Good Wednesday morning.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce’s annual Florida Prosperity & Economic Opportunity Solution Summit kicks off today in Orlando.
First held in 2017, the Chamber event is laser-focused on poverty in the Sunshine State, covering its causes and prevalence and its impact on the broader state economy and potential actions that business leaders and others can take to address it.
Heading into the 2022 Summit, 773,801 Florida children — or nearly 19% — are living in poverty. One of the tentpole goals of the Chamber’s Florida 2030 plan is to cut that number in half by the dawn of the next decade.
From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Chamber event will feature some of the most qualified speakers on how that goal can be accomplished.
They include Kyle Baltuch, whom the Chamber brought on as a senior vice president and put in command of its Equality of Opportunity Initiative last year.
Also on tap for the first half is a conversation on economic mobility between CareerSource Florida Vice President Dan McGrew and Dr. Brittany Birken, a Principal Adviser at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
Dr. Shawn Felton of Florida Gulf Coast University, Jennifer Hagen of University of Florida/IFAS and Stephanie Wardein of Lee Health are also set to participate in a panel discussion titled “Leading By Example: Prioritizing Long-Term Investments in Opportunity.”
The afternoon portion will tackle the root causes of poverty identified by the Chamber: jobs, education, transportation, affordable housing, child care, community voice, food, and safety and justice. Each cause will get a speaker’s attention or a dedicated panel — a list of speakers and a full agenda for the summit is available online.
Markel Trial Day 7: The bump, money drops, cash deposits and wiretaps — Judge Robert Wheeler delivered a major opinion Tuesday morning before the jury entered the room. He will allow the jury to hear audio of three phone calls captured on wiretap between Donna Adelson and Charlie Adelson immediately after the bump.
This is huge.
Wheeler explained that the state is not trying to prove what was said between the mother and son, but what was not said — which was the defendant’s name. Wheeler clarified that allowing the jury to hear these recordings is to establish “the fact that Katherine Magbanua was not mentioned in the calls.”
Defense attorney Christopher DeCoste argued vehemently to exclude these. And as Magbanua’s lawyer, he should. These recordings prove a significant aspect of the state’s case — that when confronted by a stranger about Dan Markel’s murder, Donna and Charlie knew precisely who to call — their middleman, Magbanua. DeCoste argued with Wheeler even past the judge’s ruling on the matter, to no avail.
“They’re admissible,” Wheeler schooled DeCoste, “and I’ve already made myself clear a number of times.”
Wheeler will also allow the jury to hear Charlie speaking with Erika Johnson regarding Magbanua’s Adelson Institute employment records or, rather, the lack thereof.
On Tuesday, a shooter killed at least 18 children at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, marking the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook nearly a decade ago.
Law enforcement Tuesday evening confirmed the shooter was dead and later confirmed that three adults had died in the attack, though it was unclear whether that included the shooter.
It is also unclear how many people were wounded in the attack, though at least two law enforcement officers were injured, and a hospital reportedly took in 13 injured children while a separate hospital admitted an adult woman in critical condition. Authorities expect the death count to rise.
The shooter, whom Texas Gov. Greg Abbott identified as Salvador Ramos, had no apparent motive.
“Pass and enforce red flag laws. Now.” via David French of The Dispatch — When we talk about common gun control proposals after mass shootings — whether we’re referring to expanded background checks, assault weapons bans, or limits on magazine capacity — the general rule is that none of those measures, even if implemented, would have actually prevented any recent mass shooting. A new idea has emerged that’s directly designed to address both gaps in our mental health system and is tied to patterns we’ve seen in mass shootings. It’s the red flag law. It goes by other names, including extreme risk protection order, gun violence restraining order, or severe threat order of protection. The idea is if a person exhibits behavior indicating that they might be a threat to themselves or others (such as suicidal ideation or violent fantasies), a member of his family, a school official, or a police officer can go to court to secure an order that permits police to seize his weapons and prohibit him from purchasing any additional weapons so long as the order lasts.
If it’s Tuesday — “Brian Kemp notches huge primary win in Georgia” via Zach Montellaro and Ally Mutnick of POLITICO — Gov. Kemp clinched his GOP Primary early despite facing a Donald Trump-endorsed challenger — a major win for the Governor ahead of what’s expected to be a hard-fought General Election campaign. Kemp defeated Trump-endorsed David Perdue after Perdue was recruited into the race by Trump. The former President had attacked Kemp repeatedly since the 2020 Election when Kemp refused Trump’s pressure to not certify the election after President Joe Biden narrowly won the state. Perdue’s bid has been laser-focused on Trump’s grievances about the 2020 election, while the conservative Kemp tried to shore up his credentials in other areas. The nominee will face Stacey Abrams in what is expected to be one of the most competitive campaigns for Governor in the country.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@RepValDemings: Another school shooting. I can hardly speak. Every parent in America should be mad as hell that the Senators of the greatest country in the world have chosen not to do a damn thing about innocent people gunned down in innocent places. Praying for the victims at Robb Elementary.
—@LHSummers: I am very concerned that we may be headed into a new era of Brandeisian populist antitrust policy that will make the U.S. economy more inflationary and less resilient.
—@RepWilson: South Florida is a diverse and welcoming home for those fleeing violence or instability across Latin America. I’m proud to stand with my colleagues in calling for @ to continue TPS protections for our neighbors from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.
—@ChristinaPushaw: Adults should not be seeking validation from children.
—@GreggGonsalves: It’s no coincidence that the vile attacks I’ve gotten over the past 24 hours are tied to far-right shock-jocks AND the office of the Governor of Florida. They suggest I supported COVID lockdowns (not true) and am “soft on” monkeypox (also not true). The facts don’t matter.
—@ConceptualJames: Ron DeSantis completely dispelled the obvious myth that Republicans in blue-heavy states have to govern like Democrats and pander to get votes, win, and gain support for solid governance. It’s literally preposterous when you think about it.
—@RTemplin: Getting confused about the insurance Special Session here in FL? Very simple — insurance companies shift money to show fake losses — compliant FL raises rates for them creating a rate crisis — insurance lobbyists use crisis to get everything they ever wanted to make more money.
—@ShevrinJones: Congratulations to Rep. @ on her election to serve as the FIRST Black woman LEADER of the @! She is widely recognized as a trailblazer, consensus builder, and impassioned advocate who works hard to help each of her constituents and members.
