Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 12.8.23

Sunburn Orange Tally (5)
Politics, process, personalities: ‘Sunburn’ tells you what you need to know — now.

Good Friday morning.

Breaking overnight — “Hunter Biden indicted on tax charges” via Glenn Thrush and Michael S. Schmidt of The New York Times — Biden was indicted late Thursday on nine federal counts accusing him of evading federal taxes on millions of dollars he has made in his work with foreign companies. A grand jury in the Central District of California charged Biden with three counts each of evasion of a tax assessment, failure to file and pay taxes, and filing a false or fraudulent tax return, according to the 56-page indictment. The indictment stems from a special counsel investigation of Biden and is the second against him this year.

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Nearly three-quarters of a million Florida kids are living in poverty according to new data released by the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Though the childhood poverty rate is falling — and has for the past seven years — still represents more than one in six children in the state, and the Chamber is calling on the business community to do what it can to keep things going in the right direction.

The Florida Chamber is calling on businesses to help cut the rate of child poverty in half.

The Florida Chamber Foundation’s Florida Prosperity Project, through its Florida Equality of Opportunity Initiative, already has a detailed plan in place that would cut the childhood poverty rate in half by 2030 and ensure that those still living in poverty have a fighting chance to get out.

The Chamber says hitting the mark on childhood poverty is essential to achieving the overarching goal of the Florida 2030 Blueprint: growing Florida into a Top 10 economy if measured as a nation. Last year, the Sunshine State’s economic output was about $1.5 trillion, which would put it neck-and-neck with No. 15 Spain.

As part of the Florida Prosperity Project, the Chamber has compiled detailed statistics that drill down to the ZIP code level, which can help businesses of all sizes identify what’s most needed in the communities they serve.

More stats and information are available on the initiative’s website. Additionally, county-level poverty metrics are available at TheFloridaScorecard.org and ZIP code-level data can be found on The Florida Gap Map.

These stats and the Chamber’s plan to improve them will take center stage at the 2024 Florida Prosperity & Economic Opportunity Solution Summit on May 23 in Coral Springs.

— DAYS UNTIL —

2023 Florida Chamber Annual Insurance Summit — 6; Zack Snyder’s ‘Rebel Moon’ premieres — 14; Michael Mann’s ‘Ferrari’ premieres — 17; Matt Dixon’s ‘Swamp Monsters: (Donald) Trump vs. (Ron) DeSantis ― the Greatest Show on Earth (or at Least in Florida)’ released — 32; 2024 Florida Chamber Legislative Fly-In and reception — 32; Florida’s 2024 Regular Session begins — 32; CNN to host first of two GOP Primary debates — 33; 2024 Primetime Emmy Awards — 38; House District 35 Special Election — 38; Florida TaxWatch’s State of the Taxpayer Dinner — 40; CNN’s second GOP Primary debate — 44; New Hampshire Primary — 46; Red Dog Blue Dog 2024 — 47; South Carolina Democratic Primary — 57; New Hampshire and Nevada Democratic Primaries — 60; South Carolina GOP holds first-in-the-South Primary — 78; Michigan Democratic Primary — 81; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 84; Trump’s D.C. trial on charges related to trying to reverse his 2020 Election loss — 87; Super Tuesday — 88; 2024 Oscars — 93; Georgia Democratic Primary — 95; 2024 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 153; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 167; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 203; Republican National Convention begins — 221; ‘Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 231; Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 252; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 260; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 315; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 318; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 349; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 434; ‘Moana’ premieres — 567; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 595; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 700; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 700; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 742; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 875; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 901; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 1,106; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,246; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,205; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,933.

— ZIEGLER-GATE —

Police have recovered video of Florida GOP Chair and alleged victim in rape investigation” via Bob Norman of Florida Center for Government Accountability — The apartment’s surveillance video, according to the sources, shows Christian Ziegler knocking on the woman’s door and walking inside, which appears to contradict the woman’s claim to police that he walked into her apartment after she opened the door to walk her dog. Inside the apartment, Ziegler made a cellphone video of the sex act while she was bent over a piece of furniture in the bedroom, according to sources. The video of the sex act is brief in duration and the victim can be heard telling Ziegler to climax in her mouth rather than on her new shirt, the sources said.

A new video emerges that may add context to Christian Ziegler’s rape accusations.

Fallout from Cristian Ziegler’s rape investigation leads a chapter of Moms for Liberty to cut ties” via Clarissa-Jan Lim of MSNBC — The fallout from Ziegler’s rape investigation has led a local chapter of Moms for Liberty, the far-right group of education activists co-founded by Ziegler’s wife, Bridget, to cut ties with the national organization. Members of a Moms for Liberty chapter in Pennsylvania decided to split after national leaders defended the powerful Florida couple once the allegations became public, the chapter’s leader told NBC News. No charges have been filed, and Bridget Ziegler is not accused of any wrongdoing.

Moms for Liberty co-founder hides behind a screen in first post-scandal appearance” via Michael Daly of The Daily Beast — One member was absent from her usual seat at Wednesday’s meeting of the Board established by DeSantis to punish Disney for opposing his “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Instead, there were only the letters BZ on the screen. Bridget Ziegler, the Moms for Liberty co-founder who finds herself in the middle of a ménage à trois sex scandal alongside her husband, Christian, who is now the subject of a criminal probe, is such a coward that she dared not show her face, even on Zoom. By her account, Ziegler laid the groundwork for the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, which prohibits “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Is Moms for Liberty collapsing in Florida and the nation?” via Maurice T. Cunningham of the Tampa Bay Times — Could Moms for Liberty be nearing collapse? Co-founder Bridget Ziegler’s threesome scandal and the rape investigation into Republican Party of Florida Chair (and paid Moms for Liberty consultant) Christian Ziegler have the far-right operation in turmoil. But Moms for Liberty was already showing signs of severe decline. Independent researcher Erin Gallagher found that Moms for Liberty makes it impossible to confirm its Facebook group membership claims — assertions that were being republished in right-wing propaganda networks and mainstream media accounts of Moms for Liberty’s supposed rising power. She concluded that Moms for Liberty is “transparently AstroTurf” — a group that claims to be grassroots but is actually artificial turf.

Allegations against Ziegler reveal stunning hypocrisy” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — The Zieglers are a kind of model power couple for this Florida moment: a loutish party official and a delusional education activist both deeply committed to the vilification of gay and transgender people. And, having ingratiated themselves into the state’s DeSantian power structure, the two were really having a moment. Christian, a former member of the Sarasota County Commission, became Chair of the Florida GOP earlier this year, a job he’d long coveted. As a top party operative, Ziegler essentially embodies the lizard-brained, alternate-reality id of the modern Republican Party: He is obnoxious, mean and conspiracy-minded. But their relationship is an equal partnership in awfulness.

Florida is awash in stunning hypocrisy.

Tom Edwards sees long overdue comeuppance for Bridget and Christian Ziegler” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Shortly after Christian Ziegler became state Chair of the Republican Party of Florida, he called Edwards a “phony, radical and self-admitted WOKE Liberal Activist School Board,” and said unseating him in 2024 would be a top party priority. It’s no shock, then, that Edwards became the first member of the School Board to call for Bridget Ziegler’s resignation amid her husband’s high-profile sex scandal. He said the Zieglers “cannot any longer be near children or public policy.” Edwards said tawdry details of Bridget Ziegler’s sex life are only a part of the problem. For Edwards, this feels like the latest in a long string of scandals. Most of those weren’t salacious, but in Edwards’ eyes, they represented greater threats to the public school system.

