Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 12.11.22

Insurance companies scored big this week, while Rebekah Jones took another major L.

That “tick, tock” sound could be the walls finally closing in on TikTok, a priority target over the years for U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott.

Rubio and Scott are co-sponsoring a bill that would ban TikTok on all federal devices. That legislation has already been approved by the Senate, and there seems to be a bipartisan appetite in the House to limit use of the app, which is controlled by the China-based ByteDance.

Some states have also made similar moves. The Senators, as well as several experts and regulators, have raised serious concerns with China’s ability to access U.S. user data, with Commissioner Brendan Carr of the Federal Communications Commission calling it a “very sophisticated surveillance app.”

And more serious legislation, also sponsored by Rubio, would ban TikTok throughout the entire U.S.

The move would be a devastating blow to teenagers and, strangely, some of my 30-something friends. But TikTok’s assurances that U.S. data is safe from China’s influence have not persuaded government officials to back off a ban ever since the Donald Trump administration toyed with a ban in 2020.

Both bills have seemingly picked up steam this week, signaling there could be trouble ahead for the popular social media app.

Now, it’s on to our weekly game of winners and losers.


Honorable mention: Recent hurricane victims. Many of those impacted by two Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole are still suffering, but Florida lawmakers did the right thing this week during a Special Session by approving hundreds of millions of dollars in relief for those affected.

The headline provision of the measure will offer tax rebates to homeowners whose homes were rendered uninhabitable by the storm for at least 30 days. The size of those rebates will scale up depending on how long homeowners were ejected from their homes.

That could put a dent in local tax revenues, but advocates are already pushing lawmakers to consider a rebate for local governments during next year’s Regular Session.

More than $250 million will also head to the Department of Environmental Protection, offering funds for programs helping to deal with erosion and fix stormwater and wastewater systems. Other agencies will receive big bucks to aid Floridians in need.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has now signed the legislation.

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: Frequent Florida toll users. DeSantis also offered his signature to legislation cutting toll costs in half for frequent users in Florida.

Starting Jan. 1, drivers who use tolls that accept a Florida-issued transponder or are interoperable with the SunPass system at least 35 times in a month will be eligible for the 50% credit. The state is shipping $500 million to the Department of Transportation to cover the cost of the proposal, and some of the most high-volume drivers on Florida’s roads could save $1,000 to $1,500 next year, the Governor said.

The money comes from the excess revenue the state has been pulling in, thanks in part to inflation pumping up the tax revenue pouring into state coffers. The Governor has framed this initiative as a way to help Floridians deal with that overall inflation, and promised more help to come.

“When your surplus gets too big, it’s like, OK, we need to get this back to the taxpayer,” DeSantis said. “This is one thing we’re going to do, but we’re going to do much more in terms of tax relief for people throughout the state of Florida.”

Democrats did float some valid alternate proposals. Why not just use the $500 million for a flat toll reduction for everyone? Why not offer a similar cut for those who frequently use public transportation?

It’s true those plans could have helped more Floridians, and maybe the minority party can follow up on those ideas during next year’s Regular Session. But the legislation as proposed will offer some help to Floridians during a time where inflation is starting to be tamed, but where prices remain too high for too many.

The biggest winner: Insurance companies. The prior two measures were tacked onto this Special Session. But the main reason for the call in the first place was to help fix Florida’s crumbling property insurance market.

Did lawmakers succeed in that regard with the legislation approved this week?

Well, the two main effects of this crisis have been insurance companies failing or fleeing Florida, and homeowners getting crushed by skyrocketing rates. It remains to be seen whether the changes will help those costs for homeowners come down quickly, but what is clear is that insurance companies got exactly what they wanted from the new legislation.

Citizens Property Insurance called the property insurance package “historic.” And leaders at the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida were “grateful” for the measure’s passage.

The new provisions set up more roadblocks for lawsuits over property claims. Insurance companies argued a flood of frivolous suits has surged the costs for those companies and destabilized the markets. Numbers from the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation show that, in 2021, Florida represented 7% of property insurance claims nationwide but housed 76% of insurance litigation.

The legislation will also set up a $1 billion reinsurance fund backed by taxpayer money. It also requires policyholders to buy flood insurance and aims to push people away from using the state-run Citizens Property Insurance.

Democrats were unrelenting in their criticism of the measure, arguing it not only did not directly address homeowners’ costs, but may have made things worse for some people.

Those who backed the bill argue that by cutting costs for insurance companies and helping calm the market, more options will be available for homeowners, and that will eventually drive down costs.

Time will tell who is correct. But what is clear is that insurance companies got exactly what they wanted out of this week’s meeting.


