ICYMI from last night’s “Last Call” newsletter — Reporters and editors at Tuesday’s Associated Press Legislative Planning Session in the Capitol didn’t get to hear from GOP House Speaker José Oliva or House Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee, who had to cancel. But AP Day in Tallahassee otherwise offered a glimpse into what to expect for the 2020 Legislative Session. Here are some highlights:
— Gov. Ron DeSantis: Aside from his big reveal that President Donald Trump will headline the state GOP’s annual Statesman’s Dinner, the Governor repeated his main policy goals: Boosting starting teacher pay, requiring the use of E-Verify in the state, and increasing fines on polluters.
— Senate President Bill Galvano: He said he wants to make sure, as major roadways get built in rural counties, that water infrastructure and broadband internet come as well. And — once more unto the breach — he’ll push for an overarching gambling bill, with or without the Seminole Tribe.
— Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried: She pivoted away from cannabis in her remarks and toward environmental and energy issues, including a grid storage project and guidelines for green buildings. She also proposed grants for farmers to get sustainable technologies, and a “flagship climate change research center.”
— Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis: The CFO, who oversees insurance regulation, faced a combative press corps with questions about the thousands of unpaid claims still lingering after Hurricane Michael and other storms. He told one reporter to “chill,” and warned another to stop interrupting him. Asked about a proposed legislative solution to get policyholders paid faster for claims, he said he’d have one but offered no details.
— Attorney General Ashley Moody: The state’s chief legal officer discussed her investigation of more than 20 companies that produce and sell vaping products in Florida, saying she’s also calling for a state ban on flavors such as “cotton candy, bubble gum (and) Cap’n Crunch” that serve primarily to attract kids to use them.
— Senate Democratic Leader Audrey Gibson: As the sole Democratic legislative voice on the panel, she called for more discussion of climate change during the Session. Gibson dismissed a recently-filed bill to require E-Verify as an election-year ploy and said membership in The Federalist Society — a conservative legal group — should not be a prerequisite for appointment as a judge.
— Secretary of State Laurel Lee: The state’s chief elections officer noted that Florida is under “great scrutiny” regarding the 2020 election, in the wake of reports of vulnerabilities in past elections. “This is a very real threat for Florida,” Lee said, noting that cyberattacks are an omnipresent threat. She’ll ask for money from lawmakers this Session to collaborate with county elections supervisors to “eliminate or mitigate” issues.
‘He Said, She Said’ returns with family talk — After a month-long hiatus, Michelle and I are back in the studio for a “He Said, She Said” following the loss of Michelle’s father, a recent trip to Tallahassee for the FSU homecoming and preparations for the upcoming Legislative Session — which starts early this year.
In the new episode, our good friend and Florida political consultant Anthony Pedicini stops by to talk Florida politics, campaigns to watch for 2020, and several media misconceptions about campaigning.
We get right back into politics, with the abundance of “Florida Man” angles in recent national political happenings, most noteworthy being the Ukrainian American men arrested in Florida with ties to Rudy Giuliani.
Although the 2020 elections are still a year away, I talk about some of the Southwest Florida races that are beginning to heat up — with seven to eight GOP primaries coming down the pike. I also predict who will make a run for Florida’s 19th Congressional District.
Pedicini and I talk about the business of political consulting, the details of his firm, and some of Pedicini’s core candidates.
We also announce our winner and loser of the week: Matt Gaetz wins for joining Trump at the Washington Nationals World Series game. Ousted former acting U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Peter O’Rourke, now the executive director of the Florida GOP, is this week’s big loser.
DeSantis plucks victory from the jaws of defeat after his Republican Party of Florida announced they were postponing a big fundraising dinner. It’s back on.
— DeSantis is asking lawmakers to pass a bill requiring private employers in Florida to use the federal E-Verify system to screen all new hires and make sure they’re in this country legally. But some of the biggest industries in Florida are looking to stop it.
— The NCAA saw the writing on the wall after the Governor said he supports a new bill that would allow college athletes to make money on their own images and likenesses.
— Attorney General Moody wants the Legislature to crack down on vaping, saying it is now showing up in elementary schools.
— Adventures with Florida Girl: Deputies in Collier County say a 14-year-old girl walked up to a man dressed as Trump and punched him in the jaw — while her friends recorded it.
—@BradyMcCullough: Truly, if anyone reads the NCAA’s release on name, image and likeness and thinks that meaningful change is coming anytime soon, we did not read the same release.
—@MaryEllenKlas: For the record, @GovRonDeSantis met with dozens of reporters and editors around the state at #APDay today and refused to open it up to questions from the group, instead called upon a list of names provided by his communications chief, then ducked out.
—@JacobOgles: Florida House leaders laid out bold agendas at #APDay. Just kidding. Neither side showed up. #FlaPol
—@JimRosicaFL: For all the ‘thank you’s going around on #APDay, let’s not forget @bsfarrington, who made the very best of a bad situation, i.e., dealing with a last-minute change of venue and two high-profile no-shows.
