Takeaways from Tallahassee — More homers, fewer singles

Blue Tally Takeaways (4)
'We are hitting singles right now. The reality is we need home runs; they may not come this Session.'

More homers, fewer singles

Florida’s trial lawyers sure know how to play defense.

Lawmakers are nearing the halfway mark of the 2022 Legislative Session, and it looks like an effort to get the Legislature to further restrict or change the rules regarding litigation appears to be over.

Business leaders and organizations that promote lawsuit protections said this week that they were not expecting this year’s Session to yield additional lawsuit restrictions for Florida businesses.

Tom Gaitens, executive director of the Florida chapter of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, pitched it this way: “We are hitting singles right now. The reality is we need home runs; they may not come this Session.”

The one exception could be a COVID-19 bill that would shield nursing homes, hospitals and physicians from lawsuits connected to the pandemic.

That bill is poised to be considered by the House this week. If passed, those health care providers would have protections until July 2023.

But business interests wanted more.

NFIB Florida Executive Director Bill Herrle, who joined Gaitens at a news conference to discuss litigation, said his group wanted the Legislature this year to consider changing the law to require plaintiffs to disclose to the defendants if third parties are providing financing for their litigation. No member filed a bill.

Herrle also said NFIB wanted to reduce when attorney fee “multipliers” could be awarded to plaintiff’s attorneys. There’s a bill in the Senate but not in the House.

“Even though there may not be real major tort reform this year, lawsuits are still happening. And that’s our message to the Legislature. This issue cannot be abandoned,” Herrle said.

Pensacola Republican Sen. Doug Broxson said that lawmakers are wrestling with various insurance issues, and lawsuits have resulted in the market being out of balance. But Broxson suggested that limiting lawsuits shouldn’t be as tricky as it has been in the past. Gov Ron DeSantis’ election in 2018 coincided with the mandatory retirement of three Florida Supreme Court justices who were considered the liberal faction of the court. DeSantis replaced them all with conservative justices.

“We now have all three branches of the government. We have the Governor, the Supreme Court and the Legislature that realize we are out of balance as far as litigation,” he said.

While the news conference attendees agreed that more lawsuit protections are necessary, a recent study shows that things in Florida may not be that bad.

According to the December 2021 report, Economic Benefits of Tort Reform, Florida has per capita an $812.52 “tort tax,” or reduction in the gross product due to excessive litigation. That puts Florida near the bottom of the tort tax list. According to the report, Mississippi has the least expensive tax at $440.30 per capita. Conversely, Massachusetts has the steepest tort tax at $1,978.54 per capita.

To watch the news conference, click on the image below:

___

Coming up, the usual assortment of news, intel, and observations from the week that was in Florida’s capital city by Peter Schorsch, Drew Wilson, Renzo Downey, Jason Delgado, Christine Jordan Sexton, Tristan Wood and the staff of Florida Politics.

Take 5

The “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Neo-Nazis rally in Orlando — White supremacist demonstrations in Orlando over the weekend captured Florida and the nation’s attention this week as leaders on both sides of the aisle denounced the actions of the dozens who rallied and spread hate. However, the universal condemnation turned political in some cases. After some Democrats associated the right-wing extremists with Republicans and DeSantis’ base, and after the Governor’s press secretary left open the possibility that the demonstrators weren’t neo-Nazis, DeSantis denounced the protests but also Democrats for attempting to tie him to the demonstration. “Why would they want to elevate a half-dozen malcontents and try to make this an issue for political gain?” DeSantis asked. “Because they want to distract from the failure that we’ve seen with Joe Biden.”

House and Senate release budget proposals — Lawmakers on Friday unveiled their budget plans for the coming fiscal year, beginning with the Senate’s $108.6 billion plan, followed soon by the House’s $105.3 billion plan. The House and Senate appropriations committees will meet at 9 a.m. on Wednesday to move the proposed budgets toward their initial floor votes. Both budgets clock in above DeSantis’ $99.7 billion proposal. However, the Governor’s plan includes additional spending not included in his top-line figure. Senate President Wilton Simpson has made a push to bring state employees’ pay to $15 an hour and beyond. The House’s leaner budget includes changes to hospital funding, putting the offset into nursing training.

