Good Monday morning.
U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist’s campaign to retake the Governor’s Mansion this November gained an endorsement from Sen. Shevrin Jones, who cited Crist’s record and message as his motivation.
Jones said Crist’s leadership is needed now, particularly considering recent actions by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Republican-dominated Legislature.
“We in Florida cannot continue going in this dangerous direction, which is not the direction the rest of the country is going,” Jones told Florida Politics.
The events of last week’s Special Session — most notably the Legislature’s party-line approval of a DeSantis congressional map, which, among other things, halved the number of Black performing districts in Florida to two — also factored heavily in the decision.
“As someone who represents the largest Black district in the (state), sitting on the sidelines for too long is just not an option,” he said. “And what you see right now is Charlie’s message is resonating in my community of Miami Gardens.
“They know him. They know the name. They know the work.”
Crist, who began his political career as a Republican and served as Florida Governor from 2007 to 2011, said Jones’ support “means the world” to him.
“This is one of the brightest political young stars in Florida politics today, and having the opportunity to receive his endorsement is humbling,” he said. “I am honored by it, and I’m enormously grateful to Shev and to God.”
Read the full story about Jones’ endorsement here.
DeSantis already has three Democrats vying for his seat, but Roger Stone might not be making empty threats.
Stone threatened late last year to run for Governor as a Libertarian unless DeSantis vows to not run for President in 2024. And last weekend, Stone released a clip in which he whispers to Trump, “Ron DeSantis is a piece of sh*t.”
The latest move, registering the domain names, took place on Wednesday, as the Legislature met to pass bills targeting Disney over the company’s opposition to Florida’s anti-LGBTQ education law. Meanwhile, this week, former Trump campaign attorney Jenna Ellis offered to represent Disney over the retaliation, which has put DeSantis back in the limelight.
Although nothing is hosted yet at the two domains, the recent actions from Trump world could be a sign of more 2024 posturing to come.
With three games left in the 2022 regular season, the Tampa Bay Lightning are skating to the White House to celebrate their back-to-back Stanley Cup victories in 2020 and 2021.
President Joe Biden will be the first President to host the Bolts, even though the team has won three championships. The COVID-19 pandemic had delayed celebrations for their recent titles. But lightning struck twice because the team also couldn’t celebrate its 2004 title during the 2004-05 NHL lockout.
The Lightning, who have already clinched their third consecutive Stanley Cup playoff appearance, beat the Florida Panthers 8-4 in Sunrise Sunday night before leaving for Washington. Next, the team will continue north to Ohio to play the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Biden could honor a host of Bolts, like defensemen Victor Hedman and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, the most valuable players in the 2020 and 2021 Stanley Cup championships. Of course, there’s owner Jeff Vinik, general manager Julien BriseBois, and head coach Jon Cooper.
Spotted — A who’s who of elected officials from Manatee and Sarasota counties who turned out to celebrate Grimes Galvano crossing the century mark.
The guest list included U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, former Senate President Andy Gardiner, and former Sens. David Simmons and JD Alexander. Sarasota County’s turnout included County Commissioner Mike Moran and Sarasota Mayor Erik Arroya. Manatee County electeds included County Commissioners Carol Whitmore, George Kruse, Misty Servia, Vanessa Baugh and Reggie Bellamy, County Administrator Scott Hopes, Clerk of Court Angel Colonneso, Superintendent Cynthia Saunders, Property Appraiser Charles Hackney and School Board member Chad Choat. The list continues with Bradenton Mayor Gene Brown and Police Chief Melanie Bevan as well as City Councilmembers Marianne Barnebey, Pam Coachman, Bill Sanders and Jayne Kocher. And Palmetto — the town Grimes Galvano’s founders first put up their shingle — was represented by Mayor Shirley Groover-Bryant.
Fred Piccolo joins Jackie Toledo’s CD 15 bid as campaign manager — Piccolo will serve Toledo’s campaign as both campaign manager and senior adviser. Piccolo had previously been campaign manager to then-candidate Dennis Ross from 2008 to 2010 and as Chief of Staff to then-Congressman Ross from 2010 to 2012.
“I’ve known Jackie Toledo since I worked with her on her first campaign for the statehouse,” Piccolo said in a statement. “No one works harder or cares more deeply about her constituents than Jackie does. She’s demonstrated a unique ability to move legislation and articulate our conservative principles to a wide audience and expand our party into diverse communities throughout the Tampa Bay area.”
Toledo added: “Fred and I worked together for over a decade in my campaigns and in his time in the speaker’s office in Tallahassee. I value his advice and his experience, and his knowledge of the district is second to none.”
“This not a Polk County seat,” Piccolo continued. “As the only candidate in this race who grew up, went to public school, graduated from college, and raised a family in Hillsborough County, Jackie knows that the citizens of District 15 can easily distinguish between their neighbor and politicians who can’t give up power. That choice is becoming crystal clear.”
“If you want to arrest me, f**king arrest me,” said a defiant Charlie Adelson in April 2016, covertly recorded by the FBI in a noisy Miami restaurant, talking with co-conspirator Katherine Magbanua about the murder of his former brother-in-law, FSU law professor Dan Markel.
“Come back with a warrant.”
That challenge was finally accepted last week, almost six years later to the day.
The long-awaited arrest has drawn renewed international attention to the Tallahassee murder-for-hire and has cracked open possibilities for the resolution of a case that has become woven into Florida’s political landscape in various ways in the years since. FloridaPolitics.com has followed the case extensively, diving deep through the aftershocks of a murder that rocked Florida’s capital city and left a trail of victims in its path.
“Charlie’s arrest is a major milestone and reflects the tireless work put into this case by law enforcement and prosecutors,” said Markel family friend, Karen Cyphers on behalf of the grassroots group Justice for Dan.
But how did this arrest come to be, nearly eight years later? And what does it mean for the pursuit of justice moving forward? Cyphers walked me through some details of the case that are public but often left undiscussed.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@EricGeller: What a weird system France has, where the presidential candidate who gets the most votes wins the election.
