Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 3.24.23

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Florida politics and Sunburn — perfect together.

Good Friday morning.

Jacksonville Mayor candidate Donna Deegan is releasing her first ad since voters narrowed the field to two.

Titled “Unity,” the 30-second spot features the former newscaster greeting supporters while she outlines the “change for good” message her campaign has pushed throughout the cycle.

“I love this city with all my heart. And I want it to work for all of us. I’ve been to every neighborhood, listening. You’re tired of broken promises and ugly politics,” Deegan, a Democrat, says in the ad. “You want change. Better streets and sidewalks. Safe and healthy neighborhoods. An inclusive economy.”

She closes by vowing to “bring Jacksonville together and get things done.”

Deegan’s ad dropped a day after she earned 39% of the vote in the “First Election” for Jax Mayor. While she finished 14 points ahead of No. 2 Daniel Davis, she fell far short of the 50%-plus-one threshold required to win outright.

Deegan and Davis, a Republican who leads the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, will go head-to-head in the May 16 General Election.

Notably, Deegan’s call for unity comes as Democrat Audrey Gibson, who earned 9% of the vote Tuesday, is publicly refusing to back her campaign.

In an exclusive interview with Florida Politics, the former Senate Democratic Leader said she would not be endorsing either candidate in the General Election and that she believed the narrative of the mayoral race was “disgusting.”

“I want to make sure my disgust with this race is out there,” Gibson said, saying her and her family’s name was “denigrated,” as was her “legacy of service,” by persistent attacks claiming she was a “Republican plant” playing spoiler to Deegan in the First Election.

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

Sour Grapes?Audrey Gibson will not endorse Donna Deegan for Jacksonville Mayor” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Democratic unity will not be achieved in the General Election for Jacksonville Mayor. In an exclusive interview, former Senate Democratic Leader Gibson, who was eliminated in the First Election, emphatically stated that she would not endorse Deegan in the runoff election. Gibson, who spent roughly two decades in Tallahassee, has no plans to endorse Republican Davis either. “I’m not endorsing anyone,” she said. Gibson made it clear that the narrative of the mayoral race — which saw Deegan supporters say that she was not a legitimate candidate — was “disgusting” and disrespectful to her career in public service.


Tweet, tweet:

@CaseyDeSantis: Excited to announce Florida is implementing a first-in-the-nation approach to mental health, shifting to a resiliency-based model, and incorporating mentorship as part of the solution. We are proud to empower students with the skills to persevere and overcome life’s challenges.

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

@LeaderBookFL: The State of Florida shouldn’t be using taxpayer dollars to fund private school educations for millionaires’ kids … but here we are. Everyday people in this state deserve better than free handouts for the excessively wealthy designed to defund public schools!

@MDixon55: Can’t be many people in the country that have on their resume Chair of a statewide Democratic Party and leader of a Hillsdale school

Tweet, tweet:

@SuzyLopez: As prosecutors, our tool is to prosecute. And we will under my watch. Prolific violent offenders will face serious consequences in Hillsborough County- no matter their age.


‘Succession’ Season 4 begins — 2; MLB Opening Day 2023 — 6; Tron Lightcycle/Run debuts in Walt Disney World — 11; Suits for Session — 12; ‘Air’ starring Ben Affleck and Matt Damon premieres — 13; NBA Play-In Tournament begins — 18; Taylor Swift ‘Eras’ Tour in Tampa — 21; NBA playoffs begin — 23; final performance of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ on Broadway — 23; American Association of Political Consultants Pollies ’23 conference begins — 25; 2023 Session Sine Die — 42; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 42; Florida Chamber 2023 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 46; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 55; ‘Fast X’ premieres — 55; Florida Chamber 2023 Florida Prosperity & Economic Opportunity Solution Summit — 64; NBA Finals begin — 69; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 70; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 84; Florida Chamber 2023 Florida Learners to Earners Workforce Solution Summit — 95; ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ premieres — 97; ‘Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning — Part One’ premieres — 112; Florida Chamber 37th Annual Environmental Permitting Summer School — 119; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 121; ’Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 128; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 153; 2023 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 213; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 228; South Carolina Democratic Primary — 309; New Hampshire and Nevada Democratic Primaries — 320; Georgia Democratic Primary — 327; Michigan Democratic Primary — 340; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 372; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 427; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 490; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 490; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 532; ‘Deadpool 3’ premieres — 597; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 743; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 770; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 959.


Senate gives final OK on universal school vouchers, lawsuit limits” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Orlando Sentinel — The Senate gave final approval to bills creating universal school vouchers and legal reforms aimed at limiting lawsuits and sent them to Gov. Ron DeSantis for his expected approval.

The Senate voted 26-12 along party lines to approve the school voucher bill (HB 1), which Senate President Kathleen Passidomo called “one of the most transformative bills the Legislature has ever dealt with.”

Republican state lawmakers want to open state voucher programs that currently provide scholarships to more than 252,000 children with disabilities or from low-income families to all of the 2.9 million school-age children in Florida, with an estimated cost ranging widely from $210 million to $4 billion in the first year.

“My [Democratic] colleagues are saying, ‘we know what’s best for your kids,” Sen. Corey Simon said in defense of his bill. “What this bill does is we put that back in the parents’ hands.”

Touchdown: Corey Simon’s universal voucher bill is one signature away from becoming law.

But opponents raised concerns about sweeping money out of the public school system and subsidizing private education, in some cases for children of wealthy parents.

“There is no money following the child like we hear over and over again because they were never in public school,” said Sen. Tracie Davis. “You can’t ever follow something that was never in public school.”

Private schools don’t follow the same academic standards as public schools and can set their own curriculum, they said, pointing out that they could be teaching neo-Nazism and the state couldn’t do anything to stop them.


Ron DeSantis calls Vladimir Putin a ‘war criminal,’ clarifying earlier comment on Ukraine” via Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Swan of The New York Times — DeSantis clarified his description of the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a “territorial dispute” and said that Putin was a “war criminal” who should be “held accountable.” DeSantis made his latest comments in an interview with the British broadcaster Piers Morgan, who shared them with The New York Post and Fox News, both owned by Rupert Murdoch. The line about a “territorial dispute” was heavily criticized by foreign policy hawks.

Pierce Morgan snagged an exclusive interview with Ron DeSantis, broadcast on Thursday.

—” DeSantis publicly discusses sister’s death in detail for first time” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

DeSantis has one very big problem: Donald Trump” via Sally Goldenberg of POLITICO — DeSantis is taking clear and noteworthy steps to launch a presidential campaign: embarking on a well-received book tour, barnstorming early voting states and rubbing elbows with top conservative donors. Meanwhile, allies have staffed up a super PAC to bolster his likely campaign when it is announced. But the past week has placed some doubt alongside the wild anticipation around such a bid. His poll numbers have dipped. And he was dragged into the very thing he’d been trying to avoid: a public brawl with his chief rival, Trump, whose attack dogs smelled blood. Even Republicans eager to see DeSantis succeed agree that he has been put in a bind.

—” Trump knocks DeSantis’ presidential bid as a ‘sinking ship’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

DeSantis’ election fraud police spur copycat efforts in GOP-led states” via Ryan Teague Beckwith of Bloomberg — Four Republican-led states are working to add new police agencies specifically to target voter fraud, following the example set by DeSantis. Florida’s elections cop squad has faltered in its most high-profile cases since launching in July. But that hasn’t slowed down state legislators in Texas, Missouri, Ohio and Arkansas who have proposed bills that would create new police agencies to investigate voter fraud, an exceedingly rare crime typically managed by local police and elections officials.

