Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 2.11.20

Sunburn Orange Tally (8)
Here’s the day that was — and will be — in Florida politics.

Could the fact that Monday night’s Capitol Press Corps Skits were the 65th iteration of this annual lampooning of Florida politics be portentous? 

As one wag put it after the show came to an end: “When the House and Senate videos get more laughs than the skits themselves, maybe it’s time for them to retire.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis didn’t attend the event, but his alter ego, played by Jake Stofan of Capitol News Service, made a couple appearances in skits about DeSantis’ connection to Ukrainians Lev Parnas (Renzo Downey of Florida Politics) and Igor Fruman (Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida), and a “Newlywed Game”-style quiz show with First Lady Casey DeSantis (Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times). The Governor also was taken to task for darting out of press appearances in the song “Fight for Your Right (to Gaggle), a takeoff on a Beastie Boys hit in the ’80s.

But seeing and being seen is part of the $30 price of admission ($75 for VIPs, which got them front-and-center seats and a cheese plate) and stars of The Process were in attendance. Among those spotted were Attorney General Ashley Moody and her staffers Whitney Ray and Lauren Shenone; Sens. Ed Hooper, Joe Gruters, and Keith Perry; and Reps. Evan Jenne, Jamie Grant, and Carlos Guillermo Smith. 

Heidi Otway of SalterMitchell and her husband, Richard, were in the house and proudly bragging on their daughter, Hailey Otway, a model/actor from Orlando who served as the skits’ director and was engaged just a day earlier.

Others attending included Christina Johnson, Kevin Cate, Trimmel Gomes, Jackson Peel, Christian Minor and Jon Costello.

One serendipitous moment occurred when both the Senate video and the final press skit featured a trio of notorious gadflies who make regular appearances during the public comments portion of the House and Senate committee meetings — Brian Pitts of his advocacy group Justice 2 Jesus, conspiracy theorist Greg Pound and Clay County’s Sex and Buds guy.

In the Senate’s offering, Sen. Oscar Braynon II as Pitts shared tips to the other two crusaders — played by Sen. Dennis Baxley and Rob Bradley — for maximum effectiveness, including carrying stacks of paper, proper branding of their cause and challenging legislators with the phrase, “have y’all read your own staff analysis?”

The press corps featured the trio appearing before a committee, including Arek Sarkissian of Politico Florida and Florida Politics’ A.G. Garcanski as well as Isaac Morgan of Florida Phoenix, who finished up the skits with a twist on one of Pitts’ well-known truisms, “if the skits are too long, something’s wrong.”

While the house was nowhere near full and the applause fairly unenthusiastic, the efforts were all for a good cause. Proceeds from the admission price benefit the Barbara L. Frye Scholarship Fund, which awards scholarships to students pursuing careers in journalism.

Scoop — A plan put forward by the House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee would hand the keys to Florida’s two smallest public universities over to the state’s flagship institutions.

The proposal (PCB EDC 20-03) would fold Florida Polytechnic University into the University of Florida while New College of Florida would become a satellite campus of Florida State University.

Subcommittee Chair Randy Fine, a Brevard County Republican, told Florida Politics that the mergers aim at reducing the cost of education at state universities.

Florida Poly
Florida Polytechnic University could be brought into the University of Florida fold.

“We have an obligation to taxpayers to generate degrees at the lowest possible cost. Unfortunately, degrees earned from Florida Poly and New College cost an order of magnitude more than they do at the other 10 universities,” Fine said.

Florida Poly, based in Lakeland, was spun off from the University of South Florida in 2012 and opened for classes in 2014. New College, based in Sarasota, began as a private college before joining the USF system and ultimately regaining independence in 2001.

With 1,425 students, Florida Poly is the No. 11 state university in terms of enrollment. New College is the smallest state school with about 800 students.

Under the plan, each pairing would submit a merger application to the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, an accrediting body for universities throughout the southeastern U.S.

Upon approval, the larger schools would absorb all property, funding and faculty positions.

— TODAY’S SUNRISE —

House lawmakers advanced a bill requiring a mandatory minute of silence before school. Bill sponsor Kim Daniels downplayed the religious aspects of her bill by calling it a moment of silence or meditation.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— A Senate committee advanced a proposed constitutional amendment to impose eight-year term limits on members of the local school board.

— A house committee passes a bill designed mandate that pedestrian crossings use flashing red lights … or none at all.

— The annual fight over alimony reform will play out in a House subcommittee.

— State Sen. Manny Diaz discusses his bill that seeks to eliminate any local regulations over vacation rental platforms like Airbnb. Diaz believes it’s the state’s responsibility.

 — The latest on Florida Man, who is getting a mental health exam after threatening to assassinate the President.

To listen, click on the image below:

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@ChrisMurphyCT: Yesterday: 97 died of Coronavirus in China alone. Today: President Trump announced plans to cut funding for global health programs by 34%. It’s like a unilateral, willing surrender to pandemic disease. Hard to believe.

@MaggieNYT: “46! 46!” the crowd in NH is chanting at Don Jr.

—@aedwardslevy: very hard for me to understand why the parties do not determine their primary calendar by just letting the warmest states vote first

@JMartNYT: The @JoeBiden “neighboring state” spin downplaying N.H. gonna melt Tuesday night if two of top three finishers are from Indiana and Minnesota

@EversTre: Had a friend say they saw an [Barack] Obama endorsement ad of [Mike] Bloomberg and I said he hasn’t endorsed anyone. Then I saw the ad — wow — it’s not an official endorsement, but nobody but campaign hacks will know that. Biden must be pissed. I’m a little surprised Obama hasn’t protested

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

@GrayRohrer: Ah yes, it’s “I hate everything about your bill, but I will vote for it to ‘move it along'” time in Session

Tweet, tweet:

@BSFarrington: So, whoever decided to schedule press skits at the same time #8 @FSUHoops is giving #7 @DukeMBB a beat down clearly isn’t a college hoops fan.

@JimRosicaFL: And @Rob_Bradley has just won the 2020 @FLPressCorps Skits. Congratulations, Senator.

— DAYS UNTIL —

South Beach Wine and Food Festival — 8; Ninth Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas — 8; Roger Stone’s sentencing — 9; Nevada caucuses — 11; “Better Call Saul” Season 5 premiers — 12; 10th Democratic presidential debate in Charleston — 14; South Carolina Primaries — 18; Super Tuesday — 21; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 31; Florida’s presidential primary — 35; “No Time to Die” premiers — 55; Florida TaxWatch Spring Board Meeting begins — 64; TaxWatch Principal Leadership Awards — 65; Florida Chamber Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 94; “Top Gun: Maverick” premiers — 136; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 153; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premiers — 157; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo start — 164; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 189; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 195; First Presidential Debate in Indiana — 231; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 239; Second Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 247; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 254; 2020 General Election — 266.

