Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 11.22.19

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Here's your AM rundown of people, politics and policy in the Sunshine State.

As Thanksgiving approaches, we are asking our loyal Sunburn fans — particularly those in The Process — to let us know what you’re grateful for this year. We will publish the comments in our Wednesday edition — the last one for the holiday week. Please send your emails to [email protected].


A pair of Orlando-area lawmakers have filed a bill to crack down on flashers. They want to increase the penalties and make it easier to prosecute them.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— A South Florida lawmaker wants to repeal the Florida law that prohibits same-sex marriages. While the law was overruled by the U.S. Supreme Court four years ago, that language is still on the books.

— First Lady Casey DeSantis is canceling a trip to South Florida after six schools — including the one she was going to visit — went into lockdown.

— If you’re still having trouble adjusting to daylight saving time, Marco Rubio feels your pain. He wants to put an end to the twice a year time swap, keeping daylight saving time all year long.

— Sunrise speaks with Florida State University President John Thrasher, learning what keeps him awake at night. Surprisingly, it has nothing to do with the mediocre performance of the FSU football team — or the search for a new coach.

— The latest on Florida Man, including a bank robber who told the teller he gave him too much money.

To listen, click on the image below:


@RealDonaldTrump: Bob Mueller, after spending two years and 45 million dollars, went over all of my financials, & my taxes, and found nothing. Now the Witch Hunt continues with local New York Democrat prosecutors going over every financial deal I have ever done.

@NachoSarah: apparently fiona hill got her phd in dick punching bullshitters

@JakeTapper: I’m sure this will alarm all of those who profess to be concerned about corruption abroad (re: [Benjamin] Netanyahu being indicted)

@MattGaetz: My former boss @MarcoRubio would be a historic and amazing Secretary of State.

@ShevrinJones: Dear Presidential Candidates, You CANNOT win without the black vote! You CANNOT win without the black vote! You CANNOT win without the black vote! You CANNOT win without the black vote! Govern yourselves and your campaigns accordingly. Sincerely, Shev Jones

@RepBrianMast: Combating the opioid crisis starts right in our community. If you or a loved one are battling addiction, please know that you’re not alone. I teamed up w/Facebook this morning on a PSA to help #StopOpioidSilence, remove the stigma & ensure we get help for those who need it most.

@PollackHunter: When this happened at Florida State, I made sure the unhinged protester who assaulted another student would be held accountable. She was arrested. Free speech must be protected on our college campuses because this disgusting behavior is unacceptable!


TaxWatch 40th Annual Meeting — 10; Florida Chamber’s Transportation, Growth and Infrastructure Summit — 13; UK votes on Brexit — 20; “The Rise of Skywalker” premiers — 28; College Football National Championship — 52; 2020 Session begins — 53; Florida TaxWatch State of the TaxPayer Dinner in Tallahassee — 54; New Brexit deadline — 70; Super Bowl LIV in Miami — 72; Great American Realtors Day — 73; Iowa Caucuses — 73; New Hampshire Primaries — 81; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 112; Florida’s presidential primary — 116; “Black Panther 2” debuts — 166; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo begin — 243; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 277; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 320; First Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 328; Second presidential debate at Belmont — 335; 2020 General Election — 347.


6 South Florida schools went on lockdown. One of them was expecting Florida’s First Lady” via Michelle Marchante of the Miami Herald — A man with a pellet gun reportedly sent six Palm Beach County schools into a code-red lockdown, including the one where Florida First Lady DeSantis was scheduled to speak. The schools were placed on lockdown early Thursday. Police were searching for a man who had been spotted behind a garbage bin with a pellet gun near Hypoluxo Road and Military Trail, just west of Lantana. One of the lockdown schools was Freedom Shores Elementary, 3400 Hypoluxo Rd in Boynton Beach, which was awaiting a visit from DeSantis.

A man with a pellet gun caused First Lady Casey DeSantis to cancel her South Florida school visits.


Gov. DeSantis and President Trump confer on plan to important cheaper Canadian pharmaceuticals” via Michael Moline of the Florida Phoenix — DeSantis spoke to President Trump by telephone Thursday about Florida’s hopes to import cheaper prescription drugs from Canada, the Governor’s press office said. Aides announced the chat via an update of the Governor’s daily schedule issued about 20 minutes after the phone call commenced at 3:30 p.m. Communications Director Helen Aguirre Ferré had no immediate update about how the call – or the pharmaceuticals plan – were going. At DeSantis’ urging, the Legislature approved the importation plan during its spring regular session, and the Florida Phoenix wrote earlier this month about the potential difficulty of implementing the plan.

DeSantis wants to delay health insurance changes” via News Service of Florida — DeSantis wants to put on hold for another year an overhaul of the health insurance program that provides benefits to more than 366,000 state employees and family members across Florida. A proposed budget released this week by the Republican governor would maintain the same type of coverage that state employees have now, despite a 2017 law that required the program to be revamped effective in January 2020. The Legislature signed off on the overhaul — which was pushed by House Republicans — as part of contentious budget negotiations in 2017. Rep. Loranne Ausley, a Tallahassee Democrat, called the governor’s health-insurance recommendation “good news,” as it came at the same time DeSantis did not recommend pay raises for state employees in his budget proposal.

Ron DeSantis is looking to put off any health insurance changes for state employees, at least for another year.

