Animal lovers rejoice. Tonight, Red Dog Blue Dog hosts the sixth annual Celebrity Bartender fundraiser at Township starting at 6 p.m.
Representing the GOP behind the bar crew are Rep. Alex Andrade, Rep. Colleen Burton, Sen. Joe Gruters and VISIT FLORIDA CEO Dana Young. Democrats tending bar include Rep. Tracie Davis, Sen. Gary Farmer, DEM Director Jared Moskowitz and Sen. Jason Pizzo.
In addition to getting some face time with the lineup of lawmakers and agency heads, those swinging by have the opportunity to do something good.
Red Dog Blue Dog provides funding to support community-wide efforts to help more homeless animals find loving homes, reunite lost pets with their owners, and promote responsible pet ownership.
And don’t be afraid to tip your bartenders — all proceeds, including tips, will benefit the Animal Shelter Foundation, the Leon County Humane Society, and Last Hope Rescue. Those looking to help a little more after grabbing a drink can cut a check to the Animal Shelter Foundation, which will split the proceeds after the event.
An added perk: Uber is hooking up attendees with discounted rides to and from the event.
If you can’t attend, fret not. You can still show your support by sending Red Dog Blue Dog a few bucks through their website.
Good news about great people — “Dane and Brooke Eagle expecting first child” — The Cape Coral Republican announced he and wife, Dr. Brooke Iwanski Eagle, are expecting their first child. “It’s a boy!” Eagle announced in a social media post. “Brooke and I are incredibly thrilled to announce we are adding a little more love to our family. Baby Eagle is due in June!” That will be in the thick of a major congressional campaign for Rep. Eagle, one of eight Republican candidates in a GOP primary to succeed U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney. So, expect the child to be born in Florida’s 19th Congressional District. A picture shared online shows the Eagles holding a sign that reads: “COMING SOON … Baby Boy Eagle. June 2020. Made in Iceland.”
— TODAY’S SUNRISE —
House committees are considering bills to loosen regulations on wine containers and craft distilleries and allow college athletes to be compensated for the use of their names, images and likenesses. Senators will consider repealing the Best and Brightest bonus program for teachers and create early release programs for elderly and seriously ill inmates.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta will hear arguments over the implementation of Amendment 4, which restored voting rights for former felons.
— LGBTQ advocates visit The Capitol to speak out against a spate of legislation they say is blatantly discriminatory.
— A teachers’ association leader says she believes a measure sponsored by Republican State Rep. Jamie Grant is meant to cripple labor unions.
— The Florida Coalition for Children is highlighting a study that shows Florida is in the Top 10 best-performing states for caring for children in foster care.
— Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri talks about something new: The Florida Sheriffs Research Institute. Law enforcement is creating its own think tank to push back on some of the criminal justice reforms under consideration in the legislature
— A Florida woman is accused of misusing the 9-1-1 system by calling and texting to complain about her husband. Police say 69-year-old Sylvia Shumaker of Largo contacted 9-1-1 several times to ask for things like a counselor and how to file for divorce. When officers arrived at her home, they say she was highly intoxicated. Shumaker was charged with misuse of the 9-1-1 system.
To listen, click on the image below:
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@RealDonaldTrump: I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens. In fact, he never complained about this at the time of his very public termination. If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book.
—@WalshFreedom: It’s not right that John Bolton’s book publisher knows more than United States Senators know.
—@CarlosCurbelo: Today’s priorities for the President’s defense team: defend [Rudy] Giuliani‘s reputation, indict the Bidens, attack President Obama‘s foreign policy record. We’ll see what the plan is for after dinner.
—@BernieSanders: My first executive orders will be to reverse every single thing President [Donald] Trump has done to demonize and harm immigrants, including his racist and disgusting Muslim ban.
—@MattGaetz: Excited to go rally Iowa Republican Caucusgoers for @!
—@MDixon55: [email protected] is up to $22.5m in Florida TV, and has another $1.6m reserved No other campaigns on the board yet (Field folks, you know the drill. Please respond with your TV doesn’t really matter takes in an orderly fashion below)
— Randy Fine (@VoteRandyFine) January 27, 2020
—@DJMia00: To whomever it is playing the piano in the Capitol building each late afternoon, I thank you.
— Jimmy Patronis (@JimmyPatronis) January 28, 2020
—@DannyWuerffel: Kobe not only inspired millions to pursue greatness, he used his platform to help Special Olympics, the Japan Earthquake victims, had a podcast to help children cope with anxiety. May we remember his impact.
—@ByronDonalds: Congrats to @DaneEagle and Brooke on the exciting news. Children are an absolute blessing. Being a father of 3, I can’t begin to tell you how awesome of a journey this is for you both. Feel free to ask for any advice. This is great news.
—@Ryan_N_Wiggins: Learning that @is on Roku is my favorite thing that has happened this week. Sure, I *could* stream live from my computer, but this is SO much easier. Broken ankle be damned, between Roku and Twitter I’m not missing this week of Session after all.
— DAYS UNTIL —
New Brexit deadline — 3; Super Bowl LIV in Miami — 5; Great American Realtors Day — 6; Iowa Caucuses — 6; Eighth Democratic presidential debate in Manchester — 10; Capitol Press Corps press skits — 13; New Hampshire Primaries — 14; Pitchers and catchers begin reporting for MLB Spring Training — 14; South Beach Wine and Food Festival — 22; Ninth Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas — 22; Roger Stone’s sentencing — 23; Nevada caucuses — 25; “Better Call Saul” Season 5 premiers — 26; 10th Democratic presidential debate in Charleston — 28; South Carolina Primaries — 32; Super Tuesday — 35; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 45; Florida’s presidential primary — 49; “No Time to Die” premiers — 69; Florida Chamber Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 108; “Top Gun: Maverick” premiers — 150; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 167; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premiers — 171; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo start — 178; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 203; First Presidential Debate in Indiana — 245; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 209; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 253; Second Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 261; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 268; 2020 General Election — 280.
— TOP STORY —
“Randall Hunt resigns from Florida Lottery after background check turns up domestic violence complaint” via Jason Garcia and Beth Kassab of the Orlando Sentinel — “In his letter of resignation, Mr. Hunt acknowledges his decision is based on what is in the best interest of his growing family, and business opportunities. His resignation was accepted,” Ron DeSantis spokesman Helen Ferre said. DeSantis gave Hunt the Lottery job Nov. 15, putting him in charge of a state agency with more than 400 employees and an annual revenue of nearly $7 billion. But the appointment was subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate, which commissions comprehensive background checks that includes a criminal-history screening by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. That FDLE screening turned up a January 2017 incident in which the Sanford Police Department had investigated Hunt for domestic-violence battery following a dispute with his wife.
