Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 1.15.20

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Here's your morning briefing of what you need to know in Florida politics.

Eight years ago, this happened!

Happy anniversary to the love of my life, Michelle.


The 2020 Legislative Session has only just begun, but the most plugged-in people in Tallahassee already have some ideas about who’ll emerge as the ultimate winner in mid-March.

The most popular pick is the popular-as-ever Gov. Ron DeSantis. A full two-thirds of Florida Influencers, including 60% of Democrats and 70% of Republicans, say DeSantis will end up getting most of what he wants come Sine Die.

Coming in second was Senate President Bill Galvano, followed by House Speaker José Oliva, who was undoubtedly a major winner coming out of the 2019 Legislative Session.

Ron DeSantis, Bill Galvano, José Oliva — who comes out on top? Insiders weigh in.

Just because you’re not a winner doesn’t make you a loser. Unless you’re DeSantis, Galvano or Oliva, that is. The top-3 on the winner prediction also had strong showings on the loser side of things.

Democrats were also a popular pick for the loser ranking, with Minority Leader Kionne McGhee getting a couple of votes of his own. Other mentions: Amendment 4 voters, CFO Jimmy Patronis, Hospitals and local governments.

And, finally, the most important question of all: Will the 2020 Legislative Session end on time?

More than 90% of Influencers — 86% of Democrats, 97% of Republicans and all NPAs — don’t envision it going into overtime. Just 7%, most of them Democrats, say they won’t be planning their post-Session vacation just yet.


The 2020 Session of the Florida Legislature is off and running.

On today’s Sunrise:

— Hitting the highlights of DeSantis’ second annual State of the State address, as well as the response from Democratic leaders of the House and Senate. DeSantis asked lawmakers to pass a bill requiring employers to use the federal E-Verify system to screen all new hires, to pass a bill requiring parental consent for minors who want an abortion and bring more transparency to health care.

— Senate Democratic Leader Audrey Gibson is still waiting on the Governor to make good on promises he made during last year’s State of the State speech.

— House Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee said 20 years of Republican leadership in Tallahassee had been a disaster for working men and women struggling to make ends meet. At the same time, lawmakers bend over backward for corporations and the donor class.

— Also, an examination of the agendas laid out by the House Speaker Oliva and Senate President Galvano.

— Spoiler alert: Oliva has declared war on the health care industry.

— A Florida man is in jail for beating up an elderly Ocala man after stealing his balls at a golf club. Deputies say 22-year-old Tyler Dearden was taking golf balls from another man’s bucket.

To listen, click on the image below:


@HillaryClinton: Russians appear to be rerunning their 2016 hacking playbook, once again to benefit Donald Trump. Will the media play along again? Will the GOP open the door again? Will the Russians help pick our POTUS again?

@SBG1: One of the great things about Congress is its openness to journalists, a striking contrast to the rest of the federal government. Hope this proposal to restrict access to the Senate impeachment trial will not stand

Tweet, tweet:

@BrianJBurgess: Attention @GovRonDeSantis comms shop: Next year, splurge on an actual teleprompter instead of the iPad(s) or whatever he’s looking at on the rostrum.

@MDixon55: The executive agency last to issue a news release praising @GovRonDeSantis’ state of the state loses an FTE

@Fineout: Senate President @BillGalvano kicks off 2020 session with a short speech — no policy initiatives — just a request for civility and an acknowledgment that the Session will largely turn on the budget. “We know the issues,” Galvano said. “Everyone knows what the issues are.”

Tweet, tweet:

@CHeathWFTV: Welcome to Florida: we’re building unneeded rural toll roads while our cities feature more toll roads and free roads where you stop at green lights!


Sundance Film Festival begins — 8; “Star Trek: Picard” premiers — 8; Annual Red Dog Blue Dog Celebrity Bartender Benefit — 11; New Brexit deadline — 16; Super Bowl LIV in Miami — 18; Great American Realtors Day — 19; Iowa Caucuses — 19; Eighth Democratic presidential debate in Manchester — 24; Capitol Press Corps press skits — 27; New Hampshire Primaries — 27; Pitchers and catchers begin reporting for MLB Spring Training — 27; Ninth Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas — 35; Roger Stone’s sentencing — 36; Nevada caucuses — 38; “Better Call Saul” Season 5 premiers — 39; 10th Democratic presidential debate in Charleston — 41; South Carolina Primaries — 45; Super Tuesday — 48; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 58; Florida’s presidential primary — 62; “No Time to Die” premiers — 86; Florida Chamber Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 125; “Top Gun: Maverick” premiers — 163; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 180; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premiers — 184; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo start — 191; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 216; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 222; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 266; First Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 274; Second presidential debate at Belmont — 281; 2020 General Election — 293.


Ron DeSantis touts ‘bold beginnings,’ but legislators may not grant a repeat performance” via Emily Mahoney, Samantha Gross, Mary Ellen Klas, Elizabeth Koh, and Lawrence Mower of the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau — DeSantis told state lawmakers to seek out new political frontiers, declaring that “there is no reason why we can’t seize this moment.” Despite his show of confidence, however, his honeymoon period with lawmakers seems to be ending. Already, legislative leaders have expressed disagreement with two of the governor’s top priorities: requiring employers to check their hires’ immigration status using E-Verify and creating a statewide minimum teacher salary of $47,500. DeSantis pressed the need for both during his speech. “We are a state that has an economy, not the other way around. And we need to make sure that our Florida citizens from all walks of life come first,” he said.

Ron DeSantis tells lawmakers there is no reason they can’t ‘seize the moment.’

DeSantis calls for teacher raises, new abortion law” via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press — DeSantis called for teacher raises, the eradication of Burmese pythons in the Everglades and a new law to force girls to get their parents’ permission before getting an abortion during his State of the State address. DeSantis said keeping taxes low, improving education and protecting the environment will help Florida continue to grow. He wants to build on some of his successes from his first year. “In 2019, we took bold steps to expand educational opportunities, protect our environment and natural resources, reform health care, invest in infrastructure and bolster public safety — all while reducing taxes and maintaining healthy budget reserves,” DeSantis said. “While we should look with favor on these bold beginnings, we have much more to do.”


Assignment editors — DeSantis will make an announcement, 10:15 a.m., Everglades Holiday Park, 21940 Griffin Road, Fort Lauderdale.

