Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 4.4.23

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Here's your AM rundown of people, politics and policy in the Sunshine State.

Good Tuesday morning.

Breaking overnight — Nikki Fried, Senate leader Book arrested by police during abortion protest” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida Democratic Party Chair Fried and Senate Democratic Leader Book were arrested and taken away in handcuffs during a demonstration over an abortion bill outside Tallahassee City Hall near the Capitol. The two Democratic leaders were with a group of about 40 abortion-rights advocates protesting the Senate’s passage of SB 300, which bans most abortions after six weeks. About 12 protesters were detained and taken to jail, witnesses said. They were charged with trespass after warning, according to a statement from the Tallahassee Police Department. Fried, who unsuccessfully ran for Governor last year, wore a black T-shirt that said, “Just [expletive] Vote.” The protesters, singing “Lean on Me,” and chanting, “our bodies, our rights,” were told to disperse by 8 p.m. or be subject to arrest. Shortly after that time, the roundups began.

Lauren Book gets booked. Image via Claire Van Susteren.

Gov. Ron DeSantis is nearly as popular now as he was in 2019 — before pandemic politics and a string of high-profile culture war victories propelled him into the national spotlight.

According to new polling from Mason Dixon, 59% of Florida voters approve of the Governor three months into his second term. The measure is only three points off his all-time of 62% in March 2019. Support dipped to a low of 45% in July 2020 and has slowly ratcheted up to the high-50s in the three years since.

Ron DeSantis remains as popular as ever.

But his detractors are more numerous as well, with nearly two in five Florida voters telling the pollster they disapprove of the Governor. At 39%, it’s double digits lower from the mid-2020 peak but still far above the 24% he recorded early on in his first term.

Mason Dixon’s poll, conducted March 27-30, also showed the Governor is substantially more popular than the two most prominent men standing in the way of a DeSantis presidency.

Former President Donald Trump is underwater, with only 39% of voters still in his corner compared to 50% who view him unfavorably. And, even among Republicans his stock is slipping — registered Republicans support Trump 71%-19%, while DeSantis scored 87%-7% with the same sample. If DeSantis and Trump do end up squaring off in a Florida presidential Primary, the current margin is DeSantis by five, 44%-39%.

But Trump can take some solace in the fact that President Joe Biden is uniquely unpopular in the Sunshine State.

According to Mason Dixon, just one in three voters have a favorable opinion of the first-term Democrat, who is expected to officially announce his 2024 campaign soon. Meanwhile, 54% of voters say they have a negative opinion of the President.

Trump won Florida over Biden by a little over 3% in 2020, but the incumbent’s current standing — and the resounding Republican victories of 2022 — indicate the states redward shift in presidential elections will continue in 2024.

Mason Dixon surveyed 625 registered Florida voters by phone. The margin of error is plus or minus 4%. The pollster also surveyed 507 Republican voters about the potential Primary matchup. Those results have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4%.


Former Sen. Jeff Brandes is launching a nonpartisan research institute.

The Florida Policy Project (FPP) will focus on criminal justice reform, property insurance, transportation and housing, issues Brandes championed during his time as a lawmaker. It aspires to be a destination for data-driven research, gathered through networking with relevant subject matter experts and industry leaders.

“Having served in the Florida Legislature for the past 12 years, I know firsthand the need for intelligent data-driven research that will educate both the general public and our elected officials as we seek to improve policy outcomes and to implement best practices,” Brandes said.

Jeff Brandes launches a think tank on criminal justice reform, property insurance, transportation and housing.

“As Florida continues its unprecedented growth, FPP strives to offer resources that will help our elected officials make informed and strategic decisions in policymaking, ensuring the prosperity of the current and future residents of Florida.”

Former Senate President Bill Galvano is chairing the FPP board, the members of which include Florida Transportation Builders’ Association President Ananth Prasad; WSP Senior Vice President Alice Bravo; property insurance professional John Rollins; Caitlin Murray, Southeast regional vice president for the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies; and Adrian Moore, vice president of policy at the free market-driven Reason Foundation.

Galvano said, “Mr. Brandes built his reputation as a visionary community leader by advocating for forward-thinking criminal justice, housing affordability, transportation and property insurance reforms in the Florida Legislature.”


Also, these items are not Florida related, but keep your eyes on:

🎯 — A strange center of democracy: The year’s biggest and most unusual, race centers on abortion and democracy, according to a January analysis by The New York Times’ Reid Epstein. Wisconsin voters today are facing the most consequential race in the nation this year for a seat on the divided state Supreme Court, the winner of which will determine the fate of abortion rights, alleged gerrymandering and the Governor’s appointment powers. Because Wisconsin’s Governor is handicapped by conservative majorities in the state Legislature, the Supreme Court has in recent years played a pivotal role in policymaking, as it considers legislation under challenge. A conservative justice is retiring, giving liberals a chance to capture the court.

💪🏽 — Latinos asked to flex ‘political muscle’ in Chicago: Political operatives are again counting on Latino voters to affect the outcome of a major election, this time in Chicago where two Democrats — a moderate and a liberal — are facing off in a mayoral runoff after ousting incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot in the February General Election. The demographic makes up nearly a third of the population in Chicago, and one in five registered voters there is Latino. The question is whether they’ll show up. A recent poll showed Paul Vallas, the moderate, leading Brandon Johnson, the liberal, among Latino voters 46% to 35%, according to The Washington Post. But many of those voters are reluctant to vote, worrying their vote won’t matter, not knowing there’s even an election, or being disappointed their preferred candidate didn’t make the runoff.


@POTUS: The @NASA Artemis II crewed mission around the Moon will inspire the next generation of explorers, and show every child — in America, in Canada, and across the world — that if they can dream it, they can be it.

@ElonMusk: Our algorithm is obviously horrendous, but it will get better fast and in full view of the public, whose trust we must earn

Tweet, tweet:

@BenjySarlin: The press are right to be skeptical of the Manhattan DA, and mostly have been, but I think in general people are overestimating how compelling “It’s OUTRAGEOUS to find something illegal in a pre-election hush money payment to a porn star” is as a political hill to die on

@Paul_Renner: Having played by its own rules for decades, @disney has doubled down to keep it that way, in an attempt to evade a newly created board that would bring public accountability similar to every other business. As a result, all legislative options are now back on the table.

@Scott_Maxwell: Just a reminder that any time you see one of Florida’s GOP politicians or their lackeys claim that they simply tried to force Disney to follow the same rules as every other company in Florida, they are lying.

@SheriffMina: Permit-less carry will only make things more difficult for law enforcement.

