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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 2.3.20

Your morning review of the issues and players behind Florida politics.

How ’bout them Chiefs? Kudos to lobbyist Gus Corbella for nailing the final margin of victory.

We decided to turn the top of today’s Sunburn over to our good friend, David Johnson, who makes a case for why today should be a national holiday. Here are his thoughts:

I’ve long been a proponent of moving the recognition of Presidents Day to the Monday after the Super Bowl. I think most all the Presidents would concur as its placement is totally artificial. It’s alleged that it needed to be in February for Washington and Lincoln’s actual birth dates, and we have not celebrated those on the date thereof for around fifty years.

Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Bryant are honored before Super Bowl LIV. An argument can be made for the day after the Super Bowl to become a national holiday. 

There is always a discussion of well, gee, instead of that, let’s just move the Super Bowl to Saturday night. A resourceful grade-schooler has a petition this year. Social media is full of the logic of the move. Friends, you’d rather try to return the opening kick without a helmet and pads than to try to get the NFL owners to give up Sunday Super Bowls. Ratings. Money. Maximizing both. All that.

I will once again take up the cause and sound the battle cry. Move the federal holiday, close the schools, shut it down and make the one thing left that 100 million Americans will watch at the same freaking time a festival unburdened by Monday morning responsibilities. It’s a simple action, sure, but it is requiring an Act of Congress. Given their approval ratings these days, I cannot imagine a more widely praised and easily promoted action Congress could take. The social media graphics alone would keep a campaign staffer busy from training camp through the NFL Draft.

It’s estimated that 17 million Americans will not show up for work Monday. They’ll call in with some malady, winking and fake coughing over the phone, “Oh, it could be the coronavirus, because I drank a twelve-pack last night,” and millions upon millions more will drag their sad selves in, show up and be useless shells.

It’s rare in these hyperpartisan times to find the One True Thing we can all get behind. This is it.

Move the federal holiday, Congresspeople. From AOC to Matt Gaetz, from Chuck Schumer to Mitch McConnell, make it happen for the good of the economy, the psyche of the people, and so I don’t ever again have to go to a post-Super Bowl Monday morning breakfast meeting with some chipper person who “read a good book Sunday night” and who doesn’t know their Halas from their Lombardi.

So ends the rant. Put in some Visine, take some aspirin, suck it up. Happy Monday!

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The best news coming out of Super Sunday came via Samantha and James Blair, two top operatives (she is a top fundraiser with clients who include Attorney General Ashley Moody, he was a Deputy Chief of Staff to Gov. Ron DeSantis,) Here’s what they posted to Facebook:

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Here is a hot take I wrote during the Super Bowl: “No impeachment witnesses against Donald Trump? Blame Andrew Gillum.” And here’s a hot take from the weekend: “James Call, there are some things better left untweeted.

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And here is some good news about a good personLila Jaber is leaving Gunster Yoakley & Stewart for a position on the Chesapeake Utilities Corporation Board of Directors.

“I’m excited about this professional transition to the Chesapeake Utilities Board, which will afford me an opportunity to learn more about the corporation for which I have so much respect and at the same time allow me to contribute my relationships, strategic development, and regulatory background,” she said.

Congratulations to Lila Jaber for taking a new role on the Chesapeake Utilities Corporation Board of Directors.

Jaber’s selection is a natural fit for Chesapeake given her in-depth knowledge of the industry — served two terms as both Commissioner and Chair of the Florida Public Service Commission, the state board that governs utilities.

In an announcement, Chesapeake Utilities Corporation President and CEO Jeffry M. Householder said Jaber’s addition is a big get for the company.

“In addition to her remarkable years in public service and civic engagement, Lila complements the Company’s culture of leadership, ethics, entrepreneurial passion and diversity,” he said.

While she’ll no longer leading Gunster’s Florida lobbying practice, Jaber told Florida Politics she will still have plenty of contact with her former colleagues.

“My loyalty to and friendship with Gunster will always remain a high priority, and I welcome our continued work together in the Florida’s Women in Energy Leadership Forum as well as other initiatives to be announced soon,” she said.

One thing on the horizon: opening a new office for her solo practice, LilaJaber Consulting. The new space, set to open in late spring, will be next door to Cigars of Tally Lounge and Bar, which she said, “is not a coincidence.”

— TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Lawmakers are gearing up for an epic battle over abortion rights that will play out this week on the Senate floor — and the corridors outside the chamber.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Some companies that help pay for Florida’s school voucher program are saying they will no longer contribute because many of the schools accepting those vouchers have anti-LGBTQ policies. Although there’s a bill to ban that sort of discrimination, Senate Education Committee chair Manny Diaz says it’s not going to pass. Diaz doesn’t see a need to change the program, either.

— First Lady Casey DeSantis is opening the Governor’s Mansion to children who want to read, setting up a children’s section in the mansion’s library, and inviting kids to take part in storytime.

— After years of neglect, state employees may actually get a pay raise this year. But the House and Senate have entirely different ways to make that happen.

— Tampa Bay Times environmental reporter Craig Pittman talks about the fight to save the Florida panther from extinction.

— More Florida Man madness: A 24-year-old man was busted for a slur (literally) and a Florida Woman who went Chuck Norris on a neighbor who refused to allow her children to attend a birthday party.

To listen, click on the image below:

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@Molly_Struve: The EU now has 1 GB of free space

@Scott_Maxwell: DC pundits are so pathetically predictable. Early 2016: The polls show there’s no way [Donald] Trump can win! November 2016: Trump wins. December 2016: Pundits say they have learned their lesson. Early 2020: Pundits: Look! Look! Every poll shows every Democrat beats Trump!!

@MollyNagle3: Following @joniernst and @SenRickScott’s hits on [Joe] Biden, Chief Strategist Mike Donilon says “We welcome your panicked admission of who you know would win this battle for the soul of our nation, bring the country together, beat Donald Trump, and help Democrats win up and down …”

@nikkifried: Applaud @MichelobULTRA for supporting our farmers!!!! If you eat or 🍺 you are part of Ag @freshfromFL @FlaFarmBureau

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

@KevinCate: Some of y’all are wondering how really bad ads air during the #SuperBowlLIV — I assure you, they were written, edited, & approved by committee. Like most bad ads.

Tweet, tweet:

@GrayRohrer: I was promised a Tom Brady-free Super Bowl. I want my money back.

@ChelseaLdH: You mean @POTUS ran a Super Bowl Ad about @AliceMarieFree?! CJ Reform WINS every day and twice on Super Bowl Sunday!! 🥳 #FlaPol

@KCPolice: It’s a Super Bowl victory, not the purge.

Tweettweet:

@DJTweets: Imagine if, going forward, everyone on social media considered Kobe’s last tweet before tweeting. Imagine if they asked themselves: If these are my last words, will they represent me well? Will they exhibit class and grace? Imagine if people posted, or didn’t post, accordingly.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Eighth Democratic presidential debate in Manchester — 4; Capitol Press Corps press skits — 7; New Hampshire Primaries — 8; Pitchers and catchers begin reporting for MLB Spring Training — 8; South Beach Wine and Food Festival — 16; Ninth Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas — 16; Roger Stone’s sentencing — 17; Nevada caucuses — 19; “Better Call Saul” Season 5 premiers — 20; 10th Democratic presidential debate in Charleston — 22; South Carolina Primaries — 26; Super Tuesday — 29; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 39; Florida’s presidential primary — 43; “No Time to Die” premiers — 63; Florida TaxWatch Spring Board Meeting begins — 72; TaxWatch Principal Leadership Awards — 73; Florida Chamber Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 102; “Top Gun: Maverick” premiers — 144; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 161; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premiers — 165; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo start — 172; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 197; First Presidential Debate in Indiana — 239; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 203; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 247; Second Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 255; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 262; 2020 General Election — 274.

