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Here’s Brunch, a pop-up, weekend email during the 2020 Legislative Session — 2.16.20

A brunch buffet’s worth of real-time reporting during Session.

Welcome to Brunch, Florida Politics’ pop-up email running through the end of the 2020 Legislative Session. 

As of this morning, there are 26 days left until March 13, which should be the last day of Session. And there are 30 days until Florida’s presidential primary, which, at least for Democrats, is now an important contest.

If you’re reading Brunch, you’re likely in The Process or on the campaign trail, so we won’t suggest you take today off, but you can take a few moments to check out:

🏁 — The Daytona 500, with President Donald Trump serving as Grand Marshall (more on that below). The gentlemen start their engines at roughly 2:30 p.m.

🏀 — The NBA All-Star Game, which tips off at 8 p.m. on TNT. 

📺 — The debut of two new series, “Race For The White House” and “The Windsors,” both on CNN.

🔖 — This must-read from Peter Hamby on the Democratic presidential primary. “It’s tempting to follow this chapter of the Democratic race by watching the polls. But a grim truth is that … another metric — money — … says much more about where this race is going.”


Like it’s a hard sell: When Rep. Mike Waltz got word that NASCAR and Trump were in talks about possible attendance at Sunday’s Daytona 500, the Republican congressman representing Daytona Beach offered to help. And he called the President a couple of weeks ago.

The experience is pretty amazing, Waltz said he told the President, with the roar of the cars, the racing action, the music, the pageantry, the iconic track and stadium, the history and “we’re talking about 200,000 people.”

Donald Trump is set to be the Grand Marshal of the Daytona 500.

Seal the deal: Waltz said he assured Trump that the fans are wholesome, family, blue-collar, patriotic, and all-American, who come for the whole week, bring their kids, and make it a vacation. “I told him, ‘Mr. President, these are your people,’” Waltz recalled.

Just what Volusia County needs: The last time Trump was in Daytona was in August 2016, when the then-nominee held a campaign rally at the Ocean Center. “Anytime we have the Commander in Chief coming to Volusia County, coming to Daytona, I don’t care from any party, but this President in particular, who is so popular in Florida, and now that he’s made Florida his home, everybody I’ve talked to is so excited,” Waltz said.

Trump will be Grand Marshal for the Great American Race; Waltz will be joining Trump, though Friday he said where they’d be hanging out, exactly, had yet to be worked out by the Secret Service and others. But you’ll probably see them in the box of the France family, which founded NASCAR and has contributed millions of dollars to Republican campaigns.

Tweet, tweet:


During the Daytona 500 broadcast on Fox, Trump’s reelection campaign will run a television ad.

— “New Heights.” The ad will highlight the President’s record of accomplishment, including a strong and growing economy, protecting borders and national security, respecting military veterans, and restoring pride in the country.

To watch the ad, click on the image below

Patriot proud. “Trump’s record of accomplishment for this country is indisputable, and Americans are prouder of their country than ever before,” said Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale. “NASCAR fans are patriots who support the President in huge numbers, so we definitely wanted to communicate directly with them about Keeping America Great during the Great American Race.”

A banner day. Trump’s campaign will also be flying an aerial banner near Daytona International Speedway on the day of the race: “Keep America Great! Text Trump to 88022.”


Gov. Ron DeSantis will visit Sarasota County Sunday night for the 2020 Governor’s Baseball Dinner, which celebrates Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Spring Training season in Florida.

Registration for the event ran from Nov. through Feb. 6. DeSantis — who played college baseball as a student at Yale University — will be joined by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred as well as team personnel from more than a dozen teams currently training for the upcoming regular season.

The 2018 Governor’s Baseball Dinner, a celebration of the opening of Spring Training, was at St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Field. This year, it will be at the spring home of the Atlanta Braves. 

Florida’s Grapefruit League is home to 15 teams as they prepare for Opening Day. That includes the Miami Marlins, who train in Jupiter, and the Tampa Bay Rays, who train in Charlotte County. Those teams will begin playing head-to-head matchups later this week.

