Hello and welcome to Friday and Valentine’s Day. We’ve reached the middle of this year’s legislative session in Florida.
Turn of a friendly card — And you know what that means, right? There’s less than 30 days left of drama, deal-making and sleight of hand. Here’s a perfect example: The Florida House this week launches a dramatic revamping of higher education that calls for merging two existing schools into University of Florida and Florida State University. The move totally surprised university system officials. Senate President Bill Galvano’s reaction? Was it a thunderous, “hell no”? Nope. It was, we’ll see, since the veteran legislator reject it out of hand because that higher ed bill might be part of some grand bargain to wrap up the session.
Rumors and whispers — In the middle of this week, there were optimistic drops of hope about a new gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe (and all the tens of millions of dollars that could come with) that dried up just as quick as they appeared. Still, it’s worth pondering what other significant proposals may yet spring to life here in the waning moments.
Keep it simple? — It had seemed at the start of this session it would be dominated by election-year politics and bills dealing with abortion, immigration and Gov. Ron DeSantis’ priority of boosting teacher pay. But somehow, as it seems every year, the to-do list got longer and longer.
Mysterious ways — Maybe Galvano and House Speaker Jose Oliva already have it mapped out. Oliva insisted on Thursday he and Galvano have agreed they will not play “games” about holding up legislation in order to gain leverage. Still, it’s worth considering whether some of these last-minute proposals serve as a distraction. Perhaps. But that’s Tallahassee magic at its finest: The public won’t know until it’s all over.
— WHERE’S RON? — Gov. DeSantis will be in Miami where he will join U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao at the Port of Miami for a “major infrastructure announcement.”
SOMBER ANNIVERSARY — Today marks the second anniversary of a horrific moment. 17 people were gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
REMEMBERING THEIR NAMES: Luke Hoyer, Martin Duque Anquiano, Gina Montalto, Alex Schachter, Alaina Petty, Alyssa Alhadeff, Nicholas Dworet, Helena Ramsay, Chris Hixon, Carmen Schentrup, Aaron Feis, Scott Biegel, Meadow Pollack, Cara Loughran, Joaquin Oliver, Jaime Guttenberg and Peter Wang.
AFTERMATH — Two years later a lot has happened, yet much remains unsettled. School shooter Nikolas Cruz’s trial has been delayed until this summer. The Florida Senate voted to permanently remove Sheriff Scott Israel but he’s running for a new term. A grand jury issued scathing reports detailing how some school districts are not following school safety measures put in place after the shooting. A Florida law enacted after the shooting, which raised the minimum age to purchase a rifle, is still being challenged in federal court by the National Rifle Association. An effort to put a ban on most semiautomatic rifles on the ballot fell short for 2020, but organizers hope to get enough signatures to qualify for 2022.
TO COURT — “More Parkland parents sue FBI over botched tips about school shooter,” by Sun Sentinel’s Mario Ariza: “Another set of parents are suing the FBI over how the agency botched tips about the Parkland shooter, leading to their child’s death in the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. Andrew Pollack and Shara Kaplan, the parents of Meadow Pollack, who was 17 when she was shot a total of nine times during the massacre, filed their lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday in Fort Lauderdale federal court.”
‘GRANT US CLOSURE’ — “Their children didn’t die in Parkland, but they should be remembered too, moms say,” by Miami Herald’s Charles Rabin: “Mothers from Miami-Dade and Broward who had lost children in less-noticed shootings met at the corner of Northwest 179th Street and 24th Avenue. It was just before sunset. They formed a large circle around a stop sign, its pole lined with paper flowers. They held hands with each other and with advocates and with detectives still baffled by the crimes that have gone unsolved. And they prayed.”
REFELECTIONS — “Parkland school shooting survivors recall harrowing details in ‘Voices of Parkland’ documentary,” by Variety’s Nicholas White: “Two years after the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history, leaving 17 dead and 17 others wounded, the painful memories Parkland survivors take with them illustrate those affected by the tragedy are still experiencing residual trauma. For instance, the mouth smell of gunpowder serves as a particular trigger.”
BAD NEWS — “$5 million in paid time off? Records show domestic violence agency CEO got that and more,” by Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas and Samantha J. Gross: “In a stunning rebuke to one of the state’s longest serving social services agencies, a Florida House committee voted to subpoena its executives Thursday and the governor launched an investigation after learning that the agency’s CEO received more than $7.5 million in compensation from state and federal funds over the past three years.”
FIX IT — “After ‘tragedies’ at All Children’s, St. Mary’s, Florida lawmakers back safety measure,” by Tampa Bay Times’s Kathleen McGrory and Emily L. Mahoney: “A bill that would require hospitals to conduct anonymous employee surveys about patient safety is gaining traction in the Florida Legislature.”
AS OLD AS TIME — “‘School choice’ is dividing Florida Democrats along racial lines. Could it help Donald Trump?” by Tampa Bay Times’s Steve Contorno and Emily L. Mahoney: “As he seeks reelection, President Donald Trump is making a direct appeal to black voters like Chikara Parks.”
