Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 11.28.23

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Here's your AM rundown of people, politics and policy in the Sunshine State.

Good Tuesday morning.

Florida Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Wilson has his eyes set on 2030, but Florida Trend is giving him a pat on the back a few years early.

The publication this week named Wilson as its “Floridian of the Year,” citing his policy work aimed at growing the state’s economy to the 10th largest in the world if measured as a country.

The massive torts package signed into law early this year was the crowning accomplishment, according to Florida Trend, and the Florida Chamber did play an outsize role in building support for the legislation.

Mark Wilson is recognized as ‘Floridian of the Year.’

While Wilson said the win was “the culmination of a 15-year political strategy, a 15-year public relations strategy,” he didn’t celebrate it outside of a few handshakes and calls. Instead, he shifted focus to other Chamber goals — and there are a lot of them, all outlined in the 2030 Blueprint he and the Chamber team have been promoting for the past several years.

The grindset earned him lauds from several players in The Process, including former Speaker Will Weatherford.

“He’s been quietly helping transform Florida for two decades and Florida is better off because of Mark Wilson,” said Weatherford, now a member of the Chamber Board.

Read the full write-up on Florida Trend.

Here are a couple of other items which captured my attention:

👴 — Yes, youngsters are turned off by an old Biden: Polls show Joe Biden and Donald Trump locked in a tight race for the White House should they eventually face off next year, and some of the tightest margins are among young voters. But while Democrats typically dominate among the youngest of the electorate, The New York Times’ Nate Cohen warns the writing on the wall should be taken seriously by the Biden camp. Read more here.

🚔 — Small-town Alabama newspaper shows open season on free press: A veteran reporter and the owner of a small-town paper in Alabama, Atmore News, were arrested and charged with violating a state law prohibiting the disclosure of grand jury information in a case related to a Florida Panhandle school district. But the arrests raise questions about misinterpreting laws and weaponizing them against the press, even when all the journalist was doing was reporting the news. It’s not the only time and the precedent is troubling. Read more here.

—SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@Mattyglesias: I’m fascinated by how obsessed leftists are with the idea that center-left liberals are secretly die-hard right-wingers — if true doesn’t this mean that leftist politics is even more doomed and hopeless than it seems?

@MDixon55: “Everyone does it” just strikes me as a bizarre defense for fake public email addresses and concerning for government transparency

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

@cdgoldstein: “We didn’t publish the articles; we merely licensed and ran them on our website, wholesale” is perhaps not the best defense I’ve ever seen

Tweet, tweet:

— DAYS UNTIL —

Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 1; Florida TaxWatch’s 2023 Government Productivity Awards Ceremony — 7; in-person sports betting begins at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa — 9; 2023 Florida Chamber Annual Insurance Summit — 15; Zack Snyder’s ‘Rebel Moon’ premieres — 23; Michael Mann’s ‘Ferrari’ premieres — 26; Matt Dixon’s ‘Swamp Monsters: Trump vs. (Gov. Ron) DeSantis ― the Greatest Show on Earth (or at Least in Florida)’ released — 42; 2024 Florida Chamber Legislative Fly-In and reception — 42; Florida’s 2024 Regular Session begins — 42; 2024 Primetime Emmy Awards — 48; House District 35 Special Election — 49; Florida TaxWatch’s State of the Taxpayer Dinner — 50; New Hampshire Primary — 56; Red Dog Blue Dog 2024 — 57; South Carolina Democratic Primary — 67; New Hampshire and Nevada Democratic Primaries — 70; South Carolina GOP holds first-in-the-South Primary — 88; Michigan Democratic Primary — 91; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 94; Trump’s D.C. trial on charges related to trying to reverse his 2020 Election loss — 97; Super Tuesday — 98; 2024 Oscars — 103; Georgia Democratic Primary — 105; 2024 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 163; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 178; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 213; Republican National Convention begins — 230; ‘Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 262; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 241; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 270; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 325; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 328; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 359; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 444; ‘Moana’ premieres — 577; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 605; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 710; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 710; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 752; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 885; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 911; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 1,116; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,256; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,215; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,943.

— TOP STORY —

Ron DeSantis meets with potential GOP donors to new super PAC” via Amy B. Wang and Hannah Knowles of The Washington Post — DeSantis is meeting Monday with potential donors to Fight Right, a newly formed super PAC that is backing his presidential campaign, amid tensions with another super PAC that culminated last week in the departure of the group’s chief executive.

DeSantis campaign manager James Uthmeier said the campaign would welcome the efforts of Fight Right, while also praising the “incredible field operation and ground game” of Never Back Down, which has played an unusually large role in DeSantis’ 2024 White House bid.

Ron DeSantis changes things up with a new super PAC.

Fight Right will “devote full attention to fighting for Ron DeSantis through powerful TV advertising,” Uthmeier wrote.

“In the final push for the Iowa Caucus victory, this campaign will proudly fight alongside NBD’s impressive ground game, and Fight Right’s television team, to show the people of Iowa that this is a time for choosing,” he added.

Last week, Fight Right began airing attack ads aimed at rising presidential rival Nikki Haley, shaking up the DeSantis operation late in the race. Never Back Down had already run its own ads against Haley, a former ambassador to the United Nations, but took them off the air recently amid worries that the negative spots were backfiring on DeSantis, given how closely he is associated with that super PAC.

— THE TRAIL —

Donald Trump claims he’s not ‘cognitively impaired’ in response to Team DeSantis trolling” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — In a post on Truth Social, Trump contends that whenever he “sarcastically insert(s) the name (Barack) Obama for Biden as an indication that others may actually be having a very big influence in running our Country, Ron DeSanctimonious and his failing campaign apparatus, together with the Democrat’s Radical Left ‘Disinformation Machine,’ go wild saying that ‘Trump doesn’t know the name of our President, (CROOKED!) Joe Biden. He must be cognitively impaired.’” The former President then offers a counternarrative: “No, I know both names very well, never mix them up, and know that they are destroying our Country.”

Donald Trump’s latest rant.

The final countdown: Trump holds commanding lead over DeSantis, Nikki Haley, with 50 days until Iowa caucuses” via Paul Steinhauser of Fox News — As he aims for an upset victory in Iowa’s caucuses, DeSantis is days away from reaching his goal of stopping in all 99 counties in the Hawkeye State. The DeSantis campaign says the Governor will make his final stop this upcoming Saturday in Jasper County. DeSantis is hoping to follow in the footsteps of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (2008), former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (2012) and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (2016), who stopped in all 99 counties en route to Iowa Caucus victories.

