Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 4.9.24

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Here's your morning briefing on what you need to know about Florida politics.

Good Tuesday morning.

Breaking overnightJimmy Patronis statement on the passing of Bill Gunter — Chief Financial Officer Patronis released a statement on the passing of former legislator and Florida State Treasurer and Insurance Commissioner Gunter: “My heart goes out to the family and loved ones of Bill Gunter. He was a strong, thoughtful public servant and pioneer in insurance regulation as Commissioner of Insurance, paving the way for future CFOs and working across party lines to ensure insurance consumers had the protections they needed. Bill was always very supportive of me and I have fond memories of him and his family dining at Captain Anderson’s when I was a kid. He will be dearly missed.”


Law and lobbying firm Becker is bolstering its Washington office with the addition of Neri Martinez as a Senior Government Relations Consultant.

Martinez joins Becker’s federal lobbying practice after working several years under South Carolina U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, most recently as his Chief of Staff and previously as his Staff Director for the Senate Committee on Aging.

Becker bolsters its Washington footprint by hiring Neri Martinez.

“I am thrilled to be joining the collegial, bipartisan federal lobbying team at Becker, where I have known several of the talented government relations consultants for years. It will be great to collaborate and contribute to the continued success of the group and our clients,” she said in a news release.

In addition to her work in the U.S. Senate, Martinez was a Department of Energy political appointee under Secretaries Rick Perry and Dan Brouillette. Her resume also includes working as the Executive Director of the Republican State Leadership Committee’s Future Majority Project and in the government affairs department of the Associated Builders and Contractors.

“Neri’s deep bench of experience, long list of accomplishments and results and diverse community engagement will be a great resource for our clients,” said Omar Franco, Chair of Becker’s Federal Lobbying Practice.

Becker’s Senior Corporate and Government Relations Director Bert Gómez added, “We are excited to grow our busy federal lobbying group with Neri and her extensive senior-level international and domestic political and business network. We know our clients will welcome the expansion of our capabilities and services with Neri on board.”


@FLSert: Under the leadership of @GovRonDeSantis, 349 Americans have been brought home safely from Haiti since the first state-coordinated flight landed on March 20. Thank you, @FLSERT members, for your nonstop efforts to bring our fellow Americans home.

@Goni_Lessan: My favorite thing about these (Gov. Ron) DeSantis news conferences is seeing how much tape they use to put the poster on the lectern. I want to know the state’s tape budget.

@CynthiaBarnett: What if the whole nation shared scientific knowledge, awe and the wonder of nature every day, not only during an eclipse?

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

@Phil_Lewis: Facebook is in shambles over this eclipse. I’ve never seen this many bible verses posted

@ViaSapientis: All I’m saying is the 2045 Total Solar Eclipse is going to pass over Orlando so … uh … how early can we book @WaltDisneyWorld vacations?

@KevinCate: Growing up I had many first days as the new kid at a new school. I still get emotional thinking about the kids who let me eat lunch at their tables. There may be no greater act of childhood kindness. If you were one of those kids, thank you. If you still are, thank you more.


Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 1; The Masters begin — 2; Kentucky Derby — 25; 2024 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 31; ‘Bridgerton’ new season (part one) premieres on Netflix — 39; French Open begins — 41; Special Election to replace Orlando City Commissioner Regina Hill — 42; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 43; Dave Matthews Band 2024 Summer Tour begins in Tampa — 43; Monaco Grand Prix — 47; the 2024 World Cup begins — 63; season two of ‘House of the Dragon’ returns to Max — 68; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 81; Republican National Convention begins — 97; the 2024 World Cup ends — 100; 2024 MLS All-Star Game — 105; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games on NBC/Peacock — 107; ‘Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 126; Democratic National Convention begins — 133; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 137; 2024 NFL season kicks off — 150; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 192; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 195; 2024 Presidential Election — 210; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 223; MLS Cup 2024 — 238; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 308; Florida’s 2025 Legislative Session begins — 329; 2025 Session ends — 389; ‘Moana’ premieres — 439; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 470; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 472; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 577; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 619; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 756; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 772; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 983; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,123; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,082; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,804.


Donald Trump says abortion should be left to states but doesn’t say how he’ll vote” in Florida via Max Greenwood of the Miami Herald — Trump’s remarks in a video statement came a week after the Florida Supreme Court handed down two key decisions on abortion rights: one paving the way for a six-week ban on the procedure to take effect, and the other allowing a proposed constitutional amendment safeguarding abortion access up to the point of fetal viability to appear on the November ballot.

Pressed for his position on abortion in his home state, Trump promised to release more details. Instead, Trump addressed the issue of abortion rights more broadly. He said that states should be left to decide the issue and declined to back a federal ban on the procedure that opponents of abortion rights have long sought.

Donald Trump shifts gears on abortion — again. Image via AP.

