Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.24.24

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Your day is better when you start it with a first read on what's happening in Florida politics.

Good Thursday morning.

Please take a moment to read — “The loss of James Miller leaves ripples of remembrance” via Andrew Meacham of Florida Politics — When a beloved figure dies, colleagues, family, and friends search typically to find the appropriate words among a well-worn but serviceable list: Loyal, consistent, selfless, devoted, agreeable or kind. They would give the shirt off their back. Their smiles lit up the room. For Miller, who died Tuesday (5/21/24) at 48, those closest have to search and strain. People wanted to be around Miller because he could lift the mood of an entire group, whether with his frequent jokes or deadly three-point shooting in pickup basketball games. He wanted to be around them too, so much so that he managed to function for seven years despite colorectal cancer that hospitalized him 10 times in 2023 alone. By all accounts, his highest priority and focus was his wife, Angela, and sons, CJ and Riley, aged 12 and 10. He tuned in to sports events on multiple television screens and drew others in with the untiring enthusiasm of the perennial sports fan, especially for the Florida State Seminoles. James’ personality made the difference, making ordinary interactions memorable.

RIP: James Miller’s personality made the difference, making ordinary interactions memorable.

James Peter Miller

Born: March 2, 1976.

Died: May 21, 2024.

Survivors: His wife, Angela; sons, Casey (“CJ”) and Riley; mother, Sharon Miller; father, Lloyd Miller and his wife, Susan; and a brother, Darby Miller, his wife, Serena. and their son, Kieran.

Celebration of life: Plans are underway for a gathering in the Fall.


Mike Chitwood goes to bat for Tom Leek in new radio ad Leek’s Senate Campaign is rolling out a new radio ad featuring Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood, who previously joined the other three Sheriffs in SD 7’s footprint in endorsing Leek’s campaign. “In Volusia County, our law enforcement community has known no greater friend than Tom Leek. Tom has fought to increase the pay for our cops. He’s helped recruit cops and has supported us through the attacks leveled at us from far-left fanatics around the country,” Chitwood says in the minutelong spot. “Now it’s my turn to support Tom,” he adds, asking voters to think critically about a dubious media blitz questioning Leek’s Republican bona fides.

To listen to the ad, please click the image below:


Tweet, tweet:

@TiffanyForFL: Hello @x! Here to represent @MyFLHouse District 77 and supercharge Florida’s economy! Appreciate the follows 🙂

@MikeGrunwald: In the Free State of Florida: no cultivated meat, no abortion, no talking about climate change or systemic racism or gay stuff, no pronouns…and now no purple or green.

@marceelias: NEW: Federal Court rules that Plaintiffs are entitled to fees for their successful litigation challenging portions of Florida SB90. I am old enough to remember when the GOP said we lost this case.😂

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:


French Open begins — 2; Monaco Grand Prix — 2; Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday begins — 8; the 2024 World Cup begins — 19; DreamWorks Land officially opens at Universal Orlando — 21; season two of ‘House of the Dragon’ returns to Max — 23; CNN Presidential Debate — 34; Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opens at Disney World — 35; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 36; Freedom Month Sales Tax Holiday begins — 39; Universal Mega Movie Parade debuts — 40; Republican National Convention begins — 51; the 2024 World Cup ends — 55; 2024 MLS All-Star Game — 60; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games on NBC/Peacock — 63; ‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ premieres — 64; Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday begins — 67; ‘Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 85; Florida Primary Election — 89; Democratic National Convention begins — 89; second Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday begins — 93; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 93; Tool Time Sales Tax Holiday begins — 101; 2024 NFL season kicks off — 106; Packers will face Eagles in Brazil — 106; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 148; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 155; Florida TaxWatch’s 45th Annual Meeting — 164; 2024 Presidential Election — 165; Legislature’s 2025 Organizational Session — 179; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 179; ‘Mufasa: The Lion King’ premieres — 196; MLS Cup 2024 — 197; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 264; the 2025 Oscars — 283; Florida’s 2025 Legislative Session begins — 285; 2025 Session ends — 345; ‘Moana’ premieres — 395; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 426; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 426; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 533; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 575; ‘Avengers 5’ premieres — 711; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 728; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 939; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,079; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,038; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,760.


Get ready: NOAA meteorologists agree it could be ‘extraordinary’ hurricane season” via Max Chesnes and Jack Prator of the Tampa Bay Times — Storm experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are calling for an “above average” 2024 Atlantic hurricane season with up to 25 named storms, of which as many as 13 could spin into hurricanes and up to seven could muscle to major hurricane status with a Category 3 strength or higher.

It’s not just the warmer-than-usual Atlantic temperatures that forecasters are watching. They also cite an emerging La Niña weather pattern, known to be more friendly to hurricane formation than its counterpart, El Niño, as a main reason this year’s storm season could be busy.

Hunker down: Meteorologists predict a rough hurricane season for Florida.

Forecasters predict an 85% probability of an above-average season, the highest level of confidence the agency has had in a storm outlook.

“The key this year, as in any year, is to get prepared and stay prepared,” said Rick Spinrad, the head of the administration. He noted the start of what could be an “extraordinary” season is June 1, just days away.

Waters stretching between the Caribbean to the coast of Africa are at record hot levels, with more than 90% of the region’s sea surface at record or near-record heat, according to Michael Lowry, a hurricane specialist at WPLG-TV. Human-driven climate change and the quickly developing shift to a La Niña are two of the likely factors for why Atlantic waters are hotter now than at any point on record this early in the season, according to Lowry.

— 2024 – FLORIDA —

‘Ron, I love that you’re back’: Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis put an often personal Primary fight behind them” via Thomas Beaumont of The Associated Press — DeSantis convened his allies this week in Fort Lauderdale to press them to raise money to support Trump, making the case over a seafood and steak dinner that they need to work together to prevent President Joe Biden from winning a second term. The Governor and about 30 people then spent Thursday morning in a hotel conference room raising money for an outside group that supports the former President’s 2024 White House campaign. Trump called into the gathering to thank members of the group for their work, according to four people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to publicly discuss the private session and spoke on condition of anonymity.

