Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 12.6.22

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Florida politics and Sunburn – perfect together.

Good Tuesday morning.

Insurance is one of the hottest topics in Florida.

The Legislature next week is set to hold its second Special Session on property insurance this year, and tort reform groups are already gearing up for another assault on auto glass AOBs in the 2023 Legislative Session.

Before that, the Florida Chamber of Commerce is set to hold its annual Insurance Summit.

The event, as always, will draw in business leaders, public sector officials and subject matter experts for a series of panels and talks on all aspects of the sprawling industry.

The 2022 Insurance Summit kicks off Tuesday with an introduction from Florida Chamber President and CEO Mark Wilson followed by a discussion between state Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier and top-tier insurance lobbyist Tim Meenan.

Other big names on the agenda include Citizens Property Insurance Corp. President and CEO Barry Gilway, who will take part in a panel titled “A Million Reasons Why: An Update from Citizens Property Insurance” alongside other Citizens officials.

Later in the day, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis will give attendees a “view from the plaza.” Other segments will cover reinsurance, Florida’s “litigation tsunami” and resiliency.

A full agenda is available on the Florida Chamber’s website.

___

Ashon Nesbitt will step in as CEO of the state’s top housing nonprofit at the start of the new year.

Nesbitt will take over the Florida Housing Coalition from retiring longtime President and CEO Jaimie Ross beginning Jan. 1. Nesbitt currently serves as the organization’s chief programs officer and technical adviser.

“It’s exciting to be a part of the Coalition’s next chapter, and I look forward to working with our talented Board and staff as we further build successful strategies and champion housing affordability best practices,” Nesbitt said in a statement Monday.

Ashon Nesbitt will start the new year with a high-profile gig.

The new CEO will take over at a time when rising home prices and an influx of new residents in post-pandemic Florida has worsened the affordable housing crunch across the Sunshine State.

“There is no doubt, we are in a housing affordability crisis in Florida,” Nesbitt said. “We need to work together closely with our statewide members and our Partners for Better Housing to implement strategies which will strengthen Florida’s affordable housing production and preservation.”

The Florida Housing Coalition Board unanimously chose Nesbitt after interviewing six candidates from a pool of 300 applicants after Ross, in June, announced her plan to retire.

“Speaking on behalf of our entire board, I could not be more pleased that Ashon will be the new head of the Coalition,” said Suzanne Cabrera, Chair of the Coalition Board. “His extensive experience in housing financing and development, his vision and professionalism and his championship of all our major initiatives make him the best choice.”

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@MarcACaputo: 🚨GOP turnout worry in Georgia: Republican data gurus estimate (Raphael) Warnock leads by 9% points in total early votes So they think (Herschel) Walker will need to win 20% of the Election Day vote, provided turnout is 1 million Tues Note; these are their estimates & what they think*

@SteveSchale: I have a hard time believing that roasted peanuts have a 21+ edge on boiled peanuts in GA. This saddens me.

Tweet, tweet:

@LeonardKL: (Ron) DeSantis does a good deal of press conferences all over the state where press can ask questions on any topic. They’re also streamed live. Not every Gov. does this. It’s one of the main ways he generates national headlines.

@AGGancarski: Hey Jax leaders — don’t smile and laugh before the press conference talking about too much murder in the streets.

@Fineout: well maybe forget political news today … just keep looking at the transfer portal updates …

@AndreAgassi: Our dear friend, Nick Bollettieri, graduated from us last night. He gave so many a chance to live their dream. He showed us all how life can be lived to the fullest… Thank you, Nick

Tweet, tweet:

— DAYS UNTIL —

‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 10; Military Bowl with UCF Knights against Duke — 22; Cheez-It Bowl with FSU against Oklahoma — 23; final Broadway performance of ‘The Music Man’ with Hugh Jackman — 26; last day to ride Splash Mountain before remodeling — 47; The James Madison Institute’s Annual Dinner — 50; Bruce Springsteen launches 2023 tour in Tampa — 57; ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 73; final performance of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ on Broadway — 74; city of Tampa Municipal Election early voting begins — 83; ‘The Mandalorian’ returns — 85; Tampa Municipal Election — 91; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 91; World Baseball Classic finals begin in Miami — 95; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 108; Taylor Swift ‘Eras’ Tour in Tampa — 128; American Association of Political Consultants Pollies ’23 conference begins — 143; 2023 Session Sine Die — 150; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 150; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 178; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 227; ‘‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 234; Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 332; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 479; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 535; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 598; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 598; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 640; ‘Deadpool 3’ premieres — 703; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 801; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 878. ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,067.

— TOP STORY —

Ex-U.S. Rep. David Rivera arrested in Venezuela probe” via Joshua Goodman and Terry Spencer of The Associated Press — A former Miami Congressman who signed a $50 million consulting contract with Venezuela’s socialist government was arrested in connection with an ongoing federal criminal investigation, law enforcement officials told The Associated Press.

Rivera, a Republican who served from 2011 to 2013, was arrested at Atlanta’s airport, said Marlene Rodriguez, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami. A Miami grand jury indicted Rivera last month.

The feds finally caught up to David Rivera’s schemes.

Pressure has been building on Rivera for more than two years after it emerged that he received the massive contract from a U.S. affiliate of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company as President Nicolás Maduro was trying to curry favor with the White House in the early days of the Donald Trump administration.

Rivera’s Interamerican Consulting was sued in 2020 by PDV USA — a Delaware-based affiliate of Venezuelan-owned Citgo — alleging the former Congressman performed no work as part of the contract he signed in 2017 for three months of “strategic consulting” meant to build bridges with key U.S. stakeholders.

