Connect with us

Emails & Opinions

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 2.26.20

Commentary and links on Florida politics as crisp as your morning bacon.

First in Sunburn — The Chief Financial Officer’s office has flagged concerns of executive pay and legal and lobbying contract consolidation in the fallout from the state’s leading domestic violence agency money-handling revelations.

In letters sent to five agencies under the Department of Financial Services (DFS), CFO Jimmy Patronis‘ office urged the agencies to improve the protection of public dollars and comply with sunshine. That involves handing over executive compensation totals from the 2016-2017 fiscal year to the present.

In the fallout from the state’s leading domestic violence agency, Jimmy Patronis is beginning to review contracts for legal services.

The letters, an example of which was obtained by Florida Politics, were addressed by DFS director of external affairs and appointments Brock Juarez.

“An initial review of these documents raised concerns with executive pay for certain executive directors as well as the consolidation of legal and lobbying contracts with one company that provides hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal work,” Juarez wrote.

Those memos were sent to the directors of five insurance guaranty associations, including the Florida Life and Health Insurance Guaranty Association (FLAHIGA).

DFS began collecting and reviewing the contracts and pay off its agency’s executive boards in October after The Miami Herald first reported the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s abuses.

A separate letter obtained by Florida Politics revealed an agreement between FLAHIGA’s longtime executive director William Falck and that agency for a $200 hourly rate to aid his successor transition into the role. That memo, sent Jan. 19 to the association’s chairwoman, outlined a contract to last until the end of the transition period March 31.

“The arrangement that Mr. Falck appears to have set up for himself raises questions on whether the board was properly notified of the matter,” Deputy CFO Frank Collins told Florida Politics in a statement.

However, Falck claims $200 per hour is precisely what he made recently while serving as FLAHIGA’s executive director. The agency contracted him for 37 years as its general counsel, later known as its executive director.

“The board approved the engagement as far as I know. It was handled by outside counsel,” he said.

___

First in Sunburn: Mike Bloomberg to launch 90 Florida billboards — Bloomberg 2020 is launching 90 billboards across the state of Florida, which highlights the former New York Mayor’s proven leadership, as well as his ability to beat Trump in Florida.

“We know that Mike Bloomberg is the one candidate Donald Trump is scared to run against,” said Bloomberg 2020 Florida State Director Scott Kosanovich. “From I-95 in Miami to Jacksonville and on I-4 from Daytona to Tampa, this ad campaign will remind voters who the best candidate is to defeat Trump.”

Over the weekend, the campaign opened its 14th field office, with plans to open 6 more in the next week.

The campaign is building the largest campaign infrastructure in Florida, with over 135 field staffers on the ground talking to voters ahead of the March 17th primary. Since January, Bloomberg has been endorsed by dozens of Florida Democrats.

One of 90 Mike Bloomberg billboards to appear in Florida starting Wednesday.

___

‘He Said, She Said’ highlights South Carolina faceoff — The new episode of “He Said, She Said” starts with the celebration of Michelle’s birthday week, and Ella’s first dance competition. As usual, the Schorsch family goes all out in the festivities.

But there’s more than that, as the South Carolina primary approaches featuring fireworks, not just among candidates, but between two veteran #FlaPol Democratic operatives: Kevin Cate and Steve “Florida Man” Schale. Place your bets; the two longtime strategists are supporting Tom Steyer and Joe Biden, respectively.

Michelle and I also discussed the Nevada primary results, and share our concerns that Bernie Sanders is steamrolling toward becoming the eventual nominee. I also foresee a coming backlash against the Vermont Senator — particularly after his comments on Fidel Castro. It’s something that I’m willing to bet on PredictIt.

Schale joins the podcast to discuss South Carolina, Mike Bloomberg’s disastrous debate performance in Nevada, and why he believes the delegate math gets better for Biden going forward. He also makes a case for a new primary process, explaining why it will take a bipartisan coalition to get it done.

Schale compares Sanders’ rise in 2020 with Donald Trump‘s in 2016. Enjoying a solid base of support, but not the majority, both were aided by a large field.

Nevertheless, Michelle remains undecided who shall vote for on Election Day.

Turning the pop culture, we wrap up the podcast with some talk of Narcos, our lack of interest in a newly announced Friends reunion, Grey’s Anatomy and Rob Lowe.

To listen and subscribe, visit Apple Podcasts, Google Play and Stitcher.

— TODAY’S SUNRISE —

As the clock starts running down on the 2020 Session, bills are dying. One example — alimony reform. The Senate sponsor says it’s not going to happen this year.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— A group called Veteran’s Cannabis Project is asking state lawmakers NOT to cap the amount of THC in medical marijuana.

— Environmentalists are praising a Senate bill two force the state to spend at least $100 million a year on the Florida Forever program. At one time, it received $300 million a year, but the latest crop of lawmakers have cut it back.

— A Senate budget subcommittee that deals with education issues has voted to expand the voucher system that allows students to attend private schools. In a rare moment of synergy, the panel also approved “Alyssa’s Law,” requiring panic buttons in public schools.

— Pollster Steve Vancore gives his take on the turmoil created among Democrats by the rise of Sanders.

— As for Florida Man, he’s trying to figure out how a pink thong ended up under the passenger seat of his Jeep.

To listen, click on the image below:

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@ClydeHaberman: I’m obviously biased, being a career newspaperman, but the debates would be better if newspapers ran them, not TV personalities. They tend to ask the same questions over & over in each debate. Asking Bloomberg about stop & frisk, e.g., is not breaking new ground.

@mlcalderone: Some good questions, but others — sugary drinks in NYC? — feel disconnected at a moment when Trump is purging the government of officials not deemed sufficiently loyal to him, amid serious concerns about the rule of law. Foreign policy? Climate crisis?

@KevinCate: You’re only a debate moderator if you moderate the debate. Otherwise, you’re just in the audience.

@RosemanyOHara14: No one has laid a glove on Sanders.

@ScottFist: Did we just watch Elizabeth Warren wrap her arms around Mike Bloomberg and try to jump off a cliff?

@JimOnCities: I have to say I love the fact that @MikeBloomberg doesn’t feel the need to shout over everyone else. Getting his points out. Taking his turn. Being the adult on the stage.

@ChrisKingFL: As the only veteran on the stage, @PeteButtigieg speaks with a unique credibility about America’s role in the world. Thank you for your service, Mayor Pete!

@CHeathWFTV: First ad on @CBSNews online during #DemDebate is an anti-#MedicareForAll ad paid for by the pharmaceutical lobby

@MKRaju: Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, sharply criticized Bernie Sanders’ defense of his Castro comments from CNN townhall. Menendez told me: “I always find it interesting that he gives a passing glance to the question of authoritarianism, but then dwells on all the alleged good things.”

@AndreaGainey: Kudos to those who, w/ a straight face, criticize the U.S. as hell on earth for the slightest inconvenience, but cheer Castro’s Cuba which arbitrarily harasses & violently beats critics, activists, political opponents, & others. Rations food & denies their pple basic human rights

Tweet, tweet:

@MattGaetz: Florida Poly should never have been created. It was a boondoggle contrived to satisfy a powerful legislator. My dear friend @richardcorcoran knows this to be true because he (almost) helped me in efforts to stop it.

@AnnaForFlorida: Budget Chairman Travis Cummings tells Greg Pound to end his testimony in committee after Pound refers to LGBTQ as “Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Queer, and Pedophile” — thank you, Chair Cummings, for calling out this offensive language that has no place in the Florida Legislature.

@GadyEpstein: My 1 takeaway from [Bob] Iger stepping back as CEO, staying as exec chairman, and being replaced by Bob Chapek, who has been an internal succession candidate for years: There is no perfect candidate to run Disney. Literally no one has the “right” skill set and experience

Tweet, tweet:

— DAYS UNTIL —

South Carolina Primaries — 3; Super Tuesday — 6; Super Tuesday II — 13; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 16; 11th Democratic Debate in Phoenix — 18; Florida’s presidential primary — 20; Super Tuesday III — 20; “No Time to Die” premiers — 40; Florida TaxWatch Spring Board Meeting begins — 49; TaxWatch Principal Leadership Awards — 50; Florida Chamber Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 79; “Top Gun: Maverick” premiers — 121; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 138; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premiers — 142; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo start (maybe) — 149; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 174; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 180; First Presidential Debate in Indiana — 216; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 224; Second Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 232; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 239; 2020 General Election — 251.

— TOP STORY —

Americans should brace for coronavirus, experts say ” via The New York Times — Americans should brace for the likelihood that the coronavirus will spread to communities in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned. “It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen in this country anymore but a question of when this will happen,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. She said that public health officials have no idea whether the spread of the disease to the United States would be mild or severe, but that Americans should be ready for a significant disruption to their daily lives. “We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad,” Messonnier said.

Experts warn the U.S. to be prepared for coronavirus. Image via AP.

— DATELINE: TALLY —

Ron DeSantis to appear at Lakeland conference” via Kevin Bouffard of the Lakeland Ledger — DeSantis will visit Lakeland to speak at the Lay of the Land Florida Land Conference at the RP Funding Center. Heather Celoria, marketing manager at SVN Saunders Ralston Dantzler Real Estate, which sponsors the annual conference, confirms that DeSantis will speak at 11:45 a.m. The event is open to conference participants only and not the public. SVN officials informed the Governor about the topics to be addressed at the conference, she said, but he did not indicate what he would speak about. The Land Conference begins at 1 p.m. Thursday and runs until about 2:30 p.m. Friday. About 250 real estate professionals, investors, landowners and others are expected to attend.

