Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 4.11.24

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

Good Thursday morning.

The Florida Democratic Party launched a new effort aimed at registering voters, electing candidates up and down the ballot, and making the Sunshine State competitive this November.

Lisa Peth, a veteran political strategist, will serve as Campaign Director for the Take Back Florida Coordinated Campaign. The effort will marshal resources from several party organizations and progressive groups, including the Florida House Democratic Campaign Committee, Florida Senate Victory and Ruth’s List Florida.

The Florida Democratic Party brings back Lisa Peth to help turn the state blue.

“There is nothing more important than our long-term plan to take back Florida,” said FDP Chair Nikki Fried. “The coordinated campaign is one of the most important tools we have to set our campaigns up for success — that’s why I’m excited to bring Lisa Peth back to the Party. Her experience and expertise in strategic campaigns will be an invaluable asset to Democratic efforts across the state of Florida, from re-electing President (Joe) Biden and Vice President (Kamala) Harris and defeating Rick Scott to breaking the supermajority in the Legislature.”

Peth served as Northeast Florida Regional Field Director for FDP in 2018, when Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum won Duval County even while losing statewide. She also served as the party’s first Municipal Victory Director, a post she held from 2019 to 2021.

“I’m thrilled to come home to the Florida Democratic Party,” Peth said. “As a lifelong Floridian, I’ve felt firsthand the effects of 30 years of Republican leadership in Tallahassee — but the incredible work being done by Democrats across Florida in the face of those challenges has always given me hope. I’m looking forward to doing everything I can to support those efforts and lay the groundwork to take back Florida.”


@SariBethRose: President Biden was just asked about the new Arizona abortion law at the news conference with Japan’s Prime Minister. His response: “Vote for me, I’m in the 21st century”

@Ryan_Tyson: Since the FL Supreme Court put the abortion amendment on the ballot last week, the Republicans’ net voter registration advantage has grown by about +11K. I guess the surge of Democrat enthusiasm the media keeps talking about will be more like a slow cooker than a microwave.

Tweet, tweet:

@OGFC3: Gonna start texting my wife like political emails … DEAR PATRIOT … Despite the best attempts my opponents I got the kids to school ON TIME! But I need you to CHIP IN for more SNACKS!

@BrendanLeslie: Florida’s Voice (@FLVoiceNews) has been so successful and growing at unprecedented rates because mainstream media and left-wing bloggers continue to push the lie that Florida is a terrible state We will always tell the news without the ridiculous talking points


Florida Housing Summit ‘Blueprint for Better Outcomes’ begins — 20; Kentucky Derby — 23; 2024 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 29; ‘Bridgerton’ new season (part one) premieres on Netflix — 37; French Open begins — 39; Special Election to replace Orlando City Commissioner Regina Hill — 40; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 41; Dave Matthews Band 2024 Summer Tour begins in Tampa — 41; Monaco Grand Prix — 45; the 2024 World Cup begins — 61; season two of ‘House of the Dragon’ returns to Max — 66; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 79; Republican National Convention begins — 95; the 2024 World Cup ends — 98; 2024 MLS All-Star Game — 103; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games on NBC/Peacock — 105; ‘Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 124; Democratic National Convention begins — 131; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 135; 2024 NFL season kicks off — 148; Packers will face Eagles in Brazil — 148; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 190; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 193; 2024 Presidential Election — 208; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 221; MLS Cup 2024 — 236; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 306; the 2025 Oscars — 325; Florida’s 2025 Legislative Session begins — 327; 2025 Session ends — 387; ‘Moana’ premieres — 437; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 468; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 470; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 575; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 617; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 754; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 770; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 981; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,121; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,080; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,802.


Ron DeSantis privately tells donors he plans to fundraise for Donald Trump” via Matt Dixon and Brian Schwartz of NBC News — DeSantis told his allies about the move to help Trump during a private gathering Saturday at South Florida’s Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

“He did say it in front of a group of people at the Hard Rock,” a DeSantis adviser told NBC News.

The person emphasized that DeSantis had pledged to support Republicans up and down the ballot — “including presidential” — when he dropped his bid for President in January.

Ron DeSantis will pitch in to help elect Donald Trump, after all.

DeSantis’ remarks come after he was effectively in a political war with Trump, both before and since the Governor dropped out of the Presidential Primary race. It remains unclear if Trump and his team want DeSantis to help them, or have him as an ally, even though the Governor did endorse Trump in January.

Many of the bundlers who heard from DeSantis at the Hard Rock will likely follow his lead and start trying to raise money for the former President, according to a fundraiser who was at the event.

“I would say the majority in the room would now be willing to help Trump,” a DeSantis bundler who was at the recent meeting said.

Texas business owner Roy Bailey, who was a Co-Chair of DeSantis’ National Finance Advisory Board, said in an interview Wednesday that he’s planning to help raise money for Trump, as he did in 2020.

“I will follow the Governor’s lead and I will do anything that he or President Trump ask me to do to help him win this election,” Bailey said.


