Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 4.16.24

Sunburn Orange Tally (7)
Coffee is for closers. So is Sunburn, your morning rundown of Florida politics.

Good Tuesday morning.

It’s hard to believe that it has been an entire decade since my first “30 under 30 Rising Stars of Florida Politics” list in my first blog, the oh-so-cleverly named that many readers of this magazine and Florida Politics, and perhaps even many of this year’s honorees, don’t remember or know a thing about.

Indeed, reviewing past lists is sort of like reading a college football team’s roster, with the names on the list all having found themselves on various NFL teams.


Take Samantha Sexton, for example, now Samantha Greer. A decade ago, she made the list and has since gone on to be a strategist for Corcoran Partners, one of the biggest lobbying firms in Florida politics.

Jared Rosenstein landed on the 2015 list, a young campaign staffer who found mentorship in superlobbyist Ron Book. He went on to be a partner in one of the state’s top lobby shops, Capital City Consulting.

Berny Jacques was on that same list. Now he’s a state Representative. Taylor Hatch, now the Director of the Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities, yep, she was there too.

Ten years later, we’re looking at a new class and imagining the possibilities for them in another 10. Some of the state’s newest rising stars are actually working for past honorees, meaning the nominees have become the nominators.

What’s perhaps most wonderful about this list now that it is well-established by the tests of time, is that we see so many dedicated young professionals in The Process who are nominated by multiple people across various sectors. That’s when you know someone really has the chops to be worthy of this recognition.

It serves not just as a head-pat and attaboy, but also a push toward further success. See, the names who land on these pages get a glance from, as the name suggests, some of the top influencers in Florida politics.

But, of course, no good deed goes unpunished. Jealousy creeps in, and it leaves some of our more seasoned pros in The Process wondering why the young bucks get all the attention. Someone once suggested I create a “63 under 63” so they could soak up some of that sweet recognition.

I’m not sure that’s a workable idea, but rest assured that in the next two editions of INFLUENCE, we will spotlight accomplishments among others in The Process. Our Summer edition will honor the state’s Great Communicators. Our year-end edition will feature our fifth installation of the 150 Most Influential People in Florida Politics.



Tweet, tweet:

@KlasfeldReports: A potential juror: “I feel that nobody’s above the law, whether it’s a former President, a sitting President or a janitor.”

@McKayCoppins: Would be incredibly interested to meet the people who don’t have strong feelings one way or the other about Donald Trump in the year 2024.

@JoeFlech: Some personal news: Today is my first day as an associate editor at the Miami Herald. I’ll be splitting time between editing/coaching reporters and writing enterprise stories and projects. It’s a new hybrid role in our newsroom, and I’m excited for the opportunity.

@ShooterMcGavin: Happy Tax Day everyone. Reminder on this day 28 years ago deadbeat Grandma Gilmore refused to pay her taxes and had her home seized by the IRS. Starting the domino effect that eventually lead to Gilmore joining the tour and me losing another gold jacket. Thanks a lot Grandma.


Florida Housing Summit ‘Blueprint for Better Outcomes’ begins — 15; Kentucky Derby — 18; 2024 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 24; ‘The Blue Angels,’ a feature documentary from J.J. Abrams opens in IMAX theaters — 31; ‘Bridgerton’ new season (part one) premieres on Netflix — 32; French Open begins — 34; Special Election to replace Orlando City Commissioner Regina Hill — 35; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 36; Dave Matthews Band 2024 Summer Tour begins in Tampa — 36; Monaco Grand Prix — 40; the 2024 World Cup begins — 56; season two of ‘House of the Dragon’ returns to Max — 61; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 74; Republican National Convention begins — 90; the 2024 World Cup ends — 93; 2024 MLS All-Star Game — 98; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games on NBC/Peacock — 100; ‘Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 119; Florida Primary Election — 126; Democratic National Convention begins — 126; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 130; 2024 NFL season kicks off — 143; Packers will face Eagles in Brazil — 143; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 185; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 188; 2024 Presidential Election — 203; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 216; MLS Cup 2024 — 231; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 301; the 2025 Oscars — 320; Florida’s 2025 Legislative Session begins — 322; 2025 Session ends — 382; ‘Moana’ premieres — 432; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 463; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 465; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 570; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 612; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 749; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 765; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 976; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,116; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,075; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,797.


