Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 2.21.24

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Good Wednesday morning.

First in #FlaPol — “Ron DeSantis schedules ‘thank you’ call with delegates Wednesday” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — On Wednesday at 3 p.m., DeSantis will “personally thank” people who volunteered as delegates for “support and commitment to his campaign.” The call will be “closed press,” and invitees will have to register on the Governor’s political webpage. The call with supporters comes less than 24 hours after he attempted to drum up support for a Constitutional Convention regarding Congressional term limits in Columbia, South Carolina. Some have suggested there is no coincidence in that event happening this week, given South Carolina’s Presidential Preference Primary is Saturday. Others, including Party Chairs from outside of Florida, have contended that DeSantis’ thank you call is really a sign to supporters that he could be cajoled to reverse the suspension of his campaign.


New College of Florida rolled out a new video this week encouraging rising college first-year students to apply to the liberal arts school.

The video touts stats, such as a 7-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio and an average class size of 12. It also promises potential students that New College is a school with “professors who actually teach” and “where academic freedom thrives.”

The video comes shortly after New College unveiled a new curriculum based on the ancient Greek concepts of “Logos” and “Techne” — the combination offers education with a foundation in great canonical works paired with instruction on how the wisdom therein can be applied to students’ lives and careers post-graduation.

There were approximately 600 students enrolled at New College in Spring 2023, but the college has set a goal of increasing enrollment by at least 100 students each year over the next five years.

Students interested in applying to New College can do so online. For more information on admissions requirements and campus visits, check out NCF’s admissions page.

To watch the recruitment video, please click the image below:


Season 6 of ‘Drive To Survive’ premieres on Netflix — 2; South Carolina Republican Primary — 3; Michigan Democratic Primary — 6; James Madison Institute’s ‘Red, White and Bluegrass’ dinner — 7; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 9; Michigan/Idaho/Missouri GOP Primaries — 11; Netflix to stream “The Netflix Slam,” Rafael Nadal/Carlos Alcaraz faceoff — 11; Super Tuesday — 13; State of the Union address — 15; last day of Regular Session, if Legislature completes work in 60 days — 16; 2024 Oscars — 18; Georgia Democratic Primary — 21; Arizona/Florida/Illinois/Kansas/Ohio Primaries — 28; James Madison Institute’s ‘2024 Naples Dinner’ with keynote speaker Laura Ingraham — 29; ‘3 Body Problem’ premieres on Netflix — 29; Donald Trump’s New York hush money trial begins — 33; The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the mifepristone/abortion pill case — 34; Major League Baseball’s (MLB) 2024 season — 36; March Madness Final Four (women’s) begins — 43; March Madness Final Four (men’s) — 46; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 50; The Masters begin — 51; Kentucky Derby — 74; 2024 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 79; ‘Bridgerton’ new season (part one) premieres on Netflix — 86; French Open begins — 89; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 91; Dave Matthews Band 2024 Summer Tour begins in Tampa — 91; Monaco Grand Prix — 95; the 2026 World Cup begins — 111; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 129; Republican National Convention begins — 145; the 2026 World Cup ends — 149; 2024 MLS All-Star Game — 154; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games on NBC/Peacock — 156; Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 174; Democratic National Convention begins — 180; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 185; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 240; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 243; 2024 Presidential Election — 258; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 271; MLS Cup 2024 — 286; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 359; ‘Moana’ premieres — 489; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 520; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 520; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 625; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 667; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 804; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 820; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 1,031; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,171; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,130; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,852.


DeSantis hires back Christina Pushaw as he reassembles Florida government team” via Ana Ceballos of the Miami Herald — Pushaw, who became well-known for her extremely online persona as the DeSantis campaign’s rapid response director, will be serving as a senior analyst for the Governor. While the office has yet to comment on what her job duties are, records show she will be earning an annual salary of $155,000.

Bryan Griffin, who served as the presidential campaign’s Press Secretary, is back serving as the Governor’s communications director. He is earning $160,000, records show.

It’s the return of Christina Pushaw.

And last month, James Uthmeier, who worked as the Campaign Manager for DeSantis’ failed bid for President, returned to his role of chief of staff. His annual salary is roughly $196,000. Griffin on Tuesday posted a meme from the 1980s “The Blues Brothers” movie with the words “We’re putting the band back together,” on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The rehires show how DeSantis is regrouping with nearly three years left in his second term in office and how he is surrounding himself with individuals who have a history of focusing on many of the Governor’s political priorities.

Since suspending his presidential campaign, DeSantis has renewed his focus on the pandemic, schoolbook challenges and immigration — policy issues that have been key parts of his political platform. And on Tuesday, DeSantis is holding an official event in South Carolina — days before the state’s GOP Presidential Primary.


Gov. DeSantis’ insurance cut back on track as House adds to tax package” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — A reduction of insurance premium taxes and flood premium taxes was left out when the House unveiled its tax cut plan (HB 7073). But the House Appropriations Committee has now inserted an amendment adding the proposal to the bill.

The plan would reduce premium taxes by 1.75% on homesteaded properties while requiring insurers to pass on those savings to consumers to get the credit on their tax liability. It would apply to policies enacted or renewed after Oct. 1, and the break would last for one year.

Ron DeSantis’ plan to cut insurance premium taxes is back in the House’s proposed budget.

House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell said she supported the amendment but wanted to give more of a break to homeowners. She noted the break would save homeowners $17.50 for every $1,000 they pay in premiums. State economists haven’t scored the House plan, but a similar Senate proposal would save $363.2 million in total over two years.

“When you aggregate all those savings up as a tax credit, it’s great for the insurance companies, but it’s not as great as we need it to be for the homeowners,” Driskell said.

