Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 2.12.20

Sunburn Orange Tally (1)
Commentary and links on Florida politics as crisp as your morning bacon.

It was a standard softball question, tossed out by a group of visitors to the Capitol building.

“What’s it like working in the Legislature?” 

If politics really were softball, you’d expect a base hit of an answer, nothing more. It’s challenging but exciting. Sometimes a little draining, sure, but it’s worth it. 

Then-Rep. Jeff Brandes, then in his second year, responded with a home run.

“You have to understand, guys,” he told the delegation. “The House is a paramilitary outfit. You have your generals and your colonels and your lieutenants, and it’s all top-down and it’s very structured, and you sort of know what’s going to pass and not pass.

Happy birthday, Sen. Jeff Brandes.

“But the Senate is like the Mogadishu warlords. They all sort of ward over different areas, they’ve got lots of autonomy. And you never know if you’re going to be stepping in front of a friendly warlord or not. Maybe you get your arm blown off …”

That answer, said political consultant Nick Hansen (who also reconstructed the quote from memory), “encapsulated Jeff.”

“He looked at the process; he made an assessment of it; he added some humor. He was somewhat self-deprecating as well. But it was true, and everybody got it.”

Brandes would finish out that term, then run for the Florida Senate. He’ll close out his fourth and final Senate term in November. On the occasion of another milestone today — his 44th birthday — there are at least 44 traits that helped Brandes become a widely respected voice for in a variety of areas, crafting legislation in technology, education, insurance, criminal justice, lowering taxes and transportation. But here are four big ones.

To continue reading Florida Politics’ tribute to Jeff Brandes on his birthday, click here.

— TODAY’S SUNRISE —

State lawmakers have been talking about the death penalty — but don’t plan to do anything about it.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Bad news for the smallest of the state universities. If one lawmaker gets his way, Florida Polytech and New College of Florida will be taken over by the University of Florida and Florida State University.

— A group called the Fines and Fees Justice Center is asking lawmakers to come up with some way for the court clerk’s office to collect fines and fees from people without suspending driver’s licenses.

— A bill preempting local regulations over short-term vacation rentals like Airbnb clears a Senate committee at the last minute.

— Floridians with disabilities rally in the Capitol Courtyard as lawmakers try to figure out how to deal with the waiting list for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Legally, they’re entitled to services, but the legislature has ways of getting around that. Valerie Breen, who runs the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, discusses the situation.

— A Florida man is sentenced to 10 years in prison for impersonating prosecutors and filing a bogus court document in his case file, attempting to dismiss charges in a previous incident of extortion.

To listen, click on the image below:

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@Parscale: With approximately 54% of precincts reporting, President Trump has already received more votes than Presidents Barack Obama (49,080), George W. Bush (52,962) and Ronald Reagan (65,033) in their respective reelection New Hampshire Primaries.

@SamStein: Look, maybe, just maybe, Susan Collins jumped the gun when she said she believed [Donald] Trump would be chastened.

@BrianSchatz: This scandal grows. The DOJ itself appears to have been corrupted by a President who rewards his friends and punishes his enemies. Media should treat this like a potentially explosive abuse of power even if this takes more than ten seconds to explain.

@TheRickWilson: No, everything is fine. Don’t worry; it’s just the Department of Justice is being run as the Trump family law firm.

@Poniewozik: The story of Trump jumping on [Mike] Bloomberg & stop-and-frisk (despite supporting it himself) shows how news is still trained to see all campaign strategy as: “My opponent is bad, so vote for me.” Which can miss the strategy: “My opponent is bad, we’re all bad, so just stay home.”

@RealDonaldTrump: Elizabeth Warren, sometimes referred to as Pocahontas, is having a really bad night. I think she is sending signals that she wants out. Calling for unity is her way of getting there, going home, and having a “nice cold beer” with her husband!

@RealDonaldTrump: Impeachment King [Tom] Steyer (how did that work out?) spent 200 Million Dollars and got less than 1% of the vote in Iowa, and only 3% of the Vote in New Hampshire. Could it be that something is just plain missing? Not easy to do what I did, is it?

@KevinCate: Come on, folks, @TomSteyer is in second or third in both Nevada & South Carolina. Now that diverse states are allowed to caucus and vote, this race is going to look really, really different. Media will discover the #SteyerSurge like it’s new, but it’s not.

@NateSilver: So apparently the candidate in 3rd place is a bigger story than the candidate in 2nd place, who in turn is a bigger story than the candidate in 1st place? OK.

@IElijahManley: Received a call from the Bloomberg campaign last week offering $6,500/mo with benefits for an advisory role on the campaign. That’s 100% more than I’m making now. My answer was, of course — No. I’m with @BernieSanders. They out here stealing people y’all!

@AmyKlobuchar: Andrew [Yang], I will miss you on the campaign trail. You’ve inspired so many new people to join politics. By thinking outside of the box, you will have a lasting mark in bringing new voters to the ballot box in 2020. And I’ve enjoyed hanging out with the #yanggang.

@AGGancarski: Gotta say, as someone with an alphabet soup last name, that complicated surnames do not play well in the south. That will factor into Dem primaries down here

@MDixon55: If you think the Senate’s E-Verify amendment is carve out heavy, wait until you see what the House is planning

— DAYS UNTIL —

South Beach Wine and Food Festival — 7; Ninth Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas — 7; Roger Stone’s sentencing — 8; Nevada caucuses — 10; “Better Call Saul” Season 5 premiers — 11; Suits for Session — 13; 10th Democratic presidential debate in Charleston — 13; South Carolina Primaries — 17; Super Tuesday — 20; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 30; Florida’s presidential primary — 34; “No Time to Die” premiers — 54; Florida TaxWatch Spring Board Meeting begins — 63; TaxWatch Principal Leadership Awards — 64; Florida Chamber Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 93; “Top Gun: Maverick” premiers — 135; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 152; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premiers — 156; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo start — 163; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 188; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 194; First Presidential Debate in Indiana — 230; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 238; Second Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 246; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 253; 2020 General Election — 265.

— TOP STORY —

Bernie Sanders edges Pete Buttigieg in NH, giving Dems 2 front-runners” via Steve Peoples, Kathleen Ronayne and Hunter Woodall of The Associated Press — Sanders won New Hampshire’s presidential primary Tuesday night, edging moderate rival Pete Buttigieg and scoring the first clear victory in the Democratic Party’s chaotic 2020 nomination fight. In his win, the 78-year-old Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, beat back a strong challenge from the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana. The dueling Democrats represent different generations, see divergent paths to the nomination and embrace conflicting visions of America’s future.

Bernie Sanders kisses his wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders, as he speaks to supporters at a primary night election rally in Manchester, New Hampshire.

