Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 4.13.23

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No FOMO here. Don't miss your first look at stories driving today's agenda in Florida politics.

Good Thursday morning.

A special top-of-Burn birthday shoutout to Florida’s Chief Financial Officer — and overall good guy — Jimmy Patronis.

“Happy Birthday, Jimmy! Your heart is as big as this state that you love so much. I could not ask for a better father for our boys, Theo and Johnny. I have been so proud to watch you fight for Florida families while navigating the challenges of hurricanes and a pandemic. Your passion for helping first responders and protecting citizens from fraud will no doubt be a part of your legacy one day. And even still, I know the best is yet to come! — Love, Katie.

Couldn’t say it better ourselves.

Florida salutes Jimmy Patronis on another trip around the sun. Image via @jpatronis/Instagram.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

Tweet, tweet:

@AGAshleyMoody: It’s one of my favorite days of Session — @UF Gator Day! As a proud triple-Gator, I’m always excited when the University of Florida comes to town. The Florida Capitol doesn’t get much better than when it’s decked out in blue and orange. #GoGators

Tweet, tweet:

@SkylarZander: A Zander always lays his debts. If you see me today, you can turn this tragedy into good by taking a photo with me and posting it. Let’s raise some money for Shands. Also, @coach_bnapier I believe in you and the team please keep me from having to do this on #GatorDay next year.

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

@djmia00: It is @uf day, after all, so it should be pointed out @UF_IFAS is one of the best “under the radar” departments at UF. Few understand or recognize the revolutionary and innovative work they do, day in and day out, to make life a little better, for all. #GatorDay

— DAYS UNTIL —

NBA playoffs begin — 2; final performance of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ on Broadway — 3; American Association of Political Consultants Pollies ’23 conference begins — 5; Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at Utah Republican Party convention — 9; DeSantis speaks at the Jerusalem Post and Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem ‘Celebrate the Faces of Israel’ event — 14; ‘White House Plumbers’ premieres — 18; 2023 Session Sine Die — 22; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 22; Florida Chamber 2023 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 26; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 35; ‘Fast X’ premieres — 35; Martin Scorsese’s ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ premieres at Cannes — 37; Florida Chamber 2023 Florida Prosperity & Economic Opportunity Solution Summit — 44; NBA Finals begin — 49; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 49; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 63; ‘Secret Invasion’ premieres on Disney+ — 69; Florida Chamber 2023 Florida Learners to Earners Workforce Solution Summit — 75; ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ premieres — 77; ‘Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning — Part One’ premieres — 92; Florida Chamber 37th Annual Environmental Permitting Summer School — 98; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 100; ’Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 107; Beyoncé’s ‘Renaissance’ tour in Tampa — 124; 2023 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 193; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 207; Ridley Scott’s ‘Napoleon’ premieres — 223; South Carolina Democratic Primary — 289; New Hampshire and Nevada Democratic Primaries — 302; Georgia Democratic Primary — 307; Michigan Democratic Primary — 320; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 352; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 407; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 470; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 470; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 499; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 512; ‘Deadpool 3’ premieres — 577; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 723; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 750; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 939.

— TOP STORY —

Paul Renner highlights death penalty, criminal justice bills” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — “If you commit a serious crime, you’re going to face the consequences of your actions,” said Renner. “While diversion and rehabilitation are important to providing individuals who come in contact with the justice system an opportunity to correct their behavior, people must be held accountable, and we must ensure our first responders have the tools they need to do their jobs professionally and effectively. The Florida House prioritizes public safety and keeping our communities safe.”

Paul Renner is dropping the hammer on criminal justice.

Most of the bills are in line with DeSantis’ proposal, released in January, which called on the Legislature to lower the threshold for the death penalty from a unanimous jury to eight out of 12 jurors; allow those who commit sexual battery on a minor younger than 12 to be eligible for the death penalty; limit bail for violent offenders and limit “gain time” for sexual and attempted sexual offenses.

Rep. Sam Garrison, in line to be House Speaker in the 2026-2028 term, is sponsoring two of the bills.

The first (HB 1465) would require juveniles charged with an offense involving a firearm to be held until their first detention hearing, increase the ranking of a theft of a firearm from a Level 4 offense to a Level 6 offense and make a second conviction for the theft of a firearm a second-degree felony

The second (HB 1627) would require the Florida Supreme Court to set up a statewide bond schedule and add the crimes of DUI manslaughter, fentanyl trafficking, written threats to kill and extortion to the list of crimes eligible for pretrial detention. Both bills are set to receive a vote on the House floor later this week.

— DESANTISY LAND —

Ron DeSantis’ team tries to stop Florida Republicans from endorsing Donald Trump” via Matt Dixon of NBC News — DeSantis’ political operation has started calling Republican members of the Florida congressional delegation to consolidate support after four members publicly backed Trump in his 2024 presidential bid. As Trump continues to lead in the polls for the GOP presidential nomination, DeSantis is trying to stop defections in his own backyard ahead of his expected run. DeSantis currently has no endorsements from the state delegation.

Ron DeSantis hopes to stem the tide of Florida lawmakers endorsing Donald Trump.

As DeSantis barnstorms, bill concealing travel records nears passage in Florida Capitol” via Douglas Soule of the Pensacola News Journal — As DeSantis travels the nation before an expected presidential campaign announcement later this spring, Florida lawmakers are pushing forward legislation that would conceal his travel records. House and Senate bills that would create public records exemptions for records held by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement related to “security or transportation services” passed their last committees Tuesday. Next stop: The chamber floors. FDLE provides and coordinates security and travel for the Governor, his family and other state officials.

LGBTQ, immigrant advocacy groups issue Florida travel advisory over DeSantis policies” via Douglas Soule of the Northwest Florida Daily News — Of concern are “laws that are hostile to the LGBTQ community, restrict access to reproductive health care, repeal gun safety laws, foment racial prejudice and attack public education by banning books and censoring curriculum,” Equality Florida writes. Bryan Griffin, representative for the Governor, called the move a “political stunt.” “We aren’t going to waste time worrying about political stunts but will continue doing what is right for Floridians,” he wrote in an email.

Critics warn DeSantis is hurting Florida universities with push to the political right” via John Kennedy of USA Today Network — A measure clamping down on diversity, equity and inclusion programs on Florida campuses, a signature issue of DeSantis, advanced in the Senate despite dozens of opponents warning it will further damage the state’s already troubled reputation for academic integrity. Among the critics were several professors who cited examples of graduate students choosing to attend schools elsewhere, abrupt announcements of faculty departures or teaching openings going unfilled because of Florida’s heavily politicized climate. “We’re already starting to see a brain drain from our state institutions,” said Matthew Lata, a professor at Florida State University’s College of Music.

Why DeSantis is taking aim at the Federal Reserve” via Jeanna Smialek and Linda Qiu of The New York Times — DeSantis … appears to have discovered something that populists throughout history have found to be true: Bashing the Federal Reserve is good politics. DeSantis has begun to criticize Jerome Powell, the Fed Chair, in speeches and news conferences.”

These state officials praised ERIC for years before suddenly pulling out of the program” via Jessica Huseman of Votebeat — When newly elected DeSantis kicked off a series of election security reforms in 2019, he said, “protecting the integrity of Florida’s elections” was one of his “top priorities.” He announced that Florida was joining the Electronic Registration Information Center, an obscure nonprofit that would help the massive state clean its voter roll and reach out to eligible but unregistered voters. So, starting the following year, Florida shared motor vehicle and voter registration data with ERIC. In 2022, DeSantis announced Florida would leave the program.

