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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 1.8.20

Florida politics — and more — you can read in as much time as your first cuppa joe.

First in Sunburn: Florida Democratic Party taps Joy Howell as comms director — The FDP is announcing political campaign veteran Howell will become the new communications director for the 2020 cycle. Howell previously served as communications director and senior strategist for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and has a long history in Democratic campaigns. She served as communications director for the Al Gore/Joe Lieberman Presidential Campaign and the 2000 Democratic National Convention.

Congrats to communications veteran Joy Howell, newly named comms director for the FDP.

More recently, Howell was a founder of a national consulting firm and held senior strategy roles on dozens of U.S. Senate, congressional and issue-based campaigns in Florida and nationwide.

“Joy Howell is one of the most experienced communications professionals in the country,” said FDP Chair Terrie Rizzo. “We’re thrilled she is bringing her experience to our ramped-up, amped-up team to defeat [Donald] Trump in 2020.”

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On the surface, the state’s lobbyist gift ban makes sense. People with sway over how state dollars are spent shouldn’t be allowed to accept fancy dinners or vacations from lobbyists looking to influence the process.

But the gift ban is more constrictive than that. The law is so far-reaching that it also affects many nonelected state employees, barring them from accepting gifts. The gift-giver doesn’t even have to be a lobbyist — if they work for a company that has a registered lobbyist, their generosity is limited to $100.

The way the law is written means there’s likely dozens of violations every day. But nobody is looking to enforce the rule against a rank-and-file state employee who went out for drinks with an HCA nurse or State Farm insurance agent.

But what if the gift was bigger? Like, cancer treatment big?

In that case, a state worker would face a decision: Keep their job (and state health insurance) or risk losing it by accepting help from others.

Alexis Lambert, an attorney working for the Florida Lottery, chose the former. In August 2018, Lambert thought she had come down with food poisoning, but her diagnosis was much more severe.

The state’s lobbyist gift ban had unintended consequences for attorney Alexis Lambert during her battle with cancer.

“I went from feeling pretty lousy to being diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer within 18 days,” she said.

And within 45 days, her out-of-pocket costs were already approaching $8,000 and showed no signs of slowing down.

“Every time you walk into the doctor’s office, it’s at least a $35 copay if not $50, and then if you have tests done, its hundreds each time,” she said. “I had to get blood work done before every time I had chemo so they could make sure I could handle it.”

Offers of help flowed in, but as a Sunshine Law expert, she knew that she had to turn them down to keep her job and insurance. That meant moving in with her parents for a couple of months and having them help pay her mortgage.

Then there are the other expenses such as traveling to Shands Hospital for treatment or having groceries delivered.

Lambert is doing better now — doctors gave her the all-clear about six weeks ago — but if any part of the experience was forgettable, there are bills there to remind her.

“There were many points in this process where I wondered ‘how does anyone afford to get this sick,’” she said. “The answer is they don’t.”

That’s doubly true for state employees, who make about $42,000 a year on average.

According to U.S. News & World Report, treatment with newly approved drugs can cost up to $10,000 per month, and patients are expected to pick up 20%-30% of the tab — that’s $24,000 to $36,000 in out of pocket costs per year.

And they’d have to handle those costs without accepting help from non-relatives — no GoFundMe page, no anything.

Lambert is now advocating for a change to the gift ban.

It wouldn’t alter the intent of the law — that lobbyists not be allowed to shower gifts on lawmaker — but would simply provide an exception to the rule: if state employees or their children are diagnosed with a severe condition, they should be allowed to accept monetary donations from anyone who wants to help.

— TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Tallahassee’s political establishment is asking the Florida Supreme Court to keep a marijuana adult-use legalization amendment off the ballot in November.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran delivered his plan to get rid of the Common Core in Florida schools. However, the Governor’s office is staying mum on any details.

— Two lawmakers from the Tampa Bay area want to restore funding for arts education. It’s an investment that pays enormous dividends, they say.

— A South Florida lawmaker files a bill to stop the state from selling personal information on your driver’s license to third parties — like bill collectors, credit bureaus and private investigators.

— U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is under fire after saying he won’t vote to compel testimony from John Bolton in Trump’s upcoming Senate impeachment trial.

— Today’s Florida Man stories are real doozies: A naked man strung out on meth took a bite out of a police dog and the tale of a toe-sucking intruder.

To listen, click on the image below:

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@MarcoRubio: Its “unfair” to begin using procedures virtually identical to the ones used in the [Bill] Clinton #Impeachment? Procedures approved unanimously with support from then-Senator [Joe] Biden & 7 current Dem Senators, including the Democratic Leader? They don’t want a trial. They want a show.

@JustinAmash: What @MarcoRubio proposes here is not at all how a trial works. It’s how a double standard works: There’s one standard of justice for the people and another standard of justice for President Trump and other elites. Worth repeating.

@AnitereFlores: Join me in praying for our neighbors in Puerto Rico who have suffered multiple earthquakes in the past few days.