— TOP STORY —

Assault weapons ban misses deadline for Florida’s 2020 ballot” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Instead, the organizers behind Ban Assault Weapons Now say they’ll focus on getting the amendment on the ballot in 2022. Chairwoman Gail Schwartz said in a statement that they’d continue gathering signatures “despite the best efforts of the NRA and politicians in Tallahassee.” “Hundreds of thousands of Floridians from all across the state are behind this critical movement, and it’s up to us to make sure we succeed where our so-called ‘leaders’ have repeatedly failed,” Schwartz said. To make it on the November ballot, organizers had to gather 766,200 verified signatures by today. The organizers fell well short with just 147,304.

— LATEST FROM IOWA —

10 questions that will be answered on caucus night” via Brianne Pfannenstiel of the Des Moines Register — “Who will win? … What will ‘winning’ look like? … Where will candidates win? … How many ‘tickets’ will there be out of Iowa? … Is the ground game still king? … Is ‘Klomentum’ real? … What does ‘electability’ look like? … Will the satellite caucuses be successful? … Will the new rules streamline caucus night or create new hiccups? … Will Iowa keep its caucuses and stay first?”

It’s finally here.

CNN and The Des Moines register will not release Iowa poll results, network says” via Kate Sullivan of CNN — “A respondent raised an issue with the way their interview was conducted, which could have compromised the results of the poll. We were unable to ascertain what happened during this respondent’s interview and cannot determine if this was a single isolated incident,” the network said in a tweeted statement. “CNN, The Des Moines Register and Selzer & Company aim to uphold the highest standards of survey research, and therefore the partners decided not to proceed,” the statement continued. A source familiar with the decision said that a respondent reported that an operator, during a telephone interview, did not name former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg when listing the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.

‘We’re flying blind’: Democrats floored by star-crossed caucus” via David Siders of POLITICO — It was a fitting coda to a star-crossed campaign — the scrapping late Saturday of the most highly-anticipated poll of Iowa caucus season. All last week, the Democratic presidential contest had been fixed in a state of suspended animation. Campaign strategists and reporters encamped at the Des Moines Marriott and around the white tablecloths at 801 Chophouse. Caucus tourists descended on Raygun for T-shirts and local parties prepared for an orderly caucus. The stunning, last-minute cancellation of the Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom poll and its accompanying, hourlong CNN special deprived the political class of the eleventh-hour marker it was relying on to frame the final days of a campaign that is running unusually close.

How Iowa could decide Joe Biden’s fundraising future” via Shane Goldmacher of The New York Times — The movement of money and energy into Iowa is a sign of not only the opportunity that Biden’s campaign now sees here — he sits in second or first place in most polls — but also the acute risk for him, according to interviews with Democratic strategists, Biden fundraisers and allies. In Iowa, Biden is not just chasing votes and delegates. He’s chasing cash. A disappointing finish in the state, where there are four candidates bunched in the top tier in polls, could dampen his fundraising at a crucial juncture. Candidates need resources to build up their operations in delegate-rich Super Tuesday states like California, where campaigning and ad rates can be prohibitively expensive and early voting begins this week.

Donald Trump and Republicans join forces to attack Biden ahead of the Iowa caucuses” via Toluse Olorunnipa of The Washington Post — Republican lawmakers have used the spotlight of Trump’s impeachment trial to accuse Biden of corruption, [Scott] is running television ads against Biden in Iowa, and several Trump campaign surrogates have ramped up their attacks against the former vice president as they prepare to fan out across the state in support of Trump’s reelection bid. “There is a mountain of evidence to suggest the Bidens’ behavior was harmful to the United States,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said from the U.S. Capitol, where several GOP lawmakers used the impeachment trial’s question-and-answer session to insinuate wrongdoing by Biden. Trump’s campaign is dispatching Vice President Mike Pence and more than 80 other surrogates to Iowa ahead of caucus votes.

Biden advisers say he’s ‘anything but doomed’ ahead of Iowa vote” via Jennifer Epstein of Bloomberg — Top advisers to Biden sought to temper expectations for his performance in Monday’s Iowa caucuses, projecting a close result and insisting that any outcome won’t doom the former vice president’s campaign. “Joe Biden is anything but doomed,” former Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, a longtime Biden friend who has endorsed his former colleague, said Sunday at a Bloomberg News reporter roundtable in Des Moines. Biden’s team has long played down the importance of Iowa to its strategy, arguing that contests later in February in Nevada and South Carolina, followed quickly by Super Tuesday, March 3, are critical to demonstrate that a candidate is capable of defeating Trump.

Joe Biden speaks at a campaign stop at National Cattle Congress Pavilion in Iowa.

Bernie Sanders’ caucus target: Latino voters usually overlooked in mostly white Iowa” via Jenna Johnson of The Washington Post — Although Latinos make up just 6% of Iowa’s population — the vast majority of the state’s residents are white — they have more than doubled in number over the past two decades. There are more than 50,000 registered Latino voters in the state, plus thousands more eligible, making them a potential force in caucuses that campaigns expect to draw up to 240,000 voters. Sanders’s operation has done far more than his competitors in seeking the support of those voters, having belatedly realized in his 2016 campaign the growing heft of Iowa’s Latino voters — and their attraction to him. It estimates that fewer than 3,000 Latinos participated in the 2016 caucuses overall and hopes to increase that number this year dramatically.

Did Elizabeth Warren get her ad campaign wrong in Iowa?” via Natasha Korecki of POLITICO — From mid-August until late October, when her rivals were flooding the airwaves, Warren would remain dark on TV for 12 weeks. Her first ad on broadcast TV ran Oct. 26, long after she had risen to the top of the field. Beginning in mid-August, Buttigieg pretty much took the opposite approach. Since that, the race’s dynamics have shifted again and again, and heading into the last weekend before the Iowa caucuses, most observers consider it a four- or even five-way race that’s too close to call. The Warren campaign’s theory of the case is that caucusgoers make a decision late in the game, so spending early money on television would do little but waste valuable resources.

’Too blue to bother’: In Iowa, suburban Democrats are trying to stage a political takeover” via Robert Samuels of The Washington Post — Newcomers had helped reshape politics in the Des Moines suburbs in the 2018 vote, electing more Democrats to public office. And as the world descended on their state in the opening volley of the 2020 presidential campaign, newcomers would show that this flourishing group of Democrats wasn’t going away. Local Democrats are done playing “Iowa nice.” They are mounting aggressive recruitment campaigns, mocking opponents and organizing to try to push Republicans out of elected seats, including offices that are traditionally nonpartisan. Their strategy has upended the live-and-let-live atmosphere that often permeates the suburbs, where some Democrats said they used to be content to focus on their families and leave local politics to the other party.

