Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.22.23

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Your morning must-read of what you need to know in Florida politics.

Good Monday morning.

Florida Politics Rising Stars Julie Fazekas and Jack Rogers tied the knot this weekend in Highlands, North Carolina.

The two fell in love working on Putnam’s campaign in 2018 while also falling in love with The Process.

Julie Fazekas and Jack Rogers fell in love with The Process — and each other.

A few campaign cycles and thousands of miles on I-75 and I-10 later, they settled in Florida’s Capital City together. Julie works at Red Hills Strategies, a policy-focused communications firm, and Jack is in legislative affairs at the Florida Department of Transportation.

Julie, who is a master of details and event planning, demonstrated her skills in pulling together the perfect mountain wedding weekend.

Cheers to Mr. and Mrs. Rogers!


Congratulations to Melissa Stone and her Tallahassee-based public affairs and political consulting firm Cavalry Strategies; the former Chief of Staff for Gov. Rick Scott was named one of the 100 fastest-growing Longhorn businesses in 2023 by Texas Exes, an alumni group of the Ex-Students Association of The University of Texas.

The Longhorn 100 identifies, recognizes, and celebrates the success of the 100 fastest-growing Longhorn-owned or led businesses in the world.

Recipients were honored this week at a special annual awards event, which offers an opportunity to expand networks with business leaders, inspire fellow Longhorns, and raise awareness of the entrepreneurship that starts on UT’s “Forty Acres.”

Congratulations to Melissa Stone and all the others honored as the Longhorn 100. Image via UT Texas Exes.


Ballard Partners claimed the top spot in quarterly lobbying compensation last quarter, netting more than $7.4 million from its 200-plus clients.

New compensation reports show the team led by firm founder and President Brian Ballard collected $4.14 million lobbying the Legislature and another $3.29 million lobbying the executive branch during the January through March reporting period. The haul represents a $1.4 million boost over Q1 2022.

Ballard Partners came out on top, again.

Ballard Partners was the top-earning firm overall last year, though The Southern Group kept it close and even sneaked past Ballard in Q4. TSG remained a fierce competitor in Q1, reporting $7.08 million in receipts from nearly 300 clients.

The firm, led by founder Paul Bradshaw, showed an estimated $4.37 million in legislative lobbying pay — more than any other firm on that side of the fence — and an additional $2.71 million in executive lobbying pay. Like Ballard, The Southern Group’s Q1 incomes show signs of growth, increasing 5% quarter-over-quarter and 20% year-over-year.

Capital City Consulting held steady at the No. 3 spot with more than $6.2 million — another high watermark in quarterly pay.

Founded by Nick Iarossi and Ron LaFace, the firm represented over 250 clients in Q1, collecting an estimated $3.16 million in legislative lobbying fees and an additional $3.07 million in executive branch lobbying fees. The combined total is 36% higher than in Q1 2022.

GrayRobinson remained in the No. 4 spot with just over $3 million in Q1 earnings. The team led by Dean Cannon represented more than 180 clients, posting a $1.63 million report in the Legislature and adding another $1.38 million lobbying the executive branch. Like the rest of the Top 5, GrayRobinson’s quarterly tallies have ratcheted up over the past year — firm revenues are up about 10% compared to Q1 2022.


Tweet, tweet:

@PeterHotez: If ⁦⁦Wash Post report is accurate: By next week 2 major U.S. presidential candidates will run on an anti-science agenda, portraying American scientists as public enemies. 2 national campaigns based entirely on lies + disregard for our national security

@PBump: Planting a flag here: if (Gov. Ron) DeSantis doesn’t get real traction after his launch, he’s in deep trouble and potential benefactors will start scrambling for a replacement.

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@JaneCastor: As Mayor of Tampa, I can absolutely assure anyone and everyone considering a visit or move to Tampa that they will be welcomed with open arms. Diversity and inclusion are central to what makes Tampa one of America’s greatest and friendliest cities. That will never change, regardless of what happens in Tallahassee.

@ChristinaPushaw: Yes. Keep the travel advisories coming. It’s hard enough to get a dinner reservation in this town.

_@RyanBenk: Would be really funny if Disney decided to really go hard in its fight in Florida and just do a full-on blockbuster film version of Bare: A Pop Opera. Set it in a Fl boarding school and do the premiere in Tally

@TiaReports: The “I pay $8 a month for the features” crowd is some of the worst people on the internet. Just one bad take after another. And I hate that when I log on, because of the “for you” tab, we get exposed to them.

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Florida Chamber 2023 Florida Prosperity & Economic Opportunity Solution Summit — 4; NBA Finals begin — 10; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 10; DeSantis to speak at 2023 NCGOP State Convention — 18; The 2023 Tonys — 20; Disney and Pixar’s ‘Elemental’ premieres — 25; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 25; DeSantis to headline Nevada PAC’s annual basque fry — 26; ‘Secret Invasion’ premieres on Disney+ — 30; ‘The Bear’ returns to Hulu — 31; Florida Chamber 2023 Florida Learners to Earners Workforce Solution Summit — 36; ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ premieres — 39; ‘Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning — Part One’ premieres — 53; Florida Chamber 37th Annual Environmental Permitting Summer School — 59; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 64; ’Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 71; Beyoncé’s ‘Renaissance’ tour in Tampa — 85; Florida House Fall 2023 Interim Committee Meetings begin — 119; Martin Scorsese’s ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ premieres — 137; 2023 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 154; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 168; Ridley Scott’s ‘Napoleon’ premieres — 183; Florida’s 2024 Regular Session begins — 232; South Carolina Democratic Primary — 249; New Hampshire and Nevada Democratic Primaries — 263; Georgia Democratic Primary — 268; Michigan Democratic Primary — 280; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 291; 2024 Oscars — 293; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 313; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 368; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 431; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 431; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 464; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 477; ‘Deadpool 3’ premieres — 538; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 684; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 711; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 900.


Joe Biden bets Ron DeSantis’ ‘Florida blueprint’ will help him flip the Sunshine State and win re-election” via Edward-Isaac Dovere of CNN — Biden advisers believe they can hold up what the GOP Governor calls his “Florida blueprint” as a warning to the country about what would happen if DeSantis or any other Republican wins the White House in 2024 — a human embodiment, essentially, of Biden’s argument that “MAGA extremism” goes beyond Donald Trump. And along the way, they believe the Florida Governor’s record may give them a chance at the state’s 30 electoral votes.

The Biden campaign has quietly started putting campaign cash and efforts into Florida — and will decide in the coming months whether to put more — as it gauges the President’s chances of reversing the reddening of a state he lost by a wider-than-expected margin in 2020.

