Could the race to lead the Republican Party of Florida into 2022 already be heating up? Sources from Tallahassee to Lehigh Acres say Matt Caldwell wants the title of state chair and will challenge sitting Chair Joe Gruters to get it.
According to more than one Florida GOP executive committee member, all of whom asked to remain anonymous, Caldwell has been making phone calls to exec. committee members and not so subtlety telling them he will challenge Gruters if the Sarasota Republican runs for re-election as party chair. And, according to our sources, Caldwell has also suggested that if President Donald Trump loses Florida, it will be because of the RPOF.
Plenty took notice when the former lawmaker announced his candidacy for Lee County Property Appraiser AND Republican state committeeman by trashing the state party. He continues to toss aside questions — with dismissals that sound a lot like he’s running. “I am focused on running for state committeeman,” he said Thursday night, “and I’m interested in making sure the party is ready to be victorious in 2022.”
Wait, when? Because Gruters said he’s “100% laser-focused on getting our President reelected.” And Donald Trump will appear, in case any politicos wondered, on the 2020 ballot.
Now, most realize if Trump loses reelection, or even loses Florida, that’s terrible news for Gruters, who rose to statewide prominence primarily after co-chairing Trump’s 2016 campaign in Florida to a surprise win. And sources say Caldwell has turned some heads suggesting Trump lose and prompt a party redirect.
Besides, Caldwell must take care of some business at home as he’s challenging incumbent committeeman Chris Crowley, who has not so subtly raised Caldwell’s aggressive campaigning in 2016 for Marco Rubio over Trump in the primary.
“I supported Trump in the primary. I went door to door for him,” Crowley said. “I hope to be a delegate at the convention … He said he would never vote for Trump in the general election.”
But then Caldwell said he considers the President “well-positioned for reelection.” He plans, as he has done for years, to work at a precinct level knocking on doors rallying support for Trump.
As for 2022, he said he’d like as a committeeman to improve the party’s infrastructure to help Gov. Ron DeSantis win reelection and develop a strategy to win all Cabinet posts.
“I have a unique perspective having seen that process from stem to stern,” said Caldwell, the 2018 GOP Agriculture Commissioner nominee.
Gruters believes there’s “no way Matt wants Trump to fail” and welcomed the pol back into state-level politics.
Photo of the day:
The race to be the next leader of the House Democrats is about to heat up.
This morning Jennifer Webb will officially file her paperwork to run to be the leader of the House Democrats from 2024-2026. Leadership elections are under a year away and Webb’s entry makes her a strong competitor from the start.
With an impressive amount of pledge cards already, Webb is an early favorite to win.
It’s easy to see why.
In her first term Webb has shown that she knows how to get her bills moving, even as a House Democrat. She was even able to secure a bipartisan group of 45 co-sponsors for HB 161, her bill to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Webb was elected to the Florida House in 2018, following term-limited Republican Kathleen Peters. This Pinellas-based seat was one of 8 that flipped for House Democrats that same year.
Only recently getting out of the super minority, Democrats need all the experience they can get if they ever want to take back the chamber.
The nation’s only African American news network, based in Tallahassee, will launch nationwide Monday.
Founded by chairman J.C. Watts Jr. and CEO Bob Brillante, the Black News Channel (BNC) represents the African American community in mainstream media. The network plans to target unique challenges facing urban communities and the “image gap” that exists today between the negative black stereotypes in the media.
“The launch of Black News Channel will be not only historic but also transformational,” Brillante said. “We will shed more light on the stories that demonstrate our commonality, rather than those that highlight our differences.”
“I have traveled around the country participating in interviews, serving on panel discussions, and sharing BNC’s mission and commitment to telling a more complete story of the African American community,” Watts said. “There is growing interest and anticipation about the Black News Channel, as well as a palpable level of excitement about our launch.”
While Watts is a Republican, he said the channel will be about African American culture and won’t cater to political ideologies. Former Democratic Tallahassee Mayor John Marks is part of its management team.
“We’re not looking to be Republican or Democrat. Obviously, there will be current affairs, but we are culturally specific to the African American community. MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, they may have African American faces on their news shows. Still, they are not necessarily covering the community from a cultural perspective,” Watts told The Associated Press in October. “We’re not looking to be left or right.”
The launch also coincides with the 45th national Black History Month. Historian Carter G. Woodson, a founder of the Association for the Study of African American History, created the first celebration that became the annual tradition.
— TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Florida’s Senate has approved the highly controversial bill requiring parental consent for abortion.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— The Education Committee in the Florida House advances a bill allowing college athletes to cash in on their fame without losing scholarships.
— The new Commissioner of the Florida Office of Financial Regulation might not be starting his new job any time soon … if at all.
— State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith talks about finding himself under attack for calling out private schools that accept vouchers but refuse to accept gay and lesbian students.
— The latest on Florida Man, who finally beat city hall — with the help of the U.S. Supreme Court.
To listen, click on the image below:
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@RealDonaldTrump: Had failed presidential candidate @MittRomney devoted the same energy and anger to defeating a faltering Barack Obama as he sanctimoniously does to me, he could have won the election. Read the Transcripts!
—@AaronBlake: Hard to overstate how simple this is: If you run afoul of Trump, you get what McCain, Corker and Flake got — and Romney is getting. If you defend him to the hilt and go further than other GOPers, you get a shout-out on national TV, like Jordan, Gaetz, Lesko and Stefanik.
—@DWSTweets: [Barack] Obama protected Bears Ears & Grand Staircase, land with cultural history for the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, & more. Trump plans to drill & mine there even amid ongoing litigation. We can’t put profits over Earth & trust responsibilities.
—@RepDMP: Today, @SpeakerPelosi, my colleagues & I met w/ Venezuela’s legitimate President @jguaido. We reaffirmed our full support. And talked #VenezuelaTPS & the need for allies to join in sanctioning actors propping up [Nicolás] Maduro’s authoritarian regime. We all want a #VenezuelaLibre.
—@MarcoRubio: .@politico story on efforts to bully donors to no longer support Florida’s school choice program is textbook example of narrative bias in media A supporter of program pointed out who is most hurts by this bullying. But Politico decided to cut out “mostly children of color”
—@Fineout: With all due respect sir — this is the quote right before the one you highlighted from the same person — “It’s not social justice to hold thousands of low-income, mostly black and Hispanic students hostage because you can’t get your way. But that’s exactly what is going on here.”
—@AGGancarski: Where do you go when you want to get away from the Capitol press corps? “Governor Ron DeSantis to Make a Major Announcement in Jacksonville”
—@GloverLaw: What a joke. Like voters in 2022 will care that the Commissioner of Agriculture won’t be able to tout achievements from the “Florida Energy Office.” Voters don’t know what that is. No reason to play this game — just focus on good government.
—@FLSecofState: Were it not for the contributions of women who fought for suffrage, I would not be able to vote, let alone serve as our state’s Chief Elections Official. What an honor to talk about # & # with this group of women at the annual @ LEAD Summit.
