Good Thursday morning.
Secretary of State Laurel Lee might not be Secretary of State much longer.
Sources close to the Thonotosassa Republican tell Florida Politics she plans to leave her position to run for Congress in Florida’s 15th Congressional District. The first signal Lee will launch a congressional campaign could come as soon as Friday.
She’s likely to face a heated Republican Primary for the seat, with former U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross and state Rep. Jackie Toledo already actively campaigning for the job.
There are also rumblings that term-limited Senate Appropriations Chair Kelli Stargel could enter the fray. She’s reportedly hired consultant Mac Stevenson ahead of a potential run. Still, if Lee joins the race, it’ll squash the rumors that her husband, former state Sen. Tom Lee, is eyeing the seat.
CD 15 covers parts of Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk counties and is generally considered the “new” district Florida was granted after the 2020 Census. That means there’s no incumbent — U.S. Rep. Scott Franklin, who represents the current CD 15, is running in Florida’s 18th Congressional District.
Miami Gardens Democratic Sen. Shevrin Jones on Thursday announced several top-level additions to his Operation BlackOut Team.
Darryl Banks will head up political and partnerships, joined by Juan Peñalosa, Ali Kurnaz, and Giovanna Salucci, who will lead the digital and targeting operations. Ashley Bauman will serve as head of communications and Natalie Kato will run legal.
“When we launched this project, we did so with a laser focus and commitment to creating an organization and operation unlike any other,” Jones said. “As you can see, this team, some of the best and brightest in the country, will not only work tirelessly to meet our goals but to exceed them. We’re at a pivotal point in the state of Florida and it will take all-hands-on-deck to ensure this November looks different than the last few decades.”
Operation BlackOut is a vote-by-mail mobilization project led by Jones. It launched in February with the stated goal of 40,000 “nontraditional, unlikely Black and Brown progressive voters” to vote by mail.
It has since forged partnerships with several other organizations to reach voters, including the ACLU, Florida Rising, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, and the Service Employees International Union, among others.
First in Sunburn — “Ben Diamond bows out of CD 13 fight” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Diamond suspended his campaign for Congress on Thursday. The move comes after a congressional map crafted by Gov. Ron DeSantis drew the St. Petersburg Democrat out of Florida’s 13th Congressional District. “Unfortunately, the Governor and the Legislature did not create fair districts for Florida and did not follow our constitution,” Diamond said. Instead of seeking office this year, the St. Petersburg attorney intends to devote himself to the legal challenge against the map.
— DAYS UNTIL —
Property insurance Special Session begins — 11; 2022 Florida Chamber Prosperity & Economic Opportunity Solution Summit — 13; ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ starts on Disney+ — 13; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 15; Hyundai Air and Sea Show National Salute to America’s Heroes, sponsored by the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association — 16; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 21; California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota hold midterm Primaries — 26; ‘Jurassic World Dominion’ premieres — 29; Pixar’s ‘Lightyear’ premieres — 36; 2022 Florida Chamber Learners to Earners Workforce Solution Summit — 47; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 57; 36th Annual Environmental Permitting School — 68; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 70; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 89; FRLA’s Operations and Marketing Summit — 97; ‘House of the Dragon’ premieres on HBO — 101; 2022 Florida Chamber Technology & Innovation Solution Summit — 111; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 113; 2022 Emmys — 123; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 147; Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 165; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 166; Jon Meacham’s ‘And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle’ releases — 166; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 183; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 189; The World Cup kicks off in Qatar — 193; The U.S. World Cup Soccer Team begins play — 193; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 194; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 218; ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 280; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 298; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 3167; 2023 Session Sine Die — 358; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 358; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 386; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 442; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 526; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 687; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 806.
“Judge says he’ll block Gov. Ron DeSantis’ redistricting plan” via The Associated Press — A congressional map approved by DeSantis and drawn by his staff is unconstitutional because it breaks up a district where Black voters can choose their representatives, a state judge said Wednesday.
Leon County Circuit Judge Layne Smith will issue a formal order Thursday or Friday to keep the maps from taking effect in November’s election. He made it clear he would rule in favor of voting rights groups challenging the maps.
Smith said the order will likely replace the DeSantis map with one of two that the Legislature included in a bill and sent to DeSantis in March. The Governor vetoed the bill and later called the Legislature back into Special Session. The Republican-dominated House and Senate chose not to draw a new map, and instead passed the DeSantis map. Smith said he will issue his order as soon as he can so the state can immediately appeal it. It may be the conservative state Supreme Court that ultimately resolves the dispute. DeSantis’ office confirmed it will appeal.
“Al Lawson praises court decision to toss Gov. DeSantis’ ‘unconstitutional’ congressional map” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — “I am pleased by the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court order to overrule DeSantis’ unconstitutional congressional map,” the Tallahassee Democrat said. “The judge recognizes that this map is unlawful and diminishes African Americans’ ability to elect representatives of their choice.” Smith will issue an order this week calling for alternative cartography to be in effect for the Midterms. He intends to say a map submitted by Harvard professor Stephen Ansolabehere should be used. That map largely preserves Florida’s 5th Congressional District in its current configuration. Lawson has heavily criticized DeSantis’ map, as it not only tears apart his district but leaves Jacksonville split between two districts where Donald Trump won in 2020.
