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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 12.18.19

Who’s up, down, in and out – your morning tipsheet on Florida politics.

Breaking overnight — The Miami Herald will no longer produce a printed newspaper on Saturday. Read more about that decision here.


Without even trying, Stephanie Smith has accumulated tons of well-wishers over an accomplished career. Within that wide net, a core group of longtime besties who have benefited from her steadfastness, humor, and guidance want to let her know how much she has meant to them. If Wednesday were their birthday, she’d have designed the cake a week ago.

Smith is one of those rare political animals who thrive on kindness and reciprocity, creates bonds with straight talk and an ability to make complex legislation sound simple. Her closest friends know she would never let them down, and she has approached all of her jobs with the same kind of loyalty. That ability to connect, not miserly calculations of wins and losses, is the real secret of her success in the middle of thorny policy debates or legislative battles.

Happy 40th, Stephanie!

“I think it boils down to the fact that she is one of the most genuine people that you will ever meet in your entire life,” said Anna Alexopoulos, the Deputy Chief Financial Officer at the state’s Department of Financial Services, and a friend of 15 years.

Rather than take controversies to heart, Smith understands that people come to all situations carrying the baggage of their life experience, and are often reacting to events far away from the scene of any current conflict, Farrar said.

Smith had served as Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of External Affairs under Gov. Charlie Crist, where colleagues noted her ability to keep political conflicts from getting personal in a way that left both sides smiling, just as she had done as special events coordinator under then-Gov. Jeb Bush.

Smith later served as AT&T’s Director of Public Affairs, covering Florida and Georgia.

“I’ve heard people refer to Stephanie as the Homecoming Queen of Tallahassee (and now Florida) because she knows everyone and everyone loves her,” said Edwin Narain, AT&T’s Director of External Affairs and a former state Representative. “She always finds the positive side of every situation, and I don’t know anyone who has a negative word to breathe about her. She truly is a light in this sometimes dark world.”

Her tools were an honest, even brutally blunt frankness that could lighten the load off others, encouraging them to relax and let down their guard.

“She’s always my go-to when I need to talk to someone and talk through problems,“ Farrar said. “Just one of those people you go to to bounce ideas off. One of the people you go to saying: ‘Okay, I’m not crazy, right?’”

She came to Uber in 2015, as Director of Public Policy for the Sunshine State. At the time, the Congress was in the middle of wrangling over ride-sharing entities such as Uber and Lyft that would take years to resolve, including how to define a network of independent contractors, questions about insurance and how much local governments get to tell ride-sharing groups how to run their businesses.

“I don’t think it’s lost on anyone who knows about that regulatory process that she was key to all of that,” Farrar said. “So I will say that she is the reason, I think, that statewide regulation passed in Florida for ride-sharing.”

When friends were down, she was there.

“I text messaged her when my dad was in hospice and said I didn’t think I could make it through the day,” said Michelle Todd Schorsch, one of Smith’s closest friends who had worked with her in the Crist administration. “She did a whole day of work in Tallahassee, then got right in the car and drove 4 ½ hours to come bring me dinner. And then spend three hours with me in hospice and turn around and go right back to Tallahassee. That’s just the type of friend she is. She will drop anything.”

It’s time to drop everything and sing Happy Birthday to the woman who won wars by winning friends and keeping them.


Congratulations to Gannon Hunt Cooper and Josh Cooper on their beautiful wedding this past weekend at The Farm at Old Edwards in Highlands, North Carolina.


Congratulations — Peter Murray, special assistant for advance in Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s office, is engaged to Tallahassee-native Rachel Chasteen, media manager at Two Men and a Truck. Murray popped the question Friday at the Parker House in his native Boston. The couple have been dating for three years.

She said ‘Yes!’


Senate President Bill Galvano meets with reporters for breakfast and a preview of the upcoming Legislative Session.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— State employees get an end-of-the-year bonus. Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that they would not have to work on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve. The union that represents those workers says that while it’s nice — a raise would be better. They are holding a rally today on the steps of the old Capitol.

— State economists issue a forecast before Session starts; it hasn’t changed much since the summer, and it’s still somewhat gloomy.

— Part 2 of a Sunrise interview with GOP icon Mac Stipanovich, who helped pave the way for the Republican take-over of Tallahassee. Stipanovich is NOT happy with the direction his old party is taking, calling Donald Trump an existential threat to our democracy.

— More Florida Men hijinks: A Winter Park man acting unsavory in a local Walmart and a Pasco County man who shot himself while “playing cowboy.”

To listen, click on the image below:


@RealDonaldTrump: Democrat “leadership,” despite their denials, are putting tremendous pressure on their members to vote yes on this ridiculous Impeachment. If they vote yes, it will be much easier for Republicans to win in 2020!

@Neal_Ketyal: Trump letter boomerangs, actually explains why he must testify in Senate. He says 1) House is unfair+ 2) he did nothing wrong 1) explains why he couldn’t be called in House, only Senate 2) opens the door and makes his exec privilege claims wholly untenable. #SayTheLetterUnderOath

@TheRickWilson: That letter. It’s like peering into the mouth of madness.

@HughHewitt: Hating @realDonaldTrump isn’t a political strategy, the opposite in fact. It’s just arrogance and rage combining into re-election for @POTUS unless the D fever breaks. Do Ds really think voters are going to risk this economy because of their impeachment fetish?

@CharlieCrist: I take no joy in my decision to vote to impeach President @realDonaldTrump. But given the facts presented, I’ve come to the grave conclusion that he abused his position of power to such a degree that we have no choice but to act.

@RepStephMurphy: As someone who escaped communism, I’ve always cherished America’s fidelity to the rule of law. The evidence presented during the impeachment inquiry makes clear to me the President abused his power and obstructed Congress. That’s why I will vote to impeach him.

@TrumpWarRoom: When Congress met on January 6, 2017, to certify Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory, Democrats objected 11 times to accepting the results of the election. Since then, they’ve never stopped working to overturn the will of the people.

@GovRonDESantis: Great work from @fdlepio’s Genetic Genealogy Team. By utilizing the power of genetic genealogy to solve cases and deliver justice to victims and their families, we are taking another positive step forward in keeping our communities safe and secure.

@GovRonDeSantis: In recognition of the hard work and dedication of state employees in 2019, I’m happy to announce that state offices will be closed on December 24th and 31st. @FLCaseyDeSantis and I extend our thanks and best wishes to state employees and their families this Holiday Season.

Tweet, tweet:

@Jason_Garcia: This is very undemocratic, I know, but a little part of me dies every time they ask if there is any public comment and there is.

