Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 3.18.22

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Good Friday morning.

The 2022 Legislative Session is over, which means it’s time to start planning for 2023.

The Legislature on Thursday released a schedule of important dates for next year’s 60-day Legislative Session. It will begin on March 7 and adjourn — at least in theory — on May 5.

There is an important date before the 2023 Legislative Session begins: Aug. 1. That’s the deadline for filing claims bills. Other than that, the details are scant. The schedule doesn’t list committee week dates, for instance.

Lawmakers will likely hold an Organization Session shortly after Election Day, during which many new members will be sworn in, and House Speaker-Designate Paul Renner and Senate President-Designate Kathleen Passidomo will wield the gavel for the first time.

Session is over; now the clock is ticking for Paul Renner and Kathleen Passidomo.

For what it’s worth, the 2021 Organization Session was on Nov. 17, 2020, or two weeks after Election Day, and the first committee week was in mid-January.

Assuming a similar gap, the mostly ceremonial meeting would be around Nov. 22.


Emmy award-winning public relations veteran Lisa Garcia has been named to the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Board of Trustees.

Garcia, a partner and Chief Operating Officer at Sachs Media. She is the lead strategist on Sachs Media’s work for state and national clients, including the Florida Healthy Kids Corporation, The Nature Conservancy, and BlueTriton Brands. 

Before joining Sachs Media, Garcia directed campaigns for nonprofit organizations in Washington, D.C. She has extensive experience in partnership building, television production, media placement, branding and marketing, and event planning. She earned a bachelor’s degree in international studies from Frostburg State University.

Congratulations to Lisa Garcia, the latest great hire for Sachs Media.

“I’m extraordinarily honored to join the Board of Trustees of such a vital, prestigious, and successful organization,” Garcia said. “For more than 20 years, the Hispanic Chamber has been an effective advocate representing the concerns of Hispanic businesses and entrepreneurs, helping to make Florida a stronger, more economically diverse state. I look forward to being a part of that important mission.”

FSHCC was founded in 2000 in response to the tremendous growth of Florida’s Hispanic population. Today, FSHCC is Florida’s only statewide economic development organization dedicated to Hispanic business owners and is ranked by the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and MBE Connect Magazine as one of the top five Hispanic chambers in the country.


@MarcoRubio: (Vladimir) #Putin is going to take an L in #Ukraine A strategic loss is certain, and even an operational loss is possible

@SenRickScott:.@POTUS’ continued blockage of planes going to @Ukraine is heartless & unreasonable. Children are dying. My, @LindseyGrahamSC & colleagues’ resolution urges the (Joe) Biden admin to give the Ukrainian military much-needed planes to bring their fight to the skies & protect their people.

@RyanStruyk: President Biden’s approval on Ukraine stands at 46% approve, 48% disapprove via new Monmouth poll.

@RyanStruyk: The United States is currently reporting 23,503 coronavirus hospitalizations, the lowest since July 15, 2021, according to data from @CNN and the Department of Health and Human Services.

@EWErickson: Is any member of a major non-Fox media outlet willing to recognize how the press credibility has been further hurt by the Hunter Biden story and the press’s 2020 reaction to it?

@Fineout: Stat of the day: Out of 275 bills passed by the Florida Legislature, a total of 259 have not yet been sent to @GovRonDeSantis — Having Session end in March means there will lots of time for bill signing events in the weeks/months ahead

@WesWolfeFP: My deadline when I left the Gannett-owned Free Press in Kinston, N.C., was 4 p.m. Did it cause problems? Yep! Did the executives care about the quality of the content? Nope.

@AGGancarski: Live long enough, and you’ll find yourself complaining about bass booming on the same streets where you once blew out your own car speakers. That is if you don’t move out of your hometown. Otherwise, it will be different streets.


House GOP retreat in Ponte Vedra Beach — 5; the third season of ‘Atlanta’ begins — 5; season two of ‘Bridgerton’ begins — 5; The Oscars — 9; ‘Macbeth’ with Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga preview performances on Broadway — 11; Florida Chamber’s 2nd Annual Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health + Sustainability begins — 11; Grammys rescheduled in Las Vegas — 16; MLB Opening Day — 20; ‘Better Call Saul’ final season begins — 31; Magic Johnson’s Apple TV+ docuseries ‘They Call Me Magic’ begins — 35; 2022 Florida Chamber Transportation, Growth & Infrastructure Solution Summit — 41; ‘The Godfather’ TV series ‘The Offer’ premieres — 42; 2nd half of ‘Ozark’ final season begins — 42; federal student loan payments will resume — 44; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 49; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 54; ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ starts on Disney+ — 68; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 70; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 76; California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota hold midterm Primaries — 81; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 113; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 126; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 144; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 168; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 202; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 220; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 239; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 242; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 249; ‘Avatar 2′ premieres — 274; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 338; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 354; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ premieres — 371; 2023 Session Sine Die — 414; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 497; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 581; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 861.


