Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 2.13.23

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Hit the ground running with Sunburn — the definitive go-to for all things Florida Politics.

Good Monday morning.

You may have missed this since we reported it during Super Bowl Sunday, but one of the most respected and accomplished attorneys and lobbyists in modern Florida history has died.

Steve Uhlfelder, 76, passed away Sunday after a long and courageous struggle with Parkinson’s disease and other health issues.

His family expressed their love and appreciation for Steve’s life and career — and his deep dedication and devotion to family and his many selfless contributions to make the world a better place.

RIP: Steve Uhlfelder died after a long struggle with Parkinson’s disease, among other health issues.

Among Steve’s many volunteer roles, he formerly served as the Chair of the Board of Regents for Florida’s state university system, chair of the global Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, and executive director of Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission, among many others.

He was the architect of Gov. Jeb Bush’s statewide mentoring initiative that inspired thousands of adults to get helpfully involved in the lives of children. He also was honored with the national “Point of Light” award by President George W. Bush.

Additional information about a memorial service in Steve’s honor, to be held in Tallahassee, will be announced in the near future.

Steve retired in 2021 — though he never retired from volunteer work and being a strong lifetime advocate for so many diverse issues.


@JustinTrudeau: I ordered the takedown of an unidentified object that violated Canadian airspace. @NORADCommand shot down the object over the Yukon. Canadian and U.S. aircraft were scrambled and a U.S. F-22 successfully fired at the object.

@ChrisHartline: LOL. Rick Scott knows how to win Florida a hell of a lot better than Mitch McConnell does. Some D.C. Republicans can keep parroting Democrat lies, but that won’t stop Rick Scott from fighting for conservative principles instead of caving to (Joe) Biden every day.

Tweet, tweet:

@fineout: During the first part of my career, I covered Steve Uhlfelder — especially when he was on the Board of Regents, which oversaw the State University System. He was passionate about his job — and he routinely would call me directly to say what he liked or didn’t like what I wrote.

@steveschale: I really don’t want people voting for significant party positions who don’t watch the nation’s biggest cultural event. Also, I apologize as this tweet is in violation of the long-standing Florida no politics football Sunday rule.

@JeffSchweers: Hope everyone is enjoying Superb Owl Day and all the cool wildlife ads.

Tweet, tweet:


‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 4; 2023 Florida Chamber Legislative Fly-In — 8; ‘Snowfall’ final season premieres on FX — 9; city of Tampa Municipal Election early voting begins — 14; Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ‘The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival’ released — 15; ‘The Mandalorian’ returns — 16; ‘Creed III’ premieres — 18; The Oscars — 19; Tampa Municipal Election — 22; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 22; Florida TaxWatch’s State of the Taxpayer Dinner — 29; World Baseball Classic finals begin in Miami — 34; Annual Red Dog Blue fundraiser — 33; ’John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 36; ‘Succession’ Season 4 begins — 43; Tron Lightcycle/Run debuts in Walt Disney World — 50; Suits for Session — 51; ‘Air’ starring Ben Affleck and Matt Damon premieres — 52; Taylor Swift ‘Eras’ Tour in Tampa — 62; final performance of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ on Broadway — 62; American Association of Political Consultants Pollies ’23 conference begins — 64; 2023 Session Sine Die — 81; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 81; Florida Chamber 2023 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 85; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 93; ‘Fast X’ premieres — 94; Florida Chamber 2023 Florida Prosperity & Economic Opportunity Solution Summit — 102; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 109; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 123; Florida Chamber 2023 Florida Learners to Earners Workforce Solution Summit — 134; ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ premieres — 137; ‘Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning — Part One’ premieres — 151; Florida Chamber 37th Annual Environmental Permitting Summer School — 157; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 159; ’Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 166; 2023 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 252; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 264; South Carolina Democratic Primary — 345; New Hampshire and Nevada Democratic Primaries — 358; Georgia Democratic Primary — 365; Michigan Democratic Primary — 379; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 411; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 466; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 529; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 529; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 571; ‘Deadpool 3’ premieres — 634; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 712; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 809; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 998.


Ron DeSantis skips White House event as he and Joe Biden draw 2024 battle lines” via Peter Nicholas and Mike Memoli of NBC News — Governors from both parties — from 37 states and territories — came to the White House Friday morning to meet with Biden and talk about the nation’s economic health.

DeSantis skipped the event, and with it a rare in-person meeting with a President he might wind up facing on the ballot. Neither Biden nor DeSantis has announced they’re running in 2024, but they’ve been sparring as if the race is already underway.

Ron DeSantis takes a hard pass on a White House event for Governors.

More than former President Donald Trump, DeSantis is the Republican rival who many Democrats most fear. Florida’s 44-year-old Governor, coming off a decisive re-election victory last year, is “the 900-pound gorilla in the room,” said state Sen. Lauren Book, the chamber’s Democratic leader.

“DeSantis is the bigger threat for the Biden ticket, for sure,” said Jose Parra, a Florida Democratic strategist. “You see it in the DNC’s emails and the attacks they’re leveling constantly against DeSantis. DeSantis is Trump, but in a much better package: more polished and disciplined. And that makes him more dangerous.”

Publicly, the Biden team’s posture is that DeSantis is not a threat. “Donald Trump is the undisputed leader of the Republican Party,” former White House chief of staff Ron Klain said in an interview with “Pod Save America” this week when asked about the White House’s views of DeSantis.

One Democratic strategist with ties to the White House similarly said DeSantis was simply a “fill-in-the-blank for Republicans who want anybody but Trump.”


GOP lawmakers follow Florida’s lead with DeSantis copycat bills” via Tim Craig of The Washington Post — From the Mountain West to the Deep South, Florida-style bills are springing up in state legislatures, signaling the growing influence of DeSantis as an ideological leader for a Republican Party that had been shaped in the image of Trump. The state-policy debates underscore how Florida now rivals Texas as a laboratory for conservative policies, giving Republican legislators elsewhere a model for how to turn their principles on social issues into law. Gay rights activists believe DeSantis helped inspire dozens of new state proposals that seek to regulate transgender health care, drag-show performances, or public accommodations for transgender Americans.

How DeSantis built a conservative following on education” via Lexi Lonas of The Hill — DeSantis has leaned hard into educational issues as he burnishes his national profile ahead of a potential White House bid and conservatives love what they see. DeSantis, who last year won re-election by the largest margin for a Florida Governor in decades, has secured GOP plaudits for moves ranging from his reopening of schools during the coronavirus pandemic to his recent skirmish with the College Board over an AP African American studies course. Now, he’s the only Republican polling alongside or, in some cases, even ahead of, Trump for the party’s presidential nomination.

Ron DeSantis made a name for himself by leaning into conservative educational issues.