DeSantis signs measure creating no-go zone around first responders” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Starting next year, first responders in Florida will have a new tool at their disposal to provide themselves space to do their jobs in public — and potentially obscure the sightlines of onlookers and devices. DeSantis has signed legislation (SB 184) enabling police, firefighters and paramedics to establish a 25-foot no-go zone around themselves. Anyone who enters the area to harass, impede or threaten them after receiving a warning will face up to 60 days in prison and a $500 fine. It goes into effect Jan. 1. SB 184 is the pet project of Rep. Alex Rizo, who has sponsored versions of the measure with varying distances — up to 30 feet in some — for several Sessions. The bill’s Senate sponsor since 2023 has been Sen. Bryan Ávila, who this year originally proposed a 14-foot distance, which he explained is the length of an average car.

Alex Rizo notches a ‘W’ in creating a no-go zone for first responders.

DeSantis blames high car insurance rates on ‘Bidenomics.’ That doesn’t tell the whole story” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — After March’s Consumer Price Index report showed a 3.8% year-over-year increase in inflation, DeSantis blamed federal spending under Biden, saying it’s “the wages of Bidenomics.” “The No. 1 individual itemized increase for inflation was auto insurance. This print today for just a month had a massive increase and that’s really, really difficult,” DeSantis said. In short, the penalties for driving without insurance are light, especially for those people without assets vulnerable to expropriation in court cases. And as anyone who has carshopped or has gone to a hospital recently can attest, $10,000 is a fraction of the costs incurred by car accidents.

DeSantis slams sociology degrees in latest student loan bailout bash” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis is sounding off about “sociology” degrees as bad value in his latest denunciation of Biden’s restructuring of student loan debt obligations. “He doesn’t have the authority to do. It is to basically say, you know, ‘If you’re a truck driver, you didn’t go to college, you don’t have student debt. Sorry, you’re going to have to pony up to pay the student loans of somebody, you know, who maybe got a degree in sociology or something and is not gainfully employed and can’t afford the loans.’ That is not fair,” DeSantis said in St. Petersburg. The Governor also denounced a more familiar fictional trope that he likes to invoke — so-called “zombie studies” — in his extended denunciation of the President’s purported lack of “constitutional authority” to “unilaterally cancel loans.”

After losing Medicaid, parents of Florida’s sickest kids are in limbo” via Caroline Catherman of the Orlando Sentinel — Osceola resident Oscar Hernandez is scrambling to ensure his 16-year-old terminally ill son, Llarell, will continue to receive medical care. Llarell is paralyzed and relies on three life support machines and specialized nursing care for 16 hours per day. Hernandez thought his son would receive Medicaid coverage for the rest of his life, until late March, when he got a call from his son’s Medicaid plan telling him his coverage would soon be terminated. “It’s been 16 years of taking care of a kid with a terminal disease. By the grace of God, he’s still with us. But we shouldn’t be dealing with situations like this. It is just wrong,” Hernandez said.

Requests for college tuition aid plummet in Florida amid paperwork confusion” via Ian Hodgson of the Tampa Bay Times — Students and families were promised last year that the federal application for college financial aid was about to get easier. The questions they had to answer dropped from 100 to 36. But after a three-month delay in making the form available and a series of crippling mistakes, completions are way down. While families are being encouraged to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, some are unable to finish it or may have been deterred from the process. As of March 22, less than one-quarter of Florida public high school seniors had submitted their application — down 33% from last year. The numbers are even worse for low-income Floridians: Roughly two out of 10 students at the state’s 50 poorest high schools have completed the application this year, down more than 40% from this time last year. Despite those declines, advocates say they’ve seen little urgency from school districts or state officials to take action.

Florida Commission on Ethics set to cancel $1,500 fine for one of its own” via Dan Christensen of Florida Bulldog — Florida’s ethically challenged Commission on Ethics is poised to waive a $1,500 fine for one of its own Commissioners. Lauderhill business owner Freddie Figgers was tagged with a $25-per-day fine for failing to file a required financial disclosure form for 2021 when he was on the Board of Directors of the state’s economic development organization, Enterprise Florida Inc. (EFI). He served from June 2021 until it was dissolved on May 31, 2023. Figgers’ disclosure form was due July 1, 2022. He didn’t file it until July 28, 2023 — the day after DeSantis appointed him to a two-year term as an Ethics Commissioner. The total fine: $1,500, the maximum penalty — almost.

Jeff Brandes’ Florida Policy Project points to housing vouchers to help address Florida’s affordable housing crisis” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — The Florida Policy Project (FPP) has published a study in collaboration with the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University elevating the use of vouchers to address the state’s affordable housing crisis. The nonpartisan research-focused organization — launched by former Sen. Brandes with former Senate President Bill Galvano heading the Board of Directors — aims to educate both the public and Florida lawmakers on its ideas based on data-driven research. Its latest report includes five best practices to address the issue of housing affordability and the use of vouchers to make housing more attainable, including a transparent voucher selection process and centralized, continuously monitored, and updated voucher waiting lists.