Assignment editors — DeSantis will participate in a groundbreaking ceremony of the Saint Augustine Veterans Affairs Community Outpatient Clinic, joined by Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs Executive Director Danny Burgess, 11 a.m., 100 Deerfield Preserve Boulevard, Saint Augustine.

Ashley Moody spotlights opioid death decline” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Per the just-released Florida Medical Examiners’ Report, deaths from opioid overdoses are down 10% year over year. Moody noted the decline, as well as the work ahead. “While the decline in opioid-related deaths is encouraging, we will not take our foot off the gas. My office is fighting the opioid crisis on multiple fronts — on the streets busting drug traffickers to the courtroom holding major opioid distributors, manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies responsible for their roles in this crisis,” Moody asserted. Moody helms the Statewide Task Force on Opioid Abuse.

Moody is the first working mom to sit in the office of Attorney General” via Laura Moody of Fox 13 News — She’s a hometown girl from Plant City, but her home is now in Tallahassee. Moody has been busy leading Florida in litigation that has been making headlines across the nation. And somewhere in between all that, she’s got a personal life to live. Her husband, Justin, is a federal agent with the DEA. “He’s just so good as a husband, as a father,” she said, laughing. “When I told Justin, he didn’t flinch. I said I would love to be the Attorney General. I told him it’s going to mean a lot of time; it’s going to be hard on our family. He did not even take a second. He said, ‘Ashley, absolutely. I’m behind you all the way.’”

Joe Gruters kicks off immigration listening tour” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Gruters kicked off a delayed listening tour on immigration issues. Following a Venice town hall, he said he’s as confident as ever legislation banning so-called sanctuary cities is working. “The sky is not falling,” Gruters said. “Legal immigrants have nothing to fear. And illegals who are following our laws and supporting their families, as long as they aren’t breaking our criminal laws while here, have nothing to fear.” In June, DeSantis signed into law a controversial bill requiring local governments to work with federal immigration officials. Gruters was the first to shepherd the legislation through the Senate successfully. But it wasn’t without criticism.

After a several-month delay, Joe Gruters kicks off his immigration listening tour.

Kathleen Passidomo, Colleen Burton want to stop guardians from pulling plug on seniors” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Passidomo and Burton filed legislation boosting individual protections for individuals under guardianship. Among the proposed changes, guardians will be prohibited from signing “do not resuscitate” orders on behalf of wards without court permission. “Most of the court-appointed guardians in this state are caring, dedicated individuals,” Passidomo said. “Unfortunately, we have seen too many bad actors in a guardian position preying on Floridians who need help the most, and the decisions they’ve made have had severe consequences on Florida families.” Passidomo recently told Florida Politics that protecting seniors would be a top priority for her this Session and beyond.

Jason Fischer files peer-to-peer car-sharing bill” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Car sharing could be the future in Florida if a House bill becomes law. Rep. Fischer, a second-term Jacksonville Republican, filed legislation (HB 723) Thursday that would protect peer-to-peer car sharing in state statute. A media release from his office states the goal of the bill: “to cut red tape and breakdown regulatory barriers allowing for innovation in the transportation field so peer-to-peer car-sharing companies can grow and meet increasing consumer demand, all while protecting public safety.” … “Consumers demand more convenient transportation options in today’s highly mobile, fast-moving world,” Fischer contended. In 34 states and counting, the car rental industry is trying to stop these efforts.

Linda Stewart, Amy Mercado seek to make flashing a felony” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The pair of Orlando Democrats have filed bills this week, Senate Bill 1018 and House Bill 675, to increase the severity of the crime to be a third-degree felony, from the current first-degree misdemeanor. A news release from Stewart’s office points out that the current legal status requires law enforcement officers to catch a violator in the act to make an arrest, while felony status would allow them to seek and obtain an arrest warrant based on other evidence. This would enable officers to take action before a suspect has an opportunity to do it again. “We know that when violators get away with this type of act, they often feel emboldened to continue,” Stewart declared.

Happening today — The Revenue Estimating Conference meets for an “impact” conference, 9 a.m., 117 Knott Building.

Happening today — The Florida Education Association continues its ‘big red bus’ tour calling for increased education funding, 7:30 a.m., Tap Room at Dubsdread, 549 West Par St., Orlando. Then, 9:30 a.m., Academic Center for Excellence, 701 West Livingston St., Orlando. Later, 3:30 p.m., Rosen Shingle Creek Resort, 9939 Universal Blvd., Orlando. Finishing up is 7 p.m., Amway Center, 400 West Church St. Orlando.


Legal battle around voting rights for felons isn’t keeping African Americans from registering” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — The night she threw a friend’s purse across a parking lot during an argument six years ago, Rebecca Joseph wasn’t thinking about who she was going to vote for in the next election. And when she pleaded no contest to a low-level felony charge of robbery, she was only thinking of how to avoid jail time. But as the 2020 election season approaches, Joseph is excited about getting to vote again. On March 17, the 30-year-old will cast a ballot in the Presidential Preference Primary, six years after she last voted. “I feel like this is a new beginning, one step in the right direction and being respected as citizens of society,” Joseph said in a recent phone interview.

