Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 3.1.24

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Wake up right: Get your scoops and other news about Florida politics.

Good Friday morning.

Breaking overnight — “Ex-Florida GOP Chair accused of rape told police he was more concerned about ‘PR’ than facts of case” via Michael Barfield of the Florida Trident — When Sarasota police detectives first interviewed Christian Ziegler after receiving a complaint from a woman accusing him of rape, he answered no questions, transcripts released today by the police department show. Instead, the now-former Florida GOP Chair asked detectives about when the information would become public and expressed worry about his political future. “This will be a national story,” Ziegler told police during the Nov. 1 interview at his home. “I’m Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, so there’ll be a high public interest in the case.” It was Christian Ziegler, a longtime Republican operative, who brought his wife into politics — and he was clearly focused on their dual careers when questioned about the rape allegation. “I’m more sensitive about the PR side, the political side, than I am about the facts,” Ziegler told police.

Christian Ziegler was more worried about his image than the facts of his rape accusation.


The partisan divide is strong in the Sunshine State, according to voter opinions on some of the most-watched bills of the 2024 Legislative Session.

Polling conducted by Sachs Media found Republicans were overwhelmingly supportive (74%) of an effort to teach K-12 students about the “horrors of communism” and instituting a ban on lab-grown meat (69%). By comparison, only 41% of Democrats believe kids need a crash course on Soviet genocide while around a quarter say meat should come from a butcher instead of a beaker.

Both proposals appear likely to hit the Governor’s desk this year. Both communism bills (HB 1349/SB 1264) are ready for floor votes and the Senate on Thursday passed its version of the cultivated meat ban (SB 1084).

A majority of Floridians have no interest in cultivated meat.

Though it still had majority support, Republicans were comparatively lukewarm on a measure that would loosen labor laws for teenage workers, allowing them to work more hours a week and later into the night. Just over half (55%) of GOP voters said they approved of the plan. Only 29% of Democrats polled said the same.

Bipartisanship isn’t fully dead, however — majorities from both parties, as well as no-party voters, said they weren’t on board with a ban on currently legal hemp products.

“These bills clearly have legs within the legislative process, but it’s equally clear that many Floridians don’t share lawmakers’ enthusiasm,” said Karen Cyphers, Partner and Director of Research at Sachs Media. “For just one example, legislators are nearly unanimous in promoting significant restrictions in Florida’s hemp industry, even though fewer than 1 in 3 Floridians think it’s necessary.”

The survey also found broad voter support for measures that would provide parents more time to surrender an infant under the “Safe Haven” law (88%); enhance penalties against deported illegal immigrants who return and commit new crimes (86%); exempt new mothers from jury duty (85%); crackdown on so-called “porch pirates” (82%); and revising how parents may exchange children in child custody cases (81%).

Jimmy Buffett, too, seems to transcend partisan politics. Sachs Media found three-quarters of those polled believe a stretch of A1A should be named after the iconic singer-songwriter. A bill doing just that (HB 91) has already cleared the House and is awaiting a floor vote in the Senate.


@JohnFetterman: This is a family in crisis and the recreational cruelty I see on social media needs to be out of bounds. I know the impact this has on children. I’m calling for restraint because cruelty has substantial collateral damage. We can’t ever forget that they didn’t sign up for this.

@DeanBlackFL: Betty Holzendorf, a great legislator and a strong leader for our city, passed away today. In her time in the Florida House of Representatives and Senate; she was a passionate voice for her constituents and for the causes she held dear. I want to extend my deepest condolences to her family at this difficult time.

Tweet, tweet:

@AGlorios: I’m thrilled to share that I’ll be joining the @MiamiHerald‘s Tallahassee team as a state government reporter on Monday!! Hit me up.


Michigan/Idaho/Missouri GOP Primaries — 2; Netflix to stream “The Netflix Slam,” Rafael Nadal/Carlos Alcaraz faceoff — 2; Super Tuesday — 4; State of the Union address — 6; last day of Regular Session, if Legislature completes work in 60 days — 7; 2024 Oscars — 9; Georgia Democratic Primary — 12; Arizona/Florida/Illinois/Kansas/Ohio Primaries — 19; James Madison Institute’s ‘2024 Naples Dinner’ with keynote speaker Laura Ingraham — 20; ‘3 Body Problem’ premieres on Netflix — 20; Donald Trump’s New York hush money trial begins — 24; The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the mifepristone/abortion pill case — 25; Major League Baseball’s (MLB) 2024 season — 27; March Madness Final Four (women’s) begins — 34; March Madness Final Four (men’s) — 37; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 41; The Masters begin — 42; Kentucky Derby — 65; 2024 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 70; ‘Bridgerton’ new season (part one) premieres on Netflix — 77; French Open begins — 80; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 82; Dave Matthews Band 2024 Summer Tour begins in Tampa — 82; Monaco Grand Prix — 86; the 2024 World Cup begins — 102; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 120; Republican National Convention begins — 136; the 2024 World Cup ends — 140; 2024 MLS All-Star Game — 145; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games on NBC/Peacock — 147; ‘Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 166; Democratic National Convention begins — 172; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 176; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 231; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 234; 2024 Presidential Election — 249; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 262; MLS Cup 2024 — 277; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 350; ‘Moana’ premieres — 480; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 511; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 511; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 616; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 658; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 795; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 811; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 1,022; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,162; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,121; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,843.


