Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 4.27.22

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Florida politics and Sunburn — perfect together.

Good Wednesday morning.

In an op-ed exclusive to Florida Politics, veteran consultant Mac Stipanovich casts an eye on the Democratic race for Governor. Here is a snippet:

The circumstances of this column require full disclosure: I support Charlie Crist in the Governor’s race. There are many reasons for this, ranging from a sincere belief that the affable and experienced Crist is the candidate best suited to govern Florida in these contentious times to a visceral aversion to the dour, right-wing, beetle browned pugnacity of Ron DeSantis.

Not the least of my reasons, however, is loyalty. And Charlie is my friend.

That said, I would be of the opinion that Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried should drop out of the Governor’s race for the good of the order, even if I had never met Charlie. She is not going to win the Democratic nomination, and her continued candidacy will only deplete resources — hers and Charlie’s — available to be deployed in the General Election against DeSantis, who already has more money than God.

Is it time for Democrats to consolidate and keep their eyes on the prize?

The problem is not that a contested Democratic primary will be fatally divisive. Nikki and Charlie are both center-left Democrats whose differences on the fundamental issues are not earthshaking. The problem is that it is a wasteful distraction in the long-shot effort to unhorse DeSantis.

It is never too late to do the right thing.

Read the entire op-ed here.

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Gov. Ron DeSantis sets property insurance Special Session for late May” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — DeSantis is calling the Legislature back for a Special Session to stabilize Florida’s rickety property insurance market. He issued the official proclamation Tuesday, setting the dates for the Session from May 23 to 27. The proclamation notes the industry has experienced two straight years of at least $1 billion in underwriting losses, and several companies have gone bankrupt or refused to renew hundreds of thousands of policies. No bills for the Session have been filed yet, but DeSantis gave a clue as to what remedies will be on the table in his proclamation. The message states the exclusive purpose of the Session will be to consider bills regarding property insurance, reinsurance, changes to the Florida building code, the Office of Insurance Regulation, civil remedies and appropriations.

Ron DeSantis calls lawmakers to fix Florida’s broken property insurance system. Image via AP.

—“Gov. DeSantis sets weeklong Special Session on property insurance for May 23” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Orlando Sentinel

—“Gov. DeSantis sets dates for Legislature to convene to deal with property insurance crisis” via Ana Ceballos of the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times

—“Gov. DeSantis sets Special Session to fix Florida’s deepening property insurance rate crisis via John Kennedy of the USA TODAY Capital Bureau

—“Five days that could save the insurance world: DeSantis calls Session” via William Rabb of Insurance World

Is the Florida homeowners insurance market on the brink of collapse?” via Cate Deventer of Bankrate — Florida has always been a complex home insurance market, but recent issues are pushing the state’s market to the point of collapse. Since 2017, six property and casualty companies that offered homeowners insurance in Florida liquidated. Two more are in the liquidation process in 2022. Other insurance companies are voluntarily leaving the state, and still more are choosing to non-renew swaths of home insurance policies or drastically tighten their policy eligibility requirements. Why? What is behind these companies’ aversion to insuring Florida homes? The biggest issue right now in Florida is home insurance fraud, driven by fraudulent roofing claims. Instead of leaving altogether, some companies are tightening their underwriting restrictions to lessen the risk of these scams.

___

Florida teachers are among the lowest paid in the country, according to new figures released by the National Education Association.

Though lawmakers’ plan to raise starting teacher pay to $47,500 has helped the state climb from No. 30 to No. 16 in that metric, overall teacher pay is still languishing near the bottom, moving from No. 49 to No. 48.

Inflation isn’t helping. The figures show that when it’s factored in, Florida’s average teacher salary for 2020-2021 was 10% percent less than in 2012-2013.

Florida’s pay scale doesn’t stack up against neighboring states either, with Alabama at No. 35 and Georgia earning the No. 21 spot.

“We all want our students to get a high-quality education, and we know it takes qualified teachers and staff to make that happen. Florida has a severe shortage of educators, due in large part to low pay,” said Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar.

“We’re in a double bind in Florida. Even when increases are funded, Tallahassee has tied districts’ hands with more than 20 laws affecting pay. The upshot is that while salaries improve for new teachers, experienced educators are left behind. Improving pay for all career levels would help keep experienced professional teachers in front of our students and attract new people to the field.”

Per-pupil funding — a figure often used to contextualize overall education funding — is also lagging, according to the NEA, which ranked Florida No. 44 in its “Rankings of the States 2021 and Estimates of School Statistics 2022” report. That ranking remained unchanged from 2019-2020 to 2020-2021.

The NEA reports are available at nea.org/educatorpay.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@ElonMusk: The extreme antibody reaction from those who fear free speech says it all

@marcorubio: The meltdown over the @Twitter purchase by @elonmusk is all because the far-left fears losing the power to threaten, silence and destroy anyone who doesn’t agree with them

@lennycurry: @ElonMusk @CityofJax Mayor here. We’re a haven for tech talent with the 3rd largest monthly tech job growth in the U.S., outranking LA, Houston & Miami. We’re home to @FIS and @Dnbsmlbusiness and the state’s 1st Fintech Academy. I’m with @JimmyPatronis move the @Twitter HQ to Jax!