Surge in Haitian migrants hasn’t hit Florida shores, so far. What happened?” via the Tribune News Service — Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered the mobilization of Florida personnel and equipment to supplement the federal response from the Coast Guard and other agencies.

“Given the situation in Haiti,” the Governor declared in his mid-March announcement, he ordered more than 250 law enforcement officers, National Guardsmen and soldiers from several state agencies to South Florida and the Keys. Such actions are necessary, his office said, “when a state faces the possibility of invasion.”

Swarms of Haitian refugees have yet to materialize.

A month later, it turns out there hasn’t been an invasion — or a noticeable change in Haitians arriving in Florida by boat. There isn’t agreement about why it didn’t come to pass.

“There’s no mass exodus,” said Ronald Surin, a former vice president of the Haitian Lawyers Association, an assessment shared in interviews with other Haitian American community leaders and elected officials in South Florida.

“We have not seen any Haitians coming over here,” said state Rep. Marie Woodson, a Hollywood Democrat.

MarieGuerda Nicolas, a psychologist and professor in the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Miami, is co-founder and president of the Ayiti Community Trust, a community foundation in Haiti.

“People in Haiti right now are not necessarily saying, ‘How do I get a boat to come to Miami?’ That’s not what people in Haiti are thinking about at all,” Nicolas said.

“Nothing has really changed. There has not been any peace,” said Surin, a Fort Lauderdale immigration lawyer and president of the Haitian American Democratic Club of Broward County. “People are still being kidnapped and women raped, housing destroyed, police stations and medical facilities, banks and all of those are still under control of gang violence.”

“The gangs remain very powerful,” he said.

Meanwhile … Federal agents stop migrant smuggling boat off Florida Keys” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — Federal agents stopped a boat smuggling migrants off the Florida Keys Monday morning, but officials are keeping details of the operation quiet. The boat was intercepted off Key Largo, federal officials have confirmed, but that’s all they are saying. U.S. Customs and Border Protection referred questions about the stop to the Coast Guard. A Coast Guard spokesperson told the Herald that the agency is not commenting on the incident because “there is a law enforcement piece to it.” Nestor Yglesias, spokesperson for U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, told the Herald in a text message that the agency “responded [as] part of an ongoing investigation” and that he “can’t comment further.”


Born to die: Florida’s infant mortality crisis” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Across Florida, many parents spend their days and nights watching monitors, adjusting tubes and struggling to keep their premature babies alive. Preemie children, many with undeveloped organs, face incredible odds to survive and thrive and often require years of monitoring and medical interventions that drain family and government finances. Premature births in Florida — those earlier than 37 weeks gestation — rose 4% over the last decade, even as the state’s overall birthrate declined nearly 10% in the same time period. Florida doctors see a health crisis unfolding: Infant mortality rates in the state persist at levels higher than the national average, but equally concerning is the rising number of premature births. More advanced technology allows doctors to perform lifesaving measures on newborns the size of a shoe; premature babies tend to die within 28 days, leaving families grieving; fragile children are sent home from hospitals with breathing machines, feeding tubes and other medical devices to keep them alive.

Premature births in Florida are on the rise, as is infant mortality.

Ron DeSantis highlights bill to speed conversions to charter schools” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — DeSantis wants to quicken the timeline for school districts to convert a failing traditional public school into a charter school. Time is of the essence when improving schools, he said. “If you drag your feet for three or four years, that’s three or four years of students who aren’t getting the education they should be getting,” DeSantis said. He was highlighting a provision within HB 1285. The section requires school districts who opt to convert a failing traditional public school to a charter school to have a contract with a charter school company by Oct. 1 of the final year of control of the school. That would give the company enough time to prepare a turnaround plan. But DeSantis hasn’t signed the bill yet because the Legislature hasn’t formally sent it to his desk. He plans to sign it once he receives it.

