Here’s Brunch, a pop-up, weekend email during the 2022 Legislative Session — 1.16.22

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Your Sunday buffet of Florida politics, food, culture & more.

Welcome to Brunch,

Good morning from Las Vegas, where Michelle and I are celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary.

This is the first edition of Brunch for the 2022 Legislative Session. This newsletter will come to you each Sunday for the next two months so that you have something to read while you’re enjoying your eggs Benedict and bloody marys.

Thank you to contributors Jason Delgado, Ryan Nicol, and Drew Wilson for helping produce this edition, as well as Rochelle Koff, who provides the content for the food section at the bottom.

The Buccaneers host the Eagles at 1 p.m. Tom Brady and Co. are favored by eight and a half points, according to the BetMGM Sportsbook. I think the Bucs will win, but in a closer fashion than one might think.

Tom Brady will likely win, but it will be closer than expected.

We’ll be watching the game as part of our second honeymoon. Sunburn is off Monday in observance of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.

Speaking of football, here’s a pigskin-related SPOTTED — At the Hula Bowl in Orlando: Gov. Ron DeSantis, Marcus Allen, Lou Holtz, Wade Phillips, Mike Smith, Ballard Partners’ Adrian Lukis, Brad Burleson, Brady Benford, Courtney Coppola, Jordan Elsbury, Mat Forrest, Bridget and Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco.

Here’s what we’re serving up for Brunch …

— Floridians bullish on future —

Florida is on the right track, according to fresh poll numbers released by the Florida Chamber of Commerce. The statewide poll found that 50% of Florida voters believe the state is headed in the right direction, while nearly three-quarters say the country is on the wrong track.

— The takeaway: According to Florida Chamber President and CEO Mark Wilson: “If Florida was a stock, I would buy as much as I can afford.”

Mark Wilson is bullish on Florida’s economy in 2022.

— Advantage, GOP: The Chamber also highlighted updated voter registrations stats, which show Republicans continue to outpace Democrats in new registrations, though new NPA registrations outpaced voter registrations for either major party last year.

— More tourism, please: Floridians support funding VISIT FLORIDA by a 2-to-1 margin, with 64% in favor of keeping the tourism marketing arm around and 30% wanting to pull the plug. Republicans were most supportive (73%-22%), followed by NPAs (64%-30%) and Democrats (57%-38%).

— What’cha thinkin’ bout? VISIT FLORIDA isn’t what voters think about when trying to sleep at night. For men, Republicans and NPAs, jobs and the economy are the top issues; for women and Democrats, it’s COVID-19.

— Election outlook —

The Chamber also looked at the 2022 election cycle, as well as one major issue sure to poke its head out once the election heats up.

— Who’s the boss? All 160 state legislative seats, 28 congressional seats and a U.S. Senate seat will be on the ballot this year, but all eyes are trained on the Governor race. As of now, Gov. DeSantis is the double-digit favorite. He’d beat U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist or Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried by 12 points in a head-to-head. His advantage grows to 16 points if Sen. Annette Taddeo is the nominee.

Charlie Crist, Nikki Fried and Annette Taddeo are in the spotlight — for now.

— Survey of Comparative Politics 101: The Chamber also measured voters’ opinions on capitalism and socialism, asking which “was more likely to produce a society where everyone has an equal opportunity for success.” Capitalism won the duel 63%-23%. However, socialism is no mere specter in some pockets — 59% of voters in the Tallahassee media market view it favorably and, statewide, 47% of voters under 40 said they like capitalism and socialism about the same.

— The fine print: The poll was conducted Dec. 31-Jan. 10 by Cherry Communications during live telephone interviews of likely voters. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4%. The sample size included 240 Democrats, 245 Republicans, and 120 Others, for 605 respondents statewide.

— Burgeoning Trump-DeSantis battle? —

American Bridge, a pro-Democratic group, is looking to ramp up the fight between Gov. DeSantis and former President Donald Trump over Trump’s COVID-19 policies.