Shame of the Panhandle @mattgaetz infecting the rest of Florida with his toxic political meddling while failing to do anything for citizens or service members in his own district. Sad! #sayfie #FlaPol https://t.co/n39hly8Ovg
— Andy Marlette (@AndyMarlette) January 27, 2020
— DATELINE: TALLY —
“Ron DeSantis announces speech and debate initiatives, funded by one of his biggest donors” via Colleen Wright of the Miami Herald — Flanked by students on the Omni Middle School debate team, DeSantis laid out some details of a new partnership between the Florida Department of Education and the Billi and Bernie Marcus Foundation. The initiative, he said, will expand opportunities for civics, speech and debate programs in middle and high schools and create a “first of its kind” national competition. Marcus pledged $5 million over the next three years to the Florida Education Foundation. DeSantis said he set aside $375,000 in his proposed budget for the civics and debate initiative. Marcus, a Georgia businessman who now resides in Boca Raton, was an early supporter of DeSantis. In 2017, he donated $250,000 to DeSantis’ political action committee, Fund for Florida’s Future.
“Legislative wild card would authorize sports betting in Florida” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — House and Senate leaders confirmed they are engaged in an effort to reach a deal with the Governor that would update Florida’s gambling laws by allowing organized sports betting and bring in new revenue from the Seminole Tribe. “The House and Senate have begun informal discussions on what a compact and gaming bill would look like,” Sen. Travis Hutson told the Herald/Times. He said he and Senate President Bill Galvano have been working on a proposal with their counterparts in the House, Rep. Mike LaRosa and House Speaker José Oliva. “We’re going after the big items and, if we can agree to them, we’ll work on laying out the details and the policy,’’ LaRosa said. “Hopefully, we get something accomplished.”
So down in this story is this line –
"Gov. Ron DeSantis, who last week had dinner with Oliva and discussed the issue, has outlined his parameters"
Ok well that's a potential violation of Article III, Sec. 4 (e)…
But it's just the constitution. No big deal. https://t.co/vMnGyVtQhC
— Gary Fineout (@fineout) January 28, 2020
“Florida GOP votes for resolution backing E-Verify requirements for private employers” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Republican Party of Florida Executive Committee passed a formal resolution urging passage of E-Verify requirements. The position stands in contrast to that of many members of the Legislature. Most notably, Galvano and Oliva both say this could place too much burden on employers. That falls in line with complaints from agriculture, hospitality and construction business leaders. But DeSantis has made the language a priority for the ongoing Legislative Session. RPOF Chair Gruters said it’s important for the party to rally around DeSantis on the issue.
“Senate, DeSantis seek to scuttle ex-Sheriff’s lawsuit” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Galvano and DeSantis are asking a federal judge to reject a lawsuit filed by former Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, who contends his constitutional rights were violated when he was removed from office. Lawyers for Galvano and DeSantis filed briefs seeking dismissal of the lawsuit, in part arguing that the Senate is shielded from liability for legislative acts. The Senate held a Special Session in October and removed Israel from office after DeSantis suspended him because of alleged “neglect of duty and incompetence” related to two mass shootings. A brief filed by Senate attorneys said the decision to remove Israel from office “reflected a discretionary, policy decision regarding the qualifications of a constitutional officer to hold office.”
Proposed bill would move Office of Energy — A bill proposed by a House committee would transfer oversight of the Office of Energy from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to the Department of Environmental Protection, Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida reports. A spokesperson for Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried’s office said the proposal was a power grab by the Governor’s office. “The Office of Energy has been the most successful under the Department of Agriculture and we have done the most good for the people of Florida,” Franco Ripple said. DeSantis’ office did not respond to a request for comment on the House proposal. The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee will consider the bill when it meets Tuesday.
Assignment editors — Fried will host a press conference to discuss a proposed committee bill that would transfer oversight of the Office of Energy from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to the Department of Environmental Protection, 10 a.m., Plaza Level of the Capitol.
“Koch group targets Florida Senators in licensing deregulation push” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — Americans for Prosperity, the group backed by industrialist Charles Koch, is sending mail pieces to residents in 27 Senate districts, urging them to call their Senator to pass a series of bills aimed at reducing fees and other requirements to get licenses for occupations such as barbers, interior designers, electricians and others. Similar measures failed to pass the Senate last year. “There’s a lot of red tape, but fortunately, you’re not alone. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle can come together to help you cut red tape to get back to work,” the mail piece states. “Call (your Senator) and ask her/him to cut red tape and reform occupational licensing.”
“PIFF outlines priorities for 2020 Legislative Session” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The Personal Insurance Federation of Florida is backing a slate of reforms aimed at reducing litigation costs during the 2020 Legislative Session. The group says excessive lawsuits have hampered the post-Hurricane Michael recovery effort in Northwest Florida and the high cost is adding to the burden of those still recovering from the storm. At the top of PIFF’s list was legislation to end “contingency fee multipliers.” The multiplier allows courts to award higher fees to attorneys who take cases on contingency to compensate them for the higher risk. SB 914 by Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes would end the multiplier under most circumstances. It cleared its first of three committee stops last week.
“Frank Artiles client could get $8 million for water cleanup” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Rep. Brad Drake and Sen. Manny Diaz have filed appropriations requests that would set aside millions for a private company to clean up Florida waterways. Drake’s request (HB 9253) would direct $8 million in funds to Freytech to remove algae and nonnative bacteria from water bodies across the state. Diaz’ appropriations request also weighs in at $8 million and likewise specifies that $7 million would be spent on operations and $1 million would be spent on fixed capital outlay. Freytech is represented by former Republican Sen. Artiles, who began working as a lobbyist in April 2019, two years after he resigned his seat in the Senate. Artiles began representing Freytech in July 2019.
— LEGISLATION —
“New legislation seeks ‘transparency’ in prescription drug pricing, pharmacy process” via Florida Politics — The measure began as a proposed committee bill in the House Health Market Reform Subcommittee. Andrade filed it (HB 7045). The bill would require manufacturers to disclose more about price hikes. Drugmakers would be compelled to give 60 days’ advance notice of price hikes, and annual reports every April of those hikes would be due to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and the Office of Insurance Regulation. The bill also makes provision for so-called “pharmacy audits,” which scrutinize pharmacy billing for potential discrepancies and irregularities in charging, with pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) in the potential crosshairs.
“Senate eyes changes in employee health insurance” via the News Service of Florida — A Senate committee introduced legislation that would make changes to prescription drug benefits, require the state to competitively bid the insurance program to managed-care plans in nine regions and strike a 2017 law that required four different benefit plans to be offered to employees. The bill (SPB 7046) did not draw debate before the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee voted unanimously to move forward with it. The proposal would amend a 2019 law that authorized the introduction of a prescription-drug formulary to make clear that pharmacy benefit managers working on behalf of the state cannot “substitute their judgment over the judgment of the prescriber regarding whether a prescription drug is medically necessary” for the treatment of a patient.
“Lawmakers throw support behind major pre-K reform bill” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida lawmakers threw bipartisan support behind a bill to make major changes in how the state’s prekindergarten programs are measured for success and penalized if they fall short. Senate Bill 1688, sponsored by Sen. Gayle Harrell, would measure programs’ effectiveness in a way that combines children’s progress made over the course of the program with their test scores at the end of pre-K, plus the quality of the children’s interactions with teachers. Pre-K is “essential,” Harrel told the Senate Education Committee. “It is one of the most important things we do in brain development.”
I planned to bring you information about the FL Senate proposal to establish school board term limits. The bill sponsor has offered amendments to make his like the House version. But the committee ran out of time. Maybe next week.
