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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 8.14.19

The first day of the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Military, Defense & Veterans Opportunities Summit is in the bag.

The key takeaway: If Florida wants to climb up the economic ladder, it needs to focus on boosting its foothold in the defense industry and welcoming veterans — many of whom have skills prized by employers — with open arms.

“We want to see Florida grow from the 17th largest economy in the world to 10th largest economy, and the defense industry will help diversify and help fuel this growth,” Florida Chamber CEO Mark Wilson said in his opening address.

Mark Wilson of the Florida Chamber outlines his ambitions for the state, and how the defense industry will play a part.

That thesis was backed up by some concrete examples of what Florida’s government and business spheres can do to spur growth in the defense arena.

According to retired U.S. Army Major Gen. Michael D. Jones, a headlining speaker at the event, that includes environmental concerns — if or when the moratorium on oil drilling expires in 2022, oil rigs could pepper the seas just nine miles off the coast, which would stymie growth for Florida’s military installations.

As far as attracting and retaining veterans, Enterprise Florida CEO Jamal Sowell says the state has the right tools at its disposal, such as the $40 million Job Growth Grant Fund.

“We want to tell those veterans that they have a place here to make home,” he said.

The summit continues into tomorrow with a half-day slate featuring the legislative angle to growing the Sunshine State’s defense industry and military communities.

On tap to talk policy are state Sens. Doug Broxson and Tom Wright, state Rep. David Smith, Department of Economic Opportunity head Ken Lawson and the Chamber’s senior comms director, Mona Dexter.


@MaggieNYT: [Donald] Trump claims in Pittsburgh, with no information offered to support the claim, that being president is costing him $3 billion to $5 billion. Among the costs he cites are legal fees — at least some of his lawyers have worked for free. “Emoluments — nobody knows what it is.”

@JebBush: Revenue up 3%, spending up 8% equals deficit of $897 billion in 10 months. DC doesn’t care.

@SContorno: Some findings as we dig thru Rick Scott’s $$$: — He owns $2m+ in a telecom company & sits on subcommittee regulating that industry. — Has stock in several defense contractors/funds and sits on defense committee. — Him and his wife bought a $4.3m DC condo.

@Fineout: Sometimes it seems like maybe Rick Scott misses being Governor. The Republican Senator and former two-term Governor was back in the state on Monday where he held not one, but two roundtables where he sat down with college students and administrators to discuss student debt.

@GovRonDeSantis: Starting today and continuing through the rest of the week, temperatures in Florida are expected to reach potentially dangerous highs. It’s vital that we use every precaution to #BeatTheHeat. Check out different ways @FLSERT recommends to stay cool and safe.

@NikkiFried: Like you, I’ve watched these mass shootings in shock and horror. Like you, I’m tired of the bitter division over guns in America. No one wants this violence darkening their doorstep. I intend to be a woman in the arena — but the solutions are bigger than one person.

@WFSUNews: Rep. Mike Hill says “not the government’s responsibility to stop mass shootings,” blames problem on prescription of psychotropic drugs “like Ritalin.”

@JoeMobleyJax: You know what’s nice? Driving on US 301 through Hampton and Waldo without worrying about a part-time police officer ruining my morning. Thanks @Rob_Bradley

@RalphReid: I second this! I secretly cried a little when I turned 30 and knew I was no longer eligible for the 30 under 30 list. I mean sure, I wouldn’t have made it on the list for a whole host of other reasons … but still … it made me die a little on the inside nonetheless.


Taylor Swift’s new album, ‘Lover,’ released — 9; Florida Gators opens vs. Miami football — 10; St. Petersburg primary election — 13; UCF Knights football opens vs. Florida A&M — 15; USF Bulls football opens vs. Wisconsin Badgers — 16; FSU Seminoles football opens vs. Boise State — 17; Labor Day — 19; CNN hosts candidate forum on the climate crisis — 21; TaxWatch Productivity Awards — 28; First Interim Committee Week for 2020 Session — 33; “Morning” Joe Scarborough releases “This Ends Badly: How Donald Trump Conned America” — 34; MSNBC hosts candidates event on climate in D.C. — 36; “Joker” opens — 51; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 75; 2019 General Election — 83; 3rd Annual Florida Internet and Television FITCon starts — 85; TaxWatch 40th Annual Meeting — 110; 2020 Session begins — 153; Iowa Caucuses — 173; New Hampshire Primaries — 181; Florida’s presidential primary — 216; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo begin — 345; 2020 General Election — 447.