As Session begins, activists offer alternative agenda for Florida” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — DeSantis opened the 2020 Session of the Florida Legislature with a call for lawmakers to be bold in their initiatives and to continue to follow a recipe of lower taxes and fewer regulations. But a cadre of Democratic legislators and community activists say that’s a recipe for a state economy that ignores the needs of working people. Progressive Democrats and their allies among grassroots organizations back what they call a “Sunrise Agenda” that calls for more funding for health care, public transportation, education. They say a regressive tax system needs to be changed to rebuild a social safety net and also support abortion rights, gun regulations, and clean water initiatives.

Democrats countered the State of the State address with their own version — Sunrise Agenda.

Gun proposal draws fire from DeSantis, José Oliva” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — The proposal (SB 7028) would close the gun-show “loophole,” create a record-keeping system for private gun sales and set aside $5 million to establish a “statewide strategy for violence prevention,” among other things. The measure would also expand on the state’s “red-flag law,” which was included in a wide-ranging law passed shortly after the Feb. 14, 2018, mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. DeSantis appeared skeptical of the proposal to close the gun-show “loophole” by requiring background checks and a three-day waiting period for firearms sold at gun shows, saying screenings are already being performed by “anyone selling firearms at any of those tables.”

Oliva tags health care industry as ‘robber barons’” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — Oliva’s aggressive remarks on the opening day of the 2020 Legislative Session painted a bleak picture of the industry as putting profits over patients. The Miami Lakes Republican outlined what he considers to be a fix, including allowing advanced practice registered nurses to provide care independently from physicians. It’s not clear, though, that DeSantis or the Senate see things the same way, setting the stage for a potentially contentious back-and-forth over the next 60 days. Oliva dedicated a large part of his 18-minute opening day speech in the House to the need to revamp medical professional licensure regulations, which he called “archaic and backward.”

Oliva names ‘Nurse Practitioner of the Day,’ reiterates health care priorities” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Oliva announced a “Nurse Practitioner of the Day,” and for the first time in nearly three days, the opening day pick was a woman. Oliva’s selection was Doreen Cassarino, a doctor of nursing practice from Naples. The Miami Lakes Republican also used the opportunity to highlight his push to expand the scope of practice for Florida nurses. “By inviting an advanced practice registered nurse to see patients in the Legislative Clinic today, we acknowledge the vital role they play in ensuring the health of Floridians,” Oliva said. “I am proud to support legislation this year to grant APRNs independent practice across our state to improve access to quality care for all, and allow these professionals to work to the full extent of their training and education.”

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 fight 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 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.

E-Verify divides Republican leaders” via News Service of Florida — DeSantis’ push for a politically charged immigration proposal has begun to expose a clash between Republicans as this year’s legislative session starts. The Governor kicked off the Session Tuesday by reminding lawmakers about one of his top priorities: a proposed mandate for all Florida employers to use the federal government’s E-Verify system to check new hires to make sure they are not undocumented immigrants. But House Speaker Oliva and Senate President Galvano say they worry an E-Verify mandate would add too much burden on private businesses — and are more open to considering a compromise that would have less effect on the private sector. “E-Verify is going to be a very big fight, quite honestly, between Republicans,” Democratic Rep. Evan Jenne told The News Service of Florida.

Tom Lee responds to backlash to removing ‘white supremacy’ from resolution on rejecting hateful ideologies” via Sarah Mueller of Florida Politics — Senate Infrastructure and Security Chairman Lee said he’s open to adding back language condemning white supremacy to a committee substitute resolution that passed his committee yesterday. Miami-Dade Democratic State Sen. José Javier Rodriguez filed a resolution (SR 214) in September that condemns white nationalism and white supremacy as hateful expressions of intolerance. But the committee passed a substitute resolution removing that language and instead approving language that rejects any ideology or philosophy that advocates the superiority of one group of people over another because of race, color, national origin, sex, or religion as hateful, dangerous and morally corrupt expressions of intolerance. Lee says he’s not married to the language, but he wants it to be a bipartisan effort.

Tom Lee is responding to backlash over removing the words ‘white supremacy’ from an anti-hate bill.

Aviation tax repeal flies through Senate committee — for now” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee voted 4-1 in favor of the bill (SB 1192). But multiple members said they want more financial data before it lands on the floor. State Sen. Joe Gruters, the bill’s sponsor, said Florida needs to stop charging taxes of jet fuel. It only makes airlines fill their tanks in other states. Fred Baggett, a lobbyist for Airlines for America, said several airlines right now fly planes from Charlotte to Miami and will manage fuel, so they only refill in North Carolina. The reason? That state charges 0.0025 cent-per-gallon tax, and Florida charges 4.27 cents. That’s something that affects airline decisions on where to place hubs.

Senate panel approves annual cost-of-living pay adjustment plan for state workers” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — State employees could get an annual cost-of-living pay raise under a plan approved Monday by a Senate committee. SB 1114 would create an annual salary adjustment for most rank-and-file workers in the state budget tied to the consumer price index — the annual change in prices paid by consumers for goods and services — a 1.6% increase between 2018 and 2019. While the measure requires state economists to calculate an annual cost of living adjustment, the proposal does not require the Legislature to fund it. Armed with a staff analysis that documented state pay raises and the rate of inflation since 2005, Sen. Bill Montford made his case for an annual cost-of-living increase for more than 90,000 state employees.

Senate committee approves ATM pill bill” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The measure (SB 708), filed by Sen. Travis Hutson, next goes to the Senate Innovation, Industry, and Technology Committee. Rep. Matt Willhite has filed the bill’s House companion (HB 59). Automated kiosks are already used to dole out medication in long-term care facilities, hospices, and prisons. However, these expand possibilities beyond institutionalized populations into, for example, rural areas. Dispensaries could not distribute controlled substances through the kiosk. Medical cannabis is issued through order rather than a prescription and therefore could not be dispensed.

Lauren Book bill on declawing cats gets TP’d — The Senate Agriculture Committee temporarily postponed Book’s legislation that would punish veterinarians who declaw a cat unless the procedure is medically necessary. Committee Chair Ben Albritton said the measure still needs work, but that the bill isn’t completely kaput. “Sen. Book is certainly interested in making sure the bill is in proper posture,” Albritton said at Tuesday’s meeting. “I didn’t want anybody to read into that particular issue, that there is trouble on the horizon. It was a mutually agreed-to situation.” Book’s bill currently provides exceptions to the declawing ban, such as addressing “an existing or recurring illness, infection, disease, injury, or abnormal condition of the cat which compromises the cat’s health.”