—@Scott_Maxwell: Oomph. Pretty ham-handed PR effort by @UniversalORL today. They and @OrangeCoFL have spent weeks claiming this road isn’t really for Universal. (It is.) Yet on vote day, they bus in a bunch of uniformed employees … to show support for a road they claim isn’t really for them.


Sixth Democratic debate — 1; “The Rise of Skywalker” premiers — 2; CES® 2020 begins — 20; College Football National Championship — 26; 2020 Session begins — 27; Florida Chamber Legislative Fly-in — 27; Seventh Democratic presidential debate in Des Moines — 27; Florida TaxWatch State of the TaxPayer Dinner in Tallahassee — 28; New Brexit deadline — 44; Super Bowl LIV in Miami — 46; Great American Realtors Day — 47; Iowa Caucuses — 47; Eighth Democratic presidential debate in Manchester — 54; New Hampshire Primaries — 55; Ninth Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas — 63; Nevada caucuses — 66; 10th Democratic presidential debate Charleston — 69; South Carolina primaries — 73; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 86; Florida’s presidential primary — 90; “Black Panther 2” debuts — 139; Florida Chamber Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 153; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo begin — 217; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 244; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 294; First Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 302; Second presidential debate at Belmont — 309; 2020 General Election — 321.


Impeaching President Trump may be a winner in the U.S. House, but it’s a loser in Florida.

A new measure from Mason-Dixon Polling found Floridians are against nailing Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress by a 50%-46% margin.

Donald Trump’s impeachment is a nonstarter with about half of Florida voters.

That’s not to say the President is popular among Sunshine State voters — the newly minted Florida resident is underwater by nearly the same margin.

On each issue, Republicans are lined up behind Trump while Democrats are against him. Likewise on gender, with men opposing and women supporting his ouster.

The difference lies with independent voters, who simultaneously dislike Trump and are against impeaching and removing him from office.

Otherwise, the poll also affirms the regional leanings of the state: South and Central Florida want him gone, North and Southwest Florida don’t, and Tampa Bay is a fence sitter.

The polling somewhat mirrors the way Florida’s congressional delegation is expected to vote in the proceedings.

Now that U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy said she’ll vote to impeach, all 13 Florida Democrats are set to vote in the affirmative. An equal number of that state’s congressional Republicans are calcified in their opposition, with U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney remaining openly ambivalent about his voting intentions.

Should he stick to the party line, the four-point gap will translate to D.C.


Ron and Casey DeSantis offer full support for child protection” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Speaking before a packed ballroom of more than 1,000 at the Florida Child Protection Summit in Orlando, the Governor, the First Lady and Department of Children and Families Secretary Chad Poppell sought to assure the state’s frontline warriors in the battle to protect Florida’s children from abuse, neglect, abandonment, and endangerment. The emotionally stressful jobs have suffered tremendous turnover in recent years. DeSantis received a strong ovation when he pointed out his proposed 2020 budget calls for an additional $97 million in funding. Though he offered no specific new initiatives, he also stressed his desire to pursue reforms that would provide quality assurance and community-based care.

Ron and Casey DeSantis give full-throated support for child protection.

Assignment editors — DeSantis will make a major announcement joined by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and others, 10 a.m., Governor’s Large Conference Room, The Capitol.

DeSantis OKs paid time off for state workers on Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — DeSantis announced state offices will be closed Dec. 24 and Dec. 31. “I am proud to recognize our state employees for their hard work and efforts in this way,” the governor said in a statement. “The First Lady and I extend our thanks and best wishes to state employees and their families this holiday season and we look forward to an equally productive year in 2020,” he added. State employees whose positions prevent them from taking off the additional time “will be afforded the opportunity to use the time at a future date.”

Spotted — At the Florida GOP holiday party, held in the Governor’s Mansion: State Sen. Joe Gruters, state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, National committeeman Peter Feaman, National Committeewoman Kathleen King; Shutts and Bowen attorneys Jason Gonzalez, Ben Gibson and Dan Nordby; and Leon Chairman Evan Power and Sarasota Vice Chair Christian Ziegler, and Melissa and David Ramba. 

Assignment editors — DeSantis will make a major announcement joined by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and several others, 10 a.m., Governor’s Large Conference Room, The Capitol.


Senate will include state worker pay raise in budget deliberations” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — Galvano says he has already had discussions with fellow Senators on how to fund an across-the-board pay raise for state workers. “It is not off the table to take a look at how we are paying our state employees,” the Bradenton Republican said about an across-the-board increase. Sen. Bill Montford has made a pay hike for all state workers a top priority for the upcoming Session. “It’s a little early in the process for him to say this is what we are going to do,” Montford explained. “I think he said it very, very well. It is not off the table.

Senate President Bill Galvano holds a breakfast meet-n-greet with reporters.

State workers may not see insurance changes” via the News Service of Florida — Galvano said he is reluctant to move ahead with changes to the state-employee health insurance program during the upcoming 2020 legislative session. “I don’t foresee major modifications going into this Session,” Galvano said. Florida was supposed to have started a major remodel of the program under a 2017 law. That law required the Department of Management Services to begin offering employees a choice of four different health plans that varied in benefits and costs. While the state would contribute the same amounts of money for the employees regardless of the plan, the law authorized employees who enroll in less expensive plans to pocket savings.

Happening today — State workers will hold a rally ahead of a bargaining session between the AFSCME Florida union and state officials, 11 a.m., Old Capitol steps.

Galvano says Senate is open to THC cap — The Senate President said Tuesday his chamber would be open to capping the THC concentration in cannabis products sold in Florida, reports Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida. “There are issues relating to a limit on THC, that the Senate may entertain,” Galvano said during an annual breakfast with reporters. “I’m not saying the Senate will pass it, but I’m saying it’s an issue the Senate will entertain.” His statement is a break from the position he held as recently as October. The idea of capping THC is popular among House Republicans. In the 2019 Legislative Session, the Senate rejected a plan put forward by state Rep. Ray Rodrigues that would have capped THC concentrations at 10 percent.

Fears toll road could kill off Florida panthers are ‘overstated,’ Galvano says” via Elizabeth Koh of the Miami Herald — A federal biologist’s assessment that the Florida panther could be devastated by a controversial toll road project is “completely overstated,” Galvano told reporters — dismissing worries raised by environmentalists that his signature infrastructure proposal could pose a risk to endangered wildlife. Galvano, a Bradenton Republican who successfully pushed the Legislature and DeSantis to approve new toll road projects earlier this year, also insisted that the proposed roads are moving forward with the environmental impact in mind. “We’re not going to destroy the environment for the sake of particular infrastructure,” he added. “But there are ways to accomplish what we need to do in order to sustain our state that takes all of these things into consideration.”