DeSantis slams ‘scurrilous charge’ of ‘pay-to-play’ Iowa evangelical endorsement” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis is pushing back against a story that he paid for a key evangelical endorser in Iowa, but in doing so he’s leaving key details out. DeSantis said the idea that his campaign bought the endorsement of Bob Vander Plaats is a “scurrilous charge” and “without merit.” “Bob Vander Plaats’ endorsement is not for sale. He’s got a great reputation. He’s become a friend of Casey and me along the way; he’s very influential in Iowa,” he said. Reuters reported: “The DeSantis campaign paid $25,000 for an ad in the event’s commemorative booklet. … Never Back Down paid $50,000 for a two-page ad in the booklet and tickets to the dinner, while And to the Republic bought a table at the dinner for $20,000.”

In countdown to Iowa, Trump is coasting, as DeSantis and Haley clash” via Shane Goldmacher of The New York Times — Negative mailers are overstuffing Iowa mailboxes. Attack ads are cluttering the airwaves. And door knockers are fanning out from Des Moines to Dubuque and everywhere in between. The Iowa caucuses, the first contest in the Republican nominating calendar, are poised to play an especially consequential role in 2024. But with only 49 days to go, Trump’s top rivals are running out of time to catch him as DeSantis and Haley thrash each other in the final sprint to the starting line. Far ahead in national polls, Trump is aiming for an emphatic victory Jan. 15 in Iowa that could serve as an early knockout punch. He leads in public surveys in the state by twice as much as the biggest winning margin in a competitive contest in the last 50 years.

Haley campaign pours money into ads attacking DeSantis — but still won’t bash Trump” via Sara Dorn of Forbes — A super PAC aligned with Haley has spent millions on ads in Iowa attacking DeSantis over the past two months, but nothing on ads against Trump as his commanding polling lead has turned the GOP Primary race into a fight for second place. The Haley-aligned SFA Fund Inc. super PAC, named after the Stand for America nonprofit she founded to further her political platform, has spent $3.6 million on ads attacking DeSantis this election cycle, mostly in the early Primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire, according to campaign finance expert Rob Pyers. The super PAC also spent $25,000 on ads attacking Biden, but nothing on anti-Trump ads as of Nov. 24.

DeSantis claims Haley ‘wouldn’t like’ how a debate hosted by Laura Ingraham would go” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis is still trying to troll Haley into a debate where the moderator likely would favor him, though he’s not framing it quite that way. During a Monday interview on “The Ingraham Angle,” the 2024 candidate said Haley “probably wouldn’t like what the debate would be about,” citing various “establishment-oriented positions” she has taken. DeSantis cited her belief in a social media registry, contended she believes there should be “no limits” on immigration, and took the “side” of The Walt Disney Co. over Florida as examples of her being “fundamentally out of step with Republican voters.” “I think she’s relying on liberal media to prop her up,” DeSantis said. “But I’m game for the debate.”

DeSantis returns to South Carolina Friday” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Florida’s Governor is taking a page out of the James Taylor songbook, with Carolina in his mind Friday. DeSantis will follow up his Fox News debate with California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday evening, hitting the campaign trail again in the Palmetto State for three stops, his campaign advised media Monday. DeSantis begins his day with two upstate stops. He will appear in Greer for a 10 a.m. “4th District Republican Club Town Hall.” That event will be followed up by a sojourn to nearby Prosperity, for another town hall event beginning at 1:10 p.m. He is slated to be the featured guest at the Citadel Republican Society’s “Patriot Dinner,” an event that starts at 6 p.m.

—“DeSantis talks about importance of teaching civics” via Jessica Kisluk of WMUR

DeSantis is on the Texas ballot, but he’s down big to Trump in polling” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis is on the Texas Presidential Primary ballot, as confirmed by a local reporter’s social media post amplified by representative Andrew Romeo. Yet while qualifying for the ballot is one thing, getting the Lone Star State’s 162 delegates in March’s winner-take-all vote is another. Even before Gov. Greg Abbott endorsed Trump; surveys showed the Florida Governor facing a deep deficit in the state. A poll of 524 registered Texas GOP Primary voters from October, reported by Axios, shows the former President with 58% support and DeSantis at 14%. Haley is in third place with 6%. The 44-point gap is actually narrower than that suggested by other recent polling of Lone Star State leanings.

Ron DeSantis makes the cut for Texas, but still lags far behind Trump.

What would a DeSantis presidency look like for health care?” via Romy Ellenbogen and Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — His record as Florida’s Governor suggests a presidency that would prioritize individual freedom over public health, but his push for such freedoms ends when it comes to abortion and treatment for gender dysphoria. In Florida, he has pushed restrictions on those medical services. Critics contend those were the wrong priorities in a state where 7.4% of children had no medical insurance as of 2022. Since then, more than 250,000 Florida children have lost the health insurance they had through Medicaid. DeSantis as President would likely downplay the importance of the CDC, which is an advisory body, and instead might require states to invest more in public health infrastructure, said Jay Wolfson, a public health professor at the University of South Florida.

Send Hamas supporters back home” via the Washington Examiner — DeSantis upset many on the Left this month when he promised that, as President, he would revoke the student visa of any foreign protester supporting Hamas and send them home. “You don’t have a right to be here on a visa,” DeSantis explained. “You don’t have a right to be studying in the United States.” DeSantis is not only right. He’s expressing a centrist position. Sen. Tom Cotton has asked Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to “immediately deport any foreign national, including and especially any alien on a student visa, that has expressed support for Hamas and its murderous attacks on Israel.”

— MORE 2024 —

Who do GOP candidates need to win over to catch up to Trump?” via Andrew Dorn of NewsNation — As the Republican White House hopefuls prepare for the fourth presidential debate on Dec. 6 and the beginning of Primary season in January, Trump continues to maintain a wide lead over his GOP rivals. Trump currently holds a commanding 48-point lead over his next closest opponent, DeSantis, and many are wondering if the Primary race is over before it’s even started.

What can Republican candidates do to close the huge polling gap?

Donations to GOP drop as worries mount about the party’s finances” via Isaac Arnsdorf and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — The Republican Party’s finances are increasingly worrisome to party members, advisers to Trump, and other operatives involved in the 2024 Election effort, according to 10 people familiar with the matter. The Republican National Committee disclosed that it had $9.1 million in cash on hand as of Oct. 30, the lowest amount for the RNC in any Federal Election Commission report since February 2015. That compares with about $20 million at the same point in the 2016 Election cycle and about $61 million four years ago when Trump was in the White House. The Democratic National Committee reported having $17.7 million as of Oct. 30, almost twice as much as the Republican Party, with one year before the election.