—@AGGancarski: Stress-free ride home through @AP day for @GovRonDeSantis … no gaffes, no scandal questions
—@BSwanson: Thanks to the @FlChamber for putting a spotlight on @EducationFL with the help of @FLEduFoundation Chair Charles Hokanson, and three of our Chancellors: @DrEricHall, Kathy Hebda, and Jacob Oliva • #EducationState #FutureofFL
—@DrewPiers: Engaging and entertaining presentation from [Vance] @valoupis at the @FlChamber conference about the importance of early childhood education — and how the business community plays a pivotal role in student success. #FutureofFL — at Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress
The Florida Chamber’s Insurance Summit — 5; 2019 General Election — 6; 3rd Annual Florida Internet and Television FITCon starts — 8; “The Mandalorian” premieres — 13; New season of “The Crown” streaming on Netflix — 18; Fifth Democratic debate — 21; “Frozen 2” debuts — 23; TaxWatch 40th Annual Meeting — 33; “The Rise of Skywalker” premiers — 51; College Football National Championship — 75; 2020 Session begins — 76; Florida TaxWatch State of the TaxPayer Dinner in Tallahassee — 77; Super Bowl LIV in Miami — 95; Great American Realtors Day — 96; Iowa Caucuses — 96; New Hampshire Primaries — 104; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 134; Florida’s presidential primary — 139; “Black Panther 2” debuts — 189; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo begin — 268; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 300; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 343; First Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 351; Second presidential debate at Belmont — 358; 2020 General Election — 370.
“NCAA board approves athlete compensation for image, likeness” via Ralph Russo of The Associated Press — The nation’s largest governing body for college sports and its member schools now must figure out how to allow athletes to profit while still maintaining rules regarding amateurism. The NCAA Board of Governors directed each of the NCAA’s three divisions to create the necessary new rules immediately and have them in place no later than January 2021. Board chair Michael Drake said the NCAA must embrace change and modernize “to provide the best possible experience for college athletes.” But such changes will come with limitations. “The board is emphasizing that change must be consistent with the values of college sports and higher education and not turn student-athletes into employees of institutions,” Drake told The Associated Press.
Great news for college athletes in FL & across our country. I’m extremely pleased the @NCAA has realized that this is a matter of fairness & equity, & that these athletes should have the opportunity to receive appropriate compensation for the use of their name, image & likeness. https://t.co/2Sbh5UJzbo
“How states forced the NCAA’s hand on student athlete endorsements” via Mackenzie Mays and Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO — The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s surprise decision Tuesday to allow student athletes to earn endorsement money was spurred by an unlikely alliance of states that typically disagree on everything from abortion to immigration. Pressure from states, with California taking the lead and Florida, New York and New Jersey quickly piling on, broke down a longstanding NCAA rule prohibiting student athletes from earning money from endorsements and other outside sponsorships….On Oct. 24, Gov. DeSantis, an ardent sports fan and former Yale baseball captain, said he would back legislation to allow student athletes to profit from their names and likenesses.
“Ron DeSantis teacher pay plan faces questions” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Senate President Galvano cautioned it might be difficult to carry out. Speaking to reporters and editors gathered at the Capitol, Galvano said teacher pay issues are negotiated by school officials at the local level, rather than directed from Tallahassee. “There are some policy discussions that have to take place to determine whether or not we want to step into the area of the local governments … and create a (funding) categorical at the state level,” Galvano said. “So while there’s a shared commitment, the details and the numbers and how it might work and if it will work have yet to be determined.”
“DeSantis: Common core replacement to be rolled off soon, may include citizenship test for high school seniors” via Ryan Dailey of WFSU — DeSantis says the state is poised to roll out K-12 education standards that will replace common core before the year is out. Removing “all vestiges” of common core, a set of standards for mathematics and English-language arts, was something DeSantis tasked Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran with in the Governor’s first weeks on the job. But DeSantis gave few specifics on what its replacement will look like, aside from saying he wants a civics education component included.
Donald Trump, DeSantis regularly discuss drug import plan — Gov. DeSantis said he and Trump discuss progress on the state’s drug import plan whenever they talk, Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida reports. “The president, any time we talk, will say, ‘You gettin’ those drugs yet? Let me know if my guys aren’t going fast enough,’” DeSantis told reporters during a legislative forum hosted by The Associated Press. As far as the progress made on the drug import plan, DeSantis said Tuesday that he’s working on deals with Canadian pharmaceutical companies but is facing strong opposition from domestic drug companies. “The strongest lobby anywhere in politics is drugs. And so there’s all these different roadblocks,” he said.
“Jimmy Patronis blames public adjusters, lawyers for Hurricane Michael insurance claim delays” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Patronis blamed public adjusters and lawyers for Hurricane Michael claim delays, proposing a law giving Floridians more time to break their contracts with adjusters. But while he acknowledged that insurance companies shoulder some of the blame for dragging out claims, he did not announce any proposals to hold insurance companies accountable. Public adjusters are licensed by the state and can be hired to represent policyholders during an insurance claim. “I’ve seen PAs that sign people, and then they sit back there on Facebook all day long, because they know that they have got an airtight contract, and they will leave you twisting in the wind,” Patronis said.
