Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 2.23.24

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Get ready for an espresso shot of Florida politics and policy.

Good Friday morning.

Breaking overnight — “Private lander touches down on the moon but sending weak signal” via Marcia Dunn of The Associated Press — Despite the spotty communication, Intuitive Machines, the company that built and managed the craft, confirmed that it had landed. The company ended its live webcast soon after confirming a touchdown. Mission director Tim Crain said the team was evaluating how to refine the lone signal from the lander, named Odysseus. Added Intuitive Machines CEO Steve Altemus: “I know this was a nail-biter, but we are on the surface and we are transmitting. Welcome to the moon.” The landing put the U.S. back on the surface for the first time since NASA’s famed Apollo moonwalkers. Intuitive Machines also became the first private business to pull off a lunar landing, a feat achieved by only five countries. Another company gave it a shot last month, but never made it to the moon, and the lander crashed back to Earth.

America returns to the moon after a half-century.


The Florida House Democratic Caucus has chosen Rep. Christine Hunschofsky as their Leader Designate-Elect for the 2027-28 term.

She currently serves as the Democratic Whip and as a Democratic ranking member on the Infrastructure Strategies Committee and Insurance & Banking Committee.

Hunschofsky was first elected to the House in 2020. Before that, she served on the Parkland City Commission and was Mayor during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.

Congrats to Christine Hunschofsky, named Leader Designate-Elect for the 2027-28 term.

Following two terms with Leader Fentrice Driskell at the helm, Hunschofsky will take over election operations for the caucus starting in 2025 and will lead the House Democrats for the 2026 and 2027 Legislative Sessions.

“I am profoundly honored to accept the role of Leader Designate-Elect for the Florida House Democrats. I am humbled that my colleagues have placed their trust in me to lead. With the hard work of our dedicated caucus, we will uphold the trust bestowed upon us by our constituents to build a brighter future for all Floridians,” said Hunschofsky.


South Carolina Republican Primary — 1; Michigan Democratic Primary — 4; James Madison Institute’s ‘Red, White and Bluegrass’ dinner — 5; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 7; Michigan/Idaho/Missouri GOP Primaries — 9; Netflix to stream “The Netflix Slam,” Rafael Nadal/Carlos Alcaraz faceoff — 9; Super Tuesday — 11; State of the Union address — 13; last day of Regular Session, if Legislature completes work in 60 days — 14; 2024 Oscars — 16; Georgia Democratic Primary — 19; Arizona/Florida/Illinois/Kansas/Ohio Primaries — 26; James Madison Institute’s ‘2024 Naples Dinner’ with keynote speaker Laura Ingraham — 27; ‘3 Body Problem’ premieres on Netflix — 27; Donald Trump’s New York hush money trial begins — 31; The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the mifepristone/abortion pill case — 32; Major League Baseball’s (MLB) 2024 season — 34; March Madness Final Four (women’s) begins — 41; March Madness Final Four (men’s) — 44; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 48; The Masters begin — 49; Kentucky Derby — 72; 2024 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 77; ‘Bridgerton’ new season (part one) premieres on Netflix — 84; French Open begins — 87; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 89; Dave Matthews Band 2024 Summer Tour begins in Tampa — 89; Monaco Grand Prix — 93; the 2026 World Cup begins — 109; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 127; Republican National Convention begins — 143; the 2026 World Cup ends — 147; 2024 MLS All-Star Game — 152; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games on NBC/Peacock — 154; Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 172; Democratic National Convention begins — 178; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 183; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 238; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 241; 2024 Presidential Election — 256; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 269; MLS Cup 2024 — 284; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 357; ‘Moana’ premieres — 487; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 518; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 518; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 623; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 665; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 802; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 818; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 1,029; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,169; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,128; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,850.


Senate passes social media ban on minors; Ron DeSantis says negotiations ongoing” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The latest version of the bill (HB 1) passed the Senate on a 23-14 vote. Multiple Republicans voted against the measure, while two Democrats backed the legislation. The bill barring anyone under 16 from opening or keeping a social media account already passed in the House last month, but the Senate has changed the language substantially, so it will have to return to the lower chamber.

DeSantis, meanwhile, said he’s not ready to sign the legislation, but suggested at a Lake Buena Vista news conference the bill could still evolve.

A social media ban for youth advances, Ron DeSantis is skeptical.

“It’s still under negotiation,” he said. “We’re working. I understand it’s important to the Speaker.”

Indeed, Speaker Paul Renner reserved the symbolically important HB 1 designation for the bill before it was filed. He cheered the bill’s passage in the Senate, signaling support for it in its current form.

“This morning, the Florida Senate passed HB 1!” Renner posted on X. “A special thank you to President Kathleen Passidomo and Sen. Erin Grall for standing up to social media companies and protecting Florida’s children.”

Meta, the corporate owner of platforms including Facebook and Instagram, issued a statement suggesting the bill needs much more work.

“As we continue working with Florida lawmakers to develop solutions that empower parents and support teens, it’s crucial that HB 1 provide clear, consistent rules so all services meet the expectations of parents,” said Meta representative Rachel Holland.

“Teens move fluidly across online services and youth online safety bills that hold different services to different standards in different states will subject teens to inconsistent protections online.”


DeSantis doesn’t want ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ homeless camps” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Governor is reinforcing his interest in bills banning homeless people from sleeping in public areas while offering some guidelines into what he wants to see from the final bill to survive “judicial scrutiny.” Among those asks: a component that allows the state to help with “mental health” for the unhoused in these local facilities to be included in current bills in the House (HB 1365) and Senate (SB 1630) that would ban sleeping rough and require localities to set up homeless camps with social services. “You got to have sheltering ability and then if they want to set up some of these sites, it can’t just be some site that is like Sodom and Gomorrah where they’re using drugs and doing all this stuff. It needs to be a situation where help is available,” DeSantis said.

Ron DeSantis is hesitant to sign off on homeless ‘camps.’

Live Healthy bills, hundreds of millions in Medicaid rate increases, pass the Legislature” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — The Legislature is sending to DeSantis a sweeping health care bill that directs $717 million to help boost the numbers of doctors and nurses in the state and fortify hospitals while passing another bill that annually directs for the next decade $50 million in state funds for health care innovation grants. The bills (SB 7016, SB 7018) are a top priority of Senate President Passidomo, who spent the interim between the 2023 and 2024 Sessions working on a proposal to bolster the state’s health care workforce. The Senate had previously passed the bills unanimously. The House passed the bill by a 117-1 vote. Rep. Mike Beltran cast the lone “no” vote.

Shén me guǐ! — Senate amendment could allow Chinese nationals to buy Florida real estate again” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A Senate Committee quietly approved an amendment that could reverse a controversial ban on Chinese land ownership in Florida. Sen. Clay Yarborough offered a substitute amendment in the Senate Rules Committee that chiefly related to property rights on easements. The new language includes significant changes to a law signed last year that inhibits Chinese nationals from owning Florida property. Most of the discussion of Yarborough’s bill (SB 814) centered on local concerns about condominium association disputes. But he explained while presenting a new amendment that the bill also will now revisit the foreign ownership matter.

