New Florida shock poll puts Mike Bloomberg at No. 2 behind Joe Biden — A St. Pete Polls survey conducted Sunday and Monday among 2,590 Democratic voters from across the state showed Biden with a commanding 41% lead and Bloomberg — not Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders — lands in second with 17% support.
The results show a sharp contrast to another national Quinnipiac University poll showing Bloomberg in fourth place with 8% support.
Though the results only represent Florida voters, they are still significant. Not only is Florida a major swing state and a big pick up in the primary, St. Pete Polls was the first to predict Trump winning Florida in 2015 and to predict Gov. Ron DeSantis beating former Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in 2018.
The poll suggests Bloomberg’s surge in attention to Florida in recent weeks might be paying off.
The St. Pete Polls survey put Sanders in third place with 9%, followed by Warren with 7%. Former South Bend Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg trailed with 6%, followed by Sen. Amy Klobuchar with 5%. Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer bottomed out the survey with 2% support. Undecided voters accounted for 10% of the survey.
Biden performed best among black voters, with 57% saying they would vote for him. He performed the worst among white, non-Hispanic voters with only 33% support.
Bloomberg performed the best among Hispanic voters with 21% support and worst among black voters with just 13%.
A new “He Said, She Said” … Horse show adventures! — Michelle and I begin the latest episode by recapping Ella‘s first show with her horse, Biscuit. It was the final wish of Michelle’s father, Benjamin Todd, to purchase his granddaughter a horse.
We talk #TheVillagesAfterDark, our hotel, and some misconceptions about “America’s Friendliest Hometown.”
Our first guest, Jimmy Miller, talks about the tragic death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his legacy, and factors that may have handicapped Bryant’s career.
Next, Democratic communications pro Kevin Cate joins the podcast from the campaign trail in California, to give us a preview of the Iowa Caucus. Cate serves as Tom Steyer‘s campaign consultant.
When asked, “What is on the minds of the Democratic Party one week out from the Iowa Caucus?” Cate says impeachment is not No. 1. Pocketbook issues like health care are top of mind, as well as defeating Donald Trump.
Cate reflects about life in the campaign trail, making TV ads, and why he is confident Steyer is the right man for the job.
As for the best Democrat in the race, we give hot takes on Iowa, and who is Michelle’s favorite in the Florida Democratic primary. Spoiler alert: It’s not Sanders.
— TODAY’S SUNRISE —
The Senate is taking up a controversial bill forcing minors to get permission from their parents to get an abortion. The House is also considering a bill that says your genetic information is off-limits to insurance companies.
Also, on Sunrise:
— Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is fuming over a bill that would move the state energy office from her agency to one controlled by the Governor. Fried calls it a partisan power grab
— In the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis says it’s time to change the culture in Tallahassee and put consumers over the insurance industry.
— A House subcommittee approves two new gun bills: One making it easier to bring concealed weapons to church; the other allows local elected officials to be armed during official meetings (where guns are prohibited for everyone else).
— Our daily tribute to Florida Man (and Woman): A guy who stole to pay for his ankle monitor and a woman who used her minivan to drive her teenage son to a robbery.
To listen, click on the image below:
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@RealDonaldTrump: Really pathetic how @FoxNews is trying to be so politically correct by loading the airwaves with Democrats like Chris Van Hollen, the no-name Senator from Maryland. He has been on forever playing up the Impeachment Hoax. Dems wouldn’t even give Fox their low ratings debates. … So, what the hell has happened to @FoxNews. Only I know! Chris Wallace and others should be on Fake News CNN or MSDNC. How’s Shep Smith doing? Watch, this will be the beginning of the end for Fox, just like the other two which are dying in the ratings. Social Media is great!
—@DavidJollyFL: GOP Senators are beginning to act as though they are genuinely concerned this could spin out of control for them, and for Trump.
—@JustinAmash: Hunter Biden is like a lot of unimpressive people in public life, including the Trumps — trading on his name for power. But if Trump believed an illegality occurred, then why didn’t the administration open a proper DOJ investigation instead of pushing Ukraine for an announcement?
—@JohnAnzo: So let me get my head around this. Rick Scott, who as a health care executive, was fined a billion dollars for Medicare Fraud — the largest fine in history — is the attack dog on corruption? Priceless.
—@DWStweets: We can’t get 75% of Americans to agree on much of anything, but 3 out of 4 voters agree: the Senate trial needs witnesses. Nobody will get a fair trial unless the jury hears from witnesses firsthand.
—@nikkifried: “We know that for a decade Republicans have had no problem with the office being where it is, as long as it was run by a Republican. But now that a Democrat sits in this office, the first woman ever elected to this office, it suddenly needs to be moved.”
— AG Ashley Moody (@AGAshleyMoody) January 28, 2020
— Joe Gruters (@JoeGruters) January 28, 2020
It is an incredible privilege to hear from @realDonaldTrump and @IsraeliPM this afternoon in the East Room of the White House about their groundbreaking Middle Eastern Peace Plan with @WiltonSimpson @Rob_Bradley. pic.twitter.com/zGOcUQivmd
— Lizbeth Benacquisto (@lizbethkb) January 28, 2020
—@SShawFL: I fought hard for Criminal Justice Reform during my time in the #FLHouse. Today’s second committee stop for HB 615 moves us one step closer to giving juveniles in this state a second chance. #flapol
— DAYS UNTIL —
New Brexit deadline — 2; Super Bowl LIV in Miami — 4; Great American Realtors Day — 5; Iowa Caucuses — 5; Eighth Democratic presidential debate in Manchester — 9; Capitol Press Corps press skits — 12; New Hampshire Primaries — 13; Pitchers and catchers begin reporting for MLB Spring Training — 13; South Beach Wine and Food Festival — 21; Ninth Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas — 21; Roger Stone’s sentencing — 22; Nevada caucuses — 24; “Better Call Saul” Season 5 premiers — 25; 10th Democratic presidential debate in Charleston — 27; South Carolina Primaries — 31; Super Tuesday — 34; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 44; Florida’s presidential primary — 48; “No Time to Die” premiers — 68; Florida TaxWatch Spring Board Meeting begins — 77; TaxWatch Principal Leadership Awards — 78; Florida Chamber Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 107; “Top Gun: Maverick” premiers — 149; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 166; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premiers — 170; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo start — 177; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 202; First Presidential Debate in Indiana — 244; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 208; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 252; Second Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 260; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 267; 2020 General Election — 279.
— TOP STORY —
“The starting gun for 2024’: Rick Scott drops Iowa bomb on Biden” via Mark Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Scott inserted himself into the Democratic presidential primary by launching an Iowa ad campaign trashing both the impeachment of Trump and former Vice President Biden ahead of the state’s caucuses. But the ad campaign really wasn’t just about the 2020 presidential race or the caucuses — it’s the starting gun for 2024, when Scott has let it be known he’s interested in running for the White House. “If you put $19,000 in Des Moines on TV, it’s definitely Scott putting a toe in 2024,” said David “DJ” Johnson, a GOP consultant. “And there’s one thing we know about Scott: After he puts a toe in, then comes the foot. Then comes the whole leg.”
