Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 1.9.20

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Florida politics and Sunburn — perfect together.

I’m sure to some it’s a tad odd that I am leading a political newsletter about Florida politics with an ask that you consider buying Girl Scout Cookies from our daughter, Ella Joyce, but it occurs to me that so many of you have watched from afar as Ella has grown up into the special young girl she is today.

Many of you are the distant aunts and uncles and cousins that bigger families are blessed with. Ella Joyce doesn’t have that. Instead she has mommy and daddy’s colleagues who have been there along the way. We just returned from a New Year’s Eve Disney Cruise – I know, shocking – and it was noteworthy because we went with another family … a family we met in The Process.

So, to others, it may be weird that we’re pitching Girl Scout Cookies on this platform, but this is the business we’ve chosen, or better yet, this is the extended family we’ve chosen.

Thank you in advance for helping Ella Joyce reach her audacious goals. Thank you for being part of a process that helps give an otherwise shy young girl her voice. Thank you for being such good friends.

If you wish to buy Girl Scout Cookies from Ella this year, here is the link:

Welcome to Ella’s digital cookie site.


“New year, new you.” Adam Corey is living that mantra.

The lobbyist and restaurateur spent most of the last couple of years under the microscope thanks to his role in the FBI corruption investigation at Tallahassee City Hall.

But in 2020, Corey has made a move to the Netherlands and has started working a new gig as “Managing Director for the Americas” at Amsterdam-based tech company Appical, which produces software to help employers onboard new hires.

Former lobbyist Adam Corey is reinventing himself in the Netherlands.

Depending on who you ask, Corey is either a long way from home — or not nearly far enough.

But maybe work will bring him back to the capital city — after all, Tallahassee could likely use a custom onboarding solution for the new crop of employees in city government.

It would have to be tailored to include questions like “are you wearing a wire?” or “are you a cop?” But that shouldn’t pose a problem for the app company.

If they can hammer out a deal, Corey’s new job description includes demoing the product to potential customers.


Florida already requires criminal background checks if you want to work in law enforcement, schools and day care, among others. Now there’s a bill that says delivery persons should face the same sort of scrutiny.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Earlier this week, Sunrise reported on legislative efforts to control local governments by preemption of authority on several issues. Now there’s a bill to get rid of one of those preemptions.

— House Speaker José Oliva says he will support efforts to allow college student-athletes to cash in on their fame. So far, lawmakers filed four bills.

— Vice President Mike Pence’s campaign rally in Tampa next week is moving to a new venue, after complaints from residents of Valencia Lakes, who said they didn’t want it in their private, gated community.

— Sunrise talks with state Sen. Annette Taddeo on the issue of a Halloween holiday for public schools. Not Halloween itself, but the day after.

— Two stories show Florida Women can be every bit as stupid as Florida Man, which includes a Ruskin woman with a million dollars’ worth of cocaine and a Vero Beach woman who lost it over 25 cents worth of dipping sauce.

To listen, click on the image below:


@MarcoRubio: Just spoke to @POTUS on: -how #Soleimani strike disrupted deadly near term attacks on Americans & reestablished deterrence -our desire to avoid further military escalation -U.S. plans for a strong but appropriate response to any new attacks from #Iran or its proxies … The goal of U.S. policy is an #Iran that is prosperous & lives in harmony with its neighbors & the world. But this will require its clerical leaders to: -abandon their nuclear weapons ambition; and -end their support of violence & terrorism … We will advance this strategy via economic sanctions, not military action And we are ready to engage in serious diplomacy But we will take decisive military action to disrupt, deter or repel attacks against Americans And we will never allow #Iran to acquire nuclear weapons

@SenRickScott: 4th Amendment protections don’t apply to dead terrorists. @Apple should help the @FBI get to the bottom of this attack on our state and country & be proactive in the efforts to prevent future attacks.

@GovRonDeSantis: One year ago today, I took the oath of office to become Governor of this great state. It’s an honor to work every day on behalf of Floridians, and I look forward to our continued efforts to create a bolder, brighter, better future for all.

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

@JDelReal: Get off Twitter and follow the developments in a newspaper.