Team Biden’s great double quarter pounder ‘misinformation’ campaign” via Byron York of the Washington Examiner — Biden’s 2024 re-election campaign is “overhauling” its strategy to fight “misinformation” on social media. The new effort includes “recruiting hundreds of staffers and volunteers to monitor platforms.” To supervise the work, the campaign hired a former Biden White House staffer named Rob Flaherty, who was described as a “bulldog” and a “controversial figure” whose “combative emails to social media firms have become part of a Republican-led federal court case and a congressional investigation.”

Biden campaign aims to weaponize Trump’s threat to Obamacare” via Reid J. Epstein of The New York Times — Biden’s aides intend to once again push to make Trump and his proposals the news. That strategy has become a key cog for the campaign, as Biden struggles with low approval ratings and increasingly focuses on foreign policy rather than his re-election bid. The campaign will air TV ads this week in Las Vegas and on national cable that contrast legislation passed by Biden that lowered prices on prescription drugs with Trump’s proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act, said Michael Tyler, the campaign’s communications director.

Trump hints at expanded role for the military within the U.S. A legacy law gives him few guardrails” via The Associated Press — Campaigning in Iowa this year, Trump said he was prevented during his presidency from using the military to quell violence in primarily Democratic cities and states. Calling New York City and Chicago “crime dens,” the front-runner for the nomination told his audience, “The next time, I’m not waiting. One of the things I did was let them run it and we’re going to show how bad a job they do,” he said. “Well, we did that. We don’t have to wait any longer.”

Trump floats a larger domestic reach for the U.S. military. Image via Susan Walsh/AP.

Trump is set to return to the witness stand in his civil fraud trial” via The Associated Press — After a pugnacious first turn on the witness stand, Trump plans to testify again next month in his civil fraud trial, his lawyers said Monday. He is to return on Dec. 11, defense attorney Christopher Kise said. Trump had plenty to say during his initial testimony on Nov. 6 in the case, which questioned his net worth, accused him of misleading banks and insurers, and threatened his future in business in New York. “People don’t know how good a company I built. You know why?” Trump complained as one of New York Attorney General Letitia James’ deputies questioned him. “Because people like you go around and try and demean me and try and hurt me, probably for political reasons.”

Ballot amendments have turned out Democrats in the past, now leaders want a replay for abortion” via Stephanie Matat of The Palm Beach Post — After underwhelming turnout in the 2022 Midterm Elections, Florida Democrats are relying on a ballot amendment to enshrine reproductive rights in the state constitution will motivate their voters. But that strategy has some challenges, judging by previous election years and the challenges still facing the ballot amendment. During a recent meeting of the North County Democrats club in North Palm Beach, Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Phillip Jerez cited how electorates across the United States have gone to the polls, in red and blue states, to ratify abortion rights. And he praised the North County Democrats for contributing to a similar effort taking place in Florida.

— DESANTISY LAND —

Sean Hannity wants a red vs. blue state debate. Newsom and DeSantis have other plans.” via Christopher Cadelago of POLITICO — As the Democratic and Republican Governors prepare to take the stage in Alpharetta, Georgia, Hannity’s primary goal of keeping the focus on blue California and red Florida — to help explore the country’s deep divides at the state level — is crashing headlong into the 2024 presidential contest. While both elected officials expect to discuss their respective states, their ultimate agendas are much broader. The competing priorities pose a challenge for Hannity, who despite his own conservative politics pledged fairness to both parties and said he is trying to make his program a place where Democrats like Newsom cannot only appear but punch back. “Expect him to defend the President and use the opportunity to take on the misinformation machine at its headwaters,” Newsom spokesperson Nathan Click said.

DeSantis-Gavin Newsom debate is a showdown of two Disney states” via Emily L. Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — There are many ways to view this week’s unusual debate between DeSantis and Newsom: Red State vs. Blue. A candidate vying for attention in the 2024 cycle vs. an ambitious Governor possibly setting the groundwork for the next one. It’s also a battle between the two Disney State Governors. The two men share a constituent in that multibillion-dollar entertainment company — headquartered in California near its original park, Disneyland, while the larger Disney World is in Orlando. Both have leveraged that relationship but in opposite ways.

A meeting of the Disney states.

DeSantis-backed bans, limits on gender-affirming care inch closer to trial” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — There’s a big legal showdown coming in Florida over the Legislature-approved ban on certain types of treatment for transgender individuals that DeSantis and his administration pushed. A trial challenging Medical Board rules and a law that banned treatment for minors and put limits on care for adults is on target to begin Dec. 12. A final preconference hearing is slated for this week, and both sides have put out their witness lists and filed dozens of exhibits ahead of the trial. The case began last March as the parents of transgender minors filed an initial lawsuit against State Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, Florida’s Medical Boards and the DeSantis administration, but it has since expanded into a class action legal challenge on behalf of transgender minors and adults.

‘This guy is a charlatan’: University of Florida turns against Joe Ladapo” via Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO — Professors had anticipated Ladapo would bring at least $600,000 in grant funding to his new appointment from his previous job at UCLA. That didn’t happen. They expected he would conduct research on internal medicine, as directed by his job letter. Instead, he edited science research manuscripts, gave a guest lecture for grad students and wrote a memoir about his vaccine skepticism. Ladapo’s work at UF has generally escaped scrutiny. Yet interviews with current and former faculty members, state lawmakers and former agency heads, and reviews of internal university emails and reports, show staff was worried that Ladapo had bypassed a crucial review process when he was rushed into his coveted tenured position and, moreover, was unsuited for the position.

— D. C. MATTERS —

Congress got its Christmas break — and will suffer for it in January” via Jordain Carney, Burgess Everett, and Sarah Ferris of POLITICO — Speaker Mike Johnson may have saved Christmas on Capitol Hill, but Congress will be paying for it in the new year. For the first time in roughly a decade, Washington faces no government spending deadline in December. That’s thanks to Johnson, who prevented a shutdown with a gambit designed to spare his party the type of legislative grab bag that conservatives often deride as a “Christmas tree.” The House and Senate are far from off the hook. Johnson has promised he won’t put another “clean” funding bill on the floor, increasing the chances of a shutdown after the next spending deadlines on Jan. 19 and Feb. 2. The House GOP is so bitterly divided that some lawmakers worry they’ll engage in the same last-minute self-sabotage that plagued them this Fall.

