Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.1.23

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Your morning review of the issues and players behind Florida politics.

Good Monday morning.

Global bipartisan public strategy firm Mercury has hired top public affairs strategist and social-digital communications expert Tammy Gordon as Managing Director for its Florida and D.C. units.

Gordon brings two decades of experience advising nonprofits, associations, political campaigns, corporate brands and thought leaders.

“We are thrilled to have Tammy join the Mercury team. Her forward-thinking mindset and creativity as a communicator will keep our clients one step ahead,” said Mercury Partner Ashley Walker. “Tammy marries traditional public affairs with expertise in digital and social communications — the secret formula for a successful campaign.”

Congrats to Tammy Gordon, the latest big hire at Mercury.

Previously, Gordon founded a boutique public relations agency where she serviced clients in a variety of sectors including education, tech, energy and business. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Gordon served as the Director of Digital Experience for Novavax where she brought her intrapreneurial/entrepreneurial mindset to build the company’s first-ever external-facing global social media and global customer experience strategy, platforms and teams.

“I am honored to be joining the talented team at Mercury,” said Gordon. “I look forward to working with our clients to stay ahead of the ever-evolving, highly competitive landscape of communications to help them achieve their goals.”

During the 2020 campaign cycle, Gordon served as the Digital Communications & Creative Director in Florida for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. She is also a former vice president at AARP where she founded their social media department and launched their first-ever in-house multimedia digital content studio.

Gordon currently serves as a Commissioner of Washington, D.C.’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission (3C06), is the co-founder of Women of Wine, is an adviser to Black Wine Professionals, and is a board member of the D.C. Public Library Foundation. Gordon is a graduate of Florida State University.


Tweet, tweet:

@VivekGRamaswamy: You shouldn’t be President of the United States if you’re going to get outsmarted by Mickey Mouse. @RonDeSantisFL rails against Disney’s “special privileges,” yet he’s literally the Governor who signed some of those crony privileges into law. Disney’s behaviors are disastrous & they should be held accountable, but we shouldn’t make it so easy for them to complain “the GOP is retaliating.” Granting them a crony privilege & then taking it away a year later makes it way too easy for them to cry foul. Yet here we are.

Tweet, tweet:

@DonaldJTrumpJr: It’s been almost a week since Fox News fired Tucker Carlson & Ron DeSantis STILL hasn’t found the courage to say a word about it. Wonder why? We already know he flip-flopped on Ukraine because of his donors, so I guess it’s unsurprising that he’s afraid to cross Paul Ryan & Fox.

Tweet, tweet:


2023 Session Sine Die — 4; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 4; Florida Chamber 2023 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 8; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 17; ‘Fast X’ premieres — 17; Martin Scorsese’s ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ premieres at Cannes — 19; Florida Chamber 2023 Florida Prosperity & Economic Opportunity Solution Summit — 26; NBA Finals begin — 31; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 31; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 46; ‘Secret Invasion’ premieres on Disney+ — 51; Florida Chamber 2023 Florida Learners to Earners Workforce Solution Summit — 57; ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ premieres — 60; ‘Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning — Part One’ premieres — 74; Florida Chamber 37th Annual Environmental Permitting Summer School — 80; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 85; ’Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 92; Beyoncé’s ‘Renaissance’ tour in Tampa — 106; 2023 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 175; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 189; Ridley Scott’s ‘Napoleon’ premieres — 204; South Carolina Democratic Primary — 270; New Hampshire and Nevada Democratic Primaries — 284; Georgia Democratic Primary — 289; Michigan Democratic Primary — 301; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 312; 2024 Oscars — 314; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 334; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 389; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 452; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 452; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 485; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 498; ‘Deadpool 3’ premieres — 559; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 705; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 732; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 921.


Ron DeTedious: Ron DeSantis underwhelms Britain’s business chiefs” via Stefan Boscia of POLITICO Europe — DeSantis failed to impress British business chiefs at a high-profile London event Friday, in a tired performance described variously as “horrendous,” “low-wattage” and “like the end of an overseas trip….”

One U.K. business figure said DeSantis “looked bored” and “stared at his feet” as he met with titans of British industry in an event co-hosted by Lloyd’s of London — the world’s largest insurance marketplace.

British business leaders say Ron DeSantis is not their cup of tea.

“He had been to five different countries in five days, and he definitely looked spent, but his message wasn’t presidential,” they told POLITICO. “He was horrendous.”

A second business figure who was in the room said it was a “low wattage” performance and that “nobody in the room was left thinking, ‘this man’s going places.’”

They said: “It felt really a bit like we were watching a state-level politician. I wouldn’t be surprised if [people in attendance] came out thinking ‘that’s not the guy.’”

White House hopeful says the U.K. is ‘like a second home’” via Allister Heath of The Telegraph — His intellectual and emotional affinity to the shared Anglo-American values of individualism, private property and government limited under the law were evident, and he speaks with passion when we reach the subject, his eyes lighting up ….

At the start of the interview, held in a small room at a Park Lane hotel, DeSantis looks at me with extraordinary intensity, but he soon relaxes and, contrary to what his critics allege, is personable and passionate in a one-to-one setting. He oozes competence and, as befits the CEO of a large U.S. state, executive responsibility.

He is articulate and businesslike, perfectly on top of his brief, his visit organized to the minute by his large staff.


DeSantis and Florida GOP look to upend public record laws as they attempt to shield his travel and other records ahead of likely White House bid” via Steve Contorno of CNN — DeSantis and his GOP allies have moved to shield the Republican leader from the state’s notoriously robust public records laws as he prepares to launch a campaign for the White House. One bill advancing through the Republican-controlled state legislature would conceal information about DeSantis’ travel and who he has met with at the Governor’s Mansion. Another would allow state political committees to report their fundraising activity less frequently. Separately, DeSantis in court cases has lately claimed “executive privilege” to block the release of records and to keep staff from testifying.

DeSantis is pushing for his travel itinerary to stay secret.

DeSantis says reports on campaign launch dates are ‘inaccurate’” via Jared Gans of The Hill — DeSantis said reports on his potential presidential campaign launch date are “inaccurate,” and no plans have been made for an announcement event. DeSantis said at a news conference on Thursday during a trip to Israel that he is focused on the international trip he is taking to Japan, South Korea, Israel and the United Kingdom. “If there’s any announcements, those will come at the appropriate time. But if anyone’s telling you that somehow, they know this or they know that, that’s just inaccurate because there’s not been any decisions made,” he said.

How bad is it for DeSantis? He’s polling at RFK Jr.’s level” via Harry Enten of CNN —DeSantis has spent the past few months running to the right ahead of his expected entry into the 2024 Republican Presidential Primary campaign — focused on satisfying his party’s conservative base. So far at least, those efforts have not paid off in Republican Primary polling, with DeSantis falling further behind the current front-runner, Donald Trump. Things have gotten so bad for DeSantis that a recent Fox News poll shows him at 21% — comparable with the 19% that Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who has pushed debunked conspiracy theories about vaccine safety, is receiving on the Democratic side. The Fox poll is not alone in showing DeSantis floundering. The latest average of national polls has him dropping from the low 30s into the low 20s.

‘I think he’s in trouble’: Growing number of DeSantis donors and allies hope for a shake-up” via Natasha Korecki and Matt Dixon of NBC News — They point to his drop in the polls, his lack of outreach to potential supporters who have instead backed Trump and the policy issues he has focused on. He’s spending his time battling one of the largest employers in the state, moving to the right on abortion and cleaning up verbal missteps on the war in Ukraine. But inside DeSantis world, there’s no plan for a course correction on messaging or a broad strategy that puts culture wars front and center. While not a universal perspective, there is a frustrated contingent of Republicans who were open or excited about a DeSantis candidacy but fear the door is closing — in large part because of recent policy decisions — and who see no change in strategy from DeSantis.

