Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 2.28.20

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Up and at 'em: Here's your scoops and other stories driving the day in Florida politics.

Happiest of birthday wishes Michelle Todd Schorsch, the woman who changed my life nine years ago after a toast on a pirate ship. She is strikingly intelligent and thoroughly considerate and caring. She is the most loyal person I have ever met, with a strong sense of purpose and deeply-held convictions.

Michelle is better than the Facebook posts or the Instagram pictures you may read or see of her. She is that good of a wife, mother, daughter, and friend. Yet, she has none of the ego that could easily accompany such wonderfulness.

She is my best friend, my soulmate, and the love of my life.

The past six months have been the toughest of Michelle’s life. She is still deeply mourning the loss of her father. It breaks my heart to see her break down into tears when she thinks of him, which she does often.

Yet she has not let her grief get in the way of making the lives of those around her better.

Whether it be a birthday … or an engagement … or a baby shower … or a teacher appreciation event. No matter what the milestone is, you can count on Michelle to make the day special for those being celebrated. Her “study” is really a workshop where she uses her magic to create the most thoughtful gifts and surprises and treats for any and every occasion.

That’s why there is no better day than Michelle’s birthday — because she spends the other 364 days of the year making so many other people’s days better.

Wherever you are today, join me in raising your glass (preferably bubbles) to toast this amazing woman.

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A new survey is showing broad bipartisan agreement on the issue of climate change among Floridians.

The polling comes from Florida Atlantic University (FAU) and shows more than 86% of Floridians agree that climate change is happening. A majority say it’s caused mainly by human activity.

That’s according to the January 2020 results of the Florida Climate Resilience Survey. The FAU Center for Environmental Studies (CES) and FAU’s Business and Economics Polling Initiative (BEPI) conducted the survey.

Most Floridians believe climate change is caused mostly by human activity. Image via AP.

Pollsters found 91% of Democrats agree climate change is happening. Among independents, the number was 87%. And 81% of Republicans agreed with the statement as well.

A majority of Democrats and independents believe humans are primarily to blame. Among Democrats, 69% say human activity causes climate change, with 51% of independents saying the same. Just 44% of Republicans agreed. Another 37% of Republicans say climate change is mainly due to natural causes in the environment.

Colin Polsky, the director of the FAU Center for Environmental Studies and lead author of the study, highlighted another portion of the survey that showed 70% of Floridians are concerned about the effects of climate change on future generations.

“With a strong majority of Floridians saying climate change has them concerned about the well-being of future generations in the state, it makes sense that Floridians support policies to tackle the issue,” Polsky said.

However, Floridians are split as to whether state and local officials are doing enough to prepare for the effects of climate change.

Only 33% agree or strongly agree that state, county, and municipal governments are doing enough to address those impacts. Another 31% disagree or strongly disagree, while the remaining 35% are neutral.

But 45% of Republicans say they have faith in the government’s effort.

“These trends in climate change approval ratings suggest that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ support of environmental issues since taking office in Jan. 2019, which many view as a break from the national GOP, may be paying political dividends already,” Polsky said.

— TODAY’S SUNRISE —

The Ron DeSantis administration is trying to calm any public fears about the spread of coronavirus. The Governor says they’re committed to transparency, but there are still some questions they will not answer.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Despite opposition from big business, the Commerce Committee in the House approves a bill requiring employers to use the E-Verify system to check the immigration status of new hires. But the bill only applies to government agencies and companies that do business with them.

— DeSantis signed a bill abolishing the sweetheart deal enjoyed by the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, happening as the House Committee on Public Integrity was grilling the chief financial officer and board members of the coalition about its finances and the millions of dollars that ended up in the pocket of the former director. Renzo Downey, the Florida Politics reporter who’s been covering the committee hearings, talks about the situation.

— A Florida man says he’s going to pray the coronavirus away — but only in Florida — while another just found the largest known prime number.

To listen, click on the image below:

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@RealDonaldTrump: So, the Coronavirus, which started in China and spread to various countries throughout the world, but very slowly in the U.S. because President Trump closed our border, and ended flights, VERY EARLY, is now being blamed, by the Do Nothing Democrats, to be the fault of “Trump”.

@AnandWrites: Coronavirus makes clear what has been true all along. Your health is as safe as that of the worst-insured, worst-cared-for person in your society. It will be decided by the height of the floor, not the ceiling.

@nktpnd: The #COVID19 correction, coming at a time of frothiness in US equities, is interesting if only because both SARS/H1N1 roughly coincided with bottomed-out financial markets after crises (dot-com, ‘08 crash). We hadn’t seen a bull market respond to a pandemic in the information era.

@MarshallCohen: Rush Limbaugh and right-wing fringe sites are attacking Dr. Nancy Messonnier, a top CDC official handling the coronavirus response, because she is Rod Rosenstein‘s sister. They’re spreading the lie that she’s part of the deep state and trying to tank the markets to weaken [Donald] Trump.

@carlquintanilla: “Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, one of the country’s leading experts on viruses and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told associates that the White House had instructed him not to say anything else without clearance.”

@Scott_Maxwell: Marco Rubio says he wishes people would stop trying to politicize talk about the coronavirus. He then leads by example, blaming Democrats.

@JoseJavierJJR: When it comes to our preparedness as a state, when it comes to your public health infrastructure, our public health professionals, I and my colleagues have complete faith in our ability to respond. The issue comes with the management of public information.

@BenjySarlin: I’ve never been on the trading floor, so I assume it’s all people running around going like “Holy applesauce, whatta day!” in old-timey accents right now

Tweet, tweet:

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— DAYS UNTIL —

South Carolina Primaries — 1; Super Tuesday — 4; Super Tuesday II — 11; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 14; 11th Democratic Debate in Phoenix — 16; Florida’s presidential primary — 18; Super Tuesday III — 18; “No Time to Die” premiers — 38; Florida TaxWatch Spring Board Meeting begins — 47; TaxWatch Principal Leadership Awards — 48; Florida Chamber Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 77; “Top Gun: Maverick” premiers — 119; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 136; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premiers — 140; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo start (maybe) — 147; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 172; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 178; First Presidential Debate in Indiana — 214; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 222; Second Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 230; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 237; 2020 General Election — 249.

— TOP STORY —

Florida officials express caution — not panic — over virus” via Bobby Caina Calvan of The Associated Press — DeSantis attempted to reassure his state Thursday that health officials are deep into preparations to stave off a potential outbreak of a new virus that has killed thousands worldwide, saying there were no confirmed cases — yet — of infections from COVID-19. But despite assurances, there were growing fears about the further spread of the coronavirus amid criticism that state officials were not being adequately forthcoming about any suspected cases in Florida. The state’s surgeon general, Dr. Scott Rivkees, declined to confirm if any suspected cases have been investigated in the state, even if they did not turn out positive for the virus. The assurances from the Republican Governor and state health officials, however, did not satisfy some Democrats. On Thursday, it quickly erupted into a political issue.

Ron DeSantis attempted to reassure the state that health officials were prepared for any cases of a new virus that has killed thousands worldwide, saying there were no confirmed cases — yet — of infections from COVID-19. Image via AP.

— DATELINE: TALLY —

DeSantis signs bill cutting ties with FCADV — Gov. DeSantis signed a bill that removes the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence from statute and allows the Department of Children and Families to take over the programs FCADV formerly oversaw. FCADV was the sole-source provider and coordinator of domestic violence services at 42 shelters across the Sunshine State. HB 1087 rocketed to DeSantis’ desk following revelations that the organization had paid its former CEO more than $7 million over the past three years. “The recent developments regarding the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence have been alarming and disturbing,” DeSantis said. “Today’s bill signing is not a celebratory occasion, as it is the result of deliberate abuse of state dollars, an inexcusable lack of transparency, and a calculated breach of public trust. Floridians deserve greater accountability from their government, especially our most vulnerable citizens and survivors.

Tweet, tweet:

CFO called lobbyist before suspending state banking regulator, records show” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Records show that Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis made multiple phone calls to a high-powered Tallahassee lobbyist on the day he illegally released a woman’s sexual harassment complaint, raising fresh questions about last year’s ouster of the state’s banking regulator. … Phone records, revealed in Rubin’s lawsuit this week, show that (Paul) Mitchell and Patronis were in close contact before the complaint against Rubin was made public.

Financial regulators renew motion for judge to strike ‘scandalous’ allegation in Ronald Rubin lawsuit” via Sarah Mueller of Florida Politics — Lawyers for the Department of Financial Services (DFS) and Office of Financial Regulation (OFR) are renewing a motion to strike language in a complaint filed in court by Rubin, the state’s former chief financial regulator. The motion asks the Court for the Second Circuit in Leon County to strike what it calls “a certain immaterial, impertinent, and scandalous allegation” from Rubin’s complaint. He filed the lawsuit last September, claiming he was being denied public records for his “investigation of racketeering, political corruption, abuse of power and misuse of taxpayer money at the highest levels.”

