Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 2.14.24

Sunburn Orange Tally (5)
Your morning review of the issues and players behind Florida politics.

Good Wednesday morning.

Before we move to our celebration of V-Day, we ask you to take a moment to remember the victims of the shooting six years ago at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

A day of remembrance. Image via Broward County Public Schools.

We remember Alyssa Alhadeff, Scott Beigel, Martin Duque Anguiano, Nicholas Dworet, Aaron Feis, Jaime Guttenberg, Chris Hixon, Luke Hoyer, Cara Loughran, Gina Montalto, Joaquin Oliver, Alaina Petty, Meadow Pollack, Helena Ramsay, Alex Schachter, Carmen Schentrup, and Peter Wang.


Ron DeSantis orders flags at half-staff in remembrance of Parkland massacre — The Governor has ordered all Florida and U.S. flags flown on state grounds lowered to half-staff from sunrise to sunset today. The order comes on the sixth anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland when a shooter killed 17 people. A memo from DeSantis’ office states, “Students, teachers and faculty showed great courage in the face of danger. The sacrifices of these heroes, as well as the brave actions of first responders, will never be forgotten.”


If red and pink aren’t your colors, you’re in luck. Wednesday is Gator Day at the Capitol, so you’re all clear to bust out the orange and blue.

Gator Day is the University of Florida’s once-a-Session chance to highlight its contributions to the state. As the state’s flagship, they have a lot to highlight, such as record-breaking research spending and top-tier rankings in U.S. News & World Report as well as The Wall Street Journal.

And, just in time for the Tally trip, UF got another talking point: The university ranked No. 2 in the number of faculty selected for the 2023-2024 Fulbright U.S. Scholars Program, up from No. 4 last year and No. 7 just two years ago. This year saw 11 UF scholars make the list.

It’s Gator Day — UF invades the Capitol. Image via UF.

While UF has plenty to brag about, they also have a receptive audience in the Capitol Complex. In addition to die-hard Gators such as Sen. Blaise Ingoglia and Sen. Gayle Harrell (both of whom told Florida Politics they’d be showing their Gator pride today), the Sunshine State has a triple-Gator on the Cabinet: Attorney General Ashley Moody.

“I am grateful for the University of Florida, where I spent so much of my formative years and for the training and education which laid the groundwork for me to become the Attorney General of the state of Florida. I am proud to be a triple gator and third-generation alumni. Go Gators,” she told Florida Politics.

Official Gator Day events will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the first three floors of the Capitol. UF will also hold an outdoor celebration between the new and old Capitols from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Special guests will include UF President Ben Sasse, UF Board of Trustees members, UF Alumni Association President Barbie Tilman, football coach Billy Napier, quarterback Graham Mertz and linebacker Shemar James. Napier, Mertz and James will be signing autographs.

Because it’s Valentine’s Day and because this newsletter is about Florida politics, we wanted to again do something romantic to start the day. (But not before I say how grateful I am for the love of my life, Michelle Todd Schorsch, who makes every holiday, EVERY DAY, so special. If you follow us on social media, just look at how awesome she made our Super Bowl party.)

It takes a special kind of person to work in the pressure cooker that is Session. The stakes are high, the demands are relentless, and the days can be verrrrrrrry long.

Welcome to Love in The Process 2024.

Is it possible for two of these special people to find each other, fall in love, and tackle The Process together?

Not just possible, but highly likely.

With Valentine’s Day here (if you’re hoping to score a dinner reservation or a flower delivery at this point, you are destined for disappointment), we want to share the story of 10 couples who have found success — both under the rotunda and in their love and family lives. Allison and Josh Aubuchon, Stephanie and Reggie Cardozo, Amanda Morrison Corbella and Gus Corbella, Keyna and Jack Cory, Keaton and Tom Griffin, Alice and Sam Kerce, Victoria and Kyle Langan, Paige and Nick Primrose, Julie and Jack Rogers, and Shannon and Dave Shepp.

There are many reasons to love Florida, and the Florida Retail Federation (FRF) has launched a campaign to remind Sunshine State residents that when it comes to buying Valentine’s Day gifts, they should stick to Florida businesses.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) estimates at least 53% of consumers across America plan to buy gifts for their loved ones for the unofficial holiday Feb. 14. On average, those customers will likely spend $181.81 each on Valentine’s Day goodies. The organization projects this year’s Feb. 14 will see some $14.2 billion spent on those gifts across the country.

FRF’s “Find it in Florida” project is specifically designed to steer Floridians toward Sunshine State retailers. FRF President and CEO Scott Shalley said Valentine’s Day shoppers should step up and be a Cupid by showing some love for Florida merchants.

Florida retailers are in love with Valentine’s Day.

“Consumers are celebrating more than just their significant others this Valentine’s Day,” Shalley said. “Shoppers are buying for family members and friends this year, and Florida retailers are ready to help shoppers ‘Find It In Florida’ when looking for the perfect gift for those they love.”

NRF predicts some gift areas will break records for Valentine’s Day spending this year, including jewelry at $6.4 billion, flowers at $2.6 billion, clothing at $3 billion and an evening out of dining and entertainment at $4.9 billion.

The most purchased item this year will be candy, with 57% of shoppers planning to buy something sweet. Greeting cards and flowers followed, with each on about two in five shopping lists. A third plan was to spend an evening out while jewelry, clothing, and gift cards all hovered around the 20% mark.


Always a fun read: “Valentine’s Day is brought to you by these Florida lobbyists and political associations” via me and Drew Wilson

And … “Fresh roses wither and die, but Florida-grown plants are a longer-lasting token for Valentine’s Day” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics


Spotted — At Rep. Spencer Roach’s Celebration of “Mardi Grass”: Rep. Shane Abbott, Rep. Jessica Baker, Rep. Robin Bartleman, Rep. Adam Botana, Matt Caldwell, Rep. Darryl Campbell, Rep. Lindsay Cross, Rep. Fentrice Driskell, Rosanne Dunkley, Diana Ferguson, Mat Forest, Rep. Gallop Franklin and his wife Chelsea, Rep. Mike Giallombardo, Chris Hansen, Jon Johnson, Rep. Sam Killebrew, Alexis LaRoe, Sen. Jonathan Martin, Eli Nortelus, Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka, Matt Puckett, Richard and Nicole Reeves, Dr. Joel Rudman (who showed up with 8 full bags of beads), Rep. Michelle Salzman, Rep. Tyler Sirois, Rep. Kelly Skidmore, Sam Wagoner and former Rep. Jennifer Webb.


@SkylerSwisher: Florida students need a parental consent slip to listen to a Holocaust survivor or a guest lecture on segregation. The forms are becoming more common because of parental rights legislation passed by Florida lawmakers.

@DanRegan_Comedy: Every day is Lent if you gave up a long time ago.

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

@GovGoneWild: Tomorrow is #Gator Day at the Capitol. I might have something funny planned.

@WesWolfeTandG: In some places, like Jax, police are getting into media production so they can control further what they want to say without interacting with an independent reporter, which gives the illusion of transparency without changing anything.


