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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 12.17.19

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

There’s no word yet from Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office on whether state workers will get an extra day off this holiday season.

Florida employees get nine paid holidays off throughout the year, but in recent history, they’ve received an extra one: Christmas Eve.

Giving state workers extra days off became somewhat of a tradition during former Gov. Rick Scott’s first years in office.

Between 2011 and 2015, Scott gave workers an extra weekday off around Christmas. And in 2008, former Gov. Charlie Crist gave workers both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve off with pay.

However, in 2016, the Scott administration forewent the extra holiday but approved raises for state workers the following year. There was no 10th paid holiday again in 2017.

Scott closed out his second term as Governor by giving workers both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve off in part for the response to and recovery from Hurricane Michael — and perhaps as a parting gift before assuming his new office in the U.S. Senate.

We’re now a week out from Christmas Eve, and the Governor has issued no official decree.

It’s not a closed case — neither his office nor AFSCME, the state workers union which represents 1.4 million members nationwide, responded to a request for comment — but it’s a safe bet the 24th will be a workday.

Perhaps there’s a chance for New Year’s Eve.

___

Data Targeting Christmas card — In a Peanuts-themed animated Christmas “card” for 2019, Pat Bainter’s consulting and research firm pokes a little fun at both sides of the aisle, including:

— A Charlie Brown-like character lamenting how “Christmas is crazy … but awesome nevertheless.”

— “Donald Grump,” who says: “We will keep winning Christmas.”

— A Joe Biden character saying: “My first Christmas in office was in 1902 … back then, we considered coal to be a great gift.” “OK, Boomer” is the response.

Bernie Sanders calling to “break up the big toy companies.”

— And Elizabeth Warren as “Lucy” in a $65 trillion health care booth.

— Finally, a message on the real meaning of Christmas: “Our data shows that Christmas isn’t about gifts or tweets. It’s about the birth of Jesus, family, friends, and goodwill toward all!”

In the end, there’s a “bonus gift.”

To view the card for yourself: click on the image below.

— TODAY’S SUNRISE —

GOP icon Mac Stipanovich is retiring for lobbying but is now writing columns for an old nemesis — the Tampa Bay Times. Stipanovich joins Sunrise in the studio to talk about the transition.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Backers of one of two constitutional amendments seeking to legalize the recreational use of marijuana by adults have admitted they’re not going to make it to the ballot next year. They don’t have enough signatures, with time quickly running out.

— Gov. DeSantis travels to the University of Miami tout his picks for the Florida Supreme Court, as well as announce seven new judicial appointments in Miami/Dade County; four in the county court and three in the circuit court.

— Attorney General Ashley Moody is presiding over a meeting of the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking. They’ll have their work cut out for them at the Super Bowl in Miami and WrestleMania in Tampa next year.

— A Florida man who spent 20 years as a Miami Beach police officer is arrested after the owner of a valet company accused him of demanding $1,000 in cash each month in exchange for not issuing parking citations.

To listen, click on the image below:

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@RealDonaldTrump: I look very much forward to debating whoever the lucky person is who stumbles across the finish line in the little watched Do Nothing Democrat Debates. My record is so good on the Economy and all else, including debating, that perhaps I would consider more than 3 debates … The problem is that the so-called Commission on Presidential Debates is stacked with Trump Haters & Never Trumpers. 3 years ago they were forced to publicly apologize for modulating my microphone in the first debate against Crooked Hillary. As President, the debates are up to me, and there are many options, including doing them directly & avoiding the nasty politics of this very biased Commission. I will make a decision at an appropriate time but in the meantime, the Commission on Presidential Debates is NOT authorized to speak for me (or R’s)!

@TheRickWilson: Donald Trump’s experience of love as a transaction is not necessarily one that leads to an understanding of human motivation

@BryanAGardner: I’ve always called myself Republican. I keep my Twitter feed generally apolitical & will continue to do so. Generally. But as of today, I’m switching parties. Over impeachment. The Republican positions aren’t consonant with intellectual honesty. As of today, I’m an Independent.

Tweet, tweet:

@NewsBySmiley: We’ve been hearing – and @DonnaShalala just announced – that the government funding compromise includes the VERDAD Act introduced by a bipartisan group of Senators including @marcorubio and later amended to include Vz-related leg sponsored by S FL Dems

Tweet, tweet:

@Fineout: Jim Smith lost the 86 Democratic runoff for governor – refused to campaign for the Democratic nominee who eventually lost to Bob Martinez, first GOP winner since Claude Kirk two decades earlier. Smith switched parties, was appointed Sec. of State. A sign for what was coming

@GusCorbella: Congratulations to the one and only @MacStipanovich on his retirement. Mac is a great American, Floridian, Republican and friend. Mac, so many of us have benefited so much from your sage wisdom through the years. Enjoy your well-deserved retirement and see you out at the beach.

@Conarck: Laborland, tax loophole reporting, and consistently very good CJ coverage. The Orlando Sentinel is having quite the year. Kudos to them.

Tweet, tweet:

@DrewMcWeeny: Remember … RISE OF SKYWALKER premieres tonight. Literally 40 seconds after the FORCE AWAKENS premiere, people were tweeting the fate of Han Solo. Adjust your social media consumption accordingly, folks.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Sixth Democratic debate — 2; “The Rise of Skywalker” premiers — 3; CES® 2020 begins — 21; College Football National Championship — 27; 2020 Session begins — 28; Florida Chamber Legislative Fly-in — 28; Seventh Democratic presidential debate in Des Moines — 28; Florida TaxWatch State of the TaxPayer Dinner in Tallahassee — 29; New Brexit deadline — 45; Super Bowl LIV in Miami — 47; Great American Realtors Day — 48; Iowa Caucuses — 48; Eighth Democratic presidential debate in Manchester — 55; New Hampshire Primaries — 56; Ninth Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas — 64; Nevada caucuses — 67; 10th Democratic presidential debate Charleston — 70; South Carolina primaries — 74; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 87; Florida’s presidential primary — 91; “Black Panther 2” debuts — 140; Florida Chamber Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 154; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo begin — 218; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 245; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 295; First Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 303; Second presidential debate at Belmont — 310; 2020 General Election — 322.

