Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 2.5.20

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Wake up right: Get your scoops and other news about Florida politics.

Good morning. For those of you working at the Department of Environmental Protection and would like to order Girl Scout Cookies (but the Division of Administrative Services won’t let you) feel free to order some from Ella Joyce here.


A bold scoop: Melissa Nelson will file today for re-election as the State Attorney for Florida’s Fourth Judicial Circuit, where she leads 300 plus attorneys, staff, and investigators in their pursuit of justice. Expect to see James Blair, former Deputy Chief of Staff to Gov. Ron DeSantis, as the lead consultant to the campaign.


Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo is hosting a neighbor to the north Wednesday as former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams visits South Florida to talk voting rights.

The Legislature’s approval of SB 7066 last year has brought that issue to the forefront for Democratic activists. SB 7066 served as implementing legislation for Amendment 4, allowing ex-felons to have their voting rights restored only after paying any fines, fees and restitution owed.

Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Adams is heading to Florida for a voter engagement town hall.

Abrams — an oft-rumored potential 2020 VP pick — has become a voting right’s advocate following her defeat in the 2018 gubernatorial election. She’s alleged that election was stolen from her due to voting irregularities. It’s worth noting those accusations have not yet been borne out by the evidence.

Abrams and Rizzo will gather at the Miami Dade College North campus to discuss the issue of voting rights and voting suppression more broadly.

Members of the Florida College Democrats will join the two for a 1:30 p.m. roundtable on the need to energize young voters. At 2:35 p.m., Abrams and Rizzo will hold a town hall on voter protection.

The Amendment 4 issue is sure to be part of that conversation. Democrats have labeled the GOP-backed SB 7066 as a “poll tax.” Republicans have pointed to testimony from the amendment’s original backers, stating that repayment of fines and fees would be a necessary part of “completing” a person’s sentence.

Wednesday’s events also come just days after the Iowa caucus structure was called into question. Data surrounding the Monday vote was not released until late Tuesday afternoon. Officials say technical difficulties caused the delay with a new app used to track the vote count and not due to any outside compromising of the system.


State Senators have decided not to vote just yet on SB 404, a controversial parental consent abortion bill just yet. But that isn’t stopping a protest by opponents, who will hold a symbolic “occupation” of The Capitol.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— A House committee approves a bill that eliminates the statute of limitations for cases of child sexual assault. The woman who inspired “Donna’s Law” tells her story to lawmakers for the first time in a public setting.

— Another House committee votes to repeal the state law, which allows local governments to install red-light cameras at intersections. Supporters say those cameras save lives. Opponents call it taxation-by-citation.

— The Senate Criminal Justice Committee clears a bill that would allow EMT’s to provide emergency care for police dogs and transport those K-9s in an ambulance.

— And a Florida man takes truth in labeling law way too seriously.

To listen: click on the image below:


@CarloslCurbelo: The new America: political adversaries are enemies who cannot even shake hands. Truly unfortunate

@RealDonaldTrump: The Democrat Caucus is an unmitigated disaster. Nothing works, just like they ran the Country. Remember the 5 Billion Dollar Obamacare Website, that should have cost 2% of that. The only person that can claim a very big victory in Iowa last night is “Trump”

@ndungca: chaos at the caucus sounds like a politically-themed panic at the disco cover band send tweet

Tweet, tweet:

@JaredEMoskowitz: Even though the #IowaCaucus is a Disaster to be clear it is not @fema reimbursable.

@Fineout: So quite an interesting situation going on this session — While insurance companies continue to come under serious criticism for handling of Hurricane Michael claims — they are moving on multiple legislative fronts to make it even harder for consumers to sue insurance companies

@MDixon55: Man, if you’re a SoFla pol and didn’t get a Ross Super Bowl ticket, you should feel really bad about your place in life

@Wingoz: Spoke to a @Jaguars source today who wanted to make it clear: The extra London game is about maximizing revenue which goes toward building a top of the line downtown stadium experience in Jacksonville long term


Eighth Democratic presidential debate in Manchester — 2; Capitol Press Corps press skits — 5; New Hampshire Primaries — 6; Pitchers and catchers begin reporting for MLB Spring Training — 6; South Beach Wine and Food Festival — 14; Ninth Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas — 14; Roger Stone’s sentencing — 15; Nevada caucuses — 17; “Better Call Saul” Season 5 premiers — 18; 10th Democratic presidential debate in Charleston — 20; South Carolina Primaries — 24; Super Tuesday — 27; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 37; Florida’s presidential primary — 41; “No Time to Die” premiers — 61; Florida TaxWatch Spring Board Meeting begins — 70; TaxWatch Principal Leadership Awards — 71; Florida Chamber Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 100; “Top Gun: Maverick” premiers — 142; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 159; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premiers — 163; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo start — 170; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 195; First Presidential Debate in Indiana — 237; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 201; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 245; Second Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 253; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 260; 2020 General Election — 272.


Donald Trump uses State of the Union to campaign; Nancy Pelosi rips up speech” via the Associated Press — Standing before a Congress and nation sharply divided by impeachment, President Donald Trump used his State of the Union address Tuesday to extol a “Great American Comeback” on his watch, just three years after he took office decrying a land of “American carnage” under his predecessor. The partisan discord was on vivid display as the first president to campaign for reelection while facing impeachment made his case for another term: Republican legislators chanted “Four More Years.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ripped up her copy of Trump’s speech as he ended his address.

Trump, the former reality TV star, added a showbiz flavor to the staid event: He had wife Melania present the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, to the divisive conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who recently announced he has advanced lung cancer. … He stunned a young student in the gallery with a scholarship. And he orchestrated the surprise tearful reunion of a solider from overseas with his family in the balcony.

Among Trump’s guests in the chamber: Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who has been trying to win face time with Trump, his most important international ally. The president offered Guaidó exactly the sort of endorsement he’s been looking for as he struggles to oust President Nicolás Maduro from power. Trump called Guaidó “the true and legitimate president of Venezuela.”

— “Florida lawmakers react to the State of the Union address” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics

— “Parkland father removed from State of the Union speech after shouting at Trump” via David Smiley and Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald

The strangest State of the Union ever” via John Harris of POLITICO — PresidentTrump likes his superlatives and you have to give him credit: He definitely earned them this time. This was the most defiant, most boastful, most ostentatiously theatrical, most overtly campaign-oriented, most am-I-hearing-this-right? outlandish — the most flamboyantly bizarre — State of the Union Address of All Time. … It was also the most disorienting, and hard to categorize through the prism of conventional political analysis. That prism already had lost much of its utility during the Trump Era, and the president seemed to shatter it completely in a 78-minute speech to a congressional audience whose fealty and contempt toward Trump were on display in equal and vivid measure. Trump long ago lost the capacity truly to shock, but he still has tricks up his sleeve: The speech showed he still has ability to surprise. … In particular, his speech was notable for the unapologetically zig-zag quality of the messaging. The usual rubric is that national politicians face a choice of mobilization or persuasion. One choice is to energize the partisan base with sharp-edged rhetoric and cultural and ideological scab-picking. The other choice is to blur lines with round-edged appeals to voters who aren’t on board but might yet be coaxed there. Trump refused the choice. In keeping with the more-is-more spirit of the speech, he did both.


Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders lead as Iowa releases partial results” via Steve Peoples, Thomas Beaumont and Alexandra Jaffe — The Iowa Democratic Party released partial results after a daylong delay showing former Midwestern Mayor Buttigieg and progressive Sanders leading the opening contest of the party’s 2020 primary season. The results followed 24 hours of chaos as technical problems marred the complicated caucus process, forcing state officials to apologize and raising questions about Iowa’s traditional place atop the presidential primary calendar. It was too early to call a winner based on the initial results, but Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Vice President Biden and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar were trailing in the tally of State Delegate Equivalents, according to data released for the first time by the state Democratic Party nearly 24 hours after voting concluded.

>>>With 71.44% of precincts reporting: Buttigieg 26.8% … Sanders 25.2% … Warren 18.4% … Biden 15.4% … Klobuchar 12.6% … Yang 1.1% … Steyer 0.3%.

How a broken app overshadowed Joe Biden’s Iowa fail” via Mark Caputo of POLITICO — Iowa Democrats so badly botched their caucus that the results weren’t released until nearly a day later — and even now only two-thirds of the vote is in — making the biggest storyline about a broken app. It robbed Pete Buttigieg of his election-night laurels while allowing Biden’s campaign to limp ahead. It wasn’t just the Iowa Democratic Party’s caucus debacle that shielded Biden from a terrible night. So did a snafu with the state’s famed Iowa Poll, once viewed as a gold standard survey of the caucus that had such stature it could help give a surging candidate a major boost — while sinking those who are drowning — in the final days of the campaign. The poll, shelved due to irregularities, also had Biden in fourth.

A failed app foreshadowed Joe Biden’s poor performance in Iowa.

Time to end Iowa’s outsized role in picking presidential candidates, Florida Democratic leader says” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, said it is long past the time to end Iowa’s early outsized role in picking presidential candidates. The mess in collecting and releasing accurate results from Monday night’s Democratic presidential caucuses would probably hasten the demise, something she said is a good outcome. “Iowa’s probably on its last breath of remaining as the first state using the caucus system,” Wasserman Schultz said on a conference call with reporters. Caucuses aren’t a fair way to run elections, she said. Making it worse, she said, Iowa is a poor choice for culling presidential candidates because it is so unrepresentative of what America looks like.

Caucus goers check-in at a caucus at Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, Iowa.

Does Iowa provide any lessons for Florida?” via Allison Ross of the Tampa Bay Times — Michael McDonald picked an interesting year to fly to Iowa to watch the caucuses up close. The University of Florida political scientist professor visited an Iowa City caucus site as Democratic voters turned out to pick their presidential candidate. Tuesday’s post-mortem dwelled on a key app that wasn’t tested sufficiently, a lack of training of precinct volunteers, and more complex reporting requirements than previous election cycles. A key takeaway for Floridians? “Let’s be glad in Florida we have professional election administrators running primaries and not party volunteers running a caucus,” McDonald said. That includes training paid temporary poll workers, rather than party volunteers, and having a better understanding of how to roll out contingency plans, new procedures and technology.

Mike Bloomberg feasts on Iowa chaos” via Sally Goldenberg and Christopher Cadelago of POLITICO — Bloomberg stands to gain the most from the confusion that took hold in Iowa. Results were inconclusive, prompting Buttigieg to claim victory while aides to Biden — who is believed to have fared poorly — stoked doubts about the eventual outcome. Bloomberg couldn’t have asked for a better outcome in his unconventional bid to become the nominee of a party he only rejoined in 2018. Indeed, the entire situation vindicated Bloomberg’s unusual strategy of skipping the caucus — a move that was likely rooted as much in face-saving as in challenging the status quo. Bloomberg’s late entry into the primary all but rendered him untenable in a state that demands months of retail politicking.


Ron DeSantis touts Alzheimer’s-fighting initiatives at Old Capitol rally” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — More than 100 advocates from the Alzheimer’s Association will meet with their respective legislators to petition lawmakers to make Alzheimer’s issues a legislative priority. “This is something that has a major impact across all sectors of the state of Florida. Someone who may have someone in their family, they’ll know someone who’s a friend that may have a family member. Every single community in Florida is affected by this,” DeSantis said. The lawn was scattered with 560 purple flags representing the 560,000 Floridians currently living with Alzheimer’s, he added.

Tweet, tweet:

Florida DEP says ‘miscommunication’ at fault for official’s Girl Scout Cookies sales email” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — How many are in a position of power in a state agency where they can ask nearly 500 employees to buy as many boxes of their favorite cookies as their pocketbooks will allow? Adam Blalock, the recently appointed deputy secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection’s division for ecosystem restoration, did just that, although the email was later “recalled.” While it may seem like a trifle, state ethics law forbids public officials from using their office, staff or resources within their trust to secure a “special privilege, benefit or exemption” for themselves or others.

After suing over his removal, Scott Israel seeks to block Gov’s motion to dismiss” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Former Broward County Sheriff Israel says a U.S. District Court judge should not dismiss his lawsuit alleging he was improperly removed from his post. Israel sued over his removal in November. The 32-page federal lawsuit argues Israel’s removal violated his due process rights. Gov. Ron DeSantis and Senate President Bill Galvano responded with a motion to dismiss the case in January, claiming the Senate vote to remove Israel is immune from judicial review. In response, Israel urged Judge William Stafford to rule in his favor and allow the case to continue.

Senate panel supports Scott Rivkees confirmation” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — Despite concerns about a sexual harassment investigation, his continued employment with the University of Florida, and a lack of public health credentials, Rivkees’ nomination as Department of Health Secretary unanimously cleared a second Senate panel. Rivkees faces vetting by one more Senate panel before the full Senate votes on his confirmation. Appearing before the Senate Health Policy Committee, Rivkees read prepared remarks that touched on what he has accomplished since DeSantis tapped him for the post last year. “My career path has prepared me well for this critical mission,” Rivkees said.

Race and gender identity clash as school vouchers divide Florida Democrats” via Gary Fineout and Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO —  Supporters of one of the nation’s largest private school-voucher programs launched a furious counteroffensive in Florida this week to blunt mounting criticism amid revelations that some schools that receive vouchers have anti-gay and anti-transgender policies. As the fight homes in on questions of race and class, it has roiled a program that began under former Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican, and threatened to turn the Sunshine State into the next national battleground over LGBTQ rights.

