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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 1.17.20

Coffee is for closers. So is Sunburn, your morning rundown of Florida politics.

It’s a lesson every person should be taught as many times as it takes them to learn it: It’s never OK to discriminate against another person, especially over things that were determined the day they were born.

The Legislature needs a refresher course from time to time, but this year lawmakers are showing a bit of progress.

A bill by Sen. Randolph Bracy (SB 566) that would prohibit housing discrimination against people who sport hairstyles and textures traditionally associated with race — think braids, locks and twists.

Likewise, Sen. Oscar Braynon is sponsoring legislation (SB 644) to block housing discrimination based on height or weight, affording it the same treatment as discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicaps and marital status.

These bills aren’t long shots. Bracy bill already cleared the Senate Community Affairs Committee. More importantly, it got a hearing.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said another major anti-discrimination bill that’s been proposed for several Sessions in a row: the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, which would protect LGBTQ Floridians from being fired or denied housing based on their sexual orientation.

Here we go again: Every Session, the Florida Competitive Workforce Act keeps coming back. Will 2020 be the year it passes?

The merits of the FCWA have been outlined too many times to count, but here they are again: A supermajority of Floridians want these protections; some of the state’s biggest employers do, also; economic engines such as universities say it’ll help them add even more brilliant minds to their faculty rosters, and major out-of-state corporations such as Amazon have pointed intimated that a lack of these protections has kept them from setting up shop in the Sunshine State.

Despite all there is to gain, the bill goes unheard.

The House effort (HB 141) is awaiting a hearing in the Civil Justice Committee, but it has not been placed on the agenda. The Senate companion (SB 206) is in a similar position as it waits for a hearing in the Governmental Oversight and Accountability.

The snub continues, despite more Republican lawmakers in the GOP-controlled Legislature signing on as co-sponsors each year the FCWA is put forward.

The 2020 effort has nine Republican co-sponsors in the House; one of them, Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, chairs one of the bill’s three committees of reference — it could move if it can make the difficult first step.

All this to say, lawmakers should hear Bracy’s bill, and they should hear Braynon’s bill, too.

But if they are willing to consider adding protections for hairstyles, height or weight, they should be willing to consider adding protections for their family members, neighbors, constituents, and even fellow lawmakers who have spent years fighting for them.


State Sen. Rob Bradley’s criminal justice reform bill has gained traction in the Senate Appropriations Committee, where members approved giving first-time drug offenders a break from minimum mandatory sentences. Under his proposal, anyone convicted of the first time of buying or possessing less than 2 grams of any narcotic — except fentanyl — would not have to serve more than a year in jail. House leaders don’t share Bradley’s enthusiasm, but he’s not discouraged.

 Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Senate leaders are pushing ahead with their new gun safety legislation … much to the dismay of the National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer, who calls it gun control on steroids.

 — A bill banning the import, export and sale of shark fins clears its second House committee.

Bud Chiles, son of the late Gov. Lawton Chiles, talks about his new campaign to encourage purchasing American-grown produce.

 — In an all-woman Florida Man segment, stories of two girls-gone-wild at two different airports.

To listen, click on the image below:


@MarcoRubio: #China doesn’t have an independent judiciary & #Huawei doesn’t have transparent practices. Why would anyone bring in Huawei when there are good alternatives: @nokia, @Samsung or @ericsson? This isn’t about American profits, it’s about protecting democracy from predatory behavior

@BiancaJoanie: For those who care about campaign music, you might want to know there has been no Latin music at the Latinos for [Donald] Trump event. We’ve cycled through the Village People, Phil Collins, and now classical music (maybe Pavarotti, but I’m not very good at this).

Tweet, tweet:

@RepValDemings: It’s possible that the safety of an American ambassador was put in danger as part of this scheme. This is deeply disturbing and deserves full investigation in both Ukraine and the United States.

@GovRonDeSantis: I am pleased that @flcourts confirms that Amendment 4 requires fines, fees & restitution be paid to victims before their voting rights may be restored. Voting is a privilege that should not be taken lightly, and I am obligated to faithfully implement Amendment 4 as it is defined.

@NikkiFried: Voting is a right, not a privilege, Governor.

@AlexTDaugherty: Was just blocked by Capitol police from continuing an interview with @marcorubio on Puerto Rico aid. He wanted to talk, but the insane rules in place on the press for the impeachment trial prevented me from asking another question.

@SalNuzzo: This just overheard from a #Florida Sheriff giving testimony before Senate CJ committee: “You almost have to beg to get yourself in prison.” Yes — you read that right.

Tweet, tweet:

@Awood45: I would rather face a player that was taking steroids than face a player that knew every pitch that was coming.


