Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 3.31.23

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Get up-to-date fast: Everything you need to know about the day in Florida politics.

Good Friday morning.

Grand jury votes to indict Donald Trump” via The Washington Post — A Manhattan grand jury has voted to indict Trump as he becomes the first person in U.S. history to serve as President and then be charged with a crime.

The grand jury had been hearing evidence about hush money paid to adult film actor Stormy Daniels during Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, allegedly to keep her from saying she’d had a sexual encounter with Trump years earlier.

Arrest warrants are typically issued automatically when an indictment is filed against a defendant who has not been previously charged in a criminal complaint. In this case, the indictment was filed behind closed doors after the clerk’s office at New York Supreme Court in Manhattan was closed for the day. The doors had been locked while the historic document was being formally filed — a stark departure from normal practices.

The wait for an indictment is soon over; what’s next?

Trump, in a statement, said: “This is Political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history. From the time I came down the golden escalator at Trump Tower, and even before I was sworn in as your President of the United States, the Radical Left Democrats — the enemy of the hardworking men and women of this Country — have been engaged in a Witch-Hunt to destroy the Make America Great Again movement.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz was the first Republican to come to Trump’s defense on social media. “President Donald Trump always fought for us,” Gaetz said on Twitter moments after news of the indictment broke. “He puts the American people above corrupt interests. For that reason alone, the powerful will never stop coming for him.”

—”Ron DeSantis addresses Trump indictment, doesn’t mention ‘porn star hush money’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

How an indictment and arrest of Trump could unfold” via William Rashbaum and Jonah Bromwich of The New York Times — Prosecutors would most likely work with his legal team to arrange his surrender in Manhattan. Within several days, Trump would travel to the city and turn himself in at the district attorney’s office in Lower Manhattan. Hours later, he would be arraigned in a courtroom in the same building. The unsealing of the indictment — and a public announcement of the charges — would coincide with his surrender and arraignment. However, there is some chance that Trump does not surrender — there have been differing reports on that possibility — which could kick off a more complex scenario. Some of the routine steps that follow any felony arrest in New York would apply to the former President as they would anyone else: He would be photographed, fingerprinted, and read a standard Miranda warning offering him the right to remain silent. But because of Trump’s status — and his ’round-the-clock Secret Service detail — prosecutors are likely to make some accommodations.

—”Trump expected to surrender in New York early next week” via ABC News

‘O.J. Simpson on steroids’: Team Trump preps for a post-indictment frenzy” via  Alex Isenstadt and Meridith McGraw of POLITICO — Aides to the former President moved aggressively on Thursday to capitalize politically on news that a Manhattan grand jury had charged Trump — using it to fill their fundraising coffers, mobilize loyalists and further solidify his hold on his base of supporters in the GOP Presidential Primary. His team is preparing for a circus. One Trump adviser compared the expected press frenzy of Trump going to Manhattan for the arraignment to “O.J. Simpson on steroids,” with television networks potentially launching helicopter coverage to dramatically follow Trump from his Florida estate to his plane at Palm Beach International Airport, and then from LaGuardia Airport to lower Manhattan. Trump’s campaign had spent weeks laying the groundwork for this moment.

Here’s how the vote to indict Trump could shake up the 2024 race.” via Maggie Haberman of The New York Times — The history-making vote to indict Trump defied historical precedent, upended the former President’s reality and threw the race for the 2024 Republican nomination into highly uncertain territory. Perhaps the biggest electoral question is whether Trump can continue to rally his supporters in the GOP Primary to his side. In the past, he has used investigations into his business, personal and political activities to stir a defensive sentiment among his most die-hard supporters. His backers came to see investigations into whether his 2016 campaign conspired with Russians, as well as two impeachment inquiries, as part of what he often claimed was a partisan “witch hunt.” Trump has done the same thing in the lead-up to the indictment vote in Manhattan.

A President faces prosecution, and a democracy is tested” via Peter Baker of The New York Times —For all of the focus on the tawdry details of the case or its novel legal theory or its political impact, the larger story is of a country heading down a road it has never traveled before, one fraught with profound consequences for the health of the world’s oldest democracy. For more than two centuries, Presidents have been held on a pedestal, even the ones swathed in scandal, declared immune from prosecution while in office and, effectively, even afterward. No longer. That taboo has been broken. A new precedent has been set. Will it tear the country apart, as some feared about putting a former president on trial after Watergate? Will it be seen by many at home and abroad as victor’s justice akin to developing nations where former leaders are imprisoned by their successors? Or will it become a moment of reckoning, a sign that even someone who was once the most powerful person on the planet is not above the law?


Hollywood has the Oscars; music has the Grammys.

The best on television wins Emmys, and the best of Broadway receives Tonys. Even the political consulting industry offers awards — the Pollies — to the best in its business.

Florida’s governmental affairs industry has the Golden Rotundas to recognize the best in the field.

On July 4, INFLUENCE Magazine will reveal the winners of this year’s Golden Rotundas in several categories:

— Lobbying Firm of the Year

— Mid-size Lobbying Firm of the Year

— Boutique Lobbying Firm of the Year

— New Lobbying Firm of the Year

— Lobbyist of the Year

— In-house Lobbyist of the Year

— Best Lobbyist in several sectors, including Appropriations, Education, Environment, Gaming, Health Care and Insurance.

Just as the INFLUENCE 150 is the benchmark of the most powerful people in Florida politics, the Golden Rotundas are the industry standard for those in the lobbying business.

The winners of the Golden Rotundas will be determined — just like the Academy Awards are voted on by those in the movie business — by those who work in the influence industry.

The Golden Rotundas will recognize a firm or a lobbyist’s body of work for 2022-23 — not a firm’s history or a lobbyist’s career.

The Lobbying Firm of the Year can only be awarded to a company ranked in the Top 25 for legislative branch compensation (as listed here). Each of the Top 25 firms has one ballot and must rank the top three firms other than itself.

Mid-size Lobbying Firm of the Year will be awarded to a company with six to 10 full-time registered lobbyists. Voting is open to all registered lobbyists.

Boutique Lobbying Firm of the Year will be awarded to a company with five or fewer full-time registered lobbyists. Voting is open to all registered lobbyists.

New Lobbying Firm of the Year will be awarded to a company that created or established its practice in Florida since the publication of the 2021 awards.

Lobbyist of the Year will be awarded to individuals whose professional success exceeded others in 2022-23. All public sector and private sector lobbyists who are actively retained or employed as lobbyists registered with the State of Florida are eligible. Voting is open to all registered lobbyists.

In-house Lobbyist of the Year will be awarded to an individual registered to lobby on behalf of their employer (that is not a lobbying firm). Voting is open to all registered lobbyists.

The sector awards for Education, Gaming, Health Care, and Insurance will be awarded to individuals whose accomplishments in these individual silos stood above all others in 2022-23.

Nominations are now being accepted, and voting is underway — closing at 11:59 p.m. on May 31.

I will contact a representative from each of the Top 30 firms (by compensation) for their ranking of the Lobbying Firm of the Year.

To complete a ballot, email your selections to [email protected]. You must include your name, and you must vote in at least three categories — only one vote per person. Entries cannot be changed. ALL BALLOTS ARE CONFIDENTIAL.

I reserve the right to add to the award categories and revise any rules for eligibility and voting. My goal is for the lobby corps to recognize the best of the business, so it will be implemented if a suggestion is made to improve the process.

Winners will be featured in the Summer 2023 edition of INFLUENCE MAGAZINE.


Tweet, tweet:

@fineout: Last week DeSantis said he would not get involved in the case — which is a similar response. But some of his comments at the time drew the ire of Trump supporters

@Mdixon55: So, if you were to drop a resign to run bill helping @GovRonDeSantis run for President, you’d do it in the wake of a Trump indictment, right? #7050

@Eric_Jotkoff: Anyone with news to dump, now is perfect time.

@AndrewWarrenFL: Team DeSantis is mad, saying Disney illegally stripped them of their legitimate authority & subverted democracy. Imagine how wrong it would be if Disney refuses to rescind the order after a federal court rules it was unconstitutional. Asking for a friend.

@Sojourner_blanc: As a law geek tormented by the Rule Against Perpetuities in law school, I am just tickled that it was used by Disney to circumvent Ron DeSantis by choosing the lives in being as the living descendants of King Charles III — a notoriously long-lived family.