—“All of DeSantis’ crimes against good etiquette” via Margaret Hartmann of New York Magazine

Florida Ethics Commission dismisses complaints against DeSantis” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Florida Ethics Commission shut down complaints about political activity from DeSantis. Gripes from Nikki Fried and MAGA, Inc., a political committee associated with former Trump, were dismissed Friday. The Trump complaint purported to provide “ample evidence that Gov. DeSantis and various political committees have engaged in conduct that violated Florida ethics law.” It contended DeSantis has flouted Florida’s “resign-to-run” law while “skirting federal campaign finance laws,” adding that could present an “impermissible conflict between his public duty and his private interests.”

DeSantis: Disney lawsuit is ‘political’ and has no merit” via Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — DeSantis attempted to shrug off Disney’s federal lawsuit against Florida, calling it a politically motivated effort. DeSantis responded to the suit during a news conference in Jerusalem, where he and other state leaders are on a trade mission. “I don’t think the suit has merit,” he said. “I think it is political.” Disney filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday, accusing DeSantis and other state officials of engaging in a “targeted campaign of government retaliation.” At the news conference, DeSantis said he is trying to make sure Disney has to “live by the same rules as everybody else.” “We’re very confident on the law,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis’ Orwellian redefinition of freedom” via Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic — Opposing a bill’s passage and favoring a law’s repeal are equally legitimate civic actions. Neither is equivalent to violating, let alone assaulting, the law. Yet according to Disney’s lawsuit, DeSantis has been retaliating against the company for its lawful advocacy. Not only is the ability to engage in political speech without being punished by the state a right that the Supreme Court has recognized for individuals and corporate entities alike; it is at the core of the First Amendment’s freedom-of-speech guarantee. But DeSantis has described an alternative view of what it means for the state to protect freedom: all the usual things, plus shielding the public from the left’s activism.

Man vs. mouse: DeSantis finds taking on Disney is a dicey business” via Charles Homans of The New York Times — DeSantis is trying to turn Americans against The Walt Disney Co., one of the most formidable superpowers of American popular culture and commerce. But taking on Mickey Mouse remains a tricky business. Brands of the scale and cultural footprint of Disney have emerged from past boycotts without much of a scratch. And corporations that might have been leery of such fights a generation ago are now more likely to see them as inevitable, and in some cases even a source of market advantage. This is because corporations have become more socially liberal in their own policies, reflecting broader trends in public opinion on many issues.

The Disney/DeSantis feud is politically tricky.

It’s like DeSantis is holding a knife to his own throat” via Aymann Ismail of Slate — DeSantis’ Republican colleagues are openly questioning his strategy in the press, saying Disney is “playing the long game” and appears to have the upper hand, for better or for worse. “It’s like DeSantis is holding a knife to his own throat,” says Mark Pinsky, a former Orlando Sentinel reporter. “Religion is very important to people in Florida, but livelihood trumps that every time. Anything that hurts Disney hurts people’s livelihood. And in Florida, if you threaten people’s livelihood or you raise their taxes, they’ll turn on you. DeSantis is a political thug, a bully, and an arrogant person. Since his rise, no one of equal stature, until now, has stood up to him and said no. I think he really didn’t understand the power that a corporation like Disney wields.”

DeSantis’ war on Disney is as un-American as it gets” via Norman Eisen and Josh Stanton for NBC News — Disney has the absolute right to express its opposition in any number of ways. For instance, it can financially back other like-minded groups, lobby Florida lawmakers, buy advertisements, produce a show to explain why it thinks the law damages society — or just tweet out a statement. The Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case supports Disney’s claim. Disney also has a winning argument when it claims that the new district’s abrogation of contracts violates the “Contracts Clause” of the Constitution. That clause prohibits a state from passing a law “impairing the Obligation of Contracts.” When it comes to contracts made with the state itself, the Supreme Court has held that any interference must be “necessary” to serve an “important” governmental purpose.

Marco Rubio says DeSantis’ Disney pressure could be ‘problematic’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Rubio is raising concerns about a potentially “problematic” precedent in the ongoing war between DeSantis and the entertainment giant. While the Senator stopped short of opposing the ongoing offensive against the company, he made it clear on “Fox & Friends” that the state could be going down a slippery slope. “I think where it gets problematic in the eyes of some people is when you start creating the idea — and I’m not saying we’re there yet as a state — but the idea that somehow like if you run crossways with us politically, whoever is in charge, then you know, you wind up in the crosshairs of the Legislature for political purposes,” Rubio said. The Senator suggested that this could chill the state’s business environment.

Ashley Moody ‘puzzled’ by Disney suing DeSantis” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Florida’s Attorney General doesn’t understand why DeSantis is a defendant in Disney’s lawsuit against the state. In comments made on Fox & Friends, Moody said she was stumped about why DeSantis was named, even though the Governor has spent weeks trashing and targeting the entertainment company in speech after speech. She suggested that even though the Governor signed legislation changing Disney’s special district, he somehow wasn’t responsible.

Before DeSantis and Disney, a Broward case with free speech parallels” via Steve Bousquet of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — DeSantis, meet Nick Navarro. The similarities are easy to see between Florida’s calculating, media-obsessed Governor and the most flamboyant, media-savvy Sheriff in Broward history. The parallels are even more striking because of DeSantis’ relentless attacks against Disney, a grudge match that’s costing DeSantis politically and is sure to cost taxpayers dearly.

DeSantis f-cked with the wrong fandom” via EJ Dickson of Rolling Stone — By trying to wage war against Disney, DeSantis has found that he may face a foe arguably more formidable than the company’s famously aggressive lawyers: Adult Disney fans, who have taken to online forums en masse to protest the Governor. “I would say it has politicized Disney fans,” says Victoria, a Disney content creator. At first, the ongoing fracas over Disney and the Don’t Say Gay bill largely ignited the passions of liberal-leaning Disney fans, who spoke out in favor of inclusion. But as the situation got “out of hand with DeSantis,” Victoria says, “people decided they’d be more political and speak out.” This hyper-charged political climate, combined with DeSantis’s aggressive attacks on the company, appears to have had something of a radicalizing effect on some members of the fandom.


Legislature passes bill allowing DeSantis to run for President as Governor” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislature on Friday approved sweeping election law changes, including a provision that clears the way for DeSantis to run for President without having to resign his current position. It marks the third straight year that Florida Republicans, who hold supermajorities in both chambers, have pushed through alterations to the state’s election laws. “Many in this body are doing the Governor’s bidding,” state Rep. Angie Nixon, a Jacksonville Democrat, said on Friday during the final legislative debate on the measure.

Angie Nixon accuses Republican lawmakers of toeing the DeSantis line.

Bill helping farmers receive tax relief goes to DeSantis” via Amber Jo Cooper of Florida’s Voice — A bill is heading to DeSantis’ desk that aims to reduce the burden of tax relief paperwork requirements on farmers and agricultural retailers. The proposal creates the Florida Farm Tax Exempt Agricultural Materials, or TEAM, Card that will be used for sales-tax-exempt purchases of agriculture materials. The current practice requires submitting paperwork for every tax-exempt purchase of agricultural materials. The current process has become “onerous,” leading farmers to travel across state lines for other less burdensome programs.

Florida Senate passes a watered-down slate of higher education changes” via Divya Kumar of the Tampa Bay Times — The Florida Senate on Thursday approved a bill proposing major changes at state colleges and universities, but with recently added provisions that make the legislation less dramatic than the House version. Senate Bill 266, like its House companion, HB 999, would ban certain course material, give boards of trustees and presidents more power to hire and fire school personnel and erode tenure protections for faculty. It moved through the Senate by a vote of 27-12.

Legislature passes bill doubling cap on house-hardening grants through ‘My Safe Florida Home’ program” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A proposal to double the amount of grant funding low-income Floridians can receive to strengthen their homes against wind damage is ready for DeSantis’ signature after receiving sweeping support in the Legislature. Senate and House lawmakers unanimously approved HB 881. Among other things, the bill increases the grant for eligible homeowners to harden their properties from $5,000 to $10,000 through the My Safe Florida Home Program.

