Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 1.31.20

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Good morning: Here's your first look at the issues behind today's Florida politics.

Bulletin — Brexit is finally happening: Friday at 11 p.m. GMT (6 p.m. Eastern time). After a final vote Wednesday, the European Union Parliament reluctantly let go of the United Kingdom and finalized the long, drawn-out Brexit divorce battle, setting the stage for some problematic trade negotiations to come. So ends Britain’s 47 years of membership as it becomes the first of the 28 countries in the EU to leave.

European Parliament President David Sassoli, center, stands with other British MEP’s and members of the political group Socialist and Democrats as they participate in a ceremony prior to the vote on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU at the European Parliament in Brussels.

Get your GSC fix — I will be up Tuesday and Wednesday to hand-deliver Girl Scout Cookie orders. If you still need a GSC fix and would like me to drop some off to your office near the Capitol, please consider ordering some from Ella Joyce’s cookie site here. Remember to click on “Get In-Person Delivery.”

For your Super Bowl radar — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried will lead a Fresh From Florida cooking demo on-stage with former Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder and state executive chef Justin Timineri, Saturday 6:45 p.m. at the Super Bowl LIVE Fan Fest at Bayfront Park.

Speaking of the Super Bowl, Sunday is the big game — the 54th Super Bowl and 50th National Football League championship game of the modern erawith the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers playing at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. The game kicks off at 6:30 p.m.

Who will bring home the Lombardi Trophy? We want to know.

It’s a well-matched contest, with both teams having speed as well as proven offensive and defensive lines.

That means any attempt at prediction will be a challenge — and that’s most of the fun, right?

So we’re asking our friends and fans to give us their best guesses of how the game will turn out, and perhaps some ideas on what it would take to turn out that way.

Please, send them to [email protected], and we’ll include some in our Sunday Brunch email.

Thank you — and enjoy the game!

So who will take home the Lombardi Trophy? We want your best guess.


Members of the Legislative Black Caucus are calling for an outside investigation into the officer-involved shooting that took the life of a 22-year-old FAMU student.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Despite a landmark death penalty ruling last week by the Florida Supreme Court, leaders in the state Senate say they’re not going to change the law that requires a unanimous vote of the jury to impose a death sentence. At least, not in the current session

— Florida pharmacists say they’re being driven out of business by pharmacy benefit managers. PBMs were supposed to help people get the drugs they need at the best prices, but critics say some giant health care companies have rigged the system to raise rates, increase profits and drive small pharmacies out of business

— On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, pollster extraordinaire Steve Vancore talks about the presidential campaign.

— Deputies in Osceola County say a Florida Man walked into a Kissimmee McDonald’s wearing an employee uniform, went behind the cash register, and helped another man place an order. Once the register was open, the faux employee grabbed a handful of cash and ran. So did the guy who placed the order. Deputies say it’s the second time the guy pulled this stunt — the first was on Christmas Day.

To listen, click on the image below:


Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

@ValDemings: We’ve already seen how this GOP service-gutting scheme plays out: Puerto Rico’s block program has led to massive debts, drastic cuts, long waits, and thousands of Americans who can’t get the treatment they need. Expanding it will have deadly consequences.

Tweet, tweet:

@MattGaetz: I feel like raising money for journalist scholarships boomer-washes the fraud that is modern-day higher ed. Better to use the money to retire the near-criminal student loans of currently broke journalists eating their ramen while covering state & local gov

@MorningMoneyBen: We live in rough, bitter times. Everyone is on edge. It’s heartening to me that there are so many people on here who are just good and kind and want to share a bit of love and support. We all need it.


Super Bowl LIV in Miami —2; Great American Realtors Day — 3; Iowa Caucuses — 3; Eighth Democratic presidential debate in Manchester — 6; Capitol Press Corps press skits — 10; New Hampshire Primaries — 11; Pitchers and catchers begin reporting for MLB Spring Training — 11; South Beach Wine and Food Festival — 19; Ninth Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas — 19; Roger Stone’s sentencing — 20; Nevada caucuses — 22; “Better Call Saul” Season 5 premiers — 23; 10th Democratic presidential debate in Charleston — 25; South Carolina Primaries — 29; Super Tuesday — 32; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 42; Florida’s presidential primary — 46; “No Time to Die” premiers — 66; Florida TaxWatch Spring Board Meeting begins — 75; TaxWatch Principal Leadership Awards — 76; Florida Chamber Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 105; “Top Gun: Maverick” premiers — 147; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 164; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premiers — 168; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo start — 175; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 200; First Presidential Debate in Indiana — 242; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 206; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 250; Second Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 258; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 265; 2020 General Election — 277.


Florida Senate proposes $92.8 billion state budget” via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press — The Florida Senate released a $92.8 billion state budget proposal that includes raises for state workers and teachers. The proposed spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1 would be a $1.8 billion increase over the current budget. It’s also $1.4 billion more than the budget Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis proposed in November. The budget includes $500 million for teacher raises. DeSantis is proposing $600 million. Overall, the Senate wants an increase of nearly $763 million for schools, or an additional $181.29 per student over the current budget. 

Senate delivers 3% pay raise for state workers in 2020-21 budget proposal” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — “One of our commitments … was to invest in a salary increase for our state employees,” said budget chief Rob Bradley. “In addition to an across-the-board raise, the Senate budget ensures that the increase in the cost of state employee health insurance is fully funded by the state.” Corrections and probation officers are in line for increases based on length of service: $500 for two years of employment, $1,500 for at least two but less than five years, $2,500 for five or more years in addition to the 3% hike.

Bill Galvano and Rob Bradley drop a $92.8 billion Senate Budget proposal.

House budget leaner than Senate proposal” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — The House budget dropped devoid of quotes from House Speaker José Oliva and Budget Chief Travis Cummings. However, it did have a website launch attached, “as part of its commitment to transparency and access to public information.” It also came in lighter than the Senate document: a mere $91.3 billion, in range with the budget proposed by DeSantis in October. The Senate justified spending bumps with “significant changes in estimates of future state obligations” since DeSantis rolled out his budget. The Senate was willing to commit $500 million for teacher pay raises, with 80% being used to increase the minimum salary to $47,500 as the Governor wants.

>>>House launches budget website The Florida House has updated its website to include a one-stop-shop for all things budget-related. The page has sections for conference reports, filed appropriations bills, proposed appropriations bills, as well as some links to the Senate’s appropriations page. The launch comes after each chamber has released their spending proposals for the 2020-21 fiscal year.


Ron DeSantis Joins DEP, FWC to kickoff ‘100 Yards of Hope’ — DeSantis, joined by Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Executive Director Eric Sutton and others, announce the kickoff of ‘100 Yards of Hope’ and launch a new initiative to promote awareness and protection of Florida’s Coral Reef ecosystem. 100 Yards of Hope is a coral reef restoration project in conjunction with FORCE BLUE to plant 100 yards of coral. “Florida is proud to be the only state in the continental U.S. with a nearshore coral reef,” DeSantis said. “By protecting and restoring Florida’s coral reef, we are protecting a state treasure. Florida is not Florida without its coral reefs.”

100 Yards of Hope is a coral reef restoration project in conjunction with nonprofit FORCE BLUE to plant 100 yards of coral while also honoring the NFL’s 100th season and America’s military veterans.