“From a legal standpoint, the states will determine by vote or legislation or perhaps both and whatever they decide must be the law of the land, and, in this case, the law of the state,” said Trump, who has taken credit for helping overturn the landmark precedent on abortion rights established by Roe v. Wade.

“Many states,” he noted, “will be different. Many will have a different number of weeks or some will have more conservative than others, and that’s what they will be. At the end of the day, this is all about the will of the people.”

Trump’s announcement served as an acknowledgment of how politically fraught the issue of abortion rights has been for Republicans since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade nearly two years ago. He has chastised members of his own party for going too far to restrict abortion access and even blamed the GOP’s lackluster performance in the 2022 Midterm Elections on abortion hard-liners within his party.


Ron DeSantis fentanyl bill-signing veers off into attack on transgender athletes” via Michael Moline of Florida Phoenix — DeSantis turned a bill-signing ceremony for new laws tackling fentanyl deaths into an occasion for complaints about transgender athletes on Monday. Just moments after the Governor said that he would sign two bills, one promoting opioid antagonists to prevent deaths from overdose and another boosting penalties for recklessly exposing first responders to fentanyl, Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo opened fire on athletic competitions that pit transgender women and girls against those who are biologically female. Ladapo described the anti-fentanyl effort as a “common-sense and grounded idea” as compared to “so many things happening at leadership levels, at the federal level, whether it’s boys playing on girls’ teams and winning titles or other just things that don’t make sense.” “Who thought it would be controversial to allow girls to compete with other girls and not have to compete with boys,” he continued.

A bill signing goes off the rails on the topic of transgender athletes.

Joseph Ladapo champions trans sports ban at fentanyl news conference” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Florida Surgeon General Ladapo spent time praising a transgender athlete sports ban at a news conference meant to focus on the fentanyl crisis. During remarks in Sanford, the controversial Surgeon General’s first remarks had to do with athletics. “Who would have thought it would be controversial to allow girls to compete with other girls and not have to compete with boys?” Ladapo said. “I don’t think any of our parents would have ever thought that would’ve been controversial.” He praised Gov. DeSantis for efforts to stop transgender girls from competing in girls’ sports, a reference to legislation the Governor signed in 2021.

Florida’s business rent tax set to drop to 2%” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Florida’s tax on commercial leases is set to drop to 2% by June 1, about two months earlier than expected, the Department of Commerce announced. DeSantis signed legislation (SB 50) passed in 2021 requiring online retailers to collect sales taxes from consumers, a measure that added nearly $1 billion to Florida’s revenue. But another piece of the bill cut the state’s 5.5% tax on commercial rents to 2%, starting two months after Florida’s unemployment trust fund — which had been depleted during the COVID-19 pandemic — returned to its pre-pandemic level of $4 billion.

Florida pension plan supported Disney CEO Bob Iger in proxy fight” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Walt Disney CoThe Walt Disney Co. CEO Iger won control of his company Board with the backing of a surprise ally — the state of Florida. Florida’s pension plan voted in favor of Iger and 10 of the 12 Disney-backed Board members at last week’s annual shareholder meeting although it voted against Iger’s and other executives’ compensation. Iger was paid $31.6 million in 2023. Iger won his proxy battle last week when he got enough votes to keep billionaire shareholder activist Nelson Peltz off the Board. The executive compensation proposal backed by Disney also passed. The Florida State Board of Administration (FSBA) withheld a vote on Peltz, according to its voting disclosure record posted on its website.

Home insurance cost hikes slowed at the end of 2023. Some say the crisis may be nearing its end.” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Home insurance rates in Florida far outpaced inflation over the 18 months that ended on Dec. 31, but the rate of increase slowed in the fourth quarter of 2023 to its lowest point of the period. And many insurance insiders are optimistic that rates will continue to stabilize this year and next, barring a big costly you-know-what. Dulce Suarez-Resnick, vice president of NCF Insurance Associates in Miami, said participants at last month’s Florida Insurance Market Summit in Orlando voiced confidence that we’ve weathered the storm. “We’re getting really excited about rate relief, but it could all change by one thing — a major hurricane hitting,” she said.

Putting abortion question to Florida voters is unlikely to end court fights” via Patricia Mazzei of The New York Times — The Florida Supreme Court also laid out a road map for anti-abortion groups to challenge any expansion, by raising the prospect of “fetal personhood.” In concurring and dissenting opinions that accompanied the ruling, four of the seven justices on the conservative court indicated that they may interpret the State Constitution to grant fetuses the same legal rights as people, foretelling the next likely court fight over abortion. The proposed state constitutional amendment would guarantee access to abortion “before viability,” or before about 24 weeks of pregnancy.

