Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 12.5.23

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Good Tuesday morning.

Happening today — Juggling campaign demands, Ron DeSantis to unveil 2024-25 budget plan” via John Kennedy of USA Today Network — After earlier looking like DeSantis’ campaigning in Iowa and upcoming Republican presidential debate would keep him from personally unveiling his state budget proposal, the Governor’s Office acknowledged he will announce the spending plan Tuesday in Southwest Florida. No further details were immediately provided. The Governor’s Office had not responded to earlier questions when asked if DeSantis was planning not to take part in the annual budget rollout, instead leaving it to staff to present the 2024-25 recommendations to Senate Subcommittees this week.

Ron DeSantis will soon need to get off the campaign trail and give Floridians a new budget for 2024-25.

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Breaking overnight tweet:

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First in SunburnLongtime Department of Financial Services Chief of Staff Peter Penrod is leaving his post at the end of the year.

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis announced the pending departure “with a heavy heart” in an internal DFS memo shared with Florida Politics.

“Peter was first my General Counsel and then I made him my Chief of Staff to help carry this agency to the next level. He’s got a legal mind like nothing I’ve ever seen. With Peter by my side, and with your leadership, we tackled COVID, we responded to Hurricane Ian, and dealt with the tragedy at Surfside,” Patronis wrote.

Peter Penrod bids adieu to Florida’s Department of Financial Services.

“We’ve had incredible legislative victories like getting more funding for technologies to improve customer support throughout the agency, we created the Cancer Decontamination Program, we got more funding for our Urban Search & Rescue Teams, established two anti-insurance fraud units along the I-4 corridor, done everything from tax cuts to grants to help people save money on their premiums, and so on and so on.”

Penrod has been Patronis’ Chief of Staff since 2019, following a stint as General Counsel overseeing the Divisions of Risk Management and Rehabilitation and Liquidation. Before joining DFS, Penrod was the General Counsel for the Department of Economic Opportunity. He previously held numerous other government and law positions.

Penrod will be succeeded by Frank Collins, who Patronis said is “fired up” about the promotion.

“Frank’s been with us for nearly four years, he’s been our DCFO over a breadth of divisions, he’s worked at our EOC during emergencies and most important to me, he’s helped me to articulate the vision for how we can use this agency to help as many people as possible,” Patronis wrote.

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Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney has tapped veteran politico Pierce Schuessler as an adviser on its Florida government relations team.

Schuessler brings more than a decade of leadership experience in the state’s executive and legislative branches and a wealth of experience in Florida politics to the Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney public affairs firm.

Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney is bringing on veteran politico Pierce Schuessler.

“Pierce’s extensive network, strategic acumen, and deep knowledge of Florida’s political levers will fortify our top-tier Florida team and help deliver even more victories for our clients,” said Mike Grissom, principal of Buchanan’s government relations team. “We know that his deep understanding of Florida’s budget process will prove to be a major asset for our firm, and we’re thrilled to have him on our team.”

Before joining Buchanan, Schuessler worked in several senior roles in state politics, where he helped shape state policy and secure funding for priority projects, such as Everglades restoration. He served in the Governor’s Office of Policy and Budget and, later, as Director of Legislative Affairs for the Department of State and the Department of Environmental Protection.

Schuessler also served as a top aide to then-state Sen. Tom Lee. He also previously worked as an adviser to U.S. Rep. Laurel Lee when she was Florida’s Secretary of State.

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The University of Florida is directing nearly $11 million to an initiative that will boost access to cancer screenings and work to advance cutting-edge treatments.

The wide-ranging program will include a center for advancing cell and gene therapies, an AI learning platform for mathematics and a digital humanities lab as part of its third round of strategic funding. In announcing the funding, UF President Ben Sasse said the initiative will advance interdisciplinary scholarship and enhance the student experience at the state’s flagship university.

Ben Sasse touts money for improved access to cancer screening and treatments.

“These exceptional initiatives will not only elevate UF’s standing as a national research leader but also transform lives here in Florida and around the world,” Sasse said. “UF continues to put this strategic funding to excellent use. We are facing and solving some of the biggest problems of our generation through the kind of interdisciplinary, collaborative work that will change lives for years to come.”

The funding was hailed by leadership at multiple university departments, including the College of Medicine, College of Public Health & Health Professions, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and College of Education.

“As a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, the UF Health Cancer Center is charged with addressing the burden of cancer in the large area we serve, with a strong focus on rural and aging populations,” said Dr. Jonathan Licht, the director of the UF Health Cancer Center. “Our goal is to reduce the burden of late-stage cancer diagnoses and mortality through early detection and personalized services that help people access the treatment they need.”

The $10.9 million initiative is being funded through the $130 million boost to UF funding the Legislature included in the 2023-24 budget, half of which Sasse pledged would be spent on special strategic projects.

Of the available funding, $24 million was made available to Deans for strategic uses, which they must pitch before being awarded, and $50 million was made available across all UF colleges and administrative units. The school received more than 250 submissions and has so far committed nearly $19 million across 36 approved projects.

A final round of funding will be announced at a later date.

—SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@Scott_Maxwell: So much pearl-clutching and handwringing among Florida Republicans how maybe (Christian) Ziegler should go. Just thoughts and statements, mind you. No action. Compare that to duly elected prosecutors, accused of no lawbreaking, being forcibly removed from office.

@EvanAxelbank (re: Bridget Ziegler): Not that this is the biggest thing she is worried about right now, but I came to her page to see if she has said anything new and I noticed she is saying too few people know about Jefferson by citing a made up Jefferson quote

@ShevrinJones: Congratulations to Florida’s #1 HBCU, @FAMU_1887, for an amazing win this weekend!! Clap it up for the #SWAC Champions!

@Corey_Clark: Sorry I keep tweeting about this, folks. It just bothers me that certain people try to validate this nonsense. FSU wasn’t kept out because of Jordan Travis. FSU was kept out because the SEC had to be in. Quit acting like the backup QB discussion is anything other than an excuse.

