Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 4.20.22 – Florida Politics

Good morning: Here’s your first look at the issues behind today’s Florida politics.

Good Wednesday morning.

Most often, I lead Sunburn with sentences and paragraphs. Today, I’ll begin with this photo Michelle captured of Ella Joyce yesterday at The Magic Kingdom. I think it speaks volumes.

Ella Joyce with Mickey Mouse
After two long, pandemic-stricken years, the character hugs have returned to Walt Disney World.

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Here’s some more good news …

Welcome to the worldNora Hope Brzozowski, daughter of Lyndsey and Mike Brzozowski, born April 11. Baby and mom are doing great.

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Happy birthday, Nora Hope Brzozowski!

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Chris Sprowls wraps first season of ‘Read, White & Blue’ podcast” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Last week, Sprowls wrapped up the inaugural season of his podcast, “Read, White, & Blue,” where he hosts conversations with authors who have helped shape Florida’s public policy and his worldview. Over the last two months, Sprowls has been joined by thought leaders in business, education, environmental and cultural issues to discuss their bestselling ideas. Here’s a summary of the eight-episode Season 1. This week’s eighth and final episode of Season 1 featured an in-depth discussion with Gilbert King, author of the Pulitzer-prize winning novel “Devil in the Grove.”

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GrayRobinson attorney Destiny Goede received the Jeb Bush Award for Outstanding Achievement this week.

The Jeb Bush Award, named for the former Governor and founder of the Florida Gubernatorial Fellows Program, provides a $5,000 scholarship to innovative fellows who identify critical state concerns and address them with exceptional policy proposals.

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Congratulations to Destiny Goede, who is being recognized for outstanding policy proposals.

Gov. Ron DeSantis presented the award to Goede at the Governor’s Mansion in recognition of her “Funding Florida’s Future” proposal, which she drafted as a member of the Florida Gubernatorial Fellows Class XV.

The proposal outlined a framework for using private investment and electric vehicle infrastructure to offset the projected decline in state gas tax revenues through 2027 and ensure the State Transportation Trust Fund has the resources to continue funding transportation infrastructure projects.

Goede now works out of GrayRobinson’s Orlando office, focusing her practice on eminent domain and condemnation. She is a graduate of the University of Florida Levin College of Law and a former president of Florida Blue Key.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@BillScher: If DeSantis wins re-election, after governing as a relentless far-right culture warrior, I’d be inclined to stop referring to Florida as a swing state and Democrats should seriously question spending $100M+ there again in 2024

@ChristinaPushaw: No, I think national democrats should donate $100 million to Florida candidates like the Grim Reaper, the fake whistleblower charged with stalking her former student, and Nikki Fried. That would be a very smart, winning strategy.

@NateSilver538: I also think Florida’s trajectory is pretty unpredictable in the long run. In the short run, people are probably moving there in part because of its conservative politics. But by “fundamentals” (e.g., urban and very diverse), it ought to be purple if not even a little blue.

@Jaso_Garcia: March 2021: Disney gives Ron DeSantis $50,000 April 2021: DeSantis helps Disney get a legislative carve-out to his tech “censorship” bill March 2022: Disney halts campaign contributions in Florida April 2022: DeSantis tells the Florida Legislature to take away Disney’s carve-out

Tweet, tweet:

In the last few years, rather than focusing on real issues impacting Floridians, the Republican Legislature has banned protest, speech, books, abortion and now Disney…

It’s going to be real awkward when they take a close look at the Senate postcard: pic.twitter.com/E3IJQVZB15

— Dan Daley (@DanDaley) April 19, 2022

@JaredPolis: We will grant Mickey and Minnie full asylum in Colorado

@MicheleforFL: I am currently sitting in the House Congressional Redistricting committee and the gaslighting and doublespeak (re: justifying disenfranchising Black folks) coming from the Governor’s office is astounding.

