Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 1.9.24

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Your morning review and preview of the issues and players behind Florida politics.

Good Tuesday morning.

Rain delay: Florida Chamber Fly-In pushed to Wednesday — The Florida Chamber of Commerce is delaying its annual Legislative Fly-In in response to severe weather warnings covering much of North Florida. The Chamber said it has rescheduled today’s programming for Wednesday. The Fly-In will now take place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Augustus B. Turnbull III Conference Center. As of Monday evening, the Chamber said it is still planning to hold the “Bills, Beers and Business Welcome Reception” at 5:30 p.m.


MDW Communications has elevated Landon St. Gordon and Martin Page to Partner as the firm expands its senior leadership team.

The democratic advertising agency’s founder, Michael Worley, will serve as Senior Partner and CEO; St. Gordon will serve as Chief Creative Officer and Page will serve as chief operating officer.

St. Gordon joined MDW in 2015 and quickly became a top creative mind working in politics. He won over a dozen industry awards for excellence in political advertising for clients such as Equality Florida, Uber, Service Employees International Union, and the United Teachers of Dade.

Landon St. Gordon, Martin Page and Michael Worley move up at MDW.

His work in the LGBTQ equality movement has been featured by the Equality Federation, helping elect some of Florida’s history-making LGBTQ candidates, including Sen. Shevrin Jones and Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis. He holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Central Florida and an MBA from Rollins College.

Page joined MDW in 2019 and was a critical player in the firm’s expansion during the COVID-19 pandemic, mainly through his leadership in developing MDW’s email fundraising business.

MDW also announced that Shannen Bazzi, who joined the MDW in 2021, and new addition Scott Kosanovich have been named Vice Presidents at the firm.

Additionally, Maureen Pearsall has joined MDW as Director of Operations, and Caitlin Lang, who joined MDW in 2022, has been elevated to Director of Digital.


National law firm Holtzman Vogel announced a trio of promotions this week, including the elevation of Joshua Pratt to Of Counsel.

Pratt, based in the firm’s Tallahassee office, focuses on all aspects of litigation. Before joining the firm, Pratt served as Deputy General Counsel to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Before working in the Governor’s office, Pratt served as a law clerk to Judge Sidney Fitzwater and Judge Lee Ann Reno of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas and Justice Charles Canady of the Florida Supreme Court. Pratt received his law and undergraduate degrees from Florida State University.

Joshua Pratt gets a major boost at Holtzman Vogel.

In addition to Pratt, the firm announced that John Cycon has been promoted to Partner and Ken Daines has moved up to Senior Associate.

Cycon, who splits time between the firm’s D.C., Virginia, and Florida offices, focuses his practice on governmental and internal investigations, commercial litigation, constitutional law, and white-collar defense.

Based in the firm’s Northern Virginia office, Daines focuses his practice on trial and appellate litigation in federal and state courts, including matters presenting constitutional law, redistricting, and election-related issues.

“We are thankful for this growth and proud of the exceptional team that leads these national practice groups. As we start 2024, we want to recognize the extraordinary accomplishments and outstanding legal skills of John, Josh, and Ken in meeting the diverse needs of our clients,” said Jill Holtzman Vogel, founder and Managing Partner of Holtzman Vogel.

“As they ascend to new roles, we are confident that their leadership will further enhance our practice groups and bolster the incredible talent of our growing team.”


Erin Gillespie has been named a Director on the Florida team at Slalom, a global technology and professional services company. She will be focused on expanding Slalom’s successful Florida government practice.

Gillespie has over two decades of experience in government operations, crisis and disaster management, and economic development.

“Bringing someone with Erin’s background to our team is a real win,” said Beau Willamson, general manager of Slalom Florida. “With her experience in Florida government and her expertise in consulting and technology services, we know Erin will help our Florida team excel in successful partnership with state agencies as we assist them in meeting the needs of Floridians.”

Erin Gillespie brings her decades of experience to Slalom.

Gillespie spent over a decade in state government in various leadership roles, including serving as the Deputy Chief of Staff for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (now FloridaCommerce). She also held the position of Press Secretary for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida Department of Children and Families.

After leaving DEO in 2019, Gillespie founded Madison Street Strategies, an economic development and disaster recovery consulting firm for businesses and communities nationwide.

“As a public servant at heart, I am so excited to be joining a team that has purpose as its core mission and is working to better serve the people of this state,” Gillespie said. “I am proud to be able to continue to work to help Floridians in need, whether that’s during a disaster or to modernize technology that will assist residents, businesses, and communities more effectively.”


@MurphyMike: A gutless, draft-dodging coward like (Donald) Trump wouldn’t understand, but having both arms broken in an ejector seat, then being beaten and bayoneted by a crowd when he landed in Hanoi, and then tortured in prison with iron bars, yes, John McCain had fucking trouble raising his arms.

Tweet, tweet:

@Fineout: Schools, universities, local governments are shutting down tomorrow due to a bad storm expected to hit Tallahassee on Tuesday a.m. But so far, everything is a go for @GovRonDeSantis “State of the State” and kickoff of annual Legislative Session

@MarcACaputo: Agree with him or not, @mehdirhasan’s show is just good. By content or by ratings, it made zero sense for his show to get canceled

@AnitaPadilla32: BREAKING: After 25 years, I’m leaving the mainstream media and the blue state of Illinois to join the fastest-growing news outlet in Florida — Florida’s Voice (@FLvoiceNews) It’s about time we start amplifying conservative voices

@RapSheet: Sources: The #Jaguars have fired defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell and his staff.


CNN to host Iowa GOP Primary debates — 1; ‘Ted’ streams on Peacock — 2; ‘True Detective: Night Country’ streams on Max — 5; Iowa Republican Caucuses begin — 6; 2024 Primetime Emmy Awards — 6; House District 35 Special Election — 7; Florida TaxWatch’s State of the Taxpayer Dinner — 8; ABC/WMUR’s New Hampshire debate — 9; first government-funding deadline — 10; CNN’s New Hampshire GOP Primary debate — 13; New Hampshire Primaries — 15; Red Dog Blue Dog 2024 — 16; ‘Sexy Beast’ premieres on Paramount+ — 16; ‘Masters of the Air’ premieres on Apple TV+ — 17; federal campaign finance filing deadline — 22; Inter Miami CF 2024 season opener stand-alone — 23; second government-funding deadline — 24; South Carolina GOP holds first-in-the-South Primary — 25; ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ final season premieres on HBO — 26; Nevada Primaries — 28; Nevada Republican Presidential Caucus — 30; Super Bowl LVIII — 33; Ninth Annual Suits for Session begins — 42; South Carolina Republican Primary — 46; Michigan Democratic Primary — 49; James Madison Institute’s ‘Red, White and Bluegrass’ dinner — 50; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 52; Michigan/Idaho/Missouri GOP Primaries — 53; Netflix to stream “The Netflix Slam,” Rafael Nadal/Carlos Alcaraz faceoff — 54; Trump’s D.C. trial on charges related to trying to reverse his 2020 Election loss — 55; Super Tuesday — 56; annual State of the Union address — 58; last day of Regular Session, if Legislature completes work in 60 days — 59; 2024 Oscars — 61; Georgia Democratic Primary — 63; Arizona/Florida/Illinois/Kansas/Ohio Primaries — 70; James Madison Institute’s ‘2024 Naples Dinner’ with keynote speaker Laura Ingraham — 71; ‘3 Body Problem’ premieres on Netflix — 72; Major League Baseball’s (MLB) 2024 season — 79; March Madness Final Four (women’s) begins — 87; March Madness Final Four (men’s) — 88; The Masters begin — 93; Kentucky Derby — 116; 2024 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 121; ‘Bridgerton’ new season (part one) premieres on Netflix — 128; French Open begins — 132; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 135; Monaco Grand Prix — 138; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 171; Republican National Convention begins — 188; 2024 MLS All-Star Game — 197; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games on NBC/Peacock — 199; Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 220; Democratic National Convention begins — 223; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 228; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 283; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 286; 2024 Presidential Election — 301; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 317; MLS Cup 2024 — 333; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 402; ‘Moana’ premieres — 535; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 563; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 668; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 668; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 710; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 843; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 859; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 1,074; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,214; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,173; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,895.


