Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 2.29.24

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Your day is better after Sunburn — a first read of what's happening in Florida politics.

Good Thursday morning.

Breaking overnight — “Supreme Court will hear Donald Trump presidential immunity claim in election interference case” via Kevin Breuninger of CNBC — The high court granted Trump’s request to pause the case from moving forward until they decide whether an ex-President is immune from being prosecuted for official acts performed while in office, as Trump claims. The justices are poised to proceed quickly, with Trump’s court briefs due within three weeks and oral arguments set for the week of April 22. But it could take months for the court to issue an opinion. If the justices rule against Trump, the case will continue in Washington, D.C., federal court, and it could head to trial in the middle of the presidential campaign, where Trump seeks to beat President Joe Biden. If the justices rule in Trump’s favor, the case will be dismissed.


Comcast NBCUniversal is expanding its Florida Government Affairs team with the addition of telecommunications and broadband lobbyist Christie Pontis Mason.

Mason joins the company as Senior Manager of Government Affairs and will report to Brian Musselwhite, Comcast’s vice president of State Government Affairs in Florida.

In the new role, she will be responsible for developing and managing government relationships and policy issues at the state level that impact all aspects of the company’s business and its customers.

Comcast NBCUniversal takes on a heavy hitter with the addition of Christie Pontis Mason to its lobbying team.

“I am thrilled to join the dynamic Comcast NBCUniversal team at a time of growth, especially with the expansion of the new theme park, Epic Universe, and to be a part of a company that is investing heavily in its existing infrastructure while partnering with the state of Florida to reduce the digital divide by expanding broadband into Florida’s rural markets,” Mason said.

Before joining the telecom giant, Mason worked at Lumen Technologies, previously CenturyLink and Embarq. She brings more than a decade of experience in the telecommunications industry. Before Lumen, she worked on former Attorney General Pam Bondi’s legislative affairs team.


Today is the inaugural Israel Day at the Capitol, and you won’t have to wait until next Leap Day for it to return — organizers say it will be an annual event going forward.

The first edition will have multiple activities, from presentations on Israeli innovation and food tastings to meetings with elected officials, community leaders and youth. Expect Florida-Israel ties to get the spotlight as well.

Tallahassee celebrates Israel on its inaugural Israel Day at the Capitol.

Notable attendees include Millet Ben Haim and Rom El Hai, two survivors of the Supernova music festival massacre, the Oct. 7 attack that saw Hamas terrorists kill 364 civilians and wound many more.

The pair will be joined by Consul General of Israel to Florida Maor Elbaz-Starinsky and multiple state lawmakers, including Sens. Ana Maria Rodriguez and Jason Pizzo as well as Rep. Randy Fine, for a 9 a.m. news conference on the steps of the Old Capitol.

All three lawmakers affirmed their support of Israel in a news release announcing the event, with Fine saying he was “honored to have helped organize this special bipartisan day and to fight every day for the safety of Jews in Florida — and Israel.”

Elbaz-Starinsky added, “Florida and Israel share common values of democracy, liberty and prosperity. Naturally, the Sunshine State is a beacon of support to the Jewish state, and Israel Day at the Capitol is one more way our ties highlight all that we can continue to accomplish in pursuit of high ideals, safety and well-being for the U.S., Israel and the world.”


‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 1; Michigan/Idaho/Missouri GOP Primaries — 3; Netflix to stream “The Netflix Slam,” Rafael Nadal/Carlos Alcaraz faceoff — 3; Super Tuesday — 5; State of the Union address — 7; last day of Regular Session, if Legislature completes work in 60 days — 8; 2024 Oscars — 10; Georgia Democratic Primary — 13; Arizona/Florida/Illinois/Kansas/Ohio Primaries — 20; James Madison Institute’s ‘2024 Naples Dinner’ with keynote speaker Laura Ingraham — 21; ‘3 Body Problem’ premieres on Netflix — 21; Trump’s New York hush money trial begins — 25; The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the mifepristone/abortion pill case — 26; Major League Baseball’s (MLB) 2024 season — 28; March Madness Final Four (women’s) begins — 35; March Madness Final Four (men’s) — 38; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 42; The Masters begin — 43; Kentucky Derby — 66; 2024 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 71; ‘Bridgerton’ new season (part one) premieres on Netflix — 78; French Open begins — 81; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 83; Dave Matthews Band 2024 Summer Tour begins in Tampa — 83; Monaco Grand Prix — 87; the 2024 World Cup begins — 103; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 121; Republican National Convention begins — 137; the 2024 World Cup ends — 141; 2024 MLS All-Star Game — 146; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games on NBC/Peacock — 148; ‘Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 167; Democratic National Convention begins — 173; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 177; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 232; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 235; 2024 Presidential Election — 250; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 263; MLS Cup 2024 — 278; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 351; ‘Moana’ premieres — 481; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 512; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 512; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 617; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 659; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 796; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 812; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 1,023; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,163; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,122; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,844.


Kathleen Passidomo says legislation barring trans identity from licenses won’t be heard in Senate” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The measure also would have required insurance companies covering gender reassignment surgery to cover de-transitioning as well.

“That bill is still stuck in Committee,” the Naples Republican said, “and so, pursuant to our rules. We don’t take bills. We don’t do the cards or ever take bills out of Committee.”

The news came the same day transgender activists held a rally outside the Florida Capitol as part of a “Let Us Live” march. Activists celebrated the news but promised vigilance as the legislation (HB 1639) advances in the House.

Kathleen Passidomo puts her food down on ‘another intolerant culture war from the far right.’

“It is vital to understand that one’s identity cannot be erased by denying the right to self-identify,” said Barbie Mugler, executive director of Trans United In Elevation’s Tampa chapter.

The House bill is scheduled for a vote on the floor Thursday.

Rep. Doug Bankson, an Apopka Republican, said his legislation on transgender health care, in fact, was an act of compassion. “This does not take anyone’s right to personally identify how they wish but this is a state document based upon state statute. That’s why there’s clarity,” Bankson said at a House Committee.

LGBTQ lawmakers and allies said the legislation represented yet another intolerant culture war from the far right.


Talks underway between Senate, Ron DeSantis’ Office on revising Chinese real estate crackdown” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Sen. Clay Yarborough said his aim is not to undo barriers to the Chinese Communist Party hoarding Florida farmland. “The business community has raised important concerns regarding the need to more clearly define a controlling interest vs. a (de minimis), indirect interest,” the Jacksonville Republican said in a statement to Florida Politics. “The legislation I put forward maintains the toughest sanctions on China in the entire country while providing the clarity companies controlled by American investors need to continue to contribute to our growing economy.” The Senate Rules Committee last week amended an easement bill (SB 814) sponsored by Yarborough. Procedurally, the bill can be heard on the Senate floor at this point, but sources say talks have continued with DeSantis’ staff and with the House.

