Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 3.11.22

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Good Friday morning.

The largest budget in state history is now on members’ desks Thursday afternoon, kicking off the 72-hour cooling-off period before lawmakers can vote on it and bring the 2022 Legislative Session to a close.

The record-setting $112 billion spending plan includes $43 billion in general revenue — a full $8 billion more than the 2021-22 budget — that has flowed to the state amid a rebounding economy.

After the finished product was delivered, Senate leaders touted some highlights, including an across-the-board pay raise for state employees, more than $8,000 in per-pupil funding for schools, and sales tax holidays for diapers, disaster preparedness, school supplies and gas.

A budget is done and off to Ron DeSantis; the countdown to Sine Die begins.

The 2022-23 budget also includes $37 billion in federal cash, $3.5 billion of which comes from pandemic relief funds.

The pandemic funds will cover major one-time projects. The list includes $358 million for land acquisition, $115 million for Capitol complex renovations, $100 million for water storage north of Lake Okeechobee, $64.4 million for schools and higher-ed construction projects, and $50 million for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Job Growth Grant Fund.

The gas tax holiday — one of the Governor’s priorities — is also contingent on the state receiving the federal fiscal recovery funds. Lawmakers set aside $200 million for it.

All told, the 2022-23 budget represents a bump of more than 10% from the $101.5 billion budget lawmakers approved for the current year. DeSantis shaved $1.5 billion of that plan with his veto pen.

Lawmakers budgeted $93.2 billion the year prior, and the so-called “Red Wedding” of vetoes cut it down to $91 billion — about 20% less than the 2022-23 budget that lawmakers are sending the Governor this year.

Though the clock hits zero Sunday afternoon, the Legislature is expected to vote on the budget and drop the hankie Monday.

—“Florida Legislature agrees to $112.1B budget with millions for UCF and Central Florida” via Skyler Swisher and Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel

House releases video on Chris Sprowls’ legacy — As House Speaker Sprowls’ term leading the chamber comes to a close, the House video team is looking back on his accomplishments. Some of Sprowls’ priorities getting attention include his push to create a grant program for local governments to address sea level rise and a feel-good initiative to get books into the hands of struggling readers. “We can change a kid’s destiny if we can just help them learn to read, so now we have the largest book delivery program in America and the state of Florida,” he says in the video. Workforce initiatives, efforts to curb foreign government research espionage, and parental rights legislation also shared the spotlight. Near the close, he credits his successes to his wife, Shannon. “She has been able to always keep me focused on the mission, whether I’m up here or whether I’m back home,” he said.

To watch the video, click on the image below:


@Xtinehlee: Hard to write when the world keeps threatening to fall apart. Also, more important to write when the world keeps threatening to fall apart.

@MarioDB: The FY22 spending package is a tremendous win for our nation’s defense & national security. Despite Democrats controlling the House, Senate, and WH, Republican Appropriators were also successful in defending ALL long-standing pro-life protections.

@AGAshleyMoody: From the time he took office, @JoeBiden has been demolishing our nation’s energy independence. We pleaded and sued to convince @POTUS to think strategically about these consequences, but to no avail. Now, look at the price at the gas pumps.

@AnnaForFlorida: Governor yells at Disney for making money in China while being silent on that government’s oppression (which is true), but Republican Party of Florida & almost every lawmaker accepts money from Disney … so you’re taking the $ you’re attacking. Real smooth.

@JacksonOfFL: Rule #1 of #FlaPol “Don’t mess with the mouse.” This is a dangerous path our governor/dictator finds himself on.

—@JoeSaunders4FL: By my count, Ron DeSantis’ chief Twitter warrior @ChristinaPushaw has tweeted over 50 times in the last 24 hours about the #dontsaygaybill. Tell me you are in a crisis communication bunker without telling me you’re in crisis communication bunker.

@MobileMort: It seems that @Disney has managed to unite Democrats and Republicans … around behind angry at them. Some may say a total public relations disaster for the company.

@TinaPolsky: HB7, the anti-CRT/stop woke act is another dangerous bill meant to chill speech in both the classroom and the workplace. Bad for our students and bad for our businesses. We don’t need thought police but here we are.

Tweet, tweet:

@MDixon55: Bills that are not maps can find their way to the Governor’s desk very quickly

Tweet, tweet:


House GOP retreat in Ponte Vedra Beach — 12; the third season of ‘Atlanta’ begins — 12; season two of ‘Bridgerton’ begins — 14; The Oscars — 16; ‘Macbeth’ with Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga begin performances on Broadway — 18; Florida Chamber’s 2nd Annual Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health + Sustainability begins — 18; Grammys rescheduled in Las Vegas — 23; ‘Better Call Saul’ final season begins — 38; Magic Johnson’s Apple TV+ docuseries ‘They Call Me Magic’ begins — 42; 2022 Florida Chamber Transportation, Growth & Infrastructure Solution Summit — 48; ‘The Godfather’ TV series ‘The Offer’ premieres — 49; 2nd half of ‘Ozark’ final season begins — 49; federal student loan payments will resume — 51; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 56; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 61; ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ starts on Disney+ — 75; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 77; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 83; California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota hold midterm Primaries — 88; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 120; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 133; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 151; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 175; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 209; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 227; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 246; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 249; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 256; ‘Avatar 2′ premieres — 281; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 345; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ premieres — 378; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 504; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 588; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 868.


Ron DeSantis slams ‘woke’ Disney after CEO condemns parents’ rights bill” via Jessica Chasmar of Fox News — DeSantis slammed The Walt Disney Co. as “woke” Thursday after the company came out against a Republican-led parental rights bill in the state that progressives have claimed is anti-LGBTQ. Speaking to supporters in Boca Raton, DeSantis said there is “zero” chance he’s going to reverse his position on disallowing the instruction of “transgenderism in kindergarten classrooms.”

“When you have companies that have made a fortune off being family-friendly and catering to families and young kids, they should understand that parents of young kids do not want this injected into their kid’s kindergarten classroom,” he said.

The Parental Rights in Education bill bans Florida school employees or third parties from giving classroom instruction on “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” in kindergarten through third grade. The bill, which passed the state Senate Tuesday after passing the House last month, has been dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by Democrats who … claim it bans any discussion about being gay in the state’s schools.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek spoke out against the bill for the first time Wednesday in the company’s annual shareholder meeting, during which he announced Disney would be donating $5 million to LGTBQ groups.