Christian Ziegler out as Florida GOP Chair” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Executive Committee for the party voted to expel the embattled Chair through a 199-3 vote.

Ultimately, the action to remove Ziegler came from those who knew him well. Shawn Foster, Pasco County State Committeeman, made the motion. Jack Brill, Chair of the Republican Party of Sarasota, seconded it.

“Let’s hope this is the beginning of the end of this really sad journey we’ve all had to take in the last three months,” Brill said.

It’s official; Ziegler is out.

Ziegler, who has been embroiled in a sex scandal for months, did not show up for the vote, a difference from a few weeks ago when he pleaded his case to the party’s state Executive Committee.

All this happens as Ziegler remains under active criminal accusation for sexual battery and video voyeurism. A longtime acquaintance accused Ziegler of raping her in a Sarasota apartment on Oct. 2. Ziegler maintained the sex was consensual.

But many say confessionals the Zieglers already made to police will haunt, if not end, any political ambitions for him and his wife, Sarasota County School Board member Bridget.

When approached by police about the accusation, court documents indicate Ziegler produced a two-and-a-half-minute video of the encounter he made on his cellphone.

Police have since obtained the video as evidence and suggested it contradicts key portions of the victim’s account. But the video also raises questions about whether he filmed the sex without the woman’s consent.

Democrats respond — “Florida Republicans are finally cleaning house,” said FDP Chair Nikki Fried. “Through six weeks of scandal and an embarrassing refusal to step aside, Christian Ziegler shredded every last ounce of his credibility on his way to political irrelevance. “Though I’m certainly happy to see Christian go, it would be silly to expect that a change of leadership will change anything for the Republican Party of Florida. Under Chair Evan Power, they’ll still be too busy fighting their made-up culture wars to put forward policies that would actually make Florida a safer, healthier, more affordable place to live. Allegations of sexual assault should always be taken seriously. Even though Ziegler isn’t in power anymore, I trust that the Sarasota Police Department will continue to conduct a thorough investigation into the allegations of his criminal behavior.”

Florida GOP elects Evan Power as new state Chair” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Power said he wanted to pull the party back together after a headline-grabbing scandal essentially paralyzed the party. “I think we’re ready to move forward. It’s good to have this chapter behind us,” Power told reporters after the meeting. “You know, the Republican Party of Florida is bigger than one person.” Power beat out National Committee member Peter Feaman for the role in a 135-65 vote. Indian River Republican Chair John Vacchiano also ran for the post. All three candidates could be spotted lobbying voters during check-in at the Tallahassee Conference Center well before a vote to remove Ziegler formally. “The No. 1 job of the Party Chairman is to fundraise,” he said. “You can’t do anything in the party without voting.”

Kevin Marino Cabrera launches bid for Florida GOP Vice Chair” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Miami-Dade County Commissioner Cabrera is running for Vice Chair of the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF). “I am thrilled to announce my candidacy for Vice Chairman of the RPOF,” Cabrera said in a statement. “I am at the forefront of a generational transformation of Florida’s most populous county into a beacon of freedom. … To keep this momentum growing, we must continue expanding our voter registration margins, increase our presence on the ground, and never (waver) from the grassroots support that has propelled Florida to the forefront of the America-First Movement.”


Today marks the start of the 2024 Legislative Session. It also marks the release of one of the most hotly anticipated books among those who follow Florida’s political world. Matt Dixon’s debut, “Swamp Monsters — Trump vs. DeSantis ― The Greatest Show on Earth (Or at Least in Florida),” is available in print and digitally through most major book retailers. We’ve already published our takeaways, but here’s a peek at what others say.

It’s Matt Dixon’s big day.

— Kirkus Reviews: “Dixon, a national politics reporter for NBC News and former Florida bureau chief for POLITICO, doesn’t have much to share about his main subject’s inner feelings, but that’s less a function of the author’s reporting chops than DeSantis’ notoriously aloof demeanor (he ‘has a social circle that could fit in the back seat of a Mini Cooper’). … Dixon also has a deep well of sources to explain — if not humanize — the Governor.”

— Lincoln Project co-founder Rick Wilson: Dixon is one of the keenest and best-sourced observers of Florida’s political maelstrom. In Swamp Monsters, he captures the war between Donald Trump and his former apprentice Ron DeSantis with insight, clarity, and deeper analysis than anyone else. Florida is America’s laboratory of crazy ideas, and Matt is your tour guide.”

— The Messenger’s Marc Caputo: “Florida Swamp Thing vs. New York tabloid creature: the ultimate political fight, told masterfully here by Matt Dixon. Who will win — and at what cost?”

— Cocaine Cowboys director Billy Corben: “As a native Florida man, I know that the politics of my home state are tougher to crack than the Zodiac Killer’s cipher — but fear not, fellow truth-seeker: Matt Dixon is here. Swamp Monsters is an alternately haunting and hilarious first draft of history.”


Ron DeSantis is a long way from Florida. Lawmakers at home have noticed.” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — What a difference a year and a not-so-successful presidential campaign makes.

Last year, Florida’s annual Legislative Session became a 60-day grinding marathon as Republicans in charge pushed through a long line of conservative and controversial proposals on abortion, sexual orientation and guns that DeSantis would ultimately use as selling points for his presidential bid.

Ron DeSantis is a long way from home. Image via Never Back Down.

Ahead of this year’s Session, however, the Governor spent most of his days in Iowa and New Hampshire, where he’s been campaigning to win the GOP presidential nomination. DeSantis, who has struggled to gain traction in the race, is scheduled to dip back into Tallahassee on Tuesday to give his annual “State of the State” speech, but he has laid out only a threadbare agenda compared to previous years.

His focus on his presidential campaign instead of the Session — the most important several months for lawmakers in the state — has frustrated legislators. He hasn’t rolled out a long line of policy initiatives he wants from legislators or communicated to legislative leaders what he wants to be done.

“We really don’t know what this Session is about, which is odd,” said state Rep. Fentrice Driskell, the leader of the House Democrats.