@Kylamb8: Just wanted to say thank you for @libsoftiktok for your courage in dealing with the bullies. I have no investment in your account other than it’s disturbing what real people say on their social media voluntarily. But telling the truth made you a target and I’m sorry for that.

Tweet, tweet:

Do Nothing For One Minute 🌞

Take a breath, turn up the volume as we take you to a rainforest in Peru, where parrots are part of the local color. Videography: Nathan Dappen and Neil Losin. https://t.co/9krmIAiO7M pic.twitter.com/eXaMJWgKUP

— CBS Sunday Morning 🌞 (@CBSSunday) April 19, 2022

— DAYS UNTIL —

Magic Johnson’s Apple TV+ docuseries ‘They Call Me Magic’ begins — 2; ‘We Own This City’ premieres on HBO Max — 5; 2022 Florida Chamber Transportation, Growth & Infrastructure Solution Summit — 8; ‘The Godfather’ TV series ‘The Offer’ premieres — 8; 2nd half of ‘Ozark’ final season begins — 9; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 16; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 22; ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ starts on Disney+ — 36; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 37; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 43; California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota hold midterm Primaries — 48; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 79; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 92; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 111; ‘House of the Dragon’ premieres on HBO — 123; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 135; 2022 Emmys — 135; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 169; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 188; Jon Meacham’s ‘And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle’ releases — 188; ‘Black Panther 2′ premieres — 205; ‘Captain Marvel 2’ premieres — 205; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 211; The World Cup kicks off in Qatar — 215; The U.S. World Cup Soccer Team begins play — 215; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 216; ‘Avatar 2′ premieres — 240; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 321; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ premieres — 338; 2023 Session Sine Die — 380; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 464; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 548; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 828.ad for sunburn leadership for a strong america

— TOP STORY —

Ron DeSantis calls on Legislature to kill Disney’s special self-governing status” via Marc Caputo and Rebecca Shabad of NBC News — Disney crossed Gov. DeSantis by opposing his law restricting schools from teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity.

Now DeSantis and his fellow Republicans in the Florida Legislature are ready to make the company pay for it.

In a surprise move, DeSantis on Tuesday asked the lawmakers to consider eliminating the special taxing district that allows the company to act as a type of local government.

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Get out your popcorn, the main event is about to begin.

DeSantis, in a news conference Tuesday, said that in addition to a new congressional map they’re voting on this week in a Special Session, lawmakers “will be considering termination of all special districts that were enacted in Florida before 1968, and that includes the Reedy Creek Improvement District.”

Unique in Florida, the Reedy Creek Improvement District in the Orlando area shields Disney from local government regulations and local property taxes, which could be worth as much as $200 million per year, by one lawmaker’s estimate.

Legislators in both chambers predicted the legislation — which could end the 55-year-old taxing district next summer — would pass by Friday. And they acknowledged it was an effort to exact revenge on Disney for its opposition to the law DeSantis signed last month prohibiting classroom instruction around LGBTQ issues.

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— SPECIAL SESSIONS —

Sprowls defends plan to nix Disney district” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Sprowls defended DeSantis’ plan to strip Walt Disney World of its self-governance status on Tuesday, saying the entertainment giant has long misused its “public benefit” to impact political policy. Sprowls’ remarks come as lawmakers return to Tallahassee and take up legislation seeking to strip the theme park of its independence. Since 1967, the company has enjoyed its state-ordained status as a self-governing body known as Reedy Creek. However, those privileges may end after the latest dust-up between Disney and DeSantis. The proposal (HB 3C) would repeal all special districts implemented before 1968.

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Chris Sprowls gives Ron DeSantis backup in the confrontation with Disney.

Randy Fine: Reedy Creek dissolution bill is what happens when you ‘kick the bees’ nest’” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — As the surprise House bill to dissolve Walt Disney World’s special government agency rushed to committee approval Tuesday, angry debaters on both sides agreed: This is what can happen in Florida when a corporation bucks political power. “When you poke the bear, or you kick the bees’ nest, sometimes issues come out,” said Rep. Fine, sponsor of HB 3C. Fine and other Republican committee members who spoke made it clear that the bees nest was DeSantis, Fine, and other supporters of a controversial parental rights bill (HB 1557).

