Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 3.6.20

Sunburn Orange Tally (8)
Read all about it: Everything you need to know about the day in Florida politics.

Bills are dying …

Budget conferences are about to start …

That means one thing …

It’s time for #CateSineDie — a Florida tradition.

Get on Twitter today before 3 p.m. and guess the exact time the hankie will drop on the 2020 Legislative Session — and the politico with the closest time (without going over) will get $500 donated to the charity of their choice, courtesy of CATECOMM.

Remember, you must use #CateSineDie in your prediction tweet to qualify.


On the latest episode of He Said, She Said, I eat my words about Joe Biden. Michelle and I break down Super Tuesday results, #Joementum and why it’s looking more and more likely that the Democrats will have a brokered convention. We discuss Bernie Sanders‘ disappointing performance in Minnesota and beyond, and autopsy the campaigns of Michael Bloomberg and Elizabeth Warren.

By the way, this week’s episode is only 42 minutes!

Listen here.


The third round of TallyMadness is underway.

Sixteen contenders are remaining in Florida Politics’ annual March Madness-inspired competition. With tens of thousands of votes tabulated, a clear trend has emerged — women are dominating.

Unlike the presidential race (RIP Warren 2020), women are trouncing the men standing between them and the ultimate prize: the right to call themselves the “best” young lobbyist in the state.

In no matchup was it more apparent than the duel between Alli Liby-Schoonover of Metz Husband & Daughton and RJ Myers of Suskey Consulting. Myers skated past Capital City Consulting’s Chris Schoonover in the first round, but the iron was especially unkind in the second.

Whether Alli Liby makes it to the Elite Eight or not, the transitive property of sports proves she’s the top Schoonover in the Sunshine State. Put that in the trophy case

In the bouts pitting a woman against a man, women were twice as likely to advance to the next round — BillieAnn Gay defeated Christian Minor, Jessica Love toppled Andrew Rutledge, and Natalie Kato dispatched Jake Farmer.

Still, some games featured two women, and there’s no room for ties in TallyMadness. Rutledge Ecenia’s Corrine Mixon carries on after a close match against Smith Bryan & Myers’ Teye Reeves.

Check out the rest of the Round 2 winners on Florida Politics’ TallyMadness page.

Like the rest of the Capitol, TallyMadness isn’t taking the weekend off — Round 3 voting starts today and runs through Monday at 11:59 p.m.


Even before Bloomberg dropped out of the race for President, voters in Florida were consolidating behind Biden.

More than 61% of likely Florida voters favor Biden, according to the most recent survey by St. Pete Polls commissioned for Florida Politics. That gives the former Vice President a commanding lead over Vermont Sen. Sanders, at 12%.

Florida coalesces behind Joe Biden. Image via AP.

The poll was conducted Tuesday, the same day billionaire Bloomberg dropped out of the race, and a day before Massachusetts Sen. Warren suspended her campaign. Both were left in the field of active candidates. Bloomberg held the support of almost 14% of likely voters, while Warren showed up with 5%.

But just as Bloomberg’s prior rise in Florida seemed to draw voters primarily away from Biden, his decline benefited Biden in turn. The trend lines for St. Pete Polls surveys show those two consistently leading the field since late January.

The Feb. 27 results from St. Pete Polls showed Biden with 34% over Bloomberg at 25%, Sanders at 13% and Warren at 4%.

The latest results represent a 27% rise in polls for Biden. Sanders, meanwhile, dropped 1%, movement that falls within the poll’s 2.3% margin of error.

The poll was taken after Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer suspended their respective campaigns., and those candidates dropped to 1% or less. Their support also seemingly flowed toward Biden while Sanders remained static.

Among voters surveyed who already mailed in their ballots, Biden still held a commanding lead with 53%, while Bloomberg had the votes of 20% and Sanders won 11%. Buttigieg had 5% support among those who already voted, while Warren won 3%, Klobuchar won 2%, and Steyer won nearly 1%.

More than 28% of those surveyed already cast their ballots. But about 20% of those wish they could now change their vote. Among that set, 78% would vote Biden.


In Florida, the number of COVID-19 cases is creeping up. Gov. Ron DeSantis gives an update and some advice on the use of surgical masks. Rep. Chip LaMarca talks about how Florida ports are dealing with the threat of coronavirus.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— After her husband kicked butt on Super Tuesday, Jill Biden is coming to Florida. She’ll be making stops in Orlando and Miami.

— The House votes to step up efforts to subpoena Tiffany Carr so that they can grill the former boss of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence about her $7 million payday.

— Senate approves a resolution that condemns groups that espouse superiority over other people because of race, nationality or gender.

— Senators also approved a separate bill on the Ocoee Election Day Race Riot of 1920. Whites were so outraged that a black millionaire was getting people to the polls they lynched him, massacred 60 African Americans, burned down the black section of Ocoee, and stole their land — all with the help of state officials.

— A special version of Florida Man, featuring the Congressman who wore a gas mask on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

To listen, click on the image below:


@RealDonaldTrump: @GOPLeader Kevin McCarthy informed me that I was 20 for 20 on Tuesday with respect to my Endorsement of candidates. Sadly, I didn’t get that information from the Fake News Media. They don’t report those things, or the far more than Dems cumulative votes, despite no opposition!

@Scontorno: After Elizabeth Warren’s exit, there is now not a single field office open in Florida for the Democratic presidential candidates. Biden has 0. Sanders has 0. Florida’s primary is in 12 days.

@jeannasmialek: First analysts said the coronavirus economic snapback was going to be a “V” shaped recovery. Then it was “U.” Now Nomura is saying it could be “L” in a very severe scenario. It’s like the world’s grimmest alphabet soup.

—@CarlQuintanilla: “We’re 97% domestic, so what we’re seeing is a drop-off in DOMESTIC travel,” says Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly on @CNBC just now. “It has a 9/11-like feel.”


@TitosVodka: Per the CDC, hand sanitizer needs to contain at least 60% alcohol. Tito’s Handmade Vodka is 40% alcohol, and therefore does not meet the current recommendation of the CDC. Please see attached for more information.

@JeffSchweers: Seeing amendments to amendments popping up in my email notifications. Lacing up for Friday’s marathon session. Are you?

@Fineout: While gambling talks bog down at Fla. Capitol — Tallahassee Police announces it recently raided 3 internet cafes & arrested people for running gambling operations


Super Tuesday II — 4; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 7; 11th Democratic Debate in Phoenix — 9; Florida’s presidential primary — 11; Super Tuesday III — 11; MLB Opening Day — 20; “Ozark” Season 3 premieres — 21; Easter — 37; First quarter campaign reports due — 40; Florida TaxWatch Spring Board Meeting begins — 40; TaxWatch Principal Leadership Awards — 41; Last day of federal candidate qualifying — 45; NFL Draft — 48; Mother’s Day — 65; Florida Chamber Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 70; Last day of state candidate qualifying — 94; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 112; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 129; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres — 133; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo start (maybe) — 140; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 165; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 171; First presidential debate in Indiana — 207; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 215; Second presidential debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 223; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 230; 2020 General Election — 242; “No Time to Die” premieres (now) — 264.


Feds boost testing aid as coronavirus cases climb” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — DeSantis said the federal government would send “tens of thousands” of novel coronavirus testing kits to the state and asked people not to purchase a type of tightfitting mask to protect themselves from the contagion. DeSantis, speaking to reporters, also announced that five more people have tested positive for the coronavirus, a contagious disease known as COVID-19. That brought to nine the number of Florida-related coronavirus cases, a total that includes one non-Florida resident who is being detained in the state. One of the new cases involves a 72-year-old Santa Rosa County man with underlying medical conditions who had recently traveled abroad.

Ron DeSantis reassures Floridians that health officials are prepared for any cases of a new strain of coronavirus. Image via Twitter.

Here’s why Chinese scientists say there’s a second, more dangerous coronavirus strain” via the Loa Angeles Times — The global outbreak that has sickened nearly 100,000 people across six continents may actually be fueled by two variants of the same coronavirus: one older and less aggressive and a newer version whose mutations may have made it more contagious and more deadly, according to a controversial new study.

Federal rules changed to allow more testing for coronavirus. Florida isn’t going to follow them.” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida will not follow new national guidelines that allow doctors to order tests for anybody they suspect of having the new coronavirus, according to health care providers briefed on the state’s plan. The federal changes allow doctors to test more people faster to contain the spread of the highly contagious virus. Instead, Florida’s health leaders advised doctors to order tests only for people who fit narrower criteria: a history of travel to a high-risk area, or close contact with a confirmed coronavirus patient within 14 days of showing symptoms. Why? Florida officials are concerned the state’s three labs — in Miami, Jacksonville and Tampa — would be overwhelmed by the number of tests, slowing the entire process.