As Sanders and Buttigieg celebrated, Amy Klobuchar scored an unexpected third-place finish that gives her a road out of New Hampshire as the primary season moves on to the string of state-by-state contests that lie ahead. … Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden posted disappointing fourth and fifth place finishes respectively and were on track to finish with zero delegates from the state. … The New Hampshire vote gives new clarity to a Democratic contest shaping up to be a battle between two men separated by four decades in age and clashing political ideologies. Sanders is a leading progressive voice, having spent decades demanding substantial government intervention in health care and other sectors of the economy. Buttigieg has pressed for more incremental change , preferring to give Americans the option of retaining their private health insurance while appealing to Republicans and independents who may be dissatisfied with Trump.

How Amy Klobuchar pulled off the big surprise of the New Hampshire primary” via Then came Friday night’s debate. … With roughly eight million people watching, Klobuchar challenged rivals like Buttigieg (“a cool newcomer”) and drew contrasts with her more progressive rivals. As the marathon debate came to a close, her voice steady yet infused with the strained exhaustion of a Democrat in the Trump era, Klobuchar promised to bring compassion to the White House. It was a verifiable “moment,” with many political analysts calling it one of the most memorable deliveries of the debate. The campaign pounced, moving quickly on Friday night to turn the debate line into Klobuchar’s final ad in New Hampshire. In less than 24 hours, after an overnight effort to cut together the ad, her closing statement was on air in New Hampshire. Hours later, the campaign put nearly $250,000 into the cluttered New Hampshire television market for the final two days, more than any other candidate except Buttigieg.

“‘Blood in the water’: Joe Biden campaign reels after New Hampshire trouncing” via Natasha Korecki and Marc Caputo of POLITICO — By Tuesday night, Biden was so diminished, he fled the first-in-the-nation primary state before the polls even closed. Instead, he attended a “launch party“ in South Carolina, the state long considered his firewall, desperate to signal to nervous donors and African American supporters that he was not planning to throw in the towel. “There’s blood in the water,” said Quentin James, executive director of The Collective, a political committee that backs African-American candidates. “Black voters are starting to leave him now … A big reason lots of black voters were with Biden is they thought he was the best person to beat Trump. And they thought one reason for that is that he had the support of white voters. Now they see he has done so poorly with white voters and he no longer looks like the electability candidate.” The size and scope of the loss — he failed to crack double-digits or win any sizable city or town — challenged the wisdom of Biden’s strategy of not competing hard in New Hampshire.

— DATELINE: TALLY —

Assignment editors — Gov. Ron DeSantis, Enterprise Florida Inc. President and CEO Jamal Sowell and Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Ken Lawson will make a major announcement, 10 a.m., Florida State College at Jacksonville Administrative Offices – Board Room, 501 West State Street, Suite 405, Jacksonville.

Democrats try again to ban discrimination in private schools that take vouchers” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — Two Democratic lawmakers who want to forbid private schools that take state scholarships from discriminating against gay or transgender youngsters will try to include such language in an education spending bill that could be voted on this week. Reps. Anna Eskamani and Carlos Guillermo Smith have filed amendments that would require private schools that take scholarships to have written anti-discrimination policies more expansive than state law now requires. Their amendments would require schools to pledge in writing that they would not discriminate based on “a student’s or his or her parent’s sexual orientation, gender identity, gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, or protective hairstyle,” meaning if the student wore their hair in styles such as “braids, locks or twists.”

Anna Eskamani and Carlos Guillermo Smith are pushing anti-discrimination language into the state’s voucher program.

Homeowners blast legislation that would end local regulation of vacation rentals” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — A stream of anxious homeowners and government officials from Miami Beach to Tallahassee paraded before a Senate committee, urging lawmakers to reject a plan to preempt the ability of their cities to regulate short-term vacation rentals. They complained of vacation homes and apartments pricing long-term rental properties out of the market. And they warned of human traffickers exploiting short-term rentals to hide from the law. But homeowners who rely on short-term rentals for additional income also spoke up. They said small cities were ill-equipped to handle the regulation needed to license and watch their growing industry. They argued that the state better manages the task.

Insurers, homeowners push to end frivolous lawsuits” via Florida Politics — Florida property insurers recently delivered more than 1,000 signed petitions from Florida homeowners protesting frivolous lawsuits to state Rep. Mike Beltran at the Florida Capitol. The petitions were delivered in support of SB 914 and HB 7071, which address Florida’s unfair legal climate and reduce the burden of excessive lawsuits on Florida homeowners. Estimates show that homeowners’ property insurance rates could climb tenfold over the next 10 years. HB 7071 and SB 914, introduced by Sen. Brandes, would alleviate homeowners’ property insurance rates by cutting back on excessive attorney fees and end fee multipliers. The proposed legislation requires that attorney fees for claims involving property insurance must be fair and reasonable.

Happening Thursday — Communications Services Tax bill sponsors Sen. Travis Hutson and Rep. Jason Fischer joined by Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist and Florida Internet & Television (FIT), will host a ‘Cut the Tax on Tech’ news conference, Thursday, Feb. 13 at 8:30 a.m. at Florida’s Capitol Building, 4th-floor Rotunda, House side.

— LEGISLATION —

With Governor’s blessing, contentious E-Verify proposal passes first Senate stop” via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald — The sponsor of a controversial bill that would require Florida businesses to check the immigration status of new hires via “E-Verify” made two things clear. First, DeSantis wants the mandate. Second, the mandate is still very much “a work in progress.” “This is a centerpiece of the governor’s legislative agenda this session,” Sen. Tom Lee said in his opening statement. “And we want to make sure we’re doing what we can to not make the situation any worse than it already is.” The bill, which was briefly debated at the tail end of a three-hour committee meeting, passed 4-2 along party lines.

Tom Lee’s E-Verify bill made it past its first Senate committee.

Democrats fight back on Office of Energy move — House Democrats filed a string of amendments in protest of the chamber’s plan to move the Office of Energy out of Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried‘s control, Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida reports. The amendments cover a lot of ground — from requiring climate change studies to set a goal for Florida to be carbon neutral by 2050 — though Republican Rep. Holly Raschein, who chairs the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee, cast them all as “unfriendly.” Though the move has the backing of House Republicans, it hasn’t received the same reception in the Senate, which also has a GOP majority.

House advances bill creating ‘Florida Integrity Office’ — The House Appropriations Committee has moved forward with a plan to create a government accountability office within the Office of the Auditor-General. As reported by Jason Delgado of POLITICO Florida, the office would look into complaints regarding misuse of public funds at both the state and local levels. The office would cost the state $2.5 million, though the Auditor General has enough funds leftover from its current budget to cover the expense. HB 1111 previously cleared the Public Integrity and Ethics Committee, also with a unanimous vote. It now heads to its final committee, State Affairs. The Senate companion, SB 1538, has not made the agenda in its first committee.

