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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 12.11.19

Your morning review of the issues and players behind Florida politics.

Could the Republican Party of Florida leave the Capital City?

It’s an idea that was proposed at the most recent quarterly meeting of the party, although Chairman Joe Gruters says nothing is set in stone. A move won’t occur before the 2020 election, if it happens at all. But Gruters does want a Headquarters Committee exploring if “we have the right infrastructure in place for future campaigns.”

It’s a familiar argument about the location of Tallahassee. While it’s the center of state government, the most important political activity in Florida happens elsewhere.

Joe Gruters is floating the idea of moving the Florida GOP closer to where the action is.

Would it make more sense for the party’s headquarters to be on the I-4 corridor, that legendary swingy region where state races are won or lost?

“Why not be where the action is?” asks Gruters. “Let’s open it up.”

It could result in the main operations for the party moving to Brandon, Orlando, Daytona or somewhere else. The party will always have a satellite office in Tallahassee, Gruters says, and likely one in Southwest Florida, a prime source of GOP votes. As for the existing headquarters on Jefferson Street, Gruters says there’s potential that property will be leased or sold.

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You’re sure to find lobbyist Jeff Sharkey roaming the halls of the Capitol during the 2020 Session, as he has for more than 30 years, but his eponymous Sharkey’s Capitol Cafés will be just a memory.

On Dec. 20, after a 10-year run feeding and caffeinating folks involved in The Process, the restaurant on the Capitol’s lower level and “Sharbucks” coffee shop on the building’s 10th floor will be closing.

The Department of Management Services bidding process dragged on through the summer and fall and, with just two weeks’ notice, another vendor was chosen to provide food service in the Capitol and at another restaurant in the Department of Revenue building in Southwood.

After renovations, the restaurants are scheduled to reopen Jan. 2.

Like administrations and legislators and staff and visitors, “a lot of things change in the Capitol,” Sharkey said. “It’s been a great experience, I met a lot of great people, and I think we provided good service and food options at an affordable price.”

The new food service vendor is Earley’s Kitchen, a Tallahassee landmark for 40 years, serving Southern-style home cooking from their restaurant located on South Monroe Street.

At the Capitol, patrons can expect to find menu items from the original restaurant, including daily specials such as fried chicken, fried pork chops, fish and chips, and meatloaf. “Earley’s Kitchen is Earley’s Kitchen,” said Chef/Owner Jay Morrell. “Expect new and exciting changes.”

— TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Sen. Kelli Stargel’s bill to require minors to get permission from their parents before obtaining an abortion advances its first Senate committee … with a little help from the “God Squad.”

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— First Lady Casey DeSantis and the head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement say it’s time to tackle the problem of suicides by first responders.

— A Senate committee approves a bill creating incentives for TV, film and digital media producers who film projects in Florida.

— While the Florida Clemency Board gave the Groveland Four posthumous pardons, surviving family members say the Governor and Cabinet should go further and fully exonerate them.

— Don’t anger Florida Woman: A 28-year-old Miami woman ran down her ex and his current girlfriend.

To listen, click on the image below:

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@dsamuelsohn: Notable on p. 5 is a line that [Donald] Trump shouldn’t just be impeached, face trial and removal from office. There’s also the death blow of ‘disqualification to hold and enjoy and office of honor, trust or profit under the United States.’ That requires a separate Senate majority vote.

@PreetBharara: Most frequent question I’m getting today, literally: “WTF is wrong with Bill Barr?”

@SenateMajLdr: Now that we’re here, it will take major cooperation from both sides, in both chambers, for these key priorities to become law before the end of 2019. I sincerely hope my Democratic colleagues will let Congress get this basic business done for our nation.

@IsaacDovere: On old European passports, “Jew” was listed as the nationality rather than whatever the country the person holding it was from. Now, in its efforts to fight anti-Israel movements, the Trump administration will define Judaism as a nationality:

@GovRonDeSantis: Congratulations to @FLOIR_comm Commissioner David Altmaier for being voted president-elect of the @naic. As one of the largest insurance markets in the world, it is vital for Florida to have a leading role in state, national & global regulatory discussions.

@Fineout: So since @ChrisSpencerFL is now filling in as @GovRonDeSantis budget director — maybe give him the job?

@RepTedYoho: When I ran for office, I believed in term limits. I pledged to serve four terms & them come home. It’s been an honor & a privilege to serve the good people of FL03 as their Member of Congress.

@Scott_Maxwell: Some have griped that the low-wage workers in the @orlandosentinel‘s “Laborland” series should just “Get a better job!” if they’re unhappy. With due respect, these drive-by gripers miss the point. Because these low-wage jobs aren’t going anywhere.

@KarlEtters: Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil just told county commissioners that because of parents reaching out to Tallahassee Police about crime incidents at FSU, TPD is about to relax its very strict position on the release of information due to its interpretation of Marsy’s Law

@ChrisBuryNews: I’ve taught the [Richard] Jewell story as a case study to teach journalism students to be wary of whispered allegations from police. Disappointed to learn [Clint] Eastwood so badly twisted the true story.

— DAYS UNTIL —

UK general election — 1; Sixth Democratic debate — 8; “The Rise of Skywalker” premiers — 9; College Football National Championship — 33; 2020 Session begins — 34; Florida TaxWatch State of the TaxPayer Dinner in Tallahassee — 35; New Brexit deadline — 51; Super Bowl LIV in Miami — 53; Great American Realtors Day — 54; Iowa Caucuses — 54; New Hampshire Primaries — 62; Nevada caucuses — 73; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 93; Florida’s presidential primary — 97; “Black Panther 2” debuts — 146; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo begin — 224; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 251; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 301; First Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 309; Second presidential debate at Belmont — 316; 2020 General Election — 328.

— STILL THE TOP STORY —

Wounded NAS Pensacola police officer, first to respond to shooting, helped others escape scene” via Annie Blanks of the Pensacola News Journal — Jeremiah Hogue, a K-9 handler for the U.S. Army stationed at Fort Rucker in Alabama, was at work when he got a text from his wife. “You need to call your mom.” When Hogue called: “She just said, ‘Hey, I just wanted to let you know there’s an active shooter on NAS Pensacola,’ and as soon as she said that, my heart dropped,” Hogue recalled. “ … she said, ‘Your father got shot. Your dad called me and said he had been shot.'” Jeremiah’s dad, Charles Hogue, works as a police officer at NAS Pensacola. He and a partner were the first two law enforcement officers on the scene. Hogue was able to assist other people in the building before escaping.

Charles Hogue and his partner were the first law enforcement to respond to an active shooter at NAS Pensacola. Image via Jeremiah Hogue.

Navy grounds 175 Saudi flight students after Pensacola attack” via Wesley Morgan of POLITICO — The Navy has grounded 175 Saudi military exchange students from flight training, the service said Tuesday. The move comes after a Saudi student pilot killed three U.S. sailors at Naval Air Station Pensacola, the Florida base where he was undergoing training. “They are currently doing a safety stand-down, an operational pause, in their flight training,” said Navy spokesperson Lt. Andriana Genualdi. While the pause in flight operations is of unknown duration, the classroom portion of their training “will resume this week,” she said. Of the 175 Saudi students, 140 are at Pensacola, and 35 are at Naval Air Station Whiting Field, also in Florida, according to Genualdi. A third base, Naval Air Station Mayport, is also affected, she added.

Saudi defense official meets with Saudi students restricted to NAS Pensacola” via Madison Arnold of the Pensacola News Journal — A Saudi defense official met with the Saudi students who remain restricted at NAS Pensacola following a deadly shooting last week that left four dead, including the gunman, and eight injured. The FBI’s Jacksonville Division, which is handling the investigation of the attack, tweeted Tuesday morning that Saudi Arabia Defense Attaché Major General Fawaz Al Fawaz and his embassy staff met with the Saudi students. They’ve been detained on the base by their Saudi commanding officer since the shooting. An attache is typically a diplomat, especially a technical expert, or military official working on a country’s behalf.