Sundance Film Festival begins — 6; “Star Trek: Picard” premiers — 6; Annual Red Dog Blue Dog Celebrity Bartender Benefit — 9; New Brexit deadline — 14; Super Bowl LIV in Miami — 16; Great American Realtors Day — 17; Iowa Caucuses — 17; Eighth Democratic presidential debate in Manchester — 22; Capitol Press Corps press skits — 25; New Hampshire Primaries — 25; Pitchers and catchers begin reporting for MLB Spring Training — 25; Ninth Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas — 33; Roger Stone’s sentencing — 34; Nevada caucuses — 36; “Better Call Saul” Season 5 premiers — 34; 10th Democratic presidential debate in Charleston — 39; South Carolina Primaries — 43; Super Tuesday — 46; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 56; Florida’s presidential primary — 60; “No Time to Die” premiers — 84; Florida Chamber Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 123; “Top Gun: Maverick” premiers — 161; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 178; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premiers — 182; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo start — 189; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 214; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 220; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 264; First Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 272; Second presidential debate at Belmont — 279; 2020 General Election — 291.


FBI to keep states in loop on election breaches” via Eric Tucker of The Associated Press — The FBI, in a change of policy, is committing to inform state officials if local election systems have been breached. In the past, the FBI would alert local governments about attacks on their electoral systems without automatically sharing that information with the state. The change is intended to bolster federal-state cooperation, which has often been difficult on electoral issues. It is one of several government efforts to rethink how information about cyber threats is shared and with whom. Some local officials in the past have complained about the lack of information from the federal government, although cooperation has improved ahead of the 2020 election with concerns that Russia or another nation could try to tamper with the vote.


Assignment editors — Gov. Ron DeSantis will make a major announcement, 11 a.m., Made in Space headquarters, 8226 Phillips Hwy., Suite 102, Jacksonville.

Surgeon General defends past “reports about sexual harassment and some impropriety,” as Senators weigh his confirmation” via Isaac Morgan of Florida Phoenix — With state Senators weighing his confirmation, Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees strongly defended his background, saying “what has been reported truly is a mischaracterization of the facts.” This week, Senators began the confirmation process, starting with a favorable vote from Senators on the Health and Human Services Appropriations subcommittee. But some Senators had deep concerns and questioned Rivkees’ background. Lauren Book at first said Rivkees is an “incredible doctor.” But she also questioned Rivkees, saying, “There have been a lot of reports about sexual harassment and some impropriety related to some comments that you have made in the past.” “I wish to really emphasize that what has been reported truly is a mischaracterization of the facts,” he responded.

The Senate turns up the heat on Scott Rivkees.

José Oliva sends firm reminder to cities to back off tree ordinances” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Oliva sent letters to 488 local governments within the states reminding them that they are no longer allowed to enforce local tree ordinances restricting property owners from trimming or removing trees on their property. He sent the same letter to more than 72,000 tree businesses who work with local governments. “People should be free to protect their families and homes from trees and landscaping that poses a risk to them,” Oliva said. “The House takes seriously its duty to protect the rights of Florida residents and property owners and prevent government interference with those rights.” The Legislature approved, and DeSantis signed, preempting regulations on tree trimming and removal on private property. The bill applied retroactively, rendering already existing ordinances invalid.

House locates $462.6 million for teacher raises” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — At the end of a morning House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee session, chairman Rep. Chris Latvala unveiled leadership recommendations to reallocate funds within the budget for the coming fiscal year. The total shift would reach $520 million, with $462.6 of that going into the base student allocation with the intent of it being directed toward teacher pay. The money would come from line items previously used to fund other areas, with the biggest reductions coming from the disliked Best and Brightest teacher bonus ($284.5 million), supplemental academic instruction funds ($150 million), and funding compression appropriations ($54.2 million). Other smaller areas targeted for cuts included declining enrollment supplements ($1.8 million), virtual education ($2.2 million), and digital classroom expenses ($20 million).

House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Chris Latvala helped find $462M for teacher raises.

Lawmaker stunned by backlash from victim’s family on deliveryman law” via Andrew Boryga of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A lawmaker who received criticism for filing legislation in honor of a woman whose family does not approve of it, said the family is being “disingenuous” in their characterization of the bill and its drafting process. Rep. Mike Caruso 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. “It puzzles me how they come out with these comments now,” he said.

APCIA outlines priorities for 2020 Legislative Session” via Florida Politics — The American Property Casualty Insurance Association is hoping for some substantial policy to pass in the 2020 Legislative Session. Top of their list: Legislation to curb the volume and lower the frivolity of lawsuits filed against insurers. “Florida’s legal climate is one of the worst in the country, and rampant lawsuit abuse fueled by some plaintiffs’ attorneys is dramatically driving up costs for consumers and businesses,” said Logan McFaddin, assistant vice president of state government relations for APCIA. Other goals include addressing AOB abuse in auto glass repairs. “The Governor and Florida Legislature took steps last session to protect homeowners from AOB property scams, and now lawmakers have an opportunity to bring similar protections to Florida motorists,” McFaddin said.