— 2022 —
“The Democrats’ Midterm identity crisis” via Ronald Brownstein of The Atlantic — Joe Biden arrived in office with a throwback theory of how to expand his party’s support. He sought to focus his presidency on delivering kitchen-table benefits to low- and middle-income while downplaying his involvement in high-profile cultural disputes and emphasizing bipartisanship. But nearly 16 months into his presidency, Biden’s plan has been battered on both ends. The resulting vacuum has plunged Democrats into a cacophonous argument. Centrist party strategists insist, more loudly than at any point since Clinton’s presidency, that the President must explicitly renounce the Democrats’ liberal vanguard, especially on cultural flashpoints such as crime and immigration. Progressives, meanwhile, believe that Biden must do more to fulfill his 2020 campaign promises through unilateral executive action, such as canceling more student debt.
“DeSantis raises more than $10M in April” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — DeSantis had the best month yet for his official campaign committee, which raised $2.3 million in April from more than 20,000 individual donors. That was about $30,000 more than his campaign’s previous best month, which was January of this year. His independent political committee, Friends of Ron DeSantis, collected $8.1 million in April from some 1,700 individual contributors. That is not a record for that committee but is the most money it has collected since April 2021. Friends of Ron DeSantis’ April haul was bolstered by $750,000 from the Republican Governors Association and 18 other checks of at least $100,000. Most of those checks came from individuals or individuals’ trusts. He has more than $105 million in the bank heading toward the General Election.
“Texas polling shows strengthening GOP support for DeSantis presidential bid” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Yet another single-state poll of Republican voters suggests DeSantis would be the front-runner for the 2024 GOP nomination in a field without Trump. And even with the former President in the field, the May poll from Texas’ CWS Research shows DeSantis as an increasingly strong runner-up, at least among 992 likely voters in this year’s Texas Primary surveyed between May 4 and May 10. Without Trump in the field, DeSantis was the choice of 56% of respondents, well ahead of two favorite sons. Sen. Ted Cruz had just 14% support, and Gov. Greg Abbott had just 10% backing, with all other names in single digits.
“Florida Democrats struggle to find spotlight in race against DeSantis” via Kirby Wilson and Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — The three leading Democratic candidates in the Florida Governor’s race have a DeSantis problem. The incumbent Republican Governor has massively out-fundraised his Democratic opponents, and — despite constant negative messaging from Democrats — approval polling shows the Governor is popular with voters. Some of the Democratic candidates’ sound bites that have garnered attention have come at a cost: Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried at one point compared DeSantis to Hitler and U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist got pushback after saying DeSantis was trying to gin up support from the “toothless crowd.” The next 100 or so days will decide the winner of the primary. But even then, the Democrats’ challenges have only begun.
“Charlie Crist leads Democratic gubernatorial field again in money chase” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Though Fried’s political committee had its best fundraising month in a year, Crist continues to pull further ahead in the Democratic gubernatorial Primary Election’s money chase. As announced earlier this week, Crist’s official campaign fund reported raising $550,422 in April, while his independent political committee, Friends of Charlie Crist, attracted another $450,325 in donations, according to the newest postings from the Division of Elections. The third major Democratic candidate, Sen. Annette Taddeo, continued her chronic struggles to attract significant money. Her official campaign raised just $29,434 in April. Her Fight Back Florida committee raised $78,925, with most of that coming from one check.
“‘Stop being so doom and gloom’: Democrats launch $15M effort to ‘Blue Shift Florida’” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — In what may prove to be Florida’s last stand as a battleground state, Democrats are launching a $15 million voter organizing effort. Democratic candidates up and down the ballot agreed to pour in money to hire at least 200 organizers and open as many as 80 offices in a coordinated effort to pump up turnout. Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz contends “Blue Shift Florida” is the start of an ambitious, institutionalized year-round effort he has been touting since he took the helm of the battered party soon after Democrats were routed across the state in the last election.
“Eileen Higgins drops U.S. House bid to avoid ‘unnecessary’ Primary with Annette Taddeo” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Less than a week into her candidacy for Congress, Democratic Miami-Dade County Commissioner Higgins has decided to stay where she is for now and back a potential congressional run by Taddeo. In a statement Wednesday, Higgins said she’d gotten word that Taddeo, a 2022 candidate for Florida Governor, will soon announce plans to instead challenge Republican U.S. Rep. María Elvira Salazar in Florida’s 27th Congressional District. Rather than run against Taddeo, Higgins said she’s stepping aside and will finish out the remainder of her Commission term. Taddeo’s campaign, so far, has largely denied there are plans for her to drop her gubernatorial campaign.
“Is Taddeo shifting from Governor’s race to challenge María Elvira Salazar in CD 27?” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Taddeo’s campaign is looking to tamp down rumors she is ready to run for Congress in South Florida and end her bid for Governor. News of Taddeo’s potential shift came out of a different campaign. But Nick Merlino, Taddeo’s gubernatorial campaign manager, seemed to push back against those rumors in a late Wednesday statement. “Because rumors are swirling let me be perfectly clear. Annette Taddeo will be the first Latina Governor in Florida history. Full stop.” Taddeo entered the Governor’s race late and has struggled to compete in fundraising. But her victories in Senate District 40 could make her well suited to run in CD 27, the most closely divided district in the state of Florida.
Because rumors are swirling let me be perfectly clear. Annette Taddeo will be the first Latina Governor in Florida history. Full stop.
