Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 2.23.23

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Florida politics and Sunburn — perfect together.

Good Thursday morning.

It’s Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Session.

That was the takeaway from the second day of the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s 2023 Legislative Fly-In, which saw top lawmakers outline their plans for the 60-day Session that begins March 7.

“The bills that he is asking us to send through the Legislature are the things that we’ve been talking about for years and haven’t had the courage to do. He has,” Senate President Kathleen Passidomo said, referring to DeSantis’ priorities. “We’re going to get his agenda across the finish line.”

Kathleen Passidomo vows to carry Ron DeSantis’ agenda over the finish line.

One DeSantis priority that’s particularly relevant to the Chamber is tort reform. The pro-business group’s “Where We Stand” business agenda, released this week, puts one-way attorney fees and contingency fee multipliers in the crosshairs.

The Chamber also wants to curb the use of “letters of protection” in medical damages litigation and wants to shake Florida’s reputation as a haven for “bad faith” insurance lawsuits.

Lawmakers are pursuing many of those reforms through legislation unveiled last week (HB 837), which House Speaker Paul Renner told the audience at the Fly-In would cut down on “garbage lawsuits.”

The Speaker’s comments echo those made by Insurers, who have long claimed that excessive litigation is a major driver in premium increases. The Chamber also pointed to data during the Fly-In showing that 3.6% of the state’s $1.4 trillion GDP goes to tort costs.

The Governor and legislative leaders have also lined up behind a universal school voucher bill (HB 1) as well as a measure (HB 1021) that would give tax credits to businesses that provide child care services for employees.

“We’re trying to create the most transformational and the most customizable education option for parents and families, and we want to provide the resources and the opportunities for them to do that,” Rep. Kaylee Tuck, the bill’s sponsor, said at the Fly-In.

Democrats have harshly criticized the voucher bill, arguing funding should go toward the state’s public schools instead. Still, it is Renner’s top goal and the Governor and Senate President have lined up behind it as well, giving it a clear pathway to approval.

To watch Passidomo’s remarks, please click on the image below:

Ben Albritton talks helping rural communities, accepts award at Florida Chamber Fly-In” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — One of the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s goals through 2030 is to double the share rural counties have of the state’s gross domestic product. There are many ways to do that, according to Senate Majority Leader Albritton. The common thread running through each, however, is for lawmakers, businesses and residents to just keep rural communities in mind when making decisions, large or small. Speaking at the group’s Legislative Fly-In this week, Albritton, a fourth-generation citrus grower in Hardee County, sang the praises of living away from major metropolitan centers like Tampa Bay and Greater Miami. He also accepted a “Distinguished Advocate Award,” his seventh from the Chamber.

Ben Albritton is honored for his work to promote Florida’s rural areas.

Fiona McFarland, Kaylee Tuck talk education reform at Chamber Fly-In” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Florida lawmakers have plenty of changes in store when it comes to educational opportunities in the state and Republican Reps. McFarland and Tuck joined the Florida Chamber to preview those overhauls. Both lawmakers are fronting significant education bills in the upcoming 2023 Legislative Session. Tuck is moving forward a universal school voucher bill (HB 1), while McFarland is sponsoring a newly filed measure (HB 1021) aiming to give tax credits to businesses that provide child care services for employees. The two joined the Florida Chamber of Commerce for this week’s annual Legislative Fly-In. David Daniel of Smith, Bryan & Myers moderated a panel with the legislators as they explained their bills, as well as their general interest in tackling education reform.


Tweet, tweet:

@ChefJoseAndres: Speaker, you know that there is a bird flu right? And that 15% of laying eggs chicks had to be sacrificed in 2022, yes? One of the main reasons … inflation? Not so much … and by the way eggs are always a delicacy … anything tasty is a delicacy … fried eggs?😋

@JoelDodge07: If I were Ron DeSantis, I would co-opt “Meatball Ron” and start referring to myself by the much cooler “Ronny Meatballs”

@fabiolasantiago: Florida’s Fidelito. I’ll be watching to see how many #Miami legislators get behind #DeSantis’ persecution of the media — to then get on local podiums for the political value and demand sanctions on #Cuba for the regime’s quashing of the same freedoms. #FirstAmendment #USA

@Daniel_Sweeney: Florida: Where Woke Goes to Sleep With the Fishes

@Fineout: Just days before @FlaDems pick a new Chair, the two main candidates — @NikkiFried @Annette_Taddeo — have wildly different vote counts with supporters of both contending the other side is wrong.

Tweet, tweet:


City of Tampa Municipal Election early voting begins — 4; DeSantis’ ‘The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival’ released — 5; ‘The Mandalorian’ returns — 6; ‘Creed III’ premieres — 8; The Oscars — 9; Tampa Municipal Election — 12; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 12; Florida TaxWatch’s State of the Taxpayer Dinner — 19; Premiere date for Season 3 of ‘Ted Lasso’ — 20; World Baseball Classic finals begin in Miami — 22; Annual Red Dog Blue fundraiser — 23; ’John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 26; ‘Succession’ Season 4 begins — 33; MLB Opening Day 2023 — 35; Tron Lightcycle/Run debuts in Walt Disney World — 40; Suits for Session — 41; ‘Air’ starring Ben Affleck and Matt Damon premieres — 42; NBA Play-In Tournament begins — 47; Taylor Swift ‘Eras’ Tour in Tampa — 52; NBA playoffs begin — 52; final performance of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ on Broadway — 52; American Association of Political Consultants Pollies ’23 conference begins — 54; 2023 Session Sine Die — 71; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 71; Florida Chamber 2023 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 75; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 84; ‘Fast X’ premieres — 84; Florida Chamber 2023 Florida Prosperity & Economic Opportunity Solution Summit — 92; NBA Finals begin — 98; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 99; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 113; Florida Chamber 2023 Florida Learners to Earners Workforce Solution Summit — 124; ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ premieres — 126; ‘Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning — Part One’ premieres — 141; Florida Chamber 37th Annual Environmental Permitting Summer School — 148; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 150; ’Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 156; 2023 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 242; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 254; South Carolina Democratic Primary — 335; New Hampshire and Nevada Democratic Primaries — 349; Georgia Democratic Primary — 356; Michigan Democratic Primary — 369; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 401; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 456; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 519; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 519; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 561; ‘Deadpool 3’ premieres — 624; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 702; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 799; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 988.


Orlando TV news journalist, 9-year-old girl killed in shootings near earlier homicide scene” via David Harris, Amanda Rabines and Jeff Weiner of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — An Orlando TV journalist and a child were shot and killed Wednesday evening near a crime scene where a woman was found shot to death earlier in the day, in a brutal spate of violence in Pine Hills that prompted widespread shock and grief.

Orange County Sheriff John Mina said at a news conference that the journalist for Spectrum News 13 and the 9-year-old girl was among four people who were shot. The others were another member of the News 13 crew and the mother of the girl.

Two are dead in the latest spate of violence hitting Pine Hills.

Mina said a suspect, Keith Melvin Moses, 19, was in custody — and he was also suspected in the earlier shooting of the woman.

The other Spectrum News 13 journalist shot was listed in critical condition according to Mina. The journalists were working on a story about the previous shooting in the Pine Hills neighborhood.

According to WFTV-Channel 9, which also had journalists at the scene who were not injured, the shooter walked up to the News 13 vehicle and opened fire.

“The man walked by our crew who was working in their car. Our crew ducked,” WFTV’s Nick Papantonis tweeted. “The man then walked up to the other crew working in their car and opened fire.”

