Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 3.14.24

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Grab a coffee, then check out your morning briefing of the day in Florida politics.

Good Thursday morning.

Breaking late WednesdayLawsuit: Carolina Amesty claimed opponent bilked Social Security, tried to get her son fired” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — A former legislative aide has accused state Rep. Amesty of urging his employer to fire him and claiming his mother — one of Amesty’s Primary opponents in 2022 — exploited the Social Security system. The former aide, Nicolas Frevola, filed a defamation lawsuit against Amesty in September, claiming Amesty falsely accused him of trying to run her over with a car two years ago as she and Frevola’s mother vied for the Republican Party’s nomination in the competitive Florida House race. Amesty has denied that allegation. The amended complaint filed this week expands on those claims, accusing Amesty of engaging in a “one-way mudslinging campaign,” against her Republican opponents, including Frevola’s mother, Janet Frevola.


With the close of the 2024 Legislative Session, Moore’s winning public affairs team and digital media strategists analyzed Session social activity by top leadership and identified the five issues receiving the highest social media activity among legislators.

See how the top issues for Florida voters rose to the top of legislators’ social media feeds:


President Donald Trump‘s former Ambassador to the OAS and president of the lobbying firm Continental Strategy, Carlos Trujillo, is making a special visit to Buenos Aires, Argentina, beginning yesterday through March 15.

Carlos Trujillo is heading to Buenos Aries to meet with business and political leaders.

During his visit, Trujillo will participate in high-profile meetings with some of Argentina’s most important business and political leaders. He is advocating for improving the bilateral relationship between the United States and Argentina, focusing on areas of mutual interest, including energy, mining, communications, private investment and regional cooperation.

Trujillo said, “I am delighted to visit Buenos Aires and meet with some of Argentina’s most prominent leaders. This visit is an opportunity to learn firsthand about the new political, social and economic landscape of Argentina. We will also explore new opportunities for business development and projects.”


@MaggieNYT: Easier to be a lame-duck Governor when people think you may be seeking something higher.

@WmPatFL: Imagine how many times this type of convo went down with the Parental Rights in Education law. “Can you show me where in the law it says, ‘don’t say gay?’” “I read it in the reporting!” Probably in the millions.

@JacobOgles: Only no votes on the TikTok ban in the Florida delegation were @MattGaetz,@MaxwellFrostFL and @gregsteube. And that’s likely the last time I ever write about those three members voting the same on a controversial vote ever.

@Scott_Maxwell: As most predicted, thanks to Florida Dems canceling their Presidential Primary (to help Joe Biden), Democratic voters are so far taking a pass on next week’s voting — when municipal races are at stake. GOP mail advantage whopping 15-to-1 so far. Local-level effects could be massive.

@TuszynskiPolicy: It was quite an eventful first Session as a staff director in the @FLSenate. As always, I was humbled by the Senate staff’s peerless dedication and compassion, and I was lucky to be part of some impactful and good policy. It is an honor to be chosen to do the people’s work.


Arizona/Florida/Illinois/Kansas/Ohio Primaries — 5; James Madison Institute’s ‘2024 Naples Dinner’ with keynote speaker Laura Ingraham — 7; ‘3 Body Problem’ premieres on Netflix — 7; Trump’s New York hush money trial begins — 11; The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the mifepristone/abortion pill case — 12; Major League Baseball’s (MLB) 2024 season — 14; Beyoncé’s ‘Cowboy Carter’ released — 15; March Madness Final Four (women’s) begins — 21; March Madness Final Four (men’s) — 24; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 28; The Masters begin — 29; Kentucky Derby — 52; 2024 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 57; ‘Bridgerton’ new season (part one) premieres on Netflix — 65; French Open begins — 67; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 69; Dave Matthews Band 2024 Summer Tour begins in Tampa — 69; Monaco Grand Prix — 73; the 2024 World Cup begins — 89; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 107; Republican National Convention begins — 123; the 2024 World Cup ends — 127; 2024 MLS All-Star Game — 132; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games on NBC/Peacock — 134; ‘Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 153; Democratic National Convention begins — 159; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 163; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 218; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 221; 2024 Presidential Election — 236; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 249; MLS Cup 2024 — 264; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 334; ‘Moana’ premieres — 464; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 495; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 498; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 603; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 645; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 782; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 798; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 1,009; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,149; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,108; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,830.


The Ron DeSantis 2028 shadow campaign” via Marc Caputo of The Bulwark — For the past month, DeSantis has hosted one-on-one thank-you calls with donors, small meetings with more of these “investors” in Naples and in Miami, and conference calls with former volunteers.