’Poisoned’: Power struggle distances Ron DeSantis from party” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — The deteriorating relationship includes a distancing between two powerful Republicans — DeSantis chief of staff Shane Strum and veteran GOP operative Susie Wiles, who helped DeSantis win election in 2018 and is expected to play a leading role in Trump’s Florida campaign. In addition, DeSantis has but a superficial relationship with his own hand-picked party chairman, Joe Gruters, who was the Governor’s second choice for the job. The Republican Party of Florida — largely steered by Gruters and Wiles — will be instrumental in next year’s presidential campaign. DeSantis, himself a Trump loyalist, remains popular in the state and will continue to raise money — on his own terms — through a separate political committee.

A rift between Ron DeSantis and powerful Republicans — like Joe Gruters — could be impactful for Florida in 2020. Image via WUSF.


State analysts won’t revisit economic impact of minimum wage, utility ballot initiatives” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — The state’s top fiscal forecasters won’t revisit their original financial impact statements for two 2020 ballot initiatives that could cause huge economic ripples in Florida — despite a recent Supreme Court opinion that it should. One measure would boost the minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next five years, and the other would lay the groundwork for dismantling the state’s large, investor-owned electricity companies. Meanwhile, the Florida Chamber of Commerce released its own economic impact study, saying deregulating the state’s big investor-owned power companies could cost state and local governments $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion a year in lost taxes and fees.

Happening today — A panel of state economists, meeting as the Revenue Estimating Conference, will update general-revenue estimates, 9 a.m., 117 Knott Building.

Misdemeanor charges against state Rep. Emily Slosberg to be dropped” via Marc Freeman of the Sun-Sentinel — Slosberg will avoid prosecution on two misdemeanor charges connected to a January trespassing incident at her former Boca Raton residence.

Anna Eskamani measure seeks to condemn, reject white nationalism” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Democratic state Rep. Eskamani of Orlando has filed a resolution calling on the Florida House to condemn white nationalism and white supremacy. Eskamani’s measure (HR 51) is a declaration of condemnation and rejection of the two movements steeped in racism and tied to the motives of several alleged mass murderers, including the accused shooters in El Paso, Texas; Pittsburgh, and Charleston, South Carolina. The resolution declares the movements “hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values that define the people of Florida and the United States.”

Anna Eskamani is filing an anti-racism measure condemning white nationalism and white supremacy.

Al Jacquet wants ‘full payment’ language deleted from Amendment 4 law” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Democrats were outraged last Session over a bill implementing Amendment 4, the constitutional change restoring voting rights to ex-cons. That’s because lawmakers passed and DeSantis OK’d legislation requiring felons to pay all fines and fees before regaining their right to vote. Now, Rep. Jacquet has filed a bill (HB 6007) for the 2020 Session that would “remove (the) language requiring full payment of certain fines and fees.” “This year, a law was enacted to restrict voting eligibility of those Floridians who had been re-enfranchised by Amendment 4,” Jacquet said in a Tuesday statement on the bill.

Cities take aim at wireless technology law” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — The Florida League of Cities and three communities this week filed a renewed constitutional challenge to a state law that is expected to help telecommunications companies install wireless technology on city-owned utility poles and in public rights of way. The league and the cities of Fort Walton Beach, Naples and Port Orange filed the lawsuit about three months after filing a similar challenge to a 2017 state law. The revised case targets a change that lawmakers made this year that could open cities to lawsuits in state or federal courts — including being required to pay costs and attorney fees — if they violate the wireless-technology law. Attorneys for the cities contend that the change violates the constitutional separation of powers.

What the Florida League of Cities is reading — “State preemption of local legislation is getting worse” via Route Fifty — State preemption laws … are responsible for handcuffing cities from managing issues across the board: Taxation, zoning, local land use, business practices, climate-change adaptation, and even what kind of monuments can and can’t be displayed. Cities should be concerned now that the power-grip of state preemption laws has been growing tighter over the last decade, according to a new report, “The Growing Shadow of State Interference,” produced by the Local Solutions Support Center and the State Innovation Exchange. The report’s conclusion is outright chilling.