— 2024 — FLORIDA —

DeSantis says abortion amendment ‘overrides’ Florida parental consent laws. Is he right?” via Alexandra Glorioso of the Miami Herald — When outlining why he thought Florida voters would buck the national trend and reject a November ballot initiative securing access to abortions, DeSantis said last week that the amendment “overrides our parental consent laws.” Is he right? The answer will be determined by the courts, said Barry Richard, an attorney based in Tallahassee who practices constitutional law. “That’s his opinion, which he’s entitled to, but it’s not the law until the court says it,” said Richard in an interview. “The laws stay on the books until a court declares the particular law to be invalid.” DeSantis’ office did not respond to a request for comment as to exactly how Amendment 4, the Right to Abortion Initiative, would override state laws like parental consent.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell launches new digital ad campaign — Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mucarsel-Powell has launched a digital ad campaign attacking Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Rick Scott’s stance on abortion rights. The ads highlight the recent Florida Supreme Court ruling that triggered “a Rick Scott-endorsed, near-total abortion ban” as well as the decision to allow a proposed amendment guaranteeing abortion rights onto the November ballot. The minutelong ad features news clips on the impending six-week abortion ban interspersed with on-screen text saying Scott “supported the legislation” and that he “would sign this bill” if he were still Governor when it passed.

To watch the ad, please click the image below:

Mucarsel-Powell talks to Brevard, Lake voters after abortion ruling — Democratic U.S. Sen. candidate Mucarsel-Powell hammered incumbent U.S. Sen. Scott on abortion rights during campaign stops in Titusville, Palm Bay, Leesburg and The Villages over the weekend. Her comments come in the wake of a state Supreme Court’s ruling upholding abortion restrictions passed by lawmakers and coincide with a digital ad campaign attacking Scott’s anti-abortion stance. “In less than 30 days, Florida women will live under a near-total ban with almost no exceptions — a ban that Rick Scott proudly supports. This is an attack on our right for self-determination and an attack on our equality. There is so much at stake,” she said.

Missing executive director of Florida GOP found safe; no details released yet” via James Call of USA Today Network — Officials offered no information Monday about the three-day disappearance last week of Republican Party of Florida executive director George Riley. Riley was reported missing April 3 in Osceola County. His black Ford Expedition had last been seen in Kissimmee that Wednesday. The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office posted on social media Friday evening that Riley was found safe and thanked the community for its help in locating him. Its post, however, offered no details on what had happened.


Trump struggles to unite GOP on abortion” via Byron York of the Washington Examiner — On the (much) larger question of abortion nationwide, Trump did two things. First, he claimed ownership of the Dobbs decision that ended Roe. Trump appointed Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett, all of whom voted to overturn Roe, so it is fair to say that Trump, with a huge assist from then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, can take credit or blame, for the decision. “I was proudly the person responsible” for the end of Roe, Trump said in the video. It’s notable that Trump said that again — he has said it many times before — because that is precisely the line President Joe Biden has been using to fire up Democratic opposition to Trump. Indeed, Biden’s campaign website almost immediately posted the relevant clip from Trump’s statement Monday morning. Trump has made the decision that it is better to stand by his Supreme Court nominations and their decisions rather than distance himself in the heat of political attacks.

Donald Trump tries to have the GOP toe the line on abortion.

Joe Biden announces new student debt relief plan for over 30M Americans” via The Associated Press — Biden said college graduates would see “life-changing” relief from his new plan to ease debt burdens for more than 30 million borrowers, the latest attempt by Biden to make good on a campaign promise that could buoy his standing with young voters. Biden detailed the initiative, which has been in the works for months, during a trip to Wisconsin, one of a handful of battleground states that could decide the outcome of Biden’s likely rematch with Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee. Biden said he wanted to “give everybody a fair shot.”

UK’s David Cameron meets with Trump ahead of DC swing” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — Britain’s top diplomat is meeting Trump in Florida on Monday as part of a push to reaffirm support for Ukraine. David Cameron, the United Kingdom foreign secretary, is visiting Trump on the eve of a planned trip to Washington, D.C., where the former British prime minister is scheduled to meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and congressional leaders over the next two days. Cameron is set to discuss a range of priorities with allies, including “bringing stability to the Middle East.”


Kim Daniels’ Primary challenger in HD 14 says Jesus Christ called him to run” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Lloyd Caulker opened a campaign account to oppose Rep. Daniels in House District 14, a seat that includes portions of Northern and Western Duval County. “Leadership runs in my blood,” said Caulker a native of Sierra Leone and a descendant of tribal royalty who announced his election with a Facebook post that showed him doing a “running for election” dance and saying he was confident he would win. Issues of importance to Caulker are ethanol and education, he told Florida Politics. Asked about going up against Daniels, who herself is a pastor of global notoriety, Caulker said his campaign was a “divine calling” and that the “Lord Jesus Christ” urged him to run after he left the ministry to travel around and “wash feet” like Mary Magdalene. This energy exchange was mutually beneficial, he said.