To watch the ad, click on the image below:
— DATELINE: TALLY —
Assignment editors — Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen will make a major announcement, 8:20 a.m. at Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, Dolphin Meeting Space — American Seminar Room, 1500 Epcot Resorts Boulevard, Lake Buena Vista.
“Nikki Fried to Ron DeSantis: Lay off Energy office” via Samantha Gross of the Tampa Bay Times — She was reacting to an effort to move the state’s Office of Energy from under her purview to the Department of Environmental Protection. The effort, in the form of a proposed committee bill, passed out of the Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee by a 10-1 vote. Three of the four Democrats on the committee voted yes on the bill, but despite their votes, Fried maintained that the bill is “partisan punishment.” “This bill puts party before state, and puts the governor before Floridians,” she said, noting that the Office of Energy went untouched while Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam was in office. “Now that a Democrat sits in this office, it suddenly needs to be moved.”
“Bill Galvano pledges ‘meaningful’ pay raise for state workers” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — Galvano told the Tallahassee Democrat the Senate would include a “meaningful” pay increase for state workers when it begins budget negotiations with the House. “The Senate budget, scheduled to be released by the end of the week, will include a meaningful investment in across-the-board salary increases for our hardworking state employees,” Galvano said. Last month, the Bradenton Republican would only commit to having his budget chairs look at the issue. While an impasse exists in negotiations for a new three-year contract between the state and, for instance, social workers, wildlife officers, clerical and other staff, neither House Speaker José Oliva nor DeSantis has backed a pay raise for all state employees.
“Florida Sheriffs sound alarm about ‘Truth in Sentencing’” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — With several bills in play that would reduce or mitigate current sentencing policy, Florida Sheriffs had their say defending mandatory minimum sentences. The Florida Sheriffs Association announced the launch of a Truth in Sentencing report and its likewise-new Florida Sheriffs Research Institute. With live proposals for everything from changing mandatory minimums on drug policy to early release for old and infirm inmates, and a crisis in the prison system guiding the reform push, the Sheriffs’ message is that what they are doing works despite these systemic stressors. FSA President and Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri lauded the research institute, saying it “makes certain the full impact of our current laws is properly assessed.”
Students visit The Capitol to fight for higher-education vouchers — A handful of students appeared at the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education to fight for EASE, a voucher program for full-time Florida students who attend SACS-accredited, independent, nonprofit universities and colleges. During the committee’s budget exercise, there was a discussion on severe cuts to these student grants. The budget released in committee this week keeps funding at the current year’s levels. Students expressed sincere thanks to the lawmakers for supporting EASE. “I’m 26 years old. I have two young daughters, and I am a full-time student. Your support for EASE is really important to all of us,” said Ashley Hawks, a Keiser University student. ” It’s allowed me to provide a better life for my kids.”
“Industry calls on lawmakers to reform lawsuit abuse” via Amy O’Connor of the Insurance Journal — At the top of the list for advocates are reforms to curb what they say are abuses of the state’s legal system that are hurting insurers’ bottom line. Paul Handerhan, president of the Federal Association for Insurance Reform (FAIR), said two bills had been introduced, both sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes, that would target first-party litigation abuses. Senate Bill 914 would provide that for certain attorney fees awarded for claims arising under property insurance policies, the maximum fee a court may award is a lodestar fee and prohibit the court from considering contingency risk or using a contingency risk multiplier. SB 1634 would revise requirements for the civil remedy notice provided to insurers and the Department of Financial Services.
“Communications tax cut would help more low-income Floridians get connected” via Florida Politics — Currently, cities and counties can set their own communications services tax rate. This has led to more than 400 different jurisdictions, each with their own tax rate. While those rates can vary wildly, they are rarely inexpensive. In most cases, the communications services tax costs customers two-and-a-half times as much as sales tax. The high rates disproportionally impact low-income Floridians, many of whom are hit multiple times a month, as the charge shows up on bills for cellphones, broadband internet and cable television. Bills from Sen. Travis Hutson (SB 1174) and Rep. Jason Fischer (HB 701) aim to bring some stability — and relief — to Floridians by replacing the current patchwork structure and setting a statewide cap on the tax.
Assignment editors — LeadingAge and Greenberg Traurig will hold a reception to honor the Florida Legislature, 5:30 p.m., The DoubleTree by Hilton, 101 South Adams Street, Oasis Pool Deck — 4th Floor, Tallahassee.
Assignment editors — The Florida Assisted Living Association will hold its annual cocktail reception for legislators, 5:30 p.m., TCC Capitol Center, 300 West Pensacola Street, Tallahassee.
Assignment editors — Catholic Bishops of Florida host the 45th Annual Red Mass, 6 p.m., Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More, 900 W. Tennessee Street, Tallahassee.
— LEGISLATION —
Legislation aligns with Governor’s water spending plans, for now — The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee’s plan for water quality and Everglades spending closely mirrors Gov. Ron DeSantis’ budget request. However, committee Chair Holly Raschein says the lawmakers aren’t keen on funding the Governor’s priority with recurring dollars, Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida reports. “We have a policy that we stick pretty wholeheartedly to of not tying the hands of future Legislatures,” Raschein said. DeSantis outlined his request for $625 million in water funding last year and said he hoped lawmakers would include recurring funds in the budget so his office wouldn’t have to fight for the money every year. The House plan comes in at $646.8 million and includes $29.2 million in local water projects that DeSantis didn’t include in his budget.
House health care plan measures in at $38.8 billion — The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee has put forward a $38.8 billion health care spending plan for the 2020-21 fiscal year, Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida reports. The proposal is $60.5 million more than DeSantis requested in his budget. Included in the House plan is a provision that would cut Medicaid retroactive eligibility permanent. Chair MaryLynn Magar said the cut, which will free up $104 million, is needed to pay for other priorities such as a bump in nursing home reimbursements.
“House, Senate seek to curb prison guard turnover” via Ana Ceballos of the News Service of Florida — The pilot program would move one-third of Florida’s prisons from 12-hour shifts to 8.5-hour workdays to address worker fatigue, Corrections Secretary Mark Inch has told lawmakers. Making the change would require the state to hire 292 full-time officers, which would cost taxpayers $29 million, according to a budget request from the Department of Corrections. The Senate proposal would fully fund the program, while the House’s budget proposal would provide $13.6 million for the change. That would allow hiring 174 employees and moving one-fifth of prisons to the 8.5-hour shifts, according to the House proposal.