Felons’ rights lawsuit timing debated as elections loom” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — Lawyers representing opposite sides in a federal lawsuit about felons’ voting rights can’t agree on how quickly a judge should decide the issue, potentially affecting whether hundreds of thousands of Floridians will be able to participate in next year’s presidential primary elections. DeSantis and Secretary of State Laurel Lee, who want the lawsuit dismissed, are asking U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle to hold a trial in the case in November. But plaintiffs say they need more time to gather evidence in their challenge to a state law requiring people convicted of felonies to pay legal financial obligations before they can register to vote.

Supreme Court refuses to block execution” via News Service of Florida — The Florida Supreme Court rejected appeals by Death Row inmate Gary Ray Bowles, who is scheduled to be executed next week for the 1994 murder of a Jacksonville man who was hit in the head with a concrete block and strangled. The attorneys argued in a brief last month that the Supreme Court should order a hearing about whether Bowles is intellectually disabled and, as a result, should be shielded from execution. But the Supreme Court said Bowles had failed to make a “timely” intellectual disability claim because he did not raise the issue until 2017.

The Supreme Court is not revisiting the death penalty for Gary Ray Bowles — also known as The I-95 Killer.

2 lawmakers present $1.8M check to the Miami Project” via WSVN — Two state lawmakers visited the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Miami to present an enlarged check to the project’s leaders. Sen. Lauren Book and Rep. Vance Aloupis gave the Miami Project a $1.8 million check. The check represents the funds appropriated in this year’s state budget to support the organization’s paralysis research efforts. The two toured the Lois Pope LIFE Center with Dr. Barth Green, a co-founder of the Miami Project. Dr. Green and late Miami Dolphins linebacker Nick Buoniconti founded the project in 1985 after his son, Marc Buoniconti, suffered a spinal cord injury during a college football game.

State seeks to cut reporting time after schools learn of employees’ bad acts” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — The Florida Board of Education is poised to require school superintendents to act more quickly when they learn of misconduct by teachers or administrators that could put children at risk.

Happening today — The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission will meet to discuss compliance with school-safety requirements passed by the Legislature, 8:30 a.m., BB&T Center, Chairman’s Club, 1 Panther Parkway, Sunrise.

Florida avocado volume back to normal” via Tom Burfield of The Packer — Volume of Florida’s green-skin avocados is back to normal this year, following tight supplies last season spurred by Hurricane Irma. Florida growers are expected to produce about 800,000 bushels of avocados between June and April. Last year’s crop was reduced by about 40 percent as a result of the hurricane. Brooks Tropicals accounts for about 40% of that volume, said Mary Ostlund, director of marketing. The avocados “recovered nicely from the storm,” and were “looking great” this summer. Size and quality both were up to the company’s standards, she said. “It’s all thumbs-up.”

Florida Democrats expand ‘voter protection’ effort with 24-hour phone hotline” via Miami Herald — The Florida Democratic Party has launched a 24-hour hotline for voters to report any problems with registration or casting their ballots as party leaders try to get a jump on what they say are Republican-led voter suppression efforts in one of the country’s most important swing states. The hotline — 1-833-868-3352 — went live Monday, according to Executive Director Juan Peñalosa. It is manned by paid staff and volunteers versed in Florida election law, he said. He said most calls will be answered live. He hopes the call center will ensure that “all legal votes are counted.”


Rick Scott’s wealth dips after spending $65 million to win Florida Senate race” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Scott is worth at least $166 million and likely much, much more, he reported, making him one of the richest members of Congress. In his annual financial disclosures, Scott said he earned between $23 million and $113 million from his massive portfolio of investments that spans all sectors of the economy. A large chunk of that income came in the form of stock sales; Scott listed more than 500 assets he unloaded this past year. But it appears the Republican’s wealth dropped considerably after he spent $65 million to defeat Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson in his U.S. Senate race last year. At a minimum, he reported holdings of $166 million, which is $87 million less than last year’s minimum.

