Gov. Ron DeSantis headlined day two of the Florida TaxWatch 40th annual meeting Tuesday.
The Governor was a last-minute addition to the lineup. He arrived in Palm Beach to speak to the group Tuesday afternoon.
DeSantis highlighted his commitment to keeping Florida’s budget in check in an appeal to the business-backed taxpayer watchdog.
The Governor also spoke about his deregulation agenda, sounding confident he’d be able to push a package through next Session that would reduce licensing regulations in the state. DeSantis even pitched adding a sunset clause to those licensing requirements, forcing them to be renewed every few years.
“If they’re really good, if they’re really important to protect the public health — and I think for sure some are — then there will be no problem for the Legislature to reauthorize,” DeSantis said.
“I think the default should be that if you do nothing, then government actually gets smaller because that means that we have more freedom and opportunity.”
On Tuesday, attendees also heard from Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, former Attorney General Bill McCollum, former Senate President Jim Scott and former House Speaker Tom Feeney. The quartet was featured on a panel discussing their disdain for the ballot amendment process, with Kottkamp backing the elimination of the Constitution Revision Commission.
Though DeSantis may have been the most high-profile speaker Tuesday, the keynote speech was given by former American Enterprise Institute Albert Brooks.
Brooks earned a standing ovation from the audience after a nearly 45-minute speech decrying the current state of political polarization in the country, urging attendees to do their part to bring down the political temperature.
“When you have an intractable conflict between groups of people, it’s almost always because each of them sees themselves as motivated by love, but the other side is motivated by hatred,” Brooks said.
“And when both sides think that, you’re going to have permanent conflict.”
The Florida TaxWatch annual meeting started Monday. The organization is holding a ‘goodbye breakfast’ for attendees later this morning as one last final networking opportunity before breaking.
Spotted at Sen. Rick Scott‘s Christmas party at the Senator and Mrs. Scott’s townhouse on Capitol Hill — Anita and Curt Anderson, Wes Anderson, Paul Bonicelli, Joanna Burgos, Craig Carbone, Travis Burk, Jayne and Tim Cerio, Chris Hartline, Kim Hawkes, Tabitha and Jack Heekin, Susan Hepworth, Kevin Hoffman, Bettina Inclan, Priscilla Ivasco, Juston Johnson, Leda Kelly, Alex Lawhon, Heather and Collin Lomagistro, Enu Mainigi, Jenny Drucker, Christine Diaz, Tom Dunn, Jon Foltz, Amy Grappone, Chris Hanson, Guy Harrison, Wes Maul, Billy Mcbeath, Sean Miles, Mallory Mullen, Christina and Jack Norton, Alex Ojeda, Kristin and Dan Olson, Jessie Pannucio, Krista and Brad Piepenbrink, Cissy Proctor, Kevin Reilly, Steve Roberts, Kevin Romero, Tulin and Tim Saler, Sarah Schwirian, Kaitlyn Shimmin, Brock Terwilleger, Elizabeth and Brad Todd, Nelson Warfield.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@GOPLeader: In his pursuit to bring down this president, Chairman Adam Schiff has neglected his real responsibilities. Instead of working to protect our national security, his focus—in his own words—is to send the president “back to the golden throne he came from.”
—@ArmandoNDK: Praise Kamala Harris for this-she clearly has determined she can’t continue an actual serious run for President and was not going to just hang around for debates and TV appearances. She’s a serious and mature person and leaves the stage for the candidates who can be the nominee.
—@LaurelRosenhall: Californians running for President: the congressman and the senator have dropped out. The spiritual guide and the hedge fund billionaire are still in the race.
—@Peoples_Pundit: Btw, roughly a year ago CNN’s political gurus rated Kamala Harris as the most likely candidate to win the Democratic nomination. Number 2 was Beto O’Rourke. Not kidding.
—@AmyEWalter: Folks, running for president is really, really hard. Luck. Timing. Skill. Discipline. All matter. And, it’s super, super hard to get all of these to line up.
—@GovRonDeSantis: Enjoyed attending @’s 40th anniversary meeting today in Palm Beach. It’s clear that Florida’s low taxes, reasonable regulatory climate and overall positive disposition toward business and success is working. It’s a great time to do business in Florida.
—@HarrisAlexC: It appears Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis canceled his planned keynote address at the Southeast Florida Climate Compact meeting this week. His new Chief Resilience Officer Julia Nesheiwat & Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried are still speaking
—@RyanGirdusky: New St. Leo’s poll for Florida has @with absolutely mind-blowing approval numbers: Approve: 68% Disapprove: 20%
—@EveSamples: Need to see a Democrat and Republican laughing together? @and @ obliged at tonight’s @ Civility Brevard event hosted by @ . The two state reps even found some common ground on criminal justice reform.
—@Eddie_Rado: Source: Bob Stoops has reached out to a local Norman contractor with interest in building a coaching HQ at his Norman home that would allow him to be in Dallas, Tallahassee, Columbia, Oxford and Los Angeles at one time. Would be unprecedented.
— DAYS UNTIL —
Florida Chamber’s Transportation, Growth and Infrastructure Summit — 1; Florida GOP Statesmen Dinner — 3; UK votes on Brexit — 8; Sixth Democratic debate — 15; “The Rise of Skywalker” premiers — 16; College Football National Championship — 40; 2020 Session begins — 41; Florida TaxWatch State of the TaxPayer Dinner in Tallahassee — 42; New Brexit deadline — 58; Super Bowl LIV in Miami — 60; Great American Realtors Day — 61; Iowa Caucuses — 61; New Hampshire Primaries — 69; Nevada caucuses — 80; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 100; Florida’s presidential primary — 104; “Black Panther 2” debuts — 153; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo begin — 231; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 265; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 308; First Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 316; Second presidential debate at Belmont — 323; 2020 General Election — 335.
