Here’s Brunch, a pop-up, weekend email during the 2022 Legislative Session — 2.20.22

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

Good Sunday morning, and welcome back to “Brunch,” a pop-up newsletter about the 2022 Legislative Session, the Daytona 500, and Gators at the gate.

I’m writing this from Colonial Williamsburg, where the breaking news is that George Washington announced he would not seek re-election, and Thomas Jefferson told an audience he would ‘not be surprised’ by an event similar in nature to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

It’s Presidents Day on Monday, which means the banks and Post Office will be on holiday, but will less than three weeks left to the 2022 Session, lawmakers and staff will be hard at work trying to forge a budget and a congressional districts map.

Get well, Leader

It’s not often you can say you share something in common with Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, but Sen. Lauren Book today can. Book announced Friday that she tested positive for COVID-19. The Queen announced this morning that she has a mild case of the coronavirus.

The news: In the announcement, Book said she is experiencing mild symptoms and plans to remain in isolation through Monday. The 2022 Legislative Session is slated to end March 11.

Be back soon: Leader Lauren Book is the latest to test positive for COVID-19.

The announcement: “Glad to be fully vaxxed and boosted — now hoping this virus comes and goes quickly and uneventfully,” Book shared with Twitter followers.

Case numbers: Florida reported more than 42,000 new COVID-19 cases in the latest tally. In all, state health officials have recorded more than 5.7 million cases since the onset of the virus.

— Child welfare funding —

Some in South Florida worry that the House funding proposals could shift significant child welfare funding away from South Florida, moving it to other parts of the state.

Community-based care: The Department of Children and Families operates a community-based care system, where the state is split up into 20 regions, allowing the agency to work with local nonprofits on the ground. Under a House funding plan, regions 11 and 17 — covering Miami-Dade and Broward — could be impacted.

Cuts coming to SoFla? While the House package boosts overall funding for the system, those funds could be shifted from South Florida to lower-funded areas. The proposal could move up to $17 million away from Miami-Dade County, and a “significant chunk” away from Broward as well, according to one source who analyzed the proposal. And the way it’s drawn up, the source says, the House plan could in effect incentive out-of-home placements, as they can produce more revenue. Meanwhile, the Senate plan simply adds funds to lower-funded regions without impacting South Florida funding.

Not a done deal: Negotiations will continue on precise funding levels, meaning those numbers are far from final. But with a separate House proposal targeting school districts who flouted the Governor’s ban on mask mandates — several of which are in South Florida — some are wondering whether the region is being disproportionately hit by budget maneuvers.

— Swamp the Capitol —

The University of Florida and Gator caucus hosted its annual Gator Day celebration on the steps of the Florida Historic Capitol Tuesday. Dozens of Gator alumni gathered to chat and hear speeches from UF officials, including President Kent Fuchs and head football coach Billy Napier.

Climbing the rankings: To begin his remarks, Fuchs touted the university’s climb into the top 5 public universities, as well as its online bachelor’s program’s first-place ranking in the nation among all programs. He also highlighted how the university spent almost $1 billion on research last year.

That’s right, it’s Gator Day at The Capitol.

Olympic Pride: Fuchs also brought up UF alum Erin Jackson’s gold medal in Olympic speedskating during this year’s Winter Olympics. He said he heard she carried similar excellence in the classroom during her time at UF.

Boys 2 Men: Napier said he is honored to begin his new role as head coach because he knows he works in a profession where he can positively impact young people. “We are changing lives for the better at the University of Florida,” he added.

— Voting rights rally —

Democratic officials joined the NAACP and others on the Historic Capitol steps Thursday to rally for voting rights in Florida. Among the prominent officials to fire up the crowd were U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, and state Sen. Annette Taddeo.

Man with a mission: Lawson recalled that in his last conversation with the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis, Lewis told him he teared up every time he went to the ballot box. Lewis lived his life with a mission, which Lawson couldn’t say of Gov. Ron DeSantis. “I served with him for two years, and you know what he did in Congress? Nothing.”

Fight for your right: Al Lawson takes the voting rights fight to Tallahassee. Image via Twitter/@RepAlLawsonJr.

She said BS, y’all: “So they want to talk about what they need to do to protect our elections,” Fried said. “Look at the mirror and look at themselves. Don’t be piling some of this BS that is behind us.”

Why they do it: History has a way of repeating itself, Taddeo said. “Tallahassee Republicans, fueled by their power-hungry love to keep on to the power, make it harder for Floridians to vote just to keep their party in charge.”