Surprise proposal to fold Florida’s smaller universities into flagships fails the fair facts and truth review and analysis” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Halfway through this 2020 Legislative Session, the surprise proposal to merge the very well-regarded Florida Polytechnic University and New College into the University of Florida and Florida State University, respectively, fails close scrutiny on many levels. This proposed committee bill zeros in on only one statistic: cost per student. It doesn’t say anything about tuition costs for students, average debt out of school, employability of graduates, quality of programs, or any other factors that really matter to students, parents, state lawmakers, taxpayers and the future. The proposal also ignores the significant economic impact these smaller universities have on their communities, regions and our state – completely omitting any facts or math that accurately undermine the flawed reasoning in this institutional raid.

Stakeholders voice opposition to university merger plan and ease scholarships change” via Sarah Mueller of Florida Politics — The House Education Committee is set to consider a proposal (PCB EDC 20-03) that would consolidate Florida’s two smallest public universities into the state’s flagship institutions. That legislation would also turn the Effective Access to Student Education grant program, or EASE, from non-needs-based scholarships to aid for low-income students. Higher Education Subcommittee Chair Randy Fine is pushing the proposal. It would fold Florida Polytech into the University of Florida and New College of Florida into Florida State University. Fine said the mergers are aimed at reducing the cost of education at state universities.

Vern Buchanan backs New College independence — Count the Sarasota Congressman among critics of a controversial plan to make New College of Florida a branch campus of Florida State University. “I fully support New College’s independence and oppose efforts to merge this incredible institution with Florida State University,” Buchanan, a Republican, said. “New College is a fixture in our Sarasota community with a well-deserved reputation for academic excellence. Why mess with a college that U.S. News and World Report ranks as one of the top liberal arts schools in the country.” 

Alimony reform bill heads to final House committee with hesitant approval” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The proposal (HB 843) by Rep. Alex Andrade would do away with permanent alimony and would set the presumption of child custody time-sharing at 50-50. In the past, the Pensacola Republican has likened permanent alimony to “forced labor” by requiring payors to work past retirement age. Alimony recipients argued cutting permanent alimony would leave retirement-aged divorcees homeless, but Andrade disputed their claims. “There are 44 other states that have done away with it in the past, and you have not seen this massed movement to dependence on the state,” he said. Attorney Philip Wartenberg, representing the Family Law Section of The Florida Bar, said the bill is unnecessary because laws as they currently exist work fine.

Bad faith about bad faith — Tuesday’s Senate Banking & Insurance Committee saw Sens. Brandes and Lee accuse each other of being disingenuous. Supposedly a deal had been worked out to add a negotiated bad faith reform provision to Lee’s auto PIP repeal bill, SB 378. When Brandes tried to put that same provision onto his omnibus insurance bill, SB 1334, Lee objected. Ultimately, seeing the votes would cancel each other out, both Senators chose to TP their bills and live to fight another day. Commenting on the bad faith language after the hearing, William Large, president of the Florida Justice Reform Institute, said, “The law currently requires a civil remedy notice for first parties before they sue for bad faith. The trial lawyers don’t object to that; why do they object to the same notice now for third parties?”

Lawmakers look into taxing peer-to-peer rental car services” via Blaise Gainey of WFSU — A proposal in the legislature would apply the same surcharge regular rental car companies pay to transactions made through apps like Turo. But the same companies say they aren’t rental car agencies and shouldn’t be treated as such. Rep. Chris Latvala believes the users renting cars should have to pay the same fees they would if they were to rent from a place like Enterprise. “The bill makes it clear that the rental car surcharge and sales tax is levied on every renter of a vehicle in Florida includes rentals by peer-to-peer ride-sharing companies,” Latvala said. The surcharge is $2 per day.

Chris Latvala is looking to tax peer-to-peer car sharing.

Air ambulance bill flies through Senate committee — A bill that would close a loophole allowing air ambulances to surprise patients with large medical bills cleared the Senate Health Policy Committee on Tuesday, Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida reports. In 2016, the Legislature passed a measure blocking health care providers from putting patients on the hook for the portion of a medical bill for emergency care not paid by a patient’s insurance, also known as “balance billing.” The 2016 legislation did not apply to air ambulances.

Disabled facilities get boost in Legislature” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — Members of the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee unanimously approved a measure (HB 1163) that would allow providers to build institutions to house people with developmental disabilities without first having to obtain approval from the state through the “certificate of need” regulatory process. The bill wouldn’t cap the number of new institutions that could be built, nor is there an expiration date on the exemption. Bill sponsor Colleen Burton said the proposal is intended to provide more options for people with developmental disabilities who have severe maladaptive behaviors and co-occurring psychiatric diagnoses and for the parents who care for them after the October 2018 closing of a facility known as Carlton Palms.

Tweet, tweet:

Iguana go now: Lawmakers may ban sale, ownership of green iguanas, tegu lizards” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — A bill filed in the Legislature to prohibit the possession and sale of both green iguanas and tegu lizards has raised the ire of reptilian breeders and dealers. To cut down on their numbers, the legislation would outlaw possession of iguanas and the tegu, except for research and educational purposes. Dealers from across the state told the Senate Agriculture Committee that such a ban would put an end to a multimillion-dollar business that employs thousands of Floridians. They said the state’s nine-year-old controlled species permit (CSP) program — which enables them to run a business that exports reptiles to other states — has been a huge success.

— FHA HOSTS CLINICAL LEADERS —

For the second week in a row, the Florida Hospital Association (FHA) greeted members to Tallahassee to support policies that increase access to quality health care for all Floridians.

— Clinical leaders from around the state met with lawmakers and Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees on key issues impacting patients and communities.

State Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees meets with clinical leaders from the FHA in the Capitol.

— Among the FHA priorities: increased health care access, quality, patient safety, and lower health care costs. This Session, the Association also seeking increased transparency around patient safety culture in hospitals.

— Two bills of interest are House Bill 763 and Senate Bill 1370 on Patient Safety Culture Surveys.

— Also, the FHA recently joined Floridians Unite for Health Care to continue its support for autonomous practice for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) who have met increased practice standards, outlined in House Bill 607.

“We must support innovative, forward-thinking ideas that allow Floridians to receive the care they need when they need it,” said FHA Interim President Crystal Stickle. “Developing and retaining a workforce that is prepared to meet the demand for care in our growing and aging state is a top priority, especially in rural and underserved communities where access to basic health care services is limited.”

— TODAY IN CAPITOL —

Happening today: PhRMA researcher fly-in — A group of researchers from the biopharmaceutical industry will visit Tallahassee for one-on-one meetings with policymakers hosted by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. Lawmakers will have the opportunity to meet with the innovators working to develop cures and demonstrate the industry’s impact in Florida. Researchers visiting Tallahassee work on a range of issues like vaccines, immuno-oncology, and epilepsy.