Mina said the suspect walked up to the News 13 vehicle around 4:05 p.m. and fired into it, hitting the photographer and reporter. Both were taken to the hospital where one was pronounced dead.

Moses then went to a house on Harrington Street nearby and shot a woman and her 9-year-old daughter, according to Mina. Deputies arrested Moses nearby not long after, Mina said. He had a handgun that detectives believe was used in the shooting.

News 13 said it would not be releasing the names of the employees who were shot. The station’s staff continued live reporting despite their co-workers being killed and wounded.


Florida Surgeon General Joe Ladapo investigated for allegedly falsifying Covid report” — The Florida Department of Health’s inspector general last fall investigated Joseph Ladapo, the state’s surgeon general, after the agency received an anonymous complaint alleging he falsified a report focusing on the safety of Covid-19 vaccines for young men. Among other things, the complainant alleged Ladapo committed “scientific fraud” and “manipulated data” in a report that Ladapo later used to claim that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines could increase the risk of cardiac death among young men, according to the complaint. Both brands use mRNA technology, which Ladapo contends was rushed to the market by the urgency of the pandemic without the proper testing. “The analysis performed in DOH did not find this,” the individual wrote without providing evidence, according to the complaint. “He manipulated the final draft of the analysis.” Ladapo’s report was used as evidence in vaccine guidance he released in October that came under heavy criticism from the medical community, which said the surgeon general’s stance that the vaccine posed a health risk in healthy young men was flawed and went against Covid-vaccine recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

After legislative fix, court dismisses lawsuit against DeSantis over migrant flights” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — In a seven-minute hearing, a Leon County Circuit Court judge dismissed a case against Gov. DeSantis Wednesday brought by a state senator over flights funded by Florida that took migrants to Martha’s Vineyard from Texas last year. Both parties agreed that the Florida Legislature had repealed the portion of the law that was used as a basis for the lawsuit accusing the governor of illegally flying migrants to Massachusetts last September and therefore should be dismissed. State Sen. Jason Pizzo, a Hollywood Democrat sued the governor and the Florida Department of Transportation in his capacity as a private citizen, arguing that funding for the controversial flights improperly used an appropriations bill — the 2022-23 state Appropriations Act — to create a substantial new program instead of authorizing it through a separate law.

Ron DeSantis administration requires events at the Capitol ‘align’ with its mission” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO — The Department of Management Services, the administration department that oversees state facilities, over the past few months has changed rules for groups or individuals who want to reserve space inside the Capitol. The changes require organizations seeking to reserve areas to make their requests through specific administration officials or legislative leaders and require they line up with the mission of the state. “One material change to the Rule is that events must align with state agency missions and applications must come from an agency sponsor,” read the Department of Management Services letter, copies of which were provided to POLITICO by multiple groups trying to plan events at the Capitol. “Once a sponsorship has been obtained, the state agency shall submit the required application to DMS on behalf of the requester.”

Ron DeSantis only wants events at The Capitol that ‘align’ with the state’s goals.

DeSantis gains 7-figure checks from top GOP donors” via CBS Miami — The seven-figure checks arrived ahead of what has amounted to a late-February soft launch of DeSantis’ highly anticipated run for President. On Monday, DeSantis held campaign-style rallies with police officers in New York, Philadelphia and Chicago, where he regaled the crowds with stories of the culture wars. Ahead of a potential GOP primary clash with Donald Trump, DeSantis will next host a three-day retreat for donors this weekend in Trump’s neighborhood. And his memoir, “The Courage to Be Free,” drops next Tuesday, with plans for a national book tour and events scheduled with GOP activists in Texas, California and Alabama. This cascade of activity is the clearest sign yet that DeSantis intends to jump into the Republican primary, though he’s in no rush to do so.

—”Michigan poll says ‘Ron DeSanctimonious’ is a losing insult for Donald Trump” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Florida students plan statewide walkout to protest DeSantis’ education policies” via Divya Kumar of the Tampa Bay Times — College students across the state are planning a walkout at noon Thursday to protest DeSantis’ education policies, including his recent threat to defund campus diversity programs. Their goal is multifaceted, said Ben Braver, a University of South Florida student who helped organize Stand for Freedom, a student group with representatives from at least seven state university campuses. On Thursday, they hope to protest DeSantis’ various attempts to gain tighter control over education — from last year’s Individual Freedom Act, also known as the Stop Woke Act, and the Parental Rights in Education Act, to his recent targeting of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at colleges and universities. The walkout is planned from noon to 1 p.m., a largely symbolic action accompanied by speeches and teach-ins by professors on topics including history.

College Board flunks in Florida. Here’s why.” via Susan Paterno of Forbes — The College Board is now locked in a war of attrition with an extremist Governor determined to force the academy to bend to his will. After rejecting AP African American studies, DeSantis doubled down, threatening last week to end all state funding and support for Advanced Placement courses as substitutes for college credit at Florida’s publicly funded state colleges and universities. If DeSantis wins, it will open the gates for other Governors with radical agendas to demand changes that could threaten the integrity and educational value of the Advanced Placement program.

The forgotten DeSantis book” via David Waldstreicher of The Atlantic — Trump reveled in his own ignorance and preference not to read at all, much less read history. In his four years in office, most of his statements about the Constitution were bluster about how it allowed him to do anything he wanted. By contrast, DeSantis has an intellectual pedigree and a book from 2011, his first, to prove it. Dreams From Our Founding Fathers is a revealing treatise, lively and polemical. While clearly a direct rebuke to Barack Obama’s 1995 coming-of-age memoir, it is also filled with ample quotations from 18th-century writings, footnotes to a smattering of scholarly works, and highly selective use of then-current reportage, tacking back and forth over 26 thematic chapters from Madison and Alexander Hamilton to Obama and the Democrats, the apparent betrayers of the Founders’ dreams.


“‘Live Local Act’ targeting affordable housing heads to Senate floor with changes” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A legislative package meant to increase Florida’s affordable housing inventory while banning local governments from imposing rent controls is on its way to the Florida Senate floor after undergoing several changes. On Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved a substitute version of the bill (SB 102), dubbed the “Live Local Act,” a priority of Senate President Passidomo. The Appropriations Committee was the bill’s last stop in the chamber, though there were calls for additional amendments to shore up concerns before the bill reaches a full Senate vote.

Passidomo priorities on affordable housing, wildlife corridor advance in Senate” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Two of Passidomo’s top priorities for the upcoming Regular Session, expanding access to the state’s wildlife corridor and adopting incentives for developers to build more affordable housing, have passed their final committee hearings, clearing their path to the floor. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved SB 106, which provides $200 million to buy land and connect local communities to the wildlife corridor, which runs throughout the state.

This Florida company was accused of scamming homeowners. New legislation could help.” via Rebecca Liebson of the Tampa Bay Times — New statewide legislation could help crack down on a Florida real estate company accused of using deceptive business practices to swindle thousands of homeowners. Florida state Sen. Jennifer Bradley and Florida state Rep. Will Robinson introduced two identical bills Wednesday aimed at protecting Floridians against predatory real estate listing agreements. The lawmakers specifically cited MV Realty, a Delray Beach-based brokerage that provides quick cash to homeowners who sign over the exclusive rights to sell their homes.

Jennifer Bradley seeks to crack down on a Florida real estate company accused of using deceptive business practices.