FBI warned six months ago about loophole shooter used to obtain a gun” via Jana Winter and Hunter Walker of Yahoo News — The FBI warning, dated May 22 and titled “Federal Hunting License Exception Could Be Exploited by Extremists or Criminal Actors Seeking to Obtain Firearms for Violent Attacks,” was sent from the bureau’s Office of Private Sector. The warning encouraged businesses to be aware that “extremists and other criminal actors could exploit the federal statutory exception that allows non-immigrant visa holders” who normally can’t buy firearms or ammunition to legally purchase them “with a valid hunting license or permit.” The warning goes on to note that foreign “terrorist organizations, including ISIS, have encouraged Westerners to exploit perceived gaps in gun laws to conduct mass casualty shooting attacks in their home countries.”

Shooter qualified to purchase gun with hunting license” via Madison Arnold and Kevin Robinson of the Pensacola News Journal — The gunman who left three dead and eight injured in a shooting at NAS Pensacola Friday legally purchased the 9 mm Glock 45 pistol on July 20 from a federal firearms licensed dealer in Florida using a hunting license, the FBI’s Jacksonville Division announced Tuesday. The shooter, a 21-year-old second lieutenant in the Saudi Royal Air Force, qualified to purchase the firearm using a valid Florida hunting license, but “he may have qualified under other exceptions as well,” according to a tweet from the FBI division. The preliminary investigation did not find any information that would suggest it was purchased unlawfully.

— DATELINE: TALLY —

Florida plans to ID former felons who want to vote but haven’t paid up” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida — At a meeting of a Florida association of local election supervisors, Maria Matthews, director of the Florida Division of Elections, and Department of State deputy general counsel Ashley Davis distributed a one-page sheet describing the process the state will use to manually check whether felons had paid court-ordered restitution, fines and fees. Matthews promised supervisors that once Department of State officials begin reviewing the eligibility of former felons, they would give local elections supervisors “credible” and “reliable” information on whether individuals should be removed from voter rolls. It’s up to local supervisors to actually remove a voter.

Ron DeSantis wants high schoolers to take exam similar to citizenship test” via Emily L. Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis said Tuesday that all high school seniors should be required to take a civics exam similar to a test that immigrants must pass to become naturalized citizens. “Survey after survey, it paints the same dismal picture,” he said during a Naples news conference. “Younger Americans, people who are 25 and under, they lack basic knowledge of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, broader civics … We have to do better.” Yet Florida is already considered a leading state in civics education. Under the current system, to get out of middle school, a student must pass a civics course, typically in seventh grade. In 2018, Department of Education data shows that 71 percent of students passed that test.

First Lady pushes effort to help first responders cope” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Casey DeSantis joined police, firefighters and other first responders to begin efforts to address the sometimes crushing mental health issues emergency responders can face as a result of all the trauma and stress from their jobs. DeSantis and Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen led meetings to begin pursuing statewide practices to acknowledge and respond to what Swearingen called the “dirty little secret,” stress-born mental health challenges that has first-responder suicides far outpacing line-of-duty deaths in Florida. There were no firm recommendations, except for pledges to continue discussions and recognition of the problem. “We want them to know that it’s OK to not be OK,” DeSantis said.

Casey DeSantis tells first responders: ‘It’s OK to not be OK.’

Senate panel advances Kelli Stargel’s parental consent for minors’ abortions bill” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Lakeland Republican’s bill (SB 404) leaves an option for minors to exempt by a court if they prove that they are mature enough to make their own decisions or that they were victims of abuse. But detractors say it does not go far enough to protect underage girls or respect the privacy of their bodies. At the Senate Health Policy Committee meeting, dozens of witnesses shared personal stories or fears with or without the bill. “I feel like parental notice of abortion didn’t go far enough in requiring that family relationship,” Stargel said. “There’s no conversation. There’s no discussion. There’s no wraparound. There’s no family unity, and I think that’s the fundamental difference between parental notice and parental consent.”

Religious group says abortion bill would ‘legitimize’ procedure — Abolish Abortion Florida on Tuesday spoke against a controversial bill that would require parental consent before minors can have an abortion. As reported by Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida, the group is opposing the bill because they believe it would legitimize the medical procedure. “Pro-life laws do not chip away at abortion,” group founder Bonnie Coffey-Cannone said. The group says it wants the Legislature to pass a bill making all abortions illegal.

Lauren Book, Adam Hattersley promote ‘Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights’” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The state attracted criticism after reports showed thousands of those rape kits sat untested. The legislation from Book (SB 1028) and Hattersley (HB 727) would aim to ensure that backlog does not develop again. “Every 73 seconds, a man, woman, or child becomes a victim of sexual assault here in the United States — yet sexual assault is the number one underreported violent crime,” Book said. “When survivors come into contact with medical professionals and first responders, it is critical for their rights to be defined and protected — this includes access to counseling and timely testing of rape kits to end the backlog.”

Bill would remove statute of limitations for civil suits stemming from sex offenses against minors” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A measure from Sen. Book would completely remove the statute of limitations for civil suits stemming from sexual abuse of a child. The bill — like a similar measure approved by New York in early 2019 — would also allow a one-year window for older lawsuits, previously barred by the statute of limitations, to be filed. “Fear, guilt, confusion and shame often keep victims of child sexual abuse silent for years — and the scars last a lifetime,” Book said in a release on the legislation. “When these survivors find their voices, they deserve to be heard — whatever the timeline.”

Janet Cruz, Tracie Davis and faith leaders push for 3 months of paid family leave” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The bills (SB 1194/HB 889), submitted by Sen. Cruz and Rep. Davis would guarantee the right for parents who have been with an employer for a year and a half. “America is the only industrialized nation without a paid leave policy. This is a disservice to working families,” Cruz said. “At two weeks after giving birth, most mothers have not even seen their doctor and been cleared for physical activity, yet they’re expected to return to work.” Cruz added that while the gender pay gap is decreasing in Florida not because the state has addressed the issue: “It’s because [fewer] women are working, women’s labor force participation has been steadily dropping and this, my friends, is a disgrace.”

School choice gets mostly positive reviews during House education Committee hearing” via Sarah Mueller of Florida Politics — About 18,000 Florida students are taking advantage of the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program that state lawmakers passed earlier this year. That’s the maximum number of vouchers available for the 2019-2020 school year, the largest first-year private charter school implementation in the state’s history. Eric Hall, Florida Chancellor for Innovation, gave the House Education Committee new data on the state’s school choice program. He said the program is lifting all of boats, ensuring that low-income and minority students are guaranteed the same quality education that other children in the state have access to. “As parents, we know what our children need,” he said.

Eric Hall, Florida Chancellor for Innovation, says school choice is ‘lifting all boats.’

House Higher Ed Committee approves projects totaling nearly $85 million” via Sarah Mueller of Florida Politics — The House Higher Education Committee approved nearly $85 million in spending. The committee voted on 44 projects during their meeting. One of the top ticket items is more than $18 million to refill the coffers of the state’s college system, depleted because of recent natural disasters. State Rep. Mel Ponder, a Destin Republican, said colleges have had to dip into their reserves to deal with fires, flooding and hurricanes. He said his bill would help them weather future challenges. “Heaven forbid if we don’t have the reserves backfilled in this regard, some colleges may not have the funds to meet some immediate needs they may have due to the natural disaster,” he said.