It’s quite a remarkable turnabout for a Governor who has multiple times pressed legislators into action, including pushing them to hold Special Sessions over his battle with Disney and to show solidarity with Israel after the Hamas attacks. DeSantis has been one of the most powerful Governors in Florida in decades and holds sizable clout with the Legislature.

Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, while meeting with reporters in early December, said she had called DeSantis to press him on his legislative priorities and that the Governor had quipped about getting everything he wanted had wanted the previous year.

—”This year, DeSantis won’t loom as large over Legislative Session” via Patricia Mazzei of The New York Times

DeSantis’ State of the State address might be as much for Iowa voters as it is for Floridians” via The Associated Press — The speech kicking off Florida’s annual Legislative Session comes exactly a week before Iowa’s first-in-the-nation Presidential Caucuses, and DeSantis has been spending much more time in the Hawkeye State than the Sunshine State in recent weeks. Unlike past years, when DeSantis would spend months forecasting his priorities ahead of the Session, this year he has largely been silent as he woos Iowa and New Hampshire voters. Many of his staff who helped him prepare for the 2023 State of the State address are now in Iowa. “A lot of his team is now on the campaign trail, so you’re managing with a skeleton crew,” former Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes said.


C’mon, Blaise — “Florida GOP lawmaker wants to end universal mail-in voting” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — A bill filed Friday night by former GOP Chair Blaise Ingoglia in the Senate would eliminate universal voting by mail in Florida, potentially wiping out a method used by millions and embraced by both parties until Trump’s false charges of fraud emerged in 2020. Reaction from a Republican Elections Supervisor was swift. “I’m sick and tired of this crap,” said Alan Hays, who runs Lake County elections. “I am embarrassed, as a former state Senator myself, that a current Senator would offer such a nonsensical idea,” Hays added. “The Senate is supposed to be a body of leaders, not destroyers. And I see nothing good that I can say about this bill at all. … Shame on him.”

Alan Hays is tired of the ‘crap’ coming from Tallahassee. Image via AP.

Bill defining antisemitism in Florida Statutes heads to House floor — with 1 ‘no’ vote” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Legislation giving Florida a widely applying definition for antisemitism is headed to the House floor after clearing its final Committee stop, where a Democratic lawmaker complained the definition is both too broad and too narrow. The House Judiciary Committee voted 19-1 for a measure (HB 187) that would codify in Florida Statutes a sweeping definition of antisemitism. If passed, the bill would define antisemitism as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews” and rhetorical and manifestations “directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals, their property, community institutions and religious facilities.”

Legislators seek $25M for new Holocaust museum in Orlando” via Matthew J. Palm of the Orlando Sentinel — A bipartisan legislative effort coupled with private donations could result in $40 million more for the Holocaust Museum for Hope & Humanity, planned to break ground in Orlando this year. The new Holocaust Museum, located north of downtown, is being developed by the Holocaust Memorial Resource & Education Center and would replace its Maitland facility to become the largest museum dedicated to the Holocaust in Florida. Sen. Linda Stewart, a Democrat, and Rep. David Smith, a Republican, are teaming up on the effort. Stewart has requested up to $25 million in the Senate, while Smith seeks $5 million in the House.

Florida GOP doubling down with new anti-LGBTQ bills for 2024” via C.A. Bridges of USA Today Network — A new bill filed Thursday by Rep. Dean Black might be one of the most sweeping anti-trans bills proposed in Florida yet, which is saying something. That, along with at least 14 more bills targeting transgender people specifically and LGBTQ+ people in general already filed for the 2024 Legislative Session, indicates the GOP will be doubling down on the wave of anti-trans legislation already passed in the state in recent years.

Is international prescription drug pricing the next step for Florida?” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — On the eve of the 2024 Legislative Session and three days after the state received approval for a Canadian Drug Importation program, a leading House Republican announced his plan to lower prescription drug costs. House Health and Human Services Committee Chair Randy Fine filed legislation (HB 1431) to establish “international reference pricing” for drugs, essentially limiting prescription drug prices in Florida to those paid by other countries, including those with socialized health care. On Monday, Fine held a two-hour meeting and scheduled presentations by policy experts to lay the groundwork he hopes will translate to support for the bill.

State pensions for public workers in Florida could be boosted under new legislation” via James Call of USA Today Network — With lawmakers returning to Tallahassee for a Legislative Session Tuesday, significant changes to the pensions for schoolteachers, bus drivers, office workers and other public employees could be in the works. After a decadeslong attempt to steer workers away from the traditional pension plan offered by the Florida Retirement System (FRS), one proposal has emerged to make it more attractive to workers, and another would allow a group of workers who had opted out of the plan to rejoin it. A bipartisan proposal in the Florida Senate restores a 3% annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) denied to new hires beginning in 2011. If passed, some 151,000 retired state, county and municipal workers would see an increase.

Local attempt to rein in panhandling came before bill filing in Legislature” via Elena Barrera of the Tallahassee Democrat — Lawmakers are working to crack down on panhandling with a bill that comes months after officials spent money and resources to target it in the capital city and county directly. Rep. Alex Andrade filed legislation (HB 759) that would make panhandling illegal in most cases. If passed, it will be an add-on to Florida’s charitable solicitation law, restricting when and where it occurs and could make the act a felony. Possible statewide action follows a capital crackdown when the city of Tallahassee and Leon County tried to tackle the issue on their own. In July, Leon County Commissioners launched a road sign campaign to discourage drivers from directly donating money to people standing on the streets. The county produced 22 signs that are scattered around 11 intersections in Tallahassee and Leon County.

Alex Andrade is taking a stand against panhandling.

Bill proposes allowing campaign cash for child care to encourage parental runs for office” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Making the case that parents with young children are unrepresented among lawmakers, two South Florida lawmakers are proposing rules that would allow campaign cash to pay for child care expenses. Identical legislation that Democrats Sen. Lori Berman and Rep. Kelly Skidmore have proposed would put the state in line with federal guidelines. In addition to runs for federal office, 29 states also allow candidates to use campaign funds for child care expenses directly related to campaign activities, they say. “This bill will eliminate the hardship that may be hindering good candidates from participating in the process,” Skidmore said.

Dan Daley, Joe Casello bill would set standard for in-vehicle gun storage” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — South Florida lawmakers are pushing legislation to ensure that if a Floridian keeps a gun in their car while away from the vehicle, it must be out of sight and securely stored. It’s a minimum standard not currently in state statutes. Reps. Daley and Casello aim to change that. “According to crime data from the FBI, a gun is stolen from a vehicle every 15 minutes,” Daley said. “Gun owners who do not safely secure and store their firearms are simply more likely to have a firearm stolen.” Casello said the measure (HB 1087) represents “a practical step” toward personal responsibility. “It’s about ensuring that firearms are securely stored in vehicles,” he said, “balancing personal rights with community safety.”

