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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 1.16.20

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

DNA can reveal a lot about a person, from their ethnic background to health risks they might face in the future.

But like any information, it can be as damaging as it is illuminating — if it falls into the wrong hands.

In the 2020 Legislative Session, lawmakers are looking to protect consumers from at least some pitfalls they could face if their genetic information is entered into the record, and they’ve got an ally backing them with a new ad campaign.

A minute-long video produced by “Protecting Our DNA” outlines the privacy concerns many lawmakers have expressed — that genetic data collected through off-the-shelf kits could be used by insurers to jack up insurance premiums.

“Jane thinks her DNA is private, but it’s not,” the video narrator says. “Insurance companies want to invade Jane’s privacy and get a look at her genetic code. Why? The more they know about Jane, the more they can profit off her DNA. Raising her rates, reducing their risk, padding their profits.”

But the ad presents a solution to the problem: Legislation filed by Rep. Chris Sprowls and Sen. Kelli Stargel.

HB 1189 and SB 1564 would block life insurers from using any genetic testing results in any decisions, actuarial or otherwise.

The safeguard was a stated priority of Sprowls, a future House Speaker, heading into the 2020 Legislative Session. And, if successful, it would put the Sunshine State at the forefront of the genetic privacy movement as no other state has put such a law on the books.

“I believe there is nothing greater for our privacy than our genetic code,” Sprowls said last week. “Handing that over to large insurance companies is bad public policy.”

The new ad underscores Sprowls’ intent: “This protects your DNA, your privacy, and your affordable insurance plan.”

The spot then calls on viewers to sign a petition in support of the bills. The initiative and more information on the 2020 bills can be found on, a website launched in concert with the ad.

To view the ad, click on the image below:


‘He Said, She Said’ Season 2 kickoff — On the first “He Said, She Said” of 2020, Michelle and I launch our second season by capping off the “100 Days of Schorsch” with our eighth wedding anniversary.

Michelle and I welcome our first guest of the new season, legendary Florida political operative John McKager “Mac” Stipanovich, who joins the pod to talk Florida, President Donald Trump and the 2020 Democratic primary.

On the opening day of the 2020 Session, Stipanovich and I discuss a well-acknowledged (yet unspoken) theme in Florida politics: It is ruled by a sort of oral history and a very small group of intertwined people. One notable example: former Congresswoman Gwen Graham is Mac’s dog’s “dog-mother.”

Stipanovich recalls the moment that changed the course of his life: Having grilled cheese sandwiches and french fries at nine years old with former Gov. LeRoy Collins. He also discusses why he left the Republican Party in 2018. In 2020, Stipanovich plans to vote in the Democratic primary for the candidate closest to the center — the person with the best chance of winning the nomination. He believes that is Joe Biden.

When asked: “What’s going on in America today?” Stipanovich posits that the current political situation is the result of a combination of events, including 9/11 and the 2008 recession.

Also responsible for our current political climate, according to Stipanovich: Globalization, roiling the status quo with social issues like civil rights and LGBTQ+, as well as the “browning of America.”

Pivoting to pop culture: Michelle and I dish on the Royal Family, talk why Frozen 2 should receive an Oscar nod, and share our thoughts on the best television of 2020 (so far).

Please take a few minutes to check out the new “He Said, She Said” on Apple Podcasts, Google Play and Stitcher.


State Sen. Stargel’s controversial bill requiring parental consent for minors to obtain an abortion clears another Senate committee … just barely.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— A bill to legalize the sale of fireworks on national holidays — but not Memorial Day — clears the Senate Rules Committee.

— Good news if you like to slather on sunscreen without reading the label first. A bill preempting the right of local governments to ban certain types of sunscreen is ready for the Senate floor.

— Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a deal to buy a 20,000-acre piece of land described as the “heart” of the Everglades so to prevent the current owners from drilling for oil.

— Democratic Minority House leader Kionne McGhee of Cutler Bay talks about leading the charge for bills that would allow college athletes to make money off their images and likeness without losing their athletic scholarships.

— Today’s Florida Man story features a guy accused of stealing merch from more than 1,000 Walmart stores nationwide.

To listen, click on the image below:


Tweet, tweet:

@RepValDemings: I am honored to have the opportunity to help defend our republic in this incredible moment in history. I hope that every American who believes in democracy will take a stand.

@GovRonDeSantis: I’m pleased to announce that @FLDEPNews has reached an agreement with Kanter Real Estate that will allow for the purchase of 20,000 acres of critical wetlands in the Everglades.

@fineout: Gov. DeSantis getting assistance from Rep. [Matt] Gaetz on E-Verify — “he has challenged” Republicans to not do the “bidding” of the “hotel and motel special industry lobby” and agribusiness

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:


Sundance Film Festival begins — 7; “Star Trek: Picard” premiers — 7; Annual Red Dog Blue Dog Celebrity Bartender Benefit — 10; New Brexit deadline — 15; Super Bowl LIV in Miami — 17; Great American Realtors Day — 18; Iowa Caucuses — 18; Eighth Democratic presidential debate in Manchester — 23; Capitol Press Corps press skits — 26; New Hampshire Primaries — 26; Pitchers and catchers begin reporting for MLB Spring Training — 26; Ninth Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas — 34; Roger Stone’s sentencing — 35; Nevada caucuses — 37; “Better Call Saul” Season 5 premiers — 38; 10th Democratic presidential debate in Charleston — 40; South Carolina Primaries — 44; Super Tuesday — 47; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 57; Florida’s presidential primary — 61; “No Time to Die” premiers — 85; Florida Chamber Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 124; “Top Gun: Maverick” premiers — 162; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 179; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premiers — 183; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo start — 190; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 215; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 221; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 265; First Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 273; Second presidential debate at Belmont — 280; 2020 General Election — 292.


