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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 12.5.19

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

The Florida Chamber Foundation’s 2019 Transportation, Growth & Infrastructure Summit starts this morning in Hollywood.

The daylong affair will see some of the top transportation experts, state agency heads and policy wonks in the state come together to talk about the (literal) structural challenges the Sunshine State faces heading into the next decade.

They may well be immense.

Florida’s population is booming and more people means more cars on the roads, more people on the bus, and even more scooters in the bike lane. Florida Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Wilson will lay out some of those challenges — and the reasons why they matter — in his opening remarks.

What follows is a comprehensive agenda featuring panels and talks from port, rail, road and tech experts — yes, next gen wireless broadband plays a key role in Florida’s future.

Among the speakers are Florida Ports Council President Doug Wheeler, Virgin Trains USA President Patrick Goddard, Florida Power & Light CEO Eric Silagy, AT&T Florida President Joe York, and Florida’s first Chief Resilience Officer, Julia Nesheiwat.

But the Summit isn’t solely focused on challenges years down the road. Florida Department of Transportation Kevin Thibault will stop in for a discussion on what’s happening right now with toll roads plan, known as M-CORES, lawmakers greenlit in the 2019 Legislative Session.

The Summit wraps with a presentation by Florida Chamber Foundation Chief Economist & Director of Research Jerry Parrish on the headwinds and tailwinds the state is navigating in its quest for better infrastructure and, by extension, sustained growth.

Giving Tuesday snafus, brewing primary battles and some plans for that pile of unspent campaign cash. If you haven’t been paying attention in the post-Thanksgiving lull, you’re missing out on some major 2020 premonitions.

This week, Florida Politics shined a light on state Rep. Margaret Good’s shameless fundraising tactics in what’s likely an unwinnable congressional seat for any Democrat. News flash: Campaigns don’t qualify for a Giving Tuesday match.

Also, though Dane Eagle has been locking down endorsements in his bid to replace U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney — Senate President-Designate Wilton Simpson and House Speaker-Designate Chris Sprowls are the latest additions to his quiver — he could be in for a DeSantis vs. Putnam situation should fellow Rep. Byron Donalds, a Trumpworld favorite, decide to jump into the crowded CD 19 Republican primary.

As far as state elections. Oh boy. Andrew Gillum still loves the spotlight, however he can get it — he pledged $150,000 in support for Florida Democrats running for state House, but that money may as well be a poison pill considering former gubernatorial nominee’s divisiveness among moderates. One thing’s for certain: It’s Christmas-come-early for Sprowls.

If you are looking for something to listen to while you are stringing up the lights on the Christmas tree or wrapping presents, check out the latest podcast offerings from Michelle Todd and Peter Schorsch.

On “He Said, She Said,” Sen. Keith Perry makes a guest appearance to talk about one of his top issues for the 2020 Legislative Session: an elementary school music education. Studies show that music education helps students do better in school, and the earlier they start playing the better. The Gainesville lawmaker also outlines how his pilot program could help the schools that opt in. You can listen to that pod here.

And on “Hallmark for Holidays,” the hosts are joined by two politicos well known in The Process: Stephanie and Reggie Cardozo to break down “Christmas at Graceland: Home for the holidays.” You can listen to that pod here.


@FLOTUS: A minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics. Pamela Karlan, you should be ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering, and using a child to do it.

@GeoffRBennett: Two House Democrats tell @LACaldwellDC and @AlexNBCNews they left this morning’s caucus meeting with the understanding the House would vote on articles before the December 20 recess. But one member says they were told to ‘not make plans’ on Dec. 21 and 22.

@SRuhle: For clarification- the HUNTER pleading guilty to conspiracy is NOT Hunter Biden. Reminder -Duncan Hunter & Chris Collins (who pled guilty to insider trading) were the first two members of congress to endorse @realDonaldTrump

@CordByrd: The only crime exposed today during the impeachment show is the theft of tuition dollars by these embarrassing execuses for “law professors.”

@GrayRohrer: really have to wonder if the Trump Org actually wants to have to comply with the E-Verify law that @GovRonDeSantis wants to sign next year

@MarcoRubio: I too was caught with a single use plastic water bottle a few years ago and the media wouldn’t stop talking about it either.

Tweet, tweet:

—@MBakerTBTimes: Just saw a really bad fake coach announcement. I’ve already blocked two accounts that looked real but were, on closer examination, clearly fake. Watch out, friends.


Florida GOP Statesmen Dinner — 2; UK votes on Brexit — 7; Sixth Democratic debate — 14; “The Rise of Skywalker” premiers — 15; College Football National Championship — 39; 2020 Session begins — 40; Florida TaxWatch State of the TaxPayer Dinner in Tallahassee — 41; New Brexit deadline — 57; Super Bowl LIV in Miami — 59; Great American Realtors Day — 60; Iowa Caucuses — 60; New Hampshire Primaries — 68; Nevada caucuses — 79; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 99; Florida’s presidential primary — 103; “Black Panther 2” debuts — 152; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo begin — 230; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 264; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 307; First Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 315; Second presidential debate at Belmont — 322; 2020 General Election — 334.


