Good Tuesday morning.
Expect a packed Capitol today as engineers, seaport advocates, circus performers and crime victim advocates flock to Tallahassee.
The quad-booked advocacy day will see the directors of Florida’s 16 seaports, along with seaport and maritime professionals, make their pitches to lawmakers as part of Seaports Day at the Capitol. They have a compelling case for continued state investment — the state’s ports had unloaded a record-setting 112.5 million tons of cargo last year and they see the potential for even more growth on the horizon.
Professional engineers from across the state are also heading to the Capitol Complex for the first of two PE Days at the Capitol this week. Their primary mission is convincing lawmakers to support plans that would fast-track road infrastructure projects. That priority is in line with the Governor’s proposed budget, which sets aside $7 billion to speed up the completion of 20 different road projects, mainly in Central and South Florida.
During the pre-lunch hour, crime survivors and families of crime victims will gather for a news conference as part of Survivors Speak Florida. During the event, speakers including Alliance for Safety and Justice State Director Subhash Kateel, and Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice National Director Aswad Thomas will call on the Legislature to pass policies that support victims struggling with trauma and tackle the root causes of crime. They will convene in the 4th Floor Rotunda at 11 a.m.
Today is also FSU Day at the Capitol, and everyone is invited — the day begins at 10 a.m. with the FSU pep band, cheerleaders, and Flying High Circus members putting on an outdoor pep rally in the plaza between the historic Old Capitol and the current Capitol. FSU President Richard McCullough and Women’s Basketball Head Coach Brooke Wyckoff are also scheduled to address the crowd.
Once the workday is wrapped up, it’s time to head down to Township Bar for the Red Dog, Blue Dog fundraiser. The annual event features teams of legislative guest bartenders from each political party slinging drinks and soliciting tips to support the Animal Shelter Foundation, Leon County Humane Society and Last Hope Rescue. It starts at 6 p.m.
It’s Election Day in Jacksonville.
Four years ago, Duval County Democrats did not run a candidate for Mayor. They aren’t making that mistake this time around, and the hopes are for a more competitive election than they saw in 2019.
The Mayor’s Office and the Property Appraiser’s office, both of which are open, are up on the First Election ballot. Also this year, most City Council seats are contested. Sheriff TK Waters and Supervisor of Elections candidate Jerry Holland have no competition, and voters will not be compelled to weigh in on those elections.
The mayoral race will be the most closely watched. Seven candidates are on the ballot, representing one of the most crowded fields in local history. Democrats Donna Deegan and Audrey Gibson and Republicans LeAnna Gutierrez Cumber, Daniel Davis, and Al Ferraro are the ones with the most name value. Polling suggests Deegan and Davis will advance to a May runoff, with neither coming close to majority support to close it out Tuesday.
Davis, the head of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, raised approximately $6 million between his campaign account and political committee. That’s roughly five times what Deegan, a former newscaster and Jacksonville native, raised. Money isn’t everything in this election. Though Cumber has raised more than $4.5 million between her campaign account and political committee, she’s polled around 5% so far. Davis and Cumber have spent millions of dollars attacking each other, treating Tuesday’s election like a Republican Primary.
One race where Democrats could win is the Property Appraiser battle. Council member Joyce Morgan, also a former newscaster, had 43% support in a recent University of North Florida poll, with Republicans Jason Fischer and Danny Becton far behind, and a quarter of voters are still undecided. Fischer and Becton have been spending heavily on mail and television, however, with the former touting his Ron DeSantis endorsement. Morgan could have used more money: she raised a little more than $56,000 for the campaign.
Turnout has not been impressive.
Early Voting ended with just under 14% turnout, and Democrats have a 5% advantage over Republicans, who traditionally dominate Election Day. Republican Party of Florida Chair Chris Ziegler will be in Jacksonville Tuesday rallying voters in Arlington, to vote for At-Large incumbent Ron Salem and District 1 hopeful Ken Amaro, another newscaster running for the seat Joyce Morgan is leaving.
Historically, half of March ballots are cast on Election Day, which could get Jacksonville close to a 30% turnout if that trend holds.
—“Your voter guide to Jacksonville’s mayoral and City Council races” via Hanna Holthaus of The Florida Times-Union
—”Can a Democrat win Duval Property Appraiser outright on Tuesday?” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics
Tom Quinn has been promoted to Managing Partner at LSN Partners’ Washington office, the firm announced.
Quinn joined LSN Partners two years ago and has helped the firm establish an office, build a D.C. team and grow its federal practice, which represents “some of the most innovative clients in the nation’s Capitol.”
Quinn has nearly two decades of experience advising corporate, political and academic leaders on complex processes within the executive and legislative branches of the federal government.
LSN Partners’ news release said Quinn “successfully positions clients as subject matter authorities and recipients of significant federal awards to support national security programs, workforce development, and infrastructure.”
Quinn began his career working for U.S. Rep. Peter Visclosky, an Indiana Democrat who served on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.
With expertise in national security and infrastructure policy, Quinn has helped build successful public-private partnerships focused on regional economic development. He has also worked for a prominent lobbying firm in Washington, D.C., and amassed a diverse portfolio of clients.
“Since joining LSN, Tom has proven to be a results-driven and well-respected leader and team member,” said Alex Heckler, the firm’s Managing Partner. “Tom’s ability to solve complicated problems through federal advocacy strategies is acknowledged by all who work with him.”
LSN Partners, based in Miami, is a full-service consulting firm offering strategic advice and advocacy in government affairs, government procurement, emergency management, business development and communications.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
Later Today… pic.twitter.com/QbEFvTMWdW
— Michael Brown (@45needstogo1) March 20, 2023
—@SpeakerPelosi: Whatever the Grand Jury decides, its consideration makes clear: no one is above the law, not even a former President of the United States. The former President’s announcement this morning is reckless: doing so to keep himself in the news & to foment unrest among his supporters.
—@DonaldTrumpJr: So, DeSantis thinks that Dems weaponizing the law to indict President (Donald) Trump is a “manufactured circus” & isn’t a “real issue” Pure weakness. Now we know why he was silent all weekend. He’s totally owned by Karl Rove, Paul Ryan & his billionaire donors. 100% Controlled Opposition.
—@RealCandaceO: Anyone surprised by this? Been saying this forever: DeSantis is a good Governor, but he is establishment and will be a major disappointment to those who think otherwise. People disenchanted with Trump (sometimes rightfully) saw things in DeSantis that were never there.
—@SteinhauserNH1: @VivekGRamaswamy calls @RonDeSantisFL comments today on looming #DonaldTrump indictment a “carefully manufactured manicured statement”
—@Paul_Renner: President (Joe) Biden has chosen to follow a radical, elite-driven agenda that weakens America economically, strips Americans of our energy independence, and incentivizes asset managers to gamble the future of America’s retirees. … We will protect the investments of Florida’s workers and focus our strategies on maximizing their rate of return and get politics out of our pocketbooks
—@LoriBerman: Good morning from the Florida Senate, where today we’ll be debating GOP legislation to crack down on preferred pronouns. Florida is totally not a police state.