Rick Scott is not as wealthy as before, thanks to his Senate campaign’s high price tag.

SpottedBrian Ballard in The Hill’s “Bottom Line” — East Alabama Medical Center hired Ballard Partners to work on Medicare and Medicaid payment issues. Ballard, the firm’s founder, and Daniel McFaul, former chief of staff to Rep. Matt Gaetz, will work on the account. Also, Campari America, a spirits distillery, hired Ballard Partners to work on trade and tariff issues. Ballard and Sylvester Lukis, a former attorney with the Office of the General Counsel at the Department of Health and Human Services, will work on that account.

Latino Victory names new executive director” via Laura Barrón-López of POLITICO — Latino Victory, the progressive political action committee, is naming a new executive director as its interim president, Melissa Mark-Viverito, steps aside to run for Congress. Mayra Macías would take the helm in the newly created position of executive director. Mark-Viverito, a former Speaker of the New York City Council, has served as interim president for five months but will resign to run for an open House seat in a New York district. Macías first joined Latino Victory in 2017, serving as national political director. She got her start in politics as a field organizer for President Barack Obama‘s 2012 reelection campaign. Later, Macías served as Hispanic outreach director and deputy political director for the Florida Democratic Party.

— 2020 —

The power of the #YangGang: Andrew Yang tops Progress Florida straw poll” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Yang, a former tech executive, easily topped his Democratic presidential primary opponents in an online straw poll conducted by Progress Florida. The survey concluded Tuesday night evening. Progress Florida’s website shows Yang earning 35 percent of the vote. That’s well ahead of the second-place candidate, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Warren earned just under 20 percent support. Online polls aren’t considered scientific, as they can be susceptible to one candidate’s supporters spamming the results. On the other hand, that option was available to supporters of all candidates. And Yang’s showed up, giving him the comfortable win. But Mark Ferrulo, director of Progress Florida, said the group worked to verify that only votes from Floridians were included.

The Yang Gang is helping Andrew Yang push to the top of a new Progress Florida straw poll.

Tom Steyer hits debate donor requirement, moves up in early primary poll” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Steyer, a billionaire hedge fund manager and Democratic presidential candidate, says he’s hit the donor requirement to qualify for the Democrats’ third and fourth debates. The news comes as Steyer continues to climb in a Morning Consult survey of early primary voters. Steyer’s campaign sent out an email blast Tuesday morning noting that he’s earned contributions from 130,000 unique donors. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) set the floor for candidates looking to qualify for the next debate in September. “Since entering the race five weeks ago, our priority has been getting Tom’s message out to the American people,” said Heather Hargreaves, Steyer’s campaign manager.

Here are the biggest donors to Trump, Biden, Sanders — and Bullock — in Central Florida” via the Orlando Sentinel — Several notable people, including Orlando attorneys John Morgan and Matt Morgan, have maxed out their allowable contributions to Democratic candidates, while Full Sail University CEO James Heavener and Westgate Resorts CEO David Siegel are among those who have already maxed out to the Trump campaign.


Jimmy Patronis’ fundraising lull continues — CFO Patronis raised $31,500 via his political committee, Treasure Florida, last month. As reported by Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida, that sum pales in comparison to the six-figure tallies the prodigious fundraiser usually posts. It’s the third month in a row the fund has underperformed past results. The lower-than-average reports coincide with the public spectacle that resulted in the firing of former Florida Office of Financial Regulation Ronald Rubin. Rubin, who faced sexual harassment allegations, claimed Patronis called for his ouster as political retribution for not hiring the CFO’s favored applicant for an OFR job.

Jimmy Patronis is not bringing in as much cash as he’s used to.

Kristen Carlson, saying she was ‘robbed’ by Ross Spano, backs Adam Hattersley” via Janelle Irwin Taylor Florida Politics — Carlson, Spano’s previous Democratic challenger, endorsed Hattersley — thus staving off any remaining speculation that she might run again. “The people of this district were robbed last year when Ross Spano funneled illegal money into his campaign and stole a seat in Congress,” Carlson said. “I am thrilled to be supporting Adam’s campaign because I know firsthand what it takes to run for Congress. I have every confidence that Adam’s experience as a veteran, small business owner and engineer has fully prepared him to take on Ross Spano and actually represent the people of this district, rather than the Washington special interests.”