Democratic lawmakers file long shot bills to restore abortion access, reverse anti-woke education” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Democratic lawmakers in Florida are collaborating on a pair of bills to restore access to abortion and gender-affirming health care, block schoolbook bans and reverse state policies barring so-called “woke” instruction in classrooms. Both bills are long shots, considering the Republican-dominant composition of the Legislature. The first measure (SB 1404, HB 1283) by Sen. Jones and Rep. Anna Eskamani is titled the “Health Care Freedom Act.” If passed, it would reverse Florida’s current 15-week abortion ban and a six-week ban GOP lawmakers pushed through last year that is on hold pending a Florida Supreme Court ruling. Jones and Eskamani’s legislation would restore access to abortion up to the start of the third trimester, which normally runs from the 28th week of pregnancy until childbirth.

Lawmakers want rules and remedies for chemical in Seminole County tap water” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — Two local lawmakers are announcing a bipartisan effort today to regulate a toxic industrial chemical that has tainted the drinking water of thousands of people in Seminole County for years and possibly decades. There are no mandatory limits or other drinking water regulations for the chemical, 1,4-dioxane, whose dangers were little discussed until a series of reports in the Orlando Sentinel last year. Local authorities say the absence of regulations has left them floundering with little assistance for solutions, unsure of the need for transparency to the public and potentially saddled with huge costs. Sen. Stewart, a veteran Democrat from Orlando, will try to remedy that with a bill.

Gaming restructuring bills have potential $150M public benefit for Miami-Dade” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — In December, Sen. Ingoglia filed two key bills, SB 1054 and SB 1056, that will reshape gambling options in the state. Both seek to restructure the gaming industry and significantly impact Miami-Dade County’s socio-economic landscape. If passed, these proposals will include a recurring public benefit component of $150 million dedicated to Miami-Dade County, to be managed by the bipartisan Miami-Dade County legislative delegation. “The introduction of SB 1054 and SB 1056 is about reshaping the gaming landscape and catalyzing economic growth and job creation,” said Rep. Alex Rizo.

Blaise Ingoglia’s gaming bill will be a major boost to Miami-Dade. Image via NBC News.

The Family Law Section of The Florida Bar cheers as ‘Cassie’s Law’ advances — The Family Law Section of The Florida Bar today commended the House Judiciary Committee for advancing a bill (HB 385) known as “Cassie’s Law,” which would require every county in Florida to designate a location for parents to safely exchange custody of children cleared its first legislative hurdle with support on both sides of the dais. “We commend the House Judiciary Committee for unanimously passing HB 385 or Cassie’s Law,” said Sarah Kay, Chair of The Family Law Section of The Florida Bar. “The Family Law Section is grateful to Rep. (Joel) Rudman for bringing forth this important legislation that will further enhance protections for Florida families, particularly vulnerable children and women.”

Florida Clerks priority bill filed — The Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers (FCCC) highlighted the filing of what it says is “priority legislation.” SB 1470 by Sen. Travis Hutson and HB 1077 by Rep. Adam Botana include legislative solutions to diversify Clerk revenue, support staffing needs and account for services with no funding source, FCCC said. “For a long time, Clerks of Court have operated within a funding model that makes it challenging to meet our operational needs or provide enough support for critical public services,” said 2023-2024 FCCC President and Suwannee County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller Barry Baker. “This legislation would help us get much closer to a sustainable system, one we’ve been working toward and building on with similar legislation over these last few years. On behalf of all Clerks, I thank Sen. Hutson and Rep. Botana for their support in this process.”


House appropriations request deadline looms — Today is the final day for Representatives to submit completed appropriations requests, with a 5 p.m. deadline to publish Appropriations Project Request forms on the House website. Members were required to submit completed forms for sponsored requests through the Appropriations Project Request System in mid-November. Those that cleared review by Appropriations Committee staff are eligible to be submitted and published on the House website.

9 a.m. The Senate Special Order Calendar Group meets to determine which bills will be heard on the Senate floor. Room 401, Senate Office Building.

9 a.m. The Revenue Estimating Conference meets to examine revenues from slot machines at casinos. Room 117, Knott Building.

9:30 a.m. The Senate convenes the 2024 Legislative Session. Senate Chamber.

9:30 a.m. The Revenue Estimating Conference meets to discuss pari-mutuel wagering. Room 117, Knott Building.

10 a.m. The House convenes the 2024 Legislative Session. House Chamber.

10 a.m. The Revenue Estimating Conference meets for an update on the state Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund. Room 117, Knott Building.

11 a.m. Gov. DeSantis will give his annual State of the State address, formally launching the 2024 Legislative Session. House Chamber.

2 p.m. Senate President Passidomo holds a media availability. Senate Chamber.

2 p.m. The Early Learning Programs Estimating Conference meets to discuss the state’s voluntary pre-kindergarten program. Room 117, Knott Building.

2:30 p.m. The House floor Session considers HCR 703 from Rep. Tyler Sirois asking Congress to call a convention to propose a balanced federal budget constitutional amendment. The House also discusses HCR 693 from Rep. David Borrero, a related call to support a convention to propose a constitutional amendment on congressional term limits. House Chamber.

2:30 p.m. The Senate Judiciary Committee meets for an agenda that includes SM 598 from Sen. Ingoglia calling for the federal government to secure the U.S. Southern border. Room 412, Knott Building.

2:30 p.m. The Senate Military and Veterans Affairs, Space and Domestic Security Committee meets for an update from the Florida Sheriffs Association on domestic security. Room 301, Senate Office Building.

2:30 p.m. The Senate Regulated Industries Committee meets to consider SB 480 from Sen. Nick DiCeglie to allow utilities to recover costs for renewable natural gas projects. Room 401, Senate Office Building.

4:30 p.m. The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee meets to consider SB 362 from Sen. Jennifer Bradley to allow higher reimbursements for physicians and surgical procedures in the treatment of workers’ compensation patients. Room 412, Knott Building.

4:30 p.m. The Senate Community Affairs Committee meets to consider SB 328 from Chair Alexis Calatayud to address development and housing issues, including providing $100 million for the Hometown Hero housing program. Room 401, Senate Office Building.

4:30 p.m. The Senate Education Postsecondary Committee meets to consider SB 522 from Sen. Corey Simon to change the name of Tallahassee Community College to Tallahassee State College. Room 301, Senate Office Building.

4:30 p.m. The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee meets to consider SPB 7024 to establish contribution levels for government agencies to fund the Florida Retirement System. Room 37, Senate Office Building.

House to mark Tallahassee bicentennial on Thursday — The Florida House will convene a floor Session in the Old Capitol to honor and commemorate Tallahassee’s and Leon County’s bicentennial anniversaries on Thursday. The Session is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. and members are expected to vote on a resolution by Tallahassee Democratic Rep. Allison Tant (HR 8001) marking the anniversaries. Only members will be allowed access to the Old Capitol. The House said it will set up a viewing area for the proceedings in Reed Hall, Room 102 of the House Office Building.


