Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 3.12.24

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Breaking late MondayLegal settlement clarifies reach of Florida’s ‘don’t say gay’ law” via Patricia Mazzei of The New York Times — The State of Florida and plaintiffs who challenged a parental rights law that critics nicknamed “Don’t Say Gay” agreed to a settlement Monday that clarifies the reach of the legislation, which prohibits instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through eighth grade. The plaintiffs, a group that included students, parents, educators, and LGBTQ advocacy organizations, had blamed the law, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2022, for causing confusion and fear in public schools. The settlement says that students and teachers are allowed to talk about sexual identity and gender orientation in public schools, as long as it is not part of formal classroom instruction.


Jennifer Carpenter has joined the Florida Chapter of The Nature Conservancy as the Deputy Executive Director of Conservation and Government Relations.

Carpenter comes to The Nature Conservancy from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, where she has worked for 22 years, most recently as the Director of District Management. In that role, she led the Department’s 90-person South District, which covers Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hendry, Highlands, Lee and Sarasota counties.

Jennifer Carpenter is taking her talents to the Florida Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

With two decades of experience in Florida’s environmental agency, Carpenter has a deep understanding of how environmental policy is shaped and implemented; and how those policies are put into practice.

In her new position, Carpenter will oversee the Science and Planning Department, Strategy and Policy Department, Stewardship and Field Department and Government Relations Department. She said she is excited to join The Nature Conservancy and put her experience to use furthering the organization’s goals.

Carpenter earned an undergraduate degree in biological sciences from Florida State University and a master’s degree in environmental science from Florida Gulf Coast University.

The Nature Conservancy is a century-old organization with chapters in every state dedicated to preserving natural landscapes. The organization also has staff in more than 70 countries and territories.


Tweet, tweet:


Tweet, tweet:


@Scott_Maxwell: You can’t make this shit up. The staffer whom DeSantis now wants to put in charge of the Disney district is the same one who was previously caught — wait for it — secretly working WITH DISNEY LOBBYISTS to do the company favors. Back when Disney was still cutting DeSantis checks.

Tweet, tweet:


@DaveRamba: Now begins the week of checking for LobbyTools alerts every other minute then wondering if your email stopped working — IYKYK — happy Sine Die folks — we’re off to Telluride!

@SteveSchale: Big Pollen is out of control this year


Arizona/Florida/Illinois/Kansas/Ohio Primaries — 7; James Madison Institute’s ‘2024 Naples Dinner’ with keynote speaker Laura Ingraham — 9; ‘3 Body Problem’ premieres on Netflix — 9; Donald Trump’s New York hush money trial begins — 13; The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the mifepristone/abortion pill case — 14; Major League Baseball’s (MLB) 2024 season — 16; March Madness Final Four (women’s) begins — 23; March Madness Final Four (men’s) — 26; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 30; The Masters begin — 31; Kentucky Derby — 54; 2024 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 59; ‘Bridgerton’ new season (part one) premieres on Netflix — 67; French Open begins — 69; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 71; Dave Matthews Band 2024 Summer Tour begins in Tampa — 71; Monaco Grand Prix — 75; the 2024 World Cup begins — 91; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 109; Republican National Convention begins — 125; the 2024 World Cup ends — 129; 2024 MLS All-Star Game — 134; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games on NBC/Peacock — 136; ‘Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 155; Democratic National Convention begins — 161; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 165; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 220; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 223; 2024 Presidential Election — 238; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 251; MLS Cup 2024 — 266; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 336; ‘Moana’ premieres — 466; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 497; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 500; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 605; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 647; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 784; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 800; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 1,011; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,151; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,110; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,832.


Fight between Disney and Ron DeSantis appointees over district control gets a July court hearing” via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press — A hearing over whether the state court case should move forward or be decided without the need for a full trial was set last week for July 25 in Orlando.

Disney v. DeSantis has a court date.

Disney claims the Republican Governor and his appointees took over the district, which provides government services like planning and firefighting at Disney World, in retaliation for the company opposing Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law.

The 2022 law banned classroom lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades and was championed by DeSantis, who had used Disney as a punching bag in speeches on the campaign trail until he suspended his campaign for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination earlier this year.

DeSantis and his appointees to the Governing District won in the multiple court fights over the takeover in the first round when a federal judge in Tallahassee dismissed Disney’s free speech lawsuit against them in January. Disney is appealing that decision.


