Last week Floridians were almost evenly split on whether the U.S. Senate should convict President Donald Trump and boot him from office. And his 2020 chances seemed even grimmer.
Today, a new poll from the Florida Chamber of Commerce shows some rays of sunshine for POTUS.
The Chamber found Trump would snag Florida’s 29 electoral votes no matter which of the top Democrats gunning for his job appeared on the November ballot — he’d beat U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren or South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg by 7%, former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg by 5%, and former VP Joe Biden by 4%.
Another positive trend is waning support for his ouster. More than half those polled opposed conviction while 43% approved.
Republicans are as united as ever, with 87% standing behind the Commander in Chief. Democrats, meanwhile, want him gone by a 73%-20% margin. There’s also lukewarm support for removal among independents, who leaned that direction 50%-46%.
Trump’s rising tide wasn’t the most eye-popping result of the Chamber poll, however. That distinction goes to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is enjoying near-record approval numbers. More than two-thirds of Floridians said they thought the Governor was still acing it a year into his first term compared to 18% who disapprove.
DeSantis’ rock-solid showing is undoubtedly being helped along by Florida’s current state of prosperity, which also didn’t go unnoticed — 63% of voters said the state is heading in the right direction compared to 24% who perceived a downward trend.
The high level of positivity doesn’t mean voters don’t want a few things handled during the 2020 Legislative Session.
According to the poll, Florida voters are most concerned about the cost of health care (18%), followed by jobs and the economy (12%), the environment (9%), education (9%), and immigration (6%).
“Floridians are confident in Gov. DeSantis and, while they’re concerned about health care costs and workforce quality, support his efforts to help keep Florida moving in the right direction and champion solutions,” Florida Chamber President and CEO Mark Wilson said.
Welcome to the world — Turner Easton Hutson, born 9:26 p.m. on Monday, weighing 7 lbs. 7 oz. Congratulations to Turner’s proud parents — Tonya and Sen. Travis Hutson.
Get ‘Session-ed’ with ‘He Said, She Said’ — On the latest episode, Michelle and I welcome a 2020 Session update with a pod full of special guests: State Sens. Jeff Brandes and Rob Bradley, as well as Alexis Lambert.
But first, we recap our favorite moments from the annual Gasparilla Children’s Parade, one of the longest-running Schorsch family traditions.
On to politics: Brandes gives an early update on the Senate Appropriations Committee, which includes Bradley’s criminal justice reform bill. It should hit the House floor later in the week. Brandes also talks about the need to address several major problems plaguing Florida’s criminal justice system, such as outdated sentencing for many incarcerated citizens.
I review a story first reported by Florida Politics over the weekend: Donald Trump Jr. calling out Senate President Bill Galvano for accepting campaign contributions from Bloomberg‘s Every Town for Gun Safety.
Bradley, a Republican from Orange Park, gives his take on the opening week of Session. He and Michelle talk about her favorite bill so far — a ban on sunscreen bans — and discuss why such a sunscreen ban could be harmful to residents and visitors to the Sunshine State. (Hint: The keyword is “sunshine.”)
Lambert joins the pod to talk about proposed legislation to create an exemption from the blanket gift ban law in cases of serious illness, allowing state employees to receive funds from GoFundMe. She shares her story of battling Stage 3 colon cancer at 39. Between various doctor’s appointments and scans, Lambert spent $8,000 out-of-pocket in seven days. Because of the state’s gift ban, she was unable to accept help, even from close friends.
Two bills — SB 1490 and HB 1435 — would modify Florida’s gift ban rules. Bradley and Pace Republican Rep. Jayer Williamson are sponsoring them, respectively.
Moving to pop culture, Michelle and I wrap up with an update on the British Royal Family’s “Megxit” situation, as well as the shows we’re currently watching on Netflix and beyond.
— TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Banning sunscreen bans is on the agenda for the Senate, which seeks to overturn a local ordinance in Key West that prohibits the sale of certain chemical sunscreens. Meanwhile, the House is talking about abolishing the Constitution Revision Commission.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— Bradley’s sunscreen bill is on the fast track in The Capitol, while the House version passed through its second committee.
— The Senate Health Policy Committee approves a bill raising the legal age for tobacco or vaping products from 18 to 21.
— A Boston terrier named Allie is the guest of honor at the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. Allie was standing on top of the speaker’s podium as lawmakers debated a bill named in her honor.
— Sen. Jason Pizzo is pushing a bill that creates a loophole in the law prohibiting lewd and lascivious behavior. He wants to carve out an exemption for clothing-optional beaches and nudist colonies. Fortunately, he did NOT bring any witnesses (or visual aids) to the hearing.
— On Sunrise is Stephanie Smith, who was a staffer for former Governors Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist. Smith is now lobbying for Uber … as the ride-sharing giant gears up for the Super Bowl in South Florida.
— As for Florida Man (or Woman, in this case): 46-year-old Stephanie Saladino was pushing an 11-month-old infant in a baby stroller when she passed out on a sidewalk in Clearwater. Saladino and the baby were rushed to the hospital, where police say her blood-alcohol level was .338. That’s more than four times the legal limit for driving (and nearly fatal). Saladino told officers she drank some wine before taking the child out for a stroll.
To listen, click on the image below:
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@MaryEllenKlas: To avoid a water shortage in Florida’s future, economist Amy Baker says forecasters say the state will need to spend $1 billion for “alternative water supply options.”
—@SContorno: The head of the Florida GOP is introducing a bill on behalf of someone who has espoused anti-immigrant views, made hateful comments toward Muslims, spread conspiracies about Parkland student survivors and falsely claimed Las Vegas shooter was ISIS-affiliated.
—@MDixon55: There have been a lot of dereg bills over my time in Tallahassee, most of which have stayed off the radar. They are not high profile annual fights. It’s different this year. Good example of the spotlight a governor can grab when they put their shoulder into an issue
—@ArekSarkissian: Watching vacay rentals bill. Call me crazy, but I think someone on the House panel just rambled about taking bets, or cupcakes — something — if he did or didn’t vote on the bill. He may have brought up a python at some point. It’s only week two, people. Keep it together.
—@Fineout: So — there’s a bill to up sovereign immunity limits in place. One lobbyist cautions against it, saying it would “allow more to come to the trough.” These are lawsuits filed against local and state governments where people have been killed or injured …
—@SamanthaJGross: I have a lot of things on my mind today, not least of which is … impeachment milk
—@JohnLuxFL: 2 cities in FL on list. The avg. annual wage for a Floridian working in the film, TV and digital media industry is $82k+ per year. We need to attract these jobs, not push them to other states.
—@NWSMiami: Jan 21 — This isn’t something we usually forecast, but don’t be surprised if you see Iguanas falling from the trees tonight as lows drop into the 30s and 40s. Brrrr!
—@MarkSchlueb: Being stuck in traffic isn’t as bad in Florida because you can distract yourself by looking for all the Silver Alert cars. It’s the new license plate game.
—@Amy_Hollyfield: To the valet guy that put on my heated seats as I drove away from frigid #, I thank you
— DAYS UNTIL —
Sundance Film Festival begins — 1; “Star Trek: Picard” premiers — 1; Annual Red Dog Blue Dog Celebrity Bartender Benefit — 4; New Brexit deadline — 9; Super Bowl LIV in Miami — 11; Great American Realtors Day — 12; Iowa Caucuses — 12; Eighth Democratic presidential debate in Manchester — 17; Capitol Press Corps press skits — 20; New Hampshire Primaries — 20; Pitchers and catchers begin reporting for MLB Spring Training — 20; South Beach Wine and Food Festival — 28; Ninth Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas — 28; Roger Stone’s sentencing — 29; Nevada caucuses — 31; “Better Call Saul” Season 5 premiers — 32; 10th Democratic presidential debate in Charleston — 34; South Carolina Primaries — 38; Super Tuesday — 41; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 51; Florida’s presidential primary — 55; “No Time to Die” premiers — 75; Florida Chamber Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 114; “Top Gun: Maverick” premiers — 156; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 173; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premiers — 177; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo start — 184; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 209; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 215; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 259; First Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 267; Second presidential debate at Belmont — 274; 2020 General Election — 286.
