Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.27.22

Sunburn Orange Tally (3)
Get up-to-date fast: Everything you need to know about the day in Florida politics.

Good Friday morning.

Lobbying compensation reports for the first quarter are in, and Florida Politics has been parsing them so we can keep you in the loop on which firms are climbing up the quarterly rankings. A report on Power Five is coming soon. For now, here’s a peek at who made the Top 15 in Q1. More details on the clients these firms represent and some tidbits on their 2022 Legislative Session wins are available in Florida Politics’ full write-up.

No. 6: Greenberg Traurig: The team at Greenberg Traurig represented more than 130 clients and earned an estimated $2.16 million in the first quarter. The bottom line of the firm’s legislative report shows the firm earned at least $1 million lobbying lawmakers. Greenberg Traurig’s executive branch report listed 131 clients and an estimated $930,000 in revenues, putting it near the top end of its stated range of $500,000 to $1 million. At the top end, the firm could have earned as much as $2.68 million overall in the last quarter.

Greenberg Traurig leads the way in Q1 compensation.

No. 7: Rubin, Turnbull & Associates: The firm led by Bill Rubin and Heather Turnbull represented more than 80 clients in Q1 and reported earning at least $1 million for legislative lobbying and an additional $1 million for executive branch lobbying. Using per-client ranges indicates Rubin Turnbull & Associates likely made a bit more — those figures show $2.14 million in receipts during the reporting period covering Jan. 1 through March 31. The firm’s median total represents a 15% quarter-over-quarter revenue increase.

No. 8: Metz Husband & Daughton: The eight-member team at MHD earned nearly $1.7 million last quarter. The Q1 total was buoyed by a legislative compensation report that showed $1.16 million in earnings. Combined with an estimated $500,000 in executive branch pay, the firm earned $1.66 million last quarter. The firm’s median earnings estimate represents an increase from last quarter, when it earned an estimated $1.48 million.

No. 9: The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: The seven-person team led by Al Cardenas represented close to 100 clients during the Jan. 1 through March 31 reporting period, tallying $850,000 in pay in the Legislature and another $780,000 in the executive branch. TAG’s Q1 reports each landed in the $500,000 to $1 million bracket, meaning the firm earned no less than $1 million. At the top end, the firm may have earned as much as $2 million.

No. 10: Corcoran Partners: Michael Corcoran and lobbyists Jacqueline Corcoran, Matt Blair, Helen Levine, Will Rodriguez and Andrea Tovar 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’ median earnings estimate for Q1 matches the firm’s average haul across the previous four quarters and puts it on pace for another Top-10 performance in 2022.

Smith Bryan & Myers: Led by Matt Bryan, the team at SBM represented 85 clients in the Legislature, where they earned $865,000. Their 85 executive branch contracts provided another 635,000 for a median earnings estimate of $1.5 million. Based on that figure, the firm is on an upswing. Their $1.5 million Q1 total tops the $1.3 million they posted last quarter and the quarter prior.

No. 12: Floridian Partners: The six-person team at Floridian Partners earned an estimated $1.29 million last quarter, new compensation reports show. The firm represented 75 clients in Q1, earning $845,000 in the Legislature and another $440,000 in the executive branch. Overall legislative earnings were between $500,000 and $1 million and executive earnings were in the $250,000 to $500,000 range. At the top end, Floridian Partners could have earned as much as $1.5 million.

No. 13: Johnson & Blanton: Johnson & Blanton started 2022 with $1.22 million in lobbying earnings, new compensation reports show. Led by Jon Johnson and Travis Blanton, the firm’s Q1 reports included more than 80 clients and showed revenues of $755,000 in the Legislature and $465,000 in the executive branch. J&B reported overall earnings between $500,000 and $1 million in the Legislature and between $250,000 and $500,000 in the executive, meaning they as much as $1.5 million in Q1.

No. 14: Rutledge Ecenia: Stephen Ecenia, Diana Ferguson, Jessica Janasiewicz, Richard Lindstrom, Corinne Mixon, Andrew Rutledge, Gary Rutledge and Gabriel Warren earned an estimated $870,000 across more than 60 clients in Q1. Legislative lobbying accounted for $635,000 of their overall rake. The firm’s executive branch lobbying report showed median earnings of $235,000. Overall, Rutledge Ecenia reported $500,000 to $1 million in legislative earnings and $100,000 to $250,000 in executive earnings. Based on those ranges, the firm earned no less than $600,000 and may have earned as much as $1.25 million.

No. 15: Johnston & Stewart Government Strategies: The three-person team at Johnston & Stewart Government Strategies continued its revenue growth streak in the first quarter, notching an estimated $818,000 in lobbying pay. Legislative lobbying accounted for $568,000 of the median estimate, with the remaining $250,000 earned lobbying the executive branch. The overall ranges on the firm’s reports show a top end of $1.25 million. Meanwhile, its median earnings estimate represents a significant increase from its average quarterly rake last year, which measured in at about $677,000.

___

Markel Trial Day 9: Defense tries stoking sympathies, Magbanua on the stand, resting its case — Before the jury arrived, defense attorney Tara Kawass stood before Judge Robert Wheeler, renewed all her team’s prior motions, and added a big one – a motion for acquittal.

Kawass argued that the State didn’t present sufficient evidence against Katherine Magbanua. Kawass cited an overturned murder conviction against Denise Williams in the death of her husband, alleging (incorrectly) that there was “more evidence in that case as it relates to principal for first-degree murder” than in this one.

The Dan Markel murder trial will soon be settled. Image via Tallahassee Democrat.

“There’s zero evidence before this court,” Kawass said, that ties Magbanua to a conspiracy with any member of the Adelson family, adding, “The state’s own witness, Ms. (Wendi) Adelson, said her family had nothing to do with this.” Kawass then asked the court to acquit her client on all charges.

Assistant State Attorney Georgia Cappleman countered. She provided two significant differences between their case against Magbanua and the one against Williams, concluding “the court will find there is sufficient evidence” for all three charges to go to the jury.

Wheeler agreed with Cappleman, saying there was “sufficient evidence” proved by the State that Magbanua’s role in Dan Markel’s murder was premeditated and that the defendant “acted as a principal, and did some act to assist in the murder.”

So, the trial continued, and the jury was allowed in.

Read today’s complete rundown by clicking here.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

Tweet, tweet:

@QasimRashid: Do people realize Robb Elementary doubled its spend on school security since 2017? They had a fence. They had surveillance. They had officers on duty. They had shooter drill trainings. ALL OF IT FAILED. The problem is easy access to guns. It’s always been guns. ADDRESS THE GUNS

@Kate_Riga24: The two Arizona Senators’ responses to doing something legislatively after the Texas shooting, per hill pool: Kyrsten Sinema (on reforming filibuster): “You know, I don’t think that D.C. solutions are realistic here.” Mark Kelly: “It’s fucking nuts to do nothing about this.”

Tweet, tweet:

@EvanHill: A fourth grader who survived the shooting said officers assaulting the barricaded room told kids to call for help before they had incapacitated the gunman, which led to him shooting a kid who called for help

@MLafferty1: If I’m not mistaken, the Pulse nightclub in Orlando had one entrance that was guarded by an armed police officer. And still, 49 people were murdered. Any other bright ideas?