Senate panel greenlights film production bill” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee unanimously approved a bill that would set up a rebate program to entice film studios to bring productions to the Sunshine State. SB 530, sponsored by committee Chair Gruters, would apply to TV shows that spend $500,000 an episode and films or digital media projects with $1.5 million-plus production budgets. The committee spent little time debating the bill. In addition to being the Chair’s bill, the legislation has the support of the film industry, by way of trade association Film Florida, as well as the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Associated Industries of Florida.

Fireworks bill rockets through Senate committee” via the News Service of Florida — The Banking and Insurance Committee unanimously backed the measure (SB 140), which would allow people 18 and older to purchase fireworks that could be detonated on New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, Memorial Day and Independence Day. Under Florida law, devices such as firecrackers, torpedoes and roman candles are off-limits. People, however, can buy explosive devices if they sign a waiver saying they will use the fireworks for specific agricultural purposes, specifically for “frightening birds from agricultural work and fish hatcheries.” Bill sponsor Travis Hutson amended the proposal, so any change in state law wouldn’t supersede local government regulations.

Senate panel cracks windshield repair benefit reform with tie vote” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee did what they couldn’t do last time they met: cast a vote on SB 312. The bill was voted down, but not before a failed motion to temporarily postpone for a second time. Sen. Jeff Brandes noted the 4-4 vote allowed any member to reconsider the bill. Still, he withdrew his motion, adding last-minute drama to a discussion that sprawled over two committee meetings. The legislation, carried by Orlando Democratic Sen. Linda Stewart, would have ended the ability of auto repair shops to incentivize assignment of benefits. “Gift cards, cash, coupons … anything of value,” would be banned, Stewart said.

Joe Gruters’ bill outlawing stranding dogs in storms advances in Florida Senate” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Dogs deserve shelter in a storm, according to state Sen. Gruters. Now the Sarasota Republican is hopeful it will be a crime to tether dogs and doom them in a hurricane. The Senate Criminal Justice Committee unanimously advanced a bill (SB 522) to impose criminal penalties and fines for leaving canines tied up outside in a storm. “We’re just giving dogs a fighting chance,” said Gruters, the bill’s sponsor.

— AG AT THE CAPITOL —

Farmers and growers from across the state gathered at the Capitol on Tuesday to advocate for Florida’s $140 billion agriculture industry.

Danielle Daum, a third-generation farmer at Happiness Farms in Highlands County, came to support her family and other growers across the state.

“The reason we are here is to talk to legislators about our agricultural issues and ask them to support the initiatives that benefit our state,” she said. 

The day consisted of a breakfast, where farmers heard from Senate President Bill Galvano and other legislators. Farmers attended small group meetings with the Senators and State Representatives who come from their region. In the evening, the industry welcomed the public to a Taste of Florida reception in the Capitol Courtyard. 

Daum said the reception celebrated the best that Florida agriculture has to offer and helped educate legislators, staff and other members of the public about the products grown in Florida. “We are able to tell them where the products are from and educate them and answer any questions that may have,” she said. 

Growers this year are advocating to strengthen Best Management Practices, which they believe are key to restoring and protecting Florida’s water resources. 

“We know that resources are finite, and they can only sustain our growing state for so long,” said John Hoblick, president of the Florida Farm Bureau Federation. “Agriculture is part of the solution. We are proactive when it comes to protecting our natural resources. We live on our farms and our farmland. The last thing we want to do is leave it in ruins for our children and grandchildren.”

— COMMITTEE MTG. SKED —

The House Health Quality Subcommittee meets to consider HB 607 from Rep. Cary Pigman that seeks to allow registered nurses to work independently of physicians, 8:30 a.m., 212 Knott Building.

The House Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee meets for a presentation about DeSantis’ budget, 8:30 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider HB 73 from Rep. Toby Overdorf to address problems with nonhazardous contamination of recyclable materials, 9 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Energy & Utilities Subcommittee meets for a report on water and wastewater utility acquisitions, 9 a.m., 306 House Office Building.

The House Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee meets to consider HB 113 from Rep. Spencer Roach to prevent local governments from banning certain types of sunscreens and cosmetics, 9 a.m., 12 House Office Building.

The Senate Military and Veterans Affairs and Space Committee meets for a presentation on the Homes for Our Troops and Building Homes for Heroes programs, which offers to house injured veterans, 10 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building.

The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee meets to consider HB 401 from Rep. Kristin Jacobs banning the import, export and sale of shark fins in Florida, 12:30 p.m., 12 House Office Building.

The House Business & Professions Subcommittee meets to consider HB 6037 from Rep. Chip LaMarca that would repeal a law restricting the size of individual wine containers, 12:30 p.m., 212 Knott Building.

The House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee meets for a presentation on DeSantis’ proposed budget, 12:30 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider several bills asking for money to support health- and human-services programs and projects, 12:30 p.m., 404 House Office Building.

The House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee meets to consider HB 37 from Rep. Ardian Zika to increase penalties for motorists who do not stop for school buses that are picking up or dropping off students, 12:30 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee meets to hear a presentation on water and wastewater infrastructure, 1:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.

The Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider SB 346 from Sen. Rob Bradley seeking to make changes in drug-related sentencing, including relaxing mandatory minimum sentencing laws for some trafficking offenses, 1:30 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building.

The Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee meets to hear a presentation on DeSantis’ proposed education budget, 1:30 p.m., 412 Knott Building.

The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider SB 348 from Chairman Aaron Bean seeking to eliminate a $1 million lifetime benefits cap for children enrolled in the Florida Healthy Kids insurance program, 4 p.m., 412 Knott Building.

The Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee meets to hear a presentation on DeSantis’ proposed budget, 4 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.

The House Health Market Reform Subcommittee meets to consider HB 711 from Rep. Colleen Burton to mandate information about hospital mergers and acquisitions to be reported to the Attorney General’s office, 4 p.m., 306 House Office Building.

The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee meets to hear a presentation on DeSantis’ proposed budget, 4 p.m., 212 Knott Building.

The House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee meets to consider HB 487 from Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff to create a program aimed at helping reduce the exposure of firefighters to cancer-causing materials, 4 p.m., 404 House Office Building.

The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee meets to hear a presentation on DeSantis’ proposed budget, 4 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee meets to consider PCB PK1 20-01, a proposal that requires the Florida High School Athletic Association to take steps to try to prevent heat strokes among student-athletes, 4 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

— GOV. CLUB BUFFET —

Old fashion turkey and rice soup; mixed garden salad with dressings; tortellini pasta salad; tropical fruit salad; deli board, lettuce, tomatoes, cheeses, and breads; sauté breast of chicken with cranberries and goat cheese with tomato infused demi; lemon and walnut crusted cod with lemon-dill cream; tenderloin tips Au Poivre; blend of wild rice pilaf-round; grilled zucchini fries; Brussels sprouts with bacon; mint brownies for dessert.

— STATEWIDE —

Corporate loopholes mean Florida taxpayers subsidize jobs in other states” via Jason Garcia of the Orlando SentinelIn 1981, the Florida Legislature gave the banking industry a tax break. The goal was to entice banks to do their international lending from Florida.  But 13 years later, the federal government rewrote the nation’s banking laws to let banks start doing business across state lines. Now, a national bank could get the Florida tax break even if it was doing its international banking in New York, San Francisco or some other part of the country. State economists looked more closely at this flaw and found there were 15 banks claiming the Florida tax break — and as many as nine of them were doing their international banking somewhere else.