Clay Yarborough seeks to strike a balance between business interests and Chinese land buys. Image via Colin Hackley.

‘We need to address this scourge’: Senate passes bill defining antisemitism in Florida Statutes” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Legislation establishing a broadly applying definition for antisemitism in Florida is one vote from passing. Members of the Senate voted unanimously for a bill (HB 187) that would define antisemitism as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews,” and rhetorical and manifestations of such hatred “directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals, their property, community institutions and religious facilities.” Florida would become the 13th state in the U.S. to comprehensively apply the definition, which the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) adopted in 2016. Florida law already includes it, but it’s tucked away in an education-specific portion of statutes. The measure comes amid a staggering rise in hateful acts against Jews. It would not establish any new law or crime. Rather, the definition could be used in conjunction with Florida’s existing hate crime and discrimination statutes.

The end of public campaign finance? Senate approves referendum to repeal standing law” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Voters may soon decide whether to end a program providing matching state funds for candidates that agree to spending limits. The Senate approved by a 28-11 vote a measure approving a ballot referendum asking voters to weigh in on repealing the Florida Election Campaign Financing Act (FECFA). Accessing that pot of money is one way that candidates who aren’t wealthy can get a leg up to make their cases to the voters. Sen. Travis Hutson’s measure (SJR 1114) would, if passed, let voters this year decide in a referendum whether they want to end the provision that has been in effect since the Legislature passed it in 1986 — an era in which Florida and its campaign finance looked very different from the way they do today in some ways, but nonetheless saw some dynamics familiar to people of today.

County Commissioner term limits bill dies as Senate, House diverge” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — An ambitious legislative proposal that would have led to term limits for County Commissioners is dead for 2024 after the Senate and House couldn’t agree on language, according to sources close to legislative leadership and bill sponsors. But it appears the legislation will be back next year. Bills from Sen. Blaise Ingoglia (SB 438) and Rep. Michelle Salzman (HB 57) both sought to create mechanisms to impose term limits on long-serving County Commissioners, but the differences were ultimately too great to resolve. Behind the scenes, hard-line conservatives were adamant about eight years being enough, which was a condition that wasn’t as sellable in the Senate. While the latest iteration of Ingoglia’s bill included eight years as the benchmark, there was some pressure to make that a 12-year mark.

Legislature won’t raise minimum age for strip club workers this year” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — A legislative push to keep people under the age of 21 from performing or working in adult entertainment venues has died in Committee and will not be voted on by the Senate or House this year. The bills from Sen. Yarborough (SB 1690) and Rep. Carolina Amesty (HB 1379) were envisioned as a way to curb the problem of human trafficking by raising the age limit from 18. But the House bill did not get on the Commerce agenda, and the Senate product was temporarily postponed in Tuesday’s Fiscal Policy Committee, essentially closing the path in both legislative bodies. The legislation stipulated that owners would have been subject to first-degree misdemeanor charges regarding those under 21 working in the clubs and other adult establishments. If those under 21 dared to bear, the penalty would have been enhanced to a second-degree felony penalty for the proprietors.

Carolina Amesty wants to keep those under 21 off the pole.

That’s a wrap: Bill letting local governments ban plastics fails to advance” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Legislation to repeal the state’s preemption on local governments banning single-use plastic containers and plastic bags has died this Session. Current state law forbids Florida cities and counties from passing their own bans to protect the environment from those plastics. Sen. Linda Stewart’s bill sought to remove the preemption of recyclable and polystyrene materials. SB 498 was assigned to three Senate Committees but did not get a hearing. It also did not have a House companion. Similar efforts to give local governments more control have previously failed in Florida. Stewart is term-limited and ending her career in the Senate. She was not immediately available for comment Wednesday. Lawmakers remain in Session until March 8.


Budget conference: Correctional officers, families to get educational help” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Conference Committee between the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee and Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice agreed on a $1 million funding level for requests from Sen. Jim Boyd and Rep. John Snyder that would pay a third-party vendor to offer educational services. While that’s less than the $1.9 million the Republican legislators sought, it’s a good start. The Senate funding request extols the proposal as offering “a broad array of valuable, connected services that help (Florida Department of Corrections) employees, their spouses, and their children reach their educational goals and obtain career development growth.”

Jim Boyd and John Snyder notch a win for corrections officers in Florida.

Budget conference: Senate serves up $6.5M for Farm Share” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Senate appropriators just served up $6.5 million worth of good news for Farm Share. The latest Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations offer matches funding levels for the food program already included in the House budget. Both chambers of the Legislature now have $6.5 million set aside for Farm Share, a nonprofit dedicated to making sure “food-insecure Floridians receive the food and support they need.” The state food bank was established in 1991 and now partners with more than 2,000 food pantries, churches, schools, and other nonprofits throughout Florida. Farm Share leaders lobbied for funding this year, noting that inflation in food costs has made its mission especially critical.

Budget conference: Senate wants expansion of prison phone calls program” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Calls home to family can offer the incarcerated a lifeline to the outside world. Now, the Senate wants more opportunities for prisoners to earn phone time for good behavior. The latest offer from the Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Committee budgets $2 million to a phone call savings pilot program for prison inmates’ families. The Department of Corrections last year launched a pilot program that would make a limited number of phone calls free and to dole those out to inmates demonstrating good behavior. Under the program, incarcerated individuals who don’t receive a disciplinary report for three months could be eligible for a free 15-minute phone call, according to coverage in the Orlando Sentinel when it launched.

Budget conference: Lake-Sumter lands millions for Technology Innovation Center” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — An innovation center for Lake-Sumter State College just landed a few million dollars in state funding. The latest Senate Education Appropriations offer provides $5 million to the college, bringing the upper chamber in agreement with the House on the project. The money will go toward adding a 40,000-square-foot Technology Innovation Center at the school’s Clermont campus. Of note, Rep. Keith Truenow, a Tavares Republican, requested $5.1 million for the project. The ultimate agreement between House and Senate budget negotiators provides almost as much, including $2.5 million in recurring funding and another $2.5 million in nonrecurring dollars out of general revenue.

Budget conference: Space Florida lands another $6M” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Forget the moon landing. It looks like Space Florida just landed another $6 million in state revenue for a finance fund. The latest Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations offer includes $6 million for the aerospace economic development agency. That’s equal to what House Infrastructure and Tourism budget negotiators have already set aside for the same purpose. The funding comes from nonrecurring general revenues. The dollars for a finance fund are on top of the $12.5 million the House and Senate already included in their budgets. That’s the same amount of money the organization received last year. But that doesn’t mean Space Florida has completed its mission this Legislative Session. The agency still hopes to convince lawmakers to provide an additional $5 million for its operating budget.