@AnthonyAdragna: Tester yesterday after Rick Scott objected to VA nominee: “I hope, Madam Chair, that the Senator of Florida doesn’t walk into Memorial Day services and talk about what a great friend he is of our veterans. Cause he is not.”

@McKinleyLewis: This is a baseless & disgusting political attack. @SenSchumer could have called a vote on this nominee at any time in the last 16 MONTHS. He has failed to do so. @SenRickScott is a proud veteran & has done more for the millions of vets in Florida than I could ever list here.

@MarcACaputo: I didn’t get independent labor lawyer Marc Edelman’s voice in this story, but he notes that the press should probably refer to (Rebekah) Jones as “an alleged whistleblower” now that the agency that preliminarily afforded her the title finds almost no evidence for her claims

@JaxPeel: You know what’s totally legit? Random accounts that troll obscure #FlaPol staffers, but don’t follow a single state-level politician. Only a couple of infamous (Ron) DeSantis staffers and, like, Elon Musk. Yeah, totally not suspicious at all.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Hyundai Air and Sea Show National Salute to America’s Heroes, sponsored by the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association — 1; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 6; California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota hold midterm Primaries — 11; ‘Jurassic World Dominion’ premieres — 13; Pixar’s ‘Lightyear’ premieres — 21; 2022 Florida Chamber Learners to Earners Workforce Solution Summit — 32; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 41; 36th Annual Environmental Permitting School — 53; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 55; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 74; FRLA’s Operations and Marketing Summit — 82; ‘House of the Dragon’ premieres on HBO — 86; 2022 Florida Chamber Technology & Innovation Solution Summit — 96; ‘Andor’ premieres on Disney+ — 96; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 98; NFL Opening Night: LA Rams vs. Buffalo Bills — 104; 2022 Emmys — 108; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 132; Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 150; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 151; Jon Meacham’s ‘And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle’ releases — 151; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 168; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 174; The World Cup kicks off in Qatar — 178; The U.S. World Cup Soccer Team begins play — 178; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 179; ‘Willow’ premieres on Disney+ — 187; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 201; ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 265; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 283; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 301; 2023 Session Sine Die — 343; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 343; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 371; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 427; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 511; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 672; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 791.

—TOP STORY —

The likeliest — but still unlikely — gun bill: A ‘red-flag law’” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — A search for the epitome of a broken Congress is a difficult one, not because of a lack of options, but because of a surfeit of them. But pretty high on that list is the lack of true debate on so-called “red-flag laws.” A spate of mass shootings has again spurred talk about precisely what, if anything, can be done. Tragedy hasn’t forced Congress’s hand before, even when visited upon elementary schoolchildren. Why would that change after the murders of 19 kids in Uvalde, Texas, when it didn’t happen after the murders of 20 in Newtown, Connecticut? A big part of the difficulty is finding something that could even notionally gain the support of enough Republicans to join with Democrats to pass the 60-vote threshold in the Senate.

@CHueyBurns: Sen. (Richard) Blumenthal tells reporters that he is more hopeful than he’s ever been since Sandy Hook that Congress can pass legislation. But it is likely to be narrow: he is working on a bill with {Lindsey) Graham to give state grants to incentivize them to implement red flag laws

Ron DeSantis’ silence on Texas school murders fits a pattern, his critics contend” via Michael Moline of Florida Phoenix — DeSantis has not shied away from commenting on national and international controversies. China, Venezuela, our southern border, he’ll opine at great length and ferocity. About the mass murder this week in Uvalde, Texas, he has uttered not a peep beyond ordering flags at state and local facilities flown at half-staff and it was President Joe Biden’s proclamation. Neither has the Governor spoken in detail about his hopes for a Florida abortion policy beyond the 15-week gestation ban he signed into law recently, even as the U.S. Supreme Court could overturn Roe v. Wade at any time.

On the latest school shooting in Texas, Ron DeSantis is uncharacteristically silent.

The gunman walked into the school unobstructed, a police official reveals.” via Adeel Hassan of The New York Times — The shooter who killed 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde walked freely into the school, a state police official said Thursday. “He walked in unobstructed initially,” said Victor Escalon, regional director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, disputing initial reports that a school district police officer confronted the shooter. There was not a “readily available, armed” officer on the campus when the shooter arrived, he said.

‘It’s a sickening feeling’: Parkland survivors mourn after school shooting in Uvalde” via Hannah Phillips of the Palm Beach Post — The text from her mother made Elizabeth Stout’s stomach drop: “Don’t look at the news,” it said. She did anyway and immediately closed her eyes against the images of grieving parents in Uvalde. “It’s a sinking feeling,” said Stout, 21, who was a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018, when a shooter killed 17 people at the Parkland school. “It’s a sickening feeling.” Again, the American flag at her alma mater is flying half-mast following the mass shooting at an elementary school in Texas. Some of her former classmates withdrew as the news spread Tuesday, and others took to Twitter.

Republicans pledge allegiance to a hobbled NRA” via David Siders and Olivia Beavers of POLITICO — Nothing laid bare the disjointed state of gun politics in America as starkly as the call and response in Texas this week. On Tuesday, it was a school shooting. Days later, Donald Trump and other prominent Republicans will appear at a gathering of the NRA. The Memorial Day weekend event is being billed by the National Rifle Association as a showcase of more than 14 acres of “the latest guns and gear,” with a “powerhouse lineup of political speakers.” On his social media platform, Truth Social, Trump confirmed on Wednesday he will appear.

What a Florida man’s school shooting database can tell us about gun violence on campuses” via Finch Walker of Florida Today — While gun violence in schools has been an issue since at least the 1970s, it was only within the past few years that information about shootings was compiled in a database. David Riedman, a graduate of the Naval Postgraduate School and current Ph.D. student at the University of Central Florida, created the K-12 School Shooting Database, where users can view information about every incident involving a gun at a school in the United States since 1970. “If we could see the types of gun violence that’s occurring in schools, kind of week in and week out, there might be more attention and commitment to making meaningful steps to solve this problem,” he said.

Why Republicans won’t budge on guns” via Carl Hulse of The New York Times — The calculation behind Republicans’ steadfast opposition to any new gun regulations is a fairly simple one for Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota. The first-term Republican had a straightforward answer: “Most would probably throw me out of office,” he said. His response helps explain why Republicans have resisted proposals such as the one for universal background checks for gun buyers, despite remarkably broad support from the public for such plans, support that can reach up to 90% nationwide in some cases. The reality is that 90% figure probably includes some Republicans who are open to new laws but would not clamor for them or punish a lawmaker for failing to back them, and the 10% opposed reflect the sentiments of the G.O.P. base, which decides primary contests and is zealous in its devotion to gun rights.

Democrats press Marco Rubio to tackle gun violence in wake of Texas shooting” via Jason Delgado of the Tallahassee Democrat — The Florida Democratic Party is accusing Sen. Rubio of “failing to deliver” on promises to combat rampant gun violence and is pressing Florida’s senior Senator to embrace “common sense” legislation in the U.S. Senate. The call to action by Democrats comes in an election year and days after a deadly mass shooting at a Texas elementary school. Rubio shied away Wednesday from proposals banning AR-15-style weapons or bolstering universal background checks. The term “AR-15” is often used loosely to describe a semi-automatic rifle.

Democrats blame Marco Rubio for doing what he does best on gun violence — nothing. Image via AP.

