Fresh off embargo — Gov. Ron DeSantis is still enjoying high approval ratings nearly a year into his first term.
In fact, he may not have hit his ceiling.
A new measure from Mason-Dixon Polling found nearly two-thirds of Florida voters approve of the Governor’s job performance while just 26% found him lacking. The balance was unsure.
DeSantis’ current 65% approval rating is a 3-point bump from Mason-Dixon’s March poll, and his plus-39 score in the December poll edges out the March measure by a single point.
He’s also above water in every region, with a high watermark of 72% in North Florida and a low of 56 percent in South Florida. The gender gap is minimal, with 70% support among men and 61 percent support among women.
The Governor, as ever, also enjoys near-universal support among Republicans — GOP voters are behind him 93-4. Of note, that spread makes him more popular among Republicans than President Donald Trump, who scored a 91-7 rating among GOP voters in a Mason-Dixon poll released earlier this week.
Still, it takes bipartisan support to earn a sky-high approval rating in such a purple state. And DeSantis has it.
The survey shows 40% of Democrats approve of the Governor compared to 47% who don’t. Independents, meanwhile, favored him by a margin of 62-26.
First in Sunburn — In less than a year, voters will either give Trump a second term or send him packing, and Florida may well be the deciding factor.
The Florida Democratic Party is staffing up for its effort to flip the state blue.
On Friday, FDP and the Democratic National Committee announced it had brought on Frances Swanson to direct rapid response efforts in the lead up to Election Day 2020.
“We are thrilled to have Frances on the team! We are making early investments needed to build a strong team to send Donald Trump packing in 2020, and her position will play a huge role in that,” FDP Chair Terrie Rizzo said.
“The road to the White House runs right through Florida, and it is crucial we have someone dedicated to exposing Trump for who he really is — a corrupt and ineffective president who consistently breaks his promises to Floridians.”
Before touching down in the Sunshine State, Swanson served as Iowa Press Secretary for former presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke.
In her new role, she’ll focus on holding Trump accountable for “his broken promises to Floridians” — expect plenty of messaging on health care and offshore drilling.
The new addition is the latest in a volley of hires by FDP, which now has a staff of 90 — the largest of any Democratic State Party. At this time four years ago, the party only had a staff of 20.
— TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Despite objections from the business community and Attorney General Ashley Moody, the Florida Supreme Court ruled there’s no legal reason to prevent a minimum wage amendment from appearing on the ballot next November.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— The battle over impeaching the President is over, and the case against Trump will be moving to the Senate in the New Year. But in Tallahassee, Senate President Bill Galvano says the drama in D.C. won’t have much of an impact during the upcoming Legislative Session.
— House Speaker José Oliva orders an investigation of Moffitt Cancer Center after the CEO, VP, and four researchers are forced out because of money from China.
— Is it DeSantis or DeSanta? The Governor makes three stops in the Panhandle, delivering grants to victims of Hurricane Michael, cash to help rebuild.
— The latest adventures of Florida Man: A 22-year-old Deltona man is accused of exposing himself in front of two 13-year-old cheerleaders from Galaxy Middle School. They were handing out candy canes in the school pickup and drop-off loop.
To listen, click on the image below:
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@realDonaldTrump: So after the Democrats gave me no Due Process in the House, no lawyers, no witnesses, no nothing, they now want to tell the Senate how to run their trial. Actually, they have zero proof of anything, they will never even show up. They want out. I want an immediate trial!
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) December 20, 2019
—@RepValDemings: America’s workers and businesses can create endless opportunities when they are able to compete on an even playing field. However, increased economic output must translate to real quality of life gains for Americans. With reforms from @HouseDemocrats, #USMCA does that.
—@GovRonDeSantis: In addition to the funding we announced earlier today, Florida has been awarded $63.2 million in federal disaster assistance through @usedgov to restore educational programs in counties affected by Hurricane Michael. More info here — bit.ly/2s6gxdL
Great time celebrating the holidays with our amazing professional staff earlier this week. Thanks to @BillMontford for judging the dessert competition. Glad I didn't have to make that decision! pic.twitter.com/IlwUKkVnNA
— Bill Galvano (@BillGalvano) December 19, 2019
—@JohnMorganESQ: Before law school, I was a member of CWA and AFL/CIO. I am counting on my brothers and sisters in OUR historic fight. #forALLthepeople
—@JeremyMatlow: If we aren’t willing to give a Police Chief the same considerations we give a Football Coach, where does that leave us? Completely baffled that this was mishandled, and I will do a thorough investigation to find out what happened between the job offer and now.