Kathleen Passidomo: Gov. Ron DeSantis will veto social media minor ban” via Douglas Soule of the USA Today Network-Florida — The Legislature would then send another bill to the Governor with language more palatable to him, she explained.

“My understanding is that they are in a really good spot,” the Naples Republican told reporters during a Thursday afternoon news conference.

A teen social media ban could see a Ron DeSantis veto. Can it be overridden?

She’s referring to DeSantis and House Speaker Paul Renner, who is term-limited this year. The ban (HB 1) was his priority bill this Session, slated to end next Friday.

He and DeSantis met Monday, according to a daily calendar released by the Governor’s Office. When asked about the meeting Wednesday, Renner said they were “looking at alternatives” but that he didn’t have anything to announce it.

If in fact the bill is vetoed, Passidomo predicted the House would quickly bring forward another bill (HB 3) and modify it with language DeSantis agrees on.

That bill, in its current form, requires age verification for pornographic websites. It has remained out of the spotlight for weeks, as its provisions were added to the social media bill now before DeSantis.


DeSantis signs bill in Palm Beach to release grand jury’s Jeffrey Epstein records” via Shira Moolten of the Orlando Sentinel — DeSantis signed a bill Thursday paving the way for the release of the grand jury testimony in Epstein’s 2006 sexual abuse case, likely sometime this coming Summer. Minutes after the bill was signed, the Palm Beach County judge overseeing the records’ release ruled against releasing them now, but strongly hinted he would reconsider after the law goes into effect on July 1. A Palm Beach Post investigation alleged that prosecutors had sabotaged their own case back in 2006, influenced by Epstein’s own lawyers. He received only one charge: soliciting a prostitute. “There were a lot of questions about what happened where you had a sweetheart deal,” DeSantis said. “The reality is the investigation was stymied because you didn’t have access to the grand jury materials. I agree there needs to be a mechanism in these rare circumstances where people should be able to get the truth so we can pursue justice.”

—“Judge says Palm Beach Post must wait until July like everyone else to see Epstein records” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics

With his signature, DeSantis hopes to make the Jeffrey Epstein transcripts public.

Homeless camping ban that DeSantis wants is ready for House vote” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Republican Rep. Sam Garrison’s bill has been called a “carrot and stick” approach to managing the homeless problem in the state. HB 1365 bans counties and municipalities from permitting public sleeping or public camping on public property without explicit permission, in a move deemed by the bill language to fulfill an “important state interest,” with what Garrison has called a “Florida model” for handling the issue. Counties would be charged with setting up encampments that ban drugs and alcohol and include rehabilitative social services as a way of enforcing the prohibition against rough sleeping. The camps could only be in one place for 365 consecutive days. Those conditions include clean restrooms, running water, security on-premises, and bans on drugs and alcohol. They must also be located in places that don’t impact the value of nearby properties.

Lawmakers advance Casey DeSantis-backed cancer research changes, add more funding” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — First Lady Casey DeSantis’ push to continue to bolster the state’s effort to combat cancer appears poised to get added funding and new ground rules on how those dollars should be spent. Budget negotiators earlier this week agreed to direct an additional $40 million toward the Florida Cancer Innovation Fund. The Senate also passed a bill (SB 7072) championed by DeSantis, a cancer survivor. Sponsored by Sen. Gayle Harrell, SB 7072 essentially codifies into law the “Cancer Connect Collaborative” first announced by DeSantis about a year ago. The legislation establishes a six-member collaborative and directs it to review all Florida Cancer Innovation Grant applications and to advise the Department of Health (DOH) on how the grants should be awarded. The state Surgeon General would serve as Chair of the six-member collaborative but would not be a voting member.

Taking a proactive stance’: Legislature approves definition of antisemitism in state Statutes” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Florida Statutes will soon have a broadly applying definition for antisemitism that state lawmakers uniformly agreed upon. House members voted 115-0 for a bill (HB 187) providing that Florida defines 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.” The measure, which Senators passed 40-0 Wednesday before sending it to the House for approval the following day, includes 11 examples of antisemitism that line up with its definition. They include “dehumanizing” stereotypes that Jews control industries and government, “demonizing” symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism such as blood libel, Holocaust denial, and double standards when criticizing Israel, the only Jewish-majority country.

Bill lowering gun purchasing minimum age to 18 moving through House despite Senate resistance” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — The House gave a second reading to a bill (HB 1223) that would reverse gun control rules enacted after the Parkland shooting by lowering the minimum age to buy a gun from 21 to 18. But the Senate has already made clear these changes are dead on arrival. Rep. Anna Eskamani lamented the fact that the House is continuing to push to undo parts of the bipartisan law passed after Parkland. “I was very proud of this Legislature for coming together and supporting these measures, many of which, on both sides of the aisle, took political risk to do so,” Eskamani said. “I just can’t fathom the idea of regressing on this issue.” But bill sponsor Rep. Bobby Payne argued that banning 18-year-olds from buying shotguns and rifles was unconstitutional since those teenagers can be charged as adults with felonies, sign contracts or join the military. They should be allowed to purchase guns too, he said.

Lawsuit accuses DeSantis of routinely flouting public records law” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — A watchdog group says in a newly filed lawsuit that DeSantis and his administration have repeatedly flouted the state’s public records law and are effectively “suppressing public knowledge” about the governor’s actions. American Oversight, an organization that was formed by lawyers with ties to Democrats, wants a judge to order the governor’s office to hand over records associated with a dozen outstanding requests that stretch back anywhere from 11 months to three years.

