Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 2.10.22

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All the news that fits, and more: Your first look at Sunshine State politics and policy news.

Good Thursday morning.

Two Florida governmental affairs firms, Anfield Consulting and Capitol Access, have announced their merger, along with the addition of a new team member, Brett Cyphers.

The two firms have worked together extensively, with a long history of collaboration on client projects, and moving forward, will operate together under the banner of Anfield Consulting.

Brett Cyphers is the featured hire in the Anfield Consulting and Capitol Access merger.

Anfield, founded in 2011, is a boutique firm specializing in legislative, agency and local government representation. Anfield has established itself as a leading advocate in water resources, environmental policy, health care, transportation and local government issues representing a diverse group of public and private sector clients.

Capitol Access began as a consulting firm in 1997. Founder Jerry Paul, a former member of the House of Representatives, has guided and grown the firm through specialization in appropriations, local government law, and policy issues related to the environment, energy, transportation, and water.

For Paul, who was recently named president of a college in New England, the merger provides for continuity and growth following his departure later this year. “It’s a partnership that will be seamless because of the close working relationship we’ve had with Anfield founders Frank Bernardino and Albert Balido over many years in Tallahassee.”

“We’ve worked well together in the Capitol because our firm philosophies, client service, and issue areas are so similar,” says Balido.

Joining Anfield Consulting is Cyphers, who has a lengthy career in public service that spans over two decades, covering multiple military, legislative, executive, and water management district roles. Most recently, Cyphers served as executive director of the Northwest Florida Water Management District, preceded by positions in the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida House, Governor’s office, Florida Senate, Southwest Florida Water Management District, the U.S. Army, and the Florida National Guard.

“Brett’s deep and broad experience, his strong drive, and his unquestioned character are a great fit for who we are and what we do,” Bernardino said.

For his part, Cyphers says there’s nowhere else he would rather begin the next chapter of his professional life. “The team members at Anfield are individually wonderful human beings, and together they have built a culture and operation that’s second to none.”

___

Democratic Sen. Shevrin Jones is launching a voter engagement drive that hopes to encourage 40,000 people to head to the polls … or just walk to their mailbox.

Known as “Operation BlackOut,” the initiative has a unique niche: It will solely focus on using vote-by-mail to expand the electorate by increasing turnout among Black, Brown and young voters who are registered voters, but do not vote.

The initiative comes amid a surge in Republican voter registrations — the Florida GOP recently surpassed Democrats in overall registrations for the first time in modern history. But even when Democrats led in raw numbers, they rarely flexed the advantage.

Shevrin Jones wants to make getting out the vote as easy as walking to a mailbox.

“If we are going to turn the tide and grow power, we need to expand the electorate through voter registration as well as engage and turn out the millions of Black and Brown voters who do not vote,” Jones said. “Nearly all data experts agree that Florida Democrats can’t simply register our way to a win in a state too often lost on the margins — it is imperative that we boost engagement with sporadic voters, particularly young people and in communities of color, who feel disenchanted with politics these days.”

Jones’ project has the support of several other voter registration and engagement groups, including the Alliance, Florida Ground Game and Equal Ground. Leaders from each lauded Jones for taking on the challenge.

“Equal Ground is honored to support the efforts of Sen. Shevrin Jones with ‘Operation BlackOut,’” said Jasmine Burney-Clark, the executive director of Equal Ground. “It will take each and every one of our organizations, firing on all cylinders, to carry us to victory this November. Together we will put our heads down, get to work, and run a ground game Florida has never seen before.”

Operation BlackOut debuted with a website that helps voters statewide navigate to their county’s supervisor of elections website and request a vote-by-mail ballot.

___

The Florida Chamber Foundation is researching how the state’s workforce can be set up for success in the coming decade, and it’s looking for input.

The foundation is looking for businesses of all kinds to sound off on what employers need — and what they are doing — to provide job skills training to the workforce. The data will help inform the forthcoming information “Workforce Needs Study 2.0.”

As the title suggests, the research project is a follow-up to the 2021 Florida Workforce Needs Study, which provided a deep dive into the impacts of COVID-19 on Florida’s industries and talent.

The study revealed that more than half of Florida employers said their new hires require additional skills training and that 58% believe they will need to reskill or upskill their current employees to be successful.

Despite that, 57.5% said they haven’t partnered up with any educational institutions — universities, colleges, technical centers, or local workforce training organizations — to help develop needed skills. Further, two-thirds of those polled said they didn’t know about state or federal employee training programs.

Version 2.0, the culmination of a two-year research program, will further examine the pandemic’s lasting impacts and provide insight into how Florida businesses and educational institutions can work together to ensure the future workforce has the hard and soft skills employers need.

Employers can participate in the study via a survey on the Florida Chamber Foundation website.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@RepSeanMaloney: Democrats’ plan to fight COVID is working — cases are down & vaccines are widely available. Now, it’s time to give people their lives back. With science as our guide, we’re ready to start getting back to normal.

@J_G_Allen: CDC boxed themselves in bc they never addressed the two out-of-date metrics they use to guide masking: cases and test positivity. They set these pre-vaccine, pre-booster, pre-rapid test. They’re flawed — and biased — indicators of community spread and risk. Governors leading.

Tweet, tweet:

@IanFelipeSays: The lack of respect for another person’s medical privacy is appalling to anyone who has actually worked in medicine. Journalists think they have the moral high ground for asking vaccine ‘gotcha’ questions. In reality, they just look like petty, immature and disrespectful.

Tweet, tweet:

@ChrisSprowls: We have worked hard to anticipate risks & prepare today for tomorrow’s challenges. But we couldn’t plan for the reckless spending in DC, impacting every American & Floridian. Our House budget addresses the crisis w/ a new $2B fund & state worker raises tied to the inflation rate.

@Daniel_Sweeny: You always hear in Tallahassee how the trial lawyers are one of the GOP’s biggest enemies, right up there with teachers’ unions, but man, the GOP sure seems to be giving trial lawyers a ton of new lawsuit venues this Session.

Tweet, tweet:

@DanPriceSeattle: Tyson raised prices 20% due to “inflation costs.” At the same time, Tyson’s profit margin went up to 19% and hit $1.1 billion last quarter. Companies are getting richer than ever by referring to corporate greed as “inflation.”

@Grace_Segers: The current makers of Star Wars seem to have concluded that the reason the twin suns scene is so resonant is because Tatooine is super cool and not because Luke *wants to leave there very badly

— DAYS UNTIL —

Super Bowl LVI — 3; Will Smith‘s ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ reboot premieres — 3; Discover Boating Miami International Boat Show begins — 6; season four of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ begins — 6; Spring Training report dates begin (maybe) — 7; Synapse Florida tech summit begins — 7; ‘The Walking Dead’ final season part two begins — 10; Daytona 500 — 10; Special Election for Jacksonville City Council At-Large Group 3 — 12; Suits For Session — 13; CPAC begins — 14; St. Pete Grand Prix — 15; Joe Biden to give the State of the Union address — 19; ‘The Batman’ premieres — 22; Miami Film Festival begins — 22; the 2022 Players begins — 26; Sarasota County votes to renew the special 1-mill property tax for the school district — 26; House GOP retreat in Ponte Vedra Beach — 41; the third season of ‘Atlanta’ begins — 41; season two of ‘Bridgerton’ begins — 43; The Oscars — 45; Macbeth with Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga begin performances on Broadway — 47; Florida Chamber’s 2nd Annual Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health + Sustainability begins — 48; Grammys rescheduled in Las Vegas — 52; Magic Johnson’s Apple TV+ docuseries ‘They Call Me Magic’ begins — 71; 2022 Florida Chamber Transportation, Growth & Infrastructure Solution Summit — 77; ‘The Godfather’ TV series ‘The Offer’ premieres — 77; federal student loan payments will resume — 80; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 85; ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ starts on Disney+ — 104; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 106; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 112; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 149; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 162; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 180; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 204; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 239; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 274; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 277; ‘Avatar 2′ premieres — 309; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 372; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ premieres — 407; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 533; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 617; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 897.

