Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.30.24

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Wake up right: Get your scoops and other news about Florida politics.

Good Thursday morning.

Breaking late Wednesday — “Disney plan calls for investing up to $17B in Orlando, Ron DeSantis-backed district says” via Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida’s Tourism Oversight District is poised to adopt a new development agreement with The Walt Disney Co. that officials say will bring up $17 billion of investments at Disney World over the next 10 to 20 years. The District’s Board will take up the plan Wednesday, addressing a key source of contention between DeSantis and Disney. “With Walt Disney World’s substantial investments, we anticipate economic growth, job creation and support for local businesses, alongside environmental stewardship and workforce housing initiatives, benefiting Central Florida’s community,” Stephanie Kopelousos, administrator of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, said. In the 15-year agreement, Disney pledges to fund at least $10 million in affordable housing projects and create a local business hiring program that would award a minimum of 50% of the value of all construction work to Florida-based businesses. District officials say they have agreed to continue providing infrastructure to support Disney’s growth.


U.S. Sen. Rick Scott is calling out Republican and Democratic leaders alike in a new video backing his bids for re-election and to lead Senate Republicans.

“How do we stop inflation and reverse it so a working family can afford a decent dinner? How do we secure our border so illegal aliens aren’t free to wander around our country and murder a young college woman out for a jog in Georgia? How do we turn things around and punish and stop crime instead of letting it get out of control and destroy our communities? Senate Republicans should be leading the way on these things, but we aren’t,” Scott said.

The two-term Governor and current U.S. Senator, who is up for re-election in November, said there are two Republican Parties — “a tired, old” one comprised of career politicians in Washington who are chummy with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and a “real” one made up of people outside the DMV.

Scott said he would represent the “real Republican Party” if voters send him back to Washington and his fellow GOP Senators elect him as the successor to exiting Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

“It’s the one Washington Republicans ignore. It’s the one that respects working people and their families and their beliefs. It’s the one that’s tired of being sold out, tired of being thrown under the bus, tired of the Washington status quo. It’s the one that supports Donald Trump, instead of undermining him all the time. These old establishment Republicans have had their day. It’s time for a change and a fresh, new approach,” Scott said.

Scott, who got 10 votes in his challenge to McConnell in 2022’s leadership fight, announced he would give it another shot earlier this month. Shortly after, the former President also recently said he was “excited” that Scott was running although he didn’t explicitly endorse him.

Whether McConnell’s successor will be the Majority Leader or Minority Leader hinges on the outcome of November’s U.S. Senate elections. One of them will feature Scott, with Democratic former U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell as his likely opponent.

To watch the new video, please click the image below:


GrayRobinson announced Wednesday that John Ariale will head to its Washington D.C. office to lead its federal lobbying operation.

Ariale, who has 40 years of senior-level insight into the federal appropriations process, joins the law and lobbying firm as a managing shareholder and leader of the Federal Lobbying Team.

GrayRobinson deepens its D.C. footprint with the addition of John Ariale.

“John is a longtime friend and has been a phenomenal teammate with GrayRobinson on several lobbying clients over the years,” said GrayRobinson President and CEO Dean Cannon. “We are thrilled he now is officially part of our firm and leading our Washington, D.C., office. His extensive public service in Congress has enabled John to build a prolific network on Capitol Hill, and we are excited to continue growing our footprint and capabilities with his expertise in Washington and beyond.”

Ariale’s résumé includes a decade working in former U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum’s office, including as Chief of Staff and District Director in Orlando. He later worked as Chief of Staff to U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw and then went on to set up a successful government relations practice.

“After a lengthy career on the Hill and developing a diverse and exciting government relations practice, I feel honored to return to my Florida roots as the managing shareholder of GrayRobinson’s Washington team of professionals,” Ariale said. “I am fortunate to have had quite an extensive background on the Hill, which has led to quite a diverse practice. I look forward to sharing this excitement for the work we do with my new colleagues and clients. Great things are on the horizon for us here in D.C.”


Will George is the new kid on the block at RSA Consulting, but the veteran lobbyists at the Tampa Bay-based firm say he’s a certified rock star.

George, who joined RSA in 2023, is being recognized for his “keen instincts for the process” with a promotion to Junior Lobbyist, where he will continue building his client portfolio in the construction and land use industries as well as expand his practice to include economic development, regulated industries and workforce education.

’Rockstar’ Will George is the new face at RSA Consulting.

“Will has been an amazing asset to the firm. He jumped into some challenging issues this past Session for several of our clients, including the Florida Surety Association, and helped provide a fresh perspective on critical policies moving through the process,” said Edward Briggs, RSA Vice President of Government and Community Affairs. “His hard work and determination have paid off, and I know he will continue to do great things for our clients.”

George first joined RSA as an intern while attending Florida State University. Following his graduation, he transitioned into a full-time coordinator role for the 2024 Legislative Session.

“We hire individuals who we believe are our people and this philosophy has helped build the incredible team culture we have today. Will is one of us; he’s a hard worker, a fast learner, and his ties to the community and passion for our clients are just a few of the reasons we believe he is a great fit for our team long term,” said Natalie King, RSA Vice President and COO. “First as an intern, then full-time as a coordinator, Will has proved himself over and over as a valuable member of Team RSA.”

