Breaking overnight — “Joe Burrow, LSU cap magical season, beat Clemson 42-25 for title” via Ralph Russo of the Associated Press — Burrow threw five touchdown passes, ran for another score and finished off one of the most accomplished seasons in college football history by leading the top-ranked Tigers to a 42-25 victory against No. 3 Clemson on Monday night in the playoff final. The senior quarterback from The Plains, Ohio, led the Tigers (15-0) to their first national title since 2007 and fourth overall, breaking a few more records along the way in what was already an historic season. His five TD passes and 463 yards passing are the most for a BCS or College Football Playoff title game as were his six total touchdowns. … The final score was lopsided, but it was far from easy for LSU and Burrow. Clemson pushed LSU into the deepest hole it had to climb out of this season in the first half. Two weeks after Lawrence ran for a career-best 107 yards against Ohio State, he opened the scoring with a 1-yard jaunt around right end in the first quarter.
Final AP Top 25 poll: LSU, Clemson, Ohio State, Georgia, Oregon … #6 Florida … #8 Alabama … #11 Wisconsin … #14 Auburn … #24 UCF … Also receiving votes: Florida Atlantic (basically #26).
The most entertaining back-and-forth last night was not Tigers vs. Tigers, it was U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz vs. state Rep. Chris Latvala on Twitter. Check out the thread here.
From my wife, Michelle: “To some people, it’s just a box of cookies. To this mom, it’s confidence for my very shy girl. It’s pushing herself outside of her comfort zone to reach her goals. It’s money management. It’s goal setting. It’s work ethic. The Girl Scout cookie program teaches my daughter and all of the girls in my Troop so much. It also allows me to teach them. This year my girls have built a roller coaster, built race cars, explored space, learned how to care for animals and themselves, done service projects for Hurricane victims and animal shelters and learned a lot about being leaders and kind to others. They’ve been horseback riding and are going camping. So that box of delicious Thin Mints is worth so much more than just a box of cookies. If you wanna support my cookie boss, let me know.”
I’ll be personally delivering cookies in Tallahassee on the 28th for those of you order this week. Click here to order. Thank you in advance.
The seventh and final Democratic debate before the Iowa caucuses happens tonight at Drake University in Des Moines. Stuff’s getting real.
Six candidates in the Dems’ drawn-out game of Political Survivor take the stage. They are (in order of their respective chances to win the nomination, according to FiveThirtyEight.com): Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigieg.
Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer also are on the stage for this debate, with FiveThirtyEight giving them a 1-in-80 chance of winning. That’s another way of saying we probably need to pay extra attention to those two because there’s no sense holding back now.
So, what should we look for this time around?
Here are five things to watch Tuesday night:
The situation with Iran: Democrats have generally been critical of President Donald Trump’s order to deep-six Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. It’s not that they harbor sympathy for a man described frequently as a monster, but the President didn’t consult Congress before arguably committing an act of war.
Candidates on the debate stage will no doubt be quizzed on how they would have handled this situation. And Sanders will almost certainly remind everyone that he voted against the Iraq War that removed Saddam Hussein and destabilized that region of the Middle East, while Biden voted in favor.
The impeachment trial: We can pretty well guess how this one is going to go — a show of hands, please, for those in favor of removing Trump from office. Six hands go up. Actually, Klobuchar might be more reserved since she has to be a juror in a Senate trial.
Sanders, well, he’s on the record many times saying Trump is (paraphrasing here) pond scum.
Health care: We’ve heard it, and heard it, and heard it, and we’ll hear it again. Medicare-for-all vs. something less grandiose. This could be a breakout moment for Klobuchar, since she has consistently challenged all the “free stuff” others propose as unrealistic.
Iowa is filled with practical people. If she connects with her ‘let’s go for something better, which we can actually get passed’ approach, she could score big points.
Climate change: Another issue that is in the Dems’ wheelhouse. They are winning the argument with the public that climate change is real, but Trump appears oblivious and continues to roll back environmental protections put in place under Barack Obama.
We can probably sum up the Democratic response to this issue in two words: Trump Bad!!
Flyover states: Iowa is in the middle of what Midwestern folks call “the flyover states,” and Trump in 2016 tapped into their anger. It tipped the election as a New York billionaire painted Democrats as elitist and out of touch.
Are Dems making the same mistake again? Someone among the surviving candidates needs to make the point that he or she is aware that a whole lot of people don’t live on either coast. They work in farms, factories, and small towns — places the Democratic Party used to all but own.
They need to prove they get the message from 2016.
A lot of people believe they haven’t yet done that.
Speaking of Democratic politics, here are a couple of first-in-Sunburn items:
“LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus President Stephen Gaskill endorses Pete Buttigieg for President” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — “He’s young, thoughtful and progressive,” Gaskill said in a talk with Florida Politics about his decision to endorse Buttigieg. “I think he’s got plans and policies that will help heal the divide of our country and move us forward.” Gaskill said he’s endorsing Buttigieg in his personal capacity and that the LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus isn’t yet taking a position on the race. But Gaskill argued that seeing an openly gay man compete for a major party’s presidential nomination is a big moment. “He’s a symbol of how far we have come and a reminder of how far we still have to go.”
“Poll from GOP group shows Carlos Giménez coasting to win in CD 26 Republican primary” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Florida Politics has obtained polling data which shows Giménez would be the runaway favorite in a Republican primary for Florida’s 26th Congressional District. The survey, taken in October and commissioned by a national Republican organization, is surfacing one day before Giménez is expected to formally enter the race for a chance to take on Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. Giménez would join a Republican field that includes restaurateur Irina Vilariño and Omar Blanco, the former head of Miami-Dade Firefighters Local 1403. A whopping 51% of those surveyed said they would back Giménez, with just 6% choosing Blanco and only 2% selecting Vilariño. Another 39% of voters were undecided.
— TODAY’S SUNRISE —
On the eve of Session, The Capitol complex was teeming with teachers asking lawmakers to do a better job funding education. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran issued some vague threats about it being an “illegal teacher strike” that could lead to firings; Senate Democrats say that’s ridiculous. They’re also offering an alternative to the Gov. Ron DeSantis’ $900 million teacher pay package.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— The Sierra Club of Florida delivers a report card to DeSantis, giving him a “D” on environmental issues during his first year in office.
— A Senate committee approves Alyssa’s Law, requiring panic alarms in public schools.
— Backers of the only recreational marijuana amendment that had a chance of making the ballot in 2020 said they’re not going to make the deadline. So, they’re holding off until 2022
— Correspondent Noah Pransky talks about a different kind of political poll.
— And two Florida Man stories: One faces jail time for spitting; the other for pooping.
To listen, click on the image below:
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@IamCardiB: I think I want to be a politician. I really love government even tho I don’t agree with Government
—@HolmesJosh: I’m a bit baffled why Democrats are so enthusiastic about forcing witness votes to embarrass GOP senators. That seems like a terrific way to end up with Hunter Biden in the chair.