A new poll continues the trend: DeSantis is popular, and Trump is not.

Florida Atlantic University’s Business and Economics Polling Initiative found the Governor enjoys a plus-20 approval rating among Florida voters, which indicates a slight dip over the past couple of months but keeps him firmly on the good side among his constituents.

Meanwhile, Trump scored a measly plus-2, with 45% approving and 43% disapproving of the Commander in Chief. However, there wasn’t much shift on impeachment — Trump also scored a plus-2 on that measure, with 51% of Floridians saying the U.S. Senate shouldn’t remove from office.

Ron DeSantis is popular in Florida; Donald Trump not so much.

A ray of sunshine for the Florida delegation: 38% of voters said they would be more likely to support their Representative if they voted for impeachment while 21% said it wouldn’t factor into their decision.

But with conviction and removal unlikely, Trump’s true test is still set for November. His lukewarm support among voters doesn’t show up on that front.

According to FAU, Trump would lose to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders by 6% if Election Day were today. He fares better against former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, but would still come up 2 points short in the Sunshine State — a state that’s nearly mandatory for his electoral math to work out.

Still, Sanders’ advantage doesn’t translate to Florida’s presidential primary, where he trails Biden by 20 points, 34-14. Following the top-two was Warren at 10%, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg at 7%, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar at 6%, entrepreneur Andrew Yang at 5% and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 3%.

More than half of Dems said they were solid on their pick, but the pollster said there’s room for change between now and the March 17 primary.

“Joe Biden continues to be in a very strong position in Florida,” FAU BEPI Director Monica Escaleras said. “However, it will be interesting to see what impact the early contests in New Hampshire and Iowa will have on voters in Florida regarding their support for Biden.”


Mural with Confederate flag is out; huge Florida-shaped piece wood is in at state Capitol” via The Associated Press — The Florida Senate unveiled a gleaming new piece of art at one of its most-visited corridors in the state Capitol, after removing an old mural that included the Confederate flag. The new artwork — a massive 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 10-by-16- foot mural is now on display about an hour’s drive from the capital city, at a bank in downtown Perry, Florida, where Senate officials said: “It continues to serve as an educational tool, depicting various scenes and figures in our Florida history for patrons and visitors.”

Senate President Bill Galvano unveils new artwork by artist Barry Miller — sans Confederate flag.

DeSantis nominee calls sexual harassment allegations ‘personal attacks’ against him” via Samantha J. Gross and Elizabeth Koh of the Tampa Bay Times — After a confirmation hearing in which defensive Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees called allegations of sexual harassment and improper financial disclosures “mischaracterizations,” the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services recommended approval of Rivkees by an 8-2 vote. The committee pressed the University of Florida department chair and physician about his sexual harassment investigation in 2014, a financial disclosure audit, and his current financial arrangement with the state. The university report, spurred by a February 2014 complaint, said Rivkees allegedly made inappropriate comments repeatedly. He said that the allegations were “personal attacks” made by faculty who didn’t like his approach to leading the Department of Pediatrics.

Senate panel recommends Scott Rivkees for Surgeon General” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services voted to advance Rivkees’ nomination. Rivkees outlined some of the state Department of Health’s accomplishments since he was installed as Surgeon General last year. Among the highlights: new hepatitis A cases are following his public health emergency declaration; new HIV cases are on the decline, and major initiatives are in place to combat the opioid epidemic. The first issue, however, was his continued employment at the University of Florida. “You work for the state university system and people are concerned that you haven’t resigned … is that going to be an issue or problem?” asked Sen. Aaron Bean, who chairs the committee.

Senate panel confirms James Eifert as Adjutant General of Florida” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Eifert was confirmed by the Florida Senate Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs and Space. DeSantis appointed Eifert in April to be the commander of the Florida National Guard, succeeding Adjutant General Michael Calhoun. The Senate committee recommended confirmation of Eifert’s appointment unanimously. Eifert assured the committee that his command since last spring had valued objective feedback for improving the guard along with his leadership philosophy of maintaining a force that is “right, ready and relevant.” He told the committee that it is vital that the Florida National Guard modernize, innovate and recapitalize infrastructure, facilities and equipment.

Lawmakers tout tort reform benefits” via Florida Politics — Republican lawmakers were among those hailing a study promoting the benefits of tort reform. The National Federation of Independent Businesses has consistently lamented the “poor legal climate” in Florida and other states, and tort reform would help by capping what the group deems to be unreasonable damages that could wreck small businesses. On Wednesday, the NFIB-allied Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse rolled out its “2019 lawsuit climate survey,” which found each household took a $4,442 hit yearly from inflated torts. The $33.65 billion cost is 3.6% of Florida’s GDP. Sen. Doug Broxson, who chairs Banking and Insurance, noted a “run of withdrawals” from insurance companies that “raid the bank” and “take money from other constituents in the state.”

State revenue forecast sees uptick” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — With an expected slowdown still on the horizon, a revenue projection that state economists updated remained below some earlier forecasts. “We’ve closed the gap today, but not enough to wipe it out,” said Amy Baker, head of the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research, “Overall, we’ll still come in less than we were last year, but we’re $306 million better than where we were this morning.” An August forecast trimmed earlier estimates of revenue by $451.6 million for the current fiscal year and by $416.1 million for the upcoming 2020-2021 fiscal year. Along with adding $306 million to this year’s estimate, economists bumped up the 2020-2021 forecast by $86 million.