George rounds out a team that includes firm founder Ron Pierce, King, Briggs, Matt Herndon, Melody Arnold, Natalie Brown as well as special project directors Gina Sisk and Brittany DesMarais.


The Florida Student Association has announced its new leadership team for its 2024-25 term.

FSA released a statement introducing the new members filling the President, Interior and external Vice President positions.

“With a blend of diverse backgrounds and experiences, the incoming leaders are poised to drive positive change and elevate the voices of students across the state,” FSA’s statement read.

Olivia Mikkelsen, John Brinkman, Loryn May and Elijah Hooks are the Florida Student Association’s new leadership team for its 2024-25 term.

John Brinkman, a University of Florida graduate student majoring in management, will take the role of President. Brickman serves as UF Student Body President and has undergraduate degrees in economics, political science and philosophy.

Loryn May, a senior mathematics education major at Florida A&M University, will serve as FSA’s Interior Vice President. Olivia Mikkelsen, a junior psychology and anthropology major at New College of Florida, will serve as FSA’s Exterior Vice President. Both serve as the student body presidents for their respective colleges.

Additionally, FSA announced that their former Chief of Staff, Elijah Hooks, would transition into a new role as senior adviser. Hooks graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science from Florida A&M University, where he served as Student Body Attorney General. He was appointed executive director and Chief of Staff in November 2023, serving as FSA’s first Black leader.

“The newly selected leadership team is committed to representing the diverse interests and needs of Florida’s student population,” the statement read. “They are poised to collaborate with stakeholders across the state to address key issues facing students and work toward a brighter future for higher education in Florida.”


@MarcoRubio: Just one hour into deliberations at the sham Trump trial we already have mass confusion. Multiple questions from the jury & a request to have 55 pages of confusing and unfair jury instructions re-read tomorrow morning by the Biden supporter serving as the judge. Because there was no crime!

@JimmyPatronis: Frankly, Mother Teresa had more issues than Donald Trump. President Trump did nothing wrong. There are no victims. He’s being persecuted. Lawfare. Hard to believe the system is fair if he isn’t fully acquitted!

@TheRickWilson: Trump is going to mainline a giant Adderall eight-ball tonight and post on Trash Social until dawn.

@BalloonFlavour: Love that CNN has adopted the Domino’s pizza tracker format for trial updates

@Aronberg: Unlike most other states, New York doesn’t allow cameras in the courtroom and doesn’t allow jurors to have a copy of the jury instructions. Two outdated rules that need to be changed.

@MichelleSalzman: To teach my kids about democracy, I let them vote on dinner. They picked tacos. Then I made pizza because they don’t live in a swing state.

@JeffreyBrandes: #Florida‘s prison system is facing a severe crisis with aging infrastructure and an increasing number of elderly inmates, requiring between $6 billion and $12 billion for necessary upgrades over the next 20 years. The state needs new prisons, hospitals, and significant staffing increases to address these issues. Florida prison system ‘unsustainable’ without billions in upgrades and investment, @KPMG report says.

@SWalker_7: The City of Sarasota has informed New College of Florida that it does not have the jurisdiction to stop the college from removing trees from the Uplands Bayfront Preserve.

@BobbyWTSP: #PlantCity and #PeterOKnight airport are in the top 5 hottest places in the U.S. right now!


Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday begins — 2; the 2024 World Cup begins — 13; DreamWorks Land officially opens at Universal Orlando — 15; season two of ‘House of the Dragon’ returns to Max — 17; CNN Presidential Debate — 28; Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opens at Disney World — 29; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 30; Freedom Month Sales Tax Holiday begins — 33; Universal Mega Movie Parade debuts — 34; Republican National Convention begins — 45; the 2024 World Cup ends — 49; 2024 MLS All-Star Game — 54; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games on NBC/Peacock — 57; ‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ premieres — 58; Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday begins — 61; ‘Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 79; Florida Primary Election — 83; Democratic National Convention begins — 83; FBHA’s annual conference, BHCon, begins — 83; second Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday begins — 87; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 87; Tool Time Sales Tax Holiday begins — 95; 2024 NFL season kicks off — 100; Packers will face Eagles in Brazil — 100; Vice Presidential Debate — 119; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 142; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 149; Florida TaxWatch’s 45th Annual Meeting — 158; 2024 Presidential Election — 159; Legislature’s 2025 Organizational Session — 173; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 173; ‘Mufasa: The Lion King’ premieres — 190; MLS Cup 2024 — 191; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 259; the 2025 Oscars — 277; Florida’s 2025 Legislative Session begins — 279; 2025 Session ends — 339; ‘Moana’ premieres — 389; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 420; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 420; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 527; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 569; ‘Avengers 5’ premieres — 705; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 722; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 933; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,073; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,032; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,754.


Marco Rubio wants to be Donald Trump’s Vice President. He doesn’t want to audition.” via Michael C. Bender and Patricia Mazzei of The New York Times — Rubio has taken a low-key approach in aiming to become the next Republican vice-presidential nominee, a strategy with a clear logic: Trump is known to bristle when anyone gets too close to his limelight.

