the tourism industry plan to respond to this population growth,” he asked.

NASA audit finds delays to SpaceX, Boeing program could leave ISS with only 1 U.S. astronaut” via Chabeli Herrara of the Orlando Sentinel — Fewer Americans will go to space in 2020 if persistent challenges plaguing the NASA program to send astronauts to the International Space Station on private capsules continue, according to a report by a government watchdog group. The American presence in space could drop to one U.S. astronaut on two missions scheduled for the spring of next year, meaning less focus on scientific research and technology demonstrations in space for NASA in 2020. That reality seems likely given the continuous delays that have grounded Boeing and SpaceX, the two contractors on the NASA program that are developing astronaut capsules.

— 2020 —

Joe Biden releases $1.3 trillion infrastructure plan” via Tanya Snyder of POLITICO — Biden’s 12-page plan promises to “ensure new revenues are secured to stabilize the Highway Trust Fund” but doesn’t specify where those revenues would come from or how he would get political consensus for them. In many ways, it’s also a throwback to the administration of President Barack Obama, with planks related to “complete streets,” repairing existing infrastructure before building new and calling for investments in transit and high-speed rail. The plan’s goal of working directly with cities, instead of always going through state departments of transportation as an intermediary, is another throwback. Biden proposes spending $50 billion his first year on repairing existing roads and bridges. Another $10 billion over 10 years would go to building transit in high-poverty areas.

Big money: Joe Biden is proposing a $1.3 trillion U.S. infrastructure plan.

Chasten Buttigieg, Mayor Pete’s husband, to hold two events in Orlando on Saturday” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Chasten, a junior high school teacher who married South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg in 2018, will be at UCF at 1:30 p.m., according to the group UCF Students for Pete. Chasten Buttigieg will also headline an event at The Abbey at 5 p.m. Saturday, along with singer and actress Mandy Moore, who grew up in Central Florida. The Abbey event is open to the public via the venue’s website.

Republican National Committee to host its winter meeting at Trump National Doral Miami” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — The Republican National Committee will hold its winter gathering in January at President Donald Trump’s Doral resort, the latest example of the intertwining of the Republican Party and the president’s personal business.


Donna Deegan launches congressional campaign with Kevin Cate hype video” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Party registration leans Republican in Florida’s 4th Congressional District. Still, Democrat Deegan hopes to buck those registration trends. To that end, as she launched her campaign Thursday, it was with a nearly three-minute hype video from Cate. Cate, whose work on the campaign of 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum helped him secure the party’s nomination, specializes in personal narrative. And Deegan, a former TV news anchor and three-time breast cancer survivor, has a narrative unlike that of any other potential challenger to U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, a three-term Sheriff and a second-term Congressman.

To watch the video, click on the image below:

Tweet, tweet:

Deegan raises $85K in first day of CD 4 campaign — Deegan has already raised $85K in the 24 hours after launching her campaign. “I am truly humbled by the outpouring of support from all corners of Florida’s 4th Congressional District,” she said in a statement Friday. “We’re building a campaign powered by Floridians chipping in $5, $10, $15 at a time because that’s who I will represent every day in Congress.” Deegan’s haul came from 100% individual donors, 97% of whom are Florida residents. According to her campaign, Deegan already raised more than any Democrat in CD 4 raised for their entire race in the last decade, demonstrating she is the strongest Democrat to ever run in the District.

League of Conservation Voters backs Margaret Good” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — “Margaret Good is a leader in the Florida legislature to protect the Sunshine State’s coasts and waters,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, LCV Action Fund Senior Vice President of Government Affairs. “Communities in Florida’s 16th District need a proven environmental champion in Congress who will fight to protect their access to clean air, safe drinking water, and a healthy climate. We are honored to support Good in her race to represent Florida’s 16th Congressional District.” Good is challenging longtime incumbent Republican Buchanan. The move comes as both Good and Buchanan publicly tout the environmental records in the coastal district.

