Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.16.22

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Good Monday morning.

Rest in peace, Ms. Pearly:


Ahead of a Special Session on property insurance, Florida voters want clarity, not conflict or coverage cuts.

According to a poll conducted by McLaughlin & Associates, nearly nine in 10 voters are clamoring for new financial transparency requirements that would provide state regulators with more information on how insurers set rates.

It was by far the most favored pitch measured in the poll of the 1,000 likely General Election voters, with just 5% opposed to the concept.

Additionally, nearly three-quarters of those polled were open to making the Florida Insurance Commissioner an elected official to boost accountability to consumers.

Though it is uncertain what reforms lawmakers will pursue in the May 23-27 Special Session, insurers and lawmakers alike have blamed rising property insurance premiums on excessive litigation, particularly roof claims.

However, more than two-thirds of those polled said they opposed any legislation that would make it more difficult for policyholders to sue their insurers.

One measure previously considered by lawmakers would have attempted to slow rate increases by allowing insurers to offer policies that cover the cash value of roofs rather than the replacement cost. Later legislation would have allowed insurers to charge higher deductibles for roof claims.

They were nonstarters to House Speaker Chris Sprowls, and it appears voters agree — 82% said they were against any reform that would allow insurers to cut coverage without cutting rates.


First in SunburnMichele Rayner leaves CD 13 race for another run at the state House” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — State Rep. Rayner will not seek the Democratic nomination to represent Florida’s 13th Congressional District. She will instead run for re-election in the state House, albeit in a newly drawn district. Rayner said her decision was primarily based on Florida’s controversial new congressional maps. Rayner said the decision was not easy, but she saw the “writing on the wall.”


Crowded GOP field in CD 15 grows — Two more significant Republicans tossed their hats in the ring in Florida’s 15th Congressional District on Monday. State Sen. Kelly Stargel, Florida Senate Appropriations Chair, told POLITICO’s Matt Dixon she will announce her candidacy today. Additionally, veteran Green Beret Jerry Torres, founder of a global consulting firm, told Florida Politics he’s launching his campaign with $5 million in self-funding. The two join former U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, state Rep. Jackie Toledo, veterans Jay CollinsMac McGovern and Demetries Grimes in seeking the GOP nod for the open seat. And all that is before outgoing Secretary of State Laurel Lee’s expected entry to the race.


Florida Politics will be providing daily coverage of Katherine Magbanua’s retrial for the 2014 murder-for-hire of FSU law professor Dan Markel. The case has drawn international media attention to Florida’s capital city, and we’ll share with readers the top things to watch for and discuss as proceedings unfold. Our reporting will draw from many sources, including contributor Karen Cyphers of Sachs Media, who, with attorney Jason Solomon, advocate with the grassroots group Justice for Dan to draw attention to this case and provide analysis of relevance to Florida’s political, advocacy, and legal communities.

Read my table-setter here.

Katherine Magbanua’s retrial makes for a captivating story, which Florida Politics will cover in-depth. Image via Tallahassee Democrat.


Holly Bell is leaving her position as Director of Cannabis at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to become Vice President of Regulatory at Flora Growth.

Bell had held the FDACS position since early 2019, shortly after Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried’s inauguration.

Bell announced her new position on Facebook, saying her job at FDACS was “hard but rewarding” and thanking Fried for the opportunity.

Holly Bell says goodbye to the public sector.

“I am challenging others right now to step up and get involved by doing your civic duty,” she wrote. “I did mine, and I learned a lot.”

Before joining FDACS, Bell worked at Nashville-Access, a media company she co-founded that produces syndicated radio shows and podcasts on country music.

She previously worked as a consultant specializing in the cannabis, entertainment and finance industries.

Flora Growth is the parent company of several cannabis brands and operates one of the most extensive outdoor cannabis cultivation facilities. It makes products from several cannabis derivatives, including cosmetics, hemp textiles, and food and beverages.

South Florida governmental consultant Katia Saint Fleur is joining Miami-based public affairs firm Converge Public Strategies as a Government Relations Adviser.

Saint Fleur spent six years in the state Capitol working as a legislative aide to former Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon, where she worked on appropriations and policy matters spanning several silos, including health care, children and families, transportation, financial services, property, technology and criminal justice.

Congrats to Katia Saint Fleur, the latest solid hire for Converge Public Strategies.

In addition to her experience in Tallahassee, Saint Fleur has twice worked as a senior partnership specialist at the U.S. Department of Commerce in 2010 and 2020. She forged partnerships between the federal government, businesses, and nonprofits to support Census activities.

She has led Miami-based governmental consulting firm KSF and Associates since 2016, and in 2021 she was elected to the Miami Shores Village Council. Saint Fleur holds a degree in journalism from Clark Atlanta University and began her career as a journalist with the NBC affiliate in Columbus, Georgia.

At Converge, Saint Fleur will assist the firm on local, state, and federal issues.

“Katia brings the perfect combination of relationships, experience and energy to Converge. We are excited to bring her talents to our firm’s clients,” said Converge Public Strategies Chair Jonathan Kilman.


@ElonMusk: Whoever thought owning the libs would be cheap never tried to acquire a social media company!

@BrianStelter: What’s more fun: “Playing” Twitter boss, being the king in waiting and stirring things up, or actually owning and operating this site?

@JeffBezos: The newly created Disinformation Board should review this tweet, or maybe they need to form a new Non-Sequitur Board instead. Raising corp taxes is fine to discuss. Taming inflation is critical to discuss. Mushing them together is just misdirection.

@ChrisSpencerFL: Inflation is a monetary issue. The Federal Reserve monetizes debts of the federal government incurred by excessive spending. How about you reduce excessive spending. That’s how you stop inflation.

@Brigitomo: As a Black mother, I am tired. This is not the time for thoughts and prayers. This is the time for meaningful policies to ban guns and condemn all forms of hate. My heart goes out to the loved ones of those killed by a white male terrorist in Buffalo.

@BrentNYT: The news media normalizes racism and White supremacy when it fails to call them by their rightful names.

@TheRickWilson: The Buffalo killer’s manifesto reads like a job application for a junior producer on Tucker Carlson. And no, I’m not being flippant.

@NikkiFried: 2022 is Florida’s year to tell the radical right that enough is enough.

@JaredEMoskowitz: Another disgusting attack on innocent people by an evil White supremacist radicalized right here in America. Schools, movie theaters, Churches, Supermarkets. No place is safe. More families broken. And Republicans in Washington want to keep it that way

Tweet, tweet:

@CordByrd: Thank you, @GovRonDeSantis, for appointing me as Secretary of State. Honored and ready to get to work on protecting the integrity and security of our elections!