That vacation rental next door? Florida lawmakers want to write the rules” via Alyssa Johnson of the Miami Herald — For years the Legislature has gone back and forth on how to regulate short term rentals, like Airbnbs, leaving local governments in charge of creating rules and ordinances to deal with short-term rentals in their respective communities. But in the Legislative Session that comes to a close on March 8, lawmakers have been looking to seize control of the issue. Earlier this month, the Florida Senate passed Senate Bill 280, which establishes local registration programs for short-term rentals, limits the number of guests in rental properties and puts in place penalties for rentals that violate local ordinances.


Budget conference: House moves on road projects, but deal on jobs program elusive” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — The road to a budget deal is paved with transportation project money, and the House took a step along it by offering significant funding for a series of road projects favored by the Senate. In some cases, the House went from not funding a project to overshooting what the Senate preferred. For instance, the Senate had $3 million for improvements to the Wauchula Municipal Airport, but the House offered $10.5 million. The Senate’s $2 million for the Melbourne Orlando International Airport operations center was boosted to $5 million by the House, which didn’t fund the project in its initial budget.

Budget conference: Ocean remains between Senate, House funding for Mote Marine” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol want funding for Mote Marine Laboratory. But on funding levels, chambers remain an ocean apart. The most recent offer from Senate Agriculture, Environment, and General Government Appropriations includes only $1 million for the Sarasota research institution. Meanwhile, negotiators with House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations have $6 million set aside for the institution. Either way, it’s a small amount of what lawmakers want for the marine laboratory. Rep. Fiona McFarland, a Sarasota Republican, filed a request for $10 million for a Big Data Analytics and Visualization Training program that Mote leaders want to operate in partnership with New College.

Fiona McFarland has a big ask for Mote Marine Laboratory.

Budget conference: Senate, House budgets both set aside $54M to upgrade to PALM” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The ultimate software update may have just downloaded another $54.3 million, in dollars, not data. The latest offer from the Senate Agriculture, Environment, and General Government Appropriations Committee rings in with that much and more to upgrade the state’s 1980s-era software system. The amount dollar-for-dollar matches the last offer from the House State Administration and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee. That likely means the chambers have come together on one of the most expensive technology appropriations items. The Florida Accounting and Information Resource, or FLAIR, is an accounting system still used for much of the state’s accounting and financial management functions.

Budget conference: After brief snub, Senate agrees to $30M for condo-hardening program” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Well, that didn’t take long. After briefly offering nothing, Senate lawmakers have agreed to spend $30 million on a proposed pilot program to help condo owners strengthen their properties against seasonal storms. House lawmakers proposed the nonrecurring expenditure Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Senate held out on committing anything to the program. That changed Wednesday at 9 p.m., when the Legislature’s upper chamber concurred with the House’s earmark plan, offering the full $30 million to the My Safe Florida Condominium Pilot Program. Release of the money from the state general revenue fund is contingent on legislation authorizing the program (SB 1366, HB 1029) passing.

$2M in public money could go to Lake Apopka project tied to controversial former water district Chair” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — A pair of Central Florida Republican lawmakers are requesting $2 million in public money that would go to an entity connected to several prominent GOP figures and cooperated by John Miklos, a controversial former Chair of the St. Johns Water Management District. The taxpayer funds would be used to plant aquatic vegetation on 141 acres in long-polluted Lake Apopka, according to the budget requests submitted by Rep. Taylor Yarkosky of Montverde and Sen. Jason Brodeur of Sanford. But so far, the Florida Senate has included $500,000 for the project in its version of the state budget, although that figure could change as lawmakers hammer out details of the spending plan over the coming days.


House readies bill preempting local wage, heat exposure laws for final vote” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Legislation wiping out local ordinances setting a minimum wage for contractors and subcontractors is poised for a vote in the House after Republicans fended off a series of amendments from Democrats aimed at weakening the measure. The bill (HB 433) also prevents cities and counties from passing laws to protect workers from heat overexposure. Rep. Tiffany Esposito, the sponsor of the bill, noted that it requires the Department of Commerce to enact regulations related to heat exposure for workers by 2028 if the OSHA doesn’t release them at the federal level.

Tiffany Esposito seeks to throw some shade on overheated workers.

House moves along anti-trans bill that has no future” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — “This bill is very problematic. It shouldn’t even be heard,” said Angela Nixon, a Jacksonville Democrat. “It’s not going to be heard in the Senate, so I really don’t know why we are here.” But bill sponsor Rep. Doug Bankson argued, “This is a good bill that suffered some bad press and created some unfounded fears.” Under HB 1639, driver’s licenses would be required to state someone’s sex assigned at birth. Currently, people who are transgender can change their licenses to reflect their gender. Under the bill, health insurance companies covering prescriptions or procedures as part of transgender care will also provide coverage for treatment to de-transition “for an appropriate additional premium” starting Jan. 1, 2025, according to the staff analysis.

House poised to tighten child exploitation penalties” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Republican Rep. Jessica Baker’s bill (HB 1545) would increase the points that prosecutors and judges use in the offense severity ranking chart (OSRC) formula to determine penalties for a variety of heinous crimes involving “possession, promotion, and production of child sexual abuse material.” The Jacksonville Republican noted when the bill was up on Special Order that, among crimes of this type, “Florida has consistently lower levels of scoring and punishment guidelines as it relates to online child exploitation as compared to other states and the federal government.” These include prohibiting a person from using a child in a sexual performance, prohibiting a person from promoting a sexual performance by a child, prohibiting a person from possessing child pornography with the intent to promote, and prohibiting a person from possessing or intentionally viewing child pornography as a third-degree felony.

