Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.9.23

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

Good Tuesday morning.

Over the weekend, we published our massive list of the Winners and Losers emerging from the 2023 Legislative Session. However, try as we did, there were some people and issues which warranted inclusion on the list. Since some of you may have read the list before we updated it with these additions, highlighted below (you can read the full list here):


Fiona McFarland — After three years of system crashes, the Legislature passed McFarland’s data privacy bill. The legislation blocks smart devices such as audio assistants from collecting data when inactive, provides an opt-out for facial recognition software, and allows consumers to access and correct personal data that gets collected by companies. While the core policy has long enjoyed bipartisan support, there was pushback over what companies it should apply to. McFarland — a matter of days after delivering a baby, no less — hammered out a deal with the Senate and stakeholders that would ensure billion-dollar companies are held to account while exempting small businesses that potentially feared onerous compliance costs. The result, accomplished through amended SB 262, was a bill that cleared both chambers with a near-unanimous vote.

Chris Moya — The Dean Mead lobbyist has built a reputation as one of the top advocates for student-centered educational policy in the state Capitol. He bolstered that reputation in the 2023 Legislative Session, helping shape possibly the most consequential piece of policy signed by the Governor in years: Universal school choice. House Speaker Paul Renner obviously deserves the lion’s share of credit for the transformational education bill, but there’s no denying that Moya’s work over the past decade helped set the stage for HB 1. Meanwhile, charter schools can also thank Moya for his work on bills that clarify their entitlement to local tax initiatives that fund traditional public schools (HB 1259) and state funding for learning pods and private tutoring that will ensure all kids receive an education tailored to their specific learning needs (HB 443). What’s more, Moya’s accomplishments came amid a Session that began only days after his wife, Liz Moya, died after courageously battling multiple sclerosis, breast cancer and pulmonary fibrosis. That he was able to help get these policies across the finish line during a period of intense grief is a testament to his care for, and dedication to, Florida’s children.

Chris Moya is the MVP in 2023’s biggest educational win — universal school choice.

FP&L, Duke, TECO — Investor-owned utilities come out on top nearly every year, and 2023 was no different. Their biggest victory played into the overarching theme of the Legislative Session: Lawsuit restrictions. A provision of a natural disaster bill (SB 250) sponsored by Sen. Jonathan Martin will shield the state’s largest utility companies from lawsuits over power outages in the wake of hurricanes and other natural disasters and, going forward, will put the Public Service Commission in charge of determining whether they are culpable for the negative effects of prolonged power outages — a favorable outcome considering PSC’s historical pro-utility posture.

Palm Coast — Is anyone surprised that the House Speaker’s district came out a winner? No. But we’ll still state their wins for the historical record. The 51-year-old city scored a whopping $54 million in the budget approved by lawmakers, with the chief appropriation being a $25 million check to extend the Matanzas Woods Parkway westward into an area ripe for development. The other big one: $18.4 million for a top-to-bottom makeover for a stretch of Old Kings Road, including widening, beautification, new sidewalks, streetlights, and water quality improvements. The area can also expect to see two new and improved fire stations.

Mixed bag

Airbnb — It wouldn’t be Session without a good ol’ fashioned vacation rental food fight. Some could argue Airbnb is a winner since they did beat back another push to give locals more control over rental regulations. But it came down to the wire — the bill wasn’t declared dead until Day 60, and it only failed because the House overplayed its hand when it kicked the bill back to the upper chamber. This is nothing new, of course. Vacation rental regulations have come down to what’s essentially a coin flip for the past five years, and there’s no indication 2024 will be any different. The probabilities will catch up to them eventually; it’s just a matter of when — or, more realistically, how much cash they want to dump into re-election campaigns and lobby firms to maintain the status quo.

Florida Association of Rehabilitation Facilities — The group went into Session with hopes of a rate increase for providers serving clients in the iBudget Waiver. They got it … kinda. Though the organization lobbied hard for an across-the-board increase, lawmakers weren’t sold and instead chose to boost rates for providers serving clients who meet the level 3 criteria, meaning they have severe behavioral needs. Sure, it’s better than nothing, but it falls far short of outright victory. Here’s hoping FARF can look back on Session through a “glass-half-full” lens while they regroup and begin the push anew next Session.


@BurgessEverett: Nothing final yet but hearing the (Joe) Biden meeting with congressional leaders will be around 4 p.m. tomorrow

@ChristinaPushaw: Again, the corporate media (and the President of Mexico) are intentionally conflating illegal & legal immigration. It’s like they don’t think words have meaning. Insulting level of dishonesty has become normalized

@BenjySarlin: It’s interesting that (Ron) DeSantis’ rivals know that R voters think his Disney fight is Good and rather than helplessly say “What can we do, his voters love him, we’re fucked,” they try to convince those voters his Disney fight is Bad

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:


Florida Chamber 2023 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 2; Special Election in House District 24 — 7; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 8; ‘Fast X’ premieres — 10; Martin Scorsese’s ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ premieres at Cannes — 11; Florida Chamber 2023 Florida Prosperity & Economic Opportunity Solution Summit — 16; NBA Finals begin — 23; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 23; DeSantis to speak at 2023 NCGOP State Convention — 31; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 38; DeSantis to headline Nevada PAC’s annual basque fry — 39; ‘Secret Invasion’ premieres on Disney+ — 43; ‘The Bear’ returns to Hulu — 44; Florida Chamber 2023 Florida Learners to Earners Workforce Solution Summit — 49; ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ premieres — 52; ‘Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning — Part One’ premieres — 66; Florida Chamber 37th Annual Environmental Permitting Summer School — 72; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 77; ’Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 84; Beyoncé’s ‘Renaissance’ tour in Tampa — 98; 2023 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 167; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 181; Ridley Scott’s ‘Napoleon’ premieres — 196; South Carolina Democratic Primary — 262; New Hampshire and Nevada Democratic Primaries — 276; Georgia Democratic Primary — 281; Michigan Democratic Primary — 293; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 304; 2024 Oscars — 306; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 326; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 381; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 444; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 444; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 477; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 490; ‘Deadpool 3’ premieres — 551; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 697; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 724; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 913.


