Laura Loomer has a (slight) geography problem.
In a fundraising email, with the subject line “My Speech in the Senate Chamber,” the Republican provocateur — and candidate for Florida’s 21st Congressional District — touted an appearance Tuesday at The Capitol.
“Yesterday, something amazing happened!” she wrote. “I was invited to speak in the Florida Capitol on the floor of the Senate Chamber with Sen. Joe Gruters.”
The invitation was to speak in support of Gruters’ bill (SB 1266) to help people talk freely in the “digital public square” by eliminating what some consider a “liberal political bias” in Twitter, Facebook, and other massive social media companies.
Loomer spoke, claiming to be the “most banned, censored woman in the world.”
She also blamed her situation on “telling the truth … posting facts.”
That’s ironic because Loomer’s “Senate Chamber” speech didn’t take place on the Senate floor, or even in the Chamber itself. As a photo in the email clearly shows, she spoke at a news conference in the hall of the 4th-floor Rotunda.
Laura, that’s not quite the same. Details matter, as she knows all too well.
— TODAY’S SUNRISE —
The Senate Rules Committee celebrates the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision by approving a bill forcing minor girls to get permission from their parents if they want an abortion.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— The House votes to terminate the Constitution Revision Commission.
— A bill to overturn the ban on chemical sunscreens adopted by the City of Key West makes its first appearance on the Senate floor.
— Hearing from a man who spent 43 years in prison … including death row … for a crime he did not commit.
— The latest on Florida Man: A 57-year-old Pinellas Park man is accused of offering an undercover St. Petersburg cop a hamburger in exchange for oral sex.
To listen, click on the image below:
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@LarrySabato: A powerful presentation of the facts by Adam Schiff. What’s at stake? Only the future of the Presidency & our democracy. Meanwhile, Mr. Peanut, Gritty the mascot, & a Michael Che feud were trending on Twitter. Where there is no vision, the people perish.
—@SamanthaGross: Interesting fodder from today’s House Dems caucus meeting. Dem leader @says they’ll wait to take a caucus position on the parental consent abortion bill, even though the Senate bill heads for a floor vote next week and the House bill has been fast-tracked.
—@MDixon55: Filing a bunch of messaging amendments everyone knows won’t pass, but will ensure a late-night floor session is called “House Democrating” around these parts
—@JLFL_SPAC: has helped women find their voice for decades, but @MostBoringGirl needed no help. She’s a fighter and advocating for change that’ll help future state employees that are faced w devastating circumstances
— meagan hebel (@republimeg) January 22, 2020
— Taylor Patrick Biehl (@TaylorBiehl) January 22, 2020
—@TamaraLush: Cold winter makes Floridians unhinged and sickly. The people coughing in this coffee shop sound like the background noise in Plague, Inc. Had to switch seats because someone near me was coughing and wiping their nose on their sleeve. They were also studying medical textbooks
—@ChrisSpencerFL: With all this hubbub on Twitter about frozen iguanas coming back to life as they warm up, I am deeply disappointed that no one has yet used the term #Zombiguana
—@JohnNess: get rid of roman numerals and give Super Bowls names like winter storms get
The stage for the 2020 NFL Draft in Las Vegas will be on the water at the Fountains of Bellagio. The players will be transported to the stage by boat. pic.twitter.com/8sVl8p2ZBx
— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) January 21, 2020
— DAYS UNTIL —
Annual Red Dog Blue Dog Celebrity Bartender Benefit — 5; New Brexit deadline — 8; Super Bowl LIV in Miami — 10; Great American Realtors Day — 11; Iowa Caucuses — 11; Eighth Democratic presidential debate in Manchester — 16; Capitol Press Corps press skits — 19; New Hampshire Primaries — 19; Pitchers and catchers begin reporting for MLB Spring Training — 19; South Beach Wine and Food Festival — 27; Ninth Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas — 27; Roger Stone’s sentencing — 28; Nevada caucuses — 30; “Better Call Saul” Season 5 premiers — 31; 10th Democratic presidential debate in Charleston — 33; South Carolina Primaries — 37; Super Tuesday — 40; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 50; Florida’s presidential primary — 54; “No Time to Die” premiers — 74; Florida Chamber Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 113; “Top Gun: Maverick” premiers — 155; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 172; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premiers — 176; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo start — 183; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 208; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 214; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 258; First Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 266; Second presidential debate at Belmont — 273; 2020 General Election — 285.
— TOP STORY —
“Randall Hunt resigns as Florida Lottery Secretary” via Florida Politics — Hunt is leaving his job as Secretary of the Florida Lottery, just two months after Gov. Ron DeSantis named him to the post. Hunt sent a letter to DeSantis informing him of his decision. “After much consideration, reflection and discussion with my wife, we’ve made the determination that it is in our best interest to focus on our growing family and pursue the business opportunities that are currently presenting themselves,” the letter reads. DeSantis informed Senate President Bill Galvano of Hunt’s resignation, spokesperson Katie Betta said in a statement to Florida Politics. Hunt was named Lottery Secretary on Nov. 15. Previously, DeSantis had appointed him to serve on the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority.
