The Fiorentino Group has promoted two of its principal members to partnerships. Joe Mobley and Mark Pinto Jr. earned the honor through considerable brain power, ingenuity and heart, said Marty Fiorentino, the firm’s president.
Both are longtime principles in a company that prides itself on helping clients strategize, network and get their best ideas before local, state and federal authorities. The Fiorentino Group’s clients run a gamut from cities to technology, hospitals, shipping and aviation authorities and the Super Bowl. Mobley and Pinto came to the firm 12 and 10 years ago, respectively, each bringing an understanding of politics and expertise in a host of other fields.
“They’re not just terrific lobbyists and advocates for our clients,” Fiorentino said. “They’re terrific people, and that makes everything else easy.”
Before joining TFG, Mobley served as an assistant vice president of legislative affairs for Fidelity National Financial, a Fortune 500 company headquartered in Jacksonville. His North Florida roots led him to serve on the Clay County Economic Development Council with future legislators Travis Cummings and Rob Bradley.
“He kind of cut his political teeth there,” Fiorentino said. Those years enhanced a sharp political acumen Mobley would later draw on as part of a team that crafted Fidelity’s legislative agenda in Washington and across the country.
“He’s probably one of the most creative, out-of-the-box thinkers I know,” Fiorentino said.
Moreover, he said, “Everybody likes Joe. He’s got lots of integrity, and he’s somebody people trust.”
In 2010, a phone call from another politician led Fiorentino to Pinto. Former Rep. Bill Galvano, who had resumed his law practice after term limits ended his tenure as a state representative, wanted to have dinner.
“He brought along an aide, Mark Pinto,” Fiorentino recalled. “Bill said, ‘If you want to grow, Mark is somebody you really ought to take a look at.’
“It was one of the best decisions I ever made.”
Now well versed in healthcare, gaming, medical marijuana, education, transportation, local government, economic development, tourism, professional sports leagues, private development, environmental issues and real estate, Pinto has proved a tireless advocate.
In a tight-knit 10-person firm he likens to a family, Mobley and Pinto “have continued to distinguish themselves,” Fiorentino said.
“They are a big part of the firm’s success,” he said. “I just think the world of them. And I’m looking forward to working side by side with them for years to come.”
There are apologies. And then there are “apologies.”
The latter are the “if-what-I-said-offended-you,” kind that are, frankly, not actual apologies but lame excuses attempting to quell a tempest.
But yesterday, in response to a column written by me and followed up with a letter from several female lawmakers, the Tallahassee Democrat offered an example of how to apologize.
What was the newspaper apologizing for?
Reporter (and former writer for this publication) James Call tweeted out a demeaning and sexist comment about former Attorney General Pam Bondi in response to her less-than-stellar performance during the impeachment proceedings.
After a few elbows to the rib cage, Call pulled it down.
But I felt (strongly) that Call, as a veteran journalist, was not only in bad form to publish a poor choice of words, but his deleting the tweet and hoping it would go away was not enough.
Apparently, I was not alone.
Within days a rather clear, direct, and stern letter began circulating among a group of women lawmakers seeking a published apology. (Read that letter here.)
And an apology was issued and published almost immediately upon receipt.
To be clear, it wasn’t the mealy-mouthed kind. The Democrat and Call owned the mistake, apologized sincerely and vowed to take steps to prevent it from happening again. It was the kind of apology that should be in a book on how to issue an apology.
Good for the newspaper. Good for James Call. And hats off to William Hatfield for not only accepting responsibility but publishing the apology.
“An overdue public apology” via William Hatfield of the Tallahassee Democrat — The Tallahassee Democrat recently received a letter from a bipartisan group of women lawmakers criticizing a tweet posted last month by our Capitol beat reporter, James Call. The letter characterized the tweet as “biased, insulting and demeaning.” We agree. It’s important for our readers and others to know we hold ourselves to the same high standard as those we cover. Call has admitted his mistake and understands there is no tolerance going forward: “I first and foremost apologize to Pam Bondi. It was a mistake for me to post that. I’ve offended people when I did not intend to, and for causing that offense I’m deeply troubled and feel horrible. It was insulting, unprofessional, and I deeply regret it.”
Countdown to Sine Die — Want a countdown to sine die on your phone, while also being able to click to important news from Florida Politics and other outlets? Well, the folks of Bascom Communications and Converge Digital teamed up to bring you a single, responsive page to help you countdown the days and read the news! SineDieCountdown.com is a mobile-only site that helps you stay up to date on everything between now and the hankie drop with the click of a button. Visit the site and add it to your home screen for one-click access to today’s news, and the running countdown to sine die.
— TODAY’S SUNRISE —
A Senate committee votes to impose new regulations on fertility clinics, cracking down on doctors who secretly use their own sperm to inseminate patients.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— A Senate budget subcommittee votes to get rid of the statute of limitations in cases involving the sexual abuse of a child.
— A bill requiring Florida employers to use the federal E-Verify system for new hires clears a Senate committee without any of the exemptions sought by the business community … but the sponsor of the bill says it has become a parody of itself.
— Sheriffs and police chiefs are asking Florida lawmakers not to get carried away with sentencing reform. They say the current system is working … but Rep. Diane Hart says that’s nonsense
— A bill banning wage discrimination and requiring equal pay for women is going nowhere, but sponsors are still happy because they actually had a chance to present the bill in committee.
— Florida Women update: Two Florida women are arrested after police say they broke into the home of a friend and vandalized her bedroom using duct tape and dog poop.
To listen, click on the image below:
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@RealDonaldTrump: What Mini Mike [Bloomberg] is doing is nothing less than a large scale illegal campaign contribution. He is “spreading” money all over the place, only to have recipients of his cash payments, many former opponents, happily joining or supporting his campaign. Isn’t that called a payoff? Mini is illegally buying the Democrat Nomination. They are taking it away from Bernie again. Mini Mike, Major Party Nominations are not for sale! Good luck in the debate tomorrow night and remember, no standing on boxes!
—@MattGaetz: Every day, I bargain with God to safely return home the bravest, most patriotic Americans from some of the world’s most miserable places.
—@KevinSheekey: The opposition research on @BernieSanders could fill @realDonaldTrump’s empty Foxconn facility in Wisconsin. It is very damaging, perhaps even disqualifying.
—@EWarren: It’s a shame Mike Bloomberg can buy his way into the debate. But at least now primary voters curious about how each candidate will take on Donald Trump can get a live demonstration of how we each take on an egomaniac billionaire.
—@TVietor08: It’s jarring to see all these Bloomberg ads that suggest [Barack] Obama has endorsed him, especially considering how … perfunctory his endorsement of Obama was back in 2012.
—@JohnWalkerDC: One of the most interesting things about 2020 election. Both Sanders and Bloomberg came to the conclusion it is much easier to take over the Dem party than run a third-party candidacy.
Does anyone on #electiontwitter feel like the 2020 Democratic presidential primary is playing out like the Florida 2018 Democratic gubernatorial primary?
I’m having flashbacks.
Florida is a microcosm of our country and we now have a mini Trump as Governor.😱
— Gwen Graham (@GwenGraham) February 19, 2020
—@WiltonSimpson: Florida’s children – ALL of Florida’s children – deserve every possible opportunity to be part of a safe, loving and happy family. We can do this and we can do it this legislative session.
—@JamesGrantFL: Real reform must always center around facts & truth. It is critical that CJ Reform confront reality and do so honestly. Disagree on the conclusion, but the facts cannot be disputed. I’ll never apologize for letting data drive our debate
—@Fineout: So today in FL Leg — Rep. Mike Hill said a confederate memorial in Pensacola should be protected & honored as much as a MLK memorial — & then Rep. Ramon Alexander interrupted him and said he was offended by his remarks. @intervened and calmed things down
Today is Advocacy Day! The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition will join hundreds of returning citizens from across the state in #Tallahassee to meet with lawmakers to remind them that we are engaged, energized and ready to affect positive change. #FRRCAdvocacyDay20 pic.twitter.com/40wcGoIZYY
— Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (@FLRightsRestore) February 18, 2020
—@laflynt: Rep. @ was asked today why her new version of the PreK bill gets rid of A-F grades. Kudos to her for answering honestly and saying she doesn’t want to give private schools grades under any circumstances. Those are for public schools only.
—@SamanthaJGross: Fairly certain I just heard Tik Tok referenced for the first time in the FL Senate … during a presentation on coronavirus
—@DJGroup: Election data nerds rejoice as #Florida voter registration book closes today, the every four-year PPP close. Last day to register means official data from @FLSecofState coming in about ten days by all districts and demographics.
— DAYS UNTIL —
Roger Stone’s sentencing — 1; Nevada caucuses — 3; “Better Call Saul” Season 5 premiers — 4; Suits for Session — 6; 10th Democratic presidential debate in Charleston — 6; South Carolina Primaries — 10; Super Tuesday — 13; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 23; Florida’s presidential primary — 27; “No Time to Die” premiers — 47; Florida TaxWatch Spring Board Meeting begins — 56; TaxWatch Principal Leadership Awards — 57; Florida Chamber Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 86; “Top Gun: Maverick” premiers — 128; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 145; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premiers — 149; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo start — 156; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 181; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 187; First Presidential Debate in Indiana — 223; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 231; Second Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 239; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 246; 2020 General Election — 258.
