Here’s Brunch, a pop-up, weekend email during the 2022 Legislative Session — 1.23.22

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

Good Sunday morning,

This is the second edition of this pop-up newsletter for the 2022 Legislative Session, which will come to you each Sunday for the next two months so that you have something to read while you’re enjoying your French toast and Mimosas.

We’re still recovering from a livelier-than-you-may-think Gasparilla Children’s Parade (thank you, Robert and Nancy Watkins, for throwing such a great party), but are ready to cheer on our Buccaneers at 3 p.m. (read Joe Henderson’s game preview below).

Gasparilla for the kids, Tampa family fun at its finest. Image via @JaneCastor/Twitter.

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.

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

— Governor hits conference circuit —

Gov. Ron DeSantis will be a featured speaker at multiple major conservative conferences next month as he gears up for re-election later this year.

Florida Chapters Conference: The Federalist Society’s Florida lawyers chapters host their eighth annual meeting from Feb. 4-5. DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence are being advertised as the headliners for that conference. The meeting will be held at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resort.

Ron DeSantis has a lot to say. This month he will get his chance.

CPAC: DeSantis is also a confirmed speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference, one of the largest grassroots conservative meetings in the country. That event will also take place in Orlando at The Rosen Shingle Creek. The annual meeting will run from Feb. 24-27.

Campaign season: DeSantis is making these stops along the right-leaning speaking circuit as he looks to secure another term as Governor. Whether DeSantis is looking beyond to 2024 remains hazy, but he is clearly trying to further connect with the base after winning his first race for Governor by less than one percentage point.

DeSantis was one of the top draws at last year’s CPAC event. He kicked off the first day of the conference in 2021. Toward the end of that jaunt, a straw poll of attendees showed DeSantis as the clear top choice in the 2024 presidential field without former President Donald Trump on the ballot. That was one of the first indicators DeSantis is the preferred GOP option after Trump.

— Hurrah Casey —

First Lady Casey DeSantis completed her final round of chemotherapy treatments this week, marking the end of a monthslong journey for Florida’s First Family. 

Warm welcome: The news marked the best update yet since the mother of three was diagnosed with breast cancer late last year. Though updates have been few and far, the Governor previously vowed the First Lady will be “cancer-free” in 2022.

A bipartisan celebration: Politicos on both sides of the aisle rallied around Casey DeSantis after the announcement. “No matter your political ideology, cancer sucks,” wrote Orlando Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani. “I’m glad to hear the First Lady is through chemo.”

More well wishes: “Prayers for a full and speedy recovery for our First Lady,” wrote Tallahassee Rep. Allison Tant. “And self-care time post-chemo.”

Love birds: Casey also thanked the Governor for remaining alongside her during the treatments. “I’m grateful, very humbled and blessed,” she wrote. The bell she rang signifying the end of treatment is now featured in the Governor’s Mansion.

— Patronis v. Newsom —

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis penned a tongue-in-cheek letter this week to California Gov. Gavin Newsom, jabbing at his effort to bring a single-payer health care program to the state.

Patronis’ pitch: “I am writing to propose another strategy: you should save yourself all of the hassle and encourage the few productive and hardworking Californians you have remaining to move to Florida. Trust me; it would be a lot easier than passing a bill.” 

Never pass up a good opportunity to troll California. Right, Jimmy Patronis?

Marxism?: In the letter, Patronis contends California and other blue states are flirting with the philosophy of a particular 19th-century economist. They, he wrote, are playing “footsie” while Florida is cutting taxes.

America’s Gov.: He also highlighted Gov. Ron DeSantis’ $1 billion proposal to cut state gas taxes. “My economist believes the Governor’s gas tax cut proposal will equate to around a $200 average savings for Florida households, which is an idea you would hate,” Patronis jabbed. 

Open invitation: Patronis concluded the letter with a link to Florida’s tourism advertising arm, Visit Florida. Californians, he wrote, can now map their “exit strategy.”

— Long odds —

Las Vegas Sands’ quest to bring casino gaming to North Florida is starting to look like a long shot, which upsets us because we were looking forward to staying at the Ritz Amelia Island than driving over to The Venetian-Florida to play some roulette.

The hurdle? Time. It takes 891,589 petition signatures for proposed amendments to make the ballot. The committee backing the effort, Florida Voters In Charge, had 606,249 verified signatures 12 days out from the Feb. 1 deadline. 

Fuzzy math. Looking at the totals, it would seem the gaming giant needs to collect another 295,000 sigs, but they’ll need about 20,000 more since the fine print requires ballot proposals to hit certain thresholds in a majority of the state’s congressional districts. That means to reach the goal (about 912,000 signatures), they would have to average about 30,600 per day.