—@TheStalwart: A liberal is a libertarian who had their NFT stolen
—@MarcACaputo: Never understood why people overpay for breakfast. Eggs Bacon Toast Hashbrowns Waffles They taste the same whether you’re paying $12 for all of it or $50
— DAYS UNTIL —
‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 2; Hyundai Air and Sea Show National Salute to America’s Heroes, sponsored by the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association — 3; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 8; California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota hold midterm Primaries — 13; ‘Jurassic World Dominion’ premieres — 16; Pixar’s ‘Lightyear’ premieres — 23; 2022 Florida Chamber Learners to Earners Workforce Solution Summit — 34; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 44; 36th Annual Environmental Permitting School — 55; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 57; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 76; FRLA’s Operations and Marketing Summit — 84; ‘House of the Dragon’ premieres on HBO — 88; 2022 Florida Chamber Technology & Innovation Solution Summit — 98; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 100; NFL Opening Night: LA Rams vs. Buffalo Bills — 106; 2022 Emmys — 110; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 134; Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 152; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 153; Jon Meacham’s ‘And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle’ releases — 153; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 170; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 176; The World Cup kicks off in Qatar — 180; The U.S. World Cup Soccer Team begins play — 180; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 181; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 203; ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 267; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 285; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 303; 2023 Session Sine Die — 345; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 345; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 373; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 429; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 513; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 674; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 793.
— SPECIAL SESSION —
“Republicans push ahead with property insurance reforms, rejecting Democrats’ proposals” via Jason Delgado and Zac Anderson of USA Today Network — Efforts by Democrats to include a rate freeze, climate change considerations, increased capital requirements for companies and other proposals in property insurance legislation all failed Tuesday, as the Republican-dominated Florida Legislature moved closer to passing the reform bill sought by DeSantis. Both chambers are expected to pass legislation and send it to DeSantis by the end of the week. A significant portion of the legislation is aimed at limiting lawsuits against insurers. Sen. Jason Pizzo said it “effectively is tort reform, not property insurance.”
“Senate passes Surfside-inspired condo inspection legislation; House ready for vote” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Within hours of lawmakers reaching a deal to require stricter inspections for condominiums, the agreement is advancing through the Legislature. The Senate passed the language as an amendment to a related bill (SB 4D) and the House Appropriations Committee teed up the House version (HB 5D) for a final vote expected Wednesday. At both stops, lawmakers approved the language unanimously. Rep. Daniel Perez filed the legislation Tuesday afternoon, 11 months after the Champlain Towers South collapsed in Surfside. The 101-page bill is the culmination of months of work by legislative leaders and local lawmakers. “We were able to accomplish — not just for Surfside families but for all Floridians that live in condominiums — a product that they should be proud of, because I think we accomplished our goal, which is one step closer to making sure what happened in Surfside never happens again,” Perez told Florida Politics.
“Florida lawmakers rush to pass property insurance reforms” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — In a normal Session, Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier, the state’s point person on insurance, might be seated in the front row, ready to provide input or answer lawmakers’ questions. But during this week’s Special Session, legislators are rushing to pass a property insurance bill before the Memorial Day weekend, frustrating lawmakers who want to understand the crisis. From start to finish, the Legislature is set to spend three days in Tallahassee to address what most agree is a five-alarm crisis in the state’s insurance market. That includes time to read and debate the bill to create post-Surfside condominium inspection rules.
“Insurance Commissioner questioned by House panel as insurance bill heads to floor” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Altmaier is coming under increasing scrutiny for his actions as the crisis that pushed them into a Special Session grew. Rep. Erin Grall questioned why Altmaier hadn’t produced industry data on claims processed as required by a law passed in 2021 to be collected by January 2022. Altmaier said his agency’s interpretation of the law was that January 2022 was the starting point for collecting the data, not the due date. “We felt like we were complying with the spirit of that requirement,” Altmaier said. Grall was the only member of the committee to vote against the bill, HB 1D. After the meeting, Committee Chair Jay Trumbull, a Panama City Republican, said Altmaier knows the data needs to be produced sooner than the January 2023 time frame he believed was required.
“Senate rebuffs Democratic attempts to cut rates, passes property insurance bill” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — The Senate passed a sweeping insurance bill Tuesday (SB 2D), but homeowners are still unlikely to see reductions in premiums any time soon after Republicans rejected Democratic amendments to require savings gleaned by the changes in the law be passed on to consumers. “We have entirely failed to do anything that will provide real guaranteed rate relief to the homeowners,” said Sen. Gary Farmer. “Nothing in this bill provides rate reductions for consumers.” Sen. Jim Boyd, who is sponsoring the bill, said requiring across-the-board rate cuts isn’t possible and would further disincentivize companies from covering policies in Florida.
“Senate Dems call GOP property-insurance bill a ‘$2 billion tax giveaway’; Republicans defend plan” via Laura Cassels of the Florida Phoenix — While SB 2D aims to salvage Florida’s collapsing insurance marketplace — including investing $2 billion of taxpayer funds — Democrats say it does little to help consumers. Sen. Boyd, who handled the Republican side of Tuesday’s discussion, said SB 2D will eventually bring rate relief but not soon. Democrats said that is not good enough and attempted in a series of amendments to impose a freeze on rate hikes and guaranteed rate reductions. “I thought that’s what we were here to do,” said Miami-Dade Sen. Annette Taddeo, who sponsored an amendment to guarantee that all savings achieved in the bills be passed on to policyholders.
“Back to the future: Insurance Commissioner could face voters under House resolution” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — With a broadly worded call that puts the “Office of Insurance Regulation” in play, Rep. Evan Jenne on Tuesday filed a resolution to require the state’s top insurance regulator to be an elected official and a member of the Florida Cabinet instead of a political appointee. House Joint Resolution 21-D proposes amending the state constitution to establish the Insurance Commissioner as a statewide elected office, beginning with the 2026 election, and include that position in the Florida Cabinet in 2027. At press time, there was no Senate counterpart.
“Consumer Protection Coalition praises Gov. Ron DeSantis for targeting ‘meritless litigation’” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The Consumer Protection Coalition praised DeSantis on Tuesday for calling a Special Session on property insurance and encouraging lawmakers to rein in “attorney fee jackpots.” The CPC, spearheaded by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, blames the market’s tailspin on a glut of lawsuits. The instability is complex; however, Florida does have a high volume of property insurance lawsuits. “Gov. DeSantis once again turned words into action, unilaterally calling the Legislature back into Special Session and driving consensus on a substantial agenda,” said William Large, president of the Florida Justice Reform Institute and a member of the CPC. “The proposed property insurance reform legislation will go a long way toward getting to the heart of escalating rates and limited coverage — lawsuit abuse.”
“Central Florida ‘ghost’ candidate, other figures tied to scandal charged” via Annie Martin and Jeff Weiner of the Orlando Sentinel — Jestine Iannotti, one of three “ghost” candidates who ran as independents for Florida Senate seats in 2020, has been arrested on several criminal charges, alongside a political consultant involved in launching her campaign and Seminole County’s Republican Party chair. The office of Seminole-Brevard State Attorney Phil Archer announced the charges against Iannotti, James “Eric” Foglesong and Benjamin Paris on Tuesday, which the agency said stemmed from an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Flashback —”‘Ghost’ candidate in key state Senate race had help from controversial political consultant” via Annie Martin and Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel.