Biosolid refinement bill glides to Senate” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — Legislation to encourage better refinement of human solid waste is on its way to the Senate after passing the House this week. There were no questions or debate on the floor. There are Class AA, A and B biosolids, and the bill (HB 1405) facilitates wastewater treatment plants pursuing the higher-quality product. Class B biosolids have a significant amount of toxic metals and can attract “rodents, flies, mosquitoes or other organisms capable of transporting infectious agents.” The state tracks land application of Class B biosolids, but the state doesn’t do the same for Class AA, which raised concerns among environmental advocates.

Senate bounces amended ‘Kratom Consumer Protection Act’ back to House for additional vote” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — The Senate approved a House bill with new rules governing kratom, a consumable plant with opioid- and stimulant-like effects. But since the chamber amended the measure, it must pass an additional vote. Senators voted unanimously for HB 179, titled the “Florida Kratom Consumer Protection Act,” which among other things bans the sale of kratom products to people under 21 and defines the substance in state statutes. While the bill bears Rep. Alex Andrade’s name, its language is nearly identical to a version Sen. Joe Gruters carried this year. Gruters amended Andrade’s bill and tabled his own.

Alex Andrade’s kratom regulation bill was first past the post.

‘Tyre Sampson Act:’ Teen’s death from amusement ride will help increase safety on rides in Florida” via Diane Rado of Florida Phoenix — In March of last year, 14-year-old Sampson fell to his death from a 400-foot tower ride operated by Orlando Slingshot. On Friday, the Florida Senate unanimously approved legislation to ensure that amusement rides are safe in Florida. The legislation is titled the “Tyre Sampson Act.” The House is moving on the legislation as well. The young man from Missouri had been visiting Florida when he went on the ride. “Investigators concluded that changes made to the ride by the ride operators after initial installation contributed to Tyre Sampson’s death, according to the legislation.” Since then, the ride has been shut down and the company involved has been fined. A lawsuit was filed as well.

Legislature clears $1.85M payment to Robert DuBoise, who spent 37 years wrongly imprisoned” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — DuBoise, who spent 37 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, including three years on death row, will receive $50,000 for every year he lost. That amounts to $1.85 million, a sum many would say is a pittance for the time stolen from him. But it’s perhaps enough to help him gain footing and purpose in a world that in many ways passed him by. The House voted unanimously, 105-0, for a measure (SB 62) clearing the payment to DuBoise, who sat close to motionless as those advocating for his recompense pleaded their case.

Robert DuBoise gets his compensation.

House passes bill lowering long gun purchase age from 21 to 18” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — The House passed legislation that would lower the legal age to buy a rifle or long gun from 21 to 18, resurrecting emotional debate over gun laws. Democrats scolded Republicans for rolling back part of the gun control measures passed into law after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland in 2018. “The blood of people — not hunters, or animals or whatever … but human beings will be on your hands,” said Rep. Felicia Robinson, a Miami Gardens Democrat, during the debate.

Florida lawmakers passes security deposit alternative bill for renters” via Adrian Andrews of WFSU — A bill (HB 133) that lets landlords charge fees instead of security deposits heads to the Governor’s desk Friday. Senators voted to pass the bill 31-7. Supporters of the bill say the legislation allows people to get into apartments more easily without having to pay a chunk of money upfront. Republican bill sponsor James Vernon Mooney says the practice is already happening. His measure puts protections in place and could save Floridians thousands. “This bill literally puts guardrails on existing processes ongoing around the State of Florida,” said Mooney.

Legislature approves Osborne Reef restoration plan” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — A plan to put some money and momentum toward cleaning up a tire dump off Fort Lauderdale is ready for DeSantis’ signature as the Senate agreed with the House language to handle the problem on Osborne Reef. “Those reefs are critical, certainly. When you have a storm come, those reefs provide a barrier for the municipalities and the residents in that area,” Sen. Bryan Ávila said when the bill came up in the Senate Committee on Appropriations. There were no questions and no debate as the legislation had its second and third readings on the Senate floor.


Not a rebellion, but Republican lawmakers dial back DeSantis on immigration, universities” via John Kennedy of USA Today Network — Republican lawmakers are dialing back a couple of DeSantis’ major policy pushes, moving ahead with new sanctions on illegal immigration and more oversight of university programs but ignoring his harshest demands. The immigration bill strengthens employment requirements, allows state law enforcement officials to conduct random audits of businesses suspected of hiring undocumented workers and increases criminal penalties for human smuggling. But the measure, while still condemned by immigrant advocates, does not include an in-state tuition ban for undocumented students sought by DeSantis.

DeSantis gets pushback on his hard-line immigration stance.

DeSantis’ drastic anti-immigration bill just got defanged” via Lizette Alvarez of The Washington Post — Florida’s Republican lawmakers appear to face an audacious, self-imposed litmus test in the current GOP-controlled Legislative Session: Will their bills help catapult DeSantis into the White House in 2024? How else to explain the parade of radical bills inflicted on Florida this year? But this week, Republican legislators, usually working in lockstep with the powerful Governor, seemed to realize that they had run up against another muscular force: Florida immigrants, who numbered 4.5 million strong and accounted for 21% of the population.

Sweeping immigration bill readied for passage amid Democrats’ protest” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — An immigration reform measure that would crack down on hiring immigrants in the U.S. illegally, criminalize bringing a migrant into the state and require hospitals to collect data on patients’ immigration status has been readied for final passage. Sen. Blaise Ingoglia’s bill (SB 1718) has DeSantis’ backing and is said to be one of the strictest state-level immigration regulations. The question of whether it infringes on the federal government’s role in immigration was roundly debated as it went through Committee hearings. Ingoglia said the time has come for states to take matters into their own hands because the feds have failed to solve the crisis of undocumented immigrants coming in through the country’s southern border.

Budget conference: VISIT FLORIDA spared, gets funding boost to $80M” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Florida’s tourism marketing group is not just getting saved, it’s getting a $30 million funding boost. House and Senate budget negotiators agreed Friday to give VISIT FLORIDA $80 million for the fiscal year that starts July 1. House leaders originally zeroed out its funding but eventually came to the Senate preference. But the public-private group, which has been targeted for elimination by the House before, in 2017, will be moved under the Department of Economic Opportunity, which will be renamed the Department of Commerce in HB 5.

Budget conference: House, Senate meet on $5M for sargassum cleanup” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — Sargassum, a type of seaweed (actually algae), occurs naturally — but blooms of this large call for pause. This bloom’s grown for a dozen years, reaching a record 13 million tons in March. It’s 5,000 miles long and 300 miles wide. The Senate previously proposed $5 million to help de-seaweed the beaches. Still, House offers included no money for the work until their recent third budget offer, agreeing with the Senate on the $5 million number. Money will go through the Division of Emergency Management. Sargassum typically provides habitat and food to dozens of marine creatures, including sea turtles, but too much of anything can be dangerous. This much sargassum covering this area can be an impediment to sea turtle hatchlings trying to get further out into the ocean, providing an opening for predators.

—”Budget conference: Everglades City scores $13M for emergency center” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

—”Budget conference: House, Senate agree on Holocaust education funding” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

—”Budget conference: St. Johns County gets sea level rise mitigation money” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

—“Budget conference: Money found for Flagler Beach pier restoration” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

—”Budget conference: Lawmakers agree on $73M in operational support for colleges, universities” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics

—”Budget conference: Citrus County projects in good shape” via Mike Wright of Florida Politics

—”Budget conference: USS Orleck funding in ship shape” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Budget conference: House agrees to scrap $2M earmark for electric vehicle repair training” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A set-aside requested in Florida’s next budget that would have funded electric vehicle (EV) repair training in underserved communities across Florida is out of juice for now. After receiving no matching offer from the Senate, House members of a Joint Conference Committee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development nixed the $2 million earmark by Rep. Fred Hawkins. The money, had it been cleared, would have been the first funding infusion of an estimated three-year effort costing upward of $10 million to create the new program, which would include online, theoretical lessons and in-person, on-the-job training.