Linda Stewart files bill to ‘fix the cracks’ in auto glass repairs” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Sen. Stewart filed legislation this week that would ban assignment of benefits lawsuits for auto glass repairs, a reform long sought by insurers. Assignment of benefits, or AOB, is a legal process that allows policyholders to sign over their insurance benefits to a third party in exchange for a quick repair. Insurance companies say AOB lawsuits are one of the top drivers of premium increases. Stewart’s bill (SB 1002) follows one filed by Rep. Griff Griffitts last month (HB 541) that would also end AOBs for windshield and other glass repairs. Stewart’s bill would go a step further by prohibiting repair shops from offering gift cards, cash or other pot sweeteners to entice customers.

As feds soften on pot, Tina Polsky sees traction for bill protecting medical marijuana users” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Sen. Polsky is hoping the third time will be the charm for legislation protecting medical marijuana users from facing job discrimination, as Joe Biden is now on her side, in a way. The Boca Raton Democrat’s bill (SB 972) aims to prevent public employees from suffering career setbacks because of a positive marijuana test if they are qualified to use medical marijuana. Polsky said she took up the cause after hearing from a medical marijuana user who was not hired after a urine test came back positive.

Clay Yarborough bill would stop incumbent-favoring local redistricting” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — In the wake of a problem-plagued local redistricting process that ultimately saw the City Council’s self-drawn local map, which catered to incumbents, thrown out in federal court, Sen. Yarborough has filed legislation (SB 1080) in response. The bill would stop City Councils from considering where incumbent County Commissioners, City Council members, and School Board members live while drawing their maps. “Districts may not be drawn with the intent to favor or disfavor a candidate for County Commission, or an incumbent County Commissioner based on the candidate’s or incumbent’s residential address. Any ordinance enacted or adopted by a county on or after July 1, 2023, which is in conflict with this subsection is void,” the ordinance reads, effectively grandfathering current County Commission maps. Similar language holds for municipal districts.

Lawmakers look to the future to get roads ready for driverless cars” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — A House transportation subcommittee approved a bill that seeks to regulate the roads for the future of driverless cars. “This bill will bridge the gap in our infrastructure and prepare Florida for autonomous vehicles and other emerging technologies,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Tiffany Esposito. One section of HB 425 requires the Florida Department of Transportation to establish updated rules for the Florida State Highway System. “When we talk about autonomous vehicles on the road, we want it to be safe,” said Rep. Fiona McFarland, the Sarasota Republican who chairs the Transportation & Modals Subcommittee, during Wednesday’s hearing.


Central Florida GOP lawmakers with ties to private schools vote for voucher expansion” via Annie Martin and Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — Two Central Florida Republican lawmakers who support a “transformational” expansion of the state’s school voucher programs are closely tied to private schools that already receive hundreds of thousands of dollars from families who use state scholarships to pay tuition. Newly elected Reps. Carolina Amesty and Doug Bankson both voted in committee last month for a bill (HB 1) that would offer “universal choice,” with the goal of eventually allowing parents of any school-age child to get state funds that could pay for private school tuition or home schooling services.

With ties to private schools, Carolina Amesty votes for ‘universal choice.’

School voucher expansion bills could face hurdles and disagreements, even among Republicans” via Danielle J. Brown of Florida Phoenix — The discussion over so-called “school vouchers” has long been a contentious battle in education politics, and GOP lawmakers are pushing to expand the voucher program immensely if all goes well this spring in the Florida Legislature. The legislation has become fraught with confusion and disagreements over allowing students to attend private schools using taxpayer dollars, and the trajectory of the legislation is now unclear. “I am concerned with the posture of the bill right now, in terms of what that looks like for being accountable to the taxpayer, and really accountable to the parent, in terms of transparency,” said Sen. Erin Grall.

Ban on health care for trans youth to go into effect in March. More is coming, Randy Fine says” via Finch Walker of Florida Today — A recent ruling to ban health care for transgender people under the age of 18 will likely go into effect within weeks, the Florida Board of Medicine Chair told state Representatives at a meeting of the House Health and Human Services committee. Dr. Scot Ackerman, the first of six speakers who shared concerns about gender-affirming care for minors with the 21-member committee, said the rule by the Board of Medicine would be submitted on or around Feb. 24 for approval. If no rules challenging it are filed by the Department of Administrative Hearings, it will go into effect less than three weeks later, on March 16.

Bill would designate Brooksville road as ‘Rush Limbaugh Way’” via Mike Wright of Florida Politics — Following Limbaugh’s death two years ago, his name may soon be memorialized on a Hernando County street. Sen. Blaise Ingoglia filed legislation (SB 982) to name the section of Cortez Boulevard between U.S. 41 and S.R. 50 in Brooksville as “Rush Limbaugh Way.” The naming would be an honorary designation. “Rush Limbaugh is an American icon having inspired me, as well as tens of millions of Americans, to get involved in politics,” Ingoglia said. “He stood for freedom and American excellence. His passing left a void in the conservative talk radio space that will never be filled. This road designation will remind people of his passion and love of country.”

Term-limited Rick Roth not ready to bid adieu to politics” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Facing term limits, Republican Rep. Roth is mulling his next move, but the West Palm Beach farmer says he’s not ready to give up politics yet. Campaign documents show he suspended his campaign fundraising for House District 94, which covers West Palm Beach’s suburban communities to Belle Glade, including Pahokee and Royal Palm Beach. And a letter last week to a Department of State administrator says that his previous statement about opening a Senate campaign account was “premature.” “Once you develop the skills, I think it’s part of your civic duty to continue to run for office.”

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Brandon Blake, Bolin Law Group: Personal Insurance Federation of Florida

Angela Bonds, Martha Edenfield, Dean Mead: John’s Island Water Management

David Custin, David R. Custin & Associates: Asta Parking

Shawn Frost, MVP Strategy and Policy: The Optima Foundation

Jim Horne, Porsche Knight, Tara Reid-Cherry, Strategos Public Affairs: Atlantic Bingo Supply, Wonderschool

Alan Johnson, 15th Judicial Circuit State Attorney

Fred Karlinsky, Timothy Stanfield, Greenberg Traurig: MV Realty PBC

Lee Mickus, Evans Fears & Schuttert: American Tort Reform Association

Ron Pierce, RSA Consulting Group: National Strategies

Bill Rubin, Melissa Akeson, Zachary Hubbard, Rubin Turnbull & Associates: E. & J. Gallo Winery, Penske Truck Leasing, Power Design

Jeff Sharkey, Capitol Alliance Group: Government Supervisors Association of Florida OPEIU/GSAFLocal 100

— LEG. SKED. —

— The Revenue Estimating Conference discusses updated outlooks for the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, Tobacco Settlement Trust Fund and State School Trust Fund: 8:30 a.m., Room 117, Knott Building.

— The House Constitutional Rights, Rule of Law & Government Operations Subcommittee discusses abandoned cemeteries and Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel membership: 9 a.m., Room 404, House Office Building.

— The House Healthcare Regulation Subcommittee will hear a presentation on the Office of Minority Health and Health Equity and a briefing on the state’s health insurance market: 9 a.m., Room 102, House Office Building.

— The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee meets to discuss eligibility requirements for the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program: 9 a.m., Room 17, House Office Building.

— The House Regulatory Reform & Economic Development Subcommittee meets to discuss kratom consumer protection, barber and cosmetologist licensing and permitting for fire sprinkler systems: 9 a.m., Room 212, Knott Building.