Lloyd Caulker finds his purpose, to run for the Florida House. Image via Lloyd Caulker Facebook.

Facing controversy, Carolina Amesty kicks off re-election bid with Donald Trump Jr.” via Anne Martin of The Orlando Sentinel — The endorsement from the former President’s oldest son — a boost for the first-term lawmaker — comes just weeks after the Orlando Sentinel published an investigation showing that five individuals listed in licensing documents as professors at her family university never actually worked there. Amesty currently faces no opponents for the 2024 ballot, though the Chair of Orange County’s Democrats says he expects the party to field a candidate soon in the Orlando-area district, which is considered to be competitive.

Derek Reich has raised upward of $113K in HD 73” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Sarasota Democrat Reich has raised more than $100,000 to challenge Rep. Fiona McFarland, a Sarasota Republican. The House District 73 candidate shared that his official campaign raised more than $65,000 in the first quarter and his political committee, the Freedom First Fund, raised another $5,400. That brings the combined total fundraising for both accounts together to more than $113,000. Reich said he closed the quarter with more than $78,000 cash on hand. “I’m truly grateful to hundreds of individuals who contributed to our campaign this quarter,” Reich said in a statement. “I’m proud of the grassroots support that allowed us to hit this incredible fundraising number without taking any money from corporate PACs.”

‘Justice above all else’: Adam Farkas enters Palm Beach State Attorney race, reports $50K haul” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Prosecutor-turned-criminal defense lawyer Adam Farkas is entering the race for Palm Beach County State Attorney with $50,000 in cash, his campaign announced. The haul, collected between mid-February and March 31 through his political committee, Impartial Justice, puts him on solid footing to compete with four Democrats and two Republicans running to succeed State Attorney Dave Aronberg. “As Palm Beach County’s next State Attorney, I’ll fight tooth and nail to ensure justice for victims and keep our community safe,” he said.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Rick Scott, Marco Rubio lead push to honor Jeri Bustamante in Senate” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The universally liked and respected Bustamante was Scott’s Press Secretary, often traveling with him around the state, providing counsel and friendship and even helping him learn the Spanish language. Reporters got to know her at the then-Governor’s press events or through back-and-forths with the Governor’s Office over controversies of the day. Bustamante was just 33 years old when she was killed in a boating accident in South Florida. As he has done before, Scott is introducing a resolution to honor her life, and Rubio is co-sponsoring it. “I can’t believe it’s been six years since the world lost Jeri. Six years since we saw her bright smile, heard her contagious laughter, or felt her magnetic and kind presence when she entered a room. Jeri will forever hold a special place in the hearts of all of us who had the honor of meeting her because she would automatically become your best friend and biggest cheerleader,” Scott reflected.

Rick Scott leads another push to honor Jeri Bustamante in the Senate.

Miami Lakes voters to pick among 5 Town Council candidates to fill remainder of Seat 6 term” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Five candidates are competing for a two-and-a-half-year term in Seat 6 of the Town Council of Miami Lakes, a municipality with some 31,000 residents in northwest Miami-Dade County. They include social worker Hector Abad, former Lauderdale-by-the-Sea Town Manager Esther Colon, lawyer Bryan Morera, former Miami Lakes Vice Mayor Nelson Rodriguez and John Rogger, a public relations specialist for South Florida Autism Charter School. The winner of the election Tuesday — or an April 9 runoff, if no candidate secures more than 50% of the vote Tuesday — will serve the remaining term of ex-Vice Mayor Carlos Alvarez through November 2026.

A sales tax to pay for cardiac testing? Broward voters may get to decide” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Broward voters could get a say on whether they want to pay for eligible residents to have access to free preventive cardiac screening tests. The tests could be funded by a new sales tax, which will be tacked on to things bought in Broward such as clothes, cars and household goods. Now, Broward County Commissioners will decide next week whether to place an item on the Nov. 5, 2024, general election ballot that would create a “Health Care Surtax.” If voters were to agree, a quarter of a percent will be levied for 10 years before being re-evaluated. If approved, the health care tax would add 25 cents of tax to a $100 purchase.

Anatomy of a fall: Florida condo case to decide who to blame for dangerous balcony” via Fresh Take Florida — On the second day of vacation with his wife and kids, David Casey was sipping a glass of pinot noir, taking in the view of the beach and ocean at night from the balcony of a rented condo in Seacrest in the Panhandle. As Casey leaned against the wooden railing on the third-floor unit, it suddenly gave way — “the next thing I knew, I was falling to the ground,” he said — and he plummeted backward. So began the Casey family’s yearslong legal odyssey to answer a question of interest to condo owners and renters across Florida: Who is responsible for the upkeep and safety of balcony or deck railings — the developer? The unit owner? The condo association?

