Connect with us

Emails & Opinions

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 12.12.19

Commentary and links on Florida politics as crisp as your morning bacon.

Sh*t happens. But sometimes, sh*t doesn’t happen. And when that happens, sh*t gets REAL.

Just ask Michelle Posey, the hairstylist/owner of Randazzle’s Hair Company, which sits in a little sliver of a building at 113 W. College Ave. in downtown Tallahassee. And then ask Matt McHaffe, the builder-owner of GBGH Construction, who’s amid renovating the building next door at 107 W. College Ave. Both are located behind the Governor’s Club, well within the “golden” blocks of prime real estate near the Capitol complex.

As Posey tells it, the salon’s toilet started overflowing on Thursday, Dec. 5. After a couple of plumber’s visits, they discovered a plug of undetermined origin in the middle of the building next door. After rapid-fire phone calls between the property manager, the landlord — lobbyist Dave Ericks — and McHaffie, the contractor unrepentantly admitted to cutting the sewage line that ran under his construction project and plugged it with concrete. With her business shut down, she said he brushed her off with a dismissive “it is what it is.”

Posey fought tears when she described how her life and livelihood had been upended, with her three hair stylist employees now working at other salons, unlikely to return to Randazzles.

McHaffie begs to differ, declaring he’s not the Grinch in this story. He said he had no idea the salon’s sewer line had been tapped into his sometime in the history of the 100-year-old building. And he never plugged up the line with concrete.

Instead, the original cast iron sewer pipe serving the building was abandoned and replaced with a new line without knowing about the line coming from the salon.

McHaffie makes his case at about volume nine and liberally drops the word that begins with “fire” and ends with “trucking.”

“The idea that I knew about it is (fire trucking) bullsh*t and more importantly, is absolutely absurd,” McHaffie declared, because such a tie-in would not even be a possibility in the recent past. “Hell no, I didn’t know about it.”

Once the magnitude of the problem was revealed, McHaffie and his crew started to dig a trench and lay a new sewer line that runs the entire 70-foot length of the salon.

The pair also have differing opinions on when the repairs and renovations will be complete and Randazzles will be back in business. As she contemplates her salon, torn up and covered in a thick layer of concrete dust, Posey thinks it will be another couple weeks at least, ruining her lucrative holiday season. McHaffie said his team, who have worked 15- and 18- hour days this week, can have her “completely cleaned up and back in business by Monday morning.”

McHaffie is aggrieved because Posey trash-talks him and his business even as he’s attempting to help her out.

“I’ll continue to help you, but stop threatening me. It’s done. Stop spitting on me while I’m digging your (fire trucking) trench,” he said. (For clarity, her spitting was figurative, while his trench-digging was quite literal.)

Randazzles has operated in the same location for 33 years. Posey has worked there since 1998 and purchased the business in 2008. Because of its convenient location, many of its clients have included lobbyists, attorneys, judges and others active in the process. “Session is like our second Christmas,” she said.

McHaffie said after a $1.5 million renovation, his building would house about 8,000 square feet of retail/office space. The building has had a high profile in recent years. It was once home to the oft-photographed Tallahassee postcard mural, which the construction company has preserved and gifted to the local arts council. In April 2014, the body of a missing Florida State University student was found inside the boarded-up building, where he had apparently fallen and died 2 ½ months earlier.


Spotted at The White House Hanukkah party: Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, state Rep. Randy Fine, and Fred Karlinsky of Greenberg Traurig.


It’s holiday time on the new ‘He Said, She Said!’ — But before we get to the festivities, some Florida politics: State Rep. Tyler Sirois of Brevard County visits to discuss his bill to allow testing and treating patients for strep and flu at pharmacies.

Michelle and I also examine Kamala Harris‘ unsuccessful candidacy, and how her record as a prosecutor affected her candidacy. But could there be a possible vice-presidential spot?

Next — the holiday season is upon us! But there is a caveat; the shortened Thanksgiving-to-Christmas period (26 days!) is proving particularly stressful, with a condensed number of weekends for holiday parties.

Another Christmas annoyance: Amazon’s (among others) rampant notifications for online shopping, as well as ruined surprises with untimely delivery notices and ads after purchase.

Back to politics … I talk about who should (or shouldn’t) be included Florida Politics’ Politician of the Decade rankings.

Listen and subscribe today on Apple Podcasts, Google Play and Stitcher.


Reefer madness rears its head in the Tallahassee as lawmakers gather ammunition to fight efforts to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in the Sunshine State.

 Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— A House committee passes state Rep. Cary Pigman’s bill that would allow Advanced Practice Registered Nurses to work without a doctor’s supervision. He’s been trying to pass that bill since 2014, and because of term-limits, it’s his last shot.

— A deep dive into the state’s program to combat invasive aquatic plants. They’re trying to find some way to stop using herbicides that don’t break the bank.

— More Florida Man insanity: A 56-year-old Polk County resident — and Disney security guard — showed up in the nude to meet what he thought was a hooker. It wasn’t. It was Operation Santa’s Naughty List by the Polk County Sheriff’s Department, and the whole encounter is now on video.