DeSantis swipes at Donald Trump’s Civil War comments, says he won’t drop out and endorse” via Rachel Scott, Benjamin Siegel, Hannah Demissie, Will McDuffie and Lalee Ibssa of ABC News — DeSantis also gave his firmest answer yet that he’s staying in the 2024 race — and not planning a Trump endorsement — regardless of whether he wins or loses the Iowa caucuses next week, having failed to catch Trump in polling. Speaking with ABC’s Rachel Scott on Sunday, DeSantis was asked what he thought about Trump’s new comments on the Civil War as a Republican leader himself in the party of Abraham Lincoln. “I don’t even know what he’s talking about,” DeSantis told Scott of Trump’s remarks. “I mean, Lincoln did what he had to do. He ended up ushering in the abolition of slavery and he saved the Union. That’s a huge victory for the Republican Party.”

DeSantis 2024 rolls out final Iowa ad ­— DeSantis’ presidential campaign is releasing a new ad in the final days ahead of the Iowa Caucuses. The ad takes aim at Nikki Haley. The spot, “Iowa Insults vs. Iowa Values,” highlights Haley’s recent comment that New Hampshire voters could “correct” Iowa Caucusgoers if they opt for Trump or DeSantis in the GOP nominating contest. “Haley disparages the caucuses and insults you. It is Ron DeSantis who embodies and defends Iowa’s values of faith, family, and freedom. He’s tirelessly working to earn your support,” a narrator says between replays of the Haley sound bite.

To watch the ad, please click the image below:

Trump pushes supporters for a definitive win in Iowa caucuses as DeSantis and Nikki Haley aim to dent his dominance” via Jeff Zeleny, Kit Maher and Eric Bradner of CNN — “Forget polls that show we’re 35 points up,” Trump told supporters at a weekend rally in Mason City. “Pretend we’re one point down.” The stakes are high for DeSantis and Haley, who are making their final pushes in Iowa this week — including at a CNN debate Trump is skipping — to deliver strong enough finishes to extend the Republican Primary race beyond Jan. 15, while Trump tries to effectively end the nominating contest on its opening night. An overwhelming victory could all but launch the former President on an unstoppable march to the nomination. But a far less impressive win — or even a surprising defeat — could open the door to a far longer nominating fight, raising questions about Trump’s electability.

Joe Biden returns to South Carolina, hoping the state can save him again” via Edward-Isaac Dovere, Priscilla Alvarez, and Betsy Klein of CNN — South Carolina catapulted Biden to the top of the Democratic Primary in 2020, and on Monday, the President returned hoping the state — and its Black voters — can help recharge his re-election bid. The state’s Feb. 3 Democratic Primary is not competitive. But with many Black voters saying in polls and Democratic focus groups they feel disengaged and disenchanted with the political process, South Carolina will be the first electoral test of how deep a hole Biden is actually in. During Monday’s speech, Biden nodded to the significance of Rep. Jim Clyburn and the Black voters of South Carolina, whom he has credited with turning the tide of the 2020 Primary Election in his favor.


DeSantis activates Florida National Guard ahead of severe weather threat” via Scott Sutton of WPTV — The threat of severe weather Tuesday has prompted the Governor to activate the state’s National Guard. DeSantis issued the order Monday afternoon as the state prepares for potentially damaging winds and tornadoes. There is a marginal threat of severe weather across South Florida and much of the Treasure Coast. However, there is a slight chance for Central Florida and an enhanced threat in North Florida. South Florida and the Treasure Coast could see winds of more than 60 mph accompanying any thunderstorm and maybe a tornado as well.

DeSantis calls up the troops to help weather the storm. Image via Instagram.

Meanwhile …Legislature’s report on Florida insurance lawsuits is mixed” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — For years, insurance companies and state lawmakers have blamed lawsuits for driving Floridians’ homeowner’s insurance premiums to the highest in the nation. A new long-awaited study commissioned by the Legislature supports that — somewhat. An analysis of 58,395 insurance claims that led to lawsuits in 2022 found that a disproportionate number were filed in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, an indication of potentially fraudulent or abusive practices there. And those litigated claims were more than six times more expensive than claims that did not lead to a lawsuit, which could contribute to higher premiums.


Far right balks as Congress begins push to enact spending deal” via Carl Hulse of The New York Times — Congress on Monday began an uphill push to pass a new bipartisan spending agreement into law in time to avoid a partial government shutdown next week, with Speaker Mike Johnson encountering stiff resistance from his far-right flank to the deal he struck with Democrats. Ultraconservative House Republicans have panned the $1.66 trillion agreement Johnson made with Sen. Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat and Majority Leader, saying it is unacceptable. The agreement essentially hews to the bargain that Congress passed last year to suspend the debt ceiling, which the hard right opposed at the time and had hoped to scale back. It also includes $69 billion in spending that was added as a side deal, money that conservatives sought to block altogether.

Mike Johnson gets pushback from the right over spending negotiations.

House lawmakers release bipartisan paid family leave plan” via Leigh Ann Caldwell of The Washington Post — The House bipartisan working group on paid leave has released a modest, draft framework aiming to enhance access to paid family leave. The four-part framework aims to fill in gaps to paid leave across the country with federal grants that would help, but not require, states to implement or enhance their own paid leave programs. It would create an Interstate Paid Leave Action Network (I-PLAN) to help streamline programs across states. The proposal would enhance tax credits that already exist to incentivize small businesses, especially those with low-income workers, to provide paid leave. It would also allow small businesses to pool resources to provide paid leave more easily to their employees.

Lloyd Austin leaves intensive care amid growing scrutiny of Pentagon secrecy” via Dan Lamothe, Matt Viser and Missy Ryan of The Washington Post — Defense Secretary Austin, whose failure to disclose his need for emergency hospitalization has ignited a firestorm, was moved out of intensive care on Monday, as Democrats and Republicans intensified their calls for accountability, and senior officials at the White House and Pentagon struggled to defuse the uproar. Their halting explanation of the situation, and Austin’s lack of transparency about what led to his health crisis, has only amplified the scrutiny following revelations that Austin’s senior staff declined to disclose the issue to the White House for days. The Pentagon said Monday night that it remains unclear when he may be released but that officials intend to provide daily updates so long as he remains at Walter Reed.


Mystery texts target Democrat Tom Keen in Special House Election” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — A mystery group claiming to be progressive but seemingly chaired by a registered Republican has inserted itself into the Special Election next week for House District 35, a Central Florida seat that could be a bellwether for Democrats’ chances of gains in November. Sent last week, a series of texts complete with unflattering images claimed that Democratic candidate Keen is a “fake progressive.” The Keen campaign compared it to the 2020 “ghost candidate” scandals in Florida, which involved three independent candidates who ran for competitive state Senate seats. They did not campaign but were promoted by a deluge of ads coordinated by GOP operatives, apparently in an attempt to siphon votes away from the Democrats in each race.

A mystery group claiming to be progressive but seemingly chaired by a registered Republican has inserted itself into the special election next week for state House District 35. Image via Tom Keen campaign.

Don Gaetz raises more than $900K since filing for Senate — The former Senator says he has hauled in $910,000 between his campaign and political committee since announcing a run for Senate District 1. “I am deeply grateful to the people of Northwest Florida for their incredible support and generosity,” Sen. Gaetz said. “Every day, I hear the same challenges from families across Northwest Florida who are being hurt by Joe Biden’s inflation and failed economic policies — housing costs, property insurance rates, utility rates, and the cost of living are all too high. In the state Senate, I will work every day on the kitchen table issues that are crushing our families and seniors, so Florida remains affordable to the people who call our state home,” Gaetz said.