Happening today — FSU Day at the Capitol, a celebration of everything Florida State University. Displays on the Plaza Level, 2nd- and 3rd-floor Rotundas, entertainment in the Courtyard, 6:30 a.m.

The House Education Committee meets, 9 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The House Health & Human Services Committee meets, 9 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Judiciary Committee meets, 9 a.m., Room 404, House Office Building.

The Senate has a floor session scheduled to debate its $92.83 billion budget (SB 2500), 10 a.m., Senate Chamber.

The House has a floor session scheduled to debate its proposed $91.37 billion budget (HB 5001), Wednesday, 1:30 p.m., House Chamber.

The Senate Military and Veterans Affairs and Space Committee meets to consider SB 1586 from Sen. Ed Hooper, which seeks to create the First Responders Suicide Deterrence Task Force, 4 p.m., Room 37, Senate Office Building.

The Senate Rules Committee meets to consider SB 630 from Sen. Debbie Mayfield, which seeks to allow cities and counties to regulate smoking in public parks, 4 p.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.

Happening today — The State Board of Education meets to receive a legislative update and consider new academic standards called Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (BEST), 9 a.m., Turlington Building, 325 West Gaines St., Tallahassee.

— GOV CLUB BUFFET MENU — 

Chicken noodle soup; mixed garden salad with dressings; egg salad; tomato mozzarella salad; deli board, lettuce, tomatoes, cheeses and breads; Yankee pot roast; spicy honey fried chicken; teriyaki grilled mahi-mahi with pineapple salsa; rice pilaf; green beans amandine; vegetable medley; key lime pie for dessert.

— STATEWIDE —

Appeals court wades into ballot order fight” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — A federal appeals court is scheduled to hear arguments in a challenge to a decades-old Florida law requiring candidates who are in the same party as the governor to appear first on the ballot. The Democratic National Committee, other national Democratic organizations and the Priorities USA super-PAC filed the federal lawsuit in 2018. In November, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker found the state law unconstitutional because it “imposes a discriminatory burden on plaintiffs’ voting rights.” The effect of being the first candidate listed on the ballot — known as the “primacy effect,” the “windfall vote” or the “donkey vote” — is especially meaningful in Florida, where razor-thin margins are typical in statewide elections.

Legionnaires’ outbreak at Florida prison adds 5 cases — and now they have scabies, too” via Ben Conarck and Carli Teproff of the Miami Herald — Over the past two weeks, officials with the Coleman Federal Correctional Institution complex near Wildwood issued incremental responses to scores of health complaints, eventually illuminating an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, a lung infection caused by breathing in water that contains legionella bacteria. On Tuesday, prison officials confirmed five more cases, bringing the total to 23, as well as an additional health concern: at least one case of scabies, a skin infestation caused by mites. Those with loved ones inside a women’s camp in the federal prison complex were already reeling from allegations of rampant sexual abuse and retaliation at the prison. Inmates at the facility say the testing has not been comprehensive, and the conditions there are abhorrent.

Coleman Federal Correctional Institution faces an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease — and scabies, too. 

In reversal, Florida to allow elbow strikes by fighters in Muay Thai martial arts matches” via Angela DiMichele of WUFT — The boxing commission for nearly two years has considered relaxing the ban. The conversation started after an email to regulators from Jeff Santella of Cape Coral, and the commission now says it has agreed to allow elbow strikes in sanctioned matches. The new proposal is making its way through the rule-making process. It requires a change to Florida’s administrative code. Once finalized, it will specify that striking with the elbow to any target is not a foul for amateur Muay Thai fighters. Santella, the Florida director of the World Boxing Council Muay Thai, said the old rule was akin to allowing a player in Little League Baseball to play every part of the sport except to use a bat.

— CORONAVIRUS — 

The Illness Now Has a Name, COVID-19” via The New York Times — The World Health Organization on Tuesday proposed an official name for the illness caused by the new coronavirus: COVID-19. The acronym stands for coronavirus disease 2019, as the illness was first detected toward the end of last year. The director general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, noted that the new name makes no reference to any of the people, places or animals associated with the coronavirus. The goal was to avoid stigma.

Global experts study promising drugs, vaccines for new virus” via Jamey Keaten and Maria Cheng via The Associated Press — The World Health Organization convened outside experts to try to speed the development of tests, treatments and vaccines against the new coronavirus, as doctors on the front lines experiment on patients with various drugs in hopes of saving lives in the meantime. The 400 scientists participating in the two-day meeting — many remotely — will try to determine which approaches seem promising enough to advance to the next step: studies in people to prove if they really work. “We prioritize what is really urgent, what we absolutely need to know to fight the outbreak, to develop drugs, vaccines,” said Marie-Paule Kieny, co-chair of the meeting and a viral-disease specialist at the French research institution INSERM.

Researchers need to speed the development of tests, treatments and vaccines against the new coronavirus, says viral-disease specialist Marie-Paule Kieny.

Rick Scott, still not trusting China, has several questions about U.S. efforts to protect Americans from coronavirus” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Scott has a list of questions for the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs ahead of the group’s roundtable on global pandemics. Scott wants to know if everything is “being done properly to contain the virus from spreading” on a cruise ship where several Americans are trapped. He also wants to know if appropriate efforts are being taken to protect passengers on board. Scott also plans to ask about reports claiming the virus can live for up to nine days on surfaces and about risks from Chinese imports, specifically agricultural and food products like imported seafood, grains and live animals and whether the U.S. should consider a ban on Chinese imports.

Surgeon General says Florida is clear of coronavirus — for now” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel —Despite suspected cases, Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees said the state has no confirmed patients with the 2019 Novel Coronavirus that has killed more than a thousand people in China. Twelve days ago, Broward County had a patient tested for coronavirus at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood. Test results have been taking three to five days at the main U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laboratory in Atlanta. Rivkees would not talk about patients under investigation in Broward County or elsewhere in the state — repeating only that there are “no confirmed cases,” indicating that the Broward case and likely others elsewhere in Florida have come back negative.

— MOTHER NATURE —

Dolphins shot, stabbed and killed off Florida coast. There’s a $20,000 reward for answers” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — Late last week, biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission found a dead dolphin from a bullet or sharp object off Naples, NOAA said. That same week, Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge experts found another dolphin with a bullet in its left side along Pensacola beach. In May, a dolphin was found dead with a puncture wound in its head off Captiva Island. The string of dolphin deaths has the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration offering $20,000 for information that leads to civil penalty or criminal convictions for those responsible. Call the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at 800-853-1964. Tips may be left anonymously.

Stuart continues to walk back potential lawsuit of Army Corps over Lake O” via Joshua Solomon of TCPalm — City Commissioners expressed a clear distaste for filing a lawsuit that would have little chance of success. That, they conceded, is the status of their proposed suit, first suggested one month ago. Since their initial talks, over concerns of the height of Lake Okeechobee and possible toxic discharges this summer, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has begun sending water south and west, which is part of what city officials have wanted. City Commissioner Merritt Matheson, the lead on the lawsuit, eased off the gas, given the current actions by the Corps. “But if in a week from now they go back, “I would certainly bring that up to my fellow commissioners and raise the alarm,” Matheson said.

