Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 1.25.22

Sunburn Orange Tally (8)
Florida politics and Sunburn — perfect together.

Good Tuesday morning.

Say cheese! — If you’re a lawmaker who is tired of seeing photos from your freshman term pop up on Florida Politics, you’re in luck.

Photographer Alex Workman will be in the Capitol courtyard on Feb. 2 to snap new headshots for any member who wants one. All you need to do is mark yourself down for a time, and we’ll handle the rest. If you have any questions, shoot an email to [email protected].

Sign up here.


After a COVID-19-postponed event in 2021, the Red Dog, Blue Dog bartending competition is back — and it will be “better than ever,” according to Kate MacFall, Florida State Director at the Humane Society.

The annual event raises money for the health and welfare of companion animals by pitting four Republican and four Democratic bartenders against each other in a friendly competition. This year, the fundraiser will be held at Township, 619 S. Woodward Avenue, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The teams of rivals include Sen. Aaron Bean, Sen. Jason Brodeur, Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera and Sen. Joe Gruters on the Red Team; and Rep. Michael Grieco, Sen. Shevrin Jones, Sen. Jason Pizzo and Rep. Michelle Rayner slinging drinks for the Blue Team.

Cheers! Red Dog Blue Dog returns!

In 2020, the fundraiser netted nearly $9,600, divided between three local animal welfare groups, the Animal Shelter Foundation, the Leon County Humane Society and Last Chance Rescue. These groups will be the beneficiaries again in 2022.

There has been a change-up for this year’s edition. There will be a presenting sponsor for the first time: Rubin Turnbull & Associates.

Managing partner Heather Turnbull told Florida Politics that she sees the event as an opportunity to educate the public about the cruel treatment of dogs in puppy mills and encourage them to seek out reputable breeders or, even better, to adopt from a shelter.

In addition to Rubin Turnbull, other sponsoring organizations include Bascom Communications & Consulting, Florida Internet & Television, Enwright Rimes Consulting, McGuireWoods Consulting, Florida Association of Insurance Agents, Landmarc Strategies, Sachs Media Group, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners, Brecht & Hunter Heuchan, Carlton Fields and Allison Aubuchon Communications.


Gene McGee is now a partner in Sunrise Consulting Group’s government affairs practice, the firm announced Tuesday.

McGee, formerly of GMA Inc., brings more than 30 years of experience in government relations to the firm. In addition to his work in the lobbying field, he has served as legislative affairs director for the Florida Department of State and the Senate campaigns director for the Republican Party of Florida.

“It’s just a natural fit. I have known Gene for 20 years, and he is one of the nicest and hardest working guys you will meet in the Capitol. His great relationships in this process and expansive knowledge of the workings of government in Tallahassee will help grow and strengthen our firm,” said Shawn Foster, the president and CEO of Sunrise Consulting Group.

Gene McGee gets a new top gig at Sunrise Consulting.

“Gene’s deep roots in Citrus County, combined with our long-established relationships in Pasco and Hernando counties, give SCG a strong base in Florida’s Nature Coast to complement its focus on state government in Tallahassee.”

In addition to his talent, McGee brings clients, including AmeriHealth Caritas Florida, Duke Energy, Greyhound Bus Lines, PCI Gaming, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment and others.

“I am absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with my friend Shawn Foster and Sunrise Consulting Group,” McGee said. “I have such respect for Shawn’s integrity, work ethic and genuineness. I truly believe he is one of the nicest and most effective people walking the halls of the Capitol. Putting this team together will not only make us more effective at serving our clients, but it will also be a joy to work together.”

With the roster addition, Sunrise Consulting Group now boasts more than 60 years of combined experience with broad expertise in appropriations, education, criminal justice, state associations, corporate clients and local governments.


Ballard Partners has launched a practice group devoted to representing cannabis industry clients in legislative and regulatory matters.

One of the largest and most successful at the state and federal levels, the firm has tapped partners Courtney Coppola and Eugene O’Flaherty to lead the new venture.

“Our firm currently represents the largest cannabis retailer in the nation along with many other clients with significant interests in this industry,” said Brian Ballard, the firm’s founder and president. “Under Courtney and Gene’s leadership, our Cannabis Practice Group will provide invaluable counsel and assistance to clients throughout the country.”

Coppola joined Ballard Partners earlier this month. She most recently served as Deputy Chief of Staff to Gov. Ron DeSantis, though she previously worked as Director of Florida’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use.

Courtney Coppola and Eugene O’Flaherty will go deep for cannabis interests. Image via Ballard Partners.

“The cannabis industry in the United States has developed with conflicting and evolving policies at the federal, state and local level. Our new practice group will help clients navigate the complexity of these ever-changing policies,” Coppola said.

O’Flaherty was a member of the Massachusetts Legislature and served as Chair of the House Judiciary Committee from 2002 through 2013. The position saw him handle all bills related to the legalization of medical and recreational cannabis — Massachusetts voters approved medical cannabis in 2012 and recreational cannabis in 2016.

He later became Corporation Counsel for the city of Boston, where he was tasked with establishing and supervising the office that implemented the new law and processed applications for cannabis dispensaries in the city. O’Flaherty also wrote the regulations and transferred the cannabis process to the city’s Licensing Commission and established the Cannabis Control Board which today processes and licenses all cannabis applications in Boston.


Science centers and museums from around the state are partnering with organizations such as the Motorola Solutions Foundation to host STEM Day at the Florida Capitol on Tuesday.

STEM Day focuses on the role science centers and museums play in inspiring young Floridians to pursue careers in STEM, an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Science takes center stage at STEM Day at The Capitol.

Tuesday will see participants, including student groups, share their passion for STEM education and herald the benefits of STEM education, including its impacts on the state workforce and economy.

Participating groups include the Orlando Science Center, Motorola Solutions Foundation, the Museum of Discovery and Science in Ft. Lauderdale, the Tallahassee Museum, FIRST Northwest Florida, River City Science Academy of Jacksonville and STEM SimX.

Festivities will include displays and hands-on activities demonstrating how STEM education benefits the state. They will be set up in the Florida Capitol courtyard and rotunda from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.


@MarcACaputo: (Peter) Doocy: “Do you think inflation is a political liability in the midterms?” (Joe) Biden (sarcastically): “It’s a great asset. More inflation. What a stupid son of a bitch.” Today, Biden became president

@Malinowski: My office is now getting calls from folks who say they watch Tucker Carlson and are upset that we’re not siding with Russia in its threats to invade Ukraine, and who want me to support Russia’s “reasonable” positions.

@RyanStruyk: Some good news: U.S. cases and hospitalizations may have peaked. Daily cases now down to 681k/day from an 808k/day peak last week. Total hospitalizations ticking down from 160k to 150k in the last few days. Daily deaths still near the highest since September at ~2,000 deaths/day.

@GirlsReallyRule: Reminder to mainstream media that anti-vaxxing can’t go mainstream unless you help it to go mainstream with the kind of coverage you give it.

Tweet, tweet:

@NdamukongSuh: Tough loss yesterday. The plan that’s in your heart isn’t always God’s plan. But today, I’m remembering that everything happens for a reason!

Tweet, tweet:

@DanCow: Note: if you like tweeting your wordIe scores, someone’s made a bot you should block as it auto-responds with tomorrows answer


James Madison Institute’s Stanley Marshall Day Celebration in Jacksonville — 3; XXIV Olympic Winter Games begins — 10; Super Bowl LVI — 19; Will Smith’s ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ reboot premieres — 19; Discover Boating Miami International Boat Show begins — 22; season four of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ begins — 22; Spring Training report dates begin — 23; Synapse Florida tech summit begins — 23; ‘The Walking Dead’ final season part two begins — 26; Daytona 500 — 26; Special Election for Jacksonville City Council At-Large Group 3 — 29; Suits For Session — 29; CPAC begins — 30; St. Pete Grand Prix — 31; Biden to give State of the Union — 35; ‘The Batman’ premieres — 38; the third season of ‘Atlanta’ begins — 57; season two of ‘Bridgerton’ begins — 59; The Oscars — 61; Macbeth with Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga begin performances on Broadway — 63; Grammys rescheduled in Las Vegas — 68; federal student loan payments will resume — 96;’ Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 101;’ Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 122;’ Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 128;’ Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 165; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 178; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 196; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 220;’ Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 255; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 290; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 293; ‘Avatar 2′ premieres — 325;’ Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 388;’ John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 423; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 549;’ Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 633; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 913.