The Senate’s version of the tax cut package (SB 7074) also includes the insurance tax cut. It would apply to homes covered at up to $750,000 and cover flood policies and eliminate assessments for the Florida Insurance Guarantee Association.

Bill sponsor Sen. Blaise Ingoglia said it would save qualified homeowners 3.5% on average in their premiums. He argued that while those savings — $35 for every $1,000 in premiums — may be small, they will help homeowners until the market settles and premiums flatten out, in response to the litigation-squelching changes approved by lawmakers in the last two years.


Defamation bill amendment aims to address concerns about venue shopping” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Concerns about venue shopping have followed a defamation bill from Session to Session. But Rep. Alex Andrade hopes an amendment to his bill puts fears to rest. The Pensacola Republican filed a change to his bill (HB 757) to address concerns about plaintiffs bringing actions in sympathetic markets. That especially concerns political outlets. The new language says plaintiffs can only sue in a county where they reasonably suffered damages. If a judge deems a lawsuit frivolous, the plaintiffs’ attorneys would be partly on the hook for fees, along with the plaintiffs themselves. “Anyone who claims a frivolous lawsuit can be brought in a painful venue. Good luck finding a lawyer who is willing to do that,” Andrade said.

Alex Andrade’s amendment quells fears of venue shopping in defamation cases.

Hemp crackdown clears final House hurdle ahead of floor hearing” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Appropriations Committee moved forward with Rep. Tommy Gregory’s legislation (HB 1613) despite members of both parties voicing concerns. This was the bill’s fourth Committee stop and the last chance for opponents of the bill to rehearse familiar arguments against the legislation. The sponsor said his bill was intended to clear up “mistakes” previous Legislatures made in not regulating “psychoactive” components derived from cannabis, and that legislative intent was the production of industrial hemp. He also said the bill was not part of an “industry food fight” between hemp and medical cannabis, a contention disputed by members of the public in opposition. The House product is identical to Sen. Colleen Burton’s bill (SB 1698), proposing significant changes to a hemp market that has become established in the state in recent years. That bill already passed the Senate without a single “no” vote.

Bill would allow judges to more easily hold criminal defendants without bail” via Ana Goni-Lessan of the Tallahassee Democrat — Prosecutors in Florida are pushing to reduce the requirements for keeping someone in jail before trial, a move that defense attorneys say could force more people into the state’s already overcrowded jails. A Senate bill filed just last week would allow a judge to order pretrial detention based only on hearsay if a defendant is accused of a list of “dangerous crimes,” including murder and carjacking. Hearsay is secondhand information generally not allowed at trial. Tallahassee-area State Attorney Jack Campbell said the bill would prevent traumatizing victims from having to testify so soon after an arrest. “They might have just left the hospital, still be trying to come to grips on whether they even want to go through the criminal justice system,” Campbell said.

Energy bill now with offshore wind ban advances in Senate” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO — A Senate Committee on Tuesday voted to advance an energy bill backed by House Speaker Paul Renner after adding a ban on offshore windmills. The Senate Appropriations Committee on Agriculture, Environment and General Government voted 6-3 with Democrats opposing numerous aspects of the wide-ranging bill. The bill also strikes policies adopted by the Legislature in 2008 that sought to reduce carbon emissions that contribute to climate change and reduce dependence on foreign oil. The bill was amended to match the House version with the ban on offshore windmills or those within a mile of the coast.

Dozier victims ask how many years before Florida Legislature will provide compensation for their abuse?” via Mitch Perry of Florida Phoenix — Retired Army Ranger Captain Bryant Middleton told a group of state Senators not to think of him as the man in his late 70s, but as a young boy decades ago, when he and other boys endured abuse at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys. “I would ask you: If it were your child that came home from school, your child said to you, ‘They took me to a room and beat me with a paddle.’ Your daughter comes home and says, ‘They took me into a room, and they did something to me that made me uncomfortable.’ That’s what we endured,” he said. For more than a decade, Middleton and others have come to the state capital in Tallahassee to tell their stories to lawmakers about the abuse and beatings that they suffered at the Dozier School for Boys, a state-run facility that closed in 2011 after more than a century.

Vape-restricting bill advances as retailers warn of market harm” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Legislation to clear Florida shelves of all but 23 vaping products, including all flavors but tobacco, is advancing despite complaints from retailers that it will burn the industry and send consumers back to cigarettes. The bill (SB 1006) would limit sales in Florida only to vape products approved by the FDA, all of which are made and sold by Big Tobacco. Scores of other products now sold throughout the state would, in turn, be banned. More than a dozen Floridians in the vape industry spoke out against the bill before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Agriculture, Environment and General Government unanimously approved it.

Banning certain vape products will hurt the market, Florida retailers say.

Families fear hemp restrictions will deny children life-changing CBD products” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The happiest moments for 17-year-old Riley Berg involve country music playing from her iPad speakers. Severely autistic and nonverbal, she endures therapeutic sessions for the chance to earn device time to consume her favorite Jason Aldean and Miranda Lambert videos. It’s a simple joy, but Riley’s mother, Tracy Thaxton-Berg, feels tickled that her daughter can enjoy it. Not so long ago, a constant fear of drop seizures held the family’s attention with a more hostile grip than any steel guitar lick. It took visits to four neurologists to diagnose the seizures, a process made more challenging since Riley couldn’t tell physicians exactly how she felt before episodes happened. Riley hasn’t suffered a seizure in years, something the family credits to Charlotte’s Web. That’s a brand of cannabidiol product.