—“DeSantis once expressed support for privatizing Social Security and Medicare giving his rivals an opening,” via Andrew Kaczynski and Em Steck of CNN

In Donald Trump vs. DeSantis 2024 culture war, Black and LGBTQ people will pay the highest price” via Jill Lawrence of USA Today — It was inevitable that less than two weeks after DeSantis asked a dozen colleges for detailed medical information on transgender students, his latest move to restrict care for transgender people, Trump would feel the need to attack transgender rights and health care at a South Carolina rally, release a video bashing “Left-Wing Gender Insanity” and vow that “under my leadership, this madness will end.”

‘Who is that?’ Trump reminds DeSantis of previous supplication” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Trump continued his one-sided war with DeSantis on Truth Social. Captioning a picture including DeSantis, Rep. Matt Gaetz, and other Republican politicians, the President asked a seemingly rhetorical question about the grinning DeSantis: “Who is that in the blue tie being so nice to the President of the United States while in the Oval Office?” The Friday night flashback offers the latest reminder of Trump’s belief that the “disloyal” DeSantis curried his favor to get an endorsement and electoral help in 2018’s campaigns against Adam Putnam and Andrew Gillum, leveraging the relationship to the Governor’s Mansion.

Chris Sununu lumps DeSantis in with ‘big government’ conservatives” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — New Hampshire’s Governor continues to set up a 2024 confrontation with the man supporters call “America’s Governor.” Republican Sununu keeps teasing out a potential White House bid that would exploit his position as Governor of the “First in the Nation” Primary state. Attacks on DeSantis seem to be primary to his electoral strategy, and the most recent was the sharpest yet, with Sununu setting up a contrast to “big government” conservatives like Florida’s chief executive. On Face the Nation, when host Margaret Brennan challenged Sununu on a recent assertion that Republicans were “trying to outdo Democrats at their own game of being big government,” asking him who he was thinking of with that statement.

Universities were told to prioritize diversity plans. Now, DeSantis aims to gut them” via Kathryn Varn of USA Today Network — The state’s higher education system and Board of Governors, whose Chair at the time, real estate developer Sydney Kitson, began the June 2020 meeting with a somber recognition and call to action. Kitson, who was appointed by Gov. Scott, continued with a plan for how the Board would address racial inequities, saying that he and other Board leaders would be speaking to faculty and students at Florida universities. While Kitson would go on to form a diversity, equity and inclusion committee that concluded such efforts “will need to continue long after our urgent responses to the crises of 2020,” DeSantis announced Jan. 31 that he would dismantle them.

New College wants to become more diverse, but DeSantis’ board appointees stand in the way” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The Potomac School was founded in Washington, D.C., in 1904, and when Bill Woodson arrived as a fourth grader in the 1960s he was among the first wave of Black students to attend. Woodson took a job at New College of Florida in 2019, and by that time educational institutions had made big strides in increasing minority representation. Yet New College had just 25 Black undergraduates, 3.3% of the student body when Woodson was hired as the school’s chief diversity officer. The college long has been overwhelmingly white.

DeSantis’ attempt to roll back diversity, equity, and inclusion is doomed to fail” via Ben Wright for the Tallahassee Democrat — My eldest son is currently a junior at New College of Florida which is ground zero in this struggle. Now, the rug is being pulled out from under him. His tiny school is the first test in a statewide experiment that is coming to a campus near you. By claiming that Florida’s universities and colleges are filled with radically liberal professors that are indoctrinating our students, DeSantis has discovered a way to energize his Republican base and present himself as a champion for conservatives.

College Board accuses Florida of political motivations in AP course dispute” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Taken aback by Florida’s attacks against its new AP African American studies course, the College Board denounced the state Department of Education, saying it used the course to advance a politically motivated agenda. The organization’s letter came just two days after it released another statement that did not take such a harsh tone as it pushed back against the department’s claims that portions of the course are “historically fictional.” “There continue to be conversations and misinformation, and we felt the urgency to set the record straight and not wait another day to do so,” a College Board spokesperson said.

DeSantis wanted to ban guns at event, but not to be blamed, emails show” via Beth Reinhard of The Washington Post — As DeSantis prepared for an election night party in downtown Tampa last year, city officials received a surprising and politically sensitive request. The Republican Governor’s campaign wanted weapons banned from his victory celebration at the city-run Tampa Convention Center. And the campaign suggested that the city take responsibility for the firearms ban, the official said, not the Governor, who has been a vocal supporter of gun rights. “DeSantis/his campaign will not tell their attendees they are not permitted to carry because of the political optics,” Chase Finch, the convention center’s safety and security manager, said.

DeSantis hits state fair in Tampa with wife Casey DeSantis and kids” via Selim Algar of The New York Post — DeSantis took a break from his official duties this week to hit the state fair in Tampa with his wife, first lady Casey DeSantis, and two of their three children. The Sunshine State’s first family turned constituents’ heads at the festive gathering Thursday as they hopped on rides, munched on snacks and played games. DeSantis’ 4-year-old-son, Mason, sported a Tom Brady Tampa Bay Buccaneers jersey during the visit in homage to the recently retired hometown quarterback. Mamie, DeSantis’ 2-year-old daughter, shared an ice cream with her mother and battled for stuffed animals alongside her brother as tickled onlookers whipped out cellphones.

Who doesn’t love the Florida State Fair?


—”Takeaways from the legislative Special Session, which was all about fixing things” via Lawrence Mower, Mary Ellen Klas and Ana Ceballos of the Miami Herald

Florida lawmakers pass bill to boost DeSantis’ voter fraud cases” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Faced with a barrage of legal challenges to DeSantis’ voter fraud cases, the Florida Legislature on Friday passed a bill to give him a leg up in court. Senate Bill 4B clarifies that statewide prosecutors have the authority to bring voting and voter registration-related charges. The legislation delved into an obscure part of state law, but one that posed a threat to one of DeSantis’ top political priorities. The roughly 20 people who were arrested for voting in 2020 when they weren’t eligible were charged not by local prosecutors, but by the Office of Statewide Prosecution.

Corey Simon to tackle school choice push in Senate” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Sen. Simon is fronting landmark legislation expanding school choice in Florida to all families, regardless of income. Simon’s bill (SB 202) will serve as companion legislation to a measure pushed by House Speaker Paul Renner. “The right and the responsibility of raising children belongs to parents, not state government. This bill makes it clear that the money follows the child, and parents have a right to guide their child’s education as they see fit,” Simon said. While the universal voucher bill will open up the money to all Florida families, the state will still prioritize low-income families when giving out those scholarships.

Corey Simon takes the school choice banner and runs with it.

Anti-human trafficking bill would hold repeat violators accountable” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Hotels and other public lodging establishments have been caught skirting anti-human trafficking requirements more than 14,000 times since a 2019 law was passed. But no one, not even a business repeatedly offending, has ever had to pay for it, a Sun-Sentinel investigation found. Senate Democratic Leader Book is looking to change that. Book introduced a bill (SB 692) Friday that would close a loophole in the law that Book got passed in 2019. Her proposal would make it so that administrative fines are levied upon those who repeatedly get caught not posting information about the illegality of human trafficking or neglecting to properly train employees to recognize the signs of the crime.

