Good Thursday morning.
Sen. Shevrin Jones is heading to the White House.
The West Park Democrat was invited to attend an end-of-year briefing on the Joe Biden administration’s 2022 accomplishments.
The briefing is expected to cover major legislation passed by the current Congress, including the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
Those bills, both presidential priorities, represent trillions of dollars in government spending on things such as transportation infrastructure and clean energy production as well as changes to corporate taxation and the ability for Medicare to negotiate drug prices.
“When the President and Vice President took office, our country faced unprecedented challenges that they tackled directly and swiftly,” Jones said.
“In just two short years, President Biden and his administration have gotten things done for families nationwide — from lowering costs of everyday expenses and delivering student debt relief, to investing in our infrastructure and creating millions of good-paying new jobs, to signing the most significant gun violence prevention legislation in a generation.
“I look forward to continuing to work at the state level to improve lives and accomplish remarkable, historic things for the people.”
The briefing comes a matter of weeks before the new Republican majority in the U.S. House takes office, likely preventing further policy wins for Democrats in the second half of Biden’s term.
Here are other items on my radar:
🗞 — TikTok for news, and other ‘striking findings’: The Pew Research Center released its “striking findings” for 2022 with an assortment of interesting data. Among the tidbits, data shows more Americans are getting their news from TikTok, a popular social media platform among young Americans made famous by short, catchy videos. In one example, Washington Post analyst Caroline Anders pointed out that Biden was “walking a strange tightrope between relevancy and national security” by using the platform to get his message out, despite concerns about how TikTok collects and shares user data. Many believe the outlet poses a security threat because it shares data with China, a claim the app denies. Other findings include how more than 40% of Americans don’t use cash for typical purchases, Christians are becoming a minority, and most Americans who have experienced extreme weather, regardless of political affiliation, believe climate change is a factor. Read more here.
🍎 — 2022’s elections foreshadow new divides in education: Education, in recent years, has become a major tool in campaign toolboxes, with Republicans spending big this year on electing officials committed to reforming education, according to POLITICO. But mixed results in the Midterm Elections — with neither party nationwide experiencing a widespread sweep — are leading supporters on both sides of the aisle to start preparing for next year’s school board elections, as well as the presidential race in 2024 and state legislative sessions. Read more here.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@POLITICO_Steve: Post-midterm trend is pretty clear now, and feels like 2016 redux*: (Donald) Trump trails (Ron) DeSantis if you offer GOP voters just those two options, but Trump still leads DeSantis if you also include the other likely/potential candidates
I ask this respectfully.
Why do insurance companies only fail in Florida? ✔️
How can anyone say insurance companies won’t write policies in FL considering our economy?✔️ We can’t crush homeowners to bailout insurance companies and banks. We did that once, we paid dearly for it. pic.twitter.com/RVVnzYvJey
— Ileana Garcia (@IleanaGarciaUSA) December 14, 2022
—@RTemplin: If you want to know how much it costs to buy a state government, just check out insurance company political contributions here in Florida. Gov and Legislature were paid off to pass a bill that will crush working families and destroy housing markets for average people.
Citizen: Pardon me, governor, but my homeowners insurance has tripled. I'm not sure I can afford to stay in my house.
DeSantis: BUt dR. fAUci!!!! https://t.co/MvpC1nEk6L
— Scott Maxwell (@Scott_Maxwell) December 14, 2022
—@Jason_Garcia: I bang on all the corporate and business tax breaks Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature have passed the last few years, but the $460 million toll-road discount plan they’re passing this week is genuinely good IMO. It’s direct tax savings for consumers, which is great.
If the changes Jason is reporting to Florida’s property insurance market go through, they are monumental —
Tens of thousands of homeowners will quickly be priced out of their homes
I know — because it would’ve happened to me https://t.co/dWPzPzAMHq
— Evan Donovan (@EvanDonovan) December 14, 2022
—@MDixon55: Can’t wait in amendment debate today for sponsor to say “well, I love your amendment, but I can’t take it because there is a big tree in the middle of the Senate floor
—@djshort: Ah yes, it’s the time of year where people in commercials buy cars without telling their significant others like complete psychopaths.
— DAYS UNTIL —
‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 1; Military Bowl with UCF Knights against Duke — 13; Cheez-It Bowl with FSU against Oklahoma — 14; final Broadway performance of ‘The Music Man’ with Hugh Jackman — 17; ‘Break Point, Part 1′ premiers on Netflix — 29; last day to ride Splash Mountain before remodeling — 38; The James Madison Institute’s Annual Dinner — 41; 2023 FAC Access 67 Broadband Summit — Florida Association of Counties begins — 42; Bruce Springsteen launches 2023 tour in Tampa — 48; ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 64; final performance of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ on Broadway — 65; city of Tampa Municipal Election early voting begins — 74; DeSantis’ ‘The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival’ released — 75; ‘The Mandalorian’ returns — 76; Tampa Municipal Election — 81; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 82; World Baseball Classic finals begin in Miami — 86; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 99; Taylor Swift ‘Eras’ Tour in Tampa — 119; American Association of Political Consultants Pollies ’23 conference begins — 134; 2023 Session Sine Die — 141; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 141; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 169; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 218; ‘‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 225; Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 323; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 470; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 526; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 589; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 589; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 631; ‘Deadpool 3’ premieres — 694; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 792; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 869. ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,058.
— TOP STORY —
“Florida lawmakers OK insurance changes with no help for homeowners” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Orlando Sentinel — The Republican-led Legislature approved a bill that lawmakers say will prop up Florida’s crumbling property insurance market but not provide immediate relief for homeowners faced with exorbitant premium hikes and canceled policies.
The House voted 84-33 along party lines to approve the same bill the Senate approved the day before. Two Democrats, Reps. Bruce Antone of Orlando and Allison Tant of Tallahassee, did not vote.
The House also voted unanimously in favor of a $750 million disaster relief program that includes property tax breaks for properties damaged or destroyed by natural disasters and a $500 million toll-road discount program for high-use commuters.
The bills go next to DeSantis for his signature.
Lawmakers said the insurance bill builds on earlier changes to stabilize the market.
It also targeted trial lawyers and roofers that have filed lawsuits on behalf of homeowners, without addressing companies that refuse or delay paying legitimate claims. It eliminates one-way lawyers’ fees and “assignment of benefits” — a law that allows homeowners to have their insurance benefits paid directly to their contractors.
It also forces more people out of Citizens, the state-backed insurance company of last resort.
And it allocates $1.7 million for the Office of Insurance Regulation to investigate bad faith carriers but doesn’t mandate the agency to enforce insurance laws.
Proponents say the changes will stabilize the marketplace and mitigate what they contend is the major cause of rising insurance rates in Florida, the hundreds of thousands of lawsuits filed over claims that Republicans have called call fraudulent and opportunistic.
Ultimately, they predict, the rates will eventually go down for consumers.
