Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for 01.26.17 – Donald Trump’s voter fraud whopper; Rick Scott sells his tax cuts; Bill Galvano’s grease; Meet Jayer Williamson

in Peter/Top Headlines by

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

DONALD TRUMP ANNOUNCES ‘MAJOR’ VOTER FRAUD INVESTIGATION via Julie Pace and Jonathan Lemire of The Associated Press –The investigation, he said, will look at those registered to vote in more than one state, “those who are illegal and … even, those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time).” Depending on results, Trump tweeted, “we will strengthen up voting procedures!” Trump has been fixated on his loss of the popular vote in the election and a concern that the legitimacy of his presidency is being challenged by Democrats and the media, aides and associates say. Secretaries of state across the country have dismissed Trump’s voter fraud claims as baseless.

TRUMP’S VOTER FRAUD CLAIMS UNDERMINE THE DEMOCRATIC PROCESS AND HIS PRESIDENCY via Dan Balz of The Washington Post –There is no benign explanation for President Trump’s false assertion that millions of people voted illegally in the last election. It is either a deliberate attempt to undermine faith in the democratic process, an exhortation to those who favor new restrictions on access to the ballot box or the worrisome trait of someone with immense power willing to make wild statements without any credible evidence. By repeating as president what he had said as a candidate, for whatever purpose, Trump is striking at the foundation of a democratic society. This is yet another example of Trump being willing to cast doubt on information, individuals or institutions that he believes threaten his legitimacy, challenge his authority or question his actions — from attacks on “phony polls” or the “dishonest media” to assertions now of vast voter fraud … Trump is chipping away at a shared public confidence in a system that is fundamental to a representative government for no apparent reason other than that he’s bothered by the fact that, although duly elected and now in the White House, he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by almost 3 million votes.

MUST-READ – TRUMP’S VOTER FRAUD EXAMPLE? A TROUBLED TALE WITH BERNHARD LANGER via Glenn Thrush of The New York Times – Trump gathered House and Senate leaders in the State Dining Room for a get-to-know-you reception … kicked off the meeting by retelling his debunked claim that he would have won the popular vote if not for the 3 million to 5 million ballots cast by “illegals.” … Trump said he was told a story by “the very famous golfer, Bernhard Langer” … [The] 59-year-old native of Bavaria, Germany — a winner of the Masters twice and of more than 100 events on major professional golf tours around the world — was standing in line at a polling place near his home in Florida on Election Day … when an official informed Langer he would not be able to vote. Ahead of and behind Langer were voters who did not look as if they should be allowed to vote, Trump said — but they were nonetheless permitted to cast provisional ballots. The president threw out the names of Latin American countries that the voters might have come from. The anecdote was greeted with silence. Just one problem: Langer, who lives in Boca Raton, is a German citizen with permanent residence status in the United States who is, by law, barred from voting, according to Langer’s daughter Christina.

AS TRUMP CLAIMS VOTER FRAUD, HIS SENIOR ADVISER REGISTERED TO VOTE IN TWO STATES via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald – His campaign chief registered in both Florida and New York … The voter registration of Stephen Bannon drew a complaint during the campaign from a group that opposed Trump, but ultimately Florida election officials dropped the complaint. Bannon wasn’t the only person close to Trump who has been registered in two states at once … Trump’s daughter Tiffany was registered to vote in Pennsylvania and New York, while CNN reported that Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s pick for Treasury secretary, is registered in New York and California. Bannon registered to vote in Miami but never voted there. In August, Bannon switched his voter registration to Sarasota County … Bannon didn’t vote in Sarasota County, either.

VOTER FRAUD? HARDLY ANY FOUND IN FLORIDA via Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times – Aside from assurances from the mostly Republican elections officials in the state that fraud was exceedingly rare, there are the public records, which show scant evidence of the existence of voter fraud (typically, in the Trumpian sense, this is fraud where someone casts a ballot more than once or does so even though they aren’t eligible to vote). During the past two statewide elections, Floridians cast more than 20.7 million ballots. In that period, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement brought 13 voter fraud cases. Six ended in guilty pleas, including four convicted felons and one non-citizen who voted illegally and a worker for a political vendor who admitted filing phony voter registration forms. Two cases were settled before trial. The others are pending or charges were dropped.