South Floridians heading to Iowa to campaign for their favorite presidential candidates” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Christine Hunschofsky, Kevin O’Connor, Shevrin Jones and Kaitlin Walters, are all part of the quadrennial ritual, in which people who are passionate supporters of various presidential candidates head to early caucus or primary states to help their preferred choices. That’s essential in a state like Iowa. The caucuses are very different from primaries in states like Florida, where people go to the polls, or vote early, for their preferred candidate. In Iowa, candidate supporters have to turn out for events at which they’ll divide into groups of supporters for each candidate. The process can take hours, and it’s essential for campaigns to do everything they can to make sure their supporters actually turn out.

The graying of the American economy is on display in Iowa” via Dionne Searcey, Alan Rappeport, Trip Gabriel and Robert Gebeloff of The New York Times — Like most campaign events held in daylight hours during the week, Buttigieg’s town hall in Dubuque recently was a sea of gray hair. With an impeachment reprieve over the weekend, all of the top Democratic presidential candidates were back in Iowa this weekend, seeking support in Monday’s caucuses from an electorate that is more white and more rural than most of the United States. Iowa’s outsized role in presidential politics is often criticized for precisely that reason. But Iowa mirrors the nation’s economy and demography in one very striking way — the state’s rapidly aging population and the myriad economic, political and social consequences that flow from it.

—“Caucus crunch time” via Amie Rivers of The Courier (Ankeny, Iowa)

—“10 questions Iowa caucuses will answer his cycle ends” via Brianne Pfannenstiel of the Des Moines Register

—“Picking a favorite still elusive for some Democrats” via Erin Murphy of The Gazette (Cedar Rapids)

—“Dems make final pitch” via Graham Ambrose and Sarah Hayden of the Quad-City Times

—“Hoops or caucus? Game changer: caucus prompts schools to rethink plans” via Nick Hytrek of the Sioux City Journal

—“We better not screw this up” via Patrick Condon of the StarTribune

Dear Iowans: Apologies for Sen. Rick Scott’s lack of decency” via Gwen Graham of The Hill — “While I fully support Joe Biden, I also respect those, from the right and left, who may disagree with him on policy or his record — but to smear his character with blatant misrepresentations, is beneath any candidate — and certainly beneath the dignity of a United States Senator. In attempting to influence your caucus vote with baldfaced lies, Iowans should respond to Scott with [Sen. Joseph] Welch’s words: ‘Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”’

You had a nice run, Iowa, but it’s time to fade into the background for a while” via Charles Pierce of Esquire — Oh, Iowa, you had a nice run, but it’s time for you to fade into the pale background of the presidential nominating process. Seriously, will no one rid me of this turbulent process? On Saturday night, the Des Moines Register announced that, due to a glitch involving Buttigieg, it would not be releasing the results of its feverishly anticipated final poll before Monday’s caucuses. And good for all concerned. This is the correct decision, both ethically and politically. But what the hell is the sense in a system where one poll from a good mid-sized newspaper wields so much influence over the presidential nominating process that it throws into a panic a system that already is complicated — and undemocratic — in the extreme?

— DATELINE: TALLY —

Ron DeSantis, Clarence Thomas share Federalist Society judicial doctrine” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Supreme Court Justice Thomas said he participated in a new documentary about his life to counter “libelous, slanderous propaganda” that’s been made against him over the last four decades. During a talk at the Federalist Society’s Florida State Conference at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, the 71-year-old justice said he hadn’t seen “Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words.” He said it wasn’t his idea to participate in it, either. DeSantis introduced Thomas with effusive praise, calling him the “greatest living justice.” If Thomas is on one side of a Supreme Court case, DeSantis said, “99% of the time — maybe more — you figure that must be the right side of the case to come out on.”

Clarence Thomas dispenses wisdom at a meeting of the Federalist Society in Orlando. Image via Twitter/@iypmgt.

Fight refueled over gas pump stickers” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried’s office would have to replace stickers that display her smiling face on gas pumps by mid-September under a House budget proposal. The directive is tied to the House’s proposed $91.37 billion budget. The budget also would require placing in reserves more than $19.7 million for other programs until plans are offered to replace the stickers, a process that Fried’s spokesman said is already underway. The issue, which isn’t in the Senate’s budget outline, comes after a decision last year by the Republican-dominated Legislature to limit what could be shown on gas-pump inspection stickers posted by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

After shunning Medicaid expansion, Florida Republicans see the political power of tackling health care” via John Kennedy of the USA TODAY network — House Speaker José Oliva is promoting wide-ranging changes to the state’s medical landscape that may cause a possible side effect. Republicans hope they help at the ballot box in the nation’s biggest presidential swing state. With polls showing health care access and cost among the top issues for voters, Oliva is among a chorus of Florida Republicans getting behind Trump’s promise last spring to make the GOP “the party of health care.” But in a state where Republican leaders’ opposition to the Affordable Care Act also has left it among the few not to expand Medicaid coverage for lower-income residents, some think the Miami Republican is more interested in the optics and political messaging of reform.

— LEGISLATION —

Both chambers of Legislature arming different proposals in gun control debate” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida lawmakers had filed more than 30 gun-related bills to consider during this year’s legislative session. Still, as they prepare for week No. 4 of their nine-week gathering, just four bills have been heard in committee. The measures in play reflect a deep divide within the ruling Republican Party in how to ensure public safety. While the House remains on the hunt for opportunities to repeal regulations on who can carry guns where, the Senate aims to tighten current laws to restrict access. House bills, which sailed through their first committees, would allow concealed-weapon permit holders to carry guns into places of worship that also have schools, and into meetings of city councils, county commissions and school boards.

House counters Senate across-the-board pay raise for state workers with targeted increases” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — The Senate budget grants a 3% raise. The House would boost the pay of those making less than $50,000 by $1,800 — about a 4% hike for the average state worker who makes around $38,000, according to state records. Both plans give workers a toehold in budget negotiations that begin now that DeSantis, the House and the Senate have revealed their proposed bottom lines for the 2012-21 fiscal year. Going into budget talks “with pay raise language on both sides … is a great starting point,” said Rep. Loranne Ausley after the House released its plan. “I am very grateful that House and Senate leadership have recognized our hardworking state employees,” she added.

Evictions would be easier under proposed changes to mobile-home laws, advocates warn” via Carolyn Glenn of the Orlando Sentinel — Sen. Ed Hooper, 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. Sen. Travis Hutson filed a separate bill mirroring 818′s language. However, opposing groups, including the Federation of Manufactured Homeowners of Florida, which represents a portion of the 2 million Floridians living in mobile home parks, fear the changes would strip homeowners of some of their basic rights and hinder their access to affordable housing. “They’re trying to chip away at renters’ rights and make it easier to evict them — that’s pretty clear,” said Esther Sullivan, assistant professor at The University of Colorado Denver.

Some say Ed Hooper’s mobile home bill could open the door to more evictions.

Forget hurricanes and sea rise. This bill could lead to a building boom in the Keys” via David Goodhue and Alex Harris of the Miami Herald — An amendment slipped into a House bill this week seeks to extend the hurricane evacuation time on the archipelago from 24 hours to 30 hours — a move that would effectively bump up the amount of development allowed in the Keys. Emergency managers, environmentalists, and a key Monroe County lawmaker called it irresponsible to cram more people and homes in an area where tidal flooding already lasts for months in some pockets and is expected to become worse and more frequent in the future. “This is foolishness,” said Craig Fugate, Florida’s former director of emergency management and head of FEMA. “First of all, 24 hours is a fantasy anyway.”