Ninth Annual Suits for Session begins — 6; Season 6 of ‘Drive To Survive’ premieres on Netflix — 9; South Carolina Republican Primary — 10; Michigan Democratic Primary — 13; James Madison Institute’s ‘Red, White and Bluegrass’ dinner — 14; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 16; Michigan/Idaho/Missouri GOP Primaries — 18; Netflix to stream “The Netflix Slam,” Rafael Nadal/Carlos Alcaraz faceoff — 18; Super Tuesday — 20; State of the Union address — 22; last day of Regular Session, if Legislature completes work in 60 days — 23; 2024 Oscars — 25; Georgia Democratic Primary — 27; Arizona/Florida/Illinois/Kansas/Ohio Primaries — 34; James Madison Institute’s ‘2024 Naples Dinner’ with keynote speaker Laura Ingraham — 36; ‘3 Body Problem’ premieres on Netflix — 36; The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the mifepristone/abortion pill case — 41; Major League Baseball’s (MLB) 2024 season — 43; March Madness Final Four (women’s) begins — 50; March Madness Final Four (men’s) — 53; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 57; The Masters begin — 58; Kentucky Derby — 81; 2024 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 86; ‘Bridgerton’ new season (part one) premieres on Netflix — 91; French Open begins — 96; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 98; Dave Matthews Band 2024 Summer Tour begins in Tampa — 98; Monaco Grand Prix — 102; the 2026 World Cup begins — 118; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 136; Republican National Convention begins — 152; the 2026 World Cup ends — 156; 2024 MLS All-Star Game — 161; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games on NBC/Peacock — 163; Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 181; Democratic National Convention begins — 187; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 192; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 247; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 247; 2024 Presidential Election — 262; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 278; MLS Cup 2024 — 293; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 363; ‘Moana’ premieres — 496; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 527; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 632; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 632; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 674; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 811; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 827; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 1,038; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,178; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,137; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,859.


Judge rules that restrictions on after-hour drop boxes don’t keep Floridians from voting” via The Associated Press — Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker previously ruled that restrictions in Florida’s 2021 election law would have suppressed Black voters, but parts of that decision were overturned by an appellate court and sent back to the Tallahassee Judge to reconsider. Walker made his latest ruling last Thursday.

Often sounding conflicted about how to respond to the appellate court decision, Walker said in his latest ruling that the voting rights groups that had challenged Florida’s election law failed to show that the restrictions on drop boxes unduly burdened voters.

A judge finds restricting drop boxes does not prevent Floridians from voting.

The Judge also said that restrictions in the law on third-party voter registration groups also failed to be proven unduly burdensome.

Florida’s Republican-led Legislature joined several others around the country in passing election reforms after Republican Donald Trump made unfounded claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Democrats have called such reforms a partisan attempt to keep some voters from the ballot box.

Florida’s election law tightened rules on mailed ballots, drop boxes and other popular election methods. The changes made it more difficult for Black voters who, overall, have more socioeconomic disadvantages than white voters, Walker wrote in his original March 2022 ruling.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals said last April that Walker’s ruling was flawed, and that evidence did not show that lawmakers deliberately targeted Black voters.


Gov. DeSantis announces crackdown on ‘porch pirates’ in new Florida bill” via Shira Moolten of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A new bill moving quickly through the Florida legislature would intensify penalties for retail theft and “porch piracy,” making it a third-degree felony to steal packages worth over $40.

DeSantis announced the crackdown at a news conference in Cape Coral, describing it as a measure to avoid a “culture of lawlessness” in progressive states like California and New York.

Ron DeSantis hopes to bump up the penalties for porch piracy.

“You have Amazon will deliver it, they drop this stuff off, and sometimes it’s gone,” DeSantis said Tuesday. “And you have the ability with cameras now on people’s doorsteps, this is easily solvable, but you’ve got to have adequate penalties to be able to do that.”

The bill, HB 549, was added to the Florida House Judiciary Committee agenda Monday. Its companion bill in the Senate is SB 824. In addition to penalties for porch piracy, the legislation also targets retail thefts, adding new penalties for looting and “smash and grab” crimes and lengthening the amount of time in which someone can be prosecuted as a repeat offender from a month to a year.

“If you go into a pharmacy, and the toothpaste is behind lock and key — it’s almost like Fort Knox, some of these places, just for normal items — you know you’ve got some problems,” DeSantis said.

FRF praises Governor, Attorney General for retail theft crackdown — The Florida Retail Federation is praising DeSantis and Moody for voicing support for a bill (HB 549) sponsored by Rep. Bob Rommel that would enhance criminal charges for organized retail theft. “Organized retail crime rings threaten the lives and livelihoods of Florida retailers and put consumer safety at serious risk,” said FRF President and CEO Shalley. “This legislation will help prevent crime, keep our communities safe and allow Florida retailers to provide a secure store environment for team members and customers. The Florida Retail Federation is proud to work alongside lawmakers to protect Floridians and Florida retailers by curtailing retail theft in stores and holding criminals accountable for their actions.”

House wants to trim sales-tax holidays, ignore DeSantis’ homeowners break” via the Tampa Bay Times — A plan proposed by the Florida House Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday would slash consumer sales tax holidays and ignore DeSantis’ call for a temporary waiver of taxes and fees on homeowners’ property insurance premiums. But it would add more tax breaks for businesses. If left unchanged, the package would total $647.3 million, or about half the $1.3 billion in tax breaks provided during the current fiscal year. It is not a done deal. House and Senate leaders will negotiate tax cuts as they put together a budget in the next three weeks for the 2024-2025 fiscal year that starts July 1.

‘Condo 3.0’ bill boosting safety, Board accountability heads to final House panel” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A bill designed to give teeth to Florida’s condo laws and ensure that condo Board members are honest and accountable is now one House Committee OK shy of a floor vote. Members of the House State Administration and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee voted unanimously to advance the measure (HB 1021) after approving a pair of amendments to support the bill’s aims. The voluminous proposal builds on a couple of laws the Legislature approved after the June 2021 condo collapse in Surfside to shore up deficiencies in building maintenance and the oversight and liability of condo Boards. Accordingly, Rep. Vicki Lopez, the bill’s sponsor, has dubbed it “Condo 3.0.” And once it’s passed, she said, it’ll be a “game-changer.”

Vicki Lopez touts new ‘game-changing’ condo laws.

DeSantis won’t back youth social media ban if he thinks courts will strike it down” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — “I think that I’m not going to be supporting if I don’t think it’s going to be something that’s going to pass legal muster in the courts,” DeSantis said in Cape Coral. He reiterated previous sentiments about the controversial House bill (HB 1) banning anyone under the age of 16 from social media. The bill, a priority of House Speaker Paul Renner, was passed despite legal challenges in Utah and Ohio regarding similar bills. “What I’ve said previously, these things have huge legal hurdles. They’ve been held up in courts. I don’t want to go down the road of doing something that is not going to be going to pass muster legally,” DeSantis said.

LGBTQ advocates say Florida social media minor ban would block lifesaving resources” via Douglas Soule and Ana Goñi-Lessan of USA Today Network — As lawmakers try to block minors younger than 16 years old from social media platforms, Will Larkins said figuring out which way to lean on the bill is “really hard.” To be sure, the 19-year-old Florida Atlantic University student knows the negative effects of using online platforms: “I had access to social media at like 12 years old, and I was 100% exposed to things I shouldn’t have been exposed to.” Larkins added that “the algorithms are built to addict people. They are built to be a drug.” But Larkins, who founded a Queer Student Union while in high school, said many young LGBTQ teens who don’t have support at home often turn to social media as a resource.


House tax package eyes cuts for businesses, consumers” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Businesses paying rent on commercial property and consumers accustomed to buying during sales tax holidays would be the big winners under the House tax cut package. The bill (PCB WMC 24-05) would save companies and consumers $728.1 million over the next two fiscal years. The largest single cut in the bill would be a move to reduce the business rent tax cut to 1.25% starting July 1 and lasting for 12 months. The rate is currently 4.5% but is slated to drop to 2% in August. The reduction is tied to the state’s unemployment trust fund, which needed to be replenished after it was reduced during the COVID-19 pandemic but is being refurbished at a faster rate than economists projected. Four sales tax holidays are also included in the package, but some are pared back from what lawmakers approved in recent years.