Erika Benfield adds $25K to her own campaign as HD 27 stays hot” via Scott Powers Florida Politics — Republican candidate Benfield pumped a $25,000 personal loan into her campaign. Benfield is one of three Republican candidates who’ve been working the campaign circuit hard in the southern Volusia County district now served by Republican state Rep. David Santiago, who is term-limited. With her $25,000 personal check, Benfield, an interior designer and owner of Florida Living Quarters Interior Design, pushed her total campaign collections to $54,258, taking the money lead in the HD 27 Republican primary battle.

Keeping it hot: Republican Erika Benfield dropped a $25K personal loan into her bid for HD 27.

Alex Penelas political committee gathers another $100K for mayoral run” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Penelas‘ political committee, Bold Vision, has reported another six-figure month in July after raising just over $101,000. It’s the fourth straight month the former Miami-Dade County Mayor has netted six figures as he mulls a return to that office. Overall, Penelas has raised more than $1.2 million since April. But he has yet to declare for the 2020 contest formally. The former Mayor’s July totals trailed those of County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava. She earned more than $20,000 to her campaign and another $144,000 to her political committee, Our Democracy. That adds up to just under $165,000 for the month.

Oliver Gilbert reports more than double Sybrina Fulton’s fundraising for Miami-Dade Commission” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Gilbert once again outraised Fulton as the two compete for a seat on the Miami-Dade County Commission. Gilbert brought in more than $33,000 in July, according to the latest reports. He topped Fulton by nearly $20,000, as her filings show more than $13,500 raised. The two are running for the District 1 seat on the Commission. Gilbert entered the contest in January and has gathered more than $322,000 since. He has nearly $258,000 of that still on hand. Among the July donations to Gilbert’s campaign was a $1,000 donation from Sen. Book. Book’s father and influential lobbyist, Ron Book, also pitched in $1,000 through his consulting business.


School Board member after ‘colossal failure’: ‘we should have listened to the bus drivers’” via the Tallahassee Democrat — Leon County School Board Member Alva Striplin took to the radio to assure parents that every single bus route is being reconsidered after a massive meltdown on the first day of school. “It’s going to take time,” she told Real Talk 93.3 morning host Greg Tish. She said the origins of the breakdown could be traced to a year ago after an audit revealed that buses were operating at only about 30 percent capacity. School district officials agreed to work with a software company EDULOG to better track buses in transit and streamline routes that were underperforming. They also struck routes that were clustered too close together and moved to eliminate so-called “courtesy” stops.

Leon County School Board Member Alva Striplin steps up to pacify parents after a ‘colossal failure’ of the bus system on the first day of school. Image via

What Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna is reading — “How one city saved $5 million by routing school buses with an algorithm” via Route Fifty — Using an algorithm, which (Boston) tested for the first time in the 2017-2018 school year, has created dramatic results. In 30 minutes, the algorithm created a system-level route map that was 20 percent more efficient than the ones done by hand … Running the algorithm in the summer of 2017 allowed for the system to eliminate 50 buses, an 8 percent drop — the largest Boston had seen in a single year. Buses drove 1 million fewer miles that year and cut 20,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per day. The district reinvested the $5 million saved back into classroom initiatives.

Alva Striplin, GOP chairman Evan Power exchange harsh words over school bus meltdown” via Tallahassee Democrat — The breakdown in Leon County Schools’ new bus routing system led to an ugly exchange of words between Striplin and Evan Power, chairman of the Leon County Republican Party. Power criticized Superintendent Rocky Hanna, Striplin and the rest of the School Board for the transportation troubles. Striplin responded by bringing up Power’s DUI arrest last year.

Keys man threatens a man with a gun for blocking a grocery store aisle, police said” via Gwen Filosa of the Miami Herald — A Keys man was jailed after police said he threatened to kill a man for blocking an aisle in a Winn-Dixie store and displayed a gun tucked into his waistband. James R. Severson said he would shoot the man in the head as he lifted his shirt to show he was armed, according to the arrest report. He is also accused of pushing his grocery cart into the man who was restocking shelves with soft drinks around 5:30 p.m. Sunday. Severson was arrested on a felony charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without the intent to kill and misdemeanor charges of battery and improperly displaying a firearm. The gun was a Glock 19 loaded with a 15-round magazine.