Rivera has maintained his innocence and has countersued PDV USA alleging breach of contract and unjust enrichment for its failure to pay $30 million he says he is still owed.

The U.S. Marshals Service said Rivera bailed out of jail Monday afternoon after making an initial appearance in Atlanta federal court. His attorney, Jeffrey Feldman, declined to comment, telling The Associated Press in a text message that he had “not seen the indictment.”

— DESANTISY LAND —

Ron DeSantis among TIME’s 2022 Person of the Year finalists” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — DeSantis is among the finalists for TIME’s “2022 Person of the Year” honors. TIME revealed its shortlist, which its editors whittled down to a list of 10 based on who they believe had the most influence on the world this year. Also in contention are all nine members of the U.S. Supreme Court, protesters in Iran and American gun safety advocates. DeSantis’ popularity among stalwart conservatives and Republican converts has soared over the last couple of years, extending far beyond the Sunshine State’s borders and establishing him as the biggest threat to Trump’s position as the face of the GOP.

Ron DeSantis — man of the year?

—“New poll shows Utah Republicans prefer DeSantis to Donald Trump” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

DeSantis to offer VIP access to his inauguration — for between $50K to $1 million” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — DeSantis’s inauguration celebration is expected to be spread out over two days and will give up-close access to donors willing to contribute between $50,000 and $1 million. Five donors who give $1 million to the Republican Party of Florida will be recognized as “inaugural chair” sponsors who will receive tickets to a candlelight dinner the night before the inauguration, VIP seating at the inauguration ceremony held on the steps of the Old Capitol as well tickets to the inaugural ball and a “Toast to One Million Mamas,” the campaign group put together by First Lady Casey DeSantis, and a photo opportunity with the Governor.

DeSantis announces $25M for Hurricane Ian home rebuilding, recovery” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Southwest Florida residents who saw their homes destroyed or made uninhabitable by Hurricane Ian will be getting a $25 million boost, DeSantis said. The money will come from state funds for buying building materials, sheetrock, studs, doors, drywall and other materials, and given to nonprofits to distribute to local residents displaced by the storm. The material will get storm victims’ houses in livable condition while permanent repairs are made. The move comes after the state launched a website to help displaced residents get temporary housing.

Dane Eagle flies from DEO just ahead of lobbying ban extension” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) Secretary Eagle resigned as head of the state agency. In a resignation letter to DeSantis, he thanked Florida’s chief executive for the opportunity to head the Department of Economic Opportunity at a critical juncture in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. “When I joined your administration in September 2020, the state’s unemployment rate was 8.7%, which was quickly rebounding from the 13.9% rate a few months earlier due to the global pandemic,” Eagle said.


— STATEWIDE —

Terry Rhodes out as FLHSMV Executive Director” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Rhodes is stepping down as Executive Director of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) ahead of DeSantis’ second term. The Republican Governor announced Rhodes’ departure, which comes after nearly eight years as FLHSMV’s Executive Director. He made the announcement in a statement posted to Twitter Monday morning. “Her dedicated leadership and commitment to public service have made our roads safer for our state troopers and motorists who travel on them each day,” DeSantis said. “We wish her fair winds and following seas.”

After nearly eight years, Terry Rhodes is making her exit from the FLHSMV.

Florida consultant on Demotech alternatives faced issues in other states” via William Rabb of Insurance Journal — A Mississippi-based consulting firm hired to figure out Florida’s insurance company financial rating conundrum has faced scrutiny in other states after audits found improper disbursement of funds, long delays in projects and other issues. Horne LLP, based in Ridgeland, Mississippi, was hired in Florida after submitting a bid to manage a Department of Financial Services study on alternatives to the current carrier ratings system. The ratings issue arose earlier this year after the Demotech rating firm announced that it was on the cusp of downgrading or withdrawing the ratings for as many as 16 insurers.

James Madison Institute property insurance paper targets attorney fees ahead of Special Session” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — With the Legislature poised to return to the Capitol on Dec. 12 for a Special Session to pass changes to the state’s property insurance laws amid a free-falling market, Tallahassee-based conservative think tank James Madison Institute released a paper outlining steps to solve the issue. Step one: Eliminate Florida’s one-way attorney fee law. “In order to restore sanity and predictability to the state’s insurance system, one-way attorney fee laws must be repealed and insurance litigants should have to follow the common-law American rule — that parties bear their own litigation costs, the rule applicable in most states and for most types of litigation,” Christian Camara, a senior fellow at the institute, wrote in the paper.

The Legislature just let Target dodge $15 million in corporate taxes” via Jason Garcia of Seeking Rents — Target turned a profit of nearly $7 billion last year. But when it comes time to pay Florida taxes on that profit, Target Corporation pretends to be a collection of smaller companies. By splitting itself into separate pieces, Target avoided at least $15 million in Florida corporate taxes since 2013. That’s according to a lawsuit Target just won against the Florida Department of Revenue, which had accused the Minneapolis-based company of illegally dodging taxes. Target was able to avoid these taxes by taking advantage of an old and outdated part of Florida’s corporate tax code that lets giant corporations pay taxes as if their wholly owned subsidiaries were separate and independent businesses.

Freshman Senators to lead major panels as committee assignments handed out” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — One of Corey Simon’s first tasks as a new member of the Legislature is to serve as one of the top drafters of education policy in the state’s K-12 schools. He’s one of several new faces in the Senate given big jobs by Senate President Passidomo, a Naples Republican, when she unveiled committee assignments for members. Sen. Clay Yarborough, a Jacksonville Republican, was placed as Chair of the Judiciary Committee. Sen. Jonathan Martin is now Chair of the Criminal Justice Committee. Several other GOP Senate newcomers were put in charge of major policy areas in the upper chamber, such as Bryan Ávila (Governmental Oversight and Accountability), Colleen Burton (Health Policy), Alexis Calatayud (Community Affairs), Jay Collins (Agriculture), Nick DiCeglie (Transportation), Erin Grall (Postsecondary Education), Blaise Ingoglia (Finance and Tax) and Jay Trumbull (Commerce and Tourism).

