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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 12.10.19

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

You know the holidays are here when The Southern Group unveils its annual Christmas card.

The TSG card, now an annual tradition, offers a fun take on the year’s most significant political stories, something always guaranteed to bring a buzz — not to mention a few snickers — throughout Florida’s Capitol.

This year is no different.

The new edition pokes fun at both sides of the aisle in Washington, D.C., and there was no shortage of humorous political fodder this year.

The Democrats, the news media, the impeachment inquiry, Michael Cohen and even Stormy Daniels make the naughty list.

However, it’s President Donald Trump takes center stage and gets a little bit of a lighthearted ribbing.

The front of the card features POTUS with a Charlie Brown-esque Christmas tree while the interior depicts him making a few enhancements with a magic marker, a la his Hurricane Dorian map.

Just like his claims about the crowd at his inauguration, the inside shows the now-Florida resident making an outlandish assertion.

“Many people are saying this is the biggest Christmas tree in history,” the inside reads.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@AriFleischer: My take on today’s impeachment hearing: What a colossal waste of time. We all know how this will turn out. House Ds have never accepted the 2016 results and will impeach Trump. Senate won’t come anywhere close to conviction. What a waste of time.

@SenKamalaHarris: From the Muslim ban to family separations, Stephen Miller has worked to advance white supremacist, anti-immigrant ideologies. This has no place in our country, let alone the White House. Today I’m leading 26 senators in demanding Miller’s immediate removal from the White House.

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@MarcoRubio: Key questions in investigation of attack at NAS Pensacola: —was it motivated by violent ideology, a personal grievance, or both? -did anyone else help, participate or know & fail to warn? —did vetting process miss something? —Do we sufficiently monitor trainees once they are here?

@JHolleywood: Clever conspiracy theory, but not true. No one from NextEra is working on or engaged on this bill. Gulf ppl were mistakenly registered, but no longer are.

@FLCaseyDeSantis: I am excited to announce the Florida Children & Youth Cabinet, in its unique position to create a new model for addressing youth suicide, will be zeroing in on strong mentorship programs.

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@Deggans: I already worried Clint Eastwood‘s “Richard Jewell” would take cheap shots while building its narrative of an everyman victimized by mainstream media. But inventing a story that a real-life female reporter, now dead, slept w/a source? Hard pass.

— DAYS UNTIL —

UK general election — 2; Sixth Democratic debate — 9; “The Rise of Skywalker” premiers — 10; College Football National Championship — 34; 2020 Session begins — 35; Florida TaxWatch State of the TaxPayer Dinner in Tallahassee — 36; New Brexit deadline — 52; Super Bowl LIV in Miami — 54; Great American Realtors Day — 55; Iowa Caucuses — 55; New Hampshire Primaries — 63; Nevada caucuses — 74; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 94; Florida’s presidential primary — 98; “Black Panther 2” debuts — 147; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo begin — 225; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 252; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 302; First Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 310; Second presidential debate at Belmont — 317; 2020 General Election — 329.

— LATEST ON NAS SHOOTING —

NAS Pensacola shooting victims: 5 released from hospital, 3 in stable condition” via the Pensacola News Journal — Authorities have not officially released the names of those injured, including the two Escambia County Sheriff’s Office deputies who exchanged gunfire with the suspect before he was killed. One deputy was shot in the arm, and the other was shot in the leg. Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan told the News Journal that both deputies have since been released from the hospital. A third law enforcement officer, a Navy police officer, was also injured in the shooting but was reportedly in good spirits over the weekend.

An Air Force carry team moves a transfer case containing the remains of Seaman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters at Dover Air Force Base. A Saudi gunman killed three people including Walters, of Richmond Hill, Ga., in a shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola.

Family of victim ‘floored’ by massive military salute” via Nate Chute and Annie Blanks of the Pensacola News Journal — It’s quiet. The sound of a vehicle’s blinker clicks louder than it normally would while a mother, a father, a sister-in-law, and a brother’s girlfriend sit silently. Then, a line of service members saluting their passing vehicle appears. Captured on Facebook Live by the family, the line stretches for miles at the Naval Air Station Pensacola, just days after Joshua Kaleb Watson was taken away from his family in a shooting that left four people dead, including the shooter, and eight injured. Zack Watson, Joshua Kaleb’s brother and the boyfriend of the woman who filmed the Facebook Live, told the News Journal that the show of support was incredible.

To view the video, click on the image below:

Gunman got around a ban on foreigners buying guns” via Lisa Marie Pane of The Associated Press — Generally, foreigners are not allowed to buy guns in the United States. But there are exceptions written into federal law, which may explain how the Saudi flight student who shot three service members to death at the Pensacola naval base was able to purchase a weapon. For example, a foreigner who manages to obtain a state hunting license and can show proof of residency in that state can legally buy a gun. “It seems every day we find a new loophole,” said Adam Winkler, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law and an expert on gun laws and politics.

Gunman’s behavior changed after trip to native Saudi Arabia, friends say” via the Washington Post — (H)is demeanor seemed to change following a recent home leave, several students said, with Shamrani becoming more withdrawn and often appearing sullen, officials familiar with the matter said. Local business owners had a similar impression. The owner of one Pensacola eatery said Shamrani visited his restaurant at least once in the week before the shooting. The owner described him as “strange,” “quiet” and “angry.”

