Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 3.7.22

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Get ready for an espresso shot of Florida politics and policy.

Good Monday morning.

Louise St. Laurent is leaving her position as General Counsel at the Florida Department of Health to become a partner at Tallahassee-based law firm Panza Maurer.

St. Laurent has spent the past 10 years at DOH, becoming General Counsel in 2018. In that role, she practiced administrative law and gained extensive experience in litigation and rule-making support for the Department’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use, which oversees the third-largest marijuana market in the country.

Previously, she served as the Deputy General Counsel for DOH’s Prosecution Services Unit and as Chief Legal Counsel, supervising the Emergency Action Unit and Unlicensed Activity Unit. Before joining DOH, St. Laurent was an assistant state attorney in Florida’s Second Judicial Circuit.

Louise St. Laurent takes her considerable talents to Tallahassee’s Panza Maurer.

Panza Maurer has become a fixture in governmental relations and administrative law in the more than 40 years since its founding. While the firm has been involved in highly publicized disputes, including one centered on the state’s contract to run the Florida Lottery’s online system, founding partner Tom Panza prefers to represent clients under the radar whenever possible.

Though not widely known, the firm also has a strategic relationship with Ballard Partners, one of the top lobbying firms at both the state and federal levels. Currently, 10 Ballard Partners attorneys serve as “Of Counsel” at Panza Maurer.

St. Laurent joins former Hopping Green & Sams attorney Virginia Dailey in the Tallahassee office, located on the second floor of the Ballard Building.

The firm said her addition, combined with the firm’s strategic relationship with Ballard Partners, allows Panza Maurer to serve as a one-stop-shop for corporations and institutions navigating the complexities of regulatory and administrative law at the state and federal levels.


The Florida Beer Wholesalers Association announced Sunday that its longtime CEO, Mitch Rubin, died over the weekend after an extended battle with cancer. He was 62.

“The FBWA mourns the passing of its President, Mitch Rubin. Over his 20-plus year career, he applied his skill, intellect and foresight to the needs of the beer industry, and by direct extension, of the alcoholic beverage industry as a whole,” FWBA Chair Ken Daley said in a statement provided to Florida Politics.

RIP: Florida Beer Wholesalers Association mourns the loss of Mitch Rubin, a great and good-natured man.

“The entire alcoholic beverage industry in Florida owes a debt of gratitude to Mitch. Mitch’s dedication to our members and our mission will be impossible to match. He will be missed deeply by all who knew him.”

Rubin was known for his steel-trap memory, incredible attention to detail (especially on beverage law and related issues), frank honesty, and unflinching kindness to everyone he encountered.

“A 30-minute coffee could turn into hours of conversation on politics and policy. No one knew his issue, argued the law, and served his members with greater gusto than Mitch Rubin. The Process lost one of the greats. We must raise a cold one in his honor,” said Justin Hollis, a lobbyist at The Southern Group.

FBWA said it is working with Florida State University, where Rubin earned his law degree, to establish the Mitchell J. Rubin scholarship with a $250,000 initial gift. The organization said it would provide details on how others may donate to the scholarship fund in the coming days.

Rubin, a Miami native, is survived by four siblings: Debbie Jordan, Janice Glowacki, David Rubin and Andrea Skinner.


AARP Florida today is launching a statewide campaign to dispel confusion on voting rules among older adults.

“Americans 50-plus are our nation’s most powerful voters — and they will be the deciders in the 2022 elections. Voter education and access have never been more important,” AARP Florida State Director Jeff Johnson said.

“AARP Florida is fighting to make sure voters know the latest guidelines and requirements to make their vote count. Recent changes in Florida’s voting law have made it imperative for AARP to launch this new effort to educate and empower Floridians, so they know when, where and how to vote in their communities.”

The campaign includes voter-education videos, a voter guide, and other voter resources. AARP has also rolled out a voter education messaging service users can enroll by texting “FLvotes” — or “FLvota” for Spanish-speaking voters — to 22777.

The materials include information on how to register to vote, key deadlines for the 2022 elections, how voters can request a mail ballot, and their options for returning a mail ballot, among other things.

“The AARP Florida voter-education videos are available on YouTube in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole. We invite Floridians to watch these videos and stay informed about upcoming elections. In addition to these videos, AARP is providing election information via text and online,” Johnson said. “It’s a critical year, and there’s a lot at stake for older Floridians. We encourage every voter to check out these helpful resources to learn more as they prepare to vote.”


@ARappeport: At one point during his emotional presentation, (Volodymyr) Zelenskyy paused to ask one of the American lawmakers to mute themselves. “Senator Rick Scott, please mute your mic,” he said.

Tweet, tweet:

@LtGovNunez: Rather than making America energy independent, (Joe) Biden wants to buy oil from (Nicolás) Maduro — yet another murderous thug. Troubling pattern from this administration as they continue to embolden our enemies.

Tweet, tweet:

@JoeSaunders4FL: @GovRonDeSantis chief spokesperson just called us all pedophiles. We’ve always known the #dontsaygaybill was about anti-LGBTQ animus. She just said the quiet part out loud. DSG is on the Senate floor Mon and students are organizing. Bring your outrage to Tallahassee

Tweet, tweet:

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@StephHayes: Accidentally opening my work email on a Sunday and closing it fast like a vampire in the sun


Sarasota County votes to renew the special 1-mill property tax for the school district — 1; The 2022 Players begins — 3; House GOP retreat in Ponte Vedra Beach — 16; the third season of ‘Atlanta’ begins — 16; season two of ‘Bridgerton’ begins — 18; The Oscars — 20; ‘Macbeth’ with Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga begin performances on Broadway — 24; Florida Chamber’s 2nd Annual Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health + Sustainability begins — 22; Grammys rescheduled in Las Vegas — 27; ‘Better Call Saul’ final season begins — 42; Magic Johnson’s Apple TV+ docuseries ‘They Call Me Magic’ begins — 46; 2022 Florida Chamber Transportation, Growth & Infrastructure Solution Summit — 52; ‘The Godfather’ TV series ‘The Offer’ premieres — 52; 2nd half of ‘Ozark’ final season begins — 53; federal student loan payments will resume — 55; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 60; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 65; ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ starts on Disney+ — 79; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 81; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 87; California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota hold midterm Primaries — 92; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 124; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 137; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 155; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 179; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 214; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 250; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 253; ‘Avatar 2′ premieres — 285; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 349; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ premieres — 382; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 508; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 592; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 872.


One day after Gov. DeSantis expanded his executive order declaring a state of emergency from Bay County to Calhoun and Gulf counties, the Florida Forest Service has added a third major wildfire to the list of conflagrations it’s battling in the Panhandle.

FFS responded to another wildfire in Bay County, the Star Avenue Fire, which spread across 163 acres and forced evacuation of the Clifford Chester Sims Veteran Administration Nursing Home.

The fire is still growing, FFS personnel said, but it was at 45% containment by late Sunday evening. Its cause is under investigation.

Wildfires are causing havoc in The Panhandle.

Meanwhile, firefighters continue to engage with two far larger fires scorching the area amid dry, windy weather that has hampered containment.

According to the Chipola Forestry Center, the Adkins Avenue Fire in Bay County, mapped at 841 acres Sunday, remains at 35% containment. More than 600 homes in the area have been evacuated. Two structures are confirmed destroyed, and 12 are damaged. Its cause and when it will be fully contained is unknown.