Carlos Guillermo Smith tops $350K raised for state Senate bid” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Former Rep. Smith’s campaign for state Senate continues piling up cash. The Orlando Democrat announced that he raised more than $100,000 in the fourth quarter, bringing his total fundraising past the $350,000 mark since he entered the race in April 2023. “Hardworking Floridians, not corporations, have continued to invest in our grassroots campaign because they want a Senator who will fight to lower costs, who represents real people, and who has a proven track record of holding Ron DeSantis accountable,” Smith said.

Andrew Warren won’t seek re-election to State Attorney, cites DeSantis’ ‘illegal suspension‘” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Former Hillsborough County State Attorney Warren will not seek re-election to the office he was twice elected to, citing a “high risk” that DeSantis would simply just remove him from office again. DeSantis suspended Warren in August 2022. Later that year, he also suspended Orlando-area State Attorney Monique Worrell. In both cases, DeSantis claimed the State Attorneys were failing to prosecute crimes. Warren had pledged not to prosecute individuals who violated the state’s abortion ban and also made statements saying he would avoid pursuing charges against those seeking gender-affirming care. Warren had indicated in October that he may run to get his job back, opening a campaign account to park funds for a potential bid.

To watch his announcement, please click the image below:

Monique Miller makes HD 33 ballot by petition — Brevard County business owner Miller announced that her House District 33 campaign has collected enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. “I got my petitions done the old-fashioned way, door-to-door. So far, I’ve personally knocked on over 2,000 doors, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. To have qualifying out of the way this early is a testament to our aggressive campaign plan. I have never backed down from hard work, and I never will,” Miller said. Miller is one of three Republicans running for the seat currently held by Rep. Fine, a Palm Bay Republican who is facing term limits and running for state Senate.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Former Miami City Manager calls for Art Noriega’s resignation amid conflict of interest accusations” via Ana Claudia Chacin of the Miami Herald — Several of Miami City Manager Noriega’s predecessors expressed alarm — with one calling on him to resign — after WLRN uncovered that a furniture company owned by his wife’s family had been awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in city contracts during Noriega’s time as City Manager, raising ethics concerns and possibly violating state ethics laws. Since 2020, when Noriega was appointed City Manager, Pradere Manufacturing has provided office furniture and furniture assembly to the city — resulting in over $440,000 in contracts. The company is owned by Michelle Pradere-Noriega’s parents, but at least one recent city contract reviewed by WLRN named Noriega’s spouse as the salesperson.

After some major nepotism, calls for Art Noriega to resign got louder.

When speed cameras come to Miami-Dade schools, county expects tickets to fly” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — When speed cameras come to Miami-Dade County schools, the $100 automated citations will likely be racing to residents’ mailboxes every day. County Administrators haven’t released forecasts on how many tickets they expect the cameras to generate now that the devices are legal in Florida. But in a deal that won preliminary approval, Miami-Dade predicted RedSpeed, a national camera operator out of Chicago, will collect nearly $12 million a year from a roughly $20 payout per ticket once the agreement goes into effect sometime later this year. The math behind those revenue figures shows the RedSpeed cameras are forecast to generate about 600,000 citations each year in Miami-Dade.

Broward Schools police proposal faces pushback from city leaders” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A proposal to create a 377-member Broward Schools police force is facing opposition from some local elected officials that could end up derailing the plan. Some local Mayors and City Commissioners argue that the proposal to replace 202 school resource officers from local law enforcement agencies — primarily the Broward Sheriff — with officers employed by the district is rushed and could jeopardize school safety. The plan is scheduled for a vote by the School Board on Tuesday. “As much as anyone, I understand the importance of school safety, but I firmly believe that this decision will make our schools less safe and ultimately result in higher costs for Broward County residents,” Parkland Mayor Rich Walker wrote to School Board members.

Broward jail deaths have Public Defender’s office demanding oversight” via Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Broward Public Defender Gordon Weekes is demanding changes at the Broward Main Jail after two recent inmate deaths tied to mental illness. Alvin Stephen Modeste, 43, hanged himself in his cell at the North Broward Jail in Pompano Beach on Dec. 26, less than a month after a Broward judge ordered him to receive an evaluation under the state’s Baker Act. Modeste was scheduled to be evaluated to determine whether he was competent to stand trial on charges of culpable negligence. His mother had accused him in October of attacking her “for no apparent reason” with a metal wrench, a tire iron and a wooden pole.

DEP issues final order to punish Port St. Lucie resort for destroying mangrove forest” via Katie Delk of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Sandpiper Bay Resort has five months to restore a mangrove forest it destroyed to create a beach and unobstructed view of the St. Lucie River, according to a state order. The Department of Environmental Protection has ordered the resort to sign the order by Jan. 8 and pay to plant 2,780 red, black and white mangrove seedlings and trees in between what’s left of the estimated 944 trees it cut to nubs by June 24. The restoration project cost is undetermined, but “it’s not gonna be a cheap price,” said Keith Rossin, co-founder of MANG Nursery in West Palm Beach, which is supplying the trees that must range between 2-7 feet tall.

Sandpiper Bay is ordered to replace mangroves dug up by the resort.

Why did Lake Worth Beach fire its City Manager and what happens next?” via Giuseppe Sabella of the Palm Beach Post — When Lake Worth Beach Commissioners fired City Manager Carmen Davis in December by a narrow 3-2 vote, it prompted some key questions about the city’s future. For one: Who will serve as the city’s next long-term leader? Jamie Brown, Lake Worth Beach’s public works director, was named Interim City Manager until a search for a permanent Manager is completed, and it’s unclear if he plans to apply for the position. Brown has served Lake Worth Beach for more than a decade in the public works director role, overseeing waste management and the maintenance of city buildings, roads, sidewalks, parks and playgrounds.

Daniella Levine Cava nears petition signature threshold for Miami-Dade Mayor re-election bid” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Levine Cava’s re-election campaign is just under 3,000 petition signatures shy of making it on the 2024 ballot without having to pay a qualifying fee. She made history in 2020 by becoming the first-ever candidate for the office to qualify by petition. It looks like she’s about to do it again. In a statement, Levine Cava attributed her progress in that endeavor this cycle to her grassroots backing in Florida’s most populous county. “Ours has and always will be a people-powered campaign — and I continue to be humbled by the overwhelming grassroots support we’ve received from voters across Miami-Dade,” she said.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

New terms begin for Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Commissioners Tony Ortiz, Patty Sheehan and Bakari Burns” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Fresh off blowout victories, four Orlando elected officials took office Monday, highlighted by a fifth full term for Mayor Dyer and a first for Burns. Also starting new terms were incumbents Sheehan and Ortiz, who didn’t face Election Day challenges last year. Burns received a loud ovation from supporters who attended the swearing-in at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, including members of the activist group Organize Florida, the labor union Unite Here! and friends and colleagues from Jones High School, Florida A&M University and Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church. In his speech, Burns, the CEO of the Healthcare Center for the Homeless, challenged residents to become involved with local government, businesses to invest in their workforce and the City Council to prioritize investments in affordable housing.