—“Florida House pushes tax cuts for utilities, dialed-back relief for average Floridians” via Lawrence Mower and Emily Mahoney of the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times

Protections from political party switches at the DMV head to final House Committee” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Legislation to prevent motorists from unknowingly deregistering from their political party while renewing their driver’s license is now one Committee stop from a House floor vote. If passed, the measure (HB 135) would ensure that a voter could only switch to or leave a party if they mean to do so and require several authentication steps to prevent accidental changes. Rep. Peggy Gossett-Seidman, the bill’s sponsor, said that hundreds of thousands of Florida voters may have had their party registration changed due to a problem with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) software used to both update voter registration cards and renew or replace driver’s licenses.

Peggy Gossett-Seidman looks to protect Floridians from unintentional party switching.

Second House panel OKs bill requiring K-12 schools to teach history of communism” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — A House Subcommittee advanced a bill that would require K-12 students to learn about communism despite objections from Democrats and others against mandating instruction on the polarizing topic that’s become part of the GOP cultural war. If passed, HB 1349 would require public schools to teach about communism in grades K-12 starting in the 2026-27 school year. Students would learn about the movement’s history, foreign atrocities committed by communists, cultural Marxism and more. Rep. James Buchanan said the idea came from a constituent, whom he did not name. Buchanan compared his bill’s framework to other bills done for Holocaust and Black history education.

All aboard? Tommy Gregory proposes tort train to move controversial third-party financing bill” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Republican Rep. Gregory has been unable to move his proposal (HB 1179) to crack down on third-party financing in civil lawsuits, so now he’s suggesting to merge it with a bill (HB 569) that would increase the state’s sovereign immunity caps. The House Judiciary Committee will consider the proposed Committee substitute on Wednesday. Gregory’s move mirrors an effort in the Senate where a bill that would revamp who can sue for medical malpractice was tied to an effort to put caps on damages awarded in the lawsuits. In both instances, it represents an effort to bridge gaps between groups that want to limit lawsuits and those representing Florida’s trial lawyers.

Bill with more ‘hoops’ for unemployment benefits advances in House” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Legislation requiring more stringent verification of those applying for unemployment insurance benefits and imposing more work search requirements to stay on the rolls is gaining ground in the House, passing through its second Committee reference. Critics contend the bill (HB 1289) puts more hurdles in the way of getting benefits that are already meager. But Rep. Shane Abbott, sponsoring the bill, defended it as a way to help people get back to work, pointing to another provision designed to match applicants’ skill sets with job openings. “The goal is not to increase poverty. The goal is to get people into jobs and positions that get them out of poverty,” Abbott said.

Shane Abbott is pushing to restrict unemployment benefits even further.

State employees could get free skin cancer screenings” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Employees covered by the state group health insurance plan will have free access to annual skin cancer screenings effective July 1 under bills that are moving through the Legislature. The Senate Appropriations Committee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government unanimously approved SB 56. That sends the bill, filed by Sen. Gayle Harrell, to its last stop at the Senate Appropriations Committee. HB 241 is the companion measure and it’s identical to the Senate bill. The House measure has cleared two Committees and next heads to the Health & Human Services Committee. The bill requires that the annual exam be conducted by either a dermatologist or an advanced practice registered nurse who is under the supervision of a dermatologist.

Driving without a license in Florida could result in jail time” via Mitch Perry of Florida Phoenix — Motorists pulled over and found not to have valid driver’s licenses would face mandatory jail time if arrested three times for that offense, according to a proposal moving its way through the Legislature. The measure (SB 1324) sponsored by Hernando County Republican Blaise Ingoglia, would subject a person found driving without a license to second-degree misdemeanor penalties of up to 60 days behind bars. A second offense would become a first-degree misdemeanor subject to up to one year in jail, and any third or subsequent offense would, in addition, bring a mandatory minimum of 10 days in jail. “We’ve seen multiple instances of people entering the state of Florida, whether they are legal residents if they are here illegally, and driving without ever having a license,” Ingoglia said. Ingoglia stressed that the bill was not about penalizing motorists who have been issued a driver’s license but don’t have it in their possession.

Bill could boost Florida’s ‘renewable’ fuel industry. Critics say it will cost consumers” via Ashley Miznazi of the Miami Herald — There is booming interest across Florida in turning cow manure, urban sewage and other nasty stuff once considered waste into “renewable” gas. If used instead of oil and other fossil fuels, such alternative sources of energy could, at least potentially, help slow emissions driving climate change and the rising seas that threaten communities up and down the coast. But such experimental projects come at considerable costs — costs that, under a bill being considered by Florida lawmakers, would be passed on to consumers, not the companies that stand to profit from the operations. “We want to be energy diverse in this state, and this bill very simply wants to promote that type of investment,” the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Nick DiCeglie, said during a Senate Committee meeting last month.


How conservative billionaires shape decisions inside the DeSantis administration” via Jason Garcia of Seeking Rents — Late last year, the DeSantis administration made it harder for older Floridians to get food stamps. Earlier this month, the DeSantis administration sued the federal government for the right to remove poor children from public health insurance. And last week, the Republican Governor came out in support of a plan to round up homeless people across Florida and — potentially — put them into secured camps. Each move was, at least on the surface, a disparate executive decision. But they share something in common: They are all ideas promoted by conservative billionaires and the right-wing think tanks they fund. Taken together, the moves offer a window into how superrich megadonors shape action across DeSantis’ state government.

Does Ron DeSantis take marching orders from billionaires?

Mike Beltran is on a mission to provide each Circuit Judge a law clerk” via Jim Ash of The Florida Bar — Rep. Beltran is urging fellow attorneys to lobby for a bill that would assign a law clerk to every Florida circuit judge. The Riverview Republican asks the audience of the latest ABOTA Ft. Lauderdale podcast, hosted by ABOTA Florida President Jeff Adelman, to “politely” ask their legislators to support HB 617. “Everyone’s got a state representative, everyone’s got a state Senator, and everyone votes for Governor,” Beltran said. “Let them know your thoughts.” Neither HB 617 nor SB 1204, an identical companion by Republican Sen. Erin Grall, has received a hearing.

Bill capping house-rattling blast mining levels gets a workshop, but no Committee hearing” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Rep. Tom Fabricio has been trying for years to get limestone mining companies in northwest Miami-Dade County to reduce the power of their explosions, which residents complain damage their homes. He’s filed legislation every year since 2021 to mandate lower blast levels in and around residential areas. It was a top campaign priority when he ran for office in 2020. And accordingly, it’s been the focus of the first bill the Miami Lakes Republican files every year before Session. So far — and likely again this year, as the House ends most Subcommittee meetings — lawmakers have ignored his proposal. But some heard testimony last week from exhausted residents and experts on the issue at a House panel discussion Fabricio organized to help educate his peers and give his cause traction.

‘That’s bullcrap’: Conservative media bashes Florida defamation bill” via Douglas Soule of USA Today Network — Conservative radio host Trey Radel bickered with a Republican Florida House member on his program Monday evening, railing against legislation that would change the state’s defamation laws. If passed, the changes will lead to increased liability against journalists and others accused of making false statements about another that harms that person’s reputation. “I absolutely sympathize and agree with you, but I do have issues (with) the bill,” Radel said. Rep. Alex Andrade shot back: “But you got to be honest with listeners and say you that you want to protect the ‘get out of jail free card’ to defame people.”


9 a.m. Senate Rules Committee meets. Room 412, Knott Building.

9 a.m. House Education & Employment Committee meets. Room 17, House Office Building.

9 a.m. House Judiciary Committee meets. Room 404, House Office Building.

9 a.m. House State Affairs Committee meets. Room 212, Knott Building.

2 p.m. House Appropriations Committee meets. Room 212, Knott Building.

2 p.m. House Ways & Means Committee meets. Room 404, House Office Building.

2 p.m. The Senate holds a floor Session. Senate Chambers.