In 2019, few Florida felons got their voting rights back through clemency board” via Amy Sherman of PolitiFact — Nikki Fried said that while previous clemency boards granted restoration of civil rights to thousands of Floridians, “so far this year, under this clemency board, four (felons) have gotten their rights back.” Fried was counting one group of people who got their rights restored without a pardon. And we confirmed four people had their rights restored by the clemency board in 2019. They sought pardons and did not get them. But we found an additional 16 people who did receive pardons and simultaneously had their rights restored. Fried’s overall point is correct. We rate this statement Mostly True.

Happening today — The Budget and Finance Committee of the Florida university system’s Board of Governors hold a conference call before a meeting of the full Board of Governors, 11:30 a.m. Call-in number: 1-888-585-9008. Code: 696121479.

What Jason Fischer is reading — Florida is moving toward autonomous vehicles” via John Nelander for the Palm Beach Post — Florida is on the road to an era of driverless cars with its good weather, popularity as a tourist destination, and demographics. That’s the assessment of two advocates of the technology — one a Palm Beach consultant and the other a state Senator from St. Petersburg who says Florida is already a leader in the push toward autonomous vehicles. “I think in the next five years there will be an autonomous vehicle service running here on the island,” said Grayson Brulte, president of Brulte & Co., which relocated from Beverly Hills, California to Palm Beach in May. He predicts that 10 to 15% of cars on the road could be automated by 2040, and experiments have been ongoing in Florida


Deadly coral disease has spread through Great Florida reef” via Laura Cassels of the Florida Phoenix — A disease killing stony coral in the Great Florida Reef now infects half the corals from Martin County to the Lower Keys, marine scientists reported this fall. The Great Florida Reef is the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States and one of the world’s largest.

Dire warnings for beloved Lake Kissimmee” via Gary White of — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced it would temporarily halt using herbicides on waterways and hold a series of public workshops to allow residents to share their concerns. Lake Kissimmee has been popular with fishermen and hunters for decades. The exotic species that has become the main target of the FWC’s efforts is hydrilla, a plant that grows in thick tendrils from the water’s surface to depths of 35 feet. Native to Southeast Asia, hydrilla reached Florida in the 1950s as an aquarium plant that took hold after being dumped into waterways. Lake Kissimmee abounds with hydrilla, along with water hyacinth and another invasive plant, water lettuce.

An overabundance of invasive plant species leads to dire warnings for Lake Kissimmee, a much-loved fishing spot. Image via the Lakeland Ledger.

New rules aimed at protecting tomato crops go into effect” via the News Service of Florida — “New federal inspection rules go into place Friday on tomatoes and peppers, a month after Florida agricultural officials expressed concern that a virus had been found in tomatoes imported from Mexico. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that tomatoes and pepper fruit from Mexico, Israel and the Netherlands must be inspected for tomato brown rugose fruit virus, known as ToBRFV, upon arrival at U.S. ports. The rule also requires tomato and pepper seeds and plants from countries where the virus is known to occur to be tested and certified free of the virus.”

Meanwhile … “Sebastien poised to make history with late-season strengthening” via Kimberly Miller of the Palm Beach Post — The 18th named storm of the 2019 hurricane season was expected to top out with wind speeds of 50 mph, but National Hurricane Center forecasters now predict it will reach hurricane-strength Thursday with 80-mph bluster.


Fiona Hill distinguishes domestic political errand and national security policy” via The Associated Press — The final testimony of an extraordinary week of impeachment hearings came from a former White House national security adviser who wrote the book on Vladimir Putin — literally — and a political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine who overheard a pivotal conversation between Trump and European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland. Hill is a Russia expert who made that clear from the outset when she scolded Republican lawmakers for propagating what she said was a “fictional narrative” — that somehow Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Trump has advanced those discredited theories himself, who, in a July 25 phone call at the center of the impeachment inquiry, asked Ukraine’s leader to investigate the possibility.

Former White House national security aide Fiona Hill, and David Holmes, a U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, right, testify before the House Intelligence Committee.

What we’re talking about when we talk about military aid to Ukraine” via Uri Friedman of The Atlantic — When Adam Schiff asked Bill Taylor, the first witness in the House’s public impeachment hearings, to explain to Americans why U.S. security assistance to Ukraine matters for their own security, America’s top diplomat in Kyiv went big. Really big. “It affects the world that we live in, that our children will grow up in and our grandchildren,” Taylor declared. “Ukraine is on the front line” of a struggle to prevent Russia from trampling on the post — World War II order, which “actually kept the peace in Europe for nearly 70 years.” For a policy that’s purportedly a pillar of the decades-old international order, military aid to Ukraine is pretty new.


Trump’s Mar-a-Lago oasis of support, fundraising as 2020 election, impeachment loom” via Christine Stapleton of the Palm Beach Post — The roster of events for this season at the president’s private club punctuates a trend that began more than a year ago: Mar-a-Lago’s transition from a mecca for philanthropic event to a hub for political gatherings by groups that support the president. And although each season has generated plenty of headlines, from addressing a major national security problem with a world leader on the terrace at Mar-a-Lago to a Chinese national sneaking into the club, this season Trump comes to Palm Beach in the midst of an historic attack on his presidency. He likely will bring the angst and furor he has vented on Twitter about the impeachment hearings, legal efforts to acquire his tax returns, and criticism from Fox News.