Tweet, tweet:


Property insurance Special Session begins — 7; 2022 Florida Chamber Prosperity & Economic Opportunity Solution Summit — 9; ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ starts on Disney+ — 9; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 11; Hyundai Air and Sea Show National Salute to America’s Heroes, sponsored by the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association — 12; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 17; California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota hold midterm Primaries — 22; ‘Jurassic World Dominion’ premieres — 25; Pixar’s ‘Lightyear’ premieres — 32; 2022 Florida Chamber Learners to Earners Workforce Solution Summit — 43; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 53; 36th Annual Environmental Permitting School — 64; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 66; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 85; FRLA’s Operations and Marketing Summit — 93; ‘House of the Dragon’ premieres on HBO — 97; 2022 Florida Chamber Technology & Innovation Solution Summit — 107; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 109; NFL Opening Night: LA Rams vs. Buffalo Bills — 115; 2022 Emmys — 119; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 143; Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 161; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 162; Jon Meacham’s ‘And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle’ releases — 162; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 179; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 185; The World Cup kicks off in Qatar — 189; The U.S. World Cup Soccer Team begins play — 189; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 190; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 212; ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 276; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 294; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 312; 2023 Session Sine Die — 354; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 354; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 382; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 438; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 522; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 683; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 802.


State Rep. Cord Byrd of Neptune Beach gets picked by Ron DeSantis as Secretary of State” via David Bauerlein and John Kennedy of The Florida Times-Union — State Rep. Byrd was tapped Friday to be Florida’s secretary of state by DeSantis, vaulting him into a statewide office that will oversee elections coming up fast in August and November. DeSantis praised Byrd, an attorney, as an “ally of freedom and democracy in the Florida Legislature” who will carry that mission forward as the state’s top election official. “I look forward to his successes ensuring Florida’s elections remain safe, secure and well-administered,” DeSantis said.

Congratulations to Cord Byrd on becoming Florida’s new Secretary of State.

—“A worrisome turning point for elections oversight” via Steve Bousquet of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

— 2022 —

The DeSantis dog that hasn’t barked yet” via Dan McLaughlin of the National Review — Amid all the media attention to Donald Trump’s endorsements, however, there is a very big dog that hasn’t barked: his chief rival for leadership of the national Republican Party, DeSantis. He has been entirely silent on primary races outside of his own state. This approach has its own risks: DeSantis is passing up the opportunity to pile up chits he could call in later. But it has its own advantages. He’s not making enemies. He’s avoiding direct, premature tests of strength against Trump. He’s also tending his own backyard, knowing that he needs a convincing re-election this fall and one more strong session of the Florida legislature next spring if he wants to use his governorship as a platform for a national bid in 2024.

What happened when a conservative Jewish group invited DeSantis to speak” via Liam Stack of The New York Times — The Tikvah Fund, a conservative Jewish organization, was all set to host a conference in June at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York, when months of planning were suddenly derailed by its last-minute addition of a speaker who might have once been uncontroversial: the Republican governor of Florida. The fund had invited DeSantis to discuss the vibrancy of Jewish life in Florida, a topic the fund wrote about in the April issue of its magazine, one month after DeSantis had signed legislation that prohibits classroom instruction and discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity in elementary schools. Opponents have called the law “Don’t Say Gay.”

—“Disney edges out DeSantis in popularity poll” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Tweet, tweet:

DeSantis to headline Orlando event with Dave Rubin — DeSantis will join conservative political commentator Dave Rubin for a live show in Orlando. The event, titled “Don’t Burn This Country,” is set for June 2 at 7:30 p.m. in The Plaza Live. Attendance is limited to people aged 16 and up. Tickets are available online and start at $44. After the show, pricier tiers include a meet and greet and photo opportunity with Rubin. Tickets are available here.

Save the date:

Ethics group alleges Charlie Crist exploited COVID-19 rules to campaign for Governor” via Sebastian Hughes of the Daily Caller — A watchdog group will file a complaint against Rep. Crist, accusing him of taking advantage of pandemic-instituted proxy voting to campaign for Governor. The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) will send a letter to the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) accusing Crist, who reportedly voted by proxy 107 times between Jan. 7 and April 7, of abusing the House’s COVID-19 policy to avoid spending time in Washington while he campaigns in Florida for Governor. The letter asks OCE to open an investigation into Crist. “It is evident that the true reason he is voting by proxy and virtually attending committee hearings is unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the complaint alleges. “Rather, the reason is so he can campaign for Governor.”

—“Can Val Demings defeat Marco Rubio and overcome Democrats’ Florida malaise?” via Adrian Carrasquillo of Newsweek

Rubio opens Seminole County field office — U.S. Sen. Rubio’s re-election campaign launched a field office Saturday with a grassroots event featuring the Senator. At the event, Rubio harped on inflation, baby formula shortages, and other economic woes, pinning the blame on the Joe Biden administration and congressional Democrats. “They knew this was going to be a problem last December; they did nothing about it,” Rubio said. ” … The purpose of these efforts here is to give us a place to organize so that we can make sure that all those people that agree with us that the other side is out of control, all of those people turn out and become votes so that we can keep our majorities in Florida and so that we can take back majorities in the House and Senate in Washington.”

Demings blasts Rubio for being ‘extremist’ on abortion” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — In front of an organization dedicated to electing women who support abortion choice rights, Rep. Demings blasted her expected U.S. Senate race opponent, Republican Sen. Rubio, as “an extremist.” “My opponent believes that a woman should not have the right to an abortion regardless of the circumstances. He believes women should not have the right to an abortion even in the event of incest and rape,” Demings said, characterizing Rubio’s position. Demings’ comments, as a keynote speaker at the Ruth’s List Florida She’s the Change Leadership Conference in Orlando, highlights the emergence of abortion as a potential major issue in the 2022 Senate campaign.

—”‘We’re not going back’: Demings slams Rubio, anti-abortion rhetoric at pro-choice conference” via Cristóbal Reyes of the Orlando Sentinel

Abortion rights backers rally in anger over post-Roe future” via Ashraf Khalil and David Sharp of The Associated Press — Abortion rights supporters demonstrating at hundreds of marches and rallies Saturday expressed their outrage that the Supreme Court appears prepared to scrap the constitutional right to abortion that has endured for nearly a half-century and their fear about what that could mean for women’s reproductive choices. Incensed after a leaked draft opinion suggested the court’s conservative majority would overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, activists spoke of the need to mobilize quickly because Republican-led states are poised to enact tighter restrictions.

Reproductive rights advocates held protests across the country. Image via AP.