“Kamala Harris drops out of 2020 presidential race” via Astead W. Herndon, Shane Goldmacher and Jonathan Martin of The New York Times — Sen. Harris of California dropped out of the Democratic presidential race on Tuesday after months of low poll numbers and a series of missteps that crippled her campaign, a deflating comedown for a barrier-breaking candidate who was seeking to become the first black woman to win the presidency. The decision came after weeks of upheaval among Harris’s staff, including layoffs in New Hampshire and at her headquarters in Baltimore, and disarray among her allies. She told supporters in an email on Tuesday that she lacked the money needed to fully finance a competitive campaign. “My campaign for president simply doesn’t have the financial resources we need to continue,” Harris wrote.
— DATELINE: TALLY —
Ron DeSantis says Statesman’s Dinner will bring in big bucks — DeSantis says the GOP’s premier annual fundraiser will bring in a record amount of cash for the party. As reported by Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida, the Governor predicted the Statesman’s Dinner will see the Republican Party of Florida “raise way, way more than they have been able to do in the most recent years.” The Dec. 7 event will be star-studded, at the very least. The current slate features President Donald Trump as well as U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, the latter of which rarely attended during his time as Governor. The dinner will be held in Miami. The function, including Trump’s remarks, is closed to the press and public.
“Governor says more education plans coming” via News Service of Florida — After releasing major teacher-compensation proposals ahead of the 2020 legislative session, Gov. DeSantis said Tuesday he wants to roll out more education plans before the end of the year. “The announcements will be more geared toward curriculum,” the governor told reporters on Tuesday. DeSantis did not elaborate on what he plans to propose, but his recommended budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year could offer hints. His spending plan, for example, includes $375,000 for the state Department of Education to implement the Florida Civics and Debate Initiative, which would “expand middle and high school debate and speech programs across the state.” The governor’s budget proposal also includes $5 million to better align post-secondary programs with “regional workforce demands.”
“DeSantis hears ‘sirens at night’ – says it’s up to locals to solve Tallahassee gun violence” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — DeSantis lives in a Governor’s Mansion that is about a mile from where a man was gunned down in broad daylight this May 14. “I hear the sirens at night,” he told reporters after this week’s Cabinet meeting at the Capitol. “It’s pretty constant for that.” But even though the governor floated the idea of some kind of local assistance from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, he said he’s not going to “micromanage” how individual cities, including Tallahassee, try to curb gun violence. “The city folks, if they want help from the state on something, you know, we’re willing to look at it,” he said.
“Nikki Fried accuses DeSantis of ‘sunshine’ secrecy in bank regulator appointment” via Lawrence Mower, Elizabeth Koh and Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times — Agriculture Commissioner Fried accused Gov. DeSantis and the two Republican Cabinet members of operating outside of the sunshine during Monday’s brief appointment of a new state banking regulator. “Obviously they knew knew exactly who they were appointing yesterday,” Fried, the lone Democrat on the Cabinet, said Tuesday. “That was apparent by the quickness of the meeting, and it meant in my view that those conversations were happening outside the sunshine. That’s a real problem to me.” Monday’s telephone meeting of the governor and Cabinet was to name a new commissioner for the Office of Financial Regulation. There was no discussion about any of the three finalists. DeSantis immediately moved to appoint Coral Gables securities lawyer Russell Weigel as the next OFR commissioner.
“Jimmy Patronis says state took a ‘deeper dive’ before regulator hired” via News Service of Florida — CFO Patronis expressed hope Tuesday there will be no more turmoil involving the state Office of Financial Regulation as added background checks were conducted before Weigel was hired to run the agency this week. Addressing reporters a day after he joined Gov. DeSantis and Attorney General Moody in picking Weigel to become commissioner of the Office of Financial Regulation, Patronis also characterized as a “rookie move” a decision by Ag. Commissioner Fried to abstain from voting on the hiring. On Tuesday, DeSantis and Patronis defended the time it took to replace Rubin in the $166,000-a-year job. “We definitely took a deeper dive,” Patronis said.
“DeSantis and Cabinet approve Dixie, DeSoto county easements” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Florida will invest $8.5 million in conservation easements after Gov. DeSantis and the state Cabinet approved the measures Tuesday. Two proposals, signed-off during the Cabinet meeting, approve the money for 10,000 acres of land conservation in Dixie and DeSoto counties. The projects comprise establishing a conservation easement in lower Suwannee River area and purchasing the Tiger Bay Ranch and placing it into an easement. The Cabinet approved a $6.5 million deal for the 3,891-acre Tiger Bay Ranch property in DeSoto County, owned by the Circuit Court Judge Don Hall‘s family. But $2.9 million of the state’s purchase may be reimbursed through Agricultural Conservation Easement Program grant from U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to state forestry officials.
Assignment editors — First Lady Casey DeSantis will make a “major announcement” in Lake Mary alongside Attorney General Ashley Moody, Surgeon General Scott Rivkees, Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, Department of Children & Families Secretary Chad Poppell and Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma. The news conference is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. at 601 Lake Park Drive.
“Fried, Geraldine Thompson seek full exonerations for Groveland Four” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The four young black men who had been falsely accused of raping a white woman in Lake County in 1949 and were pardoned in the first Florida Cabinet meeting of Gov. Ron DeSantis in January deserve more than just pardons, they deserve full exoneration, Agriculture Commissioner Fried and state Rep. Thompson say. Fried, a member of the Florida Cabinet who joined in issuing the posthumous pardons Jan. 11, and Thompson, an Orlando lawmaker who has pushed to clear the Groveland Four since 2014, have called a press conference in the State Capital for next week to open a new effort. “That’s always been my intention, to seek full exoneration,” Thompson said Tuesday.