— Nick Merlino (@NickMerlin0) May 11, 2022
— MORE 2022 —
“Parties positioning for another battle over Senate seat in Seminole County” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Once again, early indications suggest the Senate seat representing Seminole County is going to be an all-out campaign war, engaging party machines and possibly millions of dollars. This time. Sen. Jason Brodeur heads toward the General Election as the incumbent in the newly drawn Senate District 10, after winning the battle in 2020 over Patricia Sigman in the old Senate District 9. The Democrats this time are turning to Rep. Joy Goff-Marcil in SD 10. As happened early in the 2020 election that wound up becoming an expensive and hostile campaign war, both party-favored candidates are receiving early polling, consulting and staff support from their parties.
“Tracie Davis edges Reggie Gaffney in April SD 5 fundraising” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Rep. Davis made up a little bit of fundraising ground in April against Gaffney in the Democratic Primary for Jacksonville’s Senate District 5. However, Gaffney still holds a sizable cash lead ahead of the August Primary that, in all likelihood, will decide who replaces term-limited Audrey Gibson in the Senate. Davis raised $6,275 last month for her campaign account. Davis also raised $11,750 for her political committee, Together We Stand. Davis has nearly a quarter-million dollars on hand, but she still finds herself down by more than a two-to-one margin against Gaffney, a veteran political dealmaker with strong institutional ties in Duval County.
“Michael Grieco gains $27K, leads SD 36 fundraising for second straight month” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Rep. Grieco outraised incumbent Sen. Ileana García for the second straight month in April, when both candidates enjoyed help from their respective parties to gain stronger footholds in a recently remapped Senate District 36. Grieco amassed more than $27,000 last month between his campaign account and political committee, Strong Leadership for South Florida, through a blend of personal donations and corporate real estate contributions. He’s raised more than $258,000 since November when he announced he would forgo seeking a third House term to instead run for the state Senate. As of April 30, he had about $232,000.
—”Jessica Baker exceeds $475K on hand for HD 17 run” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics
“Christina Meredith announces run for HD 17” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — Meredith, an Army National Guard soldier who draws on her own hard, early life to help children in need, the homeless and victims of human trafficking, announced she’s running for the Republican nomination for House District 17. “Whether it’s in uniform or the state Legislature, my commitment to public service remains the same,” Meredith said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “I’ve seen firsthand what our broken system does to children and continue to use my platform to help them break the cycle of poverty and abuse. I will fight every day for policies that give Florida’s children and families every opportunity to flourish.”
—“Rebecca Bays has silent fundraising month for HD 23 race” via Mike Wright of Florida Politics
“Bruno Portigliatti kicks off HD 45 run with $116K month” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Portigliatti demonstrated in April he is not intimidated by the big money that other candidates already raised in the crowded Republican field vying for the open House District 45. Portigliatti, who has run twice before for House seats, raised $116,670 in his first month on the trail for HD 45, which serves the Walt Disney World region of southwestern Orange County and northwestern Osceola County. “I am absolutely humbled and grateful by the incredible amount of support I have received since entering the race last month,” Portigliatti said. “My team and I are working very diligently to win this race and provide effective representation for this critical district in our state.”
—”Berny Jacques collects $20K in April, leading HD 59 field” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics
Kathy Castor endorses Lindsay Cross for HD 60 — U.S. Rep. Castor on Wednesday endorsed Democratic candidate Cross in the race to succeed exiting Rep. Diamond in House District 60. “Lindsay Cross understands what our communities need to be prosperous. From her expertise on clean water and a healthy climate to her service throughout St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay, Lindsay is committed to improving the quality of life for everyone,” Castor said. “Lindsay is a good listener and I trust her to be a voice for the people. I endorse Lindsay Cross for state House with great enthusiasm and confidence in her abilities to get things done.” Cross is so far the only Democrat running for the seat. Republican Jarib Figueredo is also running.
Andy Thomson adds another $50K for House campaign — Democratic HD 91 candidate Thomson raised another $50,000 in April for his campaign to succeed Rep. Emily Slosberg-King, who is not running for re-election. The new report brings his to-date total to $210,000, including about $155,000 raised through his official campaign account and another $55,000 raised through his political committee, Running with Andy Thomson. “I’m so thankful for the support that our campaign has received. Our message is resonating, and we are building the broad coalition that we need to win in November,” he said. Thomson is currently the only Democrat running for the seat, which is expected to perform Democratic in the fall.
“Race for Palm Beach County’s HD 91 continues to draw big money” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — The race to fill the newly drawn House District 91 in Palm Beach County pitting a Boca Raton Councilman against a Highland Beach Town Commissioner continues to draw in big money with more than $440,000 sunk into the campaigns. Boca Raton Councilman Andy Thomson, running as a Democrat, raised a total of $51,585 in April. Meanwhile, Highland Beach Commissioner Peggy Gossett-Seidman, running as a Republican, added $95,050 in April, including a $90,000 loan she made to her campaign.
“Lakesha Burton leads April Jax Sheriff fundraising, touts GOP support” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The race for Jacksonville Sheriff is seeing serious fundraising already, with two candidates raising more than $1 million. While T.K. Waters is still the leading fundraiser, Burton closed the gap with Waters in April. Burton’s state-level Make Every Voice Count political committee raised $186,000, its most productive month since May 2021. The Democratic candidate who could be the first Black female Jacksonville Sheriff in history continued to draw on deep-pocketed Republican support last month. The committee has raised more than $861,000 and has more than $855,000 on hand.
“St. Lucie voters may be asked to renew property tax to fund teacher pay, mental health” via Olivia McKelvey of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Voters here could be asked to renew a property tax for four years to fund teacher salaries, school security, mental health services and educational programs. The School Board Tuesday, without discussion, agreed unanimously to put the question on the Nov. 8 elections. The County Commission also must approve the issue. If approved, the tax would go into effect July 1, 2023, and expire in June 2027. Voters approved the same tax in April 2019. Renewing the tax would generate about $25 million annually, according to district spokesperson Lydia Martin. If approved in November, it would cost the owner of a $185,000 home about $185 per year.