— TOP STORY —
“Congressional Dems call for federal probe into domestic violence salary scandal” via Mary Ellen Klas and Samantha Gross of the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau — Concerned that the executive compensation scandal consuming the state-funded Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence may be harming victim services, two Florida members of Congress on Tuesday asked the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate. “Since almost 99% of FCADV’s funds come from state and federal dollars, we ask that you look into these allegations and ensure there is proper oversight of the federal funds,’’ wrote Democratic U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor of Tampa and Ted Deutch of Boca Raton in a letter to Michael Horowitz, inspector general of the Justice Department. They also commended the pending probes by the Florida House of Representatives and the governor’s inspector general.
— DATELINE: TALLY —
“Ron DeSantis’ agenda dented, but on track halfway through Legislative Session” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — The House and Senate have met DeSantis’ requests for environmental spending and teacher pay raises in their respective budgets. Still, his plan for teacher bonuses was largely ignored. Occupational license reforms are advancing, but his push to impose E-Verify employment eligibility checks on businesses only got off the ground this week. Although it’s not part of DeSantis’ agenda, an abortion bill poised to pass the Legislature could be one that has the most impact in the future. The fate of VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s tourism marketing agency, will hinge on budget negotiations between the House and the Senate again.
— “DeSantis may be quiet, but his fingerprints are all over Legislative Session” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times
“DeSantis beefs up office targeting regulations” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — In November, DeSantis issued an executive order to increase the authority of the Office of Fiscal Accountability and Regulatory Reform, an office created by former Gov. Rick Scott in 2011, to target what his administration considered onerous government red tape. Each area of the Office of Policy and Budget, the administration’s top budget-writing office, was told to designate a liaison to OFARR. “Liaisons will review rulemaking notifications in their respective policy areas and work with OFARR and our General Counsel’s office to advice on the recommended course of action,” Spencer wrote. DeSantis communications director Helen Aguirre Ferré said the goal was to “ensure that there was designated personnel in each policy area to get a more thorough organizational review” of state regulations.
Assignment editors — DeSantis, joined by the Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Ken Lawson and Enterprise Florida Inc. President and CEO Jamal Sowell, will make a major announcement, 10 a.m. Central time, Pensacola Airport, 2430 Airport Blvd., Pensacola. Later, the Governor, joined by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Executive Director Danny Burgess, will make a major announcement, 11 a.m. Central time, the University of West Florida, Building 10, Crosby Hall, 11000 University Pkwy., Pensacola.
“Face off: New Nikki Fried stickers continue popping up statewide” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Department of Agriculture has continued replacing more labels adorned with the face of the elected official. New stickers still have Fried’s name and office number, but no smile. Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis enthusiastically noted the change at one pump with an exclamation-point-laden tweet. “The new stickers are out!” he wrote. “The new stickers are out! The new stickers are out!” The face of Fried caused an uproar in The Capitol, particularly in the House, which threatened to withhold more than $19 million in Department of Agriculture funding until the stickers with a photograph vanished everywhere. It’s unclear how far along in the process the Department of Agriculture is in transitioning to a Fried-face-free tag on pumps.
Jimmy Patronis touts advancement of sexual harassment victim whistleblower protections — Patronis congratulated Sen. Keith Perry for the progress of SB 1404, expanding whistleblower protections for sexual harassment victims. The bill would make sharing a victim’s home address, phone number, email address, social media account, or other identifying information outside of a formal investigation a first-degree misdemeanor. “Florida’s whistleblower protections for state employees and applicants should be as tough as those on the federal level,” Patronis said. “Victims of sexual harassment shouldn’t have their information shared, undermining their rights and making them feel like criminals.” SB 1404 awaits its final hearing in Appropriations.
“Ethics panel gives boost to new financial regulator” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — The Florida Commission on Ethics found that Russell Weigel, who was tapped to be commissioner of the Office of Financial Regulation, would not have a conflict of interest if the sale of his Coral Gables law firm was completed through an installment financing plan that would involve up to two years of payments. “In this instance, there is no indication that the proposed purchase agreement with the seller financing term would create … a prohibited conflict,” commission Chairwoman Kimberly Rezanka said in response to Weigel’s request for an opinion about the pending sale.
“Law enforcement groups tried to ‘debunk the myth’ low-level drug offenders are nonviolent” via Ryan Dailey of WFSU — Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson is a former president of the Florida Sheriffs Association. Now, he’s chairing a group that “debunks the myth” that drug offenders in state prisons are nonviolent. “There is this debate in Florida now about either incarceration or rehabilitation. We think that’s a false dichotomy — we think it should be both,” Adkinson told media. “They go hand-in-hand.” The report was published by the newly launched Florida Sheriffs Research Institute. The numbers he chose paint a picture that those convicted of drug offenses also have previous forcible felonies on their record. “In fact, these are people who have been committed to county jails 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 times, before graduating to the Florida penitentiary,” Adkinson said.
“UCF falls under glare of House panel probing Chinese influence on research” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — Four professors with ties to Chinese institutions either resigned or were fired from UCF in the last four years, drawing the scrutiny of Rep. Chris Sprowls, chairman of the House Select Committee on the Integrity of Research Institutions. Sprowls said he wants to crack down on instances where U.S. and Florida taxpayers pay for sensitive research that is later stolen and given to the Chinese government, without placing a chilling effect on valuable research involving collaboration between Florida universities and foreign research centers. “This is potential theft, it’s not collaborating,” said Sprowls. “It’s not sharing when someone comes into your home and steals from you.”
“From victim to advocate, Donna Hedrick is on a crusade to help others and change the law” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — After Hedrick learned that Florida statutes wouldn’t allow the state to prosecute a man whom she said raped her as a teenager, she knew she had to do something. Not for herself. With the statute of limitations long expired, her window for justice was sealed shut. Hedrick wanted to help others. And now, nearly 50 years after her trauma, Hedrick is on the verge of changing Florida Law. The bill — dubbed “Donna’s Law” — would allow authorities to prosecute people who molest or abuse children, no matter when the victims come forward. The bill already has 15 co-sponsors from both parties. That is why the Orlando Sentinel selected Hedrick as a finalist for Central Floridian of the year.
— GATOR DAY —
Enjoyed celebrating #GatorDay at the Florida Capitol today with @GatorsFB Head Coach @CoachDanMullen. On top of an excellent football program, @UF is also the 7th ranked public university in the nation. The best is yet to come for the Florida Gators! pic.twitter.com/FQeKKEziaH
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) February 18, 2020
— Dan Mullen (@CoachDanMullen) February 18, 2020
— Samantha Sexton (@SamanthaASexton) February 18, 2020
Need help, quick! It’s #GatorDay at the #Florida #Capitol. Which pair of #jorts do I wear? @Rob_Bradley @SamanthaASexton @RAlexAndradeFL @ChrisTDawson @ChrisDorworth @jasonbrodeur @richardcorcoran @g_donovanbrown @RepBobbyDuBose Suggestions? pic.twitter.com/2OHAWApkNt
— Jayer Williamson (@JayerWilliamson) February 18, 2020
“UF/IFAS highlights precision agriculture during Gator Day at the Capitol” via Florida Politics — As orange and blue blanketed the Capitol for Gator Day, folks from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) presented about advancements in agriculture technology to the Senate Agriculture Committee. IFAS also provided free samples of various oranges and orange juice, along with a new grapefruit that has been taste-tested to appeal to more citrus consumers. “We are here to show that we are good stewards of the money that we receive from the state,” said Ruth Borger, IFAS Assistant Vice President of Communications. Kati Migliaccio, Chair of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at UF, presented on precision agriculture, the high-tech sector of agriculture that provides cost efficiencies and environmental benefits for growers and the public.
— LEGISLATION —
“E-Verify advances in Senate but sponsor says bill is flawed” via John Kennedy of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The Commerce and Tourism Committee did move closer to what DeSantis wants by eliminating an exemption for the state’s powerful agriculture industry, a frequent employer of undocumented workers. But in reworking the bill (SB 664), Sen. Tom Lee, its sponsor, said he was forced to add another loophole that he predicted would make DeSantis veto the measure — if it ever gets to him. “We’ve got a lot of cooks in the kitchen right now on this bill. It’s pretty frustrating to me,” said Lee. Lee said the agriculture industry, faced with losing its exemption, had pushed Senate leadership to add another provision that allows employers not to use E-Verify — but some other loosely-defined employment verification system.
“House to vote on ratcheting up ballot initiative requirements” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Legislation continues to move that would make it tougher for the kinds of citizens’ ballot initiatives that have become part of the Constitution in recent years to reach the ballot. Two such bills cleared the House. On Tuesday, a joint resolution for citizen initiatives cleared Judiciary. It would “require the sponsor of a citizen initiative, to place the initiative on the ballot, to gather sufficient petition signatures to meet the 8-percent threshold in all 27 of Florida’s congressional districts, rather than only half of the districts.” Another bill relating to citizen-led initiatives cleared its final committee stop (Judiciary) before the House floor. HB 7037, filed by Rep. Jamie Grant, firms up requirements for political committees pushing citizens’ initiatives.
Pre-K grading system removed from House bill — The House removed a provision from its education package that would have set up an A-F grading system for Florida’s pre-K programs, Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida reports. The system had been criticized by stakeholders, who claimed the letter grades could lead some schools to pull out of the state’s pre-K system and exclusively accept children whose families pay tuition. Outside of the grading system, the House bill would put the Florida Department of Education in charge of the state’s pre-K program.