Key Florida House Republican reluctant to address inmates serving outdated drug sentences” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — “I don’t think we’re ever going to say, ‘We made this change, it should blanketly be applied retroactively,’” said Rep. Paul Renner, the chair of the House’s Judiciary committee who’s also in line to be a future speaker of the House.

House defends marijuana law in high-stakes case” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — House attorneys filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Supreme Court to overturn a July ruling by the 1st District Court of Appeal that said a key part of the law conflicted with a 2016 constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana. That key part of the law involves what is known as “vertical integration” — a system in which a limited number of companies that receive medical marijuana licenses must handle all aspects of the cannabis trade. The alternative to vertical integration would be to allow companies to play different roles, potentially leading to more players in the industry. In the brief, House attorneys pointed to the need for a secure medical-marijuana system that would prevent pot from being used recreationally.

Kelli Stargel’s parental consent abortion bill hearing planned for first week of Session” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Galvano said the Senate Judiciary Committee plans to take up Stargel‘s controversial bill (SB 404) to require parental consent before minors can obtain abortions. The Senate Health Policy Committee took two meetings to give its thumbs-up on the Lakeland Republican’s bill with its 6-3 party-line vote last week. And Judiciary currently plans to meet Jan. 15. “I think it will pass. I believe it will be successful in that committee as it was in Chair [Gayle] Harrell‘s committee,” Galvano said. While the expedited timeline for SB 404 continues in the Senate, its House counterpart (HB 265), carried by Vero Beach Republican Rep. Erin Grall, is ready for a full House vote.

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

Jackie Toledo officially files Pharmacy Benefit Manager reform bill” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The bill (HB 961) addresses the pricing disparity between how much PBMs charge insurance providers compared to how much they reimburse pharmacies, paying self-owned pharmacies more than other pharmacies or steering patients to pharmacies they own and PBMs not passing along savings from third-party rebates. The bill would also increase transparency by requiring all information, including PBM revenue, to be reported to the state. PBMs in violation of the proposed law would be subject to $10,000 in civil penalties and could have their certifications revoked by the state.

Bill requiring 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 Mina 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.” “I think the average citizen out there expects and already thinks that our gun stores are supposed to be doing that,” he said.

Bobby Powell joins push to allow medical marijuana treatment for those with sickle cell disease” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Democratic Sen. Powell is joining the effort to allow individuals diagnosed with sickle cell disease to be treated with medical marijuana. Powell’s push (SB 1274) will serve as a companion measure to a bill (HB 645) introduced in the House by Rep. Patricia Williams, a fellow Democrat. State law currently lists 11 different conditions that permit individuals to qualify for a medical marijuana card. Those conditions spelled out in the statute include cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, testing positive for HIV or AIDS, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. The measure from Powell is simple and straightforward, as it would simply add sickle cell disease to that list.

Bobby Powell is seeking to add sickle cell to the list of ailments treatable by medical marijuana. Image via Colin Hackley.

Lawmakers want to bring film back to Florida” via Jake Stofan of WCTV — Film production companies could receive cash rebates for filming in Florida if new legislation making its way through the state legislature is signed into law. Recently, Bad Boys 3 shot ten days in South Florida, then spent three months and $50 million in Georgia. “Those are all jobs and that’s money that should be in our state. In our economy, not somebody else’s,” said John Lux, Executive Director of Film Florida. New legislation would offer up to a $2 million rebate for production companies that choose Florida. “The sunshine and low tax environment just isn’t enough, we have to be able to compete,” said bill sponsor Sen. Gruters.

Assignment editors — State Rep. Matt Willhite joins Rep. Rick Roth and other leaders in the local rail industry for a roundtable discussion on railroad safety, 2 p.m., Palm Beach County Vista Center, Room 1W-47, 2300 N. Jog Rd., West Palm Beach.


Meet Anber, a teen who struggles with mental health. Did the system fail her?” via Hanine Zeitlin of the Fort Myers News-Press — Mother and daughter hadn’t seen each other in two months. In October 2018, child protective services removed Anber from the WoodSpring Suites in Fort Myers where the family had been staying after an eviction. Dawn’s lawyer said some allegations involved substance abuse and inadequate supervision. Dawn insisted, “All allegations can be proven bull-crap except for maybe the drug test because I didn’t take one.” Anber receives disability benefits due to her mental health conditions, her mother said. Federal law prioritizes keeping families together and reunifying foster children with parents. Yet parents need to work case plans, demonstrate progress and an ability to better protect their children, said Nadereh Salim, CEO of Children’s Network of Southwest Florida.

Happening today — The state Violent Crime and Drug Control Council will teleconference, 2 p.m. Call-in number: 1-888-585-9008. Code: 215384938.


Donald Trump’s tough letter on impeachment is written in style of his tweets” via Alex Leary of The Wall Street Journal — The blistering, six-page letter sent by Trump to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the eve of the House impeachment vote is a running list of accusations, grievances and boasts, all written in the informal style of the president’s tweets. “You are the ones interfering in America’s elections,” the President wrote. “You are the ones subverting America’s Democracy. You are the ones Obstructing Justice. You are the ones bringing pain and suffering to our Republic for your own selfish personal, political, and partisan gain.” In his letter, Trump dismissed the articles as “not recognizable under any standard of Constitutional theory” and recounted a defense he has mounted for weeks in tweets and comments from the White House and his political rallies.

>>>Read Trump’s letter to Pelosi protesting impeachment by clicking here.

>>>See where every House member stands on impeachment by clicking here.

USA TODAY poll: Narrow majority opposes removing Trump from office if he is impeached” via Susan Page, Nicholas Wu and William Cummings of USA TODAY — A USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll finds Americans closely divided on whether the House should impeach Trump. A narrow majority opposes a conviction by the Senate that would remove him from office. Those surveyed oppose by 51%-45% a Senate vote to convict Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Though those results may be sobering — almost half of Americans support removing the president from office — they are a bit better for him than the survey’s findings in October when Americans split 47%-46%. The findings underscore how durable Trump’s support has been.

A slim majority of voters do not want Donald Trump removed from office, even if he is impeached.

For swing-district Democrats, impeachment is a question mark. For swing-district Republicans, it isn’t.” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — There are 206 votes to impeach the president, 12 short of the majority needed to pass one of the two articles of impeachment that will be presented on the House floor. Nearly all those votes come from Democrats; nearly all the votes opposing the articles (that is, supporting the president) come from Republicans. If we plot those votes by the members’ districts and ideology, a few non-impeachment-related things jump out immediately. Republican average ideology is farther from the middle than the Democratic average. There are a lot more Democrats who’ve yet to declare their intent than there are Republicans.