“Anti-abortion activists rally in Tallahassee, call for Special Session to ban abortion” via Ana Goñi-Lessan and James Call of USA Today Network — In front of the Florida Historic Capitol, on an unusually hot morning, anti-abortion activists from around the state rallied on Tuesday for a Special Session to ban abortion in Florida. “They can do it for property insurance; they can do it for congressional maps; they can do it to take down Disney, praise the Lord. They can certainly do it for our unborn children here in Florida,” Andrew Shirvell, executive director of Florida Voice for the Unborn, bellowed to the crowd. Dozens of people, many holding signs that said things like “Women Do Regret Abortion,” “Pray to end abortion,” and “You are precious,” stood and listened to Shirvell and legislators before a day of lobbying.
“Appeals court won’t send congressional redistricting challenge to Florida Supreme Court” via Michael Moline of Florida Phoenix — A state appellate court has refused to transfer litigation over DeSantis’ plan to erase a Black-access congressional District to the Florida Supreme Court, increasing the likelihood the Governor’s plan will apply during this year’s primary and general elections. The 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee said no to the request by voting-rights groups, including Black Voters Matter, Equal Ground Education Fund and League of Women Voters of Florida, on technical grounds on Tuesday. The court had already lifted a Leon County trial judge’s injunction against using the Governor’s map.
“Tallahassee judge dismisses Pinellas lawsuit challenging state election law” via Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times — A Tallahassee judge has dismissed Pinellas County’s lawsuit challenging a provision in Florida’s new election law that will require two County Commissioners to run for their seats in November, halfway through their terms. The outcome means a premature end for one of Pinellas County’s longest political careers. District 5 Commissioner Karen Seel confirmed on Tuesday she will not run for her seat in November to complete the last two years of her four-year term. Seel had previously announced she planned to step down in 2024, which would be the end of her sixth term.
“‘Let’s get to work’: House Dems elect Fentrice Driskell as Leader-designate” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Florida House Democrats have unanimously named Rep. Driskell their leader for the upcoming legislative term, priming her to be the first Black woman to lead a House party caucus. Driskell steps into the role amid a transitional period for House Democrats and as the caucus is less than six months away from what is expected to be a difficult Election Day. Following her election during a caucus meeting on Tuesday, the Tampa Democrat told reporters she hopes to build unity in the caucus.
—“Q&A: Incoming Florida House Democrats leader Driskell” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times
“Lobbying compensation: Corcoran Partners notches $1.5M in Q1” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Michael Corcoran and lobbyists Jacqueline Corcoran, Matt Blair, Helen Levine, Will Rodriguez and Andrea Tovar have represented nearly 90 clients in Q1. Their efforts netted $1 million in legislative lobbying fees and $500,000 in executive branch lobbying fees. Corcoran Partners’ top client in Q1 was Fontainebleau Development, the South Florida-based luxury real estate development company behind the eponymous Fontainebleau Miami Beach. It paid Corcoran Partners $136,000 during the three-month reporting period. The No. 2 spot on both reports belonged to the Florida Optometric Association, which paid $35,000 in legislative lobbying fees and an added $35,000 in executive branch lobbying fees. Corcoran Partners’ median earnings estimate for Q1 matches its average haul across the previous four quarters and puts it on pace for another Top-10 performance in 2022.
“Lobbying compensation: Johnston & Stewart posts $818K in Q1” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Jeff Johnston and Amanda Stewart worked alongside lobbyist Anita Berry to handle the needs of nearly 50 clients in the first quarter. Their efforts produced $568,000 in receipts for legislative lobbying and an added $250,000 for executive branch lobbying. Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital nearly doubled the cap on range reporting, paying the firm $98,000 for legislative lobbying alone. It paid another $45,000 for executive branch lobbying work for $143,000. Following Johns Hopkins, the legislative report shows three clients in the $25,000 range: Gulfstream Park Racing Association, Humana Medical Plan and TECO Energy. The firm’s median earnings estimate is a significant increase from its average quarterly rake last year, which measured in at about $677,000
— 2022 —
“The DeSantis administration gave $16.5 million. The DeSantis campaign got $200,000.” via Jason Garcia of Seeking Rents — Earlier this year, the DeSantis administration did a big favor for one of Florida’s largest companies when it awarded a $16.5 million grant to help pay for a new vehicle-processing facility for JM Family Enterprises at the port of Jacksonville. A few weeks later, JM Family did a big favor for DeSantis when it donated $200,000 to the Governor’s political fundraising committee.
Records show JM Family gave $100,000 to “Friends of Ron DeSantis” on Feb. 24 — four weeks after the Florida Department of Transportation notified the Jacksonville Port Authority that it had approved the grant, which will cover half the estimated $33 million construction cost of the custom-built vehicle-processing center for JM Family.
JM Family, which will pay for the other half itself, then gave DeSantis another $100,000 on April 13 — two weeks before FDOT and JAXPORT finalized the grant agreement.
A spokesperson for FDOT said the Governor’s Office did not play any role in the grant process (although it was ultimately approved by the agency’s secretary — a DeSantis appointee).
“DeSantis rebuts Joe Biden’s framing of gas price hike as ‘incredible transition’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — “I think these gas prices are a big problem,” the Governor asserted. “So, I hope that they would reevaluate that and not view that as an incredible thing.” DeSantis told the crowd in Havana that he had to “disagree with the President saying this is somehow an incredible opportunity to have this transition.” DeSantis said the increase was, in fact, “punishing people at the pump.” “What are you going to do? Just not go to work all of a sudden?” the Governor contended, predicting further gas price increases related to Memorial Day and summer driving patterns. DeSantis also cautioned that the impending gas tax holiday, in effect in October before the General Election, won’t do much to help consumers.
“Kamala Harris edges out DeSantis in another 2024 poll” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — A new survey testing DeSantis against Vice President Harris in a 2024 Presidential Election again shows Harris slightly ahead of DeSantis. A Harvard/Harris Poll conducted on May 18 and 19, which surveyed 1,963 registered voters, showed Harris the choice of 41% of respondents, with DeSantis at 38% and 20% undecided. This result tracks with other competitive matchups between DeSantis and Harris tested by the same pollster. Harris commanded the support of 42% of those polled, with DeSantis the choice of 38% of respondents in the April survey. A February Harvard University/Harris Poll showed Harris the choice of 41% of those surveyed, with DeSantis at 39%. A January Harvard/Harris Poll showed DeSantis 1 point ahead, 40% to 39%.