Patronis had frequent contact with alleged pay-to-play conspirators” via Politico — Rubin legal filing brings records to light.

Tom Leek: Testimony points to collective cheating in executive pay scandal” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s (FCADV) Chief Financial Officer Patricia Duarte and Chief Operating Officer Sandra Barnett both admitted the more than $7 million former CEO Tiffany Carr received over three years was excessive. Duarte, Barnett and others also received raises and paid time off, but the two claimed they pushed back against those contractual offerings before Carr unilaterally delivered them. House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee Chair Leek pointed out that management’s raises and bonuses coincided with Carr’s bloated earnings. “It appears to me that the employees, along with Ms. Carr, worked collectively to cheat the system, to make it so that they could bonus themselves up or Ms. Carr up,” Leek said.

House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee Chair Rep. Tom Leek listens to testimony by executives from the embattled Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Image via Florida House.

State wants court to look again at felons voting” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — DeSantis’ administration is asking an appellate court to revisit a three-judge panel’s decision that upheld a federal judge’s ruling that the state cannot deprive the right to vote to felons who are unable to pay court-ordered fees and fines. The motion asks the full 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to hear the case, which is known as an “en banc” hearing. The motion accused the three-judge panel of applying the wrong type of analysis, known as “heightened scrutiny,” to arrive at the Feb. 19 decision. The panel should have relied instead on a “rational-basis review” used by other courts when weighing similar matters, lawyers for the state argued.

Facing a potential merger, Florida Poly highlights tech pioneer’s commencement speech to make a case for autonomy” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Tech pioneer Tom Wallace will deliver Florida Polytechnic University’s spring commencement May 3. Wallace began his career as a technology entrepreneur when he was just 23 years old and has been an angel investor to new companies for the past 25 years. In its announcement, Florida Poly hinted at underlying challenges it’s facing as lawmakers seek to merge the school with the University of Florida, noting that Wallace is excited to deliver the address because Florida had, before the University launched, been lacking programs to elevate its tech potential. “The one thing that we arguably were missing was a top engineering and STEM school,” said Wallace. “I think it’s great the state figured that out and launched Florida Poly.”

Legislative fight leaves families left out of affordable housing help” via Greg Angel of Spectrum News 13 — The Republican-controlled Florida House and Senate could be at odds over whether to fund affordable housing projects and by how much. That very debate puts people like Shirona Barnes in peril. “If I can get a little help, I can do this,” Barnes said. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has told the Orlando Housing Authority that it will no longer provide money to keep up the aging public housing complexes. That decision leaves families such as Barnes’ with the ultimate fate of having to move. For the 2020 Legislative Session, the House is proposing to pull $240 million out of the self-generated Sadowski Fund for other projects, while the Senate and DeSantis are proposing for the first time in years to keep the funding fully intact.

From a hospital bed, Kristin Jacobs carries on her legislative work” via Skyler Swisher and Steve Bousquet of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Jacobs said she has been working the phones, managing her legislation and watching meetings remotely while receiving treatment for colon cancer. “I love my work,” Jacobs said. “But none of us knows from day to day what’s going to happen to us. I just give it all I have and keep moving along like the glass is half full.” The 60-year-old Democratic lawmaker said she was at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville for about two weeks, followed by a five-day stay at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. Chemotherapy treatments forced her to miss the first part of last year’s Legislative Session.

— LEGISLATION —

Back-to-school tax ‘holiday’ moves forward” via the News Service of Florida — The Senate Appropriations Committee signed off on a proposal that would provide a sales-tax “holiday” for back-to-school shoppers. With no discussion, the committee unanimously approved a bill (SB 542), filed by Sen. Keith Perry, which would establish a 10-day tax holiday period from July 31 through Aug. 9. Shoppers would be able to avoid paying sales taxes on clothing that costs $60 or less, school supplies that cost $15 or less, and personal computers and computer accessories that cost $1,000 or less. The measure would reduce state general-revenue taxes by $50.3 million and local-government revenues by $14.8 million, according to a staff analysis.

Senate moves toward eliminating time limits to report sexual assaults involving minors” via Alyssa Parker of The Capitolist — With attention directed in recent days at the victims of high-profile sex offenders like Jeffrey Epstein and Harvey Weinstein, a bipartisan coalition of legislators have reintroduced a bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations on reporting sexual offenses involving minors. The bill, filed by Sen. Linda Stewart, would end the three-year window for minors under the age of 18 to report sexual battery. The bill eliminates the time limit altogether. If it is passed and signed by DeSantis, minors can report sexual battery when it makes sense for them to do so. The Appropriations Committee passed the bill this morning, and it will now go to the Senate floor.

Linda Stewart is pushing the elimination of the statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse.

Millions of toll dollars may go uncollected by state, lawmakers want answers” via Noah Pransky of Florida Politics — Lawmakers want more transparency from the Florida Department of Transportation on the reasons why. Just some legislative efforts wither and die in the final few weeks of Session, others are born — seemingly from nowhere — like an amendment to a House transportation bill that would require FDOT and other tolling agencies to submit a report to state leaders documenting uncollected Toll-by-Plate bills. The bill, HB 395, sponsored by State Rep. Alex Andrade, a Pensacola Republican, was approved at its third and final House committee, the State Affairs Committee. The day before, Delray Beach Republican Rep. Mike Caruso filed the toll-related amendment.

No-fault repeal clears final House committee — The House bill repealing Florida’s no-fault insurance system is ready for a floor vote, Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida reports. HB 771 passed the Commerce Committee with a 17-7 vote. It would eliminate the law requiring drivers to carry personal injury protection, which pays out no matter regardless of who was at fault in an auto accident. While the bill is primed for the House floor, that’s not the case in the Senate, where the companion bill still needs approval from the Committee on Banking and Insurance, which isn’t scheduled to meet this Session again.

House adds limit on ER charges to ‘bad faith’ bill” via the News Service of Florida — The House Commerce Committee approved a controversial insurance bill after making a change that would limit amounts paid for emergency care provided to auto-accident victims. The underlying bill (HB 895) Ames at increasing restrictions on “bad faith” lawsuits, a heavily debated idea that is a priority of insurance and business groups. But sponsor David Santiago proposed an addition that would place a new limit on amounts charged for providing emergency care in hospitals to people with personal-injury protection, or PIP, auto insurance coverage. The new limit would be 200 percent of Medicare reimbursement amounts. The move drew objections from lobbyists for the Florida College of Emergency Physicians and the Florida Dental Association, which includes oral surgeons.

— MORE LEGISLATION —

House, Senate at odds on vaping solutions” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — The House plan (HB 7089) would regulate vape shops, the retail establishments that sell e-cigarettes, and other vaping products. Under the bill, the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which oversees sales of tobacco, would permit and regulate vape shops by creating a new category of “nicotine products” under state law. But the proposal would not do two things the Senate is seeking: identify e-cigarettes and vaping products as “tobacco products” and raise the age to purchase any tobacco products from 18 to 21. Under the Senate plan, retailers who sell vape products would be regulated like other establishments that sell tobacco products and must pay the same $50 permit fee to the DBPR.

Alimony reform appears dead this Session, but House backer Rep. Alex Andrade keeping ‘naive optimism’” via Ryan Dailey of WFSU — In each committee, it’s gotten heaps of fiery debate and public testimony. Andrade’s bill would prioritize the short-term “bridge the gap” alimony system in place of lifetime payments to an ex-spouse. The bill also places caps on the two other forms of alimony in Florida. Rehabilitative alimony, which is meant to be temporary support to help the receiving party get financially stable, would be limited to 5 years. Durational alimony, a more long-term version intended for dependent ex-spouses, would be capped at half the length of the marriage. But the debate this Session is likely all for naught. Sen. Kelli Stargel’s alimony bill never took off in her chamber.

Senate panel approves Lauren Book Holocaust education bill after Auschwitz survivor testifies” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Auschwitz survivor Magdalen Bader appeared before the Senate to advocate for a Holocaust education bill being pushed by Book. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the bill, which marked its final committee stop, meaning the measure is ready for the full Senate floor. Bader was born in Czechoslovakia and survived several concentration camps, including Auschwitz. State law already requires the Holocaust to be taught in Florida’s public schools. Book’s bill (SB 1628) would expand that education by also mandating students to be taught about anti-Semitism.

Magda Bader shares her experience surviving Auschwitz and speaking in support of Lauren Book’s Holocaust Education Bill.