Ron DeSantis’ ‘Florida Blueprint’ may help Joe Biden get re-elected. Image via AP.

A dozen top Biden and Democratic officials told CNN they’re raring to dig in on DeSantis’ championing of abortion restrictions, his ongoing fight with Disney stemming from the company’s opposition to what critics have called the “Don’t Say Gay” law, his lifting of concealed weapons permitting, his crackdown on unlawful immigration and his consistent railing over “woke” politics.

It’s an insurance policy strategy for a campaign that has so far almost exclusively focused on Biden as the alternative to Trump, who continues to lead Republican Primary polls and whom DeSantis has already spent months trying to knock out of the way.

One Biden adviser mused to CNN that while DeSantis may feel untouchable because of how right-wing Republicans have embraced his contrarian approach to navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, memories of that will have faded by next year.


Why DeSantis should hope he’s the second coming of John McCain” via Steven Shepard of POLITICO — There are a few examples from which DeSantis can learn: The best case is McCain, who faded away in the polling only to surge again and win the nomination. How far has DeSantis fallen? According to RealClearPolitics, his peak in national polling came four months ago when he nudged above 31% on average. Today, his national polling average has dipped just below 20%, the lowest since RCP started tracking last November. Can DeSantis come back? The modern Presidential Primary system is only 50 years old and the volatility we’ve become used to is newer than that. DeSantis’ reported focus on Iowa suggests he will seek to outwork Trump in the early states. The early states — McCain finished first in New Hampshire and South Carolina, and second to Mitt Romney in Michigan — were rocket fuel for the Arizonan’s campaign.

DeSantis set to announce his presidential candidacy from Dunedin — but where?” via Mitch Perry of Florida Phoenix — DeSantis expects to announce his candidacy for President after Memorial Day and from his hometown of Dunedin but how much do people know about Dunedin? It’s a city of about 36,000 residents, based on U.S. Census data. It’s about 90% White. There’s more females than men. Dunedin sits in Northern Pinellas County, the more conservative part of what has been considered a politically moderate county. It has been considered one of the bellwether counties in the country when it comes to presidential elections.

Dunedin is the place, but exactly where is yet to be seen. Image via AP.

DeSantis skirts abortion ban even when speaking to his base” via Nicholas Nehamas of The New York Times — DeSantis could not have asked for a friendlier venue to highlight the sweeping six-week abortion ban he signed: an annual gala hosted by a deeply conservative Christian group that welcomed him with a sustained standing ovation and provided a bagpiper in full Highland regalia playing “Amazing Grace.” But instead of taking a victory lap, DeSantis breezed through remarks on Florida’s abortion law, one of the most restrictive in the nation. His rhetoric was far less soaring than that of other speakers, including one who compared abortion to slavery, suggesting it was an evil that should be totally eliminated. DeSantis’ brief comments on abortion underscore his general hesitancy to speak about the issue in visits to key states ahead of his upcoming presidential run.

DeSantis more likely to ‘double down’ than pivot as he enters presidential race” via Alex Roarty of the Miami Herald — After emerging from last year’s Midterm Elections as GOP voters’ undisputed top alternative to Trump, DeSantis has faced a torrent of criticism from fellow Republicans questioning his political judgment on issues like his feud with the Walt Disney corporation and the delayed launch of his White House campaign. Even some allies and donors have called for him to recalibrate his approach or relent on some of his past positions lest his campaign fizzle before it officially begins. But a pivot isn’t coming anytime soon. Instead, DeSantis plans to double down on his past positions, confident that recent history proves he and his political operation are better attuned to the values and desires of the average Republican voter than their critics and doubters.

—”DeSantis is about to run for President. Andrew Warren has a warning.” via Liz Skalka of HuffPost

DeSantis meets Chris Sununu as he visits New Hampshire ahead of 2024 launch” via Hannah Knowles of The Washington Post — DeSantis met for an hour Friday with Sununu ahead of his campaign launch as he swung through the first-in-the-nation Primary state. Sununu, who is seriously considering a Presidential bid and has urged the GOP to move on from Trump, has also recently criticized some of DeSantis’s policy moves, including the Governor’s still-escalating battle with Disney, which Sununu and some other Republicans consider at odds with “free market” conservatism. But Sununu nodded to common ground with DeSantis during a brief interview Friday after their meeting.

DeSantis meets Chris Sununu and takes part in some retail politics in New Hampshire. Image via AP.

The Casey DeSantis problem: ‘His greatest asset and his greatest liability’” via Michael Kruse of POLITICO — For some time now she’s been seen mostly and by many as an absolute superstar of a political spouse, a not so “secret weapon” — an antidote for her sometimes awkward husband, social in a way that he is not, charismatic in a way that he is not, generally and seemingly at ease in the spotlight in a way that he so often and so evidently is not. Others who have worked with her or around her have nodded more quietly to the downsides of the starring part that she plays. “She is both his biggest asset and his biggest liability. And I say biggest asset in that I think she does make him warmer, softer,” Dan Eberhart, a DeSantis donor and supporter, told me. “But he needs to be surrounded with professional people, not just her.”

Top DeSantis adviser has charted a lucrative path in GOP” via Josh Dawsey and Isaac Stanley-Becker of The Washington Post — Last year, the political consultant now leading a super PAC dedicated to helping DeSantis in a soon-to-be-announced Presidential bid was hunting for investment in his booming company, Axiom Strategies. To convince investors that they should give him $25 million, Axiom founder Jeff Roe presented a startling statistic about how his firm makes money.

Air DeSantis: The private jets and secret donors flying him around” via Alexandra Berzon and Rebecca Davis O’Brien of The New York Times — DeSantis, who is expected to formally announce his candidacy next week, is hardly the first politician to take advantage of the speed and comfort of a Gulfstream jet. Candidates and officeholders in both parties have long accepted the benefits of a donor’s plane as worth the political risk of appearing indebted to special interests or out of touch with voters. But ethics experts said the travel and specifically the role of the nonprofit shows how DeSantis’ prolonged candidate-in-limbo status has allowed him to work around rules intended to keep donors from wielding secret influence. As a declared federal candidate, he would face far stricter requirements for accepting and reporting such donations.

— MORE 2024 —

National poll puts DeSantis 42 points behind Donald Trump” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The most recent survey from Harvard-Harris, conducted May 17 through May 19, shows the Governor 42 points behind Trump, 58% to 16%. Despite DeSantis’ doldrums, he’s well ahead of the trio tied for third: Nikki Haley, Mike Pence and Vivek Ramaswamy all have 4% support. There is some good news in the survey. After Trump, DeSantis is the runaway “second choice,” up 41% to 14% over the former Vice President. DeSantis scored 16% in other recent polling. A survey of 436 likely GOP Primary voters conducted April 24-27 by McLaughlin and Associates shows DeSantis mustering 16% in a crowded field. An Emerson College poll has DeSantis 46 points behind Trump, 62% to 16%. The RealClearPolitics polling average pegs DeSantis at just under 20%.

