Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 4.10.24

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Coffee is for closers. So is Sunburn, your morning rundown of Florida politics.

Good Wednesday morning.

Breaking overnightCourt ruling strikes blow against state pronoun law — The state cannot enforce the 2023 law restricting pronoun use in schools against a transgender teacher in Hillsborough County under an injunction issued in federal court. Teachers Katie Wood and AV Schwandes challenged the law, which can lead to educators having their teaching certificates revoked, as a violation of their First Amendment rights. The injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Mark Walker applies only to Wood and the law remains in effect statewide as the case moves forward. In Schwandes’ case, Walker said the teacher had not provided enough evidence to establish that the law had infringed upon their First Amendment rights.


A second Spanish-language campaign ad for Sen. Rick Scott will start airing on Miami television today.

Libertad,” like the first ad in the recent buy, shows Scott at the Memorial Cubano at the Florida International University in Miami. The Naples Republican’s destruction impacted lives in communist countries throughout much of the Western Hemisphere.

The ad features narration by Scott, both in English- and Spanish-language versions.

The ad starts showing the Senator brushing his hands against a wall of names at the memorial.

“These are the names of those who died at the hands of a brutal dictatorship. They’re a reminder that our freedom is fragile,” Scott says. “That’s why I fight back against the far-left socialist agenda.”

The video features an iconic photo of a soldier in late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro’s revolutionary forces tying up a prisoner to prepare him for the firing squad. Castro’s rise to power led to communist control of the government and a regime still present on the island nation just south of Florida.

“I understand the misery and destruction it has brought to so many,” Scott continues. “We cannot let them kill the prosperity that freedom provides. I’m Rick Scott. America represents what is good and possible, we must protect that.”

When the campaign announced the ad buy, it said various spots in English and Spanish would appear on TV, radio, streaming and digital platforms.

To watch the ad, please click the image below:


Celebration of life and funeral planned to honor longtime Naples lawyer John Passidomo” via Laura Layden of the Naples Daily News — A celebration of life for well-known Naples lawyer Passidomo will be held later this month. The event is planned for April 26 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Baker Park, located along the Gordon River, at 50 Riverside Circle. The celebration will be followed the next day by a funeral at Saint Ann Catholic Church, off Ninth Avenue South. The formal mass will be held April 27 at 11 a.m. All are welcome to attend. Passidomo, the husband of Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, died last week, following a hiking accident at a national park in Utah. He was 72.


Tweet, tweet:

@AshtonPittman: Between Florida and Arizona, this makes at least two swing states with extreme abortion bans that will likely have an abortion referendum in the ballot this year. Any others?

Tweet, tweet:

@GovRonDeSantis: Going into a drugstore to buy toothpaste shouldn’t be like Fort Knox. You shouldn’t need a clerk to unlock a case just to purchase basic items.

Tweet, tweet:

@DC_Draino: New Florida law makes it a felony for anyone stealing Amazon packages over $40 off people’s porches Love living in a red state that punishes porch pirates instead of letting them out on no bail

@Claire_GoForth: Something that didn’t make it into the Kent Stermon story has been stuck in my mind: On June 6, 2022, Gov. DeSantis’ agenda included a “human trafficking film screening.” What were they watching? The trailer for the Sound of Freedom

Tweet, tweet:


The Masters begin — 1; Florida Housing Summit ‘Blueprint for Better Outcomes’ begins — 21; Kentucky Derby — 24; 2024 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 30; ‘Bridgerton’ new season (part one) premieres on Netflix — 38; French Open begins — 40; Special Election to replace Orlando City Commissioner Regina Hill — 41; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 42; Dave Matthews Band 2024 Summer Tour begins in Tampa — 42; Monaco Grand Prix — 46; the 2024 World Cup begins — 62; season two of ‘House of the Dragon’ returns to Max — 67; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 80; Republican National Convention begins — 96; the 2024 World Cup ends — 99; 2024 MLS All-Star Game — 104; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games on NBC/Peacock — 106; ‘Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 125; Democratic National Convention begins — 132; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 136; 2024 NFL season kicks off — 149; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 191; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 194; 2024 Presidential Election — 209; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 222; MLS Cup 2024 — 237; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 307; Florida’s 2025 Legislative Session begins — 328; 2025 Session ends — 388; ‘Moana’ premieres — 438; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 469; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 471; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 576; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 618; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 755; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 771; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 982; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,122; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,081; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,803.