Walton organizers encourage grassroots effort to repeal HB 631” via Tom McLaughlin of the NWF Daily News — About 60 people gathered on a Thursday evening to discuss taking their fight for a repeal of the law that wiped out the county’s customary use ordinance to the Florida Legislature. “Tonight is a very important night, it is a call to action,” said Dave Rauschkolb, chair of Florida Beaches for All, who co-hosted the event with fellow activist Samantha Herring. Rauschkolb and Herring were recruiting help from the community to assist them in convincing legislators to repeal the 2018 law created through passage of the infamous HB 631. They want to round up a crowd to travel with them to the state’s capital Feb. 10 to participate in a noon rally to repeal the law.

Legislature to consider ending puppy mills for good” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — SB 1698 and HB 1237, known as the “Florida Pet Protection Act,” would set up licensing requirements for pet stores to ensure they don’t engage with breeders who have been flagged by the USDA for violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act. The bills, sponsored by Sen. Manny Diaz and Rep. Brian Avila, would also require pet stores to adhere to standards aimed at fostering a safe, clean and comfortable environment for their animals. In the proposed rule book: Pet enclosures must be kept between 67 degrees and 78 degrees at all times; puppies must be afforded at least 30 minutes of exercise and socialization at least twice a day, and a copy of each breeder’s most recent USDA report must be kept on hand. A licensed veterinarian would drop in three times a week to ensure stores are up to snuff. The bills come as counties and municipalities around the state have struggled to root out bad actors in the pet business — several dozen have taken the nuclear option of banning pet stores altogether. While that can get bad breeders out of town, it doesn’t do much good if they can set up shop a few miles down the road.

— TODAY IN CAPITOL — 

The House Ways & Means Committee meets to consider HB 637 from Rep. Nick DiCeglie, which seeks added restrictions on local governments for collecting impact fees, noon, Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The Senate Education Committee meets to consider confirmation of four members for the state university system’s Board of Governors and trustees, 1:30 p.m., Room 412, Knott Building.

The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee meets to consider several bills, including SB 1146 from Sen. Jeff Brandes, which seeks to add juvenile detention officers and juvenile justice detention supervisors to the special risk class of the Florida Retirement System, 1:30 p.m., Room 301, Senate Office Building.

The Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee meets to consider SB 810 from Sen. David Simmons, which seeks to strengthen tobacco and vaping regulations, as well as put the age to purchase smoking, chewing tobacco and electronic cigarettes to 21, 1:30 p.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.

The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee meets to consider HB 955 from Rep. Jason Shoaf, which seeks to prevent doctors from referring patients to hospitals in which the doctors have investments, 2 p.m., Room 404, House Office Building.

The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider HB 1275 from Rep. Sharon Pritchett, which seeks to make changes to regulations of amusement rides, 3 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Health Quality Subcommittee meets to consider HB 1289 from Rep. Evan Jenne, which seeks to mandate written consent for health care providers to perform pelvic examinations if the patient is anesthetized or otherwise unconscious, 3 p.m., Room 212, Knott Building.

The House Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee meets to consider HB 183 from Rep. Mel Ponder, which seeks to allow local elected officials to carry concealed weapons to public meetings, 3 p.m., Room 12, House Office Building.

The House Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider HB 971 from Rep. Michael Grant, which seeks to create regulations for electric bicycles, 3 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The Senate Community Affairs Committee meets to consider SB 1302 from Chair Anitere Flores, which seeks to increase the potential liability of government agencies in lawsuits, 4 p.m., Room 301, Senate Office Building.

The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee meets to consider SB 688 from Sen. Tom Wright, which seeks additional penalties for people who kill bears during closed seasons, 4 p.m., Room 37, Senate Office Building.

The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee meets to consider SJR 1216 from Sen. Joe Gruters, which seeks term limits on school-board members, 4 p.m., Room 412, Knott Building.

The Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee meets to consider SB 7040 from Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., which seeks to bolster security measures at public schools, 4 p.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.

The Senate Special Order Calendar Group will meet 15 minutes after the end of other committee meetings.

Happening today — Members of the Film Florida Board of Directors will be at The Capitol through Tuesday to meet with legislators about the state’s film, television and digital media industry.

— HOSPITAL DAYS —

This week, the Florida Hospital Association (FHA) welcomes representatives of member hospitals to The Capitol for its annual Hospital Days. For two days, there will be meetings with lawmakers to discuss the importance of hospitals in the community and efforts to improve access to high-quality care.

Events begin Monday with a gathering in the House Chamber to hear from state leaders, including DeSantis’ Chief of Staff Shane Strum, Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew, Surgeon General Scott Rivkees, and House Speaker pro tempore MaryLynn Magar, on FHA priorities for Session.

“This year, FHA is proud to support legislation that will accomplish these goals by expanding the capacity of our health care workforce and increasing transparency around patient safety culture in hospitals,” said FHA interim president Crystal Stickle.

It’s a big day for FHA interim president Crystal Stickle

On Tuesday, FHA members will visit legislators, including a meeting between FHA Board members and Senate President Bill Galvano. Also, President-Designate Wilton Simpson will address the Board at their morning meeting.

— STATEWIDE —

Florida to debut high school civics test” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — In a memo to school district superintendents, K-12 Chancellor Jacob Oliva announced that the test would be available in the spring for schools to pilot on a voluntary basis. “Pilot exam results will not affect graduation requirements or school accountability,” Oliva wrote. “The department will report on which districts and schools participate in the pilot, and on student participation and pass rates.” Although not required at this point, the department is encouraging students taking U.S. government or economics courses to take the test. The department would provide the exam to the districts and allow them to offer it either via computer or paper. The test would take 100 minutes and could be spread over two sessions.

Chancellor Jacob Oliva is introducing a new Florida high school civics test.

Wyndham, ABC wine join other companies halting donations to scholarships that go to anti-LGBTQ schools” via Leslie Postal and Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — The announcements come after the Orlando Sentinel reported that more than $105 million from the tax credit program, which pays for low-income children to attend private schools, went to more than 150 Christian schools with anti-LGBTQ policies last year. Wyndham Destinations, which sent a rainbow-decked float to Orlando’s gay pride parade in October, released a statement saying it would not support the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program until changes are made. It has contributed $6.75 million since 2011, most recently in December 2018. ABC Fine Wines and Spirits said this week it too was halting donations to the program until schools that discriminate are prohibited from receiving scholarships.

— MOTHER NATURE —

The battle over Lake O levels: toxic algae, water supplies at forefront” via Kimberly Miller of the Palm Beach Post — South Florida water leaders are concerned about keeping faucets flowing to homes and farms as interests clashed over how high to keep Lake Okeechobee — a key to Everglades restoration and water supply, but also a breeder of toxic algae. A massive rewrite of lake management rules is the impetus for the ongoing skirmish, which played out in West Palm Beach during a meeting of a 175-member committee working to develop the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM). While Treasure Coast residents and some Lake Worth Lagoon advocates want a lower lake to avoid summer discharges that can trigger blue-green algae blooms in estuaries, others want a higher lake to ensure spigots don’t go dry during a drought.

The battle over Lake O levels rages on. Image via NASA Earth Observatory.