Spencer Roach will continue to pursue ‘universal wind coverage’ next Session” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — After Rep. Roach’s home was largely destroyed by Hurricane Ian, his insurer announced it couldn’t pay out claims. Like many Floridians, Roach, in the midst of rebuilding, had to pursue claims through a state association. It set Roach on a path toward massively reforming Florida’s insurance market and allowing Citizens Property Insurance to cover anybody instead of serving as Florida’s insurer of last resort. “It’s inevitable Florida will embrace universal wind coverage,” Roach said. But a bipartisan proposal (HB 1213) didn’t find a supporter in the Senate and died this year unheard. Roach most likely has two more Legislative Sessions in the House to pursue changes, and he intends to bring the bill back next year.

Wind damage is commonplace in Florida; Spencer Roach wants wind coverage to be universal.

Lawmakers commit record funding to cure, treat Alzheimer’s disease” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — As the curtain closes on this Session, the Alzheimer’s Association in Florida is applauding lawmakers’ historic commitment to fighting the disease that’s going to be affecting more and more of the state’s population in the coming years. The record $91 million that lawmakers allocated will support research, pay for respite for caregivers and help Alzheimer’s patients as they negotiate the disease’s effects, whether they are at home, getting treatment in a nursing home or trying to the doctor’s office via county bus. One in eight of the state’s seniors are estimated to be coping with the disease that often brings about a slow death. The proportion of those affected is expected to grow even larger, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. In sheer numbers of people dealing with the disease, the state is second only to California, according to association officials.

Florida is set to stabilize and expand funding for epilepsy services” via Margie Menzel of Health News Florida — After years of uncertainty, epilepsy services are set to see their first stable source of funding from the state. The money, providers say, will help hundreds of thousands of Floridians, their families and their caregivers. “Epilepsy can impact any family and at any moment, without any warning. And this year, epilepsy impacted my family,” says Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka, the House sponsor of the budget request. Her stepson has epilepsy. She says it’s been a long road to stabilize his life — and their family’s. “How do you prepare school, in case he has a seizure there? And how do you return him back to living as normal of a life as possible?” she asks. “It’s a hard and difficult journey, not only for the person who has epilepsy but also for the family who’s trying to help that person. And it’s scary …” Epilepsy is a disorder of the brain that causes seizures or periods of unusual behavior and sometimes loss of awareness.

—”Here are 25 bills that died this Session. Will they come back next year?” via Florida Politics

Democratic leaders wish they could have done more during 2024 Legislative Session” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — With Sine Die already receding into memory, Florida Democratic leaders are looking back on a Legislative Session in which the numbers were against them in the Senate and House and where outright victories were few. While the statements differed between members of legislative leadership, the overall theme is one of disappointment tinged with hope that they’ll be better positioned going forward. “This Session left much to be desired for Floridians who are facing daily, pressing problems like the skyrocketing cost of property insurance and rising costs of living,” observed Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book.

Lauren Book wishes she could have done more in 2024.

Advocates demand change in Florida prisons as reform legislation dies this Session” via Elena Barrera of The Tallahassee Democrat — Michael Planes, a Florida prison inmate, used to walk and talk. Now, he can’t do either after a brutal beatdown inside the system that promises to “meet the needs of those entrusted to our care.” The 30-year-old Planes, who was incarcerated at Gulf Correctional Institution, was beaten into a coma that lasted 60 days, according to his mother Rhonda Planes. He’d been serving a 12-year sentence on grand theft and other charges. “He did deserve to go to prison,” she said, choking back tears at a Thursday news conference. “But my son did not deserve the treatment that he got in prison.” The distraught mother, family members of other imprisoned Floridians, as well as attorneys, advocates and lawmakers, stood inside the Florida Capitol to express their disappointment in the Legislature for failing to prioritize the state prison system this Session, which ends Friday. A request for comment with a Department of Corrections representative is pending.

Average citizens face an uphill battle against interest groups to get laws changed in Florida” via Katie LaGrone of ABC Action News — As Florida’s 2024 Legislative Session ends, Investigative Reporter Katie LaGrone is showing you a side of Florida’s lawmaking process the public rarely gets to see. For months, she followed two average citizens trying to persuade lawmakers to change Florida’s “free kill” law. It’s just before 9 a.m. in January, one day before the start of Florida’s 2024 Legislative Session. Sabrina Davis and Marcia Scheppler have taken off from work and are on the road but are not off the clock. Their fight revolves around Florida’s 34-year-old Wrongful Death Act, which critics describe as the “free kill” law. It essentially says if a doctor’s mistake kills an unmarried adult, their families can’t sue for pain and suffering. Sabrina and Marcia want the law eliminated.


