Good Wednesday morning.
Ballard Partners has sealed the deal for its first West Coast office.
According to a news release from commercial real estate firm Kidder Mathews, the Florida-based, national lobbying shop has agreed to purchase an office building on Seward Street in Hollywood at a price point just shy of $11 million.
The three-story, 11,269-square-foot building was built in 2021 by Plus Design Group and is just a few steps away from Melrose Avenue and the iconic Santa Monica Boulevard. It features an open design with floor-to-ceiling steel frame windows, a nearly 600-square-foot private terrace, and a historic oak tree in the front of the property.
Given its unique value, the building sold for $971.60 per square foot — notably high in comparison to recent sales in the submarket. Over the past 12 months, office properties in Hollywood fetched an average of $604 per square foot, according to CoStar.
“The building offers uncompromised quality and is well positioned to serve Ballard’s needs as the firm moves into a new market and continues to grow,” said John Anthony, the EVP and Managing Director of Kidder Mathews’ Downtown Los Angeles office.
The deal closed a few months after Ballard Partners founder and President Brian Ballard announced the firm was expanding to the L.A. market. In January, the firm hired Joe Buscaino, the former President Pro Tempore of the Los Angeles City Council, to serve as Managing Partner of its West Coast foray.
Ballard Partners has been one of the largest lobbying firms in the Sunshine State for years and has quickly become one of the largest in Washington since it expanded its operation to the nation’s capital five years ago.
Founded in Tallahassee, Ballard Partners consistently ranks among the top lobbying firms in the Sunshine State — it was No. 1 in 2022 revenues — and it has also become a major player in the nation’s capital since it expanded there five years ago.
Ballard Partners entered the international governmental relations arena two years ago, setting up an office in Israel and, later, Turkey in addition to a stateside expansion into the Boston metro.
Judicial hellhole may as well be a term of endearment in the Sunshine State, new polling shows.
Despite the Governor, legislative leaders, and leading business groups stressing the need for substantial changes in the way lawsuits are filed in litigated in the state, most Floridians say they are opposed to the sweeping legislation (HB 837/SB 236) being billed as tort reform.
Accountable Florida published survey results from Metropolitan Research that tested public opinion on a number of liability issues, with respondents consistently siding with protections for consumers instead of carriers.
About 58% of voters said if a motorcyclist rides without a helmet — which is legal under Florida law for those older than 21 — and is struck by another driver, insurers should not be allowed to deny coverage. Only 32% said they do think insurance companies should be able to deny coverage.
Moreover, 77% of respondents said if a pregnant mother is hurt or killed in an accident, she or survivors should be able to recover damages for the unborn child. Only 11% said damages should not be available.
About 89% of those surveyed think insurance companies should remain responsible for all court costs if it’s determined the carriers wrongly denied coverage. Only 5% of voters wanted to eliminate one-way attorneys fees, a key part of proposals being heard now in the House and Senate.
The line of questions and the information on Accountable Florida suggest an agenda closely aligned with that of trial lawyers and the Florida Justice Association. A domain for Accountable Florida was registered in December and the website bears a 2023 copyright, showing fairly new messaging for the group. A Twitter account for the group was started this month.
Today is Moffitt Day at the Florida Capitol, a time to feature the homegrown cancer center’s impact on the treatment and cure for cancer and breakthrough research in the overall fight against the nation’s second-leading cause of death.
The day kicks off at 9 a.m. with displays in the Capitol Rotunda and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. staff from Moffitt Cancer Center will provide free head and neck cancer screenings in the Capitol Courtyard, available through 2 p.m.
But celebrations are already underway. More than 35 cyclists participating in this year’s Cure on Wheels Capitol Ride embarked Sunday on a 325-mile bike ride from Tampa, where Moffitt is located, to Tallahassee to raise money for cancer research at the institution. Lawmakers, staff and others on hand at the Capitol are invited to greet the cyclists as they arrive at 11:15 a.m.
The Florida Cultural Alliance is also going to be out in force today as part of Arts and Culture Advocacy Day in Tallahassee. The day begins at 10 a.m. with an advocacy rally in the 22nd Floor Gallery, after which the delegation of arts advocates will make the rounds at lawmaker offices.
Most Capitol visitors would do well to follow the advice they shared with those making the trek: “Advocacy life; sometimes it’s a race. Sometimes it’s a journey. Sometimes it’s a fashion show. If you’re going for the trifecta, wear (or at least bring) sensible shoes.”
But wait, there’s more.
Wednesday is also Reclaiming Florida’s Future for All Advocacy Day, which is being billed as the “largest convening of youth clean energy advocates in Florida” by organizers. The event is expected to bring more than 100 youth advocates to the Capitol to discuss issues such as energy independence and grid diversity.
The event will include a 12:30 p.m. news conference in the 4th Floor Rotunda attended by a bipartisan slate of lawmakers, including Sens. Lori Berman and Alexis Calatayud as well as Reps. Joe Casello and Vicki Lopez. Nubia Gaitan with the Hispanic Association of Pastors and Nia Ogletree with GenCLEO Youth Movement are also expected to deliver remarks.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@DonaldJTrumpJr: Just as radical Dems are indicting (Donald) Trump & destroying the fabric of our nation with their Police State tactics, (Ron) DeSantis pathetically runs to the liberal media on orders from his RINO establishment owners to attack my father. He’s exposing himself as 100% Controlled Opposition!
Yesterday’s street designation will ensure that Detective Cesar “Echy” Echaverry’s legacy is never forgotten.
Echy is a hero who made the ultimate sacrifice. He will be remembered for his bravery and dedication. May God bless our law enforcement officers and keep them safe. pic.twitter.com/u7l7saZQPG
— Jeanette Nuñez (@LtGovNunez) March 21, 2023
—@AnnaForFlorida: Gotta love Florida Republicans who preach small government while they push big government policies and then also commit fraud to get that government coin.
—@JaredEMoskowitz: Since I’m a visual learner. Should this pass, you will see people wearing AR-15s on their back in @Publix @Walmart @Target. Explain that to your 5-year-old while buying cereal. I am hopeful cooler heads will prevail.
—@byJasonDelgado: Let’s talk holsters. The open carry amendment would at least require a level 2 holster. L2 requires something more than passive retention, which is a gun tucked into a holster with no other restriction. L2 typically includes an additional thumb break or locking mechanism.
New amendment for HB 1421 filed by Rep. Randy Fine would forcefully detransition all trans youth in Florida. It would ban all insurance coverage for gender affirming care, including for adults. This is effectively a full ban on care.
— Alejandra Caraballo (@Esqueer_) March 22, 2023
Pretty much dead on here. https://t.co/lvpKKRoT8d
— AG Gancarski (@AGGancarski) March 22, 2023
—@xenocryptsite: If Donna Deegan becomes Mayor of Jacksonville that will be a great launchpad to briefly giving Democrats hope in a statewide race in Florida before either getting crushed or losing in a heartbreaking fifty-vote recount.
’John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 2; ‘Succession’ Season 4 begins — 4; MLB Opening Day 2023 — 8; Tron Lightcycle/Run debuts in Walt Disney World — 13; Suits for Session — 14; ‘Air’ starring Ben Affleck and Matt Damon premieres — 15; NBA Play-In Tournament begins — 20; Taylor Swift ‘Eras’ Tour in Tampa — 23; NBA playoffs begin — 25; final performance of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ on Broadway — 25; American Association of Political Consultants Pollies ’23 conference begins — 27; 2023 Session Sine Die — 44; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 44; Florida Chamber 2023 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 48; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 57; ‘Fast X’ premieres — 57; Florida Chamber 2023 Florida Prosperity & Economic Opportunity Solution Summit — 66; NBA Finals begin — 71; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 72; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 86; Florida Chamber 2023 Florida Learners to Earners Workforce Solution Summit — 97; ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ premieres — 99; ‘Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning — Part One’ premieres — 114; Florida Chamber 37th Annual Environmental Permitting Summer School — 121; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 123; ’Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 130; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 155; 2023 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 215; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 230; South Carolina Democratic Primary — 311; New Hampshire and Nevada Democratic Primaries — 322; Georgia Democratic Primary — 329; Michigan Democratic Primary — 342; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 374; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 429; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 492; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 492; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 534; ‘Deadpool 3’ premieres — 599; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 745; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 772; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 961.