— TOP STORY —

Legalize marijuana group drops out of 2020 ballot, won’t yet endorse rival campaign” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — In an email to supporters, leaders of the Regulate Florida ballot initiative, which called for the state to regulate marijuana in the same way as alcohol, acknowledged they would not collect the necessary petition signatures before the Feb. 1 deadline. Because the signatures have 30 days to be verified by elections officials before the deadline, petitions need to be submitted by Jan. 1. The group had 92,540 verified signatures as of Monday, well short of the required 766,200. The group had collected enough to trigger court and financial reviews. The Regulate Florida board has not decided on whether to work actively to support Make It Legal Florida’s initiative.

— DATELINE: TALLY —

Jeanette Núñez — but not Ron DeSantis — attending White House holiday reception” via Michael Molina of Florida Phoenix — The daily schedule for the Governor and Lieutenant Governor placed Núñez at the reception beginning at 3 p.m. Asked whether DeSantis would attend two days before the U.S. House was to take up the impeachment of Trump, Communications Director Helen Aguirre Ferré said, simply, “No.” Trump has been DeSantis’ most important political supporter and the Governor has been an ardent defender of the President. On Dec. 3, for example, DeSantis dismissed the impending impeachment as “typical Washington stuff” of no great interest to average people. Trump stands accused of abuse of authority and obstruction of Congress.

Jeanette Núñez will be in D.C. for the annual White House holiday party — but not Ron DeSantis.

Assignment editors — DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis will deliver remarks at the Department of Children and Family’s Child Protection Summit, 10 a.m., World Marriott Center, Palms Ballroom, 8701 World Center Drive, Orlando.

Budget experts: Economic slowdown still in Florida’s future as 2020 Session nears” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — EDR members met Monday to report their long- and short-term projections for the state economy, the final such meeting before the 2020 Session convenes in less than a month. These forecasts in part stemmed from the national outlook discussed in an EDR meeting last week. “I think where you come out today is that the economy still has some more room to run, which is what we were banking on in the summer, and that’s holding up. But as we move into the summer of 2020 and ’21, we’ll see some slowing,” Baker said.

Jackie Toledo leads push to lower drug costs in Florida” via Justine Griffin of the Tampa Bay Times — (S)he’s filing a bill today to regulate pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs. The measure, she said, would keep drug costs down for consumers and independent pharmacies in Florida. Called the Prescription Drug Cost Reduction Act, the bill aims to prohibit health care monopolies that reduce patient choice, and to eliminate the practice of “steering” patients to PBM-owned pharmacies. It also would prohibit predatory practices that threaten to squeeze independent pharmacies.

Bill nixing newspaper notice requirement refiled for 2020” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — State Rep. Randy Fine thinks public notices should be online rather than on the back page of a newspaper. The law is a vestigial feature of the era when newspapers were the primary means of information delivery. With more people getting their information online, Fine has filed a bill that would require public notices to go digital. HB 7 would require such notices = posted on a “publicly accessible website,” defined as “a governmental agency’s official website or other private website designated by the governmental agency for the posting of legal notices and advertisements that is accessible via the Internet.”

Heather Fitzenhagen wants to stop trafficking around Super Bowl” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Fort Myers Republican filed a $550,000 appropriations request (HB 4847) to fund a comprehensive anti-human trafficking campaign. The Bay area effort would leverage different forms of media. In the request, Fitzenhagen notes several large-scale international events are coming to the region, and the Super Bowl serves as the most notable. Of course, the move comes as activists hope to generate a greater public understanding of the harm the sex trade can cause.

Ardian Zika bill would help veterans in crisis” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The Pasco County Republican filed legislation (HB 687) to require the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish a Florida Veterans’ Care Coordination Program. The service would provide behavioral health care referrals and care coordination for both vets and their families. It also lays out requirements for Veterans Affairs to connect with the Florida 2-1-1 Network so information could be supplied for participants. In turn, the network would collect program implementation data and submit it back to the state. Zika’s bill specifically targets the needs for mental health and substance abuse issues.

Ardian Zika is looking for better services for Florida veterans in crisis. Image via Colin Hackley.

Bill requiring Florida gun shops to lock up at night is ‘common sense,’ Sheriff John Mina says” via Joe Mario Pedersen and Tess Sheets of the Orlando Sentinel — After more than 50 guns were stolen in a string of gun store and pawn shop burglaries in Orange County over the summer, Orange County Sheriff John Mina on Monday spoke in support of a bill that would require businesses in Florida to lock up their firearms at night. At a press conference, Mina called the legislation ‘common sense.'”

Legislation would expand electric vehicle charging stations on Florida highways” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Rep. Dan Daley wants to lay the foundation for a network of electric vehicle charging stations throughout Florida. Daley filed a bill (HB 943) that calls for a statewide master plan to expand access to charging stations throughout Florida’s highway system. The proposals call for a completed master plan by July 21, 2021. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service’s Office of Energy would coordinate with Florida Clean Cities Coalitions designated by the U.S. Department of Energy to develop the plan. Goals for the plan would include identifying optimal locations on state highways for charging stations that would facilitate both short and long-range travel with electric vehicles.

House approves bill that would require FHSAA take steps to prevent heat strokes” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — A House education panel last week unanimously approved a bill that would require the Florida High School Athletic Association to take steps to prevent heat strokes. That would include mandating that schools have cold-water immersion tubs, cool zones, and special thermometers to help save the lives of high school athletes. The bill also would require school employees or volunteers with training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and the use of automated external defibrillators to be present at each extracurricular athletic event. While the proposed bill had unanimous support from the House PreK -12 Innovation Subcommittee, it faced concerns about costs associated with the mandated equipment, including the special thermometers, which according to the staff analysis of the bill can cost about $120.

Happening today — The Criminal Justice Estimating Conference meets to discuss issues in the criminal justice system, 9 a.m., 117 Knott Building.

Happening today — The Social Services Estimating Conference meets to examine funding for the KidCare health-insurance program, 1:30 p.m., 117 Knott Building.

Assignment editors — State Rep. Toledo will join state Sen. José Javier Rodriguez; state Reps. Fine and Kamia Brown, as well as patients, health care professionals, and local pharmacy owners to announce legislation that will lower prescription drug costs while increasing access for all patients, 2 p.m., Outside West Shore Pharmacy, 3206 S. West Shore Blvd., Tampa.

— STATEWIDE —

Richard Corcoran questions pregame prayer policies” via News Service of Florida — As a three-year legal battle continues over the issue, Education Commissioner Corcoran wants the Florida High School Athletic Association to reconsider policies that prevented Christian schools from offering a prayer over the stadium loudspeaker before a 2015 state championship football game. Corcoran sent a letter Friday calling on the high school athletics governing body to “conduct an immediate review of its policies and procedures to ensure religious expression is permitted to the greatest extent possible under the law … I expect this to be heard, addressed, and updated at the next available FHSAA Board of Directors meeting,” Corcoran wrote. Corcoran sent the letter to Athletic Association Executive Director George Tomyn.