‘Really weak option’: Wall Street sours on Ron DeSantis as Donald Trump challenger” via Sam Sutton and Ben White of POLITICO — DeSantis had been seen as the top pick to lock down the support of financial titans who have already pumped millions into his state campaigns.

But as he stumbles through gaffes over everything from his personal demeanor and stance on Ukraine to his snacking habits, Wall Street donors are keeping the door open to his competitors, according to more than a dozen bankers, attorneys and political consultants interviewed.

“People will change horses,” said Dave Carney, a veteran Republican strategist for both former Bush Presidents. “You may get really excited about somebody and then all of a sudden realize, ‘Eh, not really my cup of tea.’”

Is Wall Street souring on Ron DeSantis?

Where Wall Street puts its money matters because financial industry executives are among the biggest donors in presidential elections. And while bankers and asset managers generally favor lower taxes and lighter-touch regulation, they also value stability and experience — and they spread their money around to candidates of both parties, meaning they’re very much in play in each cycle.

On paper, that should give DeSantis an advantage. People close to Wall Street donors said his national profile and powerhouse fundraising operation which has included support from hedge fund titans like Ken Griffin and Jeff Yass had positioned him as most able to survive a Primary with former President Trump.

DeSantis’ gubernatorial re-election campaign is still loaded with cash, giving him big advantages over possible competitors. But many now say he no longer seems so formidable — at least on Wall Street.

With Trump surging in the polls following his indictment on criminal charges stemming from alleged hush money payments, one executive at a New York bank said confidence in DeSantis’ ability to win is flagging.


>>>DeSantis will hold a press conference at True North Classical School in Miami at 9 a.m. Education Commissioner Manny Diaz and Speaker Paul Renner also expected to attend.

Pro-Ron DeSantis super PAC ramps up hiring into Super Tuesday” via Thomas Beaumont of The Associated Press — The super PAC promoting DeSantis plans to have dozens of staff in place in the first 18 states on the Republican presidential primary calendar in the coming weeks, a move indicating that his expected 2024 announcement is drawing closer. The plans are part of the group Never Back Down’s strategy to begin political organizing for DeSantis all the way through Super Tuesday on March 5 and point to a novel approach the super PAC is attempting ahead of a likely DeSantis run.

DeSantis bets big on his Disney feud” via Natasha Korecki, Dasha Burns and Abigail Brooks of NBC News — DeSantis has heard plenty of warnings from donors, supporters and consultants that he’s foolish for going up against Disney. People love Disney World. Waging this public fight is bad for Florida’s economy. It’s even worse politics, they say. But Republicans who would make up the voter base in a Presidential Primary may see it differently. NBC News interviewed nearly three dozen potential voters, strategists and pollsters, finding a picture of a Primary electorate that is skeptical of Disney and supportive of DeSantis calling out the corporate behemoth.

Disney expands lawsuit to include new DeSantis-backed legislation” via Jacob Bogage and Aaron Gregg of The Washington Post — The Walt Disney Co. on Monday expanded its lawsuit alleging retaliation by DeSantis to include new regulations passed by the state’s legislature that allow officials to nullify development agreements brokered by the entertainment giant. DeSantis, who is weighing a presidential run, signed legislation Friday giving the special board that oversees government services in and around the Walt Disney World Resort the authority to void existing contracts. The law disallows any Florida special district from complying with a development agreement executed within three months of any separate law modifying how Board members are selected.

Disney v. DeSantis heats up even further.

Attendees call POLITICO story claims on DeSantis London event ‘false’” via Lydia Nusbaum of Florida’s Voice — Some meeting attendees called claims in a POLITICO story about DeSantis’ April event in London “false” and “definitely wrong.” DeSantis wrapped up his international trade mission in the United Kingdom after making stops in Japan, South Korea and Israel. Following the Governor’s meeting with business leaders in the United Kingdom, POLITICO published a piece with anonymous sources describing DeSantis as “horrendous” and “low-wattage.” However, some Florida business leaders who attended the meeting said the opposite, characterizing the afternoon as having an “energetic crowd” that was “incredibly impressed” by the Governor.

These 10 books are considered pornography in DeSantis’ Florida” via Judd Legum of Popular Information — DeSantis claimed the notion that Florida engaged in book banning was “a nasty hoax because it’s a hoax in service of trying to pollute and sexualize our children.” But records show the reality is starkly different. Few of the books removed from Florida school libraries were deemed pornographic or sexually explicit. And many books that did receive that label do not meet the definition of pornography — or anything close — under state or federal law. By lumping together books labeled “pornographic, violent, or inappropriate,” and then focusing on books deemed pornographic, DeSantis grossly distorts the percentage of books removed as “pornography.” Just 38 books were removed for violating that state’s pornography law, 22% of the total. Most books were banned for being “inappropriate,” which could mean anything.

One of the books deemed ‘pornography’ in Florida schools.