— DATELINE: TALLY —
“Ron DeSantis defends Bill Galvano as Matt Gaetz and Donald Trump Jr. take aim” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida — DeSantis publicly rebutted charges from Trump Jr. that the Senate president is a fake Republican because he took money in 2018 from groups affiliated with presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg — a Democrat. DeSantis gave a forceful and unsolicited defense of Galvano after a dust-up in which Galvano’s support of a gun control bill prompted waves of criticism from fellow Republicans, including Trump Jr. and Rep. Gaetz. DeSantis came to Galvano’s defense, calling him “100% supportive of the president.” “Bill’s been a very strong supporter of a lot of great conservative policies,” DeSantis said.
“DeSantis ‘wary’ of exempting information” via News Service of Florida — Gov. DeSantis expressed some trepidation Wednesday about a Senate proposal that would create a public-records exemption for the home addresses, telephone numbers and dates of birth of members of the House, Senate and Cabinet, as well as the names, employers and birth dates of lawmakers’ spouses and children. “You elect someone, you kind of need to know where they live if they’re going to represent your community,” DeSantis said after an appearance Wednesday in Tallahassee. But DeSantis didn’t express support or opposition to the proposal (SB 832), which was approved Tuesday in a 4-3 vote by the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee and must go before two more committees. “I’m pretty wary about trying to exempt a lot of things,” he said.
Assignment editors — First Lady Casey DeSantis will make a major announcement, joined by Director of the Division of Emergency Management Jared Moskowitz and Department of Children & Families Secretary Chad Poppell, Bay County Emergency Operations Center, 700 Highway 2300, Southport.
“Jeanette Núñez talks census, guns, immigration & glass ceilings” via Lynn Hatter of WFSU — What is her thing is state policy. Núñez is leading the state’s census efforts as well as a slew of other things. Florida is among the last states to form a committee for the once-a-decade count that determines both federal funding and congressional representation. “We hope to capitalize in the hundreds of millions of dollars the federal government has assigned for this important role,” she said, “and also work with our local governments. Many of our local governments have embarked on this mission for quite some time.” As for E-Verify: “DeSantis was clear on his position. We will just continue to monitor what’s coming out of the Senate and the House.”
“Galvano confident in Senate’s ability to consider gun show loophole” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — On the eve of Session, the Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee took up SB 7028, one of Galvano’s priorities, at his behest. That committee unanimously passed the committee over the concerns of National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer, who called it “gun control on steroids.” “They did their job, they put it out, but I also have to have faith in the process, and I’ve told the Senators that they’re empowered, and I’m not going to micromanage from the fourth floor,” Galvano said. But the bill has yet been scheduled a hearing for its next committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee. Still, Galvano indicated his faith in Simmons’ committee to advance the bill.
“’Tourism Day’ fails to sway House Speaker” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — José Oliva appeared firm in his stance against VISIT FLORIDA as tourism officials, with the backing of DeSantis and Senate President Galvano, tried to showcase the importance of the industry. Oliva maintained his opposition to funding VISIT FLORIDA as “Florida Tourism Day” events took place in Tallahassee. Oliva has pushed to eliminate the agency, arguing that state money isn’t needed for tourism marketing. “I think statistically the evidence is the evidence,” Oliva told reporters. “Whether at the end it continues or not, I don’t think that will ever change my understanding of what the full role of marketing is and the amount of dollars that are involved and the role they play in that.”
“Lawmakers may hand out last-minute tax breaks — again — to companies” via Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel — Avis Budget Group Inc. 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.
“Florida cities sued opioid makers. Now lawmakers might go after the cities” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Lawmakers are considering cracking down on cities and counties that file lawsuits against big corporations, a response to those communities that are suing drug makers and manufacturers over the opioid epidemic. Former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum urged lawmakers during a Wednesday House committee meeting to discourage cities and counties from filing more lawsuits.”
Senate says THC cap is on the table — The Senate rejected House measures to cap THC in medical cannabis last Session. Still, Senate Budget Chief Rob Bradley said he was open to hearing more about the issue, Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida reports. Bradley, who sponsored the 2017 medical cannabis implementing bill, said he was neutral on the subject. “I’d like to hear more of it, it’s just that I’ve never sat through a meeting where they discussed the issue,” he said. No bill instituting a THC cap has been filed for the 2020 Legislative Session, though Rep. Ray Rodrigues, who pushed for the cap last year, said the House and Senate are discussing it. “It’s something that will be possible for the next 60 days,” the Estero Republican said.
“Uber enters auto insurance debate with 2020 legislative priorities” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — “Uber is one of the largest purchasers of auto insurance in the country,” said Uber Senior Public Policy Manager Stephanie Smith. “Florida is an outlier when it comes to high insurance costs and high rates of uninsured and underinsured drivers on the road.” Smith said there isn’t a single bill that directly relates to their top legislative priority this year, but there are three that address reform that the company is monitoring. Two bills come close. Sen. Tom Lee filed legislation (SB 378) that would set minimum coverage for bodily injury at $25,000. Rep. Erin Grall sponsored similar legislation (HB 771) in the House.
“Nurses finally get legislative support for independence” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Nurses, physician assistants and their supporters vouched for an independent practice bill, even as House Speaker Oliva was a no-show. The Floridians Unite for Health Care coalition, with backing from the Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) and the Florida Chamber, are supporting a longtime priority for nurses, HB 607. Rep. Cary Pigman, a medical doctor, has repeatedly filed the bill, and hopes this is the year it gets the green light. Now Oliva — expected to show at the rally before a last-minute change — has thrown his support behind it, too.
