Good Monday morning.
Today is the day the 2022 Legislative Session ends.
After spending most of Friday debating the record $112 billion budget, lawmakers expect to meet this afternoon to give it the final OK.
There are a handful of contentious issues lodged in the spending plan.
House Republicans tucked in language that will make a dozen school districts that instituted mask mandates ineligible to receive a slice of the $200 million Florida School Recognition Program. The budget also pulls $100 million from affordable housing for a program that provides down payment assistance to first responders.
Despite pushback from Democrats on those issues and others, the budget is expected to pass with bipartisan support.
The budget represents a greater than 10% increase over the 2021-22 budget and a greater than 20% increase over the pre-pandemic 2019-20 budget.
It 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. It also includes $37 billion in federal cash, $3.5 billion of which comes from pandemic relief funds.
Once approved, the budget will go to the Governor, who holds line-item veto power. Last year Ron DeSantis was thought to have wielded a relatively light touch when he slashed $1.5 billion out of the $101 billion budget.
Last week, I pointed to the uphill mountain lawmakers would need to climb to pass Medicaid reform.
It has been 17 years since Florida last upgraded the Medicaid Managed Care program. This type of legislation is hard. And it doesn’t get you re-elected. But it is important.
The Legislature did it. SB 1950 by Sen. Jason Brodeur — the Senate version of HB 7047 by Rep. Sam Garrison — passed both chambers on what should have been Sine Die.
Many in The Process said this bill was dead, but it came back to life in the final hours during which non-budget issues could be considered.
After bouncing back and forth, the bill was sitting in the Senate. Brodeur filed an amendment rejecting this week’s House language and reverting to the language passed by the Senate previously — with one difference.
The amendment gives more control to the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) on the auto-assignment process, creating greater competition in the market.
When a glitch at Sunshine Health resulted in payment failures for three months last year, it was clear that reform was necessary, and more competition was crucial.
The bill, in its final form, passed the Senate 38-0. The House then took it up and voted favorably 115-0.
As we assign names in the winners and losers’ columns ahead of Sine Die, this one goes in the win column. It’s a win for the 5 million Floridians in Florida who depend on Medicaid.
It’s also a big win for AHCA Secretary Simone Marstiller and AHCA Chief of Staff Cody Farrill, who shepherded it through every step of the process. And it’s thanks to the leadership of Brodeur and Garrison, who never gave up.
Breaking overnight — “Tom Brady returning to Tampa to play 23rd season in NFL” via Rob Maadi of The Associated Press — Brady’s retirement lasted 40 days. Brady said Sunday he’s returning to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for his 23rd season in the NFL. The seven-time Super Bowl champion announced his decision on Twitter and Instagram, saying he has “unfinished business.” … “These past two months, I’ve realized my place is still on the field and not in the stands,” Brady wrote. “That time will come. But it’s not now. I love my teammates, and I love my supportive family. They make it all possible. I’m coming back for my 23rd season in Tampa.” Brady led the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl title following the 2020 season and NFC South championship last season.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
Does what you watch shape how you think?
Or what you think determine whom you watch? pic.twitter.com/iXhMqXxZhb
— Bruce Mehlman (@bpmehlman) March 11, 2022
—@DisneyAnimation: To our LGBTQIA+ community in the studio and across the world, Disney Animation stands by you! We denounce any legislation that infringes on your fundamental human rights. You deserve to be safe, respected, and able to live your lives as your whole selves free from discrimination.
—@RobGeorge: FUN FACT: The great thing about America is that EVERYONE is allowed to criticize ANY legislation by ANY “duly elected legislators!”
—@AEdwardsLevy: it’s always “baseball” and never “sporadicvoterball”
Cristiano Ronaldo: “You’re finished, right?
Tom Brady: 🤔 pic.twitter.com/QGwX9ad6pJ
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) March 13, 2022
—@kelly4florida: #springforward2022 we lost an hour but gained a Brady. I’ll take it 💪 @TomBrady @Buccaneers
— DAYS UNTIL —
House GOP retreat in Ponte Vedra Beach — 9; the third season of ‘Atlanta’ begins — 9; season two of ‘Bridgerton’ begins — 11; The Oscars — 13; ‘Macbeth’ with Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga begin performances on Broadway — 15; Florida Chamber’s 2nd Annual Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health + Sustainability begins — 15; Grammys rescheduled in Las Vegas — 20; MLB Opening Day — 24; ‘Better Call Saul’ final season begins — 35; Magic Johnson’s Apple TV+ docuseries ‘They Call Me Magic’ begins — 39; 2022 Florida Chamber Transportation, Growth & Infrastructure Solution Summit — 45; ‘The Godfather’ TV series ‘The Offer’ premieres — 46; 2nd half of ‘Ozark’ final season begins — 46; federal student loan payments will resume — 48; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 53; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 58; ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ starts on Disney+ — 72; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 74; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 80; California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota hold midterm Primaries — 85; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 117; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 130; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 148; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 172; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 206; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 224; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 243; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 246; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 253; ‘Avatar 2′ premieres — 278; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 342; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ premieres — 375; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 501; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 585; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 865.
“Esther Byrd, QAnon-adjacent defender of Jan. 6 insurrection, appointed to Florida Board of Education” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis appointed Byrd to the state’s Board of Education, a move that will almost certainly politicize that appointed panel further.
A former Marine, Esther Byrd is the wife of Rep. Cord Byrd of Neptune Beach. Rep. Byrd, the incumbent in the current HD 11, is one of the House Republicans who sided with the Governor by voting against redistricting maps preserving a minority-access district in North Florida.
However, Esther Byrd is perhaps best for her staunch advocacy during the Donald Trump administration on behalf of far-right elements.
After the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, she offered a defense of those “peacefully protesting” the certification of the 2020 Presidential Election while alluding to “coming civil wars.” And in October, she offered an unsolicited defense of the Proud Boys.
Those statements came months after she made comments supporting QAnon after the couple were photographed on a boat flying a QAnon flag. For his part, the Representative claims that his wife shouldn’t be read too literally.
“People use hyperbole all the time,” Byrd told WJXT last year. “The Speaker of the House has said, and I quote, ‘I just don’t know why there aren’t uprisings all over the country.’”
Asked to clarify that statement, Byrd said, “people talk about civil wars in the Republican Party.”
“Ron DeSantis ‘free state of Florida’ faces new restrictions on First Amendment rights” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — Free speech will be undergoing some changes in what DeSantis has declared the “free state of Florida.” A series of bills sent to the Governor this week by Florida’s Republican-led Legislature will impose new sanctions on what is acceptable speech and assembly in schools, communities and businesses. Other bills create new exemptions to the state’s public records law, including university Presidential searches and executions. Many of the proposals have attracted national media attention, a situation that has angered Republican legislators who say the issues are being intentionally misrepresented to stoke tensions against them.
