Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 2.15.24

Sunburn Orange Tally (4)
Your day is better when you start it with a first read on what's happening in Florida politics.

Good Thursday morning.

This is an extraordinarily abbreviated version of Sunburn reflecting that yesterday was Valentine’s Day.

Full-service consulting firm LSN Partners announced three new additions this week, all of them former officials in President Joe Biden’s administration.

New to the crew are Lynda Tran, former senior adviser to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Director of Public Engagement for USDOT; Andrew Rogers, former Deputy Federal Highway Administrator under Buttigieg; and Andrew Wishnia, former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Climate Policy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy in the USDOT.

Former Joe Biden staffers Lynda Tran, Andrew Rogers and Andrew Wishnia are making the jump to LSN Partners.

“This expansion reinforces LSN Partners’ commitment to providing exceptional strategic counsel to help our clients navigate through national transportation, sustainability and climate-related challenges,” said Alex Heckler, Managing Partner of LSN Partners.

In a news release, the firm said the new additions reaffirm its dedication to offering clients top-tier strategic guidance. Their collective knowledge and deep-rooted experience in government, advocacy, and industry will be instrumental in uncovering and exploring opportunities that lie ahead.”

LSN Partners, based in Miami, is a full-service consulting firm offering strategic advice and advocacy in government affairs, government procurement, emergency management, business development and communications.


Florida Realtors has released research to back up its claim that eliminating the business rental tax would benefit the state.

According to the “An Economic Impact Analysis of Eliminating Florida’s Commercial Rent Tax,” eliminating the tax levied on commercial rents would grow the Sunshine State economy by $19.7 billion and create another 58,653 jobs over the next half-decade.

The 21-page report conducted by the Regional Economic Impact Consulting Group gives some of the credit to Sunshine State transplants, who are expected to offset revenue losses if the state were to abolish the business rent tax.

“Nearly 1,000 people move to Florida every day. It is essential to remove this tax burden to allow for more investment in housing, retail, and development to support growth and keep Florida one of the top-performing economies in the world’s largest economy,” the study says.

It continues, “The study shows the state will grow by $6.52 for every dollar of lost revenue when comparing the initial loss to the overall economic gain. When the new tax collections mitigate the initial state losses, the increase becomes $8.39 per dollar of lost revenue.”


Ninth Annual Suits for Session begins — 5; Season 6 of ‘Drive To Survive’ premieres on Netflix — 8; South Carolina Republican Primary — 9; Michigan Democratic Primary — 12; James Madison Institute’s ‘Red, White and Bluegrass’ dinner — 13; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 15; Michigan/Idaho/Missouri GOP Primaries — 17; Netflix to stream “The Netflix Slam,” Rafael Nadal/Carlos Alcaraz faceoff — 17; Super Tuesday — 19; State of the Union address — 21; last day of Regular Session, if Legislature completes work in 60 days — 22; 2024 Oscars — 24; Georgia Democratic Primary — 26; Arizona/Florida/Illinois/Kansas/Ohio Primaries — 33; James Madison Institute’s ‘2024 Naples Dinner’ with keynote speaker Laura Ingraham — 35; ‘3 Body Problem’ premieres on Netflix — 35; The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the mifepristone/abortion pill case — 40; Major League Baseball’s (MLB) 2024 season — 42; March Madness Final Four (women’s) begins — 49; March Madness Final Four (men’s) — 52; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 56; The Masters begin — 57; Kentucky Derby — 80; 2024 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 85; ‘Bridgerton’ new season (part one) premieres on Netflix — 92; French Open begins — 95; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 97; Dave Matthews Band 2024 Summer Tour begins in Tampa — 97; Monaco Grand Prix — 101; the 2026 World Cup begins — 117; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 135; Republican National Convention begins — 151; the 2026 World Cup ends — 155; 2024 MLS All-Star Game — 160; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games on NBC/Peacock — 162; Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 180; Democratic National Convention begins — 186; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 191; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 246; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 246; 2024 Presidential Election — 261; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 277; MLS Cup 2024 — 292; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 365; ‘Moana’ premieres — 495; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 526; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 526; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 631; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 673; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 810; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 826; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 1,037; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,177; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,136; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,858.