—@Fineout: What’s interesting is that (Ricky) Polston is resigning just a few months after he was on the November ballot where 63% of voters supported him for another term. His resignation is effective at the end of this month
Good Morning Florida! Did you know it’s @FloridaState Day at the Capitol? The Sunrise wore its garnet and gold, did you? #GoNoles #flapol pic.twitter.com/1mcgV86d1c
— Jimmy Patronis (@JimmyPatronis) March 21, 2023
’John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 3; ‘Succession’ Season 4 begins — 5; MLB Opening Day 2023 — 9; Tron Lightcycle/Run debuts in Walt Disney World — 14; Suits for Session — 15; ‘Air’ starring Ben Affleck and Matt Damon premieres — 16; NBA Play-In Tournament begins — 21; Taylor Swift ‘Eras’ Tour in Tampa — 24; NBA playoffs begin — 26; final performance of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ on Broadway — 26; American Association of Political Consultants Pollies ’23 conference begins — 28; 2023 Session Sine Die — 45; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 45; Florida Chamber 2023 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 49; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 58; ‘Fast X’ premieres — 58; Florida Chamber 2023 Florida Prosperity & Economic Opportunity Solution Summit — 67; NBA Finals begin — 72; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 73; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 87; Florida Chamber 2023 Florida Learners to Earners Workforce Solution Summit — 98; ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ premieres — 100; ‘Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning — Part One’ premieres — 115; Florida Chamber 37th Annual Environmental Permitting Summer School — 122; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 124; ’Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 131; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 156; 2023 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 216; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 231; South Carolina Democratic Primary — 312; New Hampshire and Nevada Democratic Primaries — 323; Georgia Democratic Primary — 330; Michigan Democratic Primary — 343; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 375; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 430; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 493; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 493; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 535; ‘Deadpool 3’ premieres — 600; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 746; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 773; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 962.
— TOP STORY —
“Ron DeSantis says he won’t get involved in Donald Trump’s potential extradition” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — DeSantis said he only knew about “rumors” of a pending arrest of Trump related to an investigation into payments made to adult film actor Stormy Daniels during the 2016 Presidential Election cycle.
“I have no interest in getting involved in some type of manufactured circus by some Soros DA,” said DeSantis, making a reference to billionaire donor George Soros’ support of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. “He’s trying to do a political spectacle … I’ve got real issues I’ve got to deal with here in the state of Florida.”
Under Florida law, the Governor can intervene in an extradition matter if it is contested. But Trump’s lawyers have told media outlets that the President would likely surrender if he is indeed indicted.
Over the last two days, Trump allies have repeatedly zinged DeSantis for failing to jump to Trump’s defense like other supporters of the President, including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. They have urged him to use his power as Governor since Trump is a Florida resident.
Like other Republicans, DeSantis on Monday sharply criticized Bragg — but he also downplayed its seriousness.
He said Bragg’s decision to investigate Trump instead of battle crime in New York City was an example of a “political agenda” that showed that Bragg was “weaponizing” his office.
“I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair,” DeSantis said.
Here’s a clip of DeSantis’ full comments:
#BREAKING: DeSantis grills Manhattan District Attorney for potential Trump indictment
"I don't know what's going to happen […] The Manhattan District Attorney is a Soros-funded prosecutor […] That's an example of pursuing a political agenda and weaponizing the office." pic.twitter.com/urEQIbhPHF
— Florida’s Voice (@FLVoiceNews) March 20, 2023
Here’s Trump’s response on Truth Social:
“Trump goes scorched Earth on DeSantis, raises questions about his sexuality and peddles groomer smear” via Ken Meyer of Mediaite — Trump, in a post on Truth Social, raised questions about DeSantis’ sexuality and once again peddled his groomer smear against the Florida Republican who is seen as a potential presidential candidate in 2024. “Ron DeSanctimonious will probably find out about FALSE ACCUSATIONS & FAKE STORIES sometime in the future, as he gets older, wiser, and better known, when he’s unfairly and illegally attacked by a woman, even classmates that are “underage” (or possibly a man!),” Trump seethed. ‘I’m sure he will want to fight these misfits just like I do!”
“DeSantis wants centralized digital currency ban, raises fear government could control purchases” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — The federal government could soon control your money, preventing you from buying gas or guns, DeSantis argued, as he called on the Legislature to ban the use of centralized bank digital currencies (CBDC). “If you can hold (money) in your hand, you have power over that. The minute you digitize that, someone else has control over that,” DeSantis said. DeSantis pointed to an executive order signed by Biden that calls for a study of the use of CBDC. The purpose, though, was to protect consumers in the use of decentralized digital assets like cryptocurrencies and crack down on financial crimes.
“DeSantis changes tack on failed Silicon Valley Bank, now blames ‘mismanagement’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — “SVB was a little bit unique,” DeSantis said, noting the average deposit was “millions of dollars.” “These are very high-powered individuals, a lot of them involved with venture capitalists. And this was kind of the bank of choice that people would go to. So, these are very sophisticated people, they made decisions to put their money there.” The Governor then suggested the collapse should not have “been a surprise” given the bank’s “financials.” “You saw what the strategy was in terms of where they had put so much money,” DeSantis added, presumably referring to the bank’s decision to buy a lot of “low-yield, long-term bonds” in recent years, a fateful decision.
“DeSantis roasted for odd claim about his upbringing” via Ed Mazza of HuffPost — DeSantis is getting roasted on social media for a new claim about his background. DeSantis wrote in his bestselling but poorly reviewed new memoir that he was “geographically raised in Tampa Bay,” referring to his upbringing largely in the Pinellas County community of Dunedin. But he claimed his “cultural” background was quite different from his “geographical” one. ″[C]ulturally my upbringing reflected the working-class communities in western Pennsylvania and northeast Ohio — from weekly church attendance to the expectation that one would earn his keep,” he wrote. “This made me God-fearing, hard-working and America-loving.”
“Volodymyr Zelenskyy has an answer for DeSantis” via Anne Applebaum of The Atlantic — Imagine that someone — maybe even a Governor of Florida — criticized American support for Ukraine. How would the leader of Ukraine respond? Zelensky would respond pragmatically. Were Americans to cut off Ukraine from ammunition and weapons, there would be clear consequences in the real world, first for Ukraine’s neighbors but then for others: If we will not have enough weapons, that means we will be weak. If we will be weak, they will occupy us. If they occupy us, they will be on the borders of Moldova and they will occupy Moldova. When they have occupied Moldova, they will [travel through] Belarus and they will occupy Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. That’s three Baltic countries which are members of NATO. They will occupy them.
— LEGISLATIVE —
“‘Heartbeat’ abortion ban approved by first Senate Committee” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — A bill that would ban abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy cleared the Florida Senate’s Health Policy Committee Monday. That was the first of two Senate Committees for one of the most controversial bills of the Legislative Session. SB 300, filed by Fort Pierce Republican Sen. Erin Grall, would ban doctors from knowingly performing or inducing a termination of pregnancy after the sixth week of gestation. This would represent a change from the current 15-week threshold, which legislators hailed as a reasonable compromise when they passed it last year.