—“DeSantis trashes Senate proposal to ‘unwind’ crackdown on Chinese land purchases” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics


House passes bill allowing ‘patriotic organizations’ access to students. Which ones made the cut?” Via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Rep. Wyman Duggan’s bill (HB 1317) would allow representatives of so-called “patriotic organizations” time to meet with students and distribute recruitment materials, with schools providing designated time for these groups to pitch their attendees. Six organizations made the cut: Big Brothers-Big Sisters of America, the Boy Scouts of America, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Civil Air Patrol, National FFA Organization, and the Girl Scouts of the United States of America. The bill also clarifies that these groups can use school buildings even after the instructional day is over and stipulates that other groups don’t have the legal right to “equal time.” It also requires that schools set a time and date for the group to speak to students after “reasonable notice” was provided by one of these organizations.

Primary runoffs not returning as election bill dies” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Runoff elections for Primary contests won’t be returning to Florida any time soon. House Speaker Renner said legislation that emerged last week is dead for the Regular Session. “We had a conversation. It was a short conversation,” Renner told reporters, acknowledging the vehement opposition from many Republicans to the bill (PCB SAC 24-06). The bill would have brought back runoffs for Primary Elections, which Florida held until 2002. In any Primary contest where no single candidate received 50% or more, the top two vote-getters would square off in a second Primary to see who would go on to the General Election. The change wouldn’t have taken effect until the 2026 election cycle.

House passes volunteer school chaplain bill” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Bipartisan legislation that could put religious figures in your child’s classroom passed the House 89-25, after a spirited debate in which one of the sponsors called herself a “Holy Roller” and said she “casts out devils.” HB 931, sponsored by Republican Rep. Stan McClain and Democratic Rep. Kim Daniels, 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.

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

House approves bill to make private Jewish school security funding recurring” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Amid a staggering rise in antisemitism in and outside Florida, lawmakers may soon have the option to make funding for private Jewish day schools a recurring part of the state budget through legislation that cleared the House with overwhelming support. The bill (HB 1109), sponsored by Rep. Randy Fine, passed on a 108-6 vote. All “no” votes were from Democrats. If approved in the Senate, the bill would require the Florida Department of Education to establish a regular funding model for security measures at Jewish day schools and preschools. The funds could only cover the cost of cameras, fencing, shatterproof windows, perimeter lighting, guard personnel, security-related transportation and “non-hardening security measures” like detection and prevention services.

House passes bill to enhance penalties for cross-county crimes” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Legislation to steepen penalties for grand theft and more than a dozen “forcible felonies” committed across county lines has cleared its final House hurdle and is now en route to the Senate. Representatives approved the bill (HB 531) on a 98-15 vote, with all “no” votes coming from Democrats. If passed, the bill will update the statute lawmakers established in 2014 to crack down on inter-county burglars. Among other things, it would enhance punishments for grand theft — stealing property worth $750 or more — and crimes like murder, manslaughter, rape, home-invasion robbery, aggravated assault, battery, kidnapping and stalking.

A bill LGBTQ advocates say is anti-trans passes House Committee” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Despite more than two hours of opposition lobbying against the legislation, a House panel approved a bill Thursday mandating insurance companies that provide transgender care to also be required to cover de-transition treatments. The House Infrastructure Strategies Committee voted in favor of HB 1639 after emotional testimony during a five-hour meeting. “This is a charged debate,” said bill sponsor Rep. Doug Bankson, who argued his legislation was “bringing compassion to those who have seen and experienced brokenness in their life and want to make themselves whole.” Others viewed it differently, calling it a slap in the face to the LGBTQ+ community. “This bill is not compassionate,” said Rep. Angie Nixon. “It has everything to do with transphobia and infringing upon the freedoms of people you don’t understand, people you fear, or people you simply don’t agree with how they live their lives.”

After Key Biscayne tragedy, lawmakers advance bill to help cities restrict e-bike use” via Anan Ceballos and Ana Claudia Chacin of the Miami Herald — A week after a Key Biscayne woman died in a head-on collision with a 12-year-old boy riding an electric bicycle, state lawmakers are seeking to give local governments more power to regulate the use of e-bikes in their communities. The death of Megan Andrews, a 66-year-old who many described as a shining light in the community, has rattled the small village of Key Biscayne and revived long-standing concerns from many who have worried about the impact on pedestrian safety amid the rising popularity of e-bikes. “Her riding her bike around is a quintessential Key Biscayne image seared in my mind,” Jennifer Buttrick, a village resident, said during Friday’s emergency meeting while lamenting that she won’t be able to greet her again. “I can’t believe we won’t be doing that anymore.”

The death of Megan Andrews is prompting lawmakers to restrict e-bike use.

Florida bill cracking down on left-lane drivers heads to Governor for signature” via Owen Girard of Florida’s Voice — Legislation banning vehicles from driving in the left traffic lane, excluding passing and turning, was approved by the Senate on Thursday. The bill is now to be sent to DeSantis for final approval. Sen. Keith Perry championed the bill, HB 317, in the upper chamber after it was originally sponsored by Reps. Jenna Persons-Mulicka and Melony Bell in the House. Keith was the sponsor of the Senate’s prior companion bill. The Senate passed the bill unanimously, 37-0. The potential new law applies to roadways with two or more lanes and with a speed limit of at least 65 miles per hour.


Property insurance bills on surplus lines, Citizens, regulations head to House floor” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Three bills dealing with property insurance are headed to the House floor after passing through the House Commerce Committee. The bills are designed to allow unregulated companies to take over policies from state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp., extend the time for insurers to continue covering a home after a hurricane has damaged it, and increase reporting requirements by insurers to state regulators. With HB 1503, out-of-state insurers known as surplus lines carriers, which aren’t regulated by the state, would be able to take over Citizens’ policies that are secondary homes for the owners, subject to approval by the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR). The Senate version of that bill (SB 1716) has one more Committee stop in that chamber before making it to the floor.

Black farmer medical marijuana licenses back in play for 2024 Session” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — The Senate Appropriations Committee on Health and Human Services amended SB 1582 this week to include language that directs DOH to revisit decisions to award and deny medical marijuana licenses under a 2023 law that was championed by Sens. Tracie Davis and Darryl Rouson. The amended bill gives Black farmers who applied for licenses under a 2023 law another 90 days to cure any errors or omissions on their medical marijuana applications. The amended measure also makes clear that an applicant does not need to meet the statutory prerequisite that an applicant be in business for five years before being awarded a license.

Darryl Rouson and Tracie Davis are working to level the playing field for Black marijuana farmers.