DeSantis touts civics program, $3K bonuses for teachers” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — DeSantis handed out the first $3,000 bonus checks for teachers who completed a civics instructional program he backed last year. The program, launched in 2021, is vital for instilling basic civics education for students as they enter adulthood, DeSantis said. DeSantis said Thursday that 4,500 teachers have completed the course, which entails 50 hours of instruction on U.S. history and civics. Teachers who complete the course can receive a $3,000 bonus.

DeSantis urges action on China and TikTok, ‘critical interest’” via Eric Daugherty of Florida’s Voice — DeSantis spoke with Morgan on his foreign policy opinions relating to Russia, Ukraine, China and TikTok. Specifically, DeSantis took a hard stance against the China-based social media company for “harvesting” Americans’ data. “It’s not healthy for them. TikTok in China is sanitized; it’s more wholesome. Here they’re putting in a lot of bad stuff too,” DeSantis said. The Governor also took a hard stance on Taiwan possibly being taken by China, calling it a “critical interest” of the U.S. “That would be aggression. Absolutely it would be aggression. Taiwan is a strong ally of the United States,” he said.

Ron DeSantis talks foreign affairs, which now includes TikTok.

DeSantis: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle annoy some Americans” via Rozina Sabur of the Telegraph — DeSantis said he admired the late Queen but was far less enthusiastic about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. “I really respected the Queen. I think she was really elegant,” he told Morgan in an interview. “And I think her stoicism was really good.” He drew a contrast with the “younger generations” of Royals, saying it was a “little more mixed.” “I mean that’s just the reality,” he said.

DeSantis invites Whoopi Goldberg to Florida to see ‘doggone diverse state’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis has issued an invitation to Goldberg to visit the Sunshine State. During a Thursday night interview on Newsmax, the Governor responded to comments Goldberg made on The View, in which she insisted he wasn’t ready to be President of the United States. DeSantis told host Eric Bolling that the talk show host had a standing invitation to visit Florida, a “doggone diverse state.” DeSantis delineated the state’s ethnic and geographical diversity.

A Florida-based right-wing media site endorsed by DeSantis is supported by puppy mill money” via Beatrice Mount of Media Matters — A fledgling right-wing media outlet with unusual access to Florida politicians is sponsored by a dog breeder featured in the Humane Society’s “Horrible Hundred” list of puppy mills and sellers. Florida Puppies Online is one of five “proud supporters” featured on the homepage of Florida’s Voice, which has been endorsed by DeSantis. The Naples-based puppy seller earned a spot on the Humane Society of the United States 2020 “Horrible Hundred” list of puppy mills and puppy brokers.


Senate budgets $350M in reserves for school choice overrun” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — The Senate is proposing an education budget appropriation that includes $350 million in reserves for school vouchers in case more students than expected enroll as the state readies a new bill offering universal school choice. The House PreK-12 Appropriations Committee budget, meanwhile, proposes setting aside $110 million for the same unknown. Making school vouchers available to new categories of students, regardless of family income, is on a legislative fast track.

Senate budget slots $3.3 billion for DEP, just over $470M for FWC” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — Senate Republicans rolled out their budget in the Committee on Appropriations this week, and a number of conservation and resiliency efforts are getting top billing. Perhaps none more so than the Everglades and other impaired waterbodies like the Indian River Lagoon. Sen. Jason Brodeur noted earlier this week in his committee that DeSantis’ Everglades restoration and water quality funding goal of $3.5 billion over the next four years. Specifically, it allots $614.6 million for Everglades restoration and $555.1 million for water quality improvements.

Jason Brodeur sums up a pretty good budget for the Everglades.

Senate budget includes another wave of police pay bumps” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — There’s no shortage of pay bumps for law enforcement in the Florida Senate’s proposed 2023-24 budget. For starters, the newly released spending plan includes another $20 million for new state police recruits, a key feature of the separate “Freedom First Budget” DeSantis announced this month. But there’s a lot there for cops already on the job, including $110 million set aside to pay one-time $1,000 “recognition payments” to local police, firefighters, EMTs and paramedics.

Senate budget slashes Miami-Dade funding for the Underline, South Dade Trail” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Improvements to two bicycle and pedestrian paths stretching 30 miles along Miami-Dade County’s primary transit corridor could get a combined $3 million through the Florida Senate’s proposed 2023-24 budget. That’s half what the state gave the two projects last year and just over half the amount Sen. Alexis Calatayud requested. The budget split the potential apportionment equally between the two projects. The Underline, a 10-mile linear park and an urban trail that runs below the Metrorail would get $1.5 million. The same sum would go to the South Dade Trail, a nonmotorized route that runs for 20 miles alongside U.S. 1 and the South Dade Transitway between the southmost Metrorail station in Kendall and Florida City.

House advances bill restricting pronouns in schools” via Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO — The Florida House came one step closer to reinforcing the state’s parental rights laws Thursday as the chamber’s top education committee advanced a bill that would restrict how teachers and students can use their preferred pronouns while tightening rules around school lessons about sexual identity and gender orientation. House Republicans passed the proposal building on what critics call “Don’t Say Gay” after combining it with separate legislation encompassing new policies for sexual education and local book objections. With that vote, two of the more controversial education proposals of 2023 are now ready for the full House to consider it.

Stan McClain’s bill seeks to straighten out the pronouns used in schools. Image via AP.

Sea-level rise planning expansion bill headed to full committee” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — Money available for nature-based solutions to sea-level rise and new protections for flooding-imperiled historical and cultural sites could be in the cards as a bill building upon 2020s “landmark sea-level impact legislation” is headed to full committee. “Given the broad threat of sea-level rise to Florida goes beyond just coastal areas, this bill expands the areas where the studies are required to anywhere deemed at risk due to sea-level rise,” Rep. Christine Hunschofsky said to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee.

Bill upping penalties for illegally handling venomous reptile clears second House committee” via We Wolfe of Florida Politics — Despite expected opposition from the state reptile keeper community, legislation advanced to a full House committee recently that would enhance penalties for illegally handling venomous reptiles. “The increase in penalties serves as an effort to prevent the illegal trafficking of venomous reptiles, protect Florida’s environment and protect public safety,” Rep. Shane Abbott said to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee.


DeSantis wants ‘media accountability.’ A new bill makes suing journalists easier.” via Elahe Izadi and Lori Rozsa of The Washington Post — DeSantis sat in an anchorman’s chair, peering at a camera as phrases such as “SPEAK TRUTH” flashed on a screen behind him. Presiding over a setup that resembled a cable-news panel show, the Governor of Florida teed up provocative video clips and welcomed guests into his mock studio for what his office called a “roundtable discussion” that was streamed on social media last month. “These companies are probably the leading purveyors of disinformation in our entire society,” DeSantis said. “There needs to be an ability for people to defend themselves.”

Ron DeSantis inches closer to more media accountability.

GOP lawmakers reject Dem amendment to add restriction to permitless carry bill — Florida House Democrats came out on the losing end of an amendment to the GOP permitless carry legislation (HB 543) now approved in the House this Session. The amendment, filed by Hunschofsky, would have exempted those convicted of certain violent misdemeanors from being able to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. “One of my top priorities is to work to make our communities safer. Preventing people convicted of violent misdemeanor crimes, such as assault and battery, from carrying concealed weapons is actually the current law, and keeping it for permitless carry is simply common sense. I don’t understand why this simple public safety amendment was not supported by the Republicans in the House,” Hunschofsky said. The measure would remove any state requirement to have a permit to carry a concealed weapon. A similar measure in the Senate (SB 150) has not yet received a floor vote.

A Walmart-backed startup doesn’t like local government rules. It wants Tallahassee to overturn them.” via Jason Garcia of Seeking Rents — In early September of last year, a new company applied for a business license to begin flying delivery drones from the parking lot of a Walmart Neighborhood Market in the middle of a suburban subdivision east of Orlando. Zoning staffers with Orange County government told the company — a Virginia-based startup called DroneUp LLC — that it would have to apply for a land-use change. That could mean a potentially contentious public hearing before the local County Commission. Walmart Inc., the world’s largest retailer and a $600 billion-a-year behemoth, is not only a customer of the company — it is also an investor.