Nikki Fried says DeSantis wants to bring six-week abortion ban to White House” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The head of the Florida Democrats warns that Florida’s Governor would nationalize a six-week abortion ban set for a state House vote this week. Fried says SB 300, which would change the current 15-week threshold to an even stricter period, is the latest example of DeSantis’ “MAGA extremism,” and offers a preview of what he would bring to the presidency. “If there was any question about whether Ron DeSantis is in lockstep with anti-choice extremists pushing a nationwide abortion ban, this latest endorsement answers it,” Fried said.

— LEGISLATIVE —

House moves forward with $1.4B tax cut plan” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — A House panel approved a tax cut plan worth $1.4 billion, mostly aimed at consumers but with a sizable cut in business rent taxes, which includes many of the provisions in DeSantis’ recommendations. But the plan doesn’t include DeSantis’ call for a one-year sales tax exemption on household items under $25, including laundry detergent, toilet paper, paper towels, hand soap and more. DeSantis’ idea to have a one-year sales tax exemption on pet food, saving pet owners $170.2 million, and a permanent sales tax exemption for over-the-counter pet medications worth $33.6 million, are not in the House plan either. The plan does include a cut in the business rent tax, from 5.5% to 4.5% for 13 months, which will save businesses an estimated $394.4 million.

Bill regulating on-campus speakers heads to final Senate Committee” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — A bill that would more closely regulate the diversity of speakers at the state’s universities and colleges is heading for its final Senate Committee. The bill (SB 958) would create an Office of Public Policy Events through the Board of Governors and the State University System that would put a satellite office on each campus that would ensure speakers representing “multiple, divergent and opposing” viewpoints be presented on each campus. “This bill encourages, embraces intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity with the goal of graduating students not only with a degree, but also as educated and informed citizens,” said Sen. Keith Perry.

Keith Perry says regulating campus speech is good for creating ‘educated and informed citizens.’

Florida KidCare expansion may be a done deal as chambers move leaders’ health care priorities” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — The Senate is poised to go along with Renner’s push to, for the first time in 25 years, expand eligibility for the Florida KidCare program. Renner has championed increasing the income eligibility for children whose families earn up to 300% of the federal poverty level, or $90,000 for a family of four. The Florida KidCare program eligibility limit currently is 215% of the FPL, or $64,500 for a family of four. But on Wednesday, Sen. Gayle Harrell’s spending panel voted unanimously to advance it to the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee. Now that Renner’s priority is advancing in the Senate, the House has started moving Senate President Kathleen Passidomo’s priority health care legislation addressing the titles that health care providers can use on the job and in advertisements.

Senate bill could alter political future of 286 County Commissioners” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A term limits bill moving through the Senate could dramatically shake up the political landscape for most Florida counties. A Florida Politics analysis shows 286 County Commission positions would be affected by term limits for the first time. While the House already passed legislation (HB 477) limiting terms for School Board members, a Senate companion (SB 1110) goes further. It would limit all County Commissioners in the state to just eight consecutive years of service. The latest intrusion on home rule has drawn opposition from the Florida Association of Counties.

Hope for corals pinned to dredging study bill” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — Keeping an eye out for wildlife while dramatically disturbing their home may be easier said than done, but that’s not going to stop people trying. HB 979, which cleared the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee, would require deep water dredging projects to include independent studies of the adverse impacts of the activity on the natural habitat. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) would develop the protocols for the report. “This is a common-sense bill for what is left of the 348 miles of coral reefs offshore Florida,” Rep. Peggy Gossett-Seidman said.

House environmental package in transit to final Committee” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) package bill is on its way to its last House Committee, after members of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee unanimously approved it. Among other tasks, the legislation targets septic tanks and nutrient pollution, particularly as those issues pertain to springs and the Indian River Lagoon. It prohibits installing new septic tank systems within a basin management action plan (BMAP), a reasonable assurance plan or pollution reduction plan where there’s an available connection to a sewerage system.

Proposed land conservation expansion takes a step forward” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) would annually dedicate $100 million to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund under proposals contained in a bill the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee has approved. In addition, HB 7047 would increase the contract price requiring approval from the Internal Improvement Trust Fund Board from $1 million to $5 million. “We’re all aware of the important role the state has in protecting our natural resources, and the environment,” said Rep. James Buchanan.

Senate approves bill stripping away last anti-pit bull city ordinances” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — The Senate has passed a bill that would strip away the last remaining municipal and public housing restrictions against specific dog breeds, which mostly target pit bulls, sending the issue to the House. Senate legislation (SB 942) that would overturn Miami’s prohibition on pit bulls, got just one “nay” vote in Committee hearings. On the floor, Sen. Geraldine Thompson was the only vote against it, saying she opposed it because it stripped away home rule. But the bill sponsor, Sen. Alexis Calatayud, representing the home of one of the last pit bull prohibitions, said the bill’s passage will mean dogs are judged by behavior, not someone’s determination of dog breed.

— MORE LEGISLATIVE —

Florida bathroom bill could face legal fight after lawmaker calls trans people ‘mutants’” via Kathryn Varn of the Tallahassee Democrat — While lawmakers this week advanced legislation that led Rep. Webster Barnaby to compare transgender people to “mutants,” “demons” and “imps,” those insults could doom the bill if it becomes law and faces a court challenge. Barnaby made the remarks Monday afternoon during a House Commerce Committee meeting just before voting to support House Bill 1521, which requires people to use public restrooms that correspond with their sex assigned at birth, effectively barring transgender people from facilities that match their gender identity.

Webster Barnaby is now looking at a battle over his transphobic comments.

Lawmakers sought to remove DEI from higher ed. Now they’re scrubbing it from the bill” via Ana Ceballos and Divya Kumar of the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times — Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate introduced bills that would have barred state universities and colleges from spending any money on programs that promote “diversity, equity and inclusion or critical race theory.” But on Wednesday, a key Senate panel approved a complete rewrite of one of those bills (SB 266) and scrubbed any references to “diversity, equity and inclusion.” One of the concerns was that the restrictions on those initiatives could potentially endanger the accreditation of certain higher-education courses and programs. Now, the Senate bill limits spending on a broader set of themes, and universities would have to ensure programs do not delve into “theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States and were created to maintain social, political and economic inequities.”

Lawmakers eye $5M in annual spending for Apalachicola Bay restoration” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — Designated an area of critical state concern (ACSC) for nearly 40 years, a legislative proposal for Apalachicola Bay would allow for up to $5 million in spending a year by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to fund the restoration. “Apalachicola Bay is one of the most productive estuaries in the Northern Hemisphere and is a major economic and ecologically important body of water to the eastern Gulf of Mexico,” said Rep. Jason Shoaf to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee. Subcommittee members voted unanimously to pass the bill.

Get out of the fast lane! New bill to stop drivers hogging the left lane advances in Committee” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — A new bill making it easier for law enforcement to pull over highway drivers hogging the fast lane is moving through the Senate. The Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Committee approved SB 464 by an 11-1 vote during Wednesday’s hearing. “The goal is to have people stay out of the left lane. That’s not where you’re supposed to be driving. That’s more of a passing lane,” said the bill’s sponsor Perry. His bill makes it illegal for drivers to stay in the furthermost left lanes if they aren’t passing other cars when the speed limit is at least 65 mph and there are at least two lanes of traffic moving in the same direction.

