Good Friday morning.
Breaking overnight — “Supreme Court won’t allow Florida to enforce law targeting drag shows during appeal” via The Associated Press — The Supreme Court will not allow Florida to enforce its new law targeting drag shows while a court case proceeds. The Justices refused to narrow a lower-court order that has prohibited the law from being enforced statewide. Florida had asked the court to allow its anti-drag show law to be enforced everywhere except at the Hamburger Mary’s restaurant in Orlando, which challenged the law’s constitutionality. Three justices, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas, said they would have granted the state’s request. Last month, a panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s order stopping the law from being enforced. The district court found that the law likely restricted free speech and couldn’t be enforced anywhere in the state.
Floridians have a clear preference in the 2024 presidential race, but their views on unions and the Israel war are more complex.
A new FAU poll found that former President Donald Trump is the runaway favorite among Floridians and would win a head-to-head contest against President Joe Biden by 10 points, 49%-39%.
Part of the gap is due to Biden’s underwater approval rating — just 36% approve of his performance — and the rest can be chalked up to the former President’s seeming immunity to negative headlines.
Age is also a factor, with two-thirds of Floridians saying Biden is too old for a second term. Only a third feel the same about Trump, who is only three years younger than the incumbent.
Support for Israel is also strong in Florida, but it is far from universal. According to FAU, younger Floridians are split on whether they feel sympathy for Israelis (34%) or Palestinians (30%). The plurality opinion among 18- to 35-year-olds is “don’t know” (35%). Notably, Black Floridians are more likely to support Palestinians.
“What is particularly notable here is that the number of these younger voters who have no sympathy for either group or don’t know is greater than even those who support Israelis or Palestinians,” said Rachel Harris, Ph.D., Gimelstob Eminent Scholar Chair for Judaic Studies at FAU. “This suggests that there is a gap in historical knowledge about the conflict and the situation in the Middle East among this younger group.”
Meanwhile, a majority of Floridians (55%) expressed support for labor unions while about one in five (19%) told the pollster they were opposed to the groups. Another 23% said they were undecided. FAU said party affiliation was the determinant factor, with 82% union supporters aligning with Democrats. Black and Hispanic displayed higher support as well, registering at 62% and 58%, respectively.
“Florida is a right-to-work state, meaning that the state has legislation that prevents union enrollment from being used as a condition of employment,” said Luzmarina Garcia, Ph.D., a political-science professor at FAU. “A small percentage of union members in the sample is to be expected along with less support of unions generally. This is due to less union members overall, leading to less organizing, as well as the Republican majority in the state, which is thought of as the party opposing unions.”
The FAU poll was conducted Oct. 27-Nov. 11. The sample includes 946 adults living in Florida who were contacted via text message. The margin of error is +/- 3.2% at the 95% confidence level.
As Thanksgiving approaches, we ask our loyal Sunburn fans — particularly those in The Process — to let us know what you’re grateful for this year. We will publish the comments in our Tuesday edition — the last one for the holiday week. Please send your emails to [email protected].
—SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@DylanByers: The Economist’s annual “World Ahead” guide identifies Donald Trump as the biggest global danger of 2024. “[I]n the 38 years that we have published this guide, no single person has ever eclipsed our analysis as much as Donald Trump eclipses 2024.”
🚨 Spotted in the Senate: Christopher Nolan pic.twitter.com/zw4bUGYhjE
— Igor Bobic (@igorbobic) November 15, 2023
—@Kat_Cammack: I am on Capitol Hill right now, and it’s on lockdown. No getting in or out of our offices. We have officers that were pepper sprayed by pro-Hamas protesters with a lot of people attempting to break into the Democratic HQ. Anyone else notice how violent the so-called “cease-fire” crowd is?
—@RepMoskowitz: On Monday, a bipartisan group of my congressional colleagues will walk with victims’ families and I through my alma mater, MSD High School in Parkland, site of one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. The building is a time capsule that shocks the conscience.
—@AshleyMoodyFL: I’m thrilled that my friend, @EvanPower, who I have known for years & had the honor of officiating his wedding, has decided to throw his hat in the ring for National Committeeman. He’s a wonderful guy who has done tremendous work in FL & I know he would represent our state well.
—@BBryanAvilaFL: Hard to understand how @iflymia, which generates $32 billion in business revenue annually and serves 50 million passengers, could be in this state of decay. Elevators, escalators, and people-movers are in need of repairs. Skytrain is not operational. Now, the roof is giving out.
— DAYS UNTIL —
Miami Beach mayoral runoff — 4; Ridley Scott’s ‘Napoleon’ premieres — 5; 2023 Florida Transportation, Growth & Infrastructure Solution Summit — 5; ‘Squid Game: The Challenge’ premieres — 5; Disney’s Bob Iger holds an end-of-the-year town hall — 11; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 13; Florida TaxWatch’s 2023 Government Productivity Awards Ceremony — 19; in-person sports betting begins at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa — 21; 2023 Florida Chamber Annual Insurance Summit — 27; Zack Snyder’s ‘Rebel Moon’ premieres — 35; Michael Mann’s ‘Ferrari’ premieres — 38; Matt Dixon’s ‘Swamp Monsters: Trump vs. (Gov. Ron) DeSantis ― the Greatest Show on Earth (or at Least in Florida)’ released — 53; 2024 Florida Chamber Legislative Fly-In and reception — 53; Florida’s 2024 Regular Session begins — 53; 2024 Primetime Emmy Awards — 59; Florida TaxWatch’s State of the Taxpayer Dinner — 60; House District 35 Special Election — 60; New Hampshire Primary — 67; Red Dog Blue Dog 2024 — 68; South Carolina Democratic Primary — 78; New Hampshire and Nevada Democratic Primaries — 81; South Carolina GOP holds first-in-the-South Primary — 99; Michigan Democratic Primary — 101; Trump’s D.C. trial on charges related to trying to reverse his 2020 Election loss — 107; Super Tuesday — 108; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 111; 2024 Oscars — 115; Georgia Democratic Primary — 116; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 120; 2024 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 175; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 184; Republican National Convention begins — 238; New ‘Alien’ premieres — 242; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 251; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 252; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 282; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 326; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 338; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 399; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 455; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 534; ‘Moana’ premieres — 590; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 764; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 895; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 918; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 1,131; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,270; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,226; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,589.
— TOP STORY —
“Ron DeSantis talks tough on China, takes cash from China-backed company” via Ben Wieder, Theo Hockstader, and Amelia Winger of the Miami Herald — DeSantis has gone on the offensive against Chinese influence in recent months, signing a bill restricting what land Chinese companies and citizens can buy in Florida and suspending state scholarships to several Florida schools over alleged links to China.
But this August he took a check for more than $11,000 from the CEO of a Tampa refrigerant company with direct backing from China. It was just the latest in years of financial support that the company, iGas USA, has given DeSantis.
Last year, DeSantis even held a rally at the Chinese-backed refrigerant company’s Tampa complex.