‘It’s time for you to go:’ Sarasota County School Board member calls for Bridget Ziegler’s resignation amid husband’s rape investigation” via Nicole Rogers of WFLA — Florida House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell said the allegations alone are enough to call for Ziegler’s resignation. “These allegations are incredibly serious,” she said. “Right now, it’s up to the Sarasota Police Department to investigate thoroughly.” “We’ll see if charges are filed against the Chair of the Republican Party of Florida, but considering what we already know, I think the most appropriate thing is for Mr. Ziegler to step down as Chair of the Republican Party of Florida,” she continued. “For him not to resign, frankly, would send a chilling message to the women of Florida about how the Republican Party views sexual assault.”

Christian Ziegler, you absolutely disgust me” via Chris Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Ziegler, you disgust me. A woman is accusing you of sexual assault and you counter by saying it was “consensual?” How lame. I expect better from my Florida GOP Chairs. You should be on social media calling it a “perfect sexual encounter” and that you did “NOTHING wrong.” That’s what Donald Trump would be doing and considering you worship Trump, why are you not letting the bombs fly on social media and behaving like a lout too? Have you learned nothing from the King? Don’t you know how to react when you are accused of a crime (or multiple crimes)? Not only do you deny it, but you insult your accusers, investigators, and prosecutors too. Considering half the country believes Trump when he blames everyone else, you would be a buffoon not to follow your Leader. Smarten up, Christian, this childish stuff works.

— THE TRAIL —

Ron DeSantis isn’t ruling out troop deployment to Israel” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis says he’d do whatever it takes to rescue the eight American hostages held by Hamas. That includes potentially sending U.S. troops to Israel, in the event he became President. During a “Fox & Friends” segment, DeSantis clarified a misunderstanding from the previous night’s debate about whether he’d send troops into Israel to fight the war. “You do what you need to do, based on the circumstances to be able to get them home. But as commander in chief, there’s going to be plans, there’s going to be options, and you have to vet that,” DeSantis said, adding that “you have to get your people” in crosstalk with interviewer Lawrence B. Jones.

Debate exposed the fractured soul of the GOP” via Max Burns of The Hill — Wednesday’s debate offered something we’ve never seen before: a two-on-two tag team battle between the GOP’s dominant MAGA extremists and its faltering conservative establishment. It was also a belated birthday present for President Joe Biden, whose name barely came up once. The few mentions Biden earned were quickly drowned out by a Republican presidential field that has clearly grown to loathe each other.

Our Republican debate poll finds DeSantis won but gained little support” via The Washington Post — In the fourth and final Republican Primary Debate poll of 2023, DeSantis edged out former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley as the candidate Republican debate watchers thought performed best. Trump once again declined to participate in the debate, but as has been the case throughout the Primary, each of these candidates is still running far behind him in the race for the GOP presidential nomination. With less than six weeks before the Iowa caucuses kick off the nominating contest, there is little time for these candidates to close the gap. The 538-Washington Post-Ipsos poll of potential Republican Primary and Caucus voters who watched the debate, hosted by NewsNation, finds that 30% thought DeSantis “performed best,” followed by 23% who chose Haley.

Ron DeSantis won the debate, but it doesn’t move the needle.

Who won the debate? DeSantis solid, analysts say, but Donald Trump unscathed” via Alan Rappeport of The New York Times — DeSantis, whose campaign has experienced some upheaval amid sliding poll numbers, delivered what many observed was his strongest performance to date, pressing Haley on her Wall Street donors and ties to corporate America while easily fending off his other foes. But the two hours of debate once again featured few sharp attacks on Trump, leaving political strategists and pundits believing it is most likely too late to topple the front-runner.

Bill O’Reilly declares DeSantis winner of GOP debate” via Tyler Wornell of NewsNation — O’Reilly says there’s one clear winner: DeSantis. “The reason is that DeSantis tapped into the emotion that Republican voters are feeling when he went after the border and said, ‘I would use violence against these cartel members,’” O’Reilly said on the post-debate analysis show. “The border is the most emotional issue for Republicans. The economy is second.” DeSantis has made messaging about the southern U.S. border a central component of the campaign and has raised eyebrows for endorsing “deadly force” against migrants suspected of drug trafficking.

Hot mic catches Megyn Kelly’s post-debate panel mocking DeSantis’ expression: ‘Looked like you shot his dog’” via Isaac Schorr of Mediaite — A hot mic on the post-debate show of conservative commentator and debate moderator Kelly caught panelists mocking DeSantis for his reaction to a question at Wednesday night’s forum. Kelly said that she had wanted to ask DeSantis a question about “his failure to connect with voters,” but ultimately declined to be quite so direct in the interest of fairness. “You can’t craft a question like that without being very opinionated, “ remarked Kelly. “You know, it’s like me being like ‘You’re not a retail politics person! People don’t like you in the way that you need; yeah, you’re lame!”

DeSantis’ ‘snake’ appearance during Republican debate goes viral” via Giulia Carbonaro of Newsweek — DeSantis’ tongue got a lot of attention on social media during the fourth Republican presidential debate, with users ridiculing DeSantis for what they called his “snake” move. DeSantis, who in Republican Primary polling is at 12.7% of the vote, just a couple of percentage points ahead of Haley, has a habit of licking his lips during media appearances, something his critics have been quick to notice and mock. “When Ron DeSantis thinks he scores points, he goes to the ‘snake’,” a user on X wrote.

DeSantis’ tongue movements were widely ridiculed on social media.

After dodging debate question, DeSantis defends ‘mentally competent’ Trump” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis has framed his presidential campaign as a generational choice, contrasting his youth against Trump’s advanced age. But when it comes down to it, the Florida Governor believes criticisms of Trump’s competence go too far. And in fact, he believes Trump is more competent than the man currently in the White House. “You know, we have pointed out that Donald Trump has lost some zip on his fastball, that Father Time is undefeated, that he’d be the oldest President ever elected if he could get elected. That’s different than trying to say somebody’s not mentally competent to, to say, stand trial or to be involved in life. And that’s what Chris Christie was trying to say. That’s not what I said,” DeSantis argued.

Moderators lose control of argument between Chris Christie and DeSantis” via Erin Doherty of Axios — Christie and DeSantis engaged in an extended, heated exchange over a question about Trump’s fitness for office during the fourth GOP Primary Debate. Christie repeatedly pushed DeSantis to answer whether he thinks Trump is fit for office and accused him of dodging the question. “The question was very direct, is he fit to be President or isn’t he,” Christie said. “The rest of the speech … [is] completely nonresponsive.”

Nikki Haley claims TikTok can fuel antisemitism and more debate moments you may have missed” via Oren Oppenheim of ABC News — When responding to a question about antisemitism on college campuses, particularly amid the Israel-Hamas war, Haley claimed that the social media network TikTok, which she has sharply criticized, can cause people to become more antisemitic. “We really do need to ban TikTok once and for all and let me tell you why: For every 30 minutes that someone watches TikTok, every day, they become 17% more antisemitic, more pro-Hamas based on doing that,” Haley claimed, referring to the extremist group that launched a terror attack on Israel in October, sparking the war.

Haley’s South Carolina strategy has a Trump problem” via Jazmine Ulloa, Maya King and Jonathan Weisman of The New York Times — In 2016, as Trump was romping to victory in her home state, Gov. Haley backed U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio as the fresh face of a “new conservative movement that’s going to change the country.” Now, Haley insists, she is that new generational leader, but even in her own state, she is finding Trump still standing in her way. If she is to make a real play for the Republican presidential nomination, South Carolina is where Haley needs to prove that the party’s voters want to turn the page on the Trump era — and where she has predicted that she will face him one-on-one after strong showings in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Christie, fresh off feisty debate, courts voters in New Hampshire” via Chris Cameron and Lisa Lerer of The New York Times — Former Gov. Christie of New Jersey returned to New Hampshire for a series of campaign appearances that quickly became more like a victory lap after his performance in the third Republican Party debate. In a series of university stops, Christie told war stories about his moments in the debate spotlight, offering a highlights reel of his zingers against his opponents. Christie, who has faced calls to exit the race from some donors and strategists, won praise for his performance on the stage, particularly his series of scathing attacks against DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy.