6:15 p.m. Senate Special Order Calendar Group meets. Room 401, Senate Office Building.


Matt Blackburn: Aurora Innovation

Carlecia Collins, GrayRobinson: LifeLink Foundation

Brooke Evans, The Mayernick Group: Verra Mobility

Patrick Gillespie, Adams and Reese: Carvana

Jon Hoffman: American Kidney Fund

Lacey Hofmeyer, Avery Lopez, Seth McKeel, The Southern Group: Association of Florida Colleges, McLane Company, William Daniels Mills Theater Company

Robert Holroyd, Tripp Scott PA: International Sign Association

Sha’Ron James, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart: Robinsun

Daniel Johnson, Phillip Rizzo: Oracle America

Tim Meenan, Daniel Olson, Meenan PA: Roblox Corporation

Sean Pittman, Pittman Law Group: Leon County Board of County Commissioners

Andrew Rutledge, Gary Rutledge, Rutledge Ecenia: Outdoor Amusement Business Association

Paul Singer, Abigail Stempston, Kelley Drye & Warren: DebtBlue


Siding with smugglers? Lincoln Project founder says it’s Donald Trump compromising border security” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Lincoln Project running ads in the Mar-a-Lago market seems to be having its desired effect: driving Trump crazy. The Never Trumper group ran its latest ad last week only in South Florida and South Carolina, where a Republican Presidential Primary contest is unfolding between Trump and Nikki Haley. The spot asserted that congressional Republicans and Trump were opposed to a border security deal for purely political reasons. Trump responded to a new television ad by calling The Lincoln Project team names.

To watch the ad, please click the image below:

Nikki Haley’s hard-line immigration record runs counter to Trump’s attacks” via Jazmine Ulloa of The New York Times — Trump and his allies have spent weeks painting Haley as a bleeding heart on immigration as he seeks to dispatch her as his last remaining rival for the 2024 Republican nomination. In Trump’s telling, Haley is a “globalist” who flip-flopped on her support for Trump’s hard-line policies before she served as his ambassador to the United Nations. Ahead of a showdown between the two candidates in South Carolina’s Primary on Feb. 24, his surrogates have accused her of being a secret liberal who supports open borders and won’t do enough to curb the flows of migrants and refugees into the nation.

Joe Gruters follows Trump’s lead, endorses Michael Whatley for RNC Chair” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Gruters, Florida’s Republican National Committee member, is endorsing Whatley as the next leader of the Republican National Committee (RNC). The news ends a period of brief speculation about whether the Sarasota Republican would be tapped for the job. The state Senator won the election this weekend as the state’s National Committee member. But Trump endorsed Whatley, the North Carolina Republican Party Chair. Gruters has now followed suit. “This is the President’s party, and he deserves to have his choice as the next (Chair),” Gruters said. “I support the President 100% and fully endorse Whatley.”

Joe Biden forcefully condemns Trump’s NATO comments as ‘un-American’” via Amy B Wang of The Washington Post — Biden forcefully condemned “un-American” comments by Trump in which he said he would encourage Russia to invade NATO allies if those countries did not spend enough money on defense. Biden delivered the remarks Tuesday to urge Congress to pass a $95 billion national security package to aid Israel, Ukraine and other U.S. allies. The Senate passed the bill early Tuesday morning, but House Speaker Mike Johnson has already rejected the package. Speaking from the White House, Biden said Trump’s comments had sent a dangerous and “shameful” signal to the world. Biden was referring to a speech Trump had given at a campaign rally in South Carolina in which he imagined a NATO country asking if the United States would protect them from a Russian attack if they didn’t pay.

Former DeSantis aide looks back on a ‘downright embarrassing’ campaign” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis’ currently suspended presidential campaign is offering an opportunity for those who were part of the effort to sound off about what went wrong. Former speechwriter Nate Hochman left the DeSantis campaign in July and reportedly was let go after he shared a video with DeSantis’ face superimposed on a “Sonnenrad,” a symbol used by the German Nazi party. Months after the dissociation, Hochman is having his say about that incident, and about the campaign. Regarding the Sonnenrad, he writes that what is “true is that I retweeted a video containing what I would later come to learn was a Sonnenrad and immediately un-retweeted said video and alerted my superiors on the campaign staff when I learned what the symbol meant.”

Former DeSantis Wall Street fundraiser to bolster Trump’s campaign war chest” via Brian Schwartz and Dasha Burns of CNBC — Veteran Wall Street executive Omeed Malik is planning to raise over $3 million and donate at least $100,000 in support of Trump’s campaign. Malik, who is the CEO of Farvahar Partners, said in an interview that after helping to raise money and give voice to the likes of DeSantis and independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., he now plans to turn to his extensive network to help finance Trump’s campaign for President. “What I am committing to doing is putting the resources that I have, and Rolodex I have, both of which are material, behind the President on a go-forward basis,” Malik said.

— MORE 2024 —

A Trump-Hillary Clinton analogy that could give Biden comfort” via Nate Cohn of The New York Times — The 2016-era concerns about Trump’s fitness for office, as reflected in polling, suggested that a majority of voters harbored the most basic doubts about his ability to do the job.

In Biden’s case, those doubts have stemmed from his age. For Trump, it was his lack of experience and unpresidential temperament.

The Donald Trump/Hillary Clinton battle gives Joe Biden some hope.

The doubts about Trump set the stage for a volatile campaign, as a crucial segment of traditional Republican-leaning voters recoiled at their party’s nominee in pre-election polls. At times, Trump’s percentage of support among Republican-leaning voters was as low as the 70s, and it was in the 80s as the election approached. Today, Biden finds himself in a somewhat similar position, as defections among Black, Hispanic and younger voters have given Trump a narrow lead in the early polls.

Trump’s weakness among Republican-leaning voters wasn’t exclusively because they questioned whether he could do the job effectively. Many Republicans were repelled by his insults against ethnic groups or John McCain’s military service, or his treatment of women — including the “Access Hollywood” tape. Many opposed his views on trade, immigration and foreign policy. Others doubted his commitment to conservative causes, like opposition to abortion rights. Similarly, many traditionally Democratic voters are skeptical of Biden’s handling of the economy or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But as with Biden and the issue of age today, Trump’s inexperience and unpresidential conduct were a major aspect of their misgivings.


DeSantis blames electric vehicles for insurance rate spikes” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Governor said electric vehicles contributed to an over 20% year-over-year hike in car policy costs, by way of commenting on the just-released Consumer Price Index report. “You look at things like auto insurance. Yes, we have had major supply problems over many years for autos that impact the ability to repair. But then I think these EVs are a lot more expensive to repair and I think that impacts those rates as well,” DeSantis said. The Governor made the comments as an aside while arguing that the My Safe Florida Home program would help to cut rates.

Teslas are expensive to repair, helping push up insurance costs.

State regulators cite mismanagement at FPL nuclear plants, request $11M refund for replacement power” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida — State regulators want FPL to refund more than $11 million charged to customers for what they are calling chronic mismanagement at the utility’s two nuclear plants. Public Service Commission staff last week filed testimony and an agency audit report that blames management problems for some of the more than 40 shutdowns and fines at the Turkey Point and St. Lucie nuclear plants. One of the fines levied against Turkey Point involved falsifying maintenance records. FPL has taken steps to improve its operations since 2022, the audit report said. But the Commission staff said in testimony filed last week that customers should not have to pay for the utility to buy replacement power amid three plant shutdowns between 2020 and 2022.

National freedom of expression group puts Florida in ’10 Worst Censors of 2023′ list” via Douglas Soule of the USA Today Network — The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), a national free speech organization, has placed “Florida state officials” on its just-released “10 Worst Censors of 2023” list. “Florida isn’t where ‘woke’ goes to die — it’s where the First Amendment goes to retire,” the organization said on its website Tuesday. “In Florida, officials have performative censorship down to an art — whether on campus or onstage.” The group’s gripe? Multiple things. For instance, it denounced an anti-drag show law passed last year that was halted by the courts, and how Florida went after a drag show venue even after undercover agents said they saw no “lewd” acts in front of minors. The venue ended up settling with the state anyway for $5,000.

Florida’s immigration crackdown is scaring patients away from seeking care” via Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO — One of DeSantis’ most controversial immigration moves has led to women shunning mammograms and prenatal care out of fear that they’ll be forced to reveal their immigration status. At issue is a new Florida law requiring hospitals that receive Medicaid dollars to ask patients about their immigration status. Undocumented migrants in Florida are now steering clear of hospitals and clinics, worried that they’ll be arrested or deported, according to 10 immigration advocates, lawmakers and health care officials.

U.S. Supreme Court asked to scrap sports betting in Florida” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — Florida casino operators are trying to convince the Court once again to block the $2.5 billion gambling deal between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida that opened the door to sports betting. Lawyers for two gambling operations late last week filed a petition with the high court asking it to overturn an appeals court decision that gave a green light to the compact with the Seminoles. The deal was approved by the Legislature at the urging of DeSantis.


Marco Rubio, Rick Scott vote against foreign aid package passed by Senate” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The U.S. Senate passed a foreign aid package, but neither of Florida’s Senators supported the deal. After an all-night Session, the Senate early Tuesday voted 70-29 in favor of a $95.3 billion spend. But both U.S. Sens. Rubio and Scott cast “nay” votes. Scott supports funding for Israel but spoke on the floor about the nation’s history in conflicts abroad. During a 40-minute presentation of legislation on blocking money from reaching Hamas, he suggested the Founding Fathers would favor a more measured approach.

Marco Rubio and Rick Scott say ‘nope’ to a Senate foreign aid package.


Evan Power says being both Party Chair, lobbyist is natural fit to strengthen Florida GOP” via James Call of USA Today Network — The 250 members of the Florida Republican Party’s Executive Committee who arrived in Tallahassee last month to remove the Party Chair and elect a new one were greeted by the then-Vice Chair with a handshake and a smile. Power stood in the doorway of the Tallahassee Conference Center, just off the interstate, next to a Cracker Barrel and minutes away from securing a long-sought goal — to be named leader of the Florida Republican Party. “I tell people this is my Super Bowl,” Power said. “I really feel the party leadership is my true fit, working with elected officials, working with grassroots to build a common cause so that we can win elections.” Power was talking as much about his career as he was about the campaign to become Florida GOP chief.

Rep. Lindsay Cross endorses Whitney Fox in CD-13 raceCross, an advocate for environmental protections, has thrown her support behind Fox, emphasizing her unique understanding of how environmental stewardship fuels both the local economy and quality of life. “Through her work in transportation and tourism, Whitney Fox understands the vital role protecting our environment plays in our economy and quality of life,” Cross said. “I endorse Whitney for Congress because I know she will champion the environmental protection and sustainability efforts we need for our residents to enjoy Pinellas County for generations to come.”

Pembroke Park Commissioner pleads not guilty to misusing 911 system” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Pembroke Park Commissioner Geoffrey Jacobs has been charged with misuse of the 911 system after alleging the Mayor was known to have a gun and that he feared for his safety, according to police. The incident happened just before a Town Commission meeting on Nov. 8 when Jacobs called the Broward Sheriff’s Office to talk about Mayor Ashira Mohammed, police said. “It was expressed by Commissioner Jacobs complaint that Mayor Mohammed has been displaying threatening behavior by yelling at him and that Mayor Mohammed is known to carry a firearm coupled with her boasting about a firearm,” according to a Pembroke Park police report.

Geoffrey Jacobs is charged with abusing 911.

St. Lucie Chamber of Commerce apologizes after Tax Collector candidate’s email blast sent” via Colleen Wixon of Treasure Coast Newspapers — A Tax Collector candidate’s email mailer to Chamber of Commerce members sent chamber officials scrambling this week to assure members the message was not a political endorsement. It also prompted a revision of chamber policy on similar emails. Christy Romano, a Republican candidate for Tax Collector, sent out the ad through what’s known as an email blast to members. Chamber policy allows members in good standing to send paid email blasts, Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Terissa Aronson said in her own email sent hours later to members apologizing for the email. The policy will be changed immediately, she said.

Two Floridians charged with submitting phony signatures for abortion rights amendment” via USA Today Network — The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has charged two paid petition collectors with submitting phony signatures for a proposed abortion rights constitutional amendment. George Edward Andrews III was arrested and booked into the Hernando County Jail on 10 felony counts, each of criminal use of personal identification information and signing another person’s name or a fictitious name to a petition. An arrest warrant has been issued for a resident of the same city and for the same charges: Jamie L. Johnson, 47. FDLE said the duo submitted 133 invalid petitions in Sumter, Hernando, Pasco and Pinellas counties.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

‘I feel like there’s still people inside’: Parkland’s 1200 building houses unwelcome, haunting memories” via Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The 1200 building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the scab covering Parkland’s deepest wound, has not been in use since Feb. 14, 2018. It’s scheduled for demolition this Summer. For some, it can’t come down soon enough. For some, but not for all. You can’t tell why from the outside. It just looks like a nondescript, fenced-off, three-story edifice showing the earliest signs of neglect. Why bother touching up the exterior paint job or cleaning the windows of a school building no child will ever set foot in again?

Parkland’s 1200 building holds horrible memories for survivors.

A permanent memorial to the Parkland 17: Panel to decide among 6 designs” via Lois K. Solomon of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A panel that will choose a monument to the 17 who died in Parkland hopes one of six final proposals creates a place for peace after six years of sorrow. A location has been selected: A 1-acre site on the border of Parkland and Coral Springs at the former Heron Bay Golf Club. The land, which will house a permanent memorial to the students and teachers killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, was donated by the North Springs Improvement District, which provides water treatment and stormwater management in northwest Broward County. The six proposals were posted last week on the Parkland 17 Memorial Foundation website.

Six years after Parkland shooting, Democrats say Republicans ‘don’t have the guts’ to address gun violence” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida Democrats excoriated Republicans on Tuesday, the eve of the sixth anniversary of the Parkland shooting. “Every day we remember the students (and) the staff who lost their lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas school, and the families whose lives will be in pain for a lifetime. It’s only been six years and the Republican Party are already siding with the gun lobby to roll back the Parkland-era gun safety law,” said Nikki Fried, Chair of the Florida Democratic Party. “Republicans have made it clear that we cannot trust them to put the safety of our families and communities in their hands,” Fried said. U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost said “hypocrisy” would be on display by people who proclaim their sorrow on the anniversary of the massacre “but don’t have the guts to do anything about the problem.”

Ousted Miami Commissioner facing criminal charges sues city over voting map change” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — As former Miami Commissioner Alex Díaz de la Portilla awaits trial on corruption charges, he is suing the city over recent changes to the voting map that he says are illegal. Díaz de la Portilla and Jose Garcia, the pastor at the Allapattah church New Hope Ministries, accuse the city of violating state law when Commissioners approved a change to Miami’s voting map in January. In a 3-1 vote, Commissioners shifted the boundary for District 1 to include the longtime family home of Commissioner Miguel Angel Gabela, whose house had been excluded from the district in a previous voting map approved in June.

‘Not man enough?’: Bodycam shows Miami Beach Commissioner’s confrontational approach” via Aaron Liebowitz of the Miami Herald — When a Miami Beach marine patrol officer was sitting in his boat near the unit’s headquarters at the Maurice Gibb Memorial Park pier late last month, he noticed something unusual on the nearby dock: Miami Beach City Commissioner David Suarez arguing with a local boater. The officer quickly turned on his body-worn camera to capture their interaction. A second officer, who was returning from lunch, also noticed the dispute and walked over to try to intervene. The newly released body-camera footage, which shows the freshman Commissioner telling a boater he isn’t “man enough” and grilling a marine patrol officer about boating laws, is emblematic of Suarez’s confrontational approach as he pursues an ambitious agenda during his first year in office.

14 violations at a Miami Beach house where a worker, 22, was killed, OSHA says” via David J. Neal of the Miami Herald — An incompetently inspected scaffold and a missing pully pin were among the safety violations leading to the death of a 22-year-old working on the construction of a Miami Beach house, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said in an inspection report. The U.S. Department of Labor’s workplace safety arm wants Homestead’s Stucco Works, run by President Miguel Jimenez and agent Christopher Jimenez, to pay $74,555 in fines. Stucco Works, which has no other Occupational Safety and Health Administration citations in the last 10 years, has contested the fines. “Stucco Works’ failure to make employee safety a priority led to the loss of a young worker’s life,” OSHA Area Office Director Condell Eastmond said.

Coral Gables’ City Manager has been fired by a split vote” via Tess Riski of the Miami Herald — The Coral Gables City Commission voted Tuesday to fire City Manager Peter Iglesias. Commissioner Kirk Menendez made the tiebreaker vote, ending the will-he-or-won’t-he questions swirling around City Hall for the past week. Menendez also made a new proposal Tuesday: that Iglesias be replaced by Ralph Cutié, director and CEO of the Miami-Dade Aviation Department. Menendez said Cutié has expressed to him that he is “ready, willing and able” to begin those discussions. Assistant City Manager Alberto Parjus took over Tuesday as acting City Manager. Mayor Vince Lago and Vice Mayor Rhonda Anderson voted against firing Iglesias, who began hugging employees in City Hall on Tuesday afternoon during a break before the Commission officially voted to terminate him.

Peter Iglesias is out.

In Miami, croquetas sell themselves. But 1 cafe is getting a MAGA boost” via Max Greenwood of the Miami Herald — There are plenty of places to find croquetas in Miami, but Alberto Madruga’s Bird Road cafe may be the only one bearing Trump’s name. Just over a week ago, Madruga and his wife, Aida, replaced the sign on their namesake cafe with a banner bearing an image of the former President flashing a thumbs-up, with an American flag in the background and “Trump Croquettes” spelled out in capital letters large enough to see from the street. Since making the change, Madruga says, business has been good. “I just created the sign for Trump — to show support for him,” Madruga, 65, said after slinging cafecitos out a ventanita.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Orlando Uber and Lyft drivers to join nationwide Valentine’s Day strike” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — About 100 drivers for Uber, Lyft and other app-based gig services are going on strike Wednesday in Orlando, joining numerous others in cities across the country protesting what they call “poverty wages,” fears of being unfairly deactivated from the app and unsafe working conditions. The nationwide Valentine’s Day work stoppages could hamper travel for some — though representatives of Uber and Lyft say previous strikes have had minimal impacts on wait times and ride prices. Many drivers in Orlando and elsewhere are expected to continue working despite the Wednesday job action. Adalberto Perez, a full-time driver using both major platforms who plans not to work on Wednesday, is hoping the strike leads to improvements in pay.

Uber and Lyft drivers are celebrating Valentine’s Day with a nationwide strike.

Osceola County sees another dip in tourist tax funds” via Natalia Jaramillo of the Orlando Sentinel — Following a record-breaking year, Osceola County’s tourist development tax (TDT) funds have slowed in recent months, a trend that is expected to continue. TDT funds were 5% below the previous year in November, at $6.1 million, and down 4% year-over-year in December, to $7.1 million. Despite the dip in funds, collections are still at the second-highest pace in the county’s history as it closes its first quarter, according to Experience Kissimmee, the county’s tourism authority. The county’s current fiscal year began in October. “We anticipate that for the rest of the year there … will be a slight softening compared to the collections of last year, but we have to remember that was a record high,” said Frida Bahja, Director of Research for Experience Kissimmee.

At Disney World, Splash Mountain gets rebranded with Tiana character” via Sharon Kennedy Wynne of the Tribune News Service — Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will open at Magic Kingdom sometime this Summer, Walt Disney World announced Tuesday morning. The company also revealed a first look at an animatronic for the title character. The ride is a replacement for and a remodeling of the 30-year-old ride Splash Mountain. Disney closed it in January 2023 after years of calls for change because it included several characters from Disney’s 1946 film “Song of the South,” which featured racist stereotypes. The new attraction is based on Disney’s first Black princess, featured in the 2009 film “The Princess and the Frog.”


John Legg amps up campaign for Pasco Schools Superintendent” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Former Sen. Legg has been in the race for Pasco County Schools Superintendent since mid-2022, but his campaign is just now hitting the gas in terms of public outreach. Legg has launched a robust website and two social media channels, on Facebook and X. Legg officially filed for the race on June 22, 2022, making him the first candidate to join the race. He faces Michelle Mandarin, who filed about six months after Legg in December, and Chris Dunning, who just filed earlier this month. The former lawmaker has a leg up on his opponents in the race in fundraising, with more than $163,000 raised as of the end of December. Dunning, meanwhile, has raised less than $15,000 and Mandarin just over $1,500.

John Legg kicks his campaign up a notch.

In race for Hillsborough state attorney, challenger wants public debate” via Sue Carlton of the Tampa Bay Times — The Tampa lawyer who recently filed to run against Hillsborough State Attorney Suzy Lopez now wants to debate her. Democrat Elizabeth Martinez Strauss sent a letter to Republican Lopez last week, inviting her to discuss “our differing viewpoints” at a public forum. Topics Strauss wants to include: what she called a “trial tax” that reduces sentences for defendants who enter pleas instead of going to trial; issues with how defense lawyers receive evidence against their clients, known as discovery.

Tampa Council to vote on $14M settlement in wrongful conviction lawsuit” via Dan Sullivan and Christopher Spata of the Tampa Bay Times — The Tampa City Council plans to vote Thursday on a resolution that will award $14 million to settle a lawsuit brought by Robert DuBoise, who was wrongfully convicted of murder and spent 37 years in prison before being exonerated. DuBoise was freed in 2020 after new DNA testing indicated that two other men, who had no connection to him, were responsible for the 1983 murder of Barbara Grams. A year after his release, DuBoise filed a federal lawsuit against the city, the retired police officers who investigated the case and a forensic dentist who had opined that his teeth matched a bite mark on the victim.

Citrus County blocks stop-work order in Inverness development before it starts” via Mike Wright of Florida Politics — A plan to stop all construction in an Inverness development plagued with road and drainage problems has died before it started. Citrus County Commissioners voted a week ago to halt activity on 90 active building permits in Inverness Villages 4 in hopes of encouraging principles to negotiate a solution. County Administrator Steve Howard later told Commissioners that state law says an unlicensed person cannot direct licensed building officials to act on permits.