— TOP STORY —

Prosecutors recommend Roger Stone serve 7-9 years in prison” via Zachary Basu of Axios — Federal prosecutors recommended in a sentencing memo that Donald Trump associate Stone serve 87—108 months in prison — or 7-9 years — for crimes that include obstruction of justice, lying to Congress and witness tampering. Stone, one of several Trump associates to be indicted as a result of the Robert Mueller investigation, was found guilty in November of lying to Congress about his efforts to learn more about when WikiLeaks would publish damaging emails about 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Stone is set to be sentenced on Feb. 20.

Roger Stone is looking at up to 9 years in prison.

— DATELINE: TALLY —

Ron DeSantis praises Donald Trump for Everglades restoration fundingDeSantis commended the President for including $250 million for South Florida Ecosystem Restoration (SFER) in his budget request to Congress. This comes after DeSantis recently sent a letter to Trump asking that he include $250 million in his request to Congress to build on last year’s $200 million in federal Everglades restoration funding. DeSantis said: “This $250 million in federal funding, combined with more than $300 million of state funding for the Everglades in my recommended budget, will help us achieve our long-term environmental goals. The ball is now in Congress’s court to grant the President’s request so we can continue our efforts of restoring one of America’s most prized natural resources.”

Ron DeSantis thanks Donald Trump for boosting Everglades funding.

At Session midpoint, lawmakers still ignoring clean-energy bills that could slow harmful climate change” via Laura Cassels of Florida Phoenix — One of the bills would create a master plan for installing electric-vehicle (EV) charging stations on state highways. The other would allow public schools to use rooftop solar arrays to power their buildings. Seemingly going nowhere are proposals to convert state operations to 100% clean energy, create a state health report on climate-induced health problems, grant tax credits for carbon farming to reduce carbon in the atmosphere, and require improved energy efficiency in state facilities and fleets. “But for bills to create a master plan for EV charging infrastructure, there isn’t any legislation moving that would directly reduce greenhouse gases,” said Susan Glickman, Florida director at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

There were many pot bills filed in the Legislature this year. Will any be heard?” via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald — No committee has yet to hear any of the wide range of bills filed to address a list of issues in Florida’s medical marijuana program. Without a constitutional amendment to be implemented or the prodding of DeSantis to make moves, there is little motivation for leadership to take up marijuana bills. Here’s a summary of what the Legislature isn’t doing on marijuana this year: bill to waive the $75 medical card fee for patients who are veterans; bill to eliminate the vertically integrated business model in Florida’s medical marijuana law, undo the cap on the number of licenses and legalize marijuana for adult use; bill to allow marijuana retail facilities to sell products from companies aside from their own.

House wants $3.8M for pre-K test — The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee approved a bill that would set aside $3.8 million to develop a standardized test for Florida preschoolers. As reported by Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida, the funding is part of a larger package intended to provide more accountability for the state’s voluntary pre-K schools. Alongside the funding is a grading scheme for schools where they would be measured based on the results of the proposed thrice-yearly test.

— LEGISLATION —

Changes sought for E-Verify proposal” via the News Service of Florida — The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. David Simmons, is scheduled to consider a controversial proposal (SB 664) that would mandate all public and private employers use E-Verify, a federal program that checks the legal eligibility of new workers. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Tom Lee, is the strictest E-Verify proposal filed in the Legislature. Simmons is seeking to exclude farmers and agricultural employers, including those who hire, solicit and transport seasonal migrant workers, from the mandate. Simmons’ proposed changes would also expand the definition of public contractors and subcontractors to clarify that they need to have 10 employees or more to be required to use E-Verify.

David Simmons will be considering an altered E-Verify bill. 

For your radar — E-Verify could cost Florida 253K jobs — Ahead of that critical Senate hearing on E-Verify legislation, FWD.us on Tuesday will release a new study showing potentially devastating economic consequences. If employers all must verify employment eligibility using a federal E-Verify system, the report by Dr. Rick Harper finds, Florida likely will lose 253,500 jobs, $10.7 billion in lost earnings and $1.25 billion in state and local tax revenue. That’s based on fallout from similar requirements put in place in other states, but experts say Florida’s dependence on construction, agriculture and tourism could make the consequences here even worse. The study is embargoed until 8:30 a.m., but when it’s live, it will post here.

Contentious alimony bill gets second House hearing” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — A bill that would end so-called “permanent alimony” will go before the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee on Tuesday. HB 843 would prioritize durational, or “bridge-the-gap,” alimony over long-term alimony and set a cap at half the length of a couple’s marriage. HB 843 opens the door for courts to approve alimony for short marriages where current law wouldn’t call for any award. The cap could shortchange payees in decadeslong marriages where long-term alimony is appropriate. Supporters of the bill argue that the need for reform stems from the existence of “permanent alimony,” something that the Family Section of The Florida Bar says does not exist.

Bill would end tenure of longtime public advocate on utilities with major rate cases on the horizon” via Michael Moline of Florida Phoenix — Legislation that would force out veteran Public Counsel J.R. Kelly, who represents ordinary utility customers before the Florida Public Service Commission, passed its first committee test on the strength of a lopsided Republican vote. The bill (SPB 7052) would limit public advocates to as many as three four-year terms — 12 years total — in office. Kelly has already reached that milestone. The vote by the Committee on Innovation, Industry, and Technology came as the PSC prepared to undertake reviews next year of rates charged by Florida Power & Light Co. and Gulf Power Co. Should the bill become law, that could potentially leave the ordinary ratepayers with an untested representative against powerful utilities with their armies of lawyers.

Senators cautiously move forward with athlete pay” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — The Senate Education Committee unanimously backed a bill (SB 646), filed by Sen. Debbie Mayfield that is similar to a House measure (HB 7051). The House bill has been characterized as a “bill of rights” for Florida college athletes in outlining how they can earn compensation for their “name, image, likeness or persona.” Mayfield’s proposal was one of four bills filed for this year’s legislative session after California passed a law in 2019 that would allow college athletes to hire agents and sign endorsement deals starting in 2023. But Mayfield’s bill drew concerns from several Republicans. Sen. Simmons said the proposal would help sports agents but said he could not see how it would improve the college system.

Lawmakers inching toward mandating moment of silence in public schools” via Ryan Daly of WFSU — Sponsors of a bill that puts a moment of silence at the top of each day in Florida’s public schools say it’s about mitigating stress in a hectic world. The bill is cruising through both chambers, but some are warning that it’s rooted in Judeo-Christian values. “Recent research proves that few people are able to experience even a moment of quiet reflection before plunging into daily life activities,” said House sponsor, Jacksonville Democratic Rep. Daniels, who saw her bill pass the House PreK-12 Appropriations panel. “Our students would be served well, during this moment of silence, to collect themselves for the day ahead, to make a mental or emotional transition from a hectic situation before school is starting.”

