Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 1.5.23

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Get ready for an espresso shot of Florida politics and policy.

Good Thursday morning.

First in #FlaPol: “Tom Leek to run for Senate in 2024” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The Ormond Beach Republican was first elected to the state House in 2016 and has risen the ranks in the chamber, including serving as the Chair of the House Redistricting Committee last Session. Now in his final term, Leek has been tapped to lead the House Appropriations Committee, giving him enormous influence over the state budget. Leek briefly faced a challenge from the right last year but after strong endorsements from Gov. Ron DeSantis and House Speaker Paul Renner, he went unopposed in the GOP Primary for HD 28. The seat he hopes to win (SD 7) is currently held by Sen. Travis Hutson, who was re-elected to a two-year term after easily dispatching a Primary challenger. Hutson faces term limits in 2024.


Pinellas County Commissioner Chris Latvala is joining the direct mail and printing company that his father, Jack Latvala, founded more than 40 years ago.

Chris Latvala could often be found at Direct Mail Systems during his childhood, stuffing envelopes or applying address labels. In many ways, it’s a workplace he never left.

“It’s a natural fit for me,” said Chris Latvala, who was elected to the Pinellas County Commission in November after serving four terms in the state House.

“I literally grew up with DMS, and to this day, many of its key people are my mentors and friends. (Senior Vice President) Mike Pachik handled the campaign mailings for all of my Florida House races, including some groundbreaking work. It truly is a homecoming, and I’m proud to officially be part of the family.”

Chris Latvala joins the family business — helping candidates win with direct mailing.

As an Account Executive, Latvala is expected to “help us grow our client base and build on the company’s strengths,” according to DMS President and CEO Mike Milligan.

“Chris represents the next generation of DMS leaders. He has valuable experience in the fundamentals of mail marketing and political strategy. We’re convinced he can take us to the next level,” he added.

Based in St. Petersburg, Direct Mail Systems is a full-service creative agency and high-capacity production facility serving Republican campaigns at every level.

Over the decades since its founding, it has grown into a top direct mail firm for campaigns in Florida and in several other states across the country. In conjunction with Chris Latvala’s hiring, DMS announced it is launching a digital marketing division to better serve its clients.


Tweet, tweet:

@MarcACaputo: Now that (Byron) Donalds has been nominated for Speaker by the Never Kevins, some Florida GOP chatter I’m hearing more and more about: both Donalds & one of the anti-McCarthyites, Matt Gaetz, have expressed interest to others in running for Governor in 2026

Tweet, tweet:

@JaredEMoskowitz: “Life After Kevin” a new TV drama series coming this fall

@MaxwellFrostFL: On vote SIX for Speaker of the House and really nothing has changed. There is currently no House of Representatives that can serve the people till we get through this. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

@MacFarlaneNews: Stepping out of meeting … Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) blisters Kevin McCarthy. He calls McCarthy “a desperate guy” then says he’s ready to “vote all night, all week, all month … and never for that person” Cites lack of a “public apology” from McCarthy as a wedge issue

@RitchieTorres: Lauren Boebert calling out Donald Trump on the House floor was not on my 2023 bingo card.

@jimantle: If Kevin McCarthy and Byron Donalds combined to form one Speaker, they would be McDonald’s.

@JimRosicaFL: Another high-level departure this week: @CareerSourceFL President and CEO Michelle Dennard has turned in her resignation, effective Jan. 31, to “pursue new opportunities.” #FlaPol


Final Broadway performance of ‘The Music Man’ with Hugh Jackman — 10; ‘Mayor of Kingstown’ premieres on Paramount+ — 10; Ashley Children’s Gasparilla Parade — 16; last day to ride Splash Mountain before remodeling — 17; The James Madison Institute’s Annual Dinner — 20; 2023 FAC Access 67 Broadband Summit — Florida Association of Counties begins — 21; state Senators have a 5 p.m. deadline for submitting requests for drafts of general bills and joint resolutions, including requests for companion bills — 21; Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest — 23; Bruce Springsteen launches 2023 tour in Tampa — 27; ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 43; ‘Snowfall’ final season premieres on FX — 48; city of Tampa Municipal Election early voting begins — 53; DeSantis’ ‘The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival’ released — 54; ‘The Mandalorian’ returns — 55; ‘Creed III’ premieres — 57; The Oscars — 58; Tampa Municipal Election — 61; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 61; World Baseball Classic finals begin in Miami — 73; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 78; Taylor Swift ‘Eras’ Tour in Tampa — 98; final performance of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ on Broadway — 101; American Association of Political Consultants Pollies ’23 conference begins — 103; 2023 Session Sine Die — 120; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 120; ‘Fast X’ premieres — 134; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 148; ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ premieres — 176; ‘Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning — Part One’ premieres — 190; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 197; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 204; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 302; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 449; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 505; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 568; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 568; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 610; ‘Deadpool 3’ premieres — 673; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 751; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 848. ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,037.


Ron DeSantis administration surveying for CRT, DEI in Florida higher education” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis leans into his second term and the upcoming 2023 Legislative Session, his administration is asking state colleges and universities to compile a list of programs and campus activities relating to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and critical race theory (CRT).

The Chronicle of Higher Education was the first to report Tuesday — the first day of the Republican Governor’s second term — that the DeSantis administration had begun compiling a list of courses on diversity. The Governor’s Press Secretary, Bryan Griffin, confirmed the report Wednesday afternoon.