DeSantis is getting behind a bill that restricts book challenges in Florida” via Adrian Andrews of WUSF — DeSantis says bad actors have turned book banning into a political stunt in Florida’s K-12 schools. Parents in Florida could soon have a tougher time challenging reading material in K-12 schools. DeSantis appeared in Pensacola on Monday to say that he’ll sign a bill (HB 1285) that limits the number of book challenges people without kids in a school district can file. “Florida is No. 1 in the nation for education, but there’s always more to be done,” DeSantis said in a news conference at Warrington Preparatory Academy. DeSantis said “bad actors” have turned book banning into a political stunt. Unlimited objections remain for parents with children in the school district, which includes homeschooled students accessing district materials.

School run by Carolina Amesty’s family loses pitch to make home tax-exempt” via Leslie Postal and Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — The small university run by Amesty’s family lost its bid to make the $1.6 million home where she lived during her first campaign exempt from property taxes. The school had sought an educational exemption on the five-bedroom pool home near Windermere where Amesty, an Orlando-area Republican, lived with her parents until last year. Central Christian University filed for the exemption in 2023 while it was delinquent on its prior year’s taxes. At the time, Amesty was the university’s vice president. A special magistrate ruled in November that Central Christian had not shown the home in an upscale golf course development was anything but a private family residence for Amesty’s parents and recommended Orange County deny the sought-after tax exemption.

Can Florida’s new digital data law tame the ‘Wild West’ of online privacy?” via Tom Hudson of WUWF — Floridians may have new privacy options this Summer if you use Amazon, Facebook or Google, thanks to a new digital privacy law that goes into effect July 1. Big Tech companies have had a year to prepare for the new law, which expands what’s considered personal data to include your voice, fingerprints and face. Supporters say it allows users more control over their data and how large internet companies that make money from advertising use it. “It’s going to give Floridians the ability to ask them to delete it and get rid of it, if they don’t want them to have it anymore,” state Rep. Fiona McFarland, who sponsored the bill, SB 262, in the Florida House, said last year following its passage. The bill grew out of the culture war over social media after the 2020 Presidential Election. “What we’re going to do with the search engines is require Google and other large search engines operating in Florida to disclose whether they prioritize search results based on political or ideological views or based on monetary considerations,” said DeSantis in June 2022 when he signed the bill into law.

Can a bill from Fiona McFarland, tame the Wild West of online privacy?

Florida law officers’ phone calls can be recorded secretly, appeal court rules” via Vivienne Serret of the Orlando Sentinel — A Florida appeals court has effectively opened a loophole in the state’s long-standing law against recording telephone conversations without the permission of both sides of the call, ruling that law enforcement officers performing their official duties can be secretly recorded because they have no expectation of privacy. The court’s decision involved a citizen who accused the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office of misconduct. In its ruling last week, the 5th District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach threw out five felony wiretapping convictions against Michael Leroy Waite, 63, of Floral City. Waite has been engaged in a lengthy dispute over access to his property with the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office. The situation escalated after wildlife officers, accompanied by deputies holding rifles, sprayed herbicides in a canal off the Withlacoochee River along Waite’s property in west-central Florida.

Florida loses legal bid to resume wetlands permitting” via Annie Snider of POLITICO — Florida’s wetlands permitting program will remain on ice after a federal judge ruled against the state Department of Environmental Protection’s bid to retain authority over some permit applications. District Judge Randolph Moss halted the program in February, ruling that EPA had erred in handing Clean Water Act permitting authority over to the state without sufficiently analyzing the impact it would have on endangered species. But he had left open in that ruling the possibility that the state could temporarily retain control over permit applications that didn’t involve species listed under the 1973 law.

— 2024 — FLORIDA —

Rick Scott supports 15-week Florida abortion ban over six-week limit” via Alexander Bolton of The Hill — Sen. Scott says he would support replacing Florida’s six-week state abortion ban with a 15-week statewide ban that he believes would reflect broader consensus within the Sunshine State over how to protect unborn life. Scott says any 15-week statewide abortion ban should include the standard exceptions for cases of rape, incest and to protect the life of the mother. Scott, who is running for re-election for a second Senate term, says he remains staunchly “pro-life” and signed “every pro-life bill that came in front of me” while he served as Florida Governor from 2011 to 2019. But he says that “in Florida, there’s way more consensus around 15 weeks with exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother.”