Spirit Airlines to furlough 260 pilots as it defers deliveries of new Airbus jetliners” via David Lyons of the South Florida Sun Sentinel — Discount carrier Spirit Airlines, which is struggling to return to profitability, announced it is furloughing 260 pilots as it moves to defer the deliveries of new Airbus jetliners and adjust staffing amid the continuing grounding of planes for engine inspections. “Unfortunately, we had to make the difficult decision to furlough pilots given the grounded aircraft in our fleet and our deferral of future deliveries,” said CEO Ted Christie in a statement. The furloughs will start Sept. 1.

In Miami, Javier Milei should find supportive Argentines as Hispanic voters shift right” via Syra Ortiz Blanes and Max Greenwood of the Miami Herald — When Argentine President Milei arrives in Miami this week, he’ll find himself in the midst of thousands of fellow countrymen who voted overwhelmingly last year from South Florida to propel the right-wing populist to power back home. In the November runoff for the presidency, Milei won 94% of the vote cast by Argentines living in Miami. Rejecting Milei’s center-left opponent, expats threw their support behind a norm-shattering politician often compared Trump, whose own standing among South Florida Hispanics has ballooned in recent years.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Disney allowed to pause its federal lawsuit against DeSantis as part of settlement deal” via The Associated Press — An appellate court on Monday granted Disney’s request for a two-month pause in a federal lawsuit against DeSantis and his appointees to Walt Disney World’s Governing District after the two sides reached a settlement on separate litigation in state court. Disney’s request last Friday to the federal appellate court was motivated by last month’s settlement deal involving two Florida lawsuits between Disney and the DeSantis-appointed Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. After DeSantis took over the theme park’s Governing Board, the company and the district began fighting in state court over how Disney World will be developed in the future.

Tough sell: Residents resist Jerry Demings’ transportation-tax pitch” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — With a deadline looming, Orange County Mayor Demings has invited citizens in recent weeks to weigh in on the sales-tax increase he is proposing to fix the region’s failing transportation network. But if Demings was hoping for an outpouring of public support that might help convince reluctant political colleagues to back his idea, he didn’t get it. Turnout at three community meetings was sparse, each attracting fewer than 50 people and audiences were sometimes combative. Some attendees were annoyed that county leaders are pushing again to put the issue on the ballot, just two years after a transportation tax was rejected by 58% of the county’s voters.

Jerry Demings struggles to convince residents of the need for a transportation tax.

—“Buddy Dyer sets May 21 Special Election to replace Regina Hill” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

Orlando’s District 5 race quickly draws five contenders. More may enter the fray.” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — A Special Election is on in Orlando’s District 5, where candidates are wasting no time lining up to fill the role left vacant following the indictment of incumbent Hill. At stake is a term of about 20 months on the City Council, representing the downtown area and neighborhoods west of Interstate 4. By 10:30 a.m. Monday — 30 minutes after the calendar was set by Mayor Dyer and the City Council — at least five candidates had publicly said they were running. They include former State Rep. Travaris McCurdy; community activists Lawanna Gelzer, Miles Mulrain and Shaniqua Rose; and business owner Cameron Hope.

Winter Garden election runoff pits familiar foes for a third time” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Incumbent Ron Mueller and Iliana Ramos Jones — neighbors in Lake Cove Pointe, a gated community in the west Orange city of Winter Garden — have been here before. Next Tuesday, they’ll face off for the third time in three years for the same elected job. Mueller won the Winter Garden Commission District 2 seat in 2021, besting Jones by 66 votes. Last month, Jones fell 25 votes shy of replacing him, winning about 48% of the ballots in a three-person race. Mueller finished a distant second but with enough votes to make the runoff. Early voting started Monday in the latest contest, where 7,200 people may vote.

UCF’s emergency management program is top in U.S. News and World Report’s rankings” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — University of Central Florida’s emergency management program is getting national recognition as the No. 1 ranked program in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report’s latest rankings for graduate schools released Tuesday. Rising in the rankings over the past seven years, the university’s Master of Emergency and Crisis Management program teaches students how to deal with human-made and natural disasters. Graduates have gone on to work in Florida, Washington D.C. and around the country.


Pasco voters go to the polls Tuesday to choose city leadership” via Barbara Behrendt of the Tampa Bay Times — Voters in all six of Pasco County’s municipalities will choose new leaders in Tuesday’s election with the highest profile race in Dade City. There are two City Commission seats up for grabs in Dade City this year. The Group 3 seat will pit incumbent Jim Shive against challenger Lucinda Uribe but it is the Group 4 race that has been the hot topic on social media in the community. Steven Van Gorden and Kristin Church are vying for the seat.

