Thursday, 13 December 2018
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BREAKING NEWS

Sunburn for 10.31.18 — Happy Halloween!

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Joe Henderson, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.

Happy Halloween, Sunburn readers.

In case you missed it, here is Ella Joyce’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Display for 2018.

President Donald Trump will bring his “Scare The Dickens Out Of Everyone Tour” to Estero outside of Fort Myers tonight for a Halloween hoedown sure to contain overstuffed helpings of red meat for the faithful who will attend.

With the midterm elections less than a week away, the President has been in full attack mode as he jets around the country spreading fear, loathing, and the end of the world as we know it unless Republicans hold on to their majorities in the House and Senate.

In an interview Monday with Fox News, the President called Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum “a stone-cold thief” but offered no proof to back up that statement.

Gillum responded on Twitter, declaring, “I heard @realDonaldTrump ran home to @FoxNews to lie about me. But as my grandmother told me — never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty, but the pig likes it.”

Trump will no doubt stump for Gillum’s opponent, Republican Ron DeSantis, as well as Rick Scott, who is trying to unseat Democrat Bill Nelson in the U.S. Senate.

The President could also choose to defend his move to send 5,200 U.S. troops to secure the nation’s southern border against a caravan of migrant workers and their families working their way on foot toward what they hope will be a better life.

He also might bring up his (possibly illegal) plan to eliminate so-called “birthright citizenship” for children born in the United States but whose parents are undocumented immigrants.

Donald and Melania Trump pass out candy on the White House lawn. 

The President may be itching for a court fight on that one that would put him squarely up against the so-called “citizenship clause” in the 14th Amendment, adopted in 1868, which states: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

The press can expect to receive its usual smackdown, and he might repeat his line about Democratic super-donor Tom Styer, who the President called “a stumbling lunatic.” Styer was one of the targets of pipe bombs sent through the mail last week.

And, of course, he always likes to trumpet his handling of the economy, and that should go over well with the crowds who began lining up Monday outside Hertz Arena in Estero to get the best seats for the rally that begins at 7 p.m.

This will be Trump’s 37th rally in Florida, dating to when he announced his intention to run for President. If you miss this one, there is another Trump rally planned for Nov. 3 in Pensacola.

Rick Scott mum, Ron DeSantis supports Donald Trump’s proposal to end birthright citizenship” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Scott and DeSantis are considered two of Trump’s closest political allies but are taking different approaches to the president’s proposal, which was floated a week before Election Day. Scott, who raised $20 million for Trump’s 2016 presidential bid, is noncommittal. “I have not seen the details of what the president is suggesting and would need to fully review the proposal,” his campaign said in a statement. “My priorities continue to be securing the border and fixing the long-broken immigration system.” The question is more difficult for Scott, who is in a race where both he and Nelson have tried to run toward the middle, seeking to file off any extreme policy edges and appeal to moderate voices. DeSantis, though, is in a race that has been focused on base voters on both sides. He and Gillum have not drastically changed campaign messages from those used in contentious primary contests. DeSantis said at an event in Tampa that he supports the idea, but is not sure it would survive the courts.

Trump Halloween masks ‘extremely popular’ at Halloween megastore in Fort Myers” via David Dorsey of News-Press.com — The masks and wigs were hard to miss upon entering the year-round, Halloween Megastore off U.S. 41. Trump masks haven’t been the most popular at the store located at 5120 S. Cleveland Ave., in Fort Myers. That distinction, this year, has belonged to the Marvel character Black Panther, said store manager Stephen LaRosa. But Trump by far has been the best-selling politician’s mask, he said. “We’ve sold probably a hundred of them,” LaRosa said.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@SenBillNelson: The Constitution says that if you are born in the USA you are an American citizen. You cannot change that with an executive order.

@WillWeatherford: Mr President — as a person of Faith, I believe we should not be a society that punishes children for the mistakes of their parents. This concept is bad policy, bad politics and unjust!

—@JMartNYT: More than any other race, Trump will own this loss should DeSantis fall short

—@Fineout: .@FLGovScott in campaign fundraising email blast says “with our most recent ad buy, we are severely under budget” Scott has put more than $61 million of his own money into the Senate race so far.