“Mystery group behind ads in ‘20 Central Florida primary must reveal donors, judge rules” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — A group that sent attack ads in a Central Florida state Senate primary without disclosing its donors, listing only a $250,000 “starting balance” in its reports to the state, must reveal its contributors and make its chair available for a deposition, a judge ruled Wednesday. Though political committees are required to list their contributions publicly, Floridians for Equality and Justice reported just one contribution to the Florida Division of Elections, a $249,925 “starting balance” from a dark money nonprofit organization of the same name.
“DeSantis plans $430M infrastructure spending, padded by federal funds” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis says he will approve hundreds of millions in infrastructure spending, boosting broadband and rural construction with federal dollars. Speaking in Mayo in Lafayette County on Wednesday, DeSantis said he would approve $400 million for the Broadband Opportunity Program and $30 million from the Rural Infrastructure Fund. DeSantis is expected to sign and issue vetoes on lawmakers’ $112.1 billion proposed budget by the end of June. Funding for the Broadband Opportunity Program will come from the federal Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Funds program passed as part of Biden’s American Rescue Plan.
“DeSantis listened to Panhandle’s anger over FPL rates” via Rick Outzen of Rick’s Blog — Anger from Northwest Floridians swayed DeSantis’ decision to veto Florida Power & Light’s priority bill, according to the Miami Herald’s Capitol bureau chief Mary Ellen Klas. The Panhandle’s discontent was a catalyst for DeSantis, causing him to turn down the FPL-backed bill that environmentalists claimed would have crippled the state’s growing rooftop solar industry. “He needs your community,” Klas said. “Your unrest and pushback made it a lot easier for him to veto this.” The Miami Herald bureau chief shared the community’s dissatisfaction and raised red flags because it was “pretty unusual” for a community to spark the kind of complaints and attention that Northwest Florida has generated. She said the Public Service Commission didn’t follow its established process in approving the FPL rate for Northwest Florida.
“Contingency fee multipliers expected to be discussed during property insurance Special Session” via Jim Ash of The Florida Bar — Florida trial lawyers and “contingency fee multipliers” will be under a spotlight when lawmakers convene May 23-27 for a property insurance Special Session. In his proclamation, DeSantis cited statistics that show Florida, with just 9% of property insurance claims, generates 79% of the nation’s homeowner insurance lawsuits. “Florida citizens are seeing the effects of this higher litigation in their rising premiums,” DeSantis wrote. But Sen. Gary Farmer says insurers are to blame for routinely denying claims. A trial lawyer, Farmer says any reforms should directly benefit consumers.
Happening today — Rep. Randy Fine is hosting a town-hall meeting about property-insurance issues. Other scheduled participants are Senate Majority Leader Debbie Mayfield and Rep. Thad Altman, 6 p.m., Melbourne City Council Chamber, 900 East Strawbridge Ave., Melbourne.
“Personnel note: Beau Beaubien joins Greenberg Traurig” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Beaubien, a Deputy Chief of Staff to DeSantis, is exiting the Governor’s Office to join Greenberg Traurig, the white-shoe legal and governmental affairs firm. Beaubien, known around the Capitol for his height and “beau-ties,” is one of DeSantis’ longest-serving staffers, having been with the Republican Governor since before he took office. Beaubien’s last day in the Governor’s Office will be Friday. “It’s been an eventful three years,” Beaubien told Florida Politics. “My longevity with the Governor and on his team has been great, and it’s been a great start to my career in public service. I don’t think this will be the end of it.”
— STATEWIDE —
“Gov. DeSantis warns against social media companies getting involved with feds’ disinfo board” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis continued his series of dire warnings about a new federal initiative to clamp down on disinformation, contending social media companies “subcontracting” for this “Ministry of Truth” would not be tolerated in Florida. “They’ll say they’re private companies, and they are, but if … the government is subcontracting out these private entities, they have to follow the First Amendment too at that point,” DeSantis said in Trenton. “You can’t evade the First Amendment at that point.” The Governor revisited what has become an increasingly familiar case against the federal Department of Homeland Security’s Disinformation Governance Board. The “disinformation bureau,” DeSantis said, would “basically police speech in this country.”
“State leaders tout different plans to lower gas prices in FL; Nikki Fried issues an emergency rule” via Issac Morgan of Florida Phoenix — State officials are taking different approaches to help Floridians save money at the gas pump, as rising costs of fuel for drivers and inflationary issues appear to be a major campaign issue during the election season. Fried touted her initiative to immediately allow the sale of a cheaper type of gasoline aimed to help drive down prices at the gas pump and increase the supply. Fried said residents are now able to save money by using what’s called E15 gas, which contains 15% denatured anhydrous ethanol.