NAS Pensacola shooting first responders, victims, families honored by lawmakers” via Nada Hassanein of the Tallahassee Democrat — At the first Senate sitting of this year’s Legislative Session, lawmakers recognized the victims, survivors and first responders of the shooting last month at Naval Air Station Pensacola that killed three men and injured eight others. Escambia County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Matthew Tinch entered the West Gallery of the Florida Senate chambers along with about a dozen other law enforcement officers. First responders like Tinch, injured trying to save lives during the Dec. 6 NAS Pensacola shooting, were recognized by Senate President Galvano. He called the deputies “heroes,” saying that honoring them adds “additional meaning to our very important tradition of pledging our flag.”

’Unifying’ art replaces mural that featured Confederate flag” via Bobby Caina Calvan of The Associated Press — The new artwork — a huge piece of wood in the shape of the state — represents the latest effort by lawmakers to strip away the divisive symbol from its official emblems amid scrutiny in recent years over public monuments to the Confederacy. The Senate commissioned the original “Five Flags” mural in 1978. Senate officials said the renovation of the chambers in 2016 prompted the removal of the mural. Still, it was never returned to the space it occupied for nearly 40 years at the public entrance of the Senate gallery. The five flags refer to the banners that once flew over the state, including the Confederate flag.

The Senate unveils a gleaming new piece of art at one of its most-visited corridors in The Capitol, after removing an old mural that included the Confederate flag.

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% 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.


Jeff Brandes  bill, citing Dan Markel murder case, could allow grandparents more visitation rights” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Friends of Markel are hoping a bill filed by Brandes could afford the slain Florida State law professor’s parents, and others like them, more access to their grandchildren. Markel’s parents, Phil and Ruth Markel, have not seen their grandchildren since 2016 amid allegations that the family of their mother, Wendi Adelson, is being investigated in connection with a murder-for-hire plot. Brandes proposes changing a 2015 law that allows grandparents to petition for visitation if a living parent is convicted of a felony. The 2020 revision, SB 1886, looks to expand the court remedy to lingering cases in which the living parent’s family is being investigated but is still active in the children’s lives.

Parkland parent hopes legislators will honor her daughter by embracing ‘Alyssa’s Law’” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Lori Alhadeff wants her daughter’s name to live on through a law that she says will prevent deaths if a gunman threatens another Florida school. Nearly two years ago, Alhadeff’s 14-year-old daughter, Alyssa, was one of 17 students and staff who were killed in the Parkland school shooting. Now, Alhadeff is urging the Florida Legislature to pass Alyssa’s law, which would require each school building to be equipped with at least one panic alarm that could be triggered during a mass shooting or lockdown. The legislation (SB 70/ HB 23) received its first hearing Monday with a Senate panel moving it forward with a favorable recommendation. State legislators kicked off their 60-day Session Tuesday.

Parkland parent Lori Alhadeff is embracing Alyssa’s Law, named after her daughter.

Janet Cruz, Ben Diamond file safe drinking water bill to limit contaminants” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The identical bills (HB 1427 and SB 1720) would require the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to establish maximum contamination levels for a variety of contaminants and chemicals. “We have a responsibility to ensure that every resident in our state has access to safe, clean drinking water,” Diamond said. The Florida Safe Drinking Water Act would also direct the FDEP to consider limits on other pollutants in drinking water systems when other states have set limits or issued guidance on a given pollutant. The bills specify that contaminant limits must be sufficient to protect vulnerable populations, including pregnant and nursing mothers, infants, children, and financially disadvantaged small communities.

Proposed law would bring Florida up to speed on electric bicycling” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A bill filed by Brandes aims to bring Florida’s electric bicycle regulations in line with those in at least 22 other states. Current Florida law considers electric bicycles as no different from traditional bicycles as long as they require riders to pedal them before the electric motor kicks in to help propel the bike. Under Brandes’ proposed law, all types would be defined simply as bicycles, but the three categories would be spelled out in the law for local governments that might want to restrict one or two but not all three.

Gift ban exemption gets House companion” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — State Rep. Jayer Williamson is sponsoring a bill that would provide for some exceptions in the state’s lobbying gift ban. Current law prohibits state employees from accepting gifts or services valued at more than $100 from any lobbyists, as well as employees at companies that have a lobbyist working for them in the Capitol. Disallowing the practice has caused problems for some employees when they face extreme financial circumstances, such as being diagnosed with a serious illness. HB 1435 will suspend the ban for if a state employee or their child is diagnosed with such an illness, or if they are in a severe accident that causes them to incur substantial medical bills.


The Senate Military and Veterans Affairs and Space Committee meet to consider confirmation of Florida National Guard Adjutant Gen. James Eifert., 8:30 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building.

The Senate Rules Committee meets to consider SB 172 from Sen. Rob Bradley, which would ban local regulation of over-the-counter drugs and cosmetics, such as sunscreen, 8:30 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building.

The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee meets, 8:30 a.m., 404 House Office Building.

The House Health Quality Subcommittee meets, 8:30 a.m., 306 House Office Building.

The Revenue Estimating Conference will revise general revenue projections, 9 a.m., 117 Knott Building.

The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 9:30 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Energy & Utilities Subcommittee meets, 9:30 a.m., 212 Knott Building.

The House Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee meets, 9:30 a.m., 12 House Office Building.

The House Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 9:30 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The Senate Judiciary Committee meets to consider SB 404 from Sen. Kelli Stargel, which would require parental consent before minors can have abortions, 10:15 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building.

The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee meets to consider SB 116 from Sen. Janet Cruz, which would help control the cost of insulin, 10:30 a.m., 412 Knott Building.

The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee meets to consider SB 82 from Sen. Aaron Bean, which seeks to make changes in the “iBudget” program to help Floridians with disabilities, 10:30 a.m., 301 Senate Office Building.

The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee meets, 1 p.m., 12 House Office Building.

The House Business & Professions Subcommittee meets, 1 p.m., 212 Knott Building.

The House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 1 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 1 p.m., 404 House Office Building.

The House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee meets, 1 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider confirmation for executive directors of the state’s five water management districts, 1:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.

The House Health Market Reform Subcommittee meets, 3:30 p.m., 306 House Office Building.

The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 3:30 p.m., 212 Knott Building.

The House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee meets, 3:30 p.m., 404 House Office Building.

The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 3:30 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee meets, 3:30 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The House Workforce Development & Tourism Subcommittee meets, 3:30 p.m., 12 House Office Building.

The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider the confirmation of Surgeon General Scott Rivkees, 4 p.m., 412 Knott Building.

Assignment editors — Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse and NFIB will hold a news conference alongside Sen. Doug Broxson and Rep. Bob Rommel, announcing the results of a study assessing the economic benefits of tort reform, 12:30 p.m., 4th-floor Rotunda.