Bill would give Ron DeSantis control over DHSMV, DEP — A Senate bill sponsored by Sen. Aaron Bean would strengthen the power of the Governor by allowing him to appoint secretaries The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and the Department of Environmental Protection without getting the endorsement of the three-member Florida Cabinet. As reported by Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida, members of the Cabinet are already throwing shade. “This bill is a shameless power grab that puts unfettered control in the hands of one individual, instead of in the full Cabinet independently elected by Floridians,” Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said. According to DeSantis spokesperson Helen Aguirre Ferré, however, the proposal “aims to streamline state government and increase efficiencies and accountability within the executive.”

Power grab? A new bill would give Ron DeSantis authority over appointing secretaries of The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and the Department of Environmental Protection without Cabinet approval. 

Key Senate panel back sentencing changes” via Ana Ceballos of the News Service of Florida — The Senate is on the brink of approving a bipartisan bill that would loosen sentencing laws for certain drug-trafficking offenses, a move that has the potential of significantly reducing the state’s prison population. The measure, which would allow for shorter sentences and more judicial discretion, was unanimously approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee, the last hurdle before heading to the floor for a full Senate vote. Senate budget chief Bradley said the committee’s overwhelming support of the bill “sends a strong message” about the Senate’s support for criminal justice reform during the 2020 Legislative Session.

Jamie Grant-backed effort to make it harder to get citizen initiatives on the ballot clears first committee” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The House Judiciary Committee took the first step making it harder for Floridians to propose constitutional amendments through citizen initiation. Grant, a Tampa Republican who chairs the committee, delivered a fiery defense of his proposed committee bill (PCB). The bill includes several provisions, including raising the threshold of voter petitions to trigger language review, transparency measures requiring disclosure of out-of-state participation, and shortening the amount of time that groups have to gather petitions. The bill would also require groups pushing for a ballot initiative to pay for the signature verification process with local supervisors of elections offices.

House moves forward on constitutional panel repeal” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — The House Judiciary Committee was the final committee stop for two bills poised to eliminate the appointed commission. Democrats spoke against and even tried to amend one of the bills, but to no avail. HJR 301 and HB 303, filed by Rep. Brad Drake, would repeal the CRC and remove statutory references. Though the repeal bill passed the Senate last year by a 35-4 vote, it died without a full House hearing. Given the House committee fast-track ahead of the 2020 Session, that fate looks unlikely this year.

Senate bill to tackle school safety concerns” via the News Service of Florida — After a grand jury found “systemic” school-safety failures in Florida school districts, a Senate bill was filed to address some of the panel’s concerns. The measure, proposed by the Senate Education Committee, will be heard Tuesday. It would make several changes to training requirements in the controversial school “guardian” program, increase oversight for districts’ school security plans, and make changes to the state’s emergency drill policies. The bill (SPB 7040) would require sheriff’s offices to “review and approve” psychological evaluations, drug-test results, and background checks of school employees before they can be trained to carry guns in schools as part of the guardian program.

Lawmakers still seeking new paths for charter schools to open” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — For yet another year, they’re proposing legislation to allow other entities to authorize charters and enter contracts for their operation. The latest comes in the Florida House, where state Rep. Stan McClain has revived a bill (HB 953) that would give state public colleges and universities the power to approve charter schools. This session, the concept of another authorizer might have more chance for success: The Senate has two bills (SB 536, SB 1578) considering the idea.

House health panel gives Chris Sprowls’ DNA protection bill first approval” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The proposal (HB 1189/SB 1564) would prohibit life, disability and long-term care insurers from canceling, limiting or denying coverage or charging different premiums for Florida customers based on such data. Federal and state law already prevents health insurance companies from doing so. Insurance companies could still use medical diagnoses to plan their coverage. House Speaker-designate and Palm Harbor Republican Sprowls and Lakeland Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel filed their bills last week. Sprowls indicated it would be one of his legislative priorities this Session.

Chris Sprowls DNA privacy bill clears its first hurdle.

Legislation repealing wine-container size limits sails through its second committee hearing” via Sarah Mueller of Florida Politics — The bill, sponsored by Republican State Rep. Chip LaMarca, is part of a slate of measures aimed at loosening regulations on alcohol and craft distilleries. Currently, state law prohibits selling more than a gallon of wine in a single container. LaMarca’s bill passed the House Commerce Committee two committee members opposing it. Democratic State Reps. Javier Fernández and Matt Willhite voted no. There are several other similar bills filed this year that also remove size limitations for individual wine containers.