College Football National Championship — 4; 2020 Session begins — 5; Florida Chamber Legislative Fly-in — 5; Seventh Democratic presidential debate in Des Moines — 5; Florida TaxWatch State of the TaxPayer Dinner in Tallahassee — 6; Sundance Film Festival begins — 14; “Star Trek: Picard” premiers — 14; Annual Red Dog Blue Dog Celebrity Bartender Benefit — 19; New Brexit deadline — 22; Super Bowl LIV in Miami — 24; Great American Realtors Day — 25; Iowa Caucuses — 25; Eighth Democratic presidential debate in Manchester — 30; Capitol Press Corps press skits — 33; New Hampshire Primaries — 33; Pitchers and catchers begin reporting for MLB Spring Training — 33; Ninth Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas — 41; Roger Stone’s sentencing — 42; Nevada caucuses — 44; “Better Call Saul” Season 5 premiers — 45; 10th Democratic presidential debate in Charleston — 47; South Carolina Primaries — 51; Super Tuesday — 54; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 64; Florida’s presidential primary — 68; “No Time to Die” premiers — 92; Florida Chamber Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 131; “Top Gun: Maverick” premiers — 169; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 186; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premiers — 190; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo begin — 197; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 222; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 228; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 272; First Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 280; Second presidential debate at Belmont — 287; 2020 General Election — 299.


Mike Pence’s Tampa Bay visit moved to new venue” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The change is from the Valencia Lakes retirement community in Wimauma to the Venetian Events Center in Tampa. The time of the Keep America Great rally remains 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 16. The change of venue came after complaints from Valencia Lakes residents and an apparent reluctance by the property owner’s association board about hosting the rally. After the Valencia Lakes visit was announced, the community’s board sent a memo to residents explaining that Pence’s visit to the private, gated, retirement community was not the board’s idea. A resident had invited the Donald Trump campaign, which then called requesting to use the clubhouse. After conferring with legal counsel, the board concluded that it had no choice but agree to it.

Complaints, reluctance force VP Mike Pence to change venues for a Tampa Bay rally.


Tougher gun laws could cause legislative divide” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — As state lawmakers prepare for the start of the Legislative Session, Republicans are split on how — or even if — to address one of the nation’s most divisive political and policy issues: guns. Two years ago, the Republican-dominated Legislature passed gun-control laws for the first time in decades. Now, Senate President Bill Galvano, who played a major role in crafting the 2018 legislation, wants to go further and shut down what he and many other people consider loopholes in state laws regarding background checks and gun sales. “There are myriad things in play, but the background checks are very much being looked at,” Galvano told The News Service of Florida.

Bill Galvano wants to push the envelope on tougher gun laws in the 2020 Session.

Toll road fight is just beginning in Tallahassee” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Gaining initial legislative support last year might have been the easy part for controversial and expensive toll roads envisioned to cut through more than 300 miles of mostly rural land from Collier County to the Georgia border. With many environmental and business groups split about the need and purpose of the projects, lawmakers during the 2020 Legislative Session will start looking at continued funding and accompanying infrastructure as tentative alignments for the roads will soon be rolled out. The alignments are almost sure to inflame efforts by opponents pushing a “no-build” option. Those opponents repeatedly warn the new roads will cause sprawl for people who want to live in small communities and will devastate already-endangered wildlife.

Legislature eyes more ‘CON’ changes” via the News Service of Florida — After eliminating certificates of need last year for hospitals, Florida lawmakers will consider making changes to the so-called CON law for new intermediate care facilities for people with developmental disabilities. House Health Quality Chairwoman Colleen Burton filed a proposal (HB 1163) that would allow facilities to be built outside of the CON process so long as they meet certain requirements. Senate Health Policy Chairwoman Gayle Harrell has filed the Senate version (SB 1344). Certificate of need is a regulation that requires health care providers to prove to the state that there is a “need” for new facilities or services they want to offer. Lawmakers last year eliminated the CON program for new hospitals and tertiary programs, such as organ transplants.

Aaron Bean, Jason Fischer target organ transplant discrimination with new bills” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Sen. Bean and Rep. Fischer are sponsoring bills to allow disabled donors to give organs. The goal: to “protect” access to “lifesaving medical treatment.” Fischer’s bill (HB 1179) was filed Wednesday afternoon. Bean’s is expected to follow. “I am proud to carry this legislation in the Senate,” said Bean. “If someone has been medically approved for an organ transplant and has passed the necessary evaluations, this bill will make it possible for Floridians with disabilities to get on the transplant list.” The legislation has the support of disability rights advocates.

Proposed legislation would require background checks on home delivery workers” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Palm Beach County Republican Rep. Mike Caruso filed a bill (HB 1129) that would prohibit delivery persons from entering the home or being unsupervised with a consumer if they’ve been convicted of certain crimes. The bill is named the Evy Udell Public Safety Act, after a Boca Raton woman killed last year after a delivery person beat her and set her on fire while delivering a package. Caruso’s bill would require employees or contractors tasked with delivering goods to a person’s home to undergo a multistate criminal background check as well as be evaluated under the U.S. Department of Justice’s national sex offender database. Not all criminal infractions would prohibit the employee from working as a delivery provider.