— SPESH SESH —
“Legislature passes hurricane relief aid” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Legislature has passed a hurricane relief package less than 90 days after Hurricane Ian made landfall in Southwest Florida. Lawmakers gave their unanimous support to the $751.5 million proposal (SB 4A), capped by a vote in the House. The bill includes tax relief for homeowners whose homes were left uninhabitable, beach renourishment funding, and more to provide swift aid to Floridians whose homes were wiped out by rising water from Hurricane Ian and crumbling beaches from a later storm, Hurricane Nicole.
“‘Scheme to defraud’: House Democrats decry ‘bailout’ for property insurance industry” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — House Democrats say Republicans bailed out the property insurance industry with their proposed plan to stymie Florida’s insurance market crisis. The House voted along party lines Wednesday to pass Republicans’ bill (SB 2A), including provisions to limit lawsuits and make state-run Citizens Property Insurance less attractive to homeowners. Democrats had offered amendments and stand-alone bills to address the collapsing insurance market, but the Republican supermajority shut them down, with Renner arguing some of Democrats’ measures were from an “alternate reality.”
Citizens Property Insurance calls property insurance package ‘historic’ — State-backed insurer Citizens applauded the Legislature for passing the property insurance bill (SB 2A), which it called a “historic” package of reforms. “These reforms will reduce litigation and stabilize the Florida property insurance market by encouraging new capital and giving reinsurers confidence to provide the coverage necessary for a healthy market,” said Citizens President and CEO Barry Gilway. “A stable market will benefit consumers by reducing the pressures that are driving up premiums.” He continued, “For Citizens, the bill provides the tools for us to return to our residual role over time while ensuring policyholders have financially sound options in the private market. This is historic legislation.”
Consumer Protection Coalition cheers lawmakers for ‘tackling lawsuit frenzy’ — The Consumer Protection Coalition praised lawmakers for “taking decisive action” to cut down on property insurance lawsuits, which they and insurers argue are fueling the instability in the state’s property insurance market. “Florida’s toxic litigation environment has contributed to seven insurer insolvencies over the past two years and made it increasingly difficult for hardworking Florida families to secure affordable insurance coverage needed to protect their homes, even as we’ve faced direct hits from severe storms,” said Carolyn Johnson, vice president of government affairs at the Florida Chamber of Commerce, and a spokesperson for the Consumer Protection Coalition. The coalition specifically praised the bill for ending one-way attorney fees for property insurance lawsuits and ending assignment of benefits agreements.
Mark Wilson praises Special Session property insurance reforms — “The Florida Chamber applauds Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida’s House and Senate leaders for their continued efforts to stabilize Florida’s property insurance market and protect Florida’s consumers from hurricane taxes, diminishing coverage options and increasing affordability challenges,” Chamber President and CEO Wilson said in a statement. “The passage of Florida Chamber-backed Senate Bill 2A protects Floridians by making significant strides toward long-standing Florida Chamber priorities, specifically reining in Florida’s lawsuit abuse problems, eliminating cost drivers ripe for fraud such as assignment of benefits, and reducing future hurricane taxes by taking steps toward returning Citizens Property Insurance Corporation back to the insurer of last resort.”
“Florida TaxWatch praises hurricane relief package” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Florida TaxWatch is praising the Legislature for greenlighting a bill to provide tax savings to victims of hurricanes Ian and Nicole. The bill (SB 4A) would give affected homeowners proportional property tax refunds based on the amount of time their homes were uninhabitable following the storm. Florida TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro commended lawmakers for “making thoughtful policy recommendations” and specifically thanked DeSantis, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo and House Speaker Paul Renner for the bill’s swift passage. Calabro noted that the tax refund portion of the bill was recommended by FTW in October, shortly after Hurricane Ian made landfall.
AFP-FL lauds insurance bill — Americans for Prosperity-Florida praised lawmakers for passing a package that will “address the complex property insurance crisis facing Floridians.” … “This year has been widely viewed as one of Florida’s worst years on record for the property insurance industry, and the Legislature has been diligent in working to find real-world solutions that bolster the industry while helping consumers,” said AFP-FL State Director Skylar Zander. “For the second time this year, under the leadership of Gov. DeSantis, Senate President Passidomo, and House Speaker Renner, our lawmakers came together this week to help Floridians who have been suffering because the industry is in peril. The Legislature took vital steps to provide much-needed relief for hardworking Florida families, and we look forward to Gov. DeSantis signing these forward-looking bills into law.”
FJA calls insurance reforms a ‘massive overcorrection’ — The trial lawyer group Florida Justice Association slammed the new reforms as stacked in favor of insurers to the detriment of policyholders. “Despite multiple broad-reaching property insurance reforms passed by industry supporters in the past three sessions, there have been minimal improvements to the insurance marketplace that actually benefit consumers,” said FJA Property Insurance Section Vice Chair Ron Haynes. “Unfortunately, this round of reforms is a massive overcorrection that takes away homeowners’ property rights and leaves Floridians at the mercy of their insurance company. The new roadblocks this legislation creates for consumers treated unfairly by their insurance companies will yield one result: a new popular roof color for homes across Florida — blue plastic.”
PIFF pumped about property insurance reforms — The Personal Insurance Federation of Florida referred to the property insurance bill as “historic legislation” in a news release heralding its passage. The organization, which stands for insurers, praised the end of AOBs and one-way attorney fees as well as reforms to the first-party bad faith law, among other provisions. “This is a pro-consumer bill that should drive down litigation abuse and put the property insurance market on a path to stability,” said PIFF President and CEO Michael Carlson. “ … We are hopeful this outcome will stop Florida from having to play whack-a-mole with new insurance schemes, and we are grateful for its swift passage as it heads to Gov. DeSantis.”
Since Senate bills 2A, 4A, and 6A were approved by the full House Wednesday, the Legislature is not scheduled to meet again. The 2022A Special Session will Sine Die at 11:59 p.m. Friday.
— DESANTISY LAND —
“Ron DeSantis builds his conservative resume as Trump flounders” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — In the last two days, DeSantis sought a grand jury to investigate COVID-19 vaccines, questioned a new federal law protecting same-sex marriages and won a legislative victory that will hit the pocket books of lawyers. And there will be more steps by DeSantis to lure conservatives to his side in the coming weeks and months ahead. There are already rumblings that state lawmakers will hold special legislative sessions between now and March to tackle issues such as guns and abortion.
“DeSantis holds early lead over Donald Trump among GOP Primary voters” via John McCormick of The Wall Street Journal — Republican Primary voters have high interest in DeSantis as a potential 2024 presidential nominee and view him more favorably than they do Trump. In a hypothetical contest between the two, DeSantis beats Trump, 52% to 38%, among likely GOP Primary voters contemplating a race in which the first nomination votes will be cast in just over a year. The poll found that DeSantis is both well-known and well-liked among Republicans who say they are likely to vote in a party Primary or nominating contest, with 86% viewing DeSantis favorably.