—“Republican mega-donor dumps Trump to back DeSantis for president in 2024” via Carl Campanile of the New York Post

—“Former Trump lawyer describes conflict inside legal team” via Alan Feuer and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times

—“Trump: ‘Even Andrew Cuomo did better’ than DeSantis on COVID” via Ernesto Sampera of Florida’s Voice

Pro-Trump ad calls DeSantis ‘Ron DeSalesTax’” via Grayson Bakich of The Floridian — Sung to the tune of “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” the ad focuses on the “Fair Tax” law pushed by DeSantis during his time in Congress. While it would cut multiple forms of taxation, the “Fair Tax” system would impose a 23% sales tax hike, lampooned in the ad as “Ron DeSalesTax had a plan- to make you pay more.” Former DeSantis Press Secretary Bryan Griffin called the ad “dishonest” and pointed to positive aspects of the Fair Tax law pushed by DeSantis, including disbanding the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Moreover, Griffin highlighted Florida’s tax climate as an impetus for the Sunshine State being the country’s fastest-growing state in 2022, with one resident being none other than Trump himself.

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

DeSantis’ weakness as Trump slayer has GOP rivals smelling blood” via Charlie Mathesian of POLITICO — DeSantis’ Disney jihad and his Ukraine-is-a-territorial-dispute stumble have undermined his aura of competence among donors and the business community. Trump’s relentless attacks — none of them answered — and his drumbeat of abuse have left the two-term Governor bruised. Far from projecting strength, DeSantis suddenly appears to be a candidate who’s thrived in a protective cocoon, isolated from media scrutiny, and surrounded by a compliant Legislature afraid to test him. On the eve of his launch, DeSantis now confronts the perception that he is a porcelain candidate, glazed and decorative, durable enough, but not really built to withstand the blunt impact of Trump’s hammer or the full fury of a united Democratic Party.

Flush with campaign cash, Tim Scott is set to join ’24 race” via Jonathan Swan and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times — Sen. Scott of South Carolina will announce his candidacy for President on Monday and will enter the race with around $22 million cash on hand, making him one of the most serious competitors for the front-runner, Trump, even as Scott has hovered around 2% in Republican Primary polls. Scott’s campaign has reserved around $6 million in advertisements across television and radio in those states. The Scott campaign also plans to spend millions of dollars on digital ads that will target Iowa and New Hampshire voters and will run through the first Republican Primary debate, scheduled to be held in August.

Sununu talks ’24” via Tara Palmeri of Puck — Sununu does not know Jeff Roe and said he wouldn’t hire him even if he were running for President because he doesn’t believe in political consultants and he admits he’ll need to hire a few if he runs for President. Sununu told me that there’s a “61% chance” he runs for President and a 39% chance that he just plays the role of kingmaker in New Hampshire, where he has some of the highest approval ratings in the country. What do you think of DeSantis’ character? “Well, he’s a lot better than Trump, let’s put it that way.” What do you think about DeSantis on a personal level? “I don’t wanna judge anybody.” He thought it was going to be challenging for DeSantis to explain his six-week abortion ban to both Republicans and Democrats in the state. “He’s kind of gone through his process and he’s checked his boxes.”

Chris Sununu discusses his future. Image via AP.

Dead heat for second place between DeSantis, Sununu in New Hampshire” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics


Shot —NAACP issues Florida travel advisory after the state blocks funds for college diversity, equity and inclusion programs” via Emerald Morrow of WTSP — The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People on Saturday issued a travel advisory for the state of Florida. According to the NAACP national headquarters, the advisory is a “direct response to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ aggressive attempts to erase Black history and to restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in Florida schools.” The travel advisory was proposed to the organization’s board of directors by NAACP’s Florida State Conference. NAACP says the advisory stems from “unrelenting attacks on fundamental freedoms from the Governor and his legislative body.”

Chaser — Florida tourism robust as record numbers continue to roll in” via Caden DeLisa of The Capitolist — The state of Florida recorded 37.9 million tourists during the first three months of 2023, making up the largest volume of visitors across a three-month span in state history. The first quarter of 2023 saw approximately 34.6 million domestic visitors and an additional 1.8 million overseas visitors, representing a 36% increase compared to the previous year. Orlando, following a 25% increase in visitors in 2022 compared to 2021, emerged as the most-visited location in the United States with a total of 74 million visitors. Visit Florida, the state’s official tourism marketing corporation, could see its state funding double from $50 million to $100 million under DeSantis’ proposed state budget for the Fiscal Year 2023-24.

DeSantis knows that the best place to humiliate people is in the bathroom” via Lydia Polgreen of The New York Times — Bathroom bills are back, part of a pitiless onslaught against trans bodies that gathers speed with each passing day. Florida’s new bathroom law is particularly cruel and absurd. None have gone as far as Florida, which is now the only state to criminalize using a bathroom that doesn’t align with your sex at birth. Few human experiences are truly universal, and the deep unease of needing a bathroom and not being able to find or use one is one of them. And there are few places where human beings feel more vulnerable. So, it is no surprise that policing access to facilities to meet basic bodily needs has been an effective method of repression for a very long time.

The battle for bathroom access hits the trans community particularly hard. Image via AP.

DeSantis’ context-free history book vanished online. We got a copy.” via Gillian Brockwell of The Washington Post — “Dreams from Our Founding Fathers: First Principles in the Age of Obama,” was once available at the click of a button as an e-book, but no more. A used hard copy is selling for $1,950 at the only online bookseller that appears to have it. The Washington Post purchased a digital copy last summer, in anticipation that it may someday become more relevant. In his book, DeSantis dismisses slavery as a “personal flaw” of the Founding Fathers, irrelevant to the really important stuff: context-free, cherry-picked quotes from James Madison and Alexander Hamilton. DeSantis’ thesis is twofold: that Obama was conducting a dangerous power grab, and that the Founding Fathers would have been appalled if they were still alive to see it.

DeSantis’ team fires back after Al Sharpton slams Gov. at Jordan Neely’s funeral: ‘Save your breath’” via Jessica Chasmar of Fox News — DeSantis’ political team hit back Friday night after Sharpton criticized the 2024 presidential hopeful during a eulogy for a man who died in the New York City subway system. New York authorities said Neely, 30, died on May 1 from compression of the neck after he was placed in a chokehold by Daniel Penny, a 24-year-old Marine veteran, who is charged with one count of second-degree manslaughter. DeSantis, also a veteran, praised Penny on Tuesday for taking action to protect others, saying, “I think to be able to step in as a good Samaritan and protect people — I think that that’s something that was the right thing to do. And I don’t think he should be prosecuted.”