Donald Trump spoke with Saudi crown prince about Pensacola shooting” via Quint Forgey of POLITICO — Trump tweeted that Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the crown prince’s father, had called him “to express his sincere condolences” for the shooting at the Naval Air Station Pensacola that left four dead, including the gunman — who authorities said was a Saudi national attending flight training. Defense Secretary Mark Esper ordered a review of procedures for vetting foreign nationals and security on military installations, and White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said the shooting “appears to be a terrorist attack.” Trump’s weekend phone call could further escalate tensions and result in greater scrutiny of the White House’s diplomatic response to the violence.

Trump should ‘no longer be in the business of protecting the Saudis,’ says former Bob Graham” via Lucy Morgan of the Florida Phoenix — Graham wants the United States to reopen investigations into some of the past activity by Saudi Arabia in the wake of a shooting that killed three and injured several others Friday at the Pensacola Naval Air Station. Graham was chairman of a committee that investigated the deadly 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and has spent the last few years fighting to gain access to FBI records involving a prominent Saudi family that mysteriously fled their home and possessions in a gated Sarasota subdivision just a few days before the Sept. 11, 2001 attack.

Meanwhile … Santa Rosa County passes ‘Second Amendment Sanctuary’ resolution 3 days after NAS Pensacola shooting” via Annie Blanks of the Pensacola News Journal — The mostly ceremonial resolution outlines the Second Amendment and several court cases that reaffirmed American citizens’ rights to bear arms. It also recognizes and reaffirms the Santa Rosa County militia, which was first established in 1994 when residents grew concerned about what they saw as threats to their Second Amendment rights. “The militia has been in place for a long time. You can come to the county and get a militia card,” said District 3 Commissioner and Board Chairman Don Salter. “It simply means you’re pro-county.” When asked if pro-county meant pro-militia, Salter said, “I would say so because it is Santa Rosa County.”

— DATELINE: TALLY —

Assignment editors — Gov. Ron DeSantis and Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran will make an education announcement at North Collier Regional Park, 1 p.m., 15000 Livingston Rd., Naples.

Repealing ‘Best and Brightest’ teacher bonus plan passes first test in Tallahassee” via Emily Mahoney of the Miami Herald — “Best and Brightest was created with the absolute best of intentions. It was intended to reward and acknowledge highly effective educators,” said bill sponsor Sen. Rob Bradley. “It’s fallen short of those goals, and we can use those dollars in better ways.” Senate Bill 486 passed unanimously, after comments from lawmakers that supported abandoning a program the Legislature has long defended in the face of criticism from teachers. “Best and Brightest was an attempt on our part to guarantee funds to teachers we found to be effective,” said Sen. Kelli Stargel. “My goal will be to continue to look at ways to make sure dollars get to teachers that are doing great jobs in our classrooms.”

Sen. Rob Bradley’s repeal of the ‘Best and Brightest’ program passed its first major committee. 

House panel OK’s more than three dozen education appropriations bills” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee approved more than three dozen appropriations bills. Among the measures approved by the panel was a $300,000 request from Democratic state Rep. Lorrane Ausley that would help train educators in the Panhandle on information about the Holocaust. Another funding request advanced was a $1.4 million ask from Rep. Jackie Toledo for “social-emotional learning” for students within Hillsborough County (HB 2797). State Rep. Byron Donalds also appeared to put forward several bills. One of those measures (HB 2845) is a $2 million request to help “print and distribute abuse and human trafficking prevention/personal safety curriculum materials at no cost to Florida’s public schools.”

Bipartisan legislation would set aside Sadowski funds only for affordable housing” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — A bipartisan group of lawmakers called for the Legislature to preserve affordable housing trust fund dollars for that purpose. DeSantis, who outlined $387 million of next year’s $91.4 million budget for affordable housing, said all those funds would benefit that purpose. But in the last decade, $2 billion has been swept into general revenue, including $125 million this year even after the Governor made the same claim. Rep. Sam Killebrew, a co-author of HB 381, said the practice began after the Great Recession. SB 306 author Sen. Debbie Mayfield said the bills would help Floridians and the economy. “The importance of safe housing that’s affordable is not controversial or partisan. It’s an issue that unites us,” Sadowski Coalition Jaimie Ross said.

House ethics panel approves penalties for Amendment 12 violations” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The House Public Integrity & Ethics Committee advanced Monday the third in a trifecta of measures to prevent abuse of office. The committee’s bill groups new ethics punishments outlined in 2018’s Amendment 12 with existing violations. That amendment, which voters approved by a 58-point margin, bars public officials from abusing their positions to obtain disproportionate benefits. Amendment 12 also mandated that the state Commission on Ethics define “disproportionate benefits” and the Legislature prescribe the penalty, which Monday’s legislation would do. “It’s sort of like a three-layered sandwich there, if you will, that results in a complete, enforceable standard,” said Chris Anderson, executive director of the commission.

Joe Gruters’ effort to get (cigarette) butts off beaches clears first committee” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — “If you pop up an umbrella at the beach, there is nothing more disgusting than having a neighbor pop next to you and light up, providing secondhand smoke,” Gruters said. Now, Gruters simply wants to empower cities and counties to make their own call on whether to bar smoking. Already, it’s seeing a clearer future. The Senate Community Affairs Community passed the bill (SB 670) unanimously. The legislation now heads to the Senate Innovation, Industry, and Technology Committee. Companion legislation (HB 457) filed by state Rep. Chip LaMarca awaits a vote in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee.