Budget conference: Education budget directs $4.5M for FSW radiologic program” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Budget appropriators are pointing a $4.5 million blast in state funding at Florida SouthWestern (FSW) State College. The Fort Myers school plans to use the funding to enhance a radiologic technology program. The latest offer from Senate Education Appropriations would provide more than $2.2 million in funding in recurring revenue and another $2.2 million in nonrecurring revenue. House Higher Education Appropriations already has that amount budgeted for the school. That fully meets one of three funding requests that Rep. Adam Botana, a Bonita Springs Republican, submitted on behalf of the school. The request comes from FSW President Jeffery Allbritten.

Budget conference: Senate offers $8M to rebuild Fort Myers Beach town hall, far more than House” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Senators want to rebuild Fort Myers Beach Town Hall after Hurricane Ian destroyed it. But to date, the House is holding out on sending more money ashore. The latest offer from the Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Committee includes $8 million to rebuild the public facility. Fort Myers Beach officials, in an official request for funding, said they want to buy commercial property and rebuild the structure there. “This would increase public access, which has been greatly limited since Hurricane Ian,” the request from Fort Myers Beach Town Manager Andrew Hyatt reads.

Budget conference: State poised to fund new police station in High Springs” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — No false alarm here. An Alachua County city appears to have made a successful plea to the Legislature for a seven-figure, unmatched appropriation for a new police station. The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee and Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice Conference Committee agreed to $1 million in funding for High Springs, which needs a bigger police station because its population is growing, more than doubling this century. While that’s below the $1.6 million sought originally, the number should offer a good start for the town if DeSantis doesn’t veto it. High Springs claims “it will likely be able to provide more of a local match with an increase of expected taxes from an increase in residents.”

Budget conference: Suwannee County school barricade money could stop an ‘active killer’ on campus” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Some funding requests are a matter of life and death, as exemplified by Sen. Corey Simon and Rep. Jason Shoaf’s apparently successful push for funding for school safety funding for Suwannee County. The Conference Committee encompassing the House PreK-12 Appropriations Committee and the Senate Education Committee agreed Wednesday to fully fund the $172,500 request for school door barricades, with the Senate acceding to the House position on what is a key priority for Suwannee Superintendent Ted Roush. “Increased school safety for all students and staff, in the event of an active killer event on any of the campuses. The barricade system will work, even if the school door lock is broken or not locked,” reads the funding request.

Corey Simon and Jason Shoaf push for more safety in Suwannee schools.

Budget conference: USF priorities look promising as House meets Senate on human trafficking initiative, psilocybin study” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — USF is poised so far to notch wins on programs tackling human trafficking and studying the effects of psilocybin on post-traumatic stress disorder, with House offers matching those in the Senate. The House had originally penciled in $375,000 in its initial budget for the USF St. Petersburg Trafficking in Persons Risk to Resilience Lab. The Senate included in its budget $750,000 for the same program. The House matched the Senate’s proposed spending level. Likewise, the House also met the Senate on its proposal for a study on the use of psilocybin in veterans suffering from PTSD. The Senate included $650,000 in its budget for the study. While the House did not include funding in its budget, its initial offer met the Senate on its ask.


Hillary Cassel, Lindsay Cross celebrate digital voyeurism bill passage” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The House has unanimously passed a bill increasing penalties for voyeurism, among other changes to existing statutes. Reps. Cassel, a Dania Beach Democrat, and Cross, a St. Petersburg Democrat, sponsored the bill (HB 1389) this Session after a South Florida woman’s stepfather used a hidden camera inside her toilet facing the mirror to capture the woman’s most private moments. The hidden camera ultimately captured 8,000 hours of footage over the course of 344 days. Yet the man was essentially given a slap on the wrist for his voyeurism, with just 344 days in county jail and three years of probation on just one count. Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book of Plantation sponsored an identical Senate version of the bill.

Hillary Cassel and Lindsay Cross strike a blow to digital voyeurism.

Senate OKs bill allowing more facilities to be designated as behavioral health teaching hospitals” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Florida legislators are moving ahead with another component of Passidomo’s “Live Healthy” agenda, this time by establishing new teaching hospitals specializing in behavioral health education and training. SB 330 passed the Senate after Republican Sen. Boyd, the bill’s sponsor, agreed once again to alter the legislation. The latest change — said to be agreed to by all parties — allows up to eight facilities to earn the “behavioral teaching hospital” designation and, therefore, qualify for the additional hundreds of millions in funds associated with the title. The bill next heads to the House, where it is expected to be taken up and passed. By designating behavioral health teaching hospitals, which would be required to be affiliated with state medical schools, the bill aims to fortify the state’s workforce as well as support a behavioral health education system.

House gives the OK to Sickle Cell bill — The House voted unanimously in favor of a bill (HB 7085) that would create the Sickle Cell Disease Research and Treatment Grant Program within the Department of Health and expand the existing sickle cell registry to allow adults with sickle cell disease to opt in. “Florida will lead the way for sickle cell patients with this landmark legislation and investment in researching, understanding, and treating this disease,” said bill sponsor Rep. Kelly Skidmore. ” … This bill is an important step toward bolstering the research that will, one day soon, improve the quality of life for people living with this disease.” Prime co-sponsor House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell added, “This is a big deal and will launch Florida as a world leader in the fight against sickle cell. By creating what we understand to be the nation’s first sickle cell disease Centers of Excellence, Florida is transforming the care available to patients, giving hope for a better life with less pain.”

HOA transparency bill clears House — A bill (HB 59) sponsored by Rep. Kristen Arrington that would require homeowners’ associations to provide copies of association rules and covenants to every member and to every new member thereafter by a specified date passed the House with a unanimous vote. “This legislation is incredibly important to the people of Florida. Homeowners’ associations are a big part of our communities, and it is vital to ensure that residents in HOAs are well-protected,” the Kissimmee Democrat said. “I am immensely grateful that we are able to deliver this critical legislation back to our communities and to finally see this legislation pass the House floor.”

Event ticket price-gouging ban denied entry in Florida” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Legislation to tamp down on soaring event ticket prices in Florida stalled again this year, despite ample public outcry in and outside the Sunshine State. Twin bills (SB 204, HB 177) meant to address the issue hit snags almost as soon as their Republican sponsors filed them. Rep. Alex Andrade told Florida Politics his measure died without a hearing because House Commerce Committee Chair Bob Rommel wasn’t a fan. “(He) just didn’t like it,” Andrade said, adding that he “likely would bring it back” after voters re-elect him in November. The Senate bill, meanwhile, received a hearing in December. But seeing insufficient support from the chamber’s Commerce and Tourism Committee, Sen. Jason Brodeur postponed a vote on it — after unveiling a strike-all amendment to make the measure apply only to venues that take taxpayer dollars and another proposed change limiting the bill’s scope to venues with 3,000 seats or more.


