Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 12.6.23

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

Good Wednesday morning.

Breaking overnightMike Redondo wins Special Election for HD 118, keeps seat in GOP hands” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Republican lawyer Redondo proved successful in his first run at public office, winning a one-year stint representing House District 118. With all 51 precincts reporting by 8:30 p.m., Redondo had 51.8% of the vote compared to 45.6% for Democrat Johnny Farias and 2.6% for nonparty candidate Francisco “Frank” De La Paz, both former Community Council members. Redondo rode a wave of GOP support toward capturing the seat fellow Republican Juan Fernandez-Barquin vacated in June for an appointment as Miami-Dade County Clerk. Going into Election Day, he was the odds-on favorite to win, based on the district’s voting history, political composition and his sizable funding advantage.

The first time’s the charm for Mike Redondo. Image via Redondo Law Firm.


A company that helps governments tap state and federal dollars is adding a new professional to its Florida team to close the digital divide in communities.

Katie Smith will serve as vice president of Broadband and Community Partnerships, working with local government clients to secure funding and apply for broadband grants. Her work will also include developing partnerships with broadband providers to achieve optimal outcomes for GrantWorks’ clients.

Katie Smith’s new gig at Broadband and Community Partnerships will have her act as a liaison between local governments and state/federal broadband cash.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Katie to the broadband services team — an accomplished professional with a unique blend of technical prowess, seasoned leadership, and a rich background in the public sector,” GrantWorks President and founder Bruce Spitzengel said. “Her expertise will undoubtedly play an instrumental role in furthering our goal to empower communities through connectivity.”

Smith has 14 years of state government experience. Most recently, she served as Director of the Office of Broadband, where she established the office from scratch and oversaw the creation of the Florida Strategic Plan for Broadband, a five-year action plan, and the Digital Adoption and Use Plan. She also secured $2 billion for broadband expansion throughout Florida.

“I am truly excited and honored to join GrantWorks as the vice president of Broadband and Community Partnerships. GrantWorks’ commitment to connectivity and community empowerment deeply resonates with my own values, and together, we aim to create a brighter, more connected future for all,” Smith said.

Smith will join a team that includes Rick Faircloth, senior vice president of State and Local Government Services; Holly Miller, vice president of Florida State and Local Government Services; and Valarie Phillip, vice president of Disaster Recovery Programs.


AT&T is launching its third Connected Learning Center in Florida this week in collaboration with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida.

Located inside the Jacqueline Bradley and Clarence Otis Family Branch of Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida, the Center will provide internet access and education tools to those who face connectivity barriers holding them back from participating in our digital world.

In addition, AT&T has made a $50,000 contribution to Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida for additional support of the Connected Learning Center. The new Center is the 34th of its kind nationally and the telecom has set a goal of launching 50 centers across the U.S. by mid-2024.

“AT&T’s commitment to bridging the digital divide and expanding digital inclusion allows us to empower residents with connectivity, creating new opportunities for growth, education, and prosperity in the heart of this vibrant community,” said Joe York, President of AT&T Gulf States. “A commitment that is realized in today’s launch of the Connected Learning Center in Orlando by providing the digital tools and educational resources that give Florida families the opportunity to succeed today and tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, AT&T is giving Santa some competition in the Miami area with another laptop giveaway. This time, AT&T is partnering with Overtown Youth Center (OYC) Miami to distribute 200 laptops to students and families. The latest distribution follows the donation of 540 laptops to children throughout Miami earlier this year.

The laptops, funded by an AT&T donation to Human IT, will be given to Overtown area residents in need. AT&T is working with Human IT to provide participants of OYC Miami with laptops and digital literacy resources to help them fully participate in our digital world.

“This continued collaboration helps bridge the digital divide by empowering students and families with the tool of knowledge, fostering digital equity and creating pathways for brighter futures within our community,” said OYC Miami CEO Tina Brown. “Technology should not be a barrier to education. It should be a tool that enhances learning and opens doors to endless possibilities, and we applaud AT&T for stepping in to support our families.”


@AlexThomp: (Joe) Biden at a fundraiser says what some of his aides and friends have also said: “If (Donald) Trump wasn’t running, I’m not sure I’d be running. But we cannot let him win.”

@ZacJAnderson: (Bridget) Ziegler only briefly had an official role with Moms for Liberty, but she will always be a co-founder of the group and was close allies with their leaders

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:


In-person sports betting begins at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa — 2; 2023 Florida Chamber Annual Insurance Summit — 8; Zack Snyder’s ‘Rebel Moon’ premieres — 16; Michael Mann’s ‘Ferrari’ premieres — 19; Matt Dixon’s ‘Swamp Monsters: Trump vs. (Gov. Ron) DeSantis ― the Greatest Show on Earth (or at Least in Florida)’ released — 34; 2024 Florida Chamber Legislative Fly-In and reception — 34; Florida’s 2024 Regular Session begins — 34; 2024 Primetime Emmy Awards — 40; House District 35 Special Election — 40; Florida TaxWatch’s State of the Taxpayer Dinner — 42; New Hampshire Primary — 48; Red Dog Blue Dog 2024 — 49; South Carolina Democratic Primary — 59; New Hampshire and Nevada Democratic Primaries — 62; South Carolina GOP holds first-in-the-South Primary — 80; Michigan Democratic Primary — 83; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 86; Trump’s D.C. trial on charges related to trying to reverse his 2020 Election loss — 89; Super Tuesday — 90; 2024 Oscars — 95; Georgia Democratic Primary — 97; 2024 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 155; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 169; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 205; Republican National Convention begins — 223; ‘Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 233; Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 254; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 262; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 317; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 320; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 351; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 436; ‘Moana’ premieres — 569; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 597; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 702; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 702; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 744; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 877; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 903; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 1,108; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,248; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,207; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,935.


Ron DeSantis unveils $114.4B budget with 6% property insurance relief” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Orlando Sentinel — DeSantis took a break from campaigning to unveil his $114.4 billion budget proposal for 2024, which includes $409 million in temporary tax and fee relief for property insurance premiums, as well as increases in education, environmental and infrastructure spending.

He also earmarked $1 million for the state Board of Governors or Florida State University to use if they decide to sue the College Football Playoff Committee for snubbing the Seminoles.

Ron DeSantis unveils a (slightly) smaller budget proposal.

DeSantis is proposing a one-year exemption on taxes, fees and assessments on property insurance for homeowners whose properties are worth up to $750,000, which the Governor’s staff said works out to about a 6% cut for the average Florida homeowner.

That doesn’t come close to the double- and triple-digit increases that many Floridians have suffered through in recent years as average premiums have risen to $6,000 a year, the highest in the nation.

DeSantis’ plan would pay for 1,000 fewer state jobs than the 112,812 jobs in the current budget, including 500 unfilled positions at the Department of Corrections, which has endured a critical staffing shortage for years.

The 2024 budget recommendation is $4.6 billion less than the current state budget, but includes a $3 billion increase in the state reserves, bringing them up to $16.3 billion.

The Legislature, which goes into Session Jan. 9, approves the final state budget, but DeSantis has line-veto power and has used that in the past to trim billions of dollars from what lawmakers OK.

Here are some other budget notes:

💭 — Lauren Book says DeSantis’ Florida utopia is a ‘delusion’: The Senate Democratic Leader is decrying the Governor’s proposed budget, noting that his “description of Florida as a dream is merely a delusion,” and points to rising costs that must be addressed rather than comparing Florida to blue states. But she says she sees hope in the budget on insurance.

🏠 — DeSantis backs Sadowski: The Sadowski Coalition of more than 40 statewide organizations fighting to protect state funding for affordable housing is thanking DeSantis for recommending full funding for both of Florida’s main affordable housing programs, SHIP and SAIL. Sadowski Coalition facilitator Mark Hendrickson said DeSantis continues to show “consistent and strong support for affordable and attainable housing.”

