The Florida State Fair opens its 11-day run today in Tampa. It is a celebration of the best state in the nation, filled with rides, music, racing pigs (yep), exhibits, and food you might not want your cardiologist to know you ate.
Think Peanut Butter Ramen Burger, Cajun Chili Cheese Fries, and Cheesy Tater Corn Dogs. Oh, to have the Rolaids concession!
As Gov. Ron DeSantis noted last year in presiding over the Fair for the first time, “I’m going to find the least healthy thing to eat today.”
Yes, it’s a grand tradition, all right. And one of the long-standing traditions is the Governor’s Luncheon, where politicians, officials, and Very Important People gather to be seen, enjoy fine Florida vittles, and listen to a speech from the Governor.
Ah, but can it still be the Governor’s Luncheon if the Governor isn’t there? We’ll find out because DeSantis will not join the fun at the Florida State Fairgrounds. He will also miss the traditional “Flip The Switch” event to open the Fair.
Instead, the honor of giving the opening address goes to Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. As a substitute speaker, having the top agriculture official in the state makes perfect sense, even if calling it the Agriculture Commissioner’s Luncheon doesn’t quite have the same ring.
Fried can, however, lead the traditional, if somewhat goofy, trip down the big slide that state cabinet members and the Governor traditionally make.
Some traditions must be upheld.
— TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Florida’s House and Senate budget committees have wrapped up their respective spending plans. The House budget is about $1.5 billion less than the Senate and it aims at the only Democrat elected to statewide office. Needless to say, Fried is NOT a happy camper.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— The Senate is taking up the controversial bill that would force underage girls to get permission from a parent before they can get an abortion. Even the opponents admit it will probably pass.
— The Capitol hosts a big rally on climate change.
— The state Supreme Court delivers a verbal slap on the wrist to a circuit judge from Brevard County over her bad behavior in court.
— The CEO of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners comes to Tallahassee to try to round up support for a bill allowing Advanced Nurse Practitioners to provide medical care without a doctor’s oversight. David Hebert talks about why the doctors are so dead set against the idea.
— And a couple of Florida Men: One is accused of sex trafficking a plus-sized model, while the other is sentenced for stealing from “The Mouse.”
To listen, click on the image below:
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@realDonaldTrump: I will be making a public statement tomorrow at 12:00pm from the @WhiteHouse to discuss our Country’s VICTORY on the Impeachment Hoax!
—@marcorubio: The reaction to the final vote in the #SenateImpeachmentTrial is a good reminder that when editorial boards, opinion writers & cable news commentators talk about putting “principle over politics” & “country over party” what they really mean is agreeing with them.
—@SenRickScott: My statement on today’s vote to acquit @realDonaldTrump is simple: Finally. I’m glad that charade is over. Let’s get back to work.
—@RepStephMurphy: I voted to impeach the President because of clear & compelling evidence that he abused his power. I am disappointed more Republicans did not follow Sen. Mitt Romney’s courageous lead and put the Constitution over their party allegiance. #flapol #fl07
—@VernBuchanan: Now that the partisan impeachment of President Trump has failed, it’s time for Congress to get back to work. Let’s join together and tackle our real challenges — starting with Washington dysfunction and a toxic political system that leaves no room for compromise.
—@RepWilson: The president will undoubtedly crow about being acquitted by the Senate today, but he can never erase the asterisk of shame forever attached to his name and legacy. #ImpeachedForLife
—@samanthajgross: Power goes out in the meeting room where House discussing budget, sending them into informal recess. This must be a symbol for something.
— DAYS UNTIL —
Eighth Democratic presidential debate in Manchester — 1; Capitol Press Corps press skits — 4; New Hampshire Primaries — 5; Pitchers and catchers begin reporting for MLB Spring Training — 5; South Beach Wine and Food Festival — 13; Ninth Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas — 13; Roger Stone’s sentencing — 14; Nevada caucuses — 16; “Better Call Saul” Season 5 premiers — 17; 10th Democratic presidential debate in Charleston — 19; South Carolina Primaries — 23; Super Tuesday — 26; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 36; Florida’s presidential primary — 40; “No Time to Die” premiers — 60; Florida TaxWatch Spring Board Meeting begins — 69; TaxWatch Principal Leadership Awards — 70; Florida Chamber Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 99; “Top Gun: Maverick” premiers — 141; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 158; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premiers — 162; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo start — 169; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 194; First Presidential Debate in Indiana — 236; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 200; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 244; Second Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 252; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 259; 2020 General Election — 271.
— TOP STORY —
“Senate acquits Donald Trump, ending historic trial” via Peter Baker of The New York Times — The Senate acquitted Trump of charges that he abused his power and obstructed Congress, as Republicans turned back an election-year attempt by House Democrats to remove him from office for pressuring a foreign power to incriminate his political rivals. The tally for conviction fell far below the 67-vote threshold necessary for removal, and neither article of impeachment garnered even a simple majority. The first article, abuse of power, was rejected 48 to 52, and the second, obstruction of Congress, was defeated 47 to 53. U.S. Sen. Romney, Republican of Utah, was the only member to break with his party, voting to remove Trump from office.
“Mitt Romney’s stand for the ages” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — Sen. Romney joins that honorable pantheon of lawmakers, from John Quincy Adams to John McCain, who put principle over party. The Senator from Utah cast the lone Republican vote to remove Trump from office — and the lone vote by any Senator in history to remove a president of his own party. I was one of the few in the gallery when Romney took the floor: “I swore an oath before God to exercise impartial justice,” he said to a nearly empty chamber. “I am profoundly religious. My faith is at the heart of who I am.” Then Romney, on the verge of tears, paused for a full 12 seconds to pull himself together. This was no ordinary speech.
“These Republicans said they hope Trump has learned a lesson from impeachment. He said he hasn’t.” via Seung Min Kim of The Washington Post — Senate Republicans who’ve been uncomfortable with Trump for exerting pressure on Ukraine to launch political probes — but have declined to throw him out of office for it — have come up with a number of what they say are appropriate responses to Trump’s inappropriate conduct, if not impeachment. But their answers to the question of how to chastise Trump for his dealings with Ukraine amount to little more than a slap on the wrist, again illustrating how Republican lawmakers have struggled to grapple with a president who, in their view, has pushed the boundaries of propriety. Republicans who acknowledge that Trump does have some culpability here are hoping that their rhetoric criticizing his behavior will be enough.