— Jeffrey S. Solochek (@JeffSolochek) January 27, 2020
“Senate panel OKs bill mandating moments of silence in schools” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Ocala Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley’s bill (SB 946) would require public school principals to compel teachers to offer time for silent reflection at the beginning of the school day. “This bill deals with what we all deal with,” Baxley said, “the tyranny of the urgent.” “We live frantic lives … I see it in my own grandchildren,” the Senator said, not elaborating on what that looks like. This proposal would replace the current statute, which calls for a “brief meditation period.”
“Senate moves to boost environmental fines” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — With little comment, the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee unanimously supported the proposal (SB 1450), which would make numerous changes in the amounts and duration of penalties for violating Florida environmental laws. Bill sponsor Gruters said, “Floridians deserve the strongest reasonable protections” and that many penalties the Department of Environmental Protection can impose haven’t been increased since 2001. “Every three hours of every day of the week, seven days a week, of 365 days a year, there is a spill somewhere in Florida,” Gruters said. “We’re way past the time of not addressing this issue.” Most of the changes would increase penalties by 50%.
“Florida could use drones to fight pythons, invasive species” via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press — A bill unanimously approved by a Senate committee would allow two state agencies to use drones in the effort to eradicate invasive plants and animals. The bill would create an exception to a current law that prohibits law enforcement from using drones to gather information and bans state agencies from using drones to gather images on private land. It would allow the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Florida Forest Service to fly drones to manage and eradicate invasive species on public lands. Sen. Ben Albritton said he had been told that drones equipped with LIDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, might be able to identify pythons.
“Rescue animals could become Florida’s official state pet” via The Associated Press — Democratic Sen. Kevin Rader said he filed the legislation after reading rescue animals have become the official state pet or animal of elsewhere, including California, Colorado, Tennessee, Georgia, Illinois and Ohio. “The intent of this designation is to raise public awareness of the many animals waiting for forever homes,” Rader said. “Hopefully, this will encourage more Floridians to adopt pets out of our shelters.” The bill has one more committee stop before reaching the full Senate. An identical House bill is waiting for approval in two committees before going to the full chamber.
“Senate committee approves bill to increase penalties for veterans’ monument desecration” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A bill (SB 1690) from Democratic state Sen. Victor Torres, a Marine veteran and former police officer representing Orlando, known as the “Historical Memorials Protection Act,” sailed through the Senate Committee on Governmental Oversight and Accountability with a unanimous vote and high praise. The bill’s companion, HB 1251, was introduced by a fellow veteran, Republican state Rep. Spencer Roach. The bills would elevate the crime of damaging veterans’ and other memorials to a third-degree felony, which could be punishable by up to five years in prison. SB 1690 and HB 1251 also would make vandals liable to pay the full cost of repair or replacement, and to face triple damages of legal costs. The bills specifically exclude Confederate monuments.
“Digital advertising could be coming to an Uber near you” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Brandes is sponsoring a bill (SB 1352) that would provide a pathway for transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft to incorporate digital advertising into their business model. The framework would allow both drivers and their companies to earn additional revenue. The signs would be illuminated and digitally operated. The bill limits the signs to no taller than 20 inches and no wider than 54 inches. Regardless of the size, the sign could not extend beyond the rear or front windshield or otherwise impair the driver’s vision. The signs could only operate while the vehicle is running. Brandes’ bill also requires the advertisements to abide by all state guidelines regarding lighting requirements.
“Tommy Zeigler case inspires legislator to change Florida’s DNA law” via Leonora LaPeter Anton — Rep. Jamie Grant, the Republican chairman of the House criminal justice subcommittee, plans to introduce legislation that would give Florida inmates more access to forensic testing. He was moved, in part, by the case of Zeigler. The 74-year-old, convicted of killing his wife, in-laws and another man at his family’s Winter Garden furniture store on Christmas Eve 1975, has now been denied DNA testing seven times.
— IN THE CAPITOL —
Assignment editors — The For-Eye Care Foundation, the charitable arm of the Florida Society of Ophthalmology, will celebrate Florida Children’s Week by offering free vision screenings for children, 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., 2nd-floor Rotunda.
Assignment editors — The Florida Sheriffs Association and more than 30 Florida sheriffs will host a news conference to launch the Florida Sheriffs Research Institute, which will include the release of the Institute’s first report on Truth in Sentencing, 9:15 a.m., 4th-floor Rotunda. It will also be streamed live on Facebook at facebook.com/floridasheriffsassociation/.
Assignment editors — Sen. Rader and Rep. Tina Polsky will hold a news conference to discuss SB 184/HB 91 Holocaust Education Act of 2020, which seeks to strengthen the requirements to teach the Holocaust in schools, having the Department of Education create curriculum standards, and requiring both charter schools and private schools accepting government vouchers to participate in this education, 10:30 a.m., outside Senate Chambers, 4th-Floor Rotunda.
Assignment editors — Rep. Cary Pigman and the Florida Association of Nurse Anesthetists will hold a news conference on HB 607, relating to the Autonomous Practice by APRNs, including Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists and nurse practitioners, to practice to the full extent of their education and training without physician supervision and protocols, 11:30 a.m., 4th-Foor Rotunda.
Assignment editors — State Sen. Janet Cruz and Rep. Tracie Davis join members of the nonpartisan faith-based group Faith in Public Life and grassroots advocates hold a news conference to support the Florida Family Leave Act, which would require Florida employers to create provisions to allow new mothers to take paid family leave, 11:30 a.m., 4th-Floor Rotunda.
Assignment editors — Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez will chair the first meeting of the Florida Complete Count Committee, 2 p.m., Cabinet Meeting Room.
Happening Thursday — The Florida Juvenile Justice Association will hold its legislative reception, bringing together hundreds of stakeholders, public servants, advocates, law enforcement, and lawmakers, 5:30 p.m., Historic Capitol Building.
— TODAY’S CMTE. MTGS. —
The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee meets to consider HB 183 from Rep. Mel Ponder, which seeks to allow local elected officials to bring guns to government meetings, 8 a.m., Room 404, House Office Building.
The Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee and the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee meet to consider SB 700 and HB 615 from Sen. Keith Perry and Reps. Clovis Watson and Anthony Sabatini, which seeks to allow juveniles to have their criminal records expunged if they complete diversion programs. Senate subcommittee meets at 8:30 a.m., Room 37, Senate Office Building. House subcommittee meets 4:30 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider SB 486 from Sen. Rob Bradley, which seeks to eliminate the teacher bonus program known as “Best and Brightest,” 8:30 a.m., Room 412, Knott Building.
The Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee meets to hear a presentation from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on derelict vessels, 8:30 a.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.
The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider HB 659 from Rep. Jason Fischer, which seeks to allow FWC and Florida Forest Service employees to use drones in managing and eradicating invasive plans and species, 9 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The House Health Quality Subcommittee meets to consider HB 647 from Rep. Brad Drake, which seeks to make several changes to laws regulating recreational vehicle parks, 9 a.m., Room 306, House Office Building.
The House Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee meets to consider HB 305 from Rep. Bob Rommel, which seeks to preempt local governments from regulating employers over issues like job-classification determinations and hours of work, 9 a.m., Room 12, House Office Building.