The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 8:30 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 8:30 a.m., Room 306 of the House Office Building.

The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 8:30 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

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

The Revenue Estimating Conference will analyze the fiscal impact of proposals for the 2020 Session, 9 a.m., Room 117, Knott Building.

The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 11 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building

The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 11 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The House Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 11 a.m., Room 404, House Office Building.


This is 40: Florida TaxWatch geared up for Session” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — At the Hotel Duval on Monroe Street, some of the state’s heaviest hitters convened Wednesday evening to offer support to Florida’s preeminent watchdog group. The occasion: the annual “State of the Taxpayer Dinner,” put on by Florida TaxWatch in its 40th year. Don’t expect a midlife crisis for the group in its fifth decade. Dominic Calabro, Florida TaxWatch president and CEO, described the current “state of the taxpayer” as “strong.” Despite balanced books, some issues need attention. Quality of life issues, such as water quality problems from “years of neglect,” must be solved. Calabro also contends that the ongoing process of “sweeping” Sadowski Trust affordable housing money constitutes bad faith with the taxpayer. Meanwhile, another TaxWatch priority for 2020: streamlining the communication services tax.


Justices say felons can register to vote only after paying court costs” via John Kennedy of the GateHouse Capital Bureau — In an opinion sought by DeSantis, justices said that completing “all terms of sentence” means these felons must pay court-ordered fees, fines and restitution before regaining their voting rights. Amendment 4 was aimed at eliminating Florida’s more than 150-year-old prohibition on felons registering to vote. Amendment 4 advocates downplayed the state Supreme Court opinion Thursday, saying it will have little effect on a federal court, which has set a challenge to the law for trial in April. “The Florida Supreme Court’s advisory opinion does not — indeed, cannot — alter what the U.S. Constitution requires,” said a joint statement from the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, Brennan Center for Justice, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

The state Supreme Court has upheld part of the implementation bill for Amendment 4, making it more difficult for former felons to regain the right to vote.


Jay Trumbull files insurance reform bill to help Hurricane Michael victims rebuild” via the Panama City News-Herald — Trumbull filed the legislation to speed up payouts while still protecting the free market. “Hurricane Michael devastated Northwest Florida, and today, far too many residents are still trying to rebuild,” Trumbull said the release. “Property insurers have a responsibility to uphold the contract they made with consumers. Unfortunately, that has not been the case for many Northwest Florida residents as they try to rebuild and are met with constant delays and denials from insurers.” “It’s been over a year, and people in my district are hurting,” Trumbull said.

Tourists can help rebuild storm-ravaged town in Florida” via News4Jax — Officials in Panama City Beach introduced a program that allows tourists during their visit to help build homes and plant sea oats in the sand dunes of neighboring Mexico Beach, which was demolished by the Category 5 storm. The tourism promotion agency is offering a “Stay it Forward” package for tourists interested in helping out. Dan Rowe, CEO of Visit Panama City Beach, said tourists during visits have been asking how they can help area residents. Compared to surrounding areas, Panama City Beach was comparatively unscathed by Hurricane Michael. “Mexico Beach has come a long way, but there is still work to do,” Rowe said.

Python Bowl 2020 kicks off with hundreds of hunters registered to hunt invasive snakes” via Karl Schneider of the Naples Daily News — The Florida Python Challenge is a 10-day event where veteran hunters and novice snake surveyors head into the field to capture as many pythons as possible. As of Monday morning, 662 people have registered to participate, and 18 snakes have been turned in to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s check stations. “The intent of the Florida Python Challenge 2020 Python Bowl is to bring continued awareness to invasive species issues in south Florida and engage the public in participating in Everglades conservation through invasive species removal,” FWC spokesperson Carli Segelson wrote in an email.

Python Bowl 2020 starts off with a bang.

Florida woman feeds wildlife behind her home. Judge orders her to pay $53K in fines” via Tony Doris of the Palm Beach Post — An Ibis woman who fed vultures, alligators and other wildlife behind her house agreed to pay $53,000 to settle a suit brought by the community’s property owners association. In approving the settlement, Judge Scott Kerner permanently enjoined Irma Acosta Arya from further feedings and ordered her to pay the $53,000 for attorneys’ fees, costs and fines by Feb. 14. The association alleged that Arya’s nocturnal and daytime feedings attracted flocks of defecating, vomiting vultures, as well as raccoons, alligators and a bobcat, since 2016. “If that was the end of it and you could guarantee that, I’d be very happy,” association president Gordon Holness said. “This is a lady with a compulsion.”