—@BuckSexton: Remember when “the whistleblower” was the most important person in America, he was going to take down this President to save our Republic, and the media was all in to help him? What an absurd, wasteful sham that whole thing was. Classic lib theatrics without a shred of honor.
—@SanjanaKaranth: Not a great day for people of color trying to get nominated for something, huh
—@OliviaNuzzi: Some candidates just don’t take off, even the ones who make sense in paper, but I think a big part of [Cory] Booker‘s problem, why he never had ‘a moment,’ was that he’d had so many moments before. He’d been on magazine covers and the subject of glowing profiles since the mid-2000s. The political media was overly familiar with Booker, and voters weren’t familiar enough. He couldn’t be the shiny, new thing like Pete Buttigieg, and so he was left struggling to figure out how to introduce himself to people around the country without the help of a media who regarded him as though they (we) had been there and done that already.
—@ALAtterbury: .@was asked this morning about teachers facing possible sanctions from the state for rallying in Tallahassee. He said Corcoran will “look at that” and touted his pay plan: “There’s never been anything this big that’s been done, certainly in recent times here.”
—@FLGopMajority: Florida’s public education system is among the best in class. House Republicans’ convictions about careful spending, accountability, and prioritizing noble & necessary budget requests have helped contribute to an environment where our public school students can thrive.
—@LMower3: Boy, proving that *nothing* is not controversial in the Florida Legislature: A Senate committee is hearing a bill denouncing “white nationalism.” The first two public speakers have come out *against* it.
—@Fineout: Rep. @— hosting a big confab on college athletics and paying athletes — says that the NCAA, SEC and ACC were invited to meeting today at Florida Legislature — and they all declined
Dear Florida Legislators: We must attract more strong young people into the teaching profession. The decline in individuals entering the profession must end. pic.twitter.com/ckWuWZqipG
— Paul Cottle (@PaulCottlePhys) January 13, 2020
—@ChrisHongTU: I’ve covered local governments for almost 8 years, Jacksonville City Hall for 6 years. This is the first time I’ve written about an active — and confirmed — investigation into a government agency that I’ve covered.
—@StephHayes: Dreaming about Meghan Markle‘s return to lifestyle blogging every hour on the hour.
— DAYS UNTIL —
Florida TaxWatch State of the TaxPayer Dinner in Tallahassee — 1; Sundance Film Festival begins — 9; “Star Trek: Picard” premiers — 9; Annual Red Dog Blue Dog Celebrity Bartender Benefit — 12; New Brexit deadline — 17; Super Bowl LIV in Miami — 19; Great American Realtors Day — 20; Iowa Caucuses — 20; Eighth Democratic presidential debate in Manchester — 25; Capitol Press Corps press skits — 28; New Hampshire Primaries — 28; Pitchers and catchers begin reporting for MLB Spring Training — 28; Ninth Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas — 36; Roger Stone’s sentencing — 37; Nevada caucuses — 39; “Better Call Saul” Season 5 premiers — 40; 10th Democratic presidential debate in Charleston — 42; South Carolina Primaries — 46; Super Tuesday — 49; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 59; Florida’s presidential primary — 63; “No Time to Die” premiers — 87; Florida Chamber Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 126; “Top Gun: Maverick” premiers — 164; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 181; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premiers — 185; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo start — 192; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 217; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 223; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 267; First Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 275; Second presidential debate at Belmont — 282; 2020 General Election — 294.
— TOP STORY —
“Educators throng Florida Capitol to fight for more money” via Bobby Caina Calvan and Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press — Thousands of school workers from around the state thronged Florida’s Capitol to press DeSantis and the Legislature to more than double the nearly $1 billion the Governor is proposing for teacher raises and bonuses. Demonstrators streamed into The Capitol’s main thoroughfare, some hoisting signs beseeching Florida lawmakers to “Fund our Future.” Rally organizers said as many as 10,000 demonstrators would descend on the Capitol on the eve of the official start of the 2020 legislative session. The state’s largest school union said the governor’s proposal merely gives the illusion that he is addressing problems that have long plagued public schools, such as understaffing, crumbling facilities, and low morale. The union said as many as 2,400 teaching jobs remain unfilled.
—”Here’s what teachers had to say at the ‘Take on Tallahassee’ march” via CD Davidson-Hiers of the Tallahassee Democrat
— Chris Latvala (@ChrisLatvala) January 13, 2020
— STATE OF THE STATE —
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced his invitation list to the annual State of the State address:
— Chris Atamanchuk is the owner of SandBar Tiki and Grille, a restaurant in Englewood, which was negatively impacted by red tide in 2018.
— Lindsay Beam is a teacher at Blountstown Middle School, where she teaches both 6th and 8th grade. Beam is a recipient of the Dr. Brian Dassler Award, established in honor of the late educator and awarded to those who are passionate about teaching.
— Talethia Edwards is a mother of seven children, four of whom use the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship and three use the Family Empowerment Scholarship. Talethia is a community organizer who helps improve equity and equal access for the disadvantaged in southside Tallahassee.
— Byron Hughes is a firefighter with the Mexico Beach Fire Department. Hughes and his wife, Cori, a detective with the Panama City Police Department, were married two weeks after Hurricane Michael, standing on top of a mountain of rubble Michael left in its wake.
— Judge Barbara Lagoa is a Cuban American from Hialeah and was appointed by DeSantis to the Florida Supreme Court shortly after he took office last year. Before her appointment, Lagoa served on the 3rd District Court of Appeals, of which she was appointed to by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2006.
— Judge Robert Luck was born and raised in Miami-Dade County and was appointed by DeSantis to the Florida Supreme Court shortly after Lagoa. Before his appointment, Luck served on the 3rd District Court of Appeal, of which he was appointed to by Gov. Rick Scott in 2017.
— Melissa Pappas is a teacher at Brookshire Elementary School, where she works with autistic students in grades K-5. She is a recipient of the Mary J. Brogan Award, which recognizes extraordinary educators who instill passion, joy and love of learning in their students.
— Geoff and Robbie Respstorff are both professional bankers, receiving the statewide recognition of “Bankers of the Year” from the Florida Bankers Association in 2010. In their spare time, they hunt pythons in the Everglades, catching their first snake on Valentine’s Day in 2016.
— Brittney Wilson and her husband Jeremy moved to Jacksonville after Jeremy retired from the U.S. Navy. They home-school their three sons, two of whom have special needs and receive Gardiner Scholarships, which provide eligible students a scholarship that can be used to purchase approved services or products to design a customized education program for the student.
— Morris Young is the Sheriff of Gadsden County, Florida and has been a member of the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office for 12 years. Before that, he spent 11 years with the Quincy Police Department, where he was Officer of the Year in 1995.
Assignment editors — A group of progressive lawmakers and advocates will provide a ‘people’s response’ following DeSantis’ State of the State address. The group will also unveil the ‘Sunrise Agenda,’ a group of progressive proposals, approximately 12:15 p.m. (or right after the State of the State Address), 4th-floor Rotunda.
