Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 2.9.24

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Be better than the competition. Sunburn gives you the edge.

Good Friday morning.

Breaking overnight — “Donald Trump clinches win at U.S. Virgin Islands Caucus, which defied Republican Party rules” via Dánica Coto of The Associated Press — The Caucus is the third Republican contest held this election season with delegates at stake, with Trump receiving 73.98% of the votes and Nikki Haley 26.02%. “I want to thank you all. We had a tremendous victory,” Trump said in brief remarks by phone to those who gathered in St. Thomas to hear the results. “We expected to win, but we didn’t expect to win by that much. You are incredible people I will never forget.” Republican Party officials in the U.S. Virgin Islands said they opted to hold the contest early to ensure the U.S. territory played an important role in the nomination of a candidate.

Donald Trump was quick with a response.

___

A coalition of labor unions is launching a digital ad campaign painting a bleak picture of Florida teens’ future if lawmakers move forward with a plan to loosen the state’s child labor laws.

The campaign launched on Feb. 7, just a handful of days after the state House passed HB 49 along party lines. The legislation, panned by most educators and worker unions, would 16- and 17-year-olds to work more than 30 hours a week and as late as 11 p.m. on a school night.

A new campaign spotlights the effort to loosen child labor laws.

Opponents have also criticized the legislation for allowing minors to work in “dangerous environments,” such as construction sites.

“To be honest, I can’t believe we’re having this fight. Basically, since kids stopped losing limbs in farm implements during the 1920s and 30s, it’s been settled that teens should be in the classroom, not in farm fields, factory floors or on construction sites. Now, a bunch of wealthy companies and extreme politicians want to relitigate a battle settled a century ago? They want WHAT exactly?” Florida AFL-CIO Director of Politics and Public Policy Rich Templin said, emphasis his own.

The Florida AFL-CIO campaign used an AI image generator to create images of what a post-HB 49 work environment could look like — an image included alongside the campaign announcement shows two high school-age construction workers leaning on high-rise scaffolding.

The ads will be shown in Tallahassee and around the capital, as well as in key districts across the state represented by legislators whose votes could stymie the bill.

“The truth is that the pictures created by the AI show more common sense out of a computer than seems to be going through some politicians’ heads,” Templin said.

___

Midway through the 2024 Legislative Session, public affairs agency Moore has released its annual “Session on Social” rankings showing which lawmakers have the most traction on social media.

Though Democrats hold superminority status in both chambers, they remain a dominating force on X and Facebook.

Who has the best thumbs in the Legislature?

Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani of Orlando was the far-and-away No. 1, with a whopping 14.1 million impressions on X across 153 tweets. She likewise held the top spot on Facebook with 21,000-plus engagements on 347 posts.

Democratic Rep. Angie Nixon held a distant second place on X, with 4.9 million impressions, followed by Sen. Shevrin Jones, also a Democrat, at 1.3 million. No other lawmaker cracked seven figures on the site formerly known as Twitter. Rep. Chip LaMarca posted the GOP’s top showing with about 633,000 impressions.

If one sets aside Eskamani’s curve-breaking stats, the battle was closer on Meta’s premier platform. The No. 2 overall on Facebook was Republican Sen. Danny Burgess of Zephyrhills at 1,800 engagements, followed by Port Orange GOP Rep. Chase Tramont at 1,700 or so.

Rep. Rita Harris was the next-highest Democrat behind Eskamani with about 1,500 impressions.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@NateSilver538: There’s not any clever tactical way out of the (President Joe) Biden age and mental fitness questions because voters can evaluate it with their own eyes and ears. In fact, some tactics could backfire if it looks like you’re not being forthright. You just have to hope voters think (Donald) Trump is worse.

Tweet, tweet:

@SundayDivine: I feel sorry for Mike Johnson. Before he became Speaker, only a handful of people knew what an idiot he was. Now, a few hundred million people know.

Tweet, tweet:

@Fineout: Right before the start of today’s session House Speaker @Paul_Renner is up on the dais holding up a red solo cup. The House has been playing Toby Keith songs in the chamber before they gavel in

@AA_Malave: Red Solo Cups are great for all sorts of beverages, including Speaker’s favorite mint tea

@BSFarrington: The Florida Legislature is a really, really upsetting place for those good citizens who hate when people use utilize #justuseuse #savethesyllables

Tweet, tweet:

— DAYS UNTIL —

Super Bowl LVIII — 2; Ninth Annual Suits for Session begins — 11; Season 6 of ‘Drive To Survive’ premieres on Netflix — 14; South Carolina Republican Primary — 15; Michigan Democratic Primary — 18; James Madison Institute’s ‘Red, White and Bluegrass’ dinner — 19; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 21; Michigan/Idaho/Missouri GOP Primaries — 22; Netflix to stream “The Netflix Slam,” Rafael Nadal/Carlos Alcaraz faceoff — 23; Super Tuesday — 25; State of the Union address — 27; last day of Regular Session, if Legislature completes work in 60 days — 28; 2024 Oscars — 30; Georgia Democratic Primary — 32; Arizona/Florida/Illinois/Kansas/Ohio Primaries — 39; James Madison Institute’s ‘2024 Naples Dinner’ with keynote speaker Laura Ingraham — 41; ‘3 Body Problem’ premieres on Netflix — 41; The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the mifepristone/abortion pill case — 46; Major League Baseball’s (MLB) 2024 season — 48; March Madness Final Four (women’s) begins — 55; March Madness Final Four (men’s) — 58; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 62; The Masters begin — 63; Kentucky Derby — 86; 2024 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 91; ‘Bridgerton’ new season (part one) premieres on Netflix — 96; French Open begins — 101; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 103; Dave Matthews Band 2024 Summer Tour begins in Tampa — 103; Monaco Grand Prix — 107; the 2026 World Cup begins — 123; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 141; Republican National Convention begins — 157; the 2026 World Cup ends — 161; 2024 MLS All-Star Game — 166; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games on NBC/Peacock — 168; Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 186; Democratic National Convention begins — 192; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 197; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 252; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 252; 2024 Presidential Election — 267; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 283; MLS Cup 2024 — 301; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 371; ‘Moana’ premieres — 504; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 532; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 637; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 637; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 679; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 816; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 832; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 1,043; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,183; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,142; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,864.

