Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 2.19.24

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Who's up, down, in and out — your morning tip sheet on Florida politics.

Good Monday morning.

Former Florida Secretary of Commerce Laura DiBella is joining Adams and Reese as a Government Affairs adviser in the firm’s Intersection of Business and Government Practice. She will work in the firm’s Tallahassee office.

“Florida is one of the most desirable locations for companies to grow and flourish — a gold standard for business freedom and prosperity,” DiBella said. “As a passionate ambassador to the business world, I look forward to this opportunity at Adams and Reese to connect all parties to drive economic development.”

Laura DiBella takes a leap into the private sector with a new gig at Adams and Reese.

DiBella brings more than 25 years of experience in economic development and government relations strategy, lobbying for clients at the legislative and executive branches with knowledge of state and local government processes and assisting them in site selection, recruitment, and retention project assistance. Across the nation, DiBella works with domestic and international businesses looking to maximize their investment opportunities.

“Laura epitomizes economic development in Florida and is one of the most well-connected, forward-thinking, and knowledgeable business ambassadors in our state,” said Herschel Vinyard, a leading IBG Partner at Adams and Reese and Jacksonville’s Partner in Charge.

Adams and Reese IBG Practice Group Leader Brad Lampley added, “We view Laura as a game-changer for our clients and prospective clients throughout our footprint. She understands business in Florida and the Southeast and understands how to get things done at all levels of government.”


Florida’s Specialty Hospitals for Children are collaborating to advance Florida’s position as a leader in pediatric cancer care and ensure Florida families can access world-class cancer treatment without leaving the state.

Florida is the third-largest state in terms of pediatric population and accounts for 6% of all new pediatric cancer cases in the United States. Yet Florida does not have a top 25 ranked pediatric cancer program and has only one top 50 ranked program.

Florida’s specialty children’s hospitals are uniquely positioned to elevate pediatric cancer care and secure Florida’s place as a top-ranked state in pediatric research, innovation and treatment.

Florida’s Specialty Hospitals for Children are working to secure Florida’s position as a leader in pediatric cancer care.

Florida’s Specialty Hospitals for Children have committed to investing in four key areas — research, recruitment, program development and infrastructure/technology — to address the gaps to bring Florida’s specialty children’s hospitals to the level of top-ranked pediatric cancer centers and make the state a destination for world-class pediatric cancer care.

In a joint statement, Florida’s Specialty Hospitals for Children said, “No family should have to leave our state for critical cancer care. There is a critical opportunity for collaboration with Florida’s Specialty Hospitals for Children and the State of Florida for robust and integrated clinical programs and research that define state-of-the-art cancer care for children. As the four hospitals solely focused on investing in and providing pediatric care, we are committed to building the best cancer programs to make Florida a top-tier state for pediatric cancer care.”


Ninth Annual Suits for Session begins — 1; Season 6 of ‘Drive To Survive’ premieres on Netflix — 4; South Carolina Republican Primary — 5; Michigan Democratic Primary — 8; James Madison Institute’s ‘Red, White and Bluegrass’ dinner — 9; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 11; Michigan/Idaho/Missouri GOP Primaries — 13; Netflix to stream “The Netflix Slam,” Rafael Nadal/Carlos Alcaraz faceoff — 13; Super Tuesday — 15; State of the Union address — 17; last day of Regular Session, if Legislature completes work in 60 days — 18; 2024 Oscars — 20; Georgia Democratic Primary — 23; Arizona/Florida/Illinois/Kansas/Ohio Primaries — 30; James Madison Institute’s ‘2024 Naples Dinner’ with keynote speaker Laura Ingraham — 31; ‘3 Body Problem’ premieres on Netflix — 31; Donald Trump’s New York hush money trial begins — 35; The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the mifepristone/abortion pill case — 36; Major League Baseball’s (MLB) 2024 season — 38; March Madness Final Four (women’s) begins — 45; March Madness Final Four (men’s) — 48; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 52; The Masters begin — 53; Kentucky Derby — 76; 2024 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 81; ‘Bridgerton’ new season (part one) premieres on Netflix — 88; French Open begins — 91; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 93; Dave Matthews Band 2024 Summer Tour begins in Tampa — 93; Monaco Grand Prix — 97; the 2026 World Cup begins — 113; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 131; Republican National Convention begins — 147; the 2026 World Cup ends — 151; 2024 MLS All-Star Game — 156; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games on NBC/Peacock — 158; Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 176; Democratic National Convention begins — 182; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 187; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 242; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 245; 2024 Presidential Election — 260; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 273; MLS Cup 2024 — 288; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 361; ‘Moana’ premieres — 491; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 522; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 522; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 627; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 669; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 806; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 822; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 1,033; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,173; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,132; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,854.


Florida Republicans may shift more taxes from businesses to consumers” via Jason Garcia of Seeking Rents — Last week, the Florida House of Representatives unveiled House Bill 7073, a roughly $700 million package of tax breaks that is badly lopsided in favor of businesses over consumers. The biggest tax break in the bill is a cut to the sales tax that businesses pay when they lease property, which Chamber of Commerce lobbyists long ago branded as the “business rent tax.”