But for Rubio, it’s also a strategy with a history. When the two men competed for the Republican nomination in 2016, Trump relentlessly mocked his rival’s height, his ears and his mannerisms. Rubio hurled his own schoolyard taunts, which landed awkwardly and then backfired painfully until his defeat. Since then, the Senator has been careful and discreet about how close he gets to Trump.

Marco Rubio wants to be Donald Trump’s VP but does not want to seem too eager for it.

His behind-the-scenes maneuvering has transformed him from bitter rival to occasional policy adviser and now, a leading contender to join Trump’s ticket, advisers to the former President said.

But it is unclear whether Rubio’s quiet campaign will work. The soft touch has perplexed Trump, who has privately wondered how much the Senator wants the job, according to two people familiar with the former President’s thinking.

In effect, Rubio needs to show that he wants the job, without showing that he wants it too much.

Another risk is that anyone in Trump’s orbit is vulnerable to another round of public humiliation. For Rubio, the indignities have crept into the conversation.

Trump told donors at an event this month that Rubio’s “name is coming up a lot.”

“People love Marco, and I love Marco — he’s a talented guy,” Trump said.

— 2024 — FLORIDA —

John Morgan endorses recreational marijuana in Florida, says he ‘might’ run for Governor” via Douglas Soule of USA Today Network — Floridians have seen attorney Morgan’s billboard ads: “America’s Largest Injury Law Firm — Size Matters,” one reads. Now, they’re going to see a lot more promotions from Morgan & Morgan’s founder, but for a completely different purpose. To make Florida’s recreational marijuana constitutional amendment the law of the land, Morgan knows the size of the advertising campaign matters, too. The attorney and frequent Democratic fundraiser announced Wednesday that he would appear in multiple audio advertisements to get out the vote on Amendment 3, which would allow marijuana for those 21 years and older in Florida — if those casting a state ballot in the 2024 Election approve it by no less than a 60% threshold.

John Morgan is ready to go all-out for Amendment 3. Image via AP.

— 2024 — DOWN-BALLOT —

Trump endorses John Rutherford ahead of Primary” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Trump gave his official backing to U.S. Rep. Rutherford in his re-election bid in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, saying the former Jacksonville Sheriff and fourth-term Congressman “is doing a terrific job” in office. “John works every day to Protect our Country, Grow our Economy, Support our Brave Police and First Responders, Defend our always-under-siege Second Amendment, and Uphold the Rule of Law. As a Sheriff, John spent many years safeguarding our great Communities, and he continues to do so in Congress. John Rutherford has my Complete and Total Endorsement & HE WILL NEVER LET YOU DOWN!” Worth noting: Brian Hughes, who is running Trump’s Florida campaign, has also been a consultant for Rutherford in past cycles.

John Rutherford gets the ‘Complete and Total Endorsement.’

‘Dan gets results’: Rubio, Rick Scott endorse Daniel Webster for re-election” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Florida’s U.S. Senate delegation wants U.S. Rep. Webster re-elected. U.S. Sens. Rubio and Scott are both endorsing Webster, a Clermont Republican seeking his eighth term. Webster faces a Republican Primary challenge this year from former state Rep. Anthony Sabatini. Rubio harkened back to his days in the Florida Legislature when he served at the same time Webster held office in the Florida Senate. “Florida is free because of proven conservative leaders like Dan Webster,” said Rubio, a Miami Republican.

—”Miami-Dade Commission Chair, Vice Chair endorse Vicki Lopez for re-election in HD 113” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics

Happening tonight:


Joe Biden, Kamala Harris launch Black voter group as they aim to blunt Trump’s gains” via Toluse Olorunnipa of The Washington Post — Biden and Vice President Harris traveled to Philadelphia on Wednesday to launch “Black Voters for Biden-Harris,” each using stark language to present the prospect of a return to the White House by Trump as a dire threat to communities of color. “Folks, all progress, all freedom, all opportunities are at risk,” Biden said at a rally at Girard College, a majority-Black boarding school in the city. “Trump is trying to make the country forget just how dark and unsettling things were when he was President.” He went on to say that the “threat that Trump poses is greater in his second term than his first,” describing an America under the former President as a place of “anger, resentment and hate.”

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris launched a Black voter group to help slow the exodus to Trump.


Of course, he didDeSantis offered to cut funding for roads to pay for his state militia” via Jason Garcia of Seeking Rents — The Governor wanted more taxpayer funding for the Florida State Guard — the state military force that DeSantis personally commands. His administration had just signed off on plans for the recently resurrected militia to begin buying airplanes, helicopters and drones, but DeSantis still needed money for people to actually fly them. But Florida lawmakers were about to conclude negotiations on a new state budget. And they had so far only agreed to give the Governor a tiny fraction of his ask. So just after 9 p.m. on the final Sunday of this year’s Legislative Session, DeSantis made a suggestion: To pay for his pilots, lawmakers should cut funding for Florida roads. Specifically, records show that DeSantis’ budget director proposed that lawmakers take $10 million out of a program called “Moving Florida Forward” — a program created to speed up construction of key highway and transit projects around the state — and spend that money on the Florida State Guard instead.

Ron DeSantis looks to rob Peter to pay Paul.