Corey Simon gets his first high-profile role in the Florida Senate.

Senate President Kathleen Passidomo shows some bipartisanship” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Passidomo has selected committee Chairs for the next two years, and like her predecessor, she named several Democrats to leadership roles in a show of bipartisanship. But unlike Wilton Simpson before her, she did not name any Democrats to full Chair positions, giving only Democratic Sen. Jason Pizzo an alternate Chair role on the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee. He’ll have to cede that job to Republican Rep. Mike Caruso after a year.

Brevard’s legislative delegation to seek input from constituents” via Dave Berman of Florida Today — The seven-member Brevard County delegation to the Legislature will hold its annual meeting on Jan. 11 in advance of the 2023 Legislative Session. The meeting will be from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. in the Brevard County Commission Chambers at the Government Center, 2725 Judge Fran Jamieson Way, Building C, Viera. This meeting will give government entities, businesses, organizations and residents of Brevard County a chance to share with the all-Republican delegation issues that are important to them for the upcoming Legislative Session. Topics likely to come up include everything from educational policies to rising homeowners’ insurance costs.

Lobbying compensation: Colodny Fass lands $310K in Q3” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The lobbying team at Colodny Fass collected $310,000 in the third quarter of 2022, new compensation reports show. The reporting period saw the firm take in $150,000 lobbying the Legislature and another $160,000 lobbying the Governor and Cabinet. Colodny Fass’ legislative compensation report shows 20 clients topped by one that paid $35,000 during the July-through-September reporting period: Florida Property & Casualty Association.

Lobbying compensation: Johnson & Blanton rakes in $1.2M in Q3” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Led by Jon Johnson and Travis Blanton, the firm’s Q3 team also included lobbyists Diane Wagner Carr, Darrick McGhee and Eric Prutsman. The firm also recently added Marnie George to its team. Johnson & Blanton’s legislative compensation report shows 85 clients topped by one that paid $45,000 during the July-through-September reporting period: Multitype Library Cooperatives. Two others came in at $35,000, Advent Health and the Florida Hospital Association. Two other clients paid $25,000, including BayCare and the Florida Engineering Society. Several others spent $15,000 each on services. Health care and related areas are the top-represented industry on Johnson & Blanton’s client roster.

Johnson & Blanton
Johnson & Blanton posts a solid Q3.

Presidents from nearly 40 Florida universities to gather for ‘first-of-its-kind’ meeting” via Tarah Jean of the Tallahassee Democrat — Nearly 40 college and university presidents from across the state of Florida will all gather in one room Wednesday — hosted by Tallahassee Community College — for a meeting behind closed doors. Presidents from both the Florida College System and the State University System of Florida are invited to the private meeting to discuss systemwide educational goals and to share their best practices with each other, according to the Florida Department of Education’s spokesperson. Although the event will be closed to the public, TCC President Jim Murdaugh announced during a Board of Trustees meeting on Nov. 21 that the college’s Center for Innovation on West Pensacola Street will be the host location for the private gathering.

Legal question: Are police officers victims when they shoot someone in line of duty?” via Fresh Take Florida — The Florida Supreme Court will consider arguments in a case that considers whether the identities of police officers who kill civilians in violent encounters can be withheld from the public. Law enforcement is one of the only civilian professions in which the use of deadly force is authorized. The court is considering whether a Florida constitutional provision considers officers who use deadly force to be victims of imminent threats of harm and therefore protected under Marsy’s Law, preventing their identities from being made public.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Joe Biden is staffing up for GOP probes even while downplaying risks” via Jordan Fabian and Erik Wasson of Bloomberg — Biden faces an ugly new reality next year as Republicans threaten a torrent of investigations into his administration and family that could change his presidency and test his resolve. The White House is bracing for the onslaught by ramping up the team that will handle the probes, including bringing on a key staffer from a powerful congressional committee: Russell Anello, the current House Oversight Committee staff director, who has experience dealing with GOP lawmakers eager to investigate Biden.

Joe Biden is girding his loins for an onslaught to come.

DHS delays REAL ID compliance to 2025” via Oriana Pawlyk of POLITICO — The Department of Homeland Security has again postponed its planned rollout of the Real ID-compliant licenses required for air travelers 18 and over boarding flights in the United States, a nod to concerns that not enough Americans have compliant forms of identification. Citing lingering COVID-19 backlogs, DHS announced Monday that May 7, 2025, will be the new compliance date. The agency has postponed the deadline several times due to the pandemic, with the most recent deadline being May 3, 2023.

Fearing scandal, Air Force blocked Generals’ foreign consulting deals” via Craig Whitlock and Nate Jones of The Washington Post — Two U.S. Air Force generals, Duncan McNabb and William Fraser III, who oversaw the supply routes from 2008 to 2014 later tried to cash in on their Azerbaijan connections. Upon retiring from active duty, the four-star generals negotiated valuable consulting deals with Silk Way Airlines. One of them stood to earn $5,000 a day. The Pentagon and State Department normally rubber-stamp requests from retired U.S. military personnel to work for foreign powers or companies controlled by foreign governments. When the Air Force learned about McNabb’s and Fraser’s business ventures in Azerbaijan, officials flagged them as a potential embarrassment and a risk to national security.