The business rent tax is already scheduled to plummet from 5.5% to 2% in a few months. That’s thanks to one of those business-only tax breaks that lawmakers stuffed into Senate Bill 50 back in 2021.

Stan McClain’s proposal suggests a major shift for taxation in Florida.

But House Bill 7073 would cut the business rent tax even further — from 2% to 1.25% for the next fiscal year. That’s far bigger than any of the tax breaks for consumers in the legislation.

But it’s not just that consumers would get less savings than businesses. They would also get less savings than they got last year.

A lot less.

The House tax plan would also reduce the so-called “Freedom Summer” tax holiday by two-thirds. Floridians would get one month to shop tax-free for things like event tickets and fishing, camping and beach supplies — compared to three months last year.

In fact, when you add it all up, it sure looks like Republican leaders in the Florida House of Representatives are trying to pay for more tax cuts for businesses on the backs of consumers — just like they did in Senate Bill 50.

Consider this: According to the initial staff estimates, reducing the business rent tax from 2% to 1.25% would save businesses about $347 million.


Paul Renner still supports sovereign immunity caps” via Christina Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Renner said he supports increasing the amount of damages that can be collected from suits against the state and local governments. Rep. Fiona McFarland’s bill (HB 569) would double the current $200,000 per person and $300,000 per incident to $400,000 per person and $600,000 per incident. “I support something on sovereign immunity,” Renner said late last week. “I think that the government shouldn’t have a right to hurt your kid in a negligent action and there’s no recovery, whereas a private sector company can hurt your kid and pay reasonable compensation.” But Renner stopped short of predicting that the legislation would ultimately pass.

Communism for kids? Legislators continue advancing instructional plans” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — CS/SB 1264 would create a “History of Communism Task Force.” The bill would compel School Districts to verify that they have provided this instruction every year to the Department of Education, with the State Board of Education setting up standards for curriculum and standards for instruction. Furthermore, the bill would empower the task force to recommend a potential “museum of communist history” to the Legislature. If passed, HB 1349 would require public schools to teach about communism in grades K-12 starting in the 2026-27 school year. According to staff analysis, students would learn about the movement’s history, foreign atrocities committed by communists, “cultural Marxism” and more.

Florida kindergartners could soon be learning the ‘dangers’ of communism.

Eight is enough? Local term limits push continues in Legislature” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Wednesday’s Senate Rules Committee is the next stop for legislation that could supersede the sinecures of long-standing County Commissioners around the state. “Notwithstanding the terms of any county charter to the contrary, a person may not appear on the ballot for re-election to the office of County Commissioner if, by the end of his or her current term of office, the person will have served, or but for resignation would have served, in that office for 8 consecutive years,” SB 438 stipulates. People seeking to return to the County Commission would have to wait two years after the end date of the term, though the Blaise Ingoglia-sponsored legislation would grandfather in legislators elected before 2024.

Senate gears up for ‘hot car death prevention’ bill” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — SB 554 would make April “Hot Car Prevention Month,” intended “to raise awareness of the dangers of leaving children unattended in motor vehicles and how to prevent hot car deaths from occurring.” The legislation from Sen. Jennifer Bradley would “encourage” the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Health, local governments and other agencies “to sponsor events that promote public awareness and education on the dangers of leaving children unattended in motor vehicles and how to prevent hot car deaths.” The bill is called “Ariya’s Law,” named after 10-month-old Ariya Paige, a Baker County baby who was left in a vehicle by a babysitter and died from the July heat.

Hemp crackdown gets another House committee hearing” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The bill (HB 1613) has one stop to go in the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, its fourth Committee stop and likely the last chance for opponents of the bill to rehearse familiar arguments against the legislation that have been rejected throughout the process this year. Rep. Tommy Gregory’s bill is identical to that of Sen. Colleen Burton (SB 1698), which also proposes significant changes to a hemp market that has been established in the state in recent years. 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.


Lawmakers consider changing TDT taxes, which angers tourist industry” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — House lawmakers are mulling over whether to reform the tourist development tax (TDT) and require voter approval every six years which is drawing ire from the tourism industry. “There’s so many things the TDT touches, and I don’t think legislators know,” said Philip McDaniel, the CEO of the St. Augustine Distillery who also serves on VISIT FLORIDA’s Board of Directors. “I honestly think they don’t fully understand the impact of what they’re talking about.” But House Ways and Means Committee Chair Stan McClain is pushing to reform the TDT, as he said the tax is more lucrative than ever. In Orange County, where Mickey Mouse is king, the local TDT generates $30 million in one month alone for the 6% surcharge on hotel rooms, for example.

Philip McDaniel says Florida’s Tourist development tax makes a considerable impact.

Bill limiting city utilities’ charges to outside customers advances in House” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Cities operating their own utilities would be restricted in how much they could charge customers they serve outside the city limits, as well as how they can use money received from such customers, under a bill advancing in the House. The bill (HB 1277) would reduce the maximum rate charged by city-owned utilities to outside residents from 50% to 25% of the rate charged to city residents. Also, any new agreement, renewal or extension to provide outside electricity, water or other utility service would require a public meeting in the area to be served. And a city could only use 10% of the money received from outside residents for general government functions and must use the rest either on utility-related investments or return the funds to the customers.