Republican Liberty Caucus calls Passidomo ‘Oath Breaker’ — The Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida said it has inducted Senate President Passidomo into the “Oath Breakers Hall of Shame” for supposedly failing to “protect and defend the constitution.” The allegation is based on gun rights and election bills the group favors not receiving a hearing in the Senate. RLC Florida Chair Bob White said, “As the conscience of the Republican Party, we believe it’s our responsibility to call out the power players in Tallahassee, and in Washington D.C. when they fail to live up to their sacred oath of office.” RLC Florida has previously inducted U.S. Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio into its hall of shame for introducing red flag legislation at the federal level.

Bob White decries Kathleen Passidomo as an ‘oath breaker.’

Own a second home in Florida? Property insurance changes could be on the way” via Lawrence Mower of the Miami Herald — Some Floridians with state-run Citizens Property Insurance could soon find their homeowners policies shuffled to an unregulated insurer. In a first for the state, lawmakers are poised to allow companies known as surplus lines insurers to take out policies from Citizens. Up to 80,000 Floridians — those whose second homes are covered by Citizens — could find themselves with policies lacking basic consumer protections, such as a guarantee that their claim could be paid. Senate Bill 1716 and House Bill 1503 have sailed through the Legislature with few questions asked and almost no debate. But it would be a marked shift in policy for the state. “It is very concerning that Citizens’ policyholders could find themselves forced to surplus lines insurance companies with limited state oversight,” said Rep. Cassel.


10 a.m. The House holds a floor Session. House Chambers.

10 a.m. The Senate holds a floor Session. Senate Chambers.

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


New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Nelson Diaz, David Hagan, Nicole Kelly, Karis Lockhart, Katia Saint Fleur, The Southern Group: Florida Prepaid College Foundation, Miami Barber Institute, Prosperity Social & Community Development Group, Trinity Rescue Mission

Franz Schulze: American Society for Clinical Pathology

Larry Williams, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart: The Center for Arts & Innovation


Florida knew prison well could be contaminated but let women keep drinking” via Max Chesnes and Christopher O’Donnell — It’s no secret that the groundwater around the Florida State Fire College has been highly contaminated for years. State health officials began warning nearby homeowners in 2019 that well water could damage their health after testing revealed groundwater around the college contained harmful human-made chemicals at levels more than 170 times higher than the state considers safe. It’s no mystery where the pollution came from either. For years, firefighters at the college trained with foam extinguishers laced with chemicals that leached into groundwater. The chemicals, which have been phased out of industrial use in the United States, are classified as carcinogens and have been linked to other health issues, including cancer, thyroid issues, weakened immune systems and irregular menstruation.

Florida State Fire College poisoned the groundwater that female prisoners drink from.

Consumer sentiment on the upswing for 5 straight months in Florida” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — Consumer sentiment increased for fifth straight month in February, according to University of Florida economic researchers. The consumer confidence figure came in at 74.1 for February, an increase of 1.5 points over the January number of 72.6. That increase means the sentiment among Sunshine State consumers is getting more positive and it’s been heading that way for most of the past half year. “The last time consumer sentiment increased for five consecutive months was before the pandemic, in early 2019. During that period, inflation was under control, interest rates were less than half today’s rates, and consumer sentiment stood strong at over 100 points, albeit with a slightly higher state unemployment rate than the current one,” said Hector Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

— 2024 —

The Joe Biden campaign is launching a nationwide effort to win the women’s vote. Jill Biden will lead it” via Darlene Superville of The Associated Press — Biden‘s campaign Wednesday announced it is launching “Women for Biden-Harris,” a new nationwide program to organize and mobilize female voters to give him and Vice President Kamala Harris a second White House term. Biden’s wife, Jill, will lead the effort. Women were a crucial part of the coalition that elected Biden in 2020 and his campaign aims to recapture that with the reinvigorated effort. The first lady was to kick things off Friday, the start of Women’s History Month, with a weekend travel blitz through states that will be key to deciding November’s presidential election.

Jill Biden is spearheading the effort to win the female vote.

RFK Jr. campaign fired top staffer who raised concerns about finances” via Diana Falzone of Mediaite — Kennedy Jr.’s 2024 campaign has fired its national finance director, as his long shot bid for the presidency faces headwinds. Multiple sources said Sheila Creal, a veteran Democratic bundler who worked on Biden’s 2020 bid, was fired by the Kennedy campaign Jan. 26 after she scrutinized how the campaign was managing its finances. The sources said Creal raised questions about exorbitant spending and concerns about potential FEC issues. Puck’s Teddy Schleifer reported Tuesday that Creal had “quietly left” the Kennedy campaign last month, though he did not report why she left.

Trump to be in Fort Pierce Friday for court hearing” via Will Greenlee and Melissa E. Holsman of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Trump on Friday is expected to attend a court hearing in Fort Pierce in his federal case alleging the mishandling of classified documents after leaving the White House. The scheduling conference at the Alto Lee Adams, Sr., U.S. Courthouse, 101 S. U.S. 1, begins at 10 a.m., and in part it may determine whether Trump’s trial will still begin on May 20, as U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon has ordered. Trump’s appearance was confirmed by Kenny Nail, a top local Republican Party official. Cannon issued an order outlining several issues to be discussed with Trump’s lawyers and federal prosecutors working for Special Counsel Jack Smith.

Appellate judge refuses to halt Trump’s $454 million fraud penalty while he appeals” via Michael R. Sisak and Jennifer Peltz of The Associated Press — A New York appellate judge refused to halt collection of Trump’s $454 million civil fraud penalty while he appeals, leaving the former President less than a month to pay the staggering sum or secure a bond covering the full amount he owes. Judge Anil Singh of the state’s midlevel appeals court rejected Trump’s offer of a $100 million bond, though he did give Trump leeway that could help him secure the necessary bond before New York Attorney General Letitia James seeks to enforce the judgment starting March 25. Singh granted a stay pausing part of Judge Arthur Engoron’s Feb. 16 verdict that barred Trump, his company and co-defendants from borrowing money from New York financial institutions.

White powder sent to judge in Trump’s civil fraud case, adding to wave of security scares” via Michael R. Sisek of The Associated Press — White powder was found Wednesday in an envelope addressed to the New York judge who ordered Trump to pay a $454 million civil fraud judgment. It’s the latest security scare involving people in key roles in the former President’s legal cases. A court officer screening mail at Judge Engoron’s Manhattan courthouse opened the envelope around 9:30 a.m. Some of the powder fell out of the envelope and landed on the officer’s pants, police said. Preliminary tests were negative for hazardous substances, court representative Al Baker said. The courthouse operations office, where the mail was opened, was briefly closed, but the courthouse remained open. The officer and other workers who may have been exposed to the powder were temporarily isolated, Baker said.