Happening today — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried will deliver remarks at the 2019 Taste of Florida Agriculture Reception, an annual event co-hosted by the Florida Farm Bureau and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. More than 40 vendors will be on hand with samples of locally grown products. The reception begins at 4:30 p.m. in the Capitol Courtyard.

— LEGISLATION —

Kelli Stargel’s parental consent for underage abortions bill again goes to Health Policy” via Florida Politics — Sen. Stargel’s bill for parental consent for underage abortion will make its second stop in the Health Policy Committee Tuesday after discussion delayed a vote last month. The Lakeland Republican filed the bill to encourage pregnant girls to discuss their pregnancy with their parents. “I think parental consent requires a little more conversation in the family and can help work better to have them work together through the situation as opposed to the girl going through this alone.”

Kelly Stargel is again seeking parental consent requirements for minors seeking an abortion.

Jackie Toledo plans to tackle prescription drug prices by regulating the middleman” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Toledo plans to file legislation that would lower prescription drug prices for some consumers and protect small pharmacy owners by regulating what are known as Pharmacy Benefit Managers, or PBMs, who serve as middlemen between pharmacies and health insurance companies to provide real-time benefit analysis and actual costs for consumers purchasing prescription medication. These individuals are meant to make it easier for pharmacies to obtain health insurance benefit information on patients so they can get their prescriptions in a timely fashion, but their presence has morphed into what some believe is a profit-driven model that favors insurance providers and large pharmacy chains over patients.

Politics 101: Tampa-area high schoolers urge lawmakers to ease up on English testing” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — The three high school seniors from Armwood High School in Seffner fidgeted and whispered their speech as the lawmakers assembled. It’s a speech they’ve practiced many times. In the state Capitol, they’d finally be delivering it to their intended audience: the Florida Senate Education Committee. Eventually, after their names were called, they made their case: Allow students who are not fluent in English to graduate even if they cannot pass the required 10th-grade reading test. Before passing the bill, Senators amended it so that the testing waiver was optional only for the districts that want it. We have authored this bill to help correct what we see as a gross injustice,” said Madison Harvey, 18, of Seffner.

— LEGISLATIVE MEETINGS —

The House Judiciary Committee will workshop issues related to the mental health and the criminal justice system, 8:30 a.m., 404 House Office Building.

The House Education Committee will meet to hear a presentation on school choice, 9:30 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The Senate Health Policy Committee will consider SB 404 from Sen. Stargel to require parental consent before minors could have abortions, 10 a.m., 412 Knott Building.

The Senate Agriculture Committee will receive an update from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services about hemp rule-making and receive an update from Florida Citrus Mutual about the state of the citrus industry, 10 a.m., 301 Senate Office Building.

The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee meets to consider SB 530 from Chairman Gruters to set up a rebate incentive program for film, television and digital media production, 10 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building.

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee meets to consider SB 154 from Sen. Perry Thurston to mandate public-school to offer health courses that include information about human trafficking, 10 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building.

The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee will meet to consider several bills asking for money for programs or projects, 12:30 p.m., 212 Knott Building.

The House Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee will meet to consider lawmakers’ bills asking for addition in the upcoming budget, 12:30 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee meets to consider SB 312 from Sen. Linda Stewart to prevent auto-glass shops from offering cash, gift cards and other incentives to motorists to attract windshield-repair work, 2 p.m., 412 Knott Building.

The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee meet for a presentation on child-welfare case reviews by the Department of Children and Families, 2 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building.

The Senate Judiciary Committee meets to consider a list of bills, including SB 738 from Sen. Gayle Harrell to excuse from jury service people ages 18 to 21 who are enrolled in high schools, colleges or career centers, 2 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.

The House Appropriations Committee will receive a presentation about DeSantis’ proposed $91.4 billion budget, 4 p.m., 212 Knott Building.

— TODAY IN THE CAPITOL —

Happening today — The state Economic Estimating Conference will discuss national economic issues, 9 a.m., 117 Knott Building.

Happening today — Florida TaxWatch, joined by state Sen. Bill Montford and Florida education leaders, will announce 2019-20 Principal Leadership Award winners, 9 a.m., 4th-Floor Rotunda, The Capitol.

Assignment editors — Commissioner Fried, state Rep. Geraldine Thompson, state Sen. Gary Farmer, Groveland Four family members, and community leaders will hold a news conference to renew the call for the exoneration of the Groveland Four, 1 p.m., 4th-Floor Rotunda, The Capitol.

Assignment editors — State Sen. Janet Cruz and state Rep. Tracie Davis will join faith leaders and working mothers for a news conference to discuss filing the FAMILY Act, which would require Florida employers to allow new mothers to take paid family leave to bond with a new child upon the child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement, 3:45 p.m., 4th-Floor Rotunda, The Capitol.

— COOL EVENT —

— GOV. CLUB BUFFET MENU —

Bahamian conch chowder; mixed garden salad with dressings; hearts of palm and artichoke salad; cranberry Waldorf salad; deli board, lettuce, tomatoes, cheeses & breads; Ronnie’s fried chicken; blackened redfish with crawfish Cajun cream; roast pork loin with cranberry chutney; buttermilk and chive mashed potatoes-round; braised collard greens with ham; Southern succotash; holiday cookies.

— FLORIDIANS OF THE YEAR —

Florida Trend’s 2019 Floridian of the Year salutes the foot soldiers in a battle to better educate our children — the Florida teacher.

The reasons for this choice are plentiful, especially over the past 12 months.

