Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 12.12.22

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Your morning review of the issues and players behind Florida politics.

Good Monday morning.

INFLUENCE Magazine’s recognition of the rising stars of the governmental affairs sector will be unveiled in the January issue.

Right now, we are taking nominations for those who belong on this prestigious list. We are looking for bright shiny faces from the lobbying, fundraising and public affairs arena. This will be a tight list of about 25 individuals, so make your nominations count.

Email them to .


Lauren’s Kids wins regional Emmy — Lauren’s Kids received a 2022 Suncoast Regional Emmy Award for its Safer, Smarter Kids Second Grade — Safety Superheroes curriculum. The award came in the competition’s Informational/Instructional category. “Students who receive child sexual abuse prevention lessons in the classroom are 3.5 times more likely to report their abuse, compared to those students who have not received training,” said Lauren’s Kids Founder and CEO Lauren Book, the Senate Democratic Leader. “This is why Safer, Smarter Kids was created — so that every parent, caregiver, teacher, and student is armed with the tools they need to stop abuse in its tracks.”

Congrats to Lauren Book; her Lauren’s Kids nonprofit has won a regional Emmy.


Spotted — Congressman Byron Donalds huddling with a team of advisers this past weekend in Ft. Myers to talk about his political future including a potential run for statewide office. Among those present were Erika Donalds, Larry Wilcoxon, Mark Harris, James Blair, and Brad Herold.


‘I am that dream’: Jose Juarez enters race for Joe Harding’s seat — Juarez is filing for HD 24, in what should become a Special Election after Harding’s resignation last week. The 40-year-old business owner — who emigrated at age 5 from Cuba to Ocala — is a lifelong registered Republican and conservative. “The American Dream is alive and well — I am that dream,” he said in a statement. “And we must elect leaders who know how to protect and preserve that dream.” In 2003, Juarez founded Victory Solutions, a direct marketing company, which now operates nationwide, and Barbacuban LLC, a specialty sauce company, in early 2016. Before that, Juarez had over two decades of business management experience including time as vice president of Sales, Marketing, and Special Projects for StarCraft Automotive and vice president of Mark III Industries.


@ElonMusk: Twitter is both a social media company and a crime scene

@RexChapman: So, if we pay Elon $11 a month, we’re funding the QAnon/MAGA Jan. 6 extreme right. No thanks.

@DavidOAtkins: This all ends with Musk de-platforming liberal accounts as “revenge,” Twitter going bankrupt, GOP clowns demanding jail time for @jack, the GOP losing badly in 2024, Tesla cratering as better EV competition comes on, followed by massive SBF-style legal consequences for Elon.

@MarcACaputo: Looks as if (Ron) DeSantis might be limiting his identification with legislation that could raise home insurance rates for millions of Floridians — and that opponents may define as a giveaway to the insurance industry, but we have a few days to see how it shakes out

Tweet, tweet:

@TomBrady: Awesome night under the lights for #TheMatch. Excited for the next installment where you guys come run 1v1s in full pads

@HKane: Absolutely gutted. We’ve given it everything and it’s come down to a small detail which I take responsibility for. There’s no hiding from it, it hurts, and it’ll take some time to get over it but that’s part of sport.

@RepDarrenSoto: Congratulations on a successful mission, @NASA! This mission proved our commitment to going back to the moon and the incredible capabilities of @NASA_SLS and @NASA_Orion. The first step is always the hardest and @NASAArtemis just took it!


‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 4; Military Bowl with UCF Knights against Duke — 16; Cheez-It Bowl with FSU against Oklahoma — 17; final Broadway performance of ‘The Music Man’ with Hugh Jackman — 20; last day to ride Splash Mountain before remodeling — 41; The James Madison Institute’s Annual Dinner — 44; 2023 FAC Access 67 Broadband Summit — Florida Association of Counties begins — 45; Bruce Springsteen launches 2023 tour in Tampa — 51; ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 67; final performance of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ on Broadway — 68; city of Tampa Municipal Election early voting begins — 77; DeSantis’ ‘The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival’ released — 78; ‘The Mandalorian’ returns — 79; Tampa Municipal Election — 84; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 85; World Baseball Classic finals begin in Miami — 89; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 102; Taylor Swift ‘Eras’ Tour in Tampa — 122; American Association of Political Consultants Pollies ’23 conference begins — 137; 2023 Session Sine Die — 144; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 144; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 172; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 221; ‘‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 228; Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 326; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 473; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 529; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 592; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 592; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 634; ‘Deadpool 3’ premieres — 697; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 795; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 872. ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,061.


Florida insurance company execs saw big payouts in years without hurricanes” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — State lawmakers have largely ignored an issue that has been directly blamed for numerous past company failures — and allowed some executives to make eye-popping sums of money over the last decade when companies were wildly profitable thanks to years without a storm.

Between 2014 and 2018, the CEO for Fort Lauderdale-based Universal Insurance Holdings made between $14 million and $25 million each year, corporate filings show. The company has reduced its policies in Florida over the last year.

A season with no hurricanes means big bonuses for insurance executives.

In 2015, State Farm’s CEO earned $13.3 million overseeing America’s largest property insurance company. That same year at Tampa-based Heritage Insurance Holdings, one of the numerous small Florida-based homeowners insurance companies, its CEO made $27.3 million, despite overseeing 0.3% of the number of policies and accounts of State Farm.