After playoff loss, Rubio says Miami Heat, NBA ‘politicizing’ Uvalde shooting” via Alex Roarty of the Miami Herald — Rubio offered a blistering critique of the Miami Heat after their playoff game Wednesday, and he wasn’t talking about their lopsided defeat to the Boston Celtics. In a trio of tweets sent late Wednesday and early Thursday, the state’s senior Republican Senator criticized the Heat for a pair of politically themed messages about gun control and Florida’s new voting restrictions, asking why they hadn’t been similarly critical of China despite the country’s human-rights abuses. Rubio was responding directly to an announcement made by the Heat organization inside FTX Arena on Wednesday, per a video shared in the Senator’s tweet, in which fans were asked to contact their state Senator “demanding their support for common-sense gun laws.”

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri talks school safety after Texas shooting” via Natalie Weber of the Tampa Bay Times — After the Parkland school shooting in 2018 that killed 17 people, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri was appointed to lead a statewide commission to investigate what led to the shooting and make recommendations to improve campus safety in Florida. After the nation’s second-deadliest school shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, the Times spoke with Gualtieri about campus safety. “Since 2018, threat-assessment teams have been required in every school, but they are not as consistent and robust as they need to be. There’s also no common statewide threat management database, and there’s no connectivity between districts, or even in some cases, within districts.”

More March for Our Lives events are planned in Florida. More than 100 are scheduled across U.S.” via Austen Erblat of the South Florida Sun Sentinel — Organizers for March for Our Lives on Thursday announced additional demonstrations across Florida, bringing the number of planned events to six in the state so far. In addition to marches in Parkland, Miami and Orlando, the newly announced events will be in the cities of Melbourne, St. Petersburg and Gainesville. The events are in response to the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvdale, Texas, where a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers.

After Uvalde and Buffalo mass shootings, gun control group Moms Demand Action plans Broward vigil” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Moms Demand Action, a national organization that works to prevent gun violence, is holding a vigil in Sunrise on Saturday to mourn the victims of the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde. The event starts at 10 a.m. at the Sunrise Amphitheater, 10610 West Oakland Park Blvd., in Sunrise. The event is by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which began after the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where 28 people were killed. It’s working with its related organization, Students Demand Action. The announcement said people are gathering “to grieve with the latest victims of our gun violence epidemic.”

Yankees, Rays use social media to spread gun violence facts” via David Brandt of The Associated Press — The New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays used their social media accounts during Thursday night’s game between the teams to spread information about how gun violence affects American life. MLB’s social media accounts are usually used during games to show video highlights, relay baseball statistics or exchange witty jokes with other accounts about the action on the field. On Thursday, that was replaced by posts like “Firearms were the leading cause of death for American children and teens in 2020.”

Mass killings lead to mass amnesia” via John F. Harris of POLITICO — Twin atrocities, a mass shooting aimed at Black people in a Buffalo grocery store, another aimed at children in a Texas elementary school, have penetrated national consciousness more deeply than is usually the case these days for one more disturbed gunman destroying still more innocent lives. The news also prompts an uncomfortable question: How long do you expect you will actually think about the unthinkable? Will this month’s crimes live in memory as distinct events, so that you will recall how you learned about them, or the specific details of horror? The time between when we first learn of a news event, and its transformation into a weapon or shield in the nonstop ideological and cultural wars is virtually nonexistent. Everyone takes their usual positions, and dead bodies, even children, become stick figures.



— DATELINE TALLY —

DeSantis signs bill addressing safety after condo collapse” via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press — Florida will require statewide recertification of condominiums over three stories tall under new legislation DeSantis signed into law Thursday as a response to the Surfside building collapse that killed 98 people. DeSantis’ signature came the day after the House unanimously passed the bill during a Special Session originally called to address skyrocketing property insurance rates. The condominium safety bill was added to the agenda Tuesday and immediately passed by the Senate. “We owe the public a very detailed explanation of each section,” Sen. Jason Pizzo said in a text message. Pizzo, who represents Surfside, plans to hold a public forum with other lawmakers next month to address questions about the new law.

Condo safety: Better late than never? Image via AP.

DeSantis signs off on six-year lobby ban penalties for ex-legislators, judges” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Lawmakers and judges who leave office and lobby the Legislature or executive branch within six years could face a fine of up to $10,000 and other penalties after DeSantis signed two measures late Wednesday implementing a constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2018. One measure (HB 7001) applies to ex-lawmakers. The other (HB 7003) applies to ex-judges. Both measures passed unanimously during the Regular Session that ended in March. The laws don’t take effect until Jan. 1, 2023, so they wouldn’t apply to any lawmaker or judge who leaves office before then due to term limits, resignation, or losing an election. A two-year ban on lobbying still exists in current law, although punishments for violating that prohibition aren’t spelled out.

@Jason_Garcia: A bill that would strip cities and counties of some of their power to regulate private parking lots was just sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis. The two parking-lot companies pushing the bill (SB 1380) gave DeSantis $25,000 each last week:

Feds approve Florida’s request to extend postpartum Medicaid benefits” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — The Biden administration signed off on Florida’s request to extend by 10 months the length of time women can qualify for postpartum Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program benefits. Following the expiration of the public health emergency, an estimated 52,000 women in Florida will continue to be covered by Medicaid for one year following delivery. Florida will serve the women through the Medicaid 1115 managed care waiver, which allows the state to require the women to enroll in a Medicaid managed care plan. House Speaker Chris Sprowls championed the 10-month extension of Medicaid benefits to pregnant women during the 2021 Session, announcing his support for the extension of benefits at a news conference where lawmakers flanked him, many of them House members of the Florida Women’s Legislative Caucus.

Eight months after request for Surgeon General’s emails, Florida produces eight pages” via Mike DeForest of WKMG News 6 — Nearly eight months after News 6 submitted a public records request seeking emails and other communications created by Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo during his first two weeks on the job, the Florida Department of Health released eight pages of unredacted documents. The records — including one page that is almost entirely blank — do not immediately appear to contain noteworthy information. But the time it took the state agency to produce the small volume of government documents has prompted questions about FDOH’s adherence to Florida’s public record law.

Florida IG report: ‘Insufficient evidence’ for DeSantis critic’s claims of COVID-19 cover-up” via Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald — A prominent critic of DeSantis’ COVID-19 response made “unsubstantiated” claims that state health officials had fired her because she refused to present manipulated data online. The 27-page report from the Florida Department of Health’s Office of Inspector General said it found “insufficient evidence” to support Rebekah Jones‘ accusations that she was asked to falsify COVID-19 positivity rates or misrepresent them on the state’s dashboard she helped design. The report also “exonerated” officials accused by Jones of wrongdoing because they removed a data section from the website to ensure that private individual health information was not released publicly.

Florida Police Chiefs Association applauds passage of first responder PTSD bill — The Florida Police Chiefs Association (FPCA) is thanking DeSantis and the Legislature for the passage and enactment of House Bill (HB) 689, expanding the opportunity for first responders to report and receive treatment for the symptoms and diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. FPCA President and Daytona Beach Shores Public Safety Department Director Stephan Dembinsky said: “We especially want to recognize Senate President Wilton Simpson and President-Designate Kathleen Passidomo, House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Speaker-Designate Paul Renner, bill sponsors Sens. Danny Burgess and Jen Bradley, Reps. Mike Giallombardo, Jason Fischer, and Tom Leek for their leadership and commitment.”