@KevinCate: The @AndrewGillum #GillumSurge in Polk County, Florida — a county Trump won by 14 points. Can’t fit any more people in here. Incredible

—@SteveSchale: I’m not a fan of how Q polls, to be honest. They tend to be pretty noisy. … They are exceptionally noisy. They often land the plane ok, but for example in 12, they had us anywhere from -6 to +9, and the race never moved more than a 3-4 points all cycle. They float self Id, which in a state where partisanship is stable & on the file, leads to noise.

—@GrayRohrer: National campaign reporters with book deals, if you aren’t on the phone with your agents pitching “Surefire Intelligence” as the name of your 2018 tome, well you’re missing out

—@JChristianMinor: Former @fladjj Secretary @cdaly74 was met with smiles, tears and a standing ovation as she was honored for her 2 decades of service to Florida’s youth & families at DJJ’s Restoring Hope Training Conference Cc: @BallardFirm who is blessed to have such a servant leader

—@ChrisHandJax: Former Governor & Ambassador Adlai Stevenson said it best: “As citizens of this democracy, you are the rulers and the ruled, the law-givers and the law-abiding, the beginning and the end.” Please utilize the most basic skill of effective citizenship. — #Vote.

@MDixon55: Carmel M&Ms are an abomination, and anyone who hands them out is looking to get their trees full of toilet paper. There is one industry where we need no innovation or new things: candy

— LATEST TURNOUT FIGURES —

Pre-Election Day voting breached the 3-million-vote mark Tuesday after another 325,000 mail ballots and early votes came were reported to the Florida Division of Elections.

Republicans won the day with 135,482 reported votes, and their nearly 1.3 million ballots checked so far keep them with the 42 percent share of the total vote they’ve enjoyed for several days running. Democrats came a few thousand votes behind, adding 128,866 ballots to their tally for a total of 1.23 million to date for a likewise steady 40 percent share.

The remaining 60,291 votes added in the Tuesday update came from third-party and NPA voters. The running total for “other” voters stands at just over 574,000 one week out from Election Day.

That GOP’s 2-point lead in the early vote is a point down from their 3-point lead heading into Election Day 2014, but Republicans are better situated than they were two years ago, when they trailed Democrats in VBM and EV ballots by 1.5 percentage points.

The ever-growing haul has nearly surpassed the 3.18 million votes cast before Election Day 2014, and indicates the Sunshine State may see up to 7.5 million total votes in the midterm. Tuesday also saw the number of returned mail ballots eclipse the 50 percent mark, with 1.8 million returned to county supervisors and 1.64 million still in the wild.

Democrats have 681,000 of those unreturned ballots while Republicans have 565,000 and the remaining 395,000 in the hands of independent voters.

Post-Hurricane Maria Puerto Ricans won’t swing Florida’s election” via the Miami Herald — Less than 8,500 Democrats and Republicans who registered before the 2018 primary election did so with cellphone numbers containing Puerto Rican area codes, giving them eligibility to vote in the primary, though most Puerto Ricans register without affiliation. Going into Tuesday’s election, they make up about 0.8% of the state’s total 2.2 million Hispanics who can vote in the November election. It’s possible that newly arrived Puerto Ricans could have obtained a Florida-based phone number, but the latest release of the state’s voter file does not provide any indication that new arrivals will usurp Cuban-Americans in South Florida or Puerto Ricans already in Florida as the state’s two biggest and most important Hispanic subgroups. A recent study by the University of Florida suggests that between 30,000 and 50,000 Puerto Ricans settled in Florida after Hurricane Maria, lower than previous estimates of 200,000 or more.

Tweet, tweet:

— TOP STORY —

No trick: Retailers are expecting a near-record-breaking amount of Halloween-related purchases this year.

According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, an affiliate of the Florida Retail Federation, consumers are expected to spend around $8.9 billion by Halloween’s end — nearly enough to crack the record of $9.1 billion. While that sum is a nationwide calculation, FRF doesn’t expect the Sunshine State to be an outlier.

Halloween spending is expected to reach record levels, retailers say.

“With Florida’s economy surging and numerous statewide economic indicators remaining positive, we expect another strong year for spending on Halloween candy, costumes, decorations, and other themed purchases,” FRF President and CEO R. Scott Shalley said. “This should mean another robust sales opportunity for retailers who market their goods and scare enough consumers into their stores.”

In total: a third of those sampled in the survey plan to hand out a greeting card or two, while two-thirds say they’ll pick up a costume. Three-quarters will buy decorations, and all but a few will stock up on candy for kids a the door.