— DAYS UNTIL —
CES® 2020 begins — 18; College Football National Championship — 24; 2020 Session begins — 25; Florida Chamber Legislative Fly-in — 25; Seventh Democratic presidential debate in Des Moines — 25; Florida TaxWatch State of the TaxPayer Dinner in Tallahassee — 26; New Brexit deadline — 42; Super Bowl LIV in Miami — 44; Great American Realtors Day — 45; Iowa Caucuses — 45; Eighth Democratic presidential debate in Manchester — 52; New Hampshire Primaries — 53; Ninth Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas — 61; Nevada caucuses — 64; 10th Democratic presidential debate Charleston — 67; South Carolina primaries — 71; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 84; Florida’s presidential primary — 88; “Black Panther 2” debuts — 137; Florida Chamber Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 151; “Top Gun: Maverick” premiers — 189; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo begin — 215; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 242; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 292; First Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 300; Second presidential debate at Belmont — 307; 2020 General Election — 319.
— TOP STORY —
“$15 minimum wage approved for Florida ballot in 2020” via Zach Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Dubbed the Fair Wage Amendment, the constitutional revision would gradually increase Florida’s minimum wage, upping it to $10 an hour in 2021 and by $1 an hour each subsequent year until the $15 an hour level is reached. Florida’s minimum wage currently is $8.46 an hour, or $5.44 for employees who earn tips. The minimum wage for tipped employees also would gradually increase under the constitutional amendment. Orlando trial attorney John Morgan bankrolled the minimum wage amendment, pouring big money into the signature-gathering effort. “Now, the sprint to reverse decades of inequality really starts — and let me tell you — this is going to be a tough challenge,” Morgan said. The minimum wage increase will be listed on the ballot as Amendment 2.
— DATELINE: TALLY —
“DeSantis distributes Hurricane Michael grants” via Jim Turner and Tom Urban of the News Service of Florida — DeSantis pumped out $20 million to cover expenses for communities in eight Panhandle counties still struggling to recover from the Category 5 storm. DeSantis traveled to emergency facilities in hurricane-ravaged Gadsden, Calhoun and Bay counties to announce the distributions from the Hurricane Michael Recovery Grant Program. The money will be used to cover operating expenses, infrastructure repairs, beach renourishment, recreational facilities and debris removal costs that are not eligible for federal reimbursement. The grants are “another step in the recovery process,” DeSantis said.
“Ashley Moody argues against pot legalization initiative” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — The first-term Republican filed a petition with the Florida Supreme Court, opposing the Make It Legal Florida citizens’ initiative. Her position: that federal illegality means that adults will not be “permitted” to “possess, use, and buy marijuana.” A release from her office notes that “using and possessing the drug is and will still be a crime under federal law. Federal penalties for possessing the Schedule 1 Controlled Substance are and will remain significant.” Moody believes, therefore, that the ballot initiative is misleading.
“Jose Oliva calls for investigation into China-Moffitt ties” via Justine Griffin of the Tampa Bay Times — “The news (stories) coming out of Moffitt Cancer Center are of great concern and compel further investigation,” Oliva said in a statement. “While Moffitt’s leadership acted swiftly and decisively, a deeper look into this and all of our institutions is in order.” In an interview Thursday, Sprowls said actions by Moffitt’s CEO, Dr. Alan List, and other center employees had aided infiltration efforts by China and were indefensible. The Palm Harbor Republican, a former prosecutor, said lawmakers should take steps to make sure similar activity isn’t occurring at other academic institutions across the state.
“Lawmakers confronted with prison problems” via Ana Ceballos of the News Service of Florida — When state lawmakers talk about Florida prisons, a trifecta of problems often comes up: staffing levels, health care costs and crumbling facilities. Heeding Corrections Secretary Mark Inch’s warning that the “status quo is unsustainable,” DeSantis has called on the Legislature to put more money into the prison system — primarily to boost pay and retain correctional officers. But as lawmakers consider the governor’s proposals, Senate President Bill Galvano says he would like to spend more money on aging prison facilities, including addressing a lack of air conditioning. In Florida, one of the hottest areas in the nation, 18 of the state’s 50 prisons have air conditioning in housing areas. That concerns Galvano. “I am not just talking about the prisoners,” he said. “It’s also the people who are working there.”
“Will Robinson chances another try at lottery labels” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Bradenton Republican filed a fresh bill (HB 991) that would regulate several gaming efforts at the Florida Lottery. Most notable remains labeling, which was included in legislation vetoed this year by DeSantis and in a prior bill vetoed in 2017 by then-Gov. Rick Scott. This iteration of the bill calls for a simple, two-word message: “Play Responsibly.” “Frankly, that’s a message already widely used by the Lottery, but it codifies the message in statute,” Robinson said.
Assignment editors — The Revenue Estimating Conference meets for an impact conference, which analyzes potential costs of legislation, 9 a.m., 117 Knott Building.
