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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 2.10.20

Who’s up, down, in and out — your morning tipsheet on Florida politics.

First in Sunburn: State Sen. Jason Pizzo switches endorsement to Mike Bloomberg — After previously endorsing former Vice President Joe Biden, the Miami Democrat is now throwing his support to presidential candidate Bloomberg. Pizzo said he based his switch on the former New York Mayor’s investment to build a winning campaign in Florida. “I ran for office to curb gun violence, pass criminal justice reform, push for repairing infrastructure, and promote affordable housing, I’ve waited patiently to see that from Biden and others — Mike Bloomberg has a plan and a path to get there,” Pizzo said. “This election is more than just defeating Trump, it is the tipping point for issues which are critical to my family, my constituents and all Floridians. Mike has a plan that I am proud to get behind.”

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A year ago, Florida Realtors commissioned a report on the economic impact of vacation rentals in the Sunshine State. Today, the University of Central Florida is releasing the results.

The top line shows the vacation rental industry provides 115,000 jobs and boosts the state economy by more than $27 billion — $16.6 billion in direct spending and $10.8 billion in indirect spending,

“Floridians have long-known that the state’s vacation home rental industry has a significant impact on our economy, but the numbers in this report are simply staggering,” said Florida Realtors President Barry Grooms, a Realtor and co-owner of Sarabay Suncoast Realty Inc. in Bradenton.

Florida Realtors President Barry Grooms says the economic impact of the state’s vacation home rental industry is ‘staggering.’

“More than $27 billion a year is a substantial contribution to our economy, and the 115,000 jobs it supports are critical to the well-being of many of our communities.”

To put those numbers in perspective, the industry generates 312 jobs statewide every day, 13 jobs every hour, and one job every 5 minutes. As far as direct spending, that’s nearly $46 million a day and approximately $1.9 million every hour reverberating through the state’s economy.

Grooms adds, “Given the vital importance of vacation home rentals to our economy, I truly hope policymakers and stakeholders consider this information as they deliberate on measures that could impact the industry.”

— TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Wednesday marks the half-way point: Day 30 of the 60-day Session. It’s the moment when the political roller coaster kicks into high gear — and also the day of the annual Capitol Press Corps Skits.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— There’s been a newfound acceptance of drones in the state Legislature. At first, lawmakers had imposed limits on uncrewed aircraft over fears about surveillance from above by the police state. But now they’re considering exemptions for everything from law enforcement to python hunting.

— It’s budget time in The Capitol. The House and Senate will approve two different versions of the new spending plan, then spending the final month of Session playing a behind-the-scenes version of Let’s Make a Deal. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried hopes she’s not traded away in the process.

— Police in Jacksonville arrested a man accused of running a van through a volunteer tent at a GOP voter registration event. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

— Fed up with standard cable news stations? There’s something new on the lineup. BNC — the Black News Channel — launches today from their studios in Tallahassee, covering community issues often ignored by the mainstream media.

— Republican political consultant Anthony Pedicini talks about life, the universe and Florida politics.

— The latest on Florida Men, featuring a voodoo death and first-grade meth.

To listen, click on the image below:

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@RealDonaldTrump: Fake News @CNN & MSDNC keep talking about “Lt. Col.” [Alexander] Vindman as though I should think only how wonderful he was. Actually, I don’t know him, never spoke to him, or met him (I don’t believe!) but, he was very insubordinate, reported contents of my “perfect” calls incorrectly, & was given a horrendous report by his superior, the man he reported to, who publicly stated that Vindman had problems with judgement, adhering to the chain of command and leaking information. In other words, “OUT.”

@MarcoRubio: Col. Vindman wasn’t “fired” he’s still an Army officer. He was assigned to NSC to serve the President who has a right to have people he trusts on his staff [Gordon] Sondland was a political appointee. No point in having a political appointee who no longer has the Presidents confidence

@DonaldJTrumpJr: Allow me a moment to thank — and this may be a bit of a surprise — Adam Schiff. Were it not for his crack investigation skills, @realDonaldTrump might have had a tougher time unearthing who all needed to be fired. Thanks, Adam!

Tweet, tweet:

@sahilkapur: UMass Lowell poll: 62% of New Hampshire Democrats would rather see a giant meteor strike the earth and extinguish all human life than see President Trump get reelected.

@KevinCate: Watching some old @AndrewGillum footage & there is no question, he’s one of — if not the most — talented & inspiring political leaders in our country. He should be at the top of everyone’s Veep list.

@GovRonDeSantis: The tax credit scholarship program provides educational opportunities to more than 100,000 low-income families in Florida. I support these families and am glad to see @FifthThird continue to do so as well. Thanks for empowering parents and students!

@SamanthaGross: There is a ton happening in Tallahassee, across Florida and beyond. Despite attending events statewide, it’s been about a month since the governor took questions from the press. @anaceballos speaks for us all: [Ron] DeSantis has been sidestepping reporters, and we are taking notice.

@TowsonFraser: Mandating Florida businesses use an error-ridden federal system was a bad idea then and still is.

@Scott_Tobias: Netflix: Good morning. Here are 12 new shows. Disney Plus: Did you enjoy The Mandalorian? Hold onto that feeling for another nine months or so.

Tweet, tweet:

@BarackObama: Congrats to Julia and Steven, the filmmakers behind American Factory, for telling such a complex, moving story about the very human consequences of wrenching economic change. Glad to see two talented and downright good people take home the Oscar for Higher Ground’s first release.

— DAYS UNTIL —

New Hampshire primaries — 1; Pitchers and catchers begin reporting for MLB Spring Training — 1; South Beach Wine and Food Festival — 9; Ninth Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas — 9; Roger Stone’s sentencing — 10; Nevada caucuses — 12; “Better Call Saul” Season 5 premiers — 13; 10th Democratic presidential debate in Charleston — 15; South Carolina Primaries — 19; Super Tuesday — 22; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 32; Florida’s presidential primary — 36; “No Time to Die” premiers — 56; Florida TaxWatch Spring Board Meeting begins — 65; TaxWatch Principal Leadership Awards — 66; Florida Chamber Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 95; “Top Gun: Maverick” premiers — 137; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 154; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premiers — 158; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo start — 165; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 190; First Presidential Debate in Indiana — 232; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 196; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 240; Second Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 248; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 255; 2020 General Election — 267.

— TOP STORY —

Florida voted to give 1.4 million felons the right to vote. It hasn’t gone smoothly” via Arian Campo-Flores and Jon Kamp of The Wall Street Journal — “It is a confusing, Byzantine morass,” said Myrna Pérez, director of the Voting Rights and Elections Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, which sued the state. The 2018 amendment ended the state’s permanent disenfranchisement of felons. The measure restored voting rights to those who completed their prison terms as well as parole or probation, except people with murder or felony sexual-assault convictions. After it took effect, the Republican-led legislature last year passed a bill that supporters said was needed to clarify its language. Among the bill’s provisions was a requirement that felons pay any fees, fines or restitution they owe to fulfill all terms of their sentences. Opponents of the bill said the measure undercut the amendment.