‘Unacceptable:’ Woman on Tampa flight with coronavirus patient blasts Florida officials” via the Tampa Bay Times — That evening, she said, she wrote to the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County and got a reply with two sheets: a log for taking her temperature twice a day and a partially completed “voluntary agreement for monitoring” that included incorrect information stating she had visited Italy, the site of an outbreak. Nemeth-Harn, 55, of Nokomis, had traveled to Maine to ski, flying back Feb. 26 through John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York at 8 a.m. on Delta flight 2794 to Tampa International Airport. Nemeth-Harn said she called back her local health department and emailed the nurse to get clarification but received no response. She did not turn in the forms. She wrote to a general email address for the state coronavirus call center. The reply came: “You should contact your healthcare professional and local county health department. They are better equipped to answer your specific health related questions. No state employee will be able to give you the specific flight information.”


Ron DeSantis sides with Senate on E-Verify” via Ana Ceballos of News Service of Florida — DeSantis is backing the Senate in a heated fight over E-Verify, a move that could tip the scale in a contentious immigration battle as the 2020 Legislative Session draws to a close. Senate President Bill Galvano said his chamber is ready to consider legislation that was negotiated between Sen. Tom Lee and the Governor’s office. The negotiations resulted in a bill (SB 664) that would require all public employers — including school districts, state agencies and public universities — to use the federal government’s E-Verify system to check the legal eligibility of new workers. The Senate proposal would also require private employers with at least 50 employees to use the federal system, or one that the Department of Economic Opportunity deems is “substantially equivalent” to E-Verify.

Bill Galvano is ready for E-Verify legislation. Image via @FLSenate/Twitter.

DeSantis announces hurricane recovery and mental health grants for Gadsden County” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — DeSantis delivered a $2.2 million Hurricane Michael recovery grant to Gadsden County Thursday and also announced a $1.2 million criminal justice diversion pilot program targeting mental health treatment in the north Florida county. The Hurricane Michael money will fund the replacement of two bridges that collapsed after the October 2018 Category 5 storm. The Hutchinson Ferry bridge over a tributary of the North Mosquito Creek and the Little River bridge over an Ochlockonee River tributary averaged about 4,000 vehicles a day and were built more than 60 years ago. Inspectors had found their foundations were unstable before the storm and officials say they collapsed due to excessive rain and increased traffic post-Michael.

Assignment editorsDeSantis will hold a media availability, 2 p.m., Florida Department of Health in Collier County, 3339 Tamiami Trail East, Suite 145, Bldg. H, Room 206, Naples.

Assignment editors — The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears will be among the featured speakers at a Celebrating Women in Business event, 9 a.m., FSU Turnbull Conference Center, 555 West Pensacola Street, Tallahassee.

Paying nonprofit CEO Tiffany Carr $7.5 million was no mistake” via Graham Brink of the Tampa Bay Times — There’s no denying that Carr has chutzpah. The former CEO of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence managed to juice her paid time off to the tune of more than $4 million and convinced her cronies to go along. That’s no easy feat. The sad episode wasn’t a mistake or a misunderstanding. It wasn’t a bad decision made in a moment of desperation. It wasn’t a temporary lapse in judgment. It wasn’t the white-collar equivalent of a smash-and-grab robbery. No, this took planning — an ongoing and conscious effort to game the system. It was a clear breach of the public trust that involved multiple people in high-level positions.

Disgraced nonprofit CEO served a subpoena via Twitter by Florida House” via Dan Sweeney of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Carr, you are hereby tweeted. Both DeSantis and the Florida House have launched investigations into Carr and the nonprofit she ran, the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The organization took in millions of taxpayer dollars over the years as the association governing 42 Florida domestic violence centers. But in the last three years alone, Carr received $7.5 million in compensation, including a salary of $750,000 a year and separate compensation for up to 210 days a year of paid time off.

With worry growing about a slowing economy, House moves ahead with broad tax cut bill” via the Miami Herald — Even as Florida faces economic uncertainty with the coronavirus epidemic, the Florida House on Thursday advanced a $193 million package of tax breaks and a plan to continue the refund of $543 million to the largest corporations in the state. Opponents say the bill, HB 7097, will weaken the state’s ability to respond to crises, and address water quality and infrastructure needs. Supporters say more tax cuts are needed to keep attracting newcomers to Florida, the fuel that spurs the state’s consumption-based economy.

Tax break would save millions for companies that rent bulldozers, backhoes and other construction equipment” via Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel — United Rentals, HercRentals and other companies that rent out construction equipment like bulldozers and backhoes could save millions of dollars a year in property taxes under a tax break the industry is lobbying for in Tallahassee. The tax break, which has been tucked into a $100-plus million package of tax cuts and tax breaks that the Florida House of Representatives tentatively approved Thursday, is expected to save heavy equipment rental companies — but cost cities, counties and other local governments — more than $20 million a year.


For Florida’s upcoming budget, the deal-making is ready to start.

Senate President Galvano told reporters he expected budget conferencing to begin this weekend. Galvano said he feels “good” about where the Senate and House are regarding the budget. House Speaker José Oliva likewise feels positive.

— Members are required to stay in town through the weekend, as the House and Senate attempt to work out a $1.4 billion gap between the two proposals.

José Oliva is confident the budget will get hammered out soon.

— “We are moving into the end of this week … the Speaker and I have continued to communicate, negotiate. On an optimistic side, I’d tell members to be prepared to go into conference sometime this weekend,” Galvano said. “Nothing is certain.”

— The Senate budget suggests about $500 million for teacher raises, along with $325 million in Base Student Allocation flexible spending, which districts can invest in teachers and school district personnel.

— In contrast, the House proposal would “increase the minimum base salary for a full-time classroom teacher to an amount that is achievable by the school district’s portion of the $500 million; however, no school district is required to increase the minimum base salary to an amount that exceeds $50,000.”

Other issues in play are affordable housing, VISIT FLORIDA, and the currently lapsed Seminole Compact. On the compact, Galvano believes “we can make progress,” while Oliva is more bullish, suggesting that a deal would not come together before Sine Die, though a Special Session could not be ruled out.


House wants to limit youth access to potent medical pot” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Medical marijuana patients under the age of 21 would have limited access to pot with euphoria-inducing THC levels greater than 10% under a measure approved by the Florida House Thursday. Rep. Ray Rodrigues, an Estero Republican, said he’s concerned that potent marijuana could have harmful effects on developing brains. “These genetically modified plants, which are high THC, have an impact on children,” he said. “It’s our duty as public policymakers to protect those children.” Medical marijuana with THC levels up to 30% can be found. Young patients could still access more potent marijuana through special order with the Department of Health or if they are terminally ill. THC caps have been a critical priority for Speaker Oliva.

Florida mothers united in tragedy push lawmakers to act” via Bobby Caina Calvan of The Associated Press — For months, Laurie Giordano had been telling the story of her son — of how her Zach, a strapping 16-year-old football player, should never have collapsed in the sweltering heat nearly three years ago. He died days later. For weeks, Giordano has been driving six hours each way to meet with lawmakers. At The Capitol, Giordano crossed paths with Lori Alhadeff, who lost her 14-year-old daughter Alyssa in the Parkland school shooting. Both spoke about how tragedy and loss are motivating them to lobby for legislation meant to save other children and other parents from suffering. Giordano and Alhadeff are linked over their grief of losing children and working on getting lawmakers to make schools safer, albeit in different ways.

Joined in tragedy: Laurie Giordano, left, and Lori Alhadeff speak at the Capitol. Image via AP/Bobby Caina Calvan.

Senate Republicans back revised ballot amendment changes — A bill that would make it harder to get proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot is earning support from reluctant Senate Republicans thanks to some changes tempering its language, Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida reports. Sen. Travis Hutson’s revisions would send amendments to the Florida Supreme Court for review after they collect 25% of the required signatures, up from the current 10% but lower than the 50% in the original proposal. A provision that would allow county supervisors of election to charge more to verify signatures has also been changed to lock prices in for two years. “I think that what he has done is reasonable,” said Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican.

Military spouse tax proposal goes to voters” via the News Service of Florida — With little comment, the Senate unanimously approved a proposed constitutional amendment (HJR 877) that the House had approved. The amendment would need 60% support from voters in November to go into effect Jan. 1. A homestead property-tax discount now goes to honorably discharged veterans who are 65 and older with permanent, combat-related disabilities. Under the proposal, the discount would remain in place until a surviving spouse remarries, sells, or otherwise disposes of the property. If the surviving spouse sells the property, the discount could be transferred to a new residence. The state’s Revenue Estimating Conference has projected the constitutional amendment would cut property-tax revenue by $1 million next fiscal year, growing to $4 million a year.