DEMOCRATS DEMAND STATE INVESTIGATE DONALD TRUMP’S FRAUD ALLEGATIONS via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon … said in a letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner: “I believe that charges of election fraud by the President of the United States are far too serious to allow more time to elapse.” Citing a state law that gives Detzner authority to act on such allegations, Braynon wrote: “You now have a legal obligation to act.” Braynon added that “such reviews and purges in the past failed to turn up any evidence of widespread fraud,” and said that in some cases, people were falsely accused of fraud, including veterans. But Braynon said Detzner needs to reassure Floridians “that (Trump‘s) election to the presidency was beyond reproach.”

SEMINOLE ELECTIONS CHIEF MIKE ERTEL TAKES TO SOCIAL MEDIA TO DEFEND VOTING INTEGRITY via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – “President Trump has created quite the kerfuffle with today’s tweets concerning voter fraud,” Ertel wrote in his post. “To be clear: voter fraud is likely one of the least committed felonies in America, and barring systemwide collusion, it is simply not the case that ‘millions voted illegally.’ … However, there are always political operatives who attempt to manipulate the process throughout, and to pretend it doesn’t exist at all, is to either be putting your head in the sand or to exercise an extreme naïveté of the presence of dirty political tactics,” he continued. “There is good news: Florida’s system, while not perfect, is among the best at ensuring voter trust. We have hard-working, ethical supervisors of elections, and Seminole County is home to poll workers and staff who together constitute America’s Finest Elections Team.”

BUT, KEEP THIS IN MIND — TRUMP’S POLICIES POLLING WELL WITH VOTERS via Cameron Easley of Morning Consult – – A new Morning Consult/POLITICO poll provides the first, in-depth look at what voters overall thought about Trump‘s inauguration speech. Overall positive reactions: 49 percent of respondents thought the speech was good or excellent, compared to 39 percent who found it only fair or poor. Additionally, 55 percent of voters thought it was better than they expected it to be … Much more optimistic than pessimistic: 51 percent found the speech optimistic and 50 percent found it hopeful. Only 26 percent found it to be pessimistic. “America First” is a hit: 65 percent of voters reacted positively to the passage in which Trump said “it’s going to be America First.” 22 percent reacted negatively to this concept. Definitely not boring: only 21 percent of respondents found the speech boring, compared to 57 percent who didn’t. Voters want Trump to tweet less. They also want the media to cover his tweets less: 61 percent of voters say Trump uses Twitter too much. Even Trump voters agree – 44 percent think he tweets too much, compared to 38 percent who think he tweets the right amount or not enough. Additionally, 56 percent say news organizations cover Trump’s use of Twitter too much.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Business. Bright House Networks Business Solutions is now Spectrum Business, and we are committed to delivering your business with superior business Internet, Phone, and TV services to help power your success. We offer the best value in business with the fastest Internet for the price, advanced phone with unlimited long distance, cloud-based Hosted Voice, and reliable TV – all delivered over our reliable, state-of-the-art, fiber-rich network.  Find out why so many businesses in your area trust their communications needs to Spectrum Business. Learn more.***

BILL NELSON SOUNDS OFF ON WHAT HE CALLS DONALD TRUMP’S ‘ROCKY’ FIRST WEEK IN OFFICE via Florida Politics – [Nelson] spent considerable time discussing – and criticizing- some of the moves that the newly-inaugurated president has made in his first week in office. Nelson has voted against Jeff Sessions for Attorney General and Mike Pompeo for CIA Director, and he says he’ll oppose Rex Tillerson when the former ExxonMobil CEO’s name comes up for a confirmation vote for Secretary of State. When asked why … Nelson said just two words. “Vladimir Putin.” Regarding Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s choice as Treasury Secretary, Nelson said he has not made up his mind, even after speaking with him personally. Nelson also was dismissive of Trump’s call to begin plans to construct a border security fence on the Mexican border, saying that a “multiplicity of things” can be done to  protect our borders.