At St. Petersburg-based United Insurance Holdings, whose insurance arm fell under state supervision last week, the company awarded millions of dollars in stock dividends, most went to company officers and directors, even while its profits shrank, according to corporate filings.

The payouts are legal under Florida law — and necessary, some say. While insurance companies in Florida are closely regulated, with caps on payouts and profits, their parent and sister companies are largely unregulated.

That makes the small domestic companies that dominate Florida’s market more lucrative to investors.

State regulators have long been aware of the dangers of outsized arrangements between insurers and their sister and parent companies.

Florida-based insurance companies have been going out of business the last few years or raising rates by double digits. Industry groups and DeSantis have blamed excessive litigation, and Republican legislators are poised this week to limit the incentives to sue insurers.

How much such payouts could be to blame for the current wave of failures — six companies in the last year — is unknown.


Lawmakers reveal major proposed changes to property insurance laws” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — State lawmakers have a plan to resolve the state’s property insurance woes: require insurers to respond to claims faster, make homeowners file claims sooner, reduce the incentives to sue insurers and offer a taxpayer-funded $1 billion bailout program for companies. The wide-ranging legislation was released Friday night, just three days before lawmakers are set to return to Tallahassee for a Special Session. It’s unclear if any of the changes will lead to lower rates any time soon for Floridians, who are paying the highest homeowners insurance premiums in the nation.

Paul Renner and Kathleen Passidomo: They love it when a plan comes together. Image via Colin Hackley.

Legislators have goals for fixing property insurance market” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — Florida’s property insurance market is in free fall. Florida homeowners pay property insurance rates that are three times the national average. Six companies have become insolvent and left the state in the last year. Citizens Property Insurance, the state-run insurer of last resort, now has more than 1.1 million customers, the highest in a decade. And people who have paid off their mortgages are increasingly “going bare,” choosing not to carry the high-priced insurance and instead shouldering the economic risks themselves. All this happened before Hurricane Ian inflicted between $35 billion and $73 billion in insured damage in Florida.

Legislature unveils hurricane relief bills for Special Session” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Lawmakers plan to assist homeowners and counties hit hard by Hurricanes Ian and Nicole. In a package of bills presented Friday evening, Sen. Travis Hutson and Rep. Stan McClain filed identical 20-page bills (HB 3A/SB 4A) that provide an assortment of avenues for individuals and local governments to seek relief. Among the proposals, as promised by DeSantis, is one for residents to earn tax refunds for the days their homes were uninhabitable because of the pair of storms.

Lawmakers present 50% toll credit plan for 2023” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Lawmakers have packed a treat for commuters in their bundle of Special Session bills. Legislation filed Friday evening would give frequent toll road drivers a 50% credit on their tolls throughout 2023. Drivers would have to pass through tolling places 35 times in a given month to receive credit for the month. Freshman Sen. Nick DiCeglie and Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera filed identical bills (HB 5A/SB 6A), which set aside $500 million to reimburse the Department of Transportation (DOT) and toll agencies like the Florida Turnpike Enterprise.

Proposed toll credit could save frequent commuters $550 a year” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Sick of amassing toll charges driving to and from work in Florida? Relief could arrive next year for frequent toll-road users. A consumer-friendly proposal to make your daily commute less expensive is among a list of proposed property insurance reforms up for debate during the Special Legislative Session, which starts Monday in Tallahassee. Lawmakers are expected to accept a proposal unveiled in September by DeSantis to provide 50% toll credits to drivers who go through toll stations 40 or more times a month.

High tolls taking their toll on commuters? Florida lawmakers want to help with that.

House Dem Leader proposes electing Insurance Commissioner and more” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — House Democrats have released their vision for property insurance reform ahead of this week’s Special Session, including the electing another statewide office. Under legislation filed Sunday afternoon by Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell, voters would elect the state Insurance Commissioner every four years to lead the Office of Insurance Regulation. Additionally, the bill would mandate that property insurers lower premiums whenever lawmakers adopt property insurance reforms. The bill would also create the Property Insurance Commission to review the work of the Office of Insurance Regulation.

Happening today:

9 a.m. — House Minority Leader Driskell joins Reps. Kelly Skidmore and Hillary Cassel for media availability before Session starts. Zoom link here.

10:30 a.m. — Both the Florida Senate and House convene.

Noon — The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee meets: 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.

Noon — The Senate Community Affairs Committee meets: 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.

3 p.m. — The Senate Fiscal Policy Committee meets: 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.

15 minutes after the Fiscal Policy Committee — The Senate Special Order Calendar Group meets to set a calendar of bills to be heard on the Senate floor: 401 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.


DeSanta Claus: Governor drops official Christmas merch” via Jordan Kirkland of The Capitolist — DeSantis is ready to deliver presents to those on his Nice List this Christmas. The Florida Governor has a bag full of goodies from his new “Team DeSantis Christmas Line” that dropped this week. The holiday-themed merchandise features several gifts for those looking to surprise their Florida Man (or Woman) on the 25th. “Spread some freedom cheer to everyone on your list this Christmas and secure our exclusive Team DeSanta Christmas merch TODAY,” Team DeSantis tweeted out with a link to the shop.

For the man who has everything.

Who is Casey DeSantis? First Lady knows ‘what’s best for Ron’” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Orlando Sentinel — Sitting cross-legged on a couch in the Governor’s Mansion wearing a soft lilac sweater and blue jeans, Casey DeSantis stared directly into the camera to talk about how her husband, Ron DeSantis, helped her get through treatment for breast cancer. “I was facing the battle for my life. He was the dad who took care of my children when I couldn’t. He was there to pick me off of the ground when I literally could not stand. He was there to fight for me when I didn’t have the strength to fight for myself,” she said.