SB 90 trial begins as new elections bills considered — A federal trial regarding Florida’s voting reform laws started Monday, with those suing to overturn SB 90 portraying the bill as something akin to voting rights’ death by a thousand cuts. The defense, meanwhile, sought to describe each cut as not harmful. At stake is whether a federal judge might strike down all or parts of SB 90, Florida Republicans’ attempt to tighten the state’s voting laws in the wake of former President Donald Trump’s 2020 loss. Meanwhile, House and Senate committees began advancing follow-ups to SB 90. The measures could bring changes to mail-in voting, IDs and more, including banning ranked choice voting. Also, they would include a DeSantis priority to create an election investigation unit within the Department of State.

State legislative districts approved — The House and Senate have officially OK’d their district maps for the coming decade of elections. The next legal step will be for Attorney General Ashley Moody to review the maps and petition the Florida Supreme Court within 15 days to conduct a high-level review. The court has 30 days to complete that process. Potentially, this gives the Legislature a chance to address any concerns raised by courts with either map before the end of the Session. While only three Democrats voted against the Senate maps, House Democrats were united in their opposition in their chamber. Democrats’ critiques were largely about the balance of minority districts. In the House, Democrats also complained they were shut out of the mapmaking process.

Red meat measures advance — The Republican-led Legislature continued to push bills likely to fire up their base come November, as lawmakers advanced abortion, immigration and critical race theory measures through the committee process. On Tuesday, the House State Affairs Committee voted for legislation targeting class lessons and corporate training that teach cultural guilt, which proponents say inserts ideology into history lessons. The following day, the Senate Health Policy Committee gave the chamber’s abortion measure its first hearing. The measure would implement some of the strictest abortion limitations in the nation, including a ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. And on Thursday, the Criminal House Justice and Public Safety Committee would prevent state and local governments from contracting with businesses that transport immigrants who’ve entered the country unlawfully.

Save some coin

Cryptocurrency scams bilked more than $200 million from Americans last year, but much of the loss could have been avoided by taking a few simple precautions.

This week, Attorney General Ashley Moody released a new edition in the “Scams at a Glance” series, highlighting common crypto scams and offering tips that could help Floridians spot and avoid them.

“The quick rise in popularity of cryptocurrencies has drawn the attention of criminals trying to exploit the trend to rip off Floridians. I want to make sure Floridians have the information they need to spot and avoid these types of scams,” Moody said.

For the most part, the adage “if it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t” holds true, Moody’s office warned. It recommends investors think long and hard before buying into the hype of a new cryptocurrency — especially ones that promise guaranteed returns.

Other scams are more nefarious. One common grift involves threats to share alleged embarrassing or compromising material unless a cryptocurrency payment is made. Moody’s office urged people targeted by such scams to hold firm and report the threat to the FBI.

Scammers may also send texts, tweets or emails with a prompt to send someone cryptocurrency. If you get one, it’s almost certainly a scam.

“Scams at a Glance: Cryptocurrency Scams” is available in English and Spanish. Back issues covering topics such as IRS impostors and “swindling sweethearts” — an important reread ahead of Valentine’s Day — are available on the Attorney General’s website.

To watch the alert, click on the image below:

Time to reflect

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried marked the start of Black History Month this week by committing “wholeheartedly to the fight for equality and justice.”

“Black History Month is a time to celebrate and recognize the contributions of so many Black Americans who strengthen the moral, cultural, intellectual, spiritual and economic fabric of our society. It’s also a time to reflect on our nation’s long and difficult history of injustice, slavery, and racism,” she said in prepared remarks.

“We recognize we still have further to go in fulfilling the promise of America and fixing systemic issues that continue to disproportionately affect people of color — including protecting hard-fought voting rights and righting the wrongs for generations of Black farmers who suffered or lost their land because of discriminatory practices. This month, we recommit ourselves wholeheartedly to the fight for equality and justice.”

In addition to releasing a statement, Fried recognized several Black leaders during a Tuesday news conference, including Jacksonville journalist and community activist Ben Frazier, Tallahassee NAACP Branch President Mutaqee Akbar, Florida A&M University Agriculture professor Dr. Jennifer Taylor, and Tallahassee Mayor Pro-Tem Curtis Richardson.

Notably, Frazier made national headlines last month after he was detained and charged with misdemeanor trespassing for refusing to leave a news conference held by Gov. DeSantis. Frazier plans to file a civil rights lawsuit if the charge is not dropped. Fried is running for the Democratic nomination to challenge DeSantis this fall.

Fried also awarded proclamations recognizing Congresswoman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, in absence, and the late Florida Star newspaper publisher Clara McLaughlin.