“‘No shame in saying I have PTSD.’ Emily Slosberg opens up about diagnosis” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun Sentinel — State Rep. Slosberg is still haunted by a horrific car crash that killed her twin sister more than 20 years ago and left her badly injured. Slosberg was involuntarily hospitalized in October for a mental health evaluation under the state’s Baker Act. The Boca Raton legislator said the incident stemmed from years of trying to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder caused by a 1996 car crash that killed her sister, Dori, and four others. “When there is a mental illness, people want to sweep it under the rug, but it’s real,” said Slosberg, 38. “Just because you can’t see the physical injury, it’s real.” She added, “I have no shame in coming out and saying I have PTSD.”
“A Capitol Christmas: Decking the halls of state government” via Tori Lynn Schneider of the Tallahassee Democrat — Tuesday was a festive day inside the Capitol. Agriculture Commissioner Fried presented Gov. DeSantis with a Florida-grown Christmas tree placed in the lobby of the governor’s office Tuesday morning. The tree, a Carolina Sapphire, was grown at a purchased from Bavarian Tree Farm. Franco and Sigrid Camacho, the owners of the tree farm, were present at the event. DeSantis’ wife, Casey, and two children tagged along. Madison helped her father place the first two ornaments on the tree. CFO Patronis and Attorney General Moody, who both have their own Christmas trees in their offices, attended as well. Down the hall from the governor’s office, Fried’s own tree stands in her office with produce-themed ornaments and a menorah celebrating Fried’s Jewish religion.
Happening today — The Revenue Estimating Conference will meet to discuss expected gambling revenues for the state. The meeting begins at 2 p.m. in the Knott Building at the Capitol.
— SAVE THE DATE —
— STATEWIDE —
“Sharp slowdown in migration cause for economic concern” via Brendan Byrne of WMFE — New data from the Census Bureau shows U.S. mobility rate has fallen to its lowest level since 1948. The sharp slowdown in migration in the U.S. is cause for concern, especially for Florida’s economy. 90.7’s Brendan Byrne spoke with economic analyst Hank Fishkind about why migration is so important to Florida’s economy. “It’s really important because we are so dependent upon population growth that comes from migration. Ninety percent of our growth comes from people moving here, and most of the growth in our labor force. And that’s particularly true here in Central Florida, so that’s why this slowdown in migration is potentially worrisome for us. That’s it,” Fishkind said.
“Amendment 4: Judge accuses DeSantis of stalling on ex-felon voting rights” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — A federal judge scolded lawyers representing Gov. DeSantis’ administration, accusing the state of trying to “run out the clock” to keep former felons from voting in next year’s elections. The acrimony between U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle and the state’s attorneys came Tuesday during a hearing in a legal battle over Amendment 4. Lawyers for DeSantis and Secretary of State Laurel Lee argued that a decision upholding the federal judge’s ruling could render the entire constitutional amendment void because of a lack of “severability.” Hinkle grew increasingly incensed as attempted to ascertain whether the papers filed on the governor’s behalf accurately reflected a statement issued by DeSantis’ office in response to the judge’s October ruling.
“Web site hack could be as bad as vote attack, warns Florida officials” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — Secretary of State Laurel Lee told the Governor’s Cybersecurity Task Force that Florida’s elections tabulation system is secure, but state and county elections websites “are far more vulnerable to being attacked or defaced and pose a very real threat, not of changing election results, but of undermining voter confidence.”
“Does agenda give insight into which Florida education bills might stick?” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — As the Florida Legislature nears the opening of its 2020 session, lawmakers largely have allowed Gov. Ron DeSantis to set many of the priorities for education policy. Neither the House nor Senate have heard many bills on the topic, instead focusing primarily on proposals such as the budget coming from the governor’s office. With one week of interim committee meetings scheduled, the House appears poised to remain on that path. The Education Committee has yet to schedule anything, and hasn’t convened since October. But the Senate counterpart is taking the time to take up a handful of bills from influential members, potentially signaling what subjects it intends to advance beyond the discussions on salaries and choice.
“A better model for improving Florida Standards” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — As education leaders across the state are well aware by now, Florida is in the beginning stages of an effort designed to change education standards for the fifth time in 24 years. While Gov. DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran have certainly proposed a nice-sounding and likely genuine goal of ensuring Florida has the “world’s best standards,” dismantling the rigorous and effective Florida Standards and starting from scratch with a brand new set is not the best way to support students and educators. Reform is a good thing, as is progress. But we must avoid change for the sake of change and, instead, ensure we put forth a plan for true improvement.
“Florida nursing homes are required to have backup generators, but less than half are fully compliant” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — Time is ticking for the state’s long-term care providers to comply with a requirement to have backup generators and fuel or face fines or even the possible revocation of their licenses. The backup emergency-power mandate was approved in state rules more than two years ago, after residents died at a Broward County nursing home following Hurricane Irma in September 2017. But as the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season drew to a close last week, state data on rule compliance indicate that 336 Florida nursing homes — or about 49 percent — have complied with the generator and backup fuel requirements.
>>>Reax from Emmett Reed, FHCA Executive Director: “As the state’s own website shows, the overwhelming majority of Florida’s nursing homes are in compliance with the requirements of the law, and most of those – more than 82% – already have permanent or temporary generators ON-SITE that can keep residents cool and safe. We fully support the generator law and offered a number of recommendations as it was being developed, but we also believe the most important consideration is whether a nursing home can meet the cooling requirements of the rule. Full compliance relies on many organizations required for permitting and regulatory approval, including state and local officials and emergency managers, and we’re looking to those partners to help us push past the paperwork delays so the focus can remain on the people – the residents entrusted to our care. Our members are working continually toward final permanent generator installation, collaborating with utility companies, architects, contractors, and engineers, to name just a few. The design, installation, and approval process is a time-consuming process that in many cases has resulted in unexpected delays. We remain committed to completing these projects as quickly as possible, but the work must be done safely to ensure that there are no risks of other hazards. Our overarching goal remains keeping our residents safe during disasters, and that is why emergency preparedness is something FHCA and our members practice year-round. Even as we work to get through the installation process and paperwork requirements for every generator, we are committed to the highest levels of care for those entrusted to us.”