Florida Supreme Court to hear all for transportation arguments next month” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The high court will hear arguments Feb. 5 over whether the court should overturn the All For Transportation charter amendment Hillsborough County voters approved in 2018 imposing a 1% sales tax to fund sweeping transportation and transit improvements throughout the county. The measure passed in all three cities in the county and all seven County Commission Districts. Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White, a longtime critic of the sales tax initiative, and resident Bob Emerson are appealing the amendment to have it overturned. Raoul Cantero, a former Justice of the Florida Supreme Court, will present oral arguments on behalf of All for Transportation, and George LeMieux will argue on behalf of Hillsborough County.

Proposed Medicaid changes could hurt those with disabilities, advocates say” via Elizabeth Koh of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida lawmakers are proposing changes to a Medicaid program for people with disabilities this year that would contract out some of its functions and support services. Advocates for people in the program say they fear the move could hurt the care they receive and add bureaucratic red-tape to an already convoluted process. A bill to make those changes cleared its first committee stop in the Senate Wednesday, though it is likely to become entangled in the calculus surrounding the state’s massive health care budget. The fight is one of the central conundrums facing state lawmakers this Legislative Session: what to do for the nearly 35,000 Floridians currently being served by the state Agency for Persons with Disabilities and the 21,900 more on a waiting list for its services.

Corporate lobbyists, Florida House write $50 million tax break for a handful of big companies” via Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel — Working directly with lobbyists representing some of the state’s biggest businesses, the House has written a proposed tax break that could save millions of dollars for a small number of companies. But after the Sentinel began asking questions , the business group that helped draft the tax break — the Florida Chamber of Commerce — decided to stop lobbying for the measure. Carolyn Johnson, a lobbyist for the chamber, said her organization dropped the issue after state economists determined that it could cost the state nearly $50 million a year. But one House member who has been working with the chamber said it is too soon to say for sure what will happen. “I wouldn’t say it’s dead in the water,” said Rep. Tommy Gregory.

Activist files lawsuit accusing Spencer Roach of abridging speech on Facebook” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Randy Scott, who runs the Facebook Group People of SWFL, said the lawmaker trampled his free speech rights by deleting comments posted on an official page. The legal action notably comes shortly after the lawmaker called deputies to Scott’s home to investigate a Facebook message perceived as a violent threat. Deputies interviewed Scott but did not detain him or charge him with any crime. But Scott said this lawsuit focuses on Roach’s online actions. “It’s more about maintaining the First Amendment and doing the right thing in response to it,” Scott said.

Spencer Roach is facing a lawsuit accusing him of stifling free speech.

Happening today — The state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Industrial Hemp Advisory Council holds a teleconference meeting, 2 p.m. Call-in: 1-877-568-4106. Code: 123136285.

Happening today — Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Hemp Advisory Council holds a teleconference meeting, 4 p.m. Call-in: 1-877-309-2073. Code: 547229781.


Fireworks change on fast track in Florida Senate” via News Service of Florida — A plan to revamp Florida’s fireworks law is headed to the Senate floor. The Rules Committee approved a proposal (SB 140) that would allow people 18 and older to avoid pretenses when buying fireworks to detonate on New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and Independence Day. Sen. Jeff Brandes called the state’s current fireworks rules “one of the craziest laws we have on the books.” Relatively innocuous devices such as sparklers are legal to buy. But devices such as firecrackers, torpedoes and roman candles are off-limits. People, however, can buy the explosive devices if they sign a waiver saying they will use the fireworks for specific agricultural purposes, specifically for “frightening birds from agricultural work” and fish hatcheries. “We literally require you to commit fraud in order to purchase fireworks,” Brandes said.

Senate committee advances legislation preempting local bans on sunscreen” via Sarah Mueller of Florida Politics — State Sen. Rob Bradley’s bill (SB 172) gives the state the ultimate authority to regulate over-the-counter drugs and cosmetics, including sunscreen. It was prompted by the City of Key West’s decision to ban sunscreen containing the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate. Environmental groups believe they contribute to the bleaching of coral reefs. Bradley calls it “junk science.” Holly Parker Curry, Florida regional manager for the Surfrider Foundation, said coral reefs are valuable not only to the economy but also to the Keys and Key West. She said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates the asset value of the coral reefs at $8.5 billion, and they support about 70,000 full and part-time jobs.

Rob Bradley calls the sunscreen kerfuffle ‘junk science.’

Kelli Stargel’s parental consent for abortions bill headed to last Senate committee” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — A Senate panel advanced a bill that would require minors to get parental consent before obtaining an abortion. Senate Judiciary Committee members voted 3-2 to move Sen. Stargel’s bill (SB 404) to the Senate Rules Committee. Current law states a minor’s parents must be notified 48 hours before she obtains an abortion, with some exceptions. But Stargel says that doesn’t do enough to strengthen communication within Florida families. Under the proposal, unemancipated minors seeking abortions must get consent from one of their parents. Victims of abuse or girls believing they are mature enough to make an independent decision can seek court waivers.

Bill reforming Florida’s troubled guardianship program approved by committee” via Monivette Cordeiro of the Orlando Sentinel — A bill meant to fix flaws in the state’s troubled guardianship program that were exposed by the scandal surrounding former Orlando guardian Rebecca Fierle was approved unanimously by a Florida Senate committee. The legislation (SB 994) pushed by Senate Majority Leader Kathleen Passidomo would require guardians to get a judge’s approval before signing “do not resuscitate” orders on behalf of incapacitated clients, prohibit them seeking their own appointment to specific cases and revise provisions related to conflicts of interest. Chairwoman Lauren Book praised Passidomo’s proposal as a “very good bill” before the 7-0 vote in the first of three committee stops before the legislation goes to the full chamber.