“Bill mandating moments of silence clears final House committee” via Sarah Mueller of Florida Politics — Legislation mandating moments of silence for public school students (HB 737) before starting their day passed the House Education Committee Tuesday. This is the bill’s final stop before reaching the House floor. Jacksonville Democratic Rep. Kim Daniels sponsors it. The bill advanced out of the committee without opposition. The legislation would require public school principals to compel teachers to offer time for silent reflection at the beginning of the school day. Silence would be mandatory for at least one minute but no more than two minutes. Daniels noted the silence would be just after the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the school day. The Senate version (SB 946) has one committee stop left in Rules.
“Compensation backed for wrongfully convicted man” via the News Service of Florida — Key House and Senate panels unanimously approved a plan that would provide $2.15 million to a man who spent 43 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted in a murder and attempted murder in 1976 in Jacksonville. The House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee backed identical bills (HB 6507 and SB 28). House members apologized to former inmate Clifford Williams, who briefly spoke to the House panel. “On behalf of the state of Florida, we apologize,” Rep. Bobby DuBose said. Later, Senate bill sponsor Audrey Gibson told the Senate panel that the “bill is about innocence. It’s about a man who was not a saint but not a murderer either.”
No-fault repeal still has a chance, Tom Lee says — A bill (SB 378) to repeal the state’s no-fault car insurance system didn’t make the agenda for the final Senate Committee on Insurance and Banking meeting. Still, it might not be dead for the year, Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida reports. Sen. Lee, the bill’s sponsor, pulled the bill from the Insurance and Banking Committee’s Feb. 11 agenda after refusing to go along with an amendment he said would favor insurers. “Who knows if the bill will come up somewhere else, or if we may have another meeting scheduled,” Lee said. “I would definitely say it’s too early to write the obituary for the bill.”
“Should Florida lakes and forests have rights in court? Lawmakers weigh in.” via Zachary Sampson of the Tampa Bay Times — To preserve Florida’s environment, some activists have started pushing an idea that many lawmakers still consider radical: giving natural bodies, like springs and rivers, legal rights. “This illusion that human good can be achieved at the expense of everything else in the ecosystem, it’s just crumbling before our eyes,” said Margaret Stewart, the director of the Center for Earth Jurisprudence. The Rights of Nature movement seeks to gain legal standing for nature in court, so an advocate could bring a lawsuit in which a lake, for instance, or a forest, was the aggrieved party. Florida’s Legislature wants to stop those efforts before they can really begin.
— MORE LEGISLATION —
Senate bill mandating panic alarms in public schools gets TP’d — The bill from Sen. Lauren Book was delayed Tuesday. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education has scheduled a vote on the measure. The bill is called “Alyssa’s Law” after Alyssa Alhadeff, one of the 17 people murdered during the 2018 attack at Broward County’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Subcommittee Chair Kelli Stargel said the Senate is still working on an amendment regarding appropriations for the measure. “We’ve been working on amendments. We still have not gotten the amendments exactly where they need to be,” Stargel said. “The bill as originally filed had quite a significant appropriation. We are still working on that.” Stargel said she does still intend to hear the bill at the panel’s next meeting.
“Senate panel advances Lauren Book bill increasing fertility clinic oversight” via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press — Sen. Book said she was horrified to learn the exams are performed on women under anesthesia as a teaching tool for medical students, unbeknown to patients. She said no woman should have her vagina examined without her consent. “One of the things that is most troubling as a survivor of sexual assault and as somebody that’s a woman, you have no ability to have a voice when you’re unconscious to say yes or no,” Book said in a recent interview. Book’s bill was initially held up by Senate Health Policy Committee Chairwoman Gayle Harrell until Book agreed to amend its scope beyond women’s pelvic exams to cover procedures such as prostate exams on men.
“Controversy surrounds ‘right-to-work’ laws after House passes bill” via Kent Justice of News4Jax — The U.S. House passed the “Protecting the Right to Organize” or PRO Act, mostly down party lines, and reaction came quickly. “It’s a collection of every horrible, bad idea organized labor has had in the last 50 years all rolled up into one bad bill,” said Matthew Leen, vice president of the National Right to Work Committee. Leen told News4Jax the grassroots lobbying organization represents nearly 3 million members and supporters, and they reject the bill as bad for workers and the freedom to choose. Leen said the bill would strip states of their right to choose. He said it would force workers to pay union dues even if they didn’t want to belong to a union.
“Lawmakers to ban discrimination in organ transplants” via Everitt Rosen via Fresh Take Florida news service/AP News — Florida’s Legislature is moving toward ensuring new protections for disabled people who may need organ transplants, part of a national trend among states. The proposals would formally ban insurance companies and others from denying transplants for anyone with physical or mental disabilities. Committees in the House and Senate unanimously approved bills on the subject last week. Twelve states, including California, Maryland and New Jersey, already have such laws in place.
ATM pill bill ready for House floor — Rep. Matt Willhite‘s HB 59 allowing for prescription drug kiosks is ready for the House floor. With an amendment adopted Tuesday, kiosk placement is now limited to the indoors and must follow Board of Pharmacy guidelines. Michael Jackson, vice president of the Florida Pharmacy Association, has repeatedly opposed the bill, but Willhite’s amendment at least alleviated some of his concerns. And Barney Bishop, with Small Business Pharmacies Aligned for Reform, calls it a “vendor bill” that will drive local pharmacies out of business. But Willhite argues small pharmacies that aren’t open 24/7 could use a kiosk to remain competitive.
Reparations bill for Ocoee Election Day Massacre advances — The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice OK’d the bill during a hearing. Nearly 60 African Americans were killed during the 1920 incident. Sen. Randolph Bracy, an Ocoee Democrat, is sponsoring the legislation. Bracy’s bill would provide descendants of those victims up to “$150,000 per individual who was killed, injured, or otherwise victimized” in the attack. The bill also promotes teaching the incident in schools. Added Bracy in a statement, “Given that 2020 will mark the centennial of this horrific tragedy, I believe it is an appropriate time for our legislature to offer healing and closure to the individuals impacted by this painful legacy.” The bill has one more stop in the Appropriations Committee.
Senate strikes compromise on shark fin ban — The Senate version of a bill banning the shark fin trade in Florida was amended to exempt commercial fishermen for five years, Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida reports. Following the rewrite from Sen. Travis Hutson, the bill’s sponsor, the Commerce and Tourism Committee advanced SB 680 with a unanimous vote. The House version added in a similar provision when it went before the State Affairs Committee. The Senate bill now heads to the Rules Committee. The House version is ready for a floor vote.
— TODAY IN CAPITOL —
The House Ways & Means Committee meets, 9 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The Senate Military and Veterans Affairs and Space Committee meets to consider SB 662 from Chairman Tom Wright, with seeks to make changes in the grading system for high schools, 10 a.m., Room 37, Senate Office Building.
The Senate Rules Committee meets to consider SB 1564 from Sen. Stargel, which seeks to prevent insurers from using genetic information to make policy decisions about customer life insurance and long-term care insurance, 10 a.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.
The House has scheduled a floor session, which will include HB 265 from Rep. Erin Grall, which seeks to require parental consent before minors could have abortions, 1:30 p.m., House Chamber.
The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee meets to consider SB 478 from Sen. Keith Perry, which seeks to set up regulations for “peer-to-peer” car-sharing services, 1:30 p.m., Room 412, Knott Building.
The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee meets to consider SB 1696, also from Perry, which seeks to mandate Florida High School Athletic Association make moves to prevent heat strokes involving high school athletes, 1:30 p.m., Room 301, Senate Office Building.
The Senate Judiciary Committee meets to consider SPB 7062, a constitutional amendment that seeks to change the petition-signature requirement, making it harder for citizens’ initiatives to reach the ballot, 1:30 p.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.
The Senate as a floor session scheduled, 4 p.m., Senate Chamber.
Assignment editors — Members of the Sarasota County Legislative Delegation will hold a news conference to address a House plan that would merge New College of Florida with Florida State University. NCF President Donal O’Shea, students, and New College Foundation board members will also attend, 10 a.m., 4th-floor Rotunda.
Assignment editors — Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice will host a news conference to unveil its 2020 safety agenda. Crime survivors from across the state, including former NFL player and Stedman Bailey, are expected to speak, 11 a.m., 4th-floor Rotunda.
— GOV. CLUB LUNCH BUFFET —
Bradley’s sausage and white bean soup; mixed garden salad with dressings; cucumber, tomato and feta salad; sweet and sour coleslaw; deli board, tomato, lettuce, cheeses and breads; turkey pot pie; old fashion meatloaf with red wine mushroom sauce; crispy fried catfish with cocktail and tartar sauce; cheddar cheese grits; braised collard greens with country ham; buttered corn; mini chocolate peanut butter pie for dessert.
— DEBATE NIGHT —
Big doings tonight at the Democratic debate in Nevada, even if it has the ring of a sequel to Grumpy Old Men.
It’s the first chance for the presumed front-runner, 78-year-old Sanders, to directly confront 78-year-old challenger Bloomberg. That’s against the backdrop of 77-year-old Joe Biden’s attempt to prove that no, really, seriously, he can beat Trump.