Florida National Guard caught in Ukraine, Russia showdown — As tensions rise between Russia and Ukraine, more than 150 Florida National Guardsmen remain on the ground serving alongside Ukrainian Armed Forces. Members of the Florida National Guard’s 53rd Infantry Brigade deployed to the region late last year as part of a mentorship and training mission. However, in recent weeks, Russia has amassed thousands of troops along the Ukrainian border and raised fears of a possible military invasion. Biden on Monday directed the Pentagon to ready 8,500 troops for potential deployment to the region. A Pentagon spokesperson in December told Task & Purpose the 53rd Infantry Brigade is not authorized to follow Ukrainian troops into combat. Based in Pinellas Park, the 53rd Infantry Brigade is Florida’s largest National Guard unit.

The Florida National Guard is playing a role in Ukraine standoff. Image via Facebook.


Ahead of hearing, top House Democrat says Joseph Ladapo’s bona fides aren’t there on COVID-19” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — When Surgeon General Ladapo steps before senators for his first confirmation hearing, leading House Democrats hope their fellow lawmakers ask the controversial doctor about his COVID-19 experience and stance. The Senate Health Policy Committee is slated Wednesday to weigh Ladapo’s appointment to be the state’s top public health official. House Minority Leader Evan Jenne told reporters Monday that he wants to hear lawmakers flesh out Ladapo’s medical expertise. Reports had challenged Ladapo’s claims he worked as a front-line COVID-19 doctor at the University of California Los Angeles’ flagship hospital before DeSantis selected him in September as Florida’s next Surgeon General.

Joseph Ladapo just doesn’t have the chops, Democrats say.

Lawmaker details how proposed 15-week abortion ban would have impacted her abnormal pregnancy” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Democratic leaders held an online news conference Monday highlighting how women’s reproductive freedoms are under renewed assault, even for those impregnated through rape and incest. Democratic state Rep. Robin Bartleman said that the time it took to find out about a fetal abnormality and the struggle with what to do would have put her over that proposed 15-week limit. “I had the ability to make that decision. I had the ability to weigh the pros and cons and the impact on my family,” Bartleman said. “I was able to debate with just my husband, my doctor and my God, not the Florida Legislature.” Bartleman’s pregnancy ultimately terminated without an abortion, but Bartleman said she doesn’t want to see women have to reckon with anyone outside their own families as they make intensely personal decisions about their lives.

Senate panel moves Ron DeSantis priority cracking down on ‘midnight’ migrants” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Senators have given the first legislative OK to a DeSantis priority to crack down further on illegal immigration. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-3 along party lines Monday to approve a bill (SB 1808) expanding on a 2019 law that banned “sanctuary cities.” The measure, carried by Sen. Bean, would prevent transportation companies from doing business in Florida if they participate in programs transporting to the state people who have entered the country illegally. Sen. Tina Polsky argued the bill’s consequences could include barring lawmakers or school sports teams from flying on American Airlines, for example. Bean argued that was precisely the bill’s intent.

Senate panel advances bill eliminating permanent alimony” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Legislation to end lifelong alimony has returned to the Legislature and is making its way through the Senate. In recent years, some lawmakers have made repeated unsuccessful attempts to pass similar alimony reform measures. In this Session, Gruters says his bill (SB 1796) improves past efforts. The measure on Monday passed the Senate Judiciary Committee 6-3 on a party-line vote. If passed, Florida would join the majority of other states that have banned lifetime alimony. “This bill is all about predictability,” Gruters told the panel. “It allows people to live their lives and the goals of bringing fairness to the system.” The measure would repeal court-ordered permanent alimony for all divorces going forward, leaving bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative and durational alimony. Former couples could still agree to permanent alimony in a marital settlement.

VISIT FLORIDA promises no more ‘Pitbull incidents’ as bill to extend program makes it through House Commerce Committee” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — Rep. Linda Chaney called it the “Pitbull incident.” About five years ago, VISIT FLORIDA was coming under fire from both sides of the aisle in Tallahassee following reports of bloat, sketchy bonuses, a lack of transparency and lavish contracts to celebrities like Miami rapper Pitbull. The agency’s CEO, along with the chief operating officer and chief marketing officer, stepped down after it was learned Mr. 305 was given a million-dollar contract to market the state worldwide. Chaney is sponsoring HB 489, a bill to extend VISIT FLORIDA’s sunset from Oct. 1, 2023, to Oct. 1, 2028. Since its housecleaning, VISIT FLORIDA has made quarterly reports available to the public and Legislature at any time.

Bills that expand telehealth, change Medicaid managed care reporting requirements clear House panel” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — On Monday, a House health care panel quickly approved bills that expand Florida’s telehealth law, delete specific reporting requirements for Medicaid managed care plans and change rules that insurance companies and HMOs relying on step therapy programs must follow. The bills passed the House Health and Human Services Committee unanimously and, for the most part, without debate or fanfare. HB 17 allows providers to prescribe controlled substances via telehealth. Filed by Rep. Tom Fabricio, the bill enables telehealth providers to issue a renewal prescription for controlled substances listed under Schedule III, IV and V via telehealth. When Rep. Kelly Skidmore asked whether the changes applied to refills or all prescriptions, Fabricio said it was the physician’s call based on the “standard of care.”

Tom Fabricio is pushing a significant expansion of telehealth.

Florida nonprofits ask Legislature to fund $40 million to ease foster case manager shortage” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — The Florida Coalition for Children and Florida TaxWatch asked the Legislature to add an additional $40 million into its foster care system to halt a case manager shortage. The state funds several private community organizations to place foster children into homes, a process monitored by caseworkers with those organizations. About 2,000 case managers work in the state, but the industry currently has 600 vacant positions, said Coalition President and CEO Kurt Kelly. He said the shortage is being driven by Florida having lower average case manager salaries than other states and similar fields. Overall, the average salary is $39,646, well below the $57,600 average salary for teachers, police officers, and social workers. Kelly said that pay level is not high enough for the high-stress job and remained vital during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senate Committee OK’s bill to secure land conservation funding” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — A Senate committee OK’d a proposal Monday that would require lawmakers to provide $100 million a year to preserve natural lands under the Florida Forever Trust Fund. Created by lawmakers in 1999, Florida Forever is a conservation and recreation lands acquisition program designed to protect the state’s natural and cultural heritage. Under the proposal (SB 1816), lawmakers would guarantee $100 million a year for the program and extend the retirement date of bonds issued by the Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF). Voters in 2014 approved an amendment to establish a dedicated funding source for land and water conservation. The measure would extend the bond life to 2054, adding roughly 14 years to the current retirement date of 2040.

—TALLY 2 —

Lauren Book fights back over nude images stolen from her” via Brandon Farrington of The Associated Press — Sen. Book often has told the story about how she was sexually abused by her nanny for six years when she was a child. She channeled the pain into a lifetime of helping other abuse survivors. Now after years of working hard to heal herself and restore her life, Book has been victimized again, this time by someone trying to extort her by threatening to reveal nude photos that were stolen from her. What’s worse: During the investigation, she learned that the images had been bought and traded online since 2000.

‘It was just crazy’: Sen. Audrey Gibson on verbal attack by Sen. Ileana Garcia” via Jim DeFede of CBS Miami — At the conclusion of a recent legislative committee meeting, Sen. Garcia angrily confronted Sen. Gibson, standing over Gibson as she was seated and allegedly cursing at Gibson, saying she was tired of being disrespected. “She just walked over to me and got in my face about being disrespected,” Gibson said. “I said, what are you talking about? And I said, `You should get out of my face.’” As Gibson stood up to put distance between herself and Garcia, Senate staff stepped in, afraid the incident would escalate further. Walking away, Garcia reportedly said, “this isn’t a [expletive] parking lot.” Garcia denied she did anything and instead blamed Gibson, saying in a statement: “This story has been fabricated with a political narrative and not a journalistic one.”

‘Crazy’: Audrey Gibson and Ileana Garcia have heated words, point fingers.

Proposal tying local tax referendums to General Election ballots on to final committee” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — A proposal requiring local tax referendums to be held in general elections is on to its final committee after receiving unanimous approval Monday in the House Ways and Means Committee. The bill (HB 777), sponsored by Rep. Will Robinson, would require local governments to place local tax referendums on General Election ballots rather than primary, local or special elections. The goal is to get input when voter turnout is highest. When presenting the bill, Robinson listed three numbers: 24, 20 and 80. The first two were the percentages tied to voter turnout in Manatee and Sarasota counties in special elections, compared to the 80% turnout during the 2020 General Election. “The purpose of this bill is to have the maximum number of voters vote on these initiatives because are so important. They affect your pocketbook,” Robinson said.