The House Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider HB 1135 from Rep. Grant, which seeks to change rules on license plates and create new specialty plates, 9 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.
The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider SB 82 from Chair Aaron Bean, which seeks to overhaul the iBudget program, which provides Medicaid-funded services to people with developmental disabilities, 11 a.m., Room 412, Knott Building.
The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee meets to consider HB 1343 from Rep. Bobby Payne, which seeks to revamp rules on stormwater, sewage facilities and septic systems, noon, Room 12, House Office Building.
The House Business & Professions Subcommittee meets to consider HB 1165 from Rep. Holly Raschein, which seeks changes in regulations of wine containers and craft distilleries, noon, Room 212, Knott Building.
The House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider HB 1193 from Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, which seeks to reduce or eliminate regulations on several occupational licenses, noon, Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider HB 827 from Rep. Cyndi Stevenson, which seeks to permit the licensing of recovery care centers, where patients can stay up to 72 hours after surgery, noon, Room 404, House Office Building.
The House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee meets to consider HB 1371 from Reps. Randy Fine and Mike Caruso, which seeks to change flashing yellow crosswalk lights to red lights or be removed, noon, Reed Hall, House Office Building.
The Senate Health Policy meets to consider SB 120 from Sen. Pizzo, which seeks to would authorize public schools to purchase the drug naloxone, used in opioid overdoses, and allow trained employees to administer the drug, 1:30 p.m., Room 412, Knott Building.
The Senate Criminal Justice Committee meets to consider SB 1416 from Chair Keith Perry, which seeks stricter penalties for people who assault bus drivers and other similar workers, 1:30 p.m., Room 37, Senate Office Building.
The Senate Agriculture Committee meets to consider SB 48 from Sen. Lauren Book, which seeks to ban declawing of cats “unless the procedure is necessary for a therapeutic purpose,” 1:30 p.m., Room 301, Senate Office Building.
The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee meets to hear a presentation about policy considerations over emerging facial-recognition technologies, 1:30 p.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.
The House Health Market Reform Subcommittee meets to consider HB 1279 from Rep. Clay Yarborough, which seeks to require the state Agency for Health Care Administration to publish a report identifying the health care services with the largest cost differentials, 3:30 p.m., Room 306, House Office Building.
The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider HB 901 from Rep. Mel Ponder, which seeks changes to vocational-rehabilitation programs for people with disabilities, 3:30 p.m., Room 212, Knott Building.
The House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee meets to consider HB 1409 from Rep. Michael Grant, which seeks public-records exemptions for a variety of information submitted by insurers to the state, 3:30 p.m., Room 404, House Office Building.
The House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee meets to consider HB 1079 from Rep. Jason Fischer, which seeks a referendum for electing Duval County School Superintendents, 3:30 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.
The House Workforce Development & Tourism Subcommittee meets to consider PCB WTS 20-01, which seeks to permit college athletes in Florida to be compensated for the use of their names, images and likenesses, not for on-field play, 3:30 p.m., Room 12, House Office Building.
The Senate Judiciary Committee meets to consider SB 28, a claim bill from Minority Leader Audrey Gibson, which seeks to compensate 76-year-old Clifford Williams for serving 43 years for a murder he did not commit, 4 p.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.
The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee meets to consider SB 1564 from Sen. Kelli Stargel, which seeks to prevent insurers from using customers’ genetic information to make policy decisions about various forms of insurance, 4 p.m., Room 412, Knott Building.
The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee meets to consider SB 682 from Sen. Dennis Baxley, which seeks to set up a “Florida Guide to a Healthy Marriage,” available on court clerk websites and potentially issued to marriage-license applicants, 4 p.m., Room 301, Senate Office Building.
— GOV. CLUB BUFFET —
Sweet corn, sausage and potato chowder; mixed garden salad with dressings; smoky bacon & black-eyed pea salad; red bliss potato salad; deli board with lettuce, tomatoes, cheeses and breads; Ronnie’s fried chicken; blackened redfish with Cajun rémoulade; grilled pork tenderloin with warm applesauce; white rice pilaf; Broccolini; grilled asparagus; s’mores for dessert.
— STATEWIDE —
“Florida officials monitoring spread of coronavirus” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — DeSantis called coronavirus a “significant public health threat” and said Florida officials have been monitoring its spread. “We have had a number of people who have been in that area of China and had some concerns about whether they had contracted the coronavirus,” he said at an event in Boca Raton. “Everybody to this date who has been tested has come back negative. We do not have a confirmed case in the state of Florida.” DeSantis didn’t say how many people have been tested. He said state health officials were working closely with the federal Centers for Disease Control. “It’s something that we obviously view as a significant public health threat,” he said.
“Florida has some of the worst highway safety laws in the country, watchdog group says” via David Lightman of the Miami Herald — Florida ranks as one of the nation’s worst states for safety laws and enforcement, according to a new report from a watchdog group. Florida is one of 12 states that fall “dangerously behind” laws recommended by the Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety. Nationwide, 47% of the 22,697 people killed in passenger vehicle riders were not wearing seat belts. Among the problems the group found in Florida: Inadequate primary rear seat belt laws, which means law enforcement cannot stop a vehicle simply because a seat belt is unbuckled. The state does have a primary front seat belt law.
“Parkland shooter’s jail tape remains under wraps” via Brittany Wallman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — If attorneys for the Parkland shooter get their way, the public will never see a video of him attacking a guard at the Broward County jail. During a court hearing in the assault case, prosecutors argued that the video should be aired in open court, to back up their argument that Nikolas Cruz committed multiple offenses he could be sentenced for. Defense attorneys said it should not be released. Cruz, 21, faces four charges in the Nov. 13, 2018, attack on Sgt. Ray Beltran, 42, in the Broward County Main Jail in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Barring a guilty plea by Cruz, the case will go to a jury trial later this year.
“Florida Supreme Court reversal on unanimous juries throws death penalty cases into limbo” via Monivette Cordeiro of the Orlando Sentinel — Bessman Okafor was found guilty of first-degree murder in the 2012 killing of 19-year-old Alex Zaldivar, who was set to testify against him. The jury who convicted him in 2015 recommended the death penalty by a vote of 11-1, a sentence overturned because his jurors weren’t unanimous. He remains on death row pending resentencing. Dozens of death row inmates were granted new sentencing hearings after the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016 struck down Florida’s process, ruling it unconstitutional. In a major reversal, justices on the state’s highest court said their predecessors “got it wrong” when they mandated that juries unanimously agree when recommending a judge sentence someone to death.
— I’M LISTENING —
In August, DeSantis appointed Julia Nesheiwat as Florida’s first-ever chief resilience officer. During initial meetings with local officials, Nesheiwat shared the wisdom she brings to the job — including stints with the military and in academia — as well as her experience in creating a federal bureau.
Technology, collaboration and cutting back on fossil fuel emissions should be an essential part of Florida’s strategy to adapt to climate change, Nesheiwat told Brendan Rivers of WUSF.
