Good Thursday morning.
Florida Politics is putting out another call for Influencers — inviting you and all interested parties to take part in an Influencer Poll now that the 2023 Legislative Session is over and the 2024 campaign cycle is fully underway.
If you are in The Process or know someone with insight into what’s happening — or going to happen — this Summer, we want to hear from you!
Drop us a line at [email protected], and we’ll add you (or them) to the list.
“Florida native journalist Aimee Sachs dies at 38, but leaves a courageous legacy of giving life to others” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Sachs, 38, one of Florida’s native bright lights in journalism — for sports, courts, and politics — died Wednesday, May 31, after suffering a pair of strokes in the past two weeks. Aimee’s journalism career began with her work at the University of Florida, where she earned a degree in telecommunications in 2007. In the past two years, when Aimee moved back to Tallahassee from Atlanta, she covered Florida’s state government for The Florida Channel and helped cover Florida’s 2022 primaries for Florida Politics.
Ballard Partners is bringing on veteran public policy consultant Alison Anway to chair the firm’s newly created Health Policy Advisory Group.
“We are thrilled to welcome Alison in this unique position to broaden our firm’s suite of services beyond government relations advocacy,” said firm founder and president Brian Ballard. “With her rare and granular expertise in the intricate world of health care policy, Alison will provide our health care clients with the policy research and development necessary for effective policy advocacy.”
Anway is the founder and principal of the Anway Policy Group (APG), a public policy consulting firm specializing in the health care sector. At APG, Anway provided both federal and state health policy consulting support, with services including bill analysis and tracking, regulatory summaries and analysis, slide deck presentations to internal business partners, policy platform development, policy research, and comment letter drafting. Anway’s clients have included health plans, pharmaceutical companies, physician groups, and trade associations.
“I am excited to join Ballard Partners and to bring health care policy research and development services to the firm’s clients,” said Anway. “I look forward to building the firm’s Health Policy Advisory Group throughout the country.”
Alison began her career in health policy in the office of U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, where she served as Legislative Assistant for Healthcare during the entirety of the consideration and passage of the landmark Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Personnel note: Alix Miller named to Atlanta Fed advisory council — Florida Trucking Association President and CEO Miller has been named to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s Transportation and Logistics Advisory Council. The council is responsible for informing the Fed on important developments in the transportation and trade sectors within the Fed’s Sixth District, which includes Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, and portions of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Miller has held the top spot at FTA since mid-2021 and previously served as the industry association’s Senior Vice President in charge of communications and legislative affairs. Before joining FTA, Miller was a Vice President for Tallahassee-based public relations firm On 3 Public Relations. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Tulane University and master’s and doctoral degrees from Florida State University, where she held a faculty position for eight years.
The Associated Industries of Florida has released its annual report measuring how closely Florida lawmakers’ votes aligned with its interests.
The conservative business group’s 2023 Voting Records report encompasses 3,813 votes cast by legislators on 42 bills, adding to a 50-years-deep data set that now includes more than 230,000 votes on more than 2,400 bills cast by 900-plus legislators.
“Each Legislative Session, AIF works tirelessly, day in and day out, to advocate on behalf of Florida’s business community and ensure lawmakers understand the impact that proposed legislation would have on employers throughout our state,” said AIF President & CEO Brewster Bevis.
“We track everything — bills, amendments, votes — and we’re committed to keeping the business community informed of what happens in Tallahassee. That’s why each year for the last 49 years AIF has compiled its Voting Records report, to provide businesses with a thorough review of how lawmakers voted on the issues that matter to them and let them know who their greatest advocates are.”
Although the organization tracked more than 40 bills, it placed more weight on its No. 1 priority — the torts bill (HB 837/SB 236) that made sweeping changes to how lawsuits are filed, litigated and settled in the Sunshine State, mostly to the benefit of businesses and insurers who cite Florida’s legal climate as a significant challenge to doing business in the state.
“Because of the importance of this issue, we are highlighting the specific vote on this top-priority issue so the business community is able to clearly see how each legislator voted on this critical issue,” the report reads.
On the whole, Republican members were more aligned with AIF. Data shows GOP members sided with the business group 83% of the time — in the House, Senate and overall — while Democrats voted in favor of AIF priorities 63% of the time. Democratic Senators earned a slightly higher score than their House counterparts, 67% to 60%.
In addition to grading all lawmakers on a 100-point scale, AIF singled out six members for going above and beyond. This year’s “Champions for Business” included Senate President Kathleen Passidomo and House Speaker Paul Renner, with AIF citing their “impeccable” and “bold” leadership.
Also earning recognition were Republican Reps. Tommy Gregory and Tim Fabricio as well as GOP Sen. Travis Hutson, with their contributions to the torts bill earning specific praise. A Democrat made the list as well: Orlando Sen. Linda Stewart was lauded as the only member of the minority party to support the torts package as well as for her work championing legislation (SB 1002) aimed at curbing auto glass assignment of benefits lawsuits.