— Punch: In a Tuesday talk with OANN, Trump seemingly targeted DeSantis — without mentioning his name — for dodging questions about whether he’s gotten a booster shot. “I watched a couple of politicians be interviewed, and one of the questions was, ‘Did you get the booster?’ — because they had the vaccine — and they’re answering like — in other words, the answer is ‘yes’ but they don’t want to say it. Because they’re gutless,” Trump said.

Democrats are relishing the prospect of a Donald Trump/Ron DeSantis feud.

— Counterpunch: DeSantis indirectly responded — again without mentioning his potential 2024 presidential opponent — on the right-leaning Ruthless podcast by criticizing Trump’s COVID-19 lockdowns. “I was telling Trump, ‘Stop the flights from China,’ because we didn’t know what we were dealing with. But, you know, I never thought in February, early March, that it would lead to locking down the country. I just didn’t.”

— Looking back: DeSantis said he wishes he would’ve been more vocal in criticizing the move. “No one was talking about shutting down the country. And I think knowing now what I knew then, if that was a threat earlier, I would’ve been much louder about, you know, trying to say, ‘This is not,'” DeSantis added before cutting off abruptly and swapping to criticism of Anthony Fauci.

— Raising attention: American Bridge is now looking to highlight discord between the two as DeSantis seeks a second term as Governor and weighs a run for President. “Soon, DeSantis is going to have to make a decision — fully kiss the ring, or separate himself and infuriate Donald Trump even further,” said American Bridge 21st Century spokesperson Alexandra De Luca. “It seems like he’s choosing the latter. Let’s see how that plays out for him in 2024.”

— Red Dog Blue Dog returns —

After a year off because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a Session favorite is scratching at the back door. Celebrity bartenders compete in Red Dog Blue Dog, what’s usually an annual fundraiser benefiting local animal rescue organizations.

— The bartenders: Representing the Red team will be Sens. Aaron Bean, Jason Brodeur and Joe Gruters, along with Rep. Demi Busatta-Cabrera. On the Blue team are Sens. Shevrin Jones and Jason Pizzo, plus Reps. Mike Grieco and Michele Rayner-Goolsby. Whichever team earns the most tips wins.

Will Shev Jones be given a handicap for the Red Dog Blue Dog charity competition? Image via Instagram.

— An Aaron Bean twist: Bean is never one to miss a good auctioneering opportunity. This year, he’s been asked to auction off a couple of secret prizes. “That means our team’s going to win,” Bean said.

— Puppy love: “After a hiatus last year, we are thrilled to bring back this event,” said RDBD’s Sara Clements. “You get to cheer on your team, hang out with some cute pups, and have legislators serve you drinks — all while raising money for a great cause. What’s not to love?”

— Foster home: For the first time ever, Red Dog Blue Dog has a presenting sponsor. The honor comes from Rubin, Turnbull, and Associates.

Save the puppy playdate: RDBD’s triumphant return will take place on Jan. 25 at Township in Tallahassee’s College Town. The event runs from 6 p.m. till 9 p.m.

— Lawmakers sweet on new state dessert —

The sweetest bill of this year’s Legislative Session cleared its first committee Wednesday, bringing strawberry shortcake one step closer to becoming the state’s official dessert.

— Designated dessert: The bill, filed by Dover Republican Rep. Lawrence McClure, officially names strawberry shortcake as the state’s primo dessert. McClure hopes the measure will promote the vital role that Florida-grown strawberries play in the state’s economy. Sen. Danny Burgess filed an identical bill.

— Delectable dollars: “The Florida strawberry is our economic driver, almost a billion-dollar economic impact,” McClure said. “So, this bill is really meant to bring some fun attention to what drives our economy.”

