Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 6.16.23

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Coffee is for closers. So is Sunburn, your morning rundown of Florida politics.

Good Friday morning.

Michael Simas has been selected to succeed Bob Ward as president of the Florida Council of 100.

Simas moves up from Chief Operating Officer, a position he has held since January. He brings more than 20 years of leadership experience in the public and private sectors to the Council of 100, a business organization focused on growing the state economy.

“I am honored to be appointed as the president of the Florida Council of 100. I look forward to working with the business leaders of the state to drive economic development and create opportunities for all Floridians,” Simas said.

Congrats to Michael Simas, selected as the next president of the Florida Council of 100.

Before joining the Council of 100, he was executive vice president of the Partnership for New York City, where he led efforts to promote economic growth and job creation. He has also worked as a senior adviser to CEOs, developing and executing business initiatives in collaboration with global, federal, state and local leaders.

“We are grateful that Michael, like many Americans, has decided to bring his talents and business acumen to the most successful state in the country,” Council of 100 Chair Eric Silagy said. “He will be a tremendous asset not only to the Council of 100 but to Florida overall as we find new ways to propel the state to even greater heights.”

Simas is taking over the top spot from Ward, who has held the position for the past seven years. Ward will remain CEO until the end of the year when he plans to retire after a 37-year career in public policy.

“We are thrilled to have Michael Simas as our new president. His experience and expertise in convening private sector leadership to promote economic growth and prosperity make him the perfect candidate to lead the Council,” Ward said.


One of U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart’s longtime staffers is leaving Capitol Hill and making the jump to the private sector.

Laura Hernandez-Smith has worked in Diaz-Balart’s office for the past seven years, starting as a staff assistant, a congressional aide and, for the past four years, as Communications Director.

In that role, she coordinated Hernandez-Smith’s time leading comms for Florida’s longest-serving delegation member for a stretch that included two presidential impeachments, a presidential inauguration, the Jan. 6 attack and a pandemic — her boss was the first member of Congress to contract the COVID-19.

Longtime congressional staffer Laura Hernandez-Smith heads to the private sector.

The Florida International University alum will now work as an account director at ROKK Solutions, a bipartisan public relations firm that PR News included in its annual “Agency Elite Top 100” last year.

“I’ve learned and grown more than I could’ve ever imagined, and I’m excited to embark on this new journey,” Hernandez-Smith said in a statement sent to the media. “My deepest and most sincere ‘thank you’ to all of you whom I’ve had the privilege of working with and learning from over the years. I look forward to continuing our shared work in a different capacity.”

Starting Monday, Andrea Morales will take over as Diaz-Balart’s Press Secretary.


@GovRonDeSantis: I am proud to sign our historic Framework for Freedom budget. We are committed to delivering results for Floridians and this budget is laying the groundwork for a successful future for our state.

@JimmyPatronis: @GovRonDeSantis‘ budget is a stark contrast to failing blue states & sends a strong message to bureaucrats to stay out of our kitchens, giving a permanent sales tax on gas stoves. If the Left had it their way we’d still be in caves & stomping on fire, but in Florida we’re FREE.

@zacjanderson: Sarasota state Sen. Joe Gruters goes nuclear on DeSantis in (a) blistering statement that accuses the Governor of vetoing Sarasota budget projects as retaliation for Gruters supporting (Donald) Trump. Example of presidential politics causing rifts in Florida GOP.

@USF_Pres: #USF continues to be a strong investment, and this year’s transformational budget will help us continue to excel in student and faculty success, grow our research profile and make a greater impact on the Tampa Bay region and the state of Florida.

@FentriceForFL: Ron DeSantis & his veto pen made Florida worse off today. Budgets aren’t just numbers on spreadsheets, they’re a reflection of our values & priorities. Unfortunately, the cuts DeSantis made show that he doesn’t understand the problems that real Florida families struggle with.

Tweet, tweet:

@JaxPeel: Team DeSantis: “We need him to connect more with normal people …” Also, Team DeSantis: “OK, but what if he signed the budget at a yacht club, didn’t really focus on real Florida issues, and picked a fight with Gavin Newsom? Oh, and he can make his classic zombie studies joke!

@SteveLemongello: Not a single Q to DeSantis about the budget at the budget signing, which is why I assume it was held in Fort Pierce away from Tallahassee bureau reporters

@lmower3: DeSantis’ team produced T-shirts from this morning’s signing of the state budget before his office actually releases the budget to the public.

@jeffschweers: After signing the budget, DeSantis brusquely replied to someone thanking him for his leadership, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.”

@fineout: Missed this from earlier. DeSantis’ campaign is selling merchandise off the Governor’s quip about California Gov. Newsom

@Jason_Garcia: Ron DeSantis just vetoed ~$500 million in projects from Florida’s new state budget — but he signed off on *another* $5 million earmark for this Palm Beach County museum backed by a major campaign contributor.

@BettyBowers: Donald declaring, “Food for everyone!” at Miami’s Versailles was just like Donald praying at Miami’s Versailles: A dishonest performance for the cameras in hopes of being seen by potential jurors.


DeSantis to headline Nevada PAC’s annual basque fry — 1; ‘Secret Invasion’ premieres on Disney+ — 5; ‘The Bear’ returns to Hulu — 5; ‘And Just Like That’ Season 2 premieres — 6; Florida Chamber 2023 Florida Learners to Earners Workforce Solution Summit — 11; Jacksonville Mayor-elect Donna Deegan’s inauguration — 14; ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ premieres — 14; Wimbledon begins — 17; 2023 MLB All-Star Game — 25; ‘Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning — Part One’ premieres — 26; Florida Chamber 37th Annual Environmental Permitting Summer School — 33; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 35; Beyoncé’s ‘Renaissance’ tour in Tampa — 61; The first GOP Presidential Primary debate — 68; ‘Ahsoka’ premieres on Disney+ — 68; The U.S. Open begins — 73; Florida House Fall 2023 Interim Committee Meetings begin — 94; Martin Scorsese’s ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ premieres — 112; 2023 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 129; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 140; ’Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 147; Ridley Scott’s ‘Napoleon’ premieres — 159; Florida’s 2024 Regular Session begins — 207; South Carolina Democratic Primary — 232; New Hampshire and Nevada Democratic Primaries — 235; Georgia Democratic Primary — 242; Michigan Democratic Primary — 256; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 266; 2024 Oscars — 268; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 287; ‘Deadpool 3’ premieres — 322; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 343; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 406; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 406; New ‘Alien’ premieres — 427; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 435; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 553; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 609; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 686; ‘Moana’ premieres — 742; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 917; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 1,050; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 1,071; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 1,281; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,421; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,380; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,743.


Gov. Ron DeSantis signs $116.5B budget, vetoes $511M of mostly local earmarks” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — DeSantis signed it Thursday after crossing out $511 million of mostly local appropriations, a far smaller sum than the $3.1 billion he excised from last year’s plan.

Among the biggest-ticket vetoes: $100 million for conservative and rural land protection easement and agreements, $30.8 million to acquire Kirkland Ranch for water and conservation purposes and $20 million to expand nursing- and STEM-related programs at the University of South Florida.

Ron DeSantis signs Florida’s historic budget, after a slight haircut for local projects.

Florida’s $20 billion surplus this past year, $800 million more than in the prior fiscal year, will help offset a permanent sales tax exemption in the state for all baby and toddler items, adult diaper and incontinence products and oral hygiene products.

There will be two back-to-school tax holidays for the Fall and Spring semesters and two disaster preparedness sales tax breaks, each lasting 14 days. Those are expected to save Floridians more than $300 million combined.