Pixar employees say Disney’s statement on commitment to LGBTQ community rang hollow” via Abbey White of The Hollywood Reporter — Pixar employees say Disney has censored efforts to produce LGBTQ-inclusive content and are demanding the animation studio’s parent company counter anti-LGBTQ legislation like Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill with action “beyond the ‘inspiring content’ that we aren’t even allowed to create.” In a statement to Disney leadership obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, an unidentified group of LGBTQ employees of Pixar and their allies called out Disney CEO Bob Chapek’s staff memo addressing the company’s public silence around Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

Thanks, but no thanks: Disney LGBTQ+ donation refused due to ‘Don’t Say Gay’” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Disney planned to give $5 million to an organization supporting LGBTQ+ rights, the company’s CEO Chapek announced Wednesday in response to critics who complained he hadn’t done enough to fight against Florida’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill. But the organization set to receive the $5 million has rejected Disney’s donation and issued a blistering statement taking aim at Disney and Chapek for being silent until now. “The Human Rights Campaign will not accept this money from Disney until we see them build on their public commitment and work with LGBTQ+ advocates to ensure that dangerous proposals, like Florida’s Don’t Say Gay or Trans bill, don’t become dangerous laws, and if they do, to work to get them off the books,” Joni Madison, Interim President of the Human Rights Campaign said.


Legislature files resolution formalizing OT — A resolution (SB 2002) allowing the Legislature to meet past the 60-day mark has been filed. The resolution, filed by Naples Republican Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, specifies a new end date of 11:59 p.m. Monday and that the extra time may only be used to consider the budget main budget bills (SB 2500/HB 5001) and the various implementing bills associated with them. The 2022-23 budget landed on lawmakers’ desks at 1:53 p.m. Thursday. Due to a required 72-hour “cooling off” period, lawmakers cannot pass the $112 billion proposal until Sunday afternoon. However, the chambers expect to meet and pass the budget Monday.

Kathleen Passidomo makes it official — Session is in OT.

Gov. DeSantis signs DEP Secretary appointment bill — The Governor on Thursday signed a bill (SB 1658) that would allow him to appoint a Department of Environmental Protection Secretary without Cabinet approval. Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida reported that the bill had been criticized as a “power grab” by Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. The lone Democrat Cabinet member, Fried criticized how the GOP Governor has handled the most recent DEP Secretary appointment. “My qualm is not with the current nominee, but the principle that Gov. DeSantis and his cronies changed the law instead of simply bringing this nomination before the Cabinet,” Fried said in a statement. The now-law also applies to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Lawmakers pass bill advancing national GOP movement against ‘woke’ indoctrination” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Republican-led Legislature has joined the wave of state legislative bodies targeting “critical race theory” with a bill to extinguish “indoctrination” in the classroom and corporate settings. The Senate voted 24-15 on Thursday to pass legislation (HB 7), inspired by calls from DeSantis to combat “woke ideology.” The measure would prohibit lessons and training which tell students and employees that they are inherently racist, sexist or oppressive because of their race, color, sex or national origin. It would also ban instruction that they are personally responsible and should feel guilty for the past actions of members of their race, color, sex or national origin. Republicans nationwide have made critical race theory an election focal point. The theory posits that racial disparities have a continual influence on institutional structures. In Florida, DeSantis is on the ballot in November, along with candidates for all House and Senate offices.

No ‘A Brave Little Cookie’? Randolph Bracy argues GOP bill could lead to ban of mother’s story” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — As partisan debate reached a crescendo Thursday over whether HB 1467 was about schoolbook selection procedures or book banning, Sen. Bracy told his mother’s story, one she had revealed in a children’s book now available to Florida students in many schools. LaVon Wright Bracy was the first Black student to cross the segregation barrier to attend the previously all-White Gainesville High School. During Thursday’s floor debate over HB 1467, Bracy recounted a brutal and terrifying experience for his mother. LaVon Wright did receive some encouragement from one White classmate. But when she tried to approach him and his friends in the schoolyard one day, she was punched in the face, knocked to the ground, and repeatedly kicked.

Legislature passes new rules for faculty tenure, accreditation at state universities” via Divya Kumar of the Miami Herald — A controversial higher education bill that affects tenured faculty and changes the accreditation process for Florida universities is headed to DeSantis’ desk for signing, but not before Democratic lawmakers cautioned it would do more harm than good. SB 7044 would allow the state Board of Governors to implement a “comprehensive“ review every five years for tenured faculty, addressing their accomplishments, academic duties, evaluations, ratings, and pay. It could also include “consequences for underperformance.” Tenured faculty at each state university already take part in annual reviews.

Lawmakers approve second pass at limiting influence in ballot initiative process” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Legislature has once again approved a bill to limit spending in the ballot initiative process after last year’s proposal met legal roadblocks. But critics argue Republicans’ fix is still unconstitutional. By an 80-40 vote, which saw two Democrats vote with Republicans, the House gave the bill (HB 921) its final legislative approval, preparing it for DeSantis’ signature. The proposal, 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 regarding similar legislation to limit money’s influence in the petition-gathering process, saying it violated the First Amendment.

Brad Drake seeks (once again) to limit campaign contributions from outside the state.

Um, yes — “Did the Legislature pass this bill to punish newspapers?” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — For the second time in 11 months, the Florida House voted on Thursday to send a bill to DeSantis that would strip Florida’s newspapers of legal notice revenue. Some lawmakers said the move is a jab at publications that sometimes publish stories and editorials critical of the Republican leadership in Florida. Supporters of the measure say it shouldn’t be the state’s job to make local governments subsidize newspapers. They say the effort will make notices more widely accessible to Floridians. Sen. Jason Brodeur spoke in favor of the bill, saying governments should direct tax dollars “toward the most vulnerable” and not to companies that make a product that “nobody wants.”


Budget conference: Lawmakers reach deal to reward school districts without mask mandates” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Budget negotiators from the House and Senate have hammered out their plan to hold school districts accountable for flouting state law regarding mask mandates. Senate negotiators under Sen. Kelli Stargel and House negotiators under Rep. Jay Trumbull had previously agreed to restore the $200 million into the Florida School Recognition Program. However, lawmakers restrict the performance recognition fund only to the 55 districts that followed orders from DeSantis‘ administration and state law banning mask mandates. With the changes outlined, the 12 districts would no longer see a budget offset, but they would lose out on funding that benefits sustained or improving student performance.

Both chambers come to an understanding regarding rewards for school districts that held off on mask mandates.

Legislature allocates over $100 million for USF STEM programs” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — The University of South Florida has a busy year ahead, amassing millions for special projects centered around medicine, tech and environmental science from this year’s proposed budget. The funding for the projects comes in addition to the more than $300 million in general funds allocated to the university by the state. Based in Tampa with St. Pete and Sarasota campuses, the university is home to more than 50,000 students. Perhaps the biggest appropriation the university is set to receive for a single project is $75 million to start building a new Environmental & Oceanographic Sciences Research & Teaching Facility on its St. Petersburg campus.