—“Hundreds march, rally in support of abortion rights” via Javon L. Harris of the Gainesville Sun

—”Bans Off Our Bodies rally draws thousands, including candidates, to Miami-Dade park” via Howard Cohen and Matias Ocner of the Miami Herald

—”At West Palm Beach abortion rights rally, attendees remember, imagine a world without Roe V. Wade” via Antigone Barton of The Palm Beach Post

—”‘We’re not going backward’: Hundreds attend ‘bans off our bodies’ rally in Viera” via Tyler Vazquez of Florida Today

Officials appeal redistricting decision, putting judge’s call for a new map on hold” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Secretary of State Laurel Lee’s Office appealed a court decision that found Florida’s new congressional map was unconstitutional. Leon Circuit Judge Layne Smith issued an order for the map, signed into law by DeSantis, to be replaced for the Midterms with an alternative submission from Harvard professor Stephen Ansolabehere. But the appeal filed by Lee’s Office automatically puts Smith’s decision on hold, leaving the DeSantis map (P 0109) in place for the moment. The case now goes to the 1st District Court of Appeals.

Turning Point Action endorses Anna Paulina Luna for CD 13 — Conservative advocacy group Turning Point Action last week endorsed Luna in the Republican Primary for Florida’s 13th Congressional District. “Anna Paulina Luna is one of the greatest allies of Turning Point Action and we are thrilled to endorse her for Congress. Anna is one of the most vocal on issues with the Second Amendment and Secure Borders. America needs her in Congress,” the organization said in a tweet. TPA joins Trump and several Trump-aligned politicians in endorsing Luna, the 2020 Republican nominee for CD 13. She faces former prosecutor Kevin Hayslett, nonprofit founder Audrey Henson, GOP strategist Amanda Makki and Christine Quinn in the Primary.

— MORE 2022 —

Gallop Franklin first to file in HD 8 race after Ramon Alexander drops out” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — Franklin, a Tallahassee pharmacist and Florida A&M University (FAMU) professor, is the first candidate to file for the House District 8 race after Rep. Ramon Alexander dropped his re-election bid amid sexual harassment allegations. HD 8 is one of Florida’s majority-Black districts, where Black residents make up over 50% of voters. It consists of all of Gadsden County and portions of Tallahassee and Leon County. The last contested race for the seat was in 2016, when Alexander won a four-way contest. Franklin, who was born and raised in Tallahassee, was FAMU student body president from 2009 to 2011. He is also a former FAMU board of trustees member, former vice-chair for the Florida Board of Governors and Gubernatorial fellow under Charlie Crist when he attended college.

Gallop Franklin wasted little time.

First on #FlaPol —Amber Mariano announces early exit from Legislature” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Rep. Mariano announced Friday she will not run for another term in the House. “Serving my community and state has been the honor of a lifetime. When I was first elected to office in 2016, we had our work cut out for us. Quite frankly, I felt as though my constituents had been left behind, our students had been left behind, and it was time we changed that,” Mariano said. A news release from the Mariano campaign highlighted her work on education policy, specifically her efforts to preserve Bright Futures.

Rosalind Osgood facing challenge from fellow Democrat for Senate re-election” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — A Democratic Representative has filed to represent Senate District 32, challenging an incumbent Democratic Senator elected only earlier this year. It’s the second battle in Broward County this election cycle poised to pit a Democratic incumbent Senator against another Democrat. Rep. Patricia Hawkins-Williams of Pompano Beach had announced she would not run for a fourth term in the Florida House. Instead, she announced she would be running for Senate. Hawkins-Williams had said she would be announcing which district, pending the outcome of redistricting.

Brad Yeager files to succeed Amber Mariano in HD 56” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Shortly after Rep. Mariano announced she would not run for a fourth term in the House, Republican Yeager launched a campaign for her Pasco County-based district. “We have cut taxes, empowered parents, balanced our budget, and grown our economy through the pandemic by using conservative principles and constitutional principles. I am running for the State House to build on this conservative record of results and keep Florida the freest and most prosperous state in the nation,” he said in a news release. Yeager, of New Port Richey, opened his campaign with endorsements from Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasano, Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco and Senate President Wilton Simpson, who represents the county in the Legislature.

Linda Chaney backs Jennifer Wilson for HD 59 — Rep. Chaney supports Wilson in the competitive Republican Primary for HD 59. “Jennifer Wilson is a thoughtful, compassionate Pinellas County common-sense conservative. We need more women in the Florida Legislature like Jennifer so we can continue to protect Florida families, safeguard parents’ rights and help Gov. DeSantis keep Florida free,” Chaney said. Wilson, a lawyer, faces Berny Jacques and Dipak Dinanath Nadkarni in the Primary for the seat, which is open this year due to current Rep Nick DiCeglie opting to run for Senate rather than another term in the House.

Jennifer Wilson notches up another big endorsement.

‘A dynamic advocate and voice’: Paul Renner endorses Juan Fernandez-Barquin for re-election” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — As Miami-Dade County Rep. Juan Fernandez-Barquin seeks a third term in the House, he can count among his supporters the soon-to-be House Speaker. In a Friday press note from the Florida House Republican Campaign Committee, Speaker-designate Renner announced he is endorsing Fernandez-Barquin’s re-election effort, calling the 39-year-old Miami-Dade native “a conservative champion” whose efforts to protect Floridians’ liberties has made Florida “the freest state in our country.” Fernandez-Barquin represents House District 118, which spans an unincorporated portion of Miami-Dade.

—”Newcomer tops HD 93 Democratic field in April fundraising” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics

First on #FlaPol —Vicki Lopez departs Senate contest to ‘avoid a contentious Primary battle,’ now running for HD 113” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Lopez has dropped her Florida Senate bid to instead contend for the GOP ticket in a race for House District 113, which spans a sizable portion of Miami-Dade County, including the heart of Miami and Key Biscayne. Lopez’s campaign announced the change Friday in a joint statement with incoming Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, who thanked Lopez for switching contests to “avoid a contentious Primary battle” in Senate District 38. “Vicki will be a great fighter for the people of House District 113, and I look forward to working with her when she is elected,” Passidomo said.

Happening tonight:

Happening tomorrow:


CFO Jimmy Patronis adds anti-fraud measures to Special Session agenda” via Caden DeLisa of The Capitolist — Patronis announced five legislative proposals targeting fraud that he will pursue during the upcoming special session on insurance reform, adding to the efforts that he has put forward in assembling a pair of anti-fraud teams late last year. A primary proposal for the upcoming session is to establish three anti-fraud Homeowner Squads. The Department of Financial Services (DFS) will request 23 new positions, including 15 detectives, three supervisors to work cases, three attorneys, and one administrator to prosecute cases. The teams would cover Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami.

Jimmy Patronis gives input on the upcoming Special Session. Image via CFO’s Office.

‘Change is scary’: What’s next for Florida Democrats after the downfall of Ramon Alexander” via James Call of USA Today Network — The resignation this week of a top state Democratic legislator, befallen by a sex scandal, has the party hustling to replace him with only months to go before November’s midterm elections, in which every state legislative seat is on the ballot. Rep. Fentrice Driskell, the Democrats’ current policy chair, is next in line to lead the caucus. She was selected unanimously in 2021 to be leader in 2025 after Alexander served his two years. Florida House Democrats have scheduled a vote within the next week or two to pick a new caucus leader for the 2023 Legislative Session. Rep. Anna Eskamani said the group needs to move quickly with the November election less than six months away.