According to the Florida Sports Foundation, which helps organize the annual dinner, Sarasota County first hosted Spring Training baseball back in 1924, when the then-New York Giants played at the old Payne Park.

The Governor’s Baseball Dinner will be at CoolToday Park in North Port. The stadium is home to the Atlanta Braves during Spring Training. The event begins at 6 p.m. with the dinner itself scheduled for 7 p.m.

2020 Opening Day is just over one month away. All 30 Major League teams will take to the field for a full day of baseball on March 26.


Eyes turned when Sen. Joe Gruters filed a compromise E-Verify bill in addition to one he co-introduced with Sen. Tom Lee. But there’s little talk about the Senate side of that bill. Brunch chatted with the immigration hard-liner on that second bill.

— DOA: “That one is dead,” Gruters said. The compromise, which put E-Verify requirements on government only, never made it to a committee vote and won’t this year.

Immigration hard-liner Joe Gruters is pushing Florida to implement the federal E-Verify program.

Lee bill ahead: The Lee bill advanced in the Judiciary Committee and now heads to Commerce and Tourism, which Gruters chairs. The Sarasota Republican expects it to pass.

House rules?: That said, Rep. Cord Byrd’s companion bill in the House still focuses on government contractors. “Cord has his bill, and we have our bill,” Gruters said. “There’s a lot of debate and discussion still to be had.”

Mutual goals: Even as the Senate carves out agriculture and Speaker Josè Oliva suggests E-Verify turns business into a “policing arm,” Gruters said the end goals are in sight.

Sealing the Deal: “We have a lot of momentum,” Gruters said. “We just have to do a good job and keep up the pressure.”


The Senate already passed legislation requiring parental consent for youth abortion, strengthening the current notification requirement. This week it’s up in the House, poised to pass, with even some Democrats siding with the GOP majority. Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani, a no on the bill, says that even without a caucus position, Dems are ready to resist.

— What to expect. Eskamani notes that the amendments and the anecdotes will abound, with “many members” filing them and “commitment from caucus members to lift up the stories of directly impacted people and demonstrate the dangers of the legislation to already vulnerable young people.” As well, expect copious debate against the bill, including from “moms or dads.”

Anna Eskamani is a hard no on the parental consent for abortion bill.

— Time of the essence. Eskamani noted that the “bill got placed on Special Order as folks were driving home” ThuForEverglades Palm Beach Benefit sponsoring The Everglades Foundation:rsday night. This trick of the calendar allowed limited time before the amendment deadline Friday afternoon.

— Olive Branch. Rep. Kim Daniels, a Jacksonville Democrat, was by far the most vocal opponent of Eskamani on this bill, lambasting her in a press conference weeks back. However, Eskamani says she has “nothing but respect” for colleagues, noting that last Session the bill too crossed party lines. “Abortion access … is deeply personal, and I understand the needs of all caucus members and not wanting to isolate members who express disagreement.”


Experts predict property insurance rates will go up tenfold over the next decade. Florida’s car insurance rates are the third highest in the country and continue to climb. Why? Fee multipliers and “bad faith.”

Sen. Jeff Brandes has two bills moving through the Legislature to fix it before it’s too late. SB 914 puts a limit on fee multipliers, so they are used only in rare and exceptional circumstances. The goal is to reverse the exponential growth of trial attorneys going after property insurance claims and taking home big bucks (sometimes 30 times the value of the claim). Who foots the bill for all this expensive litigation? Joe Homeowner. 

Jeff Brandes wants to crack down on ‘bath faith ‘lawsuits by trial attorneys in insurance cases.

“Bad faith.” SB 924, aka “bad faith,” is an effort to stop trial attorneys from offering to settle with outrageous stipulations and no intent to settle. When the time frame expires, trial attorneys then sue for bad faith and win. Who foots the bill for these multimillion-dollar suits on five-figure policies? Jane Driver. 