Florida Republicans want to make it easier to sue journalists — and even right-wing outlets are nervous” via Matt Shuham of HuffPost — A pair of bills currently making their way through the Legislature could fundamentally change how media outlets report on public figures. Among other things, the bills lower the bar for defamation cases, restrict protections for journalists’ use of anonymous sources in those cases, and limit the circumstances in which media outlets can win attorney’s fees if they countersue for legal attacks. The proposed changes go right to the heart of the U.S. Supreme Court case that defined modern libel law with the “actual malice” standard in 1964.

Inmate Bill of Rights pushed by Hillsborough County state Representative” via Jeff Van Zant of Bay News 9 — Democrat State Rep. Dianne Hart of Hillsborough County is pushing for an Inmate Bill of Rights that would provide basic rights for inmates in Florida prisons. House Bill 357 would establish a list of rights for people incarcerated in the state of Florida. Hart says she believes inmates should have access to soap, feminine hygiene products and toothpaste. “We’re treating people inhumanely and that’s not fair,” said Hart.

— LEG. SKED. —

— The House Commerce Committee will consider legislation (HB 1423) that would revoke the license of any public lodging that admits a child to an adult live performance: 8 a.m., Room 212, Knott Building.

— The House Health & Human Services Committee meets: 9 a.m., Room 17, House Office Building.

— The House will hold a floor Session: 11 a.m., House Chambers.


Florida Chamber hails passage of torts bill — The Florida Chamber of Commerce heralded the passage of the tort omnibus (HB 837), which it identified as its top priority ahead of the 2023 Legislative Session. “This is a great day for Florida families, consumers and local businesses,” said Florida Chamber President & CEO Mark Wilson. “The passage of this legislation means that Florida can begin reversing the damage done by billboard and personal injury trial lawyers, begin the process of putting $5,000 a year back into the pockets of Florida families and begin to redirect the billions of dollars spent on frivolous lawsuits each year, enabling Florida families and local businesses to use those dollars to invest in their business, for everyday family expenses or in their local communities.” The Chamber also released a video pushing back against trial lawyers’ attacks on the legislation.

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

Truckers toast to torts passage — The Florida Trucking Association praised the Senate for passing the torts omnibus (HB 837), which now heads to the Governor’s desk. “The Florida Senate, alongside the Florida House, made tort reform a key issue during this Session, and we are grateful to Senate President Kathleen Passidomo for her commitment to ending lawsuit abuse in the state,” said Alix Miller, president and CEO of FTA. “We are also grateful to Sen. Travis Hutson, who skillfully guided this legislation through the process, working with all stakeholders to ensure meaningful reforms were ultimately passed. We are one step away from seeing this important measure become the law in Florida, and Florida Trucking is immeasurably thankful to our state’s unwavering leaders, who had the mettle to tackle this issue during the 2023 Session.”

AFP-FL lauds Senate for sending universal vouchers bill to DeSantis’ desk — Americans for Prosperity-Florida praised the Senate after it voted in favor of the universal school choice bill (HB 1), saying the legislation “will empower Florida families.” AFP-FL State Director Skylar Zander said, “We are elated to see universal Education Savings Accounts pass the state Legislature today. Congratulations to Sen. Corey Simon and Rep. Kaylee Tuck who put in the hard work as the bill sponsors. We also want to recognize the hard work of House Speaker Paul Renner and Senate President Kathleen Passidomo and we thank them for shepherding the passage of the most transformational education bill seen in this nation’s history. We hope Gov. Ron DeSantis receives the bill soon and quickly signs it into law.”

FEA says universal vouchers will siphon billions from underfunded classrooms — The Florida Education Association slammed the universal school choice bill after the Senate punched its ticket to the Governor’s desk. “Florida’s families overwhelmingly count on their neighborhood public schools as the best place for their children to get the education they deserve and need. HB 1 will siphon billions away from the schools where nearly 90% of Florida’s students learn and grow,” said Andrew Spar, the president of the state’s teacher union. “This bill will leave children with fewer resources in their already underfunded classrooms and fewer teachers and staff to meet their needs. Sending tax dollars to unaccountable, corporate-run private schools is just wrong. This bill is a political priority of a Governor who puts his political ambition ahead of Florida’s families.”

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Miguel Abad, CCC Miami: Cemex Construction Materials Florida, White Rock Quarries

Howard Adams, Pennington PA: Florida Citrus Business & Industries Fund

Michael Aguilar: National Restaurant Association

Brian Ballard, Mathew Forrest, Ballard Partners: Florida Entertainment & Arts Venues Association

Angela Bonds, Chris Moya, Dean Mead: DecoBike

Emily Buckley: A. Duda & Sons

Jacqui Carmona, Jodi Davidson, Zachary Hubbard, Rubin Turnbull & Associates: 21st Century Family Empowerment Council, Concorde Career Colleges, Florida Waste Haulers & Recyclers Coalition

Javier Estevez: Sierra Club

Malinda Horton, Horton & Associates: Florida Association of Museums

Nick Iarossi, Jared Rosenstein, Christopher Schoonover, Capital City Consulting: Associated Industries of Florida, Town of Highland Beach

Yolanda Cash Jackson, LaToya Sheals, Becker & Poliakoff: Win Florida Foundation

Eric Johnson: AvMed

Mark Lance: Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation

Aimee Lyon, Karl Rasmussen, Metz Husband & Daughton: Better Together, GoodRx

Stephen Shiver, The Advocacy Partners: Sunflora

Rodney Skirvin: Florida Police Benevolent Association


Casey DeSantis: Florida is first state in nation to collect cancer recurrence data via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Florida will be the first state in the nation to collect cancer recurrence data, First Lady DeSantis, herself a cancer survivor, announced. The effort is the Cancer Connect Collaborative’s first action to remove access barriers to cancer data to promote easy and timely research. Cancer survivors in remission can experience recurrences of the same or different cancer. Currently, there is no collective, population-level data system in the U.S. to monitor or track such recurrences.

Casey DeSantis is working to streamline cancer research in Florida.

New rule aims to ‘avoid confusion’ over sexual orientation lessons, Manny Diaz says” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — The DeSantis administration wants to bar instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in all public-school classes through 12th grade to “avoid confusion and provide clarity for teachers,” Education Commissioner Diaz said. Diaz signed off on a proposed rule that would make the provisions of Florida’s controversial 2022 law, dubbed “don’t say gay” by critics who argue it silences all mentions of LGBTQ people, applicable to all grades pre-K through 12th grade.

Health care ‘equity’ was a Florida priority until the DeSantis administration erased it” via Kirby Wilson and Lawrence Mower of the Miami Herald — In 2017, when Florida Department of Health officials crafted their once-every-five-years list of state health goals, they published what was then a noncontroversial top priority: improving health equity. The state sought to home in on “avoidable inequalities, historical and contemporary injustices, and the elimination of health and health care disparities.”

Florida poised to become the most death-penalty friendly state” via Maria Deliberato and Melanie Kalmanson of the Miami Herald — Bills pending in the Florida Legislature (SB 450/HB 555) would lower the jury vote necessary to impose a sentence of death from 12-0 to 8-4. Currently, only one state does not require a jury’s unanimous recommendation for death. If passed, defendants will inevitably raise challenges to the constitutionality of the new statute. In the meantime, it seems Florida’s government is set on seeking out and executing defendants who were sentenced to death by non-unanimous juries under the state’s prior unconstitutional statute in an apparent political effort to convince the court of public opinion that 8-4 is constitutionally sufficient to support a sentence of death.