Lev Parnas used access to Donald Trump’s world to help push shadow Ukraine effort, new documents show” via Colby Itkowitz, Paul Sonne and Tom Hamburger of The Washington Post — Hundreds of pages of photos, messages and calendar entries show Parnas enlisting a top official at the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action to assist in promoting media coverage he helped arrange and attending functions with Republican congressmen and Trump family members. A calendar entry shows Parnas had a scheduled breakfast with Trump in New York on Sept. 26 — after the public revelation of a whistleblower complaint about a call the president had with his Ukrainian counterpart. The new materials made public by the House Intelligence Committee following an initial trove that showed Parnas directly involved with efforts to get the Ukrainian president to announce investigations related to former Vice President Joe Biden.

The hits keep coming from Lev Parnas.

White House hold on Ukraine aid violated federal law, congressional watchdog says” via Jeff Stein, Ellen Nakashima and Erica Werner of The Washington Post — The Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan agency that reports to Congress, found that the Trump administration broke a law that governs how the White House disburses money approved by Congress by withholding $214 million worth of equipment, training and other support to help Ukraine in its battle against Russian-backed forces. Bipartisan majorities in Congress overwhelmingly approved the Pentagon aid. The GAO report came as the Senate opened the impeachment trial of Trump.

Nancy Pelosi impeachment manager is calling for Mitch McConnell’s recusal from Trump Senate trial” via Emma Dumain and Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Rep. Val Demings’ position 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 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. Her opposition to McConnell’s participation in the Senate trial set to start next week stems from the Kentucky Republican boasting that he won’t be impartial in deciding whether Trump should be acquitted or convicted.


Pentagon says new military base security protocols coming soon in wake of Pensacola attack” via Kevin Robinson of the Pensacola News Journal — Following an act of terrorism at NAS Pensacola, the government says it will soon announce revamped protocols for security, physical security and vetting at U.S. military bases. During a news conference Thursday in Washington, D.C., chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Rath Hoffman announced that U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper would visit Pensacola next week to thank the personnel who responded to the Dec. 6 mass shooting. “The secretary will also provide an update to air station leadership on the new vetting and security procedures he is mandating to make our bases more secure,” Hoffman said. “We will announce these new measures shortly, which will include physical security procedures as well.”

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper will visit Pensacola next week.

After drastic policy changes, more than 20,000 Cuban asylum-seekers are fighting deportation” via Nora Gamez Torres of the Miami Herald — The Trump administration opened deportation proceedings against 25,044 Cubans in fiscal year 2019, mostly asylum-seekers at the U.S. border, according to data from immigration courts obtained by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University. About 20,000 of those cases remain pending. Those figures reflect a considerable increase in the number of Cubans trying to reach the U.S. compared to the trends in the first two years of the current administration. They also stand as a sharp reminder of the different reality Cuban immigrants now face after losing benefits that previously protected them from deportation.

— 2020 —

Mike Pence takes impeachment defense on the road to New Tampa” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Pence assured the hundreds of Republicans gathered in New Tampa that he expected the GOP-led Senate would soon dispose of the impeachment articles against Trump. “Come November the American people are going to have our say,” Pence told a crowd of about 500 people inside St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church’s event center. Whereas the president is known to seize the mic for 90 minutes of riffing, rambling and red meat, Pence delivered a much more concise, scripted pitch for a second term. Pence laid out the case that Trump will attempt to make to Florida voters over the coming 10 months. “America is safer” and “the economy is booming,” Pence said.

Mike Pence is visiting New Tampa, Kissimmee to make the case against impeachment.

Stephanie Murphy backs Michael Bloomberg” via Christopher Cadelago of POLITICO — MurphyBloomberg’s second congressional endorsement, and the first from outside New York — also cited the billionaire self-funder’s commitment to advancing gun control measures across the country. “The work that Mayor Bloomberg has done through Everytown has been critical in allowing us to notch some of the legislative wins,” Murphy said, referring to the Everytown for Gun Safety nonprofit that Bloomberg founded. “And I think Mayor Bloomberg … is focused on achieving results. And I believe this country needs that approach.” Bloomberg’s campaign is staffing up big in Florida and sees the state as a top target as part of its unprecedented strategy to compete in states that start voting on Super Tuesday.

’I sort of can’t believe this is happening’: Young progressives agonize over Bernie Sanders-Elizabeth Warren feud” via Tim Alberta of POLITICO Magazine — As the tense exchange unfolded, the implications were manifest to the dozens of young people gathered in the college bar nearby. With 20 days remaining until Iowa’s first-in-the-nation nominating caucuses, two of the leading candidates were now engaged in a zero-sum, identity-based conflict that could reshape the Democratic race. And for many of the young voters watching, it wasn’t just any two candidates entering the Thunderdome — it was the two candidates they admired most, the two candidates they had struggled to choose between, the two candidates they believed would never attack each other. Until now. “I sort of can’t believe this is happening,” says Nicole Margheim, shaking her head between sips of a local porter.