Marco Rubio on Secretary of State rumors: I will serve my full term here” via Samantha-Jo Ross of Spectrum — “I intend fully to serve my full term here,” Florida’s senior senator told Spectrum News … in a sit-down interview Thursday. “If I don’t, it would be because of some unforeseen personal circumstance that no one can foresee now, but it won’t be because some other job like that.” The speculation ramped up with multiple media reports that current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was planning to leave. Reports from several news outlets, including the Associated Press, say Pompeo is looking to run for U.S. Senate from Kansas, his home state.

Rubio’s bill supporting Hong Kong protests passes Senate” via Alex Daugherty of the Tampa Bay Times — Rubio’s bill to support ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong amid escalating violence between police and protesters passed the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, a bipartisan rebuke of China as the U.S. negotiates a trade deal with the world’s second-largest economy. Rubio’s bill, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, would sanction Chinese officials involved in undermining ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and put the quasi city-state’s special trade relationship with the U.S. up for review. The bill passed via a fast-tracked process called unanimous consent, when Rubio and senators from both parties argued that inaction was unacceptable after Hong Kong police began shooting at pro-democracy protesters last week.

Marco Rubio is behind a bill to support pro-democracy efforts in Hong Kong.

Rubio gains support for permanent Daylight Saving Time” via Graham Brink of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida’s senior Senator announced four more senators agreed to sponsor his Sunshine Protection Act. The bill would make Daylight Saving Time permanent across the country. No more messing with time twice a year. We would finally wake up from our long, sleepy-eyed nightmare. We can only hope Rubio keeps the political momentum rolling. Nearly everyone seems to agree that we should stay on either Daylight Saving or Standard time. Falling back and springing forward are as popular as an Elizabeth Warren shirt at a Donald Trump rally.

Alcee Hastings defends longtime relationship, which appears to flout new House rule” via Alex Daugherty for the Miami Herald — Democratic Rep. Hastings’ long public career has been marked by scandal. But the latest investigation into Florida’s longest-serving Democrat in Congress stems from something that’s been public knowledge for years — his relationship with Patricia Williams, his former attorney and current deputy director. In 2018, the House of Representatives unanimously passed a rule that says lawmakers “may not engage in a sexual relationship with any employee of the House who works under the supervision of the Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner, or who is an employee of a committee on which the Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner serves.” The timing raises questions about Hastings’ case in relation to two other potential violations of the new rule, which were announced in October 2019.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz joins race for top House appropriator” via Caitlin Emma and Jennifer Scholtes of POLITICO — “In a letter to her colleagues, the Florida Democrat wrote, “We must ensure that as we move into a new decade, we have strong and strategic leadership to bring about sensible, 21st century reforms that will make the House Appropriations Committee process more inclusive, accessible and even more transparent for all members.” … Wasserman Schultz will compete against Reps. Rosa DeLauro and Marcy Kaptur, who are among the committee’s more senior members and were the first to announce campaigns to succeed Lowey (D-N.Y.) after 2020. Other potential candidates include Reps. Sanford Bishop of Georgia and David Price of North Carolina.

Assignment editors — U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor will announce a $200,000 Environmental Protection Agency grant to clean up toxic areas and create jobs. Joining Castor will be Ernest Coney, CEO of the CDC of Tampa, and representatives from the University of South Florida, 9:45 a.m., 1907 E. Hillsborough Ave., Tampa.

— 2020 —

What Joe Biden can’t bring himself to say” via John Hendrickson of The Atlantic — Maybe you’ve heard Biden talk about his boyhood stutter. A non-stutterer might not notice when he appears to get caught on words as an adult, because he usually maneuvers out of those moments quickly and expertly. But on other occasions … Biden’s lingering stutter is hard to miss. He stutters — if slightly — on several sounds as we sit across from each other in his office. “You know, I haven’t stuttered in so long that it’s hhhhard for me to remember the specific —” He pauses. “What I do remember is the feeling.”

Joe Biden has overcome a childhood stutter, which can still be noticeable at times.

Email I didn’t open — “Futurist Zoltan Istvan launches campaign for President to challenge Donald Trump in the GOP primaries.”


Voters beware: You have no idea who’s behind that petition they want you to sign” via Skyler Swisher and Aric Chokey of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The constitutional amendment process, which allows citizen petitions to change state law, conjures up images of passionate volunteers pounding the pavement to get their neighbors behind their cause. More likely, the person angling to get your signature is a hired gun indifferent to the issue they are peddling. While special interests can buy a spot on Florida’s ballot, grassroots campaigns without a wealthy benefactor barely have a chance. At least $21 million in dark money has flooded initiatives vying for the 2020 ballot, leaving voters with no way to know who is really advocating for them. Two 2020 ballot initiatives, one called Citizen Voters and the other Keep Our Constitution Clean, have been funded entirely by secret donors.

‘Keep Our Constitution Clean’ amendment undergoes first fiscal review” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — A fiscal panel hosted a workshop Thursday on a proposed ballot measure that would make it harder to amend Florida’s constitution. The amendment backed by political committee Keep Our Constitution Clean would require future amendments to face two rounds at the ballot box. Ballot measures must be made available to the public, including in newspaper advertisements, ahead of an election. In 2018, it cost $1.1 million to publish one amendment in a newspaper, $22,000 to translate the text and more than $58,000 to produce and distribute the literature by mail, the director of the Division of Elections in the Florida Department of State, Maria Matthews, told FIEC.