House plan would boost nursing home money” via the News Service of Florida — Introduced by House Health Care Appropriations Chairwoman Magar, the proposed budget would keep Medicaid funding for hospitals at current-year spending levels. The proposal for the 2020-2021 fiscal year would pump an additional $44.8 million to increase rates the state pays nursing homes to care for Medicaid patients. “The nursing center funding increase in the House budget is critical for our members as the cost of delivering high-quality care continues to rise,” Florida Health Care Association spokeswoman Kristen Knapp said in a prepared statement.
“Senate bill to compensate wrongfully convicted man clears Judiciary Committee” via Sarah Mueller of Florida Politics — Jacksonville resident Clifford Williams was exonerated in March 2019 after spending 43 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. He’s not eligible for compensation under current law despite the decades behind bars because of two prior felony convictions. A bill sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson (SB 28) would give Williams about $2.15 million in restitution for the time he served in prison. Williams and his nephew Hubert Nathan Myers were arrested in 1976 for the murder of Jeanette Williams, no relation, and the attempted murder of her domestic partner. Williams was initially sentenced to death, but his sentence was commuted to life in prison after four years on death row.
“Senate advances Ben Albritton’s bill to revitalize broadband expansion” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The bill (SB 1166) would create the Florida Office of Broadband within the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) and make it the lead agency on high-speed internet installation. Broadband coverage blankets many urban areas, providing homeowners and businesses with high-speed internet. “In other parts of the state, especially in rural areas, the ability for somebody to access high quality, or quite frankly sometimes low-quality broadband, is not available,” the Wauchula Republican said. The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee gave full approval to the proposal and an amendment defining “underserved” as 10 megabits per second download speeds and at least one megabit per second upload speeds.
“Senate panel OKs bill to create scholarship fund for students at Florida’s HBCUs” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — The Senate Education Committee unanimously cleared the bill (SB 876), sponsored by Democratic Leader Audrey Gibson, which would establish the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Matching Endowment Scholarship Program. Her bill is identical to one (HB 383) introduced by Rep. Delores Hogan Johnson, which was OK’d by the House Higher Education and Career Readiness Subcommittee. Both bills must clear two more committees in their respective chambers before they can go to the floors for final votes. Under the proposed legislation, the Legislature would appropriate $2 million to be deposited into the Student Financial Assistance Trust Fund, administered by the Florida Department of Education.
Bill Montford hemp program bill gets TP’d — The Senate Agriculture Committee temporarily postponed Montford’s measure, which would have altered the state hemp program set up during the 2019 Session. That program was established under the Department of Agriculture to authorize the cultivation of hemp. Montford’s legislation would have made clear that hemp extract sold in violation of the law’s existing requirements “shall be considered adulterated or misbranded.” The term “hemp extract” would also not include seeds “recognized as safe by the United States Food and Drug Administration.” And the bill bars the sale of products made from hemp extract to those under 18 years of age. The measure was on the committee’s schedule for Tuesday afternoon, but that meeting ended without lawmakers taking up the bill.
“Lawmakers tackle heat strokes among student-athletes” via Bobby Cania Calvan of The Associated Press — As it stands, high schools aren’t required to have lifesaving devices and equipment available at the sidelines. That includes the absence of tubs that can be used to help quickly cool student-athletes showing signs of heat stress. Many coaches and other team personnel lack training on how to recognize “exertional heat stroke,” or EHS, and how to administer emergency care. A bill endorsed unanimously by the Senate Education Committee would set standards for monitoring conditions that might put students at higher risk. At a minimum, it would require schools to have containers large enough to accommodate students’ bodies — tubs or even inflatable kiddie pools — filled with cold water that can be used to cool down an overheating student rapidly.
“House eyes environmental money, chops VISIT FLORIDA” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — DeSantis would get more than the $625 million he requested for environmental projects, Florida Forever would see a funding cut and VISIT FLORIDA would be shuttered, under parts of a House budget proposal. The House is proposing $4.1 billion in the agriculture and natural resources part of the budget, up 3.7% from the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. The proposal includes $646.8 million for DeSantis’ requested environmental projects. The House proposal includes $318.3 million for Everglades restoration, nearly $4 million less than what DeSantis requested. The House also wants $122 million for wastewater and stormwater grants, which includes efforts to get property owners off septic tanks, $28 million below the governor’s proposal.
“Craft distilleries bill advances in House” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A change in law letting distilleries to bottle drinks in more sizes cleared its first hurdle in the Florida House. Rep. Holly Raschein, a Key West Republican, stressed the legislation aims to free more Florida-based distilleries up to take advantage of market needs. The bill (HB 1165) does this by repealing statutes related to wine and cider container size limitations, and by specifying restaurant patrons may take home a partially consumed bottle of wine with the purchase of a meal. The legislation passed in the House Business and Professions Subcommittee, where it was one of the multiple pieces of legislation aimed at lifting restrictions on alcohol businesses.
“Occupational license deregulation bill continues to move in House” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — HB 1193, from Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, is billed as the Occupational Freedom and Opportunity Act. The legislation attempts to push through reforms long sought by free marketeers, including DeSantis. “This is almost the exact same bill you heard last Session,” Ingoglia said of the deregulation package. Mold remediation is out of the bill, and barbers now are required 400 hours of training, which is a condition the sponsor said would not compromise student aid. The bill allows for reciprocal licensing from different states. A wide swath of professions, ranging from cosmetology to interior design, would be affected in the legislation. Auctioneers, barbers, and geologists would have fewer education requirements, with nutritionists and boxing announcers seeing some licensing requirements eliminated completely.
“Fire chiefs seeking help in drone bills” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee swiftly approved HB 659, which would allow the use of drones by wildlife and forestry officials to monitor invasive species encroachment on public lands and to help manage and fight wildfires. The second provision is identical to one added to the Senate counterpart of the bill in a committee hearing. At both stops, the Florida Fire Chiefs’ Association spoke up with an “us too” request, citing the same rationales for drones’ use in structure fires that had been cited for the wildfires amendment: that the aerial camera devices could help firefighters understand what is going on with the fires, and that the drones could help improve safety for firefighters at the scene.
“Second House panel approves specialty license plate bill” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The House Transportation and Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee unanimously approved a measure that would create specialty tags for a trio of out-of-state universities. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee already signed off on the bill, leaving just one more stop until it clears the committee process. Sponsoring the legislation (HB 1135) is Rep. James Grant, an Auburn University alumnus. In addition to Auburn, specialty license plates would be approved for two other out-of-state schools — the University of Alabama and the University of Georgia.
“Church, local official gun bills backed” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — A House panel approved a measure that would allow people to carry concealed weapons at religious institutions that share properties with schools. The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee also approved a separate bill that would allow county commissioners, school board members, and elected city officials to be armed at their public meetings. State law generally allows people to carry concealed weapons at religious institutions, but it bars being armed on school properties. That has effectively meant that people cannot carry guns to churches or synagogues that meet at places with schools. The measure (HB 1437) would allow religious institutions to authorize people with concealed-weapons licenses to carry guns at such locations.