—“Survey says North Carolina Republicans prefer DeSantis to Trump” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics
“DeSantis is showing strength. He’s also vulnerable on his right flank.” via Blake Hounshell of The New York Times — As polls show DeSantis gaining strength in a hypothetical Republican Presidential Primary in 2024, he’s under pressure from conservatives to do more. More than perhaps any other issue, abortion is a potential point of vulnerability for DeSantis and a rare subject on which he has faced criticism from his right flank. Florida is a paradox. It’s firmly in Republican hands now. But it also has one of the highest rates of abortion in the country. As surrounding states have tightened their laws, the number of women seeking abortion care in Florida clinics has roughly doubled.
“DeSantis sees ‘no need’ for Respect for Marriage Act” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — On a Tuesday evening interview on “The Ingraham Angle” atop a chyron saying the law “restricts freedom of speech and religion,” DeSantis argued that there was “no need” for the Respect for Marriage Act. “I think they’re raising valid concerns,” DeSantis said of critics of the legislation. “Was interracial marriage even being debated in this country? Nobody’s talking about that.” DeSantis pivoted quickly from interracial marriages to religious freedom, seemingly alluding to same-sex unions. “They’re using the power, I think, of the federal government in ways that absolutely will put religious institutions in difficult spots if you have people who are so inclined to be very aggressive against that,” DeSantis said, not offering specifics.
“Email insights: Democrats put spotlight on DeSantis’ ‘MAGA extremism’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is showing how extreme he is as he plays for the MAGA base in an expectedly messy 2024 Republican field. DeSantis is taking a dangerous anti-vaccine action that could result in prosecuting doctors and providers while also opposing marriage equality protections, even as more than 50 Republicans in Congress supported them,” the email contends. “As GOP Primary hopefuls race to the most extreme fringe, Ron is leading the pack in order to win the hearts of the MAGA base.” The DNC dispatch spotlighted two DeSantis news hooks: Calling for a grand jury to investigate COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers and a later appearance on Fox News where he was less than positive about the Respect for Marriage Act signed by Biden that same day.
“After contentious elections, conservative Florida school boards boot out superintendents” via Kathryn Varn of USA Today Network — All of the emotion, chaos and mudslinging that has infiltrated Florida School Board meetings over the last two years seemed to finally boil over on a Tuesday night in November. The Sarasota County School Board, with its newly minted conservative majority, had begun the process of firing Superintendent Brennan Asplen, an abrupt move that none of the candidates had campaigned on. After hours of public comment, during which even some supporters of the conservative ticket expressed a kind of buyer’s remorse, it was Asplen’s turn to speak, and he’d seen enough. “We’re always doing this nonsense, all the time,” Asplen said during a 30-minute impassioned monologue defending his two-year tenure.
“Another top administrator leaves state’s biggest health care agency” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Another high-ranking official at the state’s largest health care agency is leaving her post. Julie Madden, Agency for Health Care Administration Deputy Secretary of Operations, is retiring. Madden is one of three Deputy Secretaries at the health care agency. She has oversight of several large program areas including financial services, human resources, general services, purchasing and contract Administration, information technology (IT), and administration of the Florida Health Care Connections (FX) Program. Mike Magnuson, director of the FX Program, announced Madden’s departure from the agency at an FX Executive Steering Committee meeting.
Appointed — Diana Forst, Judy Frum, Jenee Peters, Jennifer Wages, and Jody Rain (reappointed) to the state Board of Nursing.
“School districts previously flagged by state now in compliance with parental rights law” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — The State Board of Education heard a report of how 10 school districts are complying with the controversial law (HB 1557) passed during the last regular Session. The law is officially called, “Parental Rights in Education,” but critics have dubbed it the “Don’t Say Gay” law. The 10 school districts had been warned by letter last month that they have policies that might not comply with the new law. Each of the flagged districts responded to the inquiry, state documents show. And the responses appear to have satisfied the Department of Education (DOE). “Ultimately we found that these districts are in compliance with the law,” said Tom Grady, Chair of the state Board of Education.
“School choice advocates praise Florida’s top ranking in Parent Power Index” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — The Florida chapter of the National School Choice Parent Organization (PSO Florida) is recognizing Florida’s top spot on the Parent Power Index, which evaluates states on access to school choice and educational innovation. “Whether it’s virtual, in-person, home schooling, private, public or charter schools, parents should remain the sole decision maker about their child’s education,” the group wrote in a statement responding to the latest ranking. The ranking showed Florida ranked at the top of the nation for digital and personalized learning and access to choice programs such as scholarships, vouchers and tax credits. It ranked second in the nation for access to charter schools and third in teacher quality.
“Feds urge court to reverse invalidation of Florida’s gambling compact with Seminole Tribe” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — Lawyers for the federal government asked a federal appeals court to reverse a ruling that invalidated Florida’s attempt to give the Seminole Tribe a monopoly on sports betting in the state. A three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard arguments from lawyers for the U.S. Department of Interior, the State of Florida, the Seminole Tribe and the plaintiffs — West Flagler Associates, which owns Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room near Naples. The case could influence how agreements with sovereign tribes are handled in the future.
“‘This will take years’: Florida’s beekeepers reel from Hurricane Ian” via Remy Tumin of The New York Times — The Florida State Beekeepers Association estimated that Hurricane Ian destroyed between 150,000 and 300,000 beehives, a loss that could have far-reaching consequences across the United States. Many beekeepers keep their hives in Florida in Fall and Winter before leasing them out to large farms from coast to coast to help in pollination for the country’s food supply. “Bees don’t make honey for us to eat for our biscuits,” John Coldwell, the association’s president, said. “Bees make honey so that they can survive through the next season.”
“Florida gears up to feed manatees again this Winter” via Jim Waymer of Florida Today — As the first cold fronts approach the Sunshine State this Winter, wildlife managers have started rolling in the romaine lettuce at the Florida Power & Light. Co power plant in Port St. John this week to prepare for the necessity of feeding hungry manatees that might otherwise starve to death. “Now is the time for things to start ramping back up,” said Jon Wallace with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said Wednesday during an online update of the response to an ongoing manatee die-off. In addition to securing supplies of lettuce, wildlife officials plan to position vehicles strategically for any needed rescues of manatees that might be too weak to even eat the handouts.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Rick Scott sidesteps question about DeSantis’ ‘war on vaccines’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Given another opportunity to offer commentary on his successor as Governor, Scott was careful in his language on a Colombian radio interview Wednesday. Asked about whether he supported DeSantis’ “war against vaccines,” Scott did not endorse said “war” or DeSantis rhetorically. “Well, what I think we ought to do for the public is give them good information. I think the approach should be that you give people good information. They’ll make good, informed decisions about whether they should take the vaccine,” Scott said, before mentioning his own efforts in the U.S. Senate “to make sure our military members do not get kicked out of the military for not taking the vaccine.”
“Scott faces uncertain future after bruising Midterm year” via Max Greenwood of The Hill — Scott is facing questions about his political future after a disappointing Midterm election cycle that also saw intraparty tensions spill out into public view. Scott has found himself at the center of multiple dramas over the past year, ranging from his rollout of a policy agenda that was panned by many in his party to his quarrel with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell over the quality of the GOP’s Senate candidates. The GOP’s failed effort to recapture control of the Senate has only intensified the criticism of Scott, the Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), raising questions about his role in the party amid speculation he may still have presidential ambitions.