Every little bit helps” via Karl Schneider of the Naples Daily News — Florida has millions of acres protected in federal and state preserves. But across fast-growing Southwest Florida, thousands of acres are also preserved in presumed perpetuity behind the gates of private communities. Alone, 80 acres here and 100 acres there might not have much of an environmental effect, but taken together, the tracks provide water recharge areas, stormwater systems and habitat for wildlife ranging from raccoons and foxes to nesting birds and alligators.

— CORONAVIRUS —

Coronavirus infections predicted to grow exponentially; first death outside China; outbreak becomes political” via Washington Post — The Philippines and New Zealand have joined the list of countries that have sharply restricted entry to people traveling from or through China, as the number of cases confirmed outside the mainland continues to grow. Meanwhile, inside China, the number of reported cases has grown rapidly, and scientists predict that exponentially more have been infected.

>>>There are nearly 14,500 confirmed cases of coronavirus in China, including 10 on the self-governing island of Taiwan, with more than 300 dead. A new study says that as many as 75,815 people in Wuhan may have been infected.

>>>Doctors say the virus can be spread by fecal matter, as well as droplets from the mouth and nose.

 Coronavirus infections are expected to grow exponentially.

China could increasingly walled off as countries seek to stem coronavirus” via Alexandra Stephenson of The New York Times — Vietnam became the latest country to try to close itself off from the world’s most populous country, barring all flights from and to China. Overall, nearly 10,000 flights have been canceled since the outbreak. Australia joined the United States in temporarily denying entry to noncitizens who have recently traveled to the country. There are officially eight confirmed cases in the United States, including one person connected to the University of Massachusetts-Boston. Japan also said it would bar foreigners who had recently been in the Chinese province at the center of the outbreak, or whose passports were issued there. Major businesses have started to acknowledge the effect that the virus — and China’s near shutdown — is having on their bottom lines.

White House seeks to calm U.S. fears over Wuhan coronavirus” via Sarah Cammarata of POLITICO — White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien Sunday sought to quell fears over the Wuhan coronavirus, saying the outbreak poses “low risk” now in the United States. “Right now, there’s no reason for Americans to panic. This is something that is a low risk, we think in the U.S.,” O’Brien said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” The virus is a “top priority. We’re taking steps to keep Americans safe,” he added. O’Brien is a member of Trump’s coronavirus task force along with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and others, and the National Security Council is coordinating the administration’s response. The administration took dramatic actions Friday to contain the virus, which has jolted financial markets and led to widespread airline cancellations.

Florida health officials take a back seat to CDC in warning about coronavirus” via John Kennedy of the USA Today Network — Florida health officials are letting the federal government lead the way in warning the public about the growing threat posed by the deadly coronavirus, but some leaders are pushing for stepped-up action in a state that is a magnet for travelers. U.S. Sen. Rick Scott said he has written to seaport and airport managers, calling for them to heighten their vigilance in what the World Health Organization terms a global public health emergency. The virus has killed more than 100 people and sickened thousands. But while the cases are mostly concentrated in China, it has been detected in 16 other countries, including at least six cases in the U.S., although none in Florida.

Keeping an eye on the Coronavirus, what it means for Florida residents” via Gretchen Kernbach of WJHG — Gulf Coast Regional Chief Medical Officer Dr. George Helmrich said the alarm has been overstated. “We know the number of deaths, and it’s actually not that great,” Dr. Helmrich said. … Helmrich reminds folks that number doesn’t compare to the amount of flu-related deaths. “I would tell you the same thing about this virus as I would about another virus,” Dr. Helmrich said.

South Florida doctors trying to stop anxiety over coronavirus” via Cindy Goodman of the Sun-Sentinel — The efforts come as people have begun to panic over flu symptoms, convinced they have coronavirus, even though they haven’t been anywhere near Wuhan, where the virus originated and is spreading rapidly. So far, six of the eight people in the U.S. who are confirmed to have the virus had traveled to Wuhan, and one is the spouse of someone who did. “People are nervous,” said Dr. Daniel Perez, a Plantation infectious disease specialist and attending physician at Westside Regional Medical Center. “Ultimately, it’s going to happen. We will get it here. We just need to be prepared and ready, so it’s not a major thing.”

— 2020 —

Trump mocks Mike Bloomberg’s height in Sean Hannity pre-Super Bowl interview” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — “Mini Mike” is Trump’s tagline for his newest challenger, former New York Mayor Bloomberg. The quip came in a tweet, ahead of the interview’s premiere, but after its recording. “Very little. I just think of little,” he said on Fox News. “Now he wants a box for the debates to stand on. OK, it’s OK. There’s nothing wrong. You can be short. Why should he get a box to stand on, OK? He wants a box for the debates. Why should he be entitled to that, really? Then does that mean everyone else gets a box?” Bloomberg’s campaign denied the accusation and called the President a “pathological liar.”

Iowa is first on the calendar, but Florida is already voting for President” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Though the Sunshine State won’t officially vote for presidential candidates until March 17, thousands of ballots have already been mailed to voters stationed overseas. On Friday, Broward County’s supervisor of elections will ship out some 3,000 ballots, followed Saturday by another 2,300 sent from Miami-Dade County. And starting Feb. 6, the state’s 67 local election offices will begin sending massive numbers of mail ballots to Florida voters in the states, kicking off a one-week stretch in which 1.6 million ballots will be sent through the mail — all of which can be immediately filled out and returned. “You could easily say the election has already begun,” said Tammy Jones, the head of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections.

Democrats are trashing the legacies of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, keeping their eyes off the prize — defeating Donald Trump.

DNC overhauls debate requirements, opening door for Bloomberg” via Zach Montellaro, Sally Goldenberg and Christopher Cadelago via POLITICO — Candidates will need to earn at least 10% in four polls released from Jan. 15 to Feb. 18, or 12% in two polls conducted in Nevada or South Carolina, in order to participate in the Feb. 19 debate in Las Vegas. Any candidate who earns at least one delegate to the national convention in either the Iowa caucuses or New Hampshire primary will also qualify for the Nevada debate. The new criteria eliminate the individual-donor threshold, which was used for the first eight debates, including the debate in New Hampshire. Bloomberg has refused to take donations from other individuals, which has thus far precluded his participation in any of the debates since he joined the race late last year.

$375,000 salaries, furnished housing and a lot of sushi: Inside Bloomberg’s spending spree” via Sally Goldenberg and Christopher Cadelago of POLITICO — The staggering sums demonstrate the trademark lavish spending that has characterized Bloomberg’s late-in-life political career: a virtually bottomless wallet that fills in when campaign customs don’t appeal to him. The former New York City Mayor’s determination that the traditional Iowa-centric presidential primary calendar doesn’t suit him simply wouldn’t work for another candidate. But it’s perfectly compatible with Bloomberg’s reality — when that reality includes $140 million spent on TV and digital ads, $3.3 million on polling alone, and nearly $1 million to crisscross the country in pursuit of delegates in Super Tuesday states other candidates can’t yet afford to focus on.

Sanders once likened poor whites to blacks under Apartheid” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — In 1978, according to the Rutland Daily Herald, Sanders compared the plight of many across the planet to slavery, saying that “I believe that the vast majority of the people of the world and of this country are living in a slave-like condition not terribly different from what existed in this country before the Civil War.”