Laura Loomer names alleged Ukraine whistleblower in email blast to supporters” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Despite numerous other witnesses who have backed up the whistleblower report — as well as Trump’s decision to release a readout summarizing the call — Republicans are still agitating to know the whistleblower’s identity. Loomer, who is competing in Florida’s 21st Congressional District against U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, continued those efforts in her campaign email. “Have you ever seen a witness take the stand with a bag over his or her head?” Loomer asked though the whistleblower has not testified to the House due to Democrats’ fear such testimony could expose his identity. “Nope, because the Sixth Amendment of our Constitution doesn’t allow it in criminal proceedings. We have the RIGHT to face our accusers.” Loomer’s analogy is wrongheaded on several levels.

In an email to supporters, Laura Loomer outed Ukraine whistleblower.

Two-time opponent launches weird attacks on Scott Plakon — Republican state Rep. Plakon has taken a lashing for alleged anti-Semitism in recent weeks, but the attacks are baseless. The smear originated from House candidate Tracey Kagan, who lost a close race against Plakon in HD 29 last year and has since filed for a second go in 2020. The charge: campaign comms that claim Kagan, a Democrat, has worked with “Soros-backed groups directly from the D.C. swamp.” George Soros, a billionaire Democratic political donor, is Jewish. “As a Jewish American,” Kagan said in a statement earlier this month, “I am deeply offended by Scott Plakon’s anti-Semitic claim that I am working with ‘Soros-backed groups.’” But one look at Plakon’s personal life makes Kagan seem to be acting out of desperation rather than a real concern. Latest case in point: at his wedding earlier this year, a Jewish friend flew in from Israel to bless their union at the altar. Kagan rebutted the funding allegation, saying she was primarily funded by “small, grassroots donors” last go-round. Any campaign adviser worth their salt would tell her to stick to that line and go no further. 

House Majority hosting Bruno Portigliatti fundraiser — The campaign arm for state House Republicans will host a fundraiser benefitting Portigliatti at 5 p.m. on Dec. 9 at the Governors Club in Tallahassee. The House Majority fundraiser coincides with the final interim committee week ahead of the 2020 Legislative Session, which begins Jan. 14. Portigliatti, of Orlando, is one of three Republicans running in House District 44, the seat currently held by Democratic Rep. Geraldine Thompson. The seat was one of a few Democrats flipped in the 2018 cycle. Notably, the fundraiser marks the first time House Majority has endorsed a first-time candidate facing primary challengers this cycle


Supreme Court upholds Panhandle murder conviction” via the News Service of Florida — Justices rejected a series of arguments raised by attorneys for Johnny Mack Sketo Calhoun, who was convicted in the December 2010 murder of Mia Chay Brown. The ruling said Calhoun kidnapped Brown from his trailer in Holmes County, bound her with coaxial cable and duct tape and put her in the trunk of her car. Days later, the woman’s burned body and car were found in a wooded area in Geneva, Alabama. The appeal raised issues such as newly discovered evidence that Calhoun’s attorneys argued implicated another man in the murder.

David Straz died with nitroglycerin pills beside him, 911 call indicates” via Dennis Joyce of the Tampa Bay Times — Tampa philanthropist and former mayoral candidate Straz, who died in Homosassa, was found lying on the floor next to his bed with nitroglycerin pills beside him, according to a 911 call. There are no names on the 911 recording from the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office, but the call was from the address where Straz, 77, was found dead. The news comes as Straz’s charitable foundation announced a celebration of life for the retired banker, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Straz Center downtown. The event is open to the public, said Jarrod Holbrook, executive director of Straz’s charitable foundation.

David Straz
Former Tampa mayoral candidate and philanthropist David Straz had nitroglycerin tablets next to him when he died, a 911 call suggests.

Buoyed by All for Transportation success, Tampa lands major transit conference” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The American Public Transportation Association’s Center for Transportation Excellence is hosting its 10th annual National Transit Initiatives Conference in Tampa next month. The group chose Tampa for the event in large part based on the successful All For Transportation ballot initiative last year. “Transit ballot measures continue to grow as a source of revenue for community investment, complementing other funding sources supporting transit investment,” the group wrote on its website announcing the conference. The three-day event Dec. 15-17 will be at the Marriott Tampa Waterstreet. It will feature speakers who have experience helping to pass transit and public transportation-related ballot initiatives as well as those with expertise on how to combat opposition campaigns.

Carole Post is Tampa’s new economic development czar” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — Post, who joined Jane Castor’s team in May to help the Mayor assemble key posts, was named administrator of development and economic opportunity. The position, formerly held by Bob McDonaugh, had been vacant since McDonaugh’s retirement. Post, a top aide to New York City Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, will wrap up her current duties as a University of South Florida administrator heading up the Morsani Medical School. She’ll formally take over in three months but said she’s eager to start working to bring economic development to all parts of the city: “It’s really about unlocking Tampa, unlocking opportunity, and doing that all over the city.”

Forgotten black cemetery found on King High School campus” via The Associated Press — Officials say ground-penetrating radar has found what appear to be 145 caskets near a Florida high school. The Tampa Bay Times reports Hillsborough County Superintendent Jeff Eakins on Wednesday announced the discovery at the southeast corner of the King High School campus. The district began investigating last month after cemetery researcher Ray Reed informed them that a paupers burial ground known as Ridgewood Cemetery once existed on the site, and bodies could still be interred there. Records indicate Ridgewood opened in 1942 and that more than 250 people, mostly African Americans, were buried there. The school district bought the land in 1959.