MARCO RUBIO ANNOUNCES APPROPRIATIONS ASSIGNMENTS via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News – Rubio will serve on the  Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee … on the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee … also gained a spot on the smallest of the Senate Appropriations subcommittees as he was named [to the] Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee. With a seat on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, it’s no surprise that Rubio ended up on the Senate State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Subcommittee. Rubio will also serve on the Senate Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee … On all five of the subcommittees, Rubio will be the lowest ranked Republican in terms of seniority.


***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by The Personal Insurance Federation of Florida (PIFF). PIFF was formed in late 2010 with three charter members: Allstate and Castle Key Insurance Companies, The Progressive Group of Insurance Companies, and State Farm Insurance Companies, to create a dynamic, efficient, and competitive marketplace for personal insurance products for the benefit of all Floridians. PIFF charter members serve forty-five percent (45%) of the automobile insurance market and more than twenty percent (20%) of the homeowners’ property insurance market. The association is the leading voice for personal lines property and casualty insurers in Florida. Learn more.***

DAYS UNTILRick Scott Orlando Jobs Summit – 8: The Batman Lego Movie opens – 15; Pitchers & catchers report for Spring Training – 17; Valentine’s Day – 19; Start of 2017 Legislative Session – 40; Florida Capitol Press Corps Press Skits – 47; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die – 99; FSU vs. Alabama – 219; Election Day 2017 – 284; Star Wars: Episode VIII/The Last Jedi opens – 322.

CHARCOAL — FIRST LEGAL CARGO FROM CUBA IN MORE THAN 50 YEARS — ARRIVES AT PORT EVERGLADES via Mimi Whitefield of the Miami Herald – The first Cuban exports since the embargo went into effect over a half-century ago arrived at Port Everglades as port officials prepared to receive a business delegation from Cuba later in the week. Two containers of artisanal charcoal made from Cuban Marabú, an invasive woody species from Africa that is considered a nuisance on the island, arrived at the Fort Lauderdale port aboard a Crowley Maritime ship called the K-Storm. The charcoal exports, which are produced by private worker-owned cooperatives, are legal under a rule change by the former Obama administration that allows the importation of some products produced by independent Cuban entrepreneurs.

RICK SCOTT  WANTS FUNDS CUT FOR SOUTH FLORIDA PORTS THAT INK CUBA DEALS via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald — Over three posts on Twitter, the governor said he would ask state lawmakers to restrict dollars for ports that “enter into any agreement with [the] Cuban dictatorship” — as Port Everglades and the Port of Palm Beach plan to do Thursday and Friday, respectively. “We cannot condone Raul Castro’s oppressive behavior,” Scott tweeted in English and Spanish, using the preferred social media platform of his friend, Trump. “Serious security/human rights concerns.”

SCOTT’S TAX CUTS WILL FACE MAJOR CHALLENGE IN GOP LEGISLATURE via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Scott began a two-day, six-TV market push … for $618 million in tax cuts, and some Republicans at the Capitol who would have to vote for it are not exactly on Scott’s bandwagon. In the House, even before Scott launched his annual tax-cut Speaker Richard Corcoran and his top advisers have called the state’s historic spending levels “unsustainable,” mostly because of a lack of discipline by Republicans themselves, and that cuts will be required to balance the budget in a year with almost no surplus after essential needs are funded. “Tax cuts are always possible,” said House Appropriations Chairman Carlos Trujillo. “But how much appetite do we have to be disciplined financially? We’ve been led by Republicans for the last 20 years and we spend like Democrats.” The bottom line: Scott’s tax cut proposals could face the same fate as last year.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will continue his “Fighting for Florida’s Future” tax cut tour at 9:30 a.m. at Baron Sign Manufacturing, 900 W. 13th Street in Rivera Beach. Later in the day, he’s scheduled to appear at the Florida Real Estate Trends Economic Summit at the Renaissance SeaWorld Orlando, 6677 Sea Harbor Drive in Orlando.

