Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 2.20.24

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Coffee is for closers. So is Sunburn, your morning rundown of Florida politics.

Good Tuesday morning.

Breaking overnight — “Florida to consider returning to party runoffs in 2026” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A Committee bill filed Monday (PCB SAC 6) for the House State Affairs Committee would call for a second Primary to be held whenever more than two candidates file for a partisan office. It’s a significant election reform that could substantially extend the election season in Florida — though not until the 2026 cycle. As drafted, the bill would call for a first Primary Election in every partisan race in Florida to be held 20 weeks before the General Election. That would mean a state Primary would be scheduled for June 16, 2026, with a runoff held 10 weeks later on Aug. 25. A runoff wouldn’t happen if any candidate receives a majority vote on the first run, a guarantee if only two candidates file. Both would advance in the rare event of a tie between two candidates.


With fourth quarter reports in, The Southern Group was officially the most lucrative firm in the Sunshine State last year.

The firm, led by founder Paul Bradshaw, closed out the year with a pair of reports totaling $8.52 million, with $4.79 million flowing in through its legislative lobbying practice and another $3.74 million earned in the executive branch.

The Southern Group comes out on top, again.

Q4 marked The Southern Group’s second consecutive quarter with earnings of $8 million or more, and while the firm did cede its No. 1 status in the most recent quarterly rankings — Ballard Partners retook the crown with an $8.55 million performance — The Southern Group’s strong finish brought its annual total to $31.48 million, which was good enough to secure the top spot.

Double-digit revenue growth has been commonplace among the state’s Top 5 firms in the post-pandemic years, and the trend is especially evident when viewing annual totals: Stacked side-by-side against the 2022 total, The Southern Group’s revenues grew by $6.46 million year-over-year — an increase of more than 25%.

Ballard Partners wasn’t far behind.

Full-year reports show the firm founded by Brian Ballard collected $31.27 million in 2023, putting it just $212,000 behind The Southern Group. The annual total includes $17.9 million in legislative earnings and $13.37 million in executive branch earnings.


A new poll shows strong support for a ban on social media for minors, a top priority of House Speaker Paul Renner.

Survey results released Sunday by Cygnal show support across the political spectrum for a proposal to block anyone under age 16 from keeping or maintaining social media accounts. The poll found more than 67% of voters favor the legislation (HB 1).

The support for the bill was highest among Republicans, with 79% supporting the legislation. But 64% of independents and 57% of Democrats also favor the bill. Moreover, the poll found support to be intense, with 47% of voters saying they strongly support the policy proposal.

Among parents, pollsters found 69% support and 51% strong support for the bill.

A majority of Florida parents are behind a social media ban.

The poll was conducted for the political committee Florida Right Direction. Pollsters surveyed 800 likely general election voters and report a margin of error of 3.4%.

“HB 1 has a wide range of support with conservatives strongly backing the bill, while Democrats and Independents also consistently support it throughout the informed messages series of positions for and against the legislation,” said Brent Buchanan, pollster and president at Cygnal.

The House passed HB 1 in January and the Senate is ready to consider it on the floor this week.


Florida and FDACS are showing everyone how to eagerly take orders from a new puppet master: the medical marijuana industry.

While hemp is not marijuana and, by law, has a lower delta-9 THC concentration, Big Marijuana is working hard to make sure the Legislature stamps out Florida’s hemp industry since it’s apparently the only thing standing in the way of near-total control of the cannabis market.

Who is pulling the strings of the FDACS?

Following a successful run in California, medical marijuana is performing this exact same song and dance in nine other states with recreational marijuana on the horizon. Florida seems to be following the same script of slowly killing the hemp industry through new regulations and harsher restrictions than those imposed on the more potent marijuana products.

Is there no shame in being medical marijuana’s latest puppet?

Why are they going along with a plan that the House has acknowledged in black and white could have a negative fiscal impact on the private sector?

Never did I imagine that Florida would be emulating California on Gov. Gov Ron DeSantis’ watch, but that’s where we’ll be if SB 1698 by Sen. Colleen Burton and HB 1613 by Rep. Tommy Gregory pass.


Florida farmers say legislation backed by the medical marijuana industry represents “an existential threat” to the industrial hemp industry and could result in the loss of thousands of jobs statewide.

According to the Florida Healthy Alternatives Association, bills sponsored by Sen. Burton and Rep. Gregory (SB 1698/HB 1613) would “kneecap” the state’s industrial hemp market, which has grown into a $10 billion industry over the past five years.

The full Senate has already approved Burton’s bill, which includes a ban on current 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. The House companion has one Committee stop remaining before it’s ready for a floor vote.

Proposals from Tommy Gregory and Colleen Burton could kneecap Florida’s hemp industry.

An analysis by Whitney Economics estimates that 6,175 of those businesses would either shutter or relocate outside of the state, resulting in a $1.7 billion loss in infrastructure investment. Additionally, with roughly $4.1 billion in lost retail sales associated with CBD or cannabinoids, estimates of the retail multiplier effect resulting from the ban range from $7.5 billion-$12.5 billion.

Growers say these bills are part of a medical marijuana industry effort to seize total control of the state cannabis market.

“The giant medicinal marijuana corporations rigged the system so they could control, and profit off, every facet of the process from seed to end user,” said Raymond Warthington, co-founder and president of Infinite Zion Farms in Orlando. “Small farmers, like my family, are just trying to cobble together a few leftover scraps so we can survive.”


Former state Rep. Jamie Grant, who also previously served as the state’s Chief Information Officer, will now serve as Chair of the newly formed Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) Coalition for the Future of Artificial Intelligence in Business.

Grant will lend his expertise and to the Coalition, helping it to establish policy guidelines that continue to foster innovation and promote the adaptation of emerging technologies in Florida.

“Jamie’s unique experience in the private sector, the legislature, and as the State’s Chief Information Officer will bring invaluable insights to the Coalition as it begins to dive into the rapidly expanding applications and far-reaching impacts of AI and the policies needed to appropriately harness the power of its current and future potential,” AIF President and CEO Brewster Bevis said. “With him helping us lead this charge, the Coalition will be well equipped to thoughtfully engage on this ever-evolving issue and develop policy recommendations that can help guide the state to responsibly embrace AI opportunities.”

Jamie Grant is tapped for the newly formed Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) Coalition for the Future of Artificial Intelligence in Business.