— DATELINE: TALLY —

’Without consequences’: Dozens of ethics cases are languishing on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — A backlog of nearly 30 recommended orders from the state’s ethics board — imposing penalties on an array of public officials, several of which were high-profile cases — is languishing on the desk of DeSantis. All require final action from him, and all but seven of them arrived from the Florida Commission on Ethics since he took office. The Governor’s failure to act also means people who should have been removed from their positions are still in office, including a St. Cloud Community Redevelopment Agency board member whose term is up for renewal next week. Even a $5,000 fine against DeSantis’ Democratic rival for governor, former Tallahassee Mayor Gillum, has gone unaddressed.

Ron DeSantis has nearly 30 ethics orders on his desk, waiting for attention.

Election year politics? GOP pushing pay raises for teachers and state workers” via John Kennedy of the GateHouse Capital Bureau — Democrats and union officials say the GOP’s motives may be to deflect campaign criticism this fall, or even sow dissent among labor groups jostling over the size of a rare pay hike. But many welcome being central to state budget talks as the Legislature nears its midpoint. It’s an unfamiliar place for both. “Republican leaders think this will take away a page from our playbook — that we can’t say they haven’t done enough for teachers or state workers,” said Rep. Evan Jenne. “But I’m happy they are finally seeing value in our hardworking public workers.” House budget chair Travis Cummings dismissed any political shadings to the pay raises.

Why is Florida suddenly bullish on teacher pay? Big business is on board.” via Jeffrey Solochek and Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — Teachers have been lobbying lawmakers for better pay — not bonuses — for years. Democrats have proposed boosting the minimum salary to $50,000 since 2015. Most often, their voices have stood alone. In 2020, though, some of the most powerful lobbying groups in the state are joining the chorus: those representing the business community. “If we want the best, most dedicated teachers for our children, we need to pay them enough to want to enter and stay in the classroom,” North Florida developer Chris Corr, also chairman of the Council of 100, wrote in a recent column that circulated across the state. That issue of talent is another key argument. And it’s not brand-new.

Appeal court sustains House’s subpoena of visit Florida’s ‘Emeril’ contract” via Michael Moline Florida Phoenix — A state appellate court has handed a victory to the Florida House in a dispute over financial records kept by the company that produced the “Emeril’s Florida” cooking show under contract with VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s tourism promotion arm. The outcome could strengthen the House’s hand in the continuing drama over VISIT FLORIDA. That chamber keeps trying to kill the agency while DeSantis and the Senate see it as crucial to promoting Florida’s tourism industry. At the least, the ruling vindicates the Legislature’s broad authority to investigate suspected corruption, inefficiency, or waste.

One of Emeril Lagasse’s cooking shows is embroiled in the battle between the House and VISIT FLORIDA.

Will APD changes happen this Session?” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — Despite both chambers identifying the Agency for Persons with Disabilities as a priority issue that needed to be addressed during Session, the House has been strangely quiet on how to improve the Medicaid waiver program for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, dubbed the “iBudget.” But the Agency for Persons with Disabilities has spent more money providing services to the 34,000 people in the iBudget program than what the state has agreed to spend, which has spurred lawmakers to take a closer look at how the program operates. The Senate has offered its proposal (SB 82), by Sen. Aaron Bean. The bill maintains the iBudget program but makes some changes to how it operates.

Al Jacquet hard to find as state imposes fines” via Joel Englehardt of the Palm Beach Post — The state can’t always find him. They’re slapping fines on him and routinely seeking corrections in his campaign filings. One recent notice was returned unopened. A friend said Jacquet told him last year that he resorted to living in his car for a time while in Tallahassee for the 2019 session. For about six months, Jacquet had no district office. The Florida Elections Commission fined Jacquet $2,000 in September for waiting a year to correct other campaign finance violations. He still hasn’t paid the fine, which could lead to the state filing suit against him. A $50 fine went to a collection agency in December 2018 and state records indicate it remains unpaid.

— LEGISLATION —

Florida’s tourism industry is behind a bill to block local laws that could create more benefits for workers” via Chabeli Carrazana of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida’s top tourism and business interests are putting their combined political might behind a bill moving through the Legislature that would prevent cities and counties from forcing companies to provide their workers with better benefits or more predictable schedules. Proponents say the bill fosters a pro-business environment and will set a single standard across the state, rather than allow local governments to create a patchwork of different rules. Opponents worry the bill could cancel out local laws such as an Orange County ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the private sector or a wage recovery ordinance in Osceola County that helps workers when an employer doesn’t pay what the worker is due.

Sponsors still hopeful puppy mill legislation passes” via Sarah Mueller of Florida Politics — Sen. Manny Diaz is still holding out hope his bill to regulate pet stores will pass this Session. However, the Hialeah Gardens Republican’s proposal (SB 1698) has not yet been heard by a committee. The legislation, along with the House companion bill (HB 1237), sponsored by Rep. Bryan Avila, aims to rid the state of so-called puppy mills. Both bills seek to set a uniform standard throughout the state, allowing stores that play by the rules to keep their doors open and freeing them of the stigma brought on by shady operations.

Manny Diaz hopes his puppy mill bill will make it through this Session.

— TODAY IN CAPITOL —

The Senate Education Committee meets to consider a proposed constitutional amendment SJR 1216 from Sen. Joe Gruters, which seeks to set up eight-year term limits for school board members across the state, 1:30 p.m., Room 412, Knott Building.

The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee meets to consider several bills, including SB 966 from Sen. George Gainer, which seeks to create a public-records exemption for information submitted to government agencies for disaster-recovery housing assistance programs, 1:30 p.m., Room 301, Senate Office Building.

The Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee meets to consider SB 1352 from Sen. Jeff Brandes, which seeks to permit vehicles in ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft to show digital advertising, 1:30 p.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.

The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider HB 737 from Rep. Kimberly Daniels, which seeks to require a moment of silence at public schools every day, 1:30 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The House Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider HB 1371 from Reps. Randy Fine and Rep. Mike Caruso, which seeks to improve safety at pedestrian crosswalks, 1:30 p.m., Room 404, House Office Building.

The House Select Committee on the Integrity of Research Institutions meets to hear a presentation on the “risk of foreign interference in research.” House Speaker José Oliva, called for the committee after the resignation of officials at Moffitt Cancer Center who had ties to China, 4 p.m., Room 404, House Office Building.

The Senate Community Affairs Committee meets to consider SB 1148 from Brandes, which seeks to set up regulations on electric bicycles, 4 p.m., Room 301, Senate Office Building.