Florida hauls in $200M more than expected in January” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Florida collected nearly $200 million more than expected in January, a report from state economists posted online Wednesday shows. In January, Florida received $4.07 billion, about $199.7 million more than economists’ predictions. Leading that haul was $3.46 billion in sales taxes, $183.5 million over the estimate. The report warns the jump was affected by inflation and federal COVID-19 funds that were one-time payments during the pandemic. “January collections reflect activity that largely occurred in December, which continued to benefit from federal stimulus payments that have now ended; redirected spending from the hard-hit service sector; and some consumers’ ability to draw down atypically large savings that built up during the pandemic,” the report states.

Florida gets an unexpected windfall.


Florida budget includes $20.5M for projects Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed last year” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — The 38 projects totaled $16.7 million in the prior year’s budget before being axed by DeSantis. But many of them received more funds this time around, despite getting shut out. In previous years, lawmakers have been encouraged not to include funding for projects vetoed the year prior unless an understanding has been worked out with the Governor to let them take effect. The largest single project is $2 million for a program to help low-income women obtain long-acting reversible contraception, which Senate President Wilton Simpson has championed. DeSantis vetoed the project last year after a lobbying effort from anti-abortion rights activists. Simpson, who describes himself as “pro-life,” has argued the program will give low-income women greater access to contraception and reduce unwanted pregnancies.

Ileana Garcia apologizes for comments she made during ‘don’t say gay’ debate” via Ana Ceballos of the Miami Herald — Sen. Garcia, a Miami Republican who recently faced national criticism for saying “LGBT is not a permanent thing” while debating a contentious bill in the Florida Legislature, apologized on Thursday to anyone who was offended by what she said. In a statement posted on Twitter, Garcia said she did not intend to “generalize or disregard the experiences of any member of the LGBT+ community” when arguing why she supported the “parental rights in education” bill — which critics have dubbed the “don’t say gay” bill. In her statement Thursday, Garcia did not specify which comments she was apologizing for. But she said she understood the “responsibility and impact of words on others.” Garcia lamented that her comments made her a target of “threats of physical harm” last week.

Tweet, tweet:

First on #FlaPol — “Rene Plasencia resigns early from Florida House” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — As the hankie dropped at Sine Die, Rep. Plasencia finalized his resignation from the Florida House. Due to term limits, Plasencia already faced the end of his time in the chamber in the next few months. He just shut down a Senate bid in Senate District 13, opting against a challenge to Sen. Linda Stewart. His time in Tallahassee has been drawing to a close, and a professional obligation prompted his early exit, he said. “I wanted to make sure I wasn’t leaving any loose ends by resigning,” he said. “But I’m termed out. I need to start working and move on with my life.”

Jeff Brandes discusses the Legislatures missed opportunities” via Mark Parker of St. Pete Catalyst — Brandes said he believes his colleagues in the Legislature dropped the ball on some critical issues the average Floridian is facing. Chief among those is property insurance reform, addressing affordable housing and restructuring a criminal justice system that he repeatedly warns is on the verge of collapse. “These are things that people expect us — the Legislature — to address,” said Brandes. “We failed.” Instead of exploring sentencing reform and increasing parole opportunities or other diversionary measures, Brandes said lawmakers chose to build new prisons. While the demand for housing outpacing supply and soaring rents continue leading to the displacement of residents throughout Tampa Bay and the state, he said state lawmakers did nothing substantial to address affordable housing challenges.

Shevrin Jones ends Session with wins for underrepresented Floridians, rational reform” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — When it came to rational reform and fighting for Floridians unable to advocate for themselves, the 2022 Legislative Session proved another successful round of lawmaking for Democratic Sen. Jones. Jones closed out the Session having notched several big legislative wins, all effective July 1 upon receiving DeSantis’ signature. Among them is SB 236, a measure that promises to positively affect innumerable families by raising from 5 to 9 the age through which a child in public schools can be categorized as “developmentally delayed.” That change will bring Florida’s rules in line with national standards. It can sometimes be difficult to identify developmental delays in some young children, and those who miss identification by age 6 can risk a break in service and eligibility for public special education programs, Jones said.

Shevrin Jones scores a couple of solid hits in Session.

Democrats praise birth control funding, but bemoan abortion restrictions” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Including funding to help low-income women obtain long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) makes sense but does not negate the negative impact of legislation to ban abortions after 15 weeks, two Democratic state Senators argued. LARC methods do not need to be taken every day, and depending on the type of LARC, they can be effective for anywhere between two months and 10 years. Examples of LARCs include injections and intrauterine contraceptive devices that release progesterone hormones into the womb. “It’s nothing but excitement because if we are talking about unwanted pregnancies, as our colleagues like to say, then this is a step in the right direction toward it,” said Rep. Tracie Davis.


Gov. DeSantis blames CDC for Florida rent spikes” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis, during extended remarks on the shortage of affordable housing in the state, contended that the CDC eviction moratorium that ran from Summer 2020 through last August was a contributing factor to rents spiking today. “The CDC basically had a moratorium that said that people didn’t really have to pay rent. And I’m not saying people here weren’t. Some may not have been,” DeSantis said of the order issued in 2020 by Donald Trump’s administration and extended by Biden. Regardless of how many people skipped out on rent, DeSantis noted the CDC created the problem writ large. “What’s happening now is all these people who own these properties are charging more to make up for what was there,” DeSantis explained.