Security deposit alternative bill clears first House panel” via Florida Politics — A bill that would create consumer protections for tenants who choose to pay a monthly fee instead of a security deposit has cleared its first House committee. Sponsored by Rep. Jim Mooney, the proposal (HB 133) would grant landlords the option to charge a nonrefundable monthly fee in lieu of a security deposit. The bill would also require all terms of the security deposit alternative to be disclaimed upfront. Mooney’s bill would also require landlords to allow tenants to end the monthly fee agreement at any point in the lease and pay the security deposit instead.

Jim Mooney seeks to break up security deposits into smaller, nonrefundable fees.

House Bill 269 seeks to curb rash of antisemitic incidents in Florida” via Margie Menzel of WFSU — Across Florida, antisemitic sentiments have been projected onto buildings, hung from an overpass, tossed into yards in the night. A bill before the Legislature would toughen the penalties for some of this. Florida is the state with the 3rd-highest number of such incidents — 190 in 2021. For perspective, there were 98 such incidents reported statewide in 2017. Rep. Mike Caruso is the sponsor of House Bill 269. Under the bill, people who take actions such as defacing or damaging religious cemeteries, projecting images of religious “animus” onto a property without permission or harassing others because of religious-based garments could be charged with third-degree felonies.


Jason Pizzo elected to lead Senate Democrats in 2024” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Senate Democrats have elected Sen. Pizzo to lead them during the 2024-26 term. The Senate Democratic Caucus unanimously chose Pizzo, a prominent figure in the party, as Leader-designate. “My gratitude for the trust Senate Democratic colleagues have bestowed upon me is only exceeded by the sense of duty I am thrilled to undertake,” he said in a statement shortly after. The move comes less than three months after party members uniformly voted to elect Pizzo as Leader Pro Tempore for the 2022-24 term alongside current Senate Democratic Leader Book.

DeSantis appoints Michael Yaworsky to lead Office of Insurance Regulation” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) has been leaderless since the beginning of 2023. No more. DeSantis named Yaworsky, Vice Chair of the Florida Gaming Control Commission, to serve as the new OIR Commissioner. DeSantis’s office announced the appointment Friday afternoon. Yaworsky will hold the position in an interim role until the Financial Services Commission approves him for the job. Yaworsky is no stranger to the OIR. From 2017 to 2022, he worked as Chief of Staff to former OIR Commissioner David Altmaier, who resigned in late December.

Meet the new boss. Image via Florida Gaming Control Commission.

Joe Gruters wanted Richard Corcoran to lead New College years ago” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Sen. Gruters warmly greeted news Corcoran would become interim president at New College. In fact, the Sarasota Republican said he wanted trustees to recruit the former House Speaker in its last presidential search. “I actually said a couple of years ago, Corcoran is the best choice,” Gruters said. That’s somewhat surprising considering the two men’s history. Gruters served in the House during Corcoran’s tenure as House Speaker. But while Corcoran waged political war with then-Gov. Scott over incentives, economic development and tourism funding, Gruters stayed a staunch ally of the Governor.

Frank White lands more major endorsements in Senate bid” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — A Panhandle Republican continues to get major endorsements in his state Senate bid. Both Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Associated Industries of Florida are backing former state Rep. White in his thus-far unopposed bid in Senate District 1. Patronis’ endorsement “capped off a week of Panhandle endorsements,” in the words of the White campaign, and the CFO’s blessing was indeed regionally tailored. “I may be biased, but Northwest Florida is as special as it gets. Our people have been tested by natural disasters, stood on the front lines of freedom, and fought for our families and businesses in the face of adversity in all forms,” said Patronis.

— LEG. SKED. —

Assignment editors — To share their perspectives on issues facing Florida, House Democratic Caucus Leader Fentrice Driskell and Policy Chair Rep. Kelly Skidmore will hold a media availability: 10 a.m. Zoom link here.

Fentrice Driskell is ready to give her take.

— The Joint Social Services Estimating Conference discusses KidCare caseloads: 10:30 a.m., Room 117, Knott Building, The Capitol.

— The Joint Criminal Justice Estimating Committee meets: 1:30 p.m., Room 117, Knott Building, The Capitol.

— Deadline for House Appropriations Project Forms: 5 p.m. A completed Appropriations Project Request form must be sent through the Appropriations Project Request System. After the form is submitted, the Appropriations Committee staff will review it. Once the review process is completed, a final draft of the Appropriations Project Request form will be generated for the sponsoring Member to review and publish on the House website. The deadline to publish an Appropriations Project Request form on the House website is 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 1, 2023.


Trevor Project condemns Florida ban on transgender medical care” via Florida Politics — A group dedicated to stopping suicide among LGBTQ+ youth is condemning a Florida board’s decision to ban transgender medical care. In the wake of the decision by the osteopathic medicine board and the Florida Board of Medicine to disallow treatment modalities that fall under the umbrella of gender-affirming treatment, the Trevor Project condemns the ban of what it calls “the provision of best-practice medical care to transgender and nonbinary youth, even for research purposes.” “Transgender medical care is a well-established, best-practice treatment that can allow transgender young people to live happy, healthy lives,” said Jonah DeChants, research scientist at The Trevor Project.

A group advocating LGBTQ+ youths is blasting the state’s ban on gender-affirming care.


Florida doctors’ board tightens ban on gender-affirming care” via The Associated Press — A prohibition against puberty-blocking hormones and gender-affirming surgeries for minors in Florida was tightened further after a board overseeing doctors cut an exception for research Friday at the request of DeSantis’ administration. Some members of the public attending the meeting in Tallahassee shouted expletives, and law enforcement officers positioned themselves in the front of the room after the vote by the Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine. The decision came after one member of the public after another testified at the packed meeting of the osteopathic medicine board and the Florida Board of Medicine that gender-affirming treatment had been “magical” and like “opening a prison door” for them or their children.

Florida Housing Finance Corporation appoints former DEO leader as its new executive director” via Molly Duerig of Spectrum News — The Florida Housing Finance Corporation formally appointed Michael DiNapoli as its new executive director today. The announcement follows former executive director Trey Price’s resignation from the position last month. FHFC is currently a public-private entity, chosen by the Florida Legislature to increase housing affordability for residents across the state via a wide range of different aid programs and funding sources, including Florida’s flagship “Sadowski funds.”

‘People got screwed.’ Despite troubles, green energy lender seeks restart in Florida” via Alex Harris of the Miami Herald — Ygrene Energy was the biggest player in a novel and controversial industry that bankrolls home improvements and gets paid back by charges added to a homeowner’s tax bill. It was once lauded by politicians and environmentalists, even President Barack Obama, as a key solution to adapting to climate change and hurricanes. But late last year, Ygrene, the state’s most high-profile green energy finance company, suddenly vanished from the Florida market, a move that left contractors in the middle of projects unpaid and homeowners scrambling to pay big, unexpected bills. Now Ygrene may be poised to restart business in Florida, its largest and least-regulated market.

