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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 2.21.20

Here’s your AM rundown of people, politics and policy in the Sunshine State.

Heading into Wednesday’s Democratic debate, Mike Bloomberg had a firm lead in delegate-rich Florida.

The newest survey from St. Pete Polls showed the former New York City Mayor with the 32% support among Florida Democrats, a five-point advantage over former VP Joe Biden.

The new edition, conducted Feb. 18-19, continued the trend set in the pollster’s two prior statewide surveys — one in late-January showing the billionaire businessman surging into No. 2, and another from earlier this month putting him a point ahead of Biden.

Mike Bloomberg has a firm lead in Florida, for now.

Now, other polls are starting to catch up.

Republican Ryan Tyson recently polled Sunshine State Democrats and found Bloomberg on top with 26% support, followed by Biden at 20% and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders at 13%.

Though it didn’t measure the nominating contest, the University of North Florida did validate the argument Bloomberg’s made across $400 million-plus in ad buys: that he’s the candidate best positioned to beat Donald Trump.

Florida voters apparently think so, as he leads the incumbent 50-44% in the Sunshine State. The same UNF poll gave Biden a 1-point lead and showed both Sanders and fellow U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren in a tie with POTUS.

But, like St. Pete Polls’ survey, both measures represent the pre-debate leanings of Florida Democrats. Bloomberg’s debate debut was no home run, to be sure, but in the Florida theater of the primary election, he’s assumed front-runner status.

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Good news about a great person — Valerie Wickboldt is the new Assistant Vice President of PR and Communications at HCA Healthcare’s North Florida Division.

Wickboldt comes to HCA with more than a decade of director-level leadership experience in internal and external communications, public affairs, and new and traditional media management. In her new role, she will ensure a consistent corporate communications strategy across the North Florida Division.

Congratulations to Valerie Wickboldt, who became the new Assistant Vice President of PR and Communications at HCA Healthcare’s North Florida Division.

In 2016, Wickboldt began working as communications director at DOR, one of the largest state agencies reporting to the Governor and Cabinet. As the director, she was responsible for setting the strategic communications plan for the department.

Her resume also includes working as the vice president of communications at The James Madison Institute, director of communications and development at CoreMessage, Inc. and communications director for the Boys & Girls Club of Big Bend.

— TODAY’S SUNRISE —

The House is sending Gov. Ron DeSantis a bill requiring parental consent for minors who seek an abortion.

 Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— The Senate Appropriations Committee approves a bill to raise the age for vaping and ban almost all flavored vaping products.

— Officials with the state college system unveil a new program to help veterans and members of the military navigate the higher education system, get a degree and transition to civilian life.

 — Sen. Tom Lee, who has spent more than 20 years in the Legislature, talks about what has changed over the years, and many of those have diminished the system.

 — An all-female version of Florida Man, including a woman accused of running over her boyfriend with a golf cart after a day of barhopping.

To listen, click on the image below:

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@LindseyGrahamSC: Under our system of justice, President Trump has all the legal authority in the world to review this case, in terms of commuting the sentence or pardoning Mr. [Roger] Stone for the underlying offense.

@LoganDobson: If Dems flip Pennsylvania, Michigan and Nebraska’s 2nd District — but not Wisconsin — we’ll get a tied Electoral College.

@GlennKesslerWP: One has to seriously question the credibility of any campaign that would push out such a manipulated video. These reaction shots are unrelated to the two-second moment in the debate. This is a dangerously slippery slope that will lead to a nuclear war of fake videos.

@Scontorno: You wouldn’t believe how many STD jokes are in my mentions and inbox any time I write about The Villages.

@WiltonSImpsonFL: Congratulations to my friend @JuliaNesheiwat! She’s done an incredible job for the people of Florida as our Chief Resilience Officer and will surely serve the President and the American people well!

@ChrisSprowls: Thank you @ErinGrall & Rep. Kim Daniels 4 your leadership & compassion. As parents, we hope our kids know to ask for help. That’s not always true. Today, the FL Leg. ensured that young girls in crisis won’t be left to make emotionally-traumatizing, life-altering decisions alone.

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

@MayorGimenez: It gives me great pleasure to sign the resolution renaming all sections of Dixie Highway that belong to Miami-Dade County the Harriet Tubman Highway. Commissioner Dennis Moss was the prime sponsor of this resolution, but it was met with my full support & that of the Commission.

@JimRosicaFL: This is my first experience as a newspaper editor in which the fate of my front page is hanging on the timing of the end of a legislative debate, AND I AM LITERALLY BANGING MY HEAD ON MY DESK RN.

Tweet, tweet:

— DAYS UNTIL —

Nevada caucuses — 1; “Better Call Saul” Season 5 premiers — 2; Suits for Session — 4; 10th Democratic presidential debate in Charleston — 4; The Markup, a nonprofit newsroom covering technology, launches — 4; South Carolina Primaries — 8; Super Tuesday — 11; Super Tuesday II — 18; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 21; 11th Democratic Debate in Phoenix — 23; Florida’s presidential primary — 25; Super Tuesday III — 25; “No Time to Die” premiers — 45; Florida TaxWatch Spring Board Meeting begins — 54; TaxWatch Principal Leadership Awards — 55; Florida Chamber Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 84; “Top Gun: Maverick” premiers — 126; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 143; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premiers — 147; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo start — 154; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 179; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 185; First Presidential Debate in Indiana — 221; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 229; Second Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 237; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 244; 2020 General Election — 256.

— TOP STORY —

After 2 days of grueling debate, parental consent for minors’ abortions to become law” via Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — In his State of the State address at the beginning of the 2020 Legislative Session, DeSantis asked for a bill to require minors seeking an abortion to obtain parental consent. On Thursday, he received it. After five hours of heated debate over two days, the Florida House passed a bill that would do just that, sending the legislation to DeSantis’ desk, the first piece of major legislation to do so. The bill, which had been fast-tracked through a single committee stop instead of the usual three, was replaced Wednesday by Senate’s version of the bill that passed earlier this month. Florida law currently requires that parents or guardians are notified if a minor gets an abortion.

House Democratic Leader reacts to parental consent passage — Leader Kionne McGhee said he was “extremely proud” of the Democratic caucus after his party navigated an internal struggle over the controversial bill. Several pro-choice Democrats vehemently opposed the measure. But some blue dog Democrats — including members from the black community — supported the push for minors to obtain parental consent before undergoing an abortion. That led to the full Democratic caucus declining to take a formal position on the bill. “Make no mistake, this is a very personal and complex choice,” McGhee added in his Thursday statement. “While we are outnumbered here in Tallahassee, we will always fight to protect the rights of Floridians to have access to safe and legal reproductive health care services.”

— DATELINE: TALLY —

DeSantis backs state efforts on coronavirus” via the News Service of Florida — DeSantis praised state Surgeon General Scott Rivkees for working with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the state’s response to the coronavirus and reiterated that the state had not had any confirmed cases. “Everyone that has come back from China that has been tested has been negative. Scott Rivkees has done a good job working with the CDC,” DeSantis told reporters. “We continue to do it. We continue to monitor everything. But it’s not something that’s impacted us yet, so we’re just going to keep on it.”

Ron DeSantis praises Scott Rivkees on his preparations for coronavirus.

DeSantis orders agencies to review contracts amid investigation into nonprofit” via Mary Ellen Klas and Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — Responding to the absence of effective oversight of the state-funded Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, DeSantis issued an executive order that requires all state agencies to review any single-source contracts that are given protected status in state statute. The action is likely to affect fewer than a dozen private agencies but could reach other social services providers that administer state and federal funds. Among them are the privately run nonprofits such as community-based care providers that offer child welfare services to local communities; early learning coalitions that monitor Florida’s prekindergarten program; PRIDE Enterprises, which trains inmates and sells products; the Able Trust, which serves the disabled; and the Schools of Hope.