Rick Scott is OK with a 15-week abortion ban.


‘Sleepy Don?’: Donald Trump nods off during trial of the century” via Brett Bachman and Jose Pagliery of The Daily Beast — Just moments before his historic trial was set to begin Monday morning, Trump posted that while working to clear his name, he would be “FIGHTING for the FREEDOM of 325 MILLION AMERICANS!” But just hours later, it appeared the only thing Trump was fighting was his own urge to fall asleep. The New York Times first reported that the former President, 77, seemed equal parts “irritated and exhausted” by Monday’s proceedings, with veteran Trumpworld reporter Maggie Haberman writing that just before Judge Juan Merchan called a lunch break “Trump appeared to nod off a few times, his mouth going slack and his head drooping onto his chest.”

Once in court, Donald Trump is more a sleeper than a fighter


Hispanic faith leaders rally for Scott re-election” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — “I’m honored to be endorsed by these Florida faith leaders. As Joe Biden and the Democrats try to destroy our country and our American values, we are working together to make sure every child has the chance to grow up and pursue the dream of this country,” Scott commented. “In Washington, I’m focused on protecting Americans’ religious liberties and combating the disgusting rise in antisemitism we’re seeing across the country. I will always fight for the religious liberty of all Americans and will continue to do all I can in Washington to ensure that Florida families live in a safe and free nation.”

Hispanic faith leaders stand tall for Rick Scott.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell raises over $3.5 million in first quarter in Senate race” via Julia Manchester of The Hill — Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and former U.S. Rep. Mucarsel-Powell said her campaign raised over $3.5 million in the first quarter of 2024 and garnered over 5,000 new donors since the state’s Supreme Court’s recent rulings on abortion. Close to 90,000 donations were made to Mucarsel-Powell’s bid during the quarter, with an average donation coming to $39, according to her campaign. Mucarsel-Powell is challenging former Florida Governor and Republican U.S. Sen. Scott for his seat. The Hill was the first outlet to report on news of the fundraising haul. The news comes after Florida’s Supreme Court issued two major rulings on abortion, putting the state in the national spotlight ahead of November’s General Election.

Gus Bilirakis endorses Sam Greco for HD 19” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Republican Greco picked up an endorsement from U.S. Rep. Bilirakis as he seeks to succeed House Speaker Paul Renner in House District 19. “With a true heart for public service, Sam served our country in the U.S. Navy with pride and distinction. I am confident that the leadership skills he gained through that experience, combined with his strong moral character, tireless work ethic, and passion for solving the challenges facing Florida’s families, will serve as an asset to the constituents of Flagler and St. Johns counties,” Bilirakis said. “Sam is a true conservative who knows what it takes to get things done and will fight for an America-First agenda that will benefit his constituents. I urge the voters of HD 19 to join me in supporting Sam Greco’s candidacy.”

— LOCAL: S. FL —

—“James Reyes stacks $378K to lead Q1 fundraising for Miami-Dade Sheriff’s race” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics

Teacher raises, charter school dispute: Broward School Board to discuss packed agenda” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Broward teachers would lose $36.6 million in already approved raises, while charter schools could get a payout of tens of millions of dollars, under proposals the Broward School Board plans to discuss Tuesday. In a third controversial proposal, the School Board would decide whether to fire General Counsel Marylin Batista. Several School Board members told the South Florida Sun Sentinel the charter school settlement is the only one of the three they expect to be approved. The meeting, which is scheduled to start at 8:45 a.m. at the K.C. Wright administrative building in Fort Lauderdale, follows a weekslong dispute between the charter school-friendly Republican members and teachers union-friendly Democratic members on the School Board.