Why didn’t Ron DeSantis campaign on thisTech hub powers America’s hottest job market, WSJ ranking finds” via Angel Au-Yeung and Tom Corrigan of The Wall Street Journal — Florida dominated the top 10 rankings of the hottest job markets in 2023 with four spots after holding three of the top 10 spots in 2022. Jacksonville has continued moving up the ranks, becoming the second-hottest job market after placing third in 2022. Florida as a whole continues to be a magnet for remote workers who like affordability and the lack of a state income tax. Banks, mortgage lenders and real estate businesses hired aggressively last year in Florida. Tampa and Miami came in first and second, respectively, in wage growth — indicating that employers are paying up to attract and retain workers.

Congrats to Jacksonville, the top of four Florida metro areas with the nation’s hottest job markets.


DeSantis signs bill making April ‘Hot Car Death Prevention Month’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Future Aprils will see an increased governmental focus on ensuring that young children are not left unattended in hot vehicles, now that “Ariya’s Law” is part of Florida Statute. DeSantis has signed off on SB 554, a piece of legislation that makes April “Hot Car Death Prevention Month,” intended “to raise awareness of the dangers of leaving children unattended in motor vehicles and how to prevent hot car deaths from occurring.” The legislation from Sen. Jennifer Bradley is intended to “encourage” the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Health, local governments and other agencies “to sponsor events that promote public awareness and education on the dangers of leaving children unattended in motor vehicles and how to prevent hot car deaths.”

April is the month to recognize the dangers of leaving children and pets in hot cars.

Happening today — Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson and Florida Forest Service leadership will hold a news conference in Hillsborough County to discuss Florida’s current wildfire conditions and urge residents to be wildfire-ready: 10:30 a.m., Florida Forest Service Valrico Forestry Station, 118 N Dover Road, Dover (immediately north of the Hillsborough County Fire Station 36 Valrico).

Happening today — Citizens Property Insurance Corporation Board of Governors holds a teleconference meeting: 8:30 a.m., The Westin Lake Mary, 2974 International Parkway, Lake Mary. Zoom link here. Teleconference: 786-635-1003; Code: 956 3792 7111.

Older Floridians are going back to work as life gets less affordable” via Lauren Peace of the Tampa Bay Times — Americans are living longer and for some, continuing to work in their later years is a practical choice made for mental and social well-being. But for many, it’s also a matter of necessity. Seniors work because they have to afford medical bills, mortgages, food and the occasional pleasure. Because their fixed incomes and drained savings accounts are no longer enough to keep them afloat as the cost of groceries, homeowners association fees and insurance rates soar. Because they’re one crisis from financial disaster and fear they won’t be able to afford assisted living if their health suddenly declines.

— 2024 — FLORIDA —

DeSantis says Supreme Court ‘controversially’ approved abortion rights amendment” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis is voicing objections even though the same court’s ruling in another case will allow the procedure to be banned after the sixth week of gestation, with the Heartbeat Protection Act taking effect. “The Supreme Court has upheld the pro-life protection that we’ve enacted into law. They also probably more controversially approved language that the Left has been putting on the ballot to try to turn Florida into like, a California, which would be incredibly radical, overruling parental or parental consent laws having abortion until birth,” DeSantis told Sean Hannity. “That was a 4-to-3 decision. My view is that the language is very confusing.”

Ron DeSantis questions the wisdom of the Supreme Court approving a ‘controversial’ constitutional amendment protecting abortion.

Prayers for George — “Missing Florida GOP leader trashed hotel room while family searched for him” via Justin Garcia of the Tampa Bay Times — While family and friends distributed posters of a missing Republican Party of Florida executive director last week, he was holed up in a Hampton Inn, where authorities say he trashed his room. George Riley Jr., who was reunited with his family this weekend, was kicked out of a room at the Hampton Inn in Kissimmee on Wednesday after a desk clerk observed him “under the influence,” according to an Osceola County Sheriff’s Office report. “I’m deeply sorry. I have been dealing with alcoholism and mental health issues,” Riley said in an interview. “I will pay for any damages that were caused. I apologize to the employees for my bad behavior and I will be seeking help soon.” Minutes later, he called back to add: “I’ll be seeking help so I can be a better father, a better person and a better all-around employee.” Riley, 43, was found Friday by the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office — two days after he left the Hampton Inn. In a statement last week on social media, the agency didn’t say much about what condition Riley was in but that he was safe.