No hard feelings?

Poll watcher: Are Republicans more pro-choice?” via Dave Trotter of Voting Trend — Florida Republicans are becoming more pro-choice. On the ballot is Amendment 4, which would establish the constitutional right to an abortion. When asked if they would vote “yes” or “no” on the amendment, 43% of Republican voters said “yes,” with 34% of Republicans saying “no.” Again, this is a plurality of Republicans supporting the amendment. In addition, of those who identify as “conservative,” “yes” only loses by 5%, with “no” having a slight 41% to 36% advantage. Democrats have put all of their chips on the abortion issue. But if more Republicans are identifying as pro-choice, those Republicans will probably not find their way over to support Debbie Mucarsel-Powell’s candidacy. Instead, there will be a lot of voters who vote for Trump and Sen. Rick Scott, and then switch over to the “yes” side on the constitutional amendment. Essentially, why would a “yes” voter switch to the Democrats if they have the amendment there to protect the right to an abortion? For them, it’s purely a case of having the best of both worlds.

Miami congressional candidate’s Campaign Manager arrested at fundraiser for Democrat” via Max Greenwood of the Miami Herald — The operative running the campaign of Miami Democratic congressional candidate Phil Ehr was arrested Tuesday at an event in Wynwood where she was raising money for another Democrat running to claim a congressional seat in the Tampa Bay area. Vanessa Brito, announced last month as Ehr’s campaign manager, was taken into custody by Miami police just before the scheduled end of a fundraiser for Democrat Sabrina Bousbar at Gramps Wynwood, her arrest report shows. Video of the arrest obtained by the Miami Herald showed Brito being led to a police car outside of Gramps. Brito was picked up on an outstanding bench warrant related to a petit theft charge for allegedly shoplifting $118.24 in clothes, homeware and other items from a Target department store in Midtown Miami in 2017. The warrant was issued in early 2018 after Brito failed to show up for her court date.

— 2024 – DOWN-BALLOT —

To support Amendment 4, Florida Women’s Freedom Coalition launches voter info tool” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — The Florida Women’s Freedom Coalition is launching a new tool to help get out the vote. The website gives information on how to register to vote or update voter registration, as well as how to vote by mail. You can also find your polling place and sign up for election alerts. “We are determined and committed to providing accurate and comprehensive information to voters across the state, ensuring every individual understands how they can vote, where they can vote and when they can vote,” said Anna Hochkammer, the coalition’s Executive Director who also serves on the Pinecrest Village Council.

Don Gaetz lands Ben Albritton’s endorsement in SD 1 — Former Senate President Gaetz bid to return to the Legislature has Senate President-designate Albritton’s blessing, Gaetz’s campaign announced Thursday. “Don Gaetz is a statesman and a warrior for the cause of conservatism. I admire his passion for the people of Florida’s Panhandle and his commitment to ensuring they have a strong voice in Tallahassee. I am proud to endorse Don Gaetz and look forward to welcoming him back to the Florida Senate,” Albritton said in a news release. Gaetz, who served in the Senate for 10 years ending in 2016, is the leading candidate in the race for the deep red seat and previously announced endorsements from eight former Senate Presidents, among others.

Ben Albritton gives a huge thumbs-up to Don Gaetz.

Internal poll shows Kristen Arrington leading Carmen Torres in SD 25” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Democrats may be looking outside state Sen. Vic Torres’ family for his successor. At least that’s what an internal poll from Democrat Arrington’s Senate campaign suggests. A poll from Impact Research shows likely Democratic Primary voters in Senate District 25 favor Arrington over Carmen Torres, the incumbent Senator’s wife. About 30% of those surveyed prefer Arrington, a sitting state Representative, while 25% like Carmen Torres. That puts Arrington’s lead within the poll’s 4.9-percentage-point margin of error. But the poll has other signs that Arrington’s edge is genuine as the race heads into the Summer.

Former Disney executive files to run against Orlando-area Rep. Carolina Amesty” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — A business executive and political newcomer has filed to run against Orlando-area state Rep. Amesty, who has faced questions about her credentials and actions at her family-run university. Leonard Spencer of Gotha filed on Wednesday to run for the Florida House against Amesty, saying he wants to lower insurance rates, restore abortion rights and improve access to mental health care. “These are some of the reasons I feel I would be a great candidate and I would represent District 45 well in Tallahassee,” Spencer said. A Democrat and first-time candidate for public office, Spencer is the only opponent so far to file against Amesty, a Republican who is finishing her first term in office. If no one else enters the race before the qualifying deadline next month, the two would face off in the Nov. 5 General Election.

Leonard Spencer has taken up a challenge to Carolina Amesty in theme-park-heavy HD 45.

Leonard Spencer says he’ll treat Disney like any potential donor, but will focus on constituents” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — When Spencer first filed as a House District 45 candidate, one résumé line blasted into the headlines: He spent nearly 16 years at The Walt Disney Co., most recently heading up a diversity and sustainability effort. Disney, of course, has made more political headlines in the last three years than executives likely desired. The company became the target of DeSantis’ administration, which repealed its self-governing ability as the Governor slammed efforts by even the company’s creative division to increase LGBTQ representation in its children’s programming. So, does Spencer expect help from the Mouse as he tries to unseat Amesty, a Republican incumbent who co-sponsored legislation creating a Governor-appointed District Board to govern Disney property? The Democrat said that he had good relationships working at the company, but his focus remains on constituents. That said, Disney is the largest single-site employer in the country, and that site is in the heart of HD 45.