— TOP STORY —
“Florida rule would expand so-called ‘don’t say gay’ to 12th grade” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — The DeSantis administration next month could effectively bar all public schoolteachers from providing classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity, a move that would expand Florida’s controversial 2022 law and go even further than the legislation Republican lawmakers are pushing in Tallahassee this spring.
A proposed State Board of Education rule, scheduled for a vote next month, says teachers in grades 4 to 12 “shall not intentionally provide classroom instruction” on either topic, expanding the prohibition in last year’s law that critics dubbed “don’t say gay.” Teachers who violate the rule could face suspension or revocation of their teaching licenses.
Equality Florida, the state’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group, views the suggested rule as part of a “larger, disturbing trend” where Florida’s Republican leaders seek to use “every lever of government to censor conversations about LGBTQ people,” said Brandon Wolf, the group’s spokesperson.
The law passed by the Legislature and signed by DeSantis last year — officially titled the Parental Rights in Education law — bars instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, a move supporters say upholds the rights of parents to decide when and how to introduce sensitive topics with their children.
GOP lawmakers this year want to expand that prohibition so that it applies to pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade classes, and they also want to prohibit school employees from referring to students by pronouns other than those that match their sex at birth.
“Ron DeSantis’ Ukraine position playing poorly outside GOP Primary” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — New polling suggests that the Governor’s stance that a “territorial dispute” with Ukraine was not one of America’s “vital national interests” is a potent play with Primary voters. Indeed, support for Ukraine is underwater with Republican Primary voters. Just 37% believe helping the country is a “vital U.S. interest,” with 46% asserting it isn’t. The issue is closer with people just identified as Republican in the poll, but still underwater, with 41% ready to cut bait on Ukraine and 39% still supporting the mission.
“Donald Trump’s cold war with DeSantis is now full-blown conflict” via James Bickerton of Newsweek — DeSantis faced a wave of attacks from Trump supporters after insisting he won’t be “getting involved” in the former President’s potential extradition to New York if he is charged over an alleged $130,000 hush payment sent to adult film star Stormy Daniels in 2016. Reacting to the rumors Monday, DeSantis said: “We’re not getting involved in it in any way.” While he has yet to announce his candidacy, polling indicates DeSantis could be Trump’s most dangerous rival in his bid to secure the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
“Trump’s indictment would be a gift to DeSantis” via Charlotte Kilpatrick of The New Statesman — This would be the first time a U.S. President was ever placed in handcuffs for alleged crimes that took place outside of public office. Yet even an arrest isn’t likely to cause Trump’s supporters to abandon him: as the former president has boasted before, he could “stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody” and not lose any votes. Since he first entered the political arena, his base has routinely convinced itself that previous accusations of misconduct or criminal activity are either not all that bad; exaggerated; or downright false.
“The problem with DeSantis’ efforts to claim northeast Ohio” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — There are elegant attempts to appeal to voters and there are clunky ones. Americans were introduced to one of the clunkiest: DeSantis’ effort to portray himself as an Ohioan in spirit. “I was geographically raised in Tampa Bay,” the article by Henry Gomez quotes from DeSantis’ recently published book, “but culturally 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.”
“DeSantis privately called for Google to be ‘broken up’” via Andy Kroll and Nick Surgey of ProPublica — DeSantis has frequently railed against “Big Tech.” He has accused Google, Facebook and Twitter of silencing conservative voices. But in private, DeSantis has gone even further. In previously unreported comments made in 2021, DeSantis said technology companies like Google “should be broken up” by the U.S. government. DeSantis made the remarks at an invite-only retreat for the Teneo Network, a “private and confidential” group for elite conservatives. “They’re just too big; they have too much power,” DeSantis said.
“Can DeSantis go too far? Not for Florida. Maybe for America” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — With a book tour, looming presidential campaign and near-daily media events, DeSantis normally craves attention the way ticks crave blood. But lately, he’s been getting so much of it, he’s about to pop. Conservative pundits and media outlets that have previously showered DeSantis with adulation have taken a decidedly different turn recently. By all counts, DeSantis is wildly popular in the Sunshine State. His presidential problem may be that the rest of America isn’t like Florida. See, most of America is more concerned about national security than drag queens.
—“Florida NAACP seeks travel advisory for state over controversial legislation, policies” via WTSP
— LEGISLATIVE —
“Bill cracking down on sex with inmates, transferring private prison oversight heads to last Senate stop” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A bill that would broaden an existing state ban on sex with inmates and transfer oversight of private prisons between Departments now has one more stop before reaching the Senate floor. Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Criminal and Civil Justice voted unanimously to advance the measure (SB 7016) after amending it to add a definition for “sexual misconduct.” Under current Florida law, it’s a third-degree felony for a prison employee to engage in sexual acts with an inmate or anyone else in custody of a public or private correctional facility. The bill would update that rule to hold prison volunteers, contractors, subcontractors or their employees to the rules and penalties.
“Bill advances to make associate degree-holders eligible for teaching certification” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — An effort to solve the teacher shortage crisis at the state’s public schools would mean loosening the requirement that teachers need a bachelor’s degree. Sen. Alexis Calatayud has introduced legislation (SB 244) that echoes many of DeSantis’ educational priorities. It also adds new bonuses for first responders and military veterans who want to pursue a teaching career. The bill received unanimous support in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Appropriations at its second committee stop.
“House panel OK’s bill boosting safe house protections against human trafficking” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A bill designed to improve human trafficking awareness, security and conditions at child and adult safe houses across Florida is now advancing in the Legislature’s lower chamber. The House Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee voted unanimously to advance the measure (HB 1557) after some members voiced concern about enforcement and cost. The bill will mirror existing standards for other types of shelters and victim houses, including establishing a regulatory enforcement authority not currently required by Florida law, said Rep. Michelle Salzman, its sponsor.
“House Higher Ed budget rewards conservative think tanks at Florida universities” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — House leaders are unveiling a $7.4 billion draft budget for higher education in the 2023-23 fiscal year. The budget includes significant spending on apparent efforts to elevate conservative education at Florida universities. Rep. Jason Shoaf, Chair of the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee, rolled out numbers early Tuesday. The budget includes a 42% increase in per-student spending and nearly $1 billion available for financial aid, along with massive investments and incentives for workforce education. It also includes $15 million requested by DeSantis for New College of Florida.
“Bill stiffening penalties for strangling strangers keeps moving through House panels” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — A bill clarifying legislative intent regarding the crime of strangulation continues to move toward the House floor. The Justice Appropriations Subcommittee unanimously approved Rep. Jessica Baker’s legislation (HB 1375). Baker’s bill would increase the punishment for strangulation when no domestic relationship exists, making the penalty for the act a third-degree felony, which could lead to five years in state prison for those convicted. Current law stipulates a third-degree felony when the victim and the strangler share a “domestic or dating relationship.” Baker’s bill would expand that to include choking a stranger.
“Fight against opioid epidemic continues as naloxone access bill clears first committee” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — A bill that would establish a framework to guide Florida’s fight against the ongoing opioid epidemic and expand access to opioid antagonists used to save lives in the event of an overdose has cleared its first committee. Not a single lawmaker present voted against it. The bill (SB 704) would establish a Statewide Council on Opioid Abatement within the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to review state and local government action and how funds are spent. DCF would then use the information to outline recommendations to the Governor, Legislature and local governments to increase coordination and maximize impact.