NOT YET — “Florida sports betting talks don’t include the Seminole Tribe,” by News Service of Florida’s Dara Kam: “House and Senate leaders are continuing to huddle on a sweeping gambling deal that could open the door to sports betting in the state, but the Seminole Tribe of Florida — a key player in any agreement — isn’t yet part of the discussions, Senate President Bill Galvano said Thursday.”
THE INDUSTRY — “Environmentalists praise plan to spend hotel taxes on ailing springs and lakes. But the tourism industry is fighting it,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Jason Garcia: “Central Florida environmentalists are praising a new plan in Tallahassee to let counties spend hotel taxes cleaning up polluted springs, lakes and lagoons — an idea they say could be especially helpful in tourism-dominated Orange County, which is struggling to find enough money to save water bodies like the Wekiva River and Lake Apopka.”
TUG OF WAR — “House approves Office of Energy move,” by News Service of Florida’s Jim Turner: “As Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried holds out for “cooler heads” in the Senate, House Speaker José Oliva is hopeful he will gain support for his chamber’s effort to move the Office of Energy from under her watch.”
STUDY HALL — “FSU could land an ‘Institute of Politics,’” by POLITICO’s Andrew Atterbury: A measure tucked into the Senate budget would launch a “world class, bipartisan, nationally-renowned” Institute of Politics at Florida State University to spur political engagement and serve as a polling resource.
ON THE RISE — “Pay boosts for teachers, prison guards on tap as House, Senate pass budgets,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Gray Rohrer and Skyler Swisher: “The Florida House and Senate passed competing budgets Thursday that both included raises for teachers but also featured large differences in spending for health care programs, tourism marketing and affordable housing.”
RESOLUTION NOWHERE — “White nationalism condemnation appears dead in the Legislature,” by Florida Politics’ Sarah Mueller: “A resolution condemning hateful ideologies has stalled in the legislature over language denouncing white supremacy. The bill, sponsored by Miami Democrat Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, was temporarily postponed last month by Senate Judiciary Committee Chair David Simmons, a Longwood Republican. An impasse over the white supremacy language remains unresolved. Simmons did not respond to a request for comment.”
— “Public union workers would face new regulations under a bill headed to the FL House floor,” by Florida Phoenix’s Lloyd Dunkelberger
— “Pipelines and power lines could cross protected farmland under Senate bill,” by POLITICO’s Bruce Ritchie
— “House shies away from overhauling disabilities program,” by News Service of Florida’s Christine Sexton
— “Florida Poly, New College presidents fight for the future,” by POLITICO’s Andrew Atterbury
— “Oliva wants exemption-free E-Verify bill,” by POLITICO’s Matt Dixon
— “Orlando’s congressional delegation objects to raid on Sadowski fund,” by Florida Politics’ Scott Powers
SO WHAT HAPPENED? — “Palm Beach County elections office may have been attacked by ransomware in 2016,” by Sun Sentinel’s Anthony Man: “[Wendy Sartory] Link’s predecessor, Susan Bucher, said Wednesday evening what was described by Link never happened. ‘I can swear on a stack of Bibles that our county was never ransomwared. It is irresponsible for the supervisor [Link] to scare our voters. We are behind Palm Beach County’s firewall. And she [Link] should know better,’ Bucher told the South Florida Sun Sentinel by text message.”
COUNTING — “2020 Census, election capture attention of community organizations,” by Miami Herald’s Dorothy Jenkins Fields: “The new year and new decade began with community-based organizations Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Beta Beta Lambda Chapter and The Links, Greater Miami Chapter, co-hosting the 33rd annual service commemorating the life and work of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”
WHAT’S IN YOUR WALLET? — “Trump to headline a $580,600-per-couple fundraiser, the most expensive of his reelection bid,” by WaPo’s Josh Dawsey and Michelle Ye Hee Lee: “President Trump will be the guest of honor at a Saturday fundraiser at the palatial Palm Beach estate of billionaire Nelson Peltz. Trump’s fellow guests: donors who gave $580,600 per couple to support the president’s reelection, making it the most expensive such fundraising event since Trump took office. The dinner, taking place just a few miles from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, shows how enthusiastically Trump has embraced big-dollar fundraising in his bid for a second term — a dramatic about-face from 2016, when he criticized the influence of wealthy donors on the politicians who court them.”
‘DEMOCRATS OF FAITH’ — Florida Democrats are launching a new effort this weekend to reach out to voters “who oppose the immoral personal behavior of President Donald Trump and the cruel policies of the Republican Party.” Florida Democratic Party officials say elected officials and community leaders will visit more than 30 places of worship to promote voter registration ahead of the Feb. 18th deadline for the presidential primary. Democrats say they plan to visit more than 200 churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship ahead of the 2020 election. Trump, meanwhile, has enjoyed strong support from evangelical Christians.