Florida passes on millions in federal gun violence prevention funds” via Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida is leaving up to $15 million in federal money on the table that could be used to fight gun violence. Florida was one of only six states that did not receive funding through a new federal grant to help carry out emergency risk-protection programs. Such orders are used by law enforcement to temporarily seize guns from people suspected of being a danger to themselves or others. Sen. Lori Berman, a West Palm Beach Democrat, is pushing for the state to file a late application, which she said federal officials would be open to receiving. “I don’t understand why Florida wouldn’t apply and get some of those expenses reimbursed by the federal government,” Berman said.

Ashley Moody warns Floridians about flesh-eating drug mixed with Fentanyl” via Josh Miller of The Florida Standard — Moody is warning Floridians about the flesh-eating “zombie drug,” xylazine, also known as “tranq.” Xylazine is a Schedule I controlled substance in Florida — it is a crime to possess or sell the drug in the state. “Floridians need to be aware that xylazine is making one of the deadliest drugs in history, fentanyl, even deadlier,” said Moody. “Xylazine is a sedative, and therefore resistant to standard opioid reversal treatments such as Narcan.” This week, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration issued a warning about the sharp increase in the trafficking of fentanyl mixed with xylazine.

Jimmy Patronis targets BlackRock as GOP leaders work in concert to discredit ESG” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Orlando Sentinel — When Patronis decided to drop BlackRock from managing $2 billion in state treasury funds, he blamed company CEO Larry Fink’s commitment to using climate change and other factors to decide where to invest. Yet all but one of the firms that Patronis moved the money to actually follow those same ESG principles, which take into account a company’s policies on environmental, social and governance issues when weighing investment risk.

Jimmy Patronis drops BlackRock from managing $2 billion in treasury funds, blaming ‘wokeness.’

Captains for Clean Water red tide claims shut down by group’s member, experts” via Brendon Leslie of Florida’s Voice — Experts and a Captains for Clean Water board member said Lake Okeechobee discharges are not contributing to red tide on the coast, shutting down an opposite claim the Captains for Clean Water co-founder made Wednesday. Captains for Clean Water Co-Founder Chris Wittman said Lake Okeechobee discharges are contributing to red tide in Tampa. However, experts and Captains for Clean Water Board Member Chauncey Goss said that is not the case. Wittman claimed in the article that “poor water management” following Hurricane “gave red tide enough power” to travel to Tampa.

Florida again takes aim at tenured faculty. Who’s affected? Why does it matter?” via Ian Hodgson of the Tampa Bay Times — The push to reform Florida’s public higher education system, led by DeSantis and conservative lawmakers, has resurfaced a long-standing debate over the purpose and value of tenure. Last year, DeSantis signed a bill into law requiring public university leaders to review professors’ tenure every five years. And a bill introduced earlier this month would go even further, allowing university trustees to call for a tenure review “at any time.” Professors and their supporters said that legislation clawing back tenure’s job protections jeopardizes academic freedom and Florida’s position as the top public university system in the nation.


Poll shows Joe Biden approval dips near lowest point” via The Associated Press — Approval of Biden has dipped slightly since a month ago, nearing the lowest point of his presidency as his administration tries to project a sense of stability while confronting a pair of bank failures and inflation that remains stubbornly high. Biden notched an approval rating of 38% in the new poll, after 45% said they approved in February and 41% in January. His ratings hit their lowest point of his Presidency last July, at 36%, as the full weight of rising gasoline, food and other costs began to hit U.S. households. In recent months, approval of Biden had been hovering above 40%.

Joe Biden hits a new low in popularity.

Biden goes quiet on banking crisis, calls on Congress to act” via Justin Sink and Josh Wingrove of Bloomberg — As the global banking crisis stretches into its third week, Biden has turned to a familiar playbook lay low and point the finger at Congress. Publicly, aides and top White House officials say lawmakers have a responsibility to intervene. Unprecedented executive actions are being discussed behind closed doors, but Biden’s spokespeople are refusing to detail those deliberations while warning of the legal and practical obstacles to unilateral moves.

Rick Scott’s solar crusade” via Nick Sobczyk of Axios — Scott is reintroducing a bill to ban the federal government from buying solar panels made in China. It’s another China pressure point for the GOP and part of a larger fight over solar’s future that crosses partisan lines. The government is already subject to various buy-American requirements, but the bill would be more explicit. “We must work to fully decouple our supply chains and end our reliance on products from Communist China. That’s the only way to truly build American independence and self-sufficiency,” Scott said in a statement.

TikTok faces uncertain future after five-hour congressional thrashing” via Cat Zakrzewski and Jeff Stein of The Washington Post — TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew tried to allay mounting national security concerns about the Chinese-owned video app but encountered open hostility Thursday in his first appearance before Congress, a five-hour thrashing that underscored the popular app’s precarious future in the United States. Lawmakers from both parties sought to tie Chew personally to the Chinese Communist Party, frequently interrupted him and called him “evasive.” While he pledged to safely steward the data of American users and shield TikTok from foreign manipulation, lawmakers from both parties criticized TikTok, without evidence, as a tool of China’s Communist government.

Parkland dad detained in D.C. after being removed from hearing” via Amber Bonefont of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Authorities on Thursday detained Parkland father Manuel Oliver, who was attending a committee hearing in Washington, D.C., on gun rights. Oliver, whose son Joaquin was shot and killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High mass shooting five years ago, Oliver was accused of interrupting a committee hearing held by the House Judiciary Committee. “You took my son away from me,” Oliver’s wife, Patricia Oliver, said at one point in the meeting.

Pentagon probes why Boeing staff worked on Air Force One planes without security credentials” via Andrew Tangel of The Wall Street Journal — Pentagon officials are scrutinizing why Boeing Co. employees worked on current and future Air Force One planes without security credentials required for the highly classified jets. The Defense Department and Boeing have also been examining for how long many workers with access to the jets now in use by the U.S. President, and under development in San Antonio, lacked certain current security credentials. The Boeing employees’ so-called Yankee White security credentials had in some cases expired months or years ago and in at least one case about seven years ago.

Republicans say spending is fueling inflation. The Fed Chair disagrees.” via Jim Tankersley of The New York Times — Jerome Powell has repeatedly undercut a central claim Republicans make as they seek sharp cuts in federal spending: Government spending is driving the nation’s still-hot inflation rate. Republican lawmakers say spending programs signed into law by Biden are pumping too much money into the economy and fueling an annual inflation rate that was 6% in February, a decline from last year’s highs, but still well above historical norms. Powell disputed those claims in congressional testimony earlier this month and in a news conference on Wednesday after the Fed announced it would once again raise interest rates to bring inflation back to normal levels.

Two Florida Republican Governors with different paths on immigration, elections on mind” via John Kennedy of USA Today Network — With DeSantis expected formally to launch a bid for the Republican presidential nomination in coming weeks, election politics is again in play. “I think we’re expecting all of the worst that we could possibly expect from this Legislature and this Governor,” said Rep. Kelly Skidmore. “It’s such a personal affront, especially to our Hispanic community.” But DeSantis said the sweeping restrictions he is demanding are needed and focusing on the White House, vows that he “won’t turn a blind eye to the dangers of Biden’s border crisis.”


Potential Trump indictment pushed, as grand jury hears unrelated case” via Erica Orden of POLITICO — The Manhattan grand jury hearing evidence in the criminal investigation of Donald Trump’s alleged role in hush money payment to Stormy Daniels is evaluating an unrelated case Thursday, according to a person familiar with the matter, making any potential indictment of the former president unlikely before next week. It wasn’t immediately clear why the grand jury wouldn’t hear evidence in the Trump case on Thursday.