— TOP STORY —
Wednesday is Florida Tourism Day at the Capitol.
The agenda event kicks off at 9 a.m. with a program at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, where DeSantis and Senate President Galvano are expected to speak.
The afternoon will feature a “Rally for Florida Tourism” attended by Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez in the plaza level of the Capitol. At the same time, the evening will bring a street party to the corner of Adams St. and College Ave.
The Partnership for Florida Tourism has billed the day as a celebration of Florida tourism. However, it comes as most in the tourism industry are wondering if they’ll have anything to celebrate after the 2020 Legislative Session wraps.
The primary stressor: the uncertain future of VISIT FLORIDA.
In the 2019 Legislative Session, lawmakers slashed the tourism marketing agency’s budget to $50 million, down from $76 million the year prior.
Though it survived, the cuts forced the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors to cut $3.65 million in payroll and $17.8 million in marketing spending.
Though the agency has enjoyed strong support from the Governor and the Senate was amenable to fully funding VISIT FLORIDA last year, the House — including House Speaker José Oliva — entered the 2019 Legislative Session with no intention of renewing VISIT FLORIDA’s authorization.
The compromise was akin to a stay of execution. Though funding was authorized, lawmakers only extended the agency’s authorization by a year. If lawmakers don’t reauthorize VISIT FLORIDA in the 2020 Legislative Session, it’ll cease to exist.
VISIT FLORIDA President and CEO Dana Young has been making a case for renewal since she was appointed to the post shortly after DeSantis took office.
Throughout 2019, the former state Senator touted every fact and figure she could to showcase the value of the agency.
Tourism numbers have increased every year for nearly a decade. Metrics show every dollar spent on marketing grows the state economy by $2. VISIT FLORIDA has seen encouraging growth in emerging sectors, such as adventure tourism, which grew by 27% in 2019 after a concentrated marketing campaign.
To Young, that stat serves as a counter to claims by House Budget Chief Travis Cummings and others that VISIT FLORIDA isn’t what’s driving tourism, it’s county tax levies, and ad campaigns mounted by tourist meccas such as Disney and Universal that draw in crowds.
Still, Young is not without allies. Galvano has been a consistent backer, telling Florida Politics last month that the agency is needed to counter headlines with the potential to scare off visitors.
“From my perspective, there are issues such as red tide, Zika, hurricanes that get mismessaged or overmessaged elsewhere that we need some sort of counterbalance to,” he said. “That’s where we are.”
Most of the state’s major business groups are also hoping lawmakers agree to keep VISIT FLORIDA around.
During a speech delivered at the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Future of Florida Forum, Young called on business leaders to join the effort to save VISIT FLORIDA. She cited the $88.6 billion tourism adds to the state economy annually. Without visitors, she said, the average Florida family would have to pay more than $1,500 a year in increased taxes to balance the state budget.
“If the Legislature does not reauthorize us this Legislative Session, we will cease to exist on July 1. Florida’s tourism industry would go silent nationally and internationally,” she said at the October event. “If you believe that VISIT FLORIDA adds value, speak up.”
Her plea was met with a warm reception. The 13 statewide trade associations behind Florida Tourism Day are hoping lawmakers are as welcoming when they show up at the Capitol.
To watch a video explaining how VISIT FLORIDA “works for Florida,” click on the image below:
— DATELINE: TALLY —
“Ron DeSantis appoints Stoneman Douglas victim’s dad Ryan Petty to state Board of Education” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Petty has become a prominent school safety advocate in the 23 months since his daughter, Alaina, was killed in the Feb. 14, 2018, massacre at the high school in Parkland. He is a member of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission, which was formed to analyze what went wrong leading up to and during the massacre and recommend improvements. He is the founder of the WalkUp Foundation, which works to prevent school violence. Pending confirmation by the Senate, he will serve a four-year term on the statewide board that sets education policy.
Clemency board approves new rights restoration rule — Acting as the state clemency board, the Governor and Cabinet adopted new rules that would allow some felons to have their civil rights restored even if they owe fines, fees or restitution, Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida reports. The clemency rule applies to applications to restore all civil rights, not just voting rights, which was the subject of Amendment 4. The board also has the ability to civil rights, such as the ability to run for public office or own a gun. The new rule applies only to violent felons, who are required to wait seven years after they complete their prison term and post-release supervision before applying to have their rights restored.
“More disarray at nonprofit that paid former CEO $761,000” via Samantha Gross of the Tampa Bay Times — Former state Sen. Denise Grimsley stepped down as the interim president and CEO of the state’s largest domestic violence nonprofit organization after just a two-month tenure. Grimsley confirmed she left her position at the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The Sebring Republican stepped into the role after the former CEO and president, Grimsley’s close personal friend Tiffany Carr, gave up her leadership role. Her departure came after reports the coalition has not fulfilled document requests issued in a state audit going on more than a year. After she left, she continued to be paid as a consultant. While Carr drew a hefty salary for her work, Grimsley was not paid by the coalition for her work as its temporary leader.
“Will this agency release records on ousted banking regulator?” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Attorneys for Florida’s former banking regulator reached an agreement with Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis in a long-running feud over public records. Attorneys for Ronald Rubin, fired last year over an allegation of sexual harassment, are narrowing the scope of their request for records about why he was forced out of the job. Rubin sued Patronis and the Office of Financial Regulation in September, claiming that they were stonewalling him on records requested under the state’s public records law. By law, agencies are supposed to provide public records in a “reasonable” amount of time. Yet what’s “reasonable” isn’t defined in state law.
“Could El Salvador’s draconian abortion ban become part of Florida’s debate?” via Tim Padgett of WLRN — Two months ago, Democratic state Rep. Cindy Polo visited a prison in El Salvador. Polo met an inmate named Berta Margarita Arana, a Salvadoran woman serving eight years for attempting an abortion. Human rights groups and the U.N. say that happens all too frequently in El Salvador — usually with little medical evidence. But it’s part of the reality in that Central American country: El Salvador bans all abortions under any circumstance. Polo and the others in the U.S. delegation also wanted to use the El Salvador experience to more effectively confront what they see as a trend at home: states, including Florida, pushing abortion bans in the U.S.
“Hundreds rally in Tally for more education choice for special needs students” via Florida Politics — Hundreds of students, parents and educators from around Florida rallied at the Capitol to urge DeSantis and state lawmakers to expand a cutting-edge scholarship for special-needs students that has become the biggest of its kind in America. Created in 2014, the Gardiner Scholarship now serves 13,000 students with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other special needs, but has another 3,500 on a waitlist. Lawmakers have expanded funding for the program every year — to $147.9 million last year — with nearly universal bipartisan support. Parents hope that will continue this Session, given still-growing demand. DeSantis said he and lawmakers made it a priority to clear last year’s waitlist and would do their best again this year.
FANA celebrates ‘National CRNA Week’ — The Florida Association of Nurse Anesthetists will spend the week educating the public on the role of certified registered nurse anesthetists in providing safe and effective anesthesia care. The effort is part of FANA’s 21st annual National CRNA Week celebration. The association said it is especially grateful for a proclamation from DeSantis for recognizing CRNA week in Florida. “It is an honor and a privilege to take our patients through anesthesia and a safe surgical experience,” said FANA President Jose D. Castillo III, who is also a CRNA. “Surgery and anesthesia can be intimidating, but we stay with our patients, administering their anesthetics, and watching over their vital signs — advocating for them throughout the surgery. We take great pride in being there for every heartbeat.”