1 dead and at least 15 injured after shooting near Kansas City Chiefs parade, police chief says” via Heather Hollingsworth and Nick Ingram of The Associated Press — A shooting at the end of the parade to celebrate the Super Bowl win by the Kansas City Chiefs, sent terrified fans running for cover and marring yet another high-profile public event with gun violence.

Kansas City Police Chief Stacey Graves detailed the shooting’s toll at a news conference and said two people had been taken into custody. She said she had heard that fans may have been involved in apprehending a suspect but couldn’t immediately confirm that.

The latest numbers are one dead and more than 20 injured. Image via AP.

“I’m angry at what happened today. The people who came to this celebration should expect a safe environment.” Graves said. Police did not immediately release any details about the people taken into custody or about a possible motive for the shootings.

Social media users posted shocking videos of police running through a crowded scene as people in attendance hurriedly scrambled for cover and ran away. One video showed someone apparently performing chest compressions on a shooting victim as another person, seemingly writhing in pain, lay on the ground nearby. People screamed in the background.

Another video showed two onlookers chase and tackle someone, holding that person down until two police officers arrived.

Kansas City has long struggled with gun violence, and in 2020 it was among nine cities targeted by the U.S. Justice Department in an effort to crack down on violent crime. In 2023 the city matched a record with 182 homicides, most of which involved guns.

Mayor Quinton Lucas has joined with Mayors across the country in calling for new laws to reduce gun violence, including mandating universal background checks.


Bill defining antisemitism in Florida Statutes heads to Senate floor” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A bill defining antisemitism in Florida Statutes is heading to a Senate floor vote after clearing its final Committee hurdle with unanimous support. Members of the Senate Rules Committee voted to advance the measure (SB 148), which would largely adopt the definition the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance set in 2016. The definition reads as “a certain perception of Jewish individuals which may be expressed as hatred toward such individuals. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish and non-Jewish individuals and their property and toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

Lori Berman is that much closer to a statutory definition of antisemitism.

Senate hemp bill tweaked before full floor vote” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Sen. Colleen Burton’s bill (SB 1698) proposes a number of material changes to what the sponsor calls an “unregulated market” and a “continuation” of work begun by the Legislature in 2023. These include a ban on currently commercially available and federally legal products, along with a cap on delta-9 THC, which could negatively affect the 487 growers and roughly 10,000 retail outlets in the state. Amendments added at this stop include language deeming products that look like “toys” as attractive to children and $2 million in nonrecurring funds to allow the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for testing equipment, and language pushing back the effective date of the legislation to Oct. 1, 2024, to allow more time for implementation.

House panel OKs elimination of local wage, heat protection rules for contractors” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Local governments wouldn’t be able to set minimum wages for their contractors and subcontractors, and couldn’t require businesses to protect their workers from heat exposure, under a bill passed by the House State Affairs Committee. The bill (HB 433) passed on a party-line vote, with Democrats opposed. They said it takes away local control from governments, such as Miami-Dade County, which have passed minimum wage ordinances for contractors. “This bill is very let-them-eat-cake-ish,” said Rep. Ashley Gantt, a Miami Democrat. “It’s all about profits, it’s not about people.” Gantt added that it would likely affect 33,000 workers in Miami-Dade, potentially lowering their wages.

Bill mandating disclosure for artificial intelligence in political ads headed to House floor” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Political ads using artificial intelligence (AI) technology will need a statement disclosing the fact under a bill advancing in the House. The bill (HB 919) from Rep. Alex Rizo was amended to add a criminal penalty. Any candidate or political committee that puts out an ad using AI without disclosing it would commit a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by a prison sentence of one year and a fine of $1,000. “There are some teeth within this to make sure that we have everyone … must go ahead and comply with these disclaimers,” Rizo said. The bill passed on an 18-2 vote, with Reps. Ashley Gantt and Felicia Robinson voting against it. They expressed concern with how the investigation process will play out and with the potential for a candidate to be charged with a crime when a third-party vendor who created the ad didn’t tell them AI was used.

Legislative push to give Sheriffs more budget power continues” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Rules panel advanced Republican Sen. Clay Yarborough’s bill (SB 1704) that would allow a Sheriff, including one of a consolidated city/county government, to move funds “between the fund and functional categories” without the approval of the County Commission or Budget Commission after their budget is approved by the legislative body. This independence extends to procurement and personnel issues. The legislation is backed by the Florida Sheriffs’ Association and was presented by Sen. Danny Burgess in Committee Wednesday. Republican Rep. Wyman Duggan is carrying the companion bill (HB 1447), which was temporarily postponed in Wednesday’s meeting of the State Affairs Committee due to an amendment that changed the title, requiring that procedural delay. It’s not likely that postponement will slow the bill’s progress though.