Pure clickbait —Gun stolen during weekend sex party in Florida home” via Tony Holt of The Palm Beach Post — A handgun was swiped from a Deltona home during a weekend sex party and the gun owner couldn’t give detectives any names of possible suspects because the culprit — like the 20 or so other guests at the party — was wearing a mask, deputies said. “We’re probably not going to solve this one,” Volusia County Sheriff’s Sgt. Todd Smith said during a public meeting Thursday. “And DNA (identification) is not going to be an option.” The 9 mm Glock was holstered and lying on top of a nightstand in the master bedroom when it was stolen, the homeowner told deputies. It was taken during an orgy, in which the theme was anonymous sex, according to a report.

General Counsel backs Jacksonville City Council’s power to squash sales tax vote” via David Bauerlein and Emily Bloch of the Florida Times-Union — Duval School Board Chairwoman Lori Hershey sat in her office ahead of a workshop meeting with board members, when she received an email from the office of Jacksonville General Counsel’s Office. It was about whether the Jacksonville City Council could reject the board’s request for a sales tax referendum. The answer, General Counsel Jason Gabriel said, is yes. Gabriel’s binding legal opinion said the City Council controls when a half-cent sales tax referendum for schools goes before voters. City Council also decides whether there will be a referendum at all, Gabriel determined. “We knew it was coming,” Hershey said. “I didn’t expect it to be different … but what struck me was the David and Goliath stuff.”

EA lease allows it to leave Maitland in 2021. Could it move to downtown Orlando?” via Marco Santana of the Orlando Sentinel — Electronic Arts could break its lease in Maitland as early as Oct. 31, 2021, thanks to a clause added five years ago, potentially setting up a move to Creative Village downtown. To do so, the video game developer would need to provide notice between nine and 12 months in advance and pay a termination fee of $1.85 million, according to its lease. If it does not, the company also has the option of doing so by Oct. 31, 2022, for a lease that expires Oct. 31, 2025. Creative Village project leaders have said that they plan to target digital media companies — and video game makers, specifically — as tenants in what is expected to be a $1.5 billion project downtown eventually.

HOA asks Army veteran to remove Puerto Rican flag at Kissimmee home” via Nancy Alvarez and James Tutten of WFTV — Frances Santiago spent 14 years as an Army medic, including two tours in Iraq. Santiago wants to fly the Puerto Rican flag, but her HOA in the Rolling Hills Estates said the particular flag is against the rules. “I fought for this, to be able to do this. So, I don’t see a problem with flying my flag here,” Santiago said. The flag was on display for three weeks before a notice arrived from the HOA along with emails explaining anything other than a U.S. flag, a military flag or a sports flag must be removed.

Sewage spill prompts water advisory for northeast Miami-Dade County parks” via Peter Burke of — A precautionary water advisory is in effect at several popular parks in Miami-Dade County while emergency repair work is made to a broken wastewater pipe leaking sewage. Miami-Dade County issued the advisory Monday for Oleta River State Park, Greynolds Park, Haulover Inlet and Maule Lake. Other affected areas include the beaches located about 500 feet to the north and south of Haulover Inlet, as well as the beach in Bal Harbour, just south of Haulover Inlet. A 48-inch wastewater pipe broke near 2500 NE 163rd St., so a contractor has been hired to install a bypass sewer line and connect it before and after the breakpoints on the pipe, which is 12 feet beneath the water’s surface.

The Emir of Qatar’s brother ordered him to kill, says Pasco defense contractor’s lawsuit” via Tampa Bay Times — A Pasco County defense contractor says a member of the Qatari royal family asked him to kill two people then later held him against his will, according to a federal lawsuit filed against Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad al Thani. Matthew Pittard said he was hired to protect al Thani, the brother of the Emir of Qatar, in September 2017. But the relationship quickly soured.