NAACP warns athletes against Florida colleges” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Florida’s ongoing battle with diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is seen as a war against Black athletes. And now, the NAACP is issuing a warning to those athletes who may be participating in college sports in the state or considering doing so to look at other places to study and play. “Florida’s rampant anti-Black policies are a direct threat to the advancement of our young people and their ability to compete in a global economy. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are paramount to ensuring equitable and effective educational outcomes,” said NAACP President Derrick Johnson. “The value Black and other college athletes bring to large universities is unmatched. If these institutions are unable to completely invest in those athletes, it’s time they take their talents elsewhere. The NAACP will remain unwavering in our efforts to hold Gov. Ron DeSantis and all oppressive elected officials accountable for their attempts to unravel our democracy.”

Derrick Johnson tells Black student-athletes to choose wisely when considering Florida.

Gov. DeSantis taps 2 lawyers to become County Judges” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Two lawyers who had been considered for wearing black robes in previous years have won judicial appointments, one in Seminole County and the other in Sarasota County, DeSantis announced. Both are replacing Judges who were elevated from county court benches to circuit courts. DeSantis appointed Sylvia Grunor, also a donor to his presidential campaign last year, to serve as a Judge in Seminole County Court. Grunor of Sanford was interviewed by the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission in 2016 and she ran unsuccessfully for the trial bench in 2000 and once applied to fill a vacancy in the 18th Judicial Circuit in Sanford.

Florida rivals ask courts to stop online sports gambling off tribal lands” via Mike Schneider of Yahoo News — The state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe of Florida will be raking in hundreds of millions of dollars from online sports betting this decade, thanks to a compact between the tribe and DeSantis that gave the tribe exclusive rights to run sports wagers as well as casino gambling on its reservations. But are these online wagers on the outcome of sporting events legally on tribal land, when really only the computer servers are located there, accepting bets made using mobile phones and computers from anywhere in Florida? That’s a question two of the tribe’s gaming competitors are hoping the U.S. Supreme Court will take up soon and answer with a definitive “no.”

Man wanted on rape charges released when Oregon refuses to request transfer from Florida; then DeSantis steps in” via Fedor Zarkhin of Oregon Live — DeSantis personally intervened to make sure that a man wanted on rape and sexual-abuse charges in Oregon was arrested after Washington County officials in Oregon declined to request his transfer from Florida. Juan Jose-Sebastian, was on the cusp of release from a Martin County, Florida, jail when the local sheriff’s office there learned that Oregon’s Washington County had a warrant out for his arrest. But officials in Oregon declined to seek his extradition, the sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post March 1. After DeSantis held a news conference, saying “Oregon did not want to accept this individual,” Oregon sought to have Jose-Sebastian extradited to the state. The Washington County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement Monday afternoon that it learned of the issue from media reports and “has had no communication with anyone from Florida, including the Florida Governor’s office and Florida law enforcement.”

Florida exceeds 25,000 manufacturers in state, TaxWatch report finds” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — Florida is now a formal “manufacturing state,” at least according to Florida TaxWatch and FloridaMakes per a new report detailing manufacturing growth in the Sunshine State. TaxWatch, a Florida government watchdog and taxpayer advocacy group, and FloridaMakes, a manufacturing support organization, noted that there are now more than 25,000 manufacturers that are based in the state for the first time. The figure was established in the “MakeMore Manufacturing Summit” report issued this month. “Florida’s economic prosperity hinges on the collaborative efforts of our manufacturing stakeholders,” said FloridaMakes CEO Kevin Carr. “This MakeMore Manufacturing Report underscores our commitment to advancing the state’s manufacturing economy through strategic partnerships and innovation.”

— 2024 —

Early voting has started for Florida’s Presidential Primary Election — but only GOP will be voting” via Mitch Perry of Florida Phoenix — Florida’s Presidential Primary Preference election takes place next week —- though Democrats won’t be voting — and early voting for the March 19 contest began over the weekend throughout the state. For those who might not know: There will be no Presidential Primary Election for Democratic voters next week. That’s because the Florida Democratic Party chose only President Joe Biden on the ballot when it convened last Fall, though other candidates were in the race. The issue led to a federal lawsuit, which was dismissed in federal court in January. As to the GOP, Nikki Haley dropped out of the Republican presidential race last week, and Trump will essentially run unopposed in his quest to become the GOP Presidential nominee for the third straight election cycle.