View the full report here.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@GovofCO: Calling @GovRonDeSantis and @Disney on a friendly wager. If the @nuggets win the finals against the @MiamiHEAT, Disney World will move to Colorado, the ACTUAL happiest place on earth to do business, have fun, and be free! #ColoradoForAll
—@LeonardKL: Looks like this is the @GovRonDeSantis campaign song that they were playing as he walked out. “I Am a Real American”
—@NoahPransky: Breaking Mark Foley news! 17 years after resigning from the House, the disgraced fmr Congressman has finally ceased spending from his old campaign warchest & terminated his account. #
— DAYS UNTIL —
‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 1; Gov. Ron DeSantis to attend Joni Ernst’s 2023 Roast and Ride — 2; DeSantis to speak at 2023 NCGOP State Convention — 8; The 2023 Tonys — 11; Disney and Pixar’s ‘Elemental’ premieres — 15; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 15; DeSantis to headline Nevada PAC’s annual basque fry — 16; ‘Secret Invasion’ premieres on Disney+ — 20; ‘The Bear’ returns to Hulu — 21; Florida Chamber 2023 Florida Learners to Earners Workforce Solution Summit — 26; ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ premieres — 29; ‘Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning — Part One’ premieres — 43; Florida Chamber 37th Annual Environmental Permitting Summer School — 49; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 52; ’Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 61; Beyoncé’s ‘Renaissance’ tour in Tampa — 75; Florida House Fall 2023 Interim Committee Meetings begin — 109; Martin Scorsese’s ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ premieres — 127; 2023 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 144; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 158; Ridley Scott’s ‘Napoleon’ premieres — 173; Florida’s 2024 Regular Session begins — 222; South Carolina Democratic Primary — 239; New Hampshire and Nevada Democratic Primaries — 253; Georgia Democratic Primary — 258; Michigan Democratic Primary — 270; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 281; 2024 Oscars — 283; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 303; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 358; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 421; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 421; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 454; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 467; ‘Deadpool 3’ premieres — 528; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 674; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 701; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 890.
— TOP STORY —
“Before entering politics, Ron DeSantis touted his Ivy League pedigree as a test prep entrepreneur” via Steve Reilly of The Messenger — DeSantis spent much of his political career over the past decade railing against Yale and Harvard, and all they represent.
But before he was a Republican Congressman, Governor or presidential candidate, DeSantis put his Ivy League pedigree front and center as the co-founder of a company that charged people $499 for 90 hours of instruction time to help pass their law school entrance test exams.
“We are the only LSAT test prep [company] that’s been created exclusively by graduates of Harvard Law School,” DeSantis boasted in a 2010 podcast interview to market the company, called “LSAT Freedom,” that he founded with his former law school roommates.
For DeSantis, 44, this short but formative period in his life offers a window into his transformation from Ivy League pitchman to anti-elitist politician.
DeSantis co-founded LSAT Freedom with two Harvard Law School roommates, Rob Tauler and Rob Frojo, in 2009 and 2010. Their Ivy League backgrounds feature prominently in all of the company’s marketing materials.
The story DeSantis told about himself changed in some respects as he headed into the 2012 General Election as the Republican nominee for the U.S. House seat. By mid-September of that year, the two paragraphs denouncing Harvard and Yale had been removed from his biography, an archived version of the campaign website shows.
Again, as he battles former President Donald Trump and others for conservative votes, DeSantis has re-surfaced his criticisms of Harvard and Yale. DeSantis in February published a campaign book titled “The Courage to Be Free” that had little in the way of kind words to say about his Ivy League alma maters.
— THE TRAIL —
“DeSantis plays up his personal side and swipes at Trump in campaign blitz across Iowa” via Thomas Beaumont and Will Weissert of The Associated Press — DeSantis was making a four-stop blitz through Iowa during his first full day of presidential campaigning on Wednesday, aiming for a personal connection with voters while intensifying his criticism of Trump. DeSantis talked up his efforts to push his state farther to the right. But he often barreled through his 30-minute speech in workmanlike fashion, leaving few pauses for applause from the audience of a bit more than 100 people, some wearing caps bearing seed company logos. The Governor is opening his campaign trailing Trump in the polls. He’s also for months been dogged by criticism that, while he’s comfortable on stage and in official settings, he can seem halting and awkward when interacting with regular voters.
—“The catharsis candidacy” via Michael Brendan Dougherty of National Review
—“DeSantis tells Iowans ‘visitors and migration’ make up for lack of Florida state income tax” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics
“Watchdog group says DeSantis is already running afoul of campaign finance law” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Campaign Legal Center alleges $80 million was illegally transferred from Friends of Ron DeSantis, a state political committee, to Never Back Down, a super PAC providing outside support for DeSantis’ presidential ambitions. In a complaint filed with the Federal Elections Commission, the Washington group said the Florida Republican directed money from a state committee to the super PAC despite strict restrictions on coordination. Friends of Ron DeSantis, recently renamed Empower Parents PAC, supported DeSantis’ campaigns for Governor in 2018 and 2022. Over its lifespan of more than four years, the committee raised nearly $223 million.
“DeSantis to join 2024 Republican competitors at Sen. Joni Ernst’s Roast & Ride fundraiser in Des Moines” via Rich Edson and Lawrence Richard of Fox News —In addition to DeSantis, Ernst’s event will include former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, conservative radio host Larry Elder, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, and businessman Perry Johnson. “I’m thrilled to welcome Ron DeSantis as a special guest to Roast & Ride this year!” Ernst said. “Despite Democrats ditching Iowa, Republicans are fired up for 2024 as we host the FIRST in the nation caucus. This year’s Roast & Ride will be my biggest yet – with eight exciting special guests – making it the can’t miss event of 2023!” DeSantis said he is “delighted” to be attending the event, which will cap a week of touring throughout the state.
“Trump’s ‘DeSanctimonious’ jab is actually perfect” via Michael Machera of the Daily Caller — It seems DeSantis has been so shaken by Trump’s name-calling that he is now pronouncing his own name differently. In his YouTube campaign announcement video, he refers to himself as Ron “Dee-Santis,” with an apparently new emphasis on the first syllable “De,” using a long “e” vowel sound that no one has used before. Is he trying to emphasize that he is not Ron “Desanctimonious?” One might assume that Trump’s taunts are childish or nonsensical. But there seems to be a ring of truth to his labeling of DeSantis as “Desanctimonious.” There is a certain humorlessness to DeSantis, which puts him in danger of coming off as sanctimonious.