@Fineout: The start of Session in Florida can be like spring training, full of optimism and promise. But for context — Last year, 1.862 bills (not including appropriations bills) were filed. 197 wound up passing. That’s 10.5 percent

Tweet, tweet:

— DAYS UNTIL —

College Football National Championship — 5; 2020 Session begins — 6; Florida Chamber Legislative Fly-in — 6; Seventh Democratic presidential debate in Des Moines — 6; Florida TaxWatch State of the TaxPayer Dinner in Tallahassee — 7; Sundance Film Festival begins — 15; “Star Trek: Picard” premiers — 15; Annual Red Dog Blue Dog Celebrity Bartender Benefit — 20; New Brexit deadline — 23; Super Bowl LIV in Miami — 25; Great American Realtors Day — 26; Iowa Caucuses — 26; Eighth Democratic presidential debate in Manchester — 31; Capitol Press Corps press skits — 34; New Hampshire Primaries — 34; Pitchers and catchers begin reporting for MLB Spring Training — 34; Ninth Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas — 42; Roger Stone’s sentencing — 43; Nevada caucuses — 45; “Better Call Saul” Season 5 premiers — 46; 10th Democratic presidential debate in Charleston — 48; South Carolina Primaries — 52; Super Tuesday — 55; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 65; Florida’s presidential primary — 69; “No Time to Die” premiers — 93; Florida Chamber Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 132; “Top Gun: Maverick” premiers — 170; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 187; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premiers — 191; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo begin — 198; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 223; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 229; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 273; First Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 281; Second presidential debate at Belmont — 288; 2020 General Election — 300.

— TOP STORY —

José Oliva: College athletics have ‘basically become pro sports’” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Appearing on a Tallahassee radio show, Oliva said “some sort of reform” is needed to the college athletics system, which has “basically become pro sports.” Oliva, in part, compared college football players, who cannot be paid, to other athletes, such as swimmers, who can make money if they go to the Olympics. “The discussion we’re having in Florida is about treating all student-athletes the same and making sure that we are not restricting one group of athletes because they’re more valuable and their activity is more valuable than another. I don’t think that any conservative would be in support of that.”

— DATELINE: TALLY —

Ron DeSantis highlights Opportunity Zone commitments in MelbourneDeSantis announced his commitment to working with the Trump administration to further promote opportunity zones in the Melbourne area. With the fast growth of the commercial space industry, we are witnessing the beginning of an exciting renaissance in Florida’s Space Coast, and opportunity zones are poised to play a big role in the region’s future success,” he said. The Governor’s 2020-21 budget recommendations to the Florida Legislature includes $250,000 to market and highlight Florida’s more than 427 Opportunity Zones, 9 of which are in Brevard County. DeSantis also prioritized the relaunch and expansion of Enterprise Florida’s commercial property locator for private businesses, “Find it Florida,” to include Opportunity Zones.

DeSantis likely to get environmental money in Session” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — DeSantis’ $625 million request for the upcoming Legislative Session includes money for Everglades restoration, fighting toxic algae outbreaks and boosting the Florida Forever land-preservation program, all issues popular among lawmakers and environmentalists. The proposal is the second part of an ambitious four-year $2.5 billion request, with DeSantis seeking a baseline amount of $625 million annually. Lawmakers exceeded that amount by nearly $50 million in the current year. “Floridians across the spectrum, you know, really feel like that’s a direction we need to keep going in,” DeSantis said in October. “So, we’re going to do it.” Still, environmentalists, pointing to how the money is used, say more is needed.

It looks as if Ron DeSantis will get his environmental money in the 2020 Session.

Oliva points to ‘notable increase’ for corrections” via the News Service of Florida — “This is an area that this year, we are looking to have a notable increase because it is important and it is needed,” Oliva said during an interview on the Preston Scott show on WFLA radio in Tallahassee. Retaining correctional officers has been an ongoing problem in the Florida prison system. To deal with a worker shortage, the state last year lowered the minimum age to work as a correctional officer from 19 to 18. During the 2020 Legislative Session, DeSantis and Corrections Secretary Mark Inch are seeking money for two initiatives, totaling close to $90 million, that would go toward staff retention.

Happening today — The Revenue Estimating Conference meets to discuss rural “fiscally constrained” counties, 8:30 a.m., 117 Knott Building.

Delegation meets on school safety — The Broward County legislative delegation will meet with representatives of the Broward County School District and the Broward County League of Cities to discuss safe-school officers in schools, 3 p.m., Broward County Main Library auditorium, 100 South Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale.

Happening today — State Sen. Bobby Powell and state Rep. Matt Willhite will hold a town hall meeting to discuss the upcoming 2020 Legislative Session, 6 p.m., Royal Palm Beach Culture Center, 151 Civic Center Way, Royal Palm Beach.