Jimmy Patronis drags Disney for using DeSantis as ‘scapegoat’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — During an interview on the Fox Business Network’s “Mornings with Maria,” Patronis said that the company is trying to “scapegoat” the Governor to cover up for a failing business model. “Look, any time that a cast member forgets their Goofy costume or a Storm Trooper stubs their toe, they’re going to blame Ron DeSantis because there’s a lawsuit taking place. They’re going to go leak it to the federally-owned New York Times.” “It’s a continuous drip, drip, drip by Disney as they have gotten themselves a mess,” Patronis added. “Disney doesn’t have a Florida problem. It doesn’t have a Ron DeSantis problem. It has a Disney problem.”

—“GOP Senators unsettled by DeSantis’ escalating fight with Disney” via Alexander Bolton of The Hill

DeSantis lawyers ask Judge in Disney case to recuse himself” via Brooks Barnes of The New York Times — Lawyers for DeSantis asked a federal judge on Friday to step down from a case brought by Disney, saying his comments in two unrelated court proceedings last year displayed a bias toward the company. John Guard, the Florida chief deputy attorney general, made the request to Mark Walker, the chief judge for the Northern District of Florida, on behalf of DeSantis. Judge Walker is presiding over the early stages of a Disney lawsuit, filed last month, that accused DeSantis and a board that oversees government services at Walt Disney World of engaging in “a targeted campaign of government retaliation.”

DeSantis tries to disqualify Mark Walker from the Disney suit. Image via Tallahassee Democrat.

—“Judge in Disney-DeSantis dispute known for torching GOP policies” via Chris Marr of Bloomberg Law

DeSantis appoints New College of Florida board member to replace ousted Eddie Speir” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — DeSantis appointed Jacksonville lawyer Joseph Jacquot to the New College of Florida board of trustees Friday to replace board member Speir, who was appointed to the board by DeSantis on Jan. 6 but failed to earn confirmation from the Florida Senate. Jacquot is a former general counsel in the Governor’s Office. A U.S. Navy veteran who received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and his law degree from the University of Florida, he currently is a shareholder with the Gunster Law Firm.


The latest TaxWatch report — Florida’s Certificate of Need Program Delivers High-Quality Hospice Care — shows Florida’s competitive CON process for Hospice care is a key reason why the Sunshine State ranks near the top in nearly all categories, reduces fraud, ensures rural access and saves taxpayers money.

Florida is tops when it comes to hospice care.

Key takeaways from the report:

— The quality of hospice services in Florida surpasses the quality demonstrated in many other states.

— California effectively illustrates the risks of amending or repealing a hospice CON program. California has more than one thousand hospice providers, and state auditors found that the state is likely experiencing large-scale hospice fraud.

— The California Attorney General estimates that in Los Angeles County alone, hospice agencies overbilled Medicare by $105 million

— The CON competitive batching cycle is particularly important for securing high-quality hospice providers. The marketplace has winners and losers, and the state uses its CON program to protect especially vulnerable consumers from bad practices similar to those in California.

— Florida has the highest average nursing minutes and average minutes with a home health aide.

— In contrast with California, Florida’s CON program creates an intentionally developed network of hospice providers. The CON program presents Florida with the opportunity to evaluate the hospice service provider’s business plan as well as to limit the number of providers, making it easier for the state to survey and monitor their performance.

— Florida’s CON model permits the state to ensure that the expansion of the number of hospice providers is orderly and in response to a demonstrated need for additional hospice providers. Repeal of the CON program is likely to result in increases in the number of providers far in excess of demonstrated needs. Absent additional staff and operational funding, the state will have a hard time monitoring the performance of the new providers, so the repeal of CON will necessarily increase the size and costs of state government. The repeal of CON also increases the likelihood of fraud and abuse, as was observed in California.

The bottom line: Florida’s CON program works.

To read the report, visit


DeSantis policy chief cheers Session accomplishes, hints at veto vetting process” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Chris Spencer offered some hint to Florida TaxWatch members at what will survive DeSantis’ veto pen. The director of the Governor’s Policy and Budget office said he knows water projects are a “fan favorite” for TaxWatch when it creates its “budget turkey” list each year. But DeSantis remains proud of water project spending during his tenure. But he’s always focused on three elements: water quality, quantity and supply. If a project can help in all those areas, its chances of surviving the Governor’s veto pen are good regardless of whether outside groups mark it as wasteful.

Chris Spencer tells Florida TaxWatch what it takes to survive DeSantis’ veto pen.

From protest to arrest: Lawmaker Lauren Book’s ‘scary’ episode after abortion debate” via Stephany Matat of The Palm Beach Post — The day that Florida lawmakers approved a six-week abortion ban, ended with Senate Minority Leader Book in jail. Book recalled the evening began when she held hands with fellow protesters as they sang “Lean on Me” and ended with ink on her fingers from a fingerprinting and having her mug shot taken as she was booked in the Leon County Jail. State Sen. Lori Berman, a Boynton Beach Democrat, went to the jail to support the women arrested, and she called another Senate Democrat, Jason Pizzo of Miami, an attorney, to assist with the release of all protesters.

We just never found out that early”: Republican Mike Caruso on his no-vote on abortion” via Stephany Matat of The Palm Beach Post — Rep. Caruso is the father of seven children, and he said that he and his wife were not aware of each of those pregnancies within six weeks of conception. That’s why he said he was one of three Palm Beach County Republicans who voted against the six-week abortion ban. Caruso voted for the 15-week abortion ban last year and believed it was good public policy amid the state and nationwide abortion debate. It still gave women the right to choose, he said, and about four months to decide whether to keep the baby.

Fabián Basabe warns youth center funding could be vetoed after Twitter account mocks him” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Rep. Basabe suggested a $1 million funding earmark he secured for Miami’s Overtown Youth Center could be vetoed after a Twitter account dedicated to mocking him shared an “embarrassing” video of him. The Miami Beach Republican told Florida Politics he won’t seek the veto himself but warned that Democrats’ “bad faith actions” and “unwillingness” to cooperate with GOP lawmakers could motivate DeSantis to nix the appropriation.