Ride-share advertising bill clears another Senate committee” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Sen. Jeff Brandes’ ride-share advertising bill cleared its second committee stop. The Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology committee advanced the bill with little debate and only one Senator, Audrey Gibson, voting against it. The bill would clear the way for limousine companies to operate similarly to transportation network companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft and allow such companies to share the same regulations. Brandes’ bill would also allow ride-share companies to use digital advertising on top of vehicles operating under the platform if drivers, who typically operate under a company’s platform with their own vehicles, agreed to use the billboards.

Jeff Brandes is pushing advertising on ride-sharing vehicles.

Joe Gruters’ drones for law enforcement officers bill soars through final committee” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Gruters‘ bill (SB 520) would authorize drone use for crowd control, gather evidence and post-incident use. The Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee advanced the legislation 7-1 with Republican Rep. Travis Hutson casting the lone dissenting vote. An amendment, filed by committee Chairman Sen. Lee, narrowed the possible use of drones from firefighting and other disaster management to only law enforcement. “To me, it makes sense to try to narrow this down and test this only with respect to law enforcement and doing investigations after a crime has been committed or a traffic accident,” Lee said. Questions over citizens’ 4th amendment rights had tainted the original bill.

— TODAY IN CAPITOL —

Happening today — The Florida League of Cities holds its Legislative Action Days to discuss priorities for the 2020 Session, 8 a.m., Capitol Complex.

Happening today — The Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, The Arc of Florida, the Florida Public Transportation Association and the Florida Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged host a conference and rally, 10:30 a.m., in front of the Old Capitol.

Assignment editors — State Sen. Gary Farmer and state Rep. Joseph Geller are hosting a news conference highlighting their bill seeking to repeal provisions providing for the death penalty for capital felonies, 11:30 a.m., Room 333, Capital Media Room.

Assignment editors — State Rep. Adam Hattersley will host a news conference to highlight proposed legislation to amend the Florida Endangered and Threatened Species Act, 1 p.m., 4th floor Rotunda.

The House Ways & Means Committee meets to workshop about possible tax relief, 9:30 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The Senate Agriculture Committee meets to consider SB 1414 from Sen. Debbie Mayfield, which seeks to expand a state law protecting hunters, trappers and people who are fishing from harassment, 10 a.m., Room 301, Senate Office Building.

The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee meets to consider SB 1128 from Sen. Diaz Jr., which seeks to preempt local regulation of vacation rental properties, 10 a.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.

The Criminal Justice Committee meets to consider SB 688 from Sen. Tom Wright, which seeks to boost penalties for those hunting bears or in possession of freshly killed bears out of season, 10 a.m., Room 37, Senate Office Building.

The Senate Health Policy Committee meets to consider SB 1370 from Chair Gayle Harrell, which seeks to mandate ambulatory surgical centers and hospitals to review staff members about patient safety and report the results to the state, 10 a.m., Room 412, Knott Building.

The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider HB 1091 from Rep. Fine, which seeks greater penalties numerous types of environmental violations, 1:30 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider HB 1163 from Rep. Colleen Burton, which seeks to provide exemptions for the “Certificate of Need” regulatory process for specific intermediate care facilities for people with developmental disabilities, 1:30 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider HB 843 from Rep. Alex Andrade, which seeks to reform the state’s alimony laws, 1:30 p.m., Room 404, House Office Building.

The House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee and the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee meet to consider HB 771 and SB 378 from Sen. Lee and Rep. Erin Grall, which seeks to eliminate the state’s no-fault auto insurance system. House subcommittee meets at 1:30 p.m., Room 306, House Office Building. Senate committee meets at 2 p.m., Room 412, Knott Building. 

The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee meets to consider SB 152 from Sen. Brandes, which seeks to add dental therapists as licensed health care providers, 2 p.m., Room 301, Senate Office Building. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee meets to consider SB 664 from Lee, which seeks to require employers to use the federal E-Verify system to authenticate the immigration status of workers, 2 p.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.

The House Appropriations Committee meets to consider HB 7065 from Rep. Ralph Massullo, which seeks to bolster school security, 4 p.m., Room 212, Knott Building.

— GOV. CLUB BUFFET MENU — 

Beef chili with pinto beans; mixed garden salad with dressings; white bean and Peppadew salad; Texas country potato salad; deli board, lettuce, tomatoes, cheeses and breads; grilled BBQ chicken; slow-braised beef brisket with mop sauce; honey lime and corn tilapia; BBQ pit beans; green beans; julienne medley; strawberry shortcake for dessert.

— STATEWIDE —

FBI official addresses China influence investigations at Moffitt Cancer Center, UF” via Justine Griffin of the Tampa Bay Times — FBI Special Agent Michael McPherson painted a picture of espionage and fraud as he described the threat Chinese influence and exploitation poses to Florida’s research institutions and universities. McPherson, the field director of the Tampa office, spoke to lawmakers in Tallahassee about the federal investigations into Chinese meddling that has shaken Tampa’s Moffitt Cancer Center and the University of Florida in recent months. Several esteemed scientists have resigned amid the probes. “It’s not a fair playing field. They play by different rules,” McPherson said about China, which is accused of stealing grant research proposals from American institutions, and recruiting and paying American scientists to perform scientific work for China.

Florida Poly: No signs of foreign influence on research” via Gary White of The Ledger

U.S. Attorney for Northern District of Florida vows to prosecute undocumented immigrants” via Colin Warren-Hicks of the Pensacola News Journal — U.S. Attorney Lawrence Keefe gathered a collection of local media in anticipation of U.S. Attorney General William Barr speaking in Washington, D.C., concerning sanctuary cities. Keefe said he called his own news conference to assure residents that the “problems” connected with sanctuary cities don’t exist in Northwest Florida. Barr announced that the U.S. Justice Department was suing the state of New Jersey and King County, Washington, over their “sanctuary” policies that hinder federal immigration officers, according to The Associated Press. Keefe — like Barr — is no fan of sanctuary cities.

Embattled professional guardian Rebecca Fierle arrested” via Greg Angel of Spectrum News 13 — State agents arrested Fierle in Marion County, where she lives. Records show Fierle was booked into the Marion County Jail at about 6:30 p.m. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Fierle had been charged with aggravated abuse of an elderly person and neglect of an elderly person in connection to the death of Steven Stryker, a Brevard County man who died in her care last year. Charges are related to a series of criminal investigations being conducted by FDLE and the Florida Attorney General’s Office. Those investigations are ongoing. Fierle is expected to face a judge Tuesday for a first appearance hearing.

Rebecca Fierle is under arrest in connection to the death of Steven Stryker.

Appeals court rules against orchid grower’s attempt to obtain marijuana license” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — Louis Del Favero Orchids Inc. challenged a settlement agreement between the Department of Health and firms known in the industry as “one-pointers.” But a three-judge panel of the First District Court of Appeal ruled that Del Favero “was not a party to the joint settlement agreement and had not been denied a license based on any application filed.” The agreement resolved administrative complaints filed by the eight applicants and whittled the number of licenses expected to be available under a 2017 law aimed at implementing a constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana in Florida.