Rick Scott declares new cold war with China, turns up the heat” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Republican U.S. Sen. Scott declared Wednesday that he believes China has started a new cold war and in a separate matter made a call for Florida’s universities to report to him if any of their researchers might be vulnerable to or participating in Chinese spying. Scott made his “cold war” declaration in an interview with Stuart Varney on FOX Business Wednesday, in which he predicted that President Trump will not be able to complete a new trade deal with China because of that country’s untrustworthiness. The situation, he concluded, is a new cold war. Scott also issued a response late Tuesday to the International Olympic Committee that continues his pattern of strongly criticizing institutions that refuse to comply with his requests regarding China.


Assignment editors — Gov. DeSantis will participate in the Florida Python Challenge 2020 Python Bowl Launch Event today. It kicks off at 10 a.m. in the Wildlife Management Area at 5334 FL-90 in Miami.

Casey DeSantis joins Ashley Moody, agency heads in launching “The Facts. Your Future.” campaign — First Lady DeSantis on Wednesday announced a new, multi-faceted initiative called “The Facts. Your Future.” to heighten youth understanding of the toxic effects of substance abuse. DeSantis was joined by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees, Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Chad Poppell and Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma in making the announcement at a Lake Mary school. “Too many children are losing sight of their dreams and goals – and even losing their lives – because of drug abuse and addiction,” said First Lady DeSantis. “It is imperative that students get the facts about drug abuse and how it can infiltrate and compromise every aspect of their lives,” she said.

Joe Gruters: Nikki Fried ‘ignored the law’ — Sarasota Senator and Republican Party of Florida Chair Gruters says Agriculture Commissioner Fried’s decision not to cast a vote on the next Office of Financial Regulation chief skirts the law. The basis of his claim: section 286.012 of Florida statute, which states that members of the Cabinet “may not abstain from voting” unless there is a conflict of interest. “Nikki Fried plays politics when she abstains from legally required Cabinet votes,” Gruters said in a Wednesday news release. “Voters trusted her to be a state leader, not run away from tough decisions.”

Jamie Grant seeking $1.3M to bolster All Children’s Hospital’s opioid addiction prevention program” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Grant is asking for $1.3 million for Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital to combat opioid addiction and improve education for chronically ill children. Grant filed a pair of appropriations requests Tuesday that would provide staff and programs to accomplish those goals. HB 4861 requests $850,000 for the hospital to pay for a pediatric psychologist and special equipment to be used for biofeedback, a method that teaches patients to control certain body functions, psychotherapy, massage therapy and acupuncture as interventions and alternatives to opioids for pediatric patients age 21 and younger. The other bill, HB 4859, asks for $450,000 to provide educational instructional time for children in the hospital or outpatient programs.

Bobby DuBose seeks to expand supervised release program to ill, elderly prisoners” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — State Rep. DuBose has filed legislation expanding an inmate’s ability to secure release from prison due to an illness. That process is what’s known as a Conditional Medical Release (CMR) and applies to inmates who are “terminally ill” or “permanently incapacitated.” Inmates seeking CMR are recommended to the Florida Commission on Offender Review, which then decides whether to release them. DuBose would expand eligibility to inmates suffering from a “debilitating illness,” defined as “a significant terminal or nonterminal condition, disease, or syndrome that has rendered the inmate so physically or cognitively impaired, debilitated, or incapacitated as to create a reasonable probability that the inmate does not constitute a danger to himself or herself or to others.”

Tina Polsky pushes measure regulating safe storage of weapons in the home — With the 2020 Legislative Session beginning next month, Polsky is highlighting her efforts to ramp up regulation of weapon storage within the home. A few weeks back, Polsky refiled a version of her 2019 bill, which increases the scope of a state law punishing gun owners for unsafe storage of their weapons around minors. And the Boca Raton Democrat says she expects some action on this and other gun regulation measures come January. “For too long, we have seen mass shooting after mass shooting in this country, and we must step up to the plate and address the fundamental issues with our gun laws,” Polsky said.

Happening today — The No Roads to Ruin Coalition, a group opposing a toll road plan greenlit by lawmakers earlier this year, will hold an event highlighting possible environmental damage of the infrastructure project. It begins at 10:30 a.m. in the Capitol rotunda.

Happening today — The Revenue Estimating Conference will meet to discuss its revenue forecast for the state tobacco tax. The panel lowered its tobacco revenue forecast in August, citing an overestimate on collections from the sale of non-cigarette tobacco products. The conference begins at 2 p.m. in the Knott Building at the Capitol.


Website 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 that attackers could attempt to disrupt elections without even breaking into the voting systems — by simply changing the results on election websites. 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.” To address that possibility, Lee said the department is “working very hard to secure those sites and stay on top of evolving threats and tactics to keep them secure.”