Advertisement— STATEWIDE —

National Hurricane Center highlights first disturbance of 2023 hurricane season” via Jonathan Kegges of Click Orlando — The National Hurricane Center highlighted its first disturbance of the 2023 hurricane season Sunday. A broad area of low pressure is producing a large area of disturbed weather extending a couple of hundred miles northeast of the Bahamas. Environmental conditions are expected to become less favorable later on Sunday and development of this system is not expected. Development chances over the next 48 hours and seven days are at 10%. New for the 2023 hurricane season, the National Hurricane Center extended its daily tropical weather outlooks to seven days versus the previous five.

Hurricane season kicks off a little early.

Florida jobless rate holds at 2.6% in April” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Florida added 21,200 jobs in April, but the overall unemployment rate remained flat at 2.6%. The national rate was at 3.4%, or 0.8 percentage points higher than Florida’s, while the U.S. added 139,000 jobs last month. Over the last year, Florida has seen 363,400 new jobs, a growth rate of 3.9%, or 1.3 percentage points higher than the national rate in that time. Overall, there were 281,000 Floridians out of work last month out of a labor force of more than 10.9 million.

Why is Florida slashing the Medicaid rolls?” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — In April, the Florida Department of Children and Families began to purge the state’s Medicaid rolls as part of the drawdown of COVID-19-era coverage. Since then, the state has reviewed more than 461,000 people, taking Medicaid benefits away from more than half. About 80% of those terminated — roughly 205,000 — were disqualified because they failed to respond to inquiries needed to renew their eligibility. Florida cannot turn its back on 80% of this population just because these residents failed to respond. Common sense says that tens of thousands of them remain eligible or qualify for coverage through other assistance programs. Someone just needs to reach them first.

FDLE deploys first team to U.S.-Mexico border after Title 42 ends” via Kaycee Sloan of WFLA — The Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced that the first FDLE agents and analysts were deployed to Texas Wednesday morning to work alongside officials at the U.S.-Mexico border. The FDLE stated that 40 teams were deployed to assist Texas law enforcement in conducting criminal investigations associated with human smuggling, drugs and weapon smuggling at the border. The deployment to the border comes a few days after DeSantis announced Tuesday that he would be deploying state law enforcement to the U.S.-Mexico border “in anticipation of an expected deluge of migrants” in light of the end of Title 42.

Operation Lone Star is on its way to the border. Image via FDLE.

For one family, Florida abortion law made a devastating loss into ‘torture’” via Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post — Baby Milo’s grandfather thought he might have hiccups. Instead, the newborn was gasping for air. Born without kidneys, his lungs underdeveloped, Milo Evan Dorbert lived for all of 99 minutes. The cause of death was Potter syndrome, discovered at 23 weeks of pregnancy. The cause of unnecessary suffering, for Milo and his family, was a Florida law that doctors said prevented them from terminating the pregnancy, even though it was clear the condition would be fatal. “To me, it’s just pure torture,” said Peter Rogell, the baby’s grandfather.

— SKED —

Happening today — The state Public Health Integrity Committee, chaired by Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, will meet: 9:30 a.m., Cabinet Meeting Room.

Happening today:


Biden ratchets up the pressure as the debt ceiling fight strains his presidency” via Jonathan Lemire of POLITICO — The nation stands on the precipice of an unprecedented financial calamity, testing whether the President’s theory of governance can continue to work. Biden has prioritized deal-making through much of the debt ceiling talks, laboring to work across the aisle even at the risk of alienating the liberal wing of his own party. But with talk taking a turn for the worse this weekend, he and his team are now being forced to tinker with their approach, dialing up criticism in hopes that the specter of default and public blame for it will move GOP negotiators.

Joe Biden puts the pressure on lawmakers to make a debt deal. Image via AP.

Republicans deploy new playbook for abortion bans, citing political backlash” via Rachel Roubein, Caroline Kitchener and Colby Itkowitz of The Washington Post — Lawmakers in some Republican-led states have started coalescing behind bans that allow most abortions to continue — a reaction, some Republicans say, to the sustained political backlash to abortion restrictions that have been mounting since the landmark decision in June. While the 12-week bans have so far only passed in two states — North Carolina and Nebraska — the proposal has also gained traction with some national anti-abortion groups.

LA Dodgers uninvite LGBTQ+ charity to annual pride night over Marco Rubio’s protest” via Elizabeth Hunter of the Tampa Bay Times — The LA Dodgers have uninvited an LGBTQ+ charity to their annual pride night over a letter from Sen. Rubio after he accused the team of being “unwelcoming to Christians.” The Dodgers had planned their 10th annual LGBTQ+ Pride Night for June 10. At the event, the Dodgers invited a number of LGBTQ+ groups. As part of the event, the LA Dodgers planned to give a “Community Hero Award” to the LA Chapter of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

Marco Rubio quashes plans to honor The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Image via AP.

DCCC attacks Anna Paulina Luna, Maria Elvira Salazar over debt vote” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — National Democrats are slamming two members of Florida’s congressional delegation over current debt ceiling talks. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) launched a website,, that calls out Reps. Luna and Salazar for their votes on a House debt plan. The DCCC also sent out news releases attacking members for voting in favor of the measure. House Republicans voted to raise the debt ceiling but by a modest amount far short of what the Democratic Senate and Biden say is required. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has been in negotiations with the House about a compromise.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Francis Suarez says illegal immigration debate ‘screams for a national solution’” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Miami is experiencing a “migrant crisis” that is weighing down public schools and drawing police attention from crime-fighting, according to Mayor Suarez, who says the continued debate over the issue highlights the need for a countrywide fix. Suarez said the local school district has received no federal funding to deal with the issue despite “14,000 new children” who fled other countries and enrolled last year in Miami-Dade Public Schools.

Coral Gables Commission candidate claims Ariel Fernandez ‘defrauded’ him” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Jackson “Rip” Holmes once had a collegial relationship with local media mogul and new Group 5 Commissioner Fernandez. No more. Holmes accuses Fernandez of tricking him into switching races ahead of the city’s April 11 biennial election and then, after winning, opposing a parking project Holmes says is vital to the survival of his business. Holmes claims Fernandez never told him he was against the project and that if he had done so, he never would have made the switch. “It’s really a nightmare for me,” Holmes said Friday in a 10-and-a-half-minute YouTube video. “I really, truly resent … the way I was defrauded by Ariel Fernandez.”

Jackson “Rip” Holmes blasts a former colleague.

This controversial Cuban group canceled their Miami Beach show. Logistics or politics?” via Sarah Moreno of the Miami Herald — Cuban orchestra Los Van Van canceled the concert it had scheduled for Friday, May 19, at the Miami Beach Bandshell. “Our fans are informed that it is logistically impossible for the Los Van Van Orchestra to arrive on time to perform at the Miami Beach Bandshell due to commitments and a combination of flights elsewhere,” said the post shared by the group on Instagram and Facebook earlier this week. The group’s shows in South Florida are usually accompanied by controversy and protests from Cuban exiles, but this time the orchestra says that they are not coming to Miami due to conflicts in travel schedules. Nevertheless, a Miami Beach City Commissioner says that he requested the cancellation.