Alimony bill in limbo as pending divorce actions pile up” via Laura Cassels of Florida Phoenix — The Family Law Section of the Florida Bar wants DeSantis to veto 2022 legislation that would make dramatic changes to state law on alimony, and the sooner, the better. In that section of The Bar, lawyers say pending divorce and child custody actions are stalled and piling up. As of noon Friday, state lawmakers had yet to send the bill to DeSantis to act. He can approve, veto, or let the bill become law without his signature. The Legislature adopted Senate Bill 1796 on March 9. Former Gov. Rick Scott vetoed similar legislation on alimony in 2013 and 2016. Florida Bar News reported Thursday that while SB 1796 remains in limbo, pending divorce and child custody actions are starting to clog the courts.


Florida on verge of 6 million COVID-19 infections; reports 39,397 weekly cases” via Ian Hodgson of the Tampa Bay Times — Weekly COVID-19 cases continued to rise this week as Florida approaches 6 million infections. The state averaged over 5,600 cases a day during the seven days from May 7 to 13. That’s up 20% from the week before, and it’s the eighth straight week that infections have climbed. Hospitalizations are also up, with nearly 1,300 confirmed COVID-19 patients as of Friday. That’s up 23% from the week before.

What Jeff Brandes is reading — “68,200 home insurance policies to be canceled as hurricane season begins” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida’s property insurance crisis is about to hit home for tens of thousands of policyholders. More than 68,000 policies of troubled Sunrise-based FedNat Insurance Company and its sister companies Maison and Monarch National will be canceled by the end of June. The cancellations, meant to help FedNat’s parent company, FedNat Holding Company, survive after reporting $103.1 million in reported losses in 2021, will force the displaced policyholders to scramble to secure coverage just as hurricane season begins.

Florida teachers, school staff caught by ‘gotcha police’ as DeSantis culture wars heat up” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — A Tallahassee middle school principal became ensnarled in Florida’s election-year culture war when she landed in a social-media feedback loop created by a state representative who wants her fired for Facebook comments about the challenges of working in public schools. Educators, academics, Democratic lawmakers, and labor union leaders say the politically motivated threat to Sarah Hembree’s 15-year career is the latest incident in an ongoing conservative-led attack on public education powered by a social media patrol. Hembree took to Facebook in March when the Legislature was debating two bills restricting how racial history and sexuality are taught in public schools, initiatives pushed by DeSantis.

Educator Sarah Hembree gets tangled up in culture wars. Image via Tallahassee Democrat.

Bob Chapek’s Hail Mary” via Matthew Belloni of Puck — When reporters started tweeting that Disney+ added 7.9 million subscribers in the second quarter, beating estimates and avoiding the dreaded Netflix loss, the messages began flying: “We’re saved!” one of them wrote. “Streaming is hard,” the other wrote when I texted a trade headline noting that Disney took a $900 million hit on its direct-to-consumer efforts. “Pam n tommy alert!” the same friend wrote when CEO Chapek shouted out the Hulu hit, almost certainly the first time a piece of content featuring a talking penis was plugged on a Disney earnings call. Then, toward the end (or when the three of us started losing interest), the most biting text of all: “Dammit chapek didn’t eff up.” My friend was joking, but only half so.

I’m surprised they just didn’t hire Mary EllenEverglades Trust names new CEO, announces ‘restructuring’” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — After a Legislative Session in which they were blindsided by a sugar industry maneuver to reverse their progress on restoring water flow to the Everglades, the leaders of the Everglades Trust say the organization is turning a corner. The political arm of the nonprofit Everglades Foundation announced on Friday that, effective May 16, its new CEO will be Anna Upton, and it will launch a restructuring, beginning with moving its headquarters to Tallahassee. Upton is the general counsel and vice president of government affairs for the Everglades Foundation, the nonprofit organization focused on scientific research and advocacy for the restoration of the Everglades.

Happening today — The Argus Foundation hosts a luncheon event with special guests VISIT FLORIDA President and CEO Dana Young and Carol Dover, president and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, 11:30 a.m., Michael’s on East, 1212 South East Ave., Sarasota.


Joe Biden’s midterm hopes bedeviled by signs of economy in distress” via Justin Sink of Bloomberg — Biden’s hopes for a political reset have been overwhelmed by an unrelenting series of economic setbacks, adding to the challenges Democrats face as they court exhausted voters ahead of the crucial midterm election in November. US gasoline prices are at historic highs. Inflation in April exceeded consensus forecasts. Technology stocks have plummeted, taking retirement accounts with them. A record low portion of Americans thinks it’s a good time to buy a house. On top of it all, a shortage of baby formula has left parents in the world’s wealthiest country scrounging empty store shelves to feed their children.

Biden sees a new threat: ‘Ultra MAGA’ Republicans” via Ashley Parker and Michael Scherer of The Washington Post — Last Wednesday, during a speech on the economy, Biden coined a new phrase — “ultra MAGA.” “Let me tell you about this ultra MAGA agenda,” Biden said, using Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan — “Make America Great Again” — as a pejorative. “It’s extreme, as most MAGA things are.” Then, in the subsequent days, Biden and his team continued to hammer Republicans in aggressive terms, attacking them as “MAGA” and “ultra MAGA.” Biden even dismissed his predecessor at one point as “the great MAGA king.” It took scant time for Republicans to gleefully seize on the moniker as their own, triumphantly elevating it as a brand worthy of celebration.

The big new threat: ultra-MAGA. Image via AP.

Rick Scott has no regrets about calling for Biden to resign as both sides go bare knuckles” via John T. Bennett of Roll Call — A key Republican Senator this week called on Biden to resign, something that once was done scarcely. But Sen. Scott has no regrets. The gloves are already off six months before the midterm elections. There was a time when a member of Senate leadership saying a sitting commander in chief is unfit for office would have been a big deal. Such calls were saved for times of war, impeachment, or scandal. No more. In a telling sign about the country’s deeply divided politics, the Florida Republican’s remark was mostly an afterthought in the age of Twitter and prime-time cable programming. Both are avenues for all sorts of bombastic statements. Both have made us collectively numb.

New Biden administration rules for charter schools spur bipartisan backlash” via Erica L. Green of The New York Times — New rules proposed by the Education Department to govern a federal grant program for charter schools are drawing bipartisan backlash and angering parents, who say the Biden administration is seeking to stymie schools that have fallen out of favor with many Democrats but maintain strong support among Black and Latino families. The proposal would add requirements to the application process for grants from the federal Charter Schools Program, which has doled out billions of dollars over nearly 30 years to help open new charter schools or expand existing ones.