— LEGISLATION —

Bill strikes controversial voter application language for felons” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — State Sen. Jeff Brandes is starting the conversation on Amendment 4 reforms with a bill that gets rid of controversial language on the statewide voter application form that identifies returning felons whose rights were restored. In the bill (SB 1354), Brandes proposes a single checkbox with the statement: “I affirm I have never been convicted of a felony, or, if I have been, my rights relating to voting have been restored.” His legislation strikes two checkboxes added to the application last year that spell out requirements for former inmates whose voting rights are restored, either by the Board of Executive Clemency or by completing all the terms of their sentence as spelled out under a new constitutional amendment.

Jeff Brandes is looking to strike controversial language from the implementation of Amendment 4.

Bill blocks legal rights for nature — A bill filed by Wauchula Sen. Ben Albritton would ban local governments from extending legal rights to nature, Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida reports. SB 1382 comes after citizens in more than a dozen county governments have launched initiatives to grant legal rights to bodies of water. The bill would disallow the concept by blocking ordinances that give rights to any entity that “is not a person or a political subdivision.“

Joe Gruters, Randy Fine want 50% increases in fines for sewage spills” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Proposals were filed in the Senate (SB 1450) and House (HB 1091) to increase penalties for illegally discharging raw sewage into waterways. “Local governments have illegally dumped three billion gallons of sewage into Florida’s waterways over the past ten years — approximately 100 million in the past year alone,” said Fine. “It happens several times a month in Brevard County … my constituents are justifiably enraged. Florida can spend billions trying to clean up our polluted waterways, but if local governments refuse to join us in that fight by maintaining their sewer systems, all our efforts are for naught. This legislation will send a strong message to local politicians by increasing their penalties for refusing to maintain these critical systems.”

Can you dig it? Heather Fitzenhagen seeks fines for contractors who don’t call 811” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Fort Myers Republican filed a bill (HB 1095) putting significant fines in place for digging without checking first. “Florida is one of nine states that has not brought its regulations up to federal standards for safety,” she said. The legislation will protect first responders, utility workers, and ordinary citizens from injury and even death from preventable accidents, she said. Floridians can already access Sunshine 811 by calling 8-1-1 on their phones. That will prompt utility companies to mark lines on properties to prevent digging accidents. That will also bring Florida into compliance with federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration guidelines.

Gayle Harrell pushes public schools to better accommodate students with dyslexia” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — State Sen. Harrell is backing legislation (SB 1438) that would require students in kindergarten through grade 3 to be screened for dyslexia at the beginning of the school year. The measure would also set up a Dyslexia Task Force within the state’s Department of Education. Those provisions aim to help the state’s public schools better prepare to teach dyslexic students. The dyslexia screenings would take place within the first 30 days of a school year for all public-school students in kindergarten through 3rd grade.

Lori Berman, Tina Polsky push measure aimed at protecting employees who use medical marijuana” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The “Medical Marijuana Employee Protection Act,” along with a separate provision specifically covering public employees, would ensure workers or job applicants are not punished for using the now-legal medicine. State Sen. Berman and state Rep. Polsky are behind the measures (SB 962 and HB 595). “When the Florida Legislature implemented the medical marijuana amendment, we left unaddressed workplace protections for patients. Employers are still able to enforce a zero-tolerance, drug-free workplace and are not required to make reasonable accommodations for employees who use medical marijuana, now a constitutionally-sanctioned right,” Berman said. “We must do our part to ensure that their use of safe and effective medicine will not impede their right to work.”

St. Pete lawmakers push bills to boost arts in schools” via Megan Reeves of the Tampa Bay Times — The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Ben Diamond and Sen. Darryl Rouson, calls for the creation of the Florida Seal of Fine Arts Program. The lawmakers say the program would recognize and encourage student investment in the visual and performing arts, which are economic drivers locally and throughout the state. The seal would be awarded to those who graduate from high school having completed at least four-year-long courses in dance, music, theater or the visual arts with a grade of B or higher; participated in at least two fine arts-related extracurricular activities; and logged at least 20 hours of community service related to the arts, making a presentation on their experiences.

Ben Diamond and Darryl Rouson are urging lawmakers to increase funding for the arts in high school.

Bill would give students day after Halloween off from school” via Sarah Mueller of Florida Politics — Students could get the day off after Halloween under new legislation filed by State Sen. Annette Taddeo. The Miami Democrat is responding to a student-led petition that went viral after hundreds of thousands of people in the state signed a change.org petition seeking extra time to recover. “I started hearing from so many kids, parents,” she said. “And frankly, as a parent myself, I know how tough it is the day after to drag them to school.” Taddeo’s bill (SB 1462) would require district school boards to designate the day after Halloween as a school holiday unless it lands on a Friday or Saturday, in which case students would already have the following day off.

— SPROWLS RISING —

Growing up, politics was a dinner table topic for Chris Sprowls, according to a profile by Amy Keller of Florida Trend. It sparked an interest in politics and a path that led to becoming the future Speaker of the Florida House.