Trump could be impeached partly for admissions on Fox News” via MSNBC — MSNBC Chief Legal Correspondent Ari Melber reports on how Rep. Adam Schiff’s impeachment report cites a Fox News interview as evidence. The Democrats making the case that key parts of Trump’s bribery plot were broadcast live and emphasizing they can prove damning parts of the Ukraine plot based partly on the public scheming and incriminating statements broadcast live from Rudy Giuliani and Trump himself. Melber takes the viewer through an alleged propaganda campaign.

House squabbles over impeachment vote rules” via Sarah Ferris and Heather Caygle of POLITICO — House Democrats huddled for likely the final time before taking the most consequential vote of this Congress — impeaching Trump. Speaker Pelosi and her leadership team led the meeting, which comes as many of the caucus’s most endangered members have publicly declared they will vote in favor of removing Trump from office, and as Republicans and Democrats debated rules over this week’s impeachment vote. Three freshmen in pro-Trump districts — Reps. Anthony Brindisi of New York, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma and Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey — announced they would vote to charge Trump with abuse of power over his campaign to pressure Ukrainian leaders to investigate his political rivals and obstruction of Congress, for his repeated attempts to block the investigation.

Merry Christmas, you’re being impeached” via Gillian Brockell of The Washington Post — In an amazing episode of “history repeats itself,” the House is expected to vote to impeach Trump on Dec. 18 — one day short of the 21st anniversary of the House voting to impeach Bill Clinton on Dec. 19, 1998. Both arrived awkwardly in the holiday season known for “glad tidings” and “goodwill toward men.” Clinton wasn’t the only one attempting holiday merriment that day in 1998. In the Capitol, Rep. Henry J. Hyde, who chaired the House Judiciary Committee overseeing the impeachment at the time, scheduled the committee’s holiday party for the same time as the impeachment vote. (The vote was later moved from Thursday to Saturday.)

Not so happy holidays: Donald Trump will be impeached almost 18 years to the day from Bill Clinton’s impeachment.

Happening todayDonald Trump Jr. and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul will attend a “winter gala” hosted by the conservative group Turning Point USA, 6 p.m., Mar-a-Lago Club, 1100 South Ocean Blvd., Palm Beach.

Meanwhile Court orders FBI to fix national security wiretaps after damning report” via Charlie Savage of The New York Times — In an extraordinary public order, the presiding judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, Rosemary Collyer, gave the FBI a Jan. 10 deadline to come up with a proposal. It was the first public response from the court to the scathing findings released last week by the Justice Department’s independent inspector general about the wiretapping of the former Trump adviser, Carter Page, as part of the Russia investigation. “The frequency with which representations made by FBI personnel turned out to be unsupported or contradicted by information in their possession, and with which they withheld information detrimental to their case, calls into question whether information contained in other F.B.I. applications is reliable,” Collyer wrote.

And …Judge rejects prosecutors’ request to lock up Giuliani associate” via Erin Durkin of POLITICO — A federal judge rejected prosecutors’ request to lock up indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas Tuesday, allowing him to remain under house arrest in Florida. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan asked the judge to jail Parnas for lying about his finances, saying his bail should be revoked to prevent him from fleeing. They said in court Tuesday that a $1 million transfer Parnas received — which they accused him of concealing — came from a lawyer for Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash, who faces criminal charges in the United States.


Marco Rubio removes hold on appointment of Interior official after raising drilling concern” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Rubio’s office says it notified the Department of Interior that the Florida Republican had resolved his hold blocking a Senate vote to make Katharine MacGregor the Interior deputy secretary. Rubio’s acquiescence followed a conversation with Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, during which they discussed widespread opposition in Florida to offshore drilling and the importance of a bill Rubio is pushing to extend an energy exploration moratorium in the eastern Gulf of Mexico until 2027. Rubio’s staff also met with MacGregor.

Marco Rubio has removed his block of Donald Trump nominee Katharine MacGregor for deputy Interior secretary.

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. That bill also formally recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country’s president.

Mike Waltz signs off on national security spending, but nothing else” via Florida Politics — While many Republican members of Congress laud pork barrel spending in the fiscal year 2020 budget accord reached Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Waltz took a different tack. Waltz held the line on voting for most spending, except national security expenditures, indicating discomfort with the process. “I voted against the behemoth package to fund the remaining federal departments because it was introduced fewer than 24 hours before the vote and significantly increased spending from last year,” Waltz said. Waltz did vote for the Fiscal Year 2020 national security package, which includes Pentagon, NASA, Homeland Security, and Justice Department spending.

Senate expected to ok $200 million for Everglades, EAA reservoir to curb Lake O discharges” via’ Tyler Treadway of TC Palm — The Everglades and St. Lucie River, Caloosahatchee River and Indian River Lagoon may be getting an early — although long-awaited — Christmas present. A bipartisan federal spending deal the U.S. House approved Tuesday contains the $200 million appropriation for Everglades restoration environmentalists have been seeking for years.

NCAA chief says student-athlete pay ‘well past the ability’ of states to solve” via Juan Perez Jr. of POLITICO — NCAA President Mark Emmert agrees with Sens. Mitt Romney and Chris Murphy: Some kind of federal standard is needed to compensate college athletes for their work. But an enormous amount of negotiating lies ahead. Emmert, Murphy, Romney and staff huddled behind closed doors for the first in what could be a lengthy series of bipartisan congressional working group meetings to address the charged debate over college athlete pay. “We need your help right now,” Emmert said he told the two senators, speaking later in the day at an Aspen Institute Sports and Society Program forum. “I think that the debate and the discussion is well past the ability of a group of states to resolve it.”

— 2020 —

What Rick Wilson is reading —Trump conservative critics launch PAC to fight reelection” via Steve Peoples of The Associated Press — The new organization, known as the Lincoln Project, represents a formal step forward for the so-called Never Trump movement, which has been limited largely to social media commentary and cable news attacks through the first three years of Trump’s presidency. Organizers report fundraising commitments exceeding $1 million to begin, although they hope to raise and spend much more to fund a months-long advertising campaign in a handful of 2020 battleground states to persuade disaffected Republican voters to break from Trump’s GOP. The mission, as outlined in a website that launched coinciding with a New York Times opinion piece, is simple: “Defeat President Trump and Trumpism at the ballot box.”