Lawmakers seek to root out ‘bad actors’ as school vouchers grow” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — As their 2024 Legislative Session winds down, the same lawmakers who pushed for voucher growth are poised to throttle back the items beyond tuition and tutoring that families can buy with the money. “Unfortunately, oftentimes the bad actors, the abuse, leads to restrictions,” Sen. Corey Simon, a Tallahassee Republican, explained during a recent hearing on SB 7048, the Senate’s voucher “tweak” legislation. “If we don’t start tightening down the screws with a program of this size and at this juncture of this moment, then we may lose control altogether,” Simon said. As might be expected, some families that enjoyed the program’s benefits opposed such changes. Lawmakers said they sympathized. Yet at the same time, they said, they need to ensure the voucher program does not “incentivize home schooling for the wrong reason,” as Sen. Erin Grall, a Vero Beach Republican who has homeschooled her own children, put it.


House votes to keep Algebra I, 10th grade English exams intact for graduation requirements in Florida” via Jackie Llanos of Florida Phoenix — Concerned about lowering standards in Florida’s public high schools, the state House on Thursday voted to stick with the original requirements: Teens must pass statewide Algebra 1 and 10th grade English Language Arts exams to be able to get their diplomas. The Senate would have to vote on the legislation. During the first week of this year’s Legislative Session, the Senate passed a package of bills aimed at “deregulating” Florida public schools through measures such as removing Algebra I and 10th grade ELA exams from the graduation requirements in Florida. That became controversial, with House Speaker Renner vehemently opposed to easing the graduation requirements. Republican Rep. Dana Trabulsy, who sponsored the education deregulation bill in the House, took the same stance as Renner, meaning, leaving Algebra 1 and ELA 10 graduation requirements intact.

Dana Trabulsy is opposed to loosening graduation requirements in Algebra.

—“A bill would give high school dropouts a second chance at a college education” via Adrian Andrews of WFSU

House passes disclosure requirement for AI in political ads” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Candidates for office in Florida could be required to disclose whether the ads they run used artificial intelligence, under a bill passed by the House. The bill (HB 919) passed on a 104-8 vote, with some Democrats opposing the measure, some of whom expressed concern about the criminal penalty for violating the new requirement. Any candidate or political committee that puts out an ad using AI without disclosing it would commit a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by a prison sentence of one year and a fine of $1,000. “The reason why we wanted to give this a little more teeth … is because now there is a real concern to really change reality on people,” said Rep. Alex Rizo, a Miami Republican and sponsor of the bill. Rep. Dotie Joseph warned a criminal penalty is too harsh for such a new issue grappling with the prevalent use of artificial intelligence.

House approves condo-focused expansion to My Safe Florida Home grant program” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Condo owners along Florida’s coast may soon be able to tap state dollars to strengthen their properties against seasonal storms, per legislation House lawmakers just approved. The bill (HB 1029) authorizes the creation of the My Safe Florida Condominium Program, a pilot program that would provide condo associations within 15 miles of the shoreline with hurricane-mitigation inspections and guidance on roof- and entryway-improving grants. The program is an offshoot of My Safe Florida Home, a 17-year-old home-hardening grant program lawmakers resurrected in 2022 and have since apportioned $433 million for roof-, door- and window-improving projects. On Thursday, the House voted 116-0 for the bill. It will now be sent to the Senate.

Senate votes for state control over food delivery apps” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Tallahassee legislators may have a place at your dinner table soon, as the Senate unanimously approved a preemption bill giving the state control over food delivery apps. SB 676, sponsored by Sen. Jennifer Bradley, would preempt the regulation of “food delivery platforms” that corral orders from multiple restaurants to the government in Tallahassee. The legislation is supported by a number of influential groups, including the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Grubhub, the Associated Industries of Florida, Uber Technologies, the Florida Chamber, TechNet and the James Madison Institute. The Digital Restaurant Association opposes the bill, meanwhile. The bill requires delivery platforms to obtain the written or electronic consent of restaurants before picking up orders. Platforms are required to remove restaurants within 10 days of a request to do so as well.

Senate passes ban on sale of cultivated meat” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Senators voted to make Florida the first state to ban the sale of lab-grown meat. But a majority rejected a proposal to put a five-year sunset on that restriction. As lawmakers debated an agriculture package (SB 1084) on the floor, Sen. Jay Collins said he doesn’t think cultured meat products will be ready for consumption anytime soon. “We need more time than five years,” the Tampa Republican said. The measure ultimately passed on a 26-10 vote, but only after a few delays to work out concerns elsewhere in the legislative package. All votes against the bill came from Democrats. But Senators did approve a Democratic amendment establishing rule-making authority in preemption of local regulations on electric vehicle charging stations.


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

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

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

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


ABC Action News Full Circle with Paul LaGrone on Channel 10 WFTS: Presidential historian Talmage Boston, author of “How the Best Did It: Leadership Lessons From Our Top Presidents,” and political analyst Dr. Susan MacManus.

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 look at Spring Break safety in Florida and what local officials are doing to make sure students and community members have a trouble-free experience in the Sunshine State. Joining Walker are Matt Reinhart, District 2, Volusia County Council; Chief Jakari Young, Daytona Beach Police Department; and Sheriff Mike Chitwood, Volusia County Sheriff’s Office.