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

— DAYS UNTIL —

Florida TaxWatch’s 2023 Government Productivity Awards Ceremony — 1; in-person sports betting begins at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa — 3; 2023 Florida Chamber Annual Insurance Summit — 9; Zack Snyder’s ‘Rebel Moon’ premieres — 17; Michael Mann’s ‘Ferrari’ premieres — 20; Matt Dixon’s ‘Swamp Monsters: (Donald) Trump vs. DeSantis ― the Greatest Show on Earth (or at Least in Florida)’ released — 35; 2024 Florida Chamber Legislative Fly-In and reception — 35; Florida’s 2024 Regular Session begins — 35; 2024 Primetime Emmy Awards — 41; House District 35 Special Election — 42; Florida TaxWatch’s State of the Taxpayer Dinner — 43; New Hampshire Primary — 49; Red Dog Blue Dog 2024 — 40; South Carolina Democratic Primary — 60; New Hampshire and Nevada Democratic Primaries — 63; South Carolina GOP holds first-in-the-South Primary — 81; Michigan Democratic Primary — 84; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 87; Trump’s D.C. trial on charges related to trying to reverse his 2020 Election loss — 90; Super Tuesday — 91; 2024 Oscars — 96; Georgia Democratic Primary — 98; 2024 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 156; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 170; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 206; Republican National Convention begins — 224; ‘Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 234; Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 255; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 263; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 318; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 321; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 352; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 437; ‘Moana’ premieres — 570; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 598; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 703; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 703; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 745; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 878; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 904; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 1,109; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,249; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,208; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,936.

— TOP STORY —

Florida GOP Chair Christian Ziegler’s claims of being falsely accused of rape weren’t believed by the police or the judge” via Bob Norman of the Florida Center for Government Accountability — The 40-year-old Ziegler calls it an “attack,” not on the victim in the case, but himself. He claims he’s being “targeted,” and notes that “anyone” can file a rape complaint.

Ziegler promises to later reveal information about the “motive” and who was behind his ordeal.

But now with the release of the sworn police affidavit, we’re past the “allegation” phase and have actual facts. And those facts alone are damning primarily to Ziegler and his wife Bridget Ziegler, a Sarasota School Board member and co-founder of the right-wing, book-banning group Moms for Liberty.

With each new revelation, the Zieglers’ extracurricular activities get a little stranger.

Most importantly those facts are heartbreaking for the victim in the case, the “anyone” whom Ziegler claims is targeting him.

Ziegler admitted he had sex with the woman and recorded it. And afterward, he did something in recorded phone calls with the woman that he didn’t mention in his email to Republican officials: He apologized to the woman and offered to help her, financially and otherwise.

He also told her Bridget Ziegler would be “in next time” for another threesome.

In the second phone call, the woman rang Ziegler and asked why he “forced her to have sex with him when she never wanted to.” Ziegler said he didn’t do that and said he had to go “because some guy was giving him a hard time.”

In the third phone call, Ziegler called the woman and asked her “what she was going through.” She told him outright that he sexually assaulted her.

“Those are big words, please don’t, no I didn’t,” Ziegler responded. “You invited me in, that’s it. I did not at all, and I never want you to feel that way.”

—”Ziegler attended local Republican meeting after encounter with rape accuser” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

Lauren Book says Ziegler should resign after being ‘credibly accused of rape’” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Senate Democratic Leader Book is the latest legislative leader calling for Republican Party of Florida Chair Ziegler’s resignation. She joined the Florida Senate’s top Republican in issuing a call for Ziegler to quit. “I agree with our Senate President Kathleen Passidomo — after being credibly accused of rape, GOP Chair Christian Ziegler must resign immediately,” Book posted on social media. “With an investigation ongoing, I stand with all victims and survivors of sexual violence.” Book notably is a survivor of sexual assault herself and has long championed victims’ rights in the Legislature.

Happening today — Florida Democrats and Chair Nikki Fried will host a virtual news conference detailing the anti-LGBTQ+ policies, attacks on School Boards and purity politics promoted by the Zieglers for years: 10:30 a.m.; Members of the press are required to register to RSVP for the Zoom link.

Evan Power calls for special meeting on Christian Ziegler allegations — Republican Party of Florida Vice Chair Power called for a special meeting of the party Executive Board to discuss the sexual assault allegations facing embattled Chair Ziegler. The Board is set to meet in February and Power said “in an act of respect” he asked Ziegler to call for an earlier special meeting. The request was rebuffed. “It is the opinion of the many members that is not an acceptable timetable,” Power wrote, adding that staff advised him the Vice Chair may call a meeting if the Chair is conflicted. If Board members agree, the proposed meeting will be held Dec. 17 in Orlando. “I hope that we are able to move the Party forward in a positive manner as the 2024 Elections are the most important elections we face in my lifetime,” Power wrote.

— THE TRAIL —

Ron DeSantis tells Iowans ‘consultants’ advised against ‘The Full Grassley’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Governor told Iowans Saturday that he saw the loop as a way to “get out of the media fog” and “listen to real Americans,” noting that certain political professionals thought visiting the entire state was not the best investment of time. “A lot of campaign consultants will tell you that you can be in more populated areas, or you can even get into other states and sometimes they will advise you not to do it,” DeSantis said, regarding the so-called “full Grassley.” “But to me, it was the right thing to do because you need to actually get out of the media fog. You can’t just be on what’s on social media. Don’t worry about what the cable stations are saying. Talk to real Americans, listen to real Americans, answer their questions, ask them for their support.” he said in Newton.

Despite the warnings of advisers, Ron DeSantis completes the ‘full Grassley.’

New DeSantis 2024 ad highlights support among everyday Iowans — The DeSantis campaign is releasing a new ad putting a spotlight on his most ardent supporters in the Hawkeye State. The ad, titled “Iowans for Ron,” hops between five supporters, including a farmer, a veteran, a mother, and a small business employee. “I definitely voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020. But we’ve got to move on. Gov. DeSantis has proven himself in Florida,” they say, splitting the speaking lines. “That’s why I support Ron DeSantis, because he fights, and he knows how to win. That’s why I support Ron DeSantis, because he fights, and he knows how to win. That’s why I support Ron DeSantis, because he fights, and he knows how to win. He’s drama-free, an effective and proven leader.” The new spot is running as part of a previously announced ad buy in Iowa through Caucus Day. The first spot in the buy highlighted DeSantis’ endorsement from Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds.

To watch the ad, please click the image below:

How religion plays into DeSantis’ public image — from ‘armor of God’ to a Bible ordered on Amazon” via Matt Dixon of NBC News — The overall picture, according to his former staffers and reviews of his public comments, was never one of a politician who made religion a central part of his public identity — unlike some other public figures, such as former Vice President Mike Pence or President Joe Biden. But as a presidential candidate, he has had to discuss it more. He is often prompted by questions from voters or interviewers as he tries to connect with conservative religious voters who are key to his ability to win the Republican nomination. But even now, DeSantis often speaks more broadly about faith than about specific practices or beliefs. The approach is different from that of Biden, for example, who leans more heavily into his Catholicism specifically.