The Governor signed off on a one-year, $6.9 million sales tax exemption on gas stoves, a recent point of contention in the ongoing culture war. Other exemptions include a three-month tax break on outdoor recreational purchases, event and location tickets, children’s toys and athletic equipment; a seven-day skilled worker tool sale; a permanent sales tax exemption for gun safes and lockboxes and a 1% reduction in business rent taxes estimated to save companies $256 million beginning Dec. 1.

There’s more, he said. State workers will see an across-the-board 5% pay increase. Correctional officers’ wages will rise to $22 per hour. Agencies will also have $96.5 million more combined to spend at their discretion on compression, recruitment and retention as the government responds to higher competing wages in the private sector.

The package includes $26.8 billion for K-12 schools, 46% of which is local dollars. It’s a 9% spending increase from the current fiscal year equal to $8,648 per student.

—“DeSantis signs $116.5 billion budget, slashes $511 million” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Orlando Sentinel

— 2024 —

New DeSantis super PAC ad shows him dragging media, ‘activists’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — A new ad from DeSantis’ super PAC shows the Governor on the attack, but not against Trump or any other 2024 opponent. Rather than slamming the former President in the wake of his 37-count indictment, the Never Back Down spot “Punching Back” leads off with a solemn vow to supporters. “I am not going to let the media smear what’s going on in Florida,” DeSantis says, in sound sandwiched by former Fox News host Tucker Carlson raving about how DeSantis is “succeeding.” From there, the ad launches into a greatest hits of punches at the press and attacks on “activists,” even as the joke might be that mainstream media and activists are the same in DeSantis-land.

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

DeSantis at 12% support among New Hampshire Republicans” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis’ second-place position in the first-in-the-nation Primary state is in deep trouble with fewer than 1/8 of GOP voters backing his presidential run. That’s the verdict of a new National Research Inc. survey of 500 likely New Hampshire Republican Primary voters commissioned by American Greatness and conducted between Monday and Wednesday of this week. The polling shows DeSantis with just 12% support, down 6 points from the May survey by the same outfit. The Governor is 32 points behind Trump, whose 44% support is up 5 from last month’s poll. This is especially troubling for DeSantis given that 71% of voters in the state remember his ads, compared to just 62% for the former President.

DeSantis mocks California Governor’s ‘fixation’ with Florida” via Michael Moline of Florida Phoenix — DeSantis accused his frequent Democratic critic California Gov. Newsom on Thursday of having a “fixation” about Florida and challenged Newsom to stop “pussyfooting” and open a Democratic Primary challenge against (President Joe) Biden. The barrage came after DeSantis was asked during a news conference whether he would take Newsom up on his challenge to debate. “You know, it’s interesting — he’s got huge problems in his state. I mean, like, huge problems in his state. We all know that. I mean, you see it in San Francisco, you see it in L.A., you see it in the people fleeing,” he said. “And yet with all those problems, he has a real serious fixation on the state of Florida. I mean, I think it’s just bizarre that he does that.”

Green groups give Joe Biden an early endorsement” via Eli Stokols of POLITICO — Four of the nation’s biggest environmental advocacy groups officially endorsed Biden’s re-election campaign Wednesday night, an early declaration of support that also served as a show of appreciation for having passed the most significant climate legislation in history last year. Biden trekked across town from the White House to receive the endorsement in person, speaking at the League of Conservation Voters’ annual fundraising dinner. The backing of the four major green groups — LCV, NextGen PAC, NRDC Action Fund and the Sierra Club — was no surprise, especially after last year’s passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which included $370 billion in subsidies for clean energy projects.

Endorsements start rolling in for Joe Biden. Image via AP.

AFL-CIO to endorse Biden for re-election as parties jockey for union voters” via Ken Thomas of The Wall Street Journal — Biden is expected to be endorsed by the AFL-CIO this week ahead of a Saturday union rally in Philadelphia, marking the earliest presidential endorsement in the labor federation’s history as the two major parties battle over working-class voters. The AFL-CIO, which includes 60 unions representing more than 12.5 million workers across a host of industries and the public sector, has long supported Democratic presidents and presidential nominees. While its support of Biden has been widely anticipated, the endorsement will land more than 16 months before the 2024 Election, and at the start of the Republican Presidential Primaries.

Donald Trump ‘dominating’ Iowa caucuses, campaign memo claims” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Trump campaign claims to be “dominating” the Iowa caucuses in a new memo released to media. “While Trump is cementing his candidacy as the Republican presidential nominee, DeSantis’ chances are fading away,” the poll reads. The pollster cites the latest “head-to-head” polling that shows Trump ahead of DeSantis, 60% to 33%. The Trump +27 spread is 5 points bigger than a poll conducted by the same outfit at the end of April. Trump’s lead is even bigger in the “larger field,” with the former President’s 51% dwarfing DeSantis’ 19%. U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, at 9%, is a competitive third place.

Trump’s GOP defenders in Congress leap into action on charges after months of preparation” via Mary Clare Jalonick and Farnoush Amiri of The Associated Press — Trump’s indictment on charges of mishandling classified documents is set to play out in a federal court in Florida. But about a thousand miles away, part of Trump’s defense is well underway in a different venue, the halls of Congress, where Republicans have been preparing for months to wage an aggressive counteroffensive against the Justice Department. The federal indictment against Trump, unsealed Friday, includes 37 counts, including allegations that the former President intentionally possessed classified documents, showed them off to visitors, willfully defied Justice Department demands to return them and made false statements to federal authorities about them.

— MORE 2024 —

Miami Mayor makes two big bets” via Ben Schreckinger of POLITICO — Miami’s Republican Mayor Francis Suarez just took a big risk on his future. He also entered the presidential race today. Recent history, with its bumper crops of Presidential Primary candidates, shows that there’s little downside in mounting a long shot Oval Office bid. Losers often walk away with consolation prizes like Cabinet posts or cable news gigs. Recent history has been less kind to cryptocurrency, and to those who bind their fortunes too closely to it, as the digital assets market crashed last year, exposing a series of spectacular frauds along the way. Suarez is among those bound to it. He tied his personal brand and Miami’s to crypto by aggressively boosting the technology during its last bull run — and he continues to embrace the technology as he steps onto the national stage.

Apply skepticism to both Kennedy’s and DeSantis’ favorability ratings” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — When you are a fringe challenger to an incumbent President, you take good news where you can get it. So, following the release of new poll numbers, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. hyped an article emphasizing his relatively strong favorability ratings. Favorability ratings, though, are tricky things. They are useful measures of how voters feel about candidates, ones that often correlate to voting intention. But they’re also necessarily hindered by an important caveat: Particularly for lesser-known candidates, popularity is easy to overstate. For better-known candidates, there’s another important consideration: how those numbers are changing over time.

Favorability ratings for Robert F. Kennedy Jr. should be taken with a grain of salt. Image via AP.

It’s not just Trump. Chris Christie’s gunning for DeSantis, too.” via Sally Goldenberg of POLITICO — When Christie jumped into the crowded Republican Presidential Primary, it was with the expectation that he would aim his fire at his ally-turned-nemesis, Trump. But, on numerous occasions, it’s been DeSantis who is getting hit with shrapnel and Christie’s team says that’s no accident. Since announcing his long shot bid for the presidency earlier this month, Christie has occupied the lonely lane of publicly attacking Trump, doing so even as DeSantis and other GOP contenders either defend the former President or avoid discussing him. He’s trying to create space for other Trump rivals before the Florida Governor further solidifies his second-place standing in the Primary.