“RTFB: Legislative leaders tell critics to read controversial bills as Sine Die approaches” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — As the Session comes to a close, House and Senate leaders are defending their decision to pass several high-profile bills that have elicited criticism that Republicans are harming minority populations leading up to the 2022 election campaign. When state lawmakers and DeSantis are on the ballot in November, they will be able to tout new laws on abortion (HB 5), immigration (SB 1808), LGBTQ discussion in classrooms (HB 1557) and woke instruction (HB 7). With major business for the 2022 Session all but behind them, Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls say their detractors should read what the bills are mandating.
“Medicaid managed care rewrite passes after House agrees to Senate plan” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Legislators on Friday signed off on a last-minute deal to overhaul the state’s Medicaid managed care programs, overcoming a stalemate between the House and Senate that threatened to scuttle the effort this year. The House unanimously approved the bill (SB 1950) as amended. That will send it to DeSantis, but only after the Senate stripped out several provisions the House had initially insisted on. Brodeur, the Senate bill sponsor, called some of the House provisions in the bill “ornaments” and “hitchhikers.”
“Fentanyl test strips remain illegal despite objections in drug bill debate” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The House voted against the decriminalization of fentanyl test strips in Florida on Friday, angering some lawmakers in the closing hours of the 2022 Legislative Session. The push to decriminalize came as part of a ping-pong negotiation over a sweeping controlled substance bill. It came after six spring breakers overdosed Thursday night on fentanyl-laced cocaine at a South Florida rental home. Originally a pain management treatment for cancer patients, fentanyl is the leading culprit of the ongoing opioid crisis. The drug, primarily manufactured in Mexico, is nearly 100 times more potent than morphine. Rep. Andrew Learned urged House colleagues to decriminalize the strips, alongside other Democratic lawmakers on the House floor.
“No hang-ups: Lawmakers pass telehealth bill sans audio-only phone expansion” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Lawmakers did not get hung up on whether to allow audio-only telephone calls to be considered “telehealth.” The Senate on Friday voted unanimously to approve a bill (SB 312) that allows telehealth to be used to prescribe Schedule III, IV and V substances. But the legislation did not authorize phone calls as an option for patients. The House had unanimously voted on Feb. 24 to pass the bill. Senate bill sponsor Sen. Manny Diaz said the Senate is “committed” to coming back to address an audio-only option next year. The inclusion of audio in Florida’s telehealth law was a major priority for Americans for Prosperity, not just in Florida, but nationally. AFP Florida State Director Skylar Zander said it was disappointing the chambers could not “provide more electronic options” for patients, especially those in rural areas.
“Bill adding teeth to PBM rules clears Legislature” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) who don’t register with the state can face a $10,000 fine under a bill that cleared the Legislature this Session. PBMs negotiate with drug manufacturers on behalf of insurance companies to purchase drugs at reduced prices or promise additional rebates. In 2018, lawmakers approved limited regulations on PBMs, requiring them to register with the Office of Insurance Regulation. However, that law did not include any mechanisms to enforce the requirement. HB 357, sponsored by Rep. Jackie Toledo, gives the requirement teeth by allowing the Office of Insurance Regulation to levy a $10,000 fine against anyone working as a PBM who has not registered with the state.
“Budget conference: Legislature aims at Russia in last-minute budget deal” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Florida state agencies and local governments won’t be able to enter into cultural agreements or accept grants from Russian entities starting July 1, after House and Senate budget negotiators inserted the ban into the final budget agreement Thursday. As part of that scrutiny, the Department of Management Services will review all state funds spent on Russian goods and services and issue a report to the Legislature by Dec. 1. House and Senate leaders agreed the provisions, which were not part of previous budget talks, as part of HB 5003, the implementing bill for the overall budget.
“State budget will cut millions from South Florida hospitals that take neediest patients” via Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald — South Florida hospitals, including Miami-Dade’s Jackson Health System, will lose an estimated $124 million in funding in 2022 after state lawmakers this week cut the so-called critical care fund that provides extra payments to about two dozen hospitals in Florida with the highest share of patients with Medicaid coverage. State legislators say the hospitals will still benefit from a new payment system that Florida launched last year to bridge the financial shortfall these hospitals experience due to Medicaid reimbursements, which are so low that they do not cover the cost of care. But hospital administrators and lobbying groups say the new system, called “Direct Payment Program,” does not address the persistent financial shortfall for those medical centers with disproportionately high volumes of Medicaid patients.
“Florida to spend more than $700 million on Pasco Moffitt cancer complex” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — The Florida Legislature is poised to approve more than $706 million for a new H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute campus in Pasco County. The funding is a major step for the cancer research nonprofit’s plan to build out a 775-acre parcel of land east of the Suncoast Parkway and south of State Road 52. About $600 million of the state money will be parceled out over three decades to help with the construction of the Moffitt Pasco County life sciences park, which will one day include cancer research and health care facilities, as well as retail, hospitality buildings and other developments. Another $106 million in one-time state funding will build out nearby infrastructure, roads in the area, for example.
“Ralph Massullo secures $83M for Citrus, Hernando projects in state budget” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Rep. Massullo sought more than $80 million in funding for projects in Citrus and Hernando counties, and he got nearly all of it. Massullo’s largest request was $20.7 million for upgrades to Turkey Oak Drive, a Citrus County road east of Crystal River that connects State Road 44 to U.S. 19. According to the appropriations request, filed on behalf of the city government, Crystal River “is in the crosshairs of the soon to be open Suncoast Parkway which will be the cause for a tremendous amount of through traffic within the city.” Budget writers fully funded the project, which accounts for nearly a quarter of the $83.7 million in local projects that Massullo was successful in getting into the $112 billion budget plan.
“Budget conference: The Underline in Miami-Dade nabs $3M from state for park amenities” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A linear greenway that’s trail-friendly to pedestrians and nonmotorized vehicles located below the Miami-Dade County Metrorail will receive a $3 million infusion for park amenities in the 2022-23 state budget. Lawmakers agreed on the funding set aside, complementing a $2.5 million local match, for The Underline. The multiyear project, spanning 10 miles and 120 acres, could cost between $120 million and $140 million to complete. This round of state funding will cover 15% of the cost to purchase and install park features, including seating, drinking fountains, bike repair stations, column signage and Wi-Fi facilities.
“Budget conference: Northern Pinellas County secures $9.5 million for stormwater system improvements” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — The Legislature has set aside $9.5 million for Pinellas County to complete vital infrastructure improvements on the county’s northern stormwater system. The funds, detailed in appropriation requests filed by Sen. Ed Hooper and Rep. Nick DiCeglie, would be for a project to improve both stormwater treatment and stormwater capacity within several areas of northern Pinellas County. The goal of the project is to improve the water quality discharges to St. Joseph Sound, which is an Outstanding Florida Water and an Aquatic Preserve. The original funding requests ask for $5.7 million received a significant boost in the actual proposed budget. According to the request, the project had not previously gotten any state funding. The project also has secured $5.7 million from the local government.
“American Cancer Society says budget falls short on ‘high demand’ breast, cervical cancer screenings” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — The American Cancer Society (ACS) is disappointed about the recently released Florida budget proposal, which the organization says does not fully fund the Mary Brogan Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. The budget allocates $1.83 million for the program, which provides free or low-cost screenings for Floridians who fall under the program’s eligibility requirements. However, that’s about $1.17 million short of the program’s requested $3 million, an increase in funding the ACS says would help address the record drop in breast cancer screenings at the onset of the pandemic that has yet to return to pre-pandemic rates.
— TALLY 2 —
“The House district under threat from DeSantis is steeped in Black history” via Lori Rozsa and Colby Itkowitz of The Washington Post — When Black business owner Kiara Smith looks across the street from the door of her downtown shop, she sees the grounds of the county courthouse. The building was constructed in 1912, but the site is historic for what happened decades earlier. “This was one of the biggest places for the slave trade,” Smith said of the place where the enslaved were sold. Dotting a 200-mile stretch along Florida’s northern border are small cities like Quincy, at its western end, where Black residents have historically made up a third or more of the population. But in the 145 years since the end of Reconstruction, only in the last five years has Quincy and most of North Florida been represented in Congress by a Black politician, Rep. Al Lawson.
“Dead bills: Nine legislative issues that couldn’t make it across the finish line” via Gray Roher of Florida Politics — Florida’s Legislative Session will wind to a close Monday when lawmakers pass the budget, but all other bills that didn’t pass before Friday are effectively dead. Most of DeSantis’ culture war-heavy agenda passed. But plenty of other bills, including issues important to legislative leaders, Senate President Simpson and House Speaker Sprowls, withered in the final week of Session. For example, earlier in Session, Simpson said the lawmakers would have “failed” the citizens if they didn’t tackle the property insurance crisis. A bill attempting to address that issue and several other bills died Friday. But Simpson preferred to focus on the bills that did pass, telling reporters Friday it “would be a mistake” to focus on the bills that failed.
“Fentrice Driskell’s abandoned Black cemeteries bill dies after being buried in Senate” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — A bill that would preserve, maintain and catalog the increasing number of rediscovered Black cemeteries is now considered dead, according to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Driskell. HB 1215, the abandoned African American cemeteries bill, had been a labor of love for Driskell. The bill would have created an Office of Historic Cemeteries within the Division of Historical Resources. The office would’ve focused on coordinating research, repair, restoration, and maintenance efforts at abandoned Black cemeteries, but would extend to all historic cemeteries as well. The bill sought to staff the office with three full-time employees at an estimated cost of $200,000 per year.
“Last Surfside-inspired bill dies, observers bemoan lost opportunity” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — The Legislature’s inability to pass any legislation updating condo regulations in the wake of last summer’s disaster that killed 98 people stunned observers. The Senate Thursday passed House-approved legislation (HB 7069) that would have required regular inspections of aging multifamily buildings three stories or taller. As she explained the bill, Sen. Jennifer Bradley resolved the Surfside disaster would never happen again. Condo buildings within 3 miles of the coast would have been inspected when they reached 25 years of age; others were 30 years. The Senate amended the bill, taking out the House bill’s provisions regulating how much reserve funding condos were required to have and when studies should be done of how much reserve would be needed.
“Legislators won’t require condo inspections. Here are the consequences” via Andres Viglucci and Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — The Florida Legislature’s failure to pass a bill mandating regular condominium inspections leaves in place a lax regimen that experts say is full of glaring loopholes that endanger residents of aging buildings. The bill would have required periodic, routine inspections of most condo buildings, which don’t exist under current law. The main disagreement was over a mandate that condos set aside money to cover future repairs. The bill was prompted by the catastrophic collapse last June of the Champlain Towers South condo in Surfside, where unit owners bickered for years over paying for needed structural repairs, delaying the work. Work was finally underway when the building partially collapsed.
“Milton woman details battle and betrayal over Florida alimony law” via Andy Marlette of the Pensacola News Journal — Camille Malone Fiveash is pretty much an authentic native of Northwest Florida. The 61-year-old mother of three “grown” kids is a seventh-generation Milton resident. Fiveash is also divorced. After more than three decades of marriage, she said an ugly split in 2011 involved a husband’s infidelities and a domestic abuse injunction. Fiveash was awarded what’s regarded in Florida as “permanent alimony.” Fiveash isn’t rich, and her alimony payments aren’t luxurious. She works part-time in a bakery to help pay for health insurance. Fiveash describes the laws as annual attempts by a relatively small group of wealthy and influential men to essentially bribe Florida legislators into passing a law that would let them off the hook for money they owe due to previous marriages.
“Disney suspends political contributions in Florida as CEO apologizes for silence on ‘don’t say gay’” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Walt Disney CEO Bob Chapek is pausing all of the company’s political donations in Florida after the passage of the “don’t say gay” bill and apologized to employees for his silence during the monthslong debate on the measure. In a letter sent to Disney workers, Chapek said the bill was “not just an issue about a bill in Florida, but instead yet another challenge to basic human rights.” “You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights, and I let you down,” he wrote. The company has given more than $100,000 to the Friends of Ron DeSantis PAC since 2019.
“With Disney and Pivot upset, the consequences of Florida’s anti-LGBTQ+ legislation get real” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Disney’s CEO, deep into damage-control mode, apologized and announced Friday the company is ”pausing” all political donations in Florida. And a big-deal tech and business conference, Pivot, scrapped plans to bring the event back to Miami as planned in 2023. Perhaps the Republican Legislature’s actions are finally catching up to it. We hope so. We don’t know the financial impact of pulling Pivot out of the state, but it certainly is a blow to that shiny, city-of-the-future image Miami Mayor Francis Suarez wants to promote. If there’s one thing we know about politics, money talks. Disney and Pivot may be on to something here.
“How Disney worked behind the scenes against the ‘don’t say gay’ bill” via Ana Ceballos of the Tampa Bay Times — Disney worked behind the scenes for the past two months to try and convince Florida lawmakers that a bill restricting LGBTQ school lessons was not good policy. The legislation was on the company’s radar since it was filed in January. Three lawmakers, two Republicans and one Democrat, spoke about their role in Disney’s efforts as its stance spilled into public view. Disney lobbyists set up a series of calls with Senate Education Committee Chair Joe Gruters before the bill received a hearing. When the House voted for the measure, the fate of the bill was up to the Senate — so Disney revamped lobbying efforts in the chamber. Disney turned to Senate Education Committee VIce-Chair Shevrin Jones, the chamber’s only openly gay lawmaker.
“‘The door is open’: California’s Gavin Newsom woos Disney jobs amid controversy over LGBTQ bill” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — As Disney withers criticism from the left and right over a controversial Florida education bill, California’s Governor offered a solution. “Disney, the door is open to bring those jobs back to California — the state that actually represents the values of your workers,” tweeted Newsom. The wooing comes less than a year after Disney announced it would relocate more than 2,000 jobs to a new Lake Nona campus. Over the next 18 months, the plan is to shift all Disney Parks and Walt Disney Imagineering jobs not fully dedicated to operations at Disneyland in California.
“Florida TaxWatch celebrates another successful Legislative Session” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Florida TaxWatch was on the winning side of several policy fights during the 2022 Legislative Session, often making its case with a trove of research to back it up. Perhaps their most visible effort was the data privacy bill (HB 9). The measure would have given consumers more control over their online data, including requesting businesses delete their personal data or refrain from selling it. The proposal passed the House with bipartisan support, and polling indicated it was equally popular among voters. However, FTW research showed it would have reduced Florida’s gross operating surplus by 3.9%. That amounts to a $21 billion hit to the state economy.
“The corporate lobby lost” via Jason Garcia of Seeking Rents — An interesting thing happened about halfway through this year’s Session. A minor committee in the House met to hear House Bill 1447, which would have created a new tax credit for businesses that hire apprentices. HB 1447 was a corporate income tax break, and only 1% of Florida businesses actually pay Florida corporate income tax. So, when the Florida Legislature cuts the corporate tax, it saves money only for a small handful of the biggest and most profitable companies in the country – companies like Lockheed Martin (which, by the way, stood to save an estimated $900,000 a year from the apprenticeship tax credit). By the end of the hearing, even the bill’s supporters acknowledged that only big businesses were likely to save any money. The Committee approved HB 1447 on a unanimous vote. But the bill never moved again for the rest of Session.
— STATEWIDE —
“Group behind attacks in Central Florida Senate race wants suit dismissed” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — An attorney representing a political committee that sent ads slamming a candidate in a key Central Florida state Senate race in 2020 is urging a judge to dismiss a lawsuit that seeks to depose the group’s chairman and obtain bank records that would reveal its donors. Florida state Sen. Annette Taddeo’s suit alleges Floridians for Equality and Justice sent ads to voters in Seminole and Volusia counties ahead of the August 2020 Primary attacking Patricia Sigman, a Democrat running in the highly competitive race to represent Senate District 9, without disclosing its contributors as state law requires.
“‘We never expected to recover this quickly’: Why money is flowing at Palm Beach Kennel Club” via Mike Diamond of The Palm Beach Post — Poker is back with a vengeance at the Palm Beach Kennel Club. The facility is on track to surpass the numbers for 2019, its best year ever. When the pandemic struck in 2020, PBKC had to close for two months, and after it reopened in May, business was off by as much as 40% for the remainder of the year. The cardrooms take a percentage of the amount wagered by players, which is the rake or what the state refers to as gross receipts. Pari-mutuel cardrooms in Florida report their monthly gross receipts to the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation. By July of last year, the play had returned to 2019 levels. A month later, it fell when the Delta variant surged. Nonetheless, gross receipts for the past six months of 2021 totaled $8.18 million, barely under the 2019 figure of $8.19 million.
“Major medical marijuana distributor Trulieve to close Alachua County grow facility” via Andrew Caplan of The Gainesville Sun — Trulieve has announced it will be closing its marijuana grow facility in Alachua County at the end of the month. The move results from the company’s acquisition of Harvest Health and Recreation Inc. in October 2021, making Trulieve the largest and most profitable cannabis operator in the country. A worker at the Alachua County 270,000-square-foot facility took to social media, saying employees were informed of the March 31 closure. They said that employees had the option to come to work or stay home. Either way, the company would pay all employees until the last day. About 160 employees will be affected by the change, but more than half have accepted jobs at other Trulieve locations.
“Want to understand the red-state onslaught? Look at Florida.” via Ronald Brownstein of The Atlantic — Across the broad range of socially conservative initiatives that Florida’s Republican Governor, DeSantis and the GOP state legislature have advanced since 2021, business has been “silent, silent as fuck, they are so silent,” says Florida Democratic State Rep. Anna Eskamani. The administration has notably sharpened its tone on many of these red-state efforts in the past few months. Since 2021, Republican-controlled states have advanced a torrent of socially conservative legislation. This includes laws limiting access to abortion, restricting voting rights, banning transgender girls from participating in high school or college sports, barring transition medical treatment for transgender minors, and censoring how teachers can talk about current or historical racial and gender inequities.
“Donald Trump’s midterms endorsements are beginning to go awry” via Ed Kilgore of The Intelligencer — With Primary season now underway, Trump’s strategy of aggressive intervention in the 2022 midterms via candidate endorsements is finally being tested. Unsurprisingly, the former President boasts of a 100%-win ratio for “his” candidates in the March 1 Texas Republican primaries. However, most of them were unopposed or heavy front-runners; his marquee endorsee in a competitive statewide race, Attorney General Ken Paxton, faces a runoff with George P. Bush that could go either way. Elsewhere, Trump is beginning to get some blowback from his supporters for making endorsements in Primary contests where most or all candidates are MAGA enthusiasts.
Op-Ed — “If DeSantis runs for President in 2024, here are four huge reasons to back him” via Mitch Behna of The Western Journal — If Trump is the nominee, I will vote for him. However, my top choice is DeSantis. Here are four reasons. Although Trump is much more competent than Biden, he will still be 78 years old by the time the 2024 General Election takes place. DeSantis will be 46. The conservative-libertarian advocacy group FreedomWorks gives DeSantis a lifetime score of 90% for his tenure in Congress. Now is the time for a staunch conservative. I believe that a candidate’s best chance of winning the presidency is on his or her first run. Before Biden, the previous four Presidents won on their first attempt. As scared as leftists are of a potential second Trump term, they fear DeSantis even more.
“Nikki Fried blames Vladimir Putin for fertilizer shortage” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The world is experiencing a shortage of fertilizer. The issue is especially acute in Florida, potentially threatening food security. And a historic American enemy is to blame. Fried on Friday blamed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for the shortage, chiding Russian leader Putin by name in a statement from her office, in which she credited the Biden administration with slotting a quarter-billion dollars for domestic fertilizer procurement. Fertilizer prices have doubled in the last year, which has left the U.S. in the lurch as one of the world’s leading importers. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack likewise blamed the Russian invasion of Ukraine for the fertilizer surfeit.
“Two challengers file to take on Jerry Demings for Orange County Mayor” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Retired Army Col. Anthony “Tony” Sabb and business owner and philanthropist Christopher “Chris” Messina have filed to run for Orange County Mayor, challenging Mayor Demings’ re-election bid in the August countywide elections. Both candidates are coming at Demings from conservative positions in the nonpartisan Primary Election contest, which will take place on Aug. 23. Both candidates criticized Demings’ aggressive COVID-19 pandemic control strategies and policies in campaign announcements. Messina also came out swinging against Demings’ transportation sales tax proposal, accusing him of having an “inflationary agenda.” Messina and Sabb filed to run in the first week of March, making them Demings’ first challengers for this year’s election.
— CORONAVIRUS —
“863 deaths, 10,211 cases in last weekly COVID-19 report before Florida switches to every other week” via Caroline Catherman of the Orlando Sentinel — Starting next week, the Florida Department of Health will move from weekly to biweekly COVID-19 reports, spokesperson Jeremy Redfern said on Friday. Florida’s shift to biweekly reporting comes as cases and deaths continue to fall and COVID-19 spread is “low” throughout much of Central Florida. This week, there were 10,211 new coronavirus cases among Florida residents to bring the cumulative total to 5,824,728. With 863 more fatalities on record, 71,860 Florida residents have died.
“COVID-19 researchers: Florida ‘cherry-picked’ our work in kid vaccine recommendation” via Ian Hodgson of the Tampa Bay Times — When the Florida Department of Health released new guidelines this week suggesting healthy children should not get the coronavirus vaccine, it cited several studies to back up the position. But at least four of the experts whose research was cited say their work was taken out of context. They disagreed with Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo’s conclusion that the vaccine was more dangerous than the virus for healthy children. “I think there is cherry-picking of sentences to support what (the state) wanted,” said Kathryn Edwards, a pediatrics professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, who co-authored one of the papers cited in the guidance.
“COVID-19’s strain on Florida hospitals worse than most states, CDC says” via Chris Persaud of The Palm Beach Post — As COVID-19 infections return to pre-omicron levels in Florida, the spread of the disease and its strain on hospitals remain worse in Florida than most states, new federal data shows. State health officials are offering no answers on why or how to tackle this. While 83% of all Americans live in places where COVID-19 poses a “low” threat to their hospitals, the same is true for just 67% of Floridians, data released Thursday by the CDC indicates. The CDC calculates COVID-19 case rates and hospitalizations in counties to determine if the disease poses a risk of “low,” “medium,” or “high” impact to their health care systems. About 30% of Floridians live in medium-impact areas, and about 2% live in 10 high-risk counties.
“Orange County’s state health officer Raul Pino reinstated after leave over vaccine email” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Pino, the top state health officer in Orange County, who was put on administrative leave after questioning low vaccine rates at his office, will return to work Tuesday. Pino, whose paid leave started as the omicron variant roared through the county, has been out of office for two months. “We know Orange County’s definitely happy to have him back,” said Redfern. “We’re happy to have him back.” Pino was placed on paid administrative leave on Jan. 10, about a week after he sent a staff-wide email on Jan. 4 revealing that fewer than 14% of the 568 employees in the office had been fully vaccinated with a complete series and booster shot.
“COVID-19 has cost the school district $11.16 million to treat nearly 3,000 employees” via Kimberly C. Moore of The Lakeland Ledger — Nearly 3,000 Polk County Public School employees have been treated for COVID-19 through the district’s self-funded health program, at the cost of $11.16 million, officials said this week as they reviewed the financial standing of the self-funded health program. Polk County Public Schools’ health program is self-funded, meaning the district pays the medical expenses of its employees, including hospitalizations. It owns and operates two clinics to treat employees and their dependents. According to National Insurance Services, “when using a self-funded plan, employers assume the liability and risk associated with uncertain health care costs in exchange for several significant financial benefits.
— MORE CORONA —
“How millions of lives might have been saved from COVID-19” via Zeynep Tufekci of The New York Times — Our information about what happened when the coronavirus apparently was first detected in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, remains limited. Several Western scientists said colleagues in China had told them of the outbreak by mid-December. Whistleblower doctors reported being silenced from mid-December on. Not until Jan. 20, 2020, did Chinese authorities publicly admit that the virus was clearly passing from person to person. Three days later, they shut down the city of Wuhan. China could have notified the WHO sometime in early to mid-December that it had an outbreak. Governments could have made sure tests were immediately developed to find as many cases as possible. Travel restrictions and testing could have been put in place to prevent the spread outside China.
“Former President Barack Obama tests positive for coronavirus” via Amy B. Wang of The Washington Post — Obama said Sunday he has tested positive for the coronavirus, noting that his symptoms appeared mild so far. “I just tested positive for COVID,” Obama said on Twitter. “I’ve had a scratchy throat for a couple of days but am feeling fine otherwise. Michelle and I are grateful to be vaccinated and boosted, and she has tested negative.” … “It’s a reminder to get vaccinated if you haven’t already, even as cases go down.” Coronavirus cases in the United States have fallen to their lowest levels since last July, but more than 9,000 Americans per week continue to die of COVID-19. Nearly 1 million people in the United States have died of the coronavirus since the pandemic began.
“If you already hate your new job, it’s fine to quit” via Kathryn Minshew of Bloomberg — According to a new survey of more than 2,500 respondents from career site The Muse, 72% of American workers said they have experienced starting a new job and realizing that the position or company was very different from what they were led to believe. Over the last two years, as job candidates and employers have assessed each other over Zoom, I suspect a lot of people have ended up with that did-I-just-make-a-huge-mistake feeling. For many, the pandemic has only emphasized that life is short, making people less likely to stick around in unfulfilling jobs. They are probably right to leave. Employees who experience shift shock are less likely to engage or become high performers. That can limit career growth.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“Joe Biden administration pushes for higher construction-worker pay” via David Harrison of The Wall Street Journal — The Biden administration is proposing changes designed to push up wages for workers at federally-funded construction projects such as interstates. The proposal would rewrite the rules around the Davis-Bacon Act, a 90-year-old law that applies to government contractors, to better account for the increased earnings of construction workers over time. Under the law, federal contractors must pay the same wage that local workers get for similar types of construction work. The Labor Department surveys contractors around the country and publishes more than 100,000 prevailing wage rates for every type of construction work. It can take several years to complete a survey, by which time many of the wage calculations are outdated. The wage rates haven’t been updated in 40 years in some cases.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Rick Scott denounces ‘murderous thug’ Vladimir Putin after Russians kill U.S. journalist” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — On Sunday morning, Sen. Scott made his first comments in the wake of the death of an American journalist in Ukraine, seemingly the latest provocation to the U.S. from Putin‘s Russia. Appearing on “Fox and Friends,” Scott said, “It’s terrible. I mean, my heart goes out to the family of the individual that was killed. And I hope the other individual has a full recovery. But, I mean, Putin is just an absolute murderous thug.” The Senator said he was glad that an aid package passed for Ukraine, but urged that more could be done. “I pray for them,” Scott continued.
Assignment editors — U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor voted to pass a robust funding package with direct aid for some of Tampa’s most pressing priorities that is now on the way to Biden’s desk for signature. Castor will hold a news conference with Gracepoint CEO Joe Rutherford to celebrate this funding’s impact on mental health care, 10:15 a.m., 2212 E. Henry Ave., Tampa. RSVP to [email protected]
“After political blowback, U.S. pauses talks with Venezuela to replace oil from Russia” via Nora Gámez Torres, Antonio María Delgado and Michael Wilner of the Miami Herald — The Biden administration has put oil talks with Venezuela’s strongman, Nicolás Maduro, on hold after receiving blowback from bipartisan lawmakers and the Latin American country’s democratic opposition. But the prospect of a deal is still on the table as gas prices soar and the administration seeks alternative sources of crude in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Two sources in Venezuela’s opposition said the administration was already moving last weekend toward a deal with Maduro on oil imports and, during a controversial visit to Caracas on March 5, was planning to grant American oil giant Chevron a special license to resume activities in Venezuela.
“How Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is tearing apart the global food system” via Elizabeth Elkin, Allison Nicole Smith, and Sybilla Gross of Bloomberg — The Ukraine war threatens staple crops from Europe’s key grain-growing regions, which means escalating food prices that have already been plaguing consumers around the world could get worse, raising the threat of a full-blown hunger crisis. The United Nations warned that already record global food costs could surge another 22% as war stifles trade and slashes future harvests. According to Steve Mathews, head of strategy at Gro Intelligence, trade restrictions could cause international prices to rise even higher due to tightening global supplies. “It adds greatly to the inflationary concerns,” he said. Russia, a big supplier of every major type of crop nutrient, urged domestic fertilizer producers to cut exports earlier this month, stoking fears of shortages of crop inputs that are vital to growers.
“Chipmakers stockpiled key materials ahead of Russian invasion of Ukraine” via Asa Fitch of The Wall Street Journal — Almost two years of chip shortages have had an unexpected upside for the semiconductor industry: It is better prepared to manage the turmoil caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Production of vital raw materials for chipmaking is concentrated in Russia and Ukraine. The countries are a major source of neon gas, needed to feed lasers that print minute circuitry onto silicon, and the metal palladium used in later manufacturing stages. The chip industry broadly says it isn’t expecting much pain. “Had this happened maybe 10 years ago, we might have been in a lot more pain than we are today,” said Jimmy Goodrich, vice president for global policy at the Semiconductor Industry Association, a Washington, D.C.-based industry body.
“Fed expectations don’t add up in the debt market” via Lisa Abramowicz of Bloomberg — Almost all commodities have become very expensive in a short period of time. The Bloomberg Commodity Spot Index is up 27% this year. Consumers are having a harder time keeping up, with wage increases falling short of the rise in inflation rates. So how do central banks respond? When the war in Ukraine began, rates traders considered that perhaps policymakers might not tighten policy as much as first anticipated. But they’ve abandoned such notions, especially after the European Central Bank sounded a hawkish tone last week by saying it plans to end its pandemic-era bond purchase program early. The message from central bankers is that they are more concerned about repeating their mistakes of the 1970s and letting inflation fester than torpedoing the economy.
— CRISIS —
“Former Trump adviser Michael Flynn pleaded the Fifth during meeting with Jan. 6 committee” via Mariana Alfaro and Tom Hamburger of The Washington Post — Flynn, former President Trump’s national security adviser, invoked his Fifth Amendment right Thursday during a deposition before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. Flynn pleaded the Fifth “on advice of counsel,” his attorney, David A. Warrington, said in a statement. Warrington argued that during Thursday’s deposition, “committee staff insinuated that General Flynn’s decision to decline to answer their questions constituted an admission of guilt.”
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“Trump calls on supporters to ‘lay down their very lives’ to defend U.S. against Critical Race Theory” via Joshua Zitser of Business Insider — Trump called on his supporters to “lay down their very lives” to fight against Critical Race Theory at a rally in Florence, South Carolina, on Saturday night. During a speech that lasted a little under an hour, Trump told a crowd that eliminating Critical Race Theory from schools is a “matter of national survival.” Critical Race Theory is an academic practice that explores how America’s history of racism and discrimination continues to impact the country today. On Thursday, the Florida Senate passed a bill that will limit race-related discussions in classrooms and workplaces, delivering a win to Republicans who oppose Critical Race Theory teaching in schools.
Trump calls on his supporters to "lay down their very lives" in the fight against critical race theory pic.twitter.com/ZtbOizUDTa
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 13, 2022
“Trump says ‘lot of love’ behind Putin wanting to ‘make his country larger’” via Andrew Stanton of Newsweek — Trump said there is “a lot of love” behind Putin‘s efforts to make “his country larger” on Sunday as Russian troops continued to invade Ukraine. Trump discussed the conflict during an appearance on Fox News radio Sunday. He said he believes Putin’s ultimate goal is to rebuild the Soviet Union eventually, and he went on to explain what he believes to be Putin’s mindset. Some critics, however, took issue with Trump’s use of “a lot of love,” pointing to the widespread destruction and thousands of casualties the invasion has caused in Ukraine.
“William Barr: Trump should not be President but ‘lesser of two evils’ compared to U.S. left” via Edward Helmore of The Guardian — Doubling down on his vow to vote for Trump if he is the Republican nominee in 2024 despite writing in his new book that Trump is dangerously unsuited for the job, Barr said: “Elections are binary choice, and unfortunately sometimes it’s choosing the lesser of two evils.” Speaking to NBC’s Meet the Press, Barr added: “I believe that the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is dangerous for the United States.” Barr also repeated that he would support another Republican if Trump does run in the primary again. In office, Barr was widely seen as too close to his hard-line right-wing President, particularly over the Mueller report on Russian election interference and links between Trump and Moscow.
“The totally dodgy backstory of the bank that just refinanced Trump Tower” via Tim Dickinson and Andy Kroll of Rolling Stone — Trump succeeded in refinancing Trump Tower. That’s no small feat. The Trump Organization has mountains of debt and has become a financial pariah. The company’s longtime accountant, Mazars, recently abandoned the Trumps amid a New York state investigation into whether the company systematically manipulated the value of its assets. The accounting firm said it could no longer vouch for the accuracy of a decade’s worth of Trump Organization financial statements, insisting those documents “should no longer be relied upon.”
— LOCAL NOTES —
“Possible tornado damages buildings, closes roads in Ocala, police say” via Nelly Ontiveros and Monivette Cordeiro of the Orlando Sentinel — DeSantis declared a state of emergency in several Florida counties that experienced severe weather Saturday, including a possible tornado in Ocala that damaged buildings and caused several traffic accidents. In an executive order, DeSantis said the state of emergency in Marion, Clay, Highlands and Putnam counties was necessary for receiving assistance after a “powerful cold front” generated strong winds, thunderstorms, and isolated tornadoes across the region, leaving widespread power outages and damages. According to the order, the Governor also said the heavy rain had caused flash flooding in Northeast Florida, and some rivers are “forecast to rise and remain above flood stage for several days.”
“Arrest in fentanyl overdoses of West Point cadets in Florida” via The Associated Press — Police have made an arrest in connection with fentanyl overdoses that involved five cadets of the U.S. Military Academy at a Florida vacation home during spring break. The Wilton Manors Police Department said six men and a woman overdosed on fentanyl-laced cocaine and were taken to hospitals on Thursday. Authorities said late Friday that they had made an arrest but did not offer more specifics about the person’s identity. A spokesperson from the U.S. Military Academy said Saturday that five West Point cadets were involved, and four of them were transported to the hospital. Fire officials told The Associated Press on Friday afternoon that two patients were critically ill and on ventilators.
“Sticker shock on way: Fort Lauderdale water rates may nearly double by 2025 to pay for new treatment plant” via Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — That water flowing from the tap is about to get more expensive, a lot more expensive. Fort Lauderdale may need as much as $450 million to replace Fiveash, the city’s 68-year-old water treatment plant. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out there has to be rate increases,” Commissioner Steve Glassman said. Fort Lauderdale is close to hiring a private company to build a new water treatment plant that would open as soon as 2025 and cost at least $385 million based on conservative estimates. The pricy plant would get built through a public-private partnership, with the team from the private sector not only building but designing, operating, managing and maintaining the new treatment plant and water system.
“Two challengers file to take on Jerry Demings for Orange County Mayor” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Retired Army Col. Anthony “Tony” Sabb and business owner and philanthropist Christopher “Chris” Messina have filed to run for Orange County Mayor, challenging Mayor Jerry Demings’ re-election bid in the August countywide elections. Both candidates are coming at Demings from conservative positions in the nonpartisan Primary Election contest, which will take place on Aug. 23. Both candidates criticized Demings’ aggressive COVID-19 pandemic control strategies and policies in campaign announcements. Messina also came out swinging against Demings’ transportation sales tax proposal, accusing him of having an “inflationary agenda.” Messina and Sabb filed to run in the first week of March, making them Demings’ first challengers for this year’s election.
“Delray Beach is considering letting bars permanently operate outdoors. One official worries it could turn downtown into ‘New Orleans.’” via Wells Dusenbury of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Could Delray Beach’s already buzzing downtown soon turn into a raucous party scene resembling “New Orleans?” That’s the fear of some city officials as Delray Beach considers allowing bars to operate outdoors permanently. While only about a dozen bars in Delray Beach would be impacted, the concern is that it could open “Pandora’s box” and create a domino effect of new outdoor bars. While Delray Beach already has a vibrant downtown on Atlantic Avenue with patrons spilling out from restaurants and bars, the concern centers around the revelry from potential new bars infiltrating residential neighborhoods. There’s been a long-standing rule for bars in Delray Beach: If you don’t serve food, you’re not allowed to operate outdoors. The city temporarily suspended the rule in 2020 due to COVID-19 so businesses could stay open safely.
“Tampa City Councilman resigns as part of public records lawsuit settlement” via Ashley Gurbal Kritzer of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Tampa City Councilman John Dingfelder has resigned from his post as part of an agreement to settle a public records lawsuit related to a hotly contested real estate development. The settlement between Dingfelder and business consultant Stephen Michelini was reached Friday. Michelini, who represents real estate developers and business owners in city council requests from liquor licenses to rezoning hearings, sued Dingfelder in October, alleging that he had not complied with the full scope of a public records request. “We are happy this nightmare for Steve is over,” Ethan Loeb, Michelini’s attorney, said in a statement.
“No charges will be filed in Circle K road rage fatal shooting, state attorney says” via Christopher Cann of the Tallahassee Democrat — The State Attorney’s Office will not press charges in the Jan. 6 shooting at the Bannerman and Thomasville roads Circle K that left state employee John Kuczwanski dead. State Attorney Jack Campbell described the incident to the news station as a “clear case of self-defense.” Leon County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Angela Green said “the case is not officially closed, pending a final ballistics report” when a reporter called to confirm the case’s end. Green added that since the case is not “officially closed,” LCSO cannot release any further information on the shooting’s circumstances, including incident reports.
“Put-downs and political intrigue: What texts during Blueprint FSU stadium meeting reveal” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — A handful of City and County Commissioners were texting while meeting when the Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency convened to take up and finally settle controversial financing of Florida State University’s football stadium. The vast majority of the texts were between County Commissioner Kristin Dozier — a leading opponent of the stadium funding — and several others, including citizens and political handlers who wanted to see it go down in flames. Dozier, who filed to run for Mayor a week after the meeting, openly discussed her political plans with friends and supporters. She also offered blunt criticism of colleagues who supported the $27 million in sales taxes going toward the stadium, which passed in a 7-5 vote.
“JEA ‘death spiral’ scenario used to justify sales attempt in 2019 hasn’t happened” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — Board members said ominously at the July 23, 2019, meeting that JEA was heading toward an inevitable “death spiral” and would be “writing its own obituary” if it didn’t change course. They unanimously approved putting a “for sale” sign on JEA. Two and half years later, JEA has not yet entered any kind of “death spiral” by the standards of that study. The utility didn’t lay off any employees and actually has slightly grown its workforce. So far, the volume of electric sales has been higher than projections in the 2019 study. JEA keeps making its contractual payments to the city of Jacksonville, most recently cutting a $121.2 million check.
“Orlando proposes fee rebate for affordable housing builders” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Under the proposal the City Council is due to vote on Monday, the city plans to dedicate $1.5 million from its fund to offer permitting fees rebates to developers. “It’s just another carrot that we can throw out there to incentivize affordable housing,” said Lillian Payne, Orlando’s deputy director of economic development. Florida faces a severe shortage of affordable housing units, while seeing the housing market explode in recent years. Also, rents in metro Orlando increased over the past year faster than any other city in the Sunbelt, according to a study by CoStar. Fees charged for large developments can be costly. In one example, Payne said that the Pendana at West Lakes senior housing development, which had all of its units affordable, would qualify for a $95,000 rebate.
“Florida troopers stop Lamborghini, find over 3,000 THC cartridges” via Athina Morris of WFLA — Florida troopers who pulled over a Lamborghini got a lot more than what they bargained for when they searched the car. The Florida Highway Patrol said its troopers pulled over the driver of a 2019 Urus for a traffic violation on Interstate 75 in Collier County on Wednesday. A search of the vehicle turned up 3,030 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) cartridges. The driver, 30-year-old Justin Paul Aho of Fort Myers, was arrested for driving with a suspended license, his third violation, troopers said. According to the report, Aho’s passenger, 33-year-old Harold Weeks of Fort Myers, was arrested for felony possession of a controlled substance and distribution.
— TOP OPINION —
“GOP draws new boundaries for congressional districts — and for DeSantis” via the Miami Herald editorial board — For once, Republican lawmakers are standing up to DeSantis, at least a little bit. This glimpse of a legislative backbone emerged during a critically important process: the once-a-decade redrawing of boundary lines for congressional districts that will reshape the political landscape in Florida. Republican lawmakers tried, as usual, to placate the governor, taking the unusual step of approving a “primary” map, plus a backup map. We think it’s encouraging that they’re putting a sliver of daylight between themselves and DeSantis on this one. Whatever the case, Florida lawmakers are drawing the boundaries, all right. But not just for Congress. In this instance, they’re drawing a line between themselves and a powerful GOP Governor.
— OPINIONS —
“Yes, voters ‘deserve to know’ this GOP plan would raise taxes by $1 trillion” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — Sen. Scott’s proposal is easily the most radical document to be put forward by a member of the leadership of a major political party in modern times. The NRSC chair is proposing a 10-year tax increase of more than $1 trillion on, in his own words, “more than half of Americans,” to make sure every household pays taxes. Almost all of it would be shouldered by households with an income of $100,000 or less. Scott’s plan would also sunset all federal legislation over five years, under the (risky) assumption that worthy laws would be reenacted. That could mean an end to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, everything else mentioned above, and potentially more.
“Conservatives were wrong on civil rights and women’s rights. Now it’s LGBTQ kids” via Leonard Pitts, Jr. of the Miami Herald — They have never once been right. Did you ever notice that? Do you ever think about it? Never once. Oh, in matters of, say, foreign affairs or military strategy, one might contend that conservatives have had their moments, made arguments that, arguably, made sense. But on matters of social evolution, they’ve compiled a remarkable record: They’ve never been vindicated by history. Rather, they’ve always been repudiated by it, always been wrong. It’s a history that provides a jaundiced context for the latest right-wing crusade. Meaning the one against LGBTQ kids. So, LGBTQ kids and their allies can only put their heads down, work for change and take such satisfaction as they may find in the fact that, where social evolution is concerned, conservatives lost the 20th century. Now they’re about to lose the 21st.
“Can Florida sustain an exuberant $112-billion budget?” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — It’s an old Southern tradition: When you come into an unexpected sum of money — particularly government money — the socially acceptable thing to do is get drunk and spend like tomorrow is Judgment Day. Now, we’re not accusing members of the Florida Legislature of overconsumption. But they’re throwing cash around like people who have knocked back more than a few at a Capitol-adjacent watering hole — or people who are acutely aware that they will soon face voters’ election-day reckoning. The total they’ve approved is intoxicating. Last week, lawmakers had to work out a compromise between the House (which wanted to spend $105.3 billion) and the Senate (which initially proposed spending $108.6 billion). So, they met. But not in the middle.
“Living in a Florida we no longer recognize” via Steve Bousquet of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Elections police. Thought police. Censoring teachers. Banning books, then cynically calling it parental involvement. Welcome to America’s culture war capital. This is no longer the Florida where you chose to go to college, launch a new career or retire. The place is virtually unrecognizable. The Sunshine State has become a very mean place, and it could get meaner. The best that can be said about the legislative session that drew to a close Friday is that it’s just about over. All that’s left are a few perfunctory budget votes next Monday. Then DeSantis will congratulate lawmakers on a job well done and head off on an extended victory lap across Florida and beyond.
— ALOE —
“How ‘The Batman’ makes all that darkness watchable” via John Jurgensen of The Wall Street Journal — “The Batman” has broken out as the biggest box-office hit of the year. Unofficially, the movie might have also set a new standard for the darkest superhero blockbuster ever made. Almost 100% of the movie plays out at night. Robert Pattinson’s vigilante superhero does his job in heavy rain, dim rooms, and a nightclub resembling a bunker. One of the story’s few daytime sequences takes place at a funeral. To help make “The Batman” shadowy yet legible, the filmmakers used custom camera lenses with sharp focus at the center and a blur at the edges and transferred their digital footage to film for a look of analog grit.
“Red Hills Horse Trials is saddled up and halfway through their 2022 event” via Shamonee Baker of the Tallahassee Democrat — The annual Red Hills Horse Trials that began Friday is back in full swing after a year of no spectators due to COVID-19 precautions. A long night of thunderstorms and rain Friday night led to a cloudy and blustery Saturday morning for the Red Hills second-day event, cross-country. However, the big cool-down did not stop spectators, vendors, or the rider-horse duos from participating. Supporters were bundled up by 8 a.m. Saturday to engage in the equestrian sport. For some riders, the three-day event that brings in about 20,000 spectators from across the world in the course of a weekend was a first.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Happy birthday to Rep. Scott Plakon, Bob Asztalos, Ryan Cohn of Sachs Media Group, Scott Maddox, Chris Mitchell of Statecraft Digital, Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore, Megan Sirjane-Samples, and Jennifer Wilson.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Renzo Downey, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.