En vogue: Costume-wise, Disney dominates. Marvel, Star Wars — the list goes on.

Staying in?: You’re not alone. Most American adults won’t be out knocking on doors. Seven out of 10 polled said they’ll handle the door for at least part of their evening, while the other 30 percent will be escorting kids around the block.

— TOP OF THE BALLOT —

Here’s why Trump is so focused on the Governor’s race.” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — There’s a good reason why he’s so interested: It’s critical to his chances for re-election in 2020, according to his former White House political strategist, Steve Bannon. If a Republican occupies the Governor’s Mansion, he could steer donors, party leaders and even the machinery of government in directions that benefit a presidential candidate. (The governor appoints the secretary of state, the state’s chief elections officer, for example.) And Trump would have no more loyal acolyte than former Congressman DeSantis, who used Trump’s endorsement — and only Trump’s endorsement — to win the Republican gubernatorial primary this year.

Florida is important to Donald Trump for one good reason: 2020.

—“Trump rallies, tweets help turn Florida campaign into national one” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel

Do Never-Trumpers matter? We’re about to find out.” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Never-Trumpers, that shrinking segment of the Republican Party that can’t fathom to support someone who has shattered every norm of the presidency, are weighing a nuclear option as the Sunshine State approaches the midterm elections. Faced with a choice between an unabashed liberal and a Trump apprentice in the race for governor, they are crossing the thin red line and voting for a candidate who wants to raise the minimum wage and hike corporate taxes. In some cases, Republicans are voting for Gillum, not because of anything he says or stands for, but because they believe a defeat for GOP nominee DeSantis would be a high-profile indictment of Trump and the first step toward ending the president’s reign. For those who refuse to cede the direction of the party to someone they view as an emperor without clothes, Gillum is a means to an end.

—“DeSantis’ short political career sets stage for bid to become Florida Governor” via Ana Ceballos of the Naples Daily News

Assignment editors — DeSantis will host a rally, attend a ‘meet and greet’ event, then join President Trump at his “Make America Great Again” rally.

— 8 a.m., Dolphin Aviation Inc., 8191 North Tamiami Trail #100, Sarasota.

— 10:30 a.m., Leroy’s Southern Kitchen & Bar, 201 West Marion Ave., Punta Gorda.

— 7 p.m., Hertz Arena, 11000 Everblades Parkway, Estero.

Assignment editors — The Gillum campaign bus tour will continue with stops in North Florida.

— 8 a.m. (Central time), St. John Divine Church, 620 E. Jordan St., Pensacola.

— Noon (Central time), Arlene Williams BBQ, 4900 Mobile Highway, Pensacola.

— 1:30 p.m. (Central time), Harbor Docks, 538 Harbor Blvd., Destin.

— SCOTT VS. NELSON —

Grandma rips Bill Nelson as ‘more and more confused’ in New Republican PAC ad” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The 30-second spot “Generations” launches in a statewide TV campaign from the independent super PAC that Gov. Scott set up to support his Republican bid for Nelson’s Senate seat. As a trio of women, apparently a grandmother, mother, and granddaughter sitting in a diner, the mother observers that Nelson has been running for office as long as she has been alive. “And the things he’s been saying lately? Poor man seems more and more confused,” Grandma tells her daughter and granddaughter, hitting as hard as any of the New Republican commercials yet on the still-not-explicitly stated open suggestion that Nelson, 76, is losing his mental competence.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

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Hispanic Leadership Fund launching ads supporting Rick Scott” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The radio ads declare that Scott understands how hard Hispanics work and that is why he has been working so hard to support them. It extols Scott’s jobs creation record in Florida — more than 1.5 million new jobs in eight years — and dismisses his opponent Nelson as an “out-of-touch career Washington politician.” It does not name Nelson. The English ad declares, “As a successful businessman, Rick Scott knows how to create jobs better than out-of-touch career politicians. Those jobs help us care for our families, buy a house, start a business, pay for health care, or get a college degree.” The Spanish ad says the same.

To hear the ad, click on the image below:

’Election year conversion’: Nelson on Scott’s health coverage stance” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — “I support forcing insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions,” Scott said in a recent ad spotlighting his hard-luck youth. “For Sen. Nelson, it’s just another political issue. But for me, it’s personal.” Nelson is skeptical of what he deemed an “election-year conversion,” he told reporters. “He has tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which gives protection. An insurance company can’t deny you insurance if you have a pre-existing condition. There are eight million people in Florida who have a pre-existing condition.” Even asthma, Nelson said, qualifies as such. Scott has “tried to repeal the law for the last seven years. He’s done everything he could to undermine it. And then allows the state of Florida to sue to declare that provision of the law unconstitutional,” he added.