—@NikkiFried: It’s been 30 hours since I called for 5 televised debates. Charlie’s been awfully quiet.
—@TPFabricio: Hialeah is brimming with pride! Congratulations to our soon-to-be Commissioner of Education @! You have been Florida’s strongest excellence in education advocate. This is a much-deserved appointment.
—@RichLowry: Corporations as institutions have been corrupted, very often through bullying and fear, and there’s a chance that the Disney controversy will free them simply to fly planes, sell soda, etc. again, which would be good for these companies and good for the country’s cultural health
—@ChristinaPushaw: Thought experiment for liberals: What if your child’s teacher was religious & used a slideshow to tell class, “some people think they were born in the wrong body, but that’s impossible; God doesn’t make mistakes?” You wouldn’t like it. Let parents teach their kids as they see fit
—@ErinInTheMorn: The last 3 months, we have seen trans people: — referred to as pedophiles/groomers — called “an infection” — “need to be morally mandated out of existence” Parents of trans people are investigated. Health care may be pulled. The eugenics/genocide language is turned up to 11.
—@AGHamilton29: I’m reading this NYT deep dive into the books that FL rejected from their math curriculum and it’s only making me think that FL actually did a good job vetting. This admits the books have a lot of nonsense that has little to do with teaching kids’ math.
—@ChrisDorworth: I have read so much how the abolition of the Reedy Creek is going to lead to all manners of mayhem. It is much ado about nothing. The Gov/Leg definitely smacked them around, but it’s just paperwork. All the land will be annexed into Bay Lake or Lake Buena Vista. Those 2 cities have pops of 42 and 19 and are controlled by Disney selected people just like RCID was. 1 of those cities will gobble up the Orange County land and be about the size of San Francisco. The LBV Wikipedia says people wonder why you needed a city in the RCID.
—@AGGancarski: People are really slacking on detailed accounts of how many masks they are seeing/not seeing on planes. That’s all I want in my newsfeed at this point and for months and months and months to come.
— DAYS UNTIL —
2022 Florida Chamber Transportation, Growth & Infrastructure Solution Summit — 3; ‘The Godfather’ TV series ‘The Offer’ premieres — 3; 2nd half of ‘Ozark’ final season begins — 4; White House Correspondents’ Dinner — 5; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 11; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 17; ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ starts on Disney+ — 31; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 32; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 38; California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota hold midterm Primaries — 43; ‘Jurassic World Dominion’ premieres — 46; Pixar’s ‘Lightyear’ premieres — 53; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 74; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 87; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 106; ‘House of the Dragon’ premieres on HBO — 118; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 130; 2022 Emmys — 130; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 164; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 183; Jon Meacham’s ‘And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle’ releases — 183; ‘Black Panther 2′ premieres — 200; ‘Captain Marvel 2’ premieres — 200; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 206; The World Cup kicks off in Qatar — 210; The U.S. World Cup Soccer Team begins play — 210; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 211; ‘Avatar 2′ premieres — 235; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 316; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 333; 2023 Session Sine Die — 375; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 403; ‘n and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 459; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 543; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 704; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 823.
— TOP STORY —
“Eric Holder-backed group sues Florida over Ron DeSantis’ congressional map” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Minority advocacy groups filed a lawsuit Friday challenging Florida’s congressional map approved this week by the Legislature. The National Redistricting Foundation, led by Holder, will fund the case. Plaintiffs represented by prominent Democratic voting rights attorney Marc Elias filed suit claiming a map (P 0109) submitted by DeSantis violates Florida’s Fair Districts provisions in the state constitution. An analysis shows the map draws Florida with 20 congressional districts where Trump won the 2020 Presidential Election and just eight seats where Biden won. The targeting of Black voting districts also plays prominently in the complaint filed in Leon County circuit court.
—”Voting rights groups sue Florida over new congressional map” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO
—“Florida’s congressional map: An about-face in GOP strategy and a setback for Blacks” via Mary Ellen Klas and Ana Ceballos of The Miami Herald
—“Al Lawson responds after DeSantis upends district: ‘My plan right now is to be on the ballot’” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat
“Tour every Congressional District on Florida’s new map” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — It’s official. After a veto, a Special Session, and a sit-in protest on the House floor, a congressional map drawn by DeSantis has been signed into law. So, what does the political terrain in Florida now actually look like? Florida Politics presents a short tour of P 0109, Florida’s now-28 congressional districts from Pensacola to Key West. The tour starts here.
— DATELINE TALLY —
“DeSantis tests limits of his combative style in Disney feud” via The Associated Press — DeSantis′ deepening feud with Walt Disney World is testing the limits of his combative leadership style while sending an unmistakable message to his rivals that virtually nothing is off-limits as he plots his political future. DeSantis has repeatedly demonstrated an acute willingness to fight throughout his decade-long political career. He has turned against former aides and rejected the GOP Legislature’s rewrite of congressional maps, forcing lawmakers to accept a version more to his liking and prompting voting rights groups to sue. He’s also leaned into simmering tensions with Trump, notable for someone seeking to lead a Party where loyalty to the former President is required.
“Florida’s Disney district crackdown may violate First Amendment, legal experts say” via Emily L. Mahoney and Bianca Padró Ocasio of the Tampa Bay Times — At DeSantis’ urging, Florida legislators sped this week to pass two bills stripping The Walt Disney Co. of certain special privileges, which DeSantis signed Friday. The ultrafast maneuver was a whiplash response to Disney’s public opposition to Florida’s recently passed Parental Rights in Education law, or the so-called “don’t say gay” bill. It was also, experts said, legally dubious. The more high-profile of the two Disney bills eliminates the company’s Reedy Creek Improvement District, which for more than 50 years has granted it broad powers of self-governance over its Disney World property, similar to being its own county. The new law dissolves that special district, and five others, on June 1, 2023.