— MORE FROM CAPITOL —

Florida accounts for $271.8M in legal ad spending — One out of every $8 spent on TV, outdoor, radio, digital, and print ads for local legal services or soliciting legal claims was spent in Florida, according to the American Tort Reform Association. The total spend amounted to nearly $272 million in 2022. “You see these ads everywhere … Trial lawyer groups spend obscene amounts of money on advertising because they know it’s an effective way to needlessly scare consumers and encourage them to file lawsuits. However, these advertisements are often intentionally misleading and can lead to devastating consequences,” ATRA President Tiger Joyce said. ATRA highlighted the figure as Florida lawmakers consider a bill (SB 1246) that would place more restrictions on legal advertising.

Darren Soto, Fentrice Driskell say Florida Republicans live on Joe Biden’s dime” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Soto traveled to Tallahassee to offer a message for DeSantis and Florida Republicans: You’re welcome. At a news conference with state House Minority Leader Driskell said it was Democrats in Washington making much of the work of state government possible. “We’re here today to talk about a secret,” Soto said. “This budget is chock full of Biden bucks — $41 billion to be exact. And despite the fact that Gov. DeSantis is focusing on divisive social issues, we are taking this moment to talk about how we’re helping to rebuild Florida.” Driskell said a third of the proposed 2023-24 budget right now comes from federal support.

Darren Soto and Fentrice Driskell remind Floridians exactly who is footing the bills.

Miami Beach Commissioner warns coastal demolition bill will ‘irreparably harm’ city” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Commissioner Alex Fernandez is raising the alarm about legislation he says could “irreparably harm” the city’s cultural and architectural composition by opening it up to unrestrained redevelopment. He’s asking for the measure to be amended with “reasonable language” to mitigate the potential harm he says it could bring. The bill, SB 1346 by Miami Springs Republican Sen. Bryan Ávila, has been quietly advancing this year amid a wave of attention-grabbing culture war measures. It would allow private developers to demolish certain nonconforming buildings in high-hazard coastal areas, including recognized historic sites, with limited interference by local governments. Most of Miami Beach is inside those flood zones, Fernandez noted, including an enormous share of the city’s historic assets.

Political, civic and religious leaders condemn range of actions from Florida Legislature” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A dozen Broward elected officials, religious leaders, and activists assailed the direction of Florida under DeSantis and the state Legislature, which they said Wednesday are trampling on people’s constitutional rights, eroding freedoms and embracing authoritarian rule. They objected to legislation and policies on a range of issues: reducing access to abortion; increasing access to guns through permitless carry; limiting drag show attendance; curbing diversity, equity and inclusion in schools and universities; limiting what students learn about racism, and further restricting instruction on LGBTQ issues in schools.

Driskell named EMILY’s List 2023 Gabrielle Giffords Rising Star” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Rep. Driskell, the House Democrats Leader, has been named the 2023 Gabrielle Giffords Rising Star by EMILY’s List, a national organization that helps elect pro-choice women. “During a time when Florida Republicans have done everything in their power to roll back our fundamental freedoms, Leader Fentrice Driskell has been a staunch defender of civil and reproductive rights — and her thoughtful and dedicated leadership is why we are proud to award her the Gabrielle Giffords Rising Star Award,” EMILY’s List President Laphonza Butler said.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Jeff Aaron, Christopher Carmody, Jason Unger, GrayRobinson: Lenovo

Ron Book, Kelly Mallette: Underdog Sports

David Browning, Mercer Fearington, The Southern Group: The Goodman Company

Hayden Dempsey, Greenberg Traurig: Big Lick

Jennifer Dritt: Florida Council Against Sexual Violence

Carlos Ramos, Ballard Partners: City of Hallandale Beach

Jonathan Rees, Smith Bryan & Myers: BusPatrol America

Margaret Timmins, Timmins Consulting: Universal Orlando


— LEG. SKED —

— The Senate Health Policy Committee will consider the confirmation of AHCA Secretary Jason Weida: 8:30 a.m., Room 412, Knott Building.

— The House will hold a floor Session: 9 a.m., House Chambers. The agenda includes bills that would institute a six-week ban on abortion (SB 300) and expand income eligibility for the KidCare program (HB 121).

— The Senate Fiscal Policy Committee will consider several health-care-related bills including measures regarding step therapy protocols (SB 112) and pharmacy benefit managers (SB 1560): 10:30 a.m., Room 412, Knott Building.

— The Senate Appropriations Committee will consider a bill (SB 198) calling for the dissolution of the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority: 10:30 a.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Special Order Calendar Group meets. 4:15 p.m. Room 401, Senate Office Building.

— The House Rules Committee meets. 4:15 p.m. Room 404, House Office Building.

— The Joint Committee on Public Counsel Oversight meets: 4:30 p.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.


— STATEWIDE —

Jimmy Patronis announces 5 arrests in $1.3M insurance fraud investigation — Patronis announced that an investigation conducted by the Division of Investigative and Forensic Services resulted in five arrests. Christi Olson, Ryon Vasquez, Mercedes Linares, Leonel Aguiar and Leonardo Alfonso were booked on charges of identity theft, organized scheme to defraud, insurance fraud, and grand theft for allegedly using a former dentist’s professional credentials to defraud insurance companies out of more than $1.3 million. If convicted, each faces up to 30 years in prison. “Identity theft and insurance fraud are serious crimes that will not be tolerated in Florida. As your CFO, I have made fighting fraud my top priority and will make sure that anyone who seeks to prey on innocent, hardworking Floridians will pay the price,” Patronis said. “ … This is a reminder to scam artists in our state, if you commit fraud, you will be caught and you will be brought to justice.”

Jimmy Patronis makes a major crackdown on insurance fraud.

A flurry of ‘amicus’ briefs; outside parties intervene in Florida Supreme Court’s pivotal abortion case” via Michael Moline of the Florida Phoenix — The Florida Supreme Court fight over the state’s 15-week abortion ban has attracted a dizzying number of interventions from outside parties who want a say in a case whose outcome will reverberate throughout the country. These parties include religious groups both opposing and favoring access to abortion. Medical and social-justice groups, too, plus 19 states that already have restricted abortion access. The Florida Legislature has filed arguments, too. At issue before the court is whether to overturn an earlier, more liberal, court’s 1989 ruling that the Florida Constitution’s Privacy Clause, added by the voters in 1980, was broad enough to protect access to abortion services.

Florida LGBTQ, immigrant rights groups issue ‘travel advisory’ warnings about risks of traveling or relocating to state” via Anthony Man of the Orlando Sentinel — Equality Florida, the statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization, issued a “travel advisory” Wednesday, warning about “risks posed to the health, safety, and freedom” of anyone considering traveling or relocating to Florida. An even stronger warning came from the Florida Immigrant Coalition. “Caution advised for travelers to Florida,” the coalition said on its website. Last month, the NAACP Florida State Conference voted to ask the national NAACP board of directors to issue a travel advisory for the state that would “urge the Black community to avoid visiting or moving to the state of Florida.”