Tweet, tweet:

@Fineout: It’s a successful day when you get to explain to someone what RTFB means

Tweet, tweet:


Suits for Session — 1; ‘Air’ starring Ben Affleck and Matt Damon premieres — 1; DeSantis visits Hillsdale College in Michigan — 2; NBA Play-In Tournament begins — 10; Taylor Swift ‘Eras’ Tour in Tampa — 10; NBA playoffs begin — 12; final performance of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ on Broadway — 12; American Association of Political Consultants Pollies ’23 conference begins — 14; DeSantis speaks at Utah Republican Party convention — 18; DeSantis speaks at the Jerusalem Post and Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem ‘Celebrate the Faces of Israel’ event — 23; ‘White House Plumbers’ premieres — 27; 2023 Session Sine Die — 31; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 31; Florida Chamber 2023 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 35; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 44; ‘Fast X’ premieres — 44; Martin Scorsese’s ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ premieres at Cannes — 46; Florida Chamber 2023 Florida Prosperity & Economic Opportunity Solution Summit — 53; NBA Finals begin — 58; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 58; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 72; ‘Secret Invasion’ premieres on Disney+ — 78; Florida Chamber 2023 Florida Learners to Earners Workforce Solution Summit — 84; ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ premieres — 86; ‘Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning — Part One’ premieres — 101; Florida Chamber 37th Annual Environmental Permitting Summer School — 108; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 110; ’Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 117; Beyoncé’s ‘Renaissance’ tour in Tampa — 134; 2023 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 202; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 216; Ridley Scott’s ‘Napoleon’ premieres — 232; South Carolina Democratic Primary — 298; New Hampshire and Nevada Democratic Primaries — 310; Georgia Democratic Primary — 316; Michigan Democratic Primary — 329; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 361; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 416; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 479; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 479; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 508; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 521; ‘Deadpool 3’ premieres — 586; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 732; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 759; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 948.


Donald Trump and New York City brace for a consequential week” via Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Swan of The New York Times — Trump landed at La Guardia Airport after taking off from Florida on his private plane with a phalanx of nearly a dozen aides, as well as his son Eric Trump. The former President’s team continued to make final plans for his arrest on Tuesday while also trying to maximize his surrender for political benefit. Officials in New York, meanwhile, were bracing for the circuslike atmosphere that expected protests might bring.

New York City braces for a hectic week.

The Trump campaign scheduled a prime-time news conference at Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday night, just hours after Trump is expected to turn himself in. The campaign has also been using his indictment in fundraising appeals and said it had raised $7 million since the news became public, though financial records corroborating the claim will not be available for weeks.

The planning reflects Trump’s belief that the indictment will ultimately bolster his standing in his third bid for the GOP presidential nomination, with Republicans who had been considering alternatives rallying to his side. His recent polling has been among the strongest of his 2024 campaign.

The next few days could be critical for Trump, and advisers warned him that he could easily damage his own case.

He wrote an especially incendiary post on his social media site, Truth Social, that featured a news article with a photo of Bragg on one side and Trump holding a baseball bat on the other. It was eventually taken down, after pleading by advisers. And he has already attacked the judge — comments his lawyers tried to smooth over in appearances on the morning talk shows on Sunday.


Super PAC backing Ron DeSantis says it has raised $30 million” via Maggie Haberman of The New York Times —The super PAC that is likely to serve as the main vehicle supporting DeSantis in a Republican Presidential Primary has raised $30 million since March 9, a senior official with the group said on Sunday night. The sums raised for the super PAC, named Never Back Down, show the financial might that would back a DeSantis campaign, should he enter the presidential race, as expected, after the Florida Legislative Session ends in early May.

DeSantis orders investigation into Disney district’s board. Disney CEO Bob Iger fires back” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — Disney has defended the actions of the Reedy Creek Improvement Board, and on Monday, The Walt Disney Co. CEO Iger shot back. He called DeSantis’ attempts at retaliation for Disney’s speaking out against the state’s gender identity legislation passed last year as “anti-business and anti-Florida.” DeSantis said the decision by the Reedy Creek Improvement District to “enter into last-minute development and restrictive covenant agreements with Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, U.S., Inc.,” was designed to “usurp” the authority of the successor board he had appointed, DeSantis wrote in a letter to Melinda Miguel, his chief inspector general.

Bob Iger strikes back.

Punishing Disney for speaking out is ‘anti-business, anti-Florida,’ CEO Bob Iger says” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Iger said DeSantis is essentially seeking “to punish a company for its exercise of a constitutional right, and that just seems really wrong to me, against any company or individual but particularly against the company that means so much to the state that you live in.” Iger brought up Disney World’s value to Florida from the company employing 75,000 people as the largest state taxpayer. “Any action that thwarts those efforts simply to retaliate for a position the company took sounds not just anti-business, but it sounds anti-Florida,” Iger said. “I’ll just leave it at that.”

Iger vows $17B Disney World expansion, calls DeSantis ‘anti-business’” via Katie Rice of the Orlando Sentinel — The Walt Disney Co. plans to invest $17 billion in Walt Disney World over the next 10 years and create 13,000 new jobs, CEO Iger said Monday, as he accused DeSantis of being vindictive over Disney’s response to the so-called “don’t say gay” law last year. Iger’s remarks came in response to an audience question during Disney’s annual shareholder meeting in California over what steps Disney will take to protect shareholders in an anticipated legal battle among DeSantis, Disney and the former Reedy Creek Improvement District.

Florida Dems try to use DeSantis bookman on his own book” via Jake Lahut of The Daily Beast — In a clever bit of trolling, Florida Democrats are subjecting DeSantis’ new tome—“The Courage To Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival”—to the rules that he and GOP lawmakers established to weed out books with allegedly inappropriate content on race, sexuality, and gender from school libraries. Fentrice Driskell, the minority leader in the Florida House, is leading an effort across 50 counties to see if any of them might review or ban DeSantis’ book based on his law’s vague and unwieldy criteria. “The very trap that he set for others is the one that he set for himself,” Driskell told The Daily Beast on Monday.

Right-wing media splits from DeSantis on press protections” via Ken Bensinger of The New York Times — DeSantis has long courted right-wing news outlets, while dismissing mainstream reporters as biased and untrustworthy. But legislation that would sharply curb press freedom in Florida is creating a rare rift between DeSantis and the media that have helped propel his rise. The legislation takes aim at several protections in state and federal law, including the decades-old Supreme Court precedent that makes it difficult for public figures to win libel lawsuits. Forces traditionally aligned with DeSantis have in recent weeks begun raising alarm. They are warning that the Governor and his GOP allies did not take into account how the bills would affect right-wing reporters and commentators.

—”Ex-DeSantis adviser launches GOP Senate bid to challenge Tim Kaine” via Meagan Flynn of the Washington Post


DeSantis’ signature tips U.S. into majority ‘constitutional carry’ nation with new Florida gun rights law” via Emma Colton of Fox News — The U.S. now has a majority of states with constitutional carry laws on the books after DeSantis signed a bill into law Monday that eliminates the requirement for an individual to obtain a permit to carry a concealed firearm. “The NRA applauds Florida for becoming the 26th state to adopt the vital Constitutional Carry legislation. This NRA-spearheaded initiative empowers Floridians to exercise their Second Amendment rights without undue bureaucratic barriers, affirming the fundamental right to self-defense,” NRA-ILA Interim Executive Director Randy Kozuch said.