“Communications tax cut sails through first Senate stop” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — A Senate panel swiftly passed legislation that would cut taxes on Florida cellphone, cable and satellite plans. Sponsored by Panama City Republican Sen. Jay Trumbull, SB 1432 would set the state’s Communications Services Tax (CST) at the same 6% rate as the statewide sales tax, a reduction of 1.44 percentage points from its current level. The bill would also prevent local governments from increasing their local CST rate for the next three years. CST tax hikes by local governments have been common in recent years, with 113 of Florida’s 481 local jurisdictions raising rates since 2018. Local CST rates are as high as 7.96% in Florida, surpassing the current 7.44% charged by the state.
“Senate panel OK’s term limits for County Commission, School Board” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — A bill that would limit County Commissioners and School Board members to serving just eight years is advancing in the Senate. Sen. Blaise Ingoglia’s bill (SB 1110) comes fast on the heels of 12-year School Board term limits approved in last year’s legislation (SB 1467). County Commission members aren’t currently term-limited statewide, although some counties have term limits. Tuesday marked the first committee stop for the idea in the Senate, getting a nod from the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee with Democrats opposed. Rep. Alex Rizo filed similar legislation (HB 477) that has received approval on the House floor with Democrats’ dissent, 79-29.
“House panel OK’s bill boosting safe house protections against human trafficking” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A bill designed to improve human trafficking awareness, security and conditions at child and adult safe houses across Florida is now advancing in the Legislature’s lower chamber. The House Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee voted unanimously to advance the measure (HB 1557) after some members voiced concern about enforcement and cost. The bill will mirror existing standards for other types of shelters and victim houses, including establishing a regulatory enforcement authority not currently required by Florida law, said Rep. Michelle Salzman, its sponsor.
“House panel moves bill executing child rapists with supermajority jury vote” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee moved legislation by a 14-3 vote that enhances penalties on sexual battery against children. Rep. Jessica Baker’s HB 1297 would pave the way for executing adults who rape children with only a supermajority jury verdict, meaning that at least eight of 12 jurors concur. If fewer than eight jurors agree to execution, then the crimes would merit life imprisonment. “This bill seeks to punish and deter one of the most heinous and vile acts imaginable, that of sexual battery on a child, a crime so monstrous and horrific that there can be no tolerance for the perpetrators in a civilized society,” Baker contended.
“Fentrice Driskell’s historic cemeteries bill clears second committee” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — Legislation that would provide a state program and process to research and preserve abandoned historic African American cemeteries passed a second House committee en route to its final committee stop before a floor vote. HB 49, sponsored by Minority Leader Driskell originated from a 10-member state task force following the 2021 passage of legislation on the issue. The task force set out to study the extent of unmarked or abandoned African American cemeteries and burial grounds, along with creating strategies to identify and record these areas while preserving local history. “There was a time in our state where even our cemeteries were segregated,” Driskell told the House Infrastructure and Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee this week.
“Year-round school? Florida wants to test it out with a pilot program” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — A small number of Florida elementary students could start attending public school year-round as lawmakers explore starting a new pilot program. The House Choice & Innovation subcommittee voted to launch the four-year program at five school districts starting in the 2024-25 school year. The subcommittee approved HB 891 with little debate. Rep. Patricia Williams, the bill’s sponsor, said her proposed legislation looking to expand year-round school is important after Florida students’ learning was affected during the pandemic. She also said the crime rate increases for juveniles during the summer.
— MORE LEGISLATIVE —
“Senate budget shorts DeSantis on tourism, job growth funds, but Enterprise Florida survives” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — The Senate’s proposed budget for road and economic development projects falls short of DeSantis’ recommendations for two important tourism and jobs programs. But it keeps alive another economic development program targeted by the House for elimination. Under the proposal, approved by the Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee, VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s main tourism promotion agency, would get $80 million. That’s $30 million more than the current budget, but $20 million short of what DeSantis suggested.
“Billions in environmental funding eyed by Senate Committee” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — “First, I’d like to point out our funding decisions are going to do great things for the state’s environment,” said committee Chair Jason Brodeur. “We are continuing our long-standing efforts to preserve Florida’s unique natural resources and make critical improvements to our environmental and clean water infrastructure.” Brodeur noted DeSantis’ Everglades restoration and water quality funding goal of $3.5 billion over the next four years. The committee is recommending more than a billion dollars to put those policies into action. The committee is also recommending $420 million for Florida Forever programs.
“Brevard barrier island area could receive ‘critical state concern’ designation” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — Enhanced protections could be on the way for Brevard County’s barrier islands under legislation receiving unanimous approval from a House subcommittee. Indialantic Republican Rep. Thad Altman’s HB 1489 would consider the barrier island area as an area of critical state concern, a status already applied to places like the Florida Keys, Apalachicola Bay, Big Cypress and Green Swamp since the program came into existence 30 years ago. “This part of the barrier islands is one of the most fragile and endangered coastal ecosystems in North America,” Altman said to the House Agriculture, Conservation and Resiliency Subcommittee this week.
— LEG. SKED. —
— The House Water Quality, Supply & Treatment Subcommittee meets: 8 a.m., Room 404, House Office Building.
— The Senate Rules Committee will consider legislation (SB 264) preventing foreign ownership of farmland or land near military bases in Florida: 8:30 a.m., Room 412, Knott Building.
— The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee will consider legislation (HB 121) that would expand Florida KidCare eligibility: 8:30 a.m., Room 17, House Office Building.
— The House Ethics, Elections & Open Government Subcommittee meets: 9 a.m., Room 102, House Office Building.
— The Senate Banking & Insurance Committee will take up a bill (SB 356) that would impose new regulations on telehealth services provided by dentists: 11 a.m., Room 412, Knott Building.
— The Senate Community Affairs Committee will consider more than a dozen bills, including a measure (SB 494) that would create consumer protections for tenants who choose to pay a monthly fee in lieu of a security deposit: 11 a.m., Room 401, Senate Office Building.
— The Senate Education Postsecondary Committee will consider a bill (SB 958) that would more closely regulate the diversity of speakers at the state’s universities and colleges: 11 a.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.
— The Senate Governmental Oversight & Accountability Committee will consider a dozen bills, including legislation (SB 892) that would allow Major League Baseball teams to continue paying their minor league players in Florida below minimum wage: 11 a.m., Room 37, Senate Office Building.
— The House Constitutional Rights, Rule of Law & Government Operations Subcommittee will consider legislation (HB 337) that would cover post-traumatic stress disorder treatments for 911 dispatchers and crime scene investigators: Noon, Room 17, House Office Building.
— The House Healthcare Regulation Subcommittee will consider several bills, including a measure (HB 1421) that would subject health care practitioners who provide gender-affirming treatment to minors to felony charges and enable the government to seize children whose parents seek such care, including out-of-state: Noon, Room 404, House Office Building.
— The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee meets: Noon, Room 102, House Office Building.
— The House Regulatory Reform & Economic Development Subcommittee meets: Noon, Room 212, Knott Building.
— The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee will take up a bill (HB 221) that would prohibit credit card companies from giving weapons and ammunition sales a specific code to identify their purchases: 4 p.m., Room 212, Knott Building.
— The House Transportation & Modals Subcommittee meets: 4 p.m., Room 404, House Office Building.
— The House Education Quality Subcommittee meets: 4 p.m., Room 102, House Office Building.