Happening today — Florida TaxWatch hosts its annual “State of the Taxpayer” dinner. Scheduled speakers include Attorney General Ashley Moody, state CFO Jimmy Patronis, state Sen. Rodriguez, state Rep. Paul Renner, Department of Children and Families Secretary Chad Poppell and Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Ken Lawson; media availability is 5:30 p.m., dinner begins at 6 p.m., Hotel Duval, 415 North Monroe St., Tallahassee.


The Florida Chamber of Commerce unveiled its 2020 Jobs Agenda Monday, and now it’s sending members to Tallahassee to bring some attention to it.

The priority includes cuts to the commercial rents sales tax, improvements to the educational system, and some legislation to make Florida’s legal climate less intimidating to business — the Chamber estimates the average Florida family would save $4,000 a year in taxes if the latter gets addressed by lawmakers.

Chamber President & CEO Mark Wilson is highlighting the ‘skills match issue’ for Tallahassee lawmakers.

The Legislative Fly-In event kicks off at 9:15 a.m. at the Turnbull Conference Center, and a host of politicians are on tap to greet the Chamber — Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, Attorney General Moody, CFO Patronis, Senate President Galvano and state Reps. Renner and Bob Rommel are all scheduled to speak.

A full agenda is available on the Florida Chamber’s website.


Bradley’s sausage and white bean soup; mixed garden salad with dressings; cucumber, tomato & feta salad; pineapple coleslaw; deli board with tomato, lettuce, cheeses and breads; turkey potpie; old fashion meatloaf with red wine mushroom sauce; crispy fried catfish; cheese grits; braised collard greens with country ham; candied carrots; and pomegranate mousse for dessert.


Three cheers for puppies — Animal lovers will have the opportunity to grab a drink and do some good later this month, when Red Dog Blue Dog hosts its annual Celebrity Bartender fundraiser. In addition to raising money for shelter dogs, the night will allow attendees to get some facetime with major players on both sides of the aisle in Tallahassee. Tending bar for the Republicans is VISIT FLORIDA CEO Dana Young, Sen. Gruters, Rep. Colleen Burton, and Rep. Alex Andrade. Team Blue features DEM Director Jared Moskowitz, Sen. Gary Farmer, Sen. Jason Pizzo, and Rep. Tracie Davis. Of course, those unable to show up and order a greyhound or salty dog can still show their support by sending a few bucks to Red Dog Blue Dog — they accept donations through their website.

Time to do some good for shelter dogs.


Ashley Moody announces new name of human trafficking council’s fundraising arm” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Florida Alliance to End Human Trafficking is the new name for the direct-support organization of the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking. Last Session, the Legislature established the organization as a nonprofit fundraising arm of the council. “In 2014, when the statewide task force was set up, few people were talking about human trafficking,” Moody said. “In just a few short years, we saw our statewide prosecution start going up because we were putting it in front of lawmakers. We were putting it in front of statewide leaders.”

Attorney General Ashley Moody, flanked by a bipartisan group of supporters, announced the name of the state’s human trafficking nonprofit.

Captains for Clean Water caught clubbing with lobbyists before criticizing Nikki Fried for associating with them” via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist — Captains for Clean Water executive director Daniel Andrews sent a letter to Florida Agriculture Commissioner Fried complaining about her appointment of a pair of water experts to a board with oversight of Lake Okeechobee. Their sin? Being registered lobbyists who happen to represent agricultural interests in the Lake Okeechobee area. But The Capitolist has obtained a photo showing that Andrews himself isn’t averse to hanging with lobbyists, either, and lots of them, in one of Tallahassee’s best-known lobbyist watering holes: the Governor’s Club. The photo shows Andrews, rocking a sport coat along with his iconic beard and baseball hat, sipping expensive wine and chatting with a pair of Tallahassee lobbyists, with plenty more visible in the background.

Court wades into marijuana licensing dispute” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — A Tampa-based orchid grower seeking to enter Florida’s highly restricted medical-marijuana market tried to convince a state appeals court that health officials erred in granting a handful of medical marijuana licenses to competing firms last year. Louis Del Favero Orchids, Inc. is challenging a settlement agreement between the Florida Department of Health and what is known within the industry as “one-pointers.” The agreement, finalized in April, provided licenses to eight firms but reduced the remaining licenses that were expected to be available under a 2017 law. Del Favero argues, among other things, that the settlement was unfair and contrary to public policy because it “contravenes the legislative intent” of the 2017 law.


Florida Forever could aid hurricane recovery, sea-level efforts” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — The Environment and Natural Resources Committee approved a proposal (SPB 7024) that would set aside at least $10 million a year from Florida Forever to buy land and add conservation easements in areas that had been damaged by hurricanes during the previous five years. “This bill serves as both a hurricane recovery strategy and a way to make our state more resilient to hurricanes and sea-level rise,” committee Chair Montford said. The measure would require the Department of Environmental Protection to coordinate with other state agencies and water management districts on projects intended to conserve land in coastal areas subject to flooding as a result of sea-level rise.

As seas rise, a Florida Keys ‘ghost forest’ makes a last” via Jenny Staletovich of WLRN — A pine rockland forest once stood here, maybe a century ago. Not that long in tree years. The stumps still give off a sharp, tarry smell when gouged with a knife. Freshwater sawgrass could be found as recently as the 1990s. But now, it’s a stark and solemn warning about rising seas. “It’s really kind of pathetic,” said Florida International University forest ecologist Michael Ross, who’s been studying the Keys pineland since the 1990s. Just three decades ago, when he started studying the forests, a healthy pineland grew on at least 10 islands. Today, the forests are thinning or gone. The only healthy tract stands on Big Pine.

Across the U.S. coast, sea rise has left behind swathes of skeletal ghost forests. Image via WUSF.


House will vote Wednesday to send impeachment articles, Nancy Pelosi” says via Nicholas Fandos of The New York Times — “The American people deserve the truth, and the Constitution demands a trial,” she said. The Speaker said she would announce the names of her managers at 10 a.m. In the Senate, Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, indicated that Senators would be ready to receive the articles and take sworn oaths to render “impartial justice” in the trial shortly thereafter, if not the following day. The announcements paved the way for an elaborate, choreographed exchange between the two chambers to unfold as they look toward the third presidential impeachment trial in American history.

Nancy Pelosi sets Wednesday votes to send the impeachment articles to the Senate.