— SAVE THE DATE —
— STATEWIDE —
“Florida Supreme Court decides ‘stand your ground’ cases” via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press — The Court granted a new “stand your ground” hearing to one defendant and denied the claim of another as it settled questions on whether a 2017 law should apply retroactively. The law shifted the burden of proof in stand your ground pretrial immunity hearings from defendants to prosecutors. The court ruled that the law can’t be retroactively applied to hearings that took place before it went into effect. But the new standard applies to defendants charged before the law took effect whose stand your ground claims still hadn’t been heard once it was in the books. That means Love will be given a new hearing on her stand your ground claim after being charged with attempted murder.
Board of Education amends budget request — The Florida Board of Education amended its 2020-21 budget request to align it with the spending plan put forward by DeSantis, Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida reports. The board’s original plan was not far off from the Governor’s, but now that they are in sync, the Legislature will face the combined front of DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran on education spending. “It’s important that we all give them that clear message that this is the agenda, this is where we’re all at, and we all fight on the same page,” Corcoran said before the amended budget was adopted. Notably, the plan includes a $903 million increase in teacher pay and bonuses. The $22.9 billion plan works out to a $302 increase in per-pupil spending.
“FPL to reduce power bills in 2020 as natural gas prices plummet” via Jeff Ostrowski of the Palm Beach Post — FPL, the state’s largest utility, said that the price of 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity will fall to $96.04 in 2020, down from $99.90 this year. FPL and other utilities have benefited from the plummeting price of natural gas, a vital energy source for power plants. The utility also says it’s reaping the rewards from its investments in solar. “Our long-term investments in state-of-the-art clean energy centers and in zero-emissions solar energy are helping to lower fuel costs and customer bills,” FPL President and Chief Executive Eric Silagy said in a statement. “We are focused on continuing to find innovative ways to save our customers money while providing industry-leading reliability.”
“Trend toward fewer speeding tickets projected to continue” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Despite the state’s increasing population and car usage, Florida courts are earning less from speeding tickets, budget estimates show. Fuel consumption increased, suggesting more cars are on the road. But that flies in the face of decreased speeding ticket payouts. During an Office of Economic and Demographic Research meeting to report projected revenue from fines and court fees, panelists listed less enforcement, traffic congestion and an aging — and slower driving — population as possible explanations. But, the decline in speeding tickets is just a continuation of a trend this decade. Jesse Atkinson, the EDR analyst leading its court revenue estimates, said he attributed the drop to FHP’s declining enforcement capabilities.
“Sharks, alligators, bears, pythons and Donald Trump: 2019 will be a hard year to top” via Ed Killer of TCPalm — The year that was 2019 was certainly a humdinger: Record sailfish catch — The fleet of 30 fishing teams amassed an eye-popping 969 sailfish releases in four days of fishing. New shark fishing regulations — Early this year, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved long-developed new fishing regulations to catch sharks from shore. Bear management plan — Human-bear interactions are soon to be on the rise mainly because while the bear population grows slowly, the human population in Florida does not. Artificial reef sunk — Every ship has a story, and the Voici Bernadette is no different. On June 23, the ship was sent to Davy Jones’ Locker, where it now is home to thousands of marine organisms and fish.
— FOR YOUR RADAR —
“Teachers pay high fees for retirement funds. Unions are partly to blame.” via Anne Tergesen and Gretchen Morgenson of The Wall Street Journal — At issue are 403(b) retirement savings plans for teachers and 457 plans for government workers — variations on the 401(k) plans many companies offer. About $900 billion was held in 403(b) plans for public-school teachers and 457 plans at the end of June, according to the Investment Company Institute, a mutual-fund industry trade group. In the crowded market, an endorsement from a union or municipal organization or affiliate can help an investment-product provider stand out. It also can give the provider’s sales agents access to union meetings, teachers’ lounges, benefit-enrollment fairs, and professional conferences to pitch retirement and other products.
— MOTHER NATURE —
“Duke Energy seeks rate hike to recoup costs from Hurricane Dorian” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The company estimates its costs from Hurricane Dorian at about $171 million and $400,000 for Tropical Storm Nestor. Duke applied with the Florida Public Service Commission to recoup costs. Utility consumers would absorb the costs. Duke estimates residential customers to see an increase of $5.34 per 1,000 kWh of electricity on a typical monthly bill. If approved, the rate hike would begin in March and continue for 11 months. Commercial and industrial customers would see an increase of up to 7.7 percent on their bills. The exact impact would vary based on “a variety of factors.”