One of my favorite things to do is get young minds interested, excited, and involved in government. I keep copies of the constitution with me for just this reason. Our future is certainly bright. pic.twitter.com/r5EHDvMGa1
— George Gainer (@SenatorGainer) February 6, 2020
—@CarlosGSmith: Had a great meeting w/@, Reps. @ , @ & @ ‘s @ . We all care about protecting our most vulnerable kids including low-income, black, brown and LGBTQ and can fix policies like the one below by working together!
—@JaredEMoskowitz: The character of my friend @is unquestioned. His devout faith is unbounded. His leadership is unbridled. His counsel is required.
—@LargeWilliamW: Letters of protection are extremely rare outside of the personal injury context … But the converse is untrue in personal injury cases, and plaintiffs attorneys have an incentive to send their clients to doctors who use letters of protection.
—@SteveSchale: Tallahassee weather freak outs … Sleet/Freezing temperature > Bad thunderstorms in February > Hurricanes
— DAYS UNTIL —
Capitol Press Corps press skits — 3; New Hampshire Primaries — 4; Pitchers and catchers begin reporting for MLB Spring Training — 4; South Beach Wine and Food Festival — 12; Ninth Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas — 12; Roger Stone’s sentencing — 13; Nevada caucuses — 15; “Better Call Saul” Season 5 premiers — 16; 10th Democratic presidential debate in Charleston — 18; South Carolina Primaries — 22; Super Tuesday — 25; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 35; Florida’s presidential primary — 39; “No Time to Die” premiers — 59; Florida TaxWatch Spring Board Meeting begins — 68; TaxWatch Principal Leadership Awards — 69; Florida Chamber Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 98; “Top Gun: Maverick” premiers — 140; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 157; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premiers — 161; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo start — 168; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 193; First Presidential Debate in Indiana — 235; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 199; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 243; Second Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 251; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 258; 2020 General Election — 270.
— TOP STORY —
“Associated Press unable to declare winner of Iowa caucuses” via The Associated Press — The Associated Press said Thursday that it is unable to declare a winner of Iowa’s Democratic caucuses. With 97% of precincts reporting, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg leads Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by three state delegate equivalents out of 2,098 counted. That is a margin of 0.14 percentage points. However, even as the Iowa Democratic Party’s effort to complete its tabulation of the caucus results continues, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez asked the Iowa Democratic Party to conduct a recanvass. The Iowa Democratic Party suggested it may not comply with Perez’s request, issuing a statement that said it would conduct a recanvass if one was requested by one of the candidates.
— DATELINE: TALLY —
Assignment editors — Gov. Ron DeSantis will make a major announcement, 10:30 a.m., Operation New Hope, 1830 Main Street North, Jacksonville.
“Why won’t Florida ban LGBTQ workplace discrimination? José Oliva says it isn’t a major problem.” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A bipartisan group of Florida lawmakers wants to add gay and transgender people to the state’s anti-discrimination law. But despite that support, their effort hasn’t gotten a hearing and likely will not receive a vote this year. One obstacle standing in its way is House Speaker Oliva, who fears that prohibiting LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace could lead to a flood of litigation. A person’s sexual orientation isn’t evident like it is for race or gender, presenting a challenge for employers, he said. “It is very possible that an employer does not know of a person’s sexual orientation,” said Oliva. “Then you could get in an event where somebody could lose their job, and then they might claim it is based on something that somebody did not know to begin with.”
“Oliva, DOE weigh in on school voucher controversy” via Sarah Mueller of Florida Politics — The House Speaker expressed concern that if the state dictates terms to religious schools, it could face a lawsuit. “The one thing that we are not going to do is have a situation where children who now finally have (a) great opportunity are now going to be ripped from those schools,” he said. What touched off this latest firestorm was a recent investigation, which identified more than 100 private schools with anti-gay views or policies that are part of the state-funded Tax Credit Scholarship program. The Department of Education is also taking issue with the Sentinel’s reporting. In a statement, the agency also suggested the paper is biased against the voucher program.
“This legislator is gay, black and trying to quell the anti-LGBTQ school voucher fight” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — The evolving debate over anti-LGBTQ policies in private voucher schools is now framed as an unavoidable dilemma. Either allow these policies that discriminate against LGBTQ students and their families, or take vouchers away from low-income, mostly black and Hispanic families who are already attending private schools with these funds. Enter: the state’s first and only out gay black lawmaker. Democrat Rep. Shevrin Jones, a former Broward County public school teacher who also attends a church that accepts voucher students at its school, decided that his role in this fight is to try to broker a peace. “Someone has to be there to be the moderator, hopefully, to bring both sides together and bring what’s best for kids,” Jones said.
“Protests canceled against lawmakers’ calls to stop funding anti-LGBTQ schools” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — Step Up For Students, which administers the bulk of the state’s largest voucher program, sent an email inviting Orlando parents to protest at the offices of Democratic Reps. Anna Eskamani and Carlos Guillermo Smith, who have asked companies to halt contributions to the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship unless discrimination against gay and transgender students is banned. But the Orlando Police Department said Thursday morning a group that had planned “a peaceful demonstration and rally,” at Eskamani’s office had canceled it. Two women standing outside Eskamani’s Orlando office said they were there for the protest. A few minutes after the scheduled start time for the protest at Smith’s east Orange County office, just one parent had shown up, his staff said.
“Tourism industry is behind a bill to block local laws that could create more benefits for workers” via Chabeli Carrazana of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida’s top tourism and business interests are putting their combined political might behind a bill moving through the Legislature that would prevent cities and counties from forcing companies to provide their workers with better benefits or more predictable schedules. Proponents say the bill fosters a pro-business environment and will set a single standard across the state, rather than allow local governments to create a patchwork of different rules. Opponents worry the bill could cancel out local laws such as an Orange County ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the private sector or a wage recovery ordinance in Osceola County that helps workers when an employer doesn’t pay what the worker is due.
“Business leaders push for tax incentives ahead of economic development week” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — State business leaders and the Florida Economic Development Council (FEDC) issued an early kickoff for economic development week at the state Capitol. Florida Economic Development Week, beginning Sunday, is an opportunity for advocates to highlight business initiatives like the qualified target industry tax refund program or VISIT FLORIDA. “Economic development, in all of its various disciplines, is vital to Florida’s competitiveness and prosperity,” said FEDC chair Kelly Smallridge. “The FEDC and our business workforce and education partners believe that, as an engine for progress, economic development should be recognized through a dedicated week.” And Andra Cornelius, senior vice president of CareerSource Florida, said securing high-skilled jobs is an economic necessity in the modernizing economy.
“Coalition forms to ‘combat misinformation’ on independent practice for nurses” via Florida Politics — More than 50 county medical and specialty societies are joining forces to push back against the “false and vitriolic narrative” surrounding a bill that would allow nurses and physician assistants to practice independently of physicians. The Florida Patient Protection Coalition plans to make the argument against the independent practice bill, HB 607, by educating the public on the benefits of physician-led, team-based care. “The Florida Patient Protection Coalition seeks to counter the propaganda being disseminated by the nursing and physician assistant groups pushing for independent practice legislation,” said FMA President Ronald F. Giffler. FPPC also pointed to survey data from the American Medical Association that shows 91% of people believe a physician’s years of education and training are vital to optimal patient care, especially in the event of a complication or medical emergency.