Down-ballot Republicans brace for ‘vortex that is Trump’” via Leigh Ann Caldwell and Theodoric Meyer of The Washington Post — “There’s not a person who is running for any office who is not worried about the oxygen suck and the drama that could be next year,” said one Republican donor who helps recruit candidates to run. “Instead of talking about jobs, inflation and the debt, candidates are going to be drawn in and forced to be in that vortex that is Donald Trump.” Being on a ballot with Trump or where Trump is a major issue in the campaign has previously been problematic for Republicans down-ballot. Trump appeared to be a major factor in Republicans losing seats in the Senate in the past three election cycles and losing the House in 2018 and underperforming in 2022.

Trump judge’s thin criminal trial resume comes with a twist” via Kyle Cheney of POLITICO — Aileen Cannon, the federal judge overseeing Trump’s latest criminal case, has run just four, relatively routine criminal trials in her short tenure on the bench, a stark contrast to the historic and complex proceedings she’s about to undertake related to the former President. A review of the Southern District of Florida dockets shows Cannon’s criminal work has consisted almost entirely of a few categories of cases: distribution of a controlled substance, illegal reentry of people who had previously been deported, felons in possession of firearms and child pornography or trafficking. Nearly all have resulted in plea agreements and the four that did not were managed in brief trials that lasted no more than three days apiece in court.

Judge orders Trump lawyers to seek security clearances” via Kyle Cheney of POLITICO — In a brief order, Cannon required all attorneys in the case — for Trump as well as his longtime valet, Walt Nauta, who is charged alongside him as an alleged co-conspirator — to contact the Justice Department about obtaining security clearances. The same instructions apply to any “forthcoming” attorneys, the judge said. It is common in criminal cases involving classified documents for defense attorneys to obtain security clearances.


More than $120M in higher education funding felled by DeSantis’ veto pen” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Governor nixed $20 million for a nursing school at the University of South Florida’s Sarasota-Manatee campus. The University of Florida lost $11 million for an Academic and Research Center. And the Governor axed more than $11.2 million earmarked for a Student Achievement Center at Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland. Florida State University lost out on $4 million in expected funding for a Hydrogen Research Center. Additionally, the Governor disposed of $34.1 million set aside for a STEAM Complex at St. Johns River State College and an addition to the Palatka campus. The Legislature budgeted $16.2 million at Polk State College for the first phase of its Northeast Ridge project. Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers had anticipated $14.5 million in funding for renovations at Reed Hall, a classroom building. The University of West Florida expected $5 million for tearing down its Southside Residence Halls, which has been closed since 2017. All of that was vetoed. South Florida State College also lost out on $500,000 for a new swimming pool.

Joe Gruters sees retribution in DeSantis’ vetoes of Sarasota projects” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — No community is named as frequently in DeSantis’ veto list as Sarasota. The region’s state Senator, a close ally of Trump, says that’s no accident. Sen. Gruters, Sarasota County’s longest-serving state lawmaker, sees a political grievance in the funding cuts. “The Governor is clearly upset I endorsed Donald Trump for President, and so he took it out on the people of Sarasota County,” said Gruters. “Trump and I understand that people come first, and it’s our job to deliver clean water, jobs, and a better America for the next generation. The Governor clearly sees politics differently.”

Joe Gruters’ relationship with Donald Trump and Susie Wiles has consequences, he says. Image via Twitter.

DeSantis signs 2023-24 budget in Fort Pierce, including $100M for Indian River Lagoon” via Lindsey Leake and Gianna Montesano of Treasure Coast Newspapers — DeSantis visited Fort Pierce to sign a state budget that dedicates $100 million to the Indian River Lagoon Protection Program. The 2024 Republican presidential candidate touted his management of Florida funds as he outlined the Framework for Freedom Budget, covering fiscal 2023-24, which begins July 1. DeSantis’ June 15 address at Pelican Yacht Club marked his first stop on the Treasure Coast since he announced his candidacy for the nation’s highest office last month. “This is probably the strongest environmental budget we’ve ever had in the history of Florida,” he said.

Veto list: DeSantis nixes funding for public broadcasting stations” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis yet again vetoed a tranche of funding designed to remedy safety issues at Florida’s public broadcasting stations. A total of $6,435,609 made the budget to “correct health and safety issues, correct building deficiencies, and complete renovations at public broadcasting stations,” but as in previous years, the legislative request was ignored on the plaza level. Many of these items were vetoed last year. The requests run the gamut of costs, with some cheaper than a new car, such as that from WDNA-FM. The Miami station will not get $19,855 to replace its HVAC Air Handler.

DeSantis nixes funding for 1619Fest, Harry and Harriette Moore figures” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — DeSantis nixed funding for the Black History Month Celebration in Orlando, including for the 1619Fest Orlando and Rebel Run 5K. The Legislature had set aside $200,000 for the event from general revenue sources. Rep. Anna Eskamani, an Orlando Democrat, lobbied successfully in the Legislature for the funding. But it fell to the veto pen along with millions in other cultural grants and spending. The Equity Council had requested the dollars, and argued in a state application the funding would satisfy requirements in state law to educate about Black history.

Sour notes from DeSantis for Jax music history museum” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Hopes that the state of Florida would provide $500,000 for the renovation of the Jacksonville Casket Factory into a music history museum are dead for this year. DeSantis slashed the appropriation in the budget veto list. Cash from Tallahassee was expected to help turn a dormant Jacksonville casket factory into something full of life. Now, other options will need to be pursued. House and Senate Budget Committees agreed to allot $500,000 for the renovation of a one-time coffin plant, to be repurposed as the Jacksonville Music History Museum.

DeSantis vetoes nearly $29M for USF” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — DeSantis, as part of his more than $500 million in line-item vetoes in the 2023-24 fiscal year budget, slashed $22.9 million from approved funding for the University of South Florida (USF). The largest cut, $20 million, was to the school’s Sarasota-Manatee campus, nixing funding for a STEM nursing facility. This facility, which received $3 million in last year’s state budget, will allow for the expansion of degree offerings in the STEM and nursing fields across USF and will significantly increase the number of students who can enroll in and complete those programs on the Sarasota-Manatee campus.

No state money for Tampa Italian Club after DeSantis veto” via Florida Politics — DeSantis has vetoed funding for the Italian Club of Tampa, which had landed $1 million in the 2023-24 budget lawmakers approved last month. Rep. Karen Gonzalez Pittman, who sponsored the appropriations request, had asked for just over $3 million. The funds were intended for building restoration and a code compliance initiative. The Italian Club’s building is a registered historic landmark and the club itself is the oldest Italian organization of its type in the U.S. The building needs preservation work, including bringing it up to the current code.

Tampa water projects fall victim to DeSantis’ veto pen” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Two projects related to water-related projects in the Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve won’t receive the funding lawmakers approved in the Fiscal Year 2023-24 budget. DeSantis nixed a $2.5 million Tampa Bay Water project at the site that would rehabilitate old wells and another $2.5 million for the continuity of operations center (COOP) at the site for the city of Tampa water department. The COOP funding, requested by Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and carried in the House by Rep. Fentrice Driskell, would have funded half the overall project. The facility would provide an alternative safe water source for the city of Tampa in the case of an event that made the city’s main treatment facility, distribution yard or call center unusable.

Ron DeSantis’ veto list dealt a blow to Tampa and Jane Castor.

Here’s what Escambia projects got axed — or survived — the Governor’s budget veto pen” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — A majority of projects in Escambia County survived the Governor’s veto pen, with $52.5 million making the final cut. The original $117 billion budget included $77 million in one-time spending for projects, organizations and programs in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. That was reduced to $71 million after the dust settled Thursday. Across the state, $511 million was vetoed, bringing the final state budget to $116.5 billion. That’s a far cry from 2022 when DeSantis vetoed $4 billion.