“Bill restricting use of preferred pronouns at school advances” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — A bill is advancing that would change the rules around the use of preferred pronouns at Florida’s public schools. Sen. Clay Yarborough’s bill (SB 1320) would also ban classroom instruction related to sexual orientation or gender identity until the ninth grade. It advanced at its first Committee stop along party lines in front of the Senate Committee on Pre-K-12. “I know that childhood is as special as it is short,” Yarborough said. “We need to let kids be kids and our laws need to set appropriate boundaries that respect the rights and responsibilities of parents.”
“Senate advances Colleen Burton’s ‘baby box’ bill” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — An effort to authorize “baby boxes” for infant surrenders is advancing in the Senate. Sen. Burton said allowing the devices at hospitals and fire stations could save infant lives. “There is always an opportunity to do better,” she said. Her bill (SB 870) moved through the Senate Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee on a party-line vote of 4-3. But Democrats labeled the legislation a “vendor bill,” as only one manufacturer, Safe Haven Baby Boxes, creates the devices now. The Indiana-based business has a patent on its product and says 120 babies have been surrendered through the boxes nationwide since the product went on the market in 2016.
“Senate panel OK’s bills on custody transfer sites, booster seat requirements” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A Senate Committee is moving forward bills to protect children from car accidents and parents from nefarious violence. Florida could soon require safe zones to be established by law enforcement around the state to ensure the safe transfer of children between custodial parents. Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book is sponsoring the measure. The bill (SB 1286) is named for Cassie Carli, a woman found dead in Alabama after a scheduled child transfer in Navarre. Marcus Spanevelo, Carli’s ex-boyfriend and father of the child, has been indicted in connection with her death.
“Bill curbing auto glass repair lawsuits speeds to final Senate panel” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A bill meant to counteract Florida’s surge in auto glass insurance lawsuits is rolling toward its final Senate stop, though some parts of the measure could be adjusted before it reaches a full chamber vote. The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee voted unanimously to advance a bipartisan bill (SB 1002) prohibiting motorists from transferring their glass insurance repair claims to shops that do the work. The bill would ban the use of assignment of benefits (AOB), which the Florida Department of Financial Services defines as “an agreement that transfers the insurance claims rights or benefits of the policy to a third party.”
“Senate panel approves five for Florida water management boards” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — Florida water management boards in the Panhandle and South Florida have some familiar faces coming back as a Senate Committee voted to approve reappointments this week. No one quite makes an impression like “Alligator” Ron Bergeron, who appeared before the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources in his cowboy finest. “It was a long ride on my horse to get here today, but we made it,” he said. Bergeron accepted his appointment to the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District. His new term runs through March 2026.
Florida National Guard recruiting incentives OK’d by House Committee — Legislation (HB 723) aimed at bolstering Florida National Guard recruitment earned unanimous support in the House Local Administration, Federal Affairs & Special Districts Subcommittee. The Florida National Guard currently has one of the lowest soldier-to-citizen ratios in the country compared to other states. The bill, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Dan Daley, is modeled after successful programs to boost National Guards in Alabama and Vermont and would provide $250 payments to “recruiting assistants” for each person they refer to the National Guard and an additional $250 if that person successfully enlists. Recruiting assistants could be current or retired members of the Guard.
Tenants’ rights preemption advances — The House Civil Justice Subcommittee voted along party lines to advance a bill preempting local ordinances defining landlord and tenant rights beyond state law. The bill (HB 1417) would supersede local regulations regulating notices on rent increases or changes in property ownership. Such local rules are often referred to as a “tenant bill of rights.” The proposal is being backed by the Florida Apartment Association and Florida Realtors, but home-rule proponents such as the Florida Association of Counties are opposed.
“Assaulting Florida hospital staff, volunteers could mean stiffer charges” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Battering or assaulting hospital employees or volunteers may not land assailants the typical run-of-the-mill charges. Members of the Senate Health Policy Committee voted unanimously to advance SB 568, sponsored by Sens. Ana Maria Rodriguez and Ed Hooper, to its next Committee of reference. The bill elevates the charges that assailants can face for battery and assault on Florida hospital employees and volunteers. The bill was supported by statewide groups such as the Florida Nurses Association, the Florida Hospital Association and the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida.
“Bears, wasps and lawyers? Bill to reduce campground liability clears House panel” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Florida’s wilderness is full of alligators, bears, mosquitoes and other critters that could put a damper on a camping trip. But for many campground owners, lawyers are the main threat in the forest. The Legislature is responding to complaints from campground owners that demand letters from some lawyers regarding camper injuries on their premises resulting in large expenses. “The RV campground owners have cried out for help because they’re being plagued with lawsuits and threats of lawsuits over things that really are just the inherent risks of camping,” said Rep. Dean Black, sponsor of HB 1323.
“Randy Fine pulls $2 million request as Brevard Zoo considers ban on campaign events” via Eric Rogers and Dave Berman of Florida Today — Rep. Fine has pulled a $2 million state funding request for the Brevard Zoo’s hotly anticipated aquarium project at Port Canaveral. The move came after Brevard Zoo Executive Director Keith Winsten said the zoo’s board would consider halting rentals for political campaign events after the 2024 election cycle, in the wake of controversy over a fundraiser held at the zoo’s Nyami Nyami River Lodge for Fine’s 2024 Florida Senate run. Winsten’s comments came amid fury from Fine critics over the Feb. 27 event, which drew a crowd of protesters angry over Fine’s stance on transgender issues and the recent push to ban certain therapies for transgender children.
“Lawmakers open to study whether radioactive phosphogypsum can be used for road construction” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Florida lawmakers are looking at studying whether radioactive phosphogypsum can be recycled and used in the state’s road construction projects. The Senate Transportation Committee approved SB 1258 to consider using the waste from fertilizer manufacturing despite objections from environmentalists during the hearing. “I believe Floridians and their health and their environment will suffer,” said Jane Blais, an anti-phosphate mining advocate. “We will make an old maxim come true, which is that all roads to hell are paved with good intentions.”
— MORE LEGISLATIVE —
“Bill allowing death penalty for child rapists in Florida gets bipartisan support” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — A bill that would challenge existing Supreme Court precedent by allowing the death penalty for people who sexually batter young children moved through its first Committee in the Florida Senate with a unanimous vote on Monday. The bill challenges a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Kennedy v. Louisiana, that determined the death penalty could not be applied for the rape of a child, saying it was a violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Currently, the application of the death penalty for any case other than murder is unconstitutional.