—TOP STORIES —

DeSantis slams Big Tech and the media for ‘whitewashing’ the ‘genocide Olympics,’ says Biden is weak on China” via Kelly Laco of Fox News — During an interview with Fox News Digital in Tallahassee, Florida, on Monday, [Gov. Ron DeSantis] said that it is a “mistake” that American athletes are competing in the 2020 Winter Olympic Games, underway in Beijing, China. The Biden administration and its international allies are enacting a diplomatic boycott of the games over the genocide of Uyghur Muslims by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). But DeSantis said it does not go far enough to stand up to America’s ‘number-one geopolitical foe.’

A Session midterm progress report for DeSantis: In ‘free’ Florida, GOP lawmakers in lockstep” via John Kennedy of USA Today Network — Florida — At the Session’s midpoint, helped by fellow Republicans to meet each of his demands, the Governor is close to a high-five moment. To be sure, Florida’s legislative history is rife with tussles between the legislative and executive branches over policy and spending. But not this year. GOP legislators evidently share his vision of revving up a voting base with issues Democrats deride as divisive and part of a culture war strategy. … A look at bills moving forward shows DeSantis is on his way to taking Florida just where he wants it. Legislation modeled on what DeSantis called the “Stop Woke Act” has cleared most of its required committees in the House and Senate and will soon be ready for a full vote. Measures backing DeSantis’ repeated attacks on Biden’s border policies — which include Florida already suing the administration — are nearing the finish line in Tallahassee. The House and Senate are on track to approve a scaled-back version of an Election Crimes and Security office. Republican lawmakers are poised to approve banning most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Making the grade: Ron DeSantis is getting what he wants from lawmakers during the 2022 Session.

Chris Sprowls calls ’empowering families’ the theme of ongoing Session” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Sprowls, in a radio interview, defended what he described as a ban on sex education in Kindergarten through third grade. He also said parents should decide whether children wear masks to school and that the Legislature in the past year has uncovered controversial parts of school curricula. He also promoted parenting legislation that has sparked less controversy and fewer headlines. That legislation addresses fatherlessness, and Sprowls has ranked the issue as a chief priority during his tenure.

— DATELINE TALLY —

‘Hateful’: White House denounces Dennis Baxley’s bill on LGBTQ discussions in the classroom” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Biden denounced Florida’s GOP-sponsored legislation that would closely regulate LGBTQ instruction in the classroom and conversations with younger students. The proposal, dubbed by critics as the “don’t say gay” bill, garnered national attention Tuesday afternoon after advancing in the Senate Education Committee. The bill immediately became a subject of national interest, drawing vocal criticism from state legislators up to the White House, in addition to more than 100 public commenters who showed up at the committee meeting to oppose the proposal.

Counterpoint —Attacks on DeSantis over Florida’s ‘don’t say gay’ bill have no basis in reality” via Brad Polumbo of the Washington Examiner — The White House is joining in on the pile-on against the Florida Governor over his likely support for a so-called “don’t say gay” bill. As is so often the case, the left-wing shrieking moral outrage and charges of bigotry are wildly overblown and not based in reality. Quoting from the actual bill text, it simply “prohibit[s] a school district from encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels.” Importantly, this bill does not prohibit students from having these discussions on their own initiative. All those on the Left labeling it a “don’t say gay” ban are being deeply dishonest. What’s more, hand-wringing and hysteria about how it will supposedly kill children have no basis in reality.

Florida seeks to block uncomfortable themes in schools. Its history is full of them.” via Gillian Brockell of The Washington Post — The Legislature kicked off Black History Month by advancing bills that would allow parents to sue a school if any instruction caused students “discomfort, guilt or anguish.” The bills have been endorsed by DeSantis, who last year said he wanted to ban critical race theory and “wokeness” from being taught in Florida schools. Critics point out that it’s challenging, to say the least, to provide a remotely sufficient accounting of history in the United States, or anyplace else, without discussing uncomfortable subjects.

—”DeSantis signals he’d be open to making Florida an anti-gay hellhole” via Bess Levin of Vanity Fair

Jimmy Patronis warns if auto rates increase, Florida drivers ‘will burn down the Capitol’” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — The Florida Republican who plays a key role in regulating insurance gave a strong warning this week that legislators need to be careful about a push to repeal the state’s no-fault auto insurance law. Patronis, one of those with the power to hire or fire the state’s top insurance regulator, maintained that two bills now moving through the Legislature would only drive up bills for motorists. Those bills would repeal the long-standing law that requires drivers to carry $10,000 worth of personal injury protection insurance, also called PIP, and would replace it with a new type of coverage.

Beware: Jimmy Patronis has a dire warning for lawmakers who mess with insurance rates. Image via @JimmyPatronis/Twitter.

Ashley Moody petitions court on legislative maps as congressional redistricting continues to pitter” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Moody has petitioned the Florida Supreme Court to accept legislative maps for state House and Senate districts. But the process of approving a new map for Florida’s now-28 congressional seats continues to be stalled. A brief from Moody largely fulfills a constitutional obligation. The Florida Legislature on Feb. 3 approved redistricted lines for the state’s 40 Senate districts and 120 House districts. The Florida Supreme Court has 30 days to complete a high-level review of the districts and either approve them or demand changes. That means a decision must come back by March 11.

—TALLY 2 —

Senate settling on seven-year limit for most construction defect claims” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Senators are planning to consolidate the period to allow homeowners to sue over construction defects. As currently written, Sen. Travis Hutson’s bill (SB 736) would provide a five-year repose period for a single-family residence and would retain the current 10-year repose period for all other improvements. However, a proposed amendment would set a seven-year repose period for all types of improvements but would allow longer periods when defects have been fraudulently concealed. For cases involving fraudulent concealment, homeowners would have 10 years to file over a defect and no limit on filing over a defect to an improvement.

Senate bill revives fight over Lake O water, draws fishing industry ire” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Alarmed at a measure they believe changes the management of water in and around Lake Okeechobee, dozens of fishermen and women from South Florida traveled to Tallahassee Wednesday to tell senators to drop the bill. “This will jeopardize not only our lives but many lives in South Florida, including hotels, restaurants — many, many businesses,” said Capt. Steve Friedman, an Islamorada fishing guide. The bill (SB 2508) requires the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to recommend the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Scores of fishing guides, environmental advocates and small-business owners who spoke to the Senate Appropriations Committee suggested the provision is intended to protect sugar farmers with land south of Lake Okeechobee.

Hey, Captains, you can’t claim neutrality if you’re gonna pre-game with the Everglades Foundation:

Senate panel sets $1M cap for claims in sovereign immunity bill” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Once again, senators are raising the cap within legislation regarding claims against the government. A measure (SB 974), carried by Sen. Joe Gruters, would raise the values of claims before claimants must go to the Legislature to waive sovereign immunity, which prevents the government from paying claims without its consent. With an amendment approved during the Senate Community Affairs Committee’s meeting on Tuesday, senators pushed the values higher, reversing the Senate’s previous decision to lower them. “Governments do wrong sometimes,” Gruters told the committee. “The question is, what should be the compensation of those wrongs?” The cap would rise from $200,000 to $1 million per individual and $300,000 to $3 million per accident.

Senate effectively ends efforts to overturn ‘free kill’ law protecting doctors in malpractice lawsuits” via Fresh Take Florida — The Senate has effectively abandoned bipartisan efforts to overturn what critics have derided as the state’s “free kill” law, which generally prevents families from filing medical malpractice lawsuits against doctors or hospitals when the victims are adults. Consumers said the decision in the Republican-controlled Legislature improperly shields negligent doctors. Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee postponed consideration of a bill (SB 262) that would have allowed parents of their adult children to win pain and suffering damages in medical malpractice lawsuits.