The Primary has begun!

If Donald Trump returns to the White House, House GOP wonders: Who will talk to him?” via Ken Tran of USA TODAY — As Trump has all but secured the Republican nomination in his quest to retake the White House, House Republicans are grappling with one key question as he marches toward the nomination: Who’s going to deal with him if he wins a second term? If Trump wins re-election, someone in the House Republican conference will have to be the liaison between the former President and the lower chamber. Who that person will be isn’t exactly clear to some GOP lawmakers. Of course, all administrations coordinate closely with Capitol Hill to enact their agenda, but the designee for Trump will be especially consequential because of his, at times, erratic behavior compared to his predecessors.

Trump stumbles onto the third rail: Social Security reform” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — Trump called into a CNBC show Monday morning, allowing host Joe Kernen to ask a question about government spending and, specifically, the large chunk of spending that is committed to social programs. “Have you changed your outlook on how to handle entitlement — Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Mr. President?” Kernen asked. “It seems like something has to be done.” At that point, two familiar patterns kicked in. Trump tends to like to align with the opinions offered by his interviewers, particularly on subjects that aren’t at the center of his political identity. He also tends to ramble when doing an interview over the phone, making it harder for hosts to cut in. So, his response to Kernen was long, convoluted — and offered in agreement.

Joe Biden campaign takes aim at Trump stance on Social Security, Medicare in new advertisement” via Brian Schwartz of CNBC — The re-election campaign of Biden on Monday released a new digital advertisement targeting Trump over comments the former President made to CNBC about cutting government programs including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The Biden campaign gave CNBC a first look at the new 20-second ad highlighting the statement on “Squawk Box” by Trump, who, as the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, is expected to face Biden in November’s election. The ad will be published on Biden’s X, Facebook, Instagram and Threads social media accounts, the campaign said. CNBC host Joe Kernen asked Trump if he had changed his “outlook on how to handle entitlements: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid?” Kernen’s question was based on a concern that those programs, if not cut, will continue to fuel increases in the U.S. national debt. Trump answered: “There is a lot you can do in terms of entitlements — in terms of cutting — and in terms of also the theft and the bad management of entitlements.”

To watch the ad, please click the image below:


Kamala Harris to visit Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, talk gun safety” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Harris, who oversees the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, will visit Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School while in Parkland. The Vice President will meet with the families of some of the 14 students and three teachers killed by a former student back on Valentine’s Day, 2018. Expect Harris to talk about gun law reforms from her own administration, including 2022’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. The Biden-Harris administration says it’s “making the largest investment in student mental health in history by hiring 14,000 mental health counselors, implementing red flag laws, and strengthening background checks for purchasers under the age of 21 and individuals convicted of domestic abuse.” Harris is expected to discuss a ban on assault weapons, red flag legislation, and the need for background checks related to gun sales.

Kamala Harris heads to Parkland to visit the infamous crime scene.

Rick Scott seeks freeze on wage increases for H-2A field workers” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — U.S. Sen. Scott is among the 15 signatories to a U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo letter seeking a “freeze” to the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR). This rate applies to “temporary nonimmigrant workers under the H-2A visa classification,” according to the federal Department of Labor. While Florida’s $14.77 compensation rate for these field workers is among the lowest in the country, Scott and the other Republicans on the letter seek a moratorium, especially given the rate of increase. Nationally, the average wage has more than doubled in the last two decades. The Labor Department justifies that nominal salary escalation on the grounds that “agricultural employers play a vital role in our nation’s economy and that obtaining a reliable workforce is critical to producing the U.S. food supply.”

Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick recounts horrors facing her own family members in Haiti, offers possible solutions to gang-fueled crisis” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Congresswoman Cherfilus-McCormick urged the creation of a multinational force to wrest control of Haiti from gangs and the creation of transitional government, using funding but not troops from the U.S. The only Haitian American member of Congress, Cherfilus-McCormick also called on the embattled prime minister, Ariel Henry, to step down. “The situation in Haiti has escalated to a critical point. … The gangs are taking over,” Cherfilus-McCormick said, describing “heavy gang violence shooting, killing — the people are living in terror right now.” It has forced many in Haiti to consider awful choices: attempting a perilous and uncertain exit from the country, via land to the Dominican Republic or via sea to the U.S. or elsewhere.