Since Friday, FFS helicopters have dropped more than 103,000 gallons of water on the Adkins Avenue Fire and assigned 25 tractor-plow units to the area. The agency diverted four tractor units and several helicopters Sunday to repel the Star Avenue Fire.

The biggest of the three fires, an 8,000-acre blaze the FFS calls the Bertha Swamp Road Fire, has spread from its origin in Gulf County into Bay and Calhoun, prompting evacuations in the Bear Creek area.

By Sunday, FFS said the fire was 10% contained but showed “increased activity” early in the day, driven by strong winds and dead trees and vegetation left behind by Hurricane Michael serving as fuel.

Seventeen tractor-plow units are attacking the blaze. FFS advises motorists and residents to remain clear of the three-county area.

—”Photos: Firefighters battle three separate fires in Bay County Sunday” via The Panama City News-Herald

Tweet, tweet:

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Marco Rubio ripped for sharing pix of Volodymyr Zelenskyy meeting after being told not to” via William Vaillancourt of Rolling Stone — Sens. Rubio and Steve Daines shared screenshots of a Senate video call with Zelenskyy on Saturday, despite being told not to do so due to concerns about the Ukrainian President’s safety. “On Zoom call now with President Zelensky of Ukraine,” Rubio tweeted Saturday morning along with an image of Zelensky. Daines tweeted a similar image minutes later. Rep. Dean Phillips criticized his fellow lawmakers after the call ended, tweeting that the “Ukrainian ambassador very intentionally asked each of us on the Zoom to NOT share anything on social media during the meeting to protect the security of President Zelenskyy.”

Oversharing: Marco Rubio causes yet another social media kerfuffle. Image via AP.

Rubio shrugs off backlash over live-tweeting Zelenskyy call: ‘No risk posed” via Justin Baragona of The Daily Beast — Sen. Rubio on Sunday brushed off criticism he and another GOP lawmaker received for tweeting out photos from a video call with Zelenskyy, even though participants were specifically asked not to share any pictures on social media. Zelensky, who has been hiding in various underground bunkers in Kyiv, has reportedly already survived three assassination attempts. And as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bloody attack against his sovereign neighbor rages on, the United States and other allies have broached who might take over if Zelensky were to be killed or captured.

—“Rubio explains what West doesn’t understand about Vladimir Putin’s position” via CNN

—“Rubio stops short of rejecting Lindsey Graham’s call to assassinate Putin” via Mychael Schnell of The Hill

How Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is affecting life in Florida and what you can do” via Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald — Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine in the early hours of Feb. 24. But 5,780 miles away in South Florida, the repercussions of Russia’s aggression could play a role in daily life in the immediate and foreseeable future. Rising fuel costs. Travel cutbacks. Russian product boycotts. Sorrow and fears over loved ones’ safety. The average price of gas in the United States, as of Feb. 10, was $3.47, the most since 2014. In Florida, at March’s start, the figure crept up to $3.49. Major cruise lines canceled planned stops in all Russian ports.

Russia told Germany to hand over a U.S. citizen. After invasion, he was sent home to Miami” via Michael Wilner and Ben Wieder of the Miami Herald — Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to worldwide condemnation and a cascade of momentous actions. Now, it has unraveled Russia’s efforts to extradite an American citizen held in Germany. The South Florida man is headed home. An abrupt shift in Germany’s relationship with Russia over its invasion of Ukraine was an unexpected boon for Mark Allayev, who lives in the Miami-area city of Sunny Isles Beach but had been in German custody for eight months at Russia’s request. Allayev, born in Soviet-era Tajikistan, arrived at New York’s JFK International Airport on Friday morning in a stopover on his way home to Florida, ending months of fear that he would be imminently extradited to Moscow from Frankfurt over an eight-year-old fraud case.

In his own words: Northwest Florida man details treacherous journey to escape Ukraine” via Patrick Pfeiffer for the Pensacola News Journal — As the situation in Kyiv was predicted to deteriorate rapidly, I caught one of the last planes leaving the city and arrived in Western Ukraine’s Lviv on the evening of Feb. 19. When I arrived in Lviv, life still seemed relatively normal as people went about their business. Things changed dramatically when the city first had a series of early morning air raid alarms a few days later. With the internet going in and out as the communication infrastructure was being attacked across Ukraine, I knew I had to act fast as there was a real threat that I would be off the grid soon. There simply was no way to the border using transport. And so, we began our foot journey past thousands of partially abandoned and stranded cars.

A Ukrainian married a Russian in Tampa. Then the invasion started.” via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — She first saw him with a group of Russian-speaking students who hung out together on the University of South Florida campus. They were dating within two weeks and, in March 2019, moved together into an off-campus apartment. The pair decided this year not to wait any longer. In a Tampa courthouse, Ivan Cherniavskyi from Kyiv, Ukraine, married Uliana from Moscow, Russia. Their union was just weeks before Russian vehicles and tanks rolled into Ukraine before airstrikes targeted civilian areas before Moscow police began arresting thousands protesting the war. There’s no escaping the constant dread and fear for their families back home.

‘Our hearts are bleeding’: Worshippers at Ukrainian church in St. Pete pray for peace” via Lane DeGregory of the Tampa Bay Times — On a typical Sunday, an average of 20 people show up for the early, English-speaking service at Epiphany of Our Lord Ukrainian Catholic Church. That morning, more than 50 people filled the wooden pews, many wearing the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag. Another 100 came for the second service. Some brought donations, toiletries and medical supplies to send as relief efforts. Some had spent the weekend trying to find family and friends fleeing the Russian occupation. “In the past 10 days, Ukraine has shown the world its tough spirit, its desire for freedom as our nation demonstrates its patience and unity in this bloody war,” Father Bohdan Barytskyy said solemnly.

A Florida teen was tracking Elon Musk’s jet. Now he’s moved on to Putin.” via Madeleine Marr of the Miami Herald — Jack Sweeney may be going places. The 19-year-old college student first made headlines after he began tweeting out the itinerary of Musk’s private plane. The Tesla mogul wasn’t pleased and offered Sweeney $5,000 to take the account down. The boy wonder refused, asking for a fancy car instead, which Musk refused. The techie’s latest hobby? Tracking the movements of Russian oligarchs and Putin. Since Putin invaded Ukraine last week, the profiles have gained more than 400,000 followers.

A giant message for Ukraine will be on display in downtown Miami. It’s 700 feet tall.” via Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald — The 60-story Paramount Miami Worldcenter skyscraper adds a new look to South Florida’s message of support for Ukraine as Russia’s aggression against Ukraine escalates. Starting Saturday evening, the Paramount Miami at 851 NE First Ave. will flash what its organizers are billing as the world’s tallest digital Ukrainian flag and a “most-enormous” electronic message of freedom. At 700-feet in height, and with 16,000 LED lights embedded in 10,000 panes of high-impact glass, the visuals, more than two football fields high, should be visible for quite a distance from the heart of downtown Miami not far from the FTX Arena. Skies are expected to be clear this weekend and into the week, so the display should be clear.

Miami has something to say about Ukraine. Image via Twitter.


Joe Biden and Kamala Harris condemn Florida bill that restricts abortion after 15 weeks” via Bryan Lowry of the Miami Herald — Biden and Vice President Harris Friday condemned Florida legislation that would restrict abortion after 15 weeks. “Last night, the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature passed a dangerous bill that will severely restrict women’s access to reproductive health care. My administration will not stand for the continued erosion of women’s constitutional rights,” Biden said on Twitter following the Florida Senate’s passage of the bill, which is expected to be signed by DeSantis. Biden had spoken out against state-level efforts to restrict abortion access earlier in the week, but abortion rights advocates have long pushed for the President to take a more aggressive approach to the issue amid increasing uncertainty about whether the Supreme Court strikes down or weakens the 1972 Roe v. Wade decision.