Buddy Dyer begins a fifth term. Image via X.

Orlando City Council OKs disorderly conduct ordinance despite fears it could target homeless and protesters” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Orlando City Commissioners imposed a disorderly conduct ordinance giving police new powers to clear city sidewalks, despite activists’ fears the rules could be used to target protesters and the homeless. Ultimately, the City Council voted 6-1 for the ordinance, with Commissioner Bakari Burns in opposition. During a hearing, Dyer asked the Orlando Police Department’s legal adviser if the ordinance was designed to arrest the homeless, as some feared. “It’s not,” said OPD attorney Michael Filteau. “If anything, it is far more likely to be used in situations during the busy closing time in downtown Orlando as the bars are letting out.”

Orange County tourist tax collections slide again, but revenues remain strong” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Tourist-tax collections slid in November compared to a year ago, continuing a downward trend. November’s year-over-year decline was the seventh such drop over the past eight months, said Orange County Comptroller Phil Diamond, whose office monitors collections of the 6% levy added to short-term lodging costs. Receipts for the month totaled $29.6 million, about $1.24 million or 4% lower than last November. But that performance was actually better than anticipated. “We are definitely still doing pretty well,” said Diamond, who forecast a drop of 7.5% in tourist-tax revenue in 2023-24. “When you compare it to last year, which was the greatest of all tourism years ever, there’s just going to be some fall off.”

Jan. 6 fugitives from Polk held without bond in first court appearance after capture” via Gary White of The Lakeland Ledger — The warning poster from the FBI suggested that Jonathan Pollock might be hiding in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee or Texas. As it turned out, Pollock was captured about 45 miles north of his family home in the Kathleen area. The FBI announced Saturday morning, on the third anniversary of the U.S. Capitol attack, that agents had found and arrested Pollock; his sister, Olivia Pollock; and their friend, Joseph Hutchinson III, at a ranch in Groveland, a small city in southern Lake County. All three had been labeled fugitives, their images appearing on FBI wanted posters. The three face a range of charges, including assaulting police officers, for their alleged actions outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.


Chad Chronister to seek re-election, build on ‘historic results’ at HCSO” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Hillsborough County Sheriff Chronister will seek another term. This will be Chronister’s third election campaign since being appointed Sheriff in 2017 by then-Gov. Rick Scott. Chronister was subsequently elected by voters in 2018 and re-elected in 2022. “Serving as this community’s Sheriff is an honor, but the historic results we have been able to deliver in terms of preventing and reducing crime, pursuing justice for victims and making criminals accountable are only able to be accomplished through the dedicated efforts by the hardworking men and women of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) and our community’s unwavering support,” Chronister said. “We will remain at the forefront of so many pressing issues like mental health, student safety, human trafficking, fentanyl, online predators, and criminal gangs.”

Tweet, tweet:

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Duval, Clay, Nassau schools, Jacksonville City Hall, courts closed Tuesday by storm threat” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — Forecasts of severe storm threats Tuesday are closing schools in Duval, Clay and Nassau counties as well as Jacksonville city government and court offices. St. Johns County schools are scheduled to end the day an hour early. Jacksonville City Hall said about 4:45 p.m. Monday that city offices would be closed Tuesday, in a move announced jointly with the school district decision. The changes are in reaction to warnings from the National Weather Service, which said “numerous severe thunderstorms are possible” when a cold front approaches Northeast Florida from the west. The greatest impacts near Jacksonville are expected around the Tuesday evening rush hour, the weather service said.

Leon County Schools to close Tuesday amid severe weather conditions” via Alaijah Brown of the Tallahassee Democrat — Leon County Schools will be closed Tuesday as a rare and dangerous severe weather setup threatens North Florida Monday evening and into Tuesday. “We’re going to unfortunately have to shut things down tomorrow for the school district,” Superintendent Rocky Hanna announced during a Facebook live on Monday. He also said all district offices will be closed as well. The decision came following a conference call with state and local emergency management officials, according to district representative Chris Petley. “As much as I hate to tell you that parents and give you that news, out of the abundance of caution, it is the right thing to do,” Hanna told viewers.

Rocky Hanna is closing schools Tuesday in an abundance of caution. Image via Tallahassee Democrat.

How many people around Pensacola are homeless and why? All hands on deck to find answers” via Mollye Barrows of the Pensacola News Journal — On any given day, there are between 30 and 40 people who are homeless camping on property owned by the Area Housing Commission in Warrington, next to Jones Swamp Wetland Preserve & Nature Trail. The population fluctuates as people come and go. “Joey,” a 30-year-old line cook who did not want to give his full name, keeps his things at the camp and often stays there because he says he can’t afford to live anywhere else on what he makes. “We’ve actually turned into something of a community,” Joey said, pointing out the extra wide trails running through the camp that were made wheelchair accessible for disabled campers. “When one person doesn’t have something, another person does. It’s home until they kick everybody out.”

Okaloosa County Commission approves $2.3M footbridge to close 5-mile gap on Florida Trail” via Collin Bestor of the Northwest Florida Daily News — The Okaloosa County Commission approved county staff to begin working with the U.S. Forest Service and the Florida Trail Association to begin the planning, permitting and design process for a pedestrian footbridge that will be the catalyst for closing a 5-mile gap along the Florida National Scenic Trail in Okaloosa County. This issue was originally brought up toward the end of the Nov. 7 Board meeting as Commissioner Nathan Boyles noted that during a recent hike along the Florida Trail, he was surprised to learn that a gap of this magnitude was in his district. The Florida National Scenic Trail is a 1,500-mile trail that connects the Gulf Islands National Seashore to the Big Cypress National Preserve. From 2021 to 2022, the Florida Trails Association showed that 397,271 people used the trail statewide.

College Football Playoff officials threatened after Florida State snub” via Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times — The College Football Playoff has been in touch with the FBI after its Selection Committee and other officials received threats because of Florida State’s exclusion from the final four, executive director Bill Hancock told reporters Monday. “It’s ridiculous,” Hancock said. “Every NCAA sports Committee receives criticism from the teams left out. I’ve been doing this for 35 years now. I’ve seen it and understand it, but this one … I haven’t seen anything like this one.” Hancock told reporters in Houston before the national championship game that Selection Committee members all got “profanity-laced” calls or emails after the decision to pick 12-1 SEC champion Alabama over 13-0 ACC champion FSU. Committee members also received extra security measures after the decision.


Greg Wood challenges Tom Edwards for Sarasota County School Board seat” via the Venice Gondolier — Wood, of Venice, announced his candidacy for Sarasota County School Board. He will face incumbent Edwards for the District 3 seat. Edwards announced he would run for re-election in March. Wood is a local Realtor and the previous Executive Director and head coach of Sarasota Scullers Youth Rowing Program, according to the news release announcing his candidacy. In 2022, Wood filed for the School Board race, running for the District 5 seat. He withdrew from the race, which was eventually won by Tim Enos. He also ran for Sarasota County Commission in 2023 but withdrew from that race. Wood is married and a father to three school-aged daughters, his news release states.