Bloomberg will be hit hard and often about the “stop-and-frisk” policy he authorized against blacks and Latinos as Mayor of New York City. Bloomberg has repeatedly apologized, but opponents are never going to let walk away from that topic.
Bloomberg also has a reputation for being a bit prickly when confronted. Well, he’s about to be confronted as never before. His reputation for sexist and demeaning comments to women and employees may come up once, twice, or 50 times.
Oh, and there’s that whole line of attack from Sanders that Bloomberg is trying to buy the election. Bloomberg’s estimated net worth is $62 billion, which means the $124 million he has dropped on a blizzard of TV ads is a spit in the bucket.
That brings us to Biden.
Yes, he face-planted in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Let’s go to the history books, though, because comebacks do happen.
In 1992, a centrist Democrat named Bill Clinton lost 12 of 15 primaries and caucuses before blitzing through Super Tuesday en route to the nomination and the presidency.
As for everyone else, let’s keep a few things in mind.
Elizabeth Warren still is reputed to have the best ground game and organization in the remaining states, although Bloomberg is ramping up on that front.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg can still hold on to the idea that Democrats need fresh faces more than the same old, same old — emphasis on the “old.”
Amy Klobuchar continues to win debates and influence people, but she needs big money to ramp up in Super Tuesday states quickly. This is probably her last chance to pry open the kind of wallets that can keep her in the race for the long haul.
“Do the Democrats not want people to watch their debates?” via Jim Geraghty of The National Review — The most recent Democratic debate was on a Friday night. The next debate is a Wednesday. The next debate after that, in South Carolina and airing on CBS News, will be on the evening of February 25, a Saturday. The following debate, airing on CNN, will be March 15, which is another Saturday night. Two Saturday nights and a Friday night, just as the primary heats up? Do the Democrats not want people to watch their debates? Our old friend Tiana Lowe speculates that the Democratic National Committee doesn’t want big audiences for the debates, “not because the party bosses want to protect a favorite, but because they can’t pick at all.”
Donald Trump to run full-page, color ad in Vegas paper ahead of Democratic debate — Trump’s campaign will run a full-page, color ad in the Las Vegas Review-Journal ahead of the Democratic Debate. The event, held Wednesday in Sin City, comes ahead of Saturday’s Nevada caucuses. The ad contrasts Democrats’ economic policies against Trump’s “great record of accomplishment.” “Nevada voters should know that it doesn’t matter which Democrat becomes their party’s nominee, because the big government socialist agenda will be front and center no matter who it is,” said Trump 2020 press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. Republicans will not hold a Nevada caucus this cycle.
— SUNSHINE STATE PRIMARY —
Voters are voting — According to the Florida Division of Elections, as of Tuesday afternoon, Supervisors of Elections have 973,440 Republican vote-by-mail ballots; 144,339 have returned, 824,194 are outstanding, and 4,907 are unsent. As for Democrats, supervisors have a total of 1,060,587 vote-by-mail ballots; 76,286 have returned, 976,173 are outstanding, and 8,128 are unsent. Those classified as “other,” 246,840 vote-by-mail ballots, 3,753 have returned, 43,225 are outstanding and 199,862 are unsent.
“Mike Bloomberg campaign writes off Joe Biden” via Gary Fineout and Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — The former vice president’s fortunes have plummeted so much since his back-to-back losses in Iowa and New Hampshire that only Bloomberg is polling strongly enough to challenge the Democrats’ front-runner, Vermont Sen. Sanders, Bloomberg states director Dan Kanninen said. “Mike is quite clearly in a strong second place in this primary and rising rapidly above the rest of the field, which is either stagnant or declining quickly,” Kanninen told reporters on a conference call. “None of the other Democrats beside Mike or Bernie is in a position to amass delegates in a serious way on Super Tuesday.”
“Of seeds and insulted farmers: Joe Gruters blasts Bloomberg” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Add the Republican Party of Florida to those now attacking suddenly-relevant Democratic presidential candidate Bloomberg, who suddenly has found himself among the poll leaders for the Democratic presidential nomination, and just as suddenly in the past week or two having to explain comments he’s made over the years that don’t square with appeal to voters today. The comments have drawn widespread criticism, from farmers and conservatives, nonetheless. “Michael Bloomberg’s insulting comments have appropriately drawn criticism from farmers, and elected leaders from across the nation who value and respect the very important role farmers play in our country and especially in Florida,” RPOF Chairman Joe Gruters decried in a news release from the Party.
“Don’t throw away your vote, Democrats, by voting too early” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Democrats, we cannot stress this enough. Set aside those ballots for a while. Don’t send them back too early and risk voting for someone no longer in contention. We know you feel compelled to immediately complete and return your ballot. But look at the many names of people there who’ve already dropped out. Aren’t you glad you’re not wasting your vote on them? Believe us. You won’t forget to return your ballot. There will be 18 primaries and caucuses between now and “Super Tuesday,” which includes Texas, California, North Carolina and 13 other states. All told, they will award a third of the delegates to the Democratic National Convention.
— NEW ADS —
Bloomberg — “Difference”:
Klobuchar — “Bienstar”:
Sanders — “Nevada first”:
— MORE 2020 —
“Sanders surges into national lead in new Post-ABC poll” via Dan Balz and Scott Clement of The Washington Post — Sanders, on the strength of his performances in Iowa and New Hampshire, has surged nationally and now holds a sizable lead over all of his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll. Biden, who led Sanders in a Post-ABC national poll in January, has seen a sharp drop in his support after finishing fourth in the Iowa caucuses and fifth in the New Hampshire primary. Biden is now in a battle for second place with Bloomberg and Warren. Buttigieg, who won the state-delegate-count battle in the Iowa caucuses and came a close second to Sanders in New Hampshire, is in single digits nationally, roughly even with Klobuchar , whose surprise third-place finish in New Hampshire further scrambled the Democratic contest.
—“How Bloomberg would make community college free and overhaul student loans” via Michael Stratford of POLITICO
—“Bloomberg distances himself from Wall Street with tough new plan” via Victoria Guida of POLITICO
“If you feed them, will they vote?” via Gary He of Eater — Last week, on the first day of early voting in North Carolina, more than 700 people waited in torrential rain to attend a 7 a.m. event for Bloomberg. Among the attendees was 22-year-old Wake Forest undergrad Meredith Happy, who posted a Snapchat shortly after she walked into the event. The picture wasn’t of any campaign signage, or even the candidate, but of a kingly spread of food that included quiches, smoked salmon with capers and chopped eggs, a fruit platter, cookies, and assorted pastries. Judging by the all-you-can-eat feasts that have become a hallmark of Bloomberg events throughout the country, his unconventional presidential campaign is taking at least one adage seriously: that the way to a voter’s heart is through their stomach.
“Time is running out on Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar” via David Siders of POLITICO — For Buttigieg and Klobuchar, the ability to connect with people of color has become an existential threat to their campaigns. Both Democrats will likely wither if they cannot make inroads before Super Tuesday. And even if they could survive the primary without broadening their support, black and Latino voters are such a critical constituency that a nominee who fails to excite them is all but assured of defeat in the fall. For now, as the primary shifts from Iowa and New Hampshire to the more diverse states of Nevada and South Carolina, it is a source of weakness. Both moderates are running in single digits nationally in support among people of color, with Klobuchar barely registering in recent polls.
“Klobuchar again voices concern about potentially having Bernie Sanders at top of Democratic ticket” via Devan Cole of CNN — Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Klobuchar on Sunday doubled down on her position that Sen. Sanders, her self-described Democratic socialist rival, would hurt the party if he becomes the nominee. “I am not a pundit, but what I do know (is this), I am the only one on the debate stage when asked, ‘Do you have a problem with a socialist leading the Democratic ticket?’ … (that said) ‘Yes.’ And that is despite the fact that Bernie and I are friends, we came in together,” the Minnesota senator told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.” The comments come as Klobuchar continues to ramp up attacks on her rivals following her stronger than expected third-place finish in the New Hampshire primary.
“Does Sanders have a ceiling? Maybe. Can he win anyway? Yes.” via Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com — I shudder to ask the question in part because of bad memories from four years ago when theories about Trump’s ceiling were a big reason that people like me initially dismissed his chances in the primaries. In Trump’s case, though, there was at least some polling-driven evidence of a ceiling. There isn’t much evidence of this for Sanders. His favorability ratings are roughly as good as any other Democrat’s — and often the best in the field. But if you look at the actual behavior of voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, there are a few troubling signs for Sanders, including some evidence of what you might call a ceiling.
“The presidential contest turns to African American and Latino voters. For some candidates, that’s a problem.” via Cleve Wootson, Robert Costa and Michael Scherer of The Washington Post — After two contests in states with overwhelmingly white electorates, the Democratic presidential primaries are rushing into a broader and more diverse landscape were Latino and African American voters play a potentially decisive role — and are up for grabs. Just as more voters of color are poised to assert their say in the primary, the battle for their support is growing more competitive. Biden, who has been both popular among Latinos and the longtime polling leader among black voters, enters this phase as a weakened candidate. His chief rivals — who like him are white — all boast spotty records on race or have demonstrated other weaknesses that pose steep challenges as they seek to appeal to a powerful and skeptical electorate.