House Democrats won’t stick together on abortion” via Samantha Gross of the Tampa Bay Times — House Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee said the caucus will not take an official stance against HB 265, but that “one of the pillars of this caucus is ensuring that a woman’s right to choose is preserved and protected at all costs. House Democrats stand with women across this nation to ensure they have the right to choose.” Rep. Kimberly Daniels held a news conference supporting the parental consent bills and ended in lobbing personal attacks against her own colleagues. Rep. James Bush stood by Daniels in support of the bill. McGhee later addressed the caucus, calling for unity among members. He said Daniels’ press conference was a “teachable moment.”

Sunscreen battle pits Republicans against Key West, Hawaii, FDA, and members of Congress” via Laura Cassels of Florida Phoenix — Florida lawmakers advanced bills last week to stop Key West and any other city from adopting “reef safe” regulations banning two specific sunscreen ingredients — oxybenzone and octinoxate — believed to harm corals. Preemption proponents argued the risk of skin cancer outweighs the threat to corals. Meanwhile, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration announced that its recent studies show that 12 popular sunscreen chemicals enter the bloodstream in concentrations that no longer qualify them for listing as “generally recognized as safe and effective.” The 12 include oxybenzone and octinoxoate. Meanwhile, two Florida members of Congress are pushing for reef-safe sunscreen restrictions, and lawmakers in Hawaii want to expand their own ban to include all the ingredients delisted by the FDA.

Pastors accuse Democrats of hurting students by targeting donors of scholarship program” via Sarah Mueller of Florida Politics — Religious leaders from across the state accused Democratic lawmakers who have been pressuring companies to halt donations to the state’s largest school voucher program of using students as pawns in a political game. Democratic Reps. Anna Eskamani and Carlos Guillermo Smith have been calling out corporations after the Orlando Sentinel identified at least 156 private schools that received money through the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program for having anti-gay views or policies. But pastor Robert Ward with the African American Ministers Alliance for Parental Choice said the Democrats are attacking the scholarship program and hurting mostly low-income black and brown children. “Withdrawing financial support is punishing our children,” he said.

Student Elijah Johnson speaks at the Capitol in support of the Florida Tax Credit Program.

Heather Fitzenhagen talks human trafficking at White House summit” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — “It’s extremely important,” she said. “Each state needs to do what’s appropriate for state government, but we also need the federal government to work on the overarching fight against human trafficking.” And that’s an issue she plans to tackle in Washington should she be elected to Congress this fall. Fitzenhagen and Rep. Toby Overdorf, a Palm City Republican, were both invited to Washington to attend the summit along with Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez and Attorney General Ashley Moody, who last month was appointed to the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice. Fitzenhagen sponsored legislation (HB 851) last year that would increase human trafficking enforcement and public education efforts.

Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, Attorney General Ashley Moody and Rep. Toby Overdorf attended a White House summit on human trafficking.

Florida’s chief science officer doesn’t mince words on climate change, says humans need to reduce carbon emissions” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. — Florida’s new chief science officer spoke about the need to reduce nutrient pollution that is contributing to water quality problems and reduce carbon emissions that are warming the planet during a swing through Sarasota. Thomas Frazer, who has a Ph.D. in biological sciences, primarily has been tasked with addressing water quality issues, which he described during a speech to The Argus Foundation Tuesday as “probably the most pressing problem in our state.” But Frazer also made it clear that climate change is a big problem that needs to be addressed, and reducing carbon emissions is critical. That’s a message that has not been heard out of the executive branch in Florida in nearly a decade.


House eyes Medicaid managed care changes” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — Speaker Oliva and his allies have loudly contended during the past two years that there’s too much government interference in health care, leading to monopolies and rising costs. Despite that mantra, House Republicans have tucked into a budget bill mandates that would increase the role of government in Medicaid contracts negotiated between managed-care plans and providers.

Senators approve tax break that could save rental-car giants Avis, Hertz and Enterprise $2 million each” via Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel — A group of Florida senators — including three from Central Florida — voted Tuesday to give $2 million tax breaks to rental-car giant Avis Budget Group Inc. and a few other big companies that rent or lease cars. The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee unanimously approved the tax break (SB 1240), which could also save $2 million each for Hertz Global Holdings Inc. and Enterprise Holdings Inc. Sens. Linda StewartVictor Torres and Tom Wright all voted for the tax break. Avis and the rental-car industry have been lobbying Florida lawmakers for a tax break for more than a year.

Florida’s no-fault auto insurance on the chopping block again” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — The House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee backed a measure (HB 771) that would replace a requirement that motorists carry personal-injury protection coverage — key to the no-fault system — with mandatory bodily injury coverage. The House proposal also would require auto insurers to offer medical-payments coverage, known as “MedPay,” to consumers, taking a position the Senate has backed in the past. Such coverage could help pay medical bills if motorists are involved in accidents. “We know that the PIP system is broken,” bill sponsor Erin Grall said. “There is extreme value in transitioning to a new system without adding additional layers of policy that may not be necessary.”

Erin Grall is seeking the end of PIP in Florida.

Consumer protection bills continue forward march — A proposal that would strengthen consumer protections following disasters is moved forward in the House and Senate on Tuesday. The bills, HB 1137 by Rep. Chuck Clemons and SB 1492 by Sen Wright, would change several rules relating to insurers, including a mandate that insurance companies settle claims in 90 days. Both bills received unanimous approval in their respective committees, each has one committee stop remaining. The bills are backed by CFO Jimmy Patronis, who has made speeding up the insurance claims process a top priority in the wake of Hurricane Michael. Other provisions in the proposal would crack down on unlicensed insurance agents and block insurance companies from mentioning Medicare if their products aren’t related to the program. The bills also require insurers to send policyholders an annual “Homeowner Claims Bill of Rights,” outlining the hurricane coverage included in a policy, including the hurricane deductible and the coverages and exclusions.

Senate panel advances Ben Albritton deregulation package” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee unanimously signed off on legislation to reduce or completely cut licensing requirements for numerous professions. Albritton is backing the bill (SB 474). Rep. Blaise Ingoglia of Spring Hill is sponsoring a companion bill in the House (HB 1193). Those opposed to excessive licenses argue they are a burden for otherwise competent individuals looking to enter the workforce. Albritton’s bill would cut education requirements for auctioneers, barbers and geologists looking to be licensed by the state. Nutritionists and boxing announcers would have licensing requirements removed entirely.

Ben Albritton wants to cut governmental red tape for occupational licensing.