To listen, click on the image below:


Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

@KeithPerryFL: #SB802 was inspired by the Betton Hills neighborhood in Tallahassee that still has covenant language banning minorities. This bill clarifies the 14th Amendment and outlaws discriminatory covenants. Thank you @DSimmonsFL and committee for your unanimous support! #FlaPol

Tweet, tweet:

@aaron_leib: The idea that American Jews aren’t fully American and that we lack diversity of thought is wrong, obviously, and it only makes us less safe.


Sixth Democratic debate — 7; “The Rise of Skywalker” premiers — 8; College Football National Championship — 32; 2020 Session begins — 33; Florida TaxWatch State of the TaxPayer Dinner in Tallahassee — 34; New Brexit deadline — 50; Super Bowl LIV in Miami — 52; Great American Realtors Day — 53; Iowa Caucuses — 53; New Hampshire Primaries — 61; Nevada caucuses — 72; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 92; Florida’s presidential primary — 96; “Black Panther 2” debuts — 145; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo begin — 223; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 250; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 300; First Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 308; Second presidential debate at Belmont — 315; 2020 General Election — 327.


Gunman in Pensacola shooting may have embraced radical ideology years before arriving in U.S., Saudi report says” via Missy Ryan of The Washington Post — According to the internal report, a Twitter account thought to have been used by Ahmed Mohammed al-Shamrani indicates that four religious figures described as radical appear to have shaped the Saudi Air Force trainee’s “extremist thought.” The attack at Naval Air Station Pensacola has raised concerns about the vetting of foreign military personnel who take part in training and exchange programs in the United States and it has drawn renewed congressional scrutiny of the kingdom following a period of substantial tension. The Pentagon said it was suspending operational training for about 850 visiting Saudis, part of a larger review of the handling of foreign military students.

The Saudi airman who opened fire on NAS Pensacola leaving three people dead and eight wounded may have embraced radical ideology years before arriving in the U.S.


Panel approves bill allowing Attorney General to probe hospital mergers — The House Health Market Reform Subcommittee unanimously approved a bill that would allow Attorney General Ashley Moody to investigate hospital mergers, Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida reports. HB 711 includes a $1.3 million appropriation for Moody’s office to hire 12 full-time employees for those investigations. Rep. Pigman, who chairs the subcommittee, said he believed the bill would succeed as it is a priority of House Speaker José Oliva.

A new bill advanced in the House gives Attorney General Ashley Moody the power to investigate hospital mergers.

Assignment editors — First Lady Casey DeSantis will make an announcement, 11:15 a.m., Hillsborough High School, Auditorium, 5000 N. Central Ave., Tampa.

House budget chief says an affordable housing fund sweep is likely in House budget plan” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of Florida Phoenix — “If I was to predict, I would say that we’re going to take a hard look at that. We were pleased last year that the sweep was not maybe as much as it had been in the past, which I think is a victory for affordable workforce housing, which the need is great through the state,” House Appropriations Chairman Travis Cummings told reporters after his budget committee met. Cummings said for the House to advance a “responsible” budget, “we’ll probably take a hard and serious look at sweeping at some level.”

House bill expanding nurse powers back again, clears first panel” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — The House Health Quality Subcommittee OKd HB 607, which would allow advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) to admit to, handle care in, or discharge patients from facilities. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA), Certified Nurse Practitioners (CNP), Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNM) and Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) would all be affected, in a group of nearly 35,000 licensed APRNs who are working statewide. Currently, a supervising doctor must sign off. If the concept sounds familiar, it’s because similar legislation died in the Legislature before. Rep. Cary Pigman, sponsoring the bill again, noted he had presented the bill 18 times since 2014.

Joe Gruters files aviation tax bill” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A fight over a jet fuel tax could soon roar up this Legislative Session. State Sen. Joe Gruters, chair of the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee, wants to slash the fuel tax to attract more airlines to Florida. “Almost all of the airports in America have no tax or a much smaller tax than we have,” the Sarasota Republican said. “This is about continuing to drive flights into the state.” But more than that, Gruters said Florida needs to be competitive in its tax rates. Talking with airlines, he said some pilots try to avoid even landing in Florida to refuel.

Joe Gruters is looking to slash aviation fuel taxes. Image via Colin Hackley.

Gruters seeks 12-year term limits on School Board members” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Florida Legislature earlier this year passed on imposing eight-year term limits on School Board members. Now, state Sen. Gruters wants to see if a 12-year limit earns better marks. The Sarasota Republican filed legislation (SJR 1216) that will ask voters statewide if they want the limit for county school board members. State Rep. Anthony Sabatini, a Howey-in-the-Hills Republican, filed a School Board term limit resolution in the House, along with Democratic Rep. Matt Wilhite. But that legislation (HJR 157) caps School Board members at eight years.

House panel advances craft distilleries expansion” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Republicans on a House panel kept alive Rep. Sabatini‘s measure to expand the industry in the state. The bill (HB 583) would raise the new annual production cap for craft distillers to 250,000 gallons, more than tripling the current limit. The new ceiling would accommodate the removal of the six-bottle-per-person sales limit also struck by the bill. “[Craft distilleries] bring people from all around the state and all around the country,” Sabatini said. “They come, and they tour them, and it brings new life into parts of your city, helps redevelop the city by bringing an exciting new amenity that people enjoy — going to craft distilleries and seeing how the beverages are being made.”