Whoa —Chad Chronister says he’s raised nearly $2M in just 82 days” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Hillsborough County Sheriff Chronister, always a fundraising juggernaut, seems to have outdone even himself. The Republican Sheriff announced that he had raised nearly $2 million in just 82 days of campaigning for re-election, including $960,000 for his campaign and another $1 million for his political committee, Friends of Chad Chronister. In all, Chronister said he has nearly $3 million to spend on his 2024 campaign. “I’m grateful to the more than 1,500 individuals who contributed during our first 82 days,” Chronister said. “The broad spectrum of support our community has for its Sheriff, our performance, and the gains we’ve made fighting and reducing crime is truly humbling.”

Chad Chronister proves to be a skilled fundraiser.

DeSantis on Brightline to Tampa: Taxpayers won’t be ‘on the hook’ to pay for it” via Henry Queen of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Florida will not commit state funds for the construction of Brightline’s expansion to Tampa under DeSantis’ watch. DeSantis said space on the Interstate 4 corridor will be preserved for train service between Orlando and Tampa; however, the state will not financially assist the project. A $50 million appropriations request for the project didn’t make it into the state Legislature’s budget submitted for DeSantis’ approval. The Governor made the comments about Brightline during a Wednesday ceremony at Florida Polytechnic University, where he signed an anti-transit bill and trumpeted the advancement of billions of dollars for nearby highway projects.

Dunedin First Presbyterian among organizations asking DeSantis to veto bill blocking workplace heat protection” via McKenna Schueler of Creative Loafing — Pressure is building for DeSantis to veto a controversial bill that would prevent city and county governments from establishing workplace heat protection requirements for employers. A letter signed by 44 faith and labor organizations — including the Farmworkers Association of Florida, the First Presbyterian Church in Dunedin (the Governor’s hometown), and labor unions representing thousands of working Floridians — was sent to DeSantis’ office last week, following up on an earlier letter sent by another 43 environmental and labor groups the week prior. “The bill harms Florida’s families of hardworking men and women whose labor is integral to our everyday lives,” reads the letter sent to the Governor Tuesday, April 2.

Bill Dudley, beloved coach and public servant, dies at 80” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Dudley, a former St. Petersburg City Council member and former Pinellas County School Board member, has died. He was 80 years old. Dudley suffered a stroke and did not recover, according to a post from his wife, Michelle Timmel Dudley. Michelle Dudley said funeral arrangements would be announced once information was available. Dudley, who was known most simply as “coach,” was an educator at Northeast High School for 37 years, where he left a mark on countless students and colleagues. He was first elected to City Council in 2007 and took office in 2008. He served until he reached term limits and, in 2018, ran successfully for the Pinellas County School Board.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office disciplines officers for publicly stripping man” via Nichole Manna of The Tributary — Two Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) police officers violated the agency’s own rules and potentially state law in 2022 when they stripped the clothes off a 45-year-old man — pulling down his pants and underwear in view of onlookers on a public road — in a search for drugs and money they never found on him, according to an internal investigation of the officers. In total, three officers can be seen in videotaped interviews telling internal affairs investigators that JSO supervisors never trained them on how to properly conduct a strip search or explained what a strip search is. The conclusions of the internal affairs investigation and the under-oath testimony of the three officers raise the specter of a systemic problem within JSO.

JSO deputies face discipline for illegally strip-searching a 45-year-old man.

As development encroaches on Miccosukee Canopy Road Greenway, residents worry” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — Residents are worried that the Miccosukee Canopy Road Greenway — a treasured 500-acre linear park with dense woods and open pastures — will lose its unique character and beauty as development continues to encroach upon it. The greenway, which stretches more than 6 miles along Miccosukee Road and includes a multi-use trail system, is heavily used by hikers, bicyclists, equestrians and other outdoor lovers. A haven for wildlife, its rolling hills are also home to breathtaking oak, hickory and pine stands. But the woods around it have thinned from development to the north. At the Edenfield Road trailhead and other spots along the trail, homes in the Canopy at Welaunee development can easily be seen through sparse vegetation.

Caught on camera: Tallahassee may one day mail fines to school zone speeders” via Arianna Otero of the Tallahassee Democrat — Tallahassee drivers will want to slow down near schools or they could soon be hit with a big fine in their mailbox. City Commissioners this week will consider language for a new ordinance allowing for speed detection devices and new signage in school zones. That’s because lawmakers earlier this year passed a measure (HB 657) since approved by DeSantis, which allows the city to do it. Commissioners also will set a date for a public hearing on the measure. The proposed ordinance would allow new features, similar to red-light cameras, to detect speeding in school zones and create a $100 fine for violators.

FBI investigating up to $800,000 stolen from Santa Rosa Clerk of Court’s Office” via Tom McLaughlin of the Pensacola News Journal — Milton Police, banking authorities and the FBI are investigating the theft of as much as $800,000 from the Santa Rosa County Clerk of Court’s Office. County Administrator DeVann Cook confirmed the theft and what he believed to be the dollar amount Monday afternoon. He also confirmed having heard that banking officials were apparently able to claw back about half of what had originally been thought stolen. Neither he, Milton Police Chief Tony Tindall or Clerk of Court Don Spencer were able to offer many more details Monday. “I don’t think it was a scam, an investigation is going on, we’ll have to wait to say more until we have all the facts,” Spencer said.