Think twice when disciplining teachers over ‘minor’ transgressions, Florida hearing officer warns” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — The hearing officer decided to use the case to point out that it’s become too easy for students to wrest control of a classroom away from a teacher with their accusations and protestations. Brenda J. Fischer has been an art teacher in Broward County since 1992. In this particular instance, Fischer had a student, referred to as M.G., who arrived late to class. Fischer told the student to stop operating on “Latin time,” and to follow “American time” because they were in the United States. She allegedly made similar statements about “Jewish time.” He noted, though, that Fischer did not appear to have ill intent — she said she was making a joke — and that she apologized several times.

Matt Caldwell denies rumors he’s angling to be RPOF Chairman” via Ed Dean of The Florida Daily — “When asked if he is running to lead the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF), former state Rep. Matt Caldwell offered a concise response. “What? If I was running for RPOF chair, I would have announced that,” Caldwell told Florida Daily when asked about it. … Florida Daily talked to a few party insiders that said they believe the rumors are coming from Christian Zieglar, the current vice-chairman of the RPOF.”

— CORONAVIRUS — 

Charlie Crist visits Tampa Bay health clinic to discuss possible preparations for coronavirus” via Sarafina Brooks of News Channel 8 — Crist visited the Community Health Center of Pinellas and met with medical staff to address preparations for any potential coronavirus outbreak in Pinellas County. “Coronavirus is a new virus which poses health risks to our community and patients. Certainly, we have some significant concerns regarding it,” Chief Medical Officer Dr. Nichelle Threadgill said. “Like influenza, it is an infection that can easily spread.” Earlier this month, Rep. Crist sent a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calling for greater action and transparency as the country prepares for to possibly combat the coronavirus.

Coronavirus slams Florida’s lobster industry” via Jim DeFede of CBS Miami — The coronavirus is causing the lobster season to end early for many lobstermen of the Florida Keys. “Traditionally, we fish to the middle or end of March,” lobsterman Gary Nichols explained. “But the Chinese have stopped the buying due to the coronavirus.” With the virus spreading across China, commercial flights from the U.S. were recently halted. But even before the airlines stopped flying, the major buyers in China were canceling orders for Florida’s spiny lobster. Fear surrounding the virus was hitting the country’s economy and keeping people out of restaurants. Florida lobster is considered a delicacy in China and is often the star of any celebratory dinner, especially during Chinese New Year. For Florida’s lobstermen, this is when prices soar.

Sorry, the coronavirus in Florida is a state secret” via Frank Cerabino of the Palm Beach Post — “We are bound by a specific statute and can’t release the information,” explained Alberto Moscoso, the communications director for the Florida Department of Health. Maybe. Maybe not. The state gave regular public updates on Zika, a mosquito-borne virus that infected more than 100 Floridians three years ago. There was no problem with public updates then. But we know precious little about the coronavirus in Florida. DeSantis casually dribbled out a little information during a press event at Omni Middle School in Boca Raton. “Everybody to this date that has been tested has come back negative,” he said. We don’t know anything about these everybodies or where they lived. Why the secrecy?

Manatee and Sarasota health departments aren’t talking about coronavirus” via Michael Moore of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Local health departments say they have been asked to direct questions and concerns about the deadly new virus, which has killed more than 600 people in China, to the state level. “Locally, we have been asked to send all questions regarding coronavirus to our state communication office for a response. I have CCed them on this email, but feel free to reach out to them directly at 850-245-4111. All the best, Steve,” read an email from Steve Huard, public information officer for DOH-Sarasota.

Miami’s Chinese New Year festival canceled amid fears of coronavirus” via NBC 6 South Florida — In a statement, organizers for the event, the Chinese Cultural Foundation, said: “Due to the worldwide concerns regarding 2019 Novel Coronavirus and our concern for the welfare and benefit of all our visitors, vendors, exhibitors, and sponsors, the 2020 Festival Committee has canceled the 2020 Chinese New Year Festival.”

Coronavirus is affecting the supply of sticks in the NHL” via Matt Porter of The Boston Globe — The coronavirus outbreak has halted work and travel in China, and the ripple effects are now impacting the NHL. New Hampshire-based Bauer and Montreal-based CCM supply roughly 75% of NHL players with sticks, which are highly customizable and made in small batches in China. With the country at a standstill, the NHL has been unable to get fresh stock. The only major stick-maker not affected is Warrior, which manufactures its sticks in Mexico and counts 22% of NHL players as clients. I’ve been looking for some [new sticks], and I think they’re kinda slowed up a bit,” Bruins forward Charlie Coyle said. “So, I am trying to make do … trying not to break too many right now.”=

— MOTHER NATURE —

FPL launches incubator for startups in fields of power and green energy” via Jeff Ostrowski of the Palm Beach Post — Florida Power & Light Co. will launch a startup incubator to spur innovations in the fields of energy and water. FPL will set aside space on its Juno Beach campus for entrepreneurs from around the world. Inventors with compelling ideas can apply for a package of support that includes office space, guidance from FPL execs, and $50,000 in cash. FPL said it aims to bring in 20 entrepreneurs as part of the initiative aimed at launching new companies and finding better ways to provide power. FPL, the state’s largest utility, said it opened applications. The project is known as 35 Mules, a nod to the animals that helped the FPL launch in 1925.

Orphaned panther kittens thriving at wildlife refuge” via Teresa Stepzinski of the Gainesville Sun — Cypress and Pepper had a rough start in life, but are coming into their own at White Oak Conservation — a 17,000-acre nonprofit preserve on the banks of the St. Marys River in Yulee, roughly 30 miles north of Jacksonville. The Brothers were scrawny and scared but feisty 2-week-old kittens when rescued by wildlife biologists and veterinarians last July. State wildlife biologists stepped in to save the sibling pair because their 2-year-old mother had fallen prey to a debilitating disorder that researchers recently identified as feline leukomyelopath, which has stricken at least a half-dozen panthers and bobcats statewide. The cause of the neurological disorder remains unknown despite an ongoing investigation by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Cypress and Pepper are coming into their own. Image via White Oak Conservation.

Up to 70,000 Broward homeowners may be forced to buy flood insurance. Are you one?” via Mario Ariza of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The Federal Emergency Management Agency is updating its flood maps for all of Broward, and the number of properties in the county being redrawn into flood zones is significant. “We’re talking 60,000 to 70,000 properties,” says Carlos Adorisio, engineering unit supervisor at Broward’s Environmental Engineering and Permitting Division, and the county’s flood plain manager. Meanwhile, some homeowners may actually see their costs go down, officials say. Adorisio said another 10,000 properties in Broward will be leaving flood zones, though officials from FEMA recommend that all property owners in Florida carry flood insurance for precaution.