— DATELINE: TALLY —
“Cash and campaigns to frame 2020 Legislative Session” via Matt Dixon of POLITCO — Controversial policy fights. Souring revenue projections. A huge dose of election-year politics. That potentially combustible mix awaits lawmakers as they return to Tallahassee Tuesday for the start of the 2020 legislative session. As in most election years, politics likely will take center stage during the 60-day session. “Generally, you can’t get much done during an election year unless you have a sweet-spot issue that matches up with the Republican messaging for GOP House and Senate races, or in support of the president,” said Charlie Dudley, a lobbyist who represents some of Florida’s largest companies.
Battle for independent nurses, gender equity heats up — The House Majority Office is distributing research on gender disparities between Florida nurses and physicians ahead of an expected battle over a bill allowing nurses to work independently of physicians. As reported by Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida, HB607 (20R) is a priority for House Speaker José Oliva, which he sees as part of his health care legacy. Produced by the Florida Center for Nursing, a statutorily created body to analyze industry labor trends, the report shows that in 2017, women submitted 85% of the renewals for state advanced registered nurse practitioner (ARNP). During the same period, the Florida Department of Health reports that 70% of Florida physicians were male.
“VISIT FLORIDA faces another crossroads in 2020” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Among the many battles facing the Florida Legislature in this year’s Session: tourism incentives. As has been the case for the last few years, skepticism about the future of VISIT FLORIDA reigns. However, VISIT FLORIDA head Dana Young, who has just passed her anniversary in the role, notes that she is making her own case. “I’ve been meeting with members of the House and Senate … including members of House leadership … since summer,” Young said, “providing them with facts.” … “The facts,” Young added, “are on our side.” While candidate DeSantis may have been more movable on economic incentive programs, as Governor, he’s as consistent an advocate for them as his predecessor.
As Session begins, here’s Florida Politics must-read profile on the next House Speaker — “Chris Sprowls combines community ideals, fiscal pragmatism” via Andrew Meacham for Florida Politics — Sprowls grandest vision, the one that got him nominated in the first place, has no legalistic language or dollar figures attached. It’s a vision of people in a community living and working with each other face to face. “The ties that bind us in our communities are things like going to church on Sunday and spending time together and worshipping,” Sprowls said. “And being in a bowling league together. And going to your Rotary Club, your Kiwanis Club, your Red Hat Society, or your Junior League. Or your T-ball on a Saturday morning, and you realize how much you like these people and you enjoy hanging out with them, and you also realize, ‘I have no idea what their political beliefs are.’”
“In final Session, Holly Raschein hopes ‘controversial issues’ don’t distract from environmental efforts” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Representative from House District 120 also knows the Legislature has several polarizing bills to attend to this Session, including an effort to require parental consent before a minor undergoing an abortion. She says she hopes lawmakers will still find time to focus on other areas. “Those more controversial issues will kind of take away from the other things like, for example, what I’m working on with the environmental budget,” Raschein said. “But those are just a part of life, I guess, and part of the process. And I hope that the tenor of the debate will be respectful, and we won’t be stuck on the floor for hours on end and that people will respect our time there.”
“Randy Fine seeks Indian River Lagoon protection, safer crosswalks” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Rep. Fine is determined to get major projects going to address the chronically ill Indian River Lagoon running along much of Florida’s East Coast. And he can do anything, If he has his way in 2020, carrot and stick bills to help the Indian River Lagoon and a new approach to midblock pedestrian crosswalks will be his top successes in the 2020 Legislative Session. “It’s water and public safety,” Fine said. The carrot, HB 153, would provide state incentives for local communities to improve existing sewage systems. The stick, HB 1091 and Sen. Joe Gruters‘ companion SB 1450, would raise all fines for sewage overflow discharges by 50%.
“Online sales tax, education and an improved legal climate make Florida Chamber’s 2020 agenda” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The pro-business group says lawmakers need to pass bills to lower the costs of living and doing business for the state to meet its predictions of 200,000 new jobs, keeping the odds of recession low. “If Florida were a stock, it would be considered a strong buy. While Florida’s economic outlook for 2020 is positive, it’s not without risks, which is why passing the Florida Chamber’s Jobs Agenda is so important,” said Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. To accomplish a lower cost of living, the Chamber recommends legislation to improve Florida’s legal climate.
“Could the Florida Competitive Workforce Act finally see the light of committee hearings?” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — It wasn’t all that long ago that support for LGBTQ citizens in Florida remained a radioactive issue for Republicans. Indeed, the Florida Competitive Workforce Act remains a popular bill to sponsor but a difficult one to agenda. Rep. Raschein recalls in 2013 becoming the first Republican lawmaker in Florida to sign on as a co-sponsor. Today, lawmakers are more likely to have neighbors, co-workers and state House colleagues who openly identify as gay or lesbian. Along the way, the legislation has picked up other Republican co-sponsors. This year’s version of the bill (HB 161) had 42 sponsors, including nine members of the GOP, as of the eve before Session.
“The Legislature is a male bastion: Several committees that create state laws have few, or even zero, women” via Diane Rado of the Florida Phoenix — As it stands now, only 30 percent of women serve in each of the chambers –the state Senate and the House of Representatives, according to a Florida Phoenix analysis. The percentages can be even lower when it comes to the gender makeup of lawmakers on committees that help create laws. The committees lean toward men. And when it comes to chairing a committee – a pivotal role – very few women are chosen in these leadership positions, the Phoenix found. When they are, it’s not unusual for them to be chairs in traditional fields, such as education, children and families and health care, the data show.
— LEGISLATION —
“Over NRA’s objections, Senate committee passes bill closing ‘gun show loophole’” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — The bill passed over the strong objections of the National Rifle Association’s top lobbyist, who called it “nothing less than gun control on steroids.” “This committee bill is our best effort to try to improve public safety on the margins here,” said committee chairman Sen. Tom Lee. “It is not a perfect system.” Senate Bill 7028 would not require background checks for all person-to-person sales, which make up an estimated 20% of all gun sales. Instead, when selling a gun to another individual, the seller would be required to check the person’s ID to make sure they’re legally allowed to own the weapon and fill out a form recording the transaction.
“Senate panel advances annual cost of living increase for state workers” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee unanimously passed the bill (SB 1114) requiring the Legislature to consider an annual cost of living allowance for workers. And with an amendment by the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bill Montford, it would expand that consideration to state university employees. The Tallahassee Democrat’s district is home to most of the state’s employees. He has pushed for the measure and served on the Senate Appropriations Committee since he joined the Senate in 2010. His bill would require the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research to calculate the cost of living increases over the previous fiscal year. Those state budget experts then send the figure to the Governor, the Senate President and the House Speaker.