Plan backed to manage bears in state” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — After nearly three hours of comments from activists, most opposed to hunting bears, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission agreed to advance a staff draft report that primarily stresses using education and nonlethal techniques for managing animals. The report keeps open the possibility of permitted hunting if interactions between bears and humans escalate amid the increasing number of people in the state. Chairman Robert Spottswood, the only member who was on the commission when a controversial 2015 hunt was held, called the plan a “balanced approach.” “The idea of keeping (a hunt) there as a possibility for the future sounds like a sound and wise thing to do,” Spottswood said during a commission meeting in Panama City.

Legislature throws cold water at hot high school sports issue. That’s a good thing.” via Emily Mahoney of the Miami Herald — A bill that would require high school athletic programs to take more precautions to prevent heat-stroke deaths unanimously passed its first committee Wednesday, as lawmakers vowed to prevent future tragedies. Florida leads the nation in the number of high school athlete heat-stroke deaths, with four in the past nine years. “The bottom line is clear: exertional heat stroke can be prevented and treated with a 100% survival rate when the proper standards of care are in place,” said Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanto, during the meeting of the House PreK-12 Innovation committee. The bill was sponsored by the committee, and Massullo is the chairman.

Why a cyber attack on a Florida prison contractor will delay toll road bills” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — A cyber attack on a Florida contractor that runs inmate work programs is leading to more problems with the state toll road system. PRIDE Enterprises has been locked out of its computer systems for days in what the organization called a potential criminal attack. The Brandon outfit runs on state prison labor and provides services and products to Florida governments. Here’s how the cyber attack affects Florida toll roads: PRIDE has a contract with the state to review images of license plates on vehicles that go through a toll without paying. If a censor can’t automatically read the license plate, a Florida inmate reviews a picture of the plate and then manually types the letters and numbers into a computer.

Happening today — The Florida Supreme Court issues its regular weekly opinions, 11 a.m.

Happening today — The Florida Department of Transportation holds a public meeting on the proposed Southwest-Central Connector, which includes a toll road from Polk to Collier counties, 5:30 p.m., North Collier Regional Park, Exhibit Hall, 15000 Livingston Road, Naples.


The House Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee meet to hear a presentation from the Department of Children and Families about the child-protective investigations workforce, 9 a.m., 12 House Office Building.

The House Civil Justice Subcommittee meets to consider HB 479 from Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff that seeks to provide a public-records exemption for current and former judicial assistants, 9 a.m., 404 House Office Building.

The House Higher Education & Career Readiness Subcommittee will take up a broad proposal (HB 613) from Rep. Ray Rodrigues, part of which includes a mandate to state colleges and universities to conduct an “annual assessment of the intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity at that institution,” 9 a.m., 306 House Office Building.

The House Local Administration Subcommittee will discuss a proposal DeSantis for what is known as “universal local licensing,” 9 a.m., 212 Knott Building.

The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee meets to hear a presentation on DeSantis’ proposed budget, 9 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The House Oversight, Transparency & Public Management Subcommittee meets to consider HB 491 from Rep. Bobby Payne, which seeks to ban candidates from sending surplus campaign funds to charitable organizations that employ the candidates, 9:30 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The Senate Appropriations Committee meets to hear a presentation on DeSantis’ proposed budget, 10 a.m., 412 Knott Building.

The House Gaming Control Subcommittee will workshop gambling matters, 1:30 p.m., 212 Knott Building.

The Joint Legislative Auditing Committee meets to hear a presentation about the auditor general’s audit of the city of Palm Bay. Other requested audits include the city of Deerfield Beach, the city of Port Richey, the city of Weeki Wachee, the West Volusia Hospital District and the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, 1:30 p.m., 306 House Office Building.

The House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee will meet to consider several bills on money for programs and projects, 4 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider several bills on funding for programs and projects, 4 p.m., 404 House Office Building.

The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider bills seeking money in the justice-system budget, 4 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.


Bradley’s sausage and white bean soup; mixed garden salad with dressings; cucumber, tomato, red onion salad with feta; pickled beets with goat cheese and toasted walnuts; deli board, lettuce, tomatoes, cheeses and breads; grilled Mediterranean salmon; chicken with artichokes and tomatoes; cider brined pork chops with cabernet cranberry sauce; chipotle sweet potatoes-round; butternut squash with Vermont maple syrup; medley of vegetables; eggnog pudding pies for dessert.


Number of armed teachers remains under wraps” via Ana Ceballos of the News Service of Florida — Republican lawmakers who pushed to allow teachers to carry guns in schools say they do not need to know how many Florida teachers are armed and participating in the so-called guardian program. After weeks of emotional debate in the state Capitol this spring, the Republican-dominated Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis approved a bill that allowed teachers to get voluntary training and be armed to act as the first line of defense against school shootings. Educators who solely performed classroom duties were initially excluded from the guardian program, which was created in response to the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County.

