I was too upset by the news of Kobe Bryant and his daughter to write a topper for today’s Sunburn, so I asked A.G. Gancarski to write an update on the legislative budget process, which is moving quicker than in recent sessions.
The House and Senate are slated to release their budgets this week. The Senate budget and implementing bills will be out no later than Friday. But the House versions will be released sooner than that.
— House budget chief Travis Cummings noted that “a lot of the time the House budget is earlier than the Senate.”
— How much earlier, though? “By Tuesday or so, we should start rolling out the budget.”
— Members and lobbyists alike have been urged, Cummings said, to get their appropriations requests in.
— Gov. Ron DeSantis’ budget proposal has been out since last fall; on matters ranging from teacher pay and incentive programs onward, the House has been expected to offer a corrective to some of the more ambitious spending proposals in the Governor’s second year.
Spotted at the 62nd annual Grammy Awards — Gus Corbella of Greenberg Traurig.
— TODAY’S SUNRISE —
The House and Senate have each scheduled a floor session for Wednesday, where lawmakers will vote on bills overturning Key West’s ban on chemical sunscreens and a bill prohibiting insurance companies from using genetic information to set rates or deny coverage.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— Florida’s unemployment rate has reached a historic low … just don’t ask about why wages are still low.
— The new conservative majority on the Florida Supreme Court upends the death penalty process. It could be a while before we know the real impact of this decision.
— The state’s Agriculture Department wants to repay Lee County homeowners for citrus trees cut down to prevent the spread of citrus canker, but they say it can’t happen until lawmakers come up with the money.
— Florida Man update, which includes someone who wears an Easter bunny costume as he tries to escape the law.
To listen, click on the image below:
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@RealDonaldTrump: Kobe Bryant, despite being one of the truly great basketball players of all time, was just getting started in life. He loved his family so much, and had such strong passion for the future. The loss of his beautiful daughter, Gianna, makes this moment even more devastating … Melania and I send our warmest condolences to Vanessa and the wonderful Bryant family. May God be with you all!
—@BarackObama: Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act. To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents. Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day.
—@RobertIger: Our company @Disney mourns the tragic loss of @kobebryant … one of the most respected & popular athletes of our time … a friend and a fan of ours, full of life and taken from us too soon.
—@SHAQ: There’s no words to express the pain I’m going through with this tragedy of losing my niece Gigi & my brother @ I love u and u will be missed. My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. I’M SICK RIGHT NOW
Neymar honors Kobe after scoring tonight at Lille and raising the 24. A symbol of the collective grief pouring out around globe for Kobe and a reminder, as Larkin said “we should be careful of each other, we should be kind, while there is still time” 😢pic.twitter.com/AxAhSaXql9
— roger bennett (@rogbennett) January 26, 2020
—@RebeccaLobo: No @player supported the @ or women’s college basketball more than Kobe. He attended games, watched on TV, coached the next generation. We pray for his family.
—@RepHastingsFL: I join so many in mourning the loss of NBA all-star Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna & the other victims of this tragedy. Kobe’s inspiring legacy reaches far beyond his legendary impact on sports & athletes across the globe. I offer my heartfelt condolences to his family.
—@RepStephMurphy: Just heartbreaking. Kobe was more than a brilliant athlete. He was a larger-than-life figure who brought joy to so many. We mourn him, his young daughter, and the other passengers involved in this tragedy.
This is so unreal to me. Kobe was my favorite player of all. I truly respected and admired the tenacity and desire he approached the game he loved. I’m even more broken up about his daughter Gigi. As a father, I’m just shaken. 🙏🏾 for his wife and family. #Mamba #RIPKobe pic.twitter.com/C6s9jbeuCD
— Byron Donalds (@ByronDonalds) January 27, 2020
—@JuanPenalosa: I just heard that Kobe has died. I’m very sad. Sure, he was a peerless athlete. But, he was more. He was a role model and an advocate for justice. And he was one of the most relevant men fighting for a more fair system for women, for youth, for all of us. Rest in Power #Kobe.
—@AlanLevine14: My heart is broken at the loss of Kobe Bryant — an icon to so many young people. But his 13 year old daughter, Gianna, perishing with her young friend. it is devastating. God please give his family and all who loved them, peace. Terrible tragedy.
— DAYS UNTIL —
Annual Red Dog Blue Dog Celebrity Bartender Benefit — 1; New Brexit deadline — 4; Super Bowl LIV in Miami — 6; Great American Realtors Day — 7; Iowa Caucuses — 7; Eighth Democratic presidential debate in Manchester — 11; Capitol Press Corps press skits — 14; New Hampshire Primaries — 15; Pitchers and catchers begin reporting for MLB Spring Training — 15; South Beach Wine and Food Festival — 23; Ninth Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas — 23; Roger Stone’s sentencing — 24; Nevada caucuses — 26; “Better Call Saul” Season 5 premiers — 27; 10th Democratic presidential debate in Charleston — 29; South Carolina Primaries — 33; Super Tuesday — 36; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 46; Florida’s presidential primary — 50; “No Time to Die” premiers — 70; Florida Chamber Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 109; “Top Gun: Maverick” premiers — 151; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 168; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premiers — 172; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo start — 179; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 204; First Presidential Debate in Indiana — 246; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 210; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 254; Second Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 262; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 269; 2020 General Election — 281.