Florida nursing school operators plead guilty to selling fake diplomas to thousands of students” via Jay Weaver of the Tampa Bay Times — Two nursing school operators in the Fort Lauderdale area have fessed up to peddling fake diplomas to thousands of students who could then avoid completing a rigorous program before taking licensing exams in what prosecutors say was a multimillion-dollar racket stretching from South Florida to New York. Charles Etienne, president of Sacred Heart International Institute in Fort Lauderdale, and Eunide Sanon, owner of Siena College of Health in Lauderhill, respectively pleaded guilty on Tuesday and last month to a conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud in federal court.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Americans take a dim view of Clarence Thomas’s ethics” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — It remains unclear what, if anything, ProPublica’s exposé on Thomas’s relationship with conservative billionaire donor Harlan Crow will mean for the Supreme Court justice or the court itself. Thomas reportedly accepted one trip from Crow — among many — that would have cost half a million dollars if he had paid for it himself. But for the second time in a year, polling shows that Americans see something objectionable in what Thomas has done and are concerned about the line between his jurisprudence and his personal life. A new survey from the Economist and YouGov finds that the public broadly disagrees with Thomas’ choice to accept luxury trips without disclosing them. Nearly 6 in 10 disapprove — including 42% “strongly” — while only about a quarter approve.

Biden touts economic growth in Northern Ireland speech: ‘Your future is America’s future’” via CBS News — Biden visited Northern Ireland on Wednesday to help mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, which brought peace to this part of the United Kingdom, as a new political crisis tests the strength of that peace. “Supporting the people of Northern Ireland, protecting the peace, preserving the Belfast Good Friday Agreement is a priority for Democrats and Republicans alike in the United States, and that is unusual today because we’re very divided in our parties,” Biden said. “This is something that brings Washington together, it brings America together.”

Joe Biden visits Ireland to celebrate what real bipartisanship can accomplish.

Biden’s Irish heritage on full display as he visits the Emerald Isle” via Matt Viser and Tyler Pager of The Washington Post — Outside a 12th-century castle, the bagpipes wailed under dreary, overcast skies, creating a mood of both melancholy and celebration. It was peak Ireland. And also, peak Biden. “It feels wonderful,” Biden said as he toured Carlingford Castle, which would have been the last Irish landmark that Owen Finnegan, a maternal great-great-grandfather, saw before he left for New York in 1849. “It feels like I’m coming home.” The Irish seemed to feel that way as well. Crowds formed in the pouring rain to see Biden. People waited in pubs for hours before he was to arrive. And streets were lined several deep, some chanting his name — often dropping any formalities and calling out, simply, “Joe!” — before he exited his armored vehicle that carried both American and Irish flags.

Fed leans toward another hike, defying staff’s recession outlook” via Craig Torres of Bloomberg — Federal Reserve officials appear on track to extend their run of interest-rate hikes when they meet next month, shrugging off their advisers’ warning of recession with a bet that they need to do a little more to curb inflation. Minutes of last month’s policy meeting showed officials dialed back expectations of how high they’ll need to lift rates after a series of bank collapses roiled markets last month. Still, officials raised their benchmark lending rate a quarter point to a range of 4.75% to 5%, as they sought to balance the risk of a credit crunch with incoming data showing price pressures remained too high. They did so even after hearing from Fed staff advisers that they were forecasting a “mild recession” later this year.

Marco Rubio demands probe into ActBlue after reports of ‘fraudulent’ fundraising off seniors” via Elizabeth Elkind of Fox News — U.S. Sen. Rubio is demanding that the Federal Election Commission open an investigation into Democratic fundraising behemoth ActBlue after a report claimed it was raking in cash from unwitting elderly Americans. The James O’Keefe Media Group claims to have spoken with some people on fixed incomes who were stunned to learn that their names and addresses were used to donate thousands of dollars to ActBlue. “It should come as no surprise that ActBlue serves as vessel for fraud, considering the intentional lack of security ingrained within their donation processes and systems,” Rubio wrote to the FEC. ActBlue amasses small-dollar donations from across the country and then funnels them to various Democratic candidates and causes. Republicans use a similar platform known as WinRed.

The new lines of the gun-reform battle” via Isabel Fattal of The Atlantic — Polls from the past decade suggest that an overwhelming majority of Americans support universal background checks for gun purchases. So, what can Congress and the U.S. government do to better align the nation’s gun regulations with the views of its citizens? In light of the immense influence of this industry, my colleague David Frum made the case in 2021 for a gun-reform strategy that focuses on changing the minds and behaviors of individual people: “It would be good to reverse the permissive trends in gun law. It would be good to ban the preferred weapons of mass shooters. It would be good to have a stronger system of background checks. It would be good to stop so many Americans from carrying guns in public.”

— EPILOGUE TRUMP —

Trump sues former lawyer Michael Cohen for $500 million” via Corinne Ramey of The Wall Street Journal — Trump filed a lawsuit against Cohen, alleging his former personal lawyer breached his professional obligations to the former President through his frequent podcasts, books and media appearances. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in the Southern District of Florida, seeks more than $500 million in damages. Trump “has suffered vast reputational harm as a direct result of Defendant’s breaches,” the lawsuit claims.

Michael Cohen faces a massive Trump lawsuit.

Trump steps into center of youth-led “Tennessee Three” backlash” via Alexi McCammond of Axios — Trump will travel this week to Nashville, the epicenter of a growing youth-led backlash over the Tennessee House’s expulsion of two Black Democratic state lawmakers for joining protests against gun violence. Trump’s appearance at the Republican National Committee’s donor retreat Friday comes as thousands of young people are joining nationwide protests calling for gun reform and condemning inaction by GOP state lawmakers. Emotional rallies in Nashville, in particular, have dominated national media coverage and energized Tennessee Democrats as they seize on a chance to erode GOP power with the help of the youth vote.

Trump says court staff at arraignment cried and apologized” via Nikki McCann Ramirez of Rolling Stone — The former President sat down with Tucker Carlson for an extended interview that is set to air in full Tuesday night. In a preview clip released by the network, Trump painted an image of tearful incredulity from the staff at the Manhattan courthouse. “I’ll tell you, people were crying,” Trump said. “People that worked there, professionally work there, that have no problems putting in murderers and they see everybody […] they were crying. They were actually crying. They said, ‘I’m sorry.’”

Special counsel focuses on Trump fundraising off false election claims” via Josh Dawsey, Devlin Barrett, Rosalind S. Helderman and Jacqueline Alemany of The Washington Post — Federal prosecutors probing the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol have in recent weeks sought a wide range of documents related to fundraising after the 2020 election, looking to determine if Trump or his advisers scammed donors by using false claims about voter fraud to raise money. Special counsel Jack Smith’s office has sent subpoenas in recent weeks to Trump advisers and former campaign aides, Republican operatives and other consultants involved in the 2020 presidential campaign. The fundraising prong of the investigation is focused on money raised between Nov. 3, 2020, and the end of Trump’s time in office on Jan. 20, 2021, and prosecutors are said to be interested in whether anyone associated with the fundraising operation violated wire fraud laws.