Richard Corcoran is questioning the issue of prayer before school sporting events.

Hack attacks highlight vulnerability of Florida schools to cyber crooks” via Kyra Gurney of the Miami Herald — They infected the systems with malware that turned off the logs recording who accessed the systems, according to United Data Technologies, the Doral-based cybersecurity company that investigated the incidents. For three months, the hackers probed the systems, mapping them out and testing their defenses. At one point, they even posted photos of someone dressed as an ISIS fighter on two school district websites. They weren’t just looking for the names of kids and valuable Social Security numbers, UDT found. The hackers were also searching for some way to slip into other sensitive government systems, including state voting systems.

Crime dropped in Florida during the first half of 2019” via Kevin Derby of Florida Daily — The state government released the “2019 Semi-Annual Uniform Crime Report” on Monday which showed crime dropped 6.1 percent compared to the first half of 2018 with almost 17,100 fewer reported incidents. “The positive results of the 2019 Semi-Annual Uniform Crime Report are reassuring that our policies to fight crime are working. I applaud the efforts of our state’s police chiefs, sheriffs and men and women in uniform for their tireless work day-in and day-out to protect and serve our communities. By working together, we will continue to embrace policies and procedures that lead us toward a safer, brighter future for all Floridians,” said Gov. DeSantis on Monday.

Florida prisons are miserable. They’re even worse for transgender inmates.” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — The Department Corrections said there are “robust policies” in place to ensure that vulnerable inmates are kept safe. That includes potential placement in two prisons, Wakkula and Columbia, that have protective management units where inmates can be kept in a more secure setting. A problem with that is that antagonism toward transgender inmates can extend to the corrections staff. While the department does not have a policy of grouping transgender inmates together, it would not be unusual to assign inmates with similar characteristics to a prison or unit equipped to meet those needs. In Florida, prisons and other prison systems, inmates are housed based on their gender at birth.

Florida GOP accused of suppressing minority voters by underfunding Census” via Manuel Madrid of the Miami New Times — An undercount next April could have enormous ramifications for South Florida. But you wouldn’t know it by the actions of DeSantis, who may well need a new pair of shoes after so much foot-dragging on the issue. Florida is among 24 states that have not spent a cent on U.S. Census-related efforts and one of only five states that have failed to form a committee to raise awareness about the count, according to a recent report by The New York Times. In Florida, the third most populous state behind California and Texas, efforts to establish statewide Census committees died in a Republican-controlled Legislature, without so much as a peep from the Governor.

— FOR YOUR RADAR —

Florida lawyers are TIKD with traffic ticket app” via Marc Freeman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — They call the app unfair competition. But consumer advocates say the ticket firms are just mad the app threatens to take a cut of their profits. Now, this traffic ticket turf war has escalated up to the Florida Supreme Court. All the fuss started after TIKD started an app and website three years ago. Motorists were invited to “spend two minutes or less” taking a photo of the ticket, uploading it, and paying a fee based on the fine amount. It wasn’t long before traffic-ticket goliath The Ticket Clinic filed an “unlicensed practice of law” complaint with The Florida Bar, charging that TIKD’s founder isn’t a lawyer. The Bar investigated and agreed TIKD needed to be stopped.

The Florida Bar is getting TIKD off.

— MOTHER NATURE —

Coalition says Florida Forever should be top funding priority” via Laura Cassels of Florida Phoenix — Florida Forever Days of Action events were coordinated in Fort Myers, Gainesville, St. Augustine, St. Petersburg, Fort Walton, Gulf Breeze and Pensacola to call on the 2020 Legislature to fully fund the voter-approved constitutional mandate to conserve sensitive lands and waterways. Thirty conservation organizations in Florida sent about 120 people to seven public places for press conferences and rallies Friday and Saturday to drum up support. The participants represent the coalition of 123 organizations and businesses that wrote a letter last month to DeSantis and legislative leaders demanding full, annual funding for Florida Forever through the 2014 Water and Land conservation initiative.

Homeowners oppose stay in citrus tree battle” via the News Service of Florida — Attorneys for Lee County homeowners urged the Florida Supreme Court to reject the state’s request for a stay in a long-running legal battle about compensating residents for healthy citrus trees cut down amid an effort to halt the spread of citrus canker disease. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services last week asked the Supreme Court to put the case on hold to allow time for the Legislature to decide whether to pay the homeowners during the 2020 Legislative Session. The 2nd District Court of Appeal in November upheld a circuit judge’s ruling that directed the department to pay more than $13.6 million to the homeowners, leading the department to take the dispute to the Supreme Court.

Millions of gallons of sewage have poured into Fort Lauderdale waterways since spill began six days ago” via Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The massive sewage leak that hit Ponce de Leon Drive on the morning of Dec. 10 won’t be fixed until Wednesday at the earliest, city officials say. Newly fabricated parts needed for repairs arrived from Texas Sunday, a day earlier than expected. It will take at least two days to cap the break in the 54-inch pipe and build a bypass system, City Manager Chris Lagerbloom said. Millions of gallons of sewage have been flowing onto streets and into the Tarpon River since the pipe burst last Tuesday, Lagerbloom said. City officials expect to have a tally on just how many gallons later this week.

— PEACHY —

Democrats layout case for Wednesday Donald Trump impeachment vote” via Lisa Mascaro and Mary Clare Jalonick of The Associated Press — What Democrats once hoped would be a bipartisan act — only the third time in U.S. history the House will be voting to impeach a President — is now on track to be a starkly partisan roll call Wednesday. A raucous town hall in the Detroit suburbs put on display the nation’s wrenching debate over the unconventional president and the prospect of removing him from office. Freshman Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin was both heckled and celebrated as she announced her support for impeachment. “There’s certainly a lot of controversy about this,” Slotkin acknowledged to the crowd of 400. “But there just has to be a moment where you use the letter of the law for what it’s intended.”

Freshman Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin was both heckled and cheered after she vowed to vote for impeachment at a local town hall meeting.