Senate Democrats have the votes to block term limits for school board members” via Sarah Mueller of Florida Politics — Senate Democrats are 100% confident they can kill legislation that would put school board term limits on November’s ballot. The House passed its version by a 79-39 vote. The bill has to get the support of 60% of lawmakers in each chamber to get on the ballot. The Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Joe Gruters is currently on second reading. There are 23 Republicans in the Senate. They need 24 votes. That means they would need at least one Democrat to cross party lines on the issue. Minority Leader Audrey Gibson says she’s sure Republicans won’t be able to split off members of her caucus despite DeSantis’ office calling around.

Senate controls fate of tort reform legislation” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — The House voted overwhelmingly in favor of HB 7071, sponsored by Rep. Mike Beltran, to limit exorbitant attorney fees on property insurance lawsuits. HB 7071 now heads to the Senate, which must decide if it will hear the companion bill in its last remaining committee reference, the Senate Rules Committee. SB 914, sponsored by Sen. Brandes, was last considered favorably by Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 4 but has remained stagnant for a month. “I’m confident that this bill will restore the balance to this area of law,” Beltran said on the House floor. “And it will allow folks to continue to litigate valid claims and that attorney fees will be more reasonable.”


Senate poised to pass broadband expansion bill” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — That measure (HB 969), spearheaded by Republicans Sen. Ben Albritton and Rep. Brad Drake, would create the Florida Office of Broadband within the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) and would designate it the lead agency on high-speed internet installation. Once the Senate passes the proposal, it will head to DeSantis for his signature. “It provides some parameters they should operate within to expand the access, especially in rural Florida when it comes to broadband,” Albritton told Senators. High-speed internet allows people to take online classes, expanding workforce opportunities. And first responders say greater broadband connectivity will improve communication options and reliability.

Ben Albritton is looking to expand broadband access in Florida. 

Senate advances bill to create sea level rise projections” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill Thursday creating a sea-level rise office and task force. That measure (SB 7016), written by the Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee and spearheaded by Chair Tom Lee, creates the Statewide Office of Resiliency and the Statewide Sea-Level Rise Task Force. The state’s Chief Resilience Officer (CRO), currently under the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), would oversee both bodies. An Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection now sits under DEP, but the new office would report directly to the Governor. The bill does not specify the new office’s role but states that the task force will create sea-level rise baseline projections with assistance from DEP.

Resolution condemning white nationalism heads to the House” via Sarah Mueller of Florida Politics — The legislation (SR 214), sponsored by Sen. José Javier Rodriguez, advanced out of the chamber with no debate and without opposition. House Speaker Oliva has expressed support for the measure, which has no legal force of law. He has said he’s confident his chamber would take up the bill. “It sounds like condemning white nationalism and white supremacy is pretty easy,” he said. The House companion (HR 51), sponsored by Rep. Anna Eskamani, was never heard in its first committee, the Criminal Justice Subcommittee chaired by Republican Rep. Jamie Grant.

Senate passes Ocoee race riots educational awareness effort” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Senators unanimously passed legislation Thursday to explore how schools could add the Ocoee Election Day Riots to state history curricula. Ocoee Democratic Sen. Randolph Bracy‘s bill (SB 1262) would call on the Education Commissioner’s African American History Task Force to recommend ways the history of that massacre can be taught in schools. The legislation would also direct the Secretary of State’s office to find ways the Museum of Florida History and other national museums could highlight that history. And it would order the Secretary of Environmental Protection to see if state parks could be named after some of the victims. Additionally, it would encourage school boards to consider naming buildings after Ocoee Riots victims. The measure awaits a House vote.

Bill banning sale of shark fins primed for final Senate action” via Sarah Mueller of Florida Politics — Legislation to outlaw the sale and import and export of fins to or from Florida is tee’d up for a Senate floor vote. The chamber rolled the legislation over from second to third reading. Lawmakers adopted two amendments to the bill (SB 680), sponsored by Republican Sen. Travis Hutson. One of the amendments calls for the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to evaluate the potential economic impact a ban will have on the commercial shark fishing industry. The commission would have to report their findings to the Governor, the Senate President and the House Speaker by Dec. 31, 2023.


The House has scheduled a floor session, 9 a.m., House Chambers.

The Senate has scheduled a floor session, 10 a.m., Senate Chambers.

The Senate Special Order Calendar Group meets 15 minutes after floor session to discuss which bills will be heard on the Senate floor, Room 401, Senate Office Building.

The House Rules Committee meets 15 minutes after floor session, Room 404, House Office Building.

Assignment editors — Rep. David Silvers will hold a news conference to discuss his bill (HB 945), which allows school districts to use Mobile Response Units and Crisis Stabilization Services as the first line of assistance to children in need of mental health care, 1 p.m., 4th-floor Rotunda.

The Florida Commission on Ethics meets to consider whether Russell Weigel, newly named commissioner of the Office of Financial Regulation, would have a conflict of interest involving the sale of his law firm, 8:30 a.m., Florida Commission on Offender Review, 4070 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.

The Revenue Estimating Conference will meet to discuss the fiscal impact of proposed legislation, 9 a.m., Room 117, Knott Building.



Voting and coronavirus: Florida officials ready with hand wipes, mail ballots” via Allison Ross of the Tampa Bay Times — Election officials in Florida are monitoring the spread of novel coronavirus in the state and watching for the possibility that fears about the virus could affect upcoming 2020 elections. So far, local elections officials say they are making fairly minimal adjustments, such as ordering sanitizing wipes for every polling location and planning to provide each poll worker with their own hand sanitizer. “We’re trying to educate the poll workers and anyone else who calls our office about what the (Centers for Disease Control) is advising,” said Dustin Chase, spokesman for the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections. Chase said that he has not yet had any poll workers call and say they don’t want to work.

The Democratic primary is now ‘Bernie Sanders against Joe Biden.’ Florida could change the race” via David smiley and Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Now, Biden and Sanders are in a state-by-state battle. And in Florida, Sanders can no longer rely on other candidates to divide centrist Democrats in a state where Hillary Clinton beat him by a 2-to-1 margin during the 2016 presidential primary. “Florida will vote on March 17, and my guess is it will probably be a Biden runaway,” Andrew Gillum, who won Florida’s 2018 Democratic gubernatorial primary with Sanders’ help, said on The Axe Files podcast. Sanders’ path in Florida is difficult. Young and non-Cuban Hispanic voters propelled him to victory in states like Nevada and California — but in Florida, voters over the age of 50 made up nearly two-thirds of those participating in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary.

Jill Biden coming to Miami, Orlando this weekend” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Biden will be appearing at a Miami-Dade teachers union picnic at noon Saturday and at the Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus conference in Orlando Saturday evening. Her appearances will be her third swing through Florida in support of her husband. In December, she made public appearances in Miami, West Palm Beach and Tallahassee. In October, she appeared at a Tampa fundraiser hosted by Sen. Janet Cruz. Her appearances come as the Democratic campaign for Florida finally heats up. Bloomberg appeared in Florida Tuesday, and more appearances by candidates and top surrogates are coming.

Jill Biden will make a campaign swing in Florida. Image via AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall.

Val Demings endorses Biden” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Her endorsement of Biden over Vermont Sen. Sanders or Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard comes less than two weeks before Florida’s March 17 presidential primary and as the race is now widely seen as one between Biden and Sanders after disappointing results prompted former New York City Mayor Bloomberg and Sen. Warren to reassess her campaign. “As Dr. King once said, ‘The ultimate measure of a man is not where he, or she, stands in times of comfort and convenience, but where they stand in times of challenge and controversy.’ Joe Biden has been there during some of the toughest times and continues to fight for all Americans,” Demings said.

Demings may be on the list of potential Biden running mates” via Steve Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — “Demings, a former Orlando police chief, had been touted as a potential vice-presidential pick for Biden even before her profile-enhancing turn as a House impeachment manager in President Trump’s Senate trial. A New York Times story on Monday reported that Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was “focused on the idea of nominating an African-American woman for vice president, mulling names like Senator Kamala Harris of California, Stacey Abrams of Georgia and Representative Val Demings of Florida.” On Thursday, Demings said in an interview with CNN that she was “humbled” that her name has been raised. And she did not rule out the possibility if Biden were to ask.

Former prisoner recalls Sanders saying, “I don’t know what’s so wrong’ with Cuba” via Tim Mak of NPR — American Alan Gross, a prisoner in Cuba for five years during the Barack Obama administration, is accusing Sanders of commending the communist country when the senator came to visit him behind bars. Sanders visited Cuba as part of a congressional delegation in 2014, along with Sens. Heidi Heitkamp and Jon Tester. During the one-hour meeting, Sanders told the prisoner that he didn’t understand why others criticized Cuba, Gross said in an interview with NPR. “He said, quote: ‘I don’t know what’s so wrong with this country,’ ” Gross recalled. Tester said he did not recall the discussion.

