Takeaways from Tallahassee — A bold plan

Blue Tally Takeaways (5)
A bipartisan pair of lawmakers are pitching a novel approach to stabilizing the state's property insurance market.

Florida legislators were not expected to take any significant additional actions to shore up the state’s property insurance this Session. Still, one North Fort Myers Republican is working with a Dania Beach Democrat to convince legislators to consider a bold plan that could help with rates.

Rep. Spencer Roach is sponsoring a measure (HB 1213) along with Rep. Hillary Cassel that would allow Citizens Property Insurance to offer hurricane coverage to anyone in the state as opposed to the carrier’s current mission of being the insurer of last resort.

In other words, this would shift the riskiest part of insurance coverage in the state to Citizens, meaning that private carriers could strip out hurricane coverage in the policies they sell to homeowners. That could potentially drop the overall cost for private carriers because they would no longer need to spend as much money as they do now on backup coverage, known as reinsurance. Roach argues it could also stave off a market catastrophe in the event of a significant natural disaster.

“The market came precipitously close to collapse after Ian, and if we had suffered another Ian this season, it would have collapsed. The current model is unsustainable, and eventually — but inevitably — Florida will have to embrace the model of universal wind coverage,” Roach said.

Spencer Roach’s idea to stabilize the insurance market: Take hurricanes off the table. Image via Colin Hackley.

Florida’s property insurance market has been in turmoil for several years now as carriers have either gone insolvent or retracted their coverage in the state as rates have soared and are among the highest in the nation.

“For 70-plus years, Florida’s homeowner’s insurance industry has been a boom-and-bust cycle, which always ends the same way: It’s a boom for insurance executives and shareholders and a bust for Florida homeowners,” Roach told Florida Politics.

“At this point, it’s a misnomer to even call it a business — it’s a Ponzi scheme where homeowners spend years paying high premiums in good faith only to be left underwater, figuratively and literally, when these companies refuse to pay out claims.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Legislature have responded primarily by limiting lawsuits against insurance companies. Many other ideas to reduce rates — such as restructuring Florida’s state-created backup reinsurance fund — have gone nowhere even though some domestic insurers have repeatedly called for this change.

Now comes the idea being pitched by Roach and Cassel.

“HB 1213 draws upon states like California and Texas, both of which offer universal coverage for natural disasters — California with the CEA and Texas with the TWIA — to transform Citizens as the vehicle to provide this coverage, and will allow the free market companies to offer standard, bread-and-butter coverage that you would find in non-hurricane states. Under my plan, everyone wins — homeowners will be covered, and the free market can write policies without ever worrying about the risk of a hurricane,” Roach said, predicting “rates will drop like a stone” if his and Cassel’s bill becomes law.

“This is not theoretical. We have almost three decades of data from California and 52 years of empirical data from Texas. Both states have models similar to what I am envisioning for Florida. There is a reason both of those programs are still in place.”

Some have fretted about the potential financial impact on Citizens. Citizens Property, while state-created, does not rely on taxpayer money for its day-to-day operations. But if the carrier does not have enough money to pay off claims due to a storm it can place an extra surcharge on its policies or even an assessment on nearly every insurance bill in the state. Additionally, there have been instances in the past where the state has shifted taxpayer money over to Citizens to help with claims.

It’s unclear if the Roach and Cassel bill will get a hearing. House Speaker Paul Renner sounded a tad skeptical this week about the concept of “whether taxpayers take hurricanes off the table” for private insurers and shift it to Citizens.

Renner acknowledged the decision by legislators two years ago to set aside taxpayer money to help bolster reinsurance coverage for private carriers was not “where Republicans would normally go.”

He said he was open to a “conversation” about the proposals. But he added that he hoped that the “reforms” adopted by legislators in the past two years “will allow the private market to come back. That’s always the best outcome.”

Roach is hoping that conversation comes in the 2024 Legislative Session.

“Is my plan perfect? Probably not, but I have yet to hear other ideas that don’t involve nibbling around the edges and waiting three to five years for premiums to go down. The time for incremental change is over — my friends and neighbors are demanding reform, and I gave them my word that I would try and do something about this. It’s time for a big, bold, out-of-the-box solution, and this is it. It’s time for us to have this discussion,” he said.