Justices spar in latest clash of religion and gay rights” via The Associated Press — The Supreme Court’s conservative majority sounded sympathetic Monday to a Christian graphic artist who objects to designing wedding websites for gay couples, a dispute that’s the latest clash of religion and gay rights to land at the highest court. The designer and her supporters say that ruling against her would force artists to do work that is against their beliefs. Her opponents, meanwhile, say that if she wins, a range of businesses will be able to discriminate, refusing to serve Black customers, Jewish or Muslim people, interracial or interfaith couples or immigrants, among others.

— EPILOGUE TRUMP —

Senate GOP leaders turn on Trump over suspend-the-Constitution talk” via Burgess Everett and Marianne Levine of POLITICO — Top Senate Republicans are distancing themselves from Trump in growing numbers after the former President’s call to suspend the Constitution — though there’s no sign it will lead them to actively oppose his 2024 presidential campaign. While few Republicans spoke out publicly before returning to Washington on Monday, Senate Minority Whip John Thune said “of course, I disagree with that” when asked about Trump’s comments. The No. 2 Senate Republican would not say whether he’d support Trump if the former President wins the GOP nomination in 2024 and said he’s “just not going to go there at this point — that’s a long way off.”

Donald Trump’s ‘suspend the Constitution’ talk is roiling congressional Republicans. Image via AP.

Trump insists he doesn’t want to ‘terminate’ Constitution” via Brett Samuels of The Hill — Trump on Monday insisted he does not want to “terminate” the Constitution, responding to broad backlash after he said over the weekend its rules and laws should be disregarded so he can return to the White House. Trump, in a pair of posts on Truth Social, responded to the fallout from his comments on Saturday that the 2020 election should be redone, or he should be put back in office. Trump has for years claimed the 2020 Election was stolen from him and that Hunter Biden colluded with his father over his business dealings, though there is no proof of either. But his calls for the Constitution to be ignored so he could be returned to power marked a new level of incendiary rhetoric.

Trump’s slow 2024 start worries allies” via Gabby Orr and Kristen Holmes of CNN — Back in 2015, Trump’s first campaign rally in Iowa as a contender for the Republican presidential nomination came just 10 hours after he declared his candidacy in New York. The following day, he was across the country in New Hampshire, with plans to visit South Carolina before the end of his first week. But seven years later — and nearly three weeks into his 2024 presidential campaign — Trump has yet to leave his home state or hold a public campaign event in an early-voting state. Trump’s disengaged posture has baffled former and current allies, many of whom experienced firsthand the frenetic pace of his two earlier White House bids, and who now say he’s missed the window to make a splash with his 2024 rollout.

Trump’s committee paying for lawyers of key Mar-a-Lago witnesses” via Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey and Isaac Stanley-Becker of The Washington Post — Trump’s political action committee is paying legal bills for some key witnesses involved in the Justice Department investigation into whether Trump mishandled classified documents, obstructed the investigation or destroyed government records. The witnesses include Kash Patel, who has testified in front of the grand jury and is key to Trump’s defense, along with Walt Nauta, a potentially critical prosecution witness.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Miami-Dade School Board may lose member to new law on Dec. 31. DeSantis would name a sub” via Sommer Brugal of the Miami Herald — A law prohibiting elected officials from lobbying goes into effect at the end of the month and could result in one Miami-Dade County School Board member stepping down and DeSantis appointing a replacement. The constitutional Prohibition Against Lobbying by a Public Officer implements a constitutional amendment that voters approved in 2018, restricting lobbying during their term in office and extending the period that certain elected officials can lobby after leaving office from two to six years. Vice Chair Lubby Navarro, a registered lobbyist for the South Broward Hospital District, a public hospital, may have to relinquish her seat on the Board.

Lubby Navarro may have to give up her seat when new lobbying rules take effect.

Gregory Tony faces more scrutiny from ethics panel over lies, omissions on forms” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Broward Sheriff Tony must now decide whether to fight a decision by a state ethics panel — which for the second time in recent months agreed that further review is warranted to look into accusations he gave false information on official forms, his attorney said Monday. The Florida Commission on Ethics, with an 8-1 vote, found probable cause Friday to pursue a case into the Sheriff’s providing false information, or not disclosing information. The action came in a closed-door confidential hearing, the results of which are expected to be made public Wednesday. Louis Jean-Baptiste, the Sheriff’s attorney based in Tallahassee, said Monday that Tony has not decided yet on their next move.

Broward names new ethics watchdog to snuff out local corruption” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Broward officials — both elected ones and employees — who have been accused of everything from bid-rigging to campaign money mismanagement have a new ethics czar to deal with: A new Inspector General is taking over next year. Carol “Jodie” Breece, an attorney with the office since 2012 and a former prosecutor, will take over the office in May when John W. Scott, Broward’s first Inspector General since 2011, chose not to seek another term. The Inspector General charter item was approved by voters in November 2010. The Office of Inspector General, more commonly known as the OIG, is the Broward office charged with rooting out public mismanagement and corruption.

Feds indict former West Palm club owner on gambling, tax evasion and prostitution charges” via Julius Whigham II of the Palm Beach Post — The former owner of a West Palm Beach nightclub was indicted last week on federal charges alleging that among other crimes, he conspired with others to run an illegal sports gambling business, organized prostitution activities and evaded paying taxes. Dion De Cesare, the one-time owner of the Renegades restaurant and nightclub, also is accused of money laundering, according to an 18-count indictment announced Wednesday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami. If convicted, De Cesare faces up to 50 years in prison. The indictment alleges that from about April 2008 through November of this year, De Cesare and his front company, HERE LLC, used two other West Palm Beach-area nightclubs to provide prostitution to customers.