Jeanette Núñez praises Palmetto Expressway plan to reduce tolls” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The department released its plans to reduce tolled express lanes, add standard lanes to the Miami-area highway and create an additional access point for local traffic. Local officials lobbied Sen. Manny Diaz, Jr. and Rep. Bryan Avila to bring action from the top down after an FDOT initiative implemented last year drove up travel times. “They have committed from day one to address these issues and really understand the importance of being a voice for their constituents but also being mindful of the impact this has on our community and really the overall economic development of Florida, because traffic … is something that we’re very focused on in this administration,” Núñez said.

Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez praises FDOT, Sen. Manny Diaz and Rep. Bryan Avila for their efforts to reduce congestion on the Palmetto Expressway.

First in Sunburn —Democratic local officials want energy office with Nikki Fried” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Agriculture Commissioner Fried‘s allies from local governments around the state rallied to the defense of her cabinet department staying intact. Forty local mayors and commissioners (mostly Democrats) signed on to a letter to Senate President Bill Galvano and House Speaker José Oliva imploring the Legislature not to move the Office of Energy to Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection. Oliva blessed the bill (PCB ANR 20-01), which passed the House already. The House budget moves the energy line item to FDEP.

‘Sense of fear’: Ex-colleagues warn of DeSantis’ surgeon general pick” via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald — Eight doctors and employees who worked under Rivkees were interviewed by the Times/Herald, and all spoke about fear of retaliation, physician decorum and not wanting to go up against the state. One specifically mentioned the ongoing lawsuit against Hedge. None would agree to let their names be published. They said even years later they’re too afraid to speak out for fear of retaliation by Rivkees, who they described as hot-headed. When Rivkees was upset or unhappy with the performance of doctors, he wasn’t afraid to tell them. Doctors interviewed by the Times/Herald, who asked to remain anonymous, said when they pushed back on things they felt were unjust, Rivkees would call them into his office and yell at them for extended periods of time. One doctor interviewed said he stepped down from leadership roles just to distance himself from Rivkees.

“For shelters, it’s radio silence as domestic violence pay scandal grips Capitol” via Jason Delgado of POLITICO — As state lawmakers rush to cut ties with the once trusted, now embattled Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, local shelters statewide — the scandal’s victims — say they’ve been left in the dark about what comes next. … The radio silence suffered by local domestic violence shelters was in stark contrast to the packed committee rooms and impassioned floor speeches delivered by lawmakers at the Capitol. While elected officials crusaded against the disgraced coalition and stripped it from state statute, shelter leaders were watching their primary source of funding vanish.

Jeff Brandes enlists combat vets in fight against limiting THC in medical marijuana” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Brandes and several combat vets stood in front of the doors to the Senate Chamber, vowing to fight any proposal from the House to place a 10% cap on the euphoria-inducing ingredient in medical marijuana. “What you are hearing us say is the Senate needs to hold the line,” said Brandes. The news conference came a week after House Speaker Oliva told reporters that setting a general cap on tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, in all medical marijuana products is a priority this session — even though there is no current legislation going through either chamber to do that. “I think it’s important that we pass it,” Oliva said two weeks ago.

Manny Diaz hopes to ‘enlightened’ DeSantis about vacation rental bill” via the News Service of Florida — Sen. Diaz, a sponsor of a controversial vacation-rental proposal, believes he can dispel lingering concerns DeSantis has about the legislation. Diaz told reporters he’d like to spend time with DeSantis to go over changes that have been made to the proposal during the committee process. “I would love to have another conversation with him,” Diaz said. “I do think there’s additional features in the bill that could maybe enlighten him to some of the things that are coming forward and maybe clear up some of his concerns.” A day earlier, DeSantis said he hasn’t made up his mind on the bills but that he was “leaning against” the effort.

— A REMINDER — 

Frank Artiles is not a state Senator, and he hasn’t been for years.

For most of our readers, this isn’t a revelation.

But for those living in Miami-Dade, especially the voters who weren’t tuned in during his time in office: Frank Artiles doesn’t represent you. And for that, you should be glad.

Remember, Frank Artiles is NOT a state Senator. Image via AP.

Artiles resigned after a racist outburst in the Governor’s Club three years ago. He flamed out in such a public manner that members of his own party offered no defense — and rightly so.

Ultimately, he served just six months of a four-year term. He didn’t even make it through a single Legislative Session representing District 40.

Yet Artiles would have the world believe he’s still an elected official.

His Twitter bio lists him as such, and the blue checkmark next to his name lends credibility to what, at this point, is purposeful dishonesty.

Sure, politicians often aren’t the ones tweeting from their own accounts, and once they leave office, they neglect to update their social media accounts. But few, if any, have continued presenting themselves as a lawmaker after registering as a lobbyist. And fewer still are actively tweeting from those accounts years after leaving office.

Artiles is doing both.

He’s also still maintaining a campaign website. The only point in his favor is the lack of a donation link.

— LEGISLATION —

Florida Poly, New College face dissolution as merger plan gets House budget panel approval” via Lynn Hatter of WFSU — Rep. Randy Fine’s plan to take the number of public universities from 12, to 10 cleared a key House committee over the objections of Florida Polytechnic University and New College supporters as well as most Democrats. The plan merges both Florida Poly and New College into the University of Florida. Fine is basing his move on the schools’ cost-per-degree, which are far higher than at other public universities. But Florida Poly President Randy Avent says those numbers don’t reflect the truth. “The cost-per-degree … neglects the fact that for Florida Poly, it represents our first graduating class which was by far the lowest and smallest class we had,” Avent said,

Voucher program headed toward expansion” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Key House and Senate panels approved bills that include boosting the Family Empowerment Scholarship program, which provides vouchers for nearly 18,000 students to attend private schools this year. The program was anticipated to grow each year, but the bills would accelerate that — potentially adding about 28,900 students during the upcoming school year, according to a House analysis. Sen. Diaz Jr., who is sponsoring the Senate bill (SB 1220), said parents are looking for “freedom and opportunity” in educating their children. “It is the responsibility of parents to be able to put students in the best possible scenario for that student to be successful,” Diaz said before the Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee approved his bill.

Manny Diaz’s expansion of the state’s voucher system advances.

Senate reworks early learning bill to match House — The Senate reworked its early education reform package to bring it in line with the House version before voting it through the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida reports. Chief among the changes was the elimination of a letter-grading system for pre-kindergarten providers, which was replaced with a ranking system spanning from “unsatisfactory” to “highly proficient.” The bill (SB 1688) would also close the Office of Earlier Learning and transfer VPK oversight to a new entity, Division of Early Learning, which would be housed within the Florida Department of Education.

Senate panel OKs Lauren Book bill to install panic alert system in schools” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The legislation (SB 70) moved forward after the committee adopted a strike-all amendment. That amendment states, “each public school, including charter schools, shall implement an interoperable mobile panic alert system capable of connecting diverse emergency services technologies to ensure real-time coordination between multiple first responders.” The mobile alert system would be set up following a bidding process for a statewide contract. The Department of Education, in consultation with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, would solicit that contract. Under the bill, schools may also set up additional strategies or systems on their own.

Lawmakers reject study on anti-LGBTQ policies in private voucher schools” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — Superseding the typical controversy over vouchers was the debate over private schools that have policies barring gay and transgender students from attending. There are 83 private, religious schools accepting tax credit-funded scholarships with these policies in writing. Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith proposed two amendments that aimed to outline the nature of this problem. He said only some private schools have these policies, but they’re giving the rest “a bad name.” One amendment would have mandated that the state policy researchers complete a study on discriminatory admission policies in private schools that accept vouchers. Both amendments failed via voice votes, with few members weighing in other than fellow Democrats calling for support.

Senate budget panel earmarks ‘Forever Florida’ money for Apalachicola River restoration” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — A Senate budget panel on Tuesday approved legislation that could divert millions of dollars to protect the Apalachicola River and Bay. In its final meeting of the year, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government voted to commit $60 million of Florida Forever money over the next five years to rebuild the City of Apalachicola’s sewage and wastewater treatment facility. Florida Forever is the state’s conservation land-buying program funded through documentary stamps, or “doc stamps” — the tax levied on the sale of real estate. The panel also advanced a second bill that would set a $100 million annual funding level for the program whose yearly appropriations have ranged from as low as $20 million to as much as $300 million.

— MORE LEGISLATION —

House to look at E-Verify — The House is finally joining the Senate with a bill implementing use of the federal E-Verify immigration program. According to Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida, the newly filed House bill would address one of DeSantis’ top priorities and require employers use the system to identify immigration status — and employment eligibility — of new hires. The House Commerce Committee is scheduled to take up FL HB1265 (20R), which seeks to mandate public employers and private companies that get taxpayer money to use E-Verify. It would be optional for private employers. Employers would have to get copies of an applicant’s documents for form I-9, used by the federal government to verify identity and employment worthiness of workers.

Lawmakers promote secrecy, while citizens remain in the dark” via Lucy Morgan of Florida Phoenix — Some Florida legislators want more privacy. They’d like to live secretly, in houses where no one can find them. Yes, as dumb as this sounds, this has become an actual bill in the Legislature. The Senate sponsor is Republican Kelli Stargel. She already lives at a secret address because she’s married to a former legislator who is now a judge in Polk County. I can see some reason to make the home addresses of judges exempt from Florida’s public records law. But state legislators? Hardly. They’re supposed to live within the confines of their legislative districts, and most of them are so little known that the average criminal would never find them.