In a rarity for DeSantis, he’s expressing some regrets, notably about the way his star-crossed campaign and super PAC stiff-armed the national media.

“I should’ve done as much media as I could because the election was directly a reflection of how much earned media each candidate got,” DeSantis told one group.

Is Ron DeSantis planting the seeds of a 2028 run?

Coming from a politician who isn’t known for introspection or personal accountability, this admission of error was the clearest sign yet that DeSantis is already laying the groundwork for 2028.

He’s eyeing another shot at the presidency while also trying to coexist with his fellow Florida man, Trump, who once praised DeSantis as one of his “warriors” but now seems unable to forgive DeSantis for challenging him.

Roy Bailey, a DeSantis campaign finance Chair who’s helping the Governor maintain his relationships with donors, said hard feelings will pass with time.

While DeSantis finished a distant second to Trump in Iowa, DeSantis had much more negative ad money spent against him by outside groups ($47.7 million) than was spent against Trump ($22.5 million) or Nikki Haley ($23.6 million). And even so, he finished the contest with far higher net approval ratings than Haley.

“What a lot of people will admire about DeSantis is that when he realized there was no shot and he was up against the Trump buzz saw, he dropped out,” Bailey said. “People respect that. They believe it leaves him open to being a great candidate in 2028 if he chooses to do that. The fact is, we were up against the Trump buzz saw.”

—”Chris Crucial: Why I am very skeptical of Ron DeSantis 2028” via Chris Cillizza of So What?


Florida’s Baker and Marchman acts are set for the biggest overhaul in years” via Lynn Hatter of Health News Florida — Floridians and their families affected by mental health and substance abuse illnesses may soon get relief from a system that many have long described as broken. The state’s process for involuntary psychiatric evaluations is getting a major overhaul under a measure (HB 7021) that’s cleared the Legislature this Session, with advocates saying it’s long overdue. The Marchman and Baker Acts set out the process for involuntary commitment of people dealing with mental health problems or substance abuse. But the processes have long been confusing, and even worse for some children — traumatic. Lawmakers for years have tried to fix the systems through incremental changes.

Lawmakers commit to expand access to quality care across Florida hospitals” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — In a resounding victory for health care delivery at the conclusion of the 2024 Session, the Florida Hospital Association praised lawmakers for $716 million in key health care investments in the state’s budget. Mary Mayhew, president and CEO of the Florida Hospital Association, hailed the Legislature’s investments as pivotal for sustaining high-quality health care in Florida’s hospitals now and in the coming years. “Florida hospitals are the lifeline of our communities,” Mayhew said. Key strategic investments Florida lawmakers allocated in the budget for Fiscal Year 2024-2025 aim to meet the growing demand for quality health care across all Florida communities. Notable appropriations include rural hospital capital improvements, labor and delivery care, behavioral health services and workforce development.

Mary Mayhew cheers the influx of $716 million for more access to quality care.

Pinellas County Mayor and others ask DeSantis to veto vacation rental bill” via Chad Mills of ABC Action News — John Pfanstiehl said over the past few years, he and others have had problems with some of their other neighbors — the very temporary ones who rent out homes here short-term through sites like Airbnb and VRBO. Those problems and others pushed the City of Indian Rocks Beach to pass an ordinance last year that regulates vacation rentals in various ways. The city ordinance sets rules for both the people who own and those who rent them.


Anticipating possible surge of people fleeing Haiti, state deploys forces to South Florida” via Anthony Man of South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Anticipating a possible surge in refugees fleeing the gang-fueled lawlessness and chaos in Haiti, Gov. DeSantis ordered more than 250 law enforcement officers, Guardsmen and soldiers from several agencies to South Florida and the Keys. Their equipment will include “over a dozen air and sea craft.” Part of the deployment will be in waters off the coast. It’s not certain what will happen next in Haiti, where people are increasingly desperate as the government continues to flounder and gangs rule the streets, especially in the capital, Port-au-Prince. Conditions are so bad that many Haitians see no alternative but to try to leave the country.

A possible surge of Haitians into Florida has DeSantis calling up the state troops.

Florida members of Congress demand action as violence consumes Haiti” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — If refugees flee Haiti, many could find their way to South Florida. It’s a crisis that has lawmakers from both sides of the aisle seeking immediate attention. U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz pressed Department of Defense officials on the need to deploy the Navy to stop a “Haitian invasion” of South Florida. The Fort Walton Beach Republican asked Rebecca Zimmerman, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Hemispheric Affairs, about the issue at a congressional hearing. “I’ve talked to the Coast Guard, and what they say would really support them would be more naval vessels,” Gaetz said, “because I think you correctly said that there is an anticipated mass migration here, there are specific legal authorities that we can access — that I would implore you to access.”