— Key lime pie problem: While McClure claimed he “isn’t trying to take the ‘Key lime-light’ away from the official state pie,” some fans of the citrus delight raised questions at the House Public Integrity and Elections Committee. Yes, it’s known as the PIE committee. “As a fan of Key lime pie, I have a little concern that this would prioritize it as a state dessert,” said Rep. Erin Grall, who suggested that perhaps the bill be altered to designate the sweet as state cake instead of dessert.

According to an analysis of the legislation, Florida’s strawberry industry is the second-largest producing region in the U.S. and the top region for the nation’s winter supply. Plant City is known as the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World.

— The flock is growing —

Sen. Jeff Brandes is all in on getting the mockingbird removed as the state bird of Florida. And the St. Petersburg Republican says the flock of lawmakers who support his resolution to rescind the mockingbird’s special designation (SCR 324) is growing.

— El Partido Flamenco: It’s becoming a bipartisan coalition. From across the aisle, Miami-Dade Democratic Sen. Jason Pizzo this week sent Brandes his suggestion for a new state bird — in the form of a pink flamingo statue.

— Ill eagle decorations: Pizzo tried to place the statue at Brandes’ desk for the opening day of Session. He also tried to bring his own Ted Lasso cutout onto the floor, but apparently, the decorations would’ve violated Senate rules.

— Here to roost: Brandes says the flamingo statue will be prominently displayed outside his Capitol office every day until the end of Session. Even if the bill passes.

Ruffling feathers: Brandes says he’ll personally oversee the Rotunda’s remodeling. “The mockingbird comes off the Rotunda once the bill gets passed. With a ladder and a chisel,” Brandes said.

Is Jason Pizzo trolling Jeff Brandes with flamingos?

— House Victory team expands —

Rep. Ramon Alexander has brought on a new executive director at House Victory. After learning the political ropes in North Carolina and Virginia, Drew Shannon is returning to his native Florida.

— The resume: Shannon managed the 2021 re-election campaign of Virginia Delaware Elizabeth Guzman. He was also the field director for the North Carolina Democratic House Caucus in the 2020 cycle. In the 2018 cycle, he worked in Florida.

— First week in town: Shannon started as executive director on Jan. 3, but last week marked his first week in Tallahassee.

Campaign veteran Drew Shannon is coming to Florida.

— Sine die: Come March 11, the last day of Session, Shannon said House Victory plans to hit the ground running.

— An outdoorsman: Shannon says he grew up fishing and being outdoors. Seeing the scale of environmental issues, like red tide and dying reefs, grow in his lifetime has been jarring.

Learning curve: Will he have to relearn Florida issues? “Every state moves fast,” Shannon said. “I grew up in Palm Beach. I don’t think it’s too difficult to catch back up.”

— Jessica Cary joins Sachs —

Sachs Media has hired Cary to serve as an account manager. According to a release, she will be “overseeing client work in sectors that include health care, higher education and government.”

— Departing FDLE: Cary spent just over five years with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, working as a communications coordinator. She has decades of experience in PR and communications, with stints at the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Agency for Health Care Administration and elsewhere.

PR pro Jessica Cary is the newest on Team Sachs.

— Welcome to the team: “At a time when many organizations are facing a fluid and challenging business environment, we’re pleased that our growth and stability provide the opportunity to add such a versatile and strong colleague to our outstanding team,” said Sachs’ founder and CEO Ron Sachs. “Jessica’s wide-ranging expertise in strategic communications will bolster our capacity to deliver exceptional results for our clients.”

— Portfolio: Cary’s work will cover various sectors, including health care, higher education and government, according to the firm.

— K9s for vets —

K9s For Warriors, a group that provides service dogs to military veterans in need, is backing legislation from Sen. Travis Hutson and Rep. Sam Garrison to help complete a training facility for those pups in Ponte Vedra. On Wednesday, Hutson and Garrison will hold a news conference boosting the measure

— Who: Hutson, Garrison, K9s For Warriors CEO Rory Diamond, and three military veterans with service dogs will attend the presser.

Travis Hutson and Rep. Sam Garrison are going to the dogs.