Witnesses asked about Trump’s handling of map with classified information” via Maggie Haberman, Adam Goldman and Alan Feuer of The New York Times — Federal investigators are asking witnesses whether Trump showed off to aides and visitors a map he took with him when he left office that contains sensitive intelligence information, four people with knowledge of the matter said. The map has been just one focus of the broad Justice Department investigation into Trump’s handling of classified documents after he left the White House. The nature of the map and the information it held is not clear. But investigators have questioned a number of witnesses about it, according to the people with knowledge of the matter, as the Special Counsel overseeing the Justice Department’s Trump-focused inquiries examines the former President’s handling of classified material after leaving office.

Trump says he won’t drop presidential bid if criminally convicted” via Michael C. Bender of The New York Times — In his first national media interview since pleading not guilty last week to 34 felony charges related to a hush-money scandal during his 2016 White House bid, Trump complimented the strongmen leaders of several other countries; attacked “sick, radical” Democrats; and indicated that not even a prison sentence would keep him from running for President. “I’d never drop out; it’s not my thing,” Trump said when asked on Fox News about a potential conviction. The hourlong interview was also his first with the Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson since private text messages, revealed as part of a $1.6 billion defamation against the cable channel by Dominion Voting Systems, showed Carlson’s repugnance for the former President.

— 2024 —

Trump leads DeSantis in our 2024 Republican Primary polling average” via Nathaniel Rakich of FiveThirtyEight — Today, FiveThirtyEight is launching our national polling average for the 2024 Republican Presidential Primary. It shows Trump receiving 49.3% of the national vote and DeSantis receiving 26.2%. Former Vice President Mike Pence, another potential candidate, is at 5.8%, while declared candidate and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley is at 4.3%.

Poll: Trump doubles DeSantis’ support among South Carolina Republicans” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — New Palmetto State polling shows Republicans rallying to the former President. A survey from Winthrop University shows Trump is the choice of 41% of poll respondents, doubling up both DeSantis (20%) and Haley (18%). The accompanying polling memo represents DeSantis and Haley as being in a “statistical dead heat,” suggesting South Carolina could be a “firewall” for its former chief executive in its early Primary next year. DeSantis may have an opportunity to strengthen his South Carolina poll position later this month. He is heading to Spartanburg on April 19, The Associated Press reports, for an event with state Sen. Josh Kimbrell, who hopes the Governor will be in the state “early and often.”

Polls show Trump rising while DeSantis slips.

Poll: Trump leads DeSantis by 41 points in Massachusetts GOP Primary” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Another Massachusetts survey finds Trump dominating DeSantis among Republicans. A fresh UMass-Amherst and WCVB poll conducted by YouGov finds the former President with 59% support, well ahead of the Florida Governor’s 18%. Pence, an afterthought in most polling of the race so far, has 10% support in the survey conducted from March 28 to April 5. In a hypothetical Trump versus DeSantis head-to-head, the former President commands 70% support with DeSantis taking 30%. Trump’s position is an improvement over the June 2022 administration of the poll, in which the former President held a 51% to 24% lead over DeSantis in a crowded field.

Poll: DeSantis a close second in Pennsylvania GOP Primary” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — New polling of Pennsylvania Republicans suggests DeSantis has a chance in that state’s GOP Presidential Primary. A survey from Franklin and Marshall College’s Center for Opinion Research, first reported by PoliticsPA, shows DeSantis pulling 34% support in a crowded field of candidates. That puts him just 6 points behind Trump, a stronger performance than many recent state polls. The survey of 266 Republicans (part of larger polling) was in the field from March 27 through April 7, encompassing the period before and after the former President’s indictment and arrest. During the period of the poll’s administration, DeSantis took a trip to the Keystone State.

Might DeSantis not run for President after all?” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — The machinery of a national presidential campaign is all in place for DeSantis, with his committee raising tons of cash and a book tour taking him across the U.S.A. While his bid for the White House was once an almost foregone conclusion, some troubling signs for DeSantis over the past few months have led an increasing number of political experts to wonder if he won’t seek the White House after all. In the past month alone, DeSantis’ poll numbers against Trump have slipped even in Florida, and he’s been criticized for his stand on Ukraine and fight with Disney. U.S. Rep. Cory Mills and three other Florida GOP House members have endorsed Trump over the man whose controversial congressional redistricting maps largely secured them their jobs.

Crisscrossing the ’24 campaign trail, before the campaign is official” via Jonathan Wiseman of The New York Times — Two months ago, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott stood before cameras and reporters in South Carolina, leaning heavily on his biography and the Civil War history of his native Charleston for a soft launch of a presidential campaign. Fast-forward to Wednesday in Iowa, where Scott announced a presidential exploratory committee and the soft launch remained just as soft. If his video announcement sounded familiar, with recollections from his rise from poverty and a denunciation of the politics of racial division, it should have. After two months, his campaign argument had not changed, nor had an actual campaign; he still is not a candidate.

Fox News to host first Republican Presidential Primary debate” via Shane Goldmacher of The New York Times — Fox News will host the first official debate of the 2024 Republican Presidential Primary in Milwaukee in August, the Republican National Committee’s Chair announced on Wednesday. “We are going to host the very first debate with Fox News. It will be a Fox News Republican Primary debate,” Ronna McDaniel said on the network’s flagship morning program, “Fox and Friends,” adding that all participants will be asked to agree to a party loyalty pledge to support the eventual nominee. Trump has refused to say whether he would support a nominee other than himself. In a February radio appearance, he said his support “would have to depend on who the nominee was.”

Trump and Iowa evangelicals: A bond that is hard to break” via Thomas Beaumont of The Associated Press — Scott of South Carolina returns to Iowa on Wednesday; he will meet privately with a group of pastors at a Cedar Rapids church. For someone considering a Republican presidential campaign, the visit is part of a decades-old courtship ritual in the state that kicks off the nomination process. But in the early phase of the next presidential campaign, Scott’s joyful proclamations of his Christian faith face an unlikely obstacle. Like other Republicans eyeing the White House, he is navigating an evangelical community that is faithful to Trump, the thrice-married former reality television star who once supported abortion rights and spent decades boasting of his sexual prowess.

Can Tim Scott make a dent in evangelical support?

Dramatic realignment swings working-class districts toward GOP” via Stef W. Knight of Axios — Nine of the top 10 wealthiest congressional districts are represented by Democrats, while Republicans now represent most of the poorer half of the country, according to median income data provided by Rep. Marcy Kaptur’s office. The last several decades have ushered in a dramatic political realignment, as the GOP has broadened its appeal to a more diverse working class and Democrats have become the party of wealthier, more-educated voters. “Republicans were the party of the country club, and they’re increasingly the party of country,” lobbyist and political analyst Bruce Mehlman said.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

St. Lucie County School Board decides to keep challenged books in school libraries” via Colleen Wixon of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Sixteen books challenged for inappropriate content will remain on school library shelves, although many will be moved to upper-grade levels, the School Board decided. The board, in a 4 to 1 vote, agreed with the recommendation of a 34-member review committee to keep the books in the public schools. At least eight of the books — “The Kite Runner,” “Drama,” “Thirteen Reasons Why,” “The Hate U Give,” “More Happy Than Not,” “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” “Beloved” and “The Truth About Alice” — were removed last month from Martin County school libraries. Most of those same books will be restricted to the high school libraries in St. Lucie County, the board agreed.

Back on the shelves!