School chaplains proposal continues push through Legislature” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Senate legislation (SB 1044) is slated to be heard in Tuesday morning’s Appropriations Committee on Education. That bill, sponsored by Sen. Erin Grall, would “authorize volunteer school chaplains to provide supports, services, and programs to students as assigned by the district School Board or charter school Governing Board.” Boards would have to determine to which programs and services chaplains would be assigned, would have to inform parents that chaplains be informed, and would have to get parental consent before chaplains interacted with students.

More businesses, investors could get lawsuit protections from the Florida Legislature” via Lawrence Mower of the Miami Herald — Florida lawmakers in recent years have passed sweeping changes that make it harder to sue insurance companies. This year, they could extend protections to a variety of companies, including in instances where businesses pollute communities or lose consumers’ personal data to hackers. The bills are backed by powerful business groups, but most of them have seen some bipartisan pushback.


‘Personhood,’ abortion specters shadow wrongful death of unborn child bill” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — As abortion rights and anti-abortion activists await Florida Supreme Court rulings that could determine the fate of abortion law in the state, they are also battling it out in the Legislature. Republican Senators amended a bill (SB 476) to define “unborn child” as a person at the point of conception for purposes of civil liability when a fetus is killed due to negligence. Sen. Grall, sponsor of the bill, which was intended to allow the parents of an unborn child killed due to negligence to collect damages for mental pain and suffering. She rebuffed concerns from Democrats and critics that it is an end-run to get the courts to recognize “personhood” — that a fetus is a legal person at conception — in state law, with an eye toward banning all abortions. Abortion rights advocates and Democrats aren’t convinced. Sen. Lori Berman said women can already sue over the wrongful death of a fetus so the bill isn’t needed.

Lori Berman pushes against any more laws establishing ‘fetal personhood.’

Civil lawsuit bill could create ‘fetal personhood,’ worrying some activists” via Ana Goñi-Lessan of the Tallahassee Democrat — As the Florida Supreme Court debates putting abortion on the ballot, the Florida Senate is on the way to passing a bill that critics say would establish “fetal personhood” in civil liability cases. The Senate bill, which would give parents the ability to sue for damages for the wrongful death of an unborn child, defines “unborn child” as “a member of the species Homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb.” The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Erin Grall, argued it created “parity,” as the definition for “unborn child” is also used in Florida law for criminal penalties.

Florida could make it harder to sue polluters, assisted living owners” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Lawmakers in recent years have passed sweeping changes that make it harder to sue insurance companies. This year, they could extend protections to a variety of companies, including in instances where businesses pollute communities or lose consumers’ personal data to hackers. The bills are backed by powerful business groups, but most of them have seen some bipartisan pushback.

Lab-made meat? Florida lawmakers don’t like the sound of it.” via Dionne Searcey of The New York Times — Startup companies around the world are competing to develop technologies for producing chicken, beef, salmon and other options without the need to raise and slaughter animals. China has made the development of the industry a priority. In the United States, the Department of Agriculture has given initial blessings to two producers. Now, a measure in Florida that would ban sales of laboratory-grown meat has gained widespread attention beyond state borders. The bill, which is advancing through the Florida Legislature, would make the sale or manufacture of lab-grown meat a misdemeanor with a fine of $1,000. It’s one of a half-dozen similar measures in Arizona, Tennessee, West Virginia and elsewhere. Opponents of lab-grown meat include beef and poultry associations worried that laboratory-made hamburgers or chicken nuggets could cut into their business.


Happening today — The Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Florida Veterans’ Foundation, and the Legislative Military and Veterans’ Caucus will celebrate service members of the State of Florida and the organizations that support them: 8 a.m., 2nd Floor Capitol Rotunda.

Happening today — The House Democratic Caucus will hold a media availability with Leader Fentrice Driskell to answer reporters’ questions on topics facing the state. 10 a.m., Zoom link here. Afterward, it will be livestreamed on The Florida Channel.


Nikki Haley’s attacks on Donald Trump over veterans aren’t working, and could help Joe Biden” via Anjali Huynh, Michael Gold and Jazmine Ulloa of The New York Times — As the clock ticks down before next week’s Republican Primary in South Carolina, Haley is looking for any way to undermine Trump and his commanding lead, including trying a new spin on an old line of attack: that he has a history of being disrespectful to veterans. Haley, in her quest to close the 30-plus point gap between herself and the former President, has used his disparaging remarks about her husband’s National Guard deployment to revive the criticism that Trump has routinely disparaged military troops and veterans, a voting bloc that Republicans have long counted on for support. At recent campaign stops in the state, Haley has resurfaced a story about Trump in which he reportedly told his former chief of staff, John F. Kelly, that Americans who died in war were “losers” and “suckers” and, during a visit to Arlington National Cemetery, reportedly said of soldiers who died abroad, “I don’t get it, what was in it for them?”

Nikki Haley’s attacks on Donald Trump may backfire and help Joe Biden.