— What: The group will discuss how the Ponte Vedra facility will enable more veterans to overcome PTSD, brain injuries, and sexual trauma by using a service dog. The measures look to provide funding to ensure the center is completed.

— When: The news conference will take place Wednesday, Jan. 19 at 2:45 p.m., with the press asked to arrive by 2:30 p.m.

— Where: 4th Floor Rotunda at the Florida Capitol.

The K9s For Warriors facility will house “more than 150 kennels, full veterinary clinic, indoor training facility, and K-9 enrichment areas.” The group hopes the facility in Ponte Vedra, where K9s For Warriors is headquartered, will shorten the waitlist for service dogs by up to two years.

— Inflation strikes the Capitol —

Floridians know prices are up, but that increase will soon be felt in the halls of the state Capitol building.

— Earley’s announcement: The favorite meal spot announced impending price increases that will take place as lawmakers, lobbyists and others gather for the 2022 Legislative Session.

Earley’s Kitchen is feeling the pinch.

— The bad news: “Due to the rising costs of goods and services, Earley’s Kitchen will be implementing pricing increases effective Monday, Jan. 24, 2022.”

That’s a blow for those looking to cool down after a heated committee meeting or floor debate for a meal or dessert. Earley’s won a five-year contract to provide food services at the Capitol in 2019.

— Jacked-up Foot Caucus —

There’s a new caucus in town, and they’re hobbling through the halls of the Florida Capitol Complex.

— Tell me more: Led by Democratic Sen. Shervin Jones and James McFaddin of The Southern Group, the two-man band is united by a shared plight they discovered last week: a “jacked-up foot,” said McFadden.

— The Backstory: McFadden, with a broken foot, and Jones, with Plantar Fasciitis, both wore boots during the opening week of the 2022 Legislative Session. The pair noticed each other’s braces during an impromptu meeting at the Senator’s Office.

— The details: “After a good laugh at each other and lamenting our stories of how we hurt ourselves, we snapped a picture and joked about starting the jacked-up foot caucus,” McFaddin said.

— Million-dollar question: Will the injury impact your legislative performance? “I can kick ass just a tad bit better now,” Jones told Florida Politics.

— Brunching Out —

Sunrise or sunset, Eve on Adams offers stunning views of Tallahassee from its 17th story perch above the Hilton’s DoubleTree hotel. If you’ve been here for cocktails or dinner, breakfast is a different, more serene scene than Eve’s nighttime persona.

— Setting: Early birds get the bonus of seeing a glorious sky at Eve on Adams. To get there, take the elevator to the 16th floor and then switch to the elevator to the 17th. Glass barriers surround the outdoor patio, which juts out beyond the building, allowing customers to have an unfettered view of downtown, especially the west and south views. In the morning, the place was pretty quiet, making it work for customers here for business meetings or digitally engaged.

Brunch with a view? Check out Eve on Adams. Image via Tallahassee Table.

— Design: The interior is surrounded by glass, so you can still enjoy the view if you’re sitting inside. The decor features vibrant murals by local artist Cosby Hayes relating to the Eve on Adams theme. There are elegant touches such as an illuminated translucent onyx bar, crystal chandeliers, and fanciful artwork, yet the practical addition of a large TV screen.

— Menu: A dish of flavorful chicken and waffles brought strips of buttermilk-fried chicken tenders wedged between two Belgian-style waffles with a hint of cinnamon, served with breakfast potatoes. My partner had the croissant sandwich with scrambled eggs, smoked bacon, and cheddar cheese with grits. Other options feature breakfast bruschetta, create your own omelet, a classic breakfast platter, yogurt parfait, and short pancake stack. Top off your meal with coffee, a mimosa or bloody mary.

— Details: 101 S. Adams St.; 850-521-6018. Open 6:30 to 9:30 a.m. daily; 5 to 11 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 5 to midnight Friday-Saturday and 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday. Available for on and off-site catering and private parties.

Staff Reports



#FlaPol

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