Political newcomer launches Primary challenge to Tracie Davis” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — A Senator from Jacksonville was picked to lead the Democratic Caucus in 2026, but she will have to defeat a Primary opponent to get there. 40-year-old Francky Jeanty opened a campaign account last month to run in Senate District 5 against Sen. Davis, who was elected in 2022. Jeanty, a graduate of Edward Waters University, is a published author of a motivational book, a self-described “educational consultant,” a former student recruiter for Keiser College, a former admissions counselor for EWU, and a former manager at a car rental dealership. “We can make a change. It’s not about Republicans, not about Democrats,” Jeanty said in an interview, in which he said he is running to “help people.”

Save the date:




— LOCAL: S. FL —

Delray Beach elections: City will have a new Mayor for the first time in six years” via Jasmine Fernández of the Palm Beach Post — Residents of the “Village by the Sea” will have much to consider on their ballots, including selecting a new Mayor for the first time in six years. Three races are up for grabs for Delray Beach’s 65,781 voters, with public safety, overdevelopment, and management of the city’s budget at the forefront of the candidates’ priorities. Ryan Boylston, Tom Carney and Shirley Ervin Johnson are all running for Mayor, or Seat 5, replacing Shelly Petrolia, who has served in that position since 2018. For Seat 3 on the Commission, Anneze Barthelemy, Juli Casale, Nick Coppola and Christina Morrison are on the ballot. The winner replaces Boylston, who has served on the Commission since 2018.

PACs come to Juno Beach: Critical mailers target candidates in March 19 town election” via Maya Washburn of the Palm Beach Post — At least four political action committees have inserted themselves into the March 19 Juno Beach Town Council races and are driving a small-town election that normally would be decided by about 600 voters. Three have blitzed residents with mailers accusing two candidates of various offenses, including favoring developers at a time when two sizable residential projects — Pulte Homes’ townhomes and Caretta condominiums at Donald Ross Road and U.S. 1 — are in the works. A fourth PAC has produced a video disparaging one candidate. Juno Beach has about 3,800 residents and about 3,000 registered voters. Typically, only about 20% of those voters cast ballots in local elections.

Miami’s office market was red-hot. Now its tallest planned tower can’t fill its space.” via Deborah Acosta of The Wall Street Journal — The challenges swirling around a skyscraper known as One Brickell City Centre, which at around 1,000 feet high would be Miami’s tallest corporate tower, show how the city’s once-sizzling office market is starting to cool. New York developer Related Cos. and Swire Properties, an international development firm founded by the British Swire family, are struggling to find an anchor tenant roughly a year after the groundbreaking. Related is restructuring its agreement with Swire, which owns the land, according to people familiar with the matter. Swire even has considered selling the 1.55-acre site in Miami’s downtown, according to a document viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

One Brickell City Centre struggles to fill its office space.

Miami-Dade Schools joins forces with Teacher Accelerator Program to address critical shortage” via Hatzel Vela of Local 10 News — At the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year, Florida faced a staggering challenge: over 5000 teaching positions remained unfilled. This shortage, attributed to a variety of factors including low wages, political pressures in the classroom, and increased stressors, has deterred many college students from pursuing careers in education. The crisis persists, which is evident in Miami-Dade where approximately 70 core instructional teacher positions remain vacant. In response, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the nation’s third-largest school district, is taking proactive measures.


Gov. DeSantis recommends key adviser to replace Glen Gilzean at Disney district” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Orlando Sentinel — Gov. DeSantis recommended that Stephanie Kopelousos, a top adviser who most recently served on his campaign for President, replace Gilzean as Administrator of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District that oversees Walt Disney World. The Board, appointed entirely by DeSantis, still must approve it, but the Governor’s Office was already calling it a done deal. “We are glad to see her step into this leadership role as the District embarks upon the next chapter in its efforts to ensure an even and transparent playing field for the businesses that operate in Central Florida,” said Bryan Griffin, Communications Director for the Governor.

Stephanie Kopelousos is headed to Disney World.

$1.2M deal falls through for Pasco man injured in 2006 school bus crash” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — A Pasco County family’s 15-year effort to collect financial relief for their son’s injuries in a 2006 school bus crash fell apart in the waning days of the Legislative Session. A bill to waive the state’s sovereign immunity protections, which prevented the school district from paying more than $200,000 to the crash victims, appeared to be moving toward approval after several failed attempts. The movement prompted the Pasco School Board in February to agree to a $1.2 million settlement with the family of Marcus Button, now 33, who suffered brain damage, partial blindness and several other life-altering ailments in a crash while on the way to Wesley Chapel High School, where he was a student.