Val Demings for Vice President? Idea being pushed” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Demings has become a political project for former Orange County Mayor Linda Chapin, who is using as many of her party strings as she can to get Demings into the national conversation as a vice-presidential candidate. And that conversation appears to be starting already, without Chapin’s efforts. Demings, Chapin is telling everyone who’ll listen, could be a difference-maker as running mate for former Vice President Biden, for former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, or any of the potential Democratic presidential nominees. “Think of what she could do for Democrats in Florida, purple Florida,” Chapin said.


Citizenship amendment cleared for November ballot” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — The state Supreme Court unanimously approved placing the amendment on the November ballot. The Florida Citizen Voters measure would change part of the state Constitution that now says, “Every citizen of the United States who is at least eighteen years of age and who is a permanent resident of the state, if registered as provided by law, shall be an elector of the county where registered.” The proposal would change that wording to: “Only a citizen of the United States who is at least eighteen years of age and who is a permanent resident of the state, if registered as provided by law, shall be an elector of the county where registered.”

Kent Guinn enters Republican primary for CD 3” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The Ocala Mayor made it official after teasing a run shortly after incumbent U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho announced he would not run for reelection in 2020. Guinn makes for a half-dozen Republicans in the race, and he made clear from the jump that he plans to stay firmly in the right lane of the GOP nominating contest — he’s an anti-abortion, pro-2nd Amendment, pro-Trump candidate. “Today, I am thrilled to announce that I am running for Congress in Florida’s 3rd Congressional District. Nothing in my life has been easy; I’ve had to work for everything I have. Now, I’m ready to take the fight to Washington, D.C., to fight alongside President Trump to Keep America Great,” he said.

Yet another Republican enters the CD 3 race; this time it’s Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn.


FDLE: Investigation of Lee Sheriff Carmine Marceno concluded, no evidence found for further probe” via Michael Braun of the Fort Myers News-Press — Marceno said a state investigation into possible fraud and untruthfulness involving him has concluded with no evidence to support further investigation. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement released the following statement: “FDLE’s investigation into P.A.S.S. and Lee County Sheriff Marceno’s law enforcement training has concluded. FDLE Agents found no evidence to support criminal predicate that would justify further investigation.” The Sheriff said: “Unfortunately, in today’s world we see these false politically motivated attacks far too frequently.”

Emilio González, the most powerful administrator in Miami’s government, resigns” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — González, who has served as the municipal government’s top administrator since January 2018, submitted his resignation. Upon his election in November 2017, Mayor Francis Suarez nominated González to head the city’s $1 billion government, a bureaucracy with more than 4,000 employees. The city manager is responsible for overseeing public employees who enforce the city’s laws, fix potholes, clean parks and issue permits. The city administration is also expected to address broader challenges facing Miami, from the affordable housing crisis to looming impacts of sea-level rise and climate change. González’s exit comes during a tumultuous political fight at City Hall.

Emilio González, one of the most powerful men in Miami’s government, resigns.

Orlando airport board turns down pleas for $15 minimum wage” via Beth Kassab of the Orlando Sentinel — Orlando International Airport board members turned down pleas from workers who asked for a minimum-wage increase to $15 an hour, with one worker saying he is “struggling to survive.” The board voted to continue to delay action on the increase after an inconclusive report by UCF economist Sean Snaith. He said paying workers more could actually hurt them with “unintended consequences.” But Snaith also presented a survey that said companies at the airport would not cut the number of workers they employ or their hours if a $15 minimum wage is in place.

Judge tosses lawsuit over Lake Okeechobee, but now Stuart’s considering filing suit” via Kimberly Miller of the Palm Beach Post — Despite the dismissal of the suit, which accused the Army Corps of Engineers of overstepping its authority by lowering Lake O water levels, the Clewiston-based sugar producer is claiming victory in the legal action. In a statement released after the order by U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks, company officials said they wouldn’t appeal the dismissal because “we accomplished what we set out to do: rein in the Army Corps rogue operations outside the existing, publicly-approved Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule.” The Corps temporarily changed its management strategy last year by lowering water levels to avoid harmful discharges to the northern estuaries in the warm summer months when they contribute to the growth of toxic blue-green algae.

Should Escambia County raise its hotel tax? Commissioners say yes, but with a caveat” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — A majority of Escambia County Commissioners voiced support for raising the county’s hotel bed tax at some point this year, but only when they finalize a list of projects that would be funded by the increased tax. The top two items on the list would be to help partially fund the Bob Sikes Bridge replacement and a potential Pensacola Bay Center renovation or replacement. The commission discussed increasing the bed tax, officially known as the Tourist Development Tax, by one cent at its Committee of the Whole meeting on Thursday. The current tax assesses four cents on every dollar spent on hotel rooms in the county.