The rally and contributions are part of a recent wave of political giving by iGas and entities associated with its CEO, Xianbin (Ben) Meng. All told, the companies and employees have made more than $1.1 million in federal and state political contributions in the past five years, with 98% of the money going to Republican candidates and committees. The lion’s share of that money, $340,000, went to DeSantis and committees affiliated with him.
While Meng donated to Trump in 2016, DeSantis is the only Republican presidential contender who has gotten a check from the company or its employees this cycle.
— THE TRAIL —
“Poll: Kim Reynolds endorsement has yet to boost DeSantis in Iowa” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — That’s the major takeaway from the most recent Iowa State University/Civiqs poll of Republican voters in the state, which shows Trump tripling the Governor’s support. “The basic order of the candidates stayed the same, and it’s actually a little surprising because it’s been an eventful month in the campaign,” said the poll’s organizer, Lucken Professor of Political Science Dave Peterson. “We’ve seen several high-profile candidates, former Vice President Mike Pence and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott drop out. The other big news was Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ endorsement of Ron DeSantis.” That big news appears to have had little impact, however.
“Iowa’s evangelical voters have propelled candidates to victory in Iowa in the past. Will they stick with Donald Trump?” via Aaron Navarro of CBS News — Evangelical Christian voters will have one of their last opportunities before the Iowa caucuses in January to take a look at the shrinking Republican field Friday in Des Moines. And while Trump has a clear lead in the polls and has had a grip on the White evangelical base since the 2016 General Election, faith leaders say this base is still up for grabs. Influential evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats’ organization, “The FAMiLY Leader,” will host DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy and Nikki Haley for a Thanksgiving Family forum. While Trump is the front-runner for the GOP nomination, he has been in a feud with Vander Plaats since the party’s underperformance in the 2022 Midterms. Trump is expected to skip the event, the second time he’s been absent from an event hosted by Vander Plaats.
Happening today — DeSantis will deliver remarks at AmFree Presidential Series in Sheffield, Iowa. 11 a.m. Eastern time; viewing link here.
“CNN Poll: Trump holds significant lead in New Hampshire GOP Primary, while Nikki Haley moves into second place” via Jennifer Agiesta and Ariel Edwards-Levy of CNN — Trump’s advantage in New Hampshire remains short of the majority support he garners in Primary polling nationally: 42% say they would vote for him, followed by Haley at 20%, Christie at 14%, DeSantis at 9%, tech entrepreneur Ramaswamy at 8%, and no other candidate holding more than 2% support. Haley’s support has climbed 8 percentage points from the last CNN/UNH poll in September, with Ramaswamy dipping 5 points and support for Trump, Chris Christie and DeSantis remaining relatively steady.
“New Florida GOP presidential poll is the worst yet for DeSantis” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — New polling from Florida Atlantic University (FAU) suggests that Sunshine State Republicans are souring on DeSantis’ bid. The survey shows the Florida Governor plumbing new depths in the GOP Primary race, with just 20% support, 41 points behind Trump. Meanwhile, Haley has taken hold of third place, garnering 9% support. DeSantis is most competitive with Trump among voters under the age of 35, with 35% support against 41% for Trump. The Governor’s strongest region is Duval County and other parts of Northeast Florida, where Trump only leads him 44% to 37%. Conversely, he is weakest in the Miami area, with 10% support, and in Southwest Florida, where 6% of respondents back him, putting him behind Haley in that part of the state.
“Florida poll shows Trump on track to win state over Joe Biden” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — If the election were held today, Trump would win Florida’s electoral votes over Biden. Survey results released by Florida Atlantic University’s Mainstreet Research show 49% of registered voters would vote for Trump, and just 39% would pick Biden. Another 10% intend to vote for another candidate. Results include answers from 946 voters surveyed between Oct. 27 and Nov. 11, and pollsters report a margin of error of 3.2 percentage points. That puts Trump in a strong position to win the Sunshine State’s electoral votes again, as he did in 2020 and 2016. When he lost nationwide to Biden in 2020, Trump won his home state by 3 percentage points.
“Trump and Haley share an Iowa goal: ‘Hold down DeSantis’” via Stephanie Murray of The Messenger — DeSantis is the most attacked man in Iowa. Trump and Haley are squeezing DeSantis in the first-in-the-nation caucus state where DeSantis has staked his campaign. Competition on the airwaves and in the polls is ramping up, as Trump, Haley and their allies pour millions into Iowa’s TV ad market ahead of the Jan. 15 caucuses. DeSantis has been attacked more in paid media by outside political committees than any other candidate in the presidential race, weathering $25.1 million in independent expenditures while $20.2 million has been spent against Biden and $18.5 million against Trump.
“Haley tussles with DeSantis, aiming to prove herself in Iowa” via Jazmine Ulloa, Nicholas Nehamas and Chris Cameron of The New York Times — With just two months to go before the critical first-in-the-nation caucuses, Haley, the former ambassador to the United Nations, is starting a series of campaign events Thursday as her battle with DeSantis to become Trump’s nearest rival reaches a fever pitch. She will arrive armed with more than 70 new endorsements in the state and plans for a $10 million advertising blitz across Iowa and New Hampshire, seeking to capitalize on the narrowing field and the polls that show her steady rise. “She is peaking at the right time,” said Chris Cournoyer, a state Senator and Haley’s Iowa State Chair. “Right now.”
“Haley says no to one-on-one DeSantis debate” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis may want Haley to debate him in a two-person faceoff on Fox News. But the former South Carolina Governor won’t be trolled into it, she made clear on Thursday’s edition of the “Guy Benson Show.” “See you in Tuscaloosa,” Haley said, telling Benson that the Republican National Committee said that the only debates candidates could have would have to be officially sanctioned by the party, with the fourth such showdown slated for Alabama in December. This rejection pops a brief trial balloon floated by DeSantis this week. “Count me in,” the Governor posted to X Wednesday, in response to a Laura Ingraham call for Haley and DeSantis to debate on her program.
“DeSantis rips ‘rehashed’ presidential debate questions” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — During a phone-in interview during a radio station’s Veterans Town Hall in New Hampshire, DeSantis griped about how issues affecting those who served in the military were ignored in favor of other topics. “I think by and large that debate was professionally done. We were concerned with NBC that it would be all these really left-wing questions. But I think they rehashed a lot of questions that have already been asked in some of these things and that we’ve all answered multiple times, not only on the debate stage but in interviews,” DeSantis dished. “And so, there’s issues like veterans that have just totally fallen by the wayside because it’s not something that I think the national media really gravitates to.”
— MORE 2024 —
“The Republican Presidential Primary campaign is heavy on bloodlust” via Jonathan Allen, Matt Dixon, Allan Smith and Natasha Korecki of NBC News — Trump wants shoplifters shot in their tracks. He recently lamented that former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Gen. Mark Milley couldn’t be put to death for assuaging China’s concerns following the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol. In his last year as President, he revived and expanded the federal death penalty, allowing for firing squads to be used in certain states, and now he wants to execute child traffickers. “The escalation in violent language reflects the escalation in ostensible dangers posed by the threats manufactured to stoke the fears of the MAGA base,” said Mac Stipanovich, a longtime Florida Republican operative.