“Disney’s $578 million tax break left untouched in DeSantis feud” via Christopher Palmeri of Yahoo News — DeSantis may have put a bull’s-eye on special perks that The Walt Disney Co. has enjoyed in his state for more than 50 years, but he’s keeping his hands off hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks recently lavished on the entertainment giant. For now, at least, DeSantis is leaving alone another valuable perk: $578 million in credits Disney can use to reduce its state income taxes through 2040. Christina Pushaw, a spokesperson, said DeSantis hasn’t asked the legislature to repeal the tax credits because “it’s not a carve-out for a specific corporation.”
“Fitch says possible downgrade in store for Reedy Creek bonds after anti-Disney bill passes” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Fitch Ratings Inc. placed some bonds held by the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) on “negative watch,” meaning a downgrade is possible in the future. The move comes one day after the Legislature passed a bill to dissolve the Walt Disney Company-controlled enclave in Central Florida. The affected bonds are $79 million in outstanding utility revenue and refunding bonds currently rated as “A” and $766 million in property tax-backed bonds rated at “AA-.” The district’s utility credit profile rating of “A” and its issuer default rating of “AA-” were also placed on negative watch status. The bill (SB 4C), which DeSantis has yet to sign, first emerged only Tuesday. The issue was added to the already-scheduled Special Session to deal with redistricting and passed a little over 48 hours after it was filed.
“DeSantis signs ‘Stop WOKE Act’ as legal challenge looms” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Florida has become the latest state to ban “woke ideology” associated with critical race theory with legislation DeSantis signed Friday. The measure (HB 7), which is already being challenged in court over First Amendment concerns, would prohibit lessons and training which tell students and employees that they are inherently racist, sexist or oppressive because of their race, color, sex or national origin. It would also ban instruction that they are personally responsible and should feel guilty for the past actions of members of their race, color, sex or national origin. “We are not going to use your tax dollars to teach our kids to hate this country or to hate each other,” DeSantis said before signing the bill in Hialeah.
“How Florida’s ‘anti-woke’ bill could impact public universities” via Ana Ceballos of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida’s cultural clashes over what to teach about race are not isolated to K-12 education. They are also spilling into the state’s higher education system. For about a year now, DeSantis and Florida Republicans have been fighting the influence of “critical race theory” and what they call “woke” ideologies in the classroom. Their latest effort is legislation that would place new restrictions on race-related instruction in public universities and colleges, and would threaten institutions with funding cuts and lawsuits if they violate the new regulations. These regulations are packaged in House Bill 7, titled “Individual Freedom,” and are tied to the proposed state budget for the upcoming fiscal year. DeSantis, who has championed his own “anti-woke” agenda, is expected to approve both items.
“He fuels the right’s cultural fires (and spreads them to Florida)” via Trip Gabriel of The New York Times — Christopher Rufo is the conservative activist who probably more than any other person made critical race theory a rallying cry on the right — and who has become, to some on the left, an agitator of intolerance. A senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, he has emerged at the front of another explosive cultural clash, one that he sees as even more politically potent and that the left views as just as dangerous: the battle over LGBTQ restrictions in schools. Rufo aimed at opponents of a new Florida law that critics call “Don’t Say Gay.” He declared “moral war” against the statute’s most prominent adversary, The Walt Disney Co. And he used the same playbook that proved effective in his crusade on racial issues: a leak of insider documents.
“Property insurance reserves vs. Chris Sprowls’ patience: Which will run out first?” via Brian Burgess of the Captiolist — Two opposing data sets are being carefully monitored by Sprowls and his insurance reform point man, State Rep. Jay Trumbull: mounting bad news about Florida’s property insurance market, versus the slow but steady reduction in Florida’s out-of-control insurance litigation. Any residual resistance from Sprowls toward more drastic action can be directly laid at the feet of insurance company advocates who promised that last year’s reforms would make a positive impact on the number of lawsuits within about 18 months. Sprowls, insiders say, is carefully weighing the speed of the collapse of Florida’s insurance market with the reductions in litigation that are slowly, but surely starting to manifest themselves thanks to those already passed reforms.
Assignment editors — Sprowls will join the Florida Sheriffs Association for its annual memorial ceremony to honor those who have given their lives in the line of duty, 1:30 p.m., Memorial Wall at the Florida Sheriffs Association Headquarters, 2617 Mahan Drive, Tallahassee. The event will be livestreaming on the FSA Facebook page.
“Randy Fine: Republican lawmaker’s fight with Disney is only his latest battle in culture wars” via Eric Rogers of Florida Today — No matter what your beef with Fine, his attacks against you are calculated to hurt. Fine has gone after tech companies DeSantis accused of barring conservative viewpoints and school districts that bucked the Governor’s mask policy. He has called for legislation ending specific treatments for transgender children and co-sponsored DeSantis’ “Stop WOKE” Act that limits race-related discussions in classrooms and workplaces, which backers hailed as a blow to “critical race theory.” Fine is steadily gaining ground on the national scene, thanks to frequent headlines and network appearances in recent years for his audacious political style and a string of controversial legislation that has helped launch Florida to the front lines of the culture wars.
Bless his heart — “Fine threatened Special Olympics funding over school board member feud, texts show” via Eric Rogers of Florida Today — Rep. Fine threatened to interfere with state funding for the Special Olympics and the city of West Melbourne last week over a personal feud with Brevard County School Board member Jennifer Jenkins. A city leader said Fine later tried to block the release of the text messages through a public records request and wanted a city attorney overseeing the request to be fired. Fine denied he threatened to get the funding pulled or that he ever spoke about firing the city attorney.
Randy’s always been this way — “Scandal before service” via Stephen E. Frank of The Harvard Crimson
— 2022 —
Marco Rubio talks 2022 with Bay News 9 — U.S. Sen. Rubio discussed his re-election bid and more in a sit-down with Bay News 9 Tampa Bay’s Holly Gregory. Rubio hit U.S. Rep. Val Demings on her comments on rising gas prices, immigration and crime. Despite Demings’ history as Orlando’s Police Chief, Rubio said his challenger had joined the chorus of attacking and second-guessing law enforcement. On Disney, Rubio said the broader argument is not just about the company’s “woke” positions or not standing up to China but about whether companies should get special treatment in Florida.