Runoff between Daniella Levine Cava, Manny Cid likely in Miami-Dade Mayor’s race” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Despite sizable advantages in funding, media coverage, and the fact she’s running as an incumbent, Democratic Miami-Dade Mayor Levine Cava doesn’t have the support necessary to avoid a runoff this year, polling suggests. Her likely opponent in that runoff: Miami Lakes Cid. That’s according to newly released survey results from Dark Horse Strategies, a conservative Miami-based consulting firm working on Cid’s campaign. Dark Horse Strategies questioned 474 likely voters last week, most of whom identified as Republicans, and then balanced their answers to reflect the county’s 35% Democratic, 31% Republican and 34% no-party and third-party voter composition. The poll had a 95% confidence factor and a 5-percentage-point margin of error.


Trump’s unprecedented trial is unremarkable for some swing voters” via Hannah Knowles of The Washington Post — The first criminal trial of a former President is in its final stages in a Manhattan courthouse, where jurors will deliberate on whether Trump falsified business records to cover up a hush money payment to a porn actress. While the long-term political effects of the case are not yet known, three dozen interviews with voters in Saginaw County over the past few days show many have shrugged off Trump’s case, with still-persuadable residents unmoved by historic legal proceedings that in another election year could dominate public attention. A rematch many have dreaded has so far centered much more heavily on deeply held views about the candidates and issues such as abortion and immigration.

Swing state voters are shrugging off Donald Trump’s legal woes.

Ohio lawmakers urged to add Joe Biden to November ballot” via Sam Cabral of BBC News — Ohio’s Governor is pushing state lawmakers to avoid a partisan clash threatening to bar Biden from the key swing state’s presidential ballot in November. The state’s top election official said earlier this week that Democrats are nominating their candidate too late to comply with Ohio’s ballot access laws. Such conflicts have been quietly resolved in the past — but the Biden campaign may be forced to sue to get on the ballot. On Thursday, the Governor said he was calling the Legislature to convene for a rare Special Session to pass a law allowing Biden to appear on the ballot. Ohio requires political parties to officially confirm presidential and vice-presidential nominees to the elections chief 90 or more days before the General Election.

Trump team moves behind the scenes to shift the GOP platform on abortion and marriage” via Drew Dixon of NBC News — Trump’s allies are quietly getting involved in little-noticed fights over who will serve on the committee to set the Republican Party’s national platform. NBC News spoke with nine people familiar with what’s happening in states across the country, who said that the campaign’s involvement is intended to stop those on the party’s right flank from trying to push the official Republican National Committee platform too far to the right on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage headed into the General Election.

Trump keeps talking about reproductive rights. And it keeps tripping him up.” via Amy B Wang of The Washington Post — When Trump released a video saying states should decide abortion rights, it was meant to tamp down discontent from anti-abortion groups who had been pushing him to support a national ban, as well as from abortion rights advocates angry over his role in overturning Roe v. Wade. But rather than lay to rest a politically volatile issue, Trump’s “states’ rights” stance has only continued to trip up the presumptive GOP presidential nominee. In the month since, Trump has not been able to stop addressing an issue that poll after poll shows motivates Democratic voters, as he and Biden are locked in a tight race. Trump’s frequent and often vague statements about reproductive rights have kept the matter at the fore in a critical election year — and have given Biden and Democrats ample opportunities to attack Trump for seeking to erode reproductive rights.


Florida Supreme Court rules drivers can be ordered out of vehicles for drug sweeps” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Police officers can order a driver they’ve pulled over out of the vehicle to ensure their safety and that of a K-9 unit conducting a drug sweep, the Florida Supreme Court ruled. Such an order doesn’t violate a driver’s Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures, Justice Renatha Francis wrote in the 5-1 opinion for the court, as prior U.S. Supreme Court precedent already allows for it. “We hold that binding Fourth Amendment precedent permits a K-9 officer arriving midway through a lawful traffic stop to command the driver to exit the vehicle for officer safety before conducting a lawful vehicle sweep,” Francis wrote.

Florida’s Supreme Court gives the OK for police to order drivers out of the vehicle during drug sweeps.

DeSantis and Ashley Moody announce state investigation of Starbucks’ DEI practices” via Jackie Llanos of Florida Phoenix — Moody wants the state agency in charge of investigating violations of the Florida Civil Rights Act to inspect Starbucks’ diversity, equity and inclusion practices. DeSantis and Moody announced the complaint against Starbucks on Wednesday during the Governor’s guest host stint on “The Sean Hannity Show.” “We’re going to make sure that in Florida this quota or hiring and programs that cause every employee to determine whether they are the problem based on the color of their skin, whether that violates Florida’s anti-discrimination laws, and so the matter will be investigated,” Moody said on the radio show. “I’m proud to report that we are referring the matter officially to the Florida Commission on Human Relations for full investigation of Starbucks and these practices,” she added.

Heritage Insurance to lower property rates in Florida this Summer” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — A notable property insurance company is lowering its rates in Florida as homeowners continue struggling with insurance prices. Heritage Insurance Holdings Inc. is decreasing the cost of insuring homes and other property. The agency announced this week that the Office of Insurance Regulation gave the go-ahead for the company to lower rates by 3.3%. The lower cost for coverage will go into effect on Aug. 20. Heritage officials credited the Legislature for prompting the rate decrease. “This rate decrease is reflective of the positive impacts of the Florida legislative changes, which eliminated one-way attorney fees and reduced other abusive claims practices, improving loss trends and the stabilization of the reinsurance market,” a Heritage news release said.