Happening today — DeSantis and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas will be among the featured guests at The Federalist Society event beginning 3:15 p.m.; DeSantis and Thomas will speak at a banquet, 6:45 p.m., Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resort, 1700 Epcot Resorts Blvd., Lake Buena Vista.

Nikki Fried plans to disclose hidden income from 2018, but her 2017 filing found to contain $25,000 in new errors” via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist — After failing to disclose her actual income on a required financial disclosure statement for 2018, Fried says she intends to fix the problem by filing an amended financial statement. But now, new discrepancies have surfaced. Fried’s 2017 financial disclosure contains previously unknown errors and omissions, totaling $25,000. Ethics laws require her to file accurate information, which means an amended disclosure statement will need to be filed for that year, too. Through a spokesman, Fried confirmed her plans to file an amended disclosure that includes all required details about her 2018 income, including all payments from major clients and the disposition of her lobbying business, Igniting Florida, LLC. Fried is currently the highest-ranking elected Democrat in Florida.

As Florida House starts investigating domestic violence nonprofit, exec has no answers” via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald — Sandra Barnett, COO of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, came before the House Public Integrity & Ethics Committee and said that despite spending a decade as former CEO Tiffany Carr’s second in command, she bears little responsibility for what has gone on inside the nonprofit and that she will comply with a House and ongoing Department of Children and Families investigation. Lawmakers embarked on a study into the coalition, which has come under fire for its former CEO’s high salary and disregard of a state audit that has been underway for over a year. The House’s investigation, which comes after reporting that illuminated Carr’s more than $761,000 annual salary, was ordered by House Speaker Oliva.

Allendale United Methodist Rev. Andy Oliver delivers scathing rebuke in controversial House prayer” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The St. Petersburg pastor’s remarks touched on several issues Republican lawmakers either do not support or actively work against including LGBTQ protections, living wages, and reproductive rights. His comments were the talk of Tallahassee as members, the majority of whom are Republicans, saw the invocation as a politically motivated speech rather than the traditional inspirational message lawmakers commonly hear during symbolic invocations. The remarks could also land Rep. Jennifer Webb in hot water. Webb sponsored Oliver’s invocation, and he was there at her behest. No one has said directly, but the House has a track record for handing down retribution to lawmakers who have upset the natural order of business in Tallahassee.


Amid backlash over anti-LGBTQ schools, lawmakers push even less voucher oversight” via Emily L. Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — Despite mounting backlash over schools with anti-LGTBQ policies that accept state support, Florida lawmakers from both parties advanced a bill that would trim oversight of the leading nonprofit that administers private school vouchers at the center of the controversy. Under the bill, an annual audit of the nonprofit organizations that administers the vouchers would change so that it would be conducted only once every three years. While heralding the opportunities the vouchers provide students, lawmakers barely discussed the change in oversight. That’s despite an Orlando Sentinel investigation of 1,000 private religious schools that accepted the vouchers for low-income students found that 83 of them have policies explicitly barring LGBTQ students, or, sometimes, the children of LGBTQ parents, from attending their schools.

Key GOP lawmaker: No fix needed for school voucher program as more companies pull funds over LGBTQ policies” via Gray Rohrer and Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — State Sen. Manny Diaz, who chairs the Senate Education Committee and is a staunch supporter of the Tax Credit Scholarship voucher program, said he doesn’t want the state to meddle in parents’ decisions on where they send their child to school. “The money goes to the parents,” said Diaz. “The parents make the decision. A parent is never going to put a child in a situation that is not beneficial for the child, and if it is not beneficial, they have the ability to move them.” Democrats have pressed Republican legislative leaders to hear bills that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation within the voucher program in the last two years.

Despite corporations pulling out, Manny Diaz says there’s no fix needed for the state’s Tax Credit Scholarship voucher program.

Top Republican state Senators say they’re not going to change death penalty law” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — “I don’t think we’re going to take any steps in the Florida Senate to change or address that,” Senate President Bill Galvano said. The Senator who has led state policy on the death penalty in the past, Sen. Bradley agreed. “Death is different. It’s an appropriate standard, and it puts us in line with the norms of today,” he said. “Florida is not an outlier anymore, so it’s appropriate where we are.” The Florida Supreme Court’s ruling did not affect current state law, which requires a unanimous jury to sentence someone to death. But last week’s decision opened the door for the Legislature to change the law, if it wished.

What Jim Fogler is reading —Effort to retract legal notice requirements clears House hurdle” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Florida House Judiciary Committee advanced legislation (HB 7) that would allow notices to go on city websites instead of the local paper. “We sometimes argue like we are living in a fictional world where everyone is getting the newspaper every day, and they can’t wait to read these notices that are in 6-point font,” said Rep. Randy Fine, the bill sponsor. The Palm Bay Republican said governments still will need to publish notices, but moving that information online means they do so at no charge. Critics of the move, however, say a cost will be incurred in eyeballs, as such notices go entirely unnoticed.

Lawmakers advance ban on lobbying and self-dealing” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — A bill that will put teeth into the voter-approved law banning elected officials from using their public office for private gain was unanimously approved by the Florida House and is headed to the state Senate. The measure puts penalties behind the ethics rules imposed by Amendment 12, the constitutional change overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2018 to end the revolving door between public office and private lobbying. The constitutional amendment updates Florida law, which currently has no safeguards in place to stop state legislators from writing legislation that benefits their personal interests, and it extends the current two-year ban on legislators’ lobbying to six years. The bills, HB 7009 and SB 7006, both impose penalties for violations.

Evictions would be easier under proposed changes to Florida’s mobile-home laws, advocates warn” via Caroline Glenn of the Orlando Sentinel — Decades-old protections for mobile-home owners could be upended under a series of proposals introduced this legislative session. The Florida Manufactured Housing Association, the group behind the proposals, says the purpose of the bills is to “make sure that manufactured housing is better positioned to be part of the affordable housing solution in Florida.” Sen. Ed Hooper, a Clearwater Republican who introduced Senate Bill 818, said the changes are necessary to modernize the current statutes and will increase the availability of affordable and workforce housing. A separate bill mirroring 818′s language was filed by Sen. Travis Hutson, a Palm Coast Republican, which also includes changes to affordable housing zoning and accessory dwelling units.


Wyndham Destinations pulls Florida voucher donations over anti-gay school policies” via Brooke Sopelsa and Ryan Ruggiero of CNBC — Wyndham Destinations became the third major company in three days to announce it will stop donating millions of dollars to Florida’s private school voucher program after an investigation found that some of the program’s beneficiaries discriminate against LGBTQ students. Wyndham said last year it would “halt funding if concerns about the voucher program were not addressed.” “As we have not seen any further action to address our concerns, we are today discontinuing our support and funding for Step Up For Students and hope that the organization will quickly work with the Florida Legislature to immediately end any discriminatory practices existing within the voucher program,” the company told NBC News and CNBC.

Ex-VISIT FLORIDA exec continued collecting checks — The state’s tourism marketing agency has continued paying former Chief Marketing Officer Gerardo Llanes even though he resigned his position early last month, Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida reports. “A combination of issues, including some that are entirely personal, make clear that this is in the best interest for both myself and VISIT FLORIDA at this time,” Llanes wrote in the undated resignation letter. “As agreed, I will take administrative leave starting December 10, 2019, until the effective date of my resignation of January 31, 2020.” Llanes had only held the position for about six months. A VISIT FLORIDA spokesperson said Llanes pay during the administrative leave came from private funds, not taxpayer dollars.