The polls keep telling us Donald Trump is no longer invincible” via David Feddoso of The Washington Examiner — This is becoming a less and less original topic lately, but the idea of Trump trailing anybody in a poll of Republican voters would have been astounding just 40 days ago. Now, it’s starting to become commonplace. Just over a week ago, a national poll showed both Republican (55%-45%) and independent Republican-leaning registered voters (60%-40%) favoring DeSantis over Trump in a head-to-head primary matchup. Well, on Thursday, the Yahoo News-YouGov poll again showed DeSantis leading Trump among Republican voters, this time 47% to 42%.


The servant leadership of Sen. Alexis Calatayud: ‘Find the gap and fill it’” via Brian Burgess of the Capitolist — Whether it was advocating to protect the Bright Futures scholarship program for thousands of FIU first-year students who couldn’t afford to finish school without it, or later working long days and late nights at the Florida Department of Education to help retool and reopen the state’s K-12 education system in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Calatayud keeps finding herself in the center of the action. And that’s exactly where she says she belongs, finding opportunities to show servant leadership. “I truly believe that service is the true extension of love,” Calatayud said Friday. “It’s really about finding gaps and filling them. Do that, and you eventually find a place that has immense need.”

Mr. Rogers said: ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ Alexis Calatayud is one of them.

For new GOP State Sen. Jay Collins, learning to accept help taught him a valuable life lesson” via Brian Burgess of the Capitolist — For more than two decades, Collins served in the United States Army, retiring at the rank of First Sergeant. His service as a Green Beret took him on tours to Afghanistan, Iraq, and two deployments to South America. While defending his base from attack, an enemy mortar exploded near him, sending a devastating shock wave and shrapnel into his lower left leg and body. “At that point in 2014,” he explains, “the Army’s philosophy was to try and save everyone’s leg. But sometimes, you have to take a step backward before you can take a step forward, right? I had to learn to be broken, learn how to accept help.” Collins eventually gained approval from military doctors to have the leg removed.

State Sen. Corey Simon: ‘What you see is what you get’” via Brian Burgess of the Capitolist — Simon is not new to the spotlight. The newly elected Republican State Sen. is well-known for his athletic exploits on the football field, where he won a national championship with the Florida State Seminoles and earned Pro-Bowl honors with the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL. Simon says he’ll bring that same work ethic to his new job representing SD 3. “I want to do my best every single day to help the folks I serve. I will remember who I am, who I came into the process as. And I will always be Corey, whatever the prefix is before Corey. I have to be able to look back on this and remain true to the character that I came into this with, and I want to be a good steward of the trust placed in me.”

Shawn Hamilton staying on at Department of Environmental Protection” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Hamilton will return as Secretary for the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for DeSantis’ second term. Hamilton has received bipartisan praise at the Department, the state’s top environment management agency. He has led the Department since June 2021 and was confirmed unanimously in March of this year. “Shawn Hamilton has done an excellent job leading the (DEP) and overseeing our historic funding for Everglades restoration and the protection of water resources,” DeSantis tweeted Friday afternoon. “I am excited to have him back serving as Secretary for my next term!”

Shawn Hamilton is back. Image via Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Florida’s aging infrastructure unleashed untold gallons of raw sewage during Ian” via Jim Waymer of Florida Today — Utilities unleashed untold millions of gallons of raw sewage into coastal waters and neighborhoods across Florida as Ian struck and in the days afterward, according to data from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). And while Ian slammed into Southwest Florida and then churned across the state with a fury not seen since Hurricane Charley in 2004, the sewage spills in places were going on and persisted well before and after the storm. According to the DEP, some spills took place far from the hurricane’s heaviest rainfall and winds.

As flu season hits Florida hard, drug shortages cause panic” via Tribune News Service — Flu season has hit hard in South Florida, and drug shortages rippling through the country are creating nightmares for those who get sick. “Parents are coming to the pharmacy to find an antibiotic and then, when they can’t find what they need, they leave to go to another,” said Harni Patel, a pharmacist and owner of Tamarac Pharmacy. “They often have a sick child with them, and they are distraught that they cannot get their medication.” “We are so busy we can’t keep up with the phone calls and sick kids,” said Dr. Josie Stone, a pediatrician with Advanced Pediatrics of Boca Raton. While most of the respiratory illnesses Stone sees are viral, children often get complications such as ear, sinus and throat infections that require antibiotics, she said.

Space junk seen as threat to Florida’s protected reefs, fisheries” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — “Space junk, bombs, atomic lasers falling from the sky,” the B-52s’ Fred Schneider sings. “Where’s my umbrella?” A joke posed in a three-decades-old college rock song nonetheless comes to mind, as, indeed, what do you do with things falling out of the sky? There aren’t a lot of answers for that at the moment. “For the ongoing activities at Kennedy Space Center, does NOAA Fisheries have any kind of voice in what’s taking place there?” asked Laurilee Thompson, a Titusville seafood restaurant owner and member of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC).