Elizabeth Warren campaign open second office in Florida, becomes 1st Dem candidate with office in Orlando” via Cristóbal Reyes of the Orlando Sentinel — The office had been in the Warren campaign’s plans since September when it announced its official presence in Florida as part of its strategy. The campaign’s first state office opened in Miami last year. The Orlando office features several training and workrooms for volunteers looking to phone bank and canvass on behalf of the campaign, which has been slipping in the polls following what appeared to be an early surge. Orange County Vice Mayor Emily Bonilla, who endorsed Warren and is a surrogate for the campaign, said while any of the current Democratic candidates for President are preferable to Trump, she feels she is more “empathetic” to the plight of the average person.

Pardon Trump? Andrew Yang says he might” via Rishika Dugyala of POLITICO — A President Yang might pardon Trump. One of the entrepreneur’s 2020 rivals, U.S. Sen. Warren, has suggested she would appoint a task force to investigate Trump’s wrongdoing if she won the presidential election. But Yang Sunday said that would make moving forward difficult. “You suggested … that President Yang might pardon President Donald Trump, why?” “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos asked the candidate. Yang responded that he would listen to the guidance of his attorney general, but added, “You have to see what the facts are on the ground. If you look at history around the world, it’s a very, very nasty pattern that developing countries have fallen into, where a new President ends up throwing the President before them in jail,” Yang said on ABC’s This Week.

— INSTA OF THE DAY —

 

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Ended the day flying back to OUR home state on Air Force One with the First Family. Looking forward to a great Florida weekend! 🏈 🏝

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— PEACHY —

A new John Bolton revelation ties Donald Trump to Rudy Giuliani’s early efforts in Ukraine — and loops in other Trump allies” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — New reporting suggests that then-national security adviser Bolton was asked by Trump to call Ukraine’s then-president-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy to encourage Zelenskiy to meet with Trump’s personal attorney, Giuliani. That report, detailed in Bolton’s upcoming book, would be a direct demonstration of Trump leveraging his office to advocate for investigations that would benefit himself personally — as Giuliani himself has indicated. “President Trump directed John R. Bolton, then his national security adviser, to help with his pressure campaign to extract damaging information on Democrats from Ukrainian officials, according to an unpublished manuscript by Mr. Bolton,” Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt report.

The hits keep coming from John Bolton.

Americans stuck to their views on Donald Trump through impeachment trial” via Aaron Zitner of The Wall Street Journal — A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found some 46% of voters in the survey said the Senate should remove Trump from office at the end of the impeachment trial, while 49% said he should serve out his term. By an 11-point margin of 52% to 41%, voters said they believe Trump asked Ukraine to investigate a political opponent to influence the coming presidential election to his advantage. And by a 16-point margin of 53% to 37%, voters said Trump obstructed Congress by directing officials not to comply with subpoenas for testimony and otherwise not cooperating with the impeachment inquiry. Those two accusations form the basis of the impeachment charges.

Marco Rubio’s mind-blowing explanation of his impeachment vote” via Chris Cillizza of CNN — Key lines from Rubio‘s statement: “Just because actions meet a standard of impeachment does not mean it is in the best interest of the country to remove a President from office. I will not vote to remove the President because doing so would inflict extraordinary and potentially irreparable damage to our already divided nation.” What Rubio is saying is this: 1) Trump did the things in regard to Ukraine that have been alleged. 2) Partisan impeachment is bad. 3) He is voting against removing the President. So, and just hear me out on this, what if Rubio, who says he takes as true the allegations against Trump, voted to remove Trump. Wouldn’t that make the impeachment bipartisan?

Lamar Alexander just gave Democrats what they wanted” via David Graham of The Atlantic — By condemning Trump’s behavior, even as he dashed the hopes for witnesses, Alexander seems to have created a safe space for some of his fellow Republicans to label Trump’s extortion of Ukraine wrong. With the notable exception of Mitt Romney of Utah, most Republicans declined to even tut-tut the President’s behavior, scared of either his wrath or that of his supporters. Alexander broke that stasis. His statement split the difference, acknowledging Trump’s error while also concluding that it didn’t meet the standard for removal. Notably, he said he didn’t think there was a need to call witnesses, because the Democrats had already proved the facts of their case against Trump.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Trump to tout school choice as a big part of State of the Union speech” via Bianca Quilantan and Michael Stratford of POLITICO Florida — Trump is expected to urge Congress to pass a $5 billion tax credit proposal aimed at “school choice” and championed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, as Trump courts evangelical and religious voters. DeVos took to the campaign trail in Wisconsin with Vice President Mike Pence to tout the Education Freedom Scholarships she backs that would help more students attend private schools. Senior administration officials confirmed that first reported Trump’s plans to use the speech to talk about school choice. It would be a major component of Trump’s remarks.

Scott meets with interim Venezuelan President Juan Guaidó in Miami — Scott joined Guaidó and South Florida lawmakers at a rally to promote freedom in Venezuela. The discussed how the U.S. can continue to help the fight for freedom and democracy and end Nicholás Maduro’s regime. “We will never stop fighting for an end to Nicolas Maduro’s brutal regime, and the United States will always stand with those fighting for freedom, democracy and human rights,” Scott said.

Rick Scott meets with interim Venezuelan President Juan Guaidó to discuss the continued fight for democracy.

Matt Gaetz: Protecting Eglin Gulf Test Range from oil and gas exploration is critical” via Jim Thompson of the NWF Daily News — Eglin Air Force Base is now in “a golden era of funding” as the United States shifts its national defense focus from counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations to defending against “near-peer” adversaries. “We are no longer going to be treed by the Chihuahuas in the Middle East,” Gaetz said to a crowd of hundreds of military contractors, military personnel and economic development professionals. The Congressman delivered the keynote address to the Defense Leadership Forum’s 2020 Air Force Contracting Summit. Instead, Gaetz said, the country’s military focus is shifting toward the development of “hypersonic” weapons that can travel at multiple times the speed of sound, countering similar efforts in Russia and China. Eglin AFB is heavily involved in that research.

Brian Mast raises $2.2 million in 2019; takes oil money but denies any influence on him” via Joshua Solomon of TCPalm — The Palm City Republican pushed back against questions over accepting donations from oil and mining industries and touted his paramount issue — the environment, with an unwavering defense of the Everglades and a long-standing, public fight against toxic discharges from Lake Okeechobee — as reason why the money has no significant influence on him. “Congressman Mast has made stopping toxic discharges his top priority because it is the right thing to do,” his campaign spokesman Brad Stewart said in a statement. “It is ridiculous that out of more than 33,000 individual donations, TCPalm has chosen to focus on just 21 donors to try to create some false narrative that does not exist.”

— THE TRAIL —

While most of the country had their eyes glued to the TV, federal candidates posted their fourth quarter fundraising numbers. Now that the big game is over, here’s a recap of where things stand in Florida’s congressional races.

The Republican primary to replace U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho is crowded, but most of the field filed after the new year. Among the early entrants, Judson Sapp is the leader with nearly $160K raised and $112K on hand at the end of the year. Second place goes to Kat Cammack, who raked in $104,000 and has nearly all of it in the bank.