Jeff Brandes hopes to make a dent in the affordable housing crisis.

Citizens officials: Reforms working but rates aren’t coming down” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — The changes made by lawmakers to limit insurance lawsuits are working, driving down legal battles over claims and reducing payouts, Citizens Property Insurance Corp. officials said. But that doesn’t mean rates are going to drop. That’s because Citizens, a state-run company, has its annual rate increases capped by state law. As Board members noted, its current rates aren’t “actuarially sound” — any massive hurricane that wipes out its surplus could trigger assessments on its policies and potentially all policies in Florida. During a December 2022 Special Session, lawmakers passed SB 2A, which eliminated one-way attorney’s fees and assignment of benefits contracts, which insurers said incentivized frivolous claims and lawsuits, leading to large losses. The move came after seven companies went under over an 18-month span and rates skyrocketed for homeowners across the state.

Acting Labor Secretary talks Florida worker protections, cost of living” via Teghan Simonton of the Tampa Bay Times — Last week, the Department of Labor released its monthly jobs report, offering a glimpse into the health of the national economy. As of the end of March, the agency reported an increase of more than 303,000 jobs created and a steady unemployment rate of under 4%. Industries including health care, construction and hospitality added thousands of jobs nationwide. The average hourly earnings in the last year have also increased by about 4%. In this interview, Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su discusses some of the most pressing labor issues facing the state of Florida, including protections for workers, health care availability, and stubborn cost of living.

— 2024 — FLORIDA —

Sen. Rick Scott softens his abortion position after Florida Supreme Court ruling” via Stephany Matat of The Associated Press — Scott this week joined the ranks of Republican incumbents scrambling to strike a balance on reproductive rights, saying he opposes a November ballot initiative to strike down his state’s six-week abortion ban but thinks Congress should leave those decisions to the states. Scott, who is seeking re-election this Fall, was one of multiple Senators who followed Trump’s lead in softening GOP messaging on abortion. It comes in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision overturning the constitutional right to an abortion and leaving the matter for states to decide. Democrats, buoyed by a series of wins in state ballot initiatives and other contests since then, have made it clear that they hope to put the issue front and center this November.

Rick Scott mellowed his stance on abortion after the Florida Supreme Court OK’d a six-week ban.

Scott backs ‘fearless warrior’ Randy Fine for SD 19 seat” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — U.S. Sen. Scott is endorsing state Rep. Fine’s bid for the Senate District 19 seat. The support follows endorsements for Fine from other Republican leaders, including Trump, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, and Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson. “Randy Fine is a fearless warrior on the issues that matter most to Florida families,” said Scott. “Together, we cut taxes and reduced the government’s interference in our daily lives. Florida needs Randy Fine in the Florida Senate and I am proud to join President Trump in endorsing him.” Scott notably endorsed Trump for President over sitting DeSantis when both still sought the GOP nomination. Fine earned national attention after switching his presidential endorsement from DeSantis to Trump over the handling of antisemitism in Florida.

Democrats bet abortion will motivate swell of voters who feel bans go ‘too far’” via Richard Luscombe of the Guardian — Democrats in Florida are teaming up with operatives from Biden’s re-election campaign in an all-out assault on Republicans’ extremist positions on abortion, believing it will bring victory in presidential and U.S. Senate races in November. They fired an opening salvo on Tuesday, tearing into Trump’s “boasting” about overturning federal abortion protections a day earlier, and assailing Sen. Scott for supporting Florida’s six-week ban that takes effect next month. DeSantis, who signed the ban into law, also found himself under fire. “The word is accountability,” Fried, Chair of the Florida Democratic Party, told an online launch meeting attended by Jasmine Burney-Clark, state director of the Biden-Harris campaign, and Democratic state representative Anna Eskamani, a former regional senior director of Planned Parenthood.


Joe Biden’s strategy to reach tuned-out voters: Content over crowds” via Mike Memoli and Nnamdi Egwuonwu of NBC News — Biden’s recent battleground state campaign tour didn’t draw major crowds. But critically for the Biden campaign, it did produce a lot of content. Biden paired a rally in the Philadelphia suburbs with a more intimate, at-home sit-down with a small-business owner at his home, generating social media posts and days of local media stories. A visit to a Milwaukee campaign office offered him a chance to connect with a young boy who’d written to him about dealing with a stutter, an unscripted interaction that made its way to TikTok. Backstage before a health care event, Biden and Vice President Harris recorded a light video discussing their March Madness picks. Right now, rally turnout among the die-hards is less important to it than the disengaged voters who have soured on Biden’s presidency and could decide the election.

Joe Biden passes on big crowds in favor of smaller, more intimate settings. Image via AP.