“I’ve been traveling the state to take an inventory of the vulnerability assessments that local officials have done so we can build our plans and strategies,” Nesheiwat said. “There are compacts between local governments — I was just in Southeast Florida for their compact’s Climate Summit. The East Central Resiliency Compact just did a signing ceremony — being able to work with all those compacts has been tremendous.”
One misconception Nesheiwat found is the belief that issues with sea-level rise and the effects of climate change are limited only to coastlines.
“We tend to forget factors like precipitation, inland flooding, and aging infrastructure,” she said. “The last four hurricanes were all Category 5, so we’re dealing with stronger storms.”
On setting up a statewide resilience plan, Nesheiwat’s goal is to set up and Adaptation Master Plan, which “could give confidence to the market and lay a clear road map for the next 10, 20, 30, or 40 years.”
When asked if local governments also have a responsibility to look into emissions reductions: “Everyone has a responsibility.”
— MOTHER NATURE —
“Duke gets backing to collect hurricane costs” via the News Service of Florida — Duke Energy Florida should get approval to collect $171.3 million from customers to cover costs related to last year’s Hurricane Dorian, staff members of the Florida Public Service Commission have recommended. The commission is slated during a Feb. 4 meeting to take up Duke’s request to collect the money. The Category 5 Dorian did not make landfall in Florida. But Duke said in a December filing that it mobilized 7,800 employees and contractors to be able to restore power if the hurricane barreled into the state, as had been initially predicted. The utility would begin collecting the money from customers in March, with the extra charges lasting for a year.
“Lower number of shark bites off Florida coast may not be good news. Here’s why.” via Kimberly Miller of the Palm Beach Post — Florida Atlantic University scientists believe warmer coastal waters — 1.8 degrees in the past decade — between Boca Raton and Jupiter have thrown the sharks off course, halting their journey north of the area or pushing them farther out to sea. FAU shark expert Stephen Kajiura began tracking the blacktips’ yearly sojourn a decade. The decrease in numbers between 2011 and 2019 has been nearly 60 %, from a peak shark abundance of 12,128 to 4,955 last year. “These animals play an important role in the ecosystem, and lots of sharks are indicative of a healthy ecosystem,” Kajiura said. “If you are missing the boys at the top, then suddenly you have the potential for things to be very out of whack.”
— 2020 —
“How record-high turnout in Iowa could shuffle the 2020 race” via David Siders, Natasha Korecki, Elena Schneider and Maya King of POLITICO — It might not be enough to blunt the momentum swinging nationally to Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. But for Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, high turnout in the Iowa caucuses may be their only chance. “The national conversation seems to be moving past Pete, past Elizabeth, to Bernie and Biden. That’s where I think everything’s heading, or returning,” said Doug Herman, who was a lead mail strategist for Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns. “It’s kind of a reset back to the beginning of the race.” But if there is high turnout in Iowa, he said, “It may help the other candidates: It may be what they need to stay viable.”
“Elizabeth Warren bet big on Iowa. Will her elaborate organization be enough?” via Annie Linskey and Holly Bailey of The Washington Post — That “year of organizing” will have its ultimate test in one week. And it has been almost microscopic. The campaign made a detailed study of almost all of the state’s more than 1,600 precincts to determine how to maximize support. It divided Iowa into nine zones and made an early investment deploying numerous operatives in each one, including remote towns and areas unlikely to support Warren. To decide whom to invite to her intimate clutches, the campaign mounted an extensive data-gathering effort to uncover not only who supports her, but also who might switch under the right circumstances. Warren’s town hall gatherings are now populated with some of the voters her organizers have identified as undecided.
— BLOOMBERG TALKS HEALTH CARE, CAPITALISM —
Michael Bloomberg is not your typical Democrat, especially in his views on the American health care system.
In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times, the Democratic presidential candidate built on some of the same talking points as his rivals — building on Obamacare, lowering drug costs and protecting people the preexisting conditions. But in other ways, the former New York City Mayor takes a different take, particularly with a conventional foe: hospitals.
“Hospitals don’t have hunting lodges for the trustees,” Bloomberg told reporter Steve Contorno. “They’re not wasting money.”
According to Bloomberg, one problem is patients who expect each hospital all the needed items instead of taking somebody and “drive them to another hospital to share a piece of equipment.”
Rising costs of unnecessary medical care and hospitals ordering tests to justify new equipment was a significant issue during Barack Obama’s administration. But Democrats are not talking about that right now.
For Bloomberg, there would be some cost for health insurance to middle-class Americans, although he couldn’t say how much that would be: “You’d love to have them not pay anything. That’s not practical.”
Bloomberg holds the same attitude on student debt, believing that consumers should shoulder some of the blame: “We want (colleges) to have lots of buildings and lots of programs. It drives the price up and then we complain about the price.”
America doesn’t need big structural change, as touted by Warren; Bloomberg feels that the country needs someone who can better manage its capitalist system.
“No system is perfect,” Bloomberg told the Times. “But this one’s a lot better than the others.”
— PEACHY —
Breaking overnight — “John Bolton was concerned that Donald Trump did favors for autocratic leaders, book says” via Michael Schmidt and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times — Bolton, the former national security adviser, privately told Attorney General William Barr last year that he had concerns that Trump was effectively granting personal favors to the autocratic leaders of Turkey and China, according to an unpublished manuscript. Barr responded by pointing to a pair of Justice Department investigations of companies in those countries and said he was worried that Trump had created the appearance that he had undue influence over what would typically be independent inquiries. Bolton’s account underscores the fact that the unease about Trump’s seeming embrace of authoritarian leaders also existed among some of the senior Cabinet officers entrusted by the president to carry out his foreign policy and national security agendas.
“President’s defense attacks Joe Biden and declines to mention Bolton” via The Washington Post — The defense began its promised assault on former Vice President Biden and his son, Hunter, describing what they said was significant evidence of corruption that made Trump’s interest in the case proper. Pam Bondi, one of the president’s lawyers, accused Democrats of denying the legitimacy of investigations into the Bidens because the House case depends on the premise that Trump was only interested in the negative political impact on his rival. Meanwhile, the defense has ignored revelations from Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser, that directly contradict their case.
“Pam Bondi makes the case against the Bidens” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Bondi’s first turn in the spotlight as part of Trump’s defense team placed her on offense, not just against the Democratic House impeachment managers, but also against the Biden family. Bondi put on her old prosecutor’s hat and went right after the Ukrainian natural gas company, Burisma Holdings, contending it was so deeply corrupt that the Bidens’ roles not only were suspect but warranted investigation. Bondi then detailed the timelines of Burisma, its founder Mykola Zlochevsky, Hunter Biden‘s participation on the company’s board, various investigations of corruption, and Vice President Biden‘s efforts in Ukraine, including getting the Ukrainian government to fire Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin.
“A great triggering occurs after Bondi lays out Biden corruption during the impeachment trial” via Bonchie of Red State — There went forth the sound of a great triggering this afternoon after Bondi took to the Senate floor to deliver a devastating fact case against Hunter Biden. The common refrain you hear from Democrats and the media is that Hunter Biden is irrelevant. Yet, they then want to deny Republicans the right to show that investigating him was a legitimate pursuit. It’s an attempt to have it both ways and Bondi was having none of it. Enough of the double standards. Democrats don’t get to claim that Trump had no legitimate reason to investigate in Ukraine while at the same time demanding no efforts be made to show there was a legitimate reason. That’s not how this works.