Fred Hawkins’ EV repair training program will have to wait.

Budget conference: Pediatrician fees, graduate medical education done deal” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Health care budget negotiations wrapped Saturday night with the chambers agreeing to increase pediatricians’ rates by $76.1 million and appropriate an additional $61.5 million for a statewide graduate medical education effort aimed at increasing the number of physician residency slots at Florida hospitals. The House also agreed to the Senate’s offer to increase rates at free-standing children’s hospitals by nearly $54.3 million and to increase rates at prescribed pediatric extended care centers or PPECs by about $5 million.

Senate passes coastal demolition bill with new exclusions for small cities” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A bill that would erode local protections of historic buildings in storm-prone coastal areas across Florida has cleared the Senate after undergoing changes meant to cushion its impact on small cities. Proponents say it will improve safety by preventing local historic boards from obstructing the replacement of old, weatherworn structures at risk of collapse. Detractors of the measure (SB 1346), dubbed the “Resiliency and Safe Structures Act,” argue it will cause irreparable harm to the architectural character of some cities like Miami Beach, opening them up to an unprecedented redevelopment free-for-all.

Hunting and fishing constitutional amendment reels in Senators, heads to ballot” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — A new constitutional amendment proposal from state hunting and fishing enthusiasts will be on the ballot thanks to the Senate agreeing to a House joint resolution (HJR 1157) on the issue. “It’s really hard to believe that there are states that are outlawing fishing and hunting,” Sen. Jim Boyd said. “Florida will not be one of those states.” Democratic Sen. Bobby Powell wondered about the need for such legislation, as he hadn’t seen any movements within Florida to pose a real threat to people’s right to hunt and fish.

Lawmakers seek to delay Clearwater’s Drew Street overhaul” via Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times — When the Clearwater City Council reaffirmed its support for a safety overhaul of Drew Street on April 4, it was the only approval the Florida Department of Transportation needed to advance design work on the east-west corridor notorious for crashes. On Friday, state Sen. Ed Hooper intervened with language in the state budget to withhold funding until the department conducts another study on how the lane reconfigurations would impact traffic. The budget is expected to be finalized by lawmakers this weekend, and line items could change. But Hooper’s language was approved by both the House and Senate as of Friday afternoon, according to his office.


Florida For All urges veto of ‘Predatory Landlords Protection Act’ — Progressive organization Florida for All is lobbying the Governor to kill a bill (HB 1417) that would overturn local renter rights ordinances. The organization is calling the legislation the “Predatory Landlords Protection Act” and says it would unravel local protections that have “broad, bipartisan support.” Florida For All Deputy Director Ruth Moreno said, “As Floridians work with their local leaders to pass common-sense local solutions to the housing affordability crisis, corporate landlords backed by private equity firms are pushing this corporate statewide mandate that undermines local freedoms and bans common sense renter protections already in place across the state. The Governor has a clear choice. If DeSantis truly wants to hold corporations accountable and defend our freedoms, he would veto HB1417, and support legislation like the Keep Floridians House Act (SB 1658/HB 1407).” 

Americans for Prosperity-Florida dances on EFI’s grave — Americans for Prosperity-Florida today praised lawmakers for passing a bill that will bring about the end of Enterprise Florida, a public-private economic development partnership. “We commend the Florida legislature for getting rid of Enterprise Florida, an organization that was utilizing tax dollars without benefit to the taxpayers for decades,” said AFP-FL State Director Skylar Zander. “We especially appreciate House Speaker Paul Renner for his leadership and Rep. Tiffany Esposito for guiding this important bill to passage.” The statement comes after Senators on Monday agreed to eliminate $12 million funding for EFI and took steps to remove the program from state laws by Oct. 1, while moving some of its functions into the Department of Economic Opportunity.

Tiffany Esposito gets kudos for killing Enterprise Florida.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Ron Book, Rana Brown, Kelly Mallette, Gabriela Navarro: Miami-Dade Expressway Authority

Edward Briggs, RSA Consulting Group: City of Cocoa

Dean Cannon, GrayRobinson: Florida Association of the American Institute of Architects

Kelley Foxx: Instacart

Kenneth Granger, Joseph Mongiovi, Capital City Consulting: Global Technology Solutions, IMAGE API, Kyra Solutions, Lexmark International, TEKsystems

Stephen McCall: Firefly Aerospace

Carey Baker, Peyton Grinnell, David Jordan endorse Keith Truenow Senate bid” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Lake County’s constitutional officers are lining up behind Rep. Keith Truenow’s state Senate campaign. Property Appraiser Carey Baker, Sheriff Peyton Grinnell and Tax Collector David Jordan are all endorsing the Tavares Republican. Truenow announced earlier this month he will run for the Senate District 13 seat held now by outgoing Sen. Dennis Baxley. “Keith Truenow has stood for Lake County’s Conservative values,” said Grinnell, who was first elected Sheriff in 2016. “He stopped the woke mob from defunding the police here in Florida and he gave law enforcement the tools they needed to continue to keep Floridians safe. I’m 100% behind Keith Truenow for State Senate.”


— The Senate will hold a floor Session; the agenda includes a bill (HB 477) that would lead to eight-year term limits for county School-Board members: 10 a.m., Senate Chambers.

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

— The Senate Special Order Calendar Group meets to set a special-order calendar: 15 minutes after floor Session, Room 401, Senate Office Building.

— The House Rules Committee meets: 15 minutes after House floor Session, House Chambers


Disney v. DeSantis: How strong is the company’s lawsuit?” via David French of The New York Times — Make no mistake, the Florida government’s actions against Disney were directly motivated by the company’s disagreement with a policy pushed by DeSantis.

Disney’s legal complaint, filed in federal court in the Northern District of Florida, is chock-full of evidence that the Governor and other Florida officials targeted the company for one overriding reason: It put out a statement objecting to House Bill 1557, the Parental Rights in Education Act, which sharply restricted instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in Florida public schools.

Disney seemingly has a solid First Amendment case to make.

DeSantis, in moves that a number of LGBT activists considered inadequate — “crossed the line,” and he promised to “make sure we’re fighting back.” He accused Disney of “pledging a frontal assault on a duly enacted law of the State of Florida.”

So what? Laws are not holy writ, and if the First Amendment protects anything, it protects our ability to object to the laws passed to govern our states and our nation.

But those statements were just the tip of the iceberg. State Rep. Spencer Roach said, “If Disney wants to embrace ‘woke’ ideology, it seems fitting that they should be regulated by Orange County.” This statement refers to the initial punishment chosen by DeSantis and Florida Republicans — the planned dissolution of an entity called the Reedy Creek Improvement District, one of more than 1,800 special tax districts that dot the Florida landscape.

The motivations could not be clearer: The State of Florida is targeting Disney because of the company’s constitutionally protected expression. Or, as Rep. Randy Fine stated: “You got me on one thing — this bill does target one company. It targets The Walt Disney Co.”

Court outcomes are never completely certain, but this much is correct: A Disney defeat would represent a dangerous reversal in First Amendment jurisprudence and cast a pall of fear over private expression. In its complaint, Disney wrote, “In America, the government cannot punish you for speaking your mind.”

That is true now and will remain so if Disney wins its case. If Disney loses, on the other hand, America’s first liberty will be at risk, and the culture wars will escalate out of control.



Florida’s conservative Chief Justice once affirmed abortion protections” via Beth Reinhard and Caroline Kitchener of The Washington Post — DeSantis signed a strict abortion ban hours after it overwhelmingly passed the Republican-led legislature this month, yet whether the law can take effect hinges on a case before the state Supreme Court. At issue is a provision in the Florida Constitution intended to protect the right to privacy, added by voters decades ago and long interpreted as a safeguard against abortion restrictions in the third-most-populous state. But while DeSantis transformed the state’s high court into a conservative stronghold, even the chief justice has acknowledged that the privacy clause protects abortion.