Joe Biden job approval surges after Democrats’ Midterm wins” via Andrew Stanton of Newsweek — While more voters still disapprove than approve of Biden’s job performance, the poll found that Biden has narrowed that gap significantly. Forty-six percent of respondents said they approved of Biden while only 54% said they disapprove. The new poll found Biden’s approval rating surged across the board, regardless of voters’ political affiliation. Among Democrats, his approval increased from 80% in October to 84% in December. Among independent voters, his approval increased from 38 to 43%.

Joe Biden is flying high(er).

Some Hunter Biden allies making plans to go after his accusers” via Matt Viser and Michael Scherer of The Washington Post — Biden’s friend and lawyer Kevin Morris was blunt in laying out his thoughts at a strategy session last September on an expected onslaught of investigations by House Republicans: It was crucial, Morris suggested, for Biden’s camp to be more aggressive. Morris, at the meeting in his California home, described defamation lawsuits the team could pursue against the presidential son’s critics, including Fox News, Eric Trump and Rudy Giuliani. He outlined extensive research on two potential witnesses against Biden, a spurned business partner named Tony Bobulinski and a computer repair person named John Paul Mac Isaac.

Marco Rubio wants TikTok banned due to data on Americans: ‘If the Chinese government asked for it, they have to turn it over’” via Eric Daugherty of Florida’s Voice — Rubio said TikTok, which is based in Beijing, is “scooping up a bunch of data” that would have to be handed over to the Chinese Communist Party if they asked for it. “They’re just scooping all that up and that the Chinese government asked for it to have to turn it over,” he said. “So, they know a tremendous amount about Americans in general, about our society, about what messages work gives them a huge advantage. Not to mention the individual data, people that they can acquire.” Rubio went on to say that videos uploaded to the platform are made to “look like news stories” to target voters and interfere in American elections.

Matt Gaetz outlines opposition to Kevin McCarthy as Speaker battle rages” via Andrew Stanton of Newsweek — Gaetz recently outlined why some Republicans are opposing McCarthy’s bid to become the next Speaker of the House as the battle to select who will lead the House of Representatives continues. “When someone says, I will never leave, it isn’t exactly the battle cry of an inspirational leader. It sounds more like someone who can’t accept a breakup. In the case of Kevin McCarthy and the Republican conference, this is no no-fault divorce. There are things Kevin McCarthy did to erode the trust of the members he needs to vote for him if he wants to be Speaker,” Gaetz said.

Stephanie Murphy puts blame for statewide Democratic losses on misguided airwave campaign” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Florida Democrats suffered a bruising Midterm Election even as the party beat expectations nationwide. But U.S. Rep. Murphy isn’t ready to call Florida a red state. Rather, she puts underperformance by the blue team in 2022 squarely on the shoulders of statewide candidates. “How do you spend $100 million in this state and then have nothing to show for it?” she said. “I think that’s political malpractice.” The remarks, made at Tiger Bay of Central Florida, put the burden of the losses on former U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and U.S. Rep. Val Demings.

Scott Franklin, Darren Soto lead delegation in seeking help for citrus after hurricanes” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Hurricane Ian savaged Florida’s citrus industry. Now, members of Florida’s congressional delegation are coming together to make sure recovery has the juice it needs. U.S. Reps. Franklin and Soto led a letter co-signed by most of Florida’s House delegation seeking support for Florida’s citrus growers. The two appealed to the House Appropriations Committee to provide supplemental disaster relief in the wake of Hurricane Ian, which affected 90% of Florida citrus.

Scott Franklin and Darren Soto look to save Florida’s devastated citrus industry.

RNC chief: GOP can’t ‘do an ostrich method’ on abortion and ‘pretend that it doesn’t exist’” via Chloe Folmar of The Hill — Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel addressed GOP Midterm Election performance on Sunday’s Cats Roundtable radio show, attributing some losses to candidates ignoring the abortion argument. “It was probably a bigger factor than a lot of people thought,” McDaniel told host John Catsimatidis of abortion during the Midterms. “We’ve got to get conversant on that.” She added: “We can’t just do an ostrich method and pretend that it doesn’t exist when Democrats are spending $30 million on that message.”


Judge declines DOJ request to hold Trump team in contempt over classified documents” via Katherine Faulders, John Santucci, and Alexander Mallin of ABC News — A federal judge in Washington declined to hold Trump or his legal team in contempt of court following a court hearing Friday as the Justice Department had requested. The judge instead urged the Justice Department and Trump’s legal team to resolve the dispute themselves, the sources said. The DOJ had urged the judge to hold Trump’s team in contempt over failure to fully comply with a May subpoena for documents with classified markings that was directed to Trump’s custodian of records.

A judge urged the Justice Department and Donald Trump’s legal team to resolve the dispute themselves.

Former U.S. attorney predicts DOJ ‘on a path’ to charge Trump” via Brad Dress of The Hill — Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara on Sunday predicted the Department of Justice (DOJ) is “on a path” to charge Trump. In an interview, Bharara said a special counsel legal team formed to investigate two criminal cases against Trump includes “very seasoned prosecutors” who were recruited, in part, to decide if a case can be tried in court. “I don’t think they would’ve left their former positions, both in government and private practice, unless there was a serious possibility that the Justice Department was on a path to charge,” said Bharara. “And I think it’ll happen in a month.”

Meet the megadonors backing the Trump super PAC as some top donors opt out of supporting 2024 candidacy” via Brian Schwartz of CNBC — Trump may have lost the support of Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman but a super PAC that will back Trump’s latest run for the White House has quietly amassed a small group of megadonors that could be key to financing their efforts to bolster his 2024 campaign. Make America Great Again Inc., a super PAC run by former Trump aides and allies, recently raised over $40 million, mostly from a massive donation from Trump’s PAC, Save America. Yet, the latest disclosure, which shows fundraising for the super PAC from Oct. 20 through Nov. 28, also lists nine other individual contributions totaling over $900,000.