Hurricane Irma suit against FPL to continue” via News Service of Florida — An appeals court declined to dismiss a lawsuit filed against Florida Power & Light by a former resident of a Broward County nursing home that was plunged into sweltering conditions after Hurricane Irma knocked out its air-conditioning system. Bernice Moultrie is a former resident of The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, who was 96 years old when Hurricane Irma knocked out power at the facility, causing her to sustain heat-related injuries. She filed the lawsuit last year against FPL and the nursing home. The case alleged that negligence by FPL contributed to the lengthy outage of the air-conditioning system. In seeking to dismiss the case, FPL contended that it was immune from lawsuits stemming from “acts of God.”

An appeals court refused to dismiss a lawsuit by a 96-year-old resident of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills who sustain heat-related injury from Hurricane Irma.

Nearly $226M to restore open Gulf after 2010 BP oil spill” via Janet McConnaughey of The Associated Press — The projects range from $52.6 million to study deep-sea habitats to $290,000 to find ways to keep sea turtles from swallowing or getting snagged on hooks set out on lines that stretch for miles along reefs. The nonprofit Ocean Conservancy said it’s “the world’s first plan to restore the open ocean and deep-sea environment from a major oil disaster.” The open ocean recovery plan was drawn up by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with help from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The money is from BP’s $8.8 billion settlement for natural resources damage, said NOAA Deepwater Horizon program manager Rachel Sweeney.

Second vaping-related death reported in Florida” via The Associated Press — The Florida Department of Health says a second person in Florida has died due to complications from vaping. The department also reported a slight increase in the number of vaping-associated illnesses, which rose from 99 to 103 cases. No further information was released about the Florida death. The first vaping-related death in Florida was announced in September. As of Dec. 3, nearly 2,300 cases of vaping-associated illnesses and 48 deaths were reported in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ygrene Energy Fund completes nearly 40,000 PACE projects in Florida” via Florida Politics — Ygrene Energy Fund has completed nearly 40,000 home upgrades across the state since it set up shop in 2012. The company provides financing for a variety of energy efficiency and storm hardening upgrades through the property assessed clean energy program, or PACE. Unlike traditional bank loans, PACE financing allows consumers to pay back the cost of the upgrades through assessments on their property tax bill. Ygrene said the projects it has completed over the past seven years have added more than 14 megawatts of solar power to the electrical grid and created almost 22,000 jobs. The projects have also boosted the state economy by $2.1 billion.

Rollback of minimum sentencing advances in Florida Senate” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — A panel of state senators has OK’d a proposal to reduce Florida’s prison population by allowing judges to depart from minimum-mandatory sentences for low-level drug offenses. The Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee Wednesday unanimously backed a measure by Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island. He was inspired by a report lawmakers commissioned two years ago. “The data is clear: Sentencing reform for the lower-risk drug offenders is the right thing to do from the human standpoint and the cost standpoint,” said Bradley, quoting from a 2017 study by the Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability.


A new report from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel found that Florida schools are filled with young people “slinging murderous threats at classmates and teachers.” While some of these threats are the idle words of tactless teenagers, a considerable number are mentally impaired children fixated on violence — and they have access to guns.

In an examination of court cases in 10 major counties across the state, there were more than 100 troubled youths, most of them threatening to murder teachers or fellow students.

In one example, a police affidavit showed a Broward County eighth-grader who vowed to kill half the school, keeping a notebook with a countdown to “death day.”

There are several Florida teens who fit the same profile of Parkland shooter Nickolas Cruz.

A 14-year-old girl in Seminole County was proudly able to name the most infamous school shooters — writing in her journal that she was saving money “to get a GOOD gun.”

Many cases found were filed under Florida’s newly passed Red Flag law, enacted in the wake of the Parkland shooting. The law allows judges to issue risk protection orders to remove guns from people on the verge of suicide or murder. Most often, the law is used against adults. The Sun-Sentinel isolated cases involving children and teens, to better understand the risks facing young people and the challenge to make schools safer.

But increasingly, there were examples of school journals, social media postings, and affidavits from those who know the children best that show dozens of students with the same traits as Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz — “emotionally disturbed, tormented by mental disorders, lacking the proper medication or therapies, obsessed with death, and nursing a dark grudge against teachers or classmates.”


House panel debate impeachment articles in bid to complete charges against Donald Trump” via Nicholas Fandos and Michael Schear of The New York Times — In a rare and solemn evening session that was only the third time in modern history the panel had met to consider removing a president, Democrats and Republicans clashed over the Constitution, the allegations against Trump and the political consequences of ousting him less than a year before the next election. The debate unfolded at the start of a two-day meeting expected by both sides to culminate with approval of the articles, along party lines, which will send them to the full House for a final vote. “The highest of high crimes is abuse of power,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler. Describing the facts of the case against Trump as “overwhelming,” he noted, “President Trump both betrayed our national security and attempted to corrupt our elections.”