Ygrene Energy makes a splash, then drops off the radar. Now it’s attempting a reset.

Nursing homes see spike in serious violations” via Hannah Critchfield of the Tampa Bay Times — Since 2019, violations have nearly doubled compared to the previous six years. Last year, Florida nursing homes were cited 83 times for putting their older adult residents at risk of immediate danger. Eighteen were in Tampa Bay. More than half the serious violations involved staff shortages or insufficient training, the Times found. And 3 out of 5 violations were prompted by complaints that resulted in inspector visits. The consequences of repeat violations can be serious, for both residents and nursing homes. The facility with the most class 1 deficiencies last year, Destin Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, recently lost its Medicare and Medicaid funding.

Other states have fixed consumer protection problems with PACE loans. Why not Florida?” via Alex Harris of the Miami Herald — The property-assessed clean energy program, also known as PACE, is only available for residential projects in three states — California, Missouri and Florida — and has drawn scrutiny, investigations, lawsuits and complaints in all three. Yet bills introduced in Tallahassee to extend consumer protections have failed year after year. “There is zero oversight in Florida over PACE loans,” said Mike Fasano, Pasco County’s tax collector. Unlike traditional loans, PACE financing doesn’t require a credit check or money down. That’s an appealing offer for many Floridians who want more hurricane-resistant roofs and windows and more efficient AC units as insurance and energy costs continue to skyrocket.

National media focuses on impact of Florida’s new condo safety law on association budgets” via Gary M. Mars of the Miami Herald — A recent segment on Fox Business Network’s Mornings with Maria show focused on the financial repercussions of Florida’s new condominium safety law on the state’s condo associations and their unit owners. The host and panelists point out that the mandates for reserves and engineering safety inspections/reports represent new expenses that will need to be borne by condo owners. Their message to recent buyers or those who may be considering a condo in the Sunshine State: Do your homework and come to terms with the fact that the current monthly association dues for many properties are very likely going to see substantial increases in the near future.


Biden’s State of the Union was a feisty return to ’90s politics. Republicans should be afraid.” via Josh Barro of Very Serious — One of the implicit promises of the Biden presidential campaign was to turn back the political clock to a more normal time before Trump made everything weird. Biden’s speech was right out of the ‘90s in a way that I think was very politically savvy for Biden and his team. Biden noted that while many Republicans say they are officially committed to protecting Social Security and Medicare, there are some who have been talking about undermining the programs.

Joe Biden goes retro and Republicans are worried.

Biden prepares largest Pentagon budget in history as spending cuts loom” via Lara Seligman of POLITICO — The Biden administration is preparing to ask Congress for the largest Pentagon budget in history, according to the Defense Department’s chief financial officer, as partisan squabbling over the debt ceiling raises the specter of deep cuts to the military’s funding plans. Officials are “very close” to settling on a final top-line number for the Defense Department, which the White House will include as part of its overall fiscal 2024 budget request set for release March 9, Pentagon Comptroller Michael McCord said in an interview.

Biden leans into attacks on GOP over Social Security, Medicare” via Amie Parnes of The Hill — Over the coming months as Biden launches his re-election bid, the President will continue to try to label Republicans as extreme by pointing to GOP proposals that he says would lead to changes to Social Security and Medicare. “The strategy is a classic one,” said Nayyera Haq, the SiriusXM host who is a former senior aide in the Obama White House. “Show the hypocrisy that goes on behind closed doors in government.”

Biden lauds ‘bipartisan progress’ as he dines with Governors” via Andrea Shalal of Reuters — Biden appealed to Republican and Democratic Governors on Saturday to continue working across political divides to improve Americans’ lives and rebuild the economy after the hardships brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking at a black-tie dinner at the White House, attended by Vice President Kamala Harris and 31 Governors, Biden said the passage of laws on investing in infrastructure and domestic manufacture of semiconductors was evidence of “some bipartisan progress” among Republicans and Democrats.

Democratic Governors, seeing rising threats, look beyond their borders” via Dan Balz of The Washington Post — This year’s winter meeting of the National Governors Association is a reminder that, at this moment, American politics is being defined as much or even more in state capitals as in the nation’s capital. In that arena, some Democratic state leaders fear they are losing the battle. Biden’s State of the Union speech produced the week’s headlines and memorable video clips. But the juxtaposition of the Governors’ conference with the President’s speech highlighted how and why the locus of action is shifting. Democratic state leaders see a federal government hamstrung to protect rights and see Governors of red states pushing to restrict those rights.

Spotted at the White House Salute to Our Nation’s Governors — Alan Williams, selfied here with special guest Brad Paisley:

Mitch McConnell sides with Biden on what he calls Rick Scott’s ‘bad idea’” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — GOP leader Sen. McConnell sided with Biden and disavowed Sen. Scott’s “bad idea” to sunset all federal laws, saying it could cost Scott re-election after Biden used it as a weapon against Republicans over Social Security and Medicare. “That was the Rick Scott plan, not a Republican plan,” McConnell said. Scott’s plan to have all federal laws come up for a vote again after five years was the centerpiece of Biden’s attack on the GOP in his State of the Union address, and he continued the offensive at an event in Tampa on Thursday. McConnell appeared to agree with Biden that Scott’s proposal could endanger Social Security and Medicare.

Latest Lincoln Project ad targets Scott” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Lincoln Project is engaging in Florida, keying in on an unpopular proposal from U.S. Sen. Scott. The minutelong “It’s in the Plan” is predicated on an interview Scott did last March, where the Florida Senator explained his plan to “rescue America.” That interview included a surprisingly contentious back and forth with host John Roberts and saw Scott accuse his interviewer of using “Democrat talking points” when accusing him of wanting to sunset Social Security and Medicare. “It’s not a Democratic talking point! It’s in the plan,” asserted the generally low-key Roberts.

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

Vern Buchanan named Vice Chair of House Ways and Means” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Buchanan will serve as Vice Chair on one of the most powerful committees in Congress. The Longboat Key Republican last month lost the race for House Ways and Means Chair to Rep. Jason Smith. But the Missouri Republican is now naming Buchanan as Vice Chair. “Vern brings an invaluable level of knowledge and expertise to the Vice Chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee,” Smith said. “I look forward to working with Chairman Smith and my fellow Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee to tackle some of the biggest issues facing our country,” Buchanan said.

The making of Anna Paulina Luna” via Jacqueline Alemany and Alice Crites of The Washington Post — Luna’s sharp turn to the right, her account of an isolated and impoverished childhood, and her embrace of her Hispanic heritage have come as a surprise to some friends and family who knew her before her ascent to the U.S. House this year. A cousin who grew up with Luna said she was regularly included in family gatherings. Her roommate in Missouri had no recollection of the “home invasion” Luna detailed, describing instead a break-in at their shared apartment when they were not home, an incident confirmed by police records. “She would really change who she was based on what fits the situation best at the time,” said the roommate, Brittany Brooks, who lived with Luna for six months and was a close friend during her military service.