@JostHarpOnIt: The pettiest part about Disney’s legal maneuvering with DeSantis is as they were neutering his newly created oversight district’s power in broad daylight, they simultaneously put out a statement saying they were “ready to work in this new framework.”


Tron Lightcycle/Run debuts in Walt Disney World — 4; Suits for Session — 5; DeSantis visits Hillsdale College in Michigan — 6; ‘Air’ starring Ben Affleck and Matt Damon premieres — 6; NBA Play-In Tournament begins — 11; Taylor Swift ‘Eras’ Tour in Tampa — 14; NBA playoffs begin — 16; final performance of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ on Broadway — 16; American Association of Political Consultants Pollies ’23 conference begins — 18; DeSantis speaks at Utah Republican Party convention — 22; DeSantis speaks at the Jerusalem Post and Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem ‘Celebrate the Faces of Israel’ event — 27; 2023 Session Sine Die — 35; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 35; Florida Chamber 2023 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 39; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 48; ‘Fast X’ premieres — 48; Florida Chamber 2023 Florida Prosperity & Economic Opportunity Solution Summit — 57; NBA Finals begin — 62; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 63; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 77; Florida Chamber 2023 Florida Learners to Earners Workforce Solution Summit — 88; ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ premieres — 90; ‘Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning — Part One’ premieres — 105; Florida Chamber 37th Annual Environmental Permitting Summer School — 112; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 114; ’Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 121; Beyoncé’s ‘Renaissance’ tour in Tampa — 138; 2023 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 206; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 220; South Carolina Democratic Primary — 302; New Hampshire and Nevada Democratic Primaries — 314; Georgia Democratic Primary — 320; Michigan Democratic Primary — 333; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 365; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 420; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 483; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 483; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 512; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 525; ‘Deadpool 3’ premieres — 590; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 736; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 763; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 952.


Legislature passes permitless carry bill” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Eligible gun owners could soon be able to carry a concealed firearm without a permit in Florida, after the Senate voted in favor of a bill repealing the state’s concealed carry requirement.

After a two-hour debate, the chamber voted 27-13 for HB 543 along mostly party lines, with Sen. Ileana Garcia the only Republican to join Democrats voting against it.

Ileana Garcia bucks the party line on permitless carry.

The bill will next be headed to DeSantis, who has said he will sign it.

Sen. Jay Collins, a sponsor of the bill, stressed that those who are ineligible to carry a firearm, such as ex-felons, would still be banned from carrying a gun. “What this bill does is remove that need for that government permission slip,” Collins said. “It does not change the legal requirements to carry a firearm.”

Democrats, though, said the process of getting a license — which includes firearms training and a background check — is a needed hurdle to filter out people who can legally carry a gun.

“Those are the people who are now going to think it’s OK to walk around with a gun,” said Sen. Lori Berman. “The permit process works. It weeds out those individuals who have a disqualifying history. Without it, we’re only going to find out when it’s too late.”

Other parts of the bill boost school safety measures approved in the aftermath of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in 2018, including a program to allow police officers with firearm-detecting canine units in schools. The canine provision is a favorite of Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, who made the rare decision as a legislative leader to speak in favor of it on the floor during the debate.


Eye on the prize? DeSantis chases red-meat issues this Legislative Session” via Tristan Wood of City & State FL — DeSantis hasn’t officially declared whether he’s interested in running for the White House — but much of the legislation he has championed this Session looks like a wish list for conservative voters across the nation. To be sure, he’s focused on culture-war issues beloved by Republicans across the country, but not necessarily by most Floridians. Aubrey Jewett, a political-science professor at the UCF, believes DeSantis’ policy goals are about social and cultural issues that excite the national base. “His pursuit of legislation this Session didn’t seem to come from a grassroots cry from the average Floridian. Instead, it seems like it is coming from … what DeSantis is trying to create,” Jewett said.

Ron DeSantis delivers a huge serving of red meat this Session.

DeSantis calls Trump indictment ‘un-American’ and says he won’t assist in extradition” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — DeSantis previously said he wouldn’t get involved in Trump’s indictment “in any way” but was roundly condemned by the former President and his supporters, who accused him of being disloyal. The decision to criticize Trump’s indictment aligns him with other Republicans who have rallied to Trump’s side. It also mirrors the full-throated GOP support for Trump after the FBI searched his residence at Mar-a-Lago in August. “The weaponization of the legal system to advance a political agenda turns the rule of law on its head. It is un-American,” DeSantis said on Twitter. “The Soros-backed Manhattan District Attorney has consistently bent the law to downgrade felonies and to excuse criminal misconduct. Yet, now he is stretching the law to target a political opponent.” Under Florida law, the governor can intervene in an extradition matter if it is contested. But as of now, Trump’s lawyers have indicated that Trump is expected to surrender.

The rabble-rousing congressman ready for Ron” via David Catanese of Too Close to Call — DeSantis has earned a reputation as a bit of a social misfit: a loner who is deficient at the backslapping, schmoozy part of the job. To Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie, he’s an old dinner buddy who loved devouring the nuts and bolts of policy and politics over a plate of fish. “He’s a foodie. He would do research on new places to eat,” Massie told McClatchy in a recent interview, recalling that the two were inside Washington’s Luke’s Lobster when Congressman Eric Cantor lost his 2014 Primary race in Virginia. “Ron DeSantis predicted it before anybody else,” said Massie.

DeSantis could call open carry Special Session ‘if I can get the votes’” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — DeSantis is pushing for a Special Session to further expand gun rights. During a campaign event in Georgia, an activist asked DeSantis, “will you call a Special Session for open carry?” DeSantis’ response was clear. “If I can get the votes.” Gun activist Matt Collins quickly shared a video of the comment. The remarks came the same day the Legislature passed a permitless carry bill DeSantis has said he will sign. That bill (HB 543) will eliminate any requirement for concealed carry licenses to bring a firearm to public settings but would still require guns to be concealed.

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

What DeSantis is telling big GOP donors behind closed doors” via Sally Goldenberg of POLITICO — DeSantis has been privately reaching out in recent months to a bevy of potential supporters in the Empire State. DeSantis visited the Long Island estate of billionaire cosmetics heir and GOP donor Ronald Lauder several months ago. DeSantis’ message was simple: He is the only Republican who could defeat Joe Biden in a General Election.

DeSantis’ war on ‘woke’ may not play well in important swing states” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — The 2023 Legislative Session was designed to give DeSantis victories in advance of a likely run for President, but experts said the issues he’s promoting could haunt him in key swing states if he becomes the Republican candidate for the White House. The six-week abortion ban bill moving quickly through the Legislature, proposed bans on drag shows and transgender treatments, and restrictions on what can be taught at public schools and colleges have made national headlines as he presumably prepares to announce a presidential bid.

DeSantis chose the wrong college to take over” via Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic — the Sarasota campus found itself at the center of the culture wars. A DeSantis spokesperson declared that the college had been “completely captured by a political ideology that puts trendy, truth-relative concepts above learning.” Christopher Rufo, the most outspoken new trustee, vowed to take it back. “We are now over the walls and ready to transform higher education from within,” he tweeted. In New College, Rufo saw every excess of “wokeness” in academia. The real story of DEI at New College: The bureaucracy that Rufo inherited was largely the result of directives from a DeSantis appointee in the state capital, not radical leftists on campus.

DeSantis teases ‘more to come’ on latest twist in Disney battle: ‘You ain’t seen nothing yet’” via Steve Contorno and Kit Maher of CNN — DeSantis teased future, unspecified action against Disney after the entertainment giant appeared to thwart his attempts at a takeover of its special governing powers. “There’s a lot of little back-and-forths going on now with the state taking control, but rest assured, you know, you ain’t seen nothing yet,” DeSantis said. “There’s more to come in that regard.” The comments come a day after DeSantis allies on the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board, the body that oversees the land in and around Disney’s Orlando-area theme parks, unveiled that the company had quietly reached an agreement with the outgoing board that turned over most of its governing powers to Disney.

Ron DeSantis doubles down on the Disney kerfuffle.

Untangling DeSantis-Disney legal dispute could take years” via Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — If they go to court, Disney and DeSantis’ hand-picked oversight board might be in for a multimillion-dollar legal slugfest that could last years. On one side, the Reedy Creek Improvement District is hiring four law firms, including a politically connected conservative Washington firm that counts U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton as alumni. On the other hand, Disney is a nearly $180 billion corporation with a top lawyer who earned about $15.2 million in compensation in 2022, according to a recent financial filing. Legal bills would pile up in a protracted court fight, and the district could draw on the tax dollars Disney pays to Reedy Creek to compensate its lawyers.