I’d be smiling too: Gerardo Llanes pulled a paycheck even after he resigned from his VISIT FLORIDA post.

Pharmacists say they take hit in Medicaid” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — A new report maintains that pharmacists participating in Florida’s Medicaid managed-care program are being woefully underpaid. State Medicaid officials estimate the cost of doing business in the Medicaid program is $10.24 per filled prescription. But on average, Medicaid managed care plans paid pharmacists $2.72 per claim in 2018. The Florida Pharmacy Association and American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc. commissioned the analysis, conducted by 3 Axis Advisors. The claims showed researchers what each managed-care company reported paying for each drug to each pharmacy and how some pharmacies are paid more than others.

Have unpaid tolls? You’ll likely be sent to collections, agency warns” via Josh Fiallo of the Tampa Bay Times — The reminder was tweeted out by the Turnpike Enterprise, a branch of the state Department of Transportation that manages toll roads. In a release, the agency said that any unpaid toll fees from June 2018 through 2019 are at risk. More than $100 million worth of tolls remain unpaid, the agency said in December. And, after the disastrous overhaul of the SunPass system last year, the money is needed as soon as possible to make up for lost revenue. The Turnpike enterprise says that customers who create a SunPass account will be eligible to pay off their balances at a reduced rate — but the offer goes away once accounts are turned over to collections.


WHO declares coronavirus global health emergency; first U.S. case of person-to-person transmission confirmed” via Doug Stanglin, Ken Alltucker and Grace Hauck of USA Today — As the death toll from the coronavirus climbed to 170, the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency, and U.S. health officials reported the first U.S. case of person-to-person spread of the virus. The U.N. health agency defines an international emergency as an “extraordinary event” that constitutes a risk to other countries and requires a coordinated international response.  Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, which held its Emergency Committee meeting in Geneva, said there are 98 cases of coronavirus in 18 countries. The goal of the declaration, he said, was to provide support for countries with weaker health systems that have imported the virus from China.

Don’t panic: The new coronavirus strain has made it to the U.S.

How Tampa International Airport’s most popular airlines are responding to the coronavirus threat” via Chris Fuhrmeister and Lauren Ohnesorge of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Delta Air Lines joined United Airlines and American in temporarily reducing its number of weekly flights between the U.S. and China due to “significantly reduced customer demand prompted by global health concerns related to coronavirus.” The airline said that to maintain options for customers, it will continue to operate from all current U.S.-China gateways. Chicago-based United Airlines, the fourth busiest airline at TPA, had canceled flights between the United States and China. A spokesperson for the carrier said the decision to suspend the flights was based on “a significant decline in demand for travel to China.”

Miami-based cruise companies cancel China itineraries as coronavirus spreads” via Taylor Dolven of the Miami Herald — Cruise companies Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., and MSC Cruises all have ships that visit Chinese ports mostly geared toward a Chinese traveler. Carnival Corp. has canceled all cruises on its Costa ships from China between Jan. 25 and Feb. 4. The company is offering a full refund to affected passengers, a company spokesperson said. Itineraries on Carnival Corp.’s AIDAvita, Seabourn Ovation, and Diamond Princess ships currently calling in Hong Kong have not been modified yet, but that may change in the coming days along with MS Westerdam, which is scheduled to start visiting Tianjin port, near Beijing, next month.

South Florida students back in school after coronavirus scare” via Cindy Goodman of the Sun-Sentinel — The Benjamin School in Palm Beach has allowed 30 students and three teachers back in school after possible exposure to a student from China with coronavirus symptoms. The private school in Palm Beach County said its decision came five days after none of the students or teachers showed signs of the virus after attending a Model United Nations conference at Yale University. The Chinese student who came down with a cough and fever at the conference tested positive for the flu, and after consulting with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Yale cut the four-day event short and sent all 1,500 students home.

Coronavirus: Wash your hands, cover your cough — and don’t panic” via Naseem Miller of the Orlando Sentinel — Federal public health officials are stressing that even though they expect more cases in the coming days, the risk remains low. They said people don’t need to cancel their plans or avoid large public gatherings. They also don’t recommend wearing face masks. “Despite the fact that we are reporting the first instance of person-to-person spread of this virus in the United States, it’s important to note that this spread was among two people who were in close contact for an extended period of time,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease, during a press briefing. “We’ve seen this in other countries with this new coronavirus.”


Gov. DeSantis is announcing another $84 million will be awarded to South Florida communities affected by Hurricane Irma.

The most significant chunk of that money is an award of more than $30 million to the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority.

That money will help upgrade the Stock Island Reverse Osmosis facility. The facility can help turn seawater into drinkable water and was a vital asset during the storm, which disrupted the flow of potable water to parts of the Keys.

Ron DeSantis is handing out some big bucks for Hurricane Irma relief.

The Department of Economic Opportunity’s (DEO) Rebuild Florida Infrastructure Repair Program will disperse the $84 million.

“The recovery of Florida communities remains a high priority for my administration, especially in the Florida Keys, which are still recovering from Hurricane Irma,” DeSantis said in a statement announcing the awards.

“We have worked tirelessly to get recovery dollars to all areas impacted by Hurricane Irma and will continue to do so as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

Another $11 million will go to the city of Bonita Springs to repair a stormwater drainage system damaged by flooding. The state is also sending more than $6.2 million to the city of Marathon to repair and elevate wastewater pump stations and chemical storage areas.

“Under Governor DeSantis’ leadership, we remain focused on ensuring that Florida communities have the long-term disaster recovery funding and resources they need to fully recover from Hurricane Irma,” DEO Executive Director Ken Lawson added.


Jimmy Patronis pushes for faster hurricane settlements” via NBC 2 — Patronis is pushing for legislation that requires companies to settle most claims in 90 days or less. Still, a handful of Michael survivors have said companies only settled after pressure from regulators. Melanie Hardwick said her company refused to pay because they said damage was from flooding, not wind. “They took my money, and they didn’t uphold their end of the contract. What is even worse is the inconsistencies of the insurance companies. Because I had neighbors to the right, I had neighbors to the left, had neighbors behind me and across the street that were paid up in full for wind damage,” said Hardwick. “How can my home not have wind damage?”

Jimmy Patronis wants insurers to hurry up and payout hurricane claims.

Miami Beach to spend $75,000 to eradicate invasive iguanas” via Manuel Madrid of the Miami New Times — City Manager Jimmy Morales announced the decision in a recent letter to the Mayor and members of the Commission. The city hired the Hollywood-based Redline Iguana Removal to try to stymie the rapidly growing iguana population in Miami Beach. The $75,000 contract, which began January 13, will expire at the end of September, according to city spokesperson Melissa Berthier. Iguana populations have surged in South Florida since they were introduced to the area as exotic pets in the 1960s. Miami Beach first experimented with using a termination service following some serious iguana drama in July 2019.

Two Florida springs will soon be opened for public access” via Landon Harrar of WCJB — The two springs are located on 245 acres of land along the Santa Fe River and come with a $1.4 million price tag. Melissa Hill is the project coordinator for the Santa Fe River basin; she explained: “By purchasing this property, people will be able to view the spring, enjoy it, have a picnic by parking their car directly on-site and walking down and seeing this absolutely gorgeous Florida treasure.” Alachua Conservation Trust will be making the purchase but still need roughly $200,000 by mid-February. Hill explained: “We’re still fundraising to make sure we have all the funds necessary to finish purchasing it as well as putting in infrastructure so people can enjoy it safely.”

