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Here’s Brunch, a pop-up, weekend email about the 2020 Legislative Session — 1.19.20

A brunch buffet’s worth of real-time reporting on weeks leading up to Session.

Welcome to the first in-Session edition of Brunch, a pop-up email about the 2020 Legislative Session and those in The Process. Brunch will arrive late Sunday mornings, just as the second Bloody Mary is being mixed, throughout the 60 Days of Session. We welcome your feedback (and suggestions for where to Brunch in the Capital City and beyond.)

Bulletin ⚡🚀 — Despite the numerous push backs due to wind and rough seas concerns, it appears that SpaceX’s test of its crew-capsule abort system on Sunday morning appears successful, reports Greg Pallone of Spectrum NewsThe test was supposed to take off at 8 a.m. Saturday, but due to concerns of strong winds and rough seas, SpaceX pushed the test to 8 a.m. Sunday. However, on Sunday, SpaceX pushed back the launch three times as the company was tracking the weather.

Two must-reads that popped Sunday morning 📰 — Donald Trump’s Palm Beach billionaire spat with Jeff Greene via POLITICO and the latest development in the scandal engulfing Moffitt Cancer Center: Top doctors failed to disclose payments from China, report says.

Click here to learn who are the Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics.

Bundle up ❄️🥶❄️ — Two cold fronts will set the stage for this week’s temperature adjustment. The first front arrives tonight, clouds will increase, and slight rain chances will be possible mainly before midnight. Much colder air will move into Florida by Monday night with temps falling into the 30s and 40s for wake up temps Tuesday. Highs will hang out in the 50s Tuesday afternoon as the Arctic air rides into the State. If winds relax enough Tuesday morning, areas of frost will be possible in north Florida.

Must-watch 📺 — HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” starts its tenth season tonight at 10:30 p.m.; Larry kicks off the new year with a new rival — Mocha Joe.

The tenth season of Curb Your Enthusiasm should be pretty, pretty, pretty good.


Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg will be in Naples on Tuesday. Details and logistics of his trip are still being worked out, but this is the former NYC Mayor’s latest visit to the Sunshine State in advance of Florida’s March 17 presidential primary. Look for more details as they develop in Tuesday’s edition of Sunburn.

Another New Yorker is visiting Southwest Florida during the winter.


Make It Legal Florida, the campaign behind adult-use cannabis constitutional amendment at existing medical marijuana treatment centers — announced this week 

So, what happened? The group might have reached the 766,200 verified petition signatures needed to make the 2020 ballot, but it would have been cutting it close. As of Saturday morning, the group had about 340,000 signatures verified with another more than 300,000 still to be verified and counted. Rushing the rest of the petition gathering process could have been a costly gamble, and expanding the timeline just made more sense.

There were lots of roadblocks: The Make It Legal Florida campaign didn’t launch until August. To make the ballot, the group had to start a hurried campaign to gather and get verified all of its petitions in about seven months. To make matters harder, the legislature last year passed legislation (HB 5) requiring paid signature gathers to be employees rather than contractors paid by the petition. That meant the campaign had to train and then register gatherers with the state. But the state’s system, newly launched, had problems. Many employees, hundreds, were unable to register, further complicating signature gathering.

— Make It Legal Florida sued over the flawed employee registration process, arguing it led to delays in its signature-gathering process. After deciding to kick the operation to 2022, they dropped the lawsuit. 

But how come other initiatives made the ballot? 

— Unlike other efforts, such as the $15 minimum wage amendment, Make It Legal Florida started gathering signatures after HB 5 took effect. Other efforts that have or will make this year’s ballot began before that law was implemented and weren’t subject to the same rules.

So, what’s next? The campaign is at least tacitly supporting legislation filed by Sen. Jeff Brandes and Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith that would also legalize adult-use cannabis for sale at existing medical marijuana treatment centers. And they’re continuing the push for the 2022 ballot. The group expects to know within the year how many signatures it still needs to make that ballot and in what areas they must gather those signatures. The state requires signatures to be equitably split across the state so groups cannot, for example, focus on dense areas like Miami-Dade and Pinellas Counties. 


Sen. Rob Bradley took a victory lap this week in the Appropriations Committee he chairs after one of his priority bills passed.

The skinny: His SB 346 would increase judicial discretion in sentencing nonviolent offenders in their first drug possession conviction.