Broward School Board postpones investigating 2 members accused of inappropriate touching” via Jimena Tavel of the Miami Herald — After an awkward discussion that stretched for nearly three hours, the Broward School Board voted 5-2 to postpone a decision on whether to investigate allegations that two board members inappropriately touched a student and a staff member in separate incidents. The details of the touching incidents are still unclear, but the board members facing the allegations are Brenda Fam, who represents District 6, and Allen Zeman, who represents the entire county through the at-large Seat 8. Fam faces accusations that she inappropriately touched an 18-year-old student on the buttocks in late March at an awards banquet at the Signature Grand in Davie.

Former No. 2 at PBSO wants to unseat his old boss and friend” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Michael Gauger was Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw’s second in command for 16 years, but now he’s running for the right to take his job in 2024. Gauger retired in 2021 after 16 years as the chief deputy of the third-largest Sheriff’s Office in the state, serving a total of 50 years with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office (PBSO). “I look forward to continuing my service to the people of Palm Beach County as your new Sheriff,” Gauger said in a prepared statement. “I will draw from my decades of experience working with every department of PBSO in addressing the issues important to our residents.”

Michael Gauger is running to unseat his old friend Ric Bradshaw.

Joe Carollo ‘relentless’ in campaign to shut down Calle Ocho business, attorney tells jurors” via Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — Unable to attend a Miami City Commission meeting just before Christmas in 2019 because of his wife’s hospitalization, City Manager Emilio Gonzalez sat down on his couch and turned on the television. What he saw only added to his worries: Miami Commissioner Carollo had chosen to use the Manager’s two-week absence as an opportunity to rant about how Gonzalez had failed to push code enforcement to crack down on a host of Little Havana commercial properties owned by business owners William Fuller and Martin Pinilla. The two men were already suing Carollo, claiming he had been abusing his authority to harass them and hurting their businesses in a political vendetta.

Andres Asion raises $100K in first month running for Miami Beach Commission” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Asion had a fruitful first month of fundraising for the Miami Beach Commission. City records show the real estate broker and nonprofit president collected more than $102,000 in March. His gains came through a blend of personal checks and corporate contributions, mostly from the real estate and development sector. He also added $30,000 of his own money for his currently unopposed campaign for the Group 4 seat on the City Commission. “I’m proud to receive such strong support from the community I have called home my entire life,” he said in a statement.


— LOCAL: C. FL —

What keeps Central Florida’s Mayors up at night?” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Four of the region’s Mayors told League of Women Voters members they sleep well at night but worry in their waking hours about a range of topics like gaps in mental health funding, preserving history and public safety. The forum, titled “What Keeps Them Awake at Night?” featured Mayors Jerry Demings of Orange County, Buddy Dyer of Orlando, Phil Anderson of Winter Park and Angie Gardner of Eatonville, who answered questions posed by former county Mayor Linda Chapin. Gardner, who leads the smallest municipality on the panel, is central in the high-profile battle to halt a proposed development of the former Hungerford School Property, which drew national attention.

What keeps Buddy Dyer and Jerry Demings awake at night?

Brevard School Board: No vote for media specialists on challenged books” via Finch Walker of Florida Today — Despite outcry from the public, media specialists will not have a vote on the review committee for challenged books in Brevard Public Schools’ libraries. In a continued and often heated debate over who will review challenged books in the district, the School Board passed a policy that will allow for the creation of a committee to review challenged books, a procedure that was put on pause after the election of the new Board in November. There will be only one appointed media specialist — people who work in school libraries and collaborate with teachers and staff to help enhance learning among students — on the committee, and they will not have voting power.

Storm slows recovery efforts along Volusia County beaches” via Sheldon Gardner and Jim Abbott of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — The storm that hit Volusia and Flagler counties this week might have been a minor event for most residents, but along the coast where people are still navigating through hurricane recovery, it raised no small amount of alarm. Dimucci Twin Towers residents in Daytona Beach Shores watched Monday as the ocean rushed behind panels for a new seawall and contractors checked the impact of the storm, association President Robin White said. “We’re not even in hurricane season yet, and this is a concern,” she said. There are other concerns, too. Time is crucial and any delays can create problems for the recovery process.

A familiar seaweed is washing up on Brevard County beaches, at record levels” via Jim Waymer of Florida Today — We’re already in the weeds. All that stringy stuff that washed up on Brevard County beaches this past week is just the beginning of what scientists predict will grow into the largest-ever bloom of Sargassum seaweed ever recorded. Sargassum, which the Caribbean Sea delivers seasonally to the Gulf Stream and then Central Florida’s beaches, can dominate the surf zone, but usually only in the summer, to the bane of those fishing or surfing and all others who prefer weed-free wading. But scientists at the University of South Florida, using satellite data, are finding record masses — an estimated 13 million tons — of the seaweed for this time of year surround and/or are approaching Florida.

OMA enhances whistleblower rules as ‘Basquiat’ art is proved fake” via Matthew J. Palm of the Orlando Sentinel — The Orlando Museum of Art has beefed up whistleblower protections for its staff as it continues working to restore its reputation considering the revelation that works in its doomed “Heroes & Monsters” exhibition were unquestionably fakes. The U.S. Department of Justice revealed that a Los Angeles auctioneer admitted he helped create fake artworks attributed to Jean-Michel Basquiat that had been displayed at the museum last year. The announcement did not say the investigation was over, and a former member of the FBI’s Art Crime Team told the Orlando Sentinel the investigators are likely still deciding who else might have known the art wasn’t authentic.

— LOCAL: TB —

Tampa’s Just Elementary, hurt by school choice, could close in August” via Marlene Sokol of the Tampa Bay Times — Amid delays and disagreement over its proposal to change attendance boundaries, the Hillsborough County school district wants to move ahead with two parts of the plan: starting a K-8 school in Original Carrollwood and closing West Tampa’s Just Elementary. Just, which serves fewer than 300 students and is the district’s only F-graded school, would be “repurposed.” Children who had been assigned to Just based on their addresses would attend Booker T. Washington Elementary or Tampa Bay Boulevard Elementary. It is not clear what would become of the building that was recently rebranded “Riverwalk STEM Academy at Just Elementary” to attract more students.

Tampa’s Just Elementary is one of the latest victims of school choice.

—”Pinellas school has no classes, no teachers and lots of freedom” via Christopher Spata of the Tampa Bay Times

Tarpon Springs Commissioner criticized for bullying behavior” via Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times — City Commissioner Mike Eisner was next in line for this year’s appointment of Vice Mayor by his Commission colleagues. But the opportunity slipped by Tuesday night after an unusual public airing of Eisner’s behavior during his first year in office. The incidents, going back months and documented in complaints to City Hall, include Eisner’s interactions with downtown business owners and text messages that some said they found inappropriate. Eisner has confronted citizens at their businesses after they had pushed back on his comments at meetings. He sent so many unwanted texts to a former Mayor that Police Chief Jeff Young asked Eisner to stop.

City of Largo sold contaminated fertilizer for months, records show” via Max Chesnes of the Tampa Bay Times — Richard Mushaben feared for months that the city of Largo was selling fertilizer tainted with a toxic element that can cause cancer at high concentrations. Mushaben is a biosolids operator at the city’s wastewater reclamation facility, where he helps treat human sewage and convert it into fertilizer products. Those products are sold to private companies, who spread the fertilizer pellets onto lawns, parks and golf courses. The city was selling fertilizer contaminated with cadmium, he alleged in a January 2022 whistleblower letter to state and federal environmental regulators. When he tried to stop the sales, his supervisors told him to “stop monitoring cadmium levels,” he claimed.