Jeff Bezos charity donates $5.25 million to Central Florida homeless families” via Kate Santich of the Orlando Sentinel — Billionaire Bezos’ foundation is giving $5.25 million to a Central Florida nonprofit to house homeless families over the next five years. “We are incredibly grateful for this generous investment in our work,” said Martha Are, CEO of the Homeless Services Network. “Central Florida is one of the most challenging areas in the nation for families facing homelessness, and this investment will help [the region] continue to change that narrative.” The money comes in the form of Amazon stock — from Bezos’ Day 1 Families Fund — and goes to the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida, which received the most significant award among 32 nonprofits across the country selected for the invitation-only grant.

Broward’s smallest village could vanish after being chastised for improper elections” via Lisa J. Huriash of the Sun Sentinel – Lazy Lake only has just one small street. It doesn’t have a stop sign or a traffic light. Only 22 people live in its 13 houses on a patch of land not quite as big as a city block. The village is surrounded by Wilton Manors.”


JEA Board to vote in December on axing long-term incentive pay plan” via David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union — JEA management will recommend eliminating a newly-created long-term incentive pay plan when the utility board meets in December, JEA CEO Aaron Zahn said in a letter sent to City Council after council members urged killing the plan. Zahn sent the letter to City Council President Scott Wilson, a day after members of the City Council’s Finance Committee heard City Council Auditor Kyle Billy explain how JEA employees could pocket astronomical financial gains. Billy said the long-term performance pay plan could result in a financial windfall for JEA employees who participated in the plan, particularly if the utility were sold at a price that brought in more than $3 billion in net cash proceeds for the city.

JEA CEO Aaron Zahn said in a letter to the City Council the board will vote on killing a controversial long-term incentive plan. Image via Jacksonville Business Journal. 

Jacksonville’s ‘unapologetic’ transgender community ‘not going anywhere’” via Emily Bloch of the Florida Times-Union — In Hemming Park, JASMYN — the Jacksonville Area Sexual Minority Youth Network and the University of North Florida’s LGBT Resource Center hosted Trans Day of Resilience. “Traditionally, the event is called Trans Day of Remembrance, and it was founded in 1999,” JASMYN CEO Cindy Watson said. “But our young people and the community feel like it’s important to celebrate and affirm people’s lives today, as well as to remember.” To do this, the groups hosted an hourlong ceremony under the Hemming Park Gazebo featuring sponsors including Unbroken Horizons — a local foundation that provides post-secondary scholarships for LGBTQ+ youth — and Distro 876, a local zine distributor that features LGBTQ-positive literature.

AT&T 5G coming to Tyndall Air Force Base — AT&T is rebuilding and modernizing communications across Tyndall, which suffered catastrophic structural damage in 2018 from Hurricane Michael. Part of the rebuild is networking capabilities powered by AT&T 5G to support augmented and virtual reality, IoT (Internet of Things), and a broad array of innovative technologies. Under the agreement between the Air Force and AT&T, AT&T will also deliver and manage commercial and private enterprise information technology capabilities at Tyndall. Initial services include mobility, cloud access, unified communications, voice, broadband, Wi-Fi expansion, and an array of connected devices. AT&T’s networking solution at Tyndall will support network compute and storage, as well as rapid network edge capabilities. AT&T expects to launch 5G service on the base as early as mid-2020.

Gulf Power installs first round of panels in massive solar project” via Florida Politics — Northwest Florida utility company Gulf Power is making progress on its first wholly-owned solar energy center. The company announced the first of a planned 300,000 solar panels had been installed at its Blue Indigo Solar Energy Center in Jackson County. “Gulf Power is committed to developing cleaner energy and reducing carbon emissions while ensuring long-term reliability and lower costs for customers,” Gulf Power President Marlene Santos said. “We are proud to mark this historic milestone as we advance solar here in Northwest Florida.” The company said the 74.5-megawatt facility is on track for completion early next year.

Ethics Board dismisses three complaints against Mayor, City Commissioner” via Carl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Two complaints against Mayor John Dailey and one against Dianne Williams-Cox were dismissed by the seven-member board because they were not legally sufficient. Independent Ethics Officer Julie Meadows-Keefe recused herself from the consideration of all three complaints because she is embroiled in a lawsuit, filed against Dailey and the Ethics Board, over what she alleged were “relentless” and illegal efforts to get her fired or force her to step down. An email complaint against Dailey alleged he acted improperly by appearing in a television commercial for the groundbreaking of the Kraft Infiniti dealership and identifying two finalists in procurement who were past campaign donors and appointing ethics board member Gwen Graham “as a means to direct the board.”

John Thrasher’s goals are big, hairy, audacious … and reached” via Rosanne Dunkelberger for Florida Politics — Borrowing a turn of phrase from Gov. Jeb Bush (who borrowed it from a corporate how-to book), political mover-and-shaker Thrasher brought a pair of “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” with him when he became president of FSU. “We wanted to be recognized as a Top 25 university, and we wanted to raise $1 billion,” he told the lunch crowd at the Capital City Tiger Bay Club Thursday. “I gotta admit, both of those were kind of daunting.” When Thrasher started in 2014, FSU was 43rd in the rankings for public colleges and universities by U.S. News and World Report. In the 2020 Best Colleges rankings, the university ranked 18th, tied with the likes of Penn State, Purdue and the University of Pittsburgh.