Florida teacher shortage: More than 2,200 jobs open halfway into school year, union says” via Leslie Portal of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida’s public schools need to hire 2,217 teachers to fill open jobs in classrooms across the state, a sign of Florida’s growing teacher shortage, according to the statewide teacher’s union. State schools had 700 more teacher vacancies this month than at the same time last year, with openings in nearly all subjects, from high school math to middle school civics to every elementary school grade, said Cathy Boehme, a legislative specialist with the Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers union.

State highway boss wants recommendations to avoid another SunPass debacle” via Lawrence Mower of the Miami Herald — Florida Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault said his inspector general is following up on a scathing report about the botched rollout of the overhauled SunPass system. Thibault said he asked his inspector general to review the report and come up with additional recommendations after Gov. Ron DeSantis’ chief inspector general, Melinda Miguel, faulted the department and private contractors for cost overruns and a lack of oversight of the nearly $350 million project. Thibault said the lack of controls over the private contractor, Conduent State & Local Solutions, was the biggest lesson from the report.

NRA, local governments square off on gun law” via News Service of Florida — The National Rifle Association and local-government groups are trying to sway the 1st District Court of Appeal in a battle about a controversial state gun law. The NRA this week filed a proposed friend-of-the-court brief urging the court to uphold the 2011 law, which has threatened tough penalties if city and county officials approve gun regulations. The NRA filing came a week after the Florida League of Cities and the Florida Association of Counties sought permission to file a brief in opposition to the law. Florida since 1987 has barred cities and counties from passing regulations that are stricter than state firearms laws, and the penalties in the 2011 law were designed to strengthen that “preemption.”

Happening today — The Florida Supreme Court will publish its weekly opinions at 11 a.m.

Happening today — Attorney General Ashley Moody is scheduled to speak at a reception hosted by Palm Beach Republican Club. The event starts at 5:30 p.m. at The Colony Hotel, 155 Hammon Ave. Moody is expected to take the stage at 6:30 p.m.

Happening today — Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran and state Rep. Shevrin Jones will hold a town hall meeting in Miami Gardens to discuss the state education policy. That’s at 6:30 p.m. at Miami Norland Senior High School, 1193 N.W. 193rd St.

Floridians flock to exchange health plans” via News Service of Florida — Topping the nation, 796,858 Floridians had chosen health plans on the federal health-insurance exchange as of Saturday, according to the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Nationally, 2,876,998 people had enrolled in plans for the first time or actively renewed coverage after the exchange open-enrollment period started Nov. 1, according to the data. The data does not include information on people who were automatically re-enrolled in health plans. The enrollment period continues until Dec. 15 for coverage that will start Jan. 1. The information includes data on 38 states that will use the federal platform for the 2020 benefit year. Florida’s enrollment has far outpaced other states. Texas had the second-highest enrollment on the platform as of Saturday, with 400,436.


Assignment editors — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried will speak about her climate and energy legislative priorities at the 11th Annual Southeast Florida Regional Climate Leadership Summit in Key West. The event begins at 10:15 a.m. at the Casa Marina Key West, 1500 Reynolds Street.

Nonprofit director mishandled hurricane aid for individuals with disabilities” via News Service of Florida — An investigation by the state Department of Education’s inspector general’s office found that the former executive director of the Florida Independent Living Council — a nonprofit organization that assists the state agency’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and Division of Blind Services — misappropriated the bulk of $35,000 in donations in January 2018. The probe, which was completed in August 2018 but has not been previously reported, found the council’s former executive director James Baker spent $15,710 on “administrative costs” despite telling donors the money would be used to buy and deliver food and supplies to people with disabilities. Investigators also found Baker inappropriately handled the delivery of approximately 20 donated generators.

Cities, counties get money for home buyouts” via News Service of Florida — Florida has awarded more than $44 million to 11 local governments to purchase Hurricane Irma-damaged properties in high-risk flood areas, according to the Governor’s office. The federal Community Development Block Grant money is intended to help owners of homes damaged by the September 2017 Category 4 storm and communities bracing for future disasters. The money was awarded through the state Department of Economic Opportunity’s Rebuild Florida Voluntary Home Buyout Program. The money can be used by local governments to purchase homes from “willing” sellers, according to information from the governor’s office. Also, local governments can use the money to apply for matching grants for infrastructure or property improvements that reduce risks of harm from disasters.

Florida Keys deliver a hard message: As seas rise, some places can’t be saved” via Christopher Flavelle and Patricia Mazzei of The New York Times — Officials in the Florida Keys announced what many coastal governments nationwide have long feared, but few have been willing to admit: As seas rise and flooding gets worse, not everyone can be saved. And in some places, it doesn’t even make sense to try. On Wednesday, Rhonda Haag, the county’s sustainability director, released results of a yearslong effort to calculate how high its 300 miles of roads must be elevated to stay dry. The costs were far higher than her team expected — and those numbers, she said, show that some places can’t be protected. “I never would have dreamed we would say ‘no,’” Haag said in an interview. “But now, with the real estimates coming in, it’s a different story. And it’s not all doable.”