— 2022 —

First in Sunburn — Charlie Crist announces his endorsements of Democrats across the state — The Crist campaign is releasing a list of candidates the St. Petersburg Democrat is supporting in Primaries across the state: Sens. Joy Goff-Marcil in Senate District 10, Eunic Ortiz in SD 18, Tina Polsky in SD 26, Lori Berman in SD 30 and Shevrin Jones in SD 35, Janelle Perez in SD 38; Reps. Yvonne Hayes Hinson in House District 21, Tiffany Hughes in HD 39, Travaris McCurdy in HD 41, Allie Braswell in HD 45, Lindsay Cross in HD 60, Michele Rayner in HD 62, Dianne Hart in HD 63, Fentrice Driskell in HD 67, Susan Valdes in HD 64, Linda Thompson-Gonzalez in HD 100, Michael Gottlieb in HD 102, Felicia Robinson in HD 104, Marie Woodson in HD 105, Christopher Benjamin in HD 107, Ashley Gantt in HD 109, A.J. D’Amico in HD 113 and Adam Benna in HD 114.

Crist says he’ll only debate Democratic primary rivals once” via Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — Crist, considered a front-runner in the Democratic field, has committed to a one-hour debate July 21 in South Florida that will air in English on NBC stations and in Spanish on Telemundo’s affiliates. Crist told South Florida Sun Sentinel opinion editor Steve Bousquet he doesn’t think he’ll agree to additional debates. “It’s not going to happen because I have other stuff I have to do, like talk to voters,” Crist said. “I’m not going to convince my opponents to vote for me. I want to win. The way you win is go out and talk to voters. That’s more important to me.”

Eric Lynn adds endorsements from Ron Klein, Kendrick Meek” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Lynn has announced two new endorsements from previous Florida Congress members, former U.S. Reps. Klein and Meek. Meek represented what was then Florida’s 17th Congressional District after first winning office in 2002. He served four terms in Congress, including as Congressional Black Caucus Board Chair. Meek was the Democratic Nominee for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat in 2010 but ultimately lost to now-U.S. Sen. Rubio. “As someone who has served in Congress, I know Eric Lynn has what it takes to keep this seat blue and represent the shared values of the people of Pinellas County,” Meek said in a statement.

Eric Lynn notches up more solid endorsements.

Ashley Moody endorses Laurel Lee in CD 15” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — “I’ve seen firsthand Laurel Lee’s commitment to serving the people of Florida, from our days as young lawyers volunteering to assist victims of domestic violence through her service as Secretary of State for Gov. DeSantis,” Attorney General Moody said. “Like me, Laurel has been a federal prosecutor and a judge. She’s worked side-by-side with law enforcement to protect Floridians and ensure that the laws of our state are respected.” Lee resigned from Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration to run in the newly drawn Florida’s 15th Congressional District. The Thonotosassa Republican entered a crowded GOP Primary field.

Martin Hyde is ready to tell voters who he is” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — It’s been a few rough months for Hyde. While the Sarasota conservative activist boasts a history of grabbing the attention of the internet, he still can’t fathom the level of interest in his last high-profile gaffe. After a Sarasota police officer’s bodycam captured Hyde chewing her out and threatening her job during a traffic stop, Hyde expected political fallout. Hyde will showcase, or attempt to present, his virtues. “Instead of 17 minutes of me being a dick, it’s two to three minutes of me telling them who I think I am,” he said. Hyde frames himself as a staunch conservative opposed to gun control, a father in favor of parental rights and a representative of a demographic fed-up with establishment politicians on both sides of the aisle.

— MORE 2022 —

Ruling reversed: Donors to mystery group in ‘20 state Senate primary to stay secret” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — A mysterious Miami-based group behind attack ads in a 2020 Central Florida state Senate race will not have to reveal its donors, at least for now, after a South Florida judge reversed his own order calling for the political committee’s contributors to be disclosed. The back-and-forth rulings came in a lawsuit filed against Floridians for Equality and Justice by state Sen. Annette Taddeo of Miami, who alleged the committee violated state laws two years ago by sending ads to voters in Seminole and Volusia counties ahead of the primary for Senate District 9 without disclosing its contributors.

Lauren Book picks up endorsements from three major unions — The Broward Teachers Union, AFSCME Florida public services employees union, and the Florida Professional Firefighters endorsed Senate Democratic Leader Book for re-election on Thursday. Top execs from each union praised Book for her efforts in the Legislature thus far, with Broward Teachers Union President Anna Fusco saying Book “has proven herself to be dedicated to the health, well-being, safety and education of children throughout Florida.” The nods came shortly after the Broward Police Benevolent Association announced they were also backing Book in the Democratic Primary for SD 35, where she faces former Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief.

Lauren Book enjoys more union support.

‘A dedicated and passionate leader’: Paul Renner endorses Alina García for HD 115” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — GOP operative García’s run for the soon-to-be-open seat representing House District 115 in Miami-Dade County just gained more steam, thanks to an endorsement from Speaker-Designate Renner. The endorsement came Friday through the Florida House Republican Campaign Committee. Renner called García “an experienced public servant who has earned the respect of her community.” “Miami-Dade will gain a dedicated and passionate leader that will make an immediate difference in Tallahassee,” he said.

Philippe Bien-Aime taps real estate bucks again to cross $500K in Miami-Dade Commission bid” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — North Miami Mayor Bien-Aime added $148,000 last month to his commanding lead in the race to be the next Miami-Dade County Commissioner representing District 2. As was the case in months prior, the majority of his gains came from the real estate industry. Bien-Aime has raised more than $525,000 since he filed in December 2020 to run for the seat Commissioner Jean Monestime must vacate in November due to term limits. That’s just $3,000 shy of what his five competitors have raised combined. As of April 30, he still held about $431,000 between his campaign account and political committee, Progressive Advocates for Change, which took in the preponderance of his donations last month.

Miami-Dade County Commission race heats up as battling candidates raise $170K for District 6” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — The race for the seat representing District 6 on the Miami-Dade County Commission heated up in April when two Republican candidates, Kevin Marino Cabrera and Dariel Fernandez, raised close to $170,000 combined to replace term-limited Commissioner Rebeca Sosa. Cabrera, a government relations specialist, announced his candidacy on April 26. That move came just days before the race’s presumed front-runner, Bryan Ávila, announced he was dropping his county bid to run instead to succeed Sen. Manny Díaz Jr., whom DeSantis appointed Education Secretary. But Cabrera began fundraising for the contest two weeks before he announced his District 6 candidacy, as shown by the donations ledger of his political committee, Dade First PC, which collected all his contributions last month.

Wait, what? —After excluding Black female candidate, Volusia teens ‘shocked and appalled’ at criticism” Mark Harper of The Florida Times-Union — The Volusia Teenage Republicans club’s recent Volusia County Council at-large candidates’ forum invited Doug Pettit, Jake Johansson and Andy Kelly, White males. They did not invite the fourth contender, Sherrise Boyd, a Black female. After the debate, Johansson questioned the exclusion of Boyd. The TARs said they were facing “despicable” accusations, that they are a small club of preteens and teenagers gaining “an introduction to politics.” “As a club, we make decisions together and they are made based on our conservative values. The guests we invite to our meetings need to reflect at least some of the conservative values we believe in as a club.”