Sprowls family moved to Florida when he was 3, and the time he was in his midteens, Sprowls was volunteering for Republican Mike Bilirakis, his local Congressman. In his junior year of high school, Sprowls served as a page in the U.S. House.

The leadership of Wilton Simpson and Chris Sprowls could be a boon to the Tampa Bay area.

Soon after, Sprowls was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, delaying his entry into college during the eight months of chemotherapy treatment. “After that experience, I was kind of in a rush,” he told Florida Trend. “I was in a rush to do the things I wanted to do and to be part of the things I wanted to be part of. I’m not sure that has gone away.”

After loading up on credits to graduate on time at the University of South Florida, Sprowls then went to study law at Stetson University, earning a law degree in 2009. After that, Sprowls received several job offers, including one in the state attorney’s office in the 6th Judicial Circuit, where he would go on to prosecute several high-profile cases.

In November 2014, Sprowls cruised to victory in the GOP-heavy House District 65 against one-term Democratic incumbent Carl Zimmerman. It was the last genuinely competitive race until becoming Speaker for 2020-22, against then-Rep. Eric Eisnaugle. This move to leadership — as well as that of Wilton Simpson assuming the Senate presidency — will prove beneficial for the Tampa Bay region. The Republican will oversee the 2022 redistricting process, shaping Florida’s political landscape for the next decade.

— STATEWIDE —

House, Senate, Chamber of Commerce, others oppose adult-use marijuana proposal” via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald — The ballot initiative, dubbed Make it Legal Florida, is backed primarily by medical marijuana companies Surterra and MedMen, and would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to sell marijuana for “personal use.” Former MedMen lobbyist Nick Hansen chairs the campaign. In a 15-page brief, the Florida House argues that the ballot language misleads voters by suggesting the amendment would “permit” adults to possess, use and purchase marijuana for personal use. The House argues that the hypothetical amendment could not, in fact, “permit” this activity since marijuana use is still a federal crime. Attorney General Ashley Moody used similar language in her initial brief.

Florida has a new plan to rid schools of Common Core, but it’s a secret” via Emily Mahoney and Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis announced an executive order to eliminate all “vestiges of the Common Core,” the much-derided effort to standardize what K-12 students in the U.S. should know in English and math at the end of each grade level. In his order, DeSantis vowed to review the standards and lay out requirements for instruction. Yet it’s been nearly a week since the Jan. 1 deadline for Commissioner of Education Corcoran to submit his finalized recommendations, and the Governor’s office still won’t disclose what they are. The suggestions are “not publicly available at this time,” said DeSantis’ spokeswoman Helen Aguirre Ferré. “The executive order just required that the recommendations be presented on January 1 … it’s been received, and it’s being reviewed.”

It’s been a week since education Commissioner Richard Corcoran submitted his suggestions for ‘eliminating all vestiges’ of Common Core. Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office is staying silent on those suggestions.

Florida, Motorola Solutions fail to reach statewide P25 deal as Dec. 31 deadline passes” via Donnie Jackson of UrgentComm.com — Motorola and the Department of Management Services (DMS) did not meet the DMS-imposed deadline of Dec. 31 to finalize a $687.8 million contract that would have Motorola build a statewide Project 25 (P25) network. Still, it is unclear what steps the state will take next. On Dec. 23, Florida DMS Secretary Jonathan Satter sent a letter to Motorola Solutions CEO Greg Brown that called on Motorola to sign by Dec. 31 a contract to upgrade Florida’s Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System (SLERS) to the P25 standard. If a deal isn’t finalized by the Dec. 31 deadline, the state would “move forward with the evaluation of other options to procure a next-generation system,” according to Satter’s letter.

Brightline reaches milestone: More than 1 million riders in a year” via David Lyons of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Brightline surpassed the one million ridership mark for 2019, placing it on a path to reach a goal of serving nearly 3 million customers by the end of 2021, its third full year of service. In its most recent financial filing, the company said it crossed over the 100,000 mark in a single month for the first time in November. Although the company has yet to formally publish its financial results for December and the full year, spokesman Michael Hicks said Brightline nearly doubled its ridership year over year on the strength of “back-to-back” record months in November and December.

— MOTHER NATURE —

What Noah Valenstein is reading  “Finally, we know how much sewage spilled in Fort Lauderdale: 126.9 million gallons” via Susanna Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — That’s a mind-numbing amount of human waste, enough to fill 192 Olympic-sized pools. Some of it wound up in streets, parks and lawns, but the bulk of it wound up in the Tarpon River, where it was pumped to keep sewage from seeping into homes. The total tally of gallons spilled was made public for the first time Monday, during a meeting of the city’s infrastructure task force. It’s now the biggest spill on record in Broward County — a whopping 75 million gallons more than the runner-up spill that fouled the waterways of Pompano Beach a year ago. “It’s an alarming number,” said Marilyn Mammano, a retired city planner who heads the task force.