Though CD 15 is a lean-Republican, incumbent U.S. Rep. Ross Spano is doing everything he can to make GOP voters lean the other way, and his finance reports reflect it. He raised just $109K in Q4. Meanwhile, Democratic Rep. Adam Hattersley pulled $160K and fellow Democrat Alan Cohn added $117K. They also have the benefit of not having to play catch-up thanks to illegal loans.

Democrats say CD 16 is on the table, but Democratic Rep. Margaret Good is already starting to show cracks. She raised $365K for the quarter while Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan cleared $424K. He also has $929K banked to Good’s $576K.

There’s another red-hot Republican primary in CD 19, the Southwest Florida seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney. Who’s on top depends on how one interprets the reports — Rep. Dane Eagle leads in true fundraising with $422K, while Naples physician William Figlesthaler rolled out the best report, $536K, thanks to a $410K candidate loan. They have $375K and $507K banked, respectively.

After the fold: Ford O’Connell with $310K; former Minnesota state Rep. Dan Severson with $108K; Randy Henderson with $68K; and Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen with $32K.

There were a couple of incumbents who got caught snoozing in the fourth quarter, though the delegation mostly fared well.

— In CD 4, Democrat Donna Deegan outraised Republican U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, $204K to $124K.

— In CD 6, Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Waltz raised $308K in Q4 and started 2020 with $564K in the bank.

— Democratic U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala tacked on $600K and has nearly $1.3 million banked in CD 27. Republican Maria Elvira Salazar reeled in $365K and has $875K in her campaign account.

— Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy received $388K in Q4 and has a fivefold lead over her closest challenger in CD 7.

— Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings picked up $208K for her CD 10 reelection bid.

— Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist added $372K and has $2.8 million banked in CD 13.

— Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Mast added another $764K last quarter, giving him just over $2.3 million raised for his CD 18 reelection bid.

— In CD 21, right-wing activist Laura Loomer topped incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel for the second quarter in a row month, though Frankel still holds a commanding lead with $1.1 million banked to Loomer’s $155,000.

FCC: Racist robocaller who attacked Andrew Gillum fined $13 million for breaking federal law” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — The Federal Communications Commission recommended nearly $13 million in fines against an Idaho radio and podcast host allegedly responsible for thousands of racist robocalls in six states, including attacks against Andrew Gillum when he ran for governor. The FCC did not name the individual accused of using caller ID spoofing against Gillum in Florida, a Jewish candidate for the U.S. Senate in California, a gubernatorial candidate in Georgia, and in the murder trial of a man who killed a protester during the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The calls ended with a disclaimer they were funded by “The Road to Power,” an anti-Semitic, white supremacist website and podcast linked to Scott Rhodes of Sandpoint, Idaho.

— LOCAL —

Woman who breached Mar-a-Lago security refuses to face judge” via Eileen Kelley, Lisa Huriash and Brooke Baitinger of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel —A Secret Service agent and Palm Beach County deputies opened fire on Hannah Roemhild after she plowed through two security barricades near President Trump’s Mar-a-Largo estate. Authorities said Friday they had no reason to believe the chase through Palm Beach was an act of terrorism, but perhaps a case of impairment before noon. No one was injured. Roemhild was set to appear before a judge Saturday morning, but her appearance was rescheduled for Monday at 10 a.m. after she reportedly refused to appear in court. Roemhild grew up in Connecticut and has traveled around the world as a singer. She is “very astute, very intelligent” and her actions are “very uncharacteristic of her,” a family friend said.

Al Qaeda claims it directed Naval Base shooting” via Decland Walsh of the New York Times — Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed it directed a Saudi military officer to carry out the shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola on Dec. 6 that killed three sailors and wounded eight people. In an audio recording released on Sunday, the leader of the Yemen-based group, Qassim al-Rimi, claimed responsibility for the attack at , according to SITE, an organization that tracks jihadist media. The group offered no evidence that it had trained the gunman, Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, but produced a copy of his will as well as correspondence that indicated he had been in contact with Al Qaeda. Experts said those elements gave the claim a plausible air.

Aramis Ayala yanked from case by second GOP Governor, this time DeSantis” via the News Service of Florida — Ayala has been caught up in a high-profile dispute with Osceola County Sheriff Russ Gibson over her decision to not file criminal charges against two suspects in the October murder of Nicole Montalvo. Montalvo, a 33-year-old mother, was dismembered and her remains were found on two properties in Osceola County. In the executive order, DeSantis said Attorney General Ashley Moody’s Office of Statewide Prosecutor found that based on the available evidence in the case, criminal charges “could be filed” against Christopher Otero-Rivera and Angel Rivera. DeSantis said Gibson believed Ayala’s “opposition to the death penalty has interfered with the appropriate pursuit of homicide charges.”

Aramis Ayala gets dropped from another high profile murder case.

Nasty tiff over Trump erupts between residents in The Villages” via Larry Croom of Villages-News — 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. Ed McGinty, of the Village of Hadley, was parked in his golf cart in the grassy area by Odell Circle with signs on his golf cart that read “Trump Is A Sexual Predator,” “Trump Filthy Pig,” “Trump Compulsive Liar,” “Trump Bigot and Racist” and “Hitler And Trump Exactly Same DNA.” 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.

Headless chickens don’t concerned neighbors. But nuisance gators do” via Amy Bennett Williams of the Fort Myers News-Press — Nuisance alligator removals are pretty routine in Southwest Florida, once the coldblooded reptiles get too close or become too bold for the comfort of nearby humans. But there was an unusual element in the recent case of an eight-footer taken from the Orange River: Buckingham residents blame floating animal sacrifices for drawing the beast to their neighborhood on the eastern, upstream and of the 12-mile creek that empties into the Caloosahatchee near Interstate 75. The result is an only-in-Florida mashup of rural homeowners, religious practitioners and wildlife, as livestock carcasses dumped into the slow-moving stream following religious rituals attracted hungry gators to the new — and easy — food source.

Howey Mayor, council member ask DeSantis to remove each other from office” via Martin Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — It’s no secret that Howey-in-the-Hills Mayor Martha MacFarlane and Town Council member Matt McGill are not the best of friends. McGill, who has caused a tizzy by demanding $1 million from Howey for “civil rights violations,” sent a letter to DeSantis asking him to remove MacFarlane from office because, he claims, she broke the law by holding a council meeting without a quorum. A day later, MacFarlane responded by sending a similar missive requesting that McGill be suspended from office “for willful neglect of his duties” for refusing to attend Howey’s two most recent council meetings. “I’m at a loss at how to get him to fulfill his duties as a public official,” MacFarlane said.

Guaidó rallies Venezuelan expats in Miami at end of tour” via Gisela Salomon and Scott Smith of The Associated Press — Venezuela’s Guaidó told cheering expatriates in Miami that he will soon make his return to Caracas from an international tour, bringing with him the “world’s backing” to oust President Maduro. “We have a plan. We have a strategy,” Guaidó said. “We’re not alone, and we’re going to restore democracy.” The opposition leader bent on unseating the socialist president, presented few details for executing this plan upon returning, referring to additional sanctions as a major strategy available. Guaidó’s visit rounds out a two-week world tour that took him first to Colombia, then across Europe and Canada, where he held meetings with a list of world leaders.

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. The only public benefit that went 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 who went Thursday to Saturday paid the higher price.