Attorney General’s Office wants records over Disney-Reedy Creek deal” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — The Florida Attorney General’s Office is seeking public records related to the old Reedy Creek board’s last-minute agreement with Disney to limit the district’s power before a state-run board took over last month. The new members of the Disney World government board said Wednesday the previous board made a 30-year agreement with Disney to limit the board’s power. Under a new law, DeSantis was given the power to pick five board members last month to run Disney World’s government, seizing control from Disney. It was Republicans’ punishment for Disney speaking out against the Parental Rights in Education law that’s been called the “Don’t Say Gay” law by critics.

Royal clause and King Charles III invoked in Disney vs. DeSantis board dispute” via Jeff Weiner of the Orlando Sentinel — As the news broke that The Walt Disney Co. had quietly stripped power from the board that oversees Disney World’s government services ahead of its takeover by DeSantis’ replacements, a reference to British royalty caught the internet’s attention, becoming instant fodder for memes. A “declaration of restrictive covenants” approved by the board’s former members on Feb. 8 — a day before the House voted to hand control of the district to DeSantis — prohibits the district from using Disney’s name, Mickey Mouse and other characters without the corporation’s approval. But it was the term of that ban that raised eyebrows.

Trump trashes DeSantis’ ‘sellout’ to insurance industry” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Trump is doubling down on his attacks of DeSantis’ “bailout” of insurance companies. In a new video, the former President again contended the Florida Governor favors privileged “globalist” insurance companies over the people of the Sunshine State. “DeSanctimonious is delivering the biggest insurance company bailout in global history. This is a gift to insurance companies and a disaster for the people of Florida,” Trump said. “He’s also crushed Florida homeowners whose houses were destroyed in the hurricane. They have been absolutely decimated. They’re getting pennies on the dollar.” Trump then offered a denunciation of Florida’s Insurance Commissioner for doing “absolutely nothing.”

In Georgia, DeSantis finds an enthusiastic GOP reception” via Greg Bluestein of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution — About two dozen Republican state Senators gathered in the state Capitol’s second-floor lobby Thursday, still bleary-eyed from the previous night’s legislative chaos. They weren’t there to rehash the clamorous finale of the Legislative Session. They were enthusiastic attendees of a closed-door meeting with DeSantis, the presumptive presidential contender in town for a stop on his book tour. Not long ago, it might have been inconceivable for prominent Georgia Republicans to court an alternative to Trump so eagerly.

Ron DeSantis gets a hero’s welcome by the Georgia GOP.

‘Beyond the pale’: Dems go after DeSantis for visiting gun store after Nashville shooting” via Hannah Demissie of ABC News — DeSantis will travel to Cobb County, Georgia, to visit a popular gun store as part of his ongoing book tour ahead of what is expected to be a presidential campaign announcement this summer. The previously scheduled trip happens to come days after a shooter killed six people at a private school in Nashville, Tennessee, which Georgia Democrats noted in criticizing DeSantis, who is seen as a rising Republican star after easily winning re-election in November. The Governor is continuing a tour pegged to his new memoir and promoting what he calls Florida’s “blueprint” for the rest of the country, believing it can serve as a model for governing and politics nationwide.


Senate tees up six-week abortion ban for floor vote” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Senate positioned legislation that would ban most abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy for a floor vote after a lengthy debate. SB 300, filed by Sen. Erin Grall, would ban doctors from knowingly performing or inducing a termination of pregnancy after the sixth week of gestation. This would represent a change from the current 15-week threshold, which legislators hailed as a reasonable compromise when it passed it last year. The Heartbeat Protection Act would “protect innocent babies who deserve the right to life,” Gall said, and the six-week ban with exceptions was central. The companion, Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka’s measure (HB 7), passed its final Committee Thursday, with an amendment that aligns the House and Senate products.

Erin Grall’s abortion bill inches closer to becoming law.

Bill allowing Governor to control athletic association moves to Senate floor” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — A measure putting the Governor in charge of all but one of the appointments to the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) is heading for the Senate floor. A similar bill (HB 225) was passed in the House and has been sent to the Senate. It would give DeSantis power that only the Delaware Governor has. The bill sponsor, however, argued the legislation would put Florida more closely in line with how other states do it. “This bill seeks to eliminate the monopoly and introduce choice and athletics mirroring what every other state in the union has in place,” said Sen. Jay Collins. The Senate Rules Committee passed the bill largely along party lines.

Senate approves lowering death penalty threshold” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Florida is one step closer to allowing death sentences by an 8-4 vote of a jury, instead of the current requirement that the vote be unanimous after the Senate voted in favor of SB 450. The bill and much of the debate surrounding it centered on the sentencing of the shooter who killed 17 people, including 14 students, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in 2018. Jurors in the case voted 9-3 to recommend the death penalty. The shooter was instead sentenced to life in prison. “What happened in Parkland was a tragedy that will forever stain this state,” said Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, a Spring Hill Republican and sponsor of the bill. “What that verdict did do was expose a flaw in the current system.”

Everglades protection bill advances to Senate floor” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A Senate bill that would create a large, development-free buffer zone around the Everglades is now bound for consideration by the full chamber. The Senate Rules Committee unanimously backed the measure (SB 192), which would add a new layer of state protection against harmful urban encroachment into Florida’s largest national park. The bill would require county or municipal development plans within 2 miles of the Everglades Protection Area to undergo review by the Department of Environmental Protection. That review would include consultation with all federally recognized Indian tribes.

New path for parental oversight of disabled adult children readied for full House vote” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Legislation creating a new path for parents of children with disabilities to stay involved in their children’s education is advancing to a final vote in the House. The legislation (HB 19) would simplify the legal process needed for parents to stay informed after students on Individual Education Plans (IEPs) turn 18. The bill would make it so that a year before turning 18, the IEP student would be fully informed about what turning 18 means and work with their education providers to create a channel for parents to remain informed about educational matters.

House preps bill loosening School Board candidate residency requirements for final vote” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — A bill that would loosen residency requirements for School Board candidates, bringing them more in line with most other local elected offices, has been readied for full House passage. The legislation (HB 411) from Rep. Kevin Steele is among a number of Republican bills aiming to reshape how School Board seats are filled across the state. DeSantis has taken an unprecedented interest in School Boards. He’s the first Governor to identify a slate of candidates he wished to see voted into office. “I’m putting this in line with the rest of the elected officials in the state of Florida,” Steele said, responding to the question of why he was introducing the measure.

Kevin Steele seeks to change the game in School Board elections.

Fertilizer improvement bill emerges from Committee smelling like a rose” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — When treating wastewater, you’re left with solids and treated liquid. Call those solids what you like, but legislation passing a House Subcommittee this week would encourage wastewater treatment entities to refine these solids into a better-quality fertilizers. There are Class AA, A, and B biosolids, with the bill laid out to encourage more facilities to generate Class AA. “Florida’s Clean Waterways Act states that the Legislature finds that it is in the best interest of the state to minimize the migration of nutrients that impair water bodies,” Rep. Kaylee Tuck said of HB 1405 to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee.


Plan to ‘cripple’ environmental- and social-related investing could cost taxpayers” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — Florida taxpayers could pay more for municipal bonds and see lower returns on government pension funds under a bill getting approval by lawmakers that attempts to penalize U.S. companies that consider social and environmental issues when making investment decisions. The proposal passed the full House, and a companion measure got its first hearing in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, which approved it 8-3 along party lines. Similar laws have been passed in other states, and reports by both state and environmental groups have found the laws led to an increased cost to taxpayers. The Florida bill bans state and local governments from investing in funds or purchasing bonds based on social, political or ideological interests.

Jimmy Patronis has led the charge to separate from ESG investment.

House ready to vote on request to prohibit SNAP purchases of nonalcoholic drinks” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — A House memorial asking the federal government to prohibit the purchase of certain nonalcoholic beverages using government food assistance did not go down easily with Democrats. The legislation (HM 581) is merely a recommendation to the federal government, but readying the memorial for final passage lit a debate on the House floor that ran almost an hour. The sponsors say they are trying to improve health by putting sweetened drinks and soda on the same level as alcohol and tobacco, which are also prohibited purchases under the government benefits program, known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Will the town of Loxahatchee finally become official?” via David Volz of City & State Florida — There’s long been a Loxahatchee — all 42.13 square miles of it — in Palm Beach County but it could soon be official. The unincorporated area in the western part of the county would become the Village of Loxahatchee — the county’s 40th municipality — under a local bill (HB 1113) sponsored this Legislative Session by Rep. Rick Roth, a West Palm Beach Republican. The measure has been scheduled for three House Committees but has not yet had a first hearing. If passed, those who live there also would have to vote on it in a Nov. 7 referendum. If that passes, the new village (pop. roughly 44,800) would be created effective Dec. 31.


