Elizabeth Warren seemed to carry the night at the Democratic debate in Detroit. She used former U.S. Rep. John Delaney of Maryland as a chew toy for her progressive agenda, and no one should be surprised if she climbs in the polls.
Despite the awkward setting of trying to give ten candidates their fair share of stage time, the evening was an interesting back-and-forth between progressives and pragmatism.
In that sense, it was a skirmish for the heart and soul of the Democrats as they look to 2020.
That was a refreshing result after an introduction by CNN that looked more like the start of a ball game instead of a serious discussion to lead the free world.
Look, with that many candidates on the stage, someone was going to feel short-changed. The format was built for sound bites more than substance. At many points throughout the night, it seemed like speed dating more than a forum to choose a presidential candidate.
Despite that, I thought a few important differences between the participants came through.
For instance, during a lengthy debate about health care, Delaney called the progressive idea of Medicare for all, “political suicide.”
To which Bernie Sanders responded, “You’re wrong.”
That encapsulated the dilemma facing Democrats as they seek to unseat President Donald Trump. Do they go for bold social programs that could involve tax increases and invite Republican charges of socialism, or do they stick to a more restrained agenda?
Can they do either one while keeping their eyes on the prize?
Scoop — Rep. Travis Cummings will not seek the Senate District 5 seat currently held by term-limited Sen. Rob Bradley.
Long considered a natural fit for the seat, Cummings confirmed Wednesday night that he would be returning to private life when he completes his term in 2020.
“The hardworking people of Clay County have been incredibly generous to my family and me, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the 18 years of unwavering support,” he said.
“Public service has been the honor of my life, but getting back to my family and continuing to build my professional career is where I need to be. Jessica, Beckham, Fletcher and Hattie have made the sacrifices of public service right along with me, and I’m looking forward to spending more time with them.
“I’m proud of the work we’ve done for the people of Clay County — protecting our tax dollars, supporting our local businesses, and keeping our neighborhoods safe. North Florida folks work hard, we take pride in our communities and have faith in family and one another. It’s been an honor to serve them in Tallahassee.”
Currently, Libertarian Matthew Charles McCary is the only candidate who’s signed up to run SD 5 this cycle, though Bradley’s wife, Jennifer Bradley, could soon join him.
“I think she should run. I’ll be first in line to support her. Jennifer would make a fierce advocate for the people of North Florida,” Cummings said.
Whether Bradley or another Republican ends up being the GOP nominee, they would be the prohibitive favorite to win the seat come November 2020.
SD 5 covers a broad swath of North Florida, including the whole of Baker, Bradford, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Lafayette, Levy, Suwannee and Union counties as well as a piece of western Marion County.
In 2016, the last time the seat was on the ballot, Bradley didn’t face a challenger. That cycle also saw the district go for Trump at the top of the ticket by a 3-to-1 margin.
Last spring, The James Madison Institute launched a new policy center — the Center for Technology and Innovation — focusing on issues such as “tech privacy, 21st-century transportation infrastructure, broadband deployment, and the future of work.”
Now, JMI, along with the Florida Chamber Foundation, the Florida Technology Council and the Center for Growth and Opportunity is announcing the “2019 Tech and Innovation Summit- Moving Beyond the Possible,” hosted by the University of Central Florida.
“There is not a single issue that will impact Florida’s prosperity more than technology and innovation,” said Bob McClure, JMI’s President and CEO.
“How we plan not just for 2020 but for 2030, 2040, and 2050 will all be on the table,” he added. “We look forward to hosting policymakers, business leaders, community groups, stakeholders, and national experts for a day of formulating the big ideas that will propel Florida to global leadership.”
The Summit will kick off with a reception on Tuesday, Sept. 24 at The Study, located inside the DoubleTree by Hilton Orlando East-UCF Area, 12125 High Tech Ave., Orlando, 5:30-7 p.m.
On Wednesday, Sept. 25, the summit continues with a series of plenary and breakout sessions that tackle technology and innovation concepts, including telecommunications, transportation, and privacy and security issues in the 21st century.
That’s 8 a.m.-4 p.m. at the University of Central Florida’s Fairwinds Alumni Center, 12676 Gemini Blvd N., Orlando.
Ticket prices are $89 for the conference if purchased before Sept. 3. After Sept. 3, ticket prices increase to $109. Information on the event, including registration, can be found at bit.ly/2019FLTechSummit.
Please tune in for the triumphant return of He Said She Said — As the Schorsch family comes back from a wonderful European vacation, Michelle and I are excited to return to the podcast of everything Florida politics.