Joe Biden is a ‘healthy, vigorous’ 77-year-old, his doctor declares” via Matt Visor and Cleve Woodson of The Washington Post — Biden has faced persistent questions during the campaign about his age and his mental acuity, most prominently from Trump. The summary indicated that Biden was being treated for several conditions, including an irregular heartbeat, gastroesophageal reflux and seasonal allergies. It was written by Kevin C. O’Connor, who is director of executive medicine at the GW Medical Faculty Associates and was Biden’s physician when he was Vice President. Those documents showed that Biden, then 65, had suffered no permanent damage from the near-fatal brain aneurysms that he suffered 20 years earlier. His most recent records say that a 2014 CT angiogram showed no recurrence of disease.

Despite some earlier health concerns, doctors say Joe Biden is an active, healthy 77-year-old.

Is Pete Buttigieg the next Emmanuel Macron?” via Ryan Heath of POLITICO — When Macron goes head-to-head with Trump, as he did at a December NATO press conference, it’s a study in contrasts. The French president is young, intellectual and polite. Audacious but smooth, Macron projects the sense that he always planned to be president. Trump is his opposite: crude, unfiltered, down to earth. The Trump-Macron encounters have, over the years, created a viral energy — think of that 2017 bone-crushing handshake in which neither one was willing to release his grip — that has intrigued many Trump critics. Some Democrats who yearn to pit a young, charismatic globalist against a staunch American nationalist might wonder if the party has a Macron of its own in Buttigieg.

Buttigieg omitted high-powered bundlers from disclosure” via Maggie Severns of POLITICO — The public list of bundlers, featuring more than 100 people who have raised at least $25,000 for Buttigieg, was meant to bring a close to more than a week of feuding between Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren over campaign transparency. But the list left off a number of people the Buttigieg campaign had previously touted as top donors in an internal campaign fundraising report. They include uber-wealthy supporters such as Boston power broker Jack Connors Jr. — who declared he was “all in for Pete Buttigieg” in a June fundraiser invite — and Hollywood producer Jordan Horowitz, whose films include the hit “La La Land.”

‘Racism permeates everything’: Running as a black candidate after Barack Obama” via Laura Barrón-López of POLITICO — When Kamala Harris dropped out two weeks ago, it hit Cory Booker hard. She may have been his rival in the race for the Democratic nomination, but her exit represented something bigger. If Harris — a friend of Booker’s and the only black woman in the race, who began her campaign with such promise — couldn’t make it to Iowa, what did it mean for him, a black man still in the fight but unable to qualify for the Democratic debate? At the heart of Booker’s dilemma is a larger question about the Democratic Party and American politics: What if Obama was not just the first, but the only person who is not a white man to occupy the White House for decades to come?


Democratic debate to move forward after tentative agreement in labor fight” via Quint Forgey of POLITICO — All seven White House contenders who qualified for the debate at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles threatened to skip the event amid planned demonstrations by campus workers over their inability to reach a collective bargaining agreement with Sodexo, a global services company that is subcontracted by the university to handle foodservice operations. But in a statement, UNITE HERE Local 11 — a union representing 150 cashiers, cooks, dishwashers and servers at the university — announced that Sodexo and the workers had “negotiated through Monday evening to secure a tentative contract agreement.”


Andrew Gillum to campaign for state legislative candidates endorsed by Forward Florida” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — “I’m thrilled to be supporting fantastic candidates all across Florida and to be working on building lasting Democratic infrastructure in this state,” Gillum said in a statement. Gillum will be visiting those targeted districts in January and February. In early December, 21 Democratic candidates secured the endorsement of Forward Florida. That move came after a late November announcement that Forward Florida would be giving $150,000 to the Florida Democratic Party House Victory Caucus, a group aimed at helping Democrats take the state House. Gillum will also be looking to do “targeted voter registration throughout the districts” he plans on giving focus on in 2020.

Andrew Gillum is taking to the road to support candidates endorsed by Forward Florida.

One Clearwater Mayor candidate has raised over $100,000. The election’s in March.” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — 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. That’s not the case this year. The two regular city council races and the Mayor’s race each feature at least four candidates.


Aaron Zahn out as JEA CEO; Melissa Dykes takes over as interim CEO” via David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union — Zahn’s tumultuous tenure as CEO of JEA ended as suddenly as it began when the JEA board voted to part ways after fallout from a controversial employee incentive plan engulfed the agency in charges that executives were trying to enrich themselves if JEA were sold. The JEA board voted to place Zahn on administrative leave indefinitely while city attorneys investigate Zahn to see if he can be fired with cause, which would save the city at least $842,000. That severance package could balloon to well over a million dollars in the event JEA sells. In his place, the board promoted on an interim basis Chief Operating Officer Dykes, the latest shuffle in the top leadership for JEA.

JEA CEO Aaron Zahn is out, but with a nice severance package.

Zahn could walk away with $842,000 severance” via Christopher Hong of the Florida Times-Union — The board of director’s decision to terminate Zahn without cause entitles him to a lump sum severance payment of $200,000 and a consulting job that will pay him $634,000 over the next year. His health benefits are worth an additional $8,000. Zahn, who had no utility experience prior to working for JEA, could see his total post-employment payout jump to $1.3 million if JEA is privatized as a result of the sales negotiations that Zahn entered into, thanks to a separate retention bonus agreement that entitles him to a bonus equal to his $520,000 annual salary. Board members acknowledged the troubling optics of firing their embattled CEO and letting him walk away with that much money.

Orange County OKs plan to set up affordable housing trust fund, add 30,000 places to live” via Carolyn Glenn of the Orlando Sentinel — The Orange County Commission unanimously approved a plan that over the next decade could create 30,300 new places to live and inject $160 million into affordable housing projects. The 10-year plan was devised by the Housing for All task force, a group of representatives from Universal Orlando and Disney World, Realtors, architects and leaders from nonprofits and hospitals that Mayor Jerry Demings created shortly after he was elected last November. The 38-member task force met over several months in hopes of lifting Orlando from last place among U.S. cities for affordable housing, according to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition.

Andrew Warren gives felons who still owe fees chance to get voting rights back” via Dan Sullivan of the Tampa Bay Times — State Attorney Warren announced the creation of a process in which those eligible to vote again under Amendment 4 can submit an application, learn how much they owe the court system and work to get their case in front of a judge. The move is meant to ensure that financial obligations don’t hold back those who want to register to vote. “The idea that Amendment 4 would be available only to people who can afford it is unfair, it’s un-American and it’s unacceptable,” Warren said.

Naples Daily News to move production operations to Sarasota” via Laura Leyden of the Fort Myers News-Press — The printing operations at the Naples Daily News will move to Sarasota in mid-February. Stopping press operations at the news organization’s headquarters off Immokalee Road will eliminate 49 full- and part-time jobs. The presses in North Naples are used to print multiple newspapers, including The News-Press in Fort Myers, as well as several community publications — such as The Banner, Marco Eagle and Collier Citizen. The announcement comes after the combination of New Media Investment Group, including the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, and Gannett, including the Naples Daily News and The News-Press.