Tampa insurer lowers estimated Hurricane Ian losses by $220M” via Christina Georgacopoulos of the Tampa Bay Times — “This is pretty big. We didn’t just miss [estimates] by a little bit; we seem to be improving the models by a huge amount,” HCI Group CEO Paresh Patel said. HCI Group said losses from the costliest hurricane in Florida history won’t be as high as initially expected. The Tampa-based insurer has revised its total estimated losses from Hurricane Ian by $220 million, from a $960 million estimate set in the days after the storm made landfall in September 2022 to a current maximum of $740 million. The National Hurricane Center estimated total losses from the storm would exceed $112 billion, while the industry anticipated the insured losses to fall between $55 billion and $70 billion, making Ian the third-costliest hurricane to hit the U.S.

Bob Dillinger, former Pinellas-Pasco Public Defender, dies at 72” via Jack Prator of the Tampa Bay Times — Dillinger, the longtime Pinellas-Pasco Public Defender who retired in 2020, died Sunday afternoon at 72. Dillinger’s wife, Kay, told the Tampa Bay Times that he had fought leukemia for 17 years and, after six weeks in hospice care, died at home holding her hand. It was his choice to stop chemotherapy treatment, Kay Dillinger said. “He was my rock. He made me a better person,” she said. “He taught me how to think of others and to try to make a difference in life.” Dillinger retired as the Sixth Judicial Circuit’s Public Defender at the end of his sixth term in office, ending a 40-year legal career.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Aaron Bean, John Rutherford secure $147M from Biden administration for Jacksonville’s Emerald Trail” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The two Republican members of Congress representing Duval County are showing the power and profit of teamwork, as they have secured funding from the Democratic White House for a key Jacksonville initiative. U.S. Rep. Bean’s office notes that Jacksonville “will receive $147,089,058 in federal funding for its downtown revitalization project, the Emerald Trail.” “The project will construct 30 miles of trails, greenways, and parks to connect downtown Jacksonville to local businesses, schools, and transit. The completed project will revitalize the neighborhood strengthening tourism and entrepreneurial opportunities,” Bean’s office claims. The network of bicycle and pedestrian trails will connect Downtown to 14 historic neighborhoods, 18 schools, two colleges and nearly 30 parks, notes, in writing about the City Council’s conceptual approval of the plan five years ago.

Aaron Bean and John Rutherford notch a win for the Jacksonville Emerald Trail.

Tallahassee, capital region economy could get $200 million boost from state budget” via James Call of USS Today — The $117 billion state budget Florida lawmakers approved Friday to end their annual Session boosts the capital region with a major construction project and provides tens of millions of dollars for social services, health care, and environmental protection programs. There’s $201 million in state spending for Senate District 3, which includes Tallahassee, Leon County and 12 rural, sparsely populated counties, taking in much of the Big Bend. A big chunk of that total includes $80 million to build a new headquarters for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and another $50 million for school construction, leaving the rest to go toward local projects.

JEA trial: Government rests its case after weeks of witness testimony” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — The government rested its case at midday Monday in the trial of former JEA executive Aaron Zahn and Ryan Wannemacher after calling dozens of witnesses since jurors heard opening arguments on Feb. 28. Zahn, the former CEO, and Wannemacher, the former chief financial officer, could start their defense later Monday as they face charges of conspiracy and fraud in connection with an employee incentive plan that prosecutors said would have created hundreds of millions of dollars in payouts to JEA if the city has sold the utility. The final witness called by the federal government for its case was Herschel Vinyard, a former secretary for the state Department of Environmental Protection who later joined JEA in April 2019 as its chief financial officer.

Condemned inmate asks Supreme Court for new sentence over his broken promise to teen victim’s mom” via Fresh Take Florida — A Florida inmate sentenced to death twice for the murder of a 13-year-old Panama City girl is asking for a new sentence, saying he should be allowed to break a promise he made to the victim’s mother who died three years ago. Matthew Lee Caylor, 48, confessed to having sex with young Melinda Hinson then choking her to death in 2008 in a motel room in Panama City. Caylor at the time had been on felony probation in Georgia for molesting the 14-year-old daughter of a neighbor and was a registered sex offender. Caylor said he once promised Melissa’s mother, Rhonda McNallin, that he would not put the family through a lengthy, difficult legal battle fighting for his life. But McNallin died from cancer in 2021. “Let’s say he had made the determination to waive his rights because he had no objective belief in the afterlife and then he found religion and now he wants to change his waiver because he thinks he has to do some kind of thing with his life,” Justice John Couriel said. “Your rule would allow him to take that external consideration.”