The theme of this week’s jam-packed edition is ‘Back to School’ with state Sen. Janet Cruz and James Miller of the Florida Retail Federation. On the eve of the second Democratic debate, we handicap the 2020 presidential race, as Miller talks about the beginning of the Back to School Tax-Free Weekend this Friday — where families are expected to spend nearly $700-$1000.
Cruz also discusses her crusade to “Get the Lead Out” of Hillsborough schools. The Tampa Democrat raised almost $100,000 of the $250,000 goal. The first filter of the project was installed last week in just 15 minutes. Donors can adopt a water fountain for $30, adopt a school for $1500, and adopt five schools for $5000.
In national news, we handicap the 2020 presidential race and I predict Joe Biden will drop from front-runner status and the top three will be Warren, Kamala Harris, and Pete Buttigieg.
I also talk history, travel, and the beauty of ceremony seen in Europe contrasted with the racially charged tweets from Donald Trump.
Speaking of vacation — we check off our foodie tour list, including multiple Michelin 2-star restaurants and a few of the world’s top restaurants.
The kicker: Michelle drops a bombshell — we no longer deserve the Statue of Liberty, she says.
Get all this (and much more) when you subscribe and listen today!
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@AlxThomp: Charles Barkley came into the spin room for a bit. He likes Julián Castro. Said both parties take black voters for granted.
—@MarcACaputo: CNN debating how their debate rules will affect the debate. How about fewer rules? Let the candidates sort it out. Then the viewers and voters can decide.
—@FullFrontalSamB: EVERYONE just got BINGO with Elizabeth Warren saying “I have a plan” #DemDebate
—@SamanthaJoRoth: [Pete] Buttigieg: “Stop worrying about what Republicans will say. If we embrace a far-left agenda they’re going to say we’re a bunch of crazy socialists. If we embrace a conservative agenda, they’re going to say we’re a bunch of crazy socialists … Stand up for the right policy.”
—@johniadarola: Tapper is making me miss Chuck Todd. No one should ever have to type that. #DemDebate
—@scontorno: CNN moderator debate formula: Warren/Sanders: “Defend your plans!” Everyone else: “Trash their plans!”
—@ErinGaetz: I don’t know who will be the Dem nominee. I don’t know who will win the debate tonight. But I do know, without a DOUBT, that Marianne Williamson is burning sage under her podium as we speak.
—@KyleKulinski: Beto [O’Rourke]: “there’s another battleground state, Texas” … you mean, the one you lost?? #DemDebate
—@AGGancarski: Polling threshold should have been 5%. Not looking forward to seeing these candidates’ convention speeches.
—@mattgaetz: Tonight’s Democratic candidates are making Robert Mueller look like he had an epic performance.
—@SethAMandel: In all seriousness, if you don’t think the railing against the insurance companies resonates with a bazillion people, I don’t know what to tell you
—@RadioFreeTom: Wait … I dismissed Tim Ryan too fast. “Bernie, you don’t have to yell.” THIS MAN HAS MY VOTE #DemDebate live
—@TheOnion: ‘FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DONATE, BETO’S DYING UP THERE’ Reads O’Rourke Campaign Fundraising Email Sent During Debate #DemDebate
—@MarcoRubio: Just finished yet another talk with White House on #. They are actively looking for a way to administratively provide temporary status & work permit for Venezuelans in the U.S. Making progress & I am hopeful (is fingers crossed) that we can get a positive outcome.
—@Jason_Garcia: Some interesting Florida Legislature intel at the Florida Association of Property Appraisers meeting (of all places lol). Their legislative folks say they expect Sen. Kelli Stargel to be incoming Senate President Wilton Simpson’s appropriations chair. They also say they expect Rep. Rick Roth will be incoming House Speaker Chris Sprowls’ approps chair (although a few months back a lot of people seemed to think that post was gonna go to Jay Trumbull.)
—@JessicaBakeman: Andy Tuck wouldn’t speak to me earlier this year because he said he doesn’t trust how journalists edit interviews for publication. He gave an interview to the podcast run by @, though.
—@Politics1com: Perhaps it is impact of print newsroom cutbacks in recent years, but not a single Florida paper wrote an obit for ex-FL Sec of State & ex-US Sen Dick Stone, 90, who died Sunday. @ only ran his family’s paid obit listing. Surprising & sad.
— DAYS UNTIL —
“Beverly Hills 90210” reboot premieres — 6; Taylor Swift’s new album, ‘Lover,’ released — 23; Florida Gators opens vs. Miami football — 24; St. Petersburg primary election — 27; UCF Knights football opens vs. Florida A&M — 29; USF Bulls football opens vs. Wisconsin Badgers — 30; FSU Seminoles football opens vs. Boise State — 31; Labor Day — 33; CNN hosts candidate forum on the climate crisis — 35; First Interim Committee Week for 2020 Session — 47; “Morning” Joe Scarborough releases “This Ends Badly: How Donald Trump Conned America” — 48; MSNBC hosts candidates event on climate in D.C. — 50; “Joker” opens — 65; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 89; Scott Maddox trial begins — 96; 2019 General Election — 97; 3rd Annual Florida Internet and Television FITCon starts — 99; 2020 Session begins — 167; Iowa Caucuses — 187; New Hampshire Primaries — 195; Florida’s presidential primary — 230; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo begin — 359; 2020 General Election — 461.
