Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 1.10.20

Sunburn Orange Tally (8)
Coffee is for closers. So is Sunburn, your morning rundown of Florida politics.

Are you ready for some — python hunting? Kickoff for the Super Bowl won’t happen at Hard Rock Stadium until Feb. 2, but a different sportsman’s event, the 2020 Python Bowl, starts today.

Pythons represent a dangerous game in Florida, most notably as an invasive species hurting the Everglades ecosystem. After irresponsible pet owners decided the best way to get rid of an unwanted Burmese python was to release it into the wild, South Florida has seen the creatures thrive in the tropical environment. Still, with no natural predators, the beasts throw threaten native flora and fauna.

Are you ready for some python hunting? Python Bowl is here.

That’s why Florida Fish and Wildlife officials held a Python Challenge in 2013, catching 68 pythons, and python season opened a few times again as state officials seek to control the population. Gov. Ron DeSantis, in 2019, announced this year’s Python Challenge timed to the Super Bowl’s arrival in Miami; the Super Bowl Host Committee even teamed up for the effort.

The 10-day competition runs through Dec. 19, after which sponsor Bass Pro Shops will award two 570 Tracker Off Road ATVs to the competitors bringing the most snakes home to skin. At 11 a.m. today, preregistered individuals will get a lesson on trapping, and free field bags will be handed out while supplies last.

Who knows the over/under on how many scaly trophies will be pulled from the swamp this year, but state leaders will be fine, whatever the number.

“The invasive species are a whole issue. All I know if I have a pair of python boots I absolutely love, and it came from someone who got a python in the Everglades,” said state Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, whose district includes the western section of the Everglades. “More power to the people who can catch them.”


Florida’s Chamber of Commerce is issuing its economic forecast for 2020 — and it’s huge: 200,000 new jobs created, and 320,000 new residents moving to the Sunshine State.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— The Supreme Court dealt a death blow to the constitutional amendment seeking to deregulate the energy industry in Florida, saying it cannot appear on the ballot in November. It’s a major win for the utilities (and big business in general).

— Speaking of constitutional amendments, Sunrise talks with pollster Steve Vancore about some of the propositions that still have a chance of making the ballot this year.

— And today’s Florida Man segment includes a homeless man who tried to hack his way out of jail by impersonating a prosecutor online.

To listen, click on the image below:


@nytimes: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg announced this week that she was cancer-free

@RepMattGaetz: Find yourself a woman who holds you as tight as Nancy Pelosi holds her impeachment articles.

@RepStephMurphy: I voted against #WarPowersResolution b/c I’m not prepared to unduly limit our nation’s ability to respond to new & evolving threats. The War Powers Act of 1973 already restricts POTUS’s ability to wage war. Our goals must be peace & the security of all Americans.

@RepRutherfordFL: It’s honestly pretty simple. @realDonaldTrump eliminated a dangerous terrorist. If you don’t want to be called an Ayatollah sympathizer, don’t sympathize with the Ayatollah.

@GovRonDeSantis: One year ago, I named Barbara Lagoa to @FLCourts — the first Cuban-American woman to serve on FL’s highest bench. Today, she serves on the @USCourts 11th Circuit, where she continues to uphold the rule of law through principle-based decisions. Her replacement will do the same.

@DanaYoungFL: Today marks 1 year since I became President & CEO of @VISITFLORIDA. It’s been an honor to work w/the most dedicated & resilient professionals in FL. Thanks to @GovRonDeSantis for this opportunity & for his support of our organization. We have a lot to accomplish, and I’m all in!

@CarlosGSmith: The fact that all 8 lawmakers said they were open to expanding possible uses of TDT funds is a sea change from previous legislative delegations. We need all possible housing and transportation solutions on the table, ya’ll!

@UrsulaPerano: A very dc experience I had this morning was my roommate banging on my bathroom door as I showered to yell, “538 is dropping their primary forecast model today.”


College Football National Championship — 3; 2020 Session begins — 4; Florida Chamber Legislative Fly-in — 4; Seventh Democratic presidential debate in Des Moines — 4; Florida TaxWatch State of the TaxPayer Dinner in Tallahassee — 5; Sundance Film Festival begins — 13; “Star Trek: Picard” premiers — 13; Annual Red Dog Blue Dog Celebrity Bartender Benefit — 16; New Brexit deadline — 21; Super Bowl LIV in Miami — 23; Great American Realtors Day — 24; Iowa Caucuses — 24; Eighth Democratic presidential debate in Manchester — 29; Capitol Press Corps press skits — 32; New Hampshire Primaries — 32; Pitchers and catchers begin reporting for MLB Spring Training — 32; Ninth Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas — 40; Roger Stone’s sentencing — 41; Nevada caucuses — 43; “Better Call Saul” Season 5 premiers — 44; 10th Democratic presidential debate in Charleston — 46; South Carolina Primaries — 50; Super Tuesday — 53; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 63; Florida’s presidential primary — 67; “No Time to Die” premiers — 91; Florida Chamber Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 130; “Top Gun: Maverick” premiers — 168; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 185; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premiers — 189; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo start — 196; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 221; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 227; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 271; First Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 279; Second presidential debate at Belmont — 286; 2020 General Election — 298.