Joe Biden weighs in on Florida’s proposed 15-week abortion ban. Image via AP.

Ron DeSantis says he’ll sign ‘warranted’ 15-week abortion ban” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis says he will sign the 15-week abortion ban passed out of the Legislature late Thursday, calling the protections “warranted.” The Senate passed the proposal (HB 5) with a 23-15 near party-line vote late Thursday, marking the end of a monthslong battle between Republicans and Democrats. Republicans in the House and Senate did not surrender an inch, voting down exceptions in the case of rape and incest. “I think the protections are warranted, and I think that we’ll be able to sign that in short order,” DeSantis told reporters in Jacksonville Friday morning. Under the bill, a woman can only access abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy if two doctors agree on a “fatal fetal abnormality.”

GOP-led Legislature approves new congressional maps that DeSantis vows to veto” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislature on Friday approved a set of doomed congressional maps that DeSantis has pledged to veto, leaving the state’s redistricting in limbo with just days left in the 2022 session. The state’s House and Senate, split mainly along party lines, voted in favor of a new map that dismantles the north Florida congressional seat held by Rep. Al Lawson, a Black Democrat from Tallahassee, and would let the GOP likely pick up two seats. Florida is just one of four states left in the nation without approved congressional maps, raising a host of legal questions since the state needs to redraw its districts after picking up a new seat during the once-in-a-decade census.

Senate passes law calling for new elections security office under DeSantis control” via Lawrence Mower of The Tampa Bay Times — Republican state senators moved forward with a slate of election reforms on Friday that includes creating a first-of-its-kind elections security office under the control of the Governor. During a nighttime session Friday, the Florida Senate voted 23-15 to send the bill to the House, where it’s expected to be voted on and sent to the Governor next week. Democrats briefly debated against the legislation, while a lone Republican Senator pointed to several individual fraud cases, most of them allegedly committed by Republicans or GOP operatives, since the 2020 election. Senate Bill 524 is a top priority of DeSantis, but the bill has been watered down significantly from what he initially requested.

—“Annette Taddeo thanks Travis Hutson for recognizing her efforts to expose voter registration fraud” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics

DeSantis spokesperson labels sex ed bill’s opponents ‘groomers’” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Press secretary Christina Pushaw tweeted accusations that people who oppose a sex education bill working its way through the Legislature — dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill — are “groomers” or those who would not denounce “groomers” — references to pedophilia and people who help “groom” children for pedophiles and other abusers. Her tweets drew angry condemnation Sunday from the bill’s opponents. “The bill that liberals inaccurately call “Don’t Say Gay” would be more accurately described as Anti-Grooming Bill,” Pushaw tweeted. She followed that up with: “If you’re against the anti-Grooming bill, you are probably a groomer, or at least you don’t denounce the grooming of 4- to 8-year-old children. Silence is complicity. This is how it works, Democrats, and I didn’t make the rules.”

Christina Pushaw just can’t help herself.

@JoshuaKarp: If anyone on Charlie Crist’s team ever said anything this vile, he would fire them on the spot. Ron DeSantis owns every word of this bigotry.

—”Seth Meyers roasts DeSantis for berating teens” via Trish Bendix of The New York Times

Public records exemptions for state university president searches heads to DeSantis” via Jeffrey Schweers of The Gainesville Sun — After years of striking out, proponents of a measure to shield state university President searches from public scrutiny until the very end is on its way to DeSantis‘ desk. The bill (SB 520) cleared the House Friday by a vote of 86-26. Its passage came after years of failed attempts to get it over the two-thirds majority threshold required to approve a new public records exemption. “There’s a reason why this bill keeps coming back, and it’s not because politicians are pushing it,” said Rep. Sam Garrison, who sponsored the companion House bill. “It’s because our boards of trustees keep asking for it.”


House lawmakers who sided with DeSantis in map fight see their priorities stalled” via Matt Dixon of Florida Politics — DeSantis’ decision to insert himself into Florida’s redistricting process is sending shockwaves through the state’s final budget negotiations, leading House Republican leaders to punish their GOP rank-and-file members as the Governor’s Office lobbied them to vote against their own leadership. Lawmakers on Friday sent maps to DeSantis he directly said he would veto, a move taken as the Governor’s top staffers were reaching out to House Republicans to sway them to vote against the maps being considered because the Governor has ill-defined “legal concern” over the proposals. DeSantis’ effort to muscle into the generally Legislature-driven process included a tweet Friday as lawmakers were debating the maps saying in blunt terms they are doomed.

Siding with Ron DeSantis on redistricting has a major downside.

Budget conference: Senate endorses DeSantis’ ‘unauthorized alien’ removal fund” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Until Sunday, DeSantis‘ requested $8 million to remove immigrants from Florida had been absent from the budget. But Senate negotiators allocated that and more in their latest budget offer, a possible win for DeSantis. As part of his proposal to crack down on illegal immigration, DeSantis in December outlined the $8 million fund to ship immigrants who are in the country illegally to other states, including Biden’s home state of Delaware. After being silent on the immigration all Session, the Senate’s latest budget offer included $12 million for the Department of Transportation to remove “unauthorized aliens” from Florida “consistent with federal law.” Senate negotiators, led by Sen. Kelli Stargel, sent the offer.

Budget conference: Senate pitches $10 million to reestablish Florida State Guard” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The Senate is breathing life into DeSantis’ hopes of reestablishing the Florida State Guard. Though unaddressed most of Session, the Senate on Sunday proposed roughly $10 million toward recreating the World War II-era force. The House will now consider the offer. DeSantis announced plans to resurrect the volunteer force in November. It would assist the National Guard with hurricanes, natural disasters and other state-specific emergencies. He initially requested roughly $3.5 million from lawmakers. Unlike the National Guard, though, the Florida State Guard would answer solely to the Governor. No federal deployments. No federal missions. No federal dollars.

Budget conference: Lawmakers OK Urban Search and Rescue team funding” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The House and Senate agreed Saturday to provide $10 million toward supporting Florida’s urban search and rescue teams. According to budget documents, the nonrecurring appropriation will float team maintenance, servicing, equipment, vehicles, training, and exercise costs. The agreement comes after a back-and-forth budget negotiation between the chambers. Lawmakers have until Tuesday to pass the budget to finish Session on time. The 2022 Legislative Session is slated to end Friday. Search and rescue teams were front and center this summer as teams scrambled to rescue victims of the Surfside condominium collapse in South Florida.

Budget conference: Workforce support spending pushed off as lawmakers eye IT re-eval” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — State budget negotiators have scrapped a plan to continue spending tens of millions to modernize Florida’s workforce system. Instead, the House’s lead negotiator says there will be a more extensive reevaluation of how the state approaches data management. The House’s initial budget proposal included $150 million to continue improving the “consumer-first workforce system,” the state agency integration project. Despite House negotiators dropping their request to $91.8 million in an offer Thursday, the Senate stood firm, and the House eliminated the spending entirely in its offer delivered late Friday. Last year, budget beancounters, including House Appropriations Committee Chair Jay Trumbull, approved a one-time infusion of $100 million to get the agency integration project off the ground.

