Here’s Brunch, a pop-up, weekend email during the 2020 Legislative Session — 3.8.20

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

Good Sunday morning. 

👩‍🔬 — Today is International Women’s Day. Take a moment to celebrate the important women in your life. Also, take a moment to read up on the work of influential women in your community.

⏰ — Did you remember to move your clocks forward an hour? Of course, you did. But that doesn’t help settle down your children or your pets who don’t understand Daylight Saving Time. Good luck trying to get your kids to sleep tonight at their normal bedtime when it’s still light outside. As for the pets, well, this may be breaking news to some of you, but they don’t set their routines by the clock that we use as humans to keep on schedule. Maybe Marco Rubio is right

💬 Breaking overnight — The AFL-CIO scrapped its forum featuring Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, citing the uptick in coronavirus cases in Florida, which reported its first deaths on Saturday. The event was slated for Thursday at Walt Disney World.

🏀 — Congrats to the ‘Noles. The men’s basketball squad notched an 80-62 win over Boston College last night to seal the deal on the ACC regular-season title for the first time since joining the conference. With a two-round bye in the ACC tournament, a No. 1 seed in the big dance is also on the table.

— Ruining brunch —

We hate ruining the buzz of the mimosas, but news of the spread of coronavirus in Florida this weekend has proved a bit sobering.

— Getting fatal: The first deaths from COVID-19 on the U.S. East Coast were both reported in Florida. So that happened. Both were Floridians, but were older than 70s and had traveled overseas. One died in Santa Rosa County, the other in Lee.

— Delayed reports: The news proved startling, as Friday afternoon Gov. Ron DeSantis said Florida hadn’t seen new positives besides three reported last week.

Ron DeSantis reassures Floridians that the state is prepared for any cases of a new strain of coronavirus. Image via Twitter.

Spreading quick: New tests boosted positive tests in Florida to 17. That includes 11 Florida residents, one non-Floridian, and five who contracted the virus elsewhere but have been repatriated and are in isolation.

— All of a sudden: Health officials saw five new positive tests on Saturday alone: one in Lee, one in Charlotte, one in Volusia, one in Manatee, and one in Okaloosa.

— To be fair: But health officials indicate that may be because only three labs in Florida can officially produce a positive test. Also, while the Lee patient died Thursday, she was only diagnosed posthumously.

As of last night, new tests boosted positive tests in Florida to 16. That includes 10 Florida residents, one non-Floridian, and five who contracted the virus elsewhere but have been repatriated and are in isolation.

Where we are in Session

Budget conferees began their first meetings Saturday afternoon ahead of the planned final week of Session. That was a later start date than usual, but meant lawmakers had less to debate over the weekend.

Hold hands and sing Kumbaya: Negotiators settled nearly every topic of contention before the first meeting. Legislative leaders teased at successful agreements already made on VISIT FLORIDA, Sadowski fund sweeping, Florida Forever, and employee pay raises.

Bill Galvano and José Oliva address lawmakers Saturday at The Capitol. They are trying to reconcile a $1.4 billion gap in their respective spending proposals. Image via AP/Bobby Caina Calvan.

$1.4 billion gap: Teacher pay raises, correctional officer pilot plans, and more were still at issue. But those differences were technical rather than substantive.

Mystery guest: Lower committees have until 1 p.m. Monday to strike their deals. Unsettled matters then go to budget chiefs Travis Cummings and Rob Bradley and their committees.

Sine Lie?: With a 72-hour cooling-off period following receipt of the budget, the Legislature looks unlikely to finish the Session by Friday. Bradley and Cummings expect the Legislature to wrap its budget talks by March 16 or 17.

$25M to fight COVID-19

 Christine Sexton reports that House and Senate leaders have agreed to back the response effort with $25 million, matching DeSantis’ late-Session ask.

A little extra. Senate President Galvano posited $10 million to $20 million in funding last week, but when the Guv asked for more, lawmakers quickly decided they wouldn’t stand in the way.