Jimmy Patronis Sr., influential business owner and philanthropist, has died” via Jacqueline Bostick of the Panama City News-Herald — Patronis, Capt. Anderson’s co-founder, died early Thursday morning. He was 88. Funeral services will be 12 p.m. CST Monday at First Baptist Church in downtown Panama City. The Patronis family will receive friends at the Wilson’s Funeral Home from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday. His older brother and business partner Johnny Patronis said he is happy that his younger brother Jimmy “had a great trip” over the more than 50 years since the family moved to the area. The brothers opened Capt. Anderson’s about 53 years ago and made the restaurant a stalwart of the west end of the county. On Twitter, the senior’s son, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, noted his father was the rock of the family.


Ron DeSantis, Jeanette Núñez attend Spirit Airlines’ groundbreaking” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — DeSantis and Núñez joined Spirit Airlines executives in Dania Beach for a groundbreaking event. “Spirit Airlines is a major job creator for our state, and we are excited that they have chosen to expand their Florida footprint with this new corporate campus,” DeSantis said. Spirit Airlines has called South Florida home for 20 years, according to President and CEO Ted Christia. Plans in October were submitted to the City of Dania Beach for a 500,000-square-foot at Dania Pointe. The $250-million campus, which includes space for new flight simulators, classrooms and short-term housing, will create some 225 jobs over the next five years, state officials said.

Spirit Airlines CEO Ted Christie, Ron DeSantis, Jeanette Nuñez, Broward County Mayor Dale Holness and Spirit Airlines CFO Scott Haralson move dirt at Spirit Airlines’ groundbreaking.

Breaking overnight — “Motorola Solutions out as next-gen SLERS vendor?” via Florida Politics — After months of uncertainty, the Department of Management Services is ditching Motorola Solutions as the vendor for the next generation Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System. The move comes after DMS Secretary Jonathan Satter gave the company an ultimatum. In a letter sent late last month, Satter told Motorola CEO Gregory Brown that the company could either agree to the terms DMS put forward or the department would yank the contract. Motorola didn’t agree, and on Thursday, Satter followed through. “Since Motorola has failed to execute a contract as a result of the competitive procurement, the Department will initiate conversations with stakeholders to evaluate options and move toward the new procurement of a next-generation system.”


Senate bill would bring significant changes to early learning — A Senate education bill would institute a standardized test for pre-K students, reports Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida. The bill, carried by Sen. Gayle Harrell and Rep. Erin Grall, comes after DeSantis said last year that kindergarten readiness rates were “certainly not good enough.” In addition to the testing requirements, the bills would get rid of the Office of Early Learning and replace it with a new Division of Early Learning within the state’s Department of Education.

Kionne McGhee pushes 3-year plan to raise pay for veteran teachers, support staff” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — McGhee’s bill (HB 1223) would raise teacher salaries would be increased to $47,500 or bumped up by 5%, whichever number is greater. By July 1, 2021, those salaries would see another 4% bump or be raised to $49,400, again whichever is greater. Finally, by July 1, 2022, those teacher salaries would either receive another 4% increase or be raised to $51,376, which number is higher. McGhee would also give a pay bump to educational support employees. Those employees include janitorial staff, clerical workers, and other nonadministrative and noninstructional employees. Those workers would see similar rises in pay, with a 5% jump kicking in on July 1, 2020. They would receive another 4% pay raise in 2021 and 2022 as well.

Troubled by domestic violence nonprofit’s spending, legislators seek change in law” via Elizabeth Koh of the Miami Herald — The bills — sponsored by Sen. Aaron Bean and Rep. Juan Fernandez-Barquin — would strip the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence of its contract long guaranteed in state statute. For decades, the nonprofit has been written into the law as a de facto partner of the Department of Children and Families to pass government funds to 42 domestic violence centers across the state. Bean, who chairs the Senate’s health care budget committee, said he filed the legislation in part because of past reporting on the former coalition CEO’s $761,000 salary as well as the coalition’s reluctance to fully provide documents requested in a state audit started in 2018.

