Good Thursday morning. “These are your people.”
The pitch — That’s what Rep. Michael Waltz told President Donald Trump. Waltz was on the phone a couple of weeks ago with a simple request to the president: Come attend the Daytona 500 this weekend. Waltz, who has the Daytona International Speedway in his district, got the idea after chatting with NASCAR officials about how long it had been (16 years) since a sitting president had come to one of the premier racing events in the nation.
Big crowd — The Northeast Florida congressman told Playbook he pointed out to Trump that the attendance at the Daytona 500 would be more than twice that of the national championship game between LSU and Clemson, which Trump attended last month. Waltz, a former Green Beret, said the NASCAR race is a family-friendly event chock full of Trump supporters. “I’ve got to be honest with you, you won’t see any kneeling there,” said Waltz, a reference to the national anthem controversy where Trump criticized NFL players for protesting racial inequality. “It is an amazing, patriotic All-American event.” Waltz said at the end the president “was fired up. ‘All right, I’m coming.’”
Florida, Florida, Florida — Trump’s decision to attend the Daytona 500 marks yet another high-profile appearance in his recently adopted home state. While there are sure to be plenty of attendees from across the country at the race, it’s also worth noting that Volusia County — the home to the racetrack and at the eastern end of the constantly talked about I-4 corridor gave Trump a 34,000 vote margin over Hillary Clinton in 2016. Trump won Florida by nearly 113,000 votes. His people indeed.
— WHERE’S RON? — Nothing official announced for Gov. DeSantis.
PROGRAMMING NOTE: Florida Playbook will not be published on Monday, Feb. 17. We’ll be back on our normal schedule on Tuesday, Feb. 18. Please continue to follow POLITICO Florida
TO THE TRACK — “Trump to court ‘God-fearing, country-loving Americans’ at Daytona 500,” by POLITICO’s Daniel Lippman, Anita Kumar and Tina Nguyen: President Donald Trump has his next MAGA-friendly sporting event lined up — the Daytona 500.The president on Sunday is expected to attend the annual NASCAR race, one of the most famous on the auto racing circuit.
THE NEW ORDER — “‘Really shocking’: Trump’s meddling in Stone case stuns Washington,” by POLITICO’s Natasha Bertrand and Daniel Lippman: President Donald Trump’s post-impeachment acquittal behavior is casting a chill in Washington, with Attorney General William Barr emerging as a key ally in the president’s quest for vengeance against the law enforcement and national security establishment that initiated the Russia and Ukraine investigations.
CAN’T WIN THEM ALL — “Mar-a-Lago intruder acquitted of trespassing, but jury says she resisted arrest,” by Sun Sentinel’s Marc Freeman: “In a Mar-a-Lago trespassing case, a jury Wednesday acquitted a woman from China who claimed she was innocently sightseeing on President Donald Trump’s property two months ago.”
HAS TO BE ASKED — “No signs, no gate, few guards: Are Mar-a-Lago intruders actually trespassing?,” by Miami-Herald’s Nicholas Nehamas and Sarah Blaskey: “The lack of security infrastructure at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club seemingly contributed Wednesday to the exoneration of a Chinese woman accused of trespassing.”
RANTING — “Just a ‘rant by an idiot’: Charges dropped against man accused of threatening to kill Trump,” by Sun Sentinel’s Eileen Kelley: “A Florida man no longer faces criminal charges because his online skit about Donald Trump appeared to be “more of a rant by an idiot” than someone intent on harming the president, according to a prosecutor’s memo obtained by the South Florida Sun Sentinel.”
WHAT? — “PBC elections office hit by ransomware before 2016 election,” by Palm Beach Post’s Hannah Morse: “Weeks before the 2016 election that would usher in Donald Trump as president, the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Office was subject to a ransomware attack, elections supervisor Wendy Sartory Link told The Palm Beach Post on Wednesday. The attack more than three years ago happened while Susan Bucher was elections supervisor, but Link said she was unsure how the virus infiltrated the system.”