Mitch McConnell will step down as the Senate Republican leader in November after a record run in the job” via Michael Tackett of The Associated Press — McConnell, the longest-serving Senate leader in history who maintained his power in the face of dramatic convulsions in the Republican Party for almost two decades, will step down from that position in November. McConnell, who turned 82 last week, announced his decision in the well of the Senate, the chamber where he looked in awe from its backbenches in 1985 when he arrived and where he grew increasingly comfortable in the front-row seat afforded the party leaders. “One of life’s most underappreciated talents is to know when it’s time to move on to life’s next chapter,” he said. “So, I stand before you today … to say that this will be my last term as Republican leader of the Senate.”

Mitch McConnell is taking a well-deserved break from Senate Leadership. Image via AP.

Biden’s annual physical shows ‘no new concerns’: White House doctor” via Shauneen Miranda of Axios — Biden “continues to be fit for duty,” White House physician Kevin O’Connor wrote in a memo released after the President underwent his annual physical examination on Wednesday. The assessment comes as Biden, 81, has faced escalating attacks and increased scrutiny over his age and mental fitness. A recent poll found that 67% of voters think he’s too old to serve another four years in the White House. Driving the news: In the memo, O’Connor said Biden “fully executes all of his responsibilities without any exemptions or accommodations” following his annual physical examination at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Hunter Biden in defiant deposition blasts GOP, insists he did not involve his father in business” via Farnoush Amiri of The Associated Press — Hunter Biden was defiant in a closed-door deposition on Capitol Hill, blasting a Republican impeachment inquiry into his father and the family’s business affairs as a “house of cards” built on “lies” as he faced a battery of probing questions from lawmakers. “For more than a year, your Committees have hunted me in your partisan political pursuit of my dad,” Hunter Biden said. He accused Republicans of trafficking in “innuendo, distortion, and sensationalism” and insisted, “I did not involve my father in my business.” After the nearly seven-hour deposition wrapped, an attorney for the President’s son told reporters that during the testimony, Republicans “produced no evidence that would do anything to support the notion that there were any financial transactions that involved Hunter with his father. Period.”

Senate Republican blocks bill that would protect access to IVF nationwide” via Kaia Hubbard of CBS News — One Senate Republican scuttled a Democrat-led effort to pass legislation that would safeguard access to IVF nationwide. The bill aims to preempt state efforts to restrict access to fertility treatments since a ruling earlier the Alabama Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that frozen embryos could be considered children under a state law. The decision made it possible for couples whose frozen embryos were accidentally destroyed to sue for the wrongful death of their “extrauterine children.” The ruling has paused IVF treatments and processes in the state as providers evaluate their liability. Sen. Tammy Duckworth sought to approve the legislation under unanimous consent, which gives any single lawmaker the power to block its passage. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Mississippi Republican blocked the bill on Wednesday. “The bill before us today is a vast overreach that is full of poison pills that go way too far,” Hyde-Smith said.

Florida Republicans say in vitro fertilization should be protected” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — Last week, the Alabama Supreme Court ruling complicated the American political debate around abortion. Should embryos created via in vitro fertilization, or IVF, count as children? The Alabama court said yes. That’s made the practice legally tenuous in that state. Some Florida Republicans are distancing themselves from the opinion. “IVF, when conducted responsibly, is a solution for those who are not able to naturally conceive. Having a family should be something people of all backgrounds can rally behind,” said U.S. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, who represents parts of Pinellas County and is an outspoken abortion opponent. “States must take action to protect IVF to ensure families are able to bring new life into this world.”


Debbie Mucarsel-Powell says McConnell’s retirement makes Rick Scott more dangerous” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Mucarsel-Powell already calls GOP incumbent U.S. Sen. Scott “extreme.” But with Senate Minority Leader McConnell stepping down this year, she is arguing Scott could become more powerful — and more dangerous. “The stakes of this race just got so much higher,” said the Miami Democrat, who is attempting to run against Scott for his Senate seat. “Now the Florida Senate race will not only decide if we (Democrats) keep the Senate majority but who the leader of that majority will be.” Mucarsel-Powell noted that Scott, after the 2022 Midterms, challenged McConnell for the job of GOP caucus leader. Scott lost that race, receiving just 10 votes, so it’s not clear what appetite exists for elevating him to leadership. But Scott, for months, has been among McConnell’s most vocal detractors among Senate Republicans. After news broke about McConnell’s impending retirement as leader, Scott signaled that he could seek the post again.

With Mitch McConnell out of the picture, Debbie Murcarsel-Powell says Rick Scott is even more dangerous.

Mike Davey reports $100K haul in first three days of CD 27 campaign” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Former Key Biscayne Mayor Davey amassed more than $100,000 in his first 72 hours running for Florida’s 27th Congressional District. That’s according to a press note from his campaign, which attributes the haul to widespread support and South Florida’s “readiness to elect a problem solver focused on getting things done for people, not sowing chaos and dysfunction.” Davey is running to unseat GOP U.S. Rep. María Elvira Salazar, whom he criticized in his campaign launch last week for what he sees as hypocrisy on federal funding and opposition to socialism.

Stan McClain backs Chad Johnson for HD 22 — Republican Rep. McClain is endorsing Johnson in the race for House District 22, the North Central Florida seat currently represented by term-limited GOP Rep. Chuck Clemons. “Chad will be a conservative champion that is willing to fight taxes, regulation, and overspending,” McClain said. “His active and longtime involvement in the community makes him the perfect candidate to lead and represent the best interests of Gilchrist, Levy, and Alachua counties.” Johnson previously picked up endorsements from Clemons and Rep. Bobby Payne. He is one of three Republicans running for the seat, which has a Republican lean but is considered potentially competitive without an incumbent on the ballot.

Berny Jacques wants to work with Ed Montanari in the House” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Rep. Jacques is backing a change in leadership in House District 60. The Republican lawmaker is endorsing Ed Montanari for the seat as he challenges incumbent Democrat Cross. Montanari is currently a St. Petersburg City Council member. He can’t seek re-election due to term limits and is instead challenging Cross for her St. Pete-based House seat. “Ed Montanari has long been a voice of fiscal responsibility and government accountability on the St. Petersburg City Council,” Jacques said of the endorsement. “He has my full endorsement for state House District 60, and I look forward to working with him in Tallahassee to keep Florida affordable and free.” Montanari called Jacques’ endorsement an “honor.”