DeSantis says COVID-19 restrictions put Florida trade missions on pause” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Florida’s missions were put on hiatus because DeSantis didn’t want to deal with testing and vaccination requirements. “We kind of stopped doing them once COVID hit,” DeSantis said. “I just told people, I’m like, ‘I am not testing, I am not doing vaccine passports. If you’re not free, I’m not going there,’ and there was a lot of restrictions and so we just said forget it.” In remarks to the “South Korean Business Community,” DeSantis said people were moving to places like Florida because of the state’s “different approaches to the COVID pandemic where those other states were very restrictive.” South Korea still requires masking in pharmacies and hospitals, and mandates quarantine for symptomatic international travelers.


Chinese influence bill passes Legislature, signed by DeSantis, despite discrimination concerns” via Douglas Soule of USA Today Network — DeSantis has signed a bill into law that targets United States-adversarial countries, but has many Florida Chinese groups worried it will lead to discrimination. “Today is one example of Florida really leading the nation in terms of what we’re doing to stop the influence of the Chinese Communist Party,” DeSantis said at Monday’s news conference in Hernando County. Many of DeSantis’ comments behind the podium Monday appeared geared toward a national audience.

DeSantis signs legislation banning TikTok on government devices, networks” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — DeSantis has made an executive order issued last year permanent by signing a measure banning TikTok and other apps owned in seven hostile nations from government devices and networks. The legislation (SB 258) extends to state and local government agencies, including public universities and colleges, where the installation and use of the apps on government-issued devices and Wi-Fi will either be blocked outright or penalized. While the measure applies to apps made by any of the “foreign countries of concern” identified in state statutes, the Governor in his remarks singled out China, where the companies that own TikTok and the popular WeChat messaging app are headquartered.

To watch remarks at the signing ceremony, please click on the image below:


DeSantis-desired defamation legislation didn’t go the distance. Here’s why” via Douglas Soule of USA TODAY — What DeSantis wants, DeSantis usually gets, at least as far as the Florida Legislature goes. From lowering the death penalty threshold to providing the weapons for his war with Disney, the Governor’s policy priorities have been speedily pushed over the finish line by an obliging Republican supermajority. A notable big exception: a change in Florida’s defamation laws. It never made it out of the Committee process in either chamber. It was perhaps the biggest loss of the Session for a Governor who largely muscled the rest of his agenda through the Legislature in the run-up to a widely expected announcement that he’s running for President. So, what happened?

Pilot program to phase out single-use plastics fails to get traction” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — Doing something about single-use plastics in Florida, and those products’ detrimental effects on the environment, remains a tough task as bills that would do so once again failed to receive Committee hearings during the latest Legislative Session. Rep. Jim Mooney and Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez filed bills (HB 363, SB 336) that would’ve allowed coastal communities to run pilot programs to regulate single-use plastics with an eye toward discouraging their use.

Jim Mooney and Ana Maria Rodriguez hit a roadblock in the fight against single-use plastics.

Proposed regulations for dogs riding in cars that inspired howls are DOA fur-ever” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Legislation that would have turned Fido into a scofflaw for sticking his head out the window in a moving vehicle never made progress, even if it was briefly the bark of the English-speaking world. One aspect of Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book’s 35-page animal welfare bill (SB 932) was picked up in outlets from sea to shining sea and even spilled some ink in British publications. The section would have barred pet owners from letting their dogs stick any body part out a moving vehicle’s window. On behalf of all who have enjoyed the ripple of rushing air through fur, there was outrage.

Sponsor plans to bring back bill blocking hair discrimination despite cut from 2023 agenda” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — The fourth attempt to add those with dreadlocks, cornrows and Afros to the list of those protected from discrimination failed a fourth time this Session, but Democratic Sen. Bobby Powell says he’s undeterred. “We are committed to this legislation,” Powell said. “It’s bound to change the way people look at hair.” The act, known as “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act” or the CROWN Act is part of a national movement that’s been passed in nearly two dozen states and in the U.S. House. It’s aimed at ending bias, shown by studies, toward those who don “Afrocentric hairstyle conditions,” particularly women.


Attorney General Ashley Moody lauds accomplishments, ‘record’ Legislative Session” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — A suite of criminal justice bills passed this year in what Attorney General Moody called “a Legislative Session for the record books.” Her office highlighted at least eight different pieces of legislation and several budget accomplishments that she said are making Florida safer. “We worked hard with our great legislative leaders to pass important public-safety bills that protect human trafficking survivors, punish illicit fentanyl dealers, strengthen bond laws and help allocate the more than $3 billion we secured through our historic opioid litigation,” Moody said.

Fertilizer budget proviso draws conservationists’ ire” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — Conservationists are asking DeSantis to veto a budget proviso that could indicate the Legislature’s intention to weaken local laws restricting fertilizer use. The proviso sends $250,000 to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Science to study the “effectiveness of the timing of seasonal fertilizer restrictions on urban landscapes toward achieving nutrient objectives for waterbodies statewide.” “In a state as large as Florida, $250,000 will be insufficient to effectively fund any program, much less one that would require funding for a full calendar year in order to accurately track changes in waterbodies from season to season,” said James Scott, Chair of the Sierra Club Florida, in the letter.

Jennifer Canady poised to win contentious Speaker’s race, will be first female to lead Florida House” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Canady secured enough support of her fellow first-term Republican House legislators that she is now in line to be Speaker after the 2028 elections. Canady’s apparent victory comes at the end of the 2023 Legislative Session and an intense, behind-the-scenes competition between her, fellow Tampa Bay lawmaker Kevin Steele and northeast Florida’s Jessica Baker that had as many twists and turns as an episode of “Succession.” It was only Thursday night when Baker was thought to be on the precipice of winning after Steele abandoned his own bid and threw in with the Duval Co. lawmaker. Adding to the final hours of intrigue was a concerted effort by DeSantis’ office, specifically Chief of Staff James Uthmeier, to whip votes in support of Canady.