Bill targets kids who post photos with an illegal firearm on social media” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — As a prosecutor, Sen. Jason Pizzo watched helplessly as 20 mothers of murdered children would meet to discuss their kids’ cases and provide each other support. Of the dozens of homicides Pizzo investigated and prosecuted as a former assistant state attorney, “every single one was precipitated by a social media post, a beef back and forth between two groups or two individuals that all kids can see,’’ he said. The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved SB 656, which would allow police to arrest juveniles for illegal possession of firearms and charge them with a misdemeanor if they post their vanity videos and photos showing off their illegal weapons on social media.

Grandparent rights bill, citing Dan Markel case, gets support from lawmakers” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs committee unanimously cleared the bill (SB 1886), filed by Sen. Jeff Brandes. The measure would expand existing law to allow grandparents to seek visitation rights where one parent died, and the living parent’s family is being investigated in the death. Brandes used Markel’s murder as a unique circumstance in favor of changing the law. The Florida State law professor was killed in July 2014, but since 2016 his former in-laws have been named as unindicted co-conspirators in the murder-for-hire plot. Markel’s parents, Ruth and Phil Markel, have not seen their two grandchildren since Donna and Charlie Adelson were named as the masterminds and financiers of the murder plot.

House panel reaches consensus on Guide to a Healthy Marriage language” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Intended couples would need to indicate they have read the document before obtaining a marriage license. But Jacksonville Republican Rep. Clay Yarborough rebranded the guide, proposed exact language, and spiked the commission intended to write the pamphlet. “We just thought it would be better to put in front of you exactly what that information would be,” he said. His “Florida Healthy Marriage Handbook” (HB 319) received unanimous support in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee after satisfying Democrats’ concerns that the commission could write a politically-charged document. Marriage licenses already require couples-to-be to read the Family Law Handbook provided by the Florida Bar Family Law Section.

Public school ‘moment of silence’ proposal clears House, Senate committee stops” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — The House legislation (HB 737) sponsored by Rep. Kim Daniels, a Jacksonville Democrat, cleared the PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee Tuesday morning unanimously 17-0. The Senate version passed its first committee stop last week, and its successful encore was in Judiciary, where the measure was approved 4-2 over Democratic objections. Ocala Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley framed his bill (SB 946) as a simple measure to make a moment of silence a “part of the school day.” The bills would require public school principals to compel teachers to offer time for silent reflection at the beginning of the school day.

Legal nudity at nude beaches gets the go ahead in Senate committee” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — A Florida lawmaker wants to make clear that it’s OK to be naked at a nude beach. While it is illegal to expose one’s sexual organs in public, many areas permit “clothing optional” beaches and the state has at least 34 nude resorts. But there are cases where people have been arrested and charged for being nude at a nude beach. Sen. Jason Pizzo, a Miami Democrat, wants to make sure folks who enjoy Florida beaches au naturel aren’t arrested and charged under the same set of laws as, say, child molestation. “That’s ‘no bueno,’ as we say in Miami,” he said.

Park Owners want to change mobile home laws, making it easier to evict, advocates warn” via Caroline Green of the Orlando Sentinel —Decades-old protections for mobile-home owners could be upended under a series of industry-backed proposals introduced this legislative session — and housing advocates warn they could result in more evictions for some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

Beer and wine vending machines may be on the way in Florida” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Imagine running out of adult beverages but having to run no further than the lobby of your condominium building to buy some more. That dream could become a reality now that a Coral Gables marketer will apparently be allowed to install beer and wine vending machines in Florida condo buildings — over the objections of major beer and wine lobbies. Vending machines that dispense spirits are becoming more common around the country, but mostly in establishments such as restaurants or bars that already sell alcohol. Anheuser-Busch InBev recently introduced BeerBox for use at concerts, sports arenas and music festivals.


Assignment editors — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried joins lawmakers and community groups for a news conference to discuss a proposed committee bill that would remove the Office of Energy from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services as well as House budget language that would withhold DACS funding until gas pump stickers are replaced, 9:30 a.m. outside Room 412, Knott Building.

Happening today — Keep Florida Beautiful Day at The Capitol: Keep Florida Beautiful invites staff and members of the Board of Directors to the Plaza Level of The Capitol from 8:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. to learn about the great work the group is doing! From 2018-19, KFB — one of the state’s largest volunteer-based community action and education organizations — had 44 affiliates, staff and over 80,000 volunteers organize 5,400 cleanups; logging in more than 245,000 volunteer hours and removing 2.9 million pounds of debris from Florida roads, parks, beaches and waterways.

Happening today — More than 300 Floridians from across the state will hold a 2020 Criminal Justice Reform Lobby Day rally at The Capitol with the Florida Campaign for Criminal Justice Reform, a nonpartisan coalition working to reform Florida’s criminal justice system, 9 a.m., Florida Capitol Complex Historic Steps, facing Monroe Street.

The House will hold a 30-minute floor session in the morning and a floor session in the afternoon. During that time, lawmakers will consider HB 327 from Reps. David Smith and Scott Plakon, which seek to increase penalties for people who kill bears during closed seasons, 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., House Chamber.

The Senate Military and Veterans Affairs and Space Committee meet for a presentation from Boeing Senior Manager of Government Operations Emmanuel Tormes, 9:30 a.m., Room 37, Senate Office Building.

The Senate Rules Committee meets to consider SB 326 from Sen. Keith Perry, which seeks to address problems with nonhazardous contamination of recyclable materials, 9:30 a.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.

The Senate Appropriations Committee meets to consider the Senate’s initial budget proposal (SB 2500), a $92.83 billion spending plan, 1 p.m., Room 412, Knott Building.

The House Appropriations Committee meets, 10 a.m., Room 212, Knott Building.

The House Select Committee on the Integrity of Research Institutions meets 15 minutes following the afternoon House floor session, Room 404, House Office Building.


Lentil soup with potatoes and chorizo; mixed garden salad with dressings; arugula and orzo pasta salad; Latin cabbage and corn salad; deli board, lettuce, tomatoes, cheeses and breads; chicken and yellow rice; breaded pork cutlets; sweet and spicy grilled salmon; grilled street corn; julienne medley; assorted dessert bars.


Duke Energy approved to collect Dorian cost” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — The Florida Public Service Commission approved a proposal that will allow Duke to collect $171.3 million from customers to cover costs related to Hurricane Dorian and the much-smaller Tropical Storm Nestor, which caused damage in the Panhandle. The extra charges are slated to last for a year and will translate to an additional $5.34 a month for residential customers who use 1,000-kilowatt-hours of electricity each month, a standard industry benchmark. While Duke will start recouping the money next month, the Public Service Commission in the future will analyze the utility’s costs from the two storms, which could lead to refunds if the utility collects too much. The commission approved Duke’s proposal with little discussion during a brief meeting.