Juvenile expungement bill advances through final Senate committee stop” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The Senate Appropriations Committee gave a thumbs-up Wednesday to a bill that would broaden a juvenile’s ability to expunge their arrest record in Florida. Currently, state law limits expungement to minors who complete a diversion program after a first-time misdemeanor arrest. However, the bill (SB 342) would expand juvenile expunction opportunities. Under the proposal, a minor may expunge felonies, except for forcible felonies and multiple arrests. Forcible felonies include crimes such as murder, rape, and kidnapping. The panel-level passage marks the bill’s third consecutive committee stop without a downvote. Sen. Keith Perry is the bill sponsor.

Chris Latvala, Anthony Sabatini trade barbs over doomed constitutional carry bill” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Inaction on an open carry bill this Session led to Republican Reps. Latvala and Sabatini exchanging rhetorical fire. It started when Sabatini responded negatively to headlines that “constitutional carry” legislation he filed appears stalled. Sabatini, who has pushed for similar legislation for years, lashed out at House Speaker Sprowls on Twitter. Latvala, a Clearwater Republican, jumped to Sprowls’ defense online and suggested weak legislating better explained Sabatini’s inability to get a bill — or any bill he’s filed this year — in front of a committee. “Hey, moron, who is your Senate sponsor? Surely you know how to pass a bill by now,” Latvala posted. Despite Senate President Wilton Simpson and DeSantis hinting at support, there’s no Senate companion.

Making friends: Anthony Sabatini does best, making people hate him.

House tees-up vote on school board term limits after 11th-hour amendment” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Florida House won’t vote to eliminate pay for members of the state’s school boards, but will vote on term limits for members. CS/HB 1467, introduced by Rep. Sam Garrison, would have cut salaries for newly elected school board members or re-elected after August 2022. During the bill’s second reading, an amendment Wednesday cut that requirement, replacing it with an eight-year term limit. “This amendment would restore salaries … and establish term limits,” Garrison said, with the eight years starting for all incumbents in Nov. 2022.

School zone camera bill gets green light for Senate floor” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The Senate Appropriations Committee gave split-vote approval to Republican Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez’s school zone speeding camera enforcement bill (SB 410) after the bill entered the perennial philosophical battle over whether Florida should be paying private companies to enforce speed limits with cameras to generate speeding tickets. Rodriguez got the bill past staunch opposition. That skepticism came from Sen. Jeff Brandes, a long opponent of automated camera enforcement by companies that profit from every ticket, and Bobby Powell, who raised concerns about growing electronic monitoring of society in general.

Lawmakers approve bill expediting job license applications for military spouses” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — A bill that would fast track the professional license applications of military spouses advanced through its final committee stop. The proposal (SB 562) would provide a temporary work license to military spouses who hold an out-of-state professional license. It would also, among other provisions, waive Florida’s license application fees. Sen. Janet Cruz is the bill sponsor. The Senate Appropriations Committee blessed the bill unanimously without questions or debate, ranking it among the few bills to reach the floor without a downvote. Cruz and proponents hope the proposal will curb the unemployment rate among military spouses, which hovered near 22% pre-pandemic.

Cryptocurrency bill heads to Senate floor” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — With no debate or questions Wednesday, the committee unanimously sent Republican Sen. Jason Brodeur’s legislative attempt (SB 486) to define the rapidly-growing cryptocurrencies to the Senate floor. The bill sets out to create legal distinctions differentiating how two people trading or selling cryptocurrencies with each other would be considered and treated differently from someone or a company acting as a broker or bank. Those conducting third-party transfers would be regulated as money services businesses governed by Florida’s Office of Financial Regulation, like other financial institutions. The bill would require the cryptocurrency money services businesses to meet various thresholds for holding real currency liquidity, having corporate surety bonds, and maintaining certain market values.

Cashless: Jason Brodeur’s crypto-defining bill is on the rise.

House signs off on memorial urging Washington to address veteran suicide epidemic” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The House adopted a memorial Wednesday that urges Congress to recognize the “epidemic” of veteran suicide and encourages the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to fund suicide prevention efforts fully. Though strictly symbolic, the memorial (SM 302) is among Tallahassee’s latest moves to address the nation’s ongoing issues with veteran suicide. The memorial lists several factors contributing to the “epidemic” of suicide, including mental health challenges, traumatic brain injuries, and chronic pain diagnoses. A total of 553 Florida veterans died of suicide in 2019.

— MORE TALLY —

Congressional Democrats ask Legislature to nix “net metering” bill — Members of Florida’s Democratic Congressional Delegation sent a letter to state lawmakers on Wednesday urging them to oppose bills backed by the utility industry (SB 1024/HB 741) that would significantly lower the amount of money paid to people who pump excess solar power into the grid. The letter says changes to the so-called “net metering” regulations would affect more than 400 solar energy businesses in the state. “Maintaining the economic engine net metering provides is essential to the stability and growth of Florida’s economy,” the letter reads. Sierra Club political director Luigi Guadarrama and chapter director Emily Gorman backed the delegation up in a news release. “With the ongoing climate crisis threatening our communities, rooftop solar access should be made easier, not harder,” Guadarrama said.

Shining example: Solar businesses take to The Capitol to protest changes in the ‘net metering’ rules. Image via @anniebnd/Twitter.

Progressives claim Legislature is ignoring real people’s needs this Session” via Imani Thomas of Florida Phoenix — Progressives activists, including elected officials, gathered at the Florida Capitol Tuesday to complain that the Legislature isn’t addressing the problems that average people need help with. Jack Porter, who sits on the Tallahassee City Commission, cited one example: Florida’s housing crisis. She pointed to a trailer park in her community where the owner doubled rents and pushed residents out of their homes. One bill pending before the Legislature, HB 537, would allow landlords to charge monthly fees instead of security deposits. Porter argued that policy decision should be left to the local government.

Bill to regulate the collection of consumer data draws business opposition” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Republican Rep. Fiona McFarland’s legislation (HB 7) would give consumers the right to determine what information has been collected, delete or correct the data, and opt-out of the sale or sharing of that personal information. According to the bill’s analysis, it would bring Florida’s privacy laws more in line with states such as Colorado, California, Virginia, and Illinois. But its effects would be crippling, says a letter going to the House Commerce Committee from 13 groups such as Associated Industries of Florida, Florida Retail Federation and Florida TaxWatch. Florida TaxWatch estimates the legislation would saddle Florida companies with upward of $33.8 billion in startup and compliance costs. The letter says that businesses are already struggling under the weight of COVID-19’s effects, an increase in the minimum wage, hyperinflation, and a broken supply chain.

Rollins College president keeping eye on proposal that would alter how students get state-backed EASE grants” via Cindy Barth of the Orlando Business Journal — Educators argue that the new ranking system potentially takes money away from students at a time when there is a shortage of teachers and health care professionals. College presidents and leaders at state private universities are keeping a close eye on a Florida House proposal that could significantly alter the way students get money from the state-backed Effective Access to Student Education, or EASE, grants. The House plan would create a tier-based structure in which the amount of money students get is linked to how many of the five benchmarks institutions meet. The benchmarks range from access rate and graduation rates to postgraduate employment rates.

‘I’m going to fight for it’: Effort to save historic cigar factory in Bartow moves to Tallahassee” via Dustin Wyatt of The Lakeland Ledger — A last-ditch effort to save a historic former cigar factory from demolition has moved outside the city of Bartow and into Tallahassee. Sen. Ben Albritton said he’s seeking state funding from the Legislature to help the city rehabilitate the deteriorating structure and make it easier to redevelop. “I’m going to fight for it,” he said in a phone call. The cigar factory opened on 235 N. Third Ave., just outside downtown, in 1925 and is on the National Registry of Historic Places. The city owns the property, but Bartow officials have said that more than $5 million worth of repairs is needed to make it safe to inhabit. City leaders say that a developer willing to invest in the space has yet to come forward with a proposal.