GOP Senators seek quick acquittal for Trump. The President wants more.” via Michael Bender and Lindsay Wise of The Wall Street Journal — “I wouldn’t mind a long process,” Trump said, suggesting that a Senate trial, expected to begin in January, would be used to unmask the whistleblower, settle scores with House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff and undermine others who view his dealings with Ukraine as highly improper. Trump has publicly signaled his openness to a short trial, and White House aides are pitching him on the idea that a quick acquittal would be its own form of vindication. Privately, though, he has said he wants not just a quick process, but also the ability to call a list of witnesses. Senate Democrats are opposed to a short trial with no witness testimony.

Why is McConnell afraid of this man?” via A.B. Stoddard of The Bulwark — Think about it this way: If Trump and Senate Republicans want to finish impeachment as quickly as possible, then they must believe that time is not on their side, and that future developments are likely to cut against Trump’s position. For instance, Lev Parnas has now been deemed a flight risk by federal prosecutors, who last week asked a judge to revoke his bail for failing to divulge a $1 million deposit from a Russian account. His attorney has said Parnas would testify that he did everything for Trump. So Parnas seems to have turned on Trump and Rudy Giuliani, which makes him a time bomb for Trump World.

Fox News anchor confronts White House adviser Pam Bondi with Senate oath to be ‘impartial,’ asking how McConnell can take ‘cues’ from White House” via Jason Lemon of Newsweek — Chris Wallace confronted Bondi over GOP Senate Majority Leader McConnell‘s assertion that he and fellow Republicans in the Senate plan to coordinate with Trump‘s lawyers in an increasingly inevitable Senate trial. Wallace noted this appeared to go against the oath Senators will take before the trial. Bondi accused Democratic leaders of carrying out an unfair impeachment inquiry. “Adam Schiff started those proceedings himself hidden in the bunker of the Capitol –,” she said. Wallace cut Bondi off: “But wait, I’m just asking you about McConnell saying he’d be taking his cues from the White House. Please answer the question.” “So, we weren’t given a fair trial in the House at all. The President deserves to be heard.”

— D.C. MATTERS —

Lobbyists, interest groups win big in $1.4T spending bill” via Andrew Taylor of The Associated Press — House leaders unveiled a $1.4 trillion government-wide spending bill that’s also carrying lots of unrelated provisions backed by denizens of Washington’s swamp of lobbyists and interest groups. The legislation would forestall a government shutdown this weekend and give Trump steady funding for his U.S.-Mexico border fence. The year-end package is anchored by a $1.4 trillion spending measure that caps a difficult, months-long battle over spending priorities. The legislation is laced with provisions reflecting divided power in Washington. Republicans maintained the status quo on several abortion-related battles and funding for Trump’s border wall. Democrats controlling the House succeeded in winning a 3.1% raise for federal civilian employees and the first installment of funding on gun violence research.

Government funding compromise includes Rubio-backed Venezuelan aid bill” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — A newly negotiated government funding compromise on Capitol Hill includes nearly a half-billion dollars in humanitarian aid to support Venezuelan refugees and codifies sanctions against the regime of embattled Venezuelan ruler Nicolás Maduro. Released Monday ahead of a looming U.S. government shutdown, the $1.4 trillion bipartisan appropriations package includes legislation introduced by Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez and a group of more than a dozen U.S. Senators, including Rubio, to help restore democracy in Venezuela and address what the United Nations has called one of the largest mass migrations in the western hemisphere.

Stephanie Murphy praises first federal funding in decades to research gun violence” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Murphy led the effort in 2018 to overturn a 22-year federal ban on funding such research. But no money was actually spent, despite Murphy and other Democrats calling for $50 million in funding. This year, the Democratic-led House was able to negotiate with the Republican Senate to agree to a $25 million total as part of a new spending bill, which will be evenly split between for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health. Murphy wrote on Twitter: “I’m proud we’ve now won the next battle — obtaining $25 million to fund such research. Let’s use evidence-based policies to save lives.”

Charlie Crist calls for congressional hearing on housing issues at MacDill, other military bases” via WFLA — Crist sent a letter to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz requesting the hearing. Wasserman Schultz is the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs. In his letter, Crist states that military families around the country, including in Tampa, “continue to suffer from mold and other health hazards in poorly maintained and neglected family housing.” “I understand the military has taken actions to improve oversight and accountability of privatized housing,” Crist said. “However, I remain concerned, and more must be done.”

Charlie Crist wants Congress to look deeper into the mold in housing at MacDill Air Force Base.

Instagram ads for Cuba tourism. Are Facebook and Google breaking the U.S. embargo?” via Mario Pentón — Even as Trump was ratcheting up sanctions on the Cuban government because of its support for the Nicolás Maduro regime in Venezuela, the U.S. company was showing photos of pristine Cuban beaches and inviting tourists to visit a place where visitors “can run or rest.” But U.S. laws ban tourist trips to Cuba. “I didn’t expect that,” said Norges Rodríguez, who was in Miami when he saw the ads. The engineer is carrying out a project focused on information technologies on the island. “The Cuban government can buy ads on a platform that belongs to Facebook? How do they do that? Do U.S. economic and financial sanctions allow that?” he wrote on his Twitter account.

Trump in Palm Beach: President expected to be here for the holidays” via Christine Stapleton of the Palm Beach Post — The president, who this year declared Florida his residence, is expected to spend at least two weeks at Mar-a-Lago with his family for the holidays. Trump made the announcement in a tweet on Dec. 12 in which he also referred to his private club as “The Southern White House.” The White House has not confirmed the dates of Trump’s trip. He is traveling to Battle Creek, Michigan, on Wednesday – the day the House is scheduled to vote on his impeachment.

— 2020 —

Why Trump’s path to reelection is totally plausible” via John Harris, Alex Isenstadt and Daniel Lippmann of POLITICO — First, the campaign intends to repackage Trump, albeit within the narrow limits possible for a politician whose public image is already indelibly cast. The message: Sure, Trump is wild, but a disruptive character is precisely what’s needed to disrupt a failed status quo and force change. Second, the campaign will use its overwhelming financial advantage to repackage — i.e., viciously demolish — the public image of whoever becomes the Democratic nominee. Trump aides assert they can outperform their polls in key states by two percentage points or more on the strength of a voter ID-mobilization-and-turnout operation. Trump will use highly targeted advertising in key states combined with the presidential podium to tout how the robust economy has helped African Americans.

Donald Trump has a very plausible path to reelection.