— “Why DeSantis has been reluctant to attack Trump” via Nicole Narea of Vox
—”Five high-profile Trump supporters who’ve switched to DeSantis” via Jared Gans of The Hill
“DeSantis, Trump and other 2024 GOP campaigns take notice of Moms for Liberty” via Eliza Collins of The Wall Street Journal — Moms for Liberty is technically nonpartisan but largely attracts conservative women. What started as a grassroots entity of moms working to change their local school boards’ votes on coronavirus restrictions and curriculums has morphed into a nationwide network with more than 100,000 members and 275 chapters. Members are pushing to revamp the U.S. education system with policies aimed at limiting teachings on gender, race and sex in schools; banning books they deem inappropriate; and placing limits on transgender students in school sports. Candidates have courted the group’s leaders and members, inviting them to key campaign events and holding listening sessions over pizza and barbecue.
“DeSantis super PAC dunks on another 2024 opponent with Disney, drag queens” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis’ super PAC is offering a sequel to a previous ad positing that Nikki Haley is too cozy with the Walt Disney Co. This time around, Never Back Down is dragging Trump, literally, as the new digital spot includes female impersonators among its familiar denunciations of a 2024 opponent. The new spot from the super PAC contends Trump “did nothing to fight back against Disney’s woke agenda,” backing that claim up by noting CEO Robert Iger was appointed to the former President’s Strategic and Policy Forum. That appointment was in 2017, before DeSantis solicited Trump’s endorsement in the 2018 campaign, and well before the company crossed the Governor by opposing the Parental Rights in Education legislation.
DeSantis advisers include China hardliners — National security experts briefing the DeSantis campaign include many who advocate a tough approach to U.S.-China foreign policy. The team includes Gordon Chang, Elbridge Colby, Harry Kazianis and Brandon Weichert, though the extent of their involvement in the campaign’s foreign policy crafting is currently unclear, according to Alexander Ward and Ari Hawkins of POLITICO. Still, each has publicly advocated for the U.S. to take hard-line positions when dealing with Beijing. Weichert recently wrote that “American military (might) be required to deter a potential Chinese invasion of its democratic neighbor” and that China is “taking the Indo-Pacific for itself.” He added, “Ron DeSantis understands this threat, though. He recognizes Taiwan’s strategic importance to the United States as an unsinkable aircraft carrier for American power in the Indo-Pacific.”
“Rock singer curses out DeSantis supporters during show: ‘You’re f—ing dead to me’” via Gabriel Hays of Fox News — “Paramore” lead singer Hayley Williams savaged her political opponents during a performance over the weekend, telling any potential DeSantis voters in the crowd that “you’re f—ing dead to me.” Williams, co-founder of the popular pop-rock band, apparently took the opportunity at the Adjacent Music Festival in Atlantic City, New Jersey on Saturday to respond to her online critics who claimed she is not vocal enough politically. In between songs during Paramore’s set, the singer took a beat and reassured fans, “I’ll be happy to tell you I’m very f—ing comfortable talking politics.” To prove it, she ripped into crowd-goers who might be thinking about voting for DeSantis in the 2024 presidential race.
— MORE 2024 —
“Trump captured on tape talking about classified document he kept after leaving the White House” via Katelyn Polantz, Paula Reid and Kaitlan Collins of CNN — Federal prosecutors have obtained an audio recording of a summer 2021 meeting in which Trump acknowledges he held onto a classified Pentagon document about a potential attack on Iran, multiple sources told CNN. The recording indicates Trump understood he retained classified material after leaving the White House. On the recording, Trump’s comments suggest he would like to share the information, but he’s aware of limitations on his ability post-Presidency to declassify records.
“Trump’s latest policy pitch: A massive birthday party for the nation” via Meridith McGraw of POLITICO — In 2026, the U.S. will celebrate the semiquincentennial: the quarter millennial since its declaration of independence. To commemorate the anniversary, Trump is proposing a blowout, 12-month-long “Salute to America 250” celebration. In a new policy video, Trump calls for a “Great American State Fair,” featuring pavilions from all 50 states, nationwide high school sporting contests, and the building of Trump’s “National Garden of American Heroes” with statues of important figures in American history like Frederick Douglass and Amelia Earhart.
“Former Vice President Mike Pence to launch campaign for White House within 2 weeks” via Tom LoBianco of The Messenger — Pence is set to launch his run for the White House against his old boss, Trump, within the coming two weeks, four sources said. The Georgia Republican Party may have tipped Pence’s hand Wednesday in an email explaining he could no longer deliver the keynote address at a June 9th event. Pence would make “an announcement regarding his future plans” at a televised town hall, the email said. The Georgia GOP did not specify which town hall, but Pence is scheduled to headline a CNN town hall in Des Moines, Iowa on June 7, his 64th birthday.
“Vivek Ramaswamy fires consultants who worked simultaneously for LIV golf” via Caitlin Oprysko and Hailey Fuchs of POLITICO — Ramaswamy has fired one of the firms consulting for his Presidential campaign after it was revealed that the firm had simultaneously been doing public relations work for a major Saudi-backed entity. Gitcho Goodwin, the firm led by longtime political operatives Gail Gitcho and Henry Goodwin, registered retroactively on May 25 as foreign agents for the Saudi-funded LIV Golf league. The firm revealed that it drafted marketing materials, conducted media training for players, and advised the golf league on its corporate social responsibility strategy.