“Marco Rubio urges U.S. to deny request for undersea internet cable connecting Miami and Cuba” via Nora Gámez Torres of the Miami Herald — Sen. Rubio is urging the Federal Communications Commission to deny a request to extend a submarine internet cable, the first of its kind, because of the risk the Cuban government could use it for intelligence purposes. A committee led by the Justice Department comprising the Department of Homeland Security and the Defense Department has already recommended that the FCC deny the application, citing the counterintelligence threat posed by Cuba.
“Michael Waltz campaigns on Hill for Vern Buchanan’s Ways and Means bid” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Waltz sees high stakes for Florida in who controls the House Ways and Means Committee. The Sunshine State hosts 14 working ports and substantial international commerce, so trade relationships and policies affect the economy here in enormous ways. “We have the longest coastline in the continental U.S.,” the St. Augustine Republican noted. “How dumping occurs, arbitration within commerce with international disputes, it’s incredibly technical. That’s why we need someone with years of expertise leading House Ways and Means.” That’s why Waltz has pushed for the House GOP Steering Committee to name U.S. Rep. Buchanan as the next Chair of arguably the most powerful committee in Congress.
“Thanks to some procedural cunning, House staffers get overtime, paid parental leave benefits” via Jim Saksa of Roll Call — U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who chairs the House Administration Committee, introduced a resolution Monday that implements regulations drafted by the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights related to how the House applies provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act and Fair Labor Standards Act to its own employees. On Wednesday, the Rules Committee tucked the resolution into the rule governing floor debate on the continuing resolution that would fund the federal government for another week while appropriators put the finishing touches on a spending omnibus for fiscal 2023. When that rule was then adopted on the House floor, the resolution was automatically adopted as well.
“House votes to remove bust of Dred Scott decision author from Capitol” via Amy B. Wang and Marianna Sotomayor of The Washington Post — The House on Wednesday passed a bill that would remove a bust at the U.S. Capitol of Roger B. Taney, the Chief Justice who authored the majority Supreme Court opinion protecting slavery in Dred Scott v. Sandford. The House passed the measure by voice vote, and it now heads to Biden for his signature. The Senate passed it by voice vote last week. If signed into law, as expected, the bill would direct the Joint Committee of Congress on the Library to remove Taney’s bust not more than 45 days after the bill is signed into law. The bill would also direct the committee to replace Taney’s bust with one of Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court justice.
“The Federal Reserve signals more to come even as it slows rate increases.” via Jeanna Smialek and Joe Rennison of The New York Times — Fed officials voted unanimously at the conclusion of their two-day meeting to raise borrowing costs by half a percentage point, a pullback after four consecutive three-quarter point increases. Their policy rate is now set to a range of 4.25% to 4.5%, the highest it has been since 2007. Yet the Fed’s latest economic projections, released on Wednesday for the first time since September, sent a clear signal that slowing the pace of rate increases does not mean that officials are letting up in their battle against rapid inflation. Borrowing costs are expected to rise more drastically and inflict more economic pain than central bankers previously expected as policymakers try to wrangle stubborn price increases.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“Mar-a-Lago has 58 bedrooms. Why does Trump need a storage locker in West Palm?” via Frank Cerabino of the Palm Beach Post — We should all pitch in and help the federal government retrieve classified information from Trump in Florida. I say this in light of the recent news that Trump has kept classified materials not only at Mar-a-Lago, but also in a storage unit nearby in West Palm Beach. These were among pallets of boxes that were shipped to Florida in September of last year, The Washington Post reported. And the documents in the storage unit were mixed with other Trump keepsakes, including “suits and swords and wrestling belts and all sorts of things.”
“That sound you hear is Trump raging at the Mar-a-Lago omelet station guy over the new 2024 polls” via Bess Levin of Vanity Fair — To put it mildly, the final weeks of 2022 have not gone swimmingly for Trump. Yes, it’s been a pretty, pretty, pretty rough time for the ex-President of the United States, and the hits continued to come this week when a pair of new polls showed DeSantis, his theoretical rival for the 2024 nomination, thrashing him at the ballot box. One of those polls put the Florida Governor ahead of the former President by a massive 23 points. The other gave DeSantis a slightly smaller but still quite large 14-point lead over Trump. Last month, Trump basically shat a brick over DeSantis’s ascendancy within the Republican Party. As one Trump insider put it in a message viewed by The Guardian, the ex-POTUS is “in trouble.”
“Despite Trump’s lobbying, Kevin McCarthy’s Speaker bid remains imperiled on the right” via Catie Edmondson, Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni of The New York Times — Trump has been working the phones, personally pitching right-wing lawmakers on voting to make Rep. McCarthy, the Republican leader he has called “My Kevin,” the Speaker of the House. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, the most outspoken far-right member of his conference, is publicly vouching for Mr. McCarthy. The California Republican has made private entreaties and public promises to win over his critics, including floating the impeachment of a member of Biden’s cabinet. And yet, McCarthy, who is toiling to become Speaker next year when the GOP assumes the majority, has so far been unable to put down a mini-revolt on the right that threatens to imperil his bid for the top job.
“Mark Meadows’ leaked texts destroy the Trump lone actor narrative” via Zeeshan Aleem of MSNBC — The conventional narrative of former Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election frames Trump as the culprit and most Republican lawmakers as tolerating it or tagging along out of political expediency. But the leak of a massive trove of text exchanges between Meadows, Trump’s former Chief of Staff, and dozens of Republican lawmakers highlights how that narrative lets the GOP off too easily. The texts, published by Talking Points Memo, show Trump wasn’t a lone actor, but something closer to a nerve center of anti-democratic activity. Republicans didn’t just put up with Trump, but worked proactively with him to try to discredit the election both before and after the Jan. 6 insurrection.
“Trump sues Pulitzer board for defamation in defending winning Russia collusion stories” via Zach Schonfeld of The Hill — Trump had threatened to file the suit for months after the board issued the allegedly defamatory statement, which announced the conclusion of two independent reviews requested by Trump and others over Pulitzers that had been awarded for stories about Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election. The board ultimately rejected Trump’s request to revoke the 2018 national reporting awards, which were given to the staff of The New York Times and The Washington Post. Trump’s suit, which was filed in an Okeechobee County court and alleges the board acted with actual malice in issuing the statement with the aim of damaging Trump’s reputation, asking for an unspecified amount of damages.
“Trump hits 7-year low in new national poll as Biden approval climbs” via Kevin Breuninger of CNBC — According to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday, just 31% of registered voters surveyed hold a favorable view of Trump, versus 59% who have an unfavorable opinion of him. That’s the lowest rating Trump has received since July 2015, shortly after he launched his first presidential bid, according to Quinnipiac. Trump’s declining marks were even worse among independent voters, the poll showed. Just 25% have a favorable view of him, versus 62% who have an unfavorable opinion — Trump’s lowest rating among that group since Quinnipiac first asked the question in May 2015. While 70% of Republican voters still have a favorable view of Trump, 20% said they saw him in an unfavorable light — marking Trump’s lowest favorability reading from his party’s voters since March 2016.