— 2020 —

Trump’s ‘dream scenario’ unfolds: Dem disarray ahead of 2020” via Gabby Orr of POLITICO — After months of meddling in the Democratic primary with presidential tweets, campaign ads and behind-the-scenes oppo dumps, the president and his team are taking a break to let the nominating contest play out naturally and taking bets on when — not whether — it will devolve into an epic intraparty conflict. “The campaign doesn’t have to do anything but step back and watch the Democrats demolish themselves,” said a GOP operative close to the Trump campaign. “This is like a dream scenario.” There is also looming uncertainty surrounding Bloomberg’s quarter-billion-dollar campaign and cleanup-or-bust strategy for Super Tuesday, when 14 states will vote on March 3.

New polling shows Bernie Sanders taking top spot in New Hampshire as Joe Biden falls” via Quinnipiac University — In the wake of the Iowa caucuses and heading into the New Hampshire primary, there is a dramatic shift in the Democratic primary race for president as Sanders claims front-runner status for the first time, overtaking Biden. Sanders gets 25% of the vote among Democratic voters and independent voters who lean Democratic, while Biden gets 17%, Bloomberg receives 15%, Elizabeth Warren gets 14%, Pete Buttigieg receives 10%, and Amy Klobuchar gets 4%. No other candidate tops 2%. Biden no longer dominates on the critical question of electability, as 27% say Biden has the best chance of winning against Trump, while 24% say Sanders, 17% say Bloomberg, and 9% say Buttigieg.

Last-minute polling gives Bernie Sanders the lead in New Hampshire.

Is it Bernie’s party now?” via Michael Kruse of POLITICO Magazine — Nearly half a century has passed since Sanders started running for office, bumming money from friends to put gas in his beat-up blue VW bug, and now here he is, the often dour, oddly charismatic, undeniably indefatigable, 79-in-September Vermont Senator and self-described democratic socialist — heading into New Hampshire as at least the cofavorite to win. He’s leading in more and more polls. And he has become nothing short of a grassroots fundraising colossus, the possessor of a reservoir of resources that could let him run forever. In this panicky, high-stakes race to take on an emboldened Trump in November, Sanders is positioned as well as, if not better than, any of his many competitors to be the Democratic nominee.

Biden, struggling in New Hampshire, looks to avoid a knockout punch” via Mike Memoli of NBC News — One week after a disappointing finish in Iowa, the former vice president’s campaign is bracing for a similar result in New Hampshire — or perhaps an even worse showing. The former vice president pushed back on the idea his campaign was in trouble. Look, we’re just getting going,” Biden told “CBS This Morning,” arguing he hasn’t seen “any diminution” in national support and is still gaining endorsements. “You need to get 1,900 delegates or more. This is just getting started.” Seeking to reverse his slide, Biden launched his most aggressive attack against a fellow Democrat to date with a snarky campaign video diminishing Buttigieg’s work as Mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

Biden is preparing for the worst in New Hampshire” via Henry Gomez and Nidhi Prakash of BuzzFeed News — Biden finds himself two days away from the New Hampshire primary. He’s long been a beloved figure in the Democratic Party — a legacy enhanced by two terms as vice president under Obama, whom Biden has been using with increasing frequency as some sort of human shield against any suggestion that he represents an old and ineffective style of politics. But in 2020, he is stuck squarely behind the progressive ideological fire of Sanders and the youthful, hopeful promise of Buttigieg. His electability argument — which he clings to even though he was blown out in Iowa, the kind of Midwest state he’s supposed to appeal to — is now hanging by a thread.

Joe Biden is bracing for the worst in New Hampshire.

Biden campaign says it will push ahead regardless of New Hampshire results” via Jennifer Epstein of Bloomberg — “We believe that regardless of what happens tomorrow night, we’re going to continue on with our plans to compete hard in Nevada, South Carolina, Super Tuesday and beyond,” deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said at a Bloomberg News reporter roundtable in Manchester. The former vice president has made “very clear that he’s fighting for every vote here in New Hampshire,” Bedingfield said. But, she continued, “from the outset our campaign has argued that no candidate has been the Democratic nominee for president since 1992 without the support of African American voters.”

Biden super PAC warns of ‘doomsday scenario’” via Natasha Korecki of POLITICO — “A memo from the Unite the Country super PAC to donors … asserts that the party could pay a steep price if Sanders, Pete Buttigieg or Amy Klobuchar is chosen as the nominee. Most ominously, it raises the specter of Sanders and billionaire Mike Bloomberg squaring off at a split convention. Democrats must stand by Biden through the early stretch of the primary calendar to avoid that fate, the group implores. “Donors hedging their bets on Biden because of Bloomberg could be creating a doomsday scenario for Democrats everywhere,” the group’s treasurer, Larry Rasky, wrote. “The Sanders-Warren wing of the Party is ready for the Bloomberg fight. Democrats cannot afford a split Convention.”

Amy Klobuchar tries to turn a debate moment into momentum in New Hampshire” via Cleve Wootson of The Washington Post — After the debate, her campaign announced it had raised $1 million. By Saturday afternoon, they revised that number to $2 million. But Klobuchar, who has had strong debate performances in the past, acknowledged the challenge she faces at this inflection point: Can she turn a moment into momentum? The campaign is using its monetary bump to run television ads in South Carolina and bolster Super Tuesday efforts. Klobuchar is competing for moderate voters along with Buttigieg, who claimed victory in the Iowa caucuses, and Biden, who placed a disappointing fourth. To standing-room-only crowds, she sold herself as a Goldilocks for those who believe the 77-year-old Biden is past his political prime, and the 38-year-old Buttigieg is too young and inexperienced.

— “9 places to watch in New Hampshire” via Trent Spiner of POLITICO

— 2024 —

Tweet, tweet:

— D.C. MATTERS —

Trump rolls out conservative dream budget” via Jennifer Scholtes and Caitlin Emma of POLITICO Florida — “It’s merely a political stunt to gratify extremists in his party,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse. Even for some fiscal hawks, Trump’s new budget request rings hollow. “You might call a president’s budget aspirational. In a less charitable way, it’s really delusional,” said Steve Ellis, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense. The president’s fiscal 2021 suggestions are a mismatch with what lawmakers would accept. “So now the idea that they’re all of a sudden going to turn around and do things differently is not believable,” Ellis said, accusing the Trump administration of paying “lip service” to fiscal restraint while watching the federal deficit cruise to $1 trillion under the president’s leadership.

Donald Trump’s budget is a conservative dream.

White House creates a new school safety tool with help from Parkland families” via Alex Daugherty and Francesca Chambers of the Miami Herald — The website, schoolsafety.gov, provides resources that allow administrators, teachers, parents and law enforcement to take an assessment of their school district’s current safety practices to create an action plan. It’s the culmination of a year of work for many Parkland families. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said, “all students deserve a safe learning environment,” and the new website allows for communities to develop safety plans that meet their specific needs. Trump invited Parkland families for the official announcement — but at least one of the victims’ families was excluded from the gathering. Fred Guttenberg, who was removed from last week’s State of the Union for yelling at the President, said he was not invited to the school safety event.