Petition gathering is facing a long road in 2022.

1-26. No, that’s not the Jags’ record over the past two seasons. It’s worse. The committee has only met the threshold in one congressional district. It’s close in a few others, but only homers are holding out hope they’ll hit 14 in a fortnight.

Get outta Dodge, err, Duval. The gap stems from the committee’s overkill performance in Florida’s 5th Congressional District. Meanwhile, the committee is thousands off the mark in the neighboring 3rd and 4th congressional districts, both of which encompass pockets of North Florida that the new gaming venues could impact.

Good money after, well, we won’t say it. Las Vegas Sands had dumped $50 million into the ballot effort as of Dec. 31, which amounts to about $86 per signature. And, like most people in the McCarran Int’l terminal, they’ll probably head home with a wallet that’s been beaten to a bloody pulp.

— Get smart fast —

Few actions of the Legislature hold such a direct impact on the lives of lawmakers as reapportionment, the once-a-decade redesign of Florida’s political landscape. Weeks into session, there’s more clarity for Florida legislators about where lines will be drawn, whether they like them or not.

Senate service: The upper chamber, despite a late start with census data, wrapped up its process in record time with Sen. Ray Rodrigues running the Senate Reapportionment Committee kitchen. The upper chamber, with broad bipartisan support, advanced a Senate map (S 8058) and its vision for Florida’s now-28 Congressional seats (S 8060).

Mapmaker: Ray Rodrigues did solid work in record time.

On deck: The House has lagged behind, partly because its legislative map has three times as many districts as the Senate’s. But on Friday, the House Legislative Redistricting Subcommittee settled on a draft (H 8009) to kick to the full panel. Still no word on when it will produce its much-anticipated next congressional map.

— Bitters: There’s been praise for the process compared to prior efforts, but also complaints that could manifest as litigation. Latino Justice and the League of Women Voters repeated gripes throughout that somehow; no map produces more minority districts than ones in place now. Do 1.5 million new Hispanic Floridians justify at least a House seat? Maps thus far conclude the growth means fewer opportunity districts and more majority-minority ones.

— Out of nowhere: But the most surprising input came this week out of DeSantis’ office. Not only did counsel take the unprecedented step of submitting a map (P 0079), but officials, including the Governor himself, said the Senate proposals present legal concerns, particularly a north Florida district they label an “unconstitutional gerrymander.” It raises the question, would he veto a GOP map?

— Next course: The Senate all but ignored the executive office on this one. But now, all eyes turn to the lower chamber. Will their next draft reflect DeSantis’ suggestions? Will the House Redistricting Committee further change the House map? Check back next week.

One ‘berry good bill’ —

A proposal to make strawberry shortcake Florida’s official state dessert cruised smoothly through its final Senate committee Thursday with nary a jam.

Sweet success: Every member of the Senate Rules Committee gave a thumbs-up to a bill by Sen. Danny Burgess of Zephyrhills, which he filed as a companion to one Reps. Lawrence McClure of Dover and Demi Busatta Cabrera of Coral Gables filed in November.

Strawberry fields forever: Burgess and McClure represent the greater Plant City area, where the more than 100,000 acres of strawberries planted there annually makeup 75% of the country’s winter strawberry production.

Official? Looks better all the time.

A Fruitful endeavor: Hillsborough County produces 15% of the nation’s strawberries and virtually all the berries grown during winter, according to the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, which said the 20 million flats of strawberries produced yearly make a more than $700 million impact on the community.

Tart of war: Florida doesn’t have an official state dessert now, but it does have an official pie: Key lime pie. McClure, whose bill is still moving through the House, has said he doesn’t want to “take the Key limelight away from the state pie,” but some, like Rep. Erin Grall of Very Beach, have suggested making strawberry shortcake the state cake instead to ensure both baked goods receive equal standing.

— Elevator headache —

A brief explainer to those of you who weren’t here last year. To call an elevator, use the panels to indicate where you’re headed. Ride your designated elevator, and pray you don’t change your mind because there aren’t floor buttons inside. You’re also encouraged to complain with your fellow passengers about the new smart system to avoid awkward silences.

@CapElevators: Rep. Dan Daley last week helped inspire the sarcastic Twitter account @CapElevators, which is dedicated to ragging on the new lifts. However, the new elevator A.I. might be spiteful because it appeared to seek revenge this week.

Get shafted: The floor fell out on Wednesday when the system appeared to crash under the weight of so many trips. Daley and others tweeted in frustration this week that they were forced to take the stairs because their elevator never came.