Stuart City Commissioner Merritt Matheson is walking back a potential lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers, for now. Image via TCPalm.

Grapefruit a bright spot in citrus forecast” via the News Service of Florida — Grapefruit continues to outperform its early-season forecast, while the outlook for Florida’s orange crop dropped, according to an update on the 2019-2020 growing season released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “Entering the Valencia harvest period with relatively stable numbers remains a positive sign for Florida’s iconic citrus industry,” Florida Department of Citrus Executive Director Shannon Shepp said in a statement, adding that the grapefruit “production rebound is significant and presents an optimistic vision for Florida grapefruit in the near future.” The February forecast reduced the projected orange production by nearly 3%, from 74 million 90-pound boxes to 72 million boxes.

— 2020 —

’We’ve accomplished so much together’: Andrew Yang ends his campaign for presidency” via Rebecca Morin and Jason Lalljee of USA TODAY — “It’s clear tonight from the numbers that we are not going to win this race,” he told supporters at his campaign headquarters in Durham, New Hampshire. “We’ve accomplished so much together,” Yang continued. “We have brought a message of humanity first and a vision of an economy and society that works for us and fellow Americans.” Yang said his campaign highlighted real problems that communities are facing as the economy is being transformed by technology and automation. A universal basic income has become part of the mainstream conversation, he said. Yang, 45, is the founder of the nonprofit Venture for America, and before announcing his campaign for the presidency, he had never run for elected office before.

Andrew Yang out.

Michael Bennet ends campaign for President” via Jason Lalljee on USA TODAY — “I really want to say that I appreciate the fact that you gave me a chance here, and you’re giving all the other candidates a chance. I wish all those candidates well that are going beyond New Hampshire,” Bennet told supporters at a rally in the Granite State. “I think it’s fitting for us to end the campaign tonight.” Bennet had staked much of campaign’s future on the New Hampshire primary, forgoing months of campaigning in other early states to stick to the Granite State. But initial results showed Bennet trailing his top-tier rivals by double-digits. Bennet, 54, has served as a U.S. Senator from Colorado since 2009. He formally announced his candidacy in May.

Mike Bloomberg’s blunt defense of stop-and-frisk policy draws scrutiny” via Alexander Burns and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times — A recording of Bloomberg in 2015 offering an unflinching defense of stop-and-frisk policing circulated widely on social media, signaling that the former New York City Mayor is about to face more intense scrutiny as he rises in the polls as a Democratic presidential candidate. He offered a particularly blunt defense at the Aspen Institute in 2015: The Aspen Times reported then that Bloomberg said that crimes were committed overwhelmingly by young, male minorities and that it made sense to deploy police in minority neighborhoods to “throw them up against the wall and frisk them” as a deterrent against carrying firearms. “Ninety-five percent of your murders — murderers and murder victims — fit one M.O.,” Bloomberg said in the recording.

After a ‘gut punch’ in Iowa, a surreal feeling surrounds Joe Biden’s campaign” via Ben Terris of The Washington Post — Throughout this endless slog of a primary race, Biden has clung to his front-runner status primarily based on the fact that he could win. But after a “gut punch” fourth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, no one is sure exactly where he stands, least of all him. There’s a surreal feeling surrounding the Biden campaign’s efforts in New Hampshire. At first, he wasn’t even there, spending the day Thursday huddling with his team in Delaware trying to figure out a path forward. When he did arrive, Friday evening, he stood on stage and announced to the audience of nearly 8 million people watching the Democratic debate that he expected to lose the first-in-the-nation primary.

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Loving Elizabeth Warren means having a plan for when America breaks your heart” via Monica Hesse of The Washington Post — It was time to really think about Warren. Which really means sorting through what version of America you believe in — the one where we are ready to vote a woman into the Oval Office, or the one where we aren’t — and whether it’s the believing, one way or another, that makes your version true. “The thing is, I can picture her up there on the debate stage with Trump, and she’s debating him to pieces,” says Deb Wilson, a retired New Hampshire educator. “To pieces.” Trying to ignore Elizabeth Warren’s femaleness is an attempt to neatly sidestep the whole problem. To pretend that we have the capacity to vote entirely on merits. To behave as if each election can happen in a vacuum, uninformed by the elections and the hundreds of years of history that came before it.

Warren set to open Miami office — The Warren presidential campaign will open her first Miami office on Saturday, Feb. 15th. Warren becomes the second candidate to set up a Miami office after former New York City Mayor Bloomberg opened a campaign office in Little Havana last weekend. Warren’s spot will be located at 5804 Biscayne Boulevard, Suite 105, in Little Haiti, just north of I-195. A launch event is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday. Florida for Warren volunteers and senior staff are slated to attend that opening, per a campaign blast. Florida’s presidential primary will take place on March 17.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Donald Trump expected to attend Daytona 500, airport says” via Steven Lemongello and Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — A notice to airmen, or NOTAM, released by the DeLand airport stated that the Federal Aviation Administration’s Daytona Beach Tower “has advised us that there is a strong possibility that Trump will attend the Daytona 500 Sunday arriving about 13:30 [1:30 p.m.] and sticking around for a couple of hours.” The notice said such a visit would make flying over the Volusia County area difficult for a period on Sunday. Airport manager John Eiff confirmed that the FAA told the airport to prepare for Trump flying into the area, the trip was not yet official.

Trump pulls nomination for former U.S. attorney for D.C. to Treasury post” via Jonathan Swan and Zachary Basu of Axios — Trump is withdrawing his nomination for former U.S. attorney for D.C. Jessie Liu to serve as the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes, a top position overseeing economic sanctions. Liu was confirmed in September 2017 to lead the largest U.S. attorney’s office in the country, overseeing a number of politically charged prosecutions that included the case against Trump associates Stone, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort and other spinoffs from the Robert Mueller investigation. This was “the president’s call,” according to a former administration official familiar with the situation.

Donald Trump is withdrawing the name of former U.S. attorney for D.C. Jessie Liu as his pick for the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes.

Trump stirs pardon speculation with condemnation of DOJ’s Roger Stone treatment” via Ronn Blitzer of Fox News — Stone is awaiting sentencing for his conviction on seven counts of obstruction, witness tampering and making false statements to Congress on charges that stemmed from former Special Counsel Mueller’s Russia investigation. Federal prosecutors recommended that Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentence Stone to between 87 and 108 months in prison. “This is a horrible and very unfair situation,” Trump tweeted. “The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!” The president’s reaction to the DOJ’s recommendation for Stone was soon met with discussions of a possible pardon. Political scientist and Washington Post columnist Brian Klaas said Trump was “hinting at floating a pardon” for Stone.