Advocates shine light on Florida’s $2.2 billion problem: Decaying, expensive prisons” via Mark Harper of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — Florida is responsible for housing 85,000 prisoners − a population a bit greater than Daytona Beach’s — while the state’s correctional institutions and hospitals, like the inmates themselves, are aging. Lawmakers at this year’s Legislative Session did not address major reforms such as implementing access to parole or rescinding the 1990s-era “two-strikes-you’re-out” law. And the House and Senate put just $100 million in recurring funds into the state budget to address a projected $2.2 billion in “critical” needs. Rather than focus only on rebuilding prisons, it is time to focus on reforming the system. At a rate of $100 million annually, it will take Florida at least 22 years — and almost assuredly more — to fix things that need fixing right now: Electrical systems, plumbing, security systems as well as prison buildings themselves.

Florida Board of Education passes rule ensuring high school sports separated by biological sex” via Michael Costeines of Florida’s Voice — The State Board of Education reinforced its stance Wednesday to protecting the integrity of women and girls in sports by determining a student’s biological sex, and not gender identity, will be the factor to participate in the Florida High School Athletic Association. “I’m grateful that the State Board of Education took decisive action on critically important topics today, especially for women and girls,” Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz Jr. said. “Florida will never compromise on the health, safety and well-being of our students and educators. Whether it’s the integrity of athletics or safety on school campuses, we are absolutely committed to doing what’s right.” The Board unanimously approved the new bylaws for the Florida High School Athletic Association, or FHSAA, for the upcoming 2024-2025 school year. The rule ensures students will compete in athletics based on their biological sex, at birth.

Florida civics training links ‘cancel culture’ to mass murder” via Judd Legum of Popular Information — The Florida Department of Education’s civics training does not just train educators to teach Christian nationalism. The same program also includes a section on Communism’s legacy. The presentation includes factual information about mass murders ordered by the totalitarian leaders of communist and socialist governments. Stalin’s “Great Terror,” for example, involved the execution of an estimated 750,000 people who were seen as political dissidents. The training calls these systematic killings “the original cancel culture.” One can argue about whether or not a professional Board requiring such coaching is appropriate. But it is not an outgrowth of “Marxist-communist” mass murder.

Rural emergency hospitals qualify for more Medicare funds under new state, federal laws” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Florida is the 16th state to tap into a new federal law authorizing the establishment of “rural emergency hospitals” (REH) and increasing Medicare payments that flow to those facilities. DeSantis recently signed a batch of nine new measures. One of those was SB 644, sponsored by Republican Sen. Corey Simon. It takes effect July 1. The new law is meant to help abate a rash of hospital closures and to take advantage of increased Medicare payments to rural hospitals as a means to keep them afloat. Specifically, REHs would be paid for services at an amount that is equal to the amount that would be paid to a hospital for providing the equivalent outpatient service, plus an additional 5%.

A bus without seat belts crashed, killing eight farmworkers. Will Florida change its laws?” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Miami Herald — The 19 farmworkers crammed into a van meant to carry 15, headed back from a day’s work in Florida’s citrus fields. As the van tried to pass a semitrailer, it veered off Interstate 95 in Fort Pierce. Nine workers, all from Mexico, died. The rest were injured. That was in April 2004. Florida lawmakers reconvened the next year to consider safety issues related to migrant and seasonal labor. In 2006, the state passed a law requiring seat belts for vehicles that take farm laborers to work. “We’re going to send a message across the country that we care about those workers,” Sen. Anthony Hill said then. Senators stood to applaud a small group of farmworkers who watched from the Capitol gallery. Earlier this month, a similar tragedy played out. A driver swerved into the path of a bus full of migrant workers on their way to watermelon fields in Dunnellon, killing eight and injuring dozens.

Will the fatal bus crash spur lawmakers to make a change?

Emergency response contractor IEM gets ready for intense hurricane season” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — While many Floridians start to stock up on emergency supplies as hurricane season is about to officially get underway Saturday, a more complex formal hurricane preparedness system is gearing up for the treacherous season that doesn’t officially come to an end until Nov. 30. Hurricane response contractors such as IEM International deal with federal, state and local governments when tropical blasts plow through shorelines. While IEM is involved in response — including infrastructure, disaster recovery and reconstruction — they have to make sure their contracts are in line well before storms make landfall.


This story is so bonkersFugitive Florida Deputy Sheriff who became Kremlin disinformation impresario” via NewsGuard Reality Check — It starts with a NewsGuard analyst happening upon what appeared to be a fledgling Washington D.C.-based news site promoting Russian propaganda. Unbeknown to her, this was six months after her boss and his family had been threatened in a YouTube video that included an aerial video of his home and calls to his unlisted phone number by a Russian operative working from a studio in Moscow. It turns out that this D.C. website, those threats to NewsGuard’s co-CEO, and what NewsGuard discovered were dozens of similar hostile information operations — including a “documentary” that the Russians used as an excuse to invade Ukraine — were all orchestrated by the same man — John Mark Dougan, a former Florida deputy sheriff who fled to Moscow after being investigated for computer hacking and extortion.