— LEGISLATION —
“Kelli Stargel’s parental consent for abortion bill cleared for Senate floor” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Senate Rules Committee approved SB 404 9-7. Florida already requires a parent to be notified before a minor obtains an abortion, which Stargel acknowledged has been working. But Stargel said consent would foster more discussion within the family. “I will say that the difference between what we have today … the subtle difference is consent involves the parent in the conversation of coming to a decision of what is the best thing to do and that they would agree upon that and consent upon that,” she said. Senate President Galvano praised Stargel for her “diligent” work in a statement. He added that the bill shows the importance of parental rights and combating infanticide.
“Bill targeting domestic violence nonprofit’s special status clears first hearing” via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald — A day after former state Sen. Denise Grimsley stepped down from her two-month stint as the interim president and CEO of the state’s largest domestic violence nonprofit organization, a House committee voted to do away with the state’s required partnership with the organization. The bill, put forward by Miami Republican Juan Fernandez-Barquin, removes the statute ensuring the contract between the Department of Children and Families and the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The proposal passed unanimously in the House Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee, the bill’s first stop. Fernandez-Barquin said he was told the bill is a “DCF priority” and that he hopes it allows the agency to have more freedom in providing domestic violence services.
“House votes to nix controversial Constitution Revision Commission” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — The House passed two bills poised to eliminate the appointed commission, despite Democratic qualms that the moves were a bridge too far. HJR 301 and HB 303, filed by Rep. Brad Drake, respectively would repeal the CRC and remove statutory references. HJR 301 passed 93-25. HB 303, a technical bill, passed 96-23. “I promised that I would take that idea back to Tallahassee and work on it,” Drake said. That process took two Sessions.
“New water pollution rules advance in Senate” via Zac Anderson of the USA TODAY Florida Capital Bureau — A wide-ranging water quality bill that was praised by both environmental activists and industry cleared a Florida Senate committee Wednesday. The bill would impose new regulations on polluters, a departure for a Legislature that has been averse to strict new environmental standards. It is a top priority for Gov. DeSantis, who mentioned the legislation in his State of the State speech last week. The measure received unanimous support from the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment and General Government. It also was backed by groups ranging from Audubon Florida to agriculture interests and the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “It blows me away really to see that kind of support,” said Sen. Ben Albritton.
“To get free tuition, graduates would agree to work in Florida under new bill” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A bill that would create a new “Sunshine Scholarship” for students from low- and moderate-income families passed through committees in both chambers. The scholarship would pay for any tuition and fees of community colleges or public career colleges that were not already covered by other forms of financial aid. “This would be a last-dollar scholarship,” said state Rep. Shervin Jones one of the bill’s sponsors. To qualify, a student would have to be a Florida resident with a high school diploma or equivalent and come from a family whose income is $50,000 or less. Students who accept the money would have to stay in Florida after graduation to work the same amount of time they received the aid.
“Jamie Grant-backed ‘union-busting’ bill clears first committee” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — A controversial bill affecting union membership cleared the first of its two committee stops. The bill (HB 1), sponsored by Grant, would require public employees who wish to join a union to sign a membership authorization form and for employers to verify the employee’s intent before any union dues can be collected for membership purposes. It would also require employees to reauthorize membership annually. Grant’s bill would also require unions to terminate membership upon written request from the employee and bar them from asking questions about why the member chose to sever its relationship. The bill passed along party lines.
“Senate condemns Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega” via The Associated Press — The vote comes after Democratic Sen. José Javier Rodriguez said Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, resorted to election fraud to consolidate power, and then turned to violence to repress anti-government protests starting in April 2018. “Ortega and Murillo responded with violence and brutal repression. Hundreds have been killed and thousands wounded as a result. They’ve exiled, jailed, or killed anyone considered to be opposing them,” Rodriguez said. The resolution itself says government forces beat detained protesters and, in some cases, tortured them through waterboarding, electric shock, acid burns, removal of fingernails and rape.
“Florida cities sued opioid makers. Now lawmakers might go after the cities.” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida lawmakers are considering cracking down on cities and counties that file lawsuits against big corporations, a response to those communities that are suing drug makers and manufacturers over the opioid epidemic. Former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum urged lawmakers during a Wednesday House committee meeting to discourage cities and counties from filing more lawsuits. “Going forward we’re going to have a big mess. We already have a big mess,” McCollum said, referencing the amount of litigation. “It’s a problem I recommend you address now.” The litigation, usually farmed out to trial lawyers, seeks to recoup the costs of an epidemic that has killed more than 10,000 Floridians and required cities and counties to spend millions responding to overdoses and buying life-saving drugs.
“‘I am a solid no.’ Florida GOP chairman shuns bill to expand gun background checks amid conservative backlash” via Skyler Swisher of the Sun-Sentinel — An influential state senator and chairman of Florida’s Republican Party says he is a “solid no” on expanding gun background checks as Donald Trump Jr. and other conservatives heap scorn on the state’s Senate leader for embracing the idea. State Sen. Joe Gruters doubts the measure has the votes it needs to pass, despite getting support from Republican Senate President Bill Galvano. “I am a solid no,” Gruters said. “We’ll see what happens, but in its present form, I would expect it will have a very hard time moving through the process.” His comments come as conservatives and gun-rights supporters are on the defensive in Florida and other states where guns are being debated.