Fireworks revamp heads to House floor” via the News Service of Florida — An effort to allow people to legally set off fireworks on three days, without pretense for buying the explosives, is now ready to be heard on the House floor. The House Commerce Committee voted 17-5 to support the proposal (HB 65), which seeks to allow people 18 and older to buy fireworks to use on New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and Independence Day, days when fireworks are particularly popular. The proposal wouldn’t prevent local rules regarding fireworks and would eliminate the need for people to declare why they are buying fireworks if solely for use during the three days.

— TODAY IN CAPITOL —

The Revenue Estimating Conference will analyze the fiscal impact of legislation proposed for the 2020 Legislative Session, 9 a.m., Room 117, Knott Building.

— SUNSHINE STATE PRIMARY — 

Voters are voting — According to the Florida Division of Elections, as of Wednesday afternoon, Supervisors of Elections have a total of 998,922 Republican vote-by-mail ballots; 464,799 have returned, 529,709 are outstanding, and 4,414 are unsent. As for Democrats, supervisors have a total of 1,099,291 vote-by-mail ballots; 281,637 have returned, 810,795 are outstanding, and 6,859 are unsent. Those classified as “other,” 244,651 vote-by-mail ballots, 10,264 have returned, 37,225 are outstanding, and 197,162 are unsent.

Joe Biden surrogates including Audrey Gibson blast Mike Bloomberg’s 2009 Social Security comments” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — In addition to Gibson, Sen. Kevin Rader and Reps. Joe Geller, Geraldine Thompson, and Tracie Davis also go after Bloomberg for comments he made calling for cuts to entitlement programs, including Medicare and Medicaid. Bloomberg’s comments came on a weekly radio show called “Live from City Hall.” “Mike Bloomberg’s real positions on issues impacting working families and seniors are summed up by calling Social Security a ‘Ponzi scheme,’ insinuating that seniors are stealing money they worked for and saying cuts to Social Security as well as Medicare and Medicaid have to be part of an equation to reducing the federal deficit, are unacceptable and come dangerously close to mimicking the most anti-working families president of our time, Donald Trump.”

Bloomberg heads to Florida on Super Tuesday” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida — The Democratic candidate will host an organizing event in the grand ballroom of the Palm Beach Convention Center in West Palm Beach, just a short drive from Mar-a-Lago. Bloomberg is spending tens of millions of dollars on advertising and staff as part of a concentrated push to win over voters in the third-largest state. Polls taken recently in the state — but ahead of his disastrous performance in the Las Vegas debate last week — showed Bloomberg surging in Florida. But an automated survey from Feb. 25-26 put former Vice President Biden in the lead with 33.8 percent compared with Bloomberg’s 24.9 percent. Tuesday will be Bloomberg’s third campaign stop in the state since he entered the race.

Parents of Pulse victim Jerry Wright endorse Bloomberg for President” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Maria and Fred Wright of Pinecrest describe themselves as moderate Republicans. They called Bloomberg, the former Mayor of New York who’s running for the Democratic presidential nomination, “a huge supporter” of families of gun violence victims through his Everytown Survivor Network. “To me, the fact that he has been supporting gun violence prevention and gun safety for so many years was the main reason that we had to endorse him,” Maria Wright said. “If you want to know who has been trying to do something about the gun violence issue for a very long time, in a fairly effective way, it’s Mayor Bloomberg.”

Maria and Fred Wright are endorsing Mike Bloomberg for President due to his anti-gun stance.

Next Democratic presidential debate will happen two days before Florida primary … but not in Florida” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The debate also is two days before Arizona’s primary. It pretty much assures that whoever is left in the field then will not be visiting Florida before the election. Also sharing the March 17 date with Florida and Arizona are primaries in Illinois and Ohio. CNN and Univision will jointly hold the eleventh Democratic presidential debate of the 2020 cycle in Phoenix on March 15, starting at 9 p.m. Eastern time. Information on format and qualifying candidates will be announced later.

Hillsborough County already setting up for early voting — Early voting begins Monday, March 2, and runs through March 15. Select polling places will be open seven days a week during that time from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Voters can cast an early ballot ahead of the March 17 primary at any of the locations regardless of their assigned polling places. This year’s early voting includes six new sites, including Apollo Beach Community Center; Austin Davis Public Library; Northwest Elections Office; Providence West Community Center; Southeast Elections Office, and USF TECO Hall. A total of 23 locations will be open throughout the county.

— NEW ADS —

Buttigieg — “Douglass Plan”:

Buttigieg — “Gladys”:

Sanders — “Fight for us”:

Sanders — “Pramila”:

— MORE 2020 —

Democratic leaders willing to risk Party damage to stop Bernie Sanders” via Lisa Lerer and Reid Epstein of The New York Times — Dozens of interviews with Democratic establishment leaders show that they are not just worried about Sanders’ candidacy, but are also willing to risk intraparty damage to stop his nomination at the national convention if they get the chance. Since Sanders’ victory in Nevada’s caucuses, The Times has interviewed 93 party officials — all of them superdelegates, who could have a say on the nominee at the convention — and found overwhelming opposition to handing the Vermont senator the nomination if he arrived with the most delegates but fell short of a majority. Such a situation may result in a brokered convention, a messy political battle the likes of which Democrats have not seen since 1952 when the nominee was Adlai Stevenson.

The Democratic Party is willing to risk long term damage to stop Bernie Sanders from being the nominee. Image via AP.

Bloomberg campaign returns fire to Biden over Social Security comments” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Bloomberg‘s campaign counterpunched, charging that Biden has previously supported measures that could have frozen or cut those programs. The counterattack comes after Biden’s campaign jumped all over Bloomberg earlier Thursday for saying, in a 2009 radio interview, that Social Security was like a Ponzi scheme, and in a 2013 interview that Medicare and Medicaid needed cutting to balance the federal budget. Biden also had supported measures that could have frozen or even cut those programs, Bloomberg’s campaign shot back. More than once, the campaign contended, citing a series of reports from various media including PolitiFact, The Intercept, and The Washington Post.

Biden meets his make-or-break moment in South Carolina” via Matt Visor and Cleve Wootson of The Washington Post — This is a make-or-break moment in a political career that began 48 years ago, and has taken him to the heights and back down again. Biden has run three presidential campaigns and has yet to win a primary or caucus. In three contests this year, he has finished fourth, fifth and second. He hopes to turn his campaign around by winning South Carolina and rocketing into the Super Tuesday contests next week. In perhaps the last dramatic opportunity before Saturday’s voting, Tuesday night’s debate in Charleston, nothing seemed to challenge Biden’s grip on the state’s dominant black voters, and no other candidate made a pitch strong enough to overcome their own problems.

Bloomberg tumbles heading into Super Tuesday” via Christopher Cadelago and Sally Goldenberg of POLITICO — His national debate debut in Las Vegas last week laid bare his vulnerabilities around race and gender. It gave many voters their first glimpse of his irritability. The performance short-circuited his rise in polling, and he has since made no headway against front-runner Sanders in delegate-rich California, a state he was counting on. Also, there are signs of a revival for Biden in South Carolina this weekend — an outcome that would upset Bloomberg’s plan to seize on his demise as moderates search for a replacement to him. Bloomberg and Biden are running neck-and-neck in Southern states with large black populations. It isn’t looking good for Bloomberg everywhere else.

Even Bloomberg’s mom thought his mayoral bid was doomed. Then 9/11 changed everything.” via Paul Schwartzman of The Washington Post — As he stakes his presidential campaign on capturing a windfall of Super Tuesday delegates, Bloomberg invokes his stewardship of post-9/11 New York to cast himself as the competent, even-keeled antidote to Trump’s turbulent reign. Bloomberg’s 12 years at City Hall lifted him to newfound prominence and spanned the rebirth of Lower Manhattan, the rise of the new World Trade Center, and the opening of the Sept. 11 memorial. Yet, in 2001, as he aspired to succeed Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani, he was mostly unknown beyond Wall Street and the exclusive dinner parties and charity galas he frequented. His political operatives had to teach him the basics of campaigning.

Pete Buttigieg is not popular with black voters in South Carolina. Miss Black America is trying to change that.” via Jada Yuan of The Washington Post — Ryann Richardson, the reigning Miss Black America is working her other volunteer job. Every hug, every selfie, every “Hey! How are you?!” to a stranger is an opportunity to start a conversation about the presidential candidate who has earned her vote and very enthusiastic endorsement: Buttigieg. Richardson is working the room with the help of two young black women on Buttigieg’s staff. This was a packed 68 hours for the pageant queen, including a speech at a Mexican restaurant, two galas, three canvassing launches, a church service and roundtables with black female voters. She’ll take a brief hiatus back home in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, before racing back to Charleston for the homestretch to Saturday’s primary.