Mike Caruso filed legislation named after Evelyn Smith Udell. The 75 year-old-woman was fatally beaten and burned by a man hired to deliver and install a washer and dryer purchased from Best Buy.

Legislation would prevent judges from sending people who miss jury duty to jail” via Sarah Mueller of Florida Politics — State courts would be prohibited from sending people to jail for missing jury duty under newly filed legislation. The bill is sponsored by state Rep. Al Jacquet, a Riviera Beach Democrat. His district includes part of Palm Beach County. A controversy over using jail as punishment for failing to show up arose last year in West Palm Beach County when Deandre Somerville, a 21-year-old black man, was sentenced to 10 days in jail, 150 hours of community service, a year of probation and a $223 fine for missing jury duty. Jacquet’s bill (HB 1125) wouldn’t let people such Somerville off the hook completely — they could still be subject to a fine of up to $100.

Bill would let state bypass local disputes to build emergency communications towers in Broward neighborhoods” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Broward County’s emergency communications system needs upgrades to avoid a repeat of problems that hurt response efforts to mass shootings in Parkland and the Fort Lauderdale airport. But not everyone has welcomed these radio towers to their neighborhood. Homeowners and their elected representatives upset over unsightly antennas and lower property values have fought the projects, leading to delays and squabbling among local officials. State Sen. Lauren Book filed a bill that gives the state the power to intervene. The measure (SB 1472) would allow the state to bypass local governments and complete communications upgrades if the project isn’t finished within two years and public safety is deemed to be at risk.

Assignment editors — A coalition of Democratic lawmakers and gun violence prevention advocates hold a news conference to highlight the range of gun violence prevention legislation offered by House and Senate Democrats during 2020 Session, 4 p.m., 4th-floor Rotunda.

Happening today — The Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce will meet to discuss legislative priorities ahead of the 2020 Session, 7:30 a.m., Halifax River Yacht Club, 331 South Beach St., Daytona Beach.

Florida TaxWatch supports full funding for VISIT FLORIDA, Sadowski Trust” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Florida TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro said: “In announcing our 2020 legislative priorities, we begin this new year and decade with clear and unrivaled resolve to deliver results to taxpayers that will enhance our economy, increase the benefit and productivity of government, and protect our natural treasures for generations to come.” Those priorities include full funding for VISIT FLORIDA. That picks a side in one of the major fights expected this year. Another perpetual battle in Tallahassee has been proper budgeting for the Sadowski Trust Fund. With revenue tied to title document stamps, the trust is intended to support affordable housing throughout the state but has been raided by lawmakers for years.

Teachers to ‘Take on Tallahassee’ with a march on the Capitol on eve of 2020 Session” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — “The FEA said it will bus thousands of teachers, parents and public education supporters to town for a march on the Capitol while a Senate Education Committee discusses how to boost pay for classroom instructors. The teacher’s union and its allies say a decade of inadequate funding has decimated Florida’s public education system. It cites state statistics that indicate more than 300,000 students started classes last fall without a full-time permanent teacher.


Ron DeSantis wraps up his first year as Governor. See what he’s accomplished” via Tim Walters of FLORIDA TODAY

Assignment editorsDeSantis and Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez will participate in Spirit Airlines’ headquarters groundbreaking ceremony, 10:30 a.m., 1757 North Pointe Dr., Dania Beach.

It’s been a year since Ron DeSantis became Governor. So how’s he doing?

Group urges Florida to prosecute schools over books with sex, LGBTQ references” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — The Florida Citizens Alliance has spent several years railing against novels and instructional materials it says do not belong in the hands of minors. The group refers specifically to books that include explicit sex scenes and that include information about LGBTQ relationships, such as same-sex marriage. It argues that the sex scenes violate state laws on obscenity, while stories about same-sex parents run afoul of state statute saying marriage may take place only between a man and a woman. In the past, the Alliance has pressed lawmakers to make it easier for a county’s residents — not just parents — to challenge schoolbooks with an eye toward removing them. Over the past few years, the Legislature did just that.

Mary Beth Jackson loses her fight for $283K in legal fees” via Tom McLaughlin of the Northwest Florida Daily News — A judge has ruled that the former Okaloosa County School Superintendent  is not entitled to the $283,000 in legal fees she incurred fighting her suspension from office. Oklaoosa County Circuit Judge William Stone issued an order late Tuesday granting the Okaloosa County School Board’s motion to dismiss Jackson’s claim. The motion comes on the heels of a unanimous Dec. 18 School Board vote to settle a lawsuit by paying former school administrator Andy Johnson $62,978 in accrued salary and benefits.