— PEACHY —

Mitch McConnell says he is ready to proceed with Donald Trump impeachment trial with no agreement witnesses, according to two officials” via Colby Itkowitz, Felicia Sonmez, John Wagner and Seung Min Kim of The Washington Post — The announcement came as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi faced increasing pressure to send articles of impeachment to the Senate, including from some in her own party, to allow a trial to begin. Pelosi has held on to the documents as Democrats seek guarantees about the scope of a trial, including witnesses. Earlier, Trump highlighted objections to the prospect of testimony from former national security adviser Bolton, as Bolton’s announcement that he is prepared to appear at a trial continued to roil Capitol Hill.

Mitch McConnell is ready for a Senate impeachment trial, despite no agreement on whether there would be any witnesses called.

’We’re ready to go’: Trump legal team readies for Senate trial’s start” via Darren Samuelsohn and Melanie Zanona of POLITICO — All they need now is a start date. Coordinating over the past month, the White House Counsel’s Office and the president’s team of private lawyers have prepared a detailed legal brief pushing back against last month’s House-passed impeachment articles that seek Trump’s removal from office for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. That document, according to a person familiar with the Trump legal strategy, is modeled after one that President Bill Clinton’s lawyers submitted at the start of his 1999 Senate impeachment trial — which ended a month later with his acquittal. Trump’s lawyers have also been preparing their oral arguments — and who will give them.

State Department says Giuliani was freelancing in Venezuela” via Michael Wilner and Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald —Donald Trump’s personal lawyer went rogue when he attempted back-channel diplomacy with embattled Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro, according to Elliott Abrams, the senior State Department official in charge of Venezuela policy. Abrams said Rudy Giuliani’s phone conversation with Maduro in 2018 and legal work in 2019 for a wealthy Venezuelan businessman with ties to Maduro was not an official diplomatic effort approved by the State Department. “I certainly wasn’t aware of anything that happened in 2018,” said Abrams, who joined the Trump administration the following year.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Marco Rubio emerges as Trump top defender on Iran” via Steve Contornoa of the Tampa Bay Times — The Jan. 3 U.S. strike against Iranian general Qasem Soleimani is the latest example of how much Rubio’s opinion of Donald Trump has flipped since those remarks. Rubio, who once said Trump was too “dangerous” to possess the nuclear codes, applauded Trump’s “tremendous restraint” on Iran — right after the president gave the go-ahead for the attack at Baghdad’s international airport.

— 2020 —

Don’t tilt scales against Trump, Facebook executive warns” via Kevin Roose, Sheera Frenkel and Mike Isaac of The New York Times — On Dec. 30, Andrew Bosworth, the head of Facebook’s virtual and augmented reality division, wrote on his internal Facebook page that, as a liberal, he found himself wanting to use the social network’s powerful platform against Trump. But Bosworth said that doing so would eventually backfire. “I find myself desperately wanting to pull any lever at my disposal to avoid the same result,” he wrote. “So, what stays my hand? I find myself thinking of the Lord of the Rings at this moment. “Specifically, when Frodo offers the ring to Galadrial, and she imagines using the power righteously, at first, but knows it will eventually corrupt her,” he said, misspelling the name of the character Galadriel.

Facebook’s Andrew Bosworth says we must resist the urge to tilt the scales against Donald Trump, a power that could be corrupting.

Mike Bloomberg, Donald Trump each secure $10 million Super Bowl ad slots” via Ursula Perano of Axios — The buy highlights Bloomberg‘s massive spending power, as the billionaire continues to pump millions of his own money into his campaign. And it’s just the start of what’s likely to be a huge spending year for Trump. Bloomberg has already spent $170 million on ads this election cycle, according to Advertising Analytics. The Republican National Committee last week announced that it raised $463 million in 2019 and has nearly $200 million cash on hand. The Super Bowl is just one day before the Iowa caucuses.

More Dems face debate chopping block” via Zach Montellaro of POLITICO — Only five candidates so far have earned spots in the Jan. 14 CNN/Des Moines Register debate in Iowa: Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Tom Steyer, Andrew Yang and Cory Booker will all watch from the sidelines unless they see polling surges before Friday’s deadline to qualify. Faced with this potential winnowing of the field, the Democratic National Committee has come under new criticism — especially from the candidates on the chopping block. They pointed to a smaller number of polls over the eight-week qualifying period — which included lengthy breaks over both the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays — and a weeks-long early state polling drought, urging the DNC to make the polling thresholds more lenient.

Joe Biden: Iran escalation shows Trump ‘dangerously incompetent’” via Bill Barrow of The Associated Press — Speaking in New York, Biden said Trump used a “haphazard” decision-making process to order the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and has failed to communicate the rationale to Congress or U.S. allies around the world. Biden said Trump instead offered “tweets, threats and tantrums” that prove the Republican president to be “dangerously incompetent and incapable of world leadership.” “Democracy runs on accountability,” Biden said, urging Trump to consult with Congress on acts of war, as required by the Constitution. “No one wants war. But it’s going to take hard work to make sure we don’t end up there accidentally.”

Joe Biden says the Iran situation proves that Donald Trump is ‘dangerously incompetent.’