“Florida’s environment gets bipartisan love in an otherwise contentious Legislative Session” via Kevin Del Orbe of WFSU — A number of environmental bills are getting bipartisan love from lawmakers. “In the Indian River Lagoon and in the St. Lucie River we have lost tremendous amounts of seagrass and we definitely need the research to find seagrasses that are going to live in and be able to purify that water and increase our population of fish and habitat,” said Republican Sen. Gayle Harrell. Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Linda Stewart is sponsoring a bill aimed at reducing household and commercial garbage waste. Other bills moving in the Legislature include a cleanup of Osborne reef off the coast of Ft. Lauderdale and funding for DEP to mitigate leaking septic tanks.
“Keith Perry says power companies told him they don’t want to acquire Gainesville utility” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO — State legislators representing Alachua County voted 4-1 to file a bill that would move Gainesville’s city-owned utility under a board appointed by the Governor. But legislators, who met in a House Committee room, also downplayed the possibility of the operation being sold, with state Sen. Perry, a Gainesville Republican, even stating that two leading energy companies were not interested because of the city’s $1.7 billion utility debt. “I’ve heard the opposite — that nobody wants to purchase GRU,” Perry said while explaining he had conversations with representatives of Duke Energy Florida and Florida Power & Light that were “not official.”
“Kelly Skidmore believes Republicans will quietly oppose change to gun-buying age” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Democrats in the Legislature don’t want to lower the age for purchasing long guns. And secretly, they don’t think Republicans do either. Rep. Skidmore told the press she does not believe a majority of lawmakers want to revisit the gun-buying age. “There are many conversations happening in offices all throughout the Capitol on the negative impact if such legislation as that passes,” Skidmore said.
“Florida Black sororities, frats fear future amid DEI attack. Bill sponsor sees ‘zero impact’” via Tarah Jean of the Tallahassee Democrat — Rep. Alexander Andrade, the sponsor of a Florida bill that would wipe out diversity, equity and inclusion programs from the state’s college campuses, insists that the changes would not be an issue for student-led groups. But Black fraternities and sororities still fear what the dismantling could mean for their Greek organizations, especially with viral posts on the topic spreading throughout social media, fueling the anxiety of members even more. The bill does not expressly mention Black fraternities or sororities, but members of the groups remain worried as DeSantis wages a wider war on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, which he has called “discriminatory.”
“Crossing the ‘blue line’: Will Maury Hernandez get long-delayed justice this Session?” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — It’s rare for law enforcement’s brotherhood/sisterhood of the badge to cross the so-called “blue line.” But that’s (appropriately) happening now in rallying support for a severely disabled comrade whose tragic, preventable life-threatening injuries were triggered by the ineptitude and inaction of a rookie parole officer for the Florida Department of Corrections. It’s the case of Maury Hernandez, a former Broward County Sheriff’s deputy who was permanently disabled by simply doing his job.
“New regulations could send hemp industry packing, report says” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — A pair of bills (HB 1475/SB 1676) proposed this year would reclassify hemp extract as “a food that requires time and temperature control for safety and integrity of product” and impose several other regulations on the industry. The bill language encompasses items not traditionally considered as food, such as “snuff, chewing gum, and smokeless products derived from or containing hemp,” but excludes synthetic cannabinoids, defined as products where acid or other solvents are used to adulterate the product and artificially infuse it with cannabinoids not organically present.
— LEG. SKED. —
— The Senate Appropriations Committee on Health and Human Services meets: 8:30 a.m., Room 412, Knott Building. Agenda includes a review and discussion of the fiscal year 2023-2024 budget issues relating to the Agency for Health Care Administration; Agency for Persons with Disabilities Department of Children and Families; Department of Elderly Affairs; Department of Health; Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Bills include SB 0558 — Certified Nursing Assistants; SB 7028 — State Opioid Settlement Trust; SB 7030 — Trust Funds/State Opioid Settlement; SB 7032 — State Opioid Settlement Trust Fund/Department of Health.
— The Senate Appropriations Committee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development meets: 8:30 a.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building. The agenda includes a review and discussion of the fiscal year 2023-2024 budget issues relating to the Department of Economic Opportunity; Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles; Department of Military Affairs; Department of State; Department of Transportation; Division of Emergency Management. Bills include SB 0726 — Library Cooperative Grants; SB 0588 — Enforcement of School Zone Speed Limits.
— The Senate Finance and Tax Committee meets: 8:30 a.m., Room 37, Senate Office Building. Agenda includes SB 0184 — Homestead Exemption for First Responders; SB 0322 — Natural Gas Fuel Taxes Residential; SB 0358 — Graywater System Tax Credits; SB 0672 — Homestead Property Tax Exemptions; SB 0762 — Property Tax Exemption for Surviving Spouses of Veterans.
— The House Agriculture, Conservation & Resiliency Subcommittee meets: 9 a.m., Room 404, House Office building.
— The House Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee meets: 9 a.m., Room 102, House Office Building.
— The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee meets: 9 a.m., Room 314, House Office Building.
— The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee meets: 9 a.m., Room 17, House Office Building.
—The Senate Appropriations Committee on Agriculture, Environment and General Government meets: 11 a.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building. Review and discussion of the fiscal year 2022-2023 budget issues relating to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services; Department of Citrus; Department of Environmental Protection; Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; Department of Business and Professional Regulation; Department of Financial Services; Office of Financial Regulation; Office of Insurance Regulation; Florida Gaming Control Commission; Department of Lottery; Department of Management Services; Division of Administrative Hearings; Florida Commission on Human Relations; Public Employees Relations Commission; Public Service Commission; Department of Revenue.
— The Senate Appropriations Committee on Criminal and Civil Justice meets: 11: a.m., Room 37, Senate Office Building. Review and discussion of the fiscal year 2023-2024 budget issues relating to the Department of Corrections; Department of Juvenile Justice Department of Law Enforcement; Department of Legal Affairs/Attorney General Florida Commission on Offender Review State Courts; Public Defenders State Attorneys; Regional Conflict Counsels Statewide Guardian ad Litem Capital Collateral Regional Counsels Justice Administrative Commission. Bills include SB 7034 — Trust Funds/Opioid Settlement Trust Fund — Department of Corrections; SB 7036 — Opioid Settlement Trust Fund —Department of Juvenile Justice; SB 7038 Trust Funds/Opioid Settlement Trust Fund —Department of Law Enforcement; SB 7016 — Department of Corrections; SB 0062 — Relief of Robert Earl DuBoise; SB 0280 — Controlled Substances; SB 0486 — Solicitation of Minors to Commit Lewd or Lascivious Acts.
— The Senate Appropriations Committee on Education meets: 11 a.m., Room 412, Knott Building. Review and discussion of the fiscal year 2023-2024 budget issues relating to the Department of Education; Board of Governors. Bills include SB 7026 — Higher Education Finances; SB 0244 — K-12 Teachers; SB 0290 — Public School Student Progression for Students with Disabilities; SB 0936 — Economic and Vocational Development.
— The House Choice & Innovation Subcommittee meets: 11:30 a.m., Room 102, House Office Building.
— The House Infrastructure & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee meets: 11:30 a.m., Room 314, House Office Building.
