Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 4.13.21

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Coffee is for closers. So is Sunburn, your morning rundown of Florida politics.

Jimmy Patronis, Jr., originally a mainstay of North Florida politics whose reach now covers the state, turns 49 today. The scion of a prominent Panama Beach restaurant family, he has spent most of his life in pursuits that would have made his ancestors proud.

The Florida State University graduate served eight years in the state House of Representatives, then was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2017 to complete the remainder of a chief financial officer’s term left vacant by Jeff Atwater, who resigned to accept a position as chief executive officer of Florida Atlantic University.

In the 2018 election for CFO, he defeated former Democratic state Sen. Jeremy Ring by 4 points despite having entered Election Day as a 5-point polling underdog. He has backed legislation ensuring disability and death benefits for firefighters diagnosed with a range of cancers, and recently spoken out in favor of pandemic-related liability protections for Florida businesses and a crackdown on unsolicited spam calls.

A fourth-generation Floridian, he grew up in Capt. Anderson’s Restaurant and Waterfront Market, opened in 1967 by his father, Jimmy Patronis, Sr., and uncle, Johnny Patronis. A hub of Panama Beach for more than a half-century, the restaurant stepped up in 2018 by sending refrigerated trucks into a community decimated by Hurricane Michael.

All of the Patronis boys had to work their way up.

“In a restaurant, you’ve got to do a little bit of everything,’ said Johnny Patronis, 93. “You’re a cashier, a manager, dishwasher, bussing tables, filling up ketchup bottles. Whatever you have to do, you do it.”

Jimmy Patronis. Sr. died Jan. 8, 2020. Jimmy Patronis, Jr. and his wife, Katie, have two sons, Jimmy Theo Patronis III and John Michael Patronis. He is a lifelong member of St. John’s Greek Orthodox Church.

“He broke the mold of the restaurant business,” Johnny Patronis said. “He’s come a long way. We’re real proud of all he has done.”

For Jimmy Patronis, photographed here with his family, it’s just one more year to the big 5-0.

Sunburn asked some of Patronis’ colleagues and friends to join it in wishing the Chief happy birthday. Here are their responses:

Gov. Ron DeSantis: “Casey and I want to wish Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, Jimmy Patronis, a very happy 49th birthday. Jimmy is a great Floridian and has served our state with distinction and dedication over the years. We also congratulate him on maintaining his status as the oldest member of Florida’s Cabinet!”

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried: “Happy birthday to our CFO and my partner in protecting consumers — you may be a Seminole (we can’t all be perfect), but you’re my friend and a Floridian first!”

Attorney General Ashley Moody: “Happy Birthday to our great CFO! To honor your strength and courage serving as the Cabinet’s only Seminole, we will all hang up the orange and blue for your birthday!”

Senate President Wilton Simpson: “Wishing CFO Patronis the happiest of birthdays! A family man with a heart for our state and her people, one of the many insights Jimmy brings to state government is that of a legacy, family-run business — the kind of businesses that are the lifeblood of our great state. Best wishes for a great year ahead, my friend!”

House Speaker Chris Sprowls: “Happy birthday to Florida’s resident treasure hunter and CFO Jimmy Patronis! Thanks for all you do to promote our state and the work of the Florida House.”

Florida Chamber President Mark Wilson: “Wishing my good friend and Florida Chamber Honorary Chairman CFO Jimmy Patronis a delighted birthday. The Florida Chamber thanks you for working tirelessly to stand up for Florida business and for your leadership as we relaunch Florida’s economy. As you’ve said, “Florida is for winners,” and people like you are what makes Florida a great place to live, work, raise a family and retire. We wish you a great year ahead and look forward to our continued work together as we unite Florida’s business community for good and fight to keep Florida, Florida.”

Fred Karlinsky of Greenberg Traurig: “Autumn and I are so fortunate to be friends with Jimmy and his wife, Katie. We hope he takes just a few hours off of his nonstop travels around Florida to celebrate his birthday today! And, we look forward to joining him for a celebratory meal at Captain Anderson’s soon.” 

Paul Mitchell of The Southern Group: “Most authentic guy in the process, who’s always looking to help others. Great husband and an amazing dad. Deserves to have a happy birthday.” 

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When then-Congressman DeSantis cast his mail ballot for Florida’s primary election in 2016, election workers in his hometown flagged the signature as a mismatch.

DeSantis provided the canvassing board a new signature as a backup to the signatures already on file, but the board determined the new signature had “no similarities” to the signature on the ballot and ultimately rejected the vote, according to Flagler County elections officials.

DeSantis declined several requests for an interview with Noah Pransky of NBCLX and did answer why the signature on his ballot did not match his other signatures on file with local elections offices.

Florida’s proposed new voting restrictions, which mirror many of the controversial proposals in dozens of other Republican-led states, come just months after DeSantis touted his state’s November election as “the most transparent and efficient election anywhere in the country.”

DeSantis’s public voting history — obtained through public records requests from Supervisors of Elections from St. Johns and Flagler counties — shows he regularly took advantage of Florida’s no-excuse absentee option, casting votes by mail in six out of seven elections between March 2016 and August 2020.

During that period, the only time he voted in-person was at a well-choreographed photo opportunity, when he appeared atop the ballot during his 2018 gubernatorial run.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@DaveWeigel: A fascinating political data point I never hear anybody discuss: [Joe] Biden’s approval among Democrats in Gallup’s polling has been, so far, as high or higher as GOP support for [Donald] Trump ever was

@ScottforFlorida: President Trump is reported to have referred to Senator [Mitch] McConnell on Saturday as a “dumb SOB.” As all of my colleagues in the Senate know, this is not true. He’s a very smart SOB.

@McKayCoppins: Just saw a tweet calling someone a “RINO” because he wants “lower taxes for corporations.”

@GovRonDeSantis: Criticisms of lockdowns and other so-called mitigation efforts have been censored by Big Tech, which is antithetical to scientific inquiry.

Tweet, tweet:

@ShevrinJones: Anyone who don’t know the difference between a Taser and a handgun should probably not be on the force, and should turn their badge in IMMEDIATELY! #Daunte

Tweet, tweet:

@MikeMoore2014: Should #Florida legalize sports gambling? It’s been over a year and a half since SCOTUS struck down the feds ban. @floridalottery has generated $118 billion in revenues and transferred over $38 billion to education. Let’s be honest. Sports are more fun than scratch-offs.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Disneyland to open — 17; Orthodox Easter 2021 — 19; Mother’s Day — 26; Florida Chamber Safety Council’s inaugural Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health and Sustainability — 27; ‘A Quiet Place Part II’ rescheduled premiere — 45; Memorial Day — 48; Florida TaxWatch Spring Meeting and PLA Awards — 51; ‘Loki’ premieres on Disney+ — 59; Father’s Day — 68; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 80; 4th of July — 82; ‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 86; MLB All-Star Game — 91; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 101; The NBA Draft — 107; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 109; ‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 115; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 133; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 143; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 164; ‘Dune’ premieres — 171; MLB regular season ends — 173; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 179; World Series Game 1 — 196; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 203; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 206; San Diego Comic-Con begins — 227; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 238; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 245; Super Bowl LVI — 306; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 346; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 388; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 451; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 542; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 577.

— GAETZGATE —

‘Felt like a setup’: WhatsApp chat shows Matt Gaetz ally scrambling to contain fallout” via Marc Caputo, Josh Gerstein and Matt Dixon — The feds were closing in. And Gaetz’s friend, Joel Greenberg, was in a panic. The Florida county tax collector was five days away from a federal indictment for sex trafficking involving a 17-year-old, so Greenberg reached out to mutual friends on Aug. 14 last year and tried to enlist them in his defense, according to a WhatsApp chat shared with federal investigators and obtained by POLITICO. The WhatsApp messages shed light on key aspects of the scandal consuming Gaetz. Greenberg went so far as to push Gaetz to use his influence with Trump for a pardon.

Newly discovered text messages show Joel Greenberg begging Matt Gaetz to use his clout to help him out.