— The Revenue Estimating Conference discusses highway safety revenues: 9 a.m., Room 117, Knott Building.

— The Senate Rules Committee meets to consider deleting expired provisions of Florida statute: 9:30 a.m., Room 412, Knott Building.

— The Senate Select Committee on Resiliency will hear a presentation on resiliency programs at the Department of Environmental Protection’s Wastewater Grant Program and receive an update on electric vehicle charging infrastructure from the Department of Transportation: 9:30 a.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.

— The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee meets to discuss law enforcement and correctional officer rights and penalties for interfering with sports or entertainment events: 11:30 a.m., Room 404, House Office Building.

— The House Postsecondary Education & Workforce Subcommittee will hear a presentation on nursing education programs: 11:30 a.m., Room 17, House Office Building.

— The Social Services estimating conference discusses FMAP and KidCare expenditures: 1 p.m., Room 117, Knott Building.

— The House Select Committee on Hurricane Resiliency & Recovery will hear a presentation from the state’s Chief Resiliency Officer and receive updates on storm recovery and hardening efforts: 2 p.m., Room 404, House Office Building.

— The Joint Legislative Auditing Committee will hear a presentation from the Auditor General on an operational audit of Gainesville and consider an audit of the Florida Lottery’s 2022-23 fiscal year: 2 p.m., Room 412, Knott Building.


School Board members react after DeSantis’ team targets them electorally” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — The Governor is opposing 14 School Board members throughout the state — but none of them have filed for re-election and at least one of those targeted for unemployment thinks it’s a case of mistaken identity. DeSantis is thought to be the first Florida Governor to weigh in on School Board races, with a slew of endorsements in 2022. Fox News reported on a breakfast between DeSantis, Moms for Liberty and other administration officials that resulted in a list of School Board members in nine counties “who do not protect parental rights and have failed to protect students from woke ideologies.” That article listed the counties the Governor’s team is targeting for new School Board faces.

Leon sheriff, State Attorney not in support of Republican-backed permitless carry bill” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Two of Tallahassee’s top law enforcement officials went against their statewide associations’ support of a bill in the Florida Legislature that could open the door to permitless carry of concealed weapons. During a luncheon with the Capital Tiger Bay Club, both 2nd Judicial Circuit State Attorney Jack Campbell and Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil said they were not supportive of the measure gaining traction in the Republican-led Florida Legislature. Both the Florida Sheriff’s Association and the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association threw their support behind the legislation.

Walt McNeil is no fan of ‘permitless carry.’

FIRE slams DeSantis priority as ‘dangerous’ to free speech — A national free-speech nonprofit known as The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) said that a DeSantis-backed bill (HB 991) is an attack on Floridians’ First Amendment rights. “Passage of this dangerous bill would spell disaster for free speech by constricting the open debate that is critical for a democracy to function. FIRE will oppose HB 991 every step of the way,” FIRE Legislative and Policy Director Joe Cohn said. The bill would chip away at protections secured under New York Times Company v. Sullivan, generally making it easier for individuals to sue the media for libel and defamation.

Jacksonville Brotherhood of Firefighters endorses Daniel Davis for Mayor — Republican candidate Davis has picked up an endorsement from a firefighter group in the Jacksonville Mayor race. “The Jacksonville Brotherhood of Firefighters is proud to support Daniel Davis because we have seen firsthand how he prioritizes access to opportunity for everybody in our community. It is important to us that Jacksonville’s next Mayor listens to our concerns and gives us a seat at the table, and we are confident Daniel will do just that,” the group said in a news release sent out by Davis’ campaign. “There are many fine candidates in this race, but it’s not enough just to show up at election time. Daniel has spent years building a relationship with our members and worked to earn our trust. As a result, 86% of our members voted to support Daniel Davis for Mayor of Jacksonville.”

Florida Family Action endorsees Ryan Chamberlin for HD 24 — Conservative anti-abortion group Florida Family Action is endorsing Chamberlin in the Republican Primary to succeed former Rep. Joe Harding. “As a small-business owner, conservative leader, father, and husband, Ryan Chamberlin knows firsthand the threats facing the family and our freedoms in our nation right now,” said John Stemberger, president of FFA. “As such, Ryan will be a staunch advocate for life, parental rights, and religious freedom, and we are proud to endorse him for state House Special Election in District 24.” Chamberlin faces four other Republicans, including former Rep. Charlie Stone and business owner Jose Juarez, in the March 7 Primary. Recent polling shows Chamberlin with an edge.


For more than two decades, Ted Smith has led the Florida Automobile Dealers Association (FADA), one of the largest organizations of its type in the nation, serving the interests of new, franchised automobile and truck dealers.

Who do you represent and how big is the footprint of the industry in Florida?

The Florida Automobile Dealers Association represents more than 850 local, hometown new car dealers in Florida. Our industry has total sales and service revenues of $103 billion annually. This translates to $6.2 billion in state sales tax — accounting for 16% of Florida’s total sales tax collected, the single largest source in the state.

Florida’s new car dealers employ more than 80,000 individuals in Florida. These are viable high-wage positions earning an average of $84,903 annually.

Ted Smith talks about the future of selling cars in Florida.

There has been news about supply chain shortages; what are you seeing in Florida today?

We are seeing new car and truck inventories returning more every day. However, we are concerned that some automakers are withholding cars and not properly allocating them to our dealers. They appear to want to control pricing and delivery, which have always been functions provided by franchised dealers.

There has been a lot of change in the car-buying industry, how have franchise dealers adapted to this changing climate?

Yes, we have seen quite an evolution with the push to discontinue internal combustion engines and the race to create new electric vehicles. Florida’s franchised dealers have adapted seamlessly to these new demands.

How else do auto dealers contribute to Florida?

While we’re immensely proud of the economic impact our dealers have, we are just as proud of the way they support our local communities.

What legislation can we expect in the 2023 Session?

Among the auto dealers, there is real concern about how legacy manufacturers, those who depend on our dealer network to market their cars/trucks, are now trying to operate like the new electric vehicle companies, by replicating their direct-to-consumer sales tactics.

While pricing has been higher following COVID and the supply chain challenges, with the proper allocation of cars to our dealers the competition that we are known for will return.


Jimmy Patronis: We want ‘best return on investment,’ not a political agenda” via Jacob Bliss of Breitbart — “My main goal is just getting the maximum return on investment for the citizens of the state of Florida,” Patronis told Breitbart News when talking about divesting money away from BlackRock — the world’s largest asset manager that has also pushed ESG policies. “I grew up in the restaurant business. I’m always thinking about promoting business. Just like I would hustle for the restaurant, I’m doing that for the state of Florida. I’m interested and eager to advocate for jobs and capital to come to the state of Florida. But also, you want them to leave the politics behind,” he added.

Jimmy Patronis wants politics out of the state’s investments.

Board of Governors approves Richard Corcoran as interim New College president” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Florida’s university system governing body gave final approval to a contract that pays New College of Florida Interim President Corcoran more than double what the previous President earned. The Board of Governors approved Corcoran’s selection by New College’s board as interim president and signed off on his compensation package a day after the hefty $699,000 salary again was blasted by college supporters during a public meeting. In addition to his base salary, Corcoran will have the opportunity to receive a 15% bonus, earn $104,850 annually in retirement benefits and receive an $84,000 annual housing allowance, a $12,000 annual car allowance and “reasonable” entertainment and travel expenses, including for his wife and children in some circumstances.