Ron DeSantis wastes little time in continuing the battle against ‘wokeism.’

“All state universities & college systems in Florida have been required to report expenditures and resources utilized for campus activities related to diversity, equity, and inclusion and critical race theory. Stay tuned,” Griffin tweeted.

Griffin published a memo from the Governor’s Office to Education Commissioner Manny Diaz and the Chancellor of the State University System of Florida, Ray Rodrigues. The memo, dated Dec. 28, gives schools a Jan. 13 deadline to document the list of staff, programs and campus activities related to DEI and CRT. Each institution must report a description of the program, positions associated with the program, funding spent to support the program, and how much of those dollars are state-funded.

Chris Spencer, director of the Governor’s Office of Policy and Budget, wrote the memo.


DeSantis enters new year in national spotlight” via Max Greenwood of The Hill — DeSantis is entering 2023 as one of the hottest commodities in Republican politics amid speculation that he’s nearing a campaign for the White House. DeSantis was sworn in for a second term in the Governor’s Mansion on Tuesday, seizing on the moment to tout the accomplishments of his first four years in office and lay out some of his priorities for the next four. But many Republicans remain skeptical that he’ll stay in Tallahassee for another four years, given his growing stature on the national stage and increasing likelihood that he’ll challenge Trump for the GOP’s 2024 presidential nod.

Ron DeSantis faces a new year of the national spotlight.

DeSantis has another opportunity to shape the Miami-Dade School Board. Will it matter?” via Sommer Brugal of the Miami Herald — DeSantis will have yet another opportunity to appoint a member to the Miami-Dade County School Board following the recent resignation of Vice Chair Lubby Navarro, further underscoring Tallahassee’s influence on local school boards. Navarro, who was appointed by former Gov. Rick Scott in 2015 and later elected in 2016 and 2020, stepped down Friday afternoon before a new Florida law prohibiting elected officials from working as lobbyists went into effect on Saturday, Dec. 31. The Constitutional Prohibition Against Lobbying by a Public Officer implements a constitutional amendment voters approved in 2018 and also bars state and local elected officials from lobbying their state agencies or offices for six years after leaving office.

‘Woke mind virus’? ‘Corporate wokeness’? Why red America has declared war on corporate America” via Jessica Guynn of USA Today — Republicans say they’re fighting back against the unchecked influence of liberal activists in executive suites and boardrooms. Grievances include Delta Air Lines opposing Georgia’s restrictive voting laws and Citigroup paying for Texas employees to travel out of state for abortions. Companies suspending campaign donations to Republicans who denied the result of the 2020 presidential election following the Jan. 6 Capitol attack worsened tensions. “None of this has anything to do with running their companies,” said Matt Schlapp, Chair of the American Conservative Union.

Florida and Texas, the far-right axis” via Luisita Lopez Torregrosa of Texas Observer — While the widely expected GOP “red wave” fizzled in much of the nation, Texas added two seats to its predominantly Republican congressional delegation and Florida, until recently a purple battleground state, fell fully into Republican hands. The Republican victories underscore fundamental divisions in the country and leave little doubt that these second and third megastates, after California, are playing a definitive role in shaping the political direction of the country.


Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson names new head of Agricultural Law Enforcement” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Simpson got to work by naming Lee Adams as the new director of his Department’s Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement. Adams replaces Col. James Wiggins, who served in a law enforcement role at the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services since 1998, including the last seven years as director of the Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement. Wiggins earned $136,000 per year in that position. “First, I want to thank Colonel James Wiggins for his more than two decades of service to the state of Florida and his dedicated leadership of the Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement,” Simpson said in a released statement.

On his first day, Wilton Simpson taps Lee Adams to lead the Department’s Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement. Image via FDACS.

Who’s the boss? Some agencies have no secretaries as DeSantis begins second term” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Several departments, including the agency that oversees Florida’s nearly $40 billion Medicaid program, had leaders step down between DeSantis’ re-election and the start of the year. Some departures appear voluntary, but there also seems to have been a push to change the leadership of one or two agencies. The Agency for Health Care Administration, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the Department of Economic Opportunity, and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles are without announced leaders. The post of Insurance Commissioner, which oversees the state’s Office of Insurance Regulation, is also vacant.

Surgeon General used ‘flawed’ vaccine science, faculty peers say” via Jack Stripling of The Washington Post — Joseph Ladapo, a professor of medicine at the University of Florida and the state’s Surgeon General, relied upon a flawed analysis and may have violated university research integrity rules when he issued guidance last fall discouraging young men from receiving common coronavirus vaccines. In its new report, a task force of the University of Florida College of Medicine’s Faculty Council cites numerous deficiencies in the analysis Ladapo used to justify his vaccine recommendation. A summary said the work was “seriously flawed.” The report’s authors say Ladapo engaged in “careless, irregular, or contentious research practices.”

Joseph Ladapo’s UF colleagues blast him for relying on ‘flawed’ science. Image via Colin Hackley.

Moving to Florida could save you on taxes — but cost more overall” via Jacob Zinkula of Business Insider — Americans are moving to Florida for better weather and lower taxes. While they can likely count on warm temperatures in the years ahead, not everyone will find themselves better off financially. From July 2021 to July 2022, Florida’s population grew to over 22 million people. The 1.9% increase was the largest of any U.S. state over this period. Ample job opportunities, evidenced by one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, and the growth of remote work have made it possible for many Americans to move to the Sunshine State. Many have also been drawn there because it’s one of nine states with no state income tax, which could potentially save them thousands of dollars per year.