Chris Christie and Vivek Ramaswamy bring fireworks to the debate.

Likening Haley to Hillary Clinton, attacks from pro-DeSantis super PAC fall short” via Angelo Fichera of The New York Times — In Republican politics, being likened to a prominent Democrat like Clinton may well be among the highest of insults. Some GOP hopefuls and their allies are seizing on that comparison to denounce Haley. During the Republican debate, Ramaswamy criticized Haley for giving “foreign multinational speeches like Hillary Clinton.” In particular, though, supporters of DeSantis have leveraged that line of attack, including in advertisements by a pro-DeSantis super PAC, Fight Right. But the ads trying to tie Haley to Clinton make claims that are misleading.

DeSantis expecting GOP debates in Iowa, New Hampshire” via Elizabeth Crisp of The Hill — DeSantis wants to keep debates among the 2024 candidates going, specifically in Iowa and New Hampshire, before Republicans pick their presidential nominee. And the Florida Governor is open to taking on Trump head-to-head. “I think we’re going to have a debate in Iowa, and I think we’re going to have a debate in New Hampshire,” DeSantis said. “I don’t know that the RNC is going to put it on, but I don’t think that they’re going to block it. And we need to do that in those two early states. I think it’s very important.”

Behind the curtain — How Trump would build his loyalty-first Cabinet” via Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei of Axios — Trump, if elected, would build a Cabinet and White House staff based mainly on two imperatives: pre-vetted loyalty to him and a commitment to stretch legal and governance boundaries, sources who talk often with the leading GOP presidential candidate tell Axios. Trump would fill the most powerful jobs in government with men like Stephen Miller, U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio and Kash Patel — with the possible return of Steve Bannon. If Trump won in 2024, he’d turn to loyalists who share his zeal to punish critics, purge nonbelievers, and take controversial legal and military action, the sources tell us. Trump and his prospective top officials don’t mince words about their plans.

— MORE 2024 —

Pressure builds for end to GOP Primary” via Tom LoBianco of The Messenger — In its latest poll of Republicans, Monmouth University found that Trump voters overwhelmingly want his opponents to bow out of the race — 63%, while 28% say others should stay in. And Republicans who want to move past Trump are split, with 44% saying candidates should stay in and 51% saying that some of the candidates should get out. “Most Trump voters feel he should have been given the deference of an incumbent. Among Republicans who want an alternative, though, there isn’t really a clear sense that a viable contender has emerged who they can rally around,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute in a statement. The latest and potentially last officially sanctioned Republican debate of the 2024 Primary seems all but certain to speed that chatter.

Calls to end the GOP Primary are growing.

CNN to host two GOP Presidential Primary debates in 2024” via CNN — CNN will host two Republican Presidential Primary Debates next month in Iowa and New Hampshire — states that hold the first contests in the race for the 2024 GOP nomination, the network announced Thursday. The events will provide Republican voters an opportunity to hear the governing philosophies of the leading candidates seeking to challenge the likely Democratic presidential nominee, Biden, in November. The first debate will occur Jan. 10 at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, less than a week before Iowa caucusgoers weigh in on the Republican presidential race. The second debate will be Jan. 21 at St. Anselm College in Goffstown, New Hampshire.

Trump’s Fox News town hall drew in lower ratings than DeSantis-Gavin Newsom debate” via John Bowden of The Independent — Trump is not the candidate he was in 2016. Don’t just take it from DeSantis. Trump appeared for a town hall with Fox’s Sean Hannity on Tuesday, a day before the fourth GOP Primary Debate attended by his lower-polling rivals for the 2024 Republican nomination. Nielsen ratings indicated that Trump’s town hall on Wednesday reached about 3.16m viewers — beating the direct audience (1.59m) of NewsNation’s Republican presidential debate but trailing the total viewership counting a simulcast of the event on the CW, which totaled around 4.1m people.

Trump returns to court as New York fraud trial nears its end” via Graham Kates and Katrina Kaufman of CBS News — Trump returned to a New York courtroom to attend his civil fraud trial, where his defense team questioned its final expert witness as the case approaches its conclusion. Trump has attended the trial, which began on Oct. 2, eight previous times, including when he testified himself on Nov. 6. That day, he clashed with Judge Arthur Engoron, straying from questions and earning reprimands. Trump, two of his sons, and their company are accused of participating in a decadelong fraud scheme involving vast misrepresentations of Trump’s wealth to attract favorable rates on loans and insurance. They have all denied wrongdoing in the case.

Back in the defendant’s seat.

A Jan. 6 rioter praised Vivek Ramaswamy at his sentencing for suggesting riot was an ‘inside job’” via Lindsay Whitehurst of The Associated Press — A former California Police Chief convicted of a conspiracy charge in the U.S. Capitol riot was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison after giving a speech that praised Republican presidential candidate Ramaswamy’s suggestion the Jan. 6, 2021, attack could have been an “inside job.” Alan Hostetter, who prosecutors say carried a hatchet in his backpack on Jan. 6, spun conspiracy theories as he spoke to a judge at his sentencing hearing, falsely claiming the 2020 election was stolen from Trump and referring to the riot as a “false flag” operation. Only eight other Jan. 6 defendants have received a longer-term so far.

— DESANTISY LAND —

Growing up transgender in DeSantis’ Florida: How this Broward teen’s life was upended” via Brittany Wallman of the Miami Herald — When Daisy was 10, she stood in front of a microphone in a green dress, her long hair pulled back in a purple headband. “Living in Broward County has given me the sense of safety,” she said to the Broward County School Board members, who were honoring LGBTQ History Month, “knowing that the School Board has my back.” That was 2017. Daisy’s presence the past two years on a girls’ volleyball team at Monarch High School in Coconut Creek now threatens the jobs of her mother, information management systems employee Jessica Norton; and four others at her school, including Principal James Cecil. They’re under investigation by the school district for potentially violating a state law prohibiting a person born with male anatomy from playing on female sports teams.

A transgender teen’s life was upended at Monarch High.

— D. C. MATTERS —

Joe Biden impeachment inquiry set for House vote next week” via Billy House of Bloomberg — House Republicans on Thursday took a step toward formally authorizing an impeachment inquiry against Biden tied to his family’s business dealings. The vote, which is expected next week, would require all House lawmakers to go on the record as supporting or opposing the impeachment probe conservative Republicans have been pursuing for months. That move is something 18 Republicans representing areas Biden won in 2020 in New York, California and elsewhere could be reluctant to do. Speaker Mike Johnson has said he believes the vote is necessary, however, in part to counter arguments that the ongoing investigation is not legally legitimate. Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan said earlier this week he expected his panel could begin formal hearings early next year.

The House continues its impeachment push.

Biden open to policy changes on the border as his push for Ukraine funding stalls” via Michael Williams and Priscilla Alvarez of CNN — Biden is sending a clear message to Democratic negotiators on Capitol Hill that he is open to striking a compromise with Republicans on border security in order to get talks on funding for Ukraine back on track. During his impassioned speech in the White House’s Roosevelt Room on Wednesday, Biden said he felt Republicans haven’t been willing to make a deal, though some have since expressed optimism about the direction of negotiations. “I am willing to make significant compromises on the border. We need to fix the broken border system, it is broken. And thus far, I’ve gotten no response,” he said as he made a fresh appeal to lawmakers, adding that failure to reach a compromise would serve as a “gift” for Russian President Vladimir Putin. But, he added, “This has to be a negotiation.”