—The House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee meets: 11:30 a.m., Room 17, House Office Building,
— The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee meets: 2 p.m., Room 404, House Office Building.
— The House Energy, Communications & Cybersecurity Subcommittee meets: 2 p.m., Room 102, House Office Building.
— The House Postsecondary Education & Workforce Subcommittee meets: 2 p.m., Room 17, House Office Building.
— The House State Administration & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee meets: 2 p.m., Room 212, Knott Office Building.
— The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee meets: 2:30 p.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building. Agenda includes SB 1066 — Recall of County Officers and Commissioners; SB 1110 — Term Limits; SB 1372 — Advertisements for Nonpartisan Office.
— The Senate Judiciary Committee meets: 2:30 p.m., Room 412, Knott Building. Agenda includes SB 0004 — Relief of Maria Garcia by the Pinellas County School Board; SB 0010 — Relief of Kristin A. Stewart by Sarasota County; SB 0542 — Emergency Opioid Antagonists; SB 1442 — Terrorism; SB 0600 — Assignment for the Benefit of Creditors; SB 0708 — Estoppel Letters; SB 1220 — Defamation and Related Actions; SB 1438 — Protection of Children.
— The Senate Military and Veterans Affairs, Space and Domestic Security Committee meets: 2:30 p.m., Room 301, Senate Office Building. Agenda includes SB 0538 — Provisional Child Care Licensing; SB 0732 — Collegiate Purple Star Campuses; SB 1020 — Monuments; SB 1382 — United States Department of Defense.
— The Senate Regulated Industries Committee meets: 2:30 p.m., Room 401, Senate Office Building. Agenda includes SB 1028 — Professional Licensing Requirements for Barbers and Cosmetology; SB 1162 — Renewable Energy Cost Recovery; SB 1364 — Interstate- Mobility and Universal- Recognition Occupational Licensing; SB 1366 — Fees; SB 1432 — Communications Services Tax; SB 1380 — Municipal Electric Utilities; SB 0408 — Fire Sprinkler System Project Permitting; SB 1450 — Valuation of Timeshare Units; SB 1454 — Homeowners’ Right to Display Flags; SB 0194 — Utility System Rate Base Values.
— The Joint Revenue Estimating Conference meets: 3 p.m., Room 117, Knott Building. Topic: Tax Collection Enforcement Diversion Program.
— The Joint Revenue Estimating Conference meets: 3:15 p.m., Room 117, Knott Building. Topic: Monthly Revenue Estimates.
— MORE FROM CAP —
“Justice Ricky Polston resigns from Florida Supreme Court” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Polston is stepping down from the Florida Supreme Court, effective March 31. The conservative jurist, who has served on the state’s high court for 14 years, submitted a resignation letter to DeSantis. “It has been my great honor to serve the people of Florida in the judiciary for over 22 years, the first eight years as judge of the 1st District Court of Appeal and then 14 years as justice of the Court,” Polston wrote. “I am truly grateful for the opportunity to work with such great jurists, lawyers, and all those involved with the judiciary.”
Critics say immigration bill would create ‘racial profiling debacle’ — Opponents of major immigration proposals say there could be a “massive statewide racial profiling debacle” if (SB 1718/HB 1617) becomes law. “We are highly concerned about the provision that authorizes Sheriffs in county jails to take DNA samples when an immigrant is arrested. We already have reports of emboldened law enforcement agents being arrest-eager with Floridians who exhibit stereotypical Latino, Black, and Indigenous physical characteristics,” said Florida Immigrant Coalition Executive Director Tessa Petit. Sen. Victor Torres added, “Florida will become a highly dangerous state for those visitors from other states who don’t have a regulated immigration status by prohibiting the use of their legally issued valid driver’s license from their home state. Under suspicion of what will law enforcement choose to pull people over? Driving while Latino will become an ever-increasing danger.”
Lunch is served — The Governors Club buffet menu for Tuesday: Fried chicken, dirty rice, stewed okra and tomatoes, southern-style macaroni salad, and cinnamon-apple crisp for dessert. Buffets include a deluxe salad bar and chef’s daily soup. A full buffet is $22; soup and salad are $14. Both prices include a beverage, a choice of coffee, tea and soda.
— STATEWIDE —
Jimmy Patronis chides Joe Biden for vetoing anti-ESG bill — CFO Patronis criticized Biden for vetoing a bill that would have repealed a Department of Labor rule relating to environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards in pension fund investments. “With this veto, Joe Biden has notified asset managers that they are to ignore returns and focus on re-engineering society. If ESG is such a great investment it would not need government regulation to protect it. This veto demonstrates that Joe Biden does not care about retirees, but he cares deeply for Larry Fink,” he said. “They’ve also built programs to monetize ESG — and it’s a lot easier to shut down your competition through regulation instead of competing for returns. This veto should embolden the House to ramp up its efforts to investigate asset managers for their use of ESG in antitrust practices.”
“New FWC Commissioner played role in DeSantis’ investigation of Andrew Warren” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — A man close to DeSantis who played a role in one of the top controversies in the past year with the Governor is now the newest Commissioner of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), subject to Senate confirmation. Preston Farrior comes to the FWC after spending time as Chair of the FWC Foundation and as a Council member of the Florida Council of 100. He serves as president of Cigar City Motors and on the Board of Directors of the Bank of Tampa.
Appointed — Donald Rubottom as Chair of the Public Employees Relations Commission.
“D.C. watchdog files public records lawsuit against Florida Department of Education” via Jim Rosica of City & State FL — A Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that uses public records requests and lawsuits as a government watchdog is suing the Florida Department of Education over the DeSantis administration’s “extensive and fast-moving changes to public education in Florida.” American Oversight filed suit last week in Leon Circuit Civil court, saying the department “unlawfully refused access to nonexempt public records.” Among other things, the complaint seeks an immediate hearing as provided under the state’s Sunshine Law and a court order granting access to the records.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Marco Rubio rips Miami Marlins for ‘outrageous’ censorship of communist Cuba protesters” via Zac Howard of The Florida Standard — Censorship of anti-Communist protests at Sunday’s World Baseball Classic semifinal between the U.S. and Cuba triggered fiery responses from Florida Republicans, including U.S. Sens. Rubio and Rick Scott. Before the game, hundreds of Cuban American protesters gathered outside the stadium to protest the team for its representation of their native country’s communist government. A video showing security denying entry to a fan wearing an anti-communist T-shirt prompted a wave of responses on social media.
“Cory Mills founded a company that sells arms to foreign governments. He won’t say which ones.” via Business Insider — At the start of this term, the freshman Republican handed out 40 mm grenades stamped with a GOP elephant to congressional colleagues. The grenades were inert. But the stunt was in line with the guns-blazing rhetoric Mills, an arms dealer and former military contractor, deployed during his campaign. Mills, a co-founder of munitions manufacturer and security contractor Pacem Solutions, positioned himself as a defender of police departments under attack from the “woke” Biden administration. What Mills didn’t advertise was Pacem’s munitions contracts with foreign governments. Mills has refused to publicly disclose his connections and dealings with powers abroad.