Scott a ‘desperate politician who is losing,’ Nelson says” via Florida Politics —A house that Nelson sold decades ago has become, improbably, an issue in his re-election campaign against Scott. The deal in question involved property Nelson purchased in McLean, Virginia, in 1983, while he served in the U.S. House. Nelson bought the land for $145,000 and built a $1 million home in the Washington suburb. Nelson in September 1989 sold the property for $3.4 million to a company belonging to Middle East businessman Rafik Hariri, then an adviser to Saudi Arabia. Hariri went on to become Prime Minister of Lebanon. Republicans say the sale amounted to an illegal campaign contribution. Nelson says that’s hogwash from a failing campaign. “This is an untruthful false statement by a desperate politician who is losing and who tried to divert attention from the fact that he has profited off of public office in the eight years he’s been governor,” Nelson said.

Sierra Club opens ‘Scott’s House of horrors’” via Florida Politics — “Halloween is right around the corner, and, tbh, there’s some super scary stuff going on this year. Bomb threats, white nationalism, embattled midterm elections, and a new IPCC report that predicts climate catastrophe by 2040 if we don’t get our act together and transition to renewable energy ASAP,” the BuzzFeed quiz reads. After a primer on the challenges climate change is expected to bring to the Sunshine State, the Sierra Club takes aim at Scott, whom they said has “repeatedly denied the existence of human-caused climate change, and throughout his political career has been in cahoots with the fossil fuel industry.” The quiz takes the Halloween theme and runs with it, casting the Republican U.S. Senate candidate as everything from fortuneteller with a magical ability to deny climate change to a vampire “sucking Florida’s lifeblood with cuts to environmental protections.”

White Republican felons fare better when Scott restores voting rights” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — A new study by the Palm Beach Post found that Scott restored voting rights to a lower percentage of blacks and Democrats — and a higher percentage of whites and Republicans — than any Florida governor in the past half-century. In one case, Scott restored an ex-offender’s rights after telling the governor he’d previously voted for Scott … illegally. Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist restored rights to roughly equal numbers of whites and blacks. Under Scott, the Post found the proportions changed — to more than 2-to-1. While black men, for instance, accounted for 38 percent of all people released from prison, the Post found they accounted for only 16 percent of those for whom Scott restored rights. The full Florida Cabinet votes on restoration. But the governor must agree.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Assignment editors — U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders will headline a rally at the University of Central Florida “to encourage students and all Floridians to get engaged, vote and volunteer in the final stretch of the campaign.” That’s at 11 a.m., CFE Arena at UCF, 12777 Gemini Blvd. N, Orlando.

Matt Caldwell ads show ‘No Bull’ approach” via Florida Politics — Two new ads from GOP Agriculture Commissioner candidate Matt Caldwell emphasize the farm and grime aspects of the job — and also highlight the North Fort Myers’ sense of humor. One 30-second spot, titled “No Bull,” features Caldwell in a field with a bovine co-star, rattling off political clichés with down-home aplomb. A second spot released the same day includes highlights from his “#2LaneTravels” tour of the state. It’s titled “Dirty Jobs” and draws heavily from the reality show of the same name’s themes and style.

To view one of the ads, click on the image below:

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—“When Florida elects a CFO, it’s also choosing the state’s top arson investigator” via Andrew Pantazi of the Florida Times-Union

Marsy’s Law supporters launch final videos in campaign — Marsy’s Law for Florida released its final series of videos featuring crime victims, survivors and advocates who have shared their personal reasons for supporting Amendment 6/Marsy’s Law for Florida, a measure that would place a new set of specific crime victims’ rights in the state constitution. The crime victims and survivors appearing in these video series not only share their stories of how crime has forever altered their lives, but also describe ways in which they feel the criminal justice system has ignored them, left them without a voice and revictimized them. One video feature State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, who shares her perspective on how we can strengthen victims’ rights and protections in our state constitution without weakening or removing any of the rights currently afforded to those accused or convicted of a crime.

