Good Thursday morning
The Florida Chamber Safety Council’s Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health + Sustainability begins in earnest Thursday.
After opening Wednesday with an extensive offering of professional development courses, the second edition of the annual conference is welcoming a slate of safety, health, and sustainability leaders from Florida and the Southeast scheduled to speak on how Florida can become a national leader in workplace safety.
The Thursday schedule begins with a keynote from someone who could be considered a professor emeritus of workplace safety: Mike Rowe of “Dirty Jobs” fame. He’s slotted for a 45-minute segment entitled “Safety Third.”
The day continues with remarks from Fisher Phillips partner and former OSHA head Edwin Foulke, who will speak on how business execs can lead by example and cultivate a culture of safety at the top of their organizations.
Other segments include a panel spotlighting how businesses can achieve “net zero” sustainability and how businesses can identify and navigate unseen dangers, such as psychosocial hazards.
Later, retired U.S. Navy Captain Robert Roncska, who carried the “nuclear football” for former President George W. Bush, will detail legacy culture’s “holy grail” — trust, standards, and purpose.
Near the end of Day Two, Economic Leadership Managing Partner Ted Abernathy will update attendees on where Florida stands on workplace safety, health and sustainability.
The full conference agenda is available on the Florida Chamber Safety Council’s website.
The Economist released a new report today detailing Florida’s economic boom and the rise in stature that’s come along with it.
Though “The Sunshine State Also Rises” has a title that would probably make the late Florida resident Ernest Hemingway groan, it takes a comprehensive look at where Florida was, where it’s at and what could be in store for the future.
Author Alexandra Suich Bass opens with critical stats, such as the 15% increase in the state population during the 2010s — twice the national average — and how technology has transformed the state from “the country’s last frontier” to a peninsula rife with metropolises. But not one without significant hurdles in the near future.
“Most people looking at Florida see either sunshine or shadows: a tax- and regulation-light recipe for national success, or a cautionary tale of a ‘short-termist’ society that has ignored long-term vulnerabilities,” she writes.
The eight-part series features close looks at the boom-and-bust cycles of the state economy, Miami’s rise as a tech hub, Florida’s record as a policy thought leader, environmental issues and, of course, the state’s politics.
That topic gets double attention from Suich Bass, who writes on the state’s historic status as a purple state the two contests even non-Floridians will be watching closely come Election Day 2022 — Governor and U.S. Senate.
The series closes with a section titled “The way ahead: What Florida can teach America.” The short answer: a lot.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@MerriamWebster: People are talking about ‘key bumps,’ and so we have a duty to tell you some things about this.
—@JimmyPatronis: Had a great meeting with @ Commissioner David Altmaier on what we can do to fight premium increases. Look forward to working with @ to rein in rates, continue to fight fraud and abuse, and protect consumers
—@SpencerRoachFL: Yesterday was the 2nd meeting in a week w/fellow legislators to discuss a repeal of the 1967 Reedy Creek Improvement Act, which allows Disney to act as its own government. If Disney wants to embrace woke ideology, it seems fitting that they should be regulated by Orange County.
—@Mike_Grieco: Just confirming: California Corporate Executives are bad … BUT Nevada Gambling Executives are …? (I’ll wait)
—@AnthonyClose: Perhaps if conservatives get mad enough at Disney, they’ll reconsider the program that gives corporations like them huge tax breaks that otherwise could fund public services Last year the program made Disney eligible for the largest tax break in FL history
—@LisPower1: Today on Fox News, the main narrative is that Disney/Disney World is an extremist woke organization that parents should be worried about because it’s dangerous for children, indoctrinating them, and sexualizing them. Absolutely insane shit.
King Viserys Targaryen.
— House of the Dragon (@HouseofDragon) March 30, 2022
— DAYS UNTIL —
Grammys rescheduled in Las Vegas — 4; John Dingfelder to be replaced on Tampa City Council 一 7; MLB Opening Day — 8; ‘Better Call Saul’ final season begins — 19; Magic Johnson’s Apple TV+ docuseries ‘They Call Me Magic’ begins — 23; 2022 Florida Chamber Transportation, Growth & Infrastructure Solution Summit — 29; ‘The Godfather’ T.V. series ‘The Offer’ premieres — 30; 2nd half of ‘Ozark’ final season begins — 30; federal student loan payments will resume — 32; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 37; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 42; ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ starts on Disney+ — 56; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 58; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 64; California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota hold midterm Primaries — 69; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 101; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 113; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 132; ‘House of the Dragon’ premieres on HBO — 143; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 156; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 190; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 208; Jon Meacham’s ‘And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle’ releases — 208; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 227; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 230; The World Cup kicks off in Qatar — 235; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 237; ‘Avatar 2′ premieres — 262; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 326; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 342; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ premieres — 359; 2023 Session Sine Die — 402; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 485; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 569; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 849.