Alumni, fans and others celebrate all things Seminole during FSU Day at the Capitol” via Alicia Devine of the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida State University President Richard McCullough participated in his first FSU Day at the Capitol Wednesday afternoon. He recognized board members, politicians and the reigning National Champions, the FSU women’s soccer team on the steps of the old Capitol. Members of the Marching Chiefs filled the Capitol courtyard with familiar FSU game day tunes as cheerleaders shouted chants. Florida Chief Financial Officer Patronis also gave a few remarks regarding the Seminoles and the university’s successes.

Garnet and gold: Tallahassee celebrates all things FSU. Image via Twitter.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Mark Ames: American Industrial Hygiene Association

Joanna Bonfanti, Julie Fess, Sha’Ron James, Timothy Stapleton, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart: Coalition of Affordable Housing Providers

Theresa Bulger: Ellen Gorra

Kevin Cabrera, Mercury Public Affairs: Vū Technologies

Scott Dick, SKD Consulting Group: Florida Power & Light Company

Angela Drzewiecki, Ryan Matthews, Kim McDougal, Kirk Pepper, Jason Unger, GrayRobinson: City of Kissimmee, Martin Aquatic Design & Engineering, New Venture Fund

Leslie Dughi, Karl Rasmussen, Metz Husband & Daughton: 23andMe, Florida Community Financial Services Association, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation, McDonald’s Corp.

Shawn Foster, Sunrise Consulting Group: Everbridge

Kenneth Granger, Dean Izzo, Andrew Ketchel, Scott Ross, Capital City Consulting: Ledger8760, Stream Recycling Solutions

Mike Grissom, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: WIN Learning

Darrick McGhee, Johnson & Blanton: Wonderschool

Evan Power, Ramba Consulting Group: Lee County Mosquito Control District, Local Small Business Alliance of Florida

Bill Rubin, Erica Chanti, Rubin Turnbull & Associates: Twelvetrees Three

Sam Shiver, 1845 Group: Local Small Business Alliance of Florida

David Sigerson, Capital Hills Consultants: Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters, Florida Pawnbrokers Association, OSCR, Professional Opticians of Florida, Town of Pembroke Park

Ralph Yoder: Florida Transportation Commission


— SKED —

Post-Surfside bill to get the first inspection in House The House Pandemics & Public Emergencies Committee on Thursday will consider a proposed committee to strengthen the state’s building codes in response to the collapse of Champlain Towers South last year. PCB PPE 22-03 is similar, but not identical, to SB 1702, which has cleared two committees. Both bills share traits with the Florida Building Professionals Recommendations, a report compiled by the Surfside Working Group, which includes representatives from the Florida Structural Engineers Association, Florida Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers, International Concrete Repair Institute, Building Officials Association of Florida and the Florida Association of American Institute of Architects.

— The House is scheduled to convene for a floor Session, noon, House Chamber.

— The Senate is scheduled to convene for a floor Session, 1:30 p.m., Senate Chamber.

— The Senate Special Order Calendar Group meets 15 minutes after the floor Session, Room 401 of the Senate Office Building.

Also:

— Senate Agriculture Committee, 8:30 a.m., Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

— Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee, 8:30 a.m., Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.

— Senate Health Policy Committee, 8:30 a.m., Room 412 of the Knott Building.

— House Commerce Committee, 9 a.m., Room 212 of the Knott Building.

— House Health & Human Services Committee, 9 a.m., Morris Hall of the House Office Building.

— House Pandemics and Public Emergencies Committee, 9 a.m., Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— Senate Finance and Tax Committee, 11 a.m., Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

— Senate Rules Committee, 11 a.m., Room 412 of the Knott Building.

— House Rules Committee, 15 minutes after House floor session, Room 404 of the House Office Building.

—GOV. CLUB MENU —

Corn chowder; Greek salad and dressing; potato salad; heirloom tomato and pearl couscous salad; whole wheat hummus wraps; chickpea and quinoa harissa stuffed peppers; chicken with tomatoes and artichokes; chipotle sweet potato mash; sautéed squashes and assorted cookies for dessert.


—STATEWIDE —

DeSantis says Joe Rogan owes no apologies amid N-word scandal” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — DeSantis says podcast host Rogan shouldn’t apologize for his past comments. The defense comes as the controversial pundit has apologized for racially insensitive comments that included using the N-word. “No, he shouldn’t have apologized,” DeSantis said. “I mean, you see what happens? The mob will come after people, and they’re targeting Rogan because he’s threatening to upset the apple cart on some of the things that they’re holding dear.” Singer India Arie drew attention to previous remarks while demanding a streaming service pull her music catalog if they continue to carry Rogan.

No apologies: Ron DeSantis believes Joe Rogan deserves a pass.

Assignment editors — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried will take part in an annual “flip the switch” event to kick off the Florida State Fair, 6:30 a.m., Florida State Fairgrounds, 4800 U.S. 301 North, Tampa.

State gives back control to Jefferson County Schools after controversy” via Ana Goñi-Lessan of the Tallahassee Democrat — Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran released Jefferson County Schools from state oversight with a couple of caveats Wednesday morning at a state Board of Education meeting. The district will have to report its budget once a month for at least a year starting Feb. 28 and keep the unassigned fund balance at least at 5%. Superintendent Eydie Triquet told the Democrat she spoke with Corcoran Tuesday, who said he was lifting oversight on Wednesday. Hopefully, the switch to local control is a new beginning for the school district, which has been the victim of questionable deals, insider drama, and mismanagement.

Joel Greenberg friend ‘Big Joe’ Ellicott pleads guilty to bribery, drug charge” via Martin E. Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — Ellicott sat in a federal courtroom Wednesday and in a quiet voice pleaded guilty to his role in a bribery scheme. In a hearing that lasted about 35 minutes, Ellicott described himself as a middleman. “I am guilty, sir,” he said, adding later, “I was the go-between between two individuals. … I assisted in a kickback with two individuals.” As part of his plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Ellicott also admitted to illegally selling more than $5,000 worth of Adderall. Ellicott is slated to face sentencing within the next 75 days.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Florida COVID-19 update: Slight drop with 12,921 new cases, three deaths” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — Florida on Wednesday reported 12,921 COVID-19 cases and three new deaths to the CDC. In the past seven days, the state has added 171 deaths and 20,061 cases per day, on average. Florida has recorded at least 5,713,185 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 66,468 deaths. There were 7,129 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Florida. The number of people hospitalized across the state is 291 fewer than the day prior.

Time to exhale? New Florida COVID-19 cases take a slight dip.

Omicron’s ‘fat tail:’ Why aren’t COVID-19 infections falling faster?” via Ian Hodgson of the Tampa Bay Times — The omicron wave has crested, but health experts fear infections aren’t falling as fast as they had hoped. Since the pandemic started nearly two years ago, the omicron variant fed Florida’s highest COVID-19 growth rate. In the last weeks of December, the state infection rate doubled every 4-5 days. When it peaked in mid-January, omicron was infecting an average of more than 65,000 Floridians a day. Health experts then predicted that the highly contagious variant would rapidly burn through the state’s population and depart as quickly as it had arrived. But the omicron wave has stuck around longer than predicted, exhibiting what experts call a “fat tail,” meaning infections aren’t going down as fast as they went up.

Jen Psaki chides DeSantis as mask mandates fall outside of Florida” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The White House said Wednesday there is a “distinct difference” between dropping COVID-19 mask mandates now and what DeSantis advocated and did some months back regarding mandates in Florida. “There is a difference between standing in the way of it, threatening to pull back funding, and allowing local school districts to make choices, which is what a number of these states are doing,” White House press secretary Psaki said. Psaki went on to say people are “tired of masks” before suggesting polling said some people still want masks. Psaki’s description of DeSantis as “standing in the way” is no accident, as that has been one of the Governor’s catchphrases concerning consistent opposition to the Biden administration’s COVID-19 “mandates.”