Lawmakers, victims target statute of limitations for child sex crimes” via Ana Ceballos of the News Service of Florida — After hearing the harrowing details of a high-school gang rape, a House panel on unanimously approved a bill that would eliminate the time limit for child sex-abuse victims to initiate a criminal case against their abuser. Katrina Duesterhaus urged the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee to pass the proposal (HB 199), which would remove the statute of limitations in sexual battery cases when the victim is younger than 18 years old at the time of the crime. “Nothing says you’re willing to believe survivors more than amending laws like the statute of limitations, which sets an arbitrary deadline on survivors of sexual assault,” Duesterhaus told the panel.

Flu testing, treatment bill advances in House — State Rep. Tyler Sirois’ HB 389 passed the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee “HB 389 would not only allow for faster diagnosis and treatment of these contagious illnesses, it would reduce the number of patients, some uninsured, who are having to go to emergency rooms and urgent care centers to be seen,” Sirois said. As written, HB 389 would authorize a licensed pharmacist to enter into a written protocol agreement with a supervising physician for the testing for and treatment of influenza and streptococcus. It also requires a pharmacist to use an FDA approved testing device as well as have eight additional hours of continuing education and maintain $200,000 of liability insurance.

Bill banning sale of shark fins progresses to final House committee” via Sarah Mueller of Florida Politics — House lawmakers on the Business and Professions Subcommittee heard strong public opinions on legislation that would ban the sale, import, and export of shark fins Wednesday. The bill (HB 401), sponsored by Coconut Creek Democratic Rep. Kristin Jacobs, passed its second committee 13-2. Shark fining is the process of catching a shark, removing its fins and discarding the shark. Jacobs said shark finners usually drop the body back into the ocean, where it bleeds to death or drowns because it can no longer swim properly. State law prohibits the mass capturing of sharks and only keeping the fins, but the trade of shark fins is legal, and the fins are being imported through Florida ports by countries that don’t have bans in place.

Nurses praise House advance of independent practice bill” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee advanced HB 607. The measure is a longtime priority for nurses as well as bill sponsor and Republican Rep. Cary Pigman. Pigman, a medical doctor, says allowing nurses to open independent practices will increase access to affordable health care, especially in rural areas. The legislation is also a top priority for House Speaker José Oliva, who reiterated his support for the change earlier this week, and many major business groups. Following the vote, Floridians Unite for Health Care praised lawmakers for advancing the bill to the House Health & Human Services Committee, its final stop before the chamber floor.

First House panel OKs drone control of invasive species” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Drones may provide eyes in the skies, but people won’t be affected, if a bill OKd by a House panel Wednesday becomes law. HB 659 would allow state agencies, such as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, to use the uncrewed aircraft over swamps and other people-free places where invasive species (like pythons) and other nuisances have proved problematic. These would be only public lands, and law enforcement agencies could not use drones for this bill. The Agriculture and Natural Resources subcommittee was the measure’s first of three committees of reference. Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee and the State Affairs Committee will follow.

Lawmaker stunned by backlash from victim’s family on deliveryman law” via Andrew Boryga — State Rep. Mike Caruso, a Boca Raton Republican, said a letter from the family of Evelyn Udell contained “significant misstatements” about the process of getting the “The Evy Udell Public Safety Act” filed, including the claim that he ignored the family. As evidence, Caruso referenced a conversation between himself and representatives for the family in October as well as a November event in Miami where he informally met with one of Udell’s sons — in addition to other emails, phone calls and text messages. Caruso said he never once told the family the bill was final or that he was opposed to adding a drug-testing component — one of a handful of changes the family said would be required to make sure it would have protected the very woman it was named after.


The House Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee meets, 8:30 a.m., Room 12, House Office Building.

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

The House Higher Education & Career Readiness Subcommittee meets, 9 a.m., Room 306, House Office Building.

The House Local Administration Subcommittee meets, 9 a.m., Room 212, Knott Building.

The House Oversight, Transparency & Public Management Subcommittee meets, 9 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 9 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The Senate Appropriations Committee meets, 10 a.m., Room 412, Knott Building.

The Senate Special Order Calendar Group meets 15 minutes after the Senate Appropriations Committee meeting, Room 401, Senate Office Building.

The House Education Committee meets, noon, Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The House Health & Human Services Committee meets, noon, Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Judiciary Committee meets, noon, Room 404, House Office Building.

The House Commerce Committee meets, 2:30 p.m., Room 212, Knott Building.

The House Public Integrity & Ethics Committee meets, 2:30 p.m., Room 404, House Office Building.

The House State Affairs Committee meets, 2:30 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Rules Committee meets, 5 p.m., Room 404, House Office Building.


Cream of broccoli and cheddar soup; mixed garden salad with dressings; antipasto salad; marinated mushrooms; deli board with lettuce, tomatoes, cheeses and breads; beef bourguignon; chicken piccata; grilled salmon with Mediterranean relish; grilled zucchini fries (sticks) roasted red pepper coulis; Italian style green beans; rice with prosciutto, peas and Parmesan; and tiramisu for dessert.


Obamacare demand remains high in Florida as enrollment nears 2 million” via Justine Griffin of the Tampa Bay Times — With more than 1.9 million consumers signed up for 2020, Florida once again leads the nation in health insurance enrollment under the Affordable Care Act. “We’ve always outpaced enrollment in other states, and I think it really shows that the marketplace coverage is extremely popular in Florida,” said Anne Swerlick with the Florida Policy Institute in Tallahassee. But the Sunshine State has consistently outperformed all states, even those that run their own health insurance marketplaces and other insurance programs. “Florida is a state that chose not to expand Medicaid and is second in the nation for its uninsured rate,” said Rachel Fehr, a research assistant with the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit health care policy organization.