Mike Johnson gets his Christmas wish, for a price.

Religious leaders demand Congress take seven-step plan to fight and condemn antisemitism” via Misty Severi of the Washington Examiner — A coalition of religious leaders sent a letter to Congress on Monday, urging both chambers to approve a seven-pronged plan to combat and condemn the growing threat of antisemitism that has escalated since Hamas’ attack on Israel. Lawmakers have been split over the federal response to the war in Israel since the attack occurred on Oct. 7. Some Democrats claimed a retaliation from Israel amounted to genocide against Palestinians. But Republicans and other Democrats have maintained that the response was an act of self-defense.

Vern Buchanan takes Mike Johnson on tour of Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — U.S. House Speaker Johnson toured the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport today alongside U.S. Rep. Buchanan. After witnessing work done on the massive $100-million expansion of the Sarasota airport, the Louisiana Republican stressed the need for Congress to finalize the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration quickly. Amid holiday travel, Johnson said Washington remained aware of the needs of airports and carriers, noting the aviation sector makes up more than 5% of the U.S. gross domestic product and supports 11 million jobs. “Our nation’s airports are also at the top of Congress’ mind this year,” Johnson said.

SRQ Airport President Rick Piccolo, Speaker Mike Johnson, Rep. Vern Buchanan. Image via Vern Buchanan’s Office.

—”Kathy Castor slams Mike Johnson, Vern Buchanan for cheering airport expansion after voting against funding” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

— STATEWIDE —

DeSantis appoints campaign donor, lawmaker’s daughter to University System Board of Governors” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Florida’s State University System Board of Governors has a new member: Ashley Bell Barnett, a community advocate, former educator and donor to DeSantis’ presidential campaign. She’s also the daughter of Fort Meade Republican Rep. Melony Bell. Bell Barnett, a former elementary and middle school teacher, will take the seat after years of service on many advisory and administrative panels. She currently serves on the Polk State College District Board of Trustees and Southwest Florida Water Management District Governing Board and the Polk Arts Alliance Advisory Committee.

Florida’s ‘Holiday Money Hunt’ begins with nearly $3 billion at stake” via Michelle Vecerina of Florida’s Voice — Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis launched the “Holiday Money Hunt” as a way for Floridians to find out if they have unclaimed property that has been unknown or lost and to receive their money back. “I am excited to kick off the Holiday Money Hunt this holiday season and spread the word about unclaimed property in Florida,” Patronis said. The initiative is to help Floridians find out if they or their business has unclaimed property that is ready to recover by searching on the website. “During the holidays, everyone can use a little extra cash, and an unexpected check from the State of Florida may help make things a little brighter this year,” Patronis said.

Jimmy Patronis touts a holiday treasure hunt.

Making the case for Florida school vouchers: One child’s story” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Evan Rowlands hasn’t attended a regular school classroom since he was six years old. On doctors’ orders, the 10-year-old from southern Hillsborough County studies an online curriculum at home, supplemented by tutoring, enrichment courses and any other opportunities his family can afford. Flexibility to deal with Evan’s reality led his family to home-schooling. And Florida’s education scholarship and voucher system for students with special needs helps make it possible. “It really has been such a huge bonus,” Jessica Rowlands said recently over coffee at Starbucks before taking her son to a home-school group hockey lesson in Wesley Chapel. The money, she said, helps pay for curriculum, equipment and field trips.

Grand jury delivers scathing report on illegal immigration’s impact on Florida, calls for new laws” via Amber Jo Cooper of Florida’s Voice — The 21st Statewide Grand Jury delivered another scathing report calling for new laws after an investigation into illegal immigration. The report said many Floridians are “almost dangerously naive and unaware of the true magnitude and malevolence of the illegal immigration industry.” It recommended strong legislative mandates regarding universal documentation requirements, the addition of a sentencing enhancement provision, imposing fees on all wire transactions out of Florida, among other recommendations highlighted below. The statewide grand jury was created to examine international human smuggling networks, after DeSantis’ administration’s request in 2022.

Off-road: Bill would ban UTVs from high-speed highways, require licenses and insurance” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Utility terrain vehicles — they’re essentially turbocharged golf carts, and Sen. Tom Wright wants them off high-speed highways. The Port Orange Republican this month filed SB 440, which would ban the vehicles known widely as UTVs from all federal roadways where the posted speed limit is 55 mph or more. It would also require those controlling UTVs to have a driver’s license or be a minor under the direct supervision of a licensed driver. The bill defines a UTV as “a vehicle less than 70 inches in width which has at least two seats allowing passengers to sit in a side-by-side manner and which is equipped with headlamps, stop lamps, turn signals, taillamps, rearview mirrors, a windshield, seat belt, and a horn.”

A new bill would keep UTVs off the interstates.

Lobbying compensation: Metz Husband & Daughton records Top 10 performance in Q3” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Named partners Warren Husband and James Daughton worked alongside lobbyists Doug Bell, Leslie Dughi, Allison Liby-Schoonover, Aimee Lyon, Andy Palmer and Karl Rasmussen in Q3 and represented more than 90 clients between their legislative and executive compensation reports. The reports show the firm earned $1.06 million lobbying the Legislature and an additional $460,000 lobbying the Governor, Cabinet and state agencies. Using median estimates, MHD ranked No. 10 on Florida Politics’ Q3 Lobby Firm Rankings. At the top-end, the firm may have approached the $2 million mark in Q3.

Lobbying compensation: The Advocacy Partners earns $1.85M in Q3” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The Advocacy Partners logged more than $1.8 million in lobbying pay last quarter, earning the No. 9 spot on Florida Politics’ Q3 Lobby Firm Rankings. The team comprised of Slater Bayliss, Al Cardenas, Chris Chaney, Steve Schale, Stephen Shiver, Sarah Busk Suskey and Jeffrey Woodburn represented more than 100 clients in the third quarter and reported earnings of $855,000 lobbying the Legislature and $990,000 lobbying the executive branch. The Advocacy Partners’ compensation reports both listed overall earnings in the $500,000 to $1 million range, indicating that the firm earned no less than $1 million last quarter. Top-end estimates based on per-client ranges show the firm could have hit the $2 million mark in Q3.

— DOWN BALLOT —

Carlos Guillermo Smith exceeds $300K in fundraising” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Former state Rep. Guillermo Smith continues to flex his fundraising might while running for state Senate. The Orlando Democrat announced he has raised more than $300,000 since launching his campaign for Senate District 17 in April. Much of that, he said, came from more than 2,400 small donors giving $200 or less. “I am deeply grateful for the outpouring of support from grassroots donors across Florida who have invested in our campaign for prosperity, freedom and equality for all. Our campaign is truly powered by real people, not powerful special interests, and these fundraising numbers prove it.”