DeSantis to stay out of E-Verify struggle — Although E-Verify was part of the Governors’ priority for the 2020 Session, DeSantis says he’s going to keep his involvement to a minimum. “I’m not going to get all spun out of whack on this committee or that,” DeSantis says. “We know what we want.” According to the Miami Herald, the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee revised Sen. Tom Lee’s bill (SB 664) to use “a system that is ‘substantially equivalent’ to E-Verify to be in compliance with the proposed law.” The change effectively “gutted” the bill, with Lee suggesting DeSantis should veto the bill if it passes. While saying he will stay above the fray, DeSantis believes lawmakers can reach a compromise: “I think they will.”

DeSantis hopes ‘we can get something done’ on gambling” via the News Service of Florida — For the second week in a row, the House Gaming Control Subcommittee canceled a scheduled meeting, where any deal between the two chambers could have been revealed. Discussions between legislative leaders have been ongoing, but the Seminole Tribe of Florida — a key player in any gambling deal — has not been part of the talks. “I have not met with them yet. But I would like to have a resolution, and so I anticipate meeting with them in the not-too-distant future,” DeSantis told reporters. “I hope we can get something done. I think it would be good if we can. But that is definitely on the agenda on the not-too-distant future.”

DeSantis: USF ‘more natural’ home for New College merger” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — “It seems like if you were going to do something like that, USF would probably be more natural just given the location,” DeSantis told reporters. Since Rep. Randy Fine unrolled a radical proposal to fold New College into Florida State University and Florida Polytechnic University into the University of Florida, that’s been a frequent question. New College sits adjacent to the University of South Florida, Sarasota-Manatee, and both are part of the Cross-College Alliance, already allowing cross-registration and partnering on specific administrative goals. Both New College and Florida Poly have been part of USF before.

José Oliva dismisses New College students’ concerns about merger proposal” via Sarah Mueller of Florida Politics — Students say they’re concerned they’ll lose their national rankings, be lower on FSU’s priority list and lose talented faculty. They also criticized College President Donal O’Shea for not seeming to voice strong enough opposition in Florida Politics’ story on the Senate President’s support for the consolidation. “I don’t feel that the students would in any way suffer a loss,” Oliva said. “Is it a disruption, without a doubt. But the amount of monies being spent on those institutions are entirely unjustifiable, and it is our duty to look at things like that.”

Merger plan could continue into 2021 — The plan to merge New College and Florida Poly into larger state universities could take until next year even if lawmakers move forward with the proposal, Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida reports. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges’ procedures relating to mergers requires schools to submit plans that typically take months to put together. And the association’s board only meets twice a year, in June and December. SACSCOC President Belle Wheelan said making the December agenda would be “pushing it.”

New College students ‘walkout,’ protest possible FSU merger” via Timothy Fanning of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — During a demonstration, about 75 students, faculty members and alumni rallied outside the Jane Bancroft Cook Library on campus, saying such a move would be a devastating blow for autonomy and campus identity at the honors college, the smallest school in the state university system. “There’s no way that a university 300 miles away can understand what we need,” said Steven Keshishian, president of the New College Student Alliance. Like many New College students, he fell in love with the small campus, the non-competitive atmosphere, and the ability to work closely with his professors. Said Daria Paulis, a second-year biology and neuroscience major. “If I wanted to go to FSU, I would have gone to FSU.”

Tom Lee to Governor’s office: ‘Shame on them’” via Laura Cassels of Florida Phoenix — Lee blasted DeSantis’ office for what Lee described as a stealth amendment he found tacked onto clean-water legislation — an amendment that would further consolidate DeSantis’ power over the state Department of Environmental Protection. “Shame on them,” Lee said after learning of the amendment at the Senate Appropriations Committee, which was hearing a clean-water bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Debbie Mayfield. This is about only two words in the extensive amendment: “The head of the Department of Environmental Protection shall be a secretary, who shall be appointed by the Governor, with the concurrence of one member of the Cabinet.” The two words — “one member” — are very important. Right now, all three Cabinet members are involved in the appointment process.

Lee exchanges words with Florida Man — During a Senate Appropriations hearing on Sen. David Simmons‘ vaping bill (SB 810), Lee and other Senators noticed an audience member give “I’m watching you” fingers to Lee or Simmons. Emotions ran high as retailers who sold vape products argued the legislation would hurt their business. Lee told Florida Politics he approached the man later and asked whether the Senator knew him. “If you do that to me again, I’ll whoop your ass,” Lee said. A Senate Majority aide caught the back end of the altercation and intervened, but Lee told Florida Politics it was nothing major.

During a committee hearing, Tom Lee had words with a Florida Man.

House votes to strip troubled domestic violence agency of state contract” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Both chambers put legislation (HB 1087/SB 1482) authorizing the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to contract with other nonprofits on the special order calendar, expediting the effort to cut the state’s ties with the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV). That agency is currently written into statute as DCF’s lone domestic violence contracting option. In the Senate, President Bill Galvano requested the bill skip the normal committee process to accept the House version. His chamber is expected to take up Rep. Juan Fernandez-Barquin‘s bill.

Oliva on Al Jacquet’s anti-gay slur: ‘I take him at his word when he says that he was sorry’” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Jacquet has already lost his position as ranking member of the House Rules Committee. Asked if any further consequences await Jacquet — including a possible House censure — Oliva appeared to downplay the possibility. “I think it’s quite possible that Rep. Jacquet is having some personal difficulty or something. He apologized for the statements that he made. And I’ve served with him a while. I take him at his word when he says that he was sorry about what he said,” Oliva said. “In the years I’ve known him here, I’ve not known him to be — in any way — offensive to any other member. I think he took the right action.”

— LEGISLATION —

School safety improvements, including family reunification in crisis, teed up for Senate floor” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Legislation to mandate additional school safety recommendations cleared its final committee Thursday and heads now to the Senate floor for a full vote. The bill (SB 7040) adds recommendations from the MSD Commission. Under the amended bill, school districts would be required to report alternative disciplinary actions such as in-school suspension, suspension or peer counseling to appropriate authorities, sheriff’s offices overseeing the state’s guardian program to review psychological and drug test reports before approving members to the program, add night and lowlight firearms training for guardians and provide potential criminal penalties to people who file false tips about potential safety threats.

Deregulation efforts backed in House and Senate” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — A bill that would preempt local regulation of many categories passed the House by a 78-40 margin. HB 3, by Rep. Michael Grant, would preempt local governments from requiring occupational licenses that are not mandated by the state. “We are freeing up the workforce so they are not impeded by excessive regulations and can put food on their tables,” Grant said. The legislation would bring statewide “uniformity” to a broad swath of trade classes including “painting, flooring, cabinetry, interior remodeling, driveway or tennis court installation, decorative stone, tile, marble, granite, or terrazzo installation, plastering, stuccoing, caulking, canvas awning, and ornamental iron installation.”

Michael Grant is behind a big the regulation Bill making way through Session.

House OKs ballot measure to limit school board terms” via The Associated Press — The referendum attempt required a three-fifths majority and garnered a 79-39 vote margin in the Republican-controlled chamber. The vote was mostly along party lines. But the measure faces a more uncertain future in the state Senate, where Democrats who oppose the measure could have the necessary votes to block the proposal from making it onto the ballot. Because it would be a referendum, the measure would not require review by the Governor to advance onto the ballot. If approved by both the House and Senate, the referendum would appear on the November ballot and would need to be approved by at least 60% of voters.