DeSantis does not seem to be enjoying himself” via John Hendrickson of The Atlantic — DeSantis did not appear to be fully enjoying himself in Newton, Iowa. More than a few people have noted that his wife, Casey, is the more natural politician, and could herself be a stronger future candidate. As she introduced her husband, he stood a few feet behind her, staring intensely into the back of her head. She was confident and effortless at the mic; Ron didn’t seem to know what to do with his eyes, or his mouth, or, especially, his hands. He looked unsettled as he waited for her to finish. Watching DeSantis up close as he lumbers through these moments of his campaign is almost enough to elicit sympathy. Yet some people really do love him.

A political football? Donald Trump blames DeSantis for Florida State’s playoff snub” via David Jackson of USA Today — Noting that Florida State University is the first unbeaten team from a big-time conference to be left out of college football’s four-team playoff, Trump shared on his Truth Social platform: “Really bad lobbying effort … Let’s blame DeSanctimonious!!!” DeSantis may be the Governor, but he had nothing to do with a college football committee’s decision to pick the University of Alabama over Florida State University for the last slot in its four-team playoffs. The Crimson Tide joins the universities of Michigan, Washington, and Texas in the mini-tournament to be held early next year.

— MORE 2024 —

Can ANYTHING stop him? New poll puts Donald Trump on track to win 60% of votes in GOP Primary — five times more than next-nearest rival DeSantis” via Stephen Lepore of the Daily Mail — According to polling aggregator FiveThirtyEight, Trump is now on track to win around 60% of the votes in the contest, which begins with the Iowa Caucus on Jan. 24. It leaves DeSantis a long way back in second place at 12.6% with just 52 days until the votes start to count. DeSantis will join former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, ex-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and business owner Vivek Ramaswamy at the next GOP debate Wednesday but Trump — as he did with all three previous debates — will skip it. The numbers are the first time in 2023 that Trump has garnered 60% of the polling average. DeSantis placing second in the polls with such a low total shows how none of the other candidates have been able to lay a glove on the incumbent nominee Trump.

Iowa remains an uphill climb for DeSantis. Image via Never Back Down/X.

DeSantis does not seem to be enjoying himself” via John Hendrickson of The Atlantic — DeSantis did not appear to be fully enjoying himself in Newton, Iowa. More than a few people have noted that his wife, Casey, is the more natural politician, and could herself be a stronger future candidate. As she introduced her husband, he stood a few feet behind her, staring intensely into the back of her head. She was confident and effortless at the mic; Ron didn’t seem to know what to do with his eyes, or his mouth, or, especially, his hands. He looked unsettled as he waited for her to finish. Watching DeSantis up close as he lumbers through these moments of his campaign is almost enough to elicit sympathy. Yet some people really do love him.

Why Nikki Haley is rising among the rivals to Trump” via Nate Cohn of The New York Times — If anything, she is a classic factional candidate — someone who’s built a resilient base of support by catering to the wishes of a minority of the party. So, if you were reading this only on the off chance that Trump might be in jeopardy, you can doze off again. But even if it’s still hard to imagine a Haley win, her rise may nonetheless make this race more interesting, especially in the early states, which will begin to vote in six weeks. Haley is now neck-and-neck with DeSantis in Iowa, a state he is counting on to reverse a yearlong downward spiral in the polls. She’s well ahead of DeSantis in New Hampshire and South Carolina, two states where a moderate South Carolinian like her ought to fare relatively well.

Koch network faces internal scrutiny after Haley endorsement” via Brian Schwartz and Katherine Doyle of NBC News — The decision by Americans for Prosperity’s super PAC to get behind a candidate with seemingly little chance of prevailing in the GOP Primary — and, more critically, one who espouses views contrary to key parts of the Koch network’s well-financed advocacy efforts — has confounded longtime Koch-world operatives alike. Chris Maidment, who up until this weekend was a director of grassroots operations for Americans for Prosperity in the key Primary state of New Hampshire, spoke out late Friday on X that he opposed the group’s endorsement of Haley and would not be helping the organization to support her. A day later, Maidment was “terminated” from the organization, he said, and he told NBC News that he is not the only one within the Koch-backed group who is disappointed in the Haley endorsement.

There goes my PredictIt money — Republican Doug Burgum suspends 2024 presidential campaign” via Erin Doherty of Axios — North Dakota Gov. Burgum announced Monday that he is suspending his 2024 campaign. The announcement comes as the North Dakota Republican struggled to build momentum in the GOP Primary. Burgum, who did not qualify for the third GOP debate last month, criticized the Republican National Committee’s qualification requirements in his statement. “The RNC’s clubhouse debate requirements are nationalizing the primary process and taking the power of democracy away from the engaged, thoughtful citizens of Iowa and New Hampshire,” Burgum said.

ABC and CNN eying future GOP Primary debates” via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO — Both ABC News and CNN are exploring the possibility of sponsoring upcoming Republican Presidential Primary debates. ABC News is considering hosting a debate just ahead of New Hampshire’s Jan. 23 Primary. Network officials — including political director Rick Klein and senior executive producer Marc Burstein — are set to do a walk-through at New Hampshire’s St. Anselm College on Monday. They will be joined by officials from WMUR, ABC News’ local New Hampshire affiliate, and the New Hampshire Republican Party. At the same time, CNN has begun reaching out to the presidential campaigns to inform them of their interest in hosting a debate, though it is not clear when or where such an event would take place.

Networks are vying for the next GOP debate.

No conspiracy.’ Florida Democrats explain cancellation of state Presidential Primary” via Max Greenwood of the Miami Herald — The Florida Democratic Party is standing by its decision to scrap its Primary after it submitted only Biden’s name for the 2024 ballot. The move has evoked anger and threats of legal action from Biden’s long shot Primary rivals, who say that the party is depriving voters of the ability to choose their own presidential nominee at a time when polls suggest a majority of Americans are frustrated with Biden’s performance. “We’re not trying to create a conflict here,” progressive political commentator Cenk Uygur, who launched a presidential bid last month, said during a Friday news conference alongside fellow 2024 hopeful Marianne Williamson. “We’re just trying to do the bare minimum of getting on the ballot. And we’ve all earned it, and there’s no need for this conflict.”

— DESANTISY LAND —

‘That’s authoritarianism’: Florida argues school libraries are for government messaging” via Douglas Soule of USA Today Network — Florida’s government is arguing that school districts have a First Amendment right to remove LGBTQ books. Or any book, for that matter. It’s a contention that First Amendment experts and advocates call extreme and chilling. But the state maintains the books on school shelves represent protected government speech. Public school libraries are “a forum for government speech,” it says, not a “forum for free expression.” “Public school systems, including their libraries, convey the government’s message,” Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody wrote in a legal brief. That argument is also being made by lawyers for the School Boards in Escambia and Lake counties.