New College trustee questions source of money for Interim President Corcoran’s hefty salary” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Some New College of Florida supporters are continuing to question the size of Corcoran’s salary and the source of funding for it. Corcoran will earn $699,000 a year in base salary, have the opportunity to receive a 15% bonus, earn $104,850 annually in retirement benefits and receive an $84,000 annual housing allowance, a $12,000 annual car allowance and “reasonable” entertainment and travel expenses, including for his wife and children in some circumstances. State law only allows taxpayer money to cover $200,000 of a university official’s salary, so everything above that must come from private donations.

Florida seeks to reinstate law blocking state funding for Planned Parenthood” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — Citing the Supreme Court case that reversed Roe v. Wade, Florida’s Attorney General on Wednesday filed a motion to reinstate part of a 2016 law that would have blocked state funds from going to Planned Parenthood and other organizations that perform abortions. In 2016, then-Gov. Scott signed House Bill 1411 that in part prohibited state and local dollars from going to any institution that also provided abortions. While state and local money was already prohibited from being used for abortions, some state money did go to services provided by the clinics, like sexually transmitted disease screenings and family planning for low-income individuals.


Joe Biden builds a new team to carry him across land mines” via Ben White and Adam Cancryn of POLITICO — The next two years will be dominated by implementing the massive spending bills Biden jammed through Congress. But they’ll also be about emerging battles: avoiding land mines at home and abroad, engaging with hostile House Republicans in what could be a bruising fight over the debt limit and using executive authority to boost the economy. To navigate that treacherous path, Biden has enlisted as his top economic adviser Lael Brainard, a veteran of the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve with a deep background in global affairs; Jared Bernstein, a longtime aide and confidant, and a strong messenger; and Jeff Zients, a wealthy business owner and technocrat who ran the COVID-19 response team, as his new Chief of Staff.

Joe Biden prepares for the battles ahead.

Ex-General blasts Matt Gaetz over Ukraine fatigue bill: ‘Disgusted’” via Thomas Kika of Newsweek — Retired U.S. Army General Mark Hertling called out Gaetz for his proposal to end aid to Ukraine, derisively comparing him to Biden during his trip to Kyiv. Gaetz, a far-right Florida Republican, introduced a “Ukraine Fatigue” bill on Feb. 9, which would formally call for an end to the U.S. providing aid to Ukraine to aid in its fight against Russia. “Last night I went to bed disgusted after reading [Matt Gaetz] & 10 of his [GOP] colleagues submitted a ‘Ukraine Fatigue’ bill,” Hertling wrote.

EMILY’s List adds María Elvira Salazar to list of lawmakers ‘On Notice’ for abortion positions” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — On Wednesday, EMILY’s List added Salazar to a list of 22 other incumbent Washington lawmakers who are now “On Notice” for 2024. The group is vowing to put money behind candidates vying to unseat them next year. So far, Salazar is the only member of Congress from Florida to make the Washington-based group’s list for the next election cycle. But if the group remains consistent with prior versions of the list Salazar also appeared on, that won’t likely be the case come Election Day.


Trump visits East Palestine train derailment site, calls response a ‘betrayal’” via Jill Colvin and John Seewer of The Associated Press — Trump, wearing his trademark red “Make America Great Again” cap and an overcoat, said the community needs “answers and results,” not excuses. He spoke at a firehouse roughly half a mile from where more than three dozen freight cars — including 11 carrying hazardous materials — came off the tracks near the Pennsylvania state line. “In too many cases, your goodness and perseverance were met with indifference and betrayal,” Trump said. The former President and other Republicans have intensified criticism of the Biden administration’s handling of the Feb. 3 derailment. The Biden administration, meanwhile, has blasted Trump and other Republicans for loosening rail safety measures and environmental protections when Republicans were in charge in Washington.

Donald Trump blasts the federal response to the East Palestine, Ohio disaster.

Trump’s praise for DeSantis’ Democratic opponent rankles MAGA world” via Jon Jackson of Newsweek — Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday criticized Republican Gov. DeSantis, but a compliment he paid to a Democrat in a message about DeSantis upset some of his supporters. In two posts on his Truth Social platform, Trump railed about the coverage DeSantis recently received on Fox News during the former President’s recent trip to New York City. One of the messages included an aside about Charlie Crist, who ran on the Democratic ticket against DeSantis in Florida’s gubernatorial race last year. Though Crist was a Republican during his 2007 to 2011 stint as Florida’s Governor, it was not lost on many social media users that Crist unsuccessfully ran as a Democrat last year.

Trump spent $10 million from his PAC on his legal bills last year” via Maggie Haberman of The New York Times — Trump, who throughout his business career had a reputation for not paying lawyers, spent roughly $10 million from his political action committee on his own legal fees last year. The money that went to Trump’s legal bills was part of more than $16 million that Trump’s PAC, Save America, spent on legal-related payments in 2021 and 2022. Some of the $16 million appears to have been for lawyers representing witnesses in investigations related to Trump’s efforts to cling to power. But the majority of it, about $10 million, went to firms directly representing Trump.

Trump has been lying about Trump Tower for decades” via Dan Alexander of Forbes — The offices of the New York attorney general and the Manhattan district attorney have both focused on Trump Tower as part of their probes into Trump’s efforts to mislead lenders about the value of his assets. The attorney general filed a $250 million civil suit in September, accusing Trump, his business and his underlings of fraud. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg inherited a related criminal probe when he took office last year, but he hesitated to file charges and two top prosecutors resigned. Property records show that the real estate mogul has been lying about the financial performance of the building since it first opened in 1983.

Trump attacks Georgia grand jury forewoman over media tour” via Lauren Sforza of The Hill — Trump blasted the forewoman of the Georgia grand jury investigating his efforts to interfere with the 2020 election results in the state over her “revealing” insights into the grand jury’s recommendations this week. “This Georgia case is ridiculous, a strictly political continuation of the greatest Witch Hunt of all time. Now you have an extremely energetic young woman, the (get this!) ‘foreperson’ of the Racist D.A.’s Special Grand Jury, going around and doing a Media Tour revealing, incredibly, the Grand Jury’s inner workings & thoughts,” Trump posted on Truth Social.

Mike Pence breaks with Trump on Medicare and Social Security” via Jonathan Allen of NBC News — Pence said that cuts to Medicare and Social Security should be “on the table for the long term,” differentiating himself from Trump as he considers a run for the Oval Office. “We’re looking at a debt crisis in this country over the next 25 years that’s driven by entitlements and nobody in Washington, D.C., wants to talk about it,” Pence said. The future of the major entitlement programs is quickly shaping up as a battleground for the 2024 Republican presidential primary, particularly between early front-runners: Trump and DeSantis. That is happening against the backdrop of Biden using his State of the Union address to criticize Republican Party proposals to shrink the entitlement programs.

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump subpoenaed in Jan. 6 investigation” via Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt of The New York Times — The decision by the special counsel, Jack Smith, to subpoena Ivanka Trump and Kushner underscores how deeply into Trump’s inner circle Smith is reaching and is the latest sign that no potential high-level witness is off limits. The disclosure about the subpoena comes two weeks after it was revealed that Smith had subpoenaed former Vice President Pence to testify before the grand jury. Pence plans to fight the subpoena, invoking his role as the president of the Senate to argue that it violates the “speech or debate” clause of the Constitution.