— LEGISLATION —
“(L)awmakers may hand out last-minute tax breaks – again – to companies” via Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel — Avis Budget Group Inc., one of the biggest rental car companies in the nation, would save $10 million under one tax break Florida lawmakers are considering this legislative session. Video-game manufacturer Electronic Arts Inc. could save more than $30 million under another. NextEra Energy Inc., the parent company of Florida Power & Light, is lobbying to pay less property tax. Allegiant Travel Co. is lobbying to get out of paying fuel tax entirely. There’s no way to tell yet whether any of the four companies, which earned a combined $7 billion in profits last year on $32 billion in revenues, will get a tax break from Tallahassee. But if history is any guide, the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature will give some lucky companies a break — but not until the closing hours of the session.
“DCF accountability bill clears first Senate committee” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — SB 1326 (“the DCF Accountability Act”) was OK’d by Children, Families, and Elder Affairs. The goal of Sen. Wilton Simpson’s bill is to bring “accountability” over four years of implementation to the Department of Children and Families. With DCF moving toward a “prevention” model, the bill would create the Office of Quality Assurance and Improvement within the organization, shoring up foster care and adoption services. “One office in the agency that focuses on child welfare and behavioral programs,” Simpson said. Secretary Chad Poppell would appoint a Chief Quality Officer, who would monitor performance standards, with the goal being “exemplary services” and “direct accountability for quality assurance” in child welfare.
“Lawmakers revisit post-Parkland school safety, student mental health” via Emily Mahoney and Megan Reeves of the Tampa Bay Times — This time, school safety might not prompt the tornado of emotional debate, pain and controversy of years past, when lawmakers were particularly torn over whether teachers should be allowed to be armed. This year’s proposal, Senate Bill 7040, passed unanimously through the Senate Education Committee, after mild questions and discussion by lawmakers. The 39-page bill incorporates some recommendations from a statewide grand jury convened to investigate compliance with school safety laws, as well as the post-Parkland commission, which studied the shooting for months before recommending fixes. The bill proposes that all training for teachers or other school staff who volunteer to be armed on campus would be offered or directly overseen by a sheriff’s office.
Moffitt funding boost approved — The Senate Health Policy Committee unanimously approved a bill that would boost the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute’s share of the net cigarette tax, Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida reports. The measure would raise Moffitt’s cut from 4.04% to 7% through 2023, after which it would rise to 10%. The plan is predicted to increase Moffitt’s annual revenue from $15.6 million to $26.9 million under the 7% plan. Come 2053, annual revenues are expected to hit $38.4 million.
“GOP Senators back Medicaid payment change” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — A Senate health panel split along party lines as Republicans pushed through a measure to permanently eliminate a 90-day period that seniors and disabled people previously had to apply for Florida’s Medicaid program. The legislation would put in law changes lawmakers made to save money in the state’s main safety-net health care program. Democrats on the Senate Health Policy Committee tried to amend the proposal (SB 52) so that the change in the Medicaid enrollment process would end in July 2021. Opponents of the measure — which the committee approved in a 6-3 vote — argued that the state shouldn’t make a permanent change until legislators had data about how it would impact the lives of seniors and people with disabilities.
“David Simmons’ Tobacco 21 bill gets Senate health panel nod” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Legislation to push the legal possession age for tobacco and vape products to 21 received a strong show of support from the Senate Health Policy Committee. Senate Bill 810, as amended, would do more than increase the minimum age from 18. It also would fully incorporate vape products, including e-cigarettes and the like, into state regulations for cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products. That provision drew strong objections from vape product manufacturing and retail representatives, who contended they’re being blamed for product abuses and for a rising wave of reported deaths and serious illnesses attributed to vaping, which are not the fault of the already-regulated and law-abiding industry, but the black market.
“Watered-down pharmacy-benefit manager transparency bill clears first committee” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The House Health Market Reform Subcommittee approved a proposed committee bill that would require pharmaceutical manufacturers to notify pharmacy benefit managers of any price inquiries at least 60-days before prices go up and to provide an annual update to the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) outlining which drugs increased in price and why. The bill would also require pharmacy benefit managers to provide updates to the OIR outlining their revenue sources. It would also offer protections to pharmacies by enforcing laws already in place about how and when pharmacy benefit managers can audit them. While the bill passed, it did so with intense pushback from pharmacists, small pharmacy owners and representatives, health care professionals and some lawmakers.
“PIP repeal legislation advances through first Senate committee” via Sarah Mueller of Florida Politics — Sen. Tom Lee’s bill (SB 371) to repeal Personal Injury Protection (PIP) overcame its first hurdle. The Brandon Republican got the win, in a 6-1 vote in the Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee, on his birthday. Lee’s legislation would do away with PIP in favor of bodily injury liability coverage. It would require drivers to carry at least $25,000 in liability for the death or injury of one person in a crash and $50,000 for the injury or death of two or more people in a crash. There is still a $10,000 coverage mandate for property damage. Under the current PIP law, the insured person can get up to $10,000 for an emergency condition and up to $2,500 for a nonemergency situation.
“Senate panel advances Jeff Brandes bill limiting attorneys’ fees in insurance claims cases” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee approved legislation via a 5-3 vote that would limit the amount of attorneys’ fees awarded in cases involving property insurance policies. Republican Sen. Brandes sponsored the measure (SB 914). At issue are instances where insurance companies are seeking to deny a claim by an insured individual. Those individuals may sue in response, seeking a claim payout. But in some circumstances, insured individuals can struggle to afford competent counsel, forcing an attorney to take a case on contingency. In those cases, should an insured individual prevail, a court can award a contingency fee multiplier to compensate the attorney for taking a risk on the matter.
Randolph Bracy bills seek closure for victims of the 1920 Ocoee Election Day riots — As the sponsor, Sen. Bracy announced both SB 1262 and SB 1264 passed favorably in their first hearing in the Judiciary Committee. The 1920 Ocoee Election Day Massacre began when a black landowner, Julius “July” Perry, was lynched for attempting to exercise his right to vote. Ocoee’s African American population was forced to abandon their homes and property or risk a fate like Perry’s at the hands of a deputized mob and local government officials. According to census records, an estimated fifty black residents were murdered during the riot. Bracy’s bills create a Descendant Compensation Program and direct the state to explore ways to teach the incident in schools, incorporate into museums, and in the naming of state parks to recognize victims.
“Domestic abusers could lose contact with pets” via News Service of Florida — Victims of domestic violence could request that judges temporarily prevent abusers from having contact with pets, under a bill approved by a House panel. The bill (HB 241), sponsored by Winter Haven Rep. Sam Killebrew, would allow judges to grant exclusive care, custody, and control of pets to people who file domestic violence injunctions. It also would allow judges to determine whether domestic violence perpetrators should have any contact with pets as cases are heard.
“Senate panel moves bill to shield lawmakers’ addresses from public” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — SB 832, a bill filed by Sen. Kelli Stargel, would shield from public disclosure identifying information about legislators and their families and staff. The bill passed Ethics and Elections, its first committee. Information like birthdays, addresses, and places where people work would no longer be accessible in public records. The cause of this nondisclosure: an atmosphere increasingly hostile to politicians.
“Pro stadium funding targeted again” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — A proposal is once again in play to eliminate an untouched pool of state money set aside in 2014 to help build and renovate professional sports stadiums. The House Workforce Development & Tourism Subcommittee quickly backed the proposal (HB 6057), which would repeal a controversial funding program that spells out steps for state dollars to become available for stadium construction and renovation. Without a Senate version of the bill, House Ways & Means Chairman Bryan Avila said the repeal language might be included in any tax package the House develops. The bill’s next scheduled appearance is the Ways & Means Committee, which in past Sessions, has been the source of his chamber’s tax packages.
“Lawmakers renew push for school board term limits” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Rep. Anthony Sabatini sponsored the proposal to force board members from office after eight consecutive years in office for the second year in a row. He contended the concept would have broad appeal in large and small counties, rural and urban ones. Polls show backing that nears 80% regardless of party affiliation, Sabatini told the PreK-12 Innovation subcommittee, the first of three panels to hear the resolution for a constitutional amendment vote. He stressed that HJR 157 would not enact term limits. “This is a bill to give the voters the opportunity, if they wish, to vote to enact term limits,” he said. Support in the hearing room was split fairly evenly for the idea.
