Welcome to Brunch, Florida Politics’ pop-up email running through the end of the 2021 Legislative Session. With Easter right around the corner, things in Tally are hopping … and it’s the time for some sweet treats for those in the Capitol and kids in need.
Here are a few items to keep an eye out for today:
🏀 — FSU in Sweet 16: After defeating Colorado 71 to 53, the ‘Noles head to the Sweet 16 against Michigan Sunday at 5 p.m. The winner will then take on either UCLA or Alabama, a game to be decided at 7:15 p.m.
👍🏼👎🏼 — Winners and losers: Want to know who’s cleaning up and who’s washing out? Check out Joe Henderson’s weekly roundup of winners and losers in Florida politics. This week’s edition tackles A+ journalism … and broke mainstream media. Click here to read more.
🐛🌕 — Worm moon or super moon?: The moon will become full late Sunday afternoon just before it hits the horizon at 7:44 p.m. It’ll definitely be a worm moon, named such because it marks when worms reveal themselves in northern states as snow thaws. But some purists stop short of calling it a super moon because it’s near its closest approach to earth, but not at it (that happens in May). Either way, with dry, clear skies, take a look and enjoy the view.
— Rosemary O’Hara’s farewell: After 44 years in the business, O’Hara is signing off as the South Florida Sun Sentinel’s editor of editorials. She reminisces on the joys, and challenges, of working in journalism, and particularly the animosity that comes from having your name associated with an editorial board that picks winners and losers. Read her farewell here.
— Where those vaccines at?: The Washington Post compiled data from across the country to create a map showing where vaccines have been doled out en masse, and where they haven’t. The map shows Florida ahead of some states, but behind others, with missing data from some big ones like Texas, Virginia, Georgia and Colorado. See where your area fares here.
Ed. Note — Brunch will be taking next Sunday off to celebrate Easter. We will return the following week. May you all have a blessed Easter.
— DeSantis ramps up for reelection —
With the midpoint of Session nearing, Gov. Ron DeSantis is revving his 2022 reelection effort, hiring former Republican Governors Association (RGA) Executive Director Phil Cox as a senior adviser. That’s according to a POLITICO report over the weekend.
— Another tight race? DeSantis won the 2018 Governor’s race narrowly in a race that required a recount. A Recent St. Pete Polls survey put him neck-and-neck with Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who’s widely considered a front-runner for the Democratic nomination.
— Been here before: Cox helped Bob McDonnell win the 2009 Governor’s race in Virginia before beginning his tenure with the RGA. He also helped run a PAC in 2016 in support of GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie. That’s experience that could help Cox and DeSantis if the latter decides to mount a 2024 presidential run.
— “Excellent addition”: “Phil is an incredibly talented and trusted operative who has played a key role in dozens of successful gubernatorial campaigns over the last decade,” said RGA Executive Director Dave Rexrode in a statement to POLITICO. “Gov. DeSantis is well-positioned heading into his reelection campaign, and Phil is an excellent addition to his operation.”
— Democrats prepare for 2022 —
Want to get involved with the Democratic Party’s organizing efforts? Fried is teaming up with the National Democratic Training Committee (NDTC) to help build up the Democrats’ bench ahead of the midterm cycle.
— Executive Committees: The NDTC — a group aimed at strengthening Democratic Party infrastructure — is running one training per week for four weeks aiming to beef up local Democratic Executive Committees (DEC). Fried is helping to promote those organizational sessions as she mulls a 2022 run for Governor.
— From the ground up: “Organizing has historically been the Democratic Party’s strong suit — and after Florida’s 2020 election results, it’s clear that an initiative to strengthen party efforts from the ground up, prioritizing the local level, will be crucial for future success,” Fried said. “Local party committees are closest to their communities, and if we want to advance as Democrats in the Sunshine State, we must put them in a position to prevail.”
— Starting soon: The first training program, focusing on the role of a Democratic precinct committeeperson, will be held virtually Saturday, April 10 at 10 a.m. Each subsequent session will also be held at 10 a.m. on a Saturday. Those future dates are April 17, April 24 and May 1.
Individuals can find more information on the NDTC’s website. “When our local party infrastructure is organized, we get more people involved, recruit more candidates and ultimately win more races,” added Kelly Dietrich, the group’s founder and CEO.
— Play by the rules —
Sen. Jeff Brandes stood up against his Republican colleagues this week, arguing against what he saw as a departure from rules that could have bypassed some of the legislative democratic process.