“White House national security adviser says Trump didn’t seek Ukraine’s help with investigations despite evidence to the contrary” via Anne Gearan and Ellen Nakashima of The Washington Post — White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien asserted that Trump had not sought Ukrainian help investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, despite evidence to the contrary. Trump expressly asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to “look into” the Biden family during the July 25 phone call that played a central role in House Democrats’ decision to impeach the president for allegedly pressuring a foreign ally to investigate his domestic political rival. O’Brien also said the Senate impeachment trial expected to end with Trump’s acquittal has cast “a terrible pall” that set back U.S. foreign policy.
— DATELINE: TALLY —
“House Republicans target Nikki Fried” via John Kennedy of the USA TODAY Network — The House Appropriations Committee took the unusual step of boring in on Fried. Its budget proposal includes a provision that takes $19.7 million away from Agriculture Department programs and into reserves — until Fried removes all stickers displaying her face from gas pumps around the state. Fried antagonized ruling Republicans last year by putting her face on stickers applied to gas pumps showing they’d been clear of any illegal credit card skimmer devices. While a law quickly passed last year prohibited such personalized displays, the House committee ratcheted that up by giving her until mid-September to completely remove them — or lose funding.
“Fried lashes out as GOP moves to limit her power” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida — Agriculture Commissioner Fried, Florida’s top elected Democrat, said her budget is being hostage by partisan warfare and accused state Republicans of a Capitol power grab. “Republicans are threatened,” Fried said at a press conference. “Now, a Democratic woman gets elected statewide, and the old boys club cannot stand for it.” But shortly after Fried wrapped up her remarks, the power grab continued as the House Appropriations Committee approved a plan to move her agency’s Office of Energy to the Department of Environmental Protection, which reports to DeSantis. The committee is scheduled to vote to withhold $19.4 million from Fried’s consumer protection division until she removes her picture from thousands of gasoline pump inspection stickers.
Scoop — “More problems arise with incoming office of Financial Regulation Commissioner Russell Weigel” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — A letter Florida’s Chief Financial Officer sent to incoming Commissioner Weigel demands he sever ties with his existing securities firm before taking his new position. Weigel is an investment attorney in Coral Gables and, according to the letter, has indicated to the Florida Department of Financial Services he plans to continue his relationship with his existing firm and continue collecting payments from efforts related to existing clients even after he assumes his new role. The office considers maintaining that relationship and continuing to reap financial benefits a conflict in his new role. The letter suggests Weigel’s start date might be further delayed if he even intends to take the position at all.
Rob Bradley pleased with land-buying program — Senate Budget Chief Bradley was satisfied with the state’s land acquisition program, Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida reports. “I couldn’t be more pleased with what the governor and his team has done on land acquisition issues,” Bradley said. A year ago, Bradley was unhappy that the program had not spent all the money lawmakers allocated for it and pushed for a funding cut from $100 million to $33 million. Bradley didn’t cite any specific land deals that helped change his impression of the program. Still, his comments came a day after the Governor and Cabinet approved the purchase of 5,777 acres in Sarasota County.
“Travis Cummings: Losses to voucher program ‘relatively small’” via the News Service of Florida — House Appropriations Chairman Cummings is not overly concerned about the financial impact of corporate donors halting donations to the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program. School voucher supporters said this week the decision by Wells Fargo and Fifth Third Bank to stop future contributions to the program are a threat to the number of scholarships low-income students can receive to attend private schools. The banks said they would stop contributions after an investigation found 83 religious schools that accepted state-funded vouchers had policies that explicitly barred gay students from enrolling in the school. Cummings said, at this point, he doesn’t find the funding issue “overly concerning.”
“Shevrin Jones urges companies not to halt scholarship donations” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Democratic Rep. Shevrin Jones issued a statement Wednesday urging companies not to withhold donations to the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program over some schools in the program discriminating against LGBTQ students. Jones, a strong advocate of LGBTQ rights, acknowledged that discriminatory policies in place at some schools were a problem, but said a further exodus of corporate support will do more harm than good as lawmakers and education policy leaders work toward solutions. “We must also make sure that every school — whether they are public, private, or parochial — prioritizes student safety and has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to discrimination,” Jones said.
“Budget proposals brought into citrus legal fight” via News Service of Florida — Attorneys for Fried alerted the Florida Supreme Court that new legislative budget proposals include more than $19 million to address a legal battle over the state cutting down Lee County homeowners’ healthy citrus trees. In a filing last month at the Supreme Court, Fried’s attorneys said the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services wants to pay the homeowners but can’t do so without an appropriation of money from the Legislature. Attorneys filed what is known as a “request for judicial notice,” informing the Supreme Court that new House and Senate budget proposals include money to pay the homeowners.
Bills are dying — “Key House education panel unlikely to meet again” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — The PreK-12 Innovation subcommittee, expanded this year as a first stop to vet and cull education policy measures in the state House, this week held what is expected to be its final meeting. “We are not scheduled (to meet) next week,” chairman Rep. Ralph Massullo told members at the close of its session, which ended with the approval of a major rewrite to testing and accountability laws. “That doesn’t mean that we won’t meet again. But we probably won’t.” On the list of bills left hanging are some issues that have been the subject of hot debate. Not least among them is Rep. Anna Eskamani’s HB 45, which would bar private schools from discriminating against LGBTQ youth or children with disabilities, if they want to participate in state scholarship and voucher programs.
“House, Senate divided on Medicaid eligibility issue” via Christina Sexton of the News Service of Florida — The Republican-controlled House and Senate are split about whether to permanently eliminate Medicaid retroactive eligibility for seniors and people with disabilities. The House Appropriations Committee approved a bill (HB 5201) that would make the change permanent. But the Senate wants to extend the change for one year, including it in a budget “implementing” bill (SPB 2502) for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. Similar to the budget, an implementing bill only is good for one year. Under the Senate bill, that means the Medicaid retroactive eligibility change would expire July 1, 2021, if lawmakers don’t extend it again next year.