— 2020 —

AP poll: GOP more fired up for 2020, Democrats anxious” via Nicholas Riccardi and Emily Swanson of The Associated Press — When it comes to the 2020 presidential election, Democrats are nervous wrecks, and Republican excitement has grown. That’s according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. While emotions could change in the coming months, the findings give Democrats one more worry to add to the list: Will anxiety or enthusiasm be a bigger motivator come November? On the verge of the first votes being cast in a primary contest with no clear leader, 66% of Democrats report anxiety about the election, compared with 46% of Republicans. Democrats are also more likely to feel frustrated. Republicans, meanwhile, are more likely than Democrats to declare excitement about the race, and the share of enthusiastic Republicans appears to be rising.

Mike Bloomberg unveils Super Bowl ad focused on gun reform” via Quint Forgey of POLITICO — The ad, which will cost the former New York Mayor more than $10 million to broadcast nationwide on Sunday, tells the story of Calandrian Simpson Kemp, a Texas mother whose 20-year-old son, an aspiring professional football player named George H. Kemp Jr., was shot and killed in 2013 outside Houston. She offers her endorsement to Bloomberg as someone “who is not afraid of the gun lobby.” “They’re afraid of him. And they should be,” she says in the ad. Bloomberg has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years working to tackle gun reform, investing $112 million on 24 candidates in the 2018 midterm elections who supported gun control measures.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Happening Saturday — The Elizabeth Warren campaign will open an office in Orlando. Vice Mayor Emily Bonilla and staff will attend the event, and volunteers from across the region, 11 a.m., Orlando field office, 6000 S. Rio Grande Ave., Suite 102, Orlando.

South Florida LGBTQ group praises Bloomberg nondiscrimination plan” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Safeguarding American Values for Everyone (SAVE), a Miami-based organization that promotes LGBTQ rights, is praising a new nondiscrimination plan from Democratic presidential candidate Bloomberg. Bloomberg released his LGBTQ plan which includes promises to reinstate benefits for individuals who left military services before “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed, launches a federal initiative to combat bullying and harassment, and supports several pro-LGBTQ laws should they be approved by Congress. Bloomberg’s proposal calls out Donald Trump directly.

Bernie Sanders gets the front-runner treatment” via Holly Otterbein of POLITICO — The Vermont Senator is being pounded on television in the first-in-the-nation caucus state from both sides, with attack ads airing by a pro-Israel Democratic super PAC and a conservative dark-money group. Faced with the dilemma of how to respond in the face of bombs dropped on him just days away from the Iowa caucuses, Sanders’ campaign is mostly sticking to pocketbook issues — for now. Sanders’ TV ads in the state remain centered on “Medicare for All,” a major focus of his campaign, as well as women’s rights and his movement. The spots are designed to remind Democratic voters of one of Sanders’ key strengths: Polls show they trust him on health care more than any other 2020 candidate.

Days before Iowa, the Elizabeth Warren campaign brings out a key surrogate: her dog” via Holly Bailey of The Washington Post — Technically, the event was a meet-and-greet with Warren’s husband, Bruce Mann, traveling across the state for his wife, who has been in Washington for the impeachment trial of Trump. But speaking before several dozen volunteers and organizers, Mann, a Harvard Law professor on break from classes, seemed to know that people weren’t there to see him. “As you can see, it is all paws on deck,” Mann said with a wry smile, looking out at an audience where every head seemed to be turned toward a dog that sat yawning a few feet away. “While Elizabeth is doing her constitutional duty in Washington, she has a lot of people, and a couple of dogs, standing in for her.”

Orange County voters can’t request a vote-by-mail ballot online this week. Here’s why.” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange County voters haven’t been able to request a vote-by-mail ballot online in recent days. The online system has been down for maintenance, as Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles’ office moves to a new platform used by nearly every Florida county, a spokeswoman said. The office has finished coding work with the new software and is testing it this week, with hopes of web access being restored this weekend, said Danae Rivera-Marasco, a communications specialist for Cowles. If that happens, it will provide web access to request online ballots to voters in the final month before the March 7 deadline to vote in the primary and a slew of municipal races.


Observing the contrast between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, and how each candidate operates, can help clarify the choice for voters in the Democratic primary.

Ryan Lizza of POLITICO observed the two and offered some observations: “Biden is a creature of the Senate. Sanders is a creature of the campaign trail.”

Sanders is a candidate who seems “bored by parliamentary tedium and loves the roar of his own crowds.” In contrast, Biden is in his element in the back rooms of Washington and “one-on-one settings with voters,” but struggles to create excitement in crowds.

A study in contrasts: Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.

While Sanders looks happiest on the road, his demeanor during the Senate impeachment trial was restless and uncomfortable. He rarely engaged with colleagues during breaks. “To put it mildly, that’s not Sanders thing.” Sanders was treated like a rock star in Iowa.

Watching Biden give his familiar stump speech, Lizza notes that the former vice president was “all human connection and personal storytelling.” His speech was a call to the old Senate, where relationships were essential, and any questions of opponents were of judgment, not motives.

This is a complete flip from Sanders, who “issues relationships and deal-making to a fault, while Biden fetishizes them to a fault.”

“Biden is a beloved figure among Democrats in the Senate,” Lizza concludes, “and has trouble rousing an audience in Iowa.”


John Roberts blocks mentions of alleged whistleblower’s name” via John Bresnahan, Burgess Everett and Heather Caygle of POLITICO — Chief Justice Roberts has communicated to Senators that he will not read aloud the alleged Ukraine whistleblower’s name or otherwise publicly relay questions that might out the official, a move that’s effectively blocked Sen. Rand Paul from asking a question. In a behind-the-scenes fight, Paul has composed questions that violate Roberts’s proclamation, according to several Republicans familiar with the dynamics. It’s a vintage Rand Paul effort that’s annoying fellow Republicans and could come to a head. Paul has been floating the alleged whistleblower’s name in media interviews for months.

John Roberts refuses to read a question by Rand Paul that possibly names the Ukraine whistleblower.

Val Demings has an American dream. The impeachment trial is testing it” via Ellen McCarthy of The Washington Post — In 1968, Florida sixth-grader Demings was chosen for a coveted role: safety patrol. It was a big deal. For the first six years of her education, Demings had been bused across Jacksonville to a school for black children. Now, as one of the few black members of her new school’s first integrated class, she had impressed her teachers enough to be elevated to a position of authority. The Senate trial marks a test both for the congresswoman and the country, and Demings sees their stories as closely intertwined. But making an argument for impeachment — a political process as much as a legal one — is different from enforcing the law on the streets of Orlando or in the hallways of a grade school.


Donald Trump pushes forward conservative transformation of Medicaid” via Rachel Roubein and Dan Diamond of POLITICO — The administration took a big step forward to let states convert a portion of Medicaid funding into block grants, a long-sought conservative overhaul of the safety net health care program that Democrats will wield as a political weapon during the election. The plan is the administration’s boldest step yet to curb Medicaid spending and shrink the program covering about 1 in 5 low-income Americans. But the move is inciting fierce opposition from Democrats who say it’s the latest evidence Trump is trying to sabotage health coverage. Some conservative states have expressed interest in block grants in recent years, but it’s not clear how many will take up the Trump administration’s new offer.