Senate Reapportionment Committee advances Gov. DeSantis’ congressional map” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The panel approved the map on a party-line vote. Alex Kelly, DeSantis’ Deputy Chief of Staff, presented the map (P 0109). It significantly differs from a map passed by the Legislature (H 8019) that the Governor vetoed. Kelly presented the cartography as a “compromise,” noting 10 districts on the map appear identical to the one passed by the Legislature. He said the map adopted ideas pushed by the Legislature, but it avoided drawing districts primarily motivated by race. Sen. Ray Rodrigues, chair of the committee, said he had received a briefing on the map. “After thoroughly reviewing the Governor’s submission and a discussion with our legal counsel, I have determined that the Governor’s map reflects standards the Senate can support.”

Charlie Crist calls Gov. DeSantis’ map a ‘blatant attack’ on Black voters — Democratic U.S. Rep. Crist, who is running for Governor, described DeSantis’ proposed congressional map as an affront to Black voters and the Fair Districts amendment to the state constitution in a Tuesday statement. “Gov. DeSantis’s proposed map is a blatant attack to silence the Black vote and Black voice across Florida — and we won’t stand for it,” he said. “As Gov., I will uphold the Voting Rights Act, defend the long, hard work of my friend and former colleague John Lewis, and fight, so every Floridian has a voice.” Additionally, Crist slammed the Special Session on redistricting as a distraction from other issues, such as the property insurance crisis and low affordable housing inventory.

Central Florida lawmakers see insurance claim abuse spurring property insurance crisis” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Asked what can be done about Florida’s growing property insurance challenges, lawmakers at a Volusia County forum said those problems grow out of lawsuits as well as insurance fraud and abuse. Reps. Webster Barnaby and Tom Leek characterized the property insurance problem as a matter requiring tort and regulatory reforms to reduce insurance fraud, claims abuses, and litigation. Barnaby, who is on the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee, said he did not think a comprehensive solution was possible in a Special Session but expects it to be addressed next year.

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— DATELINE TALLY —

As DeSantis administration rejects textbooks, only one publisher allowed for K-5 math classes in Florida” via Ana Goñi-Lessan of the Tallahassee Democrat — Historically, when Florida school districts reevaluate which math instructional materials they will use, they have had more than one publisher to choose from. Now, the only publisher approved by DeSantis and the Florida Department of Education for K-5 mathematics is Accelerate Learning, a company out of Houston, Texas. “In the subject area as large as mathematics for grades K through five, it is unusual for there only to be one publisher to choose from,” said Billy Epting, assistant superintendent for academic services for Leon County Schools.

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Slim pickings: Ron DeSantis rejects math textbooks, leaving very few options.

—“‘Educational gag orders’: PEN America criticizes Florida’s math textbook rejections” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics

Whistleblower claims publishers illegally priced Florida textbooks — A whistleblower claims publishers have offered lower prices on instructional material to Florida’s bigger school districts, violating Florida law by overcharging rural districts. Komisar Spicola, a law firm representing the whistleblower, sent letters in March to the General Counsels for the Florida Department of Education and Office of Attorney General Ashley Moody. The whistleblower alleged some of the nation’s biggest textbook publishers offered and provided free or reduced-cost textbooks to some districts but not others, violating Florida statute. Under Florida law, publishers of instruction materials must offer materials at the same price as the lowest price offered to any state or school district in the United States.

DeSantis signs higher education bill with post-tenure review, accreditation changes” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — DeSantis signed SB 7044, a measure designed to put a dent in endless tenure for college and university professors and prevent what supporters call undue interference in state universities by outside accreditation agencies. It’s the latest step in DeSantis’ push to expunge what he regards as political indoctrination from primary and secondary education campuses throughout the state. The move comes four days after the Florida Department of Education rejected 54 textbooks from K-12 school curricula, arguing they included Common Core or critical race theory concepts.