Florida Democrats discuss legislative game plan after GOP blocks federal voting rights bill” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Congressional Democrats may have stumbled last week when Senate Republicans blocked the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act, but the fight is far from over. In a Zoom news conference Monday, attendees stressed the importance of the federal legislation, which passed through the U.S. House last year but stalled in the Senate. They also highlighted state bills that could still ease voting access in Florida. One such measure (SB 90), which DeSantis signed into law during a Fox News news conference in May, increased barriers to mail-in voting and banned the distribution of water and food to people waiting in line to vote in person, among other restrictions. “These were unnecessary changes that were made to the law,” state Sen. Tina Polsky said.

Tina Polsky says Florida’s new voting laws are solutions looking for a problem.

Democratic lawmakers push for dialogue on marijuana reform” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Democrats have filed at least 10 marijuana-related bills in the 2022 Legislative Session. One proposal would outright legalize marijuana (HB 467), while another would decriminalize the drug and other addictive substances. It’s a long shot, the sponsors will concede. But many insist the conversation alone is legislatively fruitful. “It’s probably more a matter of time than it is anything else,” House Minority Leader Jenne said on the Democratic-led effort to shape Florida’s drug policy. Democrats aren’t fighting alone. In trying to legalize marijuana, they enjoy the support of activists, and even some Republican lawmakers, who they say opt to stay silent on the issue.

Dems grill GOP sponsor on legislation exempting heavy equipment from ad valorem tax” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Reps. Anna Eskamani and Carlos Guillermo Smith hammered into several pieces of GOP-sponsored tax legislation Monday at the House Ways and Means Subcommittee, including one measure that seeks to change how heavy equipment is taxed in Florida. The measure that received the most scrutiny from Democratic lawmakers at the meeting was HB 751, sponsored by Rep. Chuck Clemons. The proposal would alter the way local municipalities tax heavy equipment. The legislation would reclassify construction equipment available for short-term rental as inventory, exempt from an ad valorem tax. Currently, such equipment is assessed as tangible property, which allows it to be taxed annually via the state’s ad valorem tax.

Florida engineers back post-Surfside reforms — The Florida Engineering Society and the American Council of Engineering Companies of Florida expressed support for a bill (SB 1702) aimed at strengthening the long-term health of buildings in the wake of the Champlain Towers South collapse in Surfside. “To help ensure Florida never experiences a tragic building collapse similar to the Champlain Tower South collapse in Surfside, Florida should consider establishing mandatory minimum structural inspections and post-occupancy whole building safety inspections,” said Allen Douglas, the executive director of both organizations. “We encourage the Senate Community Affairs Committee to pass SB 1702.” The bill is scheduled to go before the Senate Community Affairs Committee when it meets Tuesday at 3:30 p.m.

Claims bill to pay mother of boys maimed in state trooper crash advances with significant payout cut” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A mother of three whose children were permanently injured more than seven years ago due to a Florida state trooper’s negligence may finally receive compensation from the state. However, the award amount would be far less than originally agreed upon. On Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously OK’d an amended claim bill by Sen. Dennis Baxley. The bill directs the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to pay about $7.2 million to Christeia Jones for injuries she and her sons sustained in May 2014. On Nov. 30, 2018, Jones and the Florida Highway Patrol entered into a settlement agreement for $18 million, the amount both parties concurred a jury could have reasonably awarded her if the case had gone to trial.

Grandparent visitation ‘Markel Bill’ passes first Senate committee stop — SB 1408, sponsored by Keith Perry, passed unanimously out of Senate Judiciary on Monday afternoon. The bill and its companion (HB 1119) were inspired in part by the murder of FSU professor Dan Markel. The bills would allow grandparents to petition courts for visitation with grandchildren in cases where a civil or criminal court has found the living parent responsible for the other parent’s death. Markel’s ex-wife, Wendi Adelson, who prosecutors allege was a co-conspirator in his murder, has blocked Markel’s parents from visitation with their two sons while the case is being investigated and adjudicated. The bill moves next to Senate Children, Families, and Elder Affairs.

Keith Perry’s grandparent visitation law sails through committee.

Bills to boost rural broadband service get Senate panel approval” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — A pair of bills that would give a large cash infusion, $400 million or more, to Florida’s new efforts to expand broadband in the rural parts of the state passed through the Senate Commerce Committee Monday, despite concerns from Democrats the measure would do little to make the service more affordable. “Ten percent of Floridians don’t have any (broadband) service,” said Sen. Joe Gruters, who presented the bill on behalf of bill sponsor Sen. Jim Boyd, who was absent Monday. High-speed broadband internet service is available in 98% of urban areas in Florida, but only 78.6% of the state’s rural areas. Some Democrats on the panel noted the bill would only provide service, not necessarily “access” to high-speed internet if low-income customers can’t afford the service.


House drops new legislative map ahead of full Redistricting Committee hearing” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The latest map (H 8013) likely represents the last significant revision to statewide cartography before the full House takes up redistricting. The latest map doesn’t overhaul the map advanced by the House Legislative Redistricting Subcommittee (H 8009), but it does update it in meaningful ways large and small. Among the most notable changes can be found at the divide between Hillsborough and Manatee counties. There, proposed House District 70 still crosses the line but hugs I-75 more closely.

House Democrats question whether redistricting staff took minority growth into account” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — While the Senate passed its redistricting maps with broad bipartisan support, the only vote so far on a House map advanced on a party-line vote. At a Monday press event featuring House Democrats, party leaders signaled that may continue. “We have concerns that minority representation and the Voting Rights Act are not being adhered to,” said House Democratic Leader Jenne. “That’s just something our caucus cannot abide.” Jenne and Rep. Fentrice Driskell, a Tampa Democrat, discussed fears that state and U.S. House maps coming out of the GOP-led House of Representatives won’t properly reflect population growth among ethnic minorities in the last decade.

Evan Jenne blasts redistricting maps for not taking into account the growing minority populations.

Corrine Brown’s revenge? DeSantis goes after Al Lawson” via A.G. Gancarski for Jacksonville Today — That is one interpretation of the Year Zero-style Congressional redistricting map from the Governor’s General Counsel, a document dropped the night before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The map lays waste to the concept of protected minority access districts, creating a map that puts aside the Fair Districts amendments in favor of some race-agnostic document that guarantees legal challenges if this map became realized. If it somehow got through the Legislature, the map also would mean the end of Congressional District 5, replaced by a Congressional District 3 combining areas north and west of the St. Johns River with Nassau and Clay counties.

Tina Polsky files to run in Boca Raton-centered SD 30” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Sen. Polsky has refiled to run for a second term from a new locale. She will officially campaign this year to represent Senate District 30. “I just filed to run in SD 30, where I am proud to currently represent over half the new district,” Polsky told Florida Politics. “I look forward to continuing to serve my constituents in Broward and Palm Beach counties.” That’s not a huge shock. Polsky revealed when the first draft maps in the Senate redistricting process were published that she wanted to represent a district with Boca Raton at its heart. But under the Senate map approved by the Florida Senate, Polsky’s home lies in the proposed Senate District 26. That’s a seat now held by Sen. Lori Berman, a close Polsky ally. That means Polsky will need to move, but she made clear she lives in a rental unit, and a shift in residence did not create a significant economic barrier to her ambitions. Polsky did express some dismay in the significant change in the shape of her district.

— SKED —

— The House Post-Secondary Education and Lifelong Learning Subcommittee meets to consider HB 461, from Rep. Lauren Melo, on Bright Futures scholarship requirements through paid work instead of volunteer service., 1 p.m., Morris Hall of the House Office Building.

— The House State Administration and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider HB 357, from Rep. Jackie Toledo, to reform regulations of pharmacy benefit managers., 1 p.m., Room 212 of the Knott Building.

— The House Tourism, Infrastructure and Energy Subcommittee meet to consider HB 1411, from Rep. Bryan Avila, to develop floating solar-energy facilities on wastewater treatment ponds, abandoned limerock mines and reservoirs., 1 p.m., Reed Hall of the House Office Building.

— The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee meets to consider SB 186, from Sen. Jeff Brandes, to update the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp., 3:30 p.m., Room 412 of the Knott Building.