Teacher pay raises held up in seven districts — The Florida Board of Education is growing frustrated with Florida school districts that have not finalized their plans for teacher pay raises, Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida reports. During a meeting in Key West on Wednesday, the board grilled school district leaders on why a plan was not in place despite the deadline being in October. Esther Byrd, who was recently appointed to the board, placed some of the blame on teachers’ unions. “We constantly hear they don’t make enough, and they can barely stay in the profession because they’re not getting paid enough. And yet we have dollars sitting there that should be in their bank accounts,” she said. The districts where plans are delayed are Leon, Bradford, Brevard, Lee, Palm Beach, St. Johns and Florida A&M University’s Developmental Research School.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Senate blocks bill to codify right to abortion; GOP, Joe Manchin oppose measure” via Mike DeBonis and Rachel Roubein of The Washington Post — The Senate on Wednesday failed to advance legislation that would write the constitutional right to abortion into federal law, a symbolic gesture that Democrats promise will be only a first step in a larger strategy to mobilize Americans around reproductive rights as the Supreme Court considers overturning Roe v. Wade and related decisions. Wednesday’s vote was largely a reprise of a failed February vote staged by Senate Democratic leaders, but the issue has taken on new resonance after last week’s leak of a draft opinion from Justice Samuel Alito.
“Consumer prices are still climbing rapidly.” via Jeanna Smialek of The New York Times — The pressures that have kept inflation elevated for months remain strong, fresh data showed, a challenge for households that are trying to shoulder rising expenses and for the White House and Federal Reserve as they try to put the economy on a steadier path. Annual inflation moderated for the first time in months in April, but the Consumer Price Index still increased by 8.3%, an uncomfortably rapid pace. At the same time, a closely watched measure that subtracts food and fuel costs actually accelerated.
Rick Scott touts ‘Rescue America’ plan in new ad — U.S. Sen. Scott released a new TV ad highlighting his “Rescue America” plan, saying it has “gotten under Joe Biden’s skin.” When the camera turns to Scott, he’s sporting his iconic Navy hat. “How do you destroy America’s economy? Look around. Joe Biden and the woke Democrats are doing it,” he says. “I’m Rick Scott. I’ve got a plan to rescue our country. Washington hates it. That’s how you know it’s good. Read the plan at RescueAmerica.com.” A news release said the ad will begin airing nationwide on Friday.
To view the ad, click on the image below:
“Josh Hawley joins Ron DeSantis’s ridiculous war of retribution on Disney” via Bess Levin of Florida Phoenix — When we last checked in on DeSantis’ war against Disney, that special district, Reedy Creek, had informed DeSantis that, actually, he didn’t have the power to do jack shit until paying off $1 billion in bond debt first. At this point it’s not clear what sort of legal recourse the Florida tyrant has against Mousetown, but he has gained an ally in his attempt to silence a private entity for the crime of disagreeing with him. Sen. Hawley, the Missouri lawmaker, introduced a bill that would limit the copyright protections of Disney and other corporations not only moving forward but retroactively.
“Blue-green algae: Brian Mast’s South Florida Clean Coastal Waters Act heads to Joe Biden’s desk” via Lindsey Leake of Treasure Coast Newspapers — A bill mandating federal involvement in the protection of Treasure Coast waterways from toxic algae awaits Biden’s signature. Senate Bill 66, the South Florida Clean Coastal Waters Act of 2021, passed in the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday by a 412-7 vote. It passed in the Senate by unanimous consent in March. Though Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Scott co-sponsored this latest version of the proposal, previous iterations were introduced by Republican Mast of Fort Pierce, as early as 2017. “We are so close to the first-ever federal action plan to reduce harmful algal blooms in our community!” Mast tweeted Monday.
— EPILOGUE: TRUMP —
“Donald Trump wanted to court-martial prominent retired officers, book says” via Dan Lamothe of The Washington Post — Trump wanted to court-martial two prominent retired military officers for their perceived slights and disloyalty, his former defense secretary Mark Esper alleges in a new book, the latest insider account to raise claims about the combative commander in chief and his attempts to upend government institutions. Trump, Esper recounts in “A Sacred Oath,” had developed a disdain for Stanley McChrystal and William McRaven, popular and influential leaders who, in retirement, criticized the President. When Trump informed Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, of his wish to see McChrystal and McRaven court-martialed, the two Pentagon leaders “jumped to their defense,” Esper writes.
“Biden waives executive privilege for new set of Trump records” via Jacqueline Alemany of The Washington Post — Biden has authorized the National Archives and Records Administration to hand over the eighth tranche of presidential records from the Trump White House to the House committee investigating the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. In a letter released Wednesday by the National Archives, Biden again declined to assert executive privilege over the records, the latest batch sought by the committee after the Supreme Court rejected former Trump’s bid to block such releases.
“Judge says Trump contempt ruling lifted if he pays $110K fine, provides other info” via Dan Mangan of CNBC — A New York judge said Wednesday that he would lift a contempt of court finding against Trump by next week if Trump’s legal team provides more information about a search for documents sought by the state Attorney General and pays a $110,000 fine. If those conditions are not met by May 20, Judge Arthur Engoron said he would reinstate a $10,000 per-day fine against Trump for being in contempt for having failed to comply with a subpoena issued by Attorney General Letitia James. Trump and his lawyers have said they cannot locate documents sought by James as part of her civil investigation of the Trump Organization and its valuation of several real estate assets.
— LOCAL NOTES: N. FL —
“‘Herschel 2022’ banner joins ‘Trump Won,’ ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ signage on Seagrove Beach home” via Jim Thompson of the Northwest Florida Daily News — Marvin Peavy has tripled down on his insistence that Walton County is infringing on his free speech rights, hanging a third massive political banner down the side of his home along Walton County Road 30A, a scenic two-lane beachside route along which signage is tightly controlled. The newest banner to hang down more than two stories of Peavy’s Seagrove Beach home where he routinely spends part of each week reads “Herschel 2022” in support of former University of Georgia football player Herschel Walker, who is seeking a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia.