— Florida students ranking first in the nation in participation in high school Advanced Placement exams (55.9% of graduates took one) and third in performance (31.7% scored a 3 or higher out of 5).

— The Sunshine State also ranked fourth nationally in Education Week’s Quality Counts for student achievement.

— High school graduation rates are now at a 15-year high at 86.1%. Groups showing significant five-year increases: African Americans, Hispanics and low-income students.

— The state’s two-decade-old accountability system brought results — 63% of Florida schools earned an A or B. And since 2015, the number of F schools decreased by 93%.

— Of Florida’s 67 school districts, five more received an A (with Orange the largest). That brings the state total to 24. According to the state, 54 of 67 have at least a B, with none at a D or F.

While there are plenty of kudos to go around — Jeb Bush as Governor, reinstituted an accountability system that emphasized improvement — the true heroes are the 177,000 Florida teachers, which collectively have been recognized as Floridians of the Year.

— STATEWIDE —

FL is $20.6 billion in debt — lower than last year and sort of like reducing your credit card balance” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the Florida Phoenix — The unpaid balance on Florida’s credit card dropped by $400 million in the last year. The state doesn’t really have a credit card. But the government borrows money to build roads, construct schools and buy environmental land. And a new report to Gov. DeSantis and the Cabinet shows Florida now owes $20.6 billion as of June 30, down from $21 billion of last year. The new report shows a nine-year trend in debt reduction that began in July 2010 when Florida’s state debt reached a peak of $28.2 billion. It has since declined by 27%. A major factor in the debt decline was former Gov. Rick Scott, who strongly opposed state borrowing during his two terms as the state’s CEO.

An absolute must-read — Bad medicine” via Daphne Chen of USA TODAY — As the head of the Pinellas County child protection team, Dr. Sally Smith examines virtually every child funneled to All Children’s Hospital with suspicious injuries. Among prosecutors, her word is like gold. Yet for years, defense attorneys, parents, and even child welfare employees have complained about Smith’s aggressive interrogation of parents, wondered why she often saw injuries invisible to other doctors. USA TODAY found more than a dozen instances where charges were dropped, parents acquitted, or caregivers had credible claims of innocence yet suffered irredeemable damage to their lives and reputations. Parents forced to defend themselves against Smith believe the extraordinary power of so-called child abuse pediatricians should be subject to more checks and balances.

Dr. Sally Smith has caused much heartache with unsubstantiated accusations of child abuse. Image via Elaine Litherland, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

How 2 women’s trip to a Florida strip club sparked a constitutional bout in court” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — On her weekly trips to an Orlando strip club, Brittney Smith noticed that one of the dancers looked familiar. The exotic dancer, who the Orlando woman had noticed on regular stops there with a male friend, looked much like her friend Anita Yanes. So, when Yanes came to visit from Alabama, Smith thought it’d be fun for the two friends to go to Rachel’s Orlando. However, the two were denied entry to the club, told that it was against policy to allow women without men to prevent domestic incidents, prostitution and distractions for their male clientele. Smith and Yanes filed suit against the club accusing it of violating Orange County’s human-rights ordinance.

— MOTHER NATURE —

Officials want $100M for reef restoration in Florida Keys” via the Associated Press — “Mission: Iconic Reefs” calls for restoring nearly 70 acres (28 hectares) of the Florida Reef Tract, one of the largest strategies ever proposed for coral restoration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. NOAA officials said the organization will work with partners to secure public and private funds. “We have identified some iconic reefs here in the Keys that we want to help restore,” sanctuary superintendent Sarah Fangman said. “These reefs have been suffering from a number of threats for years as have reefs around the world.”

From the Florida Keys, an urgent — and regional — cry for action on climate change” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — If action is taken now, regional leaders are optimistic our coastal landscape can be reshaped and remain a vital economic engine. Where Miami Beach raised roads and installed pumps, a city official said condo prices jumped 10 percent. But first, a gut check, heightened by one of the worst king-tide seasons in memory, the slowing Gulf Stream and the lingering effects of Hurricane Dorian. We get the sense that state and federal officials want to act. Drew Bartlett, who runs the water management district, said the agency isn’t waiting for the feds to address a failing flood gate in Miami. And Glenn Landers, of the Army Corps, suggested ways the region could possibly find funds.

This Key Largo neighborhood has endured flooding for close to three months. Image via Getty.

Happening today — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force meets, 8:30 a.m., University of South Florida St. Petersburg, 140 Seventh Ave. South, St. Petersburg.

Happening today — The Florida Public Service Commission meets to discuss several issues, including a proposal by TECO to reduce base rates based on reduction in state corporate income taxes, 9:30 a.m., Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.

Happening today — The U.S. Department of Agriculture releases its updated forecast for the citrus growing season, noon. Call-in number: 1-855-384-4184. Code: 6486013.

— PEACHY —

Lawmakers clash as Dems present evidence for Trump’s impeachment” via Andrew Desiderio and Kyle Cheney of POLITICO — The impeachment of Trump is almost at hand. House Democrats are just days from unveiling formal charges that Trump abused his power, and on Monday they made a final pitch to Americans that he deserves to be removed from office for it. The presentation of evidence to the Judiciary Committee was, in many ways, a formality. But it served as a chance for Democrats to summarize the complicated case against Trump one last time — and provided Republicans another shot to defend him in public. Despite the GOP pushback, the result is all but preordained: impeachment articles will be produced to match the gravity of the allegations, and they are slated to be unveiled this week.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York joined at right by Georgia Republican Rep. Doug Collins, the ranking member, convenes the panel to hear investigative findings in the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.