Kelli Stargel. wants to keep lawmaker addresses from public view. Image via Phil Sears.

Flu test and treat bill met with coronavirus, scope of practice concerns” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Sen. Travis Hutson‘s proposal (SB 714) would authorize licensed pharmacists, not just physicians, to offer testing and treatment. But some lawmakers on the Senate Health and Human Service Appropriations Subcommittee feared pharmacists aren’t adequately trained to diagnose the flu. The measure would require the Board of Medicine to adopt rules and approve an eight-hour certification course for pharmacists wishing to offer flu tests. And pharmacists must follow up with patients three days after visits, whether or not they were treated, to see if their health has improved. Additionally, pharmacies offering testing and treatment must maintain a $250,000 liability insurance policy under the proposal.

Alimony revamp off table this year” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — While a similar House bill (HB 843) has been approved by two committees and is scheduled to go before the House Judiciary Committee, Sen. Stargel’s measure (SB 1832) never made it out of its first committee in the Senate. “So, at this point in the process, it would be near impossible to get that done this year. We’ll keep working on it for next year,” Stargel told The News Service of Florida. The proposals would create a formula for judges to use when setting alimony payments and do away with “permanent,” or lifetime, alimony.

Time is running out for tort reform” via Florida Politics — The clock is ticking. With less than three weeks remaining in Session, there is little time for the Legislature to move forward with tort reform legislation. But the stakeholders who want to see meaningful reforms passed this Session are not ready to give up on the bills that target the contingency risk multiplier fee. This week, letters authored by the Florida Association of Insurance Agents, Associated Industries of Florida, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Insurance Council and the Florida Justice Reform Institute were delivered to legislative leaders and DeSantis, advocating for the final passage bills that would allow the contingency risk multiplier fee to be used only in exceptional circumstances. The fees have led to exorbitant judgments against insurers, forcing them to increase rates for all Floridians. In one example, a trial attorney was awarded $1.2 million on a $40,000 dispute.

P2P car rental bill scheduled for third committee — The House Commerce Committee will take a bill sponsored by Rep. Jason Fischer that would define peer-to-peer car sharing in Florida statute and impose minimum insurance requirements for people who rent their personal vehicles through car-sharing websites such as Turo and Getaround. Car-sharing companies back HB 723. Rental car companies are supporting alternative legislation, HB 377, that would impose the same taxes on car-sharing transactions as those levied against traditional rentals. Thursday marks the last committee stop for HB 723. HB 377 has cleared two committees but has not been scheduled for its final stop, also in the Commerce Committee.

— POUNDED OUT —

Florida man Pound doesn’t shy away from being provocative. A regular at the Capitol, he chimes in with his opinion on various pieces of legislation. The more controversial, the better. He’s made outrageous comments such as Islamophobic remarks about Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez’s resolution condemning white nationalism and white supremacy. He’s discussed children being molested and even masturbation in committee hearings.

Greg Pound lives for controversy. 

So it wasn’t a complete surprise that Pound wished to speak on school choice legislation during the House Appropriations Committee that has sparked controversy because of some parochial schools that have anti-LGBTQ policies. But Pound’s comments seemed to cross a line Tuesday he hadn’t achieved this Session previously.

Pound listed off what the letters L-G-B-T-G and then added a “P,” which he said stood for “pedophile.”

“Where are they getting these children from,” Pound continued.

Members of the public gasped in shock at the comments, which Chair Cummings immediately shut down.

Cummings told Pound his public comment time had ended. When Pound asked why, Cummings said it was because of “what’s coming out of your mouth.”

“It’s offensive,” Cummings said.

Pound refused to leave the podium, trying to argue his position, so Cummings swiftly called the sergeants to have Pound removed from the room, to the applause from members of the public.

It might be a brief reprieve from hearing Pound’s comments. There’s still 17 days session days this year.

— TODAY IN CAPITOL —

The House Education Committee meets, 8 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The House Health & Human Services Committee meets, 8 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Judiciary Committee meets, 8 a.m., Room 404, House Office Building.

The Senate Rules Committee meets to consider bills that would erect barriers to getting proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot, 9 a.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.

Assignment editors — Sen. Aaron Bean, Reps. Amber Mariano and Elizabeth Fetterhoff will join hundreds of students from Florida’s nonprofit, independent colleges and universities for a rally to protect EASE voucher funding, 12;30 p.m., Historic Steps (Monroe Side), The Old Capitol.

Assignment editors — Sen. Debbie Mayfield; Reps. Blaise Ingoglia, Bobby Payne and Toby Overdorf join Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein will hold a news conference highlighting the work done on environmental issues this Legislative Session, 1 p.m.,4th-floor Rotunda, in front of House Chambers.

— GIRL SCOUT DAY —

Tallahassee goes green for Girl Scout Day at The Capitol, which will raise awareness of Florida’s six Girl Scout councils — serving 54,352 girls in kindergarten through high school, as well as 30,184 adult volunteers.

The event is 10 a.m.-1 p.m. in the courtyard of the Capitol Building with a welcome and flag ceremony at 10:30 a.m., during which Girl Scouts will pin cabinet members and legislators as honorary Girl Scout members.

Girl Scout girls and volunteers, along with staff members from each council, will share with lawmakers information about the four pillars of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience — STEM, outdoors, entrepreneurship, life skills — as well as the Girl Scout Gold Award and G.I.R.L. 2020, a movement-wide convention that will be held in October in Orlando.

— GOV. CLUB. BUFFET MENU —

Split pea and ham soup; mixed garden salad with dressings; marinated vegetable salad; tropical fruit salad; deli board, lettuces, tomatoes, cheeses and breads; grilled breast of chicken with rosemary-honey mustard sauce; hearty beef stew; crispy fried shrimp with cocktail and tartar sauce; roasted red bliss potatoes; Southern-style succotash; cauliflower polonaise; carrot cake for dessert.

— DEBATE NIGHT —

On the debate stage in Charleston, Democrats unleashed a full-fledged assault against Sanders’ electability and seized on Bloomberg’s past with women in the workplace — testing the strength of the two men who are leading the Party’s presidential nomination fight.

As the undeniable Democratic front-runner, Sanders faced the lion’s share of attacks.

Buttigieg, stalling out among moderates to strike out as Sanders’ chief alternative, seized the Vermont Senator’s self-described democratic socialism and his recent comments expressing admiration for Cuban dictator Castro’s literacy program.

From left, Democratic presidential candidates, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and businessman Tom Steyer stand on stage before a Democratic presidential primary debate. Image via AP.

“I am not looking forward to a scenario where it comes down to Donald Trump with his nostalgia for the social order of the 1950s and Bernie Sanders with a nostalgia for the revolutionary politics of the 1960s,” Buttigieg said.

For his part, Sanders pushed back for most the night, citing polls showing him beating Trump and noting all the recent attention: “I’m hearing my name mentioned a little bit tonight. I wonder why?”

Another bare-knuckled brawl marked Democrats 10th — and perhaps most significant — debate of the 2020 primary season. Tuesday’s forum, broadcast by CBS and co-produced by the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, is just four days before South Carolina’s first-in-the-South primary and a week before Super Tuesday, where a dozen states cast primary ballots.

Candidates repeatedly yelled over each other, demonstrating Democrats’ establishment wing is quickly running out of time to stop Sanders’ rise. Even some critics, including Bloomberg, admitted that Sanders could have and insurmountable delegate lead as early as next week.

Even Sanders’ progressive ally, Warren, questioned his ability to lead the nation.

“Bernie and I agree on a lot of things,” Warren said, “but I think I would make a better president.”

While Sanders took many of the shots, Bloomberg also faced some intense attacks — giving him an opportunity to redeem himself after his bad debate performance last week.

Warren’s fiercest swipe on Bloomberg was over his record as a businessman, particularly about a specific allegation that he told a pregnant employee “to kill it,” a reference to the woman’s unborn child. Bloomberg fiercely denied the allegation but acknowledged he may have made inappropriate comments.

Former Vice President Biden was also looking to make a big impression in South Carolina, where he was long viewed as the unquestioned front-runner because of his support from black voters.

Biden slammed Sanders for his record on gun control, seizing on his support of the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, legislation that protects gun manufacturers and sellers from laws that attempt to hold them liable for dealing firearms that end up in the hand of criminals.

Sanders proudly highlighted his “D minus” rating from the National Rifle Association, as well as his endorsement by many of the Parkland school shooting survivors.

— SUNSHINE STATE PRIMARY — 

Spotted at the Democratic debate in South Carolina — U.S. Rep. Stephanie MurphyArt Collins, former Rep. Alan Williams, Vincent Evans, former U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek.

Breaking overnight — Buttigieg has cancelled four events in south Florida set for Wednesday because of illness. Buttigieg campaign spokesman Chris Meagher says the former mayor is sick with a cold. Three of the Florida events were fundraisers. Buttigieg has been asking supporters to help him raise $13 million ahead of next week’s 14-state Super Tuesday contests.