Ron DeSantis sidesteps Gaetz question: ‘I don’t have anything to say’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis reserved comment Monday when asked about his thoughts on legal jeopardy Gaetz is facing. “I don’t have anything to say, anything else?” the Governor said. DeSantis’ reticence on the Gaetz imbroglio bears examination given an aggressive co-branding with Gaetz during his 2018 run for Governor. Though DeSantis has ascended to the pinnacle of conservative media stardom in 2021, the current Governor was no sure thing to do that in 2018, when he launched his primary bid. However, Gaetz has long since become a political liability. DeSantis will clearly cut off any questions about his former running buddy, unless or until he wants to answer them in a forum and to an interviewer of his choosing.

‘I need your help’: Gaetz fundraising through emails amid sex crime allegations” via Rebekah Castor of WEAR-TV — Since the allegations against Gaetz came to light about two weeks ago, at least two emails have been sent to rally supporters to donate to his campaign. Some see this campaigning as Gaetz attempting to capitalize on the accusations against him. Gaetz has not yet pre-filed to run for reelection or another office in upcoming elections. Channel 3 reached out on Monday to his chief of staff, communications director, and newly hired PR firm to confirm the emails’ legitimacy. We did not receive a response, but the emails appear to be from “Friends of Matt Gaetz” — the congressman’s principal campaign committee. In the last election cycle, this committee raised over $6 million.

Fox News made Gaetz” via Alex Shephard of The New Republic — Since he entered Congress in January 2017, he has clocked nearly 50 hours of airtime on Fox News alone. Writing in The Washington Post, Philip Bump noted that, over the last 12 months, Gaetz had averaged 87 minutes of screen time a month. All Gaetz seemingly wanted was to go on Fox News. Gaetz was very committed to talking policy on TV but wasn’t interested in actually making it. This tendency broadly tracks with the evolution of the Republican Party over the last few years, but Gaetz was a cut above almost everyone else, except for Trump. But Fox News has lost Gaetz’s number since the scandal dropped.

—”Gaetz is both unique and … not so unique” via Gail Collins and Bret Stephens of The New York Times 

—“Donald Trump-loving white women are protecting Gaetz. History tells us why.” via Keisha N. Blain of MSNBC

Gaetz epitomizes the present state of the state of Florida: cocky, clueless, and in a heap of trouble” via Diane Roberts of the Florida Phoenix — Gaetz is not a prince among men. OK, maybe since he’s been accused of having sex with a 17-year-old, you might call him a Prince Andrew. Definitely not a Prince Charming. But even Prince Andrew didn’t go around showing naked pictures of women (one reportedly deploying a hula hoop) and bragging about bedding them as Congressman Gaetz reportedly did. Gaetz (R-Animal House) has been an objectionable little bawbag (to use a helpful Scottish expression) ever since he entered politics.

Tweet, tweet:


— DATELINE TALLAHASSEE —

Florida’s health agencies are led by Black women. Can they create equity?” via Margo Snipe and Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — Shamarial Roberson remembers the wait. Her grandfather had suffered a stroke and needed a doctor immediately. Roberson, then just under 10 years old in a north Florida town of about 800, could do nothing but watch the time tick away while paramedics made their way from a nearby city. In February, DeSantis appointed two Black women to lead major state health agencies. Shevaun Harris now leads the Department of Children and Families, and Simone Marstiller is the new Secretary of the Agency of Health Care Administration. Add Roberson, the Department of Health’s deputy secretary for health, to the list, and Black women are at or near the top of three major state health agencies.

Shamarial Roberson is among the Black women close to the top in health agencies for Ron DeSantis’ administration. Image via WUSF.

Online sales tax bill lands on Governor’s desk — DeSantis’ office on Monday said it received SB 50 from the Legislature. The bill would require online retailers to collect and remit sales taxes even if they do not have a physical presence in the state. The proposal is expected to boost tax collections by $1 billion a year. The plan would use that money to refill the state’s depleted unemployment trust fund and — eventually — to offset a reduction in the commercial rents tax. DeSantis has until April 19 to act on the bill.

Time ticks on bills on protesters, budget, voting” via Bobby Caina Calvan of The Associated Press — Florida lawmakers have little time to waste as they debate and finalize legislative proposals, big and small, in the waning days of the Legislative Session — including a state budget, a nationally watched elections bill and a so-called “anti-riot” bill that DeSantis are pushing. The Republican Governor has his fingerprints on all three pieces of legislation, but especially on the anti-riot bill that has prompted some of the most intense passions from community activists. Also remaining on the legislative agenda is an election bill that is drawing national scrutiny. In comparison, the yearly debate over the state budget seems so much more tranquil, even though there are wide gaps that now need to be bridged between the chambers’ proposals.

Gambling bills start moving amid talks” via Dara Kam of News Service of Florida — After weeks without public movement on gambling issues, the Senate Regulated Industries Committee on Monday approved a bill (SPB 7080) that would do away with a requirement that many pari-mutuel facilities conduct live horse racing or jai alai games to offer more-lucrative card rooms, a process known as “decoupling.” The decoupling proposal, however, could face hurdles during the final three weeks of the Legislative Session. The Senate decoupling plan would not affect live racing at the state’s two thoroughbred tracks, Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach and Tampa Bay Downs in Hillsborough County. The Senate proposal would allow the state’s only harness-racing track — Isle Casino Pompano — to do away with horse racing and keep slots and poker.

Hold the horses: Gambling change could end harness racing at Pompano Park” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Almost out of nowhere, decoupling is on the table once again.

Shot — “If transgender sports bill passes, NCAA says it could pull championships” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — The NCAA Board of Governors put out a statement saying it would consider pulling championships from states that ban transgender athletes from participating in women’s and girls’ sports. The statement came a day before the Florida House is set to take up House Bill 1475, a bill that would do just that. HB 1475, part of a national push by Christian conservative groups, is one of the most divisive bills making its way through the Legislature this year. Supporters say transgender athletes are a threat to the competitive integrity of women’s sports, including K-12 and collegiate contests. Detractors, including many transgender students and equal rights advocates, say the legislation is unnecessary and discriminatory.

ChaserSenate temporarily postpones transgender sports bill ahead of final committee stop” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The Senate Rules Committee will temporarily postpone plans to hear a bill that would essentially ban transgender girls from competing in high school and collegiate sports, Senate spokeswoman Katie Betta announced Monday. In a tweet, Betta said the postponement is for “planning purposes” amid a “busy rules agenda on Wednesday.” But the announcement, notably, comes hours after the NCAA fired a warning shot at states proposing such legislation. The shot-across-the-bow comes a day before the Florida House will take up legislation (HB 1475) that would bar transgender women from competing in high school or collegiate sports. Republican Rep. Kaylee Tuck is the bill sponsor. Meanwhile, the Senate companion (SB 2012) was slated to appear before its final committee, Senate Rules.


— TALLY 2

Lawmaker warns businesses ‘to stay in their lane,’ citing ‘much more’ voter access than Georgia” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — The sponsor of a Florida bill imposing new restrictions on how mail-in votes can be handled among other changes to election laws says he isn’t backing down in the face of MLB’s pulling the All-Star Game out of Atlanta because of a new Georgia law restricting voting access. “Those businesses need to stay in their lane; they really should not be involved in this,” said Rep. Blaise Ingoglia. Ingoglia, though, rewrote his bill, HB 7041, to weaken a prohibition on passing out water or food to voters waiting in line to vote within 150 feet of the polling place, one of the provisions in the bill similar to the Georgia law.

Blaise Ingoglia tells business to ‘stay in their lane.’ Image via Colin Hackley.

Legislature considering rule changes for charter school openings Lawmakers are considering multiple bills that would change state rules to allow more state agencies to approve new charter schools, Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida reports. One bill (HB 1031) would set up a Charter School Review Commission that would approve charter applications. It would be a substantial change from current law, which puts local school districts in charge of approving charter schools within their jurisdiction. Separate proposals (SB 1028/HB 51) would allow state colleges and universities to operate charter schools to accept students from multiple counties. The bills would put the overseeing institution’s board of trustees in charge of the schools.

Bill that would expunge marijuana convictions advances in Senate — but fate unknown in House” via Mitch Perry of Bay News 9 — A bill that would allow people to get a marijuana conviction expunged has moved through two committees in the state Senate this Session, but its ultimate passage is far from secure. The measure (SB 468) — sponsored by Orange County Democratic Sen. Randolph Bracy — would allow a person arrested for possession of 20 grams or less of cannabis to begin the process of removing that arrest from their record. While Bracy’s bill has sailed relatively smoothly through two committees in the Senate to date, its House companion (HB 189), sponsored by Orange County Democratic Rep. Travaris McCurdy, has yet to be heard in committee.