— The Senate Community Affairs Committee meets to consider SB 1702, from Chair Jennifer Bradley, requiring inspections of multifamily residential buildings in the state, 3:30 p.m., Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Transportation Committee meets to consider SB 364, from Sen. Bean, to change the state’s specialty license-plate program to allow the University of Alabama, the University of Georgia, and Auburn University plates, 3:30 p.m., Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

— The House Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee meets to consider HB 899, from Rep. Christine Hunschofsky, to boost mental health services in schools., 3:30 p.m., Reed Hall of the House Office Building.

— The House Environment, Agriculture and Flooding Subcommittee meets to consider HB 729, from Rep. Vance Aloupis, to place new requirements on local plans that involve land near the Everglades Protection Area., 3:30 p.m., Room 212 of the Knott Building.

— The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider funding requests by lawmakers for higher-education projects or programs., 3:30 p.m., Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider HB 195, from Rep. David Smith, to expunge certain juvenile arrest records after completion of diversion programs., 3:30 p.m., Morris Hall of the House Office Building.

— The Revenue Estimating Conference meets to consider a revenue cap., 9 a.m., Room 117 of the Knott Building.


>>> Gov. DeSantis will hold a press conference in Crawfordville at 10:00 a.m.

DeSantis’ Inspector General is reviewing Florida education department bid-rigging case” via Lawrence Mower and Ana Ceballos of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis’ Chief Inspector General is reviewing the handling of a bid-rigging probe at the Florida Department of Education, his office said Monday. In a reversal from the office’s previous statement, DeSantis spokesperson Taryn Fenske confirmed Chief Inspector General Melinda Miguel is reviewing how the Department of Education and its Inspector General handled the bid for a multimillion-dollar contract. “She is doing her due diligence on all of the above,” said Fenske, the Governor’s communications director. Evidence shows the department tried to steer the contract to a politically connected vendor, but its inspector general did not investigate the matter.

Melinda Miguel is taking a deep dive into bid-rigging for state education contracts.

Florida school district cancels professor’s civil rights lecture over critical race theory concerns” via Marc Caputo and Teaganne Finn of NBC News — A Florida school district canceled a professor’s civil rights history seminar for teachers, citing in part concerns over “critical race theory” — even though his lecture had nothing to do with the topic. J. Michael Butler, a history professor at Flagler College in St. Augustine, was scheduled to give a presentation Saturday to Osceola County School District teachers called “The Long Civil Rights Movement,” which postulates the civil rights movement preceded and postdated Martin Luther King Jr. by decades. He said he was shocked to learn why the seminar had been canceled through an email.

Florida TaxWatch calls for major spending to bring broadband to unserved areas” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The Florida Legislature should spend nearly a half-billion dollars to extend broadband internet service to areas that do not have it, Florida TaxWatch urged Monday. With the release of its report, “Closing the Digital Divide,” the fiscally conservative government watchdog and taxpayer research institute recommended the state appropriate $366 million of federal money available for broadband expansion grants, plus $100 million available from another federal program for utility poles. The group argues that officials should focus efforts on rural areas with no high-speed internet service. Florida TaxWatch’s report contends the Sunshine State’s economic gains from such investments would amount to billions of dollars. Besides that, the effort would help close the digital divide across Florida.


DeSantis demands Joe Biden administration restore monoclonal antibody supply” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis is condemning President Biden’s administration for cutting the federal supply of monoclonal antibody treatments for COVID-19. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration revoked its emergency use authorization for monoclonal antibody therapies created by Regeneron and Eli Lilly, calling it unlikely the drugs could treat the Omicron variant of COVID-19. The decision marked the second time in as many months the federal government halted the supply of the drug, drawing criticism from Florida’s Republican Governor. “Without a shred of clinical data to support this action, Biden has forced trained medical professionals to choose between treating their patients or breaking the law,” DeSantis said.

As DeSantis bashes feds’ monoclonal antibody ‘games,’ Democrats troubled by ‘snake oil’ push” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis is continuing to criticize the federal government for “playing games” with the state’s monoclonal antibody therapy supply, but Democrats say the drug is a waste of resources. Florida opened additional monoclonal antibody treatment sites Tuesday after receiving shipments of the drug that had previously proven effective against treating COVID-19. But health officials say the versions created by Regeneron and Eli Lilly aren’t as effective against the omicron variant, leading the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to pause shipments late last year. HHS had also previously rationed the drug’s supply, drawing criticism from DeSantis. DeSantis said the federal government had been messing with the monoclonal antibody supply for months. “They’ve always been playing games on this,” DeSantis told reporters.

Ron DeSantis blasts the feds for jerking Florida around on monoclonal antibody treatments.

Charlie Crist slams DeSantis’ COVID-19 response as ‘affordability’ tour heads to Orlando” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Crist called DeSantis’ proposed congressional redistricting maps “appalling” and said his COVID-19 response was “costing lives” in an interview. Crist, a member of Congress from St Petersburg, is launching a statewide tour this week to highlight affordability in Florida, including housing, wages, utilities and insurance. Crist cited the “exploding” rents and housing prices in the state, which reached record levels in 2021. Crist criticized DeSantis and the GOP-controlled Legislature for cutting in half the amount of money paid into the Sadowski Fund, the pot of money used to pay for affordable housing, to $209 million last year.

Florida COVID-19 update: Highest seven-day average for deaths since November” via Michelle Marchante of the Miami Herald — Florida on Monday reported 44,010 COVID-19 cases and 426 new deaths to the CDC. The CDC backlogs cases and deaths for Florida on Mondays and Thursdays, when multiple days in the past had their totals changed. In August, Florida began reporting cases and deaths by the “case date” and “death date” rather than the date they were logged in to the system. Of the deaths added, about 98% occurred in the past 28 days and about 69% in the last two weeks. The state has added 130 deaths in the past seven days, the highest seven-day death average since Nov. 11. In the past seven days, the state has added 43,701 cases per day, on average.

AARP Florida: Nursing home resident, employee vaccination rate rising — AARP released updated data on vaccination rates on Monday, showing an uptick in the number of Florida nursing home residents and staff who have been vaccinated and received a booster shot. Overall, 31% of residents and 13% of staff had received boosters as of Dec. 19. That’s up 8% and 9%, respectively, though it is still significantly below the national average. “This new report shows that Florida’s nursing home residents and health care workers are taking steps to protect themselves with booster shots,” AARP Florida State Director Jeff Johnson said. “As the omicron variant continues to spread, we hope to see this positive booster trend increase in future reports. The data also shows other indicators, such as nursing home resident cases and deaths, decreased during this time period.”

View the data here.


State Attorney backs police in ‘Sofia’ case, calls social media attacks ‘disturbing’” via Eric Rogers of Florida Today — State Attorney Phil Archer backed the results of a police investigation that cleared two Brevard County teachers of charges of child abuse in the case of Sofia Bezerra, a 7-year-old special needs student who came home from a school last October with a mask tied to her face. A review of the Indian Harbour Beach Police Department investigation was completed by Archer’s office with “no finding of criminal wrongdoing” against the two Brevard Public School employees, according to a news release posted to the state attorney’s website and social media accounts.

Tampa Bay reports drop in COVID-19 cases, nears 70% vaccination rate” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — While cases of COVID-19 are continuing to spread at high levels across Tampa Bay, the area saw a drop in the number of new cases this past week. From Jan. 14 through Jan. 20, Hillsborough County reported 18,219 cases of COVID-19. That’s about 6,000 fewer cases than the county reported in the week prior when it saw 24,400 instances of COVID-19. Overall, case numbers are way up from mid-December, when the county reported just above 1,000 cases. Since the pandemic’s start, Hillsborough County has reported 333,254 cases of COVID-19. The high caseload seen in the past week was accompanied by a countywide positivity rate of 28.1%. For reference, a 10% positivity rate is considered the threshold for community spread by researchers. The week prior, the county saw a rate of 30.1%.

Leon County’s COVID-19 cases fall, hospitalizations continue slow climb” via Christopher Cann and Mike Stucka of the USA Today Network — Florida — Leon County’s COVID-19 cases are beginning to fall; however, hospitalizations are continuing to climb at a slow pace. As of Monday morning, 160 people with COVID-19 were hospitalized in the capital city and county. Health workers at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare were treating 97, while Capital Regional Medical Center had 63 infected patients. There were 143 COVID-19-positive patients between Tallahassee’s two hospitals a week prior. Since the new year, there have been 17 COVID-19-related deaths in Tallahassee hospitals; eight in TMH and nine in CRMC. In December, TMH reported six deaths and CRMC reported four. On Monday, Leon County Schools reported 1,115 self-reported COVID-19 cases among students within the past 14 days. Last Tuesday, that number was 893.

