Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 4.7.22

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Florida politics and Sunburn — perfect together.

Good Thursday morning and happy Opening Day.

Welcome to the worldHenry Lee Grissom, the first son of our friends, Kristen and Mike Grissom. born at 11:06 a.m. Wednesday and weighing 6 lbs., 4 oz. Baby and mommy are doing great.

Henry Grissom was born just in time for the 2022 baseball season!

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Businesses across the country are struggling to attract and retain workers. Florida is not immune.

According to data collected by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, nearly 72% of Florida’s workforce leaders have had trouble finding qualified talent over the past year.

As it stands, there are currently more open jobs in Florida than there are people seeking work — a reality the Chamber is referring to as a “talent crisis.”

This week, the Florida Chamber launched a new initiative to confront the problem head-on.

Dubbed the Future of Work Initiative, the program aims to bring together businesses and educational institutions to re-imagine the state’s workforce by helping workers attain the skills necessary for in-demand jobs.

Informed by the Chamber’s Florida Workforce Needs Survey 2.0 – Part One, the initiative will be “laser-focused on turning Florida’s workforce challenges into opportunities and a competitive strength for Florida.”

According to the Chamber, millions of jobs wait to be filled by workers requiring certifications and credentials, but not necessarily 4-year degrees.

Through the Future of Work Initiative, businesses will promote the importance of career exploration to align market needs with talent supply.

As part of the initiative’s launch, the Florida Chamber produced a video where business and education leaders such as Chancellor Henry Mack, Department of Economic Opportunity Director of Workforce Services Adrienne Johnston, CareerSource Florida CEO Michelle Dennard, and Florida Department of Corrections Director of Programs and Re-Entry Patrick Mahoney make a case for the business community to join forces with the workforce and education community to tackle the talent crisis.

Businesses can learn more about the Future of Work Initiative and the talent resources available online.

For more info about the initiative, click on the image below:

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@JeffreyKleintop: All of these were going to end globalization: 2016 Brexit 2017 (Donald) Trump trade war 2018 Nationalism 2020 Pandemic 2022 Ukraine War Yet, global trade is at record highs and so it is the international share of corporate profits.

@NikkiFried: Consider this your reminder that $300,000,000 of Florida’s pension is wrapped up in Russia and Ron DeSantis has decided to keep it there, hoping Russia recovers. Ron is betting on Russia.

@EWErickson: It is a mischaracterization to call the Florida Law the “Don’t Say Gay” law, but that is what the media chose to do. Now, a lot of Republicans call opponents “groomers” and the media is spitting mad. Much of the press response is juvenile. They’re upset they lost.

@BaseballCrank: I think “groomers” is counterproductive in a debate we’re already winning, but the people who sneered & scoffed at anyone who noted the dishonesty of “Don’t Say Gay” — ooh, you just have your feewings hurt? — has no standing to complain about it.

@Timodc: So obviously, this is a sick person defending Ron DeSantis staff, accusing people of being child rapists. But the point is also BS. Opponents called the bill “Don’t say gay” because the initial legislation, which Ron supported, did literally ban “discussion” of sexual orientation.

@Mike_Grieco: People from outside Florida injecting their $ into Florida politics. Isn’t that something that Republicans frown upon? … or it just OK when it’s from red states and casino conglomerates like the Sands Corporation?

@MDixon55: New thing @GovRonDeSantis doing is indicating specific budget line items that will escape his veto pen at news conferences. Just said he would sign off on money for a fire station in Hamilton County. Don’t expect full/official veto/budget action until after map Special Session

Tweet, tweet:

@Fineout: An AP editor once told me amid a session where a big gambling fight was looming — write your story about casinos in such a way that a grandmother in Iowa would care about it

@Twitter: we are working on an edit button

— DAYS UNTIL —

‘Better Call Saul’ final season begins — 11; Magic Johnson’s Apple TV+ docuseries ‘They Call Me Magic’ begins — 15; 2022 Florida Chamber Transportation, Growth & Infrastructure Solution Summit — 21; ‘The Godfather’ TV series ‘The Offer’ premieres — 21; 2nd half of ‘Ozark’ final season begins — 22; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 29; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 35; ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ starts on Disney+ — 49; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 50; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 56; California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota hold midterm Primaries — 61; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 92; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 105; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 124; ‘House of the Dragon’ premieres on HBO — 136; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 148; 2022 Emmys — 158; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 183; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 201; Jon Meacham’s ‘And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle’ releases — 201; ‘Black Panther 2′ premieres — 218; ‘Captain Marvel 2’ premieres — 218; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 223; The World Cup kicks off in Qatar — 228; The U.S. World Cup Soccer Team begins play — 228; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 229; ‘Avatar 2′ premieres — 253; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 334; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ premieres — 351; 2023 Session Sine Die — 393; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 477; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 561; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 841.



— TOP STORY —

Jeff Brandes calls for property insurance Special Session” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — “Florida’s private property insurance market has collapsed, and it is evident we must call a Special Session to address this dire situation,” Brandes wrote in a letter to House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Senate President Wilton Simpson. “With the 2022 hurricane season quickly approaching and an unstable market, the Legislature chose to leave homeowners exposed to a perfect storm of rising rates, limited coverage, and diminishing options.”