Trump lawyer’s personal audio recordings could be final nail in the coffin” via Ewan Palmer of Newsweek — Legal experts have suggested there could be significant evidence in the transcriptions of personal audio recordings that a judge has ordered a Trump lawyer to hand over as part of the classified documents investigation. A three-judge panel at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered Trump defense attorney Evan Corcoran to testify to a grand jury and hand over a number of documents to investigators in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s team. The order arrived after D.C. District Judge Beryl Howell supported prosecutors’ arguments that Trump may have used Corcoran’s services to carry out a crime.

Will tapes be the last straw with Donald Trump?

Two impeachments and four probes: A score card to keep track of the Trump investigations” via Antonio Fins of The Palm Beach Post — From the so-called (Robert) Mueller report to a porn star payment and two impeachments in between, Trump rates as the most investigated U.S. president ever. Of that quartet, grand jury probes in New York City and Atlanta appear to be the closest ones to resolution, either to dismiss the allegations or to support indicting Trump. Those two are also notable because they are state cases, and as such adjudication would be immune to a presidential pardon. The other two investigations are being carried out by a special counsel named by the U.S. Department of Justice.

‘Unlawful’: Manhattan DA stiff-arms House GOP info request on Trump case” via Jordain Carney and Kyle Cheney of POLITICO — Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office rejected as “unlawful” the demands by three House GOP Chairs who’d sought sensitive details about his investigation of Trump. Leslie Dubeck, Bragg’s general counsel, wrote to Judiciary, Oversight and Administration Committee Chairs Jim Jordan, James Comer and Bryan Steil in response to their requests for an interview with Bragg as well as a swath of documents. Dubeck countered that the newly launched GOP probe is “an unprecedented inquiry into a pending local prosecution.”

New York prosecutor rebuffs GOP demand for documents related to Trump investigation” via Amy B. Wang of The Washington Post — Bragg emphatically rebuffed a House Republican demand for documents and testimony related to his office’s investigation of Trump, saying the request was “an unprecedented inquiry into a pending local prosecution.” On Tuesday, Rep. Jordan, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Bragg demanding materials related to his investigation into alleged hush-money payments from Trump to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign. Jordan also accused Bragg of an “unprecedented abuse of prosecutorial authority.”

State lawmakers resume effort to get Trump’s name off state park in Westchester County” via Marcia Kramer of CBS News — Trump’s current legal woes have spawned another attempt to take his name off a Hudson Valley park. The sponsor of the state legislation said Thursday that the seventh attempt just might be the charm. William Shakespeare once asked, “What’s in a name?” to which Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal responds, just about everything. “I think it’s the shame of New York that we have a state park named after a twice-impeached President who incited the insurrection at the capital on Jan. 6, that lead to the death of five officers,” Hoylman-Sigal said.

Will the seventh time be the charm for removing Donald Trump’s name?

Trump argues he deserves immunity from 3 lawsuits over Jan. 6 Capitol attack” via Bart Jansen of USA Today — Trump argued in a federal appeals court filing Thursday he deserves immunity from three civil lawsuits that seek to blame him for the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021. Trump’s lawyer, Jesse Binnall, told a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals there was no “incitement” in Trump’s speech near the White House Jan. 6, 2021, before a mob of supporters stormed the Capitol. Binnall argued Trump’s exhortation to “fight” was a reference to political pressure. “First, President Trump’s speech falls well within the broad scope of absolute immunity suggested by DOJ,” Binnall wrote.

—“Trump urges court to uphold his absolute immunity claim in Jan. 6 lawsuits” via Zoe Tillman of Bloomberg

— 2024 —

Is the Republican Primary already over?” via Tina Nguyen of Puck — Trump’s escalating legal woes appear to have created an opening for his rivals. While nearly every potential ’24 candidate has made noises about prosecutorial overreach, it’s notable that DeSantis chose this week to begin publicly testing various counterpunches at Trump. In a preview of his interview with Fox Nation’s Morgan, DeSantis takes shots at Trump’s character and leadership style, boasts that he’d run the government with “no daily drama,” suggests that he would have fired Dr. (Anthony) Fauci and extols the Founding Fathers for putting “the Republic over [their] own personal interest” — as opposed to people who would, for instance, pay hush money to porn stars. In reality, there’s a little less here than meets the eye, despite Morgan’s bombastic attempt to hype the interview in the New York Post.

Round one: DeSantis and Trump launch rhetorical brawl for Republican nomination” via David Jackson of USA Today — DeSantis is starting to fight back, verbally, against Trump. After months of ignoring Trump’s barbs, DeSantis is engaging the ex-President over leadership, character and the ability to win elections. So begins a political battle that may dominate and decide the 2024 Republican presidential race. “You know, you can call me whatever you want,” DeSantis told television host Morgan in an interview. “I mean, just as long as you, you know, also call me a winner.” The bickering augurs a brutal and divisive Primary that could weaken Republican General Election campaigns for the White House and Congress.

The Ron DeSantis/Donald Trump war goes from cold to blazing hot.

DeSantis has no interest in being on a ticket with Trump” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Any residual hopes of a Trump and DeSantis Presidential ticket are not happening. That’s one takeaway from a Thursday night interview on Newsmax, which the Governor granted host Eric Bolling. Asked if he would run as Trump’s vice presidential pick, “I think I’m probably more of an executive guy. I mean, I think that you want to be able to do things. That’s part of the reason I got, I got into this job is because we have action, we’re able to make things happen. And I think that’s probably what I’m best suited for,” DeSantis asserted.

Texas’ GOP leaders are skipping Trump’s Waco rally because of ‘prior commitments’ as possible indictments dog his 2024 campaign” via Warren Rojas of Business Insider — If Trump thought heading to ruby red Texas this weekend would force Republican leaders to come running as he seeks to fend off swirling indictments, the embattled former President is in for a rude awakening. Insider couldn’t find a single Texas GOP official who willingly planned to participate in his official 2024 campaign rollout in Waco on Saturday.

Teetering banks put Biden between a bailout and a hard place ahead of the 2024 race” via Asma Khalid of NPR — When Biden explained why his administration stepped in earlier this month to rescue two failed banks, he cast it as a decision to help small businesses make their payroll. And he was emphatic that he was not bailing out Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank. “No losses will be borne by the taxpayers. Let me repeat that: no losses will be borne by the taxpayers,” Biden said. Bank bailouts are politically toxic, something voters made clear after the 2008 financial crisis. But for Biden, the alternative to a bank rescue could have been even worse, as he gears up for what’s expected to be a second run for office in the 2024 presidential race.

Pro-labor? Biden aims to prove it with unionized 2024 staff” via Will Weissart and Zeke Miller of The Associated Press — Biden likes to say he’s the most pro-union President in U.S. history. When he announces his expected re-election campaign in the coming weeks, he’ll get the chance to prove it to his own staffers. Workers on his 2024 campaign will be unionized, political allies say, making him the first President to run a re-election campaign with staff represented by a union. That means hammering out a collectively bargained agreement that could establish salary minimums, set work hours and offer overtime pay.

Joe Biden walks the talk with unionization.