Broadband projects could be linked to toll roads” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a proposal (SB 1166) that would shift broadband policy responsibilities from the Department of Management Services to the Department of Economic Opportunity. With the shift, a new Florida Office of Broadband would be created to develop, market, and promote broadband. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Ben Albritton, also would require the Department of Transportation, starting in the 2022-2023 fiscal year, to fund projects that assist in the development of broadband infrastructure within or adjacent to three proposed toll-road corridors.

Lawmaker assails ‘hodgepodge’ of crosswalks in Florida in call for better pedestrian safety” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — Senate panel unanimously OK’d a bill (SB 1000) to add and improve crosswalks throughout the state. As always, however, the biggest hurdle is cost: The proposal to add one midblock crosswalk in Tallahassee, on busy North Monroe Street at Lake Ella, was a little over $386,000, records show. State Sen. Keith Perry presented the bill to the chamber’s Appropriations Committee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development. The current system of crosswalks is confusing to pedestrians and drivers as to who has the right of way, he explained. “What we have now is a hodgepodge across the state of flashing yellow lights, some red lights, some (with) no lights at all, some automated, some have timers on them,” Perry said.

Expanded e-bike bill pulls up to House floor” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The bill (HB 971) would allow electric bicycles to go anywhere standard bicycles are already approved. Port Charlotte Republican Rep. Grant, who filed the bill, noted that 23 states already have similar laws. “We are bringing e-bike technology into the 21st century,” Grant said. The House State Affairs Committee unanimously gave the proposal its final thumbs-up before it goes to the House floor. An amendment removed a provision allowing local government panels to restrict the use of e-bikes for public safety concerns. St. Augustine Republican Cyndi Stevenson ultimately supported the bill but feared tying e-bikes to their conventional counterparts could have unintended consequences. She advocated for the public safety option.

House moves forward on vacation rental bill” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — For the first time, online platforms such as Airbnb would have to collect and remit taxes on vacation rental properties, ensure that only properly licensed rentals are advertised and provide the state with specific information about the rentals, under a proposal headed to the House floor. In exchange, the regulation would be “preempted” to the state, largely preventing local governments from regulating vacation rentals. Local governments could only regulate the rentals in the same way as other properties in neighborhoods, a restriction that cities and counties strenuously oppose. The House Commerce Committee approved the proposal (HB 1011), with Democrats objecting that decisions about vacation rentals are best left up to local officials.

Lottery bill has never been scored, but it’s ready for the House floor” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Rep. Will Robinson told members of the House Commerce Committee that he hasn’t asked the Revenue Estimating Conference to score economic impact for HB 991. “We have no plans,” the Bradenton Republican said. That’s notable considering concerns warning labels could hurt Lottery sales, and indirectly cost millions in education revenue for the state, loomed large in DeSantis’ decision to veto similar legislation last year. State estimators last year at one point asserted the legislation cost reduce education payouts by $325 million.

Refiled version of ‘Jordan’s Law’ passes in House” via Saundra Weathers of Bay News 9 — The bill was first proposed after the September 2018 death of 2-year-old Jordan Belliveau, reportedly at the hands of his own mother Charisse Stinson. She is set to go on trial for his death in August 2020. The refiled bill passed unanimously. The key now is to get it to pass in the Senate. If that doesn’t happen, it won’t have a chance to become law. Rep. Chris Latvala sponsored the House bill. The language of the bill centers around some of the failings reported after the death of Belliveau.

Bill targeting Florida’s algae problems heads to Senate floor” via Zac Anderson of the USA Today Network — Water quality legislation pushed by Gov. Ron DeSantis is poised to pass the Florida Senate, but many environmental advocates worry that the bill is not aggressive enough to have much of an impact. Senate Bill 712 — dubbed the Clean Waterways Act — cleared its final committee Thursday and now heads to the Senate floor. The bill is a response to environmental problems that have plagued the state in recent years, from toxic blue-green algae in estuaries connected to Lake Okeechobee to red tide and algae-choked springs.

— TODAY IN CAPITOL —

Assignment editors — Rep. Dianne Hart will be holding a news conference to highlight HB 189 and the overall need for criminal justice reform. The bill would increase rehabilitation credits (gain time) and reform the current system, 10:30 a.m., 4th-floor Rotunda.

 

— SUNSHINE STATE PRIMARY — 

Voters are voting — According to the Florida Division of Elections, as of Thursday, Supervisors of Elections have 980,691 Republican vote-by-mail ballots; 250,413 have returned, 725,305 are outstanding, and 4,973 are unsent. As for Democrats, supervisors have a total of 1,073,385 vote-by-mail ballots; 138,415 have returned, 926,716 are outstanding, and 8,254 are unsent. Those classified as “other,” 245,525 vote-by-mail ballots, 5,482 have returned, 41,591 are outstanding, and 198,452 are unsent.

March for Our Lives co-founders endorse Bernie Sanders, diss Mike Bloomberg” via Dan Sweeney of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — “I’m so, so excited to endorse Bernie because I know he’s created a movement,” March for Our Lives co-founder Delaney Tarr said in a video. “A movement in the way that the march has, that so many other youth activists have, one that’s not focused on a person, or a candidate, or even just an election, but on change.” Cameron Kasky, another co-founder of the movement, was not included in the announcement and had previously endorsed Andrew Yang. “I am very proud of the Democratic Party for making it clear last night that Mike Bloomberg cannot buy our votes,” Kasky tweeted. “One racist, sexist Republican in office is enough.”

Gow Fields, Lakeland’s first black Mayor, endorses Bloomberg” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — “As a nation, we need someone in the White House who can bring class, decorum, and clearheaded thinking into our political discourse,” Fields said. “We need someone who has the experience and record of working with all sides of the political spectrum while incorporating lessons learned from the past leading to a brighter future. With Mike at the helm, we can restore faith in our government leadership as we move forward together.” Fields announced his support a day after Bloomberg participated in a primary debate for the first time. The former Mayor served for 20 years in Lakeland, first on the City Commission and then as Mayor from 2009 until 2013.

Florida tells mail voters to put personal information on outside of ballot envelopes — where it can be seen by anyone” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Floridians voting by mail in 2020 elections are being asked to put their email addresses and home and mobile phone numbers, along with their signatures, on the outside of the ballot envelopes they mail back to the elections office — allowing the information to be seen and harvested by anyone who comes in contact with the envelope. The request for contact information was added by the Legislature and governor last year as part of a wide-ranging law that changed several aspects of the way Florida elections are run.

Assignment editors — Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy will help launch “Women for Mike” in Orlando. Osceola County District Commissioner Vivian Janer and Team Bloomberg National Deputy Women’s Outreach Director Amanda Finney will join Murphy to host the first Women for Mike event in Florida, Saturday, 1:30 p.m., The Abbey — 100 S Eola Dr. #100, Orlando.

— NEW ADS —

Mike Bloomberg — “Only Democrat”:

Amy Klobuchar — “Decency”:

Tom Steyer — “All of America”:

Elizabeth Warren — “Mike Bloomberg”:

— MORE 2020 —

Russia backs Donald Trump’s reelection, and he fears Democrats will exploit its support” via Adam Goldman, Julian Barnes, Maggie Haberman and Nicholas Fandos of The New York Times — The day after the Feb. 13 briefing to lawmakers, Trump berated Joseph Maguire, the outgoing acting director of national intelligence, for allowing it to take place, people familiar with the exchange said. Trump cited the presence in the briefing of Rep. Adam Schiff, who led the impeachment proceedings against him, as a particular irritant. The President announced that he was replacing Maguire with Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany, and long an aggressively vocal Trump supporter. After asking about the briefing that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and other agencies gave to the House, Trump complained that Schiff would “weaponize” the intelligence about Russia’s support for him.