Jon Albert launches campaign for HD 48 — Frostproof Mayor Jon Albert has entered the race for House District 48. Albert, a Republican, is a former active-duty Marine and Central Florida native. “After carefully reflecting on my service in the United States Marine Corps, and my time as Mayor of a small Florida town, I’ve decided to enter this race to bring a real conservative business point of view to how we should continue to run our state government,” Albert said in a news release. “Inflation is killing family savings and credit. Insurance costs are making senior citizens worry about affording their homes. And President Biden’s open borders have made every community less safe.” HD 48 is a Republican-leaning seat currently held by GOP Rep. Sam Killebrew, who is term-limited.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Ethics Board to query experts on Coral Gables Commissioner’s in-city business work” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust (COE) has again postponed issuing an official opinion on whether Coral Gables Commissioner Melissa Castro’s permit-expediting company can keep working for clients in the city. After a one-hour discussion, the panel punted a decision they’ve been mulling over since last April to next month, when its members expect to hear from experts on the issue. Whether emails between Castro and Coral Gables employees — viewable below — that were submitted at the end of the COE’s Feb. 14 meeting are part of next month’s discussion remains to be seen. But they could raise additional questions about her sway over permitting matters in the city.

Melissa Castro’s in-city work has caught the attention of the Ethics Board.

Hialeah officially condemns Biden for a migrant surge in the city, but evidence is limited” via Verónica Egui Brito and Syra Ortiz Blanes of the Miami Herald — With the Mayor saying that tens of thousands of migrants are overrunning the community, Hialeah’s City Council voted to admonish the Biden administration’s “open border policies” and demand that the federal government put tighter restrictions in place to stem the flow of people coming from the southern border to northwest Miami-Dade County. “We are seeing thousands and thousands of people crossing the border and coming to places like this city. And for this reason, we need to scream so we are heard. And we are hoping that this resolution does that,” Council President Jesus Tundidor said. The resolution states that the influx of migrants has “brought significant social and economic challenges to the city,” and that Hialeah has not received the money and support it needs to address the resulting problems. Council members Carl Zogby and Monica Perez were absent.

Penny for your thoughts? Palm Beach County discusses potential 10-year extension of 1-cent sales tax” via Abigail Hasebroock of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The penny sales tax in Palm Beach County could be extended for as much as another 10 years as a county ballot approaches in August, but many Commissioners are against a renewal. The Palm Beach County Commission met with the county’s League of Cities and Mayors from several county municipalities to discuss a potential continuance of the tax. It was first approved by voters in 2016 and is used to fund infrastructure repairs, restorations and replacements, and maintain current levels of service, according to the county’s website. Currently, 50% of the revenue goes to the School Board, 30% goes to the county and 20% goes to municipalities.

Like Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale may crack down on Spring Break parking with $100 rates” via Raisa Habersham of the Miami Herald — In an effort to alleviate traffic ahead of an expected influx of Spring Break visitors, the city of Fort Lauderdale is looking to enact new parking rate hikes similar to what Miami Beach recently put in place. Parking fees could reach as high as $100 in city garages and lots along the beach starting next week until the end of March. Drivers will face a $125 violation fee if they don’t move their car by the time their street parking expires. The measure to increase the parking fees came the same week that Miami Beach opted for sweeping parking closures in preparation for Spring Break.

Protesters forcibly removed from Miami Beach temple hosting Alan Dershowitz, 1 attacked” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — A planned protest against famed lawyer Dershowitz at Temple Emanu-El in Miami Beach turned violent as video taken inside the synagogue shows one person assaulted and officers grappling others. Dershowitz spoke at Temple Emanu-El, discussing the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, the aftermath of the attack, and how to go forward. He had spoken to the congregation last year and was invited back. South Floridians who have opposed Israel’s counterattacks in Gaza called on people to protest Dershowitz’s talk. An email to the Herald calling for the protest said organizers were “Jews in South Florida who stand for justice and all those standing for a cease-fire and an end to Israel’s genocide against the Palestinian people.”

Broward could close far more than 5 schools next year” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The number of potential Broward school closures next year could skyrocket under an idea supported by Superintendent Peter Licata and some School Board members. The School Board directed Licata last Fall to develop a plan to close or dramatically overhaul at least five schools for the 2025-26 school year. But the district actually has 54,100 more seats than students, the equivalent of about 40 to 60 schools. Licata told the Sun-Sentinel last month he expected school closures to be a multiyear effort, with the ultimate goal of matching student seats with enrollment. However, after researching other districts with declining enrollment, Licata told the School Board he would rather close a large number of schools at one time.

Peter Licata says at least five Broward schools may be on the chopping block.

Former longtime Broward Elections Supervisor Jane Carroll dies” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Carroll, one of the longest-serving Supervisors of Elections in Broward County history, has died. She was 93, and a resident of Cornelius, North Carolina, according to an obituary posted by the Warlick Funeral Home. She died on Jan. 31. Carroll was elected Supervisor of Elections in 1968 and was re-elected to the job until she decided not to run again in 2000. A Republican, Carroll was in office during a different era in politics, serving during a time when Broward was a Republican county before it became the state’s premier Democratic stronghold. Rico Petrocelli, a former Chair of the Broward Republican Party and former member of the Plantation City Council, said Carroll “was a staple among the electorate.”

Schools had no money for the Black History Museum at Roosevelt High. Then they quietly OK’d $30M” via Katherine Kokal of the Palm Beach Post — Palm Beach County school leaders were very clear in August 2023: They didn’t have the millions of dollars needed to build a Black history museum and resource library as part of the long-promised renovation of West Palm Beach’s historic Roosevelt High School. Attendees said they resented the School Board’s decisions to build new schools in other parts of the county: One said Black communities always seemed to get “what’s left at the bottom of the barrel.” But just weeks later, on Sept. 6, the School Board quietly approved a budget that included $30 million for the Roosevelt Black History Museum project. Strangely, no one was celebrating. Few seemed to know about it.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Disney World government leader praises ‘historic’ year, which also included big challenges” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Disney World’s Governing Board is on a hiring spree, filling more than 70 positions, its top administrative leader said following media reports of a mass employee exodus following the state’s takeover. “Given the swift influx of qualified applicants, I’m confident that we will promptly fill the remaining positions,” said Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) Administrator Glen Gilzean, adding there were still “a few vacancies remaining.” Gilzean provided the update during the Board’s regular meeting. “In our inaugural year, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District has achieved historic successes benefiting our employees, visitors and all taxpayers. We’ve turned this district into a leading example of effective governance,” Gilzean said. “The creation of our district is attributed to the bold and visionary leadership of Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature.”

Foundation requested day in honor of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard in Deltona” via Mark Harper of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — After Deltona Mayor Santiago Avila Jr., rescinded his proclamation of March 13 as L. Ron Hubbard Day, one key question lingered: How did this come about in the first place? David Sosa, a former City Commissioner, made a public records request that produced an answer. Massimo Parrino, director of public relations at the Friends of L. Ron Hubbard Foundation in New York, wrote to the Mayor on Jan. 10: “As tradition, and thank you again for the previous proclamations, I am writing you from the Friends of L. Ron Hubbard Foundation to request your office take part in the international acknowledgment of Mr. L. Ron Hubbard.”