Voters are voting — According to the Florida Division of Elections, as of Tuesday afternoon, Supervisors of Elections have a total of 993,293 Republican vote-by-mail ballots; 422,169 have returned, 565,387 are outstanding, and 5,737 are unsent. As for Democrats, supervisors have a total of 1,091,005 vote-by-mail ballots; 247,279 have returned, 834,154 are outstanding, and 8,572 are unsent. Those classified as “other,” 244,787 vote-by-mail ballots, 9,255 have returned, 38,047 are outstanding, and 197,485 are unsent.

Will your vote count? Florida’s secrecy about election security makes it nearly impossible to know” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida’s March 17 presidential primary will be a referendum on state and county elections officials’ efforts to build a wall to stop hacking attempts that are constantly bombarding the system. At a time when 59 percent of the public doesn’t trust the election process, state elections officials have thrown a veil of secrecy over that work. Florida has doubled down on secrecy since federal officials reported at least four counties were hacked in 2016. The state forced all 67 elections supervisors to sign nondisclosure agreements before they could receive federal funding for elections security, be briefed about vulnerabilities found by cybersecurity experts, or even hook up to the state’s voter registration system.

Will your vote count? It’s tough to know the answer.

Florida’s reworked voting laws come only after fierce court fights” via John Kennedy of the Gannett Capital Bureau — Florida is viewed by elections experts as among the more progressive states when it comes to making it easy for voters to cast ballots. But most of these voter access wins have come only after fierce court fights. Recent years have seen court struggles over early voting, vote-by-mail, polling places on college campuses, Spanish-language ballot material, voter registration deadlines, signature matches on absentee ballots, and now felon voting rights. In each case, critics echoed the charge that Florida Republicans were trying to limit who can vote in a state where shifting demographics appear to be working against the party and its candidates. “An irony of this overreach is that it has led to lawsuits which have expanded the right to vote in this state,” said Daniel Smith, a UF political scientist.

Democratic plaintiffs sue to get Sanders disqualified from Florida primary” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Frank Bach and George Brown, both Democrats registered in Florida, argue state law precludes a candidate not registered as a Democrat from running in the primary. “Defendant Sanders is clearly an Independent, and is clearly not a Democrat, by his own definitions,” the lawsuit alleges. “His current ‘day job’ is as a United States Senator and he has consistently, proudly asserted his service in that role as Independent.” But the Sanders campaign waved off the legal action. “We’re aware of the spurious complaint, and it will not affect us,” said Sanders Communications Director Mike Casca.

Group of Broward elected officials favor Biden, Bloomberg in presidential race — The gathering of current and former officials dubs itself the “Real Solutions Caucus.” The 34-member group conducted an unscientific straw poll of the Democratic presidential primary, where members listed their top three preferences. First-place votes were worth three points, second-place votes were worth two, and third-place votes were worth one. Biden led with 71 points, followed by Bloomberg at 62 points. Former South Bend Mayor Buttigieg was a distant fourth with 22 points. U.S. Sen.Warren of Vermont garnered 4 points. U.S. Sen. Sanders of Vermont, who is being treated as the race’s frontrunner, tied for last with U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. Both earned 3 points.

Smart take — Michael Worley: Bloomberg digital spending will cost down-ballot campaigns.” via Florida Politics — Because these ads are bought and sold using a real-time bidding system, Bloomberg’s huge spending capacity isn’t just buying him ads — it’s driving up the cost of those ads for everyone else and making his ads frequently appear first on your Facebook and Instagram newsfeeds. Much like television and direct mail, there are physical limits on how much digital advertising a campaign can buy. In 2020, huge policy changes are impacting how political campaign digital ads are bought and sold, and the “endless” stock of inventory is becoming increasingly shallow. As the Bloomberg campaign gobbles up as much limited ad space on Facebook and other platforms as possible, other well-funded national and statewide campaigns will be forced to compete.

— NEW ADS —

Steyer — “On our side”:

Warren – “Big money doesn’t always win”:

Priorities USA — “Amy”:

Priorities USA — “Whatever I Want”:

— MORE 2020 —

Bloomberg internal poll claims Sanders would sink down-ballot Dems” via Christopher Cadelago and Laura Barrón-López of POLITICO — The poll of voters in more than 40 battleground House districts currently held by Democrats — conducted by Global Strategy Group for the Bloomberg campaign — found that Sanders is less popular than Trump and loses significant support when hit for holding socialist positions. But Sanders’ potential impact extends beyond the presidential race. A plurality of voters, 39 percent, say they will be less likely to vote for a Democrat for Congress if Sanders is the Democratic nominee and his ideas are folded into the party platform. That’s nearly double the 21 percent who say they would be more likely to vote for a Democrat for Congress, while 34 percent say it wouldn’t impact their vote.

An internal poll from Mike Bloomberg finds Bernie Sanders will sink down-ballot Democrats.

In climate change fight, advocates like Bloomberg’s money — but not his plans” via Michael Wilner and Emily Cadei of the Miami Herald — As New York Mayor, Bloomberg turned the city’s iconic yellow taxicabs into hybrids, expanded bike lanes and raised flood walls against worsening storms. As a presidential candidate, he has touted his role as one of the largest climate philanthropists in the world. And his campaign believes his largesse on such a priority issue for Democratic voters can make up for some of the more controversial policies from his past. Despite those efforts, the billionaire media mogul is facing skepticism from some of the nation’s largest environmental groups, who currently rank his proposal to fight climate change among the worst of all Democrats running for President. Greenpeace has given Bloomberg’s climate action plan a C+ rating.

On one hand —’Nearly insurmountable’: Sanders barrels toward Super Tuesday delegate windfall” via Holly Otterbein of POLITICO — Sanders is zooming toward Super Tuesday with victories in Nevada and New Hampshire, a foothold in the delegate-rich states of California and Texas, and a divided, jam-packed field of moderate opponents. All of which puts him on a path to potentially collect enough delegates by the middle of March that no one else can catch up with him, say a growing number of Democratic officials and operatives. They think the Vermont Senator could amass a plurality of delegates by March 17, at which point more than 60 percent of the race’s total delegates will have been awarded — thereby making it difficult if not all but unfeasible for his opponents to overtake him.

On the other —Why Sanders might not be a lock for the nomination” via John Harris and Charlie Mahtesian of POLITICO — Here’s something “everybody knows” that is almost certainly true. The two most widely respected figures in the Democratic Party — Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi — are worried that a Sanders nomination could be disastrous for the party in the fall, increasing the likelihood that Trump is reelected or that enough marginal House Democrats lose their seats to turn congressional control back to the GOP. The assumption that the Democratic National Convention couldn’t dare deny the nomination to Sanders, if he has a first-round plurality, deserves some skepticism. Under the 2020 rules, superdelegates do not even get to vote in the first round of convention balloting unless a candidate already has a first-round majority.

Havana gives front-page coverage to Sanders for praising Fidel Castro” via Nora Gámez Torres of the Miami Herald — Havana is where the newspaper of the Communist Party prominently displayed a report about Sanders and his praise of “some of the social programs implemented by the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution Castro.” “U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, today one of the strongest candidates for the nomination of the Democratic Party to the November presidential elections, recognized Cuba’s role in sending doctors worldwide,” Granma said. The newspaper said Sanders seemed “unstoppable” in his move toward the nomination. But in another example of how the Communist Party censors state media, all outlets left out the Senator’s reference to “the authoritarian nature of Cuba.”

’Phil Griffin is doing his best to give Sanders his due’: after a Sanders surge any Chris Matthews gaffe, MSNBC prepares to pivot” via Joe Pompeo of Vanity Fair — Matthews’s remarks came just one day after Page Six reported that Sanders himself took his grievances directly to MSNBC president Griffin, reportedly telling him in a green room before the NBC debate in Nevada last week, “Phil, your network has not been playing a fair role in this campaign. I am upset. Is anything going to change? … I hope you will do better.” Griffin is taking the complaints seriously, according to network sources. Now, with Sanders looking more and more like the presumptive nominee, MSNBC’s coverage will have to shift to reflect that. “Will they bring in more contributors that are pro-Sanders? That’s where the chatter is,” another insider told me. “As a matter of news, you have to.”

Biden’s ridiculous claim he was arrested trying to see Nelson Mandela” via Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post — Biden, as a Senator, was active in the anti-apartheid movement, helping pass sanctions on companies doing business in South Africa over President Ronald Reagan’s veto. But there is no evidence that Biden was ever arrested trying to see the imprisoned future president of a democratic South Africa. As far as we can tell, Biden never mentioned this arrest before. He appears to be referring to a trip in 1977, but the U.N. ambassador from 1977 to 1979, Andrew Young, told The Fact Checker that he was never arrested in South Africa. “There is no chance I ever was arrested in South Africa, and I don’t think Joe was, either. I was arrested twice, in Savannah and Atlanta.”

First on #FlaPol —Donald Trump raising money in Orlando on March 9; tickets start at $11K per couple” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — If someone wants to be at the Trump fundraising event’s roundtable, have a photo taken, and be at the reception, tickets cost $100,000 per couple. Just a photo and reception, $35,000 per couple. No photo: $11,200. The lunchtime fundraiser will be held at a still-undisclosed location and hosted by Diane and Bob Dello Russo, Lee Chira, Mary Demetree, Bill Heavener, Allan Keen, Mark Modarres, and Lori Summers. Also, the invitation touts appearances by Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, RNC Co-Chairman Tommy Hicks Jr., RNC National Finance Chairman Todd Ricketts, Trump Victory Finance Committee National Chair and former FOX News TV personality Kimberly Guilfoyle, and Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale.