@RealDLHughley: Ain’t it weird that on the same day #DeSantis the Governor of Florida signs a bill to prevent free speech #ElonMusk buys Twitter to supposedly protect it? #TeamDl

@WindsorMann: Elon Musk should buy Florida and make it a bastion of free speech.

@JacobOgles: Very strange to me that the @FEC not only is still posting the wrong map on its page but has not yet even allowed for a search of candidates in #CD28.

Tweet, tweet:

@Mdixon55: Served his purpose in that this hung over @WiltonSimpson‘s head for a key Special Session. Seems like the sort of thing that could land one a future @GovRonDeSantis endorsement for a congressional seat

@BryanDGriffin: History is required to be taught in Florida. Partisan, ideologically driven lenses through which to view and interpret history (like CRT) being taught as fact in the classroom — in other words, indoctrination — is prohibited.

Tweet, tweet:

@CookOut: It was a very close finish, but the winner is: TALLAHASSEE, FL at 46%, followed by Louisville, KY @ 45%, Outer Banks @ 5% Ocean City, MD @ 2%. We will now start looking for a location! Stay tuned!

@FSU_Barstool: Cookout and Wawa in Tallahassee are the steppingstones to the natty

— DAYS UNTIL —

2022 Florida Chamber Transportation, Growth & Infrastructure Solution Summit — 1; ‘The Godfather’ TV series ‘The Offer’ premieres — 1; 2nd half of ‘Ozark’ final season begins — 2; White House Correspondents’ Dinner — 3; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 9; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 15; ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ starts on Disney+ — 29; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 30; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 36; California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota hold midterm Primaries — 41; ‘Jurassic World Dominion’ premieres — 44; Pixar’s ‘Lightyear’ premieres — 51; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 72; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 85; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 104; ‘House of the Dragon’ premieres on HBO — 116; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 128; 2022 Emmys — 128; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 162; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 181; Jon Meacham’s ‘And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle’ releases — 181; ‘Black Panther 2′ premieres — 198; ‘Captain Marvel 2’ premieres — 198; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 204; The World Cup kicks off in Qatar — 208; The U.S. World Cup Soccer Team begins play — 208; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 209; ‘Avatar 2′ premieres — 233; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 314; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 331; 2023 Session Sine Die — 373; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 401; ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 457; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 541; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 702; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 821.


— TOP STORY —

Chuck Nadd drops out of Agriculture Commissioner race, clearing field for Wilton Simpson” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Nadd has suspended his campaign for Florida Agriculture Commissioner. The move came a day after DeSantis endorsed Senate President Simpson for the post. “The outpouring of support for our campaign has made for an extraordinary past three weeks,” Nadd wrote in a handwritten message posted online. “While (wife) Shannon and I have decided to suspend our campaign based on Gov. DeSantis’ decision to unite the GOP, we remain committed as ever to fighting for clean water, our conservative values, and the Florida freedoms that he has championed.”

Tweet, tweet:

— 2022 —

DeSantis battles Disney to help him outshine Donald Trump” via Joshua Green of Bloomberg — It’s unusual for a Governor to denounce one of his state’s biggest and most prominent employers. But DeSantis’ attacks on The Walt Disney Co. for criticizing a new law curtailing what schools can teach students about gender identity and sexual orientation aren’t likely to be a limited instance. Instead, they’re another sign that political fights, especially for presidential hopefuls like DeSantis, are expanding from legislatures to corporations and the business world. Last month, under pressure from activists and its employees, Disney put out a statement declaring that the legislation critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law “should never have been passed and should never have been signed into law.” The company vowed to work to help get the legislation repealed or struck down in court.

Will the Disney battle help Ron DeSantis outdo Donald Trump?

DeSantis calls San Francisco a ‘dumpster fire,’ fears Californians importing ‘destruction’ to Florida” via Michael Lee of Fox News — DeSantis took aim at San Francisco, calling the city a “dumpster fire” while expressing fears over what would happen if companies there relocated to Florida. “There is cause for concern,” DeSantis said. “Texas would have all these companies moved from California over the years. So, you’d have companies move from San Francisco to Austin, and they’d bring hundreds of employees with them. And those employees would vote the exact same way they voted that turned San Francisco into the dumpster fire that it is.” DeSantis expressed fears that California voters could begin moving to Florida, saying they fail to make the connection between “leftist” policies and the problems they left behind.

Charlie Crist, running for Governor, skips D.C. work weeks” via Haley Byrd Wilt of The Dispatch — Over four months and 125 recorded votes on the House floor this year, Rep. Crist hasn’t missed a single one, an impressive feat for a lawmaker running for Governor. But that accomplishment is even more miraculous for a simple reason: Crist has voted in person only four days this year. Crist was present for 18 votes. Crist’s colleagues have cast the rest of the Florida Democrat’s votes on his behalf while he has skipped the trek to the nation’s capital. Established near the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, proxy voting allowed members to participate remotely for the first time in the House’s history. It was intended as an emergency measure to prevent the spread of the virus and to keep lawmakers and their families safe.