USF set to receive $75M for new Environmental and Oceanographic Sciences Facility” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — The Legislature has allocated $75 million in its budget proposal for the University of South Florida’s new Environmental and Oceanographic Sciences Research and Teaching Facility. The budget represents the consensus between the House and the Senate for the state’s financial priorities. However, individual spending items are still subject to the Governor’s veto pen. Last year DeSantis was thought to have wielded a relatively light touch when he slashed $1.5 billion out of the previous year’s $100 billion budget. The funding will help the university start building the new facility on its St. Petersburg campus after announcing plans for the project in January. The center will be used to address “the existential challenges created by climate change, including sea level rise, high tide flooding events and other coastal hazards.”

Proposed budget includes slash to private university grant program” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Tucked into the proposed budget is a notable cut to the EASE Grant, a popular higher education voucher program for private universities. The no-need grant provides tuition assistance to full-time students attending private, nonprofit universities in Florida. In all, lawmakers OK’d a $31.7 million slash, roughly 28%, to the voucher program, resulting in the lowest per-student funding since 1999. Students previously collected $2,841 via the voucher. The cut will reduce funding to roughly $2,000 per student under the proposed budget. More than 46,000 Floridians receive the grant a year. The economic benefits of independent universities are well documented.

Sprinkle list: Citrus County projects receive $78 million boost from budget” via Mike Wright of Florida Politics — The long-awaited Riverwalk project in Crystal River may finally be coming to shore. Citrus County’s $78 million take of the proposed state budget includes $3 million for King’s Bay Riverwalk, a top city goal that has 20 years in the making. Crystal River actually requested $2 million, City Manager Ken Frink said. The House “sprinkle list“ added $1 million. “We’re extremely grateful for the generosity of the Legislature,” he said. “We are now fully funded on Riverwalk.” The city will be able to use state funding for parking and other amenities related to the Riverwalk, Frink said.

Bracy again gets money into budget for Ocoee massacre film project” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Valencia College is in line to receive $1 million in the state’s 2022-23 budget for the production of a documentary film on the racist massacre that took place in Ocoee on Election Day 1920. The appropriation is Sen. Bracy’s second try at funding the project. Last year the Senate approved $600,000 in a supplemental appropriation for the film, but DeSantis vetoed it. The documentary “July in November” tells the story of Julius “July” Perry and documents the violent attack on Ocoee’s Black community that came after people registered to vote. Valencia is envisioning a feature-length, professional film, produced with opportunities for students to work alongside industry professionals.

Sprinkle list: Pasco County hits home run with $35M for Rays spring training complex” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Pasco County is set to receive $35 million to start construction on a sports training complex, a future site for the Tampa Bay Rays spring training, with funding granted by the Senate’s “sprinkle list.” The funding, detailed in a request from Sen. Danny Burgess, would be used to plan and construct a “sports training and youth tournament complex.” While the facilities would be used for youth sports tournaments and other programs throughout the year, they also would serve as a Spring Training center for the Tampa Bay Rays. The team currently leases a facility in Port Charlotte, but that agreement expires in 2028. The project includes several full-size practice fields, one stadium field with lighting and spectator facilities, team clubhouse and locker room facilities, indoor and outdoor training facilities, kitchen and dining facilities and player housing.

Budget conference: Pinellas County secures $15M for ToyTown landfill remediation, plans for youth sports complex” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — The Legislature has agreed to fund $15 million for the remediation of the former ToyTown landfill site in Pinellas County to build a youth sports facility on the grounds. The project was detailed in appropriation requests filed by Sen. Ed Hooper and Rep. Nick DiCeglie, and another win for Speaker Sprowls, whose home district is based in Pinellas County. Although the original request only asked for $10 million, the project could secure even more at $15 million. ToyTown is a 240-acre historic landfill in the center of the county. With the nonrecurring state funding, the site will undergo environmental remediation and, once complete, will become home to a youth sports complex.

Ed Hooper and Nick DiCeglie make headway to clean up the ToyTown landfill.

Budget conference: Coral Gables mobility hub wins $975K state earmark for EV charging, solar panels” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Coral Gables will receive a $975,000 match in state funds for the electric vehicle-charging and solar-power components of a planned parking garage and mobility hub development in the heart of the city. Lawmakers during end-of-Session budget talks set aside the one-time earmark, which Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera requested last year, for the $42 million project expected to break ground this year. The money, which Coral Gables agreed to match for a total of $1.95 million set aside in state and local funds, will go toward building publicly accessible EV charging stations that will double as parking spaces on the 10-story structure’s ground floor. It will also fund the installation of photovoltaic panels, which will help to power the facility.

— TALLY 2 —

Property tax break for teachers, cops, emergency responders headed to ballot” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Florida voters will decide this November whether teachers, police officers, certain health care workers, emergency responders and child welfare workers will get an additional homestead property tax break after the Legislature approved the measure Thursday. The Senate voted 37-1 in favor of HJR 1, which puts a constitutional amendment on the ballot for the General Election, which would exempt another $50,000 in property value from non-school property taxes for homestead properties owned by eligible workers. Homestead properties for all homeowners are exempt from the first $25,000 of value in property tax assessments, as well as from non-school taxes on the value of the property from $50,000 to $75,000. The bill would make the value of a homesteaded property from $100,000 to $150,000 exempt from non-school taxes, but only for the eligible workers.

Amid concerns raised by South Florida leaders, water shortage bill changed in Senate offer” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Senate has again updated its proposed bill managing water in and around Lake Okeechobee as lawmakers look to tie a bow on the 2022 Legislative Session. With a budget conference set for early Thursday evening, the Senate offer adds a few changes to the measure (SB 2508) sponsored by Sen. Ben Albritton. The effort was also a priority of Senate President Wilton Simpson. Senate Budget Chair Stargel said Senators were focused on addressing the needs of South Florida stakeholders in crafting the final language.

Senate passes police recruitment package” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The Senate on Thursday passed a proposal designed to attract out-of-state cops and candidates into Florida’s law enforcement community. A priority of DeSantis, the bill would provide recruits and officers a bundle of perks. Among them, a one-time $5,000 bonus for newcomers and a $1,000 reimbursement program for out-of-state officers who relocate to Florida. The Senate passed the bill unanimously in a 34-0 vote. Rep. Tom Leek is the bill sponsor. The passage comes after lawmakers on Wednesday accepted a controversial amendment by Sen. Hooper, which empowers sheriffs to adjust their budget without the blessing of County Commissioners.

Recruiting law enforcement is at the heart of Tom Leek’s proposal.

Bill expanding sexual battery definitions headed to Governor’s desk” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A bill that expands definitions for sexual battery cases has cleared the Legislature and is heading to DeSantis’ desk. The Senate voted 39-0 Thursday to (again) approve Sen. Linda Stewart’s sexual offenses bill (SB 692). The House had tinkered with it since the last time Senators gave it unanimous approval. The bill was merged with one brought by Sen. Gayle Harrell. Rep. Emily Slosberg-King sponsored the House version (HB 341). The House had also approved it unanimously, 117-0, though only after making a few changes to the version the Senate had provided.