🏦 — Florida TaxWatch pleased with DeSantis’ ‘good fiscal stewardship’: Lauding a lean ’24/’25 budget, Florida TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro praised DeSantis for “a fiscally conservative, yet robust” budget with “a record $1.1 billion in tax relief.”

😡 — Florida Education Association fumes: Arguing the Governor’s proposed budget “fails to meet the needs of public schools and students,” the FEA lamented a lack of funding to address teacher and staff shortages or to increase teacher pay. They further slammed DeSantis for a “focus on divisive policies” that run “counter to what voters want to see in their public schools.”

👩‍⚕️ — Florida Health Care Association happy with budget: The health care advocacy group is pleased with DeSantis’ proposed 1% increase to Florida’s nursing centers, noting it is an indication he recognizes “challenges in our states nursing centers.”

🤰 — Safety Net Hospital Alliance says DeSantis budget ‘saves lives’: Alliance CEO Justin Senior said the Governor’s proposed nearly $117M for maternal care and NICUs will “save lives and improve health care outcomes for the most vulnerable Floridians. He said the funding is “a major investment” that ensures Floridians don’t have to “travel far to get the excellent care they need.”

Justin Senior suggests that DeSantis’ new budget will ‘save lives.’

📚 — Independent Colleges and Universities at EASE with DeSantis budget: The proposed budget includes $3,500 in per-student funding for the state’s Effective Access to Student Education (EASE) grant program, an allocation the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida group is celebrating, noting it will provide students greater “freedom to choose where they pursue their higher education.” The funding is part of DeSantis’ commitment to school choice.

❌ — Shevrin Jones says DeSantis’ budget lacks ‘meaningful impact’: Among the items Jones claims are missing from the budget are protections for HBCUs and adequate funding for education, all while Jones says he’s added reductions to state jobs and is spending too much capital on promoting school vouchers.

DeSantis’ spending plan seeks $1.1B tax cut, more funding for jobs, roads programs” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — The tax cut proposal would provide a one-year exemption on taxes, fees and assessments on property insurance up to $750,000, saving homeowners about $409 million. Those with flood insurance policies would save $22 million through a permanent elimination of the premium tax. Consumers shopping during a series of sales tax holidays would also save $475 million. The back-to-school sales tax holidays — one at the start of the Fall Semester in August and one at the start of the Spring Semester in January — would cost state coffers $169 million. The Job Growth Grant Fund would get $100 million under his plan, a $25 million increase on the current year. There would also be $25 million for an emergency bridge loan program and $25 million for economic incentives for businesses to relocate or expand in Florida.

DeSantis budget touts themes from presidential campaign” via John Kennedy of USA Today Network — Echoing themes from his struggling presidential campaign, DeSantis unveiled his $114.4 billion state budget proposal on Tuesday, touting the state’s economy as a beacon compared to Democratic-led states like California and New York. DeSantis also mocked Biden and the federal government by praising his administration’s success at reducing Florida’s debt. “We have, since I’ve become Governor, paid off 25% of our state’s total debt. … That’s something you don’t see many other states doing and you certainly don’t see Washington doing that, I can tell you that,” DeSantis said. DeSantis’ budget recommendation goes to Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislature, which actually prepares the state spending plan for the 2024-25 year.

DeSantis’ proposed budget funds migrant-flights program, teacher civics training” via Lawrence Mower, Ana Ceballos and Romy Ellenbogen of the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis’ spending plan preserves millions for some of his top political priorities as he campaigns for President, including another $5 million to continue his migrant flights program, $853 million for job training programs and $45 million to pay teachers $3,000 to undergo civics training crafted by conservative organizations. DeSantis is proposing some modest relief for homeowners. He wants to slash various insurance taxes and fees policyholders pay, including the 1% surcharge the Florida Guarantee Insurance Guaranty Association currently assesses to pay outstanding claims for failed insurance companies. The amount of savings for homeowners is expected to be modest — less than 5% of their premiums, although DeSantis officials couldn’t say exactly.

State employees health insurance costs stay put under DeSantis budget” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — DeSantis is proposing to spend an additional $338.2 million in general revenue to keep the state from increasing costs for the employees who rely on the state group health insurance plan for their health care coverage. As of June 30, 342,939 people relied on the state group health insurance program for their coverage, of which 167,488 were employees or former employees, according to state estimates. State employees haven’t had an increase in their health insurance premiums in nearly 20 years. Economists earlier this year projected that there would be a nearly $349 million shortfall in the trust fund used to pay the health care costs of state employees. If changes aren’t made, that deficit is expected to increase to $910.3 million by June 2026.

Nikki Fried blasts DeSantis plan to ax 1,000 state jobs while ‘bragging’ about a surplus” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A preview of DeSantis’ proposed 2024 state budget has drawn the ire of Florida Democratic Party Chair Fried, who argued it does not align with the true needs of residents. It’s also needlessly cruel, she said, for including a plan to slash more than 1,000 government jobs while the state enjoys a sizable surplus. “Instead of addressing the real crises facing Florida, Ron is planning to put 1,000 state employees out of a job while bragging about running a budget surplus,” Fried said in a statement. “Ron says that his budget ‘respects the taxpayers’ of Florida, but his refusal to address property insurance, the housing crisis, and the cost of living are a slap in the face to struggling Floridians.”

Affordable housing advocates cheer DeSantis for funding Sadowski trust, Live Local Act” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — DeSantis’ budget fully funds an affordable housing trust. Time will tell if the Legislature follows his lead. The Sadowski Coalition praised DeSantis, who has consistently supported state housing programs. “Time and again, this Governor has stood in support of housing, supporting both of Florida’s vital housing programs — the State Housing Initiatives Partnership program and the State Apartment Incentive Loan program,” said Mark Hendrickson, facilitator of the Sadowski Coalition and executive director of the Florida Association of Local Housing Finance Authorities. DeSantis on Tuesday unveiled a $114 billion budget, dubbed “Focus of Florida’s Future.”

FEA gives DeSantis’ budget proposal an F — The state’s largest teacher union is blasting the Governor’s budget proposal for not investing in “strong public schools that offer students a diverse and well-rounded curriculum” as well as how it handles teacher pay increases. The Florida Education Association cited a poll it commissioned from Clearview Research that found nearly nine in 10 voters believe Florida teachers should rank in the top 10 nationally in terms of pay. The same poll found that more than half of voters think public education in Florida is on the “wrong track” compared to 26% who believe it is on the “right track.” … “Florida voters know the importance of supporting all teachers and staff who work in Florida’s public schools,” said FEA President Andrew Spar. “The Governor’s proposal today made it clear he will continue to devalue Florida’s hardworking educators.”

FHCA praises Governor’s proposed nursing center funding bump — The Florida Health Care Association lauded DeSantis’ budget recommendation for including a 1% funding increase to Florida’s nursing centers. “We want to thank Gov. DeSantis for recognizing the challenges in our state’s nursing centers, which continue to be faced with the question of ‘who will care’ for Florida’s aging population as more and more seniors move to our great state each day,” said FHCA Chief Executive Officer Emmett Reed. The Governor’s recommended funding increase comes amid a staffing shortage in the long-term care industry, which has struggled to compete against hospitals and other health care providers to retain staff in all nursing career tracks. Reed called DeSantis’ recommendation “a good first step to help Florida’s nursing centers with building a pipeline of caregivers who will be there for our state’s seniors.”


DeSantis campaign in turmoil ahead of Republican Primary voting” via Nancy Cook of Bloomberg — DeSantis is giving his closest allies greater control over the daily operations of his presidential run, another shake-up in the Florida Governor’s 2024 bid just weeks before the first Republican nominating contest. Scott Wagner, one of DeSantis’ oldest friends from their time at Yale and an attorney in Miami, assumed leadership last weekend of the allied super political action committee, Never Back Down.