 Chinese national’s trespass at Mar-a-Lago ‘an honest mistake,’ lawyer says” via Hannah Winston of the Palm Beach Post — All Jing Lu is guilty of is “an honest mistake,” Assistant Public Defender Schnelle Tonge told the jury. When Lu came to South Florida for vacation, she hired a tour guide who dropped her off at one of her first destinations in Palm Beach: Mar-a-Lago. “It was an open gate that was very pretty,” Lu testified through a Mandarin interpreter during her misdemeanor trial. She said she made her way in and started taking photos of the club and resort. After a security guard shooed her off the residence in two instances, unable to communicate due to a language barrier, her driver picked her up and she continued her sightseeing tour.

Trial of alleged Mar-a-Lago intruder offers latest peek into security protocols” via Nichola Nehamas and Sarah Blaskey of the Miami Herald — Lu Jing, the Chinese woman accused of trespassing at Mar-a-Lago and resisting an officer without violence, unexpectedly testified in her own defense in a Palm Beach County court Tuesday, saying she was a harmless and confused tourist who walked through the open and unguarded main entrance of President Donald Trump’s private club and home to take pictures last year. But perhaps equally surprising at the day-long trial was how much it revealed about security at the president’s primary legal residence. Testimony from Mar-a-Lago employees included the size of its private security staff (13 guards) and the precise locations of various motion-sensor security cameras.

Struggle over college athlete pay hits the Hill” via Juan Perez Jr. of POLITICO — Senators grilled top NCAA officials about their dystopian views on some 30 state player compensation bills. NCAA President Mark Emmert, Big 12 Conference Commissioner Bob Bowlsby and University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod told a Senate Commerce subcommittee that Congress needs to consider taking action while the NCAA continues crafting rules on how players could benefit from their “name, image and likeness.” College leaders are concerned that conflicting state laws will upend an already heated college athlete recruiting process. Senators are gathering information and studying potential legislation while NCAA officials update their congressional wishlist by April. Lawmakers’ comments suggested there’s deep bipartisan tension, uncertainty and division about whether and how to intervene in what’s now a cash-printing college sports business.

Donna Shalala wants unpaid Hurricane Maria claims in Puerto Rico ‘resolved quickly’ via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Shalala says Hurricane Maria victims are being treated like “second-class citizens” as $1.6 billion in insurance claims remain unpaid. The figure comes from a New York Times story published late last week that included an estimate of unresolved insurance claims nearly two-and-a-half years after the storm struck the island. The NYT story highlighted one Spain-based insurer, MAPFRE, which has come under fire from several cities and condo associations seeking to have their claims resolved. Alexis Sánchez Geigel, President of MAPFRE Puerto Rico, said the company had resolved 99% of its claims. MAPFRE has also asserted that several of those insurance claims show evidence of fraud.

In Trump’s NASA Budget, Florida Stands To Gain” via Brendan Byrne of WLRN — The Trump administration is asking Congress for more than $25 billion to fund NASA next year. Florida stands to gain if the budget is passed by Congress.  The budget is merely a request. Ultimately it’s up to Congress to appropriate the money. The budget proposal for 2021 is a 12% increase from last year and fully funds NASA’s SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft — two programs with large footholds at Kennedy Space Center.

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— THE TRAIL —

Jim Boyd breaks $200K in campaign coffers” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The former state lawmaker pulled in $23,750 in new donations in January, bringing his total contributions to $202,775. Boyd holds $156,905 in cash on hand for his effort to succeed Senate President Bill Galvano in District 21. Meanwhile, the Boyd-associated Building On Your Dreams Political Committee raked in a fresh $92,500 in January alone. That committee has about $414,706 in cash on hand to work with as well. Brandon Democrat Amanda Linton, in contrast, raised $1,461 in January. The teacher and first-time candidate to date has raised $13,675 and has just $3,186 still available to spend.

Former state Rep. Jim Boyd breaks $200K in his Senate bid. 

Javier Fernández tops Ana Maria Rodriguez in SD 39 monthly fundraising for first time” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Democratic Fernández managed to outraise his Senate District 39 opponent for the first time, but he still trails GOP Rep. Ana Maria Rodriguez in overall cash on hand. The new reports show Fernández collected more than $24,000 in a shortened fundraising window. Lawmakers are barred from raising money during the Legislative Session, which began on Jan. 14 and runs through mid-March. Florida Future, a political committee supporting the Fernández bid, tacked on another $26,000 for the month, giving him just over $50,000 raised in total. Rodriguez’s campaign added more than $18,000 last month. Her political committee, Ethics and Honesty in Government, courted another $17,000 for a total of just over $35,000.

Strong January gives Bryan Blackwell cash lead” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Cape Coral Republican Blackwell pulled in five figures last month, besting primary opponent Mike Giallombardo in January fundraising. For the moment, Giallombardo still has the most in total contributions, as he has the last couple of months. But Blackwell leads in cash in hand both because of a $20,000 loan and a resource-rich political committee associated with his campaign. Blackwell raised $11,400 in January, bringing total checks to $61,940. He ultimately started February with $56,110 in his campaign account. Meanwhile, the Friends of Bryan Blackwell committee started up with $140,000 that remains largely untapped. The committee holds $129,832 in cash.

Roger Lolly drops $115K loan into House campaign” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — It’s a move that puts his war chest instantly above six figures, in a competitive stance with Fort Myers attorney Jenna Persons in the District 78 contest. “Our family has been blessed in so many ways, I feel so strongly in our campaign and its message that I am putting my money where my mouth is,” Lolly said. “From day one, this campaign has been about focusing on giving our friends and neighbors around Fort Myers a voice. Someone who will wake up every morning fighting to keep the American dream alive for the next generation. Lolly also raised $1,050 in January, putting total contributions at $41,575.

With $20K January haul, Rhonda Rebman Lopez leads HD 120 field for fifth straight month” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The latest reports filed with the Division of Elections show Lopez added just over $20,000 during the month. That total led Islamorada Councilman and former Mayor Jim Mooney, who managed to bring in more than $13,000. Lopez is the most recent Republican to file, entering the contest in September. But she’s led the field in fundraising each month she’s been in the race. Lopez last ran for office in 2018, competing in the race for House District 115. She lost the Republican primary battle to Vance Aloupis, who went on to claim victory in the general election.

— LOCAL —

Suspect tells Jacksonville police that someone ‘had to take a stand’ after driving into GOP tent” via Dan Scanlan of the Florida Times-Union — Gregory William Loel Timm, 27, also told investigators he does not like Trump. He remains jailed on $500,000 bail on two counts of aggravated assault on a person 65 years old or older, plus criminal mischief and driving with a suspended license, jail records show. Timm is accused of deliberately crashing his GMC Safari into a tent of Republican volunteers who were registering voters, the Sheriff’s Office said. The van struck no one. Timm said he went to Walmart to get some food and cigarettes, then noticed the tent in the parking lot and parked near it. When detectives spoke to him, he showed them videos he had taken “prior to driving into the tent,” the narrative said.