Jennifer Canady brokered her way to become potentially the first woman Florida House Speaker.

Activists start drive to put abortion rights into Florida Constitution” via Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — A coalition seeking to put abortion protections before Florida voters will need to raise millions of dollars, gather nearly 900,000 signatures, get state Supreme Court approval and clear hurdles enacted by the Legislature that have made it harder to amend the state’s constitution. Floridians Protecting Freedom launched a campaign Monday to get an initiative on the 2024 ballot that would bar restrictions on abortion before fetal viability, which is typically defined as about 24 weeks of pregnancy. That measure would block a six-week abortion ban approved by the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature last month and signed into law by DeSantis in a late-night, private ceremony.

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Debt ceiling war raises angst among Floridians” via David Lyons of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The showdown between the Biden administration and Republicans in Congress is about future spending and the spiraling federal deficit. Republicans want the White House to accede to spending cuts as a price for authorizing another increase in the debt ceiling. Ironically, the looming showdown in Washington comes as the job market continues to show strength in the face of the Federal Reserve’s efforts to cool the economy with higher interest rates.

The debt ceiling crisis is drawing concern between Floridians.

Florida Lottery winners collect $10K prizes after being told they were overpaid in unemployment” via Kylie McGivern of ABC Action News — Multiple people presented the same story to the ABC Action News I-Team. They won more than $1,000 from the lottery, only to be told they can’t collect their winnings because they owed money to the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) — that they were overpaid in unemployment benefits. But some never even applied for unemployment and others haven’t received unemployment in years and say they never received a notification they owed money. All are left confused and have struggled to get answers from the state’s unemployment office. Many have discovered they don’t owe DEO anything — and are getting their money back.

State computer outage impacts tax collectors’ motor vehicle services around Florida” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A computer system for the Florida Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles is out for the day. Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano made the issue public with a message to his own constituency. He said the state has informed him all motor vehicle services for the state were out. “The Department has further notified our office that they do not expect the system to be operational for the remainder of the day,” Fasano wrote. “On behalf of the Florida Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles, we apologize for this regrettable situation and for any inconvenience it may cause you. Thank you for your patience during this difficult time.”

Florida gas prices dip again, down 16 cents from 2023 high” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Gas prices in Florida fell 9 cents on average last week to $3.56 per gallon as of Sunday, according to the AAA. Prices have sunk 16 cents from the state’s 2023 high of $3.72 in April. The trend is expected to continue after Broward County recovers from the widespread flooding that took place last month, leading to a shortage of supply. “Florida gas prices should move even lower this week,” said Mark Jenkins, AAA spokesperson. “Pump prices are still coming back down from the spike caused by the flooding in South Florida. Additionally, the oil market suffered its third consecutive week of declines, which should apply more downward pressure on prices at the pump.”

— SKED —

Happening today: Florida Chief Information Officer Jamie Grant is hosting the Florida Digital Government Summit, bringing technology-focused public-sector professionals with leading industry partners to connect on innovative practices, get inspired, and discover recent technologies: 8 a.m., Florida State Conference Center, 555 W. Pensacola St., Tallahassee.

— 2024 —

How Joe Biden’s economic ratings could rebound with voters” via John Cassidy of New Yorker — On Sunday, a new poll showed that Biden’s approval rating had fallen to a new low of 36%, down from 42% in February. Asked whether Biden or Trump did a better job of running the economy, 36% of the respondents said Biden; 54% said Trump. This poll was most likely an outlier; other recent polls have put Biden’s approval ratings in the low forties. But the survey data, taken overall, do illustrate a significant political challenge facing the President as he sets out on the 2024 campaign trail. Job creation is arguably the single most tangible measure of how an economy is faring, and under Biden, it has been consistently strong.

Joe Biden may be poised for a rebound.

‘Approval polling’ shows tight GOP presidential race between Trump, DeSantis” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Though a swath of polling in recent months has shown Trump well ahead of the 2024 Republican pack, one new national survey says the Primary race may be closer than some think. Change Research asked 404 likely 2024 Republican Presidential Primary voters who they “approved” of in its most recent poll, and it seems Florida’s Governor is close behind in that metric. “Overall, 75% would vote for Trump on an approval voting ballot, while 67% would vote for DeSantis, both far higher than any other likely candidate. These numbers make it clear that, even if Trump is currently more voters’ preferred candidate in a head-to-head matchup, DeSantis is still quite popular and should not be written off.”

Senators love Tim Scott, but they’re not ready to endorse him for President” via Scott Wong, Ali Vitali and Stephanie Ruhle of NBC News — Ask almost any Senate Republican, and they’ll tell you they love Scott. They’re just not ready to endorse him for President. As the popular South Carolina Republican prepares to become the first and likely only GOP Senator to launch a 2024 Presidential bid, Senate colleagues are heaping praise on Scott as “terrific,” “top tier” and “engaging,” all while gingerly tiptoeing around the question of whether they will rally behind his candidacy. “I’m a big fan of Tim. He is a good friend of mine,” added Sen. Ted Cruz. “I’m staying out of the race and I’m confident that the voters will decide and make the choice.”