America is experiencing a space renaissance. And Florida is the epicenter” via Joce Sterman and Alex Brauer of WJLA — It’s been 50 years since NASA sent three men hurtling through space, bound for the moon. While the drive to push beyond the horizon hasn’t dulled over the decades, private industry is now leading the mission. No one knows that better than Tom Markusic, the CEO of Firefly Aerospace, a company some believe could one day be the FedEx of space. Firefly, a Texas company, is one of several space minded innovators moving to Florida, helping to fuel an American space renaissance. Markusic said, “In the next 25 years, space is going to be a multi-trillion-dollar business.” And Cape Canaveral, with its historical ties and existing infrastructure, has emerged as the epicenter.

Tom Markusic, the CEO of Firefly Aerospace, is looking toward Cape Canaveral for his company to become the ‘FedEx of space.’

DeSantis administration fights pot ruling” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — The Florida Department of Health is challenging a July appellate decision that found a state law requiring medical marijuana operators to grow, process and sell cannabis and derivative products — a system known as “vertical integration” — runs afoul of a constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana. The department went to the Supreme Court in a lawsuit filed by Florigrown, a company owned in part by strip-club operator Joe Redner. The company filed the case after state health officials rejected its request for a medical marijuana license shortly after the constitutional amendment went into effect in 2017.

‘Green rush’ investors turn skittish” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — In what was jokingly called a “green rush,” investors not long ago stampeded into Florida to gain entry to what was expected to be one of the nation’s most lucrative marijuana markets. The competition swelled after Florida voters three years ago broadly legalized medical marijuana. But even as the possibility of legal recreational pot looms on the horizon, the bidding war for medical-marijuana licenses in the Sunshine State has fizzled. “There’s nothing wrong with the market in Florida. It’s just that nobody wants to put millions and millions of dollars into the ground,” said Alan Brochstein, managing partner at New Cannabis Investors.

Hemp grow permits to be pushed back weeks, as feds review state rules” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Hemp and citrus were on the menu in the Senate Agriculture Committee, the panel’s last meeting before Session begins. A progress report was offered on hemp rule-making. As the Committee weeks started early in the fall, hope was that cultivation rules would be in place as soon as next month. However, that’s not happening. State Cannabis Director Holly Bell described a rule-making process complicated by the Oct. 31 USDA release of federal hemp rules. Some rules will be ready in a matter of weeks. Florida’s hemp seed, food safety, and animal feed rules will go into effect Jan. 1.

Happening today — The Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Board of Governors meets in Central Florida to discuss issues such as an upcoming budget, 9 a.m., Sheraton Orlando North, 600 North Lake Destiny Dr., Maitland.

— MOTHER NATURE —

Bradenton activists ‘ho-ho-hoping’ Bill Galvano supports fracking ban in festive protest” via Ryan Callihan of the Bradenton Herald — ‘Tis the season for protests wrapped in the holiday spirit. Activists put a festive spin on environmentalism outside of Senate President Galvano’s office in downtown Bradenton. Using tweaked versions of classic holiday carols, activists voiced their concerns regarding the Florida Legislature’s stance on fracking. “We wish you a frack-free Christmas and a healthy New Year,” they sang to the tune of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” in the courtyard of the Manatee County Judicial Center, next door to Galvano’s district office. Six people joined in Food & Water Watch’s call for a total ban on fracking. Protesters say the process isn’t worth the risk.

Activists are tweaking Christmas carols in the hope Bill Galvano will get behind a fracking ban.

Citrus industry ‘pretty close to a cliff’” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — After 15 years of fighting the impacts of hurricanes, citrus greening disease, a reduction in acres because of the state’s rapid growth and changes in drinking habits, Florida Citrus Mutual Executive Vice President Michael Sparks said the condition of the industry has gotten “better.” However, Sparks acknowledged the need for a “robust” marketing campaign and growers are at a crossroads as they seek state and federal partnerships. “I don’t know how many plagues were going to fight, but we’re getting very close to biblical proportions,” Sparks told members of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Chairman Ben Albritton described the industry, which in Florida employs about 50,000 people, as “standing pretty close to a cliff right now.”

Look this week for December’s moon illusion and higher tides” via Kimberly Miller of the Palm Beach Post — December’s moon swells to full, debuting a lunar magic trick Thursday evening and tugging at the tides. The “cold moon,” so nicknamed because of its rise in some of the chilliest nights of the year, will lift large above the horizon beginning at about 6:05 p.m. in Florida. Its overly-rotund appearance on the horizon is an illusion — a poorly understood phenomenon that disrupts how the brain interprets the image — but still worth seeing if skies are clear. Regardless of the spectacle, the full moon could cause this week’s tides to run above normal, although coastal flooding is not expected.

Happening today — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission meets to review a 10-year bear-management plan, which includes techniques, including hunting, to maintain the bear population in the state and reduce interactions with humans, 8:30 a.m. Edgewater Beach Resort, 11212 Front Beach Road, Panama City.

— PEACHY —

Democrats unveil impeachment charges; Trump left ‘no choice’” via Lisa Mascaro and Mary Clare Jalonick of The Associated Press — The specific charges aimed at removing the 45th president of the U.S.: Abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, flanked by the chairmen of impeachment inquiry committees at the U.S. Capitol, said they were upholding their solemn oath to defend the Constitution. Trump responded angrily on Twitter: “WITCH HUNT!” In the formal articles, the Democrats said Trump enlisted a foreign power in “corrupting” the U.S. election process and endangered national security by asking Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, including Democrat Joe Biden, while withholding U.S. military aid as leverage. That benefited Russia over the U.S. as America’s ally fought Russian aggression, the Democrats said.

Democratic leaders are pushing ahead with formal charges saying the president put U.S. elections and national security at risk.

Senate looks for holiday truce on impeachment trial” via Burgess Everett of POLITICO — Senators aren’t likely to let a little thing like impeachment ruin their holiday plans. As soon as the House impeaches Trump, the Senate is, in theory, required to begin a trial immediately. But for a multitude of reasons, both strategic and mundane, senators say they are aiming to reach an agreement to take a breather and come back for the trial in January. Despite bipartisan hopes of not letting impeachment drag on, absolutely no one in the Senate seems to want to sacrifice their Christmas or New Year’s. And though nothing has been finalized, senators expect party leaders who have sway on the matter to agree in the coming days.

Small group of Democrats floats censure instead of impeachment” via Sarah Ferris and Melanie Zanona of POLITICO — Those Democrats, all representing districts that Trump won in 2016, huddled in an 11th-hour bid to weigh additional — though unlikely — options to punish the president for his role in the Ukraine scandal as the House speeds toward an impeachment vote next week. The group of about 10 Trump-district lawmakers included Reps. Josh Gottheimer, Kurt Schrader, Anthony Brindisi, and Ben McAdams. “I think it’s certainly appropriate and might be a little more bipartisan, who knows,” Schrader said when asked about the possibility of a censure resolution. But he acknowledged: “Time’s slipping by.”

— D.C. MATTERS —

Democrats, White House forge new North American trade deal” via Andrew Taylor of The Associated Press — They said the revamped U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement was a significant improvement over the original North American Free Trade Agreement, with Democrats crowing about winning stronger provisions on enforcing the agreement while Republicans said it will help keep the economy humming along. “There is no question of course that this trade agreement is much better than NAFTA,” House Speaker Pelosi said in announcing the agreement, saying the pact is “infinitely better than what was initially proposed by the administration.” Trump said the revamped trade pact will “be great” for the United States.

House Democrats and the White House announced a deal on a modified North American trade pact. Image via Getty.

How Democrats got to ‘yes’ on Trump’s new trade deal” via Megan Cassella of POLITICO — “Pelosi is a master legislative tactician,” Rep. Henry Cuellar, a staunch USMCA supporter who has been closely tracking the deal, said in a recent interview. “She knew exactly who to put on that working group to ensure everyone had a seat at the table.” The group — whose members ranged from moderate New Democrat Rep. Terri Sewell to progressives like Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro — began meeting regularly with U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer in mid-June as administration officials ramped up a push to see a vote on the deal before summer recess began six weeks later. Some issues were worked out quickly. The early win for Democrats boosted members’ confidence and showed the administration was willing to make concessions.