The autonomous vehicle industry in the sunshine economy” via Tom Hudson of WLRN — Testing what may be the future of personal transportation, Ford Fusions have been rolling around the streets in and around downtown Miami with cameras and LIDAR sensors mounted outside and trunks full of computing gear so they can operate without drivers. While Florida has given the green light for the autonomous vehicle industry to test its technology, a lot is at stake for the state’s workforce. Florida ranks third among states in the number of truck drivers calling it home. In 2018, more than 88,000 Floridians were making a living driving semi-trucks, earning an average of $42,000 a year — a little less than the statewide average.


Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas says Donald Trump ‘knew exactly what was going on’” via Phil Helsel of NBC news — “He was aware of all my movements. I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president. I have no intent, I have no reason to speak to any of these officials,” Parnas, who faces campaign finance charges, told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow in an interview. “I mean, they have no reason to speak to me. Why would President (Volodymyr) Zelenskiy‘s inner circle or (Ukranian Internal Affairs) Minister (Arsen) Avakov or all these people or President (Petro) Poroshenko meet with me? Who am I? They were told to meet with me. And that’s the secret that they’re trying to keep. I was on the ground doing their work,” Parnas said.

Lev Parnas tells Rachel Maddow that Donald Trump knew exactly what was going on.

How Giuliani’s outreach to Ukrainian gas tycoon wanted in U.S. shows lengths he took in his hunt for material to bolster Trump” via Rosalind Helderman, Tom Hamburger, Paul Sonne and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — The executive who met with Giuliani in Paris was an aspiring Ukrainian politician named Dmitry Torner, later accused by Ukrainian authorities of escaping incarceration in Moldova and living under a new name. The following month, Giuliani sat down in London with other representatives of Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian gas tycoon, according to Otto Dietrich, an attorney for Firtash. Later that summer, Firtash’s attorneys filed a court document that Giuliani touted publicly as support for his claims about Biden. In a statement, Giuliani said he did not remember meeting Torner or details of his meetings in Paris and London and had limited interest in Firtash. “I never met him. I never did business with him,” he said of Firtash.

House votes to send articles of impeachment to Senate” via Alayna Treene of Axios — The vote triggers the start of the long-anticipated Senate trial, which has been delayed for nearly a month after the House approved two articles of impeachment against Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. After the vote, they will travel through the Capitol to present the articles of impeachment to the secretary of the Senate. Once the articles successfully landed in the Senate, there will be a few days of housekeeping and procedural work. The resolution gives managers the authority to submit additional evidence to the Senate. Last night, impeachment investigators sent the House Judiciary committee new evidence obtained from Parnas, a Giuliani associate indicted by the Southern District of New York.

Nancy Pelosi taps Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler among House impeachment managers” via Alayna Treene and Jacob Knutson of Axios — The managers will present the House’s case for impeachment to convince Senators to convict the president for abusing his power and obstructing Congress, and ultimately remove him from office. Pelosi waited four weeks to name impeachment managers and deliver the articles to the Senate as part of her attempt to pressure Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to preemptively show her a Senate resolution laying out the terms for the trial, as well as an agreement on witnesses and document production at the outset of the trial. She’s now ending the weekslong standoff with neither. The list of impeachment managers: Schiff, Nadler and Reps. Val Demings, Hakeem Jeffries, Zoe Lofgren, Jason Crow and Sylvia Garcia.

Pelosi impeachment manager is calling for McConnell’s recusal from Trump Senate trial” via Emma Dumain and Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Rep. Val Demings’ position, shared publicly by a just a few other Democrats, could undercut Pelosi’s efforts to frame impeachment as an exercise of constitutional duty. Republicans have argued for months that Democrats are on a partisan mission to remove Trump from office. Yet in selecting Demings on Wednesday as one of the seven impeachment managers, Pelosi is giving a national spotlight to a Democrat who has often gone against House leaders on impeachment issues — she first called for Trump’s removal from office a year before party leadership and is now agitating for McConnell’s recusal.


’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 — Is there anything that Trump has done related to Ukraine that makes you uncomfortable? “He put it out. The only thing they have is had this call. I read it. I read the transcript. There’s nothing in that transcript.” So nothing related to Ukraine — “It’s all hearsay. Why would I ever focus on anything that’s just somebody that was there? Zelenskiy said he didn’t have a concern. Trump released the money.” The CEO of Boeing is going to get $60 million in his exit. I’m curious what your thoughts are on that. — “I don’t know what his contract was.” Is that okay? — “This is a private company. They make their contracts.”

Rick Scott is all-in for Donald Trump, calling the impeachment a ‘hoax.’

Matt Gaetz is behind Orlando airport audit, lawmaker says” via Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel — State Sen. Brandes, a Republican from St. Petersburg who represents a district 100 miles from Orlando, did not mention U.S. Rep. Gaetz in December, when he persuaded the Florida Legislature’s Joint Legislative Auditing Committee to order a probe of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority’s contracting practices. But in response to questions from the Orlando Sentinel on Tuesday, Brandes said the idea for the audit came from the Panhandle Republican. “I talked to Matt Gaetz, and he expressed his concerns,” Brandes said in Tallahassee, where the Legislature had just opened its annual 60-day Session. “And you know what? When members of Congress want an audit of some area of importance, I give them great deference.”