“Ted Cruz’s new gig: Top podcaster” via Marianne Levine of Politico — In 2016, Cruz fought a deeply personal and bitter battle against Trump for the Republican nomination for President. But four years later, the Texas Republican has the top podcast in the country defending the President as he faces his impeachment trial. The podcast, titled “Verdict with Ted Cruz” features Cruz and Michael Knowles, a conservative political commentator, and is taped at the end of the Senate impeachment trial every day, even if that means 2 a.m. So far, it’s had more than 500,000 downloads and has even earned a retweet from Trump promoting it. It’s now the No. 1 podcast on iTunes, surpassing “The Joe Rogan Experience” and The New York Times’ “The Daily.”
— D.C. MATTERS —
“How Vladimir Putin outfoxed Trump in Venezuela” via Jessica Donati, Andrew Restuccia and Ian Talley of The Wall Street Journal — The Trump administration’s bid to replace Venezuela’s authoritarian leader Nicolás Maduro hit a roadblock after a meeting with Russian officials in Rome last year — and has never recovered. The Trump administration, confident Maduro would fall, didn’t foresee Russia leading the way for other countries to eclipse the sanctions. In turn, the administration’s reluctance to impose sanctions on Russian enterprises and others kept Venezuela’s oil and gold flowing to buyers. Russia now handles more than two-thirds of Venezuela’s crude oil, current and former administration officials said, including helping to conceal export destinations. The lifeline has helped Maduro slow the economy’s free fall, consolidate his grip on power and weaken the opposition.
“Despite U.S. sanctions, a South Florida businessman is linked to Venezuela’s gold industry” via Antonio Maria Delgado and Nicholas Nehamas of the Miami Herald — A South Florida businessman is the largest owner of a joint project with the Venezuelan Ministry of Defense to process gold mined in the depths of the Amazon rainforest, despite sanctions imposed by Washington, D.C. on the Maduro, as well as on the nation’s billion-dollar mining industry. Venezuelan-Trinidadian businessman Clemente Ricardo Silva, who lives in Doral, is the main investor in a gold-processing plant under construction in the remote Venezuelan town of Las Claritas.
“Supreme Court allows Trump’s wealth test for green cards” via Adam Liptak of The New York Times — The Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration to move forward with plans to deny green cards to immigrants who are thought to be likely to make even occasional and minor use of public benefits like Medicaid, food stamps and housing vouchers. The vote was 5 to 4, with the court’s conservative justices in the majority. The court’s brief order gave no reasons for lifting preliminary injunctions that had blocked the new program. Challenges to the program will continue to move forward in courts around the nation. The administration announced in August that it would revise the so-called public charge rule. In the past, only substantial and sustained monetary help or long-term institutionalization counted, and fewer than 1 % of applicants were disqualified on public-charge grounds.
“Former Florida GOP Chair says he ‘would not have been allowed to stay in America’ under new Trump immigration rule” via Colin Wolf of Creative Loafing Tampa Bay — Al Cardenas responded to the 5-4 ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court — which makes it harder for poor, legal immigrants to receive green cards — by saying he wouldn’t have been allowed to stay in America. The ruling, which was initially pushed by White House senior adviser Stephen Miller granted the Trump administration’s previous request to expand its ability to refuse green cards or visas for legal immigrants determined to be a “public charge,” or dependent on public assistance, like Medicaid, food stamps or housing assistance. “Sadly, I would not have been allowed to stay in America, prior to 1966, under this wealth test,” tweeted Cardenas.
“Florida lawmakers in D.C. aim to stamp out hair-based discrimination” via Allison Stevens of Florida Phoenix — Democrats Al Lawson, Frederica Wilson, Alcee Hastings, and Val Demings are among the U.S. House lawmakers pushing a bill that would ban discrimination based on hair textures and styles. The bill, known as the CROWN Act, would clarify that discrimination based on race or national origin encompasses hair texture and style. Backers say the bill — which names styles commonly associated with black people, such as dreadlocks, cornrows, twists, and Bantu knots — would improve equity in education, employment, housing, and other public programs. The issue is of particular concern to black women, whose hair is more likely than white women’s hair to be perceived as “unprofessional,” according to a 2019 study of 2,000 black and white women.
“Partisan anxieties surface during John Kelly appearance in Sarasota” via Billy Cox of the Herald Tribune — The Marine general who told Trump that he would “be impeached” if he hired a “yes man” … reiterated his contention Monday … That was one of the many lines at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall from retired Gen. Kelly, who resigned as Trump’s Chief of Staff last January … His pronouncement that “I believe in my heart and soul that the press, the media, is a necessary component of our democracy” drew about as much applause as his follow-up observation that “some individuals on both sides of the discussion have lost their subjectivity and are picking sides.” Kelly also tried to strike a balance on the decision to kill Qasem Soleimani early this month. The leatherneck who joined the Trump administration as Director of Homeland Security in 2017 reminded listeners the decision to get Soleimani was made a year after he stepped down.
— THE TRAIL —
“GOP congressional candidate accuses primary opponent of being a terrorist” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — A group of George Buck supporters showed up to a fundraising event for rival Amanda Makki waving a sign accusing Makki of being a terrorist. She’s not and Buck himself condemned the accusation. Buck and Makki are two of five Republican candidates for Florida’s 13th Congressional District, which is currently held by Rep. Charlie Crist. Buck already came under fire once for implying in an email early last month that progressive U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar should be hanged. A photo, since removed, showed up on protest organizer Ken Gorey’s Facebook page over the weekend calling Makki a terrorist.
Happening today — Former state Rep. Jason Brodeur holds a campaign event in Volusia County in his bid for SD 9, 5 p.m., Blue Springs Brewery, 1070 South Volusia Ave., Orange City.
“Superintendent Rocky Hanna fundraiser draws broad support from local leaders” via Tallahassee Reports — Hanna, who recently filed for reelection, won his first four-year term in 2016 by defeating incumbent superintendent Jackie Pons. So far, Hanna is the only candidate in the race. The list of sponsors includes Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey, super lobbyists Brian Ballard and Sean Pittman, public relations expert Ron Sachs, and former Congresswoman and Florida gubernatorial candidate, Gwen Graham.
— LOCAL —
“Councilman: Investigation found cause to fire Aaron Zahn from JEA with cause” via David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union — Jacksonville City Council member Rory Diamond got a briefing from the Office of General Counsel about its investigation, which will be in the hands of the JEA board when it decides whether Zahn will receive any compensation on his way out the door. “I can say unequivocally that the general counsel’s office found cause under Aaron Zahn’s contract to fire him,” Diamond said. He said part of the investigation examined statements Zahn made during a special meeting called by Diamond and City Council member Ron Salem to examine a controversial employee incentive plan. “They didn’t just find some cause,” Diamond said. “They found lots of cause, including directly lying to me and Councilman Salem, and even potentially falsifying documents.”