Pro-Trump group plans post-Super Tuesday blitz on Democrats” via Axios — Pro-Trump super PAC America First Action is preparing to unleash a series of targeted, swing-state attacks on the Democrats most likely to face President Trump after Super Tuesday … The group has been tracking favorable/unfavorable ratings in Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania for Biden, Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg and Bloomberg — under the theory that if Trump wins each of these six states he would win re-election. The spending isn’t expected to begin until it’s clearer who the Democratic nominee will be, whether that’s after next week’s Super Tuesday or in July at the Democratic National Convention.

#NeverTrumpers never had a chance, but consultants still cashed in” via Hunter Woodall of The Daily Beast — “Never Trump” devolved into a doomed rallying cry in 2016 as big money and marquee Republican names failed to deny Trump’s GOP ascendancy. What remained was a shadow of the effort, with the kind of candidates and resources needed to mount a serious attempt staying far away.   Still, there was money to be made. The money was never huge. But its chance of making a difference was more of a wayward daydream than a thought with footing in 2020 reality. A top staffer from Mitt Romney’s 2012 run found a home with former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld’s operation. A longtime Bush family fundraiser tried to work her magic on a former Tea Party Republican’s redemption tour.

 

— DRESSING UP —

Whether feathered or furred, there’s a name for the people who dress up as animals to harass politicians — bird-dogger. It’s an art as old as politics, writes the Washington Post: Individuals dressed up and dispatched by advocacy groups or rival campaigns “to raise specific issues at public events.”

These troublemaker mascots have one purpose — to challenge, fluster or somehow embarrass politicians. And they have become a longtime part of the political landscape.

Dressing up to hassle politicians is as old as politics itself. Image via Patch.

And the costumes of bird-doggers have become more elaborate, and bipartisan.

The Post notes: “In 2015, the group NextGen America, founded by 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Steyer, towed an inflatable iceberg behind a speedboat on New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee.” Two staffers were clinging to the iceberg, which floated by a dinner cruise fundraiser to support Scott Walker’s presidential bid.

“Recent years have brought forth Big Birds, Miss Piggies, tires, handmaids, giant EpiPens, mariachi bands, the Monopoly man and, in one case … someone dressed as Democratic presidential candidate Buttigieg whipping Jesus Christ while Satan looked on, appalled.”

But the classic has always been animal costumes — relatively inexpensive, versatile and (perfect for places like Iowa and New Hampshire) warm.

— BLOOMBERG’S EXTENSIVE REACH —

When Bloomberg held a rally earlier this month at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, the signs of his wealth and influence were evident.

“Bloomberg interns” worked at the National Constitution Center and other Philadelphia cultural sites, and Bloomberg gave the center’s former CEO a $50,000 donation for his successful 2016 run for state treasurer, The Associated Press reports.

With philanthropy, Mike Bloomberg has built a robust political network.

Fueling Bloomberg’s presidential ambition is years of political and charitable giving that have given him a foundation of goodwill across the U.S. since his third term as New York Mayor in 2013, Bloomberg dramatically increased his spending, making him one of the nation’s most significant philanthropists and political donors and creating a list of achievements to tout in his self-funded advertising.

More important is the network of powerful and influential people that helped him win elections, fund advocacy campaigns, research and allowed him to finance critical municipal and education programs. Now the beneficiaries of Bloomberg’s largesse are backing his presidential campaign — including members of Congress, Mayors, and environmental and gun-control advocates.

“He had the wealth to give away money for years to build friends, to build political allies, to build relationships, in ways that the average American doesn’t have, can’t do. That’s a huge advantage,” Common Cause Vice President Paul Ryan told the AP.

— STATEWIDE —

Ashley Moody announces $1.6B opioid agreement — Attorney General Moody is announcing Florida has joined in a nationwide settlement framework that will resolve the state’s claims with the largest manufacturer of generic opioid drugs in the United States. Florida joined the framework with Mallinckrodt and its subsidiaries, which agrees to pay at least $1.6 billion in cash to a trust. Additionally, the company agrees that future business will be subject to injunctive relief that precludes the marketing of opioids and prevents diversion. Moody said: “The opioid crisis is claiming 15 lives each day here in Florida. These opioid pill manufacturers deceived the public in their marketing of these highly addictive, sometimes lethal, drugs, and I am working hard every day to hold them accountable.”

Ashley Moody is announcing that Florida is part of a $1.6 billion opioid settlement.

State seeks renewal of Medicaid ‘waiver’” via the News Service of Florida — Florida Medicaid officials are asking the federal government to renew and amend a “waiver” that allows the program to care for sick children in home- and community-based settings. The state Agency for Health Care Administration is requesting a five-year renewal of the waiver and is accepting public comment on the proposal through March 24. The waiver allows the state to provide medically necessary services to children under 21 who have a degenerative spinocerebellar disease, which results in a progressive deterioration or impairment of the spinal motor and sensory systems. It is open to children who are determined disabled using criteria established by the Social Security Administration and is limited to 20 children annually.

Florida’s top doctor: Majority of hepatitis A-infected restaurant workers kept secret from public” via Wendy Ryan of WFTS — Reports of hepatitis A, a foodborne illness which attacks the liver, are still on the rise with Florida reporting four more deaths and 156 new infections in January. State Surgeon General Scott Rivkees refused to say about why he continues to keep the public in the dark after a hearing at the State House earlier this month as an Ocala lawmaker blocked ABC Action News Anchor Wendy Ryan from asking him questions. But county and state health officials have refused to tell the public where people are dying and becoming infected, pointing to a Florida law that states diseases are “made public only when necessary to public health.”

At Florida prison in grip of legionnaires outbreak, new unease over 33-year-old’s death” via Carli Teproff and Romy Ellenbogen of the Miami Herald — Weeks after the women’s camp at a Florida federal prison began coping with an unexplained and worsening outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, men in another section of the same sprawling prison complex have reported feeling sick — and one just died. The inmate was 33 years old and, except for asthma, seemingly in robust health, family members and friends said. The cause has not been determined, however, and the prison system said there had been no Legionnaires cases reported in the men’s medium-security compound, where the death occurred. The scope of the outbreak has seesawed. As of Feb. 11, the prison system said 23 women tested positive for Legionella, the bacteria tied to Legionnaires’ disease.

— DEO CHIEF PUSHES TOURISM —

As the Legislature hammers out next year’s budget, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity CEO Ken Lawson reminds Floridians that the state’s economy and friendly tax climate relies on a steady stream of visitors.

“By virtue of tourism, we’re not paying a state income tax,” Lawson said on the Florida Chamber’s “Bottom Line” series. “Out-of-state tourists are investing in Florida, spending money across the state, that means that’s increasing our tax base. So, it’s very important that VISIT FLORIDA is funded to help market the state across the country and the world.”

Lawson, Florida’s top economic development leader, also explains the importance of not ending the Qualified Targeted Industries (QTI) program.

“QTI is a great tool for small, medium and large communities across Florida,” he said. “This tool causes companies to create jobs in aerospace, finance and diversified areas.”

QTI allows job creators who invest in their business, create jobs and pay their taxes, to seek tax refunds based on their investment.

To watch the latest edition of “Bottom Line,” click on the image below:

— FOR YOUR RADAR —

FASD launches special districts awareness campaign — More than 1,700 special districts help deliver essential services ranging from fire rescue to library administration. Yet, a recent poll conducted by Sachs Media Group found that nearly three-quarters of Floridians don’t know whether they live in one. The Florida Association of Special Districts thinks that number should be lower, and it’s launching a campaign to raise awareness on the role special districts play in Floridians’ everyday lives. “Communities form special districts when they want a particular service delivered effectively, efficiently, and with local control. We’re excited to launch this campaign to increase awareness across Florida of the vital services that special districts provide for the communities they serve,” FASD President Tanya W. Quickel said. The FASD campaign will feature social media and digital ads, including a 30-second PSA.

To watch the video, click on the image below:

— D.C. MATTERS —

Donald Trump says Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor should sit out cases involving him or his administration” via Mark Sherman of The Associated Press — Justices decide for themselves when to step aside from cases the court is considering. It is highly unlikely either justice would sit out cases involving Trump, including two cases the court will hear on Mar. 31 over subpoenas for Trump’s tax, bank and financial records. The President wants the justices to reject demands for the records issued by House committees and the Manhattan district attorney. The justices and Chief Justice John Roberts, who chided Trump in 2018 for his criticism of an “Obama judge,” had no comment, court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said.

— CORONAVIRUS — 

Trump faces ‘black swan’ threat to the economy and reelection” via Dan Diamond and Nancy Cook of POLITICO — Trump’s top aides faced an increasingly urgent threat with potentially monumental implications: a global outbreak knocking down the U.S. economy and walloping markets in an election year, all against accusations about whether the Trump administration had mismanaged and underfunded a critical response. A swift drop in the stock market jolted officials in the White House and across Washington, delivering implications from the long-simmering coronavirus threat to a broader swath of Americans. “The view in the White House is that this is one of those classic black swan events, and all we can do is control the health issues in the U.S.,” said Stephen Moore, an informal economic adviser to the Trump team.