Trump to sign order targeting anti-Semitism on college campuses” via Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman of the New York Times — Trump plans to sign an executive order on Wednesday targeting what he sees as anti-Semitism on college campuses by threatening to withhold federal money from educational institutions that fail to combat discrimination, three administration officials said. The order will effectively interpret Judaism as a nationality, not just a religion, to trigger a federal law penalizing colleges and universities deemed to be shirking their responsibility to foster an open climate for minority students, according to the officials, who insisted on anonymity to discuss the matter before the announcement. In signing the order, Mr. Trump will use his executive power to take action where Congress has not, essentially replicating bipartisan legislation that has stalled on Capitol Hill for years.

Trump pays $2 million in damages ordered by judge over misuse of charity funds, according to NY attorney general” via David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post — A New York state judge ordered the payment last month in an extraordinary rebuke to a sitting president. Trump had been sued in 2018 by the New York attorney general, who alleged the president had illegally used funds from the Donald J. Trump Foundation to buy portraits of himself, pay off his businesses’ legal obligations and help his 2016 campaign. The money was split among eight charities, according to a statement from New York Attorney General Letitia James.

Tweet, tweet:

Worthy of your time —Marco Rubio warns America must direct its economy to counter China’s threat” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — If America continues pursuing a completely market-driven economy the communist planners of China’s economy could continue to exploit America’s economic vulnerabilities and potentially take control of all the industries that matter in the 21st century, from mining to aerospace, Rubio warned. Rubio’s speech, “American Industrial Policy and the Rise of China,” given at National Defense University, a U.S. Department of Defense institution in Washington, D.C., was, in large part, a corollary to the “common good economics” speech that Rubio delivered early last month. The address also brings in Rubio’s frequent warnings about China’s economic, military, and human rights policies, and their threats to the United States.

To view the speech, click on the image below:

Stephanie Murphy says freshman class is more than just progressive firebrands” via Quint Forgey of POLITICO — Murphy on Tuesday asserted that ideological differences between progressive freshman congresswomen and less liberal Democratic lawmakers has not inhibited consensus-building among the party’s members in the House of Representatives.

— 2020 —

Trump, Pete Buttigieg battle for young voters on Snap” via Axios — Buttigieg and Trump are going head to head in Snapchat ad spend, according to data pulled from Snapchat’s public ads library provided by social analytics company Storyful. While the spend on Snapchat is dwarfed by the millions spent by Democratic candidates on Facebook and Google ads, the data provides an insight into how candidates are targeting young and first-time voters ahead of the 2020 US presidential election. The Trump campaign and an affiliated PAC have spent a combined $43,955 this year — the exact same amount as the Buttigieg campaign. Sen. Elizabeth Warren spent $31,190 since the start of 2019. She’s the only other Democratic contender that’s spent more than a few thousand on the platform.

Pete Buttigieg is going head-to-head with Donald Trump … on Snapchat. 

Joe Biden campaign video seizes on NATO leaders’ hot mic on Trump” via Rebecca Falconer of Axios — Former Vice President Biden‘s 2020 campaign seized on video of world leaders seemingly chuckling about Trump at the NATO summit, including the hot mic clip, in an ad saying the “world is laughing at” Trump. Biden’s video also features a clip from Trump’s 2018 speech before the UN during which he was met with laughter when he said his administration had “accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.” Trump hasn’t commented on Biden’s video, but he called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “two-faced” for apparently gossiping about him to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron and Queen Elizabeth II‘s daughter, Princess Anne, on a hot mic at Buckingham Palace.

Biden signals to aides that he would serve only a single term” via POLITICO — Biden’s top advisers and prominent Democrats outside the Biden campaign have recently revived a long-running debate whether Biden should publicly pledge to serve only one term, with Biden himself signaling to aides that he will serve only a single term. While the option of making a public pledge remains available, Biden has for now settled on an alternative strategy: quietly indicate that he will almost certainly not run for a second term while declining to make a promise that he and his advisers fear could turn him into a lame duck and sap him of his political capital.

Michael Bloomberg lands former Kamala Harris backer as first major California endorsement” via Carla Marinucci of POLITICO California — Democratic presidential candidate Bloomberg has picked up his first major California endorsement with backing from San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, a former Harris supporter and key Silicon Valley leader who will serve as the billionaire’s California campaign co-chair. Bloomberg’s campaign also confirmed that he will hit California for the first time as a presidential candidate this week, though it said details of the trip are not yet available. 

Elizabeth Warren seeks a second act after slip from the top” via Shane Goldmacher of The New York Times — Over much of the last two months, her ascent has stalled as opponents, led by Mayor Buttigieg, have questioned her stance on “Medicare for all” and portrayed her far-reaching policy agenda as a ripe target in a potential matchup against Trump. Now Warren and a Boston-based campaign team that has long resisted snap reactions to the day-to-day developments of the primary are nodding to the reality of a reshuffled race with no true front-runner. Her campaign is leaning into her role as the leading woman in the race, and she is directly engaging with Buttigieg, after months of preferring to pick fights with the billionaire critics of her populist proposals.

— HAPPENING TONIGHT —

and

and

and

— MONEY CHASE —

DeSantis committee top $700,000 in November” via the News Service of Florida — November brought the total this year to nearly $4.2 million. The committee Friends of Ron DeSantis collected $701,806 in November, with many of the contributions coming in large chunks. Those contributions included $50,000 from the Committee of Safety Net Hospitals of Florida; $50,000 from a credit-union PAC; $50,000 from The Lewis Bear Company, a Panhandle beer distributor; $50,000 from the health insurer Humana; and $50,000 from Melbourne Greyhound Park, the report shows.

Legal expenses soar for Andrew Gillum’s political committee amid federal probe” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — The political committee for Gillum spent $240,000 on lawyers last month, a substantial rise in the organization’s legal expenses that coincides with a far-reaching federal investigation involving the former nominee for governor. Forward Florida had already spent $25,000 on legal fees every month since March when the U.S. Attorney’s office in north Florida started dropping subpoenas that demanded information on Gillum, the Democrat’s campaign, his political committee, a wealthy donor, a charity that employed him and a former employer. Those expenses have increased tenfold, according to November’s campaign finance report reviewed by the Tampa Bay Times.

Andrew Gillum’s legal bills are mounting.

Galvano, Wilton Simpson raise big in November” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Political committees tied to Senate President Galvano and Senate President-designate Simpson posted six-figure finance reports for November. Simpson’s committee, Jobs for Florida, deposited 22 checks totaling $435,151 last month. A $60,000 contribution from Florida Prosperity Fund, a political committee tied to the Associated Industries of Florida, was the most substantial single contribution. Jobs for Florida entered December with about $1.3 million in the bank. Simpson’s other committees, Florida Green and Future Florida, each have about $400,000 on hand. Galvano, meanwhile, tacked on another $131,000 through his political committee, Innovate Florida. The expenditure sheet showed about $125,000 in spending. It had $57,000 in the bank at the end of the month.

Jim Boyd crushing Democratic opponent Amanda Linton in dollars raised” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Southwest Florida’s only competitive state Senate race so far remains the contest to succeed Senate President Galvano in Senate District 21. Boyd, a former state Representative, jumped into the race in August and has dominated fundraising ever since. While his November wasn’t quite like his October money-fest, Boyd pulled in another $14,750 during the month. That included $1,000 checks from several conservative political committees, including Clay Yarborough’s Floridians for Conservative Values, Celeste Camm’s A Stronger Florida, and Marc Reichelderfer’s Florida Right Solutions. Business groups, including the Asian American Hotel Owners and Florida Beer Wholesalers (along with an associated political committee), made $1,000 donations.