Florida argues that public school libraries are a ‘forum for government speech,’ not a ‘forum for free expression.’

DeSantis’ Disney chief tells employees they owe $2M in back taxes, but he’s working on a fix” via Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — Employees at DeSantis’ Disney World oversight district owe the Internal Revenue Service more than $2 million in back taxes, according to an internal memo obtained by the Orlando Sentinel. The issue stems from free Disney passes employees and retirees received for years as part of their benefits, district administrator Glen Gilzean wrote in an email to employees explaining the situation. “(I)t has come to the attention of the district administration that the previous leadership chose not to inform staff about their IRS obligations to pay legally owed taxes on season pass benefits,” Gilzean wrote. “This has resulted in our employees owing over $2 million in income back taxes.”

Conservative PR firm promotes DeSantis’ Disney district and his allies’ books” via Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — The Disney oversight district is working with Washington-based Athos, which is also promoting books written by New College of Florida President Richard Corcoran, conservative education activist Christopher Rufo and controversial former White House COVID-19 adviser Dr. Scott Atlas, according to its website. The firm was hired after legal counsel recommended bringing in “communications support” when “it became clear that litigation with a corporate powerhouse was inevitable,” said Martin Garcia, Chair of the tourism oversight district’s Board. “In turn, we contacted Athos — a Washington, D.C.-based firm renowned for its achievements in high-stakes public relations,” Garcia said in a written statement provided by Athos. “Retaining an established PR firm is routine for high-profile litigation, particularly in instances like this where it is essential to enhance transparency by providing information about a government agency to the public.”

— D. C. MATTERS —

Joe Biden condemns ‘antisemitic’ rally at Philadelphia falafel shop” via Mike Allen and Shane Savitsky of Axios — The White House condemned a pro-Palestinian demonstration that targeted a Jewish-owned kosher falafel shop in Philadelphia with chants of “genocide.” It’s a high-profile new example of ways the Israel-Hamas war is roiling American campuses, businesses and politics — the rare international conflict that Americans feel viscerally and personally. The image is from a video taken by a neighbor of Goldie — the vegan, Israeli-style falafel shop — at 5:20 p.m. yesterday.

Goldie — the Philadelphia vegan, Israeli-style falafel shop — was the site of an antisemitic protest.

Rick Scott demands answers over FSU snubbing as anger builds over college football pick” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — Scott on Monday sent a three-page letter to Boo Corrigan, the Chair of the Selection Committee asking for detailed information about the process used to deny FSU a spot in the playoffs. Scott called the decision to slide FSU out of the playoffs “shocking” and he demanded “total transparency” for how the Selection Committee reached its conclusion. The team had been ranked fourth just a week before. “There are countless other concerns and arguments that could be voiced here, but the main issue is the justified perception of an unfair system that has wrongly disregarded the known strengths of an undefeated team over the speculated impact of losing a single player,” Scott wrote.

—”‘Corruption’: Florida elected leaders blast decision to leave FSU out of football playoffs” via the Tallahassee Democrat

Maxwell Frost to unveil anti-book ban bill — U.S. Rep. Frost is holding a news conference at the House Triangle to publicly introduce legislation that is aimed at counteracting the rise in book bans across the U.S., including in Florida. Frost’s legislation comes as school districts throughout the state are removing books from shelves as a result of parents’ complaints over the content they view as inappropriate for youths. The bans range from novels that for some generations were required reading, such as “Brave New World,” to modern popular fiction, such as “A Game of Thrones.” Frost’s news conference will begin at 10:30 a.m. It will stream on Twitter through the Congressman’s official account, @RepMaxwellFrost.

— STATEWIDE —

With campaign and impending debate, DeSantis finds way to nuance state law on budget” via John Kennedy of USA Today Network — Between campaigning across Iowa and preparing to take part in the fourth Republican presidential debate Wednesday in Alabama, DeSantis has been forced to find a way to nuance a state law faced by all Florida Governors. DeSantis’ staff members, not the Governor, are expected to present his 2024-25 state budget recommendations this week, providing an overview and details of the spending blueprint to Subcommittees in the Florida Senate. “This is a departure from procedure, a departure from protocol,” House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell said Monday.

Ron DeSantis needs to step off the campaign trail at one point so Floridians can get a new budget for 2024-25.

Blaise Ingoglia will not be canceled” via Andrew Meacham of Florida Politics — Sen. Ingoglia has always presented himself as a proud conservative. The Spring Hill Republican stepped up the rhetoric in February, proposing a bill that would “immediately cancel the filings of a political party … if the party’s platform has previously advocated for, or been in support of, slavery or involuntary servitude.” His bill (SB 1248) targeted the Democratic Party, which either supported or tolerated slavery before the Civil War. Then on Nov. 27, just weeks ahead of next year’s Session, he introduced a proposal to amend the state’s constitution to prohibit reparations for descendants of slaves. Not that any such action is pending or being considered. He wanted to vitiate reparations, which he sees as improbable and unproductive, tantamount to buying votes.

Legis sked:

11 a.m. The Senate Education Postsecondary Committee meets to discuss career and technical education. Room 110, Senate Office Building.

2 p.m. The Senate Agriculture Committee meets to consider SB 334 from Sen. Danny Burgess to expand the types of people who could administer rabies vaccines if they are supervised by veterinarians. Room 301n Senate Office Building.

— 2 p.m. The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee meets to consider SB 106 from Sen. Shevrin Jones to require most businesses to accept cash. Room 110, Senate Office Building.

2 p.m. The Senate Criminal Justice Committee meets to consider SB 54 from Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez to revise a law prohibiting adults from having criminal records expunged if they had records expunged as juveniles. Room 37, Senate Office Building.

2 p.m. The Senate Health Policy Committee meets to consider SB 66 from Sen. Jason Brodeur to create a “Naloxone Awareness Day” to raise awareness about drug overdoses and naloxone, a substance that can reverse overdoses. Room 412, Knott Building.

4 p.m. The House Agriculture, Conservation & Resiliency Subcommittee meets for updates on issues related to resilience. Room 404, House Office Building.

4 p.m. The House Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee meets to consider HB 185 from Rep. Dana Trabulsy to make a series of changes related to dependent children, guardians ad litem, and attorneys ad litem. Reed Hall, House Office Building.

4 p.m. The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee meets for an update from the university system’s Board of Governors on a series of financial issues. Room 314, House Office Building.