“Will the Legislature kill Disney’s self-governing ability over ‘parental rights’ law opposition?” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Florida lawmakers have held multiple meetings discussing changes to a self-governing arrangement Disney has enjoyed with the state for decades. The potential aggressive move against one of Florida’s most prominent employers comes as Republicans and Disney leadership publicly spar over a controversial statute critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Rep. Spencer Roach revealed in a social media post that lawmakers met as recently as Tuesday to discuss potentially changing the community development district regulations around Walt Disney World.
—”Florida lawmakers looking to make Disney pay after ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill criticism” via James Call of The Palm Beach Post
“Disney vs. Ron DeSantis: Republicans bash the Mouse, but is it just bluster?” via Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — Republicans have found an unexpected political punching bag as they head into re-election, the state’s top tourism destination, one of its largest employers, and a reliable donor to their campaigns. The Walt Disney Co. and DeSantis are feuding over HB 1557, officially titled Parental Rights in Education but branded the “don’t say gay” bill by critics. The entertainment giant is pausing its political giving in Florida and vowing to work to repeal the law or get it overturned in the courts. Tensions are rising between Disney, one of the most influential players in state politics, and some Republicans who want to retaliate for the corporation’s opposition to the bill. The battle comes as Disney plans to move more than 2,000 employees from Southern California to a new corporate campus in Orlando’s Lake Nona community.
“Randy Maggard becomes second lawmaker to return Disney contributions” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Rep. Maggard announced Wednesday that he will return $5,000 worth of contributions made by Disney to his 2022 re-election campaign, joining Rep. Joe Harding. The pair decided to return the donations in response to the entertainment giant’s public stance on legislation (HB 1557) sponsored by Harding that has garnered national attention and has been dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics. Since January 2021, Disney has donated $5,000 to Maggard’s campaign in $1,000 increments — the max an entity or individual can donate. Maggard’s refund comes one day after Harding announced he would be returning Disney campaign donations as well.
—”Despite felony battery charge, DeSantis keeps UFC star as featured Miami campaign event guest” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics
“Ashley Moody, Jimmy Patronis back Wilton Simpson for Agriculture Commissioner” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Two Republican members of Florida’s Cabinet made clear who they want joining them on the 2022 ticket. Moody and Patronis have endorsed Senate President Simpson for Agriculture Commissioner. “As a successful businessman, Wilton Simpson knows that public safety is the foundation of a thriving economy,” Moody said. “Throughout his time in the Senate, Wilton has always helped give our men and women in law enforcement the resources and tools they need to keep our state safe. We need leaders who wholeheartedly believe in the rule of law on the Florida Cabinet, and I am proud to endorse him to be our next Agriculture Commissioner.”
“Poll shows Lee Constantine would become instant GOP front-runner in CD 7” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A new poll shows nearly a quarter of Republicans in Florida’s 7th Congressional District want Constantine as their Congressman. The St. Pete Polls survey, commissioned by Florida Politics, shows Constantine, a Seminole County Commissioner and former state lawmaker, as the leader among six GOP candidates already in the race. That’s notable considering Constantine hasn’t so much as set up a Federal Election Commission account. More than 23% of voters picked Constantine out of the list of Republican candidates in the mix. Behind Constantine, defense consultant Cory Mills boasted the support of more than 12% of respondents. State Rep. Anthony Sabatini had just 9% of the vote, with small-business owner Erika Benfield at just over 7%. But the field remains fluid, with more than 39% of voters still undecided.
“NRCC adds Kathy Castor, Ted Deutch seats to list of targets” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — National Republicans now aim to upset incumbent U.S. Rep. Castor, a Tampa Democrat, and flip a district held by retiring U.S. Rep. Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat. U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, NRCC chair, announced Wednesday that national Republicans see 72 Democrat-held or newly drawn seats they intend to flip in the midterms. That now includes four seats in Florida held by Democrats. Neither Castor’s nor Deutch’s seat has seen much national attention in recent cycles. But Emmer hinted redistricting and a political environment hostile to Democrats will create new opportunities for the GOP to pick up seats across the country. Republicans aim to close Democrats’ current 12-seat majority and regain control of the House.
“‘I’m not going to disparage’ Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, Dale Holness says as he kicks off campaign to defeat her” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Pledging to champion every segment of society, especially people with the greatest needs, Holness rallied supporters Tuesday evening for his second attempt at winning a congressional seat. He almost won the last time. In a Special Democratic Primary in November, Holness lost by five votes out of 49,082 cast in the 11-candidate field. The winner, Cherfilus-McCormick, is now serving in Congress. Holness illustrated his priorities and philosophy by pointing to the county budget he voted on in his previous position as a Broward County Commissioner. He said the biggest single item was $300 million for operating the jail system, which works out to $161 a night to keep someone in jail.