Ashley Moody blasts White House for ‘unconscionable cover-up’ of Mexican border crisis” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Moody on Friday asserted to a national television audience that the Biden administration participated in an “unconscionable cover-up” of the real conditions at the Mexican border. Moody, appearing on the Fox News Channel’s “America Reports,” contended that “from the moment Biden took office,” America has seen a “step-by-step breakdown of our immigration system,” facilitated by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Promoting a document obtained in ongoing litigation with the federal government, Moody suggested the “U.S. Customs and Border Protection Overview of the Southwest Border” eight-pager showed critics were right when saying the Biden administration was botching the border issues.

Gearing up for GOP gains, White House braces for barrage of Inquiries” via Charlie Savage and Michael S. Schmidt of The New York Times — Biden’s legal team is laying the groundwork to defend against an expected onslaught of oversight investigations by congressional Republicans, should they take one or both chambers in the midterm elections, including preparing for the possibility of impeachment as payback for the two impeachments of Trump. As part of those preparations, Biden and his White House counsel, Dana Remus, have hired Richard A. Sauber, a longtime white-collar defense lawyer who is now the top lawyer at the Department of Veterans Affairs, to oversee responses to subpoenas and other oversight efforts, according to people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.

Justice Clarence Thomas blasts disclosure of draft Supreme Court opinion as ‘tremendously bad’” via Josh Gerstein of POLITICO — Justice Thomas, the longest-serving sitting member of the Supreme Court, declared Friday that the publication of a draft majority opinion on abortion has permanently damaged trust within the nation’s highest court and is a symptom of a broader decline in America’s institutions. Thomas suggested that the unprecedented public release of the draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade has prompted the justices and their aides to look at each other with suspicion.

Clarence Thomas sees the Dobbs leak as a major hit to the SCOTUS. Image via Twitter/@iypmgt.

A ‘state secret’ no more: New FBI report says Saudi government officials provided support network for 9/11 hijackers” via Dan Christensen of Florida Bulldog — A 130-page FBI report written only last July lays out the numerous connections of U.S.-based “personnel and entities controlled by the Saudi Arabian government” to the al-Qaida terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It’s the first time since the public learned of the existence of a secret investigation into the Saudis’ role in 9/11 — code-named Operation Encore — that the Justice Department has declassified records previously declared to be “state secrets” that say Saudi government officials knowingly provided a support network for the first two al-Qaida hijackers to enter the U.S. As described in the report, that network was intertwined with the hijackers.

Florida’s Senators back Ted Cruz’s bill to stop service members from being punished on vaccines” via Kevin Derby of Florida Daily — Cruz brought out the bill with 13 Republican co-sponsors, including U.S. Sens. Rubio and Scott. “This bill would require the Secretary of Defense to make every effort to retain unvaccinated service members, strengthen language to ensure service members receive discharge classifications commensurate with their record of service, and require the Department of Defense to report the number and type of COVID-19 vaccine religious exemptions that have been denied, and create an exemption from COVID-19 vaccine requirements for service members with natural immunity,” Cruz’s office noted. “It is absolutely unacceptable that the Biden administration is trying to coerce our men and women in uniform to violate their conscience and religious beliefs, let alone on an issue as polarizing as the COVID-19 vaccine,” Cruz said.

Assignment editors — U.S. Rep. María Elvira Salazar joins House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, Reps. Bryan Steil of Wisconsin, Randy Feenstra of Iowa, and Michelle Steel of California for a virtual discussion of the hardships small businesses face due to rising inflation, 11 a.m. Event livestream here. RSVP to [email protected].


More Republicans are working to undermine Donald Trump endorsements” via Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — Before a roomful of Republican donors Monday, McCarthy praised Trump as the “secret weapon” in the GOP’s quest to retake Congress. But their united front disguised far more complicated relationships that have developed between the former President and elected Republican leaders like McCarthy, which is now playing out in a series of primary proxy battles across the country. From Nebraska and Idaho to Pennsylvania and Georgia, Republicans have been actively campaigning or quietly maneuvering against Trump’s picks in a way that could undermine his sway over the Party.

Republicans are working hard to blunt any Donald Trump endorsements. Image via AP.

Elon Musk’s plan to lift permanent bans on Twitter might actually work against Trump” via Andres Oppenheimer of the Miami Herald — Human rights groups are up in arms about the possible lifting of Twitter’s suspension of Trump. But I wonder whether it wouldn’t be a good idea to allow Trump back on the platform, with some limitations, and let him make a fool out of himself. And that may be the right approach. Perhaps allowing Trump back on the platform, and only suspending him temporarily when he endangers peoples’ lives by inciting violence or spreading dangerous fake news, would help remind Americans of how irresponsible he is and what a dangerous leader he would be if he returns to power in 2024.

More bombshells for Jan. 6 committee before June hearings” via Andrew Solender and Alayna Treene of Axios — The Jan. 6 committee may seek testimony from additional lawmakers as soon as next week, ahead of blockbuster TV hearings that kick off next month. According to two sources on the call, chiefs of staff and other aides to members of the House select committee were told Friday on their weekly call with committee staff to brace for more bombshells ahead of the June 9 start of public hearings. The briefers did not say which lawmakers will be contacted, or whether they intended to issue more subpoenas.


Ben Crump endorses Jeremy Matlow in Tallahassee City Commission race” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — Crump, a civil rights lawyer, announced Friday he is endorsing Matlow in his 2022 re-election bid. Crump endorsed Matlow during his first election in 2018. The prominent lawyer has also weighed in on other local races, endorsing Paula Deboles-Johnson in the Leon Commission District 5 race and maxing out his donation to Tallahassee Commission Candidate Adner Marcelin. In a statement to Florida Politics, Crump said Matlow is a friend and has exceeded his expectations.

Ben Crump weighs in on Jeremy Matlow’s campaign.

Alachua County Commissioner Mary Alford plans to resign after district residency questioned” via Andrew Caplan of The Gainesville Sun — Alford intends to resign from office following an investigation by the Gainesville Sun that found she is not living in the district she was elected to represent, as required by state law. “I am going through the process of what I need to do to resign from office,” Alford told the Sun shortly after 5 p.m. Friday. “I realize I’m not doing the right thing, and I don’t like being a person who doesn’t do the right thing.” Alford acknowledged she hasn’t been in her district since her 2020 campaign. County Commissioners are required by law to live in their district at the time of election.

GOP strategists aim for Alachua County school board seats with PAC money” via Andrew Caplan of the Gainesville Sun — Republican operatives are eying a pair of Alachua County school board seats in the Primary Election, campaign filing reports show. Though school board seats are intended to remain nonpartisan, debates over COVID-19 restrictions, mask mandates, critical race theory, and sexual orientation have increasingly pushed schools into the political sphere. In 2022, 10 local seats are up for grabs between the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners, Alachua County School Board, and Gainesville City Commission.