Florida-based Frontline withdraws from Demotech but sees BBB+ from KBRA” via William Rabb of Insurance Journal — Frontline Insurance Group, parent to two significant property insurers in Florida, has had its financial rating stability withdrawn by the Demotech rating firm. Frontline corporate leaders were not available Tuesday to talk about the move. But company officials who spoke on background said the insurers had voluntarily withdrawn their rating requests and ended their association with Demotech in the wake of widespread dissatisfaction with the Demotech rating process.

Is there enough room to house Florida’s rescued manatees? Wildlife officials think so” via Max Chesnes of the Tampa Bay Times — Caring for a malnourished manatee is no simple task: It can take constant attention, such as tube-feeding three times a day, to nurture a sick sea cow back to full health. From start to finish, the rehabilitation process can take more than a year and cost roughly $3,000 monthly for each animal, according to Sandra Torres, a spokesperson for ZooTampa. Less-intensive recoveries can still take months. As an unprecedented starvation event has increased demand for more long-term care for Florida’s manatees, wildlife biologists say they are confident there’s enough room across the state to house the embattled animals.


Lauren Book resumes push to make diaper tax break permanent” via Florida Politics — The leader of the Senate Democrats is resuming her yearly push to end taxes on diapers and incontinence products. Sen. Book’s measure (SB 114) would make permanent a sales tax break for human diapers, incontinence undergarments, incontinence pads, and incontinence liners. Though Book has yet to get this passed into law despite filing it since 2017, Floridians are currently enjoying these tax breaks due to a provision in the 2022 budget. House negotiators floated an eleventh-hour proposal to insert a one-year tax exemption into the budget, which met with approval from the Senate, and eventually from DeSantis, who championed the idea and credited the Legislature for it.

Senators talk priorities as Agriculture Committee kicks into gear” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — Chair Jay Collins, a Hillsborough County Republican, laid out the dramatic drop in Florida’s citrus crop. “We have to right-size that, right,” Collins said. “If we don’t keep our food product coming from the state of Florida, and revitalize and grow, we’re missing the mark.” … “If we don’t have food, we don’t have people, right? Ag is an intricate, detailed and important part of our community.” Hurricane Ian, he noted, affected more than 60% of the state’s grazing land. “We have to stabilize those farmers who lost so much, whether it was a cattleman, dairy farmer, citrus, strawberries — whoever else was affected,” Collins said.

Jay Collins takes charge as Chair of the first meeting of the Agriculture Committee.

Senate resiliency panel considers obstacles to Ian recovery” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — While state disaster recovery workers have pushed to clean up and rebuild Southwest Florida and other parts of the state hit hard by Hurricane Ian last year, a combination of conflicting local, state and federal rules have meant some aspects of the recovery process will take longer than expected. Division of Emergency Management Executive Director Kevin Guthrie told the Senate Select Committee on Resiliency some local government contracts don’t always spell out every type of debris removal they need, causing the state to step in and prolong the recovery process. “At the local level we need to make sure they have every plausible line item in their contract,” Guthrie told the committee.

Beds are empty, but waiting list persists for state veteran nursing home care” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Adult day care for veterans and more community services, as well as admitting more nursing home patients, are on the to-do list for the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs (FDVA). Wednesday’s meeting of the Senate Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs, Space and Domestic Security started with the Chair, Sen. Tom Wright, saying he hoped to get to more of the “space” the Committee is charged with overseeing. But the earthly issues of an aging veteran population and expanding care to more veterans consumed the committee’s inaugural meeting of the 2023-24 legislative term, as the FDVA’s presentation took up the bulk of the committee’s hour Wednesday.

Streamlined bill safeguarding children at risk of parental harm refiled for 2023 Session” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Two Democratic lawmakers from South Florida have teamed up to again seek changes to the state’s custody laws meant to better protect children at risk of parental harm. On Tuesday, Rep. Hillary Cassel filed HB 97 for consideration during the upcoming Legislative Session. Sen. Lori Berman, who sponsored identically named legislation last year, confirmed she will again carry the measure this year. Were HB 97 to pass, courts would be required to consider several additional factors in deciding whether to grant, continue, limit or rescind shared parental custody, including whether either parent believes he, she or the child is or has been in danger of domestic or sexual violence, abuse, abandonment or neglect.

New House subcommittee takes aim at ag, conservation, resiliency” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — New for this Legislative Session are a trio of subcommittees under the new House Infrastructure Strategies Committee. The Agriculture, Conservation and Resiliency Subcommittee, one of the three, launched this week. “The Infrastructure Strategies Committee considers matters related to planning for Florida’s growth, including transportation, water, flood resilience, land acquisition, and infrastructure planning,” according to a House memo. “The committee also considers matters related to Florida’s agriculture and citrus industries, conservation of natural resources, fish and wildlife issues, water quality and supply, and transportation services.”

New legislation seeks to attract more college athletes to the state’s playing fields” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Rep. Chip LaMarca has filed a bill that aims to put Florida’s college and university athletes on an even playing field with national counterparts when it comes to pursuing individual endorsements and sponsorships. The legislation (HB 99) would be an update to the Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) law that went into effect in 2021, which put the state at the forefront of freeing athletes to make money. But then the NCAA stopped preventing college athletes from making money while they are in school shortly after the state’s law passed. That means Florida’s universities and colleges have more rules to follow, putting them at a disadvantage in attracting and retaining top athletes, according to state university officials.