“Florida workers rank near the top in how much they pay for health insurance” via Graham Brink of the Tampa Bay Times — Workers are spending a larger chunk of their paychecks on health insurance, and Floridians are some of the worst off. For years, the cost of insurance has outstripped incomes and the trend continues, according to a recent study from the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit that advocates for improvements to the health care system. In 2008, the average employee in the country paid 7.9 percent of the median household income for health insurance. Last year, the number reached 11.5 percent. In Florida, the expenses soaked up an average of 14.5 percent of the state’s median household income, up from 10.1 percent a decade ago. That was higher than all other states, except for Louisiana and Mississippi.
“The ‘game’ after the game: When college athletes turn into Florida politicians” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — Tallahassee is a politics town, to be sure, but it’s also a sports town. Except for the peak physical conditioning thing, politicians and athletes have similar jobs: They both engage in contentious contests. And those contests are played out in expensive campaigns by broadcast networks devoted almost entirely to their respective topics. College athletics in particular has evolved into a training ground for public figures, with a growing number of former players deciding to pursue a political career. The trend began in the post-War era when former President Gerald Ford was elected to Congress. Ford had played linebacker on two undefeated University of Michigan football teams. Researchers say skills honed as a student athlete come in handy when one chooses a life of politicking.
“Web site hack could be as bad as vote attack, warns Florida officials” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida’s top election official on Tuesday warned attackers could attempt to disrupt elections without even breaking into the voting systems — by simply changing the results on election websites. Secretary of State Lee told the governor’s Cybersecurity Task Force that Florida’s elections tabulation system is secure, but state and county elections websites “are far more vulnerable to being attacked or defaced and pose a very real threat, not of changing election results, but of undermining voter confidence.”
Happening today — Four cases are on the Florida Supreme Court’s Wednesday docket, including an appeal from Death Row inmate Daniel Jacob Craven, a convicted murderer. The hearings begin at 9 a.m. at the Florida Supreme Court building in Tallahassee, 500 South Duval St.
— MOTHER NATURE —
“To save Everglades, guardians fight time – and climate” via Allen G. Breed of the Associated Press — Grabbing a clump of vegetation to steady herself, Tiffany Troxler gingerly slides her feet along the makeshift boardwalk as she ventures out into the marsh. The boards sag, dipping her up to her knees in the tea-colored water. ‘This is the treacherous part,” the Florida International University researcher says. ‘The water levels are up.’ To a layman, this patch of brown-green saw grass and button mangrove deep inside Everglades National Park looks healthy enough, but Troxler knows trouble lurks just beneath the murky surface. She points to a clump of grass: Beneath the water line, the soil has retreated about a foot, leaving the root mass exposed. It is evidence that the thick mat of peat supporting this ecosystem is collapsing — and research suggests encroaching sea water is to blame.
“Pasco is protecting conservation lands” via Keith Wiley for the Tampa Bay Times — A few details left out of a recent column may help illuminate the “murky reality” of Pasco County’s recent conservation purchase as described. Pasco County’s Environmental Lands Acquisition and Management Program (ELAMP) originated from a settlement agreement in the late 1990s from citizen activists. The settlement agreement required a wildlife habitat protection study that identified and described seven ecological corridors. Pasco developed and implemented a two-pronged approach to protecting wildlife habitat and the ecological corridors. At first glance, the protection action along the Pithlachascotee River Corridor does not appear to include all portions of the corridor. From a straight acquisition viewpoint, it does not; however, additional protections were secured that may not appear as evident.
“Lake Okeechobee’s low water levels might mean drought” via Brooke Baitinger of the South Florida Sun Sentinel — South Floridians could face water restrictions in 2020 because of a dry rainy season and low water levels in Lake Okeechobee, farmers and Everglades conservationists warned Tuesday. If the water level drops even a few feet over the driest months, they expect a drought in the spring. During droughts, consumers must water lawns on alternate days, limit car washing and conserve water use in general. The Army Corps of Engineers updated county commissioners on the lake’s condition Tuesday. Lake Okeechobee is sitting right about 13 feet above sea level. The ideal level for the lake is between 12.5 and 15.5. Officials, conservationists and farmers fear even a short-term lowering of the lake could create a host of problems.
“UWF, UF researchers will study issues facing Northwest Florida estuaries” via the Pensacola News Journal — Researchers at the UWF and UF will collaborate on a project that supplies new estuary programs throughout Northwest Florida with data. Jane Caffrey, professor in the UWF Center for Environmental Diagnostics and Bioremediation, and Matthew Deitch, assistant professor at the UF-IFAS West Florida Research and Education Center in Milton, will collect, analyze and model data. Their work supports the Pensacola and Perdido Bays Estuary Program in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, the Choctawhatchee Bay Estuary Program in Okaloosa and Walton counties and the St. Andrews/St. Joe Bays Estuary Program in Bay County. “We’re trying to figure out how to improve the environmental conditions in each estuary program region,” Caffrey said. “And this is something for which you need a lot of science, a lot of monitoring.”
— PEACHY —
“House Democrats’ report on the impeachment inquiry finds Trump has solicited foreign interference in the 2020 election” via Bret Jansen and Christal Hayes of USA Today — Three House committees investigating the potential impeachment of President Trump uncovered a months-long effort “to use the powers of his office to solicit foreign interference on his behalf in the 2020 election,” according to their draft report released Tuesday. “The evidence of the President’s misconduct is overwhelming, and so too is the evidence of his obstruction of Congress,” the 300-page report said. The three panels – Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Oversight and Reform — spent weeks taking sworn testimony from 17 witnesses from the State Department and national security officials. The witnesses described Trump withholding a White House meeting and then military aid from Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky unless he announced investigations of Trump’s political rival, Vice President Joe Biden.