Democratic donors hope to recruit NBA legends Grant Hill and Dwayne Wade to run for Senate in Florida” via Matt Dixon and Jonathan Allen of NBC News — NBA legends Dwyane Wade and Grant Hill have rocketed to the top of the recruitment lists for some Florida Democrats looking for a strong candidate to run against Sen. Rick Scott in 2024. There have been separate active efforts to get both to consider forays into state politics, which have not been driven by either the state or national parties, three sources familiar with the situation said. The party operatives and donors see the need for a moonshot-type candidate to reverse the trend of Republican dominance in the state, in which most recently Gov. Ron DeSantis won re-election by a double-digit margin.


Biden proposes airlines cover passenger expenses for canceled flights” via Ian Duncan and Lori Aratani of The Washington Post — In a reflection of passengers’ growing dissatisfaction after waves of flight cancellations and delays, the Biden administration announced Monday it wants airlines to compensate passengers for travel disruptions. The Transportation Department is launching an effort to set new rules that would guarantee compensation when problems occur that are under airlines’ control. “I know these things may not matter to the very wealthy, but they matter most to middle-class families,” Biden said Monday.

‘Get something done’: Jared Moskowitz calls for field hearing in Parkland on gun violence, red flag laws” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Moskowitz is calling for a congressional field hearing in Parkland to discuss gun violence and how doing something about the problem isn’t the political death sentence some Republicans seem to believe it is. In a letter to Republican U.S. Reps. James Comer and Jim Jordan, who respectively Chair the House Oversight and Accountability Committee and the House Judiciary Committee, Moskowitz pitched the hearing as a potential springboard for constructive, bipartisan change. “We no longer need moments of silence; we need moments of action to protect our children, our communities, and our nation from gun violence,” he wrote.

Jared Moskowitz ramps up the call for Congress to address gun violence.

Most Americans support anti-trans policies favored by GOP, poll shows” via Laura Meckler and Scott Clement of The Washington Post — Clear majorities of Americans support restrictions affecting transgender children, a poll finds, offering political jet fuel for Republicans in State Legislatures and Congress who are pushing measures restricting curriculum, sports participation and medical care. Most Americans don’t believe it’s even possible to be a gender that differs from that assigned at birth. A 57% majority of adults said a person’s gender is determined from the start, with 43% saying it can differ.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Fabian Basabe, Joe Saunders battle over Session’s impact on Miami Beach historic preservation” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Rep. Basabe closed the Legislative Session attacking the Mayor of his district’s largest city and boasting about preemption. The Miami Beach Republican sent out a letter to constituents claiming Republican supermajorities did them a favor by restricting local land development decisions. That boast came despite Basabe backing legislation widely seen as a giveaway to developers, but the lawmaker cast it differently. “MIAMI BEACH HAS BEEN SAVED,” Basabe wrote in all caps to kick off a letter to constituents. He goes on to paint local politics in dire terms.

Joe Saunders and Fabian Basabe face off over Maimi Beach preservation.

Miami-Dade County Commissioners want to ban candidate faces from bus ads. Exception: Their own” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade Commissioners endorsed legislation strengthening the ban on county bus ads featuring candidates running for office but with one notable exception: Miami-Dade Commissioners running for office. The county already bans campaign ads from Metrorail trains, buses and bus benches. Legislation filed by Commissioner Juan Carlos Bermudez would close a loophole on that restriction by also prohibiting ads that aren’t officially political but include a photo of an active candidate, such as one promoting the business of someone running for office. At Monday’s meeting of the Board’s Policy Committee, Anthony Rodriguez, the Commission’s Vice Chair, raised a concern that the Bermudez resolution would cover county advertisements with photos of incumbents in them.

Two incumbents seek to repel challengers for Sweetwater City Commission” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Four candidates, two incumbents and two challengers, are seeking four-year terms on the Sweetwater Commission. Voters will choose which among them they prefer Tuesday in the city’s biennial election. Two races this year were already decided in March, when Mayor-elect Jose “Pepe” Diaz and Commission President Saul Díaz won unopposed. That left only the races for the Group 5 and 7 seats on the Commission undecided. Every candidate running, according to their filings with the city, is licensed to carry a concealed firearm.

Randy Fine got so angry he launched a political career. What upset him? A math problem.” via Antonio Fins of the Palm Beach Post — The Brevard County Republican State Representative stands out among the top woke warriors in Florida. Last year, he sponsored the original legislation to punish Walt Disney World by taking away its self-governing powers. This year, he insisted that if it requires “erasing a community” — referring to the LGBTQ+ people — to protect children then “damn right, we ought to do it.” Fine said that he’s an example of an “angry” citizen who entered the political arena because he got fed up. So, what is it that made Fine so angry that he launched a political career that could morph into the presidency at Florida Atlantic University? A math problem.

FEMA sets up Fort Lauderdale station to help flood victims” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — South Florida residents still struggling with damage to their homes and cars after last month’s flood have another way to apply for financial relief: the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has opened a temporary shop in Fort Lauderdale. The FEMA Disaster Recovery Center at Hortt Park, 1700 SW 14th Court, is available to the public from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. It launched on Monday and will remain for a time still to be determined. “FEMA is working to meet survivors where they are,” said agency spokesperson John Mills.