Illeana Garcia blocks constituent who asked about her campaign manager’s Jan. 6 role” via Bob Brigham of Raw Story — In March, the Miami New Times reported on a seditionist hunter alleging that a Florida GOP activist stormed the Capitol alongside Proud Boys: “Twitter user @ne0ndistraction claims #PinkGaiterPBG is actually Barbara ‘Barby’ Balmaseda, a South Florida GOP strategist who served as campaign manager for Garcia‘s controversial 2020 Florida Senate race.” Aaron Parnas, son of Lev Parnas, said Garcia blocked him for asking about the report. Rep. Michael Grieco, who is challenging Garcia, said she also blocked him. In February, Garcia briefly disappeared from social media.

Daisy Morales to reintroduce active shooter alert system legislation after NYC subway shooting” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Rep. Morales has announced plans to reintroduce legislation to create an Active Shooter Alert System in Florida in response to the recent New York City subway shooting. Morales introduced the legislation during the 2022 Legislative Session. The bill, HB 1271, would require the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to implement an alert system to be activated on the report of an active shooter. The alert system would then notify residents within a 50-mile radius of the shooter’s location. The bill would also require the Florida Department of Transportation to establish a plan for providing relevant information to the public within the 50-mile radius using their existing dynamic message signs.

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— 2022 —

Florida Police Chiefs Association backs Marco Rubio for re-election — FPCA on Tuesday endorsed Republican U.S. Sen. Rubio for re-election. “Sen. Rubio has been a consistent supporter of law enforcement in our nation’s capital, standing not just for public safety but for the health and welfare of law enforcement officers, even when it hasn’t been politically popular,” said FPCA President and Daytona Beach Shores Public Safety Department Director Stephan Dembinsky in a news release announcing the endorsement. “The Florida Police Chiefs Association is proud to support Sen. Rubio, and we look forward to continuing our work with him on behalf of the people of Florida.” Rubio is running for his third term in the U.S. Senate and will likely face Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings on the November ballot.

RUBIO SHERIFFS
Marco Rubio gets backed by the blue.

Real estate industry fuels DeSantis’ re-election campaign — DeSantis and his political committee have raised more than $7 million from real estate interest, making it one of the top industries supporting the Governor’s re-election campaign, according to Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida. In addition to collecting checks for his campaign and committee, DeSantis received a massive in-kind contribution earlier this year from YMP Real Estate Management CEO Moshe Popack. The investor hosted a fundraiser for the Governor worth $200,000, making it the most expensive fundraiser paid for by an individual in more than a decade. Additionally, real estate developer and major GOP donor Pat Neal said he recently had to find a new venue for a DeSantis fundraiser he recently hosted because “there is so much interest” from supporters.

Nikki Fried brings ‘Lower Costs, Higher Standards’ tour to Tampa Bay — Agriculture Commissioner Fried made two stops in the Tampa Bay area Tuesday as part of her gubernatorial campaign’s “Lower Costs, Higher Standards” policy tour. The tour outlines her housing proposals, including doubling the homestead exemption and investigating rent hikes greater than 10%. The Tuesday tour stops included the troubled Silver Oak Apartments in Tampa, followed by the now-vacant Stanton Apartments in St. Petersburg. “I want to be very clear: Florida renters are being taken advantage of,” Fried said. “The people who stood with me today and stood with me on this tour across the state make Florida what it is. … it is our responsibility to ensure Florida is the kind of place they can afford to call home.”