Carlos Guillermo Smith flexes his fundraising muscles.

House Speaker-designate Daniel Perez backs Ed Montanari for HD 60” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — State Rep. Perez, the House Speaker-designate, is backing Montanari in his bid for the Pinellas County-based House District 60. Montanari is running to unseat incumbent Democrat Lindsay Cross, who succeeded Rep. Ben Diamond in the blue-leaning swing district. “There is no better candidate for HD 60 than Ed Montanari, and I am pleased to announce that he has the full endorsement and backing of the Florida House Republican Campaign Committee,” Perez said.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell endorses Johnny Farias in HD 118 Special Election” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Former U.S. Rep. Mucarsel-Powell on Monday endorsed Farias, the Democrat running for state House District 118. “As an Ecuadorian immigrant and veteran who has dedicated his career to serving our country, Johnny Farias is the embodiment of the American Dream,” Mucarsel-Powell said. “Floridians can trust that Johnny will put people before politics and fight to protect the opportunities that extremists in Tallahassee are trying to take away. I know Johnny will stand up for working families, including by tackling the insurance crisis hurting Floridians, and I’m proud to stand with his campaign.”

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Recent Miami Beach Commission candidate arrested on domestic violence charge” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Art consultant Marcella Novela, who lost a bid for the Miami Beach Commission last month by just 67 votes, was arrested on the eve of Thanksgiving following a domestic dispute with her husband. Miami Beach police booked Novela and her spouse, real estate executive Ricardo Dunin-Borkowsky, at Miami-Dade County’s Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center on Wednesday night. Both face a charge of misdemeanor domestic violence battery and have since bonded out. A police report the Herald obtained said a Miami Beach police officer responded to a domestic disturbance call at the couple’s home at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. Novela had pushed Dunin-Borkowsky into a pool, the report said, and Dunin-Borkowsky said he was afraid to get out.

Marcella Novela is embroiled in a domestic matter.

Property insurer says it’s assuming 53,750 policies from Citizens. A sign that the market is improving?” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — HCI Group, owners of Homeowners Choice Property & Casualty Insurance Co., says that 53,750 customers of state-owned Citizens Property Insurance Corp. — most in South Florida’s Tri-County region — have accepted its takeout offers. Combined with takeouts by other companies and the approval of six new insurers to operate in the state, HCI’s announcement was greeted as a further sign that Florida’s insurance market is improving. The company said more than 70% of the customers who accepted would save money compared to Citizens’ projected renewal rates.

South Florida high school principal and others reassigned due to transgender athlete, sources say” via Scott Travis of the Orlando Sentinel — The principal of Monarch High in Coconut Creek and several other staff members are under investigation over allegations related to a transgender girl playing on the girls’ volleyball team. Sources have confirmed that it relates to a student who was born male but now identifies as a girl playing on the volleyball team. A state law signed by DeSantis in 2021 bans transgender girls from playing female sports. School district spokesperson John Sullivan would only confirm that the issue relates to “improper student participation in sports.” Principal James Cecil and other unnamed staffers have been reassigned to non-school sites, Sullivan said.

Monarch High principal sent away due to mishandling of a transgender athlete.

Nurturing digital well-being: Meta’s Miami parent workshop empowers families online” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — The workshop sought to introduce parents to Meta’s tools to keep their children safe online. Fostering open communication and understanding the potential risks is essential for responsible online activity. Meta introduced parents to tools to monitor and establish safety parameters for online activities. These tools included: Take a Break allows parents to set a time limit for their children on social media. Quiet Mode helps teens focus and set healthy boundaries with devices by silencing notifications while it is on. Parental Supervision allows parents to use parental supervision settings to manage their teen’s social media settings. The interactive nature of the workshop allowed parents to explore these tools hands-on, ensuring they felt confident in executing them at home.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Another Joel Greenberg associate arrested. This time, it’s a former SBA employee” via Martin E. Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — An Orlando woman is charged with bribing a public official, fraud and conspiracy after federal prosecutors said she helped convicted Seminole County Tax Collector Greenberg and one of his associates submit and process fraudulent federal loan applications meant to help small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. In return, Angela Chew, who worked as a loan specialist for the federal Small Business Administration, received $3,000 in kickbacks from Greenberg in mid-2020, just weeks after he resigned from public office. As an SBA employee, Chew was considered a public official and charged with taking a bribe on behalf of herself, according to the court document. Chew, who faces 11 federal charges, is now the seventh person with ties to Greenberg to have either been criminally charged or pleaded guilty within the past three years.

Another Joel Greenberg associate is arrested. Image via AP.

Prominent Brevard charity on verge of collapse as former CEO faces criminal probe” via Eric Rogers of Florida Today — One of Brevard County’s most prominent charities has been all but shut down amid a wide-ranging crisis that includes crumbling finances, a criminal investigation into its former CEO and a flurry of questions about an obscure executive account. Crosswinds Youth Services in Cocoa runs one of Brevard’s only dedicated shelters for homeless and runaway teens. Since opening in 1974, its Board of Directors has included a Who’s Who of local business and political figures, including most recently several prominent attorneys, a Port Canaveral Commissioner and Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey. However, the organization, known for its popular annual rubber duck race fundraiser, now appears to be on the verge of collapse.

Are home sellers finally showing up? Orlando and West Palm Beach lead nation in new listings” via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist — New housing and real estate market data reveal three Florida metros standing out nationally, two in good ways, and one, well, not so much. West Palm Beach and Orlando witnessed significant increases in new home listings, an indication that lower interest rates might be enticing more sellers into the market. Meanwhile, Jacksonville tops the nation with the highest rate of canceled home purchase agreements for reasons that are still unclear. Orlando and West Palm Beach rank in the top five nationally in new home listings compared to other major U.S. metro areas. Specifically, West Palm Beach ranks third and Orlando fourth for the largest year-over-year increases in new listings. West Palm Beach recorded an 18.5% rise, while Orlando posted a 16.5% increase.

Public meetings for SunRail expansion plan to be held in December” via Christie Zizo of Click Orlando — The public will have the chance to learn more about plans to expand SunRail to Orlando International Airport and the International Drive corridor next week. The Florida Department of Transportation will hold three public meetings regarding the so-called “Sunshine Corridor.” The closest SunRail stop to the airport right now is on Orange Avenue, near Sand Lake Road. This plan would create a SunRail line that runs perpendicularly between the Sand Lake and Meadow Woods SunRail stops, with a stop at the airport and a stop on International Drive near the Orange County Convention Center.