DeSantis ad on Anthony Fauci ‘flip-flops’ leaves out reasons for guidance changes” via Jeff Cercone of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis has long railed against COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, pushing back against government measures like mask and vaccine mandates that aimed to control the spread of infection. DeSantis’ campaign took aim at Dr. Fauci in a new ad that accused the White House’s chief health adviser of “flip-flopping.” The ad shows shortened clips of the nation’s top infectious disease expert making a series of back-to-back statements, each seemingly in opposition with the one prior. It ends with the words on a screen in all caps: “Dr. Fauci, he flips, he flops. But he can’t stop freedom in Florida.” Then the screen fades to show a pair of red flip-flops on a beach and the words, “Fauci can pound sand.”

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

Nearly 2 out of 3 Florida residents say politicians should disclose vaccine status” via Garfield Hylton of the Orlando Sentinel — A majority of Florida residents want to know the vaccine status of politicians. The survey found nearly two in three residents in the state agreed with the statement, “it would be prudent for politicians, who make decisions on behalf of the electorate, to disclose whether they are vaccinated formally.” At 64%, Florida residents were in the middle of the pack of all 50 states tying with residents of Rhode Island and New Mexico. The highest-ranked state was Hawaii at 79%.

COVID-19 liability extensions for health care providers near final passage” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — The House on Wednesday agreed to consider the Senate’s version of the bill (SB 7014) and roll it over for a final vote Thursday. The bill extends the current liability protections for health care providers through June 2023. The current protections, passed by Lawmakers during the 2021 Session, expire March 29, 2022. “I think you will all agree with me. A year ago, when we passed the legislation, we were hopeful that the pandemic and COVID liability would not be part of our daily conversation today,” said Rep. Colleen Burton. To successfully sue a provider for COVID-19 under the current law, a plaintiff must prove that the health care provider was grossly negligent or engaged in intentional misconduct by the greater weight of the evidence.

Palm Beach County vaccinations lowest ‘in a long time,’ top health official Dr. Alina Alonso says” via Chris Persaud of The Palm Beach Post — Even as the omicron variant of the coronavirus still rages across Palm Beach County, few people are getting vaccinated, the county’s top health official said Tuesday. “We’ve had the lowest number of vaccinations in the week of Jan. 28 thru Feb. 3,” Palm Beach County Department of Health Director Dr. Alina Alonso said at a county commission meeting. Just 1,403 people countywide received their first shots between Jan. 28 and Friday, the state-run Health Department reported last week. “That’s the lowest we’ve had in a long time,” Alonso said. Meanwhile, the omicron-fueled wave continues to crash countywide.

No charges in case where Florida stepdad lied, staged photos about school masking” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Let’s start with the story out of Brevard County where a man claimed his stepdaughter suffered child abuse at the hands of school officials who he claimed nearly suffocated his daughter by forcefully strapping a mask around the head of the 7-year-old child who has Down syndrome. Now State Attorney Phil Archer has weighed in, concluding “no criminal acts were committed” and that the accusations against the teachers and school were “completely without merit.” He went on: “This case is a textbook example of what rushing to judgment prior to the conclusion of an investigation can produce in today’s hypersensitive politically charged climate.”

Judge denies Publix’s bid to toss lawsuit over worker’s COVID-19 death” via Marc Freeman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel — Publix must respond to a lawsuit claiming a Miami Beach store employee died from COVID-19 last April because he was restricted from wearing a mask, a judge says. The ruling by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Carlos Lopez follows pleadings by the supermarket giant that the dispute must be handled as a workers’ compensation claim rather than a lawsuit. Lopez did not elaborate on his decision that favors the estate of Gerardo Gutierrez, who was 70 when he died from the virus. Publix, which tried to have the litigation thrown out before it got very far, now must respond to it by Feb. 25.

— 2022 —

DeSantis committee rakes in $7.7M in January donations” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Friends of Ron DeSantis reported more than $7.7 million in new donations in January alone, the biggest haul in 10 months. Closed the month with nearly $77.8 million in cash on hand. Large sums of that came from two political organizations. The Republican Party of Florida donated $1.7 million, while the Republican Governors Association chipped in another $1.5 million — more than 40% of donations collected during the month. Besides that, three individuals each donated $250,000 apiece, including Palm Beach money manager Paul T. Jones, Illinois packer Richard Uihlein and Miami Beach investment manager James Pallotta. A dozen more checks worth $100,000 also made it to the account, much of that from development and construction firms like Cape Coral-based Creighton Companies.

Ka-Ching: Ron DeSantis has 7.7 million reasons to smile.

The Democrats who want to abandon Florida” via James Freeman of The Wall Street Journal — In recent years, Republican voters have become more diverse, and this trend has been so powerful in one big swing state that some Democrats are suddenly wondering if they should even bother competing there. As Democrats ramp up spending for the midterms, there’s an ongoing debate among national party officials, donors, and major outside groups over how much time and money to commit to Florida in the wake of the party’s crushing losses there in 2020. Some freedom-loving Floridians have worried that newcomers who have fled dysfunctional governance up north will bring blue-state politics with them. But whether imported or homegrown, Floridians seem inclined to leave Democrats behind. Democrats might expect to enjoy a cheering crowd within the friendly confines of the Tampa Bay Times.

María Elvira Salazar taps array of donors, GOP for $485K haul in Q4” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Salazar collected more than $485,000 last quarter to defend her seat representing Florida’s 27th Congressional District by again drawing on a blend of grassroots and corporate donors from a variety of industries. Salazar’s financial reports show her campaign held $767,000 on New Year’s Day. The campaign spent about $525,000 between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31 and owes about $224,000, according to her filings with the Federal Election Commission. Three filed to oppose her.

Christine Quinn campaign event to feature FBI informant and Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, fellow Jan. 6 attendee Forgiato Blow” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — A menagerie of far-right extremists and conspiracy theorists led by congressional candidate Quinn is bringing recently incarcerated Tarrio‘s MAGA Revenge Tour to a Clearwater parking lot this Saturday. Guests shouldn’t expect much in the way of truth at the event. Tarrio has admitted to purposefully lying to disrupt the media. Convicted liar Roger Stone was originally slated to appear, but his name dropped off the bill. The MAGA Revenge Tour will be held at Quaker Steak & Lube in Clearwater Saturday, Feb. 12, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. The Clearwater stop is the only one advertised on the “tour.”

Adam Gentle reports more than $25K raised in first month of HD 120 bid” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Gentle raised more than $25,000 in his first month running for the seat representing House District 120, his campaign said Wednesday. In those numbers, Gentle sees momentum for flipping the district, now represented by a Republican, into the blue column. Voters are taking to his message, he said. Meanwhile, Daniel Horton-Diaz, Gentle’s rival for the Democratic nomination to represent HD 120, raised $31,400 in January.

— CORONA NATION —

The Joe Biden administration remains cautious about easing masking and other COVID-19 safety measures.” via Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times — The White House has been meeting with outside health experts to plan a pandemic exit strategy and a transition to a “new normal,” but the behind-the-scenes effort is crashing into a very public reality: a string of blue-state Governors have gotten ahead of Biden by suddenly abandoning their mask mandates. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said pointedly on Wednesday that while her agency is working on new guidance for the states, it is not yet time to lift mask mandates across the nation. In the meantime, Jeff Zients, Biden’s coronavirus response coordinator, said the administration has consulting experts, as well as Governors, to talk about “steps we should be taking to keep the country moving forward.”

Proceed with caution: Joe Biden treads lightly on lifting mask mandates. Image via NYT.

Blue states move to drop mask mandates” via Mike Allen, Jacob Knutson and Ivana Saric of Axios — America’s blue states are increasingly chasing normalcy, especially when it comes to face mask rules meant to slow the spread of COVID-19. On Wednesday, New York and Rhode Island joined New Jersey, Delaware, California, and other states that have recently announced an end date for mask requirements and other COVID-19 restrictions. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said Wednesday the state will drop its indoor mask mandate and a requirement that businesses ask customers for proof of vaccination starting Thursday. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he hopes to lift the mask mandate for indoor settings, with some exceptions, by the end of the month.