With the stroke of a pen, the U.S. becomes a majority ‘constitutional carry’ country.

—“DeSantis signs Florida gun bill as activists demand more” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO

After clearing gallery, Florida Senate OKs six-week abortion ban” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Orlando Sentinel — After an emotional debate including outbursts from spectators that prompted the President to clear the gallery, the Florida Senate voted 26-13 on Monday for a six-week ban on abortion. At one point during the debate Monday, Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez was speaking in favor of the bill when someone from the audience started shouting. Senate President Kathleen Passidomo asked for the Sergeant of Arms, told the audience member to be quiet and halted the debate to demand decorum. A short time later, while Sen. Alexis Calatayud was speaking, someone shouted, “People are going to die.” Passidomo asked for a 10-minute recess to clear the galleries.

Senate passes $113.6B budget” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — With state coffers padded with soaring revenues buffeted by inflation-juiced sales taxes, the Senate passed a budget with more money for schools, prisons, health care providers and pay raises for state workers. “The Senate’s proposed budget is a fiscally responsible, balanced approach to making key investments in our environmental, housing, and transportation infrastructure and our clean water resources while maintaining a historic rainy-day fund that ensures we remain prepared to tackle any future challenges that may face our state,” Senate budget chief Doug Broxson said.

—“Senate, House budgets allocate millions to Florida Keys, disagree on projects, amounts” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics


Ban on gender-affirming care teed up to pass in Senate” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — A bill that codifies into law and expands upon rules pushed by the DeSantis administration to ban gender-affirming and gender-conforming health care for minors inched closer to passage in the Senate. The Senate considered nine amendments to SB 254, four of which were offered by Senate Democrats and rejected. But the chamber agreed to tag onto the bill four amendments offered by bill sponsor Sen. Clay Yarbrough, who repeatedly argued he wanted to protect Florida youth. But SB 254 goes beyond banning gender-affirming and gender-conforming care to minors. For instance, the bill makes physicians who violate the law and provide care to minors a third-degree felony.

Clay Yarbrough tweaks the Senate gender-affirming care ban.

Senate amends revamp of high school athletic governing group, heads back to the House” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — A measure that revamps high school sports governance won Senate approval but must head back to the House because of a surprise amendment. By a 29-10 vote, the Senate approved the measure after substituting House-approved legislation (HB 225) for the Senate’s version (SB 308). Both bills overhaul the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) governance of athletics and change the rules of engagement for where students can play sports. “This is a school sports choice bill,” said bill sponsor Sen. Jay Collins. “This is about the kids. Everyone’s focused on making sure they have the opportunity to play sports and take part in competitions.”

Senate Republicans file sweeping bill revamping election laws, easing campaign finance reporting” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A voluminous bill tightening Florida’s election strictures and easing campaign finance reporting requirements is headed to its first Committee hearing, at the panel that filed a shell version of the measure last week. Contrary to what was expected, the bill does not concern Florida’s resign-to-run law. The sweeping, 98-page proposal (SPB 7050) takes aim at many of the state’s current rules for candidates, voters and the government entities tasked with regulating them.

Senate budget bill moves cybersecurity operations to different agency” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — All of Florida’s cybersecurity operations would move out of the Department of Management Services (DMS) and into the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) under a bill passed by the Senate as part of its budget. The bill (SB 2508) transfers “all positions, duties, functions, records, existing contracts, administrative authority, administrative rules, and unexpended balances of appropriations, allocations and other public funds” from the Cybersecurity Operations Center to DMS. “We thought that was a better fit for that particular silo in cybersecurity,” Senate budget chief Doug Broxson said. “We think it’s just a (good government) move to put that in their silo.”

Fecal coliform testing bill glides through initial Committee” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — Animal waste or human waste, it doesn’t much matter when it’s present in high enough amounts in coastal waters to become a health issue. Presently, the state directs that testing occurs, from which advisories are issued to discourage people from getting in the water if the tests come back with unsatisfactory readings. Legislation heard in the House Healthcare Regulation Subcommittee would take steps to expand the program to include public bathing areas, and beach closure requirements.

Miami-Dade delegation fights for fair share in Tallahassee” via Tristan Wood of City & State FL — Republican dominance in Miami-Dade County during the 2022 Election cycle can be seen in the makeup of their legislators in Tallahassee. Fourteen of the 21 members of the Miami-Dade County delegation are Republicans. Several of their newest members, like state Sen. Calatayud and state Rep. Fabían Basabe, knocked off sizable Democratic challengers. The Republicans in the delegation have stayed busy during the first few weeks of Session, championing some of the favored legislation by DeSantis and other legislative leadership.


White House says permitless carry signing is ‘shameful’ — White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre criticized DeSantis for signing the permitless carry bill. “It is shameful that so soon after another tragic school shooting, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a permitless concealed carry bill behind closed doors, which eliminates the need to get a license to carry a concealed weapon,” Jean-Pierre said in a statement. “This is the opposite of common-sense gun safety. The people of Florida — who have paid a steep price for state and Congressional inaction on guns from Parkland to Pulse Nightclub to Pine Hills — deserve better.”

Karine Jean-Pierre says Florida deserves better than permitless carry.

Bikers ride to Tallahassee in support of motorcycle safety bill” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — More than 100 bikers were at the Capitol to advocate for legislation aimed at making the roads safer for motorcycle riders. ABATE of Florida is the state’s primary motorcycle rights organization, or “MRO,” with about 20 local chapters across Florida. The group is essentially the voice of advocacy for Florida’s motorcycle community. ABATE stands for American Bikers Advocating Training and Education. The organization’s 29th “Rally to the Capitol” saw membership recognize motorcycle riders who have died during the past year and advocate for motorcycle safety legislation (HB 709, SB 838) currently working its way through the House and Senate.

Bikers hit the trail to Tallahassee.

National Democrats ding DeSantis for NRA invite — The Democratic National Committee issued a news release bashing DeSantis for inviting representatives of the National Rifle Association to the closed-door permitless carry signing. “Hiding behind closed doors and standing shoulder to shoulder with the NRA, Ron DeSantis just signed legislation that could make it easier for criminals to carry guns. DeSantis knows this legislation could be dangerous for Florida families and that’s why he signed this bill with none of his usual produced fanfare,” DNC Chair Jaime Harrison said. “Make no mistake: DeSantis’s unabashed chase for the 2024 MAGA base has proven how extreme he is willing to go to boost his national ambitions, even if it means ignoring pleas from some law enforcement officials and putting the gun lobby over Floridians.”

Democrats criticize private signing of permitless carry — House Democrats slammed the Governor for signing the permitless carry legislation in a closed-door ceremony. “Gov. DeSantis signing the permitless carry bill into law out of the public eye tells you everything you need to know about the Republican extremist agenda to secure an A+ rating from the NRA,” said House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell. Rep. Dan Daley added, “This morning Gov. DeSantis quietly, unceremoniously, and with zero pomp and circumstance, signed the Permitless Carry bill into law. I can’t say I’m surprised by the way it was done considering even the Governor must know how wildly unpopular this bill is with Floridians. We as a state are now less safe and have the Governor and Republicans in Tallahassee to thank.”