“Bill Galvano concerned about pay for college athletes” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Galvano expressed concerns about a proposal backed by DeSantis that would allow college athletes in Florida to cash in on their names and images. Galvano also said the proposal doesn’t appear to have full Senate support. “In terms of interacting with the Senators, it’s a bit of a mixed bag, (and) I have my reservations about moving college athletes into the realm of professional athletes in many regards,” Galvano said. Galvano said lawmakers might be able to do some things regarding social media to make the situation fair for college athletes.
“’Robust debate’ expected on E-Verify” via Ana Ceballos of the News Service of Florida — DeSantis will prioritize a controversial proposal that would require Florida businesses to use a federal system to check the immigration status of new hires. Still, the leader of the Florida Senate is “cautious” about passing such a plan. “I expect there will be a robust debate, but the case is going to have to be made before it passes. It is not guaranteed,” Senate President Galvano told reporters. Sens. Tom Lee and Joe Gruters recently filed legislation that would require private employers to use E-Verify, something DeSantis said is “the best way to help deter illegal immigration.” “It will end up saving taxpayers money, and obviously, it will be a deterrent for people coming here illegally,” DeSantis said.
“As lawmakers weigh disability program redesign, DeSantis and Galvano provide few specifics” via Elizabeth Koh the Tampa Bay Times — Florida lawmakers are expected to vote early next year on how to modify the statewide Medicaid program that serves tens of thousands of people with disabilities, but some are still undecided on what those changes should be. The outcome could change how much “iBudget” provides for about 34,500 Floridians through the state Agency for Persons with Disabilities, as well as another 21,900 more on a waiting list to join the program. Both DeSantis and Galvano said how to redesign the Medicaid waiver program is still under review. But they did not commit to recommendations made by APD and its sister health agency calling for more funding to the program as well as changes to better predict its future costs.
“Dean Cannon, Steve Crisafulli talk leadership at Future of Florida Forum” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — According to former House Speakers Cannon and Crisafulli, communication and a consistent message are key to effective leadership. Crisafulli said sticking to the issues that matter to voters is more effective than being a policy wonk. Of the current crop of Cabinet officials, he noted Agriculture Commissioner Fried’s 2018 win proves the point. “Nikki did what I said earlier: She focused on the message people wanted to hear,” Crisafulli said. “The way she speaks to the people today, as an elected official, will carry her far in her political career.” Cannon said DeSantis had shown a different brand of leadership by “exercising boldness in choices,” from pushing for smokable medical marijuana to prioritizing water quality.
Former House Speakers Dean Cannon and Steve Crisafulli say the keys to effective leadership are communication and a consistent message.
“Paul Renner calls occupational licensing a barrier to the American dream” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Republican state Rep. Renner told a Florida Chamber of Commerce gathering Tuesday morning to expect “a lot of activity” in the 2020 Legislative Session on occupational licensing, a regulatory framework he denounced as a barrier to the American dream. “Occupational licensing is essentially a permission slip for you do what you are passionate about, what you are trained to do, and to provide for your family,” the future House Speaker said. “Think about that: government giving you a permission slip to provide for yourself and your family.” Government licensing makes sense for professions such as heart surgeons and bridge builders, he allowed, but not for other workers such as barbers, a common poster child profession raised in legislative debates this past spring.
“Business can lead the way in providing second chances” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The 2019 Legislative Session saw the Florida Legislature pass the most significant criminal justice reform package in years. But according to Georgetown Law Professor Shon Hopwood, further efforts to help felons secure employment and shorter prison terms could boost prosperity in the Sunshine State. Hopwood is himself a felon — he robbed five banks and served 11 years in federal prison. “I committed a violent crime, but I am not a violent criminal,” Hopwood said in a conversation with state Sen. Jeff Brandes at the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Future of Florida Forum. Hopwood said initiatives such as the “ban the box” movement can help felons land interviews, but private businesses committing to second-chance hiring can help them land jobs.
“Vance Aloupis: Early childhood education is key for a prosperous Florida” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — State Rep. Aloupis knows a thing or two about early childhood education. In addition to representing his constituents in Tallahassee, the Miami Republican leads The Children’s Movement of Florida, a nonprofit focused on getting Florida children ready for Kindergarten and beyond. The organization has long stressed that if children hit developmental milestones in their first few years of life, the entire state benefits, either through fewer entering the criminal justice system, lower social safety net costs, or higher economic output when they move from school to work. On Tuesday, Aloupis reiterated those points during a speech at the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Future of Florida Forum.
“Dana Young asks business leaders to ‘speak up’ and save VISIT FLORIDA” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — VISIT FLORIDA President and CEO Dana Young made her pitch for keeping the tourism marketing agency around at the Future of Florida Forum on Tuesday. “VISIT FLORIDA continues to deliver results every day,” she said, citing eight consecutive years of record-breaking tourism numbers. There’s some proof that Florida isn’t just selling itself: VISIT FLORIDA’s recent adventure tourism campaign. After its run, the segment grew by more than 27 percent compared to no gain the previous year. But VISIT FLORIDA could shutter on July 1, 2020, if it isn’t reauthorized during the upcoming Legislative Session. “If you believe that VISIT FLORIDA adds value, speak up,” Young said to the audience of business leaders.