Most Citrus County projects escape Governor’s veto” via Mike Wright of Florida Politics — DeSantis vetoed funding for two Citrus County projects but let stand another $26 million, including funds to help meet the county’s top economic development goal. DeSantis vetoed $1.125 million to extend the Withlacoochee State Trail to Whispering Pines Park in Inverness. He vetoed a similar amount last year. He also axed $700,000 for the Tsala Apopka Chain of Lakes restoration project. The lion’s share of Citrus County’s projects, however, received the Governor’s green light, including $9 million to prepare the 75-acre Inverness Airport Business Park for development. Citrus County officials said this request was for their biggest economic development project.

Budget scorecard: What did Tallahassee, Leon, FSU and FAMU get? What was vetoed?” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — The bottom line on the record state budget DeSantis signed Thursday makes clear state government and higher education drive Tallahassee’s economy. The $116 billion state spending plan includes nearly a billion dollars of economic activity for Leon County’s 300,000 residents. The 5% pay raise effective July 1 for the 22,000 state workers in Leon, Gadsden, and Wakulla counties increases the Capital region’s income by more than $43 million — comparable to the economic impact of a year’s worth of attendance at Florida State University’s football, basketball, baseball and softball games. But that’s just a fraction of what the state is going to spend in Leon County between now and June 30, 2024.

UF graduate campus in Jacksonville and Ponce de Leon in St. Augustine avoid DeSantis vetoes” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — DeSantis took a light touch with his veto pen and left big-ticket items sought by Northeast Florida lawmakers in the state budget, topped by $75 million for a planned University of Florida graduate campus in Jacksonville. The budget signed Thursday by DeSantis also will have $35 million for structural remodeling of the historic Hotel Ponce de Leon in St. Augustine which is part of the Flagler College campus. The University of North Florida will get $26.3 million for expansion and upgrades for the University of North Florida’s Coggin College of Business plus $7.4 million.

Democratic lawmakers frustrated as DeSantis’ vetoes hit blue communities” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Were Democrats hit harder when it came to vetoes on local spending? Many felt a sting after DeSantis’ Office published some $511 million in line items nixed from the state budget. Rep. Michele Rayner-Goolsby saw two priority projects vetoed. Those included $1.15 million for The Well Center for Trauma Recovery, Wellness, and Healing Justice, as well as about $181,000 for Operation PAR, a licensed residential substance use treatment program specifically catering to pregnant and parenting women.

On day of Daniel Penny indictment, DeSantis signs bill making strangulation a felony” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis has signed legislation that would classify strangulation as assault that merits felony charges. Rep. Jessica Baker’s legislation makes the penalty for the act a third-degree felony, which could lead to five years in state prison for those convicted, as long as the act is adjudged to have caused “great bodily harm.” The Governor signed the bill on the same day that former Marine Daniel Penny, whom the Governor has described as a “good Samaritan,” was indicted on a charge of manslaughter by a grand jury for choking a homeless man to death on a subway. Penny’s attorneys say he was responding to an imminent threat and his actions were “fully justified.”

Daniel Penny’s indictment comes on the day Florida makes what he did a felony. Image via AP.

DeSantis fumes about Pride flag at White House” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis groused to reporters in Fort Pierce that the Biden administration privileged the rainbow-colored Pride flag over the U.S. flag, calling it a “transgender” banner. “When they had at the White House, you know, this transgender flag (taking) precedence over the American flag. That’s wrong. That is not how you display the American flag,” DeSantis said Thursday. Contrary to the assertions of some Republicans, the U.S. flag was the most prominently displayed, as it flew over the White House even as the Pride flag was side-by-side with the American flag on the White House balcony. It’s unclear whether the Governor was aware of that or not.

Poll shows most HD 35 Republicans support DeSantis’ war on Disney” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Even in the immediate area around Walt Disney World, most Republicans support DeSantis’ ongoing feud against the Happiest Place on Earth. As Central Florida voters prepare for a Special Election in a battleground district, polling firm Victory Insights surveyed registered Republicans in House District 35. That’s a district spanning parts of Orange and Osceola counties, where Disney serves as the region’s top employer. The Naples-based firm found GOP voters split in the Presidential Primary on whether they favor DeSantis or Trump. But voters definitely favor the Governor over the House of Mouse. Asked about the Governor’s recent legal fights with Disney, about 69% of voters said they support DeSantis’ decision to take on the company. About 25% oppose it.

FHCA applauds DeSantis, lawmakers for long-term care funding — The Florida Health Care Association praised DeSantis for signing the budget, which includes an increase in Medicaid funding for nursing center care, which the organization said will support ongoing quality advancements and care provided across all centers. “We want to express our sincere gratitude to Gov. DeSantis for recognizing that continued leadership in providing high-quality care for Florida’s nursing center residents requires an ongoing investment of state resources to ensure that we remain the gold standard,” said FHCA CEO Emmett Reed. “The very real challenges of our growing elder population cannot be pushed aside, and the Governor, Senate President (Kathleen) Passidomo, and Speaker (Paul) Renner deserve our thanks for recognizing this and providing funds to meet those challenges.”

Advertisement— STATEWIDE —

Florida has the 3rd-highest federal student loan debt in the U.S. How much do Floridians owe?” via C.A. Bridges of USA Today Network — The total federal student loan debt balance in Florida was $105.1 billion, including outstanding principal and interest balances. This includes Direct Loans, Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) and Perkins Loans but does not include private loan debt. That makes Florida the state with the third highest amount of federal student loan debt, behind California ($148.6 billion) and Texas ($126 billion). The average federal student loan for Florida borrowers was $38,725, as of the end of last year. That was the fifth highest in the U.S.

Florida is one of the leaders in student debt.

College Board rejects Florida’s request to remove LGBTQ subjects from AP courses” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Another showdown over Advanced Placement courses could be brewing in Florida, this time over AP Psychology, as the nonprofit that runs the program faces pressure from state officials to remove or revise lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Florida Department of Education sent a letter to the College Board, which runs the AP program, on May 19 asking the organization to review all AP courses to see if they “need modification to ensure compliance” with a Florida law and state Board of Education rule targeting instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Details revealed for Florida-bound Celebrity Ascent cruise ship” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Celebrity Cruises is lining up its fourth iteration of the groundbreaking Edge class of ships with the planned arrival of Celebrity Ascent to Florida this Fall. The line revealed details of the 140,600-gross-ton vessel set to begin preview sailings in late November from Port Everglades. Just like Celebrity Edge which debuted in 2018 followed by Apex in 2019 and Beyond in 2022, Ascent will feature the standout Magic Carpet, an exterior elevator platform that acts primarily as an innovative way for passengers to disembark and reboard the ship when it tenders at ports of call, but also doubles as an entertainment and dining venue.


Biden muscles Ticketmaster, SeatGeek to scrap hidden ticket fees after Taylor Swift debacle” via Joey Garrison of USA Today — Ticketmaster and mobile ticket vendor SeatGeek will no longer hide fees from total ticket costs amid pressure from Biden for companies to ditch so-called “junk fees.” The moves come after Live Nation Entertainment, the parent company of Ticketmaster, faced criticism from the White House and Congress in January over ticket sales for pop star Swift’s tour that included exorbitant hidden fees and platform outages, preventing some fans from buying tickets. Biden touted the steps taken by Live Nation, SeatGeek and other companies during White House remarks Thursday and also recognized ticket sellers like TickPick that already provide upfront pricing to customers with no hidden fees.