Donald Trump picks loyalist Richard Grenell to lead national intelligence.

Democrats’ feisty debate reaches nearly 20 million viewers” via David Bauder of The Associated Press — The Nielsen company said the debate, seen by 19.7 million people on NBC or MSNBC, attracted more viewers than any Democratic nomination contest ever. It was more than double the 7.9 million people who watched ABC’s coverage of a debate just before the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 7. It beat the 18.1 million people who tuned in for the second night of the first debate, back in June. The big jump in numbers showed how curious people were to see how Bloomberg did the first time he met his competitors in verbal combat. It was a rough start for Bloomberg, who drew sharp attacks from his rivals, particularly Sen. Warren.

Mentions of Democratic presidential candidates on network morning shows the day after the Las Vegas debate” via John Whitehouse of Media Matters — If the platitude “all publicity is good publicity” is accurate, Bloomberg had a stellar Wednesday. Morning shows were abuzz over his Democratic debate debut, according to Media Matters for America, a nonprofit that monitors print, broadcast, cable, radio, and Internet media outlets. Their data shows Bloomberg racked up 30-plus mentions on CBS This Morning, Good Morning America and The Today Show — surpassing the combined total of the candidates he shared the debate stage. The next best was U.S. Sen. Sanders, who tallied less than a third of Bloomberg’s mentions.

Sanders’s secret to attracting Latino support: Talking to them” via Aida Chávez of The Intercept — Though Sanders has polled favorably among Latino voters throughout the 2020 primary, his popularity with the electorate, which helped carry him to a wide popular-vote victory in Iowa, has surged in the lead-up to the Nevada caucuses — by one poll, he has over 60% of the Latino vote. The campaign, which has knocked on more than 200,000 doors in Nevada in the past 17 days, is also getting organizing help from two major Latino groups. Mijente and Make the Road Action, an immigrant rights group, have thrown their support behind Sanders with their first-ever presidential endorsements, and each has a significant ground presence.

Latino Victory Fund endorses Joe Biden — In its endorsement, Latino Victory cited Biden’s history of working with the Latino community through decades of service and his commitment to “introducing a comprehensive immigration bill in the first week of his administration.” The group also points to a recent Telemundo poll where the former Vice President is among the top candidates preferred by Latino voters in Nevada. “In January 2021, there will be no learning curve for the next president of the United States. Our country will need an experienced leader who will hit the ground running on day one, and that candidate is Vice President Biden,” said Luis Miranda, Jr., chair of Latino Victory.

Wounded but defiant, Bloomberg promises to keep fighting” via Steve Peoples and Lindsay Whitehurst of The Associated Press — The New York ultra-billionaire lashed out at leading Democratic rival Sanders and Trump, addressing voters face to face in the Super Tuesday state of Utah. That was just hours after struggling to answer dangerous yet predictable questions about his record on race, gender and wealth during a nationally televised beatdown that rattled would-be supporters and thrilled critics in both parties. Bloomberg didn’t go easy in his own review of the Las Vegas debate: “How was your night last night? Look, the real winner in the debate last night was Donald Trump,” Bloomberg told a crowd of several hundred in Utah’s largest city. But then he added: “He thinks I’m going to go away. Wrong, Donald.”

Bloomberg quietly plotting brokered convention strategy” via David Siders of POLITICO — The effort, largely executed by Bloomberg’s senior state-level advisers in recent weeks, attempts to prime Bloomberg for a second-ballot contest at the Democratic National Convention in July by poaching supporters of Biden and other moderate Democrats. The outreach has involved meetings and telephone calls with supporters of Biden and Pete Buttigieg — as well as uncommitted DNC members — in Virginia, Texas, Florida, Oklahoma and North Carolina. It could also bring havoc to the convention, raising the prospect of party insiders delivering the nomination to a billionaire over a progressive populist.

Bloomberg was confronted about sexism claims at the Nevada Democratic debate. How could they affect his campaign?” via Jeanine Santucci of USA TODAY — Scrutiny of the billionaire’s past comments surfaced as Bloomberg‘s poll numbers have risen ahead of Super Tuesday, the first time he will appear on a primary state ballot. Bloomberg has pointed to his company’s employment of women as a response to the allegations, a defense he repeated during the debate. For his part, Bloomberg has previously acknowledged making “bawdy” jokes in his past but maintains he has fostered an atmosphere of equal opportunity. A moderator asked him about hostile work environment claims, and about whether Democrats should expect more from their nominee. “I have no tolerance for the kind of behavior that the MeToo movement has exposed,” Bloomberg responded.

Elizabeth Warren confronted Mike Bloomberg over claims of sexism. Will this affect his campaign?

Bloomberg’s immense spending gets him 30,000 online ads a minute, and a whole lot more” via Kevin Schaul, Kevin Uhrmacher and Anu Narayanswamy of The Washington Post — In case you haven’t scrolled through Facebook, walked past a television, Googled a presidential candidate or watched a YouTube video recently, you should know: Bloomberg wants your vote for president. The billionaire’s self-funded campaign has flooded the airwaves, search results, and social media with his ads, helping to propel him into a tie for third place in The Washington Post’s polling average and land a spot on the debate stage Wednesday. This year, Google and Facebook have served up 2 billion Bloomberg ads, which works out to 30,000 a minute. Of course, the number probably dips when people are offline and rises during significant primary events that Bloomberg advertises around.

What drives Amy Klobuchar’s disdain for Pete Buttigieg” via Dan Merica of CNN — Minnesota Sen. Klobuchar first publicly vented her chief frustration with Buttigieg nine months ago in a parking lot in Cresco, Iowa. He is benefiting from male privilege and wouldn’t be treated the same if he were a woman, she said. “Could we be running with less experience,” Klobuchar asked rhetorically of women in an interview. “I don’t think so. I don’t think people would take us seriously.” The then-South Bend, Indiana, Mayor had barely risen to national attention at that point in the Democratic primary fight. Still, that sentiment — that Buttigieg had not paid his dues and would be dismissed if he were a woman — has gnawed at the Minnesota Senator ever since.

— TACO TIME —

As the third state to vote in the 2020 Democratic primary, and one of the more demographically diverse caucuses, Nevada recently enacted changes (mandated by the Democratic National Committee) to include early voting.

Apart from the usual schools and libraries, early voting sites also include Latino grocery stores, restaurants, and union halls like the Culinary Union Local 226, Eater.com reports. The mostly Latino Culinary Union, which boasts 60,000 members, can be the deciding factor in an election.

Will tacos help Tom Steyer sway voters in Nevada?

One of the people who understands this well is Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer, the hedge-fund billionaire. Steyer arranged for mariachi bands and food trucks to hand out free tacos and cookies at early voting sites, courtesy of the campaign. He also met with some of the voters.

“Two members, Raul Mora and Daniel Paymo, who had decided to support Steyer just before casting their votes, emerged from the caucus site surprised and delighted to see him,” writes Meghan McCarron. “They got tacos and a picture with the candidate. Asked whether free food felt manipulative, Mora shrugged and said, ‘A taco’s a taco.’”

When questioned about whether free food was a violation of federal campaign guidelines, Steyer’s campaign released a statement: “Providing refreshments at caucus locations is a data-driven method that increases turnout across the board and adds enjoyment to all Nevadans who decide to participate. The Nevada Democratic Party issued detailed guidance to all presidential campaigns on early voting locations, and we are in compliance with their guidance. The food provided by our campaign was free to all, regardless of political affiliation or intention to caucus.”