Coming up, the usual assortment of news, intel, and observations from the week that was in Florida’s capital city by Peter Schorsch, Drew Wilson, Christine Jordan Sexton and the staff of Florida Politics.

But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

—Take 5 —

Brief detour: Though his campaign says otherwise, this could very well be the last week DeSantis is presidential candidate DeSantis. The Governor took a break from making his pitch to Iowans to swing through Tallahassee and deliver his sixth State of the State address. The regular statement of priorities for the 2024 Legislative Session was necessarily backdropped by the looming question of whether the Florida Governor has a path in the presidential race, and if he doesn’t, when does he come back to Tallahassee to get back to business in the state he described poetically as “the heirs to the spirit of 1776 represented by the Liberty Bell.” The Governor didn’t linger in Tallahassee very long after his speech. He was back in Iowa before sunset to appear in a televised town hall.

Not going to happen: House Speaker Renner made clear this week he won’t seek further abortion restrictions this Session. And he won’t do away with mail-in voting. The Palm Coast Republican, after taking a victory lap on conservative priorities passed last year, said he doesn’t want to push the limits of public tolerance. While suggesting he personally might support further efforts to limit abortion, he considers the heartbeat bill signed into law last year to be a major win. With mail-in voting, he echoed comments by Senate President Kathleen Passidomo. Will he consider getting rid of no-excuses mail ballots? “No,” Renner answered.

For your health: Session opened with another statement of what won’t happen — Medicaid expansion. Passidomo, whose top priority is her Live Healthy health care overhaul (SB 7016), used her opening day Session remarks this week to push back against Democrats who continue to urge Florida to expand Medicaid eligibility, and Renner echoed her position. Florida is one of 10 states that has not expanded Medicaid to low-income, childless adults as allowable under federal law. Her comments came as federal data showed Florida again led the nation in Obamacare enrollment, with 4 million residents signing up for health plans through the federal marketplace. Meanwhile, Live Healthy completed its march through the Committee and is ready for a floor vote in the upper chamber.

Redo: One day after he said he wouldn’t campaign for the office again, suspended Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren could have a pathway to get his job back. The Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a lower court erred in its analysis of DeSantis’ decision to suspend Warren. The lower court ruled DeSantis violated Warren’s First Amendment rights but still would’ve suspended him for other reasons unrelated to those violations and stopped short of reinstating him. The appellate court ruling also doesn’t reinstate Warren outright, remanding the case back to the lower court in Tallahassee while also placing the burden on DeSantis to show he would’ve suspended him for reasons that didn’t violate Warren’s First Amendment rights. It’s unclear, though, how soon the lower court will act.

Happy birthday: For the first time in nearly 50 years, House members convened in the Old Capitol to commemorate Tallahassee’s 200th anniversary as the state capital. During the “special” Session, the chamber passed Tallahassee Democratic Rep. Allison Tant’s resolution (HR 8001), celebrating the “important milestone” and wishing the community a “powerful next chapter.” The House’s action is one of many events planned for Tallahassee’s 200th anniversary. The day-and-date birthday is March 4 and is tied to an 1824 proclamation made by Territorial Gov. William Duval establishing Tallahassee as the territorial capital due to its convenient location as the middle point between Pensacola and St. Augustine.

—Blue-green green —

Like most Floridians, DeSantis doesn’t like to see guacamole-looking sludge floating atop state waterways. Unlike most Floridians, however, he’s in a position to do something about it.

Earlier this week, DeSantis announced $10 million in state funding for a list of projects aimed at preventing or mitigating algal blooms, which are not only gross but can produce toxins that harm fish, mammals and even people.

“Florida’s beaches and waterways play a large role in our state’s economy, and it is important to continue making investments that protect them from harmful algal blooms,” DeSantis said. “These technologies will help improve the state’s ability to combat harmful algal blooms and protect the livelihoods of Floridians who depend on Florida’s beaches and waterways to make a living.”

It looks like runoff from the ‘Double Dare’ set, but this is the gunk coastal communities deal with when a bloom strikes.