The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee meets to consider SB 1706 from Chairman Bill Montford, which seeks to address pollution in distinct types of public and private water systems, 4 p.m., Room 37, Senate Office Building.

The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee meets to consider the confirmation of several appointees to state and local agencies and boards — such as the state university system’s Board of Governors, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and water management districts, 4 p.m., Room 412, Knott Building.

The Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee meets to consider SPB 7054, which seeks to make changes in several transportation laws, 4 p.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.

The Senate Special Order Calendar Group will meet to finalize the special-order calendar, which lists bills that will move to the Senate floor, 15 minutes after committee hearings end.

— STATEWIDE —

Florida’s unpopular Common Core standards are ‘eradicated’” via The Associated Press — The state Department of Education in a statement said the controversial set of academic standards “has been officially eradicated from Florida classrooms.” Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said he is recommending that the state Board of Education next week adapts Common Core’s successor, Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking, also known as BEST. The Common Core standards were first proposed a decade ago by associations of governors and state education chiefs, and they were embraced in Florida by former Gov. Jeb Bush. A broad coalition of conservatives, liberals, parents and teachers found fault with Common Core for different reasons.

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran put the final nail in the Common Core coffin.

Florida may start grading pre-K schools A through F. Here’s why some think that idea is wrong” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — State lawmakers this year have proposed a new system, one that has generated widespread support — in part because so many dislike the current one — but also has prompted criticism for suggesting pre-K programs be graded A-to-F. The pre-K program, dubbed VPK, served more than 174,000 students last year and cost more than $400 million. Many early-childhood and education advocates are in favor of the new assessments but don’t want an A-to-F grade given to pre-K programs. “The VPK accountability system is broken,” said David Daniel of the Florida Association for Child Care Management, which represents private child care centers. “It doesn’t serve private providers, it doesn’t serve the policymakers, and it doesn’t serve these families.”

Moffitt returns $1 million to state. Money was linked to scientist with China ties.” via Justine Griffin of the Tampa Bay Times — The funds originally were used to provide a salary and staff for Howard McLeod, medical director of the DeBartolo Family Personalized Medicine Institute at Moffitt and a senior member in Moffitt’s department of cancer epidemiology. McLeod was forced to resign in December, along with former Moffitt CEO Alan List and four other scientists, after an internal investigation found they did not disclose ties to Chinese recruitment programs. “Out of an abundance of caution, Moffitt is refunding $1,093,890 that it could not confirm was spent as it should have been,” said Yvette Tremonti, Moffitt’s chief financial and administrative officer.

From smaller asbestos payouts to limiting lawsuit damages: Florida high court’s conservative makeover raises stakes in Capitol tort reform battles” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — Unlike tax cuts, regulation reductions and other business-friendly measures passed by the GOP-led Legislature, tort reform bills have often failed to get through amid massive opposition from another influential group — the trial attorney lobby. DeSantis’ conservative makeover of the Florida Supreme Court means new such laws are more likely to be upheld. Under the old liberal majority, the state’s high court knocked down or chipped away at laws capping fees in medical malpractice and workers’ compensation cases, upsetting insurers and large corporations. DeSantis has also taken an interest in the tort reform push.

Ocala to host Ashley Moody at cybercrime workshop” via Carlos Medina of the Ocala StarBanner — The workshop will be presented Tuesday by Cyber Florida and the Marion County Clerk of Courts and Comptroller in the wake of several cybercrimes targeting government offices in Florida. A spear-phishing scam hit the city of Ocala in October to the tune of about $740,000. The episode demonstrated how governments could be vulnerable to such attacks. “These attacks on our cities are expensive and diverts the government’s focus away from serving its citizens. These workshops and training sessions will help local leaders across Florida implement procedures to prevent, respond to and recover from cyberattacks,” Moody said in a prepared statement. The workshop is scheduled for 11 a.m. at Southeastern Livestock Pavilion and Extension Auditorium.

AG Ashley Moody will be heading a cybercrime workshop in Ocala. 

Federal red tape hamstrings Florida’s commercial space growth” via Jacqueline Feldscher of POLITICO Florida — The arm of the Florida state government tasked with revitalizing its space economy is facing years of delays in acquiring excess federal land and facilities to attract new commercial customers, says Frank DiBello, CEO of Space Florida. Significant delays in Washington are slowing things down, asserts DiBello, who has led Space Florida since 2009 and previously managed the aerospace business at consulting firm KPMG. “Right now, when there is federal property that is excess or could be turned over to the state for purposes of meeting the market need, we have to go through a federal process that is long and cumbersome,” DiBello said. “I would love to see that streamlined. We’re pretty far down on the pecking order.”

Free orange juice could make a comeback at Florida welcome centers” via the News Service of Florida — Helping the Department of Citrus bring back free orange juice could hinge on a more significant debate, as the operations of state welcome centers remain locked in a legislative battle about the fate of the tourism-marketing agency VISIT FLORIDA. The Department of Citrus last July eliminated free juice offerings at welcome centers along Interstate 10 west of Pensacola, Interstate 75 near Lake City, and Interstate 95 near Jacksonville, as a $4.1 million cut in state promotional funding went into effect. Shelley Rossetter, the department’s assistant director of global marketing, said that stopping the flow of free juice “was hard to let go of. The department and growers are very clear that our visitors miss their juice.”

— CORONAVIRUS — 

Coronavirus has Florida couple quarantined on Diamond Princess cruise ship: ‘It’s a little bit prisonlike’” Naseem Miller of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida couple Philip and Gay Courter are trying to make the best of being quarantined on the Diamond Princess in Japan, where dozens of passengers, including 12 Americans, have been diagnosed with the coronavirus. “I’m out on the balcony looking at at least 16 ambulances lined up here on the pier, and they’ve got the quarantine tunnel set up at the door, so I’m sorry to say it looks like they’re going to be offloading more sick passengers today,” said Philip Courter, 77, in a phone call from the cruise ship docked at Yokohama, Japan. Meanwhile, the numbers of infections continue to rise, especially in China.

A Florida couple are under coronavirus quarantine on the Princess Diamond cruise ship.

Rick Scott urges coronavirus transparency. Was he all that transparent on Zika?” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — This week, Scott depicted himself as a proponent of transparency. His office issued a news released headlined, “Scott Requests Transparency in Combating Coronavirus in United States.” While Gov., Scott’s administration was the subject of complaints at the time about a lack of transparency about Zika. “It’s rich in irony that Sen. Scott talks about transparency given his record of running from it. In 2016, he literally avoided coordination with Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and county Mayor [Carlos] Giménez around the Zika virus outbreak. He withheld information from local leaders and even his fellow Republican, Gimenez ripped him for his lack of transparency and withholding sensitive information,” Christian Ulvert, who was a political adviser to Levine, said.