What’ll it pay for? DeSantis spox Meredith Beatrice said the cash would be used for lab supplies and protective equipment such as masks, more staff to investigate and monitor potential cases, and to overhaul public communications efforts.

Oliva’s take: “He said he wanted to ensure that we are going to be supportive of him and the dollars that he is requesting. And we’ve assured him that we will be supportive of him.”

The funding comes as Florida reported its first COVID-19 fatalities. So far, 16 presumptive positives cases have been identified, 100 tests have come back negative, and 88 are pending.

— Pay raise —

Teachers will get $500 million in pay increases.

What happened: The House accepted the Senate’s position even though it initially wanted to spend $650 million.

Worth watching: The big question is how it’s going to be distributed. Will it go more to the new teachers, or will other school staff like bus drivers and counselors also get a piece?

Veteran teachers: Veteran teachers hated Gov. DeSantis’ proposal because it was geared more toward starting teachers, and it overlooked those who have stayed in the field. But lawmakers say they will take care of them.

Bonuses?: Nope. Both chambers gave DeSantis the cold shoulder on that one.

VISIT FLORIDA lives on — 

Good news for embattled VISIT FLORIDA … money to fund the agency will be there for 2020. 

“$50 million, one year”: Rep. Cummings said that the deal was for one year of full funding. While a multiyear extension cannot be ruled out, the idea was “not to tie the hands” of a future Legislature.

Worth watching: Speaker José Oliva lauded the ability of VISIT FLORIDA as a “marketing agency.” Though he is not personally convinced that VF makes or breaks Florida tourism, he conceded that they’ve “certainly convinced the Legislature of their importance.”

Reading the tea leaves: Some cold water from the Speaker. “Add to that coronavirus and the issues the cruise ship companies are having and possibly the theme parks, and there is no doubt that an already difficult argument about an agency that has no power over any of that will once again convince us that but for them, tourists would be leaving.”

Reading the tea leaves: Oliva is out after this year. But if the Legislature is, in fact, “convinced,” there may be a path to avoid the kinds of arguments that characterized the Oliva era, and the Speaker Richard Corcoran era before that.

— No growth —

So far, budget negotiations have been going the Senate’s way on some key issues, from affordable housing to tourism marketing.

Sacrifices: However, there had to be cuts somewhere. One of those was the Job Growth Grant Fund, a pot of money that has often been decried as a “slush fund” for the Governor.

The Job Growth Grant Fund was created in 2017 to help direct funds to regional projects focused on beefing up economic growth.

A fraction. Yes, it will be funded in the 2020 budget, but at a much lower level than previous years: just $10,000,000.

Sen. Travis Hutson, an advocate of the funding, told reporters that funding VISIT FLORIDA and the Sadowski Trust Fund meant sacrifices needed to be made. “I think it’s important to the Gov.,” Hutson said. “We’re certainly looking at it.”

There’s only so much. Ultimately, funding needs elsewhere dictated the lowest single-year funding that the Fund has had since instituted as one of several executive branch-driven incentive programs during the Gov. Rick Scott administration.

— No sweep —

No Sadowski sweep this year. The House agrees to a $370 million top-line, though it wants $25 million slotted for Hurricane Michael housing recovery. Still, it’s a long way from the chamber’s original $144 million offer.

Advocates excited. The Sadowski Coalition cheered the news, saying the “full appropriation will mean more than 30,000 jobs and more than $4.4 billion in positive economic impact.”.

Get the nut. House TED budget leader Jay Trumbull put it best: “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then,” he said.

Even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then, says Jay Trumbull.

We’re listening: The House position had been uncompromising in previous years. But not now. House Budget Chief Cummings told the media: “I know you’ve covered that a lot. We hear not only from a lot of constituents, but members also from a bipartisan standpoint … You’ve all reported on it often, rightly so.”

Reading the tea leaves: Oliva is out after this year. But if the Legislature is, in fact, “convinced,” there may be a path to avoid the kinds of arguments that characterized the Oliva era, and the Speaker Corcoran era before that.