Citing concern over Sanders’ challenges in Florida, Democratic super PAC postpones ad blitz” via Alex Roarty of the Miami Herald — Priorities USA, a super PAC that says it will spend $150 million on anti-Trump ads this year, had planned to start running TV ads in Florida on March 31. But Sanders’ rise to the top of the Democratic primary — and fears over his unpopularity in the state — persuaded the group to push back the ad campaign until at least May 5. “With the primary still in flux, we want to wait to see who the nominee is before we determine our TV strategy in Florida,” said Josh Schwerin, senior strategist with Priorities USA. “Current data suggests that while both Sanders and Biden have paths to 270 electoral votes, Florida would be more challenging for Sanders.”

Here’s how you could end up on Florida’s ‘inactive’ voter list — even if you’ve voted recently” via Janie Haseman and Frank Gluck, Naples Daily News and The News-Press — Counties are given significant leeway to decide who is “inactive” and who is not, but how they do so can sweep up legitimate, fairly regular voters — and disproportionately impact young and nonwhite voters. Here’s an example of how it works in the Florida county with the highest rate of “inactive” voters — Collier, where nearly 60% of registered voters who last voted in 2016 are now marked inactive. “Inactive” voters, in theory, are those suspected of no longer living at their registered addresses, committed non-voters, or, potentially, no longer alive. But Collier’s high rate suggests that many legitimate, fairly regular voters are getting swept up with the rest.

Despite attention on Democratic primary, more in Miami-Dade switched to Republican” via Phil Prazan of NBC 6 South Florida — NBC 6 tallied the net number of people who officially changed parties over the last year. In that time, 2,952 people officially switched to the Republican Party. Over the same time, the Democratic Party in Miami-Dade County added 1,722 people from other parties. Most party switchers came from the No Party Affiliation category. The GOP also led in switching people over directly from the other major party. 944 more Democrats became Republicans than the other way around. Since Americans elected Donald Trump in November 2016, Republicans had a more significant net gain of people switching parties by almost 900 people. Still, there are more than 600,000 registered Democrats in the county and around 380,000 registered Republicans.


Bloomberg — “Dump Trump”:

Sanders — “Decimated”:

Sanders — “Protect Social Security”:

— MORE 2020 —

Democrats’ billboard to greet Donald Trump in Orlando” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The Florida Democratic Party intends to counter Trump‘s visit to Orlando with a billboard offering messages hitting him on health care and tax policies. And the party intends to follow that up later in the week with a series of “Fight for Health Care Tour” roundtables in the I-4 corridor, pushing the Democrats’ views on health care as a contrast to Trump’s record. The digital billboard, at the intersection of Kirkman Road and International Drive in the heart of Orlando’s tourist corridor, will rotate two messages in English and Spanish: “TRUMP’S AMERICA: THE RICH GET RICHER THE SICK GET SICKER,” one will read. “WHAT DEMOCRATS FIGHT FOR: Patient Protections, Lower Drug Costs, Strengthen Medicare,” says the other.

Florida Democratic Party billboard messages going up in Orlando.

Elizabeth Warren ends presidential campaign” via Amy B. Wang and Annie Linskey of The Washington Post — Warren, the senator from Massachusetts who promised to deliver “big, structural change” and vigorously fight corruption, ended her presidential bid Thursday. Warren, 70, entered the Democratic Party race in February 2019 after months of anticipation and quickly built a formidable organization. She eschewed large-dollar fundraisers, often saying that defeating Trump would take a true grassroots movement. Warren, at times, electrified voters and attracted big crowds, and at several points, she seemed a good bet to win the nomination. She turned in powerful debate performances, issued dozens of policy proposals, and was an impassioned, efficient campaigner. But in the end, her effort to straddle the liberal and centrist wings of the Democratic Party left her a toehold in neither.

Biden’s victories unleash something he’s never had: Money” via Brian Slodysko of The Associated Press — Support for Biden from the Democratic establishment abruptly materialized as influential donors lined up behind the former Vice President following his romp through 10 of the 14 contests. The showing reshaped the primary into a two-person race between him and Sanders, providing clarity in what had been a crowded field. In Los Angeles, a pricey Biden event suddenly sold out. In Florida, a prominent fundraiser received an outpouring of phone calls from donors who now want to help Biden clinch the Democratic nomination.

After security breach at rally, Biden campaign considers requesting Secret Service protection” via David Nakamura and Carol Leonnig of The Washington Post — The Biden campaign has begun deliberating over whether to move forward with a formal request to the Secret Service. The onstage skirmish during the former vice president’s remarks in Los Angeles highlighted the potential risks for candidates addressing large crowds. A pair of vegan activists holding signs reading “Let Dairy Die” rushed the stage before being physically pushed and pulled away by bystanders including Biden’s wife, Jill, and a campaign aide in a video that has circulated widely online. The incident was a “massive security failure,” said Jonathan Wackrow, a risk-management consultant at Teneo who served as a Secret Service agent in the agency’s Presidential Protective Division.

After the Super Tuesday incident with Jill Biden and a protester, the Biden campaign is considering Secret Service protection.

Black voters, ‘Whole Foods moms’ and an anti-Trump base: Biden builds coalition that could boost Democrats in November” via Toluse Olorunnipa, Chelsea Janes and Gregory S. Schneider of The Washington Post — As Biden racked up a string of unexpected victories in Super Tuesday primaries, he began to stitch together the kind of political coalition that had eluded his candidacy for months: a broad assembly of voters with the collective power to potentially defeat Trump in November. Biden’s strong showing among African Americans, suburbanites and moderate white voters boosted confidence among Democrats that the former vice president could soon win a Democratic race that voters have turned into a contest over which candidate is best positioned to beat Trump. The results also harked back to the 2018 midterm elections, in which Democrats won back the House by capitalizing on disdain for Trump among moderate and suburban voters, combined with high turnout among members of the Democratic base.

Sanders and Trump stare into their graves” via John Harris of POLITICO Magazine — Biden summoned high turnout from precisely the diverse constituencies of African Americans, suburbanites, working-class and older voters that another aging pol more at home with coalition politics than movement politics — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — marshaled to retake the House in 2018. In the near term, Biden’s achievement indicated that Sanders has no convincing path to defeating this coalition with young people or previous nonvoters. The only formula for his revival would involve Sanders somehow managing to encroach on support Biden won so handily from these groups. If not, it’s shovel time, no matter how long the nomination contest slogs on (which likely will be quite a while).

Stop lying, America: You were never gonna vote for a woman President” via Amanda Litman of Cosmopolitan — In some ways, it’s almost a relief. If Warren had gone all the way and then lost to Trump, there was no chance that they — “they” being the amorphous blob of operatives, donors, and decision-makers who seem to determine these things — would’ve let a woman come close to the nomination again. One woman could’ve been written off as an anomaly, but two? “They” would have called it a rule: Women can’t win. But that is the only silver lining I can see when looking for consolation. The truth is, “they” have already decided a woman can’t win. In a primary where the biggest criteria were “electability,” women and people of color were quickly deemed too risky.

Mike Bloomberg plans new group to support Democratic nominee” via Michael Scherer of The Washington Post — The group, with a name that is still undisclosed because its trademark application is in process, would also be a vehicle for Bloomberg to spend money on advertising to attack Trump and support the Democratic nominee. The moves come as Bloomberg has continued to taunt Trump on social media, releasing a video on Twitter that cut together several clips in a way meant to mock Trump. “We are not going anywhere. We will haunt your dreams. We are in your head,” the video declares by splicing together clips. “Starting today, and every day after that, every morning, every night, we will be here watching you, always watching, making sure everyone knows what a disaster you are.”

Mike Bloomberg will continue to support Democrats. Image via AP Photo/Patrick Semansky.

Did Bloomberg’s campaign target children with YouTube ads?” via Florida Politics — Why was Bloomberg wasting resources serving ads to children? He wasn’t. It was completely unintentional. But because of recent changes to YouTube’s political ad policy, children will end up seeing as many political ads in 2020 as most adults. Why? The reason behind so many children seeing Bloomberg’s digital ads has to do with how political campaigns are forced to target their advertising efforts on YouTube’s platform. The problem is that a lot of people who use YouTube aren’t always logged in when viewing content — YouTube can’t determine the user’s age. This results in these users falling into the “unknown” age range category. A vast amount of people fall into YouTube’s “unknown” category, including many likely-voting adults.