Report indicates Florida tort reform reduced ‘nuclear verdicts’” via Andrew Powell of The Center Square — A new report shows that the number of “nuclear” verdicts in the Sunshine State has steadily declined since tort reforms were signed into law in 2023. Marathon Strategies released its 2024 report on corporate verdicts throughout the U.S., and data shows a 30% rise in juries awarding enormous sums of money in legal cases brought against big corporations. However, Florida is bucking this trend. A “nuclear” verdict awards more than $10 million. A “thermonuclear” verdict awards a plaintiff over $100 million and up to $1 billion. In 2023, these verdicts rose by 27%, and the median settlement was around $40 million. The report says that Florida was historically second for “nuclear” payouts, but it has since dropped to seventh place after DeSantis signed new tort reforms into law. In March 2023, DeSantis signed House Bill 837 and said in a news release at the time that the legislation was designed to safeguard the economy and attract investment into Florida.

Appeals court backs FPL in hurricane costs lawsuit after law change” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO — A state appeals court on Wednesday sided with Florida Power & Light Co. in lawsuit claiming the utility should pay customers for electricity lost during Hurricane Irma in 2017. The 3rd District Court of Appeal said FPL and other utilities are protected from such lawsuits by legislation passed in 2023 that provides the Public Service Commission with oversight of disaster preparedness and response. The same court had sided with customers in affirming the class-action lawsuit, an action which prompted the law change late during the 2023 Legislative Session. But a three-judge panel said Wednesday the law change now puts the issue squarely before the PSC and not the state judiciary.

Lobbyists for developers pushed lawmakers to block rules meant to save rural lands from sprawl” via Jason Garcia of Seeking Rents — Late in this year’s Session of the Legislature, lawmakers slipped an extra sentence into what had been a benign and bipartisan bill dealing with the state’s Department of Commerce. It was a small amendment, but it had a big goal: To prevent voters in Orange County, the home of Orlando, from establishing new development rules that could save rural areas from suburban sprawl. And who wanted Tallahassee to take control? Lobbyists representing a pair of giant Central Florida developers with plans to build tens of thousands of homes across a vast swath of rural ranchlands east of Orlando.

Lauren’s Kids safety video wins Gracie Award from Alliance for Women in Media” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book and her nonprofit, Lauren’s Kids, just won a Gracie Award in the original online video category for their “Think, Feel, Act” anti-child sexual abuse safety video. Book accepted the award at the Alliance for Women in Media’s annual Gracies Gala in Beverly Hills. “We are so honored,” Book said. “Child sexual abuse knows no bounds, with 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys being abused before graduating high school, and 1 in 5 children who touch computers being sexually solicited online. Armed with the knowledge that 95% of this abuse is preventable through education and awareness, we are empowering and teaching children personal safety from a place of fun, not fear.”

Lauren Book and her nonprofit are recognized for the outstanding sexual abuse safety video ‘Think, Feel, Act.’

New unemployment claims drop after brief spike” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — New unemployment claims fell in the past week in Florida. There were 6,436 first-time unemployment filings for the week ending May 18 in the Sunshine State, per data that has not been seasonally adjusted. That’s a drop of 788 new claims from the week ending May 11. The previous report saw a substantial increase in initial jobless claims in the state. But that spike was an aberration compared to recent weeks and months. The first full week of May saw 7,224 first-time claims filed, a substantial jump over the 5,893 claims filed the week ending May 4. Those figures have since seen moderate adjustments by the DOL. But DOL officials still say Florida had the biggest increase in first-time unemployment insurance benefit claims in the country for the week ending May 11.


Another provocative flag was flown at another Samuel Alito home” via Jodi Kantor, Aric Toler and Julie Tate of The New York Times — Last Summer, two years after an upside-down American flag was flown outside the Virginia home of Justice Alito, another provocative symbol was displayed at his vacation house in New Jersey, according to interviews and photographs. This time, it was the “Appeal to Heaven” flag, which, like the inverted U.S. flag, was carried by rioters at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Also known as the Pine Tree flag, it dates back to the Revolutionary War but largely fell into obscurity until recent years and is now a symbol of support for Trump, for a religious strand of the “Stop the Steal” campaign, and for a push to remake American government in Christian terms. Three photographs show the Appeal to Heaven flag aloft at the Alito home on Long Beach Island in July and September 2023. A Google Street View image from late August also shows the flag. The photographs, each taken independently, are from four different dates. It is not clear whether the flag was displayed continuously during those months or how long it was flown overall.

Samuel Alito flies yet another provocative flag used in the J6 riot. Image via The New York Times.

Rick Scott announces bid for Senate GOP leader” via Burgess Everett and Ursula Perano of POLITICO — Scott launched a bid Wednesday afternoon to succeed Mitch McConnell as the next Republican leader, telling colleagues he wants to make “dramatic change” in the way the conference operates. The first-term Senator will face an uphill battle against Senate Minority Whip John Thune and Sen. John Cornyn, a former whip himself. Scott lost a race to McConnell in 2022, but he won the backing of the conference’s most conservative members. He’s likely to have the support of some of those members again this time around. Scott predicted in his letter to fellow Senators that the GOP will take the Senate back, build a larger majority in the House and elect Trump “with a mandate for dramatic change.” He said he’ll aim to increase transparency, abide by a six-year leadership term limit and will not “pressure” colleagues to vote against their states’ wishes.

Senate again fails to advance border security bill in election-year showdown vote” via Allison Pecorin of ABC News — For the second time in three months, an immigration and border security measure negotiated earlier this year by a bipartisan group of lawmakers failed to advance in the Senate, drawing the issue to a political stalemate. The legislation fell well short of the 60 votes needed — the final tally was 43 to 50 — as nearly all Republicans voted against it. The showdown vote came as both parties tried to establish themselves as tough on border security ahead of the 2024 Election. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced over the weekend plans to bring the legislation back up for a stand-alone vote, after it had earlier been tied to aid to Ukraine and Israel.