Policing changes stalled as Session winds down” via News Service of Florida — After the Florida Legislative Black Caucus rolled out a slew of policing reform bills in February, many of the measures have not been heard in committees as time winds down on the 60-day Legislative Session. House and Senate committees are scheduled to stop meeting early next week. After that, legislation that hasn’t been heard would have to wait until next year. This year’s Session is slated to end on April 30. The issue of policing reform is receiving focus nationally as former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin stands trial in the May death of George Floyd and after Daunte Wright, a Black man, was shot and killed by police Sunday in a Minneapolis suburb.

Rural broadband bill gets extra attention from AT&T; recent FCC complaint may explain why” via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist — One of Florida’s largest wireless carriers, AT&T, appears to be working overtime on the expansion of rural broadband internet service, but not in a way residents in Florida’s smaller towns might want. The work has little to do with helping rural residents stream Netflix in glorious 4K and everything to do with influencing state lawmakers who are working on setting up Florida’s Broadband Opportunity Program, which will play a role in awarding millions of dollars in grants to broadband providers like AT&T who meet certain criteria. It’s the establishment of those criteria that has AT&T working overtime. In other states, AT&T has been accused of not delivering what they promised after receiving rural broadband incentives.

Scott Plakon, Gabriella Passidomo finalists for PSC post” via Jim Turner of News Service of Florida — Rep. Plakon and Passidomo, the daughter of Senate Rules Chairwoman Kathleen Passidomo, were among four finalists forwarded Monday to DeSantis for a seat on the Florida Public Service Commission. After short introductions and interviews of five candidates, the Florida Public Service Commission Nominating Council advanced with little comment four applicants to replace former longtime Commissioner and now-DBPR Secretary Julie Brown in the job that pays $135,997 a year. Along with Plakon and Passidomo, the council advanced applications from lobbyist Rosanna Manuela Catalano and Ana Ortega, who has served as a chief policy adviser to three members of the Public Service Commission.

Lake Kissimmee State Park biking trail will honor the late Kristin Jacobs” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A six-mile mountain biking trail in Lake Kissimmee State Park has been dedicated to the late Rep. Jacobs, who spent much of her legislative career focused on the state’s environmental issues. That trail — which also serves as a hiking trail — was dedicated to Jacobs Saturday, the anniversary of her death. Jacobs served as a board member for the Florida State Parks Foundation in addition to her service in the House. The Foundation works on preservation, education and volunteer initiatives to help sustain the 175 state parks located throughout Florida. “Kristin enjoyed Lake Kissimmee State Park as a camper, hiker, and cyclist,” said Florida State Parks Foundation President Gil Ziffer.

AFP-FL launches campaign backing union dues bill — Americans for Prosperity-Florida launched a statewide campaign to build support for a bill (SB 1014) to prevent unions from automatically deducting dues from teachers’ paychecks. The campaign includes digital outreach and direct mail focused on how the bill “will put families and teachers first.” AFP-FL state director Skylar Zander said, “There has never been a more critical time to bring accountability to unions and ensure protections for workers. This common-sense bill will give teachers more control over their own paychecks and ensures no one is forced to join a union. AFP-FL is proud to be leading this campaign to ensure Floridians know that SB 1014 empowers students, parents and teachers — not unions.”

FEA rolls out another ad hammering union dues bill” via Florida Politics staff reports — The Florida Education Association launched another ad in a continuing campaign to defeat a pair of bills that teachers say would weaken their unions. The bills (SB 1014/HB 835) would prevent unions from deducting dues from teachers’ paychecks and require teachers to reaffirm each year that they aren’t required to be union members. The new video features Jim Vines, a retired Army chief warrant officer who describes himself as a fiscally conservative Republican. “I flew Black Hawk helicopters on the other side of the world to protect our freedom here at home, so when Florida lawmakers attack the freedom of teachers, well, that makes me mad, but that’s exactly what some legislative leaders are up to,” Vines says in the new ad.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:


— LOBBY REGS —

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Alex Alamo, Jose Fuentes, Becker & Poliakoff: Village of Pinecrest

Jim Boxold, Andrew Ketchel, Christopher Schoonover, Capital City Consulting: E3 Solutions, South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, Tampa Bay Real Estate Investment Corporation

Mike Grissom, Mark Kruse, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: World Trade Center Miami

Mike Haridopolos: Smith and Associates

D. Ty Jackson, George Levesque, Jason Unger, GrayRobinson: Lee Memorial Health System

— LEG. SKED —

The House will hold a floor Session; on the agenda is HB 1475 to ban transgender females from taking part in girls’ or women’s high school and college sports, 2 p.m., House Chamber.

The Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider SB 390, from Sen. Tom Wright, to make changes in the rules for pharmacy benefit managers, 2 p.m., Room 110 Senate Office Building.

The Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider SB 402, from Sen. Ray Rodrigues, to change the requirement that local governments publish legal notices in newspapers, 2 p.m., Room 37, Senate Office Building.

The Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider SB 1672, from Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., to offer free online courses at state universities to veterans, active-duty military members, and other people who “went another direction” in education, 2 p.m., 412 Room Knott Building.

— STATEWIDE —

Assignment editors — DeSantis, Senate President Simpson, Sen. Jim Boyd, Reps. Tommy Gregory and Will Robinson, and DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein, will hold a news conference to provide updates on Piney Point, 9 a.m., 13500 Scale Avenue, Palmetto. RSVP at Christina.Schmitt@eog.myflorida.com.

Nikki Fried highlights proposal to strengthen credit card security at gas stations” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Fried spoke in support of a bill Monday that would require gas stations to increase credit card security measures at the pump. Speaking at a RaceTrac station in Hialeah, Fried noted Florida’s nation-leading fraud rates and promoted a bill (SB 430) targeting credit card skimmers and other fraud schemes. First detected in Florida in 2015, according to a staff analysis, skimmers are electronic devices that collect a consumer’s credit card information. The information, obtained illegally and often unbeknown to the consumer, is often used to make unauthorized purchases. More than 5,000 skimmers have been discovered in Florida since 2015.

Nikki Fried is cracking down on gas pump skimmers. Image via Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Report: Florida home to three-quarters of U.S. property insurance lawsuits” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — A new report from the state’s Office of Insurance Regulation found Florida accounted for over 76% of all homeowners’ litigation in the United States in 2019. The data comes from an OIR review of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners Market Conduct Annual Statement (MCAS) Data Call, covering 2016-2019. While Florida exceeded the rest of the nation in homeowners’ insurance litigation, the state accounted for only 8% of homeowners’ insurance claims nationwide. In an April 2 letter addressed to House Commerce Committee Chair Ingoglia, Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier said the trend is not new. Of all homeowners’ insurance litigation in the U.S., 64% opened in Florida in 2016, 68% in 2017, and 80% in 2018.

— 2022 — 

Ron DeSantis continues to pull in millions for reelection campaign” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — Gov. DeSantis continues to haul in money for his reelection campaign at a torrential pace, adding close to $6 million since the start of this year’s annual Florida legislative session on March 2. DeSantis shut down his fundraising operations at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but he restarted his efforts back up in October. He has raised more than $11.3 million over the last six-and-a-half months — but about half of it flowed in since state legislators started their work. The Governor is significantly outraising the Republican Party of Florida, which reported it raised $3.65 million into its state account for the first three months of 2021.

Michael Waltz has more than $1M banked for FL CD 6 reelection bid” via Florida Politics staff reports — Waltz has more than $1 million on hand for his 2022 reelection bid, his campaign told Florida Politics on Monday. The Republican congressman’s finance report is not yet available on the Federal Elections Commission website, but he will report raising approximately $378,000 in the first quarter of this year. “I am incredibly grateful for the support we have received this quarter,” Waltz said. Waltz had about $885,000 in the bank at the end of the 2020 election cycle, which saw him easily win reelection to Florida’s 6th Congressional District over Democratic nominee Clint Curtis. The final vote was 61%-39%.