Chris Christie blasts Trump over Georgia Senate loss” via David Cohen of POLITICO — Christie dinged Trump for Herschel Walker’s defeat Tuesday in Georgia’s Senate runoff. “We all remember in 2016, he said, if he got elected, there was going to be so much winning and winning and winning and winning, they’d get sick of winning,” Christie said. “None of us knew at the time he was actually talking about the Democrats.” Christie noted that Walker was the only Republican running statewide in Georgia to lose this year. “Herschel Walker is his creation,” Christie said of Trump. “And so, he’s got to own the fact that Herschel Walker so vastly underperformed.”

— LOCAL: S. FL —

‘Cuba is depopulating’: Largest exodus yet threatens country’s future” via Ed Augustin and Frances Robles of The New York Times — Living conditions in Cuba under Communist rule have long been precarious. The country has been hit by a one-two-punch of tighter U.S. sanctions and the COVID-19 pandemic. Food has become even more scarce and more expensive, lines at pharmacies with scant supplies begin before dawn and millions of people endure daily hourslong blackouts. Over the last year, nearly 250,000 Cubans, more than 2% of the island’s 11 million population, have migrated to the United States, most arriving at the southern border by land.

The last one out of Cuba, please turn off the lights.

As bitcoin plummets, Miami vows to hold on to its crypto dreams” via Tim Craig of The Washington Post — The value of bitcoin has plummeted, a blow to Miami residents who bought into Mayor Francis Suarez’s call to invest in digital currencies. MiamiCoin, the city’s own cryptocurrency, is now essentially worthless. And crypto exchange FTX’s meltdown has had ripple effects here. Sam Bankman-Fried’s Bahamas-based exchange was expected to open its U.S. headquarters in Miami. One of the city’s signature stadiums is FTX Arena, where the NBA’s Miami Heat plays home games. Now Miami-Dade County officials are asking a judge to end the $135 million, 19-year naming rights deal.

Miami-Dade, Broward schools under scrutiny by state over LGBTQ, racial equity policies” via Ana Ceballos of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida’s State Board of Education will meet next week to scrutinize whether 10 school districts, including Miami-Dade, Broward and Hillsborough counties, are carrying out the state’s parental rights law, which has become a political lightning rod in local school board meetings and national politics in recent years. The Florida Department of Education put the districts on notice last month when it sent superintendents letters detailing the policies and procedures in each of their districts that “may not comport with Florida law.”

Miami-Dade skips bidding process, re-signs firms to lobby for hundreds of millions in transportation funds” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Miami-Dade will continue paying for the services of three lobbying firms that for years have advocated for the county’s transportation interests in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C. On Thursday, the county’s transportation planning board, composed of several city officials, an education representative and all 13 members of the County Commission, approved resolutions rehiring Ronald L. Book Inc., Becker & Poliakoff P.A. and Alcade & Fay Ltd. Inc. Alcade & Fay lobby for the county at the federal level. The two other firms do so before state officials.

Political whiplash: New Fort Lauderdale Commission gets off to rocky start” via Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — John Herbst, the City Auditor fired by three of his Commission bosses in a late-night meeting earlier this year, ran for Fort Lauderdale’s District 1 Commission seat in November and won by a landslide. He now shares a seat on the dais with Mayor Dean Trantalis and Commissioner Steve Glassman, both of whom voted to fire him in February. Just hours after being seated Tuesday, Herbst said he’d like to see three people fired: The City Attorney, the City Manager, and the Mayor’s Chief of Staff.

John Herbst takes his seat; will he seek revenge? Image via Sun-Sentinel.

Mindy Koch wins election by 1 vote to become Palm Beach County Democratic Party Chair” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — A former teacher and two-time candidate for the Legislature was elected as Palm Beach County Democratic Party’s Chair by one vote, 160-159, as the party struggles to turn the former Democratic stronghold back to blue. Koch, who ran for Senate in 2016 and the House in 2018, will succeed Terrie Rizzo, who led county Democrats for 10 years. Koch said it’s undeniable that the party — faced with significant losses in the Midterms — needs to regroup.


Tampa Bay region loses leadership clout in Legislature” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — For the last decade, Tampa Bay area state legislators have held an unusually high number of the most powerful positions in the state Legislature. They’ve included Senate Presidents Bill Galvano and Wilton Simpson, House speakers Chris Sprowls, Richard Corcoran and Will Weatherford, and powerful committee posts including Appropriations Chairs Tom Lee and Jack Latvala. That’s been beneficial to the region, former legislators say, but a string like that doesn’t last forever. “We’ve been blessed with senior members of either or both houses for a decade, but now there’s no top leadership in the Legislature out of Tampa Bay,” said former state Senate President Tom Lee of Brandon.

Port Tampa Bay bounces back after pandemic” via Justin Matthews of Fox 13 — Port Tampa Bay is about to break a record of having seven ships come in and out over five days. The port hasn’t seen that many ships within that short time frame in its history. “You’re looking at about 14,000 passengers switching out during that time, so a busy time down there in Channelside,” explained Matthew Thompson, the director of cruise operations and emergency management for Port Tampa Bay. A vessel that carries 2,500 people with a 1,000-person crew, brings in about $330,000 to a home port per call.