Donald Trump and CMS Administrator Seema Verma are pushing a conservative transformation to the Medicaid program.

What Ashley Moody is reading —Trump to create post to focus on solely human trafficking” via Darlene Superville of The Associated Press — Trump is expected to create the position by executive order after he addresses a human trafficking summit at the White House. A candidate has yet to be identified for the new post on the Domestic Policy Council, according to a White House official, who added that Trump wants to fill the slot quickly with someone detailed from another government agency. Trump has sought to elevate human trafficking since taking office by speaking publicly about the issue and inviting reporters into his White House meetings with victims and anti-trafficking advocates. A partner in the effort is Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and senior adviser.

Charlie Crist will bring young diabetes advocate to 2020 State of the Union” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Crist chose 18-year-old Taylor McKenny, an activist for affordable access to insulin and other diabetic medical necessities. McKenny has Type 1 Diabetes. McKenny will join Crist in St. Pete along with a group of friends she calls her “diabesties” to discuss skyrocketing insulin costs and ways lawmakers can hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for lower drug prices. Crist is supporting the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which would lower prescription drug prices for Medicare Part D patients by requiring cost negotiation and out-of-pocket expense caps.

Unused vouchers for homeless veterans upset Florida congressman” via Jessica Meszaros of WUSF News — U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan wants to know why thousands of housing vouchers for homeless veterans were not used last year. The congressman sent a letter to two federal agencies demanding answers. Testimony during a congressional hearing this month revealed that up to 14,000 housing vouchers went unused in 2019. That’s with an estimated 37,000 homeless veterans across the country. “It is completely unacceptable that our federal government is failing to make housing benefits available to our nation’s homeless veterans,” Buchanan said in the letter. “I am calling on HUD and the VA to immediately rectify this problem and make sure veterans get the benefits they rightfully deserve.”

Inquiry prompts congressman to divest from fossil fuel industry” via Austen Erblat of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch divested from a mutual fund focused on oil pipelines throughout North America following revelations of financial investments in the fossil fuel industry among members of Congress. Deutch’s investment was worth $15,000 before divesting. His divestment from Tortoise MLP and Pipeline was in response to request for comment from the Sun-Sentinel, Deutch’s office said. The Democratic congressman, whose district includes Boca Raton, Deerfield Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Parkland, and other nearby communities, cited environmental concerns for the move. “We should fight climate change in every way we can, including our financial decisions,” Deutch said in an email to the Sun-Sentinel. “That’s why I no longer invest in this fund.”

Forget the Super Bowl, Trump and Nancy Pelosi may both be in South Florida this weekend” via John Bisognano of the Palm Beach Post — With the Super Bowl in Miami Gardens, Trump expects to be in Palm Beach County this weekend, where he’ll stay at his Mar-a-Lago estate on Palm Beach and likely host his annual Super Bowl party at his suburban West Palm Beach golf club. But now we hear that Pelosi may also be in South Florida this weekend. With Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate possibly wrapping up, Pelosi, a California Democrat and big fan of the San Francisco 49ers, told that she’ll likely be at the Super Bowl, played at Hard Rock Stadium, about 58 miles south of Mar-a-Lago. ″ … I was scheduled to be in Florida that weekend, so I’m all set,” she said of her plans.

Happening today — Congressman Darren Soto, co-chair of the Congressional Blockchain Caucus, will host “The Future of Money, Governance & the Law,” 9 a.m., U.S. Capitol.

Happening today — Congressman Matt Gaetz will give a speech at the Defense Leadership Forum’s 2020 Air Force Contracting Summit, 9 a.m., Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa, 4000 Sandestin Blvd. South, Miramar Beach.

Happening Saturday Gaetz will host local Northwest Florida military members for the U.S. Library of Congress’s Veterans History Project, an initiative to preserve veterans’ experiences and document their stories for future generations, 11 a.m. Central time, Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, Levin Center, 40 S. Alcaniz St., Pensacola.


Racist calls targeting Andrew Gillum in 2018 among $12.9M in FCC fines for robocalls” via Marco Santana of Orlando Sentinel — The FCC has proposed a $12.9 million fine for an Idaho man behind a series of racist robocalls to Andrew Gillum supporters during his unsuccessful 2018 gubernatorial campaign. Scott Rhodes made 766 robocalls between Oct. 20 and Oct. 23, 2018, to Floridians using a mocking black dialect and racist messages with jungle noises in the background.

Ed Braddy ends congressional campaign — Former Gainesville Mayor Braddy is no longer running in the Republican primary for Florida’s 3rd Congressional District. “Having looked at the field of candidates in the race, I believe there are several candidates that can win and who will continue to provide conservative and principled leadership for us in Congress. For that reason, I will not run for Congress and will focus my energy as Chairman of the Alachua Republican Party to ensure the success of Republican candidates up and down the ballot,” he said. A half dozen other Republicans are seeking the North Central Florida seat, which is open in 2020 due to U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho announcing he would not run for reelection.

Maybe not: Gainesville Mayor Ed Braddy dropped out of the race for Ted Yoho’s congressional seat. Image via

Trump blessed Miami-Dade Mayor’s run for Congress. Will that clear the Republican primary?” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez won Trump’s blessing for his congressional campaign, but that may not be enough to avoid a potentially contentious Republican primary in Florida’s 26th Congressional District. Gimenez’s shock-and-awe campaign launch last week, timed to Trump’s Miami visit and an endorsement via presidential tweet, was the kind of rollout that in the Republican Party can clear out the field. But Omar Blanco and Irina Vilariño, Republicans who launched congressional campaigns months before Gimenez jumped into the race, say they will continue stumping — for now.

Ted Deutch raises $236K during fourth quarter in defense of CD 22 seat” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Several candidates have filed to compete for the seat in Florida’s 22nd Congressional District. That includes Democrat Imtiaz Mohammad and nonparty affiliated candidate Omar Reyes. A quartet of Republicans — Jessi Melton, James Pruden, Christine Scott and Eddison Walters — have declared their candidacies as well. Walters also ran for the seat in 2018. But Deutch is a reasonably safe bet to prevail in the contest. He faced a 2018 primary challenge from Democratic candidate Jeff Fandl in 2018. Deutch cruised to victory, with nearly 87% of the vote. Deutch continues to raise money. He’s collected more than $735,000 for this cycle through the end of 2019. And he’ll enter 2020 with more than $561,000 in cash on hand.

Maria Elvira Salazar raises $365K in fourth quarter, falls short of Donna Shalala’s haul” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Salazar is competing in Florida’s 27th Congressional District. The Republican challenger made a mark during the third quarter of 2019, topping Shalala in fundraising. Salazar brought in $454,000 in outside money and added a $50,000 loan to her campaign. Excluding the loan, Salazar topped Shalala by about $140,000, as the incumbent raised $314,000. Shalala managed to flip the script to wrap 2019, however. Shalala’s campaign announced last week it had pulled in $600,000 during the fourth quarter. That beats out Salazar by nearly $240,000.