— 2024 —

Democratic support for Biden in 2024 rises while Republicans grow skeptical of Trump” via Andrew Murray and Paul Steinhauser of Fox News — A new national poll suggests that Democrats and Democratic-leaning independent voters are becoming more supportive of the idea of Biden as their party’s nominee in 2024. Half of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents questioned said their party has a better chance of winning the White House in 2024 with Biden as the nominee. Forty-five percent said another candidate would improve their chances of winning. That marks a major shift in public opinion in the Marist poll, as the president was underwater on that question in November.

—“Trump pushes false story about George Soros backing DeSantis” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Mike Pence criticizes DeSantis for escalating Disney battle ahead of 2024” via Mark Niquette of Bloomberg — Former Vice President Pence criticized DeSantis, a potential 2024 Republican presidential rival, saying the Florida Governor went too far in his fight with The Walt Disney Co. Pence said he supported DeSantis for signing a law last year limiting school instruction about gender identity and sexual orientation but not his actions seeking to punish Disney for opposing the measure.

Mike Pence warns Ron DeSantis to tone down the battle with Disney.

Sarah Palin tells DeSantis to sit out 2024 presidential race, says he could run ‘someday, but not right now’” via Aubrie Spady of Fox News — The former Alaska Governor, who has close ties to Trump, does not think DeSantis should run for President in 2024 but would support him if he made a White House bid in the future. “DeSantis doesn’t need to. I envision him as our President someday but not right now,” Palin told Newsmax host Eric Bolling. “He should stay Governor for a bit longer. He’s young, you know. He has decades ahead of him where he can be our President.”

— LOCAL: S. FL —

‘This is un-American’: North Miami residents file lawsuit on timing of city elections” via Raisa Habersham of the Miami Herald — North Miami residents have filed a lawsuit seeking to force the North Miami City Council to hold its elections in May, as in recent years, rather than the newly adopted schedule of November 2024 which was aimed at being more in sync with the national election cycle. The lawsuit also criticized the impact the change in the election cycle would have in extending the terms of the Council members by 18 months, saying that violated the city’s charter. “This is un-American what they have done,” Hector Medina said of the Council’s decision to extend their terms. Medina, who is one of the residents bringing the lawsuit, spoke with the Miami Herald before a news conference outside North Miami’s City Hall.

Hector Medina decries North Miami’s rescheduling city elections.

Third state complaint after a mother of 2 never came out of a Broward Brazilian butt lift” via David J. Neal of the Miami Herald — A Plantation doctor untrained in anesthesia put a cosmetic surgery patient two levels of sedation beyond consent and didn’t react properly when the woman’s heartbeat slowed, according to the Florida Department of Health. That’s according to the Florida Department of Health’s administrative complaint filed against Dr. Millicent Muir. The patient, Jaynisha Williams, a 26-year-old mother of two, never woke up from her Brazilian butt lift at The Best U Now office surgery center. She died at 26 years old. “On Oct. 20, 2021, (Muir) knew, or should have known, that she did not have the training, skill and/or experience to provide anesthesia during (Williams’) procedure,” the complaint said.

Multimillion-dollar renovation plan in place for popular Lincoln Road in Miami Beach” via Kristin Sanchez of NBC6 South Florida — Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber announced a multimillion-dollar renovation plan for Lincoln Road, the popular shopping, dining, and entertainment strip that has been a mecca for tourists and locals since it was built in the 1920s. With over 8 million visitors walking Lincoln Road every year, Gelber aims to upgrade the strip — including adding more fountains, cultural event space and a kid’s park. “We have so many residents now who came here just to ride out COVID and decided they liked it so much they wanted to stay. That has created a lot of opportunity for our city, especially in places like Lincoln where people want to live, work and play,” Gelber said.

5 takeaways Boynton Beach residents should know from marathon Commission meeting that wrapped up at 1:40 a.m.” via Giuseppe Sabella of the Palm Beach Post — The few people who remained at Tuesday’s marathon Boynton Beach Commission meeting wished city leaders a “good morning” as the meeting bled into Wednesday and ran until 1:40 a.m. The packed agenda began at 6 p.m. and covered several major developments, including updates to the troubled Town Square project — a conversation that began at about 11:30 p.m., after much of the audience had already left. Residents of Leisureville, a 55+ community near Congress Avenue and Woolbright Road, filled about half the room as they awaited news on a park that’s planned for their subdivision.

He preached peace during turbulent times. Beloved Rev. Kenneth Major dies in Miami at 87” via Bea L. Hines of the Miami Herald — The Rev. Canon Major, who served as rector of the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation for 35 years until his retirement in 2010, died in his sleep on Feb. 16. He was 87. Father Major, as he was lovingly called by parishioners and friends, was born in Miami’s Overtown on Jan. 4, 1936, to Joseph Wakefield Major and Alice Rebecca Taylor, who had migrated from the Bahamas to Miami. He was baptized and later confirmed at the now-historic St. Agnes Episcopal Church in Overtown. Father Major attended elementary school at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School and later enrolled in Booker T. Washington Junior/Senior High School, graduating in 1955.

Martin County school Superintendent John Millay resigns, will work through June 30” via Colleen Wixon of Treasure Coast Newspapers — School Superintendent Millay resigned after less than 2½ years in his position. He told the School Board he would work until June 30. “I love the students, I love the families and I love the professional staff,” Millay, who was appointed in November 2020, told the Board. He said he wanted to tell the entire Board together. There was no indication of his resignation on the School Board agenda. There was no immediate Board discussion of how it would find Millay’s successor. Millay gave no reason for his resignation, except to say he had reflected on the decision. His contract requires him to give at least 90 days’ notice. “I just think it’s a good time,” he said.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Orlando energy summit seeks reduced utility costs for low-income homes” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — Sierra Club members and other energy environmentalists will hold a daylong summit in Orlando on Thursday to build support for reducing utility bill burdens for low-income households. The Sierra Club will be joined in the summit at the University of Central Florida’s downtown Orlando campus by groups such as the Cleo Institute, Catalyst Miami and Florida Clinicians for Climate Action. Speakers will include Chris Castro, former sustainability director for the city of Orlando and now Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of State and Community Energy Programs. Also speaking is Jeff Benavides, former chief sustainability and resilience officer for Orange County government and now IDEAS For Us board president.

Chris Castro will help Orlando figure out how to lower utility costs.

Orange County parents back teacher who put kids on TikTok protesting book bans” via Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — A group of Orange County parents wants school officials to reinstate a teacher accused of using children as “political pawns” in a series of TikTok videos, including some that took aim at book bans. Ethan Hooper, a sixth-grade language arts teacher at Howard Middle School, was put on administrative leave and faces being fired by the Orange County school district after he posted the videos. In one, Hooper snatches “Harry Potter” and other books from children with the caption “POV: A Florida teacher.” In another video titled “POV: a Florida school detention,” students recite that they will only read approved books and then confiscate a book from a classmate reading in a closet.

SpaceX just waiting on FAA for OK to go on Starship orbital test flight, official says” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — After running through a successful test fire this month, SpaceX is set to fly its massive Starship and Super Heavy rocket, and is just waiting on the Federal Aviation Administration for the green light, according to one company official. Speaking at the Space Mobility Conference in Orlando, Gary Henry, the senior adviser for national security space solutions for SpaceX, said the Feb. 10 test during which 31 of the 33 engines of the powerful booster made a full test fire was “really the last box to check.” “The vehicle’s in good shape. The pad’s in good shape,” he said.