‘Catastrophic,’ ‘a shock’: Arizona’s abortion ruling threatens to upend 2024 races” via Maegan Vazquez and Mariana Alfaro of The Washington Post — A near-total abortion ban slated to go into effect in the coming weeks in Arizona is expected to have a sizable impact on the politics of the battleground state, testing the limits of Republican support for abortion restrictions and putting the issue front and center in November’s election. In reviving the abortion ban, the state’s conservative supreme court on Tuesday invoked an 1864 law that forbids the procedure except to save a mother’s life and punishes providers with prison time. The decision supersedes Arizona’s previous rule, which permitted abortions up to 15 weeks of pregnancy. Arizonans are poised to consider the issue in November, now that the groups working to amend the state’s constitution to enshrine abortion rights say they have acquired enough signatures for a ballot measure.

Speaker Mike Johnson will meet with Trump at Mar-a-Lago as the Republican House leader fights for his job” via Lisa Mascaro, Jill Colvin, Stephen Groves of The Associated Press — Johnson will meet on Friday with Trump for a news conference on election integrity at the presumed Republican presidential nominee’s Mar-a-Lago club, a Trump campaign official said. The joint appearance comes as the embattled Johnson is fighting for his job as House speaker in the face of a threat of ouster from hard-line Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a top Trump ally. Johnson told GOP lawmakers at a private meeting early Tuesday he had spoken with Trump the night before, but he shared no details of their talk. Another person familiar with the planning said Johnson and Trump will have a “joint announcement” on Friday but provided no other details.


Federal lawsuit challenges Florida Senate map” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Tampa Bay residents have filed a federal lawsuit to overturn Florida’s state Senate map. Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union and firms specializing in civil rights filed a suit on behalf of five residents. A 31-page complaint, first reported by The Tributary, alleges that the Legislature illegally packed Black voters into a single Hillsborough-Pinellas County district at the expense of Black voters left at a disadvantage in neighboring seats. “The State could have drawn these districts to both avoid the diminishment of Black voting power and respect traditional redistricting criteria,” the lawsuit says. “Instead, the State engaged in racial gerrymandering that unconstitutionally abridges Plaintiffs’ rights to the equal protection of the laws.”

Don Gaetz crosses $1M raised for SD 1 campaign” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Former Senate President Gaetz has crossed $1.1 million raised for his campaign to return to the Legislature. Gaetz, a Republican, brought in $202,850 during the opening quarter of the year, bringing his overall tally to $1,112,632 since he entered the Senate District 1 race in October. “We are blessed to live in the most incredible state in America, especially those of us who call Northwest Florida home. But we also face tough challenges such as unaffordable property insurance and rising costs that require difficult conversations, straight talk, and strong leadership,” Gaetz said in a news release announcing his fundraising numbers.

Don Gaetz hits a major fundraising milestone.

Rich Tatem becomes first candidate to announce run to succeed Tommy Gregory” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Manatee County School Board member Tatem just launched a run for House District 72. He’s the first candidate to declare since Rep. Gregory announced he won’t seek re-election. Tatem, a Bradenton Republican, said he plans to govern in a similar fashion to Gregory, who was selected as State College of Florida’s next President. “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. “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.”

One of the people at this fundraiser is batsh*t crazy; the other one is Donald Trump, Jr.:

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Judge throws out Miami’s ‘unconstitutional’ voting map over racial gerrymandering” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — A federal Judge has thrown out the city of Miami’s voting map after ruling that Commissioners in 2022 approved unconstitutional, racially gerrymandered district boundaries that sorted city residents by race and ethnicity. U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore issued a sharp ruling that invalidated the boundaries of each of the city’s five districts — rejecting a mindset that has defined how the city chose elected representatives for more than two decades. The Judge barred the city from holding any elections under the unconstitutional districts. The Judge said he would set a court date to bring both sides together to discuss the next steps, which could include holding Special Elections and drawing a new map.

James Reyes debuts bilingual TV, digital ads for Miami-Dade Sheriff campaign” via James Reyes of Florida Politics — Miami-Dade Public Safety Chief Reyes’ campaign for Sheriff just launched its first pair of bilingual TV and digital ads. The 30-second spots are running on Telemundo and local ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates in English and Spanish and highlight Reyes’ nearly 25 years of law enforcement experience. They say he is the “only candidate with executive leadership in a Sheriff’s Office” and that he’ll create a public corruption unit in his first month on the job to better hold local officials accountable. “When it comes to keeping our neighborhoods safe, Chief James Reyes has what it takes to serve as the first elected sheriff of Miami-Dade in 60 years,” the ads say.

To watch the ad, please click on the image below:

Recall effort for Coral Gables Mayor raises $50K. Where did the money come from?” via Tess Riski of the Miami Herald — A campaign finance report shows that the political committee petitioning to recall the Mayor of Coral Gables raised $50,000 in the first quarter of 2024 but does little to answer questions about the recall effort’s financial backers. End the Corruption, the political committee that launched March 13 to recall Coral Gables Mayor Vince Lago, disclosed just three sources of funding in a report that the campaign plans to file Wednesday evening: $17,500 from a political committee controlled by a Tallahassee attorney, $17,500 from a Tallahassee-based group called Florida Consumer Alliance and $15,000 from a Tallahassee-based political committee with the same address called Florida Workers Alliance. Attorney David Winker, who is the registered agent for End the Corruption, said the committee has intentionally obscured the identity of individual donors.