Jeff Brandes sees a Special Session for property insurance as an easy decision.

Four companies have declined to renew more than 120,000 policies in the past year, and two others have gone bankrupt. Other companies have received significant rate hikes from state regulators. Citizens Property Insurance, whose annual rate increase is capped at 10%, is also taking on more policies — up to 800,000 — as the private market recedes from some high-risk areas.

If Sprowls and Simpson don’t act, Brandes wrote, he’ll ask for a poll of legislators to determine whether they convene a Special Session on their own. To conduct a poll, Brandes will need to rally 20% of the Legislature to back his request, then the Department of State will formally poll the entire body. If three-fifths of each Chamber supports it, there will be a Special Session.

Nikki Fried seconds call for property insurance Special Session — Agriculture Commissioner Fried lambasted the upcoming Special Session schedule for not addressing property insurance, saying that it is “disgraceful that our lawmakers have decided to ignore the real emergencies that Floridians are facing … and instead focus on a crisis entirely of Gov. DeSantis’s making.” The criticism came shortly after Brandes sent a letter to Simpson and Sprowls requesting they call a Special Session to stabilize the property insurance market, facing increased instability after a recent spate of insurance companies entering receivership. “Instead of calling a Special Session on these issues, the Governor is forcing the Legislature to return to Tallahassee in a blatantly discriminatory effort to enact his unconstitutional maps, erase minority-access districts, and set up a challenge to the Voting Rights Act.”

— 2022 —

Florida Democrats will probably get creamed this fall, but Rick Scott gives them hope” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — No Florida Democrat had ousted a statewide Republican incumbent in more than 30 years, even when Democrats had the voting advantage. And they don’t have that anymore. Things look even worse for Democrats when you consider the President’s party often performs poorly in the election cycle right after he wins. Scott has released what may be the most toxic tax plan in American history. Republicans are worried Scott’s bad idea may drag down Republicans across the country.

Scott exposes fissures with Ron DeSantis” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — Scott showed an unwillingness to embrace the harsh rhetoric of DeSantis over Disney’s rejection of Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education” bill, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by opponents. Scott said he supports the legislation and complained about “woke companies” such as Disney, which also came under fire for not taking a stance on the bill until Florida lawmakers approved it. Scott’s less combative tone over Disney is another reminder of the stylistic and policy differences between him and DeSantis.

With talk of shifting federal marijuana policy, Nikki Fried says it’s time for Florida to legalize it” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Following a U.S. House vote legalizing marijuana, Fried said Florida has a chance to lead on weed. Fried said Florida is behind on cannabis law and needs to do more to make sure the growing industry lifts minority communities often targeted by bad drug policy. With the possibility of federal decriminalization on the horizon, Fried said that must change. “We have not moved the ball forward,” Fried said. “And the only way to fix this is to have me as Governor.” The House last week voted in favor of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act (HR 3617). The legislation still has a hazy future in the Senate, and it’s still unclear what President Joe Biden will do if the legislation lands on his desk.

Nikki Fried: Just legalize it already.

Annette Taddeo campaign reports $110K raised in two weeks following end of Session” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Sen. Taddeo raised more than $110,000 after the end of the Legislative Session toward her bid to become Florida’s first Latina Governor. Taddeo’s official fundraising numbers from March are still pending formal filing with the Division of Elections, as are those of DeSantis, Charlie Crist, Fried, and some 20 other gubernatorial candidates. Taddeo said her gains since March 14, when the Legislature adjourned, indicate she still is still enjoying support from constituents. Florida lawmakers are prohibited from fundraising while the Legislative Session is underway.

Pam Bondi endorses Wilton Simpson for Agriculture Commissioner” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Bondi is making the case for Simpson to become Florida’s next Agriculture Commissioner. “Wilton Simpson is a conservative warrior with a proven track record of supporting our brave law enforcement officers, protecting Florida’s families and defending our Second Amendment rights,” Bondi said. Bondi follows her successor, Attorney General Ashley Moody, in endorsing the Senate President for the post. As for Bondi, she remains a coveted endorsement in Republican politics within Florida.

Tweet, tweet:

Sean Shaw backs Aramis Ayala for Attorney General” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Shaw, who ran a competitive race in defeat four years ago to incumbent Moody, endorsed Ayala of Orange County. “I’m proud to endorse Aramis Ayala in her race for Attorney General. Florida needs an Attorney General with Aramis’ exceptional expertise and unbendable commitment to serving the people over the powerful,” Shaw asserted. Shaw contended that Ayala would be the right AG at the right time for people struggling amid current circumstances.

Congressional Republicans now lead generic ballot among child tax credit recipients” via Eli Yokley of Morning Consult — Voters who received expanded child tax credits payments in 2021 ended the year more likely than not to support Democratic candidates for Congress in this year’s midterm elections. But months after that benefit expired, a new survey shows Republicans have made up that ground. The expanded child tax credit payments, enacted through 2021 as part of Biden’s COVID-19 relief package, were credited with slashing child poverty. Among parents or guardians who received the expanded child tax credit payments, 46% said they are most likely to vote for a Republican congressional candidate this year, while 43% said they’re inclined to back the Democratic candidate.