Miami Herald editorial board wins Pulitzer for ‘Broken Promises’ series on civic letdowns” via Jeff Kleinman of the Miami Herald — The Miami Herald won a Pulitzer Prize on Monday for a series of editorials that shines light on unfulfilled and forgotten promises to improve the community. The Pulitzer for editorial writing recognized “Broken Promises” a series that focused on vows from the powerful — politicians and developers — to build parks, revive historic but struggling neighborhoods and boost transportation. The series showed how voters were let down over and over again in South Florida.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Accused ‘ghost’ candidate in Osceola County Commission race arrested” via Natalia Jaramillo of the Orlando Sentinel — Carlos Irizarry, a former Kissimmee City Commissioner accused of being a “ghost” candidate in the 2022 District 4 race for Osceola County Commission, was arrested. Jackie Espinosa, a candidate who ran in the 2022 District 4 race filed a lawsuit in September accusing Irizarry, 67, of being paid to run in a scheme to steal Hispanic votes, allowing the incumbent, Cheryl Greib, to retain her seat. In December, a judge in Osceola County dismissed the suit because Irizarry lived outside the district so he could not be defined as an “elector” in the race. Florida law only allows an election to be overturned due to a bribe to an “elector, election official, or canvassing board member,” the judge wrote.

Carlos Irizarry gets arrested over the ‘ghost candidate’ scandal.

Candidates lining up for appointment as District 5 County Commissioner to fill vacancy” via Tyler Vazquez and Dave Berman of Florida Today — An extended vacancy on the Brevard County Commission is raising questions over who — if anyone — DeSantis will choose to fill the empty seat on the dais and work on behalf of South Brevard’s District 5 voters. The seat was left vacant by the March resignation of County Commission Vice Chair Kristine Zonka, a Republican. She left her Commission seat after being selected by DeSantis to become administrator of the Florida Department of Health in Brevard, a position she assumed in April. Among the candidates who have applied for the appointment are a former state legislator, Zonka’s Chief of Staff, the longtime Mayor of West Melbourne and a former County Commission candidate in a different district.

SeaWorld Orlando unveils Howl-O-Scream ticket offer” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — SeaWorld Orlando has introduced a flash sale for Howl-O-Scream, its after-hours, haunted house Halloween event. The discounted price is $36.99 per ticket for a Howl-O-Scream evening, and at least two tickets must be purchased to get that price. SeaWorld’s website lists the regular price as $114.99. This offer ends May 14. It has no block-out dates. Howl-O-Scream 2023 launches Sept. 8 and follows a Friday-through-Sunday schedule through September, then adds Thursday evenings as well in October before wrapping up Oct. 31. No themes have yet been announced for its haunted-house lineup. It’s the third year for Howl-O-Scream at SeaWorld Orlando, which also holds a daytime event with trick-or-treating called Halloween Spooktacular. It begins on Sept. 16.

Disney World bringing back Dining Plan, changing park reservations in 2024” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Walt Disney World will loosen up its park reservations policy again, add “good-to-go” days for annual passholders and reinstitute the Disney Dining Plan in 2024, the resort announced. Starting next year, Disney World’s annual passholders and its employees will be privy to a set of “good-to-go” days, meaning no reservations will be required on those dates for select theme parks. These will be in addition to the recently instituted ability for passholders to go to parks after 2 p.m. without reservations on most days. No dates for the “good-to-go” days were announced, and more will be added beyond the first batch eventually revealed, Disney said.

NASA’s hurricane-tracking satellites finally make it to orbit after Space Coast failure” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — A NASA satellite constellation called TROPICS that should give scientists better hurricane information is back on track after a successful liftoff from New Zealand nearly a year after its first two satellites were lost during a Space Coast launch failure. Astra Space suffered a problem with their Rocket 3.3 during a launch from Cape Canaveral last summer, so NASA pivoted to Rocket Lab, which decided to line up two launches this May to try to put up the remaining four satellites in the project. NASA’s Launch Service Program confirmed it had made contact with the first two that flew up on the Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket from its Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula.


Tampa City Council member Lynn Hurtak’s home searched by FBI” via Justin Garcia of the Tampa Bay Times — As of 3 p.m. Monday, seven agents were moving in and out of the property. They arrived around 6 a.m. The agents would not tell the Times why they were there or say what law enforcement agency they represented. But an FBI spokesperson confirmed that an authorized search was conducted. Hurtak is married to Tim Burke, a nationally recognized former journalist who runs a media business. She deferred questions to him. Burke said that the agents were there because they had a search warrant with his name. They spent the day taking his personal devices and the devices he uses for business, he said. He said that they wouldn’t speak to him, and he declined to share a copy of the search warrant.

Tim Burke sees the business end of a search warrant. Image via WFLA.

Former St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor to lead Foundation for a Healthy St. Pete” via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — Former St. Petersburg deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin was named today as the new CEO and president of the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg. Tomalin’s eight-year stint as the city’s No. 2 under Mayor Rick Kriseman included four years as city administrator. She will join the nonprofit in June when she steps down from her current position as Eckerd College’s chief operating officer and vice president for strategy. “We are thrilled that Dr. Tomalin will lend her tremendous experience and expertise to lead this organization into its next chapter,” said Donna Petersen, Chair of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees.

Port Tampa Bay taps Ryan Fierst as new VP of legal affairs” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Veteran lawyer Fierst will serve as Port Tampa Bay’s new Vice President of Legal Affairs, CEO Paul Anderson announced. Fierst has more than 20 years of experience in law, public policy and government, previously working as counsel for the U.S. House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill. Fierst has also previously served as a legislative director for two members of Congress representing Central Florida. She also previously served as the public policy director and legislative counsel for the Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

Jeff Brandes endorses Chris Scherer for Pinellas County Commission” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Former state Sen. Brandes is offering his support for Scherer in the race for Pinellas County Commission District 1. Scherer is a small-business owner and homebuilder running to succeed incumbent Janet Long, who is not seeking re-election. Long is a Democrat. Scherer and Brandes are Republicans. “I spent my time in office fighting to keep Florida affordable, eliminating big government regulations and ensuring places like Pinellas County have access to affordable property insurance,” Brandes said.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Daniel Davis political committee tops $1.7M raised in April” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Money continues to go the way of Davis in the race for Jacksonville Mayor. In April, the candidate’s Building a Better Economy political committee raised more than $1.71 million. This was the single best month of fundraising for the Davis committee of all time. Davis’ political committee closed April with roughly $940,000 on hand, having spent nearly $1.47 million in the same month. More than $1 million of that money went to the Duval County Republican Executive Committee for ad buys.