DeSantis’ campaign shows turmoil leading up to the Primaries.

—”DeSantis suggests his presidential campaign began right after re-election” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

DeSantis running out of time to catch fire in GOP Primary race for 2024” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Throughout the Summer and early Fall, as DeSantis struggled to find his footing as a candidate and sank in the GOP Primary polls, his supporters could always find consolation in the fact that there was time to turn things around. Not anymore. It’s crunchtime, with just six weeks before voting begins in Iowa. DeSantis desperately needs to start catching fire — and has another debate Wednesday to make his case. But he is entering the final stretch in worse shape than at any point in his campaign, with Trump well ahead and Nikki Haley vying with DeSantis for second place.

Why DeSantis doesn’t have a prayer in Iowa” via Benjamin Wallace-Wells of The New Yorker — in 2023, DeSantis has not only had to fight the culture war each day on Fox News but explain why he would be a better choice than Trump. He has also, generally, been hesitant to criticize the former President, even as his debate and stump performances have been underwhelming and his polling has collapsed. Nationally and in Iowa, he is running about 30 points behind Trump and roughly even with Haley. Meanwhile, his campaign has concentrated more and more of its resources in Iowa, has fired several high-ranking officials, and is reportedly trying to pivot from television ads to a turnout operation. The social-conservative play in Iowa is beginning to feel like his last real shot.

DeSantis accuses media of attacking him the most, going easy on Donald Trump” via Diana Glebova of The New York Post — DeSantis accused the media Monday night of going easy on Trump and training their attacks on him instead. “Trump, I don’t think he can get elected in this country. I think the media is trying to get him nominated; you see it in the coverage,” DeSantis said. “Who’s the guy they come after more than anybody? Me. They don’t want me for sure,” added DeSantis, who argued the press doesn’t want a candidate who “is holding [President] Biden accountable every single day.” Trump is the clear GOP front-runner in national and early state polling, leading second-place DeSantis by more than 48 percentage points across the U.S.

‘Say it to my face’: DeSantis knocks Trump as a ‘keyboard warrior’ for skipping debates” via Sudiksha Kochi of USA Today — DeSantis had harsh words for Trump, calling the former President a “keyboard warrior” and urging him to debate “one-on-one.” “Donald Trump wants to blame me,” DeSantis said a day after Trump appeared to fault him for Florida State being left off the college football’s four-team playoff. DeSantis could not have changed the College Football Playoff Selection Committee’s decision to pick the University of Alabama over Florida State University for the last slot. But Trump and DeSantis have often criticized each other on the campaign trail. DeSantis pointed out that Trump has knocked him on issues ranging from COVID-19 pandemic precautions to his stance on abortion.

Is Nikki Haley the new DeSantis?” via Galen Druke, Nathaniel Rakich, Leah Askarinam, and G. Elliott Morris of ABC News — In the month since the last Republican debate, former U.N. Ambassador Haley has been inching up in the national polls. DeSantis leads Haley by just 3 points nationally, 13% to 10%. They are similarly close in Iowa, and Haley leads DeSantis by a sizable margin in New Hampshire and South Carolina. There were already rumblings about Haley supplanting DeSantis as the alternative to Trump, and then, last Tuesday, Americans for Prosperity endorsed Haley, throwing its financial and organizing weight behind her.

There’s a lot of good news for Haley. But here’s the bad news.” via David Axelrod of CNN — Haley has ridden three commanding debate performances into the thick of the competition to become the last candidate standing beside Trump vying for the Republican presidential nomination. The good news for Haley is that she is now running neck-and-neck for second place with the formerly formidable DeSantis, who has done a slow and steady fade since the heady days a year ago when he was closing in on Trump in polling and was the great hope of the Republican establishment. The bad news for Haley is that she still is about 50 points behind Trump.

Home Depot co-founder ‘just about ready’ to back Haley” via Charles Creitz of Fox Business — Haley may be about to receive a major business endorsement to add to her growing list of deep-pocketed supporters. Tuesday on “The Claman Countdown,” Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone told host Liz Claman he too is “just about ready” to formally throw his support behind Haley. “I had a nice meeting with her yesterday in my office, and I’ll tell you, she came through loud and clear; a straight shooter,” said Langone, who is seen as generally politically conservative. “She recognizes the challenges of the issues. And I think she’s got the determination to effectuate change in America, which is desperately needed right now.”

—”Former Tim Scott donor backs Haley: It was a ‘very easy’ transition” via Fox News

LinkedIn co-founder and Democratic donor gives $250,000 to Haley super PAC” via Maegan Vazquez, Michael Scherer and Dylan Wells of The Washington Post — Reid Hoffman, a co-founder of LinkedIn who has for years funded several liberal and anti-Trump causes, is taking the unusual step of donating a quarter of a million dollars to a super PAC backing Haley in 2024. Hoffman’s longtime political adviser, Dmitri Mehlhorn, confirmed the donation to the pro-Haley PAC called SFA Fund. Mehlhorn said the donation is motivated by Hoffman’s desire to prevent Trump from winning the 2024 Presidential Election. “We have two shots to take out Trump, and we better use them both,” Mehlhorn said.

Reid Hoffman is taking his best shots.

Joe Biden trolls DeSantis, Haley, Trump with giant billboards ahead of fourth debate” via Brandon Gillespie of Fox News — Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris aren’t sitting idly by this week and letting Republican presidential hopefuls dominate the airwaves with multiple prime-time events without having their own say. In coordination with the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Biden-Harris campaign is doing a bit of its own trolling by erecting giant billboards across Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the site of Wednesday’s debate, targeting the top-tier GOP challengers on their health care policies. “No to health care repeal. No to slashing Medicare and Medicaid, No to extreme abortion bans,” the billboards read. The effort by the Biden-Harris campaign and the DNC aims to shine a light on the expressed opposition by those candidates to the Affordable Care Act.

The fourth GOP debate gets trolled.

Biden tells donors: ‘If Trump wasn’t running, I’m not sure I’d be running. We cannot let him win’” via Darlene Superville of The Associated Press — Biden told campaign donors Tuesday that he wasn’t sure he’d be running for re-election if Trump wasn’t also in the race, warning that democracy is “more at risk in 2024” and that the former president and his allies are out to “destroy” democratic institutions. The President was using a trio of fundraisers to caution against what might happen should his predecessor again claim control of the White House, noting that Trump has described himself as his supporters’ “retribution” and has vowed to root out “vermin” in the country. “We’ve got to get it done, not because of me. … If Trump wasn’t running, I’m not sure I’d be running. We cannot let him win,” Biden said, hitting the last words slowly for emphasis.

— MORE 2024 —

The fourth GOP debate will be a key moment for the young NewsNation cable network” via David Bauder of The Associated Press — By airing the fourth Republican debate Wednesday, the young NewsNation television network will almost certainly reach the largest audience in its history. Yet with two of the three debate moderators associated with conservative media and not NewsNation, including podcast star Megyn Kelly, the event threatens to be at odds with the centrist image the network is trying to cultivate. “I think it’s an amazing opportunity and allows us to have more people fully sample the network and see who we are and what we’re doing,” said Cherie Grzech, NewsNation’s senior vice president of news and politics.

Time for NewsNation to shine.

Liz Cheney, outspoken Trump critic, weighs third-party Presidential run” via Maeve Reston of The Washington Post — Cheney, one of the most vociferous critics of Trump in the Republican Party, says she is weighing whether to mount her own third-party candidacy for the White House, as she vows to do “whatever it takes” to prevent Trump from returning to office. While promoting her new book “Oath and Honor: A Memoir and a Warning,” the former Wyoming Congresswoman — who was defeated by a Trump loyalist last year — is warning that Trump could transform America’s democracy into a dictatorship if he is re-elected; anticipating, she said, that he would attempt to stay longer than his term.


DeSantis’ retreat shows Moms for Liberty’s influence is finally waning” via The Daily Beast — It was no small thing for DeSantis to call for the resignation of Florida Republican Party Chair Christian Ziegler as he faces rape accusations from a woman claiming to have been in a three-way relationship with him and his wife, one of the co-founders of right-wing group Moms for Liberty. That’s according to The New Abnormal hosts Andy Levy and Danielle Moodie, who argue this week that DeSantis’ decision to abandon his onetime allies shows that Moms for Liberty’s influence over the Republican Party may finally be waning. “That Christian Ziegler and the Zieglers, in general, are being sort of pushed aside, or being told to step aside, so rapidly is a sign that Republicans, at least at some level, are realizing that this Moms for Liberty type of shit is just not paying off for them,” Levy said.

Moms for Liberty loses some of its juice with Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis proposes $1 million for potential litigation expenses following FSU playoff snub” via Owen Girard of Florida’s Voice — DeSantis recommended setting aside $1 million for potential litigation expenses following Florida State University controversially not being chosen to compete in the College Football Playoff. “We’re setting aside a million dollars for any litigation expenses that may be caused as a result of this really, really poor decision by the College Football Playoff — to exclude an undefeated team who won a big Power Five conference championship,” DeSantis said. “It’s unfortunate that we have to even do that, but we are going to put aside a million dollars and let the chips fall where they may on that,” he said.

DeSantis is not going to curry any sympathy to Florida State’s cause” via Sean Beckwith of Deadspin — Far be it for me to try to think like a Floridian, but there’s no other way to understand the state’s latest misadventure with Captain Ron. Following the Selection Committee’s snub of Florida State for a spot in the College Football Playoff, the great people of Tallahassee chose DeSantis as their unofficial mascot for a Stop the Snub campaign. The Florida Governor and failing 2024 presidential hopeful is one of the most reviled humans in America outside of Florida. He had a campaign rally cut short earlier this year by protesters yelling “Ron DeFascist” and “pudding fingers” over a megaphone. The man waged war on the LGBTQ+ community and Disney World.

Disney’s Reedy Creek blasted as ‘corporate cronyism’ in DeSantis district’s report” via Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — A new report drafted for DeSantis’ tourism oversight district slams Reedy Creek, the government Disney effectively ran for decades, calling it the “most egregious exhibition of corporate cronyism in modern American history.” The 80-page review of the Reedy Creek Improvement District accuses the previous Disney-aligned leadership of offering “benefits and perks that were akin to bribes” and failing to meet affordable housing and transportation needs in Central Florida created by Disney World. “It had established an extra-constitutional governing authority — ‘an experimental absolute monarchy’ — within the borders of the State of Florida, and, accordingly, the United States — one that strikingly resembled, without exaggeration, a kingdom of yore,” the report concludes.


Democrats pushing forward with Ukraine and Israel aid amid growing dispute over border funding” via Caitlin Yilek of CBS News — Senate Democrats are moving ahead with a vote this week on Biden’s request for $106 billion in emergency funding, including billions in foreign aid, amid a growing dispute with Republicans over security funding for the U.S.-Mexico border. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer set up a key procedural vote on the supplemental spending package that includes aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan for Wednesday. “Sometimes a failed cloture vote is just a failed cloture vote, and tomorrow we are going to fail to pass it,” Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat from Colorado, said Tuesday, referring to the legislative maneuver to end debate on a bill.

Chuck Schumer is pushing for more aid to Ukraine and Israel.

Lawmakers say Congress could strike deal on overall government funding this week” via Aris Folley of The Hill — Lawmakers say Congress could be closing in on a top-line deal on overall government funding for most of next year, as the House and Senate race to reach a compromise in time to avert a shutdown next month. Spending cardinals in both chambers Tuesday said they could receive a top-line spending level from leadership for Congress’s 12 annual government funding bills in the coming days, as Republicans and Democrats clamor to begin negotiations.

Supreme Court hears case that could make it harder for Congress to tax the rich” via Tami Luhby of CNN — The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that could both save the rich billions of dollars and hamper Biden and Democrats from imposing certain types of wealth taxes in the future. The case, Moore vs the United States, could have sweeping ramifications for the existing tax code, potentially overturning multiple provisions that largely hit well-off Americans and costing the federal government hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue. The case centers on a measure in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which Republicans in Congress passed in 2017. It created a one-time transition tax levied on shareholders on undistributed profits accrued between 1986 and the end of 2017 by certain foreign corporations that are majority owned by Americans. The provision is expected to raise $340 billion over a decade.

Tommy Tuberville ends blockade of most military promotions” via Jacob Knutson and Juliegrace Brufke of Axios — Sen. Tuberville said on Tuesday he will partially lift his one-man blockade that has held up hundreds of military promotions in the Senate. The Alabama Republican’s boycott delayed more than 400 military promotions for months and drew bipartisan criticism for jeopardizing military readiness. Tuberville, who initiated the boycott in protest of a Pentagon abortion policy, said he will continue to block the promotion of all senior military positions that are four stars or higher.

House Speaker Mike Johnson’s honeymoon period is over. Congress is still bracing for fights.” via Ken Tran of USA Today — Some of the House of Representatives’ most conservative lawmakers are warning that newly elected Speaker Johnson’s grace period is over. As Congress braces for a battle to avoid a government shutdown and approves crucial legislation such as an annual defense policy bill, the Louisiana Republican’s initial weeks in office, which some members have likened to a honeymoon, are coming to a close. Johnson’s relationship with the conference’s hard-right wing is now “like any marriage or any relationship,” Rep. Andy Ogles, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said.

The honeymoon is over.

Patrick McHenry, who steered House as temporary Speaker, won’t seek re-election” via Kristina Peterson of The Wall Street Journal — Rep. McHenry, who steered the House through unprecedented turmoil as the temporary Speaker for three weeks earlier this year, said he wouldn’t run for re-election. “I will be retiring from Congress at the end of my current term,” McHenry said in a statement Tuesday. “This is not a decision I come to lightly, but I believe there is a season for everything and — for me — this season has come to an end.”

—”University presidents testify before Congress on rise of antisemitism, violence on campus” via Mark Bergin of WRAL

Anthony Fauci to testify before Congress about pandemic mandates, COVID-19 origins” via Sudiksha Kochi of USA Today — Dr. Fauci, former chief White House medical adviser, will testify before Congress early next year on the origins of COVID-19 and other preventive steps officials took in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Fauci’s testimony comes as the House’s Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus continues to investigate the pandemic. Rep. Brad Wenstrup announced Fauci’s appearance on Tuesday. “It is time for Dr. Fauci to confront the facts and address the numerous controversies that have arisen during and after the pandemic,” Wenstrup, the GOP Committee Chair, said in a statement.


Jimmy Patronis wants to see CFP Committee playbook — CFO Patronis sent a letter to College Football Playoff Committee Chair Boo Corrigan asking for the voting records of all 13 Committee members in the wake of FSU falling on the bad side of the playoff bubble despite being the undefeated champions of a Power Five conference. “I firmly believe that transparency is the best disinfectant and decisions this big cannot be made behind closed doors. I’m offering you and every CFP Committee member an opportunity to come forward with full details on how each vote was cast for the entire 2023 college football season and document the reasoning behind each vote,” Patronis wrote. “This is the only way to shine light on the process behind this historic decision and work to ensure any trust in this Committee in the future.” He concluded, “ … The future of college football is at stake, and the eyes of the sports world and the college football community are watching. I look forward to your prompt reply to this request.”

Jimmy Patronis demands answers.