Chamber discussed strategies for rural economic development — By 2030, rapid advancements in technology and automation will replace nearly half of all jobs that currently exist. But rural areas are still reeling from the economic realities of the changes in agriculture and the devastation of Hurricane Michael. At the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Future of Florida Forum, Todd Powell, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, led a panel addressing the challenges to rural economic development and pathways to achieve the Blueprint 2030 goal of doubling the rural county share of Florida’s gross domestic product. That includes supporting the development of manufacturing and logistics operations along existing corridors such as I-10 and U.S. 27 and increasing broadband access to Florida’s rural and inland counties.
“Trump rescues Florida GOP fundraiser amid leadership fight” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Trump’s promise to headline the Republican Party of Florida’s annual fundraiser has given it a much-needed financial and emotional boost going into 2020, even as the news has laid bare divisions within the state party’s leadership. The party’s scramble to land a Trump visit culminated in a political victory for DeSantis and effectively left state GOP Chairman Joe Gruters with a title but no influence. The power play caps a months-long effort by DeSantis to elbow the chairman out of power. It also ended the 24-hour drama that saw the party’s Statesman’s Dinner canceled due to a lack of interest, then rescheduled with a bang.
“DeSantis prepares for Supreme Court pics” via the News Service of Florida — With justices Barbara Lagoa and Robert Luck nominated for seats on a federal appeals court, DeSantis said he could be able to appoint two new Florida Supreme Court justices in early 2020. DeSantis thinks the U.S. Senate could confirm Lagoa and Luck by early December, triggering the process to replace them on the Supreme Court. DeSantis appointed Lagoa, Luck and Justice Carlos Muniz in January to fill three vacancies on the Supreme Court, and Trump then nominated Lagoa and Luck for seats on the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“Galvano says Florida’s usual planning process ‘not realistic’ for toll roads” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Senate President Galvano defended the tight timelines for creating more than 300 miles of toll roads, saying the Department of Transportation’s usual process is “not realistic” because it’s too slow. “The days of relying on a five-year plan are … not realistic in modern Florida, a Florida that’s the 14th largest economy on the planet,” Galvano said. Galvano was the main proponent of the road projects, which the Legislature passed this year, even though the transportation department did not have the roads in its five-year plan. The state Department of Transportation uses that plan to guide its long-term planning process; it includes any projects that will be in the works, from planning to construction, in the next five years.
“Orlando lawmaker’s proposal would hold private schools to same requirements as public campuses” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida’s public charter schools and their private peers, including those that don’t participate in state-backed scholarship programs, should have to adhere to the same requirements as the traditional public schools, according to an Orlando lawmaker’s proposal. Private schools would be required to hire teachers who have bachelor’s degrees or prove they have special skills, administer the state’s standardized tests and receive A-to-F letter grades just as their public counterparts do, according to the bill filed last week by state Sen. Linda Stewart.
Linda Stewart wants to hold charter schools to the same standards as public schools. image via Colin Hackley.
“State mum on election system patches” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — A cybersecurity review has been completed of state and county elections systems following disclosures of Russian hacking during the 2016 elections. But details of what was found remain under wraps, along with information about system patches and what further multimillion-dollar steps are being taken to protect against future attacks. Florida Secretary of State Lee said sharing details of the security breaches and protective steps taken by the state and in all 67 counties would expose the systems to “those who seek to do harm to our elections infrastructure.” “This is a very real threat for Florida,” Lee said during an appearance at an annual Associated Press pre-Session gathering for reporters and editors.
“Consumer watchdog requests public hearing on underground power line rules over costs” via Marcia Heroux Pounds of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — State regulators speedily approved underground utility project rules for Florida Power & Light Co. and other electric utilities on Oct. 3. But not so fast, says the Florida Office of Public Counsel, which filed a petition requesting a public hearing on the rules. A new law signed by DeSantis in July allows the state utilities to recover expenses for burying power lines. The rules would oversee a multi-decade statewide project to bury neighborhood power lines underground. The cost to FPL and other electric utility customers in the state is unknown. But Public Counsel J.R. Kelly said his office wants to make sure the money utilities spend on burying power lines is “prudent and reasonable.”
Assignment editors — Agriculture Commissioner Fried will hold a news conference, joined by Feeding South Florida CEO Paco Velez and local elected officials, to announce new legislation on food recovery grant funding, 10:45 a.m., Pero Family Farms, 14095 U.S. Highway 441, Delray Beach.
Happening today — The Florida Education Association will continue its bus tour in Gilchrist County, stopping for a school visit, 9:30 a.m., Bell Elementary School, 2771 E. Bell Ave., Bell. Later, the tour will roll to Bradford County, noon, Southside Elementary, 823 Stansbury St., Starke. Then, the tour moves to Alachua County, 6 p.m., Alachua County Education Association building, 618 NW 13th Ave., Gainesville.
“Despite common belief, Floridians can always get a free public defender” via Jerry Iannelli of the Miami New Times — The right to a lawyer is a bedrock principle of the American justice system. But for decades, thousands of defendants have passed through Florida’s misdemeanor court system without any legal representation. New Times analyzed multiple state databases to provide the most accurate estimate to date of that occurrence in all 20 court circuits in Florida — and the results were bleak. In Broward, by far the worst-scoring county in the state, only 24 percent of misdemeanor and criminal traffic cases proceeded with a public defender in the courtroom. Of all misdemeanor cases statewide, only 45 percent occurred with a public defender present.