“Spencer Zwick suits up for Team Haley” via Hans Nichols of Axios — Zwick, the money maestro for Sen. Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential bid is joining Haley’s 2024 fundraising team. Establishment Republicans are lining up behind Haley as the GOP’s best candidate to stop Trump in the Republican Primary and ultimately beat Biden in November. Ken Griffin, the GOP megadonor who has been shopping around for an alternative to Trump, hinted this week that he is leaning toward Haley in 2024.
“Poll shows Florida voters concerned about Biden’s age, not so much about Trump” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Trump is only three and a half years younger than Biden, but Floridians are far more concerned about the incumbent President’s age than that of his challenger. Biden Turns 81 on Monday. Trump turned 77 in June. But a new poll from Florida Atlantic University (FAU) found that Biden is plagued by doubts about his fitness for a presidential rerun, with 67% of respondents expressing worry. Just 33% said they believe Trump is too old to run. The gap, which predictably was strongest among Republicans and young voters, is likely partly driven by Trump’s frequent social media activity and the perception that he’s more energetic, said Kevin Wagner, a political-science professor at FAU.
“Joe Manchin says Trump would destroy U.S. democracy if he wins a second term” via The Associated Press — West Virginia Sen. Manchin, days removed from announcing he won’t seek re-election, said Wednesday that if the nation’s voters give Trump another term in the White House, “he will destroy democracy in America.” Manchin, whose home state voters overwhelmingly backed Trump in the last two presidential elections, made the comment on a press call with West Virginia-based reporters amid speculation that Manchin himself might be weighing a third-party run for President. The moderate West Virginia Democrat said Wednesday that he would never want to be a “spoiler” who contributed to getting any other candidate elected. “If they said, ‘You’re the only person to do it,’ I’ll do whatever I can to save this nation,” he said. Manchin had harsh words for how the two-party system is currently functioning.
“Trump and aides immediately attack clerk after gag order is paused” via Jonah E. Bromwich and Alan Feuer of The New York Times — A New York appeals court judge on Thursday paused gag orders on Trump and his lawyers that had prevented them from commenting on court staff in the civil fraud trial of Trump. The order against Trump was issued on the trial’s second day by the presiding judge, Arthur F. Engoron, after Trump attacked the judge’s law clerk in a social media post accusing her of being a Democratic partisan. It prohibited Trump from any further attacks on the clerk and other court staff. Trump has twice violated the order, incurring $15,000 in fines. The judge later issued a similar order against Trump’s lawyers, barring them from commenting on his private communications with court staff.
“Trump’s radical second-term agenda would wield executive power in unprecedented ways” via Kristen Holmes of CNN — A massive operation to detain and deport undocumented immigrants. A purge of the federal workforce of anyone deemed disloyal. Wielding the power of federal law enforcement against political enemies. As he seeks a return to the Oval Office, Trump and his allies have promised a sweeping transformation of the federal government that would wield the executive branch’s power in radical and unprecedented ways. The agenda they are crafting would put into practice Trump’s hard-line views that he has publicly expressed during his latest campaign for President and will almost certainly face a series of legal and political challenges.
— DESANTISY LAND —
“Florida violated pro-Palestinian students’ free speech rights, lawsuit says” via Divya Kumar of the Tampa Bay Times — A pro-Palestinian student group with backing from the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida has filed a federal lawsuit against state officials, saying they violated students’ free speech rights by moving to ban the group from university campuses. The Oct. 24 order to disband local chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine came from Ray Rodrigues, chancellor of the State University System, who said last week that legal issues had prompted the state to reassess its position. But the ACLU said in a news release that the order nevertheless “remains in place today.” And the lawsuit, filed Thursday in Gainesville, calls it an “egregious violation” of the First Amendment.
“Records show DeSantis plotted more punishment for Disney” via Jason Garcia of Seeking Rents — On a Friday night late in this year’s Session, a Republican member of the House of Representatives suddenly introduced a measure taking aim at the theme-park industry. The eleventh-hour amendment would have given state regulators the power to conduct ride inspections at Florida’s biggest theme parks — and stripped them of a long-standing carveout in state law that exempts a few industry giants from having to abide by the same ride-safety rules as smaller attractions. The measure was filed by Rep. Lawrence McClure, but records show McClure got the idea from someone else: DeSantis, the soon-to-announce presidential candidate who was searching for ways to escalate a personal feud with The Walt Disney Co. that DeSantis has used to draw national attention to himself.
“‘A beacon of freedom’: DeSantis touts record-shattering tourism in Q3” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — The Sunshine State welcomed more third quarter visitors this year than ever before. Between July 1 and Sept. 30, more than 35 million out-of-state travelers came to Florida, an increase of 1.6% from the same period in 2022 and 8% higher than before COVID-19 struck. Through the beginning of October, the state has seen 105.2 million visitors, 96.4 million of whom were domestic. Six million came from overseas. Another 2.8 traveled down from Canada. International travel here is still on track to reach a record post-pandemic high.
“DeSantis announces $57 million to protect Florida springs” via Phillip Stucky of Spectrum Local News — DeSantis announced Thursday that organizations responsible for the upkeep of 23 springs across the state were awarded $57 million for restoration projects aimed at preserving the springs. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection worked with four water management districts to identify projects that will work to restore state springs. “Florida is home to more than 1,000 springs, with more large springs than any other state in the nation, which attract visitors from across the world,” said DeSantis. “This $57 million investment will continue to protect water quality and allow Florida’s springs to continue to be a world-class tourist destination for years to come.”
“DeSantis ready to ‘defund the U.N.’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis is reacting to the United States abstaining from voting against so-called “humanitarian pauses” in Israel’s war in Gaza with a call to “defund” the United Nations. “We will unequivocally support Israel, take names, make it clear those countries who are hostile to Israel risk their relations with us, and defund the U.N. No longer should American taxpayer dollars support this corrupt, morally bankrupt hotbed of antisemitism that empowers our enemies and coddles dictators and the worst human rights abusers,” DeSantis posted to X on Thursday.
— D. C. MATTERS —
“Congress prevented a shutdown, but the spending fight is far from over” via Carl Hulse and Catie Edmondson of The New York Times — The stopgap spending bill Congress sent to Biden prevented the federal government from shutting down as of 12:01 a.m. Saturday. But it is only a temporary reprieve, and lawmakers have considerable work to do before federal agencies again face the threat of running out of money beginning Jan. 19. The House and the Senate are far behind in advancing their annual spending bills, and House Republicans have encountered deep resistance to some of them from within their own ranks. Speaker Mike Johnson said this week that he would not push forward any more temporary funding fixes, putting pressure on the House and the Senate to pass their remaining yearlong bills, reconcile them and send them to Biden.