Senate panel tenders approval for proposed ban on no-cash businesses” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A bill that would prohibit most brick-and-mortar businesses from refusing paper and coin payments has cleared its first Senate stop. The measure (SB 106), sponsored by Sen. Shevrin Jones, has two more panels to clear before reaching a floor vote. “Now in Florida, many businesses have opted for cashless payment — and it’s definitely … clear that there has been a shift toward cashless payments over the years — but we’re definitely leaving some people behind,” he said. “This stipulation impacts individuals and families who may not have electronic payments as a method of payment.”

Senate panel advances bill to protect consumers from moving company scams” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A bill that would create new safeguards for consumers against moving company scams is en route to a second hearing after receiving unanimous approval in its first Senate stop. The measure (SB 304) aims to hold movers and the businesses that connect them with customers more accountable by increasing documentation requirements and banning them from withholding people’s possessions for exorbitant sums. Members of the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee voted to advance it. The bill has two more stops before heading to a floor vote. “This bill is about transparency and accountability and works to broaden protections for consumers,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Ed Hooper, who has tried for several Sessions to get it passed.

Bill requiring competitive concert ticket sales in Florida stalls at entry gate” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A renewed effort to return soaring event ticket prices to levels more affordable to the Florida masses hit a snag in its first hearing. After failing to see sufficient support among members of the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee, Sen. Jason Brodeur, the bill’s (SB 204) sponsor, postponed a vote on it. Brodeur’s measure and its identical House companion (HB 177) by Rep. Alex Andrade are the latest in a yearslong push to counteract what many consider to be a monopoly for event ticket sales. So far, the monopoly holder, Ticketmaster, has stymied those efforts with help from its venue partners.

Moms for Liberty co-founders ‘truly shaken’ by ‘serious’ rape allegation against Ziegler” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — “We have been truly shaken to read of the serious, criminal allegations against Christian Ziegler,” said Moms for Liberty co-founders Tina Descovich and Tiffany Justice. “We believe any allegation of sexual assault should be taken seriously and fully investigated.” The statement from Moms for Liberty stressed that Bridget Ziegler, now a Sarasota County School Board member, hasn’t been deeply engaged in the organization since shortly after its founding. “Bridget Ziegler resigned from her role as co-founder with Moms for Liberty within a month of our launch in January 2021, nearly three years ago,” Descovich and Justice said. “She has remained an avid warrior for parental rights across the country.” The relationship has called the future of Moms for Liberty into question.

The Zieglers’ extracurricular activities are causing quite a mess.

—“LGBTQ advocates, Florida Democrats accuse Zieglers of sexual hypocrisy” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

—”Rick Scott says Ziegler should resign after ‘disturbing’ rape allegations” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

—”Blaise Ingoglia says it’s ‘impossible’ for Ziegler to remain Florida GOP Chair” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

Dana Trabulsy to host CPR Training Day — Rep. Trabulsy, alongside the organization Who We Play For, is hosting a free event in Tallahassee to help lawmakers, aides, staff and family members learn CPR. Each lesson includes 30 minutes of training. Who We Play For is an organization dedicated to combating sudden cardiac arrest. The training will take place later today at the 307 House Office Building in the Education Conference Room. The classes start at 8 a.m. and run every 45 minutes throughout the day, with the final session beginning at 4:15 p.m. Those interested can register here.

Hard Rock sports betting app is now available to everyone in Florida” via Shira Moolten of the Orlando Sentinel — The Seminole Tribe’s mobile sports betting app is now available to all Floridians, Hard Rock Chair Jim Allen confirmed Tuesday. The app, Hard Rock Bet, launched in early November in a “limited” fashion for existing customers from its previous, short-lived launch in 2021, with a waitlist for new customers. Since its launch, growing numbers of users have gained access. The app became fully available Tuesday, Allen said during an interview about the planned launch of in-person sports betting, craps and roulette at the tribe’s South Florida casinos on Thursday. The full launch comes amid two lawsuits filed by West Flagler Associates, a group of betting companies, which seek to halt mobile sports betting.

Leg sked:

8:30 a.m. The Senate Military and Veterans Affairs, Space and Domestic Security Committee meets for an update from Space Florida President and CEO Robert Long. Room 301, Senate Office Building.

8:30 a.m. The Senate Regulated Industries Committee meets to consider SB 42 from Sen. Linda Stewart to deal with the licensing of barbers and cosmetologists. Room 401, Senate Office Building.

9 a.m. The House Civil Justice Subcommittee meets to consider HB 103 from Rep. Kristen Arrington to provide a public-records exemption for personal information about county attorneys, city attorneys and their family members. Room 404, House Office Building.

11 a.m. The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee meets to consider SB 32 from Sen. Ileana Garcia to bolster the state’s mangroves to help protect barrier islands and aid restoration of Biscayne Bay. Room 301, Senate Office Building.

11 a.m. The Senate Transportation Committee meets for an update from the Department of Transportation and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles about the agencies’ legislative priorities. Room 110, Senate Office Building.

11:30 a.m. The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee meets to consider HB 187 from Rep. Mike Gottlieb to create a definition of antisemitism in state law. Room 404, House Office Building.

11:30 a.m. The House Energy, Communications & Cybersecurity Subcommittee meets to discuss energy issues such as liquefied natural gas and renewable natural gas. Reed Hall, House Office Building.

11:30 a.m. The House Postsecondary Education & Workforce Subcommittee meets to consider HB 501 from Rep. Jason Shoaf to rename Tallahassee Community College as Tallahassee State College. Morris Hall, House Office Building.

2 p.m. The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee meets for an update on DeSantis’ proposed 2024-2025 budget. Room 412, Knott Building.

2 p.m. The Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Committee will receive a presentation about DeSantis’ proposed 2024-2025 budget. Room 110, Senate Office Building.

2 p.m. The Senate Finance and Tax Committee meets for an update on the communications services tax. Room 37, Senate Office Building.

2 p.m. The House Healthcare Regulation Subcommittee meets to consider HB 201 from Rep. Melony Bell to allow pharmacists to provide emergency refills of 30-day supplies of insulin. Reed Hall, House Office Building.

2 p.m. The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee meets to discuss funding charter schools sponsored by state colleges or universities. Morris Hall, House Office Building.

2 p.m. The House Regulatory Reform & Economic Development Subcommittee meets for an update about how social media affects minors. Room 212, Knott Building.

4:15 p.m. The Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Committee meets for an update about DeSantis’ proposed 2024-2025 budget. Room 110, Senate Office Building.

4:15 p.m. The Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Committee meets for an update on DeSantis’ proposed 2024-2025 budget. Room 37, Senate Office Building.

4:15 p.m. The Senate Education Appropriations Committee meets for an update on DeSantis’ proposed 2024-2025 budget. Room 412, Knott Building.

Happening today — The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) will hold a news conference at the Florida Capitol on the release of its report: “Political Interference and Academic Freedom in Florida’s Public Higher Education System.” 10 a.m., 4th Floor, outside House Chambers.

Personnel note: FWC announces new Assistant Executive Director, Chief Conservation Officer —Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Executive Director Roger Young announced that Charles “Rett” Boyd will serve as Assistant Executive Director and George Warthen as Chief Conservation Officer at FWC. “I am thrilled to have Rett and George in these two important leadership positions. Both have extensive experience within the FWC, and I have no doubt they will bring a visionary approach and unwavering dedication to furthering our conservation efforts,” Young said. Boyd has worked at FWC since 2003 after graduating from Law Enforcement Academy Class 5. Since 2016, he has served as the Deputy Chief of LE. Warthen started at FWC in 2010 with the Division of Hunting and Game Management. He moved to Tallahassee in 2019 to serve as the HGM Division Director.