CABINET TO APPOINT INTERIM DEP SECRETARY ON FEB. 1 via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – Scott and the Florida Cabinet have set a conference call to appoint an interim secretary to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and talk about the process for selecting a permanent replacement. The Cabinet met … but because there was not enough time give proper public notice of the discussion, Scott said the Cabinet would have to hold a conference call to make the interim secretary selection. The next regularly scheduled Cabinet meeting is not until Feb. 7, which would have left DEP without a leader between [JonSteverson‘s resignation and the interim selection.

TRANSPORTATION COMMISSION WILL NOT RECOMMEND DOT SECRETARY REPLACEMENTS AT MEETING via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – The Florida Transportation Committee will not be recommending a successor for Jim Boxold as secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation during its meeting Friday in Orlando. Boxold announce he will be leaving Feb. 3 for a position at the capitol city consulting lobbying firm. A commission spokesman said that the “process and timeline” for a replacement will be discussed, but no specific names. The nine-person board is responsible for selecting names to forward to Gov. Scott for final approval.

SENATE PANEL OKS GAMBLING OVERHAUL BILL, INCLUDING SEMINOLE PROVISIONS via Florida Politics The Florida Senate has seemingly fast-tracked the chamber’s gambling overhaul for this year, as its first panel gave unanimous thumbs up to the measure one hour into a meeting that had been scheduled to last four. The bill (SB 8) was cleared Wednesday by the Regulated Industries committee, which oversees gambling policy. It has only one more stop, Appropriations, before it can be heard on the floor. The 2017 Legislative Session begins March 7. The measure ensures “substantial positive impacts for many years,” said bill sponsor Bill Galvano, the Bradenton Republican expected to be Senate President in 2018-20. He cited a figure of $375 million in “net economic impact” to state coffers, which could use the extra cash in what may be a tight budget year … Though the Senate may be poised to finally pass gambling legislation after years of inaction, wild cards remain in the form of the House, which remains to averse to anything looking like gambling expansion, and the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

TWEET, TWEET: @Fineout: Legislative 101 – When a bill has just 1 more stop & it’s a month before session & a senator says he’s voting yes to move it along … it’s a sign it’s a top priority of legislative leaders that one shouldn’t try to stop in this chamber.

RED-LIGHT CAMERA BAN PASSES HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE via Florida Politics – This year’s effort to ban red-light cameras in Florida was approved by the Florida House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee after testimony that the records shows the cameras don’t appear to be reducing traffic accidents and their primary purpose seems to be revenue that’s not doing much to improve highway safety. House Bill 6007 is the house’s fifth attempt to ban the cameras since the Florida Legislature authorized them in 2010. Previous repeal attempts passed the house in 2011 and 2016, only to die in the Florida Senate.

UNIVERSITIES, COLLEGES PAINT DEPRESSING PICTURE OF DEALING WITH 10 PERCENT CUTS via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Asked to prepare for 10 percent budget cuts, Florida’s state university and college leaders pledged to try to avoid affecting students but told the House Subcommittee on Higher Education Appropriations the impacts would still be profound. “The target reductions are set at 10 percent for each entity,” Subcommittee Chairman Larry Ahern said after spelling out the challenges faced by the larger House Appropriations Committee of possible 10 percent budget cuts this year to deal with a $1.7 billion shortfall. If the universities make their own proposed cuts, that would amount to $274 million out of the 12 state universities’ $2.74 billion in annual budgets … At some schools, that would mean slicing through administration and services ranging from computer support, to institutes and research, said Martha Saunders, newly-installed president of the University of West Florida, which could have to deal with a $10 million annual cut. Everything from mentoring programs to faculty recruitment would be at risk, she said.