Broward Commissioner Dale Holness runs for Congress with support from Alcee Hastings’ son” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness made official Monday what he’s unofficially been doing for years: running for Congress. He announced his candidacy — and the support of the late Congressman Alcee Hastings’ son. Holness is widely seen as a top tier candidate to replace Hastings, who served more than 28 years in Congress until his death on April 6 at age 84….Ten county and local officials were on hand and endorsed Holness, including Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis, Sheriff Greg Tony, Clerk of Courts Brenda Forman and Lauderdale Lakes Mayor Hazelle Rogers.

Tweet, tweet:

Veteran, defense consultant Cory Mills files to run in CD 7” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Mills, a defense, diplomatic, and law enforcement consultant and contractor with a significant presence as a commentator in national conservative media, has filed to run as a Republican against Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy in Florida’s 7th Congressional District in the 2022 election. Mills is a U.S. Army veteran of Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq who has spent much of the past 16 years as a consultant there and in the United States, turning his focus some to assisting law enforcement. Mills is the third Republican to file either federal or state paperwork to run in the CD 7 election. There is no way to know at this point whether any of them or Murphy still will be in CD 7 come 2022. Congressional redistricting is expected to redraw that and other districts so Florida can make room for one or two more congressional seats for the 2022 elections.

Republican Rod Dorilás to challenge Lois Frankel in CD 21” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Dorilás, a Navy veteran who served in the Commerce Department under Trump, says he’s vying for the GOP nomination in Florida’s 21st Congressional District. Dorilás announced his candidacy in a Monday video. “I’m Rod Dorilás, and I’m running for Congress in Southeast Florida to stand up for our country and stop the radical left in Washington from destroying everything that makes America great.” Republican Keith Feit has also filed in CD 21, meaning the GOP Primary will be contested. While Dorilás will face an uphill battle in the left-leaning district, he’s playing up his background to expand his support outside the GOP base.

Rod Dorilás is taking his shot against Lois Frankel in CD 21. Image via Facebook.

—”Adam Brandon raises more than Lake Ray in first HD 12 finance reports” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Personnel note: Glenn Hutchins named senior policy and strategy adviser at FDP Hutchins is joining the Florida Democratic Party as a senior policy and strategy adviser, FDP chair Manny Diaz announced Monday. In his volunteer role, he will assist the party in policy strategy and initiatives and support efforts to secure the resources necessary to build a sustainable, grassroots, year-round, statewide infrastructure. “I am thrilled to have Glenn joining the Florida Democratic Party team. Glenn is an entrepreneur, a business and civic leader, and a philanthropist with more than 40 years of experience in numerous private and public endeavors. His experience and insight will be an invaluable asset to the party as we work to build a long-term sustainable organization here in Florida and elect Democrats up and down the ballot,” Diaz said.

Dem pollsters acknowledge ‘major errors’ in 2020 polling” via Steven Shepard of POLITICO — A group of top Democratic Party pollsters are set to release a public statement Tuesday acknowledging “major errors” that left party officials stunned by election results that failed to come close to expectations in November. In an unusual move, five of the party’s biggest polling firms have spent the past few months working together to explore what went wrong and how it can be fixed. It’s part of an effort to understand why — despite data showing Joe Biden well ahead of former President Donald Trump, and Democrats poised to increase their House majority — the party won the presidency, the Senate and House by extremely narrow margins.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Florida reports lowest daily coronavirus case total since October” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida’s resident death toll from coronavirus rose to 34,056 with the addition of 35 more reported fatalities on Monday while also adding 1,613 more positive COVID-19 cases to bring the total to 2,125,846. It’s only the second time in 2021 the state has reported less than 2,000 daily infections, but several testing and vaccine sites were forced to shut down on Sunday because of the series of storms that swept through the state. The last time the state had fewer daily infections reported was on Oct. 12, when it logged 1,533. Infections had been rising slightly week to week since mid-March, although they remain mostly among younger populations.

DeSantis blasts YouTube for taking down COVID-19 video over misinformation concerns” via John Kennedy of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — After video of a meeting last month between DeSantis and scientists was taken off YouTube because of COVID-19 misinformation, the Republican Governor rounded up some of the same experts Monday for another roundtable. It quickly turned into a stage for airing grievances about social media’s power and what they called the censoring of people arguing against lockdowns, school closures, and mask-wearing. “What we’re really witnessing is Orwellian,” DeSantis said. The YouTube takedown gave DeSantis, whose star is rising nationally in Republican politics, his second opportunity in as many weeks to turn his anger on major media. YouTube’s action could further fuel the push for legislation endorsed by DeSantis to give the state power to punish tech companies.

To watch a video of DeSantis’ comments, click on the image below:

A public health lesson for DeSantis, from Harvard” via Michelle A. Williams for The New York Times — States have experimented with vastly differing responses to the coronavirus pandemic — from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s strict lockdown in New York to DeSantis’ resistance to a mask mandate in Florida. In defending their choices, leaders have often cited a trade-off between the economy and public health. But Michelle A. Williams, an epidemiologist and dean of Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, says those two factors don’t have to conflict. “We should never have anyone force us into health versus economy the way we were struggling with this a year ago,” she says.

Florida prisoners, staffers – hard hit by COVID-19 – getting vaccines” via Jane Musgrave of The Palm Beach Post — In a move that is being cheered by those who have loved ones behind bars, the state has started giving coronavirus vaccines to inmates at the Palm Beach County jail and those held in Florida prisons. State strike teams were at the main county jail in West Palm Beach and the one in Belle Glade, vaccinating any inmate or staff member who wanted it, said Teri Barbera, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office. At the same time, teams have been dispatched to state prisons, including South Bay Correctional Facility in the western reaches of the county where eight inmates have died.

Is DeSantis ‘out of touch’ with businesses on vaccine passport ban?” via Wendy Rhodes of The Palm Beach Post — A top legal expert at the World Health Organization pulled no punches this week when he called out DeSantis for an April 2 executive order prohibiting vaccine passports. “I think it’s a slap in the face,” said Lawrence Gostin, director of the World Health Organization’s Collaborating Center on National and Global Health and director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University. So-called vaccine passports are identification cards proving one has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In addition to preventing businesses from using them as a tool to help protect the health of workers and customers, Gostin said, the Governor’s executive order is “very likely unlawful.”

Another cruise line will require vaccines; DeSantis says no” via Ron Hurtibise of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Silversea Cruises became the second major cruise line to announce it will require COVID-19 vaccinations for all passengers when it resumes global itineraries on June 5. The decision could set up a confrontation with DeSantis when the luxury cruise line is scheduled to sail from Port Everglades in December. DeSantis’ press office on Monday asserted that his recent executive order barring businesses from requiring proof of vaccinated customers extends to cruise lines operating in Florida. Silversea’s announcement follows the Norwegian Cruise Line’s statement last week that it would require full vaccinations if the CDC allows it to resume sailing in July. The cruise line is scheduled to run trips out of Port Miami beginning in September.

Luxury cruise line Silversea is the latest to require ‘vaccine passports.’ Ron DeSantis is not pleased.

School accountability waiver draws objection” via News Service of Florida — The Department of Education on Friday issued an emergency order nixing consequences tied to standardized test scores for students and schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The nonprofit Foundation for Florida’s Future, founded by former Gov. Jeb Bush, released a statement Friday that said parts of the emergency order “raise concerns.” Executive Director Patricia Levesque wrote that waiving exams as a graduation requirement “waters down the hard work” of students and teachers. “State policy is clear and consistent on provisions that ensure students are ready to move to 4th grade and that guarantee Florida’s high school diploma has meaning and value,” Levesque said in the statement.

— CORONA LOCAL —

Broward County surpasses 1 million COVID-19 vaccine shots” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Broward County has now administered more than 1 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Broward joins its neighbor to the south, Miami-Dade County, as the only two Florida counties to hit that mark so far. South Florida’s tri-county area has doled out more than 3.3 million doses in total. Across the three counties, more than 1.3 million people have completed their vaccination regimen. A low number of tests were reported in that Monday report. As a result, just 690 new positive tests were identified. That’s a more-than-month-long low for the region, though it is largely a function of the dearth in test reporting Monday. The share of tests coming back positive did not drop from its recent levels.

No appointments necessary and expanded COVID-19 vaccine hours begin at Hard Rock Stadium” via David J. Neal of the Miami Herald — Monday starts an attempt at vaccination acceleration at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, according to the changes in hours and requirements at the drive-thru site announced Sunday by FEMA Master Public Information Officer Mike Jachles. The hours will now be 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., 7 days a week. Jachles said the hope is to give 3,000 first doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and 2,000 second doses per day are the site’s goal.