— STATEWIDE —

Nikki Fried backs federal bill supporting mental health in rural communities” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Fried is sending a letter to the Florida congressional delegation, urging them to support a federal measure promoting mental health in rural communities. “With Florida’s resilient farmers and crop diversity — from seasonal produce to cattle, and aquaculture to timber — the state of agriculture in Florida remains strong. However, the industry is faced with global challenges like unfair trade practices, intensifying natural disasters, a changing environment, threats from exotic pests and diseases, and harmful trade wars,” Fried writes in the letter. The legislation Fried is supporting is called the “Seeding Rural Resilience Act.” It would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to create a campaign aimed at increasing public awareness surrounding farmers’ mental health.

Nikki Fried is supporting a federal bill that would help mental health care in rural communities.

Assignment editors Fried will join local elected officials and advocacy groups to highlight a $250,000 energy efficiency grant project, 10 a.m., Wimberly Fields Park, 4000 NE. 3rd Ave., Oakland Park.

Campus voting settlement delayed — A settlement in the yearslong lawsuit over early voting on college campuses has been delayed, Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida reports. A federal court filing from both parties says they “continue to engage in productive settlement discussions. However, additional time is needed to conclude such discussions.” The delay comes a couple of weeks after they told the court a settlement had been reached. The timing of the filing raises questions over whether the case will be resolved in time for the 2020 elections.

Wait. What? —Florida GOP Facebook pages managed from Turkmenistan” via Eric Levai and Scott Stedman of Forensic News — Florida’s official Republican Party Facebook page, along with nine other Florida Republican County Facebook pages, have a page manager located in Turkmenistan, a country in Central Asia with no public affiliation to Florida Republicans or political social media consultants. All ten of the Facebook page managers from Turkmenistan disappeared after Forensic News contacted the Florida GOP page owner for comment. In addition to the Florida state GOP page, Collier, Flagler, Highlands, Hillsborough, Leon, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pinellas, and Wakulla Counties also showed a Turkmenistan manager. Those pages also show at least one American manager.

Mel Ponder and college presidents announce new veterans education program” via Sarah Mueller of Florida Politics — The Florida College System Council of Presidents and Ponder announced the creation of the Patriots Path program, which aims to help military personnel access the best educational options for them. Ponder says the program will provide a tremendous framework for active and retired military and strengthen Florida’s workforce. Ponder’s bill (CS/HB 171) would require the Board of Governors to adopt regulations and the State Board of Education to adopt rules to create a process that enables service members and veterans to earn uniform college credit across all Florida public college educational institutions for postsecondary training and education acquired in the military. It is on second reading in the House.

This program to make Florida homes green is exploding, but it comes with controversy” via Alex Harris of the Miami Herald — Called the Property Assessed Clean Energy program or PACE for short, it allows homeowners to borrow tens of thousands of dollars for energy-efficient or hurricane-resistant improvements to their home with no money down, and no credit check required. Instead, a new type of private lending industry … collects payments through property tax bills. But the program also has a rising number of complaints and critics, who contend the agreements — which amount to a lien on a home — can hurt some consumers, particularly the elderly and low-income at risk of getting in over their heads financially.

Timeshare industry could save millions in Florida taxes under proposal” via Jason Garcia and Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — The timeshare industry could save millions of dollars in taxes under a mysterious property tax change that proposed in Tallahassee. The potential tax break — which has yet to be filed publicly even though the Florida Legislature is more than halfway through its 60-day Session — would rewrite the rules that county property appraisers must follow when determining the value of timeshare resorts. Appraisers say the changes would lead to far lower taxable values for timeshares — and much lower tax bills. “In my view, the impact would be millions,” said Katrina Scarborough, the property appraiser in Osceola County, where timeshares represent nearly $3 billion worth of taxable property value — and more than $40 million in annual property taxes.

Hillsborough to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana” via Anastasia Dawson of the Tampa Bay Times — With a unanimous vote, commissioners agreed to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana throughout the county and its municipalities. Now, anyone found in possession of fewer than 20 grams of marijuana won’t be punished with a misdemeanor charge but instead will be issued a civil citation — more akin to a noncriminal code violation levying a simple fine. “Now it doesn’t matter where you’re at, or who the law enforcement officer is, it’s the same,” Sheriff Chad Chronister said. “The enforcement will be the same, the penalty will be the same, and we’ll have a more fair and equitable process throughout the entire county.”

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister applauds the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, praising the uniformity in punishment throughout the county.

Morgan & Morgan firm joins state attorney, public defender to launch community bail fund” via Monivette Cordeiro of the Orlando Sentinel — Attorneys with Morgan & Morgan joined Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala and Public Defender Robert Wesley to launch a nonprofit fund that would give bail money to low-income people who can’t afford to bond out of jail. Outside the Orange County Courthouse, Matt Morgan said his family would match every dollar donated to the Community Bail Fund, up to $250,000. The organization will also fight for criminal justice reform, he said. “In America, the standard is innocent until proven guilty — not incarcerated until proven rich,” Morgan said.

Florida teacher suspended for washing out student’s mouth with … hand sanitizer” via Andrew Marra of the Palm Beach Post — A Polo Park Middle School science teacher has been suspended for 10 days after an investigation found she put hand sanitizer in the mouth of a misbehaving student. The student told a school administrator that he was talking loudly in class Oct. 14 when teacher Guyette Duhart told him he needed to have his mouth washed out with soap, the investigation found. Duhart then grabbed a bottle of hand sanitizer from her desk, investigators said, and told the student to approach her. Six students told investigators that Duhart then pumped hand sanitizer into the student’s mouth. Duhart admitted to holding the sanitizer near his mouth but claimed the student grabbed the bottle himself and pumped it into his own mouth.

Floridians brace for effects of daylight saving starting March 8” via Catie Wegman of TC Palm — Get ready to change your clocks yet again — daylight saving time 2020 is right around the corner. On March 8, we’ll “spring forward” at 2 a.m. and lose an hour of sleep. Yes, Floridians, that means you, too. Despite the state Senate and then-Gov. Rick Scott approving a 2018 bill to no longer observe the century-long tradition, federal law still mandates the practice. The Sunshine Protection Act was introduced to the Senate in March 2019, but no other actions have ensued. Hawaii and Arizona (except the Navajo Nation) are the only two U.S. states that never spring forward or fall back.

Floridians may be getting the least amount of sleep in the nation” via Space Coast Daily — In one study, Florida ranked 30 among all states when it comes to getting At least seven hours of sleep per night on average. Hawaii ranked the worst, another sunny tourist destination state, and South Dakota taking the top spot for getting great sleep. Why are Floridians getting the least amount of sleep in the nation? There are a few theories. One of the primary thoughts behind Florida’s poor sleep habits is tourism. And this would explain why Hawaii is also a state for bad sleep. Tourism is great for Florida’s economy, but it does leave many Floridians working odd hours to support the tourism industry. Shift work could be to blame.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Trump says he won’t pardon Roger Stone — for now” via Maegan Vazquez, Jeff Zeleny and Jason Hoffman of CNN — Trump said he won’t act to grant clemency to his friend and former associate Stone right now, saying he wants the process to play out before making a decision. “I’m not going to do anything in terms of the great powers bestowed upon a president of the United States, I want the process play out, I think that’s the best thing to do,” Trump said in Las Vegas. “Because I’d love to see Roger exonerated, and I’d love to see it happen because I personally think he was treated very unfairly.” The President didn’t rule out an eventual pardon or commutation but said the process should play out first.

Roger Stone isn’t getting a presidential pardon — yet.