Florida just became the nation’s biggest school choice laboratory” via Kevin Mahnken of The 74 Million — Florida became the nation’s biggest K — 12 marketplace Monday, when DeSantis signed legislation that offers school vouchers and Education Savings Accounts to every family in the state. How will the policy affect K — 12 education statewide, as parents race to fill out applications and school districts brace for the financial impact? According to Emory University economics professor Krzysztof Karbownik, “it’s really hard to predict” how HB 1 will affect Florida education. “We just don’t know, from a U.S. perspective, because nobody has tried this,” he said.

Florida is poised to be the nation’s laboratory on education vouchers.

AFP-FL commends House panel as EFI elimination advances — Conservative group Americans for Prosperity-Florida praised House leadership after a Committee voted to advance legislation (HB 5) that would dismantle the public-private economic development organization Enterprise Florida. “Enterprise Florida has long failed to live up to its founding mission of encouraging private sector job growth and promoting Florida’s overall economic health,” said AFP-FL State Director Skylar Zander. “It’s about time this ineffective, unnecessary organization is eliminated and its funding placed within the better-equipped Department of Economic Opportunity. This important legislation is a victory for hardworking taxpayers across the state, and we thank House Speaker Paul Renner, bill sponsor Rep. Tiffany Esposito, and House leaders and the Ways & Means Committee for advancing this legislation.”


Assignment editors — The Student Unity Coalition, which advocates for the BIPOC, queer, and trans students of South Florida, will mobilize to protest bills targeting academic and medical freedom, beginning with a march from the FSU campus and a news conference: March begins noon; news conference begins 1 p.m., Historic Capitol steps.

— The House Education & Employment Committee will consider legislation (HB 517) that would require Florida state universities, colleges and career schools to award nursing credits to people who worked as medics in the U.S. Armed Forces commensurate with their practiced knowledge: 8 a.m., Room 17, House Office Building.

— The House Judiciary Committee will consider several bills, including a measure (HB 1297) that would pave the way for executing convicted child rapists with a supermajority jury verdict: 8 a.m., Room 404, House Office Building.

— The House State Affairs Committee will take up a bill (HB 49) that would provide a state program and process to research and preserve abandoned historic African American cemeteries: 8 a.m., Room 212, Knott Building.

— The House holds a floor Session: 11:30 a.m., House Chambers.


Florida Blue at contract impasse with provider. Now 41,000 Floridians face higher health care cost or getting a new doctor” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Melva Vazquez-Ordonez worries she may soon be forced to change her children’s Boca Raton pediatrician after bonding with her over the last five years. “It took a lot to find someone I liked,” Ordonez said. “This is very stressful.” Ordonez and more than 41,000 Floridians with Florida Blue health insurance received a letter this week with the same “stressful” message: They may have to switch doctors or pay out of pocket for their visits to their primary-care physicians, pediatricians and ob-gyns after April 15. With a three-year contract up for renewal, Florida Blue is at an impasse with VitalMD, a giant Miami-based company that owns 700 physician offices in the state, the majority of them in South Florida.

Florida Blue is in a standoff with providers — could health care costs hang in the balance?

Why 900,000 in Florida are about to lose Medicaid” via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — Almost a quarter of Florida residents, some 5.5 million people, pay for medical treatment through Medicaid, a federal government program for low-income families. But close to a million of those could be thrown off the program over the coming year as the state on April 1 begins the first purge of its Medicaid rolls since the start of the pandemic in 2020. Enrollment in Florida’s Medicaid program ballooned by 1.7 million people, including 500,000 children, during the public health emergency when the federal government paid states to keep residents enrolled no matter their situation.

In filing with regulators, Florida citizens want appraisers to be licensed adjusters” via William Rabb of the Insurance Journal — Citizens Property Insurance Corp. has weighed in on a question that could shake up the appraisal process in Florida insurance claims disputes, urging state regulators to require that appraisers be licensed adjusters. In a motion to intervene in a petition filed with the Department of Financial Services, the state’s largest property insurer said a determination that appraisers do not have to be adjusters would have a “perverse and unintended outcome,” and could potentially impact premiums and assessments paid by Florida policyholders. The controversy arose in January in the case of an infamous property adjuster and appraiser whom Citizens and other insurers said had repeatedly blocked company adjusters from accessing the property and even threatened at least one insurer’s adjuster with violence.

Meta helps NCMEC launch ‘Take It Down’ platform to protect children” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Meta recently announced the launch of a global platform run by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to combat the spread of intimate images of minors online. Designed with Meta’s financial support, “Take It Down” is owned and operated by NCMEC and was built with minors’ privacy and data security in mind. The platform will enable people to generate a hash, a kind of digital footprint of an intimate image or video they’re concerned about privately and directly from their own devices, without having to upload their images or videos to the platform. They can then create a case and submit those hashes securely to Take It Down. Using industry-leading technology, Meta will then scan the hash and remove any images or videos from its platforms that are a match.

What Kim Rivers is reading — “Cannabis industry gears up for potential gold rush” via Brian Hartz of the Business Observer — Two years from now, Florida might be among the rapidly growing number of states that allow adult, nonmedical use of cannabis. As of March 3, more than 420,000 Floridians had signed a petition in support of the Florida Marijuana Legalization Initiative, which would appear on the 2024 General Election ballot and allow voters to decide whether the state constitution should be amended to allow for full legalization of cannabis use and sales. Led by Smart & Safe Florida, a $30 million political action committee funded mostly by medical cannabis giant Trulieve, petitioners are more than halfway to their goal of 891,589 signatures, making it likely the fate of adult recreational cannabis use will be decided on Nov. 5, 2024.


White House pushes new rules for mid-sized banks without Congress” via Andrea Shalal and Pete Schroeder of Reuters — The Biden administration urged banking authorities to tighten regulation of mid-sized banks, which it said could be pushed through without support from a split Congress. Banks with between $100 billion and $250 billion in assets should hold more liquid assets, increase their capital, submit to regular stress tests and write “living wills” that detail how they can be wound down, the White House said.

The SVG failure could spark regulations on mid-sized banks.

U.S. considers asking Black Americans on census if they are slave descendants” via Michelle Hackman and Paul Overberg of The Wall Street Journal — The U.S. government is considering asking Black Americans on federal forms, including the census, whether their ancestors were enslaved. In a proposed update to how the government tracks Americans’ race and ethnicity, the Biden administration is asking the public for input on how it might go about differentiating Black people who are descendants of slaves in America from those whose families arrived more recently as immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean or other countries. The idea of adding more-detailed categories to the census has been gaining currency among some Black Americans, who say society too often conflates their experiences with those of Black immigrants, who only started moving to the U.S. in meaningful numbers more recently.

Congress enters “dangerous” territory as Trump indicted” via Andrew Soleader and Julie Grace Brufke of Axios — Members of Congress reacted to news of Trump’s indictment by a Manhattan grand jury with a mixture of shock, outrage, fear, uncertainty and celebration. It’s the first time in U.S. history a former President has been indicted, a shock to the 2024 election and a move likely to harden pro- and anti-Trump sentiments well beyond Washington. The indictment remained sealed late Thursday, so the precise charges and evidence against Trump were unclear.

GOP in Congress follows familiar route of rallying to Trump’s support” via Ryan Tarinelli of Roll Call — Republican lawmakers swiftly condemned the reported indictment of Trump, lashing out at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for what they called an unfair and politically motivated attack. “Outrageous,” House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan, tweeted minutes after The New York Times, The Associated Press and other news outlets reported news of the Manhattan grand jury’s vote. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise also called the news outrageous. “The sham New York indictment of President Donald Trump is one of the clearest examples of extremist Democrats weaponizing government to attack their political opponents,” Scalise tweeted.