Joe Biden holds 4-point lead over Donald Trump, Reuters/Ipsos poll shows” via Jason Lange of Reuters — Some 41% of registered voters in the five-day poll, which closed on Monday, said they would vote for Biden if the election were held today, compared with 37% who picked Trump. That 4-point lead was up from a 1-point lead Biden held in a Reuters/Ipsos poll in March. Some 22% of registered voters in the poll said they had not picked a candidate, were leaning toward third-party options or might not vote at all. The poll, which surveyed adults nationwide, included many ways to measure support for Biden and Trump, 77, and most pointed to a close race.

Joe Biden squeaks ahead of Donald Trump in a new poll.

Biden is building a behemoth of a campaign. Trump at this point seems to be playing catch-up.” via Peter Nicholas, Allan Smith, Vaughn Hillyard, Adam Edelman and Ben Kamisar of NBC News — Biden has been scooping up record-making donations and plowing the money into an expanding campaign operation in battleground states that appears to surpass what Trump has built thus far. Flush with $71 million cash at the end of February — more than twice that of Trump’s campaign — Biden parlayed his fundraising advantage into a hiring spree that now boasts 300 paid staffers across nine states and 100 offices in parts of the country that will decide the 2024 election. Trump’s advisers would not disclose staffing levels, but his ground game still seems to be at a nascent stage. His campaign hired state directors in Pennsylvania and Michigan last week, people familiar with the recruitment process said.

Rick Scott beefs with Biden campaign about abortion ‘lying’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — U.S. Sen. Scott is attempting to correct what he charges is a misrepresentation of his views on reproductive rights by the President’s re-election campaign. “They’re lying,” he posted to X about an excerpted video of an interview. The Biden campaign spotlighted a question to Scott about the Arizona Supreme Court ruling that a total ban on abortion passed in 1864 is in effect with a selective quote. However, the full quote was longer, though its clarity is debatable. “This is what’s going to happen as a result of the overturned Roe versus Wade. And as you know, I’m pro-life,” Scott said. “We’re going to decide this at the state level, state by state is going to figure this out. I’m sure Arizona will figure this out.” “In Florida, we’ve got a constitutional amendment that’s going to help us figure out where we are on (this issue). So, this is exactly what ought to be happening, ought to be going through a legislative process,” Scott said before the clip was cut off.

How Trump’s mug shot became a defiant and divisive 2024 symbol” via Marianne LeVine, Josh Dawsey and Isaac Arnsdorf of The Washington Post — The mug shot has become an iconic image for the former President’s supporters. To many of them, the mug shot has become a symbol of defiance — the same backlash to the prosecutions that Trump portrays as politicized, helping him consolidate support in the Republican Primary. “Wearing the shirt is a middle finger to all the indictments,” said Orlando Perez, a mechanical engineering student who got one at the Florida Republican Party’s convention. “We can see through all the indictments thrown his way, the lies and the BS. It’s making him stronger.” To some Trump critics, the photo is a disturbing encapsulation of alleged behavior they find revolting — and it’s fueled worries about the prospect of a second Trump term.

Swing states see newcomers as Americans move from blue to red counties” via the Tribune News Service — In recent years, millions of people across the United States have moved from Democratic cities to Republican suburbs, complicating the politics of swing states in a pivotal election year. Republican suburban counties in four swing states — Georgia in the South and Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in the Midwest — gained the most new arrivals; heavily Democratic cities lost the most. In Western swing states Arizona and Nevada, meanwhile, the biggest people magnets have been slightly Democratic cities that are expected to be hotly contested. Those shifts reflect a nationwide trend: In Republican counties, as defined by the 2020 presidential vote, 3.7 million more people have moved in than have left since 2020, while Democratic counties had a net loss of 3.7 million.

—“Republicans close gap with Democrats on party identification, Pew survey finds” via Scott Clement of The Washington Post

Woman sentenced to month in jail for selling diary of Biden’s daughter” via The Associated Press — A Florida mother was sentenced Tuesday to a month in prison and three months of home confinement for stealing and selling Biden’s daughter’s diary four years ago to the conservative group Project Veritas. Aimee Harris was sentenced in Manhattan federal court by Judge Laura Taylor Swain, who called the Palm Beach woman’s actions “despicable.” Harris pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in August 2022, admitting that she received $20,000 of the $40,000 that was paid by Project Veritas for personal items belonging to the President’s daughter, Ashley Biden. Project Veritas, founded in 2010, identifies itself as a news organization. It is best known for conducting hidden camera stings that have embarrassed news outlets, labor organizations and Democratic politicians.