“College athlete compensation a hit in House” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — With few questions and little comment, the House Workforce Development & Tourism Subcommittee approved a bill (PCB WTS 20-01) that would establish a “bill of rights” as college athletes would be able to earn compensation for their “name, image, likeness or persona.” The proposal, being watched by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, maintains that pay for on-field performance would remain prohibited. State colleges and universities have not taken a public stand on the House proposal.
“Senate panel OK’s Lauren Book ban on declawing cats” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Senate Agriculture Committee approved a measure from Sen. Lauren Book (SB 48) that would ban declawing cats with a 4-1 vote Tuesday. The approval comes after the bill was temporarily postponed in mid-January. Republican Sen. George Gainer, the committee’s Vice Chair, was the sole no vote. Book and others who spoke in support argue the procedure causes problems for the cats’ long-term health. “It’s a common misconception that declawing causes no harm, and that’s it’s as simple as cutting off a cat’s fingernails,” Book said. “It would be like if we took our own hands and cut off the first joint in our fingers.”
— PIGMAN RALLIES TO MODERNIZE HEALTH CARE —
State Rep. Cary Pigman joined nearly 200 Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA) at a news conference at The Capitol to emphasize the role of Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) within the state’s health care system — increasing access to health care, lowering costs and maintaining the quality of care.
The Okeechobee Republican recently filed HB 607, which seeks to allow APRNs, CRNAs and nurse practitioners to practice to the full extent of their training without physician supervision and protocols.
HB 607 has the support of House Speaker José Oliva, who has made this issue a priority, as the country faces a rising population of seniors and a shortage of up to 55,000 physicians nationwide.
“I have called out the health care industrial complex because I believe it can do better for patients — consumers of health care services,” Oliva said. “I made clear my support for independent practice for APRNs because it will improve access and affordability for patients. With the endless sea of white coats flooding the Capitol and the support from statewide businesses and organizations, I am assured that the House is on the right path by prioritizing HB 607.”
— TODAY IN CAPITOL —
The House Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee meets, 8 a.m., Room 12, House Office Building.
The House Civil Justice Subcommittee meets, 8 a.m., Room 404, House Office Building.
The House Oversight, Transparency & Public Management Subcommittee meets, 8 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 8 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.
The House Local Administration Subcommittee meets, 8 a.m., Room 212, Knott Building.
The Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 9 a.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.
The Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider a bill by committee Chair Brandes that would allow older inmates to be released from state prisons, 9 a.m., Room 37, Senate Office Building.
The Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee meets to discuss the 2020-2021 budgets for the Department of Education, the Office of Early Learning, and the state university system Board of Governors, 9 a.m., Room 412, Knott Building.
The Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee meets to extend VISIT FLORIDA’s authorization through 2028, 11 a.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.
The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee meets at 11 a.m., Room 412, Knott Building.
The House Appropriations Committee meets, 12:30 p.m., Room 212, Knott Building.
The Senate Rules Committee meets to consider a measure that would repeal the Constitution Revision Commission, 1:30 p.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.
The House will hold a floor session, 3:30 p.m.
The Senate will hold a floor session, 4 p.m.
Assignment editors — DeSantis will deliver remarks for Emergency Management Day, joined by First Lady DeSantis and Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz, 11 a.m., 4th-Floor Rotunda.
Assignment editors — Girls from the PACE Center for Girls will head to Tallahassee to meet with local representatives and talk about the impact Pace has had on their lives in the annual “PACE Day at The Capitol,” 8 a.m., 22nd floor.
Assignment editors — First Lady Casey DeSantis will deliver remarks during “PACE Day at the Florida Capitol,” 8:30 a.m., 22nd Floor.
Assignment editors — Attorney General Ashley Moody and Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Simone Marstiller will join the PACE Center for Girls for a news conference as part of “Pace Day at the Capitol,” 11:45 a.m., 22nd Floor.
— GOV. CLUB BUFFET —
Cuban black bean soup (rice and onions-side); mixed garden salad with dressings; Cuban avocado salad; tropical fruit salad; deli board with lettuce, tomatoes, cheeses and breads; picadillo; cumin lime chicken; Cuban fried pork chops; yucca with mojo; island zucchini; cilantro lime rice; tres leches cake for dessert.
— STATEWIDE —
“Appeals court weighs Florida law on felon voting rights” via Bobby Caina Calvan and Kate Brumback of The Associated Press — Lawyers for the state of Florida are asking a federal appeals court to set aside a ruling that allowed some felons to regain access to the ballot box despite owing fines and other legal debts. Florida Republicans, led by DeSantis, argue that only felons who have completed all conditions of their sentences should be allowed to vote. He and GOP lawmakers say that to regain the right to vote, former felons must not only serve their time but also pay all fines and other legal financial obligations. The case before the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals could be consequential because of the razor-thin margins that sometimes decide election contests in Florida — a perennial battleground state.
“Fifth Third Bank to halt donations to school voucher program over LGBTQ discrimination” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Reps. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Anna Eskamani, Orlando Democrats on the front lines of fighting for LGBTQ rights and against discrimination, announced the Cincinnati-based bank announced on Twitter they will no longer be donating to Florida’s Step Up for Students scholarship programs until “more inclusive policies have been adopted by all participating schools to protect the sexual orientation of all our students.”
— SHAW’S PROLIFIC YEAR —
Former state Rep. Sean Shaw has had an extremely productive year. Despite losing the Attorney General’s race — even though he received over 3.7 million votes, more than any other Democratic AG candidate in history — Shaw is continuing his public service for Floridians. He has stayed involved in both state and national politics as well as turning his focus on several progressive issues as founder of “People Over Profits,” an organization with the mission of putting “working people first.”
Recently, I had an opportunity to speak with Shaw, catching up on what has been, for him, a very prolific year.
“Since the campaign, I’ve made it a priority to spend more time on the water. I bought a saltwater boat and try to take it out as much as I can. My first love will always be fishing and it’s therapeutic for me. It’s funny because I’ve realized that politics was both my work and a hobby — and I needed some life balance. I think they call it self-care now.”
Shaw is currently working with Vanguard Attorneys, a personal injury firm based in Ybor City. His Vanguard office was the old call time room from Shaw’s AG race.
He’s also been remarkably busy with projects across the state: The new firm, People Over Profits, and hosting a weekly radio show (Vanguards of Democracy).
Shaw was also an early supporter of Mayor Buttigieg: “I knew he was different. I’ve come to understand he is the kind of leader this country needs. I reached out to endorse him because I believe he has the right ideas to address important issues like criminal justice reform through his Douglass Plan, affordable health care, and the student loan crisis.”