Broward nursing home workers say Rick Scott destroyed evidence after hurricane deaths” via Ben Conarck of the Miami Herald — Two health care workers charged with aggravated manslaughter last year in connection with the deaths of 12 people at a stifling hot Hollywood nursing home are asking a judge to dismiss the cases against them, claiming former Gov. Scott destroyed evidence that would have helped their defense. Two of the workers — Sergo Colin, a former night shift nursing supervisor at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, and Jorge Carballo, who was the facility’s administrator — filed a motion to dismiss this week, asking a Broward County judge to toss out the cases against them because they say the state violated due process by destroying voicemails nursing home employees left on Scott’s cellphone in the days following the storm.

— “No, Scott didn’t “destroy evidence” in nursing home deaths” via The Capitolist

Did Rick Scott destroy evidence about the nursing home deaths during Hurricane Irma? Some say he did, others say he didn’t.

Public invited to ceremony honoring law enforcement who responded to NAS Pensacola shooting” via Colin Warren-Hicks of the Pensacola News Journal — The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office will hold an award ceremony at 10 a.m. Friday to honor the law enforcement officers involved in the deadly shooting Dec. 6 at Naval Air Station Pensacola. The event is open to the public and will be inside the Marcus Pointe Baptist Church, 6205 North W St. in Pensacola. The ceremony will feature Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan and ECSO Chief Deputy Chip Simmons presenting Medal of Valor awards to six ECSO deputies and two Department of Defense police officers.

Florida black lawmakers want answers in fatal police shooting of former FAMU student in Jacksonville” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — Having gone six weeks without any answers in the police-involved shooting death of their son, the parents of former Florida A&M student Jamee Johnson came to the Capitol seeking help from black lawmakers. Johnson, 22, was shot and killed by a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) deputy Dec. 14 during what authorities say was an altercation after a traffic stop. His father, Harvey Johnson, and his wife Bridget, along with Jamee Johnson’s mother, Kimberly Austin, were joined at a news conference by state Reps. Shevrin Jones, Ramon Alexander, Bruce Antone, Geraldine Thompson and Kim Daniels. The lawmakers, members of the Legislative Black Caucus, are urging the JSO to allow the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to conduct an independent investigation.

3 women said a Hialeah cop abused them. Prosecutors never spoke to them — and dropped case.” via Tess Riski, Nicholas Nehamas and Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald — When the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office chose not to charge a Hialeah cop accused of sexually assaulting and harassing four women and girls, two closeout memos explaining the decision — one less than a page in length — dismissed them as gang members and a “bi-polar” runaway. But now the state attorney’s office is acknowledging that the prosecutor assigned to the case did not interview three of the four alleged victims. Despite never speaking to them, the prosecutor still felt confident that their testimony would not be enough to secure a sexual battery conviction against Sgt. Jesús “Jesse” Menocal Jr.

Activists officially launch petition to recall Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — Carollo represents Miami’s District 3, which includes Shenandoah, Little Havana, The Roads and a sliver of West Brickell. Rob Piper, a retired Marine who lives in Shenandoah, filed paperwork to open a political committee called “Take Back Our City” to organize the effort. Piper, the committee’s chairman, signed the first petition at City Hall after opening his committee. “We’re sick and tired of corrupt politicians abusing their power, breaking the law and thinking there’s no one to hold them accountable,” Piper said. Carollo dismissed the effort as run by a group of outsider political operatives who don’t respect democracy. “That’s really something,” Carollo said. “I hope Mr. Piper remembers these words. They may come back to haunt him.”

Miami airport workers protest low wages with Super Bowl week hunger strike” via Taylor Dolven of the Miami Herald — Three Miami airport workers for airline catering subcontractor Sky Chefs, two Fort Lauderdale airport concession workers and four Sky Chefs workers from New York City and San Francisco are forgoing food from Monday to Saturday to raise awareness about low wages and expensive health-insurance costs. On Day Three of the fast, a few workers sat under a tent outside of MIA’s Door 1 on the departures level, waiting to be checked by a physician assistant. Others asked airport travelers to sign postcards addressed to Doug Parker, CEO of American Airlines and primary contractor for Sky Chefs’ 600 Miami workers. Sky Chefs workers hope American Airlines will urge the company to raise wages and provide more affordable health insurance.

’A bonanza for traffickers’: Why a Miami Super Bowl is a magnet for sex-trafficking” via Linda Robertson of the Miami Herald — Accompanying the glamorous parade of celebrities, CEOs, Hall of Fame athletes and VIPs is an underground stream of no-name girls and young women often branded with bar-code tattoos on their inner lower lip, dulled by a diet of drugs, painted with makeup to look older, bruised or burned in discreet spots and living in a state of terror. They are an essential element of the Super Bowl revelry permeating South Florida. Their pimps, aiming to make upward of $1,000 per night per woman under their control, have converged here for the same reason they converge on any mega-event city inundated with 100,000 mostly male visitors: Supply and demand.

After $1.5 million gift to NFL, Miami Beach expected a free concert. It never came” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — When the Super Bowl Host Committee came before the Miami Beach City Commission in 2018, the committee told the city it planned to hold a free concert on the beach after requesting about $1.5 million in waived fees and sponsorship dollars. The money was approved. The concert — billed as a “public benefit” to the city for hosting the Super Bowl — never happened. Instead, music fans can pay between $270 and $12,000 to get into Gronk Beach and see former New England Patriots star Rob Gronkowski and a pack of his DJ friends during an electronic dance party being held Saturday at the publicly-owned North Beach Bandshell. The only public benefit that will go directly to residents is 15% off tickets to the NFL Experience at the Miami Beach Convention Center. That’s $3 off $20 tickets, and $6 off $40 tickets. Those planning to go from through Saturday will pay the higher price.

Ethics panel finds grounds that Temple Terrace Mayor exaggerated degree” via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — The Florida Commission on Ethics has found probable cause that Temple Terrace Mayor Mel Jurado misused her public office by directing city workers to list exaggerated education credentials in her biography on the city’s website. For almost a year after Jurado’s swearing-in as mayor in 2017, a page on the Temple Terrace website said she had earned her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. But an investigation revealed that it was from LaSalle University, a notorious diploma mill in Mandeville, Louisiana, closed down by the FBI in 1996. Jurado now can choose to face a full evidentiary hearing on the findings or reach a settlement agreement with the Commission Advocate, who acts as a prosecutor for the state agency.

Showdown between Genting monorail, Metromover on track after board backs both for Beach” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — The path for a monorail between Miami and Miami Beach remained on track this week after county and city leaders voted to endorse that transit option as well as a new Metromover line for a busy bridge between Miami and Miami Beach. A county transportation board accepted a consultant’s recommendation to back either Metromover or monorail for a new line on the MacArthur Causeway, rejecting light rail and rapid-transit buses and advancing a transit goal that’s been on the table since the 1980s. Once known as “Baylink,” the commuting corridor took on new urgency last year when Malaysian casino giant Genting proposed a privately run monorail there to be built and operated with public subsidies.

What’s up with the Rays and St. Pete? Rick Kriseman won’t say ‘publicly’” via Josh Solomon of the Tampa Bay Times — It’s been more than seven months since the Tampa Bay Rays unveiled their plan to split home games between the bay area and Montreal. Nearly two months have passed since Mayor Kriseman rejected the plan, saying he would not allow the Rays to negotiate to start playing in Montreal in 2024. The fate of Major League Baseball in Tampa Bay lays trapped in that impasse. So on Thursday, the St. Petersburg City Council asked the mayor for an update on where negotiations stand between the city and the team.