Florida to keep company blamed for early morning alert for a bit longer” via Natalie Weber of the Tampa Bay Times — The Florida Division of Emergency Management has extended its deadline for terminating a contract with a software company that state officials blamed for an early morning test alert last week. Government officials said last week that they would end their contract early with Everbridge, a company they said was responsible for a test alert sent to Floridians’ phones at 4:45 a.m. on April 20. The company was notified on April 21 that their contract would end on June 30, one year early. The termination date would come one month into Florida’s hurricane season, potentially leaving the state without an emergency alert system during major storms.

No one is fired just yet.

How a 2019 Florida law catalyzed a hospital-building boom” via Phil Galewitz and Lauren Sausser and Daniel Chang of KFF Health News — In BayCare Hospital Wesley Chapel’s 86 private rooms, patients can use voice-activated Alexa devices to dim the lights, play music, or summon a nurse. BayCare boasts some of the latest high-tech equipment. Yet, the company said, its $246 million facility that opened here in March doesn’t provide any health care services beyond what patients could receive at a hospital just 2 miles away. BayCare Wesley Chapel’s luster as the newest hospital in this fast-growing Tampa suburb of 65,000 people won’t last. Another general hospital is on the way — the third within a five-minute drive.

Florida’s dental deserts leave millions without access to oral care” via Lauren Peace of the Tampa Bay Times — Annual dental checks are essential to overall health. But of the 67 counties in Florida, experts say, only one has enough dentists to treat all patients. Nine counties in Florida have fewer than three practicing dentists apiece. Lafayette County, in north Florida, doesn’t have a single one. “It’s a social injustice,” said Grimmett, director of dental services at the not-for-profit, which serves Medicaid and uninsured patients in the Tampa Bay region. “You will never be totally well if you don’t have oral health,” she said.

Meta has $22.6B economic impact, supports 170K jobs in Florida” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Meta released new data highlighting the company’s economic impact in Florida. Data shows that Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, generates more than $415 billion in economic activity per year and supports more than 3.1 million jobs in the United States. In Florida alone, the company has a $22.6 billion economic impact and is linked to about 170,000 jobs. Meta said 96% of Florida businesses that use Facebook are small or medium-sized, about two in five (41%) are women-led businesses, and the same number are minority-led. More than half those businesses (56%) are using digital tools to connect with customers, and 36% make at least a quarter of their sales digitally in any given month.

— 2024 —

Florida was the most prized swing state for decades. That won’t be true in 2024.” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — For decades, Florida was an essential element of every candidate’s strategy for winning the presidency. Its status as a swing state, with victory within reach for either party, and the enormous trove of electoral votes for the winner often made it the nation’s most hotly contested election battleground. Florida just isn’t as competitive as it once was. “The path to the White House for Democrats now goes through Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — and not Florida,” said Nathan Gonzales, editor and publisher of Inside Elections, which provides nonpartisan campaign analysis.

How DeSantis could unlock $86 million for a Presidential run” via Julie Bykowicz and Alex Leary of The Wall Street Journal — DeSantis is poised to jump into the Republican Presidential Primary in the coming months with an $86 million pot of donor money and a legally questionable strategy for using it. The cash, currently sitting in a Florida political committee fund, would need to take a circuitous path to help him: It is illegal to use money raised for a state election to run for federal office, meaning DeSantis can’t simply transfer it into a presidential campaign account.

DeSantis is sitting on a pile of cash. Can he spend it?

Trump, DeSantis make dueling Iowa plays” via The Associated Press — The competition between Trump and DeSantis is intensifying as the former President is scheduling a return trip to Iowa on the same day that DeSantis was already going to be in the state that will kick off the Republican contest for the White House. A Trump campaign official said that Trump plans to be in Iowa on May 13 to headline an organizing rally at a sprawling park in downtown Des Moines. That’s when DeSantis was already slated to headline Iowa Rep. Randy Feenstra’s annual summer fundraiser in northwest Iowa and speak at a party fundraiser later that evening in Cedar Rapids.

The DeSantis-Trump division” via Oliver Darcy of CNN — “Hold off on the DeSantis thing.”  That was the order from top Breitbart editor Matt Boyle in the company’s internal Slack channel last week, instructing staffers at the far-right outlet to pause stories on the Florida Governor ahead of an expected 2024 run. Boyle, who described DeSantis as “inept,” signaled that stories related to the Governor needed “sign off” from him, Editor-In-Chief Alex Marlow, and chief executive Larry Solov. The terse command led to suspicion inside Breitbart that Boyle, who had already confessed he viewed DeSantis negatively, was trying to wield his power at the outlet to tilt the scales against the Sunshine State Governor and in favor of Trump in the lead-up to the 2024 contest.

Trump may have begun losing” via Katherine Miller of The New York Times — What’s the right form of justice for the problem of Trump? There’s already been one indictment. There’s expected to be another in Georgia, possibly a sprawling one, about the effort to overturn the 2020 Election. Different people have different views of what the real problem and the right form of justice look like for Trump. Maybe the only certainty right now is that the answer will be unsatisfying. So what’s the point? Trump is surrounded by disparate legal actions of varying importance by disconnected individuals. If you think hard about the Jan. 6 Select House Committee, its exact point might seem a little opaque. The Committee couldn’t arrest anybody; its criminal referrals depended on a different branch of government to pursue them.

Establishment Republican donors reckoning with Trump’s staying power” via Matthew Kassel of Jewish Insider — Leading GOP donors and Trump skeptics are, however reluctantly, beginning to reckon with a new reality: that Trump seems increasingly likely to win the nomination in 2024. “The sense that I get is there’s pretty much a resignation he’s going to be the nominee,” Joel Geiderman, a physician in West Hollywood, California, who sits on the board of the Republican Jewish Coalition, acknowledged in an interview. “Based upon my circle of friends and my informal survey,” said Jon Tucker, a GOP activist in Pittsburgh, “there’s just a fervent hope and prayer that, somehow, Trump will get out of the way and allow other candidates to get back in.”

Joe Biden huddles with top donors as 2024 effort kicks off” via Zeke Miller and Chris Megerian of The Associated Press — Biden thanked some of his top donors Friday night as he launches a re-election campaign that is expected to need to raise well over $1 billion to secure his second term. “It’s because of you, I’m standing here,” Biden said in the ballroom of a Washington hotel. “And it’s because of you, we’re going to win this time around.” The weekend summit is not a fundraiser, and it was not clear how many of the attendees had yet cut checks to Biden’s campaign. Rather, it is billed as a strategy session for about 150 high-dollar donors and fundraisers who will tap their networks to help fund Biden’s campaign over the next 18 months.

Joe Biden strategizes his re-election campaign.

What Biden’s first hires say about his re-elect” via David Catanese of Too Close To Call — Julie Chavez Rodriguez, a deputy on the 2020 run turned Intergovernmental Affairs director in the White House, will manage Round 2, with Quentin Fulks — a native Georgian who steered Raphael Warnock’s successful re-election through the gauntlet of a high-wire runoff — as her deputy. Rodriguez can do the blocking and tackling and plot the daily X’s and O’s necessary to run a billion-dollar operation. She can delegate and coordinate with competence. But that doesn’t mean she’ll be making the toughest calls on the field when things get hairy. Hispanics! — that complex amalgamation of subgroups that trace their heritage to Latin America or Spain and now comprise a record 19% of the U.S. population — will again be a center of attention for both parties.

As Biden runs again, Black voters’ frustration bubbles” via Maya King and Reid J. Epstein of The New York Times — Biden began his re-election campaign this week vowing to “finish the job” he started in 2021. No one wants him to do that more than Black voters. Long the most loyal Democratic constituency, Black voters resurrected Biden’s struggling presidential campaign in South Carolina and sent him to the White House with his party in control of the Senate after two runoff victories in Georgia. Yet some of Black voters’ biggest policy priorities, stronger federal protections against restrictive voting laws, student loan debt relief and criminal justice and police accountability measures, have failed or stalled, some because of Republican opposition and some because Democrats have declined to bypass the Senate’s filibuster rules.