Aaron Bean is worried about excess spending by the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Senate eyes changes for disabilities program” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — A legislative proposal to overhaul a program that helps Floridians with developmental and intellectual disabilities was released Thursday — and is quickly sparking fears among people who work with the thousands of residents who rely on assistance from the state. The bill (SB 82), filed by Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Chairman Bean, would require the state in October to begin a competitive bidding process to contract with two organizations to provide support-coordination services. The bill also would require the state to hire an outside organization to determine whether people’s iBudgets should be increased because of “significant additional needs.” Currently, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, which administers the iBudget program, makes those determinations.

Scott Plakon pushes bill to renew Seminole Tribe gambling compact to the tune of $750M a year” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — The Longwood Republican says the measure would restart the Tribe’s payments to the state while providing incentives to pari-mutuel owners to convert their properties into non-gambling businesses. “The net effect of this would be a contraction of gambling,” Plakon said. Under the proposal, HB 1195, the Seminole Tribe would be the only entity that could offer casino-style games — craps, roulette, and banked card games like blackjack and baccarat ― and the Tribe would pay $750 million annually to the state. Also, about 5% of those payments would go to help pari-mutuel owners, which face dwindling revenues from greyhound and horse racing, to turn their properties into non-gambling businesses.

’Most complicated issue’: PIP repeal to get serious consideration in 2020 Session” via Sarah Mueller of Florida Politics — State Sen. Tom Lee is sponsoring a bill (SB 378) that repeals the Personal Injury Protection law in favor of bodily liability coverage mandates. State Rep. Grall is sponsoring a similar bill (HB 771) that has a medical payment opt-out. Mark Delegal, the co-chair of Holland & Knight’s government advocacy team, calls PIP a disaster. He said the law only really worked well for the first 10 years. The state legislature has tried to fix the law for more than 20 years. “I haven’t found a person who says, ‘PIP is great, it’s working wonderful, and we should keep it just as it is,’” he said. “I can’t find that person. That person’s a unicorn.”

After Sentinel’s Laborland series, Central Florida legislators support using hotel taxes for housing and public transit” via Chabeli Herrera and Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — “We have to be more flexible in how tourist development tax money is spent,” said Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith. “Central Florida’s $75 billion tourism industry was built on the backs of tourism workers who need affordable housing and transportation infrastructure. There is a crisis on both of those fronts. Everything should be on the table to address these crises.” To help ease the housing shortage, some Central Florida legislators are again supporting a bill to prevent their colleagues from raiding the state’s affordable housing fund, known as the Sadowski Fund. A similar bill died last year, but attention on the scope of the problem has intensified.

Bill would assure renters’ day in court on evictions” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — State Sen. Victor Torres and state Rep. Anna Eskamani want to change Florida law to make it easier for someone being evicted to get a day in court before being sent to the street. Senate Bill 1528 and House Bill 6069 would eliminate a requirement that tenants post back rent [and rent that accrues during the proceedings] with a court registry assured of getting a court hearing on their evictions. “Rental rates are too high in Florida,” Torres stated. “And tenants are at a constant disadvantage, facing abusive landlords, and state laws that constantly give tenants the short end of the stick. SB 1528 simply levels the playing field.”

Outrage over South Florida juror who was jailed for oversleeping sparks legislation” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — State Sen. Bobby Powell and state Rep. Al Jacquet filed bills (SB 1590/ HB 1125) that would bar judges from sentencing people to jail for missing jury duty. Failing to show up without a valid excuse still could result in a $100 fine under the bill. The issue made national headlines after Judge John Kastrenakes sentenced Deandre Somerville to serve 10 days in jail, complete one year of probation, perform 150 hours of community service, write an apology letter and pay $223 in court costs. Kastrenakes initially defended his sentence, saying Somerville needed to be accountable for failing to perform jury duty. But amid a backlash over Somerville’s jail time, he vacated the rest of Somerville’s sentence.

Palm Beach County Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes is the inspiration for a bill that prevents judges from jailing delinquent jurors.

’Local voices, local choices’: League of Cities outlines 2020 priorities” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — An eve-of-Session press briefing on the group’s 2020 Action Agenda struck many of the familiar notes. Among the 2020 priorities: a renewed defense of home rule, allowing cities to regulate short-term rentals in terms of zoning and occupancy, and renewed attention to the state’s water issues. Additionally, the group wants to stop the Legislature from sweeping the Sadowski Trust affordable housing fund, and backs moves to strengthen cybersecurity and to allow cities to regulate medical cannabis companies. The League sees local control (“local voices, local choices”) as the ultimate priority. Lobbyists hit many of the major themes in an hourlong colloquium.