In ‘Suncoast’ movie, Clearwater shines. Most of it wasn’t filmed here.” via Paul Guzzo of the Tampa Bay Times — Clearwater is the main backdrop of the movie “Suncoast,” about a teenager coping with the pending death of her brother. Local landmarks and businesses populate scenes, and a fictitious school bears the city’s name on its building, van and uniforms. But very little of the movie starring Woody Harrelson and Laura Linney, which is now streaming on Hulu, was actually filmed here. A crew shot a few days of exterior B-roll footage in Pinellas County to establish the area as the focal point. Everything else was filmed in Charleston, South Carolina, and its surrounding area. And it’s as hard to tell the difference between the real and fake Clearwater as it is an actor from a stunt double in a well-made action flick.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Court hearings set stage as Florida pursues Jacksonville teacher’s license over Black Lives Matter flag” via Charlie McGee of The Tributary — Florida could ban a youth advocate and former Jacksonville teacher from its education system for displaying at school a Black Lives Matter flag and anti-Confederacy face masks three years ago. Court hearings featured testimonies and debate on the Florida Department of Education’s allegations against Amy Donofrio. This administrative law case tests the extent of Florida’s rules limiting what teachers are allowed to say and do in the classroom. Donofrio taught for nearly a decade at Riverside High School — formerly Robert E. Lee High School — until 2021, when the Duval County Public Schools district reassigned her to a warehouse. She won $300,000 from the district a few months later in a lawsuit settlement.

Amy Donofrio was ejected for her BLM activism. Now a court will decide if she comes back.

New search for next Duval schools superintendent starts March 15; final choice by May 23” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — Duval County’s School Board will start advertising for a new superintendent next month and choose the school district’s next leader May 23, members agreed during a workshop Tuesday. The national search will be the second try at identifying a long-term leader for the country’s 20th-largest school district, with ads announcing the opening from March 15 to April 15 and the Florida School Boards Association handling the search work often done by executive headhunters. The Board tried that approach last Summer but shelved the search in October after receiving only 10 applications, several from people who didn’t meet minimum job qualifications.

—“Jefferson County School sees improvement under new principal, earning a passing grade” via Alicia Devine of the Tallahassee Democrat

State of the City: Gainesville Mayor says gun violence, traffic safety among top issues” via Nora O’Neill of The Gainesville Sun — Gainesville Mayor Harvey Ward delivered his 2024 State of the City address at the Santa Fe College Blount Center Tuesday morning, touching on gun violence, traffic safety, sustainability efforts, and entertainment and culture, among other things. Ward’s speech follows a tumultuous year for the city as the Mayor had to grapple with dramatic budget cuts and job layoffs, and the city being stripped of its control over Gainesville Regional Utilities. Ward was even called on by a state lawmaker to resign. Despite the challenges, he said, the city is continuing to make progress. “As we look back at 2023, I can tell you we are moving forward,” Ward said. “We are improving our technology, our sustainability, our equitable development, our access to the arts and to economic opportunity. We are working to enhance traffic safety and prevent gun violence.”

Video shows Florida prison officer hitting inmate” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — The Florida Department of Corrections has fired officers shown in a video of a guard slapping an inmate. The video, posted to social media on Friday, shows an inmate standing still and facing officers when one of them strikes him across the face. It is unclear when the video was shot and by whom. Ian Manuel, the man who posted the video on X, told ABC Action News that he was given the footage by an inmate at Hamilton Correctional Institution in Hamilton County. Manuel, who was previously incarcerated in Florida, referred to the incident as a “Power Slap competition” in his social media post.

Tallahassee Historical Society brings back its ‘Apalachee’ publication” via Airanna Otero of the Tallahassee Democrat — One local publication has been brought back to life just in time for the city’s bicentennial celebration. Apalachee, Tallahassee Historical Society’s magazine, is back after 27 years since its last publication in 1996. Bob Holladay, the society’s president, wrote a letter in the newest issue letting members know that the new publication looks to “differ from its predecessor in a number of ways.” Only a select few will be able to get their hands on the new edition, as only paying members of the Tallahassee Historical Society will receive copies.

Pensacola delays first ‘Skate Spot’ meeting, walks back East Hill as skate park location” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — A public input meeting for the proposed “Safe Spot Skate Spot” is on hold as Pensacola waits for potential designs, but Pensacola Mayor D.C. Reeves walked back the city’s previous announcement that the skate spot would be built in the East Hill neighborhood. Earlier this month, the city announced a public input meeting would be held on Feb. 24 for a small skate park project called a “skate spot” in partnership with Upward Intuition that “will be located in the East Hill Neighborhood District.” Reeves said Tuesday that the announcement was premature. “That’s not something I’m committed to,” Reeves said. “At this point now, we’ll entertain it. I’m not saying it won’t (be located in East Hill) either, but I think therein lies the point. I think we’re a little too early right now.”

D.C. Reeves is slowing the roll on a new skate park.

Cold January for Northeast Florida home sale prices” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — Home sale prices in the six-county Northeast Florida region took a tumble in January, reflecting state trends. While figures declined, NEFAR officials say the modest decrease in home prices shows signs of a stabilizing market which saw the cost of homes skyrocket in 2023. The median sale price for a home was $375,000 in the entire Northeast Florida region, a drop of 2.2% compared to December. The number of days a house was on the market increased to 56, a jump of 24.4% over the previous month. Inventory also increased to 5,638 homes, up by 22.1%.


Rick LoCastro bonds out of jail, appears at Collier Co. meeting remotely” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Collier County Commissioner LoCastro was arrested and has bonded out of the Collier County Jail. But for the moment, he still holds office. A warrant for the Marco Island Republican was issued last week by the Monroe County State Attorney’s Office, but he was not immediately arrested because of a medical emergency. The cause of his hospitalization has fueled speculation in political circles in the county, but he was ultimately released on Monday and surrendered to authorities. The Collier County Sheriff’s Office said the 57-year-old was in jail for a brief time before paying a $1,000 bond. Records show he was booked on a single battery charge. DeSantis took questions about LoCastro at a Tuesday news conference and said he won’t hesitate to suspend LoCastro if the case warrants that action.

Rick LoCastro bonds out of jail and gets right back to work.

Medicated without consent? Collier leaders halt fluoride being added in drinking water” via Liz Freeman of the Naples Daily News — After three hours of public testimony on the merits and harms of fluoride being added to the county’s drinking water, the Collier County Commission voted unanimously to end the practice. The decision was largely based on the county’s Health Freedom Bill of Rights ordinance adopted last year to safeguard the health care freedoms of residents and not impose medical treatment without their consent. Commissioner Dan Kowal put the issue on the agenda after some people brought it to his attention and what he found in his own research. “So, in reality, as we sit here today, we are in violation of our own law,” Kowal said.

Faces of Black Heritage: A look at Black heritage with Sarasota leaders, trailblazers” via Samantha Gholar of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — In celebration of the nationally observed and recognized Black History Month, the Herald-Tribune is introducing the Faces of Black Heritage series, showcasing local Black leaders and changemakers who share their views on Black heritage and history. Sarasota plays an integral part in the overall fabric of the country’s Black history dating back to the early 1900s when the first settlers arrived here — among them was Sarasota’s first Black pioneer, Leonard Reid. The historic Reid house, now home to Sarasota’s first African American cultural and history museum, is one of the many pieces of Black history that paved the way for today’s residents. Here’s what culture, history, and heritage mean to these leaders and trailblazers.


What I saw inside the DeSantis campaign” via Nate Hochman of The American Conservative — DeSantis was bound to lose this Primary. It brings me no pleasure to say this: DeSantis was the best Republican Governor of my lifetime, and his past two years in Florida are a top contender for the greatest string of conservative policy victories in modern U.S. history.

But the underwhelming — at times, downright embarrassing — way DeSantis prosecuted his case teaches many lessons about what has become of the set of institutions that we used to call “movement conservatism” and the increasingly apparent chasm between those institutions and the broader political forces animating the Republican Party.

Trump-aligned political action committee released an ad about DeSantis’ alleged support for cutting Medicare and Social Security.

The video’s narrated message was underlaid with clips of a man eating chocolate pudding with his fingers — an obvious reference to widely circulated reports of DeSantis’ alimentary faux pas.

Rather than engage with the “pudding fingers” allegation, the response focused on fact-checking the entitlement-cutting jab, airing a clip of DeSantis promising not to “mess with Social Security,” followed by another clip of Trump floating the possibility of welfare cuts himself.