Elizabeth Warren’s latest plan signals that it’s time to talk about Biden’s record” via David Dayen of The American Prospect — One of the bigger moments of this Democratic primary has been the long-expected skirmish between Warren and Biden over the 2005 bankruptcy bill. Warren surely would unveil a plan for overhauling bankruptcy laws, as a prelude to the fight over Biden’s leadership role in “reforming” the process (read: making it more finance-friendly) 15 years ago. Warren has released a bankruptcy plan that, though it doesn’t mention Biden by name, is designed to challenge his record of selling out working families in the name of financial interests. Warren’s plan seeks to reverse the worst aspects of the bankruptcy bill, making it once again an equitable system where everyone can obtain a second chance.

Cory Booker probably won’t make the next debate. His Iowa supporters say it doesn’t matter.” via Holly Bailey of The Washington Post — The New Jersey lawmaker is trudging along as several other candidates have bowed out. It’s not because he’s seen a spike in the polls or a sudden influx of money. Instead, Booker’s campaign seems buoyed by the unusually large crowd of undecided voters, along with some die-hard supporters unconcerned about electability. The crowds did not seem bothered that the candidate was registering 3 percent support among likely caucusgoers in a Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa poll from November, one of the last major surveys conducted in the state. And they didn’t seem to care that he probably won’t make the January debate.

Did you get a text from an unknown number? It might be a presidential candidate” via Emily Cadei of the Miami Herald — Campaigns have figured out one form of communication you are unlikely to ignore: texting. Democrats and Republicans alike are spending millions and deploying thousands of staffers and volunteers focused on texting with committed and potential supporters in the 2020 election. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, an early adopter of the tactic, has already sent nearly nine times as many text messages to voters as it did during the entire 2016 primary.

— THE TRAIL —

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell enters 2020 with $1.6 mil cash on hand for reelection campaign” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Mucarsel-Powell‘s campaign says it added more than $575,000 during the final quarter of 2019, bringing its total fundraising for the year across the $2.1 million mark. Mucarsel-Powell, a Democrat, is running for reelection in Florida’s 26th Congressional District against a pair of Republican challengers. The impressive fourth-quarter fundraising mark leaves Mucarsel-Powell with more than $1.6 million cash on hand, according to her team. “I am so proud of the large number of people supporting our reelection campaign,” Mucarsel-Powell said in a Tuesday statement announcing her fundraising tally. Her campaign counted nearly 3,000 unique donors who made just over 3,600 contributions. Of those contributions, 90 percent were for $100 or less.

Happening tonight:

Sprowls’ committee adds $300K in December” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — A political committee chaired by House Speaker-designate Sprowls brought in more than $300,000 last month. According to newly filed finance reports, Floridians for Economic Freedom collected three dozen checks in December for a total haul of $301,723. The most significant contribution was a $50,000 check from The Voice of Florida Business, a political committee tied to the Associated Industries of Florida. In all, Sprowls has raised nearly $4.2 million through the committee since it launched in early 2015. Heading into 2020, the Palm Harbor Republican had $1.84 million in the account.

Fiona McFarland stresses public service, military training in biographic promo” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Florida House candidate released a bio video that stressed her record of public service. “I was raised to believe that we all have an obligation to serve others and to give back,” she said. “To me, service isn’t about yourself. You don’t serve for personal gain. You serve to represent something larger.” The campaign video, produced by campaign consultant Max Goodman, was released across social media platforms. With McFarland walking along Siesta Key Beach, looking at the tides as she discussed water quality priorities, she talks about her service record and her move to the region.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Joe Casello nets bevy of endorsements in HD 90 reelection bid — State Rep. Casello is announcing a series of endorsements as he seeks to hold onto the House District 90 seat in 2020. Among the groups endorsing the incumbent are the Police Benevolent Association, the Fraternal Order of Police, the Florida Education Association, the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association, Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Local 2928 and the Realtors of Palm Beach County. “I’m proud to accept the support of these organizations because each and every one of them is a pillar of the strong and special community we have worked so hard to build in Palm Beach County,” Casello said. Casello won the seat unopposed in 2018. So far, no candidates have filed to contest the seat in 2020.

Happening tonight:

Santa Rosa County considers fines, public shaming for campaign signs in rights of way” via Annie Blanks of the Pensacola News-Journal — Santa Rosa County code enforcement is cracking down on campaign signs being placed in public rights of way, with commissioners considering resorting to fines or ‘public shaming’ to keep the sign situation under control. The item was brought up at Monday morning’s committee meeting, with County Administrator Dan Schebler saying the county would be implementing a ‘three strikes, you’re out’ rule to curb sign misplacement.”