Luna corners former Twitter exec on platform’s alleged collusion with FBI, other federal agencies” via Bradford Betz of Fox News — Rep. Luna took a former Twitter executive to task over the platform’s alleged collusion with federal agencies to block a story about Hunter Biden in the run-up to the 2020 election. Speaking at a House Oversight and Accountability Committee hearing, Luna shared a flowchart showing that federal agencies and social media companies, including Twitter, were all communicating on a private cloud server called Jira. Luna questioned Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former global head of trust and safety, whether he remembered his communication with federal agencies on a private cloud server to remove a posting in the run-up to the 2020 Election.

This Gen Z Democrat is deftly skewering right-wing fantasies” via Greg Sargent of The Washington Post — Young, rising Democrats such as Reps. Maxwell Frost and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are putting their stamp on the party by modeling how to break through the informational clutter. “Oftentimes, our party has a problem with having a simplified message that’s able to cut through all the noise,” Frost said. While Democrats sometimes respond to things like the “open borders” claim with high dudgeon, here the tone is one of mockery and contempt. Outrage risks “elevating” weak claims, while mockery “diminishes” them, he said.

Jared Moskowitz announces initiative to break bread with Republicans over lunch” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — It’s unlikely that this event will have anyone yelling, “Liar!” On the heels of a State of the Union address featuring new levels of partisan raucousness, U.S. Rep. Moskowitz is aiming to warm up collegial feelings across the aisle by taking one of his Republican colleagues out to lunch once a week and he’s picking up the check. For his first outing, he took Republican U.S. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna of St. Petersburg to Talay Thai, an Asian restaurant. “We must show the American people that you can adamantly disagree with your neighbor and still act normal,” Moskowitz said in a prepared statement about his bipartisan lunch initiative.

House Democrat Shelia Cherfilus-McCormick says Democrats need a ‘come to Jesus moment’” via Grayson Bakich of The Floridian — In a recent interview, Rep. Cherfilus-McCormick discussed the state of the Florida Democratic Party, even as state Democrats look to former state Sen. Annette Taddeo, and possibly former Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, to possibly lead them. “There really is an absence of leadership,” she says, saying whatever leadership it currently has is “ineffective.” Additionally, McCormick says DeSantis gave the Republican Party a “burst of energy” that enabled their midterm victory. Rep. Cherfilus-McCormick expresses that her party “hasn’t embraced the generational shift.”

Shelia Cherfilus-McCormick wants Democrats to face reality.

What we know about the unidentified object shot down over Alaska” via Haley Britzky, Natasha Bertrand and Aaron Pellish of CNN — An unidentified object was shot down 10 miles off the frozen coast of Alaska on Friday afternoon, U.S. officials announced, but details about the object are scarce. U.S. military pilots sent up to examine the object gave conflicting accounts of what they saw, which is part of the reason why the Pentagon has been cautious in describing what the object actually is. The incident marked the second time that U.S. jets had taken down an object in less than a week, following the shooting down of a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina last week.

Happening today — U.S. Rep. Brian Mast will speak to the Palm Beach County Tea Party: 5:30 p.m., Duffy’s Sports Grill, 11588 U.S. 1, North Palm Beach.


GOP intelligence Chair ‘stumped’ by Biden-Mike Pence-Trump document handling’” via Olivia Olander of POLITICO — Rep. Mike Turner, Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said Sunday he and other members who work with classified information are “stumped” that Presidents and Vice Presidents could be so careless with classified information. “We don’t understand how this could be happening. We don’t understand how all three could have been so lackadaisical about this,” Turner said on CNN’s “State of the Union” in discussing classified documents found in private spaces associated with Trump, former Vice President Pence and Biden.

Mike Turner is amazed by the sloppiness of the Executive Branch.

Could Pence turn on Trump? Here’s how Gerald Ford finally broke with Richard Nixon.” via Frederic J. Frommer of The Washington Post — The subpoena issued to Pence this week by the special counsel investigating Trump’s failed bid to overturn the 2020 Presidential Election could irreparably sever relations between Trump and his onetime loyal Vice President if it causes Pence to testify against his old boss. A half-century ago, Vice President Ford also faced a tipping point in his relationship with Nixon and decided to break with the beleaguered President. In some ways, Pence has already moved away from Trump. He said in November that Trump “endangered me and my family” on Jan. 6, 2021.

Trump campaign paid researchers to prove 2020 fraud but kept findings secret” via Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — Trump’s 2020 campaign commissioned an outside research firm in a bid to prove electoral-fraud claims but never released the findings because the firm disputed many of his theories and could not offer any proof that he was the rightful winner of the election. The campaign paid researchers from Berkeley Research Group, the people said, to study 2020 election results in six states, looking for fraud and irregularities to highlight in public and in the courts. Among the areas examined were voter machine malfunctions, instances of dead people voting and any evidence that could help Trump show he won. About a dozen people at the firm worked on the report.

DeSantis’ challenge: When, and how, to counterattack Trump” via Michael C. Bender and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times — For months, DeSantis has pursued a strategy of conflict avoidance with Trump. But now he faces the pressing question of how long this approach can work. Trump, who has spent weeks trying to goad DeSantis into a fight with rude nicknames like “Ron DeSanctimonious,” is stepping up his social media-fueled assault. DeSantis must also decide just how forcefully to counterattack once he engages with Trump.

Nikki Haley makes risky bet as she prepares to take on Trump” via Max Greenwood and Julia Manchester of The Hill — Haley is poised to take a leap into the unknown next week when she becomes the first Republican to challenge Trump for the GOP’s 2024 nod. It’s a role that few other Republicans are eager to fill, given Trump’s penchant for trying to humiliate any of his political opponents, real or perceived. But Haley’s allies say that she has a unique lane in a potentially crowded GOP Primary field that could help her cut through the noise, especially at a time when many Republicans are wavering on Trump’s candidacy. Of course, she’s also likely to run into some stiff challenges.

Former DNC Chair: Trump may regret entering 2024 race too soon” via The Hill — Former Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile said on Sunday that Trump, who kicked off his re-election campaign just one week after the Midterms, may regret entering the 2024 race too soon as Republican Haley. “The big donors in the Republican Party, they’re now showing him the cold shoulder. So, this may be Donald Trump’s week to regret that he put his hat in the ring so soon,” Brazile said. Trump launched his 2024 bid just after the GOP and some of Trump’s own favored candidates lost key midterm races, with Democrats holding on to the Senate majority and Republicans winning the House by a smaller-than-expected margin.

Trump frustrated with a powerful conservative group after its outreach to DeSantis” via Allan Smith and Vaughn Hillyard of NBC News — Few Republican groups have had as meteoric a rise as Turning Point USA. Some Republicans now question whether the group and its founder, Charlie Kirk, were overhyped. A bigger problem for Kirk and Turning Point, however, is that they may be losing the confidence of their most important supporter: Trump. Trump has “been watching” Kirk’s relationship with DeSantis since Turning Point hosted rallies across the country last summer for high-profile GOP candidates with the Florida Governor as the headliner.