Ron DeSantis explains why it’s getting more expensive to live in Florida, Washington, D.C. has a role.

Masks on airplanes? DeSantis says it’s more COVID-19 ‘theater’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis denounced the ongoing “farce” of a public transportation mask mandate as yet another “COVID theater” production. The Governor, addressing reporters in Okaloosa County, offered an extended denunciation of the ongoing mask mandate, lampooning perceived absurdities in the ongoing federal rule extended through mid-April by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). “This is theater. This should not be extended. It should have never been done in the first place, but clearly, now, this is a farce, and so they need to repeal the transportation mask mandate,” DeSantis said. “Let people fly and let them breathe normally.” The mask mandate was scheduled to expire on March 18, but the Transportation Security Administration said Thursday that it will extend the requirement through April 18.

DeSantis, Richard Corcoran join educators to tout advantages of progress monitoring” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Underscored by a symbolic bill signing, DeSantis and Corcoran on Thursday made the third leg of their education victory lap in as many days since Session ended. Sporting an Irish-green tie, DeSantis continued touting the end of state standardized testing in Florida, as outlined in a bill (SB 1048) he signed into law Tuesday. The proposal, which the Governor signed a second time Thursday, will replace the annual Florida Standards Assessment with computer-based progress monitoring screening in English language arts and mathematics. The progress monitoring, spaced three times a year, will begin in the 2022-23 school year for pre-kindergarten through 10th grade students. The first two tests are intended to give students, teachers and parents guidance on how to work on the students’ weaknesses.

Disney catches it from all sides over Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill” via Katie Rice and Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Over the past few weeks, Disney has faced mounting pressure from different sides of the political spectrum. Many employees and fans have decried Disney’s financial contributions to the bill’s sponsors and criticized its initial silence, while DeSantis slammed the company for what he called a “woke” agenda. Even after CEO Bob Chapek said the company opposed the measure the day after it passed the Florida Legislature and issued an apology for his silence on the issue, the criticism of Disney has endured and even grown. California Gov. Gavin Newsom also jumped into the fray, writing on Twitter that Disney should reconsider its plans to relocate 2,000 mostly Imagineering jobs from Southern California to a new campus at Lake Nona in Orlando.

Gabrielle Union tackles “Don’t Say Gay” bill at Disney premiere: “We know where hate and oppression lead” via Chris Gardner of The Hollywood Reporter — “We’re blended racially, culturally, with a variety of different abilities,” Union told The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday night while standing on the red carpet ahead of the world premiere at Hollywood’s El Capitan Theatre. Union was then asked how she’s processing the moment amid the wave of conservative legislation targeted at LGBTQ+ youth in states like Florida, Texas and Georgia. “I don’t want to say shock because hatred doesn’t shock me at this point. I’ve been a Black woman in America since ’72. Nothing shocks me, but the fear that gripped me because I know what this leads to,” she explained. “Every moment in history, there has been this moment. We know how this ends.”

From the red carpet, Gabrielle Union takes on ‘Don’t Say Gay.’

What became of Trayvon Martin’s hoodie?” via Manuel Roig-Franzia of The Washington Post — The hole in the fabric is jagged. A messy slash travels east-west across the spot where a heart once beat, then branches north. Nothing about this scar on a 17-year-old boy’s hoodie is neat. Like millions of others worn by young men, this hoodie’s life span should have been unremarkable. Instead, it set on a meandering path one night in 2012, as it seeped blood from the body of a kid named Trayvon Martin. The hoodie has changed hands, quietly traversed thousands of miles, been packed and unpacked, framed and unframed. The hoodie is included in an exhibit about Civil War Reconstruction at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Governor and Legislature did nothing to stop manatees from starving” via Craig Pittman of Florida Phoenix — You probably heard a lot about what our fine legislators did during what’s been dubbed the “culture wars” session. Manatees are iconic animals, popular with both tourists and residents. Last year, more than 1,000 of them died in a pretty horrible way: starving to death. The seagrass they eat has been wiped out by repeated toxic algae blooms that were fed by years and years of human pollution. Because of the lost seagrass, many of the ones that survived are suffering from malnutrition. All those lawmakers barking like a kennel full of frantic Chihuahuas about the “culture war” issues didn’t have anything to say about cleaning up the pollution causing so many dead manatees. You don’t have to be named “Sherlock” to deduce that their silence is a sign that something is seriously messed up in this state.

‘Toxic lead’: Federal lawsuit aims to curb hunting and fishing in two Florida refuges” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — A Montana lawsuit aims to roll back expanded hunting and fishing opportunities in eight National Wildlife Refuges, including two in Florida, on the claims that recreationists introduce lead into the landscape which harms wildlife that lives there. The November lawsuit was filed by the conservation group Center for Biological Diversity in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana Missoula Division. The 56-page filing targets hunting and fishing activities in refuges from Arizona to Florida to South Dakota. The 2020 expansion of hunting in wildlife refuges “thwarts and decreases plaintiff’s members’ opportunities to observe the wildlife that use the refuges impacted by the Hunting and Fishing Rule,” the center wrote in its lawsuit.