“Professional deregulation bills move along” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Senate Bill 474, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Ben Albritton, retains more state requirements for training of cosmetologists and replaces licensing with a registration process for higher-qualified interior designers, provisions that gained widespread support from professionals in those two occupations, and significant support from Democrats on the Senate Committee on Innovation, Industry, and Technology. Meanwhile, House Bill 1193, from Republican state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, got through the House Business and Professions Subcommittee with a split, largely partisan vote, after professionals in those same occupations and others criticized the bill for going too far, jeopardizing student financial aid for people attending technical schools and creating some unresolved concerns about how interior designers might work on government contracts.
“Annette Taddeo’s water bottling tax proposal postponed” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A bill proposing a significant tax on bottled water companies drawing directly from Florida’s water supply was temporarily postponed. State Sen. Taddeo, the sponsor of the bill (SB 1112), asked for the postponement at the end of the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee. At the meeting, Committee Chair Joe Gruters unsuccessfully pushed for an amendment turning the tax into a penalty only on water taken over permit limits set by water management districts. Taddeo, a Miami Democrat, had proposed a 12.5-cent-per-gallon levy for pulling the water from the ground. She said that would ensure bottling companies paid a fair share.
“Chip LaMarca hopes to plug in $500K for broadband access study” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — A House budget panel gave the first thumbs-up to a study on broadband coverage across the state. Rep. LaMarca hopes to get $500,000 for the study, to which the Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee gave unanimous approval. The study would task researchers with identifying rural and urban areas lacking “efficient and equitable” investment and service for high-speed broadband access. “One of the most important things we can do is identify where some of the underserved areas are,” LaMarca said. That study, funded by HB 9221, should be finished within six months of the appropriation being made, LaMarca said.
“Specialty tag bill passes first House committee” via Sarah Mueller of Florida Politics — State Rep. James Grant’s legislation (HB 1135) revamping how the state creates specialty license plates breezed through the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee with a 13-2 vote. Grant’s bill would cap the number of specialty tags at 125 and allows new tags to replace the lowest-performing ones in the program. It would also create specialty plates for three out-of-state schools: Auburn University, the University of Georgia and the University of Alabama. The proceeds from the sale of those plates would go to scholarships for Florida students who had attended a state high school and are now attending one of those schools. They have to meet the Florida Bright Futures program criteria.
“Laura Loomer, ‘most banned, censored woman in the world,’ backs Joe Gruters social media bill” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Internet provocateur Loomer declared herself “the most banned, censored woman in the world.” Speaking to the Florida Capitol Press Corps, the self-described conservative investigative journalist said she got banned by every major media site “by telling the truth, by speaking facts, by speaking up in America where we supposedly have free speech.” Sen. Gruters, a Sarasota Republican, credited Loomer as one of the main inspirations behind his anti-censorship bill. He said platforms like Facebook and Twitter have grown to the level that they can no longer be treated as private chat spaces. “The major social media websites have knowingly created a Digital Public Square,” Gruters said at a news conference with Loomer.
“’We have an iguana problem,’ South Florida Senator says. His bill aims to solve it.” via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald — While Floridians pondered whether the state’s invasive and pervasive green iguanas would freeze and fall from the sky, a bill was introduced that aims to stop the “chicken of the trees” from proliferating. The bill adds green iguanas to the list of species that cannot be kept as pets or sold in pet shops across the state. The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee voted 4-0 on the bill, which still has two committee stops before it goes to a floor vote. Bill sponsor Sen. Gary Farmer said the bill would hopefully help solve what he calls the “iguana problem” he sees in his hometown, which is largely built near canals.
“Florida lawmakers want same privacy as cops and judges, but why?” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Senate Bill 832 would give lawmakers and Cabinet members the same level of secrecy granted to police officers and judges, making their home addresses, telephone numbers and dates of birth private. But while threats made against cops and judges are an occupational hazard, lawmakers supporting the bill offered no evidence that they needed the same protections. Regardless, a Florida Senate committee approved the bill Tuesday, along party lines, that would make secret the most basic details about state lawmakers.
— TODAY IN CAPITOL —
Among the bills up for consideration during the Senate floor session include SB 172 from Bradley, which seeks to block local regulation of over-the-counter drugs and cosmetics, 10:30 a.m., Senate Chamber.
On the agenda for the House floor session is HJR 301 from Reps. Brad Drake and Anthony Sabatini, which seeks to abolish the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, 3:30 p.m., House Chamber.
The Senate Military and Veterans Affairs and Space Committee meets, 8:30 a.m., Room 37, Senate Office Building.
The Senate Rules Committee meets, 8:30 a.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.
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 Local Administration Subcommittee meets, 8:30 a.m., Room 212, Knott Building.
The House Oversight, Transparency & Public Management Subcommittee meets, 8:30 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The House Higher Education & Career Readiness Subcommittee meets, 9:30 a.m., Room 306, House Office Building.
The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 12:30 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 12:30 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.
The House Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 12:30 p.m., Room 404, House Office Building.
The Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 1:30 p.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.
The Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 1:30 p.m., Room 37, Senate Office Building.
The Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 1:30 p.m., Room 412, Knott Building.
The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 4 p.m., Room 412, Knott Building.
The Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 4 p.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.
The Senate Finance & Tax Committee meets, 4 p.m., Room 401, Senate Office Building.
Assignment editors — Gruters and Rep. Chuck Clemens join retail owners and business leaders for a news conference calling for action on SB 126 and HB 159 — which require the collection of online sales tax — 9 a.m., Senate Chamber, 4th-floor Rotunda.
Assignment editors — Rep. Kimberly Daniels will join other lawmakers for a news conference on HB 6507, which would compensate Clifford Williams for his forty-three years of wrongful incarceration in Florida’s criminal justice system, 11:30 a.m., Room 333, The Capitol.
Assignment editors — Rep. Tyler Sirois will hold a news conference highlighting HB 389, which would allow local pharmacists to test and treat Influenza and Streptococcus, 1 p.m., in front of the House Chamber, 4th-floor Rotunda.
Assignment editors — The ‘Floridians Unite for Health Care’ coalition will hold a news conference on HB 607, relating to Advanced Practice Registered Nurses and physician assistants to practice independently, 2 p.m., in front of the House Chamber, 4th-floor Rotunda.
— GOV. CLUB BUFFET —
Chicken tortilla soup; mixed garden salad with dressings; yucca salad; jalapeño corn salad; deli board with lettuce, tomatoes, cheeses and breads; chicken enchiladas; grilled Mexican salmon with black bean and avocado salsa; mojo pork; cilantro and lime rice; corn with peppers and onions; sweet plantains; and caramel flan for dessert.
— STATEWIDE —
“Faculty members held jobs in China while working for UF, report says” via Justine Griffin of the Tampa Bay Times — For years while he taught at the University of Florida, a veteran chemistry professor also worked for a Chinese university and rose to be a vice president of that school in 2017. He told none of this to his bosses at UF. Known for now as “Faculty 1,” his story is part of a legislative report that contains explosive new information about the widening investigation into foreign interference in the nation’s academic research. The report details how the faculty members participated in Chinese recruitment programs, worked directly for Chinese research institutions and accepted research grants from China — all without the required disclosures to UF or the federal government providing them with grant money.
“Recreational marijuana supporters fire back” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Lawyers for the political committee Make It Legal Florida filed a 51-page brief urging the Florida Supreme Court to sign off on the proposed amendment. The filing came after lawyers for Attorney General Ashley Moody, the House and the Senate argued that the Supreme Court should reject the amendment, at least in part because it wouldn’t inform voters that marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Make It Legal Florida said in its brief that Moody, the House, the Senate, and other opponents are raising “policy-driven criticisms” that are not a basis for the Supreme Court to reject the proposed amendment.