Renegades’ owner Dion De Cesare faces up to 50 years in prison for shady deals, including gambling and prostitution.

‘He is not a murderer’: Family’s clemency bid for dad’s convicted killer left to Dave Aronberg” via Jane Musgrave of the Palm Beach Post — For decades, Patti Kreusler Ceravolo has been haunted by her father’s 1976 murder, never believing that the right man was convicted and fearing the real killer was still on the loose. Enlisting the help of three of her five siblings, she amassed thousands of records that convinced her family that Mark Herman, a West Palm Beach karate instructor, shouldn’t have been found guilty of killing her father, Richard, a politically connected Palm Beach oil executive. The three sisters have compiled charts, written reports, and scoured the internet and the country for information, hoping to find out who and why someone wanted their father dead.

Feds give Brightline $20K to help keep its extended high-speed rail line safe in Florida” via David Lyons of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Brightline is receiving another $20,000 in federal money to help keep people alert to the dangers of its high-speed trains that will soon zip along the railroad’s new extension between West Palm Beach and Orlando. “The grant award dollars will be used for an online campaign,” spokesperson Ben Porritt said in an email. “The targeted digital ads will reach people that live within the ZIP codes directly adjacent to the corridor and people who may be interacting with the corridor daily.” Porritt said that outreach to the public through digital media “has been proven to connect with individuals in an impactful way because they are personalized and can reach people through platforms they already use.”

—“Brightline construction closing railroad crossings in Sebastian, Winter over next 10 days” via Thomas Weber of Treasure Coast Newspapers

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Hurricane center says mid-Atlantic system could form” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — The official Atlantic hurricane season ended last week, but a system in the mid-Atlantic didn’t get the memo. The National Hurricane Center said a large area of low pressure with disorganized showers and thunderstorms located about 750 miles northeast of the northern Leeward Islands in the central subtropical Atlantic Ocean could grow into a subtropical depression or storm. “Environmental conditions appear conducive for this system to acquire some subtropical characteristics while it drifts northeastward during the next few days,” forecasters said in its 9 a.m. tropical outlook Monday. “By Thursday night or Friday, however, the low is expected to move over cooler waters, ending its chances of becoming a subtropical cyclone.”

Hurricane season may be technically over, but this tropical storm isn’t following the calendar.

—“Volusia County will finish debris collection Friday for Tropical Storm Ian” via Sheldon Gardner of The Daytona Beach News-Journal

Terms of Brevard Superintendent Mark Mullins’ departure to be hammered out” via Tyler Vazquez of Florida Today — Superintendent Mullins and the Brevard County school district will enter a mutual separation agreement on Monday, finalizing Mullin’s departure from BPS and completing one of the first actions taken by the new Board. A contentious election season marked by the unprecedented involvement of state and nationwide party politics in local School Board elections culminated in an ideological shift at the School Board and the decision last month to accept Mullins’ offer to end his term at the helm of Brevard Public Schools. Newly elected Board members along with new Chair Matt Susin debated Mullins’ future with the district at a November meeting before Mullins agreed to step down from his job.

Brevard deputy charged in accidental shooting death of Deputy Austin Walsh” via Eric Rogers of Florida Today — A Brevard County deputy was arrested following what Sheriff Wayne Ivey called the accidental shooting death of 23-year-old Deputy Walsh in Palm Bay over the weekend, Ivey said Sunday. Deputy Andrew Lawson was charged with manslaughter by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement following the incident, Ivey said, calling the shooting an “extremely dumb and totally avoidable accident” in a video news release. Ivey said Lawson and Walsh, who were roommates, were taking a break from playing video games in the early morning hours Saturday when Lawson “jokingly” pointed what he believed was an unloaded handgun at Walsh and pulled the trigger.

To watch Ivey’s statement on the shooting, please click on the image below:

Palm Coast lawyer suspended again for violating rules of initial suspension” via Frank Fernandez of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — A Palm Coast attorney was about to petition the Florida Bar to return from a one-year suspension for having sex with a client. But then he got into more trouble: Bradley Sherman violated more Florida Bar rules while serving his suspension and is now barred from practicing law for another 18 months, according to documents. The state Supreme Court found Sherman in contempt of its earlier order dealing with the initial discipline, suspended him again and ordered Sherman to pay the Florida Bar $1,250. Sherman said he was unaware of the Florida Bar rule prohibiting him from direct contact with clients and requiring notice to the bar if he worked for another law firm or lawyer during his suspension.

Judge rules against Apopka, decides City Center can have ‘workforce housing’” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Apopka hasn’t yet decided whether to appeal a ruling that would allow affordable-housing units in its long-awaited City Center, sometimes touted by leaders as the future crown jewel of Orange County’s second-largest city. The mixed-use development at the intersection of State Road 436 and U.S. Highway 441 was supposed to include luxury apartments, not “workforce housing.” A developer’s agreement for the project restricted multifamily housing to “non-subsidized, market rent” units. It required “all residential apartments and townhomes be developed as luxury or upscale rental or condominium dwellings,” according to court filings. The City Council then voted 3-2 in May against lifting the restriction.

— LOCAL: TB —

Tampa Police Chief resigns amid traffic stop scandal” via Florida Politics — Tampa Police Chief Mary O’Connor resigned Monday morning, Mayor Jane Castor announced, after O’Connor controversially appeared to use her position to get out of a traffic citation. In a tweet Monday morning, Castor said she “requested and received” O’Connor’s resignation. “Assistant Chief Lee Bercaw will serve as acting chief while a comprehensive national search is conducted,” Castor said. The resignation comes after the city launched an investigation into a traffic stop involving O’Connor and her husband in which she flashed her badge, identified herself as the Tampa Chief of Police and asked a Pinellas deputy to “just let us go,” which he did. Castor said the situation was “especially disappointing” because she “gave Mary O’Connor a second chance.”