Judge’s ruling undercuts U.S. health law’s preventive care” via Paul J. Weber of The Associated Press — A federal judge in Texas who previously ruled to dismantle the Affordable Care Act struck down a narrower but key part of the nation’s health law Thursday that requires most insurers to cover preventive services that include screenings for cancer, diabetes and mental health. Other no-cost services, including HIV screenings, are also impacted under the ruling by U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor that opponents say will jeopardize preventive care for millions of Americans. Experts cautioned that insurers are unlikely to stop any coverage immediately. The Biden administration was expected to appeal and seek a stay of the ruling.

‘Not trying to ban booty videos’: Rand Paul blocks Josh Hawley’s TikTok bill as Marco Rubio weighs in” via Stephen Neukam of The Hill — U.S. Sen. Paul, a Kentucky Republican, blocked a move by U.S. Sen. Hawley, a Missouri Republican, to pass his bill that would ban the embattled social media platform TikTok in the U.S., saying the legislation violated First Amendment rights. “The company has bent over backward to work with our government,” Paul said on the Senate floor. “I will continue to defend the First Amendment, and those who believe that the First Amendment doesn’t protect this speech are in the wrong,” he said. U.S. Sen. Rubio came to the defense of Hawley, pushing back against Paul’s argument that the bill would violate free speech.

Rick Scott wants to take $80B from IRS to fund armed officers in schools after Nashville shooting” via Elizabeth Elkind of Fox News — U.S. Sen. Scott is urging Congress to reroute the billions of dollars earmarked for the IRS in Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act into money to hire armed officers for academic campuses across the country, in the wake of a mass shooting at a Nashville elementary school earlier this week. “The tragedy in Nashville made clear that more must be done to keep our schools safe,” Scott said. “Washington spends money on all sorts of wasteful ideas and the massive expansion of the IRS is a prime example of that.” He was referencing the $80 billion allocated toward the IRS that will be used to hire tens of thousands of employees over a 10-year period.

Mike Waltz is inquiring about a White House senior adviser’s ties to TikTok” via POLITICO — A House Republican has questioned White House senior adviser Anita Dunn and her former public relations firm’s ties to TikTok, following a POLITICO report on the app’s PR campaign in Washington and globally. TikTok succeeded in hiring SKDK, a public affairs firm, as it faced an increasing amount of scrutiny from Washington. Dunn is listed as a founding partner and under White House ethics policy, she is currently barred from participating in matters involving SKDK.

Anita Dunn is feeling the heat for possible ties to TikTok.

Cory Mills drafts papers to impeach Lloyd Austin” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The bombing of a Kabul airport during the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021 drew instant condemnation. Now a Florida Congressman is suggesting Defense Secretary Austin should be impeached as a consequence. U.S. Rep. Mills, a Winter Park Republican, drafted the impeachment papers. At a House Armed Services Committee hearing, Mills presented the papers to Austin and said he believed the Cabinet official guilty of “willful dereliction of duty.” In a statement, Mills said Americans killed during the withdrawal deserve justice. “When we had the chance, our leadership blew it,” Mills said in the statement. He also alluded to testimony earlier this month by Sgt. Tyler Vargas-Andrews.

Anna Paulina Luna asks for lesser sentence for convicted Tampa Bay Jan. 6 protester” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — U.S. Rep. Luna wrote a letter asking a judge to take “leniency” when considering the sentence of Jeremy Michael Brown, a Tampa Bay man who appeared at the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol with the extremist Oath Keepers group. In September, federal agents searched Brown’s Hillsborough County property as part of an inquiry into the Jan. 6 events. Agents found two illegal guns, a pair of hand grenades and a classified military document, among other things. (Brown is a former U.S. Army Special Forces master sergeant.) In a December trial, Brown faced 10 federal charges. A jury convicted Brown of six of them and acquitted him of the other four.

Kathy Castor urges DeSantis to act before Medicaid provision ends Saturday” via Joe Mario Pedersen of Health News Florida — U.S. Rep. Castor of Tampa is among the Florida Democratic lawmakers calling on DeSantis to take action before more than 1 million Floridians are kicked off Medicaid. The continuous enrollment Medicaid provision ends Saturday. The provision allowed millions of Americans to receive Medicaid after losing their job at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring no one could be unenrolled in the program. Castor is urging DeSantis to make use of Florida’s Affordable Care Act marketplace to help families remain covered. The move would have health care navigators guide thousands of children and families toward health care plans after they are kicked off Medicaid, Castor said.


Trump has finally been indicted” via Nia Prater and Chas Danner of New York Magazine — Trump has been indicted in Manhattan, making him the first former President in history to be charged with a crime. Trump is charged over his role in hush money payments made to Daniels during his 2016 presidential campaign to suppress her story of their alleged affair. The indictment is still sealed, so it’s not yet clear what Trump has been charged with, but prosecutors had been investigating whether Trump falsified business records to cover up the payment and violated campaign-finance law because the money was allegedly used to boost his White House run. Trump is expected to appear in the near future in a lower Manhattan courthouse, where he will be treated like any other defendant.

NYC ramps up security again ahead of possible grand jury action against Trump, police sources say” via NBC New York — New York City is gearing up security again for possible action from the grand jury against Trump, multiple law enforcement sources familiar with the preparations said Thursday. Stressing the situational fluidity, the sources said the ramped-up security is related to the Manhattan district attorney’s ongoing investigation into hush money payments involving porn star Daniels. Increased security presence is described as prudent with the grand jury sitting today, but it is unclear if they heard the Trump case Thursday or another matter.

The unprecedented case against Trump will have wide-ranging implications” via The New York Times — Trump was indicted in Manhattan for his role in paying hush money to a porn star, according to five people with knowledge of the matter, a historic development that will shake up the 2024 presidential race and forever mark him as the nation’s first former President to face criminal charges. On Thursday evening, after news of the charges had been widely reported, the district attorney’s office confirmed that Trump had been indicted and that prosecutors had contacted Trump’s attorney to coordinate his surrender.

Trump Tower braces for Donald Trump’s upcoming indictment.

Trump’s indictment marks a historic reckoning” via Garrett Graff of Wired — It’s here that we come to what a fraught moment, politically and for American democracy, the historically novel indictment of a former President presents for us in the weeks and months ahead: The true test for Trump and our country is not this particular case but whatever might come next. The New York charges might be the start of multiple criminal cases that would burden Trump even as he begins his phoenix-like presidential re-election bid.

Ex-CFO of Trump Org. switches attorneys amid ongoing investigations” via Kara Scannell of CNN — Allen Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization currently incarcerated at Rikers Island, recently switched lawyers amid ongoing investigations into Trump and his business. The reason for the switch is in dispute. Some people familiar with the relationship said the Trump Org. would no longer foot the bill for Weisselberg’s attorney, who clashed with company officials over the legal advice he provided to the ex-CFO concerning his level of cooperation with prosecutors investigating the former President.

The same forces that made Trump who he is just got him indicted” via Jonathan Lemire of POLITICO — Trump’s story was curated by the New York City tabloids, the newspapers that magnified his wealth and his tawdry exploits while catapulting him to a type of celebrity that he eventually wielded to capture the highest office in the land. March 30, those same forces that turned Trump into a mix of caricature and fame resulted in him becoming the first ex-President in the history of the United States to be charged with a crime. The charges in the indictment set to be unsealed by the Manhattan district attorney felt ripped straight from the pages of the 1980s New York Post and New York Daily News.

2024 —

What we haven’t learned from the first chapter of the Republican Primary” via Nate Cohn of The New York Times — The first chapter of the Republican race seems to be heading toward a dramatic end. The plot of the last several months, Trump’s onslaught against DeSantis, has culminated with a meaningful shift in the polls. Now, the political conversation is starting to move to the next storyline: an indictment of Trump. Before we turn the page, it’s worth pausing to reflect on where the race stands. Yes, there’s been a big shift in “momentum” in favor of Trump over the last few weeks, raising legitimate questions about whether DeSantis is up to face him. The big shift, however, can make it seem that this question has already been answered. It makes it harder to stay grounded in the fundamentals of the race.

The 2024 Primary holds some lessons. Will we learn from them?

How Trump can use Social Security and Medicare to destroy DeSantis.” via Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine — Trump has unleashed a barrage of charges and insults at DeSantis with varying levels of connection to reality, but one line of attack, in particular, stands out. Trump is drawing attention to DeSantis’s prior support for cutting and privatizing Social Security and Medicare. “People are finding out that Ron wanted to destroy Social Security and raise its minimum age to 70, and he fought very hard to do it,” Trump said. “He also had strong plans for cutting Medicare and still does.” Conservative DeSantis supporters have fretted semi-openly that his handling of the Ukraine war positioned him too far to the right.