“Nationwide standard pitched for vessel speed zones protecting whales” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — With Congress placing the federal government on a six-year wait to put in place new regulations to protect North Atlantic right whales, two groups advocating for whales filed an administrative rule-making petition pushing the government to protect all whales in U.S. waters. “Ship strikes are already a leading cause of whale mortality in U.S. waters and the threat is growing,” said Rick Steiner, a marine ecologist and Chair of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility’s (PEER) board of directors.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“Trump isn’t giving up on Fox News after its bigwigs privately trashed him. Neither are his rivals.” via Allan Smith and Natasha Korecki of NBC News — On March 3, Steve Bannon, a staunch ally of Trump, told a gathering of conservative activists it was time to go to war with Fox News. He fired off a warning: “Old man Murdoch … no more softball interviews for the guys running against” Trump. Bannon’s warning was ignored. Just nine days later, Fox News host Brian Kilmeade played catch with DeSantis. The episode was telling. It wasn’t just that Fox News so overtly thumbed its nose at Trump and his allies. It was that the likely GOP presidential contender happily obliged.
“Trump returns to YouTube and Facebook for the first time since 2021” via Gerrit De Vynck, Erica Werner and Jacob Bogage of The Washington Post — Trump posted on Facebook and YouTube on Friday for the first time since the platforms had suspended him following the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, and just hours after YouTube lifted the suspension. “I’M BACK!” the former President announced on both platforms, accompanied by a video clip from CNN from when he was elected President. Meta, which owns Facebook, announced in January it was lifting the ban on Trump. After the Google-owned video site YouTube lifted the suspension on his account Friday, a stream of commenters congratulated the former President on his return.
“House GOP’s Sunshine State retreat turns into a Trump defense play” via Jordain Carvey and Olivia Beavers — House Republicans are embracing a familiar role: Acting as a defensive line against former President Trump’s perceived political enemies. As a New York defense attorney reportedly prepares for the possibility the ex-President will be indicted on charges related to alleged hush money payment to Stormy Daniels, Republicans are trying an extraordinary punch: Calling on Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg to testify amid an ongoing investigation. It’s hardly the first time Republicans have shadowboxed with Trump’s foes — even while acknowledging they are basically in the dark about the evidence collected against him.
— 2024 —
“Trump silent on abortion as 2024 campaign pushes forward” via Steve Peoples of The Associated Press — No elected Republican has done more to restrict abortion rights in the U.S. than Trump. But in the early days of the 2024 presidential contest, no Republican has worked harder to avoid the issue than the former President. Far more than his GOP rivals, Trump is sidestepping the issue just nine months after he and his party celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision to strip away women’s constitutional right to abortion. Look no further than Trump’s trip to Iowa last week for evidence of his delicate balancing act. Moments after he stepped off his plane just outside Davenport, Trump repeatedly refused to say whether he would support a federal law restricting abortion in every state.
“Kamala Harris prepares to hit the road for Biden despite cracks in her support” via Tarini Parti of The Wall Street Journal — Harris is preparing to campaign extensively when Biden launches his much-anticipated re-election bid, despite concerns in the Democratic Party that her performance in office, criticized by some as uneven, has made her a liability. Harris plans to visit urban centers of swing states to persuade Black voters, young people and other liberal constituencies to re-elect Biden. She will lead the administration’s advocacy for abortion rights, tout the administration’s climate investments and echo Biden’s pledge to protect Medicare and Social Security. Some top Democratic lawmakers and donors have been questioning Harris’s future behind closed doors for months, saying they don’t think the Vice President has used her platform effectively.
— LOCAL: S. FL —
“Cuban catcher defects in Miami after World Baseball Classic game at loanDepot Park” via Jorge Ebro of the Miami Herald — A veteran Cuban baseball player defected in Miami, a day after the team played in a World Baseball Classic game against the United States at loanDepot Park in Little Havana. Iván Prieto González, who was the catcher in the Cuban team bullpen helping pitchers warm up, stayed in Miami after the game and didn’t show up at Miami International Airport for the team’s flight to Havana. Prieto, who was a catcher for the Alazanes de Granma team in Cuba’s National Series, had been chosen for the bullpen catcher role by the Cuban Baseball Federation when the initial group of players who were to travel to the initial round of the Classic, held in Taiwan, was announced.
“Miami Beach struggles with Spring Break violence, big crowds” via David Fischer and Curt Anderson of The Associated Press — The party-all-the-time vibe in the South Beach section of the barrier island city has already led officials to ban alcohol sales at larger clubs after 2 a.m. Police are stationed everywhere, including in mobile towers that give officers a birds-eye view of the streets. Yet the violence continues at night. All night. The city imposed an overnight curfew that ended Monday morning and is considering imposing another one next weekend. It’s the third straight year city officials have approved such restrictions — something Mayor Dan Gelber wants to stop. “The volume of people in our city, the unruly nature of too many and the presence of guns has created a peril that cannot go unchecked,” Gelber said.
“Miami Beach officials vote not to extend midnight Spring Break curfew this weekend” via Aaron Liebowitz of the Miami Herald — The Miami Beach City Commission voted not to extend a midnight curfew in South Beach through this coming weekend in response to two deadly shootings and unruly Spring Break crowds on Ocean Drive. The vote was 4-3 against implementing a curfew from Thursday night until Monday morning. Commissioners instead voted, 6-1, to support a ban on all alcohol sales for off-premises consumption in South Beach after 6 p.m. this weekend. That will include package liquor stores and any other stores that sell alcohol. Commissioner Ricky Arriola was opposed. City Manager Alina Hudak had called for the midnight curfew she imposed on an emergency basis Sunday night to be extended.
Assignment editors — Ambetter from Sunshine Health and players for the Miami Dolphins seek to raise awareness on diabetes with a news conference: 10:30 a.m., Sunshine Health’s Welcome Room, 9552 SW 160th St., Miami.
— LOCAL: C. FL —
“Undercover agents saw nothing ‘lewd’ at Orlando drag show. Florida is going after venue anyway” via Nicholas Nehamas and Ana Ceballos of the Miami Herald — When the historic Plaza Live theater in Orlando hosted an event last December called “A Drag Queen Christmas,” the show drew a full house, noisy street demonstrators. All of it was dutifully recorded by the undercover agents on state-issued iPhones. But while the agents took photos of three minors, who appeared to be accompanied by adults, at the Orlando drag show, they acknowledged that nothing indecent had happened onstage.
“Kissimmee man guilty of conspiracy from Jan. 6 Capitol attack” via Michael Kunzelman and Alanna Durkin Richer of The Associated Press — William Isaacs and three other people associated with the Oath Keepers were convicted Monday of conspiracy and obstruction charges stemming from the attack on the U.S. Capitol in the latest trial involving members of the far-right antigovernment extremist group. A Washington D.C. jury found Isaacs, Sandra Parker of Morrow, Ohio; Laura Steele of Thomasville, North Carolina; and Connie Meggs of Dunnellon guilty of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and other felony charges.