To watch the event, click on the image below:

Treasure trove

Floridians in January grew $30 million richer after they recovered unclaimed property held by the state.

Unclaimed property is a lost or uncollected financial asset in the state’s possession. It can take many forms, including stocks, dormant bank accounts, inheritances, uncashed checks, credit balances and lost refunds.

“While Floridians eagerly await their tax return, don’t forget to check and see if you have unclaimed property waiting for you as well,” said Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis. “We currently have more than $2 billion left to be claimed, and as Florida’s CFO, I have made it my mission to return every cent to the rightful owners.”

Jimmy Patronis says it’s your money, come and get it. Image via CFO Office.

Miami residents recovered $7.97 million in the latest return, Tallahasseeans recovered $475,300, and Orlando residents retrieved $5.98 million.

Over the years, famous figures — including Trump, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, and former MLB star Derek Jeter — have been listed with unclaimed property.

Patronis urges all Floridians to search under their names or the name of a loved one.

“It takes only a few minutes to search, and there is absolutely no cost to you,” he added. “It’s your money, and it’s just waiting to be claimed!”

Florida residents and businesses can search for unclaimed property online.

Surfside heroes

State Fire Marshal Patronis will traverse Florida throughout the 2022 Legislative Session and honor the work of Florida’s Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) teams.

Search and rescue teams were front and center this summer as emergency workers scrambled to rescue survivors from the rubble of the Surfside condominium collapse in South Florida.

Jimmy Patronis hits the road to honor the true heroes of Surfside. Image via @JimmyPatronis/Twitter.

Patronis, who also serves as Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, will present the teams with challenge coins and ribbons. Florida’s eight teams are located throughout the state.

According to reports, the Surfside disaster — which included round-the-clock rescue efforts for an entire week — brought in all eight teams from across the state. The teams, however, also serve when hurricanes hit and when other states ask for emergency assistance. In the past, they’ve responded to the Oklahoma City bombing and the Sept. 11 attack.

In October, Patronis declared the 2022 Legislative Session as the “Year of the US&R.” He issued the declaration at a Florida Chamber annual meeting.

“These heroes cannot go another year without additional funding for the resources and equipment to further protect our communities,” Patronis said.

Among other pursuits, Patronis is seeking $10 million in funding to equip the team better and provide more training.

Psychological first aid

First Lady Casey DeSantis announced Sara Newhouse this week as Florida’s next Disaster Recovery Mental Health Coordinator.

Newhouse is a clinical social worker and a Victim Services Practitioner with more than 10 years of experience in crisis counseling and victim advocacy.

Casey DeSantis announces a major appointment for the state’s mental health response.

She currently serves as a victim advocate with the Tallahassee Police Department, a role that provides “psychological first aid” to survivors and first responders.

“The ripple effect of a disaster goes beyond physical destruction to include grief and distress in a community, and I am proud that Florida continues to lead on the mental well-being aspects of recovery,” DeSantis said. “Sara’s unique experience in victim advocacy and psychological first aid prepared her for this role.”

DeSantis created the role in 2019 within the Division of Emergency Management (DEM). Newhouse will help communities access mental health services after an emergency or disaster.

“The State Disaster Recovery Mental Health Coordinator plays a vital role in the disaster process by ensuring help is available to survivors and first responders,” said DEM Director Kevin Guthrie.

Beyond experience, Newhouse brings with her several awards and recognition. A Florida State University graduate, she’s received awards from the Tallahassee Police Department, Attorney General Ashley Moody and the Big Bend Victim Assistance Coalition.

Instagram of the week

Homeowner Bill of Rights

Sen. Ileana Garcia and Rep. Juan Fernandez-Barquin held a news conference in the Capitol on Monday to unveil legislation designed to protect Floridians from predatory foreclosure practices.

The proposal (SB 1706/HB 1051) includes several provisions spelling out homeowners rights and responsibilities when dealing with mortgage lenders and servicers, such as a requirement that borrowers receive monthly billing statements, new guidelines for loan modification applications, clarity on mortgage transfers, and a foreclosure freeze period — a practice, also known as “dual tracking,” where banks continue foreclosure proceedings while a homeowner seeks a loan modification.

Honestly: Ileana Garcia and Juan Fernandez-Barquin give support to homeowners against predatory lenders.