Inside Moffitt Cancer Center’s $300M St. Petersburg campus” via Veronica Brezina of the St. Pete Catalyst — St. Petersburg is poised to see the first-ever Moffitt Cancer Center in its backyard, which will bring a caliber of medical expertise and research as part of a new planned development. The H. Lee Moffitt Cancer and Research Institute team presented its plans Friday evening during the first Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) Advisory Committee public meeting. The committee was formed to review the social and community impact of major projects receiving significant public funding through the CBA program that St. Pete approved late last year.

A jailhouse informant helps Tampa prosecutors. But can he be trusted?” via Dan Sullivan of the Tampa Bay Times — For at least the last decade, Paul Means has touted an ability to extract incriminating statements from those with whom he has been incarcerated. Armed with details about murders, attempted murders, robberies, and other crimes, he writes letters to prosecutors, offers to cooperate, and sometimes seeks help with his own troubles. People like him are seldom noticed but are a common component in the workings of the criminal justice system. For prosecutors, they can help bolster otherwise imperfect evidence. The trouble, say academics and advocates for the accused, is that jailhouse informants have a strong incentive to lie. Studies have shown they are often unreliable, contribute to wrongful convictions, and juries cannot always detect when they’re being untruthful.

Polk County book review panel votes to return ‘More Happy Than Not’ to school library shelves” via Kimberly C. Moore of The Lakeland Ledger — A panel of 18 people recommended that Adam Silvera’s “More Happy Than Not” remain in Polk County Public Schools’ libraries, although the panel was split on the grade level to which it should be available. It was the final book among 16 that a conservative group complained to PCPS Superintendent Frederick Heid “contained pornography” or was “harmful to children” and possibly violated Florida law. Eight group members voted to keep it at middle and high schools, eight voted to keep it at the high school level only, one voted to put the book in all grade levels, and one voted to remove it from all libraries.

One banned book gets unbanned — somewhat.

Osceola County, hurt by pandemic, offers tuition to graduates” via The Associated Press — After two years of a pandemic that battered the workforce of this tourism-dependent county in central Florida, leaders had a gift for departing high school graduates this month: free tuition at either the local community college or the county technical school. Osceola County Commissioners announced earlier this year that they would set aside $12 million in federal COVID-19 funding to pay the tuition of any 2022 high school graduate who wanted to go to Valencia College or the county technical school. The goal of Osceola Prosper is to boost education levels past high school and raise the prospects for better-paying jobs for Osceola residents, said Brandon Arrington, chair of the County Commission.

Food truck explodes at Vero Beach seafood festival” via The Associated Press — A food truck exploded during a seafood festival in Florida on Saturday, sending one person to the hospital with severe burns. The Vero Beach police said state and local fire officials are investigating the cause of the explosion. The department posted photos of the scene on Facebook that showed the sides and roof of the truck blown off the vehicle. One person was flown to a hospital burn unit in Orlando. There were no other injuries and the festival continued as authorities secured the explosion scene, police said.


Bradenton settles lawsuit over 160 million gallons in sewage spills since 2018” via Jesse Mendoza of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The city of Bradenton settled a lawsuit from environmental advocacy groups over an estimated 160 million gallons of sewage dumped into the Manatee River since 2018. The aging infrastructure at Bradenton’s wastewater treatment facility has been overwhelmed by heavy rainfall on several occasions, causing raw and partially treated sewage to be diverted into the river. Four environmental advocacy groups that sued the city late last year announced settlement terms this week. The groups include Suncoast Waterkeeper, Tampa Bay Waterkeeper, Manasota-88, and Our Children’s Earth Foundation.


COVID-19 update: Broward joins Miami-Dade as only two Florida counties with ‘moderate’ risk levels” via David Schutz and Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The CDC has moved Broward County’s COVID-19 risk level up to “moderate.” The higher-level results from the county’s positivity rate rising to 16.5% and nine new COVID-19 hospital admissions each day per 100,000 people. Broward County joins Miami-Dade as the only two counties in Florida with moderate risk levels rather than low. Statewide, the daily average for new COVID-19 cases has been rising throughout May, climbing again this week to 7,828 new cases, a level last seen during the omicron winter wave.

Exclusive — “Palm Beach Sheriff hospitalized, but returning to work ‘soon’ after two medical procedures” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw has been absent from the office for nearly three weeks after being hospitalized following back-to-back medical procedures, but his spokeswoman said he’s on track to return to the office “soon.” As Bradshaw’s two-week absence neared the three-week mark, his spokesperson Friday sought to shoot down “rumors” about the five-term Sheriff’s health. A Friday statement from Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Spokeswoman Teri Barbera confirmed Bradshaw had undergone two medical procedures in April and then another on May 3 that involved the 74-year-old’s heart. The statement alluded to rumors about the Sheriff’s ability to execute his duties following the procedures, though it lacks specific detail about what those procedures were.

Ric Bradshaw reveals undergoing a pair of medical procedures to address heart issues.

Sanctioned by U.S. allies, a former Russian banking titan lies low in South Florida” via Lily Dobrovolskaya and Nicholas Nehamas of the Miami Herald — Inside his $3.4 million condo perched high above Miami’s “Little Moscow,” Russian ex-banker Lev Khasis is lying low. Since Russia invaded Ukraine, Khasis has seen devastating U.S. sanctions imposed against several former co-workers at the state-owned banking giant where Khasis spent years as a top executive, including his former immediate supervisor. If U.S. officials impose sanctions, it would be a crushing blow for Khasis, a 55-year-old Russian who holds a U.S. green card. His Russian-born wife and several of his children are American citizens. He and his family moved to the United States in 2011, when he became an executive at Walmart after a successful career in Russia’s retail sector.

‘Do not forget.’ Surfside hangs banners along collapse site honoring 98 victims” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — When people pass through Surfside, Ronit Naibryf wants to make sure they haven’t forgotten her son. Pablo Langesfeld wants them to think about his daughter. Chana Wasserman wants her parents remembered. They were among the 98 people who died in the Champlain Towers South building collapse nearly a year ago on June 24. While plans for a permanent memorial have yet to be determined, the town of Surfside commemorated the victims on Thursday by wrapping the site of the former 12-story condo building in 7-foot-tall banners listing the names of the victims and their ages.

Fiery plane crash on Miami’s Haulover Inlet Bridge leaves one dead and five injured” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — One person was confirmed dead on Saturday evening after a small plane crashed into Haulover Inlet Bridge in Miami in the afternoon, hitting an SUV and catching fire. According to the Federal Aviation Authority, the single-engine Cessna 172 with three people on board lost engine power before slamming into the bridge and striking a vehicle with three passengers. Miami-Dade Police said the head-on collision with the SUV caused the plane to flip and burst into flames.