Budget conference: House, Senate still split on affordable housing despite funding agreement” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — The House and Senate remain at odds on how to treat affordable housing programs in the budget, even though they’ve agreed to an overall dollar figure as part of negotiations. On Thursday, the House came to the Senate position of $318.7 million for the programs, up from its previous $268.1 million. But the House wants to spend much of those funds differently than the Senate. In the latest budget talks Saturday evening, the House stuck to its plan to spend $128.3 million for a Florida Hometown Hero Housing program instead of the State Apartment Incentive Loan (SAIL) program as the Senate wants.

Budget conference: Safe landing for Space Florida, shakier ground for VISIT Florida” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Space Florida’s requested $6 million to aid financing for aerospace firms starting or expanding operations in the state wasn’t a part of budget negotiations for the first 54 days of the 60-day Legislative Session. It has now popped into the final spending plan still being negotiated between the House and Senate. Space Florida President Frank DiBello and Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez, who chairs the group, had previously griped the money wasn’t part of either chambers budget. Lawmakers also agreed to use only non-recurring money to fund VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s public-private tourism marketing group. The $50 million it will receive is the same as the current fiscal year, but the non-recurring funds are a less stable source of revenue.

Budget conference: House, Senate settle on anti-human trafficking program funding” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — The House and Senate have settled on funding two nonprofits focused on combating human trafficking and helping survivors. In the latest bump offer made by the Senate, the upper and lower chamber agree to set aside $375,000 for the No More Foundation, a Tampa nonprofit that supports trafficking survivors. The offer is still lower than the original $500,000 funding request, as laid out in appropriation projects (SF 2678, HB 2339) filed by state Sen. Danny Burgess and Rep. Jackie Toledo, supported by lobbyist Andrew Palmer for the No More Foundation. According to the request, the $500,000 would account for 83% of the project, with another $100,000 provided by private donors. Last year, the organization received $250,000 in state funding.

—“Budget conference: Legislature giving flight to $7.1M Crystal River Airport renovation” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics

—”Budget conference: HCSO K-9 facility to receive $2M” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics

— TALLY 2 —

Florida Supremes, Legislature choose pork over facts to add unwanted, costly 6th Appeals Court” via Noreen Marcus of Florida Bulldog — Florida is getting another expensive brick-and-mortar state appeals court, even though the judges who can best determine the need said, “No thanks.” A proposal to add a 6th District Court of Appeal to the central Gulf Coast is sailing through the Legislature this Session. Last Tuesday, the House and Senate budget conference agreed to spend $50 million on the new courthouse, according to Florida Politics. When he approves the deal, Ron DeSantis will have the opportunity to name six more reliable conservatives to appellate judgeships. Judges on those district courts handle appeals from circuit trial courts and have the final say about most areas of law.

Senate tees up ballot initiative limits on out-of-state influence after 2021 defeat” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Senators are nearing a vote to curb out-of-state influence in the ballot initiative process, revisiting the measure after it was struck down last year. The bill (HB 921), filed by Rep. Brad Drake, would limit non-Floridians from donating more than $3,000 and out-of-state political committees from receiving donations worth more than $3,000 when it comes to ballot initiatives in the petition-gathering process. The provision comes after a federal judge ruled against the state in July over similar legislation to limit money’s influence in the petition-gathering process, saying it violated the First Amendment. The measure would have capped all donations to political committees backing proposed constitutional amendments at $3,000 during the signature-gathering process.

‘Scary and irresponsible’: Last-minute amendment draws opposition on bill dealing with higher-ed accreditors” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — A last-minute amendment adopted on Sen. Manny Diaz’s post-secondary education bill drew waves of criticism Friday night, leading to over an hour of debate as the Session approaches its last week. The bill (SPB 7044) would restrict state colleges and universities from being accredited by the same agency for consecutive accreditation cycles. It would also require additional information about textbooks and instructional materials from state universities and colleges, mandating such information be posted at least 45 days before class starts and kept public for five years. The goal of the bill, according to Diaz, is to increase transparency and make materials more accessible for students.

Military spouse license bill passes Legislature” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The House on Friday passed a bill that would expedite the work license applications of military spouses who hold an out-of-state certification. The lower chamber passed the bill unanimously, placing it among several military-related bills to pass off the House floor. That comes after a unanimous vote in the Senate late last month, making the bill ready for the Governor’s desk. Sen. Janet Cruz is the bill sponsor (SB 562). Rep. David Smith, a decorated Marine veteran, and Rep. Christine Hunschofsky are the companion bill sponsors. Cruz and proponents hope the proposal will curb the unemployment rate among military spouses, which hovered near 22% pre-pandemic.

Legislature passes bill barring step therapy for Medicaid recipients with schizophrenia” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — The Legislature has approved a bill that seeks to help Medicaid enrollees with schizophrenia get access to necessary medications. The legislation will next head to Gov. DeSantis after the House unanimously approved the Senate version of the bill (SB 534) on Friday. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Gayle Harrell and Rep. Fiona McFarland, allows individuals with schizophrenia on Medicaid to bypass step therapy, trying less expensive options before “stepping up” to drugs that cost more. The bill cleared the Senate in a unanimous vote earlier this week. The proposal clarifies that so long as medication had been dispensed to the patient in the previous 12 months, managed care plans could not require patients to try drugs included in the state’s preferred drug list.

Legislature serves strawberry shortcake to Governor — DeSantis formally received a bill (SB 1006) passed by the Legislature on Friday that would designate strawberry shortcake as the state dessert. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Danny Burgess, was amended during the committee process to include a dollop of whip cream. The Governor has until March 11 to act on the bill.


This is a bad thing?Allan Bense lobbied for $5M in Triumph Gulf Coast funding — Budget writers agreed to provide $5 million to Triumph Gulf Coast on Wednesday after former House Speaker Bense, who chairs the organization, directly lobbied the House. Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida reported that Bense contacted House Budget Chief Jay Trumbull just before the House included the funding during budget conferencing. The appropriation is listed as “interest earnings” and not state revenue. It is a one-time appropriation for administrative costs, which Trumbull said would not include salaries or bonuses for employees of the organization, which oversees settlement money received after the BP oil spill.

Lawmakers pass bill to enhance penalties for ‘traveling criminals’” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Lawmakers have approved a bill to expand law enforcement’s ability to bolster charges against thieves some call “traveling criminals.” State law currently allows authorities to enhance burglary charges if the offender crosses county lines to commit the crime. However, the same law also requires authorities to prove a burglar moved across county lines to thwart law enforcement and counter property recovery efforts. On Friday, the Senate approved the change 24-13. Sen. Linda Stewart crossed party lines and voted yes. Sen. Jeff Brandes voted no. Sen. Gayle Harrell worked on the original law with help from Martin County Sheriff and former Rep. William Snyder. Now Harrell and Snyder’s son, Rep. John Snyder, want to remove the requirement that authorities prove the burglar crossed county lines to thwart law enforcement (HB 6037).

Jeff Brandes and Linda Stewart each crossed Party lines to vote on ‘traveling criminals.’