Children’s Trust referendum shouldn’t be tough sell to Indian River voters” via Laurence Reisman of TCPalm — When I heard children’s advocates were talking about a new proposal, I initially was skeptical. I couldn’t help but remember the bureaucracy in Martin County, where an independent children’s services tax district with board members appointed by the governor constructed a $1.9 million building in 2012. My skepticism turned to optimism when I heard the new plan, developed by a cross-section of the community the past 18 months, was not a sea change from what has been done in Indian River County in recent years. A steering committee led by facilitator Lisa Kahle appears to have learned from other counties’ experiences and tailored a plan to fit Indian River County.

’Drag the Mayor from her house:’ Delay in swearing in new leaders causes panic” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — The special election results to fill two vacant commission seats in Biscayne Park were certified by the Miami Dade County Elections Department last week. Still, the winning candidates have yet to take office after a planned swearing-in ceremony was abruptly canceled at a “chaotic” public assembly. Angry residents crammed inside the tiny village’s historic log cabin to demand the two new members of the commission, MacDonald Kennedy and Virginia O’Halpin, be sworn in and that the village certify the election results. But the surprising absence of Mayor Tracy Truppman meant just two sitting members of the five-seat commission were present for the meeting. A minimum of three members is needed to reach a quorum.

Bay Harbor Islands cop suspended for social media post on wife’s anti-Muslim comments” via Aaron Leibowitz of the Miami Herald — The husband of a Hallandale Beach Commissioner who was condemned for anti-Muslim comments was placed on administrative leave by the Bay Harbor Islands police department for social media posts appearing to show support for his wife’s views. Pablo Lima, a corporal in Bay Harbor Islands and a former vice president of the Miami-Dade police union, submitted an application to become the town’s next police chief. After the Miami Herald asked town officials about comments and posts that Lima “liked” on Facebook and Instagram, the department placed him on paid leave and opened an internal affairs investigation.


The NRA’s Marion Hammer is mad. That means the Senate’s gun safety proposal is worth doing.” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Nothing about gun safety comes easily in Tallahassee, where Hammer has cowed lawmakers for decades as the NRA’s chief lobbyist. The legislation unanimously approved by Tom Lee’s committee this week, SB 7028, narrowly addresses the gun show loophole. It would require sellers at public events throughout Florida who are not federally licensed to obtain criminal background checks of buyers — just as the federally licensed sellers are required to obtain. The least state lawmakers should do is close the gun show loophole as the Senate legislation envisions. And they should not feel compelled to first get the approval of Marion Hammer.

Brittany Jackson: Broken PBM system puts patient access at risk” via Florida Politics — Four years after I was diagnosed with heart failure in 2013, I had a heart attack. My only option was a heart transplant. I am diligent about spending the rest of my life taking transplant medications. I am certainly grateful that this medication exists, but not happy about what I have to do in order to receive it. This could be so much easier, if not for the intervention of middlemen known as pharmacy benefits managers, or PBMs. They have turned a simple process into a nightmare for me and countless other Floridians. Fortunately, the Legislature has a chance to fix this terrible system. My experience with the PBM’s pharmacy has been nothing short of awful.

Florida’s Office of Public Counsel dragging its feet on transformative community solar proposal” via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist — Florida’s Public Service Commission, the body that sets policy governing the state’s utility industry, heard testimony about a plan to create the nation’s largest community solar program, SolarTogether, which allows customers to reap the benefits of solar power generation even if they don’t have the means to generate solar energy on their own. But it’s not been all smooth sailing for SolarTogether, mostly because of public hand-wringing by Florida’s Office of Public Counsel (OPC), whose sole job is to advocate on behalf of Florida’s energy consumers. OPC made it clear they oppose the plan, even if they failed to make it clear why. The hearing left industry observers scratching their heads about the reasons for OPC’s foot-dragging.


How Drew Jones wields influence in Tallahassee” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — He’s one of the most influential people in Tallahassee you’ve never heard of — even his last name conjures anonymity. But Jones wields influence like few in local politics. For more than a decade, he’s served as chief architect on the political campaigns of numerous city and Leon County commissioners, including Mayor John Dailey, a friend since the two worked together at Applebee’s years ago. Jones, however, is no mere political adviser. He and partner Steve Vancore have a long list of political, government, and private-sector clients, including some of the wealthiest business people in town, through their firm of VancoreJones Communications.