— PEACHY —
“Could statements by Rick Scott, Mitch McConnell disqualify them as jurors?” via Antonio Fins of the Palm Beach Post — It took just about an hour after the U.S. House, in a partisan vote, had impeached President Trump before U.S. Sen. Rick Scott virtually cast his vote to acquit….Scott’s unequivocal position was strident, but not surprising. The junior senator from Florida had already been harshly critical of the impeachment effort in televised interviews and on social media posts.
“Senate Republicans pray Trump won’t tweet during trial” via Marianne Levine and Burgess Everett of POLITICO — “This is a solemn and serious undertaking, and I just think we don’t need a bunch of distractions,” said Sen. John Cornyn, who added it would be “optimal” for Trump to refrain from Twitter. “The president will like the outcome, I believe, in the end. So … making it easier, not harder, would be a good thing.” “The president would be best served by letting his lawyers speak for him and not doing any comment. At all,” concurred Sen. Susan Collins. “I doubt, however, that he will heed my advice.”
“How 2 Soviet émigrés fueled the Trump impeachment flames” via Michael Rothfeld, Ben Protess, William Rashbaum, Kenneth Vogel and Andrew Kramer of The New York Times — One night at Lique, a Miami restaurant and lounge where Soviet émigrés liked to gather, Lev Parnas learned that a construction magnate, Robert Pereira, wanted to host a fundraising dinner for Trump. Trump and Rudy Giuliani were there, and Parnas met Brian Ballard, an influential Florida lobbyist close to Trump. Parnas had gained a key to Trump World. He built a relationship with Ballard, promising to introduce him to potential international lobbying clients. Soon after the fundraiser, Parnas flew with Pereira on his plane to watch Trump debate Hillary Clinton in Las Vegas. On Election Day, they flew together again to attend Trump’s victory celebration in Midtown Manhattan. Ballard and Pereira have not been accused of any wrongdoing.
“Trump’s impeachment provokes a deeper descent into demagoguery” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — Trump received word in the middle of a campaign speech that he had been impeached by the House on the second of two articles. And how did he observe this somber moment? He mocked the widow of the longest-serving House member in history. “Dingell! Dingell! … Debbie Dingell, that’s a real beauty,” Trump told a crowd in Michigan, the home state of Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell and the husband she succeeded, John Dingell. He ridiculed the gratitude she showed Trump for her husband’s funeral honors this year. Then he speculated that John Dingell might now be “looking up” from hell. The crowd cheered. What is wrong with this man?
“Marco Rubio says the bar for removing Trump is high, but his mind isn’t set on impeachment” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — In a series of tweets, Rubio suggested the bar is high for Senators to vote to remove Trump, something seen as unlikely to happen in the Republican-controlled Senate. But he said he’ll make up his mind after reviewing the facts and testimony surrounding allegations that Trump abused his office while pushing the government of Ukraine to investigate a political rival. “The question before each Senator isn’t whether @POTUS did something offensive, wrong, improper or even bad for the country. The question is whether he has, (WITHIN THE MEANING OF THE CONSTITUTION) committed treason, bribery and/or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” Rubio tweeted.
“Chris Christie wades into Senate impeachment fight” via POLITICO — Christie is launching a big-money effort aimed at giving Senate Republicans air cover on impeachment — and positioning the former New Jersey governor as a counterweight to liberal billionaire Tom Steyer. The newly formed issue advocacy organization, Right Direction America, is set to begin a seven-figure TV and digital advertising offensive Monday. The nonprofit group will be focused on a half-dozen states where key 2020 Senate races are taking place: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Maine and North Carolina. Christie is looking to offset a multimillion-dollar offensive funded by Steyer, a Democratic presidential candidate and hedge fund executive, who is targeting Senate Republicans over impeachment. Steyer’s organization, Need to Impeach, has spent around $3.5 million across a handful of states pressuring GOP senators. Need to Impeach has also begun a $350,000 national TV ad campaign going after House and Senate Republicans on impeachment, and a spokesman for Steyer’s group said the funding would likely increase as the Senate trial gets underway.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Senators urge NBC to refuse to air 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics” via Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian of Axios — Sens. Scott and Josh Hawley have called on NBCUniversal, which has broadcast rights for the Olympics, to refuse to air the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing. Consider this the opening shot in the struggle between human rights advocates and the Chinese Communist Party, which will defend its successful bid to host the 2022 games at all costs. In the letter to top NBC executives, Scott and Hawley point to China’s “abysmal” human rights record. By agreeing to air the Beijing Olympics, the Senators write, NBC is “placing profits over principles and ensuring that China can be accepted into the international system even as it violates its basic rules and tenets.”