‘Think again’: Trump PAC drops negative ad on DeSantis” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis hasn’t launched his presidential campaign, but he’s already being targeted in a negative spot. MAGA Inc., a PAC associated with former President Trump, dropped a 30-second ad urging Republican voters to “think again” about the Florida Governor. “He’s just not ready to be President,” boomed a stentorian voice-over. The spot rehashes policy positions DeSantis took while in Congress, including some he has since recanted, such as votes to cut Medicare and Social Security. It notes that DeSantis voted to cut Social Security “three times over three years” and “voted to cut Medicare two times.” Additionally, the ad notes the Governor “voted to raise the retirement age to 70.”

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

Trump’s standing among Hill conservatives dims ahead of ’24” via Olivia Beavers and Burgess Everett of POLITICO — Trump is gaining strength in 2024 Primary polls. The same can’t exactly be said about his standing among Capitol Hill conservatives. Just ask James Lankford, the Oklahoma Republican who openly admits that the former President’s third bid for the White House is evenly cleaving the party in his blood-red state. “About half the Republicans I talk to want Trump to be able to get the nomination. And half them say, ‘I want somebody besides Trump’,” the Sooner State Senator said in an interview. “They’re conservative,” Lankford added of his constituents, “but they’re dealing with personality there as well and are trying to figure out: Where do we go as a nation?”

Disney’s move may rob DeSantis of 2024 calling card” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — Of all the battles DeSantis has picked in his various culture wars, none looms larger than the one against Disney. DeSantis has turned his fight into a calling card, even as some Republicans have expressed discomfort with the government going after private businesses over their political views. And we just learned that Disney has ratcheted up the battle, with implications for the 2024 Presidential Race. In a previously unpublicized move from last month, The Walt Disney Co. sought to preempt a DeSantis-led takeover of its special tax district by passing restrictive new covenants that appear to neuter DeSantis’s new hand-picked Board.

As DeSantis heads to Georgia, his super PAC allies release a poll showing strength there” via Henry J. Gomez of NBC News — With Gov. DeSantis set to visit Georgia, a super PAC pushing him to run for President has released polling that shows him leading Trump in a one-on-one Republican Primary there and tied with the former President atop a larger GOP field. DeSantis, who has been trailing Trump in national polls, leads 48% to 38% in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup against the former President, according to a polling memo shared exclusively with NBC News by Never Back Down, the pro-DeSantis group. WPA Intelligence, which surveyed 629 likely GOP Primary voters across Georgia, also found DeSantis at 37% and Trump at 36% when the field was expanded to include six other potential Republican hopefuls, all of whom registered in the single digits.

Fox poll shows Trump’s lead over DeSantis growing” via Kelly Carrity of POLITICO — A new Fox News poll showed former President Trump widening his lead over Gov. DeSantis in a hypothetical GOP Primary race. Trump was the top pick for 54% of respondents, who were asked to choose from a list of potential 2024 Republican presidential nominees. DeSantis — who has yet to declare his candidacy, though he is widely expected to — came in as a distant second pick, with 24% of the vote. It’s a slight drop in support for the Florida Governor, who nabbed 28% to Trump’s 43% in a Fox poll conducted late last month. The month-to-month gain for Trump comes at a time when some Republicans fear support for Trump’s expected leading challenger is faltering.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Broward Circuit Court hears motion to dismiss voter fraud case — A motion to dismiss a 2020 voter fraud charge will be heard today in Florida’s 17th Judicial Circuit Court. The motion is the first since the passage of a Special Session bill giving the statewide prosecutor jurisdiction over cases involving election crimes. Judge Gary Farmer, a former Democratic state Senator, is presiding over the case, in which Eugene Suggs, Jr. faces two counts of giving a false affirmation, and two counts of voting as an unqualified elector.

Broward Sheriff signs 911 deal with county on eve of contract extension deadline” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — On the eve of what leaders swore would be the final deadline, Sheriff Gregory Tony signed a deal with Broward County that ensures 911 services are provided by his agency. The final contract will keep the partnership in place through at least 2026. The drama between the Broward County Commission and Tony has lingered for months with back-to-back refusals and new deadlines to keep the two in partnership for 911 dispatch services. In December, when Tony refused to sign a three-month contract extension, county leaders then started openly discussing the possibility of finding a new 911 provider. When the New Year’s Eve deadline passed, county leaders said the contract was considered severed and they would move on.

Gregory Tony renews the BCSO contract, at the last possible moment.

Guardianship Program pauses property sales to get back its Miami-Dade funding” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Facing a potential funding crisis, the Guardianship Program of Dade County agreed to freeze property sales on behalf of incapacitated people in exchange for a resumption in $2.7 million in payments from Miami-Dade as county investigators examine the nonprofit’s real estate practices. The charity receives state and county funding to represent people deemed mentally incapacitated through the court system, a guardianship process that occasionally involves selling a person’s home once they move into a nursing home or other long-term care facility. A March 7 report by WLRN raised questions about how one company, Express Homes, managed to become a frequent buyer of Guardianship Program properties and generate seemingly quick profits from them.

Complaints, pressure from organ clearinghouse led Jackson to halt adult heart transplants” via Michelle Marchante, Jay Weaver and Ana Claudia Chacin of the Miami Herald — Top officials at the Miami Transplant Institute said this week they halted nearly all adult heart transplants at the urging of the U.S. organ transplant network, which has opened an investigation into its heart operations. Anonymous internal complaints about the heart program had also arisen. In a letter to the Miami Transplant Institute, run by Jackson Health System, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) pushed for the pause until a peer-review team could review the unit’s operation. UNOS, established in the mid-1980s, oversees the entire U.S. transplant system. A few days after receiving that letter, Luke Preczewski, vice president of the Miami Transplant Institute, announced the program’s suspension in a staff Zoom meeting.

Wellington High student faces charges after Instagram post threatened violence at school” via Valentina Palm of the Palm Beach Post — A Wellington High School student is under arrest after a social media post appeared to threaten violence on the campus. The teenager — whom school officials did not identify, even by grade — uploaded a picture of a black gun to Instagram and captioned it “school gonna be fun.” Before the post was taken down, some of the teen’s classmates commented, “This is not you,” to which the teen replied, “don’t go to school tmrw big homie.” Another student posted, “Are you actually OK I don’t think you should go through with this.” Wellington High School Principal Cara Hayden said concerned residents alerted the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office through the Fortify Florida App, a suspicious activity reporting tool.

In limbo: Fort Lauderdale fears prized 100-year-old tree might die waiting on new home” via Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — She’s no ordinary tree, this majestic 100-year-old beauty insured for $1 million. Downtown Fort Lauderdale’s famous rain tree — the largest of its kind in the continental U.S. — has a team of admirers who watch it like a hawk, wondering whether it will live or die. And right now, they say they have reason to worry. The 80-foot-high tree was hoisted into the air, roots and all, back in August to make way for two sleek new apartment towers on the south bank of the New River in the 400 block of Southwest Fourth Avenue. Developer Asi Cymbal had picked out a new home for the tree, closer to the water.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Daytona considering new fees to fund affordable housing” via Eileen Zaffiro-Kean of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — There’s no question Daytona Beach needs more affordable housing, and lots of it. The city’s median annual income is $44,500, about $15,000 lower than Port Orange, Ormond Beach, Deltona and Palm Coast. For Daytona Beach’s renters, who live in more than half the city’s housing, it’s even worse: $34,000. Daytona Beach’s housing stock is also old. About 71% of the city’s housing is more than 40 years old, and almost 30% is at least 50 years old. Daytona Beach City Commissioners have vowed to do what they can to spark affordable housing development.

Disney World union workers approve contract setting ‘a new standard for the tourism industry’” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — It’s official. Disney World union workers have overwhelmingly approved a new five-year contract that raises the minimum pay to $18 an hour by the end of the year for current full-time workers. The previous minimum pay was $15 an hour. Last week, the company and a union coalition representing nearly 45,000 Disney World workers reached a tentative deal that required the workers’ vote before the agreement could take effect. Disney World workers cast ballots Wednesday with about 97% supporting the contract, the union announced later that night. Both Disney and the union praised the contract that will eventually increase the starting wage to $20.50 an hour in October 2026 for the current union workforce.