“Republicans launch impeachment rebuttal ahead of Judiciary hearing” via Andrew Desiderio, Melanie Zanona and Kyle Cheney of POLITICO — House Republicans offered a preview of their defense strategy on Monday as Democrats’ drive to impeach President Trump moves to its next phase. According to a draft copy of the GOP’s formal rebuttal, Republicans will assert that Democrats failed to unearth evidence that Trump committed impeachable offenses when he asked Ukraine’s president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. The Republicans’ 123-page report largely reiterates their previous defenses of the president and blasts House Democrats for pursuing impeachment, painting the effort as an attempt to reverse the results of the 2016 presidential election. The report forms the basis of their response to allegations that Trump abused his power to solicit foreign assistance in the 2020 election.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Before Florida visit, Israel advocates ask Trump for one more gift: The Jordan Valley” via Michael Wilner and David Smiley of the Miami Herald — For Israel hardliners, President Trump has been the gift that keeps on giving. In his first term, Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved the U.S. embassy there, reversed a longstanding U.S. position on the legitimacy of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and accepted Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights. But there is growing pressure on Trump to do even more. As the president prepares to return to South Florida this weekend to give a speech before an Israeli-American group funded by one of his biggest campaign supporters, a push is building for Trump to support an Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley.
Assignment editors — Former U.S. Attorney Eric Holder will be in Miami for a roundtable on the 2020 Census’ impact on the redistricting process for Congressional and state legislative seats. The discussion begins at 3:30 p.m., 10800 Biscayne Blvd.
“Pro-impeachment GOP group targets Francis Rooney’s district with new ad” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A group of Republicans supporting impeachment investigations has targeted U.S. Rep. Rooney’s Southwest Florida district with a new ad. The broadcast spot from Republicans for the Rule of Law, titled “What is Trump Afraid Of?,” will air during Fox and Friends every morning this week. It specifically calls on the White House to allow four witnesses to testify to the House: White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former National Security Advisor John Bolton. The Republicans for the Rule of Law ad specifically highlights a press conference where Mulvaney was asked if Trump’s conversation with the Ukrainian president included a quid pro quo.
“Panama Papers-style leak — and a Miami arrest — lift veil on how Iran ducks sanctions” via Shirsho Dasgupta and Kevin G. Hall of the Miami Herald — Take the arrest of an Iranian-born Turkish citizen during a jaunt to Disney World. Factor in the irrepressible Rudy Giuliani, who briefly served as the arrested man’s lawyer. Add a dash of Turkey’s authoritarian leader, Recep Erdogan, a favorite of President Trump. Mix in a massive leak of more than a million documents from a British offshore shell company provider. And don’t forget to include a Miami cameo. What you get is a lesson in how Iran’s national oil company and its subsidiaries hopscotch the globe, with the help of intermediaries, in search of tax havens that help it try to wriggle free from the grip of crippling U.S.-led sanctions.
— 2020 —
What Kevin Cate is reading — “Tom Steyer qualifies for December debate” via Zach Montellaro of POLITICO — Steyer‘s campaign says he has qualified for the December Democratic presidential primary debate, making the billionaire activist the sixth active candidate to do so. To qualify, candidates need to hit either 4 percent in four polls approved by the Democratic National Committee or 6 percent in two polls in early nominating states and get contributions from 200,000 donors. Steyer’s campaign announced that he crossed the 200,000-donor threshold on Tuesday; he had already achieved the requisite number of qualifying polls. Steyer joins five other candidates who have qualified for the debate: Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Candidates have until Dec. 12 to qualify for the debate, which will be hosted by POLITICO and PBS NewsHour.
“The unexpected nostalgia of Joe Biden’s ‘malarkey’” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post —Biden is aggressively and self-consciously the following things, in no particular order: Irish American, older, a regular guy. Were those traits structured into a Venn diagram, there would be few better words to sit at the center where all three meet than a single word: Malarkey. Biden loves the word malarkey. Asked what, exactly, the word meant during the 2012 vice presidential debate, he said that it meant “stuff,” It’s possibly related to an Irish last name or perhaps it was ginned up by a cartoonist in San Francisco. Regardless, almost no one in American history has been as deliberate in embracing the term as Biden. “Malarkey” may be doing for Biden what “Make America Great Again” did for Trump in evoking the era of President Ronald Reagan.
“How Michael Bloomberg could win. Again.” via David Freedlander of POLITICO — Bloomberg has begun his improbable bid for the presidency with a rollout you could call unconventional, to be charitable. The savvy take on Twitter and in much of Washington is that this is little more than a vanity run for the presidency. Bloomberg is, as he puts it himself, a short, Jewish, divorced billionaire from Manhattan. He is an avowed defender of Wall Street. He has been an apologist for #MeToo offenders. He oversaw a police department that stopped and frisked half a million primarily young men of color a year. Even putting all that aside, he is pledging to skip the first four primary states. But each of those things — or something very much like it — was true the first time he ran for office.
“Pete Buttigieg, struggling to gain black support, uses N.C. church visit to issue ‘moral call to unity’” via Isaac Stanley-Becker of The Washington Post — Buttigieg bowed his head Sunday in a church founded by ex-slaves. Buttigieg’s decision to worship with the Disciples of Christ congregation underscored the task that awaits him as he seeks to convince voters that he can capture the White House. In recent days, the candidate has suggested that his identity as a gay man gives him greater empathy with the experiences of other marginalized groups — a point that raised eyebrows among some in the black community. But the argument resonated with Raymond Smith Jr., a black state representative who attended Sunday’s service and discussion. “Not a lot of white men know what it’s like to be discriminated against. But he brings to the table personal experiences that would be beneficial.”