Lawmakers press Biden administration for tougher curbs on China tech” via Ana Swanson of The New York Times — Republican lawmakers are faulting the Biden administration’s enforcement of restrictions on China’s access to American technology, saying that the administration is still allowing semiconductors and other American innovation to flow to Beijing that could ultimately aid China in a military conflict. In a report released on Thursday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee said the administration had failed to enforce export controls that limit sales of advanced technology to China. The federal government has been steadily ramping up limits on sales to China of advanced chips and chipmaking equipment over the past few years. The United States has also placed restrictions on Chinese companies or organizations accused of aiding the Chinese military or Russia’s war effort or participating in human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

‘He is hated’: House Republicans secretly consider expelling Matt Gaetz after booting George Santos” via Ken Tran of USA Today Network — Rep. Gaetz continues to draw the ire of his Republican colleagues in the House weeks after he led the ouster of Rep. Kevin McCarthy from the speakership, with some of his detractors privately floating expelling him from Congress. Several Republican House members, many of whom are still angry at Gaetz for his antics that have impeded McCarthy and the majority of the conference from passing legislation, have begun to discuss Gaetz’s ongoing investigation by the House Ethics Committee in the wake of the expulsion of embattled former Rep. Santos.

First George Santos. Is Matt Gaetz next? Image via AP.

House censures New York Democrat Jamaal Bowman for pulling fire alarm” via Washington Post — The Republican-led House voted Thursday to censure Rep. Bowman for pulling a fire alarm in September that forced the evacuation of a House office building while lawmakers were laboring to avert a government shutdown. The resolution passed 214-191 in a vote that broke largely along party lines. Rep. Lisa C. McClain, secretary of the House Republican conference, said Wednesday that Bowman had “knowingly pulled a fire alarm to cause chaos and stop the House from doing business.” “Mr. Bowman should know the consequences of pulling a fire alarm to cause panic,” McClain said. One would think Rep. Bowman would be able to hold himself to the same standards as he held his students to.” During debate Wednesday, Rep. Jim McGovern called the resolution “profoundly stupid,” trivial and a waste of time.

Bond traders to face a reality check with Friday’s jobs report” via Michael Mackenzie and Rich Miller of Bloomberg — Bond traders who powered a ferocious rally in the $26 trillion U.S. Treasury market are about to find out if they’ve gotten ahead of themselves. Softening inflation and employment data in the past month have convinced investors that the Federal Reserve is done raising interest rates and ignited bets that cuts of at least 1.25 percentage points are in store over the next 12 months. Treasury yields, which touched highs of 5% as recently as October, have declined sharply, with the U.S. 10-year benchmark sliding more than three-quarters of a percentage point. Now into the mix comes a key report Friday on the U.S. labor market, which bulls hope will provide fresh evidence of a cooling economy.

A deluge of violent messages: How a surge in threats to public officials could disrupt American democracy” via Rob Kuznia, Majlie de Puy Kamp, Alex Leeds Matthews, Kyung Lah, Anna-Maja Rappard and Yahya Abou-Ghazala of CNN — By the time the FBI first showed up at Kevin Patrick Smith’s home in early February, he’d already left dozens of threatening voice messages for U.S. Sen. Jon Tester. “You stand toe to toe with me, I rip your head off. You die.” FBI agents admonished Smith — who lived about a mile from the Montana Democrat’s office in Kalispell — to stop the threats, which were making the Senator’s staff members afraid to come to work. His case is but a drop in a tidal wave of menacing behavior in recent years that has rattled the offices of public servants and is on a path to collide with what is shaping up to be the most politically toxic presidential election in modern memory.

— STATEWIDE —

‘Live Healthy’ aims to increase access to care by bolstering workforce, innovation” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — The Senate is proposing to spend close to $1 billion on its sweeping “Live Healthy” initiative that aims to deal with a growing shortage of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals. Senate President and Naples Republican Kathleen Passidomo and other key Senators unveiled details of the initiative, which will include everything from regulations to health care pricing transparency to offering up forgivable loans to doctors and nurses who agree to do volunteer health services. It does not, though, include expanding access to health care to working uninsured residents through a Medicaid expansion. Florida is one of 10 states not to expand Medicaid under the federal health care law often referred to as “Obamacare.”

Kathleen Passidomo embraces innovation to make Floridians’ lives healthier.

Ana Maria Rodriguez refiles local pilot program proposal for single-use plastic regulation” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Lawmakers will get another chance to debate the pros and cons of allowing local governments to enact and study the efficacy of toothless local restrictions on single-use plastics. Sen. Rodriguez this week refiled a proposal (SB 698) that would enable coastal communities to establish pilot programs limiting single-use plastic products. The measure defines coastal communities as municipalities with fewer than 500,000 residents abutting the ocean or other saltwater bodies. If passed, SB 698 would allow localities to adopt ordinances on or after July 1, 2024, regulating the use of ubiquitous polyethylene grocery bags, polypropylene straws and other use-it-and-toss-it plastic products.

Tracie Davis bill cracks down on no-party ‘ghost candidates’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — New legislation from a Jacksonville Democrat would make it tougher for fly-by-night candidates to close Primaries in August and affect results in November. It would give political parties and other interested parties recourse to challenge candidates who changed their registrations just before the election. SB 724, filed by Sen. Tracie Davis, would require candidates to have consistent statuses regarding political party registration for a year before the beginning of qualifying for a given Primary or General Election The bill, which would take effect in July 2024 if it passes and is signed by DeSantis, would create Section 99.013 in the Florida Statutes, adding new verbiage on election qualification that would be in effect in 2026 and subsequent elections.

Move over: House panel advances bill to better block left lane road hogs” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — To the delight of Florida motorists miffed at slowpokes hogging the left lane, legislation mostly restricting its use on highways for passing is speeding ahead. Members of the House Transportation and Modal Subcommittee voted 16-0 for a bill (HB 317) that would create clearer rules against continuous left-lane driving on thoroughfares with speed limits of 65 mph or more. “This bill provides for a more safe and efficient flow of traffic and gives law enforcement clear standards about the use of the left lane,” said Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka, the bill’s sponsor. By improperly using the left lane, she said, drivers are creating “a dangerous situation where (they) unnecessarily camp out in the left lane, (leading) to blocking traffic flow, less predictability, more encounters, more passing maneuvers and more opportunities for accidents.”

Lawmakers look at plugging budget hole driven by electric vehicles” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Declining gas tax revenues and mounting adoption of hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs) are leaving Florida with fewer dollars yearly to repair its roadways and infrastructure. Two proposals aim to address the issue. One measure (SB 28) by Sen. Ed Hooper would impose an annual license fee of $200 for EVs, $50 for plug-in hybrids and $25 for electric motorcycles. The legislation cleared the Senate Transportation Committee on a 6-0 vote Wednesday. HB 107, by Rep. Tiffany Esposito originally contained much of the same provisions. But she tossed it all out Thursday, with approval from the House Transportation and Modals Subcommittee, for a strike-all amendment that would instead call for a study of the economic shortfall and what should be done to fix it.

Florida lawmakers are looking to have EV drivers pay their fair share.