— TOP STORY —
“Moderates and progressives fight over ideological future of Democratic Party in Detroit” via Maeve Reston of CNN — Warren and Sanders immediately became the target of more moderate Democrats running for the White House as their rivals argued during the debate that some of their ideas would be too costly and risky for the middle class. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, who was appearing on the debate stage for the first time, introduced himself to America as a person who had governed a state that Trump won. Bullock argued that he knew how to connect with those voters. Within minutes, both he and former Rep. Delaney argued vigorously against Warren and Sanders’ full-throated support of “Medicare for All.” The argument illuminated the stark ideological divide within the Democratic Party.
“Few attacks in CNN debate as top candidates stick to über-liberal stances” via Howard Kurtz of Fox News – The widely predicted personal attacks also were missing, beyond a few policy jabs, so it was not a “sexy” faceoff in media terms. No one dominated on the crowded stage. If there was a breakout figure, it was moderate Bullock aggressively debating the most left-wing candidates. Far from accepting the party’s rhetoric, anchor Jake Tapper questioned whether the Democrats are moving too far left to beat Trump. Tapper set the tone by challenging Sanders on Medicare for All, saying that a rival called it “political suicide” to kick 150 million people off their private insurance. (Sanders called health care a “human right.”) In one of the few dramatic moments, an exasperated Sanders declared: “Jake, your question is a Republican talking point!”
— MORE DEBATE COVERAGE —
“Democrats respond to Trump on race, and other key moments from CNN’s Democratic debate” via Nolan McCaskill of POLITICO — Warren and Sanders defended their positions on decriminalizing illegal border crossings. Warren said the current criminalization statute gives Trump the authority to separate children from their parents and detain people at the border. The liberal and moderate candidates sparred over electability, arguing over which mold of candidate has the best chance of defeating Trump in November. Sanders: “Well, the truth is that every credible poll that I have seen has me beating Donald Trump.” Mike Hickenlooper: “I think if we’re gonna force Americans to make these radical changes, they’re not gonna go along. Throw your hands up! … You can’t just spring a plan on the world and expect it to succeed.” O’Rourke: “We’ll call his racism out for what it is and also talk about its consequences.”
“Pete Buttigieg vows to withdraw troops from Afghanistan if elected” via Veronica Rocha, Meg Wagner and Amanda Wills of CNN — Buttigieg went on to describe his own experience as a service member in Afghanistan. He served for six years as an intelligence officer in the Navy Reserves, including a six-month deployment to Afghanistan. He said: “I thought I was one of the last troops leaving Afghanistan. When I thought I was turning out the lights years ago. Every time I see news about somebody being killed in Afghanistan, I think about what it was like to hear an explosion and wonder whether it was somebody I knew or served with. Friend or roommate. Colleague. We’re close to the day when we will wake up to the news of a casualty in Afghanistan who was not born on 9/11.”
“Warren slams John Delaney in Democratic debate: Why run just to talk about what we can’t do” via N’dea Yancey-Bragg of USA TODAY — The ongoing debate between Delaney and Warren underscored a major them of the debate: Whether the party should pursue big ideas that appeal to progressives, or more incremental changes that appeal to moderates. During one exchange, Delaney blasted progressives for proposing ideas that are “dead on arrival” or that “will never happen.” “I think Democrats win when we run on real solutions not impossible promises when we run on things that are workable not fairy tale economics,” Delaney said. Warren fired back. “I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for,” she said. “I don’t get it.”
“Fact-checking the 2nd round of the Democratic debate” via The Associated Press — Sanders: “49 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent.” The Facts: That is probably exaggerated. A broader data set finds the top 1 percent has captured roughly 25 percent of the income growth since the recession ended. Ryan: “The economic system now forces us to have two or three jobs just to get by.” The facts: The number of those who juggle more than one has declined over a quarter-century. Sanders: “Companies like Amazon that made billions in profits did not pay one nickel in federal income tax.” The facts: Sanders is correct — for the previous two tax years, Amazon’s own financial filings show that it expected to receive money back from the federal government, not that it owed money.