“This bill, if passed into law, would clean up many of these practices and institute guidelines for the loan modification process and lender-placed insurance,” Garcia said. “Our state’s economy is booming, along with our housing market, and we should take actions to protect every Floridian, old and young, from being able to enjoy the fruits of their success and secure their hard-earned slice of the American dream.”

Fernandez-Barquin added, “The bottom line is homeownership, and the business of paying a mortgage, should be as simple, streamlined, and transparent as possible. That’s what we are trying to do with this bill.”

The lawmakers, both South Florida Republicans, debuted the legislation alongside homeowners and fair lending advocates who shared their experiences going through foreclosures.

“Sadly, not all mortgage servicers and lenders are acting in good faith to keep Floridians in their homes,” said Laura Wagner, executive director of Floridians for Honest Lending. “These actions have real consequences for real people across our state. By enacting a homeowner bill of rights, we can ensure that Floridians have basic rights to be treated fairly, and no bank or mortgage servicer will infringe on their right, as Americans, to own their piece of the American dream.

“We are so grateful for Sen. Garcia and Rep. Fernandez-Barquin’s efforts to do just that with this bill, and we are hopeful that the Florida Legislature will pass these bills through both chambers.”

ID, please

Sellers trafficking in stolen and counterfeit goods would find it harder to do business under a pair of bills moving through the Legislature.

SB 944 by Ocala Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley and HB 1227 by Tampa Republican Rep. Jackie Toledo would require websites that allow users to sell items — such as eBay, Etsy and Amazon — to collect information from sellers, such as a copy of their driver’s license, if they make more than $5,000 in sales over a year.

The legislation would also require platforms to encourage customers to report suspicious activity and provide mechanisms to do so.

No sale: Dennis Baxley and Jackie Toledo want to stamp out selling counterfeit and stolen goods.

Currently, most online platforms do not require sellers to provide much in the way of identification, and the onus is on users to report suspicious or criminal activity. Proponents, such as the Florida Retail Federation, say the lax policies are a breeding ground for shady sellers, some of whom sell shoplifted merch.

This week, the Senate version advanced through the Senate Community Affairs Committee, earning its second unanimous vote in as many hearings. It now heads to the Senate Rules Committee, its final stop before the chamber floor.

Toledo’s bill also earned its second unanimous approval when it cleared the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. Its final stop is the House Commerce Committee.

Plus size

If your off-road ride is too chunky to qualify as a “recreational off-highway vehicle,” Sen. Keith Perry has your back.

The Gainesville Republican filed a bill this Session (SB 474) to raise the cap on ROV weight limits by half a ton, from 2,500 pounds to 3,500 pounds.

An ROV is similar to an ATV, with a couple of differences. The recreational off-highway vehicle association describes them as follows: “Sometimes referred to as side-by-sides or UTVs, ROVs are motorized off-road vehicles designed to travel on four or more non-highway tires, with a steering wheel, non-straddle seating, seat belts, an occupant protective structure, and engine displacement up to 1,000cc.”

Off-road: When is an ROV not an ROV? Keith Perry wants you to know.

ATVs, by contrast, are usually smaller and have throttle and brake controls on a set of handlebars, kind of like a motorcycle.

For reference, a typical compact car, such as a Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla, weighs about 3,000 pounds. And they’re about 50% longer than ROVs, most of which are about 10 feet long, so the bill allows for some supremely dense vehicles.

Of course, some of the top-end ROVs are just as pricy as their street-legal cousins — a top-end Yamaha or Polaris ROV will set you back as much as $25,000 before taxes and dealer fees.

Perry’s legislation would keep the maximum width of an ROV at 80 inches, which is just an inch shy of a Chevrolet Suburban.

The Senate, wholly on board with the weight increase, passed the bill this week unanimously.

The companion bill (HB 145), sponsored by Oxford Republican Rep. Brett Hage, is poised for passage as well — it has rolled through both of its committees without a nay vote and is now on the second reading calendar.

Taxman

Florida TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro testified before the Senate Community Affairs Committee on Wednesday to caution lawmakers against making Florida’s tax enforcement too onerous on everyday folks.

Enforcing tax law without infringing on people’s rights is a difficult balance, Calabro noted. But he praised the Senate’s tax administration bill (SB 1382) for the good work it does not to cross that line.

Ease up: Dominic Calabro warns of Florida’s burdensome tax environment.

“Voluntary compliance is the backbone of Florida’s tax collection system,” Calabro told Senators. “Systems for tax collection must be fair and equitable, for individuals, “moms and pops,” and sophisticated corporate taxpayers alike. Anything less is unfair to those taxpayers satisfying their tax obligations.”