Trump threatens to bypass commission on presidential debates” via The Associated Press — Trump said his record “is so good” that “perhaps I would consider more than 3 debates.” But he also complained, without evidence, that the Commission on Presidential Debates is “stacked with Trump Haters & Never Trumpers” and threatened to bypass them. He also complained, without evidence, that the Commission on Presidential Debates is “stacked with Trump Haters & Never Trumpers” and threatened to bypass them. “As President, the debates are up … to me, and there are many options, including doing them directly & avoiding the nasty politics of this very biased Commission,” Trump wrote, adding that he would “make a decision at an appropriate time.”

Amid adversity and missteps, Joe Biden’s resilience has been one theme of 2019” via Dan Balz of The Washington Post — For most of the year, Biden has often been described in negative terms. It has been said he is not as sharp as he should be or once was; that he is well-liked but can’t excite the base; that his agenda is little more than “return to normalcy”; and that his fundraising problems belie more significant weaknesses. But as Biden nears the end of 2019, he survived the attacks reasonably well. He remains atop the national polls, his support among African Americans has proved durable through the year. While his numbers have slipped in Iowa and New Hampshire, he is nonetheless in the battle in those two early-voting states.

Jill Biden swings through Tallahassee for husband’s presidential fundraiser” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Biden made a campaign stop at the Tallahassee home of a family she and her husband, former Vice President Biden, have known for over 40 years. And she used the fundraising occasion to get personal about her faith — something she doesn’t often share publicly. “After our son Beau died, I felt betrayed by my faith — I felt abandoned,” Biden told a group of about 55 folks gathered in the familiar surroundings of the living room of Don Hinkle and Mimi Graham, brimming with Christmas decorations. “There is such a power in kindness. It can pull us back to ourselves. It can build the bonds of community. It can mend the fault lines of our heart,” Biden said.

Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have a problem: Each other” via Jonathan Martin of The New York Times — Since the presidential primary race began, the two Senators have abided by a de facto nonaggression pact, rarely criticizing one another and frequently acting as something of a populist tag team on the debate stage. Yet with Sanders enjoying a revival after his heart attack in October and Warren receding from her summer surge but wielding a formidable political organization in the first nominating states, it’s increasingly clear that their biggest obstacle to winning the Democratic nomination is each other. In Iowa and nationwide, they are the leading second-choice pick of the other’s supporters, a vivid illustration of the promise and the peril that progressives face going into 2020.

— DONKEY DEBATE —

Turbulence shakes Democrats going into final debate of 2019” via Steve Peoples and Will Weissert of The Associated Press — While the field has been effectively cut down from more than 20 in six months, a deepening sense of volatility is settling over the Democratic primary on the eve of the sixth and final debate of 2019. The remaining candidates are grappling with an unprecedented distraction from Washington, questions about their core principles and new signs that the party’s energized factions are turning against each other. Lest there be any doubt about the level of turbulence in the race, it’s unclear whether Thursday’s debate will happen at all given an unsettled labor union dispute that might require participants to cross a picket line. All seven candidates have said they would not do so.

Impeachment — as well as mounting questions on core issues — has thrown some turbulence into the next Democratic debate.

Presidential candidates rarely discuss California’s issues. They should try at the next debate” via George Skelton of the Los Angeles Times — Democratic presidential candidates are slated to debate again, this time in Los Angeles. It would be nice if they discussed some specific needs of California. Just one or two, maybe three, questions about problems particularly acute in this state. That shouldn’t be too much hassle. California does, after all, constitute 12% of the U.S. population. We have one-third more people than the next largest state, Texas. Our economic growth outshines the country’s overall. California’s well-being is vital to the nation’s health.

The fate of L.A.’s Democratic presidential debate hinges on a bargaining session” via the Los Angeles Times — It’s not clear if Loyola Marymount University will host the Democratic presidential debate this week as members of Unite Here picketed a food-service provider on campus.

— THE TRAIL —

Republican field seeking to take on Murphy getting crowded” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Six candidates jumped in, a seventh is preparing to, and two others entered (and promptly withdrew from) the Republican field to take on Murphy in CD 7. The 2020 Republican primary field now boasts a diverse mix of candidates — all without significant political experience. Each seeks to take on Murphy, now well-seasoned in Congress. In two terms, she has become an adept fundraiser with lots of PAC support and possesses an electoral record that twice exceeded most expectations. Murphy already raised more than $1 million for her campaign fund, emerging as the darling of numerous national organizations ranging from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to various Democratic Party groups, which can spend big to defend her seat.

Broker Trae Zipperer explores bid for Francis Rooney’s congressional seat” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — “As a devout Christian, 9th-generation Floridian, Navy veteran, and Harvard graduate, I am keenly aware of what’s required to move our country, state, and district forward,” Zipperer said. Zipperer, a registered Republican, will run on a distinctly conservative agenda while also pushing environment issues important to the coastal Southwest Florida district. “Restoring our water and marine ecosystems. Securing our Borders. Protecting our constitutional rights — most notably, the Second Amendment. Fighting to preserve our Republic from an ill-informed and dangerous socialist agenda. These issues largely have gone ignored while politicians in the swamp waste our time and money on petty partisan politics. The time is long past due for good citizens to take a stand and solve these problems.”

Trae Zipperer is running as yet another conservative interested in Francis Rooney’s seat. Image via WaterfrontAuthority.com

Former White House intern to challenge Emily Slosberg via Austen Erlat of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Sayd Hussain, an engineering major at Florida Atlantic University, filed campaign paperwork in hopes of taking control of Florida State House District 91, which includes West Boca Raton, and Western Delray Beach and Boynton Beach, in the 2020 election. Hussain said he is campaigning on a platform primarily centered around homeowner’s association reforms, fighting elder abuse and pushing for stronger environmental protections. He calls himself a moderate Republican. “My main campaign focuses are reforming the HOA and condo associations in the state of Florida so that we can bring rights back to the homeowners so that people can feel comfortable in the homes that they live in,” he said.

— LOCAL —

Hundreds attend funeral for Navy sailor slain in base attack” via Russ Bynum of The Associated Press — Roughly 400 people, including dozens of uniformed service members, gathered at a Savannah church to remember 21-year-old Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters of neighboring Richmond Hill. His casket, draped with an American flag, stood at the front of a stage adorned with Christmas trees. Walters was among three sailors killed Dec. 6 when the gunman opened fire at Pensacola Naval Air Station. Federal authorities said the gunman also wounded eight other people in the rampage before a sheriff’s deputy killed him. The slain sailor’s father, Shane Walters, said his son had recently arrived in Florida after completing boot camp and was standing watch at the entrance of a classroom building where the attack occurred.

Hundreds of mourners attended the funeral of Scott Walters, who was killed in the NAS Pensacola shooting.

