Last Call for 2.21.24 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

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

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

First Shot

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.

Bill sponsor Sen. Erin Grall, a Vero Beach Republican, defended the measure.

“Sometimes we’re just not going to have the resources in any given community that are able to provide for all of our public works needs,” Grall said. “When we do that (impose local hiring preferences) we drive the cost of living in each and every one of these communities.”

Meanwhile, a proposal to bring runoffs back to Florida Primary Elections was pulled from a House agenda before its first hearing.

GOP Rep. Lawrence McClure, Chair of the House State Affairs Committee, announced immediately after opening his meeting that the bill would not be heard Wednesday. McClure filed the committee bill (PCB SAC 6).

But the bill immediately proved controversial. Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, a Spring Hill Republican who has carried other election bills, slammed the legislation as a “bad piece of policy.”

As drafted, the bill would call for a first Primary Election in every partisan race in Florida to be held 20 weeks before the General Election. That would mean a state Primary would be scheduled for June 16, 2026, with a runoff held 10 weeks later on Aug. 25.

Another controversial House bill did move forward on Wednesday when the House Judiciary Committee advanced a bill (HB 757) that would make it easier to sue journalists and news outlets for defamation.

During the final committee hearing, Milton gun shop owner Chris Smith discussed a lawsuit filed against his business by the law firm that employs Rep. Alex Andrade, the bill’s sponsor.

“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.

Andrade, for his part, noted he isn’t personally suing Smith and that the lawsuit in question chiefly surrounds different state laws about the improper use of someone’s likeness in commercial advertising.

Andrade also has repeatedly insisted his bill won’t outlaw name-calling, or even accusing politicians of being corrupt, as those are matters of opinion and not fact.

Bill Day’s Latest

Evening Reads

—“The 43 most outrageous lines from Donald Trump’s Fox town hall” via Chris Cillizza of So What

—”Trump and allies planning militarized mass deportations, detention camps” via Isaac Arnsdorf, Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post

—“Ron DeSantis stumps in South Carolina before Primary — but not for Trump” via Jay Cridlin of the Tampa Bay Times

—”Why Nikki Haley isn’t dropping out” via Jonathan Swan, Jazmine Ulloa and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times

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

—”There’s just one problem with gun buybacks. They don’t work.” via David A. Graham of The Atlantic

—”Florida defamation bill heads to House floor despite conservative opposition” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel

—”Death of beloved young manatee highlights ongoing threats, risks” via Benjamin Crosbie of Fresh Take Florida

—”Why car insurance rates are soaring” via Marin Cogan of Vox

—”A brain pacemaker helped a woman with crippling depression. It may soon be available to more people” via Laura Ungar of The Associated Press

Quote of the Day

“That gave people some heartburn.”

— Rep. Chuck Brannan, on the removed ‘cultural Marxism’ provision in the history of communism bill.

Put It on the Tab

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

Sorry, second-place candidates. With the runoff bill stalling out, it looks like you’ll still be the First Loser, not the No. 2 winner, come Primary Election Day.

Biotech investors are urging Gov. Ron DeSantis and legislative leaders to rethink a cultivated meat ban, but they’d probably have better luck if they ordered lawmakers a round of Mad Scientists.

OK, maybe this one isn’t a drink, but thanks to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, we all have a few extra days to gather some fresh ingredients for a delicious Scallop Cocktail.

Breakthrough Insights

Tune In

Gators face Alabama in matchup of ranked teams

Included in the Top 25 poll for the first time this season, the No. 24 Florida Gators go on the road to face No. 13 Alabama tonight in a key SEC matchup (7 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Since losing at Tennessee on Jan. 16, Florida (18-7; 8-4 in SEC) has won seven of eight games, including overtime wins over Georgia and Kentucky to earn a spot in The Associated Press Top 25. Florida has played five games against ranked teams this season, winning their last two. In addition to the Kentucky win, the Gators topped No. 12 Auburn on Feb. 10, 81-65.

One of the keys in Florida’s surge is the play of guard Walter Clayton Jr. who has scored 20 or more points in four of his last eight games. When his three-point shot is falling, the Gators’ offense is at a different level. He made seven three-pointers in the overtime win at Kentucky.

Alabama (18-7; 10-2) sits atop the SEC standings. The Crimson Tide have lost just once at home this season, a Nov. 28 loss to Clemson. All of Alabama’s other losses are to ranked teams Purdue, Creighton, Arizona, Tennessee and Auburn. 

The two teams will meet again on March 5 in Gainesville in the penultimate regular season game for the Gators. 

Also tonight:

6 p.m. — NCAAW: South Florida Bulls @ East Carolina Pirates

7 p.m. — NCAAM: Duke Blue Devils @ Miami Hurricanes

7:30 p.m. — NCAAW: UCF Knights @ Oklahoma State Cowboys

8 p.m. — NCAAM: South Florida Bulls @ UTSA Roadrunners


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

Staff Reports


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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

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

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

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