— THE TRAIL —

Anxiety of a Sanders Democrat ticket begins to spread down the ballot in Miami” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Sanders’ strong showing in the Iowa caucuses and his polling lead heading into the first-in-the-nation primary are creating anxiety among Democrats who fear that having a self-described “democratic socialist” at the top of the ticket would hurt candidates in state and federal races. Those concerns — hammered by Biden during Friday’s primary debate — are especially pronounced in Miami, where hundreds of thousands of voters belong to families that have fled leftist Latin American regimes. “If he’s at the top of the ticket in 2020, it’s going to be a bad year for Democrats in Florida,” said state Rep. Javier Fernández, a Cuban-American attorney campaigning to flip what should be a competitive Miami-area state Senate seat from red to blue.

Elizabeth Warren nabs endorsements from prominent Florida Black leaders — Florida for Warren is announcing endorsements of 23 prominent Black leaders from across the state, led by state Sen. Bobby Powell. Among the other supporters included City Commissioners Gail Johnson of Gainesville and Joshua Simmons of Coral Springs; former congressional candidate Pam Keith, The Idea Inc. Managing Director Ebonni Chrispin, political strategist Jamecia Gray, Palm Beach educator Jasmin Lewis, Jamarah Amani of the Southern Birth Justice Network,  Broward Young Black Progressives President Amber Vaughan and reproductive justice activist Kayla Lawson. “What we need now is a president that speaks to the whole of who we are,” Powell said in a statement.

Ross Spano admits campaign money mistake, but claims it was based on bad advice” via Rob Finnerty of WTSP — When asked why Spano didn’t know the supporter limit was $2,700, he said: “In short what happened was I took a personal loan from friends and then I loaned that money to the campaign. We believed we could do it. I’d never done it before and got some council that we could — and operated under the assumption that we could.” Spano added: “Why in the world would I have to put myself through this for the past year?”

Spano
Ross Spano admits he received some really bad campaign advice.

José Oliva committee piles up $591,000” via the News Service of Florida — Oliva’s Conservative Principles for Florida Committee had nearly $1.6 million on hand as of Jan. 31. It reported spending only $70.92 in January. Contributions during the month included $165,000 from PACs linked to Associated Industries of Florida; $35,000 from a Florida Chamber of Commerce PAC; $25,000 from Ygrene Energy Fund Inc.; $25,000 from Gulfstream Park Racing Association; $25,000 from The Big Easy Casino; $25,000 from Florida Power & Light; and $25,000 from Disney Worldwide Services, Inc.

Jeff Hinkle tops HD 4 field in January fundraising” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Okaloosa Republican Party Chair Hinkle raised more than $9,400 last month, adding to his cash lead in the race to succeed Rep. Mel Ponder. Hinkle showed 31 checks in his January report, including a half-dozen for $1,000, the maximum allowable contribution for state legislative races. Max donors included consulting groups Like-minded Conservatives and Cliffside Consulting as well as aviation company Lynx FBO. The average donor to the Hinkle campaign chipped in a little over $300. To date, Hinkle as raised a little over $30,230 from donors.

David Jones to challenge Michael Grant in House District 75” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Jones, an Englewood Democrat, filed as a candidate in HD 75, where he will run on a pro-environment platform. “If we can send a person to Mars and create an Air Force, we can knock out blue-green algae and red tide here in Florida, and southwest Florida in particular,” Jones said. The retired Teamster spent most of his life in Toledo, Ohio before retiring to southwest Florida. But he’s worried environmental threats here will make fewer people follow him. “If I came here with a young family and I couldn’t use the beaches I wouldn’t be coming back,” he said.

Tommy Gregory cracks six figures in campaign donations” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Sarasota Republican pulled in $7,100 in new donations in January. That means he’s raised $101,464 toward his bid for a second term and holds $73,733 in cash on hand. By comparison, Democratic challenger David Fairey raised $10 in January, and $14,320 to date. He’s also loaned his campaign $4,500 and has $11,664 in cash on hand. Fairey jumped into the contest in August. The chief financial officer at Revcontent, he remains the lone Democrat in the race.

Tina Polsky enters 2020 Session with $45K on hand in defense of HD 81 seat” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Polsky pulled in more than $11,000 in January. That marks the last bit of fundraising she’ll be able to do until the end of the 2020 Session in early March. Still, it marked her second-highest monthly fundraising total of the cycle, behind only her Dec. 2019 numbers. She added more than $12,000 that month. The bump in Polsky’s fundraising push coincides with a new challenger entering the contest. Silmo Moura, a Boca Raton Republican with nearly two decades of experience as a real estate agent, filed for the House District 81 race in late November. Moura currently works with the United Realty Group.

Tina Polsky posted some strong numbers before the Session fundraising break.

HD 82 candidate Rick Kozell surpasses $250K raised in three months” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Republican candidate Kozell added another $57,000 in January, giving him more than $252,000 raised in his bid for HD 82. Kozell entered the contest in November, meaning he’s amassed that haul in just three months. So far, he’s raised more than $128,000 through his campaign and another $124,000 via his political committee, Rick Kozell for Florida. Kozell is one of four candidates seeking to succeed term-limited GOP Rep. MaryLynn Magar. He’s a former congressional candidate, having sought the seat in Florida’s 18th Congressional District in 2016.

Michael Grieco raises $63K in January in less than two weeks” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Grieco reached that number in less than two weeks of fundraising. That’s because lawmakers are barred from raising money during the Legislative Session. The HD 113 incumbent added a statement on the impressive January haul. “The bipartisan support we have received, both at home and in Tallahassee, has been humbling,” Grieco said. “I work hard, and I want to continue to do all my constituents in District 113 proud. Year 1 was a great success, as we brought home several million dollars in appropriations, passed two bills out of the house, and took strong vocal leadership positions on issues with statewide and local importance, all this while being a freshman member in the minority party.”

Demi Busatta Cabrera adds another $23K in bid for HD 114” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Republican Busatta Cabrera collected another $23,000 in January as she competes to replace Democratic state Rep. Javier Fernández. That total builds on a $56,000 haul by Busatta Cabrera in December. She’s added just over $80,000 since joining the race in early December. Busatta Cabrera, a former legislative assistant to Sen. Anitere Flores, entered the contest alongside former congressional candidate Michael Hepburn. Hepburn competed in the Democratic primary in Florida’s 27th Congressional District in 2018. But he appears to have withdrawn his HD 114 candidacy, as his name no longer appears on the Division of Elections website. With Hepburn gone, Jean-Pierre Bado is the only Democratic candidate remaining in the race.