Libertarian Nathaniel Snyder announces challenge to Kathy Castor” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Tampa mechanic Snyder has announced he is looking to challenge U.S. Rep. Castor, a Tampa Democrat. Snyder, who intends to run as a Libertarian, said Congress needs more working-class members. “I will enter Washington, D.C., as a blue-collar worker, and I will leave as a blue-collar worker. Together, we will Bring America Home,” Snyder said. A single father of three, Snyder said he’s especially frustrated by the state of education in the country. One of his children is autistic, he said on his campaign website. “I will prioritize school choice and enhance transportation options to empower parents and students,” he said. “By increasing the availability of charter schools and providing financial assistance for homeschoolers, we will ensure every child has access to a quality education that meets their unique needs.”

Libertarian Nathaniel Snyder is mounting a challenge to Kathy Castor.

Wyman Duggan raises nearly $90K more for HD 12 re-election bid, has half a million to spend” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Duggan, who represents House District 12 in southern Duval County, raised more than $89,000 between his campaign account and the supportive Citizens For Building Florida’s Future political committee between Jan. 1 and March 31. The political committee has nearly $455,000 on hand after bringing in $71,500 in Q1. The bulk of the money was raised early in January before the Legislative Session began and included donors ranging from lobbyists (the Southern Group and the Vogel Group), industry groups (the Florida Farm PAC and the Florida RV PAC), and other groups ranging from Bitcoin Depot to the Miami branch of the Fraternal Order of Police. Duggan also has more than $70,000 in hard money after raising $17,550 in Q1 to his campaign account.

Rich Tatem launches HD 72 campaign — Republican Tatem has entered the race to succeed Rep. Tommy Gregory in House District 72. Tatem is a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel and School Board member in Manatee County. “Tommy Gregory has been a strong leader for Florida and an effective leader for House District 72 and it is no surprise that he has this new opportunity,” Tatem said regarding Gregory’s recent confirmation as State College of Florida president. “It is imperative that we elect someone who will carry on his legacy of conservative leadership that has helped brand our state as the Free State of Florida. After a lot of prayer, discussion with my wife, and encouragement from key supporters, I have made the decision to become a candidate for state representative and to continue that legacy.”


House delays sending Alejandro Mayorkas impeachment to Senate” via Michael Macagnone of Roll Call — The House will delay delivery of the impeachment articles for Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas until next week, House Speaker Mike Johnson’s office said, as Senate Republicans try to counter Democratic efforts to quickly dismiss the case. A group of Senate Republicans said they secured the delay as part of their fight to have the Senate hold a full trial. A spokesperson for Johnson confirmed the delay in a statement. “To ensure the Senate has adequate time to perform its constitutional duty, the House will transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate next week. There is no reason whatsoever for the Senate to abdicate its responsibility to hold an impeachment trial,” the spokesperson, Taylor Haulsee, said.

Alejandro Mayorkas’ impeachment is just going to have to wait.

What’s behind the latest right-wing revolt against Mike Johnson” via Li Zhou of Vox — Johnson could be facing the most perilous threat to his leadership yet as Congress once again debates Ukraine aid. Johnson recently made clear he wants to hold a vote on sending more funding to Ukraine after the House returns from recess on Tuesday. That stance has infuriated far-right members like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has vocally opposed the provision of such funds. Greene’s dissent over Ukraine — along with far-right members’ dismay over bipartisan government funding deals — has prompted her to issue an open threat to Johnson’s job. “Mike Johnson is not working for Republicans, he’s not helping Republicans, he’s not even listening to Republicans. Mike Johnson is doing the Deep State’s dirty work,” Greene said in an X statement last week. “We need a new Speaker of the House!”

More funding needed to prosecute pandemic fraud, Justice dept. says” via Madeleine Ngo of The New York Times — More resources are needed to investigate and prosecute individuals who stole billions in pandemic relief funds, the Justice Department said in a report on Tuesday. Federal officials said they have made “significant progress” in going after fraud but conceded that “substantial work remains in the face of numerous challenges.” Agencies responsible for pursuing pandemic fraudsters have been restrained by budget cuts, according to the report. The federal government, which distributed trillions in relief funds after the onset of the pandemic, has charged more than 3,500 defendants for offenses related to pandemic fraud, according to the report. That’s up from about 3,100 defendants who had been charged as of August. More than $1.4 billion in fraudulently obtained funds have been seized or forfeited.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

A County Commissioner is representing Alex Díaz de la Portilla in criminal corruption case” via Tess Riski of the Miami Herald — For months, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Keon Hardemon, a criminal defense lawyer by trade, has been quietly working with the legal team representing former Miami City Commissioner Díaz de la Portilla in a bribery and money laundering case. Hardemon has appeared reticent to discuss his role in the case, declining to comment or evading questions from Miami Herald reporters at City and County Commission meetings this year. But campaign finance reports from the final months of 2023 show that Hardemon, who previously served alongside Díaz de la Portilla on the Miami City Commission, was paid $25,000 by Proven Leadership for Miami-Dade County, a political committee controlled by Díaz de la Portilla, in an Oct. 11 expenditure labeled “legal fees.”