What a mess: A small plane crash lands on Miami’s Haulover Inlet Bridge, hits an SUV and leaves one dead and five injured. Image via AP.

How two middle school ‘desperadoes’ ended up in a police shootout” via Frances Robles of The New York Times — It was getting dark, so sheriff’s deputies used the lights on their rifles to get a better look at the two children who had been holed up in a suburban house for more than an hour. Fourteen-year-old Nicole Jackson used a metal baton to smash mirrors, a bathtub and furniture. As the officers closed in, she flipped her middle finger at them and strapped a loaded 12-gauge shotgun around her neck. A 12-year-old boy who had joined her in escaping from a nearby group home grabbed an AK-47 assault rifle. Several gunshots rang out from the house. The case ended on that evening in June with Nicole hospitalized with eight gunshot wounds and charged as an adult with armed burglary and attempted murder of a police officer.

‘There’s no silver bullet’: Train officials discuss South Florida rail line safety tactics” via Michael Butler of the Miami Herald — Less than a week after a Brightline train hit and killed a Broward County scooter rider, Brightline, Tri-Rail and Amtrak officials gathered Friday at a private meeting in Miami to share insights about how South Florida communities can have better railway safety. Ben Porritt, Brightline’s senior vice president of corporate affairs, said that railroad safety can only improve with community involvement and the allocation of public resources to make railways safer. “It is a shared responsibility between us and the communities in which we operate to educate, enforce and engineer the solutions,” Porritt said.


I invented Gilead. The Supreme Court is making it real.” via Margaret Atwood for The Atlantic — Although I eventually completed this novel and called it The Handmaid’s Tale, I stopped writing it several times, because I considered it too far-fetched. Silly me. Theocratic dictatorships do not lie only in the distant past: There are a number of them on the planet today. What is to prevent the United States from becoming one of them? If we start overthrowing settled law using Justice Samuel Alito’s justifications, why not repeal votes for women? It ought to be simple: If you believe in “ensoulment” at conception, you should not get an abortion, because to do so is a sin within your religion. If you do not so believe, you should not — under the Constitution — be bound by the religious beliefs of others.


‘America First’ is America at its worst” via The Washington Post editorial board — History confirms that “America First” was America at its worst: the slogan of pre-World War II isolationists who urged the Roosevelt administration to avoid Europe’s troubles. The United States’ postwar rise to global responsibility marginalized such ideology until Trump rode to the White House in 2016, decrying the allegedly unfair costs of U.S. security commitments and trade agreements, then governed accordingly. Sen. Rand Paul suggests, hyperbolically, that spending less than 0.2% of U.S. output helping Ukraine will fuel inflation. Not only is the U.S. investment comparatively modest, but it is part of an effort to which NATO partners are also making significant contributions. It’s not too early to wonder how much more powerful America Firsters will be if Republicans regain control of Congress in November.

DeSantis is setting the agenda for the GOP, and Democrats should worry” via Doyle McManus of The Los Angeles Times — DeSantis has been on a tear. Initially a tea party-style fiscal conservative, he’s embraced a series of hard-edge positions that have boosted him into second place in early polls for the 2024 GOP Presidential nomination. Republican pollster Whit Ayres offered a more succinct explanation: “He’s Trump without the craziness.” Whether he intends to run or not, he’s already built the foundation he’d need to seek the GOP nomination. He’s canny, hardworking, relentless and often ruthless — a populist without Trump’s self-defeating flaws. Democrats should be worried.

Sorry, Democrats. It’s not going to be the Scott midterms.” via Rich Lowry of POLITICO — Sen. Scott included a maladroit two-sentence item in a sprawling 59-page document outlining his view of what might eventually become a Republican policy agenda. This is the scenario Democrats seem to think will help save them in November, in one of the most ludicrous stratagems ever adopted by an embattled majority desperate to find a way — any way — to escape a nearly inevitable midterm shellacking. The relevant bullet point in the 128-item Scott agenda says, “All Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game.” The White House is hoping this is the fulcrum upon which the midterm elections will turn.

Democrats decry abortion ruling but need it in November” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — When some raging controversy blows up in an election year, Democrats and Republicans alike sometimes decide it’s better to have the hot issue than the solution. Not that any solution is possible for the U.S. Supreme Court’s recently leaked ruling on abortion. Republicans have been prudently reticent since Alito’s draft opinion was leaked. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said it’s “possible” that Republicans might impose a nationwide abortion ban if they take over Congress next year, but that’s a fairly tepid response to such a hot topic.

For abortion abolition, against abortion ‘abolitionists’” via David French of The Dispatch — You might be puzzled by the term “abolitionist.” I believe that a just society protects unborn life in law and a healthy society celebrates and protects innocent life from conception until natural death. Doesn’t that make me an abolitionist? Not in the vernacular of today’s pro-life movement. Why? Because I believe abortion laws should protect the life of the mother, I do not believe women who obtain abortions should face criminal punishment, and I do strongly endorse state statutes that make even incremental improvements to abortion law. Incrementalists aren’t in favor of slow change in abortion laws for the sake of slow change, but rather accept attainable change even when you ultimately hope for greater regulation. And the desire to “eliminate” abortion implicitly acknowledges the reality that bans alone won’t end abortion. Abortion can only truly end when American culture changes, not just its law.

We parents of unvaccinated children need more guidance” via Nita Farahany for The Washington Post — We parents of young children who can’t be vaccinated feel abandoned at this late stage of the pandemic. Federal officials, it seems, have decided to leave it up to us to figure out how to navigate coronavirus risks for our children. This lack of information has bred distrust in parents while putting public health agencies in an unenviable Catch-22 as they prepare to — finally, hopefully — vaccinate children under 5. It’s not too late for public health agencies to correct course and issue guidance for what we should be doing (and not doing) to protect our young unvaccinated children.

Florida’s book rejection frenzy has right-wing kookiness written all over it” via the Miami Herald editorial board — In the deepest corners of the right-wing, the belief exists that teachers, textbook writers and publishing companies are conspiring to indoctrinate children. In the Twilight Zone that Florida’s state government has become, this line of thinking is shaping education policy. A review of nearly 6,000 pages of math textbook reviews shows the overwhelming majority of the people assigned to go over the materials found no evidence of critical race theory. Three of the 125 reviewers did find plenty of CRT hidden in math textbooks. Not surprisingly, one of them is part of the conservative group Moms for Liberty, best known for trying to ban books from school libraries.

My college students are not OK” via Jonathan Malesic for The New York Times — The pandemic certainly made college more challenging for students and compassionate faculty members have loosened course structures in response: They have introduced recorded lectures, flexible attendance and deadline policies, and lenient grading. In light of the widely reported mental health crisis on campuses, some students and faculty members are calling for those looser standards and remote options to persist indefinitely. Higher education is now at a turning point. The accommodations for the pandemic can either end or be made permanent. The task won’t be easy, but universities need to help students rebuild their ability to learn. And to do that, everyone involved — students, faculties, administrators, and the public at large — must insist on in-person classes and high expectations for fall 2022 and beyond.