Assignment editors — Nikki Fried will host a news event followed by a roundtable discussion on Florida’s rising cost of living and how our affordability crisis affects seniors, 3 p.m., The Villages, 300 S. Main St., Wildwood.
“Florida PBA backs Marco Rubio for a third term” via Florida Daily — The Florida Police Benevolent Association (PBA) endorsed Rubio for re-election at a news conference in Doral on Monday night. The Florida PBA is made up of 30,000 active-duty law enforcement officers. This marks the third major law enforcement endorsement for Rubio. In January, a bipartisan group of 55 of Florida’s 66 sheriffs endorsed Rubio, and the 1000+ member Florida Police Chiefs Association endorsed Rubio in April. “It gives me great pleasure to announce that 30,000 strong endorse Sen. Marco Rubio,” John Kazanjian, the president of the Florida PBA. “I know you have our back, and we got yours.”
Anthony Sabatini makes six-figure ad buy in CD 7 race — Rep. Sabatini’s congressional campaign has placed a $137,000 buy for cable ads through Medium Buying LLC. The ads will air on Fox News in the Orlando market, with the flight scheduled to run June 6-8. Sabatini, a Howey-in-the-Hills Republican, is running for Florida’s 7th Congressional District. He is one of several candidates seeking the GOP nomination in the Central Florida district, including Brady Duke, Cory Mills and Rusty Roberts.
—”Copley Gerdes, Jennifer Webb endorse Eric Lynn in CD 13” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics
“Jerry Torres hopes experience in uniform and as CEO sets him apart in crowded CD 15 field” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Torres spent the bulk of his adult life in public service through the military. Then he started a $1 billion global business. Throughout most of his life, he’s stayed away from politics, though he’s donated more actively in recent years. Along the way, he’s worked on documentaries about the environment and the impact of climate change around the globe. Now, the Lakeland businessperson sees a new way to serve his country and community. He announced last week he would run in the newly drawn Florida’s 15th Congressional District, an open seat. Torres served in the U.S. Army Special Forces and could be the second Green Beret ever elected to Congress.
Spotted — At U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson’s re-election kickoff for Florida’s 24th Congressional District: House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn; Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee; Miami-Dade County Vice-Chair Oliver Gilbert III; Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber; Mayor Philippe Bien-Aime; Commissioner Barbara Jordan; Eric Accime, Dr. Barbara Carey-Schuler; Ringo Cayard, Reginald Clyne; Barabra Dent, Al Dotson, Sr.; Vicki Hall; Pastor Carl Johnson; Gerry Kelly; William Lehman; Carolyn Randolph; Keenan Austin Reed; Mr. and Mrs. Shelley Rochelle; Ken “Chef Creole” Sejour; Mr. and Mrs. Paul Wilson.
— MORE 2022 —
—“Victor Torres endorses Tom Keen in HD 35” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics
—”Orange County Sheriff John Mina endorses Tiffany Hughes in HD 39” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics
“Ardian Zika endorses Kevin Steele as preferred successor” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — State Rep. Zika is endorsing Steele as his successor in the House. Zika, who was first elected in 2018, announced earlier this month that he would not seek a third term. Zika represented House District 37, but under the new map approved by the Legislature as part of redistricting, he lives in the new House District 55, the seat Steele is seeking. “I can think of no better person to continue my fight for American values than Kevin Steele. Kevin is a bold leader who values hard work, a strong education for our kids, and is determined to make life better for every Floridian,” Zika said.
—”Rhonda Rebman Lopez narrowly tops five-way fundraising race in first month campaigning for HD 120” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics
“Micky Steinberg collects $24K as only candidate for Miami-Dade County District 4” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Former Miami Beach Commissioner Steinberg still has no dance partner in the race to succeed longtime Miami-Dade County Commissioner Sally Heyman in District 4 this year, but she’s not fundraising like it. Last month, she added more than $24,000 to her campaign war chest. As of April 30, Steinberg had about $448,000 between her campaign account and political committee, Miami-Dade Forward — roughly $120,000 less than she’s collected since filing to run in April 2021. Steinberg is a Democrat, but the Miami-Dade Commission and its elections are technically nonpartisan. Heyman, a Democratic former state Representative, has held the District 4 seat since 2002 but cannot run for re-election due to term limits voters overwhelmingly approved in 2012.
“Port St. Lucie voters could be asked to make changes to City Charter at Nov. 8 Election” via Olivia McKelvey of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Voters may be asked to make five changes to the city charter at the Nov. 8 Election. The Port St. Lucie City Council gave its initial approval to the ballot questions Monday: filling a City Council vacancy of at least 12 months, instead of six, by a single Special Election; eliminating City Council roll-call voting and using majority consensus instead; having the City Council establish rules for each advisory Board rather than the boards creating their own rules; advertising the date and time of all ordinance public hearings in print, or online as allowed by state law, at least 10 days in advance; and designating the Planning and Zoning Board as the city’s Local Planning Agency.
DeSantis announces nearly $9 million for infrastructure and economic development for Gadsden County — Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) will provide the funding to help construct, rehabilitate, and expand critical infrastructure within Gadsden County to support community resiliency. Also at the announcement, Freddie Figgers, a native of Gadsden County who brought high-speed internet to the area. “My administration is dedicated to making investments that strengthen Florida’s communities,” said DeSantis. “These awards will support critical infrastructure in Gadsden County while creating new opportunities for its residents. It was great to deliver this news in person and to be joined by Freddie Figgers, who has shown what is possible when you invest in the people of rural Florida.”
“Cord Byrd: Setting up election police is a ‘top priority’” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Newly-installed Secretary of State Byrd said Tuesday that one of his top priorities is to get a new “Office of Election Crimes and Security” up and running ahead of this year’s election. Byrd has only been on the job for a week. He made the comments while spending one of his first few days at the summer conference of Florida’s local Election Supervisors. During a brief availability with reporters, Byrd said that he plans to hire a director to head up the new office created because of SB 524 and that there were already “potential cases” of voter fraud that the new office, which will work in tandem with sworn law enforcement investigators at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, could handle.
“New elections chief won’t bury the big lie” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — DeSantis’ new chief elections official, Byrd, could have saved himself a whole lot of justifiable criticism Tuesday if he had simply acknowledged what most Americans know is true, that Biden won the presidency fair and square in 2020. But he wouldn’t do it. At his first news conference as Florida’s new Secretary of State, Byrd double-talked his way around a question that persists because our democracy is under siege: Did Biden win the election and the presidency in 2020 fair and square or not? A yes or no question deserves a yes or no answer, but Byrd wouldn’t give one, even though his job is to instill public confidence in the reliability of election results.