Under the proposal, those convicted the first time of buying or possessing less than two grams of any narcotic, excluding fentanyl and its derivatives, would not have to serve more than a year in jail. This could free up 4,800 prison beds and save the cash-strapped Department of Corrections $50M.

Sen. Rob Bradley takes a victory lap after a major justice reform bill of his cleared another hurdle.

Whither the House? ‘I have had conversations with friends in the House on criminal justice matters. It seems like hat happens over there a lot is that committee bills pop up and show up. There are some vehicles filed by individual members … there’s nothing that’s happening on the House side that concerns me.”

Forward motion: ‘We’ve made significant progress. I remember when I started eight years ago in the Senate, even talking about these issues was a third rail.”

So what’s next? The bill is headed to the Senate floor. The House has its own process, in which the bill isn’t moving yet. 


Rep. Wyman Duggan is bringing back a bill affecting school personnel that passed the House once, and that he hopes it clears the Senate

The skinny: His HB 883 would set up a “disqualification list” of school employees that had been fired for bad behavior. This list would foreclose the potential of them moving on to other schools where that behavior could repeat.

Bad actors: Duggan was inspired to file this while campaigning, as a voter told him of a situation where a troublesome school employee had had issues at his previous stop.

Whither the Senate? Sen. Manny Diaz is carrying the bill there. It would have passed in 2019, but just didn’t get to the floor. 

What schools are affected? Any of them that get state money, Duggan says, including charter institutions and other private schools that get scholarships.

So what’s next? The House bill is on a subcommittee agenda Tuesday: the Pre-K12 Innovation Subcommittee will hear the proposed committee substitute. The Diaz companion has cleared one committee as a substitute, and has Appropriations next up.


Some key dates you should put in your planners:

— State Sen. Travis Hutson and Rep. Matt Willhite are holding a “show, not tell” on their ATM pill bills Tuesday at noon. Onlookers who swing by Suite 1003 of The Capitol will get to see a demonstration of pharmacy kiosk technology, courtesy of Automated Pharmacy Systems.

Matt Willhite and Travis Hutson will be showing (but not telling) pharmacy kiosk technology this week.

— Members of the Florida Academy of Physician Assistants, along with nurse practitioners from around the state will visit The Capitol Tuesday and Wednesday to advocate for modernized PA laws and regulations, which they say will lead to greater health care access and cost savings for Floridians. They will be available for photos and interviews at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday on the courtyard steps of the old Capitol.

— Major players in the Sunshine State tourism industry have booked a trip of their own. On Wednesday, the top associations in travel, hospitality, and tourism marketing joining forces to host 2020 Florida Tourism Day at The Capitol. The annual event is aimed at educating lawmakers, media and the public on the vital role tourism plays in the state economy.

— Those looking to unwind Wednesday evening should plan on dropping by the Governor’s Club for a meet-and-greet mixer being put on by Public Relations firm Tucker/Hall. The pop-in event runs from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the BC room.

— Bust out your tennis shoes. Lauren’s Kids, the advocacy group founded by state Sen. Lauren Book, will hold its second annual “42 Hours for the 42 Million” even — which sees registrants walk-in shifts to honor the honor of the 42 million survivors of childhood sexual abuse — at The Capitol from 6 p.m. Feb. 4 through noon Feb. 6.


Southwest Florida lawmakers pride themselves on unity, but three House members this Session happen to be locked in a Republican primary in Florida’s 19th Congressional District. So what’s the dish?

Breaking bread?: Byron Donalds acknowledges it may not be as cordial as normal. “Obviously, we’re not all sitting at dinner swapping stories, but we’re all professionals.”

Whipping the opposition: Dane Eagle serves as House Republican leader and hopes to hold the caucus together. “My duty is to make sure we are cohesive  and we are successful and we stick with conservative principles.”

Mutual success: Heather Fitzenhagen notes it’s in no one’s interest to do a poor job in Session. “We’re the kind of personalities who will continue to work together. We are gentlemen and ladies and can maneuver.”

Keeping in line: And colleagues for the candidates have made clear they expect everyone to stay focused on Capitol business. “I would be disappointed if there were a lot of backstabbing,” said Sen. Kathleen Passidomo.


Byron Donalds’ decision to run for Congress opens Florida House District 80 up in 2020, and one name keeps coming up in the rumor mill: Erika Donalds.

Don’t count on it: “Nope. For sure I’m not running. I’m going to move to D.C. when my husband is elected to Congress!”

Choice agenda: Instead, the leader of the School Choice Movement will focus this year on getting charter schools sales tax revenue and easing their expansion, while also helping tweak new family empowerment scholarships.

OK but really: Will there be one Donalds in Tally and another in D.C.? “I hear the rumor every single day,” she said. “But I don’t think that’s a good family situation.”


There’s a new name atop the Republican Party of Florida’s news releases. Just a few months after starting her own communications firm, Alia Faraj-Johnson has picked up the Florida GOP as a client.

Alia Faraj-Johnson has picked up a bold name client — the Florida GOP.

The debut: Neither RPOF nor Alia Strategic Group announced the hire. Still, those on the party’s mailing list got word when she was listed as the contact for the party’s statement on the teacher rally organized by the Florida Education Association last week.

Familiar territory: Faraj-Johnson is a seasoned pro in the strategic communications business, and she’s got experience handling comms for top-level Republicans. Long before she worked for Hill+Knowlton Strategies or founded her Alia Strategic Group, she served as press secretary under then-Gov. Jeb Bush.

The gig: Faraj-Johnson will be working closely with Florida GOP Chair and state Sen. Joe Gruters and Executive Director Peter O’Rourke to coordinate the party’s public-facing communications.


A fundraiser for Michelle Salzman’s House campaign was a smashing success, with many prominent Panhandle Republicans turning out to help her raise the cash necessary to oust controversial GOP Rep. Mike Hill. Electeds dropping in on Jan. 14 included Santa Rosa County Commissioner Sam Parker, Escambia County Tax Collector Scott Lunsford and former state Rep. Frank White. The host committee alone was well stocked. Community figures taking point: Lewis and Belle Bear, Shirley Cronley, David Peaden and Danny Zimmern. The business community also showed up in force, with David Bear, Ed Carson, John Clark, Fred Donovan Sr. Eric Gleaton, Dave Hoxeng, Steve Moorhead, D.C. Reeves, Todd Thompson, Brian Wyer all swinging by the Fish House.

Brunch is told from a source on the host committee that Salzman raised more than $29K at the event.


The championship round of the NFL playoffs is today with a Patriots-less matchup in the AFC followed bythe Matt-Dixon-is-prayin’ NFC game on the West Coast.

Sorry, Patriots. No ring for you this year.

Titans at Chiefs kicks off at 3:05 p.m. on CBS.

— Place your bets: With a spread of KC -7, the over/under is 53. (Brunch likes the Chiefs and the over.)

— Of note: Meet Arthur Smith, the unsung hero of the Titans’ run with an unlikely story of his own” via Ross Tucker of The Athletic — Titans offensive coordinator Smith, Tennessee’s “unsung hero,” is the son of FedEx founder Fred Smith.

— Get your head in the game. “Travis Kelce is the engine of the Chiefs offense — and its ultimate cheat code” via The Ringer.

Packers at 49ers kicks off at 6:40 p.m. on FOX.

Place your bets: With a spread of SF -7.5, the over/under is 46.5. (Brunch likes the Pack and the points and the over.)

— A numbers game. “The NFL’s unlikeliest millionaire: He went to Harvard and plays fullback” via Andrew Beaton of The Wall Street Journal — Niners FB Kyle Juszczyk is playing in a rapidly vanishing position, but remains a considerable element of the offense, with 70% of offensive snaps in the divisional round against the Vikings.

— Get your head in the game with Davante Adams’ drive to be great has become an ‘obsession’” via The Associated Press.

— Deeper dive:Sure, the NFL playoffs seem chaotic, but they’re actually pretty predictable” via Ty Schalter of FiveThirtyEight.


Chi Chi’s Cafe Owners Rafael Diaz and his wife Donna, whose nickname is Chi-Chi, left the corporate world in Miami in 2018 to open this small Cuban cafe, which offers authentic cuisine for breakfast, lunch or dessert.

— Retro vibe: Chi Chi’s Cafe features colorful pictures, red accents, and fun “you know you’re from Miami — or Cuba — …” signs.