Is Charlie Kirk losing his biggest fan?

Panel scolds Wisconsin justice for remarks in Trump case” via CBS News — A judicial oversight Commission has dismissed a complaint against a liberal-leaning Wisconsin Supreme Court justice who accused an attorney for Trump of making racist contentions and trying to protect his “king” in a case challenging the 2020 election results in the battleground state. Judicial complaints are confidential under Wisconsin law but Justice Jill Karofsky released documents that show a retired attorney in Maryland filed one against her with the Wisconsin Judicial Commission two years ago. The Commission decided in November 2022 not to discipline her but warned her to remain neutral and avoid making sarcastic remarks from the bench.

Bickering bogs down Proud Boys trials” via The Associated Press — The Capitol riot trial for Proud Boys leaders promised to be a historic showcase for some of the most compelling evidence of an alleged plot by far-right extremists to halt the transfer of presidential power after the 2020 election. One month into the trial, there have been plenty of fireworks, but mostly when the jury wasn’t in the courtroom. Lawyers representing the five Proud Boys charged with seditious conspiracy have repeatedly sparred with U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly during breaks in testimony. At least 10 times, those lawyers have argued in vain for him to declare a mistrial.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Secret recording, fundraising allegations: Miami Beach Mayor race is already heated” via Aaron Liebowitz of the Miami Herald — When Michael Góngora and Michael Grieco sat down for drinks, Góngora spoke candidly about his relationship with Russell Galbut, perhaps the most powerful developer in Miami Beach. Grieco, who was weighing a run against Góngora for Miami Beach Mayor at the time, asked Góngora if he believed he had Galbut’s unwavering support. “He’s already with me and giving me money no matter who files [to run],” Góngora replied, adding that he and City Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez — his “political wife,” he joked — had met with Galbut the day before. “I went through this whole scenario with him,” he said. What Góngora didn’t know was that Grieco was recording the entire conversation on his phone.

With a secret recording by Michael Grieco, the Miami Beach mayoral race is getting hotter.

A fierce election fight shapes a city’s future” via Steve Bousquet of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — It’s been called the “most fun small town in the USA.” But “fun” doesn’t begin to describe Delray Beach these days. The Village by the Sea is coping with a heightened level of intensity and meanness in its local politics. Residents’ social media pages are on fire. It’s a sign of how high the stakes are in shaping Delray’s future, especially in development. Development is driving the Seat 2 City Commission race between incumbent Juli Casale and challenger Rob Long. Long owns Door 2 Door Strategies, which does grassroots organizing for candidates, causes, nonprofits and developers. He said his clients insist that he sign NDAs, or nondisclosure agreements, keeping his work confidential.

Miami preschool teacher allegedly painted blackface on students for lesson on Black History Month” via Landon Mion of Fox News — A preschool teacher in Miami, Florida, allegedly painted blackface on children’s faces for a lesson on Black History Month, which outraged parents. Three students at Studio Kids’ Little River location were seen wearing what appeared to be brown paint on their faces in photographs obtained by the Miami Herald. In the pictures, one child was dressed up as a construction worker and another was wearing a police uniform. It is unclear what the third child was dressed as. It is also unclear what exactly the lesson consisted of. “You should know better as an educator,” parent Courtney Politis, who is Black, said. “What else are you teaching our children?”

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Eatonville Mayor, residents: OCPS land deal, developer’s plans disrespect Black town’s legacy” via Desiree Stennett of the Orlando Sentinel — In an impassioned speech Tuesday night, Eatonville Mayor Angie Gardner called on her fellow Town Council members to vote against a proposal that would have cleared the path for a massive 100-acre development in the historic Black town. Gardner, others on the Council and longtime residents all shared their fears that such a development could forever change the town, putting its legacy in jeopardy. She leaned on history to make her point as she rattled through a list of Black settlements and municipalities that, like Eatonville, were founded after the Civil War. The others, however, had long since become just a memory, their futures either taken by force or erased by violent attacks, migration and development.

Angie Gardner wants to stop development that will devastate Eatonville’s Black community.

The Villages vendetta” via Ryan Grim of The Intercept — The trouble began in 2019 when residents of The Villages were suddenly hit with a 25% hike in their property taxes. If the new taxes were intended to cover new amenities or upgrades for the Villagers, perhaps a hike would be worth the sacrifice. But the money was instead destined to subsidize further sprawl south of The Villages. On Jan. 30, 2023, Oren Miller, a former Commissioner, ousted from his seat by a DeSantis decree, was brought handcuffed into the Marion County Courthouse. He had lost 20-plus pounds in the 75 days he spent jailed awaiting sentencing on a felony charge for, essentially, nothing. Or, perhaps more accurately, for fighting back against a powerful, well-heeled ally of DeSantis.

School board working to adjust bus drivers’ salary amid transportation ‘crisis’” via Finch Walker of Florida Today — An “unattractive starting pay” of $15 per hour; an aging population of both drivers and equipment. Understaffing in terms of drivers and instructional assistants to ride the buses. That’s the current state of the Brevard Public Schools transportation department — and it’s a critical problem, said both a bus driver and School Board member Megan Wright at a recent board meeting. “We are at the point where it is a crisis — the transportation is,” said Wright, who has been touring transportation depots to get a better understanding of critical issues. “We have to focus some serious attention toward our bus drivers and making sure that we’re adequately paying them because right now, we’re losing them.”

SpaceX knocks out Starlink launch overnight” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — SpaceX sent up its eighth mission from the Space Coast early Sunday with another batch of Starlink satellites. A Falcon 9 with 55 of the internet satellites lifted off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 at 12:10 a.m. The booster made its 12th flight for the company making a successful return landing on the droneship A Shortfall of Gravitas in the Atlantic Ocean. It was the 74th Starlink launch overall since the first operational deployment of the internet satellites in 2019. SpaceX has sent up nearly 4,000 of the 570-pound satellites, according to statistics tracked by astronomer Jonathan McDowell. The Federal Communications Commission recently upped SpaceX’s license to allow for up to 7,500.


DeSantis appoints new Hillsborough judge, filling spot left by new state attorney” via Matt Cohen of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis appointed Richard Martin as the newest judge on the Hillsborough County Court. Martin will fill the vacancy created by the appointment of former judge Susan Lopez last August as the state attorney for the 13th Circuit. Lopez was appointed to the office after DeSantis suspended Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren last year, claiming he had blanket policies against prosecuting certain types of cases. Warren sued DeSantis, and in January U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled the Governor violated the First Amendment and the Florida Constitution when he suspended Warren.