Vivek Ramaswamy swipes at DeSantis on Disney” via Kelly Garrity of POLITICO — GOP presidential candidate Ramaswamy made a dig at one of his likely opponents, DeSantis, over the Governor’s public battle with Disney. “Here’s where Ron DeSantis really lost it here. He’s gone on the wrong path as he claimed — and this part actually sounded good to me — Disney should have never had crony-capitalist, lobbying-related privileges in the first place,” Ramaswamy said.

DeSantis allies go to war with an unlikely foe: Nikki Haley” via Alex Isenstadt and Natalie Allison of POLITICO — For months, the Presidential Primary looked like the DeSantis-Trump show. So, it came as a surprise to some top Republicans this week when the well-funded super PAC supporting DeSantis turned its fire on Haley, a candidate still registering in the low-single digits in national polls. Never Back Down, the pro-DeSantis group, is now running an ad online attacking Haley, has polled Twitter users on a new nickname for her, and accused her in a tweet of “trying really hard to audition” to be Trump’s vice presidential pick.

Before running for Senate, did Keith Gross help run a Maryland restaurant into the ground?” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Could a string of restaurant failures mean U.S. Senate candidate Gross’ ambitions are cooked? Gross was sued four times in Maryland over the management of a restaurant, Chris’ Steakhouse. At the time, a court ordered Gross to pay more than $6,000 to plaintiffs. And that’s just one of the business dealings that landed Gross in court in another state. Over a relatively short period when Gross was associated with the Maryland restaurant, he had to pay out on claims from a number of professions. Courts in separate claims ordered him to pay upward of $1,000 to lawyer Stephen Allen, more than $2,000 to wholesale food distributor Sysco and another $2,000 to meat supplier A.M. Briggs.


Surgeon General: We have become a lonely nation. It’s time to fix that.” via Vivek H. Murthy for The New York Times — At any moment, about one out of every two Americans is experiencing measurable levels of loneliness. This includes introverts and extroverts, rich and poor, and younger and older Americans. Sometimes loneliness is set off by the loss of a loved one or a job, a move to a new city, or health or financial difficulties or a once-in-a-century pandemic. Nearly everyone experiences it at some point. This week, for the first time, I will be proposing a national framework to rebuild social connection and community in America.

Vivek H. Murthy warns of a social connection crisis.

Kat Cammack not yet committing to a 2024 presidential pick” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — While 11 Republican members of Congress from Florida are backing Trump for President, U.S. Rep. Cammack is not one of them, despite reports suggesting otherwise. The North Florida legislator is still publicly uncommitted in the fight for in-state endorsements between the former President and DeSantis. “I am 100% confident that the next President of the United States will hail from the Sunshine State. We’ve got incredible talents, incredible men to run. I am excited for the field,” Cammack said. Cammack continues to resist the push to endorse that has swept up 60% of the Florida delegation.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

First in Sunburn: David Richardson launches campaign for Miami-Dade County tax collector — Miami Beach City Commissioner and former state Rep. Richardson has announced his candidacy for Miami-Dade County Tax Collector. “My inspiration to run for public office always stems from my belief that through hard work and a commitment to the community so much good can come,” Richardson says. “I am ready to put my decades of experience as a forensic auditor and certified public accountant to work as voters in 2024 decide who will serve in this newly elected constitutional office … I will bring a fresh approach to an office that needs revamping to deliver top-notch customer service and countywide resident services so the office can respond to your needs.”

David Richardson seeks another way to serve Miami-Dade. Image via Miami Herald.

First in Sunburn: Miami-Dade Police Director Freddy Ramirez launches campaign for County Sheriff — As the nation kicks off Law Enforcement Appreciation Month and on a national day for law enforcement appreciation, Ramirez has announced his candidacy for the newly elected Sheriff. With nearly three decades of law enforcement experience, Ramirez’s leadership is tested and proven. His commitment to solutions has resulted in Miami-Dade County having one of the lowest rates of gun violence of any major metro area in the nation. He led the public safety response during the COVID pandemic, responded to the deadly FIU bridge collapse and Surfside tragedies, and created the homicide task force in response to police shootings, banning deadly chokeholds, and overseeing one of the largest body camera deployments in the nation while also providing officers with additional bias training.

Federal government approves Broward County disaster declaration, makes funding available” via Caden DeLisa of The Capitolist — Biden has granted a disaster declaration for Broward County and its adjoining areas following after the region experienced more than 2 feet of rainfall earlier this month. As part of the proclamation, federal funding is made available to those affected by the floodwaters. Federal assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

FIU medical school to partner with Baptist — what it means for patients, doctors, students” via Jimena Tavel of the Miami Herald — The medical school at Florida International University (FIU) chose Baptist Health South Florida as its clinical partner, ushering in a new era for doctors and patients in South Florida, and unlocking a milestone that could propel FIU to a higher level. “It will be a transformative partnership for us — for the college of medicine, for FIU, for Baptist and really, for the community,” said Dr. Juan Cendan, the dean of the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, after he broke the news during an FIU board of trustees meeting. FIU students in the Wertheim medical school and in other FIU health programs such as nursing will get more research and training opportunities.

Downtown Miami’s largest chunk of undeveloped waterfront just sold for $1.2B” via Douglas Hanks and Rebecca San Juan of the Miami Herald — Miami developer David Martin agreed to pay $1.2 billion for the largest piece of undeveloped waterfront in downtown Miami, purchasing the former Miami Herald site from a casino operator that failed to build a planned resort there. “Very proud of longtime Miamian David Martin for successfully purchasing what I consider to be the most valuable piece of property in America,” Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said in a post on Twitter. “I can’t wait to see what’s in store for our city.” Genting, the Malaysian casino operator, purchased the 15.5-acre bayfront site of the former newspaper offices and printing presses for $236 million. The sale was announced in 2011 and closed in 2014.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

DeSantis stirs up opposition in Florida town built by Disney” via Tim Craig of The Washington Post — Throughout Orlando and the bustling resort towns that have sprung up around Disney’s Florida theme parks, the intensifying political and legal battle between DeSantis and Disney is being met with growing skepticism and concern from residents, business owners and elected officials who are eager for the dispute to subside. Perhaps nowhere are those tensions more acutely felt than in Celebration, which Disney constructed in the early 1990s. Now, residents fear the feud between Disney and DeSantis could cast a shadow over their tranquil existence, as they find themselves caught in the middle of the dispute and forced to take sides.

Celebration gets political.

Monique Worrell says Orange GOP official is helping DeSantis’ office in ‘witch-hunt’” via Christopher Cann of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange-Osceola State Attorney Worrell on Friday accused a state Committee member of fishing for examples of her failing to prosecute cases in order to feed them to the office of DeSantis, who she has repeatedly said is building a case to justify her suspension. The late Friday news release from Worrell said, earlier that day, an employee of the State Attorney’s Office had been contacted by Orange County Republican Executive Committee State Committee member Debbie Galvin, who allegedly requested at least two examples in which “State Attorney Worrell had failed to prosecute cases to get justice for victims of human trafficking crimes.”

Only 1 in 12 Orlando renters who desperately need housing aid get it, study finds” via Trevor Fraser of the Orlando Sentinel — Orlando has the widest gap between people who need housing vouchers and the amount of federal aid that’s available, according to a recent study. For every Section 8 housing voucher Washington provides to metro Orlando, there are 12 “severely cost-burdened” renters, defined as those who pay more than 50% of their income for rent and utilities, according to research released by Zillow this month. That statistic was hardly surprising to Anita Thomas, an Orlando native who last applied for a housing voucher in 2021. Thomas says she’s been continually applying since 2013 and never received one. “Getting on the waiting list is easy,” said Thomas, 35. “It’s getting through the waiting list that’s hard.”