The Governor’s office noted that the new projects join 40 other algae-related efforts that have received funding since DeSantis took office five years ago. The administration also recently announced a trio of grants aimed at reducing nutrient levels in Florida waterways, including the award of $210 million through the Water Quality Improvement Grant Program, $100 million through the Indian River Lagoon Protection Program and $30 million for the Caloosahatchee River and Estuary.

“Dedicated funding for innovative technologies is a critical component of our multifaceted approach to protecting water quality in Florida,” said Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Shawn Hamilton. “I am thankful for the backing of the Governor, his administration and our lawmakers for their commitment to address the challenges we face head-on.”

— Keeping it 100 —

Attorney General Ashley Moody recognized Human Trafficking Awareness Day by welcoming another institution into the 100 Percent Club.

The 100 Percent Club recognizes companies and organizations that take proactive steps and pledge to train their employees on the signs of human trafficking and how to report it safely and effectively.

The latest addition is Tampa General, the first hospital to join the 100 Percent Club’s ranks. It’s an especially important addition, Moody’s office asserts, since studies have found that more than 88% of human trafficking victims come into contact with the health care system while being trafficked.

Tampa General is establishing a permanent coronavirus unit.
TGH is the first hospital in the state to join Ashley Moody’s club to fight human trafficking. Image via Tampa General Hospital.

“Human trafficking harms victims in various ways — with most seeking medical care at some point during their captivity. That is why it is so important that doctors, nurses and medical staff know how to spot and report human trafficking,” Moody said. “The staff at Tampa General Hospital will now be trained to be our eyes and ears to help victims escape captivity. TGH’s proactive stance sets a powerful precedent in our collective efforts to protect victims, stop trafficking and prosecute traffickers.”

TGH President and CEO John Couris added, “Patients across the state and the nation turn to Tampa General Hospital for world-class care. The care we provide at TGH often extends beyond the walls of our hospital to ensure our patients are safe and have access to basic necessities. Our team can also play an important role in putting an end to human trafficking. Through information and training, we’re working to equip our team with the knowledge to act when we come across a victim and engage law enforcement to respond.”

Other businesses and institutions can join the 100 Percent Club by committing to providing training to employees and issuing a quick-reference guide about how to report human trafficking. Moody’s office has further resources on how to recognize the signs of human trafficking and learn about the steps Florida is taking to combat it, including archive material from the 2023 Human Trafficking Summit, which was held in October.

— Fires suck —

Consumers buy Dyson vacuums for the promise of no-loss-of-suction technology, not the potential for a raging house fire. Unfortunately, that’s what some consumers are getting.

This week, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis highlighted recent reports of replacement batteries for Dyson vacuums that are worse than duds.

To be clear, these lithium-ion timebombs are not OEM products — according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, they’re manufactured by a company called Zautnkn, and one could assume they’re being bought by the cross section of consumers who are willing to plunk down $700 on a vacuum but are too cheap to spend more than $20 to replace its battery.

By all means, cheap out on your next Li-ion purchase. Just don’t be surprised if this happens. Stock image via Adobe.

“It’s imperative that consumers know the risks before purchasing lithium-ion battery packs from Amazon for Dyson vacuums. These batteries pose a serious threat and are incredibly dangerous if they catch fire. Once a fire begins, it can spread quickly and become extremely difficult for firefighters to put out,” Patronis said.

In addition to issuing a warning, the second-term Republican said he plans to get lawmakers involved: “This Session, I’m proposing legislation that the state create policies and procedures around lithium-ion batteries to prevent potential disasters. It’s very important that consumers are aware of the new and unprecedented threat that lithium-ion fires pose to Floridians and their property.”

The proposed safety standards are included in bills filed by Rep. Chip LaMarca and Sen. Nick DiCeglie (HB 989/SB 1098). Neither has come up in Committee yet, though as DFS priority bills, they most assuredly will as the 2024 Legislative Session presses on.

— New year, new acquisition —

One week into 2024, Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson announced his department had completed the first-ever rural land protection easement through its sole authority.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services was granted the ability to execute conservation easement deals under legislation passed in the 2023 Legislative Session, with the upper limit being a $5 million purchase price.

FDACS’ first deal was for a 237-acre property in Okeechobee County. The parcel operates as the Curren Dairy, a beef and dairy operation, and includes 96 acres of improved pasture and 70 acres of native range. The project site is enrolled in the FDACS’ Best Management Practices program and is located within the Florida Wildlife Corridor.