Spencer Roach recovering after emergency surgery” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The North Fort Myers Republican was rushed to Tallahassee Memorial on Tuesday and had his appendix removed. He told Florida Politics he’s thankful for the medical staff who cared for him, including paramedics responding to the 911 call and those at the hospital. “But I have no intention of attending or Chairing any meetings this week,” he said. “I’m still in pain from the surgery. My abdomen is sore from where they cut out the appendix. My doctor told me not to lift anything over 10 pounds.” He also continues to have morphine administered. “I am anticipating I will not be mentally or physically able to participate in the meeting from both the meds and the pain,” he said.

Godspeed to Spencer Roach as he recovers from emergency surgery.


— The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee will hear a budget update: 9:30 a.m., Room 412 of the Knott Building.

— The Florida Gaming Control Commission meets: 9:30 a.m., Cabinet Meeting Room.

— The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee will receive an update: 10 a.m., Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— The House Energy, Communications & Cybersecurity Subcommittee will receive an update: 10 a.m., Reed Hall of the House Office Building.

— The House Postsecondary Education & Workforce Subcommittee will receive an update: 10 a.m., Morris Hall of the House Office Building.

— The House State Administration & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee will receive an update: Room 212 of the Knott Building.

— The Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee will receive an update: 11 a.m., Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

— The House Ethics, Elections & Open Government Subcommittee will receive an update: 11:30 a.m., Reed Hall of the House Office Building.

— The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee will receive an update: 11:30 a.m., Morris Hall of the House Office Building.

— The House Water Quality, Supply & Treatment Subcommittee will receive an update: 11:30 a.m., Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— The House Select Committee on Hurricane Resiliency and Recovery will receive an update: 1 p.m., Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— The Joint Legislative Auditing Committee will receive an update from the Office of the Auditor General: 1 p.m., Room 412 of the Knott Building.


New Rick Scott ad defends failed Senate leadership challenge” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Florida’s junior Senator is still defiant even in the face of a lopsided loss in his recent challenge to GOP Leader Mitch McConnell. Scott’s re-election campaign released a new ad Wednesday that defends his unsuccessful challenge to the Kentucky Senator. The friendly Fox News article spotlighting “Got to Change” notes the big spend: A “seven-figure” national buy will ensure cable news viewers will see the spot. “People told me not to run for Republican Leader against Mitch McConnell. They said I wouldn’t win. I knew it was going to be hard. But we’ve got to start somewhere,” Scott contends, before pivoting to a denunciation of GOP ineffectiveness against the socialist scourge.

To watch the ad, please click on the image below:

Byron Donalds nominated for Speaker of the House” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep.-elect Chip Roy, a Texas Republican, nominated Donalds for Speaker ahead of the fourth vote in two days for the post. All House members currently bear the title of “Rep.-elect” until a new Speaker is chosen, and members are sworn in. “Byron is a dear friend, a solid conservative, but most importantly, a family man who loves dearly his wife, Erika, and his three children,” Roy said. “He has a proven track record as a businessman, public servant in the Florida Legislature, and now as a member of the United States Congress.” In Florida, there have been rumors Donalds could seek statewide office. He’s a close ally of DeSantis and was reportedly the Governor’s first choice to lead the Republican Party of Florida shortly after the 2018 election.

—”Who is Donalds?” via Eugene Scott of The Washington Post

Kat Cammack nominates Kevin McCarthy for House Speaker on 6th vote attempt” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — As House members entered a sixth House Speaker vote, U.S. Rep.-elect Cammack put in the nomination for McCarthy. “This chamber is an instrument of the people’s will and the people have overwhelmingly voted for Kevin McCarthy,” Cammack said. A different Republican has nominated McCarthy. Cammack, a Gainesville Republican, seemed especially notable as she remains a close ally of U.S. Rep.-elect Donalds, the Naples Republican nominated now three times as a GOP alternative.

To watch the video of Cammack nominating McCarthy, please click on the image below:

Anna Paulina Luna, still opposing Kevin McCarthy, promises Republican will become Speaker” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Luna voted three times Tuesday against the top Republican running for Speaker of the House. But she promised she won’t do anything that results in a Democrat holding the Speaker’s gavel. Ahead of a planned second day of votes on Speaker, Luna issued a statement saying she won’t do anything that risks Republican control of the Chamber. “There is an extraordinary amount of misinformation going around about yesterday’s vote for the Speaker of the House,” Luna said in an extensive statement.

The political profile of McCarthy’s detractors” via Kyle Kondik of Sabato’s Crystal Ball — The 21 Republicans who did not vote for McCarthy on every roll call generally, but not exclusively, come from uncompetitive districts. They almost all have at least some connections to the House Freedom Caucus, the group of hard-line conservatives. The anti-McCarthy forces do not really have a clear alternative. The non-McCarthy votes were splintered on the first roll call. They then went to Rep. Jim Jordan, who himself backs McCarthy, on votes 2 and 3. The insurgents then backed Donalds, the Tuesday vote-switcher, on votes 4, 5, and 6. Some recent choices by GOP electorates helped strengthen what would become this anti-McCarthy coalition. The longer this goes on, the more need there may be for a creative solution, like we saw in Pennsylvania’s state House Speaker election on Tuesday.