Parties rally around candidates in nonpartisan Tampa City Council race” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — Both local political parties are getting involved in what promises to be a hard-fought Tampa City Council race between Bill Carlson and Blake Casper to represent South Tampa. DeSantis “is making a play for the Tampa City Council” in the Casper campaign, the county Democratic Party said in a news release last week, announcing a canvassing effort on behalf of Carlson. That accusation, which Casper denies, relates in part to Casper’s history as a donor backing Republican candidates including DeSantis. Republicans, meanwhile, have promoted two canvassing days for Casper and plan to do more, according to April Schiff, a political consultant for Casper’s campaign.

Blake Casper catches Ron DeSantis’ attention.

Clearwater’s recycling problems started before recent lapses, records show” via Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times — When Clearwater officials discovered on Jan. 6 that the city had failed to recycle any of the materials it picked up from residents since June, they initially offered a straightforward explanation. Two tractor-trailers the city uses to transfer recyclables to WM, its processor in Tampa, were broken for most of those six months. The solid waste staff never informed the administration, interim City Manager Jennifer Poirrier said. With the problem identified, recycling resumed on Jan. 9. But data shows that inconsistencies with recycling stretch back even further. The available numbers are so baffling that Poirrier intends to hire a consultant to investigate the solid waste department and the city’s recycling program.

Relocation isn’t only challenge facing Rays this spring” via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times — With 2020 and 2021 impacted by the pandemic and 2022 delayed and abbreviated due to the lockout, this spring had the potential to be the first normal one in four years. Except the Rays have to split their camp between two temporary sites, forced to relocate from their hurricane-damaged Port Charlotte facility to temporary digs at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and then on March 1 to Tropicana Field, their regular-season home. They also have to integrate three new coaches with no big-league experience onto Kevin Cash’s staff. Get adjusted to a series of significant league-wide rules changes, including the implementation of a pitch clock, restrictions on shifting and limits on pickoff throws.


We need a sanctuary from Jason Bearden’s preaching about the Constitution” via Marc R. Masferrer of The Bradenton Journal — Bearden, who was elected last year, was a perfect addition to the gang of performance politicians that is the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners. Like most of his colleagues, Bearden is more interested in forever proving his ideological bona fides, his stature as a right-wing cultural warrior, than in governing for the common good. Bearden stands out among Commissioners in the persistent, uninformed way he wraps his views in the cloak of “the Constitution,” like he repeatedly did during a recent debate over whether to repeal the county’s ban on retail pet sales.

Manatee is growing weary of Jason Bearden’s pontificating.

Why Lee School, FHSAA board member Chris Patricca voted to keep menstrual questions on FHSAA form” via Dustin B. Levy of the Fort Myers News-Press — An emergency FHSAA Board of Directors meeting resulted in the approval of a new physical evaluation form that removed controversial questions about high school girls’ menstrual histories. The measure, which removed five optional questions but changed a question asking for athletes’ “sex” to “sex assigned at birth,” passed on a 14-2 vote. Lee County School Board member Patricca, who is also an FHAA board member, voted in the minority as did Charlie Ward from Tallahassee. “I believe, based on medical advice and well-established medical facts, that student-athletes are safer and better protected by the inclusion of these questions,” Patricca commented.

Are parking woes the start of an existential crisis for Holmes Beach?” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The population on Holmes Beach is going down. So has parking available for anyone not living in the community. Tensions between the barrier island community and Manatee County, meanwhile, only escalated in recent years. Meetings with state lawmakers sought out cooperative solutions that were quickly abandoned, creating further distrust. Many leaders say the visible anger over parking spaces merely hints at the growing isolationist attitudes about island life, despite the presence of public amenities supported by all taxpayers in Manatee County. “It’s been increasingly hard for non-island residents to find parking and enjoy amenities, shops, restaurants and beaches,” said Sen. Jim Boyd.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

LeAnna Cumber, Daniel Davis burn through $2M in January in Jax mayoral air war” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — 2023’s campaign for Jacksonville mayor is seeing some of the most sustained negative advertising in history, and that’s coming at a heavy price. The vitriolic spots are coming from the two leading Republican fundraisers, Jacksonville City Council member Cumber and Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce CEO Davis, and the two candidates burned through more than $2 million between them last month, with millions left to spend on each side ahead of the March 21 “First Election” that likely will eliminate one of these candidates from the field. The bulk of Cumber’s spending went through her JAX First political committee, which spent $842,889 in January, with nearly $800,000 of that spend going to FP1 Strategies.

LeAnna Cumber and Daniel Davis are throwing money like there’s no tomorrow.

Jacksonville Council candidate quit as Sheriff’s Lieutenant amid misconduct investigation” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Norman Brewer touts his 15 years as a member of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office for visitors to his campaign homepage. But the Jacksonville City Council candidate makes no mention of the public scandal that unfolded as he left the force. A misconduct investigation of the then-lieutenant in the Sheriff’s Office made headlines weeks ahead of his resignation in late 2003. His departure from the law enforcement agency took place during a misconduct investigation and allegations of an extramarital affair with another officer. Brewer during his tenure with the JSO attracted 21 complaints about misconduct. Eight were deemed “sustained” by Internal Affairs investigations.

Indicted former JEA execs now feuding with law firm involved in privatization” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — Defense lawyers for JEA’s former CEO and CFO asked U.S. District Judge Brian Davis this week to consider beginning contempt proceedings against a law firm that played a major role in shaping the failed campaign to privatize Jacksonville’s electric, water and sewer utility. Former JEA CEO Aaron Zahn and CFO Ryan Wannemacher claim New York-based Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman has refused to turn over potential evidence that could be helpful to the two men as they prepare to defend themselves against federal wire fraud and conspiracy charges. Pillsbury billed JEA for millions of dollars in work on the botched sale effort in 2019, yet there has been little public scrutiny of the role the firm played.

Aaron Zahn is attacking the law firm from the JEA privatization effort.

After ‘grave concerns’ from state Education Commissioner, Duval Schools cancel 2023 youth survey” via Beth Reese Cravey of The Florida Times-Union — The controversial federally funded Youth Behavior Risk Survey for 2023, which was about to get underway in Duval County Public Schools, has been canceled at the urging of the state Department of Education. Local parents had already complained about the survey, which they said asked young students inappropriate questions about sex and other topics. The district received a letter Friday from Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz Jr. expressing “grave concerns” that, despite the state withdrawing from the survey program last year, the Duval district was to continue it in 2023 under the last year of a contract with the CDC.

Fernandina Beach Commissioner calls for firing of City Manager” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — It was nearly two hours into the Fernandina Beach City Commission’s meeting this week when Vice Mayor David Sturges made a motion to fire City Manager Dale Martin. It’s not official yet, Commissioners voted 3-2 to postpone a decision, but indications are Martin is not long for the job. “Since before I was Commissioner, one of the meetings I attended that propelled me to run was a budget discussion where the City Manager looked up a few property owners who were present and proceeded to embarrass them by letting them know their exact tax bill,” Sturges said.