Amanda Makki hires Axiom Strategies team — Republican congressional candidate Makki announced Wednesday that Axiom Strategies would serve as the general consulting firm for her campaign for Florida’s 13th Congressional District. The Kansas City-based consulting firm was instrumental in now-Virginia-Gov. Glen Youngkin’s victory last fall, when he became the first Republican to win that office since 2009. “I am thrilled to have Axiom lead our winning team,” Makki said. “Their strong work ethic, experience, and successful record are paramount as we win this seat and flip Florida’s 13th District red.” Makki is competing against several others for the Republican nomination to succeed exiting U.S. Rep. Crist. The race is expected to be one of the most competitive in the state. It will likely be among the most expensive as donors nationwide contribute.

—“Michele Rayner scores endorsement from 3 sitting members of Congress in bid for CD 13” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics

Jackie Toledo raises $350K in first month of fundraising for CD 15 race” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — Toledo raised more than $350,000 in just over a month of fundraising, according to a news release from Toledo’s campaign. Toledo announced she’d attempt a move from Tallahassee to Washington in a video last month where she described herself as a “mom on a mission.” “My mission is to protect parents’ rights and individual liberty,” the conservative lawmaker said in her launch video. “My mission is to protect our children from woke-ism. My mission is to bring back conservative values to Congress.” Toledo was first elected to HD 60 in 2016 and has held on to the district against credible challenges. During her time in the Legislature, she has championed legislation to combat human trafficking and support survivors.

—”Eddie Geller doubles funds with $100K Q1 haul for congressional race” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics

Naval air combat veteran files for shot at succeeding Ted Deutch” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — A U.S. Navy air combat veteran is making his first bid for public office, filing to challenge Jared Moskowitz for the Democratic nomination to succeed retiring Rep. Deutch in Congress. Curtis Calabrese is a Boca Raton native who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He said the attempted Jan. 6 insurrection is calling him to run to represent Florida’s 22nd Congressional District the same way the Sept. 11 terrorist attack drew him to run air combat missions against U.S. enemies.

Curtis Calabrese is the latest to vie for Ted Deutch’s seat.

Mariya Calkins grows financial lead in HD 3” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Calkins doubled down in March against Primary challengers, collecting more than $18,000 in donations. Calkins is vying to replace outgoing GOP state Rep. Jayer Williamson, who opted not to seek re-election. She holds a significant financial advantage over other Primary challengers, who have raised less than $12,000 in donations. Calkins has amassed more than $160,000 since launching her campaign.

Joe Harding says national support for controversial ‘parental rights’ law helped net him $70K in donations” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Rep. Harding raised more than $70,000 in donations from across the country last month, averaging less than $19 per contribution. Harding received a groundswell of grassroots support in March when the parental rights measure he authored hit the headlines. He recently offered to return $3,126 in Disney donations after the company spoke against the bill. His March haul represents a figure 23 times higher than those returned donations. His parental rights bill that DeSantis signed into law March 28 has earned the law the nickname “Don’t Say Gay” from critics.

With $245K ante, Carolina Amesty stakes campaign for new HD 45” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The stakes are growing high in the contest for the open seat in the newly drawn House District that includes Walt Disney World, as Amesty entered the field with a $245,000 opening campaign fund. Amesty, vice president at Central Christian University, has laid down the challenge against several well-known Republicans and a high-profile Democrat who’ve filed to run in the southwestern Orange County district. She entered the race in mid-March and in two weeks, raised about $45,000 in donations and lent $200,000 to her campaign.

Spencer Roach announces re-election campaign in HD 76” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Rep. Roach has scheduled a kickoff for his re-election campaign at the Shell Factory on April 25. The North Fort Myers Republican will hold a separate kickoff in Charlotte County on April 26 at the Discovery Center at Woodlea Hall in Babcock Ranch. “When I first announced my candidacy four years ago, I promised to defend liberty and advance conservative values,” Roach wrote to supporters. “And during my time in the Florida House, I’ve done exactly that.” Roach will run in the newly drawn House District 76. It’s the district where he lives, and he’s the only incumbent Representative running there. That’s good news because early maps paired him with a Republican colleague. At the same time, the new district bears a distinctly different shape from his existing House District 79.

Tiffany Esposito raises more than $60K in first month of HD 77 run” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Esposito collected more than $60,000 in her first month running for Florida House. The Southwest Florida business leader launched her campaign in March for an open House District 77 seat. Since then, a total of $60,225 in new donations rolled in. “We are off to a good start, and I am very appreciative of the early support our campaign has received,” she said.

Alina García drops Senate bid for newly open HD 115” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — García has dropped her Senate bid to run for House District 115, whose current Representative recently announced plans to vacate his seat. García announced the move Tuesday, noting she had roughly $300,000 to support her House campaign. An anti-abortion, anti-Communist candidate, García has worked for several prominent Republican politicians in Congress, the Florida Cabinet, Florida Legislature and Miami-Dade County. She served as U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s first legislative aide when he was elected to the Florida House in 1999.

Happening tonight:

Happening Saturday:

Save the date:

Another save the date:

New Seminole election security initiative wouldn’t target ‘ghost’ candidates” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — Seminole County leaders’ new initiative to thwart “potential threats to elections” wouldn’t tackle the types of violations seen in the 2020 Florida Senate races, when a former state lawmaker was accused of bribing a friend to run for office in a vote-siphoning scheme. Elections Supervisor Chris Anderson’s new EVOLVE Partnership calls for a special prosecutor from State Attorney Phil Archer’s office to work with the elections office to investigate voter fraud and other violations of state laws. He said his office will also work with the Florida National Guard to ward off ransomware and other cybersecurity threats.