Tampa Bay credit unions receive millions in U.S. Treasury grants” via Christina Georgacopoulos of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Tampa Bay credit unions received millions of dollars in grants from the Department of the Treasury to help low-income communities recover from the pandemic. The Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund awarded five local credit unions with more than $8.5 million in total through the Equitable Recovery Program. Bradenton-based Financial Access Federal Credit Union received $2.1 million through the program, while Tampa-based Grow Financial and USF Federal Credit Union each received $2.5 million. Two local loan funds received a combined $1.2 million.

Hey Swifties! Hillsborough superintendent says have fun, don’t skip class” via Marlene Sokol of the Tampa Bay Times — Nobody sits out the upcoming Taylor Swift invasion. Nobody wants to, anyway. Even the Hillsborough County Public Schools superintendent got in the spirit with social media messages this week acknowledging Tampa Bay’s excitement about planned concerts from the international mega-pop star. He sprinkled similar references throughout a video in which he told students “You Need to Calm Down” and come to school on Friday, even if Thursday night’s concert at Raymond James Stadium runs late.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Crime data doesn’t back up claims of ‘dangerous’ downtown Tallahassee” via Tristan Wood of City and State FL — Downtown Tallahassee has not seen increases in police contact or crime, despite claims to the contrary from some involved in state politics, according to Tallahassee police data. A Senate Appropriations Committee bill (SB 2506), intended to be part of the upcoming state budget conference, would extend the Capitol Police’s authority to provide and support security for state officials, employees and visitors in an area called “Memorial Park.” In total, 73 such incidents were recorded from April 1, 2022, to April 4, 2023. Over the 10-year period, 727 incidents occurred, putting the past year’s incident count in line with the expected yearly average.

The numbers just don’t add up for ‘dangerous’ downtown Tally.

City of Milton awarded $10 million in federal funds for repair of aging gas lines” via Tom McLaughlin of the Pensacola News Journal — Milton Public Works Director Joe Cook confesses a certain affinity for the pipes running beneath the streets of his hometown. “Most of these gas lines were put in the year I was born,” Cook said. “And I’m 73 years old.” Nonetheless, it’s a pretty safe bet that he’s not going to miss them when they’re gone, and they’re going to be gone soon, courtesy of a $10 million infrastructure improvement grant from the federal government. The grant, by far the largest of two being presented within the state of Florida, is among 37 being distributed across the country this year as part of a historic $196 million undertaking by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Judge sides with city over ‘order to vacate’ City Walk homeless shelter” via Ana Goñi-Lessan of the Tallahassee Democrat — A judge declined City Walk Urban Mission’s emergency motion to stay in its shelter on Mahan Drive on Tuesday. Judge Angela C. Dempsey of Florida’s 2nd Judicial Circuit rejected City Walk’s motion for preliminary injunction without notice after the organization was ordered to vacate the premises by the Tallahassee Fire Department in late March. City Walk, a church that runs a homeless shelter, filed an injunction against the City of Tallahassee, stating the “plaintiff and its residents will suffer an irremediable injury in what amounts to a crime against humanity by throwing these citizens back onto the streets and rendering them once again homeless.”

Myers Park, Fallshcase and a ‘mafia’ mentality: Court traces twists in Tallahassee FBI case” via the Tallahassee Democrat — When a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed the bribery conviction of business owner John “J.T.” Burnette in an opinion released Tuesday, the court also provided one of the clearest breakdowns of a contorted case that has unfolded over a span of almost five years. Ever since the Tallahassee Democrat broke the news that the feds dropped subpoenas on City Hall, the case has gripped Tallahasseans as details dripped out about FBI front companies, undercover agents schmoozing elected officials and trips to Vegas.

Family that founded Winn-Dixie plans 10,000 homes for fast-growing area in Jacksonville” via Hanna Holthaus and Alexandria Mansfield of The Florida Times-Union — A major development in Southeast Jacksonville passed its first set of regulatory hurdles in gaining approval from the Jacksonville City Council but will ultimately take about 25 years to complete. The project could potentially bring over 10,000 housing units to the area as well as commercial spaces and plots for conservation. “This is the way planning ought to be done instead of piece by piece,” said Paul Harden, the development’s applicant, during a recent Land Use and Zoning meeting. The property belongs to Big Creek Timber, a company owned by the Davis family, which founded the Winn-Dixie grocery store chain. The development site sits east of eTown, another Davis family development, and west of the family’s Dee Dot Ranch.

Museum of Science & History clears City Council hurdle for downtown Jacksonville location” via Beth Reese Cravey of The Florida Times-Union — The City Council has approved a land lease for the Museum of Science & History’s proposed $100 million-plus new location at the city-owned Shipyards property on Jacksonville’s Northbank. An affirmative council vote was expected to kick-start fundraising for the $40 million in private funds MOSH has to raise for the project by Dec. 31. The nonprofit MOSH has collected about $16 million. Many potential individual donors, foundations and government agencies have told MOSH officials that the property had to be nailed down before they would make financial commitments, CEO Bruce Fafard said.

— LOCAL: SW. FL —

Independent voters now outnumber Democrats in Sarasota County” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The Sarasota County Democratic Party has struggled to remain relevant in recent years, losing key races and largely being locked out of power. New voter registration data further illustrates the party’s problems. Combined, no-party and minor-party voters now outnumber Democrats in Sarasota County. As of April 12, the county had 156,647 Republican voters, 100,495 no-party and minor party voters and 100,488 Democrats, according to the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections. Sarasota County is part of a statewide trend that has seen nonparty and minor-party voters surpass Democratic voters in many GOP-leaning counties. Every coastal county south of Tampa Bay, including Manatee, now has more no-party and minor-party voters than Democrats.

Guns at work? Manatee County OKs policy allowing staff to carry firearms on the job” via Ryan Callihan of the Bradenton Herald — The Manatee County Commission voted unanimously to adopt a new policy allowing county employees to carry firearms at work. Commissioner James Satcher first made the proposal last May, but the updated policy was delayed by legal review and a recent change in the county’s management. Following the adoption of the rule, staff will be allowed to carry guns in the coming weeks. As of Tuesday afternoon, a written policy was not ready for public review, according to Bill Logan, the county’s information outreach manager. The decision marks another controversial decision by a conservative board that has tackled culture war battles, such as banning diversity initiatives and reviewing content at public libraries.

James Satcher’s proposal will allow Manatee County employees to pack heat.

Collier leaders pass ‘health freedom’ ordinance to protect individual liberties” via Liz Freeman of the Naples Daily News — The Collier County Commission unanimously passed a “health freedom bill of rights” that supporters say protects personal liberties in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and government overreach. Opponents of the ordinance argued state laws enacted by DeSantis in 2021 already spell out prohibitions, like mask mandates and vaccine requirements, and so a local ordinance is redundant. A resolution that says the county will protect individual liberties in case something similar to another pandemic hits in the future passed 4-1 with Commissioner Burt Saunders casting the only dissenting vote. He expressed concern about one provision in the resolution about patient visitation rights in hospitals and controlling the spread of infectious diseases.