DeSantis, Moms for Liberty target 5 Tampa Bay area School Board members in 2024” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — DeSantis, along with House Speaker Renner and the conservative group Moms for Liberty, rolled out a list of 14 School Board members they will target in the 2024 election cycle. Of those, five represent school districts in the Tampa Bay region, according to a list released by the Florida Standard’s daily newsletter, The DeSantis Download, a pro-DeSantis publication. The list includes Hillsborough County School Board members Nadia Combs and Jessica Vaughn; Pinellas County School Board members Laura Hine and Eileen Long; and Sarasota County School Board member Tom Edwards.

Moms for Liberty gears up for battle in 2024.

Pasco Commissioners move toward creating tax to pay for dredging” via Sarah Blazonia of Spectrum News — The Pasco County Board of County Commissioners approved ordinances Tuesday that pave the way to tax property owners in certain waterfront communities. Those funds would be used to help pay to dredge canals and other waterways along Pasco’s 27 miles of shoreline. That’s something that hasn’t happened since the canals were created in the 1960s. Commissioners passed ordinances to create the Coastal Dredging Municipal Services Benefit Unit (MSBU), which includes 11 areas along the coast and allows for the levy of a non-ad Valorem special assessment, and to establish a collection method.

‘This is just phase one’: Port Tampa Bay agrees to long-term deal with Baltimore logistics company” via Henry Queen of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — A new $50 million-plus investment from a Baltimore-area logistics company has the potential to significantly boost Port Tampa Bay’s container business. Port Tampa Bay Commissioners on Tuesday approved a 40-year lease on 35 acres to Tradepoint Atlantic, which plans to build an approximately 500,000-square-foot facility for the trans-loading of cargo between ocean containers, trucks and rail cars. The property sits in the middle of Hookers Point across from Davis Islands. It’s adjacent to where the port brings in its container cargo, including the future Berth 218 partially funded by the state.

7,400 gallons of wastewater spilled into Johns Pass. An abandoned shovel is to blame.” via Max Chesnes of the Tampa Bay Times — Enough dirty water to fill nearly 200 bathtubs was emptied into Johns Pass Tuesday night and county utility officials say an abandoned shovel is to blame. An estimated 7,400 gallons of untreated wastewater spilled into the channel that separates Treasure Island and Madeira Beach after a shovel was left in a maintenance hole. The shovel likely blocked the wastewater that flowed from nearby businesses on the Johns Pass boardwalk, and the water had nowhere to go but out. The spill lasted nearly 3½ hours, beginning just after 6 p.m., according to an initial pollution notice the county submitted to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Wednesday morning.

FBI offers help as Clearwater investigates recycling breach” via Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times — The FBI met with Clearwater officials this month to help as the city investigates lapses in its recycling program that stretch back years, interim city manager Jennifer Poirrier said on Wednesday. Poirrier could not confirm whether the FBI had launched an investigation of its own, or what aspects of the problem the agency might be exploring. But she said agents reached out to help after seeing media reports about the city’s recent failure to recycle any materials it collected from residents. Three representatives of the FBI’s Tampa field office met on Feb. 13 in downtown city offices with Poirrier, City Attorney David Margolis, Finance Director Jay Ravins and senior budget analyst Hunter Carlson, according to Poirrier.


LCSO announces 2 correction officers arrested; accused of scalding inmates” via Tomas Rodriguez of the Fort Myers News-Press — Two correction officers with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office were fired and arrested after an investigation found they threw hot water from a dispenser onto two inmates, officials said. Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said Casey Howell, 32, and Enzo Finamore, 24, were terminated and handcuffed after they injured at least two prisoners. “This area is used for inmates who are violent and a danger to themselves or others,” Marceno said at a news conference. “The injuries appeared to be burns.” A deputy doing checks “immediately” notified his supervisor. They determined the injuries were first- and second-degree burns caused by the deputies.

‘Culture war’ at the public library? Manatee County officials suggest policy changes” via Ryan Callihan of the Bradenton Herald — Manatee County officials echoed Gov. DeSantis by suggesting key changes to public library policies that give parents more control over what children are allowed to read. The suggested updates to library protocols are the latest culture war development from the Manatee Board of County Commissioners, which previously vowed to stand against spending money on “woke” ideologies like diversity, equity and inclusion. Similar policy changes, which have been championed by DeSantis, have become a political battle for conservative leaders. “We need to make sure that we’re not helping out the woke situation in Manatee County,” Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said last month before asking for a meeting to discuss public libraries.

Vanessa Baugh does not want to help the ‘woke situation.’

Trail of settlement payments paints picture of turbulent years at Manatee County” via Jesse Mendoza of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Manatee County has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in agreements with former staff members terminated over the past two years. Ranging from prominent roles such as County Administrator, HR director and public safety director down to the volunteer level, there are at least 13 former employees who unceremoniously parted ways from Manatee County. Those employees earned big settlement packages in mediation agreements or severance packages worth a total of $946,795, plus significant additional benefits such as pay accrued in sick time, leave hours and deferred compensation. Manatee County has parted ways with two Administrators since 2021, and their severance packages have cost an estimated $378,220 combined.

Sarasota, Bradenton home prices show ‘no sign of falling back to pre-pandemic levels’” via James A. Jones Jr. of the Bradenton Herald — Even with a marked slowdown in home sales in January and increased inventory to choose from, Bradenton homebuyers faced prices that were significantly higher than a year ago. Home prices are “showing no sign of falling back to pre-pandemic levels,” the REALTOR Association of Sarasota and Manatee said in a news release. For the month, buyers bought 368 existing single-family homes in the Bradenton area, compared to 539 a year ago at a median price of $505,710. A year ago, the median price was $480,000. In Sarasota, 411 existing single-family homes changed hands, compared to 653 a year ago and the median price fell 1% from $464,500 to $459,999.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Florida School Board bans three books at the request of allegedly racist and homophobic teacher” via Judd Legum of Popular Information — The School Board in Escambia County banned three books from public schools at the request of Vicki Baggett, a high school English teacher accused by numerous students of being openly racist and homophobic in class. In each case, the Escambia Board sided with Baggett over the recommendation of committees comprised of teachers, administrators, librarians, parents, and community members. One of the books is “And Tango Makes Three,” the true story of two male Penguins, Roy and Silo, who lived in the Central Park Zoo. The pair build a nest together and raise an adopted child, Tango. There is no sexual content in the book. Baggett said the book promoted the “LGBTQ agenda using penguins.”

Corrine Brown wades into Jacksonville municipal elections” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Former U.S. Rep. Brown is leading a Hob Nob and Straw Poll this Saturday at the Bethel Church in Jacksonville. She will be joined in leading the event by her daughter, Shantrel Brown, as she re-enters local civic life in a way her critics couldn’t have imagined when she was convicted of a stack of fraud charges related to her former One Door for Education charity. That conviction was vacated on appeal, when the conservative-leaning 11th Circuit Court of Appeals accepted her contention that a juror was erroneously removed from the jury. To avoid a second trial, she pleaded guilty to filing false tax returns covering the period of the charity’s operation, with time served and $62,650 in restitution ordered.

Corrine Brown seeks a return to politics.

Lawsuit filed to remove Jacksonville City Council candidate from ballot” via Andrew Pantazi of The Tributary — Two Democrats competing for a Jacksonville City Council seat may first have to face off in court. Democrat Charles Garrison filed suit against fellow Democrat Nahshon Nicks and Duval Elections Supervisor Mike Hogan, pushing the court to declare Nicks not qualified for office and decertify him from the March 21 ballot. Garrison and Nicks are two of the six candidates filed for the City Council at-large Group 5 election. All Duval County voters can vote in the at-large race. Documents suggest Nicks may have violated the Jacksonville city charter by living outside of the residential district for the at-large seat. The city’s ordinance defines residence as the place where a person sleeps.