“New bill would task congressional commission to overview NCAA model” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The bipartisan legislation is being introduced by U.S. Reps. Donna Shalala and Ross Spano. “We must address the extent to which higher education institutions, which are currently receiving over $130 billion in federal student support, are subsidizing athletic programs with little or no financial controls,” Shalala said, announcing the bill. “It is time for Congress to intercede in order to protect college athletes and the academic integrity of our institutions of higher education.” Shalala is the former President of the University of Miami. She worked in the same role at Hunter College, and also served as Chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“House passes USMCA, giving Trump a major win after impeachment” via Sabrina Rodriguez of POLITICO Florida — In a 385-41 vote, lawmakers approved the replacement deal for NAFTA, which is expected to modestly raise U.S. GDP by almost $70 billion and create 176,000 jobs by its sixth year. Passage of the deal is not only a crucial win for Trump going into his 2020 reelection campaign but also a victory for Democrats who wanted to go home for recess with proof they could pass legislation that benefits American workers while recommending Trump’s removal. While the passage is indisputably a big win for Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has repeatedly made clear that passing the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, goes beyond partisan politics, particularly given Democrats’ long history of criticizing the old pact’s harm toward American workers.
Spotted — At one (or both) of the 2019 White House Christmas Receptions: Former DeSantis Campaign, Transition and Deputy Chief of Staff James Blair; former Governor’s Office of Policy & Budget staffer Dan Boyle; former DeSantis Campaign & Transition staffer Taylor Budowich; Gaston Cantens of Florida Crystals; Transportation Secy. Elaine Chao; Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway; Education Secretary Betsy DeVos; former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole; Trump lead pollster Tony Fabrizio; Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey; Jim and John McLaughlin of McLaughlin & Associates; Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez; Trump senior adviser John Pence (nephew of VP Mike Pence); Trump White House Impeachment Comms Team staffer Tony Sayegh; American Conservative Union Chair Matt Schlapp and his wife Mercedes, a former White House director of Strategic Communications; former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer; Republican operative/Trump campaign strategist Susie Wiles.
— DEM DEBATE —
‘Amy Klobuchar’s moment‘ via Elena Schneider and David Siders of POLITICO — She tore into Pete Buttigieg and swiped at Bernie Sanders. And by the time the debate ended Thursday, it appeared that Amy Klobuchar might have a chance. For months, the Minnesota senator has languished in public opinion polls outside of the top tier — an ineffectual moderate alternative to Joe Biden. But in one night, she was commanding a second look, and marking a late, sharp-elbowed turn in her campaign. In mid-single digits in national polling, Klobuchar went after Pete Buttigieg and her progressive Senate counterparts on the PBS NewsHour/POLITICO debate stage, skewering them over issues of electability and the political reality of their proposals. … Klobuchar, who has won three statewide elections in Minnesota, tweaked Buttigieg as a ‘local official.’ She attacked him for ‘mocking the 100 years of experience’ on the November debate stage, when Buttigieg contrasted his own time outside of Washington. Buttigieg, she implored, ‘should respect our experience when you look at how you evaluate someone.’
— 2020 —
“’Never Trump’ super PAC raises over $400,000 on strength of impeachment day donations” via Brian Schwartz of CNBC — The committee, known as the Lincoln Project, raised the sum from over 5,000 individual donors, with an average contribution of $77, according to the group’s treasurer, Reed Galen. The top donation was for $10,000. “We are truly honored by the outpouring of grassroots financial support that The Lincoln Project has received in just its first two days. It is a testament to the untapped reservoir of Americans — Republicans, Democrats and Independents — who believe our country deserves better than the leadership we have today,” Galen said. “We will work as hard as we can to ensure that next November, Donald Trump is a one-term president.”
“’Find your voice.’ Republicans train Trump campaign volunteers to swarm Twitter” via Francesca Chambers and Michael Wilner of the Miami Herald — The party has trained more than 30,000 volunteers, neighborhood team leaders and paid field organizers to use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Some of the advice is as basic as following Trump staff — and the president himself — as well as hashtags and talking points the campaign organizes around significant events like rallies and Democratic presidential debates. Other tips are more advanced and include advice on how to stage a well-lit photo. The program is part of the Trump Victory Leadership Initiative trainings at which the Republican National Committee prepares volunteers to campaign for the president, who has used Twitter to share his personal views more often than any predecessor.
Assignment editors — Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg will visit Chillicothe, Ohio, to meet with Mayor Luke Feeney and attend a roundtable to hear from community members about the effects of the opioid epidemic, 9 a.m. Eastern time (9:30 a.m. photo spray), Paper City Coffee, 47 South Paint Street, Chillicothe. Roundtable (invitation only) begins 9:30 a.m. (10 a.m. open to the press), Carlisle Block Building, 1st Floor Conference Room, 9th South Paint Street, Chillicothe.