Charlie Crist calls for transparency and action on coronavirus” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — In a letter to CDC Director Robert Redfield, Crist asked for transparency in the agencies planning as well as additional action on how individuals and families can take preventative action. Trump does not plan to request emergency funding to respond to the outbreak, which has left many lawmakers frustrated, according to The Hill. While only 12 cases have been reported in the U.S., officials are concerned action is needed to stave off a more widespread problem. Coronavirus first began in China at the end of 2019. So far more than 28,000 cases have been confirmed in Asia, Europe and North America, including in the U.S.

Happening todayCrist will tour a health clinic to highlight flu season and preparations for any possible coronavirus outbreak, 11 a.m., Community Health Center of Pinellas Lealman Clinic, 4950 34th St. North, St. Petersburg.

— MOTHER NATURE —

Florida should help remove shark fin soup from the world’s menu” via David Whitley of the Orlando Sentinel — The shark is yanked out of the ocean, its fins and tail are chopped off, then it’s tossed back into the water. Unable to move, the shark drowns or is eaten. Shark finning has been banned in the U.S. since 2000. Fins can still be imported from countries without bans, however. Florida’s become a major hub in this trade, so the legislature is considering bills that would prohibit the import, export and sale of shark fins. The issue is not as cut-and-dried as it seems. There’s fear such laws would make it harder to track and combat illegal trade, and they could punish responsible fisheries. But many scientists and shark lovers say there’s no time to waste.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confiscated nearly $1 million in shark fins at the Port of Miami.

Sierra Club sues to block Pasco road project that cuts through nature preserve” via CT Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times — The suit was not unexpected. The environmental group had pledged a legal challenge to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit, and Pasco County already had retained outside legal counsel for the court fight. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Tampa, names U.S. Army Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite and Col. Andrew Kelly, of the Corps’ Jacksonville district as defendants. Dan Rametta of Land O’ Lakes, a longtime opponent of the road project, joined the Sierra Club as a plaintiff. The 59-page suit contends the corps issued the environmental permit Dec. 20 without requiring sufficient wildlife studies, a public hearing and inclusion of public comments before 2011.

Indialantic motel finally falls to the wrecking ball, 2+ years after Hurricane Irma struck” via Rick Neale of FLORIDA TODAY — A pyramid-shaped heap of jagged rubble, discolored mattresses and dented water heaters are all that’s left of the three-story Beach House Motel that got its roof scalped by Hurricane Irma in September 2017. JCG Demolition & Construction of Melbourne used an excavator to finally raze the dilapidated, dangerous shuttered structure bordering popular James H. Nance Park. “It’s been an eyesore for (nearly) three years. I’m happy that it’s being resolved moving forward. And, hopefully, they keep the place safe and clear,” Indialantic Town Manager Michael Casey said. “There was broken glass and windows all over the place.”

— FITN — 

Democrats clash on electability and policy in blistering presidential debate” via Matt Viser, Michael Scherer, Chelsea Janes and Cleve Wootson of The Washington Post — With no clear front-runner and four days to go before the New Hampshire primary, seven of the party’s leading candidates abandoned the wonky policy contrasts and opaque tonal critiques that had filled the race before Iowa. The debate stage became a free-fire zone instead, the candidates seizing the moment to call each other out. In a sign of the reordering of the Democratic primary race, it was Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg who often took control of the stage, engaging in impassioned monologues — and seeing their records scrutinized — while rivals raised their hands in the hopes of being called on next. They harped on age and political records, flashed anger, indignation and warned their rivals’ policy prescriptions would fail.

The leading Democratic contenders are clashing over electability, policy in a ‘free-fire zone.’

New Hampshire pollsters on high alert after Iowa flop” via Steven Shepard of POLITICO — The University of New Hampshire Survey Center assured CNN — which, along with WMUR-TV, sponsors its pre-primary polling — that everything would work as it should. Unlike the Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom poll, which is captained by Iowa pollster J. Ann Selzer and contracts with an outside call center to conduct interviews — UNH conducts its polling in-house and closely monitors its procedures. Between the crowded field of candidates, the compressed timeline after an ambiguous Iowa result and Granite Staters’ historical penchant for last-minute commitments, the performance of this year’s New Hampshire polls could exceed its notorious reputation for volatility. Even UNH pollster Andrew Smith said it’s “a fool’s errand” to try to nail the results with the final poll.

NH officials on the primary: We got this” via Kevin Landrigan of the New Hampshire Union Leader — Gov. Chris Sununu, Secretary of State Bill Gardner and top state and federal prosecutors vow the first-in-the-nation primary will go off without a hitch, though they’re prepared for contingencies. During a nearly hourlong news conference, Sununu said the state’s “100-year tradition” of fair and transparent elections would continue, and the debacle with the count and reporting of results in Iowa will not happen here. “We have a great record of being right, reliable, and on time, and this time will be no different,” Sununu said.

— 2020 —

Joe Biden is collapsing” via Walter Shapiro of The New Republic — In his first words of the debate — the moment when candidates are usually the most scripted — Biden confessed, “I took a hit in Iowa, and I’ll probably take a hit here.” If his comments were a brief misstep in an otherwise smooth debate, it would have been one thing. Biden adopted a combative tone that undercuts one of his most substantial assets as a candidate — his avuncular persona. Biden may merely have been frustrated; the 77-year-old can see himself losing New Hampshire to the dewy Buttigieg (who was born during Biden’s second term in the Senate) and to the perpetual left-wing Senate gadfly Bernie Sanders. But he ought to know better.

Biden shakes up campaign leadership, elevating Anita Dunn” via Katie Glueck and Jonathan Martin of The New York Times — Biden is giving effective control of the campaign to Dunn, a veteran Democratic operative and top adviser to him. “She will be working closely with us on campaign strategy and overall coordination on budget and personnel as we build a bigger campaign for the next phase,” according to a campaign email obtained by The New York Times. But two senior Biden officials said Dunn is doing more than that — and that she will have final decision-making authority, a decision that came at the behest of the former vice president.

Joe Biden’s campaign makes a major shake-up, elevates Anita Dunn to the top adviser.