“Special Counsel investigating Biden’s handling of classified material is not expected to bring charges” via Paula Reid of CNN — Special Counsel Robert Hur is not expected to charge anyone in connection with the mishandling of classified documents at two locations connected to Biden, two sources close to the investigation told CNN. Hur and his team are compiling a detailed report on their one-year probe that is expected to be critical of Biden and his staff for the way they handled sensitive materials. The report is expected to go into significant detail about what the special counsel’s office found in its investigation. Investigators on Hur’s team have told other Justice Department officials that they hope to have the report completed by the end of the year, but that timeline could slide.
“David DePape found guilty in federal trial over Paul Pelosi hammer attack” via Meredith Deliso and Annie Pong of ABC News — A federal jury has convicted the suspect accused of the violent hammer attack against Pelosi at his and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco home last year. The jury began deliberating Wednesday afternoon before reaching a verdict late Thursday morning, finding DePape guilty on both federal counts. Pelosi, 83, suffered a skull fracture after being struck in the head with a hammer during the early morning attack on Oct. 28, 2022, which occurred just days before the Midterm Elections, police said. DePape, 43, was arrested at the scene and subsequently charged with attempted kidnapping and assault on account of a federal official’s performance of official duties.
“Mitch McConnell’s strength is tested in fight for Ukraine aid” via Siobhan Hughes of The Wall Street Journal — The Senate battle over Ukraine aid has become a legacy-defining issue for Minority Leader McConnell as the Republican faces questions over his grip on power. The Kentucky lawmaker, a dominant force in Republican politics for two decades, insists that assistance to Kyiv should be part of a broad foreign aid package, which proponents see as boosting its chances for passage. While also favored by the White House, that approach has run into resistance from some GOP colleagues who say Ukraine should be considered in its own bill — or rejected outright — testing McConnell’s ability to rally enough GOP votes to pass the measure through the Senate.
“New FAU survey shows majority of Floridians disapprove of Matt Gaetz’s performance in Congress” via Mitch Perry of Florida Phoenix — Gaetz took a victory lap earlier this month at the Republican Party of Florida’s Freedom Summit in Kissimmee, where he was lauded for leading the effort to oust Kevin McCarthy from his Speaker position in the U.S. House of Representatives. The move resulted in the election of hard-right conservative Johnson to serve as the new House Speaker. “Fighting Washington has won us a new conservative Speaker,” Gaetz said. “Fighting Washington has shown the swamp creatures that they don’t win every time. Fighting Washington has restored some modicum of power back to ‘We the People.’ And I’m just getting started.”
Shot: “Botox, Ferragamo and OnlyFans: How George Santos allegedly spent his campaign funds” via Dareh Gregorian of NBC News — The scathing House Ethics Committee report on embattled U.S. Rep. Santos, a New York Republican, alleges he was a cash-strapped candidate who used campaign contributions to live a life of luxury — including spending donors’ money on trips to casinos, shopping at high-end retailers and even Botox treatments and OnlyFans payments. “Rep. Santos was frequently in debt, had an abysmal credit score, and relied on an ever-growing wallet of high-interest credit cards to fund his luxury spending habits. He occasionally deposited large amounts of cash that he has never accounted for, moved money between his various bank accounts in a highly suspicious manner, and made over $240,000 cash withdrawals for unknown purposes,” the report by the panel’s Investigative Subcommittee found.
Chaser: “Santos says he won’t seek re-election after release of ethics report” via Amy B. Wang, Maegan Vazquez and Marianna Sotomayor of The Washington Post — House investigators found “substantial evidence” that U.S. Rep. Santos knowingly violated a litany of ethics guidelines, House rules and criminal laws, according to a House Ethics Committee report that prompted Santos to declare he would not seek re-election next year. Santos railed against the Ethics Committee in a lengthy post on X in which he called the report a “disgusting politicized smear” and claimed that he was being “stoned by those who have flaws themselves.” He added he would not be seeking re-election to a second term in 2024 after all, reversing course from a previous announcement in April that he would. Santos stepped down from his committee assignments in January.
“Talks on surveillance law simmer as its expiration date looms” via Charlie Savage of The New York Times — Negotiations in Congress over a warrantless surveillance law are intensifying as it nears its expiration date. The debate has come during what national security officials say is a surge in threats fueled by the Israel-Hamas war. But whether lawmakers will reach a consensus and pass any bill that would renew the law, known as Section 702, before the New Year’s Eve deadline remains unclear. National security officials have lobbied Congress for nearly a year to reauthorize the law, and privacy advocates have urged lawmakers to include various reforms in any legislation.
— STATEWIDE —
“Jimmy Patronis to NCAA: Fire Charlie Baker” via Florida Politics — For the good of all college athletes, it’s time for the NCAA to move on from Baker, find a new president, and reform their association to meet today’s challenges. Under Baker, the NCAA is out of touch and clinging to its last string of relevance. The time is now to find new leadership who will revamp the NCAA and usher in a new era. Under Baker, the NCAA has fought implementing NIL tooth and nail until states like Florida stepped up and made it law so athletes could financially benefit from their God-given talents. From what I can see, Baker gave it a shot, but he does not have the innovative ideas needed to lead in this new era.
“‘Standing Up to Antisemitism in the Workplace’ — a CLE seminar” via The Florida Holocaust Museum — This Seminar will focus on antisemitism in the workplace and provide data showing how it permeates corporate decisions regarding the hiring and promotion of employees. Their panel of lawyers who specialize in labor, health and employment law will discuss the definition of antisemitism and highlight laws concerning discrimination in the workplace. The panel will focus on state and national strategies to counter bias and prejudice, duties and strategies of employers and employees to combat antisemitism, and the role of The Florida Holocaust Museum in standing up to antisemitism.
“Eight Florida cities get perfect scores in LGBTQ+ equality report” via Mitch Perry of Florida Phoenix — Despite enduring a year that advocates have derided as the “most anti-LGBTQ Legislative Session in history,” a nationwide report gives eight Florida cities perfect 100% scores when it comes to assessing LGBTQ+ equality in the areas of municipal policies, laws, and services. That comes from the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index, an annual report that gives scores to U.S. cities on issues like nondiscrimination laws, law enforcement, and benefits and protections to LGBTQ+ employees. The report is produced in tandem with the Equality Federation. Getting maximum scores of 100 in Florida are: Tampa, Wilton Manors, Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Miami, Oakland Park, Orlando, and St. Petersburg.
“Walmart expands health Insurance reach in Florida” via Kiplinger — Walmart Health has reached two separate deals aimed at increasing access to affordable health care service options in Florida. In an agreement with Ambetter from Sunshine Health — which provides insurance plans through the Florida health insurance marketplace — Walmart Health centers will become the preferred providers under Ambetter’s Value Plan. The deal covers Florida’s Clay, Duval, Hillsborough, Orange, Osceola, Pasco and Seminole counties.