— STATEWIDE —

Judge in dark money case reverses order, allows mystery group to continue shielding donors” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Less than two weeks after ordering a dark money group behind attack ads in a 2020 state Senate Primary to disclose the identities of its secretive donors, a Miami judge vacated that decision and allowed the group to continue shielding its benefactors. State law requires political committees to list their contributors publicly. A political committee, Floridians for Equality and Justice, did not do that. Instead, it reported to the Florida Division of Elections only one contribution — from itself — listed on July 18, 2020, as a “starting balance” of $249,925.

This poaching problem seems almost un-bear-able” via Craig Pittman of the Florida Phoenix — June 1 marks the official start of hurricane season, or as I like to call it, “Mother Nature’s annual reminder that Florida is trying to kill us.” Hurricanes making landfall, shark bites, sinkholes, lightning strikes, we lead the nation in all these deadly categories. Yet people keep flocking here like lemmings, trying to fill up every last green spot on the map. Can you blame Florida for this hostility toward humans, considering all the awful things we’ve done to the state? Florida’s list of native species includes black bears. Poachers post evidence of their crimes on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. Their videos, taken in the national forest, showed packs of dogs chasing bears, sometimes driving them up trees, sometimes attacking the bears directly. They were training the dogs to pursue bears because that made them valuable to hunters in states where such pursuits are legal.

Is there any doubt why black bears are not fans of humans? Image via FWC.

Remote learning apps used in schools tracked kids’ data without their knowledge, report says” via Sommer Brugal of the Miami Herald — When the coronavirus pandemic upended traditional methods of delivering education, school districts across the country and the globe turned to online learning platforms. It was a quick pivot. Miami-Dade County Schools, for example, switched from in-person learning to fully remote learning in two weeks that overlapped with Spring Break, offering what many thought would be a temporary fix. But many of the same platforms used to support teaching during what turned out to be nearly two years of at-home learning tracked students without their knowledge and shared that data with big tech companies like Facebook and Google, which could monetize the students’ information by selling ads to companies that targeted the children.

State orders Orange schools to reveal who bought ‘Gender Queer’ book for libraries” via Leslie Portal of the Orlando Sentinel — A state investigator who looks into teacher misconduct demanded to know who in Orange County Public Schools authorized the purchase of the book “Gender Queer,” a controversial memoir the district pulled from several high school libraries in late October, according to emails between the employee and the school district. “This office is trying to find out who approved the book,” wrote Ian Dohme, a Florida Department of Education employee, in an email to an OCPS administrator on April 13.

What Spencer Roach is reading — “Corruption probe in Anaheim, California, grows, drawing in Disney” via Robbie Whelan and Christine Mai-Duc of The Wall Street Journal — The Walt Disney Co. has become entangled in a corruption scandal unfolding in Anaheim, the southern California city where its Disneyland Resort is based, that this week prompted its Mayor to resign. In an affidavit filed in a California federal court, federal investigators describe a “cabal” of Anaheim business leaders and elected officials who allegedly meet privately to influence public policy decisions. FBI Special Agent Brian Adkins described in the 100-page filing a corporation referred to as “Company A,” which allegedly uses its power to influence policymakers in the city, and mentions an employee of the company who reportedly helps arrange meetings between Anaheim power brokers and business leaders.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Donald Trump loses appeal, must testify in New York civil probe” via The Associated Press — Trump must answer questions under oath in the New York attorney general’s civil investigation into his business practices, a state appeals court ruled Thursday, rejecting his argument that he be excused from testifying because his answers could be used in a parallel criminal probe. A four-judge panel in the appellate division of the state’s trial court upheld Judge Arthur Engoron’s Feb. 17 ruling, which enforced subpoenas requiring that Trump and his two eldest children give deposition testimony in Attorney General Letitia James’ probe. “The existence of a criminal investigation does not preclude civil discovery of related facts, at which a party may exercise the privilege against self-incrimination,” the appellate panel wrote, citing the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and other legal protections for witnesses.

Jan. 6 panel is told that Trump indicated support for hanging Mike Pence during insurrection” via Jacqueline Alemany and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol collected testimony that then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows remarked to others that then-President Trump indicated his support for hanging Vice President Pence after rioters who stormed the Capitol on that day started chanting “Hang Mike Pence!” The account of Meadows’s comment characterizing Trump’s reaction to his vice president was provided to the committee by at least one witness.

Apparently, Donald Trump thought hanging Mike Pence wasn’t such a bad idea.

Judge may force Proud Boys leader to talk about Washington church vandalism during 2020 election protest” via Jane Musgrave of the Palm Beach Post — A 42-year-old West Palm Beach man who rarely shies away from touting his leadership role in the Proud Boys has refused to talk to lawyers who are suing the far-right extremist group for vandalizing a church in the nation’s capital, court records show. According to court records, Robert Piccirillo has ignored a subpoena to turn over social media posts and YouTube videos and sit down with lawyers representing the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church. Given the recalcitrance of Piccirillo, who goes by the name Bobby Pickles, the lawyers are asking Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Gregory Keyser to order him to meet with them.

— MORE LOCAL: S. FL —

‘You feel helpless’: Miami-area moms scramble to find baby formula amid U.S. shortage” via Omar Rodríguez Ortiz and Carli Teproff of the Miami Herald — When Sthefany Juarez showed up this week at a South Florida charity, the 24-year-old didn’t know what to expect — but the first-time mom was desperate. Down to her last half can of specialized baby formula for her nearly 4-month-old boy, the Broward County mom wasn’t sure what she was going to do to feed him. “It’s very stressful, very heartbreaking looking at the empty shelves,” she said. “You feel helpless.” Juarez’s situation has become all-too-familiar for parents across South Florida as the United States grapples with a formula shortage. In recent weeks, many have had to scramble, traversing multiple stores, desperately making calls, and pleading for help on social media.

Formula shortages are causing a great deal of stress among new moms in South Florida. Image via AP.

Feds say one-time West Palm Beach candidate bilked $816K from small business loan programs” via Jane Musgrave of The Palm Beach Post — A former West Palm Beach City Commission candidate with ties to DeSantis has been accused of bilking federal small business loan programs out of more than $800,000. Sean Pierre Jackson, who used his platform as chair of the Black Republican Caucus of Florida to defend DeSantis against accusations of racism, filed false applications to get loans intended to help businesses hurt by COVID-19 closures or natural disasters. He faces a maximum 20-year sentence if convicted of wire fraud.

This longtime Mayor didn’t live in Coconut Creek, and his highway toll records helped prove it, ethics watchdog says” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Investigators with Broward’s Inspector General say they used Florida highway toll records to track a longtime Mayor’s driving to prove he didn’t live in Broward while he was in office for nearly the last two years. Former Coconut Creek Commissioner Louis “Lou” Sarbone served on the Commission for decades as a Mayor and Commissioner. He didn’t live in the city “yet maintained his seat on the City Commission and falsely swore an oath for voting purposes that his legal residence was still in the city,” according to a report released Thursday by the inspector general, who serves as Broward’s ethics watchdog.

Secrets hidden in water: Police dive teams recover vehicles submerged in Deerfield lake” via Eileen Kelley of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Far below the water’s surface are secrets, some potentially hidden for years, perhaps even decades. But secrets often do have a way of unraveling. The unraveling started Tuesday when divers from the Broward Sheriff’s Office and Pembroke Pines Police Department waded into the dark waters of Sailboat Lake in western Deerfield Beach in search of what they believed were at least seven submerged cars. About 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, the iconic front grill of a Bentley rose from the water as a massive winch reeled it ashore. The once-hunter green beauty was now an ashen hue from all the silt.