— MORE 2024 —

Ron DeSantis doesn’t expect to get back in 2024 race no matter how bad Trump legal trouble gets” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — “He is going to have the delegates and so it will all be in his hands,” DeSantis said Saturday on the Fox News Channel. He didn’t see “any situation where he would bow out even in the face of criminal convictions,” noting that “voters” had to “make the decision” about whether Trump’s legal woes meant to them. “I raised that as a concern when I was running and, you know, not enough voters thought that that was something that they were concerned about at least,” DeSantis told Brian Kilmeade. The Governor, who endorsed Trump when he got out of the race, did his one-time rival a solid by criticizing Haley’s attacks on Trump ahead of next Saturday’s South Carolina Primary, saying she was playing to “very liberal Democrats” in Iowa, as he claimed to see at the caucuses.

Ron DeSantis makes it clear he will not be returning to the 2024 presidential campaign.

Japan steps up lobbying in Washington, hedging for Trump’s return” via Ken Moriyasu of Nikkei Asia — The Japanese government is bolstering lobbying efforts in the U.S., signing up new firms and casting a wider net of advisers to navigate the political landscape, with an eye on the possible return of the unpredictable Trump to the White House. The Japanese Embassy in Washington added three lobbying or advisory firms to its roster last year, according to information disclosed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The three firms are Ballard Partners, a Florida-based lobbying firm close to Trump; the GROUP D.C., which is close to the Congressional Black Caucus; and West Wing Writers, a speechwriting firm founded by former President Bill Clinton’s speechwriters. This brings the total active lobby firms retained by the embassy to 20.

Trump hawks $399 branded shoes at ‘Sneaker Con,’ a day after a $355 million ruling against him” via The Associated Press — As he closes in on the nomination, Trump made a highly unusual stop Saturday, hawking new Trump-branded sneakers at “Sneaker Con,” a gathering that bills itself as the “The Greatest Sneaker Show on Earth.” Trump was met with loud boos as well as cheers at the Philadelphia Convention Center as he introduced what he called the first official Trump footwear. The shoes, shiny gold high-tops with an American flag detail on the back, are being sold as “Never Surrender High-Tops” for $399 on a new website that also sells other Trump-branded shoes and “Victory47” cologne and perfume for $99 a bottle. He’d be the 47th President if elected again. The website says it has no connection to Trump’s campaign, though Trump campaign officials promoted the appearance in online posts.

Donald Trump: Shoe salesperson.

Trump met with boos and chants while selling sneakers in Philadelphia” via Lalee Ibssa and Soo Rin Kim of ABC News — The day after a New York judge fined him $355 million in the wake of a lengthy fraud trial, which he plans to appeal, Trump spent his Saturday in two battleground states, Pennsylvania and Michigan. First stop: Sneaker Con in Philadelphia. “Sneakerheads, your sneakerheads, right? Does everybody in the room consider themselves a sneakerhead?” Trump said in a short speech to an unusual crowd that was divided between chanting for and booing at him. The event was supposed to be part of an unveiling of the latest Trump merchandise: gold “Never Surrender” high-top sneakers selling for $399, which are already listed as sold out online, and “Victory47″ fragrances for $99.

Trump-loving truckers refusing to drive to NYC after his $355 million fraud ruling” via Patrick Reilly of The New York Post — Trump-supporting truckers are saying they are refusing to drive to New York City after the former President was slapped with a $355 million fine in his fraud case last week. A conservative social media influencer and trucker who goes by Chicago Ray posted a video clip in which he claims that some of his colleagues are going to stop making deliveries to New York City to protest the ruling, issued in the Manhattan Supreme Court on Friday. “I’ve been on the radio talking to drivers for about the past hour and I’ve talked to about 10 drivers … and they’re going to start refusing loads to New York City starting on Monday,” Ray said in the video from inside his truck. He said he’s already spoken to some drivers who work with him who told their boss they won’t go to The Big Apple.

Miami-Dade woman starts GoFundMe page to pay Trump’s $355M fraud fine” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A Miami-Dade County woman is running a GoFundMe page to help former Trump cover a $355 million civil court judgment. Elena Cardone launched the page Friday to assist Trump in facing an “unprecedented and unfair treatment by certain judicial elements in New York.” “This is more than a legal fund; it’s a call to all business owners and entrepreneurs to rally in defense of all businesses and for a man who has never hesitated to stand in defense of us,” she wrote on the page. “It’s about making a stand. It’s about showing that when one of us is targeted for championing the values that make America great, he does not stand alone.”


Bombs away: Kathy Hochul rips off DeSantis’ Gaza riff, apologizes for it” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — New York Gov. Hochul raised eyebrows with remarks on Thursday to the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of New York. “If Canada someday ever attacked Buffalo, I’m sorry, my friends, there would be no Canada the next day,” Hochul declared, likening that pure hypothetical to what happened to Israel last year. She has since apologized for a “poor choice of words” and an “inappropriate analogy,” but she has yet to apologize to DeSantis for borrowing from him without attribution. The main difference? Hochul substituted Buffalo for Fort Lauderdale and Canada for the Bahamas.

Kathy Hochul cribs a line from DeSantis. It didn’t go over well for her either.