— THE TRAIL —
“Perry says he won’t run for Yoho seat” via Cindy Swirko of the Ocala StarBanner — State Sen. Keith Perry, a Gainesville Republican, said he will not seek the District 3 congressional seat that fellow Gainesville Republican Ted Yoho is vacating next year. “People elected me to a four-year term and I feel obligated to serve it out,” Perry said. “It’s flattering that I have a lot of support, but you don’t run on that kind of thing. I made a commitment.” Perry added he can do more for Gainesville, Alachua County, the University of Florida and other local interests in the state Senate than he can if he were in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“Democrats stockpile cash for state-by-state redistricting fight” via Ally Mutnick of POLITICO — The Democratic redistricting initiative led by Barack Obama and Eric Holder has raised a whopping $52 million in the three years since its founding and is gearing up for its best chance to sever the GOP’s vice-like grip on the congressional lines. The National Democratic Redistricting Committee and allied groups are waging the party’s comeback bid after a 2010 romp that boxed them out of the redistricting process in nearly every key state. Now, the groups are targeting both chambers of the Florida, North Carolina and Texas legislatures. The NDRC and its allies take a multipronged approach to dismantle GOP control, playing in state supreme court races, bringing forward legal challenges and spending to flip chambers or break supermajorities.
— LOCAL —
“Chinese national held without bail on Mar-a-Lago trespassing charge” via Eliot Kleinberg of the Palm Beach Post — Jing Lu was booked at the Palm Beach County Jail on charges of loitering and prowling and of resisting an officer without violence. In court Thursday at the Palm Beach County Jail, Circuit Court Judge Laura Johnson ordered the woman to be held on a $1,000 bond per count. But the judge said Jing also has a federal immigration hold, which means she will stay in jail and is subject to deportation. Authorities have said Jing’s visa was expired.
“Parkland school shooting trial delayed until at least summer” via Curt Anderson of The Associated Press — The trial of Parkland school shooting defendant Nikolas Cruz was delayed until at least next summer, when he will face a death penalty case stemming from the February 2018 massacre that left 17 people dead. Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer agreed to postpone the trial’s start from the original Jan. 27 date after defense attorneys pleaded for more time and prosecutors said they were willing to accept a few months’ delay “in an abundance of caution,” according to one of their court filings. “I’m not going to set it out indefinitely,” Scherer said at a hearing. “This case is going to be tried this summer at some point.”
“Antonio Gilliam backs out of police chief job over contract language” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Incoming Tallahassee Police Chief Gilliam has turned down the job over a contract dispute. Gilliam, slated to begin Jan. 6, was asked to sign an agreement that he could be fired “at will” by officials at City Hall. That — and other issues with autonomy and police organizational structure — became a deal-breaker during final negotiations. Steve Outlaw will remain the interim chief.
“Perversion of justice: How the law, the press and his victims finally caught up with Jeffrey Epstein” via the Miami Herald — Miami Herald journalists continued to dig into the Epstein case, filing more than 80 stories, editorials, columns and videos. Their persistence included filing a federal motion to unseal thousands of court documents, interviewing new victims and acquaintances, including those in Epstein’s infamous “black book,” and examining the source of his wealth and how he was able to court politicians and skirt laws in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where he owns two private islands. As a result, the top federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York revived the case, and Epstein was arrested in July. U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, in announcing Epstein’s indictment, noted that prosecutors were aided in their investigation by “some excellent investigative reporting.’’
“Pensacola residents looking forward to e-scooters, bikes will have to wait a little longer” via Jake Newby of the Pensacola News Journal — A pair of September Pensacola City Council meetings put the City of Pensacola on track to have e-scooters available by Jan. 1, 2020. But City spokesperson Kaycee Lagarde said a decision on which two companies will be allowed to operate in Pensacola will now be pushed back until February. At that point, it will be up to the selected e-scooter companies to decide when they want to begin renting out their products in Pensacola. Lagarde said the earliest those companies could do would be the first quarter of 2020. “It will be up to the vendor to assess the market, determine what we can support in Pensacola, and then mobilize and actually begin operating here,” Lagarde said.
— OPINIONS —
“Trump should be removed from office” via Mark Galli of Christianity Today — The impeachment of Trump is a significant event in the story of our republic. It requires comment. The facts in this instance are unambiguous: The President attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral. To the many evangelicals who continue to support Trump in spite of his blackened moral record, we might say this: Remember who you are and whom you serve. No matter how many hands we win in this political poker game, we are playing with a stacked deck of gross immorality and ethical incompetence.
“Merry Christmas, here’s how Congress is about to waste your money” via Rick Scott for The National Review — Let me give you some examples. This package includes $25 million for the “operation, maintenance, and security” of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. It includes a $7.25 million increase in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, the largest increase in a decade. We are $23 trillion in debt. It includes more than $1 billion in new foreign-aid funding without any discussion about what we’re getting for this funding. This package also includes dozens of what are called “tax extenders.” These are tax-related provisions that expire at the end of the year. And let’s not forget. This bill spends $1.4 trillion, with no cuts or reforms. This is not how Washington is supposed to work.