To view the video of Aleta Jarrett of Tallahassee, whose father and her brother were murdered, click on the image below:

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The view the video of Rundle, click on the image below:

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— MORE NOTES ON THE TRAIL —

Lauren Baer a ‘limousine liberal?’ GOP ad says yes” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is attempting to frame Democratic candidate Baer as a limousine liberal ahead of next week’s vote in Florida’s 18th Congressional District. The ad also hits a familiar note for the GOP, as it tries to tie Baer to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. The NRCC’s new ad is titled “Plans,” and argues Baer’s policies will hurt the everyday American. “We work harder,” the ad’s narrator begins, before transitioning to a mock-up of Pelosi and Baer riding together in a limousine. “Liberal politicians live better. Under Lauren Baer, the divide would grow. Lauren Baer and Nancy Pelosi would move us toward government-run health care, get rid of tax cuts for families, slice the child tax credit in half.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

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Assignment editors — TV personality Montel Williams and Democratic congressional candidate Mary Barzee Flores will join health care advocates “to call for an end to the GOP’s continued war on Floridians’ health care” as part of Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour, 11 a.m., Borinquen Health Care Center, 3601 Federal Highway, Miami.

NRCC ad argues Debbie Mucarsel-Powell will ‘threaten’ the environment” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The NRCC, which aims to elect Republicans to the U.S. House, hits what it calls Mucarsel-Powell’s shady ties to donors in its new ad titled “Threaten.” “What’s with Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and all these shady characters?” the ad’s narrator asks. “We know about her shady money from a Ukrainian militia leader accused of bribery, embezzlement and murder. But now we learn that her family profits off a company that repeatedly violates environmental laws, and her campaign is flooded with dirty coal money, the very polluters that threaten our way of life in the Keys. If Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is with them, she can’t be with us.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

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Republican Anthony Rodriguez accused of rental mismanagement in new ad” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Republican Rodriguez, a candidate in House District 118 and owner of Florida Advanced Properties, is being accused of neglect and mismanagement by two residents at a residential property in Kendall managed by his company. Those allegations come in the form of a new digital ad from the Florida Democratic Party, featuring those allegations. The 30-second spot includes testimony from Francisco Arbelaez, who has a mortgage for one of the units located at 15665 SW 82nd Circle Lane in Kendall. Arbelaez says Florida Advanced is responsible for collecting Arbelaez’ mortgage payments, which are made to U.S. Condo Association. He says he’s lived at the property since 2001. But following Hurricane Irma in 2017, Arbelaez says the property has not been given proper attention.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

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— A BILLION HERE … —

A new report from The Center for Responsive Politics estimates more the final spending tally for the 2018 election cycle will hit $5.2 billion nationwide, a $1 billion increase over the previous record when adjusted for inflation.

So far, $4.7 billion of that cash has already been spent. And unlike past cycles it’s Democrats, not Republicans, leading the way. The Center estimates Democratic candidate spending at more than $2.5 billion, putting them $300 million ahead of $2.2 billion spent by their GOP rivals.

The spending disparity is particularly wide in U.S. House races, where Dem candidates have raised $951 million thus far compared to Republican candidates’ to-date haul of $637 million. That extends to GOP-leaning seats, where most Democrats are keeping pace as well as “toss-ups,” where Republicans are getting blown out of the water.

The gulf is smaller in U.S. Senate races, where the split is $513 million to $361 million, advantage Democrats. Then again, there are 26 Senate Democrats up for re-election compared to just eight Republicans.

The source of the blue team’s edge? Women. The study found Dem campaigns have received a whopping $308 million in contributions from women, dwarfing the $90 million raised by their Republican counterparts.

Mega-donors are still making a mega impact, however, and most of their funds are heading to GOP pols. Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and fellow billionaire Richard Uihlein have anted up more than $150 million for R candidates, while the top Democratic donors this cycle, Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg, have spent $89 million. Bloomberg had previously pledged to plunk down $100 million this cycle.

—”Female candidates break barriers, except when it comes to money” of The New York Times

— AFTER MICHAEL —

Hurricane insured losses top $2 billion” via the News Service of Florida — As of Monday afternoon, 108,560 claims had been filed, with estimated insured losses at $2.034 billion. The largest number of claims, 77,239, involved residential property. By far, the largest number of claims were in Bay County, where 64,731 had been filed. Jackson County had the second-largest number of claims as of Monday afternoon, with 11,195. It was followed by Leon County, with 7,131 claims; Gulf County, with 6,281 claims; Gadsden County, with 4,497 claims; and Calhoun County, with 3,317 claims.