Brevard drafts letter to Pete Buttigieg urging federal grant money for Cocoa Brightline station” via Tyler Vazquez of Florida Today — Brevard County is continuing to push hard to secure funding for a future Brightline station in Cocoa. The Board of County Commissioners voted to draft a letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Buttigieg, urging him to grant federal money to the $75 million project. Cocoa’s City Council last week approved its application for the grant totaling $49 million. The letter supporting the grant application could be crucial in securing that money locally. If the money is granted from the federal government, it would be combined with millions in local dollars as well.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

City of Miami settles racial gerrymandering lawsuit with voting rights groups” via Joshua Ceballos of WLRN — The City of Miami officially has a new, ostensibly constitutional, voting map. After a last-minute delay earlier this month that could’ve brought serious legal repercussions, the Miami City Commission approved a settlement agreement between the City of Miami and a collection of voting rights groups who sued the city for racially gerrymandering the city’s five districts in 2022. As previously reported by WLRN, the settlement agreement includes a new map drawn by the plaintiffs and their attorneys from the ACLU of Florida and Dechert LLP. The new map redraws the five districts to align with natural boundaries like the Miami River, railroad tracks and major roadways and re-connects existing neighborhoods into single districts.

Federal suit says South Florida congressional, House districts wrongly gerrymandered based on race” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — In a twist from prior challenges to Florida’s redistricting process, the latest complaint alleges state officials wrongly used race as a motivating factor to create non-compact districts. The lawsuit focuses on four U.S. House seats (Florida’s 19th, 26th, 27th and 28th Congressional Districts) and seven state House jurisdictions (House Districts 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 118 and 119). All are located in Southwest and South Florida, and all are currently represented by Republicans.

Aventura to host Israeli Mayor for historic sister city agreement” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Nearly 30 years after its incorporation, the city of Aventura is establishing its first-ever sister city agreement. Elected officials at the federal, state and local levels — including Scott, Senate Democratic Leader Jason Pizzo and Miami-Dade Commissioner Mickey Steinberg will be there to the occasion. Aventura officials will formalize a sister city relationship Friday morning with Modi’in, a 90,000-resident municipality in Israel situated equidistantly between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Chaim Bibas, the Mayor of Modi’in, will be there in person to accept the pact and a Magen David Adom ambulance Aventura is donating to his city. The ambulance gift is historic as well; Aventura’s charter requires a six-sevenths City Commission vote to approve any charitable donation. Friday marks the city’s first approval and delivery of such a contribution. “There is an unbreakable bond between Aventura and the state of Israel,” Aventura Mayor Howard Weinberg said. “We look forward to sharing ideas, successes, and culture as we deepen our ties.”

Howard Weinberg seeks to strengthen ties with the Israeli community of Modi’in.

A ‘fight for decades to come’: Jewish leaders in South Florida seek solutions amid antisemitism surge” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Hundreds of civic, business, religious and government leaders — mostly from Broward — heard sobering assessments of the breadth and depth of the antisemitism, grappled for anything that might alleviate it, and searched for reasons to offer optimism. “We will never go back to business as usual,” declared Ted Deutch, CEO of the American Jewish Committee and a former Broward-Palm Beach county member of Congress. “We will be in this fight for decades to come.” In speeches, panel discussions and interviews, neither Deutch nor more than a dozen other speakers had easy answers for combating hatred and conspiracy theories directed at Jewish people.

Doral revokes call to end ‘hostilities’ in Mideast after backlash from Jewish community” via Lauren Costantino and Verónica Egui Brito of the Miami Herald — After passing a statement calling for peace in the Middle East, Doral political leaders scrambled to douse the firestorm the purely symbolic resolution sparked in their own backyard. In a contentious meeting called solely to deal with the resulting controversy, the City Council unanimously rescinded a resolution passed less than two weeks ago that advocated a permanent end to “hostilities” between Israel and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Some Council members had initially described the measure, a first from a South Florida city, as a call for a cease-fire. It quickly drew backlash from many Jewish groups and politicians outside the city.

A Fort Lauderdale cop reported an attack by BLM protesters. Now, the story’s changing” via Sarah Blaskey of the Miami Herald — It’s been nearly four years since police shot tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters as they left a previously peaceful rally held in downtown Fort Lauderdale in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, fracturing the eye socket of LaToya Ratlieff. Now, new evidence in a civil rights lawsuit filed by Ratlieff appears to undermine the department’s official justification for using chemical agents and so-called “less lethal” munitions against protesters that day. Although there had been no violent incidents all afternoon, police said their heavy-handed tactics that evening were a response to an officer “screaming for help” over the radio as protesters attacked her unmarked police car, pounding on windows and jumping on the vehicle. During a deposition taken under oath, the officer who made the initial distress call admitted she never actually saw anyone damaging her vehicle or jumping on the trunk as described in her incident report. And a forensic analysis of synchronized video and audio from the scene shows no evidence that protesters were surrounding the vehicle, as the officer reported as she radioed for backup.

Cuban officials also visited Miami’s airport in 2015 and 2011, TSA confirms” via Douglas Hanks and Nora Gámez Torres of the Miami Herald — Federal authorities brought Cuban aviation officials to tour Miami International Airport in 2011 and 2015, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) confirmed, two days after the revelation of a similar visit launched a political storm in Miami. “In August 2011, Cuba inspectors conducted a reciprocal visit to observe security measures at Last Point of Departure airports at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York and Miami International Airport in Miami,” TSA representative Mark Howell said in an email. “During this visit, the Cuban delegation presented TSA with a copy of its Civil Aviation Security Program, which was a breakthrough in sharing information.”

The TSA has allowed Cuban officials to visit MIA in 2011 and 2015, in addition to this month.

Stuart City Commission candidate Cary Hall Yost-Rudge arrested, accused of trespassing Stuart home” via Keith Burbank of Treasure Coast Newspapers — A candidate for City Commission was arrested and charged with trespassing at an address she used on papers she filed to run for office. Yost-Rudge was arrested shortly after 5 p.m. at 820 E. 14th St. after a representative of the property owner, Monterey Trust, went there to reclaim the home, according to an arrest report. “She seemed like a really good person,” said neighbor Daniel Nieman, who lives two doors away. He saw a moving truck, police and then a pile of furniture in front of the property. Yost-Rudge is running for the Group 2 seat in the Aug. 20 Primary Election against Mayor Rebecca Bruner and Laura Giobbi.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Hamburger Mary’s, which sued DeSantis over drag queen law, is closing and hoping to relocate” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — The LGBTQ+-friendly Orlando restaurant involved in a landmark lawsuit pushing back against Florida’s culture wars is closing its doors next month. Popular for its drag queen brunches, Hamburger Mary’s successfully sued last year to stop SB 1438, which banned children from attending drag queen shows. Hamburger Mary’s announced it will close business at the end of the day June 2, citing a changing downtown Orlando environment as the reason why. The restaurant’s owners called their news “bittersweet” and said they hope to reopen somewhere else in the future.

Hamburger Mary’s is moving out of ‘sleepy’ downtown Orlando.

Citizens’ panel tries again to put growth restrictions before Orange County voters” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange County voters may get an opportunity to rein in development at the county’s urban-rural borders after all. The county’s Charter Review Commission — thwarted by state legislation targeting its efforts to place a rural boundary measure on the November ballot — is now asking County Commissioners to put the citizen-proposed, developer-opposed rule in front of voters instead. If Commissioners agree and the voters go along, Orange County would have its strongest set of rules ever to counteract urban sprawl. The proposed measure would draw boundary lines in sensitive areas around the county beyond which urban-level development would face much higher hurdles to approval.

Federal Judge dismisses lawsuit over Monique Worrell suspension by DeSantis” via the News Service of Florida — A federal Judge dismissed a lawsuit in which two voters and the group Florida Rising Together challenged DeSantis’ suspension of Orlando-area State Attorney Worrell. U.S. District Judge Julie Sneed issued a 15-page ruling that said plaintiffs David Caicedo and Rajib Chowdhury and Florida Rising Together did not have legal standing to pursue the lawsuit. “Upon consideration, the court finds that plaintiffs failed to allege an invasion of a legally protected interest in defendant’s (DeSantis’) removal of Ms. Worrell from her position pursuant to the Florida Constitution,” Sneed wrote. “Instead, plaintiffs’ injury appears to be largely derivative of Ms. Worrell’s own injury in being removed before the conclusion of her term for alleged partisan reasons.”

Disney starts giving to Florida politicians again, Sen. Geraldine Thompson says” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Disney’s Princess Tiana appears on the invitations to Democratic state Sen. Thompson’s fundraiser next month, and with that image comes the return of a major player in Florida politics. The Walt Disney Co. provided theme park tickets, Thompson said, in what’s known as an in-kind contribution. It could be the first contribution to a Florida politician in more than two years from the entertainment giant, once one of the biggest donors to Democrats and Republicans alike. In March 2022, Disney suspended all political contributions in Florida in the wake of the controversy over the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bans instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity in schools. Then-CEO Bob Chapek stated his opposition to the bill after criticism from some fans and the LGBTQ community for not speaking out.


Push poll wrongly claims Bob Henriquez is overvaluing properties, suggests Tom Lee plans to challenge him” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Henriquez plans to investigate the origins of a poll sent earlier this week accusing Henriquez of overvaluing properties in the county and “causing a large increase in property taxes for the average resident.” There is no evidence to suggest Henriquez or his office has overvalued property, and the question relating to that claim ignores regulations that protect property owners from such overvaluations. Additionally, the Florida Department of Revenue annually audits each property appraiser’s valuations to ensure they are not over- or undervaluing properties.

Bob Henriquez pushes back hard on accusations he is overvaluing properties in Hillsborough County.

Deputy’s wife skewers Citrus Sheriff Mike Prendergast over treatment of injured husband” via Mike Wright of Florida Politics — The Citrus County community is reacting with outrage after the wife of a critically injured deputy penned a letter harshly critical of Sheriff Prendergast. Michelle Lahera said Prendergast and an unnamed high-ranking official coldly cut her husband’s employment status months after Andy Lahera was struck by a vehicle while directing traffic following the May 2023 Lecanto High School graduation ceremony. Citizens were stunned to learn Prendergast intended to terminate Lahera, a beloved school resource officer whose accident sparked an outpouring of community support that raised tens of thousands of dollars for the family.

More than a meal: Feeding Tampa Bay expands mission in new $60M HQ” via Christopher O’Donnell of Tampa Bay Times — Known as the Causeway Center, Feeding Tampa Bay’s new 215,000-square-foot warehouse and headquarters has formally opened. It will increase the food bank’s capacity from 85 million to 150 million meals per year, officials say. But the nonprofit has its sights set higher than just feeding the area’s needy. Roughly one-third of the building located just southeast of Port Tampa Bay is being offered free to partner nonprofits to provide help with housing, health care and job training. There will be services for veterans and seniors, a free grocery store, and a cafe that operates on a pay-what-you-can basis.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Duval County School Board picks new Superintendent backed by Manny Diaz” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Christopher Bernier, the former appointed Superintendent of Lee County and the preference of Florida Education Commissioner Diaz, got the nod. Charlotte Joyce, a DeSantis-endorsed candidate in 2022, is supporting Bernier’s appointment, saying he was “someone who could come in” and “has experience doing the work” to make Duval an “A” district. She suggested that the other candidate, Daniel Smith of Loudoun County, lacked “experience” in dealing with issues Duval has, and that Bernier may be better to “get students back in the district” and handle contract negotiations. Lori Hershey is also on board with Bernier, citing his ability to “literally rebuild a district” after a hurricane in 2022, by interfacing with Tallahassee to “do a stellar job.” His “proven ability to drive change” also played into her decision.

It’s official, Christopher Bernier is Duval County’s new School Superintendent.