“State attorney says no charges for suspect in Jones High football game shooting” via Cristóbal Reyes of the Orlando Sentinel — A teen suspected of killing 19-year-old Gamaine Brown in the parking lot of a Jones High School football game will not face charges in the killing after a review of the case by the Orange-Osceola State Attorney’s Office concluded “no reliable evidence” would support a conviction. The charging decision announced Monday by State Attorney Monique Worrell’s office described the case against the suspect as “weak, full of holes and would never support a verdict of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”
“Report: Disney plans 4,000 layoffs as part of previously announced job cuts” via Katie Rice of the Orlando Sentinel — The Walt Disney Co. plans to lay off about 4,000 people companywide as part of the 7,000 job cuts CEO Bob Iger announced in February, according to a report by Business Insider. Managers have been asked to identify layoff candidates by April, an unidentified person with knowledge of Disney’s decision told the publication. The same individual said the remaining 3,000 cuts will come from open positions that will be eliminated, Business Insider reported. It is unclear how many of Disney’s jobs in Florida could be affected by the cuts. State records show Disney has not filed any mass layoff notices with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
“Federal judge rules jail staff didn’t violate Gregory Edwards’ rights in 2018 jail death” via Eric Rogers and J.D. Gallop of Florida Today — A federal judge has dismissed portions of a lawsuit against Sheriff Wayne Ivey and others in the 2018 death of U.S. Army combat veteran Edwards in the Brevard County jail, tossing out claims that the force used to subdue Edwards violated his constitutional rights. Edwards, who was arrested after assaulting a toy drive worker at a Walmart in West Melbourne, was found unresponsive in his cell strapped to a restraint chair, with barbs from a stun gun still in his back, pepper spray on his face and a spit hood over his head.
“Facing land shortage in Osceola County, nonprofits struggle to build affordable housing” via Natalia Jaramillo of the Orlando Sentinel — Single mother of two Ebony Dennis lived in the same condo for 11 years until last year when her rent shot up by $400. The fear of not being able to afford rent if it kept increasing and the desire for stability led her to apply for a second time to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Orlando and Osceola County’s homeownership program. In February, Dennis, 40, closed on her affordable three-bed, one-bath home constructed by the nonprofit. For people like Dennis, Habitat and other nonprofits build affordable housing that fits their earnings. But nonprofits are running short of land on which to build affordable housing.
— LOCAL: TB —
“Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard resigns suddenly amid frustration” via Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times — Less than one hour into the City Council’s budget workshop Monday morning, Mayor Hibbard said he was concerned about the direction his colleagues were taking the city, packed his briefcase and resigned from the dais. The Council was discussing 30 capital projects and a $250 million shortfall for how to pay for them. When his four colleagues agreed that spending $90 million on building a new City Hall and municipal services complex was their top budget priority, Hibbard was the only one to push back. “I’m not a quitter, but I’m not the right leader for this Council anymore and I’m concerned where the city is going,” Hibbard said, “because this is simple math and we’re not doing very well on the test.”
“John Legg to kick off Pasco Superintendent campaign next month” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Republican former Sen. Legg is holding a kickoff party next month in his campaign for Pasco Superintendent. Many of the biggest names in Pasco County politics will attend the fundraiser in Odessa. Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson gets top billing on the host committee. Before he was elected to statewide office, Simpson represented Pasco in the state Senate for a decade, including as the Senate President for the 2020-22 term. Legg served in the state Senate from 2012-16, exiting after one term due to reapportionment placing him in the same district as Simpson.
— LOCAL: SW. FL —
“New College provost who clashed with Trustee Christopher Rufo over death threat has ‘stepped down’” via Zac Anderson of The Sarasota Herald-Tribune — New College of Florida announced that Provost Suzanne Sherman, who clashed with two new trustees over how to respond to a death threat, has “stepped down.” Sherman pushed to cancel a pair of town hall meetings held by Trustees Rufo and Eddie Speir on Jan. 25, with the provost raising concerns about safety after a death threat that was sent a day earlier. Rufo released a video of him arguing with Sherman. The town hall events ultimately went ahead. Rufo told reporters before the first town hall meeting that “we’re going to be reconsidering leadership here because what I saw demonstrated here was cowardice, not leadership.”
“Did Manatee County handle harassment complaint properly? Local watchdog investigates” via Ryan Callihan of the Bradenton Herald — Manatee County’s Inspector General has opened an investigation into events surrounding the sexual harassment claim filed against Mitchell Teitelbaum in December. A Manatee County employee filed a sexual harassment complaint accusing Teitelbaum, who had been appointed Deputy County Administrator, of touching the employee in a way that made them feel uncomfortable. Teitelbaum has denied the accusation. In January, he asked the Manatee Board of County Commissioners for an independent investigation into the matter, but the Board declined, arguing that since he declined the job, he is not owed an investigation.
“Sarasota County Commissioners set process for County Attorney selection” via Barb Richardson of the Englewood Sun — Unlike the Sarasota County School Board, Sarasota County Commissioners won’t be looking to an outside firm to provide candidates to succeed County Attorney Rick Elbrecht. Instead, they’ll choose from within the talent pool in the County Attorney’s office, just as they’ve done the preceding two times they had to name a replacement for their primary attorney. Commissioners confirmed that desire at a recent meeting. “I think it really goes smooth if you do promote from within,” Commissioner Nancy Detert said. “Because you do have somebody who already knows your community.” Commission Chair Ron Cutsinger raised the succession topic during his report after Elbrecht announced his intention to retire last month.
“COVID-19 ‘transparency’ rally calls for Sarasota Memorial to start new query” via Earle Kimel of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Cherie and Raj Doraisamy took the podium together at the United for Transparency in COVID-19 treatment rally to question how Sarasota Memorial Hospital handled the COVID-19 pandemic — which claimed the life of Cherie’s father — and a subsequent internal report that found the hospital outperformed many others in patient mortality and outcomes. The rally, hosted by several groups, including the Zelenko Freedom Foundation, Sarasota County Moms for America and The Hollow 2A, is the latest effort by local “medical freedom” advocates to call for the end of COVID-19 treatment protocols and pressure Sarasota Memorial — one of two Florida public hospitals with an elected board of directors — for more transparency in patient care.
“Families lose homes after Florida cities turbocharge code enforcement foreclosures” via Ben Wieder, Shirsho Dasgupta and Sheridan Wall of the Miami Herald — Jessica Shroyer will become homeless if the city of Fort Pierce sells her home as planned. The gray clapboard home is more than 100 years old and shows its age, with missing shingles on the roof and sections of stripped siding. But it’s been in her family, and paid off, for decades. Shroyer, who’s 42, has primarily lived in the house since her father died in 2017. She’s at risk of losing the house because the city of Fort Pierce, like a number of cities across Florida, has begun to aggressively foreclose on homes in the city for violations ranging from unmown lawns to unsafe structures.