Bobby Powell resigns from Senate for Palm Beach Commission bid, calls for Special Election to replace him” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — West Palm Beach Democratic Sen. Powell is resigning from the Senate to run for the Palm Beach County Commission, and he’s signaling for DeSantis to call a Special Election to replace him. Powell sent DeSantis a resignation letter in order to open a campaign account for his run at the District 7 seat of the County Commission. The resignation, effective Nov. 4, is irrevocable. “Serving as a Senator has been a tremendous honor and a significant part of my life for nearly eight years,” Powell said in a statement. “It is my intent to prevent any gaps in coverage or representation in this district while pursuing the County Commission, and filing my resignation now allows the Governor time to set a Special Election to coincide with the upcoming Primary and General Elections.”

Bobby Powell gives up his seat for a chance to launch a Palm Beach Commission campaign.

Police union, School Board member endorse Joel Flores for Palm Beach County Commission” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Democratic Greenacres Mayor Flores’ bid to flip the Palm Beach County Commission District 3 seat blue this year just added a pair of endorsements. One came from District 4 of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), which represents more than 24,000 law enforcement officers throughout the state. “As we approach the 2024 Elections we are aware that strong leaders are needed to lead Florida to a prosperous and safe future,” Florida FOP President Steve Zona wrote in a press note. “We need leaders that are dedicated to serving their constituents and protecting the citizens in their community. Joel Flores is the choice of the men and women in FOP District Four.” Flores’ campaign said Palm Beach School Board member Alexandria Ayala, whose District 2 on the School Board overlaps with the area Flores hopes to represent after November, is supporting him as well. Flores said he is “incredibly thankful” for the continued support of his community and his two new endorsers.

—“Michael Barnett laps challenger in Q1 fundraising for Palm Beach Commission” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics

‘Laws don’t change unless they’re challenged’: Palm Beach County may try to curb hate speech” via Abigail Hasebroock of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Presidential election denial. COVID-19 conspiracy theories. Palm Beach County Commissioners perhaps have heard and seen it all. Still, Commissioners’ attention turned to what could be done to curb hate speech on April 2, after a group of people at a meeting spoke one by one at a lectern — making disparaging remarks about Jewish people, and two of them invoking Adolf Hitler. “It was shocking, but unfortunately, I guess not surprising that people would come out from underneath their rocks and spread their hate,” Commissioner Gregg Weiss said during a meeting on Tuesday. Weiss said that even though what was said on April 2 did not violate the First Amendment, it did not mean it was not “disgusting.”

More homeless people in Palm Beach County this year compared to 2023” via Abigail Hasebroock of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — There are more homeless people on the streets of Palm Beach County this year than in 2023, a survey found. On Jan. 25 and Jan. 26, county staff and volunteers conducted the annual Palm Beach County Homeless Point-in-Time Count, identifying 2,126 individuals and families as homeless. In 2023, the number was 1,855, creating a nearly 15% increase. Veteran and family homelessness is on a slight decline, but the overall count is not, despite the county’s Community Services Department and Homeless and Housing Alliance having spent more than $120 million on homeless prevention services since 2020. Some of the funds have gone toward expanding temporary shelter and hotel capacity and improving collaboration with local housing authorities.


Recently, the 3rd District Court of Appeals blocked the termination of a condominium in Miami after several owners objected to the redevelopment plan. This ruling has major implications for the future of condominium buyouts and redevelopment in South Florida.

More and more people move to Florida each year to enjoy the weather and prosperity the Sunshine State has to offer. Condominiums are an increasingly important way to meet the resulting need for housing infrastructure without straining the limited land resources available in Florida’s population centers. But many developments are rapidly aging. In addition to energy and other efficiency concerns, the safety of Florida’s older condominiums recently took center stage as the world watched the Surfside tragedy with horror.

Aging condominiums are not keeping up with Florida’s population spikes. Image via AP.

To keep up with demand, promote efficient land use, and ensure the safety of residents, condominium developers are always on the lookout for older buildings to redevelop. The Legislature has adopted the Florida Condominium Law over time to prevent handfuls of holdouts from halting redevelopment when dozens or even hundreds of other unit owners want to cash out of their deteriorating buildings. Yet a court recently sided with a small minority of holdouts at Biscayne 21 in Miami who argued that the old version of the Condominium Law in place when the building’s association was chartered in the 1960s should prevent redevelopment from taking place. If this decision stands, it would undo decades’ worth of legislative progress that has led to hundreds of new, efficient, and safe condominium redevelopments across the state.