Miami-Dade Commissioner Keon Hardemon is a criminal defense attorney by trade. It is coming in handy.

Miami-Dade Sheriff candidate distances himself from brother’s DUI controversy: ‘My brother is his own person’” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Miami-Dade Sheriff candidate Mario Knapp says his campaign and record of service shouldn’t be marred by new reporting that his police officer brother unjustly eluded a drunken driving investigation due to in-department favors. “My brother is a 52-year-old man with kids, a senior person,” Knapp, a retired Miami-Dade Police Major, told Florida Politics. “This has nothing to do with me. My brother is his own person.” Knapp added that he hadn’t learned of the incident until “a year after it happened” and thought the allegations had been investigated and found groundless. NBC 6 reported Tuesday that Miami-Dade Police Officer Willy Knapp, Mario Knapp’s brother, rear-ended the vehicle of a woman and her teenage son.

Ryan Huntington wins seven-month term on Biscayne Park Commission” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Huntington won a Special Election on Tuesday for a seven-month term on the Biscayne Park Commission — by a landslide. With the 3,100-resident village’s sole precinct reporting at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, he had 79% of the vote, enough to win outright and avoid a runoff. Huntington defeated two opponents, Daniel Samaria and Carlos Trejo Pereira, who respectively took 16% and 5% of the vote. He will take the seat of now-former Commissioner John Holland, who was appointed to the post a year before. The seat will again be up for grabs in November. Fewer than 350 of Biscayne Park’s 1,985 registered voters cast ballots Tuesday, representing a 17.4% turnout.

Candidates head to runoff for shorter Seat 6 term on Miami Lakes Council” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — The race for a shortened term on the Miami Lakes Town Council isn’t over. Lawyer Bryan Morera will face former Lakes-by-the-Sea Town Manager Esther Colon in an April 30 runoff for the right to serve in Seat 6 through November 2026, according to unofficial results on the Miami-Dade County Elections Department website. No candidate secured more than 50% of the vote to win outright. With all seven of the town’s precincts reporting and all mail-in ballots counted at 8:26 p.m. Tuesday, Morera had 29.4% of the vote and Colon had 22.6%. Colon held a tenuous second-place lead over social worker Hector Abad, who took 22.3% of the vote. Just seven votes separated them.

Annette Taddeo campaign touts $105K haul in seven weeks for Miami-Dade Clerk bid” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Former state Sen. Taddeo’s campaign for Miami-Dade County Clerk and Comptroller had a healthy early round of fundraising, according to a report from the campaign. Between Feb. 5, when she entered the race, and the end of the first quarter reporting period on March 31, Taddeo’s campaign says she amassed more than $105,000. That’s $15,000 per week for seven weeks. In a statement, Taddeo said the monetary support is “both humbling and heartening.”

‘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 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.

Adam Farkas starts his campaign for Palm Beach State Attorney with some solid fundraising.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump: Shooting of Liberty City man by police ‘unconscionable’” via Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — Standing outside a courtroom on the seventh floor of the Miami-Dade criminal courthouse Tuesday morning, civil rights attorney Crump called the police shooting of a man suffering a mental breakdown “excessive” and “unconscionable.” He then demanded that the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office drop all charges against his client and said the family was considering all legal options. “The whole world is watching, Miami,” Crump said before a bank of television cameras. “Do the right thing for Daniel Armstrong.” Armstrong, 47, stood on the front porch of his Model City home, near Liberty City, clearly agitated as a half dozen or more Miami Police officers faced him down from the front lawn, their weapons drawn. Twice, officers fired the electronic prong of a Taser into Armstrong.

Ex-Ecuadorian official accused of laundering $10M in bribes faces trial in Miami” via Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald — The corruption trial of a former senior Ecuadorian official charged with laundering more than $10 million in bribes through Miami’s banking system and real estate market may not feature a household name as a defendant. But the Brazilian company accused of paying off Ecuador’s ex-comptroller, Carlos Ramon Polit, is one of the biggest engineering and construction firms in the world. Its name is Odebrecht, which admitted to a massive bribery scheme across the Americas in 2016 and agreed to pay $2.6 billion in a record corruption settlement with the Justice Department. Polit’s trial, a spinoff of that high-profile scandal, started with opening statements in Miami federal court.