“Poll: Public ranks health care costs as No. 1 priority heading into elections” via Adam Cancryn of POLITICO Florida — The vast majority of Americans rank cutting health care and prescription drug costs as their top priorities heading into election season, according to a new POLITICO-Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health survey. Roughly 80% of those surveyed ranked “taking steps to lower the cost of health care” as “extremely” or “very” important, including 89% of Democrats and 76% of Republicans. Reducing prescription-drug costs saw similar support at 75%, with majorities in both parties ranking it as extremely or very important. Implementing a Medicare buy-in program or enacting Medicare for All ranked sixth and 10th, respectively. Climate change was 11th.
Meanwhile … “Trump backers want extra $1 billion to blunt Bloomberg spending” via Bill Allison of Bloomberg — Members of Trump’s reelection team and some of the GOP’s biggest fundraisers are discussing a new goal of raising an extra $1 billion to compete with Bloomberg’s record campaign spending. Bloomberg’s pledge to spend up to $1 billion to defeat Trump regardless of whether he wins the nomination is spurring Republicans to consider ways to keep up, including getting conservative billionaires to make much larger donations to Trump-related super-PACs. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser who is a senior adviser to the campaign, and Tommy Hicks, co-chairman of the Republican National Committee, have taken part in the discussions, the fundraisers said.
— STATEWIDE —
What Richard Corcoran is reading — “Florida Tax Credit Scholarship participation continues to rise” via redefinED — Information compiled by the Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice indicates 109,741 students across the state’s 67 school districts currently are being served by the program compared with 108,570 students tallied in the last quarterly report. Miami-Dade County remains the largest participating county with 25,185 — 22.6%. Broward and Orange counties follow, with 10,511 students (9.6%) and 10,314 students (9.4%), respectively. Hispanic students make up 38% of those participating in the program. African American students represent 29.6% of the total, and 26.6% of participants are white. Scholarship participation is slightly higher among girls, who make up 51.1% of the total. The largest concentration of scholarship students are in first, second and third grades.
“Sexting on duty, a misfired gun and an unsecured firearm: Notifications reveal Florida’s safe-school officer mishaps” via Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — Safe-school officer mishaps were revealed in the first batch of notifications school districts provided under a new state requirement. Since May, school systems have been required to notify the state’s Office of Safe Schools whenever a safe-school officer is fired or disciplined for misconduct or discharges a weapon outside of training. Eleven notifications have been filed so far, representing only a tiny number of officers patrolling the state’s schools. But for Kenneth Trump, a school safety consultant, those notifications raise a question that leaders should be asking themselves: Do enough qualified armed guards exist to meet the state’s mandate that a “good guy with a gun” be stationed on every campus?
“State, doctors tangle over pot complaints” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — State health officials have filed complaints against two medical-marijuana doctors based on information obtained by undercover investigators posing as patients, in what one physician’s lawyers described as a “trap.” Both complaints are awaiting action. The complaints appear to be the first major actions taken by the state against doctors who order cannabis for patients they deem eligible for the treatment, which was broadly legalized in a 2016 constitutional amendment. One of the investigations, into Tallahassee doctor Joseph Dorn, dates to June 2017. Between February 2017 and January 2018, Dorn — the chief medical officer of Medical Marijuana Treatment Clinics of Florida — issued medical-marijuana orders for a total of 3,292 new patients, charging $299 for each new patient appointment.
“Rising reinsurance costs presage ‘extraordinarily high’ property insurance rate hikes for Florida homeowners” via John Haughey of The Center Square — It took the Florida Legislature seven years to adopt a 2019 property insurance reform bill eliminating the “one-way” attorney fee provision in the state’s assignment-of-benefits (AOB) law. “AOB abuse” imposed a “hidden tax” on Florida’s 6.2 million property insurance policyholders, who had seen rates increase by an average of 36 percent between 2013-18, according to the Insurance Information Institute. The expectation was that the same rates would decline. Last spring, the state’s Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) adopted a wait-and-see posture in delaying annual June rate renewals, giving insurers until early 2020 to gauge the “impact of the bill.” But that expectation was muted by trepidation. “Loss creep” from 2017’s Hurricane Irma and 2018’s Hurricane Michael loomed. Despite AOB reform, Florida homeowners likely faced insurance rate hikes in 2020.
“Supreme Court to consider worker’s comp. dispute” via the News Service of Florida — Justices said they would take up a consolidated appeal filed by Sheridan Radiology Services of Pinellas, Inc. and Laboratory Corporation of America. After being injured on the job in 2013, Patty Davis filed for workers’ compensation benefits and received services from Sheridan Radiology Services of Pinellas and Laboratory Corporation of America, according to an October ruling by the 2nd District Court of Appeal. Both health care providers sent bills to her. She filed lawsuits against them under a law known as the Florida Consumer Collections Practices Act. A Hillsborough County circuit court tossed out the lawsuits. But in a 2-1 decision, the appeals court overturned that ruling.
“Justices won’t hear Janet Reno homestead fight” via the News Service of Florida — The Supreme Court declined to take up a case about the fate of a rustic homestead where former U.S. Attorney General Reno lived for decades in Miami-Dade County. Justices scuttled an appeal filed by one of Reno’s nieces, Janet M. Reno. The decision effectively let stand a 3rd District Court of Appeal ruling last year that sided with other Reno family members who supported donation of the property to Miami Dade College. Part of the complexity of the case was that the Bill Clinton-era attorney general had initially intended to donate the property to the University of Miami. But after Reno died in 2016, the university rejected the terms of the bequest, which called for preserving the mostly undeveloped property.
“Florida sees growing electric vehicle market” via Ed Dean of Florida Daily — From 2017 to 2018, the number of electric vehicles sold in Florida nearly doubled, and the number continues to climb thanks to the Sunshine State’s love of vehicles. According to Dylan Reed, the director of Advanced Energy Economy (AEE), in July, Florida was home to 21.8 million registered vehicles even though the state that has around 21.5 million people. Reed said he expected the EV market to continue to grow. “Electric vehicles become more attractive to consumers,” said Reed. “That’s a key question that the Legislature is going to take up this year,” Reed said. “How do we take it from 2,000 charging stations to 10,000 or 50,000?”
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Trump pardons ex-49ers owner, Hillsborough County resident Edward DeBartolo Jr.” via Eduardo Encina of the Tampa Bay Times — DeBartolo Jr. received a pardon for a gambling fraud conviction he received in 1998. Several former NFL players — including Buccaneers Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks and former 49ers standouts Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott and Charles Haley — gathered on the White House lawn to show their support of DeBartolo, whose 49ers teams won five Super Bowls in the 1980s. Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown was also in attendance. “He’s the main reason why we won so many Super Bowls,” Rice told reporters. “So today is a great day for him.”
Spotted — In the Oval Office for DeBartolo’s pardoning: Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister.
“Trump commutes sentence of Miami woman doing 35 years in prison for bilking Medicare” via Ben Conarck of the Miami Herald — Judith Negron was sent to prison for aiding in a $200 million fraud case in what was then the country’s biggest mental health billing racket. Negron was the only defendant in the case to refuse a plea deal and go to trial. She was convicted by a jury in August 2011 on 24 counts of conspiracy, fraud, paying kickbacks and money laundering in collaboration with the owners of a Miami-based company. The scheme centered around American Therapeutic Corp., a seven-clinic chain that billed Medicare for group mental-health sessions that were either unnecessary or not provided to patients. Negron’s 35-year sentence as a nonviolent first-time offender has drawn criticism from legal scholars who advocate for criminal justice reform.
“Roger Stone sentencing still on for Thursday” via Darren Samuelsohn and Josh Gerstein of POLITICO — U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson decided during a brief teleconference that there was no reason to continue delaying sentencing for the convicted GOP operative while she considers holding a hearing on a new trial motion. Stone faces up to 50 years in prison after being convicted last November on seven felony charges, including lying to Congress and obstructing House and FBI investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. “I think that delaying the sentencing would not be a prudent thing to do under all the circumstances, unless I’m required to do so,” Jackson said.
Debbie Mucarsel-Powell calls new sanctions targeting Venezuela ‘necessary’ — Mucarsel-Powell is offering praise after Trump sanctioned a Russian oil company, Rosneft, for its support of the Nicolás Maduro regime. The U.S. also slapped sanctions on Rosneft’s Chairman, Didier Casimiro. While Mucarsel-Powell said the move is needed, she also criticized Trump’s delay. “It’s no secret that Maduro has been using petroleum profits to prop up his narco-authoritarian regime, and these types of sanctions have been necessary for a long time now,” Mucarsel-Powell said. “It’s clear that the United States must develop a more comprehensive strategy on Venezuela that brings in our global allies to increase the effectiveness of our diplomatic and humanitarian efforts.” The U.S. has recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s rightful leader.
Assignment editors — Congresswoman Lois Frankel will host a roundtable to discuss affordable housing and homelessness, 10:30 a.m., West Palm Beach City Hall, Flagler Gallery Room, 401 Clematis Street, West Palm Beach.
Donna Shalala, Dan Gelber to host anti-Semitism roundtable — Miami Beach, the city which Mayor Gelber currently leads, will play host to the Wednesday meeting. Rep. Shalala, who serves Florida’s 27th Congressional District, will be joined by Jonathan Peled, the Interim Consul General of Israel in Miami, as well as several local leaders and members of the Jewish community. The U.S. has seen a series of anti-Semitic attacks in recent years, including a 2018 attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, which killed 11 people. Wednesday’s roundtable will take place at Miami Beach City Hall beginning at 12:45 p.m.