Broward School Board is asked to rescind teacher pay raises” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A Broward School Board member has proposed rescinding teacher raises that were just approved in February. The request, called “No Employee Left Behind,” is scheduled to be discussed at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday. It was drafted by Torey Alston, an appointee of Gov. DeSantis who has been highly critical of how the School Board manages money. The School Board has been facing a budget crisis due to the dwindling enrollment and the expiration of federal COVID-19 relief dollars. The School Board agreed 6-3 on Feb. 27 to use nearly $20 million in COVID dollars to pay for the raises averaging 3.96%.

16 attempted immigrants intercepted aboard chug near Key West, repatriated to Cuba” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), United States Coast Guard and Monroe Sheriff’s Office intercepted 16 Cubans attempting to make U.S. landfall aboard a chug 3 miles south of Fort Zachary Taylor Park in Key West. FWC officers Paris Winter and Rianna Sargent and Monroe deputies responded to reports from partners working with Operation Vigilant Sentry, a Department of Homeland Security program first approved in 2004. After intercepting the chug — a type of boat refugees frequently used that is named for the “chug-chug” sound of its engine — authorities transported its occupants to a Coast Guard vessel, which repatriated them to Cuba.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Orange County abandons proposed transportation sales tax” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — With consensus proving elusive, Orange County Commissioners decided to abandon a November sales tax referendum to improve a failing transportation network. Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, who was leading the sales-tax campaign, made the motion to halt it and the Board unanimously agreed. “From the beginning, I wanted to at least have the conversation because so many people in the community wanted us to have the conversation, they wanted to give input,” he said. “We certainly have made a noble attempt to do that.” Demings said he was concerned the issue didn’t have “the buy-in we need … to not have failure at the ballot box.” The tax proposal had struggled to gain traction since Demings first floated it in early February.

Jerry Demings shelves the idea of a transportation tax — for now.

Brevard Commissioners say yes on advancing plan to charge cities for ocean lifeguards” via Tyler Vazquez and Dave Berman of Florida Today — Lifeguard services at six popular Brevard County beaches could be discontinued unless a funding agreement is reached between the county and these three municipalities after the County Commission voted to move forward with charging cities for lifeguard services. Commissioners butted heads with some city leaders over the plan, which would put a greater tax burden on the cities to fund half the cost of lifeguard service in Melbourne Beach, Cocoa Beach and Indialantic. The plan would require the cities to contribute 50% of the lifeguard costs, which the cities have thus far declined. With the 3-2 vote, the county approved moving forward with a cost-sharing plan.

Brevard’s School Board votes to ban Ellen Hopkins books, keep Bible-based stories” via Finch Walker of Florida Today — The latest chapter in Brevard Public Schools’ debate over which books are and aren’t appropriate for students ended with the School Board opting to ban two books and keep two others available. Board members voted based on a recommendation given by the District’s Book Review Committee. The Committee, made up of five community members selected by each Board member, recommended during an April 5 meeting that “Tilt” and “Tricks” by Ellen Hopkins be removed, with only member Paul Roub suggesting that both books be kept available. As for “The Action Bible” by David Cook and “Bible Stories for Little Angels” by Sarah Dodd, all members recommended keeping both titles.

Volusia County Schools one step closer to conducting random searches on campus” via Mary Ellen Ritter of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — The Volusia County School Board inched closer to permitting random screenings without cause on school sites by approving a motion to advertise changes made to the Student Code of Conduct and Discipline at its meeting. According to the elementary and secondary Student Codes of Conduct and Discipline, the addition reads as follows: “Searches — All individuals entering or present on Volusia County School sites or events are on notice that randomized screenings may be conducted without cause by the site administrator utilizing minimally intrusive electronic devices.” This is the amendment’s third public revision. Approving the advertisement does not mean the amendment is final.

Lake Wales Charter Superintendent under investigation after employment grievances made” via Paul Nutcher of the Lakeland Ledger — The Lake Wales Charter School District’s Board of Trustees has hired a Tampa law firm to investigate grievances made by three staff members within the administrative office against its Superintendent. The district’s human resources director, LaQuanda Burroughs, told the Board at a March 22 special workshop meeting that she had received three confidential complaints against the public charter School District’s Superintendent Wayne Rodolfich. At the District’s next special meeting on March 28, the Board then voted to hire Babas Cremer in Tampa, a firm that specializes in employment, for its recommendation on how to handle the situation. Cremer was selected from three proposals, which all included interviews with about 20 people as part of an investigative review of the grievances.