— MORE FROM CAP —
Jimmy Patronis to induct 2023 Officers of the Florida Commission on the Status of Women —Chief Financial Officer Patronis, FCSW Chair Sophia Eccleston and FCSW Public Policy Committee Chair Belinda Keiser will host a news conference at the Florida Capitol to swear in new officers of the Commission as well as announce a statewide series of roundtable discussions and share information from their 2022 Voices of Women survey. New board members being sworn in include Melissa Stone, the CEO of Cavalry Strategies and Chief of Staff to former Gov. Rick Scott. She was appointed to the Commission by the Governor in January alongside Maruchi Azorin and Maria Wells.
“Wilton Simpson wants saving farms treated as national security concern” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Simpson wants food supply to be recognized as a matter of national security. Most Americans may not feel the same, but if more farms fail in Florida, he said that will change quickly. “Imagine today, there being no food in the grocery store just for one week. And then you’d have chaos, right? Imagine two weeks, you’d have complete chaos. So not considering food a national security issue would be fooling ourselves.” He said that makes it imperative for the Legislature to pass a “Freedom to Farm” bill. Standing alongside National FFA Organization students in the Florida Capitol, Simpson said the agriculture industry desperately needs relief.
“Florida health care workers praise measures giving them greater protections against attacks” via Florida Politics — A bill to strengthen protections for Florida health care workers from violence is quickly moving through the Legislature with support from hospital team members. And the Florida Hospital Association is praising lawmakers for paying attention to the issue. This week, the measure (SB 568) cleared its second committee stop, the Senate Committee on Health Policy. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez, would prevent violence at hospitals in Florida by increasing penalties on individuals who intentionally harm any team member or volunteer at a hospital.
“Proposed tort reform would be ‘catastrophic’ for Floridians, Tampa attorney says” via Melissa Marino of WFLA — Lawmakers in Florida could pass major changes to the state’s tort laws this week. House Bill 837 aims to cut down on so-called frivolous lawsuits by limiting injury and insurance litigation as well as attorney fees. Lawmakers in support of the bill say the goal is to drive down rising insurance premiums. It could impact everything from auto to home and health insurance. “For a number of years, we were ranked across the country as being the No. 1 judicial hellhole,” said DeSantis, who’s pushing for the bill’s passage.
“Municipal utilities say PSC regulation would harm customers, taxpayers” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Municipal utilities are pushing back against legislation that would give the state more regulatory authority over their operations. Bills filed by Sen. Jonathan Martin and Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera (SB 1380, HB 1331) would subject municipal utilities that provide service to customers outside of city limits to regulations by the Public Service Commission (PSC). Currently, PSC does not oversee municipal utilities and primarily regulates investor-owned utilities, which must secure approval from the Commission on issues that impact consumers, such as rate increases and cost recovery plans.
Lunch is served — The Governors Club buffet menu for Wednesday: Lasagna Bolognese, pasta with chicken carbonara, fresh vegetable medley, garlic-mozzarella bruschetta, cannoli and tiramisu shooters 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 —
“First Lady Casey DeSantis joins TECO and Walgreens to announce Hope Florida expansion” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — After touring the state in 2019, DeSantis saw a need and a solution. “We wanted to find a way to harness the horsepower that’s always been there, to maximize the opportunities,” said DeSantis. The Hope Florida initiative was born. Hope Florida utilizes “Hope Navigators” to guide Floridians on an individualized path to prosperity, economic self-sufficiency and hope by focusing on community collaboration between the private sector, faith-based community, nonprofits and government entities. DeSantis announced an expansion of Hope Florida to include partnerships with the private sector.
“Joe Harding pleads guilty to charges related to COVID-19 loans” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Former Rep. Harding has pleaded guilty to wire fraud, money laundering and making false statements after facing charges related to obtaining COVID-19 relief funds. The Ocala Republican changed his plea months after federal prosecutors indicted him. U.S. Attorney Jason Coody announced the plea change. The former politician now awaits sentencing, with a hearing scheduled for July 25 at the federal courthouse in Gainesville. U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor will make the sentence. Harding faces up to 20 years for the wire fraud charge, 10 years for money laundering and five years for making false statements to authorities.
“Florida’s problems with mental health system flagged decades ago” via Sam Ogozalek of the Tampa Bay Times — Thousands of people struggle to access mental health services in Florida. The treatment system is disjointed and complex. Some residents bounce between providers and are prescribed different medications with clinicians unaware of what happened. Jails and prisons have become de facto homes for many who need care. These problems and more were identified in a scathing report released earlier this year by the Commission on Mental Health and Substance Abuse, a 19-person panel that Florida lawmakers created to push for reforms of the state’s patchwork of behavioral health services for uninsured people and low-income families. What’s most troubling about the group’s findings? They aren’t new.
“DeSantis orders flags in Tallahassee lowered to honor late Leon County judge Kevin J. Carroll” via WTXL — DeSantis directed Tuesday in a memorandum to the Florida Department of Management Services, the Leon County Government and the city of Tallahassee that the state of Florida and United States of America flags to be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset Wednesday to honor Leon County circuit judge Carroll. Carroll died March 15 at age 67. The Governor requested flags to be lowered at the Leon County courthouse, the city hall of Tallahassee and the Florida State Capitol.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“A big question for the fed: What went wrong with bank oversight?” via Jeanna Smialek of The New York Times — Jerome Powell is likely to face more than the typical questions about the Federal Reserve’s latest interest rate decision Wednesday. The central bank chair will almost certainly be grilled about how and why his institution failed to stop problems at Silicon Valley Bank before it was too late. Many of the bank’s weaknesses seem, in hindsight, as if they should have been obvious to its regulators at the Fed. An outsize share of its deposits were over the $250,000 insurance limit, making depositors more likely to flee at the first sign of trouble and leaving the bank susceptible to runs.
“Army of lobbyists helped water down banking regulations” via The Associated Press — It seemed like a good idea at the time: Red-state Democrats facing grim reelection prospects would join forces with Republicans to slash bank regulations, demonstrating a willingness to work with President Donald Trump while bucking many in their party. That unlikely coalition voted in 2018 to roll back portions of a far-reaching 2010 law intended to prevent a future financial crisis. But those changes are now being blamed for contributing to the recent collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank which prompted a federal rescue and has stoked anxiety about a broader banking contagion.
“How Rick Scott became the Senator Washington loves to hate” via Sam Brodey of the Daily Beast — In his seminal public relations book “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” Dale Carnegie warns about the risks of confrontation. “There is only one way to get the best of an argument,” he writes. “And that is to avoid it.” According to The New York Times, Scott rereads the book regularly. He’s even given out thousands of copies to friends and associates over the years. But Scott’s reputation these days has been most shaped by how eagerly he has followed the opposite of Carnegie’s advice — to Scott, the only way to lose an argument seems to be in avoiding it.
“Scott doubles down on call for tighter Fed scrutiny” via David Morgan of Reuters — Scott doubled down on his call to replace the Federal Reserve’s current inspector general with a new, more independent office, following the collapses of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank. In an opinion column posted on the Fox News website, the Florida Republican also pledged to support legislation to claw back bonuses that media reports say were handed out to Silicon Valley Bank employees hours before the federal government seized the operation.
“Congress to take up ban on student menstrual history questions with Parental Bill of Rights” via Katherine Kokal of The Palm Beach Post — U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff has announced more federal legislation to stop schools from collecting information about students’ menstrual periods. Until February, Florida was one of 35 states that asked student-athletes while they registered for sports about when they got their first period, how many weeks typically pass between periods and when their most recent period was, among other questions.
“Republicans planned a retreat to tout policy. Trump sucked up oxygen — again” via Abigail Tracy of Vanity Fair — Kevin McCarthy and his lieutenants in House leadership took a makeshift stage in a courtyard at the Orlando, Florida Ritz-Carlton to open up what was intended to be a conference of ideas; House Republicans had come together in the Sunshine State to build the party’s agenda and tout Republican successes. Notably absent from the group’s prepared remarks was mention of Trump, who, now living a couple of hours south of Orlando at Mar-a-Lago, had spent the weekend posting his way through the very real possibility that any day now he may be criminally charged.