Get ‘er done. If anyone can pass tort reform, it’s a Republican Legislature. But word on the street is the tort reform measures are coming to an intersection with a stoplight. For some reason, Brandes was forced to TP bad faith last week.

Republicans better get their act together this week. When Joe Homeowner and Jane Driver get their next bill, they’re going to point their finger at someone … 


Peer-to-peer car sharing is the next major disruptor in the sharing economy and some would say it is challenging the old guard in the same way Airbnb did hotels. But this is different and rental car companies cry foul saying this is just a new business model for renting cars.

Isn’t that renting? Yep. Car-sharing companies allow consumers to use something that isn’t theirs, for a fee. You’d need a gold medal in mental gymnastics to say it isn’t.  A smart entrepreneur in San Francisco figured out a way to make money renting out cars owned by Floridians to folks wanting to rent cars in Florida.  Giving people a way to earn extra money on with their car is a great idea, but let’s be clear, it is a rental transaction.

Sen. Keith Perry is sponsoring a bill (SB 478) that would level the playing field by clarifying what DOR has already said, these are rental transactions, and the taxes are due from the renter of the car.  But who collects?  An informal DOR opinion says either the vehicle owner or the car-sharing company must collect. We suspect legislators don’t want to make car owners making extra money on their cars to collect the fees.

It’s in committee Wednesday. The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee will hear the bill on Wednesday afternoon. Though the bill skated through its first stop with a unanimous vote last month, Banking and Insurance TP’d it when it met last week when the committee ran out of time.

The House version, HB 377, has been moving as well, passing the chamber’s Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee and Ways and Means Committee. It is in Commerce Committee, its last stop before the House floor.  The agenda hasn’t come out for this week’s meeting yet.


Lilly Pulitzer could be designing a new novelty license plate here in the Sunshine State if Sen. Aaron Bean gets his way.

As part of the yearslong debate over expanding Florida’s novelty plate selection, Bean has introduced a bill (SB 412) that would create a plate commemorating the Palm Beach Zoo and Conservation Society.

Florida’s next specialty license plate designer?

Annual use fees generated from the plate would “fund educational programs for students in pre-K through grade 12, conservation projects to protect endangered or threatened species, and services for the health and welfare of animals in the zoo’s care.”

Lilly Pulitzer, Inc. would design the plates. The late designer who started the namesake company settled in Palm Beach and launched her clothing operation from factories in South Florida. She passed away in Palm Beach in 2013.

The plate debate has persisted for several Sessions, with Rep. James Grant famously pushing for a tag representing his alma mater of Auburn University. So far, Bean’s version of the measure has cleared the first of three Senate committees. It’s scheduled to be taken up by the Appropriations Committee next.


At the ForEverglades Palm Beach Benefit sponsoring The Everglades Foundation: DeSantis,  Rodney Barreto,  Gary Cohn, Derek Cooper, Carlos and Claudia de la Cruz, Eric Eikenberg, Tucker Frederickson, Margy Grant, Jeff Greene, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Nick Iarossi, Paul Tudor Jones, Ken Langone, Jack Nicklaus, Tomas Petterfy, Danielle Scoggins, Donald Trump Jr., Anna Upton, Bob Vila,  David and Thais Vogel.


The biggest tech bill that has legs is HB 1391, but there are a ton of other bills that would provide some much-needed upgrades. Here’s a rundown of the best of the rest, courtesy of the tech-savvy team at Kaleo Partners.

— Drones: This one’s a twofer. One proposal (HB 659/SB 822) would allow drones to be used to fight wildfires or track down invasive species. The other (HB 1433/SB 520) authorizes greater use of drones for law enforcement purposes. Both are zooming through committee. Kaleo Partners’ Heath Beach, who oversaw public safety tools, including SLERS during his time in state government, said the bills “are absolutely critical for public safety — you’ll be able to see things and be places where it’s not safe for first responders to go.”

Kaleo Partners give a breakdown of the critical tech-bills moving through the Legislature.