House, Senate sign off on crackdown against disruptive pop-up events” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The House and Senate signed off Thursday on a bill tackling the rise of disruptive “pop-up” events in Florida. The proposal (HB 1435) empowers local sheriffs and leaders to respond more effectively to large, unpermitted gatherings. Rep. Leek is the bill sponsor. Sen. Tom Wright is the companion bill sponsor. Under the bill, a Sheriff may designate an area as a “special event zone” if a gathering is promoted on social media, attended by more than 50 individuals and disrupts street traffic. Meanwhile, authorities may double fines for noncriminal traffic citations within the zone. They also may enforce occupancy limits and impound a vehicle for up to 72 hours for a traffic infraction.


FEA says budget a good step toward ‘Decade of Progress’ — The state’s largest teacher union praised Legislature’s budget for increasing K-12 spending by nearly $1.7 billion over the current year budget, calling the boost “a great investment in our students.” The Florida Education Association said the spending plan represents “a real step forward” regarding its 2019 “Decade of Progress” outline. FEA, however, was critical of the non-budget policy this Session that added rules surrounding teacher pay that put veteran educators at a disadvantage. “We continue to be laser-focused on the fact that our schools need more teachers and support staff to provide students with the high-quality education they deserve and need,” said FEA President Andrew Spar, “Retaining and recruiting teachers and staff must be a top goal.”

Promising: Andrew Spar sees some good things in the proposed education spending plan.

Lawmakers unveil Florida State Guard guidelines” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Lawmakers unveiled new language Thursday on the Florida State Guard, providing for the first time a road map on the reestablishment of Florida’s WW2-era volunteer force. With an operating budget of $10 million, the Florida State Guard can enlist 400 troops and six full-time civilian employees. Florida residents interested in enrolling into the force must satisfy several criteria, including a medical exam with standards similar to the Florida National Guard. They must also undergo a background check, possess no felony convictions, and have separated under honorable conditions if they served previously in the military. Members of the Florida State Guard will be exempt from the federal draft, per the budget language. They’re also not subject to the Department of Defense’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, a decision proclaimed by DeSantis.

Twelve is enough: Legislative compromise reached on school board term limits” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Term limits will go into effect for school board members if a bill passed Thursday by the House and Senate is signed into law by DeSantis. They just won’t take effect anytime soon. The clock starts running after the 2022 election cycle: 12 years, rather than the eight years preferred by the House. Rep. Sam Garrison agreed to the terms, despite qualms, when the amended bill passed by the Senate (CS/HB 1467) was returned to the House for reconsideration Thursday. “I want eight years,” Garrison said to applause. “The Senate believes this is the number they want.” The House voted 79-41 in favor of the Senate product, but only after robust debate. Clay Yarborough sought and got assurances that charter counties, like Duval, could have term limits under 12 years.

DeSantis signs law to boost use of peer specialists in substance abuse programs“ via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Sen. Darryl Rouson, who has publicly recounted his past battles with drug and alcohol, has for years wanted to make it easier for those who struggled with addiction to help those attempting to turn around their lives. Rouson got his wish when DeSantis signed a bill that would allow those recovering from substance abuse disorders to play a role in substance abuse treatment programs. Under the law that takes effect on July 1, specialists will undergo background screenings. But if they have a disqualifying offense in their background, they can request an exemption from the disqualification.

Catholic bishops: Florida’s immigration crackdown legislation will exacerbate border crisis” via Michael Moline of Florida Phoenix — The Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued a written statement lamenting the state Legislature’s vote to deny state and local government contracts to companies that help the federal government move asylum-seekers into the state. The bill (SB 1808), granted final approval by the Florida House, is among several culture-war bills pushed by DeSantis during his re-election campaign year. It would bar state and local governments from signing contracts with or offering economic incentives to carriers “willfully providing any service in furtherance of transporting an unauthorized alien into the state of Florida knowing that the unauthorized alien entered into or remains in the United States in violation of law.”


Telehealth bill looks to be dead due to fight over telephones” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — The telehealth bill appears to be dead. Again. Sen. Manny Diaz said he’s still “working through” whether he wants to pass SB 312, which allows physicians to use telehealth to reorder prescriptions. The prescription provisions were championed by organized medicine, which was eager to see a bill pass in 2022 after a similar bill died last year. But the bill does not include telephones in the definition of telehealth, a change that has been championed by Americans for Prosperity. AFP Florida State Director Skylar Zander said telehealth is an essential part of the health care delivery system and can be used to increase access in rural communities that do not have adequate access to an internet connection.

Manny Diaz says a telehealth bill gets hung up on the ‘tele’ part. Image via Colin Hackley.

Eleven Democrat gun control bills die without a committee hearing” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — Eleven pieces of gun control-related legislation backed by Democratic lawmakers have not been taken up by a single committee this Legislative Session. With committee meetings concluded except for special meetings permitted by chamber leadership, the bills are officially dead in the water. Sen. Gary Farmer, who has backed gun control legislation since he joined the Senate six years ago, was a sponsor on four of the 11 bills. Sen. Tina Polsky also backed four bills. One of the bills Farmer sponsored was SB 214, which would ban large-capacity gun magazines and military-style firearms, including AR-15 models. The House (HB 199) and Senate versions attracted 35 Democratic co-signers.

Three Surfside-inspired bills die after scant committee engagement” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — In the aftermath of the Champlain Towers South condo collapse in Surfside last summer that left 98 dead, Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez set her sights on sponsoring 2022 legislation that would safeguard residents from ever enduring another similar tragedy. Now 51 days into Session, when most committees can’t meet without special approval from Senate President Simpson, Rodriguez likely will have to wait until 2023 to see through three Surfside-inspired bills she backed this year. Only one of the bills reached a committee hearing in the Senate: SB 394, which would have changed how people can become condo association board directors. Rep. David Borrero filed the proposal’s House companion (HB 547), which also was heard in just one of three committees to which it was assigned.

— SKED —

— The Senate convenes for a floor Session to debate the budget and twiddle their thumbs while they wait for House messages, 9 a.m., Senate Chamber.

— The House convenes for a floor Session to continue the staring contest on issues such as a post-Surfside building safety bill (HB 7069), 10:30 a.m., House Chamber.


Richard Corcoran leaving education department. Is Sen. Diaz in line for job?” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Miami Herald — Richard Corcoran, a controversial figure who helped champion DeSantis’ conservative agenda as Florida’s education commissioner, is resigning his post this spring. Hand-picked by DeSantis to run the state education department in 2018, Corcoran said in an interview that he had intended to leave sooner. His departure had been expected since his ill-fated bid to become Florida State University’s president in spring 2021. “COVID kept me longer than I anticipated,” he said. From within the world of politics, Corcoran name-dropped state Sen. Diaz. Diaz has sponsored several education-related bills advancing ideas backed by DeSantis.