Federal Judge denies request to pause Jacksonville panhandling ban as lawsuit argues it’s unconstitutional” via Charlie McGee of The Tributary — A federal Judge won’t force Jacksonville to stop enforcing panhandling restrictions while the city fights a lawsuit arguing that its ordinance violates free-speech rights. U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Corrigan denied a request by the COSAC Foundation Inc. for a preliminary injunction that would’ve temporarily halted enforcement of the panhandling ban. Corrigan heard arguments for and against the injunction at a hearing with attorneys on both sides of the lawsuit. The injunction was one early action sought by the COSAC Foundation in its ongoing challenge to the panhandling restrictions, which it argues violate the First Amendment and should be struck from Jacksonville’s books as unconstitutional.

Apalachicola Riverkeeper gets DEP to delay oil drilling permit as it weighs legal challenge” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — The Apalachicola Riverkeeper has asked the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to delay permitting an exploratory oil well in the sensitive Apalachicola River basin as it weighs a possible legal challenge. Attorneys for the Riverkeeper filed a request on May 16 asking for a 45-day extension of time, which is allowable under administrative rules. The lawyers, Timothy Perry and John Lavia III of Tallahassee, said the organization needs more time to decide whether to challenge the permit. “In order to fully analyze this … prior to deciding whether to file a permit challenge, in good faith and for good cause, Petitioner needs additional time to hire and consult with technical experts and its attorney regarding the draft permit and its potential impacts,” the Riverkeeper’s filing says.


Sarasota County allocates $45M in first round of Hurricane Ian relief funding” via Heather Bushman of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The first round of more than $200 million in Hurricane Ian relief funding is on its way to a batch of infrastructure projects across Sarasota County. The Sarasota County Commission approved 12 applications for funding from the Resilient SRQ Infrastructure Program. The program, which boasts a pool of $201.5 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, will distribute $45 million among approved infrastructure projects. An additional $25 million will go toward construction on the South River Road Evacuation Corridor, which already received $15 million as part of the approvals. The remaining $161.5 million will be directed toward housing, economic revitalization, planning and administrative projects.

Sarasota Judge likely to inspect content police obtained from Christian Ziegler’s phone” via Gabriela Szymanowska of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — A Sarasota Judge may inspect materials Sarasota police sent to State Attorney Ed Brodsky’s office related to the police department’s criminal investigation into former Florida Republican Party Chair Ziegler over an alleged sexual battery and potential video voyeurism. Sarasota Circuit Judge Hunter Carroll issued the interim order, less than a week after he heard arguments regarding an injunction request filed by Ziegler and his wife, Sarasota County School Board member Bridget Ziegler. It is unclear when Carroll will rule on the injunction request, but the order indicates Carroll will likely need to review the materials police obtained from Christian Ziegler’s phone during their investigation to decide whether to grant the injunction.

Get prepared — a judge is ready to look at the contents of Christian Ziegler’s phone.

Bridget Ziegler absent as public rallies against her at Sarasota School Board meeting” via Steven Walker of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — A salacious storm of scolding directed at School Board member Ziegler fell on deaf ears as her chair sat empty during Tuesday’s Sarasota School Board meeting. The Board approved items on reading intervention programs, construction funding and charter school contracts as the public continued to scorn the Board for its role in rejecting new Title IX protections against gender identity discrimination. Public commenters also addressed new details about Ziegler’s sex life driven by an investigation into a rape allegation against her husband Christian, the now-former Chair of the Florida Republican Party. Ziegler was absent at Tuesday’s meeting because she was on a field trip with her daughter, Board Chair Karen Rose said.


The Trumpian vertigo of American politics” via Charles Sykes of The Atlantic — We’ve been led to believe that things work in a certain way, that there are mores and norms. We thought our world was right side up, but it now feels as if it’s been turned upside down. Words don’t mean what we think they do. Outrage is followed not by accountability, but by adulation. Standards shift, flicker, vanish. Nothing is stable.

Trump pays off a porn star and yet is hailed as a champion of Christian values. He mocks prisoners of war and calls dead soldiers “suckers,” and his MAGA base is thrilled by his patriotism. And, as Tom Nichols notes in The Atlantic, Trump brags about his tight relationship with America’s implacable adversary, Vladimir Putin, claiming that the Russian President will release detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich “for me, but not for anyone else.”

To hear conservative Christians argue that personal character doesn’t matter or to witness self-described constitutional conservatives defend a relentless attack on the rule of law is disorienting. To see advocates of law-and-order embrace rioters who attacked the Capitol and beat police officers is baffling. To watch the party of Ronald Reagan embracing isolationism and following Trump in truckling to the Butcher of Ukraine, Putin, is bewildering. Mind-bending, also, is that, despite Trump’s fire hose of lies, 71% of Republicans describe him as “honest and trustworthy.”

Maybe that’s why following the news these days feels like swallowing crazy pills. You don’t have to be a particularly cynical observer of American politics to recognize that, past a certain point, no norms endure that cannot be abandoned, and that any position can be flipped if doing so is expedient.


Trump’s assassination fantasy has a darker purpose” via Juliette Kayyem of Atlantic Magazine — When Trump insinuated this week that his successor and the FBI were out to kill him, he showed how central violence has become to his conception of political leadership. Trump declared Tuesday on Truth Social, his social-media platform, that he “was shown reports Crooked Joe Biden’s DOJ, in their illegal and UnConstitutional Raid of Mar-a-Lago, AUTHORIZED THE FBI TO USE DEADLY (LETHAL FORCE).” Trump has a way of projecting his own vices onto others. His view of presidential power is absolute — to the point that his lawyer recently argued before the Supreme Court that ordering the military to assassinate a political rival “could well be an official act.” There is probably some limiting principle to this particular argument, but the fact that the issue is even under discussion is not a good sign for our democracy. Perhaps he believes that Biden was out to shoot him because he thinks that’s an order that Presidents can freely give.