“Deepfaking it: America’s 2024 election collides with AI boom” via Alexandra Ulmer and Anna Tong of Reuters — “I actually like Ron DeSantis a lot,” Hillary Clinton reveals in a surprise online endorsement video. “He’s just the kind of guy this country needs, and I really mean that.” Biden finally lets the mask slip, unleashing a cruel rant at a transgender person. “You will never be a real woman,” the president snarls. Welcome to America’s 2024 Presidential race, where reality is up for grabs. The Clinton and Biden deepfakes are among thousands surfacing on social media, blurring fact and fiction. While such synthetic media has been around for several years, it’s been turbocharged over the past year by of a slew of new “generative AI” tools such, as Midjourney, that make it cheap and easy to create convincing deepfakes.
“Florida supporters of abortion rights ready to fight back — possibly with ballot referendum” via Clara-Sophia Daly of the Miami Herald — Floridians Protecting Freedom, a group that supports the right to legal abortion, has assembled leaders of kindred organizations in hopes of gathering the nearly 900,000 signatures required for a 2024 ballot measure that would affirm the right to an abortion in the state constitution. Those joining the effort include Planned Parenthood, the statewide voting rights organization Florida Rising and the American Civil Liberties Union. “We need to do something to make sure that the right to an abortion is explicitly stated in the constitution,” said Amy Weintraub, reproductive rights program director for Progress Florida.
— DESANTISY LAND —
“Progressive poll finds Floridians opposed to bans on LGBTQ books, DEI programs” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Whatever Florida voters think of DeSantis, a new poll suggests most Floridians oppose many of his policies as anti-LGBTQ. A poll found 50% of Florida voters oppose a new ban on diversity, equity and inclusion programs at Florida universities and colleges. Additionally, 48% oppose a ban on LGBTQ books in Florida schools, an issue on which Florida has gained national notoriety after books were banned in classrooms.
“DeSantis’ new target: 8-year-old kids of Asian descent” via Azadeh Shahshahani and Juilee Shivalkar of Slate — “Why should I have to bring my U.S. passport to prove my worthiness when buying property when you guys don’t?” Peter Lai asked a Texas Senate Committee during a public hearing on a bill barring certain immigrants from owning property. When a similar bill was debated in the Florida Legislature, 8-year-old Jia Jing Chen asked the House State Affairs Committee during a public hearing in April: “Did Chinese people do something bad to Florida?” In 2021, there were nearly 45.3 million immigrants living in the U.S. In 2018, 1 in 5 Florida residents were immigrants. However, various bills have been introduced across the country that would prevent some immigrants from buying property, including Florida bills HB 1355 and SB 264. Earlier this month, DeSantis signed SB 264 into law.
“Florida’s new immigration law already being felt, not yet in effect” via Ivan Taylor of WINK — Construction workers say they are losing their jobs because employers fear Florida’s new immigration law. “All the construction work stopped, at least where I worked in Miami,” said Pedro Marcos. For the last five years, he has worked in construction; however, he now works temporarily at nurseries in Homestead. The Guatemalan native said, “Since I have a family, I have to work on whatever is necessary… landscaping, nurseries, painting.” CBS News Miami’s Ivan Taylor asked Marcos when he last worked on construction. “It was about 15 days ago… I stopped working on construction after Governor (Ron) DeSantis signed the immigration bill. The people who would hire us got scared and – allegedly – told us not to come back.”
— “Florida businesses plan to strike Thursday to protest DeSantis immigration law” via Ana Goñi-Lessan of the Tallahassee Democrat.
“How DeSantis shaped Florida’s environment” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO — When DeSantis first ran for Governor in 2018, waves of red tide, dead fish and even manatee carcasses were washing up on southwest Florida beaches. Elsewhere, guacamole-green toxic algae blotted the coastline, sending residents and tourists fleeing in disgust. DeSantis took advantage of those optics. He hammered his Republican Primary opponent for his ties to Florida’s sugar industry, which is often blamed for South Florida’s water quality woes. DeSantis also called on Republicans to take a stronger stance on conservation, saying the party has “a great opportunity to really claim this as our mantle.”
“New water quality standards, money for land preservation signed into law” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — The law of the land now prohibits new septic tanks in some environmentally sensitive areas and sets a new, dramatically lower standard for pollutants allowed in state waterways, according to legislation DeSantis signed. The Governor’s office is highlighting the measure (HB 1379) that became law Tuesday as advancing the environmental priorities DeSantis laid out in a January executive order. Rep. Toby Overdorf, who filed the legislation with Rep. Kevin Steele, said it’s an effort to take a comprehensive approach to protecting sensitive land and water. The effort drew cosponsors from both sides of the aisle.
“Rush Limbaugh Way coming to Hernando County as DeSantis signs bill” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Drivers traveling along Cortez Boulevard between U.S. 41 and State Road 50 in Hernando County will soon be traversing Rush Limbaugh Way. DeSantis signed a bill (HB 21) Tuesday evening designating new names for 22 roads and bridges throughout the state, but the appellation that garnered the most attention and controversy was the section to be named after Rush Limbaugh, the longtime West Palm Beach conservative radio host who died in 2021. Other people honored in the bill include Sally Ride, the first American female astronaut to fly into space, and Christa McAuliffe, a teacher and astronaut who died in the Challenger disaster as part of its crew in 1986.
“Jeremy Redfern becomes Press Secretary for DeSantis” via Eric Daugherty of Florida’s Voice — Redfern, former deputy press secretary for DeSantis, has taken the position of press secretary in the Executive Office of the Governor. The position was previously held by Bryan Griffin, who moved to DeSantis’ political team.