AFP-FL praises House education budget — Conservative group Americans for Prosperity-Florida praised the House for “working to transform” the state’s education budget “to ensure that state dollars will follow our students.” AFP-FL State Director Skylar Zander said, “The FEFP hasn’t changed in more than 50 years and this update will go a long way to ensure equitable funding for all Florida’s students. Further we want to commend the House of Representatives for protecting precious taxpayer resources by not putting money into Enterprise Florida and continuing their push for Enterprise Florida to be rolled into the Department of Economic Opportunity. Answering Gov. DeSantis’ request to ensure the state has ample reserves in case of an economic downturn, we support cutting taxes for all Floridians and continuing not to fund Visit Florida, so this budget will exemplify good stewardship for Florida taxpayers.”

FBHA praises Senate behavioral health spending — The Florida Behavioral Health Association praised Passidomo, Senate Budget Chief Doug Broxson and Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Chair Gayle Harrell for funding community mental health and substance use disorder services in the 2023-24 budget the chamber passed on Monday. “On behalf of FBHA’s community behavioral health provider members and over 750,000 Floridians we serve, we are deeply grateful to the Florida Senate for passing a budget that offers families hope and services,” FBHA President and CEO Melanie Brown-Woofter said. “ … The FBHA is beyond thankful that the Senate has committed over 60 million additional dollars to community initiatives, giving behavioral health care providers necessary resources to better serve their clients, and offering individuals living with mental illness and substance use disorders a lifeline to a resilient future.”

Suits for Session is here — If you haven’t rustled through your closet yet, now is the time. TECO and Volunteer Florida are teaming up to bring “Suits for Session” back to the Capitol today. The service project, now in its eighth year, collects new and gently worn business attire to help prepare job seekers in need. Drop-offs will be held on the 2nd floor of the Capitol Rotunda. Another drop-off location will be available in front of Tallahassee City Hall. Men’s and women’s items accepted include full suits, blazers/jackets, blouses/shirts, pants/trousers, dresses and skirts, ties, belts, shoes and handbags.


— The House Civil Justice Subcommittee will consider legislation (HB 1129) that would shield roller-skating rink owners from liability lawsuits: 8 a.m., Room 404, House Office Building.

— The Senate Criminal Justice Committee meets will consider legislation (SB 364) increasing funeral service and expense coverage for fallen law enforcement officers from $1,000 to $10,000 and granting police personnel in the same agency up to eight hours of administrative leave to attend the funeral: 8:30 a.m., Room 37, Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee meets: 8:30 a.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Health Policy Committee meets: 8:30 a.m., Room 412, Knott Building.

Assignment editors — Rep. Anna Eskamani, in partnership with the National Diaper Bank Network, will host a news conference on diaper needs: 9 a.m., 4th Floor Rotunda. RSVP at [email protected].

— The House holds a floor Session: 10:30 a.m., House Chambers.

— The Senate Education Pre-K — 12 Committee will take up a bill () loosening the residency requirements for School Board candidates: 11 a.m., Room 412, Knott Building.

— The Senate Transportation Committee will consider a bill (SB 1290) that would keep younger drivers from operating golf carts on city streets and another proposal (SB 1374) that would change child booster seat requirements: 11 a.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Children Families and Elder Affairs Committee meets: 11 a.m., Room 37, Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee meets: 11 a.m., Room 301, Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee will consider a proposed Committee bill (SPB 7050) and a long list of executive appointments: 2 p.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Judiciary Committee will consider legislation (SB 1458) that would shield roller-skating rink owners from liability lawsuits: 2 p.m., Room 412, Knott Building.

— The Senate Regulated Industries will take up a bill (SB 534) uncorking the cap on wine bottle sizes: 2 p.m., Room 401, Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Military and Veterans Affairs, Space and Domestic Security Committee meets: 2 p.m., Room 301, Senate Office Building.

— The Senate holds a floor Session: 4:30 p.m., Senate Chambers.

— Senate Special Order Calendar Group meets: 6:15 p.m., Room 401, Senate Office Building.


NHC: Ian winds topped 161 mph before landfall, costliest hurricane in state history” via Chad Gillis of the Fort Myers News-Press — Hurricane Ian is now being classified as a Category 5 storm packing 160 mile per hour winds before landfall, according to a National Hurricane Center report. The storm made landfall as a Category 4 Hurricane on Sept. 28, killing dozens and causing mass destruction along the Southwest Florida coast. The report says Ian was responsible for 150 direct and indirect deaths and $112 billion in damages, which makes it the costliest hurricane in Florida history. The Category 5 winds came at noon on the 28th, and the storm weakened slightly before making landfall at Cayo Costa.

Florida has spent $1.5M developing smartphone ID apps that hardly anyone is using” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Are we ever going to be able to leave our driver’s licenses at home and use a smartphone app if pulled over by the police? It’s an enticing idea — one that has been under discussion by Florida lawmakers since 2014. But apparently, the future is not yet here. Although apps allowing wireless transmission and capture of digital driver’s license data have been available for download from Apple and Android stores since November 2021, few police agencies or businesses in Florida have adopted the technology. Because Florida law still requires drivers to carry the physical plastic versions of their driver’s licenses, some users who have downloaded the app complain that it’s of little use.

There’s an app for driver’s licenses, but does it work?

Florida gas prices rise 10 cents, likely to increase more on OPEC+ production cuts” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Florida gas prices rose 10 cents per gallon last week and will likely increase far more, thanks to oil production cuts by Saudi Arabia and other OPEC+ members. By Monday, the average price at the pump across the Sunshine State was $3.47 per gallon, a price point that all but erased a modest dip in fuel prices motorists enjoyed the week prior. Saudi Arabia and other OPEC+ countries announced surprise plans Sunday to cut oil production by about 1 million barrels daily beginning in May. The Saudi Energy Ministry called the move a “precautionary measure” meant to stabilize the oil market.


On foreign policy, Joe Biden’s gut is his guide” via Yasmeen Abutaleb of The Washington Post — Around 3 a.m. on Nov. 15, hours before the start of Biden’s final day at a summit in Bali, Indonesia, an aide nudged him awake to deal with a potentially explosive crisis: A Russian-made missile had landed in Poland and killed two farmers. With the sun not yet up, Biden huddled with his two top foreign policy officials, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan. Ultimately, allies say, Biden is guided by instinct and experience — not sweeping theories or cut-and-dried principles. “He has very strong instincts,” Blinken, who has worked with Biden for more than 20 years, said.

Joe Biden’s foreign policy relies on experience, gut instinct.