To watch highlights of the interview, click on the image below:
New Rubio ad bashes Val Demings ‘cringe-y Spanglish’ — Demings’ Senate campaign reaches out to Hispanic voters with a new slogan: “Todos con Demings.” Rubio’s campaign says it’s about as authentic as an “arrivederci” delivered by Brad Pitt. “Demings is transparently following Biden’s lead with every decision she makes — even in her attempts to reach Florida’s Hispanic communities. She copied his coalition name (Todos con Biden) and Obama’s ‘yes we can,’ with some cringe-y Spanglish, ‘She Se Puede,’” a news release from Team Rubio says, emphasis in original. “But her kitschy sayings are just at the surface of a larger issue: Demings is totally out of touch on the key issues that are affecting Hispanics in Florida.”
“Nikki Fried calls for five statewide debates among gubernatorial candidates” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Fried is calling for five statewide debates among candidates in the 2022 Governor’s race following the withdrawal of fellow candidate U.S. Rep. Crist from a forum in Homestead Saturday. The call for debate comes as Crist leads the Democratic field in fundraising, becoming the first to collect more than $1 million in a month. Since entering the race in May, Crist’s haul now comes to $8.2 million. He closed last month with $5.3 million in cash on hand after expenses. On the other hand, Fried has collected more than $3.6 million. Crist previously served a term as Governor as a Republican. He later ran as a Democrat in 2014 against then-Gov. Rick Scott.
Fried endorses all House Democrats — Fried issued an endorsement to all Democratic members of the state House who protested the new congressional map that heavily favors Republicans. “Sometimes, you have to make difficult decisions in politics. This is one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made,” she said in a news release from her gubernatorial campaign. “Any Member of the Florida House who stayed on the floor in protest of the racist, unconstitutional maps proposed by Ron DeSantis will receive an automatic endorsement from me. These brave members of the legislature will receive funding from my political action committee, as well as any support I can provide, no matter who they run against, no matter the dynamics of their race.”
“Chuck Nadd locked and loaded for campaign to be state’s next Agriculture Commissioner” via Jim DeFede of CBS Miami — A graduate of West Point and a former Black Hawk helicopter pilot who served two tours in Afghanistan, Nadd is challenging Senate President Wilton Simpson for the Republican nomination. Why are you running? “I really grew up around water. I grew up kayaking Mosquito Lagoon. I grew up kayaking up in North Central Florida, and I saw that there’s this really emerging important issue of water quality and clean water. And I think everyone watching can really attest that this is one of the critical issues that our state faces, not only now, but over the next five 10 years.”
I am appreciative to @ChuckNadd for his service but he will have no power to repeal the MSD school safety act. That bill has stopped potential school shootings and taken guns from purported terrorists. Trying to politicize the 17 deaths again because it’s been 4 years. How lazy https://t.co/ecPeBcKKwp
— Jared Moskowitz (@JaredEMoskowitz) April 24, 2022
“Rory Diamond moves closer to Jax-area congressional run” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Potential candidates continue to explore running for Congress in a new Jacksonville-area seat that favors Republicans. Diamond is considering a run for the new district in Northeast Florida that includes Clay, Nassau, and northern and western Duval County, which was passed by the Legislature this week (P 0109). Diamond represents the District 13 seat on the City Council, including the Jacksonville Beaches. If he does get in the race in the new 4th Congressional District, it will be with big-name national backing. Diamond, who runs the K9 for Warriors charity, said he has had “a lot of good calls in the last 48 hours.” “We’ve got what we need to win,” Diamond said.
“Vern Buchanan highlights re-election bid to packed Manatee Tiger Bay Club audience” via Jesse Mendoza of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Hours after U.S. Rep Buchanan announced that he would be running for re-election in District 16, he explained why he chose to run for the district that primarily represents Manatee County over Sarasota to a packed Tiger Bay Club audience. Buchanan currently represents District 16, but his home was drawn out of the district’s boundaries by a new congressional map by DeSantis. Yet, he chose to run for re-election out of the district that primarily encompasses Manatee County and parts of Hillsborough. “It looks like the Governor’s maps are going to prevail,” Buchanan said. “It was an easy decision for me. I selected Manatee.”
“Bonnie Jackson embraces parental rights advocacy in HD 42 contest” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Jackson is staking out a campaign platform in the House District 42 race that could make her a diametrical alternative on culture war issues compared with Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani, the incumbent Jackson seeks to replace. Take two social issues that divided Florida along cultural lines over the past couple of Legislative Sessions: parental rights in schools and immigration. Jackson is offering hard-line conservative positions that might even go beyond those many Republicans are willing to espouse, let alone what’s advocated by Eskamani. For Jackson, such issues are paramount. She is also distancing herself a bit from some of the more establishment Republican positions on things like the roles businesses might play in public policy and lawyers might play in society.
—”Andres Althabe tops four-person HD 113 field in March fundraising” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics
“Robert Gonzalez debuts with $84K in four-way GOP contest for HD 119” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — With nearly $84,000 added in March, Gonzalez moved into second place in overall funds raised in what is now a four-way Republican contest to determine who will represent House District 119 later this year. Gonzalez, a personal injury, labor and homeowners’ insurance attorney was one of two people to file for the race in March. He was the only candidate in the field whose gains reached five digits last month. More than 100 people gave Gonzalez’s campaign donations ranging from $10 to $1,000. In keeping with his expertise, most of the corporate contributions came from local legal and health care businesses.
“Dan Horton-Diaz welcomes wave of South Miami-Dade County endorsements” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Horton-Diaz announced 13 new personal endorsements and the support of Miami-Dade County’s southernmost Democratic organization Friday in his bid to take the House District 120 seat this November. The endorsers, including elected officials, Democratic Party leaders, and community leaders in Miami-Dade, joined one of the nation’s largest communications and media unions in backing Horton-Diaz over the last month. “These are people that I have worked with for years, and they have proven records of service in our community,” Horton-Diaz said in a statement. “I am humbled by their support.” He received several nods from current South Bay Community Council members, including Chair Marjorie Murillo and members Enid Demps and Christina Farias.