Donald Trump tears into Apple for refusing to unlock Pensacola shooter’s cellphones” via Myah Ward of POLITICO — Trump’s broadside comes after Attorney General William Barr added pressure to the tech giant, calling on the company to help investigators access the locked cellphones of the deceased shooter in the Pensacola naval base attack. The FBI asked for the company’s help accessing the devices after they were unable to, and Apple said it assisted as much as it could. But in a news conference about the FBI’s investigation, Barr said the company “has not given us any substantive assistance.” “We are helping Apple all of the time on TRADE and so many other issues,” Trump’s tweet said. “ … They will have to step up to the plate and help our great Country, NOW! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.”

Trump blasts Apple for refusing to unlock the Pensacola shooter’s phone.

Donald Trump in Palm Beach: Local security bill for 27 visits to Mar-a-Lago at $13.7M” via Christine Stapleton of the Palm Beach Post — Local governments and law enforcement spent $13.7 million to protect Trump during the 27 visits he and his family made to Mar-a-Lago between his election in November 2016 and Easter of last year, according to county records. The federal government has already reimbursed the county nearly $10 million for expenses through September 2018. The county is waiting to be paid for the remaining $3.8 million racked up during the fiscal year ending in October 2019. Most of the money has been spent on overtime accumulated by Palm Beach County Sheriff Department deputies, said Assistant County Administrator Todd J. Bonlarron.

“‘I am all in for killing Soleimani’: Rick Scott on Iran, impeachment and Boeing CEO’s golden parachute” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Scott enters his second year in Washington with an impeachment trial on the Senate’s doorstep, a looming vote on whether to rein in President Trump’s war powers in Iran and many of his 2018 campaign promises in limbo.

Trump to lift hold on $8.2B in Puerto Rico disaster aid” via Katy O’Donnell of POLITICO


“Donald Trump,” writes Peter Hamby in Vanity Fair, “has derived much of his political success by ignoring Washington finger-waggers and connecting with the more primal instincts of his supporters … with or without the good graces of the national press and savvy insiders.”

On the campaign trail, Trump stumbled — intentionally or not — onto a critical element of the electorate: The main split in American politics is between those who follow politics closely and those who do not.

Reaching outside the political ‘bubble’ is the secret of Donald Trump’s popularity.

What many Democrats and members of the press fail to realize is that political media culture is a “bubble of its own.” For on the inside, Hamby writes: “The inside game is everything. The political media blob tumbles forward every day on the assumption that people are aware of the storylines and characters, that voters are tuning in.” In actuality, the average person is not.

One point of contention — at this point most voters could not tell you who is running for President. “This doesn’t mean voters are dumb,” Hamby says. “It means they are normal — and that Democrats have serious work to do to reach them.”

— 2020 —

Assignment editors — One day before Vice President Mike Pence will hold a “Latinos for Trump” event in Osceola County, the Florida Democratic Party will host a news conference with members of the Latino community, 2 p.m., Buenaventura Lakes Library, BVL Multipurpose Room, 405 Buenaventura Blvd., Kissimmee.

Impeachment? Iran? Early state voters more swayed by basics” via Will Weissert and Hunter Woodall of The Associated Press — Standing in the back of a New Hampshire brewery, Janie Shaklee said the political basics are much more likely to decide her vote. “The economy is much realer to me,” said the 69-year-old retired professor who was attending a campaign event for businessman Andrew Yang ahead of her state’s Feb. 11 primary. “The world can blow apart at any point, no matter what. It’s always been that way … anything can happen.” 2020 has been characterized by a striking amount of political turmoil. But for many in the states that will soon begin choosing the Democratic presidential nominee, the same bread-and-butter issues that have long dominated the primary — health care, higher wages, student debt, climate change — remain top of mind.

Elizabeth Warren promises to cancel student loan debt using executive powers” via Michael Stratford of POLITICO — Warren detailed a sweeping new strategy to provide student debt relief to 42 million Americans on “day one” of her administration — which she said could be achieved through a presidential directive under existing law. Both Warren and her chief progressive rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, have advocated major student loan debt relief plans but Warren took that campaign promise a step further as Democrats head for a clash in the last debate before the Iowa caucuses. The Education Department “already has broad legal authority to cancel student debt, and we can’t afford to wait for Congress to act,” Warren wrote in a Medium post.

Elizabeth Warren promises an executive order on student debt if elected.

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.

Priorities USA ups national, Florida buys in 2020 presidential campaign” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Democratic political committee Priorities USA is increasing its campaign against Trump by another $50 million in digital advertising in swing states with much of that going toward Florida. The commitment means Priorities USA‘s digital advertising campaign budget is rising to $150 million. In addition, Priorities USA is reserving $70 million in TV and digital advertising slots, including its first TV reservations in Florida. The newly reserved time slots begin March 24. And Priorities USA stated it has millions of dollars set aside to begin running TV ads before that date to counter any attempts by Trump and his allies to define the general election before the Democrats have a nominee.


One day after giving his final State of the County address, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez is expected to announce he is entering the 2020 race for Florida’s 26th Congressional District.

Giménez would run as a Republican. In competing for the GOP nod, he’ll join restaurateur Irina Vilariño and Omar Blanco, the former head of Miami-Dade Firefighters Local 1403.

Giménez had been rumored to run for a while. But late last week, the Miami Herald reported he told supporters that an official announcement would come Wednesday.

And Giménez — who has only run in nonpartisan contests in the past — hinted at his newfound ambition with a tweet Tuesday thanking Trump for “cut[ting] red tape and expedit[ing] construction projects without hurting our environment.”

Despite the heavy Hispanic makeup of CD 26, it’s likely that Giménez will need to show loyalty to the President to emerge from the Republican field.

After rumors of his run emerged, Vilariño released a statement where she targeted Giménez for supporting Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential contest.

“I know that Republican voters will want to learn how a person who endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016, and wanted to leave the Republican Party in 2014 will have the conviction to defend the policies that are vital for the prosperity of our country and our community,” Vilariño said.

But so far, neither Vilariño nor Blanco has matched the fundraising prowess of incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. That leaves the door open for Giménez, the most polished politician of the trio, to carve out a path toward a general election slot.

Indeed, October polling obtained by Florida Politics from a national GOP organization showed Giménez leading a hypothetical Republican primary with 51% support. Blanco secured just 6%. Vilarino earned only 2%.

Tweet, tweet:


Vern Buchanan raised $524K during final quarter of 2019” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — In total, the Sarasota Republican pulled in $1.91 million throughout 2019. The funding comes as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sets its sights on Florida’s 16th Congressional District as a target in November. State Rep. Margaret Good, who defeated Buchanan’s son James Buchanan in a nationally watched statehouse special election in 2018, announced she would challenge Buchanan this cycle. Buchanan’s campaign this week revealed a major poach of a former Good supporter. Developer Hugh Culverhouse, who backed Good in two state legislative campaigns this year and donated already to her congressional campaign, said he’s now supporting Buchanan.