We can still avoid the worst-case scenario” via Lawrence Gostin in The Atlantic — A novel coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China, and within eight weeks circumnavigated the globe. As cases mount in the United States, Americans are wondering what our towns and cities might look like weeks or months from now. A major crisis, causing widespread illness, lost livelihoods, and social isolation, could leave the nation even more divided. We have a short window of opportunity to stem the worst-case scenario, and a surge response now could fill major gaps in preparedness. Following the virus’s rapid spread beyond China (which has been worst in South Korea, Italy, and Iran), many Americans are likely to become sick, and some will be hospitalized or die. COVID-19 has already sickened and killed nursing-home residents in Washington State, among others.

There is still a way to avoid the worst of the coronavirus crisis. Image via AP.

Fed survey finds coronavirus impacting parts of U.S. economy” via Martin Crutsinger of The Associated Press — The Federal Reserve’s latest nationwide survey of business conditions has found that the coronavirus outbreak has begun to impact tourism and disrupt manufacturing chains in parts of the United States. The survey compiled by the Fed’s 12 regional banks and released Wednesday found that growth through late February continued at a moderate rate. But it noted that concerns are rising about how the virus that began in China might impact the U.S. economy. Tourism from China is being affected, and American manufacturers are starting to report supply chain delays, the report said. The Fed’s San Francisco regional bank reported that the COVID-19 outbreak has led to decreased demand for aircraft from China and other Southeast Asian nations.

Senate passes $8 billion coronavirus package, sending it to Trump’s desk for approval” via Christal Hayes of USA TODAY — The Senate passed a roughly $8 billion supplemental spending package on Thursday that aims to combat the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S., sending the massive bill to Trump for his signature. The package, which passed in the Senate on a 96-1 vote, will replace the initial White House request of $2.5 billion, an amount that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agreed was not enough to battle the virus that has rapidly spread across the globe and so far killed at least 11 people in the U.S. The only vote against the funding came from Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

U.S. will miss coronavirus test rollout goal, Senators say” via Daniel Flatley, John Tozzi and Shira Stein of Bloomberg — The Trump administration won’t be able to meet its promised timeline of having a million coronavirus tests available by the end of the week, Senators said after a briefing from health officials. “There won’t be a million people to get a test by the end of the week,” Sen. Rick Scott said. “It’s way smaller than that. And still, at this point, it’s still through public-health departments.” Scott and other lawmakers said the government is “in the process” of sending test kits out, and people still need to be trained on how to use them. The entire process could take days or weeks, they said.

Scientists were close to a coronavirus vaccine years ago. Then the money dried up.” via Mike Hixenbaugh of NBC News — Dr. Peter Hotez says he made the pitch to anyone who would listen. After years of research, his team of scientists in Texas had helped develop a vaccine to protect against a deadly strain of coronavirus. Now they needed money to begin testing it in humans. But this was 2016. “We tried like heck to see if we could get investors or grants to move this into the clinic,” said Hotez, co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital and Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “But we just could not generate much interest.” That was a big missed opportunity, according to Hotez and other vaccine scientists.

Nurses battling coronavirus beg for protective gear and better planning” via Farah Stockman and Mike Baker of The New York Times — In the fight against the coronavirus, nurses play a critical role. Still, some on the front lines in the hardest-hit areas in the United States say they fear that their health is not being made a priority. Nurses in Washington State and California said they have had to beg for N95 masks, which are thicker than surgical masks and block out much smaller particles, and have faced ridicule from colleagues when expressing concerns about catching the highly contagious virus. Some have complained about being pulled out of quarantine early to treat patients because of staff shortages. “If nurses aren’t safe, then really our community isn’t safe,” said Jenny Managhebi, a clinical nurse at the University of California, Davis.

The Life Care Center in Kirkland near Seattle, where dozens of people associated with the facility are reportedly ill with symptoms of COVID-19 coronavirus. Image via AP Photo/Ted S. Warren.

As coronavirus spreads, the people who prepare your food probably don’t have paid sick leave” via Kimberly Kindy of The Washington Post — As the threat of the coronavirus grows in the United States, public-health experts are concerned about it being spread by sickened food service workers who prepare, serve and deliver a significant share of the meals consumers eat each day. Americans depend heavily on food service workers. Half of all the money spent on food in the United States is for meals prepared in restaurants, cafeterias, food trucks and delis, according to Technomic, a restaurant industry research group. That amounts to about one-quarter of all meals Americans consume. The National Restaurant Association has renewed efforts to reeducate workers about safe food-handling procedures in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Coronavirus anxiety is everywhere, and there is no cure” via Maura Judkis and Avi Selk of The Washington Post — The coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19 has already transformed our personal worlds. A subway pole is now a memento mori. And in New York City, which acknowledged its first case of COVID-19 on Sunday (and has since confirmed several more), everyone is coughing. At least, that’s how it seems to Ezra Butler. The 38-year-old consultant the other night found himself surrounded by sneezing people in a Broadway theater. He sees people coughing on the street and sniffling on the subway. “I will hold my breath, and the second we get to the station, I’ll go and switch cars,” he says. Symptom of coronavirus: shortness of breath. Symptom of coronavirus anxiety: holding of breath.

Conspiracy theorists blame U.S. for coronavirus. China is happy to encourage them.” via Gerry Smith of The Washington Post — The United States is concealing the true scale of its coronavirus deaths. The United States should learn from China about how to respond to an epidemic. The United States was the origin of the coronavirus — and the global crisis was never China’s fault. Welcome to the Chinese Internet this week. As new coronavirus cases and the sense of panic ebb in China, the country that was first struck by the disease has been gripped by a wave of nationalist pride, conspiracy theories and a perennial mix of anti-American sentiments: suspicion, superiority, schadenfreude.


Sarasota Memorial Hospital patients test negative” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The first group of Sarasota Memorial Hospital patients tested for coronavirus do not have the disease, hospital officials said. Sarasota Memorial sent the first batch of samples from 14 patients to a state lab for coronavirus testing. “We are happy to report that the results we have received to date have been negative, but there are many viruses circulating this time of year and many more tests that will be run,” Sarasota Memorial CEO David Verinder said in a news release. “We have to remain vigilant and prepared for that to change.” Some coronavirus test results for Sarasota Memorial patients are still pending.

As Disney, Universal add hand sanitizers over coronavirus, visitors play it cool. ‘I’m not going to be a hermit.’” via Gabrielle Russon, Dewayne Bevil, Kathleen Christiansen and Patrick Connolly of the Orlando Sentinel — Minnesota tourist Chris McKeever said he wasn’t that worried on his Universal trip with his wife and two children. “We’re not licking any of the escalators or rails or anything,” he joked. The use of sunscreen was more evident than hand sanitizer at the Magic Kingdom, as parents sprayed down their children. Only one person — a child who belonged to a family that didn’t speak English — was observed wearing a surgical mask. Disney and Universal already have closed their theme parks in Asia, a move that will cost them millions of dollars. Locally, many in the theme parks industry are worried whether the virus could strike Orlando, where tourism is king, and Spring Break is not far away.

Hand sanitizer stations have been popping up throughout Disney World, Universal.

Movie industry braces for major hit due to coronavirus” via Sara Fischer of Axios — The film industry is on pace to lose billions of dollars due to the deadly coronavirus outbreak around the world, according to analysts. In the U.S., the largest box office in the world, consumers who are spooked by the virus have little incentive to leave their houses to see a movie if they can stream something at home. In China, the second-largest global box office, most theaters have been temporarily closed. The Chinese box office has so far lost an estimated $200 million in 2020. Studios are beginning to rethink their rollout strategies, especially as many are reliant on Chinese box office revenues.

Madness or precaution? Group calls on NCAA to hold basketball tournament without fans” via Mark Bergin of Florida Politics — “In regard to the NCAA’s March Madness Tournament and other athletic events, there should be a serious discussion about holding competitions without an audience present,” the National College Players Association wrote. The NCPA also suggested the NCAA should consider canceling off-the-court events that would put players in contact with fans. “In the wake of the emerging coronavirus pandemic, the NCAA and its colleges should take precautions to protect college athletes,” the group wrote. “They should also make public which actions will be taken and when. Precautions should include canceling all auxiliary events that put players in contact with crowds such as meet and greets and press events.”

Starbucks suspends use of personal cups over COVID-19 concerns” via Carl Lisciandrello of WUSF — In a letter to customers, President of U.S. Retail Rossann Williams spelled out several measures: “We are pausing the use of personal cups and ‘for here ware in our stores. We will continue to honor the 10-cent discount for anyone who brings in a personal cup or asks for ‘for here’ ware.” In addition to the company is restricting all domestic and international business-related air travel until the end of the month; modifying or postponing large meetings; increasing standards for cleaning and sanitizing; educating store teams on how to report whether the virus may have impacted someone, and implementing support if a store needs to close due to a positive test.

How coronavirus spread in New York: from a man to his family. Then a neighbor. Then friends.” via Ben Guarino, Sarah Pulliam Bailey and Paul Schwartzman of The Washington Post — In 48 hours, what began as one family’s medical crisis had spiraled well beyond their Westchester County home, shuttering Jewish schools and synagogues and crystallizing the virus’s power to propel anxiety across a region that is among the nation’s most densely populated. While Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged calm, news of the virus’s latest victims spread through close-knit Orthodox communities in the family’s hometown of New Rochelle and across New York City, where pockets of Jews frequent the same kosher restaurants and attend the same schools, weddings, bar mitzvahs and funerals.

What the impact of coronavirus looks like from space” via Christoph Koettl and Meg Felling of The New York Times — The Times used satellite images to track the impact of the coronavirus on the economy and daily life around the world. Before and after photos show deserted public spaces in Tokyo Disneyland, Fatima Masoumeh Shrine in Iran, Duomo Di Milano in Milan, Tiananmen Square in Beijing, and others worldwide. Aerial photos also show closed factories and empty airports.

A dog has a ‘low-level’ coronavirus infection” via Karin Brulliard of The Washington Post — A pet dog in Hong Kong has a “low-level” infection of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 in people, in what may be the first known human-to-animal transmission of the novel coronavirus. The case has raised the specter that dogs might be swept into the epidemic, which, even now, public health officials say does not appear to infect or be spread by pets. But experts say much remains unknown about the dog’s infection, and they emphasized the lone case is not yet cause for alarm or reassessments about interactions with pets. The dog is owned by a person who was hospitalized with COVID — 19, and it has been quarantined since Feb. 26, according to Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.


Commercial growing of hemp around the corner in Florida” via Kevin Bouffard of The Ledger — The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will begin issuing permits for commercial growing of industrial hemp within a month. Perhaps Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried should consider issuing red flags along with the permits. “Don’t spend any more money than you are willing to lose,” Tyler Mark, an agricultural economist at the University of Kentucky, told more than 50 Florida agriculture leaders and academics at the Florida Agriculture Policy Outlook Conference 2020. Kentucky became the leading state for commercial hemp production after experimental pilot programs for the crop were authorized in the 2014 federal Farm Bill. About 24,000 hemp acres were planted in the state last year, said Mark, a leading authority on the industry.

Assignment editorsLakeisha Hood, Director of Food, Nutrition, and Wellness for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, will present a proclamation from Ag. Commissioner Fried to the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind during an “out of this world” school breakfast celebration in recognition of National School Breakfast Week, 10:30 a.m., Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, 207 San Marco Avenue, St. Augustine.

Assignment editors — Florida TaxWatch will honor J.E.B. Stuart Middle School principal Sadie Milliner-Smith with the 2019-20 Principal Leadership Award, 9:45 a.m., J.E.B. Stuart Middle School, 4815 Wesconnett Blvd., Jacksonville.


Bahamas plans deep water oil drilling. First site is 150 miles off South Florida” via Adriana Brasileiro of the Miami Herald — Bahamas Petroleum Company said in a regulatory filing earlier this year that it will drill its first exploration well, called Perseverance #1, in deep offshore waters as early as April. The company said preliminary seismic testing showed the area has potential oil reserves of more than 2 billion barrels. The Bahamas is only the latest island nation to hunt for black gold that lies under turquoise waters — a trend that environmentalists say poses a slew of potential threats to marine systems from the Caribbean to Florida. “We believe this is an activity that poses a significant risk to the environment and tourism in the area,’” Diane Hoskins, a campaign director for the conservation nonprofit Oceana.


Trump gets a fact check on coronavirus vaccines — from his own officials” via Arthur Allen and Meredith McGraw of POLITICO — Trump has long claimed to know more than the authorities on a long list of things — TV ratings, taxes, campaigns, firefighting, water management, and Twitter, to name a few — but the stakes for his exaggerations have rarely been so high. Indicating that a cure might be around the corner may cause inadequate preparation for the possibility that the disease could spread more widely through the U.S. ”I observe that the President has been listening, but since he’s not a scientist I don’t think he understands the nuances,” said William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University. “And besides, he has an understandable tendency to walk on the sunny side of the street.”

Donald Trump gets a real-time fact check on how vaccines work. Image via Reuters.

White House sidelines Alex Azar from coronavirus response” via Dan Diamond, Sarah Owermohle and Meridith McGraw of POLITICO — There will be a notable omission when Vice President Mike Pence visits Washington state as part of the Trump administration’s coronavirus response: Health Secretary Azar. The White House also benched Azar from a coronavirus task force press briefing, the latest sign of diminished standing for an official who was the face of the U.S. response to the disease just a week ago. Azar’s absence didn’t go unnoticed by allies worried about his standing in the administration and the way he’s catching more flak for missteps. Azar was front and center Thursday at a Capitol Hill briefing with House members, during which he took heat from some lawmakers over transparency and whether his department is adequately prepared for the stealthy disease.

Marco Rubio urges Trump to sign $8.3B coronavirus package” via Mark Bergin of Florida Politics — Rubio applauded the Senate for passing a measure that will provide $8.3 billion in emergency funding to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. If Trump signs the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act into law, it will secure more than $27.2 million for Florida. “This emergency supplemental package will provide critical resources to approve therapies to help treat the coronavirus, and to ultimately develop a vaccine,” Rubio said. “Importantly, this package provides resources to Florida’s small businesses and community health centers that are going to be on the front lines of dealing with the coronavirus.”

Rubio and the crusade to stop changing the time” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — We go through this Daylight Saving Time change every year. That’s even though the Florida government agreed to abolish the time change in 2018, and the state’s congressional delegation, led by Rubio, has been trying to get federal approval ever since. But Congress won’t act on Florida’s and Rubio’s request. How annoyed can we expect the Senator to be? He posted a video on Instagram and Twitter showing, in dramatic fashion, quite a bit. “So, we’re about to do one of the stupidest things we do every year, and that is having to move our clock forward and move our clock back. It makes no sense. There’s no reason to keep doing it.”

Federal judge calls Attorney General William Barr’s handling of Robert Mueller report ‘distorted’ and ‘misleading’” via Charlie Savage of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A federal judge on Thursday sharply criticized Attorney General Barr’s handling of the report by the special counsel, Mueller, saying that Barr put forward a “distorted” and “misleading” account of its findings and lacked credibility on the topic. Judge Reggie Walton said Barr could not be trusted and cited “inconsistencies” between his statements about the report when it was secret and its actual contents that turned out to be more damaging to Trump. Walton said Barr’s “lack of candor” called “into question Attorney General Barr’s credibility and, in turn, the department’s” assurances to the court.

Assignment editors — U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel and Ted Deutch will join representatives of the Palm Beach County Health Department, the Palm Beach County School District, the Chamber of Commerce, emergency services and local governments to discuss concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, prevention techniques, and possible impacts on South Florida, 3 p.m., Mandel Library, 3rd Floor, 411 Clematis Street, West Palm Beach.

GOP grumbling over GAO look at Minor League Baseball” via Michael Teitelbaum of Roll Call — The House Oversight and Reform panel debated legislation that would require the Government Accountability Office to do an evaluation of the social, economic, and historic contributions that Minor League Baseball has made to American life and culture. The measure, which comes as Major League Baseball looks to cut dozens of the teams after the current season, was approved by voice vote. Several conservative Republicans had qualms about having the panel spend time on baseball when there were other more pressing items, such as coronavirus or the national debt, to be working on. “I find it outside of the parameters of reality” that the panel was holding a markup about a bill on baseball, said Louisiana Republican Clay Higgins.


A new Florida Chamber of Commerce poll shows bipartisan agreement; it’s too easy to pass amendments to Florida’s Constitution.

About 70% of likely voters say the process to get an amendment of the ballot should change. Only 14% say the process works well and needs no adjustment.

“While the Florida Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis have enacted measures that have brought transparency to the signature-gathering process, given voters more information at the ballot, and protected our state’s foundational document from constitutional clutter, Floridians recognize there’s still more work to be done to improve this process,” said David Hart, Executive Vice President, Florida Chamber.

The Chamber specifically polled support for SB 1794 and HB 7037, described as legislation providing greater transparency and allowing voters more information about measures before voting.

The poll found 60% of likely voters favor the specific legislation as described, while 21 oppose it.

The support exists across party lines. The strongest showing came from Republicans, where 69% of those polled favor the reform, and 14% oppose it. But among independents, 57% support and 24% oppose the bills.

And even among Democrats, 55% favor the change, while 27% are opposed.