— LOCAL: TB —

Coldest weather in months expected in Tampa Bay this week” via Michaela Mulligan of the Tampa Bay Times — One cold front piling on top of another this week will bring some of the chilliest weather Tampa Bay has felt since mid-January. A cold front that passed through Tampa Bay on Sunday dropped temperatures and brought cooling showers. A second cold front early this week will plunge overnight temperatures into the 40s across the Tampa Bay area and into the 30s along the Nature Coast. On Monday, most areas of Tampa Bay will struggle to climb out of the upper 60s, and nighttime temperatures will hover in the lower 50s. Another cold snap on Tuesday will keep Tampa Bay in the mid-to-low 60s and bring those overnight lows down even further.

Judge orders Ybor shooting suspect to stay jailed” via Dan Sullivan of the Tampa Bay Times — Tyrell Phillips, the man accused of killing a 14-year-old boy during an early-morning shootout last month in Ybor City, will remain jailed while he awaits trial, a judge ruled Monday. Hillsborough Circuit Judge Robin Fuson concluded that Phillips posed a danger to the community and there were no release conditions that would ensure the community’s safety. “The safest place for him and our community is inside the Hillsborough County Jail,” Fuson said. He also granted a prosecutor’s request that Phillips have no contact with anyone affiliated with two different groups, described in court as rivals, and who are believed to be connected to the shooting.

Tyrell Phillips isn’t getting out anytime soon.

Pinellas lawmakers to vote on revised bill to reform transit agency’s Board” via Henry Queen of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — A revised version of a local bill targeting the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority has been filed ahead of a decisive vote on Nov. 29. Instead of reducing PSTA’s Board of Directors from 15 to nine members, Rep. Linda Chaney’s new proposal would reduce the size to 11. The Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners wouldn’t have as much power as under the original proposal. The revised bill no longer lays out strict eligibility requirements for PSTA’s CEO, nor does it prohibit free fares. However, it retains its limitations on implementing transit-dedicated lanes on county- or state-owned roads. Those lane reallocation requests must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the PSTA Board.

This Pinellas town banned shark fishing on its beaches. What’s next?” via Jack Prator of the Tampa Bay Times — The body of the bloated, pregnant tiger shark that Indian Shores Police Maj. Glen Smith saw on the beach wasn’t the first to wash ashore in his coastal community. But he said he hopes it will be the last. On June 10, the female tiger shark — a protected species in Florida — was found dead on the shoreline near Barefoot Beach Resort, prompting Indian Shores to ban shark fishing across its 2½ miles of beach access. Smith said he could see other governmental bodies in Pinellas County enacting ordinances of their own if shark anglers retreat from Indian Shores and authorities find dead sharks in their communities. Fish kill data from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission shows dead shark sightings are more common in the county’s more populated cities. But it’s Pinellas’ smaller beach towns that are leading the charge for complete bans on land-based shark fishing.

Sinkhole opens under Busch Gardens wastewater pond, dumps 2.5 million gallons below” via Max Chesnes of the Tampa Bay Times — A sinkhole recently opened under a wastewater treatment pond at Busch Gardens, dumping an estimated 2.5 million gallons of treated wastewater into the earth below, according to state environmental regulators and a theme park spokesperson. Busch Gardens employees discovered the 15-foot-by-15-foot sinkhole in the early-morning hours of Nov. 18. The sinkhole opened in the last of a train of three ponds used in the park’s on-site wastewater treatment process, according to Brian Humphreys, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. After finding the sinkhole, Busch Gardens closed a low dam connecting the second and third treatment pond, but not before enough wastewater to fill nearly four Olympic swimming pools was dumped to the ground below. That dam between ponds remained closed as of Friday, Humphreys said.

Busch Gardens faces a giant sinkhole and wastewater problems.

Ybor City business owner organizes training program to prevent violence” via Keely McCormick of ABC Action News — An Ybor City business owner is teaming up with the Doer Academy to offer training to prevent violence in the area. This comes one month after the mass shooting in Ybor City that killed two people and injured more than a dozen others. Tom DeGeorge explained he doesn’t think this is an Ybor City issue — it’s a national problem. “Every community has problems. It’s not the first time we’ve had something in Ybor City. It’s not the first time in Tampa,” DeGeorge said. DeGeorge wants to be proactive and prevent a tragic event like the Halloween weekend shooting from happening again. DeGeorge wants to hold quarterly training courses for community members and business owners to learn about de-escalation tactics. Right now, he has four training topics picked out. They include active shooter training, de-escalation, inclusive diversity and equality training, and emergency medical training.

Pennsylvania tech distribution company expands to Florida with Clearwater office” via Stephen Pastis of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — One of the largest private companies in the U.S. — Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based D&H Distributing — has expanded to Florida. D&H Distributing, a privately owned technology distribution company, has opened a new office space in Clearwater. The local office is meant to be a Southern home base for a sales team, a space for employee training and an area for vendor showcasing. The move is an investment in expanding its reach and sales. The company was founded in 1918 and distributes information technology and hardware to small- and medium-sized businesses. It has an annual revenue of $5.62 billion and employs more than 1,600 people.

One Tampa Bay city ranked among the fastest growing in America” via Devonta Davis of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Florida has continued to flourish over recent years, and a report has found several Tampa Bay cities among the fastest growing in America. SmartAsset, a financial tech company, has released a list of the fastest-growing cities in the United States with populations over 100,000. That growth was based on the population difference reported by the U.S. Census between 2017 and 2022 for the 344 largest cities. As expected, Southern cities dominated the list of where the populations have grown since 2017. Tampa ranked No. 137 on the list, with a 3% increase since 2017. View the full rankings below: Over 120 cities analyzed saw a dip in population between 2017 and 2022. That includes many major cities, like Salt Lake City, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Chicago, Portland, Houston, New York City and Washington, D.C.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Santa Rosa Commissioner Kerry Smith files defamation lawsuit against homebuilder Edwin Henry” via Tom McLaughlin of the Pensacola News Journal — Santa Rosa County Commissioner Smith has made good on his pledge to sue developer Henry for defamation. In a lawsuit filed Nov. 20, Smith charges Henry, Clarence “Chip” Case, and two of Case’s businesses, Spartan Strategies and Jefferson Monroe Consulting, with producing a 2022 campaign mailer that contained false and defamatory information alleging a nonexistent criminal past. The flyer, paid for by Henry and produced by Case, stated Smith had been found guilty “several times” in another Florida county of domestic violence against his then-wife. It also claimed he subsequently violated probation after being found guilty of domestic violence.