Alex Penelas campaign touts more than $3M raised in bid for Miami-Dade Mayor” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Penelas added about $340,000 in January through his campaign and his political committee, Bold Vision. He previously served as Miami-Dade County Mayor from 1996 to 2004. “It is not easy to raise money when you have been out of politics for over 15 years, and it makes our continued success much more special because our support is authentic,” Penelas said. Penelas’ January haul will likely be enough to hold his lead in overall fundraising in the race. But Miami-Dade County Commissioner Xavier Suarez actually eclipsed Penelas’ January numbers. Suarez pulled in around $360,000 for his strongest fundraising month yet. He added more than $50,000 to his campaign and another $309,000 to his political committee, Imagine Miami.

Nick Sortal files for reelection” via the South Florida Reporter — Sortal, a Plantation City Council member known for being active in the community, has filed for reelection. Sortal has worked diligently communicating with residents, has improved the city’s relationship with public schools and has promoted a spirit of cooperation during council meetings since elected in November 2018. “I’ve loved helping our residents and guiding the city’s business for the past 18 months and have many goals in mind want to keep improving Plantation the next four years,” Sortal said.

— LOCAL —

Miami is the ‘most vulnerable’ coastal city worldwide” via Daniel Cusick of Scientific American — New modeling by Resources for the Future, a nonpartisan economic think tank, reveals that “100-year floods” could occur every few years rather than once a century in many locations, endangering an additional 300,000 homes, 2,500 miles of roadways, 30 schools and four hospitals. Miami will also become “the most vulnerable major coastal city in the world,” RFF said, with hundreds of billions of dollars in assets under assault from winds, storm surges, coastal flooding, and sea-level rise. “The sheer numbers of people who will feel direct climate impacts in their lifetimes is very, very significant, and it points to why public policies are necessary right now to start reducing the risks,” said Daniel Raimi, a senior research associate at RFF.

Meet the Florida man who triggers Mike Huckabee” via Andy Marlette of the Pensacola News Journal — Walton County attorney Daniel Uhlfelder might have been trespassing on Florida beaches that Huckabee claims for his own. Or maybe he wasn’t. The sand below Uhlfelder’s feet was damp that morning. So, when it comes to allegations of trespassing on beaches in Northwest Florida, things just aren’t that simple. In defense of what Uhlfelder sees as the public’s right to enjoy Florida’s beaches, that the attorney has spent the last few years standing up and speaking out against a high-powered, politically-polluted effort to exclude Floridians and tourists alike from beaches that were once the lifeblood of ancient peoples and until recently, free for all to enjoy. “Standing up” is how Uhlfelder became the proverbial thorn in Mike Huckabee’s side.

Attorney Daniel Uhlfelder is the man who has been a major pain for Mike Huckabee. Image via the Pensacola News Journal.

Republicans vow ‘revenge’ at ballot box after volunteers nearly hit by van” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida — Duval Republican Party officials said Gregory Timm targeted the group because of their support for Trump. During a news conference in Jacksonville, they described how Timm nearly hit people, made an obscene gesture, and started recording the incident on his phone. They used the event to make a plea for donations to the party. “The only other explanation is some great hatred for tables and chairs,” said Dean Black, chairman of the Duval County Republican Party. Timm was arrested and appeared in Duval County court on charges of aggravated assault, criminal mischief and driving with a suspended license. The incident drew a tweet from Trump and became a Republican rallying cry.

Voting behind bars: Officials register inmates at Leon County jail” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — While the nation turns its eyes to Florida in advance of its presidential preference primary, the Leon County Supervisor of Elections went to jail to sign up potential voters behind bars. Voters who want to participate in the March 17 Democratic primary have until Monday, Feb. 17, to register. Speaking to reporters while his staff prepared to enter the Leon County Detention Facility, Leon Elections Supervisor Mark Earley explained that his obligation is to register as many people as he can to participate in the election. “That’s what we are here to do,” Earley said. To be sure, the procedure had been in place long before Earley or Sheriff Walt McNeil took office.

After heated debate, Santa Rosa County poised to be Florida’s first ‘pro-life sanctuary’” via Annie Blanks of the Pensacola News Journal — After more than two hours of public forum input, most of which were from residents who were in favor of the resolution, the board voted 4-1 to put the resolution on the regular agenda. Board Chairman Don Salter, who represents District 3, was the lone “no” vote. Salter — who described himself as a pro-life Republican — blocked the resolution from being placed on the agenda, saying the item was too controversial and was out of the county’s purview. “We represent all the people of Santa Rosa County. My county cellphone is full of emails from people who do not want this imposed on them,” Salter told the News Journal. “So everybody’s got their own opinion. I know who I am, and I know what I stand for.”

’Dixie Highway’ may be renamed in Broward. Now the public can weigh in.” via Lisa Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Arguing the name Dixie represents a “racialized and romanticized reference” to the South, Broward County Mayor Dale V.C. Holness is proposing to rename the roadway. It will be discussed at the County Commission meeting. Dixie Highway through Broward was completed in 1915, the same year the new county was carved out of parts of Dade and Palm Beach counties. But in some communities, the road — which has the same name as the song “Dixie,” dubbed the anthem of the Confederacy — came to represent racism and segregation. It’s a divisive issue: Proponents of the name say it’s a part of history while those who oppose the name say it glorifies slavery and white supremacy.

These Keys residents believe in Bermuda Triangle weirdness. Now they’re in a TV series” via Gwen Filosa of the Miami Herald — Don’t tell Chuck Meier the Bermuda Triangle isn’t a truly mysterious and dangerous place. Now, the Florida Keys resident is part of a new television series where he and three other Keys mariners hit the water to investigate several cases of alleged tragedies at sea. “Curse of the Bermuda Triangle” debuted Feb. 9 on the Science Channel’s website. The next episode airs Feb. 16 at 10 p.m. Meier, a former sheriff’s deputy, Navy rescue diver and military contractor, is joined by longtime captain and former Coast Guardsman Paul “Captain Moe” Mottice, first mate engineer Mike Still, who has logged thousands of hours in the Triangle, and former Army Cavalry Scout Dave Cziko to explore the ocean’s depths.

Residents express love for the Weeki Wachee River, but worry what recent study will bring their way” via Barbara Behrendt of the Tampa Bay Times — What was new was the science — a detailed, data-laden report proving that recreational overuse is degrading the river. People beaching their kayaks and trampling the shoreline are killing vegetation and mucking up the water, it found. The report also offered a road map for reversing that damage while still allowing many of the recreational uses. County Administrator Jeff Rogers will recommend the county participate in a working group comprised of officials from all the agencies. They will determine how to tackle the problem and who will do what, based on their legal responsibilities.

— TOP OPINION —

Vladimir Putin’s Russia is propping up the Nicholás Maduro dictatorship in Venezuela” via Marco Rubio for The Hill — America now finds itself in a moment reminiscent of the Cold War era. Russia is expanding its involvement in our hemisphere, spreading its malign influence, and exploiting proxies like private military contractors throughout Latin America to advance Putin’s destructive objectives and protect Russia’s clients in Havana, Managua and Caracas. For instance, the Russian mercenary group known as Wagner has been deployed to Venezuela to beef up protection for Maduro and conduct other secret missions in the country. Their presence in the nation and elsewhere has had destabilizing effects in the region. By any metric, it is clear that Venezuela has spiraled into a regional catastrophe, one fueled by the foreign meddling of Russia, China and Cuba.