Florida cruise line employee accused of sexually exploiting girl he met on ship” via Chris Gothner of the WPLG Local 10 News — A Florida cruise line employee faces federal charges after prosecutors say he enticed an underage girl he met on a cruise into having sex with him and recording it. Thirty-eight-year-old Daniel Scott Crow, of Stuart, could face life in prison on charges of enticing a minor and producing child pornography, according to prosecutors. According to federal charging documents, Crow met the girl on an Alaskan cruise in July 2019, when she was 16 years old. The two exchanged dates of birth and contact information while on the cruise. Neither the charging documents nor a U.S. Department of Justice news release specifies Crow’s employer or the ship the two met.

About half of Treasure Coast third graders pass Florida reading test, IRC beats state average” via Colleen Wixon of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Almost half of the Treasure Coast third graders passed the state’s reading test this year, with just one school district showing a slight improvement over last year’s scores. St. Lucie County Schools was the only Treasure Coast district showing an improvement this year in the third grade Florida Standards Assessments reading test. About 48% of the district’s 3,028 third graders passed this year, a slight increase over last year’s 47% passing the test. Indian River County School District, with 58% of its 1,207 third grade students passing the reading test, was the only Treasure Coast district exceeding the state’s average of 53% passing the third grade reading test, according to Florida Department of Education reports.

Two Martin schools were locked down as deputies searched for suspect in domestic dispute” via Mauricio La Plante of Treasure Coast Newspapers — School officials locked down two schools early Thursday afternoon until dismissal as sheriff’s deputies searched the area for a suspect in a domestic dispute. Jensen Beach High School and Felix Williams Elementary School were locked, meaning no one can enter or exit the buildings, but students and staff were safe, and learning continued as planned. The man deputies are searching for is suspected of having had a dispute with his mother in the 1400 block of U.S. 1 and used a knife to threaten her, according to the Martin County Sheriff’s Office. Law enforcement from Martin County Sheriff’s Office, Stuart police and Florida Highway Patrol monitored Jensen Beach High School until dismissal.

Martin County High School student’s artwork wins nomination, could soon be on Google homepage” via Thomas Weber of Treasure Coast Newspapers — A local high school student’s artwork could soon be on Google’s front page — and viewed by hundreds of millions. Sophie Araque-Liu, 16, is a junior at Martin County High School. Thursday, her school held a surprise assembly where dozens of friends and teachers broke the news to her: The artwork she submitted for this year’s national Doodle for Google competition was selected as Florida’s nomination out of thousands of submissions. “I’m not used to all the attention,” Araque-Liu said, laughing. “But I’m so happy and so excited.” Doodle for Google is an annual contest where K-12 students create their versions of the Google logo.

Sophie Araque-Liu gets her shot at a Google doodle. Image via TCPalm.

El Al, Israel’s national airline, relocating U.S. headquarters from New York City to Broward” via David Lyons of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — El Al, the national airline of Israel, is moving its U.S. headquarters from New York to Margate in Broward County, according to the County Mayor and the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance. In a joint telephone interview Thursday, Mayor Michael Udine and David Coddington, senior vice president of business development for the alliance, said airline officials decided after closely vetting the area for suitable schools, religious facilities, and the availability of local aviation industry talent. “I sat in on the meetings. I watched this morph into an amazing dialogue and partnership,” Udine said. “The El Al people really loved what we had to offer.”

Innovative art center in Mizner Park would create nexus of art and technology” via Scott Luxor of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — There is a new vision emerging for the arts in Boca Raton, and what that will look like has been compiled as refined sketches to drum up support for a new performing arts center in Mizner Park. The idea for the center is one of innovation and science married with art. The colorful renderings that go along with it are representations of the creative thought that went into the concepts. The Boca Raton Center for Arts and Innovation would complete the 30-year plan for Mizner Park, building the 110,000-square-foot project on the site of the amphitheater. The plan is to integrate technology and cultural design to create a future-focused attraction for the city and region.

— MORE LOCAL: C. FL —

Hernando school district, Commission spar over tax referendum date” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — The Hernando County School Board and County Commission are headed for a showdown over a sales tax referendum that could have statewide reverberations. At issue is which governing body gets to decide when voters consider extending a school district’s tax. The School Board wants to hold its election in November to better plan its future construction projects. The Commission, which has been highly critical of the board in recent years, refused to put the matter on the 2022 ballot. It decided a vote in 2024 would supply plenty of time for the district to prepare. With a growing number of school districts across the state calling sales tax questions to raise revenue for their capital needs, the outcome in Hernando could affect who controls those efforts.

A library’s LGBTQ Pride display started a yearlong battle” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — The yearly LGBTQ Pride Month display in the Citrus County library went largely unnoticed until 2021. But last year, the small array of LGBTQ-themed books surrounded by rainbow hearts and signs saying “love is love” became a point of contention that has expanded into a larger partisan battle, pushed by the fringes of the conservative movement, over censorship and children’s education. Last month, the library’s advisory board was inundated with candidates trying to replace five of the nine sitting board members. It was the first time the board had seen such massive interest, with some candidates applying under the incorrect presumption that the board controls the content on the library shelves.

— MORE LOCAL: SW. FL —

Three Florida cities among nation’s fastest-growing: Fort Myers, North Port and Port St. Lucie” via USA Today Network — Three cities in Florida — Fort Myers, North Port and Port St. Lucie — were listed among the nation’s 15 fastest-growing cities during a period that coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic. Fort Myers witnessed the sixth-fastest rate of population growth at 6.8%, with its estimated population at 92,245. North Port in Sarasota County ranked ninth-fastest at 5.5%, with 80,021 people. Port St. Lucie on Florida’s Treasure Coast was the 12th-fastest at 5.2%. Its estimated population is now more than 217,000. Smaller big cities, primarily in the Sunbelt, also gained new residents. Those cities included Florida’s Jacksonville. Others were Austin and Fort Worth in Texas, along with Charlotte, North Carolina and Columbus, Ohio.

Fort Myers is the new hotness.

Naples man who shot, killed black bear cub receives probation” via Stacey Henson of the Naples Daily News — A Naples man who shot and killed a black bear cub two years ago will serve six months’ probation in the animal’s death and take a hunter’s safety course. According to the State Attorney’s Office, 20th Judicial Circuit, Kyle Stevens, 28, chose a bench trial instead of a jury trial. Judge Michael Provost found him guilty, but withheld adjudication, of a charge of unlawful taking of a black bear. The State Attorney’s Office made the announcement Wednesday. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission estimates approximately 4,050 black bears in Florida, which is the only species of bear found here.

Cape Coral woman arrested after threatening to attend high school graduation with fake bomb” via Tomas Rodriguez of the Fort Myers News-Press — Cape Coral Police arrested a woman Wednesday who they say threatened to attend a high school graduation with a fake bomb strapped to her because her child wouldn’t graduate. According to a Cape Coral Police Department news release, on May 20, officers from the Cape Coral Police Department responded to a suspicious person incident at the Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce. Officials said the reporting party called 911 and said a woman, later identified as Tracy Marie Adeline Carter, 39, was at the Chamber of Commerce for more than an hour. She spoke with staff members without making sense, according to the release.