House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler, top center, and Republican Rep. Doug Collins, the ranking member, right, makes an opening statement during a markup of the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump,

Impeachment trial: Trump wants drama, but GOP wants it over” via Zeke Miller and Lisa Mascaro of The Associated Press — The President has made clear that he views the next step, a trial in the GOP-controlled Senate, as his focus. The president sees the Senators not just as a jury deciding his fate, but as partners in a campaign to discredit and punish his Democratic opponents. He sees that as a chance to embarrass Democrats and use the friendlier ground to portray himself as the victim of a partisan crusade. “It is pretty clear the president wants a trial,” says Hogan Gidley, the principal deputy White House press secretary. “The president is eager to get his story out.” But it is increasingly clear that Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have other ideas.

In new legal memo, White House budget office defends withholding aid to Ukraine” via Jeff Stein and Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post — The White House budget office asserts in a new legal memo that it withheld military aid to Ukraine as a temporary move to study whether the spending complied with U.S. policy — and not as a political effort to block Congress’s spending decisions. The office first began discussing the aid on June 19, the day President Trump learned of the aid from an article in the Washington Examiner and questioned the wisdom of the spending. That move sent aides scrambling, according to a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share internal conversations. The Office of Management and Budget extended the temporary hold on the aid eight times in August and September, the last time being Sept. 10. Almost immediately after that hold, the money was released, according to the new memo, which was reviewed by The Washington Post. The memo details the White House’s latest legal rationale for freezing foreign aid to Ukraine over the summer. OMB general counsel Mark Paoletta wrote the memo to respond to a request from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which had asked why the aid had been delayed.

Poll: As impeachment progresses, voter support remains static” via Steven Shepard of POLITICO — As the House inches closer to just the third impeachment of a sitting president, a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll shows the public opinion of the inquiry is right where it started. Half of the registered voters, 50%, approve of the current impeachment inquiry, the poll shows. That’s greater than the 42% who oppose it. Eight percent of voters don’t have an opinion. Since the official inquiry began on Sept. 24, POLITICO/Morning Consult polls have shown remarkable stability in public support for the probe. In nine surveys since early October, support has ranged from 48% to 50%, while the opposition has been from 41% to 45%.

Why Democrats sidelined Robert Mueller in impeachment articles” via John Bresnahan, Heather Caygle and Kyle Cheney of POLITICO — On Dec. 2, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi was on a trip to a climate change conference in Spain, she held a conference call with about a dozen of the most vulnerable Democrats who delivered her the House. Their message to Pelosi: Keep impeachment focused only on the Ukraine scandal. The obvious but unsaid implication was she should exclude a stand-alone article of impeachment against President Trump based on the findings of special counsel Mueller’s investigation, which described numerous instances of potential obstruction of justice by Trump. Two days later, Pelosi called an emergency meeting in her second-floor Capitol office with her senior leadership team, where it quickly became clear her deputies were divided.

McConnell considering move to acquit Trump” via Ted Barratt and Manu Raju of CNN — Senate Majority Leader McConnell is expected to hold a final vote to acquit President Donald Trump, should he be impeached, when a majority of senators believe his trial has run its course instead of holding a vote on dismissing the articles of impeachment, two Republican senators told CNN on Wednesday. Republicans want to have a vote on acquittal — to clear the President of the charges against him — not simply rely on a 51-vote threshold procedural motion to dismiss the hotly disputed case. The Constitution mandates 67 votes are required to convict the President and remove him from office, a barrier widely considered too high to be reached in this case.

Feds seek to revoke bail of Giuliani associate Lev Parnas” via Josh Gerstein of Politico — Federal prosecutors have asked a judge to revoke the bail of a Rudy Giuliani associate who is currently under home detention in Florida while awaiting trial on charges of illegally funneling foreign money into U.S. campaigns. Prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan contended in a court filing on Wednesday that the defendant, Parnas, lied about his finances and should be jailed to prevent him from fleeing. “Parnas poses an extreme risk of flight, and that risk of flight is only compounded by his continued and troubling misrepresentations to the Pretrial Services office and the Government,” prosecutors wrote.


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 had not inhibited consensus-building among the party’s members in the House of Representatives. “I don’t think so, and I actually would challenge the notion that the women that have come in are on the progressive end,” the Florida Democrat said at POLITICO’s “Women Rule” summit in Washington. “I think we have a nice, you know, spread across the ideological spectrum within our Democratic caucus, and there are actually quite a few women who are in the moderate, center-left kind of space,” added Murphy, a co-chair of the Blue Dog Coalition, a caucus of House Democrats who prioritize fiscal responsibility and national defense.

There are some first-year Democratic members of Congress who are not progressive firebrands, says Stephanie Murphy. Image via Twitter/@jennycohn1.

— 2020 —

Joe Biden signals to aides that he would serve only a single term” via Ryan Lizza of POLITICO — Former Vice President 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 would 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 indicating 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.

Joe Biden suggests to aides he just might serve only one term.