“Recreational cannabis bill envisions medical storefront sales” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Sen. Jeff Brandes‘ bill (SB 1860) would allow adults, regardless of medical status, to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis flower or marijuana products with up to 2 grams of THC. “For me, this is a liberty issue. We should give adult Floridians the freedom to make their own choices when it comes to cannabis,” Brandes said. “It’s not a matter of if, but when, Floridians will have access to adult-use marijuana. This bill allows the Legislature to lead on an issue a supermajority of Floridians support.” Current licensed, vertically integrated medical marijuana stores would sell the product.
Senate bill would send Florida Forever cash to Hurricane zones — A proposal filed by the Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation would direct $10 million a year from the Florida Forever program to purchase conservation lands in areas that have been hit by hurricanes, Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida reports. The bill, would also direct money from the land conservation fund to highway wildlife crossings. Committee members voted unanimously to introduce the bill.
Water bottling permits would be $1M under Rob Bradley bill — Legislation filed by Senate Budget Chief Bradley would set a $1 million price tag for companies seeking permits to bottle Florida spring water, reports Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida. SB 1798 would direct the permit fee to water conservation and quality programs or land acquisition. Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, director of advocacy for Our Santa Fe River, said Bradley’s bill could actually push agencies to issue more permits for water bottlers. “It makes me a little nervous when we start having bills that are directly associated with allowing permits for water bottling,” she said.
“Lawmakers debate if college athletes can be paid” via Bobby Calvan of the Associated Press — “Three House committees encompassing about half the chamber’s 120 members — in the education, commerce and judiciary committees — convened collectively on Monday to begin considering the issue, which has gotten bipartisan support and Gov. DeSantis’ endorsement. Florida has more than 11,000 student athletes, many who play sports that might not get the same limelight as football and basketball but nevertheless achieve acclaim in their own sport. “The most frequently heard argument against this bill is that we cannot turn college sports into professional sports,” said state Rep. Chip LaMarca, who is sponsoring one of the bills seeking to give college athletes financial benefits.
“A resolution condemning philosophies of intolerance clears Senate panel” via Sarah Mueller of Florida Politics — A resolution condemning hateful ideologies easily passed the Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee Monday, but it received mixed support from some members of the public. The resolution is co-sponsored by Thonotosassa Republican Sen. Lee and Miami Democratic Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez. Lee chairs the committee and presented the bill. Still, David Caulkett, vice president of Floridians for Immigration Enforcement, said they oppose the resolution. “The resolution is racist, divisive, has no societal benefit, is a golden opportunity for liberals to smear those who advocate for immigration enforcement,” he said. Resolutions carry no weight of law and don’t require any action from the Governor.
“Shevrin Jones, Amy Mercado join push to reduce solitary confinement of pregnant prisoners” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The measure (HB 1259) is being called the “Tammy Jackson Act.” The bill is named after a prisoner who gave birth last year after being placed in an isolated jail cell in Broward County. Jackson said she complained of contractions overnight. Seven hours later, she delivered the child without being taken to the hospital. “Women within correctional facilities are already serving their sentences, and they should have every right to proper medical attention, especially during the sacred act of giving birth,” Jones said in a statement on the bill. State Sen. Jason Pizzo has filed similar legislation (SB 852) in the Senate.
— TODAY IN CAPITOL —
Assignment editors — President Galvano will host a recognition ceremony to unveil new art outside of the public entrance to the Senate Gallery. The artwork, completed by artist Barry Miller of Rose Boulevard Design in Tallahassee, replaces the “Five Flags Mural,” which was removed and preserved as part of the 2016 Senate Chamber Renovation, 8:30 a.m., 5th Floor Public Entrance to the Senate Gallery.
The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 1:30 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 1:30 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.
The House Transportation & Tourism Subcommittee meets, 1:30 p.m., Room 404, House Office Building.
The Senate Agriculture Committee will consider several bills, including one to ban declawing cats, 2:30 p.m., Room 301, Senate Office Building.
The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee meets to consider a bill to eliminate a tax on airplane fuel, 2:30 p.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.
The Senate Criminal Justice Committee meets, 2:30 p.m., Room 37, Senate Office Building.
The Senate Health Policy Committee meets to consider a bill allowing pharmacies to dispense drugs from automated kiosks, 2:30 p.m., Room 412, Knott Building.
— GOV. CLUB BUFFET —
Italian minestrone soup; mixed garden salad with dressings; tomato and buffalo mozzarella salad; pasta salad; deli board with tomato, lettuce, cheeses & breads; Ronnie’s fried chicken; grilled teres major of beef with hunter’s sauce; walnut breadcrumb crusted cod with lemon dill cream; buttermilk mashed potatoes; green beans amandine; medley of vegetables; and bread pudding with bourbon sauce for dessert.
— STATEWIDE —
Breaking overnight — “University of Florida also a target in foreign research scandal” via Justine Griffin of the Tampa Bay Times — Four faculty members from the University of Florida have left the school amid a widening investigation into foreign exploitation of American-funded medical research. Three of the researchers resigned and one was terminated after the university received a letter from the National Institutes of Health regarding questionable foreign meddling in grant research and funding. The terminated employee worked part-time for the university’s College of Medicine. Two were from the College of Engineering and one was from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Two of the researchers were tied directly to the inquiry by the federal agency, which gives out $30 billion a year to American scientists and universities for biomedical research.
“DeSantis announces lower costs, refunds for Florida prepaid college savings” via Emily Mahoney and Megan Reeves of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis announced $500 million in cash refunds to those who have used the state-backed Florida Prepaid program to send their kids to college. The price reduction will affect 224,000 accounts dating back to 2008, and about 108,000 of those will now be paid-in-full, DeSantis said. The average payout will be $4,700. Families still paying into the program will see decreases in their monthly payments, the governor’s office said. At the same time, prices for new Florida Prepaid plans will drop to the lowest level in five years, starting at $44 a month for a one-year plan.
“If 86.9% graduated, does that mean Florida’s dropout rate is 13.1%?” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — As the Florida Department of Education announced, 86.9% of the 212,240 teens who entered a public high school in fall 2015 graduated by spring 2019. What happened to the rest of the group? It would be easy to assume that the other 27,731 students dropped out. But the state lists the official 2019 dropout rate as 3.4% or 7,257 students. What’s up with that? Well, the federal formula that Florida now uses calculates graduation rate as the percentage of students who graduate within four years of their first enrollment in ninth grade.
“Will Spanish, Creole-speaking students be able to take tests in their native languages?” via Sommer Brugal of TCPalm — More than 130 languages are spoken by English-language-learners in schools across the Treasure Coast, but a proposed state law — to allow native-language versions of readiness assessments — would address only two. The bill — filed by state Sen. Annette Taddeo — would enable native Spanish and Haitian-Creole speakers to take state-mandated tests such as the voluntary prekindergarten assessment, the kindergarten readiness test, and high school equivalency examinations in those languages. Responsibility to provide the native-language tests would fall on the state Department of Education because the bill focuses on state-mandated tests, spokeswoman Cheryl Etters said.