Bill uncorking wine bottle size limits ready for Senate floor vote” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Florida’s latest legislative attempt at uncorking limits on wine bottle sizes is barreling toward a Senate floor vote after finishing its last Committee hearing with full-bodied support. The Senate Rules Committee voted unanimously to oak-kay a bill (SB 1134) to amend a state statute banning the commercial sales of wine in bottles larger than 1 gallon or reusable 5.16-gallon containers. First-time violators of the current law, which detractors say is past its drink-by date, face a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. Repeat offenders can be charged with a third-degree felony with an up to five-year prison sentence penalty. Under the proposed new language, it would be legal for restaurants and retailers to sell wine bottles in glass containers of 4.5, 9, 12 and 15 liters. A gallon is about 3.8 liters.

 We’re gonna need a bigger liquor cabinet.

Miss trial: Legislature passes bill excusing new mothers from jury duty” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Of all the things new mothers in Florida must deal with, jury duty soon won’t be one of them. A bill (HB 461) excusing women from jury service if they’ve given birth within six months and request an exemption cleared its last stop in the Legislature by a unanimous vote. Effective July 1, the measure enjoyed similar support when House members approved it last month. Sen. Erin Grall, who sponsored its twin (SB 462), briefly explained the bill’s effects before the Wednesday vote but offered no other comments. The House sponsor, Carolina Amesty, previously called the measure “important.”

Florida may copy a Texas law bringing chaplains to public schools, despite First Amendment concerns” via Jackie Llanos of the Florida Phoenix — Florida is one of about a dozen states considering allowing chaplains to provide support services to students in public schools. The trend stems from a first-of-its-kind law the Texas Legislature passed authorizing schools to pay for religious figures to work in mental health roles. The Texas law went into effect in September, requiring more than 1,200 school districts to vote by March 1 for or against allowing chaplains to be employed or accepted as volunteers in counseling roles.


Happening today — Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis will give remarks at the Fire Service Day at the Capitol. Noon Eastern time, Capitol Courtyard — North Plaza. The event will be livestreamed on The Florida Channel.

Jimmy Patronis will give remarks on Fire Service Day at the Capitol.

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

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

9 a.m. House Health & Human Services Committee meets. Room 17, House Office Building.

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

Noon Senate Fiscal Policy meets. Room 412, Knott Building.

Noon Senate Appropriations Committee meets. Room 110, Senate Office Building.

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

5:15 p.m. Senate Special Order Calendar Group meets. Room 401, Senate Office Building.

6:15 p.m. House Rules Committee meets. Room 404, House Office Building.


They know Nikki Haley’s chances against Donald Trump, but they’re voting for her anyway” via Jazmine Ulloa of The New York Times — Everything about Haley’s latest barnstorm through South Carolina was intended to evoke a candidate on the upswing. She had a sleek, new navy-blue campaign bus with her name on it. Her campaign, backed by a fresh infusion of funds, pumped $2 million more into ads, for a total $6 million buy. And she had fresh lines of attack to deploy against Trump. But the stops, carefully tailored to highlight her ties to the place she calls home and remind voters of her past political successes in the state, frequently served more as reminders of how much has changed here since her last winning bid for Governor. Haley hosted fewer attendees at events in some of the more conservative strongholds crucial to a victory in the Feb. 24 Primary. Almost everywhere she went, even staunch supporters excited to see her speak conceded that her chances were slim.

Pro-Haley super PAC takes on Trump’s ‘attacks’ on the military — SFA Fund, the super PAC supporting Haley, is releasing a new ad in South Carolina this week. “Doesn’t Get It,” highlights Trump’s yearslong “attacks” on U.S. service members. “Ironically, Donald Trump has the gall to attack the brave men and women of our military — especially those who gave it all for our freedom,” SFA representative Preya Samsundar said. “Our service members, our veterans, and their families deserve a commander in chief who is not only proud of their service and sacrifice but is someone they can be proud of as well. Unfortunately, Donald Trump has failed on both counts.”

To watch the ad, please click the image below:


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.

Ron DeSantis’ crackdown on immigration has a chilling effect on health care.