Florida voters expected changes in time for 2020 election. They’re not all happening.” Via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — Hopes for full implementation of two of the most significant changes to the way Florida registers voters, from enlisting eligible felons to registering newcomers moving to Florida, were all but dashed at the annual meeting of the state’s 67 supervisors of elections. Delays in implementing fundamental changes are facing insurmountable hurdles before the Nov. 3 general election, several elections officials said at the winter meeting of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections. Full implementation of Amendment 4 has been snagged in a legal quagmire. The second delay is with the much-vaunted entry into the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a bipartisan cooperative working to improve the accuracy of America’s voter rolls.

CD 3 race heats up following Ted Yoho retirement announcement” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Another Republican announced he would join the race for Florida’s 3rd Congressional District following U.S. Rep. Yoho’s announcement that he won’t seek a fifth term. The likely next entrant is Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn, who said Tuesday that he was in the final stages of formally running for the seat. “The need for proven conservatives in Congress, who will defend President Trump, and stand against the dangerous Liberal agenda of Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez couldn’t be greater than now. This is why I am strongly considering running and should have a formal announcement shortly,” Guinn said. Should he enter the race, Guinn will join Judson Sapp and Amy Pope Wells in the Republican primary.

Candidates are lining up to fill the seat of retiring Congressman Ted Yoho.

Some big time Florida Democrats are taking opposing sides in a critical congressional race” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Former Gov. Bob Graham and his daughter, ex-U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, are endorsing former television journalist Alan Cohn in the race to take on embattled U.S. Rep. Ross Spano in Florida’s District 15. But State Rep. Adam Hattersley has also declared that he is running for that seat, and on Wednesday, his campaign announced support from U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Winter Park Democrat with a reputation as one of Congress’ most independent lawmakers. The dueling endorsements underscore the tremendous emphasis Democrats have placed on flipping this district from red to blue. But they also make clear that whoever is selected to take on Spano will first have to go through a tough primary.

Florida Democrats home in on Senate District 9 candidate — Florida Democrats have struggled to recruit a candidate to run in Senate District 9, though they may soon announce their pick. As reported by Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida, Senate Victory, the campaign arm for Democratic Senate campaigns, is leaning toward attorney Patricia Sigman. Neither Stigman nor Sen. Gary Farmer, who is responsible for coordinating Democratic Senate campaigns, commented on the Stigman’s possible candidacy. Term-limited Republican Sen. David Simmons currently holds SD 9. Former state Rep. Jason Brodeur is seeking the GOP nomination in the Seminole County seat.


With assist from Travis Hutson, Ana Maria Rodriguez tops Javier Fernandez in November fundraising” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Rodriguez has led her opponents in fundraising since state Democratic Rep. Javier Fernandez entered the race in late August. Fernandez added nearly $14,000 in November. Rodriguez had also been competing for the Republican nomination with Angie Chirino, a singer and former congressional candidate. But with Rodriguez attracting most of the money — and support from Republican leadership — Chirino has withdrawn from the contest. More than $29,000 was given to the Rodriguez campaign operation in November. Her political committee, Ethics and Honesty in Government, added another $37,500 during the month. That PAC attracted a $25,000 donation from state Sen. Hutson‘s political committee, Sunshine State Conservatives. That follows a $25,000 check given by Hutson’s PC in September.

Ana Maria Rodriguez takes the lead in fundraising … with a little help from her friends.

Fundraising heats up in HD 59 race to replace Adam Hattersley” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — For the first time in the race for House District 59, Democrat Mark Oliver has outraised his opponent, Andrew Learned. The two are running in the Democratic primary to keep the seat, currently held by Hattersley, blue. Oliver barely edged out Learned in November fundraising, bring in $5,000 compared to Learned’s $4,900. Still, Learned has raised more overall with $44,000 raised so far compared to Oliver’s $30,000. Oliver told Florida Politics he has been spending more time giving back to his community than asking for contributions.

Mike Giallombardo, Bryan Blackwell post modest numbers in slow-cooker Cape Coral House race” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — One of Southwest Florida’s closely watched legislative contests saw only modest fundraising activity in November. Cape Coral Republicans Mike Giallombardo and Bryan Blackwell both raised less than $4,000 during the month in House District 77. The money will fund quests to succeed outgoing state Rep. Dane Eagle. Giallombardo pulled in $3,625 in November, bringing his total contributions to $60,590. That was just slightly better than Blackwell, who raised $3,300 in November. Blackwell has raised a total of $50,140. But that’s only part of the story. Blackwell put in a $20,000 candidate loan at the start of the race. When you pull out spending by both camps, Blackwell has a total of $53,363 in cash on hand, while Giallombardo has $47,911.

Jenna Persons continues to hold huge cash advantage” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — She pulled in $5,550 in November, while philanthropist Roger Lolly raised $5,100. But that puts Persons’ total contributions at $176,480, compared to Lolly’s $38,525. Democrat Shawn Michael Williams pulled in $1,160, bringing the total to $6,221. Persons received support from energy companies and some Tallahassee interests. She cashed $1,000 checks from Duke Energy, TECO Energy. She also pulled in similar checks from Surgi-PAC, which represents ambulatory surgeons, and the Entertainment Software Association, a North Carolina group that lobbies for the video game industry.

Florida House candidate Jenna Persons is maintaining a large fundraising lead. Image via Jacob Ogles.