Wilton Simpson has about 237 reasons to smile after the state’s latest conservation easement deal.

“The Curren Dairy property has been in agriculture for over 50 years, and with its recent approval into our program, we will ensure that it can stay in agriculture for 50 more,” Simpson said in a news release. “To receive the authority to acquire easements under $5 million without Board approval and just six months later close on this project is a demonstration of the efficiency and nimbleness of this department to the benefit of Florida’s agricultural conservation efforts.”

Conservation easements allow agricultural operations to continue on a property but restrict future development. Since it launched in 2001, the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program has executed 70 easement deals covering approximately 100,000 acres.

Conservation is a priority for Simpson, a former Senate President. While presiding over the upper chamber, Simpson successfully championed the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act, which directed the state to better protect and connect Florida’s natural areas and wildlife habitats and preserve working agricultural lands from future development.

— Instagram of the week —

— The week in appointments —

Eastpoint Water and Sewer District — DeSantis appointed William “Garrett” Creamer, Joyce Estes, Ricky Jones, Jimmy “Colton” Sapp and Michael Thornburg to the Eastpoint Water and Sewer District. Creamer is the owner and an investor of Coastline Rentals, who earned his associate degree in criminal justice from Tallahassee Community College. Estes is an art gallery owner and was previously elected to the Escambia County School Board. Jones is the manager of Flynn Auto Parts and the District 1 Commissioner for the Franklin County Commission. Sapp is the manager of Red Pirate Family Grill and Oyster Bar. Thornburg is a retiree who previously served as a Transportation and Logistics Executive.

— Back to work —

A pair of Central Florida Democrats filed legislation this week to combat teacher shortages by giving veteran educators a few thousand more reasons to stick around.

The bills (HB 1097/SB 1482), filed by Rep. Rita Harris and Sen. Vic Torres, would expand eligibility for Florida’s Deferred Retirement Option Program.

Better known as DROP, the program allows state employees to earn interest on their monthly retirement benefits while continuing to work and draw a paycheck. When their retirement date comes, the employee can receive money in their DROP account as a lump sum, roll it over to another plan, or a combination of the two.

Bringing experienced teachers back into the classroom sounds like a better, more realistic idea than whatever this is.

But once their retirement is finalized, there’s a six-month cool-down period before they can reenter the public workforce — for those doing the math, that’s far longer than the summer break between school years.

Torres’ and Harris’ bill would scratch out the waiting period, allowing the teachers, school nurses, administrators and bus drivers who decide that the retirement life isn’t for them to course-correct and return to work.

“Florida has a shortage of qualified schoolteachers, bus drivers, and other personnel, which is why I support making these changes to allow former retirees who have years of experience to return to the classroom sooner and improve educational opportunities for students in our public schools,” Torres said.

Harris added, “For several years, public schools have been experiencing a shortage of teachers, school nurses, bus drivers, and other support staff that are vital to the education of Florida’s children. This bill will allow previously retired teachers to come back to work if they feel inclined to before their waiting period is over. This will relieve the stress that many schools are facing as they try to meet the needs of our growing population. I am proud to file a bill that will help students and support our public schools.”

— Glovebox Glocks —

Democratic Reps. Joe Casello and Dan Daley want the state to take more interest in how firearms are stored in vehicles, and they’ve filed a bill to make it happen.

HB 1087 would mandate secure storage of firearms and ammunition in motor vehicles or vessels when the owner isn’t around. Further, it would spell out acceptable storage locations, such as locked trunks or containers, while excluding easily accessible areas like vehicle beds or compartments with windows.

“This bill represents a practical step toward increasing personal responsibility. It’s about ensuring that firearms are securely stored in vehicles, balancing personal rights with community safety,” Cassello said.

Here’s an example of an acceptable gun storage location … assuming it’s not left open in the middle of a parking lot. Stock image via Adobe.

Daley added, “According to crime data from the FBI, a gun is stolen from a vehicle every 15 minutes. Gun owners who do not safely secure and store their firearms are simply more likely to have a firearm stolen. As a responsible gun owner myself, I’m proud to work with Rep. Casello on this common-sense legislation. If you’re going to keep your gun in your car or vessel, certain precautions are imperative.”