Florida shines under new national air quality standards” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Often, Florida feels the heavy hand of the federal government when the Biden administration rolls out new regulations. Policies advanced by a Democrat in the White House tend to infringe on the rights freedom-loving Floridians fear, impose new costs on businesses and stand in the way of prosperity. But one recent reg rolled out by Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proves to be the exception to the rule. The EPA introduced new air quality standards last week to protect families, workers and communities, and these standards do not harm the Sunshine State. Instead, they demonstrate that Florida is a national leader in air quality.

Most Taylor Swift conspiracy theorists are also election deniers, poll finds” via Kierra Frasier of POLITICO — Americans who believe the conspiracy theory that Swift is part of an elaborate scheme to help Democrats win the November election are also more likely to not believe the 2020 election results. Almost three-quarters of those who believe the Swift conspiracy also believe the 2020 election outcome was fraudulent. Eighteen percent of Americans surveyed believe in the conspiracy theory and 71% of those Americans identify with or lean toward the Republican Party. Eighty-three percent indicated they are likely to support Trump in the Fall. Notably, 42% of those who believe in the Swift theory also say they had not heard about it before being contacted for the poll.

Not where you want to be: 2 Florida cities ranked in top 15 for worst drivers in major metropolises” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — When it comes to bad drivers, Florida has two cities that are ranked among the top 15 with the most deadly results on the road, according to a new analysis of road safety in the nation’s largest cities published by Forbes magazine. The numbers are not flattering for Tampa (No. 10 in terms of worst drivers) or Jacksonville (No. 14). Both landed in the upper half for dangerous driving among America’s largest cities. Miami came in at No. 26, just around the middle of the list. Tampa had 14.47 total fatal auto accidents per 100,000 people per year. That single metric alone is the eighth highest among the states sampled. Tampa also had 15.42 people per 100,000 killed in those wrecks and 0.75 people per 100,000 who died in a crash involving a drunken driver in the Gulf Coast metropolis.

Appeals court deals another setback to enviros challenging conservation spending” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO — A state appeals court panel dealt another blow to environmentalists who sued the Legislature over conservation spending under a 2014 state ballot measure. The details: The First District Court of Appeal upheld a lower court decision in 2022 dismissing the case because it was moot. The case involves more than $20 billion designated for conservation spending over 20 years. The three-judge appeals court panel agreed with Circuit Judge Layne Smith in Tallahassee, who in 2022 ruled environmentalists waited too long and the money in the 2015-‘16 state budget already was spent.


Jill Biden sends Valentine’s Day love to Americans with an art display on the White House lawn” via Darlene Superville of The Associated Press — Jill Biden once again is sending her love to Americans on Valentine’s Day through an art display on the White House lawn. The first lady’s “Valentine to the Country” was revealed as the sun rose Wednesday. The installation features a large wooden red envelope addressed in her handwriting, “To America with Love.” It is accompanied by a large pink envelope and a card with the message, “Happy Valentine’s Day! XOXO, Jill.” It was installed overnight on the lawn on the Pennsylvania Avenue side of the White House. A third piece in the display, a three-dimensional wooden box imprinted with a rendering of the White House, has spilled small, pastel-colored hearts painted with various messages of love, gratitude and optimism. Among them are “Be Kind,” “Choose Love,” and “U R Special.”

Jill Biden sends Valentine’s Day wishes to America.

Maxwell Frost, Jared Moskowitz on Parkland anniversary push credit card companies to flag unusual gun sales” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — On the sixth anniversary of the Parkland shooting, Florida Democrats in Congress are asking credit companies to flag suspicious gun purchases. Moskowitz and Frost filed legislation clearing the way for merchant codes to allow for that. The Identify Gun Stores Act would override laws in several states, including one signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis last year. Moskowitz, a Parkland Democrat and a former member of DeSantis’ administration, said Congress has to do more to curb gun violence in the country. He held a news conference in Washington calling for action on the sixth anniversary of the Parkland shooting that claimed 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in 2018.

House panel obtains texts allegedly showing Matt Gaetz setting up 2017 Florida Keys trip with woman his associate paid for sex” via Will Steakin of ABC News — Congressional House Ethics investigators have obtained text messages allegedly showing that a few months after first joining Congress, Rep. Gaetz asked a young woman, who at the time had received payments for sex from Gaetz’s then-close friend Joel Greenberg, to join him and others on a three-day trip to the Florida Keys in May 2017. In the alleged text messages described exclusively to ABC News, the then-freshman Congressman appeared to message a woman, who ABC News is not identifying, asking if she would fly on a private plane to the Florida Keys for a trip with Gaetz, three other women and one other man. “Hey — any interest in flying on a private plane to the keys May 19-21?” Gaetz allegedly wrote to the woman, who was older than 21 at the time.

Flight delay forces 2 South Florida members of Congress to miss Alejandro Mayorkas impeachment vote” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel fully intended to vote against the Republicans’ impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas. U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, knew exactly how he would vote: in favor of impeachment. With Frankel a “no” and Mast a “yes,” they were on opposite sides of the issue, but in the same predicament. They missed the vote because a massive flight delay at Palm Beach International Airport prevented them from getting to Washington, D.C., on time. “Unfortunately, my flight from Palm Beach to Washington was severely delayed today. I waited at the airport for eight hours, which caused me, along with a Republican colleague on the same flight, to miss the vote,” Frankel said in a statement.

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.

Slime time? Feds to begin politically touchy Lake Okeechobee discharges” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO — Federal water managers announced they will discharge water from Lake Okeechobee to Atlantic and Gulf coast estuaries, touching off complaints from U.S. Rep Brian Mast, a Stuart Republican. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the discharges are needed because of abnormally high lake levels resulting from El Nino rain storms. Releasing water now, the agency said, will prevent releases later in the spring that could interfere with fish spawning and cause algae blooms. Discharges in the spring of 2019 closed coastal beaches and were blamed for fish kills.


Slow movement in state, federal court leaves uncertainty looming over Florida’s congressional map” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Florida Supreme Court won’t hear a challenge to the state’s congressional map soon enough to impact this election cycle. But a ruling could still come down any day in a federal challenge to the map. That leaves uncertainty looming over Florida’s federal elections weeks before candidate fields should be set. But with every court delay, it appears less likely that cartography will shift before April 26, the qualification deadline for federal candidates to appear on Florida ballots. That has Democrats, who a few months ago felt confident change could be on the way, lobbing complaints. “We’re left with these maps that have people underrepresented or not represented at all and it’s not fair,” said House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell.

Fentrice Driskell laments the lack of representation in North Florida.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

‘I died that day in Parkland’: Families use re-created voices of gun violence victims to call lawmakers” via Terry Spencer of the Orlando Sentinel — Joaquin “Guac” Oliver died in the 2018 Parkland high school massacre, but federal lawmakers who oppose tighter gun regulations began getting phone calls in his voice Wednesday, lambasting them for their position. The families of Oliver and five others killed with guns are using artificial intelligence to create messages in their loved ones’ voices and robocalling them to Senators and House members who support the National Rifle Association and oppose tougher gun laws. The protest is being run through The Shotline website, where visitors select which offices receive calls. Oliver was murdered as he lay wounded on the floor, the fatal bullet blasting through the hand he raised as the 19-year-old killer leveled his AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle.

Families of students murdered in the Parkland massacre are using AI to get out a gun-control message.

Black Chamber keynote speaker’s remarks ‘advocating for violence’ stirs up West Palm City Hall” via Wayne Washington of the Palm Beach Post — A city of West Palm Beach official has called on the Black Chamber of Commerce of Palm Beach County to repudiate comments the official said a lawyer made “advocating for violence” against Mayor Keith James, an extraordinary allegation with links to the long-running dispute over who will manage a rebuilt 1920s supper club in the city’s Black Northwest community. Frank Hayden, Director of West Palm Beach’s Office of Small/Minority Women Business Programs, wrote to the Chamber’s president, Joseph Sanches, expressing shock over comments Hayden said a lawyer, F. Malcolm Cunningham Jr., made about James as the keynote speaker during a chamber awards ceremony.

Charges dropped against Broward Sheriff’s deputy in 2022 crash that injured man; civil lawsuit pending” via Angie DiMichele of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A Broward Sheriff’s deputy who was accused of reckless driving and driving under the influence in a 2022 crash that injured a man will not be charged. Deputy Carlos Hernandez was arrested several months after he was involved in the crash in May 2022 in his unmarked BSO car, a 2015 Ford Taurus. He was driving at 77 mph moments before crashing into the back of a 2018 Kia Sportage in Pembroke Pines shortly before 6 a.m. The speed limit in the area was 45 mph, the Sheriff’s Office said in a news release about his arrest.