“Disney Aspire keeps growing to add more schools for employees’ free education” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — Disney has added Purdue University Global and Southern New Hampshire University to its list of schools where the company’s hourly employees can get their education paid. The schools are now part of the 13 institutions where employees can attend with Walt Disney Co. paying 100% of the tuition as well as fees and book expenses upfront in an initiative called Disney Aspire. Purdue University Global is the Big Ten school’s online program created for working adults. Southern New Hampshire University, a private school, also offers many online classes. Disney is investing $150 million over five years in the program and would pay for employees’ education after the company saved significantly from the GOP tax cuts in 2018.
“State being sued over transgender health benefits” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — Two transgender state employees who have been denied medical treatment for gender dysphoria filed a federal lawsuit Monday against the Florida Department of Management Services alleging unlawful sex discrimination. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Jami Claire and Kathryn Lane by attorneys for Southern Legal Counsel, Inc., and the ACLU Foundation of Florida, seeks compensatory damages and an injunction banning the state from enforcing an exclusion in the state employees’ health-insurance plan for coverage of medically necessary gender-affirming care.
“Florida settles Rubin harassment complaint as fight with Patronis intensifies”via Matt Dixon of Politico — Florida paid $150,000 to an Office of Financial Regulation employee who had lodged a harassment complaint against the agency’s now-ousted commissioner, Ronald Rubin. The taxpayer-funded settlement, which refers to the employee only as “Jane Doe,” was reached in Dec. 27. On Jan. 6, Rubin filed court documents alleging that state CFO Jimmy Patronis intentionally misrepresented an employee complaint in an effort to get Rubin fired.
— MOTHER NATURE —
Sounds like the Sierra Club needs to change it’s grading formula — DeSantis earns ‘D’ from Sierra Club — The Governor has made environmental spending a priority through his first year in office. Still, one environmental group says he could be doing a lot more. As reported by Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida, the Sierra Club says DeSantis’ efforts thus far have netted him a “D” on their grading scale. The below-average grade stems from what the group sees as lackluster efforts on renewable energy, springs protection, growth management, preemption and tree protection. Still, the Sierra Club says he’s doing a better job than former Gov. Scott.
“Insurance analysts to downgrade 4 or more property insurers this week” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — That’s according to Joseph Petrelli, president of Demotech Inc., which reviews and rates 46 insurers that write approximately 66% of Florida’s homeowners’ insurance premium. “This week, we will begin to issue statements on many of the 46 Florida-focused carriers,” according to a news release. “To avoid downgrades, some carriers may abandon the necessary refinements to their business models and sell their entities or be acquired. Others will be downgraded.” Claims from Hurricanes Michael and Irma have drained some state insurers’ cash pools, forcing them to take on debt. The highest Financial Stability Ratings (FSR) scores are A” for or A’ for unsurpassed. Exceptional ratings earn an A while Substantial S ratings follow ahead of Moderate M.
“Florida parents wrongly accused of child abuse by state experts is ‘shocking,’ says lawmaker” via Katie LaGrone of WFTS Tampa Bay — A Florida lawmaker believes the state’s medical experts on child abuse need more checks and balances after an I-team investigation revealed several pediatricians have made questionable calls against parents who appeared to have done everything right. “Any position of authority that isn’t checked by something is concerning,” said state Rep. Anna Eskamani of Orlando.
Happening today — The state Public Service Commission will hold a regular meeting, an internal affairs meeting, and discuss a solar-energy proposal by Florida Power & Light, regular meeting at 1 p.m., followed by internal affairs meeting and hearing, Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.
— PEACHY —
“Lawmakers tangle over calling witnesses in Trump’s Senate impeachment trial” via Siobhan Hughes and Rebecca Ballhaus of the Wall Street Journal — Among the messages Mr. [Lev] Parnas’s lawyer has turned over to the committee are exchanges he had with Mr. Giuliani, former Texas Rep. Pete Sessions, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Hill columnist John Solomon, according to people familiar with the matter.”
“How Chuck Schumer might get the last laugh on impeachment trial” via Burgess Everett and Marianne Levine of POLITICO — While Senate Majority Leader McConnell has locked up enough Republican votes to ignore demands for a bipartisan framework for Trump’s impeachment trial, his Democratic counterpart is readying a counteroffensive. Schumer will force a series of votes designed to squeeze vulnerable Republicans and harm them on the campaign trail if they side with Trump. Democrats argue the half-dozen at-risk GOP senators will need some daylight between them and Trump to get reelected. And if they vote against Schumer’s motions to hear new evidence and witness testimony, they’ll be seen as Trump sycophants — undermining their bids and boosting Schumer’s odds of becoming majority leader.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Homestead may be reopening to house minors, feds say. If so, who will land the contract?” via Monique Madan of the Miami Herald — “There have been several ongoing conversations” between the Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of Refugee Resettlement about its reopening, one federal source told the Miami Herald. “Again, it’s an emergency influx center, so it’s expected. Once the number of kids hits the threshold, they put the shelter to go active within the next 30 days.” If the center does reopen, it’s still unclear what company would operate it since Caliburn International’s contract ended on Nov. 30. Caliburn managed the facility for unaccompanied migrant children ages 13 to 17 since 2018. If the facility does reopen, a new contract would have to be solicited.
“Q&A with Francis Rooney: retirement, polarized Congress, term limits” via Ledyard King of the Naples Daily News — The one-time ambassador to the Vatican has veered from some Trump policies: he believes human-caused climate change is happening; voted against the president’s emergency declarations as a way to fund his wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, and believes a two-state solution is vital to Middle East peace. Did you know what kind of backlash you’d be facing back home by publicly saying Trump’s conduct troubled you and were undecided on impeachment? “Of course, I did. I knew it would be highly controversial and certainly subject to criticism by a lot of the more hard-core Republican Trump supporters, but that doesn’t really bother me. I thought it needed to be said by somebody that we need to get the facts.”
“Welcome to Kissimmee, Mike Pence: Democrats unveil billboard of Trump throwing paper towels at Puerto Ricans” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Pence will be greeted in Kissimmee by a billboard slamming President Trump over his response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. The Florida Democratic Party unveiled the billboard Monday along Florida’s Turnpike in advance of Pence’s Thursday visit as part of a “Latinos for Trump” event at the Nación de Fe church. It will stay up until the end of the week. The billboard shows a photo of Trump throwing rolls of paper towels to victims of the hurricane in Puerto Rico and includes the phrase “Prohibido Olvidar,” as well as the English translation, “Never Forget.”
— 2020 —
“Cory Booker drops out of presidential race” via Nolan McCaskill of POLITICO — By most accounts, Booker was a great messenger with a unique resume: a skilled orator who once saved a woman from a burning house, an All-American athlete who played football at Stanford, a Rhodes scholar at Oxford, a graduate of Yale Law who rose from city council to become one of just three African Americans in the Senate. But in the era of Trump — and heightened anxiety among Democratic voters — love wasn’t enough. “Cory is not gonna change who he is to win an election,” said South Carolina State Rep. John King, who had endorsed Booker. “He believes in love, but it’s a reality that Trump has corrupted the political arena and the minds of many Americans.”