— The issue: The Senate Rules Committee on Thursday voted to take up a noncontroversial bill that had stalled in the Senate.
— The concern: By taking up the House version of that bill, it could set a precedent for controversial bills, like the anti-riot bill (HB 1) or THC caps (HB 1455). By taking up a House Bill in a Senate committee, it bypasses a typical process that would require the bill to pass on the full Senate floor by unanimous consent, which the controversial bills would not receive, or by waiving the rules, which requires a 2/3 vote.
— The consequence: So far, the Senate has not taken up either controversial bill. The THC cap proposal, which Brandes opposes, hasn’t been scheduled in its first committee of reference, one that Brandes chairs. The anti-riot legislation is stalled in a committee chaired by Sen. Jason Pizzo.
— Brandes fights back: “You begin to violate the spirit of the rule if you begin to send House Bills that are with a similarly situated Senate Bill to other committees in order to monkey around with the vote,” he said, noting the precedent set could allow bills to be sent to unrelated committees where “it’s not chaired by the member who disagrees with that policy.”
The bottom line, Brandes said, is that he is looking out for simply following the rules and ensuring issues get a fair legislative process. While his fight aligns with Democrats, he said that’s not his intent; it is rather to ensure newer members who aren’t seasoned with The Process aren’t put into a position to bend the rules.
— Mixed signals —
While the House has motored Gov. DeSantis’ prized anti-riot bill (HB 1) through committees and onto the Republican-controlled floor, the Senate, notably, has yet to move an inch.
— The agenda: The Senate version of the bill (SB 484) is slated to appear before three committees, including the Criminal Justice Committee. The bill, however, remains off the Criminal Justice Committee’s final meeting agenda.
— Worst case scenario: The Senate’s inaction may spur concern among some proponents that the bill may be dead on arrival. Those who oppose it worry it could get rammed through in a rules dispute. Sen. Brandes argued this week against the rules to add an unrelated bill cleared in the House to a committee agenda, bypassing a procedure that would require a ⅔ vote on the Senate floor. That spurred Democrats to worry that could happen with the riot bill.
— No reassuring words: Speaking Friday to reporters, House Speaker Chris Sprowls opted not to speculate.
— The quote: “Well, look,” Sprowls said. “I’ll let the Senate talk about their process.”
The House bill, sponsored by Rep. Juan Fernandez-Barquin, passed along a party-line vote Friday after an hourslong marathon meeting.
— Good dogs —
Liking dogs appears to be a bipartisan issue, as legislation to allow EMS treatment and transport for police K-9s winds its way through both chambers. Sen. Tom Wright and Rep. Sam Killebrew are sponsoring the bills in their respective chambers.
— Medics allowed: Under the legislation, EMS vehicles are allowed to transport police K-9s injured in the line of duty to a veterinary clinic or emergency room as long as no person requires medical attention or transport when the K-9 needs it. The new law would also allow paramedics to provide medical care to an injured police K-9 at the scene of an emergency or while the K-9 is being transported.
— A dangerous job: Wright is a former volunteer police K-9 officer. “In recent years, we have had multiple K-9s assassinated in our state just because they were wearing a badge,” Wright said. “This bill is intended to take a proactive approach to save the lives of these officers.”
— No ‘no’ votes: Not a single lawmaker has voted against the bill in any committee stop so far. Last year, a similar bill never made it out of the committee stage. The Senate bill (SB 388) is ready for the floor. The House bill (HB 697) is headed to its last committee stop, Health and Human Services.
Police dogs have a powerful lobby. The Florida Police Chief Association, the Office of the Attorney General, the Humane Society and the Animal Legal Defense Fund have spoken in support of the bills.
— Retail remembrance —
When the Senate passed legislation to collect sales tax on e-commerce, Sen. Joe Gruters in an amendment called for the legislation to be named for Randy Miller, past president of the Florida Retail Federation who died last year from COVID-19.
— Word-of-mouth: “His work was instrumental in helping Main Street Businesses,” said Gruters, who previously worked with Miller on the issue. It wasn’t the Senator who came up with the idea, and Gruters notes the Florida Chamber of Commerce proposed the move on Twitter. Groups like Florida TaxWatch support the gesture. So did Senate President Wilton Simpson.
— Company loyalty: Colleagues at FRF appreciate it. “Randy Miller was an ardent advocate for Florida’s retail industry and one of Florida’s foremost experts on tax policy,” said Federation CEO Scott Shalley. “Naming the legislation in his honor is a most appropriate tribute to him and his legacy to our state.”