— THE TRAIL —
First on #FlaPol — “Heather Fitzenhagen is running for Congress” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — State Rep. Fitzenhagen announced Tuesday she’s running for Congress in Florida’s 19th Congressional District. “It’s an exciting opportunity to serve in Washington and build on what I’ve already accomplished in the Florida Legsialture,” Fitzenhagen told Florida Politics. “It’s also critically important to give voters a choice of candidates and for them to share their message.” The Fort Myers Republican enters a crowded field as one of the only candidates with a solid record of legislative experience. A number of Republican candidates already announced they will seek the seat, where U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney is not seeking a third term. Notably, Florida House Republican Leader Dane Eagle, elected to the Legislature the same year as Fitzenhagen, announced last month he’s running.
“‘We should hang’ Ilhan Omar, Florida congressional candidate writes in fundraising letter” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — A fundraising letter sent last week by the campaign of George Buck, a Republican running for Congress in St. Petersburg, suggested a member of the House of Representatives and other Democrats should be executed. The lengthy email dated Nov. 26 repeated an unsupported accusation that U.S. Rep. Omar, a Somali-born Democrat representing Minnesota, secretly works for the country of Qatar and should be gravely punished for it. “We should hang these traitors where they stand,” the email said. It is unclear who the other “traitors” are, but the email spotlights the man Buck is challenging, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, as well as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and freshmen U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib.
“Phil Moore opens renewed challenge of Randy Fine in HD 53 with attack” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics —Moore, a Democrat, has filed for a rematch with Republican Rep. Fine after their 2018 House District 53 battle turned nasty at times and ended with a solid reelection victory for the Brevard Republican. Moore, 45, a Palm Bay health care professional, opened his new campaign Tuesday with a blistering attack on Fine, vowing to paint the two-term lawmaker as someone who bullies and disrespects local elected officials while pushing preemptions over home rule, and charging them with corruption. In 2018 Fine won 55% to 45%, outperforming both now-U.S. Sen. Rick Scott and now-Gov. Ron DeSantis in what was billed as a blue-wave election.
“Hillsborough County GOP chair Jim Waurishuk has a long history of conspiracy theories, racism and death threats” via Colin Wolf of Creative Loafing — Over the course of at least a year, Waurishuk, the Hillsborough County Republican Party Chairman, a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, and a member of the Executive Board of the Republican Party of Florida, has primarily used his Twitter and Facebook accounts to spread a wide range of conspiracy theories about climate change, racist and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, and literal death threats aimed at top Democrats. In a now deleted post obtained by Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, Waurishuk’s most recent threat was shared last Wednesday when he posted an image of three nooses, along with the words “Noose flash: treason still punishable by death,” and a comment from the chairman that read “Need some hangin’s.”
— LOCAL RACES —
“Bakari Burns elected to Orlando City Council” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Political newcomer Burns soundly defeated veteran public official Gary Siplin in an Orlando City Council runoff election Tuesday, after the two had finished a closer first and second in an indecisive November contest for the city’s District 6 seat. Burns, 45, dominated election day and early voting in an election with an extremely light turnout. With advantages Burns already had built through vote-by-mail and early voting, he buried Siplin 68 to 32 in the final unofficial tally, sending the former state Senator to another election defeat. The runoff election drew 2,914 ballots, from just under 12 percent of the district’s registered voters.
“Another racially charged incident for Martin Hyde, according to Sarasota police report” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — A pair of construction managers told Sarasota police in February that Sarasota City Commission candidate Martin Hyde “was on their property yelling ‘You need to tell your f***ing Mexicans to turn off their Spanish music.’” Hyde was accused last week by some Hispanic tennis players of making a racist comment about cutting grass, in an incident that gained wide attention on the Internet. The Feb. 22 police report provides another example of Hyde allegedly using racially charged language. Hyde disputed that he said “f***ing Mexicans.” … “No, no and if you print it and it’s unsubstantiated be ready,” Hyde said when asked if he used those words.
“Effort to recall Hialeah Mayor about halfway to goal, organizers say” via Alexi C. Cardona of the Miami New Times — When you’ve got 30 days to collect enough signatures to start the process of removing a mayor from office, there are no days off. Not even Thanksgiving. “We don’t have a second to waste,” says Fernando Godo, one of the Hialeah residents leading the campaign to recall Mayor Carlos Hernandez. Godo and several volunteers have spent every day since announcing the recall effort knocking on doors and setting up outside businesses to reach out to residents. The organizers say they’re about halfway to their initial goal of obtaining roughly 5,200 signatures. Godo and fellow campaign organizer Eduardo Macaya, who both ran for Hialeah city council in the most recent election, say they’ve collected about 2,500 signatures in the two weeks since the launch.
— LOCAL —
What Buddy Dyer is reading — “Orlando considered one of the least-safe cities in America, new study finds” via Ricky Pinela of the Orlando Sentinel — In a new study, WalletHub ranked Orlando near the bottom of 182 cities in its Safest Cities in the U.S. list. The study focused on three key factors when formulating the list, including “Home & Community Safety,” “Natural-Disaster Risk” and “Financial Safety.” Each category totals up to a certain amount of points, which are then averaged out for the final score. Out of the list of 182 cities, Orlando came in at No. 164, making the home of “The Most Magical Place On Earth” the 19th least-safe city in America. The safest Florida city on the list is Cape Coral, coming in at No. 27, while the least-safe city in Florida turned out to be Fort Lauderdale at No. 181 out of 182.
“Miami-Dade finally close to approving new courthouse, leaving budget problems unsolved” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — After years of arguing and false starts, Miami-Dade is a vote away from approving a new $267 million civil courthouse in downtown Miami with a project already linked to revenue shortfalls in county budget projections. Approving the winning bid by developer Plenary Group would finally hand Miami-Dade a financial path to replacing a courthouse so old that it once housed a trial for Al Capone. Miami-Dade would get a larger replacement next door to the existing 1928 courthouse on Flagler Street, a historic building that continues to be burdened by maintenance issues, closed courtrooms and complaints of dated, cramped facilities.