A Democrat’s unusual, up-close view of DeSantis” via Blake Hounshell of The New York Times — When DeSantis tapped Jared Moskowitz to run the state’s disaster-relief agency in 2018, he praised him as “an effective Democratic voice in the Republican-dominated Legislature.” It was a bipartisan gesture that seems almost quaint in hindsight, given the sharply conservative direction in which DeSantis has steered his state. Moskowitz is now entering Congress, positioning himself as a centrist Democrat who understands how to work across the aisle. “I probably spent more time with him than any other Secretary,” Moskowitz said. And while DeSantis has a reputation for being acerbic in person, the two men have “a good relationship,” he added.

After a year of collapses, cryptocurrency’s future in the balance” via Sarah Wynn of Roll Call — In Congress, where the cryptocurrency industry once had a vocal contingent of backers, the hostility is now louder, with calls to severely restrict cryptocurrencies or ban them entirely. In a world based on facts, the failures of 2022 would have been the end of crypto, according to Dennis Kelleher, president and CEO of Washington-based nonprofit Better Markets. “The only reason that 2022 wasn’t the end of crypto is because of the access and influence crypto has bought on a bipartisan basis,” Kelleher said. Lobbying spending attributable to the crypto sector quadrupled from $2.2 million in 2018 to $9 million in 2021. “Once the crypto money spigot shuts down completely, then you will start to see a very different view coming out of the power centers of Washington,” Kelleher said.


Matt Gaetz responds after Donald Trump urges support for McCarthy: ‘Sad!’” via Houston Keene of Fox News — Gaetz, who rose to prominence under Trump’s wing, went rogue after the former President endorsed McCarthy. Gaetz told Fox News Digital that Trump’s endorsement of McCarthy for Speaker has not changed the Congressman’s view on the former President or GOP leader, nor has it swayed his vote. “Sad!” Gaetz said in a Wednesday statement. “This changes neither my view of McCarthy, nor Trump, nor my vote.” Gaetz has led the House Freedom Caucus charge against the GOP leader’s Speakership bid, where he and 19 other Republican members have frozen the House in opposition to McCarthy while solidifying their support behind Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio.

With Matt Gaetz breathing down his neck — even defying Donald Trump — Kevin McCarthy has little room for error.

Trump’s clout in GOP slips as plea for McCarthy goes unheeded” via Mario Parker and Mark Niquette of Bloomberg — Trump lost his sway over the Republican Party at a crucial moment as a handful of conservatives repudiated his call for GOP lawmakers to back McCarthy’s uphill fight to become House Speaker. The former President had thrown his weight behind McCarthy in a post on his Truth Social network on Wednesday morning: “It’s now time for all of our GREAT Republican House Members to VOTE FOR KEVIN, CLOSE THE DEAL.” But just hours later, McCarthy fell short in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds of voting in the House, with 20 Republicans opposing his bid.

Trump called Josh Hawley six times on day before Capitol riot, phone logs show” via Galen Bacharier of the Springfield News-Leader — Trump tried to call Missouri U.S. Sen. Hawley six times and had a White House operator leave three messages on the day before the Capitol riot, according to phone logs recently released by the U.S. House committee investigating the event. Hawley, who voted against the certification of two states’ election results in the 2020 presidential contest, has said Trump also called him on the morning of Jan. 6, before Congress met to certify the election results and was interrupted by a violent mob of Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol building. Hawley has said he returned Trump’s call on the morning of Jan. 6 but could not reach him. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the phone logs for Jan. 5.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Broward calls last-minute meeting to talk about taking 911 services out of control of Sheriff’s Office” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Broward Commissioners will take the first step next week to break away from the Sheriff’s Office as the operator for 911 services in the region. A meeting is now scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday at the county governmental center in downtown Fort Lauderdale. County leaders say they will hear updates from county administration about what happens next, and discuss their options, which can include hiring an in-house director of 911 or hiring a private firm to take it over. The already strained relationship between the Sheriff’s Office and County Commissioners took a new turn last month when Sheriff Gregory Tony refused to sign a three-month contract extension.

Gregory Tony gets booted from Broward’s 911 operations.

Migrants continue to land in the Keys. Latest increase shows no sign of slowing” via David Goodhue and Syra Ortiz-Blanes of the Miami Herald — The steady influx of migrant arrivals, mainly from Cuba, but with a large group from Haiti, showed no signs of ebbing Wednesday, with multiple landings reported throughout the Florida Keys in the morning. The Keys and South Florida have already been seeing a significant jump in maritime migration over the past two years, but it ramped up markedly since Christmas — with well over 500 people from Cuba coming to shore since Friday and about 200 people from Haiti arriving in a packed sailboat off Key Largo Tuesday. On Wednesday, the trend continued, with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office online calls for service logs showing at least four landings since midnight.

Home prices have jumped everywhere, but Miami’s rise ranks among the highest, study shows” via Rebecca San Juan of the Miami Herald — Median home sale prices jumped higher in Miami year-over-year than in most places in the country, a new report found. It’s a consequence of the community’s wealth boom since the pandemic. The Miami metro area had a median home sale price of $605,303 in November 2022, up 23% from $490,633 in November 2021, according to the CoreLogic January 2023 U.S. Home Price Insights report published Tuesday. It has the third-highest annual growth in the country. CoreLogic ranked the annual median sales price changes for the 20 largest U.S. metro areas. The report combines single-family home and condo sale prices based on data from the Multiple Listing Service.