— 2020 —
“Why isn’t Warren more popular in Massachusetts?” via Ella Nilsen of Vox — Some worry Warren’s low approval numbers among Massachusetts independents — particularly men — foreshadow a potential lack of appeal to independent voters she would need in crucial states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin should she become the Democratic nominee. “The fact that Warren underperformed Hillary Clinton in 228 of Massachusetts’s 351 towns, and did so in a blue wave year, speaks to her weakness with working-class white voters on the ballot,” said Cook Political Report editor Dave Wasserman. “Many parts of Massachusetts are culturally more similar to Wisconsin or Michigan than they are to Cambridge or Boston or Amherst. And that has to be a serious concern for next November, should it get to that.”
“Why Warren’s biggest 2020 competition might be Kamala Harris” via Alex Roarty and Ben Wieder of McClatchy — As they rise to the top of 2020 Democratic presidential field, Harris and Warren are increasingly in direct competition for many of the same voters and donors, according to polls and fundraising data, with each drawing support from the party’s more affluent, college-educated wing — particularly women. The overlap between their supporters might be a surprise, especially for Warren, who is usually portrayed as being in direct competition with fellow liberal stalwart Sanders. But Warren’s strongest support so far has come from the same group of voters that is critical to Harris’ path to the nomination.
“Poll: Tom Steyer making impact in early primary states despite sluggish support overall” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A new survey from Morning Consult has Steyer, a Democratic presidential candidate, earning 4 percent support in early states, despite tepid support overall just weeks after entering the race. That puts Steyer tied for sixth among voters from Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. Former Vice President Joe Biden is in first with 34 percent support, followed by U.S. Sen. Sanders of Vermont at 18 percent, U.S. Sen. Harris of California at 13 percent and U.S. Sen. Warren of Massachusetts at 11 percent. South Bend Mayor Buttigieg sits just ahead of Steyer in fifth place, at 6 percent support. Steyer is tied with U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey.
Instagram of note:
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Not me, US. Thank you Sen. Bernie Sanders for sitting with me and sharing your plans on how you will change this country. A couple of weeks ago I asked my followers if you had the opportunity to have a question answered by a democratic candidate what would it be ? I got a lot of submission and selected the most popular questions to get answered. Stay tuned to see how he will fight for economic, racial, and social justice for all. Together, let’s build a movement of young people to transform this country.LETS LEARN OUR CANDIDATES!
— STATEWIDE —
“New law scuttles ballot signature fight” via News Service of Florida — Almost exactly a month after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new elections law, a federal judge has dismissed a long-running legal battle about the handling of mismatched ballot signatures. Both sides in the case said the new law resolved disputed issues about verifying signatures on vote-by-mail and provisional ballots. That spurred Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, who in November entered a preliminary injunction against the state because of concerns about the signature-verification process, to issue an order Monday dismissing the case. Lawmakers passed a bill (SB 7066) in May that made changes in the signature-verification process, and DeSantis signed the measure June 28.
Nikki Fried stands with farmers struggling with trade deal — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried on Tuesday led a gathering of Southeastern produce growers to discuss strategies to protect farmers from illegally-subsidized Mexican produce imports as well as the new USMCA trade deal. “Mexico’s unfair trade practices and the USMCA’s inability to level the playing field for Florida farmers will just continue NAFTA’s 25 years of failures,” Fried said. “If we don’t stop Mexico’s illegal trade actions, and end the trade wars and tariffs, Mexico will continue eating our lunch on agriculture and trade — and it won’t be American-grown.” The discussion also focused on strategies to encourage retailers to support local farmers rather than foreign subsidized produce with potential strategies, including targeted digital organizing.
“Assault weapons definition could be key” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — Exactly which guns would be outlawed under a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at stopping Floridians from possessing assault weapons is posing a puzzle for state economists. The economists’ task is to predict the financial impact that the proposed amendment would have on state and local economies. But the economists, meeting as the Financial Impact Estimating Conference, have to nail down the specific weapons the proposal seeks to ban. “That is everything to us. That is how many sales are potentially being affected and what manufacturing activities are potentially being affected. It is a critical piece. It is not a cut-and-dry issue,” Amy Baker, head of the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research, told reporters after a two-hour meeting.
“Florida companies among the top users of murky work-travel program” via Manuel Madrid of the Miami New Times — A new report by the International Labor Rights Working Group (LRWG) highlights the scope of inadequate regulations and limited enforcement in Summer Work Travel (SWT). The report shows that program participants routinely complain about deplorable working and living conditions. They also allege that their employers often misrepresent the kind of work they’ll be doing and frequently lie about pay and benefits. In 2018, Florida ranked sixth among states bringing in SWT workers, receiving nearly 5,690 participants. For example, take Disney, which hired more SWT workers in 2015 than any other company. Disney’s use of the State Department’s various exchange programs saved it $15 million per year in wages because the international students are not covered by collective bargaining agreements.