The fate of the bill is uncertain, given the pro-gun leanings of the GOP supermajority in the Legislature. Still, there is buy-in from the Florida chapter of the national gun safety group Moms Demand Action.

“When guns aren’t properly stored, tragedy can strike — whether it’s a child finding a firearm and injuring or killing themselves, or someone stealing it and using it to commit a crime. Secure gun storage in cars can prevent both,” said Katie Hathaway, a volunteer with the organization.

“Policymakers and local leaders have a responsibility to build public awareness and implement laws for secure storage in cars, especially at a time when gun thefts from cars are at an all-time high and carry the additional risk of fueling future violence.”

Boynton Beach Democratic Sen. Lori Berman is sponsoring a similar bill (SB 1250) in the Senate.

— See above —

Cassello and Daley aren’t the only House Democrats working at the intersection of guns, vehicles and vessels.

The same week they announced their bill, Gainesville Democratic Rep. Yvonne Hinson touted similar legislation (HB 419) prohibiting the storage of firearms in unoccupied private conveyances and vessels — e.g., cars — unless done so in a specified manner.

Namely, it would be illegal for guns to be stored in a place where the average passerby could see them. Instead, they must be secured in a lockable trunk, glovebox or utility box.

We’re unsure what handcuffs are securing, but here’s an example of poor firearm storage etiquette. Stock image via Adobe.

Hinson said she’s done the legwork to build bipartisan support for her proposal, having met with the Governor’s staff, House Speaker Renner, and House Criminal Justice Subcommittee Chair Keith Truenow during the bill’s development.

The genesis of her idea, she said, stemmed from rising gun violence among HD 21 youth and was crafted after meeting with law enforcement in her Alachua- and Marion-based district, who said a significant percentage of killings were committed with guns pilfered from vehicles.

“I have worked on this issue for two years. It has had a devastating effect on my community, but law enforcement and elected officials believe this would help alleviate the problem. I am passionate about this cause and have been working diligently with our stakeholders to ensure this bill reflects the needs of Floridians,” Hinson said in a news release.

“I want to express how committed I am to (bringing) awareness to the issues concerning gun violence. It is an uphill battle, but I still see a ray of hope in this dark tunnel we have found ourselves in.”

— Leadership material —

House Democratic Caucus Leader Fentrice Driskell is adding Pompano Beach Rep. Patricia Williams to the Democratic caucus’ leadership team as a Deputy Whip.

Williams was first elected to the House in 2016 and is currently the ranking member for the Education & Employment Committee and the PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee.

Congratulations to Patricia Williams for being named a Deputy Whip. Image via Colin Hackley.

“I’m excited that we’ve found a way to use Rep. Williams’ years of experience to help our members navigate the 2024 Legislative Session. She’s one of the best people in the process and is one of the most well-liked members of our caucus. I’m a big fan and am glad she agreed to take on this responsibility,” Driskell said in a news release.

Williams added, “Floridians are counting on us to be their voice now more than ever. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure Florida House Democrats continue to advocate for what the people of Florida need.”

The Democratic Whip is Rep. Christine Hunschofsky of Parkland, who is aided by a team of Deputy Whips who provide general assistance and share information to keep the caucus up to speed during the often-fast-paced Legislative Session.

The Democrat’s other Deputy Whips for 2024: Reps. Tant, Kristen Arrington, Michele Rayner and Marie Woodson.

— Perfecting school choice —

During his State of the State address this week, Gov. DeSantis touted Florida’s unprecedented spending to enable more primary and secondary students to enroll in charter and private institutions.

As a success story, he singled out Hera Varmah, a Florida tax-credit scholarship recipient who now works to provide every child in and outside Florida with quality education.

Varmah, an external relations associate at school choice advocacy group American Federation for Children (AFC), told Florida Politics that the state’s universal school choice program, which lawmakers passed last year, will transform myriad young lives.

Hera Varmah wants all Florida K-12 students to have the same educational opportunity she did.

AFC is helping to make that happen, she said, guiding parents through securing scholarships for their kids while also looking for how to refine the program so it’s even better next year.