Hewing to precedent, Biden plans to skip King Charles III’s coronation” via Tyler Pager of The Washington Post — Biden is not expected to attend the coronation of King Charles III next month, with first lady Jill Biden planning to lead the delegation to the United Kingdom. Biden’s decision to skip the May 6 coronation is not unusual, say U.S. officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the trip has not yet been announced. No previous U.S. President has attended a British monarch’s coronation, and for the last coronation, in June 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent a delegation in his place.

Marco Rubio rips ‘Third World’ indictment of Trump” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Rubio is the latest Republican to roundly condemn former President Trump’s indictment. The Senator told the Fox & Friends crew that Trump’s indictment was reminiscent of “Third World” countries and that it could set a dangerous precedent. “I watch it happen all the time in the Third World and in developing countries,” Rubio contended. “They use prosecutors to go after candidates.” From there, the Senator savaged Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg for building a case that he argued was outside not just the statute of limitations, but the boundaries of law itself.

Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick’s trip to Ghana brings emotional reckoning with slavery’s past” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — It was an experience unlike anything Rep. Cherfilus-McCormick expected. There were hours of briefings and meetings on critical issues — the economy at home and abroad, terrorism, competition with China and Russia — and a state banquet in Ghana. But the most impactful part of a just-concluded trip was walking in the places where enslaved Africans were imprisoned before being sent to the United States from Ghana, which was a center of the slave trade for 150 years.

First on #FlaPol —Anthony Sabatini challenging Dan Webster in CD 11” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — It looks like Sabatini will make another run for Congress. But this time, he plans to take on U.S. Rep. Webster in a Republican Primary. “I’m running for U.S. Congress in Florida’s 11th District — join my America First campaign & help defeat the corrupt Biden regime,” he tweeted. The move comes months after Sabatini lost to now-U.S. Rep. Cory Mills, a Winter Park Republican, for an open House seat representing Florida’s 7th Congressional District. Mills won an eight-candidate Primary with almost 38% of the vote, with Sabatini a distant second, notching under 24%. But Sabatini notably did not live in CD 7. The former state Representative and Eustis City Commissioner has won election in Lake County before.


Trump taps white-collar attorney to helm indictment defense” via Erica Orden of POLITICO — Todd Blanche, until recently a partner at law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, said in an email he was resigning from the firm because: “I have been asked to represent Trump in the recently charged DA case, and after much thought/consideration, I have decided it is the best thing for me to do and an opportunity I should not pass up.” Blanche, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, has previously represented Trump ally Paul Manafort as well as Igor Fruman, a onetime associate of Rudy Giuliani who pleaded guilty in a campaign finance case brought by the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office.

Todd Blanche joins a long history of Donald Trump attorneys.

In Trump case, experts see echoes of failed case against Sen. John Edwards” via Rosalind S. Helderman of The Washington Post — In 2008, it was Sen. Edwards who arranged payments to a mistress to keep her quiet as he sought the Democratic nomination for President. Three years later, Edwards was charged with federal campaign finance violations, accused of hiding the affair using money from donors that should have been reported to the FEC. After a six-week trial, a North Carolina jury balked at the case, acquitting Edwards of one count and failing to come to a verdict on five others, leading the Justice Department to drop the matter.

Trump gets send-off from cheering supporters before flying from South Florida to New York to face criminal charges” via Anthony Man and Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Trump got a send-off from cheering supporters on Monday as he rode from his Mar-a-Lago resort and home in Palm Beach for the flight from Palm Beach International Airport that took him to New York to face criminal charges against him. Trump left Mar-a-Lago at about 12:20 p.m. Monday. About 15 minutes later, he walked up the back stairs to his plane at the airport. At 1 p.m. he took off. He touched down about two and a half hours later at LaGuardia Airport in Queens then deplaned and got into an SUV at 3:45 p.m.

Trump to speak at Mar-a-Lago Tuesday night following arraignment” via Kimberly Miller of the Palm Beach Post — Trump said he will speak at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach on Tuesday evening following an arraignment scheduled for earlier in the day in New York. According to a media alert, the remarks will begin at 8:15 p.m. after his return from Manhattan.

As Trump arraignment looms, New York City braces for a day of tumult” via Jesse McKinley and Chelsia Rose Marcius of The New York Times — Law enforcement officials and outside experts have not warned of major threats from Trump’s supporters or opponents this week. But New York City officials and police were already girding for protests near the courthouse and outside Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, where barricades lined the streets for several blocks surrounding the building on Sunday, amid camera crews and curiosity seekers.

Justice Department said to have more evidence of possible Trump obstruction at Mar-a-Lago” via The Washington Post — Justice Department and FBI investigators amassed fresh evidence pointing to possible obstruction by Trump in the investigation into top-secret documents found at his Mar-a-Lago home, according to people familiar with the matter. The additional evidence comes as investigators have used emails and text messages from a former Trump aide to help understand key moments last year, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing criminal investigation. The details highlight the degree to which special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into the potential mishandling of papers at Trump’s Florida home has come to focus on the obstruction elements of the case.

Yet another national poll shows post-indictment surge for Trump” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — A national survey of GOP Primary voters conducted by The Trafalgar Group shows the former President has surged since the indictment. Trump took 56% support in a crowded field, more than double DeSantis, who drew 23% support, good for second place. Former U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming sits at 10% and in third place. Trump leads by just 12 points in a pre-indictment poll conducted March 14-19, with 43% support against 31% for DeSantis. The indictment compelled nearly three out of every four voters to be more likely to support Trump, with 74% backing the former President more after reports were finalized that Manhattan District Attorney Bragg would indict him after a grand jury voted for that outcome.

The return of the nonstop Trump news cycle” via Clare Malone of New Yorker — Back in 2017, I vividly remember getting into the car after a lovely, long beach weekend, turning on the radio, and having the Trump-filled news rush into my ears, pushing out the pleasant crunch of shell gravel, popping beer tops, and waves. He was as inescapable as a sunburn. On Monday, as I watched Trump’s private plane touch down at LaGuardia and then his motorcade wends its way on the Grand Central Parkway toward Manhattan that moment came back to me; the Trump reprieve is officially over. His voice will be back in your head soon enough.

— 2024 —

Susie Wiles memo brags about Trump’s ‘largest ever lead over DeSantis’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Wiles, who was unceremoniously booted from the orbit of DeSantis after helping guide him to a win in November 2018, exacts some retribution in a memo with Chris LaCivita. Wiles and LaCivita take a victory lap over Trump’s recent surge in polls at the expense of the Florida Governor. “An avalanche of recent polling shows President Trump surging to his largest-ever lead over Ron DeSantis. A Yahoo News/YouGov survey released Saturday finds President Trump commands a 26-point lead over DeSantis — 57% to 31% — a net swing of 30 points toward Trump since February,” the memo reads. Indeed, the poll showed an even more commanding lead in a crowded field: Trump at 52%, 31 points ahead of the Governor, with no other candidate over 5%.

Suzie Wiles touts a new poll to bash Ron DeSantis.