“Republican who urged Trump to declare ‘Marshall’ law only regrets misspelling” via Martin Pengelly of The Guardian — A Republican who urged the Trump White House to declare martial law to stop Biden from taking office has only one regret: that he misspelled “martial.” The text from Ralph Norman of South Carolina to Mark Meadows, Trump’s final Chief of Staff, was given to the Jan. 6 committee by Meadows and revealed in Talking Points Memo. On Jan. 17, 2021, 11 days after the deadly Capitol attack and three days before Biden’s inauguration, Norman wrote: “Mark, in seeing what’s happening so quickly, and reading about the Dominion lawsuits attempting to stop any meaningful investigation we are at a point of no return in saving our Republic!! Our LAST HOPE is invoking Marshall Law!! PLEASE URGE TO PRESIDENT TO DO SO!!”
— LOCAL: S. FL —
“Winter storm wreaking havoc across U.S. to cool South Florida this weekend” via Shira Moolten of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The same winter storm bringing blizzards and tornadoes across the U.S. this week will reach South Florida this weekend with rain and a chill. But newly arrived snowbirds needn’t fear: it will be mild, and it won’t stay long. “It’s not too cool with this cold front,” said Larry Kelly, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service Miami. For now, South Floridians can expect a dreary weekend. Forecasters predict rain beginning late Thursday and early Friday through the weekend, and perhaps an isolated thunderstorm or two. “Overall, it looks like we have numerous wet and cloudy days ahead of us,” the National Weather Service’s Wednesday forecast said.
“DeSantis appoints longtime government lawyer Christopher Green to Miami-Dade County Court” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — DeSantis is rewarding Miami Assistant State Attorney Green for his nearly three decades as a government lawyer with a judgeship. On Tuesday, DeSantis’ office announced the appointment of Green to the 11th Judicial Circuit Court in Miami-Dade County. He’ll replace Judge Elijah Levitt, who resigned abruptly in September, citing “family matters” requiring a move outside the county. In a ruling last week, a federal judge admonished several current and former prosecutors, including Levitt, for violating the Sixth Amendment guarantees of three men found guilty and sentenced to six years in prison in a 2017 mail fraud case. Former Gov. Scott appointed Levitt to the bench in 2018.
“Trump, Marco Rubio wade into battle for leadership of Palm Beach County Republican Party” via Stephany Matat of the Palm Beach Post — Republicans carried wins all throughout Florida during the Midterm cycle, including flipping blue Palm Beach County. But the Chair of the Republican Party of Palm Beach County, Michael Barnett, is facing opposition and pushback in his current campaign for re-election even with endorsements from Trump and Rubio. Barnett, who has been Chair since 2014, said the GOP’s successes in the county, which was won by DeSantis, the state’s Cabinet officers, and even one congressional candidate, should be enough to warrant another term. “We’re doing better and better every election cycle. It’s better to stick with the leadership that helped build our successes,” said Barnett, who added this would be his last bid for re-election.
“Black female police major sues Miami, arguing her demotion was racist, sexist decision” via Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — One of Miami’s highest-ranking Black female officers has filed suit against the city and a notorious, now-fired police captain, arguing that she was unfairly demoted more than two years ago while being targeted in a racist, sexist campaign to humiliate her. On Monday, Maj. Keandra Simmons — whose rank as major and salary were restored more than a year ago — filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court naming the city and Javier Ortiz, a former police captain and union president who was fired in September. The 16-page lawsuit filed in the United States District Court Southern District of Florida seeks millions of dollars in damages, contending that Simmons was defamed and subjected to a hostile work environment.
“Miami businessman, a former highflying Molly dealer, charged with trafficking fake Xanax” via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — About a decade ago, Omar Wala was an ambitious young Florida International University student who made a fortune importing the club-drug Molly by mail from China. But hubris led to his downfall — federal agents tracked him down thanks to a flashy orange Lamborghini registered in his name. Wala went to federal prison, got out in 2016 and seemingly rebuilt his life. He championed himself as an affordable housing developer in the New York area and bought a $3 million home in Hialeah Gardens. On Instagram, Wala posted photos of him showing off, yes, a new Lamborghini. But on Tuesday, Wala found himself behind bars again, arrested in New York and accused by the feds of illegally trafficking in counterfeit Xanax.
“Venezuelan insider singled out in corruption scheme spreads roots in Florida” via Antonio Maria Delgado and Carlos Crespo of the Miami Herald — By the time Venezuela ran out of toilet paper, the government officials that police investigators would later claim most profited by the supply shortage were already holding the positions inside the Nicolás Maduro regime that they needed to make millions. The toilet paper crisis of the mid-2010s is occasionally used by economists to explain how the country with the largest oil reserves in the world came to have one of the lowest standards of living in Latin America. But it also shows how Venezuela’s economic collapse was spurred by widespread corruption, which siphoned billions from state coffers and which at times had links to South Florida.
“Daniella Levine Cava picks new director to run Miami-Dade County’s troubled jail system” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — The head of Broward County’s jail system will take over Miami-Dade’s troubled Corrections Department under a hire announced Wednesday. Levine Cava, the Miami-Dade Mayor who removed the previous Corrections and Rehabilitation director earlier this year, hired James Reyes to take the top spot in the department, according to a memo. Reyes is a colonel in the Broward Sheriff’s Office running Corrections. In recruiting a replacement for the previous director, Daniel Junior, Levine Cava said her administration would conduct a national search. In explaining the local hire, she wrote County Commissioners that “the pool of qualified jail directors to take on this role, managing a corrections system with the size and complexity of MDCR, is extremely limited nationwide.”
“Demand for pumps jumps with rising seas and flood risks. Florida’s bill will be massive” via Nicolas Rivero of the Miami Herald — Inside one of the biggest stormwater pump factories in Florida, 90 workers are busy molding metal: cutting, shaping, welding, painting, and assembling it into the massive machines responsible for keeping South Florida’s streets dry. The pumps they’re building can stand up to 20 feet tall, weigh as much as 22 tons, and include pipes so big the workers can stand up inside of them. When they’re installed in low-lying neighborhoods and alongside sluggish canals, they can stop water from flooding into homes and businesses during storms and king tides. They’re part of the growing and staggeringly expensive infrastructure that will be needed to keep South Florida habitable even as the seas rise.
— LOCAL: C. FL —
“Disney investor demands files over opposition to Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law” via Jef Feeley of Bloomberg — The Walt Disney Co. created “far-reaching” financial risks for itself by opposing a Florida law limiting instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in elementary schools, according to an investor who is demanding the company turn over internal records about the decision. By criticizing the state for enacting the restrictions, which critics dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law, Disney lost control over tax and improvement issues at its Orlando-area theme park, investor Kenneth Simeone said in a lawsuit unsealed Friday in Delaware Chancery Court.