Elections supervisor apologizes for ‘scary’ letter mailed to voters” via Larry Barszewski of the Sun-Sentinel — Broward’s supervisor of elections says he didn’t mean to scare 146,000 people who received ‘final notices’ from his office threatening to designate them as an ‘inactive voter.’ After receiving complaints from several voters who questioned why they were receiving the notices — they vote regularly and have not changed their address in years — Supervisor Pete Antonacci said he’s going to apologize to all who got the mailer … Shortly after Antonacci spoke with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Broward County’s Congressional delegation announced it was sending a letter to Antonacci asking him to find and fix the causes of the errors and assure affected voters that their voting status is not in jeopardy.

Anthony Sabatini draws another Democratic challenger” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Republican Rep. Sabatini has drawn another challenger in his reelection bid for House District 32. Clermont Democrat Stephanie Dukes filed for the seat on Wednesday, setting up a possible primary against Ryan Morales, also of Clermont. As far as fundraising, Morales hasn’t yet established himself in the race, leaving room for Dukes to catch up. Since launching his campaign in April, he’s raised about $2,500 and had about $400 banked. Sabatini, meanwhile, had raised $22,200 in hard money through the end of last month and had a little under $10,000 on hand. HD 32 is heavily Republican, with GOP voters accounting for 40% of the district’s electorate. Democrats, by comparison, make up less than a third.

Jamie Grant grows fundraising lead over challenger, Jessica Harrington” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Grant raised nearly $28,000, bringing his total raised this year to $74,250. Grant’s potential challengers, Harrington, raised $7,061, and Alexander McDonald has raised less than $3,500 since entering the race in September. Harrington, a Democrat, has been waging a long-shot campaign against the Republican incumbent in a red district. In October, Grant collected a total of 40 contributions. They average $707 each. Harrington’s campaign stands in stark contrast, collecting 89 donations at an average of just $79 each.

Tampa Republican Rep. Jamie Grant is pulling ahead in the money race. Image via Colin Hackley.

Brian Johnson back on top in HD 101 money race” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — West Park Vice Mayor Johnson added more than $16,000 in October in his campaign for House District 101. That puts him well ahead of his two Democratic challengers for the month. Former Miami-Dade County Public Administrator Marie Woodson had led the monthly fundraising contest for four straight months. That streak followed a solid start from Johnson earlier this year as he added at least $20,000 in April and May, with the latter total aided by a $2,500 self-loan. Johnson’s fundraising had dropped off since then. But his October haul puts him at just under $75,000 raised so far, with more than $46,000 of that still available.

Elections supervisor apologizes for ‘scary’ letter mailed to voters” via Larry Barszewski of the Sun-Sentinel — Broward’s supervisor of elections says he didn’t mean to scare 146,000 people who received ‘final notices’ from his office threatening to designate them as an ‘inactive voter.’ After receiving complaints from several voters who questioned why they were receiving the notices — they vote regularly and have not changed their address in years — Supervisor Pete Antonacci said Wednesday he’s going to apologize to all who got the mailer … Shortly after Antonacci spoke with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Broward County’s Congressional delegation announced it was sending a letter to Antonacci asking him to find and fix the causes of the errors and assure affected voters that their voting status is not in jeopardy.


U. S. Attorney Larry Keefe to release details of ‘massive’ corruption probe in Panama City” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — The investigation is not believed to be connected to Tallahassee’s long-running public corruption probe, which led to guilty pleas from former City Commissioner Scott Maddox and former Downtown Improvement Authority Executive Director Paige Carter-Smith. In a news release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said it would announce the outcome of what’s being described as a “major long-term investigation into widespread public corruption” by its Public Trust Unit.

Assignment editorsKeefe will hold a news conference on the Panama City corruption probe, 11 a.m. Eastern time, U.S. Attorney’s office, 30 W. Government St., Panama City.

Archie Bouie II, FAMU associate VP of finance, resigns post pointing to ‘unprofessionalism’” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — In the letter to Richard Schweigert, interim CFO/vice president for Administrative and Financial Services, Bouie writes: “I must say over my 23-year professional career I’ve never experienced the amount of unprofessionalism and sense of being undervalued as I’ve experienced since June 7, 2019, at FAMU.” He copied Maurice Edington, provost and vice president for academic affairs and FAMU Human Resources. Bouie did not elaborate on the significance of the June date. His departure extends a shake-up in personnel in FAMU’s Division of Finance and Administration. Bouie, who also is CEO of The Patrick Cook Group, a consulting firm, was hired in June 2018 by CFO/vice president Wanda Ford.