Gregory William Loel Timm does not like Donald Trump.

Lenny Curry announces new picks for JEA board of directors” via the Florida Times-Union — The appointees include John Baker, chief executive officer of FRP Holdings, Inc.; Joseph DiSalvo, a retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General and principal for two consulting firms based outside Washington, D.C.; A. Zachary Faison, president and chief executive officer of Edward Waters College; Leon Haley, chief executive officer of UF Health Jacksonville; which Marty Lanahan, executive vice president and regional president for Iberia Bank; Robert Stein, president of the Regency Group; Tom VanOsdol, senior vice president, Ascension Florida.

Jacksonville gets $93 million from feds for port deepening” via David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union — Jacksonville’s deepening of the St. Johns River is in line for an additional $93 million from the federal government, propelling JaxPort closer to what’s needed to pay for dredging all the way to Blount Island and compete for global cargo carried by huge ships. JaxPort called it a “milestone for the project” that will deepen 11 miles of river from a depth of 40 feet down to 47 feet. “This is a significant win for Jacksonville, and as I have said before, the continued support from our state and federal partners demonstrates the strength of JaxPort’s future,” Mayor Lenny Curry said.

How bad was cyberattack on Pensacola? Report sheds light on what was — and wasn’t — stolen” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — A review of the Dec. 7 cyberattack on the city of Pensacola found that 6 GB of data were stolen, but there was no that evidence personal information was compromised. The review was done by Deloitte, an international professional services company, hired by the city to evaluate its network and response to the cyberattack in December. The review calls on the city to hire a dedicated cybersecurity staff member, create a better response plan and conduct regular security assessments. A cyber-criminal group calling itself Maze took credit for the attack and published more than 2 GB of data on a public website last month before the website was taken down.

A politician and former Miami administrator have joined effort to recall Joe Carollo” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — Former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro and former Miami City Manager Joe Arriola have joined an effort to recall Carollo, adding some familiar political figures and money to a campaign to oust the commissioner. The pair joined other organizers in front of Miami City Hall to publicly announce their support and denounce Carollo, a former Mayor who was elected in 2017 after 16 years out of office. Barreiro said Carollo was sowing chaos in City Hall instead of focusing on ground-level issues in the district. Arriola, who served as Miami’s city manager from 2003 to 2006, said he’d committed $100,000 to the effort, and he’s pledged to donate as much as it takes. Barreiro and Arriola join Juan Cuba, former chairman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, and Eleazar Meléndez, a former political opponent of Corollo-ally Alex Diaz de la Portilla as leaders of the movement.

Democratic Party chair seeks Mayor Randy Henderson’s resignation amid political ad controversy” via Melissa Montoya of the Fort Myers News-Press — The chairwoman of the Lee County Democratic Party has called for Fort Myers Mayor Henderson to resign after releasing a politically charged campaign ad on social media she said is inappropriate and petty.   The ad is among the first for Henderson, who is running to fill Florida’s 19th Congressional District seat vacated by U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney. In it, Henderson addresses conservative ire over his giving the key to the city to Ilhan Omar in 2017. “I am done playing nice with people who won’t show respect to President Trump,” Henderson also says in the ad. Lee County’s Democratic Party Chairwoman Gabriele Spuckes said the ad shocked her.

Lee County Democrats are calling for Randy Henderson’s resignation for his ‘shocking’ video.

As vaping ‘epidemic’ hits Leon schools, officials ponder moving beyond student suspensions” via CD Davidson-Hiers of the Tallahassee Democrat — “It’s the fastest-growing drug situation that we’re facing,” Alan Cox, Leon’s assistant superintendent, told the Tallahassee Democrat. Schools already have a “safe and drug-free champion,” a specific teacher or staff member educated about vaping concerns and practices. Still, “one in four high schoolers are trying it,” Cox said. During the 2018-19 school year, 78 middle school students were caught vaping, according to district data. Cox oversees, among many responsibilities, student health. He explained that Juul pods can be confused for computer flash drives, which is how they go undetected in the classroom. Cox said he hopes to have a written policy for the cessation course before the School Board by the end of the school year.

Clerk’s office can’t be trusted with county finances, public defenders warn” via Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The clerk has shortchanged the Public Defender’s Office by $1.6 million a year, on average, and county officials should find out why before the clerk becomes responsible for even more public funds, Public Defender Howard Finkelstein and his chief assistant, Gordon Weekes, said in letters to the governor, state senators, Broward County commissioners and several appointed officials. “There’s something systemic going on here,” Weekes said. “It’s a question of what measures are in place to make sure the public offices and agencies that rely on the clerk are actually receiving the funds to which we are entitled.” The problem is not Brenda Forman, who has held the clerk’s job since early 2017, the lawyers said.

What Lee Constantine is reading —Possible land swap involving River Cross development prompts Katrina Shadix to seek Seminole commission seat” via Martin Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — Wildlife activist Shadix was spurred to run again after commissioners agreed to consider a land swap with developer Chris Dorworth over his controversial River Cross development project in Seminole’s rural boundary. In what likely will be a barn burner of a political contest, Shadix, a Democrat, has filed to challenge incumbent Republican Bob Dallari in the Nov. 3 election. Shadix lost a Seminole County Commission race by a razor-thin margin in 2018. “I had a ton of people come out and say: ‘Please, please run for County Commission,’” said Shadix, 52. “I want developers to make money — to make a ton of money. But I want smart development, in areas where we don’t have to tear down trees.”

Bonnet House, a popular Fort Lauderdale tourist draw and wedding venue, to stay in local hands” via Lois K. Solomon of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Local history enthusiasts will take ownership of Bonnet House, the 100-year-old estate near Fort Lauderdale’s beach, fending off a takeover by the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. The estate, with its old-time Florida feel and lush landscape between the ocean and Intracoastal Waterway, is a favorite destination for Fort Lauderdale tourists and beloved venue for locals hosting weddings and public gatherings. The agreement seems to satisfy both sides. The house will become responsible for its property and collections in return for an $886,507 payment to the Florida Trust, according to Patrick Shavloske, Bonnet House’s chief executive officer. Shavloske said he is relieved the negotiations are over and the house remains in local hands.

Cross-Bay Ferry ridership nearly doubles, but leaders disagree on what’s next” via Caitlin Johnston of the Tampa Bay Times — The ferry connecting the downtowns of Tampa and St. Petersburg continues to add tens of thousands of passenger trips each season, but its future as a permanent, year-round option remains uncertain. Just halfway into the 2020 season, the Cross-Bay Ferry is close to surpassing ridership from its entire first year according to data maintained by the operator HMS Ferries. During the boat’s pilot season, it provided about 39,000 passenger trips. Since then, the numbers have continued to rise as organizers tweak the schedule, lower prices and adjust docking locations.