“State asked to reconsider decision to drop out of national youth risk behavior survey” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Thirty-eight organizations and 40 individuals have signed a letter to Florida Department of Education Interim Commissioner Jacob Oliva expressing concerns over the state’s decision to drop out of a CDC survey designed to assess youth risk behavior and to inform public health policies. The letter to Oliva notes the state will lose its ability to compare itself to the national average and other states with similar populations. And while the Department of Education indicated that it intends to develop its version of a risk youth survey, the letter sent to Oliva warns that there are significant costs associated with creating a new reliable survey instrument.
“ADHD meds don’t lead to higher grades or more learning, FIU study finds” via Jimena Tavel of the Miami Herald — Every year, tens of millions of kids and teens with attention-deficit problems in the U.S. take medications to try to do better in school, but a new groundbreaking study released Monday concluded the drugs, usually stimulants with side effects, don’t boost academic achievement. The research, conducted by Florida International University experts, contradicts a long-standing belief among doctors, teachers, parents and patients that those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) perform better in class while on prescription drugs like Adderall, Ritalin and other amphetamines and stimulants. “It’s a very surprising finding,” said William Pelham Jr., senior author of the study and director of the FIU Center for Children and Families.
“Florida grad says gay without using the word in brilliant speech” via Trudy Ring of The Advocate — His principal, Stephen Covert, had warned Zander Moricz, the first out class president at Pine View School in Osprey, against discussing his gay identity and LGBTQ+ activism while speaking against graduation in light of Florida’s recently adopted “don’t say gay” law, which restricts school-sponsored mention of sexual orientation and gender identity. The administration threatened to cut him off if he did so. “I must discuss a very public part of my identity. This characteristic has probably become the first thing you think of when you think of me as a human being,” he said. “As you know, I have curly hair.”
Happening today — The VISIT FLORIDA Marketing Council meets to discuss tourism marketing for 2022-2023, 1 p.m. Zoom link here. Call-in number: 1-646 876 9923. Meeting code: 89097269714.
“Florida fish now have a drug problem” via Max Steele of Creative Loafing — An alarming number of South Florida’s bonefish population have pharmaceutical drugs pulsing through their veins. The three-year study, commissioned by the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust and Florida International University, analyzed 93 diverse bonefish throughout Biscayne Bay to west of Key West. All 93 fish had traces of drugs in their system. While we don’t typically eat bonefish, these behavior-altering drugs can affect the food chain within bonefish habitats, which could significantly affect Florida’s ecosystem as a whole.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“There has to be a backup plan. There’s a backup plan, right?” via Gabriel Debenedetti of New York magazine — Biden is sustained by his contempt for Trump and the imperative of keeping him out of office. “If Trump is alive,” one veteran adviser says, “Biden is running.” But in recent weeks, DeSantis — widely regarded as the second favorite in the 2024 GOP field — has risen in Biden’s hierarchy of disgust, and some of the President’s aides have been thinking about whether it makes sense to intensify the politically spicy fights they’ve begun picking with him. Whatever doubts his party harbors, his inner circle believes that “if it’s Trump, Democrats will circle the wagons,” in the words of a former aide. “We’ve done this before. Yeah, everything seems bad, but when it’s game time, and you’ve got a fascist up there, everyone will say, ‘Let’s do this.’”
“White House to issue policing order on anniversary of George Floyd’s death” via Tyler Pager and David Nakamura of The Washington Post — Biden is expected to sign an executive order Wednesday aimed at bolstering police accountability, according to multiple people briefed on the announcement, a step that could re-energize federal reform efforts as the nation marks the second anniversary of the police killing of Floyd. The order will call for national standards for the accreditation of police departments and a national database of officers with substantiated complaints and disciplinary records, including those fired for misconduct. It will also instruct federal law enforcement agencies to update their use-of-force policies, said the people briefed on the matter, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because the order had not yet been released.
“Russia bans most of Florida’s congressional delegation” via Ben Montgomery of Axios Tampa Bay — Russia has banned 963 American businessmen, activists, diplomats and politicians from entering the country — including 28 of 29 members of Florida’s congressional delegation. That’s according to a list posted on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation this weekend. Missing without explanation from the travel ban list is U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, former Florida Governor. His predecessor in the Senate, NASA administrator Bill Nelson, is banned. Scott’s office did not return a call for comment. Other Floridians banned include former Broward County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Mahl, and former U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who chaired the Foreign Affairs Committee from 2011 to 2013. Trump is not listed.
“U.S. will start blocking Russia’s bond payments to American investors.” via Alan Rappeport and Eshe Nelson of The New York Times — An exemption to the sweeping sanctions that the U.S. imposed on Russia as punishment for its invasion of Ukraine has allowed Moscow to keep paying its debts since February. But that carve-out will expire on Wednesday, and the U.S. will not extend it, according to a notice published by the Treasury Department on Tuesday. As a result, Russia will be unable to make billions of dollars of debt and interest payments on bonds held by foreign investors. By extending the waiver, Russia would have continued to deplete its U.S. dollar reserves, and American investors would have continued to receive their guaranteed payments. But officials, who have been trying to intensify pressure on Russia’s economy, ultimately determined that a Russian default would not significantly impact the global economy.
“States, localities await federal help on cybersecurity” via Gopal Ratnam of Roll Call — The U.S. House passed legislation last week to codify support and assistance that the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency already offers to state and local governments. The agency provides security tools, helps states draft policies and procedures, conducts cybersecurity exercises and shares threat information through collaborative channels. The bill had already passed the Senate, and Biden is expected to sign it. In recent years, criminals using ransomware have attacked and disabled computer networks in major American cities and at several school systems overseen by states and local governments. U.S. cities and school districts have paid hundreds of millions of dollars in ransom payments to regain control of their networks. Criminals typically get into computer networks because users’ poor security practices give them access or because of weaknesses in the software.
“Joe Biden commits $265M for South Florida reservoir, key component of Everglades restoration” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Biden has committed $265 million of federal funding toward the construction of a long-awaited reservoir in South Florida that is a critical component to the restoration of the Everglades. U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whose district borders the Everglades in Broward County and is the longest-serving Democrat in the Florida congressional delegation, made the announcement Tuesday. Her office said the Biden administration “has committed to take actions that will expedite construction.” The enormous, planned reservoir — 10,500 acres south of Lake Okeechobee in Palm Beach County — is designed to reduce discharges of polluted water into the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean and send clean water south through the Everglades.
— MORE LOCAL: S. FL —
“Swiss banking leak shows how Miami Beach men tied to oligarch reaped a fortune in Ukraine” via Shirsho Dasgupta of the Miami Herald — In their early 20s, Mordechai Korf and Uriel Laber traveled to Ukraine to help reestablish the country’s Jewish community after the collapse of the Soviet Union. But Ukraine’s shedding of the yoke of communism and conversion to capitalism allowed the pair to transform their own lives, thanks to their connections and business acumen. A decade later, they returned to the United States as multimillionaires, buying Mediterranean-style waterfront mansions minutes from each other in Korf’s hometown of Miami Beach. Since then, their success story has gotten more complicated. The FBI raided their Miami offices in 2020 and also seized commercial properties they owned in Ohio, Kentucky and Texas.