Lakeland Regional joins national study to see if ivermectin is effective against COVID-19” via Dustin Wyatt of The Lakeland Ledger — For much of the latter part of 2021, Polk County Commissioner Neil Combee pushed to make ivermectin more widely available to patients sick with COVID-19. Local health leaders pushed back against his messaging, saying the drug has adverse side effects, and that there isn’t enough evidence to prove it treats the virus. Now, the county’s largest hospital system is putting ivermectin to the test, administering the parasite drug to COVID-19 patients with mild to moderate symptoms as part of a nationwide study to determine its effectiveness. Lakeland Regional Health has joined a study led by the National Institutes of Health that officially launched in June and aims to enroll nearly 15,000 participants across the U.S.

Neil Combee doubles down on ivermectin, and now so is Lakeland Regional.

Man we call Blu is fighting for his life with COVID-19; It’s our turn to help him” via Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel — Football recruiting guru Larry Blustein is a friend to everyone and I’m lucky enough to be able to call him one of my closest friends in the business. COVID-19 has struck the 66-year-old Blustein. Something he wrote in December on his website reeks of foreshadowing. “Get vaccinated all you want, but COVID can still get into your system and make life horrible,” Blustein wrote, “ … Unfortunately, we are a society of nonbelievers who ignore what is being told to us — and it takes someone close getting sick to have reality hit home, and it happens — over and over.” For the record, he is fully vaccinated, but as he wrote, it seems the vaccinations deter little when it comes to this dreaded pandemic.

UF tells students sick with COVID-19 to leave dorms, go home, prompting outrage,” via Danielle Ivanov of The Gainesville Sun — The policy itself is much the same as it was during the fall 2021 term, but now set in the context of the omicron variant, students and their families have been questioning the university’s decision to have COVID-19-positive students quarantine off campus while also not providing separate housing for the sick or guarantee online class accommodations for those who are infected.

—2022 —

Democrats make surprising inroads in redistricting fight” via Nicholas Riccardi and Bobby Caina Calvan of The Associated Press — Democrats braced for disaster when state legislatures began redrawing congressional maps, fearing that Republican dominance of statehouses would tilt power away from them for the next decade. But as the redistricting process reaches its final stages, that anxiety is beginning to ease. For Democrats, the worst-case scenario of losing well over a dozen seats in the U.S. House appears unlikely to happen. After some aggressive map drawing of their own in states with Democratic legislatures, some Democrats predict the typical congressional district will shift from leaning to the right of the national vote to matching it, ending a distortion that gave the GOP a built-in advantage over the past five House elections. Republicans in some large states like Florida have yet to finalize proposed changes, giving the GOP a last-minute opportunity to seek an advantage.

Democrats are gaining traction on redistricting, to the surprise of many. Image via AP.

Marco Rubio endorsed by all but 12 Florida sheriffs for re-election bid” via Sam Sachs of WFLA — At an official campaign event for his 2022 re-election bid for U.S. Senate, Rubio was endorsed by 55 of Florida’s sheriffs. The event was one of two at the Hyatt Regency in Jacksonville, with a follow-up event helmed by DeSantis, who is also running for re-election in 2022. The Rubio campaign noted that the gathering of sheriffs who endorsed Sen. Rubio for his 2022 midterm campaign was bipartisan, notable during an increasingly polarized political landscape following the 2020 Presidential Election. All 10 sheriffs in Tampa Bay were present and endorsed Rubio at the Jacksonville event. From the 67 sheriffs in the state, endorsements did not come from Alachua, Broward, Franklin, Gadsden, Lafayette, Leon, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties.

Assignment editors Crist launches a statewide tour announcing his Affordable Florida for All policy plan. News conference on Part I of Crist’s Affordable Florida for All plan, 9:30 a.m., Miami; solar energy tour of local small business, 11 a.m., Hollywood Beach; kitchen table conversation with seniors on affordability issues, 1 p.m., Delray Beach; Parents for Crist coalition roundtable, 6 p.m., Melbourne. RSVP to [email protected] for locations.

Miami’s Mayor to national GOP: How can I help (raise money)?” via Bryan Lowry, Joey Flechas, and Bianca Padró-Ocasio of the Miami Herald — Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who has previously said he wouldn’t disqualify a run for President in 2024, says he’s ready to help his Party fundraise to retake the U.S. House and Senate. During a visit to Washington for the annual U.S. Conference of Mayors, Suarez said he’s planning to be more involved with the Republican Party in the run-up to the 2022 midterm elections, and likely ahead of the 2024 presidential race. Suarez is a registered Republican who holds a nonpartisan office and often talks about bipartisan cooperation. “Yeah, 100%,” Suarez replied when asked about his involvement with GOP fundraising efforts. Suarez, who has spent most of the pandemic selling cryptocurrency investors and Silicon Valley billionaires on moving to Miami, has made an impression on some national Republicans.


Joe Biden’s pandemic fight: Inside the setbacks of the first year” via Michael D. Shear, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Sharon LaFraniere and Noah Weiland of The New York Times — Biden and his team have gotten much right, including getting at least one dose of a vaccine into nearly 85% of Americans 12 and older and rolling out lifesaving treatments. Those achievements have put the United States in a far better place to combat the virus than it was a year ago. The White House bet the pandemic would follow a straight line, and was unprepared for the sharp turns it took. The administration lacked a sustained focus on testing. The President tiptoed around an organized Republican revolt over masks, mandates, vaccine passports and even the vaccine itself.

The pandemic makes Joe Biden’s first year a rough one. Image via AP.

New studies show a booster dose is essential. Our policies should change accordingly.” via Leana S. Wen of The Washington Post — The CDC released a trio of studies on Friday that erases any doubt that boosters are needed for optimal protection against COVID-19. When science changes, policy should adapt accordingly. In this case, the same national effort used to deploy initial vaccinations should now occur for boosters. One study found that during the omicron surge, a booster dose was 90% effective at preventing hospitalization, compared with just 57% for those who had received two shots and were at least 180 days, or about six months, out from the second dose. Two other studies looked at the likelihood of contracting COVID-19. Both found that rates of the coronavirus were lowest among people who were vaccinated and boosted. This new research adds to evidence that boosters are essential to controlling COVID-19.

FDA expected to sharply restrict use of two monoclonal antibodies, spurring a halt in federal shipments of the COVID-19 treatments” via Laurie McGinley of The Washington Post — The FDA is poised as soon as Monday to restrict two monoclonal antibodies, saying the COVID-19 treatments should not be employed in any states because they are ineffective against the dominant omicron variant. As a result, the Biden administration will pause the distribution of the therapies, manufactured by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly, to the states. “We want to make sure that patients get treatments that are effective, not treatments that don’t work,” said one of the officials. The FDA action will involve revising the emergency use authorizations for the monoclonal antibodies. The agency will not revoke the authorizations in case the treatments become useful against a future coronavirus variant.

Regeneron hits a major speed bump. Image via Reuters.

Proposals by California officials move to treat the coronavirus as endemic.” via Shawn Hubler of The New York Times — As health experts warn that COVID-19 will remain a fixture of life after the current surge passes, a group of California legislators rolled out the latest in a package of proposals aimed at coping with the coronavirus long-term. In a measure that would treat the virus like measles and whooping cough, the lawmakers said they would seek to eliminate an exemption for “personal belief” from a new mandate that schoolchildren receive coronavirus vaccinations. Additional proposals for the workplace and consumer protections and countering vaccine disinformation are expected in the coming weeks. The proposals are part of a push not only to drive down infections and strengthen the state’s aggressive health protections but also to set the stage for a future in which the virus becomes a manageable risk.


Vaccine bonuses, aid to businesses and … a golf course? Cities and states put $350 billion stimulus windfall to widely varied use.” via Tony Romm of The Washington Post — More than 160 sprawling golf courses already dot the area around Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, a sunny hub for the sport that serves as a home base for the country’s professional league. But the 115-acre, 18-hole expanse that could soon become the city’s next outpost is slated to have a key feature that sets it apart from the rest: Its construction is set to benefit from more than $2 million in federal coronavirus aid. The spending in Florida counts among thousands of new investments nationwide, as cities and states look to spend their portions of a generous, $350 billion stimulus initiative. Federal officials have conceded they have only so much power to tell local governments how to spend their cash, a limitation that has been on display nationwide.