Watchdog report rips FBI handling of Russia probe” via Josh Gerstein of POLITICO — A highly anticipated DOJ review of the origins of the federal investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia found no direct evidence of political bias in the launching of the probe but identified an embarrassing slew of inaccuracies and omissions by the FBI that marred requests for court-ordered surveillance of a former Trump campaign adviser. The report from Inspector General Michael Horowitz also revealed for the first time that the FBI used a confidential source to approach an unidentified high-level Trump campaign official in September 2016 who was never the subject of any investigation. The approach revealed nothing of value to the probe, the review found.

Gaetz to Dem counsel: ‘We want Schiff in the chair! Not you!’” via Andrew O’Reilly of Fox News — Gaetz upbraided Democratic Intelligence Counsel Dan Goldman on Monday to demand that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., take the stand to testify in the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

Gaetz says Rudy Giuliani’s trip to Ukraine is ‘weird’” via Tory Newmyer of The Washington Post — Gaetz, a close ally of Trump, broke from him to express concern that Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, traveled to Ukraine as House Democrats are poised to move ahead on Trump’s impeachment. “It’s weird that he’s over there,” Gaetz said on ABC News’s “This Week.” “It would seem odd having him over there at this time.” The rare rebuke from the congressman came as the House Judiciary Committee, on which he sits, is working on drafting articles of impeachment against Trump that it could vote on as soon as this week.

— D.C. MATTERS —

White House, congressional Democrats on cusp of revised North American trade deal” via Erica Werner, David J. Lynch and Seung Min Kim of The Washington Post — The White House and House Democrats are on the cusp of finalizing a new trade deal for North America, a major achievement for Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that comes even as Democrats prepare to impeach the president. Trump told reporters Monday that “we’re doing very well” in the negotiations, “hearing from unions and others that it’s looking good.” … “A lot of strides over the last 24 hours,” Trump said. “If they put it up for a vote, it’ll pass.” White House officials were hoping to have the deal secured by this week so that the House of Representatives could try to vote on it by Christmas.

Despite the impeachment inquiry, Nancy Pelosi and Donald Trump are close to reaching a deal on a new North American trade agreement.

Repulsed by report of staff raping women at Florida federal prison, Marco Rubio demands inquiry” via Devoun Cetoute and Carli Teproff of the Miami Herald — Shocked by a Miami Herald report detailing allegations of systemic sexual abuse of female inmates by male staff at a federal facility, U.S. Sen. Rubio is urging the Bureau of Prisons to conduct a thorough review of Coleman Federal Correctional Complex. The Herald story “reveals that the environment at FCC Coleman has enabled systemic and pervasive sexual abuse and misuse of authority by BOP employees over a number of years,” the Senator wrote in a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr. “These allegations are simply abhorrent, and I urge you to take immediate action to ensure such behavior is neither happening, nor tolerated, at FCC Coleman or any other BOP facility.”

Assignment editors — Sen. Rubio will address students at the National Defense University (NDU) on “American Industrial Policy and the Rise of China,” 9 a.m., Abraham Lincoln Hall, 300 5th Avenue, SW, Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C.

Census Bureau hangs help-wanted sign in Florida” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The federal government is putting out the decennial call for an army of door knockers and others in temporary jobs this spring and summer to help the U.S. Census Bureau. People interested should consider applying now, said Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham. He came to Orlando on a trip that will include stops in Tallahassee to promote the agency’s need to hire tens of thousands of part-time census takers and others. In a news conference with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Dillingham was a little soft on details regarding specific jobs available, qualifications, hours, and the period of work, except to say that details on how to find that information and to apply are available at the agency’s website.

— 2020 —

Pete Buttigieg releases $1 trillion-plus plan for early childhood and K-12 education” via Valerie Strauss of The Washington Post — Buttigieg is unveiling a broad new education plan that pledges to spend $700 billion over a decade to create high-quality child care and preschool system that he said would reach all children from birth to age 5 and create 1 million jobs. The Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, also promised to spend $425 billion to strengthen America’s K-12 public schools, targeting federal investments and policy to help historically marginalized students. He would boost funding for schools in high-poverty areas as well as for students with disabilities, and promote voluntary school integration. And he said he would ensure that all charter schools — which are publicly funded but privately operated — undergo the same accountability measures as schools in publicly funded districts.

Pete Buttigieg is floating a $1 trillion education proposal.

Buttigieg will open fundraisers to press amid pressure over transparency” via Reid Epstein of the New York Times — The move comes amid a back-and-forth between Buttigieg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has spent the past several days challenging Buttigieg to open his fundraisers to the press. It is a tacit admission that he could not sustain a transparency fight with Warren, who has, from the earliest days of her campaign, sought to claim the moral high ground on campaign finances. “Fundraising events with Pete will be open to press beginning tomorrow, and a list of people raising money for the campaign will be released within the week,” Buttigieg’s campaign manager, Mike Schmuhl, said in a statement.

— HAPPENING TONIGHT — 

and

— THE TRAIL —

’All Voters Vote’ amendment that radically reshapes Florida primaries gets spot on November ballot” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — A petition-driven constitutional amendment that would radically reshape Florida’s primaries by opening them to all voters regardless of their party affiliation has earned a place on the November 2020 ballot. The All Voters Vote campaign has achieved the number of verified signatures to get on the ballot’s number three spot, according to the Secretary of State’s website. It still must pass muster with the Florida Supreme Court over whether the ballot language meets the single-issue requirement.