Miller’s family was in the gallery as the bill passed. “Dad firmly believed in legislation benefiting all Floridians, and he wanted to be the voice for those without one,” daughter Holly Miller Moore said. “My mom and I are beyond grateful to Chairman Joe Gruters for naming this act in his honor. It was so special for me to watch this tribute and passage of the bill, made possible by President Wilton Simpson.”
— Candy rain —
Sen. Aaron Bean is again giving out chocolate bars, a tradition for the Fernandina Beach Republican that pandemic precautions can’t stop, or really contain.
— Lotta chocolate: Bean tells us that in the last week, the Bean Team “delivered over 500 candy bars to Representatives, Senators and team members throughout the Senate who work together to make the Legislative Session a success each year. We ran out of candy bars, but we will scour local Walmart’s and will do another 150.” (Yes, even the press corps will be on the candy bar list.)
— Bernie Bro: Bean adopted the Bernie Sanders in mittens theme this year, but he’s not embracing Democratic Socialism or moving to Vermont, he says. “We tend to look for a current, popular theme each year that people will find humorous and bring a smile to their face. Past themes have included Dancing with the Stars, Bob Ross, Game of Thrones, Magnum P.I. and bodybuilders. Other themes considered for this year were Tiger King or something related to a Zoom meeting.
— 17 years and counting: There have been a lot of themes in the past, Bean notes, with 8,000 distributed since 2004. Bean is termed out of office in 2022, and it remains to be seen if his successor will keep the sweet tradition going.
— Billboard battle —
Negotiations hit a boiling point in Tallahassee this week after the Big Bend Police Benevolent Association sponsored several billboards attacking the city of Tallahassee.
— Lead up: The billboards come as the Tallahassee Police Union and Tallahassee city officials remain entrenched in a contract dispute.
— Fine Print: Thinking of sending your child to college in Tallahassee? “Think again,” the billboards exclaim. “Tallahassee is the 5th most dangerous city in Florida. Murders are the highest they’ve been in years.”
— The irony: The same billboard also displays a city-bought sign thanking the Tallahassee Police Department.
— A sad truth: 2020 was, indeed, a record year for homicides in Tallahassee.
The Tallahassee Democrat has more on the story.
— The latest on TallyMadness —
TallyMadness Round 3 is almost over. At midnight tonight, only eight lobbyists will remain in the March Madness-style competition to decide who is the “best” lobbyist in Florida.
— More than 75,000 votes have been cast since the competition began a little week over a week ago. There have been a few blowouts, but quite a few nail-biters as well.
— One of the closest matches this round is between UF/IFAS lobbyist Mary Ann Hooks and Duke Energy lobbyist Chris Flack. Hooks has proved she can win close games — a couple of points decided her Round 2 match. Flack, however, has been racking up votes all tournament and is fresh off an 81-19 rout.
— Another tossup is going on between Florida Realtors lobbyist Danielle Scoggins and Stephanie Kopelousos of the Governor’s Office. Both have notched big wins. Scoggins knocked out Skylar Zander and David Mica Jr., while Kopelousos bested David Pizzi and Stephanie Smith.
Fill out your brackets before the clock hits triple zeros Sunday night at midnight. The Elite Eight set will be announced in Monday’s Sunburn.
— Easter joy for underserved kids —
More than 150 children in the Tallahassee area will receive custom Easter baskets this holiday season, thanks to a charity initiative from lobbyist Macy Harper.
— The origin: Harper said she initially set a goal of 100 baskets by Easter. But she sailed past that goal in more than enough time, collecting 153 in total for kids in need.
— Handcrafted: Harper originally envisioned individuals and families all making the baskets by hand. “I wanted it to be a community project,” she said. But that plan soon changed.
— Sponsored option: “During this time of the year, unfortunately, a lot of people don’t have time to physically make baskets,” Harper added. “And it’s really hectic even coordinating that with Session.” She eventually offered an option for donors to send $15 to have a basket made. Harper said she ended with about a 50/50 split between sponsored baskets and personally-made baskets.
Living room goals. pic.twitter.com/6OmleqmRkc
— Macy Harper (@macyharperfla) March 21, 2021
— Diverse donors: Harper says a variety of people stepped forward to help out, including House candidates, two big fundraisers, and multiple lobbyists. Even our own Peter Schorsch and Jason Delgado contributed baskets.