COVID-19 stimulus money is helping Palm Beach Gardens build a new golf course.

Cash aid to poor mothers increases brain activity in babies, study finds” via Jason DeParle of The New York Times — A study that provided poor mothers with cash stipends for the first year of their children’s lives appears to have changed the babies’ brain activity in ways associated with stronger cognitive development, a finding with potential implications for safety net policy. The differences were modest and it remains to be seen if changes in brain patterns will translate to higher skills, as other research offers reason to expect. Still, evidence that a single year of subsidies could alter something as profound as brain functioning highlights the role that money may play in child development and comes as Biden is pushing for a much larger program of subsidies for families with children. Evidence abounds that poor children on average start school with weaker cognitive skills, and neuroscientists have shown that the differences extend to brain structure and function.


Lab study shows omicron-blocking antibodies persist four months after a Pfizer-BioNTech booster” via Carolyn Y. Johnson of The Washington Post — Virus-fighting antibodies capable of blocking the omicron variant persist four months after a third shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, according to a new study. The study gives the first hint about the durability of coronavirus vaccine protection, with a key line of immune defense remaining intact. The study has not yet been peer-reviewed and will need to be replicated and extended to a longer period. The study suggests a fourth shot may not be needed right away, a question that has caused anxiety for people wondering if and when they would need to get another booster.

COVID-19 patient dies at a hospital weeks after his wife sued another to keep him on a ventilator” via Brittany Shammas, Paulina Firozi and Hannah Knowles of The Washington Post — Scott Quiner, a Minnesota man whose wife sued over a hospital’s plan to take him off a ventilator months after he was diagnosed with COVID-19, died Saturday. He was 55. Quiner died at the Houston hospital where he was flown for care during the legal battle, according to Marjorie Holsten, an attorney for the family. Holsten said he remained on a ventilator at the time, but she declined to identify the facility or provide additional details on the circumstances of his death. Quiner was not vaccinated when he contracted the virus on Oct. 30. On Jan. 11, doctors told Quiner’s wife, Anne, that they wanted to take him off the ventilator, she said in court records. She said she strongly objected as his medical representative. It’s unclear why Mercy Hospital wanted to take that step.


Biden may not find it so hard to turn the corner” via Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post — For weeks, we have witnessed unremittingly negative media coverage of Biden. At a speech Friday, Biden spent the lion’s share of his time on an undeniable win and a solid policy achievement: his infrastructure legislation. Biden stressed the American Rescue Plan had “a lot of money in that to keep those schools open.” While he hasn’t gotten Build Back Better, the policy achievements in the ARP and the infrastructure legislation are substantial. After months of virtual silence, the President is talking about it. Biden listed components such as child care subsidies, universal pre-K, clean energy and the child tax credit. Biden spent nearly as much time talking up the funding mechanism, which is actually among the most popular aspects of the bill.

‘Stupid son of a …’: Biden makes plain his opinion of Fox reporter’s question” via Myah Ward of POLITICO — President Biden on Monday called a reporter a “stupid son of a bitch” after he was asked whether inflation was a “political liability in the midterms.” It wasn’t just any reporter. It was Fox News’ Peter Doocy, the network’s rising star who is known for needling the President and for his clashes with White House press secretary Jen Psaki during daily briefings. It didn’t seem as if Biden was speaking directly to Doocy, though it’s unclear whether the moment was a hot-mic mistake or meant for the room to hear. It didn’t take long for Fox to blast the exchange: “Biden blows up at Peter Doocy,” the chyron read.

Is Joe Biden no fan of Peter Doocy?

‘It’s nothing personal, Pal’: Biden phones Peter Doocy after calling him a ‘stupid son of a b*tch’” via Michael Luciano of — Doocy appeared on Hannity later that night to describe a phone call he had with the President shortly after the incident. “Did he apologize?” host Sean Hannity asked. “He cleared the air,” Doocy replied. “And I appreciate it. We had a nice call.” “Hannity laughed and said, “That’s not an answer. Did he apologize?” “He said, ‘It’s nothing personal, pal.’ And I told him I appreciated him reaching out. Hey, Sean, the world is on the brink of like World War III right now, with all the stuff going on. I appreciate that the President took a couple minutes out as evening as he was still at the desk to give me a call and clear the air.” Hannity said, “At least he called you ‘pal.’”


Assignment editors — U.S. Sen. Rick Scott will join the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and local officials for a news conference on Florida’s environment and the Everglades, 10:15 a.m., U.S. Army Corps of Engineers South Florida Operations Office, 525 Ridgelawn Rd., Clewiston. RSVP to [email protected] to attend.

Vern Buchanan plans to use new subcommittee post to focus on Medicare, telehealth” via Kevin Derby of Florida Daily — Now the top Republican to lead the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee’s Health Subcommittee, U.S. Rep. Buchanan weighed in on what he wants to do in his new post. Buchanan took over the new assignment on Wednesday. Buchanan plans to “focus on a patient-oriented system that would encourage innovation and increase personalized health care choices” and to “work to save and strengthen Medicare, continue to grow the use of telehealth services to improve access and affordability and prioritize preventive care.” U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, the top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee who is retiring this year, said Buchanan will do well in his new post.

Vern Buchanan hits the ground running.

Matt Gaetz says sex trafficking accusations are government ‘operation’ against him, GOP” via Daniel Villareal of Newsweek — Gaetz made his comment about the investigations while speaking on a recent installment of War Room, the show hosted by Steve Bannon, the former White House Chief Strategist under former President Donald Trump. Gaetz told Bannon he was the target of a “cut-out,” a government-directed action taken against an individual or group. He said cut-outs had been taken against Trump in the form of investigations examining his alleged collusion with Russia in the 2016 elections, as well as the impeachment proceedings against Trump following his July 25, 2019 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

September retrial scheduled for ex-U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown to face fraud, tax charges” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — Brown’s repeat trial on fraud and tax charges will start Sept. 12, a federal judge has decided after asking how much preparation time defense lawyers need. Brown, a Jacksonville Democrat who spent 24 years in Congress, was convicted in 2017 on 18 counts that included conspiracy and mail and wire fraud charges involving money pulled from a sham charity. She is awaiting trial again because the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals said in May that Corrigan should not have dismissed a juror from deliberations who said “the Holy Spirit” told him Brown was innocent. The appellate judges sent the case back to U.S. District Court, where prosecutors offered a deal that Brown rejected, teeing the case up to go to another jury.


A social media influencer behind the #WalkAway movement got home detention for his role in the Capitol riot” via C. Ryan Barber of Business Insider — A social media influencer who spoke at a pro-Donald Trump rally the day before the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, was sentenced Monday to three months of home detention after pleading guilty to a disorderly conduct charge stemming from his participation in last year’s deadly attack on the Capitol. Brandon Straka, a onetime New York City hairstylist, admitted in October that he joined the pro-Trump mob and encouraged rioters on Jan. 6 as they forced their way inside the Capitol. In a video he recorded, Straka could be heard yelling, “go, go, go” as the mob advanced into the Capitol, and he said, “take it, take it,” as Trump supporters wrested a riot shield away from a police officer.

Pro-Trump influencer Brandon Straka gets house arrest for his role in the Jan. 9 riot. Image via

Bernie Kerik told Jan. 6 panel that former Army colonel came up with idea to seize voting machines” via Betsy Woodruff Swan of POLITICO — A former member of Trump’s legal team told the Jan. 6 committee that former Army colonel Phil Waldron first came up with the idea of Trump issuing an executive order to seize voting machines. Earlier this month, Kerik, who worked with Rudy Giuliani on Trump’s legal efforts to find evidence of voter fraud, told the select committee that Waldron originated the scheme, which would almost certainly have been illegal. In his voluntary interview with the committee, Kerik also called the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol “counterproductive.” Kerik indicated that the riot eliminated any hope he and his team had of getting government authorities to take their fraud allegations seriously.

Capitol Police examines backgrounds, social media feeds of some who meet with lawmakers” via Betsy Woodruff Swan and Daniel Lippman of POLITICO — After the Jan. 6 insurrection, the Capitol Police’s intelligence unit quietly started scrutinizing the backgrounds of people who meet with lawmakers. However, examining the social media feeds of people who aren’t suspected of crimes is a controversial move for law enforcement and intelligence officials, given the civil liberties concerns it raises. The Capitol Police, in a statement, defended the practice of searching for public information about people meeting with lawmakers and said the department coordinates the work with members’ offices.