Ray Rodrigues continues ridiculous fundraising with no opponent in sight” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The state representative remains richly funded as he aims to succeed state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto. He raised $48,900 in March, bringing total contributions to his campaign to $357,666. Two political committees associated with Rodrigues also posted big numbers. The amount so far seems to have frightened off any competitors in Senate District 27. He’s also helped by the fact every like contender seems more interested in running for an open Congressional seat in the region. As for Rodrigues’ campaign account, new donations include $1,000 checks from pharmaceutical companies Bristol-Myers Squibb and UCB.

Shevrin Jones nets nearly $29K during November in bid for SD 35” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Jones, who currently represents House District 101, is term-limited in 2020, prompting him to run for the Senate. He’s been the best fundraiser in the race so far. November saw Jones raise nearly $20,000 through his campaign. His political committee, Florida Strong Finish, added another $9,000. The West Park Democrat has now added more than $110,000 to his SD 35 bid in the last three months. Jones also burned through nearly $20,000 during November between his campaign and political committee, leaving him with a net gain for the month. He has just over $82,000 on hand going forward.

Agriculture continues to give Ned Hancock resource edge over Kaylee Tuck” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Citrus grower Hancock continues to hold a funding edge in the race to succeed outgoing state Rep. Cary Pigman. Meanwhile, attorney Tuck continues to boost her coffers. Hancock continues to see strong support come in from agriculture players in the region. He posted $19,100 in new contributions in November, bringing his total to $174,536. That includes $1,000 checks from the Ninfa C. Davis Family farm in Wauchula, rancher Ramon Corona from Coral Gables, and agriculture professional Ronda Perry in Moore Haven. North Carolina-based agrochemical company Syngenta also made a maximum donation. And Capital City Consulting also chipped in $1,000. Tuck, meanwhile, raised $4,512 in November, bringing total contributions to $71,192.

Tommy Gregory outraises David Fairey by more than 60-to-1 in November” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Sarasota Republican’s fall haul showed the power of Tallahassee connections. One of the only incumbent lawmakers in Southwest Florida already facing opposition, Gregory stepped up fundraising in November substantially. During the month, he pulled in $32,554, bringing total contributions up to $85,054. By comparison, Fairey raised $515 in November and has $13,200 in total.

Mike Caruso collects more than $67K in November, topping Jim Bonfiglio” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Republican state Rep. Caruso nearly tripled his next-highest monthly fundraising total this cycle and good enough to top his Democratic opponent, former Ocean Ridge Mayor Bonfiglio. Bonfiglio added just $900 in outside contributions along with a $10,000 loan. Caruso’s previous monthly fundraising high was in March when he raised just over $23,000. His November haul puts him over $150,000 collected so far this cycle, with nearly $130,000 still on hand. The incumbent pulled in dozens of maxed-out $1,000 donations during November from individuals and political committees alike. Among those contributors were GEO Group CEO George Zoley and his wife, Donna. GEO Care LLC added another $1,000, as did state Rep. Paul Renner‘s political committee, Conservatives for Principled Leadership.

Alex Penelas adds another $300K in bid for Miami-Dade Mayor” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Former Miami-Dade County Mayor Penelas made a statement with his inaugural fundraising haul, bringing in more than $850,000 in October. He followed that up by adding $155,000 to his campaign in November. Penelas’ political committee, Bold Vision, collected another $145,000 during the month. Penelas had been raising money through his PC in the months before officially entering the race. He’s added around $2.7 million so far for the 2020 contest. His November numbers show several dozen maxed-out donations from the construction and real estate industry — both to his campaign and PC. Those donations have allowed Penelas to continue his steady fundraising pace as he seeks to replace term-limited Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

Daniella Levine Cava mayoral campaign adds nearly $137K in November” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — That marks the eighth straight month she’s shown a six-figure fundraising haul — a streak that covers her entire run since joining the race in April. Levine Cava currently represents District 8 on the Miami-Dade County Commission. She’s seeking to become the first female Mayor in Miami-Dade County history. In addition to the six-digit fundraising haul, Levine Cava also earned a series of endorsements in November. Those lawmakers backing her campaign include state Sens. José Javier Rodríguez and Oscar Braynon II as well as state Rep. Nick Duran.

— THE TRAIL —

Ted Yoho won’t seek reelection” via the Gainesville Sun — Yoho announced his retirement after his fourth term — a limit he set for himself at the outset of his political career eight years ago. On Facebook, Yoho wrote: “I am announcing my retirement from Congress at the end of this session, which ends January 7, 2021 … It has been an amazing opportunity to be able to serve the best district in Florida — District 3. The people make it the best place, and you are the reason it was such an honor to be your Representative in the United States Congress. Our Nation is the best on the planet, and as time passes, new ideas need to be instilled to preserve the Republic we’ve been blessed with.”

Eight is enough for Ted Yoho.

Rob Bradley won’t run for Yoho congressional seat” via the News Service of Florida — State Senate Appropriations Chairman Bradley, who faces term limits next year in the Senate, will not run for the congressional seat. “While I appreciate the words of encouragement from friends in my community, I will not be seeking the Republican nomination for Congressional District 3 in 2020,” said Bradley, whose Senate district overlaps parts of the congressional district.

Judson Sapp is the early frontrunner to replace Yoho, but keep your eyes on Gavin Rollins: ”Congressman Yoho stepped up at a time when the people of north Florida were demanding a return to principled, conservative leadership in Washington and represented us well. With today’s announcement, Congressman Yoho did something we rarely see in Washington these days – he kept his word. I am honored by the calls from friends and leaders in our community urging me to run for Congress. I am seriously considering a run. As an Army Veteran, American history teacher and conservative commissioner; I fought over seas and here at home for the American way of life and conservative values! I look forward to continuing to talk to people through the district and announcing my decision after the holidays.”

Pinellas GOP congressional candidates introduce themselves, but one is missing” via Mitch Perry of Bay News 9 — Five Republicans who intend to run for the nomination to face Democrat Charlie Crist next year in Florida’s 13th Congressional race gathered in Clearwater, but the best-known candidate was not among them. That would be George Buck, who made national news last week after it was reported that he called for Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar and other Democrats to be hanged for treason in a fundraising email. The report by the Tampa Bay Times led to national and Pinellas based Republicans to distance themselves from Buck, a U.S. Army Veteran who ran and lost to Crist in the race for the congressional seat in 2018.

Bogus letters claim state Representative candidate under criminal investigation” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — At least six people who contributed financially to a Florida Keys man running for state representative in the 2020 election received fake letters last week on official law enforcement letterhead and stationery claiming they face criminal investigation if they send the candidate any more money. The letters are written under the Florida Department of Law Enforcement letterhead and came in FDLE envelopes. Still, the agency did not send them, according to Monroe County State Attorney Dennis Ward, whose office launched an investigation into the mailings this week. “It’s a pretty dirty thing to do,” Ward said. The targeted candidate is Jim Mooney, a real estate agent and Islamorada City Councilman.

— LOCAL —

A Florida man launched a nonprofit to save sex trafficking victims. He was actually luring teen girls into prostitution, prosecutors say.” via Katie Shepherd of The Washington Post — It was a hot mid-August night in Broward County when a recovering heroin addict said she first encountered one of William Foster’s recruiters outside a nightclub. Foster told her she should pack her belongings and move in with him until she could get back on her feet. That same night, she packed a bag, and Foster drove her to one of his three homes in South Florida, telling her he would save her. Instead, he allegedly forced the woman into sexual servitude as an exotic dancer and prostitute as part of a 15-year enterprise that targeted teenage girls in foster care and vulnerable young women, according to a criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court.