“Electric scooters thrive in Florida as they vanish from some other parts of U.S.” via David Lyons of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Customer demand remains strong in Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Orlando and Tampa, says Lime, one of the scooter companies. “In the state of Florida, we’ve had over 900,000 trips and out of those trips, we have had over 1 million miles traveled,” said Uhriel Bedoya, Florida general manager for Lime. Bedoya said he likes the company’s prospects in Florida because of a continued increase in ridership. But that differs from Lime’s performance elsewhere: The company has halted service to four U.S. cities and eight abroad, saying growth in those locations was too slow. Earlier this month, after setting up shop in 15 countries and more than 120 cities worldwide, management announced it would leave Atlanta, Phoenix, San Diego and San Antonio.
“Airbnb reports that 2019 rent topped $1 billion in Florida” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — In 2019, the company’s vacation rental home clients combined to receive $1.2 billion in supplemental income through the rental of vacation rentals to 6.6 million guests to the state in 2019. That far surpassed the 2018 numbers of a combined $810 million in vacation rental home income from 4.5 million guests drawn to rent properties through Airbnb’s platforms. The figures mirror the record-setting pace of travel and tourism in Florida. “Last year demonstrated another strong year of growth for Airbnb in the Sunshine State as more Florida homeowners than ever embraced the incredible economic opportunity that home-sharing offers and guests took advantage of unique and affordable options on the platform,” Tom Martinelli, Florida policy director for Airbnb, stated in a news release.
— MOTHER NATURE —
“Florida wades into creating task force on sea-level rise” via Bobby Caina Calvan of The Associated Press — After years of mostly ignoring climate change, Florida lawmakers waded more in-depth into the matter advancing a proposal that would create a statewide Office of Resiliency and establish a task force to begin looking into how best to protect the state’s 1,350 miles of coastline from rising oceans. With DeSantis exerting political muscle behind the effort, environmentalists see an opportunity to begin addressing the problem, even if they say the current legislative proposals fall short of a comprehensive response to climate change. The legislation would establish an Office of Resiliency headed by the Governor’s chief resilience officer, who he appointed last summer as part of a broader effort to address the state’s environmental challenges.
“Reports: Flooding risks could devalue Florida real estate” via The Associated Press — Losses from flooding in Florida could devalue vulnerable homes by $30 billion to $80 billion, or about 15% to 35%, by 2050, according to a report from McKinsey Global Institute. Average annual losses for residential real estate due to storm surge from hurricanes could increase to about $3 billion to $4.5 billion by 2050, the McKinsey report said. Furthermore, the impact of a 100-year-storm event could be even more devastating over time, going from $35 billion today to between $50 billion and $75 billion by 2050. A separate report from the climate-risk analytics firm Jupiter Intelligence said the percentage of vulnerable oceanfront properties affected by extreme flooding would rise in Miami-Dade County from 5% in 2019 to 98% by 2050.
“Blue-green algae toxin: People along St. Lucie River breathed it in, but didn’t pee it out” via Tyler Treadway of TCPalm — Exposure to toxic blue-green algae can cause immediate symptoms such as a runny nose, watery eyes and trouble breathing. But no one knows what concentration of the toxin and what length of exposure triggers health problems. Researchers from Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute studied 86 people who lived and worked around the St. Lucie River during the massive blue-green algae blooms in the summer of 2018 and found the toxin microcystin in all their noses. Since then, scientists at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tested newly developed microcystin detecting methods and determined the toxin was in the urine of just three of the 86 people studied.
“This harpoon-throwing robot is designed to hunt destructive lionfish” via Sara Kiley Watson of Popular Science — The lionfish first made its way from the South Pacific to the Sunshine State in the 1980s as a popular aquarium pet. It now reigns terror up and down the eastern United States and Bermuda. Wildlife agencies have learned firsthand that the only way to tackle lionfish populations is by spearing them. Florida’s answer to this dilemma? A remotely operated vehicle (ROV) that uses a harpoon gun to exterminate its ruffly target. The “reef sweeper” is designed to snag lionfish lurking well below the water’s surface. On land, a trained employee uses a joystick to home in on the target, almost like in a video game.
— PEACHY —
“And the White House defense is … well, there isn’t one” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — The hour of 1 p.m., the designated time for the start of Trump’s impeachment trial, came and went. Chief Justice John Roberts was in the Capitol, cooling his heels. But the Senate remained in recess. Half an hour later, we found out why: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Senate Republicans had been rewriting the trial rules on the fly, minutes before bringing them to the floor for a vote. They are quite literally making things up as they go along.
“Val Demings makes case for impeachment documents” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — In a 47-minute argument she made on the impeachment trial’s first day, Demings made a plea for four specific sets of documents that had been referenced in the U.S. House impeachment investigation hearings, but never provided by Trump’s administration. Demings, one of seven House managers making the impeachment case for the Democrats, told the 100 Senators that the impeachment trial should see text messages and WhatsApp messages; emails; diplomatic cables; and personal notes involving several witnesses at the House impeachment hearings, and discussed by them in those hearings. In each of those cases, the House Intelligence Committee subpoenaed the documents. And in all he the cases the U.S. State Department refused to turn them over, under Trump’s orders, Demings said.
“Demings: Americans understand abuse of power” via Norah O’Donnell of CBS News —
“Adam Schiff may have mischaracterized Lev Parnas evidence, documents show” via Melanie Zanona of POLITICO — House Intelligence Chairman Schiff appears to have mischaracterized a text message exchange between two players in the Ukraine saga — a possible error the GOP will likely criticize as another example of the Democrats’ rushed effort to impeach Trump. The issue arose when Schiff sent a letter to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler summarizing a trove of evidence from Parnas, an indicted former associate of Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. In one section of the letter, Schiff claims that Parnas “continued to try to arrange a meeting with President [Volodymyr] Zelenskiy,” citing a specific text message exchange where Parnas tells Giuliani: “trying to get us mr Z.” The remainder of the exchange — attached to Schiff’s letter — was redacted.
“Pat Toomey’s Senate ‘candy desk’ may prevent hangry lawmakers during impeachment” via Laura Olson of The Morning Call — Filling the desk with bag after bag of donated candy could run afoul of Senate ethics rules about gifts to lawmakers. But the candy stash falls into an exception allowing donations of products made in a Senator’s home state, as long as those products are made widely available. With more than 200 confectionery companies operating in Pennsylvania, there’s plenty of variety for keeping the desk stocked. Toomey spokesman Steve Kelly said the current lineup includes Hershey’s bars with almonds, Rolo caramels, Milky Ways, 3 Musketeers bars, Palmer Peanut Butter Cups, and Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, manufactured by Lehigh Valley-based Just Born.
“CBS’ early exit shows decisions networks face on impeachment” via David Bauder of The Associated Press — CBS was the first major network to break away from Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate, allowing its viewers to watch their regular afternoon fare instead of a debate over a proposed amendment to subpoena White House documents. The decision illustrated the on-the-fly judgments television executives would be facing every day of the trial, juggling concerns over millions of dollars in advertising revenue, news purists cognizant of the weight of history and angry soap opera fans. Uncertainty over the Senate’s schedule from hour to hour, much less day to day, complicates things even further. The decisions were easier when ABC, CBS and NBC dominated the landscape and were very mindful of their public service responsibility.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Donald Trump in Davos: Talking up the economy, brushing off impeachment” via Darlene Superville of the Orlando Sentinel — Trump’s two-day stay in Davos is a test of his ability to balance anger over being impeached with a desire to project leadership on the world stage. He reminded the audience of business and government leaders: “I told you that we had launched the great American comeback.” In fact, Trump’s depictions of the U.S. economy as in the greatest shape ever overstate progress during his tenure. The economy grew 2.9% in 2018 — the same pace it reached in 2015 under Barack Obama — and hasn’t hit historically high growth rates. Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said Trump’s “sotto voce message to the American voter was: ‘Look, they’re arguing in Washington about me, but I’m here talking up your jobs.’