“Veterans looking for answers as new data shows rise in cancers over two decades of war” via McClatchy — Veterans saw a spike in urinary, prostate, liver and blood cancers during nearly two decades of war, and some military families now question whether their exposure to toxic environments is to blame. McClatchy found that the rate of cancer treatments for veterans at Department of Veterans Affairs health care centers increased 61 percent for urinary cancers — which include bladder, kidney and ureter cancers — from fiscal year 2000 to 2018. The rate of blood cancer treatments — lymphoma, myeloma and leukemia — rose 18 percent in the same period. Liver and pancreatic cancer treatment rates increased 96 percent and prostate cancer treatment rates increased 23 percent.
“Colonel testifies he raised concerns about Ukraine, Donald Trump” via Lisa Mascaro, Mary Clare Jalonick and Colleen Long of The Associated Press — Alexander Vindman, a lieutenant colonel who served in Iraq and later as a diplomat, is the first official to testify who actually heard Trump’s July 25 call with new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. He reported his concerns to the NSC’s lead counsel, he said in his prepared remarks. “I was concerned by the call,” Vindman said. “I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine.” Vindman, a 20-year military officer, added to the mounting evidence from other witnesses corroborating the initial whistleblower’s complaint against Trump and providing new details.
“’He’s a patriot’: Republicans defend key impeachment witness from attacks” via Burgess Everett and Melanie Zanona of POLITICO — Republican leaders are stepping up to defend Lt. Colonel Vindman against vicious attacks from Trump‘s allies. Republicans may quibble with the substance of Vindman’s testimony as they try to protect Trump from the fast-moving impeachment inquiry. But congressional GOP leaders say it’s out of bounds to question Vindman’s patriotism and allegiance to the United States, as some conservative pundits did. Several top Republicans made emphatic statements in support of Vindman, a National Security Council official who heard Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president and testified that it was improper for the president to demand an investigation into Joe Biden and represented a threat to U.S. national security.
“Trump’s most favorable witness faces credibility crisis” via Kyle Cheney and Natasha Bertrand of POLITICO — Though Democrats are more confident than ever in their growing impeachment case against Trump, they’re also setting their sights on a top Trump ally: Ambassador Gordon Sondland. Some Democrats have begun to raise the specter that Sondland, a Republican donor who is Trump’s representative to the European Union, perjured himself during his closed-door testimony to impeachment investigators earlier this month. Testimony from other witnesses has put the credibility of Trump’s most favorable witness into serious doubt as the White House struggles to define a response to the House’s ongoing impeachment inquiry beyond merely refusing to cooperate.
“GOPer on Foreign Affairs Committee admits he hasn’t gone to a single impeachment hearing” via Christine Cabrera of Talking Points Memo — “No, I haven’t gone to those,” Rep. Ted Yoho told CNN anchor Poppy Harlow. “We’ve had discussions in our Foreign Affairs committee on other aspects of what President Trump is doing, so I’ve been involved in those, not in these. I see these as kind of a sideshow.” “Why?” Harlow asked. “Because it’s not an official inquiry in impeachment. It is something that Nancy Pelosi started without a vote,” Yoho responded. “And I know it’s not constitutional that they have a vote, but it should follow the precedents that has [sic] been set in the last three impeachments.”
“Marco Rubio vows bill to prevent federal pension fund from investing in China” via John McCrank and Lawrence Delevingne of Reuters — Rubio plans to introduce legislation to block a federal pension fund from investing in Chinese stocks after the fund delayed a decision on tracking an index provided by MSCI Inc. that includes Chinese firms. The move is the strongest yet by Rubio, a Republican and China hawk, to pressure the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board into reversing a decision that would allow federal employees and military service members to invest their retirement savings in a fund that includes China-listed stocks. “It’s clear the Board will not act in the best interests of the United States, reverse this misguided decision and protect our national interest, as well as those who serve it,” Rubio said in a statement.
“Yes, Matt Gaetz really tweeted #MattGaetzIsATool” via Nate Chute of the Pensacola News-Journal — If the internet was not confusing enough, let us help muddy the waters. On Tuesday, Gaetz tweeted a GIF of a shirtless man swinging a sledgehammer with the hashtag #MattGaetzIsATool from his personal account. ‘I kinda like it,’ Gaetz wrote….By Tuesday, #MattGaetzIsA Tool was beginning to trend. People like actor Zach Braff and Fred Guttenberg, a gun control advocate whose daughter died in the Stoneman Douglas High School school shooting in 2018, were among those who used the hashtag.
“Michigan auto shop owner receives backlash after Halloween decorations of Trump holding Obama’s head” via WFTS — A Halloween display put up outside of a Fowlerville, Michigan, auto shop has drawn concern and even death threats to the owner. It was a scarecrow with Trump’s face mask holding a rope and Obama’s face mask at the bottom of the rope. Under the Trump scarecrow foot was a Hillary Clinton mask. Just a few days ago, the auto shop owner took down the rope and Obama’s head and placed a sash on the Trump scarecrow that says, “PC Police.” A post on social media went viral, with many claiming the rope looked like a noose. The shop owner says the rope was meant to look like a spine and a move from the game Mortal Kombat.