Dishonorable Mention: State Rep. Latvala, activist Becca Tieder, former Tampa Bay Times Columnist Ernest Hooper and communications expert Dr. Karla Mastracchio discuss politics and culture. “The Best of 2019 Sizzle Reel”: The Dishonorable Mention crew sails through its first year of political discourse, romantic reminiscing, engaging interviews, and random singing. In this 40-minute highlight audio reel from 2019, they explore the divisive nature of our current climate without growing divisive. The hosts delve into such topics as the importance of media literacy, the entertainment value of true-life crime shows, and the challenges of serving as a state Representative.

Gradebook from the Tampa Bay Times with hosts Marlene Sokol and Jeffrey Solochek: Florida’s Baker Act wasn’t intended to apply to school children when created in the 1970s. Lawmakers wanted to make it easier to help adults with mental health concerns get treatment closer to home. Over the years, though, schools have turned to the measure as justification to take into custody for evaluation of children deemed a threat to themselves or others. And the numbers have grown, although oversight has not. Reporters Megan Reeves and Jack Evans have been investigating the situation. They talk about the issues with reporter Solochek, including what corrections might be forthcoming in the 2020 Session.

Inside Florida Politics from GateHouse Florida with hosts John Kennedy and Zac Anderson: Florida lawmakers descended on the state Capitol for the beginning of Session. Journalists Kennedy, Anderson and James Call discuss the start of Session, including DeSantis’ opening day speech, a rebuttal from Democrats, and a rally organized by teachers.

REGULATED from hosts Christian Bax and Tony Glover: What do mushrooms, robots and airplanes have in common? Not much, except that they are covered in the first REGULATED news update of 2020!


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

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion of the priorities of the 2020 Legislative Session, Gov. DeSantis’ proposed budget and initiatives, and high-profile bills proposed by lawmakers. Joining Walker-Torres are state Sens. Lizbeth Benacquisto, David Simmons, Audrey Gibson, and Bill Montford.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A discussion on the Senate impeachment trial; Pence’s campaign stop in Florida; and PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter will rate claims made during the Democratic debate in Iowa.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon talks with pollster Steve Vancore and veteran political operative Mac Stipanovich.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Guests include Audrey Moran, attorney and charter member of OurJax.com, who will discuss the need for transparency, accountability in local government in Northeast Florida. Justice will also speak with Senate President Bill Galvano and House Speaker Oliva.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg will speak with Freddy Ramirez, the new Miami-Dade police director, as well as former Watergate prosecutor Jon Sale.

— ALOE —

’Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ becomes Disney’s seventh billion-dollar film of 2019” via Frank Pallotta of CNN — The film surpassed the $1 billion mark on its 28th day of release. “Rise of Skywalker” joins two Marvel films, “Captain Marvel” and the record-breaking “Avengers: Endgame,” the live-action remakes of “Aladdin” and “The Lion King,” Pixar’s “Toy Story 4” and Disney Animation’s “Frozen 2” in the 2019 billion dollar club for Disney. “Rise of Skywalker” opened to roughly $177 million domestically in North America on December 20. That was the third highest-grossing opening of 2019, but it was considerably less than the previous two installments in the saga, 2015’s “The Force Awakens” and 2017’s “The Last Jedi.”

Demi Lovato to sing the national anthem at the Super Bowl” via The Associated Press — NFL and Fox announced the performance, which will take place ahead of the big game on Feb. 2 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. Jennifer Lopez and Shakira will headline the halftime show. Lovato has mostly taken a break from the public since focusing on her recovery after reportedly overdosing in July 2018. The singer, who has spoken about her struggles with an eating disorder, self-mutilation, drugs and alcohol, celebrated six years of sobriety in March 2018. But she relapsed, revealing the news in the song “Sober,” released in June 2018.

Demi Lovato will sing the national anthem at the Super Bowl in Miami.

Here’s how you can participate in the Super Bowl halftime show” via Zach Schlein of the Miami New Times — Producers of the star-studded spectacle are inviting South Floridians to participate in assembling the February 2 show. Although details are scarce, the role is said to involve “moving scenic elements on and off the field” during the performance at Hard Rock Stadium. The only requirements listed for the position — which is paid — are that so-called field team members must be in good physical health, 18 or older, and willing commit to attending all posted rehearsals. The release says about 600 people will be hired to play a part in this year’s halftime show. Those interested in applying can view the rehearsal schedule and apply at superbowlproductions.com.


Happy birthday, belatedly to Meredith Beatrice. Celebrating today is Carlos Gimenez, stud fundraiser Brian Goldmeier, Jeff Johnson of AARP Florida, our dear friend Caitlin Murray, and Emily Rimes. An early birthday shoutout to Brody Enwright, Katie Heffley, and Sara Johnson. Sunday is Rep. Jayer Williamson‘s birthday.


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.
Email: Peter@FloridaPolitics.com
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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