John Mark Dougan went from being a deputy to pushing Russian disinformation.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

The worst story you’ll read today2-year-old girl killed by father at Pembroke Pines home, police say” via Shira Moolten of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A 2-year-old girl died after her throat was lacerated by her father in his Pembroke Pines home Tuesday morning, officials say. Jeronimo Duran, 33, is now facing charges of murder while engaged in child abuse and aggravated child abuse, court records show. He had anger issues and displayed erratic behavior, punching walls and even the family dog, according to a recent court case involving the same home in which the mother of his 2-year-old daughter had sought to keep the girl from visiting him unsupervised. The two had moved out of the home over a year ago, but in March, Duran and the mother entered into a parenting plan in which the girl was required to visit him. Police did not confirm that the identity of the girl is the same as the one who died, nor did they speak on Wednesday about the prior domestic violence allegations involving Duran.

Jeronimo Duran is accused of the unthinkable.

Miami lawyer ends Supervisor of Elections bid after Trump endorses opponent” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Civil litigator Megan Pearl is out of the race for Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections (SOE), giving an unobstructed path to the GOP nomination to Miami Rep. Alina García. Pearl cited an endorsement Trump gave García as her reason. In a show of unity, she endorsed García too. “Running for Supervisor of Elections … gave me the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn about the political process and meet many wonderful people. I want to thank those in the community who believed in my campaign and my vision for the office,” Pearl said. “However, after a great deal of thought, I have decided to suspend my campaign and join President Trump in supporting Alina García for Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections. I remain committed to working to serve my community and look forward to new opportunities to do so.”

After cancer battle, Miami Commissioner Manolo Reyes plans to run for Mayor, ‘God willing’” via Tess Riski of the Miami Herald — Reyes said he had “a foot in the cemetery” last year after starting treatment for leukemia during the final weeks of his District 4 re-election campaign. But with his cancer now in remission, Reyes celebrated his 80th birthday at City Hall earlier this month. “It’s like I was born again,” he told the crowd after blowing out birthday candles. Despite being term-limited as a City Commissioner, Reyes said he’s energized and ready to run for elected office again — this time for Mayor, “God willing.” “Right now, you see, I’m in total remission, and it has been a miracle. … I feel good. I feel strong again, and I feel full of energy,” Reyes said in an interview.

‘Exceptional leadership’: three local leaders endorse James Reyes for Miami-Dade Sheriff” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Miami-Dade Public Safety Chief Reyes just added three more people to the list of those supporting his bid for Sheriff. Miami Gardens Council member Reggie Leon, Miami Springs Council member Victor Vazquez and former Rep. Elaine Bloom are all officially backing Reyes. “James Reyes is absolutely the right person for the job,” Leon said in a statement. “Chief Reyes has the leadership experience to bring people together, collaborate with partners, and keep communities safe all over Miami-Dade. His long track record of prioritizing the safety of the people speaks for itself and makes Chief Reyes the right choice for our community.” Vazquez, a U.S. Air Force veteran and retired Miami Dade College professor, said in a statement that the county “will continue to be a safe and thriving community for all” under Reyes.

Broward Public Schools swears in Hepburn as new Superintendent. He’ll make $340K” via Jimena Tavel of the Miami Herald — After inking a contract last week that grants him a $340,000 annual salary, Hepburn officially became the new Superintendent of Broward County Public Schools. Hepburn, 45, became the fourth permanent Superintendent in the last three years in Broward. The School District, the sixth largest in the country, has recently been ridden with extreme staff turnover and a precarious decline in student enrollment. Still, Hepburn seemed optimistic. “I’m incredibly excited and humbled by the opportunity to serve our students, staff and community,” he said after officially taking over. “Together, we will navigate some immediate challenges, including our budget and the need to redefine our schools for the future.”

A lawsuit claims a Palm Beach County health network shared patient info with Meta” via News Health Florida — A recent lawsuit alleges Palm Beach Health Network shared “highly sensitive personal information” with Facebook’s parent company, Meta, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. The health network is accused of sharing code from its website with the company, allowing Facebook to target patients with personalized ads based on sensitive information. The lawsuit alleges Palm Beach Health Network installed Facebook’s Meta Pixel and other invisible third-party tracking technology on its websites to intercept patients’ information “with the express purpose” of disclosing the information. The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in West Palm Beach.

Former Fire Chief Nate Spera is among candidates for St. Lucie County School Board seats” via Colleen Wixon of Treasure Coast Newspapers — The county’s former Fire Chief wants to take on a new countywide position: School Board member. Former Fire Chief Spera, who retired in 2023, said he’s seeking the District 4 School Board seat to help the district address growth and help students. He faces incumbent Jennifer Richardson, who is seeking re-election to her second four-year term. “We have some really big challenges meeting the needs of growth,” Spera said. Transportation also is going to be a big issue as the district prepares for the state-mandated changes to high school start times, he said. That is going to put a strain on the budget, he said.

Nate Spera is taking on incumbent Jennifer Richardson.