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION DEBATE TURNS TO EMPLOYEES’ POINT OF VIEW via Florida Politics – Employee dissatisfaction with Florida’s workers’ compensation system emerged as an issue during a House committee hearing Wednesday, amid suggestions they deserve more choice over their treating physicians. Rep. George Moraitis Jr. recalled a meeting with firefighters who complained of their medical treatment under the system. “We really need to have a solution that helps the workers,” he said. “Yes, we need to limit attorney involvement, to not have the wrong incentives. But to sit here and say the program was working well, I definitely disagree with that.” Attorney involvement has been the focus of much of the debate since last year, when the Florida Supreme Court struck down statutory limits on attorney fees in workers’ compensation cases enacted in 2003. Those limits were intended to rein in litigation costs. … Following the hearing, Insurance & Banking Subcommittee chairman Danny Burgess noted a recent Office of Insurance Regulation survey in which nearly 66 percent of system stakeholders disagreed or strongly disagreed that the system strikes the right balance between workers and employers. “It raised a lot of questions. The purpose of the grand bargain is to get the workers better and get them back to work,” he said.

— “House bill would expand bank rights in foreclosure cases” via Florida Politics

— “’Patient Savings Act’ filed in Florida House” via Florida Politics

DEMS DEMAND RICHARD CORCORAN CANCEL SPEAKER WITH ‘ANTI-IMMIGRATION’ TIES via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – Democrats have demanded the Florida House cancel a presentation by the leader of a think tank deemed by a group the Southern Poverty Law Center calls “anti-immigration” and affiliated with white nationalism. Democratic Leader Janet Cruz sent a letter to House Speaker Corcoran calling for the Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee to rescind its invitation to Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. He is set to speak as part of a panel on “security issues related to refugee resettlement” at the subcommittee’s 9 a.m. meeting. Since 1995, Krikorian has run the Center for Immigration Studies, whose website says the group backs “low-immigration, pro-immigrant” policies, has been called out repeatedly by the SPLC, which tracks hate groups.

***SUNBURN is brought to you in part by Sachs Media Group, Florida’s dominant public affairs communications firm. Sachs Media thrives on high-stakes challenges in the relentless pursuit of excellent outcomes. To help you win in the corridors of power, let us score for you in the court of public opinion. Visit to learn more.***

HAPPENING TODAY – COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH — The House Children, Family & Seniors Subcommittee will hear presentations about refugee service and resettlement programs during its 9 a.m. meeting in 12 House Office building; while the House Post-Secondary Education Subcommittee is expected to get a presentation on post-secondary civics education during its meeting at 9 a.m. in Mashburn Hall. The House Tourism & Gaming Committee is set to discuss issues related to pari-mutuels during its meeting at 9 a.m. in 212 Knott. The Senate Regulated Industries Committee will discuss a bill to repeal a decades-old law requiring liquor stores to be stand-alone facilities during its meeting at 10 a.m. in 412 Knott. At 1:30 p.m., the Senate Appropriations Committee will get receive presentations about tourism marketing and economic-incentive programs.

SENATE WILL HEAR TOBACCO APPELLATE BOND CAP REPEALER via Florida Politics – A Senate panel today will hear a bill that would repeal the cap on the amount of money tobacco companies have to put up as appellate bonds. Sen. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, and Rep. Danny Burgess, a Zephyrhills Republican, have filed measures for their respective chambers for the 2017 Legislative Session. Giving this bill a committee hearing is the latest indication that this Legislature has a soft spot for trial lawyers. The Senate bill (SB 100) is teed up first in the Regulated Industries committee, which meets at 10 a.m.

JAYER WILLIAMSON: WIRED FOR PUBLIC SERVICE via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist — Jayer Williamson wasn’t born an electrician, but he learned the trade fresh out of college. He wasn’t born a public servant, either, but even earlier in his life, he knew he wanted to be one. The year was 1984, and Jayer was just five years old. He’d just spent a long day with his grandfather, W.L. Butler, meeting with Representatives and Senators from across Florida, discussing issues important to their community. Butler himself had previously served as both a city councilman in Milton, and later as a Santa Rosa County commissioner, until 1980. As grandfather and grandson headed back home from Tallahassee, Butler turned to his tired grandson and asked if he enjoyed the day. Williamson will never forget his own reply to his grandfather: “I will be a member of the Florida House of Representatives.” The answer, he says, stuck with him in the back of his head. “Today I get to live it out. Not everyone has the opportunity to do something they wanted to do all their life,” Williamson says. … His first legislative session is already looming, and he’s starting to get the hang of things in Tallahassee, just as a he promised his grandfather 32 years earlier. He credits the legislative staffers for making the transition easier.