Miss Black America Ryann Richardson is trying to help Pete Buttigieg with African American voters.

Buttigieg is unlikely to win any states on Super Tuesday. Here’s his strategy to stay alive.” via Elena Schneider of POLITICO — Buttigieg’s campaign said that its objective on March 3 is to “minimize” Sanders’ margins and maximize “delegate accumulation by [congressional] district, not states.” Anticipating a drawn-out primary process, Buttigieg is looking to survive deeper into the calendar, making it to mid-March contests in the Midwest that might provide more opportunities for him. Buttigieg is focusing on smaller media markets throughout the country to rack up delegates, from Austin, Texas and its suburbs to San Diego, northern Maine, and other locales where Democrats flipped House seats in 2018. But it’s a risky strategy to maintain momentum, and that risk is born out of necessity. Buttigieg doesn’t have the money to compete more broadly across the 14 Super Tuesday states.

Elizabeth Warren says she’s ready to run until convention even if she’s behind in delegates” via Gregory Krieg and Kate Sullivan of CNN — Warren said she is ready for a convention floor battle this summer if none of the Democratic candidates reaches a delegate majority during the primaries. The Senator from Massachusetts made it clear at a CNN town hall that she would be willing to lobby superdelegates, who have votes on the second ballot if there’s no outright winner, when asked if she would continue her candidacy even if she were trailing in the delegate count. Asked by an audience member why the person who gets the most votes shouldn’t be awarded the nomination, Warren said the rules set a higher bar — and that she intended to fight to the last.

The 2020 Democratic primary is giving some Republicans déjà vu” via Nick Corasaniti and Jeremy Peters of The New York Times — The Democratic nomination is alarming those in the Party hoping to blunt the momentum of the front-runner, Sanders. The most likely way they believe that could happen — a critical mass of the Senator’s rivals drop out so voters can coalesce around a single alternative — seems like the least likely outcome. The irony is thick. Sanders, the candidate many establishment Democrats fear would have the most trouble beating Trump, is benefiting from some of the same dynamics that helped Trump four years ago. “It appears to me that the Democratic Party didn’t learn a whole lot from watching the Republican Party’s primary in 2015 to 2016,” said Danny Diaz, a senior adviser to Jeb Bush.

Labor union unveils $150M campaign to help defeat Donald Trump” via Steve Peoples of The Associated Press — The investment marks the largest voter engagement and turnout operation in the history of the Service Employees International Union, which claims nearly 2 million members. The scope of the campaign, which quietly launched last month and will run through November’s general election, reflects the urgency of what union president Mary Kay Henry calls “a make-or-break” moment for working people in America under Trump’s leadership. The union’s campaign will span 40 states and target 6 million voters focused mostly in Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin, according to details of the plan.

— STATEWIDE —

Florida marijuana industry growing, but companies face challenges in emerging business” via Austin Fuller of the Orlando Sentinel — As California-based marijuana retailer MedMen was opening new facilities in Florida and pumping millions of dollars into a state initiative to legalize recreational marijuana, the company also announced it would lay off 190 people. MedMen reported a net loss of $277 million for the financial year that ended in the summer 2019. As companies stormed into Florida since 2016, when the state legalized medical marijuana, some of their recent earnings reports dispel any notion that the pot business is easy money as the number of patients grows by thousands each week. Four of the five companies with the most dispensaries in Florida are publicly traded — Trulieve, Curaleaf, Liberty Health Sciences and Fluent — and two reported net losses in recent earnings reports.

MedMen is just one of the companies facing challenges despite an emerging medical marijuana industry in Florida. Image via MedMen.

Florida closer than ever to restraint and seclusion changes” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — For close to a decade, some Florida lawmakers have angled to restrict if not outright end the use of restraint and seclusion against students with disabilities who become uncontrollable. This year could be the year. That’s because the historically reluctant state Senate has advanced legislation (SB 1644) alongside the House, which approved a similar measure a year ago only to see it falter in the upper chamber. And some key Senate leaders have signaled a desire to see the bill through to the Governor’s desk. For self-contained special education classrooms, parents would be able to request that a camera be installed so they can monitor how their children are treated.

What Taylor Biehl is reading — SpaceX planning major increase in Florida launch activity” via Jeff Foust of Space News — The Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation published a draft environmental assessment regarding SpaceX launch activities from both Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center and Space Launch Complex 40 at neighboring Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The assessment, the FAA said, will be used in new or modified commercial launch licenses for Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy vehicles from those sites. One reason for the assessment, the report states, is “SpaceX’s launch manifest includes more annual Falcon launches and Dragon re-entries than were considered in previous [environmental] analyses.” SpaceX performed 11 launches from LC-39A and SLC-40 in 2019 and 15 in 2018, the most any one year to date.

— RETAILERS REJOICE —

Retailers are feeling bullish on sales for 2020, with an expected increase between 3.5% and 4.1% over the previous year. According to the Florida Retail Federation, this forecast — fueled by economic fundamentals — between $3.93 trillion and $3.95 trillion this year.

“We are grateful to have the confidence of the Florida consumer, and we are optimistic about the year ahead,” said Scott Shalley, president and CEO of Florida Retail Federation. “Florida retailers stand ready to meet this increased demand with quality products and services at great prices. Most importantly, Florida retailers are eager to provide friendly and excellent customer service that keeps our consumers coming back for more.”

According to the Federation, pushing this increase in consumer spending is job growth, with an estimated 150,000 to 170,000 jobs created per month. Also, helping the positive outlook is record low unemployment, both nationally (3.6%) and in Florida (3%). This growth is expected to continue despite external factors such as coronavirus, the presidential election, and trade tariffs, Shalley said.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Twitter gets behind Marco Rubio’s ‘reefer for everyone’ — even though it was a jab at Democrats” via Sean Neumann of People Magazine — “To recap tonight’s Democratic debate. If they are elected, you will get govt controlled internet, energy, schools and health care. And as a bonus, reefer for everyone!” Rubio tweeted. “Um, sign me up?” one Twitter user responded. Some pointed out that Rubio’s tweet echoed a similarly well-received threat from the 2016 election made by Trump‘s surrogate Marco Gutierrez, who warned that if Hillary Clinton were elected, there would be “taco trucks on every corner.” “I was told if I voted for Hillary, there would be taco trucks on every corner. I voted for Hillary, still waiting for the taco trucks,” one Twitter user cracked. “You’ll have to try harder to scare us.”

Assignment editors — Sen. Rick Scott will speak on Communist China’s threat to the United States’ national security and economic stability, 11:30 a.m., Hudson Institute, 1201 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

Matt Gaetz, top Trump ally, swears off PAC money” via Quint Forgey of POLITICO — Gaetz will no longer accept campaign contributions from federal political action committees, a stance increasingly adopted by Democratic candidates who decry the influence of corporate money in politics. “Honest capitalism is under attack. Not just from Sanders, Antifa and the radical left — but by special interests and political action committees in the swamp of Washington D.C.,” Gaetz said during a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference. “The more a member of Congress proves his merit laundering money between special interest[s] and our fake leadership, the more he moves up,” Gaetz said.

Matt Gaetz says he’s no longer taking super PAC money. Image via Twitter.

Lois Frankel battles Betsy DeVos over budget planDeVos testified in front of the House Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies. The appropriations body battled with Secretary DeVos over Trump’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget request for the Education Department, which DeVos leads. Rep. Frankel took particular issue with proposed cuts. “I think it is a mistake, I believe, for you to come in here to cut $6 billion — to ask for a cut of $6 billion out of public education,” Frankel said. The Representative from Florida’s 21st Congressional District also asked DeVos about the Department’s plan regarding the coronavirus. DeVos said a task force would be working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

— CORONAVIRUS — 

Mike Pence will control all coronavirus messaging from health officials” via Michael Shear and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times — Officials insist the goal is not to control the content of what subject-matter experts and other officials are saying but to make sure their efforts are being coordinated, after days of confusion with various administration officials showing up on television. And they say they are not focused on specific news releases rather with a streamlined effort around television appearances. Pence said he had selected Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the director of the United States’ effort to combat HIV and AIDS, to serve as the Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House, enlisting an experienced scientist and physician to manage the response to the potential spread of the virus.

Donald Trump puts Mike Pence in charge of the coronavirus response, which some say is to control the narrative.

Coronavirus fears drive stocks down for sixth day and into correction” via Matt Phillips of The New York Times — The S&P 500, which just last Wednesday reached a record high, slid 4.4%, its worst day since August 2011. The index is down 12% since that peak, entering what is known as a correction — a drop of at least 10% that signals a more significant sell-off than a few days of pessimistic trading. The outbreak could crush consumer demand, as people limit travel or stay home even without a government order to do so. The outbreak hit foreign markets hard, too. The FTSE 100 Index in London entered a correction, and stocks fell sharply in Paris, Frankfurt, Milan and Madrid, as well as Tokyo and Seoul.