More states ease mask mandates, citing lower infection, hospitalization numbers” via Amy Cheng, Annabelle Timsit and Brittany Shammas of The Washington Post

— CORONA ECONOMICS —

A quarter of U.S. firms raised wages, gave bonuses in COVID-19 era” via Michael Sasso of Bloomberg — Almost a quarter of U.S. employers lifted compensation or gave bonuses during the pandemic. One in seven businesses raised wages, but many also offered temporary boosts or paid workers who referred others to apply for a job. The survey sheds light on the trends that have reshaped the workplace since the onset of COVID-19, as well as how likely they are to stick. Two years into the pandemic, the U.S. labor market remains as tight as ever, with postings near record levels. There are just 0.62 unemployed job seekers for each available job.

Bonuses are back, baby!

Disney theme parks generate $7.2 billion in first quarter, a near-record” via Katie Rice of the Orlando Sentinel — Disney’s U.S. parks reported near all-time revenue and operating income records in the company’s first quarter of 2022, driven by larger crowds spending more, The Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Officer Bob Chapek said Wednesday. The company’s Parks, Experiences and Products division made more than $7.2 billion in revenue in the quarter ending Jan. 1, more than double the nearly $3.6 billion earned in the first quarter of 2021. The division reported an operating income of $2.45 billion.

Disney soars as online viewers jump” via Christopher Palmeri of Bloomberg — The Walt Disney Co. reported first quarter sales and earnings that handily beat analysts’ forecasts. Subscribers to the flagship streaming service Disney+ jumped to 129.8 million. The Burbank, California-based entertainment giant said that earnings increased to $1.06 a share, beating the 57-cent average of analysts’ estimates. Sales in the period ended Jan. 1 rose to $21.8 billion, topping expectations of $20.8 billion. The big surprise was new subscriptions to Disney+, which came in at 11.8 million, above the 8.17 million that Wall Street had projected. Disney shares tumbled in November after the company announced subscriber numbers that fell short of Wall Street projections. Netflix Inc. added to investor worries about streaming growth with a tepid outlook.

— MORE CORONA —

‘The next culture war’: Vaccines for young kids” via Tina Reed of Axios — Pfizer and federal officials are scrambling to speed up COVID-19 vaccines for kids under 5 — but polls indicate plenty of parents may be on the fence about getting their child vaccinated right away. Officials are trying to get first shots into the littlest arms to protect against severe disease and hospitalization, which is still a real threat while rare for young kids. In a Harris Poll of 306 parents of kids under 5 provided exclusively to Axios, 73% of vaccinated parents said they’re likely to vaccinate their kids under 5, while only 35% of unvaccinated parents would. On the flip side, 65% of unvaccinated parents said they are unlikely to get their kids under 5 vaccinated, while just 27% of vaccinated parents agreed.

Battleground: The next clash in the culture wars — vaccinating younger children. Image via AP.

NFL chief medical officer: ‘Absolutely possible’ players could miss Super Bowl due to COVID-19” via Jarrett Bell of USA Today — Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, told reporters this week that he thinks it’s “absolutely possible” that players from the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals could contract COVID-19 and miss the Super Bowl. “If they have symptoms and we test them, and they test positive,” Sills said, “then obviously they would miss the game.” Like earlier rounds of the playoffs, the conference championship games went on without a hitch. Sills said he was encouraged by the proactive measures by players and staff.

— PRESIDENTIAL —

Biden, a President for the new Cold War” via Holman W. Jenkins Jr. of The Wall Street Journal — I’ve been waiting for some fragment of vindication after suggesting in 2019 that Biden might be the “best we can do” in 2020. The occasion was the first Donald Trump impeachment, over his Ukraine phone call. More than a few Democrats saw a twofer since the case also exposed the dealings of Biden’s son with a Ukrainian oligarch company. Biden has flaws, but he was a child of the Cold War and, unless I’m mistaken, has surprised and discombobulated Vladimir Putin with his un-Obama-like response to renewed tensions over Ukraine, including by whipping a German chancellor into line. By sending military supplies to Ukraine, by deploying troops to Eastern Europe, by preparing sanctions, the Biden administration has orchestrated a set of signals that even Putin can’t misinterpret.

Cold warrior: Is Joe Biden up to the task?

Left splits over Supreme Court pick pushed by top Biden ally” via Burgess Everett and Laura Barrón-López of POLITICO — After Sherrod Brown caught wind of the progressive angst over judge Michelle Childs’ possible ascension to the Supreme Court, the labor stalwart talked it through with her biggest Democratic backer, the House majority whip. And the Ohio Democratic senator walked away satisfied from his conversation with Rep. Jim Clyburn, who’s stumping hard for his home-state judge to join the high court. Brown’s support is a huge shot in the arm for Childs, who’s facing grumbles on the left over her past work as a lawyer on behalf of corporations. Biden could pick Childs, the perceived moderate candidate, and court GOP votes at risk of fracturing Democrats. Or he could nominate someone whom Republicans may be more likely to oppose but may unite Democrats.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Marco Rubio says Biden is sending out free ‘crack pipes.’ The Harm Reduction Program explained” via C.A. Bridges of The Palm Beach Post — Sen. Rubio is one of the latest members of the GOP to take incredulous offense at a federal grant program from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to battle drug abuse. “The Biden administration is going to be sending crack pipes and meth pipes, targeting minority communities in this country, underserved communities,” Rubio said Tuesday in a video Twitter post. “This is insanity,” Rubio said. The 2022 Harm Reduction Program Grant, issued by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration under the HHS, will provide $29,250,000 over three years. One of the program’s components is providing safer smoking kits, but that’s just one small element in a subset of a list of 20 items the program calls for.

Cracked: Marco Rubio singles out a small part of Joe Biden’s Harm Reduction Program Grant. Image via Reuters.

Rubio bill targets ‘dangerous and deranged’ TSA policy for immigrants in the U.S. illegally” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — A new bill from U.S. Sen. Rubio is targeting what he calls a “dangerous and deranged” TSA policy regarding undocumented immigrants and identification gaps. The SECURE Flights Act, also known as the Strengthening Enforcement to Curtail Unlawful, Risky Entrance to Flights Act, seeks to ban “illegal aliens” from using arrest warrants and similar documents in place of more formal forms of identification when boarding commercial flights. In a media release Wednesday introducing the bill, Rubio railed against the policy. “The rule of law went out the window when the Biden administration took office,” Rubio said. “It is dangerous and deranged to allow illegal immigrants to use arrest warrants to board commercial flights and travel throughout our country.”

Florida should consider banning state lawmakers from trading stocks, says Charlie Crist” via Kimberly Leonard of Business Insider — Crist said Florida should consider a stock trading ban for the state’s Legislature. “If Congress can do it, I think Florida officials can do it too,” Crist told Insider at a private residence where he was unveiling his plan to expand solar energy in Florida. Crist’s comments come as Congress is making significant moves to either limit or ban members from trading individual stocks. Every top congressional leader in Washington has now indicated they’re open to new restrictions at a time when congressional stock trading is tremendously unpopular with voters. According to his annual federal disclosure filed with the Clerk of the House, Crist does not trade individual stocks.

Assignment editors — Crist will host a virtual roundtable with members of the Florida NAACP and community faith leaders on the growth of right-wing extremism in Florida and recent anti-Black and antisemitic violence and harassment incidents across the state, 9 a.m. Zoom link here. RSVP to [email protected]

U.S. Rep. Carlos Giménez’s son arrested for slapping Miami Commissioner in Gables steakhouse” via Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — The son of U.S. Rep. Giménez was arrested after slapping Miami Commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla at Morton’s Steakhouse in Coral Gables, police said. Coral Gables police spokeswoman Kelly Denham confirmed the arrest of Carlos J. Giménez, though she wouldn’t say when it happened or exactly what caused the confrontation. Rep. Giménez, who had just returned to Miami from Washington, D.C., said he hadn’t spoken with his son as of Wednesday afternoon but was aware of an “incident.” He said he believed his son was still at the Coral Gables police station just before 6 p.m.