Kerry Smith is taking a prominent homebuilder to court.

FBI Jacksonville warns of charity fraud amid conflicts” via News4Jax — Criminals will use any opportunity to exploit unsuspecting victims, including the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict. FBI Jacksonville warned that the FBI has received multiple complaints, including legitimate email addresses of Israel-based individuals being hacked or spoofed to solicit donations. The FBI also previously warned of fundraising scams related to the crisis in Ukraine. Charity scams are prevalent during the holiday giving season, as well as in times of increased conflict such as war, natural disasters or epidemics, the FBI warned. Criminals identify populations in need, some devastated by catastrophes, and use these events to exploit members of the public who support humanitarian efforts.

Here’s where Jacksonville ranks among the 50 rudest cities in America, survey shows” via Action News Jax — The River City is near the middle of the pack when it comes to its reputation for rudeness, a survey of Americans found. Business Insider and SurveyMonkey asked nearly 2,100 Americans to rank what they believed were the five rudest U.S. cities from a list of the country’s 50 largest cities. Those who were surveyed crowned New York City as the rudest in the nation. Jacksonville was near the middle of the list, coming in at No. 17. The only Florida city that ranked ruder than Jacksonville was Miami at No. 15. Behind Jacksonville, Tampa came in at No. 20 and Orlando was No. 40.

Did meeting held by Alachua County Public Schools violate open meetings law?” via Lillian Lawson of The Gainesville Sun — The Alachua County school district may have violated Florida’s Government in the Sunshine and open meeting laws when it held a strategic planning team meeting on Nov. 14. Strategic planning team meeting days were held Oct. 23 and Nov. 14 at the Santa Fe College Blount Center to discuss priorities for the upcoming school year. The priorities include academic achievement, professional learning, teacher recruitment and retention, and systems and organizational processes. Both meetings were advertised through one legally required notice, in accordance with state Sunshine Laws. But the meeting notices weren’t shared on the district’s website or the Alachua County School Board’s public calendar, as other meetings typically are.

Leon County Commission to hold workshop related to human services” via Tristyn Leigh of Tallahassee Reports — On Tuesday, Nov. 28, the Leon County Commission will hold a workshop related to the County’s funding of human services through the Community Human Services Partnership (CHSP). The workshop was requested by the elected officials at the Board’s July 11, 2023, meeting. The agenda for the workshop includes a comprehensive report on the human services supported by Leon County through the CHSP. The agenda also includes several staff recommendations to “ensure that the County remains well positioned to respond to the human services needs in the community through continuous enhancements of the CHSP, strategic investments, and strengthened partnerships.”

‘Forever chemicals’ detected in Newberry drinking water; Mayor discourages overreacting” via Nora O’Neill of the Gainesville Sun — The water in Newberry contains concentrations of toxic “forever chemicals,” at or above the Environmental Protection Agency’s minimum reporting levels. The chemicals, Per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances, or PFAS, were reported to be found above the EPA’s limit in one out of four public drinking water systems in the nation. In Newberry, two PFAS have been detected at these higher levels, with one being 46.7% over the EPA’s limit. “I’m not worried at all,” Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe said.

Tallahassee rents rising as other Florida cities drop; see what’s behind the trend” via Kendall Brandt of WTXL — Parks like AJ Henry Park are one of the beautiful amenities people enjoy when moving to Northeast Tallahassee. The price per month to live in our neighborhood is higher than it was in June. Experts with Real Page say Tallahassee was the only major city in Florida to have rent rise over the Summer months. The price to rent a house in Northeast Tallahassee has gone up 40% from 2018. A three-bedroom, two-bath used to be about $1,500 per month. Now, the average is $2,100.

Tallahassee sees little relief in rising rent prices.

Leon County honors Bruce Host by naming Northeast Branch Library after him” via Arianna Otero of the Tallahassee Democrat — Leon County honored former County Commissioner Host last week by naming the county’s northeast library branch after him. Host, who served on the Commission from 1992-2000, represented District 4. He had a hand in the creation of the library branch, as well as the preservation of the Bradfordville School House. Host, who still lives in the county, served in the U.S. Air Force for 22 years, including in the Vietnam War, retiring with the rank of colonel. He also was appointed to serve as the Florida State Director for the Selective Service System in 2021. Leon County Commissioner Brian Welch, who currently represents District 4, presided at the naming ceremony outside the branch.

— LOCAL: SW. FL —

Don’t allow Sarasota County’s leaders to ruin Siesta Key” via the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Siesta Key is suffering from an over-density in population. A study of our aging infrastructure hasn’t been done in 25 years. When it rains too much, our sewer system dumps into the Gulf of Mexico, leading to beach closures due to bacteria. That should be enough to not increase density on Siesta Key. Why are developers trying to change the Comprehensive Plan? Because they lost two lawsuits this year. On Nov. 28 at 9 a.m., the Sarasota County Commissioners will vote to consider Comprehensive Plan changes to increase density on Siesta Key.

Don’t mess with Siesta Key.

Sarasota Chamber ‘Opportunities For All’ initiative awards grants to 20 minority-owned businesses” via Sarasota Magazine — The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce’s Opportunities for All (OFA), initiative recently presented assistance grants to 20 minority-owned local businesses. The grants were funded through the OFA grant provided by the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation.

—“Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office toy drive kicks off this week” via WTSP

— TOP OPINION —

Specious argument against abortion initiative insults voters” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The public deserves to be heard. But Attorney General Ashley Moody and her allies who oppose reproductive choice have twisted logic into knots to persuade Florida’s justices that voters won’t understand a proposed constitutional amendment that could be on the ballot in 2024. That takes the public, and the court, for fools.

Here’s what the initiative says: “Except as provided in Article X, Section 22, no law shall prohibit, penalize, delay or restrict abortion before viability or when necessary to protect the patient’s health, as determined by the patient’s health care provider.”

It’s a yes or no question. The main fight, though, is over the ballot summary, which would not be in the Constitution. This is what it says:

“No law shall prohibit, penalize, delay, or restrict abortion before viability or when necessary to protect the patient’s health, as determined by the patient’s health care provider. This amendment does not change the Legislature’s constitutional authority to require notification to a parent or guardian before a minor has an abortion.”