Vero Beach OKs tenfold increase in stormwater fee; 971% hike to help clean Indian River Lagoon” via Nick Slater of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Property owners should get ready for their stormwater fee — the money they pay each year to help keep the Indian River Lagoon clean — to jump from $7 annually to about $75, a whopping 971%. A tenfold increase has been expected for nearly two years. The City Council approved it last month in a 3-2 vote, with Tracey Zudans and Taylor Dingle voting “no.” The increase could be more or less than $75, depending on the size of a homeowner’s property. The stormwater utility was created in 2021 after years of discussion on ways to help clean up the lagoon. The fee originally was to be $75, but the Council used federal COVID-19 relief money to lower it for a year.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

‘Bad data with no plan’: Rates of discipline against Black students increase in Brevard” via Finch Walker of Florida Today — Black students in Brevard have suffered disproportionate rates of discipline for at least 11 years, and recent rates haven’t improved much. Brevard has collected data from three separate points this year regarding discipline rates. This comes after promises from Brevard School Board member Matt Susin of an overhaul to disciplinary procedures, as well as a March 2023 audit that suggested creating a centralized discipline office to reduce confusion when entering discipline referrals — a recommendation that has gone ignored. Compared to last year, the first set of data showed a significant jump in disciplinary referrals — something Susin said was due to staff being better trained on how to record discipline referrals.

Matt Susin promised an overhaul to disciplinary procedures in Brevard schools. It is still yet to come.

Kissimmee gets $1.8M in federal funds for city’s first emergency housing facility” via Natalia Jaramillo of the Orlando Sentinel — A few weeks ago city officials worried a delay in federal funding would push finishing up Kissimmee’s first emergency housing facility into next year. The city announced it obtained $1.8 million needed to wrap up renovations this year on Osceola County’s only such facility open to men, women and children — helping provide stable housing for hundreds of residents in need. “It’s a one-of-a-kind project in Central Florida that focuses on affordable housing, critical support services and opportunities to address those who are unsheltered or at risk for homelessness,” Deputy City Manager Desiree Matthews said. “It is the first major affordable housing and homelessness initiative here in the city of Kissimmee.”

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.

Concerned about misuse, Disney World changes disability passes” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Walt Disney World is changing how it handles a program that shortens wait times for theme park visitors with autism or similar developmental disabilities. The adjustment affects the disability access service card, also known as DAS, which has gained popularity in recent years but has been misused. As of May 20, Disney World visitors may request DAS at guest services outlets after which they will be connected to a cast member via virtual chat to determine their eligibility. Disney is bringing in Inspire Health Alliance, an outside company, for training and carrying out the new policy. This process could guide visitors to other Disney services at the theme parks aligned for individual needs.


Mike Harting brings in $40K-plus in first month of St. Pete City Council campaign” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Harting, the co-owner of Three Daughters Brewing who is running for St. Petersburg City Council in District 3, has raised $41,810 in his first month on the campaign trail. “I’m proud of the strong support our truly independent campaign has gained in just our first month,” Harting said. “Raising my three daughters and starting multiple successful businesses in St. Petersburg has provided me valuable insights into critical issues facing our city. I’ll work hard to make our neighborhoods affordable again, support law enforcement, protect our clean water and attract good jobs. I’m honored that so many residents support our plan to create great opportunities for every family in our city.”

Mike Harting posts some solid bank.

USF announces construction management team for football stadium project” via Cole Pepper of Florida Politics — Plans for USF’s new football stadium have taken a step forward with the selection of Manhattan Construction Company, H.J. Russell & Company and DuCon as the construction manager for the project. The team has previous professional stadium experience including more than $1.2 billion in projects with USF’s design team, Populous. Some of the other projects include football stadiums for the Dallas Cowboys, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech and ongoing renovations at Florida State. Manhattan also provided management services for renovations at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa in 2016. USF’s on-campus stadium is scheduled to open in time for the 2027 college football season. The stadium is planned to be a 35,000-seat venue.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

$100 million automated vehicle plant could go to Jacksonville” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — Jacksonville is competing to land a $100 million automated vehicle assembly plant that would be a global manufacturer’s first plant in the United States. A city Office of Economic Development summary of the plant does not specify the exact type of vehicles it would assemble so it’s not clear if it would give the Jacksonville Transportation Authority a way to buy “Made in America” transit vehicles for its planned downtown shuttle system. The assembly plant code-named “Project Link” would be built in the northwest quadrant of the city by the end of 2026 if Jacksonville can prevail in the competition against other states. The plant would roll out battery-powered vehicles that use sensors and cameras for navigation, so they don’t need a driver behind the wheel.