No appointment is needed for the Hard Rock Stadium pop-up vaccination site.

A one-day pop-up Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine site will open April 13 in Homestead” via David J. Neal of the Miami Herald — One is the key number in the City of Homestead’s pop-up COVID-19 vaccine site that’ll open Tuesday, April 13, as in “one day” and “one shot.” The event will be at the FOP Lodge, 675 N. Homestead Blvd. The event will be held Tuesday, April 13, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. or until all the shots are gone, and the Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine will be offered.

Orange County could soon relax some mask, social distancing requirements, Jerry Demings says” via Stephen Hudak and Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange County Mayor Demings said his administration and local health officials have begun devising a plan to reduce some COVID-19 restrictions on wearing facial coverings, as more than 26% of county residents have received at least one shot of vaccine. The plan, which could be announced this week, wouldn’t wipe out his executive order requiring facial coverings to be worn in public but could reduce occupancy restrictions on some businesses, loosen social distancing requirements and some masking requirements.

GOP strategist Nick Hansen says the COVID-19 vaccine saved him from ‘long COVID’” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Hansen, a former staffer to Sen. Jeff Brandes and prominent GOP strategist, took to Facebook Sunday with a lengthy missive about his own personal experience with the virus, and how the vaccine helped him overcome lingering effects of his own bout with COVID-19, an effect known as long-haulers. The post details Hansen’s diagnosis with COVID-19 in December, and his subsequent suffering from chronic headaches and overall lethargy made him feel “like a shadow” of himself. He researched and found evidence suggesting that getting a vaccine could alleviate his persistent symptoms, the post explains. So, Hansen got the shot. “Within hours, my headache subsided,” Hansen wrote. “The following day, I felt like my personality was back.”

Polk schools’ COVID-19 sick-time policy expires, leaving some employees in limbo” via Kimberly C. Moore of The Lakeland Ledger — Polk County Public Schools and the Polk Education Association teachers’ union are in final talks to extend until June 4 the 10 days of COVID sick leave. In August, the district implemented paid sick leave specifically for COVID-19 through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which uses federal funding to pay the sick leave salary, among many things. In January, district officials extended the COVID-19 sick leave through March 31. PCPS and the PEA signed a memorandum of understanding on this issue, which did not need a vote from the School Board. About 300 teachers in Polk County, both public and private, have contracted COVID-19 between Sept. 6 and April 3. 

Post reporter’s hellish month with COVID-19: ‘What I had, you don’t want’” via Jorge Milian of The Palm Beach Post — By the time I pulled into the COVID-19 tent at C.B. Smith Park in Pembroke Pines on Jan. 27, no test was necessary to tell me I had contracted the coronavirus. I had a raging fever; my head felt like it was on the verge of exploding, and each of the 206 bones in my body ached. That began around 4-5 weeks of unpleasantness that, at its worst, had me wondering if I would wind up like some of the people I’ve written about since last March in the Palm Beach Post who died after getting COVID-19. But there’s nothing funny about running a high fever for days and feeling like you are trying to breathe underwater while your doctor is wondering aloud whether you should check into a hospital.

Anti-masker went on racist rant at a Florida Walgreens then got arrested for spitting” via Madeleine Marr of the Miami Herald — A New York couple’s trip to a Walgreens in Fort Lauderdale late last month turned toxic, and it’s now all over the Internet. In an April 6 Facebook post, Nahla Ebaid told her followers that a maskless woman at the Southeast 17th Street store verbally attacked her with racial slurs. The confrontation began, as many do in the pandemic era, over a mask. The shopper being recorded wasn’t wearing one. According to a police report from the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, cops responded to the store on March 31 at around 11:30 p.m. about a disturbance. A clerk told police she witnessed the shopper spitting on the victim and the Fort Lauderdale resident was placed under arrest for battery.

— CORONA NATION —

The warning signs of a longer pandemic” via Sam Baker of Axios — All the things that could prolong the COVID-19 pandemic, that could make this virus a part of our lives longer than anyone wants, are playing out right in front of our eyes. Right now, the U.S. is still making fantastic progress on vaccinations. But as variants of the virus cause new outbreaks and infect more children, the U.S. is also getting a preview of what the future could hold if our vaccination push loses steam, as experts fear it soon might. The British variant is driving another surge in Michigan cases, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has resisted reimposing any of the lockdown measures she embraced earlier in the pandemic.

Some worrying signs point to a much longer pandemic.

Recent rise in U.S. COVID-19 cases driven by younger people” via Melanie Grayce West and Talal Ansari of The Wall Street Journal — Younger people who haven’t been vaccinated are helping drive a rise in new COVID-19 cases, health officials are finding. Five states account for some 42% of newly reported cases. In Michigan, adults aged 20 to 39 have the highest daily case rates. Case rates for children aged 19 and under are at a record, more than quadruple from a month ago. There were 301 reported school outbreaks as of early last week, up from 248 the week prior. Epidemiologists and public-health authorities have pointed to school sports as a major source of COVID-19 transmission. Since January, K-12 sports transmission in Michigan has been highest in basketball, with 376 cases and 100 clusters. Driving the overall uptick among younger people in Michigan, and more broadly, is a confluence of fatigue from the pandemic, which is leading some people to engage in more close contact, and the spread of the more transmissible U.K. variant, known as B.1.1.7.

The U.S. is nearing universal COVID-19 vaccine eligibility for adults.” via Mike Baker of The New York Times — The state of Pennsylvania and the city of Los Angeles are accelerating plans for wider COVID-19 vaccine eligibility this week, as the United States approaches universal eligibility for adults. Most states and U.S. territories have already expanded access to include anyone over 16. Others, including Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington State, have plans for universal adult access to start in the next few days. All states are expected to get there by Monday, a deadline set by Biden. Some states have local variations in eligibility, including Illinois, where Chicago did not join a statewide expansion that began Monday.

More women than men getting coronavirus vaccines” via Laura Ungar of USA Today — More women than men are getting COVID-19 vaccines, even as more men are dying of the disease. An analysis of vaccination dashboards for all 50 states and the District of Columbia in early April and found that each of the 38 that listed gender breakdowns showed more women had received shots than men. Public health experts cited many reasons for the difference, including that women make up three-quarters of the workforce in health care and education, sectors prioritized for initial vaccines. Women’s longer life spans also mean that older people in the first rounds of vaccine eligibility were more likely to be female. Experts point to women’s roles as caregivers and their greater likelihood of seeking preventive health care in general as contributing factors.

CDC ‘hopeful’ that cruises can resume by midsummer, Pete Buttigieg says” via Janine Puhak of Fox 13 — Buttigieg said the CDC is optimistic that cruises can resume by midsummer, as operators struggle to stay afloat one year after sailing was shut down due to coronavirus concerns. Buttigieg shared the CDC’s latest stance during a White House press briefing on Friday. A reporter asked the secretary to comment on concerns from cruise industry leaders that the CDC’s most recent technical guidance under the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) was much more ambiguous than the regulations for commercial airlines to fly during this time. DeSantis argued that the no-sail order is outdated and devastating the state, as the cruising industry generates billions for the economy and employs tens of thousands of Floridians.

— CORONA ECONOMICS — 

CEO pay surged in a year of upheaval and leadership challenges” via Theo Francis and Kristin Broughton of The Wall Street Journal — Median pay for the chief executives of more than 300 of the biggest U.S. public companies reached $13.7 million last year, up from $12.8 million for the same companies a year earlier and on track for a record. Pay kept climbing in 2020 as some companies moved performance targets or modified pay structures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying economic pain. Salary cuts CEOs took at the depths of the crisis had little effect. The stock market’s rebound boosted what top executives took home because much of their compensation comes in the form of equity. In some cases, investors have responded by withholding support for company pay practices in annual advisory votes, increasing pressure on corporate boards.

Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Frank Del Rio’s pay doubled last year to $36.4 million. Image via The Wall Street Journal.