‘Are you ready?’: Nancy Pelosi preps Democrats for next steps on impeachment” via Sarah Ferris and Heather Caygle of POLITICO — Speaker Pelosi on Wednesday held a special closed-door huddle with her caucus to discuss impeachment, one day after Democrats unveiled a damning report on President Trump‘s role in the Ukraine scandal that could lead to a vote to oust the president by year’s end. In a sign of the moment’s gravity, Pelosi and her leadership team ensured that the members-only gathering was tightly controlled. Lawmakers were not allowed to bring phones and a sign on the door read “no entrance” to keep out all staff. About halfway through the meeting, Pelosi asked the caucus whether they were prepared to proceed with the process. A senior aide said lawmakers “overwhelmingly” showed support for advancing the impeachment inquiry.

Donald Trump’s personal attorneys remain largely on the sidelines as the president contends with impeachment inquiry” via Carol D. Leonnig of The Washington Post — President Trump enters a perilous phase of the impeachment inquiry with very limited help from his personal lawyers, who remain largely on the sidelines and in the dark about evidence at the heart of the probe, according to two people familiar with the situation. As the House begins discussing specific articles of impeachment, the president is relying almost exclusively on White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and his in-house team of attorneys, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation. In the face of allegations that Trump abused his office for political gain, the White House lawyers are not sharing government records central to the inquiry with the president’s personal attorneys.

Matt Gaetz confronts Karlan for past campaign donations and appearances” via NBC News — Gaetz confronted Prof. Pamela Karlan for her previous donations to Democratic campaigns and appearances at the House Judiciary impeachment hearing.

“‘I’m not afraid of you.’ Debbie Mucarsel-Powell embraces Trump impeachment role” via Alex Daugherty, David Smiley and Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — In the midst of a riff on trade policy during a campaign rally in Sunrise last week, President Trump name-checked Rep. Mucarsel-Powell, a Miami Democrat who will have a say in this week’s impeachment hearings as the probe shifts to the House Judiciary Committee. “They’re doing nothing, folks. They’re doing nothing. It’s a terrible thing. It’s a terrible thing,” Trump said of House Democrats. “So, Congresswoman Mucarsel-Powell, where is she? Is she here? I’d love to see her and Congresswoman [Donna] Shalala.” Mucarsel-Powell responded, via video, by noting her work on impeachment, which for months was a political third-rail for many Democrats in competitive districts like her Miami-to-Key West seat that has frequently changed party hands in the last decade.


Trump is waging war on America’s diplomats” via Julia Ioffe of GQ — Last year Lewis Lukens, the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in London, visited a pair of English universities where he spoke about the importance of international cooperation, beseeching students not to “swipe left” on the historic “special relationship” between the U.K. and America. The speeches were fairly anodyne. At the time, the two countries’ relationship was strained — in part because President Trump had attacked British leaders, including Prime Minister Theresa May. A week later, Lukens says his boss, U.S. ambassador Woody Johnson, an heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune and a Trump political appointee, told him that he was done. Lukens says he had unwittingly committed a fatal error in his speech: He had mentioned former president Barack Obama.

How two undocumented housekeepers took on the president — and revealed his company employed illegal immigrants” via Joshua Partlow and David A. Fahrenthold of The Washington Post — It was important for Sandra Diaz to be invisible. Before entering the Trump family villa, she would tie back her hair, pull on latex gloves and step into delicate paper shoe coverings. As Donald Trump’s personal maid, Diaz was dealing with a fussy celebrity owner who presided like a monarch over the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster. Diaz carried out Trump’s fastidious instructions. In his closet, she would hang six sets of identical golf outfits: six white polo shirts, six pairs of beige pants, six neatly ironed pairs of boxer shorts. She would smear a dollop of Trump’s liquid face makeup on the back of her hand to make sure it hadn’t dried out.

Eric Holder talks Census, redistricting at New Florida Majority event in Miami” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — “If the system is fair, people will be treated fairly.” That’s the bottom-line from former Attorney General Holder on the upcoming Census and redistricting process. Holder held a meeting in Miami Monday to help promote participation in the 2020 Census. Holder now chairs the National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC), a group which advocates for redistricting reform. The NDRC has started its “All On The Line” campaign to help encourage participation in next year’s Census. “Florida is on our radar screen,” Holder said. “This is an important state. What happens in this state has national consequences. 

Darren Soto presents Pulse National Memorial resolution” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A proposal to have the planned Pulse Memorial and Museum in Orlando declared a U.S. National Memorial took a key step forward Wednesday when U.S. Rep. Soto presented the measure to the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources. Soto’s presentation followed the U.S. National Parks Service’s announcement that it was taking no position on the bill since the government would neither own nor operate the memorial, which is being developed by the private nonprofit onePulse Foundation. Soto welcomed that. “There actually are ten examples already of national memorials that are not affiliated with our park service, from the National Memorial for Fallen Educators; the National AIDS Memorial, the Grove national memorial; and the David Berger Memorial, so we’ve done this numerous times before,” he said.