Can Florida increase its physician workforce by giving advantages to Florida-educated physicians?” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Physicians educated in Florida-based medical schools and graduate medical programs are more likely to stay in state to practice than those who graduated from out-of-state colleges and completed their graduate medical education (GME) in state residency programs, a new report shows. On average between 2008 and 2015, 42% of physicians who graduated from out-of-state medical schools, came to Florida, and started residencies ultimately stayed in the state to practice medicine, according to the report from the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA).

Mary Mayhew stresses why Florida health care must prepare for many kinds of disasters” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — In Florida political circles, the COVID-19 response has become something many would like to forget altogether. But Mayhew, president and CEO of the Florida Hospital Association, said it’s critical to look back. She said the public health disaster tested the hospital infrastructure in Florida and around the world. That stress showed the ways the system is prepared for disaster and where it falls woefully short. Regardless, the system can always do better, she suggested. “We’ve got to keep looking at those opportunities to improve the efficiency, to reduce barriers, to improve health status, and to embrace these new models of care,” Mayhew said.

— DOWN BALLOT —

Housing, insurance costs are high-priority issues as candidates head toward Tuesday clash for vacant HD 118 seat” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Voters on Tuesday will choose between three men, each of a different political persuasion, who are vying for a short-term stint representing House District 118. Two of the candidates, Democrat Johnny Farias and independent Francisco “Frank” De La Paz, are former Community Council members now aiming at a far loftier office. The third, Republican lawyer Mike Redondo, is hoping to succeed in his first time running for an elected post, a prospect bolstered by ample support from his state party. He’s the odds-on favorite to win, based on the district’s voting history, political composition and his sizable funding advantage.

Happening tonight:

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Crowded Democratic Primary shaping up to replace Patricia Hawkins-Williams” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — The contest to succeed Rep. Hawkins-Williams is turning into a crowded Primary with four Democrats making a bid to represent Broward County’s House District 98. All four vying to represent the inland district that takes in central Pompano Beach are on the hunt for their first elected office and some of them were contenders in the same 2020 Senate Primary that Sen. Perry Thurston ultimately won in Senate District 33. The candidates are Keith Abel, Fitzgerald Budhoo, Steven Meza, and Shelton Pooler.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Migrants land at state park on Key Biscayne, and Border Patrol is looking for others” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — Three people are in federal custody after a migrant landing on Key Biscayne Monday morning. The landing happened at Bill Baggs State Park. Two of the people caught are from Haiti and the other from Albania, Samuel Briggs II, acting chief patrol agent for the agency’s Miami sector, said in the statement. As of noon, agents and police were still searching the area to determine if any other migrants had made it to land, said Adam Hoffner, division chief for U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Miami operations, said.

Former U.S. official arrested in Miami on charges of being unregistered agent for Cuba” via Jay Weaver and Antonio Maria Delgado of the Miami Herald — A former U.S. Ambassador with a long career in the federal government has been charged with working secretly since the early 1980s for Cuba’s intelligence services as an unregistered “covert” foreign agent in the United States, according to an FBI complaint unsealed in Miami federal court. Victor Manuel Rocha, 73, a former Ambassador to Bolivia who had also worked as a senior diplomat in the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba, spent the weekend in custody at the Federal Detention Center in Miami and made his first appearance in federal court.

Victor Manuel Rocha is accused of spying for Cuba.

Mom at heart of Broward transgender athlete controversy: My daughter was wrongly outed” via Brittany Wallman of the Miami Herald — One of five Monarch High School employees whose jobs are on the line for letting a transgender girl play on a female volleyball team criticized officials Monday for outing the student — who is also her daughter. Jessica Norton, an information technology worker at the high school in Coconut Creek, issued a public statement Monday thanking the community for its support and identifying herself as the mother of the transgender athlete. In her statement, she said that “forced outing, particularly of a child, is a direct attempt to endanger the person.”

Church banner removed from Marjory Stoneman Douglas after activist sought ‘satanology’ ad” via Kevin Deutsch of Parkland Talk — A challenge to a church advertisement at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School ended in victory Monday for Broward County political activist Chaz Stevens. Stevens, who uses satire to advocate for the separation of church and state, had contacted the school’s principal in October asking that a banner advertisement for his “Church of Satanology” be included among the ads affixed to the school’s fence. One of the banners on the school’s fence advertised Calvary Chapel Parkland, displaying the chapel’s service times and declaring the house of worship a “Proud Supporter of MSD High School.”

A wet future: South Florida’s plan to fight flooding if sea levels rise 3 feet by 2075” via Bill Kearney of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Last month, over the course of a few days, 12 inches of rain fell on much of Broward and Miami-Dade counties. As western suburbs began to flood, king tides pushed in from the ocean, and there was nowhere for the floodwater to go. Twenty years ago, the South Florida Water Management District would have simply opened spillways and sent the flood water to the ocean. But not this time. This scenario is a harbinger of things to come for South Florida, as sea-level rise creeps inland and storms become more intense. The multitude of canals and spillways that drain Miami-Dade and Broward counties are becoming obsolete.

Building boom looming for Florida Keys? State considers easing decades-old growth limits” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — The state is considering easing strict long-standing limits on development in the Florida Keys, a move that could fuel the biggest building boom in the ecologically fragile island chain in nearly a half-century. It could, at least potentially, open the door to as many as 8,000 new homes and businesses in one of Florida’s most famous tourist destinations and supercharge Monroe County’s construction industry and economy. But it also would pack more people into a hurricane hot zone already experiencing increasing tidal flooding and facing billions of dollars in projects to raise roads and repair aging wastewater and water supply systems and would almost certainly increase impacts on declining coral reefs, fish populations and sea grass beds.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Central Florida foster care agency failed to pay bills, caused kids to sleep in offices, suit says” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — Embrace Families, the lead agency for foster care in Central Florida, is being sued by a contractor that says the nonprofit owes it more than $1.3 million for services it provided, including for children who had to sleep in the contractor’s offices because space was not available in foster homes. An unexpectedly high number of children needing care has “overwhelmed” the foster care system during the past couple of years, prompting a crisis, according to the complaint filed last month in Orange County Circuit Court by the Children’s Home Society of Florida.

Embrace Families seem to be struggling with finances.

Split Oak defenders see new hope in toll road fight” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Defenders of Split Oak Forest now hope to persuade a state Board to keep protective restrictions in place on the 1,700-acre preserve and block the Central Florida Expressway Authority from building a toll road on a sliver of it. Energized by the Orange County Commission’s surprise decision to withdraw support for the road, Split Oak advocates say they will appeal to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, which is set to discuss the issue Tuesday at a public meeting in Orlando. “I feel this means the forest is going to be preserved in perpetuity as it always was intended to,” said Orange County Commissioner Emily Bonilla.