— 9 a.m. The Revenue Estimating Conference meets to analyze the potential costs of legislation. Room 117, Knott Building.
“GIS Groundbreaking enrollment numbers for September 2023” via the Global Institute of Sport — The Global Institute of Sport, the leading destination for master’s degrees, executive education and professional qualifications in sport around the world, has welcomed a groundbreaking worldwide intake of new students for September 2023. This marks the first time GIS has had cohorts studying on three continents. To read more, click HERE.
— DOWN BALLOT —
“Debbie Mucarsel-Powell stumps for Tom Keen in HD 35” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Mucarsel-Powell is stumping alongside Keen, the Democrat competing in a highly anticipated Jan. 16 Special Election in House District 35. The Miami Democrat joined Keen in Lake Nona Thursday to discuss the importance of the contest for Democrats. “These are the type of races that everyone is watching,” Mucarsel-Powell said. “We cannot continue to see the voter suppression or allow the apathy we’ve been seeing and people not turning out.” Keen won the Democratic nomination in the Central Florida district. The veteran and businessman now faces Osceola County School Board Erika Booth, the Republican nominee. The winner of the January contest will succeed state Rep. Fred Hawkins, a St. Cloud Republican who resigned from the seat to become the new president of South Florida State College.
“Gregory Tony nabs 3 union endorsements for Broward Sheriff re-election bid” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Tony’s re-election campaign now has the backing of three sizable unions in the county. The embattled Broward County Sheriff says it’s because they trust his leadership. Between Sept. 28 and Nov. 13, the Broward County Police Benevolent Association, Broward Teachers Union and Broward County Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Local 4231 all formally endorsed Tony. Each issued a follow-up statement Thursday explaining their support. “Law enforcement relies on public officials, and we strive to endorse the very best candidates. We believe that Sheriff Tony is the one, and we wish him a successful campaign,” Broward PBA President Rod Skirvin said in a statement.
“Internal polling puts Angelo Castillo way out front in Pembroke Pines Mayor’s race” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Castillo appears to be a strong front-runner for Pembroke Pines Mayor, according to internal polling. The poll shows Castillo leading in every demographic and overall, with 60% support. The poll shows majority support in each of the city’s four Commission districts and with support across parties. “I am deeply humbled by the outpouring of support from every corner of Pembroke Pines,” Castillo said. “This campaign has always been about bringing our community together, and seeing such a broad base of support reinforces the strength of our collective vision. I am inspired by the trust you have placed in me, and I renew my commitment to work tirelessly for the betterment of our city.”
— LOCAL: S. FL —
“State Attorney’s Office employee found dead in Broward courthouse” via Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A Broward State Attorney’s Office employee was found dead in the Broward County Courthouse, officials said. No foul play is suspected. The man was identified as Daniel Miranda, 55, a longtime member of the Digital Evidence Unit of the Broward State Attorney’s Office. “We are in shock, and we are grieving. Danny will be missed in our office, in our community, and our justice system,” said State Attorney Harold Pryor in a letter to staff members. “We offer our sincerest condolences to Danny’s wife and family, and we are praying for them during this very sad time.” The Broward Sheriff’s Office does not suspect foul play at this time, Pryor said in his letter.
“Miami could elect its first openly gay City Commissioner in District 2 runoff race” via Tess Riski of the Miami Herald — After leading the pack in an eight-way City Commission race last week but falling short of a majority win, incumbent Sabina Covo faces a challenge from a candidate who would be the city’s first openly gay Commissioner in a runoff race to represent Miami’s District 2. Voters on Tuesday will decide between Covo, a former journalist who’s seeking her first four-year term on the Commission after winning a Special Election in February, and Damian Pardo, a certified financial planner with a history of activism. Covo, 44, told the Herald that she’s feeling “very confident” heading into Tuesday. Last week, she led in the General Election with 39.3% of the vote, followed by Pardo with 26.4%.
“‘Slap in the face to every resident in the city.’ Miami Board says Ferre Park gym must go” via Linda Robertson of the Miami Herald — An outdoor gym erected last month in Maurice A. Ferre Park by the city of Miami must be removed, a city Board ruled, marking a victory for neighboring residents who have fought projects erasing green space in the downtown bayfront park. The gym, installed at the behest of the Bayfront Park Management Trust and its Chair, Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo, is not included in the city’s master plan and should not have been approved, said members of the Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board, who voted 5-2 to reverse the planning department’s decision to grant permission for the gym and the pavement surrounding it.
“Double-digit rainfalls, tropical force wind gusts hit Key Largo, Ocean Reef in Keys” via David Goodhue of FL Keys News — The Florida Keys, particularly around Key Largo and Ocean Reef, took a hit from the heavy downpours and wind gusts stemming from the storm that drenched South Florida, with at least one gust topping 86 mph, hurricane force. The island chain, particularly the Middle to Upper Keys areas from Marathon to Key Largo, saw conditions between Wednesday and Thursday that if one didn’t know better, could think were due to a low-category hurricane or tropical storm. “Crazy weather,” said Chief Don Bock of the Key Largo Fire Department.
“Toppled trees, pools of water fill South Florida streets. See rain-drenched scenes” via Grethal Aguila, Pedro Portal and Al Diaz of the Miami Herald — Trees toppled cars and homes. Schools closed in Broward. Tens of thousands lost power. All due to the deluge flooding South Florida. The extreme weather that has pummeled the region is here to stay — at least for the next day or so, according to forecasters. Between 4 to 8 inches of rain fell over most of the region in 24 hours. Parts of the Everglades and south Miami-Dade saw up to 15 inches of rain. Flood watches remain in effect for the coastal and metro areas of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. Images of the rain’s impacts inundated social media and news coverage. Here are some scenes from the flooding across South Florida.
“Miami-Dade’s ‘historic’ rain swamps county transit as flooding, debris disrupt routes” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade County’s transit system struggled to have a normal morning on Thursday as the overnight deluge left the Metromover system disabled, Metrorail trains slowed by debris and buses dodging flooded streets. “Due to historic rainfall in Miami-Dade County, all modes of transportation including Metrobus, Metromover, Metrorail and STS are experiencing delays,” the transit system said in an 8:17 a.m. social media post. STS is the name for automobiles used to pick up people with disabilities that prevent them from using county transit. “Please allow for extra travel time. More information to follow.” Before dawn, the Department of Transportation and Public Works announced the entire Metromover system was offline.
— LOCAL: C. FL —
“FPL buys huge property in Osceola County, potentially for solar farm” via Laura Kinsler of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida Power & Light Company has paid $212 million for the 40,000-acre El Maximo Ranch in south Osceola County’s Kissimmee River Valley, which has the potential to house Florida’s largest solar farm array. The rural ranch stretches from State Road 60 to the Osceola-Okeechobee County line in southwest Osceola, once part of a 150,000-acre cattle operation run by the iconic Florida rancher Latt Maxcy. “FPL is continually evaluating how to provide cost-effective solutions to meet the growing energy needs of our customers,” spokesperson Jack Eble told GrowthSpotter. “Land the company acquires could be used in a variety of ways, including infrastructure needs and power generation such as solar.”
“Palm Coast resident challenges Bible in Flagler Schools, unhappy with review process” via Mary Ellen Ritter of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — In June, Palm Coast resident Bob Gordon challenged the Bible in Flagler County Schools. On Oct. 30, Superintendent LaShakia Moore informed him that the book would remain in school media centers and could be used in classroom instruction. Gordon found the challenge process to be unstructured and confusing, and he’s not pleased with how it was handled. According to the district, since the Bible is considered instructional material, it is not subject to challenge, and a decision regarding its place on school shelves was unnecessary. The district referenced a memo from the Florida Department of Education to back its stance.
“Years after a racial inequities complaint was filed against Brevard Schools, questions linger” via Finch Walker of Florida Today — It’s been more than 10 years of unanswered questions for William “Bill” Gary. In Spring 2013, the Brevard civil rights activist filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education about Brevard Public Schools. The complaint raised concerns about the disproportionate rates of discipline of Black students; the closure of three schools that served predominantly Black students while schools with high White student populations were kept open; and the district’s practices related to hiring and promoting Black teachers. Much has remained the same at Brevard Public Schools since that complaint was filed.
“More than a dozen people tell Brevard School Board: Don’t allow teachers to be armed” via Finch Walker of Florida Today — Brevard School Board members denied having previously talked about any plans to arm teachers during a meeting this week, but many members of the public on hand to discuss that topic weren’t having it. The Board room was full, with 27 people signed up to speak. Of those, all 14 speakers who discussed guns vehemently opposed the idea of allowing teachers to be armed, even voluntarily, with frustration mounting over Board member Matt Susin’s denial of arming teachers ever being considered. Ahead of public comment, Susin assured community members that arming teachers as part of the guardian program was not on the table.
“Orlando home sales fall for fifth month as median price increases” via Austin Fuller of the Orlando Sentinel — Orlando home sales fell for the fifth straight month in October as interest rates continued to climb to their highest point in more than two decades, according to a report released this week. Sales fell 5% from 2,558 in September to 2,429 in October, according to the Orlando Regional Realtor Association, which looks at sales from Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Lake counties. October’s interest rate was at 7.8%, an increase from 7.3% in September, and the highest in the Orlando area since April 2001, the report said. Median home prices went up from $370,000 in September to $377,000 in October following three months of falling prices.
“Florida Supreme Court upholds death penalty in Orlando officer’s killing” via Cristóbal Reyes of the Orlando Sentinel — Markeith Loyd’s death sentence for the murder of an Orlando police officer in 2017 was upheld by the Florida Supreme Court, though with a caveat that the prosecution “abused its discretion” during his sentencing. Loyd appealed his conviction and sentence for shooting Lt. Debra Clayton in a Walmart parking lot, nearly a month after killing his pregnant girlfriend, Sade Dixon. In his appeal, Loyd made 13 challenges, from questioning decisions to exclude certain jurors to arguing he was inappropriately determined to be competent to proceed with the trial. He also urged the court to declare the death penalty unconstitutional, which the court declined to do, citing its own precedent and prior decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Volusia County Schools ratifies bargaining agreement with Volusia United Educators” via Mary Ellen Ritter of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — The Volusia County School Board unanimously approved Superintendent Carmen Balgobin’s recommendation to ratify the negotiated and proposed collective bargaining agreements with Volusia United Educators for support staff effective July 1, 2023, through June 30, 2024. Negotiations between the district and Volusia United Educators concluded Oct. 26, according to Tuesday’s Board meeting agenda. Since the union Board ratified the agreements and the Board approved it, it will be sent to the Department of Education for final approval and release of funds. “Two parties coming together working in the best interest of our staff, we appreciate it very much,” Balgobin said.
— LOCAL: TB —
“Pinellas School Board member Carol Cook says she will not seek 7th term” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Cook has made no secret of her readiness to retire from the Pinellas County School Board after 24 years representing north-central county. Until now, though, Cook has been coy about whether she would seek a seventh term. During Tuesday’s Board meeting, Cook announced she will not run for the District 5 seat again. “The word is out,” she said. “The secret is loose.” Four candidates have already filed paperwork declaring their intention to pursue the seat. They are Katie Blaxberg, Brad DeCorte, Stacy Geier and Bronson Oudshoff. The race for the nonpartisan position has become political.
“Across Tampa Bay, families cram into motels to avoid life on the street” via Lauren Peace of the Tampa Bay Times — The Palm Harbor Inn, with its 100 blue doors and central swimming pool, sits off U.S. 19 North, amid the car dealerships and fast-food chains that line the busy thoroughfare. For Jennifer’s family, this place was meant to be a stopover. Once a rough-around-the-edges crash pad for drifters, the motel offers shelter of a different sort these days. Now it’s working families who seek refuge. All are casualties of a punishing Tampa Bay housing market, one of the hottest in the nation, where rent has spiked more than 35% in five years. For many, shrinking possibilities have turned this motel into a home, even if, technically, its residents are considered homeless. Tallying the true number of people living in places like the Palm Harbor Inn is challenging, said Stephanie Gonzalez Guittar, a sociology professor at Rollins College whose research has focused on families living in Florida motels. They’re often overlooked in official homeless counts, too, she said.
“USF President Rhea Law up for potential salary increase after positive Board feedback” via Henry Queen of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — The University of South Florida Governance Committee made a recommendation on Thursday that the full Board of Trustees give President Rhea Law the highest possible bonus as allowed in her contract. Board Chair Will Weatherford also plans on presenting a list of other university president salaries at the BOT’s December meeting as part of a potential request to increase Law’s base compensation of $655,000. Weatherford said he asked Chief Human Resources and Administrative Officer Angie Sklenka to investigate the issue following Law’s positive evaluation for a year, including everything from a new provost hire to inclusion into the prestigious Association of American Universities group. Law’s potential total compensation of almost $1.1 million ranks No. 19 in the country, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
“New Howard Frankland Bridge to handle rail — but not Brightline” via Veronica Brezina of the St. Pete Catalyst — Hundreds of workers are pouring concrete and installing beams for the new $865.3 million Howard Frankland Bridge project. The new bridge will replace the current crossing, and include a section designated for potential light rail. “We have set up the middle of it to be strong enough to accommodate light rail in the future, should that be something that materializes,” said David Gwynn, District 7 Secretary of Transportation for the Florida Department of Transportation. “I get asked if it [the new bridge] will accommodate Brightline — no, it won’t … If you were going to accommodate heavy rail, you pretty much have to have a separate bridge because it would require much heavier infrastructure than light rail would,” Gwynn said.
“80K passengers to go through Tampa Airport on peak Thanksgiving travel days” via Angie Angers of Bay News 9 — The next 11 days are expected to be the busiest Thanksgiving travel period that Tampa International Airport has ever seen. From Nov. 16 to Nov. 26, airport officials say an average of 80,000 passengers are expected to pass through TPA each day. The two busiest days are projected to be the day before Thanksgiving (Nov. 22), and the Sunday following (Nov. 26) with an estimated 84,000 to 87,000 passengers each day. Some parking garages could reach capacity and officials recommend you book parking online in advance. To alleviate congestion, ride-share apps will now pick up at the blue express curbside instead of the traditional baggage claim area. Airport operations manager Adam Bouchard said on peak days during the Thanksgiving travel period, they see about 20% more passengers. In years past, Thanksgiving travel has not reached the level that Spring Break travel does. But this year, Bouchard said it likely will.
“Alabama man avoids jail for threats against Clearwater Council member” via Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times — An Alabama man charged earlier this year with felony aggravated stalking of Clearwater City Council member Mark Bunker accepted a plea agreement with Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office for a lesser charge that includes no jail time. Ricky James Myers, 58, pleaded guilty on Nov. 2 to misdemeanor disorderly conduct and was ordered to pay $1,479 in restitution to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office to cover his extradition from Alabama for his arrest. He also faces $500 in fines and costs. Myers was booked into the Pinellas County Jail on April 30 on the felony stalking charge and released the same day on bond. In the plea agreement, he was sentenced to time served. State attorney Bruce Bartlett said Myers’ remorse and Bunker’s blessing for a lesser charge factored into the plea agreement.
“USF earns national recognition for innovative and impactful global learning, research and engagement efforts” via USF — The university was honored this week with the 2023 Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) International Impact Award for Global Teaching and Learning. USF is focused on addressing the greatest challenges facing communities locally, nationally and across the world through impactful research and a dedication to student learning that prioritizes intercultural awareness and global literacy. USF World leads the university’s efforts across its three campuses by providing resources and services that empower the USF community to function as global stewards and by promoting global education opportunities.
— LOCAL: N. FL —
“Cheers! Panama City Commission approves downtown district where public drinking is OK” via Nathan Cobb of the Panama City News-Herald — Starting Friday, residents and tourists can now crack open a cold one while walking around a portion of the downtown area for two days a week. Panama City Commissioners on Tuesday voted 4-1 to approve the second and final reading of an ordinance to create the Downtown Panama City Social District or a region in the downtown area where people can openly carry and consume alcoholic drinks. Mayor Michael Rohan was the lone member of the Commission to vote against the district.
“New 6-story hotel proposed for Pensacola bayfront clears final hurdle” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — A six-story hotel on Gregory Street that overlooks Bayfront Parkway cleared its final hurdle Tuesday with the Pensacola Planning Board unanimously approving the new building’s design. Commercial real estate development company Kerioth Corporation is proposing to build a six-story, 132-room Homewood Suites by Hilton hotel at 801 E. Gregory St. The Pensacola City Council approved granting the project a license to use city right of way on 13th Avenue and DeLeon Street in October.
“Tallahassee firefighter union still negotiating salaries with city after 10 months” via Elena Barrera of the Tallahassee Democrat — After talks that totaled more than 30 hours, 16 negotiation attempts and almost 10 months of pleading, Tallahassee firefighters still have no pay raise in sight. The Tallahassee Professional Firefighters Association, the Tallahassee Fire Department’s labor union, has been negotiating with the city since March to come to an agreement on a new contract, but city leaders have been uncooperative, union leaders say. “There’s been a lot of slow walking,” said Joey Davis, the firefighter union president. “The last negotiation session, we put two offers on the table, and they came back with no offers.” Deputy Fire Chief Rich Jones countered in an email statement that the union was the one delaying a deal.
“Alachua County School Board votes again to extend rezoning timeline” via Lillian Lawson of the Gainesville Sun — The Alachua County School Board on Tuesday once again delayed its comprehensive rezoning process, pushing back its second reading and final vote by a month due to continuing concerns over a lack of data. In October, Board members passed the first reading of the rezoning plan, setting a 90-day window to officially adopt the plan for the 2024-2025 school year. They were scheduled to vote again in November and then on Dec. 5, to decide whether to move forward with the first districtwide rezoning effort in 40 years. The Board on Tuesday, however, agreed to move the second vote to a day in January 2024 to be decided later.
“Crestview City Council votes to install a safe haven baby box in town” via Collin Bestor of the Northwest Florida Daily News — The Crestview City Council on Tuesday voted to install a safe haven baby box that will be the first of its kind in Northwest Florida. “In 2021, 31 babies were placed in dumpsters, found in backpacks or discarded in other dangerous locations,” Council member Cynthia Brown said, referencing statistics across the state. “In 2022, 22 of these babies were found deceased. We do not have to let that happen in Crestview.” The safe haven baby box is used to provide a safe and anonymous option for individuals to surrender their newborns without any legal consequences.
— LOCAL: SW. FL —
“DeSantis suspends Cape Coral City Council member Patty Cummings” via ABC 7 — DeSantis signed an executive order Thursday suspending Cummings from her position as City Council member of Cape Coral. Cummings was arrested on Tuesday after turning herself into the Lee County Jail amid an investigation into whether she lied about where she was living during her campaign and election to the city office. The State Attorney’s Office is charging Cummings with three third-degree felonies, including one count of fraudulent application for a driver’s license and two counts of false swearing in connection with/or arising out of voting or elections.
“Teacher aide charged with molesting student at Manatee County school, Sheriff’s Office says” via Ryan Ballogg of the Bradenton Herald — A teacher aide at a Manatee County elementary school has been charged with molesting a third grade student, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release. Angel Rodriguez Mercado, 67, worked as a paraprofessional at Florine J. Abel Elementary School at 7100 Madonna Place in south Manatee County, the Sheriff’s Office said. According to a job listing posted this week by Manatee County School District, responsibilities of the position include assisting in the supervision of students on campus and in the classroom, working with students in groups or individually as directed by the teacher and escorting students to the library and other areas of the school.
“Developer accuses Collier Commissioner Bill McDaniel of attempting to hide public records” via Laura Layden of the Naples Daily News — Collier County will hire an outside attorney to represent Commissioner McDaniel in a contentious public records dispute with a developer. Commissioners voted unanimously to retain outside counsel for the legal squabble involving Naples Golf Development. The developer has accused McDaniel of attempting to hide public records “in his possession,” particularly ones kept on his personal email accounts, and refusing to produce the information it’s sought in a timely, or reasonable way. McDaniel declined to comment. The request to hire a private lawyer to represent the Commissioner appeared on the Board’s consent agenda, reserved for non-controversial matters that require no public discussion.