— STATEWIDE —

NYC Mayor on Florida: ‘I’m trying to steal their companies’” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — New York City Mayor Eric Adams issued a warning Wednesday to Florida: “Watch out.” Speaking at a Brooklyn news conference, the former cop-turned Mayor said he is trying to “steal” Florida businesses and resettle them in the Big Apple. The effort, Adams suggested, is retribution. “They’ve been doing it to us for a long time,” Adams told reporters. “They’ve been coming to New York, taking our businesses away.” Prompted by a reporter’s question, the remarks mark the latest exchange between Florida and the Big Apple.

Faceoff: Eric Adams trolls Ron DeSantis to steal companies away from Florida.

New laws championed by DeSantis now face legal scrutiny” via John Kennedy of USA Today Network — With the dust still settling from a Legislative Session where DeSantis’ polarizing agenda of bills was easily approved by Republican majorities, the scene now shifts from the Capitol to the courthouse. The trail was blazed recently with a federal lawsuit looking to overturn the state’s new parental rights law, branded “Don’t Say Gay” by opponents, filed within days of DeSantis signing the measure. More challenges are waiting in the wings for legislation focusing on immigration, abortion, elections security, campaign financing, and discussion of race in schools and the workplace.

Scott still says DeSantis should have returned extra COVID-19 relief funds” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The COVID-19 pandemic appears to be on the wane, but former Florida Governor and current U.S. Sen. Scott continues to express dismay about DeSantis‘ decision to continue spending federal relief funds. During an interview, Scott was asked about DeSantis continuing to “deploy” COVID-19 relief funds for priorities unrelated to the pandemic. Scott said leaders with extra funds should return them to defray the federal debt.

Florida’s pension fund is stuck holding $300 million in Russian investments” via Skyler 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.

Politics and Florida’s Supreme Court: the remarkable rise of the next Chief Justice” via Noreen Marcus of FloridaBulldog.org — When Florida Supreme Court justices elect their in-house leader, tradition dictates that they honor seniority. It’s remarkable that on March 9, the justices ignored seniority and bypassed the obvious choice, Justice Alan Lawson, to tap a relative newcomer, Justice Carlos Muniz. It’s conceivable that Muniz’s hard-line credentials gave him an edge over Lawson. Muniz won the chief’s job after a power struggle — a selection process punctuated by verbal arm-twisting and split votes that dragged on for five months. Muniz was elected “by acclamation.” “DeSantis and the ultraconservative justices he appointed think that Justice Lawson is squishy on issues like diversity,” an insider said. “They also don’t want him to preside over the Supreme Court cases that will come up soon, on apportionment and abortion in particular. They don’t trust him like they trust Justice Muniz.”

— DATELINE TALLY —

— “Gov. DeSantis signs law guaranteeing visitation rights to residents, patients” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics

—“Gov. DeSantis signs second pass at limiting big-dollar influence in ballot initiatives” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics

—“Gov. DeSantis signs bill that ‘modernizes’ nursing home law by lowering ‘nursing’ care requirements” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics

—“Governor signs bill allowing providers to use telehealth to prescribe some controlled substances” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics

—“Early testing for virus causing infant hearing loss signed into law” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

—“Rewrite of Florida’s Medicaid managed care system signed into law” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics

—“Homeless people’s data will be shielded from public record under new law” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics

—“Streets to schools: Gov. DeSantis signs law removing education, program barriers to homeless youth” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

—“Gov. DeSantis signs bill broadening naloxone distribution, legal protections” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics

A longtime priority for Danny Burgess hits Ron DeSantis’ desk.

‘Liquid gold’: DeSantis signs law authorizing state purchase of breast milk” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — More mother’s milk will soon become available through a state bank, thanks to a new state law. DeSantis signed a bill (SB 1770) that authorizes the Agency for Health Care Administration to pay for donor human milk bank services as an optional Medicaid service. The milk will then become available to infants who are “medically or physically unable to receive maternal breast milk or to breastfeed or whose mother is medically or physically unable to produce maternal breast milk or breastfeed.” Dubbed “liquid gold” by advocates, the CDC considers breast milk the best source of nutrition for most infants. But sometimes mothers are unable to produce milk when the baby is born prematurely.

DeSantis’ ‘Stop WOKE’ Act could force Florida businesses to rethink diversity training” via Kathryn Varn of the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida is set to become the first state in the country to restrict how workplaces can talk about racism and bias. The legislation (HB 7), better known as the “Stop WOKE” Act, was pushed aggressively by DeSantis and sailed through the Republican-controlled Legislature last month, despite pushback from dozens of businesses and chambers of commerce. The bill also restricts discussion of such topics in schools, in line with a conservative-led trend to tamp down instruction on race, gender and sexuality. But Florida is unique in extending the provision to workplaces. Any violation could open employers to a civil rights lawsuit.