Homes on holiday-named streets worth less in South Florida, study suggests” via Amber Bonefont of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — For homeowners who live on a street with the word “holiday” or “holly” in it, their homes might be worth significantly less than a home on a normal-named street, an analysis from Zillow found. “If you love the holidays enough to live on a holiday-themed street, you may be disappointed to hear that the Grinch stole your home values along with Christmas,” the report noted. South Florida had some of the worst holiday spirit in the country: Homes on a street with the word “holiday” in the address were worth about 69% less than a home without the word “holiday” in it, the report found. It translates to a gap of over $300,000. Zillow didn’t elaborate on why home values might be lower for these types of homes.

After a month of controversy, Port of Palm Beach selects Varisa Lall Dass to fill its vacancy” via Mike Diamond of the Palm Beach Post — The second time was the charm. After a Dec. 15 botched vote, the Port of Palm Beach finally filled its vacancy during a special meeting on Dec. 30, selecting Varisa Lall Dass, a lawyer, to serve the rest of Katherine Waldron’s term, which is set to expire in January 2025. Dass received eight votes; former Palm Beach Mayor Gail Coniglio, six votes. Peyton McArthur, who received six votes on Dec. 15, withdrew his name from consideration. Nine candidates asked to be considered to fill the vacancy. Critics questioned the entire selection process, calling for the Commission to start the process again, as did Commissioner Jean Enright, to remove any taint associated with the Dec. 15 vote.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Central Florida to fight future flooding with $60M federal investment” via Natalia Jaramillo of the Orlando Sentinel — Central Florida recently received help in the fight to prevent future flooding when Orange and Polk counties received $60 million in federal funding for water infrastructure improvements and Osceola was granted initial approval for future projects. On Dec. 23, President Joe Biden signed the $858 billion National Defense Authorization Act, which, among many other things, granted initial approval for ecosystem restoration projects in Lake Tohopekaliga/Kissimmee Lakefront, Lake Runnymede and Shingle Creek. The act also included $50 million in funding for Orange’s water projects and $10 million for Polk’s.

As climate changes, Orlando had its third hottest year on record in 2022” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — Amid Earth’s rapidly changing climate, Orlando experienced its third hottest year on record in 2022, according to the National Weather Service. That distinction underscored an unmistakable warming trend for Florida’s largest inland city. Orlando’s warmest year was 2015, the second warmest was 2020, the fourth was 2019 and the sixth warmest was 2021. “As it stands, five of the eight past years are within the top 10,” said Derrick Weitlich, a lead meteorologist and climate program leader at the Service in Central Florida. “All years since 2015 rank within the top 15 warmest for Orlando.” Records go back to the late 1800s for Orlando.

Orlando is hot; will it get even hotter?

Seminole residents flooded by Ian can apply for FEMA grant money to raise, sell or relocate their house” via Martin E. Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — The Hazard Mitigation Grant Program offers federal funding to homeowners who want to rebuild their houses damaged by Ian in a way that would protect them from future flooding. The mitigation project could include elevating the house or moving it to higher ground on their property. The grant also could pay for the government to acquire the home, demolish it and declare the property a flood zone. Interested homeowners have until 5 p.m. on Friday to submit a project proposal and documentation of their damage to the county’s office of emergency management. If a homeowner’s proposal is selected, the county will then submit a grant application to the state of Florida on behalf of the resident.


St. Petersburg’s Fifth Avenue N to be repaved, redesigned to prevent crashes” via Colleen Wright of the Tampa Bay Times — Soon, cars won’t be able to travel northbound and southbound across Fifth Avenue N at four intersections in west St. Petersburg. That’s because the Florida Department of Transportation is repaving and resurfacing 5 miles of the Alternate U.S. 19 route to make the road more pedestrian-friendly, with added crosswalks and new sidewalks. At four intersections, new medians will be installed with cutouts for bicycles and pedestrians to cross northbound and southbound, but cars will have to use side streets or make U-turns. The project stretches from Sixth Street N to 55th Street and will cost from $12 million to $15 million.

USF football facility secures naming rights from Pasco landowner” via Lauren Coffey of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — The University of South Florida’s indoor performance facility has an official name following a donation for an undisclosed amount. The facility, revealed to the public in 2017 but not yet open, will be named the Porter Family Indoor Practice Facility after the Pasco County-based development family best known for their work on Wiregrass Ranch. “They’ve been great stewards of Pasco County for a very long time, been supportive of the university and many amenities that we all enjoy,” said Will Weatherford, USF Board of Trustees Chair. “And we’re really pleased they stepped up in a big way and that we get to honor them for this great donation.”

The USF indoor performance facility now has a name.


Deadline for FEMA Disaster Assistance quickly approaching, officials urge residents to sign up” via Samantha Neely of the Fort Myers News-Press — With 904,000 households registered for aid since Hurricane Ian’s landfall on Sept. 28, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has made immense progress in post-Ian recovery. But time is running out for those who still need hurricane assistance. The deadline to apply for help through FEMA is on the horizon, with Florida residents having until Jan. 12 to complete their applications. Residents with a primary residence that incurred storm-related loss or damage caused by Hurricane Ian within one of the 26 counties named for federal disaster aid are encouraged to sign up.

FEMA makes another last call to apply for Hurricane Ian aid.