Teens warn Florida’s proposed social media ban may have consequences ahead of Senate vote” via Fresh Take Florida — During the height of the pandemic, 14-year-old Taylor Thigpen started his business, PlantKingusa, with $5, a dream and an Instagram page. His love for horticulture and interest in sustainability led him to create his own plant nursery to ship out plants across the country. “The use of social media allowed me to reach a large market of people that I wouldn’t have been able to reach otherwise,” Thigpen said. “I really only got noticed because I was able to use apps like Facebook and Instagram to promote my story and to promote my products.” Thigpen and other young entrepreneurs and activists are worried about a Florida proposal to ban social media for all minors under 16 — even with the consent of their parents. “It has the potential to do more harm than good to youth by taking away a vital resource,” Thigpen said. “Youth who come from low-income families can use … social media to connect with mental health resources. Or, if they’re suffering from food insecurity, they can use it to find resources like food banks or soup kitchens.”


‘Bad piece of policy’: Blaise Ingoglia rips House’s Primary runoff bill” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Add Sen. Ingoglia to the list of Florida Republicans bashing the latest plan from the House to reinstitute runoff Primary Elections, which were held in the state before 2002. “I do not like it. I think it’s a bad piece of policy,” Ingoglia told reporters. “It will disproportionately hurt conservative candidates.” The House unveiled a bill that would install a runoff Primary system starting in the 2026 election cycle. That would mean an initial election in June for Primary contests, then, if no candidate gets more than 50%, a runoff election in August featuring the top two vote-getters. The winner would then go on to the General Election.

Blaise Ingoglia is no fan of bringing back Primary runoffs.

ACLU denounces ‘volunteer chaplains’ bill — The ACLU of Florida said it opposes a bill (SB 1044) moving through the Senate that would allow volunteer chaplains in schools. ACLU of Florida legislative director and senior policy counsel Kara Gross said, “Chaplains have no place in public schools. Student support services must be provided by trained, certified school professionals, not government-selected volunteer clergy. … If passed, this bill will likely create public education environments ripe for religious coercion and indoctrination of students. Florida’s public schools are religiously diverse, and all students should feel safe and welcome in them.”

Stand With Parkland endorses social media ban for minors” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Families impacted by the Parkland shooting endorsed a proposed ban on social media for most minors. Stand With Parkland formally endorsed the legislation (HB 1). The bill would prohibit anyone in Florida under the age of 16 from opening or maintaining a social media account. “As we’ve seen in numerous reports over the years — exposure to screen time and social media platforms has a direct correlation to mental health issues,” a statement from Stand With Parkland President Tony Montalto said. “HB 1 is a step in the right direction in protecting our children from targeted social media. As the country’s leading advocates in school safety — anything we can support that will help alleviate a constant strain on mental health will benefit future generations.”

Senate committee approves plan to expand Casey DeSantis Cancer Research Program” via Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO — The Senate Appropriations Committee on Health and Human Services unanimously approved SB 7072, which would be one of the first state programs to offer grants to patients who are undergoing innovative cancer treatments. Committee Chair Gayle Harrell, a Stuart Republican, said the state has already earned a nationally-renowned reputation investing hundreds of millions in cancer research dollars. “We’ve been so forefront with research but now we’re really broadening it with the treatment area,” Harrell said.

My Safe Florida Home bill adds $100 million, prioritizes older, low-income families” via C.A. Bridges of the Tallahassee Democrat — The My Safe Florida Home program may be about to get $100 million in more funding, but when it opens for applications again the first two months will prioritize the Florida residents who need it the most. The popular program, which matches up to $10,000 of the costs Florida homeowners pay to harden their homes against hurricanes, quickly ran through the $100 million in grant money added in June 2023. The Florida Legislature voted to provide $176.17 million more in a bill for hurricane relief passed in November.

Hemp industry leaders slams regulation bill — Hemp from Florida, a coalition of people who would be directly harmed by proposed regulations (HB 1613) on the hemp industry, are warning that the bill would harm the economy and jeopardize more than 100,000 Florida jobs. “This legislation could unfairly shut down nearly 500 hemp farms in Florida. Farmers like me have invested significant resources into the infrastructure to make a safe, beneficial product, and this bill would suddenly criminalize our honest efforts. It will not only undo the thoughtful framework already in place supporting a viable hemp industry — it would also devastate Florida’s hemp farmers and the 104,000 jobs we create,” said Randy Rembert, owner of Rembert Family Farms in Hawthorne.

Tweet, tweet:

Integrity Florida says ethics laws are ‘under attack’ — A government corruption watchdog group warned that bills (HB 1597/SB 7014) moving through the House and Senate could “severely” diminish “the ability to investigate allegations of government corruption at the state and local level.” Integrity Florida Research Director Ben Wilcox said, “The only people who have personal knowledge of a violation of the law are those who are committing the violation. If this legislation passes, no longer would someone be able to file an ethics complaint based on a credible report in their local newspaper and have the Florida Commission on Ethics begin an investigation.”

State Voices Florida condemns legislation that would prohibit drop boxes — State Voices Florida is voicing opposition to an elections bill (PCB SAC 6) filed this week that would prohibit drop boxes for people to turn in their absentee or vote-by-mail ballots unless they are in the physical offices of county Supervisors of Elections or at an early voting polling place during early voting hours. “If this legislation becomes law, it will be harder for everyone to vote in Florida. And when we say ‘everyone’ we mean people across the political spectrum. Republicans first pushed vote by mail and it’s clear that many very conservative voters rely on drop boxes,” State Voices Florida Executive Director Juanica Fernandes said. “The state has already limited the use of drop boxes to early voting hours. And despite the conspiracy theories the evidence shows that drop boxes are a safe and secure way of getting your ballot counted.”


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

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

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

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

2 p.m. The Senate will hold a floor Session. Senate Chambers.

2 p.m. The House will hold a floor Session. Senate Chambers.

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


Lobbying compensation: Capital City Consulting earns $25.5M in 2023” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Capital City Consulting earned nearly $25.5 million last year, placing it among the most lucrative firms in the state. New compensation reports show Capital City Consulting netted about $6.7 million in the fourth quarter of last year, marking its fourth consecutive reporting period crossing the $6 million mark in lobbying pay. The latest haul included about $3.5 million in legislative earnings and $3.2 million in receipts lobbying the executive branch. Overall, the firm, co-founded by Nick Iarossi and Ron LaFace, earned $13 million in the Legislature and $12.5 million in the executive. Percentagewise, CCC saw one of the largest year-over-year revenue bumps among Florida’s top-tier firms, earning nearly 30% more than the $19.79 million total it posted in 2022.


Home sweet home? Donald Trump trounces Nikki Haley in exclusive South Carolina poll” via Susan Page of USA Today — Trump is poised to trounce Haley Saturday in her home state of South Carolina, an exclusive Suffolk University/USA Today poll finds, with a yawning advantage that hasn’t been diminished by the former President’s controversies or legal travails. Among those very likely to vote in the state’s Feb. 24 Republican Primary, Trump leads Haley by close to 2-1, 63%-35%. “The story of this poll is the depth of strength shown by Trump,” said David Paleologos, Director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. The former President holds double-digit advantages among men and women, in every age group, and among both high school graduates and those with a college degree.

Donald Trump is trouncing Nikki Haley on her own turf.

Haley vows to stay in 2024 race regardless of South Carolina Primary” via Christian Hall and Hadriana Lowenkron of Bloomberg — Haley vowed to stay in the Republican presidential race against Trump regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s South Carolina Primary, saying she would not buckle to pressure from the former President and his allies. “I feel no need to kiss the ring. And I have no fear of Trump’s retribution. I’m not looking for anything from him. My own political future is of zero concern,” Haley said Tuesday at a rally in Greenville, South Carolina — an event billed by her campaign as a major address on the state of the GOP race. In her speech, Haley laid out the case against Trump, in an almost last-ditch effort to sway voters, and laid out the rationale for her candidacy with the Primary contest slipping out of her control and Trump poised to deliver a large defeat to his last major challenger.

‘Lose our number’: Haley suddenly needs Black voters in South Carolina” via Marc Caputo of The Bulwark — Polls show Trump is leading Haley by 30 points — more than twice his New Hampshire margin. It turns out that in South Carolina, with the people who know her best, Haley is doing worse with both Democrats and Republicans. One of the components of Haley’s “success” in New Hampshire was doing well with both Democrats and independents who voted in the Primary. Six percent of the voters in New Hampshire were Democrats and Haley won them 86 to 5. In South Carolina, Haley’s campaign is trying to reach out to Democrats and independents via mail and blast text messages. That outreach, however, could be backfiring on Haley. “Nikki Haley on behalf of all of us, lose our number,” a South Carolina Democratic voter named Debari Barber posted Friday on Facebook. That post touched a nerve among fellow Black voters, Democrats and independents, prompting 2,100 favorable shares and 530 supportive comments before Barber made it private.

How Haley — with help — made South Carolina an economic ‘Beast of the Southeast” via John McCormick of The Wall Street Journal — Haley mentions the “Beast of the Southeast” at virtually every campaign stop in her underdog effort to try to stop Trump from winning the Republican presidential nomination. The phrase, which an industry trade publication used in 2013 to describe South Carolina’s robust economic development during her Governorship, is a badge of honor for Haley as she explains how her state’s unemployment dropped from 10.8% to 4.4% under her watch. “By the time I left, we were building planes with Boeing, we were building more BMWs than any place in the world, we brought in Mercedes-Benz, we brought in Volvo,” she said at a recent appearance ahead of the state’s Saturday GOP Primary.

South Carolina Primary is a big ‘what if?’ for Florida’s Governor” via Jay Cridlin of the Tampa Bay Times — Before DeSantis ended his campaign after the Iowa caucuses, there were signs he might have been able to make some real noise in South Carolina. Sure, Haley had a home-state advantage, but it’s not clear how big it would have been against DeSantis. After fellow South Carolinian Sen. Tim Scott dropped out of the race in November, his supporters did not automatically switch to Haley out of Palmetto State loyalty. Staying in the race would have put DeSantis and Trump on a collision course for Florida’s own Primary on March 19 — a real Florida mano a Florida mano. And considering how much of DeSantis’ campaign was built on his own successes in Florida, a home blowout loss to Trump probably would have felt even more disastrous than a loss in South Carolina.

— MORE 2024 —

Wall Street is already placing bets on the Joe Biden-Trump rematch” via Joe Rennison of The New York Times — Nine months ahead of the Presidential Election, investors are already thinking about how financial markets might respond to the outcome of the vote, and how they should trade to prepare for it. Stock markets have soared to record highs in recent weeks, while government bond yields, which underpin interest rates for consumers and companies, are down from a recent peak in October. Despite the uncertainty of making political predictions, money managers are already contemplating how the election could alter the mood in markets. The combination investors see as the most likely to spur a shift in financial markets in November — and therefore the scenario that traders are spending the most time thinking about — is a so-called red wave.

Bettors are settling on a rematch between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

DeSantis stumps in South Carolina — for congressional term limits” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Florida Republican held a media availability with South Carolina state lawmakers in Columbia outside the state Capitol. There, he extolled a need for states to demand Congress call a constitutional convention on term limits for federal lawmakers. “The people in the states have the ability to propose changes to discipline Washington. The Founding Fathers structured the Constitution like that for a reason,” DeSantis said. The Florida Legislature passed resolutions to petition for constitutional conventions earlier this year. If two-thirds of the state governments — or 34 of the 50 current states — approve identical petitions, it would prompt the first constitutional convention since the drafting of the U.S. Constitution.

DeSantis backs RNC changes, but not necessarily the ones Trump wants” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Regarding plans by Trump’s political operation to stack the RNC with allies, including Trump ally Michael Whatley as Chair and Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara, as Co-Chair, the Governor offered a muted and noncommittal response. He said that previous criticisms he’d made of the RNC under Ronna McDaniel’s watch have been “proven right.” “I don’t know, to be honest with you, I’m not familiar with Mr. Whatley,” DeSantis said. “I’ve met Lara Trump too, but I don’t know as much there.” “But after the (2022 Midterms) I said you need to make changes, not for any personal reason because of getting along or not getting along, but when you lose election cycle after election cycle, at some point, you got to try something different,” DeSantis added.

Trump allies prepare to infuse ‘Christian nationalism’ in second administration” via Alexander Ward and Heidi Przybyla of POLITICO — An influential think tank close to Trump is developing plans to infuse Christian nationalist ideas in his administration should the former President return to power, according to documents obtained by POLITICO. Spearheading the effort is Russell Vought, who served as Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget during his first term and has remained close to him. Vought, who is frequently cited as a potential Chief of Staff in a second Trump White House, is president of The Center for Renewing America think tank, a leading group in a conservative consortium preparing for a second Trump term.


The number of abortions performed in Florida is steadily rising” via Stephanie Colombini of Health News Florida — The number of patients receiving abortions in Florida each year continues to rise. There were 84,052 abortions performed in Florida last year, according to an update to 2023 totals that the Agency for Health Care Administration published on Jan. 31. That’s up from 82,192 in 2022. The increase in abortion totals was once again driven by patients who don’t live in Florida but traveled to the state for the procedure. The state reports that 7,736 out-of-state residents got abortions in Florida last year, a 15% increase from the year before. There was an even larger spike in 2022, when out-of-state totals were up 38% from the previous year.

The number of abortions in Florida is ticking up.

AccuWeather sounding alarm bells: Super-charged hurricane season possible in 2024” via Brian Lada of AccuWeather — While the Atlantic hurricane season does not officially start until June 1, there are already “serious and growing concerns” about the impending season, AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Jonathan Porter said. There are two key factors that have AccuWeather forecasters sounding the early warning of a potentially super-charged season: The return of La Niña and historically warm water across the Atlantic Ocean. La Niña typically leads to more tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic due to reduced wind shear, or disruptive winds high in the atmosphere.

Meta introduces ways for businesses to avoid new Apple tax — Boosting posts on Instagram or Facebook has become an easy way for small businesses to find new customers, but an update from Apple will soon make it more costly. Later this month, an Apple App Store update will introduce a 30% service charge when Facebook and Instagram users boost a post on their iOS app. To get around this new service charge from Apple, Meta recommends that users go to or on their mobile or desktop devices when boosting their posts. By doing so, users will avoid the 30% Apple service charge.


Supreme Court won’t hear new case on race and school admissions” via Adam Liptak of The New York Times — The Supreme Court cleared the way for the use of admissions criteria intended to diversify the student body at an elite public high school in Virginia, declining to revisit the role race may play in admissions months after it sharply curtailed affirmative action programs in higher education. In turning down a challenge to a policy that eliminated standardized tests, the court gave no reasons, as is its custom in issuing such orders. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. issued a dissent, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, that was harshly critical of an appeals court’s ruling in the case upholding the new criteria and rejecting the challengers’ argument that they unlawfully disadvantaged Asian Americans. The Supreme Court struck down race-conscious admissions programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina in June but left open the constitutionality of admissions standards like the ones in Virginia that do not directly account for race in trying to diversify enrollment.

The Supreme Court is passing on a Virginia case about race and school admissions.

Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Miami airports awarded $84M in federal money for upgrades” via Mike Diamond of the Palm Beach Post — South Florida’s three major airports — Palm Beach (PBI), Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and Miami (MIA) — have been awarded a combined $84 million from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to improve their facilities. The funds come from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to improve and expand airports around the country. More than 100 airports will receive grants totaling nearly $1 billion. Ten Florida airports will receive $113 million with 75% Fort Lauderdale’s award of $50 million was the largest allocation made by the FAA. The funds will be used to help pay for enclosed post-security walkways between Terminals 1 and 2 and Terminals 2 and 3.


Human Rights Campaign endorses Debbie Mucarsel-Powell” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — One of the most prominent LGBTQ advocacy groups in the country wants the Miami Democrat in the Senate. The Human Rights Campaign endorsed Mucarsel-Powell, saying she was the best person to challenge incumbent GOP Sen. Rick Scott. “For years, Rick Scott has chosen his own greed and lust for power over the well-being of Floridians. It is high time the Sunshine State had the representation it deserves in the Senate,” said Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson.

The Human Rights Campaign is giving a thumbs-up to Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. Image via Mucarsel-Powell campaign.

Ryan Chamberlin endorses Greg Folley for HD 81 — State Rep. Chamberlin is backing fellow Republican Folley in the race for House District 81. “It is my pleasure to endorse Greg Folley for State Representative,” Chamberlin said in a news release. “He has earned a reputation for being a fierce defender of our Constitution and a strong voice for holding the line on taxes and regulation. In the Florida House, I have introduced a bill to start down the road toward capping, reducing and eliminating property taxes, and true conservatives and business leaders like Greg will continue to make Florida the most prosperous economy in the world.” Folley, a Marco Island City Council member, is running for the seat currently held by Rep. Bob Rommel, a Naples Republican who faces term limits. Folley faces fellow Republican Gladyvette Benarroch in the Primary. HD 81 is a reliably Republican seat.

Mike Caruso endorses Meg Weinberger for HD 94 Weinberger’s campaign to succeed term-limited Rep. Rick Roth in House District 94 picked up an endorsement from Republican Rep. Caruso. “Meg is a well-known philanthropist in Palm Beach County. Her involvement in education and animal rights shows that she has a servant’s heart. Her viewpoint will be an asset to the Florida House, and I look forward to working with her on legislation that will benefit all Floridians,” Caruso said. Weinberger is one of five Republicans running to succeed Roth in the reliably red district, which covers part of Palm Beach County.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Carlos Giménez endorses Rosie Cordero-Stutz for Miami-Dade Sheriff” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Cordero-Stutz’s bid to be Miami-Dade’s first elected Sheriff since the 1960s just netted a nod from the county’s immediate past Mayor. U.S. Rep. Giménez, who served as Miami-Dade Mayor from 2011 to 2020, said he is solidly behind Cordero-Stutz, a fellow Republican, for the county’s top cop post. “Rosie Cordero-Stutz has a track record of upholding the highest ethical standards and can lead with a vision for a safer Miami-Dade County on Day One,” he said. “Through her 27-plus-year career, Rosie has risen within the (Miami-Dade Police) Department’s ranks. And she has not only served as a law enforcement professional but has also grown alongside the community she has dedicated her life to protecting.”

Carlos Giménez is all-in for Rosie Cordero-Stutz.

3 candidates are running for Delray Beach Mayor. Here are some key takeaways.” via Abigail Hasebroock of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Delray Beach is set to get a new Mayor this year, and three people are vying for the position. This March 19 election possesses the potential for a dramatic change as two other Commission seats are also up for election. In total, nine people are running. The candidates running for Mayor are Ryan Boylston, the CEO of a marketing agency and current city Vice Mayor; Tom Carney, a practicing lawyer who served on the city’s Commission about 10 years ago; and Shirley Johnson, a former Commissioner, Community Redevelopment Agency Chair and former IBM employee. The newly elected Mayor will replace current Delray Beach City Mayor Shelley Petrolia, who has served since 2018.

Measles continues spread in Broward County, with sixth case. Here’s how to protect yourself from the highly contagious virus” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Health officials confirmed a sixth case of measles at Manatee Bay Elementary School in Weston, just hours after Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Peter Licata visited the school to ease fears. Licata assured faculty that the school had been deep-cleaned, air filters had been changed over the holiday weekend, and anyone who had been vaccinated had no need for concern. Buses that take students to and from Manatee Bay have also been cleaned, and the air filters have been changed. On Tuesday, more than 200 of the 1,067 Manatee Bay students were absent. It’s unclear whether all six children with measles were unvaccinated for the disease that was once thought to be eradicated in the United States.

‘Tell us what to do’: Broward unveils ways for its cities to tackle affordable housing” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Broward County Commissioners are close to adopting a 10-year Master Plan that they said could tackle the affordable housing crisis, which experts say is hurting the disenfranchised, who spend most of their income just to have a place to live. There are a quarter-of-a-million Broward County residents living in “financial distress,” housing experts warned. And it’s only “getting worse by the day,” said Edward “Ned” Murray, associate director with the Jorge M. Perez Metropolitan Center at Florida International University. Murray told county leaders that the community wants actual solutions, not more analysis and rhetoric. “‘Tell us what to do,’” he said city and community officials have asked. “We heard that more than once.”

— LOCAL: C. FL —

After years of racial tension, Sanford plans project to promote inclusivity, respect, acceptance” via Desiree Stennett of the Orlando Sentinel — In Sanford, more than a decade after Black teenager Trayvon Martin died and the man who killed him was acquitted as the world looked on, racial tensions simmer below the surface. A city-run Racial Equity Committee is now working on a project that officials hope will help to mend race relations between Black and white residents and visitors. Over the next year, members of the city of Sanford’s Race, Equality, Equity and Inclusion (REEI) Advisory Committee will be making plans for how the city can help to share its history and, through storytelling, promote acceptance and respect.

The murder of Trayvon Martin has kept racial tension in Sanford bubbling under the surface.

DeLand homeless to face new, more stringent rules on use of public property” via Eileen Zaffiro-Kean of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — Over the past several years, downtown DeLand has been experiencing what Daytona’s Beach Street corridor has for decades. A growing number of homeless people have been intimidating and harassing businesses’ employees and customers, sleeping in public areas, and urinating or defecating on sidewalks in front of stores. DeLand City Commissioners passed four measures they hope will alleviate those problems and connect homeless people with help that could dramatically improve their lives. The measures, all passed unanimously after lengthy discussion, will outlaw camping on public property, prohibit people from leaving their belongings on public property for more than 24 hours, and ban laying on public sidewalks, streets, alleys and benches.

DeLand City Commission enacts smoking, vaping ban for parks” via Sheldon Gardner of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — Smoking and vaping are now illegal in parks owned by the city of DeLand. DeLand City Commissioners voted swiftly and unanimously to enact the ban, which does not include unfiltered cigars because of a state law preemption. It also excludes Pioneer Park, which is in the heart of downtown. Officials have said their goal is to keep young people and others away from smoking. The idea for the law came from issues with people smoking at Little League games and other settings, officials said. “It’s something we’ve discussed for a long time,” Commissioner Charles Paiva said. The city’s parks include, among others, Earl Brown Park, Painter’s Pond and Candlelight Oaks.

Brevard County Commission declines to move on term limits for constitutional officers” via Tyler Vazquez of Florida Today — Term limits for constitutional officers in Brevard County will not come to a vote this year after the proposal failed at a meeting of the Board of County Commissioners. District 1 Commissioner Rita Pritchett proposed the idea to limit constitutional officers to three four-year terms. It would have included the Tax Collector, Property Appraiser, Supervisor of Elections, Clerk of Court and the Brevard Sheriff. Pritchett made a motion to have an attorney panel review the plan, the first step toward getting the item on November’s ballot for voter approval. But no other Commissioners seconded her motion, so the item died.

Volusia School Board approves rezoning more than 1,700 students next school year” via Mary Ellen Ritter of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — The Volusia County School Board Feb. 13 approved rezoning plans that will send more than 1,700 elementary and middle school students to new schools in August. The district’s mass rezoning will accommodate overcrowding as eight district schools currently exceed capacity. “In late 2022, the School Board directed district staff to evaluate the growth areas across Volusia County to address the over-utilization and under-utilization of schools,” said Danielle Johnson, Volusia’s director of community information, in a December email. “Staff assessed school enrollments, growth projections, demographics, permanent school capacities, specific academic programs and student travel times.”


Drew Street lane changes would not clog Clearwater roads, study says” via Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times —A plan to create a center turn lane by removing two travel lanes on part of Drew Street would reduce crashes and not worsen congestion, according to a new state study. The preliminary findings come after the Legislature required the Florida Department of Transportation last Summer to conduct additional analysis on the design following local pushback. Chamber of Commerce leaders, some residents, and a minority of the City Council have raised questions about how the changes, aimed at increasing safety, would impact traffic flow to and from downtown. Due to the delay, the fate of the project now depends on the March 19 Council election, as candidates in each of the three races are split on their support for it.

Pinellas Commissioners approve John’s Pass Village density increase” via Jack Evans of the Tampa Bay Times — Pinellas County Commissioners approved a designation that formally allows higher-density development in John’s Pass Village, one of the county’s biggest tourist draws. The plan calls for 27 acres at John’s Pass — styled as a quaint fishing village with souvenir shops, restaurants and charter boats — to become an activity center, an area where the county allows higher density and intensity than usual. The activity center designation still has to get a final vote of approval from the city of Madeira Beach, which has been working for years to rectify a discrepancy between its land-use rules and the county’s. The conflict, which began when the barrier island city changed its growth plan in 2008, has meant that many of the tightly packed multistory buildings that characterize the village couldn’t be rebuilt in the event of a disaster such as a fire or hurricane.

John’s Pass Village gets the go-ahead to increase population density.

Sirata Beach Resort owner demands Mayor recuse himself from vote on hotel expansion” via Breanne Williams of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — The owners of the Sirata Beach Resort on St. Pete Beach have asked Mayor Adrian Petrila to recuse himself from a vote on adding hotel rooms to the property. The City Commission on Wednesday will vote on a conditional use permit that will allow for the construction of two new hotels on Sirata property. An attorney for Kentucky-based Columbia Sussex, the resort’s owner, sent a letter to City Attorney Andrew Dickman, Petrila and the other four City Commissioners on Feb. 16 stating the Mayor’s “pervasive bias” against the application will “violate the applicant’s due process rights.”

Miami advertising startup plans to map the bay through USF partnership” via Stephen Pastis of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Miami-based advertising startup Ballyhoo Media has partnered with the University of South Florida to continue a nationwide pursuit of mapping the ocean floor. The pursuit is called the Seabed 2030 project, a collaboration between several oceanographic charting organizations. The partnership continues the philanthropic pursuits of helping these organizations map the ocean floor. Ballyhoo is one of the first substantial local participants in the ocean mapping program in Florida, said Mark Luther, the director of USF’s Center for Maritime and Port Studies. “There are people like me who have a boat, and we’re out on it on the weekends. We’re maybe out on the water 10 hours a month,” Luther said. “The Ballyhoo boats are out on the water 10 hours a day, so we’re collecting a wealth of data.”

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Charge dropped against man subjected to public strip-search by Jacksonville police” via Nichole Manna of The Tributary — The drug charge against a man who was strip-searched by Jacksonville police officers in the middle of the street was dropped. Ronnie Reed, 46, was strip-searched by Sheriff’s officers on a public road in front of onlookers in September 2022 during a drug bust operation. Despite officers not finding drugs or drug money on him, the State Attorney’s Office charged Reed with selling cocaine. Last year, The Tributary obtained 11 videos of Reed’s arrest through a source with knowledge of the case. The videos raised questions about the Sheriff’s Office’s handling of the case.

Ronnie Reed gets strip-searched (in public) by Jacksonville police.

Jacksonville College is first campus in Florida to feature autonomous shuttle” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — The first autonomous vehicle shuttle service for a college campus in Florida was unveiled at Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ). The Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) launched the shuttle service featuring the autonomous vehicle at the downtown campus of FSCJ. It’s the first autonomous shuttle carrying students and visitors for a Florida higher education school. The shuttle vehicle, which can hold about a dozen passengers, is operated by an autonomous solutions company named Beep, based in Florida. It’s coupled with software that runs the self-driving vehicle from Oxa, a company specializing in autonomous technology.


Naples has ‘taken a slanderous turn’: Politics in mayoral race gets ugly, some blame PACs” via Laura Layden of the Naples Daily News — Political messaging for the mayoral race in Naples is confusing and upsetting voters. It’s picked up steam in recent weeks as the city’s General Election, scheduled for March 19, gets closer, and it isn’t pretty. The three candidates for Mayor are blaming political action committees for the hostility and misinformation. “Our city has taken a slanderous turn,” said Mayor Teresa Heitmann, who’s running for re-election. She feels under attack by four PACs. She accuses her opponents of working with these groups to “hide behind the curtain of their anonymity and smear tactics.” “These PACs spread incendiary information often considered too negative for a traditional campaign,” she said.

Teresa Heitmann re-election campaign takes a turn for the nasty.

Sarasota School Board raises concerns about ‘classical’ for-profit charter school plan” via Steven Walker of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The Sarasota County School Board discussed an application for a “classical” for-profit charter school at its monthly workshop, with several Board members and the Superintendent expressing concerns about its viability. The Sarasota Classical Preparatory Academy, a school affiliated with the for-profit Charter Schools USA, would open in the 2025-26 school year if the application is approved at the March 5 School Board meeting. The charter projected an opening enrollment of 885 K-10 students with hopes to expand to 1,235 K-12 students by its fifth year, according to the school’s 600-page application. In its application submitted last December, the charter school describes its education plan in three steps: grammar, logic and rhetoric.

Cape Coral considering steep increase in impact fees for new homes to fund utility projects” via Luis Zambrano of the Fort Myers News-Press — Developers and new homeowners may soon face increased impact fees as Cape Coral City Council is set to decide on them as current growth is not paying for the costs of future utility projects. A new single-family home could pay as much as $8,748 for water, irrigation, and sewer in the next few years. The proposed increase could be near 30% in some areas. “We need to look at funding these improvements going forward, otherwise, we are not going to be able to continue the Utilities Expansion Program as we know it today,” said Cape Coral Financial Services Director Mark Mason.

New FEMA flood maps for Sarasota County will update insurance requirements, risk levels” via Christian Casale of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Federal officials have drawn new maps for Sarasota County, documenting areas vulnerable to flooding to inform homeowners of the dangers they face and also document possible insurance requirements for property owners with mortgages. The maps will take effect on March 27. The Federal Emergency Management Agency maps determine properties’ risks and insurance requirements in high-risk flooding areas. The flood maps are not related to the county’s hurricane evacuation levels. Noah Taylor, the county’s flood plain manager, was joined by several other Sarasota County officials at Fruitville Public Library for a recent workshop on the new maps.


Trump’s GOP is a confederacy of fakers” via Thomas Friedman of The New York Times — Trump’s GOP has become bottomless. It now manifests an infinite willingness to engage in any form of crow-eating, bootlicking, backtracking and backstabbing to stay in his good graces, no matter how crackpot, selfish or un-American his demand. Trump decides to just dump Ukraine? Bye-bye, Zelensky. Trump decides to toss aside months of bipartisan work to forge a grand bargain on immigration reform? Gone — no questions asked! They are all trapped in a performative doom loop that has nothing to do with acting on our real interests. It’s only about performing for Trump and for his base to get more clicks, get more donations, get more votes, get elected and then perform again for more clicks. Rinse and repeat — the actual world be damned. It is all fake. Only our enemies are not fake.


Feeding Florida — it’s the right thing to do” via Robin Safely for Florida Politics — At the heart of the Feeding Florida Network is a unique partnership with Florida’s farmers. It makes sense in our bountiful state to support our local agriculture and our state’s food independence. With support from the state, we work closely with our agricultural community to source a fresh and diverse supply of Florida products. Our growers don’t have to go that extra mile to harvest more product than they need for their retail/wholesale market, but they do — because it’s the right thing to do. And if we know anything about Florida agriculture, it’s that they are the backbone of our state, and they lead with their hearts and with unparalleled integrity. Working for Feeding Florida isn’t just a job; serving the mission of fighting hunger is a true commitment.


— ALOE —

Fewer visitors traveled to Florida in 2023” via the News Service of Florida — Visitors to Florida last year fell short of 2022’s record numbers, as a post-pandemic rebound in international travelers couldn’t overcome a noticeable drop-off in domestic tourism late in the year. The VISIT FLORIDA tourism marketing agency reported that Florida had an estimated 135.02 million tourists in 2023, down from 137.4 million in 2022. VISIT FLORIDA, however, pointed to increases from 2019, the last year before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted global travel, and improved international tourist numbers. The state drew about 131.1 million tourists in 2019. “Even as we faced the challenges of rising travel costs and widespread inflation, Florida’s tourism sector not only persevered but flourished (in 2023),” VISIT FLORIDA President and CEO Dana Young said.

Domestic tourism to Florida softens up in 2023.

Emerging tech can propel government into a new era” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Deloitte’s 2024 Government Tech Trends report provides valuable insights that Florida officials at the state and local levels could leverage to enhance government processes and capabilities. “Six emerging technology trends demonstrate that in an age of generative machines, it’s more important than ever for organizations to maintain an integrated business strategy, a solid technology foundation, and a creative workforce,” according to the report. All these trends collectively herald a tech renaissance in government operations. For Florida, embracing these trends translates into unlocking unprecedented efficiencies, fostering innovation, and ensuring resilience in the face of complex challenges.


Celebrating today are Sen. Jay Trumbull, Brittany Corfman Parks, and former Rep. Katie Edwards-Walpole.


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

  • Dont Say FLA

    February 21, 2024 at 7:44 am

    International vacationers will soon reject Florida same as domestic. It just takes a minute to make international news, but news of Rhonda will get there sooner or later and nobody will come anymore except maybe Russians

Comments are closed.


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.

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