Smooth sailing: Port Tampa is back, baby.

In Pinellas, tough construction economy delays affordable housing” via Jack Evans of the Tampa Bay Times — Amid sharp cost-of-living increases, Pinellas County officials have positioned affordable housing as a top priority, with at least nine yet-unbuilt affordable or mixed-income developments approved for county funding. But three of those projects, totaling 370 affordable units, are on hold as developers seek more funding. A fourth, the 96-unit Seminole Square Apartments complex in Largo, is underway after Pinellas County Commissioners signed off on another round of funding in September. County staff and developers alike say inflation has risen faster than they can build, exhausting even money set aside for unexpected increases in costs.

People are leaving these major U.S. cities to come to Tampa” via Nathaniel Rodriguez of WFLA — It’s no secret that Tampa and the rest of Florida have been more desirable for new residents in recent years, but where have they been coming from in recent months? 2% of American homebuyers looked to Tampa as a place to make a new home from September 2022 to November 2022. To figure out how much migration could be coming to Tampa, Redfin looked into the number of people searching to move into Tampa from other major cities in the United States. The three metros with the most people searching to move into the Tampa Bay area were New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago.

People are flocking to Tampa. But from where?

TECO confirms HQ move to Midtown Tampa” via Ashley Gurbal Kritzer of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Tampa Electric Co. has confirmed it will move its headquarters out of downtown Tampa to Midtown Tampa. The Tampa Bay Business Journal first reported TECO’s intention to move to Midtown on Wednesday. The utility said Friday that it and Peoples Gas will own its space in Midtown East, a new 17-story building that will break ground in early 2023. The companies will have a combined head count of 900 when they take occupancy in the tower. TECO and Peoples Gas will own 11 stories of the tower.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Not ‘enough money to save them all.’ Volusia grapples with double hurricane whammy” via Skylar Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — Kate Rose stays awake at night thinking about her family’s oceanfront home perched perilously on the edge of the eroded shoreline. The next storm could send it crashing into the ocean, just like some of her neighbors’ homes in Wilbur-by-the-Sea. The small community suffered some of the worst damage from back-to-back hurricanes that tore through Volusia County this year. “You open up the door now, and it’s a 25-foot drop straight down,” Rose said, adding that the initial repair bill came in at almost $1 million. “I mean we’re teetering on the edge.”

Volusia took a hard hit this hurricane season.

Hurricane debris pickup to end next week in parts of Central Florida” via Nick Papantonis and Adam Poulisse of WFTV — Leaders from two Central Florida counties are asking people to call in locations of hurricane debris that hasn’t been picked up. Orange County officials said the final day of hurricane debris pickup will be Dec. 16. Commissioner Mayra Uribe said county leaders were surprised by how much debris still hasn’t been collected. If yours hasn’t either, you’re asked to call your Commissioner 311 right away.

Orange County investigating if explosives are being stored near homes” via Nick Papantonis of WFTV — Following the deadly fire at a warehouse made worse by explosives stored on-site, an Orange County leader said staff are investigating whether fireworks or other explosives are being stored near people’s homes. The fire, which broke out on Dec. 1, killed four workers. Dozens of first responders arrived to see fireworks going off and people trapped inside. Only one person survived with burns to 60% of their body.

F-DOH Orange County will offer free vaccines Monday at Christ the King Episcopal Church” via Natalia Jaramillo of the Orlando Sentinel — Residents looking for free school vaccines, flu, mpox, formerly known as monkeypox, meningococcal or COVID-19 shots can attend the Florida Department of Health-Orange County’s event from 2 – 5 p.m. on Monday at the Christ the King Episcopal Church. School-required vaccines will be available between 2-4 p.m. on Monday, while flu, COVID-19, mpox, and meningococcal vaccinations will be available from 2-5 p.m. Those receiving COVID-19 vaccines must be 12 years old and up, the release said.

Former UCF football player reportedly passes away” via Fox 35 — Former University of Central Florida student and football player Jake Hescock has passed away, the school’s head football coach tweeted on Sunday. In a tweet, University of Central Florida Head Coach Gus Malzahn confirmed Hescock’s death. “We’re heartbroken to hear of Jake’s passing. He was an incredible person, who embodied what it means to be a UCF Knight. Everyone who knew Jake loved him and he was a blessing to coach. He will be greatly missed. Kristi and I’s prayers are with his whole family.”

RIP: Former UCF Senior TE Jake Hescock was a ‘blessing’ to coach.

California company sues Disney over patent for Genie-like trip-planning system” via Katie Rice of the Orlando Sentinel — A California company is suing Disney for patent infringement, claiming it copied a personalized itinerary system patented in 2007 by two former Disney employees to create its Genie trip-planning service. Agile Journeys LLC obtained on Oct. 1 the patent for “a system to create a personalized itinerary for visitors to a facility, such as a zoo, theme park, historic area, or shopping district” from inventors and former Disney employees William Redmann and Michael Eaton. The patent was filed in May 2001 and issued in May 2007, records show.


America First candidates prevail in several major county GOP races” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The race for Lee County Republican Party Chair wasn’t decided until the third ballot cast. But Michael Thompson, a business associate of Gen. Michael Flynn, won the election by a single vote. It’s one of several critical victories tallies this weekend for a group of conservatives touting themselves as “America First,” bearers of the agenda of Trump. Candidates from the same wing of the party won in Alachua and Hillsborough counties. More elections for party leadership will play out in the coming days and could well impact votes for new state leadership for the Republican Party of Florida in February.