Happening today — The Triumph Gulf Coast board, which administers BP settlement money, will meet for a legislative update and discuss projects, 10 a.m. Central time, Bay County Government Center, Bay County Commission chamber, 840 West 11th St., Panama City.

Disney, Brightline confirm advanced talks over theme-park station” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — Brightline and Walt Disney Co. officials confirmed advanced talks about a station on or near theme-park property as part of a route to Tampa proposed by the passenger-rail system being renamed as Virgin Trains USA. Michael Cegelis, Virgin’s executive vice president for infrastructure, told local road officials recently that his company’s discussions with Disney are in a “rather advanced state now.” Disney officials responded with a statement saying, “As the top vacation destination and largest single-site employer in the United States, Walt Disney World Resort is an obvious choice for a rail station between Orlando International Airport and Tampa.”

Palm Beach Commissioners support tourist tax funding for baseball improvements” via Hannah Morse of the Palm Beach Post — Palm Beach County commissioners unanimously agreed to help fund upgrades to Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. The new deal shaved $3 million off the cost of the total project from $111 million to $108 million, reduced the county’s annual contributions for the first nine years and requires some of the bonds issued to be tax exempt to “maximize construction proceeds.” Proposed improvements that were cut included signage and landscape at the entrance, a first-base group area, elevated seating decks in the outfield and a 360-degree concourse. Palm Beach County will use tourism tax dollars specifically dedicated to infrastructure to contribute $75.1 million over 25 years. The state’s contributions, if approved, will be $50 million.

Palm Beach Commissioners have signed off on upgrading Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium.

Real estate developer proposes massive downtown St. Pete project” via Margie Manning of St. Pete Catalyst — Property Markets Group wants to replace the St. Petersburg Municipal Services Center at Fourth Street and Central Avenue with a 1.5 million square foot mixed-use building. While plans are still preliminary, the new building could have 100,000 square feet of office space, 100,000 square feet of retail, a 200-plus room hotel, 500 residential units and 1,000 parking spaces, according to a proposal sent to Mayor Rick Kriseman by Property Markets Group, a real estate development firm with offices in New York and Miami. It would be one of two new structures developed by PMG downtown.

Miami-Dade approves new $267 million courthouse downtown to replace 1928 building” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — After five years of stalled plans and proposals, Miami-Dade Commissioners approved a development plan for a new civil courthouse downtown, ratifying a novel agreement that will let a developer build and operate the facility on Flagler Street for 30 years. The unanimous vote followed persistent efforts by Miami judges and lawyers to secure public dollars for a modern, $267 million building to replace the existing 1928 facility, an aging structure with a history of leaks and air-quality issues and a legacy that stretches back to an Al Capone trial. Voters rejected a tax increase for the project in 2014, leaving Miami-Dade to tap existing dollars for a long-term development deal that multiple building groups tried to win.

The people of Miami aren’t mean, WalletHub, we’re passionate” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Miamians are mean? We’re calling BS on that one. We prefer the word “passionate.” Maybe survey taker WalletHub, which lives to pick on Miami, clearly has missed the boat in ranking us one of the meanest cities in the country. Did WalletHub consider that for decades this city had been a mini Ellis Island, opening its arms, providing community services and public schools to millions of refugees: Cubans, Haitians, Venezuelans, Central Americans, chief among them. People get a foothold on the American dream here in Miami, WalletHub. How mean is that? Who foots the bill? The compassionate residents of Miami-Dade.

Chris Brown, Migos, DaBaby to perform during Super Bowl week” via The Associated Press — VEW Live! announced that the acts will join Cardi B as headliners for the inaugural VEWTOPIA Music Festival, which takes place Jan. 31-Feb. 1 at Marlins Park. Others slated to perform during the two-day event include Megan Thee Stallion, Davido, Gunna and Shenseea. More performers will be announced later. Super Bowl 54 will take place on Feb. 2 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. Shakira and Jennifer Lopez will headline the halftime show. Lady Gaga, Guns N’ Roses, Maroon 5, DJ Khaled and the Chainsmokers are some of the artists who have announced they are holding concerts in Miami days before the big game.

Shaquille O’Neal planning Miami-flavored carnival for Super Bowl party” via The Associated Press — O’Neal announced that his fourth annual “Shaq’s Fun House” will be Jan. 31. The event is part carnival, party and music festival. Artists set to perform feature a Miami connection and include Pitbull, Diddy and Tiesto, along with Diplo, Carnage and Shaq as DJ Diesel. Rapper DaBaby, who appeared on “Saturday Night Live” Dec. 7. is set to perform on a second stage. “Miami has always been a fun place,” O’Neal said. “I used to be the emperor of Miami, so now the emperor is returning.” O’Neal last held his “Shaq’s Fun House” in Atlanta before the Super Bowl. O’Neal said the Miami event at the Mana Wynwood Convention Center will be even bigger, with 5,000 expected.

Clearwater lawyer who shooed raccoon off boat needs ‘professionalism workshop,’ Florida bar says” via Jack Evans of the Tampa Bay Times — The Florida Bar issued the recommendation of diversion for Thomas Cope. The workshop will cost him $750, but as long as he completes it, he won’t face discipline for the raccoon incident. The trouble for Cope began when the lawyer posted a video on his Facebook page of someone — the Bar’s recommendation later confirmed it was Cope himself — yelling at a raccoon as the animal clung at the bow of his boat. “Get off my f—— boat,” Cope yells in the video. The video shows Cope approaching the raccoon, which falls off the boat. It then zooms in on the animal as it tries to stay afloat. “So long, sucker!” Cope says to the raccoon.

Without a new sponsor for the Miami Heat arena, county owes $2 million to team” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — With talks still underway to find a new title sponsor at the Miami Heat’s county-owned arena, Miami-Dade will need to use county dollars to pay the team up to $2 million in 2020 to cover the missing naming-rights revenue when the existing deal with American Airlines expires Jan. 1. The administration of Mayor Carlos Gimenez officially ran out of time Tuesday to have a new naming agreement approved by the County Commission before 2020, when American’s deal ends and Miami-Dade takes over sponsorship responsibility from the Heat. The first $500,000 quarterly payment to the Heat is due March 31, covering the first three months of the year.

