Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 4.2.24

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Good morning. ‘Sunburn’ has been waiting for you.

Good Tuesday morning.

Former Chief of Staff Tyler Russell of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation is joining Continental Strategy as director of Technology and Business Regulation.

At DBPR, Russell oversaw the daily operations of the state’s professional licensing and regulatory agency, which has an annual budget of more than $200 million and 1,600 employees.

Continental Strategy hires Tyler Russell to head its Technology and Business Regulation practice.

He previously worked as deputy policy director under Gov. Ron DeSantis and later as deputy director of Legislative Affairs in the Governor’s Office, where he strengthened his knowledge of legislative processes. He also served as Chief of Staff at Enterprise Florida and Deputy Chief of Staff at the Department of Management Services.

“Tyler’s experience at DBPR and Enterprise Florida will make him a valuable adviser to our clients who need to know the latest about Florida’s regulatory environment to guide their growth,” said Continental Strategy President Carlos Trujillo, a former Ambassador and state Representative who co-founded the firm in 2022.

“Whether it is one of our technology clients who need to know the latest AI and cyber innovations or any other business expanding their footprint in the state, Tyler brings fresh insights into how they can succeed. We are excited to have him join our powerhouse team.”

Continental Strategy Managing Partner Ashley Spicola added, “We look forward to achieving major wins for clients with the addition of Tyler Russell to our team. Tyler’s work as the head of our Technology and Business Regulation division means he will navigate one of the fastest growing industries in our firm and in Florida.”

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@JakeStofan: Statement from @GovRonDeSantis’ Press Secretary @JeremyRedfernFL on @flcourts approving the abortion amendment for the November ballot: “We agree with the three women on the Court who got it right in dissent. This amendment is misleading and will confuse voters. The language hides the amendment’s true purpose of mandating that abortions be permitted up to the time of birth.”

@AGAshleyMoody: We appreciate the court revisiting its precedent on Florida’s right to privacy and returning the meaning of that amendment to the voters’ original intention. That decision outlines the difficulties and divisiveness of allowing vague and misleading initiatives on the ballot. We have argued from the beginning that these two new constitutional initiatives will mislead voters. We maintain that it will be an uphill battle to educate them. However, we respect the court’s decisions.

@CECatherman: Six weeks = 2 weeks after a first missed period. On top of this, FL requires 2 visits, 24+ hours apart, to get an abortion. Providers have told me fulfilling these requirements is virtually impossible.

@USRepKathyCastor: I want my daughters and all women be able to make their own health care decisions, but Republicans want to take away that right and institute a national abortion ban. Democrats are fighting every day for your freedoms, including access to birth control and abortion care.

@Paul_Renner: Abortion activists have spent millions putting an extreme amendment on FL’s ballot that would legalize full-term abortion for any reason. Amendment 4 would make FL’s abortion laws more liberal than countries throughout Europe and eliminate existing laws that most people on both sides of the abortion issue agree on — like parental consent for minors and any restrictions on late-term abortions. We are confident that when the people of Florida learn what this amendment does, they will vote NO on Amendment 4.

@TheRickWilson: Florida just got a lot more expensive for the GOP.

— DAYS UNTIL —

March Madness Final Four (women’s) begins — 2; March Madness Final Four (men’s) — 5; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 9; The Masters begin — 9; Kentucky Derby — 32; 2024 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 38; ‘Bridgerton’ new season (part one) premieres on Netflix — 46; French Open begins — 48; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 50; Dave Matthews Band 2024 Summer Tour begins in Tampa — 50; Monaco Grand Prix — 54; the 2024 World Cup begins — 70; season two of ‘House of the Dragon’ returns to Max — 75; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 88; Republican National Convention begins — 104; the 2024 World Cup ends — 107; 2024 MLS All-Star Game — 112; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games on NBC/Peacock — 114; ‘Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 133; Democratic National Convention begins — 140; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 144; 2024 NFL season kicks off — 157; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 199; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 202; 2024 Presidential Election — 217; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 230; MLS Cup 2024 — 245; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 315; Florida’s 2025 Legislative Session begins — 336; 2025 Session ends — 396; ‘Moana’ premieres — 446; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 477; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 479; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 584; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 626; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 763; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 779; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 990; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,130; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,089; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,811.

— TOP STORY — PART 1 —

Florida Supreme Court backs abortion ban; seismic decision reverses 34-year privacy ruling” via James Call of USA Today Network-Florida — The Court Monday upheld a 15-week ban on abortion — a momentous 98-page decision that reversed 34 years of court precedent, which had held that a privacy provision in the state constitution protected a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy.

Instead, the 6-1 decision — with Justice Jorge Labarga dissenting — confirmed the constitutionality of the state’s abortion ban (HB 5), passed by lawmakers and signed by DeSantis in 2022.

The Florida Supreme Court upholds the state’s six-week abortion ban.

It also triggers the enforcement of a six-week ban known as The Heartbeat Protection Act, which DeSantis signed in April at a private late-night ceremony as he prepared for a presidential run. The ban will go into effect in 30 days.

At the same time, however, justices also OK’d a constitutional amendment for this November’s statewide ballot aimed to guarantee abortion access in Florida, signaling that voters ultimately will have the last say.

In the majority decision authored by Justice Jamie Grosshans, she said the court “conclude(d) there is no basis under the Privacy Clause to invalidate the statute. In doing so, we recede from our prior decisions in which — relying on reasoning the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected — we held that the Privacy Clause guaranteed the right to receive an abortion through the end of the second trimester.”

She added there is only a “tenuous connection between ‘privacy’ and abortion — an issue that, unlike other privacy matters, directly implicates the interests of both developing human life and the pregnant woman.”

Kathy Castor blasts court decision upholding abortion ban — U.S. Rep. Castor criticized the state Supreme Court for its ruling that upholds the state’s 15-week abortion ban and, by extension, allows a six-week ban to go into effect. “Floridians must make their voices heard at the ballot box this November on the right to decide when and if to have children. Women and their families should make those personal decisions, not politicians,” she said. “The Republican six-week abortion ban is extreme and cruel. Most women do not know they are pregnant at six weeks. Floridians can stand up for their rights and freedoms and reject the cruel and costly abortion ban and turn the tide on Gov. DeSantis and MAGA extremism.”

—“Florida Future Leaders hands out branded condoms, rolling papers on college campuses after SCOFLA rulings” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics

— TOP STORY — PART 2 —

Supreme Court puts Florida abortion amendment on ballot” via Jeff Schweers and Caroline Catherman of the Orlando Sentinel — The second abortion ruling, which wasn’t expected Monday, upheld the 15-week abortion ban already in place and will allow the six-week ban approved by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Republican Legislature to take effect. It overturned a long-standing precedent by the Florida Supreme Court that the right to an abortion was enshrined in the constitution’s privacy clause.

The seemingly contradictory rulings put Florida, for now, into the realm of other Deep South states that have largely banned almost all abortions.

The Florida Supreme Court also allows voters to have their say on a constitutional amendment protecting abortion.

The amendment on the state ballot would change that. It calls for access to abortions up to the viability of the fetus, which scientists and the medical community have long placed at about 24 weeks, the end of the second trimester. It would need the approval of 60% of the voters.

The amendment summary, in part, states, “No law shall prohibit, penalize, delay, or restrict abortion before viability or when necessary to protect the patient’s health, as determined by the patient’s health care provider.”

It would not change the law requiring that parents be notified before minors can have an abortion.

Florida currently allows women to get abortions past 15 weeks only in instances of rape, incest, life-threatening conditions and fatal fetal abnormalities. Medical professionals have previously told the Orlando Sentinel that the law is difficult to interpret, and there have been instances where women were denied abortions despite threats to their health.

—“Florida politicos react to Supreme Court ruling putting abortion on 2024 ballot” via Florida Politics

—“Florida will now be ground zero for the abortion wars in 2024” via Mark Joseph Stern of Slate

— TOP STORY — PART 3 —

Floridians will get to vote in November on making recreational marijuana legal” via Romy Ellenbogen and Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — The amendment would permit nonmedical marijuana use and would remove criminal or civil penalties for adults over 21 who possess and use up to 3 ounces of pot for personal use.

At least 60% of Floridians must approve it to become law. Florida voters passed the state’s medical marijuana statute with 71% of the vote in 2016.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody had challenged the proposed amendment, arguing the ballot summary would mislead voters because it says that marijuana would be legal when it is illegal federally.

A constitutional amendment legalizing adult-use marijuana gets the greenlight for the November ballot.

But the conservative Supreme Court said the language was not misleading.

The amendment specifies that it does not change any violations of federal law — a point the Florida Supreme Court justices pointed to during arguments over the amendment in November. One justice said he was “baffled” by the state’s argument, and other justices were similarly skeptical of the state’s push against the amendment.

More than 1 million Florida voters have signed petitions supporting the recreational marijuana initiative led by the group Smart & Safe Florida. As of the end of December, the marijuana company Trulieve is almost solely responsible for the nearly $40 million the group had raised.

Moody attacked Trulieve in an August brief, writing, “In its pursuit of a larger customer base and greater profits, Trulieve has invited millions of Floridians to join it in reckless violation of federal criminal law.”

Trulieve cheers court ruling on cannabis amendment — Trulieve, one of the main financiers of the recreational cannabis initiative, hailed the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling greenlighting the proposed amendment for the November ballot. “We are thankful that the Court has correctly ruled the ballot initiative and summary language meets the standards for single subject and clarity. We look forward to supporting this campaign as it heads to the ballot this Fall,” said Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers. “Trulieve was the primary financial supporter of the initiative during the signature gathering effort and subsequent court challenge and is a proud supporter, alongside a strong coalition of other companies, of the next important phase to educate Floridians on the amendment and secure a yes vote on Amendment 3 this November.”

Florida Chamber vows to fight to ‘protect’ constitution against cannabis amendment — After the court announced its approval of the cannabis amendment, the Florida Chamber of Commerce issued a statement vowing it would work to ensure it fails at the polls. “While we respectfully disagree with the court’s decision, the Florida Chamber will continue fighting to protect our constitution from out-of-state and special interests trying to buy their way into Florida’s Constitution. Recreational drugs, like pigs, don’t belong in Florida’s constitution,” Florida Chamber President and CEO Mark Wilson said in a prepared statement.

— DOWN BALLOT —

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell hired political director — The U.S. Senate candidate’s campaign announced it hired Miles Davis as its political director. Davis has worked in Democratic politics in Florida for years, most recently serving as director of voting rights at America Votes in Tampa. On the government side, Davis previously served as state Sen. Shevrin Jones’ Chief of Staff and as state Rep. Dianne Hart’s legislative director. He worked for the Florida Democratic Party, most recently as statewide deputy political director from November 2019 to October 2020, and before that as statewide director of Downballot Elections. In 2018, he managed now-state Rep. Yvonne Hinson’s Congressional campaign.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell taps Miles Davis as her political director.

Gus Bilirakis lands coveted endorsement from Donald Trump” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Trump has made it official: He’s backing U.S. Rep. Bilirakis for re-election to Florida’s 12th Congressional District. Trump had already tacitly offered his support, appearing with Bilirakis at a high-dollar fundraiser. If that wasn’t enough to get the point across, he’s now made it crystal clear. Bilirakis has long supported Trump, so it’s no wonder Trump is offering his star power. Bilirakis endorsed Trump for President in April 2023, before Trump announced his bid officially.

Joe Geller backs Sabrina Bousbar for CD 13, cites work together in Joe Biden administration” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Former state Rep. Geller is backing a candidate in the race for Florida’s 13th Congressional District who would make history as the first Generation Z woman elected to Congress. Bousbar, who served as a senior adviser in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for strategic preparedness and response under President Biden, is running for the Democratic nomination to challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna. “Having worked closely with Sabrina Bousbar during her tenure in the (Biden) administration, I know she is a proven problem solver and tireless advocate for Florida. She is a results-driven public servant who has the experience, passion, and drive to deliver for our families and communities,” Geller said.

Pat Kemp to seek Democratic nomination in CD 15, hopes to challenge Laurel Lee” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Hillsborough County Commissioner Kemp has filed to run for U.S. Rep. Lee’s seat in Florida’s 15th Congressional District. One other Democrat, Kris Fitzgerald, has also filed. Alexander Peterson, an independent candidate, is also in the race. The Cook Political Report does not list CD 15 in its competitive districts, but Kemp said she believes it is winnable by the right Democrat. The electorate is about 34.6% Republican, compared to about 33.3% Democratic, according to the most recent L2 voter data. Another nearly 30% of voters in the district are nonpartisan, meaning Kemp’s assessment may be accurate.

Florida Realtors endorse Addie Owens in HD 26” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Florida’s real estate professionals want one of their own to succeed Rep. Keith Truenow. The Florida Realtors PAC is endorsing Addie Owens, a Lake County Realtor, in House District 26. Owens filed for the seat last June. “As a longtime resident, Realtor and small-business owner in Lake County, you better believe Addie understands the needs of the citizens of House District 26,” said Jarrod Lowe, Chair of Florida Realtors PAC trustees. “She is a lead-from-the-front type of person who has spent her career helping others establish and grow roots within the Lake County area. She will be an excellent representative for her district, and we are proud to support her candidacy.”

Happening tonight:

Personnel note: Equal Ground names Genesis Robinson as interim Executive Director” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — With founder Jasmine Burney-Clark stepping away to helm Biden’s election efforts in Florida, Equal Ground needed a new leader to guide its work to grow the power of Black voters statewide. Enter Robinson, a political strategist and community organizer with more than a decade of experience in local, state and federal government relations. That includes three years with Equal Ground, where he previously worked as the nonprofit’s political director. Equal Ground named Robinson interim Executive Director on Tuesday. In a statement, Burney-Clark said Robinson brings “a wealth of experience, knowledge, and a deep commitment” to the organization’s mission.

— 2024 —

Florida’s abortion ruling puts Trump on the spot over Ron DeSantis’ bans” via Kimberly Leonard of POLITICO — DeSantis made a risky political bet by signing abortion bans into law in Florida. Now, it’s Trump who could pay for it. The state Supreme Court on Monday upheld a 15-week ban signed by DeSantis — a move that in 30 days will trigger a far more restrictive six-week ban also backed by the Governor, just months before the November election. The justices also ruled that Floridians will be able to vote in the November election to reverse the ban and make abortion broadly legal in the state through a constitutional amendment. The proposed amendment will put the abortion question on the ballot below voters’ choices for President, Senate and other down-ballot races right as voters weigh the impact of the DeSantis-backed restrictions.

Thanks to abortion, Donald Trump gets a curveball in Florida. Image via AP.

Trump evokes more anger and fear from Democrats than Biden does from Republicans” via The Associated Press — Many Americans are unenthusiastic about a November rematch of the 2020 Presidential Election. But Trump appears to stoke more anger and fear among Americans from his opposing party than Biden does from his. A new poll finds that Democrats are more likely to report feeling “fearful” or “angry” about the prospects of another Trump term than Republicans are about the idea of Biden remaining in the White House. The emotional reaction Trump inspires may work in his favor too, though, since the poll also found that Republicans are more excited about the prospect of a Trump win than Democrats are about a Biden victory.

Biden campaign says it sees Florida as ‘winnable’ in 2024” via Matt Dixon of NBC News — Against all odds, Biden’s campaign says it has a shot in Florida. Trump has won the state twice and DeSantis’ near 20-point victory in 2022 seemed to solidify the state as a safe haven for Republicans. But Biden’s campaign says it has a pathway to victory there in November — built in large part on the state’s unique place in the abortion debate — and it plans to contrast the administration’s policies with what it’s calling the GOP’s “toxic political agenda” there. “Make no mistake: Florida is not an easy state to win, but it is a winnable one for President Biden, especially given Trump’s weak, cash-strapped campaign, and serious vulnerabilities within his coalition,” Julie Chávez Rodríguez, Biden’s campaign manager, wrote. Biden’s team, however, believes that abortion, among other issues, gives it the ability to be more competitive in the state.

Disney’s DEI efforts targeted by Trump aide’s legal group amid proxy fight” via Winston Cho of The Hollywood Reporter — Disney‘s efforts to boost diversity are under attack ahead of a key shareholder vote to elect its Board that will shape the direction of the company. Stephen Miller’s America First Legal Foundation, in a letter sent to Disney’s top brass on March 27, claims that initiatives to boost diversity and inclusion violate civil rights laws and have tanked the entertainment giant’s value. The group asks for the appointment of an independent monitor to investigate the issue, inspection of internal records and distribution of the missive to all shareholders in what appears to be a bid to undermine chief executive Bob Iger in a proxy fight against Nelson Peltz.


— OTHER STATEWIDE —

DeSantis wins in court over migrant flights, but legal skirmish far from over” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — A federal judge in Massachusetts has limited the scope of a lawsuit filed against DeSantis and others after Florida arranged to fly migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in 2022 but in a sharply worded ruling left intact the legal challenge against the company that arranged for the high-profile flights. U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs’ 77-page decision dismissed DeSantis and other state defendants from the suit. But it also does not shut down the possibility of additional legal action against DeSantis over the contentious flights that the Governor pursued to criticize the immigration policies of Biden. The flights of roughly 50 migrants, most of them from Venezuela, attracted enormous publicity at the time.

DeSantis’ migrant flight issue gets a legal win. Image via AP.

—“A federal trial is underway for Florida’s controversial voter registration law” via Adrian Andrews of WFSU

DeSantis rips Biden for not owning up to ‘transgender visibility’ declaration” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis is weighing in on Biden’s official acknowledgment of Easter Sunday as a “Transgender Day of Visibility,” suggesting that his subsequent disavowal of it raises questions about who is running the White House. “Wait a minute. He said that didn’t happen. He said he didn’t do it,” DeSantis said, referencing comments the President made Monday at the White House. “Which raises the question: Either he’s not being honest with the public or he really didn’t know what was going on. And so, my question would be, who’s running the presidency? Is it a bunch of woke 20-something-year-old White House staffers that just put out this drivel whenever they want?”

DeSantis hails Harry Potter ‘cash cow,’ celebrates J.K. Rowling’s ‘genius’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis is recounting the magic of a recent vacation, with kind words for a famous author and her creation that is bringing big money to Central Florida. “In Spring Break, we took our kids to Universal Islands of Adventure in the Studios and it was crowded. But like when you went into those Harry Potter areas, it was packed. Unbelievable,” DeSantis said in Fort Lauderdale. “I mean, they are just printing money with Harry Potter. You know, J.K. Rowling is just a genius for what she, I mean, it’s like the intensity and all that. So that’s been a cash cow for Universal.” The Governor also talked about an expensive transaction he had at the park.

ICYMIPop the cork: DeSantis signs measure to allow bigger wine bottles” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Wine lovers in Florida will soon be able to buy bottles larger than a gallon after DeSantis signed legislation expanding the size of bottles available for retail sale. The measure (HB 583) allows retail sales of wine bottles of 4.5 liters, 6 liters, 9 liters, 12 liters or 15 liters. Current law restricts sales to 1 gallon (about 3.8 liters) or in reusable containers holding 5.16 gallons. The changes take effect July 1. “Prior to signing this bill, a bottle like this was not able to be sold in a store like this in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said at a bill signing ceremony at Wine Watch, a wine retailer in Fort Lauderdale, as he held up a sample 15-liter bottle. DeSantis noted consumers can currently order such bottles online anyway, so “there was really no public policy reason why we should have this regulation.”

Is Florida’s red flag law working? Gun deaths are up, but mass shootings down” via Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida’s red flag law was a tangible response to an overwhelming tragedy — the murders of 17 people, 14 of them students, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The law empowered the state to seize weapons from anyone who is reported to be at risk of using them to commit a crime. The report could come to law enforcement from a family member or friend, and state records show more than 12,000 people have temporarily lost access to their firearms in the five years since the law was passed. Under the law, a judge can grant a temporary risk protection order enabling law enforcement to keep a gun owner from having access to their weapons. The guns can be placed in the care of a family member or trusted friend, as long as the person named in the order can’t get their hands on it. After 30 days, police can decide whether to seek a final order, which blocks the person’s access to guns for at least a year, unless it’s renewed.

As insurance costs rise, Florida homeowners are given a new option” via Sarah Marx of Housingwire — According to the Insurance Information Institute, Florida homeowners are paying an average of nearly $4,000 a year in insurance, which is nearly three times the U.S. average. In some instances, homeowners have seen their insurance costs more than triple. American Integrity Insurance, a Florida-based residential property insurance company, is offering basic protection to Floridians at a more affordable price point. On Wednesday, the company unveiled ValueGuard Property Insurance, a product that addresses the fundamental insurance needs of Florida residents by covering essential risks such as fires and windstorms. Homeowners can choose to customize their ValueGuard policies with add-ons to enhance coverage, such as an optional flood insurance endorsement.

Sea levels are rising but parts of Florida are also sinking, research shows” via Alex Harris of the Tampa Bay Times — In South Florida, sea levels have already risen several inches since the start of the century and could be around 6 feet higher by 2100. But another factor could be making those sunny day floods in South Florida worse: We’re sinking. Well, only a little bit. And only in some places. That’s according to new and old research on the phenomena of sinking land — also known as subsidence — along the entire U.S. coast. New research published in the journal Nature on March 6 showed the potential risk of a one-two combo of sinking land and rising seas to cities along the coast, and Miami topped the list as a location that could see quite a bit of flooded property by mid-century.

Sea levels are on the rise, while parts of Florida are sinking.

Avail Strategies signs two tech clients — Avail Strategies has signed contracts with a pair of high-tech companies as it continues to build its foothold in Florida’s lobbying industry. Lobbying registration disclosures show the firm, staffed by founder and CEO Heath Beach and President of Strategic Communications Valerie Wickboldt, now represents Foresite, a Kansas-based cybersecurity and risk management company, and Lonestar Data Holdings, a St. Petersburg-based company that aims to place data centers on the lunar surface in the coming years. Avail Strategies also represents cloud computing companies Aramis and Quelliv.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Wellington to elect 2 Council members, Lake Worth Beach its Mayor in elections Tuesday” via Valentina Palm of the Palm Beach Post — Voters in Wellington and Lake Worth Beach will cast ballots on Tuesday in runoff elections for seats on their Councils. Four candidates are competing for four-year terms in seats 1 and 3 on the Wellington Village Council after none secured 35% of the votes required by the village in the March 19 municipal election. In Lake Worth Beach, incumbent Mayor Betty Resch will face challenger Andy Amoroso in her bid for another term leading the city of 42,000 coastal residents. The race for Seat 1 in Wellington pits former Mayor Robert Margolis against Amanda Silvestri, who owns a local insurance agency with her husband and who was a candidate for the Palm Beach County School Board last year.

Incumbent Betty Resch will face challenger Andy Amoroso in her effort to remain as Lake Worth Beach Mayor.

2 Town Council seats up for grabs in Bay Harbor Islands election Tuesday” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A pair of Bay Harbor Islands Town Council seats held by Mayor Elizabeth Tricoche and Vice Mayor Joshua Fuller are up for grabs Tuesday, when voters will select from a field of four candidates to fill them. Fuller, an employment and real estate lawyer who has served on the town dais since 2016, is running for another four-year term. Tricoche is not and will depart from the seven-member panel after eight consecutive years of service. Running for her seat — and Fuller’s — are Bay Harbor Islands Parks and Recreation Committee member Kathleen Kennedy, Parks and Recreation Committee member Alex Rangel and real estate investor “Ezzy” Eric Rappaport. The election is at-large and nonpartisan. Voters will choose from all four candidates on Tuesday, with the two biggest vote-getters winning seats. A runoff, tentatively set for May 2, will only take place if there is an exact tie.

Fabián Basabe told he can’t ride in Miami Beach Pride parade. He’s threatening to sue” via Aaron Leibowitz of the Miami Herald — When Rep. Basabe rolled down Ocean Drive during the Miami Beach Pride parade last year, commotion followed. Protesters booed and chanted “shame” at the Republican lawmaker for supporting anti-LGBTQ legislation. Basabe, flanked by police in helmets, blew kisses and yelled back as he sat atop a convertible. This year, parade organizers are trying to avoid a repeat performance during the event set for April 14. “We can’t risk having you in the parade this year,” Bruce Horwich, who chairs the nonprofit that oversees the parade, told Basabe in a March 16 text message. “Our bylaws clearly state that we can’t have participants that put themselves or other participants at risk or antagonize our guests.”

Miami Realtors endorse Daniella Levine Cava for re-election as Miami-Dade Mayor” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Miami Association of Realtors is endorsing Miami-Dade County Mayor Levine Cava as she pursues a second term. “Mayor Daniella is a committed leader who is laser-focused on addressing the critical issue of housing in Miami-Dade County,” said Ines Hegedus-Garcia, the Miami Realtors PAC Chair. “Our Mayor has prioritized housing solutions and led the way forward to ensure residents and our local economy have new opportunities to thrive. The Miami Realtors are proud to endorse her re-election.” The organization is made up of six organizations: the Residential Association, MIAMI REALTORS Commercial, the Broward MIAMI, JTHS-MIAMI, MIAMI REALTORS YPN, and the MIAMI REALTORS Global Council. The group says it represents more than 60,000 real estate professionals.

— “Cava campaign reports $4M raised in Miami-Dade Mayor re-election bid” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics

Broward schools had warnings of charter school funding controversy” via Scott Travis of the Orlando Sentinel — A state demand that Broward schools provide charter schools about $80 million from a 2018 tax referendum has left the School District scrambling to respond, but there were warning signs for years that it might have to pay out this money. School Districts around the state, including Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Pinellas counties, got hit with lawsuits over referendum funding during the past five years, and courts have sided with charter schools. One Broward School Board member voiced concern in 2018 that shutting out charters could be a risky move because “charter schools fight back.” The School Board decided to give charters $4.6 million for safety and security, but not a proportional share of the $455 million collected over four years. The district now is in a bind. In October, about 30 charter schools sued the Broward School Board for referendum money, and on Wednesday, the state Board of Education found probable cause that Broward was breaking the law by not fully sharing it. The state estimates the total at $80 million. The district has until April 17 to come up with a plan to resolve the issue and until Dec. 31 to make all payments.

Deerfield Beach asphalt plant worries neighbors, raises concerns about recycling radioactive waste” via Noreen Marcus of the Florida Bulldog — Deerfield Beach residents are opposed to reopening a dormant asphalt plant that’s alarmingly close, they say, to Century Village and a gated community called Independence Bay. The opponents say toxic emissions from the plant will endanger public health. They expect property values to plummet. And they may not know it, but they appear now to be part of a high-stakes shell game politicians are playing on behalf of one of the state’s major industrial landowners, Republican donors and polluters. On June 29, Gov. DeSantis signed what critics have called the “radioactive road” bill. The law directs the Florida Department of Transportation to recycle radioactive fertilizer waste into corporate profits by repurposing the large, unsightly stacks of gypsum.

A Deerfield Beach asphalt plant brings radiation fears to residents. Image via Sierra Club.

As Brightline and Tri-Rail up their service games, is there a case for motorists to bid adieu to I-95?” via David Lyons of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Brightline says that since it added its new service to Orlando, it needs to add capacity to cope with a surge in passenger demand. Tri-Rail has opened its long-awaited segment to downtown Miami, is welcoming legions of young riders with bicycles, and even replaced 800 windows in its coaches so passengers will have better views of the passing scenery. Recent ridership figures from both rail lines appear to show that a growing segment of South Floridians and visitors to the region are buying into rail travel for commuting, business and pleasure. So, from West Palm Beach to Miami, is now the time for motorists to garage their cars and bid adieu to Interstate 95?

— LOCAL: C. FL —

DeSantis suspends Orlando’s Regina Hill following felony indictment” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — DeSantis formally suspended Orlando City Commissioner Hill Monday, minutes before she was expected to participate in an afternoon City Council meeting. Hill had appeared earlier at a brief agenda review session, saying little, but her colleagues greeted her with friendly smiles as she passed by. DeSantis’ move was expected — the state constitution explicitly grants the Governor authority to suspend an indicted municipal official — but sets off a scramble to fill Hill’s suddenly vacant seat. “As a city, our focus is ensuring that the residents of District 5 are appropriately served and represented,” Mayor Buddy Dyer said to open the Council meeting.

Regina Hill is out as Orlando City Commissioner.

Davenport voters to decide who fills 2 City Commission seats” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Voters in Davenport will decide who fills two seats on the City Commission. Vice Mayor Jeremy Clark faces a challenge from Christopher Lopez for his Seat 2 spot on the Commission. Meanwhile, Linda Robinson and Timothy Scott Woodlee will fight for an open Seat 1 post. Polls in the city will close at 7 p.m. in Davenport and two other Polk County municipalities on the ballot. All Davenport seats will be decided in countywide elections.

Haines City Commission races feature wide fields” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Seven candidates are fighting it out for two seats on the Haines City Commission. Commissioner Morris West faces two challengers — Joseph Burgos and Jayne Hall — for his Seat 3 post. Meanwhile, Clarence Daniels, Kim Downing, Buster Raggs Sr. and Carlos Surita are all duking it out for an open Seat 4 position on the Commission. West has served on the Commission since 2016, including four consecutive years as Mayor. He’s also a retired Police Chief and co-founder of the Morris and Leah West Foundation. As he faces re-election, he told Florida Politics he is the best-qualified candidate in the field.

What Michelle Todd is reading — “New Central Florida highway will wirelessly charge cars on the go” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — Daily commuting ranks among life’s tediums, but one day, Central Florida drivers will get a charge out of motoring on a new highway in south Lake and west Orange counties. Based on technology used in armrests at Orlando’s airport that power phones wirelessly and stoves that heat skillets without burners, the coming State Road 516 will be equipped to replenish batteries of electric cars and trucks as they zip along the toll expressway. “This is the first brand-new highway having the system from the beginning,” said Sergio Perez of Enrx, a company in Norway specializing in wireless energy and hired by the expressway authority.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

How did $138K in purchases from the Supervisor of Election Office go undocumented?” via Hanna Holthaus of the Florida Times-Union — More than $138,000 in spending went undocumented for three years in the Supervisor of Elections Office, a recent Jacksonville Inspector General report found. Almost entirely legitimate office spending, the amount came from a purchase card (otherwise known as a “p-card”) that neither Supervisors nor the city’s accounting department flagged until years after the holder stopped documenting the transactions. The spending has been largely substantiated, but the question remains of how such an oversight occurred. The Inspector General’s Office has so far not found any similar occurrences in other city offices, though they have not concluded their overall review.

Duval County Supervisor of Elections Office seemed to go on an off-the-books spending spree.

Cantonment Community Center funding falls short, hope remains” via Mollye Barrows of the Pensacola News Journal — Members of the CIC have applied for grants and worked with local and state leaders to get a bigger building. Until recently, there wasn’t much progress. In 2021, state Rep. Michelle Salzman asked legislators to fund $3.5 million for a new community center, while Escambia County Commissioner Steven Barry, who represents that district, committed another $500,000 to bring the project to life. However, the state funding request was denied and Salzman said she did not ask again. Members of the CIC said they pursued additional grants, but their efforts fell short, in part because they needed more support from local leaders. Now the county is providing some funding, but it’s about half the amount the CIC has been seeking.

Cigars of Tally Midtown location damaged by fire” via Elena Barrera of the Tallahassee Democrat — A fire gutted the Cigars of Tally Lounge and Bar in midtown Tallahassee Sunday night, and its owners are left picking up the pieces. “Right now, we’re just in the shock of it all,” said Lila Jaber, one of the bar’s owners. The Tallahassee Police Department and the State Fire Marshal’s Office are still investigating so Jaber said there are a lot of unknowns. But she told the Tallahassee Democrat it appears somebody threw something through the front door. Alarms started sounding around 9 p.m., and the Tallahassee Fire Department arrived five minutes later. The Midtown lounge was frequented by a variety of cigar lovers over the years, including lobbyists and others. Jaber is well known in Tallahassee state government circles: She is a former two-term member, including a stint as Chair, of the Florida Public Service Commission, which regulates and sets rates for the state’s investor-owned utilities.

— LOCAL: SW. FL —

Proposal for Sarasota Memorial to adopt Ladapo anti-vaccine guidance stirs controversy” via Earle Kimel of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — A Sarasota County Public Hospital Board member wants Sarasota Memorial Hospital to incorporate a post on the hospital’s website embracing assertions by Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo that COVID-19 vaccinations are risky and inappropriate for human use, a stance that federal health officials say is contrary to science and potentially deadly. Board member Victor Rohe raised the idea during the Board’s Jan. 23 meeting, and the topic is now scheduled for consideration when the Board that governs Sarasota County’s public hospital meets May 21. But as word about the possibility of Sarasota Memorial adopting Ladapo’s views spread in recent weeks, several community members preemptively spoke out on the topic at the panel’s March 26 meeting.

Victor Rohe is all-in on Joseph Ladapo’s anti-vaccine rhetoric.

Sarasota City Attorney recommends Erik Arroyo abstain from future Ken Thompson Park votes” via Christian Casale of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — After a Herald-Tribune inquiry found that Sarasota City Commissioner Arroyo is a registered agent for a developer he brought to City Hall to pitch a private development at Ken Thompson Park, City Attorney Robert Fournier has told Sarasota officials the Commissioner should recuse himself from votes on the proposal’s future. In a memorandum to the City Commission, Fournier concluded that Arroyo’s relationship with developer Jeffrey Koffman constitutes a conflict of interest. He also said Arroyo should have disclosed his business relationship to the Board before it considered the proposal at a February meeting.

Why does Bradenton keep spilling sewage into the Manatee River? Here’s what we found” via Ryan Ballogg of the Bradenton Herald — City officials pointed to a filter blockage when Bradenton spilled 1.2 million gallons of partially treated sewage into the Manatee River in February, but detailed reports reveal another issue at the treatment plant. City staff said the spill is a symptom of old infrastructure that leaders have promised to upgrade as a result of a lawsuit in 2022. The work is expected to be completed by 2032. But the Bradenton Herald’s review of key documents found that old pipes and sewer drains and an outdated wastewater plant are not the only problems. Staffing and training issues at the wastewater facility are also to blame for this and other recent spills.

Former Cape Coral City Manager begins long-awaited lawsuit against City Council” via Luis Zambrano of the Fort Myers News-Press — Former Cape Coral City Manager Rob Hernandez made good on his promise and begins his lawsuit against the city over claims of racism and anti-gay actions he claims the City Council committed. The complaint claims retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Florida Civil Rights Act. He is represented by Benjamin Yormak, a Bonita Springs-based employment and disability law lawyer. Hernandez is seeking pay he would have received had he maintained his position with the city, reimbursement of all expenses and financial losses he incurred as a result of losing his role, compensatory damages to cover attorney fees, costs, and expenses, and any other relief the court deems appropriate.

River murky, tainted after 40 days of Lake O discharges, but temporary relief is in sight” via Amy Bennett Williams of the Fort Myers News-Press — More than 40 days into high-volume releases of polluted Lake Okeechobee water to Gulf and Atlantic estuaries, coastal stakeholders are frustrated. Algae now streaks the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie watersheds, some of it potentially toxic. But U.S. Army Corps Col. James Booth confirmed a long-promised two-week pause in the discharges. El Niño weather has swollen the big lake instead of shrinking it during what would usually be the dry season. Six weeks ago, with the lake at 16.4 feet, the Corps began making “high flow” releases to protect from flooding as hurricane season approaches, Booth said. Though levels have fallen, the lake remains some 8 inches higher than it was this time last year said Savannah Lacy, Corps water manager.

— TOP OPINION —

How I learned to love the rerun election” via Jess Bidgood of The New York Times — The rematch between Biden and Trump feels inherently tired, or perhaps inescapably depressing. The primaries ended quickly; the campaign trail is quiet. Both men are broadly unpopular. More Americans see the contest as bad for the country than good, and a full 30% of registered voters in the latest New York Times/Siena College poll said they felt scared or apprehensive.

But today — notwithstanding the fact that it is April 1 — I am here to make the case for the 2024 election, which I think will be as captivating, revealing and far-reaching as any in recent history, one that might turn less on the candidates we know than the voters who will choose them.

Amy Walter, the editor-in-chief and publisher of the smart and nonpartisan Cook Political Report, said there was much more to the election than meets the eye.

“This election feels like a frozen pond, where it looks kind of boring, but underneath there’s a lot going on,” Walter said. “What’s happening underneath it is really the story.”

Whatever issue you care most about — be it abortion rights, democracy, taxes, immigration or the economy — will be shaped by the result.

What’s more, Trump is the only person to ever run for President while facing four criminal indictments. Aside from the innate drama of a campaign, his trials add extraordinary suspense, turning his quest for a second term into a race against the clock.

And at the end of the day, this race has elimination-round energy. Each candidate, old as he may be, is hoping to vanquish the other for good.

Even the double-haters can take some solace in knowing that one of the candidates they don’t like will lose — and that this exact matchup can’t possibly happen a third time.

Right?

— OPINIONS —

ISIS is back and the U.S. doesn’t dare ignore it” via Mike Waltz for Fox News — It’s been nearly three years since Biden announced his plans to unconditionally withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan. In 2011, then-President Barack Obama announced a similar end to our war efforts in Iraq and withdrew our troops. But radical jihadists love a power vacuum, and what followed is a similar pattern to what we’re seeing unfold in Afghanistan. Within three years, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) filled the power vacuum left behind by the U.S. and established a caliphate the size of Indiana to terrorize the region and inspire attacks across Europe and the U.S. When Trump became President, he quickly addressed the ISIS threat, and the caliphate was destroyed under his leadership. Biden’s continual refusal to acknowledge the mistakes he made has only emboldened global terrorism — and thanks to his open-borders ideology, we are now even less safe at home.

Why Democrats can’t quit Trump” via Barton Swaim of The Wall Street Journal — Meddling in Republican Primaries has lately become the preferred Democratic election strategy. Left-leaning political-action committees pay for ads to boost the more rhetorically reckless candidate in a GOP Primary — which in recent years has meant the contender trying hardest to align with Trump. That candidate wins the Primary and, more often than not, loses in the General Election. Call it clever or dirty. Mostly it works. So far Democrats have gained more than they’ve lost by this strategy, even if in the process they’ve given Trump, whose re-election Democrats claim to fear above all earthly evils, greater leverage over his party and a better shot at retaking the White House.

Florida voters, not politicians, should decide on recreational marijuana. Now they will” via the Miami Herald editorial board — This time around, the wording seems to do so pretty clearly, saying, in part, the measure “applies to Florida law.” Also, Americans have known for years now that marijuana laws vary from state to state. This is far from secret. Times have changed. At the end of 2023, there were more than 800,000 medical marijuana cardholders in Florida. If this measure passes in November, it will go into effect in May 2025. Florida has made it harder and harder for citizen-led ballot initiatives like this one to actually reach voters, mostly for political reasons. Whatever your feelings about recreational use of marijuana, the fact that this question will reach the ballot is a positive. Voters should decide issues like this, not politicians. In a state dominated by one party, that’s especially true.

Don’t blame farmers south of Lake O for polluted discharges” via Nyla Pipes of One Florida Foundation — It is pointless to continue blaming farmers south of Lake Okeechobee for the recent discharges by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It has been repeatedly shown by state and federal agencies that more than 90% of the water and pollution enter Lake O from areas north of the lake. Regardless of power or politics, sugarcane farmers to the south cannot change the geography of the system or how its water flows. The people of Florida have dedicated enormous taxpayer dollars at both the state and local level in record amounts (billions of dollars) to restore our Everglades and estuaries. At every turn, some so-called enviro group, activist or publicity-seeking hack goes to the media attacking Glades farmers. This may help them raise money or publicity but it does nothing to solve the real water issues. The proof is glaringly obvious in the current discharges that the East and West coast estuaries are enduring.

Long-term care gives multiple paths to a fulfilling career” via Shedena Alexander for the Orlando Sentinel — March is Careers in Aging Month — a time devoted to bringing awareness to the many career paths and opportunities available in long-term care. Recent data shows long-term care is still facing historic job losses while other health care sectors, such as hospitals, have generally rebounded back to pre-pandemic levels. I enjoyed my career as a CNA until I suffered an injury in 2020. What I thought was detrimental roadblock in my career ended up being a detour to my true calling in long-term care. My administrator, noticing my passion for providing residents with a high quality of life, suggested I further my education to become certified to serve as Activities Director for the center. She saw something I didn’t see in myself and introduced me to a different, yet still fulfilling, way to work with the residents I love. Now more than ever, we need compassionate people to join the long-term care workforce to care for our seniors both today and into the future. It may surprise you, as it did for me, but it could just be your true calling and a fulfilling lifelong career.

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

— ALOE —

No April Fool’s joke: Florida ranks at top for conspiracy theorizing and gullible residents” via Antonio Fins of The Palm Beach Post — A report by Oddspedia, a sports-betting and data-tools website, lists Florida as America’s No. 1 conspiracy theory “hot spot,” followed by those in California, while the Sunshine State’s residents “ranked as the second-most gullible.” But Oddspedia’s analysts noted conspiracy theorizing is a national pastime of sorts these days, with broad implications for this year’s election. “In the lead-up to the 2024 U.S. elections, conspiracy theories have entrenched themselves as a notable element of American political discourse,” the Oddspedia report concluded. “The impact of these theories on the presidential race is noteworthy, with the potential to either bolster or undermine a candidate’s credibility.”

Floridians are more prone to believe conspiracy theories.

Florida gas prices hit new 2024 high” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Florida gas prices shot up again last week, rising by 12 cents to a new 2024 high of $3.62 per gallon. The recent increase followed gains in the futures market. More generally, however, prices at the pump are following a similar trend to what drivers saw last Spring. “Fuel prices made modest gains in the futures market last week,” AAA spokesperson Mark Jenkins said. “Analysts believe OPEC and its allies will not lift production cuts before June, even as seasonal fuel demand is projected to grow.”

Epic Universe reveals ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ land” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Universe Orlando has offered a sneak peek of Epic Universe’s land devoted to “How to Train Your Dragon.” How to Train Your Dragon — Isle of Berk is one of five lands in the new theme park opening next year. The land centered around the popular film franchise will contain four attractions, one live show, and character and dragon meet-and-greet experiences, Universal said. “Coming out of the theater and going into work the next day, it’s like we have to build this. I want to build Berk,” said Kathy Pacitti, an executive producer at Universal Creative, about the land set between the second and third movies in the “golden age of harmony” between Vikings and dragons. Universal described an immersive, colorful Viking village built by a lagoon and featuring a pair of 40-foot-tall Viking statues.

New cruise ship Disney Treasure gets 1st taste of water” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Disney Cruise Line’s new ship can float. The Disney Treasure entered the next phase of construction as work continued at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, with the float out of the 144,000-gross-ton, 4,000-passenger vessel. The sister ship to Disney Wish that debuted in 2022 will also be coming to Port Canaveral this December, set to take on seven-night Caribbean itineraries. The ship’s first taste of water came last month, according to an update on the Disney Parks Blog. “Water from the Ems River was pumped into the building dock where the ship is being constructed, lifting the hull from the floor of the chamber,” the post reads. “The shipyard team was then able to guide the Disney Treasure to a new location, where it will undergo the next phase of construction.”

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to our friends Karen McAllister, Danny Kanner and Gary Yordon.

___

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 FloridaPolitics.com, 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.

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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