Assignment editorsCrist will participate in several Tallahassee campaign events: 9:50 a.m. Eastern time, media availability with elected officials on the Special Session; 3 p.m. Eastern time, cannabis conversation with Florida seniors and FSU students; 4 p.m., North Florida teacher’s roundtable. Location with RSVP at [email protected]

Aramis Ayala charges Ashley Moody is ignoring oversight role in redistricting” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — As the Legislature considers a congressional map drawn up by DeSantis that could face court challenges, Ayala is charging that Moody is abdicating her legal oversight role. Ayala is a former State Attorney from Orlando who wants to take Moody’s job in the General Election. In the most controversial government actions over the past couple of years, Ayala contended that Floridians lacked an Attorney General’s voice to weigh in on matters that become legal battles. Now, Ayala is turning her umbrage toward the highly unusual course that Florida’s congressional redistricting process has taken, together with the widespread suspicions that it will end up in court, with either the Florida Supreme Court or federal courts trying to sort out Florida’s congressional districts, as happened in the last federal reapportionment.

Maxwell Frost adds another $350K for CD 10 bid” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Frost’s campaign in Florida’s 10th Congressional District added nearly $350,000 in donations during the first quarter of 2022, the campaign announced. That likely would keep Frost well ahead of other candidates in the crowded field seeking to succeed Rep. Demings, who is running for the Senate rather than re-election. Frost’s campaign finance report has not yet been posted by the Federal Election Commission, so few details were available Friday.

Ben Diamond clears $1.2M in CD 13 race — The sum includes more than $240,000 raised in the first quarter of 2022, while lawmakers were convened for the 2022 Session. Diamond remains the leading Democratic fundraiser in the race for CD 13, with a majority of contributions coming from Pinellas County donors contributing $100 or less. Campaign manager Jena Kingery said: “The people of Pinellas County are sending a message, loud and clear — Ben Diamond is the best candidate to deliver for Florida’s 13th Congressional District … just as he has done for six years as a member of the Florida House. They will not be swayed by the millions of dollars spent on television ads by an out-of-state hedge fund billionaire attempting to buy this Primary election.”

—”Robert Blackmon endorses Anna Paulina Luna in CD 13 race” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics

CD 14 candidate Jay Collins cracks $400K in Q1 — Republican Collins outraised Democrat U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor in the first quarter, marking the third consecutive fundraising period he outshined the incumbent. Collins raised $401,260 during the first three months of the year, which his campaign said is second only to U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan among congressional candidates in Hillsborough County, including incumbents, challengers, Democrats and Republicans. “I am humbled by the support I have received from the people of Florida and across America who are ready to put a stop to Joe Biden’s extreme agenda that is wreaking havoc on our middle class and seniors living on fixed incomes,” Collins said. Collins is one of four Republicans challenging Castor in CD 14.

Dennis Ross campaign for CD 15 bungles fundraising filings” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — It’s been about a month since former U.S. Rep. Ross entered a crowded race for the vacant seat representing Florida’s 15th Congressional District, and over that time his campaign has repeatedly botched its fundraising filings. The errors began days after Ross announced he wanted his old job back. On March 17, accounting firm Robinson Gruters & Roberts filed a statement of organization with the FEC establishing his new political committee, “Dennis Ross for Congree.” The Venice-based firm amended the form a day later to correct the spelling error, so the political committee’s name is listed as Dennis Ross for Congress.

—“Another Republican files to run for likely new Florida congressional seat” via the Tampa Bay Times

Brian Mast adds more than $1M to his re-election bid in Q1” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Rep. Mast has collected his biggest quarterly haul ever, raising more than $1 million during the first quarter of 2022 in his bid for a fourth term representing Florida in Congress, his staff says. Mast’s total cash on hand adds up to nearly $2.8 million. Among all 435 U.S. House members, Mast is the 26th-highest fundraiser overall and the No. 2 fundraiser among Florida House members. Among Florida Representatives, Mast is led only by Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, the 12th-highest fundraiser in the U.S. House.

Adam Brandon folds House campaign, endorses law partner Wyman Duggan” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — On Tuesday, Brandon formally folded his campaign, and endorsed a colleague at the Rogers Towers law firm: Rep. Duggan, who will represent the new House District 12 in southern Duval County. Brandon initially filed in HD 12 before redistricting. Subsequently, he moved his campaign to House District 16, but all of it apparently was a dry run, with no clear path for him this cycle. Duggan had roughly $87,000 in his campaign account at the end of March, and another $100,000 in his political committee, Citizens for Building Florida’s Future.