“Jerry Demings seeks Orlando’s support for transportation tax” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Demings brought his countywide push for an added penny sales tax to fund transportation to the Orlando council chambers … The county Mayor discussed opportunities to expand mass transit, such as substantial investments to the Lynx bus system and the potential for added SunRail routes to places like Apopka and International Drive. He already had a staunch supporter in Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer but gained support from a clear majority of the council, eager for portions of the projected $596 million to advance needs in their pockets of the city. A cut of the money created by adding a penny to the county’s 6.5% tax will be distributed to cities across Orange County based on population.
“Polk School Board shake-up? Melony Bell hints at removing Billy Townsend” via Kimberly Moore of the Lakeland ledger — In a hearing on creating term limits for school board members, Bell singled out Townsend — although not by name — in offering her support to limit school board members throughout the state to two four-year terms. “We have a school board member in Polk County — and I’ll go on the record — that most likely needs to be removed and the Governor has not removed him, and it’s taken time after time after time, and he just disrupts the whole school board, the teachers, the association,” Bell said during a hearing in the Florida House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee.
“Boca Council to begin process of lifting ban on medical marijuana” via Dale King of the Boca Raton Tribune — The Boca Raton City Council is expected this week to begin the process of lifting the municipality’s ban on the dispensing of medical marijuana. The first of two public hearings on an ordinance to remove “medical marijuana treatment center dispensing facilities” from the list of prohibited uses will be held during Tuesday’s council meeting at 6 p.m. in City Hall. No vote will be taken that night, says the agenda. Another hearing will be held during the first regular council meeting in February when the vote is likely to be taken after the completion of the hearing.
“The fight over Airbnbs: Will a bill open up floodgates for rentals in Palm Beach County?” via Hannah Morse of the Palm Beach Post — The bill intends to preempt local government from regulating vacation rentals. Vacation rental platforms and the Florida Vacation Rental Management Association support the bill. For different reasons, the Palm Beach County tax collector disapproves of the bill. A bill sponsor told a House subcommittee that the bill would not impact an HOA’s ability to enforce rules that prohibit short-term vacation rentals from being run inside their gates. But for Beth Rappaport, president of the Coalition of Boynton West Residential Associations (COBWRA), language is key. In its current iteration, the bill says in part that property owners have “constitutionally protected property rights” that gives them the “right to use their residential property as a vacation rental.”
“St. Augustine Beach planning board members resign” via Sheldon Gardner of The St. Augustine Record — The chair and vice-chair of the city of St. Augustine Beach’s Comprehensive Planning and Zoning Board have resigned, citing disrespect by city staff as one of the reasons for their departure. Jane West, former chair, and Elise Sloan, former vice-chair, sent a joint letter to commissioners announcing their resignation. The board advises the Commission on a variety of development matters. The two have served about 16 years on the board combined and made recommendations to commissioners under at least five different Mayors, according to the letter. The letter says that while board members’ findings and recommendations were given “due consideration” under the former Mayor and current Commissioner Undine George, their recommendations are increasingly being “ignored if not outright negated.”
“Whither Weeki Wachee? Iconic Florida roadside attraction, city and river on verge of change” via Barbara Behrendt of the Tampa Bay Times — The most pressing issue at hand is preserving and restoring the Weeki Wachee River after years of recreational overuse. The state and local agencies charged with protecting the natural resource want the community to know what public use is doing to the river and what might be necessary to stop it. The draft of a yearlong carrying-capacity study of the Weeki Wachee River showed that human activity on the river is degrading the water system and the lands that surround it. The study does not recommend setting a limit on how many people the river should carry. But it indicates that people who get out of their boats and climb up on the riverbanks are responsible for degrading the shoreline.
“UCF to fire 3 faculty members accused of helping student get Ph.D. in exchange for grants” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — UCF plans to fire two professors and the director of its Institute for Simulation and Training because they helped a student fraudulently obtain a doctoral degree in exchange for the student assisting the institute in securing grants, the university announced. The university also started the process to revoke the student’s Ph.D., which, UCF documents show, was completed using work from other students and amounted to plagiarism. UCF officials began an investigation in 2016 when someone called a university hotline to report a student was “being unusually helped” in exchange for “providing and overseeing research funds” for a lab at the Institute for Simulation and Training, letters sent to the three employees show. The student worked for an “agency” that provided research funding, the documents show.
“Volcano Bay visitor sues Universal in first lawsuit over electric shock incident; Universal blames her in response” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — In a legal fight against a woman who says she suffered an electrical shock at Volcano Bay last summer, Universal argues it didn’t know about the electrical problems, so it had no duty to warn visitors. Universal also blamed the woman, saying she hadn’t used “reasonable care for her own safety,” in the response filed last month to what appears to be the first lawsuit in Orange Circuit Court stemming from June 2 when several Universal lifeguards and visitors said they experienced electrical currents running up their bodies and the sensation of being zapped.
“O yeah! Oprah Winfrey magazine list ranks Stuart in Top 10 ‘charming towns to visit ASAP‘” via Jennifer Sangalang of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Stuart ranked No. 6 in the O Magazine story, which lists small towns from Alaska to Pennsylvania. It’s one of three Florida locations mentioned. Editors of this month’s issue invite readers to “hit the roads less traveled” with their pick of 60 low-key cities. The O Magazine staff writes: “Stuart is formally known as the Sailfish Capital of the World, thanks to its proximity to the St. Lucie River and the Indian River Lagoon. The small town’s tropical climate is perfect for snowbirds who enjoy getting away during the bitter winter months, but are looking for a less popular destination.” The magazine links to the city’s official website, too.
“After years of pushing Sandy Hook conspiracy theories, Florida man who worked with Alex Jones is arrested” via Dave Altimari of the Hartford Courant — The ringleader of a group that has hounded the families of victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting was arrested early Monday morning by sheriffs and charged with unlawful possession of personal identification of another person. Wolfgang Halbig has spent years trying to show the shooting was a hoax and that the 20 children who died were actually actors — as recently as the last few weeks, he posted photos of children that he claimed were actually current photos of the victims. Halbig was arrested at 1:39 a.m. at his Sorrento home, according to the police report.
— TOP OPINION —
“Michael Bloomberg: A new future for Puerto Rico includes making it our 51st state” via the Orlando Sentinel — For decades, Puerto Ricans and their interests have been ignored by Washington. And there’s a simple reason why: They don’t have a vote in Congress. There’s a clear solution to this challenge that a majority of Puerto Ricans support. And it’s a solution that, polls show, two-thirds of all Americans also support: statehood. But most candidates for president have been too afraid to back it. They tiptoe around it, to avoid alienating any voters. Not me. I’ll state it clearly: I support statehood for Puerto Rico. And as president, I will work to pass a bill making it a reality, subject to approval by the people of Puerto Rico — who will make the ultimate decision.
— OPINIONS —
“Why home addresses of legislators should remain public” via Tampa Bay Times editorial — Police officers and judges face dangerous criminals every day, which is why their home addresses and telephone numbers are kept private under Florida law. But now Sen. Stargel wants the Florida Legislature to extend that same secrecy to state legislators — even though the Lakeland Republican cannot cite any credible threat to warrant the privilege. This is an assault on open government by lawmakers who live in a bubble and don’t want to be held accountable by the media or the voters. The bill continues a growing assault on public openness by the Legislature, which has granted a range of records exemptions in recent years that only make it harder to expose public corruption and incompetence.