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 speaks with Rep. Michele Rayner and attorney Sean Pittman.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz, Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute Director Rick Mullaney, and CEO Champion Women and Olympic gold medalist swimmer Nancy Hogshead.


Owners of second homes in Florida could be moved out of Citizens insurance” via Lawrence Mower of the Orlando Sentinel — 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. For decades, only regulated insurers were allowed to take policies out of Citizens, the insurer for Floridians who can’t otherwise find coverage.

Citizens Property Insurance policyholders could soon find homeowners’ policies shuffled to an unregulated insurer.

Orlando Health confirms 4 measles cases, but there’s no local spread, state officials say” via Caroline Catherman of the Orlando Sentinel — Orlando Health has seen four confirmed measles cases at its Central Florida emergency departments within the past month, the hospital system says, but state officials say there is no outbreak in the Orlando area. One case was in an adult, and three were in children less than 2 years old, said Lisa Maria Garza, a representative for Orlando Health. No other details were released on Thursday. The Florida Department of Health has reported only two measles cases in kids less than 2 years old in 2024, which means at least one measles case treated by Orlando Health this month was not recorded in the state’s public tally.

Supreme Court asked to undo ‘brazen’ decision on redistricting” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — Voting rights and civil rights groups are calling on the Florida Supreme Court to undo an “egregious misreading of the Florida’s Constitution” and strike down the congressional map pushed into law two years ago by DeSantis. The groups filed their initial arguments to the state’s highest court on why the map violates the state Constitution. Black Voters Matter, the League of Women Voters of Florida and other groups have been challenging Florida’s current map for close to two years. That map wound up dismantling the North Florida seat of Rep. Al Lawson, a Black Democrat, and led to Republicans picking up four congressional seats.

— 2024 —

Joe Biden amasses cash lead as Donald Trump bleeds money in 2024 fight” via Bill Allison of Bloomberg — Biden faces a number of obstacles on the road to re-election. Money won’t likely be one of them. Groups allied with Biden have already committed to spending more than $700 million to help him beat Trump in the 2024 Election. That’s in addition to the $130 million his campaign reported having on hand at the start of February. Trump’s financial situation, by comparison, is starting to show cracks. His campaign spent more than it raised in January and allied political action committees are spending millions on his legal defense that would otherwise go to re-election efforts. The Republican National Committee’s fundraising also lags behind its Democratic counterpart.

Joe Biden has solid money on hand, while Donald Trump struggles.

Democrats push to get skeptical young voters behind Biden” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Democrats worry about Biden’s support from young voters, who are increasingly bombarded on social media about his age, student loan debt and the war in Gaza. In Florida, the party is trying fervently to reach out to them. Among recent efforts are a young Democratic leaders PAC and a rally and concert organized by Gen Z U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost on Saturday featuring “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Biden has even joined TikTok, with his campaign posting 43 videos since the first on Super Bowl Sunday on Feb. 11. Democrats face a lot of work to combat the messages young people are getting online implying there’s little difference between Biden and Trump, one political analyst said.


Trump pushes Steve Daines to succeed Mitch McConnell as GOP’s Senate leader” via Stef W. Kight and Stephen Neukam of Axios — Trump quietly has been urging Sen. Daines to run for GOP Senate leader — and was doing so even before Sen. McConnell announced he was stepping aside as leader. Trump’s involvement signals there could be a long race for the leadership post ahead. Trump is consolidating his power over the GOP and Republicans in Congress, and his blessing, along with a triumphant November election, could position Daines for the Senate leadership job when the new Congress starts in January. Daines, who also is Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has demurred about the possibility of succeeding McConnell, but hasn’t said no. Daines “appreciates the President’s support but needs to focus on taking back the Senate” in November, one source said.

Steve Daines has the Trump seal of approval.


Bill Posey endorses Dave Weldon for state House — U.S. Rep. Posey is backing Republican candidate Weldon in the race for House District 32. “If the people of Brevard want someone with a track record of being a proven conservative who is approachable, hardworking and very effective at serving them in Tallahassee, Dr. Dave is that man. He is a veteran and a physician who we can trust to get the job done. Dave is a champion for our values and creating good jobs in Brevard. Dave will stand strong against illegal immigration and the Democrats’ radical agenda,” Posey said. “I encourage all voters to get behind Dr. Dave Weldon to fight for us in Tallahassee.” HD 32 is currently held by term-limited Republican Rep. Thad Altman.

Dave Weldon gets a high-profile local endorsement. Image via

Ruth’s List Florida backs Yvette Drucker for re-election to Boca Raton Council” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Longtime community volunteer Drucker’s bid to stay on the Boca Raton City Council for three more years now has support from Ruth’s List Florida. The Democratic, pro-women organization announced its endorsement of Drucker, calling her “exactly the kind of woman that we want to uplift and protect in office.” “Council member Drucker has been an advocate for women and children even before becoming elected and has continued to ensure the voices of her constituents are heard,” Ruth’s List CEO Christina Diamond said. “She is a shining example of the type of leaders we need at the local level right now.” Drucker said she appreciates the nod. “Ruth’s List knows how to make Florida a better place for women and families,” she said in a statement.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

‘Unfailing integrity’: Daniella Levine Cava endorses James Reyes for Miami-Dade Sheriff” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Levine Cava is endorsing Reyes, a longtime jail warden she appointed last year as the county’s first Chief of Public Safety to oversee the Police, Corrections and Fire departments. “I am proud to endorse Chief James Reyes for Miami-Dade County Sheriff because he believes deeply in public service and leads with unfailing integrity,” she said in a Thursday statement. “His leadership … has delivered proven results, built community trust, and kept our residents and families safe. Growing up in Miami-Dade, James understands that the diversity of our community is our greatest asset, and he knows firsthand why the freedoms we cherish in our country must always be protected.”