“Trump threatens Europe with fresh tariffs in Davos, deepening a rift with longtime U.S. allies” via Heather Long of the New York Times — President Trump renewed his threat to put hefty tariffs on European cars Tuesday at the World Economic Forum, promising hardball tactics if trade negotiations do not go his way. Just days after Trump scored wins with China, Mexico and Canada, the move highlighted how Trump is quickly pivoting to make Europe the next front in his protectionist trade war.
“Supreme Court won’t hear Obamacare case before election” via Susannah Luthi of POLITICO — The Supreme Court rejected Democrats’ plea to consider a legal challenge that could kill Obamacare, punting a resolution in the case until after the presidential election. The decision deals a blow to Democrats’ hopes to elevate the issue in 2020, but it will come as a relief to Trump and Republicans. A coalition of blue states and the House of Representatives, which are defending the Affordable Care Act in the lawsuit, had pressed the high court to intervene after a federal appeals court last month refused to rule on the law’s constitutionality and sent the case back to a federal judge in Texas who had earlier issued a ruling knocking out the entire law.
“Did Marco Rubio hire a Big-Sugar tycoon’s grandson as an intern?” via Jerry Iannelli of the Miami New Times — There appears to be yet another connection between Rubio and the Fanjul family, albeit one the politician doesn’t want to discuss. A photo on Twitter reveals that the Senator’s latest crop of interns includes someone by the name of Pepe Fanjul. Though it’s unclear which Pepe Fanjul that could refer to, Pepe Fanjul Sr. has an 18-year-old grandson named Jose Pepe “Peps” Fanjul III, who appears to be finishing his senior year at Deerfield Academy, a prestigious prep school in western Massachusetts. The photo raises a very simple question: Did Rubio hire the scion of one of his largest political donors — a family already accused of gaming politics to benefit itself — to work in his office?
“Local governments reimbursed $3.9M for Trump security” via Antonio Fins of the Palm Beach Post — U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel said federal officials have reimbursed the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, West Palm Beach Police Department, and Town of Palm Beach $3.9 million for protecting Trump during his visits to the county between November 2018 and April 2019. “Trump’s many trips to Mar-a-Lago have a significant impact on local budgets,” Frankel said in a statement. “This money will provide much-needed relief. I will continue working with colleagues to make sure our community is provided with appropriate, timely federal compensation as long as the President continues to call Palm Beach his home.”
“Why are Bill Nelson’s leftover campaign bucks going to his friend instead of charity?” via Noah Pransky of Florida Politics — Instead of contributing the money to charity or another political organization, Nelson gave his campaign treasurer a raise and continued to pay her $126,000 last year for “compliance consulting,” according to federal filings. The $126,000 paid to his treasurer, Peggy Gagnon, via her company Auditech Associates, is a significant increase from the payments she received from the Nelson campaign in 2018 when the campaign had millions of dollars in donations and expenses to keep track of each month. Nelson’s campaign also reported spending $500 per month in the 13 months since the election on a series of cellphones and $6,000 per month for much of 2019 on “donation consulting,” even though few donations were actually made.
— 2020 —
“Hillary Clinton on Bernie Sanders: ‘nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him’” via Rashaan Ayesh of Axios — In an interview about Hulu’s forthcoming “Hillary,” the former Secretary of State didn’t let up about her 2016 primary opponent, claiming that Sanders “got nothing done.” and calling him “a career politician. It’s all just baloney and I feel so bad that people got sucked into it.” On possibly endorsing Sanders: “I’m not going to go there yet. We’re still in a very vigorous primary season. I will say, however, that it’s not only him, it’s the culture around him. It’s his leadership team. It’s his prominent supporters. It’s his online Bernie Bros and their relentless attacks on lots of his competitors, particularly the women.”
“The voters torn between Sanders and Joe Biden” via Evan Halper and Janet Hook of The Los Angeles Times — Both campaigns believe there is a swath of voters — mostly white, working-class voters, including those who voted for Trump in 2016 after backing Barack Obama twice — who are torn between Biden and Sanders, the race’s old-timers. Both men’s campaigns are fishing in that electoral pond as each candidate looks to expand his base in a tight contest. “There are a lot of working-class voters who are up for grabs, and it is increasingly Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders who they are deciding between,” said Ro Khanna, a co-chair of the Sanders campaign. “The more working class, the better Bernie does. And that is where we run into contention with Biden.”
“As primary voting nears, Biden remains strong with black Democrats” via Joshua Jamerson and Ken Thomas of The Wall Street Journal — The former Vice President holds a 17-percentage-point advantage over his 2020 rivals in South Carolina, according to an average of polls compiled by Real Clear Politics. Iowa and New Hampshire, however, both lack a clear front-runner, and Biden is bunched up in a tight race with Sanders, Warren and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Buttigieg. Nationally, some 33% of black Democratic primary voters are backing Biden, according to a January poll by Quinnipiac University. Sanders was 9 percentage points behind at 24% support, while Warren was at 8%. Some 12% of black Democrats said they didn’t know whom they would support.
“Biden picks up more Congressional Black Caucus backing as Frederica Wilson, Alcee Hastings endorse” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Kamala Harris’ loss is Biden’s gain in Florida. Biden, the former vice president and a current front-runner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, announced endorsements from Democratic U.S. Reps. Wilson and Hastings, South Florida members of the Congressional Black Caucus who’d previously endorsed Harris. Harris, a U.S. senator from California, dropped out of the Democratic primary in early December. The endorsements reinforce Biden’s standing with black voters. And they deepen Biden’s large stable of surrogates in Florida, a delegate-rich primary state and a critical general election battleground that could prove pivotal to Trump’s reelection campaign.
“In latest campaign ad, Mike Bloomberg calls for Senate removal of Trump” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Bloomberg released his new ad “Impeachment” on three national cable news networks and local stations in Florida, Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina, and Texas. The commercial shows Bloomberg appearing at what looks like a townhall-style gathering and declaring, “I am running to defeat Donald Trump. In 2016 I warned that Donald Trump was a dangerous demagogue, and when the Republican Congress wouldn’t hold him accountable, I went to work helping run winning campaigns in 21 House seats.” As he makes that boast, a headline from The New York Times appears reading, “How Michael Bloomberg Used His Money to Aid Democratic Victories in the House.”
To view the ad, click on the image below:
“Lois Frankel: No endorsement for President, but she’s all in on a VP” via Antonio Fins of the Palm Beach Post — The West Palm Beach Democrat reiterated that she has not yet endorsed a Democrat ahead of Florida’s March 17 presidential primary. But she knows who she would like to see in the role of vice presidential running mate: Fellow Congresswoman Val Demings from Central Florida. “They say Stacy Abrams, but I’m with Val Demings all the way,” said Frankel, who called the former Orlando police chief a friend. Demings was elected to the 10th congressional district seat representing the Orlando area in 2016. Her profile has risen steadily throughout the impeachment hearings, and she was named one of seven so-called House Managers who will prosecute the case against Trump in the U.S. Senate.
— THE TRAIL —
Happening today — Republican Darlene Swaffar will kick off her bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch in Florida’s 22nd Congressional District, 6 p.m., Biergarten, 309 Via De Palmas, Boca Raton.
Jason Brodeur set to qualify by petition in SD 9 — Former Republican Rep. Brodeur announced that his Senate District 9 campaign had submitted more than the required number of petitions to be eligible for the November 2020 ballot. “I’m happy we were able to qualify for the ballot by petition, with nearly 10 months to go until election day,” he said. “We’re building a strong grassroots organization with broad support from all corners of the district. As we knock on doors and talk with people in our community, we’re excited to see our message of common-sense conservative leadership resonate with voters. Our community deserves a fighter in Tallahassee, and we’re doing what we need to do to ensure we win in November 2020.” Brodeur is the only Republican seeking the seat. Several Democrats have filed, including Longwood lawyer Patricia Sigman, who has the party’s backing.