Florida social services call center has second-longest wait times in the country; $12M might help” via Jackie Llanos of the Florida Phoenix — Floridians calling the Department of Children and Families (DCF) for help with Medicaid and other programs face the second longest wait times in the country, according to a February report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). On average, people have to wait 42 minutes to talk to an agent and 44% of calls get abandoned. From April to November, wait times at the DCF call center have fluctuated between a half-hour and more than 40 minutes, and the call abandonment rates have been as high as 48%, according to monthly data the department submits to the federal government. Florida’s metrics are among the worst in the country.

State revenues continue outpacing projections — In January, Florida once again brought in more revenue than state economists projected. According to data reported by the Legislature’s Office of Economic & Demographic Research, the state collected just over $4.1 billion in general revenue during the first month of the year. The total was about $30 million more than economists projected. The overage is partly attributable to gains on state investments, which were measured at $117.5 million, or about double the projection. Sales tax revenues fell short of expectations, however, with about $3.4 billion collected compared to the mid-January projection of around $3.5 billion — a $109 million difference.

Florida joins federal lawsuit against cancer charity over alleged fraud” via Jack Lemnus of WPEC-CBS12 — Attorney General Ashley Moody is taking legal action against a cancer treatment charity that allegedly mismanaged money meant for patients. The Federal Trade Commission and agencies from 10 states, including Florida, filed suit against Cancer Recovery Foundation International, Inc. and its founder and president, Gregory B. Anderson. The foundation claimed that it provided financial support directly to help cancer patients and families in need. It also operated and solicited donations under another name: Women’s Cancer Fund.

FPL agrees to credit customers $5M for nuke plant outages” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO — Florida Power & Light Co. agreed to credit its customers for replacement power costs due to plant shutdowns, Public Counsel Walt Trierweiler said. The Office of Public Counsel told the Public Service Commission in a prehearing statement that FPL had agreed to credit customers for power purchases due to plant outages between 2020 and 2022. State regulators in February had recommended the PSC should refund more than $11 million, citing an agency audit that blamed mismanagement for some of the more than 40 shutdowns and fines at the Turkey Point and St. Lucie nuclear power plants.

Report: Net Zero is possible, and good for economic growth” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — The Nature Conservancy in Florida, along with AECOM and Cambridge Econometrics, has published a groundbreaking study on the impacts of decarbonizing Florida’s economy, finding that it is not only doable but a boon for the state economy. “The report findings are clear,” Nature Conservancy in Florida Executive Director Greg Knecht said. “Florida is already making progress in clean energy, and Floridians are eager for the economic opportunities that decarbonization offers. Decarbonizing Florida’s economy will ultimately position the Sunshine State to continue to grow as a hub for innovation and technological advancement, increasing Floridians’ quality of life and economic prospects.”

Net Zero is not only doable but pretty good for business, too.

Lobbying compensation: Continental Strategy nears $5M in 2023 pay” via Florida Politics — One of Florida’s newest lobbying firms, Continental Strategy, saw massive revenue growth in its second year lobbying the state government. Former Ambassador and state Rep. Trujillo co-founded Continental alongside three established trial lawyers in early 2022, and the fast-growing team managed to pull down $1.9 million by the end of the year — enough to earn a spot among the Top 25 firms in the state. In 2023, the firm more than doubled that total, reporting an estimated $4.5 million earned across its work in the legislative and executive branches.

Lobbying compensation: Greenberg Traurig pulls down $8M in 2023” via Florida Politics — The lobbying team at Greenberg Traurig closed out 2023 with another Top 10 performance. According to compensation reports, the international law firm netted $4.7 million lobbying the Legislature and an additional $3.3 million lobbying the executive branch in 2023, for a grand total of $8 million in revenue. Greenberg Traurig’s legislative lobbying reports featured 13 clients that paid the firm $100,000 or more throughout the year. The set included five principals at $180,000 — or $45,000 per quarter — the highest compensation bracket that still qualifies for range reporting. Overall, Greenberg Traurig reported earning at least $1 million per quarter lobbying the Legislature and between $500,000 and $1 million per quarter lobbying the executive branch. The ranges indicate the firm earned at least $6 million last year. At the top end, the firm could have earned as much as $10.3 million.