Bipartisan Lake Okeechobee working group seeks ‘science-based solutions’” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — The goals of the newly christened Lake Okeechobee Working Group is to identify best practices to reduce excess water in Lake O; to bring together various levels of government to protect the lake; to find ways to reduce discharge from the lake to coasts. Rep. Tina Polsky, a Boca Raton Democrat, described the centrality of Lake O’s ecosystem to the Orlando area and points south. “Floridians need certainty,” Polsky added. “A forum to better understand and advocate for these solutions, so that Floridians can know the difference between science and speculation. Among the drivers of that certainty: completion of the Herbert Hoover Dike restoration and other infrastructure projects.

Ben Albritton explains the mission of the bipartisan Lake Okeechobee Working Group.

SFWMD sends authorization request for Lake O restoration project — finally” via Florida Politics — The South Florida Water Management District has sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requesting authorization for the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project (LOWRP). A copy of the letter indicates it was sent Tuesday, shortly after Florida Politics reported that Estero Republican Rep. Ray Rodrigues was questioning whether SFWMD Executive Director Drew Bartlett was fit his job. Now that the request is in, the U.S. Army Corps can give the project the green light, which will make the state’s investment eligible for federal cost-share credits. The LOWRP project is aimed at improving Lake Okeechobee water levels by increasing water storage capacity north of the lake.

Dog sleuths sniff out crop disease hitting citrus trees” via Cristina Larson of The Associated Press — Scientists trained dogs to sniff out a crop disease called citrus greening that has hit orange, lemon and grapefruit orchards in Florida, California and Texas. The dogs can detect it weeks to years before it shows up on tree leaves and roots, the researchers report. “This technology is thousands of years old — the dog’s nose,” said Timothy Gottwald, a researcher with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a co-author of the study. “We’ve just trained dogs to hunt new prey: the bacteria that causes a very damaging crop disease.” Dog sleuths are also faster, cheaper and more accurate than people collecting hundreds of leaves for lab analysis, according to the study in the Proceedings of National Academies of Sciences.

In Miami, tweets about flooded streets come before the actual floods, a new study found” via Alex Harris of Miami Hearld — When water levels start to rise in Miami, pictures and videos quickly pop up on social media of cars fording deep puddles, and tourists trying to keep their luggage dry. A new study suggests that those posts — specifically, the tweets — could be an effective method for measuring the real-life impact of floods. It also highlights the gaps in the official government measurements for flooding, an issue that has already prompted the city of Miami to find new ways to measure flooding in the city.”

Open sores, lower numbers likely not invasive lionfish’s end” via Janet McConnaughey of The Associated Press — A new disease caused open sores that can eat into the muscles of invasive lionfish and appears to have contributed to an abrupt drop in their numbers in the northern Gulf of Mexico, scientists reported. But they hasten to say it’s probably far from the end of the showy invader. Lionfish may even already be bouncing back, said UF doctoral student Holden Harris, lead author of the article published online in Scientific Reports. Numbers of the smallest lionfish taken by spearfishers were way down in 2018, indicating a possible reduction in spawning, but were rising late that year and in early 2019, he said. “It’s too early, really, to say if that’ll become a full population recovery,” he said.

Florida oysters are a lot smaller than they used to be. Climate change may be the reason” via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times — While the scientists can document that the shrinkage occurred, what they don’t know is why. One suspect: the warming Gulf of Mexico water thanks to climate change. As the temperature of the water increases, the amount of oxygen declines, which would affect the size of the oysters, they said. But other factors could play a role, too, they said. The bottom line, though, is that Florida’s prehistoric inhabitants enjoyed “a range of oyster size that no longer exists today,” said Stephen Hesterberg, another USF scientist who worked on the study.

— 2020 —

Biden’s poor showing in Iowa shakes establishment support” via Bill Barrow and Brian Slodysko of the Associated Press — Biden’s third presidential bid enters a critical stretch after a disappointing finish in the Iowa caucuses sent the former vice president on to New Hampshire with a skittish donor base, low cash reserves and the looming threat of billionaire rival Michael Bloomberg and his unlimited personal wealth. … That leaves some establishment Democrats, including some Biden supporters, questioning his contention that he’ll reclaim clear front-runner status in the race against President Trump once the primary fight moves beyond overwhelmingly white Iowa and New Hampshire to more racially diverse electorates. And it’s a reminder of how Biden’s previous presidential campaigns never advanced beyond Iowa.

Mike Bloomberg plans to double ad spending after Iowa caucus problem” via Jennifer Medina and Alexander Burns of The New York Times — Bloomberg conferred with advisers about the muddled results in Iowa. Encouraged by the murky outcome, Bloomberg authorized his campaign team to double his spending on television commercials in every market where he is currently advertising and expand his campaign’s field staff to more than two thousand people, strategists involved in the conversations said. Bloomberg was unusually blunt about his campaign spending strategy and his intent to seek advantages while his rivals toiled in the four early states, which have relatively few delegates needed to win the nomination. “It’s much more efficient to go to the big states, to go to the swing states,” Bloomberg said.

Mike Bloomberg is doubling down.

Bob Buckhorn endorses a candidate for President” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Two weeks ago, former Tampa Mayor Buckhorn was still an undecided voter, and he wasn’t sure if he would even endorse in the Democratic primary. Now, he’s one of the biggest names in Tampa Bay politics to get behind the surging campaign of former New York City Mayor Bloomberg. Buckhorn said Bloomberg’s accomplishments as the leader of a major metropolis, a business tycoon and champion of progressive causes makes him uniquely qualified for the Oval Office. More than that, Buckhorn believes Bloomberg is the only candidate in the crowded Democratic field who can win over the left, Independents and moderate Republicans.

’An unacceptable and upsetting environment’: 2020 Democratic Host Committee under investigation” via Daniel Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — The two top officials overseeing Milwaukee’s host committee for the 2020 Democratic National Convention were sidelined amid allegations of a toxic work culture. In a letter to staff, the board said it had retained an attorney to investigate “concerns about the work environment” for the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee. During the investigation, Liz Gilbert, president of the host committee, will not be in the office and “will not have direct contact with staff,” the letter says. Adam Alonso, the chief of staff for the group, has been placed on administrative leave, pending the outcome of the probe.


Two years ago, there was no discussion of legalizing sports betting in Florida. Then the U.S. Supreme Court tossed out a quarter-century federal law that prohibited sports betting in every state except Nevada.

Now, 20 states either allow, or in the process of allowing, placing bets on sports.

But not Florida, which hosts the country’s largest sporting event — the Super Bowl — for two years in a row. Tampa will host the 55th Super Bowl next year.