Miami-Dade Mayor wants fixes within 30 days for Metromover elevators on ‘life support’” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Stung by transit passengers forced to take the stairs, Miami-Dade’s Mayor is demanding the county’s repair company pick up the pace in fixing elevators and escalators in the Metromover system. “All major outstanding repairs for units currently out of service that can be repaired must be completed within 30 days, and moving forward, any other units that become inoperable should be repaired within 30 days,” Mayor Daniella Levine Cava wrote in a letter Friday to a top executive at Schindler, the Swiss-based company with a county contract to keep county elevators and escalators running.

Audit: Add secrecy language to Broward schools exit agreements” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — An audit firm was unable to determine whether the Broward School District violated state law by paying large exit packages to three former administrators but did have advice for the district: Keep employees quiet about these agreements in the future. The recommendation that the district consider non-disclosure language for separation contracts came from S. Davis and Associates, a Hollywood auditing firm, after reviewing payouts to three administrators who were forced out after being named in a grand jury report that was highly critical of the way Broward schools operate. District officials said they probably won’t follow the non-disclosure advice, one of only a few recommendations in a mostly inconclusive audit.

Wilton Manors Pride event features Commissioner as ‘Lady Vote’ testing new anti-drag law” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Tampa might have canceled its Pride event due to a new, anti-drag show law, but one Wilton Manors City Commissioner says he’s ready to risk the Governor’s wrath for his performance at the city’s upcoming Stonewall Pride Parade. Commissioner Chris Caputo will be at the June 17 parade as “Lady Vote,” according to a post on his Facebook page. Caputo says he’s ready to test and perhaps push to strike down the new law that bans having children at live shows that “in whole or in part” depict or simulate “nudity, sexual conduct,” or the exposure of prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts.

Chris Caputo plans to test the drag law as ‘Lady Vote.’ Image via Facebook.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Apopka Mayor asks state to strip project of affordable housing money” via Dustin Wyatt of the Orlando Sentinel — After Apopka was sued for denying an affordable housing project, a judge sided with the developer and determined that the city was violating state statutes by not allowing it on land reserved for its city center. In the months that followed that December court ruling, the city still has not granted permits to Wendover Housing Partners for its 192-unit Southwick Commons project and the Mayor has launched an effort to strip the project of its state funding. Now, the Altamonte Springs-based developer is threatening more litigation.

Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson seeks to take money away from a controversial affordable housing project.

Osceola braces for hurricane season with expo, calls for volunteers” via Cristóbal Reyes of the Orlando Sentinel — Osceola County agencies are looking ahead to the coming hurricane season as it advises residents to prepare following last year’s catastrophic flooding after Hurricane Ian while informing them on how they can get involved in the post-storm response. Inside the Kissimmee Civic Center on Saturday, hundreds of residents came out to learn more about the resources available and how to ready disaster kits and other supplies ahead of June 1, which marks the official beginning of hurricane season. The expo, which featured several public safety agencies, hospitals and local organizations, was one of many held that same day throughout Central Florida.

‘Bullying and toxicity’: Cocoa Beach police chief led hostile workplace, investigators say” via Rick Neale of Florida Today — Cocoa Beach Police Chief Scott Rosenfeld managed with “loudness, bullying and toxicity”; referred to female staffers in sexist or misogynistic fashion; and made vulgar remarks about his officers, a newly released internal investigation concluded. Rosenfeld remains on paid administrative leave amid allegations of creating a hostile work environment. “It was observed by the interviewers that Chief’s loud, distracting and unprofessional conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive,” investigative documents said.

‘Orlando Invades the Beachside’ organizers cancel Daytona event after sheriff’s warning” via Katie Kustura of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — Two Florida-based event promoters have canceled “Orlando Invades the Beachside Beach Day 2023″ after Volusia Sheriff Mike Chitwood asked that they get a permit or stay away. Chitwood voiced his appreciation for Orlando-based promoter Keairra Gardner, also known as “Keerichy,” and Fleming Island-based promoter Reginald Bulger II, also known as “DJ Wavy,” deciding to cancel the unpermitted and unsanctioned event.

—”Axiom Space crew successfully launches into space for Ax-2 mission” via Fox 35

Majority of Disney first responders approve bargaining agreement, await ratification” via Amanda Rabines of the Orlando Sentinel — Disney World’s first responders have approved a three-year labor deal that now heads toward the ratification process. On Friday, 80% of the Reedy Creek Fire Department’s 185 staff members signed off on the deal, paving the way for a significant bump in starting firefighter pay and benefits, in addition to investment in transportation equipment and addressing safety concerns, union President Jon Shirey said. Shirey said about 20% of members either did not vote or voted against it. “Securing the vote favorably by those kind of margins is a testament to the work that’s gone into this contract,” he said.


Tampa Bay teacher unions busy recruiting as new law threatens their role” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Every afternoon for the past two weeks, the Pinellas County school district’s two primary employee unions have posted a YouTube video announcing $100 gift card winners. Sign-ups “are rolling in,” Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association President Nancy Velardi said in the groups’ May 17 video. “Keep it going, guys. Keep it going.” They want to get as many people participating as possible before everyone becomes less reachable. If they don’t get at least 60% of eligible workers to join and pay in time, the unions face decertification, which could leave thousands of employees without a contract, or an agent authorized to negotiate a new one. Union leaders contend these new rules are unconstitutional, and they’ve sued to stop the law from taking hold.

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


Hernando County a real example of hyperpartisan School Boards” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Board member Shannon Rodriguez, who says God put her in the job, filed a complaint with the state earlier this month against a district teacher who showed a Disney film featuring a gay character to a class of fifth graders. The teacher went public with the situation, and the story blew up across the globe as sides quickly shaped up. Rodriguez, who according to the district changed all her cellphone numbers, also has gained attention for her efforts to remove books she considers inappropriate from schools. Board member Mark Johnson, who rode an anti-CRT wave to election last year, joined Rodriguez on May 9 to call a vote of no confidence in Superintendent John Stratton. The Superintendent has been a target of the county’s top Republican officials for a couple of years.

Heritage inks deal with reinsurers despite a reluctance to do business in Florida” via Christina Georgacopoulos of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Heritage Insurance Holdings Inc. received full reinsurance coverage for the next year despite reinsurers’ reluctance to extend a lifeline to companies with business in Florida. The cost of the coverage is steep. Tampa-based Heritage will pay approximately $420.5 million for roughly $3.3 billion in coverage, according to a statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The program includes $1.1 billion in coverage for the Southeast region. The cost, which is just 1% higher than last year, accounts for around 32% of Heritage’s $1.3 billion of total premiums in force.