Trump campaign prepares for ‘new normal’: Running under indictment” via Isaac Arnsdorf, Josh Dawsey, Michael Scherer and Hannah Knowles of The Washington Post — The escalating criminal jeopardy confronting Trump has restored him to his political comfort zone, according to advisers and allies: counterattacking, with prominent Republicans largely behind him. Trump’s campaign isn’t waiting for an official indictment or arrest to deploy an aggressive political response, already criticizing Bragg and key witness Michael Cohen, as Trump aides plot further attacks. Advisers are moving to capitalize on coverage in conservative media outlets, raising over $1.5 million since Saturday, a person familiar with the matter said.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

MiamiCoin trading halted. After price tanked, Mayor Francis Suarez lost about $2,500” via Joey Flechas and Vinod Sreeharsha of the Miami Herald — The more time passes, the more MiamiCoin fails to live up to the hopes its creators and Mayor Suarez had for the branded cryptocurrency. The city didn’t create MiamiCoin, but in his broader push to brand Miami as a crypto capital, Suarez promoted MiamiCoin as a boon to the city that could possibly generate enough revenue to eliminate city taxes. That doesn’t appear to be happening anytime soon. OKCoin, the only exchange that hosted the MiamiCoin activity, suspended the trading of city-branded cryptocurrency on Friday. It’s another blow to Miami’s crypto brand a few months after the meltdown of cryptocurrency exchange FTX.

MiamiCoin takes a huge belly flop.

Mental health curriculum is the latest target in Miami-Dade schools” via Sommer Brugal of the Miami Herald — Invoking Florida’s new parents’ rights law, the Miami-Dade School Board is embarking on a review of how students learn about managing their emotions, collaborating with others and developing their identities — a move that comes as the number of students experiencing mental health concerns has significantly increased in recent years. The proposal by new Board member Monica Colucci, which the board adopted last week in a 7-0 vote with Steve Gallon and Roberto Alonso absent, sets out to determine if any social-emotional learning materials violate the Parents’ Bill of Rights that gives parents the “fundamental right” to direct the upbringing, education and care of their child.

Trial approaches for deputy accused of hiding during Stoneman Douglas shooting” via Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The lawyer for former Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson continued to challenge the case against him, asking a judge to include a jury instruction that could point jurors to a quick verdict of not guilty. Broward Circuit Judge Martin Fein ruled against defense lawyer Mark Eiglarsh, saying his motion was a retread of last year’s motion to dismiss the case. Peterson, 59, is charged with seven counts of child neglect with great bodily harm and other counts stemming from his alleged failure to pursue the gunman during the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland five years ago.

LGBTQ community’s signature extravaganza in Palm Beach County takes on more meaning this year” via Giuseppe Sabella of The Palm Beach Post — “Still Here. Still Queer. Still Proud.” The theme of this weekend’s Palm Beach Pride event is a symbol of strength during a time when lawmakers — especially those in Florida — have been setting their sights on the LGBTQ+ community. The Human Rights Campaign has identified more than 400 anti-LGBTQ+ bills throughout the country this year. More than a third would hinder the rights of trans people, “the highest number of bills targeting transgender people in a single year to date,” the organization reported.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Disney World, unions reach tentative deal for $18 an hour wage” via Katie Rice of the Orlando Sentinel — Disney World and the unions representing its workers have reached a tentative agreement to boost the resort’s minimum wage from $15 to $18 an hour by the end of the year. The deal will make Disney the highest-paying tourism employer in Orlando after Universal raised its starting wages to $17 an hour in February and a local go-karting franchise, Andretti Indoor Karting & Games, boosted its hourly pay to $17.50 this month. The six unions in the Service Trades Council Union coalition announced they supported a proposed contract with Disney that would increase hourly pay for full-time workers by at least $5.50 over the next five years.

Disney and its unions work it all out.

Monique Worrell seeks second term in State Attorney’s Office” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Embattled State Attorney Worrell said she will seek another term in Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit. “I am proud to represent the people of Orange and Osceola counties,” the Central Florida Democrat said. Worrell won election in 2020 on a criminal justice reform platform. The announcement also touted her work with law enforcement. “She has worked to improve the quality of investigation and evidence collection by law enforcement by providing clear guidance on what arises to probable cause and reasonable doubt,” the release states.

Osceola Sheriff says Worrell’s office sending ‘wrong message’ in drug trafficking cases” via Cristóbal Reyes of the Orlando Sentinel

Deborah Poulalion announces for Seminole Co. Election Supervisor shortly after Brian Beute” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Poulalion just announced a new bid for Supervisor of Elections in Seminole County. The former House candidate faces Brian Beute, who last week announced his campaign to succeed retiring Supervisor Chris Anderson. Both candidates have run in high-profile races in recent years. Poulalion most recently ran in House District 36 but lost the race for the open seat to Rachel Plakon. While registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district, a statewide Republican wave helped Plakon win the seat with a 10-percentage-point landslide.

Volusia officials hold off raising beach driving rates” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — The cost of driving on the beaches of Volusia County will not be going up after a vote from the Volusia County Council. According to a release from the Council, the tolls to venture onto the county’s hard-packed stretches of sand remains $20 for both county and non-county residents for a day pass. Annual passes for verified county residents and area college students such as Bethune-Cookman, Stetson and Embry-Riddle remain $25 while out-of-county residents can purchase an annual pass for $100. The Council instructed staff, though, to consider imposing fees for off-beach parking for non-county residents at its 2,100 spaces that are currently free.

Palm Bay Council member Randy Foster still on respirator, but improving in ICU after coma” via Rick Neale of Florida Today — Foster remains on a respirator in intensive care after he was hospitalized on March 2 and fell into a diabetic coma, but his medical condition continues to improve, said his sister, Vicky Foster. “He’s doing much better. He’s sitting up, and he’s awake. His eyes are open,” Foster said. “He does still have the respirator helping him breathe, but he’s doing a lot better. He’s pulling through. He’s fighting,” she said. Foster, 59, who has held the City Council Seat 3 post since November 2020, was transported by medical helicopter to Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne after falling ill.

Godspeed to Randy Foster as he makes a slow, but steady, recovery.

West Melbourne Council member John Dittmore files for County Commission seat” via Tyler Vazquez of Florida Today — Dittmore filed his paperwork to run for the District 3 Brevard County Commission seat that will open next year. The Republican becomes the first candidate to file for the open position even as the open races for Districts 1 and 5 have begun to fill with 2024 hopefuls. Dittmore, a 10-year Brevard County resident, retired police officer and Navy veteran, has served on the West Melbourne City Council since 2018. If he wins the seat for District 3 next November, he will be leaving his term with the city early.


Tampa Bay educators take notice as ‘parental rights’ push moves to high schools” via Marlene Sokol of the Tampa Bay Times — A move by Republican leaders that would broaden Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act to include high schools was met with skepticism and alarm on Thursday by educators who fear it could strain important relationships between teachers and their teenage students. The directive, proposed by Diaz and backed by DeSantis, would strengthen the 2022 law, which restricts teachers’ ability in grades K-3 to discuss matters pertaining to sexual orientation or gender identity. If the State Board of Education approves the measure on April 19, as expected, those instructions will cover grades K-12.

Manny Diaz puts the heat on Tampa Bay educators. Image via Scott Powers.

USF faculty condemns bills to alter Florida higher education: ‘Just baffling’” via Divya Kumar of the Tampa Bay Times — The University of South Florida faculty has condemned two bills proposing major changes to the state’s higher education system after a survey of members revealed dire concerns about the legislation. In a unanimous vote Wednesday, the faculty senate approved a resolution targeting HB 999 and its companion, SB 266. The bills would prohibit state spending on diversity and equity initiatives; ban majors and courses related to critical race theory and gender studies, among other fields; and give all hiring power to university boards of trustees and presidents.

Former Arturo Fuente Cigar Co. factory has a new owner — a Fuente” via Paul Guzzo of the Tampa Bay Times — When Liana Fuente saw the handwriting on the wall, she knew that the building had to stay with the family. The two-story wood and concrete block building at 2708 N 18th St. was used as a factory for Arturo Fuente Cigar Co. in the 1950s and 1960s. After her cousins put it up for sale in October, Fuente decided to take a tour of the factory where her grandfather once lived. Names of Fuente cigar lines are still scribbled on the wall in the room where tobacco bales were once stored. “I think that is my grandfather’s handwriting,” said Fuente, 43. “It’s amazing.”