— 2024 —

Judge dismisses some charges against Donald Trump in the Georgia 2020 Election interference case” via Kate Brumback of The Associated Press — The Judge overseeing the Georgia 2020 election interference case dismissed some of the charges against Trump and others, but many counts in the sweeping racketeering indictment remain intact. Fulton County Superior Judge Scott McAfee wrote in an order that six of the counts in the indictment must be quashed, including three against Trump, the presumptive 2024 Republican presidential nominee. But he left in place other charges, and he said prosecutors could seek a new indictment on the charges he dismissed. The ruling is a blow for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, whose case has already been on shaky ground with an effort to have her removed from the prosecution over her romantic relationship with a colleague.

Fulton County Superior Judge Scott McAfee quashed six counts in the indictment, including three against Trump.

Viral video of Joe Biden effigy beating prompts calls for top Kansas Republican leaders to resign” via John Hanna of The Associated Press — Two top Kansas Republican Party officials are facing internal calls to resign over a viral online video showing people at a fundraiser kicking and beating a mannequin wearing a mask of Biden, underscoring the national GOP’s deep divisions and its struggles to win over voters outside Trump’s base. Mike Brown, the Kansas GOP’s State Chair, and Maria Holiday, the leader of the party in Johnson County in the Kansas City area, distanced themselves from the display at a Friday evening fundraiser for the county party. In a Facebook post, the state GOP blamed an outside vendor who rented space at the event to promote a martial arts school. Brown said in an email Tuesday that the state party wouldn’t comment further. Holiday did not respond to a text message seeking an interview. The vendor has not been named.

Did Georgia just send a MAJOR warning sign to Trump?” via Chris Cillizza of So What? — Along the way to his coronation, something interesting happened — in the key swing state of Georgia. Haley isn’t a candidate anymore — so, presumably, anyone who voted for her was doing so to register a protest against Trump. And, almost 78,000 voters registering that protest would matter in a state like Georgia — where Biden won in 2020 by 12,000 votes out of more than 5 million cast. But then came the data folks to point out two things: Georgia is an open Primary, meaning you don’t just have to be a Republican to vote in the Republican Primary; Georgia has a long early voting window, meaning that many of the votes cast for Haley happened while she was still an active candidate for the nomination. Is what happened in Georgia on Tuesday night a flashing red light for the Trump campaign? No. Should they pay attention to it? Absolutely.

‘Foolish to go after TikTok in an election year’: Trump allies see upside in TikTok feud” via Meridith McGraw, Natalie Allison and Burgess Everett of POLITICO — When John McLaughlin, a campaign pollster for Trump, surveyed voters across the political spectrum about the social media websites they use, he was struck by the reach and power of TikTok. McLaughlin didn’t draw an immediate conclusion about the various proposals to ban the app, or lobby inside the campaign. But what he did find in the late January poll is that the app had powerful penetration in the electorate. “You’ve got a third of American voters on it, which makes it very hard to take something away from the voters that they want or that they use,” he said. Now, several weeks later — and amid a constellation of interests exerting pressure on the issue from different sides — Trump, who once called for banning TikTok, has reversed course.

Attacking TikTok in an election year may not be a strategic win.

House passes bill that would lead to a TikTok ban if Chinese owner doesn’t sell. Senate path unclear” via The Associated Press — The House passed a bill that would lead to a nationwide ban of the popular video app TikTok if its China-based owner doesn’t sell, as lawmakers acted on concerns that the company’s current ownership structure is a national security threat. The bill, passed by a vote of 352-65, now goes to the Senate, where its prospects are unclear. TikTok, which has more than 150 million American users, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Chinese technology firm ByteDance Ltd. The lawmakers contend that ByteDance is beholden to the Chinese government, which could demand access to the data of TikTok’s consumers in the U.S. any time it wants. The worry stems from a set of Chinese national security laws that compel organizations to assist with intelligence gathering.

Trump expected to attend Thursday hearing at the federal courthouse in Fort Pierce” via Melissa E. Holsman of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Trump is expected to attend a court hearing Thursday in Fort Pierce in his federal case alleging the mishandling of classified documents after leaving the White House, a Monday court filing shows. The hearing begins at 10 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon, when Trump’s attorneys are scheduled to argue the criminal case should be thrown out. Trump’s presence Thursday isn’t required, but in asking for extra time to respond to pending motions, his lawyers indicated in a court filing that Trump and co-defendants Walt Nauta, his valet and bodyguard, and Carlos de Oliveira, property manager at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, would participate in the hearing.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Gaza war protesters told to use ‘free speech zone’ outside Miami Beach climate conference” via Aaron Leibowitz and Ashley Miznazi of the Miami Herald — When a small group of pro-Palestinian protesters arrived at the Miami Beach Convention Center, hoping to hand out flyers to attendees of the Aspen Ideas climate conference, they were surprised to be met by police. They say officers told them that only conference attendees could enter the area around the Convention Center, with one exception: a barricaded “free speech zone” for protesters at the southwest corner of Pride Park. Members of the group, however, say the zone is too far away from the conference entrance for most attendees to see or hear them.