State could take hit in hospital funding” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — The state is being confronted with a $70.4 million loss in the coming months in the amount of Medicaid money it gets to fund hospitals, train future physicians and treat people who are mentally ill. Amy Baker, who leads the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research, is including the reduction — slated to take effect May 23 — in budget documents prepared for lawmakers. The federal government targeted reductions in disproportionate share dollars to help pay for the Affordable Care Act, the health care law commonly referred to as Obamacare. But as Congress has moved to blunt parts of the law, it also has agreed to delay many of its financing mechanisms, including with disproportionate share.

Here’s why Florida knows more about its drug-overdose deaths than the feds” via Ben Conrack of the Miami HeraldThough a surge of opioid-related deaths has been in the public spotlight for years, the federal government’s data on fatal overdoses could be undercounting the actual cost of the epidemic’s devastation in Florida and obscuring the role that other substances have played in contributing to the spike, according to a new study. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — which tracks overdose-related deaths to inform policy debates and academic research — may be missing thousands of deaths for a variety of drugs, including cocaine and opioids, in Florida, according to the study, authored by Troy Quast, associate professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa.


Mitch McConnell rejects Nancy Pelosi’s request for impeachment trial demands” via Burgess Everett of POLITICO — McConnell has already rounded up the votes to move the trial forward without Democratic votes in the Senate. And in a speech responding to Pelosi‘s refusal to transmit the articles to the Senate, McConnell said: “There will be no haggling” with the House over the contours of the trial. “Speaker Pelosi wanted leverage — leverage — to reach into the Senate and dictate our trial proceedings to us. Now I’ve made clear from the beginning that no such leverage exists. It is nonexistent. And yesterday we made clear it will never exist,” McConnell said. “The House Democrats’ turn is over. The Senate has made its decision.”

Mitch McConnell says ‘nope’ to Nancy Pelosi’s demands.

Senate Democrats break with Nancy Pelosi over impeachment trial” via Burgess Everett and Heather Caygle of POLITICO — Senate Democrats say it’s time to begin the trial and end the delay. “The longer it goes on the less urgent it becomes,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein. “So if it’s serious and urgent, send them over. If it isn’t, don’t send it over.” Several other Senate Democrats also showed their impatience with the Democratic leaders’ strategy. Sen. Joe Manchin said Democrats “should move on” and send the articles to the Senate, and Sen. Jon Tester said he’s “ready” for the trial to start. “We need to get folks to testify and we need more information … but nonetheless, I’m ready,” Tester said. “I don’t know what leverage we have. It looks like the cake is already baked.”


A popular theory for Donald Trump’s popularity among Republicans appears to be wrong” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — In YouGov’s most recent poll with The Economist, 88 percent of his party approves of the job he’s doing — somewhat offsetting the disapproval he garners among 89 percent of Democrats. To Democrats, the level of support for Trump within his party seems occasionally baffling. How could someone they hate so much be viewed so positively by the other party? Over the course of Trump’s presidency, a theory emerged: He’s so popular among Republicans because Trump-skeptical Republicans have simply given up on the party. Wring all the skeptics out of the party, and you’re left with a more unanimous, if smaller, core.

Debunking myths that explain Donald Trump’s popularity.

Marco Rubio urges Trump to avoid Nicholás Maduro as stalemate drags on” via Joshua Goodman of The Associated Press — The Florida Republican has been a strong supporter of the Trump administration’s policy toward Venezuela and its recognition of opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the nation’s rightful leader. But some have questioned the effectiveness of that strategy given Maduro’s firm control of the government administration and the armed forces, as well as fatigue among regular Venezuelans with the opposition’s unfulfilled promise to oust the socialist leader. Rubio, in an interview, said the U.S. and Guaidó need to do more to overcome the military’s mistrust and explain better the opposition’s pledge of amnesty so that they switch sides in the year-old political battle.

Federal judge frustrated over Carnival’s continued pollution while on probation” via Taylor Dolven of the Miami Herald — Carnival Corporation executives were in federal court trying to assure U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz that they were making progress on the cruise company’s widespread pollution problem. The judge confronted Carnival Corp. chairman Micky Arison about what he is personally doing to clean up the company’s performance. The court-appointed monitor found repeated environmental violations from July 19, 2019, to Oct. 18, 2019, across the company’s fleet, indicating that little progress had been made toward compliance despite the company investing in and hiring more people for its ethics and compliance office. “I want to give you the necessary impetus to personally take charge and be committed,” Seitz said to Arison. “I want you to become an environmentalist, I guess.”