— MORE CORONA —

WHO says COVID pandemic is growing ‘exponentially’ at more than 4.4 million new cases a week” via Berkeley Lovelace Jr. of CNBC — The World Health Organization said Monday the trajectory of the coronavirus pandemic is now “growing exponentially,” with more than 4.4 million new COVID-19 cases reported over the last week. Maria Van Kerkhove, the agency’s technical lead for COVID-19, said “we’re in a critical point of the pandemic,” as some countries ease restrictions even as new cases per week are more than eight times higher than a year ago. “This is not the situation we want to be in 16 months into a pandemic where we have proved control measures. It is the time right now where everyone has to take stock and have a reality check of what we need to be doing,” she said during a news briefing.

COVID-19 is spreading ‘exponentially,’ the World Health Organization says.

COVID-19 drug prevents symptomatic disease in study, Regeneron says” via Joseph Walker of The Wall Street Journal — An antibody-drug from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. reduced the risk of developing symptomatic COVID-19 infection by 81% compared with a placebo in people living with someone infected by the new coronavirus, a study found. The results point to potential new preventive applications for the drug, which is already in use to treat earlier COVID-19 cases. Regeneron said it would ask the FDA to expand the drug’s authorization among people exposed to the virus who haven’t yet been vaccinated, which could provide temporary stopgap protection as people await vaccines. So far, 21.3% of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated, and 35.3% have received at least one shot.

Coronavirus vaccine technology is paving the way for a whole new approach to flu shots” via Lindsey Bever of The Washington Post — The technology used in two of the coronavirus vaccines authorized by the FDA may enable scientists to develop flu shots in record time, but also make inoculations that could be more effective and protect against numerous flu strains for years at a time. The messenger-RNA technology used in the Pfizer and Moderna coronavirus vaccines would be a leap forward for flu shots, some of which still rely on a process developed in the 1950s involving chickens, Petri dishes, and dead viruses. Researchers are hopeful that those coronavirus vaccines’ success will grease the wheels for mRNA flu shots and help expedite what is typically a lengthy process involving years of research, clinical trials, and regulatory review and approval.

— PRESIDENTIAL —

Joe Biden admin secures agreements with Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala to secure borders, official says” via Priscilla Alvarez of CNN — The Biden administration has secured agreements for Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala to tighten their borders and stem the flow of migration, Special Assistant to the President for Immigration for the Domestic Policy Council Tyler Moran said. The Biden administration has struggled to keep up with the influx of migrants coming to the US southern border, particularly unaccompanied minors, who have languished in Border Patrol stations as officials scramble to find sites to accommodate them. Moran also outlined a two-pronged approach to address the situation at the border, including processing unaccompanied minors safely in the US and addressing the reasons why people migrate to the U.S.

Joe Biden is using diplomacy to secure the Southern border. Image via AP.

Biden set to accept fewest refugees of any modern President, including Trump, report says” via Amy Wang of The Washington Post — Since his days on the campaign trail, Biden has tried to cast himself as diametrically opposed to Trump when it comes to welcoming refugees into the United States. Within two weeks of taking office, Biden signed an executive order to rebuild and enhance federal programs to resettle refugees — programs he said had been “badly damaged” under the Trump administration. Biden also revoked some restrictive immigration policies Trump had put in place. However, Biden has yet to do one thing that would make all of those changes official: sign what is known as a presidential determination. Without that action, Trump’s old policies and his 15,000-person cap on refugee settlements remain in effect.

Biden picks former New Jersey AG to lead DEA” via Dan Diamond and Devlin Barrett of The Washington Post — Biden has selected Anne Milgram, a former state Attorney General, prosecutor and longtime advocate for reform of the criminal justice system, to lead the Drug Enforcement Administration, the White House announced on Monday. Milgram, who once declared, “there’s no system that is more old-school and broken and problematic than the criminal justice system,” currently works as a lawyer in private practice and as a law professor and podcaster. The DEA has been without a Senate-confirmed leader since the Obama administration. Trump relied on several acting administrators to steer the roughly $3 billion agency, which investigates violations of the nation’s drug laws.

—”Biden picks Chris Magnus, police chief of Tucson who criticized Trump, to lead Customs and Border Protection” via Zolan Kanno-Youngs of The New York Times

—”Biden administration plans to name former senior NSA officials to White House cyber position and head of CISA” via Ellen Nakashima of The Washington Post

Biden Republicans? Some in GOP open to President’s agenda” via Will Weissert of The Associated Press — Only 8% of Republicans voted Democratic in November’s presidential race, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of the electorate nationwide. During last year’s campaign, Biden at times courted Republicans at the risk of alienating the Democratic left. Several prominent Republicans got speaking positions during the Democratic National Convention. As President, Biden has expressed openness to working with Republicans. But he also helped ram through Congress the largest expansion of the social safety net in a generation as part of a coronavirus relief and stimulus package that didn’t get a single Republican vote. He’s now calling for spending trillions more on infrastructure, pushing a proposal meant to appeal to people in both parties.

Tweet, tweet:

— EPILOGUE TRUMP —

The great capitulation of Trump’s voter fraud crusade” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — The 2020 election is a case study in how unproven claims can be weaponized. For decades, Trump’s Party warned of significant voter fraud while successfully pushing policies such as voter ID. In 2016, Trump laid a predicate for contesting an election by suggesting massive fraud, even in an election he had won. By 2020, when Trump lost, it culminated in a huge portion of the electorate believing a “stolen election” theory for which there is vanishingly little actual evidence. Some have done more than raise questions, though. They, like Trump and often in search of his allies’ support, have alleged actual massive fraud. But now, they’ve been asked to account for it. And crucially and increasingly, they have backed down.

Donald Trump claims massive voter fraud; Republicans back down when asked to prove it. Image via AP.

Is Trump anointing DeSantis as his heir? Former President golfs with Gov the day after calling Mitch McConnell a ‘dumb son of a b**ch’” via Valerie Edwards for Daily Mail — Trump was spotted golfing with DeSantis on Sunday after the Governor’s name has been mentioned as a top Republican hopeful for the 2024 presidential race as he continued to hit out against controversy over COVID-19 vaccines. Trump was pictured having conversations with DeSantis during their outing at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach. The photos of the two men together underlined DeSantis’s closeness with Trump as the former President has remained mum on whether he’ll run in 2024 even as Republicans are jockeying for a position to take his place atop the party should he decide against another bid.

Rick Scott invents award for Trump” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Trump may be a former President of the United States, but the plaudits keep coming nonetheless. The most recent example came this weekend when the one-term Republican received an award courtesy of U.S. Sen. Scott. Scott, who helms the National Republican Senatorial Committee, presented Trump with the first NRSC Champion for Freedom Award this weekend, according to Scott’s NRSC office. The NRSC award was presented to Trump on the same weekend he made news that may or may not be in Scott’s political interest. Scott, who has contended the GOP “civil war” was “over,” was likely not mollified by the former President calling Senate Minority Leader McConnell a “dumb son of a b**ch” Saturday night.

Rick Scott awards Donald Trump with the first-ever presidential participation award.

Inside Trump’s private, revisionist, grievance-laden speech to the RNC” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — The Trump Show was rekindled privately Saturday night at a Republican National Committee event at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, with Trump delivering a speech heavy on his election grievances and with relatively little to say about the future of the party. Trump hit Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for not helping overturn the 2020 election and called him a “dumb son of a b—-,” while accusing him of being ungrateful for Trump’s appointment of McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, to his Cabinet.

Kristen Clarke faced abuse for taking on Trump. Now she’s poised to lead Justice Dept.’s civil rights team.” via David Nakamura of The Washington Post — President Trump was waging his baseless assault on the election results last fall when Kristen Clarke, head of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, opened her inbox to a stream of vicious threats over her efforts to fight back and protect the rights of voters. Openly misogynistic, littered with racial epithets, the messages were of the variety that seeks to debase and intimidate prominent minority women. “May you be found guilty by military tribunal and executed by hanging,” one email read.

Old Trump health team rivalries resurface in Texas House race” via Adam Cancryn of POLITICO — A senior Trump health official’s bid to become the first administration alumnus elected to Congress is running into resistance from an unlikely source: his own former colleagues. Brian Harrison, chief of staff to former Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, has angered a swath of Trump White House and HHS political appointees with his “America First”-style campaign in the special election for a Dallas-area House seat. Harrison has sought to break out of a crowded Republican field by casting himself as a key driver of Trump’s agenda. The campaign has prompted one top Trump HHS official, Roger Severino, to endorse one of Harrison’s opponents.