The Chamber also posed the question of whether the Legislature needs to stop special interests from abusing the amendment process.

There, a resounding 78% of voters said yes, while 15% disagreed.

Questioned in that form, 75% of Democrats, 78% of Republicans, and 84% of independents agreed with the need to stop abuse. Just 11% of independents, 14% of Republicans and 18% of Democrats disagreed.


Happening today — U.S. Rep. Greg Steube is holding a fundraiser for his CD 17 reelection effort, 5:30 p.m., Gold Coast Eagle Distributing, 7051 Wireless Ct., Sarasota.

Markeis McGlockton family attorney Michele Rayner enters race to replace Wengay Newton” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Rayner is a civil rights and social justice attorney in the Tampa Bay area and has tried both local and national high-profile cases in Pinellas County. She was one of the attorneys who represented the McDonald’s employee attacked by a customer in south St. Pete. Video of the attack went viral after the employee fought back against her attacker, who was later arrested. She also represented the family of McGlockton, a man gunned down in a Clearwater parking lot in 2018 whose case reignited the debate about Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. She joins two other Democrats in the race to replace Newton, who is running instead for Pinellas County Commission.

Michele Rayner is entering the HD 70 race. Image via Michele Rayner.

LGBTQ group to host Miami-Dade mayoral town hall” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Safeguarding American Values for Everyone (SAVE), a Miami-based organization that promotes LGBTQ rights, is scheduled to host a town hall featuring several candidates for Miami-Dade Mayor. That town hall will take place on March 30 at Miami-Dade College. So far, Miami-Dade County Commissioners Daniella Levine Cava and Xavier Suarez have confirmed attendance, as has former Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas. “It is such a historic election year, and we want to give you the chance to hear directly from the Mayoral candidates,” a Thursday release from SAVE said. SAVE describes itself as an “organization dedicated to protecting people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) against discrimination.”

Retired Tampa police major can’t run for Hillsborough sheriff as a Democrat, records show” via Tony Marrero of the Tampa Bay Times — The retired Tampa police major who jumped into the race for Hillsborough County sheriff this week announced his intention to run as a Democrat in his bid to unseat the incumbent Republic sheriff. There’s a problem, though. The law says he can’t. Ronald McMullen switched his party registration from Republican to Democrat on Jan. 22, according to the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections. The deadline was June 8, 2019. State law says that candidates must sign an oath saying they have not been a registered member of any other political party for 365 days before the beginning of qualifying. Qualifying for the sheriff’s race begins on June 8.


JEA board will decide fate of controversial contracts” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — JEA will take the unusual step of elevating a decision to the utility’s board of directors on whether to ratify three no-bid contracts that were approved during now-abandoned negotiations for selling JEA. After General Counsel Jason Gabriel determined three contracts with outside firms did not go through the required procurement process, JEA initially planned to put the contracts on the agenda for the JEA Awards Committee to vote Thursday on ratifying the contracts. City Councilmember Rory Diamond, who is chairman of a special council investigative committee examining the sales process, and City Ethics Officer Carla Miller voiced objections earlier this week. Diamond said JEA should wait until after the council’s investigative committee finishes its review.

Coronavirus fears cancel health conference in Orlando that Trump was supposed to visit” via Ryan Gillespie, Steven Lemongello, Chabeli Carrazana and Marco Santana of the Orlando Sentinel — Escalating concerns about coronavirus prompted the cancellation of a conference of 44,000 health care professionals that was set to begin Monday and feature an appearance by Trump. “Industry understanding of the potential reach of the virus has changed significantly in the last 24 hours,” which made assessing risk “impossible,” said a statement from the Healthcare Informational and Management Systems Society. The group also said it was worried about taking attendees, many of whom work at hospitals around the world, away from their communities “should the virus continue spreading.” Organizers of the HIMSS Global Health Conference & Exhibition also expressed concerns about stressing the health system in Central Florida “were there to be an adverse event,” said spokeswoman Karen Groppe.

UCF-backed BRIDG in Kissimmee ousts CEO as it continues to seek private investment” via Marco Santana of the Orlando Sentinel — The manufacturing site BRIDG in Kissimmee, which has recently struggled to find investors for its 109,000-square-foot, high-tech, sensor research facility, has ousted its CEO. Former Lockheed Martin executive Chester Kennedy will be replaced on an interim basis by Brian Sapp, who had overseen partnerships and technical performance at BRIDG. “I’m just hoping the emotional responses will fade with my separation and that the project will be properly funded for success,” he said. A rift between the school and BRIDG emerged late last year, when UCF board members delayed a decision on a $5 million investment, so new board members had time to learn about the facility.

’Rights of nature’ amendment heading to ballot in Orange County” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The Orange County Charter Review Commission voted to place on the county ballot a proposal known as the “Wekiva and Econlockhatchee Rivers Bill of Rights” that would declare those rivers have the rights to not be polluted. The amendment would authorize citizens or the county government to sue anyone, including corporations, for polluting them. The proposal is part of a rising international strategy for environmentalists seeking to create a new way to protect natural features from pollution and degradation. In the United States, Pittsburgh and Toledo, Ohio, have passed similar laws, but Toledo’s was struck down just last week in a federal court in Ohio. Pittsburgh’s has to do with fracking and has not been challenged.

The Wekiva River could get its own rights.


Should the FBI investigate the city of Tampa? Bill Carlson drops a bombshell” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — City Council member Carlson suggested that Florida’s third-largest city might be vulnerable to an FBI investigation into the way it awards city contracts. Carlson didn’t provide any evidence for his claims and couched them by saying he just wanted to make sure city officials weren’t committing illegal acts. The comments arose from a routine staff report. They exploded into acrimony as Carlson pointed a finger at the administration of former Mayor Bob Buckhorn. Councilmember John Dingfelder also said he has long been concerned about single-bid contracts, where the city awards money after receiving only one response after issuing a request for proposals.

Man’s deportation halted after Orange-Osceola state attorney helps toss ‘illegal conviction’” via Monivette Cordeiro of the Orlando Sentinel — Dwayne Brown, a 44-year-old Central Florida man who immigrated to the U.S. from Jamaica as a teenager, was returning from a wedding in his native country in 2015 when he was detained by immigration officials due to a criminal conviction years earlier, putting him on the path to deportation. He was spared that fate thanks to an unusual partner in fighting his conviction: Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala. Though her office typically prosecutes crimes, its Conviction Integrity Unit investigates claims of innocence by those already found guilty. Brown, Ayala’s team found, had been wrongly prosecuted. He has since become the first person whose conviction the unit helped reverse. “For five years, I didn’t sleep,” Brown said between tears.

She was 7 pounds and starved to death. Her neglectful parents should be executed, prosecutors say” via Marc Freeman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Tayla Aleman’s parents insisted she’d been eating. The girl’s autopsy told an entirely different story. Here was a 13-month-old who weighed only 7 pounds when she died — about 2 pounds less than she did at birth. On top of this “extreme developmental delay,” Tayla also had the flu, pneumonia and several serious infections before she stopped breathing inside a rural Palm Beach County home. The hospital emergency room doctor called it the worst case of starvation he’d ever seen. And the medical examiner said Tayla’s death on April 1, 2016, was a homicide. Investigators discovered the toddler had lived in a filthy, smelly, bug-infested house with hardly any food for the family’s 10 children and a caged dog.

Prosecution doctor: Killer insane when he bit victim’s face” via Terry Spencer of The Associated Press — A prosecution psychiatrist says a Florida college student was legally insane when he fatally attacked a couple outside their home, chewing off part of the man’s face. Dr. Gregory Landrum’s finding bolsters the case of Austin Harrouff’s attorneys, who are planning to argue the 23-year-old should be found not guilty by reason of insanity at his murder trial, which had been scheduled for May but was postponed. He faces a life sentence if convicted of murdering John Stevens and Michelle Mishcon Stevens in August 2016. Landrum outlined Harrouff’s declining mental state before the killings, including God and demons talking to him, increasing paranoia and other hallucinations. He noted that Harrouff is being treated for schizophrenia while jailed.

A psychologist hired by prosecutors determined that ‘face biter’ defendant Austin Harrouff was legally insane under Florida law. Image via WBPF.

Clermont woman charged with falsifying voter records” via John Cutter of the Orlando Sentinel — Authorities charged a Clermont woman Thursday with submitting false registration information that switched party affiliations without voters’ knowledge. Cheryl A. Hall, 63, turned herself in Thursday, a day after officials announced that 119 voter forms were falsified, including some that changed registrations from Democrat or no party affiliation to Republican. Others had their party affiliation removed. According to court documents, Hall was working for Florida First, an organization that helps register voters. She submitted forms to the Lake elections supervisor, which flagged them because they included incorrect information, such as driver’s license numbers and dates of birth, authorities said.