Despite strong neighborhood opposition, Leon County OKs rezoning for Northwoods Church lot” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Leon County Commissioners approved a rezoning request by Northwoods Church that could bring more housing to its vacant lot. But the 5-2 vote didn’t happen until after nearly three hours of testimony and public comments from members of the Capital Circle Northwest church and nearby neighbors who are opposed to the changes. Commissioners Rick Minor, who represents District 3 where the church is located, and David O’Keefe voted against the rezoning. Commissioners are bound by the findings of the Planning Commission on whether the request for rezoning meets the criteria set forth in the comprehensive plan.

As FAMU’s Board of Trustees has two openings, here’s a look at 7 candidates in consideration” via Tarah Jean of the Tallahassee Democrat — With two vacant spots on Florida A&M University’s Board of Trustees, seven candidates are in line to find out if they will be the chosen one to secure a position. The last time that FAMU’s board was complete with 13 members was in February 2022 ahead of former trustee David Lawrence Jr.’s resignation that month. But while the initial expectation was to make one appointment to the board this year to replace Lawrence, it is possible that an additional appointment will also be made soon, following former Trustee Thomas Dortch Jr.’s recent death.

Chesapeake Utilities to develop its first RNG facility in Florida — FPU Renewables, LLC., is planning to construct, own and operate a dairy manure renewable natural gas (RNG) facility at Full Circle Dairy in Madison County. PU Renewables and its parent, Florida Public Utilities Company, are subsidiaries of Chesapeake Utilities Corporation. The project will capture and clean methane from manure generated by cows, producing 100,000 average dekatherms of RNG annually. The project represents a capital investment of $22 million, with the first injection of RNG projected in 2024. The project is estimated to capture and redirect approximately 1,116 metric tons (mt) of methane per year, which is 27,900 mt of carbon dioxide equivalent. It will be the minimum greenhouse gas emissions reduction equivalent to 6,012 gasoline-powered passenger vehicles driven for one year and CO2 emissions reduction equivalent to the annual energy consumption of 3,514 homes.


Celebrate Black history. All of it.” via Theodore R. Johnson for The Washington Post — This is the first Black History Month in a time in which lynching is a federal crime and Juneteenth is a national holiday.

And yet, shortly before this Black History Month began, DeSantis blocked an Advanced Placement African American Studies course from being offered in his state’s high schools. His decision flowed from more than two years of manufactured outrage on the right over structural racism and elements of Black history.

Critical race theory was anthropomorphized into an anti-American boogeyman lurking in our schools and libraries.

The term “woke” was transformed into a catchall pejorative used to condemn a range of nonspecific critiques, including disdain for the comprehensive accounting of our nation’s history on race.

This Republican two-step, already spreading from Florida to Virginia and beyond, proclaims Black History Month with one hand while furiously erasing the ability to teach that history with the other. The result is a politics that honors Black achievement but recoils from a deeper exploration of that which makes such progress nothing short of a national miracle.

It celebrates Juneteenth while glossing over the horrors of chattel slavery. It takes pride in criminalizing lynching yet discourages discussions that touch on the terroristic intent of this often-communal violence. It quotes the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and celebrates the “colorblindness” of Frederick Douglass while ignoring their social and policy critiques that would have them labeled as disciples of wokeism today.

These politics reflect a central feature of Trumpism: uncritical patriotism. In the “America First” worldview, there is room to valorize the overcoming of a hardship, but vanishingly little space to discuss the hardship itself.


Big government vs. different government” via Noah Rothman of the National Review — The rare conservative who takes ideological cues from CNN was perhaps delighted by the outlet’s apprehension over the notion that Gov. DeSantis might finally and irrevocably transform the party into a vehicle for big government. The article cites two of DeSantis’ potential 2024 rivals, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu and former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who are trying to carve out a position to DeSantis’s right on the culture wars. It adds that South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has critiqued Florida’s Governor for briefly shuttering some of his state’s private and public venues at the outset of the pandemic, which serves primarily to burnish her own rejection of quasi-lockdown policies. Savvy readers will recognize this for what it is: politics.

Florida lawmakers set to choose developers over our right to block irresponsible growth — again” via the Miami Herald editorial board — The Florida Legislature is about to drop the other shoe on us. It’s going to hit hard, and it’s going to hurt. It’s punishment for Floridians who dare to push back against overdevelopment in their communities, in favor of smart growth. Wednesday, subcommittee members will consider legislation, House Bill 359, that would allow “prevailing parties” to recover attorney fees in challenges to municipalities’ comprehensive plans and plan amendments. If this spiteful measure becomes law, it would scare off legal challenges by civic-minded citizens and public-interest groups because, if they lose, they could be required to pay the enormous legal costs that money-flush developers and local governments incur.

Time for a mission to rescue public education in Florida” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Florida’s education system, its public schools that voters have declared a top priority, a state college system that has opened the gates of opportunity for millions, its university system currently ranked No. 1 in the nation, could be its most shining asset. In addition to the attacks on LGBTQ+ students and educators, massive new threats have emerged that are terrifying teachers, undermining academic freedom, and threatening to drain the public education system of its financial lifeblood and strip universities of their credibility. If lawmakers make good on plans to offer vouchers to almost all Florida students, it could drain up to $4 billion from public school budgets.

Florida should not execute a person with mental illness” via Derrick L. McRae and Angel Marcial of the Tampa Bay Times — Since the original trial, Dillbeck has been diagnosed with neurodevelopmental disorder associated with prenatal alcohol exposure, which requires seven significant factors to be present, including behavioral and adaptive impairments. Dillbeck’s diagnosis is not in dispute but has never been considered by a jury. During Dillbeck’s death penalty trial, four members of the jury took into account the circumstances of his horrific childhood and voted to spare his life. Today, no state in the country would permit a death sentence based on a 8-4 vote, but at the time, Florida did not require a unanimous jury and he was sentenced to death.

UCF President John Hitt’s legacy goal: ‘That I gave a damn.’” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Years ago, I asked Hitt what he most wanted to be remembered for. At the time, he was still president of the University of Central Florida. But he thought about the question for a moment and finally responded that he’d most like to be remembered for one thing: “That I gave a damn.” Indeed, he did. Hitt was a man who realized that universities have the power to improve lives and economies well beyond their campus borders.


— ALOE —

Starz’s cater-waiter comedy returns in fine, warmly nostalgic form” via Daniel Fienberg of The Hollywood Reporter — This little show that often drew under 100,000 viewers in its regular Starz airings accumulated enough new viewers over the years to make a revival plausible. And it’s also probably why the new Starz revival of Party Down is so generally successful. Even if the new episodes occasionally flag under the effort to replay some of the show’s greatest hits, Party Down returns on generally solid footing, generating some laughs, many smiles, and a lot of nostalgic warmth. If you like punchlines tied to Quibi or the mechanics of Method acting, those are there. And if you don’t feel like paying attention for the in-jokes, eventually Ken Marino is going to walk into a wall, trip over something or experience an allergy or intestinal distress. Party Down has levels.

Party Down returns for a third season.


Happiest of birthday wishes to one of our besties, Amanda Taylor Houston.


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.


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, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

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