However, Calabro’s praise came with some concerns.

TaxWatch wants the Department of Revenue to work with taxpayers to clarify issues during and after an audit without presuming that noncompliance is due to intentional negligence, neglect or fraud.

Additionally, he said people would only have 14 days to request a conference in writing after being issued a proposed assessment under the current language. That may not be long enough for people to exercise their rights, hire professionals or satisfy the assessment. Smaller businesses especially might not have the resources to hire accounting, tax advisement or legal support.

TaxWatch is also looking for lawmakers to ensure that Department of Revenue emergency rules do not become permanent without formal adoption.

“We believe in the important and balanced work that the Florida Department of Revenue is doing and look forward to working with you and your colleagues as you continue to strengthen DOR’s toolbox to support taxpayers and protect against bad actors,” Calabro said.

Seizures & epilepsy

Legislation addressing students with epilepsy or seizure disorders continues to make its way through the committee process with unanimous support.

The measure (SB 340/HB 173), carried by a bipartisan pair of Miami lawmakers Garcia and Rep. Nicholas Duran, would allow families to create and submit individualized seizure action plans to their children’s schools and provide free online training for school employees.

This week, Duran’s version passed out of the House Secondary Education and Career Development Subcommittee, its second of three planned House panels.

Take action: Ileana Garcia and Nicholas Duran want schools to be better prepared for students with epilepsy or seizure disorders.

“This important piece of legislation will give parents peace of mind knowing that when their child is at school or attending a school-related function, staff will understand appropriate protocols in the event their student has a seizure,” Duran said. “HB 173 ensures students with epilepsy and seizure disorders receive appropriate care while attending school or school-related functions. I am happy this bill was able to make it out of committee and is on its way to becoming law.”

Epilepsy Florida President and CEO Karen Egozi thanked Garcia and Duran for promoting the bill.

“With the successful implementation of this bill, Florida students impacted by epilepsy or seizure disorders can be assured that the individuals they interact with on a day-to-day basis at school are trained to provide a high level of seizure care and safety,” Egozi.

Hunger-free

This week, legislation establishing a hunger-free campus program passed unanimously from its first House and Senate committees.

The measures (SB 1916/HB 1407), carried by Sen. Annette Taddeo and Rep. Susan Valdés, would establish the Hunger-Free Campus Grant Program within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and designates eligible postsecondary educational institutions and campuses as “Hunger-Free Campuses.”

Snack time: Susan Valdés’ bill would establish a ‘hunger task force’ for postsecondary education.

On Wednesday, Taddeo’s version passed the Senate Agriculture Committee, while Valdés’ identical version passed the House Post-Secondary Education and Lifelong Learning Subcommittee on Wednesday.

“Access to affordable, healthy food should not (be) a barrier to Florida students getting a world-class education. Five states have passed a Hunger-Free Campus Bill since 2017,” Valdés said. “I am optimistic that Florida will recognize this need and act to ensure our students have everything they need to succeed in their academic endeavors. No one should have to choose between sustenance and an education.”

The bill would also establish a hunger task force, designate staff to assist students in enrolling in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and more. SNAP assists students by allowing them to purchase food for the household, including fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy products, bread, cereals, and snack foods.

Service to CO

Some partnerships just make sense. The Florida Department of Corrections has scores of unfilled positions. Veterans Florida helps get exiting service members into new jobs.

Now they’re working together on what looks like a win-win for vets and the prison system.

The partnership will create the nation’s first statewide program to train exiting service members to become correctional officers. Participants will spend 12-weeks getting hands-on training and earning the required certification to work in state prisons.

Prison term: Joe Marino is partnering with the DOC to help more veterans become COs.

Those who complete the training will be able to apply for a permanent position at any DOC facility, and they’ll be eligible for all the hiring incentives and bonuses that come with it.

The new program is part of the U.S. Department of Defense SkillBridge Program, which enables active-duty service members — with commander approval — to get on-the-job experience through internships, fellowships and apprenticeships during their final six months in the military. The program is open to service members of any rank or branch.

“Our partnership with FDC offers transitioning service members a unique SkillBridge opportunity to continue serving in Florida after they are out of our military,” Veterans Florida Executive Director Joe Marino said. “As we’ve seen with the success of other law enforcement SkillBridge training, veterans are a natural fit, and the FDC SkillBridge internship will maximize their transferable military skills and bolster Florida’s corrections workforce.”