“Florida seniors deserve to be safe” via Kathleen Passidomo for the Naples Daily News — To me, the most important role of government is to keep Floridians safe. When we face a threat that poses harm to Florida families, law enforcement is there to protect us. But what about our seniors and other vulnerable adults who may not be capable of making independent decisions? For many of these, a court-appointed guardian acts as their advocate and helps make decisions in their best interest. When I learned that there were a number of professional guardians who used that responsibility to prey on these innocent people, I knew that the Legislature needed to step in and protect them. Floridians who require the help and support of a guardian should know they will be safe and protected.
“Legislators: Fix Florida sales tax loophole” via Scott Shalley for the Tallahassee Democrat — Consumers have gradually moved from shopping in traditional brick-and-mortar stores to finding what they need online. Unfortunately, Florida’s tax laws have not been modernized as quickly. As a result, foreign and out-of-state businesses can avoid collecting sales tax on purchases made by Florida consumers. Florida is one of just two states that has not fixed this problem. Until we do, Florida retailers will continue to lose out. And when Florida retailers lose, we all lose. Two bills — SB 126, sponsored by Sen. Joe Gruters, and HB 159, sponsored by Rep. Chuck Clemons — can fix this problem. This legislation will level the playing field and restore the free market by requiring all businesses to pay Florida the taxes they owe.
“RedefinED’s 2019 myth of the year” via Jon East of redefinED — As Florida lawmakers debated a new private school voucher for students from low-income and working-class families earlier this year, opponents depicted the program in stark, even apocalyptic, terms. Reporters and opinion writers occasionally mistook the assertions as fact, including an esteemed editorialist who wrote in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in October that the scholarship is “the first time” that a school voucher will be paid “straight from the state treasury.” But this is patently false. The Family Empowerment Scholarship is neither the first nor the only direct-state-funded education voucher in the PreK-12 arena in Florida. It’s not even the only voucher funded directly through the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP), which is the main operational fund for district public schools.
— MOVEMENTS —
“GrayRobinson claims two spots on The Hill’s ‘Top Lobbyists’ list” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The Hill’s annual “Top Lobbyists” list is out and two members of GrayRobinson’s Washington, D.C., practice made the list. Earning the honors were Doyle Bartlett and Chris McCannell. Bartlett is managing director of the firm’s Washington office, where he leads the federal lobbying arm of GrayRobinson. McCannell is a senior government affairs consultant with more than two decades of experience as a federal lobbyist. The Hill’s recognition indicates fast success at the federal level for GrayRobinson. Though the firm is one of the largest and most lucrative in the Sunshine State, it wasn’t until early this year that it expanded its operation into the nation’s Capital. The federal expansion came through the acquisition of Eris Group, a firm that was co-founded by Bartlett.
— LISTEN UP —
Battleground Florida with Christopher Heath: Kathryn Waldron, a Resident Fellow on National Security & Cybersecurity from R-Street, joins the podcast to discuss the looming threats posed to governments and individuals, and why Congress isn’t asking the right questions
Dishonorable Mention: State Rep. Chris Latvala, activist Becca Tieder, former Tampa Bay Times Columnist Ernest Hooper and communications expert Dr. Karla Mastracchio discuss politics and culture. The hosts talk impeachment, identity politics, and what happened to bipartisanship. They take a look at local innovation in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, including Latvala speaking at SPC’s commencement! They also discuss the growth of the Tampa Bay Area, what makes it unique, and what it means for the future. Other topics include responsible gun ownership, mass shootings and gun violence.
Fluent in Floridian: Fines and Fees Justice Center Florida State Director Ashley Thomas is working hard to advance state and local campaigns to reform the imposition and collection of fines and fees in Florida, specifically dealing with driver’s license suspensions due to unpaid court debt. Hear how fines and fees are addressed in the justice system and learn how a driver’s license suspension impacts Floridians and Florida’s economy.
Gradebook from the Tampa Bay Times with hosts Marlene Sokol and Jeffrey Solochek: The Hillsborough County school district, the seventh-largest in the nation, is looking to hire a new chief executive before the current one retires in the spring. The School Board hasn’t hired someone from outside the system to lead the district since the 1960s. But this time, the board appears intent on doing just that, to shake things up. Fifty-one hopefuls applied, from both near and far, and now comes the task of whittling down the list to the ones who will get an interview. How are things shaping up? Tampa Bay Times reporters Sokol and Solochek discuss the lay of the land as the search enters its next phase.