— CRISIS —

Sanford firefighter gets probation for role in U.S. Capitol riot” via Monivette Cordeiro of the Orlando Sentinel — A federal judge sentenced a Sanford firefighter Wednesday to two years of probation for demonstrating inside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 attack. Before he was sentenced, Andrew Williams told U.S. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich he was remorseful and regretted his actions during the 2021 attempted insurrection. “I am ashamed,” he said during the virtual hearing. “ … I deserve punishment. I know that I have been punished professionally and personally in a way that will not likely end.” Aside from sentencing him to probation, Friedrich also ordered Williams to complete 60 hours of community service and pay $500 in restitution.

Soft time: Andrew Williams gets two years’ probation for his part in The Capitol riot.

House Jan. 6 committee issues subpoena to former Donald Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro” via Tom Hamburger, Josh Dawsey and Felicia Sonmez of The Washington Post — The House Select Committee investigating the attack on the Capitol on Jan 6, 2021, issued a subpoena Wednesday to former Trump White House official Navarro seeking records and testimony from the former trade adviser, who has written and publicly discussed the effort to develop a strategy to delay or overturn certification of the 2020 election. Navarro is among a growing list of Trump advisers who the panel has subpoenaed, and, like some of them, it seemed likely Wednesday that he would seek to avoid testifying by citing Trump’s claim of executive privilege.

— EPILOGUE TRUMP —

National Archives asks Justice Dept. to investigate Trump’s handling of White House records” via Matt Zapotosky, Jacqueline Alemany, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — The National Archives and Records Administration has asked the Justice Department to examine Trump’s handling of White House records, sparking discussions among federal law enforcement officials about whether they should investigate the former President for a possible crime. The referral from the National Archives came amid recent revelations that officials recovered 15 boxes of materials from the former President’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida that were not handed back into the government as they should have been, and that Trump had turned over other White House records that had been torn up.

Circular file: Donald Trump’s record-keeping could run afoul of the National Archives. Image via Twitter.

—LOCAL NOTES —

Florida’s new parental rights law tests limits, and patience, in Pasco” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — The state, DeSantis said in October, must find even more ways to “empower parents’ rights to decide what is best for their children.” They enshrined the idea with the new law asserting that parents have full charge of their children’s education without obstruction or interference from the government, including public schools. Citing these rights, growing numbers of parents have started to make demands of their schools based on what they think is best for their own children. Schools have found that parents frequently disagree on what the right thing is. Educators are often left to make decisions that have someone feeling ignored. And that can fan the flames of discontent.

Broward names its interim as schools superintendent, first woman to hold the top job” via Jimena Tavel of the Miami Herald — The Broward School Board named Vickie Cartwright, who has served as interim superintendent since August, as superintendent of Broward County Public Schools on Wednesday, the first female superintendent in the district’s 107-year history. “It is monumental for this district,” said School Board Chair Laurie Rich Levinson. “[We] are very excited for that opportunity to have a woman leading our district.” The School Board voted 8-1 to keep Cartwright, 51, as the next leader of the sixth-largest school district in the nation and the second-largest in the state.

Back to school: Broward County Public Schools tap Vickie Cartwright as its new superintendent.

What Joe Gruters is reading — “Sarasota schools could lose $12 million as punishment for enforcing mask mandate” via Shane Battis of ABC 7 — Sarasota County Schools, along with 12 other Florida school districts, may soon lose out on millions in funding because they chose to require students to wear masks at school. As Florida lawmakers debate a budget bill this week, Randy Fine, the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, has put forward a proposal to collectively chop $200 million from the 12 school districts that chose to enforce a mask mandate after the state decided only parents could make that call. If the bill passes, that money would then be distributed between other districts that did not use a mask mandate. Teachers would go untouched, but administrators’ positions could be at risk, with some losing their jobs.

Key West finds most of those living ‘on the hook’ are part of the local workforce” via Nancy Klingener of WLRN — A state law approved last year says boats anchored offshore in the Keys must move every 90 days. But it doesn’t take effect until 250 new moorings are added within a mile of the Key West seaport. Now there’s a bill in the state Legislature that could make the new rules take effect sooner, by reducing the number of new moorings required from 250 to 100. The county had initially estimated 95 liveaboard boats in the Key West Harbor area. Doug Bradshaw, the city’s port director, says out of the 225 liveaboard vessels counted in January, people on 178 of them said they had jobs in town.

‘We’re scared’: Current, former Florida State employees, students scramble after Sandels faculty report” via Christopher Cann of the Tallahassee Democrat — Christina Goswick began working at Florida State University in July 2013 as a student coordinator for the family and child sciences office in the Sandels Building. She said she had a “horrible” cough before further lung and kidney problems emerged. One woman who had a similar epiphany to Goswick suffered a miscarriage in the first trimester of an “otherwise healthy pregnancy,” after working in a third-floor research room in the Sandels Building between 2019 and 2020. On Tuesday, FSU President Richard McCullough addressed the Sandels Building at a board of trustees meeting. “We’re all over it,” he said. “We’re going to be the best we can given the situation.”

Florida Polytechnic’s applications for fall increase 30%, defying a national trend” via Gary White of The Lakeland Ledger — Florida Polytechnic University reports an increase of 30% in applications for next fall compared with the same point last year, defying a national trend of declining college enrollment. Out-of-state applications have jumped by 61%, Florida Poly said in a news release. Undergraduate enrollment dropped by more than a million students nationally from fall 2019 to fall 2021. The report said enrollment declined by 3.8% at public, four-year colleges.

‘It’s phenomenal’: First Brightline train arrives at Orlando” via Alexa Lorenzo and Sarah Wilson of WFTV — Central Florida’s first Brightline train has officially arrived at Orlando. It is one of 10 train sets that will serve Brightline’s Orlando extension, set to open in early 2023. On Tuesday, the train, Bright Blue 2, arrived at Brightline’s brand-new vehicle maintenance facility south of Orlando International Airport. The train set traveled across 10 states and 3,000 plus miles to get here from Sacramento. It was built at the Siemens rolling stock facility and is now the second of five new train sets to arrive in Florida to open the Brightline station in Orlando.

All aboard: BrightBlue 2 is the first Brightline train to arrive in Orlando. Service begins in 2023. Image via @RoamingRailfan/Twitter.

— TOP OPINION —

Florida’s open records don’t need sunblock” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — Every year, lawmakers chip away at Florida’s presumption that governmental records should be open to the public. Some go overboard, shutting down public records that could assist in research or reveal troubling patterns of behavior by government employees. This is one area where Democratic lawmakers could, if they chose, stand up for Floridians. The party’s leaders should seize the opportunity to stand up for Florida’s right to oversee its government.

— OPINIONS —

How Republicans learned to love frivolous lawsuits” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — For decades, GOP leaders railed against “junk lawsuits” and “frivolous lawsuits” and championed the need for “tort reform” to overcome the sinister powers of “the trial lawyers.” Then came Trump, who loved suing and being sued. Among the many abandonments of conservative principles Trump brought about in the Republican Party has been a newfound appreciation for junk lawsuits. At least 11 states, most of them GOP-controlled, have seen the introduction of bills by anti-vaccine lawmakers that would give employees the right to sue employers who require coronavirus vaccines.

We must stand with the Jewish community against antisemitic acts” via U.S. Sen. Rick Scott for the Miami Herald — Jewish Floridians are our neighbors, friends and colleagues and they have made incredible contributions. While it was wonderful to talk about the growth of Florida’s Jewish communities, we were also saddened to discuss the constant threats they face — a fact proven by FBI data. While Jewish Americans make up less than 3% of the U.S. population, they are the targets of more than 50% of all hate crimes based on religious bias in our country. It is a repulsive reality that we can, and must, change now. We must be clear — these disgusting attacks on the Jewish community will never be tolerated. In Florida and across America, we must continue to make clear that we stand with the Jewish community and fight against antisemitism anywhere it is found.