“Pearl Jam detail concerns with ‘flawed’ ticket reform bill in letter to Congressmen” via Jon Blistein of Rolling Stone — New Jersey’s Bill Pascrell and Frank Pallone, Jr. are behind the “Better Oversight of Secondary Sales and Accountability in Concert Ticketing Act,” which they first introduced in 2009 after Ticketmaster redirected people looking for Bruce Springsteen tickets to secondary-market sites with huge markups. Pascrell and Pallone, Jr. reintroduced the bill last year, and it seeks to add greater transparency to the ticket-selling process and enact regulations that would crack down on scalpers, bots and resellers. But Pearl Jam — which has been advocating for fairer ticket-selling practices since the Nineties — said the BOSS Act, as it stands now, is “flawed,” and that it “primarily, if not entirely, benefits professional ticket resellers using the so-called ‘secondary market.’”
— CORONAVIRUS —
“14 American cruise passengers with coronavirus among 328 evacuated from Japan to the U.S.” via Anna Fifield, Alex Horton and Abha Bhattarai of The Washington Post — Their return almost doubles the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States to 29. The number of confirmed infections in China now exceeds 72,000, with the death toll rising to 1,868, the majority of both in Hubei province, where the virus emerged in December. The 14 U.S. passengers tested positive for the virus after disembarking from the Diamond Princess, a cruise liner carrying 2,666 passengers and 1,045 crew members that had been quarantined for two weeks off the Japanese port of Yokohama.
“Why did U.S. break Diamond Princess coronavirus quarantine? ‘Something went awry” via David Oliver of USA TODAY — Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said the original idea to keep people safely quarantined on the ship wasn’t unreasonable. But even with the quarantine process on the ship, virus transmission still occurred. The Japanese health ministry said the number of cases confirmed aboard the Diamond Princess had reached 454. “As it turned out, that was very ineffective in preventing spread on the ship,” Fauci said. Every hour, another four or five people were being infected.
“The coronavirus outbreak could bring out the worst in Trump” via Peter Nicholas of The Atlantic — A new coronavirus that originated in China is confronting him with a potential pandemic, a problem that Trump seems ill-prepared to meet. A crisis that is heading into its third month could draw out every personal and managerial failing that the president has shown to this point. Much of what he’s said publicly about the virus has been wrong, a consequence of downplaying any troubles on his watch. Since Trump’s first upbeat assessment, the number of people sickened by the virus has spiraled. Guiding Trump’s response is a hardheaded nationalism. Should the coronavirus outbreak spread in the U.S., it could pose the biggest test yet of Trump’s managerial competence, given his habit of elevating his own judgment over expert opinion.
“Florida health officials won’t say how many people are being tested for coronavirus” via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald — “The goal of this public health response is containment,” said state Surgeon General Scott Rivkees, who presented to the Senate Health Policy committee. “And if there’s a confirmed case, it will absolutely be reported.” However, Rivkees said the Department of Health is not authorized to publish the number of people in the state being tested for the virus out of privacy concerns. Senators pressed Rivkees, recalling that during the mosquito-borne Zika infection outbreak in 2015 and 2016, the state frequently published the number of specimens that were being tested. “It was important for others nearby to know this information then, because mosquitoes can fly,” Rivkees said. “[Coronavirus] can only be transmitted person to person.”
Coronavirus briefing applauded — Tampa General Hospital’s Dr. John Sinnott, an infectious disease specialist, briefed the Senate Health Policy Committee on coronavirus Tuesday, which earned him praise from the Safety Net Hospitals Alliance of Florida. SNHAF CEO Justin Senior said, “Dr. Sinnott’s briefing gave members an important update on the spread of the coronavirus and how our hospitals are preparing to combat it. Our critical care hospitals are the front-line for fighting the coronavirus in Florida. They are closely communicating with the Florida Department of Health, the US Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization. They regularly do drills to prepare for patient surge situations. They are currently implementing protocols to identify any risk factors in new patients, including recent international travel, and are prepared to isolate potentially infected patients. These hospitals are some of the very best in the country and the highest trained in treating and preventing the spread of disease.”
Meanwhile … “Flu a bigger worry in Florida than coronavirus” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — While the coronavirus that started in China has spawned massive media attention — and reams of misinformation — Tampa General Hospital physician and University of South Florida faculty member John Sinnott said the state has more pressing health risks right now. “Influenza is the elephant in the room no one is talking about,” Sinnott told members of the Senate Health Policy Committee. “It’s killing people.” The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had received reports of more than 31 million cases of influenza or influenza-type illnesses nationally between October and the first two weeks of February, Sinnott said. More than 350,000 people have been hospitalized, and there have been more than 25,000 deaths.
— MOTHER NATURE —
“Hurricane Michael funding stalemate could cost timber farmers $100 million” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — There’s about a $100 million difference in how the Florida Forest Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture want to spend disaster relief money in eight north Florida counties. The money is part of $380 million in block grants that became available in November for the region devastated by Hurricane Michael. State Forester Jim Karels told the Senate Agriculture Committee that Florida and the USDA can’t reach agreement on how many acres a landowner can claim for grants to pick up tree debris, replant trees, and rebuild irrigation systems. The state wants to set a cap at 5,000 acres per landowner. The USDA responded with a cap of 1,500 acres. Karels told the panel the dispute makes no sense
“2,000-pound great white shark moves closer, is now about 60 miles from Destin” via Nick Tomecek of the NWF Daily News — Unama’ki, a 2,076-pound great white shark tagged by the research nonprofit OCEARCH, has pinged about 60 miles off the shores of Northwest Florida. On Feb. 1, she pinged nearly 100 miles from Northwest Florida shores. Her latest ping was on Feb. 15 and suggested she was moving northwest and closer to shore into warmer waters, presumably to give birth. OCEARCH’s website has been tracking 11 great white sharks that were tagged in fall 2019 in Nova Scotia. Unama’ki is one of the largest and was tagged at 15 feet, 5 inches long, according to the OCEARCH website.
“Upside-down jellyfish lob tiny grenades to kill prey” via Kate Baggaley of Popular Science — For years, snorkelers in mangrove forests around the Florida Keys, Caribbean, and Micronesia have reported a bizarre and unpleasant phenomenon. Despite being careful not to touch the jellyfish littering the seafloor below, swimmers sometimes feel a stinging sensation that seems to come from the water itself. After encountering stinging water while studying the jellies, scientists sought to get to the bottom of these prickling shores. To their surprise, they discovered that mucus secreted by these jellyfish is filled with tiny, wriggling cell masses that allow them to fire stinging substances from a distance. The researchers reported the newly identified structures, which they dubbed cassiosomes, on February 13 in the journal Communications Biology.
— THE TRAIL —
Happening this morning:
“Alex Sink endorses Patricia Sigman in SD 9 contest” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The former Chief Financial Officer threw her support behind Sigman, a Longwood labor lawyer, in a Democratic primary that includes Altamonte Springs lawyer Alexis Carter, organizer Guerdy Remy of Altamonte Springs, activist Rick Ashby of Oviedo, and H. Alexander Duncan of Geneva. The quintet is vying in the Democratic primary process for a shot at likely Republican nominee Jason Brodeur, the former Representative from Sanford who is president of the Seminole County Regional Chamber of Commerce. “Floridians deserve public servants who are dedicated to serving the public, not the special interests,” Sink wrote in a news release issued by the Senate Victory committee.
First on #FlaPol — “Al Jacquet uses anti-gay slur in Facebook rant against Democratic primary opponent” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — In a video posted to his personal Facebook page, Rep. Al Jacquet uses a common Caribbean anti-gay slur directed at one of his 2020 primary opponents. Toward the end of the video, just after the 58:30 mark, Jacquet refers to Lake Worth Beach Commissioner Omari Hardy as a “batty boy.” The derogatory term is used as a slur in the Caribbean to describe a gay person. Jacquet was born in the Netherlands Antilles, one of several islands in the Caribbean. Jacquet’s jab at Hardy came as he was indirectly responding to a Palm Beach Post report that Jacquet currently lacks a district office.
To watch a portion of the video, click on the image below:
First in Sunburn — Alex Penelas adds a pile of endorsements for Miami-Dade Mayor bid — Penelas announced Tuesday that he’d received another 25 backers in his campaign for Miami-Dade Mayor. The nods came from current and former local elected officials representing 13 municipalities across the county. “I am proud to have the support and trust of mayors, commissioners, and council members from numerous communities throughout Miami-Dade County who are working directly with residents to innately understand the daily challenges they face,” Penelas said. “More significantly, they recognize the importance of having the proven leadership and vision that is needed to overcome those obstacles and improve quality of life for all in the region.” Penelas is one of several candidates competing in the mayoral contest. He leads the field in fundraising, with more than $3 million raised through Jan. 31.
— MAYOR V. MAYOR —
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman is taking aim at Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.
In a tweet Tuesday, Kriseman took a swipe at Curry in a way that not everyone might get.