Broward Sheriff’s sergeant arrested at Miami airport, charged with importing ecstasy” via Shira Moolten of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A Broward Sheriff’s sergeant was arrested at Miami International Airport overnight on charges of importing MDMA, or ecstasy, into Florida, officials say. Sgt. Bryan Vidal Lorenzo is facing one count of possession of MDMA and one count of importing a controlled substance into Florida, Miami-Dade County Court records show. Miami-Dade Police and Customs and Border Patrol officers responded to the airport, according to the probable cause affidavit, where Lorenzo had arrived with MDMA in his luggage. Officials found the drug inside the pocket of a pair of ski pants. The sergeant worked at the Broward Sheriff’s Office for over 10 years, beginning June 3, 2013, according to Carey Codd, a representative for the Sheriff’s Office.

St. Lucie County schools want continuation of half-percent sales tax on Nov. 5 ballot” via Colleen Wixon of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Voters will be asked in November to continue a half-percent sales tax to pay for school capital projects, the School Board decided. The School Board voted unanimously to request the item be placed on the Nov. 5 ballot. The County Commission still must give final approval. The School Board passed the issue without discussion, continuation of the sales tax was discussed at the Jan. 23 Board meeting. The 10-year, half-percent sales tax expires Dec. 31, 2026, but district officials want a countywide vote this year rather than next, Deputy Superintendent Helen Wild said. There is the opportunity for more people to vote on it in a presidential election year, she said.

Michelin adds 8 Miami restaurants to its 2024 guide. Are your favorites on the list?” via Connie Ogle of the Miami Herald — Eight Miami restaurants have been added to the 2024 Michelin Guide, along with six spots in Tampa and five in the Orlando area. The additions don’t necessarily mean these restaurants will earn Michelin stars in 2024 (although they might — you never know). The idea is that they are highlighted as “new” to allow food lovers to check them out before the annual announcement of Michelin stars and Bib Gourmands (a designation for restaurants that serve excellent food at an affordable price). This year’s announcement of Michelin stars and Bib Gourmands will take place on April 18 in Tampa.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Home-school advocate and Moms for America state president is running for Polk School Board” via Paul Nutcher of The Ledger — A home-school advocate and Moms for America state president has registered to run for the nonpartisan Polk County School Board seat currently occupied by Sara Beth Wyatt. The Polk County Elections Office shows Rebekah Ricks, 44, of Winter Haven as the only candidate so far to have filed paperwork to run for the District 4 School Board seat. Her filing was dated Jan. 30 and listed her husband, Craig Ricks, as campaign Treasurer. Rebekah Ricks has previously run for the office and was defeated in the 2016 School Board race. She said she is primarily a stay-at-home mom but teaches college courses part-time and remains the owner of The Homeschool Connection.

Rebekah Ricks is taking another bite of the electoral apple.

DeLand looks to ban cigarette smoking, vaping from parks” via Sheldon Gardner of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — DeLand is considering whether to ban smoking and vaping in public parks, but unfiltered cigars, thanks to state law, will still be permitted. The DeLand City Commission will consider an ordinance that would prohibit smoking and vaping in nearly all public parks owned by the city. The item has already passed its first reading and is expected to have a final hearing before the City Commission on Monday. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. DeLand Mayor Chris Cloudman and Parks and Recreation Director Rick Hall said the city sometimes has problems with people smoking at parks, including during Little League events. They said the city wants to keep children and other people from being exposed to smoke.

Mystery company seeks to build Florida hybrid electric plane facility with 1,500 workers” via Rick Neale of Florida Today — By 2030, a mystery company wants to open a major manufacturing facility employing 1,500 workers at an undisclosed Florida location and start building about 150 hybrid electric planes per year, Space Florida agenda records show. This unnamed company — which bears the secretive code name Project Louis — seeks conduit financing to build and equip the future 500,000-square-foot electric plane factory, which would have airport runway access. “Project Louis is in early-stage development of a hybrid electric two-seat plane for training and is planning for commercial use additional models,” a Space Florida agenda memo said. The Space Florida Board of Directors authorized negotiations with Project Louis during its Jan. 25 meeting in Tallahassee.