Ben Diamond makes big decision on congressional run” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — State Rep. Diamond has decided on at least one district where he won’t run. The St. Petersburg Democrat has no interest in challenging U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor in Florida’s 14th Congressional District. “It is premature to decide on my political plans, but I know I will not be waging a Primary against my friend, Congresswoman Kathy Castor,” Diamond tells Florida Politics. That may not be the ground-shaking news people expect Diamond to make very soon. But it’s notable since a new Florida congressional map puts his entire Florida House District 68 inside of CD 14. That cartographical decision stands among the most controversial and least-explained changes in the map (P 0109) crafted by DeSantis’ staff.

Dan Webster clarifies he’s sticking with Congressional District 11” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Rep. Webster made clear he will continue to run in Florida’s 11th Congressional District after lawmakers approved a new district map, now signed by DeSantis. Webster put out a statement expressing enthusiasm over the new map. “I applaud Gov. DeSantis and the Florida Legislature’s passage of the congressional maps,” said Webster. The new cartography, crafted by DeSantis’ staff after the Governor vetoed maps drawn by the Legislature, makes significant changes to Webster’s seat.

Carlos Giménez adds $260K in Q1 through unions, GOP donors” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Giménez enjoyed the support of unions, business associations, and a multitude of his fellow Republicans while raising more than $260,000 in the first quarter of 2022 to defend his seat in Congress. According to his filings with the Federal Elections Commission, by the end of last month, the former Miami-Dade County Mayor had more than $1.2 million to fend off three challengers with significantly shallower pockets. Some 90 people gave to Giménez between Jan. 1 and March 31, with donations ranging from $15 to $5,800 — the upper limit of what candidates can accept from individual donors, equal to $2,900 each for the Primary and General elections. Giménez’s largest Q1 contribution was a nearly $15,000 transfer from a joint fundraising committee to which he is a party.

Jacksonville’s Lake Ray moves political comeback bid to HD 16” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The race for the new House District 16 seat continues to heat up, with a political veteran and former state legislator joining an increasingly crowded Republican Primary. Former state Rep. Ray redesignated to the race Tuesday, making him the fourth Republican in the field. Ray represented the western parts of the new district for eight years when it was part of the previous House District 12. “We are at a critical juncture in our city and state; Washington is working against us as we try to raise families and build our careers and businesses,” Ray said. Ray launched with a prominent endorsement from another political veteran: former Atlantic Beach Mayor Mitch Reeves.

The return of Lake Ray?

Kevin Marino Cabrera enters race for Miami-Dade County Commission District 6” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Cabrera, a political and government relations specialist, has added his name to the candidates competing this November to represent District 6 on the Miami-Dade County Commission. Cabrera, the senior vice president of global public strategy firm Mercury, filed Tuesday in the race to succeed Miami-Dade Commissioner Rebeca Sosa, who must leave office this year due to term limits. District 6 covers the cities of Miami Springs, West Miami, parts of Miami, Coral Gables and Hialeah, and a portion of the county’s unincorporated area, including Miami International Airport. Cabrera, married to Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera, entered politics from the trade and logistics sector.


— DATELINE TALLY —

The contractual impossibility of unwinding Disney’s Reedy Creek” via Jacob Schumer of Bloomberg Tax — Much ado has been made about the legality of Florida’s bill purporting to dissolve Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District. But there’s a much more basic reason Florida can’t dissolve Reedy Creek — it promised bond purchasers that it wouldn’t. In authorizing Reedy Creek to issue bonds, the Florida Legislature included a remarkable statement — included in Reedy Creek’s bond offerings — regarding its own promise to bondholders: “The State of Florida pledges to the holders of any bonds issued under this Act that it will not limit or alter the rights of the District … until all such bonds together with interest thereon, and all costs and expenses in connection with any action or proceeding by or on behalf of such holders, are fully met and discharged.”

Disney tells investors state can’t dissolve special district without paying debt” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — Disney quietly sent a note to its investors to show that it was confident the Legislature’s attempt to dissolve the special taxing district operating the 39-square mile parcel it owned in two counties violated the “pledge” the state made when it enacted the district in 1967, and therefore was not legal. The result, Disney told its investors, is that it would continue to go about business as usual.

—”DeSantis’ Disney battle has created financial chaos in Florida. Here are four things that could happen next” via Colin Lodewick of Fortune

The dissolution of Reedy Creek leaves many unanswered questions.