“Our focus now that we’ve passed universal school choice is protecting the program and ensuring that every scholarship possible is made available to children and that they can utilize this program for years to come,” she said. “With this new wave of students enrolling in it, we’re using this time to collect data, see what’s working, what’s not working, and fine-tune everything involving the scholarship program for the next year so that it works even better and smoother for parents and their kids.”

Varmah said she’s working to bring Florida’s model for school choice to other states — while also helping it blossom in her home state.

“There are so many states without school choice programs or with small programs, and students are stuck in a school just based off their ZIP code,” she said. “School choice saved my life, and I’m going to keep fighting every day for it to change the lives of all Americans, especially those in Florida.”

— F-minus —

DeSantis’ State of the State address is getting a lot of red ink and no stickers from the state’s largest teacher union.

The Florida Education Association, representing about 120,000 school employees, said the Governor’s speech “underscores a critical need for a shift in direction for Florida’s educational ecosystem, as many parents, students and educators feel left out of the conversation.”

FEA backed up the assertion by pointing to recent polling it commissioned that found 55% of voters think the state’s educational system is headed in the wrong direction compared to 26% who believe it is on the right track.

We’re not sure where Andrew Spar would place Ron DeSantis on the E-S-N-U scale, but we’re guessing it’s one of the latter two.

The union previously gave DeSantis poor marks following the release of his budget proposal, which it said continued to underfund public schools and underpay the teachers who work in them — the $175 boost in per-pupil spending and $200 million for teacher pay increases the Governor is recommending will still fall short of funding levels from a decade ago when adjusted for inflation, the union said.

FEA President Andrew Spar again criticized the “lack of investment” this week.

“Public schools are not just where childhood happens; they are the center of our communities. We’ve seen continued attacks on teachers, educational staff, parents, and students — and voters are listening. Florida voters, parents and students need more from leaders on education issues,” he said in a news release.

He continued, “For too long, we’ve seen the political ambitions of some leaders overtake rational conversations about the needs of students. Instead, we should continue to focus on ensuring resources are available so that every child, regardless of their race, background, gender identity, sexual orientation, ZIP code or ability, can thrive.”

— Top priority —

The Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers highlighted the filing of what it says is its “priority legislation” for the 2024 Legislative Session.

SB 1470 by Sen. Travis Hutson and HB 1077 by Rep. Adam Botana would check the three boxes outlined in the Florida Clerks’ Let’s Make It Work 2024 Clerk Legislative Priorities: diversifying Clerk revenue, supporting staffing needs and accounting for services with no funding source.

One guess what Barry Baker’s favorite bill of the 2024 Session is. Image via Florida Court Clerks.

“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.”

The Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers organization is a nonprofit member association of the state’s county Clerks of Court. It provides government support services, technical assistance, and accreditation opportunities for members.

— Apply today! —

AARP Florida is accepting applications for its 2024 AARP Community Challenge, which funds quick-action projects that help communities become more livable in the long-term.

The grants are part of AARP’s nationwide Livable Communities initiative and are aimed at projects that improve public spaces, transportation, housing, civic engagement, diversity and inclusion, and more.

The program, now in its eighth year, supports the efforts of cities, towns, neighborhoods and rural areas to become great places to live for all residents, especially those age 50 and older.

“AARP Florida is committed to helping communities across the state become great places to live for people of all ages with an emphasis on people aged 50 and older,” said AARP Florida State Director Jeff Johnson. “The Community Challenge Grant Program has proven that quick-action projects can lead to long-lasting improvements enhancing Floridians’ quality of life.”

If you have a plan to make your community more accessible, AARP Florida would love to hear about it — and maybe even fund it. Stock image via Adobe.

The AARP Community Challenge accepts applications across three different grant opportunities:

— Capacity-building microgrants are paired with additional resources on projects to improve walkability and bikeability or perform accessible home modifications.

— Demonstration grants focus on improving digital connections to prepare and respond to disasters, reconnecting communities divided by infrastructure, and housing choice design competitions.

— Flagship grants support projects that improve public places, transportation, housing, diversity, equity, and inclusion, civic engagement, community health and economic empowerment, new this year community resilience, and digital connections.

The Community Challenge is open to eligible nonprofit organizations and government entities. Other types of organizations are considered on a case-by-case basis. Grants can range from several hundred dollars for small, short-term activities to tens of thousands of dollars for larger projects.