“Tourism office had no spending controls when it came to swag” via Larry Barszewski of the South Florida Sun Sentinel — A Broward tourism official billed the county more than $400,000 for swag and other items bought from a company she owned, violating county rules, auditors said. She got to walk away from her job without consequence, surprising at least one county commissioner. “Why are we allowing a person who committed fraud to resign rather than be fired?” Commissioner Mark Bogen asked Tuesday. County Administrator Bertha Henry said the official turned in her resignation in September, when she was told about some of the findings uncovered by auditors before their work was finished.
“Police arrest 9 Geo Group protesters amid daylong disruption at Boca headquarters” via Austen Erblat and Tonya Alanez of the South Florida Sun Sentinel — They were fewer than 10 but demonstrators on Tuesday forged a daylong disruption at Geo Group’s Boca Raton headquarters by affixing themselves to the prison operator’s entrances with cement and tar. By day’s end, police had arrested nine of the activists who said their presence at Geo Group’s new $57 million headquarters was in protest of the lock-up, and what they consider the mistreatment of undocumented immigrant detainees. One organizer was taken into custody while leading chants with a megaphone for violating a city ordinance that prohibits the use of amplified sound. Eight others were charged with misdemeanor trespassing, a spokeswoman for the Boca Raton Police Department said.
“Hey, Miami. Here is scientific proof that you live where the world vacations” via Connie Ogle of the Miami Herald — The world loves Miami. Or at least traveling here. The 2019 Top 100 Cities destination list from global marketing firm Euromonitor International names Miami as the No. 2 destination in the Americas for international travelers in 2018. No. 1 is — you guessed it — New York. One other Florida city made the “Americas” list: Orlando, at no. 6. That means more people chose Miami realness over Disney fantasy. We respect you, intrepid travelers. That “in the Americas” phrase is key, though. Globally, Miami ranks no. 27 for 2018-2019, with New York at no. 8. The most popular cities overall for international travel in 2018-2019 are Hong Kong at no. 1, followed by Bangkok, London, Macau, Singapore, Paris and Dubai.
“JEA’s controversial bonus plan conflicted with legal advice provided months ago” via Christopher Hong of the Florida Times-Union — As JEA officials planned an unorthodox employee bonus plan last summer that allowed employees to purchase “shares” that would grow in value if the public utility hit financial targets, City Hall attorneys provided guidance to ensure they didn’t run afoul with local and state law. To stay legal, the bonuses would need to be strictly based on work performance and determined by objective benchmarks measured by an outside party according to a June 17 memo created by city attorneys. Months after JEA approved the plan in July, City Council Auditor Kyle Billy red flagged more than a dozen concerns with it, including issues that city attorneys cautioned JEA would need to avoid in the June memo.
“Jefferson residents express their opposition to northern expansion of Suncoast toll road” via Lynn Hatter of WFSU — Jefferson County residents are opposed to a planned toll road that would run through the county and into Georgia. The road is part of three Florida lawmakers approved earlier this year. The Suncoast Parkway extension and two additional toll roads were pitched as a way to revitalize rural communities, but Jefferson County residents say that’s something they’ve heard before —in the 1970s, when I-10 was built through Jefferson, and diverted traffic away from Highways 90 and 27. The only economic development that happened were a few gas stations and fast-food restaurants at the expense of local businesses. “A North-South road doing the same thing, having the same effect…would hurt our downtown economy,” says Monticello business owner Michele Areceneaux.
“Property rights battle heats up as Panhandle Butterfly House hits another roadblock” via Annie Blanks of the Pensacola News Journal — The Milton City Council is poised to hold a key vote on a hot-button property rights issue next week in a case that pits a longtime Milton family against a group that wants to bring a butterfly house to the property behind their homestead. At Monday night’s executive council meeting, the council voted 4-3 to leave in place a revocable license agreement for Jones Street, a platted but unused street that runs between two properties owned by members of the Tolbert family, saying that there are ways to access the property other than Jones Street and that they want more information about the Blackwater River Foundation’s and the Panhandle Butterfly House’s intentions and plans for the future development.
“Tallahassee Commissioners weighing broadband study, ban on conversion therapy” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — City commissioners will decide Wednesday whether to pass an ordinance prohibiting conversion therapy on minors in the capital city. After a group of speakers took to the podium at their Nov. 13 meeting to condemn the controversial practice — aimed at changing gender expression, attraction or sexual orientation — all four commissioners and Mayor John Dailey expressed support for some kind of ban. A 2009 report by the American Psychological Association found that conversion therapy can lead to deep mental and physical health risks. Twenty-two other Florida counties and municipalities — including Alachua, Broward and Palm Beach counties and cities like Key West, Miami and Tampa — have put similar ordinances in place.
“Can’t ‘escape being defined by Nov. 2nd’: Hot Yoga Tallahassee to rebrand year after shooting” via Nada Hassanein of the Tallahassee Democrat — A year after two women died in a shooting and others were hurt, Hot Yoga Tallahassee’s owner on Tuesday announced that the studio will debut a new name in the New Year. In a candid and emotional e-newsletter, owner Brittani Whittington describes the trauma she’s endured from the tragedy and how conflicted she felt, up to the point of giving the business up. “What we have overcome as a community over the past year has simply been unbelievable,” she wrote. “A year ago I thought our place of healing would disappear. I thought we would all dissolve away from one another and move on to other spaces.”
— OPINIONS —
“No, Mr. President, impeachment doesn’t trigger NATO Article 5” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — Mark Penn, the morally flexible pollster to Bill Clinton now advising President Trump on how to beat impeachment, told him to “govern” and focus on “substance” without reacting to every development. Penn might as well have told Trump to go without Diet Coke and a hair dryer. Trump’s visit to London for this week’s NATO summit would have been a perfect opportunity to showcase his governing substance. But immediately upon landing, he tweeted that his in-flight reading had been the Republican rebuttal of “the Impeachment Hoax,” saying the “Radical Left has NO CASE” and asking: “Can we go to the Supreme Court to stop?” Apparently there was no copy of the Constitution in the seat-back compartment.