Alan Cohn raises big in fourth quarter for congressional campaign” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Cohn raised $117,000 in the final quarter of 2019; his three-month earnings follow an aggressive initial fundraising push in which Cohn raised $73,000 in the final three weeks of the third quarter, the first period in which he was a declared candidate. The combined earnings put Cohn at more than $190,000 raised to date. The campaign says its earnings include contributions from more than 1,000 donations. Cohn is running in the Democratic primary for Florida’s 15th Congressional District against state Rep. Adam Hattersley. Republican Congressman Ross Spano is seeking reelection to the district and will face whoever wins the Democratic primary.

Alan Cohn is posting some impressive numbers in his bid to unseat Ross Spano.

José Javier Rodríguez collects nearly $590K for reelection effort” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Rodríguez has added nearly $590,000 in his bid to defend the Senate District 37 seat in November. Those totals include money raised through Jan. 13, one day before the start of the 2020 Legislative Session. Lawmakers are barred from raising money while the Legislature is formally in Session. That will prevent the Rodríguez campaign from collecting money into early March. That won’t pose much of a problem as of yet, as Rodríguez has not courted any challengers in the district contest so far. And his impressive fundraising operation may play a part in potential candidates’ reticence to mount a challenge to Rodríguez.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz endorses Shevrin Jones in SD 35” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Jones is one of five Democrats competing for the nomination in SD 35. The Wasserman Schultz endorsement adds to current SD 35 Sen. Oscar Braynon II‘s decision to back Jones as his successor. Braynon is term-limited in 2020. Wasserman Schultz released a statement announcing her support of the Jones campaign. “Shevrin Jones has been a friend for many years and I am proud to back his people-powered campaign for State Senate,” Wasserman Schultz said. “He is a proven champion for all Floridians as a State Representative, and I am very confident that he will continue to lead and fight for the same values of equality and opportunity for all, as our next State Senator.”

Jennifer Webb rolls out massive list of support for reelection” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Webb rolled out a list of endorsements that includes nearly 50 elected officials representing almost all of Pinellas County’s 24 municipalities. Included in her latest push is St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice. Webb is seeking reelection to HD 69. She is so far running unopposed, but her 2018 opponent, Republican Ray Blacklidge, has indicated he intends to run. Also joining the list of endorsers are North Redington Beach Mayor Bill Queen, Treasure Island Mayor Larry Lunn and Pinellas County School Board member Rene Flowers.

Jenna Persons remains the fundraising leader in HD 78” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — While her $110,000-plus first month remained her best of all, she continued building a war chest. She closed 2019 having raised $179,210. That includes $2,730 raised in December. Notably, the Persons-chaired political committee Conservative Legacy Fund also raised $4,000 in December — the committee raised $104,000 in 2019 and starts the new year with $97,546 to spend. All this leaves Persons with a massive resource advantage in the race to represent HD 78. By comparison, philanthropist Roger Lolly entered the Republican primary the same month as Persons and raised a total of $40,525 in 2019. Of that, $2,000 was raised in the last month of the year.

Rick Kozell dominates in HD 82 fundraising” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Two months in, Jupiter Republican Kozell has raised nearly $100,000 in hard money for his campaign to succeed term-limited Rep. MaryLynn Magar. Capping the year was a $24,180 campaign report, which included 16 checks for $1,000. The December report follows a $75,585 report in November. To date, Kozell has only spent about $3,200, leaving him with $96,550 in the bank heading into 2020. Kozell has also been piling on cash through an affiliated political committee, Rick Kozell for Florida. His first 30 days saw him reel in $90,805, while December saw him add an even $5,000 to the fund. Spending has been light on the committee side as well, setting him up with $93,270 banked at the start of the year.

Vance Aloupis campaign tops $30K in December, enters 2020 with nearly $187K cash on hand” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — In October, Franccesca Cesti-Browne filed to challenge the incumbent Aloupis in HD 115. Cesti-Browne is the former chairperson for the Miami-Dade County Hispanic Affairs Advisory Board. From October through December, Aloupis posted three of his five highest fundraising months of the cycle. Aloupis’ December totals included several maxed-out $1,000 donations from various industries including FPL, Anheuser-Busch and a pair of $1,000 donations from two Disney Vacation subsidiaries. Powerhouse law firm Greenberg Traurig also kicked in $1,000, as did state Rep. Daniel Perez’ political committee, Conservatives for a Better Florida. Aloupis closed out 2019 with more than $220,000 added for the campaign. He carries nearly $187,000 in remaining cash into 2020.

Anthony Rodriguez begins 2020 with $160K banked in defense of HD 118” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — GOP state Rep. Rodriguez added nearly $37,000 in December, giving him more than $171,000 raised through the end of 2019. Rodriguez is attempting to defend his HD 118 seat against Ricky Junquera, the Vice-Chair of Outreach for the Miami-Dade Democratic Party. After his December haul, Rodriguez has about $160,000 on hand entering 2020. Junquera, who entered the race in October, is well short of those totals. He posted $14,000 in October, bringing him within shouting distance of Rodriguez’ October fundraising total. That was thanks in part to a campaign kickoff fundraiser held by Junquera toward the end of that month.

Here’s where the money in the Clearwater election is coming from” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — The analysis showed that contributions from businesses accounted for about 25 percent of the $110,469 Frank Hibbard has raised so far. Included in his more than 260 individual donations was influential name after influential name: State Sen. Ed Hooper, DEX Imaging’s chief executive Daniel Doyle Jr. and political action committees associated with Tallahassee fixtures Jack and Chris Latvala.


Aaron Zahn’s attorney says he’s being scapegoated for unpopular decision to consider privatization” via David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union — As ousted JEA CEO Zahn contends that an attempt to scapegoat him is driving attempts to fire him without any severance pay, City Council members are rolling out reform legislation in response to the flameout of JEA’s exploration of privatizing the city-owned utility. The JEA board voted Dec. 17 to cut ties with Zahn, but he has been on paid administrative leave since then while the board decides whether to dismiss him without cause or fire him with cause. An attorney for Zahn sent a letter, first reported by WJXT TV-4, saying Zahn has already agreed to a substantially smaller payout than required by his employment agreement, but he will withdraw that agreement if JEA doesn’t accept it by 5 p.m. Friday.

Aaron Zahn’s lawyer says he the former JEA CEO is being scapegoated.