This is one reason why supporters are preparing, and hoping, to make sports betting legal in Florida by 2021. However, opponents are clinging to Amendment 3, passed by more than 70% of voters in 2018, which gives voters the “exclusive right to decide on whether to authorize casino gambling in the state of Florida.”

Will Florida see legal sports betting before Super Bowl LV? It’s up in the air.

“The people of Florida have the final say on this in any other form of casino gambling,” said John Sowinski, president of No Casinos, told Tom Hudson of WLRN Miami. “Amendment 3 is very clear. Anything that is considered Class 3 gambling under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act is subject to the amendment, which means that the voters are in charge.”

The key phrase in the amendment: “games typically found in casinos.”

Fort Lauderdale attorney Daniel Wallach disagrees that sports betting falls under Amendment 3, arguing that sports betting is not in casinos typically. Also, the amendment does not specify sports betting by name.

“All of those games that are listed as included are games of chance that are determined by the flip of a card, the roll of the dice, or a random number generator,” Wallach said. “Sports betting is not included within that connective tissue. It’s a contest of skill.”

This means that the future of sports betting in Florida could rest with Florida Senate President Galvano, who has taken the lead in negotiations over future gambling in the Legislature and is putting sports betting on the 2020 Session agenda.


Supreme Court justices not convinced by recreational pot proposal language” via Lawrence Mower and Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald — Florida Supreme Court Justices picked apart a proposal that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana, indicating they’re unlikely to approve the ballot measure in its current form. The proposal is one of two that advocates hope to get before voters in 2022 that would allow adults to use marijuana. This proposal would allow Floridians to grow marijuana. It would also require the state to adopt a new licensing structure for marijuana growing, manufacturing, testing and selling, and it allows local governments to regulate if the state “fails to timely act.” Justices struggled to get past the first few words of the ballot summary, which starts with “regulates marijuana for limited use” for people over the age of 21.

Ryan Chamberlin enters Republican primary for CD 3 — Businessman Chamberlin announced he was running to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho in Florida’s 3rd Congressional District. In his announcement, he saluted Yoho for keeping his term limits pledge and indicated he might do the same “He pledged to serve for 8 years, and he did what he said he would do. Now, we need others in his same spirit of service to step forth, not to become a part of the Washington establishment, but to fight it, to break it down, and continue the effort to restore America as one nation under God, governed by and for the people.” The Marion County Republican joins a crowded field seeking the Republican nomination in the North Central Florida district.

DCCC targets Ross Spano in snarky Valentine’s Day-themed Facebook ads” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The ads target Ross Spano over his alliance with Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell against languishing Democratic-supported legislation to lower prescription drug costs. “Mitch McConnell and Rep. Spano are breaking hearts all across our community with the same disappointing lies we’ve heard before,” the ad reads. The Valentine’s Day-themed ad shows an image of iconic candy hearts on a pink and purple ombre background. But instead of the usual candy heart messages like “I love u” and “ur pretty,” these hearts instead read, “U R my special interest,” “pinkie swear,” “I’m looking into it,” “I won’t break ur heart” and “ur health matters 2 me.”

To Ross Sapno, with love.

Julie Jenkins raises big in 1st month against Jackie Toledo; still has long way to go” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Jenkins will report more than $43,000 raised in January in the House District 60 race to unseat Republican Toledo. January is the first month Jenkins raised any funds. She entered the race on Jan. 2. While Jenkins’ earnings are impressive — she had only taken a month to raise more than $43,000 — Jenkins still has a long way to go to catch up to the massive buying power Toledo has amassed. Toledo raised $46,600 last February and had her most productive month in October when she raised nearly $72,000. As of the end of 2019, Toledo raised more than $210,000. As of the end of December, Toledo spent a total of $87,553, leaving her with about $123,000 in the bank.

Bibiana Potestad qualifies for HD 105 ballot via petition” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Republican Potestad is battling to replace Rep. Ana Maria Rodriguez in House District 105. Potestad needed 839 signatures to appear on the 2020 ballot. The push allows her to dodge the nearly $1,800 ballot fee. “I am humbled and honored by the support I’ve received from so many in our District, which has allowed to qualify by petition,” Potestad said in a statement. “To the many who I have met door to door and who have signed our petitions — teachers, first responders, retirees, nurses, small business owners and so many others — thank you for believing in me, supporting me, listening to my plans for our district, and trusting me.”

Happening tonight:


Miami sees a return to Cold War cultural hard line on Cuba.” via Gisela Salomon of The Associated Press — As Trump tightens the trade embargo on Cuba, some members of the United States’ largest Cuban American community are once again taking a hard line on performers from the island who support its communist government or don’t speak out against it. The degree of support for a hard line on Cuba among South Florida’s roughly 1.2 million Cuban Americans could influence the 2020 presidential election. While some polls in recent years have shown weakening Cuban-American support for the embargo, observers say Trump’s attempts to cut off the government’s income is emboldening activists who want to punish the Cuban government and its supporters in hopes of fueling regime change.

Miami Mayor’s spokesman resigns amid police investigation into ‘personal misconduct’” via Joey Flechas, Charles Rabin, and David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — Miami Mayor Francis Suarez’s chief spokesman, former television reporter Rene Pedrosa, resigned after admitting to the Mayor that police were investigating him for “personal misconduct.” Pedrosa had not been arrested or charged with any crime, according to Miami police. It wasn’t immediately clear why Pedrosa was being investigated. Suarez met with Pedrosa at City Hall in Coconut Grove. The Mayor said he asked for Pedrosa’s resignation after his communications chief admitted to the inquiry.

Rene Pedrosa is resigning as the Miami Mayor Francis Suarez’s chief spokesperson due to an investigation over ‘personal misconduct.’

Mayor resigns amid drama over special election, lawsuit against Commissioner” via Aaron Leibowitz of the Miami Herald — Biscayne Park Mayor Tracy Truppman resigned just two hours before a scheduled meeting where the village commission was expected to appoint a new Mayor. Truppman, whose term as a commissioner expires in November, resigned as both the Mayor and as a member of the commission, according to a brief resignation letter. The resignation came just three weeks after Truppman’s controversial absence from a commission meeting Jan. 14. Because Truppman didn’t show up, the village administration canceled the meeting, delaying the scheduled swearing-in of two new commissioners after a special election — and also pushing back the selection of a new Mayor.

Lee County teaching assistant removed from class after allegedly telling students to ‘go back to Haiti’” via Pamela McCabe of the Fort Myers News-Press — A teachers’ aide at Lexington Middle School in south Fort Myers has been removed from the classroom and is being investigated by the Lee County school district after allegedly telling two eighth-graders to “go back to Haiti.” The incident reportedly happened when the girls sat down during a moment of silence right after their first-period reading class finished reciting the Pledge of Allegiance last Wednesday. As the girls took their seats, the employee, identified as a paraprofessional, “got upset” and told the girls to “go back to Haiti,” explained Shaundoria Daniels, the mother of one of the 14-year-old girls.