Grant served as state Chief Information Officer from 2020 to 2023 where he led the Florida Digital Service. He also served in the Florida Legislature from 2010 to 2014 and from 2015 until 2020, the gap due to a glitch that required litigation over his re-election campaign in 2014. Before his public service, Grant worked in the private sector for more than 10 years launching and scaling innovative technology solutions.

“We are in the infancy of AI’s impact on our lives, our jobs, and our economy, and AIF deserves a ton of credit for bringing the business community to the forefront of generationally significant innovation,” Grant said. “I cannot wait to get to work with the Coalition as we address a critically important issue in an effort to create policy frameworks that support the responsible use of such powerful technology and promote a regulatory environment that situates Florida to lead the nation.”

AIF announced the Coalition’s creation last week, noting that its purpose was to bring business sectors together to develop guidelines for accountable and innovative AI policies; and educate and engage policymakers to ensure responsible regulation.

The Coalition includes AIF members and non-members, as well as AIF partner organizations.


Tweet, tweet:

@WiltonSimpson: We will not stand idly by and allow unelected individuals and woke institutions to make unchecked decisions that would intentionally cripple American agriculture and threaten our food security and national security.

@FBSaunders: FL House Minority Leader @FentriceForFL takes a shot at @realDonaldTrump‘s new sneakers during media avail: “Every Floridian deserves the freedom to be healthy, prosperous, and suede …”

@Jason_Garcia: Florida is once again exporting crazy: Bills to ban lab-grown meat have now been filed in Arizona, Tennessee and West Virginia, too (per The New York Times).

@AGlorios: am five years in remission from breast cancer today. It doesn’t mean I’m cured (we don’t know) but it’s a major survivor milestone.

@ALCardenas_FLDC: Baseball Spring Training has started, and Marlins’ ownership tradition of cheapskates is at its worst. The team they have put together for ‘24 is one of its weakest in spite having a miracle maker skipper Owner could not care less about the product

@SteveSchale: I wish @Bourdain was alive for so many reasons, including what he would say about a Mexican restaurant using “chipotle ranch”


Season 6 of ‘Drive To Survive’ premieres on Netflix — 3; South Carolina Republican Primary — 4; Michigan Democratic Primary — 7; James Madison Institute’s ‘Red, White and Bluegrass’ dinner — 8; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 10; Michigan/Idaho/Missouri GOP Primaries — 12; Netflix to stream “The Netflix Slam,” Rafael Nadal/Carlos Alcaraz faceoff — 12; Super Tuesday — 14; State of the Union address — 16; last day of Regular Session, if Legislature completes work in 60 days — 17; 2024 Oscars — 19; Georgia Democratic Primary — 22; Arizona/Florida/Illinois/Kansas/Ohio Primaries — 29; James Madison Institute’s ‘2024 Naples Dinner’ with keynote speaker Laura Ingraham — 30; ‘3 Body Problem’ premieres on Netflix — 30; Donald Trump’s New York hush money trial begins — 34; The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the mifepristone/abortion pill case — 35; Major League Baseball’s (MLB) 2024 season — 37; March Madness Final Four (women’s) begins — 44; March Madness Final Four (men’s) — 47; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 51; The Masters begin — 52; Kentucky Derby — 75; 2024 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 80; ‘Bridgerton’ new season (part one) premieres on Netflix — 87; French Open begins — 90; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 92; Dave Matthews Band 2024 Summer Tour begins in Tampa — 92; Monaco Grand Prix — 96; the 2026 World Cup begins — 112; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 130; Republican National Convention begins — 146; the 2026 World Cup ends — 150; 2024 MLS All-Star Game — 155; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games on NBC/Peacock — 157; Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 175; Democratic National Convention begins — 181; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 186; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 241; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 244; 2024 Presidential Election — 259; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 272; MLS Cup 2024 — 287; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 360; ‘Moana’ premieres — 490; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 521; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 521; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 626; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 668; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 805; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 821; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 1,032; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,172; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,131; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,853.


Senate unveils tax plan with insurance tax cut, sales tax holidays” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Senate leaders released a $900 million tax cut plan, incorporating some proposals from Gov. DeSantis budget recommendations to cut insurance premium taxes and increase an allowance for small businesses remitting sales taxes.

The bill (SB 7074) would exempt flood insurance policies enacted or renewed after July 1 from premium taxes for one year.

A few proposals from Ron DeSantis appear in the Senate budget plan. Image via KCCI-TV.

Insurance companies would also be required to give policyholders with homes covered for $750,000 or less a 1.75% credit on their rates for one year, starting July 1, that credit would then be applied to their insurance premium tax bill. And assessments for the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association, which pays out claimants of companies that went bankrupt, would be eliminated for one year.

The move is expected to save $363.2 million over the next two years.

Another difference between the chambers is the business rent tax. The rate is set to drop to 2% in August, but the House plan would reduce it to 1.25% for one year, starting July 1.

The Senate plan addresses business costs in a different way. It increases the amount a business can receive for electronically submitting sales taxes from $30 to $45, saving businesses $47.3 million next fiscal year. DeSantis had proposed an increase to $60.

The chambers, however, are on the same page when it comes to sales tax holidays. A two-week holiday on back-to-school items starting July 29 is part of the bill, as is a one-week holiday on tools starting Sept. 1. There are also two separate two-week sales tax holidays for disaster preparedness items, starting June 1 and August 24.


Will lawmakers omit Ron DeSantis’ insurance tax cut plan from tax package?” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — As insurance premiums have shot up in recent years, lawmakers have addressed it by limiting lawsuits and payouts for lawyers, a change they said would need time to settle in the market before homeowners saw relief in rates. But DeSantis had one plan in his budget recommendation that would immediately reduce rates, if only for a time: a one-year elimination of insurance premium taxes. It is projected to save homeowners $431 million. However, when the House released its tax cut package (HB 7073) last week, the insurance tax cut wasn’t included. The size of the cut likely made it hard to include since the overall bill reduces taxes by $728.1 million over two years.

Senate Appropriations Committee schedules vote on sovereign immunity bill” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — In a sign that a closely watched legislative battle over sovereign immunity caps may not be over, the Senate Appropriations Committee has scheduled a vote on SB 472 on Thursday. The panel released the 15-bill agenda for the five-hour meeting later in the week. Filed by Sen. Jason Brodeur, SB 472 is the companion measure to HB 569, filed by Rep. Fiona McFarland. The House bill’s fate appeared to have been jeopardized after House Judiciary Committee Chair Gregory tried combining the caps bill with his legislation (HB 1179) requiring the disclosure of third-party groups that help finance lawsuits. Though he chairs the Committee, Gregory was unable to garner the necessary support from Committee members and was forced to defer a vote.