FSU Panama City to host 12th annual Autism Auction for Autism Awareness Month” via DeonTay Smith of the Panama City News Herald — April is Autism Awareness Month, and Florida State University Panama City will host its 12th annual autism auction. This event will be held at Florida State University Panama City at the Holley Academic Center’s St. Joe Community Foundation Lecture Hall. All proceeds go to the ECAP Butchikas Scholarship fund, which provides financial assistance to Bay County families affected by autism who need help paying for therapy. “ECAP is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit early intervention and community outreach program that provides Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services to local children with developmental delays and or disabilities,” the release says. “It is the only local nonprofit ABA program to provide in-home, in-school and in-clinic services.”

Woman shot at cars on Florida highway because of solar eclipse, cops say” via Emily Wunderlich of the Tampa Bay Times — A Georgia woman accused of shooting at passing vehicles on a Florida highway said she did it because of the solar eclipse, authorities say. On Monday, the Florida Highway Patrol responded to reports of an active shooter in Holmes County, the agency said in a news release. “The suspect was a woman who had recently checked out of a local hotel and told the staff she was going on a shooting spree, directed by ‘God’ in relation to the solar eclipse,” the news release states. Troopers say the woman was driving a purple Dodge Challenger with a Georgia license plate.


Michael Flynn’s anti-vax pals want to take over this Florida hospital” via Kate Briquelet of Daily Beast — The sister of Trump’s former national security adviser Flynn and a band of conservative anti-vax activists are running for the Board of a renowned public hospital in Florida under the banner of “medical freedom.” If they win, they’ll hold a majority over Sarasota’s award-winning facility where one of their allies is already trying to peddle vaccine misinformation. The rogues’ gallery includes Mary Flynn O’Neill, who directs her brother’s nonprofit and routinely appears on right-wing shows with QAnon conspiracy theorists; Tanya Parus, the president of Moms For America’s Sarasota chapter and co-owner of a “freedom-based” health clinic, and Tamzin Rosenwasser, a dermatologist who once railed against the Federation of State Medical Boards’ warning to doctors who spread COVID vaccine misinformation, comparing the organization to Stalin’s secret police. A fourth contender, Dr. Stephen Guffanti, has a long-standing grievance against the hospital, Sarasota Memorial Hospital (SMH), related to his 2021 stay there for COVID.

Anti-vaxxer Mary Flynn O’Neill is looking to win a seat on the Sarasota Memorial Hospital Board.

Lee County School District Superintendent Christopher Bernier to resign” via Dan Glaun of the Fort Myers News-Press — Bernier is scheduled to resign effective Tuesday, according to a separation agreement approved by the School Board at a special meeting. The Board appointed Ken Savage, a veteran district administrator, as Interim Superintendent. Savage previously served as Interim Superintendent before Bernier’s hiring in 202. Bernier had already indicated that he did not intend to seek another term after 62% of Lee County voters approved a 2022 referendum changing the Superintendent from an appointed to an elected position. “While I support the community’s decision based upon the referendum vote in November 2022, becoming an elected superintendent was never my aspiration,” Bernier said in a statement last year.

FEMA gives Lee County a chance to save flood insurance discounts after pushback” via Luis Zambrano of the Fort Myers News-Press — The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced a 30-day pause to planned actions that would slash discounts to many municipalities’ flood insurance to allow affected Southwest Florida communities to keep their status. “Each of the five communities will have an additional 30 days to gather requested documentation to help retain their standing in the Community Rating System,” FEMA representative Lea Crager said in an email statement. “We are committed to helping communities take appropriate remediation actions to participate in the Community Rating System and remain in good standing with the National Flood Insurance Program.” Lee County officials could not comment on the announcement as it had not received an official message from the agency as of 3 p.m. Monday.

Fired FMPD officer indicted in federal court for mishandling Hendry County arrest” via Tomas Rodriguez of the Fort Myers News-Press — A former Fort Myers police officer, fired after a child’s 2020 death, faces federal civil rights violations after a federal grand jury indicted him, charging him with use of force in Hendry County. U.S. Attorney Roger Handberg announced a grand jury returned a federal indictment against Tyler Williams, 29, of LaBelle for deprivation of civil rights under color of law. Williams is charged with unreasonable use of force and obstruction of justice. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in federal prison on the use of force charge, and up to 20 years’ imprisonment on the obstruction charge. Williams is a former deputy sheriff from the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office.


College towns usually lift Democrats. Is the picture more complicated in 2024?” via Jess Bidgood of The New York Times — This year, amid signs of an enthusiasm gap among young voters and widespread anger on college campuses over the administration’s handling of Israel’s war in Gaza, college towns are emerging as a more complex battleground for Democrats. So, I decided to head to Madison myself.

“I’m definitely a little bit nervous,” said Megan Eisenstein, the communications director of the College Democrats group at Lawrence University, who had traveled from her campus in Appleton, Wisconsin, to Madison over the weekend for the statewide College Democrats convention.

“I think right now,” she added, “the hardest thing is to make young people excited about Joe Biden.”

That wasn’t enough to net the “uninstructed” voters any delegates to this summer’s Democratic National Convention, as “uncommitted” voters did in Michigan, where the protest movement was born.

But it was enough to send a signal about voters’ discontent with Biden — particularly in a state that he won by just 20,682 votes in 2020. (There was something of a protest vote on the Republican side too, with Nikki Haley, a candidate who has dropped out of the race, earning more than 75,000 votes.)

Every set of college voters is different, from election to election, said John Della Volpe, the director of polling at the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School and an expert on the youth vote.

“This generation seems to be voicing concern over Gaza, and also voicing concern about why all of this matters, why voting” matters, Della Volpe said. “That’s the biggest concern.”


Supreme Court is playing a cruel joke: Florida voters won’t have final say on abortion in November” via Noreen Marcus of Florida Bulldog — On April Fools’ Day, the Florida Supreme Court used deception to doom abortion here by giving pro-choice voters false hope they’ll have the last word at the ballot box in November. With its 6-1 decision in the Planned Parenthood case, the high court signaled that almost all access to abortion in Florida will end abruptly May 1. On that date, a draconian six-week abortion ban will automatically replace the current, strict 15-week ban, thanks to a law co-sponsored by state Rep. Jennifer Canady. Her husband, Supreme Court Justice Charles Canady, voted with the majority despite his glaring conflict of interest: His vote helped determine the fate of his wife’s legislation. Also on April 1, the court ruled 4-3 that voters can weigh in on whether abortion should be enshrined in the Florida Constitution. The court’s decision was widely hailed as a populist victory. Pro-choice Floridians are determined to amend the state constitution, so it safeguards reproductive freedom.


— ALOE —

Florida gas prices dropped 12 cents last week” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Gas prices in Florida fell 12 cents last week to $3.47 per gallon. But the overall decline has lasted for 10 straight days, continuing through Monday for a total downturn of 16 cents. While pump prices are again below “year-ago levels,” AAA spokesperson Mark Jenkins said, upward pressure moving back into the market likely means the cheaper gas won’t last long. “The U.S. price of oil surged to new 2024 highs last week, which could cause gas prices to move higher,” he said in a statement. Domestic oil prices settled at $86.91 per barrel on Friday, up 4% from the week before and $3 per barrel more than the previous 2024 high recorded two weeks earlier.

Airbnb says it has generated $15 billion in economic impact throughout Florida” via Devonta Davis of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — The report found that Airbnb generated an estimated 180,000 jobs in Florida were supported by guest spending, which in turn generated approximately $8.5 billion in income for local workers. 2023 was a big year for Airbnb throughout the nation. Guests traveled to more than 100,000 cities and towns around the world, and 85 billion in economic impact. In the U.S., nearly 600 cities and towns welcomed their first guests, demonstrating that travel on Airbnb continues to be a popular way for people to experience new places. The brand helps support travel in communities that want to benefit from tourism, a release said. Throughout Florida, Airbnb helped generate approximately $15 billion in 2023.

Airbnb touts a $15 billion economic impact in Florida.

8 new ships coming to Norwegian Cruise Line, sister brands plus dock at Great Stirrup Cay” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — The parent company to Norwegian Cruise Line announced Monday a major order for eight new ships among its three brands as well as the construction of a pier to allow its cruise ships to dock instead of tender to its private Bahamas island for the first time. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings said it was planning to bring on four new ships for NCL, two new ships for upper premium brand Oceania Cruises and two ships for luxury brand Regent Seven Seas, all to be built at Fincantieri shipyard in Italy and debut during a 10-year run from 2026-2036. The NCL ships would be the largest ever built for the line at around 200,000 gross tons and a capacity of about 5,000 guests. They won’t arrive until after the final delivery of its Prima-Plus class ships expected between 2025-2028, the larger sister ships to the Norwegian Prima and Viva that debuted in the last couple of years.


Best wishes to a great Mom, a great person, a style icon, and still our favorite Schoonover, Alli Liby-Schoonover of Metz Husband & Daughton. Also celebrating today are Reps. Robert Brackett and Tom Keen, Emily Duda Buckley, Jacksonville City Council member Matt Carlucci, Mary K. Delegal, Michael Moline of The Florida Phoenix, and forever a Florida Man, NBC’s Joe Scarborough.


Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

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

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