Gaming bill continues to draw criticism as veterans group descends on the Capitol to fight it” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — A House bill seeking to crack down on illegal gambling operations has cleared its final Committee and is now ready for a floor vote, but the measure (HB 189) still faces heavy opposition despite amendments. The House Judiciary Committee cleared the bill, but only after hearing significant opposition from veterans’ groups worried about vague language, unintended consequences and a hit to veterans’ charities. The Senate Fiscal Policy Committee cleared a similar bill and faced the same opposition. The bill broadly increases penalties for illegal gambling activities from a second-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony. It also would create a staggered penalty, increasing to a second-degree felony on a second offense and a first-degree felony on the third and subsequent offenses.

Bill would distribute revenue made by tribes for state conservation efforts” via Michael Costeines of Florida’s Voice — The Florida Senate passed a bill Thursday that secures funding for conservation lands and infrastructure through revenues made available by the compact between Florida and the Seminole Tribe. Sen. Travis Huston filed SB 1638. “Our Compact to Conserve dedicates a new, steady stream of funds to acquire conservation lands and invest in our clean water infrastructure,” Hutson said. “Additionally, we have a tremendous focus on the management of our conservation lands, which helps to protect our state from wildfire damage and guard against dangerous non-native species.” The Florida Senate unanimously passed the bill 37-0.

Senate, House Committees prepare cultivated meat bans for floor votes” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Both chambers of the Legislature moved a step closer to banning lab-made meat in Florida. However, lawmakers have adjusted legislation to allow research into the burgeoning field. The legislation in both chambers drew criticism from across the political spectrum. The House Infrastructure Strategies Committee advanced the ban, part of a larger Agriculture Department legislative package (HB 1071), but on a narrow 12-10 vote. Later the same day, the Senate Rules Committee voted up on a companion bill (SB 1084). That means both bills are ready for floor votes in their respective chambers, which would make Florida the first state in the union to support a complete ban on the product.

Citrus County projects dismantled in House, Senate budgets” via Mike Wright of Florida Politics — Citrus County went for the moon. Lawmakers thus far have offered pixie dust. None of Citrus County’s project wish list received full funding from the Senate and House appropriations, with some totally shut out and others earmarked for a fraction of the request. The Citrus County project list topped $66 million, including big-ticket items such as the widening of U.S. 41, a new Crystal River city hall, and a boat ramp on the Cross Florida Barge Canal.

Grape Expectations: Lawmakers 1 vote from allowing bigger wine bottles” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — After years of pressing the matter with pour results, Rep. Chip LaMarca may soon pop Florida’s cork on wine container sizes. Legislation to allow bigger bottles in the Sunshine State is closer than ever to a successful finish. House lawmakers unanimously approved LaMarca’s bill (HB 583) to allow restaurants and retailers to sell wine in glass containers of 4.5, 9, 12 and 15 liters. The vote came exactly a week after a substantively identical Senate bill (SB 1134) by Sen. Jay Trumbull cleared its final Committee stop with uniform support. For the first time since LaMarca originally proposed the change in 2021, both the Senate and House versions of the legislation have reached the floors of their respective chambers. And neither measure received a “no” vote along the way.

Chip LaMarca and Jay Trumbull want Florida to drink from larger wine bottles.

Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day takes flight — The House unanimously passed a bill designating the fourth Thursday in March as Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day, setting it as a legal holiday in the state. Sponsored by Rep. Bruce Antone with prime co-sponsor Rep. Doug Bankson, the bill not only cleared unanimously 115-0, but it also had 115 co-sponsors. Tuskegee Airmen were African American fighter pilots who trained near the Tuskegee Institute, now Tuskegee University. The pilots formed the 332nd Fighter Group, which included four squadrons of African American pilots in the 15th Air Force during World War II. Known as the “Red Tails” after the painted tails of their fighter planes, the pilots flew more than 200 missions defending heavy bombers from enemy interceptors.


ACLU bashes bills prohibiting community IDs — The ACLU of Florida is criticizing a pair of bills (HB 1451/SB 1174) that would block local governments from accepting certain community identification cards or documents as a form of identification. “Community IDs can provide the freedom to engage and access everyday staples of everyday life. From enrolling in a gym, signing up for a library card or picking up medications, Florida residents have and should continue to benefit from community ID programs,” said Silvana Caldera, senior policy strategist at the ACLU of Florida. “Obtaining a government ID or driver’s license can be difficult for many residents, such as elderly and disabled individuals, victims of domestic violence, immigrants, and the homeless and housing-insecure populations. Prohibiting local municipalities from setting up these programs to assist their residents is gross government overreach.

FHA applauds passage of ‘Live Healthy’ package — The Florida Hospital Association celebrated the passage of the “Live Healthy” legislation (SB 7016/SB 7018). “Florida families rely on our hospitals for important health care services — from welcoming new babies to providing lifesaving treatments and compassionate end-of-life care,” said Mary Mayhew, president and CEO of FHA. “FHA is grateful to work alongside remarkable hospital leaders and dedicated elected officials to deliver a modern, sophisticated health care system for our residents and visitors. Thank you, Senate President Passidomo, Sens. (Colleen) Burton and (Gayle) Harrell, House Speaker Renner, and Reps. (Michael) Grant and (Karen) Gonzales Pittman for supporting the health and well-being of Floridians, and the hospitals that contribute so much to that end.”

Mary Mayhew is cheering the passage of ‘Live Healthy.’

Florida Association of Managing Entities cheers ‘Live Healthy’ win — The Florida Association of Managing Entities also applauded lawmakers for approving the Live Healthy package, with FAME CEO Natalie Kelly praising Passidomo, Sen. Colleen Burton and Sen. Gayle Harrell for the legislation’s success. “Florida’s Managing Entities are proud to be a large part of Florida’s behavioral health solution, overseeing Florida’s behavioral health safety net system and working with community partners throughout the state to launch innovative programs that are tailored to communities’ unique needs,” Kelly said.

FBHA joins chorus praising ‘Live Healthy’ passage — The Florida Behavioral Health Association issued a statement lauding lawmakers for sending the Senate President’s health care priority to the Governor. “On behalf of FBHA’s nearly 70 community mental health and substance use providers, we congratulate and thank the Florida Legislature for passing SB 7016, which will have a historic impact on Florida’s health care workforce,” FBHA President and CEO Melanie Brown-Woofter said. “Under the incredible leadership of the Florida Legislature, psychologists and psychiatric APRNs will now be able to practice to the fullest extent of their education in an inpatient setting.”

Family Law Section commends ‘Hope Card Program’ bill — The Family Law Section of The Florida Bar praised members of the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee for passing legislation (SB 86) creating the Hope Cards Program for domestic violence survivors. “The Hope Card Program is a smart initiative designed to provide essential support and protection to those navigating the challenges of domestic violence,” said Sarah Kay, Chair of The Family Law Section of The Florida Bar. “This bill will permit survivors of domestic violence to carry a wallet-sized card rather than final injunction paperwork, which they can provide to law enforcement as a tool for enforcing the final injunction, particularly when in dangerous circumstances.” SB 86 now heads to the Senate floor.