—”Poll: Double-digit lead for Trump in New Hampshire” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Nikki Haley is driving Mike Pence’s campaign up a wall” via Adam Wren and Natalie Allison of POLITICO — Pence might harbor deep-seated resentment toward Trump for his handling of Jan. 6. But it’s Haley who really gets under the Pence camp’s skin. Inside Pence’s orbit, staffers have begun privately complaining about a presidential contender who, like Pence, is polling in single digits, distressed that Haley is drawing what they view as more favorable media coverage than the former Vice President receives. “It’s like giving a shit about who wins the NIT tournament,” said Jeff Timmer, former executive director of the Michigan Republican Party.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Miami unemployment lowest in history” via Miami Today — Employers struggling to find candidates to fill jobs now know why: Miami-Dade’s unemployment in February was the lowest on record at 1.7%. The previous record low was 1.8% unemployment in the condo boom, before the condo bust, in December 2005 and February 2006. The record 1.7% that the bureau released is far below what economists formerly regarded as full employment, generally 2% jobless. The unemployment rate this February for all of the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach metropolitan area was 2.2%, lowest in Florida. The rate for the entire state was 2.6% in February as national unemployment ticked up from 3.4% in January to 3.6%.

Miami Springs voters to choose three City Council members, consider five charter amendments Tuesday” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Three City Council seats are up for grabs Tuesday in Miami Springs, where voters will also weigh in on a handful of proposed charter amendments. The most high-profile contest involves former Council member Victor Vázquez who last year placed third in a four-way contest for the Miami-Dade County Commission. Vázquez, who won his seat on the Miami Springs Council with 70% of the vote in April 2021, left office after last year’s election in compliance with Florida’s resign-to-run law. He’s since been angling to get his old government job back.

Victor Vázquez is angling to get his old job back.

Far-right Florida man and influencer convicted in voter suppression scheme” via The Associated Press — A self-styled far-right propagandist from Florida was convicted of charges alleging that he conspired to deprive individuals of their right to vote in the 2016 Presidential Election. Douglass Mackey, 33, of West Palm Beach, was convicted in Brooklyn federal court before Judge Ann M. Donnelly after a one-week trial. On the internet, he was known as “Ricky Vaughn.” In 2016, Mackey had about 58,000 Twitter followers and was ranked by the MIT Media Lab as the 107th-most important influencer of the then-upcoming Presidential Election, prosecutors said. He had described himself as an “American nationalist” who regularly retweeted Trump and promoted conspiracy theories about voter fraud by Democrats. Mackey could face up to 10 years in prison.

Two Republicans vie to challenge Democrat in PBC HD 93” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Rep. Katherine Waldron has drawn two Republican opponents, both business owners and first-time candidates, in her bid for re-election in a district that nearly went red in 2022. Brandon Cabrera, who owns a real estate development company, and Chris Mitchell, whose LinkedIn profile shows is a vice president and Norcom Mortgage branch manager, will be competing for the Republican nomination for House District 93. The inland district includes the village of Wellington, portions of Greenacres and western parts of Boynton Beach.

Katherine Waldron has drawn two Republican opponents, both first-time candidates.

‘We don’t have that anymore’: As racetracks disappear from South Florida, illegal street racing takes over” via Shira Moolten of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Last April, after 57 years, the owners of the only racetrack in South Florida shut it down so another company could turn it into warehouses. Several years before that, the area’s only drag strip, Countyline Dragway in north Miami-Dade, permanently closed. There’s nowhere left to go if you want to go fast and do it legally. Street racing, stunt driving and intersection takeovers became criminal offenses last October under a new Florida law, six months after racers took their last spin around Moroso Park, officially known as the Palm Beach International Raceway, in Jupiter. In the months since the law went into effect, the situation on the streets has only intensified, officials say.

What Ron DeSantis is reading — “Citadel billionaire Ken Griffin’s a soccer guy. His $5M gift will boost play across Miami” via Andres Viglucci of the Miami Herald — Kenneth Griffin, the hedge-fund billionaire who’s making a well-publicized mark on Miami by moving his Citadel financial empire from Chicago to Brickell, while donating millions to local civic and philanthropic projects, is now looking to different fields for his gifting — soccer fields, that is. Griffin, a longtime futbol aficionado, is donating $5 million to build 50 “mini-pitches” across Miami-Dade County as part of a plan by the U.S. Soccer Foundation to increase opportunities for children in local “under-resourced” communities to play soccer. A “pitch” is the traditional English soccer term for a playing field.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Trump indictment: Will Volusia County stand behind former President?” via Jim Abbott of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — In the days since the unprecedented news of Tuesday’s expected indictment of former President Trump, there have been few, if any, obvious signs of protest on the streets of Volusia County. No flag-toting, sign-waving crowds of Trump fans convened over the weekend in the usual gathering spots along the major bridges from the mainland from Port Orange to Ormond Beach, or clustered next to the busy West Volusia intersection of Saxon Boulevard and Enterprise Road in Orange City. Although that could change as Tuesday’s events unfold, the public reaction so far has been quiet.

Will Volusia County stick with Trump?

Seminole’s elections chief to seek re-election after all” via Martin E. Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — Seminole Supervisor of Elections Chris Anderson, who announced in late February that he would not seek re-election in 2024, said he has changed his mind and will run for another term. Anderson said he has received “an overwhelming amount of support” from his family, along with state and federal officials, “Republicans and Democrats,” to remain in office. “After I announced that I wasn’t going to run, I got a lot of phone calls and emails asking me to stay in the race,” said Anderson, a Republican. “I have had calls of support from Tallahassee and (Washington) D.C. … I’ve been told that I’m needed.” Anderson, however, would not say who encouraged him to seek re-election.

Applications for Brevard Public Schools Superintendent have closed. What’s the next step?” via Finch Walker of Florida Today — The Brevard County School Board is set to meet Tuesday morning to identify semifinalists for the district Superintendent position from a list of 33 candidates. The meeting comes just a week after the board placed Interim Superintendent Robert Schiller on administrative leave and appointed Sue Hann, assistant Superintendent of facilities, as Acting Superintendent. While candidates were slow to trickle in, with only 18 showing on the Brevard Public Schools website Thursday evening, the district ended up with 33 total applicants by their deadline Friday. These candidates come from a variety of backgrounds, ranging from out-of-state Superintendents to Cocoa Beach High School Principal Mark Rendell to a retired United States Navy captain.

Osceola Airbnb hosts earned $64 million in 2022, company says” via Trevor Fraser of the Orlando Sentinel — When Demetri Ballas of New York put his vacation home in Kissimmee on Airbnb, he says his only goal was to break even. “If I could cover the home’s expenses and we could vacation there when we wanted, then that was a win,” he said. Last year, Ballas, 50, says his five-bedroom vacation property earned more than $50,000. Ballas did better than most, according to a new report from Airbnb, which found that hosts in Osceola County with a single listing on the home-sharing platform earned an average of $14,700 last year. Osceola hosts performed just above the national average of $14,000.