Supreme Court justices take shortcuts to end lawyer diversity training; write rules that boost business interests” via Noreen Marcus of Florida Bulldog — In line with the “anti-woke” overhaul of Florida’s public education system, the state’s highest court wants lawyers and judges to stop studying diversity. The Supreme Court delivered that message most recently by defunding a Florida Bar Diversity Committee and canceling a lawyers’ diversity course, both of which it did entirely on its own. The justices avoid asking for buy-in from the organized Bar the way University of Florida President Ben Sasse ignored his faculty before he cut all diversity-related campus programs and 28 jobs on March 1. The high court’s diversity training purge is one of many examples of the justices making unilateral decisions about matters of great public impact. While not exceeding their authority, they dodge constraints that were honored routinely before DeSantis turned the state’s most powerful court into an instrument of conservative activism. Five years into his administration, the Supreme Court has abandoned several time-tested, standard operating procedures.


North Port City Commissioner injured in motorcycle accident, treated at Sarasota Memorial” via Earle Kimel of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — North Port District 4 City Commissioner Pete Emrich is recovering at home after being treated at Sarasota Memorial Hospital following a motorcycle accident on Sumter Boulevard. Emails from two North Port city spokespeople said the crash took place at about 4:15 p.m. in the 3000 block of Sumter Boulevard. No other vehicles were involved in the crash. Both North Port Police and North Port Fire Rescue responded to the scene, which is south of City Hall. “There were no witnesses and no citations are being issued,” North Port Police spokesperson Josh Taylor wrote, then later added that “his injuries are non-life threatening.”

We wish Pete Emrich a speedy recovery!

Lawsuit over South Venice Beach ferry passage fees settled” via Earle Kimel of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The Sarasota County Commission approved the settlement of a 2021 lawsuit filed against the operator of the South Venice Beach Ferry at its March 6 meeting. The South Venice Beach Endowment Trust agreed to pay the county $60,000 to settle the suit. Sarasota County sued the South Venice Beach Endowment Trust for breach of contract, made when the county acted as a pass-through in December 2017 for a $185,250 grant from the West Coast Inland Navigation District for dredging. The suit alleged the trust violated administrative rules in place when the grant was signed that called for uniform fares for passage on the ferry from the terminal at 4800 Lemon Bay Drive to a beach.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife establishes 4-million-acre conservation area in western Florida” via Nick Slater of Treasure Coast Newspapers — The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is creating a 4-million-acre conservation area in western Florida. The Everglades to Gulf Conservation Area was announced by Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge. The 4-million-acre conservation area extends across 12 counties west of Lake Okeechobee between Lakeland and Naples. It includes the Peace River, Myakka River, Fisheating Creek and Caloosahatchee River watersheds and borders the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area. Everglades to Gulf is home to Florida black bears, Everglade snail kites, Florida panthers, sand skinks and more than 100 other threatened or endangered species.

Miami Beach Spring Break measures are keeping crowds away. Next weekend is a bigger test” via Aaron Leibowitz of the Miami Herald — On Ocean Drive this past weekend, it seemed everyone had seen the video. Young visitors may not have read about Miami Beach’s Spring Break crackdown in the local newspaper. They certainly hadn’t watched the City Commission meetings where elected officials voted for draconian measures, including $100 parking fees and 6 p.m. beach closures. But the viral video in which the city announced it was “breaking up with Spring Break” had come across their timelines on TikTok, Instagram and other social media platforms. “Of course we did,” said Josh Pryor, 21, a senior at Georgia State University visiting for Spring Break, when asked if he and his friends had seen the video. “It’s everywhere.”

Sunny state turned cloudy: A Boca Raton lawsuit illustrates ‘erosion’ of Florida’s public records law” via David Fleshler and Abigail Hasebroock of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Attorney Robert Sweetapple, a veteran of dozens of jury trials and battles with Florida city governments, was suspicious. He had filed a request under Florida’s famously robust public records law for communications among Boca Raton city officials about his client’s plan for a luxurious house on a beach where sea turtles made their nests. He suspected the city, where hostility to the project ran high, didn’t turn everything over to him. And after two lawsuits and years of litigation, a judge ruled Feb. 1 that Sweetapple was right, finding that Boca Raton had failed to produce key documents proving to be “damning to the city.”