Biden on Pete Buttigieg: ‘This guy’s not a Barack Obama’” via Sarah Mucha and Eric Bradner of CNN — Biden mocks Buttigieg‘s experience as a small-city Mayor in a new digital ad the former vice president’s campaign is using on YouTube and Facebook in New Hampshire. The ad opened a bitter new chapter in the Democratic race, with Biden belittling Buttigieg on the campaign trail Saturday and the former Mayor’s supporters responding by calling Biden dismissive of those in small cities and towns. Biden, who is attempting to turn around his flagging campaign after a fourth-place finish in Iowa, dismissed comparisons between his attacks on Buttigieg and Hillary Clinton‘s criticism of then-Sen. Barack Obama‘s limited experience when the two were primary rivals in 2008. “Oh, come on, man,” Biden told reporters in Manchester. “This guy’s not a Barack Obama.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Buttigieg reluctantly embraces his barrier-breaking candidacy” via Ryan Lizza of POLITICO — For the most part, the historical impact of a gay man winning Iowa has been something that has been thrust upon Buttigieg — by the media, by proud gay activists — rather than something that he has boasted about. In recent years there have been vastly different approaches to identity politics in the Democratic Party. The pattern has been that the first to have a realistic shot at breaking a barrier is more circumspect. Buttigieg is in the complicated space of being a barrier breaker: He’s willing to celebrate and ruminate on the history when pressed, but being defined as a gay candidate is not part of his strategy to win.

Iowa debacle could make Florida primary more important” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Florida Democrats will see 16 names on their presidential primary ballot, including candidates who already have dropped out, such as Cory Booker and Julian Castro. More candidates likely will drop out before Florida’s March 17 primary date, but the ballot had to be finalized back in December to allow time for printing. If the race remains muddled deep into the primary calendar, Florida could play a key role in the nomination. That scenario looks more likely now, with Iowa’s vote-counting problems resulting in the state failing to give the type of big lift or devastating defeat that can help winnow the field.

Tweet, tweet:

A Democratic race among mostly white men leaves many women, minorities feeling abandoned” via Dan Balz of The Washington Post — Despite having two women and an Asian American sharing the stage at the debate in New Hampshire, right now the Democratic race appears to be a contest among two white men in their late 70s, Sanders and former Vice President Biden, and another in his late 30s, Buttigieg. Another septuagenarian, former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg, is waiting to pounce, depending on the results of the first four primaries and caucuses. This represents an unexpected turn for a party whose success in the 2018 midterms depended heavily on an outpouring of support and activism by women and whose failure in 2016 was the result, in part at least, of a falloff in turnout among voters of color.

— NH HORSE RACE —

Tomorrow is the New Hampshire primaries, the first actual votes — notwithstanding the Iowa kerfuffle — cast in the 2020 primary season. Here’s a rundown of the latest polling leading into the primaries.

Buttigieg is moving slightly ahead of Sanders in New Hampshire, according to a new Boston Globe/WBZ-TV/Suffolk University poll. The former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor is leading the Vermont independent Sen. by one percentage point among likely Democratic presidential primary voters. Buttigieg, increased his support in New Hampshire to 25%, versus 24% for Sanders, in the Paul that has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points. Sen. Elizabeth Warren saw a small increase to 14% for third place, while former Vice President Biden held steady at 11%.

Polls are showing Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders in a statistical tie in New Hampshire, within the margin of error.

In a February 8 poll from the Suffolk University Political Research Center, Sanders takes the lead with 24%, with Buttigieg second with 22%. Warren receives slightly more than 13%, for third place, with Biden at a little over 10%. All other candidates are in the single digits, with about 12% undecided. This poll also has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

A recent NBC News/Marist poll taken four days before the primary finds Sanders with 25% of likely voters, while Buttigieg gets support from 21%. This puts the two leaders within the poll’s 4.7% margin of error. Warren receives 14% (slightly up from the 13% last month), and Biden is fourth with 13% (he had been at 15%).

CNN polling conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center gives Buttigieg a more significant boost in Sanders. However, the Vermont Senator still leads with 28% of likely Democratic primary voters, slightly more than the 25% backing him in mid-January. Buttigieg has risen six points to 21%, while Biden slides five points to 11% and Warren dips to single digits with 9%. Buttigieg’s gains come almost entirely at Biden’s expense, CNN notes.

— THE NEUROSCIENCE OF PRESIDENTIAL PREFERENCES —

During the 2016 presidential primaries, SPARK Neuro, a company examines brain waves and other physiological signals to understand the subliminal mind, decided to evaluate people’s reactions to the Democratic candidates.

As Sue Halpern writes in The New Yorker, the company designed a test to learn how people actually felt, as opposed to what they say.

Traditional political polls, a small section of the three-billion-dollar public-opinion-research industry, are often widely conflicting and somewhat unreliable. One reason for this, according to SPARK Neuro CEO Spencer Gerrol, is that people tend to say what they think others want to hear — referred to as a “social desirability bias, the innate desire to be liked”— are vulnerable to “groupthink,” or they say nothing because they don’t want to be judged.

“This is especially problematic in politics,” Gerrol told The New Yorker, “hence all the errors in polling and all of the mistakes in campaign decisions.”

Subconscious feelings are seen as more reliable, because they can’t be easily gamed or swayed by outside forces.

“We’re not really conscious of our emotions in real-time,” Gerrol said. “Our algorithm is not reading minds. It understands if you are paying more attention or less attention and if you have stronger or weaker emotions, and to some degree, what the nature of those emotions are.”

“The firm might take on issues, like gun control or climate change, to help advocates craft more effective advertisements, he told me, and has chosen not to take on tobacco companies as clients,” Halpern writes. “It is currently working with the Department of Defense to understand the specific appeal embedded in terrorists’ recruitment materials in order to make equally powerful counter-propaganda.”

— D.C. MATTERS —

Donald Trump’s post-virus, preelection boom” via Dion Rabouin of Axios — The Wuhan coronavirus outbreak is already scuttling supply chains and wreaking havoc on companies around the world that do business in China, but if analysts’ projections are correct, the rebound from the virus could help propel the U.S. economy to new heights right around the time of the 2020 presidential election. With Trump touting the stock market’s performance and job growth as critical accomplishments, that bounceback could play a major role in the election’s outcome. S&P Global expects the outbreak to “stabilize globally in April 2020, with virtually no new transmissions in May.

Donald Trump is enjoying a post-virus bump.

Trump’s Mar-a-Lago: Strikes, tweets and major decisions are made, away from public scrutiny” via Christine Stapleton of the Palm Beach Post — Presidents dating back to the Founding Fathers have conducted White House business from afar while visiting their hometowns or foreign countries. But Trump has amped up that tradition, conducting domestic and foreign policy actions that have defined his presidency at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private residence and oceanfront club. Unlike other presidents on holiday from Washington, Trump makes himself accessible to those rich enough to pay his club’s $250,000 membership fee, donate large sums to his campaign, attend society fundraisers or stand for hours along a road in rain or heat, hoping to be among the few adoring fans occasionally invited back to Mar-a-Lago for snacks and photos with the president.