Pro-Palestinian protesters are met by an unexpected force.

After pro-Palestinian events, protesters will face new restrictions in Miami Beach” via Aaron Leibowitz of the Miami Herald — The Miami Beach City Commission voted unanimously to support a resolution by Mayor Steven Meiner for the city to set “parameters for reasonable time, place and manner restrictions” for protests, pointing to several pro-Palestinian demonstrations in the city in recent months. The resolution also calls for police to inform elected officials of all protests planned in the city within one hour of police learning a protest is expected to occur. It comes two days after police directed pro-Palestinian protesters to a “free speech zone” near the Aspen Ideas climate conference at the Miami Beach Convention Center, saying they could not stand directly outside the event’s entrance for security reasons.

Another state ethics probe investigation of Francis Suarez dropped after ‘no probable cause’ found” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — State ethics officials have dismissed another complaint against Miami Mayor Suarez, finding “no probable cause” to believe he accepted pricey tickets to high-profile events in exchange for governmental influence. The Florida Commission on Ethics found no grounds to further look into whether he violated state statutes by “accepting a thing of value given to influence a vote or other action … in (his) official capacity.” “Accordingly, this complaint is dismissed with the issuance of this public report,” Commission Chair Ashley Lukis wrote. The decision marked another win for Suarez, a twice-elected Mayor and former GOP presidential candidate over whom federal and local probes into alleged misuses of office still hang.

Advocates begin recall effort for Coral Gables Mayor: ‘We have to take the city back’” via Tess Riski of the Miami Herald — Advocates launched a recall effort for Coral Gables Mayor Vince Lago amid a turbulent year in city government that included the firing of the City Manager and comments from one Commissioner calling the city a “cesspool of public corruption.” “It’s a painful process. It’s not a happy day to have to do this,” said longtime resident Maria Cruz, who is Chair of the political committee behind the recall effort, called End the Corruption. “But, you know, if you have an illness and you don’t do anything about it, you die,” Cruz continued. “If you have a Mayor that is not doing the right things, and you let him continue doing it — guess what, it’s on you.”

2 Miami PD employees admitted committing 2 COVID-19 relief frauds worth $50K” via David J. Neal of the Miami Herald — Two full-time Miami Police Department civilian employees each pleaded guilty to wire fraud after each committed her own version of COVID-19 relief fraud. The U.S. Department of Justice announced the guilty pleas of Miami Gardens’ Keandra Carter and North Miami-Dade’s Shena Haslem at the same time. Carter’s sentencing is scheduled for May 5. Haslem, sister of longtime Miami Heat player Udonis Haslem, will be sentenced on May 28. According to Miami police, Carter was a public service aide from Sept. 24, 2013, through Dec. 11, 2023. But as businesses started to apply for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, part of the U.S. government’s COVID-19 relief program, Carter conjured her company-on-paper “Kendra Carter.”

Miami sees largest home price surge among major U.S. markets since 2000, with other Florida cities near the top” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — Buying a home has been a pricey proposition in Florida since the turn of the century. Four of the state’s cities are ranked among the top 20 when it comes to home prices increases in the largest U.S. metropolitan areas since 2000. Clever Real Estate, a data and real estate analysis company, completed a study of the nation’s 50 biggest cities and home price increases in those large metro areas. Miami came in with the greatest increase in home prices in the U.S. so far this century, with a 299% jump in home values. In 2000, the typical home value in Miami was $118,450. That figure skyrocketed to $472,711 in 2023, the biggest percentage increase in the country.

Inside Miami’s $10M deal with Centner Academy that beat out public school’s expansion plan” via Tess Riski and Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — Paula Garver waited four years to get her daughter into iPrep Academy, an academically rigorous Miami public school so small and so popular that thousands of parents hope to win a spot through the school’s yearly lottery system. “It’s so coveted,” Garver said. “Everybody wants in.” Local planning officials have long been aware of the pressing need for more classroom space at iPrep. But a plan to increase student capacity by expanding the downtown Miami school on public land — a proposal led by Miami-Dade County Public Schools that was years in the making — was sidelined two years ago when city officials instead inked a contract with wealthy private school operators.