How Donald Trump’s flirtation with an anti-insurrection law inspired Jan. 6 insurrection” via Devlin Barrett and Spencer S. Hsu of The Washington Post — Within days of Trump’s election defeat, Stewart Rhodes began talking about the Insurrection Act as critical to the country’s future. Invoking the Insurrection Act was an idea sparked in conservative circles that spring as a means of subduing social justice protests and related rioting, a goal Trump seemed to embrace when he called for state leaders to “dominate” their streets. By the end of the year, it had become a rallying cry to cancel the results of a presidential election. Now, private and public discussions of the law stand as key evidence in the cases against the Oath Keepers. Rhodes was charged with seditious conspiracy, accused along with 10 members of his group of conspiring to use violence to try to stop Biden’s certification.

Accused insurrectionist Stewart Rhodes was quick to suggest the Insurrection Act. Image via AP.

Trump’s team is directing allies to a Jan. 6 legal defense fund” via Gabby Orr and Annie Grayer of CNN — Trump‘s team has been involved in discussions about a legal-defense fund created to support aides targeted by the House panel investigating Jan. 6. While declining to use his own war chest to cover the sky-high legal bills that some of his current and former aides are facing, Trump’s team has instead been working with American Conservative Union Chair Matt Schlapp to determine which individuals subpoenaed by the select committee should receive help from Schlapp’s “First Amendment Fund,” which is run by the ACU’s nonprofit arm. “We are certainly not going to assist anyone who agrees with the mission of the committee and is aiding and abetting the committee,” Schlapp said. He noted that the fund withholds “the right to make decisions over whether someone gets assistance or doesn’t.”

Moderate non- Trump Republican Governors are disappearing from the political landscape” via Alex Seitz-Wald of NBC News — Trump is stepping up his involvement in gubernatorial primaries, looking to make examples of critics in his own Party and elevate allies ahead of a potential 2024 Presidential run, just as some of those elected before the former President’s takeover of the GOP are hitting their term limits. Critics say that the result could be unelectable candidates in otherwise winnable races and the purging of some of the few Republican elected leaders who didn’t need to depend on Trump’s base. Conservatives, however, point out that the popularity of moderate Republican Governors is often driven by Democrats and independents. Conservatives say it’s about time their values are represented.

Trump followers zero in on Secretary of State campaigns” via Zach Montellaro of POLITICO — Having failed to prevent certification of the 2020 election, Trump and his followers are targeting state and local offices that will be involved in running the next presidential election, boosting loyalists who cast doubt on the 2020 vote and pouring energy into races that typically see little engagement. Secretary of State duties vary from place to place but can include coordinating election policy across their states, investigating wrongdoing and certifying the final vote counts in state elections, once-invisible responsibilities that have gained prominence since the attempts to subvert the 2020 election. Democrats say they are watching races including Minnesota, Colorado and even Washington state as part of a more expansive battlefield of Secretary of State races.

Trump leads 2024 Republican field with DeSantis in distant second” via Max Greenwood of The Hill —DeSantis is an early favorite for the nomination in the event Trump doesn’t run again, according to a Harvard CAPS/Harris poll. In a hypothetical eight-person GOP presidential primary, Trump holds a clear edge, garnering 57% support among Republican voters. DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence are nearly deadlocked at 12% and 11%, respectively. No other would-be candidate registers double-digit support. Should Trump forgo another campaign for the White House, however, DeSantis would supplant him as frontrunner. The Florida governor scores 30% support in a field that doesn’t include Trump, while Pence takes second place at 24%.

DeSantis knows the formula to defeat Trump” via Rich Lowry of National Review — Trump-DeSantis storyline is inherently alluring, considering the chances of a collision between two men who have been allies and the possibility of the subordinate in the relationship, DeSantis, eclipsing the figure who helped to elevate him into what he is today. Whether that ever happens is unknowable, yet the spat is revealing nonetheless: Some version of what DeSantis represents has the greatest odds of coaxing the Party away from Trump and forging a new political synthesis that bears the unmistakable stamp of Trump while jettisoning his flaws.

Does Ron DeSantis have the secret sauce for defeating Donald Trump?


Miami school district hires Jose Dotres as superintendent” via Sommer Brugal of the Miami Herald — The School Board voted 6-3 to appoint Dotres after a more than eight-hour meeting and interviewing the top three candidates. Dotres will replace Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, who is leaving Miami Feb. 3 to lead the Los Angeles Unified School District. “It truly is an honor,” Dotres told board members after the vote. “I get to come back to work with incredible professionals. My greatest desire is that we work closely together for the benefit of this entire school district.” Board members Marta Pérez, Christi Fraga and Lubby Navarro voted for Jacob Oliva, the senior chancellor in the Florida Department of Education.

Rodney Barreto drops bids for Coral Gables Country Club and Burger Bob’s, blaming ‘malcontents’” via Aaron Liebowitz of the Miami Herald — Barreto, an influential lobbyist and businessman, has withdrawn his controversial bids to lease and operate both taxpayer-owned Coral Gables Country Club and beloved burger joint Burger Bob’s, blaming a “coordinated, vitriolic, and persistent campaign of misinformation” in a letter to the city. “It would be imprudent for us to commit to investing over [$5 million] in places where we are not welcome,” Barreto wrote Friday to Zeida Sardiñas, asset manager for Coral Gables’ Economic Development Department. Barreto’s decision is a partial victory for activists who have rallied to keep the country club in the hands of its current operator, Liberty Entertainment Group and CEO Nick Di Donato. As of Monday, over 3,200 people had signed an online petition to preserve the country club as “a place that is accessible for ALL residents — not just the elite.”

Will Florida City voters give their Mayor a 38th year in office? Election is getting heated” via Samantha J. Gross and David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — On Tuesday, voters in Miami-Dade County’s southernmost municipality will return to the polls to do something they’ve done every few years over the last four decades: decide whether Otis Wallace should remain Florida City’s all-powerful Mayor. First elected in 1984 at the age of 32, Wallace, now 71, is seeking another four-year term as the city’s top elected official and administrator. In an interview, Wallace told the Herald this would be his final campaign for Mayor. “My reason for running this time — and this is the last time I will run for Florida City — is that I am in the middle of a whole lot of unfinished business,” Wallace said. “My focus for voters is to bring value back to the city in the form of outside resources.”

One more time: Florida City really likes Otis Wallace.

Judge rules Parkland shooter’s Instagram photos may be shown to jury” via Eileen Kelley of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Nikolas Cruz had no expectation of privacy when he posted disturbing photos to his Instagram account before committing a massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a judge ruled Monday. The photos can be shown to the jury in the trial’s penalty phase next month, when jurors will decide whether he should be sentenced to death. Cruz’s public defender Nawal Bashimam tried to persuade Judge Elizabeth Scherer that Cruz had an expectation of privacy. The judge didn’t buy the argument, saying Cruz’s accounts were public, to begin with, in 2018. Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty last October to 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the 2018 attack on the Parkland school.

Orange County prepares sales-tax-hike pitch to pay for road improvements, SunRail, Lynx” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — In April 2020, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings called off his 11-month campaign to raise the county sales tax by a penny, an increase he described as critical for improving the region’s deficient transportation network. But Tuesday, Demings is expected to renew the surtax campaign at a County Commission meeting. Orange County’s sales tax is 6.5%, lower than comparably sized Hillsborough County, which levies an 8.5% sales tax, the highest in the state. Demings provided no details ahead of Tuesday’s meeting and staff PowerPoint presentations are not made available to the public until the board sees them. He must persuade the board to put the referendum on the November ballot — and then convince county voters to approve it.

Will Jerry Demings get a sales-tax bump?

Volusia remains world shark bite capital as Florida attacks up in 2021” via Joe Mario Pedersen of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida is once again the shark bite capital of the world as numbers jumped globally after three years of declines, according to the annual update from the International Shark Attack File. The group released its annual report this month and found 73 documented attacks last year, a stark contrast from 2020′s total of 52. Numbers don’t appear to be jumping the shark. Rather, experts say the 2021 number aligns with the five-year global average of 72 annually. International fatalities also saw an increase with 11 deaths reported. 2020 saw 10 deaths, which was unusually high given the year’s low shark bite count. The increase in attacks and fatal incidents is surprising for experts, but not a cause for concern as overall short-term trends of both counts are still decreasing.