Truth, truth:

Happening tonight:

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Local Republicans not happy with Governor’s appointment of new St. Lucie County Sheriff” via Will Greenlee of Treasure Coast Newspapers — DeSantis’ appointment of Lt. Keith Pearson to be Sheriff after the abrupt resignation of longtime Sheriff Ken Mascara shocked local Republican leaders, who asked DeSantis to reconsider the decision. DeSantis, a Republican, tapped Pearson the same day Mascara, a Democrat in his sixth term, notified the Governor about his sudden retirement. In a letter Mascara released to the public, he cited ongoing “health issues.” Multiple attempts to reach Mascara for comment since the announcement were unsuccessful. By Monday, Pearson had filed paperwork as part of running as a Republican in the 2024 Sheriff’s Election. Kenny Nail, Chair of the St. Lucie County Republican Executive Committee, said he was “speechless.”

Not everyone is pleased with Keith Pearson’s appointment.

Former President George W. Bush, at FAU, weighs in on 2024 Election and Israel-Hamas war” via Abigail Hasebroock of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Former President Bush intends to vote in the 2024 Presidential Election, but he might write in the name of his brother, Jeb Bush — or his late Scottish terrier, Barney. Though joking, Bush echoed a concern many Americans cite about two of the prospective candidates: their age. “I predict that most Americans think we’re too damn old at the top,” Bush, 77, said. “I’m too old to be President. I know what it takes to be President, and I’m younger than Biden and Trump.” Bush is about four years younger than current President Biden and about one month younger than Trump.

Protesters rally to stop more development on agricultural land in Martin County” via Keith Burbank of Treasure Coast Newspapers — More than two dozen people rallied outside the County Administration Building, trying to prevent a land-use change that may eliminate more agricultural land in the area. County Commissioners were to consider changing the “rural lifestyle” land-use category, which allows for large-scale development such as homes on agricultural land. Protesters carried signs saying, “Stop overdevelopment” and “Save USB” — referring to the county urban services boundary, where utilities such as water and sewers are extended — ahead of the Commission meeting. The proposed amendment “is the most direct threat to the ‘Martin County difference,’” said Jim Moir, executive director of the Indian Riverkeeper, a group that aims to protect and restore the Indian River Lagoon.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Guy LaLonde decisively wins Lakeland’s NW District. Clifford Dollison wins in Winter Haven” via Sara-Megan Walsh of the Lakeland Ledger — LaLonde decisively won over Lakeland voters to become the elected representative of the city’s Northwest District. LaLonde received 4,173 ballots, or 57.5% of the votes, against interim Commissioner Sam Simmons, who received about 42.5% of the total vote. LaLonde, 56, is the owner of Lakeland Moonwalk and Under One Tent Events, party rental and supply companies based in Lakeland. He serves as the Vice Chair of Polk County’s Housing Finance Authority, the Central Florida Speech and Hearing board and is Chair of KidsPACK, a local nonprofit that helps feed children in need. If elected, LaLonde said the city’s infrastructure will be a critical issue moving forward. He planned to make sure Lakeland’s roadways, electrical resources and basic needs are taken care of.

Orange County’s October TDT figures worse than same time last year” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Tourist-tax collections fell slightly in October, compared to the same month in 2022, continuing a downward trend that began in April. The year-over-year drop was the sixth month in the past seven that revenues fell short of collections from the previous year, said Orange County Comptroller Phil Diamond, who tracks receipts from the assessment also known as the Tourist Development Tax or TDT for short. Before this, TDT collections broke records as travel rebounded after the COVID-19 pandemic. Revenues from the tax, a 6% levy on short-term lodgings including hotel rooms and home-sharing options like Airbnb rentals, totaled $29.4 million in October, up about $4.5 million from September but down $2 million from October 2022.

Phil Diamond has some bad news for Orange County.

Volusia County Schools could rezone more than 950 students across 20 schools” via Mary Ellen Ritter of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — Volusia County Schools is considering rezoning at least 951 students across the district next year to accommodate for overcrowding as eight schools currently exceed capacity. “In late 2022, the School Board directed district staff to evaluate the growth areas across Volusia County to address the overutilization and underutilization of schools,” said Danielle Johnson, Volusia’s director of community information, in an email. “Staff assessed school enrollments, growth projections, demographics, permanent school capacities, specific academic programs and student travel times.” Additionally, by placing students in schools closer to their homes, the district hopes to decrease travel times and create a more supportive and sustainable community, according to its website.

October surprise? Home prices hit record high in Daytona, despite inventory uptick” via Clayton Park of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — Despite an increase in new listings, home prices in Volusia County set an all-time high in October. Realtors in neighboring Flagler County also reported an uptick in new listings, which helped home sales hold steady in October as prices hovered just below record levels. Realtors in Volusia County closed 567 sales of single-family homes in October, down 28.5% from 793 the same month last year, according to countywide numbers from the West Volusia Association of Realtors. There’s a reason for the sharp decline: last year’s back-to-back hurricanes. Ian hit Southwest Florida in late September 2022 and swept through Volusia County as a tropical storm. Nicole hit 45 days later in early November.

Orlando’s first Skyline Chili has Cincinnatians lining up” via Amy Drew Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel — When Daniel Hunsucker opened the Orlando metro’s first-ever Skyline Chili franchise back on Nov. 8, there was a lot of excitement. Ohio transplants and folks from the greater Cincinnati area flocked to Winter Garden to get a taste of home. Lines were out the door for a week. Hunsucker ate Skyline five times a week as a high schooler growing up in the Cincinnati suburb of Blue Ash. Cincinnatians love their chili. They’ve been loving it since the 1920s, in fact, when a trio of brothers, Greek immigrants, did their own take on something Americans already loved, but with a spin that satisfied the cravings of their countrymen, adding familiar spices like cinnamon, clove, nutmeg.


Crystal River official ends City Council bid for School Board run instead” via Mike Wright of Florida Politics — One of the oddest chapters in Crystal River politics took an abrupt turn when Council member Ken Frink announced he was dropping out of a March Special Election and instead running for Citrus County School Board. Frink notified Citrus County Supervisor of Elections Maureen “Mo” Baird to remove his name from the March 19 City Council ballot. A Citrus County blog, Just Wright Citrus, first reported Frink’s decision on its Facebook page. The City Council appointed Frink, the former City Manager, in August to the post vacated by the death of Council member Pat Fitzpatrick. The appointment was good until the March Special Election. The winner then will serve until the November 2024 Election.

Ken Frink switches gears.

USF voices support for free speech amid dispute over pro-Palestinian group” via Divya Kumar of the Tampa Bay Times — In their first public comments since receiving a state mandate to disband a pro-Palestinian student group, the University of South Florida’s top leaders said Tuesday they are committed to supporting First Amendment rights of all on campus. Their comments followed recent lawsuits filed against the state, the University of Florida and USF in response to an Oct. 24 letter from State University System chancellor Ray Rodrigues calling on the schools to disband local chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine. In comments at Tuesday’s USF Board of Trustees meeting, Board Chair Will Weatherford and USF President Rhea Law did not explicitly mention Rodrigues’ mandate or whether the university planned to carry it out. But they spoke at length about the school’s obligation to respect free speech. Weatherford started the meeting by condemning the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks and expressing sorrow for “all the innocent victims in the region have been directly affected by the continuing conflict.” “It’s a very complex situation and is a very complex time in our world,” he said.

Take a look: USF releases first renderings of new stadium, new $6M gift” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — The University of South Florida (USF) is giving a first look at its proposed new stadium, with renderings along with new details about the plan and a new $6 million gift for the project. The renderings show a state-of-the-art open-air stadium with 360-degree seating, as well as an adjacent athletics facility and practice fields. The plan also includes a large space for tailgating on the north side of the stadium. Inside, there will be a variety of premium seating options, including suites, boxes and club areas. Also included in new renderings is an entry arch to “Champions Way,” named for USF Federal Credit Union, which provided a $6 million gift to secure naming rights to the stadium’s main entrance. The USF Board of Trustees, also on Tuesday, confirmed the stadium is set to open in the Fall of 2027.

Faith in Florida leaders urge St. Pete to put residents first in Gas Plant District redevelopment” via Keely McCormick of ABC Action News — A local group is urging St. Pete city leaders to choose residents over developers in regard to the redevelopment of the historic Gas Plant District. The plans promise to bring a new stadium for the Rays and affordable housing. Organizers with the group Faith in Florida say it’s not enough affordable housing. Faith in Florida has been running the “St. Pete is not for sale” campaign for about a year now to urge city leaders to put residents first. “In a larger conversation about displacement and race and community, our goal is that the redevelopment prioritizes residents and not private equity or for-profit companies,” Dylan Dames said. The city will vote on stadium and development agreements in early 2024. Construction will start early next Fall. Faith in Florida is hosting a meeting on Thursday, Dec. 7, from 6 — 8 p.m. at the Enoch Davis Recreation Center, 1111 18th Ave. S, St. Petersburg.

Clearwater police no longer arresting protesters over abortion clinic buffer” via Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times — The Clearwater Police Department is no longer arresting protesters who violate a vehicle safety zone at an abortion clinic after the county’s top prosecutor said he would not pursue obstruction charges from the incidents. The City Council enacted the buffer zone in March, which prohibits protesters from entering the driveway of Bread and Roses Woman’s Health Center or the portion of sidewalk within 5 feet of either side of the driveway. The measure was a response to the escalation of Saturday demonstrations where some protesters blocked cars and walked up to windows to yell at patients entering and exiting. Police Chief Eric Gandy said officers had been enforcing the ordinance first with verbal warnings, then with citations and, finally, arrests as a last resort for same-day, repeat violators.

Tampa doctor must pay $1.5 million for part in ‘Pain Hustlers’ scheme” via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — A new Netflix movie starring Emily Blunt and Chris Evans shows how an Arizona-based pharmaceutical company persuaded doctors to prescribe a fentanyl-based painkiller by giving them kickback payments disguised as speaking fees. The movie, Pain Hustlers, is based on the story of Insys Therapeutics, whose CEO and president, John Kapoor, was sentenced to 5.5 years in prison for racketeering charges in 2020. Tampa pain management doctor Edward Lubin was one of those who participated in the scheme, according to a Department of Justice news release. In exchange for prescribing Subsys, a fentanyl mouth spray, Lubin received roughly $160,000 in kickbacks from the pharmaceutical manufacturer, according to the release. The payments were disguised as fees for speaking at sham informational events that lasted a few minutes, never occurred, or were merely repeating the same information to the same attendees. It was a model that Insys repeated across much of the country to boost sales.

‘Pain Hustlers’ was based on true events — many of them in Florida.

Construction underway for new power plant at MacDill Air Force Base” via Courtney Holland of WTSP — MacDill Air Force Base held a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday morning officially marking the start of construction for a new power plant. Tampa Electric is working on the power plant for the military base which officials say will improve efficiency for the growing community in Tampa. The new power plant will allow the military base to “operate independently from the broader electricity grid in times of emergency,” leaders with MacDill explain in a news release.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

DeSantis seeks another big budget boost at New College” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A budget proposal from DeSantis provides more than $37 million for New College of Florida. That’s not including the reappropriation of money marked for the Sarasota school last year. “Gov. DeSantis has demonstrated his commitment to New College’s growth and improvement in this budget and we sincerely appreciate his continued support,” said New College President Richard Corcoran. “This is an important first step in structuring next year’s budget, and we look forward to working with the Legislature over the next several months to secure funds to serve our students and a bright future for New College.”

Richard Corcoran praises DeSantis’ continued support of New College.

Valdosta residents continue to experience sewage leaks” via Adrian Andrews of WFSU — Four Valdosta homes experienced flooding. On Saturday, Valdosta city officials say the leak in the 2100 block of Pin Oak Circle caused wastewater to exit the drain cleanouts of four homes. A Valdosta spokesperson says the issue resulted from a chunk of asphalt getting caught in the city’s main sewer line. The city fixed the problem on the same day the flooding occurred. However, this is not the first time Valdosta residents have had problems with their sewage. Officials are working to rehab their sewage collection system. That includes “Manhole Rehab, the Smoke Testing Program, Sewer Main Lining, and Sewer Main Replacement.”

Pensacola proposes ‘public safety’ ordinance that carries up to $500 fine for panhandling” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Mayor D.C. Reeves is proposing a new “public safety” ordinance that effectively bans panhandling along all roadways in the city. The proposed ordinance never mentions panhandling directly. It describes itself as banning “dangerous use of public rights of way,” and it specifically makes it illegal for a pedestrian to interact with a car in a roadway. Violating the ordinance can mean a fine of up to $500 or 60 days in jail, or both. When asked if the ordinance was aimed at panhandling, Reeves told the News Journal it was about public safety.

Bolles School to open STEM-rich innovation center in 2024 with help of $5M gifts” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — Gifts from two Jacksonville households are covering $10 million of the $26 million price tag for the largest construction project in almost a century at the Bolles School’s San Jose campus. The 47,000-square-foot Center for Innovation, a STEM learning center for the elite private school, is scheduled to open by March for the school year’s final quarter, Bolles Associate Head of School Mike Drew said. The center’s 15 classrooms will include space for science, math and technology programs in addition to the building’s half-dozen labs for biology, chemistry and physics and “flex” labs for robotics, computer science and fabrication equipment.

Northwest Florida State College President Dr. Devin Stephenson receives Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges Carol A. Luthman Meritorious Service Award — On Monday, Stephenson received the prestigious Southern Association of College and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) Carol A. Luthman Meritorious Service Award during. Each year, the SACSCOC awards individuals across the Southern United States with Meritorious Service Awards for their faithful and dedicated service and support of the SACSCOC. This award honors outstanding service to the accreditation processes, including exceptional leadership and volunteerism. “I am deeply honored to receive the SACSCOC Carol A. Luthman Meritorious Service Award,” expressed NWFSC President Stephenson. “This recognition is a testament to the collective efforts of NWFSC and our shared commitment to educational excellence. Together, we strive to transform lives through impactful programs and innovative experiences, preparing students for success in our dynamic world.”

Devin Stephenson is recognized for his faithful and dedicated service and support of the SACSCOC.

Veterans Tribute Tower Committee reaches goal ahead of Wreaths Across America event” via Collin Bestor of the Northwest Florida Daily News — For the past year, Tom Rice and Dennis Krebs of the Veterans Tribute Tower Committee have worked hard to reach the 1,800-wreath goal for the Dec. 16 Wreaths Across America event at Beal Memorial Cemetery. Founded in 2007, Wreaths Across America is a nonprofit organization that provides wreaths for veterans in more than 4,000 cemeteries across the country and American military cemeteries overseas. This year will be the fifth year that veterans buried at Beal Memorial Cemetery will receive wreaths.


Is a Mayor coming to Marco Island? Council elects Chair and Vice Chair, talks about raise” via J. Kyle Foster of the Naples Daily News — As it does annually, the Marco Island City Council elected a new Chair and Vice Chair. Then they voted to move a salary increase and a change to the title of Mayor one step closer to voters. Jared Grifoni, who served as Vice Chair in 2023, was unanimously elected Chair. He also was Chair in 2021. Council member Joe Rola nominated Rich Blonna for the position; he declined the nomination. Grifoni’s role began immediately. Erik Brechnitz, who nominated Grifoni for Chair, was elected as Vice Chair by a 4-3 vote. He was nominated by Council member and immediate past Chair Greg Folley. Grifoni nominated Council member Blonna.