Seminole posts 1,4-dioxane water test results on county website” via Martin E. Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — Finally fulfilling a promise made in July, Seminole County this week posted on its website the results of monthly water quality tests for the carcinogen 1,4-dioxane, which is known to have contaminated some of the county’s drinking water wells. County officials previously provided the data to the Orlando Sentinel, which published it Sunday. But it wasn’t until early Tuesday that the county posted the same data on its website through the Utilities Engineering page. However, on that page, there is no direct link to the data. The information can be found by visiting the county website at, typing “dioxane” in the search field on the page and hitting enter. Click on “1,4-Dioxane | Seminole County” and then scroll down below the heading “Seminole County’s Water Utility” and click on the link “Recent 1,4-Dioxane Testing Results.” The data is from May 2023 through December 2023.

Visit Orlando spends $600,000 on Taylor Swift ad” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Let’s talk about the $600,000 that Orange County’s taxpayer-funded tourism bureau, Visit Orlando, is spending to air a 30-second commercial during Swift’s new on-demand version of her “Eras Tour.” I’ve long argued that theme parks should pay for their own darn advertising — the way virtually every other business does — rather than rely on taxpayers. But Orange County steers about $100 million a year to Visit Orlando. And fans of this corporate welfare always argue that they’re not just promoting theme parks, but also museums, cultural attractions and mom-and-pop ventures. Well, I encourage you to watch this 30-second ad that cost more than half a million dollars. It opens by featuring a family at Disney.

To watch the ad, please click the image below:

Disney princesses retain their power: A look at the company’s mega-franchise” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Grown women in full Belle gold ballgowns and little girls in the inevitable Elsa dresses packed the audience for a one-night-only show in downtown Orlando. The crowd was here for Disney Princess: The Concert at the Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts. For the next 90 minutes, a trio of Disney Broadway performers in sparkly gowns belted out the most famous songs from films, ending with a rousing finale of “Let It Go.” Behold the power of the Disney princesses, which have evolved into a multibillion-dollar business. “It’s honestly hard not to stress what a cash cow this franchise has become,” entertainment journalist Jim Hill said. With Frozen 3 and 4 in the works, it seems probable that the entertainment company will keep tapping into the fan-favorite princess themes as the company builds new rides and attractions in the next decade at its parks, Hill said.


Liz Dahan raises $116K in under two weeks” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Dahan, a Democrat running in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, has raised $116,000 in the 12 days following her entrance into the race. The campaign released early campaign numbers to spotlight momentum as she enters a crowded Democratic Primary where the top fundraiser, Whitney Fox, had already raised more than $200,000. “We are energized by the early momentum in this race,” Dahan said. “We are just at the beginning of the organization we are building to win. I look forward to defeating Anna Paulina Luna.” Luna is the incumbent Republican Dahan and the pack of other Democratic challengers hope to unseat.

Liz Dahan hits the ground running. Image via Liz Dahan campaign.

BayCare CEO: ‘Live Healthy Act’ will make health care better” via Alexis Muellner of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Stephanie Conners is the president and CEO of BayCare Health System. As part of the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s quarterly Power Breakfast series, she was interviewed in front of a sold-out crowd of 250 at the Westshore Grand in Tampa. “When you think about our region — and again, the growth — there need to be more physicians to go well into the future. I know many of you have probably had access issues when you attempt to get health care because the population is growing faster than health care is growing. So, our obligation, again, as the largest provider, is to train the physicians of the future.” “The Live Healthy Act is an incredible bill that helped health systems advance for the future and enabled us to fund different areas that we needed to support to grow our technologies.”

Best flood score in Florida to save Pinellas residents on insurance costs” via Jack Evans of the Tampa Bay Times — Roughly 20,000 policyholders in unincorporated Pinellas County will save more money on flood insurance than residents anywhere else in the state this year, local and federal officials announced Tuesday, as the county earned a designation that ranks its work to protect residents from flooding among the best in the nation. The savings, projected to total about $10 million in premiums collectively, are a result of the county improving its score in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Community Rating System.

Chair’s remark causes angst in beleaguered Citrus County neighborhood” via Mike Wright of Florida Politics — It’s been a year since Commissioners stopped building activity in Inverness Villages 4 to force the majority landowner to sell empty lots for needed drainage ponds. The issue remains at a stalemate. Citrus County Commission Chair Holly Davis has repeatedly said she believes Van Usen and the IV 4 building contractor, Van Der Valk Construction, committed fraud. Commissioners in February asked Attorney General Ashley Moody to investigate. IV 4 was platted in the 1970s before Citrus County’s subdivision requirements. The dirt streets, which turn to muck after rainstorms that leave craters behind, are public roads but not publicly maintained. Residents say they hold the county responsible for approving building permits in a neighborhood with no paved roads or drainage. Karleen Sempert, a former deputy public works director in Flint, Michigan, said she specifically asked the county about flooding issues on the IV 4 street where she and her husband purchased their home. She was assured no issues existed.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Mayor Donna Deegan plans $10 million in loans for affordable housing developments, more expected” via Hannah Holthaus of The Florida Times-Union — Deegan will include $10 million in her next budget specifically to provide loans to affordable housing developers. The funds will ultimately represent a quarter of a larger private-public partnership that she hopes will raise at least $40 million in the upcoming year for the program and ultimately generate $120 million in new multifamily rental housing. The plan has been in the works in the private sector for years, leaders of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund and The Community Foundation of Northeast Florida said. The city’s involvement now, Deegan said, was a matter of prioritization. “We have seen this issue [affordable housing] accelerate to the top of the list of concerns for our community,” Deegan said. “We hear about it every day. We know what a big deterrent it is to the success of many members of our community, and so we just moved it to the top of the priority list.”