50% rate hike? Customers of these Florida insurance companies could face higher premiums” via Jeff Paterson of WFLA — Two Florida insurance companies are looking to raise their rates by more than 50%. Castle Key Indemnity Company, which is owned by Allstate, covers condo owners. The company has proposed its rate to jump by 53.5% for customers. Amica Mutual Insurance, which covers properties like vacation homes, has proposed a 54.1% increase. “More frequent, severe weather, higher repair costs and elevated reinsurance premiums have caused rates to rise in many states, including Florida,” a representative for Allstate said. Allstate said the rate increase for Castle Key was filed with the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation nearly a year ago and began rolling out to customers in May 2023. The company said this is not a new proposal to increase condo rates.

Cities sue as officials seek to avoid revealing detailed financial information” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — More than two dozen cities and 76 elected officials from across Florida are asking a judge to block a law requiring them to disclose detailed financial information to keep their elected jobs. A pair of lawsuits filed Thursday evening in Leon County Circuit Court and in federal court in Miami take aim at a new state requirement for Mayors and City Council members to file “Form 6,” which requires annual disclosure of any assets and liabilities worth at least $1,000, as well as their net worth, sources of income, and any client that contributes more than 10% of their business income. The previously required Form 1 disclosure set the threshold at $10,000. The new requirements have been blamed for more than 100 resignations by local officials across the state, including in Casselberry and Belle Isle in Central Florida.


‘All hell broke loose’: How Congress blabbed about Russia’s space nukes” via Ryan Lizza of POLITICO — On Tuesday night, Rep. Mike Turner, Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, showed Rep. Jim Himes, the Committee’s ranking Democrat, a short statement that he wanted to release. Meeting behind closed doors, the Committee had just voted to allow all House members access to a secret report that Turner found especially alarming. Now Turner wanted the public to know about it. His proposed statement described “a serious national security threat” and called on Biden to “declassify all information relating to this threat.”

Mike Turner creates a stir in Congress with word of Russian space nukes.

Biden’s allies are stepping forward to vouch for him amid age questions” via Peter Nicholas, Jonathan Allen and Mike Memoli of NBC News — Biden’s approach to deflecting questions about his age has pivoted from “watch me” to vouch for me. In the days since special counsel Robert Hur released a report that described Biden’s memory as “significantly limited,” presidential appointees and friendly lawmakers have been stepping forward one by one to attest to his acuity. Biden asks “pertinent questions” and cares about “minute details,” they’ve told news outlets. He is “very engaging” and detail oriented. The White House went so far as to put out a memo name-checking senior officials from both parties who’ve said they found Biden to be mentally sharp.


Emily Rodrigues runs to succeed Patricia Hawkins-Williams in Democratic Primary for HD 98” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Rodrigues, a Broward native and former Senate legislative aide, is running to succeed term-limited Rep. Hawkins-Williams in House District 98. So far, she’s the only woman in the contest. “Love for my district and all of our people, businesses, and places living here is what brings me to today,” Rodrigues said. “I’m ready to bring my years of direct experience working in the Senate to be my community’s advocate in Tallahassee and be the strong, proud Democratic voice needed for our time.” Rodrigues vows to fight for abortion rights, lower insurance premiums and affordable housing while defending public schoolteachers. Her campaign platform also includes “Emily’s Plan,” a series of survivor-centered policies. It includes extending and ultimately eliminating statutes of limitations on sex crimes, addressing systemic backlogs of state cases and providing more institutional support to victims of all crimes across the state.

Emily Rodrigues is ready for the campaign trail in HD 98.

Oakland Park Mayor enters crowded Democratic Primary fray for HD 98” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Mayor Mitch Rosenwald is also running to replace Hawkins-Williams in House District 98. He’ll face at least five fellow Democrats in the Primary. In a statement Friday, Rosenwald said he plans to apply the experience he gained as a City Commissioner and Mayor to deliver results for HD 98 residents and defend progressive values in the Legislature. That includes battling the “divisive culture wars” DeSantis and Republicans have pushed at the expense of equality for minority and LGBTQ people, women’s reproductive rights and affordability, he said.

John Legg uses old money in new campaign for Pasco schools superintendent” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — Former state legislator Legg has a big advantage in the race for Pasco School Superintendent — $163,125. That’s how much money his campaign has taken in since he filed in June 2022. But most of it didn’t come from fundraising for a school superintendent race. When he filed for the school superintendent race, Legg transferred the leftover Senate campaign money, now shown in campaign finance reports as $142,115 in “prior contributions.” To transfer the money, Legg noted, he had to get approval from his former donors, nearly all of whom approved. Meanwhile, Legg faces two opponents — longtime school principal Chris Dunning, who has raised $14,932, running as a no-party candidate, and fellow Michelle Mandarin, with $1,504. Current superintendent Kurt Browning previously announced he would not seek a new term when the current one is over.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

What all Miami-Dade voters need to know about the March 19 Florida Republican Primary” via Max Greenwood of the Miami Herald — The Miami-Dade Elections Department began sending out vote-by-mail ballots to voters earlier this month ahead of Florida’s March 19 Republican Presidential Primary, but there’s still plenty of time to request one. Registered voters eligible to participate in the election will have until March 7 to put in for a mail-in ballot. The last round of mail ballots will be sent by March 9. After that, it’ll be up to voters to ensure that their mail ballots are returned to Elections Department headquarters by the time polls close on March 19, otherwise, their votes won’t be counted. Just because you’ve requested a mail-in ballot previously doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be sent one. Changes to state election laws that went into effect last year canceled many active vote-by-mail requests, meaning that voters who want a mail ballot may have to submit a new request to the elections department, either online, by phone or by submitting a form in the mail.

Tire-slashing and suspicious drones: Coral Gables officials say they’ve been targeted” via Tess Riski of the Miami Herald — Coral Gables officials condemned “mafia-like thuggery” in the City Beautiful this week after a series of incidents including trespassing, tire-slashing and suspicious drone sightings left them feeling concerned for their safety. Nearly a year after an election shake-up where the Mayor’s chosen candidates were defeated, three City Commissioners who have found themselves opposite the Mayor and Vice Mayor on a series of contentious split votes, including this week’s ouster of City Manager Peter Iglesias, say they’ve been the targets of what they believe are politically motivated intimidation efforts. “There are some who think they can plot and lash out and harm others while hiding in the shadows,” Commissioner Kirk Menendez said Tuesday. “But I’m letting you know now that a light is coming.”

The firing of Peter Iglesias is among the issues that led to City Commissioners being targeted for harassment.

Four-day school week supported by Broward parents and educators, survey finds” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Many parents and educators in Broward high schools like the idea of eliminating the school day on Friday and extending it to the other four days a week. The most lukewarm group in the survey to a potential four-day week was students. Some voiced concern that they may struggle academically and would miss out on extracurricular activities and time with friends if there was no school on Friday. However, a slim majority of those who responded still liked the idea, compared to about two-thirds for parents and principals and 80% for teachers. Pompano Beach High, the district’s most successful high school, already has a four-day week, and the School Board is considering trying the idea out at one or more additional schools starting in the 2025-26 school year.

Miami and FLL airports just got millions in federal money. Where will the funds go?” via Vinod Sreeharsha of the Miami Herald — South Florida airports have experienced rapid growth in recent years and subsequent growing pains. Now, the Biden administration is providing them and others in the state millions in new funding to help alleviate their problems. The Federal Aviation Administration said on Thursday it is awarding more than $112.5 million to 10 airports in Florida. The money comes from the federal infrastructure law and is part of the almost $1 billion going to 114 airports in 44 states and 3 territories across the country this year. Florida though will receive more than any other state, said a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation. Miami International Airport is getting $27 million. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is the biggest winner, getting $50 million, the highest single amount among all airports in the nation.

Miami International Airport reports record passenger, cargo traffic for second straight year” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Miami International Airport (MIA) handled more passengers and cargo than ever before in 2023, according to new figures the hubs shared showing that growth came from foreign goods and flyers. MIA handled 52.3 million passengers last year, up 3.2% from the previous annual record. The uptick came through international travel, which rose 8.5% with 23.2 million passengers. Domestic fares declined slightly by 0.5%, with 29.1 travelers. American Airlines carried the lion’s share of passengers — 31.4 million travelers — and grew its total seat capacity by 10% during the Winter schedule, when the company turned in a record-breaking 380 peak-day flights. MIA also welcomed service from several new carriers, including Volaris El Salvador, Norse Atlantic Airways and Porter Airlines. By New Year’s Day, the hub had 96 passenger and cargo airlines, the most of any U.S. airport.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Police shot and killed a man at his niece’s wedding. Now, his family is suing.” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Daniel Knight gathered to celebrate love at the newly opened ritzy Winter Park Event Center for his niece’s wedding. But instead of love, there would be death. A police officer shot and killed Knight, firing seven times at him at point-blank range — unjustifiable deadly force. Mellisa Cruz, the mother of Knight’s two minor children, is suing the city of Winter Park, Police Chief Timothy Volkerson, Sgt. Kenton Talton and Officer Craig Campbell. The lawsuit seeks more than $75,000 in the U.S. District Court’s Orlando division. “Because this is in active litigation, we are unable to comment,” Winter Park spokesperson Clarissa Howard said.

 Daniel Knight’s family wants accountability from the police for using excessive force in his death.

Bob Iger has a brand problem, but does it matter?” via Matthew Belloni of Puck — A study called “Left and Right: Are Political Divisions Impacting the Box Office?” surveyed 2,000 people over five days in January to test the conventional wisdom that Republican-leaning audiences feel alienated from Hollywood in general and Disney in particular. Disney clearly scores the lowest, with 21% unfavorable. No other entertainment company had an unfavorable rating above 11%, meaning Disney is nearly twice as disliked as any other Hollywood entity we included. (Hulu, which is owned by Disney, scored especially well at only 8% unfavorable, indicating the problem is the Disney brand, not any of its sub-brands necessarily.) Worse for Disney, fully 30% of Republicans and 26% of independents have an unfavorable opinion of the company, compared to only 8% of Democrats. Republicans also have an elevated unfavorable opinion (about 19%) of HBO, and Democrats over-index on negativity toward ESPN. Bottom line: When it comes to Disney, you are much more likely to view it negatively if you are conservative.


Peter Shatner — decidedly not William Shatner’s son — is running for Congress” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — A man who for years thought he was the son of Star Trek actor William Shatner is running for Congress in Florida’s 14th Congressional District. Shatner, who was previously Peter Sloan, plans to run as a Republican in the Tampa-based district currently held by Democrat Kathy Castor, he confirmed to Florida Politics. Shatner isn’t as famous as his not-dad of Captain Kirk fame, but he certainly has made a name for himself over the years, appearing in various articles about his believed parentage. That includes an exposé in The National Enquirer declaring that the younger Shatner was the actor’s secret love child. He believed William Shatner was his biological father up until late 2022 when a DNA test definitively proved he was not, in fact, the son of a famous actor.

Hillsborough County Republican Party elects a new Chair” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — The Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee, which has struggled to overcome divisiveness and flagging fundraising, has elected a new Chair, Carmen Edmonds of Lutz — but not without a kerfuffle over the close vote. In a special election among party precinct representatives Feb. 8, Edmonds replaced Dana Galen, the county party’s first Black Chair, who resigned last month for health reasons after holding the post for a year. Edmonds defeated Scott Levinson, the former president of the Tampa Youth Football League and a County Commission candidate, by a 101-93 vote. But Levinson contended the vote was altered.

Carmen Edmonds is the new Chair of the Hillsborough County Republican Party.

St. Petersburg leaders raise idea to break off from Duke for utilities” via Emily L. Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — Two members of the St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday raised the idea of breaking off from Duke Energy to form a municipal utility, a potentially major shift that would alter who is in charge of the city’s electricity. During a morning meeting of the health, energy, resilience and Sustainability Committee, which includes four of the eight City Council members, Council member Brandi Gabbard floated the idea first. She pointed to the fact that the city’s legal agreement with Duke Energy is up for renewal in 2026, saying she wanted to take advantage of the “rare opportunity.” It’s been 30 years since the last time the city renewed that contract.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

JAXPORT CEO encouraged by yearly growth, global reach in State of the Port address” via Hanna Holthaus of The Florida Times-Union — The next year at JAXPORT could bring more businesses, progress on important projects and global advancement, the CEO said Thursday during the annual “State of the Port” event. JAXPORT is currently rated as the top cargo port in Florida and 10th in the country, Eric Green said. JaxPort already had a strong start to the year — recently announcing a new cruise line boarding from the city and an expansion of one of its biggest port operators. Previous wins, such as bringing the largest ship the port ever serviced last year, have become regular occurrences. Ships similar in size to One Stork, which arrived in May, now dock at the port weekly, Green said.

Eric Green is bullish on JAXPORT in his ‘State of the Port’ address.

‘State of the Port’ for Jacksonville: Bullish on new cruise ship service” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — Jacksonville’s port officials are touting many of their major additions in the past year, which they say positions them to compete against other Eastern Seaboard ports. JAXPORT CEO Green was the keynote speaker for a “State of the Port” address before a crowd of several hundred port-related business leaders at the event organized by the Jacksonville chapter of the Propeller Club of the United States. Green said the Jacksonville Port Authority has positioned the North Florida port as a key player in worldwide transportation and logistics and recent developments bolster their position. “JAXPORT and our partners have celebrated a series of significant developments already this year,” Green said.

Tallahassee releases new details in trespassing probe as Jeremy Matlow comes to David O’Keefe’s defense” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — The city of Tallahassee released new details about an alleged trespassing incident involving Leon County Commissioner O’Keefe and posted an edited video of his visit to the future police headquarters site to witness the removal of oak trees that residents wanted to save. It marked the latest development in an extraordinary political drama that began playing out on Jan. 25 after O’Keefe, City Commissioners Matlow and Jack Porter and several concerned citizens showed up at the construction site as the trees were coming down. Both O’Keefe and Matlow livestreamed video from the site, with Matlow offering scathing remarks about the city’s decision to remove the trees and O’Keefe filming himself as he jumped over a fence to leave the area after he’d been told to do so.

Million-dollar home sales were rare around Pensacola. Now they’re everywhere.” via Libertina Brandt of The Wall Street Journal — The pandemic housing boom was generous to the Pensacola region, bolstering its emerging luxury market and propelling its popularity, according to Gordon Miles, president of Levin Rinke Realty, a local brokerage. Though mortgage rates have since risen and demand has waned, high-end homes continue to trade hands within price brackets that were mostly untouched just four years ago. In 2023, the metro area saw 250 home sales that were $1 million or over, up roughly 220% compared with 78 in 2019, said Miles. Nonluxury home sales have also shot up in the metro area, which currently has a median sale price of $315,000, a nearly 58% jump compared with $199,575 in January 2019.


‘Our mini Trump’: How Republican farmer Alfie Oakes became Collier County’s kingmaker” via Amy Bennett Williams of the Naples Daily News — Oakes knows how to grow. The Naples farmer-turned-grocer-turned-restaurateur’s flagship Seed to Table is a $30 million produce-centric destination he calls a “culinary universe.” Behind it is the muscle of Oakes Farms, one of the biggest agribusinesses in South Florida, started when its namesake was a 15-year-old selling watermelon from the back of a pickup. He’s grown it into a 3,500-employee empire that ranges from supplying military cafeterias to selling linen sundresses. Oakes also has grown a reputation as one of the region’s most powerful political influencers. “The big picture for Alfie is ‘local boy done good,’ “ said Rep. Matt Caldwell. “When all is said and done, he has been incredibly successful because he’s willing to work hard and do what it takes. It’s not as common these days as it used to be.”

Alfie Oakes — from conservative grocer to Republican kingmaker.

He once ran local government in Florida — and now dishes it up at Pee Wee’s food truck” via James A. Jones, Jr. of the Miami Herald — Pee Wee’s Canteen food truck focuses on soul food, barbecue, seafood, sandwiches and salads. And focusing behind the stove? A former administrator of Manatee County’s local government. It’s all a labor of love and a tribute to his mother, says owner Lee Washington. Pee Wee is his mother’s nickname from the years she worked as a short-order cook in Punta Gorda restaurants, while raising Lee and her other eight children.


MAGA’s violent threats are warping life in America” via David French of The New York Times — Late last month, I listened to a fascinating NPR interview with the journalists Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman regarding their new book, “Find Me the Votes,” about Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 Election. They report that Georgia prosecutor Fani Willis had trouble finding lawyers willing to help prosecute her case against Trump.

Even a former Georgia Governor turned her down, saying, “Hypothetically speaking, do you want to have a bodyguard follow you around for the rest of your life?”

He wasn’t exaggerating. Willis received an assassination threat so specific that one evening, she had to leave her office incognito while a body double wearing a bulletproof vest courageously pretended to be her and offered a target for any possible incoming fire.

And no, threats of ideological violence do not come exclusively from the right. We saw too much destruction accompanying the George Floyd protests to believe that. We’ve seen left-wing attacks and threats against Republicans and conservatives. The surge in antisemitic incidents since Oct. 7 is a sobering reminder that hatred lives on the right and the left alike.

But the tsunami of MAGA threats is different. The intimidation is systemic and ubiquitous, an acknowledged tactic in the playbook of the Trump right that flows all the way down from the violent fantasies of Trump himself. It is rare to encounter a public-facing Trump critic who hasn’t faced threats and intimidation.

The threats drive decent men and women from public office. They isolate and frighten dissenters. When my family first began to face threats, the most dispiriting responses came from Christian acquaintances who concluded I was a traitor for turning on a movement whose members had expressed an explicit desire to kill my family.


Anti-free speech bill targets ‘liberal media’ but guess who’s really mad at it?” via the Miami Herald editorial board — There are no lessons learned in the Florida Legislature. Last year, lawmakers, prodded by their hostility toward the “liberal media,” tried to pass a bill to make it easier to sue for defamation. Back then, it was conservative media owners who feared this “let’s own the libs” measure had adverse effects. Corporate media have the resources to fight expensive lawsuits. Small local radio stations and online publications — and your local Rush Limbaughs who might get too loose with facts — do not. The measure is back this year in a different version. A strange coalition of liberal-leaning groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and libertarian Americans for Prosperity, founded by the billionaire Koch brothers, is fighting against it. Even the Better Business Bureau opposes it.



— ALOE —

George Santos sues late-night host Jimmy Kimmel for tricking him into making videos to ridicule him” via The Associated Press — Santos alleged in a lawsuit filed Saturday that late-night host Kimmel deceived him into making videos on the Cameo app that were used to ridicule the disgraced New York Republican on the show. The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York names Kimmel, ABC and The Walt Disney Co. as defendants. Santos, who was expelled from the House of Representatives last year after being charged with multiple counts of fraud and stealing from donors, is suing over alleged copyright infringement, fraudulent inducement, breach of contract and unjust enrichment.

George Santos gets litigious over Jimmy Kimmel mocking his Cameo videos.

Box office: ‘Bob Marley’ biopic beats expectations with $51 million holiday debut, ‘Madame Web’ collapses” via Rebecca Rubin of Variety — Paramount’s musical biopic “Bob Marley: One Love” ruled in its box office debut, beating expectations with $27.7 million over the traditional weekend and $51 million during the six-day holiday stretch. It was initially projected to generate $30 million to $35 million between Valentine’s Day on Wednesday and Presidents Day on Monday. But it experienced an uptick because audiences dug “One Love,” which landed an encouraging “A” CinemaScore from moviegoers. Critics weren’t as fond of the by-the-numbers retelling of Marley’s life and music career as evidenced by the film’s 43% rotten average on Rotten Tomatoes. Reinaldo Marcus Green (“King Richard”) directed and cowrote the PG-13 “Bob Marley: One Love,” starring Kingsley Ben-Adir as the iconic reggae singer and Lashana Lynch as his wife Rita.


Happy birthday to Michael Williams, Brian McManus, Arek Sarkissian, Andy Abboud, Ryan Boyett, and Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times.


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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