Archie Bouie II is leaving FAMU due to its lack of professionalism.

Delta Tau Delta fraternity, Theta Nu Xi sorority suspended for hazing at FSU” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — Separate suspensions are the latest indications that Greek life is still troubled at Florida State University. Amy Hecht, vice president of student affairs at FSU, said while the hazing incidents bring frustration, the fact they are no longer swept under the rug shows progress. The national office of Delta Tau Delta Fraternity, Inc. suspended its FSU chapter and ordered members to move out of its South Copeland Street house by the end of the semester, FSU spokesman Dennis Schnittker said. The FSU chapter has until Jan. 4, 2020, to appeal the decision. “The action is a first step in the national organization’s process to formally withdraw the charter and close the chapter,” Schnittker told the Tallahassee Democrat.

Court upholds city’s scooter rental ban” via News Service of Florida — A state appeals court has upheld a decision by Panama City Beach to ban the rental of motorized scooters starting in September 2020, finding that “municipalities have broad authority to regulate activities impacting public health, safety, and welfare so long as such regulations are not arbitrary or unreasonable.” Wednesday’s majority opinion focused, in part, on the city’s home-rule powers in addressing potentially dangerous conditions. “We find no error in the trial court’s determination that a geographically small city has the right to restrict a business from operating within the city when the undisputed facts demonstrate that the restriction is for the safety of the city’s citizens and visitors,” the majority opinion said.

Jeffrey Epstein estate seeks to form fund to compensate accusers” via The Associated Press — The estate of Epstein wants to set up a fund using the late financier’s fortune to compensate women willing to forgo a spate of lawsuits seeking damages for sexual abuse, according to a court document filed on Thursday. Any accuser who accepts a confidential payment — determined by the fund’s administrator with no say from the estate — would have to give up “her right to litigate any claims she may have against any person or entity arising from or related to Mr. Epstein’s conduct,” the papers said. If the plan is approved, the payments could begin early next year. Lawyers for some of Epstein’s accusers greeted news of the proposed compensation fund with apprehension.


“‘Micro’ houses may help ease Orange County’s big housing crisis” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Affordable housing advocates hope a small pilot project will help solve one of Orange County’s more significant problems. Pathlight HOME, a nonprofit that has helped hundreds of homeless people find permanent housing in renovated Orlando hotels, wants to build nine “micro” homes for low-income families. When completed, the small cluster of houses west of Lake Holden would be from 600 to 1,200 square feet each and inhabited by working-poor families struggling to pay rent. If the micro-house development proves successful as an affordable housing option, Pathlight might try it again — but on a larger scale, Pathlight President Helaine Blum said. Orange County defines affordable housing units as those that serve households with incomes from $26,000 to $83,000.

Oviedo police chief gives vague response to claim officer’s son posed on Snapchat with agency gun” via Grace Toohey of the Orlando Sentinel — The Oviedo Police Department offered a vague explanation Thursday after an anonymous tipster contacted local news outlets to claim an officer’s son had improperly accessed and posed with the cop’s service weapon. Police Chief Dale Coleman said he was informed of the video about two weeks ago showing an officer’s son holding “a pistol of some type toward the camera.” Coleman said he met with the officer’s supervisor and the officer to view the video and discuss it. “From the officer’s statements and demeanor, they did not have prior knowledge of the video or that a firearm was used in it,” Coleman said. “The officer was instructed to obtain a safe immediately or leave their duty weapon secured at the station.”

Outsiders keep buying Tampa Bay’s largest companies. Here’s why it matters.” via Graham Brink of the Tampa Bay Times — Regions with lots of Fortune 500 companies play up that fact. They use corporate clout as a sales pitch. The Tampa Bay area has done an admirable job of growing startups into corporate heavyweights. Tech Data, WellCare Health Plans and Raymond James Financial are all homegrown success stories with enough revenues to make the list of the county’s 500 largest companies. Tampa Bay, though, has struggled to hang on to its largest publicly traded companies. Headquarters matter. They signal that large companies believe in an area. They are also more likely to invest in their hometowns. Tech Data sponsors the St. Pete Pride Parade. Raymond James has its name on the local football stadium. Those aren’t coincidences.