Disney unions set a new standard for the tourism industry. Image via Gabrielle Russon.

Edgewater man to be sentenced for Jan. 6, 2021, attack on Capitol” via Frank Fernandez of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — Federal prosecutors are asking a judge to sentence an Edgewater man to a year in prison for his role in the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. But a defense attorney wrote that probation without incarceration would be a fair sentence. Howard B. Adams, 62, is scheduled to be sentenced on April 13 before federal Judge Beryl A. Howell in Washington. As part of a plea agreement, Adams pleaded guilty on Jan. 26 to obstructing, impeding or interfering with a law enforcement officer. Adams faced up to five years in prison, up to three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.

Florida Tech chooses U. of New Orleans leader John Nicklow as new university president” via Rick Neale of Florida Today — Nicklow, the president of the University of New Orleans, has been chosen from a nationwide pool of 112 applicants to become the sixth permanent president in the Florida Institute of Technology’s 65-year history. Nicklow follows T. Dwayne McCay, who served as president from July 2016 until he resigned in March 2022, citing the need to spend more time with his family. The presidency had been filled on an interim basis since July by Robert King while university officials searched for McCay’s successor. “I’m just so excited to get started. The Melbourne community, the Space Coast: I’m looking forward to meeting with many people, and understanding their views and building relationships,” Nicklow said during a phone interview.


Tampa Bay area upgraded to a severe drought” via Tyler Moore of WTSP — You don’t need us to tell you that it has been very dry for most of 2023. But the latest numbers are in from the drought monitor — and it’s not good. The Tampa Bay area has now been upgraded from a moderate drought to a severe drought. That is an increase from level one to level two out of four. If the drought continues to worsen, we could see it move into extreme or exceptional drought. So, what are the possible impacts now that we are in a severe drought? Crop or pasture losses, water shortages, and water restrictions are all possible impacts of a severe drought. It also increases the fire risk across the area.

Hillsborough transit system’s long-awaited CEO investigation” via Olivia George of the Tampa Bay Times — As a finalist for the top position at Hillsborough County’s transit agency, Adelee Le Grand pledged at least seven times in her interview she would foster a culture of “trust and transparency.” Her vision as CEO was to be a tireless listener and to rebrand the organization, facing an uncertain fiscal future and a revolving door of leaders, as one of excellence. Two and a half years later, she was suspended with pay following the presentation of a monthslong probe into her leadership. Investigating attorney David Adams interviewed roughly 50 current and former employees and reviewed thousands of pages of public records, finding a lack of effective leadership, poor organization morale, significant turnover and potential violation of state law.

Adelee Le Grand faces a long-awaited investigation.

Stuart Sternberg expects Rays stadium deal by year’s end in St. Petersburg or Tampa” via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times — Rays principal owner Sternberg said talks continue for a new stadium with both St. Petersburg and Tampa officials, and he expects a deal to be struck somewhere by the end of the year. “That’s my belief. It’s a very reasonable anticipation,” Sternberg said. “And if we don’t, then there’s not a deal to be done, basically.” If that is a hard deadline, the lack of a deal could lead to the Rays seeking to relocate from the Tampa Bay area once their use agreement at Tropicana Field expires following the 2027 season, with Orlando, Nashville and Las Vegas among potential options.

Hillsborough tourism up 27% over 2022” via C.T. Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times — Tourism has jumped nearly 27% in Hillsborough County this year, but industry experts are questioning whether the robust travel industry will continue for the rest of 2023 and into next year. “We’re sitting at a really good spot right now. I don’t think this is going to continue,” said Lou Plasencia, CEO of the Plasencia Group, a national hospitality consulting firm. Yet Santiago Corrada, CEO of Visit Tampa Bay, the county’s tourism promotion agency, reminded the Hillsborough Tourist Development Council that “we’ve bucked national trends over and over and over and over again.”

Some Tampa Bay high-rises skip “unlucky” 13th floors. But lately, some don’t” via Sue Carlton of the Tampa Bay Times — The inside of an elevator might seem an odd place to consider the current state of superstition in America. But there they are, in many high-rise hotels and residential towers: Elevator buttons that go up to the 12th floor, skip 13 and continue to the 14th and beyond. Of course, those buildings actually do have 13th floors — they’re just not marked 13, a number long considered unlucky. But could that superstition-based construction quirk be changing in Tampa Bay’s current building boom?

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Jacksonville mayoral candidates to debate April 20” via Monty Zickuhr of the Jacksonville Daily Record — Jacksonville mayoral candidates Daniel Davis and Donna Deegan will participate in a live, televised debate at 7 p.m. April 20 at the University of North Florida. The debate is co-hosted by UNF and Action News Jax, the university announced on March 30. Action News anchors John Bachman and Tenikka Hughes will moderate, and CBS 47 and Fox 30 will broadcast it. Deegan, the Donna Foundation nonprofit founder and former First Coast News anchor topped the field of seven candidates in the March 21 unitary election with 39.43% of the vote to 24.72% for Davis, president and CEO of JAX Chamber. Because no candidate gained 50% of the vote plus one, Deegan and Davis will face off in a May 16 runoff election.

Donna Deegan and Daniel Davis face off in an April 20 debate.

More help coming for people with rent and utility troubles” via Will Brown of Jacksonville Today — Jacksonville will reopen a program to help hundreds of people who can’t afford rent and utilities. The City Council this week provided $2 million in additional money for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. The city estimates it could help as many as 250 renters in Duval County. The city expects to work with renters as early as next week. Those interested in applying should call the city’s emergency assistance line at 904-630-2469. People who have previously received a maximum of 18 months of assistance will not be eligible.

Former Tallahassee classical principal says Tallahassee Democrat reporting is false” via Steve Stewart of the Tallahassee — Former Tallahassee Classical Principal Hope Carrasquilla, who resigned from leadership at the school on March 20, told The Epoch Times that the reporting by the Tallahassee Democrat related to her relationship with the school is false. The Tallahassee Democrat reported on March 23 that “A local charter school principal said she was forced to resign after a parent complained a Renaissance art lesson was pornographic.” Carrasquilla said she didn’t understand how media outlets got the story so wrong. The statements in the article are in the reporters’ words.

—“Florida TaxWatch honors two North Central Florida principal leadership award winners” via WCJB

—“Ousted JEA execs want to bar the public from upcoming hearings in Jacksonville” via First Coast News

Deveron Gibbons appointed to FAMU Board of Trustees” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — The Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the State University System, has appointed Gibbons to the Florida A&M University (FAMU) Board of Trustees. Gibbons is a prominent fixture in the St. Petersburg community, having served on the St. Petersburg College Board of Trustees since 2006. He also previously ran unsuccessfully for Mayor in 2009 and is a local developer. Gibbons earned his law degree from FAMU’s College of Law. “I appreciate my fellow Trustees for giving me this opportunity to serve the university, the state and all of Rattler Nation.”

Congrats to Deveron Gibbons for his new gig on the FAMU Board of Trustees.

Mayo Clinic gets $41 million grant for major Alzheimer’s study” via Beth Reese Cravey of The Florida Times-Union — The Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville has received a $41 million federal grant for a potentially groundbreaking study to better understand Alzheimer’s disease and how the brain disorder affects people of different ethnic groups. The lessons learned could lead to a treatment or even a cure. The five-year grant from the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health, is one of the largest in the Jacksonville clinic’s history.

Plastic police: Jacksonville to begin inspecting recycling bins to make sure items can be recycled” via Jim Piggott of News4Jax — If you live in Jacksonville, you may have just received a refrigerator magnet in the mail telling you how to recycle. Well, pay attention to it because if you don’t the “Plastic Police” will soon be watching you closely. The city is going to start inspecting your recycling bin in May to make sure you’re doing it right. The idea of inspecting your recycling may sound odd and intrusive, but many people that News4Jax spoke to in Arlington don’t have a problem with it. “I think it’s a good idea because I think people have a tendency to throw anything in the recycle bin,” said one resident.


After Ian: Thousands of Sarasota County residents remain stranded; local groups offer hope” via Saundra Amrhein of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Returning to her South Venice home after Hurricane Ian, Lindsay Weishaar thought the worst was over. Tired and wrung-out, still sick with COVID-19, Lindsay looked up with relief to see the house mostly intact as her husband pulled in front. Inside, the carpets were squishy, and the floors were still damp from flooding. To Lindsay — who had grown up in a stilt home near Georgia’s coast, unfamiliar with the impact of standing water — it seemed they had dodged a bullet. What Lindsay, 43, could not imagine in those first soggy hours of late September following an exhausting evacuation was that their nightmare was only about to begin.