— TODAY IN CAPITOL —
The Senate Special Order Calendar Group meets to set a special-order calendar, listing bills for hearing on the Senate floor, 15 minutes after the Senate Appropriations Committee meets, Room 401, Senate Office Building.
The Joint Select Committee on Collective Bargaining meets for a public discussion of issues with state workers., 2:30 p.m., Room 412, Knott Building.
The House Commerce Committee, 9:30 a.m., Room 212 Knott Building.
The House Public Integrity & Ethics Committee, 9:30 a.m., Room 404, House Office Building.
The House State Affairs Committee, 9:30 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The Senate Appropriations Committee, 10 a.m., Room 412, Knott Building.
The House Education Committee, noon, Reed Hall, House Office Building.
The House Health & Human Services Committee, noon, Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The House Judiciary Committee, noon, Room 404, House Office Building.
The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee, 2:30 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee, 2:30 p.m., Room 306, House Office Building.
The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee, 2:30 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.
The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, 2:30 p.m., Room 404, House Office Building.
The House Rules Committee, 5 p.m., Room 404, House Office Building.
Healthcare Risk Management to hold Advocacy Day — The Florida Society for Healthcare Risk Management and patient safety professionals from across the will be visiting The Capitol to advocate for Florida’s patients. One of the featured topics is a recently published report relating to Florida’s outcomes safety relative to comparable states and the importance of health care risk managers. According to their research, Florida’s health care risk managers have helped the state achieve fewer adverse events, lower hospital-associated infections, and developing more top-ranked hospitals than California, Texas, and New York.
— GOV. CLUB BUFFET —
Split pea and ham soup; mixed garden salad with dressings; marinated vegetable salad; tropical fruit salad; deli board with lettuces, tomatoes, cheeses and breads; grilled breast of chicken with rosemary-honey mustard sauce; hearty beef stew; blackened red drum on Cajun cream with shrimp; roasted red bliss potatoes; Southern-style succotash; cauliflower polonaise; assorted hand pies for dessert.
— STATEWIDE —
“DeSantis, Defense Secretary meet on Pensacola attack” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Speaking to reporters after a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper at Naval Air Station Pensacola, DeSantis called post-attack steps — from increased screening to the removal of 21 Saudi military students, including 12 at NAS Pensacola — “very, very significant.” “Look, there’s a great thing with relationships we’ve built throughout the world, with different countries,” DeSantis said. “You look at a country like Egypt, a lot of the people that came through and then trained in America are some of the people now in positions who are very pro-American. At the same time, though, you know, we cannot be bringing people over here who want to do things like this with our country.”
“New security measures include continuous vetting of foreign military trainees after arrival” via Kevin Robinson of the Pensacola News Journal — The military is implementing new security measures for foreign trainees, including a key card access system, continuous vetting and other measures intended to enhance the safety of American military personnel and their families, the U.S. Secretary of Defense said during a visit to Naval Air Station Pensacola. On Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper updated NAS Pensacola’s leadership on a suite of new security protocols that will be going into effect nationwide in the coming weeks and months. The changes are in response to the Dec. 6 shooting by a Royal Saudi Air Force aviation trainee that claimed the lives of three service members.
Assignment editors — DeSantis will participate in a roundtable discussion with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, 9 a.m., Four Points Sheraton, 3570 NW 7th Avenue, Miami.
“Florida residents hit with big tax penalties inspiring bill to change homestead exemption rules” via Zac Anderson of the USA TODAY Florida Capital Bureau — After three and a half years of trying to fight the government, Florida resident David Fitts gave up recently and wrote a check for more than $11,000 to pay off back taxes, penalties and fees stemming from an accusation that he improperly claimed permanent residency — and property tax breaks — in both Florida and Ohio. Fitts still maintains he did nothing wrong, and even Florida judges who have ruled against him say they’re sympathetic to his argument that he had no knowledge of the Ohio tax break, which was granted because of a title company’s error. Now a pair of state lawmakers are trying to rewrite Florida’s homestead tax exemption rules, so the law does not penalize homeowners who find themselves in similar situations going forward.
“UF: Former faculty did not disclose China affiliations” via Emily Mavrakis of the Gainesville Sun — A University of Florida chemistry professor who worked in Gainesville for 24 years simultaneously served as vice president of a Chinese university, got federal funding from China and ran a business — all without UF’s knowledge.
“FHA launches webinar series focused on worker resilience” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The Florida Hospital Association has launched a “Workforce Resilience Webinar Series” for hospital employees. The series is geared toward front-line caregivers, nurses, physicians, volunteers and affiliates. The curriculum is aimed at addressing burnout among health care providers, which is “alarmingly high.” FHA said many in the health care industry believe burnout, coupled with a lack of employee engagement, contribute to high turnover rates. Some workers may even exit the industry altogether. The 12-month series will be led by expert Bryan Sexton, Ph.D., an associate professor and director of the Duke Center for Healthcare Safety & Quality at Duke University Health System.
“WellCare-Centene merger poised for completion” via the News Service of Florida — The multibillion-dollar merger between Tampa-based WellCare Health Plans and Centene Corp. is expected to close after meeting all regulatory requirements, the managed-care companies announced. The $17.3 billion merger, announced in March, will combine two of the most significant players in Florida’s Medicaid managed-care system. The St. Louis-based Centene’s purchase of WellCare was subject to approvals by numerous state and federal agencies. “We are pleased to achieve this milestone and look forward to closing our acquisition of WellCare and providing more members and communities access to high-quality health care,” Michael F. Neidorff, Centene’s chairman, president and chief executive officer, said in a prepared statement.