Here are five USCIS changes that will impact legal immigrants in the U.S. in 2020” via Daniel Shoer Roth of the Miami Herald — The U.S. immigration system saw many changes ordered by the Trump administration during 2019, including some that will take effect in 2020. Designed to slow legal immigration and strengthen the Department of Homeland Security’s ability to enforce immigration laws, some of the changes create obstacles in the immigration process. Others streamline the path to obtain immigration benefits.

Assignment editors — Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez, Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo, Alianza for Progress Director of Communications Adriana Rivera; Borinquen Medical Center Executive Director Paul Velez; state Rep. Cindy Polo; SEIU Local 1991 President Martha Baker; and other Latino health care stakeholders will hold a health care roundtable, 9:45 a.m., Borinquen Medical Center, 3rd Floor Conference Room, 3601 Federal Highway, Miami.

— 2020 —

Progressives play whack-a-Joe with Biden” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — The grassroots assault hit from a variety of angles, starting when the Progressive Change Campaign Committee demanded Biden retract statements about sexism in politics. Hours later, the group Indivisible criticized him over his immigration plan. Then, activists aligned with the Sunrise Movement recently picketed him at a New York City fundraiser. The shared offensive comes on the heels of Biden’s best fundraising quarter — he pulled in nearly $23 million. Many activist groups and rival campaigns had expected Biden — whose campaign once faced questions about its durability — to have crumbled by now. The shared message they all echoed this week: attack Biden at his perceived strong point — his potential strength over other Democrats in a hypothetical general election matchup against Trump.

Progressives try to take down Joe Biden, without success.

Venezuelans in Florida could play key role in November election” via Samantha-Jo Roth of Bay News 9 — While Latino voters nationally have leaned Democratic, Republicans in the Sunshine State continue to make gains with voters who immigrated from South America. The Trump administration’s Venezuela policies are resonating differently across this key demographic, which could have the potential to shift the state’s political landscape in the upcoming presidential election. As the Democratic primary process is set to begin in a little under a month, Latin American voters in this key swing state have a personal and emotional association with the term socialism, shaped by the authoritarian regimes they fled. Republicans this cycle are increasingly using this label, describing Democrats as anti-capitalists and leftists.


Dan Severson’s campaign team resigns in wake of Byron Donalds’ rollout” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Cape Coral Republican Severson announced he’s loaned his congressional campaign $100,000. But he also just had his entire campaign team resign. Campaign Manager Diana Watt and her company, Watt Political Consulting, parted ways with the former Minnesota Representative. “We hold Dan Severson and his wife, Cathy Jo, in the highest regard and wish them the very best,” Watt said. Severson is one of eight Republican candidates running to succeed U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney in Florida’s 19th Congressional District. Watt previously served as a regional field director for the Republican Party of Florida in 2017, and in Ohio in 2016 led the Lucas County campaign for Trump. Nathan Watt, deputy campaign manager, also praised Severson but resigned from the campaign.

When Byron Donalds entered the CD 19 race, Dan Severson’s campaign jumped ship.

Jennifer Bradley closes out 2019 by raising $125K in December” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Between her campaign account and her political committee (Working for Florida’s Families), over $125,000 was raised. Bradley raised $48,900 in hard money in December, earning the maximum $1,000 contribution from a swath of professional groups, as well as perennially active corporations ranging from Publix to the GEO Group. Of the over $381,000 raised, Bradley closed out 2019 with more than $365,000 on hand. The political committee account brought in another $83,500, the third straight month of totals in that range. Over $900,000 waits to be deployed.

Group of South Florida Mayors back Ana Maria Rodriguez in SD 39” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The list includes Juan Carlos “JC” Bermudez of Doral, Manny Cid of Miami Lakes, Claudia Cubillos of El Portal, Yioset De La Cruz of Hialeah Gardens, Anthony DeFillipo of North Miami Beach, Spencer Deno IV of Virginia Gardens, Orlando Lopez of Sweetwater, Steven Losner of Homestead, Roberto Martell of Medley and Rhonda Rodriguez of West Miami. Those Mayors released a collective statement explaining their support of Rodriguez. “Ana Maria Rodriguez works tirelessly for our entire community,” the statement reads. Rodriguez is competing for the SD 39 seat against Democratic state Rep. Javier Fernandez.