“1,540 pounds of chicken, 280 pounds of shrimp: Inside the world’s largest paella at Florida Capitol” via Tori Lynn Schneider of the Tallahassee Democrat — 1,850 gallons of water; 1,540 pounds of chicken; 620 pounds of rice; 380 pounds of shrimp; 150 pounds of tomato; 10 pounds of bijol. Those are just some of the ingredients that went into the world’s largest paella that was served at the Capitol. Hundreds celebrated Miami-Dade Days by feasting on the Spanish rice dish. One thousand pounds of the Spanish rice dish was served to a line that wrapped around the Capitol courtyard. Hauled in on a trailer behind a Budget rental box truck, the giant skillet was cooked by Bijan’s catering.
— LEGISLATION —
“E-Verify sponsors eye changes to stalled proposals” via News Service of Florida — A politically charged immigration bill is poised to get a makeover that sponsors hope will align the measure with the position backed by DeSantis and the Republican Party of Florida. The Governor and the Florida GOP, led by Sen. Joe Gruters, are pushing a mandate for public and private employers to use E-Verify, a program that checks the legal eligibility of new workers. Proposals currently filed by Gruters and Rep. Cord Byrd exempt private businesses. But DeSantis has made clear he does not support the exemption, and Gruters last month forced RPOF members to take a formal position on a resolution backing the Governor’s stance. In the wake of the state party vote, Gruters and Byrd said they are preparing to make changes to their proposals.
“House eyes records exemption for college searches” via the News Service of Florida — The House State Affairs Committee is slated to take up a bill (PCB SAC 20-04) that would create public-records and public-meetings exemptions for presidential search processes. That would include preventing the release of identifying information about applicants for the positions. Information about finalists for the jobs would be made public. The Senate Education Committee approved a Senate version of the bill (SB 774). Lawmakers have considered similar exemption proposals in the past but have not approved them. The House bill points to a need to prevent the release of information to help attract candidates for president positions.
“After UCF scrutiny, state politicians kill FAU naming rights deal with Roofclaim.com” 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 Roofclaim.com has also killed FAU’s already-announced $5 million sponsorship deal with Roofclaim.com, FAU confirmed. “FAU and Roofclaim.com have agreed it is in their mutual best interests to terminate Roofclaim.com’s naming rights for FAU Arena,” an FAU spokesperson said. Moral of this story: Not even college football has as much clout in the state of Florida as the powerful, persuasive, political powerhouse known as Big Insurance.
“Cary Pigman hosts nurse practitioners at Governors Club amid scope of practice push” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — With only a few months left before he retires from the Legislature, Rep. Pigman is pulling all the stops to get non-physician scope of practice freedoms. This year’s campaign included two Rotunda-filling press conferences, vocal support by House Speaker José Oliva and lunch at the upscale Governors Club. But with seven years of general House support only to die in the Senate when it gets there, the question remains whether the Avon Park Republican can shepherd the bill (HB 607) to the Governor’s desk. “Like anything, we’ve got a 60 day Session, and what happens at the end of this Session is between the Speaker and the President and everyone else in the Legislature,” Pigman said. “I hope that what I’ve done has kind of laid the groundwork, made the argument of why it would be a great idea.”
“Pharmacy dispensing changes approved” via the News Service of Florida — The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bill that would increase the amount of medicine that can be dispensed at certain pharmacies across the state. The bill (SB 100) would allow pharmacists who work in hospital pharmacies to dispense 72-hour supplies of medicine during emergencies instead of the current 48-hour supplies. In nonemergency times, the bill would allow pharmacists working at hospital pharmacies to dispense 48-hour supplies of medication to patients instead of the current 24-hour supplies permitted under law. Sponsored by Sen. Gayle Harrell, the bill now is available to go to the Senate floor.
“Bills would allow chiropractors to give nutritional injections” via Florida Politics — Chiropractors were once authorized to give vitamin and enzyme injections, but in 1957 state law was changed to only allow oral nutritional supplements. Since those are readily available next to the pharmacy counter in every Publix, Walgreens and CVS statewide, chiropractors are effectively shut out of that revenue stream. Sen. Jeff Brandes is sponsoring a bill (SB 1138) that would allow chiropractors to once again “administer articles of natural origin,” which the bill defines as “vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, hyaluronic acid, enzymes, saline, antioxidants, dextrose, glandulars, cellular components, extracts, water, botanicals, phytonutrients, and homeopathics.” Rep. David Smith is carrying the House companion bill (HB 677).
“8-1-1 bill protects first responders from negligence” via Jonathan Lamm of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Calling 8-1-1 is a free service to anyone who needs to dig underground to ensure they will not hit a natural gas line or other utility. At no cost to the caller, utilities will mark lines to avoid when individuals dig underground to ensure the safety of our community. Underground natural gas pipes are safe. But when a shovel or other equipment ruptures them, the gas released can ignite by a spark or flame and result in deadly fires or explosions. State Sen. Anitere Flores and state Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen filed legislation in January to protect first responders, utility workers, and Florida families from the destruction, injury and death that has happened from digging underground without taking proper precautions.
“House passes bill removing wine container limits” via Sarah Mueller of Florida Politics — The House approved legislation that does away with size limits on individual containers of wine. The bill (HB 6037), sponsored by Lighthouse Point Republican Rep. Chip LaMarca, passed 112-6. Currently, state law prohibits selling more than a gallon of wine in a single container. LaMarca’s bill would do away with that restriction. The “no” votes included Reps. Nicholas Duran, Michael Grieco, David Silvers, Jennifer Sullivan, Matt Willhite and Clay Yarborough. Sullivan and Yarborough are Republicans; the others are Democrats.
“Hold my beer: Florida may allow dogs at breweries” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — RockPit Brewing co-founder Chris Rock his vowing to rekindle the statewide fight to allow dogs in brewpubs. Technically they aren’t allowed in taprooms because the Florida Department of Health regulates beer like food, though Rock said it’s enforced only after complaints. Changing those rules are among those overhauls being considered to the state’s beverage laws during the legislative session underway in Tallahassee. One bill filed by state Rep. Nick DiCeglie calls for more sweeping changes that could allow most of the state’s craft brewers more freedom to end contracts with distributors with 120 days’ notice and allow naming rights and advertising deals with theme parks so long as it doesn’t lead to preferential treatment to the beverage brand.
— TODAY IN CAPITOL —
Assignment editors — Leaders in economic development, higher education, and workforce development, including Sen. Gruters; FEDC Chair Kelly Smallridge, who is president/CEO of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County; Enterprise Florida President/CEO Jamal Sowell and Michelle Dennard, the president/CEO of CareerSource Florida will hold a news conference to launch Florida Economic Development Week 2020, 10 a.m., 4th floor, outside of Senate Chambers. Also, to be streamed on Facebook Live at www.facebook.com/FCSPresidents.
Happening today — More than 200 conservation, social justice and health advocates will rally at Reclaiming Florida’s Future for All. Advocates will urge legislators to pass a statewide fracking ban, a transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050, 10 a.m., Capitol Courtyard.
Happening today — FAMU Day at The Capitol will have school representatives visit legislators, distribute information about FAMU, share academic offerings and culminate with a reception for elected officials, BOT, University President, and National Alumni President, 5 p.m., 22nd floor. Reception begins at 6 p.m.
The Senate holds a floor session starting at 10 a.m.
The House holds a floor session at beginning 4 p.m.
The House Commerce Committee meets, 8 a.m., Room 212, Knott Building.
The House Public Integrity & Ethics Committee meets, 8 a.m., Room 404, House Office Building.
The House State Affairs Committee meets, 8 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The House Education Committee meets, noon, Room 212, Knott Building.
The House Health & Human Services Committee meets, noon, Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The House Judiciary Committee meets, noon, Room 404, House Office Building.
The House Rules Committee meets, 15 minutes after the House floor session ends, Room 404, House Office Building,
— GOV. CLUB BUFFET —
Hot and sour soup; mixed garden salad with dressings; Oriental Asian cabbage salad; cold noodle salad; deli board, lettuce, tomatoes, cheeses and breads; cashew chicken; beef and broccoli; Chinese BBQ pork butt; house fried rice; stir fry vegetables; braised Napa cabbage; chocolate mousse cups for dessert.
— STATEWIDE —
“Florida felons still can’t vote as 2020 election looms. Here’s why.” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Two GOP lawmakers confirmed that they wouldn’t follow a federal judge’s recommendation last fall that they revisit how they implemented a 2018 ballot measure called Amendment 4 intended to let nonviolent felons to register to vote. That decision to not act will substantially prevent thousands of felons from registering to vote in the 2020 election. It counters U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, who said last year that GOP legislators created an “administrative nightmare” with their legislation implementing Amendment 4 and that they were in a better position to fix it than he was.
“Consumer confidence is stable in Florida” via John Hielscher of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The University of Florida’s Consumer Sentiment Index was unchanged from December’s revised figure of 99.4, the third straight month with no movement in the overall measure. Confidence was up by 1.3 points over the year. Three of the five components that make up the index decreased in the report, with weaker opinions among Floridians about their current personal financial situations and economic conditions over the next 12 months. They also were less confident about buying a big-ticket item now. Florida consumers did feel better about their finances a year from now and economic conditions five years down the road. Florida’s labor market continues to strengthen, with the unemployment rate in December down to a record low of 3%.
“Advocates push for fair treatment of inmates, more good-behavior credits” via Sarah Mueller of Florida Politics — Supporters of HB 189, sponsored by Tampa Democratic Rep. Dianne Hart, said they would push for a ballot initiative for 2022 if it doesn’t pass this year. Hart’s bill would increase the credit inmates can earn for good behavior from 15% to 35%. Currently, inmates must serve 85% of their sentences to be released. Her bill would instead require them to serve 65%. Hart said her legislation would save the state $850 million. “I firmly believe that we can no longer give people $50 and a bus ticket and send them home without any hope or opportunity,” she said. “If we do, we can expect people to return to our criminal justice system because where else can they go?”
— MOTHER NATURE —
“Bill to create statewide resiliency office ready for Senate floor” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Senate Appropriations Committee approved legislation to create a Statewide Office of Resiliency in the Governor’s office and create a Statewide Sea-Level Rise Task Force. SPB 7016 was the Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee bill. The legislation continues a recent environmental tack toward acknowledging climate science, a novelty to some degree in Tallahassee despite the impact of climate change and sea-level rise. The bill, presented by Sen. Tom Lee, “codified” the Office of Resiliency.
“Bear poaching bill goes to the Senate with the House’s complete support” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Rep. David Smith‘s bill cracking down on bear poaching heads to the Senate after a unanimous House vote. The bill (HB 327), increasing penalties for the illegal taking, possession, and selling of bears, was fast-tracked through the House. But the Senate just this week began advancing the identical version in that chamber. In the past five years, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission criminally charged 22 people with bear poaching and issued warnings to five others. Killing a Florida black bear outside of bear hunting season is currently a second-degree misdemeanor. Smith’s bill would increase the minimum fine to $750 and add a three-year suspension of a hunting license. Florida has not had a bear hunt season since 2015.
“In Miami, tweets about flooded streets come before the actual floods, a new study found” via Alex Harris of the Miami Herald — A new study suggests that 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. The University of California, Davis study found that Miami residents start to ramp up their Twitter posts about flooding long before the city hits the official measure for minor flooding, which suggests that even low levels of flooding affect day-to-day life in the city. The analysis found that some places, like Miami and Texas’ Gulf Coast, reacted to lower levels of flooding by tweeting more about it.
“Julia Nesheiwat commends resiliency efforts at Florida ports” via Florida Politics — Florida Chief Resilience Officer Nesheiwat commended Florida ports for their resiliency planning while laying out her vision for a resilient Florida at an event with Seaports Environmental leaders. “Florida is ground zero when it comes to resiliency. … It’s important that we take action and influence positive change,” Nesheiwat told leaders of the ports. “Seaport resiliency is important. We must plan ahead and put on that resiliency mindset.” Her framework for a statewide strategy on resiliency would include lessons learned, best practices, and look ahead several decades in Florida’s future to create a master adaptation plan for the state.
— 2020 —
“Donald Trump says he’s in for debates” via Michael Grynbaum and Peter Baker of The New York Times — Trump told a group of television news anchors at the White House that he would participate in this year’s general election debates, despite his misgivings about the commission that oversees them. Asked about this fall’s general election debates, Trump repeated his recent complaints that “Never Trumpers” sit on the Commission on Presidential Debates, the nonpartisan group that organizes the events. But the president said he had decided to participate because he believed his debate performances helped him win support from voters in the 2016 campaign.
“Caucus glitch, emboldened Trump fuel Democratic anxiety” via Matt Viser of The Washington Post — The Democratic five-alarm fire has begun. Around the country, Democrats found themselves baffled by the circumstances engulfing their party — even one that is known for, and sometimes takes pride in, its tendency to overreact with worry. “This is just one sad week,” said former senator Barbara Boxer. “While I am having these very dark, sad feelings about the Senate GOP and a whitewash, here comes this mess in Iowa,” Boxer said, referring to the impeachment trial. “This is a wake-up call. We’re going to be tested.” Democrats hoped this would be a turning point. But neither process is going as planned, reviving Democratic jitters that Trump is somehow not subject to the ordinary laws of politics.
“What went wrong for Joe Biden in Iowa” via Katie Glueck, Jonathan Martin and Thomas Kaplan of The New York Times — Maybe it was the threat of bad weather. Maybe it was a seating assignment debacle. Maybe it was a struggling campaign organization that still hadn’t found its footing. But as Biden spoke at a major Iowa Democratic Party dinner in November, one thing was clear: His support appeared tepid compared with the vocal cheering sections of top rivals. The dinner’s damaging optics marked the beginning of a flurry of change. It was too late. Biden’s performance in the Iowa caucuses on Monday dealt a damaging blow to the former vice president; with 86% of the results counted, he trailed Pete Buttigieg and U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, with U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar not far behind.
“Biden concedes Iowa was ‘a gut punch’” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — “I’m not going to sugarcoat it. We took a gut punch in Iowa,” Biden said before cracking a joke about Iowa’s botched caucuses. “The whole process took a gut punch,” Biden said. “But look, this isn’t the first time in my life I’ve been knocked down.” Biden’s admission marked a sharp departure from the rosy predictions that he and his campaign had been making about Iowa both before and after Monday’s caucus, where full results have still not been released. With 71 percent of precincts reporting, the former vice president is in fourth place.
“Biden hits Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg as he seeks rebound from Iowa” via Bill Barrow and Brian Slodysko of The Associated Press — “If Sen. Sanders is the nominee for the party, every Democrat in America up and down the ballot, in blue states, red states, purple states and easy districts and competitive ones, every Democrat will have to carry the label Sen. Sanders has chosen for himself,” the former vice president said. “He calls himself a democratic socialist. Well, we’re already seeing what Donald Trump is going to do with that.” Biden said he had “great respect” for Buttigieg but didn’t think the Democrats’ standard-bearer against Trump should be someone who hasn’t been elected to a higher office than Mayor of South Bend, a city of about 100,000. “It’s a risk, to be just straight up with you,” he said.
“Pete Buttigieg honors Trayvon Martin’s 25th birthday, tweets, ‘#BlackLivesMatter’” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Buttigieg, fresh from his impressive first- or second-place showing in the Iowa caucuses (depending on the final vote and delegate count alongside U.S. Sen. Sanders, yet to be announced), wrote about Martin in a tweet. “Martin would have been 25 today,” Buttigieg wrote. “How many 25th birthdays have been stolen from us by white supremacy, gun violence, prejudice, and fear?” Buttigieg added the hashtag “#BlackLivesMatter” Buttigieg, 38, has struggled with black voters since launching his presidential campaign last year, getting just 1% support among black voters in a Hill-HarrisX poll in January.
“Marco Rubio: Media can’t stand Trump because he refuses to play their ‘hypocritical game’” via Fox News —”[Trump] just doesn’t care about any of that stuff. And neither do Americans,” Rubio said. He said that Mitt Romney and John McCain were “shredded” by the media, but were still expected to continue going to “the fancy parties” around Washington, D.C. and to “humor the media” in order to gain their approval. “And then you elect a president who’s not from here and decides I’m not playing this hypocritical game. And they can’t stand it because they’re supposed to be the gatekeepers that decide who gets to run for president and who doesn’t,” Rubio said.
Florida Democrats mend fences with major donors — The Florida Democratic Party is holding a joint fundraiser with a dark money group it has long feuded with, Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida reports. The Florida Alliance’s rift with FDP stems from the alliance’s belief that the party wasn’t doing enough to champion progressive causes. The fundraiser was chaired by Barbara Stiefel, who has donated almost $4 million to Democratic campaigns since 2014 but has not made any contributions to the party. FDP Chair Terrie Rizzo said the partnership with the Florida Alliance is part of Democrats’ 2020 strategy. “Too often in the past, the Florida Democratic Party has gone it alone,” Rizzo said. “We’re changing course in 2020. The strength of a team is in each member, and individuals are stronger when they are part of a team.”
— D.C. MATTERS —
“TV ratings: State of the Union down 20% from 2019, Fox News only network to tick up” via Will Thorne of Variety — His address was down around 20% from 2019 across the three major cable news networks and the four major broadcast networks. The speech drew about 33.7 million total viewers when you add together Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox, compared to the 42.2 million who tuned in last year for the same networks. Fox News was by far and away the most-watched network for the 2020 SOTU, drawing 11.5 million viewers during the 9 to 10:30 p.m. time period, meaning it was the only network to be up year-to-year. CNN’s coverage drew 2.8 million viewers, down from 3.4 last time around, while MSNBC shed around 1.6 million viewers to end up with 2.2 million in 2020.
“Did Nancy Pelosi break the law by ripping Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech?” Via Bill McCarthy of PolitiFact — “Nancy Pelosi may have just committed a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2071, Section 2071 (a) when she ripped up President Trump’s State of the Union address,” Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk wrote in a Feb. 4 tweet. “This violation is punishable by up to three years in prison.” Experts told us that’s a misapplication of the law. The State of the Union text was never “filed or deposited” with her, nor did she have “custody” of it in the legal sense. Video of the event shows that Trump handed her and Vice President Mike Pence copies before he began speaking, and Pelosi can be seen following along throughout. The papers Pelosi ripped up did not belong to the government, nor were they the only copy of Trump’s speech in existence. We rate this statement Pants on Fire!
“” via Kenneth Garger of the New York Post — Republican Rep.Gaetz filed an ethics complaint against Pelosi that said the House Speaker possibly violated numerous House rules — and maybe even broke the law — by tearing up a copy of President Trump’s State of the Union speech. The Florida legislator sent a letter to the House Committee on Ethics requesting they open an investigation and shared the missive on Twitter. Gaetz wrote that “Speaker Pelosi’s gesture was deeply offensive and appears to violate clauses 1 and 2 of House Rule XXIII,” which dictate the House’s official code of conduct.
“Parkland dad apologizes for State of the Union outburst” via Terry Spencer of The Associated Press — The father of a student killed in the 2018 Florida high school massacre apologized for disrupting Trump’s State of the Union address by shouting as the president said the rights of gun owners are under siege. Fred Guttenberg was escorted from the gallery by security officers Tuesday night after shouting about his slain daughter Jaime just after the president said, “So long as I am president, I will always protect your Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.” … “I let my emotions get the best of me,” Guttenberg tweeted. “I simply want to be able to deal with the reality of gun violence and not have to listen to lies” about the Second Amendment. “That said, I should not have yelled out.”
— THE TRAIL —
“Top U.S. House Republican endorses Amanda Makki for Charlie Crist’s ouster” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader for the Republican Party, is endorsing “Makki for Florida’s 13th Congressional District which is a key seat in our effort to regain the House majority. She has the tenacity and work ethic to flip this district in November. Amanda’s life is the story of the American dream, and her commitment to our conservative principles, passion to serve, and willingness to fight for what is right are exactly what the people of South Pinellas County are looking for in their next congressman.” Makki is a former Senior Health Adviser to U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who she served for seven years. She’s running in a crowded GOP primary in hopes of unseating Charlie Crist.
“Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio shows scant fundraising in CD 27 race” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — That total was so low, Tarrio was not even required to submit a fundraising report to the Federal Election Commission (FEC): “This Committee has not yet exceeded the $5,000 reporting threshold that would trigger the Committee’s reporting responsibilities under the Act.” Tarrio is running as a Republican, competing against former broadcaster Maria Elvira Salazar for the GOP nomination. Federal candidates faced a Jan. 31 deadline to report all financial activity through the end of 2019. But because Tarrio’s campaign has been so inactive on the fundraising front, he dodged that requirement, making it unclear how much (or little) money he’s actually raised for his campaign.
Leon County Property Appraiser endorses Allison Tant for HD 9 — Leon County Property Appraiser Akin Akinyemi announced he’s backing Tant’s campaign for House District 9. “I am proud to support my great friend Allison Tant for state representative because she will be an ally and leader for our community in the Florida Legislature. She knows how to get things done and is ready to put her decades of community advocacy to work in the state House,” he said. Akinyemi joins many area leaders in backing Tant, a former chair of the Florida Democratic Party. Past endorsements include Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil, Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey, Leon County Superintendent Ricky Hanna and Agriculture Commissioner Fried.
“Fiona McFarland raises $25,000 in January” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — “I could not be more grateful for the support this community has offered me, my family and this campaign,” McFarland said. “Our mission is far from complete, but I am more confident than ever that our message of civility and results-driven leadership is resonating with the people of Sarasota.” That means she’s raised a total of $192,012, combining contributions, a $20,000 candidate loan, and some $5,349 in in-kind donations. That doesn’t include $10,500 raised through the McFarland-affiliated political committee Friends of Sarasota.
“Lauren Melo files to succeed Byron Donalds in HD 80” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The first candidate has filed to succeed Rep. Donalds in the Florida House. Naples Realtor Lauren Melo filed her paperwork Tuesday for House District 80. The Republican said she’s thought about running for office for some time. “I have been an advocate in my community for most of my life,” Melo told Florida Politics. “Now, I’ve been tapped and asked to consider this.” Melo, the current president of the Naples Area Board Of Realtors, has served in various leadership positions within the community. Once a Guardian ad Litem, she previously ran her own trucking company and advocated on behalf of drivers in several local issues. And her work in the real estate industry includes board positions with the Florida Realtors and National Association of Realtors.
“Tom Fabricio hits petition threshold to qualify for HD 103 ballot” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Fabricio is one of two Republicans competing in the contest. He’s battling Miami Lakes Vice Mayor Nelson Rodriguez, who joined the race last July. Fabricio entered the race in August and needed to obtain 940 signatures to qualify for the 2020 ballot via petition. According to the Division of Elections website, Fabricio has submitted 956 verified signatures. “I’m thrilled to have already achieved this milestone on our campaign plan,” Fabricio said in a statement on meeting the threshold. He and Rodriguez have been neck-and-neck so far in outside money raised, with both pulling in just over $25,000. Fabricio, however, has also tacked on another $10,000 loan to his campaign.
“Democrat Clint Barras joins HD 120 contest in bid to replace Holly Raschein” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — He’s the only Democrat currently running after former Democratic Agriculture Commissioner candidate Roy David Walker withdrew from the race. Barras, of Key West, is the Vice President of Business Development for Two Oceans Digital. He’s also served as Vice-Chair of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council. Barras received his bachelor’s degree in political science from Boston College. He then earned a master’s degree in integrated marketing communications from the Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies. The newly filed Democrat joins a race that already features a trio of Republican candidates.
— LOCAL —
“Police report: Top aide to Miami’s mayor sent sexually graphic photo to teen’s phone” via Charles Rabin, Joey Flechas and David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — A top aide to Miami’s mayor recently sent a picture of his penis to a minor, according to police. An incident report claims that a teenager received a picture of the aide’s penis on a computer or cellphone just before 9 p.m. on Jan. 19 and that police were called within two minutes. The report says Rene Pedrosa, 48, solicited some type of picture from the teen, who was familiar with Pedrosa. What exactly he solicited was redacted.
“A patient at a South Florida hospital was tested for coronavirus. The public remains in the dark.” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A potential case of coronavirus disrupted emergency operations at a Hollywood hospital on Friday, but nearly a week later, the Florida health department won’t confirm even that a person was tested. The incident appeared significant: hospital workers told at least one fire-rescue department not to bring anyone to Memorial Regional Hospital’s emergency room, and another department offered to wear masks. Health departments across the nation are divided on whether to inform the public when they are testing people who may be infected, and Florida has taken the side of withholding that information from the public.
“Two months later, FBI still pushing for access to NAS Pensacola shooter’s iPhone” via Jim Thompson of the NWF Daily News — Islamic terrorist organization al-Qaida‘s recent claim of responsibility for the fatal Dec. 6 attack at Naval Air Station Pensacola amplifies the need for law enforcement to have access to content of cellphones used criminally, Rep. Matt Gaetz, said in a congressional hearing. In questioning FBI Director Christopher Wray in the Judiciary Committee hearing, Gaetz — whose district includes NAS Pensacola — suggested that “given the fact that recently, al-Qaida Yemen has taken responsibility for the terrorist attack in my community, it would seem to elevate our need to have access to those communications devices and tools.”
“Fan cam captures Lenny Curry, Aaron Zahn, Scott Wilson and others at Atlanta Braves postseason game” via the Florida Times-Union — They traveled on a private plane on the trip organized by Conventus LLC, a company run by Sam Mousa and Tim Baker. We posted a story about the cost of the trip for city officials and the questions it raised and reported that the city’s Ethics Commission had sought information about the trip. Now we have a photo of the group at the game from the fan cam. The full view shows the group had pretty nice seats — which included access to an exclusive lounge with unlimited food, beer and wine — that are two and three rows behind the visitors’ dugout.
“Two Florida Supreme Court Justices speak out against the All for Transportation tax in final appeal hearing” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Four Florida Supreme Court Justices heard oral arguments in the All For Transportation appeal that threatens to undo the 1% sales tax voters overwhelmingly approved in late 2018. At least two Justices appeared poised to side with appellants seeking to strike down the tax. A decision isn’t expected for four to six weeks. Chief Justice Charles Canaday said arguments sounded like doublespeak. “To disentangle that would do violence to the will of the voters,” Canady. said. “At the very best, what’s involved in this is deceptive double talk.” “The voters can have the chance to vote on this again,” he contended. Justice Carlos Muñiz also expressed reservations about significantly altering the charter language.
“Jane Castor announces massive personnel restructures to improve city efficiency” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Castor appointed Jean Duncan, the city’s current director of transportation and stormwater services, the new administrator of infrastructure and mobility. Vik Bhide, who previously worked on smart mobility solutions, will replace Duncan as the city’s transportation and stormwater services director. Brad Baird will make a lateral move to become the infrastructure administrator. Castor is promoting Sal Ruggerio to the infrastructure services deputy administrator. Ocea Wynn will be promoted to neighborhood and community affairs administrator. Dennis Rogero will now serve as the city’s chief financial officer. Carole Post will come on board as the city’s administrator for development and economic opportunity. Kelly Austin was installed as the city’s permanent human resources and talent development director.
“Ex-Port Richey Mayor files stand your ground motion in attempted murder case” via Jack Evans of the Tampa Bay Times — Attorneys for Dale Massad will argue that the former Mayor, who faces five charges of attempted first-degree murder, is immune from prosecution under Florida’s stand your ground law. They say Massad feared for his life and acted in self-defense when he fired two shots at Pasco County Sheriff’s deputies who had entered his home to serve a search warrant last year. According to the motion, Massad was asleep at 4:30 a.m. last Feb. 21, when deputies, including a SWAT team, arrived at the then-Mayor’s waterfront Port Richey home. They were there to search for evidence in an investigation into allegations that Massad, a former doctor who surrendered his license in 1992, was practicing medicine without a license.
“Supreme Court reprimands Brevard judge” via the News Service of Florida — Judge Robin Lemonidis stood quietly as Chief Justice Charles Canady read the reprimand, which stems from an investigation by the Judicial Qualifications Commission. Lemonidis and an investigative panel of the commission reached an agreement, known as a stipulation, after a probe of her actions. In one of the cases, for example, Canady said Lemonidis became frustrated with apparent violations of courtroom decorum during a trial. “Instead of showing the patience required of judges, you assumed an aggressive, adversarial tone and demeanor,” Canady said. “You loudly struck your gavel, you made facial gestures, and you took other actions to show your annoyance. Your behavior reached the point that a juror in the trial commented on your perceived dislike of defense counsel.”
“More e-scooters on the roads, and more riders sent to hospitals with head injuries” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — On bustling Saturday nights in Fort Lauderdale, Dr. Jason Mansour often encounters emergency room patients with a fractured skull or blood seeping from the head after an electronic scooter accident. “If you fall, it’s your body or your head versus the ground,” said Mansour, an emergency care physician at Broward Health Medical Center, where more than 100 people have arrived by ambulance from scooter injuries in the last year, a third with head injuries. Head and facial injuries from riding electric scooters have tripled over the past decade as ridership has increased, and helmets remain optional, studies show. Mansour believes most people still don’t recognize the danger from electronic scooters, even as emergency rooms treat concussions and brain hemorrhages.
“After 2 Supreme Court wins, Florida man gets $875K from city” via Curt Anderson of the Associated Press — Few people have fought any city hall all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and won, but Fane Lozman did it twice. Now the Florida city he’s battled since 2006 is going to pay him thousands of dollars in legal fees. The Riviera Beach City Council voted Wednesday to approve an $875,000 settlement with Lozman, who began his legal odyssey with a fight over seizure of his floating home and then claimed a First Amendment violation when he was arrested at a council meeting.
“Administrators: Students having sex on Santa Rosa County school grounds is growing problem” via Annie Blanks of the Pensacola News-Journal — Too many students are having sex on school grounds in the Santa Rosa County School District, and Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick says the problem has become “explosive” in the past three years, forcing administrators to scramble to address the issue. As of Monday, 18 students this school year have faced disciplinary action for a sexual offense in Santa Rosa County and were sent to an alternative placement school. For the entire 2018-2019 school year, 23 students were disciplined for sexual offenses. The problem isn’t just with high school students. Wyrosdick said the offenses have been caught among students as young as fifth grade.
“Attorney Daniel Uhlfelder no longer representing Florida Beaches for All” via Tom McLaughlin of the Northwest Florida Daily News — Uhlfelder’s Twitter following soared since November from less than 500 to nearly 105,000, thanks primarily to former presidential candidate and South Walton resident Mike Huckabee’s decision to file a bar complaint against him. He’s used that new-found platform to champion his primary cause of establishing customary use in Walton County, but also to rail against Republican Party politics. But even as his national, and even international, Twitter presence has grown, Uhlfelder’s stake in the actual customary use battle in heavily Republican Walton County is dwindling.
— TOP OPINION —
“Republicans are irked by Nikki Fried. She must be doing something right.” via the Palm Beach Post editorial board — Fried has re-energized the office since becoming Agriculture Commissioner a year ago, making a priority of energy efficiency and renewable energy. In this time, her office produced a lengthy plan on energy and hosted a statewide summit on energy and climate change, the first in a decade. Now comes what Fried calls a “partisan power grab.” She’s right. It’s curious that a Republican governor is suddenly intent on taking over an oft-orphaned office bounced around to three different agencies before landing in the Agriculture Department in 2011. Could it perhaps have something to do with Fried being the first Democrat in a dozen years to be elected to a cabinet-level position — and to try to make the most of it?
— OPINIONS —
“Caucus chaos in Iowa? Oh, please. Nobody screws up elections like Florida” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Nobody can screw up an election like Florida. Seriously, it’s cute that Iowans might have to take a week to get their final results. In 2000, we were still counting ballots when we had to break for Thanksgiving. And then it was another two weeks. Half my advent calendar was open before the Supreme Court put us out of our misery on Dec. 12. Iowa says: We didn’t think it was possible to mess up an election this badly. Florida says: Hold my beer. It wasn’t just 2000. Bumbling elections is a hobby here. In our very last election, voting systems in several counties were hacked. Which counties? We have no freakin’ clue!
“Lawmakers should put their dark money where their mouths are” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — A bill is zipping along that would, among other things, toughen signature requirements for amendments and make out-of-state influence more transparent. “I will never apologize for doing everything possible to protect our (state) constitution,” said James Grant, who’s sponsoring the bill. Lawmakers have long wrapped themselves in constitutional sanctity, with Grant saying he wants to keep “oligarchs” from secretly funding initiative campaigns. Three days later, the deadline came for citizen-initiative amendments to qualify for this November’s ballot. Four met the 766,200-signature requirement. One of them — billed as Keep Our Constitution Clean — would require all proposed amendments be approved by voters in two elections. And it was completely funded by dark money.
“Why limit terms of school board members?” via Bill Cottrell of the Tallahassee Democrat — Does Florida have a terrible problem of school board members amassing dictatorial powers and building permanent political fiefdoms all over the state? If not, then why are so many legislators so intent on imposing an eight-year term limit on those county officials? It’s as if lawmakers decided that, since they can only serve eight consecutive sessions in House or Senate, they should mandate the same time’s up rule back home. Incumbency is a big advantage in any office. But the Florida School Boards Association calculated that 64% of members up for reelection in 2018 won new terms, while 36% were newcomers. Two years earlier, it was 54% reelected and 46 new faces. That’s pretty good turnover — without term limits.
“Despite lies about me, public beaches are still public” via Mike Huckabee for the Tallahassee Democrat — This recent column stated that, “Wealthy beachfront property owners, however, led by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, rebelled. They lobbied the Legislature into passing House Bill 631, making it easy for beachfront owners to employ the courts to block the beach. Threatening signs, fences and security guards have been employed to block public beach use.” My “leadership” was limited to sending one email to a state Senator’s public website to thank her for taking the time to understand that HB 631 didn’t change ownership of one inch of beach. Public beaches were and still are public. Beaches deeded as privately owned can’t be confiscated by the government by administrative act. The county must comply with the constitutional protection for private property.
“Eve Samples Has Left the Building … or Has She?” via Nancy Smith of The Capitolist — Tuesday should have been liberation day for Eve Samples‘ Treasure Coast readers. Note, I said SHOULD have been. Is there anyone who follows Everglades politics who doesn’t know the opinion-team leader for USA Today-Florida Network — the face of editorial policy on Everglades restoration and Lake Okeechobee water quality — is in the tank for the Everglades Foundation? On Tuesday Samples had a new work address and new title. I’ll be darned if I can see any change afoot in her mission or influence on the newsroom staff, but I can hope. As new executive director of Friends of the Everglades, she can and (I bet) will pass off Everglades Foundation goals as the wisdom and wishes of the her new employer’s iconic founder, Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
— ALOE —
“Disney+ is adding subscribers much faster than expected” via Adam Epstein of Quartz — Disney+ has 28.6 million subscribers as of Feb. 3, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced on the company’s first quarter 2020 earnings call. Analysts were expecting between 20 and 25 million subscribers for the nascent streaming service. The November launch of the platform, bolstered by the series The Mandalorian, “exceeded even our greatest expectations,” Iger said. He boasted the Star Wars TV show is a “bona fide hit and a cultural phenomenon,” but did not provide specific viewership numbers. The Mandalorian is set to return for a second season in October.
“Autonomous vehicle testing begins” via Julia Gibson of the Gainesville Sun — The University of Florida and the Florida Department of Transportation have partnered to bring the first autonomous vehicle to the city of Gainesville. Community members were invited to a ribbon-cutting ceremony and an inaugural test ride of the shuttle, running between the Southwest Third Street parking garage to Innovation Square near Southwest Second Avenue. During the trial phase, an operator will be on board in case an override of controls becomes necessary. Later in the project, the goal is to forgo an operator. Gainesville Commissioner Harvey Ward said the project has been in the works for more than three years.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to Rep. Clay Yarborough.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.