“Workers at 2 Jacksonville Starbucks stores vote to unionize, adding to national movement” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — Employees at two Jacksonville Starbucks have voted to unionize, the first Northeast Florida stores to join a spreading labor organizing effort. “We are so excited to have won our union election. This is only the beginning of a long journey to acquiring true accountability and democracy in our workplace,” Mason Boykin, a shift supervisor at the store at 11441 San Jose Blvd., said in an emailed announcement of results from balloting overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. Workers at that store approved unionizing by a 10-7 vote, with Starbucks employees at 1980 San Marco Blvd. making the same decision by an 8-1 vote. A Tallahassee store became the state’s first Starbucks to unionize last week, and one Miami-area store unionized this week, for a statewide total of four.
“Amazon recruitment efforts target Florida high schools and colleges, offering student incentives” via TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Trying to secure an endless workforce for its Florida expansion, Amazon is pushing free education as an employee perk. Potential workers are even targeted at the high school level. The e-commerce giant, for example, is building a new fulfillment center in Tallahassee and participated in the Leon Works Expo last month. Amazon has made little secret of its plans for an aggressive expansion in the Sunshine State. The company has been building fulfillment centers and other facilities at a good clip. And they need workers to fill jobs. Amazon is leaving few stones unturned to meet that demand. For example, an outreach effort called Amazon Future Engineer offers $40,000 scholarships to 250 high school seniors from underserved communities who are planning to pursue STEM education in college.
“An educator got passed over for a promotion. Was it discrimination, or just competition?” via Colin Warren-Hicks of the Pensacola News Journal — A recent search to find a new principal at Lincoln Park Elementary School stirred up controversy. Activists say the hiring process is not transparent enough and have voiced concerns that the process leaves too much room for subjective decision-making and the possibility that new hires and promotions could be influenced by race. The debate has centered around one woman, Patrice Moody, the current assistant principal at Lincoln Park Elementary School, who claims she was passed over for a position in favor of candidates with lesser experience and qualifications. “I think that, yes, there is a problem here in the Escambia County School District with the advancement of African Americans, African American females as well as males,” Moody said at a news conference.
“Four Seasons hotel cost jumps to $370 million for downtown Jacksonville riverfront” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — The cost of building a Four Seasons hotel development on the Jacksonville riverfront has jumped to $370 million from last year’s estimate of $307 million and could take six months longer than originally planned before the hotel is open for guests, but Jaguars owner Shad Khan isn’t asking the city for any changes in the financial framework of the deal. Jaguars President Mark Lamping said Khan will proceed to close on June 10 on acquiring a parcel of city-owned land for the Four Seasons development, and site work should start by the end of the year. Lamping said Khan did not consider reducing the size of the Four Seasons Hotel Jacksonville considering the higher cost.
“Elon Musk’s $44 billion Twitter buyout challenged in shareholder lawsuit” via Jonathan Stempel of Reuters — Musk and Twitter Inc. were sued on Friday by a Florida pension fund seeking to stop Musk from completing his $44 billion takeover of the social media company before 2025. The Orlando Police Pension Fund said Delaware law forbade a quick merger because Musk had agreements with other big Twitter shareholders, including his financial adviser Morgan Stanley and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, to support the buyout. The fund said those agreements made Musk, who owns 9.6% of Twitter, the effective “owner” of more than 15% of the company’s shares. It said that required delaying the merger by three years unless two-thirds of shares not “owned” by him granted approval.
“28% of Tampa renters want to leave town, says report” via Colin Wolf of Creative Loafing — Since the start of the pandemic, the median rent in the Tampa area has skyrocketed by 39%, which is the “fastest rent growth among all large metros in the country,” says a new report. Now, 28% of Tampa renters are currently searching for apartments outside of the metro area, with cities like Miami, Lakeland, and North Port as the leading destinations. Coming the other way, the report notes that 43% of renters looking for apartments in Tampa are searching from places outside of the area, with Orlando, Miami, and New York providing the most inbound search interest.
“How the Pulse shooting inspired Peacock’s ‘Queer as Folk’ reimagining” via Lesley Goldberg of The Hollywood Reporter — Creator Stephen Dunn doesn’t consider his Peacock take on Queer as Folk a “reboot.” Instead, the filmmaker behind 2015’s Closet Monster sees the third version of the groundbreaking drama as a “reimagining” that has homages to Russell Davies’ British original that also inspired the Showtime update.
— MORE LOCAL: SW. FL —
DOE says Lee County is plotting to ‘circumvent’ education laws — The Florida Department of Education is accusing the Lee County School Board of working to circumvent controversial policies, such as the recently passed “Parental Rights in Education” bill. Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida reports the Department and a member of the Board of Education are taking exception to a recent Lee County board workshop. However, it is not clear what portion of the workshop prompted DOE to send a letter to the board. The agenda included discussions on legislation that targets race lessons, the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, and a measure allowing for strict review of materials available in school libraries.
“Slow your roll: Speed limit lowered to 60 mph on I-75 for a few more months of construction” via Chris Perkins of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The Big Slowdown on Interstate 75, which reduces the speed limit on a couple of stretches notorious for locals putting the accelerator to the floor, is expected to continue for another few months as construction projects head toward completion. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) said construction projects have required reducing the speed limit on I-75 to 60 mph from 70 mph in each direction from Sheridan Street to just east of the Alligator Alley toll plaza. The FDOT routinely lowers speed limits in construction zones to protect workers. The FDOT has a pair of construction zones on I-75 — the southern project and the northern project — and one is scheduled to conclude in a few months.