5 ways Florida nursing home visits will change thanks to bill DeSantis just signed” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida health care facilities have a new set of rules for restricting visitation thanks to a bill approved Wednesday by DeSantis. Senate Bill 988, which sponsors named the “No Patient Left Alone Act,” was largely a response to the early months of the coronavirus pandemic in which the DeSantis administration severely limited visitation at Florida’s long-term care facilities and hospitals. The state put those restrictions in place in 2020 to control the spread of COVID-19. As the months of isolation for residents and patients added up and complaints from loved ones mounted, DeSantis began relaxing those rules.

Happening today — Sen. Joe Gruters; Reps. Tommy Gregory and Will Robinson will hold a Session wrap up at the Sarasota Tiger Bay Club, noon, Michael’s on East, 1212 South East Ave., Sarasota.

Allen Winsor worked on redistricting as a House lawyer. He’s not recusing himself as judge” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — The federal judge handling Florida’s congressional redistricting case said Wednesday that he will not step aside and recuse himself, even though he represented the state House of Representatives in the last redistricting cycle and worked to oppose the state’s anti-gerrymandering provisions. The groups are asking the federal court to set the new congressional districts, arguing that the decision by DeSantis to veto the congressional map and the Legislature’s inability to reach a resolution during the Regular Legislative Session has led to an impasse on the issue.

Allen Winsor refuses to recuse himself for redistricting. Will that be a problem later?

Voting rights group Equal Ground Action launches campaign on redistricting Special Session” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — An Orlando-based Black political advocacy group is launching a new digital campaign to get voters to demand the Legislature protect minority access congressional districts in the upcoming Special Session. Equal Ground Action Fund will target 2.5 million Floridians with a new digital campaign entitled “We Draw The Lines.” The group wants to convince lawmakers not to eliminate districts previously mapped out as minority access districts. Particular focus has been given to Florida’s 5th Congressional District, which had been drawn, based on the Voting Rights Act of 1965, to increase Black representation in North Florida.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Joe Biden announces long COVID-19 strategy as experts push for more” via Dan Diamond and Frances Stead Sellers of The Washington Post — Biden directed government agencies to take additional steps to research and treat long COVID-19, a condition that often remains mysterious even as it has sickened millions of Americans. Under a memorandum issued by Biden, the Department of Health and Human Services will coordinate a government-wide action plan to address long COVID-19, which is estimated to afflict anywhere from 7.7 million to 23 million Americans. The government also will issue a report in 120 days detailing available services and support for those who suffer from long COVID-19, accelerate efforts to enroll participants in a clinical research study, and pursue federal protections for people with the condition.

Joe Biden has a plan for long COVID-19. Image via AP.

White House extends student loan repayment freeze through August” via Erin Doherty of Axios — Biden on Wednesday extended the pause on federal student loan repayments through August 31, 2022. The moratorium, scheduled to end on May 1, has allowed millions to postpone payments during the pandemic. “This continued pause will help Americans breathe a little easier as we recover and rebuild from the pandemic,” Biden said in a video announcing the decision.

Happening today — Venezuelan leaders are holding a virtual news conference to discuss Rubio’s “failure to stand up for Venezuelan TPS recipients,” 2 p.m. Registration is available here.

Matt Gaetz justifies ‘no’ vote on insulin cap bill by saying diabetics should lose weight” via Ella Lee of USA Today — Rep. Gaetz justified his vote against a bill that would cap insulin at $35 a month for most Americans by suggesting people with diabetes should first lose weight before Congress steps in to help. On Thursday, the Florida Republican claimed on Twitter and in his newsletter a day later that obese people, not pharmaceutical companies, are running up the drug’s price, writing that insulin’s cost “increases as waistlines increase.” “While Democrat posturing of H.R. 6833 victimizes insulin payees as people with an uncontrollable disease that are being taken advantage of and need Big Brother to throw them a raft, lifestyle changes en masse would expeditiously lower demand and the subsequent prices of insulin,” Gaetz wrote.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz tests positive for COVID-19 one day after Broward visit” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Rep. Wasserman Schultz revealed Wednesday that she has tested positive for COVID-19. In a Tuesday statement, the Democratic South Florida Congresswoman confirmed she had recently contracted the virus but eased any worry about the severity of her condition. “I was informed this evening that I have tested positive for COVID,” Wasserman Schultz said. “Thankfully, I am both vaccinated and boosted, and my symptoms are manageable.” Wasserman Schultz was in Broward County to welcome U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to the area and toured a school in Weston.

It’s Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s turn.

Disney names Kristina Schake head of global communications” via Alex Weprin of The Hollywood Reporter — The company has hired Schake to lead global communications as its executive VP, reporting to chief corporate affairs officer Geoff Morrell. Schake most recently led the national COVID-19 vaccine education campaign for the Biden administration and was global communications director for Instagram. Like Morrell and Disney’s last head of communications Zenia Mucha, Schake is a veteran of politics, having worked as deputy communications director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, and in the Barack Obama White House as special assistant to the President and communications director for Michelle Obama.

— EPILOGUE: TRUMP —

Why haven’t Republicans had to answer for Donald Trump’s support for Vladimir Putin?” via Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent of The Washington Post — Reports of horrific atrocities in Ukraine are putting some who are sympathetic to the Kremlin’s take on the Russian invasion in an awkward position, since most people aren’t comfortable defending war crimes. But some people ought to feel more uncomfortable than they apparently do. We’re talking about the Republicans who spent years justifying and supporting Trump’s substantive and emotional support for Putin and his attempts to use Ukraine and its President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for his own debased purposes.

The Donald Trump/Vladimir Putin bromance is getting awkward.

False election claims dominate party for Trump, allies at Mar-a-Lago” via Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — Trump and a coterie of his top allies, donors and paying club members gathered at his palatial beachfront club Tuesday night for a reunion of sorts and, most importantly, re-litigate parts of the 2020 election that he lost 17 months ago. The fraud fete on a sweltering spring night showed how much Trump and the ecosphere around him remain focused on the last election and his false claims of fraud — and how he now inhabits a cosseted club life where he is the roundly cheered, and rarely challenged, star who everyone pays to see. As he traversed the club, he repeatedly asked guests and members about fraud in certain states and offered vague claims of explosive findings that he said were still to come.

— LOCAL NOTES: N. FL —

Tallahassee officials on the hot seat as gun violence, affordable housing assembly draws 600” via Christopher Cann of the Tallahassee Democrat — One at a time, local officials were called onto the stage of the Old West Florida Enrichment Center where, in front of a skeptical crowd of about 600 people, they were asked direct yes or no questions on gun violence and affordable housing. The ground rules were simple, if not controversial, for the Tuesday night event organized by leaders of almost two dozen local houses of worship: After answering if they would support proposed specific solutions to combat gun violence and an affordable housing crisis, officials were given 30 seconds to explain their position.

Tallahassee turns out to take a stand against gun violence.

With collapse of shell games, JAXPORT loses its leverage in fight with JEA” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — An influential member of the JEA Board of Directors said Tuesday he stands behind the utility’s CEO in refusing to use ratepayer money to finance an expensive and risky project Jacksonville Port Authority officials have long demanded: Raising the height of six high-voltage transmission lines that cross the St. Johns River. John Baker, a former member of the Port’s Board of Directors and a current member of JEA’s Board, said he was sympathetic to the Port’s plight and agreed that the lines needed to be raised; otherwise, the $410 million project deepening the river from 40 to 47 feet would “literally be wasted.”

— MORE LOCAL: C. FL —

Alachua County judge sides with 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. 8th Judicial Circuit Judge Monica Brasington issued the long-awaited decision Monday. 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.

In removing Diyonne McGraw, did Ron DeSantis cross the line? Image via Gainesville Sun.

13 arrested in fentanyl trafficking scheme run from Orange County Jail, authorities say” via Cristóbal Reyes of the Orlando Sentinel — In April 2021, days after Steven Albers was jailed for violating bond while facing an aggravated assault charge, authorities say he was caught once again committing more crimes. Jail officials allegedly found Albers and his partner Marshawn Barnes, both of whom officials say are members of Gangster Disciples, were smuggling drugs into the Orange County Jail and running a fentanyl trafficking operation from behind bars.

Creekside Middle School teacher arrested, accused of blaring music during FSA testing” via Samantha Dunne of Click Orlando — A Port Orange middle school art teacher was arrested Tuesday after blaring music on campus during FSA testing. Officer said they responded to a disturbance at Creekside Middle School. Investigators noted that Martin Reese, an art teacher at the school, was accused of playing loud music to disrupt FSA testing. Reese refused to turn the music down and caused a disturbance as he was escorted to the principal’s office, prompting the school to lockdown until the incident was resolved. Reese left the classroom at one point and went into the school’s courtyard, where he took his shirt off to show he had no weapons on him.

Booked: Spring Breakers help pack Disney World, Orlando hotels” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Orlando’s hotels haven’t been this busy since the pandemic began, a sign the world’s theme park capital is getting back to normal. The record-breaking metro Orlando hotel occupancy hit 90.5% during March 13-19, beating the previous record of 85.9% set in late February. “Our destination has hit a major milestone in our ongoing recovery, thanks to Spring Break visitors,” said Visit Orlando’s President and CEO Casandra Matej. Midwesterners are escaping the still chilly Spring temperatures, and others are flocking to Orlando to visit the theme parks and stay at hotels. Visit Orlando said Orlando’s occupancy was the second-highest among the Top 25 U.S. markets, falling just behind Tampa.

A return to normal? Disney World sued over scooter crash” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Perhaps it’s a sign the crowds are coming back in full force to Disney World: The parks were recently sued over a scooter crash. Pre-pandemic, the theme parks regularly faced litigation after visitors were run over by electric scooters and then filed lawsuits. Once, a college basketball player was hit by a scooter in 2018 at Hollywood Studios which injured him so badly, he had to sit out for his entire season, he said in court documents. But during the pandemic, the growing number of lawsuits slowed down. In the latest scooter-related lawsuit, Jamie Pineda is suing for more than $30,000.

Company accused of selling bogus ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ crypto” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — A Missouri investor is accusing a company selling “Let’s go Brandon” cryptocurrency coins of luring in unsuspecting investors by misleading them about a NASCAR sponsorship deal and celebrity endorsements. The LGB Coin‘s leaders and others offloaded their tokens before the value plummeted and made “substantial profits,” says the lawsuit filed earlier this month in Orlando’s federal court division by Eric De Ford of St. Louis, Mississippi, who bought the coins and lost money although the lawsuit doesn’t specify how much, and his attorney did not say.