Joe Biden is praising Ticketmaster for its attempt at transparency. Image via AP.

D.C. spending standoff ahead as U.S. House Republicans demand $130 billion in cuts” via Jennifer Shutt of Florida Phoenix — U.S. House Republicans outlined Wednesday how they would cut $130 billion from the dozen annual government funding bills, producing a plan with significantly lower spending than the level both parties agreed to in the debt limit deal just two weeks ago. The spending levels likely set up a stalemate later this year between the GOP House and Democratic Senate that could lead to a partial government shutdown. Contentious policy riders added by Republicans likely won’t make it into the final versions of spending bills, though they will add hurdles to the process.

Supreme Court preserves law that aims to keep Native American children with tribal families” via The Associated Press — The Supreme Court on Thursday preserved the system that gives preference to Native American families in foster care and adoption proceedings of Native children, rejecting a broad attack from some Republican-led states and white families who argued it is based on race. The court left in place the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act, which was enacted to address concerns that Native children were being separated from their families and, too frequently, placed in non-Native homes. Tribal leaders have backed the law as a means of preserving their families, traditions and cultures.

Tougher ethics rules for U.S. Supreme Court justices advocated in Senate hearing” via Ashley Murray of Florida Phoenix — Senate Democrats for the third time this year made their case that U.S. Supreme Court justices must follow stronger ethics rules, including recusing themselves from cases where they have a financial stake or other connection to a case. The series of hearings by the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and its Subcommittees came after recent revelations about Justice Clarence Thomas’ luxury travel and real estate transactions with a GOP donor. A proposal by Rhode Island’s Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse to enhance the court’s transparency was the focus of Wednesday’s Subcommittee hearing, specifically a section detailing new conflict of interest rules for Supreme Court justices and the federal judiciary at large.

House votes to table GOP measure to censure, fine Adam Schiff” via John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro of The Washington Post — The Republican-led House voted to table a measure Wednesday that would censure Rep. Schiff for pressing allegations that Trump’s 2016 campaign colluded with Russia. Twenty Republicans voted with Democrats to table the measure, effectively killing it, in a vote of 225-196. Two Republicans and five Democrats voted present. The resolution also sought to fine Schiff, the former House Intelligence Committee Chair, $16 million, which its sponsor, Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, says is half the cost of an investigation into the alleged collusion.

Kat Cammack introduces bill in Congress to designate Florida phosphate and potash as national security minerals” via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist — A group of bipartisan Congressional leaders introduced a bill on Monday aimed at reshaping U.S. agricultural security and mitigating food security threats. U.S. Rep. Cammack, U.S. Rep. Barry Moore, U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, and U.S. Rep. Jimmy Panetta sponsored the bill seeking to place phosphate and potash on the Department of the Interior’s list of critical minerals. Florida is one of the largest suppliers of phosphate and potash in the world, and the minerals are critical for use in agricultural fertilizers, without which, there could be food shortages. The move in Washington D.C. comes amid ongoing geopolitical tensions exacerbated by the war in Ukraine and supply chain disruptions that have inflated fertilizer prices.

‘Stand with Trump’ becomes rallying cry as Republicans amplify attacks on justice system” via The Associated Press — Moments after Trump pleaded not guilty to federal charges that he hoarded classified documents and then conspired to obstruct an investigation about it, the Republicans in Congress had his back. Speaker Kevin McCarthy dashed off a fundraising email decrying the “witch hunt” against the former President and urging donors to sign up and “stand with Trump.” The Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell steered clear of criticizing the former President or assuring the nation justice will be impartial, refusing to engage in questions about the unprecedented indictment.

Congressional scrutiny mounts on PGA Tour’s deal with Saudi fund” via Molly Hensley-Clancy and Rick Maese of The Washington Post — The proposed partnership between the PGA Tour and the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund’s LIV Golf is generating a rush of congressional scrutiny, with legislators increasingly focused on the tour’s status as a tax-exempt nonprofit. A powerful Senate Democrat announced Thursday he was opening a “wide-ranging” investigation into the merger’s finances, including the PGA Tour’s tax-exempt status, and another Senator said he planned to introduce a bipartisan bill that would strip the tour of its tax exemption.

‘We are America’s team’: GOP takes congressional baseball win for third year in a row” via Caleigh Kelly and Veronica Roseborough of The Hill — Following nearly a weeklong stalemate in the House and turmoil within the GOP, federal lawmakers came together for a game of baseball Wednesday at Nationals Park. Under the watchful eyes of more than 20,000 constituents, Republicans took the game for the third year in a row by 10 runs. When the final score of 16-6 was announced after seven innings, the red side of the stadium erupted. While Dems didn’t win the game, team players still brought home a victory when Rep. Jasmine Crockett stepped up to the plate.

Despite the animosity in Capitol Hill, there is always room for baseball. Image via AP.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Dave Aronberg’s executive, Alexcia Cox, announces bid to succeed him as Palm Beach SA” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Cox, current Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office Deputy Chief Assistant, announced she’s running for the top job that would make her the first woman and the first African American to serve in that position. The announcement from her campaign comes days after three-term Palm Beach County State Attorney Aronberg said he would not be seeking a fourth term. Cox began working as a prosecutor nearly 20 years ago, according to her campaign statement. “I’ve made it my mission to hold violent criminals accountable and achieve justice for victims of crime,” said Cox, who will be running as a Democrat.

Photo courtesy of Alexcia Cox campaign
Alexcia Cox is running to succeed Dave Aronberg as State Attorney in Palm Beach County.

Daniella Levine Cava stacks $452K in May to defend Miami-Dade Mayor job” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Levine Cava added more than $452,000 to her campaign war chest last month through a blend of personal checks, sizable contributions from real estate businesses and deep-pocketed donors, and a national labor union. She also spent more than $73,000, most of it for consulting. As of May 31, she held more than $1.3 million between her campaign account and political committee to stave off challenges from two candidates running to unseat her next year in the technically nonpartisan race. Roughly 205 people donated directly to Levine Cava last month, some giving as little as $10.

Broward schools select their new Superintendent, Peter Licata” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Licata, a Broward native and longtime administrator for Palm Beach County Schools, will become Broward schools’ next Superintendent. Licata, 58, was chosen 7-2 over East Baton Rouge Superintendent Sito Narcisse, who got the votes of Board members Brenda Fam and Torey Alston. No Board members selected a third finalist, Luis Solano, Deputy Superintendent in Detroit. “This is a dream job. I’m coming home,” Licata said. “We get one shot and this, and I’m not spending it on the sidelines.” The vote happened during a low-key meeting that drew few spectators and only two public speakers, both supporters of Licata. The three finalists were interviewed for 90 minutes each.

Miami-Dade schools to discuss Superintendent contract after changes to Florida program” via Sommer Brugal of the Miami Herald — The Miami-Dade County School Board on Wednesday is expected to consider a proposal to extend the Superintendent’s contract through June 2027 — three years after Jose Dotres’ current agreement is set to expire. The move, if approved by the Board, would require Dotres to extend his membership in the state’s Deferred Retirement Option Program, which state lawmakers recently amended to allow for a participation period of 96 months instead of 60. Dotres’ contract was set to expire in February 2024, although the Board can extend it through the end of the 2023-24 school year, in accordance with his participation in the program.

Jose Dotres’ contract is extended, with some changes in retirement plans.