Students need robust CTE pathways to fill America’s skills gap. Here are 3 things states must do to make this happen” via Jeb Bush for — Career and technical education (CTE), when done right, can transform communities and the many businesses in them. But high-quality offerings are key, and ensuring them requires three critical steps. First, states must have robust data on their CTE programs, including program demand, enrollments, job placements and student outcomes. Second, state CTE programs must be aligned with actual job openings, current industry demands and business growth in the region. Third, quality matters. A lot. CTE is not a jobs program. It is a sequence of rigorous education and training that can help provide a lifetime of economic mobility for families and build long-term prosperity for states, regions and cities.


How worried should you be about the coronavirus?” via Max Fisher of The New York Times — One of the most common questions asked of health experts about the new coronavirus is some variation of the same thing: How worried should I be? It’s a complicated question for two reasons. First, while global knowledge of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, is growing every day, much remains unknown. Many cases are thought to be mild or asymptomatic, for example, making it hard to gauge how wide the virus has spread or how deadly it is. Second, much of the risk comes not from the virus itself but from how it affects the societies it hits.

I voted early for a candidate who dropped out of the race. What can I do about it?” via Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald — The candidates have the prerogative to change their minds about running. You, the voter, on the other hand, are stuck. Voters in Florida don’t get a do-over in the voting booth or by mail. “In the State of Florida, you’re only allowed to vote once,” said Suzy Trutie, deputy supervisor of elections for the Miami-Dade County Elections Department. Florida is pretty firm on the issue, even if people have wasted a vote on a candidate who has dropped out. There’s a Florida statute that states if voters try to cast another vote if the first choice drops out — or for any other reason — they could be charged with fraud.

Endorsement: Biden is the man of the hour for Florida and the nation” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — It is critical to replace Trump, who has proved himself unfit and unworthy in every respect, with someone who deserves the trust of America and the respect of the world. This is why we strongly recommend Biden in Florida’s March 17 Democratic primary. No one else has done so much for so long to earn the nation’s highest trust. Biden’s nomination would enhance Democratic chances in Congress and in state legislatures, where the next round of redistricting comes next year.

Times recommends: Biden for Democrats” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — As both political parties tilt toward their extremes, Biden could steer the country toward the middle with a steady hand. As both political parties tilt toward their extremes, Biden could steer the country toward the middle with a steady hand. Unlike the incumbent, though, Biden has evolved in his thinking over the years and is in line with today’s mainstream Democrats.

6-year-old Kaia Rolle’s arrest justified a big change, but lawmakers haven’t delivered” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — It requires a hard heart to think it’s OK for a cop to zip-tie a 6-year-old, march the child into a squad car, snap her mug shot, take fingerprints and detain her. All because she threw a tantrum earlier. That’s what a pair of bills in the state House and Senate would have stopped except in rare circumstances. That opportunity to do good, to make Florida better, might get squandered by lawmakers who could only bring themselves to approve a weak substitute. Instead of a new law that prevents cops from arresting little kids, an amendment was tacked onto a separate bill that only requires law enforcement agencies to have a policy for arresting kids 10 years old or younger.


Ariel Sepulveda joins Miami-Dade Democratic Party as new Field Director” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Miami-Dade Democratic Party is hiring Sepulveda — the former Organizing Director for Engage Miami — as its new Field Director. The Miami-Dade Dems announced a Thursday release. Party Chair Steve Simeonidis issued a statement confirming the news. “I’m incredibly excited that Ariel has joined our team,” Simeonidis said. “With her experience, she is going to be an immediate asset to all progressive campaigns in our county.” She now joins a local Democratic Party that will play host to several competitive contests this cycle. “The key to success in 2020 for Democrats running up and down the ballot, will be our ground game in communities,” Sepulveda added in a Thursday statement.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Chris Carmody, Christopher Dawson, Katie Flury, Ty Jackson, George Levesque, Kirk Pepper, Joseph Salzverg, Robert Stuart, Jason Unger, GrayRobinson: Arnold & Winnie Palmer Foundation, City of Hollywood,

Herbert Gibson, Swell Media: American Water Security Project

Fred Karlinsky, Timothy Stanfield, Greenberg Traurig: Fortune Settlement Solutions, Manitoba Harvest USA

Elnatan Rudolph, Converge Government Affairs of Florida: City of West Miami, Florida Swimming Pool Association, Town of Cutler Bay, Town of Surfside



Battleground Florida with Christopher Heath: Christian Ziegler, the vice chairman of the Republican Party of Florida stops by to talk keeping Florida red, preparing for 2020, and what congressional seats the GOP is targeting in the Sunshine State.

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. Latvala introduces a very special guest — former radio man and his current political intern, Michael Johnson (aka Lumpy), who describes his journey to the state Capitol.

Fluent in Floridian: As Executive Director of Florida House on Capitol Hill, Diana Beckmann and her team have worked tirelessly to help the nation’s only state embassy reach its fullest potential. By elevating the space and collaborating with partners on visitor and staff experience, Beckmann is bringing a true sense of rejuvenation to this historic building while staying true to its objective of connecting, celebrating and championing Florida to the world.

Inside Florida Politics from GateHouse Florida: The first cases of coronavirus have been detected in Florida. Journalists John Kennedy and Zac Anderson look at how DeSantis is responding to coronavirus, how the results of the Super Tuesday presidential primary contests could impact Florida’s March 17 primary, and what’s happening in Tallahassee as Florida’s 60-day Legislative Session winds down.


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 Florida Federation of GOP Women President Deborah Tamargo, attorney Ron Christaldi, Florida Politics reporter Janelle Irwin Taylor and independent journalist Mike Deeson.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion of the importance of the upcoming 2020 Census and what it can mean for Floridians over the next 10 years. Joining Walker-Torres to discuss are Glen Gilzean, president and CEO Central Florida Urban League, appointed to State of Florida’s 2020 Census Committee; Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch; Robert McFalls, president and CEO of Florida Philanthropic Network, one of the eight nonprofits spearheading Florida Counts; Jenny Gallego, Florida Program Manager, NALEO Educational Fund.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A breakdown of Super Tuesday results and what’s next; a discussion with Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer about preparing for the Florida primary and election security; and a close look at the race for Mayor of Safety Harbor.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon talks with pollster Steve Vancore, attorney Sean Pittman and Pamela Marsh from the First Amendment Foundation.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Guests include Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute Director Rick Mullaney and Duval County School Board Chair Warren Jones.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg will speak with Dr. Aileen Marty, professor of Infectious Diseases at Florida International University and infectious disease specialist Dr. Jose G. Castro.

— ALOE —

Here’s why health experts want to stop daylight saving time” via Sumathi Reddy of The Wall Street Journal — Many health experts say the switch should be to permanent standard time and are calling for an end to daylight saving time. Studies have compared the rate of heart attacks and strokes immediately after switching to daylight saving time to other times of the year. Clock changes affect our internal circadian clocks, which are in every cell in our body and influence our biological workings, from hormone levels to blood pressure. All our biological functions oscillate daily with our circadian rhythm, and disrupting this internal clock can affect our health. The Society for Research on Biological Rhythms published a study last year calling for abolishing daylight saving time.

Hulu’s ‘Hillary’ turns a tale of defeat into a personal history of modern feminism” via Hank Stuever of The Washington Post — “Hillary” is a salvage operation, but not of the reputation of the person who won the 2016 popular vote by roughly 3 million; she doesn’t need any rescuing. Instead, it repurposes some great film footage that begs to be seen, more than 2,000 hours of inside access to the campaign. Filmmaker Nanette Burstein has taken that footage and shaped it into a rather sleek and highly watchable version of the joys and anguish of being Clinton, culminating in her electoral loss to Trump. What emerges is an artfully structured personal history of modern feminism, told in the context of a country and culture still grappling with a daunting degree of gender bias.

Tom Hanks takes on WW2 Nazi U-boats in ‘Greyhound’ trailer” via Robin Bacior of — In the new preview, we find Hanks as captain Ernest Krause. In his first command of a U.S. destroyer, Krause is set to lead a convoy of 37 Allied ships across the Atlantic Ocean. It doesn’t take long before the journey across the wild water gets treacherous, and the captain and his troops hit trouble involving packs of Nazi U-boats. Directed by Aaron Schneider, Greyhound also stars Stephen Graham, Rob Morgan, and Elisabeth Shue. Look for the film in theaters beginning June 12.

To watch the trailer, click on the image below:


Belated wishes to Trey McCarley. Happy birthday to Rep. Juan Fernandez-Barquin. Celebrating this weekend are Reps. Michael Bileca and Joe Geller, journalist Rochelle Koff, and Ryan Smith.


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.


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

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