“Judge in Surfside collapse lawsuit agrees to pay condo owners more for property loss” via Martin Vassolo, Jay Weaver and Linda Robertson of the Miami Herald — The judge overseeing the class-action lawsuit for the Surfside condo collapse said Tuesday he would increase the payout for condo owners whose homes were destroyed last summer. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman gave preliminary approval to pay the 136 unit owners $96 million, which he said was the appraised value of their homes before the June 24 collapse. The owners previously agreed to an $83 million allocation, but about 50 of them signed a letter last week asking Hanzman to reconsider the payment after a nearly $1 billion settlement was announced for the wrongful death and personal injury claims. The Champlain Towers South collapse killed 98 people.
“Employees at understaffed Miami prison say inmates, guards, and public are at risk” via Joshua Ceballos and Alex Deluca of the Miami New Times — Staff at FDC Miami contend that inmates at the facility lack basic medical treatment owing to a severe staffing shortage: Some staff members estimate that 30 to 50% of FDC Miami’s medical positions are currently vacant. Mary Melek, the chief shop steward for the local union covering FDC Miami employees, says the prison is short on workers in almost every department, especially among case managers, correction officers, and medical professionals. “From what I’ve observed, our medical teams are so short-staffed that these inmates are getting overlooked. Medical has to prioritize who they see because they’re short on doctors,” Melek said.
“Miami-Dade County pays $4 million for girl with severed spine” via The Associated Press — Miami-Dade County has agreed to pay a record $4 million for the care of a girl whose spinal cord was severed in a crash with a police cruiser that was speeding into an intersection with non-working stoplights as a hurricane approached nearly six years ago. The added $3.8 million settlement is the largest claim the county has ever paid, and far exceeds an initial $200,000 the county already paid in damages for Yeilyn Quiroz Otero. But it’s far short of what she’ll need. Most of the award will satisfy her past medical and legal bills, leaving less than $1.5 million for future medical bills.
“South Florida ring busted, punished in COVID-19 business fraud case stretching to Ohio” via Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald — As soon as Congress passed a coronavirus rescue plan for small businesses totaling $650 billion, a South Florida-based ring wasted no time applying for dozens of bogus loans and pocketing millions of dollars in illicit proceeds, U.S. authorities say. Two years later, the fraudulent loan network headed by James Richard Stote was busted and punished, with Stote sentenced this month to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay back more than $10 million to the U.S. government and lending banks. One of Stote’s associates, Phillip Augustin, was also imprisoned this month for seven-and-a-half years and ordered to repay nearly $6 million, court records show.
Happening today — Florida International University holds a “Biscayne Bay Marine Health Summit” to discuss the restoration and protection of Biscayne Bay. Expected to attend are U.S. Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar and Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, 7:30 a.m., FIU Kovens Conference Center, 3000 N.E. 51st St., North Miami.
“Complaint alleges incumbent Palm Beach County judge misused endorsements in campaign ads” via Jane Musgrave of the Palm Beach Post — The looming summer election season rumbled to life Friday when supporters of a lawyer who is challenging Palm Beach County Judge Paul Damico announced they have asked a judicial watchdog group to investigate the longtime jurist. In a complaint filed with the state’s Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC), a supporter of Boca Raton family law lawyer Karen Velez is accusing Damico of overstating the support he has from the legal community and of misusing an endorsement from a police union in campaign materials. According to Velez campaign consultant Christina Romelus, the claims violate judicial canons that require judges to be impartial and act with integrity.
“Palm Beach County home prices break another record in April but summer cool-down possible” via Kimberly Miller of the Palm Beach Post — Palm Beach County home sales last month remained unhinged, with bizarre offers at unprecedented prices upping the median cost for a single-family home to $601,000 and pushing average prices to seven figures, again. The remarkable 29% annual increase in the median sale price came with a 25% drop in closed sales, according to a report issued Thursday by the Broward, Palm Beaches, and St. Lucie Realtors group. It’s a sign that inventory remains desperately low with exasperated buyers willing to do the previously unthinkable to win a home, Realtors said. No inspections, waiving contingencies, closing at the sellers’ convenience, or allowing the seller to stay in the home for six months for $1 were rare in past markets.
“Indian River County passes lawn-water restrictions; repeat violators risk $100 fines” via Colleen Wixon of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Overwatering your lawn can now cost up to $100. Last week, the Indian River County Commission enacted a law restricting residential lawn watering to two days a week between March and November and one day a week between November and March. Only Commissioner Laura Moss voted “no,” saying she supports the restrictions but not the enforcement method. The law, which became effective May 19, affects only those in unincorporated areas of the county. The county plans to educate property owners about the restrictions with fliers and information posted on its website, said Public Works Director Sean Lieske.
“Broward agrees to give millions more to Sheriff for salaries and raises to ‘right this ship’ of troubled 911 call centers” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — In response to an escalating crisis of 911 emergency call-takers walking off the job and leaving emergency calls unanswered, the Broward County Commission on Tuesday authorized millions of dollars to hike salaries of existing workers and raise salaries as a hiring incentive. The move for the newly allotted $4 million comes after Sheriff’s officials said they couldn’t fill a vacant 90 positions — or even keep the 911 call-takers they already have — which has sometimes meant dire outcomes for Broward residents calling for help in their emergencies. “We have to do something right now,” urged Commissioner Steve Geller, adding, “nobody told us this was an issue” from the Sheriff’s Office, which manages the 911 calls for the county.
“Florida authorities are looking into second possible monkeypox case in Broward County” via Omar Rodríguez Ortiz of the Miami Herald — Florida authorities are looking into the state’s first two possible cases of monkeypox — both in Broward County. The patients are isolated, and the risk of exposure stays low, the Florida Department of Health said Monday afternoon in a brief news release. Florida Health is working with its Bureau of Epidemiology to notify close contacts and offer possible post-exposure medical care. On Sunday, authorities reported the state’s first possible case of monkeypox after a person traveled internationally. The County plans to be transparent and keep the public updated as new information becomes available, Broward Mayor Michael Udine said Monday in a tweet. “Again, very isolated incidents, with extremely limited transmission,” he said.
“As liquefied gas exports surge at Port Everglades, risk of catastrophic accident on roads or rail increase” via Dan Christensen of the Florida Bulldog — More than a half-million men, women and children in South Florida who live near truck and rail routes used to ship surging supplies of volatile liquefied natural gas are at risk of a potentially catastrophic accident, according to a national nonprofit environmental advocacy group. Those residents, as well as 228 schools and 13 hospitals, are within the U.S. Department of Transportation’s recommended one-mile evacuation radius if an LNG “tank, rail car, or tank truck is involved in a fire.” The group calls on Broward County Commissioners to “protect residents by halting the transport of liquefied gas at the Port.”