“Sarasota County schools rated best in Florida, new education ranking says” via Steven Walker of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Sarasota County Schools was listed as the best school district in Florida by Niche.com in its new ranking. The ranking, based on publicly available data and user-submitted reviews, includes St. Johns County in second place and Manatee County Schools at 32nd. The Sarasota County School District has received an “A” rating from the state every year since the grading system was implemented in 2004. Last year, Sarasota’s achievement numbers either stayed the same or fell in every subject. However, the district’s achievement was still well above the statewide average. For example, Sarasota’s reading achievement was 11 percentage points higher than the statewide average of 50%, which placed the district tied for fourth in the state.
“North Port OKs exemption that will bring 175-apartment complex” via Frank DiFiore of the North Port Sun — North Port City Commissioners voted this week to approve a zoning exemption to allow the construction of an apartment complex along Pocatella Avenue. The OK, which would allow 175 apartments, comes roughly 10 months after the Commission voted down a similar exemption in the same area. The applicant and city staff noted that the revised exemption application came with initial plans for both the complex and a two-story building for housing professional-level office space per the original zoning. Opponents, however, argued in public comment that the alteration was a token change to ultimately remove land from the city’s future commercial tax base. “We’re going down a very precarious road,” resident James Murphy said at the meeting.
— TOP OPINION —
“Lawmakers should break the spell and defend Disney against DeSantis’ wrath” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — Nobody foresaw a day when the vengeful, political whims of one man could turn the peaceful kingdom of Reedy Creek into Disney’s greatest vulnerability.
And if DeSantis is forced to return to Florida, embittered after watching his presidential aspirations burn, there is no telling the mischief he could wreak. Someone must stop him. And those champions must rise from a group he has already conquered: The Florida Legislature, which should act in the coming Session to curb the Governor’s grasp over the former district.
DeSantis has already done considerable damage, treating the district’s leadership as a treasure chest that he has invited unqualified political allies to plunder and — as documented by the blog Seeking Rents, causing longtime, loyal public servants to flee. His shenanigans have already led to the company pulling the plug on a development that would have brought thousands of jobs to Lake Nona.
If he chooses, he can command those cronies to wreak real havoc — acting in ways that disrupt Disney’s transportation network, shut off the power with the parks at their fullest or throttle water supplies just as tourists are returning to hundreds of hotel rooms after long days of play under Florida’s sun.
Would he do it? Nobody knows. But lawmakers can be sure of one thing. If they don’t modify the laws that grant the Governor so much power, DeSantis almost certainly knows how much damage he can do: Earlier this year, he spoke of ways he could hamper Disney’s kingdoms by leasing land to rival parks, seizing it for a state prison or taking other action aimed directly at the economic viability of the Disney properties.
— OPINIONS —
“When it rains, it really, really pours” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — It’s totally understandable if people in Fort Lauderdale and surrounding communities muttered that to themselves as the skies opened and they were swamped by yet another deluge of rain across the region. This wasn’t nearly as bad as the record rainfall of last April, the effects of which are still being seen and felt, months later, but this soaking was still severe enough that it forced the closings of schools, courts and some city halls. Traffic lights went dark. Parking lots flooded. Some areas got a foot of water overnight. This was a dangerous November no-name storm with high wind warnings and flood watches stretching from the Keys to Palm Beach.
“Using George Floyd’s death to attack Haley, DeSantis shows he doesn’t ‘get’ empathy” via the Miami Herald editorial board — DeSantis doesn’t do empathy. He’s a Governor who likes to talk tough on the presidential trail; such a foreign concept appears to get computed in his head as a “left-wing mindset.” Speaking to a South Carolina radio host this week, DeSantis blasted Haley for her response to the 2020 death of Floyd at the hands of a police officer who’s since been sentenced to more than 20 years in prison. “It’s important to understand that the death of George Floyd was personal and painful for many. In order to heal, it needs to be personal and painful for everyone,” Haley wrote on Twitter, now known as X, on May 30, 2020, five days after Floyd died. DeSantis, who’s battling Haley in early GOP Primary states to be the main alternative to Trump, accused Haley of “adopting this left-wing mindset.”
“Liberals shouldn’t scoff at people’s fears of homelessness and crime” via Paul Schofield of The Washington Post — Hoping to educate its viewers about life in a “progressive hellscape,” Fox News recently sent a reporter to a liberal city — Seattle — to hear from residents about its runaway homelessness and crime. The segment did not go as planned. Liberals received the segment with glee. But, as a political philosopher who studies homelessness and considers himself progressive, I found little to celebrate in this episode of culture war point-scoring. By glibly dismissing people’s feelings about open-air drug use, shoplifting and human waste on the streets, liberals empower their ideological opponents. While I have doubts about their sincerity, conservative politicians are speaking directly to people’s anxieties over worsening conditions in urban America.
— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —
— WEEKEND TV —
ABC Action News Full Circle with Paul LaGrone on Channel 10 WFTS: Political analyst Dr. Susan MacManus; political strategist Raven Harrison (“Conservative Warrior”); ABC News political director Rick Klein.
Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida and other issues affecting the region.
In Focus with Allison Walker on Bay News 9/CF 13: A discussion about the problem of hunger across Central Florida, and a look at who is affected the most and what can be done to help throughout the year. Joining Walker are Sen. Nick DiCeglie; Thomas Mantz, president/CEO of Feeding Tampa Bay; and Greg Higgerson, Chief Development Officer of Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.
Political Connections on Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: Sen. Jay Collins will discuss the upcoming Legislative Session and his priorities for 2024.
Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Rep. LaVon Bracy Davis will discuss legislation that was passed in this year’s Session and what she’s working on for 2024.
The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Gary Yordon speaks with Dr. Tom Serio.
This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Joe Carlucci of Jacksonville City Council District 5; “No Labels” national director (and former U.S. Rep.) Joe Cunningham; Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute director Rick Mullaney.
— ALOE —
“Awkward lie: Rory McIlroy’s ball lodges in the lap of a spectator at World Tour Championship” via The Associated Press — It was the most awkward lie of the day for McIlroy. The four-time major winner’s tee shot on the par-3 13th hole at the World Tour Championship on Thursday somehow landed in the lap of a female spectator as she lay on the grass to the right of the green. Amid much laughter, the rest of the spectators retreated, but the woman remained lying down, with her feet crossed and the ball lodged between her legs. McIlroy went up to her, scratched his head, then feigned a shot — to the amusement of the gallery. McIlroy stood back and said: “Right, erm. Referee!”
“Nobody told Hallmark Channel that cable is dead” via Josef Adalian of Vulture — The cable landscape in 2023 is exceedingly bleak, and yet amid all this carnage, there’s one big bright spot: Hallmark Channel. The brand best known for its ability to churn out a seemingly endless number of new Christmas movies every year has defied the odds by ignoring the conventional industry wisdom that took hold circa 2018, namely that cable is dead, streaming is the future. Instead of slashing costs and cutting back programming, Hallmark still cares enough to send its nearly 70 million cable subscribers the best stuff it has. In recent years, the company has maintained the size of its roster of scripted content across both the main network and sister channel Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Celebrating today are former AG Pam Bondi, Max Flugrath, Amy Mercado, and Bill Nelson, Jr.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.