Donna Deegan takes a stab at affordable housing.

David Wamsley — businessman, Evening Rose developer — files for City Commission Seat 1” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — David Wamsley, the CEO of a communications firm and a former developer known for the Evening Rose project, filed Wednesday to run for Tallahassee City Commission Seat 1. Wamsley is the fourth candidate to challenge City Commissioner Jack Porter, who is running for a second term. In a news release, he said he wants to “propel Tallahassee toward a future where every individual has the opportunity to thrive.” “At the heart of our city’s challenges lie three interconnected issues: income inequality, the need for universal access to housing, and the critical demand for more and better jobs,” he said. “It’s time for a Commissioner who not only recognizes these problems but actively works to solve them through innovative and inclusive policies.”

Students to brainstorm recycling improvement ideas as part of UF IGNITE program” via Lillian Lawson of The Gainesville Sun — A student-led organization at the University of Florida’s Engineering Innovation Institute will host an event Saturday to address issues and improvements with the recycling of glass and plastic in Gainesville. UF IGNITE (Innovation Gator Network for Inspiring Technological Entrepreneurship), started in September 2023, is an innovation leadership group inspired and led by students. Based out of the Engineering Innovation Institute (EII), the group aims to provide a culture of innovation, networking and entrepreneurship within the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering and across the university itself. Over the weekend, IGNITE’s Creativity for Engineers Program will host its first Design Thinking Social Project which will allow UF students — through the power of design thinking — to improve the recycling of waste in the community.

Toppled trees, crushed homes and answered prayers: Families recount surviving the storm” via the Pensacola News Journal — Severe thunderstorms will move through the Pensacola region Wednesday, bringing a risk of flash flooding, strong winds, and the potential for strong tornadoes. The National Weather Service said destructive straight-line winds with gust up to 80 mph are possible, and two to 4 inches of rain are expected, with the possibility of up to 6 inches in some areas. There is also the possibility of quarter-sized hail.


three years after Piney Point breach: closure gains steam, lawsuits tied up in court” via Jesse Mendoza of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Three years ago, a breach at the former Piney Point fertilizer plant released about 215 million gallons of polluted wastewater into Tampa Bay. The incident made international headlines, forced nearby residents to evacuate, and helped feed a red tide bloom that had a major impact on the environment and local economy. The closure of the troubled site is now underway. Water levels have been drawn down significantly as crews work round-the-clock to inject hundreds of millions of gallons of wastewater deep underground. “Turning your back on it doesn’t do a thing,” attorney Herb Donica said. He was appointed in court in August 2021 to lead closure operations for the troubled property.

After three years, Piney Point continues to cause agita. Image via AP.

Collier Commissioners tweak county rules for affordable housing built under Live Local Act” via Laura Layden of the Naples Daily News — Developers wanting to build affordable housing in Collier County under the state’s Live Local Act will face a few new rules. Especially developers in planned unit developments, or PUDs. They won’t automatically be eligible for greater density and height, unlike those with property zoned strictly for commercial, industrial or mixed-use development. Collier Commissioners unanimously approved the change to the county’s administrative approval process, along with making a few other adjustments to how county staff will interpret and implement the state legislation going forward. Taking PUDs out of the Live Local equation will make a big difference in what can be built by right under the act.

North Port scores second Circuit Court win in fight against resident push to shrink city” via Earle Kimel of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — 12th Judicial Circuit Judge Danielle Brewer denied a petition that would have compelled the city of North Port to again consider contraction of the city limits, as sought by the West Villagers for Responsible Government. The 2nd District Court of Appeal is weighing a related petition. Ultimately, the West Villagers for Responsible Government want the city of North Port to contract its western city limits to the Myakka River, which would de-annex all lands west of the river, placing Wellen Park in unincorporated Sarasota County. The effort started in 2020, as residents grew frustrated with how the City Commission managed North Port’s budget.

Pam Beitlich raises more than $18K for Sarasota Hospital Board seat” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Beitlich, a candidate for Sarasota County Public Hospital Board, announced she has raised more than $18,000 for her campaign. The Republican touted the total from her first quarterly fundraising report. The substantial haul is more than 90 times the $200 raised by her Primary opponent, Mary Flynn O’Neill, for the at-large post. Both candidates are running for Seat 3 on the Board. “The complex issues facing health care in the future cannot be overstated, and I am confident I have the knowledge base to bring expertise to the table,” Beitlich said. “I can’t thank the people of this community enough for rallying behind my campaign to ensure every Sarasota County resident continues to receive the very best health care that they have come to expect from SMH.”