After his son survived Parkland shooting, dad creates comic book that illustrates realities of PTSD” via Jack Lemnus of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — When Mike Kaye was in the drafting phases for his new comic book, his youngest son inquired if he could be a character in the story. His wife also prodded him to include more strong, female roles. But the family member who had the most impact on Kaye’s work was his oldest son, Dylan. Dylan Kaye, now 20, is a survivor of the 2018 Parkland shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and he struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder. The superhero in Mike Kaye’s comic book, Ulrius Jewels, shares a burden like his son’s — the superhero is plagued by “mind demons” that make him act against his will, sometimes forcing him to lash out against those around him.

Broward teacher accused of making sexual comments to students hired, then fired in Palm Beach County” via Shira Moolten of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A Broward teacher investigated for allegedly making sexual comments to female students was later hired at a public charter school in Palm Beach County, only to be fired in May after the school discovered inappropriate pictures on his school-issued iPad. Willie Holmes Jr., formerly a language arts teacher at Stranahan High in Fort Lauderdale, was hired as a language arts teacher by Somerset Academy Canyons, a public charter school in Boynton Beach, in October 2022, according to his personnel file, only months after his disciplinary case was brought before the Broward School Board. Holmes was investigated by the Broward School District after multiple allegations of inappropriate conduct from female students.

‘Seems like bullying to me’: Investors took over their condo boards. Costs skyrocketed” via Aaron Liebowitz of the Miami Herald — Daniel Fiorda moved out of his 800-square-foot condo in Miami Beach last month, more than two decades after he bought it. But after a real estate firm purchased six of his building’s 10 units, took control of the board and increased maintenance fees by more than four times, a jump from about $550 to $2,280 a month, he and his wife, Laura Ines Cobos, were in a bind. The situation at the two-story building at 2033 Calais Drive is, in some ways, a reflection of forces resulting in steep costs for many South Florida condo owners. The substantial, sudden cost increases at 2033 Calais also reflect the tactic of investors taking over condo boards and making spending decisions with limited input from other owners who must also foot the bills.

Surfside weighs luxury condo proposal for site of Champlain Towers South deadly collapse” via Rebecca San Juan of the Miami Herald — Surfside has received plans for a luxury high-rise on the site of the deadly Champlain Towers South condominium collapse almost two years ago, bringing clarity — and, for some, disappointment — regarding the redevelopment of property tied to the tragedy. Dubai-based developer Damac International submitted two design options this week to the Town of Surfside to erect a 12-story condominium building at 8777 Collins Ave. The developer intends for the building to have 57 residences, spanning between 4,000 square feet and 9,000 square feet, on the 1.8-acre beachfront lot. The building would include a business center, community events space, indoor pool and rooftop pool with cabanas.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Sitting lawmakers rally around Sarah Henry in HD 38” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Legislative Democrats are rallying around a potential challenger to Rep. David Smith. Four sitting Representatives are endorsing Henry in House District 38. “I’m proud to endorse Sarah Henry in this battleground seat,” said Rep. LaVon Bracy Davis. “Sarah has long stood aligned with the most marginalized among us as a fierce community advocate, and I know that she will bring that spirit to Tallahassee.” Henry won a crowded Primary field last year, a redistricting year.

Sarah Henry enjoys some backup from sitting lawmakers.

Incoming Brevard County Commissioner Jason Steele drops lobbying work for 3 municipalities” via Dave Berman of Florida Today — Incoming Brevard County Commissioner Steele says he is giving up all his lobbying work ― including for three Brevard County cities and towns ― in advance of his taking office on July 11. “I have notified the city of Cape Canaveral, the city of Satellite Beach and the town of Indialantic that I have resigned from being their lobbyist, effective today,” Steele said in an email sent to Brevard County Manager Frank Abbate. “We have accomplished a lot for these wonderful people in the last two years, but my appointment to the Commission makes it impossible to represent them without it being a legal and ethical conflict to my County Commissioner position.”

Monique Worrell defends handling of carjacking case against man now accused in rape attempt” via Christopher Cann of the Orlando Sentinel — State Attorney Worrell again defended her office’s handling of a case involving a repeat offender, this time concerning a man who was arrested on an attempted rape charge just a week after he was released from jail in a carjacking case. Fredrick Howard since Monday has been in the Orange County Jail without bond on charges of attempted sexual battery, burglary of a dwelling, false imprisonment and battery. If convicted on all charges, he faces a maximum sentence of 26 years in prison. The State Attorney added that decisions regarding Howard’s charges “will be forthcoming,” and her office is taking the 54-year-old’s most recent case, which is being handled by the chief of her sex crimes unit, seriously.

Cocoa Beach to consider beefed-up noise ordinance, citing complaints from downtown venues” via Rick Neale of Florida Today — The Cocoa Beach City Commission may beef up the beachside community’s noise ordinance, citing complaints from residents about loud music generated by downtown entertainment venues on weekend nights. Vice Mayor Keith Capizzi said if music can be heard from five blocks away, “it’s clearly too loud.” And residents who are trying to go to bed at 11 p.m. have the right to a restful night’s sleep, he said. “Here’s the problem: It’s obviously too loud right now. Whether or not it’s an enforcement issue or whatever it is, we’ve got to figure out a way to make this work for the businesses and for the residents,” Capizzi said during the June 1 City Commission meeting.

Florida city fights its own citizens over clean water” via Craig Pittman of the Florida Phoenix — There’s a lot of talk these days about teachers “indoctrinating” children. Way back in 19-mumblety-mumble, when I was a kid in school, my teachers indoctrinated me about voting. My main job as a citizen, they told me repeatedly, was to cast a ballot. I have followed my indoctrination as faithfully as Raymond Shaw from “The Manchurian Candidate” playing solitaire. Ever since I became eligible at age 18, I have voted in all but one election. I missed that one because I was a trifle busy with a hurricane. But Florida officials these days don’t seem to be big fans of us voters. And now one Florida city is actively fighting its own voters.

In raucous Fort Meade meeting, City Manager catches heat and a Commissioner resigns” via Gary White of The Ledger — Anger and division dominated during a lengthy and turbulent meeting of the Fort Meade City Commission. When the four-hour session was over, one Commissioner had resigned, and another had accused her colleagues of tolerating misbehavior by the City Manager. Meanwhile, the City Manager failed to persuade the Commissioners to withhold a letter of reprimand for him, and a citizen was ejected after repeatedly interrupting the proceedings. It was the first meeting of the City Commission since a May session in which City Manager Jan Bagnall escaped a 3-2 vote on his possible firing over the signing of a contract to purchase a fire truck.

Halloween Horror Nights: ‘The Last of Us’ game will have 2023 house” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — “The Last of Us” video game will be brought to life in the form of a haunted house at Halloween Horror Nights this year, Universal Orlando announced. The game, introduced a decade ago by Naughty Dog and PlayStation, follows the characters of Joel and Ellie, who must work their way through a world where a fungal virus turns humans to a group known as the Infected. The house, Universal says, will include scenes from the Pittsburgh Quarantine Zone, the Hotel Grand and a series of “dark and dank tunnels.”

To watch the preview reel, please click on the image below:

Orlando International Airport, 2nd busiest in Florida, makes Top 10 list for foodies” via Jennifer Sangalang of Florida Today — Oh, Orlando, you scored a delicious win. You’re home to theme parks, and you own the title of one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. Your airport is the second busiest in the state and globally among the busiest. Here’s another feat to be proud of: Orlando International Airport ranked fifth on the “Top 20 airports for foodies” list in 2023. The “airport catering index” by Betway looked at the world’s busiest airports to reveal the best spots to grab a preflight bite. It looked at the number of restaurants, available cuisines, average Google reviews for each restaurant, Instagram tags, and the number of eateries per 1,000 passengers, a news release states.