— MOTHER NATURE —
“Powerful Caribbean earthquake shakes buildings in Jamaica, Cuba — even downtown Miami” via Jacqueline Charles, Bianca Padró Ocasio and Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — At 2:10 p.m., a strong earthquake struck about 6 miles beneath the surface in the open water between Jamaica and Cuba with more force than the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti, a quake that occurred only 15 miles away from Port-au Prince. The quake struck along the border between the Caribbean and North American tectonic plates, a crack that stretches from Hispañola to Guatemala. Brief tsunami warnings were issued for multiple northern Caribbean islands. Several aftershocks occurred fewer than 50 miles from the Cayman Islands, whose residents felt the impact from at least four tremors through the afternoon. The most powerful of them registered a 6.1 magnitude about 35 miles southeast of Grand Cayman just before 5 p.m.
“Harmful algal blooms pose serious long-term health risks for Floridians” via Walter Bradley and Howard Simon of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The causes of HABs are no mystery: expanding residential and commercial development and agribusiness — particularly cattle, poultry and the dairy industry — contribute to the increasing flow of nitrogen and phosphorus that spawn HABs in Lake Okeechobee and on the east and west coasts. And as our state’s population continues to swell there are increased burdens on water treatment plants and septic systems. Media reports of fouled beaches, fish kills, and the stench of HABs are not good for tourism — about 10% of Florida’s economy. But even more concerning, our health is at risk. DeSantis’ Blue-Green Algae Task Force made several sensible recommendations, though some of the Task Force’s proposals could have gone further.
— 2020 —
“A primary from the right? Not in Donald Trump’s GOP” via Elaina Plott of The New York Times — Such is the nature of the Republican primary season in the Trump era: self-proclaimed outsiders marketing themselves as loyalists to a man who is now the ultimate insider. Challenges to incumbents from the right are nothing new. But whereas conservative primary candidates once fashioned their campaigns as referendums on reckless federal spending or the elitist sensibilities of leadership, their pitches are much simpler now, carte blanche offerings of complete and total fealty to the President. And with Trump’s stranglehold on his party, their targets are much fewer, too.
“Why Biden scaled back in New Hampshire” via Mark Caputo and Trent Spiner of POLITICO — Biden’s New Hampshire media buys, events and overall footprint indicate it’s the early state that’s getting relatively short shrift so he can more effectively contest the other three states with nominating contests before Super Tuesday. The former vice president’s campaign stresses he’s not writing off New Hampshire, that he has more major endorsements here than any other candidate, and visited Friday and Saturday. But in recent weeks, Biden has intensified his focus on the two states whose caucuses bookend the Granite State’s Feb. 11 primary — Iowa and Nevada — according to those familiar with the campaign’s strategy.
“Celebrity star-power fuels Bernie Sanders final Iowa sprint” via Holly Otterbein of POLITICO — The luminaries cut across the culture, from politics to music to movies and more. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, filmmaker and liberal stalwart Michael Moore, actor Kendrick Sampson, and recording artists Bon Iver and Vampire Weekend are among those who have or will be stumping for him. The roster of celebrity surrogates is designed to bring out young and unlikely voters to events: A Friday rally featuring Ocasio-Cortez and Moore, which Sanders couldn’t attend because he was in Washington for the impeachment trial, drew an estimated 800-plus people. Overall, nearly 6,000 attended events in Iowa held by Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez and Moore over the last few days, according to the campaign.
“Elizabeth Warren announces endorsements from Florida educators” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Warren has the endorsements of 63 teachers and educators around Florida, including Johanna López, an Orange County School Board Member. López had been a Colonial High School teacher in Orange County before being elected to the school board. Another endorsement is Susan Smith, President Emeritus of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida and a former teacher. The announcement denotes activity by Warren’s Florida campaign, one of the largest and busiest among Democrats in the Sunshine State, though she and other Democrats continue to personally largely ignore Florida while pursuing voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and other early primary and caucus states.
“Pete Buttigieg campaign faces personnel issues as Iowa caucuses approach” via Tarini Parti and Dustin Volz of The Wall Street Journal — Nadia Singer, the talent director for the campaign responsible for identifying potential new hires, parted ways with the former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor’s team earlier this month. Singer, who previously worked at question-and-answer website Quora Inc. and Facebook Inc., was seen as part of a cadre of Silicon Valley hires by Buttigieg. Her contract employment ended abruptly after she relocated to South Bend from San Francisco. Two cybersecurity aides also left the campaign around the same time. The campaign described the staffers as midlevel. A spokesman for the campaign said Singer’s contract ended because the campaign is fully staffed and not hiring during the primaries.
“Trump allies target African American voters with new tactic: Cash giveaways” via Ben Schreckinger of Politico — Allies of Donald Trump have begun holding events in black communities where organizers lavish praise on the president as they hand out tens of thousands of dollars to lucky attendees. The first giveaway took place last month in Cleveland, where recipients whose winning tickets were drawn from a bin landed cash gifts in increments of several hundred dollars, stuffed into envelopes. A second giveaway scheduled for this month in Virginia has been postponed, and more are said to be in the works.
“Biden Aides Weigh Pursuing an Iowa Caucus Alliance With Klobuchar” via Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns of The New York Times — Three staff members for Joe Biden’s Iowa campaign tentatively floated the idea to a top Amy Klobuchar adviser at a meeting this week, according to Democrats briefed on the meeting. People in both the Biden and Klobuchar camps played down the discussion, which took place at a Des Moines restaurant, and aides for Ms. Klobuchar said they did not regard it as a serious overture. But there is little doubt among Mr. Biden’s allies in the state that his campaign is contemplating such steps, with an eye toward preventing a messy split among moderate candidates on Monday.
— IS GOOD-ENOUGH ENOUGH FOR BIDEN? —
As much as any campaign in recent history, notes Mark Leibovitz in The New York Times Magazine, Biden’s candidacy has been “defined by the alternative.”
The former vice president is not a socialist, and he’s not Trump.
However, the longtime Senator and two-term VP is well known, “for better and worse.”
Biden keeps hammering the point that he is best equipped to keep Trump to a one-term presidency — an “aberration” — and avoid a “downward transformation” if Trump wins reelection.
“You know, I’ve been around a long time, that’s the bad news,” Biden told Leibovitz in one of his favored bad news/good news constructions. “But the good news is, I’ve also been around a long time. The bad news is that everybody knows me. The good news is everybody knows me.”
There is one foundational element in Biden’s candidacy: survival. Despite everything — including himself — he remains the front-runner in the race, weathering “any number of doomsday predictions and things that felt fateful in the moment.”
That is the point Biden tries to make, he is still here, and will endure. Despite all the naysayers and “smart-as-hell people” who were wrong about the race.
“The Biden hierarchy comprises a fairly conventional mix of established Democratic operatives, White House veterans and Biden loyalists,” Leibowitz writes. “They tend to be older, male and more than a bit swampy (consultants, the stray lobbyist, and people you’ve seen talking if you watch cable news).”