—”Palm Beach police union backs Michelle Oyola McGovern in County Commission race” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics
— STATEWIDE —
“A look inside the textbooks that Florida rejected” via Dana Goldstein and Stephanie Saul of The New York Times — After the Florida Department of Education rejected dozens of math textbooks last week, the big question was, Why? The department said some books “contained prohibited topics” from social-emotional learning or critical race theory, but it has released only four specific textbook pages showing content to which it objects. The New York Times reviewed 21 of the rejected books and saw what may have led the state to reject them. Because Florida has released so few details about its textbook review process, whether these examples led to the rejections is unknown. But they illustrate how these concepts appear — and don’t appear — in curriculum materials.
“‘Everywhere Babies,’ a picture book celebrating infants, just got banned” via Caitlin Gibson of The Washington Post — The inspiration for the popular children’s picture book “Everywhere Babies” came to author Susan Meyers more than 25 years ago after the birth of her first grandchild. Since its publication in 2001, “Everywhere Babies” has become a staple of family bookshelves, a common recommendation in new parent groups, and a celebrated title on Best Books lists. The book was among dozens of works recently banned from public school libraries in Walton County, School district officials confirmed the removal of the books to WJHG-TV in Florida. Walton County School Superintendent Russell Hughes told the outlet that it was “necessary (at) this moment for me to make that decision, and I did it for just (the) welfare of all involved, including our constituents, our teachers, and our students.”
“Ratings downgrade imperils another Florida insurer” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — There’s trouble on the horizon for another company that writes homeowner’s insurance policies in Florida. FedNat Holding Company, which offers insurance under the name FedNat Insurance Company, had its stability rating downgraded from A to S by Demotech, a consulting company that rates the financial health of insurance companies. Demotech defines an A rating as “exceptional” and says it indicates a company expects to have a positive surplus “regardless of the severity of a general economic downturn or deterioration in the insurance cycle.” An S rating, or “substantial,” is one rung down and companies in earning the rating, while not on the brink of collapse, are less able to handle turbulence in the market or the broader economy.
“Florida’s COVID-19 hospitalizations are rising again as BA.2 subvariant starts to spread” via Chris Persaud of The Palm Beach Post — Coronavirus-positive patients are filling up Florida’s hospitals once again, but their numbers remain smaller than before the original omicron wave engulfed the state. Medical staff statewide tended to an average of 738 COVID-19-positive patients this week, data released Friday by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department shows. That’s higher than the week before but still lower than the four-digit levels recorded in late November and early December. HHS also reported an average of 92 adults per day this week in intensive care units in Florida, the lowest level on record.
“As inflation rises, Floridians say it’s hard to pay their bills” via Natalie Weber of the Tampa Bay Times — Nearly half of Floridians included in a recent survey say inflation has impacted their ability to pay essential bills. The finding comes from a study conducted by the University of South Florida, asking 600 Floridians how price hikes have impacted their spending and attitudes on various related policy issues. The study was conducted between March 31 and April 12, using a sample of state residents whose demographics closely reflected those of the state’s population. The survey found that inflation has impacted Floridians’ spending on everything from food to housing. About 77% of those surveyed said inflation had affected their grocery spending, while nearly a quarter said they’ve had difficulties paying their rent or mortgage payments in the past year.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“‘They’re going after Mickey Mouse’: Joe Biden criticizes Florida GOP’s rift with Disney” via Jillian Olsen of WTSP — Biden wasn’t shy about commenting on the apparent rift between the Republican Party in Florida and Walt Disney World during two Democratic National Committee fundraisers Thursday. While speaking at the Portland Yacht Club, Biden said today’s Republican Party is not the one your parents likely grew up with, saying, “this is not your father’s Republican Party, by any stretch of the imagination. This is the MAGA Party. Not a joke.”
“‘It’s time to head for the lifeboats’: Democratic fatalism intensifies” via Blake Hounshell of The New York Times — The collective mood of Democratic insiders darkened appreciably in recent weeks. Pollsters and prognosticators are forecasting increasingly dire results for their party in the November midterm elections. Inflation, the No. 1 issue on voters’ minds, is accelerating. And despite a booming job market, the President’s average approval rating hadn’t budged since January, when it settled into the low 40s. “Are you calling to ask me about our impending doom?” one Democratic strategist quipped at the outset of a recent phone call. “The vibes just feel very off,” said Tré Easton, a progressive consultant.
“Some Republicans fear party overreach on LGBT measures” via Annie Linskey and Casey Parks of The Washington Post — Republican lawmakers around the country are pushing an array of bills that limit the discussion of gay rights in schools under the auspices of parental rights, leading some party strategists to worry that the initiatives may backfire with moderate voters by making the party seem anti-gay. Legislation includes a recent law passed in Florida that limits what kindergarten to third grade teachers can talk about in the classroom regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, a measure dubbed the “don’t say gay” law by critics. Several other state legislatures, including Alabama, Louisiana and Ohio, are considering or have passed similar bills.
“Donald Trump says Kevin McCarthy relationship not damaged” via Alex Leary and Lindsay Wise of The Wall Street Journal — Trump said Friday evening his relationship with McCarthy remains good after a recording emerged of McCarthy telling other top GOP lawmakers that he would advise Trump to resign, several days after rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Trump said he wasn’t pleased to learn of McCarthy’s comments in the House leadership call, but the California Republican ultimately never advised him to quit. He noted that McCarthy quickly changed his stance “when he found out the facts” and embraced him fully a few weeks after the Jan. 10, 2021, call. “He made a call. I heard the call. I didn’t like the call,” said Trump.