How you can avoid fraud when exiting your timeshare” via the American Resort Development Association — 1. Reach out to your resort developer yourself. 2. Use the resources available to you. If your developer doesn’t have a program to help, visit the Resort Owners’ Coalition online resource center to find step-by-step advice about how best to approach exiting your timeshare. 3. If you choose to work with a third party, do your homework. What Not to Do: 1. NEVER wire or transfer money or use gift cards to pay in advance for closing services or to put money in escrow to pay upfront fees. 2. NEVER accept an offer that sounds too good to be true. 3. NEVER stop payments on your mortgage and maintenance fees without considering the effect on your credit score.

— DOWN BALLOT —

First in Sunburn — “Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee backs Tom Keen in HD 35” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The national organization, which is dedicated to helping Democrats win statehouse seats, likely signals an infusion of national dollars to a critical Special Election in January. “Democrats in the Florida Legislature are ready to fight for all Floridians and Tom is the perfect fit to aid that battle,” said DLCC interim President Heather Williams. “Tom is no stranger to tough fights as a decorated military veteran — sacrificing for our nation and the values we hold dear. His commitment to uplifting Florida’s communities, protecting reproductive freedoms, and safeguarding LGBTQ+ rights is sorely needed in the Florida State Legislature, which has been a hotbed for extremism.”

Tom Keen earns a national Democratic endorsement.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Ric Bradshaw’s son-in-law paid by a private company to serve as PBSO’s medical director” via Mike Diamond of the Palm Beach Post — You won’t find Palm Beach County Sheriff Bradshaw’s son-in-law on the agency’s payroll, even though he is providing part-time medical director services for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office (PBSO), a position that, according to invoices, costs taxpayers about $100,000 a year for 30 hours of work a month. Dr. Peter LoFaso, 53, who is married to Bradshaw’s stepdaughter Kelly, was brought in by a private company to do the job. Bradshaw, 75, himself approved an expansion in 2020 of the office’s employees benefits-insurance brokering contract with the Gehring Group to include the services. LoFaso was providing guidance to PBSO the day after the contract was signed, Sheriff’s Office emails show.

Ric Bradshaw keeps agency business within the family.

Can groups feed the homeless in city parks? West Palm Beach looks to amend ordinance” via Wayne Washington of the Palm Beach Post — West Palm Beach, responding to a recent court ruling, took steps to tweak its ordinance requiring people and organizations who run homeless food programs at public parks to get special permits. In October, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge August Bonavita ruled that the city’s ordinance — passed in March despite vocal opposition from homeless advocates — was unconstitutional because it did not include a time frame during which the city must approve or deny permit applications. Because of that, Bonavita ruled, the city could, in theory, sit on the requests, an action which he deemed would be an unconstitutional prior restraint on the First Amendment rights of groups seeking to feed the homeless.

Bible will still be allowed in Broward school libraries” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The Holy Bible will stay in Broward School libraries, after surviving a challenge from an atheist blogger and activist who complained the book “is too sensitive or controversial” for public school students. The Superintendent’s Review Committee, created this year to comply with a state law allowing parents to challenge books, voted unanimously to keep the book on district library shelves. “That was completely expected,” Chaz Stevens, an activist from Deerfield Beach who filed the complaint, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Stevens said he plans to appeal the decision to the School Board, saying, “I’ll get my three minutes to quote chapter and verse” of what he finds objectionable about the Bible, such as depictions of rape and incest.

Thousands of toys donated to Toys for Tots during annual holiday boat parade in Palm Beach County” via WPBF — The 29th Annual Holiday Boat Parade on Saturday was a success, as U.S. Marines collected thousands of donations for Toys for Tots that evening. “The boat parade was awesome. Every year, the boat parade supplies us with two huge trucks of toys. This year was nothing less, it was awesome,” said Sgt. Alexis Parra, a coordinator with Toys for Tots in Palm Beach County. The annual boat Parade, hosted by Marine Industries of Palm Beach County, boasted dozens of decorated boats.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

County Commissioner John Tobia under investigation for alleged voter fraud” via Florida Today — Brevard County Commissioner Tobia is under investigation by the state for alleged voter fraud. An executive order signed by DeSantis on Nov. 9, says that Tobia, who is also a candidate for Supervisor of Elections, is under investigation for “allegations of criminal use of personal identification information and improper voter registration.” The order didn’t offer any specifics about the alleged wrongdoing, which was reported to the Governor’s Office by Phil Archer, the State Attorney for Brevard and Seminole counties. The order assigned the investigation to R.J. Larizza, the State Attorney for the 7th Judicial Circuit, which includes Volusia, Flagler, St. Johns and Putnam counties.

John Tobia is under the spotlight for shady voting practices.

A report rips Disney for freebies to its local Board. It omits gifts to top Florida politicians.” via Noah Pransky of NBC News — A war of words escalated this week when a Board, hand-picked by DeSantis, endorsed an audit alleging Disney World for decades used free park perks to improperly influence public officials and employees tasked with the oversight of the park. The audit claimed Disney gave complimentary annual passes and steep discounts to the public employees. A review of campaign finance records shows that some of Disney’s scrutinized perks have also long been enjoyed by Florida’s top politicians, even including DeSantis. DeSantis benefited from $6,809 worth of Disney food and beverage donated to his political action committee in 2019. His committee also received $100,000 in cash donations from Disney between 2019 and 2021.

Flagler School Board has until Dec. 31 to reach employment agreement with attorney” via Mary Ellen Ritter of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — If Superintendent LaShakia Moore and Board attorney Kristy Gavin cannot reach a mutual agreement regarding Gavin’s employment by Dec. 31, her contract as Board attorney will be terminated, and the Flagler School Board will have to pay remaining expenses. According to Jennifer Gimbel, the district’s executive secretary, the Board has not defined how much it could spend to pay Gavin and hire a new attorney, but at the Nov. 28 Board meeting, Board member Cheryl Massaro estimated expenses to be at least $150,000. At that same meeting, a community member gave a public comment expressing her concerns surrounding the Board’s eagerness to pursue termination.

Proposed oceanfront condo-hotel on Silver Beach Avenue draws resistance from residents” via Eileen Zaffiro-Kean of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — City Commissioners are two weeks away from voting on an oceanfront condo-hotel project, but they got a preview at this week’s meeting of the outcry they’re likely to hear from opponents of the plan. One Daytona Beach man opposed to any development east of State Road A1A urged Commissioners to “look beyond the dollars and cents” and think about the impact the proposed 25-story condo-hotel could have on the beach, dunes and ocean. Janet Meredith, who also doesn’t want to see any more new development east of A1A, said there’s already been serious erosion to Volusia County’s beaches. “Mother Nature will always win,” Meredith said. She maintained that seawalls only add to erosion for property located on the edges.

Sports and major events grants on hold as Brevard County government scrutinizes funding” via Tyler Vazquez of Florida Today — County officials are tightening the rules for awarding grants for tourism-drawing events, including sports and major events such as triathlons, softball tournaments, the local renaissance fair. The County Commission voted unanimously that all groups nominated by the Tourism Development Council for sports and major event grants would need to submit more detailed, line-item budget documentation if their grants were to be approved. Eight sports events — including the junior college national women’s golf championships ― have been recommended for Brevard County tourism sports grants. Additionally, three other events are in line for tourism major events grants, which can go to festivals and other events that attract at least 25,000 people to the Space Coast.

Seminole to renew contract with Orlando Economic Partnership to lure high-wage jobs” via Martin E. Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — In an effort to lure high-wage jobs in the high-tech and moviemaking industries, Seminole Commissioners on Tuesday will consider renewing its contract with the Orlando Economic Partnership by paying it nearly half-a-million dollars to promote the county globally. The not-for-profit organization will be tasked with providing companies wanting to relocate or expand their operations with the economic benefits of setting up shop in Seminole. In return, Seminole will pay the Orlando Economic Partnership $406,490 this fiscal year, which started Oct. 1 and continues through Sept. 30, 2024. County officials, however, are not looking to bring in just any company.