Election problems in the Panhandle may impact election results” via Niala Charles of CBS12.com — Hurricane Michael destroyed many of the election centers, and the area is still struggling to get back on its feet. “They lost their homes, and if your ballot was sitting on the kitchen table, you lost your ballot with it too,” Susan Bucher, the Supervisor of Elections in Palm Beach County. Bay, Gulf, and Jackson counties were hit the hardest, an area that holds almost 160,000 registered voters. Jackson County Supervisor of Elections Sylvia Stephens says turnout will be lower. “The first thing that’s on their minds is their homes, their safety, food, welfare, where they’re going to sleep,” she said.

Tourism marketing backed after hurricane, red tide” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — The VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors approved an $8.89 million marketing campaign intended to address the hurricane and red-tide issues and protect the state’s brand by stressing what is open across the state. The agency has been using Facebook to post videos of parts of the Panhandle that weren’t hammered by Hurricane Michael on Oct. 10 and plans a website will go live Thursday to provide information outlining what is open, said Staci Mellman, VISIT FLORIDA’s interim chief marketing officer. The site will also encourage visitors to try new areas. “If they like a certain kind of beach, maybe they might like something else,” Mellman said. The crisis-response campaign, which is something VISIT FLORIDA officials admit they have had to become experts at the past few years, will expand as counties still digging out from Michael are able to start welcoming visitors.

Utilities won’t pester disaster zone customers for payment — The Public Service Commission voted Tuesday to waive regular monthly billing while ratepayers recover from Hurricane Michael. The waivers apply to Duke Energy Florida’s 28,523 customers in Bay, Gulf, Franklin, and Wakulla counties, and to 13,000 Florida Public Utilities ratepayers in Jackson, Calhoun, and Liberty. The utilities will notify customers when willing resumes, and will work out payment arrangements when needed. “Because so many homes and businesses, as well as roads, have been damaged or destroyed, mail delivery has been suspended in many areas,” PSC Chairman Art Graham said. “Customers can now focus on recovery without worrying about their bill.”

Party held for homeless baby born in wake of hurricane” via The Associated Press — The family of a baby who spent his first night out of the hospital in a Walmart parking lot after Hurricane Michael just got a surprise baby shower. Wilmer Capps, his wife Lorrainda Smith and their baby Luke were surprised on Tuesday after they were told to show up at the Walmart for a hurricane recovery meeting. They were greeted with the best news they’ve had in a while: a year’s supply of diapers, a food voucher, and a cake with rubber duckies on it that said, “Walmart loves Luke.”

Tweet, tweet:

After Michael, where to celebrate Halloween in hard-hit towns” via Ashley White of the Tallahassee Democrat — Hurricane Michael has played a trick on some recovering small towns leaving debris as the scariest thing in front of most houses. Because of the dangers from lingering downed trees and power lines, door-to-door trick-or-treating is being discouraged. Instead, the festivities are being replaced with community events. The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office is encouraging trick-or-treating as normal. Apalachicola: Trunk-or-treat: 6-8 p.m., downtown Apalachicola, Avenue D from Main Street to Riverfront Park. Carrabelle: Lighthouse Reopening Party: Candy, free moonlight tower climbs, free Keeper’s House Museum tours. 6-9 p.m., Crooked River Lighthouse, 1975 US-98 W. Carrabelle Christian Center: Trunk-or-treat. 6:30 p.m., 142 River Rd, Carrabelle. First Baptist Church of Carrabelle: Trunk-or-treat, 6-8 p.m., 206 SE Avenue A.

— STATEWIDE —

State, business groups target local minimum wage” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office and major business groups urged the Florida Supreme Court this week to prevent the city of Miami Beach from moving forward with a local minimum wage. Bondi’s office and the business groups filed briefs arguing that the Supreme Court should uphold lower-court rulings that said a state law bars Miami Beach from gradually increasing its minimum wage to $13.31 an hour in 2021. The case also has drawn attention from local governments, which have sided with Miami Beach. The legal battle stems, in part, from a 2004 voter-approved constitutional amendment that gave Florida a higher minimum wage than the federal rate. Bondi’s office and the business groups argue that another state law — known as a pre-emption law — effectively requires Florida’s minimum wage to be the same throughout the state and blocks local governments from passing higher rates.