USTR promises to investigate Mexico’s produce trade after USMCA leaves out stronger protections for Southern farmers” via Catherine Boudreau of POLITICO Florida — U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, in a letter to Florida lawmakers, said that within two months after USMCA takes effect, the administration will start collecting information on policies that may cause unfair pricing of produce in the U.S. market. USTR and the Commerce and Agriculture departments will also hold hearings in Florida, where tomato, pepper, blueberry, and other growers have long argued that they are losing business to a flood of Mexican produce imports priced below the cost of production. The Commerce Department will, “in the appropriate circumstances,” self-initiate anti-dumping and countervailing duty cases, Lighthizer said.

’OK, Boomer’ makes a Supreme Court appearance in age case” via Mark Sherman of The Associated Press — “OK, Boomer” made its first appearance in the Supreme Court, invoked by baby boomer Chief Justice John Roberts. “The hiring person, who’s younger, says, ‘OK, Boomer,’ once to the applicant,” Roberts said as he conjured a hypothetical exchange to try to figure out when an older federal employee might be able to win a lawsuit under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. It was the first time the somewhat pejorative phrase used by younger people to criticize the less flexible, tolerant and tech-savvy ways of their elders has been uttered in the Supreme Court, where the nine justices range in age from 52 (Neil Gorsuch) to 86 (Ruth Bader Ginsburg).

John Roberts — just shy of 65 years old — uses “OK, Boomer’ for the first time in a Supreme Court case.


Vice President Mike Pence is touching down in Tampa Thursday to kick off a pair of rallies in support of Trump’s reelection bid.

Pence’s first stop was initially scheduled for the Valencia Lakes Property Owners Association Clubhouse in Wimauma.

A resident organized that event at the complex. But after the board expressed a lack of enthusiasm for the visit, the Pence team rescheduled the rally for the Venetian Events Center in Tampa.

Latino leaders blast Mike Pence before he lands in Tampa for a series of rallies.

The Tampa stop is part of the “Keep American Great” tour and will take place at 1:30 p.m.

The Vice President will then move on to Kissimmee for a “Latinos for Trump” event. That 6 p.m. gathering will take place Thursday evening at the Nación de Fe church.

Pence launched the Latinos for Trump coalition with a visit to Miami back in June.

Trump earned about 33% support from Latino voters in 2016, according to exit poll data. That’s a higher share than voted for Republican nominee Mitt Romney in 2012.

Still, with another tight election expected in 2020 — and with Florida once again set to play a pivotal role — the Trump team is trying to secure as large of a share of the Latino demographic as possible.

However, the Florida Democratic Party has already sought to counter that messaging. The FDP placed a billboard displayed on the route from Orlando to Kissimmee, which shows Trump throwing paper towels into a crowd while visiting Puerto Rico following the impact of Hurricane Maria.

Some have criticized the incident as insensitive, given the fact the island was still struggling from the storm, as evidenced by the high death count.

Trump himself was recently in Florida, appearing at an “Evangelicals for Trump” event down in Miami shortly after the new year.

— 2020 —

Who won the January Democratic debate?” via Aaron Bycoffe, Sarah Frostenson and Julia Wolfe of FiveThirtyEight — To better understand which candidates did well or poorly Tuesday night, we plotted how favorably respondents rated the candidates before the debate vs. how debate-watchers rated candidates’ performances afterward — and Warren, in particular, seemed to have a breakout evening according to this metric. She not only received the highest marks for her debate performance, but her scores were high even relative to her pre-debate favorability rating. That said, Sanders, Buttigieg and Biden also received medium-to-high marks for their performances. Still, because of their relatively high pre-debate favorability ratings, we expected a lot of voters to be already predisposed to viewing their debate performances in a positive light. Klobuchar and Tom Steyer, on the other hand, tied for the lowest overall debate grades.

So, who won the Democratic debate in Iowa, the first in 2020?

Elizabeth Warren-Bernie Sanders rift fuels a Democratic split and worries party leaders” via Annie Linskey, Sean Sullivan and Isaac Stanley-Becker of The Washington Post — An angry split among liberal Democrats broke further into the open Wednesday, raising fears among party leaders of a repeat of the internecine bitterness that many Democrats say contributed to Trump’s victory in 2016. As a dispute continued to simmer between Sens. Sanders and Warren over whether he told her a woman could not win the presidency, social media users positioning themselves as Sanders supporters used snake icons to symbolize Warren’s ostensible duplicity, played up her Republican roots and circulated a #NeverWarren hashtag. Warren’s backers, while taking a less aggressive tone, nonetheless revived questions of whether many of Sanders’s supporters are sexist and whether he contributed to the party’s disastrous 2016 loss with a display of self-centered petulance.

GOP senator: 2020 candidates must recuse themselves from impeachment trial” via Jordain Carney of The Hill — U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn said that Democratic senators running for the party’s 2020 nomination should recuse themselves from taking part in Trump‘s impeachment trial. “Tomorrow, one hundred United States Senators will be sworn in to serve in the impeachment trial of Trump. Four of those Senators must recuse themselves for their unparalleled political interest in seeing this President removed from office,” Blackburn said in a statement. She added that U.S. Sens. Sanders, Klobuchar, Michael Bennet, and Warren “cannot sit in judgment of the very President they seek to replace.” Senators are expected to be sworn in by Chief Justice Roberts on Thursday afternoon; no one is expected to recuse themselves from the trial.