“Jared Kushner swings back at Joe Biden” via Barak Ravid of Israel’s Channel 13 news — Kushner said many of his efforts since he started working at the White House were focused on “cleaning up the messes that Vice President Biden left behind.” Kushner’s swing against Biden came in response to Biden’s remarks during an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” over the weekend, when the former Vice President said it was “improper” for Trump to appoint his son-in-law Kushner and daughter Ivanka for senior positions in the White House. Kushner gave several examples of his White House work that he claimed was aimed at fixing problems created by Biden — specifically, criminal justice reform.
Jared Kushner says since he’s been in the White House, he’s been cleaning up Joe Biden’s messes.
“PolitiFact: No, Olive Garden is not funding Donald Trump’s reelection campaign” via Samantha Putterman of the Tampa Bay Times — A viral Facebook post claims that Olive Garden is “funding” Trump’s reelection campaign. However, campaign finance data shows that Olive Garden’s parent company, Darden Restaurants, has not donated to Trump’s reelection campaign. Corporations are prohibited from making contributions to campaigns or party committees. Meanwhile, PAC’s associated with the company, as well as individual employees and their family members, have made contributions to both Democratic and Republican candidates. This rumor is wrong. We rate it False.
“’Very, very large and very underserved’: John Heilmann’s new venture is betting people want more political video on their phone” via Joe Pompeo of Vanity Fair — Heilemann and John Battelle teased out a new project they’d been cooking up: a video venture called The Recount that delivers bite-size “remixes” of the day’s most significant political stories. Now they’re ready for the official rollout. Recount Media is coming out of beta mode this week, with eight seed investors kicking in nearly $10 million between them. Heilemann said: “The church of politics got broader and broader to the point where now, everybody’s talking about politics all the time. On the other side of things, there’s this huge platform shift happening where we’re going through the transition from linear television to the world of streaming, mobile, on-demand digital video.”
“Effort to raise Florida minimum wage passes signature hurdle” via The Associated Press — A petition drive to ask voters to gradually increase Florida’s minimum wage to $15 an hour has enough signatures to make the November 2020 ballot. The Department of State website shows the ballot has gathered slightly more than the 766,200 registered voter signatures needed to get a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot. The effort is headed by trial lawyer John Morgan, who also led the successful attempt to put legal use of medical marijuana into the state constitution. The measure calls for raising the current minimum wage from $8.46 an hour to $10 in September 2021, with $1 an hour increases annually until it reaches $15 in 2026. The state Supreme Court still needs to approve the ballot language.
“Perry Thurston draws primary challenger” via the News Service of Florida — Pompano Beach Democrat Shelton Pooler opened a campaign account this week to run against Thurston in Broward County’s Senate District 33. Thurston was elected to the Senate seat in 2016 after serving eight years in the House. He had raised $100,000 for his 2020 campaign as of Sept. 30. Also, Gainesville Democrat Yvonne Hayes Hinson became the first candidate to open an account to try to succeed term-limited Rep. Clovis Watson next year in House District 20. Meanwhile, in Miami-Dade County, Democrat Diana Ahmed opened an account to run in House District 110, which will be open because House Speaker José Oliva faces term limits.
“Airbnb doesn’t have to pay tourism tax in Florida, judge says. That’s the host’s job” via Ryan Callihan of the Bradenton Herald — A lawsuit against Airbnb that was spearheaded by Manatee County Tax Collector Ken Burton Jr. has been dismissed by a local judge, citing an identical case in Palm Beach County. Both cases stemmed from a desire to force Airbnb — an online short-term rental company that allows homeowners to market their homes or apartments as hotel alternatives — to collect tourism taxes and pay them to the county. Still, judges found that Airbnb could not be held liable for those taxes because the service is only a “conduit” for hosts who make their homes available to renters.
“Study shows 7 of the top 10 cities for Airbnb are in Florida — including Miami Beach” via Rene Rodriguez of the Miami Herald — According to a study by the financial advisory firm IPX 1031, Miami Beach had 3,416 Airbnb listings per 50,000 people — the highest of any city in the country. Florida cities took seven of the spots in the top 10 slots of the study. Kissimmee, the city that has benefited from its proximity to theme park attractions such as Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, took the second spot with a rate of 2,880 listings per 50,000 people. The remaining Florida cities in order of ranking: Daytona Beach (fourth with 1,108 listings), Miami (sixth with 1,034 listings), Fort Lauderdale (eighth with 1,016 listings), Orlando (ninth with 988 listings) and Hollywood (tenth with 984 listings).
“Report: Jacksonville Housing Authority CEO had sexual relationships with employees” via David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union — Fred McKinnies engaged in sexual relationships with two authority employees over a period of many years, creating the appearance of a conflict of interest at the highest level of management, according to an Office of Inspector General report. The report said one of the sex acts occurred in the authority’s main office during working hours when he was senior vice president for the housing authority. The two employees also traveled at separate times to join McKinnies when he attended work-related conferences in Florida, California and Washington, D.C. The Inspector General’s report also determined McKinnies hired housing authority employees and vendors to do home improvement work at his house, which he paid them to do out of his own pocket.