— Where to? Those baskets will head to several groups, including the Hang Tough Foundation serving children with special needs or kids with serious illnesses and the Downtown Community Church, whose HOPE Program matches mentors with socioeconomically disadvantaged kids. Other baskets will ship to Boys Town for foster children, with the remainder going to kids in the guardian ad litem program and students attending Title 1 Schools.
Harper serves as a guardian ad litem for the 2nd Judicial Circuit and a mentor for kids attending Title 1 schools in Leon County. That’s in addition to her day job as a blockchain lobbyist.
— Fried & Chong —
Tommy Chong will have a new, high-ranking partner next week, as he and Fried will both appear at a Florida Hemp Association virtual event.
— Hempcon: The 2021 Florida Virtual Hemp Conference, or “Hempcon,” will run April 9 with a webcast live from Tallahassee. Those seeking to pay for a slot to listen to the virtual conference can register here.
— High time: As a performer, Chong has been a longtime advocate for the benefits of cannabis. As an elected official, Fried has also pushed the state to be more cannabis and hemp-friendly. Sadly, the two will not take the stage at the same time, putting their long-awaited comedy album on hold yet again.
— Other officials: Fried isn’t the only government official lighting up viewers’ screens next Friday. Bill Richmond, the hemp program chief at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will also appear. Holly Bell, who serves as the director of cannabis under Fried at the Florida Agriculture Department, will also speak Friday morning.
The event runs from 8:15 a.m.-5:10 p.m., so those looking to view the entire event and full slate of speakers should grab some munchies and find a comfortable spot on the couch before logging in.
— Brunching out —
Easter brunch looks like it will be a special occasion meal once again this year. As restaurants aim to gain ground and more people get their COVID-19 vaccines, a feeling of renewed optimism is leading lots of restaurants to open their doors on Sunday, April 4.
— Lots of choices: Your options range from lavish, dine-in experiences to outdoor settings to takeout options. Check to see what’s available at your favorite choice, and if reservations are necessary, you’ll want to hop to it.
Easter Brunch destinations
— Aaru’s: This multicultural restaurant offers a traditional Indian thali platter, which brings an array of food and sauces in small bowls, served dine-in only. 11:15 a.m.-2:30 p.m. 1108 S. Magnolia Dr.; 850-350-0129
— Andrews Downtown: With a large outdoor patio space, Andrews will be offering an a la carte menu instead of a buffet with items like bananas Foster French toast, shrimp and grits, omelets, sandwiches and salads. Brunch 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. 228 S. Adams St.; 850-224-3444.
— Blu Halo: The upscale restaurant is presenting a special holiday menu that includes Easter ham, prime rib, vanilla bean Belgian waffle and lamb kebabs along with appetizers and brunch cocktails. A kids’ menu will also be available. Brunch 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday. Bannerman Crossings, 3431 Bannerman Road; 850-999-1696.
— Canopy Road: Pancakes, omelets, French toast and skillets are among the numerous options at this breakfast/lunch spot. Multiple locations (some with outdoor seating). Hours 6:30 a.m.-2:15 p.m.
— Chuck’s Fish: The Sunday brunch menu at the downtown restaurant features steak and eggs, crabcake Benedict, caramel apple beignets and blackened shrimp and grits. Sunday brunch is 10 a.m.-3 p.m. 224 E. College Ave.; 850-597-7506.
— Coosh’s Bayou Rouge: The Northeast branch offers an Easter buffet, with precautions in place, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Call for reservations. Coosh’s will also be offering family meals that include one entree, two sides and one dessert. Place your order by March 31 for pick up on April 3. 6267 Old Water Oak Rd.; 850-894-4110.
— The Edison: Overlooking Cascades Park, The Edison offers an Easter menu with items like a veggie scramble, Southern breakfast and biscuits and gravy, along with a kids’ menu. Open 10 a.m.-2:45 p.m. for brunch; outdoor dining. 470 Suwannee Street; 850-765-9771.
— The Egg Cafe and Eatery: Bayou cakes, croque madame and Bradley’s grit skillet are among the extensive menu choices, along with brunch cocktails. Outdoor seating available. Sunday brunch 7 a.m.-2 p.m. at 740 Austin Davis Dr., 850-765-0703; 8 a.m.-2 p.m. at 300 S. Duval Street; 850-907-3447.
— Grove Market Cafe: David and Elizabeth Gwynn, also the owners of Cypress Restaurant and Vertigo, offer a varied menu with pancakes, omelets, breakfast bowls, sandwiches, burgers, entrees and mimosas. 8 a.m.-2 p.m. daily, with a large patio area. 1370 Market Street; 850-894-5060.
— Horizons Bar and Grille: Look for brunch classics like chicken and waffles, stuffed French toast and biscuits and gravy, as well as charcuterie and a grouper sandwich; breakfast cocktails; shaded outdoor patio. Brunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Bannerman Crossings, 3427 Bannerman Road, Suite 104; 850-329-2371.
— Il Lusso: The Italian steakhouse will present a three-course, prix fixe Easter Brunch menu for $41.50 per person. Options include a blue crab bruschetta, lemon ricotta pancakes, a Spring vegetable frittata, half-pound Wagyu beef burger and ricotta cheesecake. Hours: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. It’s $15 for all-you-can-drink mimosas and Bloody Marys. Outdoor patio. Reservations necessary. 201 E. Park Ave.; 850-765-8620.
— Jeri’s Midtown Cafe: French toast and breakfast specials and pressed sandwiches are on the menu; with courtyard tables. Sunday brunch 10 a.m.-3 p.m. You can order side dishes and treats for your at-home meal. Pickup 3-7 p.m. April 3. 1123 Thomasville Road; 850-385-7268.
— Kool Beanz Cafe: The menu often changes at this Tallahassee institution, but look for dishes like pan-fried grouper, mojo-spiced chicken, or country-fried strip steak. Sunday brunch 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. 921 Thomasville Rd.; 850-224-2466.
— Little Paris: Experience a French-style Easter celebration for dining in (or outdoors) or get brunch to go. The three-course meal is $42 per person, featuring asparagus and prosciutto, lamb chops with baked potato and Brussels sprouts, and le nid de pâques (Easter nest cake) for dessert. Easter brunch 11 a.m.-4 p.m. 1355 Market St.; 850-765-7457.
— Lofty Pursuits: Waffles, pancakes, corned beef and hash and grit bowls — and ice cream — are some of the choices on the breakfast menu (along with homemade candy). Patio dining, takeout options. Open Sunday 8 a.m.-8 p.m. 1355 Market St., A11; 850-521-0091.
— Lucilla: The menu features upscale American comfort food with fun flourishes. Check the website for the Easter menu, coming soon. Open 11 a.m.-2 p.m. for Sunday brunch. 1241 E. Lafayette St.; 850-900-5117.
— Railroad Square Craft House: Chicken and pancakes, chorizo burrito and French toast are on the brunch lineup with classic cocktails and whimsical twists like the strawberry shortcake mimosa. Sprawling outdoor patio. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. brunch Sunday. 644 McDonnell Dr.; 850-296-3496.
— Sage: The brunch menu brings items like chicken and mushroom crepes, Gulf blue crabcakes Benedict, Dutch Baby with several appetizers and sides; outdoor seating. Sunday brunch 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. 3534 Maclay Blvd. S.; 850-270-9396.
— Table 23: Steak and eggs, Benedicts, bagels and lox, shrimp and grits and sandwiches are available for brunch with mimosas and bloody Marys and a cocktail menu; covered outdoor patio. Sunday brunch 10 a.m.-2 p.m. 1233 Thomasville Road; 850-329-2261.
— Tally Fish House & Oyster Bar: Salmon frittata, blackened grouper ‘n grits and stuffed French toast are on the menu with cocktails; covered outdoor patio. Sunday brunch 10 a.m.-3 p.m. 6800 Thomasville Road; 850-900-5075.
— Uptown Cafe: Apricot-glazed smoked salmon, smoked on-premises, is one of the star attractions for dining in or takeout. Pancakes, omelets and other traditional breakfast fare; outdoor seating. Brunch 7 a.m.-3 p.m. 1325 Miccosukee Rd.; 850-219-9800.
— World of Beer: Yes, you can have brunch at the World of Beer. Options include the hangover skillet, huevos rancheros and sweet cream pancakes plus plenty of spirits. Outdoor space available. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. 830 E. Lafayette St.; 850-901-9001.
Easter brunch takeout
— Blue Turkey: For an enticing twist on your Easter meal, order “Brunch in a Turkish Village,” an authentic Turkish feast prepared by chef Dondu Dogru. Order in advance on the restaurant website, blueturkeyrestaurant.com and pick up your meal between 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on Sunday inside KitchenShare, Frenchtown Heritage Hub, 524 N. Martin Luther King Blvd.
Via Rochelle Koff of Tallahassee Table.