A Jacksonville automated vehicle assembly plant could give the company the right to say ‘made in America.’

Pensacola set to increase hourly parking fees. How much, and why” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — After raising parking fines earlier this year, Pensacola is moving forward with its plan to raise the hourly parking fee to $1 an hour. The Pensacola City Council is set to vote on the proposed increase Thursday. The price increase was one of the recommended changes in a parking consultant’s report presented to the City Council in October. The goal of the report was to improve parking in city-owned spaces and lots and was presented to the City Council last year. In February, the City Council unanimously approved an ordinance change that increased parking fines, including first-time fines, from $10 to $20. That ordinance also removed the provision that used the city code to set parking rates, making it much easier for the city to change parking rates. The new rates will now be set as part of the city’s annual budget in October.

FSU, TMH sign agreement to build new academic health center in Tallahassee” via Tarah Jean of the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida State University and Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare recently signed a memorandum of understanding to seal their partnership for a future academic health center in Tallahassee, slated to open in Fall 2026. Through the agreement, a new “FSU Health TMH Trustees” will oversee decisions related to the academic health center and a medical campus underway in Panama City Beach on behalf of the university and hospital. The joint center’s governance structure will consist of five voting trustees appointed by FSU, including President Richard McCullough, who will serve as Board Chair; four additional voting trustees appointed by TMH, with TMH President and CEO Mark O’Bryant as a nonvoting member, and a vice provost for FSU Health as another nonvoting member.

Law enforcement bands together to run, carry the Special Olympics torch in Tallahassee” via the Tallahassee Democrat — The Special Olympics Florida Law Enforcement Torch Run will take place Wednesday in Tallahassee, beginning at 10:30 a.m. outside the Lake Ella Publix and ending in the state Capitol’s courtyard downtown. Runners will include members of several state law enforcement agencies, who are expected to arrive at the Capitol by 10:55 a.m. with a police escort. Afterward, a ceremony will be held in the Capitol Courtyard at 11 a.m., with remarks from Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil, Corrections Secretary Ricky Dixon, Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, Agency for Persons with Disabilities Director Taylor Hatch, and others.

City: UF’s plan to scale back bus program would slash RTS revenue in half, force route cuts” via Nora O’Neill of the Gainesville Sun — The city of Gainesville announced Tuesday that half its Regional Transit System (RTS) budget is at risk of being lost if the University of Florida were to move forward with a proposal to scale back its prepaid bus fare program. The program, responsible for $6.8 million of RTS’ $13.7 million budget this year, may end at the beginning of July. UF cited cost sustainability as a primary factor in the decision, the release said. “Since 1998, this partnership has been woven into the life of our community,” said Gainesville Mayor Harvey Ward in the release. “It is a shining example of a strong, working town-gown collaboration. It’s good for the environment, it reduces traffic congestion and it has become an integral part of the way UF students come to learn about and love the City of Gainesville.”

‘I accidentally looked at the eclipse’: Keyword searches spike during peak of eclipse” via Elena Barrera of the Tallahassee Democrat — Some people throughout the Sunshine State might’ve gotten too much sun Monday afternoon after ignoring warnings and staring too closely at the Great North American Eclipse. At 3 p.m. — the time of its peak in many Florida cities — search terms like “eyes hurt,” “looked at sun,” “eyes hurt after the eclipse” and “I accidentally looked at the eclipse” hit their peak popularity, Google Trends keyword search analytics show. Millions of Floridians paused what they were doing to step outside and experience the astronomical wonder, especially during the eclipse’s peak, which was visible here anytime between 1:55 p.m. and 3 p.m., depending on the city.


After one candidate’s mysterious withdrawal, Lee Commissioner Mike Greenwell faces new challenger in Primary” via Anne Geggis of The Florida Trident — The Alva Library and Museum needed overflow parking to handle the buzzing crowd of 200 that milled around food trucks awaiting the kickoff of Grant Fichter’s run for the Lee County Commission this past January. Fichter, a first-time candidate, was running in the Republican Primary against incumbent Greenwell, a former Boston Red Sox left-fielder and developer. Many in the crowd were eager to see a challenge to Greenwell, who has controversial plans to develop farmland he owns in a rural part of the county. Opponents worry the construction will spoil the bucolic nature of the area. “Everyone was so happy about just the opportunity to have a challenger with a lot of community support,” said Holly Schwartz, a resident of Alva since 2012 who works in environmental policy.