Blessings for Tally: Pastor Quincy Griffin offered the invocation. “We need the archangels fighting against the inequities that are taking place and our polling booths. We need our angels fighting against, God, all the inequities that are taking place against our right to vote.”

Leon County School Board Chair Darryl Jones said Florida — not just Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi — was part of the cradle of the Civil Rights movement. “We will do everything we can to call attention to tyranny.”

Outside the Lines

Miami Beach Democratic Rep. Michael Grieco wasted no time helping a Planned Parenthood staffer arrested Thursday in the Capitol.

The details: Protesters erupted chanting “My body! My choice!” inside the House chamber as lawmakers debated the abortion bill. Police issued 25 trespass warnings and made one arrest, per the Tampa Bay Times.

The aftermath: The Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood staffer was arrested and charged with presenting a false name or false identification.

The phone call: Florida Planned Parenthood Action thanked Greico on Twitter early Friday. They say he answered a 1 a.m. phone call and represented the staffer in court.

The outcome: A judge determined no crime was committed.

You’ve got mail —

No, that charming voice from AOL logins of yore isn’t back. And it’s way too late in Session for a rom-com night. The mail many lawmakers hear about these days comes from advocacy groups slamming mailboxes in their home districts and calling constituents to action.

Cut!: Americans for Prosperity, for example, sent out flyers in Senate District 23 knicking Sen. Joe Gruters for carrying a film rebate bill. “Joe Gruters wants to give away your tax dollars to Hollywood!” the palm card blares.

Long game: Skyler Zander, AFP’s Florida director, said mailers went out early in Session on various issues around Florida. “We celebrate policies that advance a free and open society while shining a spotlight on shortsighted proposals that would diminish or dilute our freedoms — and we do it, always, without focusing exclusively on any particular political party or individual official.”

Joe-mentum: Joe Gruters gets slammed.

Taking a shot: The National Association for Gun Rights also wages a postal campaign, this time in House District 10. Its mailers urged supporters to call Rep. Chuck Brannan and urge him to schedule a Criminal Justice & Public Safety Subcommittee hearing on an open carry bill.

— Fight for EASE funding —

Supporters are fighting for Effective Access to Student Education (EASE) vouchers, sending more than 636,000 letters supporting the program to Florida lawmakers since Feb. 6.

— Cuts coming? A release from the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida (ICUF) association says House lawmakers are planning to cut EASE funding, “which will eliminate or reduce the tuition assistance for more than 6,400 students, leaving thousands of students to pay more for their education this fall.”

Cutting class: Schools may miss out on extra federal cash.

— The stats: According to a study cited by ICUF, the EASE program generates “more than 21,000 jobs per year, generates $282 million in tax revenue and contributes $3.5 billion in annual economic impact.” The group argued cuts, which are not final, would disproportionately affect faith-based institutions and historically Black colleges and universities.

— The pushback: That led ICUF to initiate a letter campaign showing support for EASE. “I am encouraged by the overwhelming support from all areas of our state to save the EASE voucher and help students go to college and earn their degree,” said Bob Boyd, ICUF president and CEO. “We have a severe shortage of workers in Florida. Florida needs EASE now more than ever to support student education and produce more nurses, teachers and engineers to power our workforce.”

Well done, Christine

With time in Session running short, state Rep. Christine Hunschofsky has moved a quartet of bills through the committee process that the House should consider in the coming week.

Psychologists: The Parkland Democrat navigated HB 953 through the process, and the full House will consider it on Thursday. The bill allows for an inter-jurisdictional compact for psychologists (called PSYPACT). Psychologists in compact-participating states provide telepsychology or offer face-to-face counseling for up to 30 days per calendar year. She also shepherded HB 955, a companion bill that allows Florida to comply with the Compact.

Tick tock: Session is running short for Christine Hunschofsky.

School data: Hunschofsky has pushed a bill to ensure that charter schools report data on the involuntary examination of students to the Department of Education. HB 899 directs the DOE to share the school district-reported data with the Department of Children and Families and oversees its biennial reports on involuntary examinations of minors.

Military spouses: Lastly, the South Florida Representative has filed HB 559, which requires the state to expedite the licensure application process for the spouses of military personnel who relocate to Florida. To qualify, the spouse must have a valid license in another state.