— PEACHY —
“‘These words will live in infamy’: Democrats make case against Donald Trump in impeachment trial” via Bart Jansen, Nicholas Wu and Christal Hayes of USA Today — The seven House Democrats who are prosecuting the Senate trial against Trump provided a broad overview of their case Wednesday and then took turns walking methodically through the evidence they gathered to accuse the president of abuse of power. The lead manager, Intelligence Chairman Schiff, spent about two hours delivering an overview of the case based on Trump pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rival while withholding crucial military aid. Schiff told senators that convicting Trump and removing him from office is urgent because, left unchecked, he could invite more foreign interference with the 2020 election. “For precisely this reason, the President’s misconduct cannot be decided at the ballot box — for we cannot be assured that the vote will be fairly won,” Schiff said.
“Trump impeachment: Marco Rubio, Rick Scott on same side, with different approaches, styles” via Christine Stapleton of the Palm Beach Post — They have little in common when it comes to their style and message about Democrats’ efforts to remove Trump from office. Rubio shies away from smug lingo in his tweets. He does not defend the president on either his official U.S. Senate Twitter account or his personal account. Instead, he takes broad swipes Democrats’ relentless efforts to get rid of Trump and the media for focusing so much attention on it. However, Scott jumped on the opportunity to declare Trump innocent about an hour after the House impeached the president on Dec. 18. Since then, Scott has repeatedly decried impeachment proceedings as a “3-ring circus” and “joke” in more than 37 tweets and over 20 television and radio appearances.
“Matt Gaetz sees ‘brush back’ in being kept off Trump’s impeachment team” via POLITICO — Gaetz was in the mix to become one of Trump’s impeachment advisors, a group of House Republicans who are expected to assist the White House with messaging and strategy throughout the Senate impeachment trial. But Gaetz — a conservative firebrand who caught Trump’s eye through his feisty appearances and memorable soundbites on cable news — did not make the final list, which ultimately included eight other House Republicans. Gaetz said he wasn’t sure why he didn’t make the cut. But Gaetz said he heard from someone in the White House that legislative affairs director Eric Ueland was “responsible for the brush back.”
“How a Russian disinfo op got Trump impeached” via Natasha Bertrand of POLITICO — “Ukraine seriously complicated the work of Trump’s election by planting information” aimed at damaging his campaign chairman Paul Manafort, a spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry told reporters on Nov. 30, 2016. Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova noted in her briefing that a smattering of Ukrainian officials had criticized him during the campaign. “You probably remember that Ukrainian officials and diplomatic representatives abroad did not express their views or political assessments but openly insulted the person whom the American people elected their president. You may remember that they later tried to delete these statements from their social networks accounts and their sites, saying that they had been wrong and had rushed to conclusions,” she said.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Trump roars, and Davos shrugs” via John Harris, Florian Eder and Ryan Heath of POLITICO — Trump came back this year and was greeted with a shrug. Make no mistake; all the standard elements of the Trump tornado were on display. There was his keynote address boasting about how well the U.S. economy is doing on his watch. There was a blizzard of meetings with foreign leaders and U.S. finance and tech CEOs, at which he reportedly said he wished he owned stock in their firms because of how much money he had made them. The big difference was the way most people at Davos, including Americans but especially the non-Americans, were responding to this flamboyant but familiar show. The consensus reaction: Whatever.
Assignment editors — As Trump delivers remarks at his Miami hotel for a meeting of the Republican National Committee, U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala joins state Sen. José Javier Rodríguez, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Western Hemisphere Dr. Frank Mora, and Latino Victory board member Leopoldo Martinez Nucete at the Freedom Tower to criticize the administration’s “broken promises to the Cuban and Venezuelan communities,” 12:30 p.m., Freedom Tower, 600 Biscayne Blvd, Miami.
“Scott warns CDC not to trust China, be on high alert for coronavirus” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Scott, a frequent and staunch critic of China, wrote in a letter to CDC Director Robert Redfield that China, the source of a coronavirus outbreak that has infected hundreds and killed some, “does not play straight with us.” “The United States cannot risk an outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus. We cannot put our citizens at risk, and we must do everything we can to contain any cases,” Scott wrote. One case has been reported in the United States is a man who returned home to Washington state after traveling in China. “We all must be on high alert,” he said.
“U.S. to impose visas restrictions for pregnant women” via Matthew Lee and Colleen Long of The Associated Press — The Trump administration is coming out Thursday with new visa restrictions aimed at restricting “birth tourism,” in which women travel to the U.S. to give birth so their children can have a coveted U.S. passport. Visa applicants deemed by consular officers to be coming to the U.S. primarily to give birth will now be treated like other foreigners coming to the U.S. for medical treatment, according to State Department guidance sent Wednesday and viewed by The Associated Press. The applicants will have to prove they are coming for medical treatment, and they have the money to pay for it. The rules will take effect Friday.
— 2020 —
“Trump is attracting a new crop of big donors, including many who have never given before” via Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Anu Narayanswamy of The Washington Post — Trump’s vaunted political money machine is helping drive record sums to the Republican National Committee, and not just from the same donors who supported him in 2016. Enticed by exclusive gatherings and ecstatic about the president’s tax cuts, an eclectic new crop of donors is going all in, giving five and six figures to support his reelection. Their ranks include investors in a South Florida hot yoga studio, a Nigerian American real estate developer in Dallas, and the head of a trucking business in Los Angeles. They have been joined by veteran GOP donors who have returned to the fold after sitting out Trump’s 2016 campaign.
“Bernie Sanders gains in poll as he pauses campaigning for impeachment” via Laura Davison of Bloomberg — Among registered Democrats, 27% said they are most likely to back the Vermont Senator, an increase from a month ago, according to the poll conducted Jan. 16-19. Former Vice President Joe Biden came in second with 24% of respondents, although the difference is within the poll’s margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.4 percentage points, meaning there is no clear leader. Sanders and Biden were followed by Elizabeth Warren, who like Sanders, left the campaign trail and returned to Washington for the Senate impeachment trial of Trump. Warren had 14%, followed by Pete Buttigieg with 11%. About 5% of the poll respondents said they were likely to support Bloomberg, a figure that is unchanged from the previous month.
“Cindy Polo one of two dozen Florida women backing Elizabeth Warren for President” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — “As a proud daughter of Hialeah, I know far too well what it means to have elected officials who don’t work for their communities, but instead do the bidding of special interests,” Polo said in a statement. “This election year, we deserve more than a president who claims to understand the needs of the people of our country. We need someone who has lived them and stood up and fought to address them. As we face the most critical election of our lifetime, I am proud to endorse Sen. Elizabeth Warren for President of the United States. Sen. Warren’s campaign highlights the communities and issues that most need our attention.”
“National Democratic Party boosting staff in Florida and five other battleground states” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The idea behind “Battleground Build-Up 2020” is to have an organization ready to go in critical states to turn over to the party’s eventual nominee, rather than wait to staff up and rent offices after the nominee is selected. Florida is the largest of the six states. The Sunshine State is significant because the winner will get 29 electoral votes, more than 10% of the 270 needed to win the presidency. In Florida, one area of emphasis is Democratic strongholds of South Florida, where a presidential candidate needs to run up large numbers to offset more Republican regions of the state. The other focus is the Interstate 4 corridor, the fast-growing region, including Tampa and Orlando.
— THE TRAIL —
Charlie Crist campaign brings solid Q4, with $2.8M on hand — St. Petersburg Democrat Crist took in more than $372,000 in the fourth quarter for his reelection bid, lifting his campaign cash on hand to $2.8 million. The Cook Political Report rates Florida’s 13th Congressional District as “solid blue.” “We’re doing the people’s work in Washington to reduce the cost of healthcare, protect our environment and social security, and care for our veterans,” Crist said in a statement. “This outpouring of support will help us continue that work and communicate a positive vision for the future of Pinellas County.”
“Donna Shalala campaign celebrates $600K fundraising quarter to end 2019” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Shalala campaign says it leaves her with more than $1.2 million in cash on hand as she attempts to defend her seat. Shalala is the incumbent Democrat representing Florida’s 27th Congressional District. “We told the people of my district that I would be ready on day one to represent them in Congress, and our campaign’s strong fundraising performance is a testament to us delivering on that promise,” Shalala said in a statement on her fourth-quarter fundraising numbers.
Save the date:
“GOP candidates file in Alex Andrade, Mike La Rosa districts” via News Service of Florida — Two Republicans have opened campaign accounts to run this year in state House districts held by Republican Reps. Alex Andrade of Pensacola and Mike La Rosa of St. Cloud. Pensacola Republican Cristov Dosev opened an account Tuesday to run in House District 2, which is made up of parts of Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, according to the state Division of Elections website. Meanwhile, St. Cloud Republican Gary Allen Scott became the sixth candidate to open a campaign account to run in House District 43, which is made up of parts of Osceola and Polk counties. La Rosa cannot seek reelection because of term limits.
— LOCAL —
“Even potential JEA buyers couldn’t make sense of utility’s talking points” via Nate Munroe of the Florida Times-Union — Recently released question-and-answer logs show potential JEA buyers were struggling to understand starkly different financial projections utility executives had given to regulators, the board of directors and the public, numbers which — depending on the audience — either predicted higher sales by the end of the next decade or a decline. Several buyers were also puzzled over JEA’s dire predictions that customer-led energy efficiency efforts would threaten the utility’s bottom line in a matter of just a few years. This was a crucial part of CEO Aaron Zahn’s public case for privatization. Still, his predictions don’t align with virtually any other utility in Florida — which are expecting higher sales over the next decade.
“Parkland shooting trauma affects young witness” via Curt Anderson of The Associated Press — A young student who witnessed the 2018 massacre is still too traumatized by the experience to give a formal statement and possibly testify at trial, her lawyer said. Attorney Jay Cohen said the 17-year-old girl is still in mental health counseling and cannot yet talk about what she saw to prosecutors or attorneys for Nikolas Cruz. He is charged with killing 17 people and wounding 17 others in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. “Some of the victims are worse off than others,” Cohen said. “She is one of those.”
“Hispanic police captain who told city leaders he was black, not Hispanic, suspended” via Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — Miami’s most outspoken cop, who last week told a black city commissioner and others that he was not Hispanic, but was a black male, was suspended with pay by the city’s police chief. Javier Ortiz, a captain of Hispanic origin whose controversial and provocative social media posts over the years have drawn the ire of his bosses and the community and who rose to oversee the department’s SWAT operations, will be sidelined indefinitely, said Miami’s Deputy Police Chief Ronald Papier. The captain’s suspension is “pending an investigation,” Papier said. He refused to go into detail about why exactly Ortiz, a former president of the city’s Fraternal Order of Police, was being investigated.
“Raising flood-prone roads has angered Miami Beach residents. Experts say they need to go higher” via Alex Harris of the Miami Herald — City-hired consultants told residents that under their new calculations, emergency roads would have to be elevated even higher than the city previously called for, but residential roads could stay lower than initially planned. The response from Miami Beach residents in attendance? A resounding, “no way.” The longer the city waits, the more expensive and difficult it will be. “Every day that you wait, sea-level rise is going to continue to go up,” said Laurens van der Tak, part of the team from Jacobs Engineering presenting the project. “The number of roads that are going to be flooded at a more frequent rate will go up.”
“What’s a ‘lobbyist’? Tallahassee ethics board may recommend broader definition” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — The city of Tallahassee’s Independent Ethics Board is likely to make recommendations to ensure public officials are being transparent about who they are meeting with and what effect those meetings have on official action. Although the board doesn’t have the power to regulate lobbyists, it could ask city officials to expand who falls under the definition. That comes after recent reporting by the Tallahassee Democrat about the intersection of influence, politics, friendship and public business. At a meeting Wednesday, incoming Ethics Officer Keith Powell said determining who is a lobbyist in local government should be cut and dry. “A lot of people who are lobbyists don’t like to call themselves lobbyists,” Powell said. “You’re meeting with a public official, and you’re trying to influence a decision.”
“Jane Castor featured in national publication as one of six Mayors making a difference” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The article posted to The Hill highlights Castor’s commitment to increase student engagement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, particularly among young girls. “To Jane Castor … today’s students are tomorrow’s engineers and scientists, the key to developing a workforce that can attract new businesses hungry for well-educated employees. The STEM programs beginning to scale in Tampa and surrounding Hillsborough County are an early investment in Tampa’s next generation,” the article said. They pointed to a lesson at Young Middle School in downtown Tampa where students are learning about the city’s water system including how it flows through the sewers, how it gets through a series of pipes to taps, and about the machines used to make it all work.
“Cops say 21 of his fish were too small to keep. They took Miami-Dade schools official to jail” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — A top Miami-Dade County Public Schools official was arrested and jailed in the Florida Keys Monday on charges he and a friend caught and kept more than 20 undersized fish. Steffond Cone, 51, was booked into Monroe County jail in Marathon on three second-degree misdemeanor conservation charges around 12:30 p..m. He was released about five hours later with an order to appear before a judge. Cone, an assistant superintendent who’s in charge of schools operations for the Miami-Dade district, did not return a phone call and email Tuesday seeking comment.
“Two students arrested after gun found at Mt. Dora High School” via David Harris of the Orlando Sentinel — Two students at Mt. Dora High School were arrested Wednesday after officials found a gun, a press release said. Shortly before 1 p.m. School Resource Officer Nate Warford learned a student had a gun on campus. He alerted dispatch and was able to recover the gun in under five minutes, said city spokeswoman Misty Sommer. A chrome .25 caliber ACP handgun was recovered, Sommer said. Two boys, a 17-year-old freshman, and a 16-year-old sophomore, were arrested.
— TOP OPINION —
“Greg Newburn, Chelsea Murphy and Sal Nuzzo: Sentencing reform for a fairer justice system” via Florida Politics — Nearly every expert who’s studied the issue agrees that mandatory minimum drug laws are a bad idea. They’re expensive, inefficient, ineffective, and ultimately counterproductive to public safety. Thanks to this consensus, a major federal sentencing reform bill called the First Step Act passed the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly last year and was signed into law by Trump. Over the last year, nearly 2,500 federal drug offenders — including more than 200 here in Florida — have had their sentences reduced thanks to the retroactive reforms in the First Step Act. But despite this consensus, and despite the success of similar reforms across the country, special interests continue to oppose sentencing reform in Florida. That’s not a surprise.
— 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% 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.
“On the Everglades and prepaid college tuition, DeSantis stands up for Florida” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — The Governor has put pro-environment appointees on the board of the South Florida Water Management District, created a task force on toxic algae and appointed the state’s first chief science officer. Florida’s Republican Governor also recently provided welcome news for families coping with the rising costs of a college education. He announced that the Florida Prepaid College Board would lower its plan prices by $1.3 billion, easing the cost of a college education for about 224,000 customers. Protecting our fragile environment and paying for a quality education — two essentials of life. While we certainly don’t agree with DeSantis on many issues, we appreciate these moves on education and the environment. Way to go, Governor.
“Lake’s Senators are laughingstock of Legislature” via Lauren Ritchie of the Orlando Sentinel — It’s because the county’s legislative delegation is focused mostly on pandering to extreme right-wing causes they know will never be adopted — the more outrageous, the prouder. The worst is state Sen. Dennis Baxley, whose sole goal seems to be to push religion on his constituents. His religion, of course. Stargel, the Republican Senator who represents the south half of Lake County, is just the female version of the Senator to the north. Stargel is so terrified of the people who elected her that she wants to make sure they can’t get her home address, telephone numbers, date of birth, places where her husband and children work and the names and locations of the schools or daycares her children attend.
“Consumers’ own interest at stake with genetic privacy bill” via Susan K. Neely for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Much more is at stake than advertised in a bill titled, “Genetic Information for Insurance Purposes,” sponsored by Florida House Speaker-designate Chris Sprowls and Sen. Stargel. It is not just about people being able to keep private genetic information gained an at-home genetic testing kit. It’s about denying the consideration of any and all genetic information in the life insurance policy application process. If adopted as written, this sweeping, most-intrusive-in-America measure would negatively disrupt Florida’s life insurance market and could harm consumers through higher prices and potentially limited product choices. For example, the bill would prohibit consumers from using their own data as they see fit, even if it could be used to improve their insurability or their rates.
— MOVEMENTS —
Spotted — At No. 7 of POLITICO Influence’s Lobbying Disclosure Act revenue rankings for 2019 — Ballard Partners: $19.1 million (versus $18.5 million in 2018) and $5 million in Q4 2019 (versus $4.9 million in Q4 2018).
Share the Gulf Coalition names Josh Cooper as Florida co-chair — Political consultant and renowned competition chef Cooper plans to use his platform as The 2019 World Seafood Champion to raise awareness and support for the local fishing businesses, restaurants, grocery stores, and communities that depend on Gulf seafood for their survival as a Florida co-chair of the national Share the Gulf Coalition. “People don’t always think about the importance of fresh gulf seafood on Florida’s economy,” he said. “Tourism is our largest industry in Florida and fresh Gulf seafood is as critical to that industry as our beaches or any other major attraction.” Cooper said he plans to spend the coming months recruiting chefs, restaurant owners, seafood distributors, hospitality personnel, and others who depend on fresh seafood for their businesses to join the Share the Gulf Coalition and promote seafood sustainability for generations to come.
— ALOE —
“Disney+ is coming to Europe earlier than expected” via Jordan Valinsky of CNN Business — It will now roll out in eight countries, including the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria, and Switzerland on March 24. The streaming service cost in Europe will be slightly more expensive than the U.S. subscription of $6.99 per month when adjusted for exchange rates. It will cost £5.99 ($7.81) in the United Kingdom and €6.99 ($7.75) per month in European countries. Disney is also selling a yearly subscription for £59.99 ($78.28) or €69.99 ($77.64), respectively. Other countries, including Belgium, the Nordics and Portugal, will get access to Disney+ in summer 2020. Disney+ launched in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand in November 2019.
What Michelle Todd is reading — “Hallmark media CEO leaves, month after same-sex ad backlash” via The Associated Press — The head of Hallmark’s media business is leaving the company after 11 years, just a month after its flagship Hallmark Channel faced an outcry over a decision to pull an ad with a lesbian couple kissing. No reason was given for Bill Abbott’s departure, and no replacement was immediately named. In a statement, Mike Perry, president and CEO of Hallmark Cards Inc., said that with immense competition from TV networks and streaming services, it is important for the company to find “relevant new ways to grow our business.” Abbott was CEO of Crown Media Family Networks, a company controlled by Hallmark Cards. Crown Media’s flagship cable channel is The Hallmark Channel, known for family-friendly programming, particularly made-for-TV Christmas-themed movies.
“Iguanas and peacocks may not fly as emotional support animals anymore” via Dan Sweeney of the Orlando Sentinel — Most major airlines have already announced rules that ban most of the supposed emotional support animals that made headlines a couple of years ago as passengers attempted to use accommodation requirements to bring them on planes. By the end of 2018, the big four American airlines — American, Delta, Southwest and United — had all announced rules banning most animals from cabins, except for those that meet the requirements for service animals under the Americans With Disabilities Act. But these rules put in place by the airlines could run afoul of the Air Carrier Access Act, the law that allows emotional support animals on planes.
— SUPER BOWL’ING —
“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 matchup. 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 forecast 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? Many academics would side with the argument that the expected costs are larger, and the gains smaller, than are typically forecast.
“Final touches being put on Hard Rock Stadium” via David Furones of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — For many fans, the championship game is the highlight of football season — regardless of whether their team made it. With so many viewers, the halftime show has become an elaborate entertainment spectacle that has taken on a life of its own. Millions tune in for the musical number, which has offered up some of the best artists in the world. Super Bowl halftime performances require significant planning for everything from stage design and placement, lighting, sound, costumes, and more. The best Super Bowl halftime performers spend months preparing for the big show. As a result, a great deal of unseen labor goes into what is arguably one of the most highly visible gigs in entertainment.
“Fort Lauderdale lifts alcohol ban at beach for Super Bowl weekend” via Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The ban on open containers at the beach will be null and void on Friday, Jan. 31, and go back into effect on Monday, Feb. 3. The tipsy zone extends from Sunrise Boulevard south to the city parking lot south of Las Olas Boulevard. Several free events sanctioned by the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee will be in play that weekend at Las Olas Oceanside Park, at 3000 E. Las Olas Blvd. “Friday night will be like this giant pep rally,” said Arianne Glassman, a Hollywood-based marketing professional who helped organize the weekend events. “Our Saturday events are all about families and children. We have events for all ages, but we’re really putting a focus on our youth.”
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to our friends Janee Murphy and Jacob Perry. Also celebrating today are former Sen. Andy Gardiner, former Tampa Tribune columnist Tom Jackson, Nick Matthews and Tampa City Councilman Luis Viera.
And another non-birthday shoutout to Debbie Millner, who had shoulder surgery yesterday. Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.