Daniel Davis makes serious bank in April.

Federal agents execute search warrant at JinkoSolar plant in Jacksonville” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — The federal Homeland Security Investigations executed a search warrant Monday at JinkoSolar on Jacksonville’s Westside, a day before City Council is scheduled to vote on taxpayer incentives for expansion of the plant that has made solar panels in Jacksonville since it opened in 2018. Federal authorities did not detail the reason for the search warrant by Homeland Security Investigations, which is the main investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “That’s part of an ongoing federal investigation,” said HSI spokesperson Mike Meares.

Underage drinking in college town: How strictly should police, prosecutors enforce laws?” via Fresh Take Florida — It is a public policy choice by law enforcement and prosecutors that weighs the risks of underage and excessive drinking against prosecuting first-time offending young adults for behaviors common on college campuses. Now when students are caught by police, the State Attorney’s Office diverts such cases to a program of public service or charitable contributions to avoid a stain on students’ criminal records when they are first-time, nonviolent offenders. “We simply ask officers not to arrest,” the elected State Attorney Bryan Kramer said. He estimated thousands of cases have been steered into the office’s diversion program. “The intent of the program is to prevent the creation of a criminal record for first-time offenders who — have in mind — are nonviolent,” Kramer said.


North Port Commissioner claims City Manager’s actions violated city charter, his contract” via Earle Kimel of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Tension between North Port City Commissioner Debbie McDowell and City Manager Jerome Fletcher is nothing new, but it will reach a new level Tuesday. That’s when the board will publicly discuss allegations by McDowell that Fletcher may have exceeded his authority in several actions, including allegedly urging state legislators to back-burner an effort to have Warm Mineral Springs placed on a list of outstanding Florida springs. On April 25, McDowell hand-delivered a four-page complaint with 38 pages of backup to Human Resources Director Christine McDade and City Attorney Amber Slayton detailing eight instances where she felt Fletcher acted in violation of either the city charter or his employment contract.

Debbie McDowell and Jerome Fletcher rarely see eye to eye.

Funds to widen Laurel Road in Northeast Venice await Governor’s approval” via Earle Kimel of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — About $8 million from the state of Florida to help pay for the widening of Laurel Road between Knights Trail Road and Jacaranda Boulevard is part of the state budget awaiting the Governor’s signature. That’s one of several key points that representatives of Neal Communities will deliver to the Venice City Council Tuesday. Maryann Grgic, a spokesperson for Neal Communities, said Friday that $8 million was included in the budget state lawmakers approved — totaling roughly $117 billion — that DeSantis will sign in the coming weeks. But until he signs off, the possibility of a line-item veto of the allocation will loom.

North Port to revisit forbidding temporary FEMA mobile homes on single-family lots” via Earle Kimel of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — A North Port family forced to live in their Hurricane Ian-damaged home because the city refused to allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to put a two-bedroom trailer on their property can temporarily call an apartment at home as they await a judge’s decision on their lawsuit over the trailer issue. Jeffrey Rapkin filed a suit in circuit court on April 26 asking a judge to compel the city to allow FEMA to put the trailer on his property. “We’re in great shape. FEMA, I couldn’t say enough wonderful things about them. They found us a little two-bedroom place,” Rapkin said of the Toledo Club Apartments unit. “It’s clean and there isn’t any mold and there’s no holes in the ceiling.”


DeSantis’ Disney attacks are pointless political pantomime” via Megan McArdle of The Washington Post — Once upon a time, politicians and corporations held an uneasy truce.

Sure, if politicians threatened a firm’s bottom line, the business would fight back. But there were limits: Companies tended to conduct these battles politely, for fear of offending regulators who held a great deal of power over them, or customers who might disagree with them. And they did not pick fights on matters that didn’t directly affect their profits.

Sometime in the past decade, that truce broke down.

Conservatives are understandably unhappy with the new “woke capital” and eager for their politicians to push back. Hence the ongoing fracas between Disney and the Florida GOP, which started with Disney offering a mild criticism of Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act (better known to residents of blue states as the “Don’t Say Gay” law) and has now escalated to a lawsuit in which Disney accuses DeSantis and other state officials of retaliating against the company for its constitutionally protected political expression.

The lawsuit is an excellent illustration of the merits of the old truce: Disney’s criticism of the law achieved nothing except attracting the ire of Republican politicians who were spoiling for a fight. But it is also an excellent illustration of why Republicans keep failing to restore the truce, because they have gone about these fights in the dumbest possible way.

One can imagine an equilibrium where Florida politicians said such things for the cameras, and then backstage came to a quiet understanding: You stay out of the culture war, we’ll let you run Reedy Creek how you like. Would such a bargain be a tad corrupt? Yes. Would it undermine norms of free speech that ought to be upheld? Also, yes.