— LOCAL —

Prosecutors to review ‘official misconduct’ probe of Orange County Property Appraiser Rick Singh, emails show” via Stephen Hudak and Monivette Cordeiro of the Orlando Sentinel — Singh is the subject of a criminal investigation that was presented for review to State Attorney Aramis Ayala, according to a string of emails from Ayala’s office. She had written Dec. 11 to DeSantis, asking him to reassign the case to another prosecutor’s office, because Willis C. Perry III, a “key witness to this case,” works for her. Ayala asked for the reassignment because “of a possibility of an appearance of impropriety …” The Orlando Sentinel previously reported in December 2018 that two former property appraiser employees had alleged misbehavior by Singh — including misusing office resources — in depositions conducted by former Orange-Osceola Chief Judge Belvin Perry in late 2017.

Rick Singh is again under investigation for ‘misconduct.’

Aramis Ayala rejects her own staff’s advice in death penalty case” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — More than 40 years ago, Central Florida was shocked to wake up Christmas morning of 1975 and learn that four people had been slaughtered inside a furniture store in west Orange County. A jury said Tommy Zeigler should live. But the judge in the case said he believed Zeigler should die. So, the judge overruled the jury’s recommendation for a life sentence and ordered an execution. Now, decades later, there is another highly unusual — and troubling — development: State attorney Ayala has rejected a call for new DNA testing — which Ziegler’s lawyers believe would exonerate their client — even though Ayala’s own staff said the state has “a moral obligation” to allow it. Yet Ayala is refusing.

Miami police audit: One officer worked 3,714 hours at off-duty jobs in one year” via Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — In 2018 alone, Miami cops working side jobs made $18.9 million atop their city salaries. And dozens of police officers, over four years, worked what amounted to full-time job while off the clock. One officer even managed to put in for 3,714 hours of extra duty in a single year. Coupled with his city job, that breaks down to the officer working an average of almost 18 hours a day. For 365 straight days. Those findings by Miami’s Independent Auditor General Theodore Guba highlighted a report that found an extra-duty pay system rife with abuse from lack of oversight, with some officers even collecting extra-duty pay during regular working hours.

Naples man arrested after lying to bypass presidential security at PBIA” via Hannah Morse of the Palm Beach Post — A 37-year-old Naples man, who was dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps and subsequently required to register as a sex offender, was arrested after federal officials say he lied to get past presidential security checkpoints at Palm Beach International Airport about an hour before President Trump was set to depart.

South Florida Jewish community grapples with rise in anti-Semitism, including deadly attacks” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A rising tide of anti-Semitism in the United States — and a spate of deadly attacks on Jews around the country in the last 16 months — has many in South Florida’s Jewish community concerned and looking for ways to stay safe and confront the problem. “What I see in my congregation is more and more people who are afraid to express their Jewish identity. They’re afraid to come to synagogue. They’re afraid to wear anything that’s self-identifying,” said Rabbi Bradd Boxman of Congregation Kol Tikvah in Parkland. “I never thought I would live in an America where that would be.” Leaders from all over South Florida who came together said the problem must be identified, discussed and resisted.

Radio host Bill Mick hosts gun rights forum amid anti-Semitism accusations” via Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon of FLORIDA TODAY — A gun rights forum occurred against a backdrop of accusations of anti-Semitism against moderator Mick, a local conservative talk radio personality. Mick also said on-air anybody who disagreed and called out anti-Semitism was a “snowflake.” Mick has yet to apologize. Instead, before introducing state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, Mick said that he and Sabatini had a 20-minute phone call in which the Lake County representative asked him “the hard questions” but provided no details. Sabatini, in turn, simply said he was there to protect and explain the Constitution and nothing more.

115 caskets found on Zion Cemetery land owned by Richard Gonzmart” via Paul Guzzo of the Tampa Bay Times — The search for graves at forgotten Zion Cemetery is complete and another 115 have been detected, all on warehouse property now owned by restaurateur Richard Gonzmart. Gonzmart made the announcement in a news release following a survey of his land conducted by archaeologists using ground-penetrating radar.Established in 1901, Zion is believed to be Tampa’s first all-black burial ground and disappeared from view as portions were built upon in the late 1920s.

— OPINIONS —

Poor Puerto Rico can’t catch a break — or get quick help from the U.S. government” via Fabiola Santiago for the Miami Herald — It’s not like Tuesday’s predawn 6.4 magnitude earthquake wasn’t a disaster foretold. But once again, as it was during Hurricane Maria, the U.S. response to a natural disaster in the commonwealth island is at best political lip service, and at worst, nonexistent. The forgotten island, where 2,975 people died during Hurricane Maria and in the aftermath. But I think the neglect runs deeper and is more sinister than forgetfulness. The disrespected island, I say. There was not a word uttered by Trump. He was too busy running a propagandist campaign on Twitter to diminish the gravity of his impeachment and to persuade Americans that his assassination of the top Iranian military leader wasn’t irresponsible.