Florida Chamber forecasts strong Sunshine State economy in 2020” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — That presentation forecast 200,000 new jobs will be created this year and Florida’s population growth will rebound from a bit of a slowdown in 2019 to return to a rate of adding about 900 new residents every day, according to the presentation from Florida Chamber Foundation Chief Economist Jerry Parrish. Yet Parrish and Florida Chamber of Commerce President Mark Wilson offered cautions. Specifically, they called out the constitutional amendment heading for the ballot this year that would ask voters to mandate increases in the minimum wage, and Florida Legislature considerations to reduce or eliminate funding for VISIT FLORIDA among other concerns, such as international tensions, including trade tariffs and oil prices.

Florida Chamber Foundation Chief Economist Jerry Parrish is bullish on the Sunshine State in 2020.

In Florida, homeowners come for the weather and stay for the tax relief” via Beth DeCarbo of The Wall Street Journal — In 183 days, wealthy homeowners can potentially shave tens of thousands of dollars from their tax bills. They can get those same savings the next year and the following years as well. In fact, they can cut their taxes even further after they die. What’s the secret? Moving to Florida, a state with no income tax or estate tax. Plenty of millionaires and billionaires have been happy to ditch high-tax states like New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and California.

Here’s why Florida knows more about its drug-overdose deaths than the feds” via Ben Conarck of the Miami Herald — Florida keeps more detailed data on its overdose-related deaths than other states by obtaining the numbers from medical examiners. But the gaps between the data collected by Florida medical examiners and the federal government’s data illustrate the need for a more accurate accounting that would help illuminate new trends for public health experts — for instance, the role of fentanyl and cocaine in overdose deaths. Depending on the drug, the number of deaths noted in the state medical examiner data ranged from 19% to 39% higher than the same counts in the federal data, according to the study.

Prison staffing problems continue” via the News Service of Florida — When 2020 started, Florida prisons had 2,305 vacant correctional officer positions, a 16% increase from the same time last year. Prison officials have been trying to alleviate the worker shortage for years. The latest effort came last spring when lawmakers lowered the state’s minimum age to work as a corrections officer from 19 to 18. Six months after DeSantis approved the change in the age requirement, the corrections department had been able to hire 87 correctional officers who were 18 years old. Prison officials said that as the summer approaches, they expect more graduating high school seniors to “take advantage of this opportunity to begin a fulfilling career in public service.”


Half the stuff in Fort Lauderdale’s sewage system isn’t waste. Sea rise makes leaks worse” via Adriana Brasileiro and Alex Harris of the Miami Herald — Most of it isn’t actually poop or other flushed stuff. More than half the volume flowing through the city’s crumbling sewage infrastructure is actually groundwater seeping in through the many, many cracks and holes in the aging system. And it’s another problem for coastal communities that climate change is making worse: sea rise is soaking metal pipes in salty, corrosive water, and flooding from more frequent high tides pushes up through the ground, collecting that leaked sewage as it floods streets and parks. Other Florida cities and counties will likely face similar problems and massive expenses in the future or already have.

Half the sewage flowing on Fort Lauderdale streets is not ‘sewage’ at all.


Nancy Pelosi not budging on impeachment articles” via Heather Caygle and Sarah Ferris of POLITICO — Pelosi remained steadfast in her demand that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell first detail the framework for the trial before she relents. “We need to see the arena in which we are sending our managers. Is that too much to ask?” Pelosi told reporters, adding that she won’t hold the articles “indefinitely.” “I’ll send them over when I’m ready,” Pelosi said when pressed again about her timeline. “And that’ll probably be soon.” Pelosi’s comments indicate that the stalemate with McConnell over the impeachment trial could continue into next week and beyond, as Capitol Hill’s two most powerful leaders remain at an impasse with both refusing to compromise.

Nancy Pelosi remains adamant about holding the articles of impeachment.


So, who will win the Democratic nomination?

FiveThirtyEight has created a new 2020 Democratic primary forecast, using an updated model to simulate the primary season (using thousands of permutations) to find the most likely outcome for each candidate.

The numbers crunchers then determined how many delegates, on average, each candidate would have pledged to them at each point in the primary season — as well as a range of possible delegate counts.

In addition, they show the distribution of simulated final pledged delegate counts. Right now, many candidates, even the front-runners, our close to zero — generally, those are simulations where the candidate dropped out before having a chance to accumulate many delegates.

After crunching the delegate/primary numbers, Joe Biden leads, with Bernie Sanders coming in second.