Santiago Avila Jr. walks back a proclamation honoring L. Ron Hubbard.

Deltona Mayor says he respects Scientology, explains why he rescinded L. Ron Hubbard Day” via Mark Harper of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — Avila Jr., is responding to critics and explaining his rationale for rescinding his proclamation of L. Ron Hubbard Day on March 13. “I respect all religions and Scientology is certainly a religion,” Avila wrote in a Facebook post. “I do also understand how (followers) of different religions or even atheists might feel about some days being recognized but not others.”

Deltona City Commission appoints Davison Heriot to fill District 1 vacancy” via Mark Harper of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — Deltona City Commissioners have appointed Heriot to fill the District 1 vacancy until the election. Heriot, a financial manager with the Seminole County government, said in his application letter he has consistently attended City Commission meetings since he moved to Deltona. “I have successfully worked with Commissioners and city management to bring much-needed enhancements to outdated ordinances that no longer represented the communities’ desires,” Heriot wrote. His professional experience will also benefit the city, he said. “As a finance professional with local government experience, I have had the opportunity to work with (myriad) government functions, including federal and state disaster grants, emergency preparedness, public works infrastructure projects, and parks and recreation,” he wrote.

St. Cloud hopes to offer ‘guidance’ for state-sanctioned affordable housing” via Natalia Jaramillo of the Orlando Sentinel — The city of St. Cloud is the first in Osceola County seeking to exert some control over a bold state effort to fund affordable housing, an attempt that could have wide-ranging implications. St. Cloud officials discussed a draft ordinance that creates a process and some clear requirements for affordable housing developers looking to use what is known as the Live Local Act. Under the proposed policy, developers must disclose the height and density of their projects up front. The city also would place the responsibility on developers to rent to tenants who need affordable housing. And it would reduce the amount of parking developers must provide in their affordable projects.

Linda Sutherland, a champion for children in Orange County, dies at 71” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — Sutherland was a dedicated mother who joined the PTA at her son’s elementary school and soon became “super involved,” in that organization and, in the years that followed, in many others that championed children in Orange County. Sutherland, who eventually served as president of the PTA’s Orange County Council, later won a seat on the Orange County School Board, and then successfully ran for two more terms. When she left the Board after 12 years, she worked for two decades as head of the Healthy Start Coalition of Orange County, which helps at-risk mothers and babies. Sutherland, 71, of Orlando, died following a hospitalization for pneumonia.


Pasco school’s first formal book challenge debates ‘The Letter Q’” via Nancy Guan of WUSF — While some school districts in the state have faced dozens of challenges to remove books from their libraries, “The Letter Q” marks Pasco County Schools’ first formal complaint. Pasco resident Rebecca Yuengling, who said she has two high school-aged children, petitioned for the removal of the book from Gulf Middle School in New Port Richey, calling it inappropriate for minors. Only one copy was available throughout the district and was removed while the review process played out since Yuengling objected to the book based on “alleged pornographic and sexually explicit content.” “The Letter Q” features letters from 63 LGBTQ+ authors addressing their younger selves.

‘The Letter Q’ has the honor of being the first challenged book in Pasco County.

Massive beach resort redevelopment narrowly passes” via Mark Parker of St. Pete Catalyst — After three public hearings and roughly 26 hours of debate, a beachfront redevelopment project that critics and advocates agree will alter St. Pete Beach’s trajectory is moving forward. St. Pete Beach City Commissioners approved controversial plans for the 13-acre Sirata Beach Resort property at around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday. A long-awaited 3-2 vote followed six hours of deliberations. Kentucky-based Columbia Sussex can now build two new hotels at the site, including a 10-story J.W. Marriott, while upgrading the existing resort. Mayor Adrian Petrila, a vocal opponent, voted against the project. “The concerns that our residents have listed, the concerns that were identified by staff, the concerns that any of us looking at this project have seen — almost none of them have any resolution,” Petrila said. “And so, if there’s no resolution, how can we say, ‘Move forward with this project.’”

— LOCAL: N. FL —

JEA trial: Before approving privatization, Board members saw ‘storm clouds’ on horizon” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — Jurors in the federal fraud and conspiracy trial of JEA’s ex-CEO and CFO heard continued testimony Wednesday morning from the utility’s former Board of Directors, a group of people whom prosecutors allege was “hoodwinked” by the agency’s executives into approving a lucrative incentive program in 2019 that could have paid out tens of millions of dollars in bonuses. The testimony echoed a theme prosecutors hammered Tuesday: that Board members were unaware of the incentive plan’s potential to generate such large payments — a scenario one former Board member, Andy Allen, said would have been “ridiculous.” No member of JEA’s executive team disclosed to the Board that potential before it unanimously approved the incentive plan.

Andy Allen says JEA executives never gave Board members the full picture of privatization.

Paul Renner says Jacksonville not targeted by ‘pension liability surtax’ language” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — A provision that has worried Jacksonville stakeholders in recent days in House legislation apparently is not targeting the city after all, according to the House Speaker. Renner addressed the issue, answering a question from Florida Politics about whether the language in the House tax package was targeting Duval County and its discretionary sales surtax enacted last decade with the Legislature’s blessing to deal with legacy pension debt. The language in question stipulates that the “pension liability surtax imposed pursuant to this subsection shall terminate on Dec. 31 of the year in which the actuarial funding level is expected to reach or exceed 100% for the defined benefit retirement plan or system for which the surtax was levied or Dec. 31 of the 10th year after the surtax was approved in a referendum under this subsection, whichever occurs first.”

City Council to consider resolution condemning housing discrimination in Jacksonville” via Charlie McGee of The Tributary — The Jacksonville City Council will soon consider a proposed resolution condemning historic housing practices in the city that have discriminated against Black residents. District 7 Council member Jimmy Peluso, a Democrat elected in 2023, presented a draft of the resolution Tuesday to an audience of about 30 people, including four of his fellow Council members. He said he’d file the resolution, which says the city “recognizes that redlining is a historical reality,” next week. While the resolution itself won’t offer any policy change, Peluso said it’s one step the city needs to take as it reconsiders how to handle housing and economic development, particularly in Black-majority neighborhoods. The resolution says, “the impacts of historical redlining are still felt in wealth disparities among races today,” and “wealth disparities in homeownership, if left unaddressed, will entrench racial disparities for future generations.”

Bill Proctor at Tiger Bay: He’s ‘tired’ of Tallahassee City Commission infighting” via Arianna Otero of the Tallahassee Democrat — Proctor called on his counterparts on Tallahassee’s City Commission to stop their bickering and get their act together, saying both he and their constituents are “tired of it.” Proctor, currently the longest-serving County Commissioner, spoke at Tuesday’s monthly meeting at the Tucker Civic Center of the Capital Tiger Bay Club, “founded to provide a nonpartisan forum on current political issues.” Proctor also called on the city to continue expanding utility service on the south side, which he represents, and to agree on a new labor contract with Tallahassee’s firefighters union. He listed other hopes for the future, such as fairground development.