Lobbyists tried to pay for Lenny Curry’s trip to Atlanta to watch baseball game with JEA’s former CEO” via Christopher Hong of the Florida Times-Union — A company run by Tim Baker and Sam Mousa, two lobbyists who have both worked for Curry, organized and attended a secret trip to Atlanta on a private plane to watch a playoff baseball game along with Curry, his top administrator Brian Hughes, JEA’s then-CEO Aaron Zahn and City Council President Scott Wilson. Curry, who cannot accept gifts from lobbyists worth more than $100, said he initially covered his $400 portion of the trip by accepting it as in-kind contribution from Baker and Mousa’s company, Conventus LLC, that was made in October to an obscure political committee that has no official ties to Curry or his political campaigns. He said he decided in December to personally pay for the trip.

Fired JEA CEO Aaron Zahn knew bonus plan could yield $280 million before it was approved” via Christopher Hong and David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union — Zahn told city attorneys last month that before the JEA’s board of directors approved a controversial bonus plan in July that he knew the plan could have resulted in a $280 million payout for employees if the city-owned utility was sold. Zahn gave inconsistent answers about what he knew about the bonus plan during under-oath interviews with city attorneys investigating him for misconduct, although he ultimately said he was aware early on of the bonus plan’s potential to yield an exorbitant payout. Ryan Wannemacher, dismissed in December as JEA’s chief financial officer, said in his interview Jan. 3 with the Office of General Counsel and Inspector General that Zahn was personally involved in directing specific aspects of the plan.

JEA CEO Aaron Zahn knew exactly what he was doing.

Jaguars announce team will play two home games in London in 2020” via John Ried of the Florida Times-Union — The Jaguars are going to play a second home game in London during the 2020 regular season, reducing their home schedule in Jacksonville to just six games. It will be the fewest home games available to fans at TIAA Bank Field in the 25-year existence of the franchise. Jaguars president Mark Lamping said they reached an agreement with the league that the two games in London will be played on back-to-back weekends. The team will announce the official dates of the two games during the schedule release in April.

Judge rejects Sarasota County’s bid to have redistricting lawsuit thrown out, sets trial date” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Rejecting an effort by Sarasota County to have the entire case thrown out, a federal judge set a trial date of April 27 to hear arguments in a lawsuit alleging that the county discriminated against black voters in adopting a new redistricting plan. U.S. Judge William Jung ruled that the three black residents of northern Sarasota County who filed the lawsuit can proceed with two of the counts alleged in the suit, delivering a win for the plaintiffs. April 27 is well before the heart of election season. The candidate qualifying period is in June, with an August primary and November general election.

Tampa Bay’s economy is in great shape. Just ask an architect.” via Graham Brink of the Tampa Bay Times — Tampa Bay area architects are already busy and expect to get busier as the year progresses, according to a recent survey. Nine out of every 10 thought the development-related economy would be good or excellent in 2020. Most anticipated demand for their services to increase from last year. They also expected to hire more people. Translation: More construction cranes and bulldozers in 2020 and into 2021. The 71 survey respondents, all from Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, thought the health care, education and multifamily residential sectors would be the most active. Transportation was also top of mind among the survey respondents. They ranked it as the No. 1 development-related issue in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Polk counties.


Panic and fear might be limiting human reasoning and fueling hoaxes about coronavirus” via Cristina Tardáguila of Poynter — A group of 78 fact-checkers based in more than 30 countries has published 180 fact-checks, many of which carried extremely wild hoaxes and/or totally unbelievable information. Among the obvious falsehoods detected by the collaborative project coordinated by the International Fact-Checking Network, there is, for example, the “information” that China has built an entirely new hospital — in only 48 hours — just to treat its coronavirus infected citizens. So please spread the word: those videos that are trending on YouTube, TikTok, Weibo and Instagram “showing people eating bat soups and getting sick from coronavirus” are very likely false.

What travelers should know about face masks amid growing coronavirus concerns” via Brad Japhe of The Washington Post — Passing through any international terminal as of late, it’s impossible to ignore a sizable uptick in self-imposed muzzlings. They represent not just wary passengers but also airport staff, flight attendants and ground crew. The practice remains unadvised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “CDC does not currently recommend the use of face masks among the general public,” reads the most up-to-date FAQ on the federal agency’s website. “The regular kind of mask you’d find online is not all that helpful against any kind of virus,” warns Amy Shah, a double board-certified medical doctor in allergy and immunology. “Is it bad? No. It’s not like it’s harmful.”

Commercially available face masks are very limited in preventing coronavirus spread.

—“Larry Kudlow: Coronavirus will slow U.S. farm exports to China” via Adam Behsudi of POLITICO

—“OPEC, allies way deeper oil production cost to counter coronavirus’s impact” via Benoit Faucon and Summer Said of The Wall Street Journal

Royal Caribbean takes steps to contend with virus outbreak” via Michelle Chapman of The Associated Press — The number of cancellations at the cruise line is up from just three last week, as is the duration of those cancellations, which had been through early February. The Miami company is now turning away from its boats anyone who has traveled from, to or through mainland China or Hong Kong in the past 15 days. Royal Caribbean will likely have to cancel more sailings in the future and that the outbreak will likely impact future bookings in China. There’s currently no way to provide specific cancellation or future booking figures accurately, he said in a conference call with analysts. A contingency plan, if the outbreak continues for an extended period, includes redeploying ships regionally or outside the region.


Iowa might have screwed up the whole nomination process” via Nate Silver of — Since the nomination process is sequential — states vote one at a time rather than all at once — we had to determine, empirically, how much the results of one state can affect the rest. The answer in the case of Iowa is that it matters a lot. Despite its demographic non-representativeness and the quirks of the caucuses process, the amount of media coverage the state gets makes it far more valuable a prize than you’d assume from the fact that it only accounts for 41 of the Democrats’ 3,979 pledged delegates. Iowa was the second-most-important date on the calendar this year, trailing only Super Tuesday. It was worth the equivalent of almost 800 delegates, about 20 times its actual number.


Trump showed his shallow patriotism during national anthem at golf club Super Bowl party” via The Miami Herald Editorial Board — In yet another one of his bursts of patriotic fervor — his reportedly calling military generals “a bunch of dopes and babies” aside — Trump enthusiastically conducted the National Anthem that kicked off the Super Bowl on Sunday. Of course, he was at his Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach hosting a watch party, while the championship game was at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Garden. Plus, he was simply clowning around, pretend conducting and looking like a bored 5-year-old. Meanwhile, first lady Melania Trump, their son, Barron, and their guests stood, respectfully, with their hands over their hearts.