Groups seek green light for assault weapons ban” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — The political committee Ban Assault Weapons NOW, the gun-control group Brady and a coalition of 13 cities filed briefs saying that the proposal meets legal tests to go before voters. The Supreme Court must sign off on proposed constitutional amendments and looks at the wording of ballot titles and summaries — the parts of amendments that voters see when they go to the polls. Ashley Moody’s office, the NRA and the National Shooting Sports Foundation filed briefs last month raising a series of objections to the proposed amendment, including the NRA taking issue with the term “assault weapons,” which it described as impermissible political rhetoric.

Ford O’Connell jumps into congressional race with help from Francis Rooney’s team” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Naples businessman O’Connell announced he’s running for U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney’s open seat in Florida’s 19th Congressional District. More notable to political observers, he’s also running with much of Rooney’s campaign team. O’Connell holds some name recognition in the region thanks to regular appearances on Fox News, Fox Business and Fox Radio, where he has been a regular defender of Trump.

Republican Ford O’Connell is jumping into the CD 19 race, with much of Francis Rooney’s team.

Meanwhile … Bob Rommel says he’s not running for Congress: “I am passionate about these issues, and I am passionate about reform. With that being said, I am also passionate about Florida and about our state government, and I believe that for now, I can best serve our community by remaining in the Florida legislature and helping Governor Ron DeSantis, Speaker Oliva, and incoming Speaker Sprowls with our agenda to keep Florida as a world-class destination for economic opportunity.”

As billionaires fund their own presidential races, Democratic legislative campaigns hunger for cash” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — As millions are spent on ads in a crowded Democratic presidential primary, including large sums by billionaires Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer, fundraisers for Democratic candidates trying to gain control of state legislatures can only watch on in dismay. “Any fundraiser looks at eye-popping figures like that and thinks ‘My god, what I could do right now on the ground,’ particularly in targeted state Senate races,” said Beth Matuga, a Tallahassee-based Democratic fundraiser. Legislative races, particularly state Senate races in Florida, have grown more expensive with each passing election cycle.

A Keys politician didn’t like his rival’s sign. So he and the city clerk stole it, cops say” via Gwen Filosa of the Miami Herald — Marathon City Councilman Dan “Doc” Zieg, 68, and his girlfriend City Clerk Diane Clavier, 50, were arrested after they told Monroe County sheriff’s deputies they took the sign because they believed it was a political campaign sign that needed to come down after the Nov. 5 election, when Zieg won another term. The yellow sign read “Drop Doc Zieg,” with the universal symbol for “No” drawn over Zieg. And it belongs to fellow Councilman Mark Senmartin, who had placed it outside his pawnshop business, Cash Flow Jewelry at 11400 Overseas Highway in late October, according to the arrest report.

— LOCAL —

Cyberattack cripples city of Pensacola, officials not sure if personal data was exposed” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — “The city of Pensacola is experiencing a cyberattack that began this weekend that is impacting our city network, including phones and email at City Hall and some of our other buildings,” Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson said at his weekly press conference. The cyberattack began just after 1:45 a.m. Saturday and has continued since then, city officials said. Robinson said officials did not know if the attack was connected in any way to the deadly shooting at NAS Pensacola on Friday morning.

JEA board chair asked to hit ‘restart button’ on public discussion of possible sale” via Jessica Palombo of WJCT — April Green told City Council’s JEA committee that she knows the conversation around a potential sale has not been positive, and she’s disappointed to hear many council members have concerns about transparency. She promised she would make her best effort to attend all JEA workshops going forward. “I personally, especially after hearing what I’ve heard today, am committed to meet with each and every council member to answer every question you may wonder about, from a board perspective, receive any suggestions, research any matters about which you are curious, and take all suggestions under serious consideration,” she told the committee during the third of several workshops.

April Green, Chair of JEA Board of Directors, is calling to hit the reset button on talk of privatization. Image via News4Jax.

Family honors Florida UPS driver slain in police shootout” via Freida Frisaro of The Associated Press — Loved ones and co-workers of Frank Ordonez gathered at a UPS Customer Center in Miami with lit candles and flowers Sunday. There, they wrote messages on UPS slips they stuck to a car at the vigil. Other UPS workers also joined in — one group from London expressed support by tweeting a photo showing uniformed workers holding up letters that together spelled #ONE UPS and RIP Frank Ordonez. Ordonez’s twin brother, Roy Ordonez, invited the public to a viewing on Monday. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement appealed for anyone who witnessed or has video of the shootout between police and the hijackers of a UPS truck to contact the agency.

— MORE LOCAL —

Orlando approves of electric scooters, and permitting process opens” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — After months of considerations, City Commissioners unanimously approved a proposal allowing electric scooters. The scooters were a sought-after addition by numerous companies, who see the city as ripe for their business. With the program approved, the permitting process for the vehicles also opened as well, a city spokeswoman confirmed. The proposal allows for a company to operate a fleet of 200 to 400 scooters, capping the total number of scooters in the city at 1,800. The devices must have a governor installed to limit speeds to 10 mph, and operators must meet other safety requirements on wheel size, carry liability insurance, host safety classes, and promptly respond to complaints.