Moody and her allies are attacking what “viability” means, along with “health care provider” and “health” itself. She also claims the summary is defective for failing to mention that federal law still applies to very late-term abortions, which are vanishingly rare.

What the initiative proposes is perfectly understandable. There’s nothing misleading about it. It would be a miscarriage of justice for the court to block it from the ballot and an insult to the intelligence and sovereignty of the people of Florida.

— OPINIONS —

Why everyone is still piling on DeSantis” via Shelby Talcott of Slate — DeSantis is sliding in the polls, but his opponents don’t plan to give him a breather in the crucial month of December — in Iowa and beyond. Haley recently launched a $10 million ad buy across Iowa and New Hampshire beginning next month as she tries to turn the election into a head-to-head contest with Trump. Trump and his team, meanwhile, continue to attack DeSantis daily in news releases and speeches, highlighting the former President’s lead in key early voting states while dismissing those who have endorsed DeSantis, like Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds. On Tuesday, both camps sent out news releases promoting an NBC News article detailing infighting within Never Back Down, the pro-DeSantis Super PAC. “The DeSantis DiSaster Continues,” Team Haley wrote.

Feds need to oversee states’ wind-down of Medicaid” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Temporarily expanding Medicaid during the pandemic was one of America’s sharpest responses to COVID-19. But the wind-down has been anything but. The Biden administration needs to ensure that Florida and other states are not haphazardly removing the neediest from this vital health insurance. Congress passed a coronavirus relief package in 2020 that offered states additional federal funding in exchange for guaranteeing that recipients of Medicaid, a joint federal-state program for low-income people, would retain their health coverage. The measure was intended to ensure that low-income families could afford medical treatment during public health emergencies. Tens of millions of Americans were spared nationwide; enrollment in Florida’s Medicaid program ballooned by 1.7 million people.

Orlando, other Florida cities shine with hope against bigotry” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — Over the past six years or more, Florida has been making a name for itself by working to turn back the clock on fundamental human rights. Our Governor, in particular, seems to be obsessed over the very fact that drag queens exist, and infuriated by educators’ efforts to create safe spaces for students struggling with their orientation or gender identity. It’s why so many groups who worry about civil rights have put Florida on watchlists and are even threatening boycotts. But even as the darkness grows, points of brilliant light still shine. And we’re proud to see Orlando counted among them. Earlier this month, the City Beautiful was awarded a perfect score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Municipal Equality Index, which recognizes cities with strong protections for LGBTQ+ residents.

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

— ALOE —

‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ enlists ‘Loki’ creator Michael Waldron” via Borys Kit and Aaron Couch of The Hollywood Reporter — Marvel Studios is moving fast to find a new variant on its script for “Avengers: The Kang Dynasty.” Marvel mainstay Waldron will tackle Kang Dynasty, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. The hiring cements Waldron as a key architect of Marvel’s Multiverse Saga, its sprawling story told across multiple realities in film and TV. Waldron entered the Marvel fold as the creator of “Loki” and went on to write “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” He is also the scribe behind “Avengers: Secret Wars,” which will follow Kang Dynasty. Kang is due out on May 1, 2026, while Secret Wars has a release date of May 7, 2027.

‘Loki’ creator Michael Waldron is the writer chosen for ‘Kang Dynasty.’

Royal Caribbean takes delivery of world’s largest cruise ship, Icon of the Seas” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — There’s still two months to go before the first paying customers climb on board, but Royal Caribbean officially took possession Monday of the world’s largest cruise ship, Icon of the Seas. Cruise line officials joined leadership with the Meyer Turku shipyard along with about 1,200 employees in Turku, Finland, for the handover ceremony of the 250,800-gross-ton, 1,198-foot-long, 20-deck vessel that had its first steel cut 31 months earlier. “Delivering Icon of the Seas represents all that can be accomplished with strong partnerships and a commitment to delivering memorable vacations responsibly, and we thank Meyer Turku and an incredible village of skilled partners for joining us on this journey,” said Jason Liberty, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean Group.

‘Authenticity’: 2023’s Merriam-Webster word of the year” via The Associated Press — In an age of deepfakes and post-truth, as artificial intelligence rose and Elon Musk turned Twitter into X, the Merriam-Webster word of the year for 2023 is “authentic.” Authentic cuisine. Authentic voice. Authentic self. Authenticity as artifice. Lookups for the word are routinely heavy on the dictionary company’s site but were boosted to new heights throughout the year, editor at large Peter Sokolowski said. “We see in 2023 a kind of crisis of authenticity,” he said ahead of Monday’s announcement of this year’s word. “What we realize is that when we question authenticity, we value it even more.”

— HOLIDAYS —

Deck the White House halls: Jill Biden wants holiday visitors to feel like kids again” via Darlene Superville of The Associated Press — Step inside the White House during the holidays by walking beneath the branches of a Christmas tree. Stroll along a hallway decorated with oversized holiday candy and other sweets. See Santa’s sleigh and his eight reindeer suspended above the grand foyer in dramatic fashion. Biden wants everyone who visits the White House during the holidays to feel like a kid again. “Each room is designed to capture this pure, unfiltered delight and imagination” so visitors “see this time of year through the wondrous, sparkling eyes of children,” the first lady said Monday at the first of a month’s worth of holiday receptions. About 100,000 visitors are expected for the holidays.

Via Associated Press
Jill Biden brings holiday cheer to the White House. Image via AP.

Florida drivers got lowest Thanksgiving gas prices in three years” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — The average price of gas in Florida sank further last week, dipping to $3.03 per gallon on Thanksgiving Day. That’s the cheapest fuel statewide on the holiday in three years. And it’s even lower now. The Sunshine State’s average price per gallon on Monday morning was $3.01 — 3 cents less than last week, 31 cents less than a month ago, and 84 cents cheaper than this year’s high of $3.85 per gallon. Last year, Thanksgiving travelers in Florida paid $3.41 per gallon. The price was $3.35 in 2021 and $2.03 during the COVID Thanksgiving of 2020.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Celebrating today are Rebecca De La Rosa and Joel Searby.

___

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 FloridaPolitics.com, 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.


One comment

  • Michael K

    November 28, 2023 at 9:23 am

    So, Lapado turns out to be yet another highly unqualified grifter appointed by DeSantis. He has done nothing to warrant his salary – and we were warned by UCLA that he was a scam artist.

    It reminds me of another charlatan, Trumnp, who promised to “only hire the best,” which of course, resulted in the most indictments (34) of any administration since Reagan.

Comments are closed.


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