Pasco Sheriff discontinues controversial intelligence program, court documents say” via Dan Sullivan and Matt Cohen of the Tampa Bay Times — The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office has stopped keeping a list of people deemed likely to commit future crimes and repeatedly sending deputies to their homes. Attorneys for the Sheriff’s Office noted in a court paper that in 2021 and 2022 the agency phased out what was referred to as the “prolific offender designation process or prolific offender checks.” Instead, the Sheriff’s Office now says it focuses on people reasonably suspected to have committed a particular crime under investigation, a distinct designation it refers to as “focused offenders.”

Nine renters compete for every one apartment in Tampa Bay” via Devonta Davis of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Tampa Bay is one of the hardest places in Florida for renters to find a new unit. The report found that high home prices, tight housing supply and inflation have made Tampa Bay one of Florida’s most competitive rental markets at the start of 2023. According to the data, one renter competes with eight other people to secure a lease in Tampa Bay. As a result, the market is so busy that apartments get filled in 40 days.

Tampa Pride celebration returns Saturday with all-day events” via Spectrum News — Tampa’s Pride festival is taking place Saturday, with a daylong list of events and celebrations. The event will include the Tampa Pride Street Festival, a health and wellness fair, a diversity parade along Seventh Avenue, and a “Pride @ Night” party. All the events are taking place in and around Ybor City. The all-day celebration will kick off at 11 a.m. with a street festival on the Hillsborough Community College Ybor campus.


‘No more funding’: State College of Florida’s DEI director terminated after 40 years” via Samantha Gholar of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Dr. Brenda Pinkney, State College of Florida’s Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and a longtime tenured faculty member, confirmed that she had been dismissed this week by the Manatee County-based school. In a brief interview with the Herald-Tribune, Pinkney said that the college’s officials delivered the news to her on March 2 that her contract for the recently created position of director of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) was being terminated and would not be renewed at the end of the school year in June. She said she believes the move is a result of the Legislature’s efforts to dismantle and remove DEI initiatives from the state’s higher education system.

After 40 years, Dr. Brenda Pinkney gets a pink slip.

‘Woke’ Sarasota School Board member targeted by DeSantis files for re-election” via Steven Walker of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The morning after walking out of a Sarasota County School Board meeting as members of the public directed anti-gay comments toward him, Tom Edwards filed paperwork with the elections office to run for re-election. Edwards, the only Democrat on the School Board and recent target for GOP criticism filed for re-election to his seat for the 2024 Elections Wednesday morning, according to a candidate statement filed with the county Supervisor of Elections Office. He was first elected during the August 2020 Primary Election, defeating incumbent Eric Robinson with 52% of the vote. Edwards, who is gay, was one of 14 School Board members in Florida named as a target of DeSantis last month for defeat in next year’s elections.

Sebastian City Manager dodges no-confidence vote, but more voices are yet to be heard” via Janet Begley of the Treasure Coast Newspapers — City Manager Paul Carlisle survived an attempted no-confidence vote, but that doesn’t mean he may not be on even thinner ice in coming weeks. Citing issues of fiscal and personnel mismanagement — as well as poor relationships with the City Council, city staff and the public — Council member Bob McPartlan called for a no-confidence vote at the end of Wednesday’s Council meeting. The effort failed when no other Council member seconded the motion, but that didn’t deter McPartlan, a former Councilman and Mayor, from reading aloud his personnel evaluation of the City Manager. TCPalm obtained a copy of the evaluation.

Which Fort Myers Beach houses damaged in Hurricane Ian must be demolished?” via Kate Cimini of the Fort Myers News-Press — More than 1,000 homes and apartments on Fort Myers Beach were “substantially damaged” in Hurricane Ian and require demolition, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. According to a release by the Town of Fort Myers Beach, the evaluation helps the Federal Emergency Management Agency document the total number of structures destroyed for flood insurance rate purposes, as well as federal aid funding. The Corps investigated all the homes on Estero Island in October 2022, shortly after the storm made landfall at Cayo Costa, where wind speeds reached up to 155 miles an hour, just inches short of a Category 5 designation.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Analysis: Where Donna Deegan and Daniel Davis captured votes, and what it means for runoff” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — Deegan picked up support across the city. She won the most votes in 147 of 186 precincts. On her home turf, the Atlantic Beach resident was the top vote-getter at the Beaches. Davis won 30 precincts including on the Westside, which he once represented on City Council and in the state Legislature. He also won in Ortega, where he lives, and in Mandarin and scattered Southside precincts. City Council member Al Ferraro won 16.2% of the vote to finish in third place. He won nine precincts that all fell within his City Council District 2 seat. Gibson and City Council member LeAnna Cumber did not win any precincts.

How this week’s Jacksonville mayoral elections could predict the outcome of the race.

A shake-up may be brewing at the Escambia Children’s Trust. Would it help or hurt kids?” via Brittany Misencik of the Pensacola News Journal — The Escambia County School Board is taking a second look at who it wants filling its lone, guaranteed seat on the Escambia Children’s Trust. District 4 Board Member is Patty Hightower currently the Vice Chair of the Children’s Trust. However, at a School Board workshop Monday, District 1 Board Member Kevin Adams said he believes District 3 representative David Williams, who was elected in November 2022, would be a better representative for the “have-nots” in the district.

Tallahassee principal ousted after complaints about Michelangelo’s ‘David’ in art lesson” via Ana Goñi-Lessan of the Tallahassee Democrat — A local charter school principal said she was forced to resign after a parent complained a Renaissance art lesson was pornographic. Hope Carrasquilla had been principal for less than a year at Tallahassee Classical School in Leon County before she resigned from her position during an emergency board meeting Monday. Carrasquilla said last week she was told by the School’s Board Chair, Barney Bishop, that she would have to resign, or she would be fired. She believes the catalyst for the ultimatum was complaints about an art lesson on the Renaissance period.

—“Art or pornography? Michelangelo’s David has been controversial since the beginning. Here’s how” via C.A. Bridges of The Daytona Beach News-Journal

Tallahassee Commissioners OK TPD contracts, pay hike amid lingering drug-test controversy” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — Tallahassee City Commissioners signed off on new contracts with the police union that includes raises and higher starting salaries for officers in a move they say is needed to attract and retain the best law enforcement personnel. The vote, which happened amid controversy over an officer who tested positive for drugs but wasn’t fired and the abrupt termination of the city’s HR director, broke down along predictable factional lines. Mayor John Dailey and Commissioners Dianne Williams-Cox and Curtis Richardson voted in favor of the contracts, with Commissioners Jack Porter and Jeremy Matlow voting against them.

Organizations urge Panama City voters to pass property tax exemption for new businesses” via Nathan Cobb of the Panama City News-Herald — Local organizations are rallying together to see an upcoming referendum across the finish line. With the 2023 Municipal Elections less than a month away, the Central Panhandle Association of Realtors and Bay County Chamber of Commerce are rallying with the Bay Economic Development Alliance in support of an upcoming Panama City referendum to allow property tax exemptions for select new and expanding businesses. The referendum is slated to appear on Panama City ballots in the April 18 elections.

All six lanes of Pensacola Bay Bridge now open; final completion estimated for spring” via the Pensacola News Journal — All six lanes on the Pensacola Bay Bridge are now open to traffic after the opening of the third travel lane on the eastbound structure. With the opening of the lane, each bridge structure consists of three, 12-foot travel lanes flanked by 10-foot shoulders. While all six travel lanes on the bridge are now open, additional work remains to complete the project. Tasks will include painting, working on the bridge’s aesthetic lighting system, completing the wayside park area in Gulf Breeze, and finishing the shared-use path on the westbound bridge. These activities will, at times, require intermittent nighttime lane closures.