House approves Ted Deutch bill diverting nonviolent elderly prisoners into home detention program” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The U.S. House approved a bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Deutch that would expedite the ability of a nonviolent elderly prisoner to serve the remainder of their sentence in a home detention program. The bipartisan bill was greenlit with a simple voice vote and is now heading to the U.S. Senate. That program was reauthorized by the FIRST STEP Act, a criminal justice reform bill signed into law by President Trump. It allows certain elderly prisoners who have served two-thirds of their federal sentence to be released into a home detention program. What Deutch’s bill does is clarify the definition of “two-thirds.” Currently, that threshold is calculated by the prisoner’s original sentence and does not include credit for time served.

First in Sunburn —AFP launches ad campaign targeting ‘corporate welfare’ votes” via Florida Politics — Conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity is staunchly opposed to government cash helping pad corporate coffers. Most recently, the group came out in against an extension for the Export-Import Bank, or Ex-Im, a federally backed  lender that provides short-term credit to companies in cases where the private sector cannot, or, will not. AFP pointed to dozens of fraud allegations levied against the bank in its dissent while also noting that the program costs taxpayers billions. Though the measure passed, AFP isn’t walking away — it wants voters to know who cast some of the deciding votes, and it’s putting six figures behind a multimedia ad campaign to make sure they do. One member of Florida’s congressional delegation is among the 15 targets AFP listed for the newspaper, digital and direct mail ad blitz: Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy.

— 2020 —

Joe Biden struts as his rivals bite the dust” via Natasha Korecki and Marc Caputo of POLITICO — Biden’s feeling awfully confident these days. The former vice president thinks he doesn’t need Barack Obama to win the primary. He seemed to mock the ideas that there’s enthusiasm for Elizabeth Warren or that Pete Buttigieg came up with his own plans. And he professed to be untroubled by the possibility of Mike Bloomberg dropping $1 billion to beat him out for the nomination. Biden is dripping with confidence as the candidates who pitched themselves as Biden alternatives are the ones dropping. On Tuesday, it was Kamala Harris, who just this summer had so humiliated Biden on the national debate stage that analysts questioned whether black supporters would ditch the former vice president in droves.

Biden says he’ll consider Harris as his running mate” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — A day after Harris dropped out of the presidential race, Biden said he would consider the California senator as a running mate and said he had no “hard feelings” against his now-former opponent. “Senator Harris has the capacity to be anything she wants to be,” Biden said. “I talked to her yesterday. She’s solid. She can be the president one day herself. She can be the vice president. She can go on to be a Supreme Court justice.” Biden’s kind words for Harris, who torched him during a June debate over his record on busing, marked the second day in which he commended her. On Wednesday, Biden told reporters that “of course I would” consider Harris as a running mate.

Warren follows Biden’s flashy Florida entrance with a quiet buildup” via Matt Dixon of Politico  Sen. Warren’s presidential campaign has quietly been building a ground operation in Florida, adding regional organizers and staffers to engage black and Hispanic voters as the team digs in for a long fight for the Democratic nomination. She follows former Vice President Biden to become only the second Democratic presidential candidate with a meaningful footprint in the state — and the two camps are mounting starkly different strategies.


Andrew Gillum announces ‘unprecedented push’ in voter outreach and campaign donations” via Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — As part of his effort to help down-ballot Democrats grow their numbers in the Capitol, one-time gubernatorial candidate and former Tallahassee Mayor Gillum has decided on 21 candidates to endorse and support financially in 2020. Gillum’s Forward Florida political committee expects to spend six figures and more on state legislative races over the course of the campaign. “These endorsements represent our commitment to building a lasting progressive movement in Florida — and turning that movement into real victories up and down the ballot,” Gillum said in a statement Wednesday. “So much of what affects everyday Floridians’ lives happens at the state level, so it is vital that we are working to flip Florida Blue on every level of the ticket.”

“‘Keep Our Constitution Clean’ rakes in another $2.5 million” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Sponsors of an amendment to make it harder to change Florida’s constitution pulled in nearly $2.5 million last month, according to campaign finance reports. The political committee Keep Our Constitution Clean‘s total haul now tops $8 million with November being its best month to date. And the group’s proposed amendment, which would require that future amendments face two rounds of voting, now has 416,846 of the 766,200 signatures it needs by February to appear on the 2020 ballot. Increasing the necessary rounds of public approval from one round to two, would make Florida’s constitution one of the hardest state constitutions to change. Only publicly submitted amendments in Nevada require two-time public approval.

Justices urged to approve Medicaid ballot proposal” via News Service of Florida — Disputing arguments raised by the state House and Senate, a political committee Wednesday urged the Florida Supreme Court to sign off on a proposed constitutional amendment that would expand Medicaid coverage. The committee Florida Decides Healthcare is seeking to take the issue to voters in 2022 after Republican lawmakers have refused repeatedly in recent years to expand Medicaid to low-income adults who currently don’t qualify for coverage. Such an expansion is allowed under the federal Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, with Washington picking up most of the cost for newly covered people. The Supreme Court plays a key role because it must decide whether proposed ballot wording meets legal tests, such as not being misleading.