Voters could settle saga of Winter Park’s ban on gas-powered leaf blowers” via Ryan Gillespie and Tayeba Hussein of the Orlando Sentinel — Under threat that the state could usurp its authority over noisy lawn equipment, Winter Park may instead turn to voters to decide the fate of its controversial ban on gas-powered leaf blowers. Negotiations between a city official and a Senator could resolve the dispute over the ban that was first approved two years ago and thrust back into the spotlight this month as landscapers and residents squared off. First, the City Council decided to delay fining violators for six months — and then last week Sen. Jason Brodeur got involved, declaring that he’d move to throw out the prohibition on gas-powered leaf blowers in the city, as well as all others like it across the state.

Disney World set to open Tiana’s Bayou Adventure this Summer” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Disney World announced it will open Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, Splash Mountain’s replacement, this Summer at Florida’s Magic Kingdom. Disneyland’s version of the ride opens later in the year. The announcement of the Florida ride opening comes during Mardi Gras season, which is fitting since the storyline for the new ride draws heavy inspiration from New Orleans. “In many ways, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is a love letter to New Orleans,” Walt Disney Imagineer Charita Carter has previously said. Disney has slowly released teases to give fans a sneak peek into what they can expect when the flume ride reopens.


Michelin adds 6 Tampa restaurants to Florida guide” via Helen Freund of the Tampa Bay Times — Six new Tampa restaurants were added to Florida’s Michelin Guide on Wednesday, roughly two months before the esteemed guide’s 2024 star reveal. Streetlight Taco, Supernatural Food & Wine, Predalina, The Pearl, Kosen and Ebbe are all listed as “new” additions to the guide. In total, 19 new restaurants were added between Tampa, Orlando and Miami, the only Florida cities visited by Michelin inspectors. The additions mean the restaurants named could be eligible for the guide’s coveted star ratings or Bib Gourmand selections, but not necessarily. The establishments are highlighted “to help food lovers enjoy new discoveries before the annual announcement of Bib Gourmands and stars.”

Tampa’s Streetlight Taco made the grade for Florida’s Michelin Guide.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

On Valentine’s Day and any day at Jacksonville’s Rainbow Wedding Chapel, ‘love is love’” via Matt Soergel of The Florida Times-Union — When engaged couples came into the Rainbow Wedding Chapel in downtown Jacksonville on Valentine’s Day, business owner Selecia Young-Jones gave them smiles and asked them the same question. So, what’s your love story? On Valentine’s Day four years ago, she was his Lyft driver. Mike Estronza and his uncle were looking for a ride. Kelsey Murphy was their driver. They started talking when Mike’s phone was dying, and she offered to use her charger. He soon asked for her phone number. “And he texted me before I even left the parking lot,” she said. “He didn’t play the cool game at all.”

At Jacksonville’s Rainbow Wedding Chapel, love is love — and everyone has a story.

Nick Howland’s ‘Transparency for Taxpayers Act’ becomes Jacksonville law, Donna Deegan ‘not supportive’” via Michelle Vecerina of Florida’s Voice — Howland’s “Transparency for Taxpayers Act” is now a law in Jacksonville, even after Mayor Deegan was “not supportive” of the legislation. “The Transparency for Taxpayers Act, passed overwhelmingly by City Council in January, is now law,” Howland said Wednesday. “While the Mayor was not supportive and chose to return the legislation without signature, her veto window expired last night,” he continued. Howland’s bill came directly in response to the outcome of Deegan’s single source contract award for her administration’s new lobbying firm pick, where the Mayor forewent the usual bidding process. That contract had a $300,000 price tag.

New mismanagement questions at Jacksonville Housing Authority involving fraud and felon” via Ben Becker of Action News Jax — There are new mismanagement questions at the beleaguered Jacksonville Housing Authority that include hundreds of cases of application fraud and a felon being allowed to move in by Acting Chief Executive Officer Vanessa Dunn when she was the Chief Operating Officer. Dunn was named the acting CEO on Feb. 2 following the resignation of former CEO Dwayne Alexander. According to this internal document in response to an Office of Inspector General investigation, the agency admits applicants and residents provided false or misleading financial information on applications 246 times from January 2020 through August 2023.