Jacksonville’s Inspector General’s office is accusing Jacksonville Housing Authority CEO Fred McKinnies of sleeping with some of his employees and a tenant. Image via News4Jax.
“City of Tallahassee inches toward ethics overhaul” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — The city moved one step closer to codifying broader ethics policies that would strengthen penalties and give an independent board more power. Going through proposed changes one by one, Tallahassee City Commissioners picked between the proposals brought forward by the Independent Ethics Board and the recommendations of City Attorney Cassandra Jackson. Commissioners established a zero-tolerance gift ban, decided on penalties for ethics violations, extended subpoena power to the Ethics Board for everyone under its jurisdiction, and approved several other proposals.
“Chris Hand went from City Hall to city’s trails” via Mark Woods of the Florida Times-Union — One morning last week, I met Hand at the trailhead of Sal Taylor Creek Preserve on the Westside. It made sense to go for a hike with Hand — partly because he rewrote the book on consolidation, giving the 50th-anniversary update to Richard Martin’s “A Quiet Revolution,” but mainly because of what he has done since leaving City Hall. In the last four years, Hand has been hiking trails within a 2- or 3-hour drive. Hand was chief of staff for Mayor Alvin Brown. After Brown wasn’t reelected, Hand took a year to update his book with Bob Graham and returned to practicing law. But he also went for a walk in the woods. Many walks, actually.
“New moon-orbiting space station could bring money to Central Florida workers” via WESH — NASA is building a space station near the moon as a way station to get people there. To keep that space station running, the agency is asking Central Florida businesses to pitch in. “We need the talent to come here to make sure we’re driving innovation across this state,” NASA’s Mark Wiese said. Wiese is managing the interior workings of the proposed moon space station. He’s in charge of the station’s logistics element. That’s where fuel, cargo and equipment will be staged while a permanent base on the surface is built. NASA hopes to spend $7 billion over 15 years on the moon space station, and a lot of it will go into the paychecks of local workers.
“Kissimmee’s high-tech BRIDG center lands defense grant worth up to $20M” via Marco Santana of the Orlando Sentinel — A high-tech sensor research facility in Kissimmee has landed its first major contract with the Department of Defense, one that could eventually lead to $20 million in funding for building new technology to defend the nation’s microelectronics. Officials with 2-year-old BRIDG, which is striving to establish the region as a national leader in sensors, said the money would help the site develop new technology that will enable faster and more-efficient electronics for the military. “This positions BRIDG to be at the forefront of protecting our nation’s technical leadership and global competitiveness,” BRIDG CEO Chester Kennedy said in a release.
“Why not spend tourist tax money on Universal road project?” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — The Tourist Development Tax, which local leaders believe should not be spent on anything except tourism. The latest example is the road that will be built mainly for Epic Universe. Under the proposal, Orange County’s portion would be capped at $125 million. The Legislature changed the law … Bed-tax dollars can now be spent on specific non-tourism projects. The county also has an aversion to anything that might divert a dime to non-tourism projects. In addition to the bed tax, it has a special district for International Drive that ensures a portion of the property taxes collected there is spent there exclusively. That will fund the Epic project, so in a sense, tourism dollars are paying for the road.
“Orlando Magic’s downtown entertainment district grows to $500 million-plus” via Laura Kinsler of the Orlando Sentinel — The Orlando Magic has filed an updated master plan for its downtown Orlando Sports + Entertainment District that’s expected to more than double the original $200 million project budget, according to a report in GrowthSpotter. Magic Senior Vice President Joel Glass told GrowthSpotter that the mixed-use district would be built starting next year on 8.4 acres across from Amway Center. It will now cost “well over $500 million,” he said. The district, designed around an open pedestrian plaza through the length of the property, will contain nearly 110,000 square feet of retail space, a conference center hotel with 80,000 square feet of event space, offices, apartments, and a 2,500-space parking garage.
“Ocala police: Scammers swiped nearly $750,000 from city” via Carlos Medina of the Ocala Star-Banner — The scammers, posing as a local construction company doing business with the city, got a city employee to change information that eventually sent a payment of $742,376.73 to a fraudulent bank account. An earlier report from Mayor Kent Guinn put the amount of the transfer about $100,000 lower. At the time, Guinn said there was about $110,000 left in the bank account when officials got wise to the scam. On Oct. 17, Ausley Construction submitted a legitimate invoice for the nearly quarter of a million dollars related to the construction of a new terminal at the Ocala International Airport. The 17,500-square-foot terminal is a $6.1 million project. The city paid the invoice, but it went to the fraudulent bank account.