JEB! — “Trump escalates his attacks on Bloomberg, comparing him to Jeb Bush,” by Politico’s Quint Forgey: President Donald Trump on Thursday leveled a new attack against Mike Bloomberg — comparing the Democratic presidential candidate to Jeb Bush and seeking to capitalize on the former New York mayor’s latest controversy regarding stop-and-frisk policing.
ROLLING STONE TIME — “Matt Gaetz is having a bad hair day,” by Rolling Stone’s Ryan Bort: “Gaetz can’t seem to go more than a week or two without manufacturing a clickbait-ready piece of chum to throw to the press, which has largely obliged him. ‘Look, after 10 months I figured out that you only really matter if you can move substantial sums of money, or substantial blocs of votes,” he says. “If you couldn’t do one of those things you are an extra in the movie in the United States Congress. I had no interest in that. I started to realize that to serve my constituents, I had to bring forces to bear outside of that traditional paradigm that they teach you in orientation.’”
3-0 — “Trump in Palm Beach: Why president’s 30th visit will be a landmark,” by The Palm Beach Post’s Antonio Fins: “President Donald Trump is scheduled to arrive Friday for his 30th visit since his 2017 inauguration, but the first in which his White House is not overshadowed by impeachment or a formal investigation.”
WHAT MATTERS? — “Daytona 500′s appeal to Trump: ‘Guaranteed good visuals’,” by The Daytona Beach News- Journal’s Mark Harper: “Donald Trump hasn’t been to the Daytona 500 since his presidency started in 2017, but he’s no stranger to the city and the Great American Race. Trump held a rally for 8,000 supporters at the Ocean Center on Aug. 3, 2016. He also attended the Daytona 500 each year between 1998 and 2001, news accounts show. And Trump had been to Daytona Beach on several occasions before that.”
NO. 1 — “The first South American in Congress receives Ecuador’s second-highest honor,” by Alex Daugherty: “Thursday was not a typical day for Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. The Miami Democrat and first-term lawmaker received Ecuador’s second-highest civilian honor from President Lenin Moreno during a Capitol Hill ceremony complete with the kind of grandeur normally reserved for senior congressional leaders and heads of state.”
BAN — “Darren Soto, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduce national fracking ban,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Steven Lemongello: “U.S. Rep. Darren Soto joined with U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to introduce a bill Wednesday that would ban fracking nationwide by 2025.”
— “Southeastern Conference hires lobbying team on student athlete pay,” by POLITICO’s Juan Perez Jr.
— “U.S. House votes to remove ERA obstacle, FL lawmakers split,” by Florida Phoenix’s Robin Bravender and Laura Cassels
END OF AN ERA — “McClatchy files bankruptcy to shed costs of print legacy and speed shift to digital,” by Miami Herald’s Kevin G. Hall: “McClatchy Co. filed for bankruptcy Thursday, a move that will end family control of America’s second largest local news company and hand it to creditors who have expressed support for independent journalism.”
THE WILD CARD — “A year after day spa sex-for-pay crackdown, Robert Kraft and others still face charges,” by TC Palm’s Melissa E. Holsman and Will Greenlee: “New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft still faces prostitution charges nearly a year after he was arrested in a sweeping three-county sex-for-pay probe that involved police video recording hundreds of alleged sex acts by licensed massage workers.”
FIGHTING OUSTER — “Former Moffitt Cancer Center director sues over forced resignation,” by Tampa Bay Times’s Allison Ross: “A top official at Moffitt Cancer Center who resigned under pressure amid a controversy over exploitation of American-funded research by China has filed a lawsuit, alleging he was unjustifiably forced to leave his job.”
SEEMS IMPORTANT — Were Broward’s beaches really clean enough to swim in for most of 2019?,” by Sun Sentinel’s Brooke Baitinger: “Nearly 200 times in 2019, fecal bacteria washed ashore on South Florida’s beaches, making the waters unsafe for swimming. Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties told people not to swim in the contaminated waters for more than 200 days throughout the year.”
RESPECT — “Law enforcement from around country pay respects at FHP trooper’s funeral in Bradenton,” by Bradenton Herald’s Jessica De Leon: “Law enforcement from around the state and country, family and friends gathered Thursday to pay their final respects to Florida Highway Patrol Master Trooper Joseph Bullock who was killed in the line of duty last week.”
— “’Invisible’ and ‘toxic’ oil made the Deepwater Horizon spill worse than thought, study says,” by USA Today’s Doyle Rice: “The worst oil spill in U.S. history was much worse than had been thought, a new study suggests, as the Deepwater Horizon spill of 2010 unleashed “toxic and invisible” oil into the Gulf of Mexico.”
— “Inside the candidates’ war chests: Superintendent hauls in over $100K in 1st fundraising month,” by Tallahassee Democrat’s Jeff Burlew:
— “Property Appraiser Rick Singh sues former high-ranking employees who filed a whistleblower suit against him,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Stephen Hudak:
BIRTHDAYS: Rep. Donna Shalala is 79 … Cari Roth, vice president of governmental and regulatory affairs for Lykes Bros … Alan Feinberg Jr.
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