— TOP STORY —
“Donald Trump tied Ukraine aid to inquiries he sought, John Bolton book says” via Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt of The New York Times — The President’s statement as described by Bolton could undercut a key element of his impeachment defense: that the holdup in aid was separate from Trump’s requests that Ukraine announce investigations into his perceived enemies, including former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who had worked for a Ukrainian energy firm while his father was in office. Bolton’s explosive account of the matter at the center of Trump’s impeachment trial was included in drafts of a manuscript he has circulated in recent weeks to close associates. He also sent a draft to the White House for a standard review process for some current and former administration officials who write books.
— DATELINE: TALLY —
Assignment editors — Gov. DeSantis will make a major announcement, 1 p.m., Omni Middle School, 5775 Jog Road, Boca Raton.
Assignment editors — Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez and State Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees will hold a news conference to highlight the role the Florida Department of Health has in identifying and helping victims of human trafficking, 10 a.m., Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County, Room 401, 1350 NW 14 Street, Miami.
“Criminal investigation of CFO given to state attorney” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Lawyers for Leon County State Attorney Jack Campbell will now be the fourth agency to handle the investigation into whether CFO Jimmy Patronis illegally released a woman’s sexual harassment complaint for political reasons. Campbell said the Florida Department of Law Enforcement recently handed off its case to him to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest with the Patronis. As a member of the Cabinet, Patronis is one of four votes to hire the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s boss. The decision was unusual, Campbell said.
“José Oliva slammed ‘big pharma’ on day 1 — but on rising insulin prices, House won’t act” via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald — In the Florida House, where Oliva slammed pharmaceutical companies in his opening day speech for “financially assault[ing]” patients and consumers, a bill to place $100 caps on co-payments for insulin will not pass this year. In fact, it won’t even get a hearing. Rep. Cary Pigman, chair of the Health Market Reform Subcommittee, said he won’t be putting it onto the agenda this year. And Oliva, despite his opening day comments, told reporters he doesn’t support the idea, either. When prices are capped, “someone has to pay,” he said, referring to the pharmaceutical companies.
“The slow grind for criminal justice reform in Florida” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Few public policy issues have generated more buzz in recent years, as lawmakers around the nation have engaged in a wholesale rethinking of how the legal system deals with criminals, especially lower-level offenders. Top GOP leaders in the Florida Legislature have championed the issue, with several new proposals put forward for the 60-day Legislative Session. A bill that would change drug sentencing laws is close to passing the Florida Senate. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley, has advanced through three Senate committees with unanimous support. But similar legislation has yet to receive a committee hearing in the Florida House, illustrating a big divide between the chambers — and within the GOP — on the criminal justice issue.
“At Capitol, Roe v. Wade anniversary marked by cheers and despair” via Claire McNeill of the Tampa Bay Times — Lauren Brenzel, a Planned Parenthood organizer, knelt down in the crowded Florida Senate committee room, where lawmakers would soon file in. Don’t be scared, she reassured. Her group had asked for enforced decorum at this hearing, the final stop for a controversial bill bound for the full Senate. It would require minors who want an abortion to get notarized parental consent or a judge’s approval to bypass it. It also happened to be the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, marking 47 years of legal abortions and attempts to curtail them. Last year, Florida had been the only conservative-led state in the South not to tighten abortion access. Its leaders did not plan to repeat the omission.
“LGBTQ advocates to highlight need for statewide anti-discrimination protections” via Sarah Mueller of Florida Politics — Sen. Shevrin Jones and Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, both openly gay Democrats, plan to speak out against a spate of bills filed at the last minute that could scale back protections for the LGBTQ community. Republican lawmakers proposed several bills hours before the 2020 Legislative Session filing deadline, which critics say could thwart anti-discrimination protections. The bill sponsors deny they are targeting people based on sexual orientation or gender identity and some have made changes to accommodate concerns. Two of the House bills have made it through initial committee stops, while others have yet to be heard.
“Nick DiCeglie boasts banner week in Tallahassee” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — In an email, the Indian Rocks Beach Republican touted several priorities that made progress. That includes an appropriations request (HB 2653) that would allocate $750,000 to the Central Florida Behavioral Network’s Pinellas County Marchman Act to provide 10 additional beds to individuals taken into custody under the Marchman Act, a policy that allows law enforcement officers to transport transient individuals under the influence to a facility in lieu of arresting them. “We still continue to have a serious opioid epidemic issue along with mental health issues and this is just one way for me to be in tune with the needs of our county. This kind of gives some help to these folks,” DiCeglie said.