“James Comer is livestreaming his fishing expedition” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — Perhaps the most revealing part of The New York Times’s lengthy look at House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chair Comer comes at the very end. The Times reporters spent a substantial amount of time talking to Comer, with the legislator at one point describing an encounter he’d had with a traffic cop. The officer “had recently pulled him over for speeding,” Jonathan Swan and Luke Broadwater write of Comer, “but let him go when he realized who he had nabbed — only after leaning in to ask one question”: “We going to get Biden or not?”
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“Trump at Mar-a-Lago: Magical thinking and a perp-walk fixation” via Michael C. Bender and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times — Trump claims he is ready for his perp walk. Behind closed doors at Mar-a-Lago, the former president has told friends and associates that he welcomes the idea of being paraded by the authorities before a throng of reporters and news cameras. He has even mused openly about whether he should smile for the assembled media, and he has pondered how the public would react and is said to have described the potential spectacle as a fun experience. No one is quite sure whether his remarks are bravado or genuine resignation about what lies ahead.
“Die-hard Trump fans station themselves near Mar-a-Lago. Key supporter: ‘Vitally important that you keep it peaceful’” via Anthony Man and Shira Moolten of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A few dozen Trump supporters gathered on the Southern Boulevard bridge near his Mar-a-Lago resort and residence waving large pro-Trump flags and many more smaller Trump flags and American flags, blasting country music from speakers and talking to reporters. Passersby honked their horns and waved, while others took pictures. Some said they weren’t there to protest, but to show support for the former president. “I don’t protest; I rally behind Trump,” said Nancy Sparks.
“Possible Trump indictment forces another moment of choosing for GOP” via The Associated Press — From the moment he rode down the Trump Tower escalator to announce his first presidential campaign, a searing question has hung over the Republican Party: Is this the moment to break from Donald Trump? Elected Republicans have wavered at times … But after almost eight years of near-constant scandal, Republicans have ultimately rallied behind Trump over and over and over again. Now, on the eve of a new presidential campaign season, that loyalty is being tested anew as Trump prepares for the possibility that he may soon become the first former U.S. President charged with a crime. New York prosecutors are wrapping up their probe into whether Trump engaged in an illegal hush money scheme involving a porn actor. So far, at least, the vast majority of the Republican Party appears to have made its choice. As charges loom, many party leaders have begun to defend the former President — even as other Republicans with far less baggage line up against him in the nascent 2024 Republican Presidential Primary.
“Special counsel claims Trump deliberately misled his attorneys about classified documents, judge wrote” via Katherine Faulders, Alexander Mallin, and Lucien Bruggeman of ABC News — Prosecutors in the special counsel’s office have presented compelling preliminary evidence that Trump knowingly and deliberately misled his own attorneys about his retention of classified materials after leaving office, a former top federal judge wrote Friday in a sealed filing. U.S. Judge Beryl Howell, who on Friday stepped down as the D.C. district court’s chief judge, wrote last week that prosecutors in special counsel Jack Smith’s office had made a “prima-facie showing that the former president had committed criminal violations,” and that attorney-client privileges invoked by two of his lawyers could therefore be pierced.
“Trump claims his phone got hacked by the “radical left” after prayer call goes off the rails” via Gabriella Ferrigine of Salon — “The Pastors For Trump National Prayer Call,” held on Monday, invited several prominent members of the GOP to partake in the session, including Trump, longtime Trump-ally Roger Stone, and Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Insider reported that the prayer call had been organized on Trump’s behalf as the former president faces impending indictment charges for his role in hush money payments made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“Trump indictment could be a 2024 cash cow” via Nick Reynolds of Newsweek — Ahead of his impending indictment by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, some believe Trump’s arrest could be just the boost his Presidential campaign needs as he seeks to consolidate conservative support ahead of the next election, offering him an opportunity to galvanize his political base and boost fundraising off the outrage of his arrest at the hands of liberal district attorney Alvin Bragg. His campaign, it seems, is already running with it. While Trump was not arrested Tuesday as previously expected, his campaign sent scores of emails and communications to his supporters over the weekend seeking to rile up voters about the arrest, with a prompt to donate clearly listed at the end of each email.
“Trump’s legal peril has Fox News pundits back in his corner” via Caleb Ecarma of Vanity Fair — Fox News has suddenly turned its attention back to Trump. As with other organs in Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, the network’s interest in Trump had been notably waning, giving Trump’s Republican competitors valuable airtime ahead of the 2024 Presidential Primary. But Trump’s prediction Saturday that he would soon be arrested for authorizing a 2016 hush money payment to porn star Daniels has catapulted him right back to the A block.
“‘Significant increase’ in online threats as potential Trump indictment looms — as it happened” via Chris Stein of The Guardian — Law enforcement is picking up more threats from violent extremists who see the case against the former President as a political persecution. A number of police agencies have stepped up their security arrangements ahead of the potential charges, including the New York Police Department and the U.S. Capitol Police in Washington DC, where protesters could also convene.
“Why Trump has Republicans of color on lock” via Brakkton Booker of POLITICO — Even as the expected indictment of Trump by a Manhattan prosecutor looms over the 2024 GOP Primary contest, Trump’s standing among a particular subset of voters remains intact: Republicans of color and independent voters of color who tend to vote for the GOP. Trump’s support among this cohort is at 56%, compared to his next closest rival, the yet-to-announce DeSantis, whose support among this group is at just 27%. That same survey found that Trump and DeSantis were virtually tied when it comes to white GOP voters. Should the twice-impeached ex-commander-in-chief find himself in a tight contest for the Republican nomination, voters of color could make the difference in him winning and losing.
“Dunnellon woman guilty of conspiracy in latest Oath Keepers Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol trial” via Michael Kenzelman and Alanna Durkin Richer of The Associated Press — Four people associated with the Oath Keepers, including a Dunnellon woman, were convicted on 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 anti-government extremist group. A Washington D.C. jury found Sandra Parker, of Morrow, Ohio; Laura Steele, of Thomasville, North Carolina; William Isaacs, of Kissimmee and Connie Meggs, of Dunnellon, guilty of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and other felony charges. In a rare loss for prosecutors, Sandra Parker’s husband, Bennie, was acquitted of obstruction as well as one conspiracy charge and a sixth defendant — Michael Greene, of Indianapolis — was acquitted of two conspiracy charges.
“Trump lands his first No. 1 hit on a Billboard chart” via Hugh McIntyre of Forbes — Trump is currently busy both running for re-election and trying to stay out of prison, as there are rumors — some of which have been propelled by the man himself — that he’s bound to be arrested any day now. In between all his legal and political drama, Trump has snagged a surprising new accomplishment: a Billboard No. 1 hit single. Trump is credited as a featured artist on a song titled “Justice for All,” which is slated to debut at No. 1 on this week’s Digital Song Sales chart, Billboard’s weekly ranking of the bestselling (not most-consumed) tracks in the U.S. every frame.
— 2024 —
“Poll shows Trump beating Biden in Florida, but DeSantis is more popular” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A poll from an advocacy group has Trump leading Biden among Florida voters. But it saw DeSantis with higher favorability in the state than either one. Metropolitan Research conducted a poll for Accountable Florida, a grassroots advocacy group. Pollsters found Trump in a stronger position in Florida now than when he won the state in 2020. About 47% of those polled said they would vote for him over Biden if the election were held today, while just 43% support the sitting President. Pollsters also tested favorability for Trump and Biden and Florida’s most prominent statewide elected officials. DeSantis, himself a likely candidate in 2024, posted the strongest numbers. About 51% of those polled had a favorable view of the Governor, with 42% reporting a very favorable opinion. There were also 43% who had an unfavorable view, with 37% offering a “very unfavorable” assessment.