Trump seems to know very little about the coronavirus” via Chris Cillizza of CNN — “I think that’s a problem that’s going to go away,” Trump said of the virus. The series of misstatements from Trump about coronavirus is not new. Trump has repeatedly offered rosy predictions about the disease’s arc — most notably the idea that warming temperatures will reduce its impact, much like seasonal flu. Again, the vast majority of infectious disease experts say it is too early in the life cycle of the illness to make assumptions like that. “It would be reckless to assume that things will quiet down in spring and summer,” Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, told CNN.

Donald Trump does not inspire confidence in preparations for the new coronavirus. Image via AP.

Surgeon General to Senate: ‘no cases’ of coronavirus in Florida” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Surgeon General Rivkees is looking to assuage concerns about the spread of the coronavirus in Florida. “In terms of what is known, let me say, at the onset, that there are no cases of novel coronavirus, now called COVID-19, in Florida,” Rivkees told the Senate Health Policy Committee. “This is a rapidly emerging situation that we are carefully following. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will provide updated information as soon as it becomes available.” But should the virus eventually reach Florida, Lt. Gov. Núñez argues officials are ready to deal with the effects.

Jimmy Patronis on coronavirus: ‘Being prepared is the right thing to do.’” Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — First responders are ready if the virus does appear here, said Jimmy Patronis, the state’s chief financial officer and state fire marshal, during an appearance in Pensacola. Patronis spoke to the media during a visit to assess preparedness for the coronavirus, known as COVID-19, as fears of an outbreak rocked global financial markets. “It is no different with a hurricane,” Patronis said. “When a hurricane is threatening the coast of the state of Florida, we are getting educated with our insurance document. We’re getting educated with the latest types of supplies in order to have in hand in case a disaster takes place. We weather the storm, and then we plan for the recovery.”

Coronavirus pinches Jabil” via Margie Manning of St. Pete Catalyst — Jabil Inc., the largest company headquartered in St. Petersburg, said its financial performance for the current fiscal period would be impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. The company’s factories have been adversely affected by the virus and are now running at roughly 65 percent to 70 percent capacity, Mark Mondello, CEO, said in a statement. “Our first priority is the overall safety of our people. To this end, we’ve instituted broad testing and quarantine protocols to support those who are on-site at our factories. Also, we remain in close contact with our employees who’ve been unable to return to work due to ongoing travel restrictions,” Mondello said. The company now says Q2 2020 results will be negatively impacted.

— CORONAVIRUS AND FLORIDA’S ECONOMY —

Florida Chamber Foundation Chief Economist Dr. Jerry Parrish is saying residents should be “concerned, but not panicked” about the coronavirus’ threat on the state’s economy

“Yesterday the Dow dropped by more than 1,000 points, companies are cutting their GDP forecasts, 30-year mortgages are at an eight-year low, manufacturers are idling their factories because of supply chain issues,” Parrish explained in the latest Florida By The Numbers report. All of this is influencing Florida’s economy, and it could continue. “This is certainly a concern, but it’s not anything to panic about.”

According to Parrish, Florida’s most vulnerable industries include International visitors, cruise passengers, imports/exports and manufacturing jobs.

The 10-year government bond and the three-month T-bill are now showing an inversion, he added.

“An inversion of the yield curve has been a reliable, but not perfect signal, of a future recession. This is one of the metrics that goes into the calculation of the probability of a Florida recession, which is on TheFloridaScorecard.org,” Parrish explained. “The probability of Florida being in a recession over the next nine months has now increased to 24.1 percent.”

To watch ‘Florida by the Numbers,’ click on the image below:

— MOTHER NATURE —

Florida added almost 2,000 solar jobs last year, the most in the nation” via Brendan Ward of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — A recent report by The Solar Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing solar energy, found Florida added 1,843 solar jobs in 2019 — the largest increase among U.S. states. Other top states that added solar jobs include Georgia with 1,102 jobs, Utah with 1,062 jobs, and New York with 1,011. No other states added over 1,000 jobs. With its expansion, Florida ranks second in the nation for solar jobs trailing California, despite the state’s 3.4 percent decrease. A recent report by The Solar Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing solar energy, found Florida added 1,843 solar jobs in 2019 — the largest increase among U.S. states.

Duke Energy installs one-millionth solar panel in Florida” via Florida Politics — The company hit the seven-figure mark at its Columbia Solar Power Plant in Fort White, and it’s not stopping at a million — Duke Energy said it plans to install a significant amount of additional solar energy over the next 10 years across the state. In all, Duke Energy expects to have 515 megawatts of solar power solar under construction or operating by mid-2020. By mid-2022, the company said that figure would grow to 700 megawatts, with a potential to hit 1,500 megawatts of solar generation by 2028. The milestone comes four years after Duke Energy first dipped its toe into solar power.

Floridians are eating their state tree to help their state animal” via Kristen Schmidt of Atlas Obscura — In Florida, cabbage palms stand tall. “Cabbage palms in and of themselves are fine. They’re the state tree.” The problem, he notes, is that the region’s hydrology has been altered with the installation of canals and roads. Something as simple as drainage can impact larger plant communities and the animals that depend upon them, in particular Florida’s state animal, the endangered Florida panther. Further, because cabbage palms are fire-tolerant and “burn hotter than if it were just grass.” Those flames burn high into the overstory, killing pine trees that may not have been scorched if not for the abundance of cabbage palms. The result is a major loss of pine flatwood habitat — a critical hunting ground for panthers.

The cabbage palm burns hotter than if it was grass.

Herpes-carrying monkeys brought to Florida for tourism may multiply out of control” via Carlos Medina and Ryan Miller of the Ocala Star-Banner and USA TODAY — An invasive species of herpes-carrying monkeys is growing in size, raising the possibility of confrontations with humans and expansion of the nonnative primates’ range. On the banks of the Silver River near Ocala, the rhesus macaques fight and defend their space in an increasingly crowded habitat, not their own. By 2022, the monkey population on the Silver River is estimated to double, according to research co-authored by Steve Johnson, a University of Florida professor of wildlife ecology and conservation. That could mean somewhere near 400 monkeys prowling the marshy banks of the river.

The Gulf Stream is slowing down, and it’s impacting South Florida weather” via Cris Martinez of WPBF — “There is considerable evidence that the Gulf Stream is slowing down. Whether that is due to climate change or natural variability is still an open question,” says Ben Kirtman, a professor and leading expert when it comes to the Gulf Stream at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. The Gulf Stream is the transport of warm tropical water that regulates the Earth’s climate, and if it slows, there will be major impacts to South Florida. Kirtman says, “If you start to slow that down, you’re transporting less heat, and that can affect how storms track, that can affect how much rainfall you get, but perhaps more importantly, as the Gulf Stream weakens, sea level rises along the coast.”

— FUN READ —

Where does all the swag go after campaigns fail? Everywhere” via Mihir Zaveri and Alan Yuhas of The New York Times — Surplus items often end up in storage or the homes of staff members and volunteers. Some are given a second life with a new campaign. Most are thought to be recycled or thrown away. “If somebody doesn’t deliberately collect them or hold on to them, almost all of it disappears,” said Jon Grinspan, a curator of political history at the National Museum of American History. At times, vendors that print shirts and other items are left with the surplus stock. The retailer in Connecticut, Old Glory, still offers items printed for Jeb Bush, John McCain and other bygone candidates. “It’s just in our warehouse, sitting on a shelf,” said Austin Braumann, a district manager for the company. “What ends up happening is you either leave it up online, and you can sell it, or you can donate it or throw it away.”

Several hundred shirts and hats promoting Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign wound up in Kenya after a former county campaign director in Tennessee donated the items to a charity run by his aunt. The former campaign official, Alexander Waters, recalled thinking after the election, “Instead of someone selling them on eBay for $5 down the road, how can we turn this boon into something that can change someone’s life?”

— THE TRAIL —

Democrats say they’re on pace to register 200,000 new voters for November election” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The Florida Democratic Party, Forward Florida, Alianza for Progress, and New Florida Majority held a joint press conference in Miami Springs to tout that Florida Democrats now number more than 5 million. Though the party said it had registered only 40,000 new voters since announcing its 200,000-goal last spring, the pace has picked up, FDP Chair Terrie Rizzo said. “When we launched this program in June of 2019, we were registering 28 people per day. As of today, our team is registering 446 voters each day — and that average is increasing each month. If we stay on our current trajectory, the party alone will collect 200,000 voter registrations by the launch of the General Election,” Rizzo said.

Terrie Rizzo is touting some significant registration numbers.

Ross Spano sticks to illegal contributions defense, won’t reveal key facts” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — In a recent television interview, Republican U.S. Rep. Spano repeated the defense he’s offered since his 2018 election over illegal contributions to his campaign: He says he didn’t know it was illegal to borrow money from friends and then lend it to his campaign as his own money, and that he has honestly reported the situation. Nonetheless, Spano still has continued to refuse to divulge critical facts about the situation, which has led to investigations by the Federal Election Commission and U.S. Justice Department. He has also failed to correctly file campaign finance reports that could shed light on his actions. Spano refused last week to answer questions about the documents, including whether he has them or how he came to see them.

GOP congressional candidate accuses opponent of trying to muscle him out of the race” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Naples Congressional candidate William Figlesthaler met with Republican primary opponent Darren Aquino and encouraged him to drop out. But the two candidates offer differing accounts of the conversation. The two candidates are among eight Republicans in the running to succeed U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney. Aquino said when he agreed to meet with Figlesthaler, he thought it possible the Naples urologist would drop out. Instead, Aquino said Figlesthaler tried to get him out if the race and offered an incentive to do so. In addition to promising to champion veterans’ issues, a priority of Aquino’s own campaign, Aquino said Figlesthaler asked him to be his “chief of staff.” The conversation ended quickly, Aquino said.