NAMI pans cultivated meat ban — The North American Meat Institute is voicing opposition to legislation (HB 1071/SB 1084) that would ban the sale and manufacture of cultivated meat products in Florida. “Legislators and others who beat the ‘food safety’ drum in support of HB 1071 and SB 1084 do so at their peril, and the peril of others, because these bills establish a precedent for adopting policies and regulatory requirements that could one day adversely affect the bills’ supporters. Indeed, like California’s Proposition 12 and Massachusetts’ Question 3, HB 1071 and SB 1084 serve as an incentive for other jurisdictions to consider and enact legislation that could adversely affect agriculture, including in Florida,” NAMI wrote in a letter to the Governor, House Speaker and Senate President.


ABC Action News Full Circle with Paul LaGrone on Channel 10 WFTS: Political analyst Dr. Susan MacManus; Southeast Politics publisher Janelle Irwin Taylor; and oil and gas expert Jay Young.

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida and other issues affecting the region.

In Focus with Allison Walker on Bay News 9/CF 13 A discussion of Black History Month, about the advances, equality, and advances made that are yet to be made for Black Americans in the 21st century. Joining Walker are Commissioner Mike Scott, District 6, Orange County Commission; and Annetta Wilson, consultant and former news anchor and the first African American prime-time weeknight anchor in Orlando.

Political Connections on Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete and Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: The weekly Sunday show is launching as a joint weeknight show airing Monday through Friday at 7 p.m.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Gary Yordon, pollster Steve Vancore, and Feeding Florida Executive Director Robin Safley.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Chris Hand, Government Law attorney and former staffer for U.S. Sen. Bob Graham.


DeSantis touts Disney World district as model of ‘good government’” via Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — DeSantis praised Disney World’s oversight district as a model of good government during a visit Thursday, marking nearly a year since he seized control of its Board. DeSantis and the Legislature transformed the Reedy Creek Improvement District as part of their battle with the Mouse, replacing five Disney loyalists on the Board with Republican allies. DeSantis touted their work as a government reform success story. “You now have a local government here with the district that is functioning in ways that are much more transparent, much more accountable, and ultimately much more beneficial to the people who live and work in Central Florida,” DeSantis said. “That is a win for not just the people in this region, but it is a win for the entire state of Florida.”

—“DeSantis downplays Disney federal lawsuit appeal: ‘No basis for this case’” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics

Florida’s experiment with measles” via Daniel Engber of The Atlantic — The state of Florida is trying out a new approach to measles control: No one will be forced to not get sick. Joseph Ladapo, the state’s top health official, announced this week that the six cases of the disease reported among students at an elementary school in Weston, near Fort Lauderdale, do not merit emergency action to prevent unvaccinated students from attending class. Temporary exclusions of that kind while an outbreak is ongoing are part of the normal public-health response to measles clusters, as a means of both protecting susceptible children and preventing further viral spread. But Ladapo is going his own way. “Due to the high immunity rate in the community, as well as the burden on families and educational cost of healthy children missing school,” he said in a letter, the state’s health department “is deferring to parents or guardians to make decisions about school attendance.”

Joseph Ladapo treats measles as he did with COVID, advocating no action.

DeSantis speculates on EMP attack ‘implications’ amid cell outage” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis discussed the ongoing cellular network outage impacting AT&T users, before noting that things could be worse. In Orlando, he floated the “implications” of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack as an example of how “jarring” our reliance on cellular phone technology is. “Imagine if we had an EMP attack what would end up happening in this country. So, it’s not necessarily a good thought because you think you’re just so naturally reliant on having cell service,” DeSantis said. The Governor said his office had talked to AT&T and they don’t “necessarily know what caused” the outage, but they’re working to resolve it.

DeSantis rips ‘total failures’ honored on Presidents Day” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — “I hope everybody had a good Presidents Day weekend. But you know the idea that we honor all Presidents, what?” DeSantis said. “James Buchanan and Woodrow Wilson, these guys were total failures.” DeSantis went on to extol George Washington as “the one guy who was indispensable” before fragging the same two former Chief Executives he mentioned at the start of his two-minute clip. “So, Feb. 22, honor George Washington. We don’t need to be honoring people like Woodrow Wilson and James Buchanan. Washington was first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

State pushes back Medicaid managed care contract announcement” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — The state does not anticipate multibillion-dollar Medicaid managed care contracts to be awarded until March 25. The Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) posted an amended timeline for its Medicaid Invitation to Negotiate (ITN) that shows the state anticipates it won’t finish its negotiations with health plans until March 15 and intends to electronically post the notice of intent to award two weeks later. The ITN for the Statewide Medicaid Managed Care Program was released in April 2023. Eleven managed care plans — nine with existing state Medicaid contracts and two new plans — responded to the ITN in October.

Firm hired to remove migrants from Florida faces insurance fraud allegations” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Orlando Sentinel — A Canadian company has been paid $45 million by Florida to transport migrants out of state and provide disaster recovery services while defending itself in court against accusations of insurance fraud involving storm cleanup efforts. ARS Global signed a contract with the Department of Emergency Management in May to provide migrant relocation services, six months after donating at least $99,980 to DeSantis’ re-election campaign. “It definitely strikes me as pay to play and awarding contracts based on campaign donations,” said Michael Barfield, lead investigator for the nonprofit Florida Center for Government Accountability. Political opponents of DeSantis have called migrant relocation flights a taxpayer-financed political stunt to bolster his failed presidential campaign’s anti-immigration platform.


Could South Carolina change everything?” via Ronald Brownstein of The Atlantic — This year, though, there may be a twist in South Carolina’s usual role of confirming the eventual GOP winner: Even as the state demonstrates Trump’s strength in the Primary, it may also spotlight his potential difficulties as a General Election nominee. Like the first contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, South Carolina may show that though most Republican voters are ready to renominate Trump, a substantial minority of the GOP coalition has grown disaffected from him. And in a General Election rematch, that could provide a crucial opening for President Joe Biden, despite all of his vulnerabilities, to attract some ordinarily Republican-leaning voters.

Will the South Carolina Primary change the race for President?

Nikki Haley bashes Donald Trump on Russia as she seeks to gain ground in GOP Primary” via Lisa Kashinsky of POLITICO — Haley has found her closing message in South Carolina: Russia, Russia, Russia. In interviews, on social media, and on the stump, the former U.N. Ambassador has repeatedly seized on the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny to launch a fusillade against former President Trump. Haley jabbed Trump for taking three days to acknowledge Navalny’s death and then for failing to condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin for it. She’s cast her former boss as “weak in the knees” when it comes to Russia. She’s slammed him for criticizing NATO at a time when many in the West see Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a threat to European stability.

What Haley is trying to prove” via Lora Kelley of The Atlantic — Haley faces terrible odds in her home state of South Carolina and beyond, but she has vowed to keep going. Beyond her own political ambitions, her campaign may be about trying to send a message to the Republican Party. Many have speculated in recent months that Haley is angling for a different higher office, perhaps that of the Vice President. She has said that she has no interest in that job, a claim buttressed by her newly harsh posture toward the party’s likely nominee. Haley has said that she is fighting for “something bigger” than herself, and she may well be running at least in part on behalf of a larger cause.