“Monmouth poll finds Trump making significant gains on DeSantis among Republicans” via Jared Gans of The Hill — Trump is making significant gains over DeSantis and other Republicans in a hypothetical Republican Primary, according to a new poll. The results of a poll released Tuesday showed Trump leading DeSantis by 14 points, 41% to 27%, when respondents were asked who they want to see win the GOP nomination. That’s a major improvement for Trump from Monmouth’s poll last month that found him and DeSantis tied at 33% each. Trump also leads DeSantis in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup by 1 point, 47% to 46%. But that is also a notable improvement for Trump from last month DeSantis led 53% to 40%.
“Nikki Haley walks fine line on race, gender in appeal to GOP base” via Dylan Wells of The Washington Post — As a Republican candidate for president, Haley introduces herself as the proud daughter of Indian immigrants. She says that it’s time for a new generation of leaders and that the best way to accomplish that is to put a “badass woman” in the White House. At the same time, Haley has underscored that she does not believe there are “glass ceilings” limiting women. She rejects identity politics as a form of divisiveness and “woke self-loathing.” And in a speech kicking off her campaign last month, she said that “America is not a racist country.” With her underdog 2024 bid, Haley, 51, a former Governor of South Carolina and ambassador to the United Nations, is the first prominent woman of color to seek the GOP nomination for the White House. As she campaigns nationwide, she is at once seeking to accentuate her differences from White male candidates and offers reassurances that they are not impediments to achieving success.
— LOCAL: S. FL —
“As Miami Beach struggles to control Spring Break, still few answers on weekend shootings” via Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — Two deadly shootings, motives unclear. Hundreds of arrests. Dozens of guns confiscated. Emergency City Commission meetings. It’s Spring Break in Miami Beach and once again city leaders and the police force are struggling for ways to control crowds and the kind of publicity that no tourist-driven community wants. “We can’t allow our streets to be dangerous in this way,” said Mayor Dan Gelber at a meeting called after a weekend that saw two men killed in shootings — both caught on videos that went viral on social media — that remained largely unexplained days later.
“A Palm Beach man paid for cars, Aspen trips with investors’ stolen $5.2M, feds say” via David J. Neal of the Miami Herald — Federal regulators accuse a Jupiter businessman of diverting $5.2 million of investor money to “pay for personal expenses, such as luxury cars, jewelry, designer clothing, vacations to Aspen and Hawaii and day-to-day living expenses.” According to a civil complaint filed in West Palm Beach federal court by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Peter Krieger also has agreed to pay back his victims. That may be a challenge. In his own separate bankruptcy filing, also filed in West Palm Beach federal court filing, Krieger claims he owns no property, no cars, no jewelry and had $11.52 in the bank.
“Indian River County approves contract with new County Administrator, John Titkanich” via Thomas Weber of Treasure Coast Newspapers — The Commission unanimously approved the contract with Titkanich, which staff negotiated following a monthslong, national search for a new County Administrator. Titkanich will be paid $205,000 annually over a three-year term, and his contract will be eligible for renewal 90 days before it expires. It also includes a $4,200 annual car allowance, a retirement plan with up to 5% matching contribution and 20 weeks of severance pay if he is terminated without cause. Titkanich will start the job on April 17, according to county documents. Following a national search that attracted 58 applicants, the Commission interviewed five finalists and appointed Titkanich as its new administrator on March 7.
“This canal has been polluting Biscayne Bay for decades. Project will help clean it up” via Alex Harris of the Miami Herald — After one of South Florida’s usual summer deluges, the banks of the Black Creek Canal swell, sending a torrent of gross, polluted water straight into already ailing Biscayne Bay, sometimes sparking more fish kills. South Florida officials finally have money to help fix that. And on Tuesday, the final project in a 20-year mission to clean up the dirty water flowing from the canal officially kicked off in Cutler Bay at Black Point Marina. At a press event for the groundbreaking, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said the project will help protect South Florida from saltwater pushing west, strengthen the coast against sea level rise, offer stronger storm surge and restore wetland ecosystems.
— LOCAL: C. FL —
“Chris Dorworth’s River Cross suit against Seminole rejected by state appeal court” via Martin E. Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — A state court of appeal Tuesday upheld a circuit judge’s ruling that Seminole’s voter-approved charter amendment that established the county’s rural boundary is constitutional, likely marking the end of developer Dorworth’s legal efforts against Seminole to build his controversial River Cross mega-development. “I think it’s a great day for the citizens of Seminole County for this to be upheld,” county Commissioner Jay Zembower said.
“Orlando Police Chief responds to no-charge decision in Jones High game killing” via Cristóbal Reyes of the Orlando Sentinel — The decision to not charge a 17-year-old suspect in the slaying of Gamaine Brown in the parking lot of a Jones High School football playoff game drew a rebuke from Orlando Police Chief Eric Smith, who claimed the announcement by Orange-Osceola State Attorney Monique Worrell’s Office the day before “hindered this ongoing investigation.” “It is both disappointing and disheartening to see the unfair criticism coming from the State Attorney’s Office regarding the hard work of our detectives pursuing justice for the victims and their families in this case,” Smith said in a statement. The decision not to charge the suspect rested on what prosecutors said was a flawed testimony by a sole witness.
“Robert Schiller suggests idea of district-run charter schools in face of voucher legislation” via Finch Walker of Florida Today — Should Brevard Public Schools create its own charter schools to stave off the loss of funding and students the district could face if a bill expanding eligibility for vouchers becomes law in Florida? That was the suggestion of Interim Superintendent Schiller at a Board work session, where he told Board members it might be in their best interest to establish the “Brevard Public Schools Charter School District,” allowing the Board or the to-be-hired Superintendent to be the chartering official. While Board member Katye Campbell expressed apprehension at rushing into the idea, saying it could upset the community, Schiller said it’s a model the Miami-Dade school district uses that has been successful.
“Proposed clean energy tech park could bring 1,200 high-paying jobs to Osceola” via Laura Kinsler of the Orlando Sentinel — Osceola County Commissioners voted unanimously to begin formal negotiations with Paris-based CMG Clean Tech to sell its 309-acre Mac Overstreet property on Lake Tohopekaliga for a $431 million clean energy technology park. Clean Tech is pledging to build its U.S. headquarters, research and development facility; along with seven factories, pledging to create 1,200 jobs averaging at least $75,000 within three years, according to a report in GrowthSpotter. CMG Clean Tech manufactures commercial and domestic clean energy solutions ranging from solar panels and roof tiles, solar-assisted heat pumps, mobile green hydrogen units, lithium batteries and EV charging systems — and those products will be used to power the entire campus.
“Favorite attraction or money pit? Millions poured into Daytona Beach’s iconic pier” via Eileen Zaffiro-Kean of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — Daytona Beach’s original pier, built in 1900, had only been standing in the waves for a few years when it was pummeled by a hurricane. The pier survived the beating, but then in 1919, it was destroyed by a fire. The current pier and the building on top of it were constructed in 1925. That new pier, located at the eastern tip of Main Street, stretched 1,000 feet past the shoreline. Storms and hurricanes have chewed away at the wooden span over the past century, and now the pier is 260 feet shorter. Those fierce winds and pounding waves that batter the pier every summer have also taken large bites out of city coffers.
— LOCAL: TB —
“Hillsborough County schools could receive millions of dollars from JUUL lawsuit” via Regina Gonzalez of Fox 13 — More than 1,300 school districts across the U.S. are learning how much money they will receive after a class-action lawsuit against JUUL e-cigarette company, JUUL Labs, was settled last fall. In September 2022, a Connecticut attorney announced that JUUL Labs had agreed to pay nearly $440 million to settle a two-year investigation by more than 30 states into the marketing of its high-nicotine vaping products. Two things need to be completed for a school district to participate. Schools had to agree to pay 25% of the awarded money to lawyers involved and they needed to provide information on how vaping has impacted their district. Other Florida districts that also sued JUUL include Pinellas, Citrus, Orange and Palm Beach counties, among others.