I served on the Florida Supreme Court. What the new majority just did is indefensible.” via Barbara Pariente for Slate — On April 1, the Florida Supreme Court, in a 6—1 ruling, overturned decades of decisions beginning in 1989 that recognized a woman’s right to choose — that is, whether to have an abortion — up to the time of viability.

Anchored in Florida’s own constitutional right to privacy, this critical individual right to abortion had been repeatedly affirmed by the state Supreme Court, which consistently struck down conflicting laws passed by the Legislature.

I served on the Supreme Court of Florida beginning in 1998 and retired a little more than two decades later. Whether Florida’s Constitution provided a right to privacy that encompassed abortion was never questioned, even by those who would have been deemed the most conservative justices — almost all white men back in 1989!

And strikingly, one of the conservative justices at that time stated: “If the United States Supreme Court were to subsequently recede from Roe v. Wade, this would not diminish the abortion rights now provided by the privacy amendment of the Florida Constitution.” Wow!

So what can explain this 180-degree turn by the current Florida Supreme Court? If I said “politics,” that answer would be insufficient, overly simplistic. Unfortunately, with this court, precedent is precedent until it is not.

What should be top of mind days after the dueling decisions? Grave concern for the women of our state who will be in limbo because, following the court’s ruling, a six-week abortion ban — at a time before many women even know they are pregnant — will be allowed to go into effect. We know that these restrictions will disproportionately affect low-income women and those who live in rural communities.


Americans deserve better than a weak and confused foreign policy” via Mario Diaz-Balart for the Miami Herald — As Chair of the subcommittee that provides funds for our national security and foreign policy, I am proud of the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs portion of the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2024, for re-establishing American leadership where it has been severely lacking for the last four years. This important legislation advances freedom, manifests strong solidarity with our allies, and stands firm against the malign forces that undermine U.S. national security, all while cutting overall spending by 6% from last year’s level. The State-Foreign Operations Appropriations portion addresses our most pressing foreign policy and national security priorities while cutting wasteful and counterproductive “green” programs that impose burdensome requirements in places where they simply do not make sense.

—“6 times people got it wrong on the Rays stadium deal in letters to the editor” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics

Can Miami Beach Pride Parade legally exclude Republican Rep. Fabián Basabe? It’s complicated” via Howard Simon of the Miami Herald — Decades ago, the U.S. Supreme Court decided an important case involving competition for the mantle of protection of First Amendment rights. The case has direct relevance for this week’s Miami Beach Pride festival and parade. A city resolution refers to a “partnership” between Miami Beach Gay Pride, Inc. and the city of Miami Beach, and the city manager appears to have the final authority to reject anyone’s participation in the event. Absent the creation of a public forum, which does not appear to be the case here, organizers may limit participation consistent with the theme of the event. Many would prefer that the state representative who is being excluded from the parade — state Rep. Basabe, a Miami Beach Republican — be allowed to participate so that, as a member of a legislature that is notoriously hostile to civil liberties and LGBTQ+ rights and with his voting record that is regarded as hostile to LGBTQ+ equality, he could be roundly booed by his critics.


— ALOE —

‘Joker 2’ trailer unites Joaquin Phoenix and Lady Gaga in song” via Aaron Couch of The Hollywood Reporter — The first trailer for Joker: Folie à Deux brings together unites Oscar winners Phoenix and Lady Gaga for one of the more intriguing entries of the 2024 theatrical calendar. Warner Bros. unveiled the look at CinemaCon, where Joker two is among the top titles theater owners were curious for a glimpse at — and for good reason. It’s a sequel to a $1 billion hit that earned Phoenix an Oscar but is also taking a left turn by entering the musical genre. “We never talked about it like that,” said director Todd Phillips when asked if it was a musical. “I like to say it’s a movie where music is an essential element. To me, that doesn’t veer too far from the first film.” In the first film, “Arthur has music in him. He has a grace to him.”

To watch the trailer, please click the image below:

Taylor Swift in a class of her own at the University of Miami — literally” via Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald — A University of Miami dean’s own homework assignment last year — learn all you can about Swift’s songs as fast as you can — has led to one of the coming Fall semester’s hottest classes on the Coral Gables campus. Students were more than ready for it. The UM’s “Mastermind Taylor Swift Brand” strategic communication class filled up at a pace almost as fast as tickets sold out last August for the superstar’s three South Florida concerts in October 2024. Those shows open the second U.S. leg of Swift’s Eras Tour at Miami Gardens’ Hard Rock Stadium. When registration opened earlier this month at UM for the 150-capacity class that’s open to all majors and begins Aug. 20, all seats filled within four days. The school raised the cap to 175. There is now a waiting list for STC 290. UM may add more seats for the Tuesday-Thursday 75-minute class.


Happy birthday to Rep. Paula Stark and our friend Chris Carmody of GrayRobinson. Also celebrating today are Betsy Collins, Dr. Lance DeHaven-Smith, Tom McNicholas, and Chris Steinocher.


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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