Anthony Sabatini-led Lake Republicans adopt platform to ban abortion, gay rights” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — The Lake County Republican Party, chaired by congressional candidate Sabatini, has approved a party platform that among other things calls for an abortion ban from conception, ending same-sex marriage and rights, and eliminating nearly all gun laws. The 36-page document was taken almost word for word from the Texas GOP’s controversial party platform. Sabatini, a former state legislator whose incendiary social media posts got him in hot water with fellow Republicans, said it was meant to spur the state party into adopting a platform of its own. “Hopefully, it’ll persuade the majority of the members to pass a state party platform, which is the ultimate goal,” Sabatini said.

— LOCAL: TB —

How much did Tampa Bay’s GDP grow in 2022? New federal data explains” via Bernadette Berdychowski of the Tampa Bay Times — In 2022, the region was a national leader in inflation spikes. The Federal Reserve raised interest rates to decelerate the rapid rise in prices. The housing market began to cool. Brick-and-mortar businesses reported less traffic in stores. Tampa Bay’s gross domestic product — a measurement of economic performance by totaling the value of goods and services — did slow last year compared to 2021, federal data released Thursday shows. But there were still signs of growth. Tampa Bay’s GDP went up 4.9% in 2022 to $187.7 billion, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which defines the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area as Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties. In 2021, the metro grew by 8.2%. While 2022′s growth was significantly slower than the year before, the gains were still higher than in the years preceding the pandemic. Between 2018 and 2019, the metro area’s GDP rose by 3.3%.

Tampa Bay is growing by leaps and bounds.

Pinellas, Hillsborough officials establish joint workforce agency” via Mark Parker of St. Pete Catalyst — Local leaders comprising the newly formed Hillsborough/Pinellas Workforce Development Consortium have taken their first steps toward establishing a consolidated organization. Several CareerSource Pinellas, CareerSource Tampa Bay and local government officials participated in the inaugural meeting on Dec. 5. County Commissioners from both sides of the bay recently approved an interlocal agreement (ILA) — at state lawmakers’ behest — to merge the two workforce agencies. The meeting took place in Tampa, although locations will alternate. The “working group” includes eight Hillsborough County and CareerSource Tampa Bay representatives and five Pinellas County counterparts.

‘Don’t sue me, talk to me’ — Pasco lawsuit over Live Local Act irks Kathleen Passidomo” via Gray Rohrer of Florida — A potential lawsuit from Pasco County over a new law that alters zoning requirements has rankled Senate President Passidomo, the main architect of the law. “I spoke to their consultant, actually yesterday, because I had gotten a letter from them. And I’m like, why didn’t you call me? I have a cellphone,” Passidomo said. “Don’t sue me, talk to me. And then sue me if you don’t like it.” The Pasco County Commission voted unanimously to file a lawsuit looking to strike down the provision of Passidomo’s Live Local Act that requires local governments to open up commercial and industrial areas to residential construction.

Why St. Pete’s Community Benefits Council Chair resigned” via Mark Parker of the St. Pete Catalyst — A founding member of St. Petersburg’s Community Benefits Advisory Council (CBAC) resigned amid potential conflict of interest discussions. However, Gypsy Gallardo believes she is better suited to helping the city achieve its equitable economic development goals. Mayor Ken Welch appointed Gallardo, CEO of Urban Market Analytics, to serve on the CBAC in 2022. The nonpartisan Board helps city officials measure and increase a project’s community impact. Gallardo, the CBAC’s former Chair, resigned amid the largest project in St. Petersburg history — the $6.5 billion Historic Gas Plant District redevelopment. She submitted her resignation letter on Dec. 1, a day after the Council welcomed four ad hoc members to help direct its $50 million in community benefits. In the letter, obtained by the Catalyst and addressed to Welch, Gallardo expressed her belief that “I can best serve in a different capacity during this pivotal stage.”

Sheriff: Homeless issues plummeted with SunRunner fares” via Mark Parker of the St. Pete Catalyst — Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri believes charging fares for the previously free SunRunner service has solved St. Pete Beach’s homelessness “problems.” Gualtieri, speaking Wednesday at the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority’s (PSTA) Board meeting, said implementing the $2.25 one-way fee caused calls for assistance to plummet. In August, the Board voted 13-2 to start charging for the service Oct. 1, a month earlier than initially scheduled. Throughout the Summer, myriad St. Pete Beach stakeholders expressed pointed concerns about homeless residents taking advantage of the bus rapid transit service that links downtown St. Petersburg and their coastal community. However, several community advocates, local leaders and St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch opposed implementing fares on the SunRunner. “The problem’s solved,” Gualtieri said. “It worked. What we predicted the solution would be has provided that solution.”

Rays will not change name, team president says” via Jack Evans of the Tampa Bay Times — The Tampa Bay Rays will not change their name, team President Brian Auld said Thursday. Auld’s comment came during a Pinellas County Commission work session at which the team, developer Hines and St. Petersburg city officials gave updates about plans for a new stadium and surrounding development. It follows weeks of discussion by the public and elected officials, past and present. “The name of the team is the Tampa Bay Rays,” he said. “It’s going to remain the Tampa Bay Rays.” Auld’s comments — prompted by a question from Commissioner Dave Eggers — marked the first public word from the Rays since the news that the City Council will discuss the name-change question next week.

Brian Auld is standing firm by the name ‘Tampa Bay Rays.’

‘Tis the season of giving back” — If your family or your company is looking to give back this holiday season, consider volunteering at one of Feeding Tampa Bay’s upcoming distributions with your family, company or as an individual. Volunteers can spend time at the Trinity Café, help out with warehouse sorting, assist with on-site food pantries and more.

USF marine research center gets $30M allocation from DeSantis’ proposed budget” via Henry Queen of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — The University of South Florida would receive $30.2 million for its upcoming oceanographic research building in St. Petersburg if Gov. DeSantis’ budget passes as proposed. The allocation is part of a nonrecurring outlay for capital projects in higher education. The new building, officially called the Environmental and Oceanographic Sciences Research and Teaching Facility, is envisioned as a national destination for students and researchers to study the challenges created by climate change. Last year, USF received $24.3 million in state money for the project’s first phase of planning and construction. DeSantis vetoed $75 million meant for the project in 2022. If the new allocation is successful, the project would secure over 70% back from that original proposal. USF St. Pete representative Carrie O’Brion said the project is on track with its architectural and design work.


— LOCAL: N. FL —

Mexico Beach voters file petition with 200 signatures to recall Mayor Michele Miller” via Nathan Cobb of the Panama City News-Herald — Some local residents have started the process of recalling Mayor Miller. According to Mark Andersen, Bay County supervisor of elections, local residents on Monday filed a petition with 200 signatures to recall Miller, who is in the midst of a lawsuit against the City Council for allegedly withholding financial information about the city from her.

A petition is circulating to remove Michele Miller.

NFL’s Roger Goodell meets Donna Deegan and Ron Salem about Jaguars stadium talks” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — Monday Night Football wasn’t just about football for city leaders this week. Mayor Deegan and City Council President Salem each met with NFL Commissioner Goodell before the Monday night game at EverBank Stadium for general discussions about the ongoing talks on a major stadium deal. Goodell met separately with Deegan and Salem while he was in Jacksonville to watch the Jaguars play the Cincinnati Bengals. Mayoral spokesperson Phillip Perry said Deegan’s meeting with Goodell was an opportunity for them to “get to know each other better.” “They both expressed their desire to get to ‘yes’ on a deal that is good for Jacksonville and the Jaguars but did not discuss any specifics in relation to negotiations,” Perry said.