Leon County Sheriff endorses Allison Tant for HD 9 — Tant announced that Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil is supporting her campaign to succeed state Rep. Loranne Ausley in Tallahassee-based House District 9. McNeil said Tant “has been a fierce champion for our community and has done so much to help many throughout Tallahassee and the state of Florida. I cannot think of a better person to be our voice in the Florida Legislature than Allison Tant. I’m excited to campaign alongside her over the next year.” Tant, a former chair of the Florida Democratic Party, said she was “truly humbled to have the support of a dedicated public servant like Sheriff McNeil.”
Former Senate Majority Leader Peter Weinstein backs Maureen Porras in HD 105 — Porras, an immigration attorney competing as a Democrat in HD 105, secured the endorsement of Weinstein. “At a time when there is more politics than policy in Tallahassee, Maureen will provide a needed breath of fresh air,” Weinstein said. Porras is battling Javier Estevez for the Democratic nomination. She’s seeking to replace GOP Rep. Ana Maria Rodriguez, who is pursuing a Senate seat. “I am so grateful to have the support and guidance of such a formidable figure in Florida politics,” Porras said. “Peter has the knowledge, experience, and political acumen that can only come from decades of public service. I am proud to call him a friend and mentor and to receive his endorsement.”
— LOCAL —
“Florida’s Turnpike worker killed his boss after argument over politics, cops say” via Tess Sheets of the Orlando Sentinel — The employee, 28-year-old Mason Toney, was taken into custody on a murder charge following an hourslong search for him. He is accused of killing his boss, William Knight, 28, with a trowel shortly after the two arrived at work. Co-workers who witnessed the killing told authorities Toney and Knight are friends and drove to work together Monday morning. About 10:30 a.m., witnesses said they heard Knight yelling for help. When they ran toward him, they saw Toney standing over him as he lay on the ground. Toney was “repeatedly stabbing him with a trowel.” Witnesses began throwing things at Toney to get him to stop, but he then “began to advance on them with what they thought was a knife.”
“Politics and a power shift shake up downtown Miami agency as acting director resigns” via Daniel A. Varela of the Miami Herald — One week after former Miami Beach Commissioner John Elizabeth Alemán agreed to become acting director of Miami’s tax-funded Downtown Development Authority, she submitted her resignation to the board Tuesday morning. She is stepping down amid a flurry of change to power structures at the highest levels of Miami’s city government, shifts that influenced her decision. Her resignation also leaves a void in administrative leadership at the downtown agency two weeks before Super Bowl 54 comes to Miami, an internationally watched event that is supposed to highlight Miami’s downtown waterfront. The agency controls a $12 million budget fueled by taxes levied on 3.8 square miles of Miami’s urban waterfront.
“Taxpayers are spending millions to host Super Bowl 54. What are they getting in return?” via Rob Wile of the Miami Herald —For the next two weeks, South Florida will be an even more intense entertainment mecca than it usually is, and there would seem to be plenty of opportunities for businesses to take advantage of the Feb. 2 match-up. Although Miami’s Super Bowl host committee has not released an official economic-impact estimate, if last year’s game in Atlanta is any indication, the estimate could come in north of $500 million. But the game is coming at a cost, measuring at least eight figures, to taxpayers. Which may leave many of them asking: What’s in it for me?
“Miami sets ambitious emissions goal: carbon neutral by 2050. How to get there isn’t clear” via Alex Harris of the Miami Herald — The pledge will change everything from what city employees drive to how the city builds to how it powers itself. Miami became the first city in Florida and 96th in the world to join C40 Cities, an international climate organization that helps cities lower their carbon footprint. Mayor Francis Suarez, who signed the agreement, called it a moral imperative for the city to cut its emissions. Exactly how the city plans to go carbon neutral, a hefty goal for a large and car-centric community comes later. Miami’s Climate Ready Plan will tackle broad actions the city can take, like switching out gas-powered city cars for electric vehicles, installing more solar panels, and enforcing energy efficiency in city buildings.
“Dolphins announce new Formula One track and schedule as residents fight race plans” via Doug Hanks of the Miami Herald — Hoping to defuse a fight to kill Formula 1’s arrival at Hard Rock Stadium, the Miami Dolphins unveiled a new track design and schedule for the auto race that would drop a county roadway from the route and avoid overlap with local school times. A day before county commissioners are set to consider anti-F1 legislation, the Dolphins’ press office released the new rendering of the Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix race scheduled to arrive in May 2021 and return each year after that. Residents opposing the event call it a nuisance.
“Miami Herald to close production plant, move printing operations to Broward County” via the Miami Herald — The South Florida Sun-Sentinel will begin printing the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald at its Deerfield Beach facility starting April 26. The newspapers have been printed in Doral since the company moved from its downtown Miami headquarters in 2013. Aminda Marqués González, president, publisher and executive editor of the newspapers, said this “was a very difficult business decision reached after thoughtful analysis and deliberation. As you know, as more readers find their news online, demand for print is declining and publishers, including our sister publications across McClatchy, are consolidating their print operations.’’
“Orlando bank employees quit in mass exodus — and go work at a competitor the next day. A lawsuit ensues.” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — A mass exodus of Seacoast commercial banking employees took place after business hours on Dec. 26, with a dozen suddenly quitting without notice. One Seacoast executive was watching the new Star Wars movie on his holiday when he was notified of the resignations. Hours later, many of those employees already started working at the newly established One Florida Bank, Seacoast said in a lawsuit filed this month in federal court against One Florida and five ex-Seacoast executives. Before they left, some of the employees accessed Seacoast’s confidential information to apparently steal customers at their new jobs at One Florida, Seacoast alleged in the lawsuit.
— TOP OPINION —
“U.S. concern at Huawei isn’t bluff or bluster” via Marco Rubio for The Telegraph — When it comes to updating telecommunication networks to 5G, some countries are [using] Huawei, a Chinese state-directed company with a history of alleged intellectual property theft and enabling the spread of digital authoritarianism. Despite warnings from its own experts, I am alarmed to see the UK framing its decision on 5G as a false choice between Huawei today or lagging behind forever. Compelling market alternatives to Huawei exist. Democratic societies also cannot ignore Huawei’s complicity in China’s policy of mass internment in Xinjiang. Since 2014, it has collaborated with China’s public security forces to build surveillance systems in the region. There is also a simpler question at hand: Why rush toward Huawei, while there are other, safer options available?
— OPINIONS —
“Supreme Court’s Citizens United mistake just turned 10 years old. It’s time to reverse it.” via Ted Deutch for NBC News — Unlimited spending by corporations and billionaires doesn’t make elections fairer or protect free speech; it skews the playing field and diminishes the free speech rights of American voters. … The toxic influence of money in our elections touches every issue we face as a nation. And makes it harder to solve problems by empowering special interest groups. For example, over 90 percent of Americans want stronger background checks for gun purchases and 7 out of 10 want action to respond to climate change, but money in politics is a big reason why we can’t get it done.
“Florida provides perfect backdrop for GOP to offer serious climate action” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — With Republicans in control of both chambers of the state Legislature — as well as the Governor’s Office, and two other Florida Cabinet seats — GOP leaders rightfully feel like this is their home turf. It would nice if national Republican leaders started treating it that way. They should make it known that they understand, in no uncertain terms, that Florida — with its 1,200-plus miles of valuable coastline — is ground zero for the growing and costly threat of sea-level rise from a warming climate. That because of what’s happening in this politically crucial state, the time for debate is over. This is the time for action, and the money to back it up.