“Republican Chris Burke enters HD 59 race” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Burke, a member of the Seminole City Council, has announced his campaign for Florida House District 59, joining four other Republicans in the race to succeed Rep. Nick DiCeglie in the redrawn district. Burke is a decorated U.S. Army Veteran and law enforcement officer, serving with the Largo Police Department since 1989. Burke served in the Gulf War, where he was nominated for the Bronze Star medal. He served as a School Resource Officer in Largo for six years and in 2006 was named the School Resource Officer of the Year for the state of Florida. “Growing up in Pinellas County since 1979, I’ve been honored to serve my community in many different ways,” Burke said.
“Chris Sprowls backs Danny Alvarez for HD 69” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Sprowls on Wednesday endorsed Alvarez in the race for House District 69. “Alvarez is the definition of a servant-leader. From his service to our country in the United States Army, to his advocacy for our men and women in law enforcement — Danny Alvarez is just the type of selfless, conservative leader we need in the Florida House,” Sprowls said in a news release. “Hillsborough County has a rich history of supporting those who’ve served our nation and I know Danny Alvarez will build on that rich tradition and fight for those who’ve fought for us.” Alvarez thanked Sprowls for the endorsement and praised the outgoing House Speaker. Alvarez is the lone Republican running for HD 69, where he is likely to face Democratic Rep. Andrew Learned.
“Five inmates indicted on voter fraud following jailhouse registration drive” via Fresh Take Florida — A prosecutor has filed felony voter fraud charges against at least five inmates in what is believed to be the first cases resulting from a state investigation into a voter-registration drive conducted inside the jail in July 2020 by Alachua County’s Democratic elections supervisor. All the men charged this week had listed the county jail on their voter forms as their home address. At least four voted in the 2020 elections. According to court records, each owed a few hundred dollars in unpaid court fees in prior felony cases when they registered as voters or cast ballots in the last Presidential Election, which would have made them ineligible under Florida law. The men included two Democrats, one Republican, and two who did not affiliate with any political party.
— STATEWIDE —
“DeSantis blames Joe Biden administration following murder of Daytona Beach couple” via Robert Pandolfino of WFLA — The suspect in the murders of a Daytona Beach husband and wife during Bike Week was in the United States illegally under “the Biden Administration’s dangerous immigration policies,” DeSantis stated. Jean Macean, a citizen of Haiti, is accused of slashing the throats of Brenda and Terry Aultman on March 10 while they were riding their bikes home from Main Street. The center of Bike Week when they were attacked. Macean was previously arrested in Orange County in 2019 on multiple drug-related charges involving cocaine, meth and marijuana. For unknown reasons, the State Attorney’s Office under former State Attorney Aramis Ayala dropped those charges on Feb. 10, 2020.
“Nikki Fried stands ground against COVID-19 mandates after Florida sues feds” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Fried reaffirmed her objection to COVID-19 mandates and bans following Florida’s lawsuit against the federal airplane mask mandate, a position that distinguishes her from the national narrative of the Democratic Party. Fried, a Democrat hoping for her party’s nomination to challenge DeSantis’ re-election in November, told reporters Wednesday that she had not reviewed the lawsuit and therefore declined to take a position on it. However, she maintained her position against COVID-19 policies, which sets her apart from Biden. The government’s job is to ensure people have access to masks and vaccines and inform people how to make the right choice for themselves, she argued.
“Bob Chapek’s missteps fuel confidence crisis at Disney” via Kim Masters of The Hollywood Reporter — Disney is in uncharted waters. From 1984 to 2020, the company had only two CEOs. Now Chapek, with two years in the job, is facing a staff revolt and insiders are speculating about his longevity in the job and who might succeed him (entertainment chief Peter Rice and ex-CFO Tom Staggs would seem to be favorites). His contract is up in 11 months. It is unclear whether Chapek can execute a reset with Disney staff and creative partners. A cartoon hanging in the production offices of The Simpsons seems to suggest an opinion: It has Chapek in the “In Memoriam” section of the Oscars show.
“CVS and drug companies to pay Florida for opioid impacts” via The Associated Press — The CVS drugstore company and pharmaceutical companies will pay Florida a combined $860 million as part of the settlement of an opioid epidemic case. General Moody said CVS Health Corp. and CVS Pharmacy Inc. would pay the state $484 million. Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd. agreed to pay $195 million and Allergan PLC more than $134 million. In addition, Tevan will provide Florida with about $84 million of its Narcan nasal spray used to treat overdose victims. Another company, Endo Health Solutions, is also settling for $65 million, Moody said. “The opioid epidemic is wreaking havoc on Florida families,” Moody said. “The moneys secured from CVS, Teva, Allergan, and Endo will help further our efforts to remediate the harm and suffering of Floridians.”
“State University System Board member Alan Levine fires back in accreditation tussle” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The ongoing battle between Florida’s state university system and the leading higher education accreditation body has led to a few new back-and-forth smacks. State University System Board of Governors member Levine fired off a letter Wednesday to Belle Wheelan, President of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Levine charged that, yes, she had been unduly interfering in Florida’s university system, and no, it’s not because she was merely asking questions about what’s going on in Florida. He not only contended that she was wrong, but that she is misusing her influence to undermine both the reputations of Florida universities and individuals there, as well as her credibility.
Universities to move ahead with ‘intellectual diversity’ surveys amid court challenge — Florida university leaders will start sending free speech surveys to university faculty and students Monday, despite fierce opposition — and a pending court challenge — from a statewide faculty union. As reported by Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida, the surveys stem from legislation backed by Republicans last year that was pitched as a way to ensure that universities, which are traditionally liberal, are not suppressing the students’ political speech. Ahead of the survey going out, those challenging the survey requested, and were granted, an emergency hearing to halt the survey. It will go before a judge Friday.
Happening today — The Space Florida Board of Directors meets, 10 a.m. Call-in: 1-866-528-2256. Meeting code: 4875556.
“Florida ending emergency manatee feedings on Friday” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — The roughly hundred-day experiment of feeding lettuce to starving manatees along Florida’s east coast ends on April Fools’ Day as spring weather continues to warm waters and encourage the animals to spread out and forage for their natural diets of seagrass. Nearly 200,000 pounds of lettuce have been distributed by hand from a dock at the Florida Power & Light Co. electric plant south of Titusville at the west shore of the Indian River Lagoon. Manatees gather by the hundreds there, taking refuge from winter temperatures in the warm water discharged by the plant.
— DATELINE TALLY —
“Tom Leek, Ray Rodrigues say Florida’s congressional map should come from the Legislature” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — As the Legislature heads back to Tallahassee for a Special Session, the lawmakers leading each chamber’s redistricting efforts share a mission: to pass maps that will be signed. Both Sen. Rodrigues and Rep. Leek, respective chairs of the Senate Reapportionment Committee and House Redistricting Committee, say it’s important for the Legislature to produce a legal map of Florida’s 28 congressional districts. Of course, the legislative chairs believe they did pass a constitutional map on March 4. But DeSantis on Tuesday vetoed the congressional maps passed by the full Legislature. It’s a move the Governor telegraphed with a tweet he blasted out as Leek presented a controversial two-map plan on the House floor.
“Plaintiffs in redistricting case against Florida call for judge’s recusal” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Progressive groups suing Florida over its redistricting process have asked a federal judge to recuse himself from the case. Plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit over congressional reapportionment filed a motion asserting Judge Allen Winsor must take himself off the case. That’s because Winsor, before his time on the bench, represented the Florida House of Representatives the last time Florida’s redistricting products landed in court. Winsor earlier this month was assigned to a three-judge panel to hear the case. Attorneys for Common Cause of Florida, Fair Districts Now, and other individual plaintiffs filed the motion Tuesday in U.S. District Court in the Tallahassee Division. Winsor was appointed to the bench by Republican President Donald Trump in 2018.
—”What Tampa Bay lawmakers think about the upcoming redistricting Special Session” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times
“Capitol reporters make Special Session, election predictions at Tallahassee Tiger Bay event” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — Five Capitol reporters across different news outlets made predictions about several trending political issues while on a panel during a packed Capital Tiger Bay luncheon Wednesday. The reporters included Christine Sexton of Florida Politics, Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida, John Kennedy of USA Today, and Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times. They made predictions about the upcoming Special Session and 2022 election cycle, touching on issues they covered during the Legislative Session. All five panelists agreed that they don’t expect the Special Session to expand beyond redistricting due to its short three-and-a-half-day length and the distance between legislative leadership on pressing issues like property insurance reform.
“Does the so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law apply to charter public schools?” via Danielle J. Brown of Florida Phoenix — DeSantis made national headlines Monday when he signed into law a divisive bill banning certain classroom instruction related to gender identity or sexual orientation in public schools. But the bill-signing at a nontraditional charter school in Pasco County sparked questions about whether charters, which are public schools, have to follow the new law when it takes effect July 1. The Governor’s press secretary, Christina Pushaw, said in an email Tuesday that the new law “would apply to all public schools including public charters.” But bill sponsor Sen. Dennis Baxley said, “I don’t believe they (charter schools) would be” included in the law.
“‘Grooming’: The ubiquitous buzzword in LGBTQ school debate” via Kimberlee Kruesi and Karena Phan of The Associated Press — Proponents of restrictions on how U.S. public schools address sexual orientation and gender identity say their ultimate goal is to allow parents more involvement in their children’s education and ensure classroom materials are age-appropriate. But in heated debates at school board meetings and in statehouses across the country, the argument they repeatedly put forth is that they are trying to prevent children from being “groomed,” the same term commonly used to describe how sex offenders initiate contact with their victims. The use of such rhetoric, opponents of the new laws argue, underscores a nationwide push by conservatives to make education a political wedge issue by equating certain teaching materials and educators with pornography and even pedophilia.
“‘SAY GAY’ billboard goes up in capital” via Russell Falcon of Nexstar Media Wire — Billboards protesting recent anti-LGBTQ+ legislation across the country will debut in several cities starting Thursday, March 31, recognized as Transgender Day of Visibility. FOLX Health, a digital queer and trans telehealth provider, is launching billboards in states where the laws are being proposed or passed. The boards will read “SAY GAY” or “PROTECT TRANS YOUTH.”
“Dan Daley reflects on National Guard, eco-smart consumer savings wins and vows continued gun safety push” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Rep. Daley would have liked to have seen more of his bills cross the proverbial finish line this past Session, but that’s not to say he didn’t score significant wins. Among the meaningful advancements Daley made this year was the unanimous passage of HM 505, a bill he sponsored urging Congress to compel the National Guard Bureau to increase the size of Florida’s National Guard. The number of Guard members in Florida is currently capped at about 12,000; a figure Daley described as “woefully inadequate” for a state of roughly 22 million. That deficiency was no better put into perspective than in the last 18 months, Daley said, when everything from the COVID-19 pandemic to natural disasters demanded more Guard member work hours than had been dedicated in the prior 20 years.
“What is Florida’s preemption bill, and why do Palm Beach County officials want DeSantis to veto it?” via Mike Diamond of The Palm Beach Post — Palm Beach County Commissioners are calling on DeSantis to veto a bill that will allow businesses to collect damages if local governments enact laws that cause their profits to decrease. “This is another bill in the continuing saga of attacking home rule,” said Mayor Robert Weinroth. “I can’t imagine the kind of litigation this is going to cause. We will need to hire a dozen more lawyers.” The Commissioners voted unanimously to send a letter to DeSantis calling for a veto of the Local Business Protection Act approved largely along party lines.
Happening today — The Florida Gaming Control Commission meets to consider a new executive director, 10 a.m., Cabinet Meeting Room.
Happening today — The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation meets to hear proposals by Citizens Property Insurance Corp. to raise rates on Aug. 1, 1 p.m. Register here. Meeting call-in: 1-866-901-6455. Code: 696660667.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“COVID-19 creeps closer to Biden as restrictions fall” via Annie Linskey of The Washington Post — Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff came down with a case of it. So did Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin, who chatted for 7½ minutes with Biden before he realized he had tested positive for the coronavirus. Next came Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki, who had to withdraw from last week’s trip to Europe because of a positive test result, the second time she’s had to bow out of a foreign trip due to the virus. After taking her place on the trip, the President’s backup spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre got a case of it, too, putting her out of commission this week. The cluster of cases highlights the continued threat posed by the virus, complicating White House efforts to signal that the country has turned the corner on the pandemic.
—“Biden presses Congress for new COVID-19 funding, gets second booster shot” via Dan Diamond of The Washington Post
“Biden’s budget would reshape his international tax plan to match global deal” via Richard Rubin of The Wall Street Journal — Biden’s proposed 2023 budget changes a key piece of his international tax plan, moving away from a prior, harsher proposal and toward an evolving international standard for enforcing the global minimum-tax agreement. The administration also responded to business complaints about how the proposed 15% global minimum tax could restrict U.S. tax breaks for corporate research, exports and low-income housing. Senior Treasury officials said they want to work with Congress to protect certain domestic incentives from U.S. and foreign minimum taxes.
“Biden’s global quest for oil triggers political pushback” via Timothy Puko of The Wall Street Journal — Biden’s global quest for more oil is meeting resistance from across the political spectrum. Republicans have criticized him for scolding the U.S. oil industry and pushing for alternative-energy sources even as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has underscored the world’s dependence on fossil fuels. Biden has shifted course recently, including announcing that the U.S. would ship more liquefied natural gas to Europe to help countries there reduce their dependence on Russian gas. That shift, however, drove concerns among progressives who think the Democratic President is stepping back from his campaign promise to transition the U.S. away from fossil fuels.
“Susan Collins to back Ketanji Brown Jackson for Supreme Court, giving her a G.O.P. vote” via Carl Hulse of The New York Times — Sen. Collins plans to vote to confirm Judge Jackson to the Supreme Court, ensuring that Biden’s nominee and the first Black woman to be put forward for the post will receive at least one Republican backer. After a second personal meeting with the judge on Tuesday afternoon, Collins said Judge Jackson had alleviated some concerns that surfaced after last week’s contentious Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, when Republicans attacked the nominee for her record and grilled her on a host of divisive issues. “I have decided to support the confirmation of Judge Jackson to be a member of the Supreme Court,” Collins said in an interview after the meeting.
“Rick Scott says he wants ‘review’ and not end to Social Security, Medicare” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Sen. Scott continued to clarify a key point of contention from what he calls his 11-point plan to “rescue America.” Scott answered the charge that he is looking to sunset Social Security and Medicare by saying he just wants to “review” the programs to keep them going. “There are states around the country that say, ‘We’re going to review all of our programs every few years,’” Scott said. “Let’s review all the programs every five years. I didn’t say, ‘Let’s get rid of the program.’ I say we’re going to review to make sure we keep it going.” The Senator continued in that vein. “And I said two things: One, let’s review all our programs every five years. And No. 2 is, let’s have Congress actually tell us how they’re going to fix Social Security and Medicare,” Scott said.
“Former Viera High teacher sentenced to probation for role in U.S. Capitol riots” via Eric Rogers of Florida Today — The former Viera High School teacher who was arrested last year in connection with the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol was sentenced in federal court Wednesday. Kenneth Reda received 60 days of home detention and three years’ probation, along with 60 hours of community service and $500 in restitution, after pleading guilty in November to parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building. In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors dropped additional charges of entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly or disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds; and disorderly or disruptive conduct on Capitol grounds.
“North Florida prison employee could face jail for misdemeanor guilty plea in Capitol riot” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — A North Florida prison employee has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for taking part in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. Jonathan Daniel Carlton from Union County could face a maximum of six months behind bars after admitting Tuesday to parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building. Carlton entered the plea as part of an agreement to settle four charges, all misdemeanors, filed after FBI agents identified him and a friend among hundreds of people who entered the Capitol illegally during demonstrations that temporarily stopped Congress from certifying Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.
— LOCAL NOTES: N. FL —
“Duval Schools offered its employees $200 vaccine incentives — 56% of employees cashed in” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — The $200 incentives owed to teachers and other Duval Schools employees who got vaccinated against COVID-19 are hitting paychecks this month. But just over half the eligible employees took advantage. In October, the school board voted to approve an agreement that included emergency coronavirus leave time and a vaccine incentive for its employees. The language agreed upon said that school district employees who either provided proof of being vaccinated or submitted a waiver for an approved accommodation by the end of the year would receive the bonus. Now, records reveal that 6,800 employees received their $200. This includes anyone that may have turned in an exemption waiver.
“Government lawyers ask appeals court to affirm bribery conviction of J.T. Burnette” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — Federal prosecutors asked the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to affirm the conviction of Burnette on charges involving a longtime bribery scheme with former Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox. The government filed its brief Friday, arguing that there were no reversible errors during his 17-day-trial last summer at the U.S. Courthouse in Tallahassee. Burnette’s lawyers have argued that U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle erred in matters involving jury instructions and the testimony of an undercover FBI agent and asked that the case be remanded back to the district court for a new trial or judgment of acquittal.
Exclusive — “Feds demand Hillsborough, Pinellas return $4.3M in CareerSource misspending” via Mark Puente of Florida Politics — Pinellas and Hillsborough taxpayers must repay the federal government more than $4.3 million for misspending by the former leader of two public job centers, the U.S. Department of Labor ruled. Both counties have 30 days to repay the money. The federal audit determined that Edward C. Peachey, the former CEO of CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay, gave himself and other top aides unauthorized salary increases totaling $468,917, federal records show. Peachey also awarded staffers $1.3 million in improper incentive compensation to falsify job placement figures, records show. For years, both job centers were hailed as some of the best in Florida for how they put people to work.
“Hillsborough Schools leaders consider task force to address health issues brought on by pandemic” via Eric Glasser of WTSP — The Hillsborough County School Board heard some alarming statistics during a workshop Tuesday when it comes to depression, substance abuse and other issues that students are experiencing in relation to the pandemic. “If we don’t address this, and we see it now, it will continue to grow legs and be a major, major issue that really majorly impact our children along the way,” Superintendent Addison Davis said. Board members heard from local organizations Hillsborough partners with and saw data showing increases in depression, suicide and substance abuse including alcohol, marijuana and other drug use, at or above national and state averages.
“A local right-wing group connected to national extremists is working to get LGBTQ books off school shelves in Florida” via Kayla Gogarty and Natalie Mathes of Media Matters — County Citizens Defending Freedom USA, a new group formed early last year in Polk County, Florida, has already succeeded in pressuring the local school district into temporarily removing 16 books that deal primarily with LGBTQ topics and reviewing whether to ban them entirely. The group’s alliance with national groups, including the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and Turning Point USA (TPUSA), represents growing efforts by larger right-wing organizations with extremist ties to build local networks and rally parents who are already organizing on Facebook to pursue their anti-LGBTQ agendas.
“Rhea Law confirmed as USF president by Board of Governors” via Divya Kumar of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida’s Board of Governors confirmed Law as the University of South Florida’s eighth president on Wednesday, also approving a contract that would make her one of the highest-paid public university presidents in the country. Selecting Law “was not our intention when we started the process,” USF Board of Trustees Chair Will Weatherford told the state board. He said the condition he had for Law when he appointed her as interim President last August was that she would not apply for the permanent role, and she expressed no interest in it. “Something interesting happened shortly after that,” Weatherford said. “It didn’t take three months for me to realize President Law had an uncanny ability to lead our university … You can’t replace passion.”
“County Commission postpones action on Rumble grant proposal as Sarasotans rally for Ukraine” via Anne Snabes of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Ukrainian Americans and other community members rallied in support for Ukraine outside the Sarasota County Administration Building Tuesday morning and urged county leaders to deny incentive money to the video platform Rumble. The protest abounded with light blue and yellow, with participants wearing the Ukrainian national colors or holding up the Ukrainian flag. Some community members carried signs, saying phrases including “Rumble — LEAVE Longboat Key” and “NO TAX DOLLARS FOR RUMBLE.” These community members oppose Rumble because the video platform broadcasts the Russian state news channel RT, despite moves taken by other major technology platforms to reduce the channel’s visibility.
“UF’s West Palm campus update: $100M from state on table; contract language ‘not finalized’” via Wayne Washington of The Palm Beach Post — Local leaders remain excited about the University of Florida’s plan to establish a graduate school campus in West Palm Beach, and the project got a shot in the arm when state legislators set aside $100 million of the $112 billion budget for it. UF President Kent Fuchs said private donations have nearly matched the pending state appropriation. DeSantis is expected to sign the budget in late May before the end of the state’s fiscal year. It’s unclear if he supports UF’s West Palm Beach plans or the $100 million legislators have set aside to put them into action.
“Judge to decide if jurors will go to Parkland shooting building” via Terry Spencer of The Associated Press — Attorneys for Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz and his prosecutors argued Wednesday over whether the jurors who will decide whether he is sentenced to death should be allowed to tour the bloodstained classroom building where he murdered 17 people four years ago. Prosecutors told Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer that the jurors need to see the path Cruz took through the three-story building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Feb. 14, 2018, to understand the carnage he unleashed as he walked methodically floor-to-floor, firing his semi-automatic rifle as he went. Shortly after the shooting, the building was fenced off and sealed — the dried blood, Valentine’s Day gifts, and bullet holes still in place.
“‘Miracle’ Port St. Lucie woman, diagnosed with COVID-19 while pregnant, recovering from coma” via Lindsey Leake of TCPalm Newspapers — The oxygen concentrator rumbled softly, permeating the quiet living room. Its clear tubing lay tangled on the tile floor, snaking among toys and winding back along itself, ending in a loop around Charma Jonathas’ ears and in her nose. She shouldn’t be there, in her Port St. Lucie home on a drizzly January morning, holding her 5-month-old daughter, Abigail. Most people in her position don’t survive. Charma regained consciousness in mid-October. One of the last things she remembered was giving birth to Abigail on Aug. 19. She’d never made it home with her newborn. Hours before Abigail arrived, Charma was diagnosed with COVID-19.
“Naples property firm at center of fraud lawsuits got $245,000 in COVID-19 relief funds” via Dan Glaun of the Naples Daily News — A Naples property management company accused in lawsuits of a multimillion-dollar embezzlement scheme may have violated federal law when it applied for $245,000 in federal COVID-19 relief funds. American Property Management Services allegedly swiped more than $200,000 from Naples’ Eagle Creek community association in fall 2019, according to a complaint the association would later file with state regulators in October 2020. But when APMS sought a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program in April 2020, the application required it to certify that it was not “engaged in any activity that is illegal under federal, state or local law.”
“Miami patent attorney suspended from law practice for three years” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — A Miami attorney has been suspended from practicing law for three years, according to a unanimous ruling from the Florida Supreme Court Monday. If he’s still practicing, John Faro has 30 days to shut down his law practice and begin the three-year suspension. He must also pay the Florida Bar $2,898 for its investigation costs. His Florida Bar record shows his office on Brickell Avenue, but other websites show him practicing in Naples and Boca Raton. Faro received a reprimand from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in 2013. The Florida Bar suspended him from practicing for 10 days in 1995 and reprimanded him in 2011.
“Firm backed by Jay-Z, Will Smith turns Miami renters into homeowners” via Michael Butler of the Miami Herald — Rising property prices have made buying a home difficult for many Miami residents. One company new to the local real estate market hopes to change that with its homebuyer coaching program. New York real estate technology firm Landis is now available to Miami, Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville residents who need assistance to transition from renter to homeowner. Its mission of helping people build credit and ultimately gain the financial wherewithal to buy a home has drawn support from several financial backers. They include hip-hop mogul Jay-Z’s startup investment firm Roc Nation Arrive and Smith’s Dreamers VC venture capital fund. Landis officials declined to say how much those two celebrity firms have invested.
—TOP OPINION —
“In this most divided time of our lives, performing arts can be a great unifying force” via Michael Blachly for Florida Politics — Few would doubt that we are living through one of the most difficult eras in modern history, with the pandemic forcing major changes in our normal lives. Perhaps it’s no surprise that this also happens to be the most divided political time of our lives. While I’m not a public official, statesman or political pundit, my lifetime experience of presenting the performing arts comes from a heartfelt perspective that we all share more common values than vastly different ones. Great shared audience experiences provided by the diverse disciplines of the performing arts remain one of our best tickets to ride for calming the anger of this time and finding a more civil and serene path that we all need to thrive, not just survive.
— OPINIONS —
“It’s overly simple to tie all political rhetoric about sexual abuse to QAnon” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — Sen. Josh Hawley had a narrowly defined line of attack against Judge Jackson, Biden’s nominee for the Supreme Court: Jackson was soft on those who commit sex crimes against children. “Judge Jackson has a pattern of letting child porn offenders off the hook for their appalling crimes, both as a judge and as a policymaker,” Hawley wrote on Twitter earlier this month. Fact-checking team found that Jackson’s record in such cases was consistently misrepresented; Jackson herself noted that part of the problem was a congressional failure to update sentencing guidelines. Even the conservative National Review found the attack to be meritless. For some observers, all of this, and particularly that last bit of rhetoric about protecting children, smacks of QAnon.
“The media is not ready for the midterms” via Molly Jong-Fast of The Atlantic — The midterm elections are a little more than 220 days away. Republicans have already promised revenge if they win back the House. Reporters at mainstream news outlets puzzled over how to cover Trump. How do you report and contextualize the words of a politician who is not bound by the truth? Reporters are supposed to invoke neither fear nor favor. It’s worth remembering that this coming election will include many state-level positions, and that many of those candidates are running on the Big Lie. The mainstream media must not cover these midterms as business as usual, because “business as usual” could end democracy.
“DeSantis uses children as pawns in cruel political game” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — Surrounded by students in blue uniform shirts and plaid ties, some of whom had been given “Protect Children” signs to hold, DeSantis signed HB 1557, the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” legislation that’s been nationally castigated as cruel, divisive and potentially hazardous to the mental and physical well-being of Florida students. The signing ceremony was staged at a Spring Hill charter school founded by the wife of DeSantis’ top education official, where boys are required to keep their hair short and only girls are allowed to wear earrings. It was a safe space for DeSantis. He laughed and handed the markers he was using to the children clustered around him. How many children will come to realize that, as they fidgeted and stared at the dark-haired man with the markers, he was enacting a law meant to intimidate teachers?
“A four-letter word for political meddling: FDLE” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — After more than seven years, Rick Swearingen’s tenure as Commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is ending as it started, with lingering questions and the unmistakable taint of political interference from the Governor’s Office. That hurts the credibility of FDLE, the state’s premier law enforcement agency. DeSantis, facing re-election and seen as having White House ambitions, shows a disturbing pattern of using law enforcement to expand his power. What makes this more worrisome is that DeSantis has eliminated the one obstacle in his path. DeSantis was asked whether he was displeased with Swearingen, especially on immigration enforcement, as was widely rumored. He did not directly answer, and his response came off as perfunctory.
“DeSantis — seniors say sign the net metering bill” via John Grant for Florida Politics — None of us wants higher electric bills to weigh us down further. That very issue has been discussed repeatedly over the last few weeks by lawmakers in Tallahassee. I was there and spoke before legislators in the House and Senate several times in support of the new net metering bill. And when I asked seniors to support this legislation, they stepped up in a big way. After much debate, legislators agreed that it didn’t make much sense for the majority of Florida residents to have to pick up the hidden costs incurred by homeowners with solar. Currently, just 1% of Florida residents have solar panels on their homes.
— ALOE —
“After two years, CDC removes coronavirus travel warning for cruises” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — The coast is clear as far as cruise lines, COVID-19, and the CDC is concerned. The CDC on Wednesday officially removed any level of travel warning for cruises, which means the federal agency no longer considers it a risky venture to catch the virus, although cases are still a possibility on board. If a new wave of COVID-19 were to threaten travelers again, the CDC could bring back its warning, and it still recommends COVID-19 precautions. Two years ago, the CDC took the cruise industry to task, warning that its confined spaces made them more susceptible to the risk of the spread of COVID-19.
“Hubble telescope detects most distant star ever seen, near cosmic dawn” via Joel Achenbach of The Washington Post — A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there was a large and magnificently brilliant star that shined across the young, expanding universe. The starlight skewed blue. It was the cosmic morning, when everything in the universe was still new, raw, the galaxies still forming not long after the first stars had ignited and lit up the heavens. The light from that blue star traveled through space for billions of years, and then one day, a few thin beams crashed into a polished mirror, the light bucket of the Hubble Space Telescope. A team of astronomers asserts that this is the most distant individual star ever seen. They describe it as 50 to 100 times more massive than our sun and roughly 1 million times brighter, with its starlight having traveled 12.9 billion years to reach the telescope.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to four great Floridians, Rep. Dana Trabulsy, Eric Edwards of U.S. Sugar, Dave Mica, Jr., and Lauren Pardo. Belated happy birthday wishes to our friend, the incredibly talented Jordan Gibson.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Renzo Downey, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.