Swing Left targets 20 Florida legislative seats for 2020” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The progressive group Swing Left also wants Democrats retaking statehouse governments nationwide. With that goal in mind, the group announced 18 Florida House districts and two Florida Senate seats it would target this year. The group will defend four House Districts — 59, 69, 72 and 84 — now represented by Democrats. As for offense, Swing Left aims to flip Districts 15, 21, 26, 28, 29, 42, 60, 89, 93, 105, 115, 118, 119 and 120. It will also target open seats vacated by Longwood Republican David Simmons and Miami Republican Anitere Flores.


Seminole Sheriff Dennis Lemma: I won’t enforce assault weapons registry if amendment passes” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Seminole Sheriff Lemma told gun activists he wouldn’t enforce a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would require owners of automatic weapons to register them with the state. Lemma, a Republican, was speaking Jan. 8 at a town hall event in Sanford organized by the Republican Liberty Caucus in conjunction with Florida Gun Rights, according to a report in Gunpowder Magazine. In a video posted by the group “FL 2A,” Lemma was asked by Bob White, chair of the Florida Republican Liberty Caucus, about the “Ban Assault Weapons Now” petition seeking to get on the 2020 ballot. Lemma responded, “It’s not only that I wouldn’t [enforce it], the majority of sheriffs across the state would not do it.”

Thad Altman gets primary challenger” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Indialantic Republican Rep. Altman is no longer unopposed in his House District 52 reelection bid. Melbourne Republican Matt Nye entered the race Tuesday, setting up a potential primary election for the Brevard County-based seat. So far, Altman and Nye are the only candidates in the race. Nye is no stranger to the HD 52 ballot — he challenged Altman in 2018, earning 44% of the vote in a two-way nominating contest. Heading into 2020, Altman had raised $14,500 for his campaign and had nearly all of it in the bank. That advantage could erode, however, as Nye’s entry comes at the start of the 2020 Legislative Session, during which sitting lawmakers are barred from raising campaign funds.

Thad Altman gets primaried.

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.

Is Wengay Newton misleading voters with fundraising pitch for a campaign he’s not running?” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Newton was raising funds for his reelection right up until the last minute — even though he’s not actually seeking reelection. Lawmakers cannot fundraise during Session. Newton sent an email to supporters Sunday asking for their continued support with a link to donate to his House District 70 campaign by midnight Monday. However, Newton announced earlier this month he would not seek reelection to his current House district and instead run for Pinellas County Commission. He’s already filed for the race with the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections office. As such, he’s allowed to raise money for the commission race. So why raise funds for HD 70 if that’s not the race he plans to wage?

Corey Grenfell to challenge George Lindsey for Polk County Commission District 1” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Republican Grenfell has entered the race for the District 1 seat on the Polk County Commission. The lifelong Polk resident announced his candidacy in a Wednesday news release touting his conservative credentials — he’s a supporter of lower taxes, small businesses and Trump, and he’s no fan of incumbent Republican Commissioner George Lindsey, whom he castigated as a rubber stamp for unfettered growth and development. Grenfell is currently Lindsay’s only challenger, and he enters the race on even footing as far as fundraising, as Lindsay has yet to report any contributions since submitting his paperwork to run for reelection. The District 1 Commission seat covers the western portion of central Polk County, including much of Lakeland.


Miami’s messy politics slowed down city business. This downtown agency is fed up” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — 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. Members said they were frustrated with the inaction at the commission level, and they do not want to see the directorship become a political appointment subject to jockeying among elected officials. “I think what we are trying to say here is that we are businesspeople doing the business of this organization, and we will not be politicized,” said board member Gary Ressler. “We’ve made a decision, and we’re moving forward.”

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, includes 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 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.

UCF mistakenly sent incorrect data to NCAA, spokesman says” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — UCF employees miscalculated numbers regarding its student-athletes’ academic performance to NCAA for four years, a university spokesman said Wednesday after an anonymous Twitter user posted allegations the school had falsified this data. The university mistakenly used the wrong methodology to determine the Graduation Success Rate, a key measure of students’ academic progress, the University of Central Florida spokesman Mark Schlueb said. As a result, the rates reported to the National Collegiate Athletic Association between 2014 and 2017 likely were inflated. “There was no advantage to anyone by reporting it incorrectly — it was just a mistake,” Schlueb said.

Orlando International Airport discovered nearly 100 guns last year, ninth-most in nation” via Katie Rice of the Orlando Sentinel — The Orlando International Airport made the TSA’s list of 10 airports with the highest number of guns discovered in carry-on baggage or on passengers, the TSA said Wednesday. TSA agents at OIA found 96 guns at checkpoints in 2019, placing the airport in ninth place in the agency’s ranking. Two other Florida airports made the TSA’s list, tying the state with Texas for the highest numbers of overall firearm discoveries. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport ranked seventh with 100 guns discovered, and Tampa International Airport ranked 10th with 87.

Cape Coral mayor pushes for vote to put city manager on leave, council doesn’t bite” via Bill Smith of the Fort Myers News-Press — Cape Coral Mayor Joe Coviello continued his push to put City Manager John Szerlag on administrative leave while an investigation into city government continues. Coviello said that because city Finance Director Virginia Bateman was placed on administrative leave during an investigation into accusations that her department failed to send tax withholding funds to the Internal Revenue Service, Szerlag should be placed on leave because of allegations made by Bateman against him.

City Council to JEA: Don’t charge for public records requests about utility sale” via David Bauerlein of The FloridaTimes-Union— The Jacksonville City Council gave some backing to news media organizations digging into JEA by telling the city-owned utility to eliminate any charges for providing public records related to the attempted sale of JEA. The unusual statement of support for news-gathering was inserted into a resolution that put City Council on record in opposition to the utility’s controversial decision to seek offers for JEA. Florida law allows government agencies to charge the public, which includes news media, for responding to requests for government records. The charge can be based on factors such as staff time and copying expenses.