Pharmacists rally for PBM reform — More than a hundred pharmacists gathered at The Capitol for a rally to advocate for legislation that would reform Florida’s pharmacy benefit manager system. Supporters of the legislation say that the reforms are necessary to prevent PBMs from “steering” patients away from the pharmacy of their choice, forcing them to use chain pharmacies owned by the PBM. Sen. José Javier Rodriguez and Rep. Jackie Toledo spoke at the rally and shared the importance of bringing added transparency and accountability to the industry. Tallahassee oncologist Dr. Paresh Patel joined legislators and pharmacists and shared the impact PBMs have on patients, which often creates unnecessary treatment delays and denials. There are currently several PBM bills under consideration by state lawmakers.
— LEGISLATION —
“Hillsborough teachers’ union leader: Jamie Grant bill would ‘cripple’ unions” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins is the executive director for the Hillsborough teacher’s union. She described the latest “union-busting” legislation as a clear indication certain lawmakers are targeting teachers’ unions. “This state has shown very clearly over time that it is very intent on privatizing the public-school system,” Baxter-Jenkins said. “If you cripple the FEA it allows us to have less voice and less power in other means and I think it’s very clear that they would like to see that happen.” At issue is a bill (HB 1) sponsored by Rep. Jamie Grant requiring public unions including teacher, police and fire unions, to collect signed authorization forms from employees indicating their desire to join the union and pay the required dues.
“Lawmakers consider rules on naming college arenas” via Bobby Caina Calvan with The Associated Press — Florida’s public colleges and universities may have to ask permission from the Legislature before they can rename sports arenas and other facilities after companies who are willing to pay for the right. College officials came under sharp questioning by a House education panel looking into curbing the practice. Rep. Randy Fine, the chair of the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee, questioned the practice. “We’re not talking about philanthropic motivations,” Fine said. “We’re not talking about donors. We are not talking about people who are trying to do the right thing. We are talking about commercial identity, business transactions that are driven by a desire for marketing.”
“Florida weighs pet store rules that could toss out local ‘puppy mill’ bans” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Fueled by lobbying and at least $160,000 in campaign contributions from a major pet retailer, Florida lawmakers could wipe from the books dozens of local laws that ban the sale of dogs and cats from high-volume “puppy mills.” Animal welfare groups say the bills — which bring forth regulations for animal care, documentation and socialization — are largely unenforceable since most animals come to stores from out of state. Miami Republicans Rep. Bryan Avila and Sen. Manny Diaz filed the bills — and have yet to have a hearing scheduled; welfare groups are vowing to kill the bill. Avila’s bill calls for stores to sell animals from qualified or hobby breeders, animal rescues and shelters, as well as other pet stores or brokers.
“Bills would switch enforcement of Airbnb restrictions to Tallahassee” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — If the legislation passes in its current form, the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation would regulate most short-term rentals and take over local licensing and inspection powers that currently belong to local governments. The legislation includes a grandfather clause narrowly protecting local prohibitions of short-term rentals, but “expressly preempts the regulation of vacation rentals, including their inspection and licensing, to the state,” according to a summary analysis of Senate Bill 1128, sponsored by Sen. Diaz.
— TODAY IN CAPITOL —
The House Gaming Control Subcommittee meets to consider HB 991 from Rep. Will Robinson, which would require the Florida Lottery to place the message “PLAY RESPONSIBLY” on advertising and lottery tickets, 1 p.m., Room 212, Knott Building.
The Senate Education Committee meets to consider SB 1688 from Sen. Gayle Harrell, which seeks to change voluntary prekindergarten and school-readiness programs, 1:30 p.m., Room 412, Knott Building.
The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee meets to consider SPB 7046, which seeks to make changes in the health-insurance program for state employees, 1:30 p.m., Room 301, Senate Office Building.
The Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee meets to consider SB 1256 from Sen. Ben Albritton, which seeks to eliminate rules about telegraph companies from state laws, 1:30 p.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.
The House Ways & Means Committee meets to consider HB 6057 from Chairman Bryan Avila, which seeks to repeal a program that outlines how state dollars become available to help build and renovate pro sports stadiums, 3:30 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The Senate Community Affairs Committee meets to consider SB 1336 from Sen. Keith Perry, which seeks to preempt local occupational licensing, 4 p.m., Room 301, Senate Office Building.
The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee meets to consider SB 1450 from Sen. Joe Gruters, which seeks to increase penalties for various environmental violations, 4 p.m., Room 37, Senate Office Building.
The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee meets to consider a proposed constitutional amendment (SJR 1216), from Gruters, which would establish 12-year term limits for county school board members, 4 p.m., Room 412, Knott Building.
The Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee meets to consider SB 1352 from Sen. Jeff Brandes, which seeks to allow digital advertising on vehicles in ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, 4 p.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.
The Senate Special Order Calendar Group meets to set its special-order calendar, to determine which bills will be heard on the Senate floor, 15 minutes after committee meetings end.
Happening today — United Way’s Children’s Week and Florida Senior Day events begin to raise awareness and educate about the legislative process, 8 a.m., Capitol Complex.
Happening today — 2020 Caribbean Heritage Day Celebration, 8 a.m., 22nd floor, The Capitol.
Happening today — The Department of State Florida Main Street program will host an exhibit table highlighting the achievements of its 47 main street communities. Representatives from each of the Main Street Districts will be in the Capitol to interact with their legislative delegation, 8 a.m., Capitol Plaza Rotunda.
Happening today — The Florida Association of School Administrators’ welcome reception for members and legislators, 2 p.m., 22nd floor, The Capitol.
Happening today — Florida Gulf Coast University President Mike Martin and members of the Tallahassee Alumni Chapter host the 2020 FGCU Day At The Capitol welcome reception, 5 p.m. — cocktail reception in the Senate Chamber of the Historic Capitol; 5:30 p.m., president’s remarks, and the Water School presentation.
— STATEWIDE —
“Florida death penalty experts concerned about court ruling” via Tamara Lush of The Associated Press — A Florida Supreme Court decision involving the death penalty has thrown between 100 to 150 cases into legal limbo. The court said it erred in 2016 when it ruled a jury must be unanimous in deciding a defendant convicted of murder should be sentenced to death. “No one knows how broadly the court will attempt to apply it,” said Robert Dunham of the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center. “And there are serious constitutional issues for all of the cases for which relief is being taken away.” Under current law, defendants still need a unanimous jury decision to receive the death penalty.
“Ashley Moody ready to take on human traffickers as Florida hosts Pro Bowl, Super Bowl LIV” via Mike Synan of Florida Daily — Moody said Florida is about to see increased human trafficking. The key to cracking down on it will be enlisting the public’s help. In particular, law enforcement has been working with truckers. Moody said interstate highways are the main arteries to bring victims into the state. Law enforcement is reaching out to other groups as well. “We have partnered with Uber to train their drivers to be able to spot the signs of human trafficking because we have seen success stories where Uber drivers heard the conversation, later reported it to law enforcement and victims were saved,” Moody said.
“Legislature hears from unions on impasse in state worker contract negotiations” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — Union leaders seemed to convince one powerful Senate Republican on the Joint Select Committee on Collective Bargaining to back their effort for a salary increase of some kind. But despite garnering support from Sen. Ed Hooper, the Clearwater Republican who chairs the panel, workers still need to convince two of three key players to back a pay hike. Both House Speaker Oliva and GOP Gov. DeSantis have declined to support an across-the-board pay hike. And the strongest position Senate President Bill Galvano has taken is to say the issue is “on the table.”
— THE BOY WHO LOVES SHARKS —
Friday was a quiet day in the Capitol, but a young man from Wisconsin was on hand to show support for a bill that would ban the sale, import, and export of shark fins.
— The bill — HB 401, sponsored by Coconut Creek Democrat Rep. Kristin Jacobs, is one stop away from the House floor.
— The deal — 13-year-old Lucas Dietzler read about sharks and wanted to help. His mother, Michelle Dietzler, told him that if he could raise $1,000, she would take him to Florida so he could make a charitable donation himself. Nearly $1,200 later, he’s still going.
— The meetings — Lucas gave the money to Stefanie Brendl of Shark Allies, a global nonprofit dedicated to shark preservation. He also met with Jacobs. And he got a tour of the House and Senate chambers. Best of all: he got to sit in DeSantis’ chair.
And he’s not done: Still raising money. Still selling T-shirts, which shark supporters can buy here: Sharks Are Misunderstood.
— MOTHER NATURE —
“Vern Buchanan urges Ron DeSantis to protect the Florida panther during Heartland Parkway construction” via Florida Daily — In a letter to DeSantis, Buchanan noted the 140-mile proposed highway from Polk to Collier Counties will run directly into the habitat of the panther. Construction is expected to begin by 2022. The greatest threat to the endangered animal is being run over by cars. Four panthers already have been killed in collisions so far this year. Buchanan urged DeSantis to instruct his state Department of Transportation to devise ways to avoid fatal disruptions to the panther’s habitat. One of the best ways to protect the animal would be to create overpasses or underpasses, a type of wildlife corridor, that provides a safe way for the animals to navigate a highway.
— 2020 —
“Bernie Sanders seizes lead in volatile Iowa race, Times poll finds” via Jonathan Martin and Sydney Ember of The New York Times — Sanders gained six points since the last Times-Siena survey, in late October, and is now capturing 25 percent of the vote in Iowa. Pete Buttigieg and Biden have remained stagnant since the fall, with Buttigieg capturing 18 percent and Biden 17 percent. The rise of Sanders has come at the expense of fellow progressive Elizabeth Warren: she dropped from 22 percent in the October poll, enough to lead the field, to 15 percent in this survey. Amy Klobuchar, who is garnering 8 percent, is the only other candidate approaching double digits.
“Sanders supporters have weaponized Facebook to spread angry memes about his Democratic rivals” via Craig Timberg and Isaac Stanley-Becker of The Washington Post — The volume and viciousness of the memes reflect how Facebook identifies and rewards emotionally charged content to generate reactions from its billions of users. That serves the company’s ad-driven business model, which equates engagement with profit. But it also, in the view of experts who study Facebook’s effect on political speech, distorts democratic debate by confirming biases, sharpening divisions and elevating the glib visual logic of memes over a reasoned discussion. Facebook’s “algorithm not only aggregates people, it activates people in a way that accentuates extremism,” said George Washington University professor Steven Livingston, director of the university’s Institute for Data, Democracy and Politics. “It inflames passions. It inflames the nature of the discourse.”
“Joe Biden’s confounding candidacy” via Walter Shapiro of The New Republic — The traditional justification for the privileged position of the Iowa caucuses is that, unlike primaries, they measure the enthusiasm of party activists. Crowd size is often overhyped in politics, but turnout at candidate events matters in Iowa and New Hampshire. The respected Iowa Poll, conducted earlier this month, found that 33 percent of Democrats say that an “extremely important” factor in making their decision is how a “candidate has engaged with caucusgoers at events.” Biden supporters would argue that turnout at town meetings represents a flawed gauge since Iowa voters know him so well. But Sanders is also a familiar political figure — and yet he still draws huge crowds. The Impeachment Factor also hangs over the Biden campaign.
“Why a Parkland parent is cutting ads for Biden but not endorsing him” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — A week after his daughter, Jaime, was killed in the nation’s deadliest high school shooting, Fred Guttenberg got a call from Biden. Two years later, that conversation became the basis for a four-minute video released by the Biden campaign. Guttenberg said: “He is someone who did reach out, who engaged me on a personal level on how to go forward and get through grief, what days would look like and what to expect.” But, like many Democrats, he’s not willing to offer a formal endorsement of anyone in the 2020 presidential race. “What’s amazing about them putting this out there, he did that knowing I haven’t endorsed him.”
“Mike Bloomberg heads to Florida in search of Jewish voters” via Sally Goldenberg of POLITICO — Bloomberg made a direct appeal to Florida’s active Jewish voting base, seeking to differentiate himself from both Sanders and Trump on the delicate issue of Mideast politics. “Now, I know I’m not the only Jewish candidate in the race. But I am the only one who doesn’t want to turn America into a kibbutz,” he quipped in a thinly-veiled jab at Sanders, who is Jewish and has emerged in recent years as the standard-bearer for the left flank of the Democratic Party. “As president, I will always have Israel’s back. I will never impose conditions on our military aid, including missile defense — no matter who is the prime minister. And I will never walk away from our commitment to guarantee Israel’s security.”
“Reggie Cardozo among new hires for Bloomberg presidential campaign” via Florida Politics — Cardozo will join the Bloomberg team as a Florida Senior Adviser. Cardozo served as a State Director for Hillary Clinton‘s presidential campaign in 2016. … The campaign is also adding Ron Bilbao as Deputy State Director, Caroline Rowland as Communications Director, Brandon Philipczyk as Operations Manager and Maria Bilbao as Digital Director.
“Republican campaign presence in Florida to grow as part of expanded swing state plan” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — No matter who Democrats nominate to run against Trump this summer, Republicans believe they have a better candidate and a better campaign operation — both of which were on display this week as the Republican National Committee held its annual winter conference in Doral. The GOP approved an expansion of the Republican ground game across 18 target states by the beginning of next month. “Our data-driven field operation is the largest in party history, and by February we will be up to 700 staff across our 18 target states and thousands of more trained volunteers,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said.
“Deadline approaching for presidential primary voter registration” via Timothy Fanning of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The last day to register or update your party affiliation to be eligible to vote in the presidential primary is Feb. 18, the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections has announced. The primary is March 17. Voters should confirm before Feb. 18 that they are registered to vote and that their information is current, said Ron Turner, the supervisor of elections. Voters can check their eligibility at SarasotaVotes.com by clicking “voter information” in the main menu and then on “voter lookup” and following the instructions. Because Florida is a closed primary state, voters are eligible to vote only for candidates of their registered party in a primary election.
— PEACHY —
“Republicans decry impeachment as ‘boring’ in an attempt to swiftly dismiss charges against Trump” via Toluse Olorunnipa and Robert Costa of The Washington Post — “I’ve not heard anything new,” said Sen. Rick Scott. Scott was among 53 Republican Senators who voted 10 times last week to block new evidence and witness testimony, effectively stripping the proceedings of potential novelty and allowing Trump’s allies to publicly portray the trial as uninteresting and unimportant. It’s a defense strategy aimed at convincing the public that the third impeachment trial in U.S. history is not worth their time while avoiding substantive questions about Trump’s alleged misconduct, said Heather Cox Richardson, who teaches history at Boston College. “It’s definitely a strategy to try to get people to not pay attention. One of the reasons they’re saying ‘This is stupid and boring’ is because they don’t want people to watch.”
“Bill McCollum thinks Republican refusal of impeachment witnesses would be a mistake” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Republican former U.S. Rep. McCollum, who served as a House impeachment manager in the 1999 impeachment of President Bill Clinton, does not think witnesses would make any difference in the impeachment trial of Trump but Republicans would make a political mistake by refusing to allow them. McCollum, speaking at the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida, said he does not believe Democrats have a winning legal case against Trump. “I just don’t think there is a case here. And if you were to ask me to vote on summary judgment or dismissal, and I was a Senator … I would vote to get rid of it right now simply because I don’t think it is there.”
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Adam Schiff ‘has not paid the price’ for impeachment, Donald Trump says in what appears to be veiled threat” via Felicia Sonmez and Elise Viebeck of The Washington Post — “Shifty Adam Schiff is a CORRUPT POLITICIAN, and probably a very sick man,” Trump tweeted. “He has not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country!” Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is the lead impeachment manager in the Senate trial. Schiff responded in an interview on NBC News’s “Meet the Press,” saying he believes Trump’s remarks were intended as a threat. “This is a wrathful and vindictive president; I don’t think there’s any doubt about it,” Schiff said in the interview. “And if you think there is, look at the President’s tweets about me today, saying that I should ‘pay a price.’”
“’I am fighting for you’: Trump rallies anti-abortion activists in unprecedented appearance at the March for Life” via David Nakamura of The Washington Post — Trump became the first President to attend the March for Life event in Washington, expressing solidarity with tens of thousands of conservative and evangelical voters that his campaign considers a core constituency for his reelection bid. Trump made no mention of the ongoing Senate impeachment proceedings taking place just blocks away at the Capitol as he addressed throngs of anti-abortion activists on the Mall. But his relatively brief appearance offered an implicit split-screen for a President who has been consumed with the Democrats’ efforts to oust him. “Unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House. They are coming after me because I am fighting for you,” Trump declared.
— LOCAL —
“Council auditor: JEA didn’t tell the ‘entire story’ in presentation to city Council” via David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union — Even as JEA seeks to regain public trust, the City Council Auditor’s Office issued a memo that raised new questions about how JEA executives presented information Dec. 9 to a City Council committee when negotiations to potentially sell JEA were still going full-bore. Those questions will come up again when a newly created City Council investigative committee spends at least the next four months examining a host of issues swirling around JEA. “I think if we know anything, it’s that JEA leadership at the time was incredibly selective about what they shared with council and the (JEA) board,” said City Council member Rory Diamond.
“Seminole Tax Collector Joel Greenberg accused of soliciting hacker to attack county computers” via Lauren Ritchie of the Orlando Sentinel — Greenberg, who gave $3.5 million in high-salary jobs and lucrative contracts to friends after his election, asked one of them to attack the county’s computers and demand a $500,000 ransom paid in Bitcoin, records from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement say. Brent Tyler, 30, a network security specialist on contract with Greenberg, told authorities the tax collector in mid-2017 offered to “tumble” the cryptocurrency through several Bitcoin wallets to hide its origin, then split it 50-50 with him — a quarter-million dollars each. Tyler gave a sworn account to agents of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, but they decided an investigation would be fruitless because it was Tyler’s word against Greenberg’s.
“New St. Johns County administrator took an ‘unorthodox’ path to the top” via Sheldon Gardner of the St. Augustine Record — Hunter Conrad took the reins as interim county administrator and was offered the permanent position after about a month on the job. Conrad acknowledged that he’s had an “unorthodox” career thus far, one that led him from working at a church to taking over the top government position in St. Johns County. “I’m very appreciative for the opportunities that I’ve been given,” Conrad said. “But I believe 100% … that God has opened the doors for me and allowed me to be in positions. And now he can close those doors tomorrow. But that’s why I constantly use the word humbled and honored because I recognize that these are great positions of authority, and with great responsibility comes great expectation.”
“Is there a better chance of avoiding the flu virus in South Florida? Yes, but …” via Kimberly Miller of the Palm Beach Post — In the subtropics, the same humidity-soaked air that clings to skin, also gloms onto virus particles, weighing them down so that they fall to the ground faster than in a cool, dry atmosphere where they float like dandelion seeds in a breeze. It’s a concept that works so well in the lab that University of Florida scientists use a machine to add water vapor to the air so they can increase their successes at collecting the bloated virus particles. However, for the general population of Florida who live and travel in artificially-controlled environments, the protection of a moisture-anchored virus particle may as well be flu folklore akin to tales of colds caught from having wet hair in a winter storm.
— BREVARD’S SHADY INVESTMENTS —
Brevard Public Schools inadvertently invested millions of taxpayer dollars in banks that made questionable investments, including laundering money for Mexican drug cartels and businesses that dealt with suspected terrorists to evade U.S. sanctions, according to a FLORIDA TODAY review.
Handling the district’s investments were a third-party contractor, PFM Asset Management LLC, which fully complied with state law governing financial responsibilities of local and state agencies. The state of Florida requires school boards to manage its money responsibly; beyond that, however, there is little oversight on the ethics of individual investments.
Findings show the money was not directly used for illicit activities. Still, school leaders issued a statement to Florida Today saying the district is discussing changes with the management company, “including divesting (from the banks) and updating the district’s investment policy.”
BPS would “never knowingly” invest in banks whose practices could damage the credibility of the district, the statement said, and it is dedicated to the safety and welfare of its students.
Although a quick online search revealed the issue, nobody previously investigated where the money was going. This illustrates a challenge for public agencies, which are pressured to find risk-free return investments while making sure those investments remain ethical.
In the BSD’s most recent quarterly investment report, FLORIDA TODAY found that $7.5 million was used for short-term securities with the financial groups Cooperatieve Rabobank, HSBC Holdings PLC and BNP Paribas. Another $3.75 million was invested with Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and U.S. Bancorp, the parent company of U.S. Bank.
Each of those firms faced major fines in recent years — some in the billions of dollars — for shady deals such as with Mexican drug traffickers and money laundering.
— TOP OPINION —
“Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, show some spine. Stop the stonewall on impeachment witnesses.” via the Palm Beach Post editorial board — Do the Senators wish to be part of a trial that genuinely seeks to get to the truth for the American people? Or do they want a show trial that lets Trump off the hook as quickly as they can plausibly claim to have exonerated a martyr to Democrats’ overreach? Over and over, Trump’s Republican defenders have derided the House Democrats’ impeachment case as thin because it contains no testimony from firsthand participants in Trump’s shakedown of Ukraine’s government to further his own personal ends. They neglect to mention that Trump barred all members of his administration from testifying or releasing any documents — a breathtaking snub of Congress. They’re not just protecting Trump. They’re keeping the American people in the dark.
— OPINIONS —
“Trump’s lawyers are absolutely entitled to their own facts” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — The late Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said that “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” Moynihan was wrong. Very likely a majority of Senators will, with their votes to acquit, conclude that Trump and his lawyers are perfectly entitled to their own facts. There was a familiar invective from Trump’s lawyers. But their arguments were surprisingly lawyerly, and they at least attempted to mount a serious defense of the president. “You’ve heard you’re not going to hear facts from the president’s lawyers,” White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said. “That’s all we’ve done.” This was true — if you subscribe to Kellyanne Conway’s “alternative facts” theory of epistemology.
“Lori Berman: Screening kids now prevents vision problems later” via Florida Politics — Did you know that Amblyopia, more commonly known as “lazy eye,” is the number one cause of preventable, yet permanent, vision loss in children in the U.S.? To help provide resources for parents and guardians, the For-Eye Foundation, the charitable arm of the Florida Society of Ophthalmology, will host a free vision screening for children on Tuesday from 8 to 11 a.m. at the Florida Capitol. Parents and guardians can register their children for a screening, meet with the ophthalmologist providing the screenings, and learn more about the resolution to make August Amblyopia Awareness month on-site at the For-Eye Care Foundation table, located on the 2nd-floor Rotunda.
— MOVEMENTS —
“Nikki Fried names Erin Albury new Florida Forest Service director” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — With Florida Forest Service Director Jim Karels set to retire, Fried has selected Karels’ second-in-command to serve as his replacement. Albury, who currently works as Karels’ Assistant Director, will take his place. Replacing Albury as Assistant Director will be Johnny Sabo, who serves as the agency’s Field Operations Bureau Chief. The FFS is a division of the Department of Agriculture, which Fried leads. The FFS is responsible for managing Florida’s timber and wildlife habitat and works to prevent and suppress wildfires on public land throughout the state.
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Doug Bell, Aimee Diaz Lyon, Metz Husband & Daughton: IBM Corporation, URAC
Greg Black, Waypoint Strategies: Astellas Pharma US, Health Diagnostic Management, Nicklaus Children’s Health System
Alyssa Danielle Brown: Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce
Ron Greenstein: Broward County, C3 Investment Group US, City of Oakland Park, EduTone, Emerald Coast Spa Academy, Florida First Kicks Foundation, Ohana Solutions, Seed & Bean Market, Storm Smart Industries, Warner Soccer, Whole Child Leon
Robert Holroyd, Tripp Scott: Broward County Sheriff’s Office, Florida House Experience
John MacIver: Division of Administrative Hearings
Drew Medcalf: Florida Association of State Troopers
Scot Zajic: Safelite
“Gary Ostrander, VP for research at Florida State, announces he’s stepping down in December” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — Ostrander, vice president for research at Florida State University since May 2012, is stepping down at the end of the year. Ostrander, a noted researcher in biology, said he is returning to a faculty position at FSU’s College of Medicine. In his semester update to faculty, Ostrander noted 2020 was “a time to reflect on long-term goals and priorities,” adding he is entering his ninth year as vice president. “While this is a very rewarding and exciting position, I have always said that I would someday like to return to one of the very best jobs on this campus,” Ostrander said.