Former Lauderdale-by-the-Sea Commissioner gets five years in child sex abuse material case” via Chris Gothner of — A federal judge sentenced a former Lauderdale-by-the-Sea Commissioner, fire chief and “volunteer Santa” to five years in prison on Wednesday, more than three months after he pleaded guilty to possessing child sexual abuse material. James Silverstone, now 63, was first arrested by the Broward Sheriff’s Office last July. His case was later moved to federal court.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Osceola Pride festivals expect higher turnout due to support for LGBTQ community” via Natalia Jaramillo of the Orlando Sentinel — Pride Month starts Saturday and festival organizers in Osceola County expect higher turnout this year because of a planned Pulse remembrance statue as well as stronger support for the LGTBQ community. Last year St. Cloud canceled its first Pride festival, Proud in the Cloud, after DeSantis signed SB 1438 — which banned children from attending any live show that depicts nudity or sexual conduct. The law targeted businesses that hosted drag shows with a fine of up to $10,000 and allowed the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to revoke liquor licenses. The law also targeted city officials who granted permits for public events where children could watch events similar to drag shows with misdemeanor charges.

Osceola Pride festivals are expecting record turnout.

Mother of Daytona-area man shot and killed by police called 911 to warn officers” via Patricio G. Balona of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — The mother of a man fatally shot by Holly Hill police called dispatchers to warn police that her son was violent and dangerous and that he was hearing voices that told him to kill people, according to 911 recordings released by the Volusia Sheriff’s Office. “My son is schizophrenic and is very violent when he gets this way,” the mother said to 911 dispatchers. The man fatally shot was identified by the Sheriff’s Office as Michael Anthony Edminson, 40. The mother, who identified herself as Sharon Buckingham Czarny on a Facebook post regarding the incident, said in the 911 call her son had tried to kill her before.

Disgraced former Judge Scott DuPont booted from Circuit Court race” via Frank Fernandez of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — A court ruled that DuPont, who was removed from the bench by the state Supreme Court, is ineligible to run again. DuPont, who lives in Palm Coast, had filed to run against Circuit Judge Rose Marie Preddy. But a Leon County Circuit Judge granted a motion by Preddy’s attorneys who argued that DuPont was not eligible to run for circuit Judge. Preddy’s attorneys argued that DuPont had not been a member of the Florida Bar for the previous five years — a requirement to run for circuit Judge. The attorneys argued that’s because DuPont was suspended by the Florida Bar after his removal from the bench.

UCF medical school hires space doctor, to start in July” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Scientists and medical professionals want to better understand what happens to the human body in space, studying radiation exposure, zero gravity’s impact on the bones, how eyes adjust in the vast darkness, and even space motion sickness. It’s NASA meets medical school. That’s why the University of Central Florida (UCF) has hired its first-ever Vice Chair for aerospace medicine in the college’s Department of Medicine, the school recently announced. Emmanuel Urquieta will get paid $280,000 annually when he starts the new job in July.


Looking to take back Tampa State Attorney spot, Andrew Warren unveils endorsements” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Warren, who was ousted as Hillsborough County State Attorney, released a slate of endorsements from local Democrats as he ramps up his campaign to regain his position. The endorsements range from U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor to Hillsborough County Commissioners Harry Cohen, Pat Kemp and Gwen Myers. Florida House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell of Tampa is also backing Warren, as is Hillsborough Public Defender Julianne Holt and Hillsborough Clerk of Courts Cindy Stuart. Included in the endorsement list are former elected officials Alex Sink, who served as Chief Financial Officer from 2007 to 2011; Betty Castor, mother of Kathy Castor who served in the Legislature and as Education Commissioner in the 1980s and 1990s; and Arthenia Joyner, who served in the Florida House and Senate from 2000 to 2016.

Andrew Warren is lining up endorsements for his return to office.

Tampa’s Weatherford Capital launches sports private equity platform” via Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times — If private equity becomes a major player in college sports, Tampa will be one of its launching points. Weatherford Capital announced Wednesday that it is starting Collegiate Athletic Solutions, which it calls a “purpose-driven, dedicated capital and business-building platform” for schools’ athletic departments. The firm’s leadership includes Drew Weatherford, a former Florida State quarterback and current trustee, and his brother, Will Weatherford, the Chair of USF’s Board of Trustees.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Duval County tourism down slightly in April” via Max Marbut of the Jacksonville Daily Record — Duval County sold about the same number of hotel rooms in April as last year, but the occupancy rate decreased by 2.2% because new hotel properties opened in the market. April room revenue fell 4.4% to $47.9 million. The average daily rate was $117.73, down about $4 compared to April 2023. The year-over-year loss was particularly evident in the Beaches hotels, where the average rate dropped by nearly $19. That caused countywide room revenue to decrease by $2.1 million compared with last year, the report said. The data is from STR, a company that offers analytics and marketplace information about the hospitality industry.

Panama City Beach woman accused of making a bomb threat against Fort Walton Beach Police” via Collin Bestor of the Northwest Florida Daily News — A Panama City Beach woman has been arrested after police say she made a false report of a bomb at the Fort Walton Beach Police Department. On May 24, Scarlett Williams, 43, made a call to the Fort Walton Beach Police Department’s Communication Center claiming that a bomb was placed inside the department office. After an intensive search of the department with help from the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office K9 unit, it was found that there was no explosive device in or around the building. The release said the Fort Walton Beach Special Investigations Unit was able to quickly identify Williams, and with assistance from the Bay County Sheriff’s Office and Panama City Beach Police Department, she was taken into custody.

Scarlett Williams made a bomb threat, without a bomb.