Is Disney content too ‘woke?’ CEO Iger addresses criticism” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Iger said the company will continue to speak out on political issues affecting employees although he acknowledged he is “sensitive” to criticism that Disney’s content has an agenda. Iger spoke candidly about a wide range of topics, including addressing Disney’s feud with DeSantis, during Monday’s annual shareholder’s meeting. “Is it wise for the company to take political positions to satisfy a very small portion of the people when our primary mission is entertainment, not education?” one shareholder asked. Iger pointed to the long history of Corporate America speaking out on political issues, like during the Civil Rights Era. He said our country “is better off for that.”


‘Ruby Bridges’ movie cleared for use at North Shore Elementary” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Disney’s “Ruby Bridges” movie, the focus of a controversy that recently put Pinellas County in the spotlight, has been cleared for use at North Shore Elementary School in St. Petersburg. A committee made up of three teachers, two parents and two community members unanimously determined after an 18-minute meeting Monday that the 1998 film about a 6-year-old Black girl who integrated a New Orleans elementary school was appropriate for elementary-aged children.

‘Ruby Bridges’ gets the all-clear for a Pinellas County school.

Mike Scott first to enter Polk County Commission race to replace Neil Combee” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Conservative business owner Scott is the first candidate to file to run for the Polk County Commission District 5 seat being vacated by Combee. In an announcement, Scott said, “he was called to serve by Gov. DeSantis’ example of leadership in taking on the left.” Now, he wants to bring that same fight to Polk County. “Gov. DeSantis should be an example of how to govern to us all,” Scott said. “There is so much we can do at the local level to push back on blue state policies that are trying to gain ground here in Polk County and the rest of Florida.”

Reporter Charlie Frago quits the Tampa Bay Times” via Ray Roa of Creative Loafing — Ten years after his arrival at the Tampa Bay Times, city hall reporter Frago has left the building. “Philosophical differences arose between myself and the Times. I did not see a path forward,” Frago told CL, adding that he resigned effectively this morning. “I think I sent the email about 10:30 a.m.” In a statement to CL, the Times said it “does not comment on personnel matters.”

Vinoy name change to take effect Wednesday” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club will officially change its name Wednesday, a move that has been anticipated as part of its rebranding to a Marriott Autograph Collection hotel. The new name will be The Vinoy Resort & Golf Club, Autograph Collection. Hotel leadership wrote that the name change “celebrates the culmination of our comprehensive property renovation and thoughtful embodiment of Marriott’s Autograph Collection brand ethos.”

— LOCAL: N. FL —

After 3-year hiatus, Pensacola sister city exchange back to celebrate 30 years” via Kamal Morgan of the Pensacola News Journal — After a three-year hiatus because of COVID-19, Pensacola and its Japanese sister city, Gero, have resumed student exchange visits just in time to mark the program’s 30th anniversary. The Pensacola-Gero Exchange Program was started in 1993 when a superintendent of what was then Hagiwara, Japan, and an American educator teaching English in Japan came to Pensacola with the goal of creating an exchange program relationship between the cities. The program is part of the larger Sister Cities International program. Groups of students visit their respective sister city, stay with host families, and teach and learn about one another’s cultures through games, language and activities.

Pensacola and its Japanese sister city, Gero, are resuming student exchange visits.

OccupyTally sought a protest permit and got a no camping sign at City Hall instead” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — While the Florida Legislature continues to debate SB 300, a ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, opponents began what they promised to be multiple days of protests in Tallahassee to defend “reproductive freedom.” OccupyTally believed it had a city permit for a rally this week, but said it was revoked by officials. The city said it tried to work with the protesters but then realized the group wanted people statewide to come to Tallahassee and occupy the plaza in front of City Hall for an extended period of time, which the city won’t permit.

OccupyTally wants to protest, but the welcome mat gets rolled up.

FSU bans TikTok, other apps from campus after statewide regulation from Board of Governors” via Tarah Jean of the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida State University announced that social media apps such as TikTok have been immediately banned from campus as of Monday, following a Florida Board of Governors statewide emergency regulation. FSU sent out a message to students, faculty and staff to notify the campus community of all the social media platforms, websites and technologies that are blocked from being accessed on university devices or while using FSU’s Wi-Fi — TikTok, Tencent QQ, WeChat, Vkontakte, Kaspersky and Fizz.

Here are the plans for Jacksonville Arboretum’s $8 million children’s garden” via Beth Reese Cravey of The Florida Times-Union — In the next three to five years, an $8 million children’s garden is intended to be the first phase of the Jacksonville Arboretum & Botanical Gardens’ new master development plan to come to fruition. To fund the garden’s design, the Arlington arboretum’s board of directors has received a $50,000 challenge grant from the Delores Barr Weaver Legacy Fund and is seeking a matching $50,000 in donations from the public. The board wants the design to “strike a healthy balance between education and recreation,” featuring the environmentally diverse plants and animals found on the grounds.


More evidence that seaweed assault on South Florida beaches is ‘inevitable’” via Kimberly Miller of the Palm Beach Post — A major sargassum assault on the east coast of Florida is now “inevitable” as the amount of the pelagic flora in the Atlantic basin continues its copious growth spurt. The March sargassum report from the University of South Florida measured 13 million tons of seaweed extending west from near the coast of Africa to the Gulf of Mexico, which was another record-breaker for this time of year. It’s also a 50% increase from the 8.7 million tons measured in January. A February report that noted a small decrease in the amount of the floating algae was ultimately found to be a mistake caused by persistent cloud cover obscuring the extent of the sargassum’s reach.

The sea makes an inevitable deposit on Florida shores.

Popular Mexico Beach businesses returning years after Hurricane Michael” via Jake Holter of My Panhandle — It’s been a long hard road for Mexico Beach, still recovering from its direct hit by Hurricane Michael in 2018. More than four years later and signs of recovery are everywhere. Charles Smith’s family has owned the Gulf View Motel since the mid-80s. “Before the hurricane, I was remodeling the motel,” Smith said. “I was just about ready to be finished and then the hurricane came along and wiped out my motel around me. I had to completely rebuild. The process has been long and tedious.” Since that day, Smith has slowly rebuilt the motel from the ground up, keeping in mind what happened.

Collier Supervisor of Elections Jennifer Edwards retiring April 28 after 23 years at helm” via Liz Freeman of the Naples Daily News — Collier County Supervisor of Elections Edwards has announced her retirement effective April 28, according to a letter she sent to the Governor’s Office. Edwards, 73, has been the Elections Supervisor since 2000 when she was initially appointed by then-Gov. Jeb Bush when then-Supervisor of Elections Mary Morgan stepped down. Edwards is retiring midterm with her current term expiring Jan. 1, 2025. Edwards recommended to Gov. DeSantis that he appoints Melissa Blazier, chief deputy in the elections’ office, for the remainder of her term.


Disney strips DeSantis of his fairy tale ending. Good.” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — Clearly, the Governor thought he’d written the perfect fairy tale and cast himself as the hero — only to discover that Disney executives flipped the script.