National Republicans distance themselves from Florida’s George Buck after hanging email” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — National Republicans are distancing themselves from Buck after the Florida congressional candidate suggested hanging U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar in a fundraising email. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy decided to remove Buck as one of the party’s “Young Guns.” U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, agreed with the decision, a spokeswoman for the committee said Wednesday. The decision comes a day after the Tampa Bay Times reported that Buck’s campaign had sent a fundraising email calling for Omar’s execution. “We should hang these traitors where they stand,” the email said. Buck initially told the Times he didn’t write the email. In a follow-up statement, Buck appeared to stand by the statement.

Wilton Simpson, Chris Sprowls endorse Dane Eagle for Congress” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The likely next Florida Senate President and Speaker of the House have tossed their support to Dane Eagle’s Congressional campaign. Senate President-Designate Wilton Simpson and House Speaker-Designate Chris Sprowls jointly announced their endorsement of the Cape Coral Republican. “In a business where people spend too much time talking, Dane Eagle defines himself by his actions,” Sprowls said. “He fights tirelessly for his conservative beliefs, knows his issues inside and out, isn’t afraid of making the hard choices, and always keeps his word.” Simpson also offered high praise to Eagle. “The hardworking people of Southwest Florida deserve a leader in Washington who’s willing to take on the establishment and stand up for all Floridians,” he said.

Happening tonight:

— WHOA —

Top Clinton donor giving $500,000 to help DeSantis’ pick for Broward sheriff” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — One of the country’s leading Democratic donors has opened his formidable wallet for the Broward County sheriff installed by Florida’s Republican governor, giving $500,000 to the committee behind incumbent Gregory Tony’s 2020 election effort. The $500,000 payment from Fort Lauderdale hedge-fund titan Donald Sussman, confirmed by Sussman and a source familiar with Tony donations, easily qualifies as the largest contribution yet in the 2020 race for Broward sheriff and practically doubles what’s been reported so far for the two best-known candidates. Tony’s committee, Broward First, had raised just $229,000 between July and October, and ex-sheriff Scott Israel — ousted by Gov. DeSantis in the wake of the 2018 school massacre in Parkland — has raised about $270,000 for his 2020 campaign.


George Zimmerman sues Trayvon Martin’s family, attorneys” via The Associated Press — Zimmerman, who was acquitted of the 2012 killing of Martin, is suing the teen’s parents, family attorney, the attorney’s book publisher and prosecutors who tried his case, claiming he was defamed when they allowed a witness to give false testimony in an attempt to incriminate him. Zimmerman’s lawsuit, filed Wednesday, said a trial witness pretended to be the last person to talk to Martin by phone before he was killed when the witness was actually the half-sister of the caller. In a statement on Wednesday, Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump called the allegations “unfounded and reckless.” Zimmerman’s lawyer, Larry Klayman, is planning news conference on Thursday to discuss the complaint. The lawsuit seeks $100 million, alleging malicious prosecution and conspiracy.

Tommy Hazouri, Sam Newby locking up leadership roles for next Council term” via Mike Mendenhall of the Jax Daily Record — Only five months into the 2019-20 term, the City Council’s next president and vice president could already be determined. Council Vice President Tommy Hazouri filed a letter of intent Nov. 19 to run for the presidency for the 2020-21 year. Second-term Group 5 At-Large Council member Sam Newby filed his letter of intent Nov. 25 for vice president. Hazouri said Wednesday declaring his bid for Council president with seven months to go in the current session could help keep the Council’s focus on issues such as JEA’s push toward a possible sale and proposed taxpayer incentives for Jacksonville Jaguar owner Shad Khan’s $450 million Lot J development. District 4 At-Large Council member Matt Carlucci held a noticed meeting Nov. 21 for members to show support for Hazouri’s candidacy.

City Hall’s top attorney told JEA to cancel controversial bonus plan, according to internal memo” via Christopher Hong of the Florida Times-Union — Jacksonville City Hall’s top attorney told JEA officials to cancel its unusual and controversial long-term bonus plan because of his concerns about its legality, according to a previously unreleased internal memo he wrote last month. The memo, written by the city’s general counsel Jason Gabriel, shows that city attorneys had not signed off on the plan when the board approved it in July and that JEA shuttered the plan last month on his advice. Those details are contrary to statements JEA officials have made about the plan, which has come under fierce criticism and scrutiny in recent weeks. The internal memo goes into significantly more detail than one JEA distributed to the media last month from Gabriel.

State police agency says it has ‘no authority’ to investigate Brevard jail death“via Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon — Citing a technicality, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said it will not open a criminal investigation into the death last year of U.S. Army combat veteran Gregory Lloyd Edwards who was beaten, tased, pepper sprayed, strapped into a restraint chair and deprived of medical attention for 29 minutes. The decision, communicated to Edwards’s widow Kathleen Edwards in a November 19 letter, was provided to FLORIDA TODAY Wednesday by an FDLE spokesperson. It followed a review of the complaint by Kathleen Edwards that was referred by the FDLE’s Office of the Inspector General on November 6.