Former attorney for embattled Broward town was harassed by Commissioner, lawsuit alleges” via Grethel Aguila of the Miami Herald — A former attorney for an embattled Broward town says she was tormented while working for the municipality due to her gender and sexual orientation. She’s suing — and seeking more than $100,000. According to a lawsuit filed in Broward court, former Town Attorney Melissa Anderson is alleging that the town of Pembroke Park — and specifically Commissioner Geoffrey Jacobs — maintained a hostile work environment, discriminated against her due to her gender, and violated Florida’s civil rights act. Anderson, a gay woman, began working as Town Attorney in September 2020. “Throughout her employment …, (Anderson) performed her job duties and responsibilities as the Town Attorney in an exemplary manner,” attorney Diane P. Perez says in the filing.

Geoffrey Jacobs is accused of tormenting workers due to gender and sexual orientation.

Broward man ‘HAD A BLAST’ storming U.S. Capitol, posted videos on social media, feds say” via Grethel Aguila of the Miami Herald — A Broward man took to TikTok to report that he “HAD A BLAST” storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 with his partner, according to federal court documents, adding a caption: “me and babe stormed the Capitol with the rest of America.” He’s now facing jail time — three years after the riot. Joseph Julius Lapoint, 43, is charged with entering and remaining in a restricted building; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building; disorderly conduct in a Capitol building; and parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.

Riviera Beach adding safety signage at railroad crossings, plans to establish quiet zones” via Wayne Washington of the Palm Beach Post — Riviera Beach is adding safety signage at four highway-rail crossings in the city before implementing a “quiet zone” along them later in the Spring. The city announced in early March that the Federal Railway Administration had granted its request for a quiet zone that would reduce train horn noise at several highway-rail grade crossings. Train-related traffic delays and horn noise have long been headaches in Riviera Beach, prompting complaints from residents and spurring city officials to do what they can to address the issue. Because the rail lines are governed by federal safety rules, the federal government needed to grant permission for changes.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

How onePulse broke Orlando’s heart” via Amanda Rabines of the Orlando Sentinel — In late 2019, Orlando’s onePulse Foundation unveiled a soaring design for a memorial and museum to the Pulse nightclub massacre, drawing international acclaim. Mere months later, its key players were grappling with a startling revelation. The project it had pitched — and was struggling to fund — at $45 million was now estimated to cost a staggering $100 million. “The first words out of my mouth were: ‘With what fundraising staff?’,” said Mark Cady-Archilla, one of three full-time fundraisers for the organization at the time. As Cady-Archilla knew, the total so far outstripped the group’s abilities that it might have raised deep concerns about whether the project was achievable, had it become public.

In latest shake-up, Martin Garcia out as Disney Oversight Board Chair” via Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — Garcia is stepping down as Chair of Florida’s Disney World Oversight Board, marking another leadership shake-up at the district playing a starring role in DeSantis’ nationally watched feud with the theme park giant. Garcia’s departure comes about a week after district administrator Glen Gilzean left his post to serve as Orange County’s election chief, a position that pays roughly half the $400,000 annual salary Gilzean earns at the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. Bryan Griffin, a representative for the Governor, thanked Garcia for his service on the five-member, Governor-appointed Board. Garcia was appointed as Board Chair in February 2023 as part of a state overhaul of the district previously known as Reedy Creek.

Martin Garcia is out in the latest shake-up at the Disney Oversight Board.

After Madeline Soto’s death, OCPS to notify parents earlier about kids not in school” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange County Public Schools next month will start notifying parents early in the school day if their child is not in class, a change made in the wake of the disappearance and death of 13-year-old student Madeline Soto. The district also hopes to have in place by next school year an online system that will allow parents to check their children’s attendance in real time. The earlier notifications will begin on April 8. Currently, parents get automated calls, emails and texts at the end of the day — sometimes not until close to 6 p.m. — about their child’s absence. The end-of-the-day notifications will continue as well, said Superintendent Maria Vazquez, when she announced the changes.

Brevard residents urge County Commissioners to ‘stop the shenanigans’ at their meetings” via Dave Berman of Florida Today — A loose coalition of about 30 county residents from across the political spectrum came to the Brevard County Government Center in Viera to protest what they felt was bad conduct by county government officials. For an hour, they held a demonstration near the entrance to the complex’s parking lot. Then some went inside the County Commission chambers to tell Commissioners what they thought during the public comment period at the end of the Commission meeting. Their cause was billed as “Stop the Shenanigans,” and some dressed in St. Patrick’s Day decorative green ties and shamrock-themed hats.

‘You are all opening a Pandora’s box’: Confusion reigns over new Brevard schools vaccine policy” via Finch Walker of Florida Today — Nancy McBride, a retired teacher, recalls growing up during the spread of polio, which took the lives of more than 3,000 Americans and disabled many others during the worst recorded U.S. outbreak in 1952. A vaccine was licensed in 1955, and by 1961, only 161 cases were counted in the country. At a Brevard School Board meeting centered on numerous policy changes, including ones addressing vaccinations, McBride implored Board members to not relax their immunization requirements for students. “You have no earthly idea,” she said. “I’m 74 years old. I’ve seen it all. You open up those loopholes where people don’t have to be vaccinated, good luck with that.”