— 2022 —

Donald Trump staring at resounding rejection in GOP primaries” via Josh Kraushaar of National Journal — Trump is staring at a real chance that his endorsed candidates go zero-for-three in competitive Senate primaries in May, an outcome that would underscore his already mixed record in primaries and raise serious questions about the depth of his political clout within the Republican Party. Trump’s undisciplined political strategy, seeking to punish any candidate he deems disloyal, faces a wall of resistance in the South, one of the most pro-Trump regions of the country during his presidency. From North Carolina to Alabama, Senate candidates fail to capitalize on the Trump seal of approval. Adding insult to injury, Trump’s past praise of Russian President Putin proves to be a major vulnerability for MAGA-aligned candidates at the worst possible time.

Charlie Crist says Floridians are paying the ‘DeSantis tax’ at the pump — U.S. Rep. Crist released a video Wednesday bashing DeSantis for not yet suspending Florida’s gas tax. Crist, running for Governor, first called for a gas tax holiday in November. DeSantis called for a gas tax ahead of the Legislative Session, and lawmakers approved in the 2022-23 budget. However, the holiday is set for October, shortly before Election Day. Crist’s campaign said the timing was a “blatant political tactic.” In the video, Crist says, “My plan would be to cut the state gas tax and the federal gas tax and save you 0.45 cents per gallon. Instead, what we’re paying now is the DeSantis gas tax. It’s wrong; we can do better.”

Tweet, tweet:

Three former South Florida policymakers endorse Annette Taddeo for Governor” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Three former South Florida policymakers have joined several other current and former elected officials backing Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo’s run for Governor. Former Hialeah City Council member Paul Hernández and former Miami Beach Commissioners Michael Góngora and Joy Malakoff are throwing their support behind Taddeo, whose campaign announced the endorsements Thursday. “I am honored to be supported by these exceptional public servants,” Taddeo said. “These endorsements are just more examples of the broad coalition of people our campaign is bringing together as we prepare to take on Ron DeSantis later this year.”

No proof for Val Demings claim that Marco Rubio backs tax hikes like those indicated in Rick Scott’s plan” via Tom Kertscher of PolitiFact — “Marco Rubio and Rick Scott are planning to hike taxes on millions of Americans, including seniors and working-class Floridians,” the text in her ad on Facebook and Instagram says. The video, which Demings also posted on YouTube, ends with: “Say no to the Rubio-Scott tax hike.” Demings said Rubio “is following his party bosses, like Scott, with his plan to raise taxes on Florida’s working families, retirees and veterans.” Scott released a plan that indicates support for raising income taxes on millions of Americans, but there is no evidence that Rubio backs such tax hikes. We rate the claim False.

Assignment editors — U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz will hold the grand opening of his Gaetz for Congress campaign office, at 2 p.m. Central time, 24 Hollywood Blvd. NW, Fort Walton Beach. The event is open to the public and local news media.

Mike Pompeo endorses Bill Posey for re-election” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Former Secretary of State Pompeo has endorsed U.S. Rep. Posey. “Bill has a record of getting results and fighting for our America First priorities,” Pompeo said. “He is exactly who the country needs right now to get back on the right track and hold the Biden administration accountable for their failed policies and lack of transparent leadership. We need more leaders like Bill who aren’t afraid to hold government accountable, stand up to Communist China, and unleash American energy.” Posey is a heavy favorite for re-election. A redistricting map approved by the Legislature will change his district little. About 58.11% of voters in the district voted for Trump, a Republican, in the 2020 presidential election.

Gun violence prevention groups back Maxwell Alejandro Frost for CD 10 — Democratic CD 10 candidate Frost announced endorsements from several individuals and groups dedicated to preventing gun violence. The list includes Brady: United Against Gun Violence, the Community Justice Action Fund, Newtown Action Alliance, Fred Guttenberg, Manuel Oliver, and Igor Volsky. “As a gun violence survivor myself and the former March for Our Lives Organizing Director, it is a great honor to have so many incredible gun violence prevention organizations and advocates behind me in this campaign. In Congress, I will work day and night to help create a world where people no longer have to fear gun violence, where students no longer have to hide under their desks for active shooter drills, and where we can put an end to the everyday gun violence that plagues communities of color,” he said.

Joy Goff-Marcil challenging Jason Brodeur in SD 10” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — That sets up one of the biggest legislative races this cycle as the Maitland Democrat seeks to unseat Republican Sen. Brodeur. The move also sidesteps a potential Primary with a Democratic House colleague after redistricting put her and Rep. Anna Eskamani in the same seat. Neither Brodeur nor Goff-Marcil is a stranger to a high-profile race. The Democrat, a former Maitland City Council member, defeated Republican incumbent Rep. Bob Cortes to win her current House District 30 seat in 2018. Brodeur, meanwhile, won one of the biggest Senate races of the election cycle in 2020, defeating Democrat Patricia Sigman.

Barbara Sharief might be taking on Lauren Book in the new SD 35” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Sharief said she is strongly considering a race for Senate District 35, potentially setting up a primary challenge with Book. Sharief came in third in last fall’s Special Election for Congress. She was part of a crowded field of Democrats competing for the nomination to succeed U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings. Sharief said she’s leaning toward running for the state Senate seat instead of a rematch with Democratic U.S. Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick and Dale Holness, who are running in the regularly scheduled contest for the seat in Florida’s 20th Congressional District.