‘We’re quite concerned’: Lee County at center of Florida manatee mortality event with 65 deaths” via Chad Gillis of the Fort Myers News-Press — Lee County is the center of a manatee die-off that’s related to a lingering and deadly red tide outbreak. More than one-quarter of all documented manatee deaths so far this year have been in Lee waters, which have been at the center of a toxic red tide bloom. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says 65 manatee deaths were documented in Lee County waters through March 31 of this year. “That is a lot,” said Pat Rose, director of Save the Manatee Club. “Lee County has historically been one of the worst places for manatee red tide mortalities. We’re quite concerned.” Pasco County has the second-highest number of known manatee deaths at 25.

— TOP OPINION —

‘So much evil,’ indeed, in this lawmaker’s heart” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Floridians see far too much bigotry on display in their state Capitol. But it’s rare to see a raw display of hatred from a member of the Legislature.

At a hearing Tuesday on a bill (HB 1521) that would force transgender people to only use bathrooms corresponding with the gender they were assigned at birth, Barnaby of Deltona spewed two minutes of hate and abuse and heaped shame on himself and the institution.

Barnaby said:

“I’m looking at society today and it’s like I’m watching an X-Men movie, with people that, when you watch the X-Men movies or Marvel Comics, it’s like we have mutants living among us on planet Earth. The Lord rebuke you, Satan, and all of your demons and all of your imps who come and parade before us. That’s right, I called you demons and imps who come and parade before us and pretend that you are part of this world.”

Barnaby’s duties include being Vice Chair of the House Subcommittee on — get this — constitutional rights, rule of law and government operations. Nobody who thinks the way he does should be entrusted with safeguarding anybody’s constitutional rights.

Brush up on the House Code of Conduct. The rules say this: “Legislative office is a trust to be performed with integrity in the public interest.”

Bigotry, heartlessness and stupidity are not specifically prohibited. But the rules say members should promote public confidence in the House and a “professional environment.” Barnaby did neither.

— OPINIONS —

Here’s why Florida needs school zone speed cameras” via Ana Maria Rodriguez and Traci Koster for the Tampa Bay Times — As lawmakers, there are many ideas we sponsor that we feel passionate about and compelled to propose. But this year, legislation that we have jointly filed in the Legislature, Enforcement of School Zone Speed Limits, was filed not only because of our job as lawmakers but because of our most important job — being mothers to school-age children. Hundreds of thousands of Florida students cross roadways on their way to and from school every day, and the danger from speeding cars or distracted drivers is growing every year. In 2018, a study by Zendrive found that Florida ranked 50th of all states in terms of unsafe driving in school zones.

What is drag? Is Florida banning drag shows?” via C.A. Bridges of the Tallahassee Democrat — Is the Florida Legislature about to effectively ban drag shows? Not by name, anyway. Female impersonators have been a part of popular entertainment for centuries. Ancient plays in Greece included men dressing as women, and traditional mummer’s plays in Britain required it. Southern churches, both Black and white, held womanless weddings and pageants as fundraisers, historian John Howard said. Drag can help normalize gay, trans and nonbinary people for the larger community. For some people, that may be the problem.

Please don’t take in-state tuition from Dreamers like me” via Mitch Rodriguez for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — I recently learned that in-state tuition rates at Florida’s public colleges and universities were under threat of being stripped away from Dreamers like me. When I heard this news, I wanted to speak up and share my story. My family and I came to the U.S. from Uruguay when I was just 4 years old. I was raised and educated in the Greenacres/West Palm Beach area for the last 20 years. I want to spend my life giving back to this state that gave me so much. I would not have been able to get this far if not for in-state tuition rates. I received my associate degree at Palm Beach State College and my Bachelor of Science degree at The Wilkes Honors College at Florida Atlantic University.

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

— ALOE —

Disney sets dates for Epcot food and wine fest” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Walt Disney World has announced the 2023 dates for the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. The event will begin July 27 and go through Nov. 18, a run of more than 16 weeks. The official Disney Parks Blog notes that there will be more than 25 marketplaces of food, although it doesn’t share many details, identifying returning stops such as Canada, Spain, India, Flavors from Fire and the Fry Basket, which was a new festival offering in 2022. “Several new global marketplaces will open later during the festival as summer turns to fall,” the post says. Menus were not announced.

West Tampa cigar factory’s 114-year-old clock tower is ticking again” via Paul Guzzo of the Tampa Bay Times — You’ll have to excuse Teodoro Boscaino for not yet resetting his building’s clock for daylight saving time. To do so, he must climb two stories of stairs, then another two stories on rickety ladders to the clock tower’s bell room 120 feet up. He then has to open small doors on the clock tower’s four faces, stick his arm through each and manually move the hands. “It’s not as easy as resetting a wristwatch,” Boscaino said. “I’ll fix the time soon. But I think people are excited about the big picture.” “The clock was once such an important part of West Tampa life,” Boscaino said. “For many, it was their only way of knowing the time. So, we made it a priority as we restore the building.”

‘The Penguin’ footage: First look at Colin Farrell in ‘The Batman’ spinoff” via James Hibberd of The Hollywood Reporter — Max (the new name for HBO Max) has revealed the first footage from The Penguin streaming series. Farrell is once again nearly unrecognizable as the Gotham City mobster in this spinoff from Matt Reeves’ “The Batman” film. The eight-episode DC Studios drama series had its first look revealed Wednesday during Warner Bros. Discovery’s unveiling of the Max streaming service at the Warner Bros. lot in Los Angeles.

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

‘The Continental’ teaser trailer: Mel Gibson stars in John Wick TV series” via James Hibberd of The Hollywood Reporter — The first look at the Wick prequel series is here, but don’t expect to see its biggest star. Below is the teaser trailer for The Continental, Peacock’s three-part limited series set roughly 40 years before the events in the Wick feature film saga that focuses on events surrounding a hotel for assassins in New York City. The project’s top-billed actor is Gibson, who plays a character named Cormac, yet the controversial Oscar winner is absent from the footage.

‘Game of Thrones’ dunk and egg prequel officially ordered to series” via James Hibberd of The Hollywood Reporter — The Game of Thrones empire is expanding once again: The network’s streaming service, now called Max, has officially ordered to series a new prequel, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms: The Hedge Knight. The title is based on George R.R. Martin’s popular trio of Dunk and Egg novellas, which chronicle the story of “Dunk” and “Egg” as they wander Westeros having adventures roughly 100 years before the events of the novels. The project is the second prequel to officially get ordered to series, following House of the Dragon.

The Mets assembled the most expensive baseball team ever. Is that enough to make them MLB’s best team?” via Alex Kirschner of FiveThirtyEight — As the 2022 season ended, the New York Mets and owner Steve Cohen were wrapping up a major-league payroll record by shelling out about $430 million in salaries plus luxury tax penalties. Having already won 101 games just last year, the Mets have turned into baseball’s impossible-to-ignore elephant in the room. Mets fans are captivated as their owner tries to win. Opposing fans aren’t jazzed about a financial behemoth trying to outspend the entire league, or they wish their team would be the one doing it.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Belated best wishes to state Rep. Jessica Baker. Celebrating today are former U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, Reps. Sam Killebrew and John Snyder, Chris Chaney of The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners, Doug Cook, former head of the Agency for Health Care Administration, Nick Iacovella, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs and Communications for Coalition for a Prosperous America, and political consultant Todd Pressman.

___

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 FloridaPolitics.com, 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.



#FlaPol

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.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704




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