Ana Maria Rodriguez piles on after Sanders doubles down on Cuba comments” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — “I am disgusted with Sanders. All Cuban Americans, and in fact all Americans, should be disgusted by him and his enablers as well,” Rodriguez said. “Bernie Sanders says that the Cuban revolution wasn’t all that bad. I have news for Bernie. Everything about Fidel Castro’s murderous takeover of Cuba and the regime he started is and always will be bad. My grandparents on both sides of my family fled Castro’s regime because of political persecution. They and many others lost their family, friends, homes, businesses, and their homeland to murderous socialists and communists.”

Gwen Graham backs Patricia Sigman in SD 9 race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Sigman, a labor lawyer from Longwood, is seeking a shot to take on former Rep. Jason Brodeur for the seat opening up to represent Seminole County and parts of southern and western Volusia County. Brodeur is the only Republican seeking the seat and is likely to remain so. Sigman, in January, entered a race that has four other Democrats: Guerdy Remy, Rick Ashby, Alexis Carter, and H. Alexander Duncan. “It is vital that our elected officials have a history of upholding the highest ethical standards and of fighting on behalf of those they are trusted to serve,” Graham said in a statement from Senate Victory, the Florida Democratic Party’s campaign arm for Senate races.

— QUESTIONS —

Sigman has landed some big-name endorsements and landing the backing of Senate Democrats’ campaign arm. Still, the Longwood labor lawyer is a political unknown running for a Republican-leaning seat. If she stands any chance of impeding former Rep. Brodeur’s campaign, she’ll have to answer some questions sooner or later. And how she answers them could make or break her chances in the fall. Here’s a handful her team should start prepping:

— What have you found to be most surprising on the campaign trail?

— The majority of Floridians support parental consent for minors seeking an abortion, and a bill is headed to DeSantis for his signature. Would you have voted for parental consent?

Patricia Sigman has to answer some questions if she has a chance against Jason Brodeur.

— You’re endorsed by both Alex Sink and Gwen Graham, both of whom lost their last elections. What kind of advice have they given you about running for office?

— The establishment wing of the Democratic Party seems to be on a collision course with Socialism as Sanders continues to gain steam in the Democrat primary, and as we’ve seen unfold this week with many Democrats speaking out against his repeated statements of support for Castro’s policies. Do you consider yourself a socialist democrat or an establishment Democrat?

— If Sanders wins your party’s nomination for President, will you campaign with him?

— LOCAL —

Prominent Broward Republicans join to help Democratic Sheriff Gregory Tony raise campaign cash” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The host committee for the fundraiser includes George LeMieux, a former Republican U.S. Senator and former chairman of the Broward Republican Party. LeMieux, who was one of four co-chairmen of DeSantis’ transition team, is board chairman of Gunster, the big Florida-based law firm. Also on the host committee at the Coral Ridge Country Club is Steve Hudson, president and CEO of Hudson Capital Group and a DeSantis appointee to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Not all the hosts are Republicans. Also on the list are Democrats Marc Cannon, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of AutoNation, and Ramola Motwani, chairwoman of the real estate management and development company Merrimac Ventures.

Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony has some bipartisan support for his election.

Parkland shooting leads to new 911 plan to boost efficiency between agencies” via Lisa Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — After the Parkland school massacre, a new computer system will help Coral Springs police communicate more efficiently with the Broward Sheriff’s Office for emergencies. The $686,550 computer-aided dispatch program, which was recently approved by Coral Springs, allows dispatchers from both agencies to instantly share information as soon as they get a 911 call — saving crucial seconds when they matter most. When a call for help comes, “we would type [the 911 information] in, they can send a unit right away,” said Coral Springs Police Chief Clyde Parry of working with the Sheriff’s Office. “This allows us to put it into the computer; it shows up on their computer, which saves seconds, time, and lives.”

On heels of massive sewage spill, Ft. Lauderdale deflects by creating ‘fertilizer police’” via Florida Politics — According to reports, the city spilled more than 211.6 million gallons of raw sewage on local waterways and roads. While the leak stopped, the impacts of the amount of sewage spilled — “enough to fill 320 Olympic-sized pools” — will be far-reaching. The City of Ft. Lauderdale, dealing with the sewage leak, adopted a local fertilizer ordinance that adds on a summertime blackout period to their existing fertilizer ordinance and gives code enforcement the authority to seize fertilizer. Floridians for Water Quality Protection, which launched “to fight and advocate for Florida’s water and waterways,” cautioned against Ft. Lauderdale’s fertilizer action as a “diversion” tactic, that only adds “to the chaos Florida’s patchwork of fertilizer ordinances has created.”

Singer who drew fire at Mar-a-Lago competent to face trial” via The Associated Press — A Connecticut opera singer is now mentally competent to stand trial on charges that she sped through a checkpoint outside Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, drawing gunfire from law enforcement officers, her attorney says. Hannah Roemhild has responded well to medication she has received while being held at the Palm Beach County Jail and can assist in her defense, according to state court documents. Defense attorney David Roth said shortly after Roemhild’s Jan. 31 arrest that she has a long history of mental illness and had been off her medication. No trial date has been set.

Sheriff David Morgan says bounties, contract killings may be behind recent shootings” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Street-level bounties or “contract killings” may be behind some of the recent gun violence in Escambia County, said Sheriff Morgan at a press conference Tuesday. “We’re dealing with street-level activity; we’re confirming it as we go along, where bounties are actually being taken out on other individuals in our community, meaning that they’re contract killings,” Morgan said. “This is a particularly distressing thing.” Morgan said the situation was unprecedented for Escambia County. “You would always hear rumors about bounties being put out on people or contract hits, etc. and they almost always would never pan out,” Morgan said. “But we’ve received numerous bits of information over the last several months that, that in fact, is part of this process.”

— MORE LOCAL —

Jacksonville City Council will decide on November sales tax referendum for schools” via the Florida Times-Union — For the second time in a year, the Jacksonville City Council will consider putting a half-cent sales tax referendum for schools on the ballot, but this time, the council could move faster than when it previously blocked the School Board’s request. Legislation presented Tuesday by the Office of General Counsel as part of a proposed legal settlement would put the sales tax question on the Nov. 3 ballot. The half-cent sales tax would last 15 years and help finance a $1.9 billion list of building improvements and technology upgrades across the county.

Mayor Jerry Demings pushes for transportation tax: ‘If not now, when?’” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — The board didn’t vote Tuesday after a two-hour work session that outlined reasons to support the penny sales-tax increase. Commissioners are set to decide April 7, whether to put the tax on the November presidential ballot. If they do, voters will have the final say. If approved by voters, the added tax would raise an estimated $596 million to be spent on SunRail, the Lynx bus service and road improvements. Orange County Mayor Demings sparred verbally during the meeting with Commissioner Emily Bonilla, who suggested her support would be conditioned on several things. Among her ideas: mass transit should be free to use, and a plan should be developed to buy all toll roads in the county from the Central Florida Expressway Authority.

Jerry Demings wants to push through a transportation tax: If not now, when? 

Free flu shot program ends in Miami-Dade public schools, but one city is pushing back” via Martin Vassolo and Colleen Wright of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade County Public Schools did not publicly announce the end of the free flu shot program. City leaders in Miami Beach caught wind of the districtwide change only after seeing public Facebook posts by parents concerned about the change. Miami Beach Commissioner Mark Samuelian called the abrupt cancellation of the program a “public health issue” and said he planned to introduce an item during the city’s Jan. 15 Commission meeting to direct the city to pay for flu vaccines for public school students in Miami Beach. “I’m concerned because many of our children in the community have depended on those flu shots and those flu shots have helped keep kids healthier,” he said.

Larry Robinson emphasizes ‘FAMU Rising’ points in State of the University address” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida A&M University President Robinson’s “State of the University” address highlighted the university’s progress in academics, research, and new construction before a respectable audience in Lee Hall. Robinson punctuated each point during his nearly 15-minute speech with “FAMU is Rising,” borrowing from the “FAMU Rising” theme of the university’s 2017-2022 strategic plan. “Everywhere on this campus, I see greatness,” Robinson said. “It makes me proud to be the leader of such outstanding faculty, staff and students. He said for the first time, the university has five major construction projects underway, including the new 700-bed FAMU Towers, the Center for Access and Student Success, and the student-inspired amphitheater that not only will contribute to the student’s cultural experience, but also entrepreneurial opportunities and community engagement.

Journalists at Orlando Sentinel, Palm Beach Post, other papers seek newsroom union” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Reporters and other journalists at those papers along with at The Palm Beach Daily News, The News-Press of Fort Myers, The Banner in Naples and the Marco Eagle all have asked management to voluntarily recognize newly-formed units of The NewsGuild-CWA, an organization within the Communications Workers of America. The staff of the Miami Times also is seeking to form a newsroom union. Last year NewsGuild units have been recognized at the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald, and at the Jacksonville’s Florida Times-Union. In Orlando, journalists announced that they are seeking to organize a union chapter, The Sentinel Guild, for the Orlando Sentinel, El Sentinel, GrowthSpotter and Pro Soccer USA. They filed notice with the paper.