Equal Ground hopes courts step in on Gov. DeSantis’ congressional map before the midterms“ via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Even critics of DeSantis’ new congressional map question if it can be successfully challenged before the 2022 election. But Equal Ground founder Jasmine Burney-Clark holds out hope. Her organization is among the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in state court alleging the map illegally diminishes Black voting power. “My hope is it will impact the midterms, and something will happen as soon as the candidate qualifying deadline,” she said. “But I do have to be honest and realistic. We have been in this place before.” The concern on a statewide basis now is that the number of Black districts in the state goes from four to two on the new map. DeSantis hasn’t been shy about his thoughts on that. He believes racially motivated gerrymanders violate the 14th Amendment.

Florida suspended enforcement of new voting restrictions the day DeSantis signed bill into law” via Michael Moline of the Florida Phoenix — The state has agreed to forgo enforcement of key elements of new voting restrictions that DeSantis signed into law only Monday, including a highly contested disclosure mandate for voter-registration organizations. In a notice to U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, Secretary of State Laurel Lee said officials also would place a hold on provisions restricting ballot drop boxes to county election supervisors’ main or permanent branch offices used for early voting. That’s in line with an order Walker issued March 31 that, because of its 20-year pattern of discrimination against the voting rights of Black people, the state must submit any voting law changes to the U.S. Department of Justice or the courts for “pre-clearance” before they can take effect.

Why did Florida pick just one publisher for elementary math textbooks? A closer look at the controversy.” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — When the state of Florida rejected all but one publisher of elementary math textbooks this month, many people wanted to know why. The state Department of Education is rejecting “publishers’ attempts to indoctrinate students” with topics such as “critical race theory” and social-emotional learning, it said in a news release April 15, coinciding with the same conservative approach backed by DeSantis. The only winning company for K-5 math, Accelerate Learning, had been rejected by some school districts in the state because it didn’t offer a print version. Since then, the Florida Democratic Party, as well as some community members, have questioned what, if any, political influence was wielded.

Under new Florida law, activist requests 62 school districts to ban the Bible, including LCS” via Ana Goñi-Lessan of the Tallahassee Democrat — School districts across the state are reviewing dozens of books, like “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison and “50 Shades of Grey” by E.L. James, at the request of parents who question whether these books are harmful for students. But Leon County Schools has only received one official complaint so far, and it’s about banning the Bible. “Let’s be honest — banning books is never a good idea, but what’s fair is fair, and with that in mind, please find attached my request to ban the Bible,” said Chaz Stevens in an email to Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna. While Stevens’ attempt may highlight the law of unintended consequences, school officials pointing to a new law are reviewing the request and have even begun auditing the number of Bibles in capital city schools.

— STATEWIDE —

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. Health officials have documented a rise in new infections since mid-March, but the post-omicron number of COVID-19-positive hospital patients hasn’t risen until this week.

New omicron subvariant rapidly moving across the nation and the Deep South, CDC officials say” via Issac Morgan of the Florida Phoenix — Federal health authorities Tuesday warned that a new omicron subvariant spreading across the nation and in Florida may be more transmissible than the other COVID-19 subvariant called BA.2 that triggered earlier surges. According to the CDC, the new omicron subvariant, known as BA.2.12.1, makes up 28.7% of new COVID infections in the Southeastern region. That includes the states of Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida. The subvariant is raising concerns by health officials that it may be able to spread more easily than the other variants. Just last week, the BA.2.12.1 percentage was 19.4, and the week before that, it was 13.7.

Again, omicron tears through the Deep South. Image via AP.

Health centers can tap into $90M in federal grants for data collection improvements” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — The Joe Biden administration is making $90 million available to federally qualified health centers to assist them as they transition to new reporting requirements that have been redesigned to collect more and better data on social determinants of health. The grants are being administered through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and are funded with American Rescue Plan dollars. HRSA-supported health centers provide services to underserved populations and lower-income individuals and families. Nearly 63% of the patients treated at the clinics are racial or ethnic minorities.

Why a longer red snapper season is ‘one of the most exciting times’ to fish in Florida” via Jon Chapman for The Bradenton Herald — On Thursday, DeSantis announced the 2022 recreational red snapper season for the state of Florida. The season, which will total 57 days, will be split between summer and fall. “Snapper season is one of the most exciting times to be fishing in Florida, and I am excited to announce the longest season since the state took over management of red snapper,” said DeSantis. The summer season will be 45 days, starting June 17 and ending July 31. Additional weekend days in October on the 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, as well as November 11-13, 25-27, were decided on. Federally permitted, for-hire charters are also awaiting an official 2022 red snapper season, and new offshore captain Brian Rubey said he can’t wait.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Joe Biden uses clemency powers for first time” via Zolan Kanno-Youngs of The New York Times — Biden said he would use his clemency powers for the first time to commute the sentences of 75 drug offenders and issue three pardons, including to the first Black Secret Service agent to work on a presidential detail, who had long maintained he had been wrongfully convicted. “Helping those who served their time return to their families and become contributing members of their communities is one of the most effective ways to reduce recidivism and decrease crime,” Biden said. The Justice and Labor Departments announced a $145 million plan to provide job skills training to federal inmates to help them gain work when they are released.