DOC Secretary Ricky Dixon added, “We are a proud employer of thousands of current or former active-duty military personnel. Their service and dedication to this country and our state is truly remarkable. This program, and our partnership with Veterans Florida, sets the path for us to transition veterans into an honorable civilian career within their last few months of service. We welcome these brave men and women to join an agency that values their prior service and look forward to this opportunity.”

Grand reopening

The William J. “Billy Joe” Rish Recreation Area has opened for day-use for the first time since the park closed in the wake of Hurricane Michael.

The park, located in Port. St. Joe at the Gulf of Mexico and the St. Joseph Bay, sustained significant damage when the Category 5 storm struck the Panhandle in October 2018.

“The park has been closed for more than three years, but it will now be a huge asset to our network of state parks,” said Julia Gill Woodward, CEO of the Florida State Parks Foundation.

Park place: William J. “Billy Joe” Rish Recreation Area has reopened for the first time since Hurricane Michael.

The 100-acre park is specifically designed for people with disabilities, their families and caregivers. In December, the Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Recreation and Parks took control of the park from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.

The park, connected by a series of boardwalks and ramps, features a multipurpose event hall with a complete cooking facility. Additional amenities expected to open this year include an Olympic-sized swimming pool, dormitory-style cabins and family cottages.

The park’s nature trails allow visitors to view native wildlife and vegetation in its natural state.

The State Parks Foundation touts the area’s “beautiful, sugar-white sand, sea-oat covered dunes, refreshing sea air, and shimmering turquoise water” as a getaway that is completely accessible for people with disabilities.

Good start

The state’s largest teacher’s union has looked over the rough drafts of the 2022-23 budget and found some reasons to celebrate.

“The first budget proposals look promising, with funding increases our members have been advocating for; this may help ease the strain on our schools due to staff shortages and positions that have remained unfilled by professionally trained educators,” Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar said in a news release.

“I am especially heartened that legislators are working to keep Senate President Simpson’s promise to raise support staff salaries to at least $15/hour for next school year.”

Promising: Andrew Spar sees some good things in the proposed budget.

FEA said the House and Senate plans’ focus on funding and flexibility, rather than solely focusing on raising teacher pay, was “welcome news.” The union has criticized the teacher pay plans approved in the last couple of Sessions for leaving out veteran teachers and non-classroom staff.

“These long-serving, highly skilled educators are crucial to ensuring our students can reach their full potential,” Spar said.

Still, FEA said there is room for improvement and noted that before the pandemic hit, Florida ranked No. 43 among all states regarding public education funding.

“Too many of our students have been left behind by underfunded and under-resourced classrooms,” the news release concludes.

Friends in high places

The Institute of Politics at Florida State University has tapped former U.S. Sen. Mel Martínez to be a member of its inaugural advisory board.

“The [email protected] is fortunate to have a distinguished public official like Sen. Martínez contributing to its inaugural advisory board,” said Tim Chapin, dean of the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy. “With his extensive experience at the highest levels of government and 25 years practicing law, we look forward to his involvement to advance the mission of the institute: encouraging civil discourse and political engagement.”

Power up: Mel Martinez is the newest member of the introductory advisory board for the FSU Institute of Politics.

Martínez received his undergraduate and law degrees from FSU. Before being elected the first Cuban American to serve in the Senate in 2004, he was the Mayor of Orange County and later served in President George W. Bush’s Cabinet as the 12th Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Martínez received his undergraduate and law degrees from FSU.

Martínez is the second [email protected] advisory board member to be named following the announcement of Board Chair Al Cardenas. The remaining members will be announced throughout the spring semester.

“I am proud to serve on the [email protected]’s advisory board,” Martínez said. “I look forward to supporting this world-class institute with its esteemed leadership as we work to educate and inspire a new generation of public servants.”

FSU Day

On Wednesday, the Florida Capitol will be decked out in garnet and gold in honor of “FSU Day at the Capitol.”

The annual event aims to spread awareness of the university’s success, both on the field and in the classroom. Those strolling through the Capitol between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. will see several displays and information tables touting FSU’s accomplishments, such as their fast rise in national rankings of public universities.

It will be the first FSU Day at the Capitol for new university President Richard McCullough, who succeeded John Thrasher last year. He’s set to appear at an outdoor pep rally in the plaza between the historic and new Capitol buildings.