Former Ocoee Commissioner sues to run for his former seat” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Ocoee is blocking the latest election bid of the first Black candidate to win a municipal election in the city — and a judge will now determine whether to put him on the city’s Spring ballot. George Oliver III, who made history with his 2018 election in this city with a long history of racial strife, objects to the city’s determination that he cannot run for the District 4 seat because he previously resigned that same seat to launch an unsuccessful bid to become Ocoee’s Mayor. In his request for a court order restoring his candidacy, Oliver says that the ruling is based on a “tortured interpretation” of City Charter language.

— LOCAL: TB —

No lettuce for Florida manatees this winter: Experts end feeding trial after two years” via Max Chesnes of the Tampa Bay Times — For the past two winters, Florida wildlife biologists have experimented with hand-feeding lettuce to hungry manatees in the Indian River Lagoon as the animals’ natural food source, seagrass, was in short supply from pollution problems. This Winter, though, there won’t be another feeding trial. Wildlife experts say there are two main reasons for that decision: There’s enough seagrass in the Mosquito Lagoon, where manatees linger during the colder winter months, for the population to eat this Winter.

No more free lunches for manatees.

DEP asks judge to stop construction in embattled Citrus County development” via Mike Wright of Florida Politics — Citrus County for months has promised beleaguered residents of an Inverness neighborhood that allies are in line to jump aboard its fight against a developer. Enter the Department of Environmental Protection. DEP is seeking a temporary injunction to stop Van Der Valk Construction from building homes in Inverness Villages Unit 4. The DEP, in a lawsuit filed in early November, accuses Van Der Valk and associated companies of constructing houses without environmental permits and discharging polluted stormwater into nearby wetlands. The case was filed in a Citrus County circuit court.

Indictment details $4 million construction fraud at Bay Pines VA cancer center” via Dan Sullivan of Tampa Bay Times — A grand jury returned an indictment this Fall accusing four men of perpetrating a fraud scheme that compromised the construction of a cancer treatment facility at the Bay Pines Veterans Affairs Medical Center in St. Petersburg. The fraud, prosecutors say, ripped off taxpayers for more than $4 million. The alleged scheme took advantage of a federal law designed to give preference to businesses owned by disabled veterans in the awarding of government contracts. The men are accused of using a veteran-owned company as a front to obtain a construction contract for the cancer center.

Bigger Jimmy Buffett cruise ship will sail out of Tampa next year” via Sharon Kennedy Wynne of the Tampa Bay Times — Buffett has died, but his brand lives on in the cruise line Margaritaville at Sea, which has been offering low-cost cruises out of Palm Beach. On Monday, the company announced that Tampa will be the port of call for its next, much larger cruise ship, offering trips to Mexico and Key West. The ship, called the Islander, will have its first sailing on June 14 on a four-night itinerary from Port Tampa Bay, with a stop in Cozumel, Mexico, and two days at sea. It will offer four- and five-night cruises with stops in Key West, Cozumel and the Mexican Yucatán town of Progreso.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Sheriff who can’t carry a gun? Felon runs to become Florida county’s top cop” via Alexa Herrera of Fresh Take Florida — Tyrone Randy Johnson Jr., 42, is one of four Democrats running against the Republican incumbent appointed earlier this year by DeSantis, Emery Gainey, in one of the few Florida counties where Democrats still wield significant political power. Johnson, who was convicted in October 2016 and resentenced in January 2019 after appeals on a felony charge of acting as a bond agent without a license, spent nearly a year behind bars in a long-running case. Johnson has not completed Florida’s process to restore his civil rights after his imprisonment in the felony case. That step is required under Florida law for a felon to hold political office — or be allowed to possess or carry a gun. He said he had formally requested clemency. The next meeting of the Clemency Board is Dec. 13.

From felon to lawman?

 

‘A way we can help’: Panama City approves property tax exemption for qualified seniors” via Nathan Cobb of the Panama City News-Herald — City Commissioners last week approved a homestead exemption that waves the city’s property taxes for qualified seniors. According to Commissioner Josh Street, officials had to approve the exemption by Dec. 1 so it would go into effect during the 2024 tax year. He said it’s important to help local seniors comfortably “live out the golden years of their lives.” “This new exemption (targets) low-income seniors, who are a lot of the people struggling the most to remain in their homes, not only because of taxes, but because of increases in costs of power, utilities and groceries,” he said. “Taxes are just one part of the family budget, and so we’re just trying to find a way we can help those who need it the most.”

UF College of Medicine in Jacksonville receives $500K to create autism center” via Carianne Luter of News4Jax — A Precision Autism Center of Excellence in Jacksonville was among 10 new projects to receive strategic funding from the University of Florida, the President’s Office announced Monday. The $500,000 allocated over a year to help create the center will expand the clinical capacity for the diagnostic evaluation, management and treatment of children and adults with neurodevelopmental disorders. Dr. Linda R. Edwards, dean of the College of Medicine — Jacksonville, is optimistic that the Precision Autism Center of Excellence will have a significant effect on health care outcomes.

Cost for fixing Duval school buildings could hit $3.9 billion, putting payment in question” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — The $1.9 billion slate of school repairs and construction that Duval County voters agreed in 2020 to help finance through a halfpenny sales tax could end up costing $3.9 billion, school administrators now project. The sticker shock is being compounded by a forecast that tax revenues earmarked to pay for the 15-year worklist could fall $1.4 billion short of the new final price. Neither budget cuts nor tax hikes have been ordered to bridge the gap, and it’s not certain the new counts will be entirely accurate either. But the twin forecasts underscore the administrative headaches the school system is facing trying to deliver all 180 separate projects, including building 28 new schools, in the school district’s master facility plan.

Tallahassee to host annual, statewide maternal mental health conference after eight years” via Tarah Jean of the Tallahassee Democrat — Maternal mental health is known to be a crisis across Florida — and throughout the nation. That’s why Florida State University’s College of Medicine and the Florida Maternal Mental Health Collaborative (FLMMHC) will host the state’s eighth annual Perinatal Mental Health Conference this Thursday, Dec. 7, and Friday, Dec. 8. The conference will be at the FSU Alumni Center. This year marks the conference’s first time taking place here since 2015. The annual event is also the state’s only conference that focuses on perinatal — the weeks right before and after birth — and maternal mental health.