Joe Biden flexes his pardon muscle.

Florida inmate who lost eye in prison attack receives clemency from Biden” via Bryan Lowry of the Miami Herald — Biden granted clemency Tuesday to three Floridians serving federal prison sentences on drug-related charges. Mackie Shivers of Fort Lauderdale was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2001 after being convicted on charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine. Biden commuted Shivers’ sentence. He’ll be released August 24 and subject to 10 years of supervised release under the order. Shivers unsuccessfully sued the federal government after he lost his eye when his cellmate attacked him with a pair of scissors while he was sleeping. The incident took place at the U.S. Penitentiary Coleman II in Coleman.

Dems may get reprieve from internal tension over immigration” via Burgess Everett and Marianne Levine of POLITICO — A federal judge could break a standstill in the Senate while defusing a brutal immigration conflict between Democrats and Biden. The administration’s plan to lift Trump-era immigration curbs instituted during the pandemic, colloquially called Title 42, is roiling the Democratic Party as candidates and incumbents alike dash away from Biden’s position. A court ruling late Monday could give Biden some breathing room, as a federal judge signaled plans to temporarily block the administration’s decision to end the pandemic-era border restrictions.

Vice President Kamala Harris tests positive for COVID-19” via Peter Baker and Aishvarya Kavi of The New York Times — Vice President Harris tested positive for the coronavirus Tuesday, becoming the latest highest-ranking official in Washington to be infected and raising new concerns about Biden’s potential exposure as the virus tears through his administration. The Vice President’s office said she tested positive on both rapid and P.C.R. tests and would stay away from the White House until she tests negative, working instead from the Vice President’s official residence. Her office said that she had not been in close proximity to Biden for an extended period in recent days. “She has exhibited no symptoms, will isolate and continue to work from the Vice President’s residence,” Kirsten Allen, Harris’s spokeswoman, said.

— LOCAL NOTES: N. FL —

Charlie Adelson ordered to be held without bond on murder charges in Dan Markel case” via Jeff Burlew and Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Adelson, the former brother-in-law of Markel, has been transported from South Florida to Tallahassee to face charges in the murder of the Florida State University law professor. On Monday, Adelson, a 45-year-old dentist from Fort Lauderdale, was booked into the Leon County Detention Facility on charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, and solicitation to commit first-degree murder. Adelson appeared Tuesday via video conference before Leon County Judge Augustus Aikens Jr., who ordered he be held without bond and not contact any co-defendants. His attorney Margot Moss said she would be filing a motion to hold an evidentiary hearing in the hopes Adelson would receive a bond. “Putting aside all of the noise, he should get a bond,” she said.

‘Déjà vu’: Jacksonville City Council approves another school tax referendum” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Duval County property owners may be paying more property tax soon, and the School Board urges them to consider the bigger spending as an investment in the future. The Jacksonville City Council authorized by a 14-5 vote an August referendum (2022-213) to raise property taxes by one mill for the next four years. The Duval County School Board estimates this could give them $82 million per annum in new cash flow, which could be used to pay veteran teachers, and upgrade arts and athletics facilities. “It seems like déjà vu,” observed Republican Council President Terrance Freeman. And indeed it was, with Council members pained to distance themselves from endorsing the tax hike but voting the bill through anyway.

Investigation faults ‘untouchable’ Jacksonville City Hall official Ryan Ali for misconduct” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — A long-running inspector general investigation into Jacksonville’s Division of Sports and Entertainment found the former head of the office, Ali, “created a climate of hostility and intimidation” in which employees’ physical appearances were regularly denigrated, that he violated the city’s procurement code, falsified his time and attendance records, and misused city resources by taking a set of lights from the office to use for his birthday party at a friend’s house. The investigation, released Monday evening, found evidence Ali’s boss, Daryl Joseph, the city’s director of Parks, Recreation and Community Services, as well as human-resources officials were unresponsive and sometimes dismissive of employees’ concerns even as complaints against Ali mounted, according to the report from Matthew Lascell, the city inspector general.

Ryan Ali’s workplace conduct is under scrutiny.

Judge finds Fernandina Port operator in civil contempt” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — The tendency of Worldwide Terminals CEO Chris Ragucci and his companies to delay and not turn over documents resulted in a state circuit judge finding Worldwide Terminals Fernandina in indirect civil contempt. The finding stemmed from the company not turning over documents related to Ragucci’s takeover of the Port of Fernandina. Worldwide wholly owns Worldwide Terminals Fernandina and Nassau Terminals, which runs the Port. Ragucci also serves as CEO of Worldwide Terminals Fernandina and Nassau Terminals. ASM Capital secured the services of Ragucci for a business venture involving the ports at Fernandina and St. Marys, Georgia. But in the process, the firm’s lawyers said Ragucci misled it and essentially stole the Port of Fernandina for himself.