Consumer sentiment declines for third month in a row, but the economy is strong via the University of Florida — Consumer sentiment among Floridians fell three-tenths of a point to 97.8 from a revised figure of 98.1 in September. This is the third consecutive month with a decline in consumer sentiment in Florida. Of the five components that make up the index, three increased and two decreased. Floridians’ perceptions about current economic conditions were mixed. Perception of one’s personal financial situation now compared with a year ago dropped 3.9 points from 91.8 to 87.9, the greatest decline of any reading this month. The decline is shared by all socio-demographic groups except men and is strongest among women, plummeting 13.7 points.

Looking ahead: Florida TaxWatch publishes guide for ‘whoever’ wins gubernatorial election” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Whoever wins, the nonprofit state government watchdog is hoping to provide a helping hand. “We’re looking forward to helping him, and his team get a quick jump from the campaign to government,” TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro said. “The important thing is when the election is over, we can put aside those partisan differences, and we look first and foremost at how Florida is second to none.” The handbook, more than 60 pages long, provides a preview of the roles and responsibilities of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor, as well as a listing of “prominent issues facing Florida,” ranging from big-ticket items like public education spending to abstract but important policies like gaming and affordable housing.

Florida invests $3.5M to finish Everglades highway project” via The Associated Press — Gov. Scott announced the funding atop a new 2.6-mile (4-kilometer) span of the elevated Tamiami Trail. A 1-mile (1.5-kilometer) section was raised in 2013. The completed project will allow water to flow under nearly 6 miles (9.5 kilometers) of the highway into Everglades National Park. Scott also directed the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to request $40 million more in state money to complete the project.

Gov. Rick Scott announces a $3.5M investment to finish Everglades highway project.

Sexual harassment claim against Florida Senate allowed to continue” via Elizabeth Koh of the Tampa Bay Times — Rachel Perrin Rogers, a top aide to Sen. Wilton Simpson had alleged in a discrimination complaint filed against the Florida Legislature in January that she had been retaliated against once she filed a sexual harassment claim against former state Sen. Jack Latvala. The state Senate’s lawyers filed a motion to dismiss the complaint late last month, but this week, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission indicated her case would continue to proceed. The lawyers had argued that they had insufficient due process and that Perrin Rogers’ claim was insufficiently substantiated, which the court asserted did not meet the threshold for dismissal. The judge, Alexander Fernandez, also took issue with lawyers’ arguments that the “Florida Legislature,” which is named in the suit, is not technically her employer because the Senate is, though the Legislature is listed on Perrin Rogers’ pay stubs.

House seeks to defend medical marijuana law” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — House lawyers last week requested approval to help defend the law, which was designed to carry out a constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana. A Leon County circuit judge this month sided with a Tampa-based firm that contends the 2017 law did not properly follow the constitutional amendment, in part because the law capped the number of medical-marijuana licenses that can be issued. In a motion filed last week seeking to intervene in the case, House lawyers contended that the 2017 law was carefully crafted to carry out the voter-approved constitutional amendment and to comply with federal guidance about medical- marijuana issues. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, though it has been legalized for medicinal and recreational uses in various states.

Florida’s Stand Your Ground law is unconstitutional, Miami’s top prosecutor tells high court” via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — A South Florida organization of prosecutors that includes Miami-Dade State Attorney Fernandez Rundle is telling the Florida Supreme Court that the latest version of the state’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law is unconstitutional. The League of Prosecutors, in newly filed court documents, asked justices to strike down the law because it unlawfully forces state attorneys to try cases involving self-defense claims before a judge, not a jury. “There is nothing specialized or unique about this defense that the common juror cannot understand,” according to the brief. Fernandez Rundle, the longtime elected top prosecutor in Miami-Dade, also filed a brief joining in the effort — the first state attorney to break with Attorney General Pam Bondi, whose office is defending the broadened “Stand Your Ground” law passed by the Florida Legislature last year.

State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle is attacking Florida’s Stand Your Ground law.

Duke Energy cleared to drop contract with power plant — The termination agreement, approved Tuesday by the PSC, will save customers as much as $35 million. Duke has been buying power from the Ridge Generating Station in Auburndale since it began operating in 1994, and was to have continued doing so through 2023. However, the plant, which converts waste including scrap tires, into electricity, is no longer cost-effective, the commission concluded. Duke has ample supplies without the facility. “The good news is that this termination agreement saves Duke customers millions of dollars,” PSC Chairman Art Graham said.

