Last Call for 3.18.24 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

A digest of the day's politics and policy while the bartender refreshes your drink.

Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

The state finalized a pair of conservation easements on Monday, protecting more than 13,000 acres of agricultural land from future development.

Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson announced the successful completion of the easement, which was previously approved by the Governor and Cabinet. It includes 8,881 acres of Adams Ranch in Osceola County and 4,490 acres on Buck Island Ranch in Highlands County.

Conservation easements allow agricultural operations to continue on a property but restrict future development. The state’s Rural and Family Lands Protection Act makes them possible. Since its launch in 2001, the act has executed more than 70 easement deals covering more than 100,000 acres of agricultural land.

Much of that tally has come during Simpson’s tenure. Land conservation is a priority for Simpson, a Senate President who was elected to the Cabinet post in 2022. While presiding over the upper chamber, Simpson successfully championed the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act, which directed the state to better protect and connect Florida’s natural areas and wildlife habitats and preserve working agricultural lands from future development.

“Reaching the milestone of preserving more than 100,000 acres of agricultural lands, and more than 36,000 acres in the last year alone, represents a significant achievement in land conservation in Florida. We are working every day to secure the future of agriculture in Florida — before it’s too late,” Simpson said.

“The Rural and Family Lands Protection Program’s success is a testament to the dedication of all stakeholders involved, including landowners, legislators, and conservationists. As Florida’s agricultural lands face increasing threats from urban development, the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program is paramount in ensuring the long-term future of our state’s agricultural community and our natural resources.”

During the 2024 Legislative Session, Simpson successfully pushed for $100 million in funding for the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program and another $100 million each fiscal year, appropriated in SB 1638, to support the Florida Wildlife Corridor, including the acquisition of conservation easements.

Evening Reads

—”‘Bloodbath’ aside, Donald Trump’s violent rhetoric is unambiguous” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post

—“The 40 wackiest lines from Trump’s Sunday Fox News interview” via Chris Cillizza of So What

—”No one is coming to save us from Trump versus Joe Biden 2.0” via Kaleigh Rogers of FiveThirtyEight

—“March 19 Primary vote has just one candidate for most of Florida. Here’s why it may matter” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat

—”Who are Latino Americans today?” via Graciela Mochkofsky of The New Yorker

—“Sonia Sotomayor should retire now” via Josh Barro of The Atlantic

—“What the data says about pandemic school closures, four years later” via Sarah Mervosh, Claire Cain Miller and Francesca Paris of The New York Times

—”As the election year ramps up in Florida, concerns grow about AI in political ads” via Mitch Perry of the Florida Phoenix

—”Tesla’s troubles raise questions about its invincibility” via Melissa Eddy and Jack Ewing of The New York Times

—“Could a gambling ‘error’ cost you March Madness?” via Hady Mawajdeh of Vox


Quote of the Day

“After having five of my last seven bills killed after coming out in favor of Medicaid expansion, I have no desire to return the favor on those who are willing to listen to reason. They can make themselves and their own feelings known, but I will not out them publicly. It was common knowledge around Tallahassee. Lobbyists I never met were stopping me in the street saying that’s what happened to my bills.”

— Rep. Joel Rudman, on the consequences of supporting Medicaid expansion.

Put It on the Tab

Look to your left, then look to your right. If you see one of these people at your happy hour haunt, flag down the bartender and put one of these on your tab. Recipes included, just in case the Cocktail Codex fell into the well.

Rep. Rudman spoke his mind and his bills suffered the consequences. Maybe a Doc’s Dram and a few TouchTunes plays — maybe something by KISS or Rick Springfield — will help ease the pain.

Given his novel position on the world’s oldest profession, former Miami Dade College Police Chief Jeff Giordano gets a Hot Take.

Harry Sideris is moving up from EVP to the top job at Duke Energy. Help him celebrate with a classic El Presidente.

Breakthrough Insights


Tune In

Slumping Heat, 76ers meet in possible play-in preview

March has been a bad month for the Miami Heat. They’ll try to improve their play in the month as they travel to Philadelphia to face the 76ers tonight (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Miami (37-30) has won four games this month. Three of the wins have come against the worst team in the league, the Detroit Pistons. The other win came on March 2 against Utah. Miami has lost the other four games this month to fall to seventh in the Eastern Conference.

If the postseason would start today, the Heat and Sixers would meet in the first round of the play-in tournament. 

Miami defeated Philadelphia on Valentine’s Day as part of a five-game winning streak but the Heat have not played as well since. 

Since losing reigning MVP Joel Embiid to a knee injury on Jan. 30, the 76ers have lost 13 of 21 games and have fallen to the eighth slot in the Eastern Conference.

Injuries continue to be a factor for Miami. Tyler Herro, the team’s second-leading scorer, has been slowed by a foot injury. He is out for the game and will be re-evaluated in a week or two. Forward Jimmy Butler, the team’s leading scorer, was ruled out of yesterday’s win over Detroit with a foot injury, and forward Kevin Love is also out with a heel injury. 

With 14 games left in the regular season, the Heat are limping to the finish line. 


Last Call is published by Peter Schorsch, assembled and edited by Phil Ammann and Drew Wilson, with contributions from the staff of Florida Politics.

Staff Reports


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

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