Tampa General, surrounded by water, will spend millions to brace for future storms” via Justine Griffin of the Tampa Bay Times — The hospital’s board of directors approved a $53 million project to upgrade and expand its central energy plant, and equip it with enough power to keep the entire hospital running, even in the event of a disaster. “The goal is to keep patients safe and comfortable. Because we’re in Florida, a large chunk of our energy generation is for air conditioning alone,” Egan said. The hospital can supply about 96 hours of power using its current generators before needing to refuel, a system that met federal guidelines at the time Tampa General was built. But the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has updated some of its guidelines, which is part of the reason why the switch is happening now.

Tampa General Hospital will spend more than $50 million to shore up against potential natural disasters. Image via WFLA.

Tampa Bay Times responds after being called out on ‘accidental racist post’” via Ray Roa of Creative Loafing Tampa Bay — Florida Politics noticed that one of their stories focusing on the criminal records of some candidates for St. Petersburg City Council “highlighted black candidates’ arrests, but ignored the white.” FlaPol publisher Peter Schorsch claimed that the original Times article showed racial bias. Times Executive Editor Mark Katches responded: “Our story started with a focus on the District 7 race because of the significance of Chico Cromartie’s prison history and because of the fact that three of the four candidates for that seat have criminal histories. We originally published the story with photos of the three candidates with criminal pasts,” Katches wrote to CL. “When we learned later that District 1 candidate Robert Blackmon once faced a criminal charge, we changed the story to reflect a broader trend among candidates for City Council.”


3,500 teacher vacancies in Florida. This is what happens when you abuse public education” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — About 300,000 kids will start the year with a substitute or temporary teachers. That’s not good. Schools without all their teachers are like cars without all the wheels. They don’t run well. Unfortunately, this is what happens when a state treats public education like an annoyance instead of a priority. The state’s new education commissioner has been fond of talking about “failure factories,” branding teachers unions as “evil” and generally helping parents get out of the public system he now oversees. The state’s own education department found that about 40 percent of new Florida teachers leave within the first five years of starting. Think about that.

Florida’s teacher shortage can be remedied by better pay” via Fedrick Ingram for Florida Phoenix — Florida spends almost $1,000 less per public-school student, adjusted for inflation, than before the Great Recession. Despite the powerful economic engine driving this state forward, lawmakers have failed to reinvest in our public schools. That lack of funding affects everything education — the availability of music and art programs for students, the size of kids’ classes, whether districts can recruit and retain permanent, qualified teachers or whether students attempt to learn from a series of substitutes. At some point, we have to draw a line. This year, we’re going to fight for our hopes and for a better future for our students and public schools. This is going to be our year, and Florida will fund our future.

Annabel Claprood: a Parkland student — what I went through and why I changed schools” via Florida Politics — I didn’t know how to cope, how to grieve, how to move forward. Twelve days after the shooting, I was in Tallahassee testifying before members of the Florida Legislature. I told them: “A person my age shouldn’t have to see what I saw.” In January, I transferred to a private school. I decided I would never feel safe in a school where teachers carry guns. At my new school, you enter by scanning your ID, which is associated with your fingerprint. The school also has facial recognition technology that does a background check immediately on any visitors to the campus and notifies the school administration. Public schools don’t have that technology, presumably because they won’t spend the money.

Joe Henderson: Thanks to the Herald, Jeffrey Epstein will never abuse another girl” via Florida Politics — And if not for the work of two Miami Herald reporters who wouldn’t let go of the story, Epstein might be abusing more young girls. Think about that the next time you’re tempted to ridicule the media as useless because you read something you didn’t like. The saga of the deceased pedophile came to life because Julie Brown and visual journalist Emily Michot wouldn’t let go. Their reporting started a chain of events that led to Epstein’s arrest on new charges. Said Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York: “We were assisted by some excellent investigative journalism.” It doesn’t stop with Epstein’s death, either. Epstein’s many victims deserve the truth behind his apparent suicide.


The deadline for lobbying firms to file their second-quarter compensation reports is today, though many firms got the requirement out of the way early. Florida lobbyists report their pay in ranges covering $10,000 increments. Florida Politics uses the middle number of each range to estimate quarterly pay.