“Floridians’ consumer confidence climbs in July” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Data gathered from the University of Florida shows consumer confidence in the state is on the rise in July after dipping in May and June. UF researchers peg the state’s July confidence index at 100.2, up from 96 in May and 96.5 in June. That number is derived from five separate components rating consumer confidence. Those components are separated into feelings on current and future economic conditions. “Overall, these two components showed that views regarding current economic conditions improved among Floridians in July,” said Hector Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research.
“Tropical wave that could hit Florida continues to lose steam while another develops in the Atlantic” via Joe Mario Pederson of the Orlando Sentinel — The disturbance meteorologists identified over the Caribbean Sea is no longer the flavor of the week as a second disturbance emerged west of Africa, according to the National Hurricane Center. While the tropical wave in the Caribbean as of the NHC’s update retains a 10 percent chance of development within the next five days, meteorologists don’t expect the disturbance to grow stronger as it continues its westward journey bringing heavy rains to Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, and portions of the southeastern Bahamas during the next few days.
— DATELINE: TALLY —
“Governor’s travels: Ron DeSantis on the move” via Michael Moline of Florida Phoenix — Maybe the Florida Department of Law Enforcement should hurry and buy that executive jet for DeSantis. He’s been flogging the heck out of the old twin-turboprop model he inherited from the FDLE since he took office Jan. 9. A Florida Phoenix review shows that DeSantis left the state capital 75 days during his first six months in office, visiting cities — and media markets — in virtually every region of Florida to pitch his policies. He traveled out of state, too, to Washington, New York, and Jerusalem. That represents nearly 44 percent of the time between the day the conservative Republican took the oath of office and the last day in June.
“DeSantis to tap Florida’s first climate change czar. Her resume lacks climate credentials.” via Alex Harris of the Miami Herald — The candidate DeSantis is expected to name is Julia Nesheiwat. The Governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Nesheiwat had no comment. No formal announcement has been made. The last four years, she’s been the deputy special envoy for hostage affairs at the State Department, where she works with hostage families, foreign governments and the multiagency group called the Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell to bring Americans back home. Her professional background is in military and diplomacy issues, and the closest experience she has with environmental issues seems to be a stint at the Department of Energy under the Obama administration, where it appears she focused on energy security.
“Regulators sign off on Citizens rate hikes” via the News Service of Florida — The Office of Insurance Regulation has approved new rates for Citizens Property Insurance Corp. that will increase average rates for residential personal-lines policies by just under 4.7 percent, down from an earlier plan for an 8.2 percent hike. The new rates, which will vary for individual policyholders depending on details of their coverage and locations, will go into effect Dec. 1. The planned 8.2 percent hike was approved in December but did not take effect. The Citizens Board of Governors in June scaled back the planned increase after lawmakers passed a measure this spring that revamped a controversial insurance practice known as assignment of benefits.
“Trekkers dump plastic beach litter on steps of old Capitol urging lawmakers to act” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Hauling 3,000 pounds of plastic garbage found over a 1,200-mile trek along Florida’s beaches to dump on the steps of the Florida Historic Capitol makes a visual and pungent statement. Bryan Galvin and Heather Bolint are counting on it. They hope the Legislature will take notice of the mounds of burlap and plastic mesh bags filled with single-use plastic bottles, toys and other litter they found during a four-month hike along Florida’s coastline. Their message is simple: Ban or reduce single-use plastic, Bolint said. “We want to present this to the Legislature so they can see what we’ve seen,” Galvin said. “All this represents a tenth of what we documented.”
What Bill Galvano is reading — “Senators push boost to federal highway spending” via Route Fifty — Lawmakers on the U.S. Senate Public Works and Environment Committee introduced a surface transportation infrastructure bill that would allocate $287 billion over five years to fix and maintain highways and bridges across the United States. The legislation would extend funding currently appropriated through the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which authorized $305 billion in spending on highways, bridges and other transportation infrastructure and is set to expire in 2020. America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act of 2019 would increase spending on highway infrastructure by 27 percent.
What Kim Daniels is reading — “‘In God We Trust’ signs are being hung in every school in Kentucky before students return” via Lexington Herald-Leader — When classes start in the next few weeks, every school in Kentucky will have to prominently display the national motto ‘In God We Trust’ as a result of a new law passed by the 2019 General Assembly. One regional PTA president said Thursday that she thought the requirement violated the separation of church and state but didn’t anticipate launching formal opposition. To comply with legislation filed by Republican state Rep. Brandon Reed, a minister from Hodgenville, some school districts have already put up mounted plaques or artwork in common areas.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Feds looking at Central Florida for new permanent center for immigrant children” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Federal authorities who operate detention centers for refugee and undocumented immigrant children who are without or separated from their parents have notified state and federal elected officials that they are looking around Central Florida for a location for a new, permanent detention center.