— TOP STORY —

“‘We’re in good shape’: DeSantis speaks at Florida State Fair in Tampa” via Sara Filips of WFLA — According to DeSantis, Florida has the lowest debt per capita in the nation. The federal debt is at $34 trillion, factored out to around $100,00 per U.S. citizen. Floridians’ share of the state’s debt is only $600 per Floridian. As the state gets more net in-migration, DeSantis said that number will drop.

Florida has been running down debt, running surpluses and cutting taxes. The state also has the lowest amount of state workers per capita in the U.S.

Ron DeSantis opens the Florida State Fair with a positive message.

“In 10, 15, 20, 25 years, I think we’re built to do very well over this period of time,” DeSantis added. “As long as we continue sound leadership.”

DeSantis also emphasized Florida’s commitment to public safety.

“If you commit crimes, we’re gonna hold you accountable,” DeSantis said, as he emphasized the importance of backing local law enforcement. Those going into law enforcement in Florida will receive a $5,000 sign-on bonus to encourage recruitment.

The Governor also touched on the homeless population and said he would ensure Florida has “open and clean streets.”

“I am tasked to bring my 3-year-old a Barbie funnel cake,” DeSantis said regarding the whimsical fair food offered this year. “I am going to do a Florida quesadilla.”

— HOUSE PASSES $115.5B BUDGET —

The Florida House passed its $115.5 billion budget on Thursday, touting it as a “balanced” spending plan that will “invest in critical infrastructure needs, pay off state debts early, fund education options for all Florida students, improve health care access and affordability and support public safety.”

The chamber’s budget highlight reel included boosts of $224 million for the KidCare program and $805 million for Medicaid caseloads and price level increases, $350 million for performance-based university funding and $42 million to harden PreK-12 schools.

“Today, we delivered a fiscally responsible budget that honors Florida’s taxpayers. As Florida’s economy continues to expand and grow, we must be fiscally conservative to ensure our state is prepared for any future downturn in the economy,” House Speaker Paul Renner said in a news release, adding that Budget Subcommittee Chairs “deserve great credit for meeting the challenge of prudent and strategic investments to prepare our state for a bright future.”

The House budget considers any economic downturn, says Paul Renner.

House Budget Chief Tom Leek added, “Florida’s economic strength is built on a generation of not spending more than we take in and making sound, strategic investments toward long-term resilience and growth. This budget reflects the realities of a post-pandemic Florida balanced with making critical investments in our environment, infrastructure, education, public safety and long-term growth. I appreciate Speaker Renner’s leadership and the work of our Appropriations Chairs and staff to produce a budget that delivers for all Floridians.”

— MORE LEGISLATIVE —

Senate bill requiring supermajority vote for local millage hikes advances” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Another group of Senate lawmakers is moving forward with legislation that would impose a higher threshold on localities seeking higher property taxes. The Senate Finance and Tax Committee advanced Chair Blaise Ingoglia’s measure (SB 1322). The legislation now has one stop to go on the Senate side. The “taxpayer protection bill” would go into effect in July, imposing the supermajority requirement for any millage increase after this year should it become law. The legislation has already completed the committee process in the House. That measure (HB 1195) was sponsored by GOP Rep. Sam Garrison. Senators added an amendment Thursday to line the bill up with Garrison’s version.

Blaise Ingoglia seeks a supermajority vote before raising property taxes.

THC cap bill postponed at last House committee stop” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Legislature’s push to regulate a potential adult-use cannabis market is paused for the moment. HB 1269 was temporarily postponed in Thursday’s Health and Human Services Committee. This delay doesn’t mean the bill won’t be heard ever, but it won’t be heard this week. Rep. Ralph Massullo, the sponsor of the bill, said “we are still tweaking it” when asked about the postponement. A proposed amendment ahead of the committee ended up not being heard as a result. The proposal was for a 1g limit on THC per vape cart.

Fantasy sports bills headed to Senate floor” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — On Wednesday, the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee advanced Sen. Travis Hutson’s Fantasy Sports Contest Amusement Act to the Senate floor. The bill authorizing fantasy contests moved forward with amendments, and some proposed changes were withdrawn before being heard. The St. Johns County Republican’s SB 1568 legalizes commercial fantasy sports for those aged 21 and up and purports to “ensure public confidence in the integrity of fantasy sports contests and contest operators.” The bill would allow anyone legally old enough to drink to participate in commercial fantasy sports, but with caveats.

Senate passes update to Live Local Act with more clarity, preemption, Hometown Heroes funding” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — An update to last year’s monumental Live Local Act to boost affordable housing is on its way to the House after clearing the Legislature’s upper chamber by a unanimous vote. The measure (SB 328) includes new preemptions on local development controls and clearer details for how some projects should rise. It also includes special considerations for Florida’s southernmost county and a late-added exemption for short-term vacation rentals. It was inevitable that the Live Local Act would need fine-tuning, said Sen. Alexis Calatayud, who carried the original legislation and the current measure.

‘Doomsday scenario’: Legislative Session could blast city of Tallahassee budget” via Arianna Otero of the Tallahassee Democrat — The biggest potential budget-buster is legislation (HB 1195/SB 1322) that would require a two-thirds vote of a City Commission to raise the local property tax rate. But that’s not all. Others (HB 1277/SB 1510) aim to restrict general fund transfers, despite similar legislation failing last year. That means cities with municipally owned utilities would not be able to boost their budgets with as much utility revenue as before. Other proposals look to increase homestead exemptions from $50,000 to $75,000, which would put more money in residents’ pockets — and less in city governments’ coffers. The legislative push is part of what analysts call a red-state crackdown on blue cities.

Senate panel OKs preemption bill making state the hub for regulating grub apps” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The state of Florida may have some input into future DoorDash, Uber Eats and Grubhub orders soon. SB 676, filed by GOP Sen. Jennifer Bradley, would preempt the regulation of “food delivery platforms” that corral orders from multiple restaurants to the government in Tallahassee. The legislation is supported by the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Grubhub, the Associated Industries of Florida, the Florida Chamber, TechNet and the James Madison Institute. Bradley uses these apps often while in Tallahassee, lauding the “great convenience” of them while noting the need for “consistent standards for transparency, consent and communication between the platforms, restaurants and consumers.”

— EVEN MORE LEGISLATIVE —

Will lawmakers include DeSantis’ insurance tax cut in tax package bill?” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Legislators are still developing plans for a tax-cut package, but it’s unclear whether one of the major pieces of DeSantis’ recommended tax plan will make the cut. House and Senate leaders both say they’re still considering the proposal but have also warned the tax cut bill will likely be smaller than the current year. DeSantis pitched the idea of exempting homes with up to $750,000 worth of coverage from taxes, fees, and assessments for one year as part of his budget recommendations to lawmakers. That part of the plan would save policyholders $409 million, and a permanent premium tax exemption on flood policies would save $22 million. DeSantis touted the plan as a way to help homeowners save on insurance premiums, which have skyrocketed in recent years, but lawmakers have been lukewarm in their embrace of the idea.