Pensacola students win a battle to preserve free speech at school, but fear war’s not won” via Colin Warren-Hicks of the Pensacola News Journal — A group of high school students spoke out against a proposed rule they say infringed on their First Amendment rights last week and walked away with a big win. The group consisted of about five students from Pensacola High School’s International Baccalaureate program and one 10th grade student from West Florida High School. During the public forum section of the Escambia County School Board’s Tuesday night meeting, each of the teenagers expressed concerns about a proposed new rule they said threatened to stifle students’ abilities to protest school policies or create petitions expressing dissatisfaction with administrative decisions.

Santa Rosa County sheriff: Shoot if someone’s breaking into your home” via The Associated Press — A Florida sheriff invited a homeowner and shot at a would-be robber to attend a gun safety course to “learn to shoot a lot better” and “save the taxpayers money.” Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson made the comments during a news conference Thursday regarding the arrest of a 32-year-old man who was breaking into houses in Pace, which is near Pensacola. Johnson said that multiple residents called 911 last Wednesday to report the break-ins, and deputies quickly set up a perimeter. The suspect jumped over fences and broke into homes as deputies tried to catch him. He added that the sheriff’s office conducts a gun safety course every other Saturday.

Bob Johnson has some simple advice for homeowners.

Tallahassee’s original Lindy’s Chicken location closing” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — Lindy’s Chicken’s original Tallahassee location has shut its doors for the final time. The restaurant, located at 2112 N. Monroe St., closed this week after 30 years in business. The announcement was made on Facebook by Greg Tish, host of radio’s The Greg Tish Show. Lindy’s Chicken, founded by Ray Salis, had its start more than 50 years ago when it began serving fried chicken out of the back of a bowling alley. It expanded to the North Monroe location, and eventually grew to several restaurants across Tallahassee, Crawfordville and Blountstown. In a statement from the store managers, they said the pressure of a Chick-fil-A built next to them in 2000 finally caught up to the restaurant. The Lindy’s Chicken location will be turned into a parking lot for the Chick-fil-A.


— MORE LOCAL: C. FL —

Orange County Commission green-lights Jerry Demings’ transportation tax” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — By a 4-3 vote Tuesday night, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners voted to put a charter amendment on the county ballot in the Nov. 8 General Election to increase Orange County’s sales tax by a penny for 20 years, raising a projected $600 million a year for transportation. The vote came after a near meltdown of support for the Democratic Mayor’s plan from the Democrat-dominated Commission, with opposition coming from the left. In what looked like a losing position, Demings won Commissioner Myra Uribe over by agreeing to changes in the structure, power, and public nature of a citizens oversight board helping direct how the money would be spent.

‘Get rid of it’: Tyre Sampson’s parents speak out after lawsuit filed in Orlando Free Fall tragedy” via Cristóbal Reyes of the Orlando Sentinel — Tyre’s parents spoke out Tuesday after their lawyers filed a lawsuit the day before against ICON Park and the Slingshot Group, with his mother calling for the ride from which her son fell to his death March 24 to be taken down. “Just get rid of it altogether. It’s just too big of a risk,” Nekia Dodd told reporters in St. Louis, joined by her lawyer Michael Haggard. Tyre’s father, Yarnell Sampson, called for the same, at least temporarily, “until [the theme park industry] can get themselves together.” He added, “Forget the part about him being a five-star athlete. Let’s talk about the 4.0 [grade-point average] intellectual that he could’ve been. He could’ve been a doctor, a lawyer, a scholar, an astronaut.”

The family of Tyre Sampson wants Freefall to shut down permanently. Image via AP.

Panel approves radar on Satellite Beach conservation land, raising ire of environmentalists” via Jim Waymer of Florida Today — Last week, the Florida Communities Trust voted to approve a new radar system at Hightower Beach Preservation Area that will better “see” those lost at sea, oil spills, algae and other ocean-surface happenings. Its approval came despite the concerns of some environmentalists who fear the thin antennas, cables and other equipment will harm the endangered sea turtle nesting area and surrounding seagrapes. Then the same panel voted to allow a major road through prime wildlife habitat in Osceola. “Everybody’s in absolute shock,” Sandra Sullivan, a candidate for Brevard County Commission. Sullivan, who attended the FCT meeting in Tallahassee, said the decisions defy the intent of the state conservation lands program. “This is rippling across Florida right now. These conservation lands are no longer protected in Florida.”

9 vie for top USF St. Pete job. One is former Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin.” via Divya Kumar of the Tampa Bay Times — USF will be interviewing nine candidates this week to be the next regional chancellor of the St. Petersburg campus, including a familiar name to city residents — former Deputy Mayor and City Administrator Tomalin. Tomalin, currently the COO and VP of strategy at Eckerd College, is among the candidates shortlisted from a pool of 56 applicants for the job. The nine remaining candidates will be interviewed Wednesday and Thursday. Outgoing Regional Chancellor Martin Tadlock had planned to step down at the end of 2021 but extended his term at the request of then-interim President Rhea Law. In contrast, 20 people applied for the president’s job and two were shortlisted, including Law, who eventually won that job.