Will Lauren Book get primaried? Barbara Sharief is considering it.

Orange County School Board member Johanna López announces HD 43 bid” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — López says she’s running for the newly redrawn Central Florida House District 43. López won the District 2 School Board seat in 2018 and is now looking to step up to the House. Her decision could put her against incumbent Rep. Daisy Morales, though it’s not yet clear which seat Morales will run for later this year, given district boundaries have shifted due to redistricting. “Four years ago, I decided to run for the Orange County School Board because our youth needed a voice, someone who was not afraid to stand up for their well-being.” López’s team says she plans to seek the HD 43, regardless of Morales’ decision.

First month of fundraising for Emily Slosberg-King’s open seat draws more than $100K” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — A Boca Raton Council member raised more than $70,000 in 20 days in his bid for Rep. Slosberg-King’s open seat, as he takes on a Highland Beach Town Commissioner who has staked herself $30,000. Commissioner Peggy Gossett-Seidman in February raised $6,300 in addition to the $30,000 loan she made her campaign. The Republican will be competing against Democrat Andy Thomson, an attorney who has won Slosberg-King’s endorsement for the House District 91 seat. Slosberg, a three-term Democratic lawmaker, announced her departure from the House before hitting term limits. Slosberg-King is having her first child.


Hunter Biden paid tax bill, but broad federal investigation continues” via Katie Benner, Kenneth P. Vogel and Michael S. Schmidt of The New York Times — In the year after he disclosed a federal investigation into his “tax affairs” in late 2020, Hunter Biden paid off a significant tax liability, even as a grand jury continued to gather evidence in a wide-ranging examination of his international business dealings, according to people familiar with the case. Biden’s failure to pay all his taxes has been a focus of the ongoing Justice Department investigation. While wiping out his liability does not preclude criminal charges against him, the payment could make it harder for prosecutors to win a conviction or a long sentence for tax-related offenses, according to tax law experts, since juries and judges tend to be more sympathetic to defendants who have paid their bills.

Joe Biden officials fear ‘mass migration event’ if COVID-19 policies end” via Jonathan Swan and Stef W. Kight of Axios — U.S. intelligence officials are privately bracing for a massive influx of more than 170,000 migrants at the Mexico border if COVID-19-era policies that allow instant expulsions during the public health emergency are ended. The response underway includes a newly created and previously unreported Southwest Border Coordination Center (SBCC), essentially a war room to coordinate an interagency response. Border officials have used Title 42 more than 1 million times to rapidly expel migrants at the southern border without hearing asylum claims. But the Trump-era order wasn’t set up to be permanent, and senior Biden officials are preparing for its end as the virus is brought under control.

If COVID-19 precautions are lifted, will it trigger a mass migration? Image via AP.

Biden names public health expert Ashish Jha as coronavirus coordinator to succeed Jeff Zients” via Dan Diamond and John Wagner of The Washington Post — Zients, the management expert who has steered the Biden administration’s pandemic response for more than a year, is leaving the job next month and will be replaced by Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health and a practicing physician, Biden said in a statement Thursday. Zients’s departure comes at a natural inflection point in the pandemic, with confirmed cases plunging from more than 700,000 per day at the mid-January peak of the omicron wave to about 33,000 per day now. Biden’s selection of Jha, praised by administration officials and allies as a pragmatic communicator, also reflects the administration’s belief that the pandemic is moving to a new stage where the United States must accept some level of coronavirus cases.

Marco, Rick Scott continue to split on U.S. response to Ukraine crisis” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Scott is co-sponsoring a Senate resolution that would urge the transfer of planes and air defense systems to Ukraine, as he continues to strike the most aggressive posture in that theater out of the state’s leading Republicans. However, fellow Republican Sen. Rubio is not on board, signaling a rare but significant split between leaders who align on most issues. Scott, who has urged a “no-fly” zone over the country, continues to demand more action from Washington to help the Ukrainian resistance, and this resolution is consistent with that push. Rubio did not sign on to this resolution and has cautioned against a “no-fly” zone, saying it would start “World War III.” That position is consistent with the one held by the Biden administration.

Byron Donalds, HBCU leaders address bomb threats at House Oversight hearing” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Donalds highlighted letters from Florida’s historically Black universities Thursday, detailing threats those universities received amid bomb threats to HBCUs around the country. Donalds called for the House Oversight Committee to hold hearings following those prior threats. The committee followed through Thursday, allowing the Naples Republican to spotlight the letters from Florida HBCUs. “It is critical that effective oversight ensures that the federal government is not dropping the ball,” Donalds said. An alum of Florida A&M University, Donalds has pressed from his position on the committee for aggressive investigation of threats. He actually attended the Tallahassee institution the same year a pipe bomb exploded on campus.

FAMU graduate Byron Donalds urges the feds not to drop the ball on threats to HBCUs.

Fewer Americans file for jobless claims last week” via Matt Ott of The Associated Press — Jobless claims fell by 15,000 to 214,000 for the week ending March 12, down from the previous week’s 229,000, the Labor Department reported. First-time applications for jobless aid generally track the pace of layoffs. The four-week average for claims, which compensates for weekly volatility, fell to 223,000 from the previous week’s 231,750. In total, 1,419,000 Americans, a 50-year low, were collecting jobless aid the week that ended March 5, down 71,000 from the week before that. Earlier this month, the government reported that employers added a robust 678,000 jobs in February, the largest monthly total since July. The unemployment rate dropped to 3.8%, from 4% in January, extending a sharp decline in joblessness to its lowest level since before the pandemic erupted two years ago.


LeAnna Cumber formally enters race to be next Jacksonville Mayor” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Jacksonville City Council member LeAnna Cumber opened a campaign account Thursday, making official her expected bid for Mayor in 2023. Cumber is the fifth candidate overall — and second Republican — to enter the race to replace term-limited Lenny Curry. Asked for comment about her candidacy Thursday night, Cumber said she would make an official announcement at 3 p.m. Monday. But she has been laying the groundwork for this run for some time.

Jacksonville to debate, again, removal of Confederate monuments” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Jacksonville is poised to consider yet again removing Confederate monuments from public property. Matt Carlucci introduced a resolution Wednesday compelling a new plan for monument removal by July 26, capping the cost for monument removal at $500,000, with “alternative funding” sought to cover inevitable cost overage. Carlucci’s “community conversation” on the process forward should be interesting given that legislation filed last year to remove the city’s most prominent Confederate monument did not get traction. The Jacksonville City Council voted to withdraw a bill proposing to move a monument celebrating Confederate womanhood out of Springfield Park in November.

Confederate monuments are on the agenda — again. Image via Jacksonville Today.

Fernandina Beach Commissioners advised to tone it down after heated debates” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — Passionate feelings about the future of playground equipment at Fernandina Beach’s Central Park has led to acrimonious talk and pointed words, particularly in a February meeting of the City Commission and in the days afterward. Mayor Mike Lednovich attempted to bring the debate down to a collegial level at Tuesday night’s meeting. “Our chamber lectern is affixed with a quote which reads, ‘Kindness costs so little,’” Lednovich said. “I’ve been frustrated over the past two meetings, because we haven’t done this. If I’m short with you, it’s because we’re not following protocol of when to speak, and sometimes we’re not following protocol on how to speak. We’re better than that.”

Fernandina Beach infrastructure projects kick into gear as weather warms” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — Marinas fill and sometimes railroad crossings have to adjust. But for Fernandina Beach, infrastructure projects to address both issues will be underway as warm-weather tourism heats up around the port city’s historic district. “The marina dredging will start their mobilizing this week and will start digging either the end of this week or beginning of next,” City Engineer Charlie George said at the last meeting of the Fernandina Beach City Commissioners. The marina project is jointly funded by the city and the Florida Inland Navigation District (FIND), each contributing around $750,000 to the effort.

Numbers show Amelia Island tourism bouncing back” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — The first quarter numbers are in for Amelia Island tourism, and they show one of Florida’s prime vacation destinations bouncing back from the economic drag of the COVID-19 pandemic. “All those taxable sales collections and bed tax collections were records for our performance in any given year,” Amelia Island Convention and Visitors Bureau President Gil Langley said this week. Langley spoke to the Nassau County Board of County Commissioners regarding the period from October 2021-January 2022. For taxable sales, there were nearly $16 million in October, $13.4 million in November, $12.5 million in December and $9.3 million in January. That adds up to more than $51.3 million over the four months.

Secret Service links Hot Yoga shooter to ‘misogynistic extremism,’ decades of warning signs” via Christopher Cann of the Tallahassee Democrat — Scott Beierle had a long trail of misogynist and criminal behavior that was missed by authorities before he walked into Hot Yoga in 2018 in Tallahassee, killing two people and injuring five, the U.S. Secret Service determined in a new report. There were plenty of red flags. He was arrested for groping women and trespassing at least three times; he was fired from multiple school districts for touching female students; his “inappropriate contact with female soldiers” led to his military discharge in 2010 and he was kicked out of his apartment after assaulting a woman at the complex’s swimming pool.

Tampa City Council confirms Mary O’Connor as Police Chief in split vote, but with caveats” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — The Tampa City Council held its long-awaited vote to confirm O’Connor as Chief of the Tampa Police Department (TPD) following more than a month of controversy and a PR campaign to win over a reluctant public. “The best police department in America will be even better under the leadership of Mary O’Connor,” Mayor Jane Castor said. But it wasn’t the unanimous decision the administration would’ve liked to see. Members voted 4-2 to confirm Castor’s choice, but with caveats. All but one of the six Council members had concerns about a lack of transparency in the selection process or the Chief’s checkered past. Council member Bill Carlson and Chair Orlando Gudes voted “no.”

Mary O’Connor is in, but it wasn’t smooth sailing. Image via @TampaPD/Twitter.

Text messages reveal fuel behind John Dingfelder’s resignation” via Evan Axelbank of Fox 13 Tampa — The text messages that led to the resignation of Tampa Councilmember Dingfelder include a who’s-who of Tampa power players, including Council members, the heads of local organizations, citizen activists, and the head of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Fox 13 reviewed hundreds of pages of documents that show what led the city attorney to request further investigation into messages he sent and received. One of the accusations centers on the Super Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. Six days before the big game, Dingfelder messaged Bucs chief operating officer Brian Ford saying he was “disappointed” Council members weren’t allowed to buy Super Bowl tickets at face value.

With local lawmakers in charge, USF receives record state funding” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — The University of South Florida has not always felt the warmth of state lawmakers’ limelight. But Tampa Bay’s 50,000-student university system is poised to see historic funding from the Legislature this year. The school is chalking that up to flush state coffers and the powerful support of two hometown leaders: House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Senate President Simpson. USF is slated to get $75 million from the state budget for a sleek new ocean science building on its St. Petersburg campus, along with millions of additional dollars for cybersecurity and nursing. It’s also expecting a bump in recurring money for salaries and other operations. The Legislature has passed the budget, and it now goes to DeSantis.


Vladimir Putin says Russians living large in Miami are traitors to the motherland” via Michael Wilner and Ben Wieder of the Miami Herald — Russians living in Miami and the French Riviera “who cannot do without foie gras, oysters or so-called gender freedoms” are traitors to their homeland, Russian President Putin said, dismissing the effects of Western sanctions on Russian nationals with real estate assets overseas. U.S. and European sanctions have decimated the value of the Russian ruble since Putin ordered a brutal military invasion of Ukraine three weeks ago, sending the nation’s economy into a tailspin. Western powers are betting “on national traitors, on those who earn money here, with us, but live there,” Putin said, speaking with regional leaders on the economic fallout from the crisis.

Vladimir Putin sees Russian expats in Florida as ‘traitors.’

16 Cuban migrants, including children, arrive in the Keys. Latest in surge of landings” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — A group of 16 Cuban migrants, including two children, arrived in the Lower Florida Keys Thursday morning. Adults accompanied the children, Agent Adam Hoffner, Miami division chief of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said in an email. The group arrived on Summerland Key, about 17 miles north of Key West, in a small commercial fishing vessel called the Anna Celia, Hoffner said. Thursday’s landing came two days after the Coast Guard returned 21 Cubans who the agency stopped at sea about 46 miles south of Key West on Friday. Both incidents are part of an ongoing surge in maritime migration to South Florida and the Keys, including Haitians fleeing their homeland.

Masks optional for students, staff at schools run by the Archdiocese of Miami” via Michelle Marchante of the Miami Herald — Masks are now optional for all students, teachers and staff at Catholic schools run by the Archdiocese of Miami, regardless of their vaccination status, with a few exceptions. “The only exceptions are for those within 10 days of a close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19, or within the 10-day period following a positive COVID diagnosis,” the Archdiocese said in a Wednesday night news release. Parents were notified via email Monday afternoon. According to the updated policy, parents and other visitors will still be required to wear a mask inside schools run by the Archdiocese of Miami, including at indoor athletic events. Regardless of their vaccination status, all students will also have to mask up while riding the bus and whenever they’re indoors on off-site field trips.

Audit finds several school safety violations in Broward — A recent state audit found several school safety violations in Broward County schools, Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida reports. The audit dings the school district for not informing the Florida Department of Education about at least two incidents where a school safety officer was disciplined or dismissed. One incident involved a sheriff’s deputy soliciting a minor. The other involved an officer discharging his gun “near” the school he was assigned to protect. The audit also found that the county had not ensured that school safety officers had completed legally required mental health crisis intervention training.


America is Zooming through the pandemic panic-neglect cycle” via Ed Yong of The Atlantic — All epidemics trigger the same dispiriting cycle. First, panic: As new pathogens emerge, governments throw money, resources, and attention at the threat. Then, neglect: Once the danger dwindles, budgets shrink, and memories fade. The world ends up where it started. This Sisyphean sequence occurred in the United States after HIV, anthrax, SARS, Ebola, and Zika. Even so, it’s not meant to happen this quickly. When I first wrote about the panic-neglect cycle five years ago, I assumed that it would operate on a time scale of years and that neglect would set in only after the crisis was over. The coronavirus pandemic has destroyed both assumptions. Neglect has set in within mere months, often before the panic part has been over. The U.S. funds pandemic preparedness “like Minnesota snow,” said Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist. “There’s a lot in January, but in July, it’s all melted.”


Session overtime was dumb but necessary” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — Everybody watches Tuesday of the Session’s final week, hoping a deal gets made so the budget can be delivered to members in time for final passage on Friday — followed by the handkerchief-dropping and on-time adjournment. If they don’t make the deadline, they must extend the 60-day Session to get it done. Sometimes they’ll include a couple of other important bills in the extension, and budget timing can be as precise as the launch window of a space shot. But it doesn’t cost a lot in travel and per diem. Rushing compromises to avoid going past 60 days in Session would probably cost a lot more. And the three-day formality is a harmless anachronism that adds to the appearance of open government.

Legislative Session a turning point toward despotism” via Sen. Tina Polsky for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Our Governor and his acolytes have labeled, or should I say, mislabeled, Florida as “the freedom state.” Let me be clear. If he continues to have his way, Florida will only be “free” for the people who think and look exactly like him. Freedom to vote freely and by means that are safe and secure? No, no, and no. And believe it or not, DeSantis even created a new police force to oversee our elections, even though audit after audit has already shown Florida elections to be safe and secure. But of course, with his election police, he now wields a weapon he can use to intimidate, threaten, and cajole voters. Even businesses are being told how they must think and act, and if they stray from the Governor’s thought police and dare to encourage equality and respect of people in their employ regardless of their gender, sexual preference, or gender identity, they too can be sued.

Lawmakers were lost in the Twilight Zone and ignored our real-life challenges” via the Miami Herald editorial board — In Florida, conversations about race and sexuality are more dangerous than aging buildings in the aftermath of the Surfside condo collapse. School books need more scrutiny than rising property insurance premiums. Lies about widespread election fraud are more urgently addressed than real sky-high housing and renting costs. The Capitol has become a temple of made-up crises that the Legislature was happy to fix in the Legislative Session that ended Monday. There was no shortage of red meat DeSantis could feed his supporters in his culture wars. State Republican leaders may have won this Session’s culture wars, but in real-life Florida, too many residents were civilian casualties.

Books became another front line in Florida’s culture wars” via the Miami Herald editorial board — The 2022 Legislative Session was all about waging cultural wars in the name of “transparency” and parental involvement in public education. But we see right through them. One of the latest iterations is HB 1467, approved on the second-to-last day of Session. It would make it easier for parents — and, we suspect, political groups whose members might not have children in a local public school — to challenge and ban instructional material and library books from public schools. Conservatives know better than to outright ban books. Their strategy is more insidious. It won’t empty the shelves of school libraries overnight, but it will open the door to fear, self-censorship by school administrators and for activists to make the lives of school districts harder.

Marco Rubio is right: Stop shifting those clocks” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — In a vote so sudden that some Senators said they didn’t realize it was taking place, the Senate approved Rubio’s proposal to end the annual spring-forward-fall-back rigmarole most Americans have grown heartily sick of. Rubio’s plan, dubbed the Sunshine Protection Act, is not perfect. It would set the nation to perpetual daylight saving time — with the sun rising, and setting, later than the times typically associated with dawn and dusk. Science, however, firmly favors a move in the other direction. There is one consistent thing about the research supporting either year-round option, however: The biggest problems come from wrenching perceived time back and forth twice a year.


Gov. DeSantis is not a theater fan … at least not a fan of “COVID-19” theater. He wants things like the masking on planes rules suspended.

Also, on today’s Sunrise …

— Crist released a video of himself pumping gas — for over five bucks a gallon. He wants the Governor to reduce the state gas tax … now.

— When emergency pandemic orders expire, what happens to kids who got on Medicaid under the order? Sunrise talks with Florida Politics reporter Christine Sexton.

— The information was over the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been taken to a new level. Arnold Schwarzenegger speaks to the Russian people.

To listen, click on the image below:


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.

In Focus with Allison Walker on Bay News 9/CF 13: A review of the 2022 Legislative Session with Sens. Kelli Stargel and Book.

Political Connections Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A look at the retirement of Democratic lawmakers and how it may threaten the Party’s majority; and U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy will discuss her reasons for leaving D.C.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Congressman Michael Waltz will discuss the Russian invasion of Ukraine and what he believes the U.S. should do to assist; Sen. Taddeo will discuss her run for Governor and allegations of voter fraud by state Republicans.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Pollster Steve Vancore and POLITICO Florida political reporter Gary Fineout.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Sens. Audrey Gibson and Aaron Bean; Valentina S.D. Wiltshire, FSC/Child Welfare case manager at Daniel Kids, and Tory Wilson, vice president of Placement Services/Family Support Services of North Florida.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Rep. Danny Perez.

— ALOE —

With new beer, Jacksonville craft brewery sends a message to Putin — and help to Ukraine” via Teresa Stepzinski of The Florida Times-Union — At least one other Jacksonville bar and restaurant is reaching out to help Ukrainian residents. Intuition Ale Works, 929 E. Bay St., is brewing a special craft beer to raise money for humanitarian relief efforts in Ukraine. Named “Hey, Putin, Go F— Yourself,” the brew is a Belgian-style Tripel released in 4-packs of 12-ounce cans and will be available in early April at the brewery’s downtown taproom, the craft brewer said in a Facebook post on Monday. Proceeds from Intuition’s new beer will be donated to nonprofits and provide immediate aid and recovery, food, water, hygiene kits, psychosocial support, and cash assistance to those affected by this conflict — prioritizing the most vulnerable during the humanitarian crisis, Intuition posted.

Intuition Ale Works has a few choice words for Vladimir Putin.


Celebrating today is Andy Ford, formerly of the Florida Education Association, Chelsea LunnRon Matus of Step Up for Students, Orlando Pryor, and former Rep. Deborah Tamargo. Because Sunburn was off Thursday, we missed our friend Christian Minor‘s birthday. We trust it was a great one! More belated happy birthday wishes to Kelsey Lehtomaa Frouge and former Rep. Sean Shaw.


Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter SchorschPhil 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, Drew Dixon, 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
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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