Garnet and gold: Get ready, Seminoles; FSU Day is almost here.

The rally, which runs from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., will also feature the university’s legislative alumni, members of the three-time national championship women’s soccer team and performances by the FSU pep band, cheerleaders and Flying High Circus.

McCullough and the FSU Student Government Association will also co-host “Seminole Evening” from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 8, on the 22nd floor of the Capitol. Members of the FSU Student Government Association will recognize legislators at the reception.

All events are free and open to the public. FSU alumni and Seminole fans alike are encouraged to show their support by wearing garnet and gold.

Capitol Directions

Ron DeSantis — Down — The only thing he loves more than slamming the President is touting all the money Biden’s sending to Florida.

Casey DeSantis — Crossways — The House and Senate snubbed cancer research funding, but they’d be wise to reconsider.

Christina Pushaw — Up — In the words of Jesse Pinkman, “SHE CAN’T KEEP GETTING AWAY WITH IT!”

Ricky Dixon — Up — An appointee for a major state agency who doesn’t stoke partisan bickering? Now we’ve seen it all.

Chris Sprowls — Up — The Speaker renewed his commitment to water conservation, his 4th-grade civics curriculum was approved by DOE, and the House moved forward with his foster care priorities. Not a bad week.

Spring Break — Crossways — Punxsutawney Phil, the renowned reapportionment expert, urges you to buy travel insurance for your spring break vacay.

RayRod, Tom Leek — Up — Regardless of what happens with congressional maps, they deserve credit for getting a solid state-level product to the finish line.

Abortion ban — Down — No rape, incest or human trafficking carveout. Could it get any more punitive? Don’t answer that; we don’t want to give them any more ideas.

House ed. policy — Down — There are many ways to “innovate” in higher education. A constant cycle of re-accreditation is not one of them.

Jim Boyd — Up — It’s sad that schools need overdose-reversing drugs, but we’re glad they’ll be getting them.

Ileana Garcia — Crossways — She scuttled her Twitter, but considering her recent dustups, that’s probably for the best.

Keith Perry — Up — If an ROV is under 2,500 pounds, is it really an ROV?

Ramon Alexander — Up — He may not be able to stop the anti-woke bill, but that was one hell of a “breakthrough moment.”

Randy Fine — Down — The school masking fight is over. Chill.

Joe Geller — Down — Remember all his amazing contributions to the redistricting process? Neither do we.

Mike Giallombardo — Up — Based on the sneak peek of the House cyber package, he’s shaping up to be the Legislature’s cyber czar.

Jenna Persons-Mulicka — Up — When Jayer Williamson was out sick, the Infrastructure & Tourism Approps Chair didn’t miss a beat.

Toby Overdorf — Up — We’re not scientists, but he is … and his mitigation banks bill sounds like good policy.

Disney — Crossways — They’re taking heat from GOP lawmakers, and it has nothing to do with Minnie’s new outfit.

Charter schools — Up — Go ahead and call an architect, because a loan for a new gym is only a few months away.

Civics — Up — So, where can we get a copy of the choose your own adventure book?

Christian Minor — Up — It looks like juvenile expunction will land on the Governor’s desk again, and he might actually sign it this time.

Jefferson County — Up — An extra $5 million should help them get back on their feet.

Lottery winners — Up — Soon, they’ll be able to enjoy sunshine and Mai Tais with a Sunshine exemption.

Migrant kids — Down — If Florida wants to force residents to have unwanted children, it should be forced to have some too.

Newspapers — Crossways — The Legislature is altering the public notices deal. Pray they don’t alter it any further.

NIL — Down — It’s not on the House Speaker’s radar.

Dana Young — Up — She’ll still have a job on Oct. 2, 2023, and probably a long time after that, too.

Ryan Tyson — Crossways — Was it much of a secret he was running LVS’s gambling initiative campaign?

Candidates — Up — With no gambling amendment campaigns, inventory on television and digital will be available … and much, much cheaper.

TV station owners — Down — Without gambling ads, the beach house will have to wait until 2024 at the earliest.

TCC — Up — STEM charter money is on the way.

Gators v. Noles — Up — Since it’s on Black Friday, are we allowed to start tailgating Thanksgiving night?

Jimbo Fisher — Up — Somehow, he convinced the all-time No. 1 recruiting class to wear those ugly BBQ sauce-colored jerseys. Impressive.

Staff Reports



#FlaPol

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @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


Categories