Seminole cracks down on animal hoarders, junk cars” via Martin E. Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — With little comment, Seminole Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved a tougher animal control ordinance that limits the number of dogs and cats a resident can have in their home in hopes of preventing animal hoarding and backyard breeding. Commissioners also enacted new regulations that define “junk vehicle” and when it can be removed from a resident’s property by county code enforcement officials. According to the new regulations, a resident is limited to six dogs and eight cats. Otherwise, the pet owner would have to obtain a noncommercial kennel license from the county. The new ordinance also moves forward a new county initiative to trap, neuter, vaccinate and release feral or homeless cats caught in neighborhoods.

MSC Cruises sending new class of ship to Port Canaveral next year” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — MSC Cruises dipped its toes into the market with MSC Divina, a ship built in 2012, and then jammed a foot in with one of the largest ships in the world with the MSC Meraviglia, which was built in 2017. Now, the family-owned cruise line that’s been making more inroads into the North American cruise market will be debuting a third type of ship, the first ship of its Seaside class, to the Central Florida port. MSC Seaside, which also debuted in late 2017 sailing from Miami, will arrive at Port Canaveral to begin sailing April 16 2023, on 3-, 4- and 7-night cruises.

— MORE LOCAL: S. FL —

As unanswered 911 calls raise alarm, Broward struggles to find a way to fix the problem” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The Broward Sheriff’s Office acknowledged Tuesday it has a recruitment and retention crisis among its 911 call-takers that has left scores of emergency calls unanswered. Broward County Commissioners asked Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony and other agency members about concerns about answering 911 calls. The agency said it doesn’t have enough money to attract new dispatchers to fill 90 empty positions, and to keep the dispatchers who are already employed from going elsewhere for more money. “We’re going to continue to lose these people,” he warned. “This will always be a problem here whether we want to admit it or not.” The South Florida Sun-Sentinel discovered thousands of unanswered 911 calls in a monthslong investigation.

Gregory Tony would like to put up the help wanted sign, but the budget won’t allow it.

New tax would charge Vero Beach property owners, businesses to help clean Indian River Lagoon” via Colleen Wixon of Treasure Coast Newspapers — A new tax is needed to pay for city stormwater projects, the City Council decided Tuesday. In a 4-1 vote, the council agreed to move forward with the tax. It’s necessary to help clean the Indian River Lagoon, the council said. “Our goal is to keep water out of the lagoon,” Councilman Rey Neville said. If it’s adopted in June, residential property owners would pay between $30 a year for a 1,300-square-foot home to as much as $239 for a home larger than 6,500 square feet. The owner of an average home — 1,301 to 3,400 square feet — would pay about $75 a year, officials said.

‘I didn’t want to leave my motherland.’ Amid bombs, chaos, daughter helps mom flee Ukraine” via Valentina Palm of the Palm Beach Post — A week before Russia invaded Ukraine, Tatyana Polnyi realized she only had two options: Stand by and let her mother stay alone in Kyiv — as she demanded — or pack a suitcase and set out on the mission to bring the 82-year-old widow back with her to Palm Beach County. During the weeks leading up to the invasion, Polnyi had spent her days walking back and forth in front of the TV in her West Palm Beach house, flipping between news channels for the latest updates. She called her mother daily to insist she fly to Florida. But Zhanna Selekh refused to leave. Without telling her mother, Polnyi flew to Kyiv on Feb. 17.

Ukraine refugee center shares efforts amid Russian conflict at Port St. Lucie vigil” via Olivia McKelvey of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Lev Kleiman received a phone call in the middle of the night. A group of people fleeing Ukraine, trying to reach the Romanian border, had been abandoned by their bus driver 40 miles from their destination. Kleiman immediately sprang into action, rescuing the group and bringing them back to a synagogue-turned-refugee center in Chernivtsi, a city in western Ukraine. This was just one story Kleiman, director of relief efforts at the Kehillat Aviv synagogue, shared on a Zoom call to about 50 residents — decked in vibrant blue-and-gold clothing — at the Valencia Cay neighborhood in Tradition during a Ukraine support vigil Monday.

Carnival Corp. CEO stepping down in August, after nine years at the helm” via Anna Jean Kaiser of the Miami Herald — Carnival Corporation’s CEO Arnold Donald is stepping down on August 1, the Miami-based company announced Tuesday at Seatrade, the industry’s largest global conference, in Miami Beach. Donald, a New Orleans native, navigated the world’s largest cruise company through the worst of the pandemic. He will be replaced by Josh Weinstein, 48, Carnival’s chief operations officer, who has worked for the pioneering cruise enterprise for 20 years. Donald, 67, will continue sitting on the corporate board of directors and become its vice-chair. He has been CEO since 2013. “That’s a long time for a CEO. I think it’s important to get the next generation in,” Donald told reporters.