— The menu: There are limited breakfast or Desayuno choices, but you’ll find a choice for hearty or light appetites. The el jefe brings a lean palomilla steak with grilled onions, two flavorful scrambled (or fried) eggs, and two long slices of Cuban toast, the priciest choice at $11.50. You can also get an egg sandwich or platter with two eggs, ham or bacon, toast, and Swiss or American cheese, a tostada or breakfast empanada.

Chi Chi’s brings authentic Cuban snacks to Tallahassee.

— That’s not all: Check out the display case filled with pastelitos including guava and cream cheese, coconut or Nutella as well as flan, tres leche and churros — or take them for a much-needed snack later. 

— Cuban coffee: One of the best places in town for cafe con leche, a traditional colada or Cafe Bonbon made with condensed milk, Cuban coffee and whipped cream.

The deets:

Hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily

GPS: 460 W. Tennessee St., Tallahassee

Digits: 850-597-7588


The Florida Democratic Party is looking to provide a spark to its voter registration efforts with a boatload of voter registration events over the weekend and on MLK Day.

Bringing in the ringers: The party has tapped its most experienced organizers and volunteers to convince eligible Floridians to register to vote and to encourage already-registered voters to hop on the vote-by-mail train.

Terri Rizzo is using Martin Luther King Jr. Day to help boost Democratic registration.

The goal: Complete 500 volunteer shifts across 30 events by the end of the weekend. Prime venues include the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parades in Liberty City and Pompano Beach.

FDP Chair Terrie Rizzo’s statement: “In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, we need to stand up and take action to participate in our democracy. On the most basic level, that means exercising our right to vote. The first step is to make sure you are registered with your local county and then to educate yourself on the issues important to you and your family, and finally to vote on Election Day. On this historic day marking Dr. King’s legacy, the Florida Democratic Party is bringing voter registration to a location near you.”

Positive signs: Though reports show Republicans have more than doubled Democrats in net voter registrations between January and September of last year, FPD has sussed out an encouraging trend: volunteer engagement is through the roof. The party says volunteers worked 1,221% more shifts last year than they did in 2015.

The Chair will roll up her sleeves and join the volunteer force at the Restoring The Village event and forum in Riviera Beach. The full event listing is on FDP’s website.


A great influence in Tally. The civil rights movement in Tallahassee was hugely influenced by the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the capital city offers a day full of activities commemorating his accomplishments on Monday, the federal holiday dedicated to the civil rights icon.

— Commemoration. Tallahassee Branch of the NAACP is hosting its annual Rev. C.K. Steele Sr. Commemorative Service and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Rally starting at 10 a.m. at the C.K. Steele Bus Terminal downtown. State Rep. Loranne Ausley, also a candidate for the state Senate, is the guest speaker. The service will include music by the Message of Life Band. Steele was a preacher and civil rights activist who helped King organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957.

On Monday, the nation honors Martin Luther King Jr., who encouraged Americans to live up to the country’s potential — through community service and nonviolent protest.

— A march for a dream. Beginning 10:45 a.m., a march to The Capitol will begin the MLK Commemorative Rally featuring Leon County Circuit Judge Stephen Everett as the keynote speaker.

— Dialogue to improve communities. “Building Bridges One Neighbor at a Time” is the theme of the city-sponsored MLK Day of Dialogue, which runs from noon to 2 p.m. at Cascades Park, featuring local nonprofit organizations that offer opportunities to serve and volunteer. For the past 25 years, the holiday has been declared “a day on, not a day off,” to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities.

— “Dare to Dream” Festival: The park is hosting the free event from noon to 4 p.m., with live music, theatrical showcases, historical exhibits, local vendors, dancing and children’s attractions.

— A tradition of civil disobedience. Tallahassee was the site of several civil rights-related protests, including a bus boycott in 1956. In 1960, African American students were arrested for staging a sit-in at the Woolworth’s lunch counter. Rather than pay the $300 fine for civil disobedience, eight students chose to serve a 60-day jail sentence. The “jail-in” attracted significant media attention, according to the Florida Memory website, and King sent a telegram (a digitized version is available online) urging the students to “remember that unearned suffering is redemptive. Going to jail for a righteous cause is a badge of honor and a symbol of dignity.”

— National honors. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was first declared a national holiday in 1986. Closures include federal offices and state offices, as well as the campuses of Florida State University, Florida A&M University and Tallahassee Community College.

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