“Leaders of Orlando ministry indicted, accused of scamming $8M in COVID-19 aid” via Jeff Weiner of the Orlando Sentinel — The leaders of what authorities describe as a sham ministry in Orlando — accused of obtaining millions in COVID-19 aid through fraud and trying to use some of it to buy a luxury villa near Disney World — were arrested Wednesday, federal prosecutors said. According to a newly unsealed indictment, Evan and Joshua Edwards obtained more than $8.4 million in Paycheck Protection Program funding by falsely claiming ASLAN International Ministry, Inc., had a massive payroll and nearly 500 employees. In reality, according to a filing in a previous civil action against the ministry, agents who visited ASLAN’s listed address on Orange Blossom Trail in September 2020 found an empty office with a locked door.
“Talking trash: Frustrated residents, Orange County leaders vent about garbage piles” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Government has two main functions — protecting the public and picking up garbage — and Orange County is failing at one of them, said Glenn Rubinstein, annoyed by lingering trash piles in his Orange County neighborhood. “This garbage thing has just gotten out of hand,” he said. “They’re just not getting it done.” President of the Timber Isle homeowner’s association in east Orange, Rubinstein emailed a blistering complaint about sanitation failings to county leaders last week, one of a flurry of similar gripes sent recently by residents with rotting garbage heaps on their curbs.
“Anthony Sabatini wins Lake GOP Chair” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Sabatini defeated incumbent Walter Price for Chair of the county Republican Executive Committee. Price told Florida Politics he expects Sabatini to use the Chair post to run for state Chair. Sitting Republican Party of Florida Chair Joe Gruters is not seeking re-election, and elections for the state position were moved to February as Gruters runs for Treasurer of the Republican National Committee. He is one of several “America First” candidates to have won county party positions since the Midterm Elections wrapped. A slate of candidates backed by Collier County State Committeeman Alfie Oakes just took over the Republican Executive Committee there. Candidates backed by Oakes, Sabatini and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn also won all officer positions in Lee County.
“Challenged books could come down from Brevard public school shelves and School Board mulls Mark Mullins’ replacement” via Eric Rogers of Florida Today — The Brevard County School Board wants books under challenge in Brevard Public Schools to be taken off library shelves and held behind the counter like adult magazines, according to the direction issued by Board members on Tuesday. In a pair of back-to-back meetings Tuesday, the Board also narrowed down its top three candidates for the school district’s interim Superintendent, who will take over Jan. 1 from outgoing Superintendent Mullins, and began work to reverse its controversial public speaking policy. Gene Trent had floated the idea of removing the books entirely, pending decisions by the district’s book review committee, in his first meeting as a Brevard School Board member on Nov. 22. But the Board struck a compromise.
“Osceola Commissioners pave way to using tax dollars for Sunbridge-area road improvements” via Natalia Jaramillo of the Orlando Sentinel — Commissioners this week unanimously approved a study that found “slum and blighted areas” in northeast Osceola County, the first step toward taxpayer-funded improvements to roads that lead to the Sunbridge master-planned community. The study analyzed photos taken by county staff and Google Earth images of the 126,000 acres of unincorporated parts of the county’s northeast and small sections of Kissimmee and St. Cloud. It highlighted unsafe and abruptly ending sidewalks, an aging bridge over Florida’s Turnpike and old road infrastructure that meets new roadways. The study calls for improvements to road infrastructure that will ease traffic and improve safety for pedestrians.
“FEMA disaster funds OK’d to help Volusia and Flagler recover from Tropical Storm Nicole” via Eileen Zaffiro-Kean of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — Good news for the thousands of local residents who have been struggling to recover from the damage Tropical Storm Nicole inflicted on Volusia and Flagler counties when it tore through Central Florida in early November. Biden has issued a major disaster declaration to help Floridians recover from Nicole, the blustery system that came ashore south of Vero Beach on Nov. 10 and cut across the peninsula. That official declaration of Volusia and Flagler counties as disaster areas means those in the path of the storm will now be eligible for federal financial aid. The disaster declaration authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide individual assistance, public aid and hazard mitigation in Volusia and Flagler counties.
“Teachers union packs Volusia School Board to ask for better pay, working conditions” via Danielle Johnson of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — This holiday season, Volusia County teachers and staff are asking for more than apples and mugs. Over 60 members of the Volusia United Educators teacher’s union, which represents around 3,500 district employees, showed up in red on Tuesday night to deliver educator wish lists to the School Board. Employees who signed the lists had many requests, including to be paid what they are worth. Others asked the district to “put salaries first” or pay them “more than a McDonald’s employee.” The district’s base salary for teachers is $47,500, but many have complained about salary compression for veteran teachers.
— LOCAL: TB —
“Janet Cruz says she’s a unifying force for Tampa City Council” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — A modest crowd gathered on a breezy Tuesday evening near Tampa’s Riverwalk for the launch of recently defeated state Sen. Cruz’s campaign for City Council. In a short speech to supporters, including Mayor Jane Castor and her daughter, Ballard lobbyist Ana Cruz, who is the Mayor’s partner, Janet Cruz said she would be a unifying force in the currently fractured relationship between the Mayor and Council members. “I was born just down the street from here at Centro Asturiano hospital,” Cruz said. Her great-grandparents were cigar rollers in Ybor City, she said, and she fondly recalled the days of former Mayors Nick Nuccio and Dick Greco.
“West Shore Interchange land costs jump $71 million” via C.T. Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times — The Hillsborough Transportation Planning Organization unanimously approved amending the state’s five-year work program to bump the right of way budget from $304 million to $375 million. The state isn’t buying more property than expected, just paying more for the parcels it does need, said Roger Mathie, a project manager for the planning organization. Rising real estate prices shouldn’t really be a surprise. Across Hillsborough County, just values — real estate market values before property tax exemptions are applied — jumped more than $50 billion, or 27%, in 2021, according to data reported in July by Hillsborough Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez. The state expects to begin construction next year on the $1.2 billion project.
“Pinellas approves $38M yacht venture near St. Pete-Clearwater airport” via Jay Cridlin of the Tampa Bay Times — Pinellas County Commissioners gave a thumbs-up to a plan for a $38 million yacht manufacturing facility on a patch of unused land by St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport. The Commission unanimously approved a plan by Clearwater boat retailer MarineMax to build a new yacht building and storage yard for its Intrepid Powerboats branch. MarineMax will sign a 50-year lease for the 9.5-acre property at 60 cents per square foot, or about $248,987 per year, to build the 132,000-square-foot facility and 400-space garage. Intrepid President Ken Clinton said the company has had proposals to build a larger boatbuilding facility in another county or state, but his preference was to stay at home, 15 minutes from their existing plant in Largo.