She was just acquitted and reinstated as mayor — but she could face new charges” via Aarom Leibowitz of the Miami Herald — Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper is expected to sit on the dais at a City Commission meeting for the first time since she was arrested and suspended from office in January 2018. Last week, Gov. DeSantis reinstated Cooper after a state jury found her not guilty on six criminal counts, including multiple felonies, related to allegations that she accepted campaign cash over the legal limit as part of an FBI sting. But Cooper isn’t out of the woods yet. Representatives for the Broward State Attorney’s Office told the Miami Herald on Monday that prosecutors are still considering whether to bring misdemeanor charges against Cooper and two former Hallandale Beach commissioners accusing them of violating Florida’s Sunshine Law, unrelated to last month’s trial.


We are Republicans, and we want Donald Trump defeated” via George Conway, Steve Schmidt, John Weaver and Rick Wilson for The New York Times — As Americans, we must stem the damage he and his followers are doing to the rule of law, the Constitution and the American character. That’s why we are announcing the Lincoln Project, an effort to highlight our country’s story and values, and its people’s sacrifices and obligations. This effort transcends partisanship and is dedicated to nothing less than the preservation of the principles that so many have fought for, on battlefields far from home and within their own communities. Over these next 11 months, our efforts will be dedicated to defeating Trump and Trumpism at the ballot box and to elect those patriots who will hold the line. We do not undertake this task lightly, nor from ideological preference.

Why I will vote to impeach President Donald Trump” via Debbie Wasserman Schultz for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Every Congress I take an oath to protect our Constitution and the Rule of Law, to safeguard the basic framework of our democracy so we can all build a better nation together. Trump took this same oath. Yet indisputable evidence shows that he violated it. Only a blind partisan could ignore that this president grossly abused the power of his office or deny that he poses an ongoing threat to our national security and election integrity. Put simply, Trump is corrupt and unfit for his office.

The 2020 Census looms, and Florida’s not ready to be counted” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — The 2020 Census is looming, and the state appears poised to let billions of dollars slip through its fingers. The population count is a massive undertaking with a simple result. The more people a state has, the more money it gets. We’re talking $675 billion to $900 billion a year in federal funding a year. Instead of gearing up to count every Florida resident, state lawmakers have shown careless indifference toward the Census. We’re talking $675 billion to $900 billion a year in federal funding a year. The Census also determines which states gain or lose congressional seats. Instead of gearing up to count every Florida resident, state lawmakers have shown careless indifference toward the Census.

Why Florida needs to promote itself” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — The tide of tourism is rising in Hillsborough County thanks to the dedicated work of Visit Tampa Bay and VISIT FLORIDA. As a result, Hillsborough County’s economy is booming with unprecedented numbers of new restaurants, hotels, and events — and the 53,000 jobs that come with them. Florida House Speaker José Oliva has declared VISIT FLORIDA a waste of money, arguing that the success of Ponce de Leon, Henry Flagler, and Walt Disney prove Florida is such a self-evident tourism destination it need not market itself to visitors. “If you build it,” Oliva said, quoting the most famous line from the film “Field of Dreams,” “he will come.” Respectfully, Oliva is dead wrong.

Built-in bias: Florida newsrooms show leftward lurch with unionization votes” via Brian Burgess of the Capitolist — Last week, the newsroom of the Miami Herald, that is, the reporters, photographers and other journalists, voted overwhelmingly to form One Herald Guild, a labor union that promises to “advocate for better conditions in their workplace and fight to protect their ability to produce award-winning journalism for years to come.” While the newsroom employees assuredly believe the move sends a strong message to the management of the Miami Herald, it also sends an exigent message about the worldview of the Miami Herald newsroom: those 66 pro-union reporters, we can assume, find themselves in solidarity with other unionized workforces, as well as in support of political candidates and public policy that is sympathetic to similarly-organized labor unions in other industries.

Pete Buttigieg kicks off his Latino outreach campaign with a slogan popularized by communists” by Giancarlo Sopo of The Blaze — Struggling with low poll numbers among Latino voters, Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s campaign launched a Hispanic outreach effort on Monday. Buttigieg announced the initiative on his social media accounts by invoking a Spanish-language slogan that is raising eyebrows among Latino leaders. The mayor of South Bend, Indiana, tweeted “El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido” (“the people united, will never be defeated”), a protest chant that was famously popularized by Latin American communists. The saying was also featured in several campaign communications, including as a call-to-action on a Latino website.


For Tre’ Evers’ Consensus Communications, the past two years have been exceptionally good:

— Backed by $50 million in advertising, the leader in political communications created 210 ads, growing its client base and expanding markets, and garnering eight awards along the way.

— Among the more influential Consensus adverts: Several for then-candidate Ashley Moody in her bid for Florida’s Attorney General, as well as some digital spots for Daniel Cameron, a young African American Republican, for his successful bid to become Attorney General in Kentucky.

— Dubbed the “Oscars of political advertising” by Esquire magazine, Consensus was honored with a “Pollie Award,” well-regarded as the most prized and sought-after awards in the political communications and public affairs industries.

— Another accolade: “Telly Awards,” which highlights stellar work created within television and across video, for all screens. Competing with over 12,000 entries from all 50 states and five continents, Telly Award winners include some of the world’s most respected advertising agencies, television stations, production companies and publishers from across the globe.

“We’re grateful for our phenomenal clients who make it possible,” Evers says. “As we prepare for 2020, we’re taking a moment to celebrate the awards, the clients and the years behind us.”

To view a sampling of Consensus Communications’ award-winning work, click on the image below:


Jacqueline Corcoran joins Corcoran Partners — Corcoran Partners now has a second Corcoran working under its banner. The newly renamed lobbying firm will announce Wednesday that Jacqueline Corcoran, the sister of firm founder Michael Corcoran, is joining the team.

Jacqueline Corcoran brings a wealth of legal and political experience to the firm. She started her career working for then-House Minority Leader Ron Richmond, who served in the state House from 1972 to 1984.

She went on to work in the office of then-House Majority Whip Gaston Cantens, who was quick to congratulate her on the new gig.

“I am very happy to see that Jackie is joining the Corcoran firm. She was an exceptional Staff Director during my years as Majority Whip in the Florida House and is one of the smartest and hardest working individuals I have ever met in this process,” he said. “She is a strategic thinker that also has great relationships and is well respected. I am very much looking forward to working with her again.”

Her state government experience also includes stints as Special Counsel to the Attorney General, and Deputy Policy Chief to the Governor on economic development.


New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Mary Camp: Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops

Teye Reeves, Smith Bryan & Myers: DJI Technology

David Ash, DLA Consulting: City of Tallahassee

Jacqueline Corcoran, Corcoran Partners: Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools

Joseph Englander, Fowler White Burnett: GREENTONE N.A.