Trump impeachment aides leave White House post-acquittal” via Alayna Treene of Axios — Trump’s impeachment gurus, Tony Sayegh and Pam Bondi are leaving the White House after his acquittal in the Senate. Sayegh and Bondi were hired to run an anti-impeachment war room amid the House impeachment investigation, but now that the president has been acquitted, the two plan to return to their former jobs. Bondi, the former two-term Florida AG, will continue at Ballard Partners, where she chairs the firm’s Corporate Regulatory Compliance Practice. Sayegh, who had served in a public affairs role for Trump’s Treasury Department and has a close relationship with Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr., will return to Teneo as a managing director in New York City.

Trump appoints admiral with Miami ties as recovery czar for Puerto Rico” via Jim Wyss of the Miami Herald — As Puerto Rico is struggling to recover from hurricanes and earthquakes, the White House confirmed that it’s appointing U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Peter Brown as its liaison for the island. In a statement, the White House said Brown “will coordinate United States Government efforts to build the infrastructure and resiliency of Puerto Rico.” The U.S. territory of 3.2 million people has been hit by a series of natural and political disasters in recent years that are strangling its economy. To complicate matters, island authorities have only had access to a fraction of the $48.5 billion in recovery funds that Congress has approved since.

Happening todayGillum will join representatives of civil-rights groups for a conference call to oppose Trump’s nomination of Alabama federal Judge Andrew Brasher to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, 11 a.m. Call-in number: 1-877-615-4339. Code: 8967765.

Florida Bar passes on Miami-Dade Democratic Party complaint against Matt Gaetz, says separate inquiry already underway” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Florida Bar has confirmed it has a file open regarding Gaetz‘s conduct during the House impeachment investigation into Trump. The news comes one day after the Miami-Dade Democratic Party announced they had filed a complaint of their own. The complaint alleged Gaetz violated Florida Bar rules by attempting to barge into closed hearings during the House investigation. A Florida Bar spokesperson said they had not yet received the complaint from the Miami-Dade Democrats. Party Chair Steve Simeonidis initiated that complaint. But because a separate file has already been opened, the spokesperson explained the body would not be acting on Simeonidis’ complaint either way.

Val Demings blasts firing of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman” via Antonio Fins of the Palm Beach Post — “The president might fire Lt. Colonel Vindman, but he cannot damage the power of truth,” Demings said in a statement. “He might smear the public servants who stood up to his corruption, but he cannot debase their honor. He might attack the families of those who oppose him, but he cannot weaken their bonds of love and loyalty. With every corrupt act, this president only accentuates the integrity of those who stand against him.” Vindman, a key witness in the impeachment inquiry last fall, served as an aide on the National Security Council. He was fired in apparent retaliation by the White House and administration for his closed-door and public testimony in the Ukraine hearings on Capitol Hill.

— THE TRAIL —

There are 62,000 pending citizenship applications in Florida. Here’s what that means for 2020” via Lautaro Grinspan of the Miami Herald — In 2020, bureaucratic delays in processing naturalization applications and an enduring backlog of tens of thousands of pending cases at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) could keep scores of would-be Florida voters from the ballot box. For local advocates, that’s cause for alarm: “In Florida, we know that elections are won by razor-thin margins,” said Andrea Mercado, executive director of the New Florida Majority. “So, every vote matters, and every vote from a naturalized citizen matters.” As of last September, the national naturalization backlog stood at nearly 650,000 pending applications. In Florida, that number was 62,079 — a more than 75% increase compared to the number of backlogged cases in the state at the same time five years ago.

Room for one more: Chelle DiAngelus seeks path in CD 7 Republican field” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The evolving field of Republicans seeking a shot at taking down Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy in Florida’s 7th Congressional District now includes DiAngelus who sees a path for someone with experience in the complexities of health care. The Longwood Republican became the seventh active candidate in the CD 7 field after she joined the race last month, a race from which three others already have dropped. She spent most of her professional career as an executive at Florida Hospital, now AdventHealth, including several years as vice president for strategic planning, navigating the hospital company’s numerous hospitals, stand-alone emergency rooms, affiliated medical practices, and health care providers through the complexities of the health care market.

Stephanie Murphy draws yet another challenger.

Personnel note: Trey Stapleton joins Amanda Makki’s congressional campaignStapleton has led statewide and national media efforts for political leaders and government administrations across the nation. In Florida, he helped secure victories for Scott’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign, Attorney General Bondi’s 2014 reelection campaign, and served as communications director for the Republican Party of Florida. “Amanda has made the American dream her reality, served our country after 9/11, and fought for others throughout her career,” Stapleton said. “Her passion to serve and ability to lead are what will make her a great representative for the people of CD 13, and I am honored to be a part of her team.” Makki praised Stapleton’s experience in GOP politics and his service in the United States Air Force.

Daughter of football coach Bobby Bowden runs for State Attorney in Okaloosa” via Jim Little of the Tallahassee Democrat — Ginger Bowden Madden, a longtime prosecutor and daughter of famed football coach Bowden, has filed to run as State Attorney for the First Judicial Circuit. Madden is currently a prosecutor in Okaloosa County. Madden said: “Our police, sheriffs’ offices, and other first responders do a magnificent job as our first line of defense. It is the State Attorney’s responsibility to see that work through to its proper conclusion, to put dangerous criminals behind bars and keep our neighborhoods safe.” Madden will be running as a Republican against her current boss, Chief Assistant State Attorney Greg Marcille, for the top prosecutor job in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties.

— LOCAL —

JSO: Van deliberately crashed into Republican registration tent” via Teresa Stepzinski of the Florida Times-Union — Jacksonville police say a driver intentionally crashed a van through a tent where Duval County GOP volunteers were registering voters Saturday afternoon. Nobody was injured in the incident at the Walmart Supercenter in the Sandalwood neighborhood, Lt. Larry Gayle of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office told reporters. Several Duval County GOP volunteers were working at the registration tent when a white man in his early 20s driving an older brown van pulled up toward the tent. He then drove through the tent, endangering the lives of the workers and damaging the tent and tables, Gayle said. The driver then stopped, got out of the van, and took a video of the scene before he “flipped off” the victims and fled.

A Jacksonville man drove into a GOP voter registration booth.

Brandon man arrested after threatening to assassinate Donald Trump” via News Channel 8 — The Metropolitan Police Department arrested 25-year-old Roger Hedgpeth outside the White House. Hedgpeth reportedly approached a U.S. Secret Service police officer on patrol and said, “I am here to assassinate President Donald Trump.” He then told the officer he planned to do it with a knife, which the Secret Service officer confiscated after a pat-down search. Hedgpeth was moved to a hospital for a mental health evaluation, where he will be held until further notice. He was arrested for threats to do bodily harm and the possession of a prohibited weapon.