White House assembles team of advisers to guide clemency process as Trump considers more pardons” via Toluse Olorunnipa, Josh Dawsey and Neena Satija of The Washington Post — The group, essentially an informal task force of at least a half-dozen presidential allies, has been meeting since late last year to discuss a revamped pardon system in the White House. Jared Kushner is taking a leading role in the new clemency initiative and has supported the idea of putting the White House more directly in control of the process. Pam Bondi is also playing a significant role, vetting applications for potential pardon recipients. Trump, who prefers granting clemency to people with compelling personal stories or lengthy sentences, is inclined to grant more pardons before facing voters in November. “He likes doing them,” the official said.

Trump to tap Florida official as homeland security adviser” via Daniel Lippman of POLITICO — Trump hired Julia Nesheiwat, Florida’s chief resilience officer, to be his new homeland security adviser, according to an administration official and another person familiar with the matter. Nesheiwat joining the White House means she again will work for Robert O’Brien, Trump’s national security adviser. The two previously worked together at the State Department, where he won credit for helping free dozens of American hostages, a top issue for Trump. Nesheiwat spent four years as the U.S. presidential deputy envoy for hostage affairs and later became acting envoy when O’Brien left.

Matt Gaetz meets Joy Behar; both survive” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Gaetz appeared ABC’s liberal talk show “The View,” where he took umbrage to the suggestion that Trump is his boss, defended Trump and Grenfell, and urged a presidential pardon for Stone. While Gaetz tried to smile throughout — and the hosts, Whoopi GoldbergJoy BeharSunny Hostin, and Meghan McCain, did not — Gaetz came in on the offensive, while Behar suggested he probably never watches their show. Along the way, he made fun of Behar’s black outfit, accused the hosts of being thin-skinned and said he imagined they all would be mourning “the death of the political left.” Gaetz seemed to misstep a couple of times, as he tried to keep in front of the conversation.

Matt Gaetz left The View relatively unscathed.

Assignment editorsGaetz will hold his first Open Gaetz Day of 2020 (all times Central): 8 a.m., Perdido Key Chamber Meeting, Hub Stacey’s at the Point, 5851 Galvez Rd, Pensacola; 11:45 a.m., Destin Middle School, 4608 Legendary Marina Dr., Destin (open to students, faculty and parents only); 5:30 p.m., Public Town Hall, Barn at Water Oaks Farm, 4080 2nd Ave, Laurel Hill.

Charlie Crist draws down $263K for Florida Fish and WildlifeCrist secured a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grant to fund restoration efforts on seven threatened coral species. The funds will help FWC respond to the decline in corals at the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary by establishing six coral nurseries. “In Florida, our beaches and oceans are intertwined with our way of life. Unfortunately, as climate change and environmental degradation become a serious threat to our lives and coastal communities, it’s our coral reefs and the marine life that call those reefs home that are suffering the most,” Crist said. Florida is home to the third-largest reef tract in the world and is the only state in the continental U.S. with coral reef formations off its coast.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell: HHS sending $2.8 million in Head Start funds to Homestead Community Center” via Florida Daily — “Le Jardin Community Center provides low-income children and families of diverse backgrounds opportunities to learn, develop, and increase their likelihood of success in the future,” the Congresswoman’s office noted. “These programs are critical for giving children across our district the opportunity to succeed both in school and later in life, regardless of their economic background. In South Florida, Head Start centers are a lifeline for many communities, and I will continue fighting to ensure they receive the support and resources they need,” she added.

In the Departure Lounge — Congressman Neil Dunn’s Communications Director Shelby Hartley is leaving Capitol Hill. “I have accepted a position off the Hill, and I am looking forward to challenging myself with these new responsibilities,” Hartley said in an email. “It has been great working with all of you over the last 3+ years, and I will definitely miss Florida’s 2nd District.”

— MUST-READ — 

After living in the U.S. for more than half a century, this Cuban activist may be deported” via Jenny Jarvie of the Los Angeles Times — Ramón Saúl Sánchez was 12 when he hugged his family in Cuba goodbye and boarded a plane for Miami. As the years went by, he devoted himself to fighting the Cuban government from Miami, becoming one of the city’s most zealous anti-Fidel Castro activists and a motor-mouthed advocate for Cubans seeking refuge. But now Sánchez faces a new problem as Cubans — who have long had a uniquely privileged status among immigrants as a result of U.S. opposition to communism — find themselves increasingly vulnerable to deportation. After repeatedly being denied a green card, Sánchez has applied for political asylum — his last chance of remaining in the United States.

— MOTHER NATURE —

Algae’s toxin remains in dolphins livers, even when not blooming” via Jim Waymer of FLORIDA TODAY — An algae toxin 1,000 times deadlier than cyanide lingers at trace levels in the livers of bottlenose dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon, a new study shows, remaining there even when the algae is not blooming. The long-term health implications for the lagoon’s top predator and other marine life remain uncertain. “We’re not making any conclusions about what it’s doing to them,” said Spencer Fire, an assistant professor at Florida Tech. The study, for the first time, establishes a baseline level of the toxin in lagoon dolphins by which to compare future toxin levels during dolphin strandings or die-offs. “This is what we expect to be sort of background levels,” Fire said.

How do you stop a possible building boom in the Florida Keys? It’s in lawmakers’ hands” via David Goodhue of FL Keys News — A Keys lawmaker amended a bill this week that, if left alone, could have led to a building boom up and down the environmentally sensitive island chain that most agree is already almost built to capacity. The bill is meant to limit the state, local and county governments’ liability resulting from anticipated lawsuits filed when Monroe County stops issuing building permits in 2023. But because of language added in early February, it could have resulted in thousands of new homes throughout the one-highway archipelago that already comes to a standstill during busy weekends and after traffic accidents. State Rep. Holly Raschein took out that language, and her version of the bill unanimously passed the 15-member House Judiciary Committee.

Rare rainbow snake sighting in Ocala National Forest” via Frank Pastor of the Tampa Bay Times — Tracey Cauthen happened upon the 4-foot snake while hiking. It marks the first time this species has been spotted in Marion County since 1969, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History. Rainbow snakes are seldom seen because they hide among aquatic vegetation and burrow near creeks, lakes, marshes and tidal mudflats. Biologists from the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute believe the recent drawdown of the Rodman Reservoir forced this snake to leave its habitat. Rainbow snakes are sometimes called “eel moccasins,” because they specialize in eating eels. They are nonvenomous.

— THE TRAIL —

Supreme Court green-lights ‘clean’ constitution amendment” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — “The proposal here is consequential but straightforward: for any proposed amendment or revision to become part of our constitution, it would have to be approved by the voters in two elections rather than one. The proposal otherwise leaves the existing constitutional amendment framework in place, and it treats all proposed amendments or revisions — however [they] originated — the same,” the justices asserted. The proposed ballot amendment that would make it harder for future constitutional amendments to pass already has collected enough signatures to secure a spot on the 2020 ballot. The political committee has also satisfied signature requirements in more than half of Florida’s 27 congressional districts — another condition that must be met before amendments can go before voters.

Spotted — At D.C.-based Latino Victory’s first North Florida reception at the house of recently hired Bloomberg staffer Brice Barnes and her husband, Houston: John Dailey, Gary Farmer, Javier Fernandez, Amy Mercado, Cindy Polo, Darren Soto and Vic Torres.

Pictured: Gary Farmer, Vic Torres, Darren Soto, Brice Barnes and her husband Houston, Amy Mercado, Javier Fernandez, Cindy Polo and John Dailey.