Amid external investigation, HART CEO will stay put” via Olivia George of the Tampa Bay Times — The chief executive of Hillsborough County’s transit agency will continue at the helm while the agency faces an external investigation into allegations of a hostile work environment and the double-dipping of a top staffer. Chairperson of the Board of Directors and County Commissioner Pat Kemp introduced a motion to place Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority CEO Adelee Le Grand on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation at a board meeting Monday morning. Six board members voted for the motion, while six voted against it. The tiebreaker resulted in the motion failing, de facto leaving Le Grand in place.

Adelee Le Grand gets a reprieve.

— LOCAL: SW. FL —

Toxic red tide algae still thriving along southwest coast, mostly in Sarasota, Marco waters” via Chad Gillis of the Fort Myers News-Press — A ghostly red tide that’s lurked along the Southwest Florida shoreline for more than a month is showing signs of strengthening in the Sarasota and Marco Island areas. The latest Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports show red tide (Karenia brevis) counts of 1 million cells per liter and higher along Sarasota and Collier counties, with slightly lower but still toxic levels reported in Lee. Larry Brand, a University of Miami researcher and professor and red tide expert, said he expects the situation will play out like it did in 2017 and 2018, years that were dominated by a large hurricane flushing massive nutrients loads to the coast followed by a toxic red tide algae bloom.

Fort Myers Beach leaders promise ‘functional paradise’ within year; Ian 2nd biggest insured loss ever” via Phil Fernandez of the Fort Myers News-Press — Fort Myers Beach Vice-Mayor Jim Atterholt says even if they believe it, residents shouldn’t publicly mention that the town’s recovery may take five years because it’s bad for business. “I’m hearing some things around the island that give me great concern. I hear about this concept of, ‘It’s going to take five years to rebuild our island.’ I hear that ‘it’s going to take five to seven years.’ I hear that ‘it’s going to take five to 10 years to rebuild our island,’” Atterholt said. “For the people who keep talking about five years, seven years, I wish they’d knock it off.”

Jim Atterholt says to knock off the talk about a ‘five-year’ recovery for Fort Myers Beach.

Lee County collects enough Hurricane Ian debris to fill Hertz Arena 10 times” via Samantha Neely of the Fort Myers News-Press — Lee County has collected more than 4 million cubic yards of hurricane debris, enough to fill Hertz Arena about 10 times. Since Sept. 28, crews have worked to clear debris from more than 3,500 miles of Lee County roads. Officials equated that distance to a trip from Fort Myers to Minneapolis and back. “Specialized debris trucks working continuously in unincorporated Lee County collect more than 60,000 cubic yards of roadside debris each day and move roughly 20,000 cubic yards from debris management sites to final disposal,” Lee County officials said in a news release.

Nearly two months after Hurricane Ian, Naples attraction inches toward full reopening” via Louis Llovio of Business Observer Florida — More than two months after catastrophic flooding from Hurricane Ian nearly destroyed Tin City in Naples, the tourist and shopping destination is about ready to fully reopen. Several shops are already doing business and dozens of others are restocking and finishing buildouts after much of the three-building complex saw 3 feet of water and mud. Work is progressing so well, in fact, that property manager Craig Ekonomos is expecting everything to be up and running by Dec. 15. “When you give everybody a date when I say Dec. 15 it kind of lights a fire,” says Ekonomos.

Hertz agrees to pay $168M to settle false arrest claims by hundreds of customers” via Laura Layden of the Fort Myers News-Press — Hertz will pay nearly $170 million to settle hundreds of false theft claims involving its customers. The Estero-based rental giant announced the news early Monday. In a news release, Hertz said it had settled 364 claims, “bringing resolution to more than 95%” of the total disputes. Aggrieved customers accused the company of wrongful theft arrests for cars they legally rented. Some customers claim they got pulled over, arrested and prosecuted for stealing cars because Hertz couldn’t locate its own vehicles after they got returned. Others have complained of various other mix-ups with their rental returns, extensions or payments. Hertz will pay about $168 million by year-end to resolve the majority of pending claims.

Superintendent separation terms expected; Sarasota teachers overwhelmingly support Brennan Asplen” via Steven Walker of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The Sarasota County School Board and Superintendent Asplen are expected to finalize separation terms soon, in preparation for the next School Board meeting on Dec. 13. By law, a notice for a meeting must be published one week ahead of time with an agenda attached, meaning the agenda for the Dec. 13 meeting must be published by Tuesday. If the Superintendent’s contract or separation agreement were to be voted on or discussed at that meeting, it would need to be filed in that agenda. Separation negotiations come as the School Board voted to authorize them at a meeting on Nov. 29, despite more than two hours of public comment largely in support of Asplen.

Manatee Commissioner George Kruse accused of DUI crash asks court to throw out bodycam video” via Jessica De Leon of the Bradenton Herald — Manatee County Commissioner Kruse is looking to get statements he made immediately after his April 20 suspected DUI crash — recorded on a Sheriff’s Office lieutenant’s body camera footage — thrown out of the criminal case against him. Kruse crashed his Ford F-150 pickup truck head-on into a tree just inside his subdivision that evening. By the time an off-duty Manatee County Sheriff’s lieutenant working a detail in the community arrived, Kruse was sitting in the back seat of his wife’s SUV. Earlier in the evening, the couple had gone to the Parrish home of local real estate developer Carlos Beruff, founder of Medallion Home and the developer behind Aqua by the Bay, to meet political consultant Anthony Pedicini.