— “Hillsborough will be 2020 battleground for Democrats to recapture legislative seats” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times

Football money helps Lenny Curry’s political committee finish 2019 strong” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — The second-term Republican’s political committee reported a $164,000 December haul, the strongest monthly fundraising report since its formation late last year. Contributions were paced by familiar names on the $25,000 level, three of which have ties to either pro football or the sports complex. The Jacksonville Jaguars, an organization still looking for city help with the Lot J development that would bring a branded entertainment facility to the sports complex, gave that much. Even as the team performs ignominiously on the field, they win where it counts: in Jacksonville’s City Hall. Former Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver, a longtime donor like so many Curry contributors, chipped in $25,000 of his own.

Daniella Levine Cava adds $140K in December, crosses $2M mark through 2019” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Levine Cava campaign says it added more than $140,000 during the month of December. That would give the campaign more than $2 million added through 2019 as she competes to be the first female Mayor in Miami-Dade County history. Through November, her campaign had collected more than $533,000. Our Democracy PC, Levine Cava’s political committee, had added more than $1.34 million through that same period. However, $405,000 of that was money transferred from a political committee that backed Levine Cava well before the beginning of her mayoral run.


Breaking overnight — “Jacksonville City Councilman Matt Carlucci calls for Brian Hughes’ resignation” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Ya think? —City of Jacksonville urged to add new hurdles for any future JEA sales talks” via David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union — The Jacksonville Civic Council, a group of leading business executives and civic leaders, issued a statement by its executive committee that said the City Council should get more control by requiring any future sales consideration to first get supermajority support by City Council before heading down that path. The JEA board voted in July to seek offers without seeking any authorization from City Council. The changes sought by the Civic Council would prevent a repeat of JEA deciding on its own to put the utility up for sale. The Civic Council also said the City Council should have the ability to directly appoint members of the JEA board.

JEA paid $25,000 to lobbyist with business ties to then-CEO Aaron Zahn through JaxChamber” via Christopher Hong of the Florida Times-Union — JEA paid the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce $25,000 and told them to use the money to hire Deno Hicks, who at the time had an undisclosed business partnership with Zahn, to raise money for an innovation conference that the organization helped JEA organize in 2018. JAXChamber Chief Executive Officer Daniel Davis confirmed that a JEA official instructed one of his staffers to hire Hicks. A JAXChamber spokesman later confirmed that JEA paid the organization $25,000 in October 2018 that was used to pay Hicks’ firm, the Southern Strategy Group. Davis said he approved the request to hire the Southern Strategy Group but doesn’t know which JEA official told his staff to do so.

Former JEA vice president says CEO Aaron Zahn worked with mayor’s top staffer on ‘political issues’” via Nate Munroe the Florida Times-Union — Mike Hightower, who retired as JEA’s chief public affairs officer in June, texted Zahn that he feared his advice was being increasingly ignored and suggested to Zahn that the Mayor’s Office “would like someone different than me in the new mix.” “Just wish you could have trusted our friendship enough to Frank [sic] and honest with me as to what you wanted for JEA and you … personally and professionally,” Hightower wrote. Zahn memorialized Hightower’s texts by copying and pasting them in a January 2019 email to JEA’s HR chief. Hightower confirmed the email accurately reflects the messages he sent Zahn. It’s not clear why Zahn saved those texts and relayed them to HR.

Jacksonville sheriff offers frank discussion about murder rate” via Dan Scanlan of The Florida Times-Union — “Frustrating” and “tragic” — just some of the emotions Jacksonville’s top cop had about Duval County’s 2019 murder rate, its highest in years. Reflecting on the 158 homicides recorded in the city, the last Dec. 28′s discovery of Atlantic Coast High School teacher Vivian Monche James dead inside her Westside home, Sheriff Mike Williams said the numbers sadly did not shock him. “As we look at the numbers, it was more of what we saw in years past, just more of it,” he said. But the deaths are causing him and his staff to reassess how the department operates, considering what can be done as they notice a historical pattern re-emerging in 2019 about where many happened, like Zone 5 in the Northwest.


Accused of abuse of power, Miami city manager will address allegations for the first time” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — City Manager Emilio González hasn’t responded to allegations he falsified documents in order to secure a permit for a backyard deck at his home or that he used his position to fast-track approval of the permit — accusations hurled at a December commission meeting by a longtime critic, Commissioner Joe Carollo. González was absent from the December meeting because he was with his wife, who was ill. He is expected to address the issue publicly for the first time at Thursday’s commission meeting.