It was clear from the start that Biden would be attacked as the “rickety embodiment of a bygone Democratic establishment.” But any attempt at a makeover to pacify the more progressive wing of the Party would fall flat. Biden’s campaign knew that, rejected any ad hoc repackaging, and embraces who Biden is.
Nevertheless, any Democratic candidate will face merciless attacks: “He has already, and he is still here.”
— PEACHY —
“Trump rally in South Jersey mostly steers clear of impeachment” via Matt Friedman of POLITICO — Trump came to the Jersey Shore on Tuesday night for a campaign rally in which he slammed Democrats for what he called ‘demented hoaxes,’ while boasting of a growing economy and seeking to help a local congressman who just switched parties after opposing his impeachment. But in the 62-minute speech — considerably shorter than recent such campaign events — the president didn’t dwell on his trial playing out in the Senate, instead focusing largely on the nation’s low unemployment rate, health care, terrorism and immigration. ‘While we are creating jobs and killing terrorists, congressional Democrats are obsessed with demented hoaxes, crazy with hunts and deranged partisan crusades,’ Trump told thousands of supporters here.
“New Quinnipiac poll: 75% of American voters want impeachment witnesses” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Broken down by party, even Republican respondents favored witnesses, with a plurality of 49% saying yes, and 42% saying no. Ninety-five percent of Democrats said yes. Seventy-five percent of independent voters said yes. At least 60% of every demographic group broken out in the poll — men or women; white, black or Hispanic voters; voters of each age bracket — said yes, there should be witnesses. The poll was released minutes after the White House defense team concluded its defense of Trump, sending the trial to the next step, question-and-answer sessions set for Wednesday and Thursday. The question of whether the Senate will call witnesses would not be taken up before Friday.
“Donald Trump and Lev Parnas discussed Rick Scott in secret recording” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — The conversation was captured in an 83-minute video obtained by Reuters from Parnas’ attorney Joseph Bondy. About halfway through the recording, Parnas mentioned he lived in Florida, prompting Trump to ask how Scott, then Florida’s Governor, was faring in his U.S. Senate campaign. “Rick Scott’s good,” said Parnas, who was indicted in October on charges that he and his business partner, Igor Fruman, steered hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions from foreign donors. Both are now key figures in Trump’s impeachment proceedings. “Is he going to win?” Trump asks. Parnas responded: “It’s going to be close, but I think we’re going to pull it out.”
“Marco Rubio and Scott both use impeachment trial for political gain” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — As the President’s defense team ended its opening arguments, Rubio’s campaign sent an email to supporters with the subject line “Take notes like Marco!” The email promises to send supporters who donate at least $35 a quill pen with the Senator’s name on it. In contrast, Scott, who is also sending fundraising pitches related to the impeachment trial, has publicly defended the President and complained about arguments made by Democrats. He’s even going on offense on Trump’s behalf in Iowa, running a TV ad from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3 titled “Biden Got Away With It.”
Former Donald Trump Chief of Staff John Kelly tells Sarasota crowd ‘I believe John Bolton’” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — “If John Bolton says that in the book, I believe John Bolton,” said retired Gen. Kelly, who served as Trump’s chief of staff for 18 months. Kelly spoke at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall as part of the Ringling College Library Association Town Hall lecture series. The general worked with Bolton during his time as chief of staff, which ended in early 2019. Kelly said Bolton is an honest person. “Every single time I was with him … he always gave the President the unvarnished truth,” Kelly said of Bolton, who has become a figure of intense interest in the impeachment inquiry.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Attorney Chris Kise to help Nicolás Maduro administration fight U.S. sanctions” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Kise, the attorney who turned over key documents in the ethics case against former Tallahassee Andrew Gillum, is now representing a member of the Maduro government. Kise is listed on a Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) form to work on behalf of Venezuelan Attorney General Reinaldo Muñoz Pedroza, who was appointed Attorney General by Maduro. However, the United States no longer recognizes Maduro’s government as legitimate. FARA requires individuals or firms doing work on behalf of a foreign principal to register with the U.S. government. Foley & Lardner, the law firm Kise works for, is listed as the registrant on the form received by the U.S. Department of Justice.
“House Democrats unveil $4.7B Puerto Rico aid bill” via Jennifer Scholtes of POLITICO Florida — While the House plans to pass the measure next week, the legislation is expected to wither thereafter, since the White House has already said Trump will not sign the aid package, H.R. 5687 (116). A senior administration official has accused Democrats of proposing the bill “for completely political purposes.” Text of the measure comes exactly one month from the start of the seismic sequence that cast thousands of Puerto Ricans into shelters. House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey said more support for Puerto Rico “is clearly needed,” beyond the broader disaster aid bill the president signed last summer; new legislation provides “targeted assistance” to specifically help recover from the havoc wrought by the recent earthquakes.
“Rick Wilson hits back at ‘phony outrage’ from ‘MAGA herd’” via Spectator USA — The fuss is about a widely shared clip from CNN’s Don Lemon show, which pro-Trump Twitter has been having conniptions over. In the video, Wilson, Lemon, and Wajahat Ali laugh themselves silly while mocking the stupidity of Trump and the ‘credulous boomer rubes’ who support him. The backlash has been fierce. Wilson was unapologetic: “Once again, the MAGA tough guy ‘fuck your feelings’ crowd demonstrates that what really drives them is a grinding social anxiety fueled by a weaponized and monetized outrage machine.” Wilson suggested what set the White House off was “Trump hates being called out for his utter ignorance of the world; all the phony outrage at me is just Trump fundraising grifters milking the MAGA herd.”
— Max Goodman (@MaxJGoodman) January 28, 2020
Assignment editors — Responding to Congressman Ross Spano voting against bipartisan legislation to bring down the costs of prescription drugs, a group of Floridians will deliver a giant bill to his office for the $26,547,383,200, which Florida residents pay for prescription drugs every year, 11 a.m., Spano’s Brandon Office, 10101 Bloomingdale Ave., Suite 202, Riverview.
— THE TRAIL —
“‘Keep Our Constitution Clean’ edges closer to signature threshold” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — A proposed ballot amendment that would make it harder for future constitutional amendments to pass has added nearly 70,000 petition signatures over the past week. Keep Our Constitution Clean, the political committee sponsoring the amendment, had 753,542 valid petition signatures as of Tuesday evening, according to the Florida Division of elections website. The current total is an increase of 67,513 signatures since Thursday and puts the proposal within striking distance of making the 2020 ballot. It takes 766,200 signatures to make the ballot, a number pegged to 8% of votes cast in the most recent presidential election. The committee must produce the remaining 12,658 signatures by Feb. 1 to go before voters in the November general election.