Rubio finds president guilty — then makes up reason to acquit” via Randy Schultz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Marco Rubio has been licensed to practice law in Florida since 1997. Fortunately, the state’s senior senator never has practiced criminal law. Imagine if Rubio, representing a client accused of securities fraud, made the closing argument before a jury that he is making on behalf of Trump. “Ladies and gentlemen, just because the evidence supports the charge doesn’t mean that you should find my client guilty.” Yet Rubio will use that standard when he votes today with all of his Republican colleagues to acquit Trump. Last week, Rubio said, “Just because actions meet a standard of impeachment does not mean that it is in the best interest of the country to remove a president from office.”

Truth, lies and ignorance in Florida’s voucher-school debate” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — As the debate over discrimination in Florida’s voucher schools heats up with protests in Tallahassee and national media attention, a lot of people are offering hot takes and fiery opinions. The problem: Many of these hot takes are a hot mess; just steamy piles of factually flawed garbage. Some claim there’s no public money involved. (Lie. There are hundreds of millions of tax dollars.) Others claim the companies boycotting the program are opposed to school choice. (Another lie. The companies chose to help fund the voucher program — until they learned that state-approved schools were discriminating against gay families. They’d like to fund it again without the discrimination.)

After UCF scrutiny, state politicians kill FAU naming rights deal with” via Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel — The last-minute political strong-arming that recently nixed UCF’s lucrative $35 million football stadium naming-rights deal with has also killed FAU’s already-announced $5 million sponsorship deal with, FAU confirmed Tuesday. “FAU and have agreed it is in their mutual best interests to terminate’s naming rights for FAU Arena,” an FAU spokesperson said. “Neither FAU or will make any further comment at this time.”


Personnel note: Meredith O’Rourke joins Leo Valentin’s congressional campaignValentin, Republican candidate for Florida’s 7th Congressional District, added O’Rourke of The O’Rourke Group as a Finance Consultant on his campaign. O’Rourke has more than 25 years of experience in political fundraising, having served as finance director for political campaigns, state parties, organizations, and nonprofits. She has also served as Florida fundraiser for the Republican National Committee since 2015. “Over the course of my career in Florida politics, I’ve seen many candidates who don’t have what it takes to win such a competitive race like the one shaping up here in the seventh district. Dr. Valentín is the rare example of a candidate who has what it takes to defeat an incumbent like Stephanie Murphy,” O’Rourke said.

Melanie Bonanno appointed to Florida’s Commission on the Status of Women — Attorney General Moody appointed Melanie Bonanno to Florida’s Commission on the Status of Women. Bonanno is currently Director of Employment Law for Publix Super Markets and is the 2014 recipient of the Most Powerful & Influential Woman Award by the National Diversity Council. “I’m proud to appoint Melanie Bonanno to Florida’s Commission on the Status of Women. Her strong legal background, experience serving on several boards of directors and juggling a high-paced career as a mom of three will prove invaluable to the Commission,” Moody said. The FCSW is a nonpartisan group with a focus on raising awareness and celebrating the contributions and successes of all Floridians. Additionally, the FCSW provides a collaborative platform for those seeking information on issues that affect women, girls and their families in Florida.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Miguel Abad, New Century Partnership: MorseLife

Mike Corcoran, Matt Blair, Jacqueline Corcoran, Andrea Tovar, Corcoran Partners: Asolo Theatre

Pete Buigas, Buigas and Associates: Beacon Health Options, Independent Living Systems, Physicians Central Business Office, United Home Care

Rachel Clark, Clayton Osteen, Cotney Construction Lobbying: Time Out Systems

Fely Curva, Curva and Associates: Clearinghouse on Human Services

Elizabeth Dudek, Greenberg Traurig: Cayer Behavioral Group

Stephen Ecenia, Rutledge Ecenia: Florida Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation

Candice Ericks, Ericks Consultants: Broward Health

Mary Gay, Gay Jones & Kuhn: U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform

Jonathan Genovese: FIS Global

Henry Handler, All Florida Solutions: Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office

Thomas Harrington: City of Gainesville

Jeff Johnston, Johnston & Stewart Government Strategies: Florida Pet Retailers

Frank Mayernick, Tracy Mayernick, and Rob Johnson, The Mayernick Group: Florida Pet Retailers

Will McKinley, Angela Dempsey, Erik Kirk, PooleMcKinley: Information Systems of Florida

Bill Rubin, Heather Turnbull, Melissa Akeson, Erica Chanti, Christopher Finkbeiner, Matthew Sacco, Rubin Turnbull & Associates: Feeding South Florida

Lauren Whritenour, Cynergy Consulting: Atria Senior Living Group, Consumer Technology Association

Keith Wood: Astellas Pharma US

— ALOE —

’The Mandalorian’ to return in October, ‘The Falcon and the Winter Solider’ to premiere in August” via Elaine Low of Variety — Disney +’s “The Mandalorian” is returning for Season 2 in October, said Disney chief Bob Iger on the company’s earnings call. Marvel’s “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” will premiere in August, while “WandaVision” will make its debut on the streaming service in December. Iger also floated the possibility of infusing “The Mandalorian” with more characters and taking their “stories in new directions,” nodding to potential for spinoff series. Disney + had accrued 28.6 million paying subscribers, confirming Variety‘s earlier reporting of an expected 25 million to 30 million subs. By Dec. 28, the streamer had 26.5 million paid subscriptions, per the company’s quarterly report.

The Mandalorian will return in October.

Universal’s Super Nintendo World was inevitable, video game experts say” via Marco Santana of the Orlando Sentinel — After all, the generation that was born and raised around the video game giant Nintendo’s first home console in the mid-1980s now has some spending power. Why not create a land that could immerse them into the worlds they grew up playing in — while slinging merchandise themed around it? “It was only a matter of time before someone did a theme park and used video game intellectual property,” said Ben Noel, who leads UCF’s video game development school, the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy. “It’s the same way Disney has used its film IP and continues to do so.”

Zoo Miami welcomes pair of baby meerkats” via The Associated Press — Zoo Miami is welcoming two meerkat pups born Jan. 18 and being raised by their mother, an 8-year-old named Yam Yam. The pups opened their eyes last week and have been exploring their habitat, gradually moving further and further away. Meerkats are born blind and helpless, but zoo staff kept a hands-off approach to allow them to bond with their mother and three unrelated brothers — Gizmo, Joe and Diego — who share the habitat, Magill said. Yam Yam arrived at the zoo from Busch Gardens in 2012 and the brothers came to Miami from Brevard Zoo in 2018.


Happy birthday to Volunteer Florida CEO Clay Ingram and top fundraiser Christina Diamond.


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 @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

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