FIREWALL? — “In Florida, Biden digs in his heels after slow start in Iowa, New Hampshire,” by Miami-Herald’s David Smiley: “Following a fifth-place finish in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, the former vice president’s campaign moved quickly Wednesday to announce the launch of several grassroots coalitions in Florida — a state where he leads in the polls thanks in large part to his standing with Hispanic and black voters.”
ANOTHER ONE — “Exclusive: County commissioner Melissa McKinlay endorses Bloomberg,” by The Palm Beach Post’s Christine Stapleton: “Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay announced Wednesday her endorsement of Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg, becoming the second local official to back the New York City billionaire.”
ONE MORE — Florida House Minority Leader Kionne McGhee on Wednesday endorsed former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is focusing a lot of time, attention and energy on the looming Florida primary. McGhee’s endorsement is notable since many other legislators, including several black lawmakers, have backed former Vice President Joe Biden. When asked about Bloomberg’s past support for “stop and frisk” policies as mayor, McGhee said he had shown “leadership” on the issue because he recognized it was flawed and “he apologized for the results” and “he asked for forgiveness.”
NEW … ANOTHER ENDORSEMENT FOR BLOOMBERG… Florida Rep. Ted Deutch is endorsing Bloomberg this morning. Deutch, who represents South Florida — including Parkland — said it was due, in part, to Bloomberg’s work on gun control.
IT BEGINS — “Florida progressives launch ads aimed at specific Latino groups,” NBC News’s Carmen Sesin: “Latinos are a coveted voting bloc in the battleground state of Florida — but they’re not one group when it comes to their countries of origin and the issues on which they focus. To that end, a progressive political action committee has been releasing a series of ads targeting specific Latino groups as the voting registration deadline approaches.”
C’MON DOWN — “Want to help pick the presidential nominee? There’s still time to register.,” by Tampa Bay Times’s Allison Ross: “If you want to vote in Florida’s presidential preference primary on March 17, you need to make sure you’re registered as either Democrat or Republican by Tuesday.”
HEATING UP — “Democratic Party chair seeks Mayor Randy Henderson’s resignation amid political ad controversy,” by News-Press’s Melissa Montoya: “The chairwoman of the Lee County Democratic Party has called for Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson to resign after releasing a politically charged campaign ad on social media she said is inappropriate and petty.”
STAND YOUR GROUND — Two Florida attorneys who were on opposite sides in the central Florida case that put Florida’s “stand your ground” self-defense law into the public spotlight are both now calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis to have a special prosecutor review a 2016 shooting in Fort Myers.
Ben Crump, who represented the family of Trayvon Martin, and Mark O’Mara, who represented George Zimmerman, want the governor to have a new prosecutor to look at the shooting of 32-year-old Ryan Modell. Modell, who was intoxicated, began banging on the wrong door in a Fort Myers condo. Modell, who was unarmed, would wind up being killed by homeowner James Steven Taylor who contended he acted in self-defense. Prosecutors in Southwest Florida declined to take the case to a grand jury, so now Modell’s father has asked DeSantis to act. “Stand Your Ground should not be a shield or encouragement for vigilantism,” Crump said. So far DeSantis’s office has said little about the case other than they are reviewing it.
‘UPHILL BATTLE’ — “Hopes dim for gun control measures in Florida Legislature,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Lawrence Mower: “A bill that would close Florida’s so-called ‘gun show loophole’ is in trouble. Halfway through this year’s legislative session, the bill has stalled, and key lawmakers aren’t sounding optimistic it will be heard again. ‘It is very clear that it is an uphill battle,’ said Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, who supports the bill.”
LOCKED UP — “Michael Drejka attacked in prison, isolated from other inmates, officials say.” by Tampa Bay Times’s Kathryn Varn: “Clearwater parking lot shooter Michael Drejka was attacked in prison on Tuesday and has been confined away from other inmates.”
PAY UP — “Cutting backlog by half, Gov. Ron DeSantis imposes ethics penalties on Andrew Gillum, others,” by Tallahassee Democrat’s Jeffrey Schweers: “Gov. Ron DeSantis imposed fines and other penalties Tuesday against 14 public officials who transgressed Florida’s ethics code, cutting by half the number of final orders from the state ethics commission that had been languishing on his desk.”