John Thrasher has made headway in his tenure as FSU president. Image via Colin Hackley.

Thrasher points to progress in fighting hazing” via Ana Ceballos of the News Service of Florida — Two years after the hazing death of a fraternity pledge, Florida State University President Thrasher said a “major culture shift is underway” as a result of university policies and a new state anti-hazing law. “Our efforts are working. Students and parents are more educated about what constitutes hazing and are more likely to report incidents … and police and prosecutors now have stronger laws to enforce,” Thrasher told the Capital Tiger Bay Club in Tallahassee. Under the law, prosecutors can pursue third-degree felony charges against people who plan or recruit others to participate in hazing incidents that result in permanent or serious injuries or death.

Archaeologists use radar to determine if black cemetery exists below Capital City Country Club” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — National Park Service archaeologist Jeffrey Shanks and his team from the Southeast Archaeological Center are using ground-penetrating radar in Innovation Park to determine if a stretch of the southeast section of the club’s golf course contains burial sites from a black cemetery dating back to when the property was known as the Houstoun Plantation, initially owned by Edward Houstoun. Research pinpoints the possible cemetery site on the Country Club Drive side, near where the 7th hole is today. With the support of Mayor John Dailey, City Commissioners and the club’s board, Shanks’s team began work shortly after 9 a.m. Monday. The effort comes seven months after local historian Delaitre Hollinger raised the issue before the Tallahassee City Commission.


Matt Gaetz day in court showed system of special treatment” via Andy Marlette of the Pensacola News Journal — From the moment Gaetz arrived at federal court in Pensacola, the Congressman received special treatment that average citizens are not entitled to.  It wasn’t average citizens who got special parking reserved by silly-looking Home Depot buckets. It wasn’t average citizens who got different standards of security protocols. It wasn’t average citizens who got special permission to carry cell phones in the courtroom. And it wasn’t citizens who received a heightened level of protection backed by harsher promises of punishment. It was a politician who got special treatment. At every point in the process — even down to the parking — the politician was treated better by the justice system than any of the rest of us would have been.

’America First’ should mean prioritizing collection of foreign debt” via Matt Mackowiak of the Washington times — The Trump administration has been advancing an “America First” platform, with a focus on immigration, trade and economic development. The administration has justifiably put America’s trading relationships and fair treatment in the international economy under great scrutiny, whether that be negotiating with China or the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. As we assess trading partners, the same standard should apply to foreign investment and countries that snub their nose at obligations to American investors. They would accept nothing less of the United States. Why should we? Truly putting “America First” also should mean collecting foreign debt, especially when American citizens are affected.

What do anti-market crusaders like Marco Rubio want?” Via David Harsanyi of The National Review — The unanswered question is: What kind of policy does Rubio believe will bring back the halcyon days of the 18th century, when men spent their 40-odd years on Earth as models of probity, engaging in the dignified and productive work of tilling the land? What menu of economic reforms does Rubio propose will heal the frayed family? What laws will we pass to impel women to stay home and have more children? How will inhibiting international trade and forcing companies to invest in unproductive manufacturing jobs, as Rubio suggests, stop men from watching their cheap televisions and attending mass again? I submit it would take a New Deal — type effort in social engineering to “re-imagine” the entire economy. Is that what Rubio wants?


Personnel note: Victoria Zepp joins One Eighty Consulting Lobbying firm One Eighty Consulting has brought on Zepp as principal consultant. The firm specializes in technology interests, and Zepp has deep roots in that industry. Her 30-year resume includes being on the ground floor of Intermedia Communications, a Tampa-based 1990s startup that later grew into the third-largest data carrier in the country and was instrumental in moving the state government from analog technology into the digital realm. “Victoria’s experience in information technology, child welfare and health and human services is unmatched,” One Eighty President Don Yaeger said. “We know that her addition to the team will bolster and enrich our clients’ presence in Florida.” 

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Timothy Fitzgerald: Department of Corrections

Timothy Stanfield, Greenberg Traurig: JM Family Enterprises


Battleground Florida with Christopher Heath: AJC Reporter Tia Mitchell joins the podcast ahead of the November Democratic Debate in Atlanta. As Georgia shifts from solid-red to more of a tossup, Democrats are eyeing the state as a possible battleground in 2020.

Dishonorable Mention: State Rep. Chris Latvala, activist Becca Tieder, former Tampa Bay Times Columnist Ernest Hooper and communications expert Dr. Karla Mastracchio discuss politics and culture. The hosts debate if a Palm Beach Post article about state Rep. Emily Slosberg‘s mental-health evaluation and whether it should be newsworthy or if it’s an invasion of privacy. How would Hooper approach this story from a journalist’s perspective? The hosts discuss both the podcast and Hooper’s future.