Putnam port measure sails through the Legislature” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Putnam County might be an inland county, but lawmakers are clearing the way for the county to board the state seaport council. A bill from Sen. Keith Perry (SB 1038) would allow Putnam County to request a grant to conduct a port feasibility study and add the county to the Florida Seaport Transportation and Economic Development (FSTED) Council. The bill disembarked on the House floor Thursday, and members unanimously passed the bill Friday. Rep. Bobby Payne, who ferried an analogous bill (HB 907) through the House committee process, told representatives the bill would help the county access state grants if the county port authority earns a permanent spot on the Council. “The goal of Senate Bill 1038 is to recognize the Putnam County Port Authority and its facility at the Palatka barge berth as a public port in the state of Florida in order to encourage economic growth for the region,” Payne said.

House advances bill shielding personal information in homeless databases” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Personal data collected during homeless counts will be exempt from Florida’s broad public record laws. Rep. Fiona McFarland filed the bill (HB 699) that makes it, so any personal information gathered for a federal database on the homeless will not become a public record. McFarland asked to substitute her bill for a similar Senate version (SB 934), which Sen. Joe Gruters sponsored and the Senate adopted on Feb. 10. McFarland said the time has come for this exemption to Florida’s broad Sunshine Law, mainly since the last two years have meant unstable living situations for many people.

Consumer Reports, American Conservative Union back data privacy bill” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Consumer Reports and the American Conservative Union urged House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Senate President Wilton Simpson to support a bill (HB 9) that would give consumers more control over their personal data, including the right to request companies delete or stop selling it. The bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Fiona McFarland, would give consumers the right to determine what information has been collected, request the data be deleted or corrected, and opt out of the sale or sharing of that personal information. Sprowls has already made known his support for the bill, which passed the full House last week with a 103-8 vote. However, the Senate version has not been heard in committee.

— SKED —

Students, faith leaders to rally Monday at the Capitol against ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Students and faith leaders Monday will converge on the Capitol for a ‘Proud to Say Gay’ rally in protest of legislation prohibiting “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity” in primary schools. The 9 a.m. event will start one hour before senators take to the floor to vote on the bill (HB 1557), which the House passed Friday, and many others. Nadine Smith, executive director of LGBTQ political advocacy group Equality Florida, noted that several Republican lawmakers, including Rep. Vance Aloupis, who is the CEO of The Children’s Movement, one of Florida’s largest child advocacy organizations, voted against the measure in the House, which Rep. Joe Harding filed.

One last pitch on net meteringJulio Fuentes, president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, weighed in one last time as the bill heads to final vote in the Senate, urging lawmakers to protect minorities against paying fees for solar panel owners: “Electric customers in Florida pay higher bills to subsidize the rich who own solar panels. Think about not only what that means for homeowners and apartment-dwellers. What about small-business owners who face inflation, supply chain issues, and labor shortages? One-quarter of all small businesses in Florida, or 600,000, are Hispanic-owned. These critical, minority-owned businesses can’t afford to — and should not have to — pay for the rich to own solar panels.”

— House Minority Leader Evan Jenne and Rep. Fentrice Driskell will hold a virtual availability, 8:30 a.m. Zoom link here.

— Sen. Shevrin Jones; Reps. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Michele Rayner hold a news conference to oppose a bill (HB 1557) prohibiting school instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades, 9 a.m., Old Capitol steps.

— The Senate convenes for a floor Session; on the agenda is HB 1557, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, to restrict school instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grade levels, 10 a.m., Senate Chamber.

—Sen. Aaron Bean will deliver farewell remarks at 11 a.m. Senate President Simpson will deliver his speech at 1 p.m.

— The House convenes for a floor Session, 10:30 a.m., House Chamber.

— Reps. Dianne Hart, Susan Valdes and Anika Omphroy host a news conference on affordable housing, 11 a.m., Old Capitol steps.

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

— The House Rules Committee meets 15 minutes after the House Session, Room 404 of the House Office Building.


‘55th Day Rule’ kills more bills — Any House bill that had not been rolled third reading in the House is dead. The killer: House Rule 10.18, which says the House may no longer take up bills on second reading after the 55th day of the Legislative Session. The House may, however, take up bills that are passed by the Senate and sent over to the House, either for the first time or because the bill was amended, requiring the House to sign off on the changes.

‘Frustrating’: Bill banning citizen’s arrests gets no audience in Legislature” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Legislation that would do away with almost all legal allowances for citizen’s arrests in Florida was left on the proverbial shelf during the 2022 Session and has effectively died without a single committee hearing. The bill (HB 1083), which Rep. Christopher Benjamin filed in early January, came just over a month after a jury convicted three Georgia men for the murder of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery. Its aim was simple: to make it so only sworn law enforcement officers could arrest people in Florida, a shift that would reverse a centuries-old precedent and possibly reduce the number of violent encounters in the state. According to Benjamin, hesitancy in committee to take the lead on the matter killed the bill before its fair day in court.

Proposed Everglades protection against harmful development received just one committee hearing this year” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — With less than a week to go before the end of the 2022 Legislative Session, a bipartisan push to establish a large, development-free buffer zone around the Everglades in Miami-Dade County is likely dead. Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez and Rep. Vance Aloupis filed twin bills in November to create a protective review process for all proposed projects within 2 miles of the Everglades. Sen. Annette Taddeo, Rep. Nick Duran, and Rep. Linda Chaney co-sponsored the measures. Under the laws the bills proposed, any plan or plan amendment concerning Miami-Dade’s Urban Development Boundary (UDB) would undergo a Department of Environment Protection review.

Advertisement— 2022 —

Donald Trump endorses Ashley Moody for re-election” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Moody became the first member of the Florida Cabinet to earn Trump’s endorsement for re-election. The former President’s Save America PAC rolled out the endorsement Friday morning. “Ashley Moody has been a terrific Attorney General for the Great State of Florida. Since being elected in 2018, Ashley has supported Florida’s men and women in Law Enforcement and made public safety her top priority. She is a proud defender of the Second Amendment, protects our great vets, and truly knows and understands the importance of Law and Order,” Trump wrote.

Trump gives Jimmy Patronis his ‘complete and total endorsement’” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Trump on Friday endorsed Patronis’ re-election effort. “Jimmy is a defender of the Second Amendment, strongly supports our First Responders and our Greats Vets, and works to keep Florida’s Economy strong,” Trump wrote in the Friday evening endorsement. Trump’s endorsement of Patronis is the latest in a slew of recent, high-level Florida endorsements. Republicans control state government top to bottom. Trump previously endorsed Senate President Wilton Simpson, running for Agriculture Commissioner.

Big get: Jimmy Patronis gets a huge orange thumbs-up.

Assignment editorsCrist will announce his new gun violence prevention policy plan with local leaders and activists. Afterward, Crist will host the first in a series of “Cafecito Con Crist” events to hear from Hispanic community leaders. News conference for “Safer Florida for All” gun violence prevention plan, 1 p.m., Miami. Cafecito Con Crist, 2 p.m., Miami. RSVP to [email protected] for location.

‘Mom on a mission’: Jackie Toledo announces congressional campaign” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Toledo will run in the newly drawn district that covers North Tampa into areas of Pasco County. Although the state’s congressional maps have not been finalized, with DeSantis even threatening a veto on the proposed districts, Toledo said she is committed to running in a district that serves all of the Tampa Bay region. Toledo said she’s running as a staunch supporter of individual freedom, to fight to reverse inflation, secure borders with the rule of law, stand up to Russia with stronger national security, and fight for parental rights. She also hit on other current mantras in the video, kicking off her campaign with a solid conservative edge, hoping to “bring back conservative values to Congress” and “stop Joe Biden from destroying America.”