Florida lawmakers are calling for stricter penalties for street racing” via Adrian Andrews of WFSU — A bill designed to hit the brakes on illegal street racing is accelerating in the Florida Senate. Over the years, in Florida, young drivers have participated in what they call “street takeovers,” where live participants and viewers on social media praise drag racing, stunt driving and burnouts on public roads. A new bill filed by State Sen. Jason Pizzo aims to put an end to the illegal activity once and for all. “People are getting seriously injured and it’s a very coordinated and organized scheme,” Pizzo said Tuesday in front of a state Senate Transportation Committee. “It has resulted in deaths in my district and entire cities including the one I live in.”

Jason Pizzo seeks a crackdown on street racing.

How and why lawmakers are pushing to end civilian police watchdog agencies” via Alyssah Johnson of the Miami Herald — Civilian oversight agencies, or COAs, are citizen-led groups that provide external oversight to local police departments. Some conduct independent investigations into the complaints of misconduct against police officers. The legislation seeks to put an end to those investigations. Opponents of House Bill 601 and Senate Bill 576 say that the legislation could upend progress made toward police accountability and establishing trust between citizens and their local police departments. However, proponents say that civilian oversight agencies across the state lack uniformity and that there are other efficient measures in place to review police misconduct.

Senate panel OKs chiropractic ‘dry needle’ bill after prickly debate” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Chiropractors’ effort to get the green light to “dry needle” was met with some critics trying to poke holes in the proposed legislation. Members of the Senate Health Policy Committee debated SB 1474 at length before voting 9-1 to pass the bill. Filed by GOP Sen. Jay Trumbull, the bill expands chiropractors’ scope of practice by authorizing them to perform dry needling, a technique that involves inserting thin needles into or near trigger points in the muscle to relieve pain and improve range of motion. The bill also creates a licensure pathway for chiropractic physicians who obtained their bachelor’s degree outside the United States to practice in Florida.

Senate Committee advances total ban on cultivated meat” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A ban on cultivated meat advanced in the Senate despite concerns from investors in the emerging technology. Sen. Jay Collins said Florida does not need to wait for federal guidance to impose a complete ban on the sale or manufacture of meat in laboratory settings. If officials feel more confident in the product in the future, he said lawmakers can revisit the matter then. “We want to ban it and you can scale back from there,” he said. “Let’s go to the most invasive. We can come back as the science shows that this is safe.”

Cultivated meat businesses push back against Florida proposal to ban their product” via Mitch Perry of Florida Phoenix — Two California companies can now offer lab-grown meat in restaurants and eventually supermarkets following approval of their products by the U.S. Department of Agriculture last June. But those same products would be banned in Florida if lawmakers approve a proposal moving through the Legislature. The bill by Collins (SB 1084) would make it unlawful for anyone to manufacture, sell, hold or offer for sale, or distribute “cultivated” meat in Florida. A violator could be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor. Additionally, the bill would subject any restaurant, store, or other business to having their license suspended for offering the product. Collins says his motivation is to protect Florida consumers.

Balloon ban bills still afloat while container pre-emption measure appears canned in Senate” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO — Bills that would ban the release of balloons to prevent litter are moving through the Legislature — but at the same time, another that critics say would increase the litter problem appeared dead in the Senate. The Senate Committee on Community Affairs temporarily passed the bill that would preempt local governments from banning a wide range of food and drink containers, including those made of Styrofoam and plastic, and bags. But opponents said with no other meetings of the committee scheduled before the end of the Legislative Session, they hope the preemption bill focused on Styrofoam and plastic is dead.

Could Florida limit electric vehicle stations in parking lots?” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — An agriculture bill includes provisions that could prohibit developers from dedicating too many parking spaces for electric vehicles. Language in legislation (SB 1084) advanced by the Senate would preempt local governments from requiring a higher number of parking lot spaces to be reserved for electric vehicles. Instead, state regulations would be the only threshold imposed. But during Committee discussion, Sen. Collins, a Tampa Republican carrying the bill, made clear the measure would outlaw extra spaces even if developers want to put them in. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will have control over setting thresholds.

Jay Collins is floating a cap on charging stations in new developments.

American Civil Liberties Union blasts Senate ‘education censorship’ bill — The ACLU of Florida derided a bill (SB 1372) approved Thursday by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Education for teachers from discussing topics such as sexism or systemic and institutional racism with other adults in teacher training programs. “This government censorship bill, like several other unconstitutional censorship bills from prior sessions, prohibits teaching, discussing, and learning about topics related to identity politics, systemic racism, and oppression in teacher training programs,” ACLU of Florida Legislative Director Kara Gross said. “ … Instead of pursuing meaningful policymaking to improve Floridians’ lives, lawmakers are misusing their legislative powers to pass harmful laws that expand the government’s reach into our daily lives.”

Insurers applaud Senate panel for passing torts bill — The American Property Casualty Insurance Association cheered the Senate Committee on Fiscal Policy for greenlighting a bill (SB 1276) that would crack down on third-party litigation financing. It requires lawyers who enter into third-party litigation agreements to disclose that information to their clients as well as the court, opposing counsel, and any known person, such as an insurer, with a pre-existing contractual obligation to indemnify or defend a party to the action. “SB 1276 is an important consumer protection bill that will bring transparency to a highly predatory industry. We again echo our thanks to Sen. Jay Collins for sponsoring the bill,” said APCIA Vice President of State Government Relations Logan McFaddin, adding that, if passed, “Florida would join other states who are at the forefront of efforts to protect consumers and increase transparency around (third party litigation financing).”

Development bills moving through Legislature raise ire of cities, counties” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO — Cities and counties are opposing a pair of bills lawmakers are moving through the Legislature that would limit how local governments regulate development. The House Commerce Committee voted 11-4 to advance a bill that critics say would force cities to approve infill development administratively without requiring rezoning or public hearings. The bill also would prohibit local governments from having certain optional growth policies that restrict the development density or intensity.

— THE SKED —

9 a.m. The Senate holds a floor Session. Senate Chambers.