Economic damage spreads as Europe confronts coronavirus” via David J. Lynch and Jeanne Whalen of The Washington Post — The coronavirus, which has killed nearly 2,800 people worldwide and all but paralyzed China for the past month, now is targeting Europe’s $19 trillion economy. With countries such as China, Italy and Japan that account for 30 percent of global output already feeling the ailment’s effects, the danger of more severe global turmoil is mounting. “The economic effects of a severe pandemic could be as bad as those of the global financial crisis” of 2008, Capital Economics, a London-based research consultancy, warned clients on Wednesday. Along with disrupting major industries and turning trading screens red, the uncontrolled outbreak could also shake European politics by boosting nationalist sentiment.

Most coronavirus cases are mild. That’s good and bad news.” via Vivian Wang of The New York Times — “Many people are now panicking, and some actually are exaggerating the risks,” said Dr. Jin Dongyan, a virology expert at the University of Hong Kong. “For governments, for public health professionals — they also have to deal with these, because these will also be harmful.” Of the 44,672 coronavirus cases that were confirmed in China by Feb. 11, more than 36,000 — or 81% — were mild. Mild cases are inherently difficult for scientists to describe, because those with limited symptoms may not seek medical care. Scientists have also said that people can be infected but not show any symptoms at all. For many with mild infections, the coronavirus could be virtually indistinguishable from the common cold or seasonal flu.

A faulty CDC coronavirus test delays monitoring of disease’s spread” via Carolyn Johnson, Laurie McGinley and Lena Sun of The Washington Post — Problems with a government-created coronavirus test have limited the United States’ capacity to rapidly increase testing, just as the outbreak has entered a worrisome new phase in countries worldwide. Experts are increasingly concerned that the small number of U.S. cases may be a reflection of limited testing, not of the virus’s spread. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said that she was “frustrated” about problems with the test kits and that the CDC hoped to send out a new version to state and local health departments soon.

U.S. workers without protective gear assisted coronavirus evacuees, HHS whistleblower says” via Lena Sun and Yasmeen Abutaleb of The Washington Post — Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services sent more than a dozen workers to receive the first Americans evacuated from Wuhan, without proper training for infection control or appropriate protective gear, according to a whistleblower complaint. The workers did not show symptoms of infection and were not tested for the virus, according to lawyers for the whistleblower, a senior HHS official based in Washington who oversees workers at the Administration for Children and Families, a unit within HHS. The whistleblower is seeking federal protection, alleging she was unfairly and improperly reassigned after raising concerns about the safety of these workers to HHS officials, including those within the office of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

Flight attendant diagnosed with coronavirus might have serviced trips between Seoul and Los Angeles” via Victoria Kim of the Los Angeles Times — South Korea’s Center for Disease Control said that a female flight attendant who serviced a flight Feb. 15 from Tel Aviv to Seoul had tested positive for the virus. Onboard the flight was a church group returning from a pilgrimage to Israel; 30 other infections have been connected to the group so far, according to local authorities. The South Korean media outlets reported that the same flight attendant had serviced flights KE017 and KE012 on Feb. 19 and 20 to and from Los Angeles International. Neither Korean Air nor local officials immediately confirmed the reports — Korean Air announced it was closing its operations center at Incheon Airport to disinfect the premises.

Hospitals have been preparing for coronavirus uptick” via Bob Herman of Axios — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned this week that this infectious disease could spread more in the U.S., and hospitals have anticipated such scenarios. The American Hospital Association told its members last week that they “should be prepared for the possible arrival of patients with COVID-19,” directing them to use a CDC checklist for coronavirus patients and to monitor protective equipment needs. Shruti Gohil, an infectious disease doctor at the University of California Irvine, said her hospital system and others always have emergency plans for these types of outbreaks and disasters. Their planning ramped up in January after more cases were coming out of China.

Rick Scott calls on CDC to launch 24/7 coronavirus hotline” via Mark Bergin of Florida Politics — Sen. Scott is urging the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to immediately launch a 24/7 hotline to address questions people might have about the coronavirus. Scott issued the letter to CDC Director Robert Redfield. “With these new developments, we must continue to do everything in our power to remain vigilant and prepared for the potential spread of the Chinese Coronavirus within the United States,” Scott wrote. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) plays a critical role in protecting public health and communicating with at-risk local communities during an outbreak.” Scott also urged the agency to hold regular conference calls with state and local health officials to provide up-to-date information and resources available to combat coronavirus.

As markets plummet, Marco Rubio and Ben Cardin implore SBA to protect small businesses from coronavirus” via Mark Bergin of Florida Politics — The bipartisan letter addresses SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza regarding concerns about coronavirus, which is also known as COVID-19. “As the situation continues to evolve, it is becoming clear that the threat of widespread transmission of COVID-19 could have severe economic impacts on small businesses and the U.S. economy as a whole,” the senators wrote. “For this reason, we urge you to take immediate action to ensure that small businesses and their employees are equipped to prepare for, and respond to the anticipated spread of COVID-19 to reduce both short-term and long-term disruptions.”

After coronavirus, Bill Posey introduces bill to cut U.S. dependence on Chinese pharmaceuticals” via Florida Daily — Posey is championing the “Safe Medicine” act, which he insists will “break America’s dependence on pharmaceuticals produced overseas and protect Americans from defective or contaminated foreign pharmaceuticals.” Posey brought out the proposal last week. “Tens of millions of Americans who depend on lifesaving medications could be at risk of receiving tainted medicine from countries like China that do not abide by our laws and do not have America’s best interests in mind,” the Congressman’s office noted.

With the coronavirus crisis, Bill Posey wants to cut America’s dependence on Chinese pharmaceuticals.

With Jabil showing effects already, coronavirus expected to impact more of Florida’s economy” via Robbie Gaffney and Mark Schreiner of WUSF — Jerry Parrish, Chief Economist for the Florida Chamber Foundation, said there’s a possible delay for goods coming from China that could affect the state’s manufacturers. “We will see supply chain disruptions of those imports until the situation stabilizes. That will definitely affect Florida’s exports.” One business experiencing the effect of coronavirus is Jabil. The St. Petersburg-based company makes parts for smartphones, appliances and other electronics. It released a statement saying its factories in the parts of China that have been adversely impacted by the virus are running at around 65 to 70% of normal capacity.

Florida police department offers to test your recreational drugs for coronavirus” via Daniel Figueroa IV of the Tampa Bay Times — The Tavares Police Department is offering to test drugs for people to make sure they’re not contaminated with the coronavirus, according to the agency’s Facebook page. The department posted the offer to its Facebook page Thursday afternoon, instantly garnering hundreds of comments and shares. They’ll even come to you for testing if you ask, according to the post. “With the rising health concerns associated with the Coronavirus (sic) we are offering free testing of your drugs,” the agency wrote. “Being that a large amount of narcotics come from outside the US, we want you safe. Bring it by our station, and we will test your batch within minutes!”

We don’t know whether the coronavirus should affect the Olympics. We do know the IOC.” via Sally Jenkins of The Washington Post — It’s premature to call for the cancellation or postponement of Tokyo 2020. But with the torch relay about to begin and just 150 days remaining to the Opening Ceremonies, it’s certainly not too early to ask how the organizers and the International Olympic Committee realistically propose to keep the Summer Games healthy and secure as opposed to a disease epicenter. How can they prevent an outbreak with athletes from 200 countries and 7.5 million ticket holders preparing to jam into villages and venues? They better have a Plan B. So far, they don’t. Olympic authorities insist no alterations are even being contemplated.

— MORE CORONA —

What would a coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. mean for schools?” via Dana Goldstein and Julie Bosman of The New York Times — Around the nation, school officials and parents were flummoxed by the sudden warning that if a coronavirus epidemic hit the United States, school buildings could be shut down for long periods of time, leaving children sequestered at home. The obstacles to teaching remotely were evident: American children have uneven access to home computers and broadband internet. Schools have limited expertise in providing instruction online on a large scale. And parents would be forced to juggle their own work responsibilities with what could amount to “a vast unplanned experiment in mass home-schooling,” said Kevin Carey, vice president for education policy at New America, a think tank.