“Ashley Moody hosting Florida GOP fundraiser at Universal Studios” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The invite lists Moody as the host for a “Universal Orlando Family Weekend” Feb. 21-23. It also lists RPOF as the beneficiary of the fundraiser. The invitation was merely a “save the date” and didn’t offer further details on the weekend getaway, though it does provide contact information for potential attendees to get updates. Moody’s fundraiser is one of the few scheduled for February, as lawmakers face a fundraising blackout during the Legislative Session. The prohibition doesn’t apply to political parties. The fundraiser announcement also comes after RPOF posted healthy fundraising numbers for the fourth quarter of last year.
“Putnam Schools Superintendent endorses Judson Sapp for CD 3” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Clay County Republican Sapp landed another endorsement for his bid to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho in Florida’s 3rd Congressional District. His latest backer is Putnam County Superintendent of Schools Rick Surrency, who weighed in on the crowded CD 3 Republican primary. “Judson Sapp is the common sense, conservative leader we need in Congress. He has deep roots in Putnam County and understands our needs. Judson Sapp will work with our local leaders to keep moving Putnam County in the right direction,” Surrency said. Sapp, who primaried Yoho in 2018, was an early entrant in CD 3. However, the Republican field has ballooned in the weeks since Yoho announced he would forego a fifth term representing the North Central Florida district.
— LOCAL —
“Nate Monroe: The JEA storm” via the Florida Times-Union — The JEA board of directors, in one of its final acts, fired former chief executive officer Aaron Zahn for cause, agreeing with two dozen findings by city lawyers that he engaged in “willful misconduct,” “gross negligence” and breached his fiduciary obligations to the city-owned utility, while adding there may be additional evidence and testimony of more troubling conduct attorneys didn’t have time to investigate. It will take JEA years to repair the damage done. And it will take longer because too many executives who served under Zahn remain. They lent their credibility to Zahn’s phony financial projections, and they served as mouthpieces for Zahn’s public lies. There is more cleaning to be done.
“Full JEA board to leave by end of February” via the Florida Times-Union — The news from Mayor Lenny Curry’s office comes after months of discussion of possibly privatizing JEA. The board ended those talks and canceled the invitation to negotiate process with potential bidders in December after criticism mounted from the public and the City Council. Curry’s statement read: “I’ve talked to Fred Newbill, Camille Lee-Johnson, Dane Grey and Henry Brown and each informed me it is their desire to end their service with the JEA Board of Directors. I have asked all board members, including April Green, who resigned earlier today, to continue to serve until the end of February, and all agreed. Kelly Flanagan will also continue her service until her term expires on February 28th.
“Gaming arcades have 30-day deadline to vacate Nassau County after commission vote” via Dan Scanlan of the Florida Times-Union — The vote, which followed a lengthy public hearing with comments from supporters and opponents of the so-called internet cafes, saw many ask that they be left alone. But in the end, all five commissioners voted unanimously to shut them down after the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office reported an increase in crime. County attorney Michael Mullin told the audience that gambling is illegal in Nassau County, yet there has been a “proliferation” of businesses using computer or video games and contests “generally associated with legalized casino or gambling outlets.” He said people may be deceived into thinking such devices are legal, when the commission finds them “deceptive” and adverse to the county’s quality of life.
“Hillsborough transit meeting goes off the rails during quarrel over contracts” via Caitlin Johnson of the Tampa Bay Times — Tempers flared between two board members as one of them — city of Tampa appointee Kathleen Shanahan — stood up and walked out after accusing county commissioner Pat Kemp of pushing her own agenda. The group was left unable to do business for lack of a quorum. “That’s her whole point, was to not have the vote,” Shanahan said. The dispute arose over a $405,000 contract during a board committee meeting, but it revealed deeper divisions over the agency’s process for hiring outside vendors. The staff recommended awarding Connetics Transportation Group a two-year contract to evaluate bus routes and schedules and help the agency plan a long-term vision.
“Florida seeks to reinstate death penalty for Joseph Smith, Carlie Brucia’s killer” via Carlos Munoz of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Prosecutors are seeking death again for Smith, one of Southwest Florida’s most notorious convicted murderers, after the Florida Supreme Court ordered the trial court to reinstate another death row inmate’s non-unanimous death-penalty verdict. Carlie Brucia’s father, Joseph Brucia, said he welcomed the motion to reinstate the death verdict of a “monster.” “I don’t think it should have been challenged in the first place,” he said. “I am glad we are back on the road again so we can get some closure for this thing and let this monster get what he deserves.” Brucia said he is aggravated that the latest court matters haven’t been resolved promptly and wrote to former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and others.
“Scooter rental dispute goes to Supreme Court” via the News Service of Florida — A dispute about a Panama City Beach decision to ban the rental of motorized scooters has gone to the Florida Supreme Court. Classy Cycles, Inc. filed a notice that is a first step in asking the Supreme Court to take up the issue after a November ruling by the 1st District Court of Appeal upheld the ban. The appeals-court decision rejected arguments that Panama City Beach did not have the power to ban a business unless it is a legal nuisance and that such restrictions are “preempted” by state laws. The case stems from two ordinances passed in 2017 to prohibit the overnight rental of scooters and to completely prohibit scooter rentals effective Sept. 8, 2020.
“New Tallahassee ethics officer in hot seat after politically charged tweets surface” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — The city of Tallahassee’s Independent Ethics Board may revisit the employment of its newly appointed ethics officer after politically charged tweets he wrote came to light. Keith Powell, a longtime senior investigator with the Florida Commission on Ethics, was hired last month to replace embattled ethics officer Julie Meadows-Keefe. Powell, who led state ethics investigations into former Mayor Andrew Gillum and hundreds of other officials over the years, was expected to start his new job next week as the chief staff person for the city’s Independent Ethics Board. However, anonymous emails went out over the weekend with screenshots of Powell’s Twitter feed, which included posts over the past couple of years critical of Democrats and homosexuality.
— OPINIONS —
“The John Bolton report” via The Wall Street Journal editorial board — Bolton’s book draft implicates Trump more closely to ordering a delay in military aid to Ukraine is hardly a surprise and won’t — and shouldn’t — change the impeachment result. It does, however, complicate the trial task for Republican Senators, and our advice is for Trump’s former national security adviser to tell the public now what he says in his book. Whoever leaked the book’s contents wants to use Bolton to turn the Senate impeachment trial into a larger political drama. But we’ve known Bolton long enough to doubt that he’d want to sandbag Republican Senators or the President. He’s a straight-shooter, even if he sometimes aims right between the eyes. The book’s contents put GOP Senators in a tight political spot.
“Joe Henderson: Pam Bondi’s impeachment defense overlooked some facts” via Florida Politics — There are a couple of overriding points here. A): Hunter Biden is a private citizen, not the President of the United States. Try as they might to show otherwise, Biden is not on trial. The Senate is deciding whether to remove Trump from office (spoiler alert: it won’t happen). Whatever happens on that front has nothing to do with Biden. B): Threatening to withhold nearly $400 million in congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine until Trump got a public announcement of a corruption investigation against Biden sounds like an abuse of power to me. And former National Security Adviser Bolton and former Trump Chief of Staff Kelly appear to feel the same way. Those facts aren’t going away.