Must we lose to Biden a third time?” via Rich Lowry of the National Review — Biden is an aged political hack who is significantly off his game, and his game was never particularly good in the first place.

Yet, assuming he’s physically capable of it, he is running again and has some serious chance of winning a second term (setting up the predicate for a crisis should his health give out before January 2029).

Yes, amazingly enough, Republicans could lose to Biden a third time.

This would set some sort of record for utterly avoidable, self-imposed political futility.

I thought Biden’s rocky performance during much of the State of the Union — the mumbly delivery, the sentences smooshed together, the inappropriate affect, the slightly off ad-libs — made it clear that he is running on fumes. On the other hand, having now achieved a lifelong ambition at an advanced age, he has the willpower to try to bulldog through his diminished capacity.

And, sure enough, he had a pretty good night, in part because the Republican heckling and shouted rejoinders served his purposes.

If the voters believe the choice is between a rickety Biden and the party of a yowling Marjorie Taylor Greene, they’re going to pick Biden every time.

So, it’s not, as Newt Gingrich notably argued a few months ago, that Biden is more formidable than we thought; it’s that he’s proven capable, despite his limitations, of beating whomever Republicans put on the field. The NFC South champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers weren’t very good this year, either, but when everyone else in your division is literally 7-10, being good isn’t so necessary.


I almost wrote off Biden in 2020. Boy, was I wrong then. What about now?” via Robin Abcarin of the Los Angeles Times — Was I the only journalist in America who thought Biden’s State of the Union speech Tuesday was hard to watch? At least until he departed from his script and began sparring with the nation’s rudest Republicans? Sometimes when Biden starts to speak, I involuntarily hold my breath, waiting for him to stumble over his words, or slur them or otherwise mangle his text in a way that will show up in clips on Fox News or MAGA Twitter. See, he’s incompetent! He may not always sound sharp, but Biden proved Tuesday that he hasn’t lost his edge. He accused “some Republicans” of wanting to use Social Security and Medicare as negotiating points in discussions about raising the debt ceiling.

DeSantis is the sane choice to revive the U.S.” via Charles Gasparino of The New York Post — There is a ray of hope — sunshine, to be precise — beaming down south in Florida. If you want to see the American experiment flourish, spend a few days down there, particularly in the melting pot known as Miami, as I recently did. And talk to some locals and you see where the future of this country could be heading: A vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem that actually works. This is not a campaign commercial for DeSantis, who has his sights set on the White House, or even the local pols like Francis Suarez, the very able Mayor of Miami. But both have set the tone through a business-friendly tax code and limits on the welfare state while promoting diverse economic development.

DeSantis wanted to punish Disney. Instead, he made a mess” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — Like many Floridians, including representatives of the Walt Disney Company itself, we’ve watched DeSantis drive his legislative acolytes over the edge of a precipitous cliff as they pondered the fate of the special taxing district set up for Disney more than 50 years ago. By the end of the brutish and pointless Special Session that wrapped up Friday, DeSantis and lawmakers clearly had at least an inkling of their folly. They’d been advised that they were potentially dragging the full faith and credit of the state government, and the economic well-being of thousands of Floridians, down with them. They may not have realized how dark a shadow they may have cast on Central Florida’s economic future, more on that later, but it seems pretty clear that none of that mattered.

DeSantis makes a mess, and lawmakers use Special Session to clean up after him” via the Miami Herald editorial board — If you pass a half-baked bill in vengeful haste, someone will clean up your mess. When you get sued for allegedly violating your own migrant relocation program, no worries; your friends in the Legislature will expand that program and give you ample power and cash to make it “right.” When you tout illegal voting arrests of people who the state allowed to vote, and it turns out you might have chosen the wrong prosecutors to bring those charges, you simply change the law. That’s the story of the Special Legislative Session that began this week in the Florida Capitol. Lawmakers couldn’t even wait another month until their regular two-month Session that starts in March.

Hardworking Americans deserve more freedom surrounding occupational licensing” via Skylar Zander of The Florida Standard — What do barbers, medical professionals, taxidermists, school bus drivers, and manicurists all have in common? They need an occupational license from the state to be allowed to do their job in Florida. Under current law, these skilled professionals cannot perform their jobs in any other state if they hold a Florida license — or here in Florida if their license is from elsewhere. By eliminating barriers to these professionals in other states who want to live here in Florida, the state can more easily welcome them in and let them contribute to our state’s economy.


— ALOE —

Valentine’s Day chocolates: ‘Slack-fill’ is the new shrinkflation” via Laura Reiley of The Washington Post — It’s a clutch decision. You buy your sweetie the Valentine’s Day box. You know the one. Red shiny cardboard, heart-shaped, fancy-looking and boasting an assortment of milk and dark chocolates. If you take out the molded plastic insert, the chocolates occupy less than half the box. This is not an example of “shrinkflation,” said Ed Dworsky, founder of Consumer World. Rather, he alleged, it’s something called “slack-fill.” “That’s when a manufacturer deliberately over-packages a product using a package substantially larger than the amount of content inside,” he said.

‘The Flash’ trailer speeds into Super Bowl” via Aaron Couch of The Hollywood Reporter — The Flash trailer arrived during the Super Bowl, marking the launch of Warner Bros.’ campaign for the superhero movie starring controversial actor Ezra Miller. Miller stars as Barry Allen/The Flash in the film, which has been testing well with audiences and which DC Studios Co-Chair has called “probably one of the greatest superhero movies ever made.” But the project has lived under the shadow of Miller, who has generated a string of headlines surrounding various arrests and controversies. Miller apologized on Aug. 15, 2022, and in a statement said they were seeking help for mental health issues. Zack Snyder cast Miller, who uses they/them pronouns, in 2014 for an appearance in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) and a leading role in Justice League (2017). The road to a solo Flash film has been a long one.

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


Visit Florida for the sun, surf and … the food?” via Adam H. Graham of The Wall Street Journal — It might seem like the state that gave us Gatorade, Hooters, Olive Garden and Burger King isn’t exactly a gustatory heavyweight. But think again about Florida food, about stone crab, steamed oysters, Key West Pinks (shrimp known for their sweet tender meat), and Michelin’s reasoning behind its Florida expansion gets clearer. Factor in Cuban sandwiches, fresh orange juice, guava pastelitos and, of course, Key lime pie — and the choice seems downright inspired. Thanks in part to Florida’s ever-changing population, the state’s food has transformed in recent years, absorbing culinary influences from Colombia, Cuba and Vietnam.


Celebrating today are Erik Arroyo, Alex Burgos, former aide to U.S. Sen Marco Rubio and now Public Affairs Director for Meta, and former Rep. James Bush.


Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Ryan Nicol, 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.

One comment

  • Ron Sluiter

    February 13, 2023 at 5:37 pm

    Thanks for mentioning the Ryan Grim story in The Intercept on Gov. DeSantis’s 72-year-old political prisoner. It would appear as if there is a main stream media blackout on this story. Your’s is the only mention I could find of it.

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.

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