What climate change? As South Florida sizzles, DeSantis chooses denial with new law” via the Miami Herald editorial board — This month has already proven to be one for the records — the hottest May ever documented in Miami, based on the heat index, a “feels like” measure that accounts for temperature and humidity. The index this past weekend peaked at a staggering 112 degrees. The extreme weather has been the result of a perfect storm of fewer clouds, moist air coming from the southwest, and the air sinking and warming, an occurrence known as a high-pressure ridge, the Herald reported. Last Summer’s unbearable temperatures were influenced by the El Niño phenomenon. But scientists have made it clear: climate change is making these record-high temperatures and hotter Summers more common. The whole planet has gotten warmer.

If Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony broke the law, why is he still in office?” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Tony has generated a lot of controversy since taking office. Among other things, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Tony repeatedly lied about his past. Tony’s woes, however, were amplified Monday when a judge validated one of FDLE’s key accusations, ruling that the sheriff had violated the law. Specifically, administrative law judge Robert Kilbride ruled Tony concealed a previously suspended driver’s license when seeking a renewal in 2019 — after Tony was sheriff. The judge noted that failure to disclose a prior suspension was a third-degree felony and recommended Tony receive a suspension. If you are accused of committing a crime, you might be prosecuted and threatened with imprisonment. But when politicians are accused, they get the luxury of administrative hearings.

John Roberts has a big problem on his hands” via Julian Zelizer of CNN — If Chief Justice Roberts is really an institutionalist — someone deeply concerned about the integrity of the Supreme Court and public perceptions about it — then he has a big problem on his hands. This week, the news broke that another controversial flag was flown at a home owned by Justice Alito — in this case, a New Jersey vacation property — two years after one was flown outside his house in Virginia. The flags raise questions about just how publicly Alito is willing to express his political opinions and how those might influence his legal decisions.




ABC Action News Full Circle with Paul LaGrone on Channel 10 WFTS: ABC Action News reporter Nadeen Yanes; Jon Wax, CEO of Waller and Wax Advisors; and Tallahassee reporter Forrest Saunders.

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida and other issues affecting the region.

In Focus with Allison Walker on Bay News 9/CF 13: A discussion of Military Appreciation Month and how local groups are helping to integrate returning veterans back into our business communities. Joining Walker are Commissioner Doug Shields, District 1, Lake County Commission/Vice-Chair; and Lisa Demmi, Director of Operations, Post 9/11 Veterans.

Political Connections on Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete and Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: The weekly Sunday show is launching as a joint weeknight show airing Monday through Friday at 7 p.m.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Pollster Steve Vancore speaks with FEA President Andrew Spar.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Government law attorney Chris Hand.

— ALOE —

Fort Lauderdale, Orlando airports knocked for slow departures Memorial Day weekend” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — With Memorial Day weekend being the unofficial beginning of Summer, it brings intense travel demands and some Florida airports will be some of the busiest in the country. The extended weekend draws some of the heaviest crowds to airports, which can result in substantial delays and cancellations. The Orlando and Fort Lauderdale international airports are among the most notorious for those setbacks. Travel advisers are warning flight passengers to be sure to give themselves ample time when going to the airport because there is a notable chance they will run into some delays.

Memorial Day weekend is notorious in Florida for huge delays in flights from Orlando and Fort Lauderdale.

Prices at the pump are dropping just in time for Memorial Day weekend” via David Uberti of The Wall Street Journal — Good news for Americans hitting the road over what could be a record Memorial Day weekend of driving: Prices at the pump are ticking lower again. A slow but steady decline pushed the average U.S. cost of regular gasoline to $3.58 a gallon last week, down from $3.67 about a month earlier. The recent figure is roughly in line with prices a year ago and about 5% below the typical pre-Memorial Day cost since 2000, when adjusting for inflation.

AAA motor club projects most travelers for Memorial Day weekend in 20 years” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — Travel experts are projecting that this Memorial Day weekend could put more people on the roads and in airplane seats than has been seen in two decades. And Florida is going to be one of the main destinations for those on the move this holiday period. It appears that the weekend honoring America’s military service personnel might prompt most people to drive and fly since AAA began tracking the travel patterns for holiday periods in 2000. It’s also a sign that traveling in the U.S. may have fully recovered from any residual impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which began in 2020. AAA projects that there will be 43.8 million Americans who will travel nationally during the Memorial Day stretch between Thursday, May 23, through Monday, May 27. That’s a 5% jump over 2023’s figure for the Memorial Day travel period, which reached 42 million travelers.


Celebrating today are Zach Colletti, Jillian Lane Wyant, Cheryl Martell, and Rob Johnson with the Mayernick Group.


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.

One comment

  • Alexandra Zakhvatayev

    May 24, 2024 at 8:14 am

    IDK exactly what Charles “Sykes” is complaining about. norms has and always will evolve. from a political standpoint, should we really care about stormy daniels? from a religious standpoint, should Christians not forgive “sin”? and how is “personal” sin more treacherous than actual policymaking which affects millions of people? what is wrong with Trump avowing he will free gershowitz ?? he brought light to the man’s false imprisonment outside of the normal political cycle – wherein Biden only commented on it during the “1 year anniversery”. and lastly, please tell me where in the press did TRump say he would give up on Ukrainian borderland? unless you give me a direct quote from the horses mouth, I will assume these are false insinuations, which is what we can usually expect from the mainstream with regard to Trump. Trump was the first president to send real weapons to Ukraine since the Donbas war….. I do not think Trump will turn his back on Ukraine, Trump – much unlike many of his “far right” posse such as Byron Donalds , who follows the man around like his paparazzi, and tries so badly to step in line with him, meanwhile cannot make actual sense of anything the man actually says, let alone put it into action in Congress.

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

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