Gradebook from the Tampa Bay Times with hosts Marlene Sokol and Jeffrey Solochek: University of Florida student government president Michael Murphy faces an impeachment inquiry in the aftermath of Donald Trump Jr.‘s campus speech. A group of student Senators alleges that Murphy, whose family has apparent connections to the President, improperly used student fees to pay Trump for his appearance. They contend it was a coordinated campaign visit and have used the word ‘collusion’ to describe the way the event came to be. State Republicans, meanwhile, have come to Murphy’s defense as the conversation picks up steam. What’s all the fuss about? Student Sen. Ben Lima, who is leading the charge against Murphy, explains his position to reporter Megan Reeves.

podcastED: Revisiting a podcast with Jeb Bush — A June 2016 interview with former Florida Gov. Bush conducted by former Step Up For Students intern Denisha Merriweather.

REGULATED from hosts Christian Bax and Tony Glover: Bax sits down with cannabis tax expert Pat Oglesby, founder for The Center for New Revenue, a not for profit that focuses on tax policy. Oglesby is a former chief tax counsel for the Committee on Finance for the U.S. Senate and served as co-chair of the Regulatory and Tax Structure Working Group of the California Blue Ribbon Commission on marijuana legalization.

The Rotunda with Trimmel Gomes: Leon County Republican Party chairman Evan Power discusses his campaign to become National Committeeman for the Republican Party of Florida. Power explains the loyalty-mindset of Trump voters and why he thinks the GOP brand is untarnished, despite critics.


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 will hold a roundtable USF Honors College professor Dan Ruth, journalist Brendan McLaughlin, attorney Jessica Elrich, and political consultant/attorney Ron Pierce.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion of the issue of hunger and food insecurity in Central Florida. Joining Walker-Torres are state Rep. Wengay Newton and Dave Krepcho, president and CEO, Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: This week’s show will recap the impeachment inquiry public testimonies; PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter will rate claims made during the Democratic presidential debates; and host Al Ruechel will interview Holly Bell, Florida Director of Cannabis.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Gary Yordon speaks with Michelle Gomez of The Oasis Center.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Jacksonville City Councilmember Matt Carlucci and Dr. Sunil Joshi, president of the Duval County Medical Society Foundation.

— ALOE —

Disney shares peek of prep for new Cirque du Soleil show” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — More details are emerging about the new Cirque du Soleil show that will debut at Disney Springs in the spring of 2020. Disney produced a video that features rehearsals of actors and acrobats as well as interviews with creative forces behind the show, which effectively replaces “La Nouba” in the Walt Disney World lineup. The video, posted on the official Disney Parks Blog, shows a variety of movements, including gigantic wheels, ropework, stilt walkers, dancers, juggling, dramatic swings and aerial maneuvers. It was recorded at Cirque’s headquarters in Montreal. “The show is a love letter to the art of animation,” Michel Laprise, writer and show director, says in the video.

To watch the video, click on the image below:

Universal delayed guest whose shirt said retired officer via The Associated Press — A 55-year-old law enforcement veteran was stopped from entering Universal Studios for nearly an hour because the front of his gray long-sleeved T-shirt read “retired police officer.” Former Ormond Beach officer Vincent Champion tells the Orlando Sentinel the experience left him confused and angry. He vows never to return to the theme park. Universal officials said they have tremendous respect for law enforcement, but guests could have confused him for an actual police officer. Security attendants asked him to remove the shirt before entering the park Nov. 1.

Icebar Orlando helps the Sunshine State chill with Florida freeze package” via Trevor Fraser of the Orlando Sentinel — There is one place in Central Florida that you can wear a jacket year-round: Icebar Orlando on International Drive. Now the cool attraction is offering Sunshine State residents a chill deal with the Florida Freeze package. Sundays through Thursdays, residents can get admission plus jacket and glove rental and a drink for $19.95. Typical Icebar entry is $19.95, so you’re really snagging a free drink to come out. Interested parties might also like to know the bar features a Happy Hour, 5-7 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday, where admission is only $9.95. Icebar Orlando is located at 8967 International Drive.

Get your mittens ready for Icebar Orlando.

What Michelle Todd Schorsch is reading — World’s largest Christmas maze opens at Tropicana Field this weekend” via Sharon Kennedy Wynne of the Tampa Bay Times — This year brings an all-new way to trip the Christmas light fantastic. Enchant Christmas, billed as the world’s largest Christmas light maze, is set to open at Tropicana Field with ice skating, a market, sleighfuls of lights and an ice bar. The maze, which will be set up in the outfield, will have a series of paths and spaces that lead you through Christmas trees, huge snowflakes and giant candy canes. At its center will be an 80-foot lighted pine tree. Kids can run around the maze and find clues to hunt for Santa’s missing reindeer. Adults can find the drink stand in the maze and lots of places to make selfie stops.


Happy Birthday to NASA’s Bettina Inclán-Agen. Celebrating this weekend are House Minority Leader Kionne McGhee, state Sen. Linda Stewart, former Reps. Rich Glorioso and Charles Van Zant, Ron Christaldi of Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, Craig Chown, Derek Cooper of Comcast, Chris Finkbeiner of Rubin, Turnbull & Associates, Andrew Ketchel of Capital City Consulting, Martin PerezTodd Thomson, our friend Screven Watson, and Julia Gill Woodward of the Florida State Parks Foundation.

And, oh yeah, tomorrow is this dude’s birthday:


Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey 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, Jason Delgado, Renzo Downey, Daniel Figueroa, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Joe Henderson, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, Mike Wright, and Tristan Wood.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
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