“New Iowa poll shows tight race, with Joe Biden jumping ahead” via Giovanni Russonello of The New York Times — Biden has regained some of his strength in Iowa, but his three closest rivals for the Democratic nomination remain clustered at his heels, according to a Monmouth University poll released on Monday. The poll, published three weeks before Iowa’s first-in-the-nation nominating contest, found the former vice president with support from 24% of likely Democratic caucusgoers, a bump of five percentage points since Monmouth’s most recent Iowa poll, in November. Biden’s three closest competitors are clumped together in a statistical tie, with U.S. Sen. Sanders earning 18% support, former South Bend Mayor Buttigieg at 17%, and U.S. Sen. Warren earning 15%. The poll had a five-point margin of error.
“Biden super PAC amps up spending with Iowa ad buy” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — The Unite the Country super PAC is accelerating its support for Joe Biden in Iowa with a new TV ad buy targeting President Donald Trump for his controversial handling of Iran. The new statewide commercial is part of $2 million statewide ad buy scheduled to run through the state’s caucus day, Feb. 3, where polls show a tight race. Unite the Country has already spent about $2.2 million on TV to help Biden. Called “Consequences,” the ad features Biden’s recent criticisms of Trump’s controversial decision to order a missile strike in Iraq that killed an Iranian general accused of terrorism.
“Bernie Sanders told Elizabeth Warren in private 2018 meeting that a woman can’t win, sources say” via MJ Lee of CNN — The stakes were high when Sanders and Warren met at Warren’s apartment in Washington, D.C., one evening in December 2018. The longtime friends knew that they could soon be running against each other for president. The two agreed that if they ultimately faced each other as presidential candidates, they should remain civil and avoid attacking one another, so as not to hurt the progressive movement. They also discussed how to take on Trump best, and Warren laid out two main reasons she believed she would be a strong candidate: She could make a robust argument about the economy and earn broad support from female voters. Sanders responded that he did not believe a woman could win.
“Mike Bloomberg wants to be President, but he also has a fallback plan: defeat Donald Trump and remake the Democratic Party” via Michael Scherer of The Washington Post — Bloomberg is running aggressively to win the Democratic nomination, but he is simultaneously building out a general election machine to defeat Trump, with a new structure — data, field organizing, advertising and policy — that aims to elect Democrats up and down the ballot even if the party’s voters reject the former New York Mayor this spring. While most presidential efforts start early and poor, the Bloomberg project exists in an inverted dimension, a fact that has caught the attention of Trump, who spent years tracking Bloomberg’s political career closely in New York. The President has been closely monitoring Bloomberg’s campaign, impressed by his extraordinary spending and fearful of his potential rise.
“Bloomberg’s campaign snowballs to 1,000 staffers and counting” via Christopher Cadelago and Sally Goldenberg of POLITICO — Bloomberg’s presidential campaign has brought on more than 700 staffers spread out across 33 states, with a growing number of organizers joining his ranks in states that vote on Super Tuesday, aides told POLITICO. All told, the former New York mayor’s operation totals more than 1,000 people, a figure that includes hundreds of staffers who work out of his Manhattan headquarters.
“With its 228 delegates and Super Tuesday slot, Texas looms in the presidential primary” via Abby Livingston of The Texas Tribune — Texas’ large number of delegates could prove decisive, especially if the presidential campaign becomes a protracted race into the spring. And waiting until those first four states are done voting could be too late: Early voting in Texas begins Feb. 18 — only a week after the New Hampshire primary and before primary election day in Nevada and South Carolina. “Given the number of delegates that come out of Texas, you ignore it at your peril,” said Jesse Ferguson, a former Hillary Clinton presidential campaign staffer.
— THE TRAIL —
“You won’t get to vote on recreational marijuana this year” via Marcia Heroux Pounds of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida voters won’t decide this year whether to make recreational marijuana legal. A group pushing a constitutional amendment said it would drop its bid to get on this year’s ballot and instead focus on 2022. A separate petition failed to gather the 766,200 signatures required to get to on the 2020 ballot. Recreational marijuana, or adult-use, is legal in Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Michigan, Vermont, Maine, California, Alaska and most recently, Illinois, which began sales on Jan. 1. Legalization could be on the ballots of Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Dakota and South Dakota later this year.
Huh? — “Andrew Gillum has spent $450K in committee cash on legal fees since November” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Gillum’s political committee spent $450,000 on lawyers in 60 days — the same amount the former Democratic gubernatorial nominee promised to raise to engage voters of color. The spending was revealed in recent campaign finance reports for Forward Florida, a political committee chaired by Gillum that supported his run for Governor and has continued funding the former Tallahassee Mayor’s post-campaign initiatives. The PAC’s December report showed a $172,000 payment to law firm Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler as well as a $39,244 payment to Perkins Coie last month. Those expenditures were classified as payments for “legal services.” The payment to Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler follows a $190,865 retainer paid to the firm in November. Likewise, Perkins Coie received $45,059 from the fund in the same month.
“Florida GOP raises $5.24M in fourth quarter of 2019; Democrats raise $1.5M” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The Republican Party of Florida raised more than triple what the Florida Democratic Party managed during the last three months of 2019. New finance reports show the state GOP collected $5.24 million during the reporting period, with six-figure donations heading in from Heritage Insurance Holdings, the Florida Medical Association, Dosal Tobacco and the GEO Group, among many others. About $1.76 million flowed out of the account during the reporting period, leaving RPOF with $20.56 million at the ready heading into an election year. The Florida Democratic Party raised $1.56 million over the same stretch and finished the year with about $15.3 million on hand.
“Short-circuited utility measure tab: $5.75 million” via the News Service of Florida — Backers of overhauling the state’s electric utility industry had raised — and spent — about $5.75 million before the Florida Supreme Court blocked their proposed constitutional amendment last week. The political committee Citizens for Energy Choices, which hoped to put the amendment on the November ballot, raised $226,000 last month, bringing its overall total to $5,758,180 as of Dec. 31. It also had spent $5,749,247, the report filed at the state Division of Elections shows. Almost all the money came from a nonprofit organization known as the Coalition for Energy Choice, Inc.
“GOP Senate campaign fund adds $6.5 million in Q4” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee raised nearly $6.5 million during the fourth quarter of 2019, new finance reports show. FRSCC is a Party-affiliated committee charged with supporting Republican campaigns for state Senate. Senate President-designate Wilton Simpson chairs the fund. The new reports show the committee reeled in $6.48 million between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31. The top donor of the quarter was Duke Energy, which cut three checks totaling $300,000 during the reporting period. Spending totaled $837,000 and included payments for events and lodging as well as several payments to Gainesville-based Data Targeting Inc. for direct mail campaigns and polling. At the end of the quarter, FRSCC had about $8.1 million in the bank.