The Keys has 1 main road in and out. Lamborghini drivers blocked it to take car photos” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — A video taken by a driver heading south on the 18 Mile Stretch of U.S. 1, which leads from Florida City on the mainland to Key Largo, showed about 15 of the expensive cars parked on the highway, and drivers and passengers getting out to have their photos taken. Behind the extravagant impromptu parade was a long line of vehicles stuck in traffic as drivers tried to make their way out of the Keys. The 18 Mile Stretch is mostly one lane in each direction, save for two passing zones, so any slowdown on the highway can cause far-reaching traffic jams.

Lynn Haven corruption: 3 plead guilty, facing prison time” via Tom McLaughlin of the Panama City News-Herald — Michael White, David White and Shannon Rodriguez, three key figures in a post-Hurricane Michael scandal that rocked the Bay County city of Lynn Haven, pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges. Michael White, the former Lynn Haven City Manager and David White, the owner of Erosion Control Specialist (ECS) that contracted with the city for debris removal services, each pleaded to four criminal counts. Rodriguez, David White’s sister, pleaded guilty to two criminal charges. The three were named in a 35-count November indictment, which alleged they had participated in a conspiracy to steal over $5 million from the city and the federal government through FEMA reimbursements.

Wilton Manors Mayor Justin Flippen dies at age 41” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — City officials said that Flippen apparently was driving to Tuesday evening’s City Commission meeting when he became ill and died. “We were notified that Justin apparently was on his way to the City Commission meeting, and they had to rush him to the hospital, and he passed away at the hospital,” said Commissioner Gary Resnick, who served as Mayor before Flippen. He was a candidate for reelection in November. Leaders from Wilton Manors City Hall, to Broward County government, to Washington, D.C., said they were stunned and saddened by Flippen’s death.

— TOP OPINION —

I went to school in Cuba under Fidel Castro. Here’s what it’s like, Bernie Sanders” via Fabiola Santiago of the Miami Herald — This girl’s real-life experience is the antidote to your cheap, propagandist talking points on Cuba’s education system and Castro. The banner behind her tells you her school in the city of Matanzas is confiscated property. “Intervenida” is the euphemism the new government led by Castro used to swoop in and appropriate every asset in the country, not only from the wealthy but from the middle class, too. And, to make the point that this is now Castro country, the private school is renamed after his 26th of July Movement. Like the thousands before them and thousands along with them, they’re branded “gusanos,” worms — and this creates a lot of tension for the children in your idyllic “literacy system.”

— OPINIONS —

Sanders’ most rabid fans on the left no improvement over Trump’s on the right” via Leonard Pitts of the Miami Herald — Not that any candidate has a monopoly on overheated or bullying supporters, but as many observers have pointed out, his people seem — and “seem” will have to do because to my knowledge, empirical evidence has yet to be compiled — more likely to descend angrily and en masse when he is attacked or even just questioned. Some people describe it as a digital lynch mob. Sanders’ believers — the word is apt — seem to regard the democratic socialist as He Who May Not Be Questioned. Which is at odds with what a presidential primary is supposed to be. His candidacy — like all candidacies — should expect robust cross-examination.

DeSantis’ climate czar is leaving, but Florida’s seas are still rising” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Florida’s first chief resilience officer, Julia Nesheiwat, is moving on to a new post with the Trump administration. While she may be leaving, the risks that climate change poses to Florida are only accelerating, and DeSantis should move quickly to fill this leadership void. Her blunt declaration in August at a workshop in Tampa — that climate change “is here — it’s real” — reflected both how far behind Florida is in addressing this global crisis and the excitement that her appointment generated, even if her title — resilience officer — seemed more reactive than forward-looking. He should work quickly to appoint a successor who shares the same sense of reality and appreciation for what a vocal advocate in Tallahassee can achieve.

Move to Colorado, Floridians. We respect, protect LGBTQ — and everyone else” via Debra Brown for the Miami Herald — Please move to Colorado. You will be welcomed here, not only because we have the country’s No. 1 economy according to U.S. News and World Report with a mere 2.6 percent unemployment rate, strong venture capital investment, a burgeoning tech scene and unbeatable year-round recreational opportunities, but also because we have an inclusive business environment. We are eager to expand our diverse workforce; we demonstrate that in our culture, our communities, and our workplaces. Among many legal benefits, Colorado guarantees important protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations. That helps make our state a great place for LGBTQ businesses and allies and attractive to innovators, entrepreneurs and top talent.

If not reparations, at least offer scholarships and education to descendants of 1920 Ocoee massacre” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — Ocoee, the site of the worst Election Day violence in America’s history, remains an open wound, untreated by a government that, as with Groveland and Rosewood, was complicit in wrongdoing. State Sen. Randolph Bracy has proposed a law that attempts to reckon with the past. It originally included a compensation fund — reparations — for descendants of those who suffered on Election Day in 1920. Reparations are a stretch for many lawmakers, so that was dropped. But the bill lost other elements that gave it meaning, gave it teeth. Like a scholarship fund for descendants, and a loan preference program for parts of Ocoee.

— MOVEMENTS —

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Keaton Alexander, Silver Palm Consulting: Florida Family Fairness

Patrick Bell, The Legis Group: Florida African American Heritage Preservation Network

Ronald Brise, Julie Fess, Larry Williams, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart: HEICO Corporation

Christopher Finkbeiner, Rubin Turnbull & Associates: Deloitte

Cesar Hernandez, Omni Public: CDC Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa, New Life Village

Kelly Horton, Heffley & Associates: Southern Gardens Citrus Groves Corporation, Southern Gardens Citrus Holding Corporation

Nick Iarossi, Andrew Ketchel, Christopher Schoonover, Capital City Consulting: Broward College Foundation

Richard Pinsky, Akerman: TerMir

Cissy Proctor, LSN Partners: Washington Consulting Group

Orlando Pryor, Strategos Public Affairs: ScanStat Technologies

Joshua Sanchez: Keiser University

Alan Suskey, RJ Myers, Suskey Consulting: St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership

Amy Virgo, Travel Green Florida: Florida Cannabis Chamber of Commerce

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Today’s metaphor at the Capitol

A post shared by @ gfineout on

— ALOE —

Bob Iger steps down; Bob Chapek named new Disney CEO” via Gabrielle Russon and Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — In a surprise move Tuesday, Chapek was immediately named as Disney’s new CEO, replacing longtime leader Iger, the company announced. The change promotes Chapek, 60, who previously ran Disney’s theme parks and products division, to the seventh chief in Disney’s nearly 100-year history. Iger, whose CEO tenure lasted 15 years, told investors that the decision had been made “sometime ago” to name Chapek as his replacement. With recent business elements recently completed, including the acquisition of 20th Century Fox and the launch of Disney+ streaming service, Iger felt the time was right for him to concentrate on the creative aspects of all the business units, including Hulu, as his new role as Executive Chairman until his contract expires in Dec. 31, 2021.

Bob Chapek is taking over as Disney CEO.

St. Pete 2.0: This lively Florida city is having a renaissance — and it’s about to have a massive waterfront playground too” via Lori Rackl of the Chicago Tribune — There’s no denying the Burg has undergone a reboot in recent years. A youthful energy is palpable. Artsy and hip, the city exudes a creative vibe and independent spirit — all the stuff that’s landed St. Pete a seat at the cool kids’ table. “There certainly was a reputation for St. Pete being a sleepy, retirement, coastal community,” said lifelong resident and Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin. The city’s latest State of the Economy report notes a median age of 41.2 in 2018, compared to 48.1 in 1970. Downtown revitalization has been chugging along for years, but it really took off in the last decade, Tomalin said, bringing a flurry of new bars, restaurants, condos and apartments along for the ride.

Drive-up ashes? Florida church offering them Wednesday” via Louis Berney of the NWF Daily News — This Ash Wednesday, the Emmanuel Community Park — part of Naples’ Emmanuel Lutheran Church — will try to make things a little easier for parishioners and others interested in welcoming in the Easter season. Taking a cue from the fast-food restaurant business, the church is offering what it is calling “spirituality on the go,” a drive-up service for people to receive ashes and prayer. From 7 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, people can drive into the community’s 40-acre park at 2770 Oil Well Road and remain in their cars as a member of the clergy administers them a blessing and applies the traditional ashes to their foreheads. Blessings will be offered in English and Spanish.

’Superman: Red Son’ asks what if the Man of Steel landed in the Soviet Union?” via Brian Lowry of CNN —  What would have happened if that strange visitor from another planet had landed in the Soviet Union instead of the U.S.? That’s the premise of “Superman: Red Son,” a provocative new DC Entertainment animated movie adapted from a graphic novel. The underpinnings of “Superman: Red Son” — which was actually first published in 2003 — are awash in Cold War paranoia. The timetable features the young Kal-El discovering his powers just after World War II. Directed by Sam Liu, with Jason Isaacs as the voice of Superman, the Warner Bros. Animation production features the striking image of the old U.S.S.R.’s hammer and sickle in the diamond-shaped logo that adorns the character’s costume.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Celebrating today is our dear friend Ana Cruz of Ballard Partners as well as Rep. David Silvers, Ron Greenstein, and former Rep. Jerry Paul.

___

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.

Sign up for Sunburn

Receive our team's agenda-setting morning read of what's hot in Florida politics. Delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday.

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

Connect
Sign up for Sunburn

Receive our team's agenda-setting morning read of what's hot in Florida politics. Delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday.