Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 4.6.22

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Your day is better when you start it with a first read on what's happening in Florida politics.

Good Wednesday morning.

Val Demings’ campaign posts $13.1M on hand, a historic high for Senate challenger Demings is announcing her U.S. Senate campaign raised over $10 million in the first quarter of 2022, ending with $13.1 million cash-on-hand. Demings’ campaign representatives say the robust fundraising has been through donors who contributed an average of $23.50 online in Q1.

Since entering the race, they raised over $30 million.

“Chief Demings is inspiring a historic people-powered movement never seen before in Florida,” said campaign manager Zack Carroll in a statement. “We’re building the most robust campaign (Marco) Rubio has ever faced, one that will let Floridians know that they have a choice between a 27-year law enforcement officer and a career politician who doesn’t show up for work.”

Q1 2022 gives Val Demings 13.1 million reasons to smile.

___

There are more statehouse reporters than a decade ago, but they aren’t working for legacy outlets — and they aren’t working full time, either.

According to a Pew Research Center study published Tuesday, the number of reporters assigned to the 50 state capitols has increased by 11% since Pew conducted a similar survey in 2014.

In all, there are 1,761 statehouse reporters nationwide, up from 1,592 eight years ago. However, only 48% of those identified by Pew said they reported on state government issues full time, either year-round or during their state’s Legislative Session. In 2014, about 57% of statehouse reporters were full-time.

The increase in the raw number of reporters hasn’t been even across the states, either, with Florida included among the 16 states that saw a decrease in its statehouse press corps over that span.

The 2022 study also found a double-digit drop in the number of statehouse reporters who work for newspapers. In 2014, 604 reporters (38%) received their paycheck from a newspaper. Today, that number stands at 448 reporters (25%)

Meanwhile, feeling the increase in the overall press corps has been the rise of nonprofit news services. Those outlets employed fewer than 100 statehouse reporters when Pew Research published the 2014 study. In 2022, they will account for 20% of the overall total.

The 2022 study notes that most of the nonprofit outlets that employ statehouse reporters didn’t exist eight years ago — for example, States Newsroom, the nonprofit behind the Florida Phoenix, wasn’t founded until 2017.

Pew Research said some shifts are attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to reporters who typically cover other beats to turn their attention to their state government as it debated pandemic policies.

The pandemic also led many states to shut down their Capitol buildings and supercharge their livestreaming efforts, putting a strain on the relationships between statehouse reporters and the lawmakers and officials they report on.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@GovRonDeSantis: By supporting and funding infrastructure projects, we are setting Hamilton County up for growth that will benefit the community for years to come. Happy to be able to deliver the check!

Tweet, tweet:

@DonaldJTrumpJr: This summer, get your kids outdoors and enjoy all that America has to offer … don’t waste your money on overpriced bullshit and junk food at Disney World.

@BenjySarlin: The “groomer” talk is just warmed-over 1970s homophobia returned; there’s not much more to it. Nothing about it is particularly new.

@Scott_Maxwell: Fascinating to watch the Florida GOP’s newfound opposition to special favors for Disney. They’re opposing favors THEY approved — back when Disney was still cutting them checks. And they’re still doing favors for other donors who just shut up and give.

@Mdixon55: (Ron) DeSantis was specifically asked about backing Senate President @WiltonSimpson in what’s now a competitive GOP primary for Agriculture Commission against @ChuckNadd. DeSantis has feuded with Simpson. He said Simpson was “helpful,” but has not endorsed him

@SamanthaJoRoth: Well, this is a first. @CapitolPolice just sent an email warning reports of individuals being attacked or bitten by a fox

@ShevrinJones: My thoughts and prayers are with all of those impacted by the building condemnation in @CityNMB. Thank you, City Manager @ArthurSoreyIII, as well as our local law enforcement for a quick response. My office stands ready to help all of those impacted in any way possible.

@bruceritchie: Somehow amid the Legislative Session, FL House Speaker Chris Sprowls interviewed @jackedavisfl about his great book on the Gulf of Mexico. And a great topic!

@Daniel_Sweeney: The successful killing of what would have otherwise been a routine naming bill was instigated by Georgia Rep. Andrew Clyde, recently noteworthy for being one of 3 GOP Reps to vote against the anti-lynching bill.

@Jack: I’m really happy Elon (Musk) is joining the Twitter board! He cares deeply about our world and Twitter’s role in it. Parag (Agrawal) and Elon both lead with their hearts, and they will be an incredible team.

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

— DAYS UNTIL —

MLB Opening Day — 1; ‘Better Call Saul’ final season begins — 12; Magic Johnson’s Apple TV+ docuseries ‘They Call Me Magic’ begins — 16; 2022 Florida Chamber Transportation, Growth & Infrastructure Solution Summit — 22; ‘The Godfather’ TV series ‘The Offer’ premieres — 22; 2nd half of ‘Ozark’ final season begins — 23; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 30; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 35; ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ starts on Disney+ — 50; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 51; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 57; California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota hold midterm Primaries — 62; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 93; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 106; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 125; ‘House of the Dragon’ premieres on HBO — 137; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 149; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 184; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 202; Jon Meacham’s ‘And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle’ releases — 202; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 219; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 224; The World Cup kicks off in Qatar — 229; The U.S. World Cup Soccer Team begins play — 229; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 230; ‘Avatar 2′ premieres — 254; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 219; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 335; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ premieres — 352; 2023 Session Sine Die — 394; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 478; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 562; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 842.



— TOP STORY —

Report in election fraud investigation says jailhouse sign-ups could compromise Florida’s voter system” via Fresh Take Florida — The investigator, Tracey Rousseau, made clear that the early targets of the FDLE’s case were Alachua County’s supervisor of elections, Kim A. Barton, and her then-outreach coordinator, Thomas “T.J.” Pyche, who were initially suspected of corrupt practices, a felony, and neglect of duty, a misdemeanor.

In her report, Rousseau blamed the elections office for what she described as “the mass registering of inmates to vote without any inquiry into the person’s prior criminal history, proof of identity, the satisfaction of prior legal financial obligations, restoration of voting rights, the charges they were being held on (or) their knowledge level and understanding of the states’ voting system and requirements.”

The Alachua County elections office is off the hook. Image via Rachael Gregory/Fresh Take Florida.

Despite the FDLE investigator’s conclusions, last week, the Republican state attorney in Gainesville, Brian Kramer, cleared Barton and Pyche of any misconduct in the case and instead filed felony voter fraud charges against 10 former jail inmates.

Rousseau acknowledged in her investigative report that the failures she blamed on the elections office to investigate the backgrounds of inmates who were registering as voters were not required by law for anyone in the office to perform.

— 2022 —

Betsy DeVos is back — and her family is flooding Ron DeSantis with cash” via Igor Deryish of Salon — Former Education Secretary DeVos and her family have donated more than $280,000 to back DeSantis‘ re-election effort amid his crackdown on discussions of race and sexual orientation in schools. DeVos, who served four years as former President Donald Trump‘s education chief, personally contributed $5,500 to a super PAC backing DeSantis’ re-election bid last month. Her husband, Dick DeVos, the former chief executive of Amway, contributed more than $80,000 to the Friends of Ron DeSantis super PAC last year.

DeSantis calls out ‘fake news,’ but his campaign used fake news site to raise cash” via Ben Wieder of the Miami Herald — In messages to supporters, DeSantis isn’t shy about labeling “fake news media” the enemy. But when it comes to raising money for his re-election bid, the Republican Governor’s campaign and an associated political committee have sought help from a satire website with the tagline “Fake news you can trust.” The Governor’s campaign committee, as well as the associated Friends of Ron DeSantis political action committee, paid the conservative-leaning satire website The Babylon Bee a combined $15,000 last year for services related to online fundraising, according to state campaign finance records.

Ron DeSantis is a staunch enemy of ‘fake news’ — until he needs them to raise cash.

DeSantis deploys coveted endorsement to boost his political influence” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO — Gov. DeSantis is increasingly using his clout with Republican voters to elevate political allies throughout the state, marking the first real effort to build a political network by a Governor with a notoriously small inner circle. DeSantis has already used one endorsement to scuttle the candidacy of a state lawmaker seeking a Florida Senate seat who likely would have had the backing of his own party’s leadership. The Republican Governor is also sending signals he could endorse in two other races where incumbent Republican state representatives, who have the support of state Senate GOP leadership, are running.

Charlie Crist reaches milestone with $1M in March fundraising” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Crist became the first gubernatorial candidate in the Democratic field to collect more than $1 million in a month. According to an announcement from his campaign, the St. Petersburg Congressman collected just over $1 million in March. That brings Crist’s haul since entering the race in May to $8.2 million. He closed the month with $5.3 million cash on hand after expenses. The boost in resources comes as Crist beefs up his campaign operation. The campaign this month brought on Maurizio Passariello as Hispanic media director and Susan Windmiller as senior adviser for women’s outreach.

Nikki Fried touts boost in grassroots, online fundraising as she raises $440K in March” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Fried touted increases in grassroots support as her gubernatorial campaign reported about $440,000 raised in March. A release from her campaign stressed the significance of small donations. More than $1 million has come in through online donations since Fried launched her campaign in June. There were 4,570 online donations in March alone, averaging about $35 per donor. An end-of-month ask on Twitter resulted in $25,000 raised in a single day. The totals for March leapt by a third over the prior month as Fried announced a campaign reset. Still, she trailed Democratic Primary opponent Crist in March fundraising, as Crist pulled in more than $1 million.

Happening today — Demings will speak at a meeting of the Florida Democratic Party Jewish Caucus, 7 p.m. Register here.

Internal poll shows Anna Paulina Luna with massive lead in CD 13 GOP field” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — An internal poll shows Luna easily leading the Republican field in Florida’s 13th Congressional District. Spry Strategies conducted a poll of likely Republican Primary voters and found around 35% favor Luna. She comes into the race after winning the nomination and challenging Rep. Crist for the seat in 2020. Crist is not seeking re-election and is instead running for Governor. All other Republicans polled in single digits in the poll. The closest Republican behind Luna in the survey was former prosecutor Kevin Hayslett, with more than 9% of the vote.

Happening today — Former U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, who is running to return to Congress, will speak at a meeting of the Republican Club of Lakeland, 11:30 a.m., Cleveland Heights Golf Club, 2900 Buckingham Ave., Lakeland.

Vern Buchanan reports whopping $1.1M in Q1 donations, a new personal best” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Rep. Buchanan’s re-election campaign pulled in $1.1 million in the first quarter of 2022. That’s a record for any quarter for the eight-term incumbent and a sign of Buchanan’s growing clout. Buchanan has raised $2.8 million during the 2022 election cycle. “We’re humbled by the extraordinary support for Vern’s pro-growth agenda of lower taxes, fewer regulations and a focus on restoring the American dream,” campaign spokesman Max Goodman said. “Vern’s supporters know that he will bring a conservative businessman’s background to the chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee.” Importantly, the money was raised solely through outside donations instead of personal loans from Buchanan, the wealthiest member of Florida’s U.S. House delegation.

Democrat Allie Braswell draws endorsements for HD 45 run” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Braswell’s campaign announced Tuesday that he has won several early local endorsements in his House District 45 bid, including Orange County Sheriff John Mina. Braswell, a diversity consultant, former Marine and former president of the Central Florida Urban League, is the first Democrat to file in the newly drawn HD 45 covering southwestern Orange County. He’s facing several big-name Republicans in a district expected to be fairly even in partisan voter registration. In the last two General Elections, the region voted Democrat by narrow margins. Braswell entered the contest last month. Now he has the backing of Mina, Rep. Travaris McCurdy, and Ocoee Commissioner Larry Brinson, his campaign announced Tuesday.

Jen McDonald raises nearly $51K in first month of HD 65 campaign” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — McDonald has raised $50,943 in the first month of her campaign for Florida House District 65, her campaign announced Tuesday. McDonald, a Tampa Bay business owner, launched her campaign at the start of March. McDonald hopes to take the competitive Hillsborough County seat, which closely resembles the current House District 60 represented by Rep. Jackie Toledo. McDonald’s campaign provided the latest financial update. More details will be available once March fundraising reports are due next Monday.

Jen McDonald posts solid financials for her first month.

Palm Beach County’s HD 93 race now features a four-way Democratic Primary” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — The competition to represent Palm Beach County’s House District 93 just became a four-way Primary race after a Wellington youth director and motivational speaker announced her candidacy. Shelly Albright is the Children and Youth Ministries Director at St. Peter’s United Methodist Church. She also has experience starting a small business and serving on various volunteer boards. She will be competing for an open seat that contains parts of the old House District 86 that Rep. Matt Willhite has represented since 2016. He opted not to pursue a fourth term and is campaigning for a Palm Beach County Commission seat. Albright, the mother of four adult children, started and ran a workshop retreat business and volunteered at several school-focused endeavors.

David Richardson adds more than $500K in first full month of House bid with help of $260K self-loan” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Miami Beach Commissioner Richardson stacked more than $500,000 in his first month running for House District 106. While his team has yet to file its official figures with the Florida Division of Elections, Richardson’s campaign announced the haul Wednesday. Richardson is running to secure the open seat, which runs along the Miami-Dade County coast between Miami Beach and Aventura. Of his gains last month, $260,000 was a self-loan and more than $241,000 came through his campaign and political committee. “Seeing the overwhelming support our campaign has received so quickly, especially from small-dollar donors, is so humbling,” Richardson said. “It’s clear that our district needs a proven fighter to take on challenges that are being ignored by Tallahassee leaders.”

Pasco School Board readies referendum on special property tax” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Pasco County voters soon might have the chance to decide whether to give public schoolteachers, bus drivers and other employees a raise. On Tuesday, the School Board instructed superintendent Kurt Browning to bring forward a resolution for a November referendum on a special property tax that would generate added revenue for employee pay at district and charter schools. Board members did not set a tax rate to ask for. After getting more information and hearing from the public, the board intends to make that decision in two weeks.

Florida GOP leans on education platform to mobilize voters” via Bianca Padró Ocasio, Ana Ceballos and Sommer Brugal of the Miami Herald — In a state run by the GOP with a growing Republican base, pandemic-related policies such as masking, discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity and teaching about race and racism have all been linchpins for parents who’ve become angered with public education and Republicans are seizing the opportunity. From curriculum fights to school board term limits, Florida Republicans are leaning on education as a wedge issue during the midterm elections, hoping it will mobilize their base and appeal to independent voters as they consider candidates for legislative and statewide offices down to local school board races.


— STATEWIDE —

DeSantis’s threats to Disney are what post-Trump authoritarianism looks like” via Jonathan Chait of The Intelligencer — Last week, DeSantis declared at a news conference that Disney “crossed the line” by saying it would support the repeal of DeSantis’s cherished anti-gay legislation. “We’re going to make sure we’re fighting back when people are threatening our parents and threatening our kids,” he warned. DeSantis is barely making any effort to hide his intentions. DeSantis is trying to establish an understanding that major corporations can expect favorable treatment from the government as long as they play along with the ruling party’s political agenda.

DeSantis gives $5.5M to Hamilton County for infrastructure, manufacturing project” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Hamilton County, Florida’s sixth-smallest county with 14,004 residents as of the 2020 census, will receive $5.5 million for infrastructure improvements related to a project to bring a manufacturing outfit and as many as 1,000 jobs, DeSantis said Tuesday. DeSantis gave the money through his Job Growth Grant Fund, a pot the Governor can use to fund infrastructure and job training projects throughout the state. It received $75 million in the current budget, making the award about 7% of its total funding for a county containing 0.6% of the state’s population. DeSantis said funding for projects in rural areas goes further than in more populated areas.

‘Ron DeSanta’ makes the rounds with another big check. Image via Twitter.

Jimmy Patronis invites Elon Musk, Twitter to resettle in ‘Free State of Florida’” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Patronis is once again courting Musk, this time urging the 50-year-old billionaire to relocate Twitter headquarters to Florida. An outspoken Twitter critic and the richest man on Earth, Musk on Monday joined the board after becoming the company’s top shareholder. In a letter sent Tuesday, Patronis congratulated Musk, criticized the company’s policies, and suggested the “Free State of Florida” may help free it of progressive ideology. Patronis’ invitation is speckled with grievances about the platform’s “garbage-adjacent censorship policies.” The “woke agenda,” he wrote, is degrading free speech and “demonizing” conservative ideas and companies, like The Babylon Bee.

Florida’s pension fund is stuck holding $300 million in Russian investments” via Skyer Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — A $300 million slice of Florida’s nearly $200 billion public pension portfolio is invested in Russian companies, even as the pariah nation faces mounting accusations of genocide and other war crimes in Ukraine. Democrats want Florida to divest that tiny part of the fund, arguing the state’s leaders should act swiftly to dump Russian investments. According to a review from late January, Florida’s holdings include Russian oil producers, mining companies, and the country’s largest bank.

Top aide joins FDLE chief Richard Swearingen in announcing he’s resigning” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Orlando Sentinel — Just over a week after FDLE Commissioner Swearingen turned in his letter of resignation, one of his two assistant commissioners announced that he is also leaving as of May 1. Tom Foy, an Assistant Commissioner in charge of investigations and forensic science, announced his retirement Monday, Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger confirmed in an email. “He planned to retire in February but agreed to remain longer at the request of the Commissioner,” Plessinger said.

‘Might help. Can’t hurt:’ Gulf Breeze asks PSC to look at FPL rate increases” via Alex Miller of the Pensacola News Journal — You can add Gulf Breeze to the growing list of municipalities voicing their concern over rising power bills in the Florida Panhandle. The City Council unanimously agreed Monday to send a letter to the state’s Public Service Commission, keeping a consistent message with local officials across the area. This decision follows similar efforts by other cities in the region. Pensacola also agreed to write a letter to PSC and briefly explored the idea of launching its own municipal electric utility. A group of residents in Crestview turned out to City Hall to protest the rate increase, the Santa Rosa Board of County Commissioners tasked county staff with exploring an adjustment on franchise fees to provide relief on power bills and Milton City Manager Randy Jorgenson penned a letter on the city’s behalf.

— DATELINE TALLY —

Nursing home staffing bill sent to DeSantis for action” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Legislative leaders on Tuesday sent a bill to DeSantis that “modernizes” nursing home staff requirements by reducing the minimum amount of nursing care residents are required to receive. DeSantis will have 15 days to sign HB 1239 bill into law, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature. Sponsored by Rep. Lauren Melo, the bill reduces the amount of time that certified nursing assistants (CNAs) must spend with long-term care residents daily from 2.5 hours to 2 hours. Lawmakers didn’t eliminate the remaining 0.5 hours of care residents must have per day. But they agreed that it could be rendered by other professionals such as physicians, nursing, pharmacy, dietary, therapeutic, dental, podiatry, mental health, and paid feeding assistants.

Lauren Melo’s nursing home staffing bill is headed to Ron DeSantis’ desk.

More than 20 Mayors urge DeSantis to veto ‘Local Business Protection Act’” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Twenty-one Mayors from across Florida are making one last push to convince DeSantis to veto legislation they say will inhibit the ability of county and municipal governments to respond to public needs. The bill in question (SB 620), named the “Local Business Protection Act,” creates a cause of action for businesses to seek damages from local governments if they can prove a new ordinance caused a 15% income loss in one year. Eligible companies that have operated for at least three years in a jurisdiction would be able to recover expert-determined sums unless the municipality or county in question rescinds the ordinance. The Legislature passed the bill March 9. It awaits DeSantis’ signature.

Michael Grieco highlights Session wins honoring Surfside victims, protecting animals” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Rep. Grieco began the 2022 Legislative Session with a roster of ambitious bills he believed had the potential to unite lawmakers regardless of political affiliation. Then he filed to challenge Sen. Ileana Garcia this November. After that, he said, most of those bills were all but doomed. “When I filed to run for state Senate, you could take all my bills and put them in the dumpster,” he told Florida Politics. While it turned out that prediction was rather accurate by and large, Grieco still enjoyed some wins. Among them: HB 1469, which will impact residents in and around Grieco’s House district by honoring the 98 lives lost in the Champlain Towers South condo collapse in Surfside.

Assignment editors — The Greater Naples Chamber will host a panel discussion with Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, Reps. Bob Rommel and Melo during Wake-Up Naples, registration begins 7:30 a.m., with the program starting promptly at 8 a.m., 5111 Tamiami Trail N., Naples. Register online at www.napleschamber.org/events.

Mike Vasilinda, a fixture of Florida political reporting, is retiring after nearly 50 years” via News4Jax — Television viewers across Florida will soon be losing a very familiar face who has been a broadcasting institution in the state. Vasilinda runs the Capitol News Service, which currently distributes daily stories from the state Capitol to TV stations all over Florida. Vasilinda has been a fixture in journalism in Tallahassee for around 49 years following his graduation from Florida State University in 1973. Vasilinda said he originally wanted to be a lawyer and didn’t plan to stay in Tallahassee more than a couple of years after graduating, but that obviously didn’t happen.

— D.C. MATTERS —

White House to extend student loan pause through August” via Collin Binkley and Zeke Miller of The Associated Press — The Biden administration plans to freeze federal student loan payments through Aug. 31, extending a moratorium that has allowed millions of Americans to postpone payments during the coronavirus pandemic. Student loan payments were scheduled to resume May 1 after being halted since early in the pandemic. But following calls from Democrats in Congress, the White House plans to give borrowers additional time to prepare for payments. The action applies to more than 43 million Americans who owe a combined $1.6 trillion in student debt held by the federal government, according to the latest data from the Education Department. That includes more than 7 million borrowers who have defaulted on student loans, meaning they are at least 270 days late on payments.

Joe Biden gives graduates saddled with student loan debt a reprieve until August.

U.S. impedes Russia’s debt payments as new sanctions package emerges” via Jeff Stein and Aaron Gregg of The Washington Post — The Treasury Department on Monday prohibited Russia from withdrawing funds held in American banks to pay its debt obligations, a major escalation aimed at forcing the Kremlin to pick between a catastrophic default and other difficult economic measures. The measure means that Moscow will default because of missed debt payments or repurpose other government funds to meet those payments. Russia has 30 days to find another way to meet the two payments. A default would make it more difficult for Russia to borrow from international lenders, dramatically pushing up the cost of borrowing for the Kremlin.

Immigration, timing issues slow pandemic relief bill in Senate” via Lindsey McPherson, Caroline Simon and Laura Weiss of Roll Call — Democrats in both chambers appear ready to pass a Senate-negotiated $10 billion COVID-19 supplemental for domestic preparedness efforts without international aid, but they have to eliminate GOP obstacles in the Senate first. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wants to pass the supplemental this week but said confirming Judge Jackson to the Supreme Court is “the highest Senate priority by far.” To get both done before the Senate departs for its scheduled two-week Easter and Passover recess will require unanimous consent from all 100 senators to speed up the normal procedural process on the supplemental. Republicans are not ready to give consent for a speedy vote on the $10 billion COVID-19 aid bill, even though several GOP senators plan to support the underlying bill.

Biden proposes change to Affordable Care Act to extend subsidies for families” via Stephanie Armour and Andrew Restuccia of The Wall Street Journal — Some people unable to afford health insurance for their families would be able to get Affordable Care Act subsidies under a proposal by the Biden administration aimed at shoring up the Obama-era law. Currently, workers can’t get ACA subsidies to lower their premiums if they get affordable health insurance coverage from an employer. But the definition of affordable is determined by the cost of the coverage for the employee and not for the employee’s spouse or children. About 5 million people are affected by the so-called family glitch, and under the proposed change they will have more options for insurance coverage. Additionally, an estimated 200,000 uninsured people are expected to gain coverage under the proposed change.

Marco Rubio warns that Biden ‘gaffes’ embolden America’s enemies” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Rubio offered his latest in a series of grim warnings about the President’s competence Monday night. Rubio spoke to Sean Hannity, where he contended that Biden’s propensity to misspeak has hurt America’s foreign policy position, emboldening its enemies. “Look, there’s two things happening right now. Americans are losing confidence in Joe Biden, in his ability to manage the job and get results and changes for our country,” Rubio said.

Build Back Center: Biden plows a revamped lane for the midterms” via Christopher Cadelago of POLITICO — After taking office promising sweeping legislation and transformed government, Biden is poised to fight the midterms the same way his two immediate Democratic predecessors did: trumpeting moderation and a center-left agenda. Underscored by his budget last week, Biden’s emerging election-year blueprint is to emphasize police and defense spending, accentuate federal deficit reduction and propose higher taxes on the ultra-rich. It’s the early centerpiece of a platform that Biden’s defenders note he’s deployed consistently over his long career. But gone is his early-Presidency emphasis on bold deficit spending and revamping the social safety net to achieve long-sought Democratic priorities. In its place is an increased focus on domestic and international security and stability.

Fred Upton — another Donald Trump Republican impeacher — announces his retirement” via David Jackson of USA TODAY — Michigan U.S. Rep. Upton, one of 10 House GOP members who supported impeaching Trump over the Jan. 6 insurrection, told colleagues in a floor speech that “even the best of stories has a last chapter” and “this is it for me.” Trump quickly took credit for Upton’s refusal to seek re-election, while Upton supporters and other Republicans said his decision stemmed from redistricting and not the ex-President’s backing of a challenger. Upton followed the retirement footsteps of three other House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump and later decided opted against seeking re-election: Reps. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, John Katko of New York, and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.

— EPILOGUE: TRUMP —

Donald Trump upset with the state of his new social media site, eyes shake-up” via Meridith McGraw and Emily Birnbaum of POLITICO — Top executives from Trump’s social media venture, Truth Social, have departed the company as the site has struggled to gain traction with users. Three top executives quit Truth Social, including chief technology officer, Josh Adams and Billy Boozer, the head of the company’s product development, and chief legal officer Lori Heyer-Bednar, according to two people familiar with the matter. Trump has been upset with the state of his social media venture, Truth Social, and is eyeing major shake-ups to the company, including positions on the board of Truth Social’s parent company, Trump Media and Technology Group.

Donald Trump’s social media platform failed to produce the desired result, is looking for a shake-up.

Donald Trump’s Truth Social in trouble as financial, technical woes mount” via Drew Harwell and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — Here’s a truth Trump doesn’t want to hear: His social network, Truth Social, is falling apart. The app — a Twitter look-alike where posts are called “truths” — has seen its downloads plunge so low that it has fallen off the App Store charts. The company is losing investors, executives and attention. And though his adult sons just joined, Trump himself hasn’t posted there in weeks. Devin Nunes, the former member of Congress from California who gave up the seat he held for 19 years to run the company, said the app would be “fully operational” by the end of March. But it has been hamstrung by technical issues, including a waiting list that has blocked hundreds of thousands of potential users during its crucial first weeks online.

Trump’s supporters are asking Elon Musk to reinstate the former President’s Twitter account” via Matthew Loh of Business Insider — Conservative figures are urging Musk to allow Trump back on Twitter following Monday’s announcement that the Tesla CEO had bought a 9.2% stake in the social-media giant. In the days before the announcement, Musk had tweeted several times questioning the platform’s content moderation rules and whether a new social-media platform was needed. On March 25, he also tweeted an informal survey asking his followers whether Twitter had adhered to the principle that free speech was essential to a “functioning democracy.” Of the roughly 2 million respondents to the poll, 70.4% voted no. With Musk becoming Twitter’s largest shareholder, requests to reinstate Trump’s account — which was permanently suspended on January 9, 2021, after the Capitol insurrection — started to surface Monday evening.

Help us Obi-Wan, errrr, Elon Musk. Image via AP.

Ivanka Trump testifies before House Jan. 6 panel” via Mary Clare Jalonick, Lisa Mascaro and Farnoush Amiri of The Associated Press — Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Committee’s chair, said Tuesday afternoon that Ivanka Trump had been answering investigators’ questions on a video teleconference since the morning and was not “chatty” but had been helpful to the probe. “She came in on her own” and did not have to be subpoenaed, Thompson said. Ivanka Trump, who was with her father in the White House on Jan. 6, is one of more than 800 witnesses the committee has interviewed as it works to compile a record of the attack, the worst on the Capitol in more than two centuries. She was the first of Trump’s children known to speak to the committee and one of the closest people to her father.


— LOCAL NOTES: N. FL —

‘A gargantuan task:’ Jacksonville political consultants turn to getting help to Ukraine” via Matt Soergel of The Florida Times-Union — The brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine is personal for Jacksonville-based political consultants Tom Nolan and Bruce Barcelo. It’s more than places on a map and names in news stories. After years of working in the country as election observers and advisers, they have friends and colleagues there and they’ve each wept as they watch TV accounts of the destruction and death toll. “These people don’t deserve this,” Nolan said. “They didn’t ask for it, they didn’t want it. This is one man feeding his ego.” Their 10-year-old organization, the nonprofit Committee for Open Democracy, shifted quickly from political work to humanitarian aid, trying to get small grants directly to the Ukrainian people who need aid, and need it now.

Internet cafe lawyer Kelly Mathis appeals to continue $50M wrongful-arrest lawsuit” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — A Jacksonville attorney sentenced to prison and then exonerated over his guidance to internet cafes will try Wednesday to revive his lawsuit against the former sheriff and prosecutors who put him in jail. Mathis will tell appeals court judges in Atlanta that a federal judge in Jacksonville was wrong to dismiss his $50 million lawsuit against figures including former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. But lawyers answering his appeal are standing firm on charges that a jury found Mathis guilty of in 2013.

Kelly Mathis is relentless in his pursuit of a $50 million lawsuit against those who put him in jail.

Tower gives Wolfson Children’s Hospital room to grow in Jacksonville, simplifies getting around Baptist Medical” via Matt Soergel of The Florida Times-Union — Baptist Heath this week officially opened its new seven-story building at its downtown complex, a project that gives much-needed extra room for Wolfson Children’s Hospital while also making for a new front entrance for both Wolfson and Baptist Medical Center. The $224 million project adds 225,000 square feet to the Southbank medical complex next to Interstate 95, which desperately needed space to grow. “We were busting at the seams,” said Michael Aubin, the children’s hospital president. It also makes for considerably easier navigation when getting to the various medical buildings on the campus, a process that could be especially daunting to newer visitors.

CSC Leon looks to fund children’s programs and services this summer” via Ana Goñi-Lessan of the Tallahassee Democrat — Cecka Rose Green, the executive director of the Children’s Services Council of Leon County, knows what it’s like to have the lights turned off. She knows what it’s like to grow up on the south side of Tallahassee, the daughter of a single mom with multiple jobs. Green says she could have been a statistic. “So, to be in this space now, to be able to work with these very smart and passionate council members and be the keeper of the community’s trust, I want them to know that they can trust me, they can trust this council,” she said.

City tackling Northwood performing arts center, Gaither preservation and lobbying ordinances” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — City Commissioners are likely to move forward with plans to incorporate a performing arts facility into the development of the former Northwood Centre, donating several acres to a philanthropic organization. City staff is asking Commissioners to approve negotiations with the Sheridan Foundation, operated by Tallahassee philanthropists Michael H. Sheridan and Judy W. Sheridan, who proposed constructing a publicly accessible theater when the Northwood Centre site is redeveloped. Commissioners are set to get an update on plans for the 30-acre site wedged between Monroe and Tharpe streets which is set to be the new home of the Tallahassee Police Department.

Firefighters extinguish large blaze engulfing DeFuniak Springs home; no injuries reported” via Sierra Rains of the Northwest Florida Daily News — Walton County firefighters extinguished a large blaze that engulfed a home in Ten Lake Estates after a neighbor reported seeing flames late Monday night. Walton County Fire Rescue crews responded to a home on Ten Lakes Drive in DeFuniak Springs at 11:08 p.m. following a 911 call reporting a structure fire. The caller said they could see smoke and flames coming from a home just down the street, and they were unsure if anyone was inside. When firefighters arrived, they found flames engulfing a single-story home. Crews quickly entered the home to search for any residents still inside but found that no one was home at the time of the fire.

Walmart joins health care demand with new clinics at Jacksonville, Middleburg, other stores” via Beth Reese Cravey of The Florida Times-Union — Walmart has added health care to its catalog of goods and services in Florida, opening health clinics this week at its stores on Collins Road in Jacksonville and Branan Field Road in Middleburg and later at three other sites across the state. The intent of Walmart Health centers billed as “the future of health care,” is to provide quality, accessible and affordable care in facilities adjacent to superstores. With 13% growth from 2010 to 2019, Florida was clearly a state in need of more health clinics, he said.

Other

— MORE LOCAL: C. FL —

Alachua County judge sides with Ron DeSantis on removal of former School Board member” via Gershon Harrell of The Gainesville Sun — An Alachua County judge has sided with DeSantis in a court case that questioned whether his removal of former School Board member Diyonne McGraw was an unconstitutional overreach of his power. The long-awaited decision was issued Monday by 8th Judicial Circuit Judge Monica Brasington. McGraw was removed from her seat in June 2021 once it was discovered she lived outside of the district boundaries. DeSantis then quickly appointed local longtime GOP activist Mildred Russell in August 2021. McGraw’s election gave the board its first-ever Black female majority.

Fredd Atkins files for Sarasota County Commission seat; he’ll challenge Christian Ziegler” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Atkins has filed for a Sarasota County Commission contest. Two years after a controversial redistricting process drew him out of a jurisdiction after he filed, Atkins said he’s ready to run again. And after the survival of single-member districts in a Special Election last month, he sees the right conditions to win. “I’ve been thinking about this all my adult life,” he said. “I’ve been working on single-member districts since I got into adulthood.” As a young man, Atkins worked with the NAACP, conducting intensive research at Sarasota City Hall to support a lawsuit that eventually led to single-member districts at the municipal level.

Fredd Atkins is ready to run again.

Operation April Fools nets 22 Marion County men accused of soliciting sex from kids online” via Austin L. Miller of the Ocala Star-Banner — Law enforcement officials have arrested 22 men and are searching for five more in connection with an online child sex sting operation that wrapped up over the weekend. Authorities said 22 of the 27 men charged in Operation April Fools are local residents. The other five are from Georgia and New York; officials said they issued warrants for their arrests. Those detained and booked into the Marion County Jail were ages 21 to 61. The charges included traveling to meet a minor, soliciting a person believed by the defendant to be a child for unlawful sexual contact, transmission of material harmful to minors by electronic device or equipment, and unlawful use of a two-way communications device.

Ben Crump, hired by family of fall victim Tyre Sampson, visits Orlando Free Fall” via Monivette Cordeiro and Jeff Weiner of the Orlando Sentinel — Crump, the Civil rights attorney, visited the Orlando Free Fall at ICON Park on Tuesday morning after he was hired recently by the family of Sampson following the 14-year-old’s fatal fall from the drop tower ride last month. Tyre was visiting from Missouri while on spring break when he appeared to slip out of his seat as the ride braked, falling to the ground as shocked patrons looked on, a tragedy captured on video. “We’re here doing an investigation into the tragic killing of this 14-year-old child,” Crump told reporters in brief remarks after touring the ride, which is closed indefinitely. Crump pledged a “thorough investigation” into the teenager’s death, adding that Tyre “should have never been killed.” Crump spent about two hours inspecting the ride with a group during his visit. Two people were seen measuring a seat on the ride.

Orange Commissioners endorse ‘civil citation’ program for adults accused of minor crimes” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange County Commissioners approved a resolution Tuesday morning endorsing a pilot program intended to steer adults accused of low-level misdemeanor crimes away from jail. Unveiled last week by Orange-Osceola State Attorney Monique Worrell, the program was among 20 recommendations offered last year by a citizen safety task force that Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings convened in the wake of a spate of seven shootings in the fall of 2020.

NASA to hold off retest of Artemis clearing way for Axiom Space civilian launch” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — NASA will stand down for now in its attempt to complete a launchpad test of the massive Artemis moon rocket at Kennedy Space Center, which paves the way for the first all-civilian launch to the International Space Station on Friday. After scrubs in the tanking and countdown simulation on both Sunday and Monday at KSC’s Launch Pad 39-B, further attempts this week would have threatened the Axiom Space launch on a SpaceX Crew Dragon from nearby Launch Pad 39-A. But NASA officials said a quick turnaround wasn’t in the cards to work out the issues from the incomplete test.

Seminole Heights activist Lynn Hurtak joins Tampa City Council” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — In the second round of voting in Tuesday’s special City Council meeting, Hurtak received four votes from her soon-to-be colleagues, making her the newest member of the council and its only woman. Hurtak, an Old Seminole Heights Council member, told reporters after the vote that she is a “deeply ethical” person who will bring a wealth of city board experience to the job, which she’ll have to win an election next year to keep. “Council knows me. I’ve come in front of them to speak. I’ve sat with them on other boards and commissions. The council thought highly enough of me that one of them recommended me for the Variance Review Board,” Hurtak said, explaining to reporters right after the vote why she thought Council members selected her.

City of Tampa had previously dropped a misconduct case against Orlando Gudes” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — In the fall of 2020, a legislative aide for Gudes approached city human resources officers with a complaint about her boss. The aide relayed his tendency to “bark” at her and treat her harshly. She noted an incident in which Gudes had made a lewd comment after stopping by her home to pick up work documents. The city found the matter resolved in November 2020 after the aide said she had talked over her concerns with Gudes. Nine months later, Tampa would rekindle the investigation, with city officials reaching out to the aide twice while she was on an extended absence from work. They would turn for assistance to an outside attorney, who concluded after another seven months that Gudes had created a hostile workplace by repeatedly talking demeaning and misogynistic to the aide.

For Orlando Gudes, it’s déjà vu all over again.

Tampa Bay business leaders: Billions needed for climate change” via Zachary T. Sampson of the Tampa Bay Times — Building up Tampa Bay to keep it safe from rising seas and storms over the next 50 years could save the region more than $2 for every $1 it spends. The suggested price tag for those upgrades is enormous: $13.4 billion. “This is about what our region needs to do to be ready for what is going to be inevitably devastating results of sea-level rise,” said Brian Auld, President of the Tampa Bay Rays and chair of the Tampa Bay Partnership’s Resilience Task Force, which commissioned the report and released it Tuesday. The region could lose $16.9 billion in property values by 2070 because of high-tide flooding alone from Citrus through Manatee counties. At the same time, governments could lose $238 million every year because of declines in property, sales and tourism taxes.

Compromise plan could extend Brightline toward Tampa, SunRail in Orlando” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The emerging plan, called the “Sunshine Corridor Program,” would extend SunRail commuter train service to Orlando International Airport and the Orange County Convention Center, and extend Brightline higher-speed intercity passenger rail service from the airport to Walt Disney World and then on to Tampa. The plan could resolve disputes over how Orlando could extend local rail service and become a hub for high-speed service connecting Miami, Orlando and Tampa. The result could be a united push of state, local and major business interests all on the same team, for once. The plan also could conceivably tap into billions of dollars of new federal infrastructure money soon to become available through the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure and Jobs Act.

— MORE LOCAL: S. FL —

Parkland school shooting trial opens with difficult search for jurors” via David Fleshler, Rafael Olmeda and Brooke Baitinger of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Forty potential jurors passed the initial cut Monday in the Parkland school shooting case, as parents of victims in the 2018 massacre watched from the audience. Nikolas Cruz, who already pleaded guilty to killing 17 people and wounding 17 others, sat at a table with his lawyers during the first day of what’s expected to be a six-month trial to determine whether he gets life in prison or death. Among the family members in the courtroom were Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime was killed; Tom and Gena Hoyer, whose 15-year-old son Luke was killed; and Annika and Mitch Dworet, whose 17-year-old son Nicholas was killed.

Judge who received Florida Supreme Court reprimand knows what Marni Bryson faces this week” via Jane Musgrave of the Palm Beach Post — When the Florida Supreme Court reprimanded Palm Beach County Judge Barry Cohen eight years ago, local attorneys and judges chartered buses to travel to Tallahassee to support the beloved jurist. While County Judge Bryson faces the same fate this week, there has been no public outpouring of support for the 47-year-old jurist, who will become the second in county history to be reprimanded and the third to be disciplined by the high court. Attorney John Cleary, who still has the “I Am Barry Cohen” button that attorneys wore to show their “Spartacus”-inspired solidarity with the longtime judge, said Bryson’s situation is far different. “She has weathered the storm and moved on,” Cleary said.

Been there, done that: A colleague of Marni Bryson knows exactly what she faces.

‘I want to thank everyone’: Bus driver gets medal for her heroism in deadly shooting” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Veteran bus driver Gwendolyn Whitfield drew big applause and beamed with pride Tuesday as Broward County honored her for her quick actions that helped save lives in a deadly Fort Lauderdale shooting last month. Whitfield received the county’s medal of valor during a ceremony at the Governmental Center, appearing publicly for the first time since the shooting. On March 17, a gunman opened fire on her bus, killing two people. In a quick-thinking move, Whitfield drove the bus to the Fort Lauderdale police station, stopping at the main entrance, where a police officer heard three shots and ordered the gunman to the ground.

‘We can build our own building’: Broward may no longer partner with city for new campus” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A new joint government center may not happen after all. In the latest sign of waning interest, some Broward County Commissioners on Tuesday considered no longer partnering with Fort Lauderdale for a new headquarters. “I don’t know if we need to be doing a joint building across the street anymore,” County Commissioner Mark Bogen, citing rising costs and constant delays. “We can build our own building.” “It’s been a while since we’ve looked at this,” County Commissioner Steve Geller told the County Administrator Tuesday, and the amount of space might no longer be needed amid the pandemic.

Unbridled inflation may run well into 2023 as wages fall behind, according to new FAU report” via David Lyons of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Wherever they go, South Florida consumers see spikes in prices as they buy everything from homes to insurance to airline tickets. More likely than not, spiraling inflation will continue to feast on wallets well past 2022, according to a Florida Atlantic University economist. From Florida to elsewhere around the nation, “the real value of wages for workers will likely fall even further as the Federal Reserve shows no signs of neutralizing worse-than-expected inflation,” said William Luther, an economist and associate professor at FAU’s College of Business. In a new monthly inflation report, Luther and student Morgan Timmann predict that prices will be 11.8% higher in January of next year than they were in January 2020.

That $20 million in cocaine offloaded by the Coast Guard? The drugs didn’t get very far” via Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald — The Coast Guard Cutter Donald Horsley crew and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration special agents offloaded about 1,000 kilograms of seized cocaine at Coast Guard Base San Juan on Monday. The blow didn’t get very far. A team of law enforcement officials found the drugs aboard a go-fast vessel in the Caribbean Sea near Puerto Rico on March 30. According to the Coast Guard, the seized coke has an estimated wholesale value of about $20 million. The offload comes two days after another U.S. Coast Guard crew offloaded more than $160 million worth of cocaine at its base in Miami Beach after a 45-day patrol in the Caribbean.

Florida closing its COVID-19 sites, but Miami-Dade will keep free tests, vaccines open” via Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald — As Florida closes all of its COVID-19 mass public testing, vaccination and treatment sites due to a lack of federal funding, Miami-Dade will continue to offer tests and vaccines free-of-charge at more than two dozen sites around the county using a different national resource: the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Though Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said FEMA would reimburse the county “100%” for providing tests and vaccines to the uninsured through July 1, it’s not clear that the county will need to rely on FEMA that long after a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators announced a deal on a $10 billion coronavirus aid package late Monday.

Nearly 80 migrants from four countries, including Russia, arrive in the Florida Keys” via David Goodhue and Gwen Filosa of the Miami Herald — U.S. Border Patrol agents took 77 migrants into custody over the weekend in the Florida Keys, including several from former Soviet bloc countries, federal officials said Monday. The Border Patrol said the groups were caught during seven separate landings, and that the migrants came from four different countries. While most of the arrivals were from Cuba, a sports fishing yacht pulled into the shallow waters off Key West around 3:30 p.m. Sunday, unloading four people from Kazakhstan, nine people from Russia, and two from Kyrgyzstan, a Department of Homeland Security spokesman said on background. Federal officials did not offer specifics of that incident Monday, except for releasing a statement that it was likely a human smuggling operation.

Various refugees — from several countries — keep streaming into the Florida Keys. Image via Border Patrol.

‘Insurer of last resort’ requests rate increase as policies expected to hit 1 million” via Hannah Morse of the Palm Beach Post — Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state-run “insurer of last resort,” is proposing an across-the-board rate hike of nearly 11%, the highest increase allowed by law. The request comes as Florida’s private property insurance market sinks deeper into turmoil, insurance industry analysts said, driven in part by roof-replacement fraud and widespread litigation. “The home insurance market in Florida is in crisis,” said Mark Friedlander of the Insurance Information Institute. “In fact, the private insurance marketplace now is on a trajectory for collapse.” The alarming appraisal comes even as Florida has emerged — relatively speaking — unscathed by recent hurricane seasons.

Indian River schools plans $7 million community complex, sports fields across from Vero High” via Colleen Wixon of Treasure Coast Newspapers — A $7 million community park, sports fields and business center at the former Jimmy Graves Sports Complex got a head start in fundraising Tuesday with a $1 million contribution from the city. “This touches all the bases,” said City Councilman John Cotugno at Tuesday’s meeting. “It’s green space; it’s open to the community. It’s for the public good, and it’s fully inclusive.” The Vero Beach Community Complex would be built on 11.6 acres across from Vero Beach High School. In 2017, former City Councilman Joe Graves bought the property from Indian River County, hoping to maintain it for recreation in memory of his 15-year-old son, who died in a 2016 boating accident.

—TOP OPINION—

Mac Stipanovich: Abraham’s Hope III” via Florida Politics — The re-election of DeSantis as Governor is inevitable, merely a way station to the White House in 2024. Or so Christina Pushaw, his in-house Twitter troll, would have us believe. And make no mistake about it: Tater is currently in tall cotton. (I call DeSantis “Tater” because his not-so-svelte morphology and less-than-scintillating personality remind me of the look — and likability — of a tater.) But this is where the storied wisdom of Ben Franklin counsels caution — nothing is certain but death and taxes. Tater’s re-election is neither. Trump could decide that Tater is getting too far above his raisin’ and, with 2024 in mind, go off on him as only a miffed megalomaniac can when he feels disrespected. Trump made him; Trump could break him.

— OPINIONS —

Biden’s ugly options in Ukraine” via Walter Russell Mead of The Wall Street Journal — We are only six weeks into Vladimir Putin‘s war against Ukraine, but the conflict has already settled into a familiar pattern. Both sides often go into wars with a theory of victory, and it is only when both theories fail that the true shape of the conflict begins to appear. The original Russian plan was to break the Ukrainian state by quickly taking the capital and major cities such as Kharkiv. It failed. Now both sides are stuck with a war that neither knows how to win, and it is difficult to see the outlines of a compromise peace that both sides can accept. Ukraine cannot accept a peace that leaves it exposed to further Russian aggression and that involves further territorial sacrifice, and Putin cannot end the war without demonstrable gains at the expense of Ukraine.

The consequences of war crimes” via The Wall Street Journal editorial board — The scenes of murder and mass graves from Bucha and other towns and cities in Ukraine are shocking the world, and we hope they linger in memory for longer than a TikTok video. The war crimes prima-facie display should underscore the West’s resolve that they can’t go unpunished. The scenes are widespread enough that they suggest more than the acts of a few renegade soldiers or a rogue squad or company. A war crimes investigation needn’t start with Putin, and it might be better if it didn’t. The war is continuing, and the impact might be more significant on Russian morale if Russian officers know they will be held accountable.

He who gaffes last …” via Mickey Kaus of Kausfiles — To read much of the commentary on Biden’s big speech in Warsaw, you’d think the problem was the ad-lib at the end. About halfway through the speech, Biden had his Reaganish ‘Mr. Putin, tear down this wall’ moment — “Putin can and must end this war.” But then he went on to make it clear that ending the Ukraine war would not satisfy him, because it wouldn’t end the long-term anti-Putin, anti-autocracy fight he thinks he is launching. Not only did this make it less likely that Putin will end the war — but it also completely fed into Putin’s worldview of a Western conspiracy vs. Russia. So, Biden’s Warsaw pronouncement was not just a “bad lapse in discipline,” but a mistake, a thoroughly planned, well-considered mistake. Take away the ad-lib and it was still a mistake.

To score cheap points, Congress shuns a great Floridian” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — House Republicans have taken an opportunity to vent venom and spite against a second Black judge — in this case, a Floridian — even though it meant dishonoring the dead. They thwarted the passage of a bill naming the federal courthouse in Tallahassee for the late Joseph W. Hatchett, who served on the Florida Supreme Court and the 11th U.S. Circuit of Appeals. Both Florida’s Senators and all 27 House members co-sponsored the bill to name the building for Hatchett, who died last April. The Senate passed it unanimously, but last Wednesday, 10 of Florida’s 16 House Republicans turned their backs on their own bill and — make no mistake — on their own state to help defeat a motion that required a two-thirds vote under suspension of the rules.

I nearly lost my son to COVID-19, Governor” via Annie Gainous Thompson of Yahoo News — COVID-19 is still here, threatening our loved ones. Amazingly, DeSantis continually calls COVID-19 farce and theater. That’s a disrespectful and irresponsible attitude for our state’s leader. COVID, getting vaccinated, or wearing a mask are not farces. Nearly 1 million Americans, 73,000 in Florida, lost their lives and left loved ones to deal with losses. Millions more are long-haulers, struggling to recover 100%. Obviously, he doesn’t have any underlying issues, and his family hasn’t been affected by COVID-19. That’s not true for others. I nearly lost my son to a COVID-19-related heart attack. To hear the Governor continually refer to it as a farce or theater leaves me dumbfounded.

QAnon goes mainstream” via Radley Balko of The Washington Post — There’s a common thread between attacks against Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson as being soft on child predators, the manufactured controversy on the right over whether teachers can mention homosexuality to students, and the anti-trans laws sweeping Republican-controlled state legislatures: We’re witnessing the mainstreaming of QAnon. On social media, legal scholars and pundits who defended Jackson from these attacks were swarmed with replies calling them “groomers,” or demands that they themselves be investigated. That slur — groomer — is also now wielded against critics of new laws in Florida and elsewhere that allow parents to sue teachers for, among other things, mentioning the mere existence of gay people to their students.

The Florida Legislature has chosen to pay more for less public safety” via Molly Gill and Denise Rock of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Once again, the Florida Legislature has finished another Session without passing any sentencing or prison reform bills that would save money without harming public safety. However, the Legislature did authorize the Florida Department of Corrections to spend $645 million to build a new prison and $195 million for a new prison hospital. In short, taxpayers will once again be paying more money for less safety, a status quo that is expensive, senseless and dangerous for everyone. Unsafe, outdated prisons are one of the reasons it is getting harder to recruit and retain correctional officers, which has led to understaffed prisons that are more dangerous for everyone.

— ALOE —

‘Aggressive’ fox caught on U.S. Capitol grounds after biting attacks” via Dana Hedgpeth of The Washington Post — Animal control officials caught a fox Tuesday on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol after several people reported sightings and some said they had been bitten. Officials warned the public to be aware after several reports of ” aggressive ” foxes over the past few days of “aggressive” foxes. Tim Barber, a spokesman for the U.S. Capitol Police, said at least half a dozen people had been bitten or nipped by a fox in the past few days. Foxes are considered wild animals, and officials warned that no one should approach them. They’re known to be “protective of their dens and territory.” But that didn’t stop the online fandom: On Tuesday, like any Washington celebrity or phenomenon, the fox or foxes already had a dedicated Twitter account.

Yet another unexpected invasion of the Capitol Complex. Image via Capitol Police.

Magic Johnson’s next shot: The NBA legend on changing Lakers history, HIV activism and his revealing Apple docuseries” via Selome Hailu and Ramin Setoodeh of Variety — In person, Johnson is imposing. At 6-foot-9, his stature only reinforces the perception that he’s larger than life. At SXSW, where the first episode of “They Call Me Magic” premiered on March 12, he took the stage in an olive-green suit and crisp white sneakers, engaging the crowd with a charisma that few politicians could match. After Johnson joined the Lakers as a point guard, he led the team to five NBA championships and quickly became the highest-paid player in sports. And he leveraged his fame as a basketball superstar to become a mogul. Johnson says he lives in Hollywood but never wanted to “become Hollywood.” Nevertheless, he has established a model, followed by everyone from Shaquille O’Neal to LeBron James, for acquiring power in sports and then translating that to entertainment and business.

Ukrainian boy building Lego again thanks to nonstop donations” via BBC — Igor Sidorov and his son, Andrey, fled war-torn Kyiv but had to leave Andrey’s Lego collection behind. Sidorov made an online appeal for people to send him some Lego bricks, so Andrey could get building again. Now, he says, toys have been flooding in at their hotel in Galway. “A lot of people sent us lots of boxes, new Lego, used Lego — so my Andrey is already building toys with Lego again,” Sidorov said. Before the war, the child was posting videos of his creations from his home in Kyiv. “He is really very happy when people call my hotel every day and ask nonstop about my boy and Lego,” he said.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Happy birthday to two wonderful women in The Process, Carolyn Johnson and Chelsea Murphy, as well as Democratic activist Alan Clendenin, Rosemary Curtiss, FP’s Kelly Hayes, ace photographer Colin Hackley, and Alex Smith.

___

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

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of FloridaPolitics.com, 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.



#FlaPol

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