— The reaction: “As we near the end of the 2022 Legislative Session, I am pleased that these four bills have reached the stage where they are ready for a vote by the full House of Representatives,” she said in a prepared statement. “Supporting our 37,000 active-duty military and their spouses in Florida and strengthening mental health services throughout Florida is good public policy.”

— Pet-friendly disaster holiday —

A Girl Scout troop from Palm Harbor was in the Capitol last week, but not to sell boxes of cookies to the House Speaker. Seven scouts from Troop 60601 visited the House Ways and Means Committee to make their case why this year’s disaster preparedness tax holiday should include various pet supplies.

Friends in high places: After brainstorming a list of ideas for their Silver Award and realizing that supplies for furry and scaly friends aren’t on the state’s list of disaster prep items, they started a petition and emailed Speaker Chris Sprowls.

Be prepared: Committee Chair Bobby Payne extended an invitation to the scouts, calling having supplies and a plan to take care of pets especially important if you need to evacuate. “We just really thought this was a great idea.”

Cookie Season already? Not this time. Image via Florida House.

Shopping list: Their list of items to add to the disaster holiday has kennels, carriers, dry and wet food, leashes, collars, muzzles, manual can openers, feeding bowls, cat litter, litter pan, pet pads, hamster or rabbit substrates, and pet beds.

Part of the family: “The tax-exempt holiday incentivizes people to plan ahead and prepare,” the scouts said. “We know you care about the health and safety of Floridians’ pets because they are truly part of our family.”

We love our pets, Payne assured the scouts before the committee approved their suggestion. “It gives me hope to know that we have youth out there that come to Tallahassee or send letters to see and are engaged in the process.”

Abortion rally

Democratic lawmakers will join more than 500 activists at the Capitol on Tuesday protesting the 15-week abortion ban.

The issue: Democratic lawmakers and activists widely oppose the proposal, which ranks among the most contentious bills of the 2022 Legislative Session.

The crew: Democratic attendees will include Reps. Anna Eskamani of Orlando, Fentrice Driskell of Tampa, and Marie Woodson of Pembroke Pines.

Fighting the good fight: Anna Eskamani takes the fight over abortions to the street. Image via Andy Ceballos/Facebook.

The objection: “It is time to stop politicians from imposing their personal beliefs and anti-abortion views on others,” Eskamani said in the announcement.

The details: The “Fight for Repro Freedom” will begin with a rally under the Senate Portico at 10:45 a.m.

—The long haul —

Former Rep. Gary Aubuchon has climbed back on his bicycle for a good cause. His annual Ride for a Cure, raising money to fight cancer through Cure on Wheels, kicked off Saturday morning. He and about 35 other cyclists expect to roll up on the Florida Capitol in four days.

Fighting for his friends: “In the past, I rode honoring my parents and my wife Andrea’s parents, all taken by cancer,” he wrote in an email blast. “This year, I ride to honor three friends, Debbie Weis, Lois Nemec, and Diane Salko, all three of whom are in different stages of waging their cancer battles.”

Former state Rep. Gary Aubuchon hits the road (again) from Tampa to The Capitol.

Going the distance: The trek will take the 59-year-old Aubuchon along 325 miles of Florida roadway, starting at Moffitt in Tampa and ending at the steps of the Capitol, all on the back of his 1997 Schwinn Passage.

Money and awareness: Politicians have a gift for earning free media on a stunt, but this is also raising money for cancer research and patient services. As of Friday evening, Aubuchon had raised more than $7,700, an amount above this year’s goal, but he’s always looking to saddle a little more cash for a good cause. Donate here.

Pol positioning: But even more important is the attention on the caravan of cancer awareness. “When you have issues that require an investment that pays off in decades as opposed to years, it’s important to keep it in the forefront of people’s minds,” he tells us, “and in particular legislators’ minds.”

— Daytona 500 returns

The annual celebration of 200 laps of left turns happens today at the Daytona International Speedway. And if you don’t have a ticket for the 64th running of the Daytona 500, you’re probably out of luck. The event is sold out, so unless your favorite ticket scalper has a few left over, your best bet is to watch the telecast on Fox. The green flag drops at 2:30 p.m.

Get hyped:Our sport is as captivating as ever, and we are riding some great momentum from the 2021 season and the Busch Light Clash at the (Los Angeles) Coliseum,” Daytona International Speedway President Frank Kelleher said. “We are so thankful to the fans who have reserved their place in what will be yet another history-making event at The World Center of Racing.”

Flag drop: The Daytona 500 is as captivating as ever.