HD 105 candidate Bibiana Potestad tops Maureen Porras in November fundraising” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Potestad collected more than $17,000 for November according to the latest filings with the Division of Elections. She is an attorney who earned her law degree from Ave Maria School of Law after attending undergrad at Barry University. Potestad also worked as an aide to former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Juan Zapata. For the past two months, Potestad had trailed Sweetwater City Commissioner J. David Borrero in the overall fundraising contest. But Borrero — a Republican — was no match in November, raising just over $2,000 for the month.

Chad Chronister has already raised nearly $750K for his next election” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Hillsborough County Sheriff Chronister has put nearly $750,000 into the political committee established to fuel his next election. The Friends of Chad Chronister committee added $162,000 to its coffers in November, according to the most recent financial filings with the Florida Division of Elections. Chronister took in several high dollar contributions, including $23,000 from Oldsmar developer Todd Adams and $10,000 each from Forge Capital Partners co-founder Peter Collins, the Edward Swindle Revocable Trust and Capital Asset Management Professionals Principal Henri Jean. One candidate has filed to challenge Chronister, Gary Pruitt. Pruitt lost to Chronister in 2018 and said early on he would run again in 2020. While Pruitt is filed for the race, he has not yet raised any funds.


Universal Orlando seeking $350 million in corporate tax breaks” via Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel — Universal Orlando is in line for nearly $350 million worth of state tax breaks to build a new headquarters for the division that designs its theme parks, rides and hotels, according to records obtained by the Orlando Sentinel. Universal plans to build its Universal Creative headquarters on the same 750-acre property upon which it is also building “Epic Universe,” which will become the giant resort’s third Central Florida theme park when it opens in 2023. The $348 million in state income tax breaks, which would be spread over as many as 30 years, is in addition to $125 million in local money that Orange County plans to give Universal to help pay for a new road through Universal’s property.

St. Pete-Clearwater Film Commission sees record numbers in 2019” via Kelsey Sunderland of News Channel 8 — “Building up to seeing this kind of success has been a long time coming,” said Film Commissioner Tony Armer. “There’s a long timeline when it comes to films happening, so it’s really a culmination on the previous three to five years of work. It can sometimes take a project 10 years to come to fruition.” This year, the film commission saw its highest number of projects permitted: 250. That’s an increase of 43 projects since 2018. Armer says the total number of hours spent filming during the 2019 fiscal year amounted to 941 days. The commission also helped bring $13.8 million to the local economy — its highest locally-spent amount since the “Dolphin Tale” films.

How Miami-Dade collected $3 billion and still can’t afford to expand Metrorail” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — If spending of Miami-Dade’s transportation tax had gone as planned nearly two decades ago, the county would be preparing for a milestone in 2021: the five-year anniversary of a new elevated Metrorail line running 10 miles north along 27th Avenue to the Broward County line. Metrorail’s “North Corridor” expansion was originally supposed to open by 2016 under a construction timeline laid out in 2002 on how to spend a transportation sales tax then-Mayor Alex Penelas pitched to voters in a referendum that year, according to a 2005 county summary of the plan. Far from celebrating, Miami-Dade’s elected leaders and transit advocates are still pointing fingers over how a half-percent sales tax that’s generated more than $3 billion failed to deliver more than three miles of additional rail.

Complaints about New Tampa theater draws City Council chairman’s attention” via Divya Kumar of the Tampa Bay Times — The theater at Highwoods Preserve has been the movie theater for New Tampa for two decades. But complaints by moviegoers about the theater’s deteriorating conditions have been the subject of critical posts on social media. Last month, Luis Viera, the Tampa City Council chairman whose district includes the theater, wrote to AMC’s corporate management in Kansas, stating the building is “unkempt and not properly reflecting the exterior standards of New Tampa.”


Travis Cummings: VISIT FLORIDA funding isn’t what attracts visitors here” via Florida Politics — Think about it; VISIT FLORIDA’s advertising campaigns are not needed to drive tourists to the Sunshine State. Major global attractions like Disney World and Universal Studios, pristine beaches, and Florida sunshine are much better than the best ads. Major private attractions like Disney and Universal have large budgets, top market-research and content experts, and the best marketing agencies. We know that tourism numbers haven’t always correlated with VISIT FLORIDA funding levels. In 2003 and 2009, Florida spent less on marketing through VISIT FLORIDA, but tourism numbers increased. In a state with Disney World, Universal, the world’s best beaches, and dozens of cities and counties marketing themselves to tourists, a statewide marketing agency is merely a nice-to-have.

Joe Henderson: Florida students already take lots of civics classes” via Florida Politics — I would point out that Florida schools already have a strong emphasis on civics education. Education Week noted, “The Sunshine State is often lauded for its cohesive push for civics education.” Just to advance out of middle school, students are required to pass a civics class that includes an end-of-course exam that counts for 30 percent of their grade. That has been in place since 2010. High school students must pass a course in U.S. history, and state college students must show civics proficiency. And it’s also worth noting that in the 2018 statewide elections, about 37 percent of voters ages 18-to-29 cast a ballot, a 15 percent increase from 2014. Parkland, the environment, and pay inequity were big motivators.