Here’s how Tampa Bay has changed since its last Super Bowl” via Richard Danielson of the Tampa Bay Times — By kickoff Feb. 7, 2021, a decadelong construction boom will have delivered more than $2 billion worth of new hotels, airport renovations, destination parks and ambitious food halls to the bay area. There’s a wholly updated Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, the new Armature Works, a redesigned and renamed Sparkman Wharf and — most important — the Tampa Riverwalk. “The continued transformation of our community since 2009 has been truly incredible,” said Rob Higgins, president and chief executive officer of the Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Host Committee. From renovations to Raymond James Stadium to new hotels and entertainment options, “this will be a totally new experience from the last time we hosted.”

— TOP OPINION —

 “Privatization: Coming to a beach near you” via Bob Lotane and Daniel Uhlfelder for Florida Politics — Beachfront property owners, aided by high-priced lobbyists, have stripped local governments’ power to oversee your ability to enjoy the beach. In 2016 Walton County adopted a customary use ordinance recognizing the public’s long time use of its coast for traditional fishing and recreation while safeguarding the ability of residents and tourists to continue to do so. Wealthy beachfront property owners, however, rebelled by lobbying the Legislature into passing HB 631 in 2018, making it easy for beachfront owners to tie up the courts to block-the-beach. Bottom line: Insurance ratepayers in Florida and taxpayers nationwide have, and will continue to, subsidize Florida coastal owners. In return, they can be told to stay the heck off the beach.

— OPINIONS —

Democrats may be blowing their chance” via Rahm Emanuel for The Wall Street Journal — Both Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have come under withering criticism — not from conservatives but from Democrats arguing they were insufficiently progressive while in office. Set aside the unforced error of attacking fellow Democrats at a moment when retiring Trump ought to be our singular goal. The underlying critique fundamentally misunderstands how we should judge any given leader’s stewardship of our agenda. Yet their criticism belies their conviction that progressives simply need to nominate a standard-bearer with a message robust enough to drive legions of disaffected liberal voters to the polls. What’s the evidence that this theory will work, or that it will drive the sorts of results we saw in 2018 and 2019? The answer is elusive.

DeSantis can run, but he shouldn’t hide from his Lev Parnas problem” via the Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board — Politicians can handle incriminating news in two ways: Come clean, apologize if necessary and defuse the story. Or evade, obfuscate and hope the story goes away. Gov. Ron DeSantis has chosen the latter with indicted fundraiser Parnas. His problem is Parnas not only isn’t going away, he’s become a focal point in the world’s headline political story. That would be Donald Trump‘s impeachment. The more Parnas talks, the worse DeSantis’ dodgeball strategy looks.

Legislators putting their LGBTQ bigotry into law. Don’t let them do it” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Consider the school voucher program. It started small in the late 20th century under former Gov. Jeb Bush. Today, it weighs in at nearly $1 billion in public money and has spawned a less-than-public outfit called Step Up For Students, which “encourages philanthropy” by big players with business before the Legislature and state regulators. In an exhaustive report, the Orlando Sentinel recently revealed how the voucher program operates to allow, and in some cases, to encourage, the ugliest and most retrograde forms of discrimination against LGBTQ children and their families. Meanwhile in Tallahassee, the Legislature is shamelessly sticking to its anti-gay guns and, worse, has even attracted support from some Democrats.

Floridians shouldn’t have to ask for permission to succeed” via Skyler Zander for the Naples Daily News — Thanks to occupational licensing laws, asking permission is exactly what Americans across the country are forced to do. Through these laws, state governments determine whether we can work in a given profession. These policies are obstacles that hinder us from achieving our hopes and dreams. In Florida, licensing laws require us to pay an average of $318 in fees, pass an exam, and have 693 days of education and experience. Because these requirements often apply to jobs sought by those at lower-income levels, the burden falls hardest on those least able to afford it. This all raises the question; do we need these laws? The answer, very often, is no.

Term limits for school board members? Eight is not enough” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Since lawmakers are forced to live under the “eight is enough” system, the Florida Legislature’s Republican majority wants school board members to live under it, too. In truth, imposing term limits on school boards is just another Tallahassee power-grab. It’s partly payback to boards that have resisted charter schools, vouchers and arming teachers. It could also be payback for a certain school board’s failure to suspend a certain Broward school superintendent who DeSantis wants gone. Capitol politicians should acknowledge the obvious: Term limits sound great as a concept, but they’ve had terrible real-life consequences in the Legislature. Because of the turnover, longtime lobbyists and staffers have excessive influence.

Extending deadline on Save Our Homes portability makes sense” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Pinellas County Property Appraiser Mike Twitty proposes extending the Florida deadline to three years, a common-sense fix that state lawmakers should ask voters to approve. To transfer the Save Our Homes exemption, Florida law says a homeowner must have “received a homestead exemption as of Jan. 1 of either of the two immediately preceding years.” Someone could easily miss out by selling a home late in the year and then building a new home that isn’t finished by New Year’s of the year after next. SB 148 and HB 369, sponsored respectively by Sen. Jeff Brandes and Rep. Rick Roth, would place a constitutional amendment that would add a year to the period when homeowners can transfer their accumulated benefits.

— MOVEMENTS —

Appointed Gene Prescott and Leonard Boord (reappointed) to the Florida International University Board of Trustees; Aubrey Edge and H. Wayne Huizenga, Jr. (reappointed) to the Board of Governors of the State University System; Candace Falsetto to the Florida Commission on the Status of Women; Jeanette Rubio to the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Josh Aubuchon, Holland & Knight: Wawa

Ronald Brise, Julie Fess, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart: Raymond James Financial

Charles Cliburn, New Capitol IT: YoungWilliams

Michael Flanagan, American Hotel and Lodging Association

Jeffrey Johnston, Amanda Stewart, Anita Berry, Johnston & Stewart Government Strategies: Florida Pet Retailers

Toni Large, Large Strategies: Sunfest Herbs

Paul Mitchell, The Southern Group: Federal Engineering

Andre Parke, Sachs Sax Caplan: Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Miami, Independent Colleges & Universities of Florida

Jennifer Platt: International Council of Shopping Centers

Katia Saint Fleur, KSF and Associates: City of North Miami, Florida Beer Wholesalers Association, Florida Pet Retailers

William Scherer, Michael Dutko Jr., Conrad & Scherer: NUCO CITRUS

Matthew Ubben, Confianza Consulting: CAP Government

— ALOE —

Viral TikTok video shows 3 guys playing Uno at Cape Coral intersection” via Jennifer Sangalang of the Fort Myers News-Press — “Dylan” — user name @driftydilly — posted the video with the caption, “Florida back at it with the long lights,” with hashtags and tags: #redlightchallenge #Florida #redlight #floridaredlight #fyp #foryou #foryoupage @paxten @rs3laz @angeliandrew. People quickly swarmed the comments and awarded thousands of hearts. Many comments reference a young boy watching the game from the back seat of the car in front of the card players. Others wondered who won the game and whether the trio of young men playing cards were the Jonas Brothers (it wasn’t). As of Friday, the video had more than 985,000 likes, almost 4,200 comments and more than 33,000 shares.

Florida’s red lights can be pretty long.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Celebrating today are former everything Tom Gallagher, former Sen. Arthenia Joyner and Jodi Stevens, director of government affairs for PACE Center for Girls and Monte’s better half.

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

Written By

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 Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also 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.

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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, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
Email: Peter@FloridaPolitics.com
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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