“Moffitt’s push for state money is clouded by China investigation” via Justine Griffin of the Tampa Bay Times — A scandal that recently forced six Moffitt Cancer Center employees to resign has not dampened the center’s push for nearly $400 million in state money to fund a major expansion. Moffitt’s plans for a new hospital in Tampa and a research center in Pasco County rely on the Legislature increasing the center’s share of the state’s cigarette tax. But the request comes as lawmakers investigate how top professionals at Moffitt and other Florida institutions became entangled in a strategy by China to exploit U.S.-based research for its own use. Nothing about that controversy has eased demand for the center’s work, argues interim CEO Tim Adams. Moffitt’s allies in the Legislature are staying positive, while also acknowledging the awkward timing.
“Plastics ‘monster’ haunts Capitol to call for waste reduction” via Laura Cassels of Florida Phoenix — A 15-foot-tall monster made of thousands of pieces of plastic litter was in the Capitol this week to illustrate how much plastic enters the oceans: more than 18 billion pounds per year. Greenpeace, Oceana and others came to Tallahassee to put plastics pollution in plain sight for legislators. “There’s no way they’re not seeing this,” said Rep. Anna Eskamani, who is co-sponsoring legislation with Rep. Mike Grieco, to permit local governments to restrict single-use plastics and other disposable items. The plastics monster, created by Greenpeace, is traveling to major cities in Florida with ocean advocates calling on retailers to stop using single-use plastic shopping bags, which are very slow to degrade and dangerous to marine life.
— LEGISLATION —
“Parental consent abortion bill clears Florida Senate on party-line vote” via John Kennedy of the GateHouse Capital Bureau — Following emotional debate, a divided Senate approved requiring girls under age 18 to get permission from a parent, guardian or a court before having an abortion, defying a three-decades-old court ruling that declared a similar law unconstitutional. The 23-17 vote broke strictly along party lines, and now moves to the House, where an even larger GOP majority is expected to approve the change, sending it to DeSantis, who has indicated he will sign the restriction. “This is not a pro-choice, pro-life bill, it really isn’t,” said Sen. Kelli Stargel, sponsor of the bill (SB 404). “It’s about whether or not you’re going to have adults be involved in difficult decisions for children … we want parents to be involved.”
E-Verify to get Senate hearing next week — Senate President Bill Galvano said Wednesday that an E-Verify bill that would apply to both public and private employers would get a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee next week. The proposal, SB 664 by Thonotosassa Republican Sen. Tom Lee, is one of DeSantis’ priorities. Galvano said the bill could see some changes before it is taken up in the committee, chaired by Sen. David Simmons. “Simmons is working with the sponsor and the interest holders involved to reach a balance to allay some of the concerns myself and others in the chamber have had,” Galvano said.
“’Sunshine’ exemption sought for presidential searches” via Ana Ceballos of the News Service of Florida — The House State Affairs Committee approved a leadership-backed bill (PCB SAC 20-04) that would create a public-records and public-meetings exemption for information related to presidential searches. In the Senate, an identical bill (SB 774) is being pushed by Senate Education Chair Manny Diaz Jr., who says the proposal would help universities and colleges attract more talented pools of candidates. “I don’t want to call the pool of candidates that we are getting weak,” Diaz said. “I am just saying we’ve had seven openings in the last eight years, and we have not even had a sitting president considered.” But opponents said making the process less transparent would not attract better candidates, but well-connected insiders getting the jobs.
“School board term limits head to House floor” via Florida Politics — The bill (HJR 157), sponsored by Republican Rep. Anthony Sabatini, passed the House Education Committee. Democratic Reps. Bruce Antone, Susan Valdez, Patricia Williams and Delores Hogan Johnson voted no. Sabatini’s measure to amend the state Constitution would cap the amount of time people could serve on a school board to eight years. There’s no limit on how long a school board member can currently stay in office. It would only apply to terms that start on or after Nov. 3, 2020, so school board members re-elected to a consecutive term could serve another eight years.
“Church gun bill on the move” via the News Service of Florida — A controversial effort to allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to bring guns to religious institutions that share a property with schools advanced through the House Education Committee. The measure (HB 1437) would allow religious institutions to authorize people with concealed-weapons licenses to carry guns at any location “owned, rented, leased or lawfully used” by the institution. Opponents have argued the measure would also allow people licensed to carry concealed weapons to bring the guns to public schools that make space available to religious groups, even when the religious groups aren’t meeting. Before the committee’s 15-1 vote in favor of the measure, Rep. Jayer Williamson said religious institutions will decide what is best for them.
“Student-athletes promoting strip clubs, casinos, beer and cigs? Not if the House has anything to say about it” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Strip clubs, casinos, breweries and cigarette makers could be benched from a proposal that would let Florida college athletes market themselves off the field. The House Education Committee on Thursday approved a bill (HB 7051) that would allow athletes to get paid for the use of their names, images and likenesses. But before the vote, sponsor Chip LaMarca, a Lighthouse Point Republican, said he had discussions with officials at several state schools about branding requirements. “There’s not anything in the language of this bill, but in speaking to a lot of the universities, the University of Florida comes to mind, Florida Atlantic, both had concerns about the types of companies or contracts that might be entered into, somewhat similar to a morality clause,” LaMarca said.
Development bill moves after tree-cutting amendment pulled — A proposal that would give certain development rights to landowners cleared the House Judiciary Committee after a contentious amendment restricting municipal governments’ authority to regulate tree removal was withdrawn, Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida reports. The affirmative vote pushes HB 519 to the House floor. The bill would require local governments to treat properties that are “similarly situated” in the same manner for development. Florida League of Cities counsel David Cruz criticized “similarly situated” as a vague term that would open the door for lawsuits against local governments.
“Bill would repeal law requiring governments to post legal notices in newspapers” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau — The newspaper industry was on the defensive Thursday as a House committee approved a bill that could strip legacy newspapers of an important revenue source by no longer requiring local governments to buy ads to publish legal notices about public business. The House State Affairs Committee voted 14-9 to give local governments the option of publishing legally required notices on publicly accessible websites instead of in newspapers, if that would result in cost savings to the governmental entity. The public notice ads are intended to alert the public to things like tax increases, zoning changes, seized property, government meetings, special elections and hazardous waste sites.
“Gift ban exemption proposal expanded to allow GoFundMe solicitations” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The question of whether Florida’s state workers battling cancer or other major health crises should be allowed to accept helpful gifts from lobbyists and others was also expanded to consider whether those workers should be allowed to solicit such gifts. The House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee amended and then unanimously approved HB 1435 to ease prohibitions against state employees who are going through major health crises so that they might ask for and receive gifts of help, including money, including from state lobbyists and vendors. Specifically, the bill would apply to a state employee or nonelected official, or their child, who has suffered serious bodily injury or has been diagnosed with a serious disease or illness.
Bill would upgrade recount tech — A proposal moving through the House and Senate could speed up the recount process by allowing the use of digital imaging and automated tabulating machines, Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida reports. Currently, Florida only allows those machines to be used during an election audit. The machines can create images of ballots for canvassing boards to use when looking for over- or under-votes or when checking for irregular marks. “I had the opportunity to view this system at the supervisor’s office. It’s simply amazing,” said Rep. Tracie Davis, a Jacksonville Democrat who worked at the Duval County Supervisor of Elections’ office for 14 years. “The machine I saw was able to view 100 ballots per minute.”
— STATEWIDE —
“Ashley Moody, pharmacy chains tangle in opioid lawsuit” via the News Service of Florida — Castigating the tactic as a “publicity stunt,” Attorney General Moody is asking a judge to reject an effort by the nation’s two largest pharmacy chains to add 500 unidentified physicians to the state’s lawsuit against the pharmaceutical industry over the opioid epidemic. CVS Pharmacy Inc. and Walgreen Co. filed what is called a third-party complaint against 500 “John and Jane Doe” doctors, alleging that the prescribing physicians — and not the drugstores — are to blame for faulty prescriptions. The state’s lawsuit against the chains “is nothing more than unsupported speculation” that pharmacists “filled prescriptions for opioid medications that they should not have filled” despite the state’s “inability to support its claim with even one instance of an improperly filled prescription.”
“Florida cops who use force keep names secret with Marsy’s Law” via Tony Marrero of the Tampa Bay Times — Shortly after two officers shot a man, Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan approached them with a request. Dugan told them he wanted to release their names after they wounded the 34-year-old man who brandished a handgun. That used to be standard practice when an officer was involved in a shooting or other use-of-force incident. But because the man they shot threatened them with a gun, the officers had a right to privacy under a state constitutional amendment known as Marsy’s Law. The officers initially declined. At that point, Dugan said, his hands were tied by a law that he doesn’t think should apply to officers acting in the line of duty. “There is a sense of frustration,” Dugan said.
“State fires latest salvo in major pot case” via the News Service of Florida — In a case that could create a major upheaval in the state’s pot industry, health officials asked the Florida Supreme Court to uphold a 2017 law that carried out a constitutional amendment broadly legalizing medical marijuana. Lawyers for the Department of Health argued that, in creating and passing the law, the Florida Legislature carried out its “constitutional prerogative to serve as the state policymaker and to protect the welfare of the citizenry.” The controversy is centered on a key component of the law that established a “vertical integration system,” in which a limited number of companies that receive medical marijuana licenses must handle all aspects of the business, including growing, processing and distributing products.
“How long would it take for all Florida public school teachers to get starting pay of $47,500?” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of Florida Phoenix — The Senate’s $92.8 billion budget bill (SB 2500) earmarks $500 million for teacher raises, with the bulk of the money aimed at increasing the minimum salaries to $47,500 a year. That would take some time, according to Sen. Stargel, who oversees education spending in the Senate. She said the earmarked funds “requires (school) districts to use 80 percent of their total allocation to increase minimum classroom salaries toward the governor’s goal of ($47,500), with the intent that this goal would be met statewide over the next several years.” The House’s $91.4 billion budget bill (PCB APC 20-01) includes $650 million earmarked for increasing teacher salaries.
“Why is car insurance so high in Florida? Let’s count the reasons.” via Graham Brink of the Tampa Bay Times — A huge number of uninsured drivers doesn’t help. The Insurance Research Council found that more than a quarter of Florida’s drivers don’t carry insurance, the most of any state. That drives up costs for everyone. So does the fact that a lot of claims in Florida involve lawyers, according to Insure.com. The state’s scourge of bogus broken windshield cases doesn’t help either. State insurance officials blame severe weather for higher comprehensive premiums, which pay to repair vehicles damaged by something unrelated to an accident. Tourists unfamiliar with our roads create more fender benders, they say. And the state has a high percentage of college-aged drivers and those over 75-years old, both of whom can pay more for insurance.
“Who is inspecting the inspectors of smaller amusement parks in Florida?” via Masha Saeidi of News Channel 8 — There are only 17 people in charge of inspecting the more than 230 amusement parks, fairs and traveling shows in the state. Preliminary accident reports come from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services; the Department oversees the Bureau of Fair Rides Inspection. In two years, more than 300 people went to the hospital after being hurt at one of these amusement parks or traveling shows. The majority of these incidents were minor and would not have been prevented by an inspection. However, 8 On Your Side did spot serious accidents during 2018 and 2019. No one has audited the work of inspectors in approximately 20 years.
— MOTHER NATURE —
“Conservationists buy Florida lake with Gulf Oil Spill funds” via The Associated Press — The Nature Conservancy acquired Lake Wimico, a 20,161-acre piece of land in the Florida Panhandle calling it one of the largest conservation wins in over a decade. The organization said safeguarding Lake Wimico will help preserve and protect the water quality of Apalachicola River, Apalachicola Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. It also creates a protected refuge for resident and migratory wildlife, including many federally and state listed imperiled species. Conservationists had repeatedly identified the freshwater wetland habitat as an area of critical conservation significance for preservation. The land was identified as a priority parcel with the state’s Florida Forever Program. The acquisition was paid with funds from Deepwater Horizon criminal penalties designated for the benefit of natural resources.
“Eve Samples has left the building … or has she?” via Nancy Smith of The Capitolist — Tuesday should have been liberation day for Samples‘ Treasure Coast readers. Note, I said SHOULD have been. Dare I hope we might one day see an investigative piece on billionaire John Tudor Jones II’s powerful Everglades Foundation, its history, its money, what exactly are its real accomplishments? Sadly, I doubt I’ll live to see any such stories. Samples, new executive director of Stuart-based Friends of the Everglades, may have left the building, but she’s been an outstanding Everglades Foundation-style advocate for the environment and a powerful influence in the TCN newsroom. I don’t see her giving that up until new leadership at the newspaper makes a conscious effort to change the culture and move toward balance.
— 2020 —
“The billion-dollar disinformation campaign to reelect the President” via McKay Coppins of The Atlantic — Every presidential campaign sees its share of spin and misdirection, but this year’s contest promises to be different. In conversations with political strategists and other experts, a dystopian picture of the general election comes into view — one shaped by coordinated bot attacks, Potemkin local-news sites, micro-targeted fearmongering, and anonymous mass texting. Both parties will have these tools at their disposal. But in the hands of a President who lies constantly, who traffics in conspiracy theories, and who readily manipulates the levers of government for his own gain, their potential to wreak havoc is enormous. The Trump campaign is planning to spend more than $1 billion, aided by a vast coalition of partisan media, outside political groups, and enterprising freelance operatives.
“DNC chair calls for Iowa recanvass as Bernie Sanders declares victory” via Nolan McCaskill and Zach Montellaro of POLITICO — DNC Chair Perez‘s announcement came shortly before Sanders claimed victory in a race that officially remains too close to call. “Enough is enough,” Perez tweeted. “In light of the problems that have emerged in the implementation of the delegate selection plan and in order to assure public confidence in the results, I am calling on the Iowa Democratic Party to immediately begin a recanvass.” The parallel developments underscored the chaos that has gripped the party in the aftermath of Iowa’s caucus debacle. Though Perez later clarified that the state party will continue reporting results, his call comes after the public release of the results has been delayed for days, with reports of errors and inconsistencies.
“Iowa caucus results riddled with errors and inconsistencies” via Nate Cohn, Josh Katz, Denise Lu, Charlie Smart, Ben Smithgall and Andrew Fischer of The New York Times — In some cases, vote tallies do not add up. In others, precincts are allotting the wrong number of delegates to certain candidates. In at least a few cases, the Iowa Democratic Party’s reported results do not match those reported by the precincts. Some of these inconsistencies may prove to be innocuous, and they do not indicate an intentional effort to compromise or rig the result. But not all the errors are minor, and they raise questions about whether the public will ever get a completely precise account of the Iowa results. The race could easily grow close enough for even the most minor errors to delay a final projection or raise doubts about a declared winner.
“Joe Biden campaign agonizes over Iowa shellacking” via Natasha Korecki and Marc Caputo of POLITICO — Biden’s unexpectedly weak performance — he’s in fourth place with 16 percent with 97 percent of precincts reporting — has provoked frustration and recriminations within the campaign staffers began pointing fingers over what exactly went wrong. The campaign parted ways with its Iowa field director, Adrienne Bogen. Outside the campaign, Biden’s Iowa train wreck revived questions about the durability of his candidacy and threatened to slow a fundraising operation that was already showing signs of stress. “We had precinct captains who didn’t know how to run a caucus. And a few didn’t even show. We lost friggin’ people on the second ballot of voting in the caucus. Someone’s head had to roll,” said a top-level Biden campaign staffer.
“First head rolls after Biden’s weak Iowa finish” via Natasha Korecki and Marc Caputo of POLITICO — Bogen, who headed field operations for Biden, will not stay on the campaign, even as other members of senior leadership were asked to head to other early states or to assist in Super Tuesday operations. Bogen is the first staff casualty following Biden’s disappointing showing in the state. But friends of Bogen said she was being scapegoated by a floundering campaign, adding that she had complained about its dysfunction, which she blamed on higher-ups. “The Biden campaign is desperate to blame everyone for his problems in Iowa — the state party, Trump, Adrienne — and that’s bullshit,” a friend, a Democrat who is not aligned with another candidate, said.
“Biden endorsed by five African American lawmakers in Florida” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — The list includes two legislators from Orange County, state Reps. Bruce Antone, the chair of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, and Geraldine Thompson; two from Hillsborough County, state Reps. Dianne Hart and Fentrice Driskell; and a lawmaker from St. Lucie County, Delores Hogan Johnson. “As vote-by-mail gears up across Florida, we feel energized by the growing support we have across the state,” said Jackie Lee, Florida senior adviser for the Biden campaign. “These legislators are well-known, influential leaders that know Joe Biden is the candidate best-positioned to beat Donald Trump in the critical state of Florida.”
“Biden kinda, sorta, almost endorses legalizing marijuana” via Natalie Fertig of POLITICO — Biden‘s opposition to fully legalizing marijuana is well known, but on the campaign trail in New Hampshire this week he appeared to change his position. “I think it is at the point where it has to be, basically, legalized,” Biden said. But Biden wouldn’t be willing to legalize marijuana right away, unlike other 2020 contenders. Sanders has said he’ll remove the federal ban on marijuana during his first 100 days as president. Biden, however, remained firm that he wants scientific research to support his decision, saying he is “not prepared to [legalize] as long as there are serious medical people saying, ‘We should determine what other side effects would occur.’”
“Amid frustration over Iowa, Sanders posts huge fundraising numbers” via Holly Otterbein of POLITICO — Sanders’ campaign raised $25 million in January from nearly 650,000 people, a third of whom were new donors. That makes it his best fundraising month of the 2020 campaign, according to his team. Sanders’ aides also said that he is using the small-dollar cash infusion to place a $5.5 million TV and digital ad buy in nine Super Tuesday states and South Carolina. Sanders’ Iowa state director, Misty Rebik, sent a memo to staffers and supporters on Wednesday night that said the campaign has “a viable path forward to achieve a clean sweep and retake the lead in state delegate equivalents and national pledged delegates.”
“Sanders campaign names Brevard Democrat as Florida field director” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Sanjay Patel, an official with the Brevard County Democratic Party, has been appointed the Florida field director for the Sanders presidential campaign. Patel, the state committeeman for the county party, was the Democratic candidate for Congress against Republican Bill Posey in 2018. His wife, Stacey, is the Brevard County party chair. “As many of you know, I was initially inspired to get involved in politics because of Sen. Sanders and his selfless, unwavering commitment to economic, social, racial and environmental justice for all of us,” Patel said in a Facebook post. “I was humbled to receive his endorsement when I ran for U.S. Congress in 2018, and now I’m honored to be a part of the team that will help elect him to the White House this November.”
“Andrew Yang fires dozens of staffers after Iowa debacle” via Eugene Daniels of POLITICO — Among those dismissed were the national political and policy directors of the campaign, as well as the deputy national political director — all senior-level positions. The people who were fired worked across Yang’s organization, from his headquarters in New York to the now-disbanded Iowa operation. The Yang campaign insists it had planned to reduce the size of his organization after Iowa. According to FEC reports released last week, the Yang campaign had more than 230 people on staff. “As part of our original plans following the Iowa caucuses, we are winding down our Iowa operations and restructuring to compete as the New Hampshire primary approaches,” campaign manager Zach Graumann said.
“An unsettling new theory: There is no swing voter” via David Freedlander of POLITICO — What if there is no such thing as “the center,” and the party in power can govern however it wants for two years, because the results of that first midterm are going to be bad regardless? What if the Democrats’ big 41-seat midterm victory in 2018 didn’t happen because candidates focused on health care and kitchen-table issues, but simply because they were running against the party in the White House? To the political scientist Rachel Bitecofer, all that is almost certainly true. Her model tells her the Democrats are a near-lock for the presidency in 2020, and are likely to gain House seats and have a decent shot at retaking the Senate.
— BLOOMBERG’S BIG FLORIDA BET —
While other Democratic presidential candidates focus on early states, Mike Bloomberg has been betting big on Florida this winter.
The billionaire and former New York City Mayor, whose campaign reported spending $188 million overall through the end of 2019 — all of it from his own wallet — has begun 2020 with spending millions of dollars specifically in Florida, specifically at local television stations.
Bloomberg’s campaign spending in major Florida markets since Christmas has totaled more than $11.5 million, according to a review of advertising contracts filed by TV stations with the Federal Communications Commission.
In Florida’s five major markets — Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Tampa Bay, Orlando, West Palm Beach, and Jacksonville — Bloomberg paid to air more than 11,000 television commercial spots on local TV.
And that is just on the most significant commercial network broadcast stations, those affiliated with CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, CW, and Univision. It does not include advertising in Florida’s other six full TV markets from Fort Myers to Pensacola. Nor does it include digital advertising targeting Floridians through social media posts.
The number of Florida local television commercials from all other 2020 presidential candidates combined through the first week of February: Zero.