Regulators OK Gulf Power plan to share tax savings with customers” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — Gulf Power Co. will return $9.6 million in its savings from the 2017 federal tax cuts under a deal the Public Service Commission approved Tuesday. The “flow-back,” effective Jan. 1, follows more than $103 million in tax savings the company already began returning to its ratepayers. The settlement followed negotiations between Gulf Power, the Office of Public Counsel, the Florida Retail Federation, the Florida Industrial Power Users Group (FIPUG), and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy over the arcana of the federal tax code. “The bottom line for the average customer is savings of about $32 per year that will begin in January,” Gulf Power President and CEO Stan Connally said in a written statement.

Florida A&M hires lobbyist Peter Harris to direct its medical marijuana projects” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — Harris is a 1990 graduate of Florida State University’s College of Law. He received his bachelor’s degree in 1987 from the University of Miami. Since 2011, Harris has been a consultant or senior policy adviser in Florida, mostly as owner of Peter Harris & Co., where he’s worked with local, state and federal agencies. Harris said his background includes advising “a leading national medical cannabis company on a variety of issues.” Other clients have included the Florida State Medical Association, the Florida Hospital Association and the Florida Pharmacy Association. He’s also advised the Florida Department of Health on issues such as smoking cessation and minority health issues, a connection that may be helpful in FAMU’s initiatives that are coordinated with the DOH.

TaxWatch says Halloween treats taxed trickily” via Florida Politics — Every year, Florida TaxWatch, the nonpartisan government watchdog, uses Halloween to demonstrate the state’s boggling rules on what gets taxed and what doesn’t. “Groceries are generally exempt from Florida sales tax, but candy can get confusing,” the group’s 2018 handout says. Most candy is subject to the 6 percent state sales tax (and any applicable local sales tax), as long as it costs at least 10 cents. “Seventeen states are like Florida and do not consider candy to be groceries and, therefore, tax it at the full rate,” TaxWatch says. But “it gets tricky.” Our favorite: Marshmallow-based candy is taxable, but marshmallows themselves are exempt. Also, “chocolate and glazed or sugarcoated fruit is taxable, but chocolate chips and glazed fruit are exempt when ‘advertised or normally sold for use in cooking or baking.’” Moreover, “all these treats can be covered in chocolate, candy, honey, or yogurt and remain tax-free.”

Florida teens makes Halloween capes for preemie superheroes” via The Associated Press — The babies in the neonatal intensive care unit at a Florida hospital may not remember their first Halloween. But they’ll have costumes, thanks to a 13-year-old middle schooler who made more 100 capes featuring emblems from Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman and The Incredibles. Rachel Maretsky tells the Orlando Sentinel it’s the second year she’s made the capes for babies at Winnie Palmer Hospital in Orlando, who she calls superheroes. She says she’s already gearing up to do the project again next year.

Tweet, tweet:

New 689 area code to debut in Central Florida next summer” via Marco Santana of the Orlando Sentinel — The Florida Public Service Commission announced on its website that it would start to roll out phone numbers with a 689 area code on June 4 in areas now served by 321 and 407. John Manning, senior director of the North American Numbering Plan Administration, which oversees forecasts of dates an area code will run out of numbers, said in a May 16 letter that 407 numbers would run out within 12 months. The 407 area code serves Orange, Osceola, Seminole, and parts of Lake and Volusia counties.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Robert Mueller investigators probe Roger Stone conference calls” via Drew FitzGerald and Shelby Holliday of The Wall Street Journal — Special Counsel Mueller’s investigators are examining comments by Stone — a longtime adviser to Trump — about WikiLeaks during a series of conference calls he hosted in 2016, according to a witness in the probe and another person familiar with the matter. In at least two August conference calls advertised online to the public and promoting himself as “the ultimate political insider,” Stone told callers about WikiLeaks’ plans to release information that he said would affect the 2016 presidential campaign before the election, according to people who listened to the sessions and recordings of one of the calls published online. Investigators have collected records and interviews related to the bi-weekly conference calls, according to the witness — Jason Sullivan, a social-media specialist who organized some of the conference calls on Stone’s behalf — and the person familiar with the matter.

Roger Stone is not dressed for Halloween.

Despite new law, Florida will still ‘fall back’ for end of Daylight Saving Time” via The Associated Press — The “Sunshine Protection Act” aimed to make Daylight Saving Time permanent in Florida, meaning those in the Sunshine State would no lon