Hugh Culverhouse jumps on Vern Buchanan’s wagon — Margaret Good’s most prominent supporter jumped ship. Culverhouse will back Buchanan’s reelection. “I certainly don’t have to agree with all he or his party does, but this is just a two-person race,” Culverhouse said. “I pick him.” That’s a shocker considering Culverhouse served as Good’s most prominent benefactor during star-making runs for state House in 2018 — and because as recently as September, he openly pined for someone to primary Vern’s son James Buchanan for a statehouse seat. But he now fears the Sarasota Democrat’s ambition led her to reach too high too fast. He’d rather Good run for her state House seat again, and maybe go for state Senate afterward.
“Shevrin Jones’ Senate bid closes out 2019 strong, adding $54K in December” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — He’s now added more than $320,000 through his campaign and his political committee, Florida Strong Finish. That blows away the rest of the field. Miami Gardens City Councilman Erhabor Ighodaro, who sits in second in overall contributions among the SD 35 field, has raised just under $60,000 in total. Jones will head into 2020 with about $120,000 available in cash on hand. He’s barred from seeking reelection to his House District 101 seat due to term limits. That’s led Jones to compete for the SD 35 seat, along with five other candidates. State Sen. Oscar Braynon II currently holds that seat but is also term-limited following 2020.
“Andrew Learned ends 2019 with strong fundraising report” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Democratic House District 59 candidate Learned had his second-most productive month of fundraising since he started in August, raising more than $14,000. Learned raised more than $20,000 in August. Learned’s December earnings far outpaced any of his opponents in the race. His Democratic challenger in the primary, Mark Stephan Oliver, raised just $170. Two Republicans are seeking their party’s nomination for the seat. Michael Owen raised $4,800 in December, while Danny Kushmer raised $5,455.
“Jackie Toledo ends 2019 with more than $200K banked for reelection” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The Tampa Republican raised $13,500 in December, bringing her total raised so far to more than $210,000. Of her total December haul, Toledo took in $8,000 from maximum contributions. That includes $1,000 checks from pharmaceutical company AbbVie Inc., America’s Export Corporation, Vandergrift-Williams Farms, Mag Mutual Florida PAC, Mid Gulf Holdings and development group 2101 Platt LLC and its manager, developer Christopher Chapman, among others. Toledo’s contributions averaged $690 each. Not a single contribution was less than $250.
“In the race for Miami-Dade mayor, Alex Penelas is leading the pack in donations” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Penelas heads into the 2020 campaign season as the financial front-runner for Miami-Dade mayor, with a comeback campaign easily outpacing the four incumbent county commissioners running against him. The former two-term mayor seeking his old job raised more than $2.8 million in 2019. That’s well ahead of the second-place finisher, Daniella Levine Cava, an incumbent commissioner from South Dade, who recorded just over $2 million raised since she joined the race in April.
— LOCAL —
“Feds to investigate JEA privatization” via Christopher Hong and Nate Monroe of the Florida Times-Union — Federal officials will take the lead on an investigation into the controversial effort to privatize JEA, continuing a probe State Attorney Melissa Nelson’s office began last year, a development that significantly escalates a broadening public scandal in Jacksonville city government. Nelson, in a written statement, said she had determined the “appropriate venue to continue this investigation is the federal justice system.” “Last year, the State Attorney’s Office initiated an investigation into issues related to the privatization of JEA. As with all investigations conducted by this office, we have taken this issue very seriously,” Nelson said. “We have referred our investigation to our federal partners, who will take the lead moving forward and have the full support of this office.”
Ya think? — “Melissa Dykes won’t seek permanent JEA CEO post” via David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union — JEA interim CEO Dykes says the city-owned utility needs a “fresh start.” The board selected her to be interim CEO last month after ousting Aaron Zahn. “This was a difficult decision for me, but a necessary step toward ensuring a fresh start for all stakeholders and what is best for JEA,” Dykes said in a statement. “I remain committed to promoting a culture of employee safety, delivering operational excellence, and rebuilding trust while ensuring a smooth transition. This way, there will be no question that all decisions going forward will be with JEA and the community in mind, instead of through the lens of someone applying for a permanent position.”
“New terms begin for Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and commissioners Tony Ortiz, Patty Sheehan and Bakari Burns” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Burns received a loud ovation from supporters who attended the swearing-in at the Dr. Phillips Center, including members of the activist group Organize Florida, the labor union UNITE HERE! and friends and colleagues from Jones High School, Florida A&M University, and Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church. In his speech, Burns, the CEO of the Healthcare Center for the Homeless, challenged residents to become involved with local government, businesses to invest in their workforce, and the City Council to prioritize investments in affordable housing. Dyer, Orlando’s longest-serving mayor, reiterated his support for Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings’ transportation sales-tax initiative, which Dyer believes would improve the quality of life for city residents.
“Orthopedic surgeon files whistleblower lawsuit against Orlando Health, Physician Associates” via Naseem S. Miller of the Orlando Sentinel — An orthopedic surgeon has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against Orlando Health and three of its subsidiaries, alleging that his superiors violated federal laws by requiring him to perform surgeries and make referrals within the Orlando Health network only and then fired him when he refused to comply. Dr. Ayman Daouk is suing Orlando Health, Physician Associates, Orlando Health Physician Group and Orlando Health Imaging Centers, alleging that he was fired by Orlando Health and Physician Associates “because he performed surgeries at a non-Orlando Health facility and referred patients for imaging at a non-Orlando Health facility.”
“South Florida sees swell of new residents moving from high-tax states” via Marsha Meroux Pounds of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Newly released IRS data for 2018 shows Florida — which has no personal income tax — had a 3% increase over 2017 in the migration of net personal income — the dollars coming into the county versus what’s going out. South Florida saw a more than 60% increase in net personal income over 2017, and Palm Beach County alone saw a 20% increase, according to the IRS, which tracks changes in personal income through address changes on annual tax returns. Americans are taking a closer look at how much they’re paying in taxes, and moving to a lower-tax state like Florida can make a big difference come Tax Day.
“Kanye West reportedly wants to host a gospel concert in Miami around Super Bowl 54” via C. Isaiah Smalls II of the Miami Herald — Add a West concert to the growing list of Super Bowl activities. The “Jesus Walks” artist has spoken to Super Bowl Host Committee Chair Rodney Barreto about holding “a gospel concert in connection to the big game.” In a text message to the Herald, Barreto said the two had a preliminary conversation but have not yet reached an agreement. Assuming West doesn’t have anything special planned (which is never a safe bet), the “gospel concert” would most likely refer to the Sunday Services that he’s held across the country. The performances, which feature gospel remixes of secular tunes as well as original songs, started as invite-only concerts in January 2019. They’ve since expanded into the public sphere, with shows at Coachella and Howard University.