JEA timeline showed sale referendum slated for August” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — JEA officials considered asking voters to approve a sale of the city-owned utility as early as August, according to a previously confidential timeline, a more precise date than utility executives had disclosed with investors, ratings agencies and the public, and one that would have likely ensured the fate of the city’s largest public agency would be decided in a low-turnout election. On Aug. 29, 2019, former CEO Aaron Zahn emailed a copy of the timeline from his personal account to a lawyer at an outside firm that was working with JEA on the sale, as well as to Herschel Vinyard, Zahn’s chief administrative officer. The updated “preliminary process timeline” identified “August 2020″ as a one of the “key next steps” in the approval phase of the sale process.


We can’t let voter suppression when in 2020” via Andrew Gillum for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — As we round the corner into 2020, it’s time to raise the alarm for those states and those voters most at risk in our elections. One of those states is, of course, Florida, where a range of tactics have been used by right-wing legislators and elections authorities to suppress the votes of specific demographics. These include the re-disenfranchisement of people who had served their sentences after having been convicted of committing a felony. It’s important to realize, also, that protecting the vote doesn’t just happen at the moment of casting a ballot but extends all the way back to the registration process. And across the country, voter rolls are being purged at a ferocious pace.

A Capital Curmudgeon’s predictions for the 2020 Florida Legislative Session” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — Teachers. Legislators will come up with serious money and probably extend raises to non-classroom professionals. Guns. SB7028 would not require background checks in person-to-person sales — about 20% of transactions — but would require sellers to check a buyer’s identification and ask questions about past felonies or other disqualification for gun ownership. One committee is a long way from becoming law, though, and if anything passes, the National Rifle Association will take it to court. Abortion. The long game, in several states, is to get abortion back before the U.S. Supreme Court, where opponents hope new Trump appointees will someday recede from the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized the procedure.

Michael Franzese: new risks require risk solutions” via Florida Politics Beyond the traditional home, auto or life insurance needs, there are risks that require “special” insurance: flood insurance being one of the better-known needs. But who covers those risks that are even more nontraditional? Or further, risks that have only become realities in the past few years? The answer: surplus lines. One of the specific, emerging and changing industries covered by surplus lines includes cybersecurity. Recent years have brought about new realities: a world where autonomous vehicles exist. A world with blockchain, bitcoin, drones, 3D and 4D printing, social networking, nanotechnology … Each impacts businesses and their exposure to risks. And we will do our best to be an effective safety net.

The hate crimes reporting gap” via Carrie Seidman of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Standing in J.D. Hamel Park, listening to speakers from several faith organizations at the “No Hate, No Fear” rally last week organized by the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee, I smiled at the woman next to me, who seemed uneasy with the jostling crowd. “To tell you the truth, I thought twice about coming,” she confessed. “I’ve been a Jew and an activist my whole life, so I felt I ought to be here. But, given what’s been happening lately, it did cross my mind that it might be dangerous. I never used to think about things like that.” These days, fears like hers aren’t limited to any one religion, location, or population.


Guardianship agency gets new director after prior leader’s ouster amid Rebecca Fierle scandal” via Kate Santich of the Orlando Sentinel — Six months after its previous leader was ousted, the Florida agency charged with oversight of professional guardians has a new director, officials announced. Chanté Jones, a former corporate marketing analyst for Verizon Communications, was appointed by state Secretary of Elder Affairs Richard Prudom to run the Office of Public and Professional Guardians. Prudom said he is confident the office “will earn back the trust of Florida families.” In July 2018, Prudom asked Jones’ predecessor, Carol Berkowitz, to resign following a “significant backlog” of complaints against guardians, including those involving Fierle of Orlando, whose role in the death of a ward and use of “do not resuscitate” orders had sparked a scandal that embroiled the state’s guardianship system.

Secretary of Elder Affairs Richard Prudom selected Chanté Jones to head the Office of Public and Professional Guardians.

— ALOE —

On its 45th birthday, Space Mountain remains an untouchable Disney theme park classic” via Josh Spiegel of Slash Film — There are two dominant structures in the Disney theme parks, whether you’re in Florida, Tokyo, or Paris: castles and mountains. Each castle has its own story, and the same is true of each mountain. You can enjoy the novelty of, in Florida, eating inside a castle, but there’s no ride experience. The mountains are different. Just as actual mountains are challenges to climb up or down, the Disney mountains are exhilarating experiences intended as thrill rides. Space Mountain turns 45 today, with the inaugural attraction opening on January 15, 1975, at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando. The current linchpin of Tomorrowland, Space Mountain is, in fact, one of the most novel and clever examples of Imagineering at the Disney theme parks.

Happy 45th birthday, Space Mountain.

Universal’s Super Nintendo World promises to put you ‘inside’ video games” via Chelsea Tatham of 10News — Racing through the Mushroom Kingdom with Mario and hitting Question Blocks for coins will soon be things you can do in real life. Details of the land have been kept under wraps for a while, but Universal and Nintendo executives made some exciting announcements. Not only will the land be themed after popular Nintendo games, but the park also promises interactive elements that turn guests into players. Guests will use a Power-Up Band paired with the Universal app to venture “inside” the game. The pair “will allow them to have interactive experiences, making use of their arms, hands and entire bodies as they explore the new area.” So, yes, you’ll get to play as Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Daisy, Toad and Yoshi as you collect coins and battle other guests around the park. 


Happy birthday to José Felix Diaz.


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

Written By

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

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
Phone: (727) 642-3162
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St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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