“Lake’s state Representatives either extremists or useless” via Lauren Ritchie of the Orlando Sentinel — The most colorful is Sabatini, who claims to be Republican. How can someone tout their “conservative” view but file a bill allowing the government to tell parents what they should and shouldn’t permit doctors to do to their children? This is a mystery. Somehow, parents have managed to raise kids without the help of a young politician who has none of his own. Ironically, Sabatini’s bill would butt heads with one filed by state Sen. Stargel, a Lakeland Republican who represents the southern half of Lake County. She filed something called a “Parental Rights Bill” that declares people have the right to raise their own children. As if they don’t already. Sigh. This is what happens when extremists try to write laws without adult supervision.
“Julio Fuentes: Lawmakers can help more Floridians access responsible credit” via Florida Politics — A recent report shows that only 28% of Hispanic-owned businesses received full funding they sought from financial institutions for growing and operating their businesses. This is why the Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce strongly urges the Florida legislature to pass the Access to Responsible Credit Pilot Program (HB857/SB894). Small-dollar, credit-building loans are important to start businesses, pay for home repairs or cover unexpected medical bills. They are frequently most needed by those with low or no credit scores. The legislation slightly increases the legally allowable profit, or interest rates, for lenders who issue loans under $3,000 from 30% to 36%. The Access to Responsible Credit Pilot Program will support a private-sector solution that is a “win-win” for business owners and consumers.
— MOVEMENTS —
“Personnel note: Jim Fogler named president and CEO of Florida Press Association” via Florida Politics — Publishing industry veteran Fogler has been selected as the new President and CEO of the Florida Press Association and Intersect Media Solutions, the organizations announced Monday. In his new role, Fogler will become the chief advocate for publishers in Florida and oversee management services to multiple state media associations. He also will lead Intersect Media Solutions, a $40 million for-profit enterprise. “Fogler is dedicated to building strong teams that create, and effectively execute meaningful solutions to solve business needs and challenges,” said Howard Griffin, Gannett’s Senior Vice President of National Retail Sales and board chairman at Intersect Media.
Anthony Seijas joins Altis Cardinal — Seijas, a 27-year veteran of the real estate field, has joined Altis Cardinal as a principal primarily to continue expanding the real estate firm’s multifamily platform. The bulk of Seijas experience was built over 26 years at Lennar, where he was regional vice president, overseeing homebuilding operations in South Florida, and at Rialto Capital Advisors, a Lennar subsidiary where he was managing director. “Anthony is an outstanding real estate professional with a sterling reputation in the industry, and we’re thrilled to welcome him to our team,” said Frank Guerra, principal and founder of Altis Cardinal. “His experience, relationships, and institutional pedigree will continue to elevate the multifamily platform within Altis Cardinal which includes ground-up development and reposition investments, as well as strengthening our capital markets relationships.”
— ALOE —
“The Falcon And The Winter Soldier set to arrive on Disney+ this summer” via Ben Travis of Empire — After the announcement that WandaVision has moved up from 2021 to a release later this year, it now seems that’s not the only Marvel show on Disney+ that’s coming early — The Falcon And The Winter Soldier could also be launching sooner than expected. According to Deadline, the show following Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes — the former having just inherited Cap’s shield — will be with us in August, a late summer launch that’s earlier than the initial ‘Fall’ announcement. It makes sense that FATWS (as nobody is yet calling it) will arrive sooner in the year if WandaVision is also to be squeezed into the final months of 2020.
“‘Transformers’ franchise gets a revamp with two separate films in the works” via Justin Kroll of Variety — Paramount Pictures is looking to revamp its “Transformers” franchise in a big way; two simultaneous scripts are now in active development. Paramount’s most recent take on the franchise was 2018’s “Bumblebee,” a coming-of-age tale that was produced on a smaller budget than other “Transformers” films. That different approach went over well with both critics and audiences, grossing $465 million worldwide and opening up a new opportunity to continue the franchise, with the studio now expanding the “Transformers” universe with the development of two scripts. Details behind both scripts are still vague, but sources say they present an opportunity to build out multiple storylines within the franchise.
— SUPER BOWL’ING —
“Super Bowl week has begun in Miami, and local officials are already looking forward to the next one in South Florida” via Safid Deen of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — We’re six days away from the record 11th Super Bowl in Miami, and game officials are ecstatic about this week’s events and activities leading up to Sunday’s grand spectacle. They’re even excited about the experience they provide locals and visitors this week could lead to another Super Bowl in the area in the next five to seven years, too. But first, let’s celebrate this one. “This is going to be hopefully the best Super Bowl we’ve seen,” Dolphins vice chairman, president and CEO Tom Garfinkel said during a news conference at the Miami Beach Convention Center to kick off the festivities. “The only one that’s going to be better will be the next one the Miami Dolphins are playing in.”
“Our region’s greatest threat is also the No. 1 threat to future Super Bowls in Miami” via Adam Beasley and Alex Harris of the Miami Herald — The Super Bowl is at Hard Rock Stadium. Still, the real party is 15 miles south at Bayfront Park. That popular stretch of green space that abuts the bay is the home of Super Bowl Live, where concerts, food festivals and water shows will entertain the hundreds of thousands of tourists who will soon pack our hotels. A message for visitors and locals alike: Enjoy the circus now. There’s no telling when — or more importantly, how many more times — it will be back. Because the lapping water in downtown Miami that makes for such an idyllic backdrop is, year by year, inching closer to the top of the sea wall. At some point, assuming experts’ projections are correct, the wall will be breached, the ocean and land will become one, and Miami will be forever changed.
“FPL solar installation powers Super Bowl festivities” via Florida Politics — The installation covers nearly 400 feet of walkway around the FPL Solar Amphitheater at Bayfront Park and features seven solar trees. FPL said the 500-panel structure generates about 250 kilowatt-hours of energy, enough to cover the amphitheater’s power consumption during concert season. The structure isn’t temporary — the utility company said it “will serve as a lasting landmark and symbolize Miami’s sustainable and resilient future.” The solar installation is a partnership between FPL, Bayfront Park Management Trust, the City of Miami and Live Nation. In addition to generating solar energy, the array serves as a research hub and test bed for groundbreaking “bifacial solar panel” technology, which, unlike traditional panels, can produce power on both sides.
“Why Chiefs’ decision in historic red vs. red matchup matters” via Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports — There is a deep history and meaning to the color red, especially in sports. And when you understand its meaning, it comes as no surprise why the Chiefs picked their home jerseys for the biggest game of the season. This is as evenly matched a Super Bowl as we’ve seen in recent years. Most betting lines have the Chiefs (14-4) as slim one-point favorites over the NFC champion 49ers (15-3). What’s in a jersey color? Perhaps the slightest of advantages, steeped in tens of thousands of years of human evolution. For all of recorded human history, red has represented activity, assertiveness, blood and bloodshed. Red is an aggressive, dynamic and activity producer.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Celebrating today is ace fundraiser Debbie Aleksander.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.