“Coach Joe Kennedy gets day in the Supreme Court Monday, drawing national floodlight to local dispute over school prayer” via Andrew Binion of the Kitsap Sun — Kennedy believes his rights were violated when, in 2015, he lost his position as a Bremerton High School football coach for praying on the field after games. For the former Marine and devout Christian, the prayers are a personal matter that, if given a chance to coach again, would amount to a solitary, seconds-long prayer of gratitude at midfield. “I don’t want to buck the school; I just want to coach football and be able to thank God for it,” Kennedy said. On Monday, the controversy that started in 2015 is scheduled for argument 2,700 miles east in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, casting a nationwide floodlight on a local front in the culture wars.
— LOCAL NOTES: N. FL —
“Should Escambia allow economic tax breaks for new business developments? Voters to decide” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Escambia County voters will decide in November whether the county should be allowed to provide economic tax breaks for new business developments. On Thursday, Escambia County Commissioners unanimously approved placing a countywide referendum on the ballot in November to extend the authorization for economic development ad valorem tax exemptions, otherwise known as an EDATE. Commissioners had signed off on the concept in February, but the action Thursday confirms that a referendum will occur.
“In transgender sports war, Jacksonville’s Nancy Hogshead-Makar builds support for nuanced rules” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — A conservative governor decries transgender women in sports. A liberal bureaucrat drafts rules affecting who can compete and when. And the roll of signatures on Hogshead-Makar’s petitions grows and grows. The signatures document the rise of a chorus of athletes and fans calling for a different approach to how transgender competitors fit into American sports. That change is needed now, argues Hogshead-Makar, a civil rights attorney and product of Jacksonville who became famous decades ago as an Olympic gold-medalist swimmer.
“Knives come out again in Orlando airport board meeting” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — What might have been expected to be a typically perfunctory vote to select the Orlando airport’s board chair for the next couple of years turned into a power play that got nasty on Wednesday. When it was over, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings lost a political skirmish to the majority of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority (GOAA) board members who DeSantis appointed. Winter Park investor Carson Good, a DeSantis appointee, retained the GOAA board chair for another two-year term, winning the board election with four votes to Dyer’s three.
“Orange County Commissioners to vote on Mayor’s transportation tax this week” via Amanda Castro of Click Orlando — It’s a make-or-break week for Orange County Mayor Demings’ transportation initiative. The county Board of Commissioners is set to vote on putting the measure on the November ballot during its meeting this week. Demings spent the last few days pushing for the penny sales tax, including during an Earth Day event this weekend that focused on the county’s air monitoring technology. He said the funds raised from the sales tax would help keep the pollution rate low. The Mayor kicked off his campaign for the sales tax in 2019 but paused his efforts because of the pandemic. He then renewed his push in January of this year. He said as our population is booming, the current transportation system is overburdened and underfunded.
“Road or not, Split Oak Forest slammed now by housing sprawl” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — Since Orange County residents voted 17 months ago to ban a toll road in Osceola County’s segment of Split Oak Forest, which the two counties share authority over, the swath of woods that would be ruined or harmed by the highway nonetheless has been dealt a significant ecological blow. In that short span of time, there has been an explosion in Osceola of new subdivisions on land next to or near the forest and easily visible when standing a short distance away among trees where the road is proposed to be built. If Orange County voters thought that saying no to the road would ensure a pristine and serene Split Oak, and that banning its construction would foil desecration from cars and homes, they were duped.
“Special Olympics USA Games are headed to Orlando — with a $60 million windfall” via Kate Santich of the Orlando Sentinel — Six weeks from now, more than 100,000 athletes, coaches and fans will converge on Central Florida for what will be the largest Special Olympics USA Games in the 54-year history of the competition. Along with exposure for the region, organizers expect the weeklong event to have a $60 million economic impact. “We are absolutely thrilled and honored,” said Joe Dzaluk, president and CEO of the USA Games. Walt Disney World Resort hosts the June 5-12 games for athletes with intellectual disabilities.
“Court names Universal employees making racist ‘OK’ hand gestures in 2019” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — The two men behind the Felonious Gru costumes accused of making racist hand gestures when they posed for pictures with children of color were identified in court documents. Austin Walker and Joseph Saenz made the “OK” hand symbol, a symbol of White power, contends the amended lawsuit filed this year. Walker made the gesture with one hand, and with his other hand, he held on to a Hispanic child’s hand in a photo snapped in February 2019 at Universal Studios Florida, the suit said. Meanwhile, in March 2019, Saenz posed with another little girl, who is biracial, and made the same sign at Loews Royal Pacific Resort. The two men were both dressed as the Gru character from the Despicable Me franchise.
“Hillsborough schools’ handling of sexual harassment under federal scrutiny” via Bethany Barnes of the Tampa Bay Times — The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights plans to investigate Hillsborough County Public Schools over the district’s handling of sexual harassment, federal officials said this week. The inquiry comes after a Tampa Bay Times investigation showed how Hillsborough’s response to sexual misconduct at Blake High School left students feeling belittled, dejected and punished. Education officials plan to assess the district’s compliance with Title IX, the federal law that requires schools to protect students from sexual harassment. “The Department takes any allegation of sexual harassment or retaliation seriously,” a department spokesperson said.
“Sarasota County Sheriff speaks against removal of commenter from meeting” via Melissa Pérez-Carrillo of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office released a video statement on Friday distancing itself from the removal of a controversial commenter. A member of Mom for Liberty’s Sarasota Chapter, Melissa Bakondy, was removed from a Sarasota County School Board meeting on Tuesday by Sarasota County Schools Police Department officers. Sheriff Kurt A. Hoffman released a video statement explaining that the Sheriff’s Office was not involved in the “unfortunate incident” and didn’t condone the removal of Bakondy.
To watch the statement, click on the image below:
“‘COEXIST’ flag among items teachers told to remove from classrooms at Booker High in Sarasota” via Samantha Gholar of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Several teachers at Booker High School said instructors were told this week to remove flags, posters and other items that could be deemed “political,” including one who said he was asked to remove a “COEXIST” flag from his classroom by the school’s administration, under guidance from the Sarasota County School District. According to the teacher, the well-known “COEXIST” symbols filled in rainbow colors on the flag in instructor James Baldwin‘s classroom were deemed potentially political. Baldwin took to social media soon after removing the flag to express his disappointment with the school district and concern over his students’ well-being.