Chet Stokes enters race for HD 16 — Jacksonville Beach City Councilmember Stokes filed paperwork to run for the newly redrawn House District 16 on Tuesday. “Our region needs bold leaders with vision representing us in Tallahassee — not the same tired figures of the past. I am ready to put my business experience and conservative values forward to fight for our region, including defending the Constitution, fighting for limited government, and promoting economic opportunity for our small businesses,” he said in a news release. Stokes, an Auburn University graduate, is the vice president of the Stokes Land Group, managing partner of Marsh Landing Country Club. He is the third Republican to file for the seat, which covers Jacksonville’s Beaches, Intracoastal and Arlington communities.

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Did redistricting give Chet Stokes a path to Tallahassee?

Pam Powell challenges Travaris McCurdy in HD 41” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Powell, a motivational speaker and longtime Orlando political activist, filed to challenge Rep. McCurdy in the new House District 41, a seat considered safe for Democrats. For decades, Powell has been a high-profile personality of Orlando’s West Side as an associate minister at the St. Mark Orlando AME Church, a syndicated radio and television talk show host, author, and motivational speaker. She is openly critical of McCurdy, whom she once backed, charging he has not communicated well with the community. She vowed to have quarterly town halls in HD 41 if elected.

Jason Holloway raises nearly $40K in March for HD 58 race” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Holloway raised nearly $40,000 in March as he campaigned in Florida House District 58. That kept him atop the funding race against former Rep. Kim Berfield as they battle to replace Rep. Chris Latvala. Holloway collected $39,200 last month between his campaign and affiliated political committee, Keep Florida Red 2022. In the same time frame, Berfield’s campaign collected $650. Holloway, a former legislative aide for Sen. Darryl Rouson, has amassed $158,700 between his campaign and political committee. That includes $23,500 in self-funding. Berfield has collected $59,085 since launching her campaign.

AFP Action Florida announces first volley of state legislative endorsements — Americans for Prosperity Action Florida this week announced the organization’s first round of endorsements for candidates running for state House and Senate. The first wave includes 13 incumbent Republicans. The House endorsements went to Speaker-designate Paul Renner and Reps. Stan McClain, Mike Giallombardo, Bob Rommel, Lauren Melo, Tom Fabricio, Alex Rizo and Juan Fernandez-Barquin. The Senate list includes Keith Perry, Debbie Mayfield, Ray Rodrigues, Manny Diaz and Ana Maria Rodriguez. “AFP Action Florida and our grassroots activists are ready and engaged to support candidates who champion policies that promote growth and opportunity in Florida and improve people’s lives,” said AFP Action Senior Adviser Skylar Zander. “We will be active across the state, knocking on doors and making calls during the coming months, right up to Election Day.”

— STATEWIDE —

Floridians support aggressive U.S. response to Russia invasion of Ukraine, USF poll finds” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — According to the poll, 79% of Floridians are closely following the conflict in Ukraine. A little over a third of Floridians, about 34%, think U.S. sanctions against Russia are appropriate. Just under half, 45%, think the U.S. should have a more aggressive response. And a large majority, 74%, support sending Ukraine more direct military support with weapons and ammunition. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine has been going on for nearly two months. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Russia’s war against Ukraine was “weakening the economic prospects for most of the world’s countries and called high inflation a clear and present danger to the global economy.”

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Florida wants the U.S. to get tougher in Ukraine. Image via AP.

As inflation climbs, Florida jobless benefits remain flat, unchanged in 24 years” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — The significant jump in inflation, more than 8%, the highest in more than 40 years, has been a consistent theme for DeSantis, who has raised it at nearly every public event over the last 12 months, blaming it on Biden’s policies and Congress’ spending. State lawmakers have passed a one-month gas tax moratorium to start in October and set up a $1 billion fund to pay for increased expenses due to inflation. And state regulators overseen by DeSantis have approved rate hikes for insurance and utilities as energy prices have gone up. But DeSantis hasn’t budged in his opposition to increasing Florida’s unemployment benefits, which remain at a maximum of $275 per week.