Bill Proctor is fed up with the internal squabbles in Tallahassee.

Okaloosa School Board OKs $3.9 million land deal for OTC north campus” via Collin Bestor of the Northwest Florida Daily News — The Okaloosa County School Board has unanimously approved the purchase of land that could be used for a north campus of Okaloosa Technical College (OTC). Located in the Okaloosa Industrial Air Park at 5749 John Givens Road in Crestview, the 7.66-acre parcel was purchased from Scott Unlimited, LLC., with an estimated purchase price of $3.9 million. The purchase comes three months after the Okaloosa County School District applied for an $8.53 million Triumph Gulf Coast grant, which is still being reviewed. In a first-semester highlight letter written this month, Superintendent Marcus Chambers expressed excitement about the future developments in the county’s north end, allowing continued efforts in the extensive push for technical development.

Panama City Commissioners agree to keep and renovate damaged Marina Civic Center” via Nathan Cobb of the Panama City News-Herald — Local leaders agree the Marina Civic Center should not be thrown away. Panama City Commissioners on Tuesday continued their long-standing discussions about what the city should do with the Civic Center, which has sat unused since it was heavily damaged in October 2018 by Category 5 Hurricane Michael. Though design goals and a construction timeline still are not set, all Commissioners agree the existing building should be renovated and improved, not demolished with something else built in its place. “The consensus is we want to keep it, so that’s good,” Mayor Michael Rohan said. Tuesday’s conversation was sparked by information shared last meeting by Richard Dodd, president of ReliantSouth Construction Group, who told Commissioners he thinks it will cost about $33 million to renovate the Civic Center.


Sarasota City Commissioner’s lawyer files for defamation suit to be dismissed” via Christian Casale of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Sarasota City Commissioner Kyle Battie is looking to end the defamation lawsuit against him by a local activist. Brian Goodrich, Battie’s attorney, filed a motion to dismiss the case in the 12th Judicial Circuit. Goodrich told the Herald-Tribune he does not believe Battie’s remarks amount to defamation. However, the basis of the case will be his assertion that when the City Commissioner accused the activist, Kelly Franklin, of posting the racist comment, he acted as a public official and, therefore, was “entitled to absolute immunity.” “It would not matter if Commissioner Battie knew his allegedly defamatory statements were made up out of whole cloth,” the motion to dismiss said.

Kyle Battie wants to put a defamation suit behind him.

Manatee County leaders approve change to phosphate mining rules. Here’s what to know” via Ryan Ballogg of the Bradenton Herald — A change to Manatee County’s phosphate mining rules approved by Commissioners will mean one less opportunity for the public to observe and weigh in on how the county regulates the industry. But county staff say that the amendment, which transfers the approval of mine operating permits from the Board of County Commissioners to staff administration, will streamline the regulation process and prevent confusion. Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker described the operating permit process as a checklist that mining operations must meet every five years to make sure they are following county rules.


DeSantis is right about social media ban. This misguided idea deserves his veto” via the Miami Herald editorial board — If lawmakers gave parents the power to remove books and sue schools for talking about things like sexual orientation and race in ways that make them uncomfortable, shouldn’t they also give parents a say on the types of websites their child can access?

Just hours before the Legislature passed the bill to keep children under 16 from platforms that have “addicting features,” DeSantis said there were “legitimate issues that gotta be worked out” and that parents should be allowed to override the state’s heavy-handed ban.

The Legislature defied the Governor and approved House Bill 1 anyway because it’s a priority of the House Speaker.

DeSantis should veto HB 1, and not just to show lawmakers he’s still the dominant Governor who’s controlled their agenda for the past two years — though there are questions on whether DeSantis has lost some of his power, and the Legislature could embarrass him by overriding his veto.

The legislation is a well-intended but misguided way to tackle the very real dangers that social media presents to teens. It’s a no-brainer that those platforms deserve scrutiny, especially after a whistleblower told Congress in 2021 that Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, knew its content harmed kids.

But HB 1’s lack of “parental rights,” a concept that drove much of the legislation coming out of Florida recently, isn’t the only problem.

If signed into law, HB 1 will no doubt also be headed to court, with social media companies arguing it is unconstitutional, costing taxpayer dollars to defend these lengthy lawsuits. Similar laws from other states have not fared well under legal scrutiny, with all of them blocked by judges.

That raises a valid point: Aren’t children and teens allowed freedom of expression under the First Amendment, especially if their parents allow it?


Trump Michigan blowout points toward end of GOP Primary race.” via Byron York of the Washington Examiner — Trump absolutely trounced Nikki Haley by 42 points, 68% to 26%, in the Michigan Primary. Why was Trump’s margin of victory bigger than previous races in Iowa, where he defeated Haley by 32 points; New Hampshire, where he won by 11 points; and South Carolina, where he won by 20 points? Because Michigan was the first time Democratic voters had something to do. Think about it. The Democratic National Committee took away Iowa’s and New Hampshire’s place as the first two contests on the Primary calendar. Both states went ahead and held early events anyway, a weird semi-caucus in Iowa and a write-in “Primary” in New Hampshire, but there was no real election for Democrats to take part in. Then, in South Carolina, Democrats held their first Primary, but it was not on the same day as the Republican Primary, no big Election Day to bring out all voters, and the campaign of Biden successfully intimidated any party challengers from arising to capture the attention of Democratic voters. The result: A tiny number of South Carolina Democrats took part in the Democratic Primary.



— ALOE —

Selfies, angel wings, sports logos: Colorful vinyl casket wraps brighten funerals” via Fresh Take Florida — It was supposed to be a regular day for 12-year-old Mariah Reginae Smith when she sat on her couch to watch “SpongeBob SquarePants” on Aug. 25. A few minutes later, bullets shot and fired into her Lake City home killed her. Nearly half a year later, Mariah’s mother, Todneisha Filer, still struggles to come to terms with her daughter’s death, but she has found comfort in embracing photos and other images of her life. One image was particularly helpful: A plastic banner with Mariah’s image on it that wrapped her burial casket, displaying her in the clouds with angel wings behind her back and a halo.

A way to bring a bit of comfort to grieving families. Image via Fresh Take Florida.

— Happy Leap Day —

Enjoy that extra day of fun!


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

Peter Schorsch

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

One comment

  • Dont Say FLA

    February 29, 2024 at 9:43 am

    A large group of Israel sympathizers outside the Capitol building sounds like almost as good of an idea as having a large group of Trump sympathizers outside the Capitol building.

    Advice to anyone working there today, make something up and go home right now. Do WFH for the rest of the day.

Comments are closed.


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