Jonathan Steverson, Foley & Lardner: GI SHAVINGS

Heather Turnbull, Christopher Finkbeiner, Ashley Ross, Rubin Turnbull & Associates: Burford Capital, Consumer Protection Alliance, Greater Orlando Aviation Authority

Barbara Petersen led the fight for openness in Florida government” via Angela Dimichele of Fresh Take Florida — Petersen wanted the kind of philosophical education that law school provided. She wanted to be able to think like a legal expert; sieve through a document to find every truth and lie and question each word and its meaning. She passed the Bar, with the highest possible score. She was never interested in defending anyone before a judge or jury. She wanted to become a defender of the law itself. And she did, rising to become one of the nation’s top protectors of open government and a staunch advocate of First Amendment rights. “I have found such a passion, and it is such an important issue that I firmly believe in and it really did change my life,” she says.

Berneice Cox named permanent president, CEO of the United Way of the Big Bend” via TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Cox — a longtime community advocate and consultant who’s been the United Way of the Big Bend’s interim president and CEO — now is staying on full time. The announcement was made during a luncheon attended by community and elected leaders at the DoubleTree Hotel by Hilton in downtown Tallahassee. Her permanent role begins Jan. 1. Cox’s new salary was not disclosed. Cox is replacing Katrina Rolle, who led the United Way since 2015 and is now president and CEO of the Community Foundation of North Florida.


Flags to fly half-staff in honor of former legislator John Broxson — Broxson, who died Dec. 9, served as Sheriff of Santa Rosa County in 1957. He was then elected to the state House from 1962 until 1964 and the state Senate in 1966, serving until 1972. He also served as Santa Rosa County Commissioner for District 5 from 2004 until 2008. Gov. DeSantis directed the flags of the United States and the state of Florida to fly half-staff at the Santa Rosa County Courthouse in Milton, the city government office of Gulf Breeze and at the State Capitol from sunrise to sunset on Wednesday.

RIP: Former lawmaker John Broxson passes.

— ALOE —

A World War II veteran who helped build Epcot returns to see a hidden side of the park” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — Ninety-four-year-old Stephen Nemeth gazed up as a flashlight shone on the pipes in the American Adventure Pavilion — pipes that he’d help install. The Kissimmee man was on a special private Disney World tour recently to go behind the scenes and see what he helped construct for the park’s 1982 grand opening. The tour was Disney’s goodwill gesture to Nemeth, a World War II U.S. Navy veteran, for his contributions to the history of both Disney World and America. “We’re here for you today,” Epcot engineer manager Doug DeBaere quietly told Nemeth, as he led the veteran and his two grown children around the park. “All I can say is thanks, thanks, thanks,” Nemeth said.

Tributes, standing ovation at ‘Rise of Skywalker’ premiere” via Jonathan Landrum 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.” 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. Comedian-actor Seth Green said he enjoyed watching how the latest film closed the final chapter of the Skywalker saga: “I loved it. I’m going to be unpacking this for a while. It’s dense, it’s deep, it’s full of awesome stuff. To me, it’s a satisfying finale of this saga.”

Tributes, standing ovation at ‘Rise of Skywalker’ premiere.


Cozy up with this fireplace straight from Arendelle on Disney+” via Emily McCain of WFTS — While we can’t build a snowman here in Florida, thanks to Disney+ we can curl up next to a fireplace straight from Arendelle. Enjoy the royal living room with all the little touches Frozen fans are sure to love. The scene features a little Christmas tree made of ice (looking at you Elsa), the Arendelle crest and stockings hung with care.

Concerned about your holiday package getting stolen? It’s porch pirates who should be worried — about Glitter Bomb 2.0.” via Rachel Siegel of The Washington Post — You may remember Mark Rober, the former NASA engineer who rose to YouTube fame last year after a $5 package was stolen from his doorstep. His mission: to exact a little justice by leaving booby-trapped boxes outside homes — and making it clear to any would-be thief that he or she had messed with the wrong porch. On Sunday, Rober unveiled a souped-up version of his creation, one he spent 11 months engineering with the same precision he put into the Curiosity Mars rover. This time around, Rober scored the endorsement of his glitter bomb muse: actor Macaulay Culkin. He makes a cameo in the video and even takes the fart spray for a test run to ensure optimal … effect.

To view the Glitter Bomb 2.0 video, click on the image below:

Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’ just now — yes, just now — hit No. 1” via Elahe Izadi of The Washington Post — Carey’s ode to Christmas has done well every year since its 1994 release, but the infectious carol only now officially reigns from the top of the charts. Billboard revealed that “All I Want for Christmas Is You” rests comfortably at the top spot on the Hot 100 chart for the week of Dec. 21. The feat means Carey’s song has now broken multiple records: “All I Want” is the first holiday song to reach No. 1 on the Hot 100 since the Chipmunks’ 1958 “The Chipmunk Song”; it’s the most-streamed track on Spotify by a female artist in a 24-hour window, and its 20 weeks in the British singles Top 10 chart is the most of any Christmas song.

Gulf Breeze man pays 36 families’ utility bills for Christmas” via Annie Blanks of the Pensacola News Journal — Mike Esmond knows what it’s like to not have enough money to keep the heat on at Christmastime. Now, the 73-year-old Gulf Breeze resident owns the successful business Gulf Breeze Pools and Spa and is doing his part to make sure that other local families don’t suffer the way he did in 1983. Earlier this month, Esmond went to the city of Gulf Breeze and requested a list of all utility accounts that were past due and at risk of having their gas and water turned off. There were 36 households with past due accounts. Esmond paid off every single one of them — in total, approximately $4,600 worth of bills.

Where can you find Miami’s best mall Santa?” via Jess Swanson of the Miami New Times — Who are these mall Santas? Where did they come from? And where do they all go in January? So I set out to visit ten malls and their Santas in 48 hours. And what did I learn? Among other things, I ascertained that sitting in a chair for hours on end and interacting with hundreds of children a day for minutes at a time, all the while tempering their outbursts and remaining positive, requires a special sort of magic. Having embarked on this self-assignment expecting The Nightmare Before Christmas, I emerged with the reassuring knowledge that the holiday spirit is indeed infectious. Spoiler alert: I sat on some laps.

Assignment editors — Miami Young Republicans, GOP leaders, special guests, and voters will celebrate the season with ugly sweaters, singing karaoke, and collecting toys for children, 7 p.m., Open Stage Club at 2325 Galiano Street, Coral Gables.


In addition to our friend Smith, celebrating today are U.S. Rep. Bill PoseyPeter Boulware, INFLUENCE 100’er Julio Fuentes, DEM Director Jared Moskowitz, Alex Penelas, and FSU president John Thrasher.


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

Written By

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

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, 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
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St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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