PERSONNEL NOTE: SEAN WHITE JOINS SENATE MAJORITY OFFICE via Florida Politics – White is the office’s newest legislative analyst. “Majority Leader Wilton Simpson worked with Sean while Simpson chaired Community Affairs and was very impressed,” spokeswoman Rachel Perrin Rogers said. “He’s excited about what Sean will bring to the Republican Caucus.” White also has worked for the House as a policy analyst, at the Public Service Commission and for Tallahassee’s Ausley & McMullen law firm. He was in the James Madison Institute’s Leaders Fellowship program, Class II, in 2015-16. He graduated from The University of Virginia in 2004, where he was on the “Dean’s List of Distinguished Students.”


Michael Corcoran, Anita Berry, Matt Blair, Jeffrey Johnston, Amanda Stewart, Corcoran & Johnston: Florida Development Finance Corporation; University of South Florida Foundation

Taylor Patrick Biehl, Capitol Alliance Group: Big Bend Advocacy Association

Amy Bisceglia, The Rubin Group: Insikit, Inc.

Ron BookKelly Mallette, Ronald L. Book PA: EveryLife Foundation for Rare Diseases

Melanie Brown, Johnson & Blanton: Santa Rosa County

Matt Bryan, Smith Bryan & Myers: Children’s Campaign

Kevin Marino Cabrera, Edgar O. Castro, Southern Strategy Group: CloseWatch Technologies

Andreina Figueroa, ADF Consulting: Duke Energy

Katie Flury, GrayRobinson: SAS Institute; Woodward & Curran, Inc.

Katherine Holzer, Katherine Holzer: Safety Net Hospital Alliance

Rob Johnson, The Mayernick Group: AT&T; Florida for Care; Florida Medical Association; Isle of Capri Casinos; IWP; Jacksonville Greyhound Racing, Inc.; Smart Pharmacy; Walmart.

Trevor MaskKatie Webb, Colodny Fass: George Hackney Inc. d/b/a Trulieve

Jerry Lee McDaniel, Southern Strategy Group: Florida Delegation, Southeast U.S./Japan Association

George Meros, GrayRobinson: Florida Justice Reform Institute

Pete Mitchell, PJM Strategies: Safety Net Hospital Alliance

Joel Overton, Larry J. Overton & Associates: Henderson Behavior Health; MorseLife

Jerry Paul, Capitol Energy Florida: Seven Seas Cruising Association

David Ramba, Ramba Consulting Group: Sarasota Kennel Club, Inc.; St. Petersburg Kennel Club, Inc. d/b/a Derby Lane

Donald Ray, Donald G. Ray & Associates: Florida Monument Builders Association

Marc Reichelderfer, Landmarc Strategies: GCCM, Inc.

Keith Teel, Covington & Burling: Altria Client Services LLC and its Affiliates; RAI Services Company

Ronald Watson, Watson Strategies: Disaster Solutions LLC; SLGT Inc.

HAPPENING TODAY – FLORIDA ACCESS TO JUSTICE PROJECT TO RELEASE REPORT LOOKING AT LACK OF DIVERSITY IN STATE COURT SYSTEM — The Florida Access to Justice Project is set to release a report today that looks both at the amount of special interest money and the lack of diversity in the state court system. The report is expected to provide nine key policy recommendations aimed at ensuring a more diverse and impartial Florida court going forward.

ATTORNEY: FLORIDA NEVER HELPED GIRL WHO LIVESTREAMED SUICIDE via The Associated Press – Nakia Venant had been in and out of foster care for more than seven years, and since April, had bounced between at least 10 homes and shelters, said Howard Talenfeld, who is Nakia’s mother’s attorney. Nakia was sexually abused by another foster child when she was 7, he said. Nakia killed herself early Sunday, several hours after she wrote on Facebook: “I Don’t Wanna Live No More,” adding three sad-faced emojis. “Nakia told the world, in the way she left this world, about the terrible failures in (Florida’s) foster care system,” Talenfeld told a news conference. Florida’s system of hiring private contractors to oversee foster care in much of the state has led to several suicides, accidental deaths and murders, Talenfeld said. “Tragically, we are here talking about another child among this horrific list, this horrific history of foster care privatization in Florida.”