The market rout is about more than coronavirus” via Chris Hughes of Bloomberg — European companies were running to stand still even before they started worrying about the impact of the coronavirus. If investors weren’t preoccupied with the disease, the corporate sector’s weak growth, poor profitability, and tendency to make overpriced acquisitions would be front of mind. Ad group WPP Plc failed to grow underlying sales last year and was guiding for another flat performance in 2020 even before the coronavirus spread. Brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev SA made less profit in the last three months of 2019 than analysts expected. Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC’s new chief executive officer completed a kitchen sinking by taking a $6.5 billion write-down. He also admitted that profit margins — fueled by one cost-cutting deal after another — were unsustainable.

Coronavirus could break Iranian society” via Graeme Wood of The Atlantic — Picture the following sacred but unhygienic scene: Pilgrims from a dozen countries converge on one small city. They stay in cramped hotels, using communal toilets and eating meals together. For their main ritual, they converge on the tomb of a woman, the sister of a holy man. Some linger for minutes, some for seconds. In a single day, many thousands pass through the same cramped space — breathing the same air, touching the same surfaces, trading new and exotic diseases. The city is Qom, Iran, and two days ago, a local health official declared on Iranian television that the coronavirus was burning through the community.

Amazon bars one million products for false coronavirus claims” via Jeffrey Dastin of Reuters — Amazon.com has barred more than 1 million products from sale in recent weeks that had inaccurately claimed to cure or defend against the coronavirus. Solicited Irish. Amazon also removed tens of thousands of deals from merchants that it said attempted to price-gouge customers. The world’s largest online retailer has faced scrutiny over the health-related offers on its platform, and earlier this week Italy launched a probe into surging prices around the internet for sanitizing gels and hygiene masks while it battled the biggest outbreak in Europe. A merchant offered a 10-pack of N95 masks for $128. That was up from a recent seller average price of $41.24.

Tampa pastor who claimed to cure Zika now says he will cure Florida of coronavirus” via Colin Wolf of Orlando Weekly — Rodney Howard-Browne — a conservative preacher, peddler of absolute insane conspiracy theories, and an evangelical leader who prayed over Trump in the Oval Office — claims that he cleansed Florida of Zika and says he now plans to do the same with the coronavirus. In a video, Howard-Browne says that he “cursed” Zika in the name of Jesus, and this is something he has the power to do regarding the coronavirus, but just for Florida. “We are doing the same thing with the coronavirus,” says Howard-Browne.” We do not need it on these shores, and somebody said, ‘Well, what about the rest of the world?’ I mean, I can’t be responsible for every city, or whatever.”

Rodney Howard-Browne says he can pray the coronavirus away — but only in Florida. Image via Instagram.

— THE TRAIL —

Super PAC slams Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Donna Shalala for missing vote on Bernie Sanders resolution” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A Republican super PAC slammed two South Florida Congresswomen who skipped a vote condemning presidential candidate Sanders. “Even when it comes to condemning their party’s embrace of communist regimes, Congresswoman Shalala and Congresswoman Mucarsel-Powell are all talk and no action,” said Calvin Moore, Communications Director for the Congressional Leadership Fund. The vote was on calling a previous question, which would have allowed a vote on a resolution introduced by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, condemning Sanders for remarks on 60 Minutes praising a Fidel Castro literacy program in Cuba and saying “it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad” about the regime. The procedural move to introduce the resolution failed in a 224-189 party-line vote.

Guerdy Remy sets campaign launch party in SD 9” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Democrat Remy announced she is hosting her campaign launch party for Saturday night in Sanford. Remy, a health care worker, entrepreneur, and longtime Democratic grassroots organizer from Altamonte Springs, is one of five Democrats seeking a chance to take on Republican former state Rep. Jason Brodeur for the seat opening up in SD 9. The district represents Seminole County and parts of southern and western Volusia County. The kickoff event will be at Nathaniel’s Steakhouse Grill and Bar in Sanford, a venue change since the invitations first started going out, Remy said. The venue had to be changed when she got late word that the initial restaurant was unexpectedly closing. The event begins at 6 p.m.

Miami-Dade mayoral candidate Daniella Levine cava bashes parental consent bill” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Levine Cava has painted herself as a liberal during her time on the nonpartisan Miami-Dade County Commission. She contrasted the bill’s passage with the centennial celebration of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. “On the heels of celebrating 100-years of the women’s rights movement, it’s outrageous that the Florida Legislature’s leadership took our state backward on women’s health care rights,” Levine Cava said. “The legislation that forces young women who have faced incest or rape to jump more hurdles to deal with a very personal health care decision is insulting and will only make an already difficult moment, much worse. It’s shameful and wrong.”

First in Sunburn: Levine Cava new TV ad ‘Glass Ceiling’ — Ahead of Women’s History Month, Levine Cava is releasing her fourth television ad. “Glass Ceiling” showcases the campaign’s history-making moment as she fights to shatter Miami-Dade’s highest glass ceiling by becoming the first female County Mayor. The ad will air throughout March and will focus on her bold message and vision for equal pay, earned leave, entrepreneurship, and environmental resilience. “Our campaign is about bringing people together and defying the odds,” Levine Cava said in a statement. “I am confident that this is the year we will break our own highest glass ceiling in Miami-Dade County and put forward a bold agenda that delivers on a promise for progress!”

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

Jeff Brandes for St. Pete Mayor? He says no, Twitter says yes” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Brandes continues to say he will not run for St. Petersburg Mayor, but someone launched a Twitter account in November under the handle @BrandesForMayor with the description “tell Jeff Brandes to run in 2021!” The unknown Twitter account author included a parenthetical that the page is not associated with Brandes or any political committee. The account was inactive since its inception, but on Thursday showed some signs of life with two posts. Both are images of Brandes in front of the downtown St. Pete skyline shaded in blue with a “Brandes For Mayor” logo and another request to “tell Jeff Brandes to run in 2021!”


— LOCAL —

JAX Chamber ‘opening up opportunities’ for people with intellectual or developmental differences” via Beth Reese Cravey of The Florida Times-Union — Connectable, founded in 2017 by Jacksonville philanthropist Delores Barr Weaver, will help companies identify and customize positions and interview candidates, as well as provide job coaching for new employees. Megan Bell, who has Down syndrome, is such a rock star at JAX Chamber that the business organization wants to help its members hire their own inspiring employees. Bell, 29, was the inspiration for “20 in 20,” a yearlong campaign launched Thursday that will encourage at least 20 of the chamber’s members to pledge to hire an employee with intellectual or developmental differences. Bell, whose first job was at Publix, became a part-time office assistant at the chamber four years ago. She is proud to lead the way for 20 in 20.

Embattled Miami-Dade Expressway Authority bond ratings fall” via Miami Today — The rating, said Fitch Ratings, “takes into account the acute level of political interference into the authority’s governance and rate-setting, along with the potential for a weakened pricing framework” because of the state legislation, “which places a prolonged moratorium on rate increases.” The impact of Fitch’s reduction of ratings on the expressway authority’s outstanding bonds from A- to BBB+, coupled with a new negative rating outlook from Fitch, is that borrowing money for future expressways construction would be more costly because interest rates would almost certainly rise. Fitch said that its bonds downgrade to BBB+ “reflects the continued legal uncertainty surrounding the authority’s governance structure.

The Miami-Dade Expressway Authority gets a rating downgrade, making money for improvements more expensive.

Orlando firm raises $5.8 million for its platform, which connects businesses with drivers” via Marco Santana of the Orlando Sentinel — The expansion of the delivery economy has helped an Orlando entrepreneur raise nearly $6 million for his tech startup. OneRail connects merchants with services that complete the so-called “last mile” deliveries to customers. So far, the small company works with Warehouse Anywhere, a company that stores merchandise for clients nationwide at its network of facilities. If a customer buys a television from a Warehouse Anywhere business client in Central Florida, for instance, the OneRail platform will connect that company with a driver to get the merchandise from the closest location to the consumer. OneRail CEO Bill Catania said the $5.8 million raised would go toward expanding its platform and adding workers. The company has 10 employees in downtown Orlando and plans to add at least 30 more by the end of the year.

Esports catches Orlando Sports Commission’s attention” via Marco Santana of the Orlando Sentinel — A coalition of leaders from schools, sports franchises and tourism has begun a new push to attract more esports and other video game-related events to Central Florida. At the center of the effort is a website that highlights eight venues in the region that can host the events, including Silver Spurs Arena, Full Sail University’s the Fortress and Amway Center. And for the first time, the Greater Orlando Sports Commission has included esports in its annual report to the community. The commission carved out a section dedicated to esports alongside NCAA events, Olympic trials, marquee events and youth and amateur sports tournaments. “We have everything from a 500-seat venue at Full Sail to the 20,000-seat Amway Center, so it makes us very versatile,” commission CEO Jason Siegel said.