Mind the gap: The House offered $115 million for affordable housing programs, $225 million for the State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) Program, and $30 million for the Hurricane Housing Recovery Program. Meanwhile, the Senate’s initial budget outlined $119.8 million for affordable housing and $267.2 million for SHIP. It did not make an initial offer on the hurricane recovery program.

— At long last —

Pay bumps aren’t just for teachers. The Senate has been kicking around an across the board raise for state employees since the early days of Session, and it looks like it’s going to happen.

House on board. Senate Budget Chief Bradley and House counterpart Cummings gave a definitive yes to the across the board raise in a meeting with reporters. That agreement showed the House fully acceding to the Senate’s proposal.

The number: 3%. It’s not the 5% state workers asked for heading into Session, but it’s infinitely higher than the 0% they’ve received in recent years.

That’ll do. Jacqui Carmona, political director of public employee union AFSCME Florida, lauded lawmakers for reaching an agreement in favor of state workers. House Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee also praised the move.

The raises come as lawmakers prepare to put down $500 million-plus to boost starting teacher pay, one of DeSantis’ top priorities. It’s just the third raise for public employees since the Great Recession. 2013 and 2017, employees got flat raises of $1,000 or $1,400, depending on their payscale

— FSU can’t win everything —

Lawmakers haven’t yet funded an FSU Institute of Politics.

What happened: Senate Education Chair Kelli Stargel’s higher ed bill (SB 72) established the Florida Institute of Politics at FSU at a $1 million price tag. The House did not include it in its offer to the Senate.

The Florida Institute of Politics at FSU is a priority for Kelli Stargel; not so much for the House.

Worth watching: The Senate will present its offer back to the House Sunday. Stargel is the Vice-Chair of the Higher Education Budget Conference Committee. So if it’s in the offer, we know it’s a priority.

House’s Position?: Higher Education Budget Conference Committee Chair Randy Fine says he’s open to it. But judging by the offer, he doesn’t want to pay the tab.


Speaker Oliva, an avowed libertarian, is no fan of giving the DeSantis administration the power to randomly audit private businesses to make sure they are using the federal E-Verify program to identify undocumented workers.

A provision in SB 664 from Sen. Tom Lee would allow the Department of Economic Opportunity to randomly check if private employers were either using the federal verification system or keeping a record of all the documents used by applicants to complete an “I-9” form when they are hired. The bill also requires all public employers — local school districts, public universities and city governments — to use E-Verify.

Un-American. “Empowering executive agencies to have police powers and do random checks, that is something that is of tremendous concern,” Oliva said. “We are giving the agency the random ability to show up and do an audit, something about that doesn’t say American to me.”

A better option. Oliva prefers the toned-down House version of the bill, sponsored by Rep. Cord Byrd.

Step aside. After a meeting with lawmakers to start hashing out the state’s $92 billion budget, Oliva suggested DeSantis should not get involved and allow the Legislature to do its work on any potential E-Verify policy, which has been a top priority of the Governor during his campaign.

— Athlete compensation — 

It’s a push supported by DeSantis and led by two Republican sponsors. But a bill allowing college athletes to make money off their name, image, and likeness is still getting into game shape as the 2020 Session nears its close.

What we know: With one more week of Session to go, the House is set to take up the Senate version of the bill (SB 646) after the House measure (HB 7051) was temporarily postponed Friday. GOP Sen. Debbie Mayfield is shepherding the Senate bill. It is ready for a third reading on the Senate side and could be voted on as early as Monday.

What we don’t know: How will the differences in those two bills be aligned? For instance, the House version requires colleges to maintain health and disability insurance in case an athlete is injured before going pro. The Senate has dropped that language from its version. Does the House simply take up the Senate legislation? Or does Rep. Chip LaMarca — the House sponsor — push his colleagues to amend the Senate bill and send it back to the Senate?