— OPINIONS —

Meet the lawmakers voting to weaken your access to Florida’s public records” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — Creating new Sunshine Law exemptions is a rare instance where Democrats — because new exemptions require a 2/3 vote — actually have the power to do something about it. But they don’t. Take Democratic state Sen. Victor Torres. A member of the Committee on Governmental Oversight and Accountability, he’s voted in favor of exempting addresses for judicial assistants and county attorneys. Sen. Randolph Bracy, a Democrat, was part of the Criminal Justice Committee’s unanimous vote for the Offender Review Commission exemption. Central Florida Republicans are in an exempting mood, too. Sens. Dennis Baxley, David Simmons and Kelli Stargel voted in committees for the judicial assistant exemption. One that did pass was the university president secrecy act, Rep. Scott Plakon voted in favor.

Florida’s teachers held up their end of the bargain” via Mike Thomas for the Tampa Bay Times — The high school graduation rate is up despite more strenuous academic requirements. What attracted me to the cause was that historically disadvantaged students have made the most progress. But reforms didn’t implement themselves. Their success depended on teachers. And while they may have hated the high-stakes testing, the micromanaging of their classrooms, the standardization of their jobs, and the endless reams of paperwork, they made it all work. They held up their end of the bargain, and the state of Florida most certainly did not. Teacher raises often didn’t cover the cost of living. In lieu of raises, they would get bonuses that couldn’t be counted on from one year to the next and were left out of pension calculations.

Amy Hamlin: Sweeping alimony changes will hurt Florida families” via Florida Politics — House Bill 843 and Senate Bill 1832 would make negative and far-reaching changes to the current alimony system, including doing away with long-term alimony and adopting the presumption of equal timesharing, along with other provisions that discount the concept that marriage is an equal partnership. First, long-term alimony is already being misleadingly referred to as permanent or lifetime alimony. Neither of these names are a correct description, as long-term alimony can always be modified at a judge’s discretion, upon a significant change in circumstance or a supportive relationship. Another troubling part is the presumption of equal timesharing, as a presumption of 50/50 timesharing wrongly assumes that all families are the same and should be treated the same.

Why legal notices should stay in newspapers” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — There are plenty of reasons to keep legal notices in newspapers. Those legal notices provide the public with information about the meat and potatoes of government. They alert citizens about proposed budgets and tax rates for cities, counties, school districts, and special taxing districts. They cover issues such as infrastructure plans, changes in land use, and other proposed ordinances. Residents may learn their property tax rates are about to increase, or that apartments or warehouses could sprout on nearby vacant land that was supposed to be set aside for single-family homes. There is strong support among Floridians to keep the requirement that state and local governments publish legal notices in newspapers.

— MOVEMENTS —

Jimmy Patronis appoints William Radford Lovett to Florida Prepaid College BoardLovett currently serves as the President of Southcoast Capital Management Corporation, chairman of TowerCom, LLC and managing director of Lovett Miller and Company. He formerly served as a member of the University of North Florida’s Board of Trustees, co-chairman of the Capital Campaign and president of the Foundation Board. “I have no doubt that his leadership and investment experience will be an asset to the premier college prepaid program in the country,” Patronis said.

— ALOE —

MLB plotting playoff expansion — with reality TV twist” via Joel Sherman of the New York Post — MLB is weighing a move from five to seven playoff teams in each league beginning in 2022. The team with the best record in each league would receive a bye to avoid the wild-card round and go directly to the Division Series. The two other division winners and the wild card with the next best record would host all three games in a best-of-three wild-card round. So, the bottom three wild cards would have no first-round home games. The division winner with the second-best record in a league would then get the first pick of its opponent from those lower three wild cards, then the other division winner would pick, leaving the last two wild cards to play each other.

Solar Orbiter blasts off to capture 1st look at sun’s poles” via Marsha Dunn of The Associated Press — Europe and NASA’s Solar Orbiter rocketed into space on an unprecedented mission to capture the first pictures of the sun’s elusive poles. “We’re on the way to the sun. Go Solar Orbiter!” said Cesar Garcia Marirrodriga, project manager for the European Space Agency. “It’s a fantastic moment … it’s like, well, we’re unstoppable.” The $1.5 billion spacecraft will join NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, launched 1 1/2 years ago, coming perilously close to the sun to unveil its secrets. While Solar Orbiter won’t venture close enough to penetrate the sun’s corona, or crown-like outer atmosphere, like Parker, it will maneuver into a unique out-of-plane orbit that will take it over both poles, never photographed before.

The Parker Solar Probe will give humanity its first good look at the sun’s poles.

UF research spending hit new high in 2019” via Florida Politics — The University of Florida spent nearly $929 million on research last year, according to a new report from the National Science Foundation, a 7.3% increase year-over-year — a record for the state’s flagship university. “UF’s faculty continue to excel at winning competitive research funding to conduct cutting-edge science and scholarship across a wide array of disciplines, from health and agriculture to engineering, the basic sciences and the humanities,” David Norton, UF’s vice president for research, said in a news release. Part of the growth over 2018 spending, which measured in at $865.1 million, came via a $32.4 million increase in spending on projects supported by the federal government. Federal projects accounted for $388 million of UF’s overall research spending last year.

What to expect from Samsung’s Galaxy S20 event” via Jon Porter of The Verge — At the top of the billing is almost certainly its flagship Samsung Galaxy S20 series of smartphones, but there’s also the foldable Galaxy Z Flip and a new pair of truly wireless earbuds. All the rumors this year suggest that there will be three main versions of Samsung’s flagship handset, down from the four we saw last year. There’s the regular Galaxy S20, the larger S20 Plus, and the premium S20 Ultra, which appears to be replacing the S10 5G from 2019. And yes, this means that Samsung is almost certainly going to skip the S11 through S19 and jump straight from S10 to S20.

Disney World ending ‘Star Wars’ stage show as Mickey ride ramps up” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — The last day for “Far, Far Away” is scheduled to be Feb. 22. That’s about 10 days before the debut of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, a dark ride created inside the Chinese Theater, which is the former home of the theme park’s Great Movie Ride. The dark ride opens to the public on March 4. The “Star Wars” show, produced multiple times daily, features Chewbacca, Kylo Ren, Rey, Darth Maul and Darth Vader. It also includes storm troopers marching in the streets. “Far, Far Away” had seven scheduled performances Monday. The change comes five months after the land dubbed Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened at Hollywood Studios.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Happy birthday to former Gov. Jeb BushHannah Kaplan Plante of Step Up For Students and Larry Williams.

___

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

Peter Schorsch

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



#FlaPol

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.

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