Midyear 2022 finds 6 luxury projects (and much more) coming together in Southwest Florida” via Phil Fernandez of the Naples Daily News — Luxury has clearly become the name of the game in Collier and Lee County development. Seemingly everywhere you look, fancy hotels, homes and apartments are rising, with more planned. The elite have a lot more disposable income to play with after the slashing of their taxes at the end of last decade so why not come with that cash to the Southwest Florida sunshine? Developers are making their dreams come true. Here’s a sampling of the many, many projects bringing the bling in 2022 and beyond.



— LOCAL NOTES: N. FL —

Few fireworks as John Dailey, Kristin Dozier square off in first Tallahassee Mayor debate” via TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Before the election season’s first mayoral debate started, anyone running for office this year was asked to introduce themselves. City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow, a candidate for re-election, complied and added he came for “the fireworks.” Most in the room did, too, but instead, they only got a few sparks. The debate hosted by the Network for Entrepreneurs and Business Advocates foreshadowed the ping-pong talking points to be expected on the campaign trail between Tallahassee Mayor Dailey and Leon County Commissioner Dozier, two political heavyweights who once served side-by-side on the County Commission but are now squaring off.

John Dailey faces challengers, but sparks do not fly. Image via YouTube.

‘Our kids are safe’: Police increase presence at schools after alleged threat at Walton High” via Sierra Rains of the Northwest Florida Daily News — Police had additional security at schools throughout the city Thursday after a Walton High School student made a statement that was perceived as a school threat. The Walton County Sheriff’s Office and Walton High School officials were made aware of a “vague statement” written in the girl’s bathroom Wednesday evening. The alleged threat referenced students coming to school Thursday. “We know this comes at a horrible time for both you and your children. Everyone is scared, frustrated and overwhelmed,” the WCSO said.

Want to be a ‘guardian?’ Santa Rosa County school district posts first job listing” via Alex Miller of the Pensacola News Journal — The Santa Rosa County School District recently posted the first job listing for a “guardian” role in the county. Guardians are armed personnel tasked with working with law enforcement agencies to prevent school shootings. Florida set up the guardian program in wake of a Feb. 14, 2018, shooting in which a former student shot and killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The new job listing is the latest development in the district’s exploration of incorporating the guardian program in Santa Rosa schools by as early as fall. The district’s Safety Director Daniel Hahn emphasized that while the positions are open to being filled, that does not necessarily mean the district will have many, if any, guardians next year if none of the applicants prove to be qualified.

Jacksonville Sheriff on helping high-crime areas: ‘More boots on the ground, more knocking on doors” via Heather Crawford of First Coast News — 2019 was a violent year in Jacksonville. The city recorded at least 158 homicides according to our news partner the Florida Times-Union. That’s more homicides than Jacksonville has had in any single year in more than a decade.  “I wouldn’t say it’s getting worse to the point where we abandon all these issues and strategies and move in a different direction. That’s not the case, just the opposite quite frankly,” Williams said.

—@APantazi: Three months ago, the Jacksonville sheriff signed a notarized document listing his residence as being in Nassau County. The Jacksonville sheriff is required to reside in Duval County. A year ago, he and his wife sold their Jacksonville property and said they then lived in Nassau County.

Booming real estate market could make Jacksonville flush with cash from property taxes” via David Bauerlein and The Florida Times-Union — The booming real estate market could generate a roughly $90 million surge in new property taxes for the city of Jacksonville, double the annual growth the city has experienced in recent years. City Council member Danny Becton, the vice-chair of the council’s Finance Committee, disclosed the scale of the expected jump in taxes when he argued unsuccessfully for a resolution urging Mayor Lenny Curry to use a lower property tax rate in crafting the 2022-23 budget. The city has used the same property tax rate since 2013. Even if the tax rate doesn’t change for next year’s budget, many property-owners will see bigger jumps in what they owe compared to prior years because the taxable value of their homes and businesses is going up at a faster pace.

Ahoy Jacksonville: Mayport ferry gets longer Friday hours, easier loading lanes and other changes” via Dan Scanlan of The Florida Times-Union — Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, travelers will find more at the St. Johns River Ferry, more hours of operation and more people-friendly amenities onshore. The Jacksonville Transportation Authority has added 90 more minutes of operation on Friday nights to match Saturday and Sunday hours. The most visible part of the $7.2 million upgrade, paid with a Passenger Ferry Grant from the Federal Transit Administration, is the new restroom and picnic pavilion at the ferry’s Mayport dock on Ocean Street. A redesign of the lanes at both ends will allow more room for vehicles waiting to board the 26-year-old ferry, the Jean Ribault, JTA representative David Cawton II said.

Jacksonville’s historic Florida Theatre enters second-floor renovations phase of $10 million overall project” via Drew Dixon of The Florida Times-Union — The Florida Theatre is about to undergo major renovations on the second floor of the historic structure at 128 E. Forsyth St. The work will focus on an enclosed area covering 2,362 square feet and is estimated to cost $1.1 million, according to the permit approved by city building inspectors. The project includes expanding the floor’s lobby area into adjacent offices. It is part of a much larger overhaul for the theater that originally opened in 1927 and has been the home to entertainment events ranging from films and plays to concerts and other cultural highlights.

Vintage Times-Union: Jacksonville-based USS Stark and those killed onboard will never be forgotten” via Matt Soergel of The Florida Times-Union — On May 17, every year people gather to remember and honor the 37 crew members of the USS Stark who were killed in a 1987 missile attack in the Persian Gulf. This year marked the 35th anniversary as former sailors aboard the Navy frigate, and about 250 others paid their respects at the USS Stark Memorial at Naval Station Mayport. “They’re still inside,” Petty Officer 1st Class Darry Allen said during the 2003 ceremony, patting his chest as he remembered his shipmates. “Knowing there’s a memorial here, that it’s not forgotten, helps a lot.”

USS Stark will never be forgotten.

Wounded World War II medic from Jacksonville Beach downplays heroism: ‘I didn’t know any better’” via Matt Soergel of The Florida Times-Union — U.S. Army medic Sam Newey never heard the German mortar coming as he dashed through a field in Eastern France to help a wounded comrade 77 years ago. But for decades after, he carried shrapnel from the bomb with him, buried under the jagged scars on both of his arms and legs. As another Memorial Day approached, he said he remembers the pain, remembers crying out for his mother and God as a Jeep rushed him from the battlefield. On the last day of January in 1945, during heavy fighting, he went to help a wounded soldier, wearing Red Cross brassards on his arms. He never made it. “The mortar, it lands; you don’t hear it all. Just when it lands, and the shrapnel gets all over,” he said.

New Fernandina Port leader receives contract, first major task” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — The new Executive Director for the Port of Fernandina’s Ocean Highway and Port Authority (OHPA), David Kaufman, now has a contract to go with that job. It’s a deal for 16 months, with two one-year automatic renewals, at $130,000 a year. The only tweak at Wednesday night’s OHPA meeting was about compensation if the OHPA Commissioners decide to terminate Kaufman, at some point, without cause. If that happens, his pay is capped at 16 weeks, which is more consistent with state law, Port Attorney Patrick Krechowski said. What constitutes “cause” is defined in the contract.