Daniella Levine Cava is all-in for James Reyes.

Miami-Dade Sheriff candidates call for public corruption unit to investigate government officials” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — As several politicians in Miami-Dade face scrutiny for wrongdoing, two candidates for Sheriff are independently calling for the creation of a public corruption unit to investigate potentially unscrupulous officials. Democratic Miami-Dade Police Major John Barrow and retired Major Mario Knapp, a Republican who led post-incident operations after the Surfside condo collapse, agree that local law enforcement needs to better confront abuses of government power. And the head of Miami-Dade’s ethics agency believes such a unit would benefit the county. In a press note, Barrow said he plans to establish a unit on Day One to “root out corruption and help restore residents’ faith in their elected leaders and local government.” The 18-year Miami-Dade Police veteran envisions the unit as “consisting of seasoned investigators and attorneys from the department’s legal staff,” who will “work hand-in-glove with the State Attorney’s Office on their corruption investigations.”

Miami Seaquarium’s chief veterinarian resigns after critical report about its animal care” via Devoun Cetoute and Linda Robertson of the Miami Herald — Miami Seaquarium’s chief veterinarian has resigned, another sign of a growing crisis at the Virginia Key marine park that has made Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava accelerate her efforts to terminate the county’s lease with Seaquarium operator The Dolphin Company. “Miami-Dade County is taking all steps necessary to enforce compliance with our current lease agreement as we move closer to termination,” Levine Cava and County Commissioner Raquel Regalado said in a joint statement. “Today’s news reaffirms the county’s concerns and the urgency to determine the next steps in the best interest of the animals residing at the Seaquarium.” County officials found out Wednesday that head vet Dr. Jessica Comolli had resigned.

Miami-Dade County inks lobbying contract with Ballard Partners — Ballard Partners has added the county government in Miami-Dade to its client sheet. Filings show that firm founder Brian Ballard, Jose Diaz, Hunter Morgen and Dan McFaul have registered to lobby for the county with the contract stating the firm, in addition to advocating for legislation, will advise the county on “potential opportunities regarding transportation, seaport, airport, and economic development issues.”

It’s back to the drawing board for Port St. Lucie’s City Attorney search process” via Wicker Perlis of Treasure Coast Newspapers — The City Council is going back to the drawing board in its search for a new permanent City Attorney after members said they were unhappy with the presented candidates. Port St. Lucie is looking for its fifth City Attorney in the last 10 years, after former City Attorney James Stokes stepped down in October. Deputy City Attorney Richard Berrios was elevated to Interim City Attorney and was one of four finalists for the permanent job. In the decade since longtime City Attorney Roger Orr retired in 2014, amid a Sunshine Law violation scandal, the office has been plagued by turnover and further scandals.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Community leaders sign Central Florida Pledge to stand against hate” via Desiree Stennett of the Orlando Sentinel — Leaders across Central Florida representing city and county governments, law enforcement agencies, business, religious groups and college campuses gathered Thursday in downtown Orlando to sign the Central Florida Pledge, a document denouncing Islamophobia, antisemitism and other forms of hate. In the months after the Oct. 7 attack on Israel and the brutal war that followed in the Gaza strip, prominent community figures set out to ease some of the tension that bubbled across the region, thousands of miles away from the conflict. Longtime business owner and philanthropist Alan Ginsberg had the idea to create a pledge that members of the community could sign to promise that they would not only refuse to participate in the hatred of others but would also intervene when they witnessed vulnerable people being targeted by those espousing hate.

Alan Ginsberg is urging Central Florida lawmakers to sign his pledge of peace.

State lawmakers move to block proposed growth limits in Orange County” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida legislators are on the verge of upending a proposal from a citizens’ Committee to ask Orange County voters in November to restrict development on rural lands east and west of Orlando. The Orange County Charter Review Commission has not yet approved the proposed “Rural Boundary Amendment” suggested by a subcommittee after six months of study, but the possible impacts on future development caught lawmakers’ attention. The legislative efforts, which have gained public notice only in the last few days, would thwart a major effort to control the area’s growth without letting residents weigh in. On Wednesday, the Florida Senate voted 38-1 in favor of a measure to block any “citizen-led county charter amendment” proposing to overrule existing land development regulations. The Florida House Friday may discuss a similar prohibition.

‘Should not have happened’: Grand jury report rebukes Osceola sheriff, deputies who killed Jayden Baez” via Cristóbal Reyes of the Orlando Sentinel — Osceola County deputy sheriffs could have avoided killing Baez in April 2022 if not for their faulty judgment and their department’s poorly crafted policies on the use of appropriate force in response to minor crimes, a grand jury report released Thursday concluded. The report, announced by Orange-Osceola State Attorney Andrew Bain, slams the deputies’ tactics in the minutes leading to the shooting death of the 20-year-old Baez, who drove a car carrying two passengers accused of shoplifting $46 in pizza and Pokémon cards. Deputies in unmarked vehicles blocked Baez in his parking spot, then fired as he rammed their vehicles trying to flee. Two of his companions, Joseph Lowe and Michael Gomez, survived despite being struck several times by gunfire.

Voters will decide whether gas-powered blowers can be used in Winter Park” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Two years after banning gas leaf blowers in their city, Winter Park Commissioners have decided to give voters the final word. In a 3-2 vote, City Commissioners agreed to put the ban on the 2025 ballot, under threat that Sen. Jason Brodeur, a Lake Mary Republican whose district includes Winter Park, would otherwise move to block all bans of the gas-powered lawn equipment across the state. Brodeur, who sided with disgruntled landscapers, has since pushed for the Senate to fund further study of gas vs. electric blowers. Mayor Phil Anderson supported the ballot measure alongside Commissioners Sheila DeCiccio and Kris Cruzada. Commissioners Todd Weaver and Marty Sullivan voted against it.


Amid employee morale issues, Dade City considers City Manager’s future” via Barbara Behrendt of the Tampa Bay Times — The Dade City Commission this week faced a barrage of criticism leveled against City Manager Leslie Porter by past and present employees to go along with a suggestion from one Board member that it was time to replace her. Mayor Pro Tem Normita Woodard questioned whether it was time for a change at a meeting earlier in the month. But on Tuesday night, the focus was on former and current employees who filled seats in the meeting room and spoke through a letter delivered to the Commission by local business owner Jenny Williams. “Morale is the lowest it has been,” Williams told officials, thanks to mishandling of city issues, intimidation of employees and a hostile work environment under Porter’s six years as manager. The letter also said that Porter had hired “like-minded” department leaders, including Karin Decker, the human resources director, and Georgina Cid, the community and economic development director.

Dade City is considering replacing Leslie Porter.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Judge overseeing JEA trial closes courtroom, Times-Union and media object” via Nate Monroe of the Florida Times-Union — The federal Judge overseeing the corruption trial of JEA’s former top executives closed the courtroom while prosecutors and defense attorneys heard testimony from an upcoming witness, a decision the Times-Union objected to and plans to challenge in court filings. U.S. District Judge Brian Davis dismissed media and the public before holding a Kastigar hearing — a specialized proceeding that allows the judge to vet the testimony a witness plans to offer outside the view of jurors and, in this case, the public. Davis did not differentiate why this hearing was different from similar proceedings held throughout the Summer and in the weeks before the trial, during which the media and public were permitted to view the vast majority of the testimony.

JEA trial: Former JEA No. 2 says potential big payouts were clear to executives” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — Melissa Dykes, JEA’s former chief operating officer, who also had multiple brief stints as the utility’s leader, told jurors in the conspiracy and fraud trial of JEA’s former CEO and CFO that she fully understood the potential for large payouts from an incentive plan the board of directors approved in the summer of 2019, underscoring a key point made by federal prosecutors throughout the trial. Dykes’ testimony simultaneously bolstered the government’s case while offering a lifeline to one of the co-defendants, former JEA CFO Ryan Wannemacher, a longtime friend of Dykes and one she said was one of the most honest people she knew. Dykes said she believed that her former boss, ex-JEA CEO Aaron Zahn, had fully explained how the controversial incentive plan worked to members of the JEA board. “He said, ‘everybody who needs to understand it understands it,'” she said.

Betty Holzendorf, 1939-2024: Longtime legislator who represented Duval dies at the age of 84” via ActionNewsJax — A former Florida Senator and Representative from Northeast Florida has died, Action News Jax has confirmed. Holzendorf died Thursday. According to her Florida House biography, she was 84 at the time of her death. She was an alum of both Edward Waters University and the University of North Florida, receiving her bachelor’s degree from the former and her master’s in educational administration from the latter. Holzendorf, a Democrat, served in the Florida House of Representatives from 1988-1992 and in the Florida Senate from 1992 to 2002, according to her House and Senate biographies.

RIP: Betty Holzendorf, a longtime political figure in NE Florida, has died.


New College of Florida hires professor who argued in favor of colonialism” via Steven Walker of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — New College of Florida is hiring a professor who once published an article arguing in favor of colonialism, the college announced in a news release Thursday. Bruce Gilley, a political-science professor at Portland State University and the author of “The Case for Colonialism,” will be one of the college’s first hires as “Presidential Scholar in Residence,” a non-tenure track teaching position at the college akin to a visiting professorship. He joins Stanley Fish, Joseph Loconte and Andrew Doyle. Gilley will take a sabbatical from his tenured position at Portland State University to work at New College.

Bruce Gilley is among New College’s first hires as ‘Presidential Scholar in Residence.’

Sarasota Mayor Liz Alpert will run for a third term as City Commissioner” via Christian Casale of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Alpert has announced a re-election campaign for what she said would be her third and likely final term as a City Commissioner. “I think the message is one of working on and continuing the progress that we’ve made in the city,” Alpert told the Herald-Tribune of her re-election bid. “I think in the last four years, we’ve made a lot of strides as far as getting things done.” The two biggest issues Alpert has heard about from constituents and voters may be unsurprising for those tracking Sarasota politics: affordable housing and growth. The Mayor envisions a balance of the two issues by encouraging increased housing density and development in downtown Sarasota and along the busy travel corridors.

Collier Commission advances affordable housing project that would tap taxpayer money” via Laura Layden of the Naples Daily News — Collier Commissioners reconsidered, then reapproved a developer’s application for taxpayer money to build affordable housing. While they all seemed to agree the project was imperfect, Commissioners voted unanimously to keep moving it forward. After the application won unanimous approval in late January, Commissioner Bill McDaniel asked for a reconsideration at a Board meeting a few weeks later. A majority of the Board then agreed to rehear it the next time they met. After the first vote, McDaniel said new information had come to light that triggered new questions and concerns in his mind, which he wanted the developer and county staff to address in the public eye.