HMMM — “Florida Medicaid Director: New Trump administration rules would be ‘crippling’ to nursing homes, hospitals,” by News Service of Florida’s Christine Sexton: “The administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis, a steadfast supporter of President Donald Trump, is raising concerns about a proposed federal rule that would strike a financial blow to the state’s Medicaid program if allowed to go into effect.”
MERGER MANIA — “Higher education merger plan survives committee vote,” by POLITICO’s Andrew Atterbury: A sweeping higher education proposal from the Florida House to fold four state universities into two and reform a trio of scholarship programs survived a bombardment of opposition during its introduction Wednesday.
IF YOU GOT EM — “House vaping crackdown advances despite opposition,” by POLITICO’s Arek Sarkissian: The House Health Market Reform Subcommittee on Thursday approved a bill that would set new regulations for the vape industry despite objections from health groups that the measure won’t make e-cigarettes safer.
BYPASS — “Bean: Legislature to seek cheaper drug suppliers through drug importation program,” by POLITICO’s Alexandra Glorioso: The Florida Legislature is pursuing a drug importation program because rebates aren’t saving the state enough money in its Medicaid program, a key appropriator said Wednesday.
CFO SHUFFLE — Top-level churn continues in the office of CFO Jimmy Patronis, who is under investigation by state attorney Jack Campbell over allegations that are not totally clear. Deputy CFO Anna Alexopoulos Farrar is leaving for lobbying shop Converge GPS, a move first reported by Florida Politics. She is just the latest top staffer to leave that office in the past month. Also out is Ryan West, Patronis’ former chief of staff, who resigned after POLITICO reported he had a business deal with a registered lobbyist, and former communication director Katie Strickland, who left to take a similar role at the Agency for Health Care Administration.
CAR WARS — “Enterprise battles peer-to-peer upstarts in Florida car rental fight,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Gray Rohrer: “The clash between traditional car rental companies such as Enterprise and upstart ‘peer-to-peer’ online platforms, connecting car owners looking to rent out their car to drivers in need of a vehicle, is back in the Legislature. After failing to gain momentum last year, a bill to regulate and tax the peer-to-peer platforms like traditional companies is moving in the House and Senate.
THE GRAND BARGAIN — “Florida House and Senate budgets set for votes, but real work about to begin,” by GateHouse Capital Bureau’s John Kennedy: “The Florida House and Senate are set Thursday to approve dueling state budget plans — meaning the real work of the session is just about to begin. Settling scores of differences between spending proposals that span 425 pages will dominate the two-month session’s closing weeks.”
BIG QUESTION — “Florida has new school standards. Did it dump the Common Core?,” by Tampa Bay Times’s Jeffrey Solochek: “As expected, the Florida Board of Education on Wednesday unanimously replaced the state’s expectations for language arts and math with new ones that Gov. Ron DeSantis has touted as eliminating the Common Core.”
MOVING ON — “Controversial bill would end permanent alimony in Florida, change child custody,” by Pensacola News Journal’s Jim Little: “Cindy Stewart, a doctorate student at Florida State University, was nearly in tears as she stood before the legislative subcommittee in Tallahassee on Tuesday, pleading with lawmakers not to support a bill that she said would destroy her mother’s ability to support herself.”
POWERFUL — “’Anguish in the Aftermath’: Parkland shooting confronts lawmakers, visitors to Florida Capitol,” by Tallahassee Democrat’s Tori Lynn Schneider: “Powerful” … “moving” … “heartbreaking.” “Some of those who stopped to read the stories of six victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in the fourth-floor Capitol rotunda this week were overcome with emotion.”
PAY UP — “Student athlete pay proposal moves to full Florida House,” by News Service of Florida’s Jim Turner: “A proposal that would allow college athletes to market themselves and get paid off the field is ready to go before the Florida House. The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday supported the proposal (HB 7051), which outlines how athletes playing for Florida colleges and universities could earn compensation for their “name, image, likeness or persona.”