— Panic alarms: A measure that would require panic alarms installed in public schools (HB 23/SB 70) is equally critical. “We’ve seen what happens when there’s an inability to communicate,” Beach said, referring to past school shootings. “In an emergency situation, every second counts.”

— Grid security: Security breaches aren’t only concerning city halls and supervisors of election offices — critical infrastructure such as utility and water grids have also become prime targets. HB 2081 would equip Florida’s Forensic Institute for Research, Security and Tactics (FIRST) with funding to begin establishing and implementing best practices as well as facilitating an enterprise-level approach for preparing the state to defend against attacks proactively. These types of threats go far beyond personally identifiable information (PII) and threaten our very way of life — without power and water situations can become dire quickly, Kaleo’s Glenn Kirkland said.


State legislatures in Colorado and Virginia — and soon Tennessee — are fighting back against skyrocketing insulin costs by passing laws to cap the copay price at around $100, but Florida isn’t doing squat. Why not?

The Senate seems to be on board with the idea. Sen. Janet Cruz introduced a bill (SB 116) that would cap the monthly copay at $100, and the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee cleared it with a unanimous vote.

Janet Cruz seeks to cap insulin copays at $100.

But it’s stalled in the House, primarily due to opposition from House Speaker José Oliva and Rep. Cary Pigman, who chairs the Health Market Reform Committee and has indicated he will not be taking up the House bill (HB 109) this year.

The rationale: Oliva says If lawmakers step in, “someone would have to pay,” presumably pharmaceutical companies. Pigman hasn’t bothered to explain his position, but one might find plenty of campaign contributions from pharmaceutical companies if they took a glance at his finance reports.

The House position rings hollow, given that a month’s supply of insulin only costs drug manufacturers around $2-$3 to produce. Meanwhile, many Floridians are forced to pay hundreds of dollars a month — resulting in economic hardship and even death.


Love and the flu. While love is in the air during February, so is the flu. We are at the peak of the current flu season, and the CDC estimates there have been at least 26 million flu cases so far, with 250,000 hospitalizations and 14,000 deaths. 

Relief on the way. Sen. Travis Hutson and Rep. Tyler Sirois want to bring relief to Florida families faster. Their bills authorize pharmacies to test and treat for the flu, so patients don’t have to wait to see a doctor. 

Travis Hutson hopes to bring faster flu relief to Floridians.

SB 714 will be heard in the Senate Health Policy Committee this Tuesday.

HB 389 is on the agenda at its final stop in House Health and Human Services Committee Tuesday afternoon. 



A king cake is a taste of tradition in New Orleans, as much a part of the Mardi Gras season as wild crowds, colorful masks and carnival krewes. You can celebrate Fat Tuesday on Feb. 25 in Tallahassee with a bite of king cake, like a breakfast Danish or dessert.

— What is it: Typically, the oval-shaped confection is a slightly sweet brioche dough with various fillings, such as cream cheese, cinnamon, apple and chocolate. The crowning touch is a festive frosting in Mardi Gras colors gold, green and purple.

It’s not Mardi Gras without king cakes. Image via Rochelle Koff.

— Yes, there’s a plastic baby inside: The king cake is said to represent the three kings who brought gifts to Baby Jesus — thus the reason for the small, plastic baby hidden in the cake. It’s considered lucky to find the baby, but if you do, it’s your task to supply the king’s cake for next year’s party.

— Where to find it in Tallahassee: A few venues and supermarkets carry king cakes but call first to ensure it’s available or whether you have to pre-order (bigger sizes can feed as many as 40).

The deets:

Jmo’s SneauxBall Catering Co. 2203 S. Adams St.; 850-933-1239.

Tasty Pastry: 1355 Market St.; 850-893-3752.

Treva’s Pastries and Fine Foods: 2766 Capital Circle NE; 850-765-0811.

Grocery stores, including Whole Foods, Fresh Market and Publix, sell king cakes.

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