Jacksonville City Councilman calls JEA bonus plan ‘legal theft,’ demands formal council investigation” via Christopher Hong and David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union — Rory Diamond called for the council to formally investigate JEA’s derailed employee bonus plan, which he described as “legal theft,” during a fact-finding hearing that saw JEA officials continue defending to it as a well-meaning attempt to motivate employees. Council members accused JEA’s chief executive officer Aaron Zahn, who could be fired by his board of directors, of creating a limitless bonus plan designed to enrich executives and of misleading board members before them approving the proposal last July. Despite being asked numerous times, Zahn and several other JEA officials who testified during the hearing wouldn’t say who proposed the plan.

Happening today — The Suncoast Connector Task Force, which is working on the Suncoast Parkway extension from Citrus County to Jefferson County, will meet, 9 a.m., University of Florida/IFAS auditorium, 203 Forest Park Dr., Perry.

— MORE LOCAL —

Duh — Miami is full of mean people who have no compassion, says study (and everyone in Miami)” via Connie Ogle of the Miami Herald — In its latest survey, WalletHub looked at 100 cities across the country to see which was the most compassionate. To absolutely no one’s surprise, Miami came in at no. 93, barely ahead of Detroit. Even Hialeah beat Miami, making it all the way to No. 85. What part of compassion are we terrible at? All parts, according to WalletHub. Miami does not want to help its neighbors. So is Hialeah — the cities tied for 70th place. We don’t volunteer much, either (no. 72), and we don’t help improve our communities (no. 84). We are truly lame.

Keep your sazón off this lechón: Miami-Dade Mayor pardons two pigs for the holidays” via Connie Ogle of the Miami Herald — This is the second year for the ceremony, which is a lot like the annual presidential pardon of two turkeys on Thanksgiving, only with pigs. Amid blaring car horns and beeping trucks, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez pardoned Peppa and Petra in English and Spanish, decreeing that they can spend the rest of their lives at Aguacate Sanctuary of Love in Miami and not in somebody’s medianoche. Peppa and Petra had no comment, though Petra knocked over a bowl of orange chunks in what might have been jubilant celebration or possibly just hunger. “I think they’re happy,” the Mayor said.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez pardoned Peppa and Petra for the annual Pig Pardon, just in time for Christmas.

Sheriff who allowed Jeffrey Epstein liberal work-release privileges pulls plug on program” via Carli Teproff of the Miami Herald — Palm Beach Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, who faced blistering criticism for granting Epstein liberal work-release privileges while the sex offender was serving time in the county stockade, has discontinued the work release program. From now on, the sheriff said, a judge’s order will be needed for anyone sentenced to the jail to enjoy either in-home detention or permission to work outside the jail. Before, it was at the discretion of the sheriff. The decision to allow Epstein’s work release in 2009 had been blasted even by the U.S. attorney who shelved the multimillionaire’s 53-page sex trafficking indictment, a move that also has been excoriated.

Trulieve opens third Orlando dispensary” via Florida Politics — The Colonial Drive location marks the company’s 41st storefront since it started operating in Florida in 2016. “Our third location in Orlando and our 41st in Florida is important as we concentrate on ensuring patients are able to access the natural, effective, and safe medications they have come to rely on,” Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers said. “Our well-trained staff is ready to assist patients at every step of the process. Whether they are taking their first steps into medical cannabis or seeking a new treatment option, we encourage all patients to reach out to find out more.”’

How bad was the cyberattack against Pensacola? The city hired a firm for $140K to find out” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson said Deloitte would perform an audit on the city’s network to evaluate how the attack happened and what the city should do next. The cyberattack began in the early hours of Dec. 7. City IT staff responded by shutting down the city’s network, which cut off access to many of the city’s public-facing services such as online bill pay for Pensacola Energy and sanitation services. City officials later confirmed the attack was ransomware, a type of cyberattack that encrypts data to force the victim to pay a ransom to get the data restored.

Lighthouse museum receives $20K grant from Volunteer Florida” via the St. Augustine Record — Volunteer Florida announced that $370,000 in Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) grant funding had been awarded to 22 nonprofit and service organizations throughout the state. The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum received a $20,000 grant. “We are grateful to Volunteer Florida for all they do for our communities,” said Kathy Fleming, executive director of the museum. “We look forward to providing even more civic engagement and educational opportunities through this amazing support!” The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, a private nonprofit, has a current volunteer program that consists of 300-plus people who donate 20,000 volunteer hours each year.

One Clearwater mayor candidate has raised over $100,000. The election’s in March.” by Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — City elections are three months from today. You wouldn’t know it by some of these fundraising numbers. Frank Hibbard, the former two-term mayor running once again for Clearwater’s top job, crossed the $100,000 fundraising threshold in November. Lina Teixeira, a first time council candidate running for the open Seat 2 currently occupied by Jay Polglaze, spent nearly $10,000 in November on political consultants alone. Those are startling figures for elections in Clearwater, where local races in recent years have provided little political intrigue.

— OPINIONS —

Republicans have one last chance to stand up” via Mac Stipanovich for the Tampa Bay Times — Courage is perseverance in the face of fear. Heroism is courage above and beyond the call of duty. Cowardice, on the other hand, is shirking your duty because of fear. Thus far in Trump’s impeachment saga, not one hero has emerged from the 197 Republicans in the House. If there is any courage among them, it is carefully concealed. There is, however, an obvious abundance of cowardice. But let’s deal with the moral bankrupts before focusing on the faint of heart. Right and wrong are beyond the ken of the amoral majority in the House minority. They simply do not care what Trump does.

I headed the FBI and CIA. There’s a dire threat to the country I love.” via William Webster for The New York Times — I am deeply disturbed by the assertion of Trump that our “current director” — as he refers to the man he selected for the job of running the FBI — cannot fix what the president calls a broken agency. The 10-year term given to all directors following J. Edgar Hoover’s 48-year tenure was created to provide independence for the director and for the bureau. The president’s thinly veiled suggestion that the director, Christopher Wray, like his banished predecessor, James Comey, could be on the chopping block, disturbs me greatly. The independence of both the FBI and its director is critical and should be fiercely protected by each branch of government.

Violent children: A crisis we must not ignore” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Throughout our state, there are children suffering emotional torments like those that apparently led a 19-year-old former student to kill 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, on Valentine’s Day 2018. Too many violent children are in regular classrooms, causing frequent disruptions, rather than in special schools that would be far better equipped to help them. When they act up, it denies other students — the majority — of the safe learning environment they need and deserve. Laws enacted with the good intent of protecting special needs children from discrimination have gone too far the other way. But the underlying emotional issues remain barely acknowledged, let alone addressed.