Andrew Pollack says new school safety tech would save lives” via Brooke Baitinger and Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Pollack, whose daughter was killed in the Parkland shooting, has joined forces with a software company to ready for school threats with many new high-tech safety tools. The company, IntraLogic Solutions, links law enforcement agencies to schools and gives them access to an intercom system, among other upgrades. Either at the push of a button or at the first 911 call, a map that includes interactive floor plans and photos of classrooms will pop up in command centers. Dispatchers can view live camera footage at the location within five to 10 seconds, allowing them to see a shooter’s location so they can direct first responders accordingly. “Seconds save lives,” said Pollack, whose daughter, Meadow, 18, a senior, was killed during the Valentine’s Day 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

In his last major speech as County Mayor, Carlos Giménez touts ‘fantastic turnaround’” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Eyeing the end of nearly a decade as mayor, Giménez used his final formal address to tout himself as a consensus builder who brought prosperity to Miami-Dade and discipline to Florida’s largest local government. “What a fantastic turnaround,” said the two-term Republican who took office in 2011 at the tail end of a housing crash, cut the budget enough to undo his predecessor’s unpopular tax increase and was comfortably reelected in 2016 amid a building boom and job growth. “We have a lot to be proud of.” Gimenez’s expected entry into the Republican primary for the District 26 seat held by Democrat Mucarsel-Powell sets up a test of the two-term mayor’s legacy and political base against Trump’s standing in a district the incumbent flipped blue in 2018.

School Board maneuvering with developers to transform downtown HQ … and add housing” via Colleen Wright of the Miami Herald — The Miami-Dade County School Board wants to downsize from its 10 acres of prime, development-ready land in downtown Miami. District officials are turning to a private developer and a community redevelopment agency to leverage its downtown headquarters for office space next door. It’s a move they say will finance the rebuild of two nearby schools, include affordable housing for teachers and the elderly, and eventually direct more dollars that could be used for teacher salaries and educational programs. The conversation started in 2017, but on Wednesday, the School Board will hold a vote on whether to continue those negotiations and set into motion a “21-acre vision” that keeps the School Board in the arts and entertainment district.

12 hours, no decisions. Winter Park commissioners debated 2 major issues before pausing discussions” via Lisa Maria Garza of the Orlando Sentinel — By 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, commissioners were at a deadlock on construction price talks for Canopy, the $40 million library and event center project, and the Orange Avenue Overlay District, a proposal for new land-development code standards aiming to spur development within 75 acres of property. Commissioners need to approve a guaranteed maximum price from the contractor of Canopy that covers the construction portion of the project. The price tag presented to the city at the meeting was $33,505,169 and is based on construction beginning immediately. Further delays to the project, which was stalled by an unsuccessful lawsuit, is estimated to cost about $167,500 per month. The total cost of Canopy is projected to run about $41.1 million.

Tallahassee police: Florida man drove on airport runway after stealing FedEx truck to get home” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — A Port Richey man is in custody after police say he stole a FedEx truck and drove it onto the runway at the Tallahassee International Airport. The driver, 23-year-old Aaron Lennihan, was arrested on-site. He is charged with grand theft of a motor vehicle. He told TPD officers he was trying to get back home in Pasco County but did not know where he was or how he got to Tallahassee. He said he found the truck with the keys in it after jumping several fences and was trying to drive out of the airport complex on Capital Circle SW.

North Miami is firing its city manager. He gets 32 weeks’ pay and a $45,000 SUV” via Aaron Leibowitz of the Miami Herald — North Miami’s city council on Tuesday approved a severance package for City Manager Larry Spring that includes 32 weeks of pay, a city-owned car worth $45,000 and an iPad, then said they would fire him as soon as the agreement was signed. His last day of work will be Jan. 31. It was not a surprise. In a Dec. 31 letter to the council, a lawyer for Spring said the manager had learned the council was “prepared to terminate him to allow a new City Manager to be appointed.” Spring, therefore, was asking the council to fire him without cause.

Former NFL star Antonio Brown throws sex-themed gummies in domestic spat in Hollywood” via Lisa Huriash of the Orlando Sentinel — Cops were called to the home of former NFL star Antonio Brown when he got into an argument with the mother of three of his children. The argument appears to have started over his girlfriend using his Bentley to take their child to school. “You don’t drive Bentleys, this is not your life!” he told the woman, Chelsie Kyriss, 30. At one point, Brown grabbed gummy candies shaped like penises and threw them toward Kyriss, TMZ said. Brown played with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2010-2018 and then one game with the New England Patriots in 2019, before they released him. He was raised in Liberty City and bought a $6.6 million home in Hollywood in 2016.

Miami’s messy politics slowed down city business. This downtown agency is fed up.” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — One of the city of Miami’s largest tax-funded agencies has a vacant leadership position, and board members are so tired of waiting for bickering city commissioners to approve the board’s unanimous pick that they hired a high-powered attorney to represent them as they press forward with a new executive director. In reaction to the abrupt end to a public meeting where commissioners quarreled instead of doing the work of the city, the Downtown Development Authority’s board of directors voted to use an independent counsel to review the board’s power to name the agency’s executive director.


Impartiality is more important in an impeachment trial than in a criminal one. Not less.” via Louis Virelli for the Tampa Bay Times — What makes a fair impeachment trial? Criminal proceedings come with a predetermined set of procedures — like subpoenas, witness testimony, documentary evidence, and a right to appeal — that help create an even playing field for the two sides regardless of who the jurors are. The Senate may adopt similar procedures in an impeachment trial, but are not required to do so. Impeachment relies on two different forms of impartiality. It requires that the jurors not make up their minds in advance. This is true for all trials, but in traditional trials, the parties meet and choose their jurors beforehand. That is why it is so vital that the Senator-jurors in the president’s impeachment trial appear impartial to the viewing public.

From bold to blah: DeSantis’ second-year agenda overlooks many needs” via the Editorial Board of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — It’s a new year at the dawn of a new decade, and DeSantis enjoys a level of public support most politicians can only dream about. With a recent poll showing that two-thirds of Floridians approve of his performance, the Republican governor is at the peak of his popularity. Good for him. But this is no time to play it safe. The leader who boldly arrived on the scene one year ago seems unwilling to spend some of his goodwill to really drive Florida in the right direction when the state faces huge challenges. In his second State of the State address, delivered Tuesday as the traditional starting point for the annual session of the Legislature, DeSantis offered next to nothing in critical areas such as affordable housing, climate change, health care and public safety.