— STATEWIDE —
“Floridian sentiment inches higher as national sentiment plummets” via Matt Albrecht of UF News — After dropping for the first time in 2023 in April, consumer sentiment among Floridians inched up one-tenth of a point in May to 68.8 from a revised figure of 68.7. On the contrary, national sentiment plunged 4.3 points. “Despite the ups and downs in consumer sentiment observed over the last 12 months, Florida’s consumer confidence has trended upwards, with a notable increase of 8 points in May compared to a year ago. This positive trend is consistent with a strong labor market and aligns well with the general decline in inflation levels since its peak in June. Nonetheless, it is worth noting that consumer confidence continues to remain at historically low levels,” said Hector H. Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research.
“Judge schedules second hearing on request to halt new transcare law, rules” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle set a telephonic meeting for June 1 at 2 p.m. on a motion for a temporary injunction to halt the Florida Board of Medicine and Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine rules, as well as portions of a new law that bans minors who weren’t currently in treatment from receiving gender-affirming care and creates obstacles for adults to receive the care. Hinkle held the first hearing on the injunction request on May 19, one day after DeSantis signed SB 254 into law. The law went into effect immediately. The challenge, Doe v. Ladapo, was filed by three Florida parents and their transgender children who argued the bans violate parents’ rights to make medical decisions for their children and deny them equal protection under the law.
“DeSantis signs music education program bill, a longtime priority of Sen. Keith Perry” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Florida students in kindergarten through second grade could get more opportunities to have music instruction in the classroom, thanks to a bill signed by DeSantis. The bill (SB 478) cements a pilot program for music education into law and expands it statewide. It was sponsored by Sen. Perry and approved unanimously in both chambers. “Music education has been shown to help children with language development, brain development and fine motor skills,” DeSantis said.
“State-run program aimed to rebuild homes after hurricane. Years later, many still waiting” via Alex Harris of the Miami Herald — As Atlantic hurricane season 2023 opens on Thursday, Marilynn Distefano is one of thousands of people waiting on the state-run Rebuild Florida program, which was supposed to help low-income residents rebuild their hurricane-ravaged homes. It’s been a long wait. Her home wasn’t destroyed by Hurricane Ian, which ravaged Southwest Florida last year, but by Irma way back in 2017. The state only got around to demolishing her damaged home in January and it’s unclear when it might be ready for her to come back. Rebuild Florida launched in September 2018, a year after Irma hit, with a pitch to help the neediest families repair and rebuild damaged homes.
Meanwhile … “National Hurricane Center reports development chances up slightly as system nears Florida” via Cheryl McCloud of Florida Today — A system of low pressure in the Gulf of Mexico is expected to have an impact on Florida in the coming days. The National Hurricane Center revised its forecast slightly at the 2 p.m. advisory, projecting a 20% chance for tropical development over the next 48 hours. Even if the system doesn’t develop into a tropical depression or storm, forecasters warned it could bring heavy rain and gusty winds to portions of Florida this week as it moves across the state and into the Atlantic. Water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico are high enough to support tropical development. Temperatures in the central and eastern Gulf range from the mid-70s to low 80s. For a tropical system to develop, temperatures need to be in the upper 70s or higher.
“Florida gas prices may have peaked for the year, AAA says” via James Tutten of WFTV — AAA says Florida may have hit the peak for this year’s gas prices. It said the only thing that could possibly change things is a major hurricane affecting refinery operations along the Gulf Coast. Drivers are paying around $3.41 per gallon of gas at the pump. The cost is only up about a penny from last week.
— D. C. MATTERS —
“Before debt deal House vote, Matt Gaetz said McCarthy needs 112 Republicans” via Antonio Fins of The Palm Beach Post — U.S. Rep. Gaetz insisted the Speaker needs 112 Republicans to support the measure before it can even be brought to a vote in the U.S. House. Gaetz, who represents a Pensacola-area district, boasted on Twitter that he is among the “only Republicans in Congress who have never voted to raise” the country’s debt limit. Gaetz also led a revolt against McCarthy’s election as Speaker in January, a spectacle that nearly erupted in late-evening fisticuffs on the House floor until Gaetz changed his vote. Gaetz said if McCarthy were to move the legislation without a “majority of the majority” in support, it would amount to a “black letter violation” and “would likely trigger an immediate motion” to remove him from the speakership.
Personnel note: Scott Franklin adds Danielle Branz to D.C. staff — Branz has joined U.S. Rep. Franklin’s staff as a Senior Policy Adviser. Branz has worked on Capitol Hill in various capacities for the past decade, starting in 2013 as a press intern in the office of Missouri Republican U.S. Rep. Sam Graves. She has worked in the offices of several members representing Michigan, most recently under U.S. Rep. Lisa McClain, where she served as a Senior Legislative Assistant. Branz holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Lake Superior State University and a master’s degree in defense and strategic studies from the U.S. Naval War College. Franklin represents Florida’s 18th Congressional District, which is anchored in Polk County but also includes DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands and Okeechobee counties.
— LOCAL: S. FL —
“North Miami Beach Mayor Anthony DeFillipo arrested, faces 15 years in prison for illegal voting” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — DeFillipo has been arrested and faces up to 15 years in prison for voting from an address where he doesn’t live. He is charged with three third-degree felony counts of illegal voting, State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle confirmed. Each carries an up to five-year prison sentence, $5,000 in fines and five years probation. “We in law enforcement take actions which violate our election laws very seriously. They are crimes,” she said on Twitter. During an afternoon press conference Wednesday, Fernandez Rundle said her office has evidence DeFillipo voted illegally three times.
“Did Joe Carollo target Little Havana businesses? Jury weighs multimillion-dollar lawsuit” via Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — Carollo has spent decades running roughshod over political opponents, making controversial statements and spouting conspiracy theories. A jury in the Fort Lauderdale federal courthouse will decide if, this time, the commissioner went too far in his treatment of a pair of Little Havana businessmen. They will also decide if he has to pay a price for it, both financially and perhaps politically. The six-member jury will decide if Carollo violated the men’s First Amendment rights by “weaponizing” city resources in a campaign to close down several popular businesses they operate in Little Havana’s Calle Ocho district, all because they supported a political opponent of the commissioner, who he eventually defeated.