Melba Pearson: Purchasing your freedom creates a two-tiered system of justice” via Florida Politics — In order to benefit from our current bail system, individuals who have been charged with crimes, but have not yet had their day in court and have not been found guilty of any wrongdoing, must pay approximately 10% of the total bond issued by the court to a bondsperson. The underlying premise is “come back or lose the money,” but those relying on bondsmen lose their money regardless. This raises significant concerns over who is benefitting from this system. A wealthy person will get their entire self-posted monetary bail back. All of this — for a person who should first be deemed innocent. If you are unable to pay, you are held in jail before being proven guilty.


Personnel note: Raquel Rodriguez joins Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney” via Florida Politics — Law firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney has hired Rodriguez to work in its Miami office. Rodriguez is a business leader who notably served as general counsel to former Gov. Jeb Bush, during which time she worked on complex issues, including conceiving and co-drafting the legislation for and negotiating the largest economic project in Florida history — a $310 million economic incentive grant to The Scripps Research Institute. “We are excited to welcome Rocky to Buchanan’s Miami team. Her background and experience further deepens our bench in South Florida and allows us to service our clients in the health care and life sciences sectors right from our Miami office,” said Jennifer Olmedo-Rodriguez, shareholder and head of Buchanan’s Miami office.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Mark W. Anderson: Hildebrand Amusement Rides

David Ash, DLA Consulting: City of Tallahassee

Andrew Bolin, Bolin Law Group: Florida Justice Reform Institute

Jill Gran: Otsuka America Pharmaceutical

Jeff Johnston, Amanda Stewart, Johnston & Stewart Government Strategies: Peoples Gas System, Tampa Electric Company, TECO Energy

Sean Ostrow, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe: Getaround

Timothy Stanfield, Greenberg Traurig: INSIGHTEC

— ALOE —

Disney Cruise Line to temporarily close Port Canaveral terminal” via Ashley Carter of Spectrum News 13 — Disney Cruise Line’s main terminal at Port Canaveral will close for a few months next year. The closure will allow for the installation of a new curtain wall, seating replacement, the removal of ticket counters and the extension of the drop-off canopy. Disney Cruise Line’s summer sailings won’t be affected during the shutdown thanks to an agreement Disney signed with Port Canaveral, which gives Disney the ability to use Terminal 10 while work on Terminal 8 is being completed.

Magic Leap’s new feature will let you experience your hotel before you get there” via Marsha Heroux Pounds of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Now, using a special wearable computer, you’ll be able to immerse yourself at a great international destination before actually flying there. The feature, or a location-based experience, is one of the new applications being touted by Plantation-based Magic Leap. The company announced an updated version of its Magic Leap One product, goggles that provide “spatial computing,” or a computer-generated interactive experience. In 2020, JetBlue Vacations will offer the chance for customers to explore one of their premier international hotel destinations using Magic Leap One. “The experiences bring the digital world into live events and physical spaces,” Magic Leap said in a news release.

Magic Leap VR headsets will be used to help travelers preview luxury hotels.

Tampa General Hospital nurses help homeless keep warm with upcycled sleeping bags” via Florida Politics — At most hospitals, after one use, sterile surgical mats are tossed in the trash. But nurses at Tampa General Hospital were determined to find a second purpose for the mats. Those mats are now being made into sleeping bags that can help homeless people across the Tampa Bay region keep warm during the winter months. Nicole Hubbard, Chief Nurse Anesthetist at TGH, sent an email to her colleagues and recruited volunteers to help create a sleeping bag pattern and sew the surgical mats together. “Every single tray of surgical instruments comes to the operating room in these sterilized wrappers, and if we’re just throwing them away, why not put it to a better cause?” Hubbard said.


Colombia threatens to sue Walmart for linking the country to cocaine for a Christmas sweater” via Deanna Paul of The Washington Post — A Colombian government agency threatened to sue Walmart on Tuesday over a Christmas sweater that associated the country with cocaine. The sweater, offered by a third-party seller on its Canadian website, featured an image of a bug-eyed Santa Claus seated in front of three white lines that appeared to be cocaine. The sweater’s tagline: “Let it snow.” For those who weren’t quite sure what the sweater might be suggesting, its product description read: “We all know how snow works. It’s white, powdery, and the best snow comes straight from South America. That’s bad news for jolly old St. Nick, who lives far away in the North Pole. That’s why Santa really likes to savor the moment when he gets his hands on some quality, grade A, Colombian snow.”

Colombia wants to sue Walmart for the description of its recently removed cocaine Santa sweater.


Belated happy birthday wishes to Houston Barnes and Florida TaxWatch President/CEO Dominic Calabro. Celebrating today are Rep. Jennifer Webb, former Rep. Dick BatchelorBG Murphy, and Katie Strickland.


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.

Sign up for Sunburn

Receive our team's agenda-setting morning read of what's hot in Florida politics. Delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday.

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, Drew Dixon, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn

Receive our team's agenda-setting morning read of what's hot in Florida politics. Delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday.