Florida economic numbers (by many measures) are sound. From reserve levels to the unemployment rate, material abounds for buoyant GOP news releases.
However, the Democratic National Committee frames the economic narrative differently.
A report released Tuesday spotlights problems with Florida’s economy, laying the blame for “broken economic promises” at the feet of President Donald Trump.
“Donald Trump’s broken promises on the economy is a major weakness for his campaign in Florida. His health care agenda spikes costs and guts coverage protections for people with preexisting conditions, while his tax scam is only helping corporations and the wealthiest few at the expense of working families,” the memo charges.
Democrats are engaging with a Florida specific message here with good reason. The President is already targeting the state.
President Trump began his reelection campaign in the Sunshine State, a continuation of the work he did in Florida last year during the stretch run before the general election.
The Democratic argument: that the tax cuts earlier in the President’s term favored corporate interests over the working class.
As well, the President’s “refusal to take offshore drilling off the table” is another broken promise, with Democrats contending the President’s policy was clearly outlined in a campaign rally statement.
Democrats also believe that the President is vulnerable for opposing the Affordable Care Act.
At this point, it’s political canon that Democrats took back the U.S. House in 2018 thanks to candidates placing a laser-focus on health care — specifically, Republican efforts to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act.
And in Florida, it was impossible to separate the environment from the ballot box last year, with red tide, algal blooms and a state constitutional amendment banning offshore drilling all being part of the conversation.
If Democrats have their way, those narratives will reprise their roles next year. Whether that’s a recipe for a repeat of Trump’s 2018 success — his pull was demonstrated when just one Democratic candidate won statewide — or a winning strategy for Democrats remains to be seen.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@marcorubio: The debt we owe the #911FirstResponders & their families is one we can never fully repay. But just moments ago the Senate voted to #Renew911VCF by a vote of 97-2. It should have been passed a long time ago.
—@SenRickScott: Today, I filed the Promoting Responsibility in Markets & E-Retailers (PRIME) Act. When you buy something online, you should know where that product was made. And when you download an app on your phone, you should know where it was developed. This is common sense.
I am relentlessly opposed to the BDS campaign that seeks to deny the Jewish people the right to self-determination.
You cannot achieve lasting peace & security for both Israelis and Palestinians if you support a movement seeking to delegitimize Israel's very existence. pic.twitter.com/I3wTBalUZe
— Rep. Ted Deutch (@RepTedDeutch) July 23, 2019
—@JeffreyBrandes: I’m honored to join so many incredible criminal justice policy experts on the newly formed Council on Criminal Justice. I look forward to working toward bipartisan solutions which bring justice and accountability to communities across America.
—@Rob_Bradley: Honored to receive the @UF Preeminence Award from my alma mater. Thank you @PresidentFuchs and Chair Mori Hosseini. Go Gators!
—@AnnaBreedlove: Hi folks, news flash. Tomorrow will be my last day with the Office of Rep. Webb. I’m happy to announce that I’m starting as the Associate Partner at Statecraft Digital, and will be going back to the campaign world that I love so much. Fear not, I’m staying in St. Pete!
—@guycecil: Florida has been one of the closest presidential states for 25 years. It will be again. That’s why @prioritiesUSA just launched @PrioritiesFL & welcomes Daniela Martins as our FL Outreach Director & National Hispanic Media Director.
—@MarcACaputo: If House Democrats opened impeachment proceedings and did more on climate change and immigration reform, would @TomSteyer still have run for president? Are the voices criticizing his bid, therefore, at least partially culpable for it?
—@steveschale: The [Joe] Biden health care plan polls almost 30 points higher than the other options out there.
—@TroyKinsey: Greetings from #OSH19, where @TextronAviation officials are absolutely elated about #Florida’s pending purchase of a Citation jet for use by @GovRonDeSantis & co.
—@aronberg: A Walgreens pharmacy in Port Richey, FL (population 2,831) was ordering 3,271 bottles of #oxycodone a month. “Failure to identify suspicious orders was their business model,” according to plaintiffs.
—@EvanAxelbank: Rays owner Stu Sternberg just emerged from meeting and said he did not ask for permission to look in Montreal but talked about “issues surrounding it.” Said he looked forward to a meeting in the near future with [Rick] Kriseman
— DAYS UNTIL —
“Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” premieres — 2; Second Democratic presidential debates in Detroit — 6; “Beverly Hills 90210” reboot premieres — 13; Taylor Swift’s new album, ‘Lover,’ released — 30; Florida Gators opens vs. Miami football — 31; St. Petersburg primary election — 34; UCF Knights football opens vs. Florida A&M — 36; USF Bulls football opens vs. Wisconsin Badgers — 37; FSU Seminoles football opens vs. Boise State — 38; Labor Day — 40; First Interim Committee Week for 2020 Session — 54; “Morning” Joe Scarborough releases “This Ends Badly: How Donald Trump Conned America” — 55; “Joker” opens — 72; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 96; Scott Maddox trial begins — 103; 2019 General Election — 104; 3rd Annual Florida Internet and Television FITCon starts — 106; 2020 Session begins — 174; Iowa Caucuses — 194; New Hampshire Primaries — 202; Florida’s presidential primary — 237; 2020 General Election — 468.
— TOP STORY —
“The stakes for Democrats couldn’t be higher during Robert Mueller’s testimony. Here’s how they’re getting ready” via Alana Abramson of Time magazine — As a reticent witness — Democrats are fully expecting brief, one-sentence answers — lawmakers are aware that they need to collaborate and ensure everyone is on the same page. “We’ve kind of mapped this out, very strategically, that we will walk the American people through the report,” said Rep. David Cicilline, a member of the Judiciary Committee. “We have got to be careful here,” says a senior Democratic aide. “We have got to stay focused on facts, and mustn’t give the President any legitimate cause to say we are on a witch hunt. Of course, he’ll say it regardless. But we shouldn’t give him a reason to or prove his point.”
“Key aide will appear alongside Mueller during hearings” via Nicholas Fandos of The New York Times — Mueller’s longtime right-hand aide will appear beside him at the witness table during the hearing with the House Judiciary Committee to assist as needed as the former special counsel answers questions about his investigation. The Judiciary Committee signed off on the unusual arrangement after Mueller made a last-minute request that the aide, Aaron Zebley, be sworn in as a witness alongside him. If Democrats had agreed, lawmakers could have questioned Zebley directly, potentially upending carefully laid plans by Democrats and Republicans over how to use their scant time with Mueller. Instead, as a counsel to Mueller, Zebley will not be under oath or theoretically allowed to answer lawmakers’ queries
“Donald Trump calls for Mueller deputy to be blocked from testimony” via The Hill — Trump knocked the House Judiciary Committee for allowing one of former special counsel Mueller’s deputies to accompany him during his testimony, saying he should not be able to appear for the hearing. “Just got back only to hear of a last-minute change allowing a Never Trumper attorney to help Robert Mueller with his testimony before Congress tomorrow. What a disgrace to our system. Never heard of this before,” Trump tweeted. “VERY UNFAIR, SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED. A rigged Witch Hunt!”
—“101 questions for special counsel Mueller” via Jerry Dunleavy of the Washington Examiner
— DATELINE: TALLY —
“State moves forward with Ron DeSantis plane” via News Service of Florida — Florida officials could soon finalize a deal to buy a business jet to fly Gov. DeSantis, more than six months after he was a passenger in a state-operated aircraft that experienced a mechanical malfunction. A negotiation team with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Tuesday recommended the state acquire a nine-passenger jet from Textron Aviation Inc. But the price tag on that plane was not immediately made public. The law-enforcement agency said it picked the Textron jet after determining it would provide “the best value to the state.” Once available, the plane will be used to fly the governor on state-related business. It is estimated that the plane will be flown about 400 hours every year.
“State advances plan for Spanish-language ballots” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — DeSantis in April said he wanted to make Spanish-language ballots available statewide, noting that Florida “has a significant Spanish-speaking population and our state is home to many Puerto Ricans who moved here after the devastation of Hurricane Maria.” Secretary of State Laurel Lee’s office will hold a second workshop on the issue Aug. 9. The notice referred to a lack of statewide uniformity for Spanish-language ballots. The issue also has been the subject of a federal lawsuit filed three months before the 2018 general election, by groups representing Spanish-speaking Floridians. The case focuses on Puerto Rican voters and part of the federal Voting Rights Act aimed at people who were educated in schools where the predominant language was not English.
“Florida’s top guardianship executive Carol Berkowitz resigns” via Kate Santich and Monivette Cordeiro of the Orlando Sentinel — The executive director of the state agency that oversees Florida’s guardianship program — handling the investigation and discipline for more than 550 professional guardians — has resigned, several sources confirm, though state officials have yet to make an announcement or cite a reason. Carol Berkowitz led the Florida Office of Public and Private Guardians since June 2017, after the office was expanded as part of statewide reform on guardianship. Neither the Department of Elder Affairs, which oversees the office, nor DeSantis’ office would comment — even declining to confirm or deny Berkowitz’s departure. Berkowitz, who resigned within the past two weeks, could not be reached for comment.
“Lauren Book asks DeSantis for investigation into Jeffrey Epstein’s work release” via Florida Politics — State Sen. Book, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, is calling for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office for its handling of alleged child sex trafficker Epstein‘s work release. Book, a Plantation Democrat, (is) the founder of Lauren’s Kids, which educates children and families about preventing sexual abuse, and supports survivors … Palm Beach Sheriff Ric Bradshaw has said he’s launching an internal investigation “into whether his department properly monitored the wealthy financier,” after reports Epstein had “sexual contacts” with young women in his office while on work release.
What DCF Secretary Chad Poppell is reading — “In Kansas child welfare system, concerns churn over sexuality, gender” via The Hutchinson News — The Family Policy Alliance, which promotes “a Kansas where God is honored” and the idea that “God’s timeless design for the family is the strongest foundation for a free society,” objects to new guidelines from the Kansas Department for Children and Families that direct child placement agencies to place LGBTQ youths in homes that respect the children’s gender identities. For the alliance, the guidelines issued under the administration of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly clash with legislation passed in 2018 that allows child placement agencies to refuse service to gay couples based on firmly held religious beliefs.
“Ex-Florida legislator who didn’t pay taxes uses political cash for meals, travel” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Last September, just two days after the IRS placed a $202,358 lien against him, former Florida legislator Erik Fresen billed his political committee for $1,069 for meals at three South Florida eateries. The once-powerful Republican state representative from Miami, dropped out of the public eye after he pleaded guilty in April 2017 to a misdemeanor charge of failing to file a single year’s returns. The former lawmaker was sentenced to four 15-day stints in jail, a sentence designed to allow him to keep earning money so he could pay his debts. But Fresen held on to another source of funds: a six-figure account for a political committee he’d formed years earlier to help finance his ambitions.
— STATEWIDE —
“State to track district with ‘guardian’ teachers” via the News Service of Florida — “We do not currently have a list of school districts who are choosing to arm teachers. However, moving forward, we will be collecting this information,” said Cheryl Etters, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Education. Lawmakers in 2018 created the guardian program, which initially was limited to school employees whose main duties were outside the classroom. But the law also allows trained classroom teachers to be armed if school districts approve of the idea. The Department of Education updates a list of school districts that have decided to implement the guardian program, with 34 of the state’s 67 districts now participating. But the list has not detailed how many districts will allow teachers to be armed.
“Bob Gualtieri on school safety: ‘The complacency is what bothers me the most’” via Phil Buck of WTSP — Pinellas County Sheriff Gualtieri says there’s no excuse for school districts that still aren’t in compliance with the safety measures mandated under the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. “I wish I could say I’m surprised and I’m not,” Gualtieri said. “They just need to get it done, school goes back in August, it’s been almost a year-and-a-half now and the law is the law.” “The complacency is what bothers me the most,” he added. “And I think the complacency is caused by people that have this mindset and this attitude, erroneously, that it can’t happen here, or it won’t happen to me.
“27 possible graves turn up empty at notorious Dozier reform school, authorities say” via Elizabeth Koh of the Tampa Bay Times — Twenty-seven potential graves identified earlier this year at the infamous Dozier School for Boys in north Florida have turned up no evidence of human remains, state authorities and University of South Florida researchers investigating the site said Tuesday. “While the recently reported anomalies were found using remote sensing technology above the ground, we were able to look below the surface and clearly determine no graves, or human remains are present,” Erin Kimmerle, the forensic anthropologist leading the research team, said in a statement. “Studying this area of the property was an important step for us to be able to answer the questions that had been raised.”
Fired state employee asks judge for reinstatement — A woman who says she was wrongfully fired for trying to expose “gross mismanagement” at the Florida Commission on Human Relations has asked a circuit court judge to reinstate her temporarily while the complaint is being investigated, Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida reports. Jacquelyn Steele claims she was terminated for exposing problems with the agency to federal authorities and the commissioners responsible for hiring and firing the executive director. “After her protected disclosures she was inexplicably terminated from her position as director of human resources, with no reason being provided for her termination,” her legal team said in the motion.
“Attorney says emails to NRA lobbyist protected” via News Service of Florida — A California attorney urged a federal appeals court Monday to reject a lawsuit filed by prominent National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer over emails sent after the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County. Lawrence Sorensen, an attorney and mediator, sent emails to Hammer that contained photos showing injuries from gunshot wounds. Hammer, the NRA’s longtime Florida lobbyist, filed a lawsuit against Sorensen and three unrelated men, alleging that emails she received were harassing and threatening. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle in November dismissed the case … but in a filing last month, attorneys for Hammer urged the appeals court to overturn the ruling.
“Hepatitis A cases near 2,000 this year” via News Service of Florida — The number of hepatitis A cases in Florida this year has reached at least 1,978, the latest information released by the Florida Department of Health shows. The state had 77 hepatitis A cases reported between July 14 and Saturday, and, according to the latest report from the department, “weekly case counts have steadily increased overall,” since last year. Only Florida residents are included in the case counts released by the state. The data consists of suspected and confirmed cases. Central Florida has had the highest hepatitis A activity levels, according to a monthly report. Since Jan. 1, 2018, Florida has had 2,526 cases, with at least 28 deaths linked to the virus, according to the state.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Rick Scott stands up for the private prisons that bankrolled his Senate campaign” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — No candidate benefited more from the largesse of private prisons last year than Florida’s Scott. And now the Republican senator is standing up for the controversial industry in the face of financial threats. In a tweet Monday, Scott criticized Bank of America because the financial institution halted business with the detention centers and private prisons used by the federal government to fulfill President Donald Trump’s immigration policies. The company, Scott noted, received a $20 billion bailout during the financial crisis. Scott asserted companies that criticize the policies of the federal government, “shouldn’t benefit from doing business with the federal government.”
“After Russian FaceApp goes viral, Scott wants online stores to say where apps came from” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Millions of people who thought they were just creating fun photos of their older selves may have unwittingly given a Russian app maker license to use their images. Sen. Scott believes he has a plan to prevent that from happening again. The Florida Republican Tuesday introduced a bill that would require online retailers to list the country of origin of their products. “We have to get serious about where our money is going. There are nations around the world, like China, that are trying to compete with America. By buying products made by our adversaries, we are sending them money without a second thought and supporting their efforts to compete with us on the global stage,” Scott said.
“Kathy Castor calls for hearing on bipartisan ‘Zombie Campaign’ bill” via Noah Pransky for Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Castor added another morsel of momentum Monday to the growing movement in Washington to crack down on zombie campaigns, which exploit campaign finance loopholes to keep spending long after candidates stop campaigning. The Tampa Democrat sent a letter to the chair of the House Administration Committee, California Democrat Zoe Lofgren, and the committee’s ranking Republican, Illinois’ Rodney Davis, requesting a hearing on H.R. 1363, the Honest Elections and Campaign Act.
“Debbie Wasserman Schultz files bill requiring officials to admit members of Congress into migrant centers” via Ryan Nicol via Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Wasserman Schultz has filed legislation that would stop executive branch officials from denying members of Congress entry in migrant detention facilities. The move comes after Wasserman Schultz has been denied access to one such facility in Homestead on two separate occasions. That facility is designed to house unaccompanied migrant children. The legislation is titled the Help Oversee, Manage and Evaluate Safe Treatment and Ensure Access without Delay (HOMESTEAD) Act of 2019. “This Administration has proven it cannot be trusted to protect vulnerable people who have made a desperate journey to our country to escape violence and oppression,” Wasserman Schultz said.
“ICE targeting employers who offer work to undocumented immigrants, agency says” via Monique O. Madan of the Miami Herald — U.S. immigration authorities have begun targeting businesses nationwide that offer work to undocumented immigrants in what they are calling “worksite enforcement surges” and will pursue criminal charges where warranted, ICE said Tuesday. Immigration officials so far have served 3,282 businesses with notices of inspection in recent weeks. Officials said notifications won’t stop there and will continue to be rolled out across the 50 states and Puerto Rico. ICE would not give a breakdown on how many were issued in Florida. “When we perform these worksite surges, our primary goal is to pursue criminal prosecution against those businesses, who frankly their business model is based upon illegal employment,” said ICE Acting Director Matthew Albence.
“Federal grant will help build bridge to Cape” via News Service of Florida — Space Florida, the state’s aerospace arm, received a $90 million federal transportation grant Monday to replace a State Road 405 bridge over the Indian River Lagoon that links Cape Canaveral to the mainland. “The existing bridge is a NASA bridge that needs replacement, so the state applied its capabilities to assure the continued success of the Cape Canaveral Spaceport,” Space Florida said in a tweet. The road is the main access to Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex and Exploration Park, a business park operated by Space Florida. The transportation project cost been estimated at $165 million. NASA and Space Florida expect to split 40 percent of the cost.
— 2020 —
“Joe Biden wants to take America back to a time before Trump” via Michael Sternberger of The New York Times — The political calculation driving Biden’s campaign — and the main reason he has been assumed by many to be the most electable Democrat — is the belief that the Scranton native can win back enough of those voters to carry Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin and deny Trump a second term. “The issues that are front and center now,” he told me, “are issues that have been in my wheelhouse for a long time.” Some who voted for Trump, he went on, were starting to realize that Trump’s tax cuts were tailored for the wealthy and corporations; to take note of his unceasing effort to dismantle “Obamacare;” to grasp that he was a false tribune of the forgotten man.
“Donald Trump Jr., Kimberly Guilfoyle raise $2.5 million on California swing for Trump campaign” via Jonathan Easley of The Hill — The fundraisers in deep-blue California attracted some of the biggest names in technology and sports, including Debby Magowan, who is part-owner of the San Francisco Giants, and Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus VR. About 40 people attended a luncheon at the Palo Alto home of Margaret Chai Maloney and Sean Maloney, a prominent technology executive and former vice president at Intel Corp. An event at a residence in San Francisco included Magowan, prominent GOP donor DeDe Wilsey, real estate investor Carole McNeil, and Napa Valley socialites Elizabeth and Clarke Swanson. It was a homecoming of sorts for Guilfoyle, who was married to California Gov. Gavin Newsom when he was mayor of San Francisco.
“Bernie Sanders’s campaign organizers reach deal for pay raise” via Sean Sullivan of The Washington Post — Unionized organizers for the presidential campaign of Sen. Sanders approved a pay-raise proposal from management, following a tense internal standoff in which employees had argued they were not being paid the wages Sanders advocates in his rhetoric. Members of the union voted to approve a deal that would raise the annual salaries of field organizers from $36,000 to $42,000 and retain health-care benefits covering 100 percent of the cost of premiums. They spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive negotiations. Sanders confirmed the deal in an interview, saying he was “happy to tell you … that offer was just accepted.”
“Beto O’Rourke’s campaign is cratering. But he’s got a plan to bring back ‘Betomania.’” via Alex Seitz-Wald of CBS News — O’Rourke says that he doesn’t plan to change his freewheeling style much, but that a top priority now is to raise the money needed to keep building his campaign organization so it will be ready to rebound. “If you remember in Texas, it didn’t happen overnight,” O’Rourke told NBC News of his Senate race last year against Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. “It was a really long process that was against the odds, very often counted down and out.” He said of the current Democratic primary, “I think it’s a really small minority of Americans who have made up their mind and maybe a relatively small minority of Americans who are paying close attention.”
“’I am not a cult leader’: Marianne Williamson defends her presidential campaign” via John Gage of the Washington Examiner — Williamson defended her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination by saying she is “not a cult leader” and “not anti-science.” The 67-year-old self-help guru’s clarification comes after she was forced to apologize for saying mandated vaccines are “draconian” and “Orwellian.” “I understand that many vaccines are important and save lives. I recognize there are epidemics around the world that are stopped by vaccines,” Williamson said. “I also understand some of the skepticism that abounds today about drugs which are rushed to market by Big Pharma. I am sorry that I made comments which sounded as though I question the validity of lifesaving vaccines. That is not my feeling and I realize that I misspoke.”
— THE TRAIL —
“Margaret Good raises $135,000 in first day of Congressional campaign” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — “I’m incredibly grateful for the massive outpouring of grassroots support our campaign has received,” Good said in a statement. “It’s clear that people are hungry for new leadership and a Congressperson that will actually take on the real issues that individuals and families are facing in this district. From water quality to public education to health care, we deserve better and can’t wait any longer.” But the $135,426 raised in the first 24 hours of her Congressional campaign flr Florida’s 16th Congressional District comes chiefly from within the district. The money also ranks high among first-day totals announced this cycle.
“Four ballot proposals top 300,000 signatures” via the News Service of Florida — As of Tuesday, a proposed constitutional amendment that would gradually increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour had 372,879 valid signatures. It was followed by a proposal that would revamp the state’s primary-election system. That proposal had 355,805 valid signatures reported to the Division of Elections. The third-highest total, 350,808 valid signatures, was reported for a proposal that would overhaul and deregulate the state’s electric utility industry. A proposal that would change a provision in the state Constitution about the citizenship of voters had 303,675 valid signatures. To get on the 2020 ballot, each of the proposals would need at least 766,200 valid signatures.
“Chris Cause looks to challenge Josie Tomkow in HD 39” via Ryan Nicol via Florida Politics — Cause, who currently works as a teacher at a juvenile correction facility in Barstow, has entered the race to challenge Rep. Josie Tomkow in House District 39. “I work every day to get my students to see the true value of education and inspire them to change their lives for the better,” Cause said in a statement announcing his decision to run as a Democrat. “I want to use that same passion to improve the lives of the citizens in District 39, and the entire state of Florida.” The district includes parts of Osceola and Polk counties. Cause said the issues of education, health care and traffic would be his top priorities should he reach the Florida House.
“Alex Barrio lands four legislative endorsements” via Florida Politics — Four members of the Central Florida legislative delegation are backing Kissimmee Democrat Barrio’s bid to succeed exiting state Rep. John Cortes in House District 43. The endorsements came in from state Sen. Victor Torres and state Reps. Anna Eskamani, Amy Mercado and Carlos Smith, all of whom are Democrats. “As Tallahassee continues to hurt working families in Florida, these are the legislators we count on to fight for us. I’m honored to have their support,” Barrio said in a news release. “They know they can count on me to stand alongside them in the fight to protect Florida’s families.” Barrio is one of four Democrats running for HD 43, which covers part of Osceola County.
“Republican to run for Al Jacquet House seat” via the News Service of Florida — West Palm Beach Republican Danielle Madsen has opened a campaign account to run in District 88. Jacquet was first elected to the seat in 2016 and has opened an account to run again in 2020. Jacquet had raised $4,000 for the campaign as of June 30, a finance report shows. Also, with an open account for the race is West Palm Beach Democrat Bob “Jeune,” who had raised $125. Meanwhile, Miramar Democrat Wilbur Harbin became the sixth candidate to open a campaign account to run next year in state Senate District 35, which is made up of parts of Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Sen. Oscar Braynon will leave the seat in 2020 because of term limits.
“Orlando mayoral hopeful Sam Ings reels in civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump’s endorsement” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Civil rights attorney Crump, who is known for fiercely representing the families of Trayvon Martin and others who had loved ones killed in high-profile shootings, has endorsed Ings in his bid to unseat Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. “Sam Ings is a leader who is not scared to stand up and do what he knows is right for the people,” said Crump in a campaign news release. “His type of leadership is what the people need now more than ever in Orlando and in this country.” Ings, a retired Orlando police commander and 13-year city commissioner, is one of three challengers opposing Dyer for the seat. The Ings campaign announced the endorsement Tuesday.
— LOCAL —
“School board to investigate — not dismiss — principal who made Holocaust comments” via Lois K. Solomon of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Former Spanish River High School Principal William Latson’s day of reckoning, anxiously awaited by Boca Raton residents and observers across the country who have called for his firing, has been delayed. The Palm Beach County School District has decided to investigate him further instead of potentially dismissing him in a vote scheduled for Wednesday. Latson, who had led Spanish River since 2011, was removed from his post on July 8 after he told a parent in an email that he couldn’t say whether the Holocaust was a factual event. The school district needs to complete its own detailed investigation affording Latson his “due process rights” before potentially removing him from employment, the district said in a statement.
“JEA board approves exploring privatization” via Chris Hong of the Florida Times-Union — JEA’s board of directors voted to consider privatizing the city-owned electric and water utility, a move that its chief executive officer Aaron Zahn and his senior leadership team told board members they had two choices: immediately terminate 574 of the utility’s 2,000 workers, or allow JEA to find a path to the private sector. Board members embraced Zahn’s belief that JEA must find new ways to make money to survive the existential threat that solar power technology poses to the utility industry’s business model, as well as his assertion that it would be all but impossible to do so under the constraints of government ownership.
“‘Death spiral’ drives utility privatization move” via Florida Politics — On Tuesday, Jacksonville’s embattled utility JEA mulled a binary choice. And it took the road less traveled: considering privatization … In theory, it could bring a billion dollars more value to the city, protect employee pensions, and allow the utility to build its new downtown headquarters. And it could stabilize the utility against a perpetual and irreversible decline in traditional revenue sources.
“Tampa Bay Rays, St. Petersburg leaders to meet for first time since Montreal announcement” via Josh Solomon of the Tampa Bay Times — Mayor Rick Kriseman and Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg couldn’t be further apart on where they see the team’s future. The two men are set to meet at the former St. Petersburg police headquarters building, just a long toss from Tropicana Field and St. Petersburg’s temporary city hall. Kriseman has said he is waiting for the team to formally ask for permission to explore playing a split season between Tampa Bay and Montreal. It will be the first time the two men met formally since Sternberg announced last month that he wishes to explore the idea, which would have the team play the first half of the season in the Tampa Bay area.
Jane Castor assembles workforce development advisory team — Castor named Metropolitan Ministries CEO Tim Marks and Hillsborough Community College President Ginger Clark co-chairs of the committee. The group will help Castor develop strategies and implementation plans to build Tampa’s skilled workforce. It’s the third of Castor’s five priorities to establish an advisory committee. “Growing and encouraging local talent is the surest way to continue Tampa’s growth into the future,” Castor said. “This team has the reach, connections, and the will to position Tampa for an even brighter future. The collaborations, connections, and collective partnerships will create a network to uplift Tampa’s growing need for a talented workforce for decades to come.”
“How Miami, a major destination for Venezuelan gold, is helping prop up Nicolás Maduro’s regime” via Antonio Maria Delgado, Kyra Gurney, Bram Ebus, Jim Wyss, Jay Weaver and Nicholas Nehamas of the Miami Herald — As Venezuela collapses into an economic depression like few seen in the last century, the isolated government of Maduro still has one cash cow left: Gold. The rainforests of southern Venezuela are rich in a precious metal coveted by bankers, jewelers and consumer-electronics firms around the world. As a result, the country’s gold production is rising dramatically — and shipments of the metal are being smuggled, often through neighboring Colombia, into one of the world’s largest markets for gold: Miami. Now, law enforcement agencies in both Colombia and the United States are working to uncover Venezuelan smuggling networks, according to sources with knowledge of the investigations.
“Epstein’s victims ask Florida court to allow new federal charges” via Marc Freeman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Victims of Epstein’s sexual abuse called for a federal judge to allow the possibility of new charges against the disgraced financier in South Florida. While Epstein faces federal sex trafficking counts in New York, there’s a continuing battle over whether his controversial 2007 deal to avoid prosecution in Florida should be thrown out. Some of Epstein’s victims, while expressing gratitude for the new charges in New York, say they also want Epstein to be held accountable by federal authorities for offenses that happened in his Palm Beach estate from 1999 to 2007. The victims are asking U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra to rescind the immunity for Epstein and his unnamed co-conspirators, to clear the way for new charges.
“Epstein doled out millions to Harvard and others. Is that cash tainted?” via Rob Wile and Aaron Brezel of the Miami Herald — From Bill Cosby to Harvey Weinstein, some big-ticket charitable donors have turned out to be abusers and scoundrels. Now comes Epstein, a human ATM long suspected of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls at residences around the world and, as of this month, formally charged by the U.S. Justice Department with sex trafficking. The multimillionaire hedge fund manager lavished at least $30 million on universities, scientists, politicians, cultural organizations, think tanks — as well as his local police department. For those organizations that hung on to the money, is there a moral obligation to give it back, or alternatively, pay it forward to organizations that would benefit young sexual assault victims like those Epstein allegedly victimized?
— OPINIONS —
“Empowering America’s small business to confront China” via Marco Rubio for Real Clear Politics — China’s accession to the WTO came with the optimistic promise of fair-market access, economic liberalization, improvement in Chinese political and human rights, and, ultimately, new export markets for American small businesses. This has not happened. Instead, China took advantage of this system and made a mockery of international trade rules, stealing American trade secrets and flooding our markets with illegitimate import competition. America’s small businesses now face an unprecedented threat from the Chinese government and the Communist Party’s systematic industrial espionage and coercion, large-scale subsidies, and sweeping obstruction of market access. My goal in the forthcoming reauthorization is to ensure that it does just that by aligning SBA’s programs with our national interests: thriving and innovative American small businesses.
“Toxic conditions in Florida CFO’s office raise troubling questions about Jimmy Patronis” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — A troubling chain of events casts an ominous shadow over Florida’s chief financial officer. The shadow won’t magically go away with the expected and overdue dismissal of the state’s top financial regulator. The man at the top, Patronis, is perilously close to squandering the trust of his constituents. He owes Floridians some answers, fast. Allegations of heavy-handed lobbyist influence, a malodorous $25,000 campaign contribution, and inappropriate and sexist comments in the workplace have thrust the CFO’s office into its worst crisis since voters created the office two decades ago. Patronis owes us an explanation. Patronis, who has led a charmed political life since he bonded with Rick Scott nearly a decade ago, appears to be in over his head.