Their teen daughter sleeps in the living room. How America’s worst affordable housing shortage is hurting tourism workers” via Chabeli Herrera of the Orlando Sentinel — The sole-income household supported by Diego Henry’s wages — he’s a low-level manager at Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios — brings in about $35,000 a year. They live in Pine Hills, a mostly impoverished community just west of Orlando. “I want a wall,” Zoe Henry said. “Just to shut the door and be like, ‘I don’t want to talk to anybody.’” She wants to have a sleepover for the first time. She wants a table to build her Legos or her own desk to do homework. She wants a window. The Henrys’ desire for space is a familiar frustration for families across a region where finding an affordable place to live is harder than anywhere else in the country.

Cyberattack against City of Pensacola is ransomware attack, officials confirm” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — City officials have confirmed that the ongoing cyberattack against the city of Pensacola is a ransomware attack, but declined to release any additional information, including details about any potential demands. Ransomware attacks involve the attacker software encrypting valuable data and files, preventing access until a ransom is paid. City spokeswoman Kaycee Lagarde confirmed to the News Journal that the city is experiencing a ransomware attack, but said she couldn’t provide any details because of the ongoing investigation. Escambia County Commissioner Jeff Bergosh shared part of the email sent to County Commissioners from county IT staff on his blog. The email included an update from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on the attack.

JEA Board member Andy Allen resigns” via Christopher Hong of the Florida Times-Union — Real estate developer Andy Allen cited a lack of time to continue overseeing the beleaguered city-owned utility. While Allen submitted his resignation to Mayor Lenny Curry on Dec. 2, JEA and city officials were silent on his decision until Tuesday, when it provided a copy of Allen’s resignation letter after the Times-Union requested it a day earlier. Allen made no mention of the crisis of confidence JEA is facing over the leadership of CEO Aaron Zahn and its ongoing efforts to consider selling itself to a private entity. Allen wrote: “Unfortunately, there has been increasing demands on my time from family and business responsibilities that must take precedence over my continued service on the board.”

Corner Lot CEO Andy Allen resigns from the JEA Board.

JEA to pay at least $1.8 million in legal and lobbying fees for privatization” via Christopher Hong of the Florida Times-Union — The final tab for those services will likely be higher, considering one law firm, Foley & Lardner, has already exceeded the limit of their original contract by $660,000. The figures were compiled by the Jacksonville City Council Auditor’s office at the request of City Councilwoman Randy DeFoor. DeFoor also asked auditors to summarize JEA’s contracts with two financial advisers hired in July to assist with its privatization efforts, Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan Securities. According to the auditor’s report, JEA signed an engagement letter with Morgan Stanley on July 23, the same date its board unanimously voted to allow JEA executives to pursue privatization.

No new lawyer for ex-city Council member Reggie Brown, judge says” via Steve Patterson of the Florida Times-Union — “I do not find good cause to discharge Mr. Bell,” U.S. Magistrate James Klindt said after more than 90 minutes of closed-door discussions with Brown and Thomas Bell, the attorney appointed to represent the indigent politician last year. Bell requested the hearing on Brown’s behalf last week, telling the judge his client believed there would be an unspecified conflict if he remained on the case. The ruling means Brown remains scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 27 with fellow former council member Katrina Brown for charges including mail and wire fraud, money laundering, conspiracy and failure to file an income tax return. Brown was convicted on 33 counts in a trial that ended in October.

Turmoil continues at St. Pete housing agency as new board member resigns” via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — Roxanne Amoroso, the owner of Mosaic Development, quietly stepped down after the agency terminated an agreement allowing Tampa Housing Authority leader Jerome Ryans to also serve as interim leader of its St. Petersburg counterpart. Hers was the lone “no” vote on the Ryans question. Amoroso declined to comment but said the reasons are clear from the board meeting, where she urged her colleagues to continue with Ryans as interim leader. He was appointed after the agency fired Tony Love and in the wake of a scathing review of its operations by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “I’m really opposed to you pulling back; I’m so opposed to you doing this,” Amoroso told her colleagues.

Million-dollar Space Coast tourism campaign targets visitors from Miami, Super Bowl” via Dave Berman of Florida Today — The Space Coast Office of Tourism is targeting the Miami area for its most extensive single-city marketing campaign ever — a million-dollar effort in early 2020 to lure visitors to Brevard County. The eight-week campaign will begin a week before Miami hosts the Super Bowl on Feb. 2 — a time when the area will have visitors from throughout the country and abroad. But the marketing campaign will focus mainly on luring Miami-area residents to the Space Coast for a family vacation or a long weekend getaway for couples or friends. Among the attractions of the Space Coast for South Florida residents is “it’s a short, easy drive,” said Charity Stewart, the Office of Tourism’s marketing director.

— MORE LOCAL —

Flasher costume may cost Broward schools director $44,000” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — An administrator who oversees purchasing for Broward schools could receive a demotion and a nearly $44,000 pay cut because she showed up for work on Halloween dressed as a flasher. Mary Coker, 46, currently makes $154,286 as the district’s director of procurement and warehousing services, a job she’s held since 2016. Superintendent Robert Runcie plans to ask the School Board to demote her to manager of materials and logistics, a job where the most she could be paid is $110,702.

A flasher costume may cost Broward school director Mary Coker a substantial pay cut, demotion.

Sarasota School Board considering future lawsuits as DJ case awaits” via Ryan McKinnon of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The Sarasota County School Board will meet in an executive session on Tuesday to discuss legal strategy in a special education case. In October, Administrative Law Judge Diane Cleavinger ordered the school district to pay for six and a half years of private school tuition for DJ, a student who was inappropriately placed in a program for children with severe cognitive disabilities and missed out on standard curriculum from third grade to ninth grade. The total cost of obeying the judge’s order could easily be $100,000. Still, it’s not that dollar amount that has district officials most worried — it’s the potential cost of the more than 100 students who may have also been wrongly placed in the alternative curriculum.

Federal prisons employee indicted in large-scale dogfighting ring” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — A Federal Bureau of Prisons employee from Marianna is the latest alleged co-conspirator to be charged in connection with a large-scale illegal North Florida dogfighting ring involving 100 pit bull-type canines. The federal grand jury in Tallahassee handed down a superseding indictment this week, adding DeCarlisle Chapman, 46, to the government’s list of suspected co-conspirators. Chapman, along with Jermaine Terrell “Tank” Hadley, 31, of Quincy and Leonard Safford, 37, of Gretna, were charged with 51 counts of federal dogfighting offenses, U.S. Attorney Lawrence Keefe announced Tuesday.

Arrest report: Delta Tau Delta pledges subjected to ritualistic hazing, ridicule, physical abuse” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — In September, 45 pledges to Florida State University’s Delta Tau Delta fraternity were filed into a dim, candlelit house and subjected to ritualistic hazing that police say included mental and physical abuse. Now, four Tallahassee college students, including the president and treasurer of the suspended fraternity, are facing misdemeanor hazing charges after their arrest on Monday night. Florida State University Police Department officers interviewed the fraternity pledges in late October after each was issued a subpoena. The scene described to investigators resembled the fraternity hijinks seen in movies, but quickly escalated into what police say was hazing.

Aggie and Jeff Stoops make $2.5 million commitment to Florida State football” via the Tallahassee Democrat — Seminole Boosters, Inc. and the Florida State University athletic department have received a leadership commitment of $2.5 million from Aggie and Jeff Stoops in support of the Seminole Football program. With their pledge, the Stoops are the first donors to support FSU’s Renaissance Campaign, a focused effort to receive gifts in support of a championship future for the football program. Additionally, with this gift, the Stoops have committed to support the athletic department’s upcoming investment in a football operations building as part of the five-year Unconquered Campaign. In recognition of their generosity, the office of the new head coach Mike Norvell will be named The Aggie and Jeff Stoops Office of the Head Football Coach.