Eligible parties may apply for the 2023 AARP Community Challenge grant program now. The cutoff is March 6 at 5 p.m. To apply and view past grantees, visit AARP.org/CommunityChallenge.

— Good intentioned, but … —

A bill championed by the House Speaker that would bar youngsters from social media platforms is advancing through committee, and the tech industry has something to say about it.

HB 1 would prohibit accounts for children aged 16 and younger. There’s also a public records bill (HB 1377) tied to the enforcement of the legislation if it becomes law.

When members of the House Regulatory Reform and Economic Development Subcommittee questioned whether they would vote to advance both bills this week, committee members openly questioned whether such a law would be enforceable.

Kids deserve data privacy, too. Even if they are wearing no-lens fashion frames. Stock image via Adobe.

According to the Computer & Communications Industry Association, the issue is not with whether the law would be able to prevent minors from accessing social media networks, but the potential privacy costs they would face in the name of online safety.

CCIA said it is concerned that the bill could increase data collection requirements that conflict with other data minimization principles. It also said the bill risks adopting similar provisions that have faced legal challenges in other jurisdictions, due to concerns with infringing upon teens’ First Amendment right to access information.

Further, CCIA argued that the Renner-backed priority could cut off young people from supportive communities, such as for those who reside in unsafe home environments, and generally would restrict access to open information online.

“We share the goal of protecting younger users online, and support previous legislative efforts aimed at online literacy to educate users about the tools, features, settings that are available to protect privacy, tailor online experiences, and avoid scams,” CCIA State Policy Director Khara Boender said.

“Unfortunately despite the well-intentioned goals, Florida’s age verification legislation puts younger users’ privacy at risk as companies would need to collect additional personal data on internet users to comply with the law.”

— Capitol Directions —

Ron DeSantis — Question marks — We really don’t know how he’s gonna do in Iowa, but we’re betting he’s going to have a severe case of the Mondays.

Casey DeSantis — Up arrow — If DeSantis has had a good past two weeks, it’s no coincidence the First Lady has been omnipresent.

The North Face — Up arrow — Sorry Carhartt, you’re just not Iowa material.

Andrew Warren — Up arrow — Somebody jumped the gun on his non-campaign announcement.

Disney — Up arrow — Mickey may be public domain, but so are 11th Circuit Court of Appeals rulings.

Kathleen Passidomo — Up arrow — As they say, ‘Don’t put off until Day 60 what you can do on Day 3.’

Paul Renner — Down arrow — Unlike Trix, First Amendment rights are not for kids.

Lori Berman, Marie Woodson — Up arrow — No-cost breast cancer screenings fit the Life Healthy mantra. Just saying.

Blaise Ingoglia — Down arrow — Has a trial balloon ever been popped as quickly as Ingoglia’s float of eliminating VBM?

Medicaid expansion — Down arrow — If the past decade didn’t make it clear, Kathleen Passidomo did.

Voting-by-mail — Up arrow — We’ll get rid of it whenever we get around to expanding Medicaid.

Porn hub — Down arrow — It’s not a ‘ban,’ they just need your DL number, your mother’s maiden name and the last four of your social!

State workers — Up arrow — Whether you like Coke, Pepsi or RC (yuck!) we can all agree COLA is pretty sweet.

Evan Power — Up arrow — There you have it: A strict no three-ways campaign platform is still viable in GOP politics.

Kevin Cate — Up arrow — What’s better than one Emmy? Two Emmys.

Frank Kruppenbacher — Down arrow — After five years, we were hoping for a Perry Mason-level admission, but this’ll do.

Merriam-Webster — Up arrow — Guess kids will need to rely on social media to learn risqué definitions … oh, wait.

Bears — Crossways arrow — Ah, the “he was coming right for me” defense. Jimbo and Ned would be proud.

Old Capitol — Up arrow — Pledge had its best sales day in decades.

NCAA — Double down arrow — Haven’t you hurt FSU enough?

FSU — Up arrow — Garnet 1, Crimson 0.

Warrick Dunn — Up arrow — He was always Thunder & Lightning’s better half.

Drew Wilson

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.


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

Sign up for Sunburn