State intervenes to oversee investigation of dubious $237M gift to Florida A&M University” via Tarah Jean of the Tallahassee Democrat — The Florida Board of Governors is stepping in to supervise the investigation of Florida A&M University’s dubious $237 million donation following a crisis of confidence. Julie Leftheris, the Board of Governors’ inspector general, sent FAMU President Larry Robinson a letter Friday, saying her office has been directed to “provide guidance, oversight and monitoring for the investigation into the circumstances surrounding a major donation.” The Board of Governors’ oversight comes after FAMU trustees unanimously voted during a May 15 special Board meeting to hire an external firm to perform a detailed investigation of the donation from Batterson Farms Corp. CEO Gregory Gerami and the Isaac Batterson Family 7th Trust.

State buys Cherokee Plantation for Red Hills Conservation Florida Forever project” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has finalized the $8.2 million purchase of what is known as conservation easements at Cherokee Plantation, which is about 6 miles north of Tallahassee. The 4,808-acre property is one of five tracts of land in Leon and Jefferson counties that is included in the Red Hills Conservation Florida Forever Project, a 17,875-acre initiative begun in 2019 to protect wildlife, wetlands, and groundwater recharge areas. From Old Centerville Road, the tract of land extends across rolling hills for about seven and a half miles, crossing Thomasville Road/U.S. 319 to reach Lake Iamonia. More than half of Foshalee Slough, hydrologically connected to both the Ochlocknee River and Lake Iamonia, and a sylvan menagerie of oak, hickory, dogwood and pine trees lie within the property.


New College of Florida set to punish student protesters following boos at commencement” via Steven Walker of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — New College of Florida is moving forward with disciplinary action against some students who participated in protests at the college’s commencement ceremony on May 17, according to a statement from the college and documents obtained by the Herald-Tribune. In a statement, New College said it had filed five conduct violation complaints related to the school’s student code of conduct. New College President Richard Corcoran said in a statement that students could face consequences ranging from withholding degrees until they issue an apology letter or take mandatory classes on civil discourse to suspension or expulsion from New College.

New College President Richard Corcoran said the school could withhold degrees from students who protested.

Manatee elections chief gets budget boost for ballot safety. Is it ‘smoke and mirrors?’” via Victoria Villanueva-Marquez and Ryan Ballogg of the Bradenton Herald — Manatee County officials have approved a significant budget increase after newly appointed Supervisor of Elections James Satcher questioned the integrity of local elections and vote-by-mail ballots. Satcher, who has filed to run for a four-year term as Supervisor, asked for a budget increase of $841,340, or 26%, to boost public confidence in the 2024 Presidential Election. He said the money will go toward new election equipment, an early voting location in the North River Ranch area and two satellite offices in the Lakewood Ranch and North River Ranch areas.

Referendum on Venice Council members’ terms, ending odd-year elections moves closer ballot” via Earle Kimel of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — A referendum asking city voters to end a 90-plus-year practice of holding annual elections for City Council members passed on a 5-2 vote despite vocal opposition from people in attendance, including two former Mayors who opposed the changes. A second reading of the ordinance is scheduled for June 11. If it is approved then, city voters will decide this Fall whether to extend Council terms to four years, with Council elections held during evenly numbered years — as city elections are in North Port and Sarasota — to sync with either the presidential or gubernatorial elections.


Perhaps lost in the polling: The race is still close” via Nate Cohn of The New York Times — The news is not all bad for Biden — or, at least, it’s not all that bad. The race is still pretty close. It’s close enough that he would have a very serious chance to win if the election were held tomorrow. And of course, the race won’t be held tomorrow: There are five-plus months to go for a possible Biden comeback.

Together, there’s a case for taking a glass-almost-half-full perspective on Biden’s chances. Right or wrong, it’s a case that maybe hasn’t gotten quite as much attention as it deserves.

How is the race close? Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

If Biden won those battleground states, he’d probably be re-elected as President. They would combine to give him exactly 270 Electoral College votes provided he held everywhere he won by six percentage points or more in 2020. That means he could lose all of Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio and so on, and still win.

Yes, Trump does lead most polls of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. But the race is close in all three states.

Biden could win if the election were held tomorrow even if the polls had an above-average year in terms of accuracy, simply because the polls don’t have to be off by much at all for him to prevail.

The polls aren’t perfect — they’ve been off before and they’ll be off again. They wouldn’t really need to be off target by much at all for Biden to squeak out a victory.

More than five months, after all, is a very long time in presidential politics.


Move over Disney. Starbucks is Florida’s new boogeyman” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Today we’re covering a couple of topics with a common theme — justice. Specifically, we’re looking at the questionable activity by powerful people that tends to be overlooked by law enforcement, compared to the low-hanging fruit that often snags their attention. Let’s start with the latest crusade of Florida’s Attorney General, who announced last week that she has her sights set on Starbucks. Yes, with Disney back to stroking campaign checks to Florida politicians who say they’re ready to make nice with the entertainment giant, this state’s top leaders needed a new culture-war boogeyman. Apparently, that’s Starbucks. During a radio segment with DeSantis, Moody announced that she wanted to go after the Seattle-based coffee company. For what crimes? Well, none actually. Moody doesn’t like Starbucks’ commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion.