— OPINIONS —

DeSantis is wrong. Impeachment inquiry not ‘typical Washington stuff’” via the Editorial Board of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — On the day that the House Intelligence Committee accused Trump of conduct befitting a dictator, DeSantis gushed over the money the president would haul in at the Republican Party of Florida’s annual “statesman’s dinner” Saturday night. The event, closed to the media, reportedly raised a record $3.5 million. DeSantis wasn’t disappointed. But every Floridian who truly honors America should be. Like virtually all of his Republican colleagues, the governor sounds heedless of what’s at stake in the impeachment inquiry. “My sense, just talking to people, is I think the public generally views it as typical Washington stuff,” he said. If he is right, then the great American experiment is over.

Why stop at impeaching Trump? What about William Barr?” via Randy Schultz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — This week, Barr savaged the report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz that bias against Trump did not prompt the FBI investigation into Russian election interference and that the investigation — which produced five convictions or guilty pleas of Trump campaign operatives and outlined in detail the Russian involvement — was justified. Though the report debunked every conspiracy theory Trump and his allies have thrown against the wall, Barr saw something else. “The FBI,” Barr said, “launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that were insufficient to justify the steps taken.” Barr shows no remorse in acting as Trump’s lawyer.

Mike Hill and Dennis Baxley: Poster children for today’s lack of political accountability” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — When last we left state Hill, he was facing the wrath of Florida’s Republican Party leadership. The Panhandle lawmaker had laughed at a constituent’s suggestion that gay people be put to death per the Bible, prompting righteous indignation and condemnation from House Speaker José Oliva and his 2020 successor, Chris Sprowls. It’s unclear if Hill got away with a slap on the wrist because of a subsequent non-apology, in which he expressed regret for not correcting the constituent’s misreading of the Bible, and additional regret that nincompoops in the general public misunderstood his “tone.” What’s clear is that Olivá, who seemed sincere in his outrage, had the power to do a lot more.

— MOVEMENTS —

DeSantis appoints former Key West Mayor Craig Cates to Monroe County Commission” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Cates will replace retiring Commissioner Danny Kolhage on the Commission. In May, Kolhage announced he would not seek a third term in 2020. But in October, Kolhage decided to call it quits before that election, stepping down from his District 1 seat effective Nov. 30. “It has been my honor and privilege to serve Monroe County for more than 45 years,” Kolhage wrote in a resignation letter to DeSantis. Cates, a Republican, served as Key West Mayor from 2009 until 2018. He is a fourth-generation resident of Key West and will serve out the duration of Kolhage’s term.

Ron DeSantis selects former Key West Mayor Craig Cates to the Monroe County Commission, replacing the retiring Danny Kolhage.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Donovan Brown, Suskey Consulting: US Travel Insurance Association

Christopher Chaney, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: Peoples Gas System, Tampa Electric Company, TECO Energy

Jack Cory, Public Affairs Consultants: Village of Tequesta

Jon Johnson, Johnson & Blanton: Florida Fire Chiefs’ Association

Jonathan Menendez, Kaleo Partners: Google

Tara Reid, Strategos Public Affairs: Girls Who Code

Heather Turnbull, Rubin Turnbull & Associates: Burford Capital

— ALOE —

Merriam-Webster declares ‘they’ its 2019 word of the year” via Leanne Italie of The Associated Press — A common but increasingly mighty and very busy little word, “they,” has an accolade all its own. The language mavens at Merriam-Webster have declared the personal pronoun their word of the year based on a 313 percent increase in lookups on the company’s search site, Merriam-Webster.com, this year when compared with 2018. “I have to say it’s surprising to me,” said Peter Sokolowski, a lexicographer and Merriam-Webster’s editor at large, ahead of Tuesday’s announcement. “It’s a word we all know and love. So many people were talking about this word.” Sokolowski and his team monitor spikes in searches, and “they” got an early start last January with the rise of model Oslo Grace, who identifies as transgender nonbinary.

Disney World hotel set to expand to 604 rooms in 2021” via Marco Santana of the Orlando Sentinel — A 604-room hotel will open in 2021 in Walt Disney World’s hotel corridor, the result of the expansion and renovation of what is now a Best Western. Officials with St. Louis-based Drury Hotels said that Drury Plaza Hotel Orlando Lake Buena Vista would come in two stages. In early 2021, the company plans to open a new, 264-room building on the site at 2000 Hotel Plaza Blvd. The existing property will undergo renovations, and the 340-room building will be rebranded under the Drury Hotels flag by the end of that year. In 2017, Drury Hotels bought the Best Western property for $20.5 million.

Drury Hotels is developing its first property in the Disney Springs resort area.

Cirque du Soleil, Disney announce name, other details of new show at Disney World” via Matthew J. Palm of the Orlando Sentinel — The new Cirque du Soleil show coming to Walt Disney World this spring finally has a name: “Drawn to Life.” The title cleverly has two meanings: The show is about animation, the art of bringing characters to life through drawings. But Cirque and Disney officials have also described the show’s story as a celebration of life, and the power imagination plays in it. The announcement also offered a few more facts about the show, the first co-created by Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil and The Walt Disney Co. “Drawn to Life” will be the 50th original production by Cirque du Soleil, known for its stylish and imaginative use of not only circus arts but costuming, lighting and staging.

— HOLIDAY CHEER —

Poor Rudolph —In Sweden’s Arctic, ice atop snow leaves reindeer starving” via David Keyton of The Associated Press — Climate change is altering weather patterns here and affecting the food supply. Sami herding communities fear climate change could mean the end of their traditional lifestyle. Unusually early snowfall in autumn was followed by rain that froze, trapping food under a thick layer of ice. Unable to eat, the hungry animals have scattered from their traditional migration routes in search of new grazing grounds. The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe. Snowfall is common in these areas, but as temperatures increase, occasional rainfall occurs — and ‘rain-on-snow’ events have devastating effects. The food is still there, but the reindeer can’t reach it.

Wash down your Christmas tree? Good idea, some experts say.” via Justine Griffin of the Tampa Bay Times — Feeling a little congested? Have a scratchy throat? The culprit could be your Christmas tree. While December is generally a quiet period for common Florida allergens like pollen and ragweed, holiday decorations — both live and artificial — can create allergy and air quality issues inside homes, said Dr. Farnaz Tabatabaian, an allergist-immunologist with the University of South Florida. Live trees can bring mold into the house, and stored-away decorations in attics can attract dust mites — both of which can aggravate symptoms of asthma and allergies this time of year. Adding dusty or moldy decorations to the home often makes conditions worse around the holidays, said Brian Westmoreland, franchise owner of AdvantaClean of Tampa.

Visit Santa’s Village and track his trek around the world with NORAD” via Doreen Christiansen of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — As we count down the days to Christmas, visit the magical Santa’s Village to have some free holiday fun with all the Elves in the North Pole, compliments of Google. We got the news from Dimplesticks, Google’s chief elf correspondent with Elfwitness News at the North Pole Broadcasting Channel, also known as the Google blog. On Christmas Eve, the village will transform into a tracking experience where good boys and girls can follow Santa and his reindeer as they make their way around the world. Also, check-in with Google Maps at Maps.Google.com.

Tweet, tweet:

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

I don’t know if he reads Sunburn, but happy birthday to a very cool guy, Sven Davis. Also celebrating today is Marco Paredes of Stearns Weaver Miller.

___

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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