City Council member seeks reform after Mayor’s no-bid contract” via Casmira Harrison of Jax Today — At least one Jacksonville City Council member remains concerned about no-bid contracts awarded by the Mayor’s office despite Deegan’s assurance that a contract awarded to a lobbying firm was transparent. Council member Nick Howland is pushing legislation his office has dubbed the “Transparency for Taxpayers Act,” which he says will provide “major reform to the city’s controversial process when awarding no-bid contracts to lobbyists and grant writers.”

Motion by GRU Authority member to fire GRU General Manager Tony Cunningham fails” via Nora O’Neill if The Gainesville Sun — Gainesville Regional Utilities General Manager Cunningham will keep his job after a motion by a GRU Authority member failed to be taken to a vote. The Governor-appointed GRU Authority Board met Wednesday evening and discussed the employment of Cunningham, asking high-ranking GRU employees to express their concerns with his work as well as his role in a delayed bond issuance that will cost ratepayers an extra $2.9 million. The bill that created the authority, HB 1645, tasks the Board members with hiring a CEO to run GRU while Cunningham serves in the interim. Wednesday’s decision keeps Cunningham as CEO.

How much do you need to make to buy a home in Pensacola? Far more than the average income” via Brandon Girod of the Pensacola News Journal — The rising cost of purchasing or even maintaining living in a home in Florida is evident to everyone. Explosive home insurance premiums, high interest rates and post-pandemic home prices are gatekeeping homeownership for many. Redfin conducted a recent study showing how much prospective homebuyers would need to make to afford a new home in cities throughout the U.S. It revealed that homebuyers would need to make $114,627 to afford the median-priced U.S. home, which was up 15% (or $15,285) from last year and up more than 50% since the start of the pandemic. This is the highest annual salary needed to afford a home ever recorded in the U.S.

‘Title Town USA’: Tallahassee to celebrate FSU, FAMU athletic exploits with parade, party” via Arianna Otero of the Tallahassee Democrat — Get ready for a parade and party, Rattlers and Seminoles! After a front-page appeal from Tallahassee Democrat Sports Editor Jim Henry and urging from countless residents and fans, city and county leaders gathered Thursday morning to say, “We have heard the voices of our community.” City Commissioners Dianne Williams-Cox and Curtis Richardson joined County Commissioner Bill Proctor in unveiling the news. They shared that there will be a joint celebration for the city’s championship teams including the Florida A&M and FSU football teams, which clinched division championships on the same day, and the Seminole women’s soccer team, which is fresh off winning its fourth national title. The FSU women’s volleyball team was also named ACC co-champions after a dominant season.

A petition is circulating to remove Michele Miller

Undefeated FSU football team’s playoff shutout sparks billboard revolt” via Mikiyah Everett of the Tallahassee Democrat — Add Lamar Advertising of Tallahassee to the list of Florida State University football fans riled up about their team’s getting shut out of the College Football Playoffs. Earlier this week, the company set up two digital billboards quoting FSU head football coach Mike Norvell saying, “What is the point of playing the games?” Norvell made the quote in a statement released on Sunday, referring to not making this year’s playoffs for the national championship. The two billboards are located along Mahan Drive and near Orange Avenue at South Monroe Street. The outdoor advertising firm manages billboards, transit displays and brand signs.

— FOR YOUR RADAR —

The Leapfrog Group announced that Wolfson Children’s Hospital is one of eight Top Children’s Hospitals in the country and one of only three in the State of Florida. The Leapfrog Top Hospital award highlights patient safety and quality achievements and is widely acknowledged as one of the most competitive awards American hospitals can receive.

Wolfson Children’s Hospital is named among the best of the best.

The Top Children’s Hospital designation is bestowed by The Leapfrog Group, a national watchdog organization of employers and other purchasers known as the toughest standard-setters for health care safety and quality.

The Top Children’s Hospital designation follows an announcement last month that Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville, Baptist Medical Center South, Baptist Medical Center Beaches and Baptist Medical Center Nassau all received an “A” Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade for providing the highest level of safety in patient care. Letter grades of “A” through “F” are assigned to hospitals across the country using calculations based on more than 30 national performance measures from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, combined with supplemental information Baptist Health voluntarily submits for the overall score.

— LOCAL: SW. FL —

Sarasota County eyes increased access to preserves as part of ecotourism push” via Earle Kimel of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Access to almost 100,000 acres of preserves, reserves, state parks and other natural areas could give Sarasota County an additional draw for tourism, Sarasota County Parks and Recreation Director Nicole Rissler told County Commissioners at a recent presentation on opportunities to increase public access to preserved and protected lands. She characterized access to those lands — marketed as ecotourism — as the “fourth leg” of a stool for Sarasota County’s tourism efforts, along with beaches, arts and culture and sports. That’s all part of the 2023 strategic plan, approved by the Commission last January.

Lee County Sheriff among more than 40 investigated by Florida Commission on Ethics” via Tomas Rodriguez of the Fort Myers News-Press — Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno is among 45 current or former elected officials and law enforcement who appeared last week before the Florida Commission on Ethics. Marceno was cleared in a complaint that accused him of the wrong treatment of a woman identified as Tammy King, 48, who was pepper-sprayed and arrested in March. The list includes current and past City Council members, Mayors and City Managers. Marceno was the only Sheriff and one of two with law enforcement ties who appeared before the Florida Commission on Ethics. The Commission found probable cause in four of the presented complaints.

Carmine Marceno faces an ethics panel.

— TOP OPINION —

Certainty, ferocity and solidarity define the fundamentalist mindset” via David French of The New York Times — One of the troubling aspects of the Trump era for me, as a churchgoing evangelical, has been watching the evolution of his support among white evangelicals. During the 2016 primaries, I took some solace in the fact that Trump’s support seemed to decline the more voters went to church. According to the 2016 American National Election Studies Pilot Study, he received majority support from white evangelicals who seldom or never attended church, but he received barely over a third of the votes of White evangelicals who attended weekly.

As we headed into the general election, a self-justifying narrative emerged. Countless churchgoing evangelicals told friends and neighbors that Trump had been their last choice among Republicans but that they had to vote for him against Clinton as the only pro-life option remaining.

Soon enough, however, the churchgoing dynamic flipped. I noticed the change among people I knew before I saw it in the data. After Trump won, folks in the pews warmed up to him considerably, especially those who were most firmly ensconced in evangelical America. Most home-schooling families I knew became militantly pro-Trump. I watched many segments of Christian media become militantly pro-Trump.

And I always noticed the same trend: the more fundamentalist the Christians, the more likely they were to be all in.

Then the data started to confirm my observations. Republican approval of Trump was positively correlated with church attendance: The more often people went to church, the more likely they were to strongly approve of Trump.

Indeed, ferocity — not piety — is a principal trait of every truly fundamentalist movement I’ve ever encountered. Ferocity is so valuable to fundamentalism that it can cover a multitude of conventional Christian sins.

Yet certainty and ferocity are nothing without solidarity. It’s the sense of shared purpose and community that makes any form of fundamentalism truly potent.