“Legislature should stop swiping affordable-housing funds. In Florida, the need is too great” via the Miami Herald editorial board — In the next Legislative Session, it’s imperative that state lawmakers be a big part of the long-overdue solution. Senate Bill 306 and House Bill 381 would mandate that lawmakers stop pilfering revenue from the Sadowski Housing Trust Fund. Money in the fund is supposed to be set aside to build affordable housing throughout the state. Unfortunately, that is not how it’s worked. For years, the Legislature has swept trust-fund money into the general-revenue bucket, and not just in lean years. The raids go on even when state revenue is abundant. This needs to stop.

A legal loss in Florida’s water war” six via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — In a report last week, the special master, Senior U.S. Circuit Judge Paul Kelly, found that Florida’s mismanagement — not Georgia’s use of water upstream — is more to blame for the collapse of Florida’s oyster industry in Apalachicola Bay. The balance of fresh and saltwater in Apalachicola Bay is crucial to the growth and development of the oysters there. But the loss of freshwater flow during a 2013 drought turned the bay salty and so damaged the oyster beds that the area was declared a federal disaster. The states need a solution that’s fair, enforceable and durable, and which provides for the most efficient use of these natural resources.

UCF, AdventHealth and Orlando Health need to do what’s best for medical students” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — A good editorial sometimes features a good villain. We couldn’t find one in the rift between Orlando’s two major hospital systems and the University of Central Florida’s medical school, a dispute that began with UCF’s decision to build a teaching hospital at the Lake Nona Medical City. UCF contends that the two big players in Central Florida — nonprofits Orlando Health and AdventHealth — wanted too much control. So UCF instead chose HCA, a for-profit company with more than 180 hospitals around the country but with a much smaller health care and community-involvement footprint in Central Florida. But HCA offered UCF more control in running the new hospital, as well as a financial stake in its ownership.

PACE financing gives Floridians valuable options to protect homes from hurricanes” via Kristin Jacobs for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Property owners across Florida are exploring all available avenues to make their homes more resilient. One increasingly popular solution is called Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE. What makes PACE uniquely appealing is that financing is based on a property’s equity — not an applicant’s credit score. This flexible approach enables more people to make critical home or property improvements, which may have otherwise been unaffordable through traditional financing, like a credit card or home equity line of credit. Given the high out-of-pocket costs for some home improvements, such as wind-resistant roofing, PACE is attractive because project costs are financed entirely through a tax assessment tied to a property.

— MOVEMENTS —

Former congressional candidate Brandon Patty appointed St. Johns County Clerk” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — DeSantis has appointed Brandon Patty to serve as St. Johns County Clerk of Court and Comptroller after the resignation of Hunter Conrad. Patty will serve out the remainder of Conrad’s term, which ends in November 2020. Conrad left the position to become County Administrator after the St. Johns County Commission fired former County Administrator Michael Wanchick for “a number of systematic leadership problems.”

Governor picks three African American women among appointees to Miami-Dade trial courts” via Michael Moline of Florida Phoenix — DeSantis made seven appointments to the trial bench in Miami-Dade County, including three African American women — about 43 percent of the total for the day, well above the trend for the Republican governor. Joining the 11th Judicial Circuit Court are county court judges Ramiro Areces, Christina DiRaimondo, and Robert Watson. New to the Miami-Dade County Court are Elisabeth Espinosa, a litigation partner at Cole, Scott & Kissane; Julie Harris Nelson, a litigation partner with Roig Lawyers; Ayana Harris, an assistant federal public defender; and Miesha Darrough, special counsel in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami. Five of the appointees are former state or federal prosecutors.

Ron DeSantis selected three African American women among the seven judicial nominations announced Monday.

Yolanda Cash Jackson co-founds The National Black Lobbyists Association Jackson, a lobbyist at Becker, recently co-founded The National Black Lobbyists Association to promote diversity and inclusion in the lobbying corps at state capitols. NBPLA aims to identify and remove barriers preventing qualified black lobbyists from corporate opportunities and government affairs contracts. The association will build a database of qualified lobbyists; partner with leaders to ensure black government affairs professionals are included in diversity efforts; provide networking and professional development opportunities, and mentor up-and-coming lobbyists. Jackson, a veteran lobbyist, has been named a top influencer by the Miami Herald and the “Most Effective Lawyer” in 2018 by the Daily Business Review. She is also the only nonelected, nongovernment triple inductee into The Children of Inmates’ “League of Superheroes.”

Mac Stipanovich retires from lobbying post” via the News Service of Florida — Stipanovich retired from his lobbying post at the firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney. Stipanovich, former chair of the firm’s Florida state government relations group, has been a colorful and often-quoted figure who was part of the Republican Party’s rise to dominance in the state Capitol. Among other things, he directed campaigns for former Gov. Bob Martinez and served as Martinez’s chief of staff, was Florida executive director of President Ronald Reagan’s 1984 reelection campaign in Florida and was a senior adviser to former Gov. Jeb Bush’s 1994 election campaign. He also drew national attention when he served as a critical adviser to then-Secretary of State Katherine Harris during the 2000 presidential recount in Florida.

— ALOE —

New ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ trailer leaves Twitter asking ‘Where is Iceman?’” via Ethan Alter of Yahoo Entertainment — Get ready to change lanes, Dom Toretto: the original speed demon, “Maverick” Mitchell, is racing back into theaters to teach a whole new generation about the need for speed. The second trailer for Top Gun: Maverick soared onto screens Monday, providing more glimpses at the film’s white-knuckle flying sequences, the majority of which feature Tom Cruise himself in the cockpit, in between smatterings of story. One thing it’s still keeping a mystery, though, is where and how Maverick’s old flyboy frenemy, “Iceman,” is going to return. Val Kilmer tweeted about the new trailer before its release, but the actor — who recently survived a battle with throat cancer — remains off-screen for the second time.

To watch the new trailer, click on the image below:

Disney opens new Riviera resort with a posh, artsy theme” via Sharon Kennedy Wynne of the Tampa Bay Times — It is the 15th Disney Vacation Club property, though non-club members can also stay there. It is themed after the European Riviera, with lots of posh touches in the architecture and menus. More than 40 signature art pieces were created for the resort, inspired by Disney and the Riviera. It contains apartment-like accommodations rather than traditional hotel rooms in its 300-room complex. It features a mix of one- to three-bedroom “villas,” each with a full-size kitchen and laundry. It is a luxury resort, so it’s pricey, with rooms costing $400 to $4,539.