Joe Henderson: Teachers ‘Take On Tallahassee’ out of frustration” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — It is regrettable that Polk County public school teachers feared for their jobs when an estimated 600 of them traveled to Tallahassee on Monday to exercise free speech. The march was organized by the Florida Educational Association. They were lobbying for better pay, fewer tests, improved working conditions. An email from Florida Department of Education General Counsel Matthew Mears last Friday seemed to imply the “TOT” trip was tantamount to a strike. Since it’s illegal for teachers to strike, those taking part could lose their jobs. That seems unlikely to happen. Bravo for Republican House Speaker Oliva, who tweeted, “Teachers, like all Americans, are entitled to petition their government and (Monday) we proudly witnessed the First Amendment in action …”

The big immigration lie: Florida GOP has never been serious about cracking down on illegal hiring” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — My question for Rep. Cord Byrd was simple: “Do you think the people of this state are stupid?” There was a pause. Finally, he responded: “Of course not.” I told Byrd I had trouble believing that, because any politician who filed a bill like his would have to believe his constituents were total morons. The conversation didn’t improve after that. For more than a decade, Florida Republicans have promised to force every business in Florida to hire only legal workers. But the politicians won’t do it. Instead, Florida Republicans have repeatedly promised to implement “mandatory E-Verify” — a law that would force all companies to first run any potential hires through a federal database to make sure they’re authorized workers. But they never followed through. Never.

Lace up your shoes for child sexual abuse victims who can’t yet tie theirs” via Lauren Book for the Tallahassee Democrat — I know that one in three girls and one in five boys fall victim to sexual abuse before their 18th birthday. One in five children who touch a computer is solicited for sex. Each of us has a role to play in ensuring a safe community. We must all stand up for the most vulnerable among us. I invite you to join me and take a stand. Be a part of the Lauren’s Kids “42 Hours” advocacy walk-a-thon at the Florida Capitol Feb. 4-6, honoring the 42 million survivors of child sexual abuse in the U.S. today — including the children in the videos confiscated by TPD this week.

How a wrong or flawed response can often become the crisis after the crisis in politics, business, and life” via Ron Sachs for Florida Politics — Elton John’s 1976 song “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word” could be the unfortunate theme for too many powerful politicos, organizations, and insiders to the “process” who find themselves in the throes of a crisis in which they are too slow to own up to the cause of the problem As Florida’s 2020 political world gets fully engaged in the start of this early-year Session of the Florida Legislature, some powerful individuals or groups inevitably may make mistakes that can quickly mushroom into full-blown media firestorms and crisis situations. For some, failure to prevent the crisis may quickly be compounded by mishandling it. Sometimes, the absence of contrition or a painful delay in taking responsibility to worsen an already bad situation.

‘Year of the teacher’ in Florida kicks off with threats to fire them” via the Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board — Pity the Florida public school teacher. 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 last week when hundreds of Polk County teachers notified administrators they would be taking a personal day Monday so they could attend a “Take On Tallahassee” rally organized by the Florida Education Association.

A Capital Curmudgeon’s predictions for the 2020 Florida legislative session” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — Predicting what will happen in a legislative session is like choosing a World Series winner on the first day of spring training. Since my first Florida legislative session in 1970, I’ve watched enough governors and lawmakers come and go, listened to enough historic debates, talked to enough political experts and studied the legislative process enough to know one thing with absolute confidence: Your guess is as good as mine. But predicting is what newspaper columnists do when a legislative session breaks out. Like the politicians themselves, I reserve the right to amend and extend these predictions, or to deny I ever made them.


Personnel note: Jeff Miller joins Mercury as co-chair” via Florida Politics — Mercury has a new co-chair. The global, bipartisan public strategy firm announced Tuesday that former U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller is stepping into the position. “We are proud to welcome Congressman Miller to Mercury,” Mercury CEO Kieran Mahoney said. “With a long tenure on Capitol Hill helping to drive policy in key arenas, the Congressman will be an exceptional resource for clients and leader for the firm.” Miller represented Florida’s 1st Congressional District from 2001 through 2017. He opted not to seek reelection in 2016. Mercury said Miller will work out of its Tampa and Washington offices.

Former Rep. Jeff Miller has moved over to Mercury.

Friends of the Everglades taps TCPalm opinion chief Eve Samples as executive director” via Tyler Treadway of the TCPalm — Friends of the Everglades, an environmental group started in 1969 by the late Marjory Stoneman Douglas, has a new location and new leadership. The nonprofit recently moved to Stuart from Miami and its new executive director will be Stuart resident Eve Samples, the opinion and engagement editor for the USA TODAY-Network Florida. She begins her new post Feb. 4. “After two decades in journalism, I can’t think of a more fitting mission to pivot to,” Samples said. “In the last 10 years, I’ve focused on advocating for the estuaries, Lake Okeechobee, the greater Everglades and cleaner water in Florida in general. This feels like a natural next act.”

— ALOE —

Bah humbug? Neighbors of Milton’s Sowell Farms Christmas lights display want solution to traffic” via Annie Blanks of the Pensacola News Journal — A massive Christmas lights display in Milton may delight thousands of visitors each year, but neighbors who live near the property say the traffic from cars trying to view the display puts them in anything but the Christmas spirit. Doyle Caudell and Sandra Heath, who live in a house just down the street from the Sowell Farms North Pole Christmas Light Display on Sowell Road, are asking Santa Rosa County Commissioners and law enforcement to come up with a better solution for the massive traffic backup that results from guests waiting to get onto the Sowell Farms property at Christmastime. “This year was really bad,” Caudell told commissioners at a Jan. 6 committee meeting.

Neighbors of Milton Sowell Farms Christmas lights display are saying bah humbug over traffic congestion for the attraction. Image via

Nik Wallenda to wirewalk over active volcano” via Alan Shaw of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Wallenda will make a 1,800-foot walk over the active Masaya Volcano in Masaya, Nicaragua. The stunt will be broadcast as part of a two-hour “Volcano Live! with Nik Wallenda” special at 8 p.m. March 4 on ABC. “It is by far the most dangerous walk I have ever attempted, and that alone makes it very intimidating,” Wallenda said in a news release. “I am pushing myself beyond my comfort zone by the feat itself, but I know that I am up to the challenge. I must admit, it is scary.” According to the news release, the volcano is one of the few on earth to feature a lava lake.


Happy birthday, belatedly to Floridian Partners’ Jorge Chamizo. Celebrating today are U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn, Melody Arnold of the Florida Health Care Association, Daniel Davis of JAX Chamber, Florida Politics contributor Andrew Meachem, and former state Rep. Jake Raburn.


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

Peter Schorsch

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


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

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