In broad daylight, no less.

Before it was infested with the Governor’s band of political buddies, the Reedy Creek board signed binding contracts that transfer most of the control of district-owned facilities and future development back into Disney’s hands, and ban the district from using any Disney trademarks.

The Governor’s response is classic DeSantis. DeSantis’ plan for the district he seized is to take tax money from Disney and use it to sue Disney, in an attempt to circumvent Disney’s control over land Disney owns.

Many — including this editorial board — have been uneasy about the power that the Reedy Creek district allows Disney to wield, or the untold magnitude of tax payments it’s avoided over the years by taking advantage of its ability to issue government bonds.

But there’s no doubt that the company backed its power with its own cash. Its hand-picked board levied property taxes that are triple or quadruple what other Central Florida cities and counties charge — taxes that Disney was charging itself.

This was a foolish, petty and ultimately selfish political vendetta that could have ended up far worse. If Disney executives had responded to DeSantis in the same vengeful vein — by pulling back even a small fraction of the resources the company has invested in Florida — the economic wreckage could have been massive. Instead, company executives and district officials stayed quiet, bided their time and executed a plan that is both elegant and witty.


DeSantis defeats Trump on lawsuit abuse” via The Wall Street Journal editorial board — DeSantis signed legislation that will reduce legal costs for businesses, insurers and their customers. DeSantis’ reforms provoked a five-alarm panic among plaintiff attorneys who ran ads targeting immigrants that recalled power grabs in socialist Venezuela and Cuba. Trump piled on at Truth Social: “RINO Ron DeSanctimonious is delivering the biggest insurance company BAILOUT to Globalist Insurance Companies, IN HISTORY.” With his usual nuance, he called the reforms “the worst Insurance Scam in the entire Country!” He’s got the wrong scammers. By reducing payouts for dubious claims, the Florida reforms will cut insurance premiums for businesses and citizens. Irony alert: This will benefit Mr. Trump’s properties in the state.

Don’t give DeSantis his own military machine” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — DeSantis already abuses so many of his powers that he should not be given any more. But naturally, that’s what Florida’s eager-to-please Legislature plans to do. The Florida State Guard, reactivated last year despite concerns that it would become DeSantis’ private army, is to become larger, more powerful and costlier, at an increase to taxpayers of $98 million. Its authorized strength would swell from 400 to 1,500. The adjutant general who runs the National Guard would no longer have authority over the State Guard, though it would still be housed in his department for bureaucratic reasons.

Chuck Clemons: The era of PBMs is over. We’re putting Florida patients first.” via Florida Politics — The unfortunate reality is Pharmacy Benefit Mangers (PBMs) have short-circuited Florida’s free market by creating a predatory process that lets them use patient and taxpayer money to increase profits for their shareholders at the expense of some of Florida’s most vulnerable residents. This year, a bill would shine a light on PBM practices and put Florida patients first. The bill — HB 1509 by Rep. Linda Chaney — won unanimous approval in its first Committee stop. I was really struck by testimony of one particular woman who spoke in support of HB 1509. She is battling stage 4 cancer and her insurance company recently required her to switch pharmacies and get her life-sustaining medication from a PBM-affiliated pharmacy, or else it would no longer be covered. It’s clear that this woman had to endure a seemingly endless cycle of frustration and delays because the PBM had ripped away her ability to choose how she received care — and she had to manage all of this while fighting cancer.



— ALOE —

NASA announces 4 astronauts flying to the moon on Artemis II” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Humans haven’t traveled beyond low-Earth orbit in more than 50 years, but that’s set to change with the launch of the Artemis II mission to orbit the moon next year. NASA and the Canadian Space Agency announced the four crew members that will climb aboard the Orion spacecraft to be launched atop the Space Launch System rocket from Kennedy Space Center as early as November 2024. Commanding the mission will be Reid Wiseman, the former head of NASA’s astronaut office who stepped down to be eligible to fly on missions again. He will be joined by NASA astronaut Victor Glover, who will function as pilot, NASA astronaut and mission specialist Christina Koch and Canadian astronaut and mission specialist Jeremy Hansen.

Meet the new crew of Artemis II.

Meet the 18-year-old who wants to be Disney’s next CEO” via Robbie Whelan of The Wall Street Journal — Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Robert Iger has said his top priority is finding his replacement within two years. An 18-year-old Disney superfan from the Phoenix suburbs thinks she would be a strong candidate. And she has already talked to Iger about the job. Cori Borgstadt, the young fan, has become a regular at annual shareholder meetings. She has asked Iger a question on all but three occasions, including in 2015, when she wondered what advice he would give to “a kid who wants your job someday.” Iger responded, “Well, one thing you can do is keep coming to our shareholders’ meeting.”

Live-action ‘Moana’ in the works from Dwayne Johnson, Disney” via Borys Kit of The Hollywood Reporter — Disney is setting sail with Moana once again, this time in vibrant live-action. The studio has teamed with Johnson to develop a live-action remake of its 2016 animated musical sensation. Johnson plans to return to the role of Maui, the grandiose demigod of the wind and sea. He will produce via his Seven Bucks Productions along with Dany Garcia and Hiram Garcia. Beau Flynn produces it via Flynn Picture Co. Jared Bush, who wrote the screenplay for the original movie, is back to write the remake, along with Dana Ledoux Miller. No director is involved at this stage of development.

Secret invasion revealed: Inside Samuel L. Jackson’s eye-opening new Marvel series” via Anthony Breznican of Vanity Fair — Who are you, really? That question is at the core of the new Marvel series Secret Invasion, which follows Jackson’s spymaster, Nick Fury, as he uncovers a conspiracy to quietly install double agents into positions of power around the world. “We don’t know who’s a friend, who’s the enemy,” Jackson said. “There’s a political aspect that kind of fits into where we are right now: Who’s OK? Who’s not? What happens when people get afraid and don’t understand other people? You can’t tell who’s innocent and who’s guilty in this particular instance.”

‘Theater was always in his blood’: Broadway Palm’s Tom Prather dies at 85 in Fort Myers” via Charles Runnells of the Fort Myers News-Press — He helped build Southwest Florida’s longest-running professional theater, Broadway Palm, and served as patriarch for a popular, family-owned theater company that includes a national touring division and another dinner theater in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. After a five-decade career in theater, Prather has died at the age of 85, said his son and CEO of Prather Productions, Will Prather. Tom Prather was diagnosed with stage-four bone cancer in January and had been receiving palliative care at Fort Myers retirement community Cypress Cove, Will Prather said. Despite his sickness, he still managed to do what he loved in his final days. He saw two of his family company’s musicals last month.


Best wishes to the brilliant Beth Sweeny (Kevin’s better half), Dave DeCamp of Crowley Maritime, former state Rep. Reggie Fullwood, attorney (and our fraternity brother) Jorge Gutierrez, Dan Pollock, Bridget Spurlock, Mike Synan, and Mike Watkins.


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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