In Miami, DeSantis causes rift between Pedro Pans; other unaccompanied minors” via the Miami Herald editorial board — DeSantis visited Miami’s American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora and defended his plan to crack down on federally funded Florida shelters for unaccompanied minors. He took his stand in front of some who were once unaccompanied minors themselves, Cubans who, more than 60 years ago, ended up in Miami shelters, camps and foster homes here and across the country through a rescue initiative called Operation Pedro Pan. It’s unfortunate that he further sullied his defense by using language that basically divided these groups into worthy immigrants and unworthy immigrants.

Chris King: Florida housing prices are bad; DeSantis makes it worse” via Florida Politics — Housing in Florida is more unaffordable than ever. And the policies of DeSantis are making it worse — no vision, no compassion, and no eye to the future housing needs of Florida. He touts the sheer number of people moving into our state, without bothering to care if these new transplants have any place to live. Last year alone, DeSantis signed a law permanently cutting the housing affordability trust fund in half. This comes on top of year after year of cuts and DeSantis’ veto pen. In case it wasn’t already crystal clear whether our Governor cares about skyrocketing rents, he failed to mention housing affordability even once during his hourlong State of the State address. While Florida families struggle to afford rent, DeSantis is playing politics.

Nick Primrose: DeSantis’ election crimes office will cast away electoral ‘shadows,’ build trust” via Florida Politics — In our electoral process, we must eliminate the shadows that otherwise erode our trust in our democratic process. I fully support DeSantis‘ call for an Office of Election Crimes and Security. It should be a bipartisan maxim to protect the integrity of elections and instill faith in the accuracy of our election results. This year the baton has been passed to Sen. Travis Hutson and Rep. Danny Perez as they carry SB 524 and HB 7061, respectively. These efforts would establish DeSantis’ Office of Election Crimes and Security and also add additional common-sense protections. The safety and security of voter registration, vote-by-mail, drop boxes, the processing of ballots, and our elections are too important to ignore.

Don’t say gay? It must be Baxley at work” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — Baxley, another freedom-loving Republican lawmaker in the Legislature, is never shy about sponsoring loony laws. He pushed schools to offer “different worldviews” about evolution and climate change in the past. That didn’t pass. Last year, he messed with Florida’s ultrasuccessful Bright Futures program. He wanted to require recipients to pursue college majors “that lead directly to employment.” Parents lost their minds, and Baxley backed down. Baxley was a leader last year in making unneeded and dangerous changes to Florida’s voting laws.

Democrats can save ‘sunshine,’ and themselves, in one key vote” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Ordinarily powerless to stop whatever the ruling Republican majority wants, Democrats have the votes to stand up for transparency and block exceptions to government in the sunshine such as the one up for a vote Thursday to throw a blanket of secrecy over future searches for college and university presidents. Under present circumstances, that bill smells even worse than the versions that have failed to pass over the past seven years. Sunshine proved its value when Richard Corcoran, the former House Speaker who’s DeSantis’ Education Commissioner, sought the presidency of Florida State University last year. Democrats can kill this bad bill if all are present and vote no.

Jeff Johnson: Keep nursing care in nursing homes” vis Florida Politics — There are many ways to address Florida’s long-term care crisis, and it requires thought leadership, reevaluation of workforce and resident needs, and ultimately, a much greater investment in long-term care options and health workers. AARP opposes legislation (HB 1239/SB 804) by Rep. Lauren Melo and Sen. Albritton, which cuts nursing care by 20%, reducing the daily hours that CNAs spend with each resident from 2.5 to 2.0 hours. If these bills pass, it will mean that health workers will have to do more with less help, and that’s not the answer. Nursing home quality is positively tied to adequate nurse staffing. Minimum nursing staffing standards exist to ensure assistance with tasks that are critical to quality care.

It’s the Gunshine State — an argument at Publix or road rage on I-95 could get you killed” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Florida was one of the first states to pass a so-called Stand Your Ground law in 2005 that eliminated citizens’ duty to retreat before using deadly force to counter a threat if they “reasonably believe” their lives are threatened. In 2017, the Legislature made it easier for defendants to successfully claim protection under the law by shifting the burden of proof in pretrial hearings to prosecutors. Stand Your Ground, coupled with the state’s lax regulations on guns and background checks, is an attitude. It’s the message that anything goes in your exercise of your constitutional rights, whether it be vigilantism or recklessness. Once you consider that, ending an argument at a grocery store with a bang, sadly, doesn’t feel out of the ordinary.—TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Who knew there was a theme for this Legislative Session? But on satellite radio, Speaker Sprowls declared it “Empowering Parents and Family.”

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Sprowls says there’s only controversy surrounding some legislation because the media is getting it wrong.

— Democrats are complaining that “the rent’s too damn high,” and their legislation to fix that is going nowhere.

— Agritourism is getting a slight boost this Session with clarity on when a farm is a farm.

— And, winter warnings of falling iguanas is one thing. But how about falling buzzards?

To listen, click on the image below:

— OLYMPICS —

Cleared for COVID, FSU student Josh Williamson set to join Olympic bobsled teammates in China” via Jim Henry of the Tallahassee Democrat —Williamson has been cleared to join his Olympic teammates in Beijing. The U.S. bobsled athlete and Florida State student shared on Facebook Tuesday that he was “Beijing bound!” Williamson may be the first FSU student to compete in the Winter Olympics, according to FSU. On Jan. 28, Williamson – a brakeman on the four-man team – wrote on Instagram that he would not be flying to Beijing with other members of Team USA after testing positive for COVID-19.

Meet the Florida grandmother who launched the careers of three Winter Olympians” via Eric Adelson of The Washington Post — Renee Hildebrand was driving home through rural Florida last month when she got a text that read: “I am so sorry.” Hildebrand pulled into her driveway, entered her home, and turned on the television to discover the news: Erin Jackson, a long-track speedskater she had trained since childhood, had wobbled during the 500-meter race at U.S. Olympic trials, finishing third and missing a shot at the Beijing Olympics. “My heart sank,” Hildebrand recalled. But a short time later, Hildebrand received another text from Brittany Bowe, another former pupil. “Over my dead body is Erin not skating the 500 in the Olympics,” wrote Bowe, who had won the trial but gave up her spot to Jackson. Hildebrand began to cry. All three of her athletes would make it to China.

Guru: Renee Hildebrand has made Ocala a mecca for Olympic speedskaters. Image via Facebook.

— ALOE —

‘Inspired by Che Guevara and Fidel Castro,’ a New York restaurant missteps in Miami” via Carlos Frías of the Miami Herald — Café Habana, set to open in Miami in the Spring of 2022, according to its website, opened its first location inside a converted New York diner in 1997. The concept is a fusion of Cuban and Mexican cuisine, with a backstory rooted in communist revolutionary lore. “Inspired by a storied Mexico City hangout, where legend has it Che Guevara and Fidel Castro plotted the Cuban Revolution, the flagship Café Habana location was created out of an old-school New York diner in 1997.” read a description on the restaurant’s website until this week. In Miami, a restaurant that celebrates the plotting of the Cuban Revolution by the two communist leaders and rebrands American cultural icons as communist propaganda can expect pushback.

Café Habana may be a hit in NYC, but Miami might not be so kind. Image via Facebook.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to our good friend, Franco Ripple. Also celebrating today are Carrie Henriquez, Celeste Lewis-Hemanes, and Jamie Wilson. Belated wishes to Brian Swensen.

___

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 FloridaPolitics.com, 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.



#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, Renzo Downey, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Joe Henderson, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Gray Rohrer, Aimee Sachs, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

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