— ALOE —
“The 34 best political movies ever made” via Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post — John Sayles — perhaps the greatest American political filmmaker of his or any generation — once wrote in Mother Jones that movies as disparate as “Rambo” and “Adventures in Babysitting” could be described as political, because “they served only to maintain the status quo, strengthen stereotyping, and push people apart.” He makes an excellent point: A political film can be great — or at least jarringly effective — even though it’s not political on purpose. 1. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington 2. All The President’s Men … 8. Mean Girls … 12. Wag the Dog … 14. A Face in the Crowd … 16. Election … 22. The Incredibles … 26. The Contender … 30. Milk … 34. The Queen.
— SUPER BOWL’ING —
“’It’s a beautiful thing.’ Fans flock to Miami Beach for the Super Bowl Experience” via Isaiah Smalls of the Miami Herald — Fans representing their favorite teams journeyed to the Miami Beach Convention Center to get a first look at the Super Bowl Experience, complete with everything from NFL memorabilia to training camp-themed obstacle courses. “It’s a family-friendly environment,” said former Florida State wide receiver and Super Bowl 47 Champion Anquan Boldin. “I think there’s something for everybody to enjoy.” For the more seasoned NFL fans, the nostalgia was intoxicating. Blown-up images of past Super Bowls tickets lined the walls surrounding a stage where this year’s Vince Lombardi trophy sat. Cleats and jerseys from NFL players past and present adorned the booths. “Just seeing the history of football and interacting with everything, it’s been great,” said Shannon Napolitano.
— SIX MONTHS TO TOKYO —
“Tokyo enters final straight in Olympics preparations” via Jack Tarrant of Japan Today — Organizers are dealing with fewer issues than their counterparts did in the buildup to Rio four years ago. But a few challenges still remain before the opening ceremony on July 24 — including the city’s notoriously hot summer weather. Tokyo 2020 spokesman Masa Takaya told Reuters: “It has been a long journey, with some bumps here and there, but for the most part everything has gone well. Everything is where we wanted it to be with six months to go — sometimes in an even better place.” Noticeably different from Brazil is the weight of public support behind the Tokyo Games, with almost 4.5 million Olympics tickets having already been sold on the domestic market.
“Coronavirus spotlights Japan contagion risks as Olympics loom” via Rocky Swift of Reuters — The disease that has killed 17 people and infected almost 600 has already affected Olympics-related events in China, with the cancellation of boxing matches set for the city of Wuhan, seen as the epicenter of the outbreak, and women’s soccer qualifiers shifted to Nanjing. Although Japan has seen just one case, the outbreak highlights the risk of contagion given the millions of visitors expected for the Summer Games. “We have to be very careful about what kind of infectious diseases will appear at the Tokyo Olympics,” Kazuhiro Tateda, president of the Japanese Association for Infectious Diseases, told a briefing.
“Surfing is coming to the Tokyo Olympics. For these women athletes, it’s the recognition they’ve been waiting for.” via Amanda Loudin of The Lily — Surfing will join karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and baseball/softball as debut sports when Japan lights the Olympic torch this summer. Surfing, which has a big following in Japan, will take place at Shidashita Beach, about 40 miles outside Tokyo. To ensure that the wave quality is where it needs to be, the Tokyo organizers have set aside a 16-day period, during which two days will be used for the event. While surfing has been a part of the American landscape for nearly 100 years, the spotlight has largely been devoid of women who surf. Its inclusion in the Olympics serves as the culmination of years of fighting for equality.
“NBC partners with Snapchat on four daily shows for Tokyo Olympics” via Sarah Perez of TechCrunch — The companies had previously worked together during the Rio 2016 and Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics. The Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games in 2018 reached over 40 million U.S. users, up 25% from the 2016 Rio Olympics. In addition, 95% of those users were under the age of 35. This younger demographic is getting harder to reach in the cord-cutting era, as many people forgo pay-TV subscriptions and traditional broadcast networks. That limits the reach of advertisers, impacting NBC’s bottom line. The Snap partnership helps to fix that, as it offers NBC Olympics a way to sell to advertisers who want to reach younger fans who don’t watch as much — or any — TV.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Belated best wishes to state Sen. Aaron Bean, Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos, Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat, one of our favorites, Jason Roth, Mark Sharpe, and Vinny Tafuro. Celebrating today is our dear friend Laura Boehmer of The Southern Group as well as Bryan Eastman, Cory Guzzo of Floridian Partners, and Deno Hicks.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.