The latest batch:

Anfield Consulting — Lobbyists Albert BalidoFrank BernardinoEdgar Fernandez and Stephen “Pepper” Uchino repped more than 50 clients last quarter, netting up to $855,000 in pay. That total includes $630,000 in legislative lobbying earnings and another $225,000 in pay lobbying the Governor and Cabinet.

Cynergy Consulting Group — The mother-daughter duo of Cynthia Henderson and Lauren Whritenour represented about two dozen clients between their legislative and executive compensation reports, earning up to $210,000 from the former and $190,000 from the latter.

The Legis Group — The firm earned an estimated $280,000 last quarter, with all but $30,000 of those earnings coming in for legislative lobbying. Doug HolderRob SchenckPatrick Bell and Michael Fischer advocated on behalf of 35 clients during the reporting period. CHSPSC, Eastern Shipbuilding Group and SunBulb Company were their top clients with each paying $25,000 during the quarter.

Meenan PA Tim MeenanKarl RasmussenJoy Ryan and Alan Williams made it through Q2 with an estimated $145,000 in earnings — $95,000 in legislative lobbying fees and $50,000 more in executive lobbying fees. Team Meenan’s top legislative client was Tower Hill Insurance Group, which shipped over an estimated $15,000 between April 1 and June 30.

The P5 Group — The trio of Ken Pruitt, Mark Pruitt and Meghan Hoza brought in $140,000 of that sum lobbying the Legislature with the remaining $125,000 earned lobbying the Governor and Cabinet. The Florida Atlantic University Foundation was P5’s most lucrative client, pitching in $25,000 on each report.

Ramba Consulting Group — Newly filed compensation reports show the firm reeled in $450,000 lobbying the Legislature and another $120,000 lobbying the executive branch for a median-earnings estimate of $570,000. Pitching in on the Q2 effort was founder David Ramba and fellow lobbyists Allison CarvajalPaul HanderhanThomas HobbsEvan Power and Cameron Yarborough.

RSA Consulting Group Ron Pierce and the team at RSA notched $415,000 last quarter. Their reports showed a relatively even split between legislative and executive lobbying. The former netted Pierce, Kaitlyn BaileyEdward BriggsKaitlyn Gardner and Natalie King $210,000 in legislative pay and $205,000 in executive branch pay.

— ALOE —

’The Crown’ Season 3 premiere date announced” via Lisa Respers France of CNN — Her Majesty returns on November 17. Netflix has announced that is the date Season 3 of the “The Crown” will debut. This time around there’s a new queen as Academy Award winner Olivia Colman takes over the role from Claire Foy, who played Queen Elizabeth II the first two seasons. Netflix shared a snippet of Colman in character in a tweet. Colman looks every inch the royal as she is seen pacing in a room, dressed in an evening gown with a royal blue sash and a crown before she turns and stares piercingly at the camera.

Apple releases first look at star-powered drama ‘The Morning Show’” via Sandra Gonzales of CNN — Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carell and Jennifer Aniston are ready to give viewers the full story on “The Morning Show,” a new drama coming to Apple TV+. Apple released the first look at the series, which is set to debut this fall. “The Morning Show” was one of several shows Apple highlighted earlier this year at an event previewing the content coming to the forthcoming streaming service. (CNN’s Brian Stelter is a consultant on the project, for which his book was used as background.) The show, Witherspoon said at the event, pulls back “the curtain on “the power dynamics between men and women in the high-stakes world of morning news shows.”

What Michelle Todd is reading so she knows what to get Peter Schorsch for Christmas —Disney train station getting the LEGO treatment” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — A new Lego building set that forms a Disney theme park train and station will go on sale later this month. The set — consisting of 2,925 pieces — will go on sale Aug. 21 for a listed price of $329.99. The company does not tie the set to a particular theme park, but images indicate it’s not a shrunken version clone of the railroad station at the entrance of Magic Kingdom theme park. The set “has been inspired by the famous Disney theme park’s railroads around the world,” Lego said.

Arriving soon!


Happy birthday to former Sen. Joe AbruzzoJohn Konkus and Meredith Stanfield.


Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.

The post Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 8.14.19 appeared first on Florida Politics – Campaigns & Elections. Lobbying & Government..