Hillsborough school superintendent Addison Davis resigns” via Marlene Sokol of the Tampa Bay Times — Hillsborough County Superintendent Davis is resigning his position as leader of the nation’s seventh-largest school district, effective July 14, officials said Thursday. The announcement happened during a morning meeting of administrators. It is not clear what Davis’ next professional move will be, but he has long been rumored to be an unofficial candidate for the top job in Duval County.

Addison Davis says goodbye to Hillsborough, with an eye on Duval Schools.

School closure forces tough choices for Tampa families, community” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — To make more efficient use of its money and space, the Hillsborough County school district has been making plans to close and consolidate several schools. Some decisions have yet to be finalized. But for the West Tampa children who have attended Just Elementary School, the change is already on its way. Amid complaints from the Black community, who said they were excluded in the decision-making process, district officials decided to close Just, which had about 82% Black students. Now the affected families are figuring out what to do when the new school year rolls around.

Lightning selling minority ownership stake at $1.4 billion team valuation” via Eduardo A. Encina of the Tampa Bay Times — The Lightning are in the process of selling a minority stake in the team in a transaction valuing the club at $1.4 billion. Arctos Sports Partners, a New York- and Dallas-based private equity firm that invests passive minority ownership shares in professional sports franchises, first purchased a stake in the Lightning in late 2021 from Jeff Vinik and now aims to buy a larger share of the team’s ownership. The purchase would need a waiver from the NHL because Arctos’ share of the team would exceed the 20% maximum share allowed for private equity. The league also doesn’t allow more than a 30% ownership of any club by private equity.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Former Clay County Schools superintendent may be interested in Duval job” via Anne Maxwell of News 4 Jax — Former Clay County Schools Superintendent Davis resigned Thursday from his position as Superintendent of Hillsborough County Public Schools. His resignation opens the possibility that Davis could be in the running to become the next Superintendent of Duval County Public Schools after the departure of Diana Greene this month. “Please understand that this was one of the most difficult decisions that I have ever had to make as our work in HCPS in not done,” Davis said in his resignation letter. “With this said, I have the opportunity to return to Northeast Florida where my entire family resides.”

City leaders grapple with budget, cut jobs, property tax hike” via Nora O’Neill of The Gainesville Sun — Gainesville Commissioners held a special meeting to discuss their upcoming budget, proposing to cut jobs, slash funding for homeless services and increased property taxes. The cutbacks come at a time when city leaders are being forced to reconcile debt after being grilled by the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee in February about utility debt and oversight. The city announced a plan in April to reduce $315 million of Gainesville Regional Utilities’ debt over the next 10 years in response to growing calls from lawmakers and residents. “This is hard. There’s nothing easy about this process and staff has done an unbelievable job in working to get us to this point where we’re almost balanced,” Mayor Harvey Ward said.

Harvey Ward’s city budget is a balancing act.

PC leverages $1.5 million to help secure grant to rebuild St. Andrews Marina Boardwalk” via Nathan Cobb of The Panama City News-Herald — Additional improvements might be around the corner for the Historic St. Andrews Community. Panama City Commissioners on Tuesday voted for the city to put up $1.5 million as leverage to help it secure an approximately $1 million grant from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s Hurricane Sally Hometown Revitalization Program. If received, the grant will be used to help fund the St. Andrews Marina Boardwalk Construction Project, which will rebuild a wooden boardwalk along Bayview Avenue that was damaged in September 2020 by Category 2 Hurricane Sally. According to Commissioner Josh Street, Panama City was required to commit the $1.5 million before DEO officials would visit the marina as part of their consideration process.

Consultant says Niceville aquatic center could add $235 million to Okaloosa County economy” via Collin Bestor of the Northwest Florida Daily News — An aquatic center being developed in Niceville could have a $235 million impact on the local economy and create more than 450 jobs. The CRA on Tuesday heard the economic impact report for the potential aquatic center, which would be a 50-meter, Olympic-sized pool. In a 23-minute presentation, Charlie Perham, a consultant with Matrix Design Solutions, told board members that the center could bring outstanding results to the community. Perham said that by 2035, an economic impact of $235 million could be added to the Okaloosa County economy. He said there is potential for 457 jobs created by the facility’s construction and day-to-day operations.

After uptick in scam calls, LCSO urges awareness of those impersonating law enforcement” via Elena Barrera of the Tallahassee Democrat — Using a well-established scam tactic, con artists are posing as government officials to try and trick those who answer into giving them exorbitant amounts of money. But now with technological advances and artificial intelligence on the rise, the scams are becoming more sophisticated and harder to tease out from the truth. “We see [scams] about every six months to a year,” said Angela Green, a spokesperson for the Leon County Sheriff’s Office. “It just depends on what season it is.” Due to a recent uptick in reported calls, the sheriff’s office released an informative flyer on social media June 6 detailing the scheme and informing residents to beware of these calls.


Democrat Nancy Simpson challenging James Buchanan in HD 74” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Simpson believes South Sarasota County wants to see a change in Tallahassee. The Venice Democrat has filed to challenge state Rep. Buchanan in House District 74. “It’s time for a change in scenery,” Simpson said. “The incumbent is riding his daddy’s coattails. He’s not here for Sarasota. He’s in office for a selfish agenda and profit, which doesn’t make him a good candidate.” Buchanan, a Venice Republican, won his seat in the House in 2018 and is expected to run for a fourth and final term before facing term limits. He’s also the son of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Longboat Key Republican.

Nancy Simpson is looking to take on James Buchanan. Image via Simpson campaign.

Sarasota County Schools lands new superintendent from Hillsborough” via Lauren Coffey of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — One of Sarasota County’s largest employers has a new leader. Sarasota County School District named Terrence Connor its new superintendent after a six-month-long search. Connor previously served as Hillsborough County School District’s deputy superintendent and chief academic officer. He was approved by the Sarasota School’s board on Wednesday in a 3-2 vote. Connor was among four finalists. “I am grateful to the board for choosing me to lead the schools in this wonderful community,” Connor said.

State Attorney Ed Brodsky recused in FDLE probe related to Erik Arroyo’s Sarasota charity” via Derek Gilliam of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — State Attorney Brodsky has recused himself from an investigation into a foundation created by Sarasota City Commissioner Arroyo, according to an executive order from DeSantis that assigned the Fort Myers area prosecutor’s office to handle the case. The Governor’s executive order said, “Arroyo is under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement” for alleged “failure to register as a charitable organization.” The order citied a “personal friendship” and “professional relationship” in the voluntary disqualification by Brodsky, to “avoid a conflict of interest” regarding “the investigation and prosecution of this case and all related matters regarding Erik Arroyo.”

Should a Florida state park still honor the Confederacy? Calls for change go unheard” via Ryan Ballogg of the Bradenton Herald — On a sunny Spring day at a state park in Florida, the United Daughters of the Confederacy threw a government-sponsored fundraiser. A poster for the 61st annual Gamble Plantation Spring Open House promised “fun, excitement and learning for the whole family.” It was emblazoned with a Confederate flag. While some plantation sites across the South have updated to include a more accurate representation of their history, Gamble remains a shrine to the Confederacy, its soldiers and leadership — despite many efforts over the decades to bring change. “I think it’s great,” said Tom Goins, a visitor from Kentucky, said of the open house event.

Manatee County proposes massive $2.1B budget to keep pace with population growth” via Jesse Mendoza of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Surging population growth in East Manatee County was a priority for the county’s record-breaking $2.1 billion budget proposal. Staff members led by CFO Sheila McLean presented a proposed $2.1 billion net budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year at public County Commission meetings over the past week. Proposals include a $190 million budget for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, $23.1 million for the Public Safety Department, $15.7 million for health care programs, and $493.2 million on road improvements during the next five years. The budget presentation includes a proposed $2.1 billion in funding for projects in the county’s 2024-28 capital improvement plan.