Forecasts as of today: Joe Biden has a 42% chance to win a majority of pledged delegates, followed by Bernie Sanders at 22%, Elizabeth Warren at 12%, and Pete Buttigieg at 9%. There’s a 13% chance nobody will secure a majority. 

As for Florida, Biden is forecast to win an average of 35% of the vote. In 80% of simulations, the former Vice President wins between 0.3% and 70% of the vote. He has a 1 in 2 (51%) chance of winning the most votes, a bit better than the second most likely winner, Sanders, who has a 1 in 5 (21%) chance.

Also forecast: Biden will win an average of 95 pledged delegates out of a possible 219. In 80% of simulations, he wins between 0 and 197 delegates. He has a 1 in 2 (50%) chance of winning the most delegates, better than the second most likely winner, Sanders, who has a 1 in 5 (22%) chance.

Florida has 219 pledged delegates: 76 will are awarded based on the statewide vote, and 143 on the vote in its congressional districts.

For more details and examination of all the states in the Democratic primary, visit FiveThirtyEight.

— MORE 2020 —

Inside Elizabeth Warren’s effort to court her vanquished rivals — and why it’s worth her time” via Annie Linskey and Amy Wang of The Washington Post — It’s a quiet part of a strategy that’s becoming more urgent: to craft an image as a consensus candidate, one who can unite a fractured party whose dueling wings are often represented by two of her top rivals, Sen. Sanders, a democratic socialist, and former Vice President Biden, an establishment fixture. Warren’s positioning as a unity candidate is a shift from her fiery liberal persona earlier in the campaign. And it highlights the changing dynamics of the race: As Sanders has consolidated significant support from the party’s liberal faction, it has forced Warren to seek more votes from traditionalists.

Elizabeth Warren and Julian Castro, are forming a strategic alliance to show she can unite the party.

Bernie Sanders emerges as growing threat to Joe Biden” via Natasha Korecki of POLITICO — Both in tactics and rhetoric, there are growing signs Biden takes his rival very seriously — and that he increasingly views Sanders as his most formidable opponent in Iowa and beyond. The Biden campaign has specifically courted the endorsement of community leaders in Iowa who backed Sanders in 2016. They’ve sought to combat Sanders’ recent habit of rolling out star surrogates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with their own A-list surrogates. And last week, Biden’s five-day Iowa bus tour heavily concentrated on the eastern part of the state — the biggest regional battleground between the two candidates because of its concentration of working-class voters.


GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz explains why he voted for War Powers Resolution despite his ‘love’ for Trump” via Yael Halon of Fox News — Gaetz explained his decision to break ranks with most of his GOP colleagues on Thursday and vote with most House Democrats on a non-binding resolution curbing President Trump’s power to order military action against Iran. “I spoke to the president today,” Gaetz revealed on Tucker Carlson Tonight. “The president told me he is more antiwar than I am, and I love the president for that. The thing is, I think a few of the advisers of the president are trying to slow-walk the administration into war. When the president relies on his instincts and we have the Trump doctrine, we kill the terrorist and we come home.”


Florida Supreme Court rejects ‘energy choice’ idea” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — The Court’s justices found the proposed amendment was misleading because its summary stated that the amendment would also allow customers to sell electricity. “In fact, the amendment does no such thing,” justices wrote. The proposal looked to deregulate the state’s energy market, which is dominated by private utility monopolies such as Florida Power & Light, Gulf Power, Duke Energy and Tampa Electric Co. It would have allowed customers to choose their electricity providers from a competitive market or give them more options to produce solar energy. Attorney General Ashley Moody also argued to the court that the proposal was misleading and a veiled attempt to “eliminate” the state’s investor-owned utilities.

Citizens for Energy Choices Chair Alex Patton sums it up nicely.

Florida Senate attempts to end Medicaid expansion effort” via Nathaniel Weixel of The Hill — The Senate is asking the state’s Supreme Court to dismiss a review of the potential ballot question because the advocacy group pushing for the measure did not collect enough signatures. The group Florida Decides Healthcare initially aimed to have the Medicaid expansion measure appear on the 2020 ballot, but it failed to raise enough money after the state passed a new law that changed the way canvassers are paid. Florida law allows signatures to be valid for two years, but the Senate argued that since there will be a presidential election in 2020, the criteria for placement on the 2022 ballot isn’t known.