‘Disgusting’: Some call banner hung at UF fraternity before FSU football game racist” via Lillian Lawson of The Gainesville Sun — Banners hung at University of Florida fraternities before the school’s football game against rival Florida State University on Nov. 25 have caused a stir on social media sites, with many believing students’ signs were extreme and in bad taste. The signs, which are common on game days, made fun of FSU quarterback Jordan Travis’ season-ending leg injury, with some reading “Break a leg FSU” and “Snappin’ FSU’s szn like JT’s leg.” A banner hung outside the Kappa Alpha house, however, seemed to cause the most concern for those visiting Gainesville and traveling through campus that day.

A rivalry gets nasty.

‘City of Music’: FAMU Concert Choir goes on performance tour in Vienna, Austria” via Tarah Jean of the Tallahassee Democrat — The Florida A&M University Concert Choir has been serenading listeners in Vienna, Austria these past few days during a performance tour in the European capital city. The choir’s 41 student members were invited to be a part of the 2023 Festival Tour of Vienna Sings, which is a choral festival, and FAMU senior Skylar Mobley says the experience has been “amazing.” “It’s been nice to learn about the history firsthand and experience the culture for ourselves,” said 20-year-old Mobley, a Fort Pierce native majoring in cardiopulmonary science. “It’s very easy to understand why Vienna is known as the “City of Music.”

— LOCAL: SW. FL —

January sentencing date set for Capitol insurrectionist Christopher Worrell” via Tomas Rodriguez of the Naples Daily News — About nine weeks after his arrest for skipping a federal sentencing hearing, Capitol insurrectionist Worrell will finally learn his verdict next month. Court records indicate that U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth scheduled Worrell’s in-person sentencing on Jan. 4. The Department of Justice has asked Lamberth to sentence Worrell to 14 years in prison; three years of supervised release; $2,000 in restitution; fine of up to $181,000, and $610 in mandatory special assessments, which are imposed on defendants convicted of federal crimes. Worrell, 52, was arrested at his longtime girlfriend’s home on Sept. 28. The Sheriff’s Office assisted the FBI with the warrant.

Christopher Worrell faces the music.

Punta Gorda City Council focuses on water quality for legislative priorities” via Elaine Allen-Emrich of the Punta Gorda Sun — Punta Gorda City Council members recently narrowed their wish list for state lawmakers to just a few high-dollar items. The Council’s legislative agenda prioritized water quality issues for the 2024 Legislative Session, which begins Jan. 8. Charlotte County recently asked the county’s legislative delegation for $46 million, including $3.5 million toward renovation (for an emergency operation center) at the Charlotte Sports Park. The county also asked for an estimated $4 million for a septic-to-sewer project at Midway and Lakeview to provide central wastewater service to 2,172 properties with aging and failing septic tanks that, according to county staff, are contributing to the pollution of the impaired water bodies of Charlotte Harbor, the Peace River and the Myakka River.

Cape Coral ranks in Top 10 cities in U.S. where Baby Boomers are moving” via Luis Zambrano of the Fort Myers News-Press — OK Boomer, we get that you moved to Cape Coral. Cape Coral is in the Top 10 cities where Boomers are moving. Boomers are people born between 1946 and 1964, and the generation makes up a substantial portion of the world’s population. SmartAsset examined Census Bureau data for 268 of the largest U.S. cities and ranked them by the rate at which Baby Boomers moved in 2022. According to the study, Cape Coral ranks fourth in cities where Baby Boomers are moving with a 2.90% move rate. Baby Boomers comprise almost 3 out of every 10 people in Cape Coral, or 29.9%.

Tampa General extends footprint to Southwest Florida, bringing world-class care to Babcock Ranch” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Tampa General Hospital and Kitson & Partners announced last week an agreement to open a TGH Urgent Care Powered by Fast Track in Babcock Ranch’s innovative and growing community. “This agreement represents a partnership between two visionary organizations that are committed to leveraging technology and innovation to better care for our communities,” said Stacey Brandt, executive vice president and chief administrative officer at Tampa General Hospital. “Soon, residents of Babcock Ranch will have access to the world-class care we offer at TGH, rooted in technology and innovation just like their state-of-the-art community.” To address this need, TGH is set to construct a TGH Urgent Care Powered by Fast Track at the main entrance of Babcock Ranch.

— TOP OPINION —

DeSantis and Trump need a fresh message. Their attacks on Obamacare have gotten stale” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Not to be outdone by his opponent for the Republican nomination for President — and as the January Iowa caucuses creep ever closer — DeSantis had something to say during a TV interview over the weekend. He also attacked the Affordable Care Act (known as Obamacare) and promised to come up with a “better plan.” And yet, like Trump, there’s no actual plan to discuss.

Conveniently, the Florida Governor’s plan won’t be released until Spring. The way things are going, it’s pretty unlikely he’ll be a presidential contender at that point.

This all feels so old and tired. How long have we been hearing about how Republicans would “repeal and replace” Obamacare? At least back to 2017, when Sen. John McCain stymied their efforts to ditch the ACA. Republicans really have to come up with something else to say. It doesn’t matter how they dress it up, either. Trump has his “alternatives” while DeSantis promised to “replace and supersede.”

It’s all the same thing in different words, and it hasn’t gotten anywhere. Meanwhile, more and more people continue to enroll in Obamacare plans, making the prospects of repealing it even tougher and potentially alienating a whole lot of voters who depend on their insurance plans if they are pulled out from under them.

Maybe that’s what gave DeSantis the impetus to offer his version of a health care fairy tale, just like Trump. “Here’s what I will do. What I think they’re going to need to do is have a plan that will supersede Obamacare that will lower prices for people so that they can afford health care while also making sure that people with preexisting conditions are protected.”

Promises, promises.

— OPINIONS —

The anti-Trump alarm goes off” via Byron York of The Washington Examiner — Around this time in 2015, some in the political commentary class had a collective realization: Trump could win the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. A freakout of sorts ensued, although many remained confident that Hillary Clinton would defeat Trump in the 2016 General Election. An even larger freakout occurred on the night of Nov. 8, 2016. Now we are seeing a repeat of the events of late 2015. The Iowa caucuses are six weeks away. But the basic fact is: Trump is far, far ahead. Even more alarming has been a spate of polls, too many to be ignored, showing Trump defeating Biden.

It’s time to fix America’s most dangerous law” via David French of The New York Times — There is a land mine embedded in the United States Code, one that Trump, if re-elected President, could use to destroy our republic. But it’s not too late for Congress to defuse the mine now and protect America. I’m talking about the Insurrection Act, a federal law that permits the President to deploy military troops in American communities to effectively act as a domestic police force under his direct command. In theory, there is a need for a well-drafted law that permits the use of federal troops in extreme circumstances to maintain order and protect the rule of law.