North Port takes first steps to annex River Road-U.S. 41 corner” via Daniel Finton of the North Port Sun — North Port City Commissioners took the first steps toward annexing an 8-acre parcel at U.S. 41 and South River Road this week. North Port is the second-largest city in Florida by land area. However, there are several parcels along U.S. 41 near River Road that are not within the city limits. The parcels are part of unincorporated Sarasota County. The owner of one of those parcels, Flash Investors LLC, listed in Florida records as a foreign investment firm, is asking to be part of the city. The 8.69-acre parcel is on the southeast corner of the busy intersection, directly across U.S. 41 from the former Myakka Trading Post.

There are some big plans for U.S. 41 and South River Road.

‘It’s absurd’: North Fort Myers teacher resigns after school removes in-class library” via Dan Glaun of the Fort Myers News-Press — Over Mike Andoscia’s eight years as a social studies teacher at North Fort Myers High School, he’d grown his classroom library to more than 600 books. When he came into school on Jan. 16, they were gone. The next day so was he. Andoscia resigned after the school boxed up his library, placed the books in “administrative lockup” and told him to take them home, Andoscia said in an interview. “(Principal Debbie Diggs) asked me why I just didn’t keep the books covered, and I said it’s absurd and it’s fascism and I’m just not going to participate in that,” he said.


Populism has no cure for inflation” via Ross Douthat of The New York Times — Think of the 2010s as the era of reasonable disillusionment with neoliberalism. The right’s populism and the left’s socialism were hardly models of rigor and consistency, but behind both Trump’s ascent and Bernie Sanders’ popularity lay an array of concerns about problems the existing elite consensus didn’t seem well equipped to deal with — the downsides of free trade and China-America intertwinement, the painfully slow recovery from the Great Recession, the rising costs of health care and education.

Much of the Biden administration’s economic agenda has been designed with this constellation of issues in mind. The full-employment stimulus, the big infrastructure spending deal, the experiments with industrial policy, the attempt at student-loan forgiveness, the push for family-friendly tax policy, the trade brinkmanship with China: As much as or more than Trump’s White House, this has been a post-neoliberal administration.

But politically, the debate about whether Biden has gotten the post-neoliberal mixture just right clearly matters less than the fact that a post-neoliberal agenda has no clear answer to inflation.

Instead, all of the ideas that came out of the mid-2010s reckoning with neoliberalism’s limits assume a certain degree of fiscal capacity. Which, in those years, is exactly what we had: more room than the fiscal scolds and deficit hawks assumed for spending and for tax cuts, more room to run the economy hot, more room to debate whether a Green New Deal or a big, beautiful infrastructure bill or a pro-family tax code should be the most important populist priority.

Is any sort of American populism, be it Bidenomics or Trumpism, capable of offering a responsible program under those kinds of circumstances?

I suppose one should say something constructive here, but the answer is pretty obviously no.


Polite vs. passionate: The Haley-Trump intensity gap.” via Byron York of the Washington Examiner — Haley has two big problems as the South Carolina Primary approaches. The first is that not enough Republicans support her. A new CBS News poll of South Carolina finds that Trump leads Haley by 50 points, 74% to 24%, among self-identified Republicans in the state. Even though Democrats and independents can vote in the Republican Primary, the fact is, the winner will overwhelmingly need Republican votes, and Haley doesn’t appear to have nearly enough GOP support to win. Haley’s other big problem is that even among those Republicans who support her, that support is less intense than support for Trump. That’s one reason to go to a Trump rally — to see and feel the enthusiasm of the crowd.


— ALOE —

Universal Mardi Gras 2024: Glitter, grooves, fried green tomato po’boys” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — It’s sensory overload during Mardi Gras festivities at Universal Studios theme park. A couple of Universal Orlando executives talked to us about things to see, sniff, taste and hear during the event, which runs nightly through April 7.m “There’s more glitter on this parade than we’ve ever done before,” said Lora Sauls, assistant director of creative development and show direction at Universal. What’s more, it’s applied to the floats by Universal’s décor team manually. “They do sprinkle, and they do it by hand. Some of them blow a little bit, but it’s just like placed, and they get it all over,” Sauls said. The décor team is also responsible for a monkey figure spotted on the float representing Earth.

Mardi Gras in Universal Orlando leans heavily on sensory overload.


Best wishes to Audrey Brown of the Florida Association of Health Plans, former Reps. Mark Danish and Bobby DuBose, and JR Kennelly.


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.

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

Sign up for Sunburn