Family fights to reunite with ashes of loved one found at Orlando office of disgraced guardian Rebecca Fierle” via Monivette Cordeiro of the Orlando Sentinel — The family of Marilyn Hammock has been trying to lay her to rest since she died in 2018. This week, they got one step closer: After repeated requests, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed Hammock is one of the 10 people whose cremated ashes were found in the Orlando office of former guardian Fierle. Fierle is under criminal investigation by FDLE but is not currently facing charges. After Hammock, 94, died in June 2018, her aunt-in-law Martha Register said she insisted Fierle send the ashes to Georgia so Hammock could be buried among family members. But Register said the guardian told her she would keep the cremated remains until Hammock’s husband also died.

Daytona police raid at city Commissioner’s rental property after gambling tip” via Patricio Balona of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — Daytona Beach police seized gambling machines from a business that was about to start operation in a building owned by a city Commissioner, the police chief said. A search warrant was served at 318 Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Blvd. to seize the gambling machines, said Police Chief Craig Capri. City Commissioner Ruth Trager and her husband Warren Trager on the building. The chief said the couple didn’t know what was going on in the building. “They’re innocent,” Capri said.

Who’s to blame for the sewage in Fort Lauderdale streets? Depends who you ask.” via Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Critics, wondering why the pipes weren’t fixed long ago, are asking who’s to blame. Some blame the city’s elected officials. Some blame those who came before. A consultant’s report released in April 2017 estimated Fort Lauderdale would need to spend $1.4 billion over the next 20 years getting its water and sewer pipes in order. That 839-page report by consultant Reiss Engineering warned that parts of the city’s water-sewer system were on the “brink of failure.” But Lee Feldman, city manager at the time, told Commissioners the report exaggerated the frailty of the utility system. He relied on a report prepared the year before by another consultant that claimed the system was well-maintained and in good operating condition.

Who is responsible for Fort Lauderdale’s sewage troubles? Depends.

2 more scooter companies apply to operate in Orlando: 1 on sidewalks, 1 on streets” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Lynx City and Wheels filed the applications, about a week after two other companies had done so. Between the four applications, they could bring as many as 1,600 total devices to the city if they’re approved in their entirety. Unique among applicants so far, Wheels’ scooters have seats and a helmet, meaning their units wouldn’t be allowed to operate on Orlando’s sidewalks nor abide the city’s 10-mph limit in its ordinance. Instead, the Wheels scooters would need to follow state law, which says they can’t exceed 20 mph.

‘The charges are serious’: Florida regulatory agency lawyer fired after child porn arrest,” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee DemocratA senior attorney for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation was fired Tuesday following his arrest on charges of possession of child pornography. David Wayne Aring, 48, was arrested after an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, according to court records. He was booked into the county jail on 10 felony counts of possession of child pornography and one misdemeanor count of possession of a child-like sex doll. Investigators traced online activity on a peer-to-peer network to Aring’s apartment and found child pornography had been uploaded at his address. They learned Aring, who spent five years working for the state’s Guardian ad Litem program, was the only person residing at the apartment.


Trump, Iran and that ambiguous balance on making war” via Randy Schultz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — About 100,000-plus members of the U.S. armed forces have been killed in “wars” over the last 75 years without Congress declaring war. Another 200,000-plus have been wounded. Almost all of the casualties have come in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. The flashpoint now is Iran and whether Gen. Qassem Soleimani’s death could lead to direct military conflict. Like presidents before him, Trump has tried to stretch his powers as commander-in-chief as far as possible. There is a general agreement that presidents can act quickly to repel threats. The key point with Soleimani is whether Trump had credible evidence of an “imminent” threat.

Florida Supreme Court needs a black justice” via Perry Thurston and Darryl Rouson for the Tampa Bay Times — To his credit, the Governor has appointed eight black judges to the lower courts, a record when compared to former Gov. Rick Scott’s. Those appointments will help get more African American jurists into the pipeline for higher appellate judgeships. However, the big yardstick remains appointments to the Florida Supreme Court, a measurement where DeSantis has fallen short. Florida’s situation does not even mirror that of the nation, where people of color hold only 15% of the state Supreme Court seats. Florida needs an independent judiciary that inspires confidence, trust and reflects the diversity of the state’s population. The Florida Supreme Court is no inconsequential institution. It remains the arbitrator of key legal decisions that will impact all Floridians.