Okaloosa ranked seventh for boating crashes in 2021. FWB is combating the issue with new marine unit” via Sierra Rains of the Northwest Florida Daily News — Police are looking for ways to combat a large number of boating accidents in Okaloosa County, and one of those ways might just be taking to the water. Fort Walton Beach Police Chief Robert Bage said the idea for a marine unit has come up many times in the past, but never materialized. Now, the Police Department is exploring funding options to get at least one boat on the water within the next two years. Okaloosa County was ranked seventh in the state for boating accidents in 2021. The county also ranked No. 1 for boating under the influence arrests.

— TOP OPINION —

You. This is your fault.” via Christine Emba of The Washington Post — We’re 145 days into the year, and there have already been 213 mass shootings in the United States. The problem is mental illness. The problem is lone-wolf gunmen. The problem is soft targets. The problem is evil. The problem is them, over there; it’s their fault that the kids keep getting killed.

Wrong. The problem is you.

Way back in 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama was castigated for saying that some Americans “cling to guns” and suggesting that this was unreasonable or unhealthy. The evidence — which is to say the pileup of bodies year after year — suggests he was correct.

But other politicians, seeing the backlash, learned what not to say. They learned not to point fingers, because they knew that they, too, would be accused of hating freedom, loving tyranny, overreaching in pursuit of control. They understood that they would be shouted down and then perhaps voted out.

They learned not to say the obvious: These mass shootings aren’t acts of God. The status quo is bad. Our lack of action on guns is killing people, and someone is to blame.

But who? You. It’s your fault.

— OPINIONS —

‘Where in God’s name is our backbone?’” via the Orlando Sentinel and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial boards — In eight mass school shootings since 1999, 111 children and young adults and 13 faculty and staff members have now been sacrificed on the profane altar of the gun industry’s profits. The nation needs a ban on the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and a buyback program like New Zealand’s, enacted after only one mass slaughter. There must be nationwide mandatory background checks with no loophole for gun shows or private sales. Possession of an untraceable “ghost weapon” must become a crime.

America’s new norm: ‘Why are we willing to live with this carnage?’” via Dan Balz of The Washington Post — Hours after 19 children and two adults were shot and killed at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Biden captured the range of emotions coursing through a shaken country: grief, sadness, sympathy, despair, frustration, contempt, anger, even fury. He offered, however, barely a shred of optimism for action. Robb Elementary now joins Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Sandy Hook Elementary School, Virginia Tech, and Columbine High School, among others, in a roster of death at educational institutions. Nowhere, it seems, are children and young people engaged in learning truly safe in America. Not in a nation where guns outnumber people, where a culture of gun violence continues to be tolerated, and where episodes of carnage have become the norm.

Child support system is a mess. Time for an upgrade” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Florida’s child support system is broken. The evidence is overwhelming, but one figure reveals the extent of the damage: Uncollected payments top $6.7 billion. The mountain of uncollected payments comes thanks to an administrative labyrinth that favors lawyers over families and automation over justice, and that leaves too many parents frustrated and financially hamstrung. The system should be helping children. Too often, it’s not. Florida failed to compel 38% of parents to pay on time, worse than 35 other states. Mothers face eviction. Fathers choose between doctor visits and mortgage payments. Some families end up on public assistance, forcing taxpayers to subsidize the state’s failures.

— WEEKEND TV —

Battleground Florida with Evan Donovan on News Channel 8 WFLA (NBC): U.S. Rep. Val Demings.

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at South Florida politics and other issues affecting the region.

In Focus with Allison Walker on Bay News 9/CF 13: A discussion of the support for military members as they transition back into civilian life. Joining Walker are Congressman Gus Bilirakis, Rep. Andrew Learned, and Martín Gramática, former NFL kicker and founder of Gramática Family Foundation.

Political Connections on Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: Pinellas County Sheriff Gualtieri will discuss school safety following the Texas elementary school shooting; and a one-on-one interview with Florida House Speaker Sprowls on the Special Session on property insurance reform.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: A one-on-one interview with Sprowls, who will discuss the week’s Session on property insurance reform.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Attorney Sean Pittman.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Government law attorney Chris Hand, Florida Carry general council Eric Friday and pastor John Allen Newman of Mount Calvary Church Jacksonville.

— ALOE —

Florida beaches named among best in U.S. in annual Dr. Beach list” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — A Florida beach was named the second-best in the U.S. on the annual Dr. Beach Top 10 list released ahead of Memorial Day, the traditional kickoff to summer. Caladesi Island State Park got the silver in the 2022 list coming behind Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach on the Outer Banks in North Carolina. The way the list works is that each year, Dr. Beach, aka Stephen Leatherman, a professor at Miami’s Florida International University who produced the list beginning in 1991, uses 50 criteria to name the top 10 beaches. When a beach makes it to No. 1, it is retired from the list so other beaches can get a shot in successive years. After 25 years, Leatherman reset it, so former winners were back in the mix.

Dr. Beach says Caladesi Island is among the best of the best.

Former Miami Hurricanes football star leaves NFL to join UM athletic department” via Susan Miller Degnan of the Miami Herald — Another former Miami Hurricane is coming home. The Miami Hurricanes are naming legendary UM fullback, 1987 first-round NFL Draft pick and longtime NFL scouting executive Alonzo Highsmith the newly created General Manager of Football Operations, a source told the Miami Herald. A well-respected talent evaluator, Highsmith, 57, will work alongside Miami native and coach Mario Cristobal and new athletic director Dan Radakovich in a scouting-intensive capacity, overseeing all recruiting operations and building a department intent on acquiring top talent. He will be in Miami ready to begin his new job on Monday. Highsmith has most recently served as senior executive adviser to Seattle Seahawks General Manager John Schneider.

‘An eye opener’: FAMU hoops’ MJ Randolph recalls his time at NBA G-League Elite Camp” via Gerald Thomas III of the Tallahassee Democrat — When opportunity knocks, answer. That’s what Florida A&M basketball’s Randolph, the reigning SWAC Player of the Year, did. The guard was invited to Chicago to take part in the NBA G-League Elite Camp, where his name was selected in a pool of 44 players to compete in pre-draft workouts, drills, and scrimmages. “I took time to soak it in knowing that I’m blessed,” Randolph said. “Being invited from FAMU, an HBCU and smaller college, I was very blessed and humble.” On April 21, Randolph announced his plans to declare for the 2022 NBA Draft but has kept his eligibility by refraining from hiring an agent.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to Stafford Jones and Christian Ziegler, two of the most influential Republicans in Florida. Also celebrating today are Giovanni Castro, Public Policy Manager of Uber, and former FP contributor Daniel Figueroa.

Celebrating birthdays this Memorial Day Weekend: U.S. Sen. Rubio; Reps. Daryl Campbell and Kaylee Tuck; former state Rep. Mel Ponder, Tom DeMint, Sarah Proctor Demont, Richard DeNapoli, tailor to the political stars Arron Gober, Jenna Callena Gordon, Golden Rotunda winner Helen Levine of Corcoran Partners, Zach Monahan, Tammy Perdue of Sunshine Health, our good friend Scott Ross of Capital City Consulting, Alex Setzer, good guy Clark Smith of The Southern Group, top attorney Alicia Taylor, and Craig Waters.

___

Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Renzo Downey, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.

Last updated on May 27, 2022

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of FloridaPolitics.com, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.



#FlaPol

Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jason Delgado, Renzo Downey, Daniel Figueroa, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Joe Henderson, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, Mike Wright, and Tristan Wood.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704




Sign up for Sunburn


Categories