“County wants rewrite of PicklePlex ad deal” via Daniel Sutphin of the Port Charlotte Sun — Charlotte County Commissioners postponed their decision Tuesday on a marketing deal with the PicklePlex. The agreement was for $250,000, broken down over five years with automatic payment renewal annually and included an additional five years without funding. The goal was to promote tourism by providing the county with year-round exposure at the Punta Gorda pickleball complex — logo placement, court sponsorship and online advertising. Commissioners went round and round about the agreement’s language before asking county staff to rewrite the deal altogether. Issues involved the funding breakdown and amount, a lack of progress reports, and if the money would actually be used for advertising.
— MORE LOCAL: S. FL —
“Lawyers in suit over Surfside collapse reveal staggering legal settlement: $997 million” via Linda Robertson of the Miami Herald — In a surprisingly swift resolution of the Champlain Towers South class-action lawsuit, relatives of victims and survivors of the Surfside condo collapse have reached a settlement that will pay them nearly $1 billion, a state court judge was told Wednesday. The comprehensive settlement announced in Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman’s courtroom effectively closes the litigation phase of the case. Still to be decided is the share survivors and family members of the 98 victims will receive. “We have gotten $997 million in proposed settlements before you — and it could be a billion before the end of the week,” said Harley Tropin, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs.
“COVID-19 is on the rise in South Florida. Should I get a booster shot now or wait?” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — New COVID-19 cases in Florida are on the rise and a summer surge in the South is anticipated. After a March and April lull, a highly infectious subvariant of omicron has triggered an uptick in cases. Florida health officials reported 32,981 new cases last week, a level the state hasn’t seen since the winter omicron surge. That does not include people who tested positive using at-home tests and did not report results to the state Department of Health. A COVID-19 booster more targeted to omicron and its subvariants is expected by fall, and many find themselves wondering whether to get another shot now — or wait.
“Fort Lauderdale may face $1.5M legal bill over public feeding crackdown” via Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Violate the law of the land and there are consequences. In this case, a $1.5 million legal bill. That’s right. Fort Lauderdale taxpayers might have to fork over an eye-popping chunk of change to cover the legal fees of five attorneys who spent seven years arguing that Fort Lauderdale’s homeless feeding ban was unconstitutional. The attorneys, who represented the nonprofit group Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs, won their case last fall and are now wrangling with the city over the bill. They want more than $1.5 million. Fort Lauderdale argues they should only get $334,000. A federal judge will decide. “We wholeheartedly are contesting that,” City Attorney Alain Boileau said.
“Role in Jan. 6 Capitol riot earns Boynton-area man house arrest, 100 hours of community service” via Jane Musgrave of the Palm Beach Post — Before Nicholes Lentz was sentenced Tuesday for joining a mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the Boynton Beach-area man insisted he didn’t travel to Washington to stop Congress from “stealing” the election from Trump. “I’m not some Trump lover. That’s not who I am,” said Lentz, a former North Miami Beach and Fort Pierce police officer who served 17 years in the U.S. Marines. “I just thought it was going to be a cool moment.” The 42-year-old Lentz further explained that he pleaded guilty to a more serious charge of trespassing in a restricted building instead of disorderly conduct because he believed it more accurately described his crime.
“Fired Miami detective intends to sue. Says he was forced out for whistle-blowing on dirty cop” via Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — A former Miami police detective intends to sue the city, saying he has been fired twice, ridiculed by supervisors and harassed by other officers, who have left him threatening notes and even stuck condoms on his car. The reason, according to a whistleblower lawsuit notice filed by 24-year veteran Al Matias: He says that he has been treated as a pariah for the better part of a decade for cooperating in a sting operation that sent a dirty cop to prison in a case involving stolen money and cocaine peddling. “Matias has been railroaded in the city for several years now,” said his attorney, Michael Pizzi. “It’s vindictive and retaliatory nitpicking.” The latest firing came on Jan. 27.
“Jupiter teacher arrested on charges of unlawful sexual activity with former student” via Giuseppe Sabella of the Palm Beach Post — Police have arrested an Independence Middle School teacher, alleging he had sex with a teenager in his classroom two years ago, following a lengthy history of inappropriate behavior with students at the Jupiter school, according to an arrest report. Daniel Heath Norment, 41, sometimes took students into his classroom closet to “counsel them,” and as coach of the girls’ basketball team two years ago, he allowed the students to change their clothes inside his classroom after school hours, the police report states. “It was determined that he would stand outside until the girls changed into their school’s sports uniforms,” the report continues.
“Starbucks’ workers at Miami Springs store are first in South Florida to join union” via Veronica Egui Brito of the Miami Herald — The Starbucks in Miami Springs has become the first South Florida store and fourth statewide, in the national chain to have its workers form a union. After a 10-3 vote Tuesday, Starbucks employees at the 52 Curtiss Parkway location made the union organization effort official and joined Starbucks Workers United. The Starbucks union drive in Florida is part of a trend sweeping across the country at the popular coffee retailer. At least 60 Starbucks stores have approved unions, while employees voted to reject union representation at eight other locations. On April 22, workers at a Hialeah Starbucks, 583 W. 49th St., voted 14-12 against forming a union.