— WEEKEND TV —

ABC Action News Full Circle with Paul LaGrone on Channel 10 WFTS: Political analyst Dr. Susan MacManus; Ryan Gorman, host of the “Ryan Gorman Show” on WFLA; Major General (Ret.) Bob Dees; Republican presidential candidate Ryan Binkley.

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

In Focus with Allison Walker on Bay News 9/CF 13: A look at Florida’s agricultural industry impact of strawberries and how it’s an economic driver in the state. Joining Walker are U.S. Rep. Laurel Lee; Nick Wishnatzki, public relations manager, Wish Farms; and Kyle Robinson, president of the Florida Strawberry Festival.

Political Connections on Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete and Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: The weekly Sunday show is launching as a joint weeknight show airing Monday through Friday at 7 p.m.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Pre-empted by coverage of Super Bowl LVIII.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Secretary of State Cord Byrd, UNF Public Opinion Research Lab Director Dr. Michael Binder,

— THE TRAIL —

Inside Donald Trump’s takeover of the RNC: ‘In 2024, daddy’s home.’” via Marc Caputo of The Bulwark — The Republican Presidential Primary is not technically over, but Trump is the party’s likely nominee. And now his General Election team is starting to take shape. Here’s the order of battle: Tony Fabrizio, longtime Trump pollster and adviser, could be brought to the campaign as a senior adviser in the coming weeks from the pro-Trump MAGA Inc. super PAC. Danielle Alvarez, former Republican National Committee communications director, plans to join the campaign’s communication team next week. Chris LaCivita will remain one of the campaign’s co-chairs with Susie Wiles. Brian Hughes will round out the senior communication team with Steven Cheung, Jason Miller, Karoline Leavitt, and Alvarez. James Blair, the political director for the campaign overseeing its field operations and ground game, has been taking on those duties at the RNC in recent weeks.

Nikki Haley hauls in $1.7 million in fundraising during swing through Super Tuesday state” via Paul Steinhauser, Jamie Vera and Amanda Day of Fox News — It was a lucrative two days for Haley in California. The Republican presidential candidate hauled in $1.7 million during in-person fundraising events on Tuesday and Wednesday in California, the Haley campaign shared first with Fox News. While in California, the former two-term South Carolina governor who later served as U.N. ambassador during Trump’s administration also held a pair of campaign events, her first in one of the 15 states that hold nominating contests on Super Tuesday in early March.

PAC calls Trump ‘chicken’ for ducking debates — A super PAC supporting Haley’s presidential campaign is calling Trump a “chicken” for refusing to debate his final rival in the GOP nomination contest. The 30-second ad from SFA Fund isn’t narrated — its full runtime consists of a chicken clucking while messages fade in and out, including one asking the septuagenarian is “too old and unfit” for office. “Donald Trump continues to chicken out from a debate with Nikki Haley, and Americans should ask themselves why,” SFA spokesperson Preya Samsundar said in a news release. “Is Trump afraid of pulling a Joe Biden onstage and confusing Nikki Haley for Nancy Pelosi again or is he more concerned that he won’t be able to explain why he failed to secure the border during his first term as President?”

To watch the ad, please click the image below:

‘Birdbrain,’ ‘DeSanctimonious’: Even Trump supporters say they dislike candidates’ nicknaming tactic for opponents” via GQLShare — Voters, including Republican supporters of Trump, don’t like the practice of candidates applying nicknames to their political opponents. More than three-quarters of voters surveyed in a nationwide Florida Atlantic University poll released Wednesday said it’s unacceptable to call competing candidates nicknames. And two-thirds said it’s unacceptable to attack competing candidates by disparaging their personal characteristics. The questions were written to be neutral, and so didn’t mention Trump by name. But there’s no mistaking who has employed the practice of assigning unflattering — or nasty — nicknames to political foes.

— MORE 2024 —

Democrats sound alarm, take action against Joe Biden’s third-party threats” via Michael Scherer of The Washington Post — Democratic alarm over third-party challengers spoiling Biden’s re-election has been growing in recent weeks, prompting a new push both inside the party and among allied outside groups to step up their efforts fighting back. The Democratic National Committee hired a new communications adviser last month to counter the third-party candidates, while outside groups working for Biden’s election have been having discussions about a new organization that could coordinate about the wide range of threats. A recent five-way national poll by Quinnipiac University that named Biden, former Trump, lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr., scholar Cornel West and activist Jill Stein showed the combined third-party candidates drawing nearly 1 in 5 voters.

Joe Biden gears up to face any third-party challenges.

— OTHER STATEWIDE —

An earthquake occurred off Florida’s east coast. Here’s what to know.” via Michaela Mulligan of the Tampa Bay Times — An earthquake (yes, an actual earthquake) was recorded about 100 miles off Florida’s east coast Wednesday night. The rare occurrence was confirmed by the United States Geological Survey. The magnitude 4 quake caused no damage or injuries, but it did create a bit of a stir. The United States Geological Survey had received multiple inquiries about the earthquake by Thursday afternoon, said Paul Earle, a seismologist for the geological survey. Unsurprisingly so, as earthquakes in or near Florida are unusual.

If Florida’s rocking, don’t come knocking.

Christian Ziegler wants to use Marsy’s Law. Police say he’s not a victim.” via Justin Garcia of the Tampa Bay Times — Ziegler, the former Chair for the Republican Party of Florida who is under criminal investigation, is citing a law that protects victims in a bid to stop the release of more information from his cellphone. But police say Ziegler is not the victim of a crime. The Sarasota Police Department opened an investigation into Ziegler after a woman accused him in October of sexually assaulting her. Police opted against charging him with sexual assault after they found a video they said appeared to show consensual sexual activity between Ziegler and his accuser. But police forwarded a related investigation into Ziegler for video voyeurism to the State Attorney’s Office for the 12th Judicial Circuit.

High court denies rehearing for death row inmate — A request for a rehearing by a man convicted of killing an Orlando police officer was denied by the Florida Supreme Court. The high court did not explain why it rejected the motion for a rehearing, which was filed by Markeith Loyd’s defense attorneys late last year. The Florida Supreme Court previously upheld the conviction ruling and sentencing. Justices who voted to reject the rehearing included Carlos Muniz, the Chief Justice, as well as Charles Canady, Jorge Labarga, John Couriel and Renatha Francis.

People First or People Last? State’s antiquated HR system will put Florida behind other states and at a disadvantage in competing for talent” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — The state of Florida has relied on the People First system to provide HR, payroll and benefits solutions for more than 20 years. The system is built on antiquated SAP software. There is widespread consensus among state agencies that the system has outlived its useful life and it’s time to move to cloud computing to reduce costs, improve HR process efficiency and protect the state’s employee data with modern cybersecurity controls. However, there is a buzz around the Capitol that the deep state in the House of Representatives prefers the status quo. In fact, in the House proposed language in HB 5003 that was not heard by a single committee that would prevent modernization of the People First solution and legislatively direct DMS to renew the incumbent’s contract for a five-year period.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Biden cleared in documents case; report raises concerns about his memory” via Glenn Thrush of The New York Times — Robert K. Hur, the special counsel, said in his highly unflattering report that Biden had left the White House after his vice presidency with classified documents about Afghanistan and notebooks with handwritten entries “implicating sensitive intelligence sources and methods” taken from internal White House briefings. The report said that Biden had shared the content of the notebooks with a ghostwriter who helped him on his 2017 memoir, “Promise Me, Dad” even though he knew some of it was classified. While Hur decided not to prosecute Biden, some of his reasons for doing so are likely to raise new questions about the President’s conduct and his mental state, portraying him as unable in interviews to remember key dates of his own vice presidency — and even precisely when his son Beau had died.

Joe Biden strikes back at the general counsel report.

‘A nightmare’: Special counsel’s assessment of Biden’s mental fitness triggers Democratic panic” via Peter Nicholas of NBC News — Biden sidestepped any criminal charges as the investigation into his handling of classified documents concluded, but the political blowback from the special counsel’s report Thursday could prove even more devastating, reinforcing impressions that he is too old and impaired to hold the highest office. Special counsel Hur’s portrait of a man who couldn’t remember when he served as Barack Obama’s Vice President or the year when his beloved son Beau died, dealt a blow to Biden’s argument that he is still sharp and fit enough to serve another four-year term. It was tough enough for Biden to reassure voters about his heath before Hur’s report hit like a thunderclap Thursday afternoon, prompting members of his own party to question whether he could remain the nominee in November.

Biden says ‘my memory is fine,’ disputes special counsel’s report in national address” via Dan Mangan of CNBC — Biden in a televised address Thursday evening disputed a special counsel’s claims that he willfully retained classified material at his Delaware home, and that he exhibited poor memory during an investigation of that material. “My memory has not gotten worse,” Biden told reporters hours after the release of special counsel Hur’s report. “My memory is fine.” Biden was visibly angry at Hur’s claim that he could not remember the year his son Beau died, saying that when he was asked a question about that year “I thought to myself [it] wasn’t any of their damn business.” “I don’t need anyone. I don’t need anyone to remind me when he passed away,” Biden said.

Marco Rubio files legislation to expand hospital at-home programs” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — U.S. Sen. Rubio has filed bipartisan legislation in the U.S. Senate aimed to increase access to health care. The At HOME Services Act of 2024 will create a pilot program that expands hospital at-home programs to include patients requiring observation. “Addressing our health care challenges requires innovative solutions,” Rubio said. “The At HOME Services Act builds on the success of the hospital-at-home program to lower costs and burdens and improve patient outcomes and satisfaction.” Health care systems across the nation, initiated care programs at home in recent years under the Acute Hospital Care At Home Waiver. One such program is run by Tampa General Hospital, where patients are accessing hospital care in the comfort and privacy of their own homes.

— DOWN BALLOT —

Happening tonight:

— LOCAL: S. FL —

FAU Chair steps down in latest fallout from troubled presidential search” via Andrew Marra of the Palm Beach Post — Florida Atlantic University’s (FAU) Chair stepped down from his position, two weeks after the state Board of Governors issued a vote of no confidence in him over what they called procedural mishaps tied to the school’s search for a new President. The move was the latest fallout from monthslong tension between FAU’s leaders and state officials over the school’s search for a new President. Brad Levine, Chair of the school’s Board of Trustees, said serving in the role had been an honor but that “unfortunately I have personally become a part of this narrative” created by state university leaders. “The students deserve a narrative that is free from such distractions,” he said.

Brad Levine says students should not be distracted by the political narrative.

Broward school district expands transgender athlete investigation” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A personnel investigation related to a transgender athlete at Monarch High has been expanded to now include that student’s participation in middle school sports. But while the Broward School District released in late November the names of five employees at the Coconut Creek High School who were reassigned pending the outcome of an investigation, officials are now tight-lipped about who else is facing questions. One of those is Vernicca Wynter, the principal at Lyons Creek Middle in Coconut Creek, according to Lisa Maxwell, who represents Wynter through the Broward Principals and Assistants Association. Maxwell said some assistant principals at the school also are being questioned, but she wouldn’t name them.

Court says Boca Raton violated public records law as developer aimed for beachfront project” via Abigail Hasebroock of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A yearslong clash between Boca Raton and a developer has resulted in a judge ruling that the city failed to properly fulfill public records requests. The requests were made by Azure Development LLC, the entity behind an endeavor to build on a parcel of land at 2600 N. Ocean Blvd., which is on the east side of State Road A1A. The battle for public records began after Azure argued it faced resistance from city officials. And now, as the city faces the legal outcome, Azure says it intends to still pursue a building plan. Azure filed an initial complaint in March 2019.

Black historians, Holocaust survivors: Miami schools seek parent consent for more events” via Ana Ceballos and Jimena Tavel of the Miami Herald — Two years ago, when historian Marvin Dunn wanted to talk to a Pinecrest classroom about Black history, his visit didn’t require much planning. But when he returned last week to give a lecture on his personal experience with segregation, only Palmetto Middle School students with signed permission slips were able to attend. The change is a stark example of how a state law signed by DeSantis in 2022 is impacting at least one school district in Florida — Miami Dade County Public Schools — as local school officials try to comply with broad state regulations that seek to give parents greater control over their children’s education.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Tourist-tax collections down again in Orlando area” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — December collections of tourist taxes dropped from a year ago, continuing a nine-month downward trend. Collections totaled $29.8 million for the month, about 4% or $1.4 million lower than December 2022. December was the eighth month of the past nine in which monthly revenues dropped year-over-year, said Comptroller Phil Diamond, whose office tracks the county’s 6% surcharge on hotel rooms and other short-term rentals. Despite the trend, revenues have been strong, averaging more than $28 million a month over that time span. If collections continue at the same stride over the next nine months, the county will rake in $336.5 million, the second-highest total in the history of the tax.

Phil Diamond has 336.5 million reasons to smile.

Brevard County will move forward with $6.2M in wetland protection spending under EELs” via Tyler Vazwuez of Florida Today — Brevard County Commissioners approved $6.2 million in spending on projects for the Environmentally Endangered Lands Program, commonly known as EELs. With the Board’s approval, the county will move forward, issuing $3.2 million in bonds to pay for capital improvements to existing EEL lands, with an additional $3 million to acquire land in areas that will directly benefit the Indian River Lagoon for a total of $6.2 million. In 2022, 70% of voters approved extending the Environmentally Endangered Lands Program. The move authorized the county to issue up to $50 million in bonds to buy sensitive lands over 20 years.

New pedestrian crossing device installed at Ormond’s A1A, Rockefeller Drive intersection” via Brenno Carillo of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — In an effort to enhance pedestrian safety, the Florida Department of Transportation opened a pedestrian hybrid beacon at a busy State Road A1A intersection in Ormond Beach. The intersection of A1A and Rockefeller Drive is now equipped with “an innovative overhead traffic device that remains inactive until a pedestrian activates the beacon by pushing a button on the signal pole,” the department said in a news release. “With an average of 18,600 motorists traveling down this corridor daily, the installation of the pedestrian hybrid beacon represents a significant step toward safeguarding the Ormond Beach community,” the release said.

‘I was considered less than’ Black 81-year-old remembers 1960 DeLand lunch counter sit-in” via Eileen Zaffiro-Kean of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — When Joyce Cusack was growing up in west Volusia County, Black and White babies were born in separate wings of Halifax Hospital, and skin color determined where people lived, went to school, worshipped, worked, dined, socialized, shopped and were buried. By early 1960, when Cusack was a 17-year-old high school senior at the only DeLand school Black kids could attend, she and dozens of her classmates were fed up with going to downtown lunch counters and being ordered to drink their bottles of Coca-Cola outside while White people were able to sit down inside and enjoy a chilled soda, milkshake or sandwich. So about 25 or 30 of the Black teens gathered on Woodland Boulevard one afternoon.

— LOCAL: TB —

In the race for Clearwater Mayor, sharp attacks and a door-to-door push” via Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times — City Council member Kathleen Beckman and lawyer Bruce Rector are the only two candidates running for Mayor, but there is a third person in the middle of the race. In a letter mailed to homes by the Rector campaign last week, former Mayor Frank Hibbard listed his reasons why residents should not vote for Beckman. “The first and most important,” he wrote, was Beckman’s position last March on a new City Hall, a debate that prompted Hibbard to resign from office in frustration during a Council discussion on the matter. Then last Thursday, Hibbard appeared at the Council meeting and took another shot. The former Mayor announced he was filing a complaint against Beckman with the Florida Elections Commission, alleging she used city staff time and resources to send a letter about flooding to targeted voters that commingled with her campaign. She denies the letters were improper.

The race between Bruce Rector and Kathleen Beckman heats up.

3 Pinellas County Commissioners endorse Adam Ross for Tax Collector” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Southeast Politics — Three Pinellas County Commissioners — all Republicans — are endorsing Adam Ross for Pinellas County Tax Collector. The endorsements come from Dave Eggers, the longest-serving Commissioner of the three, Chris Latvala and Brian Scott. All three touted Ross’ ability to be a good steward of taxpayer dollars. “Adam Ross is a trusted conservative who will guard our tax dollars,” Latvala said in a statement. “He will continue the great customer service our residents are accustomed to in the Pinellas Tax Collector’s office.” Ross is a former Assistant State Attorney for Pinellas and Pasco counties who now serves as Executive Director of the office. He also serves as Chair of the Pinellas GOP. He is running to replace incumbent Tax Collector Charles Thomas, who is backing Ross as his preferred successor.

Pasco County takes hard-line stance against DeSantis’ Live Local Act” via Ashley Gurbal-Kritzer of The Tampa Bay Business Journal — Pasco County has taken a hard-line stance against the Live Local Act, telling two developers to withdraw their applications for tax exemptions — or not apply at all — to “avoid the time and expense” of litigation. The county sent letters to The Richman Group of Florida and California-based Passco Cos. on Wednesday, the same day the Florida Senate voted unanimously to approve amendments to the legislation that Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law in March 2023. The amendments passed Wednesday do not include changes proposed by Pasco County leaders.

Hillsborough leaders end program that encourages creation of affordable housing” via Chad Mills of ABC Action News — In a narrow 4-to-3 vote, commissioners ended an almost 30-year program that incentivizes developers to build affordable housing. The program, known as the Affordable Housing Relief Program, waives certain impact fees for eligible developers. During the Tuesday meeting, supporters of the program pointed out that the program has helped create 1,248 affordable homes over the past five years with a relatively small cost to taxpayers. “It’s so de minimis in our contribution to this,” argued Commissioner Pat Kemp. “It’s always de minimis when it’s with other people’s money,” Commissioner Joshua Wostal shot back. Wostal and Commissioner Michael Owen argued the program isn’t a good deal for county taxpayers who pay for the waived impact fees through property taxes.

Is the Gas Plant redevelopment’s benefits package enough?” via Mark Parker of the St. Pete Catalyst — After six meetings, including a five-hour finale, a committee decided that community benefits provided by redeveloping 65 acres of prime St. Petersburg real estate warranted the associated public subsidies. A nine-person Community Benefits Advisory Council debated the Historic Gas Plant District project’s benefits package — and several proposed revisions — until 10:30 p.m. Tuesday. The group, encompassing eight appointees and City Council Chair Deborah Figgs-Sanders, approved the proposal in a 7-2 vote. The advisory council voted to increase penalties from $25,000 to $150,000 if the development team fails to meet off-site affordable and workforce housing requirements. That rises to $175,000 for on-site units. The council also wants the first 300 affordable housing units built by 2028 rather than 2030.

St. Pete among top U.S. cities for the ‘new normal’ corporate office” via Breanne Williams of The Tampa Bay Business Journal — St. Petersburg is one of the top cities in the U.S. for the “new normal” corporate office, according to a report from The Boyd Co., a corporate site selection firm. John Boyd, principal of The Boyd Co., told the Tampa Bay Business Journal that Tampa Bay stands out because of Florida’s overall positive business climate. The report identified the country’s 40 top suburban office markets for the current remote and hybrid working trends. Four Florida cities made the list: St. Pete, Bonita Springs, Palm Bay and Lakeland. The leaders of the return-to-office movement tend to be in the financial service industry, technology or life sciences — all major industries in Tampa Bay. Boyd said remote working has “hit its peak.”