Rick Kriseman, Rays end negotiations over split Montreal season” via Ashley Gurbal Kritzer of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — The Tampa Bay Rays and the city of St. Petersburg have ended negotiations around splitting the season with Montreal. “Both parties have agreed that the best path forward is to abide by the existing use agreement with the understanding that the agreement allows for the Rays Organization to explore post-2027 split or full season opportunities both in St. Petersburg and elsewhere,” Mayor Kriseman wrote in a memo to St. Pete City Council. The end of negotiations could mean the end of professional baseball in Tampa Bay. When Rays owner Stuart Sternberg pitched the idea split season in June, he said that if the concept didn’t come to fruition it was “highly unlikely” the team would remain in Tampa Bay beyond 2027.

Tina Polsky to host pair of events on Turnpike noise concern, food insecurity” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — State Rep. Polsky is slated to headline a “Florida Turnpike Noise Forum” Thursday to address concerns about the ongoing Turnpike expansion project in Palm Beach County. The $168 million project began in the fall and is expected to be completed in 2024. It will take place from 5 p.m. until 6 p.m. in Boca Raton Thursday at the West Boca Branch Library, 18685 State Road 7. On Saturday, Polsky will be joined by state Sen. Kevin Rader for a Farm Share Food Giveaway. Boca Helping Hands is also partnering to help with the event. It will run from 9 a.m. to noon in the parking lot of the Boca Glades Baptist Church, 10101 Judge Winikoff Rd., in Boca Raton.

Intruder at Trump’s Palm Beach club leaves jail, faces deportation to China” via Jay Weaver and Nicholas Nehamas of the Miami Herald — A Chinese business woman who was incarcerated for eight months for trespassing at President Donald Trump’s Palm Beach club was transferred Wednesday from a federal lockup to the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation to China. Yujing Zhang, 33, was moved to the Glades County Detention Center in Moore Haven after being held at the Paul Rein Detention Facility in Broward County following her sentencing last week, according to an ICE website. It was not clear when Zhang, who faces a removal proceeding, would be deported to China. Zhang was sentenced to eight months behind bars — essentially time served.

John Thrasher looks ahead to 2020 during ‘State of the University’ address” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida State University President John Thrasher gave his fifth “State of the University” address Wednesday to the FSU Faculty Senate, assuring them he has their interest at heart going into next year’s legislative session. Buoyed by FSU’s rise to No. 18 among nationally ranked public universities this fall by U.S. News and World Report, Thrasher said “now is not the time to rest on our laurels. That’s not who we are at Florida State.” “It’s been said high achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation,” he said. “So the Top 15 is in our sights, and the Top 10 is a long-range goal. But it’s going to take significant support from the Florida Legislature to make it happen.”

St. Pete cop Antonio Gilliam coming home to head Tallahassee Police Department” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Tallahassee native Antonio Gilliam was selected as the new chief of police for the Tallahassee Police Department in a long-anticipated announcement Wednesday. Gilliam, a Rickards High School and Florida State University graduate and former assistant chief of police for the St. Petersburg Police Department, beat out two internal candidates and 17 others vying for the job following the resignation of Michael DeLeo in June.


Low taxes fuel Florida’s economic success. Let’s keep it that way.” via Mark Wilson for the South Florida Sun Sentinel — Florida is fortunate to be home to 19 Fortune 500 companies. Yet once again, these job creators are under attack. They are the “boogie man” for activist journalism which, far too often, seeks to advance socialism over free enterprise. Only in America could the distorted tax policy theory of some become an Orlando Sentinel headline or fodder for a Sun Sentinel columnist. As the late great Paul Harvey would say, “Now here’s the rest of the story.” In uniting the business community for good, the Florida Chamber is shining a light on bogus, socialist-style reports that use half-truths and innuendoes in an attempt to somehow tarnish leading job creators (a system that has Florida creating one out of 13 new U.S. jobs).

Matt Gaetz is interesting, but not in a good way” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — In an interview with GQ, Gaetz said, “The organizing principle of today’s politics is ‘stay interesting.’” Yeah, that’s one reason Gaetz is President Trump’s kind of guy. This is what passes for interesting. Like the President, Gaetz is loud, arrogant, brash, and abrasive. He is not on a first-name basis with things called facts, and he likes to butt in where he doesn’t belong. Take Georgia politics, for instance. Gaetz inserted his mouth, ego, and ambition into Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision to appoint Kelly Loeffler to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the retiring Johnny Isakson. Trump wanted U.S. Rep. Doug Collins to fill the seat. And that’s where Gaetz took his goober-smooching cue to threaten Kemp – yes, threaten – for daring to think on his own.