“Legislative raiding of affordable housing fund” via the Citrus County Chronicle editorial board — Citrus County has a service economy, heavy on tourism, and service jobs are notoriously low-paying. Workers wanting a good life need a dependable job, affordable housing, and a convenient way to get to work. Lack of affordable housing affects economic development as well. Florida has had a great program since 1992 called the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The problem? Twelve times, legislators have raided Sadowski funds for various uses including to balance the state budget. And though we shouldn’t have to make laws to ensure that legislators do the right thing, in the current session, SB 306 and HB 381 would essentially prohibit them from sweeping monies from the trust to the general fund.
“Supreme Court becomes an outlier on the death penalty” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — The Florida Supreme Court has taken another step backward with a ruling that could restore the state’s status as a national outlier on the death penalty. In a stunning move, the court reversed a previous decision that required unanimous jury recommendations in death penalty sentences. The ruling defies legal precedent and common sense, and legislators should be wary of taking this bait and making a similar mistake. Looking to apply the U.S. Supreme Court decision, the Florida Supreme Court ruled in October 2016 that juries must establish each “aggravating factor” in a capital case, and that trial courts could impose a death sentence only on the unanimous recommendation of a jury.
“John Johnson, Skip Braziel: Professional licensing is rigorous for a reason” via Florida Politics — DeSantis said that changing the Sunshine State’s occupational licensing laws will be at the top of his legislative agenda. These are laws that set the requirements to become and remain a member of various professions in our society. We ask Florida leaders to be mindful of potential unintended consequences for professions — and the professionals in them — that oversee systems vital to Floridians’ safety, health, and financial interests. To that end, any conversation around licensing reform would be well-served to acknowledge that for some professions, rigorous licensing is not only desirable, but appropriate and necessary. Surely, the need to maintain rigorous licensing standards for certain professions is a common-sense idea on which all sides can agree in this important debate.
“Extend and expand Gulf Reef Fish Survey to keep Florida fishing” via Kellie Ralston for the Pensacola News Journal — The Survey’s current funding is slated to end in 2020. Yet, the fishing community desperately needs this important data collection tool to not only continue but expand throughout Florida to ensure generations of fishing enthusiasts may continue to enjoy our state’s natural resources for years to come. Without this funding, the recent, significant gains for Florida fisheries management risk a devastating step backward for our more than four million anglers. FWC is considering a 45-day 2020 Gulf Red Snapper season. A 45-day season that would have been unheard of just a few short years ago is now possible due to the thousands of Florida anglers participating in the Gulf Reef Fish Survey.
— MOVEMENTS —
Carlos Curbelo joins political team for Miami’s NBC affiliate — Curbelo signed on as an NBC contributor following his defeat in the 2018 contest for Florida’s 26th Congressional District. Now, NBC 6 in Miami will showcase the former lawmaker in the lead-up to the 2020 election. “More than ever, our local news viewers want to know how the decisions made in Washington will impact their lives and communities,” said Jorge Carballo, the station’s president and General Manager. “Carlos’ extensive knowledge in policymaking and deep familiarity with South Florida issues, makes him an ideal contributor to our political team.” Curbelo added a statement of his own, saying, “It’s an honor to bring my experience and knowledge as an analyst to the community I’ve lived in my entire life.”
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen registers to represent UAE — Former U.S. Rep. Ros-Lehtinen registered as a foreign agent lobbying on behalf of the United Arab Emirates. Ros-Lehtinen served in Congress for decades before announcing she would not run for reelection in 2018. Since giving up her seat, the South Florida Republican has worked for Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. She became eligible to work as a lobbyist this month, which marks a year since she exited Congress. The disclosure says she will “provide outreach to U.S. government officials and counsel on policy issues related to a number of issues including, among others: export controls and sanctions, trade policies, human rights, U.S. foreign and defense policies, foreign media registration, and strengthening trilateral relations and regional security.”
— ALOE —
“Oreo is releasing a red, white, and blue ‘Team USA’ cookie” via Tess Koman of Delish — Per the Instagram account @JunkFoodLeaks, “Olympics-themed Oreo sporting” cookies are on their way. The cookies — which will be stuffed with red, white, and blue crème, because of course they will — are going to taste just about the same as a regular Oreo, but they’ll be oh so patriotic when you crack them open! The account goes on to describe the amount of crème we’re talking about here. After all, these Oreos will *technically* be triple-stuffed: “The Olympic Oreos are standard and have as much crème/calories as a Mega Stuf Oreo, so nothing too groundbreaking.” Another element of note, though? “Your tongue might change colors with this one.” There you have it, folks: Cookies with fifty stars stamped into the crème will soon be on shelves wherever Oreos are sold … probably.
— SUPER BOWL’ING —
“Rashad Fenton once worked concessions at Dolphins Stadium; Now he’s in the Super Bowl” via Manuel Madrid of the Miami New Times — The remarkable nature of his journey isn’t lost on Fenton. He went from being a Carol City Chief to a Kansas City Chief, from selling concessions at Hard Rock Stadium (then Sun Life Stadium) to preparing to face the San Francisco 49ers this Sunday in Super Bowl LIV. “It’s too surreal. I don’t think I would’ve ever imagined it happening like this,” Fenton tells New Times. “It’s crazy because I’m still trying to get my head around it. I’m still trying to normalize everything.”
“The most VIP Super Bowl weekend costs $1.5M, includes butler” via Kelli Kennedy of The Associated Press — No place caters to the rich and famous quite like glitzy Miami. The city’s most luxurious hotels, clubs and restaurants are offering over-the-top packages to entice big spenders looking for action. One package includes a four-day cruise around the Caribbean on a private yacht after the game for $720,000. On Location Experiences’ Sam Soni says their top Super Bowl package last year in Atlanta went for $17,500. This year’s top-tier packages in Miami are $20,000 to $35,000 and include game tickets, a pregame party and show by Darius Rucker and a chance to mingle with football legends like Dan Marino and Marcus Allen. “We’ve seen just unprecedented sales for that product,” Soni said.
“Locking up sex workers during Super Bowl week won’t end sex trafficking” via Scott Greenberg of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Here’s the problem: the empirical evidence shows no causal or correlative link between sex trafficking and the Super Bowl. It never has. As George Washington University criminology professor Ron Weitzer put it, “It’s become a circle of stories that get rehashed; it really is a myth.” The truth is that sex trafficking happens in the U.S. every day. The Super Bowl myth is a distraction. Raised annually by politicians and media, it does more harm than good, misleading the public, misallocating resources, and imposing unreasonable expectations on police. The harm is borne in large measure by sex workers. Sex traffickers go unpunished.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to Umar Sattar.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.