“Clearwater abortion clinic protester arrested after opposing citation, police say” via Natalie Weber of the Tampa Bay Times — A New Port Richey pastor was arrested after police said he refused to sign a citation he received for violating a buffer zone while protesting at a Clearwater abortion clinic on Saturday. Victor Allan McCleskey, 61, was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of refusing to sign a traffic citation at about 10:45 a.m. Saturday. McCleskey and another man, 26-year-old Nicholas Bosstick of Brooksville, were given citations Saturday morning after they violated a buffer zone while they protested outside the Bread and Roses Women’s Health Center, Clearwater police said. The two men were the first to be cited for violating the buffer zone, according to Clearwater police spokesperson Rob Shaw. The Clearwater City Council unanimously approved the buffer zone earlier this month. It prohibits protesters from entering the center’s driveway and 5 feet of the sidewalk on either side of the driveway. The citations come with a $130 fine.
“What’s next for Clearwater? City to fill vacancy after Frank Hibbard resignation” via Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times — Before the shock could wear off from Hibbard’s sudden resignation as Mayor during a budget workshop on Monday, City Council member David Allbritton said his phone began “ringing off the hook” with people wondering what happens next. Hibbard resigned with one year left in his term, citing worries over his four colleagues’ financial priorities for the city. According to the city charter, a vacancy should be filled by a majority vote of the remaining council members within 30 days. The person appointed would serve until the next regular election, which in this case is in March 2024. If the council fails to fill a vacancy within 60 days, a special election will be called to fill the unexpired term, the charter states.
“Tampa airport could get new air traffic control tower through funds in Biden’s budget” via Bernadette Berdychowski of the Tampa Bay Times — The “deteriorating” Federal Aviation Administration air traffic control tower at Tampa International Airport might soon be replaced, Rep. Kathy Castor announced Monday. Federal money could be set aside to replace the 50-year-old control tower in Tampa from Biden’s 2024 fiscal budget. The budget proposes $662 million to replace seven FAA towers — including Tampa’s — but didn’t specify how much each project would get. “It has been apparent for a number of years that we need a modern tower,” Castor said at a news conference at the airport Monday. The air traffic control tower has dealt with air conditioning trouble and an elevator going out, making workers climb up the stairs in the Florida heat. It also had electrical and sewage issues.
— LOCAL: SW. FL —
“Naples teen is calling on the community to help restore abandoned segregated cemetery” via Erica Van Buren of the Fort Myers News-Press — While many kids are spending their free time hanging out with friends or playing video games, 15-year-old Jonathan Rodriguez is raising awareness about Rosemary Cemetery. “I’m trying to earn my Eagle Scout which is the highest rank and the Boy Scouts of America,” Rodriguez said. “The main requirement to become an Eagle Scout is to do a huge project for your community.” Rosemary Cemetery is in Naples at 1000 Pine Ridge Road within the parking lot of the CVS which is owned by the county. “Project Reverence,” the name of Rodriguez’s effort, is dedicated to Plot N, an unmarked area where eight African Americans are buried at the intersection of Goodlette Frank and Pine Ridge roads.
“Marco Island Police suspends officers for faking firearms qualification” via Dan Glaun of the Naples Daily News — The Marco Island Police Department suspended three officers last month for falsely claiming that one of them had completed firearms qualifications, an internal review found. Sgt. Mark Haueter, Capt. John Wallace and Reserve Officer Ed d’Alesandro tried to falsely claim that Haueter completed a qualification exercise Feb. 22. The department discovered the fabrication two days later “as a result of the Department’s internal controls,” Capt. Richard Stoltenborg wrote in a news release. “Police Chief Tracy Frazzano acknowledged that the action of these three officers falls short of meeting the values of the Marco Island Police Department,” Stoltenborg wrote.
“Sarasota and Bay Park leaders respond to boaters’ concerns about the park” via Anne Snabes of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Local boaters and other community members raised concerns about the Bay Park Conservancy’s plans for the city of Sarasota’s new waterfront park, leading to changes in those plans. The Sarasota City Commission reviewed land-use changes that involved The Bay, a 53-acre park that is gradually being built. During the discussion, people with boating interests expressed worries that parking for the boat ramp in the northern part of the park would decrease and that the restaurants planned nearby would cause even more of a parking crunch. But Bill Waddill, the Bay Park Conservancy’s chief operating officer, pledged to expand and improve the boat ramp area.
— ELECTION DAY —
“Donna Deegan, Daniel Davis to face off in Jacksonville mayoral runoff” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Jacksonville’s “elite eight” of mayoral candidates is down to a final two. Democrat Deegan and Republican Davis emerged from an eight-person field Tuesday night and will square off in a May 16 General Election. Deegan led Tuesday night with 40% of the vote, a strong total but not the majority needed to win outright. Davis followed with 25% of the vote, which is far behind Deegan but good enough to set up the second election in eight weeks. Further back in the count are the other six candidates: former Senate Democratic Leader Audrey Gibson, Republican City Council members LeAnna Cumber and Al Ferraro, Republican former lawyer Frank Keasler Jr., independent Omega Allen and write-in Brian Griffin.
“Terrance Freeman, Ron Salem re-elected to Jacksonville City Council” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The current president and vice president of the Jacksonville City Council swatted challenges Tuesday, each securing four-year terms. In the At-Large Group 1 race, City Council President Freeman defeated Libertarian challenger Eric Parker with 64% of the vote to Parker’s 36%, with all early votes and 174 of 186 precincts counted. City Council Vice President Salem faced an even closer race against Democrat Joshua Hicks. Salem is ahead 53% to 47%, with 12 precincts outstanding. Salem is dominating the Election Day vote. Freeman and Salem presented as a united front, as evidenced by a Tuesday tweet from the former extolling the “winning ticket.”
“Ken Amaro flips Jax City Council District 1 for GOP; and other Election Night results” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — Republicans are gaining another seat on the Jacksonville City Council, as former First Coast News reporter Amaro defeated Realtor and Democrat Alton McGriff Jr. in the District 1 race. Amaro secured an impressive 66% of the vote, according to unofficial results from the Duval County Supervisor of Elections, far exceeding the 50% plus one threshold needed to win Tuesday’s election outright and flipping the Arlington district previously represented by Democrat and fellow former newscaster Joyce Morgan. In District 3, Navy veteran and businessman Will Lahnen overpowered fellow Republican Natalie Alden 53%-47%. Republican City Council member Ken Carrico won re-election to District 4 unopposed. For District 6, Republican City Council member Michael Boylan prevailed over Tom Harris, area manager for Hardage-Giddens Funeral Homes and also a Republican. City Council member Ju’Coby Pittman, who represented the old District 8, won her District 10 race outright with 64% of the vote. Republican City Council member Randy White managed to dispatch two Democratic opponents in his re-election bid for District 12. It was an easy election for Republican City Council member Rory Diamond in District 13, whose only opposition was write-in candidate Mike Finn. Runoffs are in the works for Districts 2, 7, 8, 9, 11 and 14.
“Joe Carlucci prevails over Morgan Roberts in Jax City Council District 5” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — When it came down to it, District 5 voters felt just fine with putting another Carlucci on Jacksonville City Council. With one precinct still out, Joe Carlucci led with an insurmountable 64% of the vote over fellow Republican Morgan Roberts in a race that was largely defined by the Carlucci family legacy on the City Council and negative campaigning in the days just before Election Day. Drawing endorsements from area law enforcement like the local police union, Carlucci, like other Jacksonville Republicans, staked his campaign on a law-and-order, pro-police message. Roberts sought to make it an issue that a father and son would serve on the City Council at the same time.