Brave new roads coming” via the Florida Times-Union editorial board — In the early 1900s, this city was making the transition to automobiles as Model Ts were affordable for many. Now in the 21st century, another major transition is in the works. Driverless cars already are on the streets in a few numbers. Elected leaders in Florida want to make this state the most aggressive in the nation for welcoming autonomous vehicles. There is a reluctance to turn over the wheel to a mechanical brain, yet statistics show that most crashes are caused by human error, not breakdowns in the vehicles. One of the leaders in the driverless car movement is Sen. Jeff Brandes, a Republican from St. Petersburg. He points out that 94 percent of serious car crashes are caused by human error. We’re used to giving orders to our smart speaker; will we be telling our cars how to drive, too? Florida should welcome the new technology but be prepared to make common-sense safety features as well.

How many times must we tell the Legislature to stop plundering funds for affordable housing?” via the Editorial Board of The Palm Beach Post — At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we are once again climbing upon our soapbox to urge the Florida Legislature to refrain from raiding the William E. Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund, the one tool our state has to specifically address the ever-increasing price of owning or renting a home. The Sadowski trust fund uses documentary tax stamp revenue to pay for housing initiatives. Over the past 25 years the fund has generated $5.9 billion for that purpose. Yet state lawmakers just can’t keep their grubby little hands out of what they see as a tempting cookie jar. Next month’s legislative session, though, could be a historic breakthrough.

Why should legislators keep their addresses confidential?” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — The concept of Florida’s “Government in the Sunshine” law is simple. When public officials entrusted with levying our taxes and spending public money have a meeting, we get to watch them work. The written records of those meetings are available to the citizens whose lives are affected by their decisions. Oh, of course, there must be some exemptions, even secrecy. You can’t expect names of drug informants to be published, and nobody needs to see personal medical records, stuff like that. But it’s not the nature of government to leave things alone. Once they get a good law, legislators feel an urge to improve it — to trim a little here, expand a little there — and somehow, the changes usually work to the convenience or advantage of the officeholders.


Duke Energy Florida executive Melissa Seixas appointed to USF St. Pete Board of Trustees” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The University of South Florida Board of Trustees is adding a Duke Energy Florida executive to the St. Petersburg campus board, the group announced Wednesday. Seixas is the vice president of government and community relations for Duke Energy Florida. She is also a USF alumna, earning her master’s degree in history from the school. Seixas also served as co-chair for USF’s 50th anniversary celebration during the 2015-2016 academic year. “We are delighted to welcome Melissa Seixas to our board,” said Stephanie Goforth, the USF St. Petersburg Campus Board chair and a USF trustee. “Her deep ties to USF St. Petersburg as well as her demonstrated commitment to the Tampa Bay community make her a very valuable addition to our team.”

Insurance Commissioner hires new Government Affairs Director at OIR — Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier this week announced Allison Hess Sitte has been appointed Government Affairs Director at the state Office of Insurance Regulation. “Allison has skills and experience which will greatly benefit OIR and I look forward to working with her as we approach the 2020 Legislative Session,” Altmaier said in a news release. Sitte comes to OIR from the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs, where she worked as the Director of Legislative and Cabinet Affairs. She is a double alumna of Florida State University, where she earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Jeff Johnston, Amanda Stewart, Anita Berry, Johnston & Stewart Government Strategies: Florida Crystals Corporation, Jack and Jill Children’s Center, Novo Nordisk

Sean Redmond: U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Alan Suskey, Suskey Consulting: Tampa Bay Innovation Center

Margaret Timmins, Timmins Consulting: Bay District Schools

Rawn Williams: Florida Community Care

Stuart Williams: Independent Living Systems

— ALOE —

First look: Disney’s new ‘Star Wars’ ride spins into Hollywood Studios” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Disney’s new “Star Wars” ride, is a delightfully disorienting, swirling mix of animatronics, AT-ATs and off-balance surprises. The Walt Disney World attraction officially debuts Thursday at Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park, although some members of the media previewed Rise on Tuesday afternoon. They experienced a smooth-moving mission that’s punctuated by familiar themes and characters from the movie series. Disney has touted Rise as its most complicated ride to date. Three distinct ride systems — including one that’s trackless — must play well together and be synced with the ride’s visuals (both on-screen and audio-animatronic) and choreographed to the dramatic score by John Williams. There are also mind games, just short of Jedi-level trickery, where visitors get turned around before they’ve even boarded the six-person ride vehicle.

Season’s greetings at Sears: Dingy shops, sparse shelves” via Anne D’Innocenzio of The Associated Press — Nearly 10 months out of bankruptcy, Sears is limping into the holiday shopping season. Eddie Lampert, the hedge fund billionaire who promised to save 425 Sears and Kmart stores and roughly 45,000 jobs when he bought the company out of bankruptcy, has seen his $5.2 billion lifeline wither. While there were plans for new small stores centered on appliances, only three have opened. The chain is still shrinking. By February, the store count will be down to 128. Many of the stores that remain have the same old problems. They’re grungy and understaffed, poorly stocked and losing vendors. At And online, it can’t compete with Amazon and its traditional rivals.


Best wishes to Beth Herendeen and Todd Jennings‘ better half, Rachel.


Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.

Written By

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

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
Phone: (727) 642-3162
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St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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