— MORE LOCAL: S. FL —

Alcohol restrictions for South Beach nightlife will be considered by Commission” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — Five months after voters said they would support new alcohol restrictions, the City Commission will meet on Wednesday to consider proposals that could change the world-famous nightlife scene in South Beach. Miami Beach Commissioners are scheduled to discuss three proposals that would roll back alcohol sales by three hours, from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. One proposed ordinance would impose a blanket 2 a.m. alcohol ban citywide. The other two would create exceptions for some existing 5 a.m. businesses or those in some parts of the city. In November, 57% of voters approved a non-binding referendum supporting a 2 a.m. rollback of alcohol sales with certain “exceptions” for the Commission to decide.

Will Ocean Drive stay dry? Is that even possible?

Private eye slams ruling worth over $350K to Miami author Julie K. Brown who wrote book about Jeffrey Epstein drama” via Noreen Marcus of Florida Bulldog — A case about who did what to produce a sensational book rehashing the story of Epstein entered a new phase in a new forum, Miami-Dade Circuit Court. An arbitrator rejected private detective Mike Fisten’s $350,000 claim for his work on “Perversion of Justice: The Jeffrey Epstein Story,” Miami Herald reporter Brown’s book about the rich serial pedophile. Jailed in New York for sex trafficking, Epstein apparently committed suicide by hanging himself in August 2019. Brown and Fisten, a former Miami-Dade County police detective, contracted to split a $1 million publisher’s advance 50-50. Instead, she gave him $150,000 and kept $850,000.

Scuba diver exploring ‘the drop’ off the Florida Keys loses consciousness and dies” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — For the second time in four days, a man died in a diving incident in the Florida Keys. On Wednesday morning, Jeffrey Archer was pronounced dead at Mariners Hospital after being brought to shore by U.S. Coast Guard crews who picked him up at a location off Islamorada in the Upper Keys known locally as “the drop.” Archer was with a commercial scuba boat operated by the Islamorada Dive Center when he surfaced from a dive about 95 feet deep. When he returned to the boat, he lost consciousness, Adam Linhardt, sheriff’s office spokesman, said. The investigation into his death is ongoing, but Linhardt said “foul play is not expected to be a factor.”

— TOP OPINION —

President Barack Obama, your country needs you” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — Retirement has been good to Obama. The 44th President returned to the White House Tuesday for the first time since he left office five years ago. Fit and vigorous, if a bit grayer and more wrinkly, he noted the return to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. meant “I have to wear a tie, which I very rarely do these days.” Obama has been living his best life, even making a podcast and writing a book with Bruce Springsteen. President Obama: Your country needs you. Democracy is on the ropes. This is an all-hands-on-deck moment for the ship of state, and no one is better able to help the cause than Obama.

— OPINIONS —

Against the ‘groomer’ smear” via David French of The Dispatch — Right-wing media is swarming with allegations that anyone who, for example, opposes Florida’s House Bill 1557 (the bill misleadingly termed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by Democrats and many in the media) is either a “groomer” or in League with groomers. A groomer is a person who specifically targets and uses “manipulative behaviors” to gain access to victims. The rhetoric is absolutely omnipresent. It’s relentless.

While the left has taken leave of its senses, Florida’s leaders have shown common sense” via Edward Pozzuoli of the Miami Herald — I enjoyed a moment of amusement recently in reading a news analysis suggesting that DeSantis, a “master of messaging,” had been “outmaneuvered by the three-word catchphrase ‘Don’t Say Gay.’” DeSantis was outmaneuvered with that phrase in the same way that the captain of the Titanic outmaneuvered that iceberg. Clearly, the expression doesn’t reflect the reality of the legislation. It’s not “Don’t Say Gay.” It’s “Don’t Go Dr. Ruth on Five-Year-Olds.” And anyone with any semblance of prudence can easily grasp that instructing kindergartners to third graders on sex is a huge, unfair burden on teachers and deprives parents of a fundamental prerogative.

DeSantis is right. Thanks to ‘Woke’ Disney, my son won’t wear his Dalmatian-fur coat.” via Rex Huppke of USA Today — Wake up, fellow Americans, and join me in fearing the greatest existential threat of our lifetimes: The Walt Disney Co. That’s right, the same company that for decades has tried to normalize pants-less ducks is now, according to Fox News, my go-to source for things to feel irrationally angry about, attempting to use unabashed, colorfully animated wokeness to destroy American morality.

DeSantis vs. Disney is such a useless fight over a ridiculous law” via John A. Torres of Florida Today — Presidential hopeful Gary Hart was photographed with Donna Rice sitting on his lap, Rubio had the water-drinking debacle, Ted Kennedy had Chappaquiddick, and now DeSantis is picking a fight against an opponent he can’t defeat over a bill that is unneeded and nonsensical. The Walt Disney Co. has come out against the law and vowed to fight for its repeal. DeSantis responded by threatening to take away Disney’s special status under Florida law, which basically allows the company to act as its own government on its property. DeSantis is escalating, but for what? Is this really a statewide problem that needed a law?

Good and bad climate news from the Florida Legislature” via Rosemary O’Hara of The Invading Sea — The Republicans who run Florida don’t utter the words “climate change,” but that’s not to say they’re doing nothing to prepare our low-lying state for the water headed our way. Florida House Speaker Sprowls deserves credit for making “resiliency” a priority the past two years and actually saying the words “sea level rise.” When his predecessor, José Oliva, was asked about sea level rise, he blamed Miami Beach’s sunny-day flooding on big buildings sinking the land. Broadly speaking, most members of the Republican-led Legislature now accept that climate change is real. But concerns about the economy keep them from addressing the accelerant that is causing the planet to warm and the oceans to rise.

The 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 on a new prison hospital. In short, taxpayers will 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.

FEMA flood insurance rates show little or no increase for Florida policyholders” via Lisa Miller of The Invading Sea — April 1 marks the final rollout of the National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP) new rate changes, and as a former deputy Insurance Commissioner in Florida, it is welcomed news not only for those residing along Florida’s miles and miles of coastline but also those living inland in areas prone to flooding. According to FEMA, over 114,000 single-family homeowners in Florida will benefit from decreased premiums under this new rate structure. This new program, called Risk Rating 2.0, applies modern catastrophe modeling and actuarially sound rates to the in-debt, 50-year-old NFIP.

To score cheap points, Congress shuns a great Floridian” via the Orlando Sentinel and South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial boards — When it seemed that Republicans in Congress couldn’t stoop any lower, they did. The opposition to Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson had already become notorious for the transparent racism and misogyny of some Senators. Now, their House counterparts 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. House Republicans thwarted 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 Court of Appeals and resided in the capital city.

— OPENING DAY —

Let’s go! Everything to know for the season ahead” via Anthony Castrovince of MLB — To say it has been a strange couple of years in Major League Baseball is an understatement. The pandemic uprooted and significantly shortened a 2020 season played primarily in empty parks. Then, following the 2021 season, the lockout froze all big league transactions for 99 cold winter days. But as Opening Day arrives on Thursday, a genuine and very much welcomed sense of normalcy comes with it. There are 162 games on the schedule, there will be fans in the seats from the outset, the labor talks are in the rearview, and the focus is right where it belongs, on the field, where the greatest assemblage of baseball talent shines.

—”Locked in: MLB set for delayed openers after a long winter” via Jake Seiner of The Associated Press

Finally: It’s time to ‘play ball!’

Interest in MLB season tops ire over lockout” via Hannah Fingerhut and Ronald Blum of The Associated Press — About 1 in 4 fans of Major League Baseball feel at least some anger toward the sport after its first work stoppage in a generation, but the vast majority is still excited about the new season. Only 27% of Americans say they are currently a fan of MLB. The poll also finds that 32% of Americans 45 and older say they currently are fans, but only 22% of younger adults say they are, a trend MLB management says it is working to reverse. Even among fans, few were very attuned to the 99-day lockout that delayed the start of the season from March 31 until Thursday or say that it had a significant impact on their views of MLB.

MLB umpires to announce replay decisions for first time” via Ronald Blum of The Associated Press — In addition to “Play ball!” and “Yer Out!” big league umpires will be heard saying “Overturned!” and “Upheld!” for the first time this season. Major League Baseball said Friday that umpires will conduct in-park announcements during the replay reviews this season. “We discussed the possibility of doing this with the umpires during their most recent CBA negotiation,” MLB executive Vice President Morgan Sword said, “and then COVID got in the way of our planning. We finally were able this year to give them the appropriate training and get everybody ready for opening day.” A crew chief will have a wireless microphone and first announce the call being challenged and which team initiated the challenge. After the review, the crew chief will announce the result.

Rays ‘bringing back the fun’ with new upgrades, promotions” via Mark Parker of Catalyst — With just three days remaining until Opening Day, the Tampa Bay Rays unveiled several new features and promotions to boost the game day experience at Tropicana Field. Rays’ officials offered the local press a first look into stadium upgrades and myriad new concession and promotional items. The festivities began with a video montage that William Walsh, chief business officer, said would set the tone for the upcoming season. The video, displayed from the jumbotron just to the left of center field, also served as a showcase for the oft-maligned stadium’s most notable upgrade, a new digital sound system to replace the older analog version.

Rays provide 3rd cheapest MLB game day experience” via Zachary Winiecki of WFLA — Opening day for Major League Baseball is Thursday, and Tampa baseball fans won’t have to pay much to catch games this season. The Tampa Bay Rays have the third-cheapest cost for a day at the ballpark. Based on data from the 2021 MLB season, a typical day at Tropicana field will cost fans $50.23. That includes the price of a ticket, parking, a hot dog and two beers. That’s up from $37.53 in 2019, the last full baseball season before the coronavirus pandemic. At the time, that was the cheapest in the League. Much of that increase can be attributed to parking prices. The cost of parking at a Rays game has increased by $12.02 since 2019. That’s the biggest increase in the League. It also showed on average, the Rays have the fourth cheapest ticket prices in the League at $23.31.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to Sen. Annette Taddeo, Erica DiCeglie, Veronica Rudie, and Chris Turner.

___

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

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jason Delgado, Renzo Downey, Daniel Figueroa, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Joe Henderson, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, Mike Wright, and Tristan Wood.

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