“Chris Miller, Charles Garrison advance to runoff for Jax City Council at-large Group 5 seat” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — Republican Miller led all candidates with 37% of the vote Tuesday, while Garrison edged out fellow Democrat Nahshon Nicks 26%-17% to make it into the runoff with Miller for the Jacksonville City Council At-Large Group 5 seat. Miller, a retired Army colonel, wrangled an impressive list of endorsements going into the first round of voting, including the local police union, U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, Sheriff T.K. Waters, Jacksonville City Council President Freeman and City Council members Aaron Bowman, Jevin Carrico, Rory Diamond, Nick Howland and Randy White. Organizational support also included the First Coast Manufacturers Association, JAXBIZ of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, and the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors, among others.
“Contentious Jax City Council District 7 race among several contests heading to runoff” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — A Jacksonville City Council race marred by accusations of dirty campaigning is headed to a runoff, with Democrat Jimmy Peluso and Republican Joseph Hogan left to battle it out. Democrat John Phillips finished third despite dramatically overspending his rivals. The District 2 race was an all-Republican affair, with Mike Gay and Lindsey Brock punching their tickets to the runoff, eliminating Jennifer Casey. Gay received 42% to Brock’s 33%, while Casey closed out her race with 25%. New Democratic City Council member Reggie Gaffney Jr. will face Area Agency on Aging for North Florida COO and Democrat Tameka Gaines Holly in the runoff, who received the most votes in a crowded four-person field of Gaffney alternatives. Democratic City Council member Tyrona Clark-Murray is in the same position in District 9, having won her Special Election in August and drawing a field of five opponents. Republican and certified public accountant Mike Muldoon led all candidates with 47%, but Clark-Murray was able to fend off three other Democrats — Shanna Carter, Celestine Mills and TaNita Noisette-Woods — with 15% of the vote to advance to the runoff. In District 11, Democrat Ramon Day (43%) and Republican Raul Arias (35%) emerged from the three-way race to replace Republican Danny Becton, eliminating Republican Norman Brewer, who received 22% of the vote. The District 14 race proved to be a rematch of a 1990s City Council campaign, with Republicans and former City Council members John Draper and Alberta Hipps making another go of it, joined by Democrat Rahman Johnson. Johnson led voting with 46%. Draper will join him in the runoff, finishing second with 30%.
“Joyce Morgan, Jason Fischer to square off in Duval County Property Appraiser runoff” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Democrats came close to flipping the Duval County Property Appraiser’s office Tuesday, but it appears the final resolution won’t come until May. With most precincts in and all early votes counted, Democrat Morgan leads with 48% support, far ahead of Republicans Fischer (30%) and Becton (22%). But Morgan appears to be short of the 50% needed to win, setting the stage for an ultimate battle with Fischer in the General Election on May 16. Polling of the race from St. Pete Polls and the University of North Florida Public Opinion Research Lab showed Morgan with momentum. She polled in the mid-40s in both surveys, more than 20 points ahead of her opponents.
— LOCAL: N. FL —
“Jeremy Matlow, Jack Porter point to ‘cover-up’ on officer drug test; Mayor defends City Hall handling” via — Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — Tallahassee City Commissioners Matlow and Porter tried to turn up the heat on city management over a police officer who was kept on the force after testing positive for drugs amid concerns from the city attorney and others about proposed new contracts with the police union. Matlow and Porter joined with concerned citizens and political allies on Monday for a news conference to criticize the hasty upcoming vote on the contract, the city’s handling of the officer, and the abrupt firing of Ellen Blair, the city’s long-serving human resources director who had raised red flags about the police officer.
“Bay County law enforcement plans special event zones to limit spring break chaos” via Nathan Cobb of The Panama City News-Herald — Local law enforcement officials continue working to prevent an avalanche of spring break-related crime across Bay County. Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford, along with Chief J.R. Talamantez of the Panama City Beach Police Department and Chief Mark Smith of the Panama City Police Department, held a news conference Monday to discuss upcoming measures to limit spring break chaos in the area. They announced plans to establish multiple special event zones across Bay County that will be in effect from March 24 to March 27. Permitted by Florida Statute, the zones allow for enhanced penalties for violations.
“Escambia School Board votes to keep 4 challenged books after 7+ hours of debate” via Brittany Misencik of the Pensacola News Journal — After nearly eight hours of debate over four challenged Escambia County Public School library books, the Escambia school board voted to keep all four books in circulation Monday night. However, the books will only be accessible to certain grade levels the board has deemed age appropriate. More than 150 speaker forms were turned in to speak, not including unused forms for people who left the meeting before their time to speak. The meeting marked the third round of evaluations to remove books from the reconsideration list that has climbed to 176 challenged titles.
— TOP OPINION —
“DeSantis lacks moral clarity on Ukraine. His critics lack prudence.” via Ramesh Ponnuru of The Washington Post — DeSantis’ remarks about Russia’s grinding war in Ukraine have now sustained more scrutiny than some treaties. Americans should want both moral clarity and prudence in our foreign policy. Florida’s Republican Governor is showing too little of the first, and many of his critics too little of the second.
Supporters of Ukraine found several reasons for dismay. The Governor’s characterization of the war as a “territorial dispute” euphemizes Vladimir Putin’s quest to destroy a nation. And at no point did DeSantis either express the hope that Ukraine would prevail or offer sympathy for its people.
Hawks have split into two camps in reaction. Some excoriate DeSantis for betraying the legacy of Ronald Reagan, ignoring the lessons of Neville Chamberlain and siding with Putin. Others say that presidential candidates’ rhetoric does little to predict how they will act in the White House and that, anyway, DeSantis did not endorse cutting off aid to the Ukrainians.
The most enthusiastic defenders are advocates of more restrained foreign policy in general and of avoiding military conflict with Russia in particular.
There is something to be said for each of these reactions, as is perhaps inevitable given that DeSantis seems to have been trying to stake out a position that would be defensible from all sides. It takes no skill in mind-reading to see that he wanted to reassure Tucker Carlson that he is broadly with him — seeking above all to reduce the risk of war with Russia — while at the same time not committing himself to any specific course or saying anything as deranged as Trump’s recent comment that his enemies in the United States are the greatest threat to Western civilization.
— OPINIONS —
“China wins if Russia conquers Ukraine” via Nikki Haley in The Wall Street Journal — This week’s meeting in Moscow between Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin is the latest proof that China is Russia’s best friend and biggest backer. Everyone knows it, yet President Biden and some Republicans are failing to realize a corresponding truth: If Russia wins in Ukraine, China wins too. Beijing has set its sights on overtaking the U.S. militarily, economically and culturally. Xi is in Moscow because supporting Putin advances his dark vision. He wants Russia to conquer Ukraine so it’s easier for China to invade Taiwan. He wants Russia to threaten the rest of Europe because it draws America’s attention from Asia. Why are many American politicians blind to this?
— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —
— ALOE —
“Bruce Springsteen, Gladys Knight among group honored at the White House” via Maegan Vazquez and Nikki Carvajal of CNN — Songstress Knight, actress Mindy Kaling and designer Vera Wang were among a group of creatives, writers, advocates and scholars honored at the White House on Tuesday with the 2021 National Humanities Medals and the National Medal of Arts, marking the first time Biden has held a ceremony for the awards since taking office. “We’re a nation, a great nation, in large part because of the power of the arts and humanities. That’s stamped into the DNA of America,” Biden said. “Today … (we) continue the legacy of awarding two of our nation’s highest honors to 23 extraordinary Americans.”
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to top fundraiser Gretchen Picotte and great guys Sean Daly, Ash Mason, Paul Mitchell of The Southern Group, Jason Unger of GrayRobinson, Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, and former Rep. Alan Williams.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.