Last Call for 2.14.24 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

A digest of the day's politics and policy while the bartender refreshes your drink.

Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

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.

The legislation should next go to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk. It earned bipartisan plaudits from lawmakers and representatives of interest groups and government agencies, including Jefferson County Clerk Jason Welty and Morgan Parish of the Florida Clerks and Comptrollers Association.

Meanwhile, in the House, Rep. Tommy Gregory may have delivered a killing blow to a proposal that would have doubled the cap on sovereign immunity settlements.

Gregory, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, lumped that bill with another measure aiming to crack down on third-party litigation financing — a proposal backed by business groups and the Florida Justice Reform Institute.

It appears that neither other lawmakers on the panel nor the groups supporting the bills individually were on board for the combo, as the committee did not take up the legislation. Gregory told Florida Politics that the inaction doesn’t mean either proposal is dead for Session.

However, their prospects aren’t looking good.

Bill Day’s Latest

Evening Reads

—“Maybe killing the border deal wasn’t a political masterstroke for the GOP, after all” via Tessa Stuart of Rolling Stone

—“What Tom Suozzi’s win means for Democrats” via Russell Berman of The Atlantic

—”Ron DeSantis ignored by Florida Republicans upon return” via Giulia Carbonaro of Newsweek

—“How conservative billionaires shape decisions inside the DeSantis administration” via Jason Garcia of Seeking Rents

—”Florida values? Put minors to work — and block heat, safety protections” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel

—”‘I died that day in Parkland’: Families use re-created voices of gun violence victims to call lawmakers” via Terry Spencer of The Associated Press

—”Remembering the 17 who died in Parkland shooting: Many ceremonies, service events held 6 years later” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

—”School safety measure moves in House on anniversary of Parkland shooting” via Jackie Llanos of the Florida Phoenix

Quote of the Day

“Today we are going to be considering 19 bills. Unfortunately, one we are not going to be hearing, so it’s a very poor Valentine’s gift for you, Rep. McFarland, we will not be hearing HB 569.”

— Rep. Tommy Gregory, on Rep. Fiona McFarland’s bill doubling the sovereign immunity cap.

3 Questions

Florida Politics recently spoke with New College of Florida President Richard Corcoran about recent changes at the school and the progress it has made toward its long-term goals in the months since he landed the top job.

FP: During your tenure at New College, what has been accomplished so far that you’re most proud of? 

Corcoran: New College is at the tip of the spear when aggressively changing higher education in the nation. We’re taking liberal arts education back to its roots, grappling with timeless questions and exploring how great thinkers throughout history viewed the world. None of that matters, however, without a growing student body to make New College viable, and I’m proud of all we’ve done to accelerate movement into a growth cycle. 

We have taken swift and decisive action to improve the student experience. We renovated every existing dorm and provided hotel accommodations to students, due to neglected residence halls that were no longer suitable to inhabit. We’ve increased and improved the options offered by dining services so students look forward to utilizing their meal plans. In a matter of a few months, we added intercollegiate athletics, launched six varsity teams, and gained admission to the NAIA and the Sun Conference. 

The results have been tremendous, with New College bringing in its largest incoming class of first-year and transfer students last fall. We’ve also successfully recruited new faculty to enhance the quality and quantity of sought-after classes, with the addition of several excellent visiting professors and presidential scholars in residence, including notable names such as Stanley Fish, Joseph Loconte and Andrew Doyle. We are committed to continuing to pursue profound, necessary change in order to become the best liberal arts college in America. 

FP: To what do you attribute that increase in enrollment following New College’s transition? 

Corcoran: New College is committed to the principles of intellectual curiosity, open discourse, respect for tradition, and the pursuit of true excellence. New College is growing because of our focus on what makes New College unique in a higher education marketplace of cookie-cutter options. Our innovative curriculum combines the exploration of the wisdom of the past and the development of future-proof skills into an educational experience that is challenging, thrilling, and transformative. This appeals to students and parents who are sick of the status quo and refuse to leave contemporary pieties unchallenged. Instead of watered-down letter grades, students receive written evaluations in every class. Rather than being a number in a lecture hall filled with hundreds of students, a New College student can expect small classes and dedicated attention from faculty. New College is leading the way in a great era of renewal and rebirth in higher education, offering an alternative vision of education based on freedom, excellence, and truth.

FP: What are New College’s legislative priorities for this session? 

Corcoran: We are focused on restoring New College to excellence, and creating a beacon of hope for students, parents, and educators across the nation. To do so, we must first address the immediate needs of our campus, especially residential and academic facilities that can sustain our required growth. We have requested the Legislature to provide additional funding that will allow us to continue revitalizing New College, meeting our enrollment goals and residential mission while restoring its standing as America’s best liberal arts education institution.

Put It on the Tab

Look to your left, then look to your right. If you see one of these people at your happy hour haunt, flag down the bartender and put one of these on your tab. Recipes included, just in case the Cocktail Codex fell into the well.

Bring a tray of Enjoy the Heat to the nearest construction site, because lawmakers are one step closer to banning heat protection rules for contractors. Oh, and they want to ban local wage ordinances, too.

Mix up a tasty mocktail for new mothers, who — assuming Gov. Ron DeSantis gives his signature — will soon be able to skip out on jury duty.

The AI revolution is upon us, but it might be blocked from wading into the political ad arena thanks to a bill that’s ready for a floor vote in the House. AIs would rather have a position behind the bar, anyway, so just ask BarGPT to craft something good for the flesh-and-blood human at the other end of the bar.

Breakthrough Insights

Tune In

Heat, Sixers meet with leading scorers out 

With two months remaining in the NBA’s regular season, the Miami Heat are battling to remain in playoff position as they travel to Philadelphia to face the 76ers (7 p.m. ET, Bally Sports Sun).

Miami (29-25) sits in a tie for seventh place in the Eastern Conference with the same record as their in-state rivals, the Orlando Magic. The top six teams in each conference advance to the playoffs while teams 7 through 10 must earn their spots via a play-in tournament. Last season, Miami earned the eighth seed, then upset top-seeded Milwaukee on the way to an appearance in the NBA Finals.

Philadelphia (32-21) is in a more comfortable position in fifth place despite losing eight of their last 11 games. They are coming off consecutive road wins at Washington and Cleveland.

The losing streak has coincided with the loss of center Joel Embiid. The defending NBA MVP had knee surgery and will be re-evaluated in March to determine a timeline for his return. Embiid produced one of the season’s best performances earlier this year when he scored 70 points in a win over San Antonio. He played just two games after that. He was averaging over 25 points per game at the time of the injury.

The Heat continue to play without leading scorer Jimmy Butler for personal reasons. Butler was granted a leave of absence after the death of a family member. Butler has missed 17 games this season due to injuries and other reasons. He missed Miami’s Christmas Day win over Philadelphia.

Also tonight:

7 p.m. — New York Knicks @ Orlando Magic

7 p.m. — NCAAW: North Texas Mean Green @ Florida Atlantic Owls

7 p.m. — NCAAM: Miami Hurricanes @ Clemson Tigers

7 p.m. — NCAAM: Tulsa Golden Hurricanes @ South Florida Bulls

7 p.m. — NCAAM: North Florida Ospreys @ Queens University Royals

7 p.m. — NCAAM: JU Dolphins @ Kennesaw State Owls


Last Call is published by Peter Schorsch, assembled and edited by Phil Ammann and Drew Wilson, with contributions from the staff of Florida Politics.

Staff Reports


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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