— LOCAL: SW. FL —
“Major tourism improvement projects move forward in Manatee County” via Jesse Mendoza of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — County and city officials from throughout Manatee County will spend funds aimed at attracting tourists with expansions at the Bradenton Area Convention Center and Premier Sports Campus, as well as improvements at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport and a new water taxi system. The efforts are meant to enhance key tourism centerpieces throughout the community and create a coordinated effort among local stakeholders to make improvements or offer programming and services that encourage travelers to visit points of attraction throughout the county, Bradenton Mayor Gene Brown said during a special meeting Tuesday. “We have one chance to get it right, and the time is now,” Brown said to the group of stakeholders.
“Sarasota School Board finalizes Brennan Asplen’s departure, appoints interim Superintendent” via Steven Walker of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Departing Sarasota Schools Superintendent Asplen ended his tenure with a letter. He thanked the community for its support and again warned of the dangers of politics affecting the School Board before walking out of the building hand-in-hand with his wife. “I did not plan on saying anything” on Nov. 29 when the Board moved to dismiss him, “but when you sit here and you listen to all the information coming from the four people who didn’t hesitate — not once but twice — to terminate you, I had to respond,” Asplen said. The board also voted unanimously to appoint Chris Renouf, the district’s assistant superintendent and chief academic officer, as the interim administrator until the next Board meeting on Jan. 17.
“Marco Island police officer fired after arbitrator finds he was ‘untruthful,’ in third such attempt” via Tomas Rodriguez of the Naples Daily News — A Marco Island police officer who appealed his third firing with the department in nine years has been terminated, an arbitrator has ruled. Mediation records indicate that on the night of May 23, 2019, Sgt. Zachary Kirsch determined that John Derrig failed to respond to a medical call, his fifth within two weeks. Kirsch ordered that Derrig respond to all future medical calls. Records indicate on that day his patrol car was parked, his engine idling, for three hours. Between May 27 and June 2, he failed to act on four additional calls, records show. On June 17 of that year, his car was parked for five hours. Derrig didn’t recall what he was doing during that time, records show.
“Naples Children & Education Foundation announces funding need for 2023” via Liz Freeman of the Naples Daily News — It’s been a tough couple of years for children and their well-being needs to be a priority, according to the Naples Children & Education Foundation (NCEF). The nonprofit organization that sponsors the annual Naples Winter Wine Festival fundraiser will focus greater attention this year on children’s access to health care, mental health, oral and vision health through its “fund a need” cause. In a separate move that validates NCEF’s commitment to the community, the organization announced this week it has allocated $1 million to several of its collaborative nonprofit partners that were hardest hit by Hurricane Ian on Sept. 28 while facing growing demand for services. The $1 million allocated for hurricane relief is money previously raised.
“Options for Hurricane Ian damaged Fort Myers Beach school presented to Lee School Board” via Nikki Ross of the Fort Myers News-Press — Lee school officials outlined four different options for the future of Fort Myers Beach Elementary School, ranging from a full rebuild to the sale of the property and sending island students elsewhere. No decisions were made at the most recent Lee County School Board workshop, which included talk of declining student enrollment, increased operational costs, and the community’s overall feelings toward their school. The school, which has been closed since Hurricane Ian brought a catastrophic storm surge to the island in September, was damaged by wind and floodwaters, according to the district. Everything other than the structural elements will need to be removed. The mechanical, plumbing, and electrical systems were also damaged beyond repair, officials said.
— LOCAL: N. FL —
“An appalling scene and the Jacksonville City Council’s silence” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — Some city officials believe Ben Frazier fishes for attention. And fair enough, he tends to be pretty good at getting it. Frazier has a baritone voice that can somehow overpower the PA system in the Jacksonville City Council chambers, but that power obscures some essential facts about Frazier: he is also 72 and has cancer and mobility issues. These facts are well-known to the 19 City Council members, whom Frazier, as head of the Northside Coalition, addresses regularly during the body’s public comment periods. Frazier is, in other words, someone with deeply held opinions about Jacksonville’s pressing problems. And he is totally harmless. Frustrated. But harmless.
“Taylor Biro sues city of Tallahassee after removal from Citizens Police Review Board” via Christopher Cann of the Tallahassee Democrat — Biro, who was removed from the Citizens Police Review Board in a 3-2 vote by City Commissioners last week, has filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Tallahassee claiming her ousting was a violation of the First Amendment. “[Biro] has the right to engage in First Amendment activities including placing a sticker on her cup without fear of reprisal,” says the complaint filed Tuesday in the U.S. Northern District of Florida.
“Former FAMU athletics official who accused Ramon Alexander of sexting and groping sues university” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — A former Florida A&M University athletics official who accused former state Rep. Ramon Alexander of unwanted groping and sexting earlier this year has filed a lawsuit alleging he was retaliated against and fired after reporting alleged thefts, sexual misconduct and other wrongdoing. Michael Johnson, who served as associate athletic director from May 2020 through mid-January 2022, filed the lawsuit against FAMU last week in Leon Circuit Court. It alleges he was wrongfully terminated after reporting misdeeds within the athletics department and subjected to whistleblower retaliation and gender and disability discrimination.
“FAMU mass shooting suspect says incident was caused by ‘feud’ between northside, southside gangs” via Christopher Cann of the Tallahassee Democrat — The mass shooting at the outdoor basketball courts on the campus of FAMU — which injured four people and killed an innocent bystander — stemmed from a feud between northside and southside Tallahassee gangs, court records say. The motive emerged in a probable cause affidavit that was unsealed more than a week after a pair of 21-year-olds, Chedderick Thomas and Da’Vhon Young Jr., were arrested on a murder charge and multiple counts of attempted homicide. The shooting hurt a 16-year-old, three adults and killed 20-year-old Travis Huntley. It was the second mass shooting to strike the capital city in about a one-month span.
“Pensacola Humane Society board accused of mismanagement, misappropriation of funds” via Tom McLaughlin of the Pensacola News Journal — A group calling itself We the Organization has issued a public statement critical of the operation of the Pensacola Humane Society and calling for the resignation of Gerald Adcox, the president of the facility’s board of directors. In its statement, the group claims to be comprised of “staff, volunteers and fosters” associated with the Humane Society who have chosen to “take a stand against the board for mismanagement, misappropriation and violations to bylaws.” “We The Organization will no longer sit idle in the knowledge of the present financial state of the Pensacola Humane Society nor continue to be governed by those who have failed at being good stewards to Pensacola Humane Society,” it said.
“Amid Flagler County changes the past 40 years, guns remain a problem, says WESH’s Claire Metz” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — December is a time of reflection and taking stock, and few people chronicled Flagler County the past 40 years like Metz of television affiliate station WESH. “I could go on and tell you a lot about Claire, but it’s like everybody kind of knows her very well,” said Greg Davis, president of the Flagler Tiger Bay Club. Metz shared her perspective with the members of the Flagler Tiger Bay Club at their recent holiday celebration. “Right off the bat, you’ve got your facts wrong,” Metz said of Davis, who introduced her by saying she would talk about how Florida’s political world shapes up coming out of the Midterms and going into 2024.