‘A hard no’: Volusia Council member opposes affordable housing incentives, plan scaled back” via Sheldon Gardner of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — Unincorporated Volusia County will soon offer more flexibility for affordable housing developers ― but not nearly as much as some residents and community leaders want. The county’s affordable housing plan, which a previous County Council adopted in July 2022, recommends updating the county’s Comprehensive Plan. The county has been working on implementing the plan and brought forward recommended changes to the Council. It recently voted 5-1 to approve a scaled-back version of the changes, and the discussion revealed a profound split in how some Council members view affordable housing policies. District 3 Council member Danny Robins voted for the changes but said he wanted to see the Council change the rules to allow the same flexibility for other developers.


Lois Frankel endorses Whitney Fox for CD 13” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Frankel is endorsing Fox for Florida’s 13th Congressional District as Fox seeks the Democratic nomination to challenge incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna. Frankel, a former member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus who left over disagreements about the nation’s handling of the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, touted Fox’s track record fighting for issues that matter to Democrats and other Floridians. “Whitney has a strong record of fighting for the people of Pinellas County, and I know she will continue to be a powerful voice in Congress as we fight to protect reproductive freedom, lower costs for families, and continue to rebuild our infrastructure,” Frankel said. Frankel represents Florida’s 22nd Congressional District in the West Palm Beach area.

What John Lux is reading —Rachel and Sarah Paulson are from Tampa. Rachel wants to make films here.” via Paul Guzzo of the Tampa Bay Times — There was a time when Rachel Paulson couldn’t wait to get out of Tampa. For her, it seemed too small a town, lacked a film scene, and, more importantly, felt narrow-minded when it came to views on the LGBTQ community. “It was pretty harsh back then,” Paulson said. “I would hear slurs and things like that.” But Tampa’s changed, she said. It’s an exciting LGBTQ-friendly city with a thriving independent film scene. “It’s really awesome to see the kind of growth that Tampa has gone through over the last 20 years,” said Paulson, who lives in Los Angeles.

Rachel Paulson wants to return to Tampa and take advantage of its burgeoning film scene.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

How Florida State University quietly dismantled its diversity, equity and inclusion office” via Tarah Jean of the Tallahassee Democrat — Amid the DeSantis administration’s push to gut diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs in higher education, Florida State University (FSU) quietly dismantled its DEI office. But the university did it mainly by changing title names and reclassifying positions of employees who were already working in DEI to give them different roles — an approach that did not require laying anyone off. The revelation of FSU’s moves came a few days after the University of Florida in Gainesville very publicly announced that it got rid of its related programs by firing all of its DEI employees. Compliance of the universities follow DeSantis’ conservative focus on education.

Florida State dismisses its DEI office, on the downlow.


How healthy are the Everglades these days? ‘Great progress’, great challenges” via Amy Bennett Williams of the Fort Myers News-Press — A day after Biden stood in one swamp to deliver his annual State of the Union address, Steve Davis was thigh-deep in another, giving a State of the ‘Glades briefing to a gaggle of journalists who’d air boated out to get a look at how things are going in the River of Grass. Very long story short: Bad, but getting better, if humans keep fixing the well-meaning mess they made a century ago. Back then, they dredged, drained and ditched in order to develop, which changed how water flowed slowly south from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay.

There is hope for a healthy Everglades.

Manatee County to spend $16M to protect 98 acres of waterfront from development” via Jesse Mendoza of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Manatee County agreed to negotiate the purchase of 98 acres of waterfront property to expand the Emerson Point Preserve to protect the environmental land from development. Commissioners voted unanimously during a county meeting to direct staff to move forward with the purchase of the property for $15.5 million to expand the preserve, which is located on the north side of the Manatee River. The effort is part of ongoing land acquisitions by Manatee County under a referendum approved by 72% of voters in 2020. County staff will now negotiate the final details of the purchase with property owners and present the contract to the County Attorney’s Office for review before final approval by the Board at a future meeting.

Fort Myers police shooting: Three months on, cops won’t confirm if Christopher Jordan was armed” via Dan Glaun of the Fort Myers News-Press — More than three months after a Fort Myers police officer fatally shot Dunbar resident Jordan, local officials continue to withhold information — including whether Jordan was armed when he was killed. That silence contradicts recommendations from the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community-Oriented Policing Services. In a 2016 report, those agencies urged departments to release facts about officer-involved shootings as soon as a preliminary investigation is completed. “The department should provide basic information regarding the incident to the press as soon as practicable, assuming it will not inhibit or undermine the investigation,” the report says.