“Last Fort Myers Beach shrimp boat grounded by Ian is back in the water after almost six months” via Andrew West and Janine Zeitlin of the Fort Myers News-Press — As the six-month anniversary of Hurricane Ian nears, the last of the grounded shrimp boats was returned to the waters off Fort Myers Beach. The Sept. 28 storm — its winds and ferocious surge — shoved most of the 40 boats in the historic fleet on shore, battered infrastructure, and brought local shrimping to a standstill. The sight of the massive steel and fiberglass boats onshore became an iconic reflection of the storm’s brutality, drawing disaster tourists who could be spotted cruising along the waterfront and snapping photos. But captains and boat owners needed real help.
“Utility rate increase in Cape Coral” via Luis Zambrano of the Fort Myers News-Press — Cape Coral will increase utility rates for water, wastewater, and irrigation services by as much as 7%, the first change in more than a decade. Cape Coral touts itself as having the lowest residential bills in the region, but the city staff said the rates must raise to fund capital improvement projects, operation costs, and to maintain debt services. Mark Mason, the city’s financial director, said the increases have been planned to meet the demands as the population grows and more people join the city’s utility system. The adjustments will be effective at the start of April, then other increases in October of this year. Mason said residential bills will still stay the lowest in the area.
— LOCAL: N. FL —
“Florida GOP Chair Christian Ziegler to rally Jacksonville voters Tuesday” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Chair of the Republican Party of Florida is Jacksonville-bound Tuesday for Election Day. Ziegler will start his day in the city, showing that the state organization is behind local Republican candidates as voters hit the polls. He will join City Council Vice President Ron Salem, candidate Ken Amaro, and others appearing Tuesday when polls open at 7 a.m. in Arlington. Amaro and Salem both will close out their races Tuesday as each faces a Democratic opponent.
“School Board cuts Speaker’s mic as he reads ‘pornography’ found in school libraries” via Lydia Nusbaum of Florida’s Voice — The Clay County District Schools cut off a speaker’s microphone for reading explicit material as he tried to expose inappropriate books found in school libraries. Bruce Friedman, who represents No Left Turn in Education, started to read the book “Lucky” by Alise Sebold on June 30. “Tonight, I am going to give a sampling of three books that are in our libraries,” Friedman said. “I’m going to stop you right there, sir,” Friedman was then told.
“Tallahassee officials host dueling press conferences about police drug policy” via Tristan Wood of City & State Florida — Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey and the City Commission’s progressive faction hosted separate press conferences centered on the media storm over a controversial decision to not fire a Tallahassee Police Department officer who failed a drug test. The commission’s two progressive members, Jeremy Matlow and Jack Porter, condemned the actions of City Manager Reese Goad and Police Chief Lawrence Revell after Revell retained an officer that tested positive for methamphetamines. Goad and others backed the decision.
— TOP OPINION —
“A peek into Florida’s frightening higher education abyss” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — To catch a horrifying glimpse of the whitewashed future of higher education in Florida, look no further than Sam Joeckel’s pink slip. Palm Beach Atlantic University unceremoniously dumped the longtime English professor last week. All it took was one phone call of complaint about one writing assignment to end his 20-year career. The complaint alleged racial indoctrination. Joeckel never met his accuser. It’s worth noting the precise nature of what the Christian university judged to be Joeckel’s sin. He asked students to write an essay about their own beliefs on racial injustice. They did not have to agree with him.
— OPINIONS —
“Even after ugly campaign — maybe especially after it — still reason to vote” via Mark Woods of The Florida Times-Union — Election Day is Tuesday. Judging by early voting statistics, some of you could use a pep talk. If you’re feeling discouraged, dismayed, disappointed, disgusted and a whole bunch of other dis-words … who can blame you? OK, that’s not much of a pep talk. I’ll get around to taking a shot at one. But first, it’s worth noting that this already is the most expensive campaign in city history, and it could end up with one of the lowest voter turnouts in city history. This isn’t a coincidence. It’s a correlation. The vast majority of the money is being spent on the mayoral race. Not that I need to tell you this. If you have a television, phone, computer or mailbox, you’re quite aware of it.
“Congress needs to follow Florida’s lead on permitting reform” via Lindsay Killen for Florida Politics — With people moving to our business-friendly environment daily, housing is always in high demand. Beginning in 2019, our organization began to focus on eliminating onerous construction permitting in the state to speed up the process and reduce unnecessary costs. In 2022, the Legislature acted on a number of recommendations; DeSantis signed a bill restructuring the permitting process for home building. The legislation also took steps to increase transparency in a system that is all too often shrouded in layers of government bureaucracy. The result: Permits are being approved faster than ever before, helping meet the growing demand. This is all incredibly encouraging news for Florida homeowners since permitting delays added up to $6,900 to the cost of a typical Florida house.
“Prescription-drug price reform helps to put patients first” via Fran Haynes for the Orlando Sentinel — As DeSantis said in his inaugural address, “We in Florida lift our people up,” and thankfully, this year the Florida Legislature is reviewing legislation to increase access to treatments through comprehensive legislation aimed at lowering prescription-drug prices. Health-insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) dictate what medications you can access, how much you will pay for those medications, and what pharmacy you can visit to utilize your prescription drug coverage. Yet, thousands of Floridians with chronic health conditions struggle to afford medications and must rely on copay assistance to help them pay the out-of-pocket costs. Unfortunately, insurers and PBMs have stopped counting copay assistance toward annual deductibles and out-of-pocket limits due to something called a copay accumulator policy.
“It’s time for Miami Beach to drive a stake through Spring Break’s heart. But how?” via the Miami Herald editorial board — It’s long past time for the Spring Break party to end on Miami Beach. But how to roll up the welcome mat? Spring Break blew up again on Miami Beach this weekend, in the most tragic of ways. Two young people lost their lives. They were shot and killed in separate incidents during two nights of massive street partying on Ocean Drive, which the city, this year, as in years past, tried but could not completely control. Some would add that late-night liquor sales are to blame; others say all the unruly behavior happens on the streets.
— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —
— ALOE —
“Florida gas prices see recent spike but should start falling again” via Gene Saladna of WFTV — If you own a car and live in Florida, you’ve probably noticed the recent uptick in gas prices. The cost of a gallon of gas jumped 15 cents last week alone, averaging $3.46 on Sunday. That’s a noticeable increase from late December when a gallon of regular unleaded dipped below $3 in the Sunshine State. There were significant losses in the oil market last week which should enable gas prices to move lower again,” AAA’s Mark Jenkins said. “The failure of two U.S. banks raised concerns of a global recession that could eventually hamper fuel demand.” Last week, U.S. oil prices dropped 13%, with the price per barrel being its lowest since Dec. 2021.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Happy birthday to House Speaker Paul Renner, Lance Clemons, the great Richard Gonzmart, the incredible Francoise Haasch, former journalist Julie Hauserman, Chuck Hinson, the legendary Mary Repper, and Jim Waldman.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.