Elevator liaisons: The Department of Management Services sent messengers to apologize and guide people on using the elevators. Only press the button once, their handout said, or it’ll slow down the system. What they forgot to warn was, press the wrong button, and you might be sent to the Ninth Circle of Hell.

Price tag: On Tuesday, before the chaos, DMS Secretary Todd Inman told lawmakers that the new elevators cost $18.7 million. The system attempts to group passengers, and he said it’s already reduced travel and wait times by 20% to 30%.

“It’s an adaptive system that will continue to learn patterns and trends to create better efficiencies as we start learning about first days of Session, committee weeks, things of that sort. I can tell you that we will just get better.”

— Pixie dust in Tallahassee —

Lawmakers and visitors met a special guest Tuesday during Disney Day at the Florida Capitol.

— The cast: Mickey and friends greeted visitors as they entered the Capitol. Some even got the chance to hand paint a canvas art piece featuring Mickey, Minnie, Pluto and the gang. 

Disney Day brings a little magic to Tallahassee.

Heartstrings: Disney cast members presented the finished art to Capital Regional Medical Center the following. They offered the donation as a way to honor the state’s health care heroes.

Happy anniversary: The special event also commemorated the theme park’s 50th lap around the sun. Disney opened Oct. 1, 1971, in Orlando and hosted roughly 10,000 guests on its inaugural day.

—Go Bulls —

University of South Florida students got an inside look at the legislative process this week as part of USF Day at the Capitol.

Sights and Sounds: Students toured the Capitol Complex, including both Chambers and the Supreme Court. They also took part in a series of panel discussions with process members, and explored various topics such as possible career paths.

Not all fun: USF Day is a business trip too. University leaders — including President Rhea Law and Chair Will Weatherford joined students and spent the day discussing university priorities with lawmakers.

Bulls stormed The Capitol this week.

Team goals: Among other wants, USF leadership seeks a $50 million increase in recurring funds. The goal: boost their way into the Top 25 public universities in America. 

— Champa Bay —

It’s amazing how easy it was for fans to get used to playoff football by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after a decade-plus absence from the party. Last year’s Super Bowl run was the Bucs’ first time in the NFL postseason since 2007. But now, they’re in the tournament for the second consecutive year and have five consecutive playoff victories — four last season and the dominating 31-16 victory over Philadelphia last week in the wild card game.

Stat of the day: The Bucs scored exactly 31 points in four of those five games. In the other, they scored 30. They have won those games by a combined 61 points.

Sunday matchup: Today’s game at Raymond James Stadium against the Los Angeles Rams could be a dogfight. The Bucs are 3-point favorites, which is Las Vegas’ way of saying they believe the game is a tossup. The betting line gives the home team a 3-point edge generally goes up or down from there. Kickoff is at 3 p.m., and Ray-Jay will be rocking.

Tom Brady gets another crack at the Rams this week. Will he break his streak?

Will Brady struggle? Since arriving in Tampa, Bucs quarterback Tom Brady is 0-2 against the Rams, including a 34-24 loss at Los Angeles in Week 3 of this season.

Injury woes: The Bucs also have a lengthy injury list that includes All-Pro offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs and center Ryan Jensen. But hey, the Bucs have Brady. That should be enough. Right?

Prediction: Bucs 31, Rams 24.

— Brunching Out —

Sometimes you just want to have comfort food for breakfast. Nothing fancy. Just a heaping plate of eggs, potatoes, pancakes, some kind of meat and whatever else you can devour. When we’re in that kind of mood, one place usually comes to mind: Village Inn. 

Setting: When you walk in the entrance, you’ll see a display case stacked with the restaurant’s award-winning pies (with flavors like coconut cream, French silk or country apple). If you haven’t been to Village Inn in years, the restaurant moved to a larger setting at Park and Magnolia in 2016. There’s also a branch in the Northeast, both owned by the same franchisee. 

Sometimes, you just need the basics. Image via Tallahassee Table.

The Menu: Village Inn offers a large selection including classics, skillet specials, three-egg omelets, pancakes, French toast, and my favorite, the V.I.B. — make your own Village Inn breakfast plate. You can pick four different items and there are a lot of options, including eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, fruit, toast, biscuits, French toast, pancakes and crepes. My husband always studies the menu then orders the same thing each time: chicken-fried steak smothered in sausage gravy with eggs over medium, hash browns and buttermilk pancakes for $11.99. Did I mention there’s pie?

Details: Magnolia Grove Development, 1225 Park Avenue East, 850-877-8471; 3392 Lonnbladh Rd., 850-297-0053. Open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

Staff Reports


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Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jason Delgado, Renzo Downey, Daniel Figueroa, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Joe Henderson, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, Mike Wright, and Tristan Wood.

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