— MORE 2024 —

Pro-Trump internet trolls escalate ugly attacks on Haley” via Jazmine Ulloa and Ken Bensinger of The New York Times — Social media posts depicting her as Shiva, the deity of destruction. Others misleadingly use deepfake technology to show her insulting voters. And still others that direct vitriol at her son, a college student. For most of her presidential campaign, Haley has been spared the full onslaught from Trump’s devoted following of internet trolls. The cadre of mostly anonymous personalities who wage near-constant battle in Trump’s name focused first on brutally attacking DeSantis, who had been considered the former President’s most potent rival in the 2024 Republican Primary. But with Haley now his last remaining opponent, the machine has turned her way.

Pro-Trump trolls compare Nikki Haley to the Hindu God Shiva.

How Tim Scott went from ‘faith in America’ to leading role in Trumpworld” via Eliza Collins of The Wall Street Journal — Scott spent his long shot presidential campaign trying to persuade Republican voters to embrace a hope-filled vision for America. These days, he is often smiling next to Trump as the former President rattles off his list of grievances and calls for retribution. The South Carolina Senator is under consideration to be Trump’s running mate and has become a top surrogate as Trump looks to lock up the GOP nomination and move to an expected General Election rematch against Biden. “I had hoped that the country was ready for a faith in America experience where we’re more optimistic, we’re looking toward the future,” Scott said. “What I learned on the campaign trail was people do want that, but they really want a bull in a china shop for a little while first.” “Our styles are incredibly different,” he said about Trump. “But they have proven to be very complementary.”

Trump strategist slams DeSantis as ‘sad little man’” via Andrew Howard of POLITICO — A top strategist for Trump hurled a uniquely personal attack at DeSantis, calling him a “sad little man” who will be remembered for “chicken fingers and pudding cups.” The insult from Trump strategist Chris LaCivita, which he posted on X, came in response to a news report that the Florida Governor said on a call with supporters that he doesn’t want Trump using “identity politics” to pick a running mate. DeSantis also reportedly dismissed any possibility of being Trump’s running mate on the call. LaCivita doubled down in subsequent social media posts, reposting a picture of actor James Gandolfini, most famous for playing fictional mob boss Tony Soprano, flipping off the camera.

Judge denies Trump request for 30-day delay in enforcement of damages in New York civil fraud case” via Rebecca Shabad, Brittany Kubicko and Dareh Gregorian of NBC News — The judge who presided over the civil fraud case against Trump and his company has rejected his attorney’s request to delay enforcing the $350 million judgment against them. “You have failed to explain, much less justify, any basis for a stay,” Judge Arthur Engoron wrote in an email Thursday to Trump attorney Clifford S. Robert shortly before he officially signed off on the judgment, which totals over $450 million with pre-judgment interest. In an email to the judge Wednesday, Robert noted that the company has a court-appointed monitor already in place, so “there is no prejudice to the (state) Attorney General in briefly staying enforcement to allow for an orderly post-judgment process, particularly given the magnitude of Judgement.”

Fox News host claims Trump has won over Black voters with his gold sneakers” via Favour Adegoke of Yahoo News — Apparently, for some Republicans, all it takes for Trump to win over the support of Black voters is a pair of gold sneakers worth $400. On Fox News, commentator Raymond Arroyo made the wild claim, which leans into racial stereotypes about Black people, that due to an alleged love for sneakers, they would vote for Trump in the coming presidential election. This comes after Trump proudly showed off his gold sneakers on social media, after they sold out within days of him launching them at Sneaker Con. “Even the sneaker thing. I was on social media last night. Very interesting as you see Black support eroding from Joe Biden,” Arroyo stated. “This is connecting with Black America because they love sneakers … This is a big deal. Certainly, in the inner city.”


Supreme Court allows $2.4 billion Boy Scouts sex abuse deal to go forward” via Abbie VanSickle of The New York Times — The Supreme Court cleared the way on Thursday for a $2.4 billion plan to settle sex abuse lawsuits against the Boy Scouts of America to go forward. The court’s brief, unsigned order gave no reasons, which is typical for emergency applications. There were no public dissents. A group of victims had asked the court to pause the plan as the justices consider an opioid settlement against Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, and the members of the wealthy Sackler family who owned it, because that deal raised similar issues.

SCOTUS decides the multibillion-dollar Boy Scout settlement can advance.

Joe Biden calls Republicans in Congress ‘worse’ than Strom Thurmond” via Reid J. Epstein of The New York Times — Biden compared the current generation of Republicans in Congress to racist lawmakers of the past, arguing that today’s crop was “worse” because it had sought to undermine the legitimacy of elections. “I’ve served with real racists,” he said at an evening fundraiser in California. “I’ve served with Strom Thurmond. I’ve served with all these guys that have set terrible records on race. But guess what? These guys are worse. These guys do not believe in basic democratic principles.”

Lawmakers press to avoid funding pitfall for public defender” via Ryan Tarinelli of Roll Call — Appropriators from both parties say they are working to address a budget pitfall for federal public defenders, as funding uncertainty already has led to a nationwide hiring freeze for offices tasked with representing poor defendants. Lawmakers in both chambers say the House and Senate versions of the fiscal 2024 Financial Services and General Government spending bill, which covers defender services, would effectively cut its funding. Adding $108 million to the House proposal and $136 million to the Senate mark would, at a bare minimum, support the right to an attorney in federal court, the lawmakers argue. Increasing the figures is among the issues appropriators face as they negotiate a final version of the Financial Services bill. That measure has a March 8 deadline in the current stopgap law, part of a greater clash over government funding that has led to multiple stopgap spending measures.


‘South Florida deserves better’: Former Key Biscayne Mayor announces bid to unseat María Elvira Salazar” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Mayor Mike Davey is running to supplant Salazar in Florida’s 27th Congressional District, where Democrats still hold hopes of revival after a pair of disappointing elections. Davey considers Salazar “the center of the problem” when it comes to “chaos and dysfunction” in Washington. He hopes to bring the leadership style he applied over his 12 years as an elected official in Key Biscayne, where he served maximum stints on the City Council and in the Mayor’s office. “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,” he said in a statement.