Put puppies over profits and protect home rule” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — DeSantis has an opportunity any politician would crave. He can stand up for defenseless puppies and kittens, but it means sending a stern message to a Legislature that too often takes its marching orders from profit-hungry special interests. Senate Bill 620, the so-called Local Business Protection Act, passed the state Senate, 22-14, and the House, 69-45, but still must survive the Governor’s review. It’s the latest in a line of laws attacking the home rule power of local governments by arrogant, know-it-all Tallahassee politicians who think they know what’s best for all 21 million Floridians, even if it puts an adorable little beagle at risk.

Being a political journalist made me a better Christian” via Jon Ward of Christianity Today — Journalism has empowered many of the most noble, the most Christian elements of my character. I have been discipled for two decades in how to discern what is true and false, and — probably more importantly — how to discern when there are no easy answers or solutions. I have been trained in pursuing truth without regard to whom it offends. I have also been given a sense of humility about what we can know for sure and how often we need to acknowledge that our point of view is limited and incomplete. This is sometimes called “epistemological modesty,” and it is a quality that we badly need more of in our discourse. There are many constraints that make it harder for most people to pursue truth today — and yet being a journalist has freed and equipped me to do just that.

— ALOE —

Back on top: Florida State softball beats Clemson to win 18th ACC championship” via Curt Weiler of the Tallahassee Democrat — After a year away, Florida State is back on top of the ACC softball world. The No. 3 seed Seminoles (52-5, 19-5 in ACC) won their 18th ACC Championship Saturday, rallying late to beat fifth-seeded Clemson (39-15, 14-10) 8-6 at Vartabedian Field in Pittsburgh. It’s FSU’s seventh ACC title in the last eight years. The program’s streak of six straight conference championships was snapped in a loss to Duke last year in the ACC Semifinals.

No. 3 seed Seminoles won their 18th ACC Championship against fifth-seeded Clemson. Image via The ACC.

Drivers rush to stop runaway car: ‘Strangers working together’” via María Luisa Paúl of The Washington Post — The scene captured by traffic cameras in Boynton Beach is befitting of a Marvel flick. But there was no superhero squad, just total strangers springing into action to prevent what could have been a tragic accident. Cars were passing through a busy South Florida intersection last week when a black vehicle began slowly rolling diagonally past the stoplight. The group eventually pushed the car to a nearby 7-Eleven parking lot, where a nurse provided the slumped-over driver with medical attention until a fire department crew arrived.

How FPL’s new $1.2 million fixed-wing hurricane drone will work and what it will do” via Hannah Morse of The Palm Beach Post — The newest tool in Florida Power & Light’s storm-ready kit has a wingspan slightly longer than a Cessna, can fly 1,000 miles at a time and cost the utility’s customers a cool $1.2 million. This fixed-wing drone, called FPLAir One, will be used to survey storm damage across Florida, which the utility hopes will streamline restoration efforts to get power back on after an outage sooner. Without this unmanned drone, FPL crews would observe damage either in bucket trucks or by using small drones to get a bird’s-eye view.

Lego built a $170 Transformers Optimus Prime that actually transforms” via Sean Hollister of The Verge — Optimus Prime is officially a Lego set and not just in statue form. With 19 points of articulation, the Danish brickmaker has created a 1,508-piece Optimus Prime G1 action figure you can transform. OK, yes, you’ll still need to do that conversion yourself — it’s no walking, talking robot like the $750 self-transforming Optimus Prime we played with last year. But, for $169.99 and releasing June 1, the Lego version is a lot more affordable and doesn’t require electricity just to stand. Optimus stands 13.5 inches tall and then folds down into a 27-inch-long semi-truck without any rebuilding.

Rehabilitated dolphin leaves quarantine at Florida facility” via The Associated Press — A rescued juvenile bottlenose dolphin, flown from Texas to the Florida Keys-based Dolphin Research Center seven weeks ago, was moved to the facility’s primary dolphin lagoon Thursday. The transfer marks the male marine mammal’s final integration into a “forever family” of other permanent dolphin residents. Ranger convalesced in a medical quarantine pool specially designed to increase his eating and weight, while strengthening both his immune system and his bond with human caregivers. He was rescued a year ago after being discovered stranded in waters around Goose Island State Park in Texas, suffering from an underlying respiratory infection and dehydration following his mother’s death.

Sailing away again: Jimmy Buffett-branded cruise at Palm Beach port heads to Bahamas” via Mike Diamond of The Palm Beach Post — The cruise to the Bahamas is back. The Margaritaville Paradise embarks Saturday on its inaugural sail from the Port of Palm Beach to Grand Bahama Island. On Thursday, travel agents and media representatives toured the vessel that underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation. Paradise is the first cruise ship from the brand-new line, Margaritaville at Sea, a partnership with the former Bahamas Cruise Paradise Line owners and Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. It sails twice a week from the Port of Palm Beach. The ship used to be called the Grand Classica.

Parrotheads rejoice; your ship has come in.

Butt lifts are booming. Healing is no joke.” via Sandra Garcia of The New York Times Magazine — Dream Body Recovery is just one of the countless recovery houses that have cropped up in Miami, which has become the heartbeat of the Brazilian butt lift boom in the United States. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average price of a BBL nationwide is around $5,000. Dr. Angelo Cuzalina, a cosmetic surgeon in Tulsa, Oklahoma, estimated the cost of the procedure in which patients receive high-quality care to range from $6,000 to $15,000. Patients in Miami can get the butt-enhancing procedure for well below that price. For Black women, many of whom have always possessed a version of the BBL body, it is difficult to square this popularity with the fact that their natural bodies have been denigrated for generations.

This MLB season, the ball is making everyone batty” via Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post — For much of the past half-decade, Major League Baseball has been flooded with new data, influencing how the game is played and run. This season, that information has focused on the sport’s most fundamental piece of equipment: the ball. From its production to functionality, the ball has emerged as both cause and symptom of a historically slow offensive start to the season, leading to accusations and conspiracy theories. Through the season’s first month, major league hitters had a combined .233 batting average, the lowest since 1968, and a .629 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, the lowest since 1981. Hitters shake their heads and watch high fly balls drop in front of the wall during batting practice. Pitchers grumble about their inability to get a grip — some more publicly than others.


Best wishes to state Sen. Tom Wright, Rep. Bobby Payne, Kate Bradshaw, Matthew Ubben, and Rick Watson. Belated happy birthday wishes to Fred Baggett of Greenberg Traurig, congressional candidate Eric Lynn and Hung Mai.


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, 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. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


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, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

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