The week the 2024 Primary ended” via Rick Wilson for Resolute Square — In the last seven days, the Primary for the Republican nomination for President came to a crashing halt.

First, all the wannabes, also-rans, and VP aspirants (looking at you, Nikki Haley) bent the knee, caught in the cruel political singularity of Trump’s utter dominance of the MAGA base. Every single one of them took the weapon of Trump’s lavish and constant criminality and tossed it on the ground. They joined the hallelujah chorus in the House of Representatives and attacked District Attorney Bragg instead.

DeSantis, dream date of the Establishment, came closest to an attack, swiping at Trump with a mumbled line of “I don’t know what goes into paying off a porn star.” It fell so utterly flat with the Republican base voters, the MAGA online horde, and the mainstream media that he repeated it again to Morgan on Fox Digital with the same … exact … intonation.

Pros noted DeSantis’ lack of political felicity on his first big road test, and while many have analogized DeSantis to Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio, those comparisons only go so far.

The real vibe DeSantis was giving this week was Hillary Clinton.

The expected establishment choice. The safe bet. The letter-perfect resume with all the signifiers the meritocracy finds so comforting. An army of media Stans who declare the perfection of their policies, views, history, and prospects. Like Hillary, Ron DeSantis seems fundamentally uncomfortable with this work. He lacks that grace and ability natural candidates show without trying; Ronald Reagan had it. Barack Obama had it. As painful as it is to admit, Donald Trump had it.


Ukraine needs our strong support, not DeSantis’ weak rhetoric” via the Orlando Sentinel and South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial boards — Almost nothing has gone well for Putin since he invaded Ukraine. He counted on dispatching his victim as swiftly as Adolf Hitler’s blitzkrieg did to Poland in 1941, but a different history has unfolded. Reducing the war in Ukraine to a border dispute tells Europe’s most ruthless warmonger since Hitler that he should keep the war going long enough for one or the other of his American apologists to be elected. To lightly gloss over Putin’s murderous rampage as a “territorial dispute” plays as fast and loose with semantics as DeSantis’ claim that he’s fostering “freedom” in a Florida that’s rapidly eviscerating it.

DeSantis’ bogus rule on rallies at Florida Capitol just another scheme to restrict free speech” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Last week, Florida’s government refused to grant permission to the League of Women Voters to hold a rally on the steps of the Old Capitol in Tallahassee. The group was told that, under a DeSantis administration rule, its rally needed to be sponsored by a state agency. A thwarted rally during the Legislative Session may not seem like it warrants a ton of attention in the torrent of bad ideas pouring out of Tallahassee, but this is not small; it’s one more way the state is tightening its chokehold on free speech in Florida. In other words, if it isn’t part of DeSantis’ anti-woke agenda or some other Republican cause, you need not apply.

Activist journalism is attempting to pollute science on clean air regulations” via Jeff Stier of Real Clear Science — Consider the latest development in a long-running effort to prevent sugar cane farmers in Florida from continuing their use of prescribed pre-harvest burns. The efficient procedure is tightly regulated by overlapping federal and state laws and rules. Nonetheless, activists are seeking a ban, despite consistent regulatory science validating the safety of the air quality near the farms. Now, a loosely knit group of activist reporters and a UC Berkeley-educated epidemiologist have launched a bizarre effort to subvert the well-established regulatory science which narrowly permits pre-harvest burns. At every turn, activists failed to produce the science to persuade regulators in Democrat (and Republican) administrations, the courts, as well as the federal and Florida legislatures, to ban pre-harvest burns.

Floridians need greater access to safe, affordable consumer loans” via Scott Jenkins for Florida Politics — Unfortunately, for many low-income Floridians with less-than-perfect credit, traditional loans from a bank or credit union are often unattainable due to rigid qualification requirements. Consumer loans, or state-regulated non-bank loans, provide more access to safe, affordable loan options to lower-income Floridians with bad or no credit. However, Florida’s current statutory rate structure limits consumer finance lenders from providing Floridians wider market access to more affordable options in our state. The lack of access to traditional consumer credit has caused many Floridians to turn to online lenders that are not licensed and regulated by the state.



ABC Action News Full Circle with Paul LaGrone on Channel 10 WFTS: Sen. Blaise Ingoglia; Jon Wax, Financial Advisor and CEO of Waller and Wax Advisors; and political analyst Dr. Susan MacManus.

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida and other issues affecting the region.

In Focus with Allison Walker on Bay News 9/CF 13: A look at DeSantis’ “Moving Florida Forward” plan, and how it will impact drivers faced with heavy traffic congestion on Central Florida’s busiest highways. Joining Spectrum News 13 Anchor Julie Gargotta are Tim Wronka, real-time traffic expert, Spectrum Bay News 9; Jerry Hume, real-time traffic expert, Spectrum News 13; and Jared Perdue, Secretary, Florida Department of Transportation.

Political Connections on Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: Interviews with Ingoglia and Rep. Susan Valdes about immigration reform; and Sen. Nick DiCeglie will join to discuss regulating vacation rentals.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: A conversation with Sen. Vic Torres and Rep. Kristen Arrington from Tallahassee to discuss what is going on during the Legislative Session as it continues.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Gary Yordon and Rabbi Michael Shields.

— ALOE —

You know it’s Spring when …Universal unleashes dates, ticket details for Halloween Horror Nights” via Ashley Carter of Spectrum News — Universal Orlando has revealed more details about this year’s Halloween Horror Nights. The popular after-hours event will run select nights from Sept. 1 through Oct. 31, for a record 44 event nights. HHN 32 will unleash “a new slate of horrifying haunted houses and scare zones filled with menacing creatures,” Universal said in a news release. Similar to past events, this year will feature 10 haunted houses, five scare zones and live entertainment.

It’s a Spring tradition. Image via Universal Orlando Resort.

Florida ranks among worst states for tipping, study shows” via Andrea Chu of WTSP — Cheap tippers in Florida are giving the entire Sunshine State a bad rap. In a ranking of states with the most generous tippers, Florida fell practically to the bottom at No. 48 out of 50. Floridians tipped an average of 18.3% in the last quarter of 2022. Only two states ranked worse: Washington with an 18.2% average tip and California with 17.5%.

Legendary Gator QB Tim Tebow to open healthy eatery in Gainesville this summer” via Nora O’Neill of the Gainesville Sun — One of college football’s most electric players in history is coming back to Gainesville to open a store that will give fans some healthy food options while shopping just minutes away from the University of Florida campus. Tebow plans to expand his Clean Juice franchise location base to Gainesville’s Butler Town Center shopping plaza this Summer. He opened his first store last year in his hometown of Jacksonville. The Heisman trophy winner and two-time national champion said he relates to the company’s commitment to promoting healthy bodies and strong spirits.

MIT scientists twist apart more than 1,000 Oreos in search for perfect method” via Aylin Woodward of The Wall Street Journal — It’s safe to say many people eat Oreos the same way. They twist them apart, then consume the cookie as two separate creme-covered wafers. Yet more than a century after the Oreo’s inception, many connoisseurs haven’t solved a frustrating problem: how to twist it so both wafers end up with filling on them. Michelle Deignan, vice president of Oreo in the U.S., said there’s no secret method. That, it seems, made it a worthy challenge for some scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “I’ve always been annoyed that I have to twist them apart and then push creme from one side onto the other,” said Crystal Owens, a Ph.D. candidate in MIT’s mechanical engineering department.


Celebrating today are Anthony Rodriguez, Brian Blanco, former state Rep. Adam Hattersley, our friend Glen Gilzean, Karen Giorno, Zach Hubbard, Jena Kingery, Fred Menachem, Giancarlo Sopo, and Kristin Crawford Whitaker.


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

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

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

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