“Fast start to jury selection at trial of ex-deputy accused of failing to confront Parkland shooter” via Terry Spencer of The Associated Press — Jury selection in the groundbreaking trial of a former sheriff’s deputy charged with failing to confront the killer of 14 students and three staff members at a Florida high school five years ago got off to a speedy start Wednesday, with the preliminary round concluding in just one day. Circuit Judge Martin Fein had tentatively scheduled three days of preliminary jury selection, seeking 50 candidates whose schedules and employment would allow possibly two months of service at the trial of former Broward County Deputy Scot Peterson.
“Christine Bandín appointed to 11th Judicial Circuit Court” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Five years after she was appointed to the bench, Miami-Dade County Judge Bandín is moving up. DeSantis appointed Bandín, who has ruled over cases in the county Domestic Violence Division, to the 11th Judicial Circuit Court. She fills a vacancy in the complex Circuit Civil Division created by the resignation of Judge Alan Fine, who resigned Feb. 15 after more than a decade to launch an arbitration firm. Bandín has served on the Miami-Dade Court since Gov. Rick Scott appointed her in 2018 to fill a vacancy created by the elevation of Administrative Judge Andrea Wolfson.
“Navy pilot ejected from fighter jet off Key West, and chopper crew came to the rescue” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — A U.S. Navy pilot ejected from a fighter plane over Key West Wednesday morning is a member of Fighter Squadron Composite 111, a Navy Reserve unit that flies “adversary” planes against other fighter pilots in mock combat dog fights, said Naval Air Station Key West spokeswoman Danette Baso Silvers. The pilot ejected while flying about 25 miles from Boca Chica Field at the air base shortly before 9:30 a.m., Baso Silvers said. Baso Silvers said the Navy did not have immediate information about where the jet crashed.
— LOCAL: C. FL —
“Disney scrapping a $1 billion campus in Florida could screw over adjacent developers banking on it to build their own projects” via Hannah Getahun of Business Insider — Disney’s decision to scrap its $1 billion campus in Orlando, Florida, this month could leave many surrounding development projects in the Lake Nona community scrambling. Hundreds of employees set to work at the new campus had already moved to Lake Nona before Disney announced it would be abandoning the plan. Lisa McNatt, a director of market analytics for CoStar Group, said when Disney initially announced plans to build in Lake Nona, 2,100 new apartment units were built as a result, with 1,200 units currently being constructed.
“Florida politics puts a damper on Orlando ‘gay days’ this year” via DeWayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — For decades, members of the LGBTQ community have gathered in Orlando the first weekend of June for parties, pools and theme parks. The array of events, loosely defined as “gay days” offerings, draws thousands of tourists to Central Florida. But this year, Florida’s political climate worries organizers, who nonetheless believe many travelers are still coming to Orlando despite new laws that affect transgender people, medical care, drag performers and what subjects are allowed in schools. Yet, some previous visitors are skipping the 2023 festivities, they say. “There’s definitely concern out there,” said Joseph Clark, CEO and owner of Gay Days Inc., which throws multiple parties and activities.
“Stephen Shives files to succeed Stan McClain in HD 27” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Marion County business owner Shives has filed to succeed state Rep. McClain. The Summerfield Republican is the first candidate to file in House District 27 this election cycle. “I’ve been enthusiastic about serving my neighbors and my community throughout my life,” Shives said, “and I believe the Legislature will be a new opportunity for me to serve others. I’m proud of all the hard work my family and I have put into small business.” Shives for the past decade has owned Runaway Mini-Campers, a trailer manufacturer.
— LOCAL: TB —
“Hillsborough election hack exposed 58,000 voters’ private information” via C.T. Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times — A data breach at the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office exposed private information belonging to 58,000 voters. An unauthorized user appears to have illegally accessed and copied files containing personal identification information primarily from files used to conduct voter registration list maintenance, Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer said. The voter registration list maintenance is mandated by the state. The process requires the elections office personnel to continually review its voter roll to identify necessary updates. The office’s voter registration system and the ballot tabulation system, which have additional layers of security, were not accessed.
“Education debates rage on as hundreds attend Hernando school board meeting” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Hundreds of people filled the Hernando High School auditorium Tuesday night for an eight-hour school board meeting that spilled into Wednesday morning, encapsulating the raging education debates that have become commonplace in Florida. Political action committees from the right and left urged followers to show up and make their voices heard on an agenda that included books bans, LGBTQ+ student rights and the overall direction of the Hernando school district and its closely divided board. Heeding the call were local teachers, students and residents, as well as visitors and activists from across the state. The crowd included Pinellas County teacher union officials, Moms for Liberty leaders from Collier County and members of the Proud Boys. Security was tight, with about a dozen officers in place and audience members screened by a metal detector. Officials had prepared for a large and possibly raucous event — a concern heightened by recent controversies that have drawn national attention.
“St. Pete stormwater projects exceed $760 million” via Mark Parker of the St. Pete Catalyst — City officials continue formulating an updated Stormwater Master Plan incorporating new modeling technology, sea level rise and rainfall data, stakeholder feedback and policy recommendations to reduce developmental impacts. Brajesh Prayman, engineering and capital improvements director, provided the latest update on the momentous undertaking to the full city council at the May 25 Committee of the Whole meeting. The overarching goal is to improve water quality and reduce – but not eliminate – flooding conditions throughout the peninsula by ascertaining implementable solutions. Unlike the previous iteration, the new plan only highlights major projects with significant community benefits. While the proposed updated strategy will change according to new data and state regulations, it includes 76 projects totaling $760 million.