You won’t recognize Pier Sixty-Six when they’re done with it” via David Lyons of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A luxurious new community of yachts, homes, shops and offices is coming to the site of the Pier Sixty-Six Hotel and Marina in Fort Lauderdale. Tavistock Development Co. of Orlando, which bought the resort in 2016, intends to convert the site’s 22-acre waterfront setting into a place where full-time residents and visitors will lounge in the lap of luxury, gaze at superyachts, shop, and work in high-end retail and offices, and dine at upscale restaurants. Construction is expected to begin next month on the east side of the Intracoastal Waterway off the 17th Street Causeway. But already, the area’s neighborhood associations have voiced fears that the development will paralyze traffic on an already overloaded thoroughfare.

— MORE LOCAL —

Saudi military students resume U.S. flight training” via Lolita Baldor of The Associated Press — The U.S. Navy said that flight training for the Saudi students resumed Tuesday. The training for about 850 Saudis at multiple U.S. bases was suspended December 10, four days after the deadly shooting. Operational training, such as flying and other non-classroom instruction, was allowed to restart once additional safety restrictions were put in place. The Navy said new policies prohibit the possession of personally owned firearms by international students and limit foreign nationals to their assigned bases and facilities. International students must agree to the new policies to participate in U.S. training. “The Navy is making every effort to minimize disruptions to our foreign national partners while implementing the revised security initiatives,” the Navy statement said.

Woman attacks postal worker for ‘stuffing’ mail in mailbox” via Katie Rice of the Orlando Sentinel — A Windermere woman scratched a postal worker’s face and neck and grabbed her phone because the worker was overfilling her mailbox, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. Mary DiCosolo, 52, faces charges of sudden snatching and battery for the Wednesday attack, during which the victim said DiCosolo yelled: “Are you the one that keeps stuffing my goddamn mail in the [expletive] box?” The victim tried to calm DiCosolo, but the suspect started pointing her finger at the victim. The victim grabbed her phone from her truck and began recording DiCosolo, asking her for her address. DiCosolo then turned and grabbed the victim’s phone, scratching her right cheek and neck in the process and drawing blood, the affidavit said.

Mary Ann Dicosolo was arrested on a charge of battery on a postal worker, for ‘stuffing’ mail in her mailbox. Image via Orange County Clerk of Courts.

Florida man throws dirt over himself in gopher tortoise hole to hide from cops: report” via Tiffini Theisen — A Florida man who threw dirt over himself as he burrowed into gopher tortoise hole to hide from cops now faces charges of endangering a threatened species on top of weapons, drug and larceny charges, deputies said Thursday. Justin Buchler, 36, of Keystone Heights was one of two men arrested after a Melrose resident reported a break-in Wednesday. As a deputy with a K-9 approached, Buchler was “trying to bury himself in a gopher tortoise nesting area,” the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office wrote on its Facebook page. “When deputies approached Buchler, he was throwing dirt on himself from the gopher tortoise nest in an attempt to conceal himself.” In Florida, it’s illegal to kill, harass or destroy gopher tortoises, or the eggs or burrows of the threatened species.

‘I don’t know what happened to him.’ Alleged Spring Hill neo-Nazi held without bail.” via Dan Sullivan, Jack Evans and Mark Puente of the Tampa Bay Times — The alleged Spring Hill neo-Nazi who the government says was part of a nationwide plot to intimidate and threaten journalists and people of color were ordered to remain in jail Thursday without bail. Tyler Parker-Dipeppe, 20, was booked in the Pinellas County Jail after a first appearance Thursday in federal court in Tampa. U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas G. Wilson found probable cause to believe he committed a crime described in a criminal complaint and ordered detention pending further court proceedings in Seattle, where the case originated. Parker-Dipeppe is one of four people federal agents say engaged in the plot, which involved delivering posters that bore swastikas and threatening language.

Three men plead guilty in Hurricane Michael home repair scam” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — Three men pleaded guilty to charges of scamming North Florida homeowners out of more than $300,000 after promising to fix their homes damaged by Hurricane Michael but never doing the work. Edward Newton, Christoper Mayes and Christian Pantazonis each pleaded guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s  Office. “To anyone who endured the devastation of Hurricane Michael, it is almost inconceivable that anyone could stoop so low as to prey on the storm’s victims in such a craven way,” said U.S. Attorney Larry Keefe.

Prison inmate attacked Michael Drejka over death of Markeis McGlockton, report says” via Kathryn Varn of the Tampa Bay Times — The inmate accused of attacking and injuring Clearwater parking lot shooter Michael Drejka said it was in retaliation for the death that landed Drejka in prison: Markeis McGlockton. Benjamin Martin struck Drejka with a combination lock attached to a sock on Feb. 11 while both were inmates at Lancaster Correctional Institutional near Gainesville, according to a Florida Department of Corrections report obtained by the Tampa Bay Times. Martin, 31, of St. Petersburg, told prison officials he attacked Drejka because he “shot and killed his brother Markeis McGlockton on the street,” the report said. Prison investigators said they’ve found no record that Martin is a relative of McGlockton, a 28-year-old father of four from Clearwater who was killed in a 2018 dispute over a parking space.

Former Dolphins and University of Miami running back Mark Walton arrested again” via David J. Neal of the Miami Herald — Former Miami Dolphins and UM running back Mark Walton is back in jail, his fifth arrest since February 2019. This time, Walton is in the custody of Miami-Dade Corrections while on hold for another agency. After November’s arrest on a charge of aggravated battery on a pregnant woman — he was accused of repeatedly punching girlfriend Jasmin Thompson in Davie two days after finding out she was pregnant — Walton has been under the no-contact order that’s standard in domestic violence cases. Any contact with Thompson after Walton posted bond violates that order. NBC6 reported that when Opa-locka police got to a call around 3:30 a.m. Thursday, it involved Walton and Thompson. So, Walton went to jail.

Tampa boat captain says he’s now getting death threats after video shows him poking manatee with pole” via James Bennett of Creative Loafing Tampa Bay — David Beede, a Tampa boat captain with Shallow Point Fishing Charters, was filmed scratching a manatee’s back, and now he says he’s getting death threats. A video of drone footage shot by a local canoe manufacturer, See Through Canoe, shows Beede driving his boat up to the aggregate of manatees, cutting the engine, then reaching out with a pole and scratching one manatee’s back. After a few scratches, a different manatee splashed the boat with its tail, and the aggregation scattered. The captain was also filmed trying to crash the drone. Beede contends he was trying to help a manatee by scraping off what he believed to be a parasite on its back

— TOP OPINION —

My coronavirus plan” via Marco Rubio for Medium — Last year, I noted in Modern Healthcare that when it comes to the threat China poses to the U.S. health care industry, we cannot afford to be complacent. The coronavirus outbreak makes clear how dependent our nation is on China for industrial capacity, especially in critical areas of our economy. In 2019, I offered an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act directing the Department of Defense (DoD) to analyze the extent to which the DoD is dependent on China for APIs. My bill will enable the VA to determine a drug’s country of origin based on where the API was sourced. My legislation will include the following reforms: financing guarantees and bonus depreciation for medical equipment production.

— OPINIONS —

How to improve Social Security or Medicare” via Charlie Crist for the Tampa Bay Times — Social Security and Medicare are the promises that if you work hard and pay into the system your entire adult lives, you will be supported in retirement, disability, or death of a breadwinner. It is a promise that must never be broken. We should work together on my bill, the Save Social Security Act, which would shore up the Social Security Trust Fund without benefit cuts. By “Scrapping the Cap,” those at the top will pay into Social Security on all their income just like everyone else. My proposal would sustain Social Security into the 2060s and strengthen its finances beyond that. It also ends the double taxation on Social Security benefits for middle- and working-class seniors.

Keep searches for university presidents in the sunshine” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — How would the public know whether the pool of applicants was diverse? How would they know whether the top job at the University of South Florida or the University of Florida really attracted quality candidates? What would prevent the secret selection of just one finalist so every other name remained secret? How would they know if the fix was in from the start to pick a politically well-connected favorite over more qualified applicants? Too many legislators brag that the state’s universities are tops in the nation, then complain that public records and open meetings laws prevent those universities from attracting top leaders. The answer to too much secrecy at public institutions is not more secrecy.

Breaking the cycle” via Mark Howard of Florida Trend — There is no shortage of efforts and programs to try to help poor people, but most are oriented toward individuals or families in crisis or focus on a single aspect of poverty — food assistance or helping with child care, housing or reducing crime, for example. The organizers of the smartest initiatives, like Lift in Orlando, have realized that creating pathways out of poverty involves addressing all the root causes that keep people poor — from education to housing to transportation to health care to justice to giving people a voice and active roles in revitalizing their own neighborhoods. To its credit, the Florida Chamber and its foundation are taking a leadership role in facilitating local efforts that emerge at the ZIP code level.