The DeSantis — Trump tensions will lead to a test of strength” via Dan McLaughlin of National Review — Reporters and pundits have been busy lately trying to incite a fight between DeSantis and Trump. For now, officially, there is no feud. DeSantis is wise enough to want no such thing and has said so publicly. He has his own 2022 re-election bid to secure before he turns to national matters, and a breach with Trump would dent his ability to roll up a convincing up-and-down-the-ticket victory. Even if DeSantis is contemplating a frontal assault on Mount Trump, there is no reason for him to begin the ascent until after the midterms. Trump has his own incentives to avoid a public spat for now. He, too, would like to claim credit for 2022 victories, which are more easily earned with a united front. While Trump has not always put party interests above his own, he understands that he is more powerful when elected Republicans see him helping the team.


The ‘Havana syndrome’ is still a mystery. It is too soon to stop investigating.” via The Washington Post editorial board — The CIA’s interim finding that a single global power is probably not carrying out attacks on U.S. intelligence and diplomatic officials abroad is hardly the last word. The intelligence community must continue to hunt for who or what is behind it, and the Biden administration must show compassion to a large cohort of government employees in distress. A senior CIA official has announced, “We have assessed that it is unlikely that a foreign actor, including Russia, is conducting a sustained, worldwide campaign harming U.S. personnel with a weapon or mechanism.” This statement does not exclude the possibility that lesser actors, perhaps subcontracted, are responsible for the attacks, nor does it rule out that multiple sources are to blame.

Stupid legislator tricks: Mendacity, malevolence, monkey business at Florida’s Capitol” via Diane Roberts of Florida Phoenix — The legislative session is only two weeks old and the reliably witless Sen. Gruters is moving a bill to fine professional sports teams if they don’t play the national anthem. Wait, you say, aren’t the Heat and the Magic, the Bucs and the Jaguars, the Rays and the Marlins and the rest of the millionaire menagerie already playing the national anthem? In other pressing legislative news, elected representatives are debating whether strawberry shortcake should become the state dessert. Your tax dollars at work, people. Of course, there’s a sound argument to be made that it’s better they occupy themselves with this sort of nonsense than carry on enacting our thug Governor’s agenda.

Palm Beach County Commission must reject land swap to protect Ag Reserve” via The Palm Beach Post editorial board — It was a tough call, but the Palm Beach County Planning Commission got it right when it recently denied a land-swap, proposed by GL Homes, that would have transformed a section of the Agricultural Reserve into houses. The matter will now come before the County Commission, which should follow the planning board lead. The board had justification for its 9-4 recommendation that County Commissioners reject GL Homes’ long-sought land swap that would allow the development of high-end homes along State Road 7. Approval would set a precedent that the Ag Reserve could not overcome, while many questions remain about the impact further development might have on a part of the county that most taxpayers believe is supposed to be protected.

The solution to a labor shortage is more workers” via Bob Boyd for the Fort Myers News-Press — Across all sectors of Florida’s economy, workers are in high demand. Florida’s independent colleges and universities, with the support of the EASE voucher, can help fulfill that need. Students in Florida are able to attend independent colleges and universities with the help of the EASE voucher. EASE stands for Effective Access to Student Education, and this voucher gives students access to earn a degree and the option to choose the school that is right for them. EASE creates more than 21,000 jobs per year, generates $282 million in tax revenue and contributes $3.5 billion in annual economic impact. In simple terms, for every dollar the state spends on EASE, Floridians get 2.5 times the return. To fulfill our state’s workforce needs, the Florida Legislature must maintain and fully fund the EASE program.


Florida Democrats broke the internet with Zoom news conferences talking about everything from the way minorities are fitting into redistricting maps to abortion rights.

Also on today’s Sunrise:

— A Florida legislator tells her own story about a fetal abnormality in pregnancy and how a 15-week limit might have changed that story.

— Democrats are raising questions about the state Surgeon General’s resume.

— And a preview of tonight’s “Red Dog, Blue Dog” event.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

The Batman’s massive run time could have been even longer” via Eammon Jacobs of Looper — “The Batman” has had a difficult journey to the big screen. Despite the delays, fans have kept the faith, no doubt buoyed by the impressive trailers for the film. “The Batman” sees the Dark Knight in his second year of crime-fighting as he tackles institutional corruption, while also grappling with the Riddler’s chaotic plans for the city. It isn’t so surprising, then, that the film is two hours and 55 minutes long — including credits — since the story will clearly have a lot of moving parts. But a new report suggests that the massive run time of “The Batman” could have been even longer. The studio tested a four-hour-long cut of “The Batman.”

‘The Batman’ offers a more extensive look at its funeral scene” via Jeff Yeung of Hypebeast — With The Batman inching ever closer, Warner Bros. and DC Comics have been releasing myriad trailers for the upcoming reboot of the Dark Knight, but now a fan has discovered the first full clip from the upcoming film revolving around the funeral scene that has appeared in previous teasers. The almost three-minute clip was found by YouTuber Mario Z in the form of an ad when browsing the Internet and follows Robert Pattinson‘s Bruce Wayne as he attends the funeral of a fallen Gotham City law enforcement officer or some form of government official. As he settles down, Jeffrey Wright’s Detective Gordon can be heard speaking to another policeman about the disappearance of one of his colleagues before a car suddenly comes crashing through the pews of the church. The missing person then steps out of the vehicle with a bomb locked around his neck and a message to the Batman.

To watch the new trailer, click on the image below:

SpaceX Dragon splashes down off Florida coast with more than 2 tons of cargo” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — A microscope left Earth in the early months of Barack Obama’s first term, circled the Earth about 75,000 times, and came back home on Monday. The Light Microscopy Module was among more than 4,900 pounds of science and other cargo that splashed down in a SpaceX Dragon capsule off the coast of the Florida Panhandle. It marks the completion of the 24th contracted cargo resupply mission for SpaceX, which launches several times a year onboard Falcon 9 rockets from the Space Coast. Science from the spacecraft will be transported to Kennedy Space Center by helicopter while the Dragon makes its way by SpaceX recovery ship Go Searcher to Port Canaveral.

U.S. protection sought for threatened Florida ghost orchid” via The Associated Press — The rare ghost orchid faces mounting threats in Florida from poaching, loss of habitat and climate change and needs federal protection, environmental groups said. A petition filed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asks that the orchid be placed under the Endangered Species Act and its habitat in southern Florida be officially designated as critical to its recovery. The petition was submitted by The Institute for Regional Conservation, the Center for Biological Diversity and the National Parks Conservation Association. The groups estimate about 1,500 ghost orchids in Florida, where they have declined by 30% to 50%.

World’s largest surfing park in Florida a step closer to reality” via Tiffini Theisen of the Orlando Sentinel — Want to ride the waves without risking shark encounters or sand in your suit? Florida may get what’s being touted as the world’s largest surfing park, Wavegarden. It’s envisioned as the signature feature surrounded by a massive live-work community in the Treasure Coast that includes 600 hotel rooms, 1,000 residences, and 650,000 square feet of commercial space. The Willow Lakes Resort Village community would rise on 200 acres in Fort Pierce, just off Interstate 95 and about 8 miles inland. Plans for Wavegarden show an enormous swimming pool-like area “that creates up to 1,000 waves an hour and can accommodate around 100 surfers at a time” with a variety of wave shapes for all levels, a promotional video depicts.

What Kevin Sweeny is telling me to readStudy reveals impact 10 minutes of exercise can have on adults over 40” via CNN — Could you find 10 minutes in your day to increase your physical activity? It might be life-saving. More than 110,000 US deaths could be prevented each year if adults over 40 added 10 minutes of daily moderate to vigorous physical activity to their normal routines. The study noted that an increase of 20 or 30 minutes could lead to even more lives saved. “We know exercise is good for us. This study provides additional evidence of the benefits at the population level: if all adults in the United States (over age 40) were to exercise just a bit more each day, a large number of deaths could be prevented each year,” said Pedro Saint-Maurice, the study’s first author. Walking outside or on a treadmill is one of the best and simplest ways to bring consistent physical activity into your life.


Celebrating today are Sen. Bean, Sean Cooley, our great friend Gus Corbella of Greenberg Traurig, Beth Kennedy, Adam Ross, and Austin Stowers, Legislative Affairs Director to CFO Patronis.


Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Renzo Downey, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as 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.

One comment

  • politics

    January 25, 2022 at 5:46 pm

    You can all negotiate all you want till Irma rolls up your spine.

Comments are closed.


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 @PeterSchorschFL

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.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn