Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 2.22.24

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Good morning. ‘Sunburn’ has been waiting for you.

Good Thursday morning.

Breaking overnight — “Ron DeSantis tells delegates he’s not ruling out 2028 run” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — “Oh, I haven’t ruled anything out. I mean, I think that, you know, we’re still in this election cycle so it’s presumptuous to say, you know, this or that. I think a lot happens in politics,” DeSantis said. “I heard from a lot of people on the ground in these early states that, you know, they thought I was so wonderful, such a great President, but they wanted to give Donald Trump one more shot and they would just support me in ’28.” The Governor said the Primary battle ended up being an “incumbent race.” “Without Trump, I think we would have run away with it,” DeSantis said, saying the polls showed “Trump and me and then everybody else is distant behind in terms of that.”


Florida voters say they trust their local election officials and that they want more early voting options.

The Tyson Group asked 1,000 likely General Election voters whether they trusted local poll workers and their elected county Supervisor of Elections and three-quarters said yes. The pollster found similar levels of support for allowing early voting in all elections (76%), including local and municipal contests, and providing at least 10 days of early voting (72%).

And nearly nine in 10 voters (88%) said they support having multiple options for Florida voters to cast a ballot — broken down by method, 87% said they support early, in-person voting and 76% said they had confidence in mail ballots.

New polling shows Floridians like early voting and want even more options.

“Florida voters trust in their local election officials and support early voting and vote-by-mail among many options to ensure voter access,” said Daniel Griffith, senior director of policy for Secure Democracy Foundation. “Despite growing polarization across America on some issues, when it comes to elections, Florida voters across the spectrum voice strong support for policies and processes that improve access and strengthen trust.”

The Tyson Group also measured voter opinion on voting rights restoration and found 60% support allowing felons to regain voting rights when they are no longer incarcerated. In 2018, 64.5% of voters voted yes on a successful ballot amendment allowing felons to regain voting rights after completing their sentences.

After the amendment passed, lawmakers devised an implementing bill that gatekept suffrage behind the payment of court fines, fees and restitution. However, there is no authoritative database allowing felons to check whether they qualify for voting rights restoration, which has led some ineligible voters to cast ballots and, in consequence, pick up voter fraud charges.

More than two-thirds of voters (68%) say the state should address the issue by creating an easily accessible online database where felons can find accurate, up-to-date information about their eligibility to vote.

The Tyson Group poll was commissioned by the Secure Democracy Foundation and was conducted Nov. 27-29, 2023. The survey has a +/- 2.95% margin of error.


@GovRonDeSantis: All files related to Jeffrey Epstein’s criminal activity should be made public. While the federal government continues to stonewall accountability, I’m glad the Legislature has taken action to release the grand jury material from the Florida state case. I will sign the bill into law.

@LMower3: As part of DeSantis’ statewide grand jury on the pandemic, an @fdlepio agent reached out to a @TB_Times reporter. It indicates the grand jury will start focusing on how journalists covered the pandemic.

@RAlexAndradeFL: I wish @StephenM had read the bill before commenting on it. It doesn’t lower any standards for defamation.

@FasanoMike: Madam President @Kathleen4SWFL please don’t let language pass the Florida Senate allowing insurance industry to have access to personal information on every Florida driver. The insurance companies will only increase the cost of auto-renewals and title transfers.

@AGGancarski: So much for the Catholic vote? @AngieNixon just mentioned children being ‘groomed’ in Catholic Churches in House discussion of the chaplains in schools bill.

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Season 6 of ‘Drive To Survive’ premieres on Netflix — 1; South Carolina Republican Primary — 2; Michigan Democratic Primary — 5; James Madison Institute’s ‘Red, White and Bluegrass’ dinner — 6; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 8; Michigan/Idaho/Missouri GOP Primaries — 10; Netflix to stream “The Netflix Slam,” Rafael Nadal/Carlos Alcaraz faceoff — 10; Super Tuesday — 12; State of the Union address — 14; last day of Regular Session, if Legislature completes work in 60 days — 15; 2024 Oscars — 17; Georgia Democratic Primary — 20; Arizona/Florida/Illinois/Kansas/Ohio Primaries — 27; James Madison Institute’s ‘2024 Naples Dinner’ with keynote speaker Laura Ingraham — 28; ‘3 Body Problem’ premieres on Netflix — 28; Trump’s New York hush money trial begins — 32; The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the mifepristone/abortion pill case — 33; Major League Baseball’s (MLB) 2024 season — 35; March Madness Final Four (women’s) begins — 42; March Madness Final Four (men’s) — 45; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 49; The Masters begin — 50; Kentucky Derby — 73; 2024 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 78; ‘Bridgerton’ new season (part one) premieres on Netflix — 85; French Open begins — 88; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 90; Dave Matthews Band 2024 Summer Tour begins in Tampa — 90; Monaco Grand Prix — 94; the 2026 World Cup begins — 110; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 128; Republican National Convention begins — 144; the 2026 World Cup ends — 148; 2024 MLS All-Star Game — 153; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games on NBC/Peacock — 155; Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 173; Democratic National Convention begins — 179; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 184; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 239; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 242; 2024 Presidential Election — 257; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 270; MLS Cup 2024 — 285; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 358; ‘Moana’ premieres — 488; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 519; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 519; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 624; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 666; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 803; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 819; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 1,030; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,170; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,129; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,851.


Florida defamation bill heads to House floor despite conservative opposition” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved the measure (HB 757), its last stop before the floor. A similar measure is also moving in the Senate.

Stephen Miller, an ultraconservative former Trump White House adviser, wrote Wednesday on social media that the bill would “mean conservative influencers, podcasters and alternative media companies based in Florida are going to get WRECKED solely because they are conservative. And I mean WRECKED. Reject this law before it’s too late.”

Steven Miller raises the alarm over Florida’s proposed defamation bill.

Miller was the latest conservative voice to oppose the bill, sponsored by state Rep. Alex Andrade of Pensacola.

“Stephen Miller’s comments today, I think he’s exactly right,” said Bobby Block, executive director of Florida’s First Amendment Foundation, which also opposes the measure. “He’s giving voice to what a lot of conservatives are afraid of. But how that might impact the fate of the legislation is just unclear.”

The Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee voted 14-7 along almost straight party lines to support the bill. The Senate version of the bill, SB 1780, needs approval from the Fiscal Policy Committee before it can go to the full Senate.

Among other things, the bill could make it easier for public figures to sue journalists who rely on anonymous sources for information that turns out to be false. The bill would create what is known as a “rebuttable presumption” of actual malice that journalists would have to overcome to avoid being found liable in cases involving anonymous sources.

Greg Gonzalez, legislative counsel for the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, told the House Committee that the bill poses “grave dangers” to First Amendment rights and would harm freedom of the press.


2 more calls for constitutional conventions head to Senate floor” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Two more calls for a constitutional convention are moving to the Senate floor. With no debate, the Senate Rules Committee advanced two pieces of legislation that could prompt the second constitutional convention in U.S. history. The first (SB 7064) seeks a constitutional convention giving the President a line-item veto power over budgets passed by Congress. The second (SB 7066) wants one barring Congress from passing laws on citizens that don’t apply to federal lawmakers. Sen. Travis Hutson made the case for both policies. He noted that Congress in 1996 passed legislation that briefly gave then-President Bill Clinton the power to veto specific expenditures in federal budget bills. But the U.S. Supreme Court two years later said that reached beyond the powers granted to the executive branch in the U.S. Constitution.

House sparks ‘personhood’ debate as it advances liability for unborn child death” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Republicans say a new measure will ensure parents are compensated in the event their unborn child is killed due to negligence. But Democrats say it is sparking a fresh debate on abortion. The House Judiciary Committee advanced a bill (HB 651), a change to Florida’s Wrongful Death Act. The Florida Supreme Court has previously said that the statute doesn’t apply to unborn children, but the legislation seeks to change that. Some critics say the bill, intentionally or not, could open women who abort pregnancies to lawsuits from partners and could even expose doctors providing in vitro fertilization services to liability if pregnancies prove unviable. But Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka said the legislation merely takes definitions already in Florida law. The intent is to make clear if a negligent act results in the death of an unborn child, parents have a civil remedy.

Jenna Persons-Mulicka seeks to clarify the definition of ‘personhood’ in Florida statutes.

—“In wrongful death suits, Florida Republicans want fetuses to be covered as soon as they’re in the womb” via Jackie Llanos of Florida Phoenix

Change to union dues law for public sector unions ready for Senate vote” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — A bill changing a law passed last year to bar some public sector unions from automatically deducting dues from workers’ paychecks is set for a Senate vote, after lawmakers discussed the bill on the floor. The measure (SB 1746) from Sen. Blaise Ingoglia seeks to exclude more unions from the law, which prevents automatic deductions and requires 60% of workers to be members to remain certified as a union and requires more reporting of information related to the union Ingoglia had to fend off two amendments from a fellow Republican, Sen. Joe Gruters. Gruters sought to eliminate the requirement to use a membership form issued by the Public Employees Relations Commission, rather than forms they already use for membership drives.

House advances defamation bill as gun shop owner argues it will ease politically motivated lawsuits” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A third and final House Committee has advanced a contentious defamation bill. But one critic testified the legislation will help its sponsor bring forward lawsuits against anyone criticizing his political allies. At a House Judiciary Committee meeting, Milton gun shop owner Chris Smith discussed a lawsuit filed against his business. Santa Rosa County Commissioner Sam Parker filed suit against Smith’s business in September over the use of his likeness in a “taxation is theft” promotion. The lawsuit was filed by attorneys at the same law firm where Rep. Alex Andrade, the bill’s sponsor, works. “The fact that I’m getting sued right now, and this makes it a little easier for his law firm to sue me and win, also kind of hits home that he’s filing the bill,” Smith said. Smith classified his store’s promotion as “parody videos” that called out a local politician’s alleged corruption. The store covered a local sales tax for customers.

Parental permission still not allowed in Senate version of social media ban” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Senate continues to adjust a controversial ban on social media for Floridians under age 16. But legislation (HB 1) ready for a vote in the Senate still doesn’t allow parents the final say on whether kids can log in to platforms. That means the bill could run headlong into the veto pen, as DeSantis questions whether such a restriction can pass muster in court. Regardless, legislative leaders held strongly that Florida law should not allow children to face mental health threats just because they scored a permission slip from their parents. Sen. Erin Grall said the state needs to treat access to addictive platforms the same as other social ills. “A parent should never be able to consent to a child’s drug use,” Grall said. “This is a different version of drug use than most of us have ever seen. But it is just as bad.”

Transparency rules for foreign social media platforms now 1 vote from Senate floor” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A bill designed to rein in misinformation and propaganda on foreign-owned social media platforms is now one step from a Senate floor vote after clearing its penultimate Committee stop. The measure (SB 1448), titled the “Transparency in Social Media Act,” advanced through the Senate Appropriations Committee on Criminal and Civil Justice by a unanimous vote. It would require TikTok, WeChat and other applications created and maintained in hostile countries to reveal how they are influencing Americans and whom they’re targeting. “Senate Bill 1448 creates transparency and an equal playing field with requirements for foreign adversary-owned entities,” said Sen. Joe Gruters, the bill’s sponsor. “This bill will address the misinformation and blatant propaganda from foreign adversaries to influence users of all ages while protecting their privacy.”

House bill co-sponsor denies kindergartners will learn about Communism history” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — A bill that would require public schoolchildren to learn about the history of communism has cleared its final House Committee, sending it next to the House floor. The House Education and Employment Committee voted 19-1 in favor of the bill (HB 1349). But at least one lawmaker during that hearing wondered just how young students would be when they first begin hearing about the ideology. “What would you think would be appropriate to teach a kindergartner about communism?” Rep. Susan Valdés asked the bill’s co-sponsor, Rep. Chuck Brannan. “There’s nowhere in the bill that says this is going to be taught to kindergartners,” said Brannan. The bill doesn’t say what grades where communism history should be taught, although the staff analysis of the bill says: “The bill requires, beginning in the 2026-2027 school year, that the History of Communism be included in required instruction to public school students in grades K-12.”

Chuck Brannan and Susan Valdés deny that kindergartners will be taught about communism.

Legislature passes bill to release Jeffrey Epstein grand jury evidence” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Florida lawmakers have approved legislation to finally provide answers for how Epstein secured a “sweetheart deal” that allowed him to continue operating an underage sex-trafficking ring for more than a decade after his first arrest. The narrowly tailored measure (HB 117) will ease the unsealing of records from 2006 when former Palm Beach State Attorney Barry Krischer referred Epstein’s case to a grand jury rather than pursuing charges himself. Krischer’s questionable decision ensured that testimony in the case would be kept from the public. And it has been ever since, despite repeated attempts to unseal the case’s records and bring closure to victims, their families and the community — or justice to those who let Epstein get off easy. “The public and the victims deserve to know if prosecutors steered the jury away from indicting Epstein on more severe charges. There is also a compelling public need to know if the system worked or failed,” said Sen. Tina Polsky, the bill’s Senate sponsor.

Senate passes ‘Cassie Carli Law’ spurred by woman’s death” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Senators have approved new legislation aiming to protect parents during custody exchanges. But the sponsor of a 2023 law guarding against domestic violence voted against the bill. The newly passed legislation is named after Cassie Carli, a Florida woman who died after she agreed to a last-minute custody exchange for her 4-year-old daughter in a restaurant parking lot with her ex-boyfriend. Carli’s body was found buried in a shallow grave the next state over, and her ex has been indicted on kidnapping and abuse of a corpse charge. With a 37-1 vote, Senate lawmakers approved a Committee substitute for SB 580 that mandates every county provide a location for parents to safely exchange custody of their children.


Measures repealing parts of Parkland 2018-gun safety law head to the House” via Mitch Perry of Florida Phoenix — Florida House Republicans have moved closer to repealing two major provisions of gun laws passed in the wake of the 2018 school shooting at Parkland. The House Judiciary Committee passed a proposal (HB 1223) on Wednesday to lower the age to purchase a long gun from 21 to 18, but the measure does not have a Senate version. Supporters of changing the law say that Florida is an outlier when it comes to banning anyone under the age of 21 from purchasing a shotgun or rifle and in fact, there are currently only eight states that do that. “If you can enlist at 18, if you can become a law enforcement officer at 19, if you can vote at 18, if you can start businesses and own property, and do every other right as an adult, why is it that your rights are restricted under the age of 21 under an unalienable God-given right that the Supreme Court has ruled multiple times belongs to we the people?” asked Luis Valdes, the Florida state president of Gun Owners of America.

Luis Valdes argues that people under 21 should not lose their ‘God-given’ right to bear arms.

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.

—“St. Pete state funding requests face challenger” via Mark Parker of the St. Pete Catalyst

More budget autonomy for Sheriffs ready for House floor” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The House State Affairs Committee is advancing legislation backed by the Florida Sheriffs’ Association that would give elected lawmen more budget autonomy. HB 1447 would allow a Sheriff, including one of a consolidated city/county government, to move funds “between the fund and functional categories” without the approval of the County Commission or Budget Commission after their budget is approved by the legislative body. This independence extends to procurement and personnel issues. The bill, sponsored by GOP Rep. Wyman Duggan of Jacksonville, is headed to the House calendar now that it has cleared all three Committee stops. It had been temporarily postponed in last Wednesday’s meeting of the State Affairs Committee due to an amendment that changed the title.

TDT is a ‘pot of gold’ as lawmakers consider changes to tax” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — The tourist development tax (TDT) continues to be a hot issue in the Legislature as lawmakers are eyeing the $1.8 billion bucket of taxes on hotel rooms and short-term stays in Florida. A House tax bill is advancing that would require counties to renew the tax every six years despite many lawmakers’ concerns about the fiscal impact, while Senate leaders said they prefer the status quo without having to regularly go before voters. As part of the House Ways and Means Committee’s tax bill, counties would be required to ask voters to renew the TDT every six years. Counties levying debt on the TDT proceeds would be allowed to pay off the existing debt first before going before voters.

Preemption of local government hiring preferences on public works projects advances in Senate” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Legislation to eliminate city and county ordinances imposing local hiring preferences for public works projects is headed to the Senate floor after passing through the Senate Rules Committee. The bill (SB 742) expands the existing preemption in state law to include projects that use local and state funds, such as the construction of new buildings, roads, sewer and water systems or utility substations. But it kicked off a pointed debate from critics contending it will suppress wages for contractors and limit opportunities for contract workers in rural areas. “Small counties do not have a lot of large contractors,” Gadsden County Commissioner Brenda Holt told the panel. “So, when contractors come in, if they’re not required to meet some parameters within the county, all that money leaves with them and then we cannot build up our vocational program and our students do not have an opportunity to work in those areas.”

House amends estoppel certificate measure in a compromise with HOAs” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The House Judiciary Committee, with a unanimous vote, amended legislation that would prohibit homeowner or community associations from charging homeowners and buyers for estoppel certificates to alleviate concerns among industry leaders. The measure would block homeowner associations (HOAs) from charging a fee to prepare an estoppel certificate, which is a document used to outline any outstanding fees owed to the HOA during the home sale process. It protects buyers who would be on the hook for any dues owed. Critics, including the Chief Executive Officers of Management Companies (CEOMC) group that represents more than 18,000 community association managers, argue eliminating the fees for preparing the certificates would pass costs along to all neighbors, regardless of whether they are selling their homes. The extra fees could add as much as $100 million to HOA fees throughout Florida, the group said.

School chaplain bill survives Democratic amendments in House” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Legislation that could put religious figures in your child’s classroom is one step closer to becoming law after a floor Session in the House, surviving attempts to change the bill from a group of Democrats. HB 931 would “authorize volunteer school chaplains to provide support, services, and programs to students as assigned by the district School Board or charter school Governing Board” with parental consent for the counseling. School Boards would have until the end of the year to decide what their policy might be on this issue. The bill’s bipartisan sponsorship from Rep. Stan McClain and Rep. Kim Daniels did not mean it had unanimous backing as written, however.

Stan McClain and Kim Daniels are working to have religious figures in your child’s classroom.

Against the claw: Legislature OKs looser bear-killing rules” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — The bill (HB 87) will enable Sunshine State residents to use lethal force to “take a bear” if the animal roams onto their property and they believe it poses a threat to them, another person, their pets or their home. Florida’s Common Law Defense of Necessity already allows bear killings in inescapable and lethal situations. But many residents are confused about their right to self-defense due to conflicting guidance elsewhere, said Tallahassee GOP Sen. Corey Simon, the measure’s Senate sponsor. Under HB 87, which will go into effect July 1 unless DeSantis vetoes it, people who kill a bear on their property must notify the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) within 24 hours of the incident. They’re also prohibited from selling or disposing of any part of the animal — that would be up to the state — and the bill’s allowances are void if a person lures or provokes a bear into a confrontation.


Stephen Miller, longtime Donald Trump adviser, comes out hard against Florida defamation bill” via Douglas Soule of the USA Today Network-Florida — And he wound up not being alone. “If Florida passes the proposed law to lower the standard for defamation expect leftist’ plaintiffs lawyers to spend the next generation bankrupting every prominent conservative based in Florida,” Miller wrote in a post on X. “If you want to go after corporate media then pass a law narrowly tailored at them,” he continued. “This law will mean conservative influencers, podcasters and alternative media companies based in Florida are going to get WRECKED solely because they are conservative.” Miller’s post was soon followed by others from prominent conservative accounts.

—“Newsmax trashes Florida GOP bills targeting the ‘liberal media’” via Corbin Bolies of The Daily Beast

ACLU slams anti-abortion bill advancing in House — The ACLU of Florida is criticizing legislation (HB 651) advanced by the House Judiciary Committee that would change Florida’s Wrongful Death Act to apply to unborn children. ACLU warned it would allow civil lawsuits for damages against health care practitioners who provide abortions and could impact the friends and family members who supported a pregnant woman’s efforts to obtain an abortion. “Let’s be clear: this bill is not about helping grieving families for pregnancy loss. This deceptive bill is about making it even harder for Floridians to access the abortion care they need,” said ACLU of Florida legislative director and senior policy counsel Kara Gross. “ … This could have grave impacts on the overall health and safety of those patients needing care.”

Kara Gross slams the anti-abortion push in the Legislature.

Family Law Section commends ‘Hope Card Program’ bill — The Family Law Section of The Florida Bar praised members of the House Judiciary Committee for passing legislation (HB 45) creating the Hope Cards Program for domestic violence survivors. “The Hope Card Program is a common-sense alternative that allows a victim of domestic violence to carry a wallet-sized card rather than their entire final judgment of injunction for protection,” said Sarah Kay, Chair of The Family Law Section of The Florida Bar. “This not only lifts an onus on the victim but also is a simple tool for law enforcement to quickly know that someone has a final judgment of injunction for protection.” HB 45 now heads to the House floor.

Man physically removed from House Committee meeting in tense exchange” via Eric Daugherty of Florida’s Voice — An activist had to be physically removed from a Florida House Committee meeting on Wednesday because he continued speaking when his time for public comment was up. The Florida House Judiciary Committee was considering HB 1223, which would reduce the minimum age required to purchase firearms to 18. The bill was filed by Reps. Bobby Payne and Tyler Sirois. It passed the Committee 15-6. The man was Maxx Fenning, founder and executive director of an LGBTQ nonprofit organization located in South Florida called PRISM FL. Fenning warned that lowering the age to purchase firearms can result in a repeat of the 2018 Parkland shooting, where the shooter was 19. Florida raised the age to 21 after the tragedy.


Will banning cultivated meat leave a bad taste in biotech investors’ mouths?” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Biotech investors from across America sent a letter to DeSantis and legislative leaders opposing legislation advancing through the House (HB 1071) and Senate (SB 1084) that would ban cultivated meat.

“Passage of this legislation will have economic ramifications for Florida,” the letter states.

A ban on cultured meat is leaving investors with a bad taste in their mouths.

“Biotechnology and biomanufacturing are among the fastest-growing industries in the United States, with biomanufacturing leveraging biological systems to produce goods at a commercial scale, offering innovative solutions across various sectors including plastics, fuels, foods and pharmaceuticals. In the short life of this emerging industry, investors have already put almost $3 billion in capital to work on this product, supporting thousands of jobs in this promising industry.”

The message was signed by many investors in sustainable food science, including Nate Crosser of Blue Horizon, Sean O’Sullivan of SOSV and Mark Langley from Univos Asset Management.

The venture funds have all sought ways to address anticipated food shortages and methods to produce food more efficiently. While interests like the Florida Cattlemen’s Association have lobbied for a complete ban on cellular agriculture, investors have maintained the growing field doesn’t pose a threat to traditional agriculture and that all resources will be needed to feed consumers in the immediate future.

“Globally, the demand for protein is rapidly outpacing conventional supply capabilities, exacerbated by limited land and water resources,” the letter from investors reads.

“Florida has the potential to compete for lucrative export markets in this context, but a ban on cultivated meat technology would diminish that opportunity. Furthermore, such a ban could deter export-focused firms from considering Florida, creating broader uncertainty about future restrictions.”


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

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

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

9 a.m. The Senate will hold a floor Session. Senate Chambers.

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

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

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

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

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


Lobbying compensation: GrayRobinson tops $12M in 2023” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — GrayRobinson’s lobbying operation reported earning more than $12 million last year, a record for the firm. Lobbying compensation reports for the fourth quarter show the state’s largest lobbying-legal firm topped $3 million in revenues for the fourth consecutive quarter. The sum of all quarters puts the firm at $12.35 million for the year. The total includes $6.6 million in legislative lobbying income and $5.75 million in executive branch revenue. The total represents a sizable bump from the $10.75 million the firm logged in 2022. Florida Politics estimates lobbying pay based on the middle number of the per-client ranges firms list on their compensation reports.


Why DeSantis thinks Trump’s strategy for picking a running mate is a ‘mistake’” via David Catanese of the Miami Herald — “I’ve heard they are leaning more on identity politics,” DeSantis said of Trump’s vetting process. “I think that’s a mistake.” DeSantis appeared on a Zoom call Wednesday afternoon with more than 200 people who pledged to be delegates for him at the Republican National Convention this Summer if he became the nominee. DeSantis ended his White House campaign on Jan. 21, six days after losing the Iowa caucuses by 30 points. When asked by one of his supporters about the No. 2 slot, DeSantis deadpanned, “I am not doing that,” but said he was aware of people actively seeking it.

Nikki Haley PAC highlights Trump donations to Dems — SFA Fund, a super PAC backing Haley’s campaign, released a new ad highlighting Trump’s donations to Democrats such as Kamala Harris. The ad contrasts the donations with Haley’s “hard work fighting the Obama administration on illegal immigration.” The ad is running across South Carolina. In a news release, SFA Fund representative Preya Samsundar said, “Donald Trump continues to lie about Nikki Haley’s record on immigration and border security to try and sidestep his own shortcomings as President. … South Carolinians know that, unlike Donald Trump, Nikki Haley will keep her promises as President, just as she did as Governor of the Palmetto State.”

To watch the ad, please click the image below:

Trump’s RNC takeover is on the brink of becoming a ‘purge’” via Jake Lahut and Reese Gorman of the Daily Beast — First came the internal grumbling about Ronna McDaniel, the Chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC). Then came McDaniel’s decision to step down from her post at the end of February as she lost the support of Trump. After that came Trump’s move to put forward a slate of loyalists to take over the party’s top spots — including an election-denying state party Chair, a Trump campaign senior adviser, and the former President’s own daughter-in-law. Next could come the purge. “I think within 30 days you’ll see a purge of staffers from the RNC because it’s a hotbed for anti-Trumpism,” Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist and host of the War Room podcast, told the Daily Beast. “That’s the open secret.”

— MORE 2024 —

Joe Biden’s World War Z” via Peter Hamby of Puck — The two likely choices on the presidential ballot are less than ideal. Biden is old, uninspiring and historically unpopular. Trump is venal, felonious, and may bring about the end of American democracy. The economy is either good or bad, depending on the last thing you read or purchased. As for Congress, well, they’re useless. Echelon surveyed 1,015 likely voters, matched to the L2 voter file, from Feb. 12-14. On the whole, the vast majority of likely voters — 76% — said whether Biden or Trump wins “would make a difference to me personally.” Only 13% said the election would not make a difference to them either way. But that number was more pronounced among Black voters (18%) and voters between the ages of 18 and 29 (23%). Young voters and Black voters were also more likely than other groups to say they were “not very” or “not at all motivated” to vote in November, the Echelon poll found.

Can Joe Biden spark interest in the 2024 election?

Conservative group launches a quiet effort to drive Black voters away from Biden” via Ben Kamisar of NBC News — Biden could be facing a turnout problem in 2024. And an experimental stealth campaign during South Carolina’s Democratic Primary highlights one way players in the Republican Party will be trying to exploit Biden’s weaknesses. A conservative group funded by anonymous donors sent mailers to approximately 75,000 Democratic Primary voters in South Carolina, a heavily Black electorate, ahead of the Feb. 3 Primary there, criticizing Biden over his administration’s push to ban menthol cigarettes. Black smokers are more likely to use menthol cigarettes, according to research cited by the Food and Drug Administration, and the potential ban has divided civil rights groups.

—“Pro-Haley super PAC targets South Carolina Democrats who didn’t vote in Biden’s Primary” via Allan Smith and Matt Dixon of NBC News


Jimmy Patronis touts My Safe Florida Home program in Palm Beach County — Chief Financial Officer Patronis held a news conference in Lake Worth to highlight the success of the My Safe Florida Home program and efforts to direct more funding to the initiative during the 2024 Legislative Session. The program helps homeowners pay for storm mitigation improvements such as doors and windows, which will, in turn, help reduce their property insurance premiums. “The My Safe Florida Home Program has been a huge success in helping Florida insurance consumers reduce their premiums and protect their homes from future storms. As I’ve said before, Mother Nature loves paradise and it’s not if, but when Florida experiences another major storm. I’m proud to work with the Florida Legislature this Session to fight for an additional $200 million in funding so that Floridians can continue to strengthen their homes by installing impact-resistant items like windows and doors,” Patronis said.

Jimmy Patronis heads to Lake Worth to tout the My Safe Florida Home program.

Lauren Book slams Alabama IVF ruling — Senate Democratic Leader Book issued a statement after Alabama’s largest hospital announced it would pause IVF treatments in response to an Alabama Supreme Court ruling that the state’s wrongful death act applies to all unborn children, including embryos, “regardless of their location.” Book said, “IVF is now at risk due to fetal personhood legislation being passed in conservative states. As we are seeing in Alabama — where the University of Alabama at Birmingham health system has paused all IVF medicine following their state Supreme Court’s decision that embryos are people with rights — the impact is real and the danger is imminent. If the Florida Legislature does not stop its fetal personhood legislation, we could face similar challenges far beyond the bill’s original scope.”

Ripley’s Believe It or Not gives out free books to Florida residents after school ban” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Ripley’s Believe It or Not books is giving free books to Florida residents after Escambia County schools banned some of its books. “Recently, officials in Florida’s Escambia County Public Schools district have plunged into a literary adventure of their own: removing and flagging over 1,600 books for review and potential banning. In a weird plot twist, this includes eight encyclopedias, five dictionaries, and hundreds of reference books — including three of our very own Ripley’s Believe It or Not! titles,” the attractions company said in a news release this week. “However, the pen is mightier than the sword!” Through May 15, Ripley’s will send free books to Florida residents.

Death of beloved young manatee highlights ongoing threats, risks” via Fresh Take Florida — While she was being rehabilitated at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens for nearly two years, Asha won everyone’s heart. She was endearingly friendly with other Florida manatees. She had a noticeably spunky personality. One veterinarian at the zoo joked that she didn’t want to let Asha go back into the wild, that she just wanted to keep her around. Then, last month, tragedy: The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission found the manatee’s body in the St. Johns River on Jan. 12 after she died of cold stress. She could have been rescued if it weren’t for the fact that someone, for unknown reasons, had removed her GPS tracking device.

Florida ranked second in the country for best small business state” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — Florida is now the second-best home for entrepreneurs in America, according to a new study published this week by SimplifyLLC, a website and service dedicated to providing small businesses tools and techniques for running a company. More small businesses were launched in the United States and the District of Columbia in 2023 than ever before. There were 5.5 million new small businesses created last year. That figure applied to people between 18 and 64 years old who either became an entrepreneur or became an owner of a new business in 2023.


Biden says too many Americans are saddled with school debt as he cancels federal loans for 153,000” via Aamer Madhani and Collin Binkley of The Associated Press — Biden said that while a college degree was still a ticket to a better life, that ticket is often too expensive, as he announced he was canceling federal student loans for nearly 153,000 borrowers. Biden, who is in the midst of a three-day campaign swing through California, made the announcement as part of a new repayment plan that offers a faster path to forgiveness, putting the spotlight on his debt cancellation efforts in his re-election campaign. “Too many Americans are still saddled with unsustainable debt in exchange for a college degree,” he said from a local library before he went on to campaign-related events. Loan relief helps the greater economy, he reasoned, because “when people have student debt relief, they buy homes. They start businesses, they contribute. They engage.”

Biden is ready for another round of student loan forgiveness.


Debbie Mucarsel-Powell announces Seniors coalition” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Miami Democrat announced the Seniors For Debbie coalition. The initiative comes a year after U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, as Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, debuted his 11-point Rescue America plan. The Midterm agenda immediately drew criticism for proposing a sunset and review of any federal program, which many viewed as an attack on Social Security and Medicare. “Florida seniors deserve better than a Senator who wrote a plan to sunset the benefits they’ve worked their entire lives for,” Mucarsel-Powell said. The formation of a senior coalition within the campaign comes a month after Mucarsel-Powell won the endorsement of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare.

‘End the chaos’: Ashley Gantt, Annette Taddeo back Lucia Báez-Geller for Congress” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Add two more Democratic women to the list of South Florida politicians who want to see Miami-Dade County School Board member Báez-Geller take Florida’s 27th Congressional District. State Rep. Gantt and former state Sen. Taddeo are backing Báez-Geller’s bid to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. María Elvia Salazar in November. Taddeo, who challenged Salazar in 2022 and is now running for Miami-Dade Clerk, called Báez-Geller “a tireless fighter” for the community whom she is honored to endorse. “Her many years of dedication to our students, and her passion fighting for the future of our community in the School Board, makes her uniquely qualified to fight for us in Washington,” Taddeo said. “I’m excited to back Lucia Báez-Geller to end the chaos in D.C. and bring real leadership to South Florida.”

Lucia Báez-Geller earns some high-profile endorsements.

Mike Davey to challenge Maria Elvira Salazar in CD 27 — Former Key Biscayne Mayor Davey is launching a campaign for Florida’s 27th Congressional District against vulnerable incumbent Salazar. “This country is facing serious problems, and we need serious people in Washington to resolve them, not people who are there simply to sow chaos and dysfunction. Maria Elvira Salazar is at the center of the problem,” Davey said. “I’m running for Congress to put people ahead of politics and ensure everyone, including my 14-year-old daughter, has the opportunity to get ahead without fear of their rights and freedoms being taken away.” Davey delivered results on City Council and as Mayor, improving quality of life while keeping taxes and costs down for families, taking action to strengthen educational opportunities, and combating climate change in the majority Latino community.

Judith Vowels brings Democratic hopes to HD 23 race” via Mike Wright of Florida Politics — An Inverness woman who retired from a 30-year career with the Department of Corrections is taking a run at House District 23. Vowels, 65, becomes the third candidate in the open House seat being vacated by Rep. Ralph Massullo, who is serving his eighth and final year. She’s the lone Democrat. Citrus County, which accounts for all of HD 23 except for a northern section of Hernando County, has nearly three times as many registered Republicans as Democrats. Vowels said her career spanning 30 years with the Department of Corrections, culminating as a correctional probation supervisor in Inverness, equipped her with insights into the justice system and community safety.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Firefighters union, Teamsters back Daniella Levine Cava for re-election as Miami-Dade Mayor” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Levine Cava’s re-election effort now has support from county chapters of the International Association of Fire Fighters and Teamsters unions. This month, Metro Dade Firefighters Local 1403 and Teamsters Local 769, which represent thousands of first responders and logistics professionals across South Florida and beyond, announced that they are again backing Levine Cava this year. The unions previously endorsed the Mayor during her 2020 bid for Miami-Dade’s top executive post and when she successfully ran for the County Commission before that. “In times of uncertainty, Mayor Levine Cava has proven herself a steady and compassionate leader. Her ability to make tough decisions while prioritizing the needs of our firefighters and the public at large is a testament to her commitment to putting public safety as a top priority,” Local 1403 President Bill McAllister said.

Teamsters give the thumbs-up to Daniella Levine Cava for re-election.

Joe Carollo denied new trial or reduction to $63 million verdict in latest ruling” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — A federal judge has delivered Carollo another legal loss by denying the Miami Commissioner’s attempts to declare a mistrial or have a $63.5 million civil verdict against him reduced in a case that went before a jury last year. In a ruling issued Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Rodney Smith denied Carollo’s motion for a new trial in the case where jurors found the Commissioner violated two Little Havana businessmen’s First Amendment rights by weaponizing city resources to target their businesses as retaliation for supporting his political opponent. Last year, Carollo was hit with a large judgment after a trial where the business owners, William “Bill” Fuller and Martin Pinilla, accused the Commissioner of carrying out a vendetta by siccing code enforcement and other city officials on their businesses.

Francis Suarez slated to speak at conference backed by Saudi regime” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — Suarez is scheduled to speak Friday at a trade summit backed by Saudi Arabia’s ruling regime, an event currently under investigation for its role in rehabilitating the country’s bloody human rights reputation. Suarez’s promotion of the 2023 edition of the Future Investment Initiative Priority summit, revealed in a recent Miami Herald investigation, raised questions about the Mayor’s role in providing a public relations boost for a regime seeking to repair its public image after reports of public beheadings, alleged police torture and the gruesome murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Wikipedia nixes Miami-Dade mayoral candidate Manny Cid’s page: ‘Political censorship’” via Michelle Vecerina of Florida’s Voice — Following a political ad against Democratic Miami-Dade County Mayor Levine Cava, Miami Lakes Mayor Cid’s Wikipedia page was flagged and then taken down. Cid is running for Cava’s seat. Shortly after Cid released a video about the incumbent Miami-Dade Mayor, an anonymous Wikipedia editor nominated his Wikipedia page for deletion. Political Activist in Miami-Dade Carolina Castillo said, “Political censorship by the leftist tech companies is a threat to our democracy.” “WIKIPEDIA IS FOR HIRE like what Facebook and Twitter have been historically,” Castillo said. “Wikipedia is especially dangerous because a lot of our citizens and in particular our youth, rely on it as a source for research. WIKIPEDIA has up to now stayed under the radar disguised by its independent editors, but the truth is that these independent editors are being weaponized to promote their leftist agenda.”

Miami Beach makes 11th-hour decision to close parking lots, garages during Spring Break” via Aaron Liebowitz of the Miami Herald — The Miami Beach City Commission voted Wednesday to prevent visitors from using public parking garages and lots in South Beach during two weekends in March, a major new initiative on the eve of Spring Break that goes further than measures the city had approved last month. Officials had previously said city-owned garages and parking lots in the entertainment district would close after 6 p.m. to everyone except Miami Beach residents and employees from March 7-10 and March 14-17, the weekends that are expected to bring the highest volume of visitors. But during a discussion Wednesday to approve other measures related to Spring Break — namely, a $100 flat parking rate for visitors in city garages and lots in South Beach — Commissioner David Suarez suggested that the city go further and shut down those parking options entirely.

Despite traffic gridlock, Miami Beach votes to oppose Metromover extension” via Aaron Leibowitz of the Miami Herald — The Miami Beach City Commission is unanimous in opposing a Miami-Dade County plan to extend the Metromover to South Beach, voting to object to what could become the first mass transit option connecting Miami Beach to the mainland. All six City Commissioners and Mayor Steven Meiner co-sponsored a resolution opposing the “Baylink” plan and approved it without discussion. The resolution calls for the county to pursue alternative options — like express bus lanes over the Julia Tuttle Causeway to the Mid Beach area — rather than sticking with the Metromover extension plan that would connect two existing stations in downtown Miami to two new stations along Fifth Street in South Beach.

Steven Meiner votes against a Metromover expansion, despite notorious traffic.

Former Palm Beach County Sheriff, FBI agent Bob Neumann dies at 81” via Julius Whigham II of the Palm Beach Post — Before becoming Palm Beach County’s top cop, Neumann’s law enforcement career included investigating some of the FBI’s most high-profile cases. For 13 years, Neumann was the FBI’s supervising agent at the West Palm Beach federal courthouse before retiring in 1995 and making a successful run as the Republican candidate for Palm Beach County Sheriff. Neumann, who served as Palm Beach County’s 14th Sheriff, died Feb. 5. He was 81. “Sheriff Neumann led the PBSO with unparalleled distinction, having previously served with the FBI,” a PBSO statement on its Facebook page said. “His tenure was marked by dedication, courage, and a deep commitment to the citizens of Palm Beach County.”

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Disney to take videotaped deposition of DeSantis’ CFTOD CEO Glen Gilzean as part of state lawsuit” via — The deposition will take place on April 9, 2024, at the offices of O’Melveny & Myers LLP in Los Angeles, California. The notice filed by Disney states that the deposition will take place under oath, for the purpose of discovery or other purposes, including trial. The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District filed its lawsuit in the 9th Judicial Circuit Orange County against Walt Disney Parks and Resorts in May 2023. The 188-page lawsuit says that “in an effort to stymie Florida’s elected representatives, Disney covertly cobbled together a series of eleventh-hour deals with its soon-to-be-replaced puppet government.”

Glen Gilzean will soon be grilled in a video deposition.

Syphilis cases spike in Florida, especially in Orange County” via Caroline Catherman of the Orlando Sentinel — Syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease nearly eradicated 20 years ago, is back on the rise in Florida, particularly in Orange County. The infection increased by nearly 80% in the five years before 2022, the latest year of data available, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Florida data shows the number of cases nearly doubled during that time, with 18,838 Florida residents living with syphilis in 2022. Orange County saw 1,830 cases in 2022. It had the sixth-highest syphilis rate of any Florida county that year, according to state health department data.

Thousands of Orange County residents could have medical debts erased” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange County may buy up hundreds of millions of dollars of its residents’ medical debt and erase it, using $4.5 million of leftover federal coronavirus recovery aid. The county would join a growing number of governments including New York City, New Orleans, Cook County (Chicago), Illinois, and Lucas County (Toledo), Ohio, to purchase uncollected debt for pennies on the dollar in partnership with nonprofit RIP Medical Debt. After a 90-minute discussion, County Commissioners reached a consensus to shift $4.5 million from the county’s share of the American Rescue Plan Act into debt relief, though the sum pledged was about half the $8.7 million advocates sought. Thousands of county residents could qualify for the assistance.

Federal funding delays imperil planned Kissimmee homeless shelter” via Natalia Jaramillo of the Orlando Sentinel — A federal funding delay is imperiling the completion of a new homeless shelter and affordable housing units in Osceola County, Kissimmee officials say. Kissimmee’s prized Haven on Vine project needs federal money to finish remodeling the Super 8 motel on West Vine Street into 40 emergency housing units and 80 affordable housing apartments. Kissimmee officials — worried they have little hope of receiving promised funds in 2024 — voted to seek over $1 million in federal Community Project Funding for fiscal year 2025 to fund Haven on Vine. The city hopes to work with U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, a Kissimmee Democrat, on the effort.

Brevard County sends letter to Melbourne opposing transfer of Wickham Park; Paul Alfrey says legislative process ‘sidestepped’” via Tyler Vazquez of Florida Today — Wickham Park will likely remain in the hands of Brevard County for now, frustrating Melbourne Mayor Alfrey, who expressed disappointment with the county’s decision to send a formal letter to his city outlining its commitment to maintaining the park. The County Commission voted to send the letter in opposition to Melbourne officials following reports of the city’s interest in gaining control of the park, which is located within Melbourne city limits. Alfrey has opposed changes the county has made to rules on how and how often it is used for special events, such as the annual Brevard Renaissance Fair.

Paul Alfrey is miffed over the transfer of Wickham Park.

Half-cent sales tax proposal to appear on 2024 Marion County ballot” via Alissa Gary of WUFT — Marion County voters will be able to decide on a proposed half-cent increase to their sales tax in the upcoming November General Election. The half-cent tax would help pay for upgrades and renovations in schools. Marion County Public Schools estimate projects planned for 2024 to 2028 still lack about $298 million in funding, including the construction of two new elementary schools and one new high school. If approved, the half-cent tax would stay in effect for 10 years. The Marion County Commission sent the tax proposal forward at its Feb. 20 meeting, moving it from the Marion County School Board to the Supervisor of Elections.

Volusia County Council OKs scaled-back development with up to 100 townhomes near DeLand via Sheldon Gardner of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — The Volusia County Council voted 4-3 to approve a mixed-use development that will bring up to 100 townhomes to a busy intersection just outside of DeLand’s city limits. The project is at the northwest corner of State Road 44 and Kepler Road, which both Council members and the public described as a well-known trouble spot for traffic. The project would also bring a grocery store and other shops to the site, which is about 40 acres. A Circle K is already operating at the corner and will be modified as part of the project. The developers originally proposed having up to 240 multifamily units but modified the request before the hearing.

UCF student tracking Taylor Swift’s plane responds to legal threat: I’ve done ‘nothing unlawful’” via C.A. Bridges of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — He’s young and he’s reckless, to sort of quote a Swift song. After the mega global billionaire pop star asked a UCF student (through her attorney) to please stop tracking her private jet, he came back with a response. Shake it off, basically. On Monday Jack Sweeney, 21, came out swinging with an X (formerly Twitter) post titled “Look What You Made Me Do,” name-dropping the title track from Swift’s 2017 “Reputation” album and adding the letter his own attorney sent back to the pop star’s legal team in response. “Put simply, there is nothing unlawful about GRNDCTRL’s use of publicly accessible information to track private jets, including those by public figures like Taylor Swift,” wrote Sweeney’s attorney, James Slater.


A Tampa firefighter decried racism. Now, he’s been fired for forgery.” via Olivia George and Justin Garcia of the Tampa Bay Times — Last June, Andrew Dixon said he opened the door of his locker at his Tampa Fire Rescue station and found a piece of paper displaying his photo. Across his forehead, in red typeface, a word had been added: Monkey. The incident came a few months after Dixon, who is Black, found a life-size monkey figurine hanging from the rafters of the same firehouse, one of the city’s busiest. That investigation closed without finding much beyond rumor. On Monday, months later, the city fired Dixon for an unrelated offense. Dixon forged the signature of the person assigned to recording his hospital attendance, a requirement of his paramedic training, records show. The Tampa Fire Department found he also completed evaluations for two dates when he had not been at the hospital, rating himself as “excellent.”

— LOCAL: N. FL —

JEA trial opening arguments: Ex-CEO Aaron Zahn was ‘visionary’ leader and victim of ‘politics’” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — The defense attorney representing Zahn told jurors that the allegations the former utility executive tried to enrich himself by privatizing the city-owned agency he once led was nothing more than a “fantasy of the government.” The “young, visionary leader” was the victim of “good old-fashioned politics,” attorney Eddie Suarez said during a lengthy opening argument in the closely watched federal trial, the most complete — and categorical — defense Zahn has offered in years to the allegations made by federal prosecutors that he and JEA’s former CFO, Ryan Wannemacher, conspired in 2019 to sell JEA to a private power company while pocketing millions in personal profit. Opening statements offered jurors widely divergent views on the behavior of JEA’s leadership during one of the most tumultuous years in its long history.

In opening arguments, Aaron Zahn is hailed as a ‘visionary.’

Civil rights lawsuit filed against St. Johns County, officers in immigrant’s case” via Scott Butler of The Florida Times-Union — The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages for 19-year-old Virgilio Aguilar Mendez citing violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act. It names the county, the late Sgt. Michael Kunovich and Lt. Jose Jimenez. Aguilar Mendez’s native language is Mam, not Spanish or English, according to the filing. His limited understanding of English and Spanish is his disability, and he was denied an interpreter at the scene and at the Sheriff’s Office to allow him to understand his Miranda rights before Jimenez interrogated him. A judge has already ruled Aguilar Mendez incompetent to proceed to trial due to his language barrier and inability to aid in the preparation of his case or understand the legal system.

Coin flip decides Doug Stauffer as newest member of Niceville City Council after tied vote” via Collin Bestor of the Northwest Florida Daily News — After a deadlocked 2-2 vote on whether Staufer or Tolbert should fill the seat left vacant by former Council member Abner Williams, the Niceville City Council was left to use a coin flip. Stauffer won and is now Niceville’s newest Council member. Monday’s meeting was held as a public interview for the three remaining candidates. As interviews began with the final three candidates, each current Council member and Mayor Dan Henkel had the opportunity to ask two questions each. After an hour of questions, each candidate was asked to wait outside the Council chambers as a subsequent vote was then called for by Henkel.

‘FAMU Day at the Capitol’: President Robinson plans to ‘double down’ on successes” via Tarah Jean of the Tallahassee Democrat — The Florida A&M University community brought its Rattler spirit and Legislative Session wish list to Tallahassee Wednesday for “FAMU Day at the Capitol.” While the university received the largest allocation of state funding in its history of nearly $58 million last year, stakeholders are asking for another load of funds this time around for priorities including student success, the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering and building renovations. “This is no strange place for us,” FAMU National Alumni Association President Curtis Johnson said. “We have come here many times to advocate for Mother FAMU.”


Sarasota School Board approves resolution for November vote on property tax extension” via Steven Walker of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Sarasota County voters will determine this November whether to again extend an optional local property tax for the School District after the School Board unanimously approved a resolution to continue a referendum on the issue. The largely procedural vote ensures that the district brings the referendum before voters at the upcoming General Election. First approved in 2002, the referendum will determine whether the district can continue to levy a 1 mill per year tax on property, equal to $1 per $1,000 of taxable value. The tax generates upward of $100 million per year, Superintendent Terry Connor said, revenue that is beyond what the district is authorized to collect under a formula approved each year through the state budget.

Rick LoCastro professes innocence in newsletter after recent arrest” via Laura Layden of the Naples Daily News — LoCastro took to his newsletter to defend himself following his recent arrest. The headline of his latest newsletter, sent via email to his many subscribers, reads: “Innocence Will Prevail: Challenging These False Accusations.” LoCastro, 57, is charged with misdemeanor battery, stemming from an October incident with a girlfriend at a Naples restaurant. In his newsletter, he wrote: “We were all flabbergasted to hear Monroe County is pursuing a misdemeanor charge against me for something I did NOT do. From the outset, let me be clear — the charge against me is completely false. I have never done anything to harm any person … on this night in question or otherwise … and those who know me — know exactly what this is.”

Rick LoCastro insists he is innocent.

Council member claims Punta Gorda Mayor overstepped her authority” via Elaine Allen-Emrich of the Punta Gorda Sun — Punta Gorda City Council member Debi Lux said Mayor Lynne Matthews violated the city’s charter by sending a letter on the city’s behalf to state lawmakers without a City Council vote. Matthews told members she sent the letter earlier this month to the Florida Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee regarding a proposal that may lower the city’s revenue from tourist development taxes. Matthews said she had received an email on Feb. 12 from the Florida League of Cities urging officials to send letters to the Committee regarding the potential impact of the bill, which was going to be considered the next morning. “This one does still concern me because I think that it’s going to pass,” Matthews told the City Council.

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 nearly 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.


Florida’s booming housing market has a moral hazard problem” via Johnathan Levin of Bloomberg — Florida’s business model, of course, is built on real estate. As long as net migration trends are positive and the assessed value of homes keeps rising, tax revenue will rise, and the state will be happy to implicitly underwrite all kinds of risks. But if residents leave and newcomers are deterred because of the high cost of property insurance, then the entire economic and fiscal edifice will collapse.

In a nutshell, that’s why some members of the Republican-controlled legislature are advancing off-brand Big Government policies for the insurance industry.

A state Senate panel in Tallahassee this month OK’d a bill to expand the pool of homes that are eligible for relatively cheap insurance under government-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. An even more radical bipartisan proposal — which generated lots of headlines but fell flat with decision-makers — would have opened up Citizens as the purveyor of wind insurance for all.

As recently as 2022, there was strong support for shrinking Citizens. The fact that such proposals are now seeing the light of day is evidence of growing desperation on the part of lawmakers.

At a time when climate change is making storms more severe and frequent, the amount of residential real estate parked in harm’s way is only increasing. Each time a storm levels part of the state, developers sweep in to redevelop the land into even pricier homes, some of which are protected by Citizens at below-market rates. Lawmakers’ attempt to expand Citizens’ footprint to cover more expensive homes will deepen the moral hazard problem, and the reluctance among private insurers to participate in the market.


DeSantis whines about ‘Book ban hoax’ chaos he created” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — DeSantis claimed that books aren’t really being broadly censored in schools the way everyone thinks they are — while also calling for new laws to rein in some of the activists responsible for so many books being pulled. Basically, DeSantis wants new laws to stop the rampant book censorship … that he says isn’t really happening. Let’s be clear about the facts. There is indeed widespread censorship. Hundreds of books have been pulled. Florida students have had their access restricted to everything from John Steinbeck to Toni Morrison. It is not a “hoax.” It’s reality. And the man most responsible is DeSantis — a guy who has teamed up with the laughably named “Moms for Liberty” to target literature and enlightenment with puritanical zeal.

GOP’s priority list of fear, hatred and resentment” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The Republican Party of Florida’s list of 10 legislative priorities amounts to a tacit declaration of its moral and political bankruptcy. Not one of them has anything to do with making Florida a better place. Several would make it worse. None confront the crushing costs of housing and homeowners’ insurance or any other issue, such as health care, which concerns Floridians daily. But several cater to the bigotries of the minority among us who hate or fear LGBTQ people. These bills would bar their preferred pronouns (HB 599, SB 1382), limit driver’s licenses to the holder’s gender at birth (HB 1639), and forbid schools and other government buildings from displaying flags that “represent a political viewpoint” (HB 901, SB 1120). All three proudly are atop the GOP’s must-pass list.

The opioid epidemic demands every resource available” via A.J. “Tony” Smith for the Tallahassee Democrat — Floridians are witnessing an alarming upswing in the number of deaths from drug abuse and overdose, especially from heroin and prescription painkillers, also known as opioids. As the Franklin County Sheriff, my team and I have seen firsthand how this epidemic has tragically unfolded in our community. Emergency calls are more and more frequent, and the worst situation is for our officers to arrive on the scene too late and be unable to save a life. The epidemic has taken a turn for the worse in recent years due to the increased frequency of opioid use and deadlier opioids infiltrating Florida. In the first eight months of 2020, Florida experienced a 43% spike in drug overdose deaths compared to the year prior. Also in 2020, deaths attributed to fentanyl in Florida increased by more than 80%.

A Florida bill takes on cocaine bears. What about snakes on planes and sharknados?” via Mark Woods of The Florida Times-Union — Finally, it seems some Florida legislators have gotten around to the pressing issues in our state. Like bears on cocaine. Jason Shoaf introduced a bill (HB 87) that would loosen regulations on killing black bears in self-defense. Shoaf has said this legislation, which passed the House and is headed to the Senate, isn’t because of your normal black bears. Those laws of nature-abiding bears typically are afraid of humans and easy to scare away. “We’re talking about the ones that are on crack, and they break your door down, and they’re standing in your living room, growling and tearing your house apart,” Shoaf said about his bill during a Committee meeting.

Investigative reporter Craig Patrick from Tampa’s Fox 13 News showed how bad Florida’s SAT math situation is. What would it take to improve the math achievement of the state’s high school graduates?” via Paul Cottle of Bridge to Tomorrow — After watching an investigative report on the math achievement level of Florida’s high school graduates assembled by Tampa Fox 13 News politics reporter Patrick and his producer/cameraperson Craig Davisson (and in which I played a role), a colleague pronounced the report — and Florida’s K-12 math and science situation — “bleak.” The report focused on the decline in Florida’s SAT scores, particularly in math, and featured remarks (in addition to mine) from Jeb Bush, FEA President Andrew Spar and several tutors at a private SAT prep business. In addition to his usual comments about the importance of reading, Bush conceded that being able to “calculate math” has merit as well.

A scary proposition — immunity for remotely operated motor vehicles in Florida” via Stephen Cain for Florida Politics — New language has been introduced in a Senate bill moving through the process that deals with Department of Transportation (DOT) contractors, SB 266 by Sen. Ed Hooper. The amendment would create new immunity from liability for remote operators of non-autonomous vehicles being operated by a “remote human operator.” As the world transitions into an era of driverless vehicles, it is paramount that we critically examine the potential dangers lurking behind the promise of technological advancement. Under the proposed language, in Florida, a vehicle that lacks the ability to drive itself would now be legal for a remote-control operator to “supervise” certain “aspects” of the driving. In other words, it would be legal to put a brick on the gas pedal and allow someone in Nevada to steer.


— ALOE —

What Frank Mayernick is readingFWC expands scallop season in Pasco County” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at its February meeting approved a change to its annual scalloping season, extending the season from 37 days last year to 40 this year. The new regulation sets a 40-day season for the Pasco Zone that will begin July 10 and run through Aug. 18. FWC chose to add a few days to the scalloping calendar after reviewing the 2023 season along with the Wildlife Research Institute. FWC also received input from stakeholders through a series of virtual public workshops, in-person meetings and other public comments. “Along with moving away from the Independence Day holiday, the longer season will increase both the public’s safety and access to one of our state’s most fun family resources,” FWC Commissioner Preston Farrior said. “There will be many positive impacts for the local communities.”

Scallopers rejoice over three more days of scallop season. FWC photo by Carol Lyn Parrish.

Great Wolf Lodge, with huge indoor water park, joins Florida market” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Great Wolf Lodge South Florida, now under construction, will open in Naples on Sept. 25, the company announced Wednesday. It will feature 500 guest suites, a 92,000-square-foot enclosed water park with 12 slides plus three pools, and a 60,000-square-foot family entertainment center. “All of the fun is under one roof,” said Jason Bays, general manager for the new Great Wolf location. The company, which originated in Madison, Wisconsin, and is now based in Chicago, already has made forays into the Sun Belt, including locations near Phoenix, near Atlanta, and in Southern California. It has a resort under construction near Houston. “We see that even in the warm-weather climates, the Great Wolf brand resonates just as strongly as it does in the Midwest, Northwest and Northeast,” Bays said.


Best wishes to Nelson Diaz of The Southern Group and Courtney Veatch.


Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

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