Mike Greenwell gets a new Primary challenger.

Kenneth Savage sworn in as Interim Lee County School Superintendent” via Dan Glaun of the Fort Myers News-Press — The School Board of Lee County swore in Savage as Interim Superintendent after the surprise resignation of former Superintendent Christopher Bernier. From 2001 to 2006, Savage was a teacher and athletic director in Alachua and Duval counties, according to a résumé released in public School Board documents. He then joined the Lee School District, working as a principal and assistant principal at the elementary, middle and high school levels. From 2016 through 2018, Savage worked at struggling district schools in the state’s differentiated accountability program. In 2018, he was named the Florida Department of Education’s Principal of the Year for his work improving performance at James Stephens International Academy in Fort Myers.


Universal Orlando gives legislators $168K in freebies, gets millions in tax breaks” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Up first this year is the GOP’s annual slopfest at Universal where Republican House members invite lobbyists to bring campaign checks to Orlando and frolic alongside the lawmakers. The “Universal Orlando Event benefiting the Republican House Majority” kicks off on April 19. Now, technically, public officials aren’t supposed to take freebies from special interests. Literally, they can be arrested for it. But Florida politicians have found a wonderfully sleazy way around this rule by letting theme parks give free rooms and meals to the political parties — which then turn around and give the goodies to the politicians. It’s legalized laundering.


Middleburg nurse: The most rewarding health care jobs in Florida are often overlooked” via Blenda Carter for The Florida Times-Union — Last month, we celebrated Careers in Aging Month, bringing greater awareness to the wide-ranging career opportunities in long-term care and aging service. While the health care sector is booming, long-term care often gets overlooked. This should ring alarm bells because the long-term care workforce shortage gap continues to grow exactly at the time our state’s senior population continues to rise. With over 1,200 individuals each day deciding to call Florida their new home, it is estimated that long-term care employers in Florida will need to fill 235,000 job openings in direct care from 2020 to 2030. The Florida Center for Nursing found that only 40% of licensed practical nurses work in elder care, while less than 10% of registered nurses work in elder care.



— ALOE —

Peak blueberry season” via Laura Lyon of Florida Trend — From Alachua County to Lake Okeechobee, Florida’s blueberry season is underway. “It looks like it’s going to be a good season,” says Douglas Phillips, a blueberry extension coordinator at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. He notes the heavy green fruit he observed during the Winter across trial sites he monitors. In 2022, Florida harvested 32.6 million pounds of blueberries across 6,900 acres, generating $104 million and making the state one of the top 10 producers in the country. The state is uniquely positioned, having the earliest bloom window while the rest of the country winters, but it does compete with growers in warmer climates. Mexico’s blueberry production window of February through May overlaps with Florida’s peak season, which runs from March through May. Labor costs remain a challenge for farmers since the bushes must be hand-picked.

It is time to enjoy peak-season blueberries.

Duke Energy seeks second rate drop this year for Florida customers” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — Duke Energy Florida is planning on lowering electricity rates for customers in the Sunshine State. The proposed rate reduction would be the second this year if approved by state regulators. Duke Energy filed a rate reduction request with the Florida Public Service Commission. If it’s approved by the state Board, it would lower monthly energy bills of Duke residential customers in Florida by about $6 on average each month, or about a 4% drop. Duke officials said that’s a savings on top of the most recent rate reduction by the company that took hold in January. That rate decrease saw average Florida residential customers of the utility experience a drop in monthly payments by about $11.30. If the latest rate decrease is approved, commercial customers of Duke will also see monthly energy bills drop by about 3.5% to 7%.

Tampa Electric sponsors Guy Harvey Foundation conservation education program” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Last weekend, educators from 28 schools in Hillsborough, Polk, Pinellas, and Pasco counties gathered at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center (SYCC) for the first of several two-day training sessions hosted by the Guy Harvey Foundation (GHF). Participants engaged in a variety of activities to enhance their understanding of marine conservation and equip them with tools to inspire their students. Moreover, the training allowed teachers to experience what their students will see and do on field trips to SYCC and similar locations, fostering a deeper connection to the program’s objectives and methodologies.


Celebrating today is one of North Florida’s best people (although we haven’t caught up in a while), Jeremy Branch, as well as good guy Jose Gonzalez. On the local front, happy birthday to Housh Ghovaee and Chris Krampert.


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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