Two years after environmental disaster, how close is Piney Point to closing for good?” via Ryan Callihan of the Bradenton Herald — Two years after Manatee County’s environmental disaster made national headlines, the long-neglected Piney Point site is closer than ever to final closure. When a giant pond began leaking and threatened to collapse in April 2021, state leaders were forced to authorize the release of 215 million gallons of contaminated water into Tampa Bay. With an injection of $100 million in state funding and court-appointed leadership, site operators are on track to ensure that never happens again. Ever since the situation at the former phosphate processing plant spun out of control, there has been a renewed focus on shutting the once-abandoned property down for good. And there has been significant progress.

Is Piney Point nearing its end?

Cops: Venice student made threat against school” via the Venice Gondolier — A 14-year-old student has been arrested for allegedly threatening violence against his school, Venice Police reported. The teenage boy threatened to “commit a shooting at his school,” it noted. He attends the Student Leadership Academy along Field Avenue in the city. “Investigators determined the juvenile was upset with another student and told students his desire to commit a shooting and not to come to school the following day,” the news release stated. “When confronted by one of the witnesses, the defendant claimed he was just joking.” Investigators learned the teenager previously made “similar threatening statements” investigated by Student Leadership Academy administrators, it said.

Collier County residents are the healthiest in Florida. Why’s that?” via Liz Freeman of the Naples Daily News — Hooray: Collier County is the healthiest county in Florida. That’s according to the latest county health rankings by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Lee County is ranked 11 healthiest out of the 67 counties in the state. Collier has been high up in the rankings in years past and often as the second healthiest county, usually behind St. John’s County, so the move up is a reason to celebrate with our community, Kimberly Kossler, administrator of the state Department of Health in Collier, said. “This outstanding health ranking is a direct result of community initiatives to make healthy changes and improve health through collective partnerships,” she said in an email.


We need another Republican Primary-poll reality check” via Natalie Jackson of the National Journal — No, a two-way poll matchup showing DeSantis leading Trump in Iowa is not telling you that DeSantis is gaining.

The people who fed the poll to you with that angle are either being misled by the people who fed it to them — or are shilling for DeSantis.

Why is that misleading? Because it’s not a two-way race. It was never going to be a two-way race.

Besides, we all know candidates can lose in Iowa and New Hampshire and still win the nomination. And the multicandidate matchups in the poll show a tie or Trump lead. By the same token, don’t buy that Trump is running away with the race based on national matchups between the two Floridians.

In terms of public opinion, we are still very early in the process. It’s true that the invisible Primary is hard at work — money is flying around, and the potential and declared candidates are shuffling around the country trying to rake it in at private and public events.

But again, I’ll point us back to the 2012 and 2016 cycles for examples of “anything can happen”: Mitt Romney trailed four different candidates at times between Summer 2011 and March 2012. Trump hadn’t even announced his candidacy at this point in 2015.

Of course, once he did, he quickly led the field — but even then, he was under 40% as voting started in early 2016.

This year’s Republican Primary electorate isn’t likely to be as unstable as 2012’s, simply because Trump commands a solid one-third to one-half of Republicans in multicandidate polls.

The 2024 Primaries are likely to look more like 2016, since the biggest question is, “Can anyone beat Trump?”


Put America first by aiding Ukraine” via Karl Rove for The Wall Street Journal — Ukraine’s heroic resistance to Russia, a power hostile to the U.S., has dramatically improved America’s strategic position worldwide. The Kremlin has become far weaker, while NATO, which includes many of our most trusted allies, has become far stronger and more united than it has been since the Cold War. But if Russia prevails in the war, that progress would be reversed. Putin told us he wants to grab more territory, and several of his targets are NATO allies, which the U.S. has pledged by treaty to aid with armed forces if they’re attacked. Neo-isolationists worry about what weapons and aid to Ukraine are costing America but pulling our support risks American lives down the road.

Reckless permitless-carry gun bill will put Stand Your Ground excuses on steroids” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Maybe it’s not appropriate to try to save a parking spot for someone by pulling a gun. And maybe citing a Stand Your Ground defense won’t fly if you do. As Florida edges further and further into Wild West territory there are still occasional flickers of common sense, like the case of a gun-toting Broward County woman who this week dropped her self-defense claim in a dispute over a Fort Lauderdale beach parking place. Earlisha Harris pleaded no contest Monday to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Under a plea deal, she’ll spend two years on probation and attend a 13-week anger-management course.

A justice finds greener pastures, and DeSantis’ grip tightens” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — People wondered why Florida Supreme Court Justice Ricky Polston abruptly retired with nearly six years left on the term voters gave him in November. The answer: He was recruited to be general counsel and chief legal officer of Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state-backed carrier of last resort, where he will earn $450,000, far more than the $239,442 he was paid as a judge.

Affordable housing bill is bold — and risky” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — Floridians will find a lot to like in the giant affordable-housing bill, SB 102, that landed on DeSantis’ desk Tuesday and was signed with a flourish Wednesday morning. The “Live Local Act” is packed with innovative ideas for resolving Florida’s undeniable housing crisis, and well-padded with $711 million in cash that previous lawmakers had diverted from its intended purpose. In a state where nearly 1 million people pay more than half their incomes toward housing and even middle-income households often struggle to find someplace they can afford, inaction was no longer an option.

I chose New College because I didn’t have to leave my identity at the campus door” via Sophia Brown in CNN — The freedoms of students in Florida have long been under fire during Gov. DeSantis’ administration, with his book banning, attacks on critical race theory and the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. But I still wasn’t entirely prepared for his attacks on academic freedom at New College of Florida, the liberal arts college in Sarasota, where I’ve been a student for the past four years. As bad as things got in Florida, I and many of my classmates thought that surely his culture war policies wouldn’t reach our school, which has been something of a bubble of sanity and safety for queer students like me, as well as my transgender and BIPOC classmates.

Why are Pinellas school officials so threatened by the Ruby Bridges movie?” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Ruby Bridges was just 6 years old with a white ribbon in her hair when deputy U.S. Marshals escorted her into a New Orleans classroom. She was there in 1960 to integrate an all-White school. It’s the type of heroism that movies are made of, and Disney did just that, producing “Ruby Bridges” in 1998. Now, Pinellas school officials have banned students from watching the film at a St. Petersburg school after a parent complained that the story might teach kids that white people hate Black people. It’s embarrassing that anyone would be so threatened by the story of a young girl who helped integrate a school. When did we become so fragile?


ABC Action News Full Circle with Paul LaGrone on Channel 10 WFTS: Bill Ashwell from “All Voting is Local” will discuss why Florida is withdrawing from Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC); political analyst Dr. Susan MacManus; Tallahassee correspondent Forrest Saunders and ABC News Political Director Rick Klein.

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 discussion of sales tax relief and the repealing of certain sales taxes for Floridians and what economic impact there is for both taxpayers and the state. Joining Spectrum News 13 anchor Julie Gargotta are Volusia County District 5 Commissioner David Santiago, and Florida TaxWatch Senior Vice President of Research Kurt Wenner.

Political Connections on Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: Vice Mayor of Fort Myers Beach Jim Atterholt will discuss the insurance crisis in Florida following Hurricane Ian.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis will discuss the state’s financial picture and outlook after recovering from two hurricanes last year, as well as his role as Florida Fire Marshal.


— ALOE —

FAU students, faculty get half-price entry to Palm Beach Zoo to celebrate Owls in Final Four” via Kari Barnett of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society is honoring the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) men’s basketball team’s milestone playoff wins by offering its students and faculty members half-price general admission through April 3. Fans anxiously awaiting the Final Four game on Saturday night, when the FAU Owls take on San Diego State in Houston, can take a break from campus to visit the zoo’s resident owls. FAU’s Boca Raton campus, at 777 Glades Road, was designated a burrowing owl sanctuary in 1971 by the Audubon Society, according to the university. With its proximity to the airport, the campus became home to the owls because of a lack of predators in the area.

Fans of the FAU Owls will have a chance to see the real thing.


Best wishes to four great Floridians, Rep. Dana Trabulsy, Eric Edwards of U.S. Sugar, Dave Mica, Jr., and Lauren Pardo. Belated happy birthday wishes to our friend, the incredibly talented Jordan Gibson.


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

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