Last week the developers asked for a rehearing, which gives the court a chance to revisit its opinion and restore the rights of majority unit owners and developers.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Volusia Schools used COVID-19 money to fund longtime programs. Now those classes are in jeopardy” via Mary Ellen Ritter of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — After students and parents spoke out about teacher displacement and the possibility of losing programming, Volusia County Schools Superintendent Carmen Balgobin explained why the district faced such economic challenges. Balgobin, who was hired in May 2022, said she “inherited” debt and financial issues from her predecessors. Balgobin explained that an audit of the Department of Budget and Finance conducted about four years ago revealed that the district’s budget formula hadn’t been updated in years. Shortly after that, the state of Florida started providing funding in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Balgobin continued.

Carmen Balgobin says Volusia schools are facing a money crunch.

Volusia School Board member wants taxpayers to fund dues to conservative group she heads” via Mary Ellen Ritter of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — School Board member Jessie Thompson asked the Board to pay her $459 dues to the Florida Conservative Coalition of School Board Members, a group she heads that’s based out of her home. Thompson is the president of the organization, which calls itself “nonpartisan” but is only open to “conservative School Board members,” according to its website. Board member Ruben Colón made a motion to deny the request. Carl Persis seconded the motion, which passed 4-1 with Thompson opposed. School Board attorney Aaron Wolfe presented the proposal before the Board as an action item calling for discussion and a vote because there was no precedent for whether or not the Board should pay an individual member’s dues to an organization.

Kit Martin fiercely backed Volusia County Republicans, but her life wasn’t just politics” via Mark Harper of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — It’s no exaggeration to say that when Martin registered as a Republican in Volusia County in 1963, the party was an also-ran. Democrats had a 4-to-1 voter-registration advantage, and Martin — who would serve on the county’s Republican Executive Committee and work as a GOP activist for decades — helped turn that around. In May 2017, when Republicans finally overtook Democrats with more registered voters, she offered a two-word response: “Happy day.” That year, Volusia Republicans selected Martin as the first recipient of the lifetime achievement award, now named for her. Martin, 96, died on March 26 in her home in Daytona Beach.

Rest in peace — “Former UCF AD Steve Sloan, who transitioned football to Division I, dies at 79” via Matt Murschel of the Orlando Sentinel — Sloan died on Sunday in Orlando. He was 79. The Texas native spent nine years (1993-2002) as UCF’s Athletic Director, helping the Knights move from NCAA Division I-AA to Division I or Football Bowl Subdivision. During his time, UCF teams went on to win 36 Atlantic Sun Conference championships and 26 NCAA Tournament berths. “Steve brings a wealth of athletic experience as a player, coach and administrator. He is a fine individual with an impressive record of accomplishments and a commitment to academic excellence that we believe makes him the perfect person to lead us into a new era of UCF Athletics,” former UCF President John Hitt said when Sloan was hired on July 21, 1993.


There but for the grace of God go I — “Tampa fire union president arrested after urinating in public while drunk” via Olivia George and Justin Garcia of the Tampa Bay Times — During his arrest last month, the union president for Tampa firefighters invoked his official position while appealing for officers to let him go after St. Petersburg police watched him relieve himself in a downtown parking garage. “Do you know who I am?” Nicolas “Nick” Stocco said to an officer in the early hours of March 24, a Sunday. “Nope,” replied the police officer. Stocco did not elaborate, but about 20 seconds later he added: “I would never do that to y’all.” He soon added: “I work with you guys.” Stocco was taken to Pinellas County jail in a police van, charged with one count of disorderly intoxication, a misdemeanor. He was “clearly intoxicated at the time,” according to a police incident report. Officers noted his slurred speech, bloodshot eyes and the smell of alcohol wafting from him as he staggered.

Nicolas ‘Nick’ Stocco pulls the ‘do you know who I am’ move. They didn’t.