“David Rivera diverted $13 million from Venezuelan deal to convicted drug trafficker, others” via Jay Weaver and Antonio Maria Delgado of the Miami Herald — As Venezuela’s economy was crashing in 2017, the country’s state-owned oil company hired Rivera for a costly public relations campaign to improve the tarnished image of the Venezuelan firm in the United States. In just a few months, Rivera’s consulting business collected $20 million from Venezuela’s U.S. subsidiary, PDV USA, but its contract with the former politician abruptly ended when he was accused of doing little work, according to a lawsuit. Newly filed court documents reveal that Rivera diverted more than half his PDV USA income, $13 million, to three subcontractors in Miami who supposedly provided “international strategic consulting services” for the Venezuelan firm.
“Moishe Mana spent $500 million on Miami’s Flagler Street. Can he make his vision reality?” via Andres Viglucci and Rebecca San Juan of the Miami Herald — On a warm weekday afternoon, Mana, who took control of much of downtown Miami’s tattered Flagler Street district in an eight-year $500 million buying spree, arrives to tour the first of his 70 properties to go into construction in soft Louis Vuitton loafers, no socks. Mana, meeting a reporter and photographer, comes trailing his in-house communications director, a public relations consultant, and his own videographer and sound tech, who follow him and record everything he says and does for his archives and, maybe someday, a documentary. For the next two hours, Mana spins out a vision for a renascent Flagler Street district humming with technology firms, fashion showrooms, dining and entertainment.
“‘Another slap on the face for faculty.’ UM hires a CEO as professors fight for raises” via Jimena Tavel of the Miami Herald — The University of Miami, with about 19,000 students and 17,000 employees, has announced it would hire a CEO, a move that has riled the faculty over bringing in a highly paid administrator when professors are struggling to get raises amid substantially higher costs of living in South Florida. UM President Julio Frenk said in an April 14 email that in addition to its COO, CFO, provost and other top leaders, the Coral Gables-based private university would hire a chief executive officer who will report to Frenk. All administrative units, including athletics, will report to the CEO.
“With vote looming, Inter Miami CF touts benefits of Miami Freedom Park project” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — As a vote approaches to decide the fate of a planned new soccer stadium and park project, Inter Miami CF is looking to highlight the potential benefits of the construction project. Inter Miami CF is looking to lease city land, which houses the Melreese Golf Course, and convert it into a sprawling stadium, park and commercial setup. Inter Miami CF recently released a fact sheet defending the proposal, arguing the deal will pay 57% over fair market value rent to the city, pay $2.6 billion in rent to the city over the 99-year lease, and contribute $6.3 billion in tax revenue over that span. However, the Miami City Commission will need to sign off on the lease agreement.
“Heritage Healthcare center ordered to stop admissions as patients not treated for bed sores” via Liz Freeman of the Naples Daily News — A Naples nursing home, Heritage Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, cannot accept new admissions under state order due to findings of serious health risks to residents. And a second state action of a license suspension of a Destin nursing home due to persistent staffing shortfalls is evidence to AARP Florida of harm from a new state law that reduces the daily hands-on care that certified nursing assistants must provide to residents. According to a state order, Destin Healthcare and Rehabilitation must discharge all its residents to other facilities by April 25, the effective date of the license suspension. The Destin home had as many as 114 residents earlier this month.
—TOP OPINION —
“Disney should leave Florida. It’s time for DeSanty World.” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — Of course, you can’t just put a resort with six theme parks and two dozen or so hotels on a magic carpet ride to, say, New Jersey. (As it is, central Floridians could be stuck with more than $1 billion in debt and a massive property-tax increase because of DeSantis’ anti-Disney vendetta.) But Disney is the place where dreams come true, and mine is that the whole of Disney World, which employs roughly 80,000 Floridians and attracts tens of millions of tourists every year, will … abandon Florida entirely. DeSantis would be left with a 25,000-acre house of horrors in Orlando: an abandoned resort in a state nobody wants to visit, thanks to Ron’s Runaway Railway.
— OPINIONS —
“Letters from an American” via Heather Cox Richardson for Substack — In a filed motion was part of the testimony to the Jan. 6 committee from Cassidy Hutchinson, a former special assistant to the President and the chief of staff. When asked which members of Congress were involved in calls about overturning the election — including calls saying such efforts were illegal — Hutchinson named Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jim Jordan, Lauren Boebert, Scott Perry, Louie Gohmert, Andy Biggs, Mo Brooks, Jody Hice, Paul Gosar, and Debbie Lesko. The heart of this group was the “Freedom Caucus,” which was organized in 2015 to move the Republican Party farther to the right. Its first chair was Jordan; its second was Mark Meadows. Its third was Biggs. Mick Mulvaney, who would go on to Trump’s White House, and DeSantis were key organizers.
“DeSantis showed total dominance of Legislature” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — Enacting important legislation usually takes time and careful contemplation by House and Senate members, but there are now two ways to get state legislators to move swiftly. One way is for a true emergency to strike. The other way to get the Republican majority moving is for something to really, really annoy DeSantis. That’s what we saw last week, twice. Stripping Disney of its self-governing power sends an unmistakable message to any other corporations that might get ideas about having rights in what DeSantis likes to call “the free state of Florida.” Rights depend on his whim. It’s as if DeSantis had told Disney, “Hey, nice amusement park you got there — be a real shame if anything happened to it, if you know what I mean …”
“Disney ‘punishment’ could blow up in DeSantis’ face” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — With no advance notice, DeSantis demanded that lawmakers punish Disney for its tepid criticism of a hateful bill aimed at banning discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in Florida classrooms (also, for Disney’s threat to cut off campaign contributions). But when the governor roared, the Mouse yawned. With nearly 40 registered lobbyists, the company didn’t send a soul to indecently rushed committee meetings convened to dole out punishment. And as the dust settles, many suspect that Disney’s “punishment” could let the company pocket tens of millions of dollars each year and shift a billion-dollar debt onto the shoulders of local taxpayers.