Tampa airport CEO floats Amsterdam, Paris as possible nonstop connections” via Henry Queen of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Tampa International Airport leaders are pursuing more nonstop flights as passenger demand recovers from a COVID-19 slump. CEO Joe Lopano said he believes the airport can regain nonstop service to Amsterdam. Delta served that route from May through October 2019 with an expectation to restart seasonal service in April 2020. The pandemic disrupted those plans, and Delta has yet to reintroduce the flight. Lopano also said “it’s a possibility” that Tampa can attract a nonstop route to Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. That would mark a significant milestone for the airport, which for years lacked any notable international flights other than London.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

FPL exec details private meeting with ex-JEA CEO ahead of privatization push” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — A Florida Power & Light vice president on Friday confirmed for the first time in court testimony the former CEO of Jacksonville’s city-owned utility, JEA, gave her company’s executives a private heads up in the Summer of 2019 that the city agency was likely to solicit offers to be acquired by a private operator. Pamela Rauch, FPL’s vice president of external affairs and economic development, also said in her testimony that one of the attendees was Jacksonville political consultant Tim Baker, a prolific campaign operator who played a number of roles throughout 2019 that generated scrutiny in the aftermath.

Pamela Rauch had heads up on a proposed JEA sale.

Major credit rating agency warns that GRU governance change will cost taxpayers” via Nora O’Neill of The Gainesville Sun — A major credit rating agency released a statement Thursday warning that new legislation to create a DeSantis-appointed board to oversee Gainesville Regional Utilities would have negative financial impacts for Gainesville. It’s an opinion that reaffirms what city officials have been warning lawmakers since the bill was first floated, though the warnings have largely gone ignored. Moody’s Investors Service, one of three major credit unions working with the city, wrote that the uncertainty surrounding the day-to-day operations and objectives of the new authority board can lead to credit implications. It particularly touched on concerns related to the autonomy of the board and its ability to govern the utility.

FPL, Amelia River Golf propose controversial solar farm near airport” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — “Change” is often a four-letter word on Amelia Island, and so concerns immediately came to the fore when residents learned of a solar farm planned for land adjacent to the Amelia River Club. Amelia River Holdings leases a parcel of Fernandina Beach airport property, for which the allowable uses are currently a golf course or a lodging facility. The company is looking to have that lease amended to allow for a solar farm and hangars. “We have a long, sustained, committed activism for conservation, and this community is facing so many development pressures,” local resident Julie Ferreira said recently to the Fernandina Beach City Commission.

Another FP & solar project hits some resistance. Image via FP & .

Santa Rosa County to consider assessing impact fees to benefit roads, parks and police” via Tom McLaughlin of the Pensacola News Journal — A long-anticipated discussion concerning the implementation of impact fees to help Santa Rosa County cover the costs of roads, parks and law enforcement facilities is likely to get underway Monday now that an update of a 2020 study of the issue has been completed. District 1 County Commissioner Kerry Smith, who has made no secret of the fact that he favors impact fees, said he intends to bring up the issue when the Governing Board meets Monday as a Committee of the whole. Impact fees assessed for home construction are typically passed on to the homebuyer.


A difficult year at New College ends with a tense official graduation” via Ian Hodgson of the Tampa Bay Times — Silhouetted by a setting sun over the Gulf of Mexico, New College of Florida graduates walked briskly across the stage Friday evening under the gaze of their parents, professors and a throng of cameras broadcasting the event on news channels across the nation. That new direction was on full display at Friday’s ceremony, which featured Dr. Scott Atlas, a controversial radiologist who served as a COVID-19 adviser to both DeSantis and Trump. Atlas spoke for 16 minutes, relitigating the public debates that raged over his policy advice, which favored “targeted protection” over broad lockdowns. He also inveighed against the media, federal health officials and university experts who questioned him.

Melissa Blazier takes over as Collier County Supervisor of Elections” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — DeSantis has appointed a new Collier County Supervisor of Elections. Blazier, now the Chief Deputy Supervisor of Elections, will take over the post. Blazier will replace longtime Supervisor of Elections Jennifer Edwards, who retired at the end of April after more than 20 years. Blazier has worked in the Collier elections office for 17 years, the last 10 as Edwards’ Chief Deputy, and said she “learned from the best.”

Melissa Blazier takes the reins. Image via Collier County Supervisor of Elections Facebook.


Tom Grady: Bank failures and crypto ostriches” via Florida Politics — With the recent spate of bank failures, there has been much speculation about how such a thing could happen in today’s economy.

Although each failed bank had unique issues, there is one common element in three of the four recent failures: they had significant involvement with cryptocurrency.

Let’s start with the basics. Cryptocurrency is software stored on a public ledger, a giant Excel spreadsheet. That’s it. Bitcoin, Ethereum, Solana, they’re all software. Promoters claim these digital securities act as a medium of exchange, like actual money, which exists only in the digital world and is safe from the government’s bad policies and prying eyes. And unlike fiat currency, there can only be so many bitcoins. Skeptics say it is just software, and like all software as distribution grows, it becomes less valuable and can be reproduced at zero variable cost. Call me a skeptic.

Is crypto a solution in search of a problem? Much of our modern economy already runs in the abstract online digital world. We are already operating in a digital dollar world.

What’s wrong with more digital dollars? Isn’t crypto adoption inevitable? Plenty and no.

Cryptocurrency promoters claim that crypto is a pure free-market loosely regulated invention that does not rely on the good faith and credit of any government.

These crypto exchanges (e.g., Coinbank, Binance, and FTX) promoted themselves to banks and the public as safe and compliant, with some even backed by government fiat currency, when in truth, they were not.

Industrywide, crypto companies acted like ostriches, putting their heads in the sand and ignoring 80-year-old state and federal laws requiring the registration of sellers and crypto investments and full disclosure of all related investment risks.


From Clayton County to Buffalo, Biden is right about White supremacist terrorism” via Jay Bookman of Florida Phoenix — A year ago, a White supremacist drove three hours to a grocery store in a Black neighborhood in Buffalo and murdered 10 people, all of them Black. In Pittsburgh, a White supremacist attacked a synagogue, killing 11, including several Holocaust survivors. In El Paso, a White supremacist attacked a Walmart in a heavily Hispanic community, killing 23. Last weekend, in a graduation ceremony at Howard University in Washington, Biden took note of the ongoing and rising tide of racist violence, accurately pointing out that “the most dangerous terrorist threat to our homeland is White supremacy.”