“Why we should consider adding Cat 6 to our hurricane categories” via Richard S. Olson for the South Florida Sun Sentinel — If you live in a hurricane-prone area, you probably know in at least general terms the famous five-category Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. It defines Atlantic Basin hurricanes on the basis of sustained wind speeds at a hurricane’s core (within the eyewall) and likely damage levels. The problem is Category 5, which is set at 157 mph or higher. It has no top, no upper limit, and scientists and the media calling a storm a “strong” Category 5 really doesn’t communicate much. The idea of a Category 6 has already seen some discussion in scientific circles, but it’s time for the scientific community, in cooperation with the media, to lead a much broader public discussion.
“It’s inhumane to evict renters before a hurricane. Put a stop to it, Florida” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Police have better things to do than evict renters when there’s a hurricane coming. Following an embarrassing local case, Miami-Dade now protects some renters. The Florida Legislature should protect them all. The days before a hurricane makes landfall often are tense and stressful. So imagine what it’s like in the middle of all that anxiety to hear a knock on the door and to find police on the other side waiting to evict you from your home at the worst possible time. Miami-Dade Sen. Jason Pizzo and Rep. Michael Grieco have introduced legislation that would pause all eviction proceedings during declared emergencies and for 15 days after. It should pass and become law; it’s the humane thing to do.
“Battling timeshare groups call each other ‘unscrupulous’ and ‘deceptive.’ Maybe they’re both right.” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida is in the midst of a rumble in the timeshare jungle. In one corner is the timeshare industry itself, which critics say is notoriously shady, relying upon high-pressure sales tactics to bait customers into making hasty decisions with never-ending contracts and always-escalating fees. That’s according to the timeshare-exit companies anyway — the firms that say they can help buyers get out of their stinky contracts. But to hear the timeshare industry tell it, the exit companies are the real problem — preying upon vulnerable timeshare customers by charging gobs of money for bad advice and contract-breaking promises they can’t really deliver. So each side says the other is shady. And each says regulators should crack down on the other. Here’s an idea: Maybe they’re both right.
“E-Verify for Florida is just more immigration politics” via Randy Schultz of the South Florida Sun Sentinel — Let’s hope that the Legislature makes E-Verify mandatory for real in Florida. If Republicans crippled the largest swing state’s economy, Republicans in Washington finally might get serious about immigration reform. State Sens. Joe Gruters and Tom Lee, both Republicans, have filed SB 664. It would require all private employers to use the federal E-Verify system. Last year, Republicans chummed anti-immigrant voters by banning “sanctuary cities.” Florida didn’t have any, but DeSantis took Trump’s cue on immigration. DeSantis now backs E-Verify. Last week he said the bill would “protect Florida workers, preserve the rule of law, and make our communities safer.” Actually, absent reform from Washington, a hard and fast E-Verify rule would jolt Florida in a very bad way.
— MOVEMENTS —
“Personnel note: Mallory McManus joins HCA Healthcare” via Florida Politics — McManus, an experienced state government pro, has joined HCA Healthcare as Government Affairs Manager in Florida. McManus comes from an agency with similar initials: the Agency for Health Care Administration, or AHCA, where she served as Communications Director for more than four years. Her resume also includes service at upper levels in the Governor’s Office, with two state agencies (Enterprise Florida and the Department of Elder Affairs), and as RPOF press secretary. McManus will be responsible for public affairs activities in Florida and will work with HCA Healthcare’s employee advocacy program, the Good Government Group. She will be charged with engaging and informing employees at HCA Healthcare’s 46 hospitals in Florida about legislative activities and policies before the Florida Legislature and at the federal level.
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Brian Ballard, Michael Abrams, Mathew Forrest, Ballard Partners: Shopping Center Management d/b/a Turnberry Associates
Randall Hunt: Department of Lottery
Brian Jogerst, BH & Associates: Shatterproof
Joe Mobley, The Fiorentino Group: Flagler County
Ron Pierce, Kaitlyn Bailey, Edward Briggs, Natalie King, RSA Consulting Group: American Fire Sprinkler Association-Florida Chapter
Cissy Proctor, LSN Partners: Merit International, Inc
Glenn Spencer: U.S. Chamber of Commerce
— ALOE —
“Disney Epcot’s latest ride shrinks you down to the size of rat, scurrying past food as big as a car” via Gabrielle Rouson of the Orlando Sentinel — You’re supposed to feel shrunk to the size of a rat, scurrying on the floor and looking up at a giant world around you on Epcot’s latest ride. Disney gave a sneak peek of the Ratatouille-themed ride still under construction at the France pavilion during a news media event Tuesday. Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure opens in summer 2020. Sorry, no cameras allowed. But reporters were allowed to walk through the ride and see the pantry of food stocked with a 25-foot long fish, pears, cheese and other food. Passengers will sit in trackless ride vehicles shaped like rats, a tail on the back, as the vehicles “scurry” around, said Disney Imagineer Mike Davie. Other special effects, including projections and black lights, will create a 4-D effect.
Let’s Talk Interactive telehealth tech recognized among top medical breakthroughs of 2019 — Best Life magazine recently outlined the top life-alternating and life-saving medical breakthroughs of the year, ranging from pills for peanut allergies to 3D-printed hearts, and the combination of policy and technology working together to improve telemental health. Also making the list: Let’s Talk Interactive, which has outfitted some North Florida schools with innovative telehealth kiosks to connect local providers with children suffering from trauma in the wake of Hurricane Michael. “The growth of telehealth in the mental health space is a relatively simple, innovative, cost-effective, and practical way to address the epidemic of rising mental health concerns,” Rahul Mehra, MD, told the magazine.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney and Jason Rodriguez, state government relations manager for BayCare Health System.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.