“Can DeSantis get any more anti-gay, anti-trans? Oh, yes. He can” via Fabiola Santiago of the Miami Herald — DeSantis’ health department has once again dismissed the best minds in medical science to play Republican Party politics with people’s lives. The target: transgender children and youth. The goal: take away the medically endorsed health care now available to them. Because the recently enacted “Don’t Say Gay” law banning any discussion of gender identity in grades K-3 isn’t enough to quench the GOP thirst for the erasure of might-be gay and want-to-be trans kids. Instead of commanding the state Legislature to act, as he has done with his other phobias and political enemies, this time, the state Department of Health is his tool of repression.
“Florida math book ban miscalculates” via The Palm Beach Post editorial board — With great fanfare and very little evidence, the Florida Department of Education banned more than 50 new math textbooks for containing “indoctrinating information” on “prohibited topics.” Specific examples of offensive material are still hard to come by, which should anger parents who want better schools, not more crass politics. Where are the examples of “indoctrination,” “prohibited topics,” and “divisive concepts” that threaten public schools in Florida and have so rattled DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran? Barring proof that publishers are now pushing 3+3 equals CRT, the decision amounts to a nod to fringe politics. It clearly hasn’t helped school districts now thrown into a tizzy as they scramble for instructional material for the upcoming school year.
“Why do Florida Republicans hate Critical Race Theory? Because they engage in the racist behavior it exposes” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Florida’s Republicans sure have a way with words. LGBTQ residents are “groomers” out to subvert innocent children. Protesting peacefully can get you arrested in the “free” state of Florida. And Thursday, Democrats’ protest on the floor of the state House was an “insurrection.” At least Republican lawmakers are on-brand: They have made clear time and again that when it comes to living on an equitable footing in Florida, gays, women and Blacks need not apply. The so-called insurrection actually was Black lawmakers’ refusal to take their GOP colleagues’ blatant attempt to disenfranchise Black voters lying down.
“Penny tax would transform transportation in Orange” via Jerry Demings for the Orlando Sentinel — Tuesday, April 26, marks Decision Day, the day we choose whether to let our residents decide their transportation future or shortsightedly stop it before the people have the chance to vote. Tuesday is when the Orange County Board of County Commissioners decides whether or not to put the Transportation Sales Tax Initiative on the fall ballot. Since 2019, I have spoken extensively how the Transportation Sales Tax Initiative, one cent extra on the dollar, would present a transformative opportunity to improve Orange County’s transportation system and our overall quality of life. The initiative is expected to raise nearly $600 million annually, with 51% of the tax paid by visitors.
— ALOE —
“College stories: Florida students share their (sometimes) rocky roads to graduation” via Fresh Take Florida — The pandemic left a stain on the college experience for students. The class of 2022 split their time into halves, virtual and in-person. College students adapted to “distanced” and classroom learning while routinely being administered COVID-19 tests. Students traded their extracurricular activities, sports games, and parties for endless Zoom meetings and masks. Some dealt with academic responsibilities while sick with the virus. Many lost loved ones. Despite maneuvering through college classes during a global health crisis, graduates across Florida universities pushed toward the finish line. While the coronavirus injected “what ifs” into their memories, others adapted, pivoted and realigned their goals.
“UCF announces results of Disney Aspire program — nearly 1,000 participants earning degrees” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Nearly three years ago, Orange County’s biggest employer and its biggest university started working together to make education more accessible. Disney announced it was paying tuition upfront for hourly employees enrolled at the University of Central Florida as part of its Disney Aspire program. UCF disclosed the latest results: More than 250 Disney World workers have already earned degrees as Knights and another 800 are currently taking classes this spring semester. Disney employees’ top majors are hospitality and tourism management, psychology, and entertainment management.
“‘Amazing video:’ Orange Co. deputy saves baby from burning apartment building” via David Harris of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — An Orange County Sheriff’s deputy helped pull a baby out of a burning third-floor apartment building early Saturday morning. Body camera footage released by the Sheriff’s Office shows Deputy William Puzynski climbing outside balconies with the child and mother standing outside the third-floor apartment as smoke billows out of the building. “How old is your baby?” Puzynski asks. “She’s 1? Hold on, hold on. I’m coming.” He climbs up to a second-floor balcony where the mother hands the baby down to Puzynski, who then gives the girl down to deputies below.
Amazing video of OCSO Deputy rescuing baby girl from fire!
Early this morning, deputies were assisting @OCFireRescue & saw a baby & mom on 3rd floor balcony with flames coming from the apartment. Deputy Puzynski climbed the outside balconies & mom handed baby down to him. pic.twitter.com/T5JeXLY7tA
— Orange County Sheriff's Office (@OrangeCoSheriff) April 23, 2022
“Former Florida State basketball player Scottie Barnes wins NBA Rookie of the Year” via Curt Weiler of the Tallahassee Democrat — After one impactful season at Florida State, Barnes made a similarly significant impact in his first season in the NBA. Barnes, drafted fourth overall by the Toronto Raptors, was named NBA Rookie of the Year Saturday morning. He’s the first former Seminole to be named the sole NBA Rookie of the Year and just the second overall, joining Dave Cowens, co-Rookie of the Year in 1971. The West Palm Beach native was third among rookies in scoring (15.3 points per game), second among rookies in rebounding (7.5 per game), third in assists (3.5 per game), third in steals (1.1 per game), and tied for fourth in blocks (0.7 per game).
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Celebrating today are political consultant Tom Alte, Kristin Lamb, Greg Langowski, Brian Lowack, Megan Roach Michalski, former state Rep. David Richardson, former state Rep. Larry Smith, and Susan Smith. Belated happy birthday wishes to state House candidate Berny Jacques, our favorite St. Petersburg City Council member Ed Montanari, Samantha Pollara, Matt Spritz, and Amanda Stewart of Johnston & Stewart Government Strategies.
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