“With decorative lighthouse nixed, Stuart OKs $80 million yacht club, marina on St. Lucie River” via Thomas Weber of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Boaters, rejoice: A new yacht club and marina are coming to downtown late next year. But without an eight-story lighthouse. The Stuart City Commission Monday unanimously approved the $80 million Atlantic Point Yacht Club and Marina, including a boat barn, grab-and-go-style restaurant and ship store. Before it was approved, developers nixed a controversial, 83-foot decorative lighthouse from the plan. “This is such a great project,” said Commissioner Becky Bruner. “We’ve never had one this big, this nice. This is amazing.” Straticon and Middle Island Management and Development aim to complete the project by the end of 2023.
— MORE LOCAL: C. FL —
“Border Patrol released suspected terrorist who crossed into U.S. illegally; ICE took weeks to rearrest him” via Adam Sabes and Bill Melguin of Fox News — Isnardo Garcia-Amado was released into the United States by Border Patrol agents on April 18 near Yuma, Arizona, and given a GPS monitoring device as an alternative to detention. Garcia-Amado, a Colombian citizen, was then flagged by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Terrorist Screening Center on April 21, which found he was a match on the terror watch list. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement didn’t receive authorization to arrest the individual until May 4; he was arrested in Pinellas County on May 6. He was released from the Pinellas County jail and transferred to ICE custody on May 9. A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson told Fox News that after receiving additional information about Garcia-Amado, the man was “promptly detained.”
“No turnpike through Citrus County, Commissioners say” via Mike Wright of Florida Politics — The state should study extending Florida’s Turnpike north and west but remove potential routes through Citrus County. County Commissioners reached that unanimous consensus during a Tuesday morning workshop, following two hours of public comment when not a single person spoke in favor of the turnpike extension. Instead, they requested the Board back the no-build option, citing concerns over water, wildlife, growth and an unknown impact on Citrus County. “This is purely a quality-of-life issue,” board Chairman Ron Kitchen Jr. said. “We need roads. We need good roads. This issue hasn’t been vetted enough to answer all the concerns.”
— MORE LOCAL: SW. FL —
“Naples company creates trap to combat toxic invasive toad plaguing Florida communities” via Chad Gillis of the Fort Myers News-Press — The Cane Catcher is a plastic trap about the size of two shoeboxes, and 16 of them are being rotated around the Carlton Lakes neighborhood to keep the cane toad population there at bay. A door at the end of the trap allows the cane toads to hop into the trap, which is typically baited with cat, dog or fish food to attract the ravenous toads. Developing the trademarked Cane Catcher wasn’t easy, Jamie Nunez said. “It took years,” he explained. “I grew up here and was always messing around with toads, and it evolved over the years. We started with a tube system and then some modified trap, and we finally came up with this.”
“Florida hospitals get extra week to report care costs for undocumented immigrants” via Liz Freeman of the Naples Daily News — The original deadline was May 23 but was extended at the request of some hospitals, including the NCH Healthcare System in Collier County. In September, DeSantis signed an executive order directing several state agencies to gather data about undocumented immigrants coming into the state after crossing the Southwest U.S. border illegally and the services they are being provided. Hospitals in Southwest Florida say they are working to follow the executive order. In a recent call with the hospital association and other hospitals, NCH requested the association ask for a time extension, according to NCH general counsel Matt Heinle. Lee Health, the publicly operated hospital system in Lee County and one of the largest in the state, is working on the data reporting, spokesperson Jonathon Little said.
“County delays decision on impact fee hike” via Daniel Sutphin of the Port Charlotte Sun — Commissioners want more details before deciding whether to raise Charlotte County impact fees. A full increase to each of the six fee categories could almost double the impact fee costs for a single-family home. Impact fees raise millions of dollars for capital projects, including roads, libraries, parks, and fire stations. At Tuesday’s meeting, Commissioners told county staff they wanted a better breakdown of project revenue sources — ad valorem tax, capital projects fund, 1% sales tax and impact fees — and how the impact fee revenues would be applied. “You can see that both the impact fees and sales tax are lumped together,” said Commissioner Ken Doherty, referring to the current report presented by county staff.
“Battery storage ‘necessary component’ to electric utilities’ solar power expansion” via Hannah Morse of the Palm Beach Post — A key to the future of Florida’s electric grid is a device that could be confused for a computer server. This apparatus is actually a battery module. By themselves, each of the components is as powerful as 2,000 iPhone batteries. But together, as a collection of tens of thousands of modules, they make up the world’s largest solar battery storage facility owned by the state’s largest utility, Florida Power & Light (FPL). FPL’s Manatee Energy Storage Center is a cutting-edge solar energy technology in an evolving pastoral setting in fast-growing Southwest Florida.
— LOCAL NOTES: N. FL —
“Tallahassee man receives seven years in prison on ‘ghost gun’ conviction” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — A Tallahassee resident who pleaded guilty to charges related to “ghost gun” manufacturing received a sentence of seven years and three months on Monday in U.S. District Court. Carlos Urena, 38, came under investigation when the Tallahassee Police Department (TPD) and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) received information from a confidential informant that Urena was carrying around 20 or so firearms in guitar cases. ATF agents obtained financial records from Truist Bank showing Urena spent approximately $8,000 at various websites in June and July 2021 to buy gun parts and gun kits, according to federal prosecutors’ statement of facts. “Removing ‘ghost guns’ from the hands of convicted felons is essential in fighting violent crime and protecting the public,” U.S. Attorney Jason Coody said in a statement.
“Jacksonville City Council votes down monument removal referendum” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — There was little surprise in the rejection of the proposal from Republican Al Ferraro, a candidate for Mayor. Two Council committees had reported unfavorably on the bill (2022-265). Ferraro’s bill proposed a vote on “City Removal of Historic Monuments and Markers On City-Owned Property,” posing the question: “Shall the City of Jacksonville remove historic monuments and markers, defined as fixed assets that are identifiable because of particular historic, national, local or symbolic significance, on City-owned property?” But for most members of the Council, that question proved to be better off not answered by a popular vote. Going into the vote, the sponsor grumbled about the process and the seeming result. “This was supposed to be moved through the Council last year, and it wasn’t,” Ferraro groused, saying he wanted people to be able to “voice their opinion.”