“Joe Henderson: Explanation of tweet by Ron DeSantis worse than tweet itself” via Florida Politics — DeSantis said he didn’t write the tweet about ex-felons that appeared under his name, the one declaring voting to be a “privilege.” I’ll take him at his word. The issue remains undecided, awaiting court rulings that will drag out who knows how long. DeSantis clearly doesn’t like Amendment 4, which was overwhelmingly approved in 2018 by Florida voters. They believed passage of the amendment would restore voting rights for felons who had completed their sentences. No doubt, most voters believed that meant when that person was released from jail. DeSantis said he didn’t support Amendment 4 because “it enfranchises violent felons.” Ehhhhh … no. However, it does is enfranchise everyone who believes a felon’s debt is never paid.
“Bill Galvano’s leadership on gun safety is politically risky, but more important, courageous” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Galvano is championing a bill that, among other things, would not close but would narrow Florida’s so-called gun-show loophole. Simply put, if you’re a licensed firearms retailer in Florida, you have to check and see if the guy who’s trying to buy a gun has been convicted of a felony, which in most cases means he isn’t allowed to buy a gun. No such requirement exists if that same guy goes to a gun show and buys a firearm from an unlicensed dealer. To the annoyance of the National Rifle Association, Senate Bill 7028 would change that. It’s not a perfect answer to the problem, for sure. But at least Galvano is looking for answers.
“The Florida Supreme Court ignored precedent and gutted Amendment 4. Now other rights are at risk.” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — It is no surprise the most conservative Florida Supreme Court in decades has joined Republican DeSantis and the Republican-controlled Legislature in ignoring the voters’ clear intent to automatically restore the voting rights of most felons who have completed their sentences. Even more concerning is how the court reached its opinion on Amendment 4 and what it could mean for other constitutional rights Floridians take for granted. What happens when this Florida Supreme Court gets the challenge to legislation likely to pass this year that would require minors to obtain parental consent for an abortion, when the court previously ruled that restriction violated the privacy amendment in the state Constitution? What happens when this Florida Supreme Court gets a challenge to the expanded private school tuition voucher program that became law last year, when the court previously ruled a similar voucher plan violated the state Constitution?
“Teachers belong on state Board of Education” via Mella Baxter for the Orlando Sentinel — Who do you want making decisions about your medical care? Doctors, right? Who do you want making decisions about the safety of your roads, vehicles, and buildings? Engineers, right? Who do you want making decisions about your children’s education? Teachers, right? Guess how many members of the Florida State Board of Education are educators? Zero! That’s right, not a single member of the Florida State Board of Education, the group that makes the rules for the education of your children, is a teacher. Not one member has an education degree. Not one member has any classroom teaching experience. Why on earth would you want people who have no background or experience in education making decisions about your children’s education?
“Secretive, million-dollar Florida agency served itself, not domestic violence victims” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Kudos to Rep. Juan Fernandez-Barquin and Sen. Aaron Bean for standing up to the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV). The lawmakers propose to strip FCADV of its cushy contract with the Department of Children & Families (DCF). The legislation was crafted with help from DCF and deserves to be passed swiftly and signed in to law by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Like many businesses blessed with not-for-profit tax status and a motherhood-and-apple pie kind of name, FCADV flew under the radar for decades. That changed, Bean said, when FCADV failed to cooperate with state auditors and the more than $750,000 annual salary paid to its longtime president & CEO, Tiffany Carr.
“Disabled families in Florida fear cuts — for good reason” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Families meet the state’s guidelines to qualify for help. They just don’t receive it. The average wait is around seven years. Some children die before getting help. I share all that with you as prologue to understand the fear these families have, now that Florida legislators have vowed to “reform” the system. I agree the system needs reform — especially if the goal, as lawmakers claim, is to serve more people. But usually, when Florida when legislators vow “reform,” it means citizens are about to get hosed. I agree changes are needed. But first, let’s acknowledge what this system really needs is proper funding — plain and simple.
“Carlos Guillermo Smith: Men should care about protecting abortion access, too” via Florida Politics — Men should be just as committed to reproductive rights as anyone else and, as an openly gay man in Florida, I know firsthand that my ability to live life as my authentic self is intrinsically tied to the reproductive freedom of ALL people. The idea of my sister being forced to carry an unplanned pregnancy to term enrages me. I don’t want to see a state where people are restricted from making their own personal medical decisions, or one where my own family member will face reproductive care barriers that have nothing to do with public health and everything to do with a political agenda. Abortion should be safe, affordable, and free from punishment or judgment.
— MOVEMENTS —
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Bill Rubin, Heather Turnbull, Melissa Akeson, Amy Bisceglia, Erica Chanti, Christopher Finkbeiner, Matthew Sacco, Rubin Turnbull & Associates: Aura
Travis Blanton, Johnson & Blanton: City of Deltona
Ron Book: Lotus Endowment Fund, Lotus House
Jacqueline Corcoran, Corcoran Partners: Teradata
Megan Fay, Kenneth Granger, Dean Izzo, Daniel Newman, Capital City Consulting: Florida Association of Health Plans, Memory Garden at Tanglewood, OZ, Take Stock in Children
— ALOE —
“SeaWorld shows off new roller coaster under construction” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — Brian Andrelczyk pointed out the places he hopes will move you on SeaWorld’s Ice Breaker, its first coaster in nearly three years. Where you feel the airtime as your body floats in your seat. Where you fear getting slammed by a column — only everything turns out fine, it’s just an illusion. Where you ride so low to the ground, you see the grass whizzing by, making you feel like you’re moving faster. Where the train goes through a launch, each time more powerful. “Once you’re off the ride, you’re going to be able to go, ‘Wow, that was that was a pretty big rush,'” said Andrelczyk, the park’s vice president of design and engineering.
— SUPER BOWL’ING —
“AT&T says more than $85M invested to boost network coverage during Super Bowl” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The network enhancements will not just be located at the stadium. AT&T is also touting upgrades throughout the Miami-Dade area. “When fans head to Miami to cheer on their team, we want to keep them connected to share and engage with their favorite experiences,” said Chris Sambar, EVP of Technology Operations. The company will upgrade the in-stadium Distributed Antenna System (DAS) and the stadium parking lot DAS with the aim of increasing capacity at the stadium by 300% from the start of the NFL season. Elsewhere, AT&T is upgrading or installing a new DAS at 29 different locations, “including hotels, airports, convention centers, arenas and more.”
“49ers-Chiefs FINALLY gives us a red vs. red Super Bowl” via Adam Stites of SBNation.com — The Kansas City Chiefs wear red and white with a little bit of yellow. The San Francisco 49ers wear red and white with a little more gold than the Chiefs’ yellow. Of course, it won’t be too hard to tell the teams apart on Super Bowl Sunday. One will wear their predominantly white jerseys while the other will wear red. The AFC is the designated home team — it alternates between conferences every year — so Kansas City stakes claim to the red jerseys. As for the 49ers, they will be donning their traditional white tops, gold bottom road uniforms. San Francisco is 2-0 in Super Bowls wearing that combination.
“From J. Lo ‘butt cleavage’ to MC Hammer, here are the weirdest Super Bowl prop bets” via Ryan Yousefi of the Miami New Times — With the help of the folks at SportsBettingDime and Bovada, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite Super Bowl LIV prop bets: Will Jennifer Lopez show butt cleavage during the halftime show? Yes (+500), No (-1,000); What color will the Super Bowl LIV Gatorade shower be? Lime/Green/Yellow (+275), Purple (+1,400); How many times will Alex Rodriguez be shown during the halftime show? Over 0.5 (+325), Under 0.5 (-550); Will MC Hammer say “Hammer time” in a Cheetos commercial? Yes (-200), No (+150); How many commercials will include a dog? Over 3.5 (-120), Under 3.5 (+120).
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to former Senate President Don Gaetz, Greg Black of Waypoint Strategies, Tim Center, and Dr. Jeff Sharkey of Capitol Alliance Group.
It’s not their birthday, but happy 31st anniversary to Debbie and Michael Millner.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.