“Joe Henderson: Marion Hammer lawsuit shows other side of Second Amendment debate” via Florida Politics — In the aftermath of the slaughter of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Hammer received unsolicited emails from Sorensen, a California attorney and mediator. Those emails contained graphic photos of gunshot wounds. Hammer sued, citing harassment and threats. Last November, Senior U.S. District Judge Hinkle dismissed the suit on First Amendment grounds, although he conceded the images were “inappropriate, indeed disgusting.” Hammer contends she is a private citizen, her public side notwithstanding. Hinkle obviously disagreed. As difficult as it was for her to see photos of what gunshots can do, imagine how hard it was for parents in Parkland to hear their children were never coming home. There are (at least) two sides to every story.
— MOVEMENTS —
SPOTTED — Brian Ballard in “Source: Mashpee Wampanoag end contract with former Congressman” via The Cape Cod Times — The tribe still has an arsenal of high-powered lobbyists working for it, including Dentons US LLP, Gavel Resources LLC and Ballard Partners, among others. Lobbying disclosures reflect a $50,000 payment from Genting Malasia, the tribe’s financial backer, to Ballard Partners during the second quarter of the year, according to a July 17 filing. Ballard Partners is run by Brian Ballard, who was Trump’s Florida finance chairman for his 2016 campaign.
“Ballard Partners makes top-10 in DC lobbying revenues” via Florida Politics — The Washington DC branch of Ballard Partners earned an estimated $4.7 million in lobbying pay during the second quarter of the year. Ballard Partners reported income from 82 principals in the second quarter, ranging from Florida interests to major international corporations. The new federal numbers are an improvement over the first quarter, when the firm raked in $4.3 million, as well as the second quarter of 2018, when it posted earnings of $4.6 million. The numbers earned the firm the No. 7 spot among all federal lobbying firms for the quarter. Federal law requires lobbying firms to report how much pay they receive from each client to the nearest $10,000.
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Frank Artiles, Atlas Consultants: Freytech
Dean Cannon, Rheb Harbison, Jessica Love, Joseph Salzverg, GrayRobinson: Florida Brownfields Association
Andrew Ketchel, Capital City Consulting: Sacred Heart Health System, St. Vincent’s Health System
Lonnie Maier, PooleMcKinley: Crown Castle and its Affiliates
Personnel note: Melanie Brown moves to Advent Health — Brown, who previously served as director of government relations for Johnson & Blanton, is now to be the director of government relations of the West Florida Division of Advent Health.
Personnel note: Ben Conarck joining The Miami Herald — Conarck, who most recently has been covered the state prison system, has been with the Florida Times-Union since 2016. He’ll next cover the health care beat for The Herald, he announced via Twitter Tuesday. The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism graduate also has worked for Law360 and the Houston Chronicle. “It’s incredibly hard to express just how much this newsroom and my colleagues have meant to me the last three years,” he wrote of the T-U. On The Herald, he added: “It’s such an honor to join this newsroom and contribute what I can to their legacy of outstanding reporting.”
— ALOE —
“Disney World unveils more details, dates for passholder previews of Star Wars land” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Walt Disney World has released a few more details about the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge previews it has planned for some of its annual passholders, including a key date range. Folks who are platinum, platinum plus and premier passholders will be able to visit at select times between Aug. 17 and Aug. 21, according to the company’s website. Passholders will soon get email invites asking them to register for an opportunity to go to the new land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park. Galaxy’s Edge opens to the public there Aug. 29. Disney World employees will be previewing the area between Aug. 1 and Aug. 16.
“Dark Horizon: California company stirs up another Halloween event for Orlando” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Dark Horizon: Point of No Return will pop up with three haunted houses, four bars, two stages and about 150 monsters. “It’s a destination attraction for the evening. It’s not one of those stop-in-and-go. You’re going to want to stay in and party all night long,” said Charity Hill, co-producer and a managing partner of Epic Entertainment Group, which has been running Dark Harbor in Long Beach, California. Dark Horizon will operate from the back lot of the Holiday Inn Suites — Water Park on State Road 536 near International Drive. It will be open 16 nights between Oct. 4 and Nov. 2. “We really like to focus on local legends, local lore, local history,” Hill said.
“Miss America pageant leaving Atlantic City for Connecticut” by The Associated Press via CDC Gaming Reports — There she is. Here she isn’t. Miss America is leaving Atlantic City for the second time, trading one casino town for another in a move that caps a whirlwind of change at the nearly century-old pageant. This year’s pageant will be at the Mohegan Sun casino and resort in Connecticut, the Miss America Organization said Tuesday. It will broadcast on NBC Dec. 19, in a switch from recent broadcaster ABC.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Happy birthday to Mike Fernandez and Ann Howard.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.