“Bloomberg seizes on chaos in Democratic presidential race to escalate his campaign” via Paul Schwartzman of The Washington Post — On the morning after the Iowa caucuses, as the nation awoke to news of another electoral debacle, Bloomberg stood on a stage in an old warehouse in Detroit, feigning little concern. “I hear something happened in Iowa — or didn’t happen; I don’t know which,” the billionaire and former New York City Mayor told the crowd, adding that he had been asleep on a plane to Michigan as the results were supposed to be coming in. When he awoke, Bloomberg recalled, he asked someone the outcome, “and the guy said, ‘Nothing.’ I still can’t figure it out.” While the rest of the Democratic field tries to recover from Iowa and pivot to New Hampshire, Bloomberg is seizing the moment to gain an advantage.
“Biden stares down Bloomberg in Florida after Iowa ‘gut punch’” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — With Bloomberg making a strong play for the Sunshine State, the Biden campaign added five new Florida endorsements to the candidate’s already long list. Still, Biden’s supporters were blunt about their mounting concerns in the wake of his fourth-place finish in the first-in-the-nation vote in the Democratic presidential primary. “There remains a lot of Joe Biden support here, but Mike Bloomberg has spent a lot of money in Florida, that can’t be ignored,” said state Rep. Joe Geller, a Biden supporter. “It is not a state he is sleeping on.” Bloomberg has spent $30 million on TV so far in Florida, which began mailing absentee ballots in preparation for the state’s March 17 Democratic primary.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Donald Trump unleashes impeachment fury in acquittal ‘celebration’” via Jill Colvin, Jonathan Lemire And Zeke Miller of The Associated Press — Exulting in his impeachment acquittal, a defiant President Donald Trump took a scorched-earth victory lap, unleashing his fury against those who tried to remove him from office and pointing ahead to his reelection campaign. Triumphantly waving newspaper front pages that declared him “ACQUITTED,” Trump denounced the impeachment proceedings as a “disgrace” and portrayed himself as a victim of political foes he labeled “scum,” “sleaze bags” and “crooked” people. Hours earlier, he unleashed broadsides that stunned the crowd at an annual bipartisan prayer breakfast.
“Democracy in inaction: How Trump beat the rap” via John Harris of POLITICO — The consensus view — shared by nearly all Democrats and even a decent number of Republicans — is that the United States Senate did nothing to acquit itself. Wednesday’s vote has yielded a new indictment: The partisan divisions that saved Trump are an expression of deeper and malignant trends that are a threat to constitutional democracy. The fundamental problem of modern political culture is the erosion of accountability. Politicians have shown repeatedly the ability to escape consequences by reframing almost any controversy away from the particulars of misbehavior to the familiar question: Which side are you on, mine or my enemies?
“Miami-Dade Democrats file bar complaint against Matt Gaetz for alleged obstruction of impeachment process” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Miami-Dade Democratic Party is filing a bar complaint against U.S. Rep. Gaetz, alleging he violated House rules during Trump‘s impeachment inquiry by attempting to enter secure rooms. Before Trump’s impeachment, the House assigned a group of committees to investigate his actions regarding Ukraine. As part of the investigation, those committees interviewed witnesses. The interviews were open to those committees only, though Democrats and Republicans sat on each committee. The complaint cites two instances where Gaetz attempted to enter those restricted interview hearings. The complaint cites the House rules, which limited members of Congress who could sit in on those depositions. It also references a pair of Bar rules Gaetz allegedly violated. Gaetz did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the complaint.
— THE TRAIL —
“Adam Hattersley takes fundraising lead in congressional race” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — Hattersley raised $159,877 during three months, leaving him with $171,314 cash in the bank. But both Hattersley and his Democratic primary opponent, Alan Cohn, raised more during the quarter than the Republican incumbent they hope to challenge, Ross Spano. For the campaign overall, Spano has raised more than half a million dollars, but heavy spending and debts left him with less cash than either of the two Democrats. The spending and debts include $38,000 on legal fees as Spano faces investigations over alleged campaign finance improprieties; and $59,500 from loans Spano made to his campaign during the 2018 race when he won the seat. Cohn raised $117,644 during the quarter, finishing with $85,312 in cash.
“Randy Henderson in new ad addresses Ilhan Omar: ‘I’ll get that key back.’” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Fort Myers Mayor Henderson in a campaign video confronts head-on the time he treated Omar as a dignitary. An introductory ad for his campaign touts his record over 19 years in city government. But the ad also addresses a moment as mayor critics have used to dog his candidacy. Before Ilhan’s election to Congress in 2018, the Minnesota Representative visited Fort Myers as a guest of the African Network of Southwest Florida. The group asked Henderson at the time to give her a key to the city, and he did. He understands why the video of him with Omar upsets voters now. “I’m done playing nice with people who won’t show respect to Trump.”
To watch the ad, click on the image below:
“Andrew Gillum political committee sends $75K to group backing Senate Democrats” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Senate Victory is partnering with Gillum‘s political committee ahead of the 2020 election. Forward Florida, shipped $75,000 to Senate Victory to invest in campaign operations. The donation came in before the start of the 2020 Legislative Session. “With redistricting right after the 2020 election, it is vital that we elect more Democrats to the Florida Senate to ensure that our citizens get the fair districts they deserve,” Gillum said in announcing the donation. “Senate Victory has a proven track record of success, picking up seats, winning campaigns, and engaging the grassroots. I am excited to partner with Sen. Gary Farmer to advance our shared vision of a brighter, more progressive future for Florida.”
Happening today — The Republican Women’s Club of Sarasota will hold a GOP forum for candidates in HD 72, including Donna Barcomb, Fiona McFarland and James Miller, 11:30 a.m., Michael’s on East, 1212 South East Ave., Sarasota.
— LOCAL —
“Belvin Perry, former chief judge, enters race to replace Aramis Ayala as Orange-Osceola state attorney” via Monivette Cordeiro of the Orlando Sentinel — Ayala is not running for a second term this year because of her continuing opposition to the death penalty and a Florida Supreme Court ruling that upheld former Gov. Rick Scott’s decision to remove 29 capital cases from her office, due to her refusal to consider capital punishment. Perry filed to run as a Democrat, according to the Florida Division of Elections records. He changed his registration from the Republican Party Jan. 16, 2019, Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles previously told the Orlando Sentinel. Perry retired as chief judge of the Ninth Judicial Circuit in 2014.
“Infant mortality rates have improved across Florida, but Orange County’s has not changed in a decade. Why?” via Naseem Miller of the Orlando Sentinel — Access to care, medical complications, and economic factors can lead to a baby’s death in the first 364 days of life. It’s a complex issue, yet, like a canary in a coal mine, infant mortality rates can signal when and where a community is failing to take care of its most vulnerable populations, including moms and babies. Despite a few dips over the years, Orange County reported the same infant mortality rate last year as it did in 1999: 6.1 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. “[Infant mortality] is certainly not on the [local officials’] radar as a high priority,” said Linda Sutherland, executive director of the Healthy Start Coalition of Orange County.