Digital ad pits Phil Ehr as war hero and patriot against Gaetz as ‘Trump fanboy’” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The new two-minute digital ad contrasts a fast-paced mashup of clips of Gaetz making some of his more volatile remarks in support of Trump and against the “deep state” conspiracies, with those of American military actions and of Ehr looking dignified and determined, at home, on a boat, and an airstrip, while discussing the enemies’ tactic of noise and disinformation. “I never thought I’d see the day when American leaders would use information warfare against their own people. I love the country I spent my life serving, and I can no longer stand by and watch dishonorable men like Donald Trump and Matt Gaetz treat the American people like enemy combatants,” Ehr says.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Save the date:

Garrett Richter endorses William Figlesthaler for Congress” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Naples Republican endorsed Dr. Figlesthaler in Florida’s 19th Congressional District. Figlesthaler’s campaign released a written message from the lawmaker and a video spot of the longtime lawmaker trumpeting the political outsider. “Dr. Fig is a longtime Naples resident with a lifetime of private sector experience,” Richter wrote. “Like me, Dr. Fig knows that District 19 needs a strong voice in Washington willing to work to actually get things done, not a career politician looking for the next step on their way to higher office.” Figlesthaler said he was grateful for the support.

To watch the video, click on the image below:

Andrew Learned reporting for duty at MacDill Air Force Base” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Learned is a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy Reserve and currently serves in Special Operations Command Central. Learned is participating in an annual two-week training required for all officers in the reserves. “It’s an honor to put on the uniform and serve,” Learned said. The service means Learned will be off the campaign trail for two weeks, but he said he’s looking forward to getting back on the trail after serving his country. While Learned will be largely unable to campaign while serving in the Navy, his campaign will still be able to raise funds.

Once unspoken, Scientology at forefront of Clearwater City Council’s Seat 2 race” via Tracy McManus of the Tampa Bay Times — So, it has gone for decades in Clearwater. Scientology’s massive influence over downtown’s present and future hovers over the city like a fog. Few elected officials have been willing to address the church’s impact publicly. That all changed this year. In his bid for City Council Seat 2, longtime Scientology critic Mark Bunker has openly discussed downtown’s largest property owner in ways not seen in decades: like his campaign call for the city to urge that the IRS revoke Scientology’s tax-exempt status for alleged fraud and abuse. Bunker’s platform to address “the biggest problem that no one will talk about” has come to define the race for the open Seat 2.

— LOCAL —

Who will run Miami’s $1B government? Mayor gets to choose but approval could be rocky” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — Art Noriega sat in the corner of the mayor’s conference room in Miami City Hall. As the CEO of the Miami Parking Authority, Noriega’s presence at Tuesday’s meeting raised some eyebrows. The topic of the meeting: a planned solicitation for proposals to develop 18 acres of public land near Jackson Memorial Hospital. Housing advocates asked Mayor Francis Suarez and other top administrators to consider community input before developing a plan for a mixed-use project and putting the concept out to bid. Those administrators were assistant city managers — Suarez is looking for a new city manager in the wake of Emilio González’s recent resignation.

Customs and Border Protection officer fatally shoots 3 family members, kills himself, Orange sheriff says” via David Harris and Katie Rice of the Orlando Sentinel — Sheriff John Mina said deputies were called to the home on in the 2000 block of Corner Glen Drive on Thursday afternoon after the agent’s co-workers became concerned for his well-being. Deputies later learned some of the family members hadn’t been seen since last week so they decided to go into the home where they found the four bodies, Mina said.

Morgan & Morgan firm joins state attorney, public defender to launch community bail fund” via Monivette Cordeiro of the Orlando Sentinel — Attorneys with the Orlando-based law firm Morgan & Morgan joined Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala and Public Defender Robert Wesley Thursday to launch a nonprofit fund that would give bail money to low-income people who can’t afford to bond out of jail. Outside the Orange County Courthouse Thursday, Matt Morgan said his family will match every dollar donated to the Community Bail Fund up to $250,000. The organization will also fight for criminal justice reform, he said.

— TOP OPINION —

We need to teach civic engagement to save democracy” via Dennis Ross for the Tampa Bay Times — Just as we teach kindergartners manners and promote community involvement during middle school and high school, teaching civic engagement is crucial to sustaining a productive democracy. Citizenship is a lifelong journey. Every citizen is responsible for civic engagement and respectful dialogue. This includes the “influencers” — corporations, governmental bodies, faith-based organizations, media and nonprofit organizations. Influencers must understand that when their employees are encouraged to participate in civic life and self-government, they are more productive, responsible and positively reflect on their employer. We believe that America is ripe for a civic renaissance. It begins with communities recognizing the leaders who have shaped democracy in positive ways.

— OPINIONS —

With Donald Trump showering pardons on corrupt politicos, look for Stone’s next” via the Los Angeles Times editorial board — Not for the first time, Trump has perverted the presidential pardon power to benefit undeserving recipients with whom he shares a personal or political affinity. Objectionable as these grants of clemency may be, they also raise concerns about what would be an even more outrageous abuse of the pardon power: clemency for convicted Trump associates, including Paul Manafort, Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman, and Stone. Trump seems to see the pardon power as a way to reward supporters and score political points. Overall, Trump’s exercise of the pardon power has been at best whimsical and, at worst, self-serving and blatantly political.

Trump is threatening our Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security — again” via Terrie Rizzo for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — As soon as he came into office, Trump set about reneging on his promise to protect these critical and popular programs. He immediately nominated Mick Mulvaney to lead the Office of Budget and Management, who had a history of advocating to cut Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid. Trump then set about repealing the Affordable Care Act with a bill that also proposed an $800 billion cut to Medicaid over ten years. He has gone to court to overturn the ACA. He released a budget proposal that proved just how extreme his cuts of earned benefit programs would be if it were up to him. He proposed slashing hundreds of billions of dollars in funding for Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.

Remembering when Blacks almost never voted and why minorities and ex-felons are still disenfranchised” via Lucy Morgan of Florida Phoenix — In South Mississippi where I grew up, Black people almost never voted. Elections supervisors often required them to pay a “poll tax” or pass a complex literacy test with obscure questions most of us could not have answered. And so, we come to Florida, where felons have historically been denied the right to vote without going through a cumbersome process. When this issue was put to a vote, some 65% of Florida voters approved giving felons the right to vote. Last year the Legislature passed, and DeSantis approved, a bill that would require felons to pay all financial obligations before they can vote. It is yet another way to deny the vote to citizens who might oppose current incumbents.

What NCF, Polytechnic should know about consolidation” via The Crow’s Nest at USF St. Petersburg Staff — It seems the backlash wasn’t clear enough when the Florida Legislature abolished USF St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee’s independent accreditations in 2018.  Now, lawmakers have set their sights on two more targets: New College of Florida in Sarasota, and Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland — both former satellite campuses of USF. As students at a university undergoing the consolidation process, we want to shed light on the glaring struggles and issues that riddle the process and, most likely, the final product.

Um, no, but Sunburn likes to include both sides — Voucher program is state-sanctioned discrimination” via Kathleen Oropeza for the Orlando Sentinel — Florida uses poor minority kids as a loss-leader to convert middle-class students to voucher eligibility. The new Parent Empowerment Voucher is directly funded through the same account used for public schools, available to families of four who earn $80,000 per year, which is nowhere near “poverty.” Parent Empowerment Vouchers are also going to be spent at the same private religious schools that have anti-gay policies. Don’t think voucher-school discrimination only affects LGBTQ youth. Private religious schools are free to discriminate against families and students on the base of religion, parents’ marital status, disability, and anything else they find offensive, even hairstyles. Clearly, these voucher schools and their supporters want to retain their right to discriminate.