Ed Hooper: Farm Share — an indispensable partner in our community” via Florida Politics — One of our most vital partnerships is with Farm Share, a Florida-based food nonprofit that devotes its efforts to eliminating hunger throughout the state. Farm Share is actively helping our community grow strong, stable, and healthy through free food distributions, natural disaster relief, and large-scale events. Few Florida organizations offer service and assistance at no cost to the recipient, as Farm Share does. Farm Share hosted multiple distributions for our community and served thousands of individuals. On May 9, Farm Share will once again partner with the National Association of Letter Carriers to facilitate the annual Letter Carriers’ Stamp Out Hunger food drive. Farm Share will redistribute the food collected through this event to those who need it most.

Mark Sessums: Put children first and HB 843 custody bill away” via Florida Politics — Attorneys and parents across the state are closely monitoring CS/HB 843 by Rep. Alexander Andrade and co-sponsored by Rep. Anthony Sabatini and Rep. Spencer Roach. These lawmakers are likely well-intentioned, but their bill is deeply flawed — with potentially very harmful consequences. Right now, courts are required to always put the best interest of the child first. CS/HB 843 would put parents first — presuming that the custody of the child is 50/50% — and requiring a parent to show that equal time-sharing is not in the best interest of the child. This is an entirely flawed approach. And it would add mountains of new litigation to our courts. In short, CS/HB 843 is unnecessary.

— EARNINGS —

Ramba Consulting Group reports $2.1M haul for 2019” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Legislative lobbying incomes accounted for $1.74 million of the haul, with another $375,000 in earnings for their efforts lobbying the Governor and Cabinet. Lobbying firms report their pay in ranges covering $10,000 increments. Florida Politics uses the middle number of each range to estimate total revenue. Ramba Consulting Group’s quarterly legislative lobbying reports each showed between $250,000 and $500,000 in pay; executive reports were marked down in the $50,000 to $100,000 range. That sets the earnings floor at $1.2 million, with a ceiling of $2.5 million. Ramba’s legislative reports show 58 contracts, three of which broke six figures for the year.

Pittman Law Group cracks $1M in 2019 revenue” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The duo of Sean Pittman and Jasmyne Henderson juggled more than two dozen legislative lobbying contracts, with 11 of those clients also tasking the firm with lobbying the Governor and Cabinet. The 2019 total was achieved almost exclusively through legislative work — the firm reported no more than $10,000 in executive branch income for the year. Pittman’s four quarterly legislative lobbying compensation reports, however, add up to $1.08 million. Leading the way for Pittman and Henderson was Trulieve, the foremost medical marijuana company in the Sunshine State. It chipped in an estimated $110,000 last year — more than 10% of the firm’s projected rake.

— MOVEMENTS —

Personnel note: Pete Bergstresser promoted to FHP Chief of Public Affairs — Florida Highway Patrol Gene Spaulding has appointed Lt. Bergstresser as the new Chief of Public Affairs. Bergstresser has worked at FHP for more than two decades, most recently serving as the Troop D, Sub-District Lieutenant for Osceola and Orange Counties. “With Captain Bergstresser’s years of experience, professionalism and service to our great state, I am confident he will excel in this new role and continue to serve as an asset to our agency and its mission,” Spaulding said. Bergstresser is an alumnus of Valencia Community College and Florida Southern College and has also completed the Command Officer’s Development Course. He starts his new job Friday.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Ellyn Bogdanoff, Mike Grissom, Nicholas Matthews, Becker & Poliakoff: Alliance Financial Network

Carlo Fassi, The Southern Group: Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens

Shawn Foster, Sunrise Consulting Group: Clean and Sober Recovery Center

Jon Fury: Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission

Kelly Horton, Heffley & Associates: First Place Partners

Ron Pierce, Kaitlyn Bailey, Edward Briggs, Natalie King, RSA Consulting Group: Booking.com

Gary Rutledge, Rutledge Ecenia: Fronton Holdings

— LISTEN UP —

Dishonorable Mention: State Rep. Chris Latvala, activist Becca Tieder, Tampa Bay Times Columnist Ernest Hooper and communications expert Dr. Karla Mastracchio discuss politics and culture. Rep. Fentrice Driskell from House District 63 joins the pod, to talk what she’s working on in Session. The hosts also talk bipartisan collaboration at the state level and current amendments and bills.

Inside Florida Politics from GateHouse Florida: Democrats across much of the country are feeling the Bern, as Sanders surges in the presidential primary. But in Florida, Sanders’s comments about life in Cuba under Castro are giving many Democrats heartburn. Journalists Zac Anderson and John Kennedy talk about the firestorm Sanders ignited with his “60 Minutes” interview and touch on the latest in the Florida Legislature, including where things stand with DeSantis’s priorities as the 60-day Legislative Session nears the finish line.

REGULATED from hosts Christian Bax and Tony Glover: So, you want to open a cannabis business? Joining REGULATED is a cannabis attorney and consultant who has managed over 60 successful local and state cannabis licenses. Ryan Fingerhut is the director of business development at Global Go, which advises cannabis operators in North America and across the world. They go deep on what it takes to put together winning cannabis applications, how application consulting works, and how to find the best application writer to win your next licensing cycle.

— WEEKEND TV —

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

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable featuring Emeritus Professor of Government and International Affairs USF-Tampa Dr. Susan McManus, Emeritus Professor of Government and Politics USF-St. Petersburg Darryl Paulson, Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Michael Bennett and Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion of legislation that would impose term limits on school board members statewide. Joining Walker-Torres are Reps. Sabatini and Matt Willhite, and Andrea Messina, executive director, Florida School Boards Association.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A breakdown of the results of the South Carolina primary. PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter will rate claims from this week’s Democratic debate, and Tampa Mayor Jane Castor will discuss her plan for affordable housing.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon talks with Democratic political consultant Screven Watson and reporter Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Guests include Jacksonville City Council member Brenda Priestly Jackson, former Congressman Jason Altmire, The Players Executive Director Jared Rice and Pepper Peete of First Tee North Florida.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg will speak with Congresswoman Shalala.

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

 

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Our @edspensacola 4th Graders met @flgovrondesantis on the annual trip to #Tallahassee today.

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— LEAP DAY —

This leap day and year would be the last ever if two scholars have their way” via Ben Guarino of The Washington Post — They would replace the calendar with a new version. Theirs, the Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar, is 364 days long. It is consistent: The year always begins on a Monday. Your birthday always falls on the same day of the week. “The calendar will be exactly the same, every year,” said Richard Conn Henry, an astronomer at Johns Hopkins University and one of the calendar’s designers. February would always have 30 days, as would January, April, May, July, August, October and November. The other four months would have 31 days. There would be no February leap days. Instead, “every five or six years,” Henry said, “we’ll have an extra week at the end when you can party.”

It’s a leap year. This Congressman is turning 12” via Catherine Lyons of Roll Call — Virginia Republican Rep. Ben Cline is a leap year baby, born on Feb. 29. “I’m happy to only celebrate every four years,” says Cline, since birthdays are “no fun” to talk about once you get past a particular stage. He’s turning 48 this year. (Or is that 48 divided by four?) At least one constituency is having fun with the whole leap year thing: his kids. “They tell total strangers that I’m only 11,” says Cline. “They’ve figured out that when they turn 13, we’ll be the same age.”

— ALOE —

Jungle Cruise boat starts to sink; internet jokes run deep” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — Passengers on board the Jungle Cruise attraction at Walt Disney World were able to get off safely after their boat began sinking, Reedy Creek spokeswoman Eryka Washington said. As pictures of the incident surfaced online, Internet jokes and puns ran wild. “I mean they did warn them: ‘and if you don’t like my jokes, I’ll be your swimming instructor’” “Seems like they started the marketing for the Jungle Cruise movie a bit early … very interactive tho!”

The Walt Disney World Jungle Cruise boat ride had something of a mishap. Image via Matthew Vince/Twitter.

Apple planning iPad keyboard with trackpad” via Wayne Ma of TheInformation.com — Apple is preparing the keyboard for mass production, and one of its main manufacturers is Foxconn Technology, the Taiwanese contractor that makes most of the world’s iPhones, the person said. The company will likely release the accessory alongside the next version of the iPad Pro expected later this year. Apple has been gradually bringing the iPad Pro’s hardware and software features in line with those of its more traditional laptops and desktops in a bid to establish the iPad as a primary computer for consumers. Such a move, however, risks cannibalizing sales of its popular line of MacBook laptops.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Celebrating today are Rick Fernandez, Ben Gibson of Shutts & Bowen, and Matt Weidner.

___

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

Peter Schorsch

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



#FlaPol

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

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

Email: [email protected]
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