A fatal shooting riles a Tampa dog park. Was it self-defense or more sinister?” via Tony Marrero and Lesley Cosme Torres of the Tampa Bay Times — The day before a man fatally shot John Walter Lay in his favorite Tampa dog park, Lay stood in the park and recorded a video. He had just had a run-in with a man who had been harassing him at the park for months, hurling homophobic slurs and threatening him. The next morning, at the same park and at about the same time as the previous morning’s encounter, the man shot Lay dead. He was 52. The Sheriff’s Office confirmed that 65-year-old Gerald Declan Radford was the shooter. In a text message, Radford indicated he shot Lay in self-defense. Lay and Radford were initially on friendly terms. But after Radford found out about Lay’s politics, and that he was openly gay, Meyer said he began to target Lay, calling him slurs when he was walking in the park.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Florida State wants dismissal of ACC lawsuit in North Carolina” via Matt Baker of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida State has asked a North Carolina court to dismiss the ACC’s lawsuit against the university — the latest legal step as the Seminoles explore a potential exit from their conference. The ACC originally filed this case in December, a day before FSU’s Board of Trustees approved their lawsuit against the conference. That timeline is a key part of one of the legal arguments FSU made in a motion to dismiss filed Wednesday in Mecklenburg County Superior Court. Florida State called the ACC’s preemptive suit “an admitted ‘race to the courthouse’ to secure what it hoped would prove to be a more favorable forum.” FSU contends that legal race came at a cost: the ACC’s members never took the required vote to approve the suit against the ’Noles. In the motion and corresponding brief, FSU also said the ACC sued Florida State “before an actual or justiciable controversy arose” — it was all theoretical until FSU’s trustees approved and filed their suit in Leon County Circuit Court.

FSU seeks to dismiss the lawsuit brought on by the ACC.

Jacksonville exotic dancers lost their jobs to prevent sex trafficking: Did it work?” via Alexandria Mansfield of the Florida Times-Union — Twenty-one-year-old Lola has a car payment. She has an apartment she rents and a handful of pets to take care of. She pays taxes, takes nursing courses and sends what money she can to her less fortunate family members. Lola lost her job in 2023, and the financial burdens that came with her unemployment have extended throughout her family — including to her disabled father, whom she was supporting and who suffers from ankylosing spondylitis, a type of arthritis that targets the joints and ligaments in the spine. But no one seems to care when a stripper loses her job.

— LOCAL: SW. FL —

Ed Brodsky charges former Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes with three felony charges” via Jesse Mendoza of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Hopes has been charged with three felony charges, including notary fraud, grand theft and fraudulent use of public records. State Attorney Brodsky issued a record of the filing to the press outlining charges against Hopes. The first count claims Hopes fraudulently made a certificate while serving as a notary public. The second count claims that between April 1, 2021, and Dec. 31, 2022, Hopes obtained U.S. currency in the value of $10,000 or more, but less than $20,000, from the county for his own use. The third count claims during that time period Hopes also unlawfully provided false information that became a part of public record to facilitate the commission of a felony theft.

Scott Hopes gets hit with three felony charges.

City officials in Sarasota and Manatee eye proposed state policies on vacation rentals” via Jesse Mendoza of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Local officials are leery of how proposed restrictions that cap the fees cities can charge for vacation rental registration could impact local ordinances already on the books. Vacation rentals have been a hot-button issue among local and state officials for years, and legislators have proposed new restrictions that cap registration fees, outline maximum penalties, and preempt other regulations to the state. Proposals “grandfather” local policies governing vacation rentals that were in place before June 2011, leaving local officials with questions about how the new state laws would impact ordinances like those adopted in Sarasota and Bradenton, and island cities like Anna Maria and Holmes Beach, which all have approved their own policies.

Zero buffer? New Manatee County rules may let Aqua by the Bay developer impact wetlands” via Ryan Ballogg of the Bradenton Herald — After Manatee County Commissioners voted to reduce local wetland buffer zones, a prominent developer wants to build parts of a large housing complex closer to the wetlands bordering Sarasota Bay. Plans for Aqua by the Bay, a project by developer Carlos Beruff’s Medallion Home, include over 2,300 multifamily units and over 500 single-family homes along El Conquistador Parkway in Bradenton. But before the county’s wetland changes have been finalized, Beruff is asking state officials to approve an exception that would allow parts of his 529-acre development to include minimal or no wetland buffers — a move that could harm the bay’s ecosystem, local experts say.

Naples City Council takes first step toward beautifying the ‘Miracle Mile’” via Laura Layden of the Naples Daily News — While there is a long road ahead, the Naples City Council has taken its first turn toward reimagining the “Miracle Mile.” At least, what the city has control over. The Council voted unanimously to hire Agnoli, Barber & Brundage Inc. to produce a conceptual master plan to rebuild the “public realm,” on a 1.3-mile stretch of Gulf Shore Boulevard North. The stretch of road, hard hit by Hurricane Ian, is set to see major changes in the aftermath of the near-Category 4 storm, which has triggered more redevelopment. Ian created new opportunities for developers with the sale of storm-ravaged condo buildings by their owners. A handful of older structures have already been demolished to make way for new construction.

NCH gets approval for new 87-foot tall heart center at Baker Hospital campus” via Liz Freeman of the Naples Daily News — The Naples City Council has approved rezoning NCH’s Baker Hospital campus for a new heart and stroke center at 87 feet in height and a new 30-foot parking garage. The rezoning of 13.72 acres that encompasses the main block of the hospital campus from “medical” to the city’s “public services” zoning passed 4 to 1 with Vice Mayor Terry Hutchison casting the lone “no” vote. A companion conditional use application to allow for the five-story heart center at 87 feet and other conditions passed 3 to 2 with Hutchison and Councilwoman Beth Petrunoff dissenting. A site development plan passed 4 to 1 with Hutchison voting against it.

Marco Island continues affordable housing discussion” via J. Kyle Foster of the Naples Daily News — A plan to help Marco Island businesses provide affordable housing to their employees will be heard by City Council members at their Feb. 20 meeting. Marco Island Planning Board members asked city staff in January to make changes to the proposed ordinance and heard those updates on Feb. 2. The Board, by a vote of 5-1, is recommending approval of a Land Development Code amendment to allow a process for owners of multistory commercial buildings to remodel upper levels for workforce housing. Board member Geoff Fahringer was at the meeting but left for an appointment before the vote, said Chair Jason Bailey.