Nearly 2,000 providers to receive $503M in Medicaid grants” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — That’s about $180 million less than what the Agency for Health Care Administration initially said would be made available last year when the agency announced the availability of the funds and encouraged home- and community-based service providers to apply for the supplemental payments. The funding was made possible by the American Rescue Plan, pushed by Biden. The state did not offer a list of the providers receiving the money. Instead, the state is sending emails to the providers notifying them of whether their requests were accepted and to “provide instructions on next steps.” AHCA told Florida Politics the state is reopening the window of opportunity for providers that use 1099 staff to submit applications for the funds.

As Medicaid enrollment nears 5.2 million, Florida Supreme Court says it won’t review proposed expansion” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — A long-shot bid aimed at bringing Medicaid expansion to Florida won’t be reviewed by the Florida Supreme Court, ending two years of legal wrangling. The high court dismissed a request to review the proposed constitutional amendment, which is technically still active for the 2024 ballot, even though organizers have not gathered any petition signatures in some time. The decision comes as enrollment in Florida’s Medicaid program continues to climb. More than 5.18 million people were in the program as of March 31. Enrollment is at an all-time high due to the pandemic and public health emergency.

Sunshine Health Plan settles $9M+ fine for violating Medicaid contract” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Florida’s largest Medicaid managed care plan paid a $9 million fine this week for failing to pay, or to timely pay, 121,227 claims from health care providers. Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) Communications Director Brock Juarez told Florida Politics Sunshine Health Plan paid the fine on April 13, five days before it was due. Meanwhile, Juarez said the ban on auto-enrollment in the Medicaid-managed care plan remains in effect. Medicaid Assistant Deputy Secretary Brian Meyer, on March 17, sent a letter to Sunshine President and CEO Nathan Landsbaum advising him of the $9,092,025 penalty and other corrective actions the state was taking against the health plan after failing to pay the providers.

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— D.C. MATTERS —

Rick Scott became the Senate GOP’s election general, then went to war” via Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — Scott has been publicly dressed down by Mitch McConnell, privately rebuked by his colleagues, and repeatedly accused of running the National Republican Senatorial Committee in a way that benefits his own future over the candidates he was hired to get elected. He has directed a sizable share of his fundraising as NRSC chair to his own accounts, while shifting digital revenue away from Senate campaigns and buying ads promoting himself that look all but identical to spots done for the national committee.

Vern Buchanan’s contributions soar as he vies for Ways and Means Chair — Republican U.S. Rep. Buchanan raised $1.1 million in the first quarter, a personal record for the longtime Congressman. Buchanan is seen as the front-runner to chair the House Ways and Means Committee if Republicans retake the House in November. His donor sheet lists several well-known lobbyists, including Dwayne Bolton of The GROUP D.C., Charles Cooper of Signal Group, Travis Johnson of 1607 Strategies, Jeffrey Kimbell of Jeffrey J. Kimbell & Associates and Bill McGinley of Vogel Group. U.S. Reps. Adrian Smith and Jason Smith, who are also jockeying for the chair, each raised less than half what Buchanan managed during the first three months of the year.

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Vern Buchanan shows solid game on the field — and fundraising.

Dems, Republicans share similar views of U.S. inflation czar … until they learn he was a Donald Trump appointee” via Noah Pransky of NBCLX — In a new survey, conducted by YouGov for NBCLX, American citizens — across most age, gender, and ideological groups — were largely split as to whether Biden should have re-appointed Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, tasked with managing America’s inflation rate, earlier this year. However, when the exact same question was asked of a nearly-identical panel — only with the added information that Powell was first appointed by Trump — Republican respondents were nearly three times as likely to support his re-appointment, while Democratic respondents were nearly twice as likely to oppose it.