“Inmate who shot film inside a Florida prison gets busted — again — with bootleg camera” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Miami Herald — Scott Whitney embarrassed the Florida Department of Corrections when he used multiple smuggled-in cameras and shot hours of video at Martin Correctional Institution depicting zombielike drug overdoses, skittering rats, a homemade shank, rampant mold and vicious brawls — typical conditions in the Florida prison system. The footage, which he titled “Behind Tha Barb Wire,” was then smuggled to the outside and found its way to the Miami Herald. He promised to keep shooting footage, even after his bootleg cameras were taken away. And somehow Whitney, 34, managed to get his hands on another cellphone this month. It was discovered as he was being transferred from one prison to another.
Scott Whitney, an inmate at Martin Correctional Institution, sneaked out a cellphone video that offered a rare look at Florida’s prison system. He was recently caught with another cellphone camera. Image via Miami Herald.
“Small-town Florida police department, fed up with school pickup line, threatens $116 tickets” via Tiffani Theisen of the Orlando Sentinel — The Lake Placid Police Department says “NO PARKING” signs have been largely ignored. “You may have noticed, yet some seem to be blind to them,” the department posted on its Facebook page. In the new crackdown, police vow to write tickets to anyone parking along Tangerine Boulevard more than 10 minutes before Lake Placid Middle School ends at 3:10 p.m. “Enforcement is the only option remaining,” the department wrote. “We have made recommendations, begged and pleaded, yet … the problem still exists.”
“Bill Carlson wants to cut off city cash to the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — In a dispute that began with a name change, Tampa City Council member Carlson said Tuesday the city should stop funding the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council. Known until this week as the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation, the agency now goes by its new name, a change Carlson has criticized for damaging regional ties and confusing out-of-state companies looking to relocate.
“GOP plan to combat illegal hiring is good … except GOP won’t pass it” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — And a solid idea proposed by Florida Republicans is mandatory E-Verify, which would force all employers to confirm and prove they’re hiring documented workers. I like the idea because it gets at the root of immigration issues and targets those who profit most off cheap and illegal labor. Allegedly, Florida Republicans like their own plan. Yet Florida Republicans have refused to enact it … for nearly a decade. They seem to support their own plan the way vampires support garlic.
“Love press freedom, even if you hate the press” via Randy Schultz for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Like so much else, however, press freedom has become a partisan issue. Since Trump took office, support among Democrats has climbed. Among Republicans, it has plummeted. In August 2018, 26 percent of respondents to an AP/Ipsos poll agreed with this statement: “The president should have authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior.” Americans on both sides can find plenty of “reporting” that affirms their beliefs — even if it’s not accurate. Trump’s tirades have persuaded some Americans that there’s no point in supporting a “corrupt” press. … It’s like vaccinations. Inoculate enough people, and you prevent the outbreak of a disease. Inoculate enough people with an appreciation of the First Amendment, and you prevent an outbreak of tyranny.
“Joe Henderson: NCAA defeat is victory for college athletes” via Florida Politics — Previously, the NCAA claimed ownership of an athlete’s name and likeness. The NCAA vigorously fought any attempt by current athletes to profit off their name, claiming something about the purity of college athletics. Look, I love college sports and frequently find them more interesting than the pros. I also understand, though, that college sports is a big business that made a lot of people extremely wealthy. But that wealth often didn’t reach the pockets of the athletes that made it happen. You’ll probably see TV commercials featuring your favorite collegiate quarterback or point guard. For most everyone involved in college sports, the ruling won’t mean much. They’ll still compete, and we’ll still watch.
Barbara Petersen wins Susan Spencer-Wendel Lifetime Achievement Award from Florida Bar — Petersen, founding president of Florida’s First Amendment Foundation (FAF), received the award this week for “contributions in support of a free press and Floridians’ right to have access to their government,” the Bar said in a news release. Petersen accepted the award at the Reporters’ Workshop dinner in Tallahassee. “It’s a tremendous honor to be recognized by those I admire most — journalists and the attorneys who represent and protect them,” said Petersen. She is retiring at the end of this year after 25 years; Pamela Marsh, a former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida, will become the FAF’s new president.
Jeffrey Johnston, Amanda Stewart, Johnston & Stewart Government Strategies: Florida Occupational Therapy Association, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital
Amy Maguire, Jennifer Wilson, Shumaker Advisors Florida: Tampa Museum of Art Foundation, School District of Hillsborough County
“Sexy witch. Sexy nurse. Sexy Mr. Rogers? Inside the sexy Halloween costume industrial complex.” via Maura Judkis of The Washington Post — The rise of the sexy Halloween costume probably began sometime after the 1960s, but its biggest pop culture moment came in the 2004 movie “Mean Girls.” Cady, the naive heroine, arrives at a Halloween party dressed as a bride of Frankenstein only to find the popular girls dolled up as a sexy bunny, sexy cat and sexy mouse. Oct. 31, she realizes, “is the one day a year when a girl can dress up like a total slut and no other girls can say anything else about it.” Sex-advice columnist Dan Savage once called the yearly display of flesh a “Straight Pride Parade.” “Halloween is now the big public celebration of straight sexuality, of heterosexual desire,” he wrote in 2009.
Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.
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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media. Publisher: Peter Schorsch Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jim Rosica, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Dan McAuliffe, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson. Email: Peter@FloridaPolitics.com Phone: (727) 642-3162 Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182 St. Petersburg, Florida 33704
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