’Project Freebird’ used meetings at Orange Park resort to craft JEA sales process” via David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union — Newly released documents and interviews with key players in JEA’s attempt to potentially sell the utility show how utility executives worked with bankers and attorneys last summer to lay the groundwork for putting the utility up for sale. JEA executives met with outside attorneys and investment bankers who flew into town for three days of sessions last July at The Club Continental, a resort hotel in Orange Park. They even had a code name for the privatization process — Project Freebird — and a timeline that anticipated a referendum in August 2020 for voters to decide if they approved a sale of JEA. All that activity unfolded while the JEA board was saying nothing in public about the possibility of selling JEA.

Regrets? On eve of JEA investigation, Council President has a few” via Mark Woods of the Florida Times-Union — Scott Wilson stood on the steps of City Hall and pledged to get to the bottom of all things JEA. Then, even before the committee started meeting, another rock was turned over, a Fan Cam photo unearthed — with the image of Wilson sitting between Mayor Lenny Curry and then-JEA CEO Aaron Zahn, beverage in hand, at a baseball playoff game in Atlanta. Wilson didn’t realize what he was getting into when the Mayor invited him. When he showed up at the airport, he didn’t know who else was going — and that once he found out, he should’ve decided not to go. Yet he still got on the plane. “It was a dumb decision,” he said.

Is Tampa going its own way on toilet-to-tap?” via Charle Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — Is the city’s hot-button plan to convert highly-treated wastewater to drinking water really dead? Or has it just slipped into stealth mode? There isn’t a clear answer. But speculation has picked up, thanks to both a sentence in an obscure report submitted by Tampa to the regional water utility last month, and a bill currently winding its way through Tallahassee. Tampa City Council members recently requested more information about the city’s intentions regarding its “Tampa Augmentation Project” — a plan that would turn up to 60 million gallons of reclaimed water dumped into Tampa Bay each day into drinking water instead, after additional purification.

Another city hit by ransomware attack. This time the police department is the target” via C. Isaiah Smalls of the Miami Herald — The North Miami Beach Police Department is the latest agency to suffer a cyberattack. City officials confirmed the breach, saying they discovered the ransomware. The affected computer systems were immediately shut down, but public safety services haven’t been interrupted, the city said. “Our Police Department continues to conduct all operations to keep our residents and streets safe,” a statement from the city says, “and citizen calls for assistance will continue to be responded to promptly.” An ongoing investigation has yet to conclude whether other departments or services were hacked.

Pulse survivor research could offer first-ever look at how victims and families move on after tragedy” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The Orlando United Assistance Center, established in the aftermath of the Pulse tragedy, is hoping to reach out to those who survived, immediate family members of those who were slain, and the first responders who were there the morning of June 12, 2016. The results could not only help evolve services but could provide first-ever research on how such populations get on years after tragedy strikes. The center has been the focal point of social and psychological services offered to those three groups. The study, which will include a survey and focus groups, is expected to expand research and responses beyond what has been studied in communities devastated by mass shootings in cities like Aurora, Colorado, and Connecticut.

’Pro-life sanctuary’ bill blocked from Santa Rosa Commission agenda. Here’s why” via Annie Blanks of the Pensacola News Journal — Santa Rosa County Commissioner Board Chairman Don Salter is refusing to put a resolution on the meeting agenda that would declare Santa Rosa County a “pro-life sanctuary,” saying the item is too controversial and is above the county’s purview. The resolution, which is only symbolic and would proclaim the county as being officially anti-abortion, was proposed by District 2 Commissioner Bob Cole. “I think it’s too controversial,” said Salter, who describes himself as a pro-life Republican. “I think it’s above the Board of County Commissioners’ purview. Talking with our legal counsel, I think we all feel the same way. We’d be happy to take it up at public forum.”

Greyhound racing at Sanford Orlando Kennel Club nears end of an era” via Tobie Nell Perkins of the Orlando Sentinel — The greyhounds still sprint around the track twice as fast as Usain Bolt. They make money for owners, gamblers and track employees for whom dog racing is a way of life. But decades after Earhart and Elvis came and watched, the sport is fading. The death knell came in November 2018, when Floridians overwhelmingly voted to end greyhound racing. Amendment 13 not only banned the sport but made it constitutionally illegal. That meant all 11 of the Sunshine State’s greyhound tracks would have to close their doors by the end of this year. Both racing fanatics and animal welfare activists say the greyhounds will find safe homes. Adoption groups say the waiting lists for dogs are long.

They’re demolishing a funky Grove hangout for something new. Can it be just as groovy? via Andres Viglucci of the Miami Herald — For many long years, Scotty’s Landing hung on as one of Coconut Grove’s favorite, not-so-secret spots in which to while away the hours. Tucked away behind a marina, Scotty’s nurtured a shaggy-dog, old-Grove ambiance that is rapidly disappearing elsewhere. With plastic chairs under a tarp and a big banyan tree, famously so-so food, live music on the weekend and a panoramic close-up view of Biscayne Bay, it was a good place to bring friends and your hound and relax with a beer or two. Or three. No more.

— TOP OPINION —

Less taxes, less government and more freedom? Not by passing E-Verify mandate.” via Al Cardenas for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The mantra of the Republican Party, led by icons like U.S. Sen. Connie Mack and Gov. Jeb Bush, used to be “less taxes, less government and more personal freedom.” The effort to mandate that Florida employers use the federal E-Verify employment eligibility verification system fails in all three of those goals. The E-Verify mandate does not lower the tax burden on Floridians. In fact, while it may not technically be a “tax,” it will increase the cost of doing business in Florida and, ultimately, the cost of almost everything we buy. It is a stealth tax for which Florida businesses and consumers will be forced to pay.

— OPINIONS —

We can’t afford a voting rights foe on the 11th circuit” via Andrew Gillum for the Tampa Bay Times — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved immediately to resume processing federal judicial nominations. One of those is Andrew Brasher for the 11th Circuit, which includes Florida, Alabama and Georgia. Brasher has devoted himself to opposing voting rights. And that makes him an especially bad fit for a circuit in which those rights are under serious attack. For Republicans determined to snuff out voting rights, Brasher is an ace in the hole: As Deputy Alabama Solicitor General, Brasher filed an amicus brief in the Shelby County case in favor of gutting the VRA. As reported by the Alliance for Justice, “Brasher also defended the state’s felon anti-voter law that disenfranchised over 286,000 Alabamians, more than half of whom were black.”

Keep higher-Ed president searches open” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — The Florida Legislature wants to throw a blanket of secrecy over the searches for the presidents of all 12 state universities and 28 state colleges. The proposal has been around for years, but it’s gaining steam this Session and that’s not a good sign. The bill is based on a flawed assumption. As Speaker Oliva said secrecy is necessary because “we don’t get the best pool of candidates” to run our universities. It is poor public policy to hide the names of people who seek to lead our public universities, control their multibillion-dollar budgets and make decisions that affect the lives of people and communities. As taxpayers, we deserve to know.