A tied second vote tally on the race between Michael Thompson and Andrew Sund. Image via Jonathan Martin.

Insurance was out of reach for these hurricane victims. Now they’re digging deep to rebuild” via Clara-Sophia Daly and Camellia Burris of the Miami Herald — In this community set squarely in Florida’s heartland, far from the coastal areas that received the lion’s share of attention after Ian, Arcadia residents and those in the surrounding area have hauled brush, dumped waterlogged furniture, discarded ruined rugs, repaired electrical boxes, and patched roofs, at least those that can be salvaged. And many have done it while paying out of pocket, without the benefit of windstorm or flood insurance. In Florida, insurance has gotten so expensive that many in this city, where 20% live below the poverty line and the median income is half that of the state as a whole, have decided to forgo it.

Renters displaced by Hurricane Ian left with nowhere to go” via Rebecca Liebson of the Tampa Bay Times — Thousands of tenants across Southwest Florida were displaced after Hurricane Ian. Advocates say the storm has worsened an existing affordable housing crisis and is driving low and middle-income families out of the region. “So many homes were destroyed so there’s fewer places available,” said Elizabeth Radi from the Collier County Tenants Union. There also has been a surge in demand from homeowners who lost their homes and disaster relief workers flooding the rental market. Nearly 14,000 Southwest Florida renters are receiving aid from FEMA. More than 1,120 households are housed in hotels under the agency’s Transitional Sheltering Assistance program. FEMA estimates that 357 rental homes were destroyed in the hurricane.

City Council gives approval to rebuild Naples Pier” via Laura Layden of Naples Daily News — Naples City Council has chosen to rebuild the iconic Naples Pier, rather than repair it. Council gave the green light to continue with the rebuilding on Wednesday, which would keep the fishing pier in its current footprint, with improvements to its structural design. Hurricane Ian dealt the pier a heavy blow, with more than 30 pilings and about 140 feet of it wiped out by the powerful storm. Within a few weeks of the storm, the city had about 100 feet of the landmark attraction repaired and reopened, along with the beach stairs and public restrooms. “That took a lot of work,” said Chad Merritt, the city’s director of parks, recreation and facilities.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Jacksonville redistricting process raises questions of Sunshine Law violations” via Andrew Pantazi of The Tributary — According to the version of events that Jacksonville’s city lawyers told a federal court, the City Council passed a redistricting map last month that carefully considered many factors. The Council wanted a map that was “as logical and compact a geographical pattern as possible,” one that honored planning district boundaries, major roads and waterways, one that considered socioeconomic demographics and one that kept Republicans’ advantage. But there’s a problem with the city’s court filing: It’s not true.

City Council’s inaction is inviting pro-Confederacy weirdos to pollute the sky” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — The oddballs paying to sully the sky with plane-towed Confederate flag banners have done us one small favor: They have given flight to a searing reminder of the Jacksonville City Council’s cravenness that is as clear and unmistakable as the brilliant blue heavens above. Two successive Council Presidents, Sam Newby and Terrance Freeman, have lamely promised “community conversations” about the issue that, lamer still, have never materialized. Others, like Council members Aaron Bowman and Michael Boylan, claimed to have wanted a more “comprehensive plan” for such memorials as if simply removing the city’s most prominent remaining one is a complex issue that requires deep planning. No such comprehensive plan was forthcoming.

There’s your sign, Jacksonville, that something’s wrong.

Perdido Key property owners defend ‘No trespassing’ signs on beaches as visitors push back” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Perdido Key property owners defended the “no trespassing” signs on the beaches of Perdido Key during the Escambia County public forum Thursday. Last month, a group of surfers and surf fishers announced they wanted the Escambia County Commission to update its sign ordinance to remove the “no trespassing” signs in the sandy areas of the Perdido Key beaches that for the past several years have begun to line the property lines, especially near public beach access points. Overall, eight property owners spoke in favor of allowing the signs, while six spoke in favor of removing the signs while the two groups had close to equal numbers in the audience.


The ‘Twitter files’ show it’s time to re-imagine free speech online” via David French of The Dispatch — To say that First Amendment principles should guide private platforms is not the same thing as saying “anything goes” any more than protecting the First Amendment on campus creates chaos. Far from it. Campuses must and do protect individuals from targeted harassment, for example, and they can use reasonable time, place, and manner regulations to channel speech into particular places and specific hours of the day.

For example, it’s one thing to yell, “Trump 2024!” on the quad in the middle of the day, it’s another thing entirely to walk up and down the halls of a dorm at 2 a.m. yelling the same thing. Yelling in the quad is free speech while interrupting sleep in the dark of night can be a form of harassment.

The principle of viewpoint neutrality means that any regulation of speech, including time, place, and manner regulations, should be crafted and enforced without regard to the underlying viewpoint of the speaker. The same rules apply to Democrats and Republicans alike, to Christians and atheists, to soldiers and pacifists. The same rules apply even to people who hold the most reprehensible viewpoints, including communists and fascists.

Along with viewpoint neutrality, there’s another key constitutional principle that’s critical to maintaining the marketplace of ideas — clarity.

How does all this apply to Twitter, Facebook and every other large social media platform on the planet? First, it means giving up the quest for a free speech utopia and embracing viewpoint neutrality. Second, it means moderating on the basis of traditional speech limits. Third, it means embracing clarity and transparency.