This ‘Moonlight’ Oscar winner returned to his alma mater. And he had a message for the kids” via C. Isaiah Smalls II of the Miami Herald — Remi Mark got a text. “Come upstairs,” it read. And there was Oscar-winning screenwriter Tarell Alvin McCraney was in the classroom. “He sat down and said, ‘Ask me anything you want,’” at New World School of the Arts in downtown Miami. The 39-year-old co-writer of the movie “Moonlight” visited his alma mater to answer questions, give advice, and to remind them to follow their instincts. McCraney said his job is “to point them back to their own resources and abilities and say … ‘You have everything you need, you just don’t know it, or your fear is blinding you from it, or some outside influence is making the voice in your head speak louder than it needs to.’”

No more Nick’s: Tallahassee’s oldest continuously operating restaurant is closing” via TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat — For generations, it’s been the cedar paneled backdrop for first dates, family nights and home-cooked meatloaf, fried chicken and hamburgers shared between neighbors and politicos, including former governors Bob Graham and Lawton Chiles. Nothing lasts forever. On Dec. 20, after the last lunch plate is served, the doors will close and end Nick’s chapter as a family business, where Jimmy Mitchell’s daughter and son worked alongside him for years. “I’ll be 72 in February,” he said, sitting at a table overlooking South Monroe Street. “So, I decided it’s time to move on. It’s been a good life for me.”

Tributes, standing ovation at ‘Rise of Skywalker’ premiere” via Jonathan Landrum Jr. of the Associated Press — Audiences rose to their feet giving the latest “Star Wars” film a standing ovation after the credits rolled at the ending of the franchise’s third trilogy. Cheers often erupted with enthusiasm throughout while viewing “The Rise of Skywalker” on Monday night. After the screening, the film was met with a slew of positive reviews after director J.J. Abrams told the audience before the film played that he was “mostly terrified” to show the movie, which ran for nearly 2 ½ hours. Seated in the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood were Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker, and director Steven Spielberg, who Abrams specifically thanked.

— HOLIDAY CHEER —

AT&T spreads holiday cheer to troops serving abroad” via Florida Politics — The holidays are here. For many, that means wrapping gifts and making a mad dash to the post office to ensure they get to their destination on time. AT&T Florida is included in that group. Employees at the telecommunications company have put in dozens of volunteer hours to help spread holiday cheer. Members of the Florida AT&T Veterans employee group have prepared and shipped 100 holiday care packages to troops overseas. The packages included food, toiletries, clothing, phone calling cards, letters from students and Cub Scouts and other treats. Additionally, members of the AT&T Global Legal Command Center in North Palm Beach led a toy drive that resulted in more than 150 gifts donated to foster children served by the Children’s Home Society.

AT&T employees are spreading some holiday cheer to veterans, kids.

Santa’s a sleazebag. The elves are drunk. How did Christmas sweaters get so raunchy?” via Maura Judkis of The Washington Post — Ugly holiday sweater parties are not what they used to be. When the trend kicked off in the early aughts, it was a chance to browse the racks at thrift stores for over-the-top, ill-fitting kitschy knits of teddy bears and nutcrackers. But it’s rarer that people wear a thrifted ugly sweater these days, with the proliferation of companies offering stylishly unstylish new ones. And designers want to push the envelope. “I feel like certain brands are trying to go for the edgiest, dirtiest, bro-iest dude they can find,” said Amanda Neville, an ugly sweater designer for the wholesale company Fashion Avenue. In a previous job for a brand called Alex Stevens, she conjured up puking reindeer and naked Mrs. Clauses.

Hallmark’s flip-flop on same-sex ads backfires” via Mae Anderson of The Associated Press — The Hallmark Channel’s decision to pull, then reinstate a commercial that featured a same-sex couple kissing shows how controversy can generate more publicity than simply ignoring it. The company also didn’t help matters by reversing its decision following the backlash. “It’s hard to keep everyone happy, but flip-flopping doesn’t help,” said Allen Adamson, co-founder of the marketing consultancy Metaforce. “These are difficult issues to navigate, but when you’re going to make a call one way or another, make sure you understand the ramifications. You only want to pull the Band-Aid off once.” The debacle ultimately made a winner out of Zola, the wedding-planning website whose ads a conservative advocacy group didn’t want showing on Hallmark.

Holiday travelers, take note of this airport security art project” via Ephrat Livni of Quartz — A security team at Vilnius airport in Lithuania has managed to find its muse in what might seem — superficially — like an entirely uninspiring job, especially around the holiday season. After dealing with throngs of harried travelers who insist on carrying prohibited items all year long, although they are listed on the airport website and even depicted in images, one airport security team took a creative approach to inform passengers this year. They decorated a Christmas tree with all the prohibited items they collected from negligent travelers throughout the year, turning confiscations into Christmas cheer. What’s more, this was done with great aplomb and without any tree to speak of.

The security team at Vilnius airport in Lithuania made this “tree” out of confiscated items from travelers.

’Skydiving Santa’ hospitalized after hard landing on beach” via The Associated Press — Organizers of the Skydiving Santas event in Cocoa Beach said the woman was conscious and breathing when she was airlifted by helicopter to a nearby hospital. She wasn’t identified and her condition wasn’t known. Orlando television station WESH reports that almost 100 skydivers dressed in Santa’s red suit and white beard took part in the event on Florida’s Space Coast. It was the third year that the professional and skilled amateur skydivers have participated in the pre-Christmas gathering.

Polk Co. Christmas display inspires nonverbal girl with autism to speak” via WFLA — A Polk County mom calls it a Christmas miracle. Marisabel Figueroa Lopez says the lights and music on her neighbor’s elaborate holiday display helped her nonverbal daughter with autism start to speak out for the first time. The 200,000 synchronized lights set to music have given her a million reasons to be thankful. “For me, it is a Christmas miracle,” Figueroa Lopez said. Her 13-year-old daughter Kaitlyn was diagnosed with autism at three years old. Doctors said she’d never speak. But last week, something changed. Kaitlyn started to describe the decorations. “And then she jumped up and said, “Santa! Santa is coming!” Figueroa Lopez said.

Tweet, tweet:

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to Holly McPhail, LA Kim RodgersMichael Tuthill, and our friend Andrew Wiggins.

___

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

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