Social services funding questioned in Sarasota County” via Barb Richardson of the Englewood Sun — Shortly after taking office in 2016, Sarasota County Commissioner Mike Moran began asking pointed questions about the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County and demanding accountability for “taxpayer dollars” as he put it. It took two to three years and a change in leadership before Moran got the accountability he sought. Now, it appears Moran, who championed the creation of a special mental health district for the county, has turned his sights on the array of social services providers acting under contracts with the county. Each year, the county contracts with these nonprofit agencies to provide human services such as homeless services, child care and even mental health.

Manatee County water main leak repairs continue, and customers could see some side effects” via Jesse Mendoza of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Crews continue to repair a leaking water main, and officials caution some Manatee County residents that their homes could receive discolored, but safe, drinking water and experience drops in water pressure during the process. County officials first notified customers of the leak on Saturday, specifying that customers who live north of the Manatee River would be the most impacted and that repairs would be completed by Sunday. Those repairs will take longer than initially expected. The leak occurred in a section of the water line from the 1970s, on a prestressed concrete cylinder pipe that is an integral part of the water delivery system, according to a county statement.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Judge grants residency requirement change for Jacksonville City Council candidates” via Hanna Holthaus of The Florida Times-Union — City Council candidates affected by recent redistricting changes will now be able to move and run in a different district after a federal judge granted the city’s request to waive its residency requirement Wednesday afternoon. The city charter requires a candidate to live in the district they plan to run in for at least six months. Because of the waiver, candidates have the option to move to a new district by their qualifying date to run in that chosen district. They still have to follow the charter rule requiring Duval County residency within the past six months. Qualifying lasts from Jan. 9 to Jan. 13. The city requested the waiver citing potential uncertainty surrounding candidate eligibility given the recently changed district map.

Rocky Hanna to run again for Superintendent in 2024” via Ana Goñi-Lessan of the Tallahassee Democrat — Leon County Schools Superintendent Hanna will run for a third term in 2024. The 35-year career educator, who filed his paperwork with the elections office last Thursday, posted on Facebook that he wasn’t ready to vacate his seat just yet, as the COVID-19 pandemic put two years of priorities on hold. Hanna will run as a Democrat. A recent law requires candidates who are running for a partisan office to run as their party affiliation. “I have been a registered Democrat for the past 32 years who is proud of the party’s unwavering support of the public school system,” Hanna wrote. Hanna won the race for Superintendent in 2020 against Pam Hightower, another district administrator, with 60% of the vote.

Rocky Hanna jumps back in the ring.

Man who threatened mass shooting against gay people at Florida State University arrested by FBI” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — A Winter Park man who admitted posting an image of an automatic rifle with threats to kill gay people in a mass shooting at Florida State University was arrested by the FBI. Sean Michael Albert, 19, was arrested Tuesday on a federal charge of making an interstate communication to threaten to injure another person, according to court records. The criminal complaint says that on Dec. 16, the FBI in Orlando got a tip about a threat made several days earlier on Discord, an instant messaging and social media platform popular among gamers and also members of the alt-right. Albert, who is being held in federal detention in Orlando, later told the FBI that the post was “a joke.” A federal public defender is representing him.


The House GOP is reaping exactly what it’s sown” via David French of The Dispatch — As I type this newsletter, the House Republicans are trying — and failing — to elect a Speaker of the House. As Brendan Buck wrote yesterday in The New York Times, it’s been 100 years since the House failed to elect a Speaker on the first vote.

So, we’re watching history.

It’s not the good kind of history to watch, however.

It would be one thing if the dispute blocking McCarthy’s ascension to power centered around competing Republican visions for directing the House and governing the United States. As readers know, there are profound ideological differences within the GOP, and a debate over policy and ideology is well worth having.

But that’s not what’s happening here. Instead, it’s an unserious fight with serious consequences. McCarthy is getting exactly what he deserves. After Jan. 6, he failed to lead. Instead, he swallowed what was left of his pride and traveled down to Mar-a-Lago to make amends with Trump.

Yet he’s not being punished for that grotesque capitulation. Instead, he’s facing yet another act of “burn it down” disruption from many of the same figures — including Gaetz, Paul Gosar, and Lauren Boebert — who’ve built their entire brands around trolling, rage, and rebellion.

It’s possible that GOP obstruction will yield a better Speaker. One can hope. But hope is not a plan, and it seems that the “plan” is to simply block McCarthy and see what happens.


The GOP’s Chaos Caucus returns” via The Wall Street Journal editorial board — House Republicans say they want to drain the swamp and save America, but they can’t even get through Day One without a display of dysfunction. Voters elected a Republican House to check the Biden administration, investigate the anarchy at the southern border, and pressure Democrats on spending, inflation and energy production. If the GOP could stick together the way that Democrats did after 2020 (and with an equally small majority), almost any Speaker could provide the electorate what it ordered, along with a clear choice in 2024. A few Republicans revel in making messes, including Gaetz. According to McCarthy, Gaetz declared that he didn’t care if Jeffries ended up elected as a Democratic Speaker of a Republican House. This kind of peacock politics doesn’t serve Gaetz’s Florida constituents.