A message to America from inside Florida” via Stephanie Hayes of the Tampa Bay Times — Yes, the Florida Legislature has gone 77% Handmaid. Yes, DeSantis has plenty of fans here, Floridians with no problem being pawns in a cynical presidential campaign, who relish each new podium poster that says “FLORIDA FRIGGIN’ RULES.” Even before this dismal turn of events, Florida suffered reputational challenges due to Florida Man memes, renderings of poverty, mental illness and misfortune sketched with the subtle artistry of Kidz Bop. But, please. We are not a joke or a waste of limestone. At least not fully. We are a culturally diverse pot of real humans who occupy different points on a spectrum of politics and life experience. In fact, Florida was a swing state until recent memory.

DeSantis isn’t going to ‘legally kidnap’ your children” via Noah Rothman of National Review — Apparently, there are real people in American public life who require assurances that DeSantis is not, in fact, weaponizing Florida law to allow for the forcible abduction of children. The legislation DeSantis just signed represents an effort “to make trans lives illegal,” according to Rolling Stone. The acute hypertension this law has inspired in certain high-strung media cantons is more reflective of DeSantis’ national profile than of the law’s substance.

DeSantis vs. Disney has a $1B price tag for Florida. National voters, be warned” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Amid an escalating feud with DeSantis, Disney pulled a serious power move. The company canceled a massive office complex set for Orlando, a development that was supposed to bring with it more than 2,000 high-paying jobs. Boom. A billion dollars, evaporating into thin air. That’s the price tag now attached to DeSantis’ over-the-top, politically opportunistic war on “woke.” Disney’s decision is a stunning economic — and psychological — blow to the state, and it’s aimed right at DeSantis. The company’s public about-face stands to damage him in the eyes of voters who shrink from the idea of a Governor openly attacking a business that bucked him.

In DeSantis’ culture wars against Disney, Lake Nona takes $1 billion bombshell” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — Over the past few days, an uncanny video of DeSantis laughing at an Iowa reception has been making the rounds. You might want to look it up, because after this week, Floridians and, presumably, their head of state have a lot less to laugh about. Disney’s announcement that it’s pulling the plug on its $1-billion-plus plan to relocate more than 2,000 jobs to Lake Nona should serve as a gut punch to state leaders who have smiled joylessly on the Governor’s tantrums and bullying, and a wake-up call to voters who might have seen him as a Trump-like maverick.

We’re all hostage to one man’s ambitions” via Steve Bousquet of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Aren’t you excited that DeSantis could be our next President? What should be cause for jubilation, or at least civic pride, feels like anything but. That’s because his autocratic reign continues to tear this state apart. It’s not the Florida it used to be. Elected leaders have made intolerance fashionable. Try to be giddy that DeSantis has invited donors and friends to a downtown Miami hotel Wednesday to file papers to allow him to raise money to run for President. DeSantis does what he wants, and we’re all hostages to his political ambitions. From a purely partisan political perspective, if the realistic possibility of DeSantis in the Oval Office is not enough to inspire people to register to vote, nothing is.

How William F. Buckley Jr.’s right-wing college crusade paved the way for DeSantis” via Sam Tanenhaus of Vanity Fair — Buckley was the most influential leader of the modern American conservative movement. But in the winter of 1949, when he was just a second-semester junior at Yale, he fired the first important shot in the culture wars. He had been voted “Chairman”— that is, chief editorial writer — of his campus paper, the Yale Daily News, and immediately put readers on warning. There would be “no squeamishness about editorial subject matter,” Buckley vowed in his first opinion piece. He had one culprit in mind, one of the most popular educators on campus: sociology professor Raymond Kennedy. Buckley, 23, had taken Kennedy’s course as a freshman and been captivated by the “brilliance of oratory” and amused by the professor’s “bawdy and slapstick humor,” but not by his cavalier dismissal of Christianity.

Patricia Levesque: Grading lawmakers who put students first” via Florida Politics — Florida has generated a lot of headlines over the past few months, but few of those stories have focused on the incredible policy changes and improvements that will prepare our students for lifelong success. Led by House Speaker Paul Renner and Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, state lawmakers tackled some of the toughest challenges facing our education system. From guaranteeing a quality education for every student, to expanding education options for families, to standing up for teachers, they left no stone unturned to enhance Florida’s education system. And to recognize lawmakers who put students first this Legislative Session, the Foundation for Florida’s Future has prepared its annual “report card” which, using an A-F grading scale, will help families better understand how their lawmakers voted on these important issues.

The Florida purge: Whitewashing history, banning books” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — A knowledge purge is underway in Florida. The targets: History lessons that politicians want hidden. Perspectives that make parents uncomfortable. Truths that ideologues find inconvenient. Basically, we have people who want to control the narrative. And they think it’s easier to do that if kids don’t know all the facts. Now, it’s hard to get your hands around both the scope and the specifics of this purge because education officials are censoring so much and revealing so little. In the latest salvo, DeSantis’ education department rejected 35 different social studies books — more than a third of all they reviewed.


— ALOE —

A new actor will play Moana. That’s good for representation, the original says.” via Samantha Chery of The Washington Post — Auli’i Cravalho, the breakout star who voiced the title character in the 2016 Disney film “Moana,” won’t reprise her role in the upcoming live-action remake, a move that advocates and fans praised as a step toward more representation for Pacific Islanders. Cravalho, who says she is an executive producer for the upcoming film, announced the news in a video posted to her Instagram page Friday, noting that “it is absolutely vital the casting accurately represents the characters and stories we want to tell.” “I cannot wait to help find the next actress to portray Moana’s courageous spirit, undeniable wit and emotional strength,” she said.

Auli’i Cravalho says a new Moana will be good for Pacific Island representation. Image via Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP.

St. Petersburg student wins Florida’s Google Doodle competition” via Sharon Kennedy Wynne of the Tampa Bay Times — A St. Petersburg fourth grader’s artwork, a drawing of her in her hijab mastering the tennis and karate that helped her overcome bullying, is the Florida state winner for the 15th annual Doodle for Google art contest for kids. Her artwork now moves on to a national competition and voting is open until Thursday, May 25, at Click on the Grades 4-5 category to see the Florida winner by Iman Haddouche-Miranda, age 9 (actually age 9½, as she firmly reminds). The precocious girl in the teal hijab said simply, “I want to be me.”


Happy birthday belatedly to top consultant James Blair. Happy birthday to our friends, former DEO chief (and now Ballard Partners lobbyist) Dane Eagle and Eileen Stuart of The Vogel Group, as well as Rep. Patt Maney and Sam Ard.


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.

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