“U.S. Senate set to break without granting TPS to Venezuelans” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — U.S. Sen. Mike Lee of Utah has blocked an effort to approve Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Venezuelans after TPS legislation passed the House on Friday. According to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who has filed a TPS bill of his own, the Senate is scheduled to break for six weeks without approving the measure. U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois and Bob Menendez of New Jersey pushed for the unanimous consent measure Tuesday. But Lee objected to the move.
“Rick Scott wants Peace Corps to answer to the U.S. State Department” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Florida’s Republican U.S. Sen. Scott wants the Peace Corps out of China, and he is introducing legislation to force that and put the long-independent agency under the U.S. Department of State. Scott filed his Peace Corps Mission Accountability Act Tuesday, about three weeks after Peace Corps Director Judy Olsen, refused his request to get the corps out of China.
“Al Lawson bills focus on pocketbook concerns” via Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, a second-term Democrat representing North Florida’s 5th Congressional District, filed a tranche of economic relief bills Tuesday. Included: a year of payment forgiveness for recent college graduates; a proposal to establish a federal escrow account for first-time homebuyers; increases in Social Security benefits. “Too many Americans are hamstrung by student debt or denied the cornerstone of wealth-building through homeownership and lack retirement security,” said Lawson, who serves on the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services.
— THE TRAIL —
“Democrat jumps into race for Adam Hattersley seat” via the News Service of Florida — Brandon Democrat Andrew Learned opened an account to run in Hillsborough County’s HD 59. Republicans Melissa Lee Haskins and Michael Joseph Owen also opened accounts in May for the legislative race. Haskins had raised $5,360 as of June 30, while Owen had raised $43,474, finance reports show. Hattersley will run next year against U.S. Rep. Ross Spano in Florida’s 15th Congressional District, which is made up of parts of Hillsborough, Lake and Polk counties.
— LOCAL —
“While lawyers brokered plea deal, Jeffrey Epstein planned island home expansion” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — As Epstein‘s attorneys worked in 2007 to negotiate a non-prosecution agreement that’s now under scrutiny, the wealthy financier was working on expanding his estate in the Virgin Islands massively. That’s according to a new report from NBC News. Epstein was accused of having sexual relations with dozens of underage girls but dodged federal charges under that agreement. Instead, he spent just 13 months in jail on state-level charges. Much of that time was spent on work release. Epstein has since been indicted on federal child trafficking charges that could see him sentenced to as much as 45 years in prison.
“Immigration issue hits home as ‘Dreamer’ faces deportation” via Gil Smart of TCPalm — Randolph Angulo is a great kid, though “kid” is a misnomer because he’s now 18. A native of Peru, he came to America in 2014 and moved to Port St. Lucie. He is currently enrolled at Indian River State College. Big things would seem to be in his future if he doesn’t get deported. Randolph would be a “Dreamer” if the DREAM Act had ever become law. Instead, he had work authorization, a Social Security number and had applied for permanent residency along with his mother, who is still in Peru but is married to a native of Puerto Rico — a U.S. citizen. But Randolph said their immigration lawyer made an error, sending the applications separately instead of together.
LexisNexis Risk Solutions helps six Florida counties uncover millions in new revenue — Two Florida counties — Brevard and Duval counties — have joined four other Florida counties using the LexisNexis Homestead Exemption Fraud Detection Solution to uncover more than $16 million in new tax revenue from homestead exemptions. The solution combined LexisNexis Risk Solutions public records databases with identity analytics technology to help the six counties identify nearly 2,000 erroneous and fraudulent tax filings in homestead property tax exemptions. Out of 300,000 homestead exclusion claims filed in Brevard and Duval counties, Brevard detected more than 400 fraudulent accounts, collecting $2.723 million in new tax revenue. Duval found more than 500 fraudulent accounts totaling $2.358 million.
“Divorce for Darryl Daniels?” via Florida Politics — The wife of the Clay County Sheriff has filed for divorce — a seeming result of months of coverage of an affair gone wrong for the first-term Republican. This is the latest negative development for Daniels, a charismatic Republican sheriff who was a regional campaign surrogate for DeSantis. Daniels is currently under FDLE investigation. The issue at hand in both instances: Daniels ordered the apprehension of his lover and former workplace subordinate, Cierra Smith. The “stalking” charge proved unfounded.