SWAMPED — “Groups criticize state science officer after water remarks,” by POLITICO’s Bruce Ritchie: The Sierra Club hasn’t opposed bills to advance Gov. Ron DeSantis’ water initiatives, but the group on Wednesday launched a barrage of criticism aimed at Florida Chief Science Officer Thomas Frazer after he praised the measures.
— “House Democrats hopeful about changes to school voucher program,” by Florida Politics’ Sarah Mueller
— “House Democrats fail to defang bill targeting Agriculture Commissioner,” by Florida Politics’ A.G. Gancarski
NOT COMFORTING — “The CDC sent novel coronavirus testing kits to Florida. They might not work,” by Miami Herald’s Ben Conarck: “Florida health officials received testing kits for novel coronavirus earlier this week but can’t use them yet because it’s unclear whether the tests are working.”
DONE DEAL — “Defective drywall lawsuit reaches settlement, a decade after Chinese product forced many from their homes,” Naples Daily News’s Bill Smith: “After a decade of litigation, more than 1,800 Florida homeowners who bought homes made unlivable by drywall manufactured in China will be sharing in a $248 million settlement.”
GETTING UGLY — “Osceola sheriff rushed Nicole Montalvo case to boost his re-election, state attorney says: new evidence released,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Monivette Cordeiro, Jeff Weiner and Cristobal Reyes: “State Attorney Aramis Ayala accused Osceola County Sheriff Russ Gibson of rushing the investigation into Nicole Montalvo’s killing to help his re-election campaign in a blistering letter this week, a day before her office made public a massive cache of records in the case.”
— “Florida’s first black state attorney defends opposition to death penalty,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Allison Ross
OH BOY — “Jeffrey Epstein company ripped us off, Virgin Islands attorney general says,” by Miami Herald’s Kevin Hall: “Virgin Islands Attorney General Denise George ratcheted up pressure on the executors of Jeffrey Epstein’s estate, amending the civil enforcement action she brought last month to name the disgraced financier’s lawyers as co-defendants.”
AWFUL — “Funeral home let girl’s remains rot, family says in state complaint,” by Palm Beach Post’s Julius Whigham II and Olivia Hitchcock: “The family of an 11-year-old girl who died in late January has filed a complaint with the state against a Riviera Beach funeral home, saying it failed to preserve the girl’s remains and allowed her body to decay in the days before a planned memorial service.”
NEXT — “Bay District Schools prepares for elimination of Common Core,” by Panama City News Herald’s Tony Mixon: “The controversial set of academic standards, Common Core, has been eradicated from the Florida curriculum and Bay District Schools is preparing for the change.”
A STORY — “Mary McLeod Bethune was born the daughter of slaves. She died a retired college president,” by Florida Today’s Tim Walters: “Born in Mayesville, South Carolina, in 1875, Mary McCleod was the 15th of 17 children born to former slaves Sam and Patsy McLeod. She was the first of her siblings to be born into freedom.:
“Toronto Blue Jays catcher Reese McGuire accused of ‘exposing himself’ in Pinellas County,” by Tampa Bay Times’s Chris Tisch: “Reese McGuire, a catcher for the Toronto Blue Jays, was accused by law enforcement of exposing himself last week. McGuire, 24, was given a notice to appear in court on a charge of exposure of sexual organs, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office reports.”
“Florida man ‘pulls over deputy,’ gets arrested for DUI and possession of cocaine,” by WFTS: “A 63-year-old Florida man who stopped a sheriff’s deputy to ask how to get to an auto parts store on Saturday night instead got directions to jail when the deputy arrested him on DUI and cocaine possession charges.”
“Shoppers subdue man trying to rape woman inside Walmart, cops say,” by Sun Sentinel’s Wayne K. Roustan
“Alligator wanders into Florida garage,” by Herald-Tribune’s Alan Shaw
“Niceville City Council supports renaming Post Office to honor Doolittle Raiders,” by NWF Daily News’s Jim Thompson
“Mixed forecast for Florida citrus,” by Eurofruit’s Carl Collen
BIRTHDAYS: Alex Burgos, VP of federal policy, government relations and communications at TechNet, is 4-0
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