To watch the announcement video, click on the image below:

Martin Hyde, who threatened Sarasota police officer’s career, lauded by Tucker Carlson for apology” via Anne Snabes of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Hyde indicated in a Thursday evening interview with Carlson that he’s still running against U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan in a GOP primary for the 16th District congressional seat after all. He also said he was embarrassed about his encounter with the Sarasota Police Department last month, which prompted him to indicate that he was quitting the race in an opinion piece submitted to the Herald-Tribune, published online Feb. 25. Hyde said, regarding his encounter with the Sarasota police officer and subsequent apology: “It was a shocking thing to do.”

Jared Moskowitz announces run for Ted Deutch’s congressional seat” via The Associated Press — Democratic Broward County Commissioner and former Florida emergency management director Moskowitz announced Friday that he will run for the South Florida congressional seat vacated by Rep. Deutch. Moskowitz is the first candidate to announce his intentions for Florida’s 22nd Congressional District, including parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties. “In Congress, I will fight to guarantee access to the ballot box, protect Social Security and Medicare, work for real gun safety measures and fight for the safety and protection of the State of Israel,” Moskowitz said in a statement. Moskowitz’s father, Michael Moskowitz, was a prominent South Florida attorney and Democratic fundraiser. He died of pancreatic cancer in January.

>>>Sunburn is hearing a Moskowitz endorsement from the father of MSD Parkland shooting victim who’s now a vocal gun safety advocate, Fred Guttenberg, is imminent. Guttenberg’s support would be a big deal in the Parkland-based congressional district, which was rocked by the school shooting tragedy four years ago.

Save the date:

Susan Plasencia enters HD 37 race; brother Rene Plasencia exiting SD 13” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Plasencia, sister of Republican state Rep. Rene Plasencia — has filed to run for the new House District 37 seat, putting her into a potential contest with Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith. Rep. Rene Plasencia, “Coach P,” has withdrawn his candidacy for Senate District 13. Susan Plasencia is the first candidate to file for the new district, though Smith and Jay J. Rodriguez had filed for the seat as configured in the current map for House District 49. Rene Plasencia, who is completing his fourth term in the House and his third term representing House District 50, had decided last year to run for the Senate, setting up an expected match with Sen. Stewart.


Omicron infection wave all but over in Florida; booster shots hit new low” via Chris Persaud of The Palm Beach Post — For the first time in more than two months, fewer than 5% of COVID-19 tests across Florida have come back positive, the state says. And the number of Floridians getting booster shots grew by the smallest amount recorded to date. Just 3.3% of tests were registered in the past week, Florida health officials reported Friday afternoon, the lowest level recorded since the week ended Dec. 10. It’s the latest indication that the newest coronavirus infection wave, fueled by the pathogen’s omicron variant, has all but ended. Positivity was almost 10 times higher about two months ago. Even as the so-called “stealth omicron” subvariant BA.2 appears to be on the rise, comprising 3% to 7% of test samples across the South as of Saturday, Florida’s COVID-19 case count grew by only 13,956 in the past week.

Is the omicron wave over in Florida? Image via AP.

Op-ed — It’s time to move past COVID-19 in Florida, even if we never eliminate it” via Charlie Crist for The Florida Times-Union — We’re finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. And the good news is that with omicron fading, vaccines plentiful and new drugs to treat the virus close at hand, we should be able to turn the page on this crisis for good. While we may never eliminate COVID-19, like the flu, we should be able to live with it without a major disruption to our lives. Finally, it’s time to get back to normal. And as a precaution, we need to prepare for the next pandemic. We need to stockpile basic lab testing materials and medical clothing and equipment now so that if we need them again, we aren’t caught off guard. And we need to move this manufacturing to the United States, so we aren’t reliant on China in a future crisis.

CDR Health to restart monoclonal antibody treatment in Tallahassee” via the Tallahassee Democrat — CDR Health, which bills itself as “one of the leading COVID-19 testing, vaccination, and monoclonal antibody therapy providers in Florida,” this week announced it was resuming monoclonal antibody treatment at its Tallahassee clinic location. “The clinic will offer Sotrovimab, an FDA-approved monoclonal antibody treatment that has shown to be effective against the omicron variant,” a news release said. Treatments will start again Thursday.

Polk sees 53% drop in new COVID-19 cases. CDC lowers county’s transmission rating” via Gary White of The Lakeland Ledger — The threat of COVID-19 in Polk County has subsided to a level not seen since before the omicron wave began in December. The positivity rate of testing in Polk County has fallen to 3.7%. It had been at 7.1% a week earlier. Based on the tests reported to the state agency, the rate had reached 33.8% in January. The state disclosed 460 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases in Polk County, a decrease of 53.1%. The lowest reported since early December, the weekly total marked the seventh consecutive week that infections have declined following steady increases in December and January.

Some Sarasota arts organizations announce COVID-19 protocol changes” via the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — A group of Sarasota arts organizations announced changes to their COVID-19 screening protocols. As of Monday, March 7, Circus Arts Conservatory, Florida Studio Theatre, Sarasota Opera, Sarasota Orchestra and Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe will no longer require proof of a recent COVID-19 test or vaccination to enter their venues. Face masks will still be required. A few exceptions include the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, which will only screen for tests or vaccination cards when artists’ contracts demand it. The Asolo Repertory Theatre will continue to operate using the same protocols as Broadway theaters and will reevaluate on or before April 30.


Death toll nears 6 million as pandemic enters its 3rd year” via The Associated Press — The official global death toll from COVID-19 is on the verge of eclipsing 6 million, underscoring that the pandemic, now in its third year, is far from over. The milestone is the latest tragic reminder of the unrelenting nature of the pandemic even as people are shedding masks, travel is resuming, and businesses are reopening around the globe. The death toll stood at 5,996,882 as of Sunday morning and was expected to pass the 6 million mark later in the day. Remote Pacific islands, whose isolation had protected them for more than two years, are just now grappling with their first outbreaks and deaths. Despite the enormity of the figure, the world undoubtedly hit its 6 millionth death some time ago. Poor record-keeping and testing in many parts of the world has led to an undercount in coronavirus deaths.

Three years in, and the death toll keeps climbing. Image via AP.


Biden’s ‘test to treat’ COVID plan draws praise, questions” via Katie Shepherd of The Washington Post — Consumers will be able to walk into a clinic at a CVS or Walgreens, get tested for the coronavirus and, if the results come back positive, go home with a free course of antiviral medicine under a “test to treat” program announced by Biden this week. The one-stop approach has been hailed as a potential breakthrough by some doctors, who say it will make it far easier for people at heightened risk of severe disease to get the lifesaving drugs quickly — especially for those who don’t have regular doctors. But the American Medical Association came out strongly critical of the plan Friday afternoon, saying prescribing decisions should be made “under the guidance and supervision of physicians with the expertise to deal with complex medications.”


As the pandemic recedes, ‘it’s the perfect time for baseball.’ If only MLB could see that.” via Dave Sheinin of The Washington Post — You can feel it in your bones: spring. The ancient signal that baseball is coming. This weekend, there should be games going on in Arizona and Florida. On the other hand, a bad day is nothing: no labor negotiations, no updates, no word on when or whether an already delayed Opening Day will happen. Nothing but another day with the vague, ill-defined sense of dread, loss and deprivation that has been part of our daily lives for a couple of years now and that the 2022 baseball season was supposed to help push out.

It’s a perfect time for Spring Training. Why can’t MLB understand that? Image via AP.