Happening Tuesday:

Bobby Payne backs Chad Johnson for HD 22 — Rep. Payne is endorsing Republican Johnson in the race for HD 22. “I join Speaker Pro Tem Chuck Clemons in endorsing Chad Johnson to represent House District 22,” Payne said in a news release. “His deep roots in our rural communities will give him unique insight into the everyday challenges facing the citizens of North Florida. Chad is a fiscal conservative who has the experience and wisdom to make a difference in the state Legislature.” Johnson is one of three Republicans running to succeed Clemons in the Gainesville-based district currently held by Clemons, who is term-limited.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Mayor Francis Suarez surveys Southern border, huddles with Fox radio host, trumpets Miami” via Sarah Blaskey of the Miami Herald — Suarez took an unexpected trip to Texas this week to visit the U.S. border with Mexico as part of a delegation put together by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a libertarian conservative nonprofit founded by brothers Charles Koch and the late David Koch. The group also included Fox News radio host Guy Benson and social media influencer Caitlin Oponski, who goes by “Cowgirl Cait.” Such trips have become a staple for Republican presidential hopefuls this election cycle as they seek to capitalize on polls showing the majority of Americans across both parties see the number of migrants crossing the border as a major problem facing the country. But Suarez’s recent visit seemed to come out of the blue and had no obvious ties to a particular political campaign.

To watch a video of Suarez’s visit, please click the image below:

Coral Gables Police Chief exchanged friendly texts with a suspect: a UM football coach” via Tess Riski of the Miami Herald — The Police Chief of Coral Gables exchanged over a dozen text messages with a University of Miami (UM) football coach amid an investigation into allegations that the coach exposed himself to an employee on the school’s cleaning staff in 2022. The text messages, an unusually close exchange between a Police Chief and the suspect in a criminal matter, show Police Chief Ed Hudak arranging a private meeting with the coach, who was at the time the suspect in a “lewd and lascivious offense” case, according to a police report. The texts were revealed in a December report from the Baltimore Sun, which published an investigation into the coach, Joshua Gattis.

Brian Barefoot resigns from Indian River County School Board, effective immediately” via Colleen Wixon of Treasure Coast Newspapers — School Board District 5 member Barefoot resigned. He’s moved out of his School Board district, he said, making him ineligible to serve. His resignation was effective immediately. Barefoot, who was in the final year of his first four-year term on the School Board, had downsized from his John’s Island home and purchased a home in Oak Harbor, which is in District 2. The sale was finalized on Feb. 15, he said. “We lived in John’s Island in a big house. We needed to downsize (and) make life a little easier,” Barefoot said. “It’s that simple. I had to resign.” School Board members must live in the district to which they are elected.

Hollywood beach is one of the best in nation, says ranking by TripAdvisor” via Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Hollywood beach now has bragging rights as one of the best in the nation, based on the latest ranking by TripAdvisor. The laid-back beach, known for its bustling Broadwalk and bright blue-and-yellow lifeguard towers, came in at No. 4 in the top 10 rankings. “We who live here already knew this,” Hollywood Mayor Josh Levy said in a Facebook post. “But it’s cool to see Hollywood Beach ranked as the best beach in the USA by TripAdvisor. No. 4 beach in the USA. Though No. 1 if you ask me.” Fort Lauderdale snagged the No. 15 spot in Tripadvisor’s annual Travelers Choice Awards. Miami Beach, that high-profile locale to the south, didn’t make the list.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

OCPS looks to offer ‘historic,’ nearly 10% teacher raises and hike insurance costs” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — Most Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) teachers would get raises of nearly 10%, a historic increase possible only if the school district addresses the “surging” cost of health care by raising rates on some of its insurance plans, Superintendent Maria Vazquez said. The district’s salary proposal marks “the largest salary offer ever in the history of Orange County Public Schools,” Vazquez said. Vazquez spoke at a news conference at OCPS headquarters called to address the six-month standoff between the district and its teachers union over raises and insurance. The Superintendent said she and her staff want to get teachers the proposed raises as quickly as possible. “They deserve this raise,” she said.

Maria Vazquez is pushing for a historic pay raise for Orange County public schoolteachers.

Answering to seven bosses: Daytona Beach City Manager gets first formal evaluation.” via Eileen Zaffiro-Kean of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — If Deric Feacher’s job as City Manager was a class, and the Mayor and six City Commissioners were his teachers, he would be taking home a report card with three “C’s,” two strong “B’s” and two “A+’s.” Nearly three years into the job, Feacher received his first evaluation from Commissioners. When their seven scores are averaged out, it leaves Feacher with a solid “B” grade. The top official at City Hall received some criticisms, including a reminder that City Commissioners are his bosses. But most of the comments about his performance since he took over as City Manager on June 1, 2021, were complimentary. “Overall, I think you’re doing an outstanding job,” Mayor Derrick Henry said.

Volusia Council criticizes Chair’s ‘State of the County’ speech, votes to review in advance” via Sheldon Gardner of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — Volusia County Council members agreed to review the Council Chair’s annual “State of the County” speech ahead of time to check for anything they don’t agree on. The annual event highlights the County Council’s accomplishments on video and features Chair Jeff Brower delivering a speech. This year the county held the event on Valentine’s Day at The Center at Deltona. In his remarks, Brower spoke of goals that weren’t necessarily endorsed by Council members. For example, he said he wants to expand beach driving. “This year I will take up the challenge of reopening the section of beach that was closed from East ISB (International Speedway Boulevard) to the Boardwalks,” Brower said at the time.

Volusia Council approves pay increase for corrections, officials pledge improvements” via Sheldon Gardner of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — A new contract is in place that will increase pay for corrections officers in Volusia County, and officials said more work remains to be done to improve conditions at the county’s jail facilities. The Volusia County Council approved the agreement with the International Union of Police Associations, AFL CIO. The agreement, which would be in effect through Sept. 30, 2026, covers corrections officers, senior corrections officers and sergeants. Corrections officers raised alarms in 2023 about staffing levels, calling them dangerously low. Corrections officers appeared before the County Council in October to plead for safer conditions. County Manager George Recktenwald, who called the October appearance a union tactic, said the county is committed to filling open positions.

Port Canaveral CEO welcomes Biden administration security initiatives for seaports” via Dave Berman of Florida Today — Port Canaveral CEO John Murray says he welcomes just-announced Biden administration initiatives aimed at boosting cybersecurity at the nation’s seaports. Biden signed an executive order bolstering the Department of Homeland Security’s authority to deal with maritime cyber threats to ensure that U.S. ports’ networks and systems are secure. The U.S. Coast Guard now will have the express authority to respond to malicious cyberthreat activity in the nation’s marine transportation system by requiring vessels and waterfront facilities to mitigate conditions that may endanger the safety of a vessel, facility or harbor. In a related action, the Biden administration is taking aim at the potential security dangers stemming from the use of Chinese-made cargo cranes at U.S. ports.

John Murray is welcoming federal funds for port security.

What Michelle Schorsch is reading — “UCF receives $5.5M pledge for new football operations building” via Matt Murschel of the Orlando Sentinel — The University of Central Florida’s (UCF) Board of Trustees approved naming its proposed football operations building the Taylor A. Gerring Football Center. The move acknowledges a $5.5 million financial gift from Taylor A. Gerring, a 2005 UCF graduate who is a pioneer in blockchain technology and co-founder of the Ethereum Foundation. The gift is the largest single cash pledge given to the athletics department and is part of the Mission XII fundraising initiative, which was created to upgrade the athletic department’s operating budget and athletic facilities as the school enters Year 2 in the Big 12 Conference. “This is a tremendous opportunity,” said BOT Chair Alex Martins. Gerring also has pledged $1 million to The Kingdom, UCF’s official NIL collective.