George Kruse would sure like to erase the bodycam video of his DUI.

What’s holding up expansion of Salvation Army homeless shelter? Bradenton is reviewing” via Ryan Callihan of the Bradenton Herald — Plans to expand shelter capacity at Bradenton’s Salvation Army headquarters are on hold following a City Council decision to review policies. In September, city leaders approved a “zoning in progress” period that temporarily blocks certain types of businesses, including homeless shelters, from expansion. Salvation Army leaders criticized the move, which stalls an effort to provide additional shelter for homeless people. The organization asked Bradenton for permission to remodel a storage building at 1204 14th St. W. into a shelter that would offer temporary housing for up to 24 women a night. The request was denied while the city updates its zoning laws, according to Planning and Community Development Director Robin Singer. That doesn’t sit well with the Salvation Army.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

—“DeSantis orders flags at half-staff for NAS Pensacola shooting remembrance” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics

Former Jacksonville Beach City Attorney banned from practicing law for five years after guilty plea in child abuse” via Tomas Rodriguez of the Fort Myers News-Press — A former Jacksonville Beach city attorney has had his license to practice revoked, after pleading guilty in a child abuse case in Duval County. Christopher Ambrosio pleaded guilty in September to one count of child abuse, according to the Florida Supreme Court. According to the Florida Times-Union, Ambrosio resigned weeks after his March 24, 2021, arrest on charges of lewd and lascivious molestation of a victim 12 to 16 years old and contributing to the delinquency of a child.

TPD announces 2nd arrest in FAMU shooting; social media comments cited as motive” via Christopher Cann of the Tallahassee Democrat — The deadly mass shooting on the campus of Florida A&M University that injured four people and killed an innocent bystander stemmed from social media comments, police said. News of the gunman’s motive comes as the Tallahassee Police Department announced that a second Tallahassee man has been arrested in connection with the shooting at the basketball courts just outside the FAMU Hansel Tookes Student Recreation Center. Chedderick Thomas, 21, faces one count of first-degree homicide and four counts of attempted homicide. Last week, Da’Vhon Young Jr., 21, was arrested on the same charges.

A second person was arrested in connection with the deadly mass shooting on the FAMU campus.

—“Escambia and Santa Rosa delegations to talk 2023 priorities ahead of Legislative Session” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal

Escambia County jail lawsuit: Sanctions floated after county ignores discovery request” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Attorneys standing for the construction company suing Escambia County for not paying the final $3.4 million to build the new county jail are asking a judge to sanction the county for ignoring discovery and deposition requests in the ongoing lawsuit. The requests go as far as asking the county to explain why an assistant county administrator should not be held in contempt of court for allegedly ignoring a subpoena. Whitesell-Green/Caddell sued the county in January, alleging the county still owes the company $3.4 million for the construction of the $132 million jail building completed in 2021.

Cox files protest over Escambia County’s selection of EREC for broadband network” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Cox Communications has filed a formal protest over Escambia County’s decision to select the Escambia River Electric Cooperative for a rural broadband project. In a letter sent to the county’s purchasing manager on Wednesday, attorneys for Cox argued the county deviated from its selection process outlined in its request for proposal (RFP) for the construction of a fiber optic internet network in unserved areas of the county, and the decision to select EREC violated the county’s purchasing policies. Cox also argued the county was supposed to notify all interested parties of any substantial or procedural changes to the selection process.

Power lines, business headed up at JAXPORT” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — It was a day of note for JAXPORT as the money came in to facilitate a long-discussed raising of power lines over the St. Johns River. The initial million dollars arrives in fiscal year 2023, with more than $16 million on the way in 2024, followed by $4 million in 2025 and $1.5 million in 2026. The public transportation grant is half-funded by the Florida Department of Transportation and half-funded by JAXPORT on a match-funding basis. Once completed, the lines will move from 175 feet above the high tide line to 225 feet.

Tallahassee docs: Forget the pen and paper. There’s an app for new patient paperwork.” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Ever get tired of filling out the same mundane medical form asking about allergies, family history and current medications every time you go to the doctor? Tallahassee residents fed up with the paperwork may have the opportunity to help pilot a new app that allows patients to electronically share information with their providers. Called WellConnector, the app could prevent patients from having to fill out duplicative forms. It also could help cement Tallahassee as a budding IT hub. The app is the brainchild of public relations maven Allison Aubuchon.

— TOP OPINION —

Let the Florida Governor run for President” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — It’s a good bet that DeSantis will run for President. If he does, Florida law is vague on whether he would need to resign as Governor — and when he would need to do it. Florida lawmakers should end any doubt by passing a law that allows the Governor to run without resigning. It’s an easy tweak and the right thing to do. Over the years, the Legislature has waffled on whether state politicians running for federal office must resign or not. The law is murky, but it shouldn’t be. There’s no need for protracted litigation or political counterpunching. Just clear up the law to say the Governor — any Florida Governor — can run for federal office without resigning.

— OPINIONS —

The Twitter censorship files” via The Wall Street Journal editorial board — Elon Musk’s release of internal emails relating to Twitter’s 2020 censorship is news by any definition. There will be many threads to unspool as more is released, but a couple of points are already worth making. The first is that Musk would do the country a favor by releasing the documents all at once for everyone to inspect. So far he’s dribbled them out piecemeal through journalist Matt Taibbi’s Twitter feed, which makes it easier for the media to claim they can’t report on documents because they can’t independently confirm them. A second point is a huzzah for U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna, the California progressive Democrat, who warned Twitter in 2020 about the free-speech implications and political backlash.