Lawmakers creating an all-powerful nanny state at the expense of locally elected government” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — Preemption is when the state uses its powers to usurp laws passed by counties and municipalities. Those local governing bodies know their citizens’ wishes better than the state. Just don’t tell that to lawmakers in Tallahassee. They’ve turned preemption into a naked power grab. Integrity Florida, a nonprofit government research group, released a report that noted 119 preemptive bills have been filed in the past three years. Those state measures addressed everything from minimum wages to plastic grocery bags to suntan lotion to tree trimming. “There are definite benefits of preemption,” said Ben Wilcox, Integrity Florida’s research director. “It just needs to be done more rationally and not enthusiastically.” Ideological impulses have largely replaced rational thinking.

No school after Halloween? Bill would make it law” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Sen. Taddeo said she was responding to online petitions from students in Miami-Dade and Orange counties who felt they shouldn’t be forced to endure the hardship of classes after a big night out. I was curious to see the policy arguments posed by the young petition-signers. Diddy P. in Miami said: “its (sic) hard to get wasted and have to go to school.” How true, Diddy. Up here in Orange, Gabe T. explained: “school is wack (sic) and ion (sic) coming to school tired from eating candy.” Well stated, gentlemen. To be fair, there were some more thoughtful observations — including some from teachers who described post-Halloween students as useless zombies. But frankly, this all seems weak to me.

On impeachment, a head-in-the-sand caucus takes shape, and it appears Marco Rubio is its leader” via Steve Benen of MSNBC — When former White House National Security Adviser John Bolton announced he’s willing to testify during Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, it quickly jolted the political debate. Indeed, it created a challenge Senate Republicans would have preferred to avoid: how would they justify excluding voluntary testimony from an important witness with first-hand information about the president’s culpability? But one senator stood out by making a spirited argument in defense of ignoring relevant information.


Spotted — At the CES in Las Vegas: Senate President Bill Galvano; state Sens. Jeff Brandes and Joe Gruters; Slater Bayliss; Chris Dawson; Anne Duncan; Katie Flury; Jeff and Sonya Hartley; Marva Johnson; Christopher Moya; RJ Myers; Ananth Prasad and Alan Suskey.

Tweet, tweet:

— ALOE —

Quibi unveils ‘TurnStyle,’ its flagship mobile video format” via Sara Fischer of Axios — The technology, which was demoed at CES in Las Vegas, is a huge part of what Quibi thinks will help differentiate its product from other mobile video experiences, like Snapchat or Instagram. Turnstyle is typically created by stitching together two videos of the same scene together, one captured in a landscape lens (horizontally) and one captured in a portrait lens (vertically), said Quibi chief product officer Tom Conrad. The format is patent pending. In many cases, Conrad says, video creators will shoot one very wide piece of footage and then can crop the same video in two ways — one in vertical and one in horizontal — so that they can be later stitched together to create Turnstyle.

Quibi introduces a process that could change how we watch shows on cellphones.

Twitter will add the ability to limit who can reply to tweets” via Kia Kokalitcheva of Axios — The change marks a departure from Twitter’s wide-open approach to online interactions and represents a response to rising discontent with harassment and abuse on the service. Until now, users’ control came only in the form of after-the-fact options like blocking other users or, more recently, hiding certain replies to their tweets. Users sending a tweet will be able to select one of four categories for replies — Global: Anyone can reply. Group: People the user follows and mentions can reply. Panel: Only people mentioned in that tweet itself can reply. Statement: No replies allowed.

Miami Heat reveal plans for Dwyane Wade jersey retirement, documentary” via The Associated Press — The Heat will celebrate Wade’s career with a three-day series of tributes next month, including the retirement of his No. 3 jersey and a viewing of the documentary that chronicles his final season. A tribute to some of his best moments will be held on Feb. 21. The jersey will go to the rafters when the Heat plays the Cleveland Cavaliers on Feb. 22. And the documentary covering his on- and off-court life will be shown at the team’s arena on Feb. 23. Wade will be the fifth former Heat player to have his jersey retired by the team, joining Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway, Shaquille O’Neal and Chris Bosh.

Why eye exams are so important” via Stephanie Bowens of StarNews Online — Dr. Jessica Stephenson, is an optometrist at Atlantic Vision Center. She stresses that a yearly eye exam is important in maintaining one’s vision and health and in providing early detection and intervention if needed: 1) Regular eye exams help maintain proper vision, monitor eye health. 2) Eye exams are more in-depth than vision screening tests. 3) Various medical conditions can affect eye health. 4) Early detection of eye diseases are vital. 5) Eye exams can detect potentially life-threatening health problems.


Best wishes to Mike Fasano‘s right-hand man, Greg Giordano andinsurance lobbyist Lisa Miller.


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

Peter Schorsch

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.


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.

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