“JEA eyes rate increases to handle fuel, labor costs” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — JEA is planning to raise rates to deal with the skyrocketing cost of fossil fuels and the area’s tremendous growth. A predicted 1.5% electricity rate increase is expected by this time next year. A 17% fuel rate increase is also in the cards. Those changes come under the Fiscal Year 2023 budget, passed unanimously by the JEA board of directors, which shows a nearly $300 million year-over-year fuel cost increase. Non-fuel operating and maintenance expenses also increased year over year.
“Seven books up for review on whether or not to be banned from St. Johns County Schools” via Renata Di Gregorio of First Coast News — Could seven books be banned from St. Johns County school libraries? That’s what a meeting at the school board Tuesday is about. The books up for review are about LGBTQ and racial issues. The people who have a problem with the books being in school libraries will give their arguments to the St. Johns County School Board. The meeting will focus on three elementary school books and four secondary school books. The school board will review 56 books total, starting with these seven books today.
“Nassau County Commissioners reject 85-foot tower settlement” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — A general rule in Florida is that developers get what they want, but Nassau County leaders turned that conventional wisdom on its head Monday night when County Commissioners voted 3-2 against settling the case brought against it by Riverstone Properties under the Bert Harris Act. However, because the Act requires a settlement offer, the offer presented to Riverstone will propose no change to county building height regulations. “There’s an enormous number of good citizens; they’re taking their time here on a Monday night to speak with us and hear what we have to say,” Commission Chair Aaron Bell said before the vote. “I do understand the concerns of the folks who live here.”
“Pope names Erik Pohlmeier to lead of Diocese of St. Augustine; replaces retiring Bishop Felipe Estevez” via Dan Scanlan of The Florida Times-Union — A 50-year-old Arkansas parish pastor is the new leader of the thousands of Catholics in Florida’s Diocese of St. Augustine, named by Pope Francis to replace retiring Bishop Estevez. Announced early Tuesday, the dioceses’ 11th bishop is the Rev. Pohlmeier of Christ the King Catholic Church in Little Rock and the Arkansas dioceses’ director of faith and deacon formation. Pohlmeier said he was in his car contemplating lunch on May 15 when he got a call asking him if he would accept papal selection as bishop-elect of the 153,041 registered Catholics in the 17-county Diocese of St. Augustine.
— TOP OPINION —
“As Donald Trump loses kingmaker status, he becomes more dangerous” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — On Sunday, amid a growing number of signs that he has lost his hot hand in Republican primaries, Trump elevated the idea of “civil war” against an “enemy [coming] from within” the United States. Republican leaders responded, as usual, with silence. As ugly as things have been with Trump holding an iron grip over the GOP, they could actually get worse if he feels his grasp slipping and becomes even more incendiary in his provocations. A partial democracy, which the United States now is, faces three times the risk of falling into civil war.
— OPINIONS —
“Congress must unite to pass immigration reform” via Ted Hutchinson for the Orlando Sentinel — More than one in five Floridians are immigrants. Immigrant communities define our state, our culture, and our identity. Leaders like Sen. Rubio are the children of immigrants. The tech boom that we are witnessing in Florida is being driven by immigrant entrepreneurs pursuing their version of the American dream. It’s because of immigrants that Florida has flourished. Their successes are our successes, too. As the proud son of Bahamian immigrants, I know from personal experience the incredible accomplishments of Florida’s immigrant community. Congress can enact immigration reform — it only needs the will to do so. With an overwhelming majority of Americans in support of immigration reform, there is no reason for Congress to delay sending a real legislative solution to Biden’s desk.
“Pasco’s sensible idea on school library books” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — A team of educators in Pasco has scoured the shelves to locate titles that have generated controversy in other counties, in order to have a full accounting of everything in the collection, superintendent Kurt Browning said. But Browning said they’re not pulling materials out of circulation. And he wants to keep it that way. What’s emerged is a practical idea for enabling parents to make choices for their own children without interfering with the rights of others. This controversy has been blown out of proportion, and Pasco deserves credit for exploring a fair, sensible approach. It may not satisfy the self-appointed book police, but it does promise to treat all parents equally.
“Farmer defends livelihood” via Clint Thompson of Specialty Crop Industry — At a time when farmers need support more than ever, one Florida farmer is forced to defend their livelihood against political attacks from environmental activists. These attacks could impact the future of agriculture. “I was very blessed and privileged to have a dad who served in World War II, Battle of the Bulge. One of the things he told us as children growing up is that America doesn’t know what it means to be hungry like people in France were that he saw,” said Florida farmer Ardis Hammock. “I think it’s a crying shame that people are targeting folks that are putting food on their table, and we’ve got supply chain issues going on for everybody in America. I don’t understand how a Congressman attacks people in his own district,” Hammock said.
— ALOE —
“Box office: ‘Top Gun 2’ targets career-best opening for Tom Cruise” via Pamela McClintock of The Hollywood Reporter — After two years of being grounded by the coronavirus pandemic, “Top Gun: Maverick” is finally flying into theaters over Memorial Day weekend following a headline-grabbing, global marketing blitz that saw a tireless Cruise transform into the showman of the moment as he made stops at a world premiere in San Diego, the Cannes Film Festival, a Royal-sponsored screening in London and another premiere in Japan. The release of the long-awaited sequel to the iconic 1986 movie is poised to be a defining moment for the box office recovery. According to official tracking, top Gun 2 is easily headed for the biggest opening of Cruise’s career, with a four-day gross of at least $92 million. And that’s a conservative estimate.
“Life imitates art: ‘Jaws’ extra named police chief” via The Associated Press — A man who as a child had a brief but key role in “Jaws” has been named police chief on the Massachusetts island on which the 1975 movie was partially filmed. Jonathan Searle was offered the job of police chief in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard last week. “I’m clearly elated, and I’m humbled and honored to have been offered the position,” Searle, currently a sergeant with Edgartown police, told the Vineyard Gazette, which first reported the appointment. The movie centers on the efforts of a police chief in a fictional resort town trying to rid the local waters of a killer shark. In the movie, Searle played one of two boys who send beachgoers into a panic by swimming around with a fake shark’s fin.
“Laura Dern, Sam Neill discuss 20-year age gap of their ‘Jurassic Park’ romance” via Stephen Iervolino of Yahoo News — While “Jurassic Park” is universally thought of as a family-friendly film, Dern and Neill are questioning how “appropriate” their on-screen romance really was. “I am 20 years older than Laura! Which at the time was a completely appropriate age difference for a leading man and lady!” Neill, who played paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant, said. Neill joked about how the age difference of their characters in the blockbuster film “never occurred” to him until he read a magazine article about male actors who had female co-stars much younger than them.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Happy birthday to one of the best in The Process, a great mom and wife, Ashley Ross, as well as the soon-to-be-leaving ace reporter Jay O’Brien and Ana Maria Sanchez, the Director of State Government Affairs at Verizon.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Renzo Downey, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.