“A Fort Myers councilman tired of insults at meetings wants them banned” via Melissa Montoya of the Fort Myers News-Press — Led by Councilman Fred Burson‘s motion, the Fort Myers City Council voted 6-1 at a recent meeting to have City Attorney Grant Alley draft an ordinance prohibiting “abusive, derogatory, hurtful, insulting, aggressive, hateful, racist, rude, vulgar, threatening, menacing, hostile, nasty, belittling, offensive, foul and cursing” language at city council meetings. Burson wants to be able to sanction violators with a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail. Councilwoman Terolyn Watson voted against the measure. Council also approved placing a civility pledge outside of the chamber. Burson said speakers should focus on the agenda items and city business.
“Army Corps mulls lower Lake O level to curb discharges, harmful algal blooms (HAB)” via Tyler Treadway of the Naples Daily News — The Army Corps of Engineers plans to change how it operates Lake Okeechobee to reduce the public health risk from toxic blue-green algae blooms in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers. The “algae crisis has caused substantial and widespread impacts to Florida communities over the last several years,” according to a July 10 intra-agency email announcing the proposed change by Melissa Nasuti, head of the Corps’ Florida planning and policy division. Environmental groups generally applauded the Corps’s proposal, mostly for its admission that discharges are a public health issue. Details of the proposal are still being worked out, Corps spokesman Jim Yocum said.
“Lake County backs relocation of Edmund Kirby Smith statue to Tavares” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The board voted 3-2 in favor of a Lake County Historical Museum plan to display the statue in town. The move comes as nine Lake County cities, including Tavares, lobby against the move. County Commission chair Leslie Campione said the matter sparked difficult discussion. “Is it about racism? Is it about wiping out the past?” she said. “How far do you go?” Campione brought the issue forward, suggesting the commission endorse the Lake County Historical Society effort to relocate the statue. She maintained the monument could educate about the ills of slavery and the Civil War, not glorify Confederate values.
“Granddaughter of B-CU founder sentenced to 1 year on fraud, theft charges” via Daytona Beach News-Journal — Evelyn Bethune, the granddaughter of Bethune-Cookman University founder Mary McLeod Bethune, was sentenced to a year in state prison and 12 years on probation for stealing about $22,000 from an organization that provided scholarships to female students. Bethune, 67, pleaded no contest on Jan. 16 to organized scheme to defraud and two counts of grand theft. But the two grand theft counts were dropped at sentencing … Bethune used her position as treasurer of the Daytona Chapter of the National League of American Pen Women to defraud the local and national group, a charging affidavit states.
“All parties OK settlement of legal fight over FIU bridge tragedy — with one holdout” via Aaron Brazel of the Miami Herald — Among those signing on to the deal announced in Miami-Dade circuit court Monday are FIGG, the Tallahassee-based engineering firm that designed the 950-ton, 320-foot span, and Munilla Construction Management (MCM), the general contractor headquartered in Miami. In total, 23 subcontractors joined the deal, which requires them to pay into a fund set aside for those affected. The lone holdout is Louis Berger, an engineering consulting firm hired to double-check FIGG’s design and calculations. The funds agreed upon will be added on top of a $42 million deal hashed out by the victims and MCM’s insurers in April. However, the nature of the bankruptcy proceeding means that all parties involved need Louis Berger on board before the money can be distributed.
“$1 billion highway plan in doubt. Hearing reveals it would save Kendall drivers just 6 minutes” via Adriana Brasileiro and Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Three minutes one way and three minutes back on a typical two-hour round-trip commute from West Kendall to downtown. That’s how much a proposed $1 billion highway extension through wetlands meant to help preserve the Everglades could save on travel times for West Kendall residents. The revelation that traffic congestion relief would be limited at best emerged during a legal challenge that wrapped up last week over Miami-Dade County’s controversial plan to extend the Dolphin Expressway with a new 13-mile-long toll road called the Kendall Parkway. A ruling in the lawsuit — brought by an unusual partnership of environmental and community activists, and a major developer — could come later this year.
“Facing a seaweed ‘crisis’ on the beach, Miami-Dade’s preparing to haul away sea grass” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade leaders are scrambling to tackle an unprecedented inundation of sargassum this summer. After weeks of using tractors to churn the seaweed back into the surf, the county this week plans to deploy bulldozers, front-end loaders and dump trucks to actually scoop up the unwanted substance and haul it away. The daily seaweed influx is broad enough that Miami-Dade doesn’t have much hope to clear all of the 15 miles of coast cleaned by the county’s Parks Department, including the tourist haven of Miami Beach. A June presentation estimated daily removal of seaweed from the entire beach would cost about $45 million a year, and require 880 truck trips hauling enough material to fill a football field 10 feet high.