That foul smell in Tamarac isn’t the garbage” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Picking up the garbage is a core function of local government. If a city wants a full-scale revolt on its hands, all it has to do is be sloppy about picking up the trash of taxpayers and businesses. So, it is vital that a city’s garbage vendor does its job and does it well. Besides, picking up garbage is highly lucrative work — Waste Management helped make Wayne Huizenga a billionaire — which is why the competition for multiyear garbage contracts can be fierce. But what just played out in Tamarac is stunning, even by the shabby standards of some officials in that west Broward city, and it cries out for reforms, if not an investigation by the state Commission on Ethics and Broward County’s inspector general. It involved questionable political contributions, robo-messaging, and accusations of “bribery” and “corruption” by an elected city official and ended, as do many decisions in Tamarac, with a 3-to-2 vote. A bare majority voted last week to extend Waste Management’s decadelong partnership with the city for seven more years, for a total of about $80 million.

Is the U.S. slowly trying to improve relations with Cuba? Let’s hope not” via Daniel I. Pedreira of the Miami Herald — Cuban government officials’ recent, unannounced tour of Miami International Airport, arranged by the Transportation Security Administration, is only one of the latest signs of a possible thawing of U.S.-Cuba relations. There are other troubling indications: This week, the Biden administration announced it will allow Cuban independent entrepreneurs to open bank accounts in the United States remotely from the island to support the private sector in Cuba, which was halted for months due to objections from Congress. It appears that months before the upcoming presidential elections in the United States, proponents of political rapprochement with Cuba are already making moves. Their goal, I believe, is to fully restore diplomatic relations with the Havana dictatorship if President Biden wins re-election in November.

Lawmakers can do more to provide state with better mental health care services” via David Silvers of The Palm Beach Post — As we come to the end of Mental Health Awareness Month, it is imperative that we focus on mental health advocacy. For far too long, there has been a stigma associated with seeking treatment for mental health disorders, whether it be cerebral issues, such as depression, or physical issues, such as anorexia, cutting, and bulimia. When not properly treated, individuals can fall into a tailspin that can escalate well beyond what preventive treatment can address. Preventive treatment can help address the root cause of mental health issues well before reactive care does. Once an individual’s mental well-being has spiraled to where the primary provider is local law enforcement, the likelihood of getting stuck in a cycle of receiving public mental health services is extremely high.



— ALOE —

‘Bring it back’: Michael Bay wants Miami’s film industry to blow up again. This new program should help” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Blockbuster filmmaker Bay wants to see Miami’s movie and TV businesses booming like they did decades ago. A new county incentives program is expected to help that happen. In a one-minute video posted to X, Bay lauded Miami’s weather, sights and variety. All factored into his moving to the city in 2006, 11 years after his debut film, “Bad Boys,” hit theaters. Bay, who also directed the film’s sequel and the true crime-inspired “Pain & Gain” in Miami, said the city deserves to have more ongoing productions than it does today. “I love shooting here because it’s got amazing kinds of locations. It’s got amazing light. Things are very close. And the breadth of different types of locations in a short amount of time is pretty great,” he said.

‘The Bear’ season three trailer: New restaurant, same stresses in the kitchen” via Rick Porter of The Hollywood Reporter — Season one of The Bear was about the stress of trying to save a financially ailing neighborhood restaurant, and season two captured the pressure of conceiving and opening a new — and very different — restaurant on a tight timeline. Season three of the Emmy-winning, FX-produced Hulu series will follow Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) and the rest of the team at The Bear as they try to keep their new venture going and live up to Carmy’s increasingly exacting standards. Or so a full trailer for the coming season, due June 27 on Hulu, promises.

To watch the trailer, please click the image below:

‘Moana 2’ makes splash with first trailer” via Ryan Gajewski of The Hollywood Reporter — Dwayne Johnson and Auli’i Cravalho are back in action with the first trailer for Disney‘s sequel movie “Moana 2.” David G. Derrick Jr. wrote and directed the animated feature that is set to hit theaters Nov. 27. The film centers on Moana (Cravalho) heading out on an unexpected adventure in long-lost waters after receiving a call from her trailblazing ancestors. Johnson reprises his role as demigod Maui. The project was originally developed as a television series before being reworked as a theatrical sequel. Featuring new songs from Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear, “Moana 2” counts Osnat Shurer as a producer, while Jennifer Lee executive produces.

To watch the trailer, please click the image below:

George Clooney and Brad Pitt reunite in tense ‘Wolfs’ trailer” via Ryan Gajewski of The Hollywood Reporter — Clooney and Pitt aren’t exactly team players in the first trailer for their new thriller, Wolfs. Sony Pictures is set to release Jon Watts‘ movie in theaters Sept. 20. Amy Ryan, Austin Abrams and Poorna Jagannathan round out the cast in the feature that hails from Apple Studios and centers on two lone-wolf professional fixers hired to do the same job. Watts wrote and directed Wolfs. Clooney and Grant Heslov produce for Smokehouse Pictures.

To watch the trailer, please click the image below:


Best wishes to Rep. Kaylee Tuck, attorney Sean Bevil, one of our Top 2 favorite Cates, Ashley Claire, journalist John Cotey, former state Reps. Dwight Dudley and Julio Gonzalez, as well as Phil Vangelakos.


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

Peter Schorsch

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


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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

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

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