In appointing Florida Supreme Court justices, this truth is no better than this fiction” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — A state commission dominated by members of the Federalist Society for Law and Justice will soon nominate at least six people for two vacancies on the Florida Supreme Court. Of the 32 judicial applicants, 23 belong to the Federalist Society, a conservative organization. No group that represents a particular ideology deserves a near-monopoly on appointments to the bench. It is increasingly apparent that the Federalists have a monopoly in Florida thanks to DeSantis and his predecessor, Rick Scott, as well as on federal appointments by Trump. DeSantis, a Federalist himself, promised the society’s state convention that his appointees would push the Florida Supreme Court to the right.

— MOVEMENTS —

Personnel note: Rick Lindstrom joins Rutledge Ecenia” via Florida Politics — Lobbying firm Rutledge-Ecenia announced Tuesday that Lindstrom is joining the team. Lindstrom has more than 20 years’ experience representing a wide variety of clients before the Florida Legislature, Cabinet, state agencies and local governments. His expertise spans several policy arenas, including the environment, health care, criminal justice, space and technology, labor organizations and sports franchises. The Miami-native began his consulting career at Rumberger, Kirk and Caldwell, P.A. For the past 16 years, he’s run his own consulting business, Lindstrom Consulting, Inc.

— REST IN PEACE —

Thomas Edwin Lewis Jr., a ‘Mr. Fix-it’ for Florida governors, dies at 80” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — Lewis, who died late last month at his Tallahassee home, played significant roles in the development of Florida while serving in state government and the private sector. The 80-year-old Georgia Tech graduate and Atlanta native had been battling cancer. Needed to get a first-of-its-kind growth management law passed? Redo the state building code after a devastating hurricane? Save a state agency that angered powerful lawmakers? Bob Graham, Lawton Chiles and Jeb Bush all called on Lewis during his remarkable 50-year career. “He left a lasting mark on Florida, helping this state be a better place and, in the process, transformed the thinking of so many associates and colleagues,” recalled Charles Lee, director of advocacy for Audubon Florida.

RIP: Thomas Edwin Lewis Jr. was a state government troubleshooter for several Florida Governors.

Battling cancer, Mark Gibbons found peace through social media” via Paul Guzzo of the Tampa Bay Times — In the final months of his battle with pancreatic cancer, Gibbons showcased how social media connects people. He regularly took to Facebook to provide health updates and reminisce with friends when he was too ill to do so in person. Gibbons even posted from hospice, wondering humorously about the afterlife. “The Facebook community really rallied behind him,” his friend Donna Bevis said. “On his toughest days, the connections brought him a smile.” Gibbons, a former Florida state representative, candidate for Lieutenant Governor and son of the late and famed U.S. Rep. Sam Gibbons, died on January 3. He was 67.

— ALOE —

It’s Girl Scout cookie season again. Something new — and empowering — has been added” via David Neal of the Miami Herald — What’s new? Lemon-Ups, what’s on Lemon-Ups and the packaging around Lemon-Ups (and Thin Mints, Trefoils, Samoas, and Tagalongs). First, the Lemon-Up cookie itself, soft on top but given crunchiness with a smooth, iced bottom. The softness on top contrasts with the messages encouraging going forth and conquering, such as “I am gutsy,” “I am strong,” and “I am a risk-taker.” The Girl Scouts say the messages are “inspired by Girl Scout entrepreneurs” and are “phases that bring the experience of Girl Scouting to life.” Lemon-Ups packaging includes girls in hard hats and eye guards handling a solar panel outside a house. Each refashioned pack shows some activity available through Girl Scouts — camping, canoeing, creating media content, etc.

The newest line of Girl Scout Cookies contain messages of empowerment.

Uber to let riders use pin codes to help identify right car” via The Associated Press — Uber is offering riders a four-digit pin code to help ensure they’re getting into the right car. The ride-hailing company rolled out the new feature across the U.S. and Canada Tuesday and said all riders in those two countries would be able to use pin codes by the end of the week. With the new feature, Uber sends a four-digit pin code to the rider. Then, before getting into the car, the rider tells the driver the pin code. The driver enters the pin code into the app, and if everything matches up, the rider gets a notification that says, “your ride is verified.”

Sony surprises with an electric concept car called the Vision-S” via Sean O’Kane of The Verge — It’s an electric concept sedan that is meant to showcase the Japanese tech conglomerate’s many different strengths, from entertainment products to camera sensors and more. In fact, the Vision-S features 33 different sensors inside and outside of the car, multiple widescreen displays, 360 audio, and always-on connectivity, with some pieces coming from industry players like BlackBerry and Bosch. It’s also powered by a “newly-designed EV platform” — which appears to have been engineered by automotive supplier Magna — that Sony says will be able to power other vehicle types, like SUVs. The outside of the vehicle has some strong Porsche vibes, especially around the headlights, and in side profile, it somewhat resembles the Lucid Motors Air.

Sony is getting into the electric car business with the Vision-S.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to Rep. Rene “Coach P” Plasencia, Ron Bilbao, who we hear will be managing Javier Fernandez’s state Senate campaign, Evan Ross, and Meagan Salisbury.

___

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

Written By

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

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
Email: Peter@FloridaPolitics.com
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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