— TOP OPINION —

What Ron DeSantis gets right in his new education standards” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — They streamline testing, starting by eliminating the ninth-grade language arts test and working to eliminate a geometry test. The state would offer every junior a chance to take either the SAT or ACT at state expense, which could be a boon to low-income students making plans for college. DeSantis would add a mandatory civics exam, but not a graduation requirement. On math, the plan encourages students to find their own best way to solve problems and recognizes the value in some basic skills, in addition to understanding the concepts. On reading, the blueprint correctly stresses that reading isn’t just a mechanical skill but rather a way to acquire knowledge, learn history and civics, and enjoy great works.

— OPINION —

Paging Michael Bloomberg” via Thomas Friedman of the New York Times — “Yes, Sanders is also polling well against Trump, but the Trump machine has not begun to focus on him yet — it hasn’t begun bombing Facebook with ads about how Sanders honeymooned in the Soviet Union.” … Sitting here today, Bloomberg — paired with a progressive vice-presidential candidate who can appeal to Sanders’s voters — has the best chance to carry the day. … In an age when political extremists go all the way, and moderates tend to just go away, Bloomberg has the right stuff — a moderate progressive with a heart of gold but the toughness of a rattlesnake — for what is going to be an incredibly big, brutal task: making Donald Trump a one-term president.”

Trump’s proposed budget keeps Everglades restoration moving” via Marco Rubio for the Tampa Bay Times — The restoration program and associated Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan aims to combat these issues and reinvigorate the Everglades, with specific goals including the enlargement of regional water storage capacity, restoration of natural water flows to Everglades National Park, and a reduction in harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges. In 2019, the Trump administration originally budgeted $63.3 million for these efforts, continuing a trend of declining and insufficient sums given the project’s considerable scale. Last February, I asked the president for an annual commitment of $200 million from the federal government. Buoyed by similar calls from Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Rick Scott and the state’s congressional delegation, President Donald Trump understood the importance of the effort and joined the fight for annual funding. And now, this month, Trump added an additional $50 million to his annual budget proposal to fund Everglades restoration. If approved by Congress — and I will use my position on the Senate Appropriations Committee to make it happen — this surge in funding will allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to continue building overdue reservoirs and stormwater treatment areas, restore wetland features along Biscayne Bay, and design the next suite of projects in the construction queue.

Gail Matillo, Natalie Campaneria: ALF modernization bill would protect senior, caregivers” via Florida Politics — According to OSHA, caregivers who work in senior living facilities have one of the highest rates of OSHA-recordable injury cases among all health care and social assistance services; these workers are three times more likely to be injured at work than those in other industries. This is a staggering statistic, but one that could be easily addressed by legislation currently pending before the Florida Legislature to modernize the regulations for assistive devices. Senate Bill 402, sponsored by Sen. Gayle Harrell and House Bill 767, sponsored by Rep. Michael Grant, would allow residents of assisted living and memory care communities to use assistive devices to help keep them mobile and independent.

— MOVEMENTS —

First in Sunburn — Personnel note: Jimmy Patronis appoints Frank Collins as Deputy CFO” via Florida Politics — Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis has appointed Frank Collins III as Deputy Chief Financial Officer. As Deputy CFO, Collins will be tasked with running the Office of Communications and spearheading other strategic initiatives within the Florida Department of Financial Services. Collins comes to the job from the Florida Department of Transportation, where he has managed the Forecasting & Trends Office since 2017. Before DOT, Collins served as former Gov. Scott’s Deputy Chief of Staff from 2014 to 2016, where he interfaced with legislative and policy elements to spearhead the Governor’s jobs agenda and was involved with agencies such as Space Florida, VISIT FLORIDA, the Department of Economic Opportunity and others.

— ALOE —

Samsung unveils new lineup of smartphones” via Elizabeth Koh of The Wall Street Journal — Samsung presented its ideas: three models of its mainstream Galaxy S phones — dubbed the S20, a generous numeric upgrade from last year’s Galaxy S10 moniker — and a new foldable-screen device. That device, christened the Galaxy Z Flip, opens vertically like a flip phone of the past, though it is all screen on the inside. Last year’s Galaxy Fold, the first mainstream foldable screen offering, opened and shut like a book. All the S20 models are also compatible with 5G, the next-generation network slowly rolling out worldwide. The three Galaxy S20 variants, boasting screen sizes of between 6.2 inches and 6.8 inches, will hit shelves March 6.

The Galaxy Z Flip is Samsung’s latest attempt at a foldable phone.

Disney World raises prices for annual passes, Park Hopper option” via Sharon Kennedy Wynne and Gabrielle Calise of the Tampa Bay Times — Disney upped the cost of four Florida resident passes and two out-of-state passes. While Florida residents will continue paying $999 for the Disney Platinum Plus Pass, out-of-state residents saw a 6.2% hike as the $1,219 price jumped to $1,295. The most significant increases are in the popular Park Hopper add-ons, which allow people to visit multiple parks on the same day. The 10-Day Park Hopper Plus option (which includes several visits to a water park or sports facility) is now $65 more than it was in 2019. A Seven-Day Park Hopper costs $45 more than it used to.

SeaWorld settles investors’ lawsuit over orca documentary” via The Associated Press — SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. on Tuesday agreed to pay $65 million to settle a lawsuit in which the theme park company was accused of misleading investors over the impact the documentary “Blackfish” was having on its bottom line. SeaWorld did not admit to any wrongdoing under the terms of the settlement filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The company said it would pay for the settlement using about $45.5 million in insurance proceeds and $19.5 million in cash. The court must approve the settlement agreement.

Bikinis and booty-shaking in front of Hard Rock’s Guitar Hotel. Naturally, that’s Pitbull’s new music video.” via Wells Dusenbury of the Orlando Sentinel — After being showcased in a Super Bowl commercial, Hollywood’s new guitar-shaped hotel is attracting more national attention — this time serving as the backdrop for Pitbull’s latest music video. The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino appears prominently in the 39-year-old rapper’s new video “Get Ready,” which features country star Blake Shelton. Filmed poolside at the lavishly designed hotel, Pitbull is accompanied by an array of scantily clad women seen twerking to lines such as “305 Magic City, where the girls got big ol’ booties and so pretty.” The scene later shifts to the balcony of a hotel suite where “Mr. Worldwide” finishes off his latest single.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Celebrating today is “The Marchitect,” Marc Reichelderfer, inarguably one of the top two or three best political consultants working in Florida.

___

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

Peter Schorsch

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



#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.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jason Delgado, Drew Dixon, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.

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