Jay Collins wants to bring home 286 million pieces of bacon” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Sen. Collins, who represents the Tampa-based Senate District 14, has filed more than 60 appropriations requests this Legislative Session, representing more than $286 million in funding for local projects. Collins’ requests span a variety of different priorities, causes and projects, from road improvements and health care programs to higher education and feeding the area’s hungry. His top ask is $50 million for an Interstate 4 “intercity passenger rail” improvement. For those uninitiated to the I-4 corridor, there isn’t any rail. Collins’ appropriation request seeks to change that. “It is in the strategic interest of the state and the traveling public to extend passenger rail from Orlando to Tampa,” the request (LFIR 2147) reads.

Jay Collins hopes to bring home the bacon with a laundry list of local projects.

Hillsborough Commissioners approve $671M infrastructure project despite concerns over bid process” via Henry Queen of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — The Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners has advanced a massive wastewater infrastructure project in the fast-growing South County suburbs. Commissioners voted 5-2 on Wednesday to award a progressive design-build contract to Garney Companies Inc. for an approximately $671 million project in Lithia encompassing a new advanced wastewater treatment facility, a new wastewater pump station, about 10 miles of wastewater force mains and another 12 miles of reclaimed water pipes. The county previously awarded the bid to Sundt Construction Inc. before the request for proposals was thrown out. Staff then ranked Sundt No. 2 behind Garney, which will team up with several companies including Hazen and Sawyer.

Lina Teixeira won’t support Kathleen Beckman for Clearwater Mayor” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Clearwater City Council member Teixeira has, until now, tried to stay neutral in the city’s mayoral race. But with less than a month until Election Day on March 19, Teixeira is breaking her silence. Teixeira tells Florida Politics she cannot support City Council member Kathleen Beckman in her bid for Mayor or City Council member Mark Bunker in his re-election, arguing her colleagues have shown a “pattern of disparaging the other people they wish to work with.” “I’m very concerned about our ability to be unified in governing the city,” Teixeira said. “This is not about me endorsing people, it’s about me saying these two incumbents cannot garner consensus and build partnership and cohesiveness,” she added.

Tampa media figure Tim Burke indicted on conspiracy charges” via Justin Garcia, Dan Sullivan, Jay Cridlin and Olivia George of the Tampa Bay Times — Tampa media consultant Burke was charged Thursday with 14 federal crimes related to alleged computer hacks at Fox News. Federal law enforcement officials arrested Burke, 45, on Thursday morning. He appeared in handcuffs in a Tampa federal courtroom Thursday afternoon, wearing a brown sweater, white collared shirt and dark jeans, and was released on his own recognizance shortly thereafter. The indictment charges Burke with one count of conspiracy, six counts of accessing a protected computer without authorization, and seven counts of intercepting or disclosing wire, oral or electronic communications. Burke runs Burke Communications, a media and political consulting company.

Tim Burke faces more than a dozen conspiracy charges.

Founder of St. Pete trust company faces class-action lawsuit over unauthorized $100M loan revealed in bankruptcy” via Christina Georgacopoulos of Tampa Bay Business Journal — The Center for Special Needs Trust Administration founder Leo Govoni is facing a class-action lawsuit over his alleged misappropriation of $100 million managed by the nonprofit, which was revealed in a bankruptcy filing earlier this month. Todd and Kelli Chamberlin, the parents of a disabled child whose trust is managed by the center, named many of Govoni’s businesses and associates as defendants in the lawsuit — including American Momentum Bank, which maintained accounts for the center. Bankruptcy attorneys for the center are simultaneously working with a team at Hill Ward Henderson to investigate the $100 million loan Govoni allegedly siphoned from its accounts and organize a plan of action, according to attorney Robert Shimberg. A complaint filed by the center would proceed through the bankruptcy court, he said.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

City of Tallahassee may follow suit after county apologizes for history of racism, slavery” via Arianna Otero of the Tallahassee Democrat — The Tallahassee City Commission may be following in the recent footsteps of the Leon County Commission in acknowledging and issuing an apology for the city’s role in slavery and the Jim Crow Laws of the past. Commissioner Jack Porter brought up the issue at the end of Wednesday’s meeting making a motion for staff to work on a resolution for the Commission to later vote on. “I think it’s important that the city joins the county in doing that and showing unity,” Porter said. “ … I think it’s especially meaningful now as we celebrate our bicentennial.”

Jack Porter hopes that Tallahassee’s bicentennial will include an apology for racism and slavery.

City clears out downtown homeless encampment, forces people to move from road and sidewalk” via Nora O’Neil of The Gainesville Sun — City officials largely cleared out the homeless encampment on Southeast Fourth Place on Tuesday, tagging peoples’ belongings with notices that they needed to move from public rights of way or their property would be removed by city staff. The encampment began to proliferate about a month ago after police cleared a similar camp across South Main Street at Haisley Lynch Park. Nearby business owners have complained about the road being blocked and the trouble it has brought to them, but the city doesn’t have enough shelter beds to provide to unhoused people.

Jacksonville Zoo on a mission: conservation of wildlife and wild places at home and abroad” via Teresa Stepzinski of The Florida Times-Union — The birth of three critically endangered Malayan tiger cubs at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens underscores the nonprofit institution’s crucial but lesser-known role in global, national and state conservation efforts to save animals considered at risk of potential extinction. Recently named Mina, Machli and Beppy, the cubs are the latest species survival success story at the zoo in North Jacksonville that’s home to more than 1,500 exotic and rare animals along with 1,000 plant species. Approximately 38% of the zoo’s animal species are designated as critically endangered, endangered, threatened, or vulnerable in the wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as well as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) or Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).


Waterfront property becomes the first to be conserved with Manatee County referendum funds” via Jesse Mendoza of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The Crooked River Ranch, one of the last privately owned parcels on the Manatee River, is the first to be protected under a new conservation fund approved by Manatee County voters in 2020. The 64-acre property boasts waterfront views of the northern Manatee River shoreline in Parrish, about halfway between Interstate 75 and Ft. Hamer Road in an area where open tracts of land are often sold for development. The Hunter family instead set their sights on conservation after about 30 years of ownership. The property was sold to Manatee County on Feb. 12 for $11.2 million, leveraging funds from a voter-driven referendum to create a new tax dedicated to environmental conservation purposes approved in 2020.

Marco Island OKs Bill of Rights sanctuary with new title, moves affordable housing forward” via J. Kyle Foster of the Naples Daily News — After impassioned comments and debate, the Marco Island City Council approved an ordinance giving it authority to make determinations about the U.S. Constitution when its residents question it. On second reading, an updated and retitled ordinance that establishes the city of Marco Island as a “Constitutionally Protected Freedom Zone” was approved by a 6-1 vote. The ordinance includes procedures for residents to file a complaint and be heard by the City Council. “This ordinance protects our citizens from unlawful federal government overreach,” said Council member Greg Folley, who proposed the ordinance, which originally proposed calling Marco Island a “Bill of Rights sanctuary city.”