— CRISIS —

Democratic values are still under attack — even without Trump in the White House” via Julia Azari of FiveThirtyEight — During the Trump presidency, many worried about the administration’s violation of long-standing norms. And Trump certainly did break with several enduring traditions, to the extent that his utter disregard for his office almost ceased to shock. But here at FiveThirtyEight, we have argued that Trump’s flouting of norms didn’t matter nearly as much as the underlying democratic values his administration threatened — from disrespecting the vital role that opposition can play in a democracy to trying to use the military and police for political gain. And, of course, there was the fact that Trump pretty much refused to concede the election peacefully.

Donald Trump may be gone, but the attack on democracy goes on. Image via AP.

The rise of domestic extremism in America” via Robert O’Harrow Jr., Andrew Ba Tran and Derek Hawkins of The Washington Post — Domestic terrorism incidents have soared to new highs in the United States, driven chiefly by white-supremacist, anti-Muslim and anti-government extremists on the far right. The surge reflects a growing threat from homegrown terrorism not seen in a quarter-century, with right-wing extremist attacks and plots greatly eclipsing those from the far left and causing more deaths. The number of all domestic terrorism incidents in the data peaked in 2020. Since 2015, right-wing extremists have been involved in 267 plots or attacks and 91 fatalities, the data shows. At the same time, attacks and plots ascribed to far-left views accounted for 66 incidents leading to 19 deaths.

Congressman opens up about post-traumatic stress after Jan. 6 insurrection” via Hallie Jackson of NBC News — It’s one of the most familiar and chilling scenes from Jan. 6: officers, guns drawn, in the House chamber. Behind the doors: the insurrectionists. Behind the camera: Congressman Dan Kildee, who was huddled in the gallery documenting it. “I went home; I thought I was fine,” Kildee said. “It was after I got home, and I started looking at some of the videos from the event. I thought it was a few dozen people. It was hundreds and hundreds of people, violent people. And that triggered an emotional and physical reaction. I had a lot of tension in my chest, and breathing was difficult. I became really irritable.”

Tweet, tweet:

— D.C. MATTERS —

U.S. government spent $660 billion more in March than it collected in revenue, the third-largest monthly deficit on record” via Jeff Stein of The Washington Post — The federal government spent $660 billion more than it collected in tax revenue this March, the Department of Treasury said, as the Biden administration’s stimulus package pushed the U.S. monthly deficit near record highs. The U.S. spent $927 billion in March alone, a jump due primarily to the disbursal of tens of millions of $1,400 stimulus payments under Biden’s American Rescue Plan. Meanwhile, tax revenues stayed largely flat, with the government only collecting slightly more than last March. The resulting deficit is the third-largest ever in American history, Treasury officials said, eclipsed only by April and June of last year.

White House outlines biggest infrastructure needs in Florida” via Josh Boak and Ashley Harding of News4Jax — The Biden White House is amplifying the push for its $2.3 trillion infrastructure package with the release Monday of state-by-state breakdowns that show the dire shape of roads, bridges, the power grid and housing affordability. The administration is also expanding the definition of infrastructure to include caregiving, child care, veterans’ health, retool manufacturing plants, increase the energy efficiency of homes. Earlier this year, the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Report Card for America’s Infrastructure found 13% of Florida’s roads are in poor condition, and 2.9% of the state’s 12,518 bridges were structurally deficient in 2019. The state also has $18.4 billion in wastewater needs.

The Joe Biden administration is targeting some of Florida’s most urgent infrastructure needs. Image via AP.

Why corporate America is declaring independence from the GOP” via Michele L. Norris of The Washington Post — The GOP and corporate America have been engaged in two very interesting but very different branding exercises over the past decade. For years, these two campaigns allowed both sides to maintain their mutually beneficial arrangement. In recent days, however, the two branding campaigns have collided. Part of what is going on here is that corporations protect their bottom lines as America steams toward the majority-minority tipping point sometime around 2047. The demographic reshuffling already underway will alter our culture, our politics, and who has the reins of power. Much of the Republican agenda is fueled by a fear of this future.

Kathy Castor and Gus Bilirakis reintroduce proposal to crack down on ‘zombie campaigns’” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Castor and Bilirakis joined Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin to reintroduce legislation that would require outgoing lawmakers to close their campaign accounts within two years of leaving office. The bipartisan proposal, known as the Honest Elections and Campaign, No Gain Act (HEC NO), requires former lawmakers and others no longer seeking office to close their associated campaign accounts within two years. The legislation addresses “zombie campaigns,” in which former politicians and staffers hoard unspent donations for years and use them for personal finance. The report detailed roughly 100 “zombie campaigns” still spending campaign cash long after the candidate exited the race.

— LOCAL NOTES —

Janet Cruz calls on Attorney General to hold Piney Point owner liable for water-pollution disaster” via Laura Cassels of Florida Phoenix — Following a nerve-wracking weekend of rainy weather, Tampa Bay-area Sen. Cruz called on Moody to take legal action against the owner of the leaky Piney Point Plant reservoirs threatening to spill millions of gallons of polluted water in waterways and communities. In an update Sunday, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection reported that 0.6 inches of local rainfall over the weekend added 4 million gallons to the volume within the southern reservoir, now holding 221 million gallons of tainted water. Another 215 million gallons were discharged to Port Manatee to reduce pressure on a failing embankment. The deliberate emergency release has ceased.

Janet Cruz demands to hold Piney Point’s owners liable for the leakage. Photo via Colin Hackley.

Election Day arrives today in two Pasco cities” via Barbara Behrendt of the Tampa Bay Times — Voters in the cities of Port Richey and New Port Richey will be selecting two city council members each in Tuesday’s municipal election. In New Port Richey, four candidates are vying for two available seats. Two of those candidates are incumbents: Matt Murphy, seeking his second term, and Mike Peters, who was appointed by the council in November after Jeff Starkey resigned because he had moved out of the city. The challengers are Kate Connolly and Rachel Guiliani Hagenbaugh. In Port Richey, there are three candidates but just two council seats open. The incumbents for the seats are Tom Kinsella and Todd Maklary and the challenger is Seth Kapp.

Coral Gables residents to choose new Mayor, fill two Commission spots” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Coral Gables voters will head to the polls Tuesday to decide on a new Mayor. Two City Commissioners are vying to become the next Mayor, meaning voters must choose successors in each of those seats on the Commission. The mayoral race is a three-way competition between City Commissioners Patricia Keon and Vince Lago and real estate agent Jackson “Rip” Holmes. Mayor Raúl Valdés-Fauli is retiring from that role, allowing a new face to step in. Both Keon and Lago were first elected to the City Commission in 2013. The winner of each election must secure 50% of the vote Tuesday, however. Otherwise, a runoff between the top two candidates will take place on April 27.

Two towers, at 42 and 45 stories, would rival Fort Lauderdale’s tallest buildings” via David Lyons of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Fort Lauderdale’s pricey Flagler Village is on the cusp of another high-rise luxury residential project: this time a pair of towers that would exceed 40 floors, rivaling the city’s tallest buildings in stature and height. Now dubbed “317 N Federal,” the project envisioned by Merrimac Ventures CEO and President Dev Motwani would stay in line with the village’s upscale theme, but at prices that would be $200 a month below what neighboring landlords charge tenants. The towers would be built in phases, with the first rising to the west of Federal along Northeast Third Street. Construction would start next year. The project’s site application is scheduled to go before the Fort Lauderdale Development Review Committee on Tuesday.

Stuck sailboat knocks out power from Key West to Big Pine” via Gwen Filosa and David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — A sailboat became stuck in transmission lines off the Florida Keys Monday morning, causing a power outage through the lower half of the island chain. The vessel zapped the electricity lines shortly before 9:30 a.m. about a half-mile north of the Seven Mile Bridge, said Julio Torrado, spokesman for Keys Energy Services, the utility that provides electricity to customers from Big Pine Key to Key West. Torrado said about 30,000 customers lost power. The utility said on its Facebook page that the boat would have to be removed from the transmission lines before power could be restored.