Nora Patterson, former Sarasota County Commissioner, dies” via the Venice Gondolier — Former Sarasota County Commissioner Patterson died Thursday, according to county officials. She was 79. Patterson was first elected to the County Commission in 1998 and stayed on the Board until November 2014. She served three years as the Board Chair. Before running for County Commission, Patterson served eight years on the city of Sarasota’s Commission, including a term as Mayor. Patterson grew up in New York City and obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Duke University. She earned her Master of Education degree from the University of Florida in educational psychology. She was a former teacher, small-business owner and Realtor. She and her husband, John, moved to Sarasota County in 1970.

‘Jeopardy!’ clue shines spotlight on Naples for being ‘capital of the world’ for this” via Mark H. Bickel of the Naples Daily News — Naples, Florida has been called the ‘capital of the world’ for this paddle sport rising in popularity. There was a brief pause. Then, contestant Lisa Sriken, a lawyer from New York City, hit the buzzer first and answered correctly. “What is pickleball?” Getting the correct answer netted Sriken $600, but it wasn’t enough for her to win the episode. She lost in Final Jeopardy! failing to come up with the correct answer for a clue about “The Wonders of the Ancient World.”

— TOP OPINION —

Biden has openings for a comeback on two weak points” via Nate Cohn of The New York Times — For the first time since the 2022 Midterms, Biden has an unmistakable political opening. If he can’t capitalize in the months ahead, it will heighten doubts about his political viability.

The two big developments have come on what voters say are Biden’s biggest weaknesses on the issues: the economy and the border.

Over the last three months, consumer confidence has surged to the highest level since July 2021. Lower inflation, sustained growth and Fed statements have brought the realization that a soft landing is at hand. The stock market has also made huge gains — the S&P 500 is now around 20% higher than during the last wave of New York Times/Siena College battleground state polls in late October.

It might be too soon to expect the improving economic picture to help Biden in the polls. Even now, most voters still don’t say the economy is good or excellent. They just believe it isn’t so bad and isn’t getting worse.

Second, there’s immigration. Voters increasingly rate immigration as a top problem facing the country and overwhelmingly say Trump would do a better job handling it. The issue is so challenging for Biden that it has been hard to see how he might defend himself.

Now, his defense is clear. On Sunday, a bipartisan group of Senate Democrats and Republicans high — but there’s no proof that pugnacity, provocation or a potty mouth is the right one. And there’s peril in those directions. I understand the temptation to give a bully a dose of his own bullying and the argument for answering nasty with nasty — that could indeed project toughness, grab attention and goad Trump. But there’s an equally compelling case against it. There’s yet one more drawback to a condemn-and-curse game plan: If it succeeds and you win, you have to run a country even more polarized and rancorous than before. To the musty maxim that you campaign in poetry and govern in prose, I’d add this adage: If you campaign in profanity, you may not be able to govern at all.

— OPINIONS —

Trash-talking Florida legislators push a pro-litter bill” via Craig Pittman of Florida Phoenix — Have you ever picked up trash from a beach, a park, or a roadside? I have. And before you ask, no it was NOT because a judge sentenced me to community service. I think every Floridian should do a little litter cleanup, if only because it would make everyone less likely to litter again. Plus, when you pick up trash in Florida, you are liable to find some treasure. Last month, some kids visiting from Missouri were cleaning debris from the mangroves on Big Pine Key when they stumbled on a kilo of cocaine. On the days I was picking up garbage I didn’t find anything like that. I did see a lot of plastic — more plastic than was on view in the “Barbie” movie, in fact. There were discarded plastic bags, plastic bottles, and cigarette butts, which are plastic too. Apparently, we have some lawmakers who are OK with plastic trash — in fact, they’d like to see more.

If social media legislation is in, carveouts should be out” via Patrick Theisen for Florida Politics — Florida’s taxpayers, companies, and courts do not deserve a law that will be litigated, struck down, and leave the Florida Legislature — traditionally the champion of parental rights and the free market — with nothing to show for their efforts to provide greater oversight of social media for teens. Instead, the Legislature should stop trying to pick winners and losers, and instead preserve free market competition and a level playing field for all. Smart regulation of the modern economy should entail consistent fostering of innovation coupled with vigorous consumer protection. A patchwork of rules and regulations and carving out winners and losers accomplish neither — it stifles innovation and exposes consumers. Florida can do better than House Bill 1.

Has civility disappeared in political discussion and government?” via J. Kyle Foster of the Naples Daily News — Have Americans thrown out The Golden Rule: treat others as you want to be treated? It seems so: That was the conclusion at a panel of former elected officials, a retired newspaper publisher, an advertising executive and a minister who discussed civility and rancor in the United States during a Greater Naples Leadership forum Wednesday at the Naples United Church of Christ. “I think our democracy is in real trouble,” said Dick Gephardt, a former Democratic U.S. Congressman from Missouri who lives in Naples and Washington D.C. “So many Americans hate so many other Americans because they disagree so violently on so many issues.”

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

— ALOE —

What Frank Mayernick is readingFWC staff formally recommend 40-day scalloping season in Pasco County” via Chris Hurst of 10 Tampa Bay — Permanent changes are likely coming for a popular recreational activity in Pasco County that brings in millions of tourism dollars. Later this month, Florida Fish and Wildlife commissioners are set to increase the bay scallop season in Pasco from 10 to 40 days. The captains we spoke with who offer charters in Pasco County say make no mistake, the last few years have been great for their bottom line but now there are concerns that expanding this season permanently from 10 to 40 days could lead to overharvesting. Since 2018, it’s been a 10-day season in Pasco for bay scallops. Then last year, an executive order from DeSantis made it 37 days.

Scallopers are concerned about an extended scallop season.

Disney shares notch best day in more than three years after earnings bonanza” via Jenni Reid of CNBC — Disney shares spiked more than 11% Thursday, headed for the stock’s best day since December 2020, after the company’s fiscal first quarter earnings beat estimates and it announced a slew of major deals and upcoming events. In its most eye-catching news, CEO Bob Iger said the company would take its biggest step yet into gaming with a $1.5 billion stake in Epic Games, the maker of blockbuster Fortnite. Disney said the partnership would see it work together with Epic to create new games using its intellectual property, including Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and Avatar.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Happy birthday to former U.S. Rep. Patrick Rooney, former state Rep. Fred Costello, Nancy Heffley, and our friend, Todd Jennings, former Chair of the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee.

___

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

Peter Schorsch

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



#FlaPol

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

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

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704




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