MDX toll agency under siege, but it’s still writing those promised rebate checks” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Stuck in legal limbo without a board in charge, the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority is still mailing out tens of thousands of rebate checks this month to frequent drivers of the agency’s six toll roads. The MDX started mailing about 55,000 checks last week to frequent drivers, and the agency said all checks should be received by Dec. 20. The average rebate is $110 and is calculated as 30% of a qualifying account’s SunPass tolls on MDX roads. The rebate program is costing the toll-funded agency nearly $6 million in a year when revenues are down 16%.

Clearwater wants $70 million in taxpayer money for a stadium. How’s it going?” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — The city wants $40 million from Pinellas County for improvements to a Philadelphia Phillies stadium and sports complex. So where exactly would that money go? Clearwater’s struggle to answer that question to the county’s satisfaction has caused months of delays in the city’s quest for nearly $70 million in city, county and state funding. Before the city asks for state funding, the team wants Clearwater to secure a commitment from Pinellas. Emails obtained through a public records request show that for months, Pinellas officials have been asking for a detailed “schedule of values.” In July ― six months after Clearwater began formal negotiations with the county — a consultant for the county said Pinellas officials did not have the schedule.

Clearwater wants $70M to upgrade the Philadelphia Phillies spring training facility. It’s going slower than expected.

Hollywood almost lost to this city” via Phil Edwards of Vox — Why did Jacksonville reject the movie industry? In the early 1900s, the New York-centric film scene was in search of a warm-weather capital. Two contenders emerged: Los Angeles and Jacksonville. And for a while, it was unclear which city would win the movie business. Jacksonville boasted a large industry, proximity to New York, and great weather. Some early comedy classics were even made there. But ultimately, the city wasn’t ready to become a movie town. The compromises of life with the movie industry — like actors and actresses running loose around town — proved too much for the Jacksonville establishment. The people of the city effectively voted against the movies when they voted against the industry’s biggest political booster.

— OPINIONS —

With attack on NAS Pensacola, we all bleed” via Andy Marlette of the Pensacola News Journal — It was 27 hours after the attack in this city and we looked up to see a bald eagle gently circling over downtown Pensacola. As the eagle floated overhead, throughout the small crowd, one by one, men and women noticed the bird above, recognized what it was and pointed to the sky. For the Naval Academy graduates looking up to the sky that morning and all the rest of us folks on the ground, questions have piled up in the aftermath of Friday morning’s murderous attack on NAS Pensacola. Meanwhile, the smallest moments of daily life in Pensacola continue to show how the Navy is a thread that connects even perfect strangers in this place we call home.

Groveland Four pardons weren’t enough — Florida must clear their names” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — In a statement after the Jan. 11 pardon, newly sworn-in Gov. Ron DeSantis said, “For seventy years, these four men have had their history wrongly written for crimes they did not commit.” In Florida, a pardon is forgiveness of guilt. Exoneration is a court determining there was no guilt to forgive. That’s what DeSantis is saying in his statement: The Groveland Four didn’t commit the crimes, they’re not guilty. So the state’s work isn’t done. And yet, nearly a year after the Cabinet provided a taste of justice, the state of Florida still officially considers the men guilty. Forgiven, but guilty.

(L)awmakers, local governments need to fix state’s dilapidated wastewater treatment systems” via Peter Barile for the Palm Beach Post — Every day, nearly 300 million gallons of wastewater are still dumped from a half dozen sewage outfalls into the reef tract from Miami-Dade to Broward counties. Until recently in the Keys, fecal pathogens and nutrients from roughly 30,000 homes and businesses using septic tanks and cesspits seeped onto the reef tract resulting in lethal coral diseases and reef-smothering algal blooms. From Miami-Dade to the reef’s northern boundary in St. Lucie County, leachate from another 300,000 septic tanks. It wasn’t until after the reef tract suffered a near-total coral loss that a $1.2 billion wastewater infrastructure project was initiated along the Keys island archipelago to hook up septic tanks and cesspits to modern centralized wastewater treatment systems.

5 Christmas presents that come with keeping JEA’s status quo” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Ever since news broke that JEA was courting private bids to sell the utility, it’s every move has faced intense scrutiny. The Florida Times-Union has been on top of the issue each step of the way, and in some cases, it’s added fuel to the fire by reporting on CEO pay and scuttled executive performance incentives. Most polls show the public is against the sale by a wide margin. So, it’s not exactly shocking that Jacksonville City Council Member Brenda Priestly Jackson wants to pump the brakes on the process. The Florida Times-Union thinks Jackson is in the right. Maybe so. Either way, let’s take a look at what the people of Jacksonville get if Jackson’s resolution passes.

Fertilizer ordinances cause more harm than good, experts say” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — In November, the Environmental Research and Education Foundation sent the City of Naples a letter putting it on notice for its “unconstitutional and discriminatory” fertilizer ordinance. The letter said if the did not withdraw its fertilizer ordinance within 30 days, EREF will file a lawsuit. The deadline has passed and no suit has been filed. But one thing is apparent: there are problems with a lot of the local fertilizer ordinances being passed by local governments. EREF and others, along with experts in the state, are starting to speak out about the problem. Aside from the harm to Florida’s environment, these parties are concerned such ordinances distract from the real problem — septic tanks and failing sewer infrastructure.