Responding to a tweet from Florida Times-Union City Hall reporter Nate Monroe criticizing the Jacksonville Republican for his inaction on the city’s rampant gun violence problem as Curry spent time at the Daytona 500 over the weekend with Trump, Kriseman suggested Curry also spend some time with the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
“Can’t speak to Mayor Curry’s leisure travel, but a trip he should take is to a @usmayors conference,” Kriseman wrote. “If he did, he’d learn best practices from other mayors about what cities are doing to address gun violence, along w/ other issues Jax is facing. Join us in Austin, Mayor Curry.”
The group’s next conference is in June in Austin, Texas.
But behind that is a tidbit of intel little known outside of Jacksonville. Curry, saying it was not a good use of taxpayer dollars, removed the city from the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which serves as a sort of think-tank for city leaders nationwide to share ideas.
The undertones of snark in Kriseman’s comment also hint at an ongoing beef with Curry for endorsing his 2017 reelection opponent, Rick Baker.
Kriseman followed his tweet up with another explaining ways the conferences can help other leaders inform policy decisions.
“As it relates to gun violence, have shared what we’ve done in St. Pete w/ fellow mayors. Early intervention thru our ‘Not My Son’ effort, community-oriented policing, etc. Tips are up. Crime is way down. Homicides down,” Kriseman wrote.
Jacksonville has had about 500 gun-related deaths since Curry took office, according to Monroe.
“Judge delays fraud sentences for Katrina Brown, Reggie Brown” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — A federal judge on Tuesday delayed fraud sentencing for the former Jacksonville City Council by about seven weeks so a newly hired attorney could get ready. U.S. Magistrate James Klindt’s order moved the sentencing date from March 30 to May 19 in response to defense attorney Alan Ceballos’ plea for time last week, a day after Reggie Brown hired him.
Brown, who had been ruled indigent and represented by a court-appointed attorney, was convicted in October of 33 crimes dominated by wire and mail fraud. Katrina Brown was convicted of 37 crimes.
— LOCAL —
“City appeals judge’s call that Duval schools can sue for sales tax referendum” via Emily Bloch of the Florida Times-Union — City lawyers filed a notice to appeal against Circuit Court Judge Gary Wilkinson’s order that the School Board could sue the city in its fight for a half-cent sales tax referendum. The filing took place at around 1:40 p.m. on the deadline day to appeal. “We respect the Judge’s order but respectfully disagree,” city attorney Jon Phillips said. “The integrity of consolidated government is of paramount concern to us, and we will continue to defend it.” The city has hired Burr & Forman attorneys for its own outside counsel, spending over $200,000 on its pursuit to fight the referendum.
“City spends hundreds of thousands on lawsuit against Duval schools” via Emily Bloch of the Florida Times-Union — The fight over putting a half-cent sales tax referendum for school maintenance on the ballot and what it would say has cost more than $200,000 so far. And that’s just what the city has paid for its legal counsel. But we still don’t know how much the school district could be billed by its outside legal advisers — if they’re even billed at all. And we don’t know what exactly Duval County voters would be asked to consider when they go to the polls. But 10 months and two lawsuits later, the window for a special election slipped by. Now, the school board is suing the city for a general election referendum.
“State fines Fort Lauderdale $1.8 million for sewage spills” via Susannah Bryan and Steve Bousquet of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — In the past two months, Fort Lauderdale’s breaking sewer pipes have spewed 211.6 million gallons of sewage into waterways and streets, killing fish and fouling the air in neighborhoods from Rio Vista to Coral Ridge. The state sent a letter to Mayor Dean Trantalis notifying him of the fine, which includes a civil penalty of $1.45 million. The city will have to pay up by March 31, according to the letter signed by Kirk White, deputy general counsel of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Trantalis, who was taken aback by the news, had hoped the state would not levy a fine so the city could invest the money into fixing its pipes.
“Former Lynn Haven city manager to change plea in fraud case” via Tom McLaughlin of the Panama City News-Herald — Former City Manager Michael White has become the second major player indicted in a corruption scandal that rocked the city to offer to change a previously entered plea of not guilty. White is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee Feb. 27. David White, no relation, the owner of Erosion Control Specialist, is slated to change his not guilty plea Feb. 25. “That’s true. He’s going to plead guilty to certain counts,” said Barry Beroset, Michael White’s attorney. The two are among five indicted in November following an investigation conducted by a Public Trust Unit established by Larry Keefe, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida.
First on #FlaPol — “Daniel Uhlfelder turns Mike Huckabee feud into a super PAC” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Uhlfelder and Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate who is a close Trump ally, have been battling over public access to beaches in Walton County. Uhlfelder, a highly-active tweeter, turned to attacking Huckabee on Twitter, calling him “beach thief,” among other things. Huckabee responded by filing a bar complaint against Uhlfelder, who represents a group called Florida Beaches for All. Now Uhlfelder says he is retaliating by launching a hybrid super PAC named Make My Day PAC, which he said is “dedicated to the Americans who refuse to be silenced by bad actors.”
— MORE LOCAL —
“Hillsborough Commissioner wants backup transportation surtax for 2020 ballot” via Veronica Brezina-Smith of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Commissioner Les Miller wants to take the fate of transportation funding into the county’s hands, as the survival of the citizen-led All for Transportation surtax remains uncertain. Surtax proponents are waiting for a ruling from the Florida Supreme Court on the passed surtax’s legality, after it was questioned harshly by the justices during oral arguments. In a revised item on the commission’s upcoming agenda, Miller has suggested a backup plan; Commissioner Kimberly Overman also put a surtax item on the agenda and wants to discuss what the next steps are.
“Indian River County to appeal Virgin Trains case to U.S. Supreme Court; residents to raise $200K cost” via Joshua Solomon of the TCPalm — Next stop: U.S. Supreme Court. The Indian River County Commission — with the promise of $200,000 of private money and a legal team including a retired judge once shortlisted for the Supreme Court — agreed to appeal its long-standing court case against Virgin Trains USA, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration to the Supreme Court. Its aim is to short-circuit funding for the $4.1 billion passenger railroad. “To all those people who think it was a done deal, which it has never been, this reaffirms it was never a done deal,” Commissioner Bob Solari said. The county has spent $3.5 million on litigation with Virgin Trains, and could spend close to $4 million to prepare legal briefs if SCOTUS hears this case.
“Body-slammed by school staffer, Pinellas boy suffered brain bleed and neglect, police say” via Romy Ellenbogen and Megan Reeves of the Tampa Bay Times — A 12-year-old boy suffered serious head injuries last week when a staff member at a Pinellas Park alternative school body-slammed him after the boy skipped the lunch line. A supervisor at the school didn’t call anyone for help, even though the boy was drifting out of consciousness, vomiting, crying and asking for his mother. Instead, the boy was given a bucket and dragged “Weekend at Bernie’s-style” from one room of the school to another, said Pinellas Park police Capt. Adam Geissenberger. The next day, the boy’s mom kept him home from school with what she thought was the flu. On Thursday, she took him to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. There she learned he had a skull fracture, two subdural hematomas, and a brain bleed, police said.
“Broward may close schools to deal with low enrollment” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — About 30 Broward schools could close, combine with other schools or convert into a new type of facility as the school district looks for ways to deal with nearly half-empty campuses. Many of these schools are in the southern part of the county, from Hollywood to Pembroke Pines, where thousands of students have left for charter schools. Others are in the Fort Lauderdale area and have struggled with factors such as low student performance, outdated facilities, and aging neighborhoods. Most changes would likely take place in the fall of 2021, and district officials said affected communities would have opportunities to share their views in community forums and surveys before any decisions are made.
“Broward Teachers Union begins campaign to highlight local pay raise dispute” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The BTU declared an impasse in December after the Broward School Board rejected a pay raise request of between 3.5% and 5%. The County countered with an offer of a 1.5% raise, plus “a 7% referendum supplement that’s already being paid, and a 0.44% referendum from additional collections for the 2019/2020 school year.” BTU President Anna Fusco rejected that offer, calling it “insulting.” Now, the BTU is organizing a protest at an upcoming hearing scheduled for March 10. “Broward schools are in a crisis,” Fusco argued. “Chief Financial Officer Judy Marte has managed to play games with the budget and hide funds to confuse the public,” Fusco said. “But teachers are smart and are not going to support budget gimmicks.”
“Holy Land theme park is laying off most of its employees and shutting down most departments” via Chabeli Carrazana of the Orlando Sentinel — The Holy Land Experience is laying off 118 people in a corporate-wide reorganization that puts the future of the biblical attraction in question. Earlier this year, Holy Land announced it was ending all stage shows at its property visible from Interstate 4 at the Conroy Road exit. The layoffs would take effect on April 18.
— NASSAU COUNTY SHAKEDOWN? —
Public documents in a lawsuit Raydient Places + Properties filed against Nassau County all point toward one conclusion: Some in Nassau County government have been extorting one of its largest community partners.
Raydient is the developer of the East Nassau Community Planning Area (ENCPA), a state-approved sector plan adopted by Nassau County in 2011.
The sector plan is a 24,000-acre, long-range, and mixed-use project memorialized in the county’s comprehensive plan. Many heralded the plan as a project that would “change the face of Nassau County” and spur much-needed economic development.
As the project moved forward, Raydient commenced development within the first of the plans Detailed Specific Area Plan (DSAP) — later named “Wildlight.” The county processed the plan for this first phase without incident or conflict.