“‘We will not stop’: 2 human trafficking victims rescued by Hillsborough County deputies” via Courtney Holland of 10 Tampa Bay — Two women were rescued from human trafficking while Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested two traffickers, Sheriff Chad Chronister announced. During a news conference Wednesday morning, Chronister detailed two cases including the two survivors of human trafficking and the rescue operations with the human trafficking unit that ended successfully. The first incident involved a woman who was “barely 20 years of age,” the Sheriff explained. She reportedly met her trafficker on a dating app, and he convinced her to move from Jacksonville to Tampa on the false promise of a better way of life. The second case is “like a plot out of a scary movie,” Chronister explained. According to the Sheriff, the second woman rescued was trafficked for the past 15 years. She was controlled by her trafficker, 42-year-old Vanzini Hansell, through fear and intimidation.
— LOCAL: N. FL —
“Santa Rosa commissioner rails for Democrat-less government. His own party says he went too far” via Tom McLaughlin of the Pensacola News Journal — Shana Alford is a University of West Florida-educated marine biologist, an oyster farmer and the director of a laboratory that monitors the health of local waterways. Santa Rosa County Commissioner Kerry Smith, who nominated Alford to serve on the county’s Marine Advisory Committee, called her uniquely suited to hold the position. And while Alford said she has never considered the party affiliation of a political candidate in deciding how to vote, County Commissioner James Calkins attempted to use her status as a registered Democrat to derail her appointment to the committee, a non-partisan body whose listed duties are “topics related to boating activities.” … “I will not vote for a Democrat to be appointed on any board in Santa Rosa County,” he said.
“Who are the donors who gave as much as $100,000 to Jacksonville Mayor-elect Donna Deegan?” via David Bauerlein and Hanna Holthaus of The Florida Times-Union — From the start of her campaign in 2021 to two weeks before the May 16 election, Deegan raised over $1.2 million through her political committee. A founding partner of Pajcic & Pajcic, Steve Pajcic is a Jacksonville personal injury attorney who served in the state House and was the Democratic nominee for governor in 1986. He gave $100,000. Sallyn Pajcic has been a longtime philanthropist. She is a past chairwoman of the Jacksonville Public Libraries Foundation. She gave $100,000. She is related to Steve Pajcic through her marriage to Gary Pajcic. Wayne Hogan is president and partner of Terrell Hogan, a personal injury law firm in Jacksonville. He was on the legal “dream team” that won a $17 billion settlement for the state of Florida in a lawsuit against the tobacco industry. He gave $80,000.
“Prosecutors spun compelling tale of greed, deception in JEA hearing” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — Prosecutors carried a burden throughout the hearing of convincing a U.S. magistrate judge that the evidence they marshaled to bring an indictment against former JEA CEO Aaron Zahn and CFO Ryan Wannemacher was untainted by sworn statements both men provided city attorneys in the immediate aftermath of the botched privatization effort — statements that prosecutors are barred from using against them in court. That burden led the government to make damaging disclosures about previously secret evidence it gathered during the course of a two-year investigation. Taken together, that evidence told a compelling story about the final summer of Zahn’s tumultuous tenure at JEA, during which he and Wannemacher are accused of concocting a scheme to extract millions of dollars out of the potential sale of the city utility.
“Gainesville places 1st in national water conservation competition” via Nora O’Neill of The Gainesville Sun — Gainesville has made a splash in the National Mayor’s Challenge, securing first place in the population category for water conservation. The win comes after Gainesville residents pledged to reduce their energy and water waste and consumption. Gainesville took the prize for having the highest percentage of its population take the pledge, edging out Miramar, Florida, Surprise, Arizona, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and Greeley, Colorado, according to a press release from Gainesville Regional Utilities. “This recognition shows how committed Gainesville neighbors are to protecting our water resources and ensuring a sustainable community for the future of Gainesville,” Mayor Harvey Ward said in the release.
— LOCAL: SW. FL —
“‘Smart people are falling for stupid lies’: How one Florida county has become ground zero for the far-right’s education blitz” via Kathryn Joyce of Vanity Fair — Over the last two years, education culture wars have become the engine of Republican politics nationwide, with DeSantis’ Florida serving as the vanguard of the movement. But within the state, Sarasota is more central still. Its school board chair, Bridget Ziegler, cofounded the conservative activist group Moms for Liberty and helped lay the groundwork for “Don’t Say Gay.” After a uniquely ugly school board race last summer, conservatives flipped the board and promptly forced out the district’s popular superintendent. The dizzying number of attacks has led to staffing and hiring challenges, the cancelation of a class, a budding exodus of liberals from the county, and fears that destroying public education is the ultimate endgame.
“Coastal town brings mass litigation — and an ‘existential threat’ — to chemical giants” via Kris Maher and Dan Frosch of The Wall Street Journal — Stuart, a small city of retirees and tourists 40 miles north of Palm Beach, is at the forefront of one of the nation’s biggest environmental legal battles, over a class of chemicals known as PFAS. The fight pits hundreds of municipalities and about a dozen states against corporate giant 3M and other companies that made or sold the chemicals or firefighting foam containing them. Stuart’s lawsuit is now one of more than 4,000 against 3M and other companies. Stuart is one of 300 cities seeking to recover the cost of filtering the chemicals out of water. Many other lawsuits allege personal injuries from exposure to the foam.