A version of Arizona’s ‘stupid motorist law’ could be coming to Volusia County” via Sheldon Gardner of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — The Volusia County Council will talk about trying to enact something like Arizona’s “stupid motorist law” at its next meeting, according to an agenda item. The law allows people to be billed for the cost of their rescue if they drive around barricades and get stranded in floodwaters. But for it to go into effect here, it would have to be modified under state law. Volusia County saw major flooding during Hurricanes Ian and Nicole. The meeting is Tuesday, May 2, and starts at 9 a.m. at 123 W. Indiana Ave. in DeLand.

‘Extremely offensive’: Melbourne investigating photo of firefighter giving Nazi salute” via Eric Rogers of Florida Today — Melbourne officials are investigating a religious discrimination complaint from a Melbourne firefighter who said department leaders failed to act after a supervisor was photographed on duty giving the Nazi salute. Firefighter Aaron Starkey filed the complaint dated April 12 with the Florida Commission on Human Relations and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging the department failed to address his “valid concerns of antisemitism” and allowed the colleague who was photographed to confront him over the complaints.

Melbourne Starbucks workers unionize” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Workers at a Starbucks in Melbourne are moving to join a national union of company employees to better negotiate for improved working conditions. Baristas at the Wickham Road and Baymeadows Boulevard store in Melbourne have filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to unionize with Starbucks Workers United. They join employees from more than 300 other Starbucks stores across 42 states and the District of Columbia to join the organization, which claims some 41,000 supporters.


DeSantis signs agreement in South Korea to kick-start Polk County hydrogen plant” via Henry Queen of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — DeSantis signed a memorandum of agreement between Space Florida, a Korean energy company and a Tampa energy distributor in advance of a local project’s summer groundbreaking. It marked a step forward for a planned hydrogen plant in Mulberry along Old Highway 37 that is expected to include carbon capture technology and cost up to $100 million. LowCarbon, headquartered in Seoul, South Korea, will lead the project with Tampa-based Ocean Green providing local expertise. DeSantis signed the MOA during a trip to South Korea.

DeSantis signs a deal in South Korea that is being felt all the way in Polk County.

Assignment editors — U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor and St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch will hold a media availability to announce over $10 million in federal investments for the City of St. Petersburg that Castor submitted for this year’s federal appropriations process. The projects will include improving storm drainage, increasing affordable housing and connecting the community with vital resources: 1 p.m., Enoch Davis Center, 1111 18th Ave. S., St. Petersburg.

More Tampa Bay families are living on the brink of poverty” via Lauren Peace of the Tampa Bay Times — More than 600,000 families across Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota and DeSoto counties are living paycheck to paycheck, according to a new report from the United Way. That’s the equivalent of 2 in 5 households on the brink of poverty, often without access to necessities such as reliable transportation, child care, food or stable housing. “These families are living one crisis away from really dire circumstances,” said United Way Suncoast CEO Jessica Muroff. “The number across Florida is growing.”

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Cleaning up Lenny Curry’s pension mess a big lift for Jacksonville’s next Mayor” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — Now, however, an unlikely bipartisan consensus has emerged among the Democratic and Republican candidates running to replace Curry: pensions, at least for police officers and firefighters, might need to come back. Democrat Donna Deegan and Republican Daniel Davis said they wanted to explore the possibility of enrolling public-safety employees in the Florida Retirement System — the statewide pension plan — a concession the local unions have long sought from City Hall. Such a move would be a remarkable turn of events, not the least of all because of the nullifying effect it would have on a centerpiece of Curry’s legacy. There is a legitimate public policy question underlying this issue: can Jacksonville recruit the best and brightest while being one of the few local governments in Florida, and the country, to not offer a pension, long considered the gold-standard public-employee benefit?

Who will be tackling Lenny Curry’s pension ‘mess.’

U.S. principal forced out in ‘porn’ flap views David statue” via The Associated Press — A former Florida school principal forced to resign after students were shown an image of Michelangelo’s iconic statue of a nude David viewed the masterpiece in person on Friday in Florence. Cecilie Hollberg, who directs the Accademia Gallery in Florence, where the David is the star attraction, said that Hope Carrasquilla, her husband and two children, came straight to the museum right after they arrived in the city. Carrasquilla stepped down as principal of Tallahassee Classical School last month after one parent claimed the towering sculpture was pornographic. Hosting Carrasquilla was an “immense pleasure,” the gallery director said.

UF President Ben Sasse announces departure of top official in first major shake-up” via Andrew Caplan of The Gainesville Sun — A longtime top University of Florida official is out in what is President Sasse’s first major leadership shake-up since taking office. Sasse sent out an email late Friday evening announcing that longtime Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Charlie Lane is no longer with the university. The abrupt departure comes just two months after Sasse took the helm at the flagship university.

Late night shooting outside FSU dorm injures one, leads to campus ‘shelter in place’ order” via William L. Hatfield of the Tallahassee Democrat — A man was shot outside a dormitory on Florida State University’s campus just after midnight Saturday, sparking a campuswide alert and shelter in place order. What is being investigated as an aggravated assault occurred at about 12:50 a.m. outside and behind Degraff Hall, a 5-story coed dorm that houses up to 700 students, at 808 West Tennessee Street. “A large group of individuals were involved in a dispute that escalated to a physical altercation,” the warning from FSU stated. “During the course of the fight, a college-age white male brandished a handgun and fired several rounds striking one male.”

Leon County deputies, state officials warn 6 Tallahassee operations of illegal gambling” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — Leon County sheriff’s deputies and Florida Gaming Control Commission officers notified six gambling operations on Thursday that they are being watched and advised them to shut down or face tens of thousands of dollars in fines. The staff of the MVM Arcade, across from the Koger Center on Apalachee Parkway, ran out of the back door when L. Carl Herold, the Gaming Commission Director of Law Enforcement, and Leon County Sheriff Deputy Michael Feldman knocked on the door. A patron playing a video game that awards cash prizes answered the knocks, saw a contingent of six deputies, and commission law enforcement officers, and slipped away, leaving his money on the table.

Canceled play wasn’t ‘Indecent’ but some Duval school incidents are” via Mark Woods of The Florida Times-Union — I keep thinking about how this year began with Douglas Anderson School of the Arts making national news by canceling a play — “Indecent.” Remember when that was in the headlines? “Indecent,” which won Tony Awards for its 2017 Broadway run, delved into the many issues that swirled around the old Yiddish play. Antisemitism, censorship, immigration, assimilation, identity. It is a complex, mature play that feels particularly relevant to everything that is happening in modern-day America. It’s more serious than salacious. It’s less risqué than what is routinely on prime-time TV, or even what has been onstage at Douglas Anderson in the past.

Mary Baer looks back on ‘ride of a lifetime’: 30 years at Channel 4” via Mary Baer of News4Jax — Half my life. I’ve spent half my life on the set in the Channel 4 studios, bringing you the news! It feels like I’ve grown up here. I raised my beautiful daughter here who took her first steps on Jacksonville Beach. I found the love of my life in this city, and I became a grandmother. 30 years of being challenged, inspired, and so grateful to be part of the Channel 4 family. 30 years of laughing along with you at home at the silly stories, crying over the heartbreakers, and breathless over the astonishing moments in history we’ve witnessed together, taking place right before our eyes.

Mary Baer reflects on 30 years of bringing the news to Jacksonville.


Ex-Marco Councilor Victor Rios guilty of fraud, not guilty of forgery in condo election trial” via Dan Glaun of the Naples Daily News — A Collier County jury found former Marco Island City Councilor Rios guilty of fraudulent use of personal information but not guilty of forgery following a three-day trial over his alleged manipulation of a 2019 condo board election. Rios, 80, was convicted of three counts of personal information fraud and cleared of two counts of forging a public record. Each count is a third-degree felony carrying a sentence of up to five years in prison. The court has not yet scheduled a sentencing hearing. Rios was elected to the Marco Island Council in 2014 and resigned mid-term in October 2020, citing “personal reasons.”