North Port Fire Chief reinstated after independent inquiry of department culture” via the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — North Port Fire Chief Scott Titus has returned from administrative leave following the completion of an independent investigation into the culture in the North Port Fire Rescue department. The inquiry by the firm of Freeman Mathis & Gary began in early March at the request of City Manager Jerome Fletcher after allegations about the department were brought to his attention by the president of the firefighters’ union, International Association of Firefighters Suncoast 2546. After conducting nearly 150 interviews with past and present Fire Rescue personnel, the investigators concluded that there is “no systemic issue of hostile, harassing or otherwise abhorrent behavior within the department.”

Cape Coral finds a new City Attorney” via Luis Zambrano of the Fort Myers News-Press — The Cape Coral City Council unanimously chose Sarasota County litigator Alexander Boksner as City Attorney. He will proffer legal advice and counsel to the city currently grappling with several legal issues, including a lawsuit from Waste Pro, and an incoming suit from former City Manager Rob Hernandez. Last month, Cape Coral City Attorney Dolores Menendez died after battling cancer. She had planned to retire next year, which had prompted the city to begin a search early this year. Deputy City Attorney Brian Bartos, who plans to retire soon, is currently handling the duties. The position was advertised at the end of March, and the city received three applicants.

Alexander Boksner gets a gig as Cape Coral’s City Attorney. Image via Luis Zambrano/News-Press.

Collier leaders add $10M for veterans’ nursing home project to offer more services” via Liz Freeman of the Naples Daily News — Collier Country’s planned veterans’ nursing home could include adult day care and outpatient therapy services with help from local taxpayer dollars. The County Commission unanimously approved setting aside $10 million for the construction of additional square footage in the future nursing home to provide adult day care and outpatient therapy. The money would come from the 1-cent sales surtax approved by voters in 2018 for a variety of projects. While both day care and outpatient therapy are covered benefits for veterans, the space needed to provide them cannot be part of a construction grant application to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for a new nursing home, said Commissioner Burt Saunders, who is spearheading the local project.


Biden should pardon Trump. Really.” via Marc A. Thiessen and Danielle Pletka of The Washington Post — In his 2020 victory speech, Biden declared that “to everything, there is a season — a time to build, a time to reap, a time to sow. And a time to heal. This is the time to heal in America.” If he wants to deliver on his promise to heal the country, he could do so with one action:

Pardon Trump.

His indictment has also put our nation into uncharted territory. The threshold for the sitting President’s administration to indict the leading candidate of the opposing party should be extraordinarily high. High enough to mitigate the suspicion held by 80% of Republicans and almost half the nation, per ABC News-Ipsos polling, that these charges are politically motivated. Indeed, millions of Americans believe that our legal system is being weaponized against Trump — and, by extension, against them.

A Trump trial would be one of the most divisive events in the history of our republic. It would set a new precedent — and create enormous pressure on the next Republican President to go after President Biden, his family and other Democrats.

Whether righteous or not, the decision to prosecute Trump has opened Pandora’s box. It is in Biden’s power to close it — by pardoning his predecessor.


DeSantis is proposing to turn federal law enforcement into a gateway pundit comment section” via Charles P. Pierce of Esquire — By the consensus of many of his colleagues, DeSantis was something of a meathead. His entire purpose in office seemed to be demanding that various Obama officials resign. He remains sort of … a meathead. Consider his stated plans to remake federal law enforcement if he is elected. From Real Clear Politics: But his ambitions go beyond bureaucratic restructuring. He wants to physically remove large swathes of the DOJ from the District of Columbia, including FBI headquarters, RealClearPolitics is the first to report. He vowed in that call to order “some of the problematic components of the DOJ” be uprooted, reorganized, and then promptly “shipped to other parts of the country.”

I won’t let Donald Trump invade my brain” via David Brooks of The New York Times — I’ve found that Trump has confounded me at every turn. I’ve found that I’m not cynical enough to correctly anticipate what he is capable of. I have consistently underestimated his depravity. I don’t want to be the kind of person who can easily enter the head of an amoral narcissist. I’d rather not let him infect my brain. I’d rather not let that guy alter my views of the world. If occasional naiveté is the price for mental independence from Trump, I’m willing to pay it. I’ve been thinking about all this while bracing for the 17 months of campaigning that apparently lie ahead, with Trump probably once again the central focus of the nation’s consciousness.

U.S. Senators stand up for dissident killed in Cuba. House lawmakers should do the same” via the Miami Herald editorial board — For opponents of the Cuban government, the death — we call it the murder — of respected activist Oswaldo Payá always seemed suspicious, not to mention convenient for those he opposed. He died in a horrific car accident on the island in 2012. The Cuban government has long dealt harshly, even criminally, with those they consider traitors to Fidel Castro’s revolution. Unexplained disappearances and mysterious deaths have been the norm. But who could prove a sinister government did it? That has often been a frustrating dilemma.

With Alabama do-over, Florida’s gerrymander should also fail” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — After surprisingly good work by the U.S. Supreme Court, DeSantis’ congressional gerrymander suddenly looks vulnerable to a pending voting rights suit. Faithful to the Florida Constitution, the Legislature last year enacted a Congressional redistricting map that was not slanted to favor either party. It preserved the voting power of Black citizens, as nearly two-thirds of Florida voters had stipulated in a 2010 referendum. DeSantis vetoed the map. Breaking faith with voters, lawmakers obediently adopted a gerrymandering scheme he devised to replace four Democratic House members with four Republicans.



ABC Action News Full Circle with Paul LaGrone on Channel 10 WFTS: ABC News Political Director Rick Klein, Tallahassee reporter Forrest Saunders, Michael Paluska of ABC Action News.

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at South Florida politics and other issues affecting the region.

In Focus with Allison Walker on Bay News 9/CF 13: A discussion of LGBTQ-related bills passed by the Florida Legislature during their annual lawmaking Session. Joining Walker are Rep. Rayner-Goolsby and Tatiana Quiroga, Executive Director of Come Out with Pride.

Political Connections on Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: An interview with Jon Sale, an attorney and former federal prosecutor, on Trump’s federal indictment out of Miami.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: A discussion with Congressman Michael Waltz about the federal budget, the debt ceiling, and military spending.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Sean Pittman and Brenda Williams of the Housing Authority.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Duval County Property Appraiser-elect Joyce Morgan, defense attorney and former federal prosecutor Curtis Fallgatter, and News4Jax political analyst Rick Mullaney.

— ALOE —

Judge Judy to Serena: list of America’s richest self-made women includes 8 from Florida” via Dave Osborn of Naples Daily News — Serena Williams and Judge Judy have more in common than being celebrities. Both were among eight Floridians named with 92 others on the Forbes magazine list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women. Diane Hendricks of Wisconsin, a co-founder of the roofing company ABC Supply, topped the list with a worth of $15 billion. Other notable self-made wealthy women listed were singer and cosmetics executive Rihanna (at No. 20 with $1.4 billion), reality TV star Kim Kardashian (No. 21 at $1.4 billion), and pop star Swift (at No. 34, $740 million).


Happy birthday to our dear friend Natalie King of RSA Consulting; Omar Khan of WSP USA; Kurt Kelly of the Florida Coalition for Children; Anna Grace Lewis, policy analyst for the Florida House; and Ramon Maury.


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

Peter Schorsch

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


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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

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

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

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