Is this the beginning of a Biden comeback?” via Chris Cillizza of CNN — Beset by the omicron variant, high inflation and the uncertainty in Ukraine, Biden‘s poll numbers have lagged badly, with his approval ratings stuck in the low 40s. A new poll shows Biden’s overall job approval rating among Americans is at 47% in the survey, up 8 points from where he was in the same poll last month. Some of that positive movement can be attributed to Biden’s State of the Union speech earlier this week. It was generally well-received, and anytime a president has the bully pulpit for an hour in prime time, it’s usually a good thing for him. But there are several other threads beyond a temporary State of the Union bump that suggest a Biden comeback could be in the works.

Is Joe Biden poised for a comeback?

Biden makes his midterm message clear: ‘Fund the police’” via Cleve R. Wootson Jr. for The Washington Post — With homicide rates increasing in some major cities, support waning for reducing police funding, and Republicans aggressively pushing a “law and order” midterm message, Biden declared in his State of the Union address this past week: “The answer is not to defund the police. It’s to fund the police. Fund them. Fund them.” With the midterms eight months away, Biden and party leaders believe that coming out strongly in support of police will asphyxiate inaccurate Republican arguments that Democrats are anti-police. But for many liberal activists, “fund the police” sounded like a betrayal.


Happening today — U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried will tour a food bank, 2 p.m., Feeding Tampa Bay, Tampa. RSVP at [email protected] for address and information.

Tom Vilsack is Florida bound to give Nikki Fried some high-powered backup.

Migrant families fleeing persecution can’t be deported under pandemic policy, court rules” via Syra Ortiz-Blanes, Michael Wilner, Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald — The U.S. government cannot expel migrant families on public health grounds under a pandemic-era policy directive if they face persecution or torture upon returning home, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday, dealing a partial blow to the Biden administration. The administration has repeatedly cited the Trump-era policy known as Title 42 to explain its expulsion of migrants crossing the U.S. southern border. The return of thousands of Haitians arriving at the border last fall sparked intense criticisms of the policy from immigration advocates and others. Members of Congress, public health experts, and immigration groups have publicly condemned the policy as politically motivated and harmful to immigrants, and questioned whether it had any effect in preventing COVID-19 from spreading into the United States.


Mike Pence hits Trump: No room in GOP for ‘apologists for Vladimir Putin’” via Jill Colvin of The Associated Press — Former Vice President Pence urged Republicans to move on from the 2020 election and declared that “there is no room in this party for apologists for Putin” as he further cemented his break from Trump. In a speech Friday evening to the Party’s top donors in New Orleans, Pence took on those in his Party who have failed to forcefully condemn Putin for his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. “Where would Russian tanks be today if NATO had not expanded the borders of freedom? There is no room in this Party for apologists for Putin,” Pence said. Pence did not directly reference the former President.

For Mike Pence, siding with Vladimir Putin was the last straw. Image via AP.

How the Manhattan D.A.’s investigation into Trump unraveled” via Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum and Jonah E. Bromwich of The New York Times — Late last year, three career prosecutors in the district attorney’s office opted to leave the investigation, uncomfortable with the speed at which it was proceeding and with what they maintained were gaps in the evidence. The tension spilled into the new administration, with some career prosecutors raising concerns directly to the new district attorney’s team. In the Manhattan investigation, the absence of damning emails or an insider willing to testify would make it harder to prove that any exaggerations were criminal. The interviews with people knowledgeable about the Manhattan investigation also highlight the success of Trump’s efforts to delay it.

Trump may have legal exposure, but the ballot box will determine his fate” via Dan Balz of The Washington Post — Trump’s future is playing out in three venues: the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, the judicial system and the broader political arena. The third, however, is the most important, with the voters having the loudest voice. The committee has much work left to do, but it has no power to charge Trump with obstruction or fraud. At most, it can highlight its findings through public testimony and ultimately make a referral to the Justice Department. However, the legal path to holding Trump accountable remains uncertain, which is why it is more likely that Trump’s future will have to be determined in the political arena by a vote of the people.

Democrats are still delusional about Trump” via David A. Graham of The Atlantic — Six years into the Trump era in American politics, many of his critics still believe they can find a silver bullet to end it. Many of Trump’s critics have once again leapt to believe that opaque legal developments might vanquish the former President, a familiar pattern since Robert Mueller became a household name in 2017. The House committee wants to make John Eastman, a legal architect of Trump’s paperwork coup, hand over documents that he says are shielded by attorney-client privilege. The brief explains why the committee’s lawyers believe that privilege should not apply. Yet even though the deus ex Mueller failed, some of them continue to look for a silver bullet from some crusading prosecutor. Even a felony conviction would not prevent Trump from running for President again, as he seems likely to do.


Angie Gardner ousts Eddie Cole in Eatonville mayoral election” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Gardner has been elected Mayor of Eatonville, toppling Mayor Cole. Gardner soundly defeated Cole 57% to 43% in a rematch of their 2018 contest for the historic town. Cole initially was elected in 2016 to fill an unfinished term, won re-election in 2018 over Gardner and was seeking a second full term. In other Eatonville contests, Wanda Randolph was elected to succeed Gardner for the Town Council Seat 5, while incumbent Town Council Members Theo Washington and Rodney Daniels won re-elections for Seat 2 and Seat 3, respectively. Randolph defeated Marilyn Sconions. Washington defeated Angela Thomas and Ruth Critton. Daniels defeated Tarus Mack.

Congrats: Angie Gardner takes it in Eatonville.

Ft. Lauderdale police chief fired for minority-first approach to hiring, promotions” via The Associated Press — A Florida police chief was fired after only about six months on the job following an investigation into several discrimination complaints. A Fort Lauderdale news release said the chief, Larry Scirotto, was fired by City Manager Chris Lagerbloom. The complaints centered on allegations that Scirotto made hiring and promotion decisions with an improper minority-first approach. Scirotto, a former assistant chief in Pittsburgh, was the first openly gay chief hired in Fort Lauderdale and also is from a mixed-race background. An investigation into the bias complaints concluded that Scirotto was unfairly focused on minority candidates for jobs and noted that he once said a conference room wall of photos was “too white” and said, “I’m gonna change that.”

American Property Management Services, accused of seven-figure fraud, has history of legal trouble” via Dan Glaun of Naples Daily News — The Naples property management company accused of embezzling millions of dollars from community associations for Collier and Lee counties has a yearslong history of legal trouble. American Property Management Services allowed one of their employees to keep managing a Naples community association, Eagle Creek, for months after her license was revoked for stealing $18,000 from another Naples homeowner’s association, which had fired her. The company allegedly took more than $200,000 without permission from Eagle Creek and then tried to repay it using other clients’ money.

Key West set to try — again — to limit cruise ship visits to the island” via Nancy Klingener of WLRN — On Thursday, the Key West City Commission is set to consider measures that would spell out the rules for ships that visit the island, and cut back on the number of vessels. A proposed ordinance would require ships to pay for cleanup costs for any pollution and abide by all state, federal and international rules. “We need to have environmental guidelines in there, and they need to be enforced,” said Mayor Teri Johnston. Under the proposed ordinance, passenger disembarkation fees would pay for regular water quality testing, along with coral reef restoration projects. “How do you know if somebody’s violating water quality and the environment if you’re not testing them?” Johnston said.

If at first, you don’t succeed … Image via Safer Cleaner Ships.