Tom Edwards draws challenger Greg Wood for his Sarasota County School Board seat.

NFL brothers part of group deciding Midtown Fort Myers direction” via Bill Smith of the Fort Myers News-Press — The city of Fort Myers has turned to a development team, which includes former NFL players native to Fort Myers, to lead a sports-centered re-orientation of the city’s Midtown section. With its first focus on the City of Palms Park, Ohio-based Steve Demetriou, managing partner of PitchPrime Partners, a Cleveland-based development group, led a team of sports-oriented businesses in scoring the Council’s approval. They convinced the Fort Myers City Council to endorse its proposal to center on the development of a wide range of athletics-oriented activities. While soccer is the initial objective, Fort Myers native and NFL powerhouse Jaylen Watkins is a partner in the group.


DeSantis gambles with Floridians’ lives for a race he won’t win” via Shevrin Jones for MSNBC — In the more than two years he’s been in the job, Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo joined DeSantis on the presidential campaign trail, hit the right-wing podcast circuit and irresponsibly promoted disproved conspiracy theories.

This most recent statement against vaccines is driven by politics, not science.

With less than two weeks to go before Iowa voters help determine DeSantis’ future, his imploded campaign is sputtering out and has little hope of success. Ladapo’s statement is a sign that DeSantis’ flailing team is throwing every last idea at the wall to see what sticks.

It’s no surprise that public health experts are dismissing Ladapo’s guidance as nonsense with no scientific backing. After all, Wednesday’s Florida Department of Health bulletin is only the latest in a series of false, dangerous claims he’s made as the state’s top health official. He was investigated last year for scientific fraud after he was accused of manipulating and altering data around vaccine safety. Ladapo denied the claim. The inspector general for the state health department closed the investigation when the anonymous complainant didn’t respond to follow up questions from the investigator’s office.

Ladapo’s widely debunked missives go against guidance from the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization and other experts in the field.

To be clear, Ladapo is DeSantis’ lap dog who was hired to do his political bidding on the state’s dime.

As fewer people receive vaccines, more people will die. It is difficult to understand how either Ladapo or DeSantis can look at themselves in the mirror or justify scaring people away from vaccines to increase the Governor’s far-right cred in a race he can’t possibly win.


Biden lays out the stakes: It’s about democracy” via Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post — In remarks Friday, Biden did not hold back. He made clear that the election is about our “sacred cause” — democracy — and reminded voters that George Washington voluntarily gave up power. “In America, genuine leaders — democratic leaders, with a small d — don’t hold on to power relentlessly. Our leaders return power to the people, and they do it willingly because that’s the deal,” he explained. “You do your duty. You serve your country. And ours is a country worthy of service. … We’re not perfect, but, at our best, we face head-on the good, the bad, the truth of who we are. … That’s what great nations do. And we’re a great nation. We’re the greatest nation on the face of the Earth.” Put differently, what makes us great is our democracy, and democracies reject those would-be dictators who cling to power in defiance of the people’s will.

How many times will DeSantis use ‘woke’ in 2024? Let’s start counting.” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Every new year brings about people and places to watch. But numbers can tell the story, too, and here are some that will count in 2024. Iowa’s Republican Presidential Caucus is on Jan. 15, six days after the opening of Florida’s 2024 Legislative Session. Speaking of DeSantis, he used the word “woke” 345,867 times in 2023. OK. OK. We’re just kidding. We didn’t actually count them all up, but it sure felt like he was hitting us with it in every other sentence. Will “woke” remain the Governor’s No. 1 buzzword in 2023?

With DeSantis distracted by the GOP Primary, Florida may pass fewer terrible bills this Legislative Session” via Bess Levin of Vanity Fair — According to POLITICO, DeSantis’ focus on winning the GOP nomination has “left legislators frustrated” and unclear what his priorities are for the state. Others claim he hasn’t laid out a slate of policies he wants passed because he already achieved everything he wanted last year. In Iowa this week, DeSantis said he had “overdelivered” on his promises to Floridians. Of course, if a less engaged, less feared, less Florida-focused DeSantis means fewer laws dictating when the people of Florida can access reproductive care, what they can talk about in the classroom, or if they can walk around town without worrying about the number of people carrying a gun who were not required to pass a safety course and a background check, that is probably a good thing.

If Trump’s ‘swamp’ is a real thing, South Florida is neck deep in it” via the Miami Herald editorial board — It may be hard to connect the dots between South Florida politics, the rise of Trump, Jan. 6 and the threats to our democracy. But reporting about influence peddling in local politics and the sketchy relationship between a developer and the Mayors of two of our biggest cities points to why some Americans are growing disillusioned with representative democracy. How can you then convince Miamians to be more engaged in the political process when there is a sense of inevitability in the way our politicians behave? Less than 15% of eligible voters have cast ballots in recent elections, and it is in some politicians’ best interest to leave things that way.


— ALOE —

Prepare for launch: University of Florida announces plans for space research institute” via The Gainesville Sun — The University of Florida has announced a plan to put more than $2 million toward the launch of a space-related research institute. UF was awarded $130 million in funding from the Florida Legislature in 2023 and President Ben Sasse chose to put most of it toward strategic initiatives that will advance interdisciplinary scholarship and enhance the student experience. The Space Mission Institute will be managed by UF Research and receive $2.5 million of these funds to create a hub where scientists and scholars at UF can conduct research, collaborate and innovate. Programs such as the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, the College of Pharmacy and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, among others, will utilize the hub.

UF is launching the Space Mission Institute, with $2.5 million in support from President Ben Sasse’s strategic funding initiative.  Image via UF.

Florida gas prices climb 8 cents after New Year’s” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Motorists in the Sunshine State are paying more for gas after New Year’s Day than before it. The average price for a gallon of unleaded gas increased 8 cents in Florida in the past week. As of Monday, the price per gallon was $3.16 — which is still 14 cents cheaper than what drivers and motorcyclists paid a year ago. AAA representative Mark Jenkins blamed the hike on rising oil prices, which may not decline while tensions in the Middle East persist. “Gasoline supplies are strong right now, due to strong refinery activity and seasonally low demand. That would normally help keep gas prices low, but oil prices remain propped up by concerns over the possibility of widening conflict in the Middle East,” he said in a statement.

Disney to sell discounted two-day tickets to Floridians” via DeWayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Walt Disney World has unveiled a wintertime theme park ticket deal for Florida residents. The Disney Thrills Ticket is good for two days and costs $199. It goes on sale on Jan. 11, and it’s valid through March 15. A three-day version will be available for $219. The base ticket will be good for one theme park per day, although for $40 more, it can be given park-hopping powers between attractions. Theme park reservations will be required for each date. Another option, priced at an additional $35, will include visits to a water park, golf course or miniature golf course. All of these tickets will expire March 15. A one-day ticket during this time period regularly costs between $134 and $179, depending on the date and park selected.


Best wishes to Mike Fasano’s right-hand man, Greg Giordano, Julia Canady, and Makenzi Mahler. It’s also insurance lobbyist Lisa Miller’s birthday.


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.

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