“South Florida judge tosses surprise emergency room fees lawsuit against HCA hospitals” via Ben Conarck of the Miami Herald — Claims in a 2019 lawsuit that HCA Florida hospitals were billing patients surprise facility fees for emergency room visits were overblown and inaccurate, according to a South Florida federal judge. The hospitals did, in fact, charge facility fees, U.S. Judge Roy K. Altman said in an order dismissing the lawsuit on Monday, but they were disclosed on the internet on lists known as chargemasters, which list the costs of various goods and services. The proposed class-action sought to represent anyone financially responsible for patients who were charged surprise extra fees at all HCA-affiliated emergency rooms in Florida in the last four years. The suit did not name HCA affiliates in Miami-Dade County.
“Mets’ $57 million stadium renovation won’t be finished for the beginning of spring training” via Keona Gardner of TCPalm — The $57 million overhaul of the 7,100-seat stadium is only 62% complete, according to a December quarterly report the county sent to the state. County officials now hope to have work on the stadium done by Feb. 24, two days after the Mets’ spring training home opener. The entire project — including landscaping and other aesthetic items — is to be completed by June 3, the report states. The county did not provide updated completion figures, nor could they provide reasons for the delay. Despite the stadium being two-thirds completed, the Mets say they are “100% confident” the stadium will be ready Monday for pitchers and catchers and Thursday for fans to watch player-workouts.
— TOP OPINION —
“Adam Goodman: God help America” via Florida Politics — The State of the Union address is traditionally the moment when a President shares with America their view of the world. This year broke with much of that tradition and shone a spotlight on the shards of partisan bitterness that threaten to overwhelm the good of the nation and consume the emotions of the nation. Some pejoratively compared the President’s approach to Oprah Winfrey, and yes, there were many made-for-television moments we will not soon forget. Yet it put a face on accomplishments and on priorities that numbers can neither measure nor capture and made this State of the Union an emotional pitch for America to continue its current path.
— OPINIONS —
“Peter Navarro: ‘Under-mining’ strategic mineral security” via Florida Politics — We cannot afford to take our self-sufficiency in indispensable mineral and metal production for granted. The United States needs to ensure its production of indispensable minerals and metals such as copper and molybdenum continues, and accelerate production of critical materials, such as rare earth elements, in order to meet demand for emerging, high-performance technologies. Copper is a very important metal for today’s technologies and tomorrow’s. The United States Geological Survey explains that “copper has become a major industrial metal, ranking third after iron and aluminum in terms of quantities consumed.” Prior administration’s failures to combat China’s economic aggression created a strategic risk in the productions and availability of rare earth elements.
“Rick Scott: Rein in House partisan impeachment power” via USA Today — Our Founding Fathers feared that impeachment would be used as a partisan tool by partisan actors. In Federalist No. 65, Alexander Hamilton warned that “in many cases (impeachment) will connect itself with the preexisting factions and will enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence and interest on one side or the other.” In the impeachment of Trump, their fears have been realized. I believe it’s time to raise the simple majority threshold in the House of Representatives to approve impeachment articles and send them to the Senate for trial. I’m introducing a constitutional amendment that would require a supermajority vote of three-fifths in the House to impeach a public official.
“Spencer Roach: One set of rules for elected officials, another for you?” via Florida Politics — Last week I was the only Republican on the Criminal Justice Subcommittee to vote no on HB 183, which permits elected officials to carry concealed weapons in public meetings over which they preside, such as city council and county commission meetings. Several elected officials also testified in support of the bill, stating that at times they feared for their personal safety at public meetings. Having recently received a death threat myself, I believe their concerns are credible and highlight the risk of harm that exists. How can we ask our constituents to assume a risk that we ourselves are not willing to assume? Are their lives less valuable or less worthy of protection than those of elected officials?
“Forget Iowa. Make Florida the first in the nation primary.” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — With any luck, the Iowa caucus results might be nailed down before the first spring thaw. The caucuses already were terribly flawed, and this week’s fiasco should finally knock Iowa off its perch as the first state to vote in picking nominees for President. In 2024, why not make Florida the first state to vote? Here are six reasons the Sunshine State would be so much better than the Hawkeye State to kick off the voting for presidential candidates.
“Biden’s campaign has a problem, and it begins with the candidate” via Dan Balz of The Washington Post — Biden has a problem, and it’s not just that no Democrat has finished a weak fourth in the Iowa caucuses and gone on to become the party’s presidential nominee. The problem is Biden, the candidate. Biden has been a lackluster advocate for his own candidacy, and the weakness of that advocacy was an unwelcome element of his campaign. In Iowa, it came crashing in on him. If he truly wants to be President, he doesn’t have to look far for answers as to what happened. His organization certainly failed him, but he contributed significantly to what happened there.
“Boost, don’t cut, education grants that help women, vets, minorities in Florida” via Teri Christoph of the Miami Herald — At a time when DeSantis is actively promoting his workforce initiative, a program designed to produce educated, qualified workers and more opportunities for employment in Florida, education committee officials are floating the idea to cut funding drastically — Effective Access to Student Education (EASE) grants — to students who hope to attend a private college or university. Why are some of the governor’s allies undermining his efforts by reducing grant money to college students? Florida’s private college and university graduates are consistently filling Florida’s workforce shortage in nursing and other areas of health care, engineering, technology and environmental science. Last year, however, state grant funds available for students were cut by $22 million, or almost 20 %.
“Crystal Stickle: Hospitals are anchors in their communities” via Florida Politics — Florida’s nonprofit hospitals serve as essential community resources. Every day, hospitals are reaching out to address their communities’ immediate and long-term needs. This commitment, outlined by a recent survey of hospitals conducted by the Florida Hospital Association, is part of the annual $4 billion in services, programs and activities hospitals provide that benefit the health and well-being of their communities. Community health needs assessments to ensure resources are targeted to develop hyperlocal, community-driven and truly impactful programs. Hospital community benefit partnerships are as large and diverse as Florida itself. From children and the elderly to veterans and people with disabilities, Florida’s hospitals are actively engaged in activities to improve health, strengthen their communities and reduce financial, social and geographic barriers to care.
“UCF’s Greek problem: Out-of-control fraternities and sororities” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — The University of Central Florida’s code of conduct includes a long list of offenses that can get a student or an organization in trouble: Disruptive behavior, sexual misconduct and violence, alcohol misuse, hazing … it goes on and on. Here’s what else goes on and on: The number of times UCF’s fraternities and sororities keep violating those rules. But despite all the resulting suspensions, probationary periods, warnings and finger-waggings, nothing changes. This isn’t harmless fun. And yes, we’re fully aware of how much that might sound like the cheerless Dean Wormer character from “Animal House.” But in real life, people get hurt, emotionally and physically. Sometimes they die. They have, right here in Florida.
“Bob McClure: Congratulations, Patrick Mahomes … you have the right to remain silent” via Florida Politics — I read with great dismay the report that Mahomes facilitated the commission of a crime while in Miami for the Super Bowl — a misdemeanor of the second degree. Florida Statute (476.194) expressly prohibits unlicensed barbers from performing services in the state, with the crime designated as a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in a correctional facility. Mahomes’ barber is licensed in Missouri, and Florida doesn’t have license recognition. No license in Florida; no haircut. What I am pointing out is the sheer and utter stupidity of state regulation. The second thing is we can laugh because it is the Super Bowl MVP, and that highlights the absurdity of the regulation scheme in place.