Then came a small, but significant staffing change: Mike Mullin, the attorney representing Raydient and Rayonier during the creation of the ENCPA, took a job as Nassau County Attorney.
By the time Raydient was ready to start development on the next DSAP, there had been a seismic shift. Mullin, who had negotiated the ENCPA on behalf of Raydient and Rayonier, including the growth mitigation provisions, had changed the county’s position without warning.
The county had found itself in a position where it had a growing deficit and no sustainable path to reverse the trend. Mullin’s shift in employment brings up its own ethical questions, but the dispute between Raydient and Nassau County encompasses more than just ethics.
— TOP OPINION —
“Nina Williams: Jacksonville GOP tent attack, a rising pattern of anti-Donald Trump violence” via Florida Politics — It was terrifying. None of us expected something so violent could take place. I was in complete disbelief and very scared. After the incident, I was overcome with emotion and called my family to tell them that I was safe. Six inches. That’s how much he missed us by. It has since been confirmed that we were attacked because we were registering voters as supporters of President Trump. It’s unthinkable and deeply upsetting that someone would turn to violence to silence my political views. What’s happening is clear. There is a pattern of violence against Trump supporters, and no one — from children in New Hampshire to senior citizens in Florida — is safe from the radical left’s hatred-fueled violence.
— OPINIONS —
“Doug Broxson: Farm Share’s Hurricane Michael relief efforts have long-lasting benefits in the Panhandle” via Florida Politics — Farm Share, a nonprofit that provides food and resources to communities throughout Florida, loaned its support during the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Michael by supplying self-contained ready-to-eat meals, nonperishable foods, hot meals, water, cleaning items, hurricane supplies, and other essential resources in the days and weeks following the storm. Before Hurricane Michael even made landfall, Farm Share had activated its relief plan — but no one could have anticipated this monster storm’s catastrophic effects in the Panhandle. By working with agency partners and government officials statewide, Farm Share was able to distribute more than 3 million pounds of food and supplies, equivalent to almost 77 semi-truck loads of food.
“Florida should have paid family leave for all” via Rick Kriseman for the Tampa Bay Times — Many large cities and counties across Florida have already begun to offer a paid family leave policy for their workers, from Miami to Tampa to Jacksonville and beyond. We have an opportunity, on a statewide level, to offer paid family leave to all Floridians, not just a select few. Right now, there are bills in the Florida Legislature, SB 1194 and HB 889, the Florida Family Act, that would offer paid family leave to new families in Florida across the board. Paid leave to care for a new child is a policy that’s good for families, good for businesses and good for Florida. It is an affordable solution that is there for families when they need it.
“Let’s put foster care money where it’s needed” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — The Senate is moving a sensible change that would better serve children in foster care and state taxpayers alike. SB 1326 would confront inequities in the child welfare system by creating a fairer way to fund foster care programs. The measure creates a stronger safety net for thousands of needy families. And it’s a more efficient use of tax money that addresses a crisis in Tampa Bay. The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Wilton Simpson would reform what a legislative analysis found to be “significant core funding inequities” that “have been institutionalized” into Florida’s foster care system. Several changes under Simpson’s bill would make the system more accountable and perform better.
“Do students get a better education at New College than at Florida State University? Not in my field — physics.” via Paul Cottle for Bridge to Tomorrow — I don’t support the merger. Nobody has convinced me that swallowing New College would be good for FSU and its students. But I’ll defend the quality of education we provide at FSU — at least in the Physics Department where I’ve been a professor for 33 years. Is New College a better place to learn to be an economist or a writer than FSU? I don’t have the expertise to say. But I can say with 100% confidence that New College is not a better place to learn physics or to learn to be a physicist than FSU. The New College community should be very careful about arguing that a New College education is superior to the education that FSU students experience. Because at least in my field, it’s not.
“Both Rubio and Scott have failed as senators” via Barb Howe for the Gainesville Sun —They have failed to support and defend the Constitution by refusing to provide a check on a president who placed his own personal and political interests above those of the country he purports to lead. They have not faithfully discharged the duties of their office to act as a co-equal branch of government rather than the personal cheerleading squad of the chief executive. The obsequious behavior of Republicans at the State of the Union address was embarrassing and unbecoming of public officials.
— EARNINGS —
“Colodny Fass banks $2.2M in 2019” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The team at Colodny Fass earned an estimated $2.2 million last year, newly filed lobbying compensation reports show. The firm recorded $1.31 million in pay for its work in the Legislature. Colodny added another $880,000 to its coffers lobbying the Governor and Cabinet. Lobbyists Katie Webb, Jodi Bock Davidson, Sandy Fay, Nicole Graganella, Claude Mueller, and Nate Strickland collected those fees across more than 50 lobbying contracts, many of which broke the six-figure mark. At $110,000, Florida Peninsula Insurance Company was their most lucrative client in the Legislature. Topping the executive branch ledgers were Ascendant Holdings and FedNat Insurance Company, both at the $100,000 level.
“Lewis Longman & Walker tops $1.1M in 2019 earnings” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Lori Killinger, Natalie Kato, Terry Lewis, James Linn and Martin Lyon listed more than two dozen clients in 2019, earning an estimated $605,000 representing them in the Legislature and $550,000 more lobbying the Governor and Cabinet. If Lewis Longman & Walker’s contracts trended toward the top end of their reported ranges, the firm could have earned as much as $1.8 million. At a minimum, the firm received $800,000 for its efforts last year. There was a five-way tie for the top paying client across their legislative compensation reports. The Florida Association of Nurse Anesthetists, Florida Association of Special Districts, Florida Manufactured Housing Association, Minto Communities, Seminole Improvement District chipped in $60,000 apiece.
— MOVEMENTS —
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Brian Ballard, Chris Dorworth, Ballard Partners: Trulieve
Heath Beach, Kaleo Partners: HVJT Consulting on behalf of Dell Technologies
Donovan Brown, RJ Myers, Suskey Consulting: National Aviation Academy, Orloff Advisors
French Brown, Marc Dunbar, Chris Moya, Dean Mead: Conference of Circuit Judges of Florida, Marriott Vacations Worldwide Corporation
Jorge Chamizo, Charles Dudley, George Feijoo, Gary Guzzo, Melissa Ramba, Floridian Partners: Avail
Michael Corcoran, Matt Blair, Jacqueline Corcoran, Andrea Tovar, Corcoran Partners: ExamWorks
Salome Garcia: The CLEO Institute
Timothy Parson, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee: Alliance to Prevent Legionnaires’ Disease
Joe Salzverg, GrayRobinson: Florida Association of Property Appraisers
“City of Miami Beach hires former Miami-Dade County Deputy Mayor Alina Tejeda Hudak” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Hudak left her role as Miami-Dade Deputy Mayor in July. Hudak briefly ran the county’s government after former Mayor Carlos Alvarez resigned in 2011. Now, she’s joining the city of Miami Beach to run several departments, including Capital Improvement Projects, Environment & Sustainability, Housing & Community Development, Marketing & Communications, Public Works and Transportation & Mobility, according to a city announcement. Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales released a statement welcoming Hudak to his staff. “I have known and worked with Alina for over two decades and have full confidence that she will do what is right, honest, and in the best interest of our residents,” Morales said.
“Tampa adds four new attorneys to build robust legal team” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — “City Attorney Gina Grimes has built a world-class office full of some of the City of Tampa’s biggest legal names,” Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said. “Each of these individuals bring to the table decades worth of professional experience that will prove invaluable as our city continues to grow and thrive. Their private and public sector careers are unrivaled in any other City Attorney’s office, and we’re incredibly fortunate to have them.” The new additions include Andrea Zelman and Morris Massey as new deputy city attorneys and Cate Wells and Susan Johnson — Velez as senior assistant attorneys. Three have worked for the city before.
— ALOE —
“Florida gas prices declined to lowest level of the year” via NorthEscambia.com — Sunday’s state average of $2.33 per gallon is 6 cents less than a week ago, and 23 cents less than last month. The average price per gallon Sunday in Escambia County was $2.30, while in North Escambia, one Cantonment station was at $2.27 Sunday night. That’s a local increase of a penny from last week. “Florida drivers continue to benefit from strong refinery output and low fuel demand, which have contributed to the seasonal slump at the pump,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA — The Auto Club Group. “Unfortunately, these low gas prices may not linger terribly long. Florida gas prices could rise anywhere from 20-60 cents this spring, as demand rises and refineries switch to the more expensive-to-produce summer gasoline.”
JM Family Enterprises recognized as one of Fortune’s ‘Best Company to Work For’ — For the 22nd year in a row, the Deerfield Beach-based automotive services company has been named one of FORTUNE Magazine’s ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ — coming in at No. 26. Among the perks: Employees have access to an on-site child care facility, $10,000 in adoption assistance, and a 60-day personal leave-of-absence policy. And for longtime employees — those who have worked for 10 years receive an all-inclusive weekend vacation at a Florida resort every five years until they retire. “Earning a spot on this prestigious list is quite an accomplishment, and the fact that we’ve been recognized for so many years is extraordinary,” the company said in a statement.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Happy 40th birthday to our friend Michael Williams of the Florida Chamber Foundation. Also turning 40 is Brian McManus, Chief of Staff at the Department of Economic Opportunity. We hear Arek Sarkissian is making a special cake for him. Best wishes to Andy Abboud, Ryan Boyett, and Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.