The upheaval caused by Musk’s Twitter takeover — along with the controversy generated by the “Twitter Files” — represent an ideal opportunity for a free speech rethink.


It’s time the Pentagon ended its COVID vaccine mandate for the military” via Leana S. Wen of The Washington Post — White House officials are furious that the House on Thursday passed its defense funding bill, now headed to the Senate, with a provision that would force the Pentagon to end its coronavirus vaccine mandate for members of the military. The House got it right. It’s time for the Biden administration to end the vaccine mandate for service members. And businesses, universities, schools and other entities that were once justified in implementing these requirements should consider removing them, too.

Democrats blew their chance with Kyrsten Sinema” via Jim Geraghty of the National Review — Sinema enjoyed her independent streak and defied the rest of her party, carrying on that “maverick” tradition from another unpredictable Arizona senator, John McCain. Gee, Democrats, maybe you shouldn’t have chased Sinema into the bathroom last October. It wasn’t the bathroom incident alone that made Sinema leave the Democratic Party, but it was a vivid signifier that her party’s activist class absolutely hated her guts and preferred intimidation and harassment to persuasion and that the rest of the party’s leadership, like Biden, didn’t feel any compulsion to defend her.

Florida lawmakers seek a holiday miracle during Special Session on insurance” via John Grant for the Tampa Bay Times — This will be the second Special Session this year focused on property insurance. It’s a thorny subject for the state and one that has grown more painful following Category 4 Hurricane Ian, which hit Southwest Florida on Sept. 28. More than $3.31 billion in federal grants, disaster loans and flood insurance payments have been provided to the state of Florida and to households after Ian.

Republicans swore ‘Don’t Say Gay’ isn’t anti-gay, Now they’re going after school LGBTQ protections” via the Miami Herald editorial board — When Republican lawmakers were pushing Florida’s new “parental rights” law this year, they feigned indignation when critics labeled it “Don’t Say Gay.” They boasted the word “gay” wasn’t even in the legislation. The trick, it seems, is that it was purposely vaguely worded to avoid any accusations of homophobia. In a letter to Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the Florida Department of Education, which answers to DeSantis, listed a number of school policies that might fall out of compliance with the new statute or rules created by state regulators. They center on the district’s “Guidance to Support Transgender and Gender Expansive Students.”


— ALOE —

NASA’s Orion capsule blazes home from test flight to moon” via The Associated Press — NASA’s Orion capsule made a blisteringly fast return from the moon Sunday, parachuting into the Pacific off Mexico to conclude a test flight that should clear the way for astronauts on the next lunar flyby. The incoming capsule hit the atmosphere at Mach 32, or 32 times the speed of sound, and endured reentry temperatures of 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit before splashing down west of Baja California near Guadalupe Island. A Navy ship quickly moved in to recover the spacecraft and its silent occupants, three test dummies rigged with vibration sensors and radiation monitors. NASA hailed the descent and splashdown as spectacular and close to perfect.

Welcome home, Orion.

SpaceX overnight launch sends private lander, NASA ice surveyor to moon” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — SpaceX was back at the launchpad to send a couple of moon-bound customers into space from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. A Falcon 9 lifted off at 2:38 a.m. Sunday from Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 40 carrying private Japanese company ispace’s HAKUTO-R Mission 1 lunar lander, the first of a planned series of landers that, if successful, will make it the first commercial soft landing ever on the moon.


Tampa Bay neighborhood transforms with Star Wars-themed Christmas light show” via Justin Scheckner of WFLA — This holiday season you don’t have to go far to visit a galaxy far, far away. Thirteen neighbors on Quintessa Lane in Fishhawk West are lighting up their cul-de-sac as part of a Star Wars-themed Christmas display. It’s the third annual Merry Sithmas featuring more than 100 custom-made lightsabers lining the street and some of pop culture’s most beloved characters. “We started as three houses three years ago,” Jessica Bell said. “We’ve grown to 13 this year and it’s basically a synchronized light show that features Star Wars music and Christmas songs.”

Merry Sithmas to all … and may the Force be with you. Image via WFLA.

Fort Myers Beach Christmas tree returns, stands tall over destruction of Times Square” via Charles Runnells of the Fort Myers News-Press — It started with one fiery-red poinsettia plant. Then three more. Then dozens. Now Fort Myers Beach’s beloved, poinsettia-filled Christmas tree is standing tall again over the island’s devastated Times Square. It’s a symbol of strength and perseverance after Hurricane Ian wrecked much of the island on Sept. 28, reducing many of its homes and businesses to rubble. “I think more than anything, it’s an inspiration,” says Fort Myers resident Cammie Lynch. “The tradition is gonna go on, no matter what.”

Holiday House experience debuts at Wilkinson Elementary this week” via Samantha Gholar of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — A beloved holiday tradition for students at Southside Elementary School, the Holiday House, returns this week with an expansion to a local Title 1 school in the Sarasota County School District during the season of giving. Holiday House is an interactive holiday experience that provides “shopping” opportunities for students. After transforming a part of the school into a Christmas village, students are allowed to select up to five gifts for themselves and their family members. Students also enjoy holiday crafts, games, themed snacks, and backpack giveaways filled with nutritious meals.


Celebrating today are former Reps. Dick Batchelor and Jennifer Webb, as well as BG Murphy, and Katie Strickland.


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

Peter Schorsch

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


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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

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