‘Right to be let alone’: Toucan farmers run afoul of Orange County, code enforcement” via Gabby Russon of Florida Politics — “We do one thing here,” said the website run by David and Jennifer Foley. And that’s raise toucans. “Lots of ‘em. More than anyone, anywhere,” the website boasted. But selling those tropical birds at their Orlando home has led to a long legal fight and multiple lawsuits, including a new complaint filed Thursday in U.S. District Court. “The Foleys have a ‘right to be let alone and free’ of unauthorized regulation,” the Orlando couple said in a 36-page lawsuit they filed themselves without an attorney. Their complaint named Orange County and many former County Commissioners and employees. Orange County does not comment on pending litigation, a spokesperson said Friday when reached for comment. Selling toucans is a lucrative business, the Foleys said in court documents, pointing to toucan farmers who can make as much as $3,500 a bird.


Trump looks increasingly like a stray orange hair to be flicked off the nation’s sleeve” via George F. Will of The Washington Post — Floundering in his attempts to wield political power while lacking a political office, Trump looks increasingly like a stray orange hair to be flicked off the nation’s sleeve. His residual power, which he must use or lose, is to influence his Party’s selection of candidates for state and federal offices. Trump is faltering at the business of commanding outcomes that are, like Twain’s eclipse, independent of his interventions. For Trump, the suppurating wound on American life, and for those who share his curdled venom, war is a hellacious distraction from their self-absorption. Fortunately, their ability to be major distractions is waning.


Biden can hope the worst is behind him” via Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post — President Biden just had one of his better weeks. He delivered a well-received State of the Union address. His stewardship of the unified democratic alliance has exceeded expectations, while heroic Ukrainians have set off an unexpected outpouring of public excitement and admiration. By week’s end at least one poll showed a substantial lift in Biden’s approval rating, although it might well be an outlier. Biden could boast that the economy had created 678,000 jobs in February, reducing unemployment to a stunning 3.8%. Biden correctly observed that we have come through a grueling two years. As we emerge from the COVID-19 recession era and celebrate democracy’s most valiant defenders, he finally has a foothold to climb out of the political ditch. At least he’s stopped digging.

Why I’m defying beltway cowardice” via Rick Scott for The Wall Street Journal — In the real world beyond the Beltway, Republicans and independents demand bold action and a plan to save our nation. The elites atop our nation’s institutions are working hard to redefine America and silence their opponents. They want to end the American experiment and replace it with a woke socialist utopia, and we are sitting around watching it happen. Politicians peddle a fiction that they can waste as much money as they want with no downside. The working class, the middle class, are the heroes of America, and they have been carrying the burden alone. There will be many more attacks on me and this plan from careerists in Washington, who personally profit while ruining this country. Bring it on.

Do we need to be rescued? Rick Scott thinks so” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — There is a great deal less than meets the eye in Sen. Scott’s 11-point “plan to rescue America.” Oh, it looks good, if you think our nation is in dire peril, and if you don’t mind a little unconstitutionality with your feel-good political pandering. But the Florida senator’s to-do list, once the Republicans win control of the House and Senate next November, ranges from impractical to unnecessary. And a few items would be actively harmful, not to mention politically suicidal for the GOP, just when everything is looking so good for the Party. How bad is it? Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell is against it. Scott chairs the Republican Senate campaign committee. He deserves credit for wanting to spell out exactly what his Party wants to do with all that power, should it regain the majority in the chamber. So, he put out his “rescue America” agenda.

DeSantis’ taxpayer-funded appearances have look, feel of campaign events” via Treasure Coast Newspapers editorial board — “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail,” Ukrainian-American psychologist Abraham Maslow once said. And if you’re an ambitious young Governor who’s up for re-election this year, then all the business you do seems like a campaigning opportunity. That’s a bit of an exaggeration when describing DeSantis‘ work schedule. The Governor surely has responsibilities he carries out quietly from day to day that aren’t done specifically to secure votes in future elections. On the other hand, many of the public appearances DeSantis makes around the state have the distinct look and feel of campaign events, including his recent visit to Indian River County.

Florida senator shared her rape story before abortion vote. Republican lawmakers didn’t care” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Sen. Lauren Book shared her painful experience of being drugged and raped by several men as a young teen. Her powerful testimony on the Florida Senate floor, the first time she shared it publicly, fell on deaf ears. The callousness of Republicans who refused at least five times to add exemptions for rape, incest, and human trafficking to the 15-week abortion ban that the Legislature passed Thursday night. The bill heads to DeSantis, who’s certain to sign it into law. To force a woman or girl to carry the child of her abusive father, brother or uncle, or a “friend” or stranger isn’t “pro-life.” It isn’t protecting the life of the unborn, as Republicans like to say from their high horses.

Florida’s renters need relief — Security deposit alternatives can help” via Adam Kovacevich of the Tallahassee Democrat — For last year, Floridians saw rent prices increase about 29%, the highest spike in costs across the entire country. Inflation-driven price hikes are only getting worse while the state faces a loss of around 1,200 affordable housing units each year. For many low- and middle-income residents, sharply rising rent means staying in a current lease is unaffordable, and affording to move seems near impossible. Luckily, a new option may provide some relief. Offered by a handful of companies like Rhino, security deposit insurance gives renters a low-rate policy of $5 to $10 per month instead of an upfront security deposit that can cost thousands of dollars. Some landlords in Florida are already accepting it as an alternative way to secure an apartment.

Florida just named its official dessert. What happened to the Key lime pie?” via Michelle Marchante of the Miami Herald — Florida loves its Key Lime pie. We love it so much that it’s the state’s official pie. But now Florida has a new state dessert, too. On Friday, a bill to make strawberry shortcake, with a “healthy dollop” of Florida-made whipped cream, the state’s official dessert passed in the House and is on its way to the Governor’s desk. The House passed the bill 109-4. The Senate passed the bill unanimously in January. Naturally, the bills have had dessert connoisseurs in a frenzy over which is best, especially in Key West. And in 2006, the Florida Legislature made Key lime the official state pie, a designation it will continue to keep. There are also lots and lots of places to buy the pie in the Keys, too.


Gov. DeSantis’ press secretary accuses people opposed to the Parental Rights in Education bill of endorsing pedophilia. So, maybe it is the “Don’t Say Gay” bill after all.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Saturday Night Live’s Kate McKinnon takes aim at DeSantis over the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

— More farewells as this Legislative Session ends … this time from Sen. Stargel and Rep. Rayner.

— And with the Session set to end Friday, today is the day to play #CateSineDie on Twitter.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

Royal Caribbean debuts world’s largest cruise ship (again) in Fort Lauderdale” via Anna Jean Kaiser of the Miami Herald — Royal Caribbean debuted its latest, and largest, ship for its maiden voyage from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale on Friday: Wonder of the Seas. After Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas, the French-built ship is the world’s largest cruise ship. Wonder of the Seas has room for 6,988 passengers and 2,300 crew members. It weighs almost 240,000 tons. Royal Caribbean’s website says the ship is 1,118 feet long and 210 feet wide. Its 18 decks hold 2,867 staterooms, rock climbing walls, waterslides, a carousel, laser tag, a mini-golf course, an arcade, an outdoor movie theater, and a zip line. The megaship has nine complimentary restaurants, 11 specialty restaurants, and 11 bars and lounges.

Crusin’: Wonder of the Seas is off the chain by any measure.


Belated happy birthday wishes to Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay. Best wishes to Rep. Joe Geller and food critic Rochelle Koff.


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

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


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