New surgical tower at TGH will bear a familiar name in Tampa health care circles” via Ashley Gurbal Kritzer of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Tampa General Hospital’s new 13-story surgical tower will bear the name of Tampa’s Taneja family after a “historic gift” toward the project. TGH celebrated the groundbreaking of the tower, which will house surgical, neuroscience and transplant services when it opens in 2027. Jugal and Manju Taneja founded Belcher Pharmaceuticals together in 2010. The tower is named in honor of the Taneja Family Foundation’s undisclosed gift to the TGH Foundation. In total, TGH says it has raised $120 million toward the surgical tower. “We have lived the American dream, and now we want others to have that same chance at life,” Jugal Taneja said in a statement on behalf of himself, Manju and the family. “What better way to pay it forward than to give greater access to world-class care for those who need it most?”

— LOCAL: N. FL —

JEA Board hires Vickie Cavey as interim CEO to replace outgoing Jay Stowe” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — The JEA Board voted to make former JEA Administrator Cavey the utility’s Interim CEO, replacing Stowe as the top executive. Cavey came out of retirement last month when the Board hired her as its adviser and staff liaison to JEA administrators. She previously worked as a JEA Administrator from 1996 to 2016. She returned to JEA from May 2020 to January 2021 when she was a special assistant to Interim CEO Paul McElroy and assisted Stowe during the first two months of his tenure after he started work as CEO in December 2020.

Vickie Cavey has been named interim CEO of JEA. Good luck.

Leon County correctional officer finds ‘unresponsive’ inmate, second death in three days” via Elena Barrera of the Tallahassee Democrat — The Leon County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a second inmate death in three days at the Leon County Detention Facility after a 26-year-old man was “found unresponsive in his cell” early Monday morning. The LCSO Violent Crimes Unit and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are investigating the death, and “the Leon County’s Medical Examiner’s Office will conduct an autopsy to determine the official cause and manner of death,” according to the news release. Last Friday, a woman was found unresponsive in her cell a few hours after she was “medically cleared” and transported from a hospital to the jail.

Santa Rosa Zoning Board nixes one woman’s dream to build a sports complex in remote Allentown” via Tom McLaughlin of the Pensacola News Journal — Jana Williamson, an Allentown resident, saw her concept of ‘If I build it the kids will come’ shot down Thursday by Santa Rosa County’s Zoning Board, whose members wanted more than the imprecise plans for a sports complex they were presented. “I’m very concerned,” Board member Alan Isaacson said, “with a conceptual plan that was shown to us with just squiggly lines on a thing. I’m not saying she doesn’t have a heart for this, I’m just saying I don’t have a plan before me that’s thought out.”

To curb speeding, Niceville PD will step up traffic enforcement efforts later this month” via Collin Bestor of Northwest Florida Daily News — Beginning April 24 and running through April 26, the Niceville Police Department will roll out a traffic enforcement operation along State Road 20, between Rocky Bayou Drive and Government Avenue from 1 to 5 p.m. The goal is to curb speeding and aggressive driving on the main thoroughfare through Niceville. “We urge all community members to support Operation Save The Day by adhering to posted speed limits and exercising patience while driving,” the department said in a social media post. “Please report any instances of dangerous or reckless behavior on the road.”


Sarasota Judge denies motion to release ex-Florida GOP Chair’s seized criminal records” via Melissa Pérez-Carrillo of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — A Sarasota County Circuit Judge has denied a motion to dismiss an injunction that protects records from Christian Ziegler’s criminal investigation. The seized records are from a closed investigation into the former Florida Republican Party Chair’s involvement in video voyeurism and sexual battery. The denial comes after a motion to dismiss the injunction was filed on April 1 by Michael Barfield, The Florida Center for Government Accountability and a news media group including Gannett Co., Inc., the parent company of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune; The McClatchy Co., LLC; Nexstar Media Group, Inc.; and Scripps Media, Inc. Tegna Inc. and Times Publishing Co. would later join Barfield on the motion.

A judge rules Christian Ziegler’s criminal records can stay sealed.