Why Biden needs a Primary challenger” via Peter Beinart in The New York Times — To understand why progressives should challenge Biden in the upcoming Democratic Presidential Primary, remember what happened during the last one. When Bernie Sanders exited the 2020 race — after winning more than 1,000 delegates — he cashed in his votes for public policy clout. Sanders’ supporters joined Biden’s allies in working groups that crafted a common agenda on the economy, education, health care, criminal justice, immigration and climate change. One hundred days after he took office, The New York Times concluded that he had “moved leftward with his party, and early in his tenure is driving the biggest expansion of American government in decades.” Sanders didn’t only change Biden’s candidacy. He also made him a better President.

DeSantis World will not tolerate deviation from the party line via Diane Roberts of the Florida Phoenix — A lot of people are scared. Scared of ideas, scared of books, scared of the human body, scared of education. Scared of educators. When people get scared, they resort to bullying. The trustees of New College, the cadre of reactionaries recently imposed by the Governor, have denied tenure to five longtime faculty members. The professors — two chemists, a specialist in Islam, a marine biologist, and a scholar of Latin American music — had met the publishing, teaching and service requirements for tenure; they’d been approved by their departments, their deans, and the college provost. But New College is now an arm of DeSantis’ presidential campaign, and these people need to be examined for signs of “wokeness.”

We’re all better off ‘woke’ in DeSantis’ Florida” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Have you noticed? DeSantis doesn’t smile enough. His brand is anger, especially at anything he can ridicule as “woke.” Disney is “woke.” Diversity is “woke.” His obsession to cleanse Florida classrooms of discussions of racism was the “Stop W.O.K.E. Act.” He took over New College of Florida because it was “woke.” He suspended Tampa State Attorney Andrew Warren because his policies were “woke.” Florida “is where ‘woke’ goes to die,” he says. This four-letter word has lost much of its punch, purely from overuse. But it really doesn’t matter whether people have any idea of what “woke” means — just that it sounds bad.

Vendetta off the rails? DeSantis protects Floridians from Disney monorail” via Frank Cerabino of the Palm Beach Post — Thank you, Gov. DeSantis, for taking aim at a real safety issue in Florida. I’m talking about the Disney World monorail system, of course. Since 1971, this most heavily used monorail system in the world has delivered about 50 million people a year safely to destinations in the park. So, it’s way overdue for a screw-up. As we know, there are three serious health and welfare issues that are gripping the state, issues that require quick government action. They are getting more untrained Floridians out in public places with loaded guns; banning abortions to women before they realize they are pregnant; and seizing control of the Walt Disney World monorail. Check. Check. And check.


— ALOE —

Florida university graduates share inspiring personal stories” via Fresh Take Florida — One had been a homeless, high school dropout. Another overcame a serious disability. Another just learned English a few years ago. Graduates of Florida’s universities share their inspiring personal stories as they walk across the stage with their diplomas this month. Charlie Doane lives his life using only one hand. For him, every challenge is an opportunity to adapt. Doane, 22, has hemiplegic cerebral palsy that affects his right side. He doesn’t let his disability define him, he said. He has become an advocate. As he graduates from Florida State University (FSU) this month with a degree in business management, he will soon step into a consumer creations operations role at Nike — a company whose shoes changed his life.

Submerged island off Florida reveals secret: Civil War-era cemetery” via Livia Albeck-Ripka of The New York Times — Joshua Marano was flying over the Gulf of Mexico in the summer of 2016 when he noticed a strange pattern in the water. Marano, a maritime archaeologist with the National Park Service, consulted some old nautical charts, expecting he might find the ruins of a lighthouse or beacon. Instead, he found a whole island. The island, about 70 miles west of Key West, had long since been submerged and eroded by rising tides and storms. But Marano’s research revealed that it had once held a quarantine hospital and cemetery for those stationed at Fort Jefferson, a Civil War-era military fortress in the Dry Tortugas National Park. “There was dry land here at one point,” Marano said.

‘Oppenheimer’ new three-minute trailer reveals scope of Christopher Nolan nuke epic” via James Hibberd of The Hollywood Reporter — A new trailer for Nolan’s Oppenheimer reveals more story details and characters from the biographical drama chronicling the development of the first atomic bomb. The trailer — which was first shown at CinemaCon and then revealed in theaters before Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 — shows scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) teaming with General Leslie Groves Jr. (Matt Damon) to assemble a team of scientists during World War II as they try and beat the Nazis in harnessing the destructive power of nuclear energy.

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

Disney World bringing back Dining Plan, changing park reservations in 2024” via DeWayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Walt Disney World will loosen up its park reservations policy again, add “good-to-go” days for annual passholders and reinstitute the Disney Dining Plan in 2024, the resort announced Monday. Starting next year, Disney World’s annual passholders and its employees will be privy to a set of “good-to-go” days, meaning no reservations will be required on those dates for select theme parks. These will be in addition to the recently instituted ability for passholders to go to parks after 2 p.m. without reservations on most days. No dates for the “good-to-go” days were announced Monday, and more will be added beyond the first batch eventually revealed, Disney said.

Mother’s Day expected to be big for retailers, survey says” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Mother’s Day is expected to be a lucrative holiday for retailers as consumers are planning to spend nearly $35.7 billion this year, a record-breaking amount. Spending on this year’s holiday is expected to increase by nearly $4 billion this year compared to last year’s Mother’s Day, according to the annual National Retail Federation (NRF), the world’s largest retail trade association, and Prosper Insights & Analytics. “Consumers plan to spend $274.02 per person, the highest in the history of the survey and up from the previous record high of $245.76 in 2022,” the federation said in a news release.


Best wishes to Erica Chanti of Rubin Turnbull & Associates, our former colleague Renzo Downey, St. Petersburg City Council member Brett Gerdes, and political consultant Greg Keller.


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

Peter Schorsch

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


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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

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

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