Richard Corcoran to exit; who’s up? Image via AP.

With other gambling expansion plans dead or barely alive, Seminole Tribe says ‘Thank you’” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Even as the backers of a rival gambling initiative appeal to the Florida Supreme Court for another breath of life, the Seminole Tribe of Florida is running digital and TV commercials thanking Floridians for helping kill the Tribe’s potential competition. The Tribe’s “Thank You” ad, a 30-second spot, has been playing on Tallahassee TV for two weeks and across Florida on digital platforms. Thursday morning, the Tribe’s ad had already racked up more than 1.2 million views. The subject is the failed campaigns by the Las Vegas Sands Co. to get Florida voters’ approval for a North Florida casino, and by the national sportsbook platforms FanDuel and DraftKings to open up internet sports betting in Florida.

Slide takes over 140K St. Johns Insurance policies” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Customers for the now-defunct St. Johns Insurance Company have found a new home at Slide. The insurance company has absorbed approximately 140,000 policyholders left in the lurch when St. Johns went into receivership last month. St. Johns had been the state’s eighth-largest insurer, with 170,000 policies in its portfolio at its peak. The company was one of several to go belly up last month. On the same day St. Johns’ financial rating was downgraded by Demotech, Avatar Insurance also caved. At the time of St. Johns’ exit from the market, industry onlookers feared many of its policyholders would have to turn to Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state-backed insurer of last resort Citizens’ policy count recently crossed 800,000, more than double nadir, and is increasing by about 5,000 new policies each week.

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Nikki Fried pulls in $330K in fundraising amid ‘campaign reset’” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Fried announced raising a quarter million in the last two weeks of February. She announced the haul in the context of a major campaign “reset.” The Democrat announced she collected $254,175 in the back half of February. That’s the bulk of the $330,116 donated in February to both her campaign account and her political committee. She wrapped the month with $3.5 million in cash on hand. “We aren’t messing around — we’re going to win this thing, and we know people want to see strong fundraising numbers,” said Matthew Van Name, senior adviser and strategic manager to Fried. The money rolled in as Fried announced significant shake-ups to her campaign. Campaign manager Farah Melendez parted with Fried mid-month as part of a campaign reorganization.

After a hard reset, Nikki Fried is back on the trail.

Two municipal leaders back Annette Taddeo for Governor” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Two municipal leaders have added their names to the list of current and former elected officials backing Sen. Taddeo’s run for Governor. On Thursday, Miami Shores Village Council Member Katia Saint Fleur and former Aventura Commissioner Gladys Mezrahi announced their endorsements of Taddeo’s campaign. “No one knows their community like municipal leaders,” Taddeo said in a statement. Saint Fleur and Mezrahi highlighted Taddeo’s boots-on-the-ground approach to campaigning and governing. Taddeo has operated a statewide RV tour in which she is visiting all 67 Florida counties.

Surviving relatives of MSD shooting victims endorse Jared Moskowitz for Congress” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Five individuals who lost family members in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting have endorsed Moskowitz’s campaign to succeed Rep. Ted Deutch in Congress. Those offering their support to Moskowitz’s campaign Thursday are among the most visible and outspoken of the MSD survivors. Max Schachter, whose son, Alex, was killed in the rampage that left 17 dead, serves on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission. He also started Safe Schools for Alex, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting the best practices for school safety. Schachter said he does not doubt that Moskowitz, who is running from the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 22nd Congressional District, is the best candidate for the job representing a district that includes parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties.

National GOP group lists defending legislative majorities in Florida as a priority” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) says its top priority in 2022 will be defending legislative majorities. That includes protecting GOP majorities in the Florida House and Senate. But at a time when Biden continues to poll poorly, the national group sees opportunities to gain ground in statehouses. “We may have started the cycle exclusively trying to defend our razor-thin majorities, but the failures of President Biden and his Democrat allies in the states have created opportunities for us to go on offense in places we never could have imagined,” said RSLC President Dee Duncan. A memo published today by the RSLC lists Florida among nine priority states to defend in 2022.

Jordan Leonard campaign reports $40K haul in February for HD 106 bid” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Bay Harbor Islands Council Member for former Mayor Leonard amassed more than $40,000 last month toward his bid for House District 106, where he’ll face at least one fellow Democrat in a race to replace outgoing Rep. Joseph Geller. Leonard’s campaign reports he raised nearly $16,000 last month through his campaign account and more than $24,000 through his political committee, Americans for Florida. By the end of February, Leonard’s second-highest fundraising month this cycle, contributions to the former Bay Harbor Islands Mayor’s campaign and PC surpassed $291,000.

Legislature OK’s measure that could make the Lee County Superintendent an elected position” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Legislature has voted to put the question of electing a Lee County Superintendent of Schools on the ballot. The Senate on Thursday unanimously passed legislation (HB 497) as part of a slate of local bills. Sen. Ray Rodrigues supported the legislation when it first came before the Lee County Legislative Delegation, and again on the floor. “The voters should have a say on whether we have an appointed or elected superintendent,” he said. Notably, Rodrigues has not taken any position on the issue itself. “I’m going to withhold public comment until I see data on both sides,” he said. “For now, I’m going to let proponents and opponents wage their campaign.”

Ray Rodrigues wants Lee County Superintendent hopefuls to earn the job.

For your radar — Local election officials are exhausted, under threat and thinking about quitting” via Zach Montellaro of POLITICO — Election officials feel besieged by conspiracy theorists and fear a lack of support for their work is going to squeeze experts out of the field. The survey from the Brennan Center for Justice showed that nearly 8 in 10 local election officials feel that threats against them and their colleagues have increased in recent years, and a majority say that they are either very or somewhat concerned about the safety of their fellow administrators. The question of how to deal with threats has become a constant conversation among election officials at all levels of government, many of whom fear that it could discourage people from staying in their field of election administration, or even joining it in the first place.


As COVID-19 concerns fade, Gov. DeSantis stays in the spotlight by taking more extreme positions” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Just when it seemed like Florida couldn’t push back any harder against COVID-19 conventional wisdom, Gov. DeSantis in recent days has opened up a new frontier in his war on public health guidance. DeSantis has long emphasized his opposition to COVID-19 mandates, but now is going further. Instead of saying that people shouldn’t be forced to comply with public health measures, he affirmatively is telling certain groups to ignore that guidance altogether, including asking high school students to unmask last week and saying Monday that Florida will tell healthy children not to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The announcement Monday marks the Governor’s first unequivocal anti-vaccine stance, one that defies Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations.

As COVID-19 declines, Ron DeSantis tries to stand out — extremism seems to work.

Palm Beach County school leaders making progress in finding missing students” via Stephanie Susskind of WPTV — For more than a year, leaders in the School District of Palm Beach County have spent countless hours trying to track down thousands of missing students. Student enrollment drives funding and jobs on school campuses. But more than that, school leaders want to make sure children aren’t just sitting home and not going to school. WPTV first reported on this issue in March 2021, when more than 3,000 students in the School District of Palm Beach County were classified as “whereabouts unknown.” That means they were enrolled in Palm Beach County public schools, but not attending classes in-person or virtually. It was a problem never seen before the COVID-19 pandemic.


COVID-19 aid faces uncertain path on Capitol Hill as White House warns of severe consequences” via Alice Miranda Ollstein of POLITICO — White House officials on Thursday warned that key pandemic programs could soon run out of money if Congress fails to quickly authorize $15.6 billion in new COVID-19 funding. “We will have to stop a number of components of our program that are essential,” press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Thursday. The House on Wednesday stripped the funding from the larger $1.5 trillion spending package after several Democrats objected to paying for the aid with money that had been slated to go to their states under a previous COVID-19 relief bill. But now lawmakers and public health advocates fear that, in doing so, Democrats have made it much easier for Republicans in the Senate to vote against a proposal that they’ve been wary of from the start.

Joe Biden may need another COVID-19 cash influx. Image via AP.

Joe Biden administration set to extend travel mask mandate for another month” via Pete Muntean, Gregory Wallace and Betsy Klein of CNN — The Transportation Security Administration is set to extend the federal public transportation mask mandate for another 30 days. The mandate is one of the last remaining broad requirements that Americans wear masks in public places. It applies to mass transportation including planes, trains, buses and hubs like airports. The requirement, which now extends to April 18, was previously set to expire a week from Friday, and the policy will be reviewed over the next month, the official said. The CDC may ultimately allow the mandate to lift before the 30 days is up if transmission rates of the virus nationwide drop to low enough levels.


More Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week” via Matt Ott of The Associated Press — Slightly more Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, but layoffs have settled to the low, pre-pandemic levels seen before the coronavirus recession in 2020. Jobless claims rose by 11,000 to 227,000 for the week ending March 5, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The previous week’s number was 216,000. First-time applications for jobless aid generally track the pace of layoffs. The four-week average for claims, compensating for weekly volatility, rose by 500 to 230,750. In total, 1,474,000 Americans were collecting jobless aid the week that ended Feb. 26, up slightly from the week before that. The four-week moving average for that number is at its lowest level in more than 50 years.

Unemployment numbers tick up. Image via AP.

United Airlines workers with vaccine exemptions can return to their regular jobs.” via Niraj Chokshi of The New York Times — United Airlines, which was one of the first major businesses to mandate vaccination against the coronavirus, will allow workers who were granted religious or medical exemptions from receiving a shot to return to their jobs at the end of this month. About 2,200 United employees received exemptions last year. They were placed on unpaid leave or were moved to roles that did not involve in-person contact with customers. Those employees will be able to return to their normal positions on March 28. “We expect COVID case counts, hospitalizations and deaths to continue to decline nationally over the next few weeks, and, accordingly, we plan to welcome back those employees,” Kirk Limacher, United’s vice president for human resources, said in a note to employees on Thursday.


Do masks in school work? As mandates fall, pair of new studies may finally put debate to rest” via Asher Lehrer-Small of The 74 — Schools that required students and staff to wear masks saw significantly less coronavirus spread than those that did not, a pair of brand-new studies reveal. One report, which was reviewed and approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tracked cases in 98% of school districts in Arkansas from August to October 2021. It found that COVID-19 incidence was 23% lower in fully masked districts compared to districts with no face-covering rule. The other study, published in the journal Pediatrics Tuesday morning by Duke University’s ABC Science Collaborative, crunched data from 61 districts across nine states during the delta and early omicron waves, finding that masked schools had 72% less within-school spread than mask-optional campuses.

A new study settles the debate over masks in school. Spoiler alert: They work.


Ineffective messaging lets impact of Biden’s rescue plan fizzle, Democrats complain” via Alex Roarty of the Miami Herald — In the year since Biden signed the nearly $2 trillion American Rescue Plan into law, some of the Democratic Party’s leading strategists, lawmakers, and leaders say they have become increasingly frustrated that it hasn’t yet made a bigger impression on the public. Instead, they say a law many of them consider the White House’s most important achievement to date has either been ignored, misunderstood, or entirely forgotten by many voters. Amid a difficult political climate marked by Biden’s low approval ratings, the law hasn’t proven an electoral lifeline as many in the party once hoped.

Joe Biden struggles to get his message out, frustrating Democrats.


Florida GOP lawmakers ask Biden to keep sanctions against Venezuela’s Nicholás Maduro” via Bryan Lowry of the Miami Herald — Florida Republican lawmakers asked Biden and two of his Cabinet secretaries in a letter Thursday to commit to maintaining current sanctions against Venezuelan dictator Maduro and his associates following the administration’s recent outreach to Venezuela. In the letter to Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, a group of Florida lawmakers listed atrocities committed by Maduro’s regime and warned against lifting sanctions as a way to bolster oil supplies following Saturday’s meeting between Maduro and a U.S. delegation. “By negotiating with the Maduro dictatorship, your administration is undermining American foreign policy toward Venezuela and is neglecting the U.S. commitment to the Venezuelan exile community,” the letter states.

Why Senate Republicans are feuding over their midterm message” via Blake Hounshell and Leah Askarinam of The New York Times — Republican insiders have long worried that they could blow a golden opportunity to retake the Senate this year. And while most are confident a red wave will still wash enough of their candidates ashore in November to win a majority, some doubt occasionally creeps in. The latest reason: an ongoing disagreement between two of the top Republicans in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, and Rick Scott, the leader of the party’s campaign arm. At issue is the “11-Point Plan to Rescue America” that Scott has presented as a platform for the midterms, and that McConnell has emphatically rejected.

Marco Rubio sounds off (again) on Daylight Saving Time” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Sen. Rubio continues to press his argument that Daylight Saving Time should be made permanent. Rubio has filed legislation for the last four years to end the twice-a-year practice of changing clocks. And, as is his habit, he made the case in a video message released just days before clocks “spring forward” Sunday morning. “We Americans are about to suffer another ridiculous time change as we spring forward this weekend,” lamented Rubio. “Switching in and out of Daylight Saving Time is outdated, and is only a source of annoyance and confusion.” The Senator urged America to “lock the clock” and “put all this stupidity behind us,” saying that in addition to “bipartisan, bicameral support” in Congress, its polls were with the clock lock also.

Marco Rubio pops up his head every year, meaning six more months of Daylight Saving Time. Image via A.G. Gancarski

‘Protect the Ukrainian sky’: Charlie Crist holds humanitarian outreach event as Ukrainians call for forceful intervention” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — Representatives from the office of U.S. Rep. Crist spoke at the Epiphany of Our Lord Ukrainian Church in St. Pete Thursday to help Americans from Ukraine and those hoping to connect with friends and family fleeing the country. Since the opening salvos of the now two-week-old Russian invasion of Ukraine, the church has been running a nonstop operation collecting first aid, food, hygiene, and other items to be shipped first to Poland, then on to Ukraine. “We are all Ukraine,” Linda Vessell said as she packed toothbrushes, mouthwash, and dental floss into zip-close bags. Vessell wore a blue T-shirt with a yellow state symbol of Volodymyr the Great, also known as the “tryzub,” the stylized trident that makes the Ukrainian coat of arms in the colors of the country’s flag.

Disney pauses all business in Russia” via Alex Weprin of The Hollywood Reporter — The Walt Disney Co. is pausing all of its business in Russia in light of the country’s invasion of Ukraine. Disney had previously paused all theatrical releases in Russia, but the new move takes things a step further. The company says that it will be pausing “content and product licensing, Disney Cruise Line activities, National Geographic magazine and tours, local content productions and linear channels. “Some of those business activities we can and will pause immediately. Others, such as linear channels and some content and product licensing, will take time given contractual complexities,” a company spokesperson added. The Disney spokesperson added that the company’s Russia-based employees would remain employed.


A Capitol rioter pushed an officer over a ledge, FBI says. A photo from a sea turtle fundraiser led to his arrest.” via Jaclyn Peiser of The Washington Post — Among hundreds of people at the U.S. Capitol riot not yet identified, the FBI was on the lookout for a man with long hair who had been captured on video pushing a Capitol Police officer over a ledge on the West Terrace. The search ended when investigators were alerted to a picture of the suspect on Facebook from a 2018 fundraiser for sea turtles. Two people confirmed the man’s identity. Ralph Joseph Celentano III was arrested Wednesday in the Broad Channel neighborhood of New York’s Queens borough. Celentano faces seven federal charges, including civil disorder, assaulting an officer, disorderly conduct and entering a restricted building.

Ralph Joseph Celentano went from Capitol rioter to sea turtle fundraiser — which ultimately was his undoing. Image via Reuters.

The question of Roger Stone’s ties to extremist groups grows more salient” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — There are at most 2 degrees of separation between former President Donald Trump and the leaders of far-right extremist groups that were involved in the pro-Trump riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Between Trump and the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers sits only Trump’s longtime adviser Stone. On Tuesday, the federal government indicted Enrique Tarrio, the head of the Proud Boys, on eight criminal counts. Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was arrested in January for allegedly similarly engaging in blocking the counting of electoral votes. All of which makes Stone’s connections to both groups much more salient. In fact, U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta made that question explicit in a ruling that allowed lawsuits against Trump related to Jan. 6 to move forward.


From Michigan, the purest distillation of Donald Trump rewarding loyalty to his fraud falsehoods” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — The crown jewel of the Trump endorsement is the fundraiser held at a Trump property and featuring an appearance from the once-President. On Tuesday night, that honor went to Matthew DePerno, an attorney running for Michigan attorney general. “I can’t tell you how important this race is,” Trump said, following up on his past exhortations that Michigan Republicans make DePerno their nominee at their upcoming convention. DePerno had already demonstrated precisely the attribute Trump would most like to see in a candidate for the top law-enforcement job in the key swing state of Michigan: absolute, unwavering loyalty to obviously untrue claims about the security of the election.

Trumpism is alive and well in Michigan. Image via Facebook.


Ex-JEA CEO Aaron Zahn faces 25 years in prison for fraud, but first, a family trip to the Bahamas” via Jim Piggott of News 4 Jax — Now that two former JEA executives are awaiting trial after being accused of conspiracy and fraud, in what some call the biggest scheme to defraud taxpayers in Jacksonville’s history, why is one of them being allowed to leave the country? Zahn, the former CEO of the city-owned utility, will be permitted to go to the Bahamas next week on a family vacation. That has some wondering why it’s being allowed since both he and former JEA Chief Financial Officer Ryan Wannemacher are charged with felonies in a scheme that could have bilked millions from taxpayers. During the short court proceeding, Zahn and Wannemacher pleaded not guilty to fraud and conspiracy charges in connection to an attempt to sell JEA.

Aaron Zahn faces jail time; but first, a vacation.

How Florida law makes it hard for Miami tenants to get a break from rent hikes” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Miami tenants are hoping for relief from escalating rents and the county is considering freezing housing costs. But Florida law will not make that easy. On Thursday, the housing committee of the Miami-Dade County Commission advanced a study required before attempting rent control in the Miami area. The study is due within 180 days, so it would likely be 2023 before the county could ask voters to endorse the rent caps. Voters must first approve any rent-control ordinance proposed by a local government through a required referendum. Voters must first approve any rent-control ordinance proposed by a local government through a required referendum.

Thousands of UnitedHealthcare members could lose in-network access to Broward Health hospitals in contract dispute” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Thousands of United Healthcare health insurance members in Broward County could lose in-network access to Broward Health’s hospitals and ambulatory care facilities if the two entities fail to reach agreement on a new contract by March 31. UnitedHealthcare plans that would be affected are employer-sponsored, individual, Medicare Advantage and Medicaid plans branded under UnitedHealthcare’s name or affiliates Preferred Care Network, WellMed, Medica and Neighborhood Health Partnership. Members would lose in-network status as of April 1 for Broward Health hospitals in Fort Lauderdale, Deerfield Beach and Coral Springs, Weston urgent care center and 15 outpatient/ambulatory care centers. Physicians employed by Broward Health would no longer be in-network beginning Sept. 1.

Pinellas County to make school dress code more gender-neutral” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — For more than a year, Pinellas County school district officials have heard complaints that their student dress code unfairly targets girls. “I caught a lot of interesting static from parents of female students who feel the dress code is more slanted toward them,” School Board member Bill Dudley said during a workshop Tuesday. That’s about to change. Following a statewide trend, the Pinellas district is poised to revamp its policy to make it more gender-neutral. It plans to remove language that talks about specific clothing pieces, which girls usually wear, and instead set straightforward guidelines that apply to all students equally.


Legislature should not divide communities of interest” via U.S. Rep. Al Lawson for the Tallahassee Democrat — In 2010, Florida voters approved the Fair Districts Amendment, which amended the state constitution to require nonpartisan congressional and legislative districts that also enabled minority communities, whether they be African American, Hispanic, or other, to elect the representative of their choosing. On Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, DeSantis released his congressional map that cut the number of African American seats in half and eliminated a Cuban American held seat in South Florida. On Friday, the Florida Legislature adopted a plan that includes not one, but two congressional maps. The argument made on the floor is that they wish to give DeSantis the right to sue and get court authorization to remove minority access seats.


Gov. DeSantis more interested in scoring political points than protecting children’s health” via The Gainesville Sun editorial board — DeSantis is doing exactly what he claims his critics are doing: politicizing science and engaging in political theater about COVID-19. DeSantis is putting the health of children and their communities at risk just so he can score political points for his re-election campaign and a possible presidential run. Last week, DeSantis scolded high school students for wearing masks at the University of South Florida — and then used the ensuing controversy to raise campaign donations. This week, he brought together skeptics to criticize the scientific consensus about the virus — with his Surgeon General announcing that Florida would be the first state to recommend against children getting COVID-19 vaccinations.

DeSantis spokeswoman links ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill to ‘groomers’ — and on our dime” via the Miami Herald editorial board — In an age when Trump has set a low bar for political discourse on social media, DeSantis’ press secretary stoops as low as her fingers can type — sometimes initiating the vitriol, other times taking the bait from her critics. Pushaw has insinuated on Twitter that opponents of the bill critics call “Don’t Say Gay” are grooming young children for sex. We have become so numb to the cesspool social media can be that Pushaw’s antics might not feel out of the ordinary. But she’s not just a private citizen. She’s speaking on behalf of the Governor of the nation’s third-largest state while taxpayers foot her $120,000 annual salary.

Don’t make it harder for Floridians to pass constitutional amendments” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Florida’s Constitution is cluttered with dictates about subjects better addressed in state laws, not the state’s governing framework. A proposal in the Legislature would attempt to remedy that by limiting citizen-led efforts to amend the state constitution to a narrow set of issues. That would be a fine idea, except that imperious state lawmakers cannot be counted on to heed the will of the residents they purport to represent. Senate JR 1412 would severely limit the scope of revisions or amendments brought by citizen drives. If the measure were enacted, future amendments would be limited to procedural subjects or the structure of the government or of the state constitution. Florida’s Constitution has become overloaded with issues of the day, often because the state Legislature has refused to enact laws about subjects important to Floridians.

Zahn, JEA’s once-brash CEO, spun a web of lies that aided his rise and hastened his fall” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — When Zahn joined the JEA board of directors in early 2018, the century-old utility was at near-peak financial performance and had never had higher customer-satisfaction rankings. The sun had set on the halcyon era when utilities could count on 3% annual growth in electric sales as a matter of faith, but a succession of CEOs had stabilized JEA’s finances after years of major investments in new power plants and civic efforts. This was the imperfect, but enviable legacy Zahn inherited when, inexplicably, he was named the agency’s chief executive just months later, despite never before having run a utility of any size. Zahn was a stunning departure from the sort of veteran executives JEA had hired in the past. Under Zahn, JEA devoted substantial brainpower to the task of active deception.


The “Stop Woke” bill is on its way to Gov. DeSantis. The Senate approved the measure, but not before hearing ‘uncomfortable’ debate about the bill banning ‘uncomfortable’ history conversations in schools.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Senators also passed legislation that gives anyone the right to challenge books and teaching materials. Democrats say it will lead to book banning.

— Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill has stirred the wrath of the king of reality TV, Andy Cohen.

— And, as regular as the biyearly time change, Marco Rubio is once again calling for an end to time changing.

To listen, click on the image below:


Battleground Florida with Evan Donovan on News Channel 8 WFLA (NBC): Reporters Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times and Marc Caputo of NBC News.

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at South Florida politics and other issues affecting the region.

In Focus with Allison Walker on Bay News 9/CF 13: A discussion of Women’s History Month focusing on women in politics and their achievements over the last 100 years in the political arena. Joining Walker are Lori Edwards, Polk County Supervisor of Elections; Kathryn Starkey, Pasco County Commission; and Nicole Benton, mental health and voting rights advocate.

Political Connections Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A look at the 2022 Legislative Session, which has gone into overtime because of the budget; a recap of the most impactful measures lawmakers passed; and a preview of the municipal elections in Pinellas County.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: A review of the 2022 Legislative Session, highlighting some of the most fiercely debated bills worked on this year.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon talks with Holocaust scholar Dr. Dan Leshman.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Duval County School Board Chair Darryl Willie and Rick Mullaney, founder/director, Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Sen. Shevrin Jones to discuss the ‘Don’t Say Gay Bill,’ U.S. Rep. Carlos Giménez on Ukraine and other news of the week.

— ALOE —

This Tampa Bay kitchen aims to stand up for Ukrainian culture with pierogi” via Bernadette Berdychowski of the Tampa Bay Times — Daryna Voloshyn rolled dough on her kitchen countertop and cut it into cylinder shapes. She filled each one with potato, cheese, or a combination of the two before folding them into the Slavic dumpling known as a pierogi. She’d make about 2,000 savory treats by the end of the day. Usually, she’d make that much in a week. “Everything is made from scratch,” Voloshyn said. “It’s really time-consuming. But it’s something I like to do because I like to get my culture out there.” Voloshyn launched Pierogi Bar a year ago after friends asked her to make more pierogi and borscht. Her mother and father assist with the cooking, website and finances. Since then, she’s used her business as a way to educate people about Ukrainian cuisine.

Disney chief: Cash concerns land Mary Poppins pavilion in ‘holding pattern’” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Disney’s upcoming plans to build a Mary Poppins pavilion at Epcot are paused, but not completely canceled, company CEO Chapek said Wednesday. Chapek fielded questions during an annual shareholder’s meeting where Disney enthusiasts mentioned everything from the lack of shade at the theme parks to Chapek’s previous silence on Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill and more. It was a rare moment for fans to get the ear of the multibillion-dollar company’s CEO. One shareholder asked the status of the Mary Poppins-themed attraction first announced in August 2019. Disney has gone silent on whether the pavilion would still be built after the pandemic hit.

Sorry, Mary Poppins; you are on indefinite hold. Image via Disney.

Super Nintendo World to open at Universal Studios Hollywood next year” via Nouran Salahieh of WFLA — Super Nintendo World is set to open at Universal Studios Hollywood in 2023, the theme park announced Thursday. The immersive gaming-inspired attraction will be the first Super Nintendo World to open in the United States, after first debuting in Japan in 2021. Super Nintendo World, a partnership between Universal and video game company Nintendo, promises to transport guests into the “world of Mario, Luigi and Princess Peach to become part of their compelling universe.” Fans will be able to enjoy attractions inspired by Nintendo characters and video games in a newly expanded area of the Universal Studios Park.


Celebrating today are Emily Jeanne Barber, Nichole Geary, and Janet Scherberger.


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.


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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
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