Petition gatherers hurt in Florida GOP crackdown on constitutional amendments” via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald — Under a new elections law that went into effect in July, ballot initiatives are no longer allowed to pay petition gatherers for each signature they collect. Instead, they may pay them a salary or an hourly wage. The bill died in the middle of last year’s legislative session but was resurrected in the closing hours and amended onto another bill at the urging of the new governor. According to pay stubs and interviews conducted by the Miami Herald, Petition Partners is incentivizing workers to bring in more signatures by setting a productivity standard. And workers like Mignoli are losing out. According to pay stubs provided to the Herald, he is being paid $91 to $404 per week, which equates to 6 to 33 hours of weekly work. But most weeks, Mignoli says he works 30 to 50 hours. He, alongside other registered petition gatherers, was told that he could only bill for hours where he got at least seven signatures per hour, he said. For example, when he worked 25 hours gathering 77 signatures last month, he was told he could only bill for 10 of those hours.

First in Sunburn —James St. George joins crowded Republican primary for CD 3” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — North Central Florida physician James St. George announced Friday that he would seek the seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho. The self-described conservative Republican is the fifth Republican to enter the race and the second to do so this week, following the declaration of Clay County Commissioner Gavin Rollins. “Now more than ever we need members of Congress who support our President and represent our conservative values just as Congressman Yoho has done so honorably,” St. George said.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez tells supporters he’ll announce a run for Congress Wednesday” via David smiley and Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Gimenez, who has mulled a congressional bid for weeks, has called allies and donors in recent days to say he’s decided to announce plans to seek Florida’s 26th Congressional District as a Republican. The seat, representing Southwest Miami-Dade and the Florida Keys, is currently held by Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. Gimenez is planning a public announcement Wednesday, one day after he delivers his final State of the County address, according to three sources. It’s not yet known where he will roll out his campaign.

Former ACLU deputy director files to run against longtime Miami-Dade State Attorney” via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — Melba Pearson, the former deputy director of Miami’s American Civil Liberties Union, filed paperwork to challenge longtime incumbent Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle. She is a former Miami-Dade assistant state attorney who served 16 years as a prosecutor under Fernández Rundle. Pearson filed the paperwork several weeks after a political committee, Real Reform for Miami-Dade, formed to back a challenger to oust the incumbent.

George Kruse files for seat on Manatee Commission. He’s an affordable housing advocate” via Ryan Callahan of the Bradenon Herald —Republican Kruse has filed to run for the District 1 seat representing parts of Ellenton, Palmetto and Parrish on the Manatee Board of County Commissioners. Kruse said his experience in finance and real estate makes him a more diverse choice on the board. “Honestly, the board right now is a little universal. There aren’t that many different voices. You have seven people on the board with similar voices and ideas,” Kruse said in an interview with the Bradenton Herald. “We need better backgrounds and experiences.”


Despite ‘cone-of-silence’ over JEA sale, top mayoral official spoke to Florida Power and Light CEO during private party at Jaguars game” via Christopher Hong of Florida Times-Union — Brian Hughes, Mayor Lenny Curry’s top administrator, denied having a substantive conversation with Florida Power and Light CEO Eric Silagy during a party the company hosted at the Oct. 27 Jaguars game. Silagy recalled speaking with Hughes about several issues related to economic development but not about JEA. A conversation between a top official for the Mayor, who would play a role in approving or denying any sale of JEA, and the leader of FPL, a powerful company considered a front-runner to purchase JEA, certainly skirted a gray area.

Ex-Congresswoman’s conviction upheld in charity scam” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — A sharply divided federal appeals court upheld the conviction of former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown in a charity scam, rejecting her arguments that a juror had been improperly dismissed because he said the “Holy Spirit” told him Brown was not guilty. A majority of a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals backed a decision by U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan to replace the juror with an alternate during Brown’s 2017 trial. In the majority opinion, Judge Robin Rosenbaum focused heavily on a question of whether the dismissed juror, identified only as Juror 13, could have decided the case based on the evidence.


Accused of abuse of power, Miami city manager will address allegations for the first time” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — At the center of the Miami’s latest maelstrom is City Manager Emilio González, the top administrator, who controls a $1 billion budget and oversees a 4,000-person workforce. The city manager hasn’t responded to allegations that he falsified documents 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. González is expected to address the issue publicly for the first time at Thursday’s commission meeting.

Emilio González faces accusations of abuse of power. He will address them at the next meeting.

Spencer Roach calls law enforcement over activist’s Facebook post” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The post from activist Randy Scott, who runs the group People Of SWFL, came shortly after a U.S. drone killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. The post read: “The middle east crisis are not that complex to grasp when you understand what goes on here with (State Attorney) Amira Fox, (Sheriff) Carmine Marceno, (Sanibel Mayor) Kevin Ruane, Spencer Roach claiming leadership roles. There is a small cabal running these politicians as political seat warmers and on occasion one of these benefactors peeks out at the Baghdad airport and is addressed permanently … We are getting closer and closer to the day of reckoning for domestic enemies being brought to justice and they know it.”