Dishonorable mention: Lee County GOP. Lee County GOP Chair Michael Thompson is firing a clear shot at Florida’s GOP establishment, appointing former Rep. Anthony Sabatini as the General Legal Counsel for the Lee County Republican Executive Committee.

Thompson won the Chair position by just one vote in a heated competition. Now, he’s placing one of Florida’s most notorious political agitators in a prime position for the county’s REC.

Sabatini so famously frustrated Republican leadership last term that his office was reassigned to the lowest floor in the House, dubbed the “House basement.” He was mostly ineffective as a legislator, but was quite effective at stoking controversy and getting his name in the headlines.

And as a lawyer, he mostly failed as well. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he ran around the state suing over local mask mandates, losing repeatedly across Florida and eventually facing an ethics complaint over the lawsuits.

This cycle, he ran for Congress. He also lost.

So what’s with naming Sabatini to this new position? It’s a clear bid at more attention-hogging for flamethrowers Thompson and Sabatini. And any time you appoint a repeated loser in a Hail Mary to rattle some cages or generate some clicks, it’s not a good look.

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: Trump. This is not the first time Trump has made the “loser” list and probably won’t be the last. And far be it from me to seem like I’m continuing a trend of the media lighting their hair on fire at every Trump move, because that’s gotten incredibly old as well.

But man, the news this week has not been kind to the former President. A new slate of polls showed Trump trailing DeSantis nationwide and in a key state. To be fair, a PBS poll does still have Trump leading, with a boost from less educated voters. But that survey was an outlier this week.

Then, there was the news of U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon axing Trump’s ask for a special master, as he sues over the seizure of purportedly illegally retained classified documents from his Mar-a-Lago estate.

Add to that a continued deferral from Sen. Scott, one of Trump’s main allies in Washington, about who he would endorse in 2024. Asked directly during an interview with La W Radio Colombia on whether he’d endorse Trump, Scott scurried from the question.

“There’s a lot of people who are probably going to get into the race,” Scott said. “I’ll watch who gets in the race and work with them as they go through it. My focus is doing a good job as a U.S. Senator and running for re-election as a Senator from Florida.”


Ah, and then the non-fungible token (NFT) debacle. It’s been radio silence since Trump announced his 2024 run in a low-energy Mar-a-Lago speech. But Trump’s tease of a “MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT” this week had his supporters excited. Was he announcing a major event? A potential VP pick? Creation of a new party?

Nope. It was a set of $99 digital trading cards of Trump photoshopped into an array of macho man professions, meant to continue sucking cash from his willing supporters.

And despite widespread criticism — including harsh rebukes from some of his most loyal supporters — it somehow worked? The collection sold out, and resales are already seeking thousands of dollars.

Trump has been a master at grifting his supporters, and as long as it continues to work, he’ll continue to do it. But while support for Trump may be rabid, its reach appears to be fading in terms of securing the presidential nod in 2024. He’ll need several more MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENTS to help make up for this recent slide.

The biggest loser: Rebekah Jones. Speaking of grift …

Jones has now admitted guilt after being charged with illegally accessing state computers following her ouster from the Department of Health.

“The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Jones downloaded and saved confidential data and sent a message to 1,750 state employees that urged them to ‘speak up before another 17,000 people are dead,'” according to The Associated Press.

The charges stemmed from a raid on her home that Jones endlessly mined for sympathy as she tried to perpetuate the narrative that she was a noble whistleblower trying to expose the state’s reporting of COVID-19 data under the DeSantis administration.

That mythos eventually led her to run for Congress, where she continued to court donations in an unwinnable seat for Democrats. She lost by 36 points.

Now, she has formally admitted guilt in an agreement with prosecutors. And not so shockingly, Jones is still playing the victim.

“The language I provided was negotiated for months and was all that I was willing to concede — that I had a contact roster saved to my cloud storage,” Jones said according to a Fresh Take Florida report. “I did not state I obtained the document illegally, that I did not have a right or legitimate reason to have it, only that it was in my possession.”

Georgia Cappleman, who prosecuted the case, had this to say in response: “It’s inconsistent with the document, but I don’t really care what she says,” Cappleman said, sighing. “It’s a free country.”

People are indeed free to spin whatever narratives they like. But please, people, there are plenty of legitimate fighters for whatever cause you care about. Don’t fall for the grift on either side.

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected]

One comment

  • michael l. Hammond

    December 19, 2022 at 7:15 am

    different writer, same ole liberal BS

Comments are closed.


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, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, Wes Wolfe, and Mike Wright.

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

Sign up for Sunburn