Back-to-back? Michael McDowell is the defending champion. He avoided a massive wreck on the lap last year to secure his first NASCAR victory in 358 starts. He began the 2021 race as a 100-to-1 long shot.

Next-generation: This is the first official race of the season — the Busch Clash in L.A. was an exhibition — and one of the big storylines is how NASCAR’s ballyhooed Next Gen cars will fare. Next Gen cars offer a nod to NASCAR’s roots, where stock cars were basically the same kind of vehicle you could buy off a dealer’s lot. Officials hope the new cars will allow teams in the lower half of NASCAR’s hierarchy to run competitively with wealthier teams.

Other improvements: There also are technological changes in the cars’ design to reduce air turbulence on the track, allowing for better handling and a safer race. Also, each vehicle is outfitted with improved data connectivity, allowing fans to have more detailed information as the race progresses.

Weather can always be a problem at Daytona, which was certainly the case last year. Rain delayed the race for about six hours, and it didn’t end until 12:15 a.m. However, today’s forecast looks promising. The temperature is expected to be in the low 70s, with a 30% chance of rain.

Start your engines

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis’ bomb squad team is among the first responders serving at the Daytona 500 this weekend.

Horsepower: The Division of Investigative and Forensic Services’ (DIFS) Bomb Squad consists of 13 certified bomb technicians, three apprentices and a bomb-sniffing dog.

Logistics: Known as “The Great American Race,” the Daytona 500 is 200 laps and covers 500 miles at the Daytona International Speedway.

Safety first: “Deploying our highly-trained bomb squad members will help ensure the drivers, crew, and visitors have a safe and enjoyable experience,” Patronis said.

— Brunching out —

Grove Market Cafe is one of the top destinations for breakfast and lunch in Tallahassee, serving the stellar cuisine of award-winning chefs and spouses, David and Elizabeth Gwynn.

Backstory: The Gwynns are the power culinary couple behind the former Cypress Restaurant, which closed in July. Fans who miss Cypress can at least get a taste of the Gwynns’ cooking at Grove Market. The Gwynns also own Vertigo Burgers and Fries.

Grove Market Cafe brings old-school up a notch. Image via Tallahassee Table.

The setting: Grove Market is a cheerful space that melds modern decor with old-fashioned market accents. There’s a large patio as well as inside seating.

Breakfast choices: My husband and I are big fans of Big Dave’s Plate, with two eggs, pancakes (possibly the best in town), choice of meat and grits or potatoes. There are many tempting choices, including a Southern Benedict with fried green tomatoes and ham on a biscuit; strawberry and cream cheese stuffed French toast; different toasts such as avocado, roasted mushroom, or housemade peanut butter or almond butter; and bowls such as the shrimp and grits or Sweet Pig Hash. FYI, breakfast is served all day, and gluten-free options are available.

Lunch: You’ll find homey lunch fare such as chicken potpie and meatloaf, smothered chicken, corned beef Reuben or steamed veggie plate. Among the homemade desserts: lemon meringue pie and flourless chocolate cake.

Beverages: Cappuccinos, mimosas, and other cava drinks available along with beer and wine.

Details: Grove Market Cafe, 1370 Market St.; 850-894-5060. Open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday to Monday and Wednesday. Temporarily closed Tuesday and Thursday.

Staff Reports


  • politics

    February 20, 2022 at 10:11 pm

    na demonic virus next

  • Tom

    February 21, 2022 at 4:37 am

    Welcome to the Simpson brunch.
    Yes, hurry big suga has a private room for tool advocate Wilton Simpson, to thank him in trying in gutting Lake O reservoir. State employee advocates will be there thanking him for trying to inflate state employment finances as he ignores any attempts to curtail union financial commitments. Ensuring Florida’s taxpayers to be indebted like union blue states. Desert is being sponsored by RINOS like Lincoln Org in thanks for screwing working class, middle class workers in getting gas and other tax relief thanks to Simpson. Why help people who actually work for a living. He prefers yesteryear Repubs, no pressure involved. Oh yeah, don’t forget to vote for Wilton Simpson, Ag commish, the advocate for status quo, big suga, Lake O polluters, union control over state employees, pay raiser for state employees. What a brunch.

    What a great brunch was had.

  • comments

    February 21, 2022 at 10:01 am

    yep it is big teck, swimming pools, and clean drinking water. and really no one bad mouthing it.gangs overflow in new Zealand all the islands for that money

Comments are closed.


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