How tuition vouchers for poor kids became a middle-class entitlement” via Mac Stipanovich for the Tampa Bay Times — You would expect the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program created last year by the Legislature would have three threshold requirements: the voucher applicant attends a failing public school; the voucher applicant moves to a better private school; and while the families of the voucher applicant need not be as poor as church mice, they at least are not middle class. And you would be wrong. Not one of these things is a requirement for receiving a private school voucher. The many defects in the private school voucher program are vexing from a public policy perspective, but none more so than the purposeful lack of transparency and accountability.

Manny Diaz, Jason Fischer: vacation rentals need predictability, uniformity” via Florida Politics — Vacation rental owners and tourists have been in a state of flux due to rules and regulations that differ from one city or county to the other. That is why we have filed Senate Bill 1128 and House Bill 1011 to create predictable and uniform regulations related to vacation rentals in Florida. The bills will protect homeowners and consumers by clarifying the rules for everyone with a single, statewide system handling vacation rental licensing, inspections and the verification of state tax registrations. This legislation would help all jurisdictions — even those that currently do not have ordinances regulating vacation rentals. The proper place for the regulation of vacation rentals is the DBPR — just like the rest of the hospitality industry.

Your independent access to important information threatened by bill in Florida Senate, House” via Don Coble of Calais Today Online — If Sen. Gruters has his way, you will lose independent access to legal notices. Senate Bill 1340 will be heard at the Judiciary Committee’s meeting. Meanwhile, the House’s companion bill, HB 7, already has passed through committees and will be heard on the House floor. State law requires each county to post its legal notices with a local publication with paid subscriptions. If SB 1340 and HB 7 are passed, counties no longer would be required to post legal notices, or they could hide them on their own website. That means no oversight to the issues that affect all of us.

Ask Orlando: Could an Iowa election fiasco happen in Florida?” via David Whitley of the Orlando Sentinel — Elections are serious business, and they are the topic of this week’s Ask Orlando question. A reader wanted to know why he couldn’t vote for Buddy Dyer or anyone else in the most recent Orlando mayoral race. “I was looking forward to voting but could not because I am in “Unincorporated Orange County,” he wrote. I knew the answer wouldn’t fill an entire column, however, so I’ve been waiting for more to play with. Thank you, Hawkeye State.

— MOVEMENTS —

If lawmakers-turned-lobbyists break rules, Legislature should punish” via Steve Bousquet of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Frank Artiles’ career as a member of the Legislature ended very quickly. Still, he dusted himself off and soon returned the way many ex-lawmakers do. He became a lobbyist. But now there are new questions about whether Artiles has run afoul of a rule the House adopted shortly before he left town. Artiles is registered to represent five clients, including Freytech, a Miami company that wants $8 million in the next state budget to remove toxic blue-green algae from Florida waters. The House project request, which directs state money to a specific vendor, lists Artiles as its only lobbyist. If a six-year ban on lobbying by former legislators rings a bell, it should. You probably voted for it.

Frank Artiles is already lobbying the Legislature. Should he be punished?

Personnel note: Foley & Lardner adds on Katie Kelly Kelly has joined Foley & Lardner’s State and Local Government Solutions Practice as a public affairs adviser; she will be based in the firm’s Tallahassee office. Most recently, Kelly served as Legislative and Governmental Affairs Chief for the Suwannee River Water Management District, where she was responsible for directing the Office of Legislative and Governmental Affairs. In this capacity, Katie served as the liaison to federal and state officials, community leaders to advocate the District’s legislative priorities effectively and efficiently. “We welcome Katie Kelly. She will strengthen our ability to serve clients in the Capitol and across Florida,” said Jim McKee, managing partner of Foley’s Tallahassee office.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Joshua Aubuchon, Holland & Knight: Dave & Buster’s

Albert Balido, Anfield Consulting: Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Taylor Biehl, Capitol Alliance Group: Fraternal & Charitables United

Ronald Brise, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart: Frontier Communications Corporation

Matt Bryan, David Daniel, Thomas Griffin, Jeff Hartley, Lisa Hurley, Jim Naff, Teye Reeves, Smith Bryan & Myers: Florida Urban Medical and Educational Services, Millennia Management Group

Robert Burleson, Ballard Partners: Continental Heavy Civil Corp

Brecht Heuchan, The Labrador Company: Florida Academy of Anesthesiologist Assistants

James McFaddin, The Southern Group: Non-Secure Programs

David Ramba, Ramba Consulting Group: Kendall Investors 172

Daniel Sibol: PACE Center for Girls

Matthew Ubben, Confianza Consulting: 3MB Construction

— ALOE —

Florida rolling out red carpet for Indies” via Kristin Fiore of the Villages Daily Sun — In a movie industry dictated by sequels and remakes, independent films are filling a gap that just keeps getting wider. “Audiences are demonstrating that they will support a well-crafted, character-driven independent film, voting with their ticket purchases at the box office,” said Margo Lange, CEO of ArtAffects Entertainment, a motion picture distribution company. Audiences in The Villages are no exception. More than 50% of the movies shown at Rialto Theatre, Old Mill Playhouse and Barnstorm Theater are indie movies, according to Deborah Mills, operations director at The Villages Movie Theaters. “Most independent films that open here end up being No. 1 in the country,” added Craig Wolf, manager at Rialto Theatre. “We’ve gained a reputation. They call us up.”

PETA claims victory after SeaWorld says no to trainers riding atop dolphins” via Lori Weisberg of the Los Angeles Times — The decision to move away from such showy theatrics in the dolphin shows was disclosed in a letter sent by a SeaWorld attorney to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The letter was addressing a shareholder proposal made last December by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which asked that SeaWorld prohibit trainers from riding on dolphins’ backs and standing on their faces. As of last December, PETA held 163 shares of SeaWorld stock and has owned at least $2,000 worth of common stock for some time.

There will be no more trainers riding dolphins in SeaWorld.

Spring training: Time for pitchers, catchers and cheaters” via Ronald Blum of The Associated Press — This year the players bring along dark clouds of scandal — the 2017 World Series champion Houston Astros have been tainted by their sign-stealing scam and the 2018 champion Boston Red Sox have been accused of similar subversion. Teams hope once workouts start, the stain will fade. “I think those stories lines will weave in and out, but that spring training is that juncture for individual fan bases to be optimistic about what the season ahead holds and it shifts back to that,” Toronto Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro said. “There’s a natural kind of rhythm to spring training that diverts to the positive stories.”

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to our good friend, Franco Ripple, communications director in Fried’s office. Also celebrating today are Carrie HenriquezCeleste Lewis-Hemanes, and Jamie Wilson. Belated wishes to Pinellas GOP Chairman Todd Jennings and Brian Swensen.

___

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

Written By

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and 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.

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

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

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