Orlando commissioners wrestling with common sense on WWE payoffs” via Noah Pransky of Florida Politics — It’s a good thing Orlando’s fixed all of its transportation challenges. And every one of its pro sports facilities is state-of-the-art. Because if all those things weren’t true, it might be kind of absurd that Orange County commissioners agreed to spend $125,000 from bed tax funds just for the right to bid on a pair of second-tier World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) events. That’s $125,000 for two arena events expected to bring in just a fraction of the tourists that WrestleMania delivered in 2017. That’s just $5,000 less than Florida taxpayers are paying DeSantis this year. As I explained before, WWE’s economic impact claims are no less bogus than those spewed by the NFL or any other pro league.

— MOVEMENTS —

Personnel note: Adam Blalock joins Department of Environmental Protection” via Florida Politics — Blalock is leaving lobbying firm Hopping, Green & Sams for a job at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the agency announced Monday. Blalock, who specializes in natural resource legislation and environmental permitting, will serve as the department’s new Deputy Secretary for Ecosystem Restoration. Blalock replaces Drew Bartlett in the position following Bartlett being named Executive Director of the South Florida Water Management District. In his new role, he will be responsible for shaping and implementing water quality restoration programs and will oversee all five state water management districts, water supply planning and water use permitting. “Adam has one of the sharpest minds in the Florida environmental arena,” said Hopping, Green & Sams shareholder Eileen Stuart.

Tammy Gustafson elected to Florida State Parks Foundation board — The Florida State Parks Foundation announced Monday that Gustafson, an executive at Universal Parks and Resorts, has been elected to its Board of Directors. “I am delighted to welcome Tammy to the board,” said Gil Ziffer, Foundation President. “She brings a wealth of experience and expertise and will be a tremendous asset to the Foundation as we further our mission of supporting Florida’s fabulous state parks, the best in the nation.” Gustafson is a former President of the VISIT FLORIDA Board and a current member of the Florida Council of Tourism Leaders. “Throughout its history, the Florida Parks greatest strength has been its volunteers. I am honored to be asked to serve in this capacity,” she said.

Mac Stipanovich registers as a Democrat — for a couple months anyway” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Stipanovich has been among Florida’s prominent Never Trumpers for years, and he’s taking the step of registering Democrat to play a role in picking Trump’s adversary for 2020. “I just changed my voter registration online. As hard as it is for me to believe, come March, I am going to vote in a Democratic Presidential Primary for the first time in 40 years,” Stipanovich announced in a Facebook post. Who will that be? Stipanovich has his eye on some candidates already. “I will vote for the candidate nearest the center with the best chance to win the nomination and the election in November,” Stipanovich tells Florida Politics.

Legendary Republican lobbyist Mac Stipanovich has just registered as a Democrat — for now.

— ALOE —

Disney crushes own global box office record with historic $10 billion” via Rebecca Rubin of Variety — Through Sunday, the studio has generated $3.28 billion in North America and $6.7 billion overseas for a global haul of $9.997 billion. It is expected to cross the benchmark within the next day officially. Disney smashed its own global box office milestone — set in 2016 with $7.6 billion — back in July after the success of “Avengers: Endgame” and “The Lion King.” Even more impressive, the studio hit the new high-water mark even before “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” the final chapter in the Skywalker saga, arrives in theaters Dec. 20.

Disney is smashing its own box office records.

Big Disney auction pulls in $1.8 million” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — The recent auction of Disney theme-park items — ranging from animatronics to ashtrays — exceeded the expectations of the California-based auction house. The two-day sale of 1,500 items brought in more than $1.8 million in winning bids during the “A History of Disneyland & Walt Disney World” event, the co-founder of Van Eaton Galleries said. “With an auction, you never know what’s going to happen,” Mike Van Eaton said.

— HOLIDAY CHEER —

Walmart apologizes for Santa sweater with cocaine” via CNN — The sweater says “Let It Snow” and includes three white lines. Part of the description said: “The best snow comes straight from South America,” and that “Santa really likes to savor the moment when he gets his hands on some quality, grade-A Colombian snow.” Walmart said the sweater was sold online in Canada by a third-party vendor and has been removed. The company said the sweaters do not represent Walmart’s values.

This new Publix Christmas commercial will make you cry” via Doreen Christensen of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The new heartwarming Christmas message from the Lakeland-based grocer features a little girl excitedly coming down the stairs to the kitchen on Christmas morning and asking her grandma “Can we wake people up now?” Granny has a better idea as she gets out a mixing bowl. Then, the camera cuts to 20 years later. At Publix.com/christmas, where you’ll also find a recipe for Grandma’s Wreath, a baked raspberry confection that gets a starring role in the one-minute spot. “This Christmas, let’s make more than a recipe — let’s make a memory.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Christmas trees cost more this year. Some sellers are running out of them.” via Austin Fuller of the Orlando Sentinel — As the number of Christmas trees declines nationwide, Americans see higher prices for the traditional holiday decoration. And in Central Florida, some vendors say they are running out of trees this holiday season because of smaller shipments from their suppliers this year. “We’re going to probably get about 300 trees less than last year, just because North Carolina is out of trees,” Trees at College Park owner Jake Krauklis said. “It’s probably like slightly less profit, but at the same time, I’ll probably sell out sooner, and we’ve got a big staff. It’s a little bit less money, but after 25 days of doing this, everyone’s pretty tired.” Krauklis said he expects to run out of trees on Sunday.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to Dean Cannon‘s much better half, Ellen, as well as good guy Justin Hollis, Nicole Krassner, and Marilyn Young. 

___

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.
Email: Peter@FloridaPolitics.com
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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