— TOP OPINION —
“Ron DeSantis is all in — on creating an American autocracy” via Pema Levy of Mother Jones — DeSantis has proven his “willingness to routinely use the machinery of the state to punish rivals,” explains Harvard government professor Steven Levitsky. “That’s authoritarianism at its core. That’s what authoritarians do.” Former State Attorney Andrew Warren is not the only local elected official DeSantis has targeted. He’s booted School Board members, an Elections Supervisor, and a Sheriff — all Democrats. DeSantis has turned the power of the state against political opponents, businesses that transgress his orthodoxy, and the education system and universities that serve as liberal bulwarks against illiberal rulers. DeSantis breeds fear of vulnerable groups for political advantage.
— OPINIONS —
“How Ron DeSantis can win” via Alex Berenson of Unreported Truths — I’m not sure DeSantis understands even now how much he meant to Team Reality members living in other states. That’s why the last year — and especially the last six months — have been so disappointing, as DeSantis spends more and more time on an increasingly vicious culture war. Much of the rest of what he’s doing seems performative and stupid — and self-defeating. If you have to talk about putting a state prison next to an amusement park, you’ve lost. How can he beat Trump, then? If the last eight years have taught Trump’s opponents anything, it should be this. The only way to deal with Trump is neither to ignore him or engage with him. It is to dismiss him — in the simplest, crudest way possible, in a way that cuts to the self-doubt at his core.
“The contradiction at the heart of DeSantis 2024” via Eric Levitz of Intelligencer — Part of DeSantis’ pitch to GOP voters is that he, unlike Trump, is a conservative true believer fluent in all of the movement’s myriad obsessions. But this asset becomes a liability when the candidate’s immersion in right-wing discourse renders him illegible to the millions of Republican voters who do not religiously read National Review. DeSantis’ decision to launch his campaign via a (glitch-riddled) Twitter Spaces dialogue with Elon Musk and David Sacks was testament to the Florida Governor’s peculiar sensibilities. The vast majority of Americans are not on Twitter. And the vast majority of Twitter users have never used its audio function. In any case, DeSantis’ remarks were narrowcast at the platform’s idiosyncratic constituency.
“America’s baleful exports to the United Kingdom: xenophobia, censorship, racism” via Diane Roberts of Florida Phoenix — Some of the worst ideas concocted by the American right are landing here, including voter ID. Voting in the U.K. has always been so clean, so easy, it would make your average Florida elections supervisor weep with joy. It’s nearly impossible to commit fraud. Nevertheless, the Conservatives who control the British government decided to combat that nonexistent fraud by making voters present an approved form of identification: a passport, a driver’s license, or one of the travel passes issued to people over 60. Student ID cards are not allowed. It is, no doubt, the merest coincidence that older folks vote Conservative while younger ones do not. But there has long been a nasty, if relatively small, strain of xenophobia and racism in this country.
— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —
— ALOE —
“‘Boom’ from SpaceX Dragon capsule reentry was felt across Florida Panhandle” via Brandon Girod of the Pensacola News Journal — Did anyone else hear that boom? The private flight carrying two Saudi astronauts and two other passengers returned after a nine-day trip to the ISS and splashed down just off the Florida Panhandle about 12 hours after undocking from the orbiting lab, reported the Associated Press. Social media was abuzz with video clips of what sounded like two distant explosions and sleepy Floridians wondering what the commotion was about. “We heard the boom here in Pensacola about 25 min ago,” wrote Twitter user Jeaniene Church. “No video, but sonic boom in East Milton, shook the house,” replied Jacob German.
“Get ready, FAMU sneakerheads! New LeBron James shoes in Rattlers colors dropping soon” via Alaijah Brown of the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida A&M University sneakerheads can soon add the latest LeBron James footwear release to their Rattler paraphernalia. Nike has released multiple LeBron James sneaker models in FAMU colors — orange and green — however the latest sneaker design is dedicated exclusively to the HBCU, purposefully including the FAMU logo across the back of the shoe. The APB x Lebron XX sneaker was announced on the Florida A&M Athletics Twitter site with a 2-minute campaign video. “From Tally to the world, the APB x FAMU Lebron XX stands to celebrate culture and community above all,” the Whitaker Grp released on its Instagram page after the announcement, “As APB’s very first NIKE collaboration, it represents the special relationship between FAMU and Tallahassee, anchored in greatness and legacy.”
“Real-life ‘Fast and Furious’: Car sent flying over tow truck in Georgia, video shows” via The Associated Press — It looks like a scene from a Hollywood blockbuster. A sedan rockets into the air after driving up the ramp of a flatbed tow truck on a Georgia highway. And the whole crash is caught on video by an officer’s body camera. Shocked motorists and law enforcement watched in horror as the Nissan Altima was launched 120 feet down the highway in Lowndes County. After landing upside down, the Nissan struck another car then tumbled end over end before coming to a rest 23 feet down the roadway, the report said. Even before the car stops, the officer whose body cam recorded the crash begins sprinting to render aid to the stricken motorists.
“Disney’s live-action ‘Moana’ taps ‘Hamilton’ Helmer Thomas Kail as Director” via Borys Kit of The Hollywood Reporter — Kail, the Tony Award-winning director of Broadway’s Hamilton, has been tapped to direct Disney’s live-action take on the studio’s 2016 animated musical sensation Moana. Disney announced the remake earlier this spring and has secured Dwayne Johnson to return to the role of Maui, the grandiose demigod of the wind and sea. Johnson is producing via his Seven Bucks Productions along with Dany Garcia and Hiram Garcia. Beau Flynn is also producing via Flynn Picture Co. Jared Bush, who wrote the screenplay for the original movie, penned the remake, along with Dana Ledoux Miller.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Happy birthday to Kinley Morgan, VP of Communications at Pinnacle Media as well as state Sen. Danny Burgess, the Tallahassee Democrat’s Jeff Burlew, Carole Duncanson, and reporter Jake Stefan.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.