Trump’s political death wish.” via Byron York of the Washington Examiner — What is Trump thinking? Even as he is a declared candidate for the 2024 Presidential Election, he remains obsessed with the events of 2020. For Trump, the coming election will be about the past. Trump has no problem being seen as a poor loser. That’s not an image the public usually likes. If someone loses, and especially if they are somehow screwed in the process, the public is sympathetic, especially if the person takes the loss, doesn’t complain, and goes back to work. Trump has argued that unless what he views as the injustice of the 2020 election is rectified, then there might never be another fair election in the United States. Trump has never been able to prove that the 2020 election was stolen.

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

— ALOE —

NASA sends Orion on slingshot around moon to head back to Earth” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — NASA whipped the Orion spacecraft around the moon Monday for a slingshot back to Earth as the Artemis I mission nears its completion. Orion previously performed a similar maneuver to send it into a lunar orbit that brought it out to the farthest distance flown by a human-rated spacecraft — more than 268,000 miles from Earth. It left that orbit on Dec. 1 moving closer and closer back to the moon over the last few days. Monday’s return maneuver saw Orion fly within 79.2 miles from the lunar surface before making a powered flyby burn to use the moon’s gravity for an Earthbound trajectory.

‘Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom’ rolling out again in early 2023” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — The second season of “Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom” will debut in January. Ten episodes of the docuseries look at the care and feeding of creatures not only at Animal Kingdom theme park but also at Animal Kingdom Lodge, The Seas pavilion at Epcot, and at Tri-Circle-D Ranch, home to more than 5,000 animals overall. The series was filmed over five months at Walt Disney World, including its backstage animal-health facilities. Scenes will include pulling a manatee tooth, elephants on a first date, the birth of a Hartmann’s mountain zebra, and the introduction of Disney’s first blacktip reef shark. One episode is titled “Chilled-Out Cheetahs.”

‘Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom’ Season Two is set to premiere early next year.

Orlando Epic Universe work is ‘right on track,’ executive says” via Katie Rice of the Orlando Sentinel — As enthusiasts spot roller coaster track at the construction site of Universal’s upcoming theme park Epic Universe, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said the Orlando attraction is “right on track” to open by summer 2025. “I don’t think we’ve said the exact date that we’re opening in, but we will have an impact in ‘25. It will open in time for the summer of ‘25,” he said Monday. Shell gave added context on the theme park during the UBS Global TMT Conference on Monday, saying it has “perfect timing” as Orlando sees high demand from tourists. He mentioned recent hotel booking trends and Orlando International Airport opening its new Terminal C in September as evidence of that.

Tortoise found covered in concrete. Florida rescuers had unique approach to remove it” via Mark Price of the Bradenton Herald — A tortoise “covered in concrete” was found wandering a Florida neighborhood, and the predicament left rescuers perplexed over how to undo it. It happened in Punta Gorda, about 100 miles south of Tampa, and photos show a thick layer of mortar was stuck to the underside of the gopher tortoise. “A house was being built next to where this gopher tortoise was found and we believe it must have walked through the freshly poured concrete,” the Peace River Wildlife Center wrote on Nov. 17 on Facebook. The tortoise was identified as a hatchling, around 6 months old, and it was likely “out on its own for the first time” when the mishap occurred, the center said.

— HOLIDAYS —

Happening today — Palm Beach Republican Rep. Rick Roth will take part in the Log Cabin Republicans of Palm Beach County holidays event: 6:30 p.m., Chela’s Mexican Food & Bar, 11150 Okeechobee Blvd., Royal Palm Beach.

Jazzy ‘Charlie Brown Christmas’ swings on after 57 years” via David Bauder of The Associated Press — The Mendelson family would love to find the envelope where their father, Lee, scribbled some lyrics to jazz musician Vince Guaraldi’s composition “Christmastime is Here” for an animated TV special featuring the “Peanuts” gang in 1965. The producer always said it had taken less than a half-hour to write, and he likely tossed the scrap of paper away. He was in a rush. Everything was rushed. No one even knew, once the special aired, whether it would ever be seen again. “Christmas just doesn’t feel like Christmas without hearing that album in the background,” said Derrick Bang, author of the biography “Vince Guaraldi at the Piano.”

It’s not Christmas without it: ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ has become an indelible holiday tradition for nearly 60 years.

Indelible Management Solutions to provide ‘Holiday of Hope’” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Indelible Management Solutions’ philanthropic initiative, Indelible Gives, is hosting Santa Claus and his elves in Fort Myers Saturday, Dec. 10 to spread holiday cheer at the group’s “A Holiday of Hope” event. More than 2,000 Fort Myers families, many affected by Hurricane Ian, will receive free toys and clothing and enjoy a concert featuring Grammy Award-winning artists Anthony Hamilton and Tamela Mann. Indelible is sponsoring the giveaway and event in collaboration with several partners, including Lowes, the Whitehouse Family Foundation, the City of Fort Myers, and other community sponsors.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Belated best wishes to Carlecia Collins of GrayRobinson. Celebrating today is one of Southwest Florida’s finest, Vickie Brill, as well as Lara Medley Prewitt and former U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney.

___

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

Peter Schorsch

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


One comment

  • Richard Bruce

    December 6, 2022 at 10:21 am

    Florida housing is affordable, otherwise prices will be going down. Keep the Gov’t out of the housing market. There is no right to live where one cannot afford pay the price. And, the Gov’t has no right to forcibly take one’s money to give to someone else to subsidize their housing. Why should one be forced to live in a less expensive place based on their earned income to allow someone else to live in a more expensive place than they can afford?

Comments are closed.


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