The Senate ponders Jason Brodeur’s bill in the battle over Sovereign immunity.

House to consider preemptive THC caps ahead of proposed referendum to legalize marijuana” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Rep. Ralph Massullo’s legislation (HB 1269), which seeks to restrict a potential adult-use cannabis market that could be up for citizens’ initiative on November’s ballot, is now on the House calendar after advancing through both Committees of reference. The measure would cap delta-9 THC at 30% in flower, at 60% in concentrates, restrict vaporizer cartridges to 1 gram and cap edibles at 200 mg of THC per package. In its current form, Massullo’s bill also “maintains the medical marijuana program,” keeping it from expiring six months after recreational cannabis becomes legal. During remarks in the final Committee meeting, Massullo touted the safety of the medical program in Florida in his close, contrasting it to the purported dangers of an unsafe, unregulated market.


Legislature may pump gaming cash into environmental projects — Lawmakers have devised a plan that would direct hundreds of millions of dollars in state revenue from the Seminole Gaming Compact toward environmental projects, including land acquisition in the Florida Wildlife Corridor. Proposals advancing in the House and Senate (HB 1417/SB 1638) would put $100 million a year of state gambling revenues into the corridor. It would direct an equal amount toward upland land management and invasive species mitigation, as well as flooding and sea level rise resilience projects at the Department of Environmental Protection.

The Florida Wildlife Corridor could see an influx of gambling cash.

Florida kids who carry guns could face higher penalties under proposal” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — Pointing to a fatal Christmas Eve shooting in Pinellas County that began as an argument between teen brothers over presents, lawmakers say penalties for youth who illegally possess guns must be increased. Both the House and Senate are moving forward with proposals that would make a minor’s first illegal possession of a firearm a third-degree felony instead of a first-degree misdemeanor. The legislation also increases the amount of time a child could have to spend in detention. The full House will hear the bill on Wednesday. Rep. Berny Jacques, a Seminole Republican, is sponsoring the House version (HB 1181). He said the bill “adds more teeth” to the juvenile justice system.

Bill that would revise the state’s pre-kindergarten program advances” via Andrew Powell of The Center Square — Lawmakers have advanced a bill that would allow young students and those who teach them the tools to be successful. Rep. John Snyder, a Palm City Republican, sponsors HB 1353. It would revise Florida’s laws on the state’s pre-kindergarten programs known as early learning coalitions and other specified early learning programs. While introducing his bill to the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee, bill sponsor Snyder said that the bill would better support children, providers and early learning coalitions. Snyder stated that Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program instructors — who have completed a 60-hour micro literacy credential or have scored a 3 or higher on the instructional support domain of the program assessment — would be allowed to teach the Summer VPK program.


Young people from across the state will be out in force at the Capitol today to rally against legislation they say “attacks” education, climate change preparedness, immigrants and abortion rights.

A coalition of groups are taking part: Leaders from Florida Student Power, Dream Defenders, Engage Miami, SEE Alliance and HOPE CommUnity Center will participate in a noon news conference in the Capitol courtyard, where they will outline the 2024 “Florida’s Youth Agenda.” Orlando Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani will also speak during the event.

Florida Student Power hits the road to protest ‘attacks’ on education, climate change preparedness, immigrants and abortion rights.

“Amid a difficult legislative landscape, the Youth Legislative Agenda stands as a beacon of hope, advocating not just for policies, but for the future of every student in Florida. We stand against bills that seek to stifle expression, limit opportunities, and erase identities,” Eskamani said in a news release.

“Instead, we champion legislation that invests in education, safeguards our environment, and promotes justice for all. The Youth Agenda isn’t just about laws; it’s about shaping a tomorrow where every student can thrive, learn, and be heard. Together, we can, and we will build a future that uplifts every voice and protects every right.”

Florida Student Power Civic Engagement Director Laura Muñoz added, “Young people have the vision to build our communities, the love to do it together, and the strength to hold elected officials accountable for their decisions.

“By boldly confronting discrimination and systemic inequities, Florida’s Youth Agenda strives to create a future that centers the diverse needs, experiences, and aspirations of young people across the state so we can secure the resources and policies needed to fund the thriving futures we deserve.”

View the Florida Youth Agenda here.


Happening today — Walmart presents Walmart Wellness Day at the Capitol; stop by to receive complimentary health services and health & wellness giveaways: 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Third Floor Rotunda.

Happening today — Sen. Jay Collins and members of the Legislature will be joined by victims of communism from across the State to discuss the importance of instructing youth about the dangers of communism in the United States. Joining Avila is Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez and Reps. Daniel Perez, Chuck Brannan, James Buchannan and Danny Alvarez: 12:30 p.m., Old Capitol Steps, courtyard side.

8:30 a.m. Senate Appropriations Committee meets. Room on Agriculture Environment and General Government Committee meets. Room 110, Senate Office Building.

8:30 a.m. Senate Appropriations Committee on Criminal and Civil Justice meets. Room 37, Senate Office Building.

8:30 a.m. Senate Appropriations Committee meets. Room 412, Knott Building.

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

1:30 p.m. Senate Appropriations Committee on Health and Human Services meets. Room 412, Knott Building.

1:30 p.m. Senate Appropriations Committee on Transportation Tourism and Economic Development meets. Room 301, Senate Office Building.

1:30 p.m. Senate Finance and Tax Committee meets. Room 37, Senate Office Building.

5:45 p.m. Senate Special Order Calendar Group meets. Room 401, Senate Office Building.


Albert Balido, Anfield Consulting: Beach Towing Services

Ashley Boxer, The Boxer Strategy: Memorial Healthcare System

Jennifer Bean: Advanced Rx Pharmacy

David Daniel, Jeff Hartley, Lisa Hurley, Smith Bryan & Myers: A Kid’s Place of Tampa Bay, Champions for Children, Florida United Methodist Children’s Home, IMPOWER

Patsy Eccles, Patsy Eccles & Associates: Children’s Comprehensive Care Center

Ron LaFace, Megan Fay, Kaley Flynn, Scott Ross, Christopher Schoonover, Capital City Consulting: Acentra Health, Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine, Fox Corporation, Precision Healthcare

Altony Lee: State University System Board of Governors

Lauren Mariano: Florida Polytechnic University

Roy Miller: American Children’s Campaign

Mary Montague: Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)

Andrew Winchell: Betr Holdings


Joe Biden, Donald Trump campaign efforts in Michigan show a sharp contrast in tone” via Isaac Arnsdorf of The Washington Post — The BidenKamala Harris pep rally at a union hall here was thrown together quickly, not wanting Trump’s visit to Oakland County the next day to go unchecked. The two events could not have been more different, either in scale or in tone. A small community of Democratic activists came Friday, seeking the jolt of energy they felt their campaign lacked, and their anxiety was palpable, both for the difficulties of winning and the consequences of failure. Then on Saturday, a mass of Trump supporters waited hours in the cold for a glimpse of their champion and the collective thrill of pouring out their passions to his routine of insults, vows, and threats. These competing gatherings offered a glimpse of the strategies both sides are pursuing in the run-up to November, with many expecting a Biden-Trump rematch at the ballot box. Democrats are looking for ways to revitalize voters who sided with Biden in 2020, as polls show his approval rating stuck in negative territory.

Donald Trump and Joe Biden offer a sharp contrast in tone, style.

Trump uses Alexei Navalny’s death to trash U.S. and complain about his legal woes” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Trump, in a social media post, finally spoke out about the death of Russian opposition leader Navalny. But rather than offer any illuminating remarks about the critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump immediately pivoted into trashing the United States. “The sudden death of Alexei Navalny has made me more and more aware of what is happening in our Country,” Trump wrote. “It is a slow, steady progression, with CROOKED, Radical Left Politicians, Prosecutors, and Judges leading us down a path to destruction. Open Borders, Rigged Elections, and Grossly Unfair Courtroom Decisions are DESTROYING AMERICA. WE ARE A NATION IN DECLINE, A FAILING NATION! MAGA2024.” Trump made his post on his Social Truth platform early Monday, on Presidents Day.

— MORE 2024 —

Biden’s reset moment” via Mike Allen and Alex Thompson of Axios — Biden officials see next month’s State of the Union address as a big, public reset moment — a chance to overcome or at least neutralize concerns about President Biden’s age and vitality. Why it matters: Many top Democrats are convinced that if the election were today, Biden would lose a rematch with Trump. Biden’s address on March 7 is his biggest chance to shift public perceptions. What we’re hearing: Biden’s SOTU address played well last year — he seemed agile and riffed about the GOP and Social Security. Officials close to him, needing a repeat triumph, will spend hours on everything from the text to his physical preparation to exploit the prime-time moment.

Joe Biden will take the State of the Union address to highlight a campaign reset. Image via AP.

Trump ‘girdle’ appears visible in new photos” via Ryan Smith of Newsweek — A pair of photos purporting to show Trump wearing a “girdle” at an event over the weekend have gone viral on social media. Trump briefly took the stage at “Sneaker Con” on Saturday — which bills itself as the “The Greatest Sneaker Show on Earth” — to launch custom, Trump-branded sneakers. Trump’s shoes — called the “Never Surrender High-Tops” — are listed for $399 on a new website that sells other Trump-branded shoes, as well as cologne and perfume. The sneakers are described as limited-edition, numbered and “a true collectors’ item.” “Bold, gold, and tough, just like President Trump. They’re for the go-getters who don’t know the word quit,” the description says. “The Never Surrender sneakers are your rally cry in shoe form. Lace-up and step out ready to conquer.”


“State regulator orders 3 operators to exit Florida betting market” via Caden DeLisa of The Capitolist — The Florida Gaming Control Commission (FGCC) issued cease-and-desist orders to three companies operating fantasy sports games, ordering the trio to stop offering certain types of fantasy sports contests, by March 1, 2024. The FGCC informed PrizePicks, Underdog Fantasy, and Betr on Jan. 31 that they have 30 days to halt their operations in Florida or face potential legal action from the state Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution. The orders specifically target the “pick’em” style games offered by these companies, which the FGCC argues violate Florida’s gambling laws. Such games allow players to wager on whether their chosen sports teams will score above or below a point threshold set by the operators.

The state wants to shut down some of the fantasy football betting market.

Florida is 1 of 18 states to allow corporal punishment in schools. Will it change?” via Cristóbal Reyes of the Orlando Sentinel — The leader of a church-run school in Orlando was called into a fourth-grade classroom where more than a dozen children were allegedly acting out and spanked them. Orange-Osceola State Attorney Andrew Bain investigated his actions as possible child abuse but did not file charges. When the decision was announced last month, it begged a question: Does Florida still allow corporal punishment in its schools? In fact, the state is one of 18 that continue to permit the practice, although data show the number of incidents has declined each year over the last decade.

$10,000 grant to stormproof your home won’t be ‘first come, first served’ anymore” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Looks like the free money party is over for many Florida households. The popular My Safe Florida Home program is expected to resume taking applications on July 1, but many homeowners might find it more difficult to secure grants of up to $10,000 for such improvements as hardening windows and doors and replacing roofs to improve water and uplift resistance. Following a year of awarding nearly $400 million on a “first-come, first-served” basis, this year’s version of the program will only allow low- and moderate-income households to apply for 60 days after July 1 if bills seeking $100 million in new funds are enacted before the legislative.

Florida could make it harder to sue polluters, assisted living owners” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — 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. Lawmakers could pass this in the final weeks of this year’s Session.

Judge overturns Trump-era decision giving Florida federal wetlands authority” via Annie Snider of POLITICO — The decision was a win for green groups that fought the transfer and a setback for Florida developers who were already facing a backlog in permit applications. U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss concluded that EPA and the Fish and Wildlife Service had erred in 2020 by approving protection from Endangered Species Act liability as part of the Clean Water Act permits. He found agencies failed to conduct a rigorous analysis of how transferring the program to Florida would impact the 139 endangered or threatened species that live within the state.

Big blow to Florida reef recovery: First survey after record heat finds coral graveyards” via Alex Harris of the Miami Herald — The first survey of Florida’s reefs after an ‘apocalyptic’ marine heat wave offers a bleak picture of the future of the state’s renowned corals — and the restoration efforts to save them. Scientists with NOAA’s Mission: Iconic Reefs program visited five reefs throughout the Florida Keys to check on the health of the nursery-raised and transplanted corals researchers installed there over the last few years. They found coral graveyards. It’s a major setback to one of the most promising solutions to Florida’s declining reefs — replanting infant coral fragments.

Efforts to reduce global warming hurting manatees in an unusual way” via Kimberly Miller of the Palm Beach Post — The zeal to tame and conquer Florida’s wilds and waterways has left one of its most beloved creatures slashed, starved and now potentially frozen in a collision of corrupted lands and efforts to slow global warming. Historically, cold-fragile manatees flocked in winter to tepid natural springs, warm basins and coastal pockets where sun-heated water sheeted off yawning landscapes. Development spoiled those age-old refuges by blocking access to springs, depleting ground water sources and cutting off coastal flows.


Biden administration is leaning toward supplying Ukraine with long-range missiles via Courtney Kube of NBC News — After months of requests from Ukrainian officials, the Biden administration is working toward providing Ukraine with powerful new long-range ballistic missiles, according to two U.S. officials. Late last year, the U.S. began to supply Ukraine with Army Tactical Missile Systems, known as ATACMS, but so far it has provided only the older medium-range ATACMS. Now, the U.S. is leaning toward sending the longer-range version of the missile, the officials said, which would allow Ukraine to strike farther inside the Russian-held Crimean Peninsula. But U.S. funding for arms shipments to Ukraine remains uncertain because of opposition from Trump and his Republican allies in Congress.

The Biden administration is contemplating more long-term missiles to Ukraine.

Patients see first savings from Biden’s drug price push, as pharma lines up its lawyers” via the Tribune News Service — Last year alone, David Mitchell paid $16,525 for 12 little bottles of Pomalyst, one of the pricy medications that treat his multiple myeloma, a blood cancer he was diagnosed with in 2010. The drugs have kept his cancer at bay. But their rapidly increasing costs so infuriated Mitchell that he was inspired to create an advocacy movement. Patients for Affordable Drugs, which he founded in 2016, was instrumental in getting drug price reforms into the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. Those changes are kicking in now, and Mitchell is an early beneficiary. In January, he plunked down $3,308 for a Pomalyst refill “and that’s it,” he said. Under the law, he has no further responsibility for his drug costs this year — a savings of more than $13,000. The law caps out-of-pocket spending on brand-name drugs for Medicare beneficiaries at about $3,500 in 2024. The patient cap for all drugs drops to $2,000 next year.

Matt Gaetz’s chaos agenda” via Dexter Filkins of The New Yorker — In seven years in Congress, Gaetz has helped make the institution even more dysfunctional than it already was, threatening to shut down the federal government and force a default on its debt. Gaetz is a paradox: he is determined to attack the modern democratic state, but he harbors ambitions that only modern American politics can satisfy. He articulates an idea of the country that seems so negative — ridiculing his colleagues, trashing the welfare state, scorning embattled democracies abroad — that it is sometimes difficult to see what he stands for. And yet the more Gaetz tears down, the more his supporters love him.


First in Sunburn — Kathy Castor endorses Whitney Fox’s congressional bid” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Castor, the Democrat who represents Florida’s Tampa-based 14th Congressional District, is backing Fox in her bid for Florida’s 13th Congressional District on the other side of Tampa Bay. The high-profile endorsement comes from a Democrat who has long served the region, including once in some parts of Pinellas County, since she was elected in 2006. Castor is calling on voters to support Fox to establish unity and collaboration in the Tampa Bay region. “Pinellas County deserves a representative who will focus on lowering costs for families and seniors, serving our veterans, and countering the extremists who fuel chaos in Congress. I am thrilled to endorse Whitney Fox for Congress,” Castor said.

Happening tonight:


Oakland Park Mayor Mitch Rosenwald enters crowded Democratic Primary fray for HD 98” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Oakland Park Mayor Rosenwald is running to replace Rep. Patricia 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 in a statement.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Miami lawyer Megan Pearl enters Miami-Dade County Supervisor contest” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Pearl, a lawyer based in Miami, is joining the race to become Miami-Dade County’s next Supervisor of Elections. Pearl is an associate lawyer at Beighley, Myrick, Udell, Lynne, & Zeichman, PA. She’s running as a Republican and is the fourth candidate to enter a contest, now with two Democrats and two Republicans competing. “I am excited to announce my candidacy and get started on the campaign trail,” Pearl said. “The election process is one of the most important procedures in the successful operation of our government, and in order to maintain democracy, we must ensure that it remains organized and credible. As Miami-Dade’s Supervisor of Elections, I promise to work diligently with my team to prioritize the integrity of each vote and safeguard the county’s confidence in this important process.”

Megan Pearl is running to be Miami-Dade County’s next Election Supervisor. Image via Beighley, Myrick, Udell, Lynne & Zeichman, P.A.

Antisemitic attack in Lauderhill sends man to the hospital, attacker arrested” via David Fleshler of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — An antisemitic attack on a 68-year-old man walking home from a Lauderhill synagogue sent the victim to the hospital and landed the attacker in jail. The victim, whose name was not released, was walking on the 6400 block of NW 44 Street in the clothing of an Orthodox Jew when a stranger started hitting him in the face and yelling “you (expletive) Jew,” according to a complaint filed by the Lauderhill Police. A driver pulled over and yelled for the attacker to stop. The attacker walked away. After the witness called 911, the victim returned to the synagogue and drove around with a security guard until they found the attacker.

Florida health officials investigating measles outbreak at Broward school. Here’s why” via Grethel Aguila of the Miami Herald — The Department of Health confirmed that the agency is investigating a measles outbreak at a Broward elementary school. There are “multiple cases” of measles reported at the school, the health department in Broward said in a news release. Broward County Public Schools verified there are at least four cases of measles at Manatee Bay Elementary School. The district didn’t say whether those infected were students, teachers, or other staff at the K-5 school located at 19200 Manatee Isles Drive in Weston. The Sun-Sentinel reported the school’s first case was a third grader with no history of travel.

IG report: Improper sale of ATVs, unlicensed contractor among $2.5M that cost taxpayers” via Mike Diamond of the Palm Beach Post — Palm Beach County Inspector General John Carey questioned more than $2.5 million in public spending in 2023, according to his recently released annual report. The 65-page report labeled $2 million as “questioned costs,” which means expenses were either approved without “adequate documentation or the intended purpose was unreasonable,” but the report noted that not all questioned costs “are indicative of fraud or waste.” Carey said his staff found nearly $250,000 in cost savings for taxpayers. It referred 53 “matters” to law enforcement or Ethics Commissions for further investigation and made 60 recommendations to improve government efficiency.

This Palm Beach County city is betting on pickleball’s popularity to make it ‘a destination’” via Valentina Palm of The Palm Beach Post — A private pickleball complex will do more for Greenacres than redevelop 5 abandoned acres along Haverhill Road, Mayor Joel Flores said. “This makes us a destination,” Flores said after the City Commission voted Feb. 5 to approve The Pickleball Club’s plans for a 19-court complex. “It will be a place that people beyond Greenacres will come and visit.” Friendly to all ages, pickleball is a mix of tennis, table tennis and badminton and is considered one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States. Cities across Palm Beach County have been struggling to keep up with the demand for courts and have moved to build more of them. That’s in part what led the Sarasota-based company to Greenacres, where it will build a 42,000-square-foot complex that will feature 16 indoor and three outdoor courts. Flores said the project is a step toward the city’s goal of redeveloping outdated properties and abandoned lots to spur economic growth.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

County Commissioner Rita Pritchett to run against incumbent Lisa Cullen for Tax Collector” via Tyler Vazquez of Florida Today — Pritchett filed to run for Brevard County Tax Collector against incumbent Cullen, a day before the Commission is slated to discuss instituting term limits for constitutional officeholders. The move comes as Pritchett winds down her final year on the Board of Brevard County Commissioners where Pritchett’s second and final term will end after the Nov. 5 General Election. As a resident of Titusville, Pritchett has represented North Brevard’s District 1 on the Board since 2016. Cullen has worked in the Tax Collector’s Office for decades, serving as the agency’s head since 2008. She has run unopposed three times since her initial win in 2008.

Rita Pritchett is hoping to move from the County Commission to Brevard’s Tax Collector office.

NeoCity nabbed a half-billion in federal funds. But its impact on Osceola County is years away.” via Natalia Jaramillo of the Orlando Sentinel — NeoCity touts its advanced semiconductor efforts as the future of Osceola County’s economy and part of the push for technological advancement across the U.S. But after a string of recent accomplishments, it’s clearer than ever that the project’s promise is still years from being realized. Since late 2022, NeoCity — a collection of multiple, fledgling tech firms — has laid claim to an impressive half-billion dollars in federal funding. It’s created nearly 100 jobs and is on pace for 200+ within its first five years of operation. Still, a full-scale chip manufacturing effort, and the thousands or even tens of thousands of jobs that would bring, is not yet on the horizon.

Crowded rooms. Computers in the hall. Should Maitland spend $19M for a new library?” via Tayeba Hussein of the Orlando Sentinel — If you need to use the computers at the Maitland Public Library, you’ll probably end up sitting in the middle of a hallway. The building, parts of which are more than a century old, has no space for a computer lab. Now Maitland’s leaders are asking city residents to fix that and a host of other shortcomings by supporting a $14 million bond on the March 19 ballot to build a new and improved library. The question for voters is whether the improvements are worth the property tax increase proposed to pay for them. It will cost the typical Maitland homeowner more than $100 annually.

The hot ticket in Orlando? Festivals at Universal, SeaWorld and Disney World” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Orlando feels transformed into New Orleans for a moment as the parade sweeps through. People desperately snatch at the air for beads whipping over their heads. The floats roll through, each more over-the-top and extravagant than the next until the grand finale: an alligator. High above the crowd, the dancers shimmy and laugh on stilts. It’s pure celebration. Welcome to Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras. At Orlando’s theme parks, general admission includes plenty of music, food and special festivities this Winter and Spring during festival season. A packed calendar could help draw more tourists out to Orlando. That’s good news for Visit Orlando as Central Florida’s tourism industry is still rebounding.


Daniel Soronen officially announces St. Pete City Council bid in District 7” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Soronen, a local restaurateur, is officially announcing his campaign for St. Petersburg City Council, District 7. Soronen filed for the race Feb. 7, but is making it public now. Soronen, who opened the popular Old Northeast Tavern and now owns The Catalyst on 22nd St. South, has lived in St. Pete for nearly 20 years. He said he’s running, at least in part, to improve the city’s permitting and licensing process for entrepreneurs and homeowners, a process he became familiar with “over the years of dealing with our building department.” In a campaign announcement, Soronen listed several areas on which he would focus his service if elected. Soronen wants to ensure obtaining a business permit takes just 28 days, establish a “common sense” zoning approval process, safeguard Community Redevelopment Area funds by using them only on “appropriate” expenditures, and establish an intentional revitalization plan in the city’s commercial corridors.

Daniel Soronen is taking a shot at a spot on the St. Pete City Council.

Florida has $562M meant for Hillsborough County. How will lawmakers return it?” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — One of the lingering questions of the remaining three weeks of the Regular Session is what the Legislature will do with a $562 million pot of money intended for Hillsborough County transportation projects. Hillsborough County voters approved a 1% sales surtax in 2018, with the revenues to be used for transportation. But six years later, none of the money had been spent. That’s because the tax was challenged in court, and in 2021, the Florida Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional because the charter amendment referendum restricted how the County Commission could spend the funds, contradicting state law. When a similar referendum was put before voters in 2022, with inflation spiking at the time, voters rejected it.

Voters expected to decide fate of Hillsborough’s community investment tax in November” via Henry Queen of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Hillsborough County Commissioners want to ask voters this November if they support the renewal of a critical funding source that will terminate in 2026. Regardless of party, every Commissioner expressed support on Wednesday for the renewal of the half-cent community investment tax, which supports capital infrastructure projects across the county and in the cities of Tampa, Plant City and Temple Terrace. But disagreements on key details remain — especially on how long the new tax should last. Harry Cohen told Joshua Wostal that he may not have the votes to keep the tax at 10 years, with some Commissioners wanting it to go for longer. Wostal didn’t like the comment, emphasizing the need for consensus.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

‘I willfully ruined my life’: Capitol rioter from Jacksonville sentenced to 30 months” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — A Jacksonville man who called the riot at the U.S. Capitol his “rowdiest” experience was sentenced to federal prison Friday after expressing shame for struggling with a female police officer. “I am devastated that I am guilty of assaulting a female officer, but these are my actions,” Daniel Paul Gray wrote in a letter to U.S. District Court Senior Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who ordered Gray to spend 30 months behind bars. Sentencing guidelines suggested a term of 41 to 51 months, and a prosecutor asked for the full time, saying Gray’s conduct during the Jan. 6, 2021, riot “embodies a total disrespect for the law.”

Judge denies Scott Maddox motion for lower sentence, J.T. Burnette request to see Taylor Swift” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — A federal judge denied a motion by former Tallahassee City Commissioner Maddox to reduce his sentence on bribery charges and a separate request by his co-defendant, Burnette, to travel overseas and see a Swift concert. Maddox, the city’s first leadership Mayor, and Burnette, a wealthy developer and business owner, were both convicted in a notorious City Hall bribery scheme involving payoffs to vendors and undercover FBI agents. Burnette, who was found guilty at trial in 2021, got three years in federal prison. Maddox and his longtime aide, Paige Carter-Smith, pleaded guilty in 2019 in cooperation deals that saw them testify against Burnette. Maddox got five years; Carter-Smith got two.

A judge refuses to give Scott Maddox a break.

A Leon County Commissioner is pushing for federal money for North Monroe Street” via Gina Jordan of WFSU — An effort is underway to bring additional money to North Monroe Street improvements. The Capital Region Transportation Planning Agency (CRTPA) says the roadway has safety issues. So, it’s pursuing a federal grant called Safe Streets for All. However, the grant requires some matching funds from the local government. The Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency has $4.2 million earmarked for repairs and upgrades to North Monroe Street. Leon County District 3 Commissioner Rick Minor wants the Blueprint Board to allocate all of that money to serve as the required 20% match for the grant application. “We’re taking money that we already have designated for North Monroe, 4.2 million, and we’re using it as a match for a grant application that could bring down an extra $17 million in federal money to help us with North Monroe improvements,” Minor says.

‘He’ll be dead by the time they get here.’ Escambia leaders face backlash over 911 calls” via Mollye Barrows of the Pensacola News Journal — Ben Davis lives in Walnut Hill, a rural area about an hour north of Pensacola. Normally, the distance to “town” wasn’t an issue until Davis had a heart attack over a year ago, and his wife called 911 for help. Escambia County has an ambulance stationed a few miles from Davis’ house. “After about 10 minutes time they didn’t show up,” Davis said. “I told her to call them back. I said I need some help and she called them back and the woman goes, ‘They just come past Ten Mile Road and that’s when my wife said, ‘My God, he’ll be dead by the time they get here,’ because we’re a good 45 minutes away from there.”

FWC arrests 3 Escambia County residents for poaching five deer” via the Pensacola News Journal — Three Escambia County residents were charged with multiple violations after allegedly poaching five deer in early February, each time shooting deer from paved roads. Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission opened the case into the activities of Amber Nicole Aceto and Timothy Tyler Moore and Brendan Christian Bell after a homeowner contacted the agency when they found an injured deer near their home after hearing a gunshot. When the officer arrived, he found an eight-point deer with a large exit wound in its back. The homeowner was able to provide a description of the vehicle, its occupants and a tag number. Moore admitted to shooting the deer from his vehicle when he saw it standing in the roadway. His girlfriend, Aceto, drove up to the deer and Bell helped him drag the wounded deer into a ditch before they fled the area, he said.


Listen: Audio released of Moms for Liberty co-founder Bridget Ziegler’s police interview” via Michael Barfield of the Florida Trident — The Sarasota Police Department today released the audio recording of its interview with Moms for Liberty co-founder and Sarasota County School Board member Ziegler in the now-closed rape investigation of her husband, former Florida GOP Chair Christian Ziegler. “We are looking at an allegation of sexual assault by your husband,” Det. Maria Llovio informed Bridget Ziegler during the Nov. 1 interview in her office at the Leadership Institute, where she worked to train conservatives to run for School Boards across the country. “OK,” a seemingly unfazed Ziegler quickly responded. At one point during the interview, Ziegler laughed and said, “How public will this become? Because I live a very public life.”

To listen to the interview, please click the image below:

Collier Commission to reconsider application for surtax dollars to build workforce housing” via Laura Layden of the Naples Daily News — Collier Commissioners will reconsider their approval of a developer’s application for surtax dollars to build workforce housing. They voted 4-1 to take another look at the application at their next Board meeting in two weeks. The request came from Commissioner Bill McDaniel, who said he’s become aware of new information that’s triggered questions and concerns in his mind, which he wants the developer and county staff to address in the public eye. His primary concerns are about the existing zoning, and how the surface water discharge would be handled on the site once developed, considering how close it sits to Henderson Creek, which flows into Rookery Bay, a protected estuary.

Sarasota business task force tackles child care crisis, as state bill offers hope” via Saundra Amrhein of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Amid an escalating crisis in child care, local leaders are looking for novel solutions within the business community as they keep a close eye on a proposed state bill that could help thousands of families and employers impacted by the problem. “That is going to be a big game changer for us, if we can get that passed,” said Brittany Lamont — who heads the new Childcare Business Task Force launched late last year by the Early Learning Coalition of Sarasota County — of House Bill 635. Sponsored by Rep. Fiona McFarland, a Sarasota Republican, the bill would provide tax credits to businesses that either operate child care facilities or contribute payments to child care for employees.

Lee Health leaders receive analysis of becoming private hospital system” via Liz Freeman of the Naples Daily News — Consultants for Lee Health are recommending the public hospital system continue to explore converting to a private nonprofit entity. The Chicago-based consultants Kaufman Hall hired last Fall included the recommendation in a detailed report that was presented to the publicly elected Lee Health Board of Directors during a three-hour workshop. It assesses the merits and drawbacks of the change. There are many factors that led Lee Health to consider the change, including a 2019 law change that made it easier for competitors to enter the market. While Board members peppered the consultants with questions, the members were asked to submit questions in writing so answers could be provided in writing.

Sarah Lodge announces re-election run” via Chloe Nelson of the Venice Gondolier — Lodge announced her re-election campaign for Sarasota Memorial Hospital Board Central District Seat 1. Elected in 2020, the community advocate was named Chair of the nine-member Board last month. “It is a privilege to live in a region with such an incredible and dedicated health care system,” said Lodge, whose three children were born at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. “Our public hospital is not only our largest employer but continues to grow by leaps and bounds to address our community’s needs.” Lodge received her health science degree at the University of Florida in 2003 before moving to Sarasota County, where she continues to work in strategic wealth management and financial advising.

Sarah Lodge is ready for another term in the Sarasota Memorial Hospital Board Central District Seat 1.

Manasota Remembers to unveil historical marker commemorating victims of racial violence” via Samantha Gholar of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — An organization called the Sarasota & Manatee Community Remembrance Project will commemorate the victims of racial lynching and terror during a historical marker dedication at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Sarasota on Feb. 24. The nonprofit organization, conceived in collaboration with the Montgomery, Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative, works to be a pillar of education on racial injustice and violence. A physical commemoration of Sarasota-Manatee’s six documented victims of lynching has been discussed since 2018, though many in the historically Black neighborhood of Newtown initially pushed back against having a reminder of the harsh reality of violence against African Americans. The marker unveiling will educate the community and foster conversations about the lynchings in Manatee in Sarasota counties in the early 1900s.


We trust parents, not social media giants” via Paul Renner for the Orlando Sentinel — Florida’s social media legislation is the most important measure we can take to empower parents and save children from irreparable harm.

The proposed legislation sets an age requirement for children under 16 to access social media platforms that meet all four of the following conditions:

— A significant number of children under 16 use the platform for two hours or more a day (which corresponds to mental health harm);

— The platform employs addictive design features;

— The platform uses an algorithm that gathers personal information about each child and delivers ever-changing content to keep them on the platform as long as possible; and

— The platform allows users to upload content and view the activity of other users.

If those platforms remove the addictive design features or the personalized algorithm, children could once again access the platforms.

Florida has led the nation in promoting the primary right of moms and dads to determine who and what influences their children. On parental rights, we take a back seat to no one.

Social media was designed to be addictive. Design features intended to deliver little hits of dopamine make us want to get on the platforms and stay on. Children are especially vulnerable and do not have the ability to self-regulate. Whether it’s smoking, drinking, or other potentially addictive activities, society routinely sets age limits.

The case for bright line age limits on social media accounts is compelling. We will not allow social media companies to replace the role of parents. Freeing children from these platforms re-establishes the right of parents to raise their children as they see fit.


Children shouldn’t be exploited as cheap labor” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — The history of this nation is regrettably rife with stories of children being exploited, exhausted, injured and robbed of their educational potential by employers who saw them as little more than commodities. For all too brief a time, Florida leaders viewed that as a bad thing. They voted, often overwhelmingly, for laws that were even stronger than federal protections. Now, however, this state’s lawmakers appear eager to join other states that are abandoning those safeguards one by one. At the start of the 2024 Legislative Session, a quartet of bills that would tear gaping holes in Florida’s child labor laws drew gasps of outrage at their audacity: One proposed change (HB 49/SB 1596) would have initially allowed children as young as 14 to be recruited into long hours and backbreaking labor in Florida’s restaurants, farms and other businesses. It still strips many of those protections from 16- and 17-year-olds. Another pair of bills (HB 917/SB 460) would knock down safety barriers that keep teenagers out of inherently dangerous work sites, including construction.

You should go to a Trump rally” via McKay Coppins of The Atlantic — I propose a 2024 resolution for politically engaged Americans: Go to a Trump rally. Not as a supporter or as a protester, necessarily, but as an observer. Take in the scene. Talk to his fans. Listen to every word of the Republican front-runner’s speech. This might sound unpleasant to some; consider it an act of civic hygiene. Nothing quite captures the Trump ethos like his campaign rallies. This has been true ever since he held his first one at Trump Tower, in June 2015. Back then, he had to stack the crowd with paid actors, prompting many in the press (me included) to dismiss the whole thing as an astroturf marketing stunt. But the rallies, like the campaign itself, soon took on a life of their own, with thousands of people flocking to Phoenix or Toledo or Daytona Beach to witness the once-in-a-generation spectacle firsthand.

Let Florida voters decide on term limits” via Bill Truex of the Tampa Bay Times — In Washington, the biggest problem is that politicians don’t listen to voters. Yet, in Tallahassee, politicians are in danger of making the very same mistake. This year, state lawmakers proposed a bill to strip local voters of the power to decide term limits for their County Commissioners. Instead, lawmakers want to install a top-down “one-size-fits-all” solution. It’s a bad idea. Simply put, it’s wrong to strip voters of their rightful power — and it’s wrong to treat every community like it’s the same community. Miami-Dade County is over 17,000% larger than Union County. Their needs are different — and frankly, all of Florida’s 67 counties are different. While some thrive on agriculture, others are hubs of tourism. While some are coastal, others are inland. While some rank among the wealthiest places in America, others are economically at risk.

Tampa Bay transportation challenges hinder talent recruitment, economic growth” via Brian Adcock, Chris Yanes and Mattie Velasco for Florida Politics — Hillsborough County residents in 2018 approved a 1% sales tax referendum for transportation projects. The referendum was challenged on a legal technicality and the courts struck it down in 2021. While the 1% sales tax was in place, the county was able to collect $570 million in funding that has since sat in an escrow account, untouched. This money is now at the mercy of the Florida Legislature for it to be returned to Hillsborough County. and With a backlog of more than $13 billion of transportation projects, it is critical this funding be returned to the county to start work on these projects. For the last four years, the Tampa Bay Chamber has rallied the business community to this cause and has been advocating for the return of this money.

Igniting victory for gas stoves” via Dale Calhoun for Florida Politics — In Florida, there are more than 700,000 homes and 70,000 businesses that rely on natural gas. Natural gas is also an important source of energy to power our electrical grid. It’s the clear choice for many Floridians because it’s dependable, efficient, cost-effective and safe. From food to rent to electronics, Americans face higher prices on nearly every essential due to soaring inflation, but natural gas remains affordable. Households that use natural gas for heating water, cooking food and drying clothes save more than $1,000 per year compared to homes that use electricity. Natural gas generates $3.5 billion in annual impact and supports 44,000 jobs for Florida families.


— ALOE —

St. Petersburg’s popular pink tree is in bloom” via Martha Asencio-Rhine of the Tampa Bay Times — After a rain-filled weekend, the sun shone brightly on Monday. And at the corner of Coffee Pot Boulevard and 23rd Avenue Northeast, people stopped to gawk and snap photos in front of a beloved pink trumpet tree in full bloom. Also known as a Tabebuia tree, the famous plant grabs a lot of attention when it blooms annually around February and has a long history in the city.

St. Petersburg’s popular Tabebuia trees are now in bloom.


Best wishes to Reps. Joseph Casello and Cyndi Stevenson, Anastasia Dawson, Erica Geiger and Adam Pott.


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.

One comment

  • Please Read What You Post and Link To!

    February 20, 2024 at 9:03 am

    The lead article links to an unedited, confusing (date-wise) Ogles article referencing twentieth century runoff elections. Please reread and update the linked article so it doesn’t leave people scratching their heads. The dates don’t make sense as written.

Comments are closed.


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