In D.C. and Tallahassee, a split-screen moment for the Republican Party.” via Byron York of the Washington Examiner — Two contrasting realities of the present-day Republican Party were on display on Tuesday. In the House of Representatives, 20 members of the GOP’s so-called chaos caucus blocked the efforts of 202 fellow Republicans to elect McCarthy as Speaker. The move led to a once-in-a-century standoff that paralyzed the House. Meanwhile, in Tallahassee, newly re-elected DeSantis took the oath of office for a second term with a ringing statement of accomplishment and ambition that could well be the foundation of a 2024 run. DeSantis immediately got to work, which was more than Republicans in the House could say. The mess in the House is the latest chapter in a decadeslong fight inside the GOP. It goes back to Tea Party days, when some conservative Republicans became increasingly frustrated with the workings of the House in the years after the GOP won the majority in 2010.

Hialeah doesn’t owe its ‘freedom’ to DeSantis. Neither does the rest of Florida” via Fabiola Santiago of the Miami Herald — The flood-prone, working-class “streets of Hialeah” made it into DeSantis’ inauguration speech Tuesday as he evoked swaths of the Florida we know and (mostly) love. “From the Space Coast to the Suncoast, from St. Johns to St. Lucie, from the streets of Hialeah to the speedway in Daytona, from the Okeechobee all the way up to Micanopy,” DeSantis began, “freedom lives here in our great Sunshine State of Florida!” The Hialeah contingent among the thousands at the Capitol steps witnessing the launch of DeSantis’ second term didn’t disappoint.

More censorship. Florida No. 1 in prison book-bans. Even books about ‘Star Trek’ and flowers” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — It’s hard to keep track of all the things that have been banned and censored here in the “Free State of Florida” — from middle school math books to live entertainment. But some of the most-banned commodities in the Sunshine State are the books allowed in prisons. In Georgia, they banned 28 books. In Kansas, it was 99. In Florida, the number was 20,200. Florida’s goal seems to be to keep incarcerated people bored and uneducated — a dangerous combination for correctional guards while prisoners are still behind bars, and for the public if and when they’re ever released. Unless you believe society is better off when prisoners are prohibited from reading books like “How to Draw and Paint Flowers?”


— ALOE —

Get lit at the new guitar hotel pool party and light show at Hard Rock in Hollywood” via Connie Ogle of the Miami Herald — The world’s first (and only) guitar hotel in Hollywood has a brand-new way for you to get lit. At the new Neon Lit Nights pool party at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, you can drink and dance poolside next to the majestic guitar, bathed in its ever-changing lights. The first poolside party starts on Jan. 6 and will return for the first Friday of every month for the next few months. You can’t actually go in the pool, that privilege belongs to hotel guests only, but you can witness the lights on the hotel facade as they swirl and pulse, controlled by the live music.

Hard Rock gets lit for 2023.

As CES kicks off, Hollywood’s technologists forecast 2023’s challenges” via Carolyn Giardina of The Hollywood Reporter — The evolution of the metaverse, virtual reality and TV technology are just a few of the buzziest trends that will be on display at the 2023 CES Show, which gets underway Jan. 5 in Las Vegas. Organizers are hoping to reach 100,000 attendees, which is far below pre-COVID-19 levels but nevertheless would be a strong showing for a pandemic-era trade event. Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, tech leaders at major studios outlined promising developments, like one day seeing Avatar: The Way of Water at home in a format as it’s shown in theaters or having easier access to Filmmaker Mode on your TV to preserve the director’s intent and remove the “reality TV”-like quality of high-def viewing, as well as incoming challenges in 2023.

Withings to showcase world’s first hands-free Connected Home Urine Lab at CES 2023” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Withings, a global leader in connected health technology, has announced U-Scan, a home biomarker analysis platform and one of the company’s most technologically advanced devices to date. U-Scan is a miniaturized health lab that hygienically sits in any toilet bowl to monitor daily urine. The Consumer Technology Association, which hosts CES 2023, has already recognized U-Scan as an Innovation Award honoree in three categories — Smart Home, Fitness & Sports and Digital Health. Urine serves as a useful biomarker to monitor personal health, with more than 3,000 metabolites. It gives an immediate snapshot of the body’s balance and can detect a variety of health information.

Kennedy Space Center: Fly with an Astronaut tour returns” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is bringing back its Fly with an Astronaut special-interest tour later this month. The first featured NASA veterans will be Mark Lee and Brian Duffy. The experience, which runs from 9:15 a.m. to about 2:15 p.m. each day, includes a catered lunch at the visitor complex, where the guest speakers/astronauts talk about their experiences, followed by a Q&A session. The day includes a guided tour of the Space Shuttle Atlantis attraction and a ride on the Shuttle Launch Experience with the astronaut. The tour also tacks on a self-guided walk-through of the Apollo/Saturn V center.

Say hello to Kandoro and Kianga! Lion Country Safari welcomes first baby giraffes in five years” via Valentina Palm of the Palm Beach Post — The giraffe family at Lion Country Safari has grown for the first time in five years. It welcomed two calves, Kandoro and Kianga, during the last week of 2023. They are the first giraffes to be born in the animal park since 2018. “Both calves are spending quality time bonding with their moms in adjacent maternity areas and are visible to guests from the road in the last section of the safari,” Lion Country Safari said in a news release. Lion Country Safari opened its drive-by trails almost 50 years ago and is home to one of the largest herds of giraffes in the United States ― 18 in all, with 10 females and eight males.


Belated birthday wishes to Courtney Coppola of Ballard Partners. Celebrating today are Bruce Cotton, Christie Pontis Mason, and former state Rep. Doc Renuart.


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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