At USF, a formal welcome for the new president” via Megan Reeves of the Tampa Bay Times — The University of South Florida formally, and warmly, welcomed its seventh President Steve Currall, who reciprocated with an impassioned address during a special ceremony inside Yuengling Center. Speaking on his 137th day in office, Currall presented his vision for USF’s future as it continues to climb in the world of academia. While excellence is a top goal, he said, the school also must continue to be accessible for students in the Tampa Bay area and beyond. “My mission is to build on our momentum, fostering a campus environment for innovation where we will relentlessly push forward,” Currall said. “So even more exciting than what USF has already accomplished is the extraordinary promise of what it will accomplish in the future.”

Steven Currall is getting a formal welcome as the USF system president. Image via WUSF.

These sixth-graders learned what it’s like to handle emergency operations during a storm” via Christina Mayo of the Miami Herald — It’s always best to be prepared, especially for emergencies. To learn how, 40 sixth-grade John F. Kennedy Middle School science students, called Weather Rangers, conducted a hurricane simulation Oct. 15 in the Miami-Dade County Emergency Operations Center. Their mission: to prepare for and recover from the devastation of fictitious Hurricane Dorian making landfall in South Florida. As the computer images of the simulated Category 5 hurricane showed the storm getting closer to the coastline, student mayor Louis Rosas-Guyon instructed his fellow students to prepare for the worst. The students worked in firefighting, transportation, law enforcement, search-and-animal rescue, medical assistance, hazardous materials and mass care, to name a few.

It’s El Palacio de los Jugos vs. El Patio de los Jugos in a very Miami trademark lawsuit” via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — Call it The Juice War. Or because it’s Miami, La Guerra de los Jugos. El Palacio de los Jugos, a landmark chain of open-air eateries specializing in tropical fruit drinks and the savory Latin comfort food that Miami loves, is going after a competitor in Hialeah that sports a similar red-and-yellow restaurant awning. Oh, and a familiar-sounding name: El Patio de los Jugos. El Palacio de los Jugos, or the Juice Palace, this week filed a federal trademark lawsuit against El Patio de los Jugos, or the Juice Patio. El Patio’s “similar appearance” and “highly phonetic sound and pronunciation” increases “the likelihood of confusion” for customers, the lawsuit says. El Patio’s owner says he won’t be squeezed.


What Washington can learn about climate action from South Florida” via Kathy Castor of the South Florida Sun Sentinel — When U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked me to lead the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis this year, I knew an important part of my job would be learning from the local communities that are already leading the way on climate action.

Critics hammered us for hiring a politician to lead Florida State University. They were wrong.” via Leslie Panton for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, it is also time to thank John Thrasher for his five years as president of Florida State University. As a member of the Board of Trustees when he was hired, we got plenty of criticism for hiring a politician and not an academic, even though Thrasher championed higher education, including the establishment of the Florida State University Medical School. Upon taking the helm as president, his first order of business was to earn the respect of the faculty by working closely with them and listening to their academic advice. With the help of our faculty, our students have the best graduation rate among public universities in Florida and ninth overall in the U.S.


New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Brian Bautista, The Southern Group: Candid Care

Ellyn Bogdanoff, Mike Grissom, Yolanda Cash Jackson, Nicholas Matthews, Becker & Poliakoff: Florida Urban Medical and Educational Services, Jet Dock Systems

Ron Book, Rana Brown, Kelly Mallette, Ronald L. Book PA: American Society of Interior Designers, Commercial Interior Design Association

Larry Cretul, George Levesque, GrayRobinson: The American Law Institute, Florida Brownfields Association

Don Davis, PinPoint Results: Citrix, DocuSign, Infor, The Presidio Corporation, Split Pine Technologies, The Arcanum Group, Turbonomic

Marty Fiorentino, Davis Bean, John Delaney, Joseph Mobley, Mark Pinto, Shannan Schuessler, The Fiorentino Group: ESE Telehealth, Teach for America