FEMA OKs $17.1M in debris reimbursement for Charlotte County” via the Port Charlotte Sun — Charlotte County will receive more than $17.1 million in grant funding to offset the cost of removing debris after Hurricane Ian. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) issued a news release announcing the reimbursement grant. The release noted that more than 1.6 million cubic yards of vegetative debris were removed from county roads and public property as a result of the storm, along with roughly 241,794 cubic yards of “hurricane-generated debris.” “The storm left extensive debris, resulting in a threat to public health and safety,” the release read. The grant funding is provided through FEMA’s Public Assistance program.


Nikki Haley’s not running against Trump. She’s using him to launder her image.” via Frank Bruni of The New York Times — She’s not running for President, or at least that’s not her sole or even principal goal in 2024.

She’s running for a different kind of glory, and to some degree, she’s winning it, even though she doesn’t deserve it. That’s why she sounds so strangely joyful at times. It’s the source of her curiously robust energy.

As 2024 dawned, Trump’s dominance endured and Haley grappled with the fact that she didn’t have any job other than her candidacy to return to, she identified the next best thing to beating Trump: using him, for as long as possible, as a yardstick. Being measured against him.

Every day that she officially remains an alternative to him — no matter how technical, no matter how notional, no matter her failure to get even 30% of the vote in Michigan this week — is a day when Americans with an unfavorable view of him (the majority, mind you) have a newly favorable view of her. It’s a day when journalists raptly trail after her, when she’s welcome on pretty much any television news show when at least a few pundits will praise her guts and her gusto for standing up to Trump, even though she bowed down to him for much, much longer.

When this is all over, her speaking fees will be astronomical.

In her unbroken string of Republican Primary losses, she may be creating a win-win. If it’s Biden-Trump in November and Biden beats Trump, Haley gets to say to Republicans, “I told you so.” If Trump wins, moves back into the White House, and sucks us into a nonstop, democracy-imperiling, quasi-autocratic melodrama, Haley also gets to say, “I told you so.”


DeSantis is right about social media ban. This misguided idea deserves his veto” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Give DeSantis some credit. He’s at least being consistent with his criticism of the Florida Legislature’s attempt to ban minors from social media. 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.

Venezuela’s dictator and Trump spread lies about mass exodus” via Andres Oppenheimer of the Miami Herald — Fake news alert: As the exodus of Venezuelans to the United States reaches new heights, both Latin America’s old-guard left, and America’s Trumpist right are spreading a false narrative about the estimated 8 million Venezuelans who have fled their country in recent years. If you listen to the disinformation campaign by Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro and his Latin American allies, the Venezuelan exodus has been caused by U.S. sanctions against Venezuela. Echoing Maduro’s false claim, Colombian President Gustavo Petro wrote on Feb. 17 in his X, formerly Twitter, account that “what has caused the migration of millions of Venezuelans is an economic blockade.” He added that the United States “blockaded the international sale of (Venezuelan) oil, and that’s what Venezuela’s society lived from. The immediate impoverishment produced migration.”


— ALOE —

Instagram rolls out new feature to prevent online scams — Instagram unveiled a new feature that will display warning labels when it detects suspicious activity linked to identity theft and fraud scams. The platform will flag questionable links or direct messages with a pop-up warning asking users to review and recognize the potential scam. According to Instagram, Floridians are ranked third most vulnerable in the nation to be affected by identity theft and fraud. Older Floridians are especially vulnerable to online scams, including scams on social media. Instagram cited data showing that of all individuals who have reported losing money to fraud since 2021, one in four said that it started on social media.

The computer will see you now: Artificial Intelligence usage grows at Central Florida hospitals” via Caroline Catherman of the Orlando Sentinel — Central Florida’s two major health systems, Orlando Health and AdventHealth Central Florida, are widely using artificial intelligence for administrative work and, increasingly, to sound early alarms about potential illnesses, including deadly pancreatic cancer and sepsis. Eventually, some experts think AI could even be used to diagnose patients and make treatment decisions. On one hand, a growing body of research suggests this could make patients safer because the computer software that generates AI doesn’t get tired or make mistakes like overworked medical staff. But a lot of people are alarmed by the prospect. A 2023 Pew Research poll found 60% of Americans are uncomfortable with AI being used in their health care.

Central Florida hospitals are turning to AI to help diagnose patients.

Universal unveils DreamWorks Land details, including its Trollercoaster” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Universal Orlando has revealed more details about the DreamWorks Land set to open at Universal Studios theme park sometime this Summer. Among the elements: a Trolls Trollercoaster ride, Po’s Kung Fu Training Camp and Shrek’s Swamp Meet. The area is under construction on the footprint of what was formerly known as KidZone. The refurbishment will include character interactions, playgrounds, themed foods and retail outlets. The Trollercoaster will be “family-friendly,” Universal said, with Caterbus-themed ride vehicles and spiders among their webs. It will be near Poppy’s Playground, which will feature bouncing and climbing structures beneath a 20-foot mushroom. Trolls Treats will be an ice-cream kiosk transformed from Poppy’s boombox seen in “Trolls Band Together.”


Celebrating today are former U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, Ralph Lair, Adrianna Sekula, David Singer, Sally West, and Stephanie Grutman Zauder.


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.

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