Miami meltdown: Commission abruptly ends meeting, delays dozens of decisions” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — Miami’s first commission meeting of the new decade ended abruptly Thursday during a loud argument over how to proceed with the day’s business, leading to a hasty adjournment before any substantive votes were cast. Tensions burst and overtook any will to continue with the business of the city, an agenda with more than 50 items as varied as the alleged improprieties of City Manager Emilio González, the creation of an LGBTQ advisory board, the confirmation of an administrator to oversee a tax-funded agency that promotes downtown, and regulations for food trucks. All of that business was left on the table when the proceeding came to a complete halt shortly after 11 a.m.

State Attorney Bill Eddins opts out of running for fifth term, endorses Greg Marcille” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Eddins said Chief Assistant State Attorney Marcille has 30 years of experience as a prosecutor and has been involved in every major decision of his office in the last 15 years. “It’s been the high honor of my life to serve as a state attorney for the people of the First Judicial Circuit,” Eddins said. Elected in 2004, Eddins succeeded Curtis Golden as state attorney after Golden had a 36-year career in the job.

INSIDE INFLUENCE: Public policy, secret sway and ‘schmoozing’ in Tallahassee, Leon County” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — More than two dozen lobbyists took meetings, meals and phone calls over the past couple of years with city and county commissioners, though none of them were registered with the local governments to lobby at the time.

Former Mrs. Florida headed to prison for stealing elderly mom’s SSI checks” via Jane Musgrave of the Palm Beach Post — A conservative media commentator who was crowned Mrs. Florida 2016 is headed to prison after a federal judge on Thursday said he wanted to send a message that if you steal from the U.S. government, you’re going to jail. Unless Karyn Turk can convince an appeals court that she doesn’t deserve to spend a month behind bars for stealing her elderly mother’s Social Security checks instead of using the money to pay for nursing home care, the Highland Beach resident must report to prison on March 2. Turk’s looming jail sentence — to be followed by five months of house arrest — was ordered by U.S. Magistrate Bruce Reinhart after a contentious hearing.

Assignment editors — Trulieve Cannabis Corp. will open the doors of its latest Florida dispensary, the 43rd in the state, 10 a.m. 418 Mary Esther Cut Off NW, Fort Walton Beach.


Mike Bloomberg: Donald Trump has been great for people like me — but I’ll be great for you” for MarketWatch — Sure, the stock market is at an all-time high. But almost half the country doesn’t own any stocks. And, yes, the unemployment rate is low. But nearly half of all workers are in jobs that earn $18,000 at the median. And while a handful of big cities are doing well, a lot of the country is struggling; our middle class is being hollowed out, and working Americans are being squeezed by higher prices on everything from health care to housing. We need to elect a leader who can actually deliver real change — not just talk about it — and create more good jobs, with good salaries, all across America. And I know I can do that because I’ve done it.

Jim Reinhart: Mental health care services for veterans and their families worthy of bipartisan support” for Florida Politics — More than 47% of post 9/11 veterans are describing their return to civilian life difficult, compared to 22% for veterans of previous conflicts. And some 35% of our post 9/11 veterans have sought some kind of mental health counseling since their return to civilian life. Between 40,000 and 80,000 veterans suffer from PTSD on a daily basis. Realistically, we must work toward two ideals to solve this crisis. First, we must guarantee that real economic opportunities exist for returning veterans, and second, we have to ensure veterans have easy access to quality health care — and particularly mental health care.


First in Sunburn —Personnel note: Jon Costello launches Capitol Strategy Group” via Florida Politics — There’s a new government affairs on the scene for the 2020 Legislative Session. Longtime lobbyist Costello announced this week that he’d launched his own firm, Capitol Strategy Group. “I’m excited to have the opportunity to build a new firm and provide strategic counsel to clients who are either affected by government or seek to do business with the government,” Costello said. Costello has been a staple in The Capitol for years, though his stock skyrocketed after he became an early backer of Rick Scott during the now-U.S. Senator’s first run for Governor. The move ended up paying off and Costello has since successfully represented clients in an array of industries including alcohol, gaming, health care, environmental, nonprofit, regulated professions, and others.

Jon Costello
Congratulations to Jon Costello.


Battleground Florida with Christopher Heath: RealClearPolitics associate editor and columnist A.B. Stoddard joins the podcast to talk about her reporting in The Bulwark on the money trail connecting two associates of Rudy Giuliani and how so much money ended up going to politicians in Florida.