Florida panthers and more: 5 rare and endangered animals found in East Manatee County” via Ryan Ballogg of the Bradenton Herald — Living in Bradenton on Southwest Florida’s coast comes with lots of beautiful wildlife moments. Sightings of manatees, dolphins, sea turtles, shorebirds and other coastal creatures are to be treasured. But if you head just a little inland and east, there’s a whole different world nearby with lots of natural wonders of its own. A day trip to one of the nature preserves in East Manatee County offers a chance to see a different set of amazing Florida landscapes and wildlife. Nature adventures through Duette Preserve or Rye Preserve will take you through pinewoods, Florida scrub and other vibrant habitats as you get some exercise on foot, bike or horseback.


I’m with Hur” via Jonah Goldberg of The Dispatch — As you probably know, he submitted a report to Merrick Garland explaining why he declined to recommend indicting Biden over his — obvious — mishandling of classified material. This report is required by law, by the way. Hur even took pains to note that the charges against Trump for his — even more obvious — mishandling of classified material were substantially different and more serious than the charges against Biden.

Under normal circumstances, this would endear him to Democrats. But Hur stated another obvious fact: Biden’s age and poor memory would make him difficult to prosecute.

It’s worth pointing out that the Republicans rhetorically defecated over Hur, too. They accused him of being a swampy protector of Biden. “I want to thank you for the work you did as far as you could,” Rep. Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin said, “but unfortunately you are part of the praetorian guard that guards that swamp out here in Washington, D.C., protecting the elites.”

When I say that Hur told the truth as he sees it, I mean he wasn’t offering some glib opinion — that’s what his inquisitors were doing. Hur and his team interviewed the President and numerous other people — under oath. They searched his home, they consulted the relevant law, they adhered to the rules of evidence. And after this process, he wrote a report that pissed off pretty much every hyperpartisan out there. You can call his conclusions a mere opinion if you like, but it was a deeply informed opinion made all the more valid because it came at a cost.

What Biden defenders are mad at is that Hur made a high-stakes equivalent of a Kinsley gaffe — telling impolitic truth — that inconvenienced the narratives of both parties.

And that’s why I am with Hur.


Welcome to … Orange-lando? Is it time for a city-county merger?” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Years ago, local leaders talked about following the lead of Jacksonville and Duval County, which merged and consolidated their services back in 1968. The arguments for consolidating up there were similar to what they’ve long been down here — that the county is basically one big, urban entity and that it doesn’t make sense to spend money on two planning departments, two utility divisions, both sheriff’s and police offices and so on. Orange County already acts like a big city. (Hence the county “Mayor.”) And years ago, many local leaders talked as if some sort of consolidation were written in the stars. I’m not sure a total city-county consolidation is the answer. There’s such a thing as too big when it comes to local government. But I do believe there are efficiency arguments for combining some services. And this latest annexation fight seems to bolster that case.


— ALOE —

Disney World ticket deals set for Florida residents this Spring, Summer” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Walt Disney World is offering discounted theme-park admission to Floridians under the heading of Florida Resident Discover Disney Tickets. One variation of the deal ends up costing $59 per day and the eligible dates fall after the Easter/Spring Break season and into Summer. The four-day version of these Discover Disney tickets is $235 plus tax. The three-day ticket is $219, which works out to $73 per day. There are add-on options for park hopping per ticket (totaling $259 to $275, depending on the number of days purchased), water parks, and Disney golf courses available. The normal price of a one-day ticket for Florida residents for the rest of 2024 ranges between $109 and $164.

Florida residents are getting another major perk for Disney World.

Is this $1.2 million entertaining space ‘the coolest man cave ever?’” via Laura Hine of The Wall Street Journal — Suzanne Lovell, a Chicago-based designer, had already worked with her clients — who are in their late 50s and work in the boating industry — on a condo in Chicago and a 15,000-square-foot penthouse in Naples when the husband called with a special request. “He had just purchased a car condo about 5 miles from their Naples residence,” Lovell says. “And he asked me to design the coolest man cave ever.” The car condo is in a gated community, but instead of front doors, there are garage doors. The units don’t have bedrooms. Instead, there is generous space for cars and for entertaining — complete with bathrooms and wet bars — making a car condo the perfect place to host a Formula One viewing party.


Celebrating today are Wilbur Brewton, Drew Heffley, Seth Platt, and Jeremy Susac.


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.

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