City of Tallahassee’s Independent Ethics Board offers ethics officer job to runner-up” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — The city’s Independent Ethics Board moved swiftly to find a new ethics officer after its incoming one bowed out amid controversy over his Twitter feed. On Thursday, the board voted unanimously to extend an offer to one of its runners-up for the post: Dwight Floyd, a former bureau chief of training for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Board members weren’t sure, however, whether Floyd was still interested and planned to reach out immediately. The decision came during an emergency meeting called after political tweets came to light written by Keith Powell, a veteran state ethics investigator who was set to start work next week as the city’s new independent ethics officer.

Nasty tiff over Trump erupts between residents in The Villages” via Larry D. Croom of — A well-known anti-Trump protester who found a threatening note on the front door of his Village of Hadley home Wednesday morning wound up in a full-scale argument with a Villager who confronted him later in the day… Shortly after 3:30 p.m., Villager Marsha Hill stopped her golf cart behind McGinty’s cart and started videoing him and his signs while asking questions about his political stance. Seconds later, the discussion heated up and McGinty came out of his golf cart as the two went back and forth.


Gwen Graham: Biden is best bet to beat Trump” via the Orlando Sentinel — I don’t believe it is an exaggeration to say that defeating Trump on Nov. 3 is vital to the preservation of our country. Reelecting the most unfit individual ever to occupy the White House will unleash all his worst inclinations and further reduce America’s standing in the world. The stakes for our democracy have never been higher. Though we have an abundance of riches in our Democratic field, we do not have the luxury to lose. When former Vice President Biden announced his candidacy for president, I immediately proclaimed my full support for him. My support for him is extremely pragmatic: he knows how to do the job and, most importantly, he can win.


Is Trump a manly man?” via John Harris of POLITICO Magazine — Never mind what one thinks of trade wars, immigration, or whether his Ukraine intervention meets the criminal standard of a quid pro quo. Simply on stylistic grounds, Trump represents the opposite of the traditional 20th-century masculine ideal, as mythologized on movie screens, on battlefields, in athletic stadiums. So the transformation in the American mind — or at least in the conservative mind — of what it means to be a strong leader and a strong man counts as one of the more profound cultural and political shifts of the past generation. The impeachment battle puts this underappreciated shift in an especially sharp relief. In the 20th-century tradition, strong men were supposed to be laconic, stoical, self-effacing.

The impeachment trial hurtles toward its worst-case conclusion” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — House managers tried their case too well. Evidence piled up on the Senate floor over the past 10 days that the president withheld military aid to force Ukraine to announce probes of his political foes. And former national security adviser John Bolton’s firsthand account leaked about the quid pro quo. In response, Trump’s defenders shifted to a far more sweeping, and dangerous, defense. They declared that the president can do as he pleases — or, as Trump puts it, that the Constitution gives him “the right to do whatever I want as president.” “What we have seen over the last couple of days is a descent into constitutional madness,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, the lead House manager.

Sanders or Warren? Why not both?” via D.D. Guttenplan of The Nation — Sanders’ courage and consistency and deep understanding of what a rigged system does to the lives of the people it runs over and brands as failures. And Warren’s policy chops and personal warmth and cold intellectual fury at the same bankers and billionaires and predatory monopolists targeted by her rival. The conventional wisdom says presidential tickets must be balanced — geographically, politically, and ideally by race and gender. That’s the logic that gives rise to talk of a Warren-Julian Castro or Sanders-Kamala Harris ticket (or, for those with more moderate sympathies, Biden-Stacey Abrams). That’s also the logic that produced John McCainSarah Palin and Hillary ClintonTim Kaine.

Scott’s Iowa ad misleads about Joe Biden and prosecutor in Ukraine” via Amy Sherman of PolitiFact Florida — Scott said, “Vice President Biden threatened a foreign country and forced them to fire a prosecutor who was investigating a company paying his son $83,000 a month.” There is no evidence that Biden’s call for Ukraine to fire the prosecutor general was because of his son’s position with Burisma and an investigation. Western leaders wanted the prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, ousted because they considered him ineffective and corrupt, not because he was pursuing sensitive investigations into a company associated with Biden’s son. We rate this statement False.

Gary Chartrand: More than just school choice; high-quality education matters” via Florida Politics — While we accept this variety of choices as an unspoken part of American life, it still amazes me that we have yet to ensure everyone has a variety of great choices for how we educate the most important gift we offer our precious children. Florida’s policymakers must listen to the demand of parents and supply more choices so more students can benefit from the best educational fit for their unique needs. Thanks to our elected officials in the Legislature, those families are offered choices to receive scholarships to customize an education that is best suited to their individual needs and aspirations. Each and every family should have that power of choice, regardless of their income or where they live.

Amy McCourt: Don’t just lock people up. Give them motivation to change their lives.” via Florida Politics — I am a Florida resident and a victim of a violent crime. Two of the four home invaders were arrested and charged with crimes that could put them in prison for life. They are 21 and 22 years old, respectively. You might think that I want the state to put them in prison and throw away the key. I don’t. Should they be punished? Yes, they should be put in prison for enough time that they understand the gravity of what they did. The idea of locking them up for the rest of their natural lives seems obscene to me. Since most people who go to prison are eventually released, rehabilitation should be the focus of our criminal legal system.

After 20 years in journalism, I’m leaving to work full-time for clean water” via Eve Samples of TCPalm — This will be my last column as a staffer at Treasure Coast Newspapers and the USA TODAY Network — a place that feels like home, with so many journalist colleagues I consider family. It’s difficult to leave journalism after 20 years, but the work I’ll do at Friends of the Everglades mirrors what I was most passionate about in the newsroom: education and advocacy for cleaner water in Florida — particularly the Everglades and connected estuaries. There is much work to do. The stakes have never been higher. To the many readers who encouraged me to keep writing about clean water over the years: Thank you. It made a difference.


What Rick Scott is reading — Law firm dumps Nicolás Maduro ally amid outcry” via Joshua Goodman of The Associated Press — U.S. law firm that was hired for $12.5 million by a top ally of Maduro has decided to quickly dump the controversial Venezuelan client amid a major outcry by critics who accused it of carrying water for a socialist “dictator.” The AP reported that Foley & Lardner had agreed to represent Maduro’s Inspector General Reinaldo Muñoz. Filings with the Justice Department showed Foley & Lardner, which has offices in Washington, in turn, paid $2 million to hire influential lobbyist Robert Stryk to help its client ease U.S. sanctions on Maduro’s government and engage the Trump administration in direct talks. Three people familiar with the matter said that Foley was withdrawing from the case.

Personnel note: Kyle Baltuch promoted to VP at Florida TaxWatch — Florida TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro announced Baltuch has been appointed Vice President of Development of the watchdog group. ”Since joining the FTW team in 2014, Kyle’s expertise and outstanding leadership has guided our analysis of the issues important to Florida taxpayers including tourism, economic development, job creation, manufacturing, healthcare, and municipal pensions,” Calabro said. “I look forward to Kyle continuing to serve our state’s taxpayers and promote the growth of Florida TaxWatch in this new role.” 