Dishonorable Mention: State Rep. Chris Latvala, activist Becca Tieder, former Tampa Bay Times Columnist Ernest Hooper and communications expert Dr. Karla Mastracchio discuss politics and culture. Hooper and Latvala discuss the airstrike that killed the head of Iran’s elite Quds military force, Qassem Soleimani. Iran has threatened to strike back. What was the media’s reaction to these statements? Does the White House need to provide evidence that this attack was necessary? What happens next? How will this affect U.S. – Iranian relations? What advice can Americans take to sift through all the various news? Mastracchio joins in for a segment: “You haven’t lived in Tampa Bay until you …!” How does Tampa stack up against other similar cities?

Gradebook from the Tampa Bay Times with hosts Marlene Sokol and Jeffrey Solochek: Florida’s Legislature formally kicks off its 2020 Session on Tuesday. Several key education issues will hit the fan a day earlier. The Florida Education Association expects thousands of teachers to rally in Tallahassee for improved public school funding. At the same time, the Senate Education Committee is set to consider bills on several hot-button issues include teacher pay, voucher eligibility and charter school authorization. Will Monday foreshadow the tenor of Florida’s education debate for the next few months? Reporters Emily Mahoney and Solochek discuss.

REGULATED from hosts Christian Bax and Tony Glover: Bax and Glover react to the deluge of Florida cannabis rule-making activity. Recorded on-location from two equally beautiful locations — Jamaica and Jacksonville.


Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues affecting the region.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A preview of the 2020 Legislative Session. Joining Walker-Torres are state Sen. Dennis Baxley; Senate President Pro Tempore David Simmons; state Sen. Janet Cruz and state Rep. Fentrice Driskell.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: State Sen. Jeff Brandes will discuss the upcoming Session; reaction from local lawmakers on the tensions with Iran and recent attacks. E

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon talks with attorney Sean Pittman and Rabbi Michael Shields.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams will discuss the spike of murders in 2019, the impact of Marsy’s Law, and the use of body cameras by law enforcement officers. JTA CEO Nat Ford will talk about the new regional transportation center set to come online and the federal funding for autonomous vehicles.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg will be discussing the Fort Lauderdale sewage pipe problem and the opening of the Legislative Session. Guests are Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis, Fort Lauderdale City Manager Chris Lagerbloom and state Rep. Shevrin Jones.

— ALOE —

Florida mom hits jackpot: 2 sets of twin boys born in 2019” via The Associated Press — Alexzandria Wolliston said she won the jackpot with the births of Mark and Malakhi in March and Kaylen and Kaleb in December. “Oh, yes, I feel like I hit the twin lottery,” Wolliston told WPTV. The tired mom says her 3-year-old daughter helped her prepare for the double dose of twins. “She was actually worse than them. So, she was like having two babies in one,” Wolliston said. Two months after the first set of twins arrived, Wolliston said she learned about the second set. They were born in West Palm Beach on Dec. 27. Wolliston said Kaleb was dismissed from the hospital, and she’s hoping to bring Kaylen home soon.

West Palm Beach mom Alexzandria Wolliston had two sets of twins in 2019.

Two filmmakers are shining a light on Liberty Square and Haitian experience in Miami” via Christina Mayo of the Miami Herald — When Miami Gardens resident Faren Humes was working as a location manager for the Academy Award-winning film “Moonlight,” she learned all about Liberty Square. Now, the independent filmmaker is expanding her own film project, “Liberty,” based on the lives of residents at the public housing complex in Liberty City. Filmmaker Edson Jean, whose work has appeared on HBO and Complex Networks, is developing another film, inspired by his mother’s first years in Miami, that centers on an underpaid nursing assistant’s efforts to help her family in Haiti.

A beachcomber brought home what she thought was a rusty old plate. Months later, she learned it was a land mine” via Leah Asmelash of CNN — Jayne Wilson was walking her client’s dog around sunrise on Indian River Shores beach. The avid beachcomber examined the seashell beds as she walkedjust in case something caught her eye. And something did — lying atop the sand that day was what looked like a plate, maybe lost long ago off a Spanish ship. So, she took it home. For months she chipped away at the shells and barnacles crusted onto its surface. For the past nine months, she’d been chipping away at a land mine. Indian River Shores Police Capt. Mark Shaw told TCPalm that similar finds occur “all the time” in the area.


Celebrating today are Rep. James Buchanan and Albert Balido of Anfield Consulting, which recently was recognized by INFLUENCE Magazine as Boutique Lobbying Firm of the Year – Runner-up. Celebrating his 40th birthday this weekend is Rusty Branch of Lower Alabama. And an early birthday shoutout to Jeff Woodburn, whose birthday is on Sunday.


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.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704