Writing in the New York Times, the progressive columnist Michelle Goldberg noticed something perceptive: “(T)he real message, which was that Ron DeSantis is a creep who eats pudding with his fingers. The policy argument is just an excuse for the disgusting visuals,” Goldberg wrote. “The point is not to disagree with DeSantis, but to humiliate him.”

DeSantis, Goldberg wrote, was “making the mistake of believing that the Primary race is about issues, while Trump instinctively understands that it’s about dominance … It will be about who is weak and who is strong.”

The DeSantis campaign was largely oblivious to this dynamic.


Democrats should pick a new presidential candidate now” via Damon Linker of The Atlantic — How did we end up in this situation? The lion’s share of the blame belongs to Biden himself. His decision to run for re-election, after initially indicating in 2019 that he’d probably serve only one term, is understandable in human respects but indefensible in political ones. It’s very common for an aging person — especially a man — to deny the truth about his decline and the need to pull back from responsibilities. Such transitions typically involve a painful, arduous struggle for any family facing the situation. A good part of it is stubborn pride. But decline itself can impair judgment. Whatever the source of this problem, Biden is putting his self-regard ahead of the good of the country.

Carlos Giménez helps create chaos, not solutions, on immigration” via Phil Her for the Miami Herald — Miami U.S. Rep. Giménez has been a go-to guy on immigration, at least in one way. Every week, you’ll see him go to a Fox News or Republican-friendly news outlet and make outrageous and highly partisan charges about what’s going on at the southern border. Some of his claims are dubious …. Some of Gimenez’s claims are distasteful …. And then, there are some of Gimenez’s statements that are downright dangerous, Including the false claim that this administration is deliberately enabling illegal immigration, part of the odious but ascendant “white replacement theory” that Trump is promoting when he says migrants “poison the blood” of America. In short, Gimenez makes a lot of noise about immigration, but his record ends at just noise.

Lawmakers should pass bill that could open Jeffrey Epstein’s grand jury records” via the Miami Herald and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial boards — One more batch of sealed court records must be made public in Florida to fully understand how Epstein, a politically connected Palm Beach millionaire, was able to operate a sex-trafficking ring and abuse underage girls with impunity. A bill in the Legislature, HB 117, sponsored by Rep. Gossett-Seidman, and SB 234, co-sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Tina Polsky, seeks to encourage the release of Epstein grand jury evidence from 2006 by expanding the circumstances under which such records can be made public. “Florida has a chance to fill the missing chapters of the story,” said Gossett-Seidman. The bill is currently in the House’s Criminal Justice Subcommittee.

Why Florida’s proposed libel laws undermine conservative principles” via Drew Steel for Florida Politics — Alas, these proposed laws are misguided and threaten to undermine long-cherished conservative principles. However well-intentioned, they contravene fundamental tenets that conservatives have long championed — limited government, free markets and individual liberty. By inviting more regulation and litigation, they expand state power at the expense of personal freedom. Their actual effect would be to chill speech, imperil small media outlets and open the door to the very “lawfare” tactics liberals have used so effectively against conservatives. One can envision the cottage industry of lawsuits industry this legislation would spawn and the chilling effect it would have.

Legislators are correct in their efforts to outright ban intentional releases of balloons” via Jon Paul “J.P.” Brooker for the Tallahassee Democrat — What goes up, must come down, including balloons. No matter how big the milestone or how joyous the occasion highlighted by a balloon release, balloons eventually float back down to earth, threatening our precious environment and animals both on land and at sea. And that is nothing to celebrate. Fortunately, the Florida Legislature is considering a ban on the intentional release of balloons under the state’s litter law. The bills, SB 602 sponsored by Sen. Nick DiCeglie and HB 321 by Rep. Linda Chaney embrace a common-sense, straightforward approach to protecting our beautiful coastlines and wildlife throughout Florida.


— ALOE —

U.K. online casino ranks Florida 7th most romantic state” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Florida is the seventh most romantic state in the U.S. The company analyzed the number of average monthly Google searches for keywords related to romance, Valentine’s Day and love and ranked states based on the highest number of monthly searches per 100,000 people. With 1,593 searches per 100,000 people, Florida nabbed the No. 7 spot, just behind Maryland and North Carolina. Massachusetts took top honors, followed by New York, New Jersey and Virginia.

Miami-Dade Clerk to wed 20 couples on Valentine’s Day at historic courthouse” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Valentine’s Day is going to be especially memorable this year for 20 couples in Florida’s most populous county. They’ll be tying the knot at the Dade County Courthouse, a National Register of Historic Sites entrant built in 1928, with Miami-Dade Clerk and Comptroller Juan Fernandez-Barquin officiating. “I am honored to provide this opportunity to 20 couples (who are starting) their new lives together,” he said. “This ceremony has a special significance, as it is likely the last time that such an event can take place at our beloved historic Dade County Courthouse, as our new courthouse is slated to be completed later this year.”

Love (and 460 million flowers) are in the air for Valentine’s Day, but not without a Miami layover” via The Associated Press — While Valentine’s Day may not be known as a busy time for air travel, it’s a busy time at Miami International Airport, where many of the nation’s fresh cut flowers arrive from South America. Around 90% of the roses and fresh-cut flowers being sold for Valentine’s Day in the United States come through Miami. They arrive on hundreds of flights into Miami on their journey to florists and supermarkets across the U.S. and Canada. That equates to some 18,000 tons of flowers passing through Miami. “This season we transported around 460 million flowers from Ecuador and Colombia,” Diogo Elias, senior vice president of Avianca Cargo, said Monday during a news conference in Miami.

Valentine’s Day flowers must make a stopover in Miami first.

The case for corny, cheesy, embarrassing love” via Stephanie Hayes of the Tampa Bay Times — Valentine’s Day is: Gas station roses and grocery store cards/Ads for alarming underwear made by Rihanna/Taylor and Travis (Kelce) making out ad infinitum/“Maybe we can do Cheesecake Factory after the dog’s dental cleaning” Valentine’s Day has arrived with its laundry list of romantic obligations on hump day. Each year I wonder: Is this corporate lovefest what the poets intended? Did Brontë want-ay chocolate-dipped strawberries and “Bluey” valentines, all this chaotic stimuli flattening us into the same Publix candy heart? Furthermore, when Maya Angelou said, “In the flush of love’s light we dare be brave,” did she mean on a Wednesday? I am just saying, Lord Byron, it would be more convenient to walk in beauty like the night on a Saturday.

College Football Playoff, ESPN agree to 6-year extension worth $1.3 billion per year” via Andrew Marchand, Nicole Auerbach, Stewart Mandel and Chris Vannini of The Athletic — ESPN and the College Football Playoff are in agreement on a six-year, $7.8 billion extension that will make the network the home of the 12-team tournament through the 2031-32 season once CFP leaders sort out the specifics of how the postseason’s new era will operate.

$8.4M in upgrades: How Broward is readying to host Cricket World Cup games” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — There are just a few months left until the stop clock. In June, Broward County will become the official host for its first international sporting event when it hosts the Cricket World Cup. Now, it has until then to start — and finish — $8.4 million worth of renovation at Central Broward Park and Broward County Stadium, just off State Road 7 in Lauderhill. Some details have already been worked on: Permitting with the city of Lauderhill is well underway, sidewalks have been moved because of water-retention issues, and burrowing owls have been relocated with the blessing of state officials. “There were a lot of complications,” said Dan West, director of the county’s Parks and Recreation Division.


Celebrating today are Kari Hebrank, R.J. Myers of Shumaker Advisors, Cari Roth, VP of Governmental Affairs at Lykes Bros, and former U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala.


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

Peter Schorsch

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


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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

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

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