When will we know? The Senate only moved its version through second reading on Friday, meaning negotiations are still ongoing for how to make sure the two measures are squared. LaMarca says he’s ready to make progress. “I look forward to having a great discussion on behalf of our 11,000 collegiate athletes in Florida when the House picks up my Senate companion on the floor this coming week so we can get this legislation across the goal line.”

DeSantis held a press conference in October, voicing his support for the push after LaMarca and House Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee offered up dual proposals to make the move a reality. With Republican sponsors behind the push, its supporters still expect it to succeed. But with Session currently scheduled to close on March 13, lawmakers will want to avoid any false starts in negotiating the bill’s final form.

— Exempting exemptions —

Ain’t no sunshine. If the Senate passes a bill sponsored by Education Committee Chair Manny Diaz, state university president searches would be exempt from public records searches.

We’ve seen this before. The Sunshine Law exemption has been a longtime priority for admins at every university statewide, who say current law scares off top-tier candidates with high-level jobs at other universities.

Manny Diaz wants university president searches exempt from public records.

It’s not that popular. University trustees are the only constituency here. Faculty unions aren’t on board, and that means Senate Democrats aren’t either. Since record exemption changes take a two-thirds vote, they’ve been able to stave it off.

This year’s different. Sen. Annette Taddeo has offered up an amendment that would exempt university president searches but keep college exec searches out in the open.

Good enough. Diaz says he can live with the compromise. That gets Taddeo on board, giving the measure at least one backer across the aisle. How many she’ll bring with her is unknown — it’ll take 27 votes, and there are 23 Republicans in the Senate. At least one, GOP Sen. Lee, isn’t a big fan.

— For your radar —

When the dust settles from this palpably different kind of Legislative Session, the ongoing financial scandal regarding the Florida Council Against Domestic Violence will be among the few issues most remembered.

In focus. While lawmakers and others in the Process will return home to their families and lives, intense focus will appropriately remain on getting all the facts about that wasteful mess and bringing accountability and justice to those culpable. You can be sure there will be more investigations, more hearings, more drama than we’ve already witnessed.

Public trust is a sacred thing; for everyone in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. It isn’t automatically earned, but it can be instantly destroyed. That’s already part of the tragic fallout from this still-growing human-made tragedy. The more we learn, the more we’re stunned by how this extreme abuse of power and position could have ever been allowed, let alone grown worse over the course of several years.

A hard look. At some point soon, good people who toil in the fields of public service should take an honest, hard look at their own structures to see if their checks and balances are enough to protect their organizations’ missions from a similar scandal. If this scandal has shown us anything, it’s that all such organizations need to be insulated from even one bad actor intent on doing wrong.

A good plan. This week, we’ll take a closer look at some thoughtful, smart suggestions from one of Florida’s top financial experts, James Moore & Company accountants. They recommend action steps that can build in more accountability and protection for organizations, their mission, their funders and the people they serve.

There must be standards. What should the standard be on everything from executive compensation, conflicts of interest, and board training to reporting violations of egregious behavior? We’ll see what the financial masters say about how oversight entities should be empowered to get timely answers and take action. The kind of deception and stonewalling that FCADV engaged in can never be allowed to happen again.

— #CateSineDie —

It’s that time again. For the third consecutive Session, #CateSineDie is here; tweet the time and date you believe the hanky will drop to end Florida’s 2020 Regular Legislative Session. To be included in the contest, players must use the hashtag #CateSineDie.

— The state’s political elite has spoken, and the general belief is the Legislature will sine die a little late this year.

When will the hanky drop? CATECOMM wants to know.

It’s official. The formal time will be the moment the last chamber sine dies — budget or no budget (ouch).

Crystal balls. Most predictions, outside of a few outliers, are that Session will end at about 3 p.m. Monday, March 16. Those outlier predictions include the earliest: 3:34 p.m. Wednesday, March 11 (wishful thinking?), and the latest: 4:43 p.m. Wednesday, March 25 (boo, hiss!).

Being charitable. The winner gets a $500 contribution in their name to a (respectable) charity of their choosing. If the winner can’t (or won’t) choose a charity, CATECOMM will donate the $500 to the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida.

Need a refresher on the (Price is Right) rules? Head to

Joe’s better half

Jill Biden is doing the rounds. The would-be First Lady spent Saturday in Miami stumping for her Democratic front-runner husband, but she’s got a few more stops in the Sunshine State before she says sayonara. 

Orlando gets a double dose. Jill Biden will head to a pair of church services this morning. Stop one is at The Experience Christian Center at 9 a.m. Stop two is at Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church.

Val Demings with the assist. The Orlando congresswoman endorsed Joe Biden on Thursday and she’s is tagging along for both appearances.

Jill Biden is making a swing through Florida. Image via AP.

Former Veep’s Veep? We’re not trying to overanalyze it, but Deming’s stock skyrocketed during the impeachment hearings. And her name keeps showing up on the shortlist to serve as Biden’s running mate. This could be a trial run.

Tampa, too. After the City Beautiful Circuit, Jill Biden will trek to the Big Guava attend a “Women for Biden” organizing event. The venue is TBA, but the time is 2:30 p.m.

The Florida tour may as well be a victory lap. Joe Biden was the front-runner in Florida before Mike Bloomberg or Elizabeth Warren axed their campaigns. Mix in Sanders’ Castro comments, and Uncle Joe may sweep the state’s cache of delegates. 

— Follow the money —

Rick Scott has never lost an election, in part because he’s been willing to plunk down millions from his personal fortune. But he’s also a stellar fundraiser, pulling in $20 million-plus in outside money for his successful U.S. Senate bid.

He’s sharing his talents. Some of his D.C. colleagues are in tough reelection battles, and Scott’s connecting them with his Sunshine State donor network with a trio of fundraisers Sunday and Monday.

The Gauntlet: A Sunday evening reception with the Sembler family in St. Pete, a breakfast bash with the Lautenbachs in Naples at 7:30 a.m. Monday, and a working lunch in Palm Beach with the Fanjuls at 11:30 a.m. Monday.

The Guests: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republican incumbent U.S. Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Cori Gardner of Colorado, Martha McSally of Arizona and Thom Tillis of North Carolina. Also getting a slice is John James, who is running to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan.

The assistance is critical. McConnell may not need help holding onto Kentucky, but Gardner, McSally and Tillis are all considered vulnerable. James didn’t do so hot when he ran for Senate in 2018, either, losing by 7 points. With the U.S. Senate split at 53-47, the GOP will have to get some Ws to hold the majority — especially if a Dem ousts Trump. 

— Spotted —

At Dane Eagle’s campaign fundraiser Saturday for Florida’s 19th Congressional District: Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane, Cape Coral Mayor Joe Coviello, Lee County Commissioner Ray Sandelli, Sanibel Councilmember Holly Smith, former Sanibel Councilmember Doug Congress and David Baum.

— Mark your calendars —

Some key dates you should put in your planners:

Former Secretary of State John Kerry will stump for Biden on Monday. His swing through the state includes four stops: an organizing event in Boca Raton at 8:45 a.m., a campaign office opening in Ft. Lauderdale at 10:15 a.m., another office coronation in Aventura (with U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz) at 11:45 a.m., and a Latin American Policy Discussion in Miami at 2:15 p.m.

U. S. Rep. Charlie Crist will host a community discussion and workshop covering voting rights restoration issues following the passage of Amendment 4. It’s set for 10 a.m. Monday at the Childs Park YMCA, 691 43rd St. S., in St. Petersburg.

Andrew Gillum and the Florida Democratic Party will hold Monday rallies on FAMU and FSU campus to encourage youth turnout in the presidential primary election, which coincides with spring break. The FSU rally starts at noon in Westcott Plaza. The FAMU rally begins at 2 p.m. at The Eternal Flame. Representatives from the Biden and Sanders campaigns are expected to speak.