— MOVEMENTS —
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Davis Bean, Mark Pinto, The Fiorentino Group: Chance Partners
Ellyn Bogdanoff, Nicholas Matthews, Becker & Poliakoff: National College Players Association, Southern Citrus Nurseries
Angela Bonds, Dean Mead: Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds
Christopher Coker, Coker Consulting: Live Advantage Bait
Kalynn Cook: Hopewell Fund
Joshua Funderburke, Roscoe Green, Cotney Construction Lobbying: Florida RACCA, Time Out Systems
Nick Iarossi, Megan Fay, Andrew Ketchel, Ron LaFace, Daniel Newman, Christopher Schoonover, Capital City Consulting: College of Florida Keys Foundation, Florida Pet Retailers
Jerri Norris: Cengage
David Sigerson, Capital Hills Consultants: Professional Opticians of Florida
Shellie Solomon: Children of Inmates
Sean Stafford, McGuireWoods Consulting: Rosetta Stone/Lexia Learning
“Attorney Daniel Uhlfelder no longer representing Florida Beaches for All” via Tom McLaughlin of the Northwest Florida Daily News — Uhlfelder’s Twitter following soared since November from less than 500 to nearly 105,000, thanks primarily to former presidential candidate and South Walton resident Mike Huckabee’s decision to file a bar complaint against him. He’s used that newfound platform to champion his primary cause of establishing customary use in Walton County, but also to rail against Republican Party politics. But even as his national, and even international, Twitter presence has grown, Uhlfelder’s stake in the actual customary use battle in heavily Republican Walton County is dwindling.
— LISTEN UP —
Battleground Florida with Christopher Heath: Documentary film director Billy Corben shakes off the Super Bowl hangover and joins the podcast to discuss tax giveaways, school vouchers, and bags full of drugs … Florida.
Fluent in Floridian: Dr. Jeffrey Sharkey is a serial entrepreneur, visionary, and director of a wide variety of organizations and associations. He’s now a leader in Florida’s growing medical cannabis industry and guiding the expansion of legislative policy as the founder of the Medical Marijuana Business Association. He has worked to position himself and this association at the forefront of this new frontier in the nation’s third most populous state.
Gradebook from the Tampa Bay Times with hosts Marlene Sokol and Jeffrey Solochek: If you ever had any question whether education is important in Florida, look no further than Tallahassee. Year after year, lawmakers and the Governor have spent hours crafting policy ideas — good and bad — and even longer arguing about them. Even in the sessions when they announce they’ll be giving the issue a rest. And 2020 is no different. So many controversies in The Capitol center on schooling subjects. Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee bureau reporter Emily Mahoney joins education reporter Solochek to talk about the latest battles over vouchers, teacher pay, the Common Core and more.
REGULATED from hosts Christian Bax and Tony Glover: In the Weeds with Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald talks about her new cannabis newsletter.
The Rotunda with Trimmel Gomes: Alan Abramowitz, the executive director of Florida’s Guardian ad Litem program, discusses policy priorities and tactics by child advocates to ensure lawmakers address the needs of Florida’s children in the state budget. In honor of Black History month, Gomes profiles the Rev. C.K. Steele, who led the Tallahassee Bus Boycott in 1956 after two Florida A&M University students were arrested for sitting in the “whites only” section of a segregated bus. Throughout Black History Month, The Rotunda will highlight notable African Americans and related topics in Florida’s history.
— WEEKEND TV —
Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues affecting the region.
In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A one-on-one interview with Florida Attorney General Moody on the opioid crisis, teen vaping, human trafficking, and police-community relations.
Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A preview of the 2020 New Hampshire primary and a look back the 2020 Iowa caucus; a recap of the acquittal of Trump by the Senate and his third State of the Union address, and a one-on-one interview with Democratic presidential candidate Bloomberg’s campaign manager.
The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon talks with Robin Safley from Feeding Florida.
This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Guests include Chris Hand, author and attorney, to discuss the impeachment trial (Hand was a staffer for Sen. Bob Graham during the Bill Clinton impeachment trial), Iowa caucuses and the upcoming Florida primary. The Jacksonville Jaguars added a second “home” football game in London; there was some strong local reaction to that decision. Also, Jacksonville District 4 City Council Member LeAnna Cumber talks Ordinance 2020-74, to prevent human and sex trafficking, as well as recently attending the White House Sex Trafficking Summit.
This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg will speak with U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.
— ALOE —
“The night sky will never be the same” via Marina Koren of The Atlantic — Since last spring, SpaceX has launched into orbit dozens of small satellites — the beginnings of Starlink, a floating scaffold that the company’s founder, Elon Musk, hopes will someday provide high-speed internet to every part of the world. SpaceX sent a letter — in a way. After filing for permission to build its constellation in space, federal regulators held the required comment period, open to the public, before the first satellites could launch. These satellites have turned out to be far more reflective than anyone, even SpaceX engineers, expected. Before Starlink, there were about 200 objects in orbit around Earth that could be seen with the unaided eye. In less than a year, SpaceX has added another 240.
The only story that matters — “WarnerMedia nears deal with ‘Friends’ cast for reunion special” via the Wall Street Journal — “WarnerMedia’s HBO Max is completing agreements with the cast of ‘Friends’ for a reunion special that will likely be used to launch the streaming service this spring, people familiar with the matter said. … Each of the stars would receive between $2.25 million and $2.5 million for the show” under the terms currently being discussed.”
“Review: ‘Birds of Prey’ lets a Joker-free Harley Quinn shine” via Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times — Mercifully, the Joker is nowhere to be seen in “Birds of Prey,” a sleek, diverting, hyperviolent new caper that arrives bearing the cheeky subtitle “(and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn).” She isn’t the only one who’s been emancipated. You might say that the whole movie — a fast, cheap and carefully controlled distraction from the bigger, heavier goings-on at the DC Comics blockbuster factory — has successfully emancipated itself from the dead weight of Jared Leto’s Joker, a cinematic non-starter that was recently eclipsed by Joaquin Phoenix’s superior, soon-to-be-Oscar-winning upgrade. The filmmakers haven’t exactly imbued the character with untold depths or done much to embellish her fascinatingly grim back story.
“Chris Rock’s ‘Saw’ reboot offers up first twisted trailer” via Ryan Parker of The Hollywood reporter — The first trailer for Rock‘s Saw reboot titled Spiral dropped — and it looks twisted. Starring Rock (also the executive producer) and Samuel L. Jackson, Spiral is a reboot of the now-iconic 2004 horror film Saw, which spawned a large, gory franchise. Almost two minutes in length, the Spiral trailer introduces Rock’s police character, detective Banks, and shows that someone is hunting and brutally murdering cops. At one point, Rock’s character is seen chained up in a room, holding a hacksaw; the image reminiscent of Cary Elwes‘ character in Saw, who had to cut off his own foot to escape.
To view the trailer, click on the image below:
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Celebrating today are two North Florida politicos: state Rep. Brad Drake and Dr. Rachel Pienta. Happy birthday to our friend Josh Burgin. Celebrating on Saturday is U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.