America’s largest mall has been stalled for years. Could Miami-Dade help revive it?” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Crews haven’t yet broken ground on what would be America’s largest mall at a 175-acre site off Interstate 75. But developers for the mega project are asking Miami-Dade County to lift an existing ban on government subsidies for the venture that launched nine years ago. The delayed American Dream Miami project — a mall massive enough to have both an artificial ski slope and a submarine lake — once pledged to be open and employ 5,000 people by 2025. But developer Triple Five, owner of Minnesota’s Mall of America, hasn’t moved forward with final construction permits, despite winning county approval for its plans in 2018.


Why Nikki Haley voters should support Biden” via David French of The New York Times — Negative polarization is the dominant fact of American political life. Asking a person to change political teams is like asking him or her to disrupt friendships and family relationships, to move from the beloved “us” to the hated “them.”

They’re going to do it only as a last resort when they truly understand and feel the same way about the Republican Party that Ronald Reagan felt when he departed the Democratic Party: He didn’t leave the party. The party left him.

There are key ways in which a second Biden term would be a better fit for Reagan Republicans than Round 2 of Trump.

Take national security. Even apart from his self-evident disregard for democracy, Trump’s weakness in the Ukraine conflict and his hostility to American alliances may represent the most dangerous aspects of a second term, with potential world-historic consequences similar to those of American isolationism before World War II.

There is no fiscal conservative in the race. Trump had a higher deficit each successive year he was in office, for example. But Biden’s economic stewardship has been sound. Inflation is easing, the stock market has reached record highs, unemployment is below 4%, and the median net worth of the American family increased by 37% between 2019 and 2022, even controlling for inflation.

Reagan conservatives don’t just need reasons to vote against Trump. They also plainly need reasons to vote for Joe Biden. In 2024, we have two presidential records to compare. And this time it’s the Democrat who can say that he’s tougher on Russia and better on crime and overseeing an economy that’s the envy of the world. That’s a case for conservatives. The question is whether it’s a case they’re willing to hear.


New College must end secrecy over President Richard Corcoran’s incentive pay” via Rodrigo Diaz of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — When it comes to Corcoran’s incentive compensation, the most important thing may be how the Board of Trustees ultimately makes its decision on this issue. Will the trustees solicit input from students, faculty and staff? If so, will they guarantee anonymity? Will they make the results of such a survey public? And, most of all, if a prevailing opinion emerges from the campus community, will the Board actually act in accordance with it? The issue of Corcoran’s incentive compensation should be an opportunity to hold the equivalent of a campuswide referendum on the first year of his leadership at New College. How the Board handles this opportunity will say much about how it actually views its fiduciary duty to the honors college of Florida’s State University System.

Black college athletes can send a message to DeSantis by staying away” via Kevin B. Blackistone of The Washington Post — “I’m glad that Florida was the first state to eliminate DEI,” DeSantis wrote last week, “and I hope more states follow suit.” It was enough to spur Emmitt Smith, the Pro Football Hall of Fame running back who is arguably the greatest football player in the history of Florida’s flagship institution of higher learning, to respond to DeSantis. “To the MANY minority athletes at UF,” Smith wrote, “please be aware and vocal about this decision by the University, which is now closing doors on other minorities without any oversight.” Black coaches, and every Black parent or guardian of a Black college football or basketball recruit, can let wishful college coaches know that those boys-to-men aren’t going to work — which is what playing college sports is — at places where people of color, women and other marginalized folks are not otherwise supported.



— ALOE —

Florida gas prices decline after 15-cent surge” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Gas prices in Florida are falling slightly after surging 15 cents to a new 2024 high of $3.46 per gallon on Friday, according to AAA — The Auto Club Group. By Sunday, the average price statewide was $3.43 per gallon. As was the case last week, strong gasoline demand and a switch to costlier Summer fuel contributed to the jump at the pump last week, AAA spokesperson Mark Jenkins said in a statement. “Severe weather and power outages at major refinery plants across the U.S. were also reportedly to blame,” he said. “However, gasoline and oil futures moved lower late last week, reportedly due to uncertainty about whether the Federal Reserve would cut interest rates later this year.”

Florida gets a little relief at the pumps.


Best wishes to former Sen. Alan Hays, Steve Bousquet, the still brilliant Brian Franklin, Sarah Revell, and Abby MacIver.


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.

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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.

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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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