Why the FAA rejected the New College of Florida and Sarasota Bradenton Airport land swap” via Jesse Mendoza of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) indicated it rejected a land deal between New College of Florida and the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport because it saw little value to the airport in giving up the property compared with holding onto it. The agency also criticized the appraisal estimating the land’s value in the airport-New College deal. “It appears a greater benefit results from retaining the property,” according to the FAA letter signed by Orlando Airports District Office Acting Manager Rebecca Henry. “Policy states that Surplus Property should not be released unless there is no greater benefit from retaining the property.” Airport and New College representatives declined to comment on the federal agency’s conclusions.


What the upper-middle-class left doesn’t get about inflation” via Michael Powell of The Atlantic — Democratic Party analysts and left-leaning economists have had quite enough of their fellow Americans’ complaints. As a striking number of poll respondents express alarm, despair even, about the rising cost of living during Biden’s presidency, experts shake their heads. Don’t people realize that jobs are plentiful, wages are rising and inflation is in retreat?

The modern Democratic Party and liberalism itself, is to a substantial extent a bastion of college-educated, upper-middle-class professionals, people for whom Biden-era inflation is unpleasant but rarely calamitous. Poor, working-class and lower-middle-class people experience a different reality. They carry the searing memories of the Great Recession and its foreclosure crisis when millions of American households lost their home.

A large number of these Americans worked in person during the dolorous early days of the pandemic and saw its toll up close. And since 2019, they’ve weathered 20% inflation and now rising interest rates — which means they’ve lost more than a fifth of their purchasing power.

Tell these Americans that the economy is humming, that median wage growth has nudged ahead of the core inflation rate, and that everything’s grand, and you’re likely to see a roll of the eyes.

Economists talked of a “vibecession” — an admixture of gloom and worry and misinformation that prevents Americans from seeing the rosy nature of the economy. This is a common take among prominent Democrats and left-leaning economists, all of whom speak with an eye on the upcoming presidential election.

But even a cooling inflation rate simply means that prices are growing more slowly. Consumers — particularly those whose wages have not kept pace — still remember years of soaring price increases.


Trump’s sudden flip-flop on a national abortion law speaks volumes” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Trump was for abortion rights before he was against them. He sees the polls and says the issue should be left to the states. There’s a truck thundering down the middle of that road. It bears Arizona, Alabama and Florida license plates. What the Arizona Supreme Court did last week to ban abortion and to imprison doctors for performing them is a glaring example of what’s wrong with leaving the issue to the states. So are the state Supreme Court decisions that are banning most abortions in Florida and prohibiting in vitro fertilization in Alabama. The most strident anti-abortion zealots have never meant to settle for states’ rights and the mere repeal of Roe. They have always intended for all American women to submit to their theocracy. They are unhappy with Trump’s newfound feigned moderation. They have no choice, perhaps, but to stick with him in this election.

Voters won’t swallow sales tax until Orange County tries other roads” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — It’s hard to discount Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings’ urgency about bridging the gaps in Orange County’s transportation infrastructure. In the post-COVID-19 era, choke points where traffic snarls to a stop have become increasingly evident. A growing number of workers in low-paid hospitality jobs are forced to rely on the underfunded, overextended Lynx bus service, taking hours for a one-way commute. Meanwhile, Central Florida roads remain among the most dangerous in the country. But the Orange County Commission made the right decision when it refused to put a sales-tax increase on the November 2024 ballot to fund transportation projects. That referendum would come just two years after voters rejected a very similar proposal. Convincing them to change their minds would have been a long shot under any circumstances, and the short time frame escalated “long shot” to “making a 3-point basket from the locker room” territory.


— ALOE —

SeaWorld Orlando is giving out free beer” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Cheers! SeaWorld Orlando is giving out free beer — one of its fan-favorite promotions — as part of the company’s ongoing 60th anniversary celebration. The company called it a limited-time offer and did not say how long the promotion lasted or if it would go through this Summer. “SeaWorld Orlando guests over the age of 21 can enjoy one complimentary 7 oz beer at Waterway Grill Patio. SeaWorld Orlando Pass Members will receive an extra perk — two free 7-ounce pours per day at Waterway Grill Patio,” the company said in a news release this week. The freebies are daily starting at 11 a.m. until one hour before the park closes.

Beer tastes better when it’s free!


Happy birthday to former U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns and comms pro (and ace nature photographer) Cory Tilley.


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.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704