President Donald Trump is heading to Orlando on Monday for a campaign fundraiser. His entourage: RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel, RNC Co-Chair Tommy Hicks Jr., RNC Finance Chair Todd Ricketts, Trump Victory Finance Committee National Chair Kimberly Guilfoyle, and Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale. Couples will need to fork over $11K to get in the door. $35K will net them a pic with POTUS, and $100K gets them a seat at the roundtable, a photo op and access to the reception.

State candidates and committees must report their February fundraising numbers by Tuesday. Sitting lawmakers are barred from fundraising during the Legislative Session, but their opponents aren’t.

Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs Executive Director Danny Burgess will induct 16 service members into the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame on Monday. The ceremony begins at 10:30 a.m. in the Cabinet Room at the Capitol.

— Cinderella story —

TallyMadness entered Round 3 with a notable absence. Fan-favorite Ed Briggs of RSA Consulting narrowly lost to Chris Cantens, ending his dark horse campaign for the championship.

He didn’t go away mad. Quite the opposite. “It was a lot of fun, and I’m just honored to have been nominated,” he tells Florida Politics. “The RSA family did their best to help me win. I’m blessed to be part of a great firm and a great work family.”

TallyMadness 2020 Round 3 had a notable absence.

True sportsmanship. He left it all on the court. “I wish Chris all the best for the rest of Session and all the best for the rest of the tournament.”

If he could do it all again. “Next time I’ll dust off my Cinderella dress and wear it around the Capitol. That might get me some votes.” Seriously, someone nominate him next year and hold ‘em to it.

The show goes on. Sixteen lobbyists are duking it out for a coveted spot in the quarterfinals. There’s still time to fill out a bracket before time expires Monday at 11:59 p.m. With how close the matchups have been so far, every vote counts.


At the reopening ceremony of the Seminole Legacy Golf Course and Club in TallahasseeGary Guzzo, Cory Guzzo, John Holley, Rob Johnson, FSU head golf coach Trey Jones, Frank Mayernick, David and Melissa Ramba, Richard Reeves, Will Rodriguez, Doug Russell, Tyler Russell, Jason Shoaf, Greg Smith, Jim Smith, Alan Suskey, John Thrasher, Chuck Urban.

Two great golfers: Jack Nicklaus and Peyton Johnson, daughter of Alia Faraj-Johnson and Rob Johnson.

— Brunching out —

Canopy Road Cafe adds a fun, and occasionally whimsical, touch to classic comfort food.

Tradition: For breakfast, you can order a hearty bacon-and-eggs or biscuits-and-gravy combo and favorites like avocado toast, Benedicts, omelets or skillet meals. The lunch menu features burgers, salads and sandwiches.

Treats: You don’t have to be a kid to pig out on Fat Elvis pancakes (with peanut butter chips and bananas) or Cap’n Crunch French toast. During March, Girl Scout Cookies are inspiring items like lemony waffles with crumbled cookies on top.

You don’t have to be a kid to pig-out at Canopy Road. Image via Rochelle Koff.

A growing business: Canopy Road was recently ranked 34th out of the top 100 fastest-growing companies owned or led by a Florida State University alumnus. And no wonder. Co-owners Brad Buckenheimer and David Raney were only 23 when they launched Canopy Road on Monroe Street more than a decade ago. They now have four locations in Tallahassee, with the fifth one in development. There’s a location in Jacksonville and Tampa with more on the way.

The deets:

Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. daily

GPS: 1779 Apalachee Pkwy.; 1913 N. Monroe St.; 2202 NE Capital Circle; 3196 Merchants Row Blvd. Also: 12525 Philips Hwy. in Jacksonville and 10254 Causeway Blvd. in Tampa

Phone: 850-727-0263 (Parkway); 850-668-6600 (Midtown); 850-893-0466 (Capital Circle); 850-329-2827 (Southwood); 904-379-8928 (Jacksonville); 813-644-7079 (Tampa).

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 Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also 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.


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

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