STATE SAYS NO TO LIP BALM, SUNGLASSES IN PUBLIX LIQUOR STORES via Florida Politics – The Lakeland-based chain had sought permission from the state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco to add those items to those its sells in its separate stores that offer hard liquor. “It is self-evident that balloons are party-type supplies,” its request says, and gift cards, for example, “are a ubiquitous part of party attendance.” Nope, state regulators said earlier this month. Balloons and lip balm don’t rate, and Publix’s request was shot down. The state called Publix’s arguments that the items also qualify as party supplies “unpersuasive.”

FLORIDA’S HEALTH CARE TRANSPARENCY DATABASE TAKES SHAPE via Ryan Benk of Health News Florida – The Agency for Health Care Administration is paying a company called the Health Care Cost Institute $6.1 million over five years to build the online transparency tool, but they won’t be working from scratch. The plan is to meld the HCCI’s national average-price database, called Guroo, with an existing state website called the Florida Health Finder, which lists quality ratings and general pricing information about hospitals, nursing homes and other providers. Health Finder only includes a provider’s price tag, but not what an actual patient could expect to pay after insurance.

FLORIDA STATE WORKERS GETTING PREPAID TUITION SIGN-UP DISCOUNT via The Associated Press – State workers will get a $25 discount on the application fee if they enroll during this year’s open enrollment period. The application fee is normally $50. Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater is sending an email in January to state workers with promotional code activation instructions that allow state workers to receive the discount.

GENTING ASKS FAA TO RE-APPROVE TOWERS PLANNED FOR OLD MIAMI HERALD SITE via Nicholas Nehamas of the Miami Herald – Malaysian gambling giant Genting … says it won’t sell the land but is still far from being able to build the casino it wants. Genting asked the Federal Aviation Administration to re-approve plans to build three 649-foot towers … The FAA approved the towers in 2013, but that approval expired Jan. 10. Real estate blog the Next Miami first reported the news. The towers are not expected to rise anytime soon. Art Miami recently said it had struck a deal to set up its tent on the site for the next several years. Genting also wants to build a marina on the property, which it bought for $236 million in 2011.

EDITORIALMOSAIC REZONING REQUEST FOR ADDITIONAL PHOSPHATE MINING MERITS APPROVAL via the Bradenton Herald – This is a case where we hope people can agree to disagree with civility after both sides present their points. The world’s largest manufacturer of phosphate-based fertilizers seeks approval of a zoning change to allow a 3,635-acre expansion of its Wingate Mine property. The Winding Creek neighborhood sits adjacent to the Wingate East site. One of its residents, Linda C. Eneix of Myakka City, wrote county commissioners to express support for Mosaic’s request: “Mosaic Phosphates has impressed me as one of the most caring, responsive and community supportive institutions imaginable in today’s commercial world.” At Mosaic’s New Wales fertilizer plant in Polk County in September, a sinkhole under a stack formed and 200 million gallons of that acidic wastewater drained into the Floridan aquifer … That and other spills give pause, but they are rare occurrences. Certainly, there is the potential for other accidents, but if that is the measure by which we judge projects, little would be accomplished. County commissioners should approve Mosaic’s request.

WHAT TAYLOR BIEHL IS READING – MCDONALD’S TO GIVE AWAY 10,000 BOTTLES OF SPECIAL SAUCE via The Associated Press – To get you to come into McDonald’s and buy new versions of its Big Mac, the chain is giving away 10,000 bottles of its trademark special sauce for people to use at home … to celebrate the introduction of the Mac Jr. and the Grand Mac, two different-sized variations of the classic sandwich … The bottles will be available at participating locations nationwide. Additional details on how and where customers can get their hands on a bottle are expected to be released.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to smart guys Jason Roth and Mark Sharpe.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been 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.

Latest from Peter

Go to Top