Nick Iarossi, Andrew Ketchel, Christopher Schoonover, Capital City Consulting: Jacksonville Electric Authority

Chris Moya, Dean Mead: The Amos Group

Sue Mullins, Rutledge Ecenia: The Pew Charitable Trusts

Sean Pittman, Jasmyne Henderson, Pittman Law Group: Citizens for a Better Tomorrow

Larry Williams, Larry Williams Consulting: Live Music Tutor


Battleground Florida with Christopher Heath: Noah Rothman, the Associate Editor of Commentary Magazine and the author of “Unjust: Social Justice and the Unmaking of America,” joins the podcast to discuss a recent speech by Sen Marco Rubio entitled “Catholic Social Doctrine and the Dignity of Work.”

Dishonorable Mention: State Rep. Chris Latvala, activist Becca Tieder, Tampa Bay Times Columnist Ernest Hooper and communications expert Dr. Karla Mastracchio discuss politics and culture. The hosts touch on impeachment. Does the process hurt the Democrats? How does this affect the 2020 election? How does Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s late entrance in the Democratic race affect the primaries?

Fluent in Floridian: Today, more than 22.7% of children in Florida live in “food insecure” homes. No Kid Hungry Florida is working to eradicate this statistic for good by providing innovative hunger solutions to communities across the Sunshine State. The organization recently hired longtime child advocate Sky Beard as its new Florida Director. She’s using her experience and connections to create partnerships and new programs that give youth 18 and under more access to meals year-round.

Gradebook from the Tampa Bay Times with hosts Marlene Sokol and Jeffrey Solochek: In efforts to make schools better, Florida officials often look to the person in charge of the campus. The principal sets the tone, leads by example, attracts (or in negative examples, repels) the faculty and staff charged with the daily education of children. How do school principals view their responsibilities? As Florida school districts are recognizing their top educators, they turned to Pasco County’s newly named Principal of the Year, JoAnne Glenn, to hear her thoughts about the highly touted role.


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

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable panel with NPR media critic Eric Deggans, Democratic political strategist Maya Brown, businessman and community activist Stanley Gray and Susan MacManus, emeritus professor of Government and International Studies for the University of South Florida-Tampa.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: U.S. Sen. Scott will discuss the dysfunction in Washington, tackling the debt and the deficit, health care, immigration reform, supporting veterans, and on what in a day in his life is like at his Washington D.C. office.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A discussion of the public hearings in the impeachment inquiry; host Al Ruechel will talk with state Rep. Adam Hattersley about running Congress; PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter will rate a claim from Rep. Matt Gaetz.

Politics on Your Side with Evan Donovan on News Channel 8 WFLA (NBC): This week’s guest, Attorney General Ashley Moody.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon will speak with Yuh-Mei Hutt and Antonio Montoya from Domi Station.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week’s guests are newly announced Congressional candidate Deegan, founder of The Donna Foundation; Jacksonville City Councilmember Randy DeFoor and Shannon Nazworth of Ability Housing.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg will speak with U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

— ALOE —

Even Bigfoot has a Miami connection. FIU scientist may be the one to find ancient monster.” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — He’s been eluding detection for hundreds of years. Thousands have said they’ve seen him, but every picture of him is a blur. A Florida International University scientist may be part of the team that brings Bigfoot into the light. The new Travel Channel series, “Expedition Bigfoot,” will star FIU scientist Mireya Mayor and a team of researchers as they hunt for the elusive cryptid in the Pacific Northwest. The show will be an eight-part investigative-adventure series premiering at 10 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8. FIU and Zoo Miami will host a screening of the show’s first episode earlier that evening.

The Travel Channel is calling on an FIU researcher to help find Bigfoot.


Celebrating today are state Reps. Michael Gottlieb and Will Robinson; Wayne BertschTrimmel Gomes, Evan Power, Rodney Barreto and Max Steele. Celebrating this weekend are former Attorney General Pam Bondi and state Rep. Amy Mercado.


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

Peter Schorsch

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


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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, Wes Wolfe, and Mike Wright.

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