It’s back to the future in Destin as public beach expansion project begins” via Jim Thompson of the Northwest Florida Daily News — Work to expand the city’s Shore at Crystal Beach Park could be completed as soon as June, adding 184 feet of public beach to the 67 feet already covered at the park, for a new total of 251 feet. A cooperative effort of the city and county governments and the nonprofit Trust for Public Land, the project will open up a vista of the Gulf of Mexico at Hutchinson Street and Scenic Gulf Drive not seen for at least a generation. The project is funded with about $6.28 million in county bed tax dollars and about $4.37 million from Destin’s share of the local option half-cent sales tax. The money is paying for three Crystal Beach parcels, one to the west of the existing park and two to the east, that will be used to expand the beach park.

FSU Law has top passing rate for February Florida bar exam; FAMU Law improves” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — The Florida State University College of Law ranked highest in the state in students’ passing scores for the February bar exam, with 77.8% of its graduates passing who took the exam for the first time. According to test results released Monday by the Florida Board of Bar Examiners, Florida State had nine graduates taking the online exam with seven passing. The number of law graduates sitting for the winter exam is traditionally lower than the number taking the bar in the summer. Last February, FSU law grads placed third when 21 of 30 candidates passed, or 70%.

FSU has the most effective law school in the state. Image via WFSU.

Outside funding for USF St. Pete research projects hits more than $20M” via Lauren Coffey of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — University of South Florida St. Petersburg received more than $20 million for its research projects in the last year, more than double the outside funding it received the year prior. The funding, both federal and nonfederal, namely comes in the form of grants, contracts and awards, to help promising research begin or continue to flourish. “During a time of consolidation and a pandemic, which is very time-consuming for faculty, they’ve been even more productive,” USF St. Pete Chancellor Martin Tadlock said. While the amount of research has increased in the last year, thus upping chances for outside funding, Keith Anderson, USF’s interim VP for research, innovation and knowledge enterprise, attributed part of the funding to strong relationships USF St. Pete has built with specific organizations.

St. Pete Pride back on in 2021 after COVID-19 cancellation last year” via Josh Solomon of the Tampa Bay Times — St. Pete Pride, the largest LGBTQ+ celebration in Florida, is back in person this year after canceling events last summer due to the pandemic, though things will look a little different. Instead of hosting its signature parade, which in 2019 drew an estimated 265,000 people to St. Petersburg’s waterfront, restaurants, retail and cultural institutions will host events and offer discounts all June to spread out the festivities and smooth out attendance. Each week will culminate in a large “signature” event on Saturday.

You better watch out: Kitschy Santa triggers neighbor spat that ends up in state Supreme Court” via Tony Doris of The Palm Beach Post — The dispute began as a lawsuit over their elderly neighbor’s kitschy yard display, specifically her “sound-emitting Christmas decoration.” It was so loud, they said in a lawsuit, they were forced to vacate their home for weeks at a time and live aboard a 27-foot sailboat with their “two large-breed dogs.” Later they sicced city Code Enforcement inspectors on the neighbor, Miriam Galan, for allegedly turning her suburban house into a nursing home for “at least two individuals unrelated to her,” one of whom liked to sit on the front door porch. West Palm asked the Florida Supreme Court to weigh in. Fearing a statewide precedent if a resident could have courts tell a city how to enforce its own laws, West Palm drew support from friend of the court briefs. 

— TOP OPINION —

The promise of DeSantis” via Kyle Smith of the National Review — The hysteria and hostility with which the media are treating DeSantis ought to be instructive to anyone who imagined that the animus flung at Trump had to do with his unique characteristics. Trump was unique, but the media’s reaction was the same as ever: Any successful conservative must be treated as the most dire threat to the Republic. And yet, it’s exactly that hostility that has made DeSantis a national name. He fights. The comparisons to Trump come easily, but DeSantis also brings to mind Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani, each of whom built a national profile that depended not only on policy successes but on combativeness with the press. DeSantis possesses the dream resume for a Republican presidential candidate.

— OPINIONS —

Now is the time for a Third Reconstruction — abolishing Jim Crow once and for all” via Mondaire Jones for The Washington Post — We now find ourselves at a crossroads. For the first time in 10 years, the Democratic Party controls Congress and the White House. Building a multiracial democracy will not be easy. But if we do not act now, it may soon be impossible. Now is the time for a Third Reconstruction — one that abolishes Jim Crow once and for all. That means making voting as easy as possible for everyone by establishing automatic voter registration, protecting our voter rolls from purges, and ensuring universally accessible ballots for seniors, people with disabilities, and anyone else who needs accommodation. That means restoring that right to the 5.2 million people, disproportionately Black and brown, who have been disenfranchised because of felony convictions.

Fried: Florida Republicans declare war on medical marijuana” via Tallahassee Democrat — Republicans in the Florida Legislature want to turn back the clock and renew the failed war on drugs — at least that’s what you’d think based on the bills filed this Session. HB 1455, put forward by Rep. [Spencer] Roach (ironic, right?), declares war on Florida’s medical marijuana program and patients. The legislation places a cap on THC levels in Florida medical marijuana products, limiting their impact and forcing patients to purchase higher quantities to get the same level of treatment. To be blunt: a limit on THC is an assault on our Constitution, our liberty, and our state’s medical marijuana program, which helps over 500,000 patients access the relief they need daily.

Scott McCracken: We all pay the price when easily resolved building defects wind up in court” via Florida Politics — We’re seeing more and more instances of owners, often with lawyers in tow, making claims of building defects in such a vague and inauthentic way that the only path to resolving the issue is through prolonged litigation. There is one way we can protect Florida’s small businesses and improve Florida’s construction environment. Bills have been filed in the Legislature to limit civil actions to “material violations” — those that exist in a completed building, structure, or facility that could result in either harm to a person or significant damage to the building. This seemingly minor fix would reduce the kind of frivolous claims that are ultimately driving small construction contractors out of business.

— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —

The Florida House could vote on a bill today to bar transgender students from the women’s team. Democrats oppose the bill … but they don’t have the votes to stop it.

Also, on today’s #Sunrise:

DeSantis is fuming over “cancel culture.” This time, it’s personal. He’s upset that YouTube removed one of his video roundtables on COVID-19 because it violated their rules about misinformation. So, DeSantis invited the doctors who took part in that discussion to another roundtable to talk about censorship.

— The Governor is also warning corporate CEO’s not to get involved in the fight over changing election laws. He says they have no right to interfere in Florida politics.

— DeSantis says corporations can do all the lobbying they want over taxes and regulations … but he warns them to stay out of social justice issues.

— With less than three weeks left in Session, the push is to strike a new deal over gambling. The biggest change would allow pari-mutuels to keep their slots and card rooms without having any live races. 

— Lawmakers are now waiting to see if the Governor can seal a deal for a new gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe.

— And finally, a Florida Woman has been sentenced to 29 days in jail for assault after deliberately coughing on a woman with brain cancer.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

Sidelined last year by COVID-19, the Met Gala is returning twice, both exploring American fashion” via Jocelyn Noveck of USA Today — The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced Monday that the annual high-wattage celebration of both fashion and celebrity, held virtually last year because of the pandemic, will return in person, first in September, then again in 2022 in its usual slot of the first Monday in May. The galas, a “more intimate” version on Sept. 13 of this year and a larger one on May 2, 2022, will launch a two-part exhibition to be on view for almost a year. There was no immediate word on who the celebrity hosts, or chairs, would be for the galas, traditionally a heady mix of luminaries from fashion, music, film, TV, sports, and other arenas.

The Met Gala returns — twice! Image via AP.

Apple working on combined TV box, speaker to revive home efforts” via Mark Gurman of Bloomberg — Apple Inc. has been a laggard in the smart-home space, but a versatile new device in early development could change that. The company is working on a product that would combine an Apple TV set-top box with a HomePod speaker and include a camera for video conferencing through a connected TV and other smart-home functions, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters. The device’s other capabilities would include standard Apple TV box functions like watching video and gaming plus smart speaker uses such as playing music and using Apple’s Siri digital assistant. If launched, it would represent Apple’s most ambitious smart-home hardware offering to date.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

We owe a round of birthday wishes to our friend, Fred Piccolo as well as Jared Rosenstein. Celebrating today are former U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, Reps. Sam Killebrew and John SnyderChris Chaney of The Advocacy Group, Doug Cook, former head of the Agency for Health Care Administration, Nick Iacovella, Director of Communications at Coalition for a Prosperous America, and political consultant Todd Pressman.

___

Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.



#FlaPol

Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jason Delgado, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Jesse Scheckner, Scott Powers, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.

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