A former Republican strategist laments the party’s ‘zombie’ debates” via Rick Wilson for The Economist — When Haley, DeSantis, Christie and, perhaps, Ramaswamy mount the stage in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on Dec. 6, it won’t be the last Republican Primary Debate, but it may as well be. In the party of Trump, the nominee was always going to be, well, Trump. These debates were supposed to give Republican Primary voters a look at the policy positions and debating skills of the candidates vying to take on the Democratic candidate — still presumed to be Biden — in the November 2024 Presidential Election. In this election cycle, though, they have become a hollow Kabuki dance: formal, scripted, and full of expressions of loyalty — not to some conservative ideal or philosophy, but to the MAGA base of the Republican Party. The opening and closing statements, terrible jokes, swipes at other candidates and canned rebuttals have mostly been about giving as little offense to Trump and his groupies as possible.

Florida cattle ranches critical to preserving environment” via Wes Williamson for the Fort Myers News-Press — As 1,000 people move to Florida every day, it’s more important than ever that lawmakers focus on ways to protect water, native wildlife and natural landscape. Agricultural lands supply wide, open spaces of valuable habitat and include wetlands that act as natural water storage helping to clean our drinking water. However, Florida’s ranch country is disappearing quickly. Conservation easements are a cost-effective solution to this problem. They preserve wildlife habitats for threatened species and protect water quality, all the while maintaining the vitality of the agricultural industry. I don’t blame people for wanting to move here. Florida is a great place to live. But if we don’t protect our cattle ranches, we may see all our agricultural lands succumb to what my father always called the “final crop” — houses.

Michelle Flowers: Raising awareness of blood cancer in Florida — we all play a role” via Florida Politics — Inclusive of leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma, blood cancer affects children and adults alike and like other cancers, the earlier a blood cancer is detected, the better and the higher the chances of survival. A combination of education, awareness, and access to new and improved treatment options is the best way we can give patients and their families their best fighting chance. The work of patient advocates across Florida is key to keeping this issue top of mind and when it’s paired with the work of organizations like LLS, the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network and so many others, we can better raise the visibility of the issue.

Quit blaming CFP. Florida State Seminoles had awful luck, but it’s a great, legit final four” via Greg Cote of the Miami Herald — Some things you could not possibly make up because the reality is so sublimely perfect, and one of those is that the Chair of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee happens to be a man named Boo Corrigan. “Boo Corrigan” sounds like a damned good idea to fans of the Florida State Seminoles and Georgia Bulldogs. They have been doing it since Sunday when the CFP’s final four national championship contenders were revealed and infamously excluded both teams. Nobody does outrage like a sports fan or team scorned, and FSU is the worldwide leader at the moment in feeling wronged. There is nobody to sue, and no place to put the indignant anger except for weightless bleating on social media.

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

 

— ALOE —

Gas prices begin dipping after midweek price spike” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Gas prices shot up over the past week, but they appear on the decline again. The average gallon of gas in Florida is now at $3.14. That’s 13 cents per gallon more than last week’s price, but it’s a 3-cent drop from Thursday’s $3.17 average following a price surge. “Florida gas prices seem to be moving down again almost as quickly as they shot up,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesperson for AAA. “There isn’t any clear explanation for last week’s sudden increase, as oil and gasoline futures logged their sixth consecutive weekly loss. Regardless, drivers in many cities are beginning to find gas prices close to the same levels where they were last week.”

Florida gets a little gas relief.

Epcot welcomes new Walt Disney statue, theme park views” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Walt Disney CoThe Walt Disney Co. officials unveiled Epcot’s new statue of Disney during a dedication ceremony. The figure, titled “Walt the Dreamer,” will become available to parkgoers Tuesday morning. The figure is seated with its back to Spaceship Earth and facing a new, tiered vista toward the World Showcase. Epcot visitors will have easy access to the statue, providing ample photo opportunities. “I am thrilled to be here at Dreamers Point with all of you celebrating the company’s original dreamer, Walt Disney,” Kartika Rodriguez, vice president of Epcot, said during the ceremony, attended by dozens of Epcot workers and behind construction walls.

— HOLIDAYS —

What it takes to transform the White House for the holidays” via Katie Rogers and Doug Mills of The New York Times — The 300 volunteers were divided into eight teams, each named for a different Santa’s reindeer. On the day after Thanksgiving, while the Bidens were still in Nantucket, the teams descended upon the White House, working through the weekend to festoon the halls with hand-pinned gumdrops, shape chicken wire into bough-covered arches, install crystal-studded nutcrackers on mantels, and hang a papier-mâché set of reindeer that soar above the Cross Hall and Grand Foyer.

Decorating the White House takes a team effort.

Jill Biden hosting Toys for Tots event at the White House — First Lady Biden will host a U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots event on Wednesday at the White House as part of her Joining Forces initiative. The event is expected to draw local Marine Corps and military-connected families. The event will be livestreamed on WhiteHouse.Gov/Live.

Hollywood Rabbis prepare for fraught Hanukkah: ‘This is the first time I’ve seen people really afraid’” via Gary Baum and Seth Abramovitch of The Hollywood Reporter — The entertainment industry’s rabbis say that in the eight weeks since Oct. 7 — a horrific chapter in Jewish history encompassing Hamas’ massacre, Israel’s ensuing Gaza invasion and the worldwide response to it all — their congregations have been roiled by crises of identity and safety not experienced in America since the Holocaust. These faith leaders say that, on the eve of Hanukkah their temples’ members are confronting anew millennia-old questions about assimilation, antisemitism, and the fraught notion of Jewish power itself.

Santa’s Christmas Tree Forest lets families cut down their own tree” via Patrick Connolly of the Orlando Sentinel — At Santa’s Christmas Tree Forest in Eustis, visitors are invited to borrow a bow saw and browse 17 acres with thousands of trees that can be cut down and placed in homes for the holidays. Since 1989, this Central Florida family farm has been selling trees and now offers a farm-grown selection of Florida sand pines, southern red cedars and Arizona cypress trees. Picture families wandering among tall, green-needled trees like the opening scene from Christmas Vacation, except here there’s no snow. “People love the experience of cutting down their own tree,” said Jodi Utsman, the farm’s “head elf,” as her name tag reads. Her father started the farm, and her husband, Tom, now takes care of the trees.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Happy birthday to Carlecia Collins of GrayRobinson, Beth Herendeen and Rachel Jennings.

___

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.



#FlaPol

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

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

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
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St. Petersburg, Florida 33704




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