Jared Grifoni inches closer to becoming Marco Island’s new Mayor.

Marco Island to consider allowing office conversion to apartments for affordable housing” via J. Kyle Foster of the Naples Daily News — Marco Island planners are looking to give employers an option to help employees with housing they can afford near where they work. A proposal going before the city’s Planning Board on Jan. 5 would allow upper levels of commercial strip shopping centers to be used for workforce/affordable housing. The proposed ordinance also would repeal the “affordable housing density bonus” that offered additional parking benefits with affordable housing construction. The changes would align the city’s land development code with the Live Local Act state law that went into effect in July. Live Local Act is a state law designed to encourage the development of affordable and workforce housing.

Sarasota School Board member Tom Edwards calls on Bridget Ziegler to resign amid scandal” via Steven Walker of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Sarasota County School Board member Edwards called for colleague Ziegler to resign from the Board amid accusations that her husband sexually assaulted a woman who had been part of a three-way relationship with him and Bridget Ziegler. Edwards, a self-described moderate endorsed by Sarasota Democrats, has been in the voting minority on the Board since a conservative-leaning majority that included Ziegler rose to power last year. Following the sexual assault allegation against Christian Ziegler, Edwards said that last year’s School Board Chair has become too much of a distraction for the district. “She is nothing but a distraction from before and only getting worse, and it will never go away as long as she sits there,” he said.

Collier homeowners group in “citizen’s revolt” against 93-year-old Collier Property Appraiser” via Bob Norman of the Florida Trident — Susan Piekenbrock said when she first looked at this year’s tax bill from the Collier County Property Appraiser’s Office, her “eyes popped out of her head.” The tax bill on her dream house in The Moorings beach neighborhood that she shares with her husband Robert was roughly $44,785, up from $26,300 the previous year, which was up from $12,551 in 2021 — representing a near quadrupling of taxes owed in just a few years. Now desperate, she remembered that a friend had mentioned a neighbor who seemed to be a wizard at forcing the Collier County Property Appraiser to reduce property assessments, a Realtor named Carl Suarez. For Suarez, holding the property appraiser to account is a passion, if not an obsession. He has become something of a Pied Piper for homeowners like Piekenbrock.


Amid the titillating details of Ziegler scandal, don’t lose the damage done to Florida” via Fabiola Santiago of the Miami Herald — The power couple — Christian chairs the Florida GOP and Bridget is the Sarasota School Board member who helped launch Moms of Liberty — made a name for themselves by throwing their political weight into a calibrated campaign to dehumanize, damage and humiliate the state’s gay community.

Now, the microscope has turned on them and the detailed allegations about their not-so-conservative lifestyle — contained in a search warrant affidavit filed in Manatee County court that leaves little to the imagination — should reopen the debate over the elimination of LGBTQ+ issues from education.

Their hypocrisy adds quite a spin to the “Don’t Say Gay” law pushed and signed by DeSantis in 2022 — and still turning School Board meetings into spectacles of ignorance and anti-gay hate.

It cannot be said enough: Parents and gay children have suffered immeasurably from the fires the Zieglers and their followers stoked pushing the lie that children were being groomed in Florida schools to be gay and trans. There hasn’t been evidence that they were, but conservative-talking Moms for Liberty pushed — and are still pushing nationwide — that talking point to justify homophobia-driven state education policy.

Erasing a safe space at school for Black and gay youths or those who are also Caribbean or Latino is especially hideous because disclosing a gay or trans identity to parents in some of those cases can get you thrown out of the house.

And all of this is for what?

The Zieglers could’ve used their considerable organizing skills for the betterment of humankind instead of using gay children as political pawns. But they chose, instead, to hide behind conservatism in order to push their political anti-gay agenda.

And now, they and their family are suffering, too.


‘Cry more!’ Florida SAT scores sink again while education leaders act like online trolls” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — New rankings show Florida students are posting some of the lowest SAT scores in America. We’re talking 46th place. Down another 17 points overall to 966. Florida trails other Southern states like South Carolina and Georgia. We somehow now even slightly trail Washington, D.C., a district long maligned as one of the supposedly worst in America. Reporter Leslie Postal spent weeks trying to get public records about a newly hired state education employee. Postal wrote up the piece, and Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz shared the piece on Twitter (now X) with a two-word comment: “Cry more!”

To reckon with climate change, insurance regulators must protect options for consumers” via Sean Shaw in Florida Politics — When Farmers Insurance announced earlier this year that it would no longer offer home insurance policies in Florida, the company joined a long list of insurers who refuse to do business in the Sunshine State. For consumers, it is just the latest chapter in a crisis that has been unfolding for years: the dangerous conditions caused by climate change have become so threatening that insurers are no longer willing to shield residents from its financial risks. Given the steady departure of insurers from the state, the move was hardly a surprise, but it would be hard to blame the 100,000 affected homeowners for feeling like they had the rug pulled out from underneath them.

Secret police have no place in Florida” via Caitlin Vogus of the Tampa Bay Times — Floridians will finally find out the names of two Tallahassee police officers who shot and killed two suspects in separate incidents in May 2020, the same month that Minneapolis police murdered George Floyd. Late last week, the Florida Supreme Court rejected an effort by a police union to keep the names of the officers secret under a law called Marsy’s Law, meant to protect the privacy of victims. Incredibly, the union argued the victims’ rights law applies to the officers because they claimed to have acted in self-defense when they killed two men in the line of duty.

Armando J. Ibarra: Empowering parents to protect kids online is common sense” via Florida Politics — As our society spends more time on digital platforms, lawmakers face the crucial task of ensuring children’s safety online. Social media has had a major impact on young generations, as we have seen with the addictive and often harmful effects on children from TikTok. Guardrails should be in place to protect kids’ well-being. Empowering parents to oversee which apps their children download is common sense and a necessary solution. The debate within Congress has spurred states to take their own steps to protect kids online and give parents tools to supervise their children’s access to social media. This year, two states – Utah and Arkansas – passed age verification laws that will implement age-related barriers for children’s online usage. But despite these well-intentioned motives, these bills were poorly executed.


— ALOE —

Watch the trailer for Grand Theft Auto VI, a return to Vice City (AKA Miami)” via Jose D. Duran of the Miami New Times — The internet was abuzz last week when, at long last, Rockstar Games announced that the trailer for Grand Theft Auto VI would drop at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, December 5. Leaks had already dropped that the franchise was set to return to Vice City, the game’s fictional take on Miami and Miami Beach, which first appeared on 2002’s Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. The trailer shows next-generation graphics that should look amazing regardless of whether you play it on your PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, or PC.

To watch the trailer, please click the image below:


Mark this down in holiday history — Congress has seen its first resolution co-introduced by an Elf on the Shelf. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna this year kicked off what could be a new Christmas tradition by designating an office elf but granting the pixie some legislative prestige: Meet Rep. Nutmeg, the first Representative for the North Pole. The diminutive official since has toured the Capitol district and posted photos on X and Instagram. While Luna is a conservative Republican, Nutmeg’s posts have a nonpartisan tone, despite the solidly red wardrobe. On Tuesday, Nutmeg achieved an important milestone for a lawmaker, co-introducing a first piece of legislation. Submitted with Luna, the resolution would establish Dec. 24, Christmas Eve, as “Christmas Cookie Day” and encourage all kids to leave cookies for Santa. On a more serious note, Luna’s staff says the Elf aims to educate children about the workings of Washington and allow children of all means to participate in the Elf on the Shelf tradition.

Mr. Nutmeg goes to Washington.


Celebrating today is one of Southwest Florida’s finest, Vickie Brill, as well as Lara Medley Prewitt.


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

Peter Schorsch

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


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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

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

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
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