— MORE LOCAL —
“150 show up for Howey-in-the-Hills meeting spurred by Councilman who made $1M demand” via Martin Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — About 150 Howey-in-the-Hills residents turned out for a meeting in neighboring Tavares, most spurred by a council member’s demand of $1 million to settle his claims that the small Lake County community has caused him economic and emotional harm and violated his civil rights. “I honestly don’t know what his endgame is here,” said Dan Powers, who is part of a recall effort against Town Council member Mat McGill. “Is it just a quick shakedown? Or is it to bankrupt the town so we must change the charter to be favorable to high-profit housing development to get out of debt.”
“City of Pembroke Pines defrauded in $700,000 security scheme: AG” via NBC Miami — Ololade Shokunbi and Oluwatoyin Laditan, the owners of Bayus Security Protection, were arrested in Miami-Dade on an organized scheme to defraud charges, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody announced in a news release. Olalekan Shokunbi, the company’s operation manager, remains at-large, the release said. According to Moody, the three fraudulently billed the city more than $700,000 for services never provided between October 2012 and June 2017. Their company, now defunct, had a contract to provide security services at several city-owned properties.
“Tampa International Airport expanding dine-at-the-airside program” via Richard Danielson of the Tampa Bay Times — Tampa International Airport said it’s expanding its TPA All Access program that allows nonflying visitors to go through security to eat at the restaurants, shop or visit spas at the airside Jan again for other. Starting Saturday, the program will go from Saturdays only to seven days a week. Since its launch last May, more than 1,700 people have taken advantage of the program, which entails signing up at least 24 hours in advance to get a pass. “This airport belongs to the Tampa Bay community, and our All Access program is one way of making sure as many people as possible can experience all it has to offer,” airport chief executive officer Joe Lopano said in an announcement of the expansion.
— OPINIONS —
“Rick Scott: They fought for freedom — how my father and the WW2 generation continue to inspire me” via Fox News — Orba Scott Jr. adopted me when I was a toddler. My dad’s story is the story of many in his generation. He grew up during the Depression with almost nothing by moving in with family and friends. He joined the Army as a teenager. After the war, he struggled for work. But despite the hardship (or maybe because of it), my dad’s life, and my parents’ life, is the story of America. They believed that with the grace of God, and a good education and hard work, their children could be anything — could do anything. But I often wonder if he recognized how important he, and those like him, were to the fabric of American society.
“’Year of the teacher’ in Florida kicks off with threats to fire them” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — The pay is rotten, the paperwork is mountainous, the testing is debilitating and, if you try to petition lawmakers about those working conditions, the state threatens your job. That’s essentially what happened when hundreds of Polk County teachers notified administrators they would be taking a personal day so they could attend a “Take On Tallahassee” rally organized by the Florida Education Association. “A concerted failure to report for duty constitutes an illegal strike under Florida law,” Matthew Mears wrote. “ … we have the highest obligation to ensure that Polk County educators are advised of the risks associated with participating in a coordinated effort to not report for duty.” See how it works in Florida?
“Joshua Simmons: The death of local governments” via Florida Politics — I must implore all Floridians and all local elected officials to be vigilant and pay attention to this Session. Bills have already been filed, committee appointments have been made, and one thing is clear — local governments’ authority will continue to be under attack. Local governments were given the authority to work in the best interest of their constituents and municipalities. After all, local elected officials are closest to the people and are very much in tune with the people who voted them into office. Residents and local elected officials must stand together and work to protect their homes. This is not a partisan battle, preemptions, especially punitive preemption, sees no color and all local governments are affected.
“Floridians can prepare their homes for the next hurricane season, and the state can help” via Randy Fine for the Orlando Sentinel — As we’ve seen too often in recent years, hurricanes can threaten our state at a moment’s notice — and destroy the homes and disrupt the lives of our families. Today, more Floridians are making the safe and smart decision to invest in the hardening of their homes using proven resources like the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program to get access to safe, affordable financing to better protect their property and their family. In Florida, PACE offers access to affordable, fixed-cost financing for property owners to make hurricane protection upgrades to their homes, such as impact doors and windows, reinforced roof tie-downs and backup generator power that make a big difference come hurricane season.
— MOVEMENTS —
The Southern Group predicts 2020 Session — In a new video, venerable lobbying shop The Southern Group outlines its expectations for Florida’s 2020 Legislative Session. Titled “Looking Ahead,” the 45-second clip features partner James McFaddin talking about “paradigm shifts” in hospital funding; partner Chris Dudley discussing holding Session during a presidential year and consultant Erin Rock offers her excitement over where Florida will move in the technology sector. The group also expects several battles on the horizon, as well as some “good policy” getting through.
To watch the video, click on the image below:
— ALOE —
“NASA welcomes 11 new astronauts, first since Artemis missions announced” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — NASA now has 48 active astronauts as 11 candidates chosen in 2017 graduated from basic training, the first since NASA announced its Artemis program to return to the moon. The 11 NASA astronauts received a silver pin in a ceremony at Johnson Space Center in Houston. Those silver pins will be replaced with gold pins if and when they make their first spaceflight. “These individuals represent the best of America, and what an incredible time for them to join our astronaut corps,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine at the ceremony. Two new Canadian Space Agency astronauts who trained alongside the NASA astronauts attended the ceremony as well.
“‘Joker’ leads Oscar noms; ‘1917,’ ‘Irishman’ close behind” via Jake Coyle of The Associated Press — Female filmmakers were shut out, “Parasite” made history and “Joker” edged out “The Irishman,” “1917” and “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” in Oscar nominations. Todd Phillips’ R-rated superhero smash “Joker” topped all films with 11 nominations to the 92nd Academy Awards, while Martin Scorsese’s elegiac crime epic “The Irishman,” Quentin Tarantino’s 1960s Los Angeles fairy tale “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” and Sam Mendes’ continuous World War I tale “1917” all trailed close behind with 10 nods apiece. Those four were among the nine films nominated for best picture by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
“Gas prices dropping in Florida as Middle East tensions decline” via Florida Daily — With tensions in the Middle East declining, gas prices are starting to slip in the Sunshine State. AAA released a report on Monday showing the average gallon of gas in Florida cost $2.49 on Sunday, down from $2.53 at the start of last week. That’s below the national average, which stood at $2.58 a gallon on Sunday. “Rising crude prices dragged gas prices higher in recent weeks. However, oil prices quickly sank as tensions between the US and Iran began to ease. Last week, the price for a barrel of WTI crude dropped nearly $5, going from $64/b on Monday to $59/b on Friday,” AAA noted.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Belated wishes to Rep. Charlie Stone, Stephanie Kopelousos and Toni Smith Large of Uhlfelder & Associates. Celebrating today are Speaker-designate Chris Sprowls, our dear friend, Erin Ballas of Public Affairs Consultants, Mr. Gwen Graham, Steve Hurm, and the recently engaged Claire VanSusteren.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.