—“Blue Angels 2024 schedule announced, including two Pensacola air shows” via the Pensacola News Journal
— TOP OPINION —
“Florida withdraws from ‘woke’ investment firms. Retiree pensions may pay the price” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — This month, Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis announced Florida would be pulling $2 billion out of funds handled by BlackRock.
The reason: BlackRock is too “woke,” because the firm that counts assets by the trillions cares about things like the environment and how companies treat employees.
The reason was not that the company has not returned solid investments.
“Based on these bottom-line results, it’s hard to imagine how a fiduciary could say with a straight face that he doesn’t ‘trust BlackRock’s ability to deliver,’” said Jon Hale, director of sustainability research for the Americas at Morningstar Inc. “Unless that person has some other agenda.”
That person definitely has another agenda. And Florida taxpayers and retirees whose life savings are wrapped up in pension plans may end up paying the price.
Patronis may be more concerned with politics than financial returns. But a lot of people who’ve actually made their living in finance are shaking their heads.
In fact, Pension & Investments Online noted that Florida’s Treasury portfolio was “full of managers supporting ESG,” noting that it found 10 of the 11 managers Florida uses were also committed to ESG values.
Bloomberg News quoted a hedge- and private-equity fund lawyer: “This feels like a political determination, not the deliberative determination you’d expect a fiduciary to make.”
You get the image of a tantrum-throwing toddler, screaming: I don’t wanna eat yucky cookies if they’re made by Johnny because I HATE JOHNNY!
Someone says: But Johnny’s cookies are delicious.
The toddler responds: Well, I’m still not eating them because … JOHNNY!
It’s hard to argue with logic like that.
— OPINIONS —
“Miami fell for FTX. Then FTX fell and Heat arena is stuck with a name no one wants” via the Miami Herald editorial board — When the now-failed cryptocurrency exchange firm FTX went before the County Commission in 2021 to ask for a naming-rights deal for the Heat arena in downtown, Mayor Levine Cava and supporters sold it as a key to solving gun violence. FTX’s payments to the county would go toward neighborhood programs to combat the issue and promote economic development. But just like cryptocurrency itself, the naming deal turned out to be highly volatile. By putting its name on the Heat arena, FTX replaced American Airlines as the primary sponsor of a sports facility in Florida. But now the name has become an albatross, the county’s most famous sports facility emblazoned with the name of an internationally disgraced company.
“As schools chief is unfired and rehired, we’re tired of this” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Vickie Cartwright is Broward County Superintendent of Schools. Again. At least until Jan. 24. But even though Cartwright’s earlier firing is rescinded, the district will keep looking for another Superintendent. Is that clear? Surely not. Is this any way to run the nation’s sixth-largest school district? Definitely not. A 5 to 3 vote isn’t a mandate, so perhaps Tuesday’s vote only delayed the inevitable. DeSantis’s determination to remake the board started all this, but all this zigzagging is getting very old. Everyone with a stake in the system deserves stable, permanent leadership in the School District. After the past few months, one wonders how many strong candidates will even want the job if the board fires Cartwright.
— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —
— ALOE —
“Twitter suspends account of UCF student tracking Elon Musk’s jet” via Christie Zizo of Click Orlando — A Twitter account run by a University of Central Florida student that tracked Musk’s private jet has now been suspended, even though Musk said the account amounted to free speech. @ElonJet, an account run by UCF sophomore Jack Sweeney, was suspended this week. Sweeney said on his personal Twitter account that the jet-tracking account had been permanently suspended. Sweeney created the account to track Musk’s private jet using publicly available data as a coding project in 2020.
“Disney’s Epcot opens new attraction adults and kids will love” via Danni Button of The Street — Starting Friday, visitors to Disney World’s EPCOT park can take part in the DuckTales World Showcase Adventure. Using the Play Disney Parks mobile app, attendees enjoying EPCOT’s World Showcase can share the experience with some old cartoon friends. The adventure’s description reads, “Join Scrooge McDuck, his nephews, and friends as they travel around World Showcase on a quacky quest to find the Seven Plunders of the World — and return them to their rightful owners.” Travelers can help catch thieves or match wits with the guardians of ancient artifacts in several countries featured in EPCOT’s World Showcase. Treasure can be found in Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Japan, France, and the United Kingdom.
— HOLIDAYS —
“Pope urges ‘humble’ Christmas, with savings sent to Ukraine” via The Associated Press — Pope Francis called Wednesday for a “humble” Christmas this year, with savings from reduced spending on gifts donated to help the “suffering people of Ukraine.” Francis called for “concrete gestures” of charity for Ukrainians this holiday season during his weekly general audience. “It’s nice to celebrate Christmas and have parties, but let’s lower the level of Christmas spending a bit,” he said. “Let’s make a more humble Christmas, with more humble gifts, and let’s send what we save to the people of Ukraine who need it.”
“Traveling for Christmas? What to know about airport crowds and traffic.” via James Bikales of The Washington Post — Christmas may be the most wonderful time of the year for many, but it’s historically been one of the worst if you’re at an airport or on the roads. Deloitte’s research found more than a quarter of travelers plan to work during their holiday trips this year, especially those under 55. Working remotely allows them to travel for longer and take advantage of better airfares and hotel prices.
“Florida holiday drivers make the ‘Naughty List’” via Jordan Kirkland of The Capitolist — The holiday season is known for being merry and bright, but some Florida motorists are getting a lump of coal this Christmas for their aggressive driving habits. A new survey from GasBuddy revealed that drivers in certain cities across the United States are up to 54% more aggressive than the average driver. GasBuddy examined millions of drives during 2022’s Thanksgiving holiday weekend, finding that three Florida cities, Jacksonville (No. 2), Tampa (No. 4), and Orlando (No. 8), made the “Naughty List” this year, making the Sunshine State the most aggressive driving state overall.
“He misses his wife on Christmas. Thousands sent cards to cheer him up.” via Sydney Page of The Washington Post — For the past nine years, George Dowling has dreaded December, once his favorite month. Since losing his wife in 2013, Christmas has been a trying time. His late wife, Lucille, lived for the holiday season. She died on Dec. 1, 2013, after battling Alzheimer’s. “We have been doing this since my grandmother passed,” Charlene Fletcher posted on Facebook, asking people to send her grandfather cards. “It helps him get through the holiday.” Dowling received more than 10,000 cards in only eight days.
“All they want for Christmas is to stop that Mariah Carey song” via Joseph Pisani of The Wall Street Journal — Christian Graham doesn’t want a lot for Christmas. In fact, there is just one thing he needs. “Enough is enough,” says Graham about Carey‘s megahit, “All I Want for Christmas is You,” which plays incessantly at the Chicago deli where he works. “Past a certain point, I might go crazy,” he says. At least three petitions on Change.org seek to sleigh Carey’s 1994 holiday hit, “All I Want for Christmas is You.” One begs the Federal Communications Commission to ban it from the radio.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Celebrating today are Ken Lawson, Sara Pennington Nuvy, and former Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Renzo Downey, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.