Greg Folley is behind the ordinance to make Marco Island a sanctuary city — for the Bill of Rights.

North Port conservation group seeks to add Port Charlotte lot for wildlife habitat” via Earle Kimel of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The Environmental Conservancy of North Port needs to raise $10,000 by Feb. 28 to buy a quarter-acre lot off Chamberlain Boulevard in Port Charlotte, just outside of the North Port city limits. The parcel targeted — Lot 16 on Chris Terrace — would be used as a “steppingstone” wildlife habitat, with a collection of Florida native plants and trees, including several oaks of various ages. The nonprofit, which changed its Facebook page to The Environmental Conservancy of North Port and Surrounding Areas to reflect the fact that it also targets land in unincorporated Sarasota and Charlotte counties, started in the Spring of 2020 in North Port.


Bob Gualtieri: HB 1 Is a major step in protecting our kids” via Florida Politics — Year after year, we’ve tirelessly pursued solutions to safeguard our children, and I’m proud to say that our efforts have been met with supportive legislation from the state Legislature.

I am now pleased to join Stand with Parkland, which is the organization comprised of Stoneman Douglas victims’ families, in taking the next step in protecting our children from online threats by supporting the passage of House Bill 1. This bill takes an important step to support Florida’s kids, parents, and communities against the consequences of addictive social media.

Social media companies know their algorithms and design features get kids addicted to their products. They don’t care and continue to use infinite scrolling, push notifications, video autoplay, and other features, knowing they are hurting kids. In addition to causing a substantial rise in depression, anxiety and suicide in kids, the algorithms are driving connections the children would have no other reason to make. In one of the many state-led lawsuits against Meta, internal documents from the social media giant revealed that the company knew that 100,000 children using Facebook and Instagram received online sexual harassment each week but did nothing about it.

The research revealed how predators leverage Meta’s platforms to force the algorithms to produce images, identify other pedophiles and recommend potential victims.

Florida Sheriffs stand with Florida legislators who are putting the safety of our children first, parental rights front and center and standing up to online predators.

While HB 1 can’t rewrite the past, we still have time to save our future by keeping our children from being exploited by mega social media companies.


The strongest case against Trump” via Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic — It’s worth entertaining the strongest argument against Trump, which many Americans haven’t heard before: that Trump brings out the worst in many of us — his critics and supporters alike. To really make this anti-Trump argument, one must go so far as to acknowledge that the anti-Trump coalition has sometimes engaged in unreason, hysteria, and abuses of power. The name for this phenomenon is Trump Derangement Syndrome. During Trump’s presidency, our entire politics was distorted by the reaction to him, not just among zealous members of #theresistance but among many moderate Democrats who were less likely to oppose the left’s excesses while Trump was in power. Feeling more threatened by Trump than by any other politician, they treated stopping him as their priority and everything else as a distraction that could be sorted out later. It was never harder to oppose the illiberal left than when Trump was the President.

Haley won’t quit — at least for 10 days.” via Byron York of the Washington Examiner — “I’m not going anywhere,” she declared this week in the run-up to the South Carolina Primary. But listen to Haley when it comes to specifics, and she is only pledging to stay in the race until Super Tuesday — which happens all of 10 days after South Carolina. “She told The Associated Press that she’s not going anywhere until at least after Super Tuesday,” The Associated Press reported this week. “Ten days after South Carolina, another 20 states vote,” she said. “I mean, this isn’t Russia. We don’t want someone to go in and just get 99% of the vote. What is the rush? Why is everybody so panicked about me having to get out of this race?” In those contests, a total of 874 delegates will be at stake. That is more than one-third of the entire Republican delegate total in the presidential race.

Declaring fetuses to be people would gut reproductive rights in Florida” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — For Floridians who are already deeply uneasy about women losing the right to control their own bodies, what happened Wednesday in the House Judiciary Committee was truly terrifying. Bill sponsor Jenna Persons-Mulicka did her best to hide the radical nature of her legislation, which creates civil liability for anyone who causes the “wrongful death” of a fetus in utero. Conveying full rights on a fetus would be a shattering blow to reproductive independence for Floridians capable of becoming pregnant, reaching past debates over viability and bans on abortion at a specified number of weeks. HB 651 would kick in at the very start of a pregnancy and create an easy steppingstone from wrongful deaths (including from abortions) to anything that threatens the health of a fetus, even if it is meant to benefit the mother’s health.

Josh Anderson: New year, new opportunities to enhance access to care” via Florida Politics — A legislative package, known as SB 444 and HB 493, envisions a hybrid prescription fulfillment process where pharmacists would have the ability to use remote technology to oversee technicians, validate prescriptions, and provide counseling to patients — all without needing to be physically present at the second pharmacy site. This system might be new to Florida, but it’s already being put to work in many states around the country. In fact, last year 28 states were using this system. With an ever-growing population of people needing health care but some of our state’s top universities producing fewer pharmacy graduates, a situation that is already challenging can become even more harrowing. Pharmacists shouldn’t be boxed into the traditional way of providing care when a more inventive approach is so readily available.


— ALOE —

‘Bad Boys 4’ filming to shut down Fort Lauderdale beach traffic on Monday” via Phillip Valys of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A couple of “Bad Boys” will shut down traffic on Fort Lauderdale beach on Monday. The city has issued an advisory alerting motorists that filming for the Will SmithMartin Lawrence sequel “Bad Boys 4” is expected to close northbound State Road A1A and other beach-adjacent roads throughout the day. Drivers are urged to detour through Seabreeze Boulevard, which “will be converted to one lane in each direction to accommodate traffic flow,” according to the city. “Bad Boys. Miami. Last eight days!” actor Smith hyped on his Instagram account, posting a video that shows him executing an action stunt on a dock overlooking what appears to be the Intracoastal Waterway.

While filming the latest Bad Boys sequel, Will Smith takes in all the sights in Miami.

SeaWorld’s Penguin Trek coaster on track for Spring opening” via DeWayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — SeaWorld Orlando is making visible progress on its next attraction, Penguin Trek, an indoor-outdoor roller coaster set to open at the theme park this Spring. The ride’s rail — white on the outside stretches, black on the interior — is completely in place. The décor is in the works, including faux rockwork and expedition-inspired touches. Penguin Trek will operate in the building for the former Empire of the Penguin attraction, and demolition was required in the plaza as well as some construction for a gift shop/exit. The iceberg look remains. “You may remember from the previous ride, we were on a journey with Puck, who was a character that we created to symbolize that birth and growth of a penguin in the wild,” Clint Brinker, vice president of design and engineering, said during a hard-hat tour behind the construction walls.


Happiest of birthday wishes to one of our besties, Amanda Taylor Houston. Happy early birthday to Carlos Trujillo, president of Continental Strategy.


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
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