— MOVEMENTS —

Two dozen lobbying firms randomly picked for 2020 audits” via Sarah Mueller of Florida Politics — The Joint Legislative Auditing Committee randomly chose 14 Legislative branch firms and 12 executive branch firms. The most notable firms picked include Schale Communications, Greenberg Traurig and Sunrise Consulting Group, which are all Legislative branch lobbying groups. Crisafulli Consulting is an executive branch firm. To come up with this year’s firms, the staff of the Auditor General’s Office generated two lists of random numbers that were matched to alphabetical lists of the 446 legislative branch lobbying firms and the 370 executive branch lobbying firms, to meet the 3% audit requirement for each branch.

Ballard Partners dives into VI resort squabble” via Kevin McCauley of O’Dwyers — CBI Acquisitions has hired Trump-connected Ballard Partners to intervene in its squabble with the National Park Services over the Caneel Bay Resort eco-lodge located within the Virgin Islands National Park. Once the biggest employer on St. John, CBR has been closed since 2017 after two Category 5 hurricanes smashed it. Its shutdown has rocked VI’s tourism-tied economy. CBI took over the CBR in 2004. It owns the structures but not the land. The Norwalk, CT-based entity has refused to rehab the facility until NPS extends its lease on the land, which is to expire in 2023. Brian Ballard is working on the CBI business.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Mario Bailey, Converge Government Affairs of Florida: The Florida Bar/Workers’ Compensation Section

Emily Bolde, Messer Caparello: Adtalem Global Education, Diving Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA), Florida Barber Academy, Florida National University, International Institute for Health Care Professionals, NRI Institute of Health Sciences, Panhandle Area Educational Consortium, Southern Technical College, Trial Lawyers Section of the Florida Bar, West Coast University

Angela Bonds, French Brown, Marc Dunbar, Peter Dunbar, Martha Edenfield, Jennifer Ungru, Dean Mead: alliantgroup, Charter Schools USA

Mike Corcoran, Matt Blair, Jacqueline Corcoran, Andrea Tovar, Corcoran Partners: St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership

Thomas Griffin, Smith Bryan & Myers: Florida Urban Medical and Educational Services

Virginia Haworth: Florida State College at Jacksonville

Nick Iarossi, Andrew Ketchel, Capital City Consulting: Cody Khan

Stephanie Owens, Dolphin Strategies: Common Cause Florida

Ron Pierce, Kaitlyn Bailey, Edward Briggs, Natalie King, RSA Consulting Group: OATA

Jerry Sternstein: Health Network One/HN1, HS1 Medical Management

Robert Wilson, Wilson & Associates: Energy Transfer, Florida Defense Contractors Association, Florida Defense Contractors Association, Precast Concrete Structures Association of Florida

— LISTEN UP —

Battleground Florida with Christopher Heath: The consummate Florida Man: Tampa Bay Times reporter Craig Pittman, the award-winning author of “Oh, Florida!” joins the podcast to discuss his new book “Cat Tale: The Wild, Weird Battle to Save the Florida Panther” as well as the state’s invasive species.

Dishonorable Mention: State Rep. Latvala, activist Becca Tieder, former Tampa Bay Times Columnist Ernest Hooper and communications expert Dr. Karla Mastracchio discuss politics and culture. Tieder talks about her experience at the Super Bowl in Miami and the hosts talk about the national response to the halftime show. The Super Bowl is in Tampa next year; who would you like to see perform in the halftime show? How does forgiveness permeate news stories? What are your opinions on the public bringing up Kobe Bryant’s allegations after his death? Let’s caucus! We talk “un-Super Tuesday” and the debacle in Iowa. What direction would work the Democrats? What’s the response to those voters that would rather be “right” than “win?” If you could have any job in the world, what would it be? Also, Tallahassee update from Latvala, including another planned visit by Dishonorable Mention later this month.

— WEEKEND TV —

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues affecting the region.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable with Tampa Bay Times Senior Deputy Editor Amy Hollyfield; columnist and former Sen. Paula Dockery; Victor DiMaio, President and CEO of DiMaio and Associates; RSA Consulting President and CEO Ron Pierce.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion on the state of the Black vote in Florida. Joining Walker-Torres are Reps. Geraldine Thompson and Byron Donalds.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A discussion of major developments in Tallahassee concerning the felon voting rights court battle and the parental consent abortion bill, a look at the Clearwater mayoral race. PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter will rate claims from the 9th Democratic debate in Nevada.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Steve Vancore talks with Mac Stipanovich and POLITICO Florida reporter Fineout.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Guests include Dr. Michael Binder of the University of North Florida Public Opinion Research Lab, Congressman Michael Waltz of Florida’s 6th Congressional District and LaShonda Holloway, a candidate for Florida’s 5th Congressional District.

— ALOE —

Disney unveils new line of Baby Yoda toys” via CNN — At long last, Baby Yoda toys are ready to hit store shelves. On Thursday, Disney revealed a slew of new products in the form of the adorable baby alien called “The Child.” The highlights include action figures, plush dolls, LEGO sets and board games. Still, the star of the show was “The Child Animatronic Edition,” a lifelike version of Baby Yoda that moves, blinks, coos and giggles just like the infant character on the “Mandolarian” series. The animatronic toy costs $59.99 and will be available for pre-order at most major retailers, according to Disney.

Get ready world, Baby Yoda toys are about to hit the shelves.

Is Florida man’s life-size cutout of Trump ‘emotional support’?” via Frank Cerabino of the Palm Beach Post — For months, Port St. Lucie dialysis patient Nelson Gibson has taken a table-top-sized cardboard cutout of Trump to a treatment center to keep him company. But a week ago, he supersized his Trump admiration by showing up with a life-size Trump cutout. And that was a Trump too far. Gibson, 59, was told that the life-size Trump wasn’t an acceptable “emotional support” item to bring for his treatments. “A social worker told him, ‘This is a medical facility, not a Trump rally,’” his son, Eric said. “It’s political.” No, it isn’t, Fresenius Kidney Care countered. “We are unable to permit items that may create safety hazards, infection control issues, or interfere with caregivers on the treatment floor.”

The quest for the best amusement park is ever-changing and never-ending” via Hal Sundt of The Ringer — Strangely, theme parks, which are controlled by the same companies whose ultimate allegiance is to the bottom line, are perhaps the only places that offer fans the illusion of control they seek, and a return to the childhood feeling that each visitor is having a sovereign experience with a mainstream franchise tailored just for them. In this way, theme parks epitomize fans’ evolving relationship to popular culture, from passive consumer to hopeful agent of change, all the while reinforcing the status quo — they make the rides, we just ride them. Eventually, theme parks reached screen overload. Experiencing the movie wasn’t enough; fans wanted to be inside the story.

Wawa teams up with Tampa’s Coppertail to create specialty beer” via Sara DiNatale of the Tampa Bay Times — Wawa partnered with Pennsylvania’s 2SP Brewing Company to debut craft beers in Pennsylvania and Virginia, and it will debut the Snow Bird Reserve Vanilla Porter in Florida. The Florida beer — that pays homage to the number of northerners who head south to escape the cold during the winter — was crafted by 2SP, Wawa and Coppertail’s brewmaster Casey Hughes. The porter was made with malted barley and Wawa’s Reserve Coffee. It also has a hint of vanilla. The canned beer will be available across the state’s 200 Wawa locations.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Celebrating today are Rep. Jay Trumbull, former Rep. Katie Edwards-Walpole and Brittany Corfman Parks, recognized earlier this year as one of INFLUENCE Magazine’s rising stars of Florida Politics. Celebrating this weekend are Nelson Diaz of The Southern Group and Joel Silver.

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

Written By

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

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

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

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