Victor Rios was found guilty of fraud, but not forgery. Image via the Marco Eagle.

Building industry lobbyist declines Manatee Administrator job after contract scrutiny” via Ryan Callihan of the Bradenton Herald — Manatee County officials are no longer seeking to hire a new acting County Administrator after negotiations soured with a hand-picked candidate for the job. The Board of County Commissioners voted Tuesday to continue negotiating a contract with Jon Mast, president and chief lobbyist of the Manatee-Sarasota Building Industry Association. But just two days later, board members learned that Mast is no longer interested in the job. The board assigned Commissioner Jason Bearden to enter negotiations with Mast, who has led the BIA since 2015. Earlier this week, Commissioners said they wanted to tweak the proposed contract, which included a higher salary than any previous Administrator.

EEOC clears way for employee’s discrimination lawsuit against Sarasota County Clerk” via Samantha Gholar of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — A recent ruling from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) clears the way for a longtime employee of the Sarasota County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller to sue the county office and its elected leader over alleged employment and racial discrimination over more than a decade. After an investigation, the EEOC issued a right-to-sue notice to clerk’s office employee Joan Bolden last month. The employee and her Tampa-based attorney subsequently filed suit in March alleging there was a culture and pattern of discrimination by both the office and Clerk of Court Karen Rushing. Since 2010, Bolden has filed six employment and discrimination complaints against the Clerk of the Circuit Court with the EEOC.

Dick Longo will not seek full term on Venice City Council” via Earle Kimel of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Venice City Council member Longo said he would not seek re-election for a full term in Seat 2 in November. Longo was unopposed in 2022 in his bid to fill out the remaining year of the current term. Brian Kelly won the 2020 election for the seat but resigned when he moved out of the city in December 2021. Council member Rachel Frank was appointed to fill that vacancy in January 2022 but opted to run unopposed for Seat 6, when Joe Neunder resigned early to run for Sarasota County Commission. When he filed last year, Longo said he might only be interested in filling the seat for a year.


Florida’s Surgeon General played loose with facts about vaccine risk” via The Washington Post editorial board — Last October, Joseph Ladapo made an alarming claim about the mRNA vaccines that have been so vital to protecting people around the world from serious disease and death from the coronavirus.

Ladapo issued a news release declaring that a new analysis by the Florida health department had found an “abnormally high risk of cardiac-related death” among men 18- to 39-years-old within 28 days of receiving the vaccines. He recommended that men in that age group not get the mRNA shots.

The first draft of the Florida analysis concluded there was “no increase” in the risk of cardiac-related deaths from the mRNA vaccine, and by the fifth draft, it still said there was “no increased risk for cardiac mortality following mRNA vaccinations.” But version six, the one edited by Ladapo and released to the public, warned “COVID-19 vaccination was associated with a modestly increased risk for cardiac-related mortality 28 days following vaccination.” The sixth version had a notation that it contained “Dr. L’s edits,” according to POLITICO.

By playing loose with the facts, Ladapo cast doubt on the safety of the coronavirus vaccines. His misdirection contributed to vaccine hesitancy, and that, in turn, led to a higher pandemic death toll. His actions also underscore how anti-vaccine activists create fear and suspicion. Rather than rely upon scientifically sound research, they traffic in half-truths and unsubstantiated declarations. In so doing, Dr. Ladapo betrayed the trust of the people of Florida and the nation.


Republican lawmakers keep sticking it to working people” via The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Ever since Trump won the presidency, the Republican Party has been rebranding itself as a populist friend of working people. But as always, voters should look at what politicians do — not what they say. In Florida, the GOP has overwhelming supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature. They control the Governor’s Mansion and all three Cabinet seats. Republicans in Tallahassee can do whatever they want — and they do. The 2023 Session has been grotesque for many reasons, but when the dust clears, the Session will be remembered for the ways lawmakers punished working people. Every chance they get, they stand with big corporations over little people. Here are three of the most glaring examples.

Developers want permission to destroy historic buildings on Miami Beach. Florida Senate said, OK!” via the Miami Herald editorial board — The Senate passed Senate Bill 1346 with bipartisan support by a 33-6 vote. The real winners would be developers who would bypass local governments and potentially build bigger, taller oceanfront buildings in place of older ones with historic value. It’s as if the legislation were written to overrule Miami Beach’s Historic Preservation Board and efforts to preserve the Art Deco buildings that are the backbone of a profitable tourism industry. On Friday, sponsor Sen. Bryan Avila amended the legislation to create a carve-out that seems to protect St. Augustine’s historic downtown. Miami Beach didn’t get so lucky, even though the scope of the bill became smaller after an outcry from across the state.

Live Local Act a historic advancement for affordable housing” via Mark Hendrickson for Fort Myers News-Press — Wednesday, March 29, 2023, was a historic day for housing in the State of Florida. The Live Local Act, a bill introduced during the 2023 Florida Legislative Session, was officially signed into law by DeSantis. The Live Local Act was a legislative priority of Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, that was sponsored and championed by Sen. Alexis Calatayud in the Senate and Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera in the House, that will help to address Florida’s backlog of affordable, attainable and workforce housing in the state. The Sadowski Coalition, a nonpartisan collection of 42 statewide organizations, has been supportive of the Live Local Act since its introduction, and as the facilitator of the coalition, I’m thankful for that momentous day when the Live Local Act became law.

Banning ‘swipe fees’ threatens Florida consumers” via Sal Nuzzo and Grover Norquist for the Orlando Sentinel — As the state Legislative Session comes to a close, there are several important changes in law that will matter to Florida citizens. One bill would cost Floridians a great deal of time and money. It should be stopped as soon as possible. This bill will limit the benefits and data security that Floridians currently have with their credit and debit cards. Florida Senate Bill 564 and House Bill 677 prohibit an interchange fee, or a service fee for using credit cards and debit cards, from being applied to the full amount of a transaction. This is a government-mandated price control.


— ALOE —

How Chris Pratt and his Marvel castmates rescued their director’s career” via Aaron Couch and Borys Kit of The Hollywood Reporter — On July 20, 2018, Pratt and the rest of the cast were thrown into despair when James Gunn, his close friend and filmmaker of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, had been fired as director of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 after conservative personalities, rankled by his outspoken liberal views on Twitter, resurfaced decade-old tweets. Now Pratt was at church, looking for solace. Listening to the preacher, Pratt was struck with a sense of clarity for the first time since Gunn’s dismissal. Pratt took the lead in organizing an open letter to Disney asking for Gunn to be reinstated. He turned to Kennedy family scion (and his future mother-in-law) Maria Shriver for guidance, producing drafts with the input of the rest of the cast to make sure they all contributed and signed it.

James Gunn gets high-profile backup to save his career.

Leaders support official acknowledgment of Oscar Mack after Kissimmee documentary screening” via Cristóbal Reyes — There is a moment during the documentary “Oscar Mack vs. The Ku Klux Klan” where a great-grandson of the Black postal worker who fled Kissimmee in 1922 after killing two Klansmen, describes his goal for spreading the story. On Saturday, that effort may have begun taking another step, as community leaders who attended a screening of the documentary at the Solid Rock Community Church in Kissimmee vowed to work toward a public acknowledgment of Mack’s encounter with the Klan more than 100 years ago. Among those was Kissimmee City Commissioner Angela Eady, who despite having been born and raised in Osceola County had learned of Mack for the first time inside the church. Following the documentary, which Eady called “jaw-dropping,” she said she would “wholeheartedly” support efforts by the community to publicly memorialize Mack and acknowledge the Klan’s presence in Osceola.


Happy May Day birthday to Stephen Lawson, Julia Mazzone, and Sarah Rumpf.


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.

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