“New proposal could keep Ultra Music Festival in downtown Miami through 2027” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — Ultra Music Festival could stay in Bayfront Park through at least 2027 under a renegotiated deal with the city agency that manages Miami’s downtown waterfront parks. The terms of the agreement that allows organizers to stage the annual three-day electronic music festival in downtown Miami remain largely the same, though the city would raise Ultra’s fees each year by a higher percentage than before. Commissioners on Thursday could approve the terms of a new revocable licensing agreement between Ultra and the Bayfront Park Management Trust, a semi-independent agency responsible for Maurice A. Ferré Park and Bayfront Park. In April, the Commission voted unanimously to revoke a previous deal with City Hall administrators and give the responsibility back to the Trust.
— TOP OPINION —
“Why one race in West Virginia proves Biden’s theory of the case has failed” via James Hohmann of The Washington Post — Rep. David B. McKinley lost his bid for a seventh term on Tuesday because he voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill. His double-digit defeat in West Virginia’s GOP primary, which largely turned on infrastructure spending, best illustrates why Biden’s governing theory has failed.
When Biden ran in 2020, his central rationale was that he could yoke the two parties together and pass bipartisan legislation. He called Trump an “aberration” whose influence would quickly dissipate, and he believed friendships forged during almost 50 years in Washington would allow him to break the fever in ways President Barack Obama never could. “You will see an epiphany occur among many of my Republican friends,” Biden predicted in New Hampshire.
Securing money for popular projects used to be the easiest way for lawmakers to get reelected, especially in West Virginia. But appropriations have become less important in the past 25 years. And among Republican voters, spending has become almost dangerous. In the pre-Trump era, McKinley would have easily won this primary. His seniority would have put him in line to chair a powerful energy subcommittee next year.
— OPINIONS —
“DeSantis needs to get his story straight on inflation” via Peter Coy of The New York Times — Some of the very people who blame Biden for causing inflation by overstimulating the economy are pressing for or making tax cuts that would stimulate the economy even more. A good example is DeSantis, a Republican who last week signed a $1.2 billion tax cut that he said was the largest in state history and would fight “inflationary policies imposed on us by the Biden administration.” But a state tax cut, just like a federal spending increase, puts money into consumers’ pockets. From consumers’ point of view, it doesn’t matter whether the money comes from the federal government, which is running deficits, or state governments, which have been running surpluses largely because of federal stimulus dollars.
“Time to enforce rules on the abused Weeki Wachee River” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Rules help society function, especially when it comes to our common resources. They help nudge us to do the right thing. Humans being human, rules don’t do much good if they aren’t enforced. That sums up the current state of the Weeki Wachee River. It’s a spring-fed ribbon of fabulousness — cool, vodka-clear water flowing through a forest teeming with wildlife. But too many people are breaking one of the main rules — stay in your watercraft at all times; do not get out and scamper along the riverbanks or kick up the river’s sandy bottom. Unfortunately, the state park’s management plan doesn’t adequately address enforcement. The river needs protecting. The rules are in place. Time for enforcement.
“Orange County needs to tap hotel taxes before raising sales taxes” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — For the past month, the Orlando Sentinel has carried a steady stream of stories featuring politicians and business leaders claiming Orange County is so desperate for transportation money that it needs to raise sales taxes. But then last week, the Sentinel ran a story saying the county was raking in record amounts of hotel taxes. It made for a stark juxtaposition — politicians celebrating record tax revenues while also claiming they were desperate for more. See, part of the reason this community’s transportation network is so deficient is that local leaders have steered billions of tax dollars to a never-ending wish list of tourism goodies. As a result, we have a convention center that’s 7 million square feet and yet one of the most underfunded bus systems in America.
“A badly broken Broward system, too long in the making” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — It will take a lot more than a few million dollars to repair Broward’s 911 emergency system. The problem is much bigger than money. The 911 mess is a metaphor for much that’s wrong at the core of Broward’s political culture. The list is long and familiar: A lack of trust. Endless turf battles. Finger-pointing and blame-laying. A lack of accountability. Every leader must accept his or her share of responsibility for this dysfunctional state of affairs that endangers public safety, cheats taxpayers, and is toxic to Broward’s civic health. To recap, the emergency communications system is in crisis, as reported by the Sun-Sentinel. Workers have been leaving in droves over low pay and other problems.
— ALOE —
“Disney+ hits 137.7M subscribers, beating Wall Street expectations in streaming” via Alex Welprin of The Hollywood Reporter — Disney once again beat Wall Street expectations last quarter in streaming, adding 7.9 million Disney+ subscribers, and suggesting that the company may be positioned to take the lead in what has become a cutthroat race to the top in streaming. While Wall Street expectations for Disney+ were varied, a midpoint expectation was 4.5 million to 5 million adds. Disney reported revenue of $19.2 billion and income of $3.7 billion, with earnings per share of $1.08. Wall Street expectations were for revenue of $20.1 billion, operating income of $3.3 billion, and EPS of $1.17.
“Florida dominates Airbnb’s Top 10 list of trending summer travel destinations” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Florida destinations popped up in the hot spots this summer, Airbnb announced Wednesday as the online reservation platform is seeing signs people are anxious to travel again in the pandemic. Six Florida spots placed in the Top 10 trending summer domestic destinations when U.S. guests searched in the first quarter, the company said. The No. 1 trending spot was Florida’s Walton County. The other Florida destinations on the list were Cape San Blas (No. 2); Mexico Beach (No. 3); Fort Myers (No. 4); Cape Coral (No. 6); and at No. 9, Four Corners, which is the area near the borders of Lake, Orange, Osceola, and Polk counties in Central Florida.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Celebrating today are Florida Supreme Court Justice Alan Lawson, Leslie Dughi of Greenberg Traurig, Jim Eaton, and Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Renzo Downey, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.