Inside Florida Politics from GateHouse Florida with hosts John Kennedy and Zac Anderson: Trump became just the third president in American history to be impeached. Anderson and Kennedy discuss how Florida lawmakers voted on impeachment, friction among GOP leaders heading into Florida’s legislative session and some of the most surprising and consequential stories in Florida politics over the last year.
— WEEKEND TV —
Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues affecting the region.
Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable featuring Sarasota Herald-Tribune political editor Zac Anderson, journalist Kenya Woodard, radio commentator and consultant Barry Edwards and Deborah Tamargo, second VP of the Florida Federation of GOP women.
In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion of the real face of homelessness in Central Florida and Tampa Bay regions. Joining Walker-Torres are Tara Pagliarini, Executive Director of Family Promise of Brevard; Antoinette Hayes-Triplett, CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative; Jaimie Ross, President and CEO of Florida Housing Coalition; and Maria Shorkey, Orlando Chief Operating Officer, Covenant House.
Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: This week’s show will discuss the Impeachment proceedings, the last Democratic debate of the year, and PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter will rate claims made during the debate.
The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon talks with attornies Sean Pittman and Ben Crump.
This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Jeanne Miller, CEO, Jacksonville Civic Council, who is calling for a grand jury investigation on the JEA sales process; Florida Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson will preview the upcoming Legislative Session; and Lori Boyer, CEO of the Downtown Investment Authority, will discuss projects to redevelopment and grow downtown Jacksonville.
— ALOE —
“’The Rise of Skywalker’ shows it’s time for J.J. Abrams to be impeached from Star Wars” via Peter Suderman of Reason magazine — Skywalker is a frantic, disjointed mess — not a movie with good ideas poorly executed, not even a movie with bad ideas, but a movie with no ideas at all, save for saccharine paeans to fandom and nostalgia. As a story, it is empty and unengaging to the point of boredom. As a cinematic product, it is surprisingly lackluster, with shoddy effects and muddy visuals. And as an entry in the Star Wars franchise, an ostensibly major part of the pop-culture canon, it is a wasted opportunity: a total failure of both creative imagination and corporate brand management.
“The moment I realized ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ was determined to undo ‘The Last Jedi’” via Dan Kois of Slate — There are a lot of bad scenes in ‘The Rise of Skywalker.’ (There are a lot of good scenes too! Most of the scenes with Adam Driver are good. So are the C-3PO jokes.) But there’s one bad scene that perfectly crystallizes how determined Abrams and Disney’s Star Wars overseers were to undo the dramatic decisions of Rian Johnson’s “The Last Jedi.” It’s really bad! It made me groan in the theater and has only made me more annoyed since. I am not someone who has previously gotten annoyed about Star Wars movies, but this moment is driving me crazy — especially because it contains a reveal that certain Star Wars fans will love and crow about for years to come.
“Chinese censors, audiences unfazed by ‘Rise of Skywalker’ gay kiss” via Variety — The first gay kiss of the “Star Wars” film franchise has surprisingly survived China’s censors. Audiences were unfazed as well — or, in some cases, puzzled. Those who attended the movie’s preview earlier in China were surprised to see the gay kiss left untouched by the censors. Though homosexuality is no longer a crime in China and no longer classified as a mental illness, censors continue to be strict — but also inconsistent — regarding gay depictions on screen. Some in China welcomed the scene, saying that although it might not be a significant moment of the film’s narrative, it was still a victory for LGBTQ representation. Others found the gay kiss “baffling,” not for its LGBTQ context but its place in the story.
— TIS THE SEASON —
“There is a real war on Christmas. But here’s how Advent saves us from mindless consumption.” via Andrew McGowan of The Washington Post — Once upon a time, Christmas was a 12-day feast that began with Christmas Eve and ended at Epiphany on Jan. 6. In the days prior, the church traditionally observed not Christmas but Advent, a time of preparation and reflection in a period that includes the four Sundays before Christmas. Only in the 19th century did Christmas experience a sort of new beginning here. Without strongly established norms of time and tradition, a quiet but real battle ensued. The victors were not the believers but the merchants. For what Americans actually observe is not the traditional Christian feast of 12 days, but a “retail Christmas” that begins on Thanksgiving or Black Friday and ends on Christmas Eve.
“Pasco County workers got overtime pay to build gingerbread houses” via C.Y. Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times — Pasco County building department workers accumulated 23 hours of overtime pay this month for what it called a team-building exercise — assembling gingerbread houses for an in-house contest. The department’s bosses authorized the extra pay as an enticement after only a handful of employees initially signed up for the competition. County administrators called the offer of additional compensation “a well-meaning, but misguided effort’’ to boost participation.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to our dear friend, Gregory Holden, as well as our tech geek, Daniel Dean. An early birthday shoutout to top comms pro Erin Isaac.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.