—TOP OPINION —

The attack on Big Mouse is also an assault on democracy” via Paul Krugman of The New York Times — Until recently, the current confrontation between Disney and the State of Florida would have seemed inconceivable. The attacks by Florida Republicans on the entertainment giant will hurt the state’s economy, possibly severely; they reflect a sudden lurch toward intolerance in a nation that seemed to be growing ever more tolerant; and the allegations against Disney are, in a word, insane.

But what’s happening in Florida makes sense once you realize that what DeSantis and his allies are up to has nothing to do with policy or even politics in the conventional sense. What we’re seeing instead are symptoms of the transformation of the GOP from a normal political party into a radical movement built around conspiracy theories and intimidation.

Not long ago, using state power to impose financial penalties on corporations for expressing political views you dislike would have been considered beyond the pale. Indeed, it may well be unconstitutional. But the attack on Disney has gone far beyond financial reprisal: Suddenly, Mickey Mouse is part of a vast conspiracy. Florida’s Lieutenant Governor went on Newsmax to accuse Disney of “indoctrinating” and “sexualizing children” with its “not secret agenda.”

If this seems crazy — which it is — it’s also increasingly the Republican norm. I don’t think political reporting has caught up with how thoroughly QAnonized the GOP has become.

— OPINIONS —

Republicans found something they love even more than tax cuts” via Catherine Rampell of The Washington Post — During the Trump years, the GOP kept its eyes on the prize. Republican politicians seemed willing to overlook their standard-bearer’s nest-feathering and political shakedowns. They shunted aside their professed devotion to free trade, free speech, low deficits and family values, all in pursuit of a single goal: tax cuts. Today, however, tax cuts no longer appear to be the GOP’s top priority. Recent events in Florida suggest Republicans have made room in their hearts, and their policy agenda, for an even higher objective: the culture wars. Last week, DeSantis decided to exact retribution after the corporate parent of Disney World opposed a state law prohibiting classroom discussion of gender identity or sexual orientation.

Oh, boy! A word from Mickey Mouse, who is spiraling in Florida!” via Stephanie Hayes of the Tampa Bay Times — H-h-hey everybody! It’s me, Mickey Mouse! My attorney Professor Ludwig Von Drake has advised me not to speak, so I will be careful, because I’m just a mouse in pants! Or are these shorts? Capris? Pantaloons? They are high-waisted with hollow, unseeing eyeballs, which sums up how I feel these days! Now, I don’t know too much about government, except that Donald Duck has shown what Minnie calls “autocratic tendencies” and that Goofy is what she calls a “sycophant, which one could argue is more dangerous than the autocrat.”


— ALOE —

Fort Lauderdale Air Show 2022: Your guide to heart-stopping stunts, tickets and parking” via Phillip Valys of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — For the first time in six years, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds will be screaming and thundering and barrel-rolling over the beach at this weekend’s Fort Lauderdale Air Show. But this time, the Thunderbirds are packing new — and possibly sneaky — maneuvers in the sky. When the air-and-sea spectacle returns April 30-May 1, this year’s headlining elite fighting squadron will add new choreography to their usual hairpin vertical dives, sonic booms and vapor trails. Spectators will feel one big difference before they see it, says Bryan Lilley, the Air Show’s longtime organizer. Four of the six Thunderbirds will pull into diamond formation over land and, from behind, pass over the beach’s assembled crowds at lightning speed, afterburners at full thrust.

Buckle up: The Fort Lauderdale Air Show launches this weekend.

Florida Panthers shed onerous media deal” via John Ourand of Sports Business Journal — The NHL’s Panthers finally got out from under one of the most onerous local media-rights deals in the business. The Panthers, who have the league’s best record this season, signed a new deal with Bally Sports Florida that more than doubles the amount they’ve been getting from the company. Both Sinclair and the Panthers refer to the new deal as a “reset” rather than a renewal. That’s because the previous deal is among the smallest local rights fee for any MLB, NBA or NHL team in the U.S. The average annual value for the new deal is valued in the high teens. When Vincent Viola bought the Panthers in 2013 for $250 million, he identified the media-rights deal as an area of growth, even though it still had eight years left on it.

Could this tiny Florida village become a training ground for Argentine soccer players?” via Aaron Leibowitz of the Miami Herald — The Argentine Football Association wants to build a youth soccer academy in North Bay Village and says that could potentially lead to some of the world’s top players training in the tiny waterfront community. The Village Commission on Monday voted to push ahead with ongoing negotiations with Argentina’s soccer governing body for a project that would include five synthetic turf soccer fields, a community center, a dog park and courts for padel, an increasingly popular racket sport, all adjacent to Treasure Island Elementary School. A representative for the Argentine Football Association, Horacio Gennari, told the Miami Herald the facility would essentially become the organization’s “headquarters” in the United States.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Today would have been Benjamin W. Todds 73rd birthday. We think and talk of him often and miss him dearly.

Celebrating today are Congressman Daniel Webster, Rep. Adam Botana, ace photographer Octavio Jones, David Millner, and The Fiorentino Group’s Mark Pinto.

___

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, Renzo Downey, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Joe Henderson, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Gray Rohrer, Aimee Sachs, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
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