— OPINIONS —

How did DeSantis get to be so weird?” via Julie DiCaro of Deadspin — If you thought DeSantis stumbling around debate stages in what looked like a pair of high heels, attempting and failing to resemble a human being when he smiles is weird, wait until you find out how DeSantis wants to spend a million dollars of Florida taxpayer money. DeSantis is now asking the State of Florida for $1 million to sue the College Football Playoff Committee for snubbing undefeated Florida State. DeSantis knows his request for funds is merely a suggestion to Florida’s Legislature, which won’t actually start negotiations on a budget until Jan. 9, 2024, the day after the national champion is crowned. So, DeSantis gets to jump up and down in his weird little cowboy boots and scream about the injustice of it all without having to actually risk anything, which is sort of his thing.

How to decide between Haley and DeSantis” via Ramesh Ponnuru of The Washington Post — Republicans who don’t want Trump as their nominee and aren’t resigned to his winning, already a minority in the party, are split between Haley and DeSantis. Fans of Haley take comfort from solid debate performances such as the one she just delivered. They say they’re supporting her because of her realism about the need to restrain the growth of spending on Medicare and Social Security and her steady support for aid to Ukraine. DeSantis’ supporters cite his record as Governor. On many conservative issues, from school choice to the right to life, he has accomplished more than Haley did as Governor. These voters think conservative politicians should fight some cultural battles, even when their adversaries are major corporations.

’50 Shades of Hypocrisy’ a fitting title for Sarasota sex scandal” via the Sarasota Herald-Tribune editorial board — The hypocrisy of Ziegler and his wife, Bridget, is beyond nauseating. His attorney’s statement is hardly comforting: “We are confident that once the police investigation is concluded no charges will be filed and Mr. Ziegler will be completely exonerated.” Are we supposed to just forget about the Zieglers’ admitted participation in an out-of-marriage sexual relationship, a ménage à trois, involving the woman accusing him of sexual assault? The Herald-Tribune reported the Zieglers are “leading advocates in Florida for a new wave of conservative moral crusading largely centered around LGBTQ issues, especially in schools.”

The rich irony of a Moms for Liberty co-founder caught in a Florida sex scandal” via Daniel Ruth of the Tampa Bay Times — It’s probably worth reminding everyone it was Bridget Ziegler who was a founder of “Moms for Liberty,” which is sort of the template for the worst next-door neighbor from hell who roots through your garbage and tells everyone how many wine bottles are in your trash. Ziegler has said he has no intention of stepping aside. And really, why should he? Sure, if no crime took place and it was just extramarital hanky-panky, that’s not a good look. On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that down in Sarasota, this sort of sheet rustling is considered as common as a fist bump.

Resign now, Christian and Bridget Ziegler” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — The deepening troubles of Christian and Bridget Ziegler would be just another local news story if they were two private people. But they are highly public figures who are suddenly in a heap of trouble, and their sex life is in the headlines. He is Chair of the Republican Party of Florida, close to both DeSantis and Trump. She is a nationally known conservative culture warrior, a Sarasota County School Board member and a co-founder of the book-banning Moms for Liberty. She is also a DeSantis appointee to the Disney World Oversight Board. It is astonishing that Ziegler won’t resign as Party Chair or step aside temporarily, in the face of mounting pressure. DeSantis wants Ziegler out but is powerless to remove him. So do other leading Republicans: Sen. Rick Scott, all three Cabinet members, and both leaders of the state Legislature.

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

 

— WEEKEND TV —

ABC Action News Full Circle with Paul LaGrone on Channel 10 WFTS: Human trafficking expert Nic McKinley; political analyst Dr. Susan MacManus; Capitol reporter Forrest Saunders.

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

In Focus with Allison Walker on Bay News 9/CF 13: A discussion of the economic impact of college football bowl games held in Florida. Joining Walker are Pinellas County Commissioner Chris Latvala, District 5; Katherine Smith, reporter for Spectrum Sports 360; and Scott Glaser, executive director of the Gasparilla Bowl.

Political Connections on Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: Spectrum Bay News 9: A look at DeSantis’ $114 proposed budget; the latest on Florida politicians who are calling for the GOP Chair Ziegler to resign; and a recap of the fourth Republican Presidential Primary Debate.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Orange County Commissioner Michael Scott will discuss growth in his district, crime rates, and how mentoring programs are looking to help kids and teens in need of guidance.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Gary Yordon speaks with attorney Sean Pittman.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Rick Mullaney of the Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute, Dr. Michael Binder of the UNF Public Opinion Research Laboratory, and Jacksonville reporter A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics.

— ALOE —

Pantone announces its 2024 color of the year” via The Washington Post — The world’s color authority has declared that we need to be comforted. And there’s only one hue that’ll provide a sufficient level of coziness and warmth. Enter Peach Fuzz, Pantone’s 2024 color of the year. Soothing our fractured world sure sounds like a tall order for a muted mix of pink and orange. But in a news release, Pantone’s executive director, Leatrice Eiseman, asserted: “Peach Fuzz brings belonging, inspires recalibration, and an opportunity for nurturing. Drawing comfort from PANTONE 13-1023 Peach Fuzz, we can find peace from within, impacting our well-being.”

Pantone says 2024 will be peachy.

Safety Trend Report reveals significant challenges for health care professionals and consumers” — Stericycle has released its third annual Healthcare Workplace Safety Trend Report studying how providers and administrators in the U.S. view health and safety in their organizations and its impact on peers, patients, and surrounding communities. New this year, the study also surveyed consumers about their concerns with safety when seeking care. The report aims to provide valuable insights on the challenges the industry and patients face today and how to best help health care organizations understand their safety profiles, improve workplace safety standards, create a quality care environment, and reduce impacts on the environment.

— HOLIDAYS —

Orlando Christmas, holiday events: Surfing Santas, festivals, boat parades and more” via Patrick Connolly of the Orlando Sentinel — ‘Tis the season, and even though Florida doesn’t experience a white Christmas, there are many other indicators that the holiday season has arrived in the Orlando area. Maybe your neighbor is putting up 25,000 imported Italian twinkle lights on his or her house. Maybe you’re eagerly anticipating a boat or golf cart parade, both of which are uniquely Floridian ways to usher in the holidays. Regardless of how you choose to celebrate, there’s no shortage of options for getting in the spirit here in Central Florida.

Orlando gears up for the holidays.

Space Coast Unity parade for Israel, Hanukkah more relevant than ever, rabbi says” via J.D. Gallop of Florida Today — For Rabbi Zvi Konikov, it is a Hanukkah season like few others in recent memory. The last few months have seen the enveloping darkness of deadly terrorist attacks by Hamas in southern Israel that left more than 1,200 Israelis dead, a surge of violent antisemitic incidents across Florida and the U.S. and vocal neo-Nazi demonstrations at the gates of Disney World. And while Hanukkah will keep its holiday trappings of food and candle lighting, this year the celebration comes with an intense focus on global events. It also comes with a defiance found in the origins of the holiday, when ancient Jews revolted against foreign control of Israel.

As Hanukkah begins, South Florida Jews grapple with rising antisemitism, heartbreak of war” via Lauren Costantino of the Miami Herald — As Hanukkah approached, Rabbi Jonathan Fisch was hesitant to display a menorah and Star of David outside his home in South Miami. He and his wife discussed the concerns. “Is that going to put a target on our backs? What would it be like to wake up and have our decorations destroyed?” said Fisch, a rabbi at Temple Judea in Coral Gables. “How would my daughters react to that?” Over drinks with a few close neighbors, he aired worries about growing antisemitism across the country. But one day not long after, he stepped outside to see a six-foot-tall inflatable Hanukkah dreidel displayed on the lawn next door. That neighbor was not Jewish.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Happy birthday to Allison Ager, our friend Mike Deeson, MSNBC’s Joy-Ann Reid, and Ben Smith.

___

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
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704




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