— ALOE —

What Randolph Bracy is reading —TV anchor’s meeting with Kobe Bryant sent #GirlDads trending” via Leanne Italie of The Associated Press — Dads with daughters inspired by Bryant’s special bond with his 13-year-old Gianna took to social media to celebrate in words and photos using the hashtag #GirlDads. The outpouring on Twitter and Instagram came in part after ESPN anchor Elle Duncan offered a remembrance of a chance meeting with Bryant two years ago while she was pregnant with a girl, and how proud he was of his daughters. “When I reflect on this tragedy, and that half an hour I spent with Kobe Bryant two years ago, I suppose that the only small source of comfort for me is knowing that he died doing what he loved the most,” Duncan said on air. “Being a dad. Being a girl dad.”

Even after his tragic death, Kobe Bryant is teaching us how to be a great #GirlDad.

Lin-Manuel Miranda reveals ‘Hamilton’ movie will feature original Broadway cast” via Christian Hubbard of Full-Circle Cinema — During a recent conversation with Variety, Miranda revealed that the 7th highest-grossing Broadway musical since 1982 is on its way to the big screen. Additionally, he revealed his goal for the movie to be a previously filmed version of the original Broadway cast’s run. Hamilton‘s original director Thomas Kail (Fosse/Verdon), has reportedly taken this footage and turned it into a beautiful cinematic experience. Miranda says the film’s release will happen “hopefully, sooner than later,” although nothing is confirmed at the time of this writing. Christopher Jackson, who played George Washington in the show’s original cast, shared his excitement regarding the big news on Twitter.


Battleground Florida with Christopher Heath: Kathryn Waldron, a Resident Fellow on National Security and Cybersecurity from R-Street, joins the podcast to discuss the looming threats posed to governments and individuals, and why Congress isn’t asking the right questions.

Dishonorable Mention: State Rep. Chris Latvala, activist Becca Tieder, former Tampa Bay Times Columnist Ernest Hooper and communications expert Dr. Karla Mastracchio discuss politics and culture. Latvala discusses the first week of Session and “Dishonorable Mention goes to Tallahassee Pt. 2.” It’s Super Bowl week in Miami! Who’s going? Hooper was the emcee at the Excellence in Education Teacher of the Year Awards and talks about his experience. Tieder shares a story about a Trump rally in Clearwater. The hosts also discuss the upcoming election. Tieder releases breaking news!

Gradebook from the Tampa Bay Times with hosts Marlene Sokol and Jeffrey Solochek: Who says the annual science fair must be boring? Three Pasco County high school seniors took a challenge to devise a research project worthy of study in anti-gravity, and they now will send their effort to the International Space Station. Their teacher also is quick to point out that Krinn Technical students Amanda Marrero, Shelly Nonnenberg and Emily Null are women in a field dominated by men. What’s on their minds? Marrero, Nonnenberg and Null talk about their studies, and the importance of science education.

REGULATED from hosts Christian Bax and Tony Glover: Bax and Glover told you back in May that 2020 would be a busy year for legislative proposals that affect the alcoholic beverage industry in Florida, and here we are! The two discuss ten alcohol-related bills that have been filed at the Florida House and Senate, whether dogs or cats are better bar patrons, and the leading candidate for our 2020 Regulator of the Year award.


Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues affecting the region.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable featuring Spectrum Bay News 9 reporter and anchor Holly Gregory, Mercury Public Affairs political consultant Adam Smith, Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano and Lisa Perry, co-founder of the Common Group Florida Project.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion of student loan debt and how it affects millions of Americans. Joining Walker-Torres are state Rep. Amber Mariano; Laurie Meggesin, executive director of the Florida College Access Network; and Dr. Sanford “Sandy” Shugart, president of Valencia College.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: This week’s show will feature an interview with Democratic presidential candidate Bloomberg, a discussion on the upcoming Iowa Caucuses. PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter will rate a claim made by Agriculture Commission Fried about hemp products and the industry in Florida.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon talks with Florida Polituicvs publisher Schorsch and Bob McClure of the James Madison Institute.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: A discussion of the JEA scandal with Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute Director Rick Mullaney; News4Jax City Hall reporter Jim Piggott; Jacksonville Daily Record reporter Michael Mendenhall; Florida Times-Union reporter David Bauerlein and Florida Times-Union columnist Nate Monroe.

Help make sure my video gets more clicks than Matt Dixon’s — “Peter Schorsch gives 2020 update” via Florida Internet & Television — Florida Politics publisher and editor-in-chief Schorsch stops by FiTV to give an update on the 2020 Legislative Session and campaign season.

To watch the video, click on the image below:


Chiefs-49ers: Toughest Super Bowl to pick in years” via Barry Wilner of The Associated Press — Even the oddsmakers aren’t sure about this Super Bowl. That’s how close the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers match up. The Chiefs are a 1-point favorite, which basically means a tossup. Indeed, by kickoff on Sunday, the 49ers could be the bettors’ choice. There could be almost as much action on prop bets — does Kyle Shanahan remember to run the ball if the Niners get ahead 28-3 in the second half, for example? Or a lot more bets on the over/under, which stands at 54-and-a-half and seems a bit low.

Jennifer Lopez and Shakira vow ‘empowering’ halftime show” via Mesfin Fekadu of The Associated Press — Lopez and Shakira said their Super Bowl halftime show would pay homage to Latino culture, promising a joint performance that has an empowering message and also one that will remember NBA icon, Bryant. Lopez and Shakira held a news conference before Sunday’s big game in Miami, telling media they worked hard to put together an eye-popping, high-energy 12-minute performance before the San Francisco 49ers take on the Kansas City Chiefs at Hard Rock Stadium. Lopez said she wanted to send love and support to Bryant’s wife and family. Bryant had attended concerts by Lopez and Shakira, the singers said. Shakira added that they want to honor his legacy Sunday.

The Super Bowl LIV halftime show will be ’empowering,’ says Jennifer Lopez and Shakira.

Survey: $6.8 billion could be bet on Super Bowl” via David Purdum of ESPN — The AGA, a Washington, D.C.-based trade group that represents the casino industry, estimates 3 million more American adults will have something riding on this year’s Super Bowl than last year’s game, either through the expanding legal sports betting market, illegal bookmakers or more casually with friends and squares pools. This will be the second Super Bowl since a 2018 ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court opened a path for states to regulate sports betting. The survey results indicate that bettors are divided on which team will win Sunday’s game: 52% picked the Chiefs, while 48% took the 49ers. The Chiefs are consensus 1-point favorites over the 49ers.

You’ve been warned: Stop flying your drones near the Super Bowl stadium” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Miami FBI Special Agent In Charge George Piro said too many people are flying those alien-looking flying cameras, ignoring the clearly defined restricted air space over Hard Rock Stadium. “So far this week the FBI drone mitigation teams have detected 54 unauthorized drones in restricted airspace. If you are a drone operator, make sure you comply with the restrictions,” Piro told the media and the public. That is a fair warning by the feds. Law-enforcement agencies should arrest and make a public example of any drone operators still breaking the law and, in effect, threatening our collective sense of security leading up to and during one of the nation’s biggest annual sporting events.


Best wishes to U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, the super-sharp Kelsey Swithers of Bascom Communications and Consulting, former #FlaPol’er, Ryan Ray, and Ben Sharpe. Celebrating Saturday is one of the best, Sen. Oscar Braynon II, as well as Kevin Beckner, Emil Infante, and Angela Thompson Miller, James’s better half. Jimmy says the sun rises and sets with her.


Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jason Delgado, Drew Dixon, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.

Email: [email protected]
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704