“FAMU appoints new interim CFO” via Tallahassee Democrat — A former key administrator with the Colorado University System has been hired as interim chief financial officer and vice president at Florida A&M University. Richard Schweigert is expected to begin Thursday as interim CFO and vice president for finance and administration. Schweigert assumes the interim CFO position currently held by Joyce Ingram, who also is associate vice president of human resources. Ingram was given the additional duties as interim CFO and vice president following last month’s resignation of Wanda Ford. Ford was forced out after an internal audit discovered the university had been using unauthorized auxiliary funds to cover expenses in its athletics department until at least fall 2016.
“Hundreds line up for free groceries at new mobile food pantry at Pinellas bus stop” via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — More than 200 people attended the first mobile pantry at a bus hub close to the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority headquarters in north St. Petersburg. By the time it opened at 9 a.m., some had been in line for almost three hours. The large turnout shows just how much need there is in Pinellas, said Matt Spence, chief program officer with Feeding Tampa Bay, a nonprofit estimated this year to move 60 million pounds of food to groups that feed the needy across a 10-county area. The bus agency spent about $5,400 to sponsor the program, which will include three other mobile pantry events scheduled later this year.
— OPINIONS —
“It’s time to ticket texting drivers” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — It doesn’t take a study to know that distracted driving has become an epidemic and needs to be treated like one. Careful drivers see it every day, whether it’s the person in the other lane with the phone held at the wheel, the driver who looks up from his smartphone just in time to avoid rear-ending the car in front (or not), or the texting motorist who wanders from lane to lane while distracted from the job at hand — actually driving. Drivers don’t need to be “educated” that texting behind the wheel is dangerous and illegal. They just need to stop — now. Tickets and fines will help. Warnings probably won’t.
“A judge provides much-needed sanity on Florida gun laws” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — When politicians in Tallahassee trample on the Florida Constitution, only an independent judiciary can hold them accountable. That happened the other day when Circuit Judge Charles Dodson struck down vindictive and unprecedented penalties designed purely to punish local officials who dare to question the state’s vise-like grip on all local gun regulations. Pre-emption was not an issue in this case — only the penalty provisions that power-hungry Republicans imposed eight years ago. Dodson ruled that fines, removal from office and even the firing of appointed county administrators are all illegal because they impair contracts and violate constitutional principles of legislative immunity and separation of powers. DeSantis can appeal Dodson’s order. He shouldn’t.
— MOVEMENTS —
“Governor appoints Chad Harrod to Port Tampa Bay” via Janelle Irwin of Florida Politics — Harrod is the chief executive officer of Harrod Properties. The company and its affiliated companies have developed more than 17 million square feet of office, industrial and medical space in Florida, Texas, Tennessee and the Carolinas. He joined the company in 2002. Before that, he worked in investment banking with J.P. Morgan in both Atlanta and New York City. His appointment is for a four-year term and is subject to confirmation by the state Senate.
Appointed — Thomas Kidwell and Deveron Gibbons (reappointed) to the St. Petersburg College District Board of Trustees. Randall Howard to the Daytona State College District Board of Trustees.
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Brian Ballard, Katherine San Pedro, Ballard Partners: Star Farms Corporation
Jim Boxold, Megan Fay, Ron LaFace, Capital City Consulting: Arrive Alive Traffic Control, The GEO Group
William Helmich, Helmich Consulting: Caribbean Conservation Corporation
Erin Rock, Southern Strategy Group: Bluefield Ranch Mitigation Bank, Mitigation Services PBC
— ALOE —
“Retailers ready for back-to-school tax ‘holiday’” via News Service of Florida — Florida’s retail industry is gearing up for this year’s back-to-school sales tax “holiday” on clothes, classroom supplies and computer equipment, with the state offering the tax break for five days starting Friday. Last year’s back-to-school tax holiday lasted three days and didn’t include computer equipment. James Miller, the Florida Retail Federation’s senior director of external affairs, said the extra days this year would help retailers. “Retailers will be able to spread out their workers a little better, spread out their inventory, manage it a little better,” he said. “What happened in the years past is you just had this big crush of people coming in on Saturday and Sunday, retailers aren’t really able to provide that customer service that they want.”
“Florida gas prices down 12 cents in 11 days; Tampa Bay sees largest weekly drop” via WFLA — The price of gas in Florida dropped nine cents during the past week, combining for a total discount of 12 cents in the past 11 days, AAA reported. The average price of gas in Florida dropped 9 cents over the past week. That price is 4 cents less than last month, 22 cents less than this time last year and 21 cents less than this year’s high daily average price of $2.80 per gallon. The Tampa Bay area got the most significant discount this week with a 14-cent drop, putting the average price for gasoline at $2.52 per gallon. The Tallahassee area had the highest average price for gas at $2.69 per gallon.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Happy birthday to former Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, David Cardenas, the FHCA’s Kristen Knapp, Dan McFaul of Ballard Partners, and the Ace Rothstein of South Florida, Nick Sortal.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Joe Henderson, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.