U.S. and Cuba to discuss migration crisis as thousands of Cubans arrive at the border” via Nora Gámez Torres of the Miami Herald — Biden administration officials will meet a Cuban delegation on Thursday in Washington to discuss a dramatic increase in migration from the island, a source with knowledge of the matter told the Miami Herald. Cubans account for a large proportion of migrants recently reaching the U.S. border with Mexico, as more than 46,000 arrived just between October and February. The U.S. Coast Guard has also reported an increase in Cubans trying to reach U.S. shores. But Cuban authorities have refused to accept deportations of its nationals from the U.S., Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.

Summit of the Americas to tackle migration, threats to democracy, Miami adviser says” via Nora Gámez Torres of the Miami Herald — The Biden administration will use the upcoming Summit of the Americas to address some of the most pressing challenges in the region, including migration, threats to democracy and economic recovery from the pandemic, said Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, one of two former members of Congress tapped by the White House to lead the planning efforts as special advisers. The focus on democratic governance, human rights, and countering disinformation in the region comes at a time Russia’s war in Ukraine has instilled a new sense of urgency in the administration’s efforts ahead of the summit. The summit is the largest hemispheric gathering of regional leaders and takes place every three years.

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— LOCAL NOTES: N. FL —

A radical idea — the Jacksonville City Council shouldn’t sabotage the city” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — Jacksonville city government is, for the first time in years, on mostly sound financial footing after a series of hard-won decisions, like raising the gas tax, that will help finance infrastructure upgrades throughout the city, including new parks, roads and sidewalks, and a badly needed septic-tank removal program for neglected neighborhoods. So, it stands to reason the City Council is now rushing to sabotage that progress with performative gimmicks that would have almost no immediate benefits for taxpayers but long-term financial costs that would harm the city.

JEA execs’ defense lawyers turn routine hearing into trial preview” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — Defense lawyers representing former JEA CEO Aaron Zahn and CFO Ryan Wannemacher turned a routine federal court hearing Tuesday in the criminal case against them into a full-blown preview of the contentious debates over constitutional rights that will play out in federal court over the summer and fall. U.S. District Judge Brian Davis held the hearing Tuesday to discuss scheduling a trial date. Instead, defense attorneys telegraphed an incredibly aggressive and long-shot strategy in which they plan to ask for a change of venue outside of Jacksonville, to have the indictment tossed altogether, or to request the lead prosecutor, A. Tysen Duva, be removed from the case.

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Aaron Zahn’s case gets heated. Image via First Coast News.

UF quarterback was driving faster than 105 mph, deputy says in newly released video” via Fresh Take Florida — Anthony Richardson, the young University of Florida quarterback who has electrified fans, could have been ticketed for driving faster than 105 mph earlier this month, but the Sheriff’s deputy’s pickup that briefly pursued him couldn’t go any faster. Richardson acknowledged driving at least 100 mph in the video and said he wasn’t sure how fast he was going. His lawyer filed a not guilty plea in the case Tuesday, despite Richardson’s apparent admission on video and his public apology last week.

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Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings plows ahead with a plan to pave a toll road through a forest” via Jason Garcia of Seeking Rents — The history of Split Oak, which straddles the Orange-Osceola County line southeast of Orlando, involves a number of different public agencies. But to get the road built, Orange and Osceola counties had to jointly apply for permission from the Florida Communities Trust, which nearly 30 years ago provided money to help the counties buy Split Oak. The Trust’s governing board is scheduled to consider that application on Wednesday. Orange County Commissioner Nicole Wilson, a Split Oak activist, tried asking Demings to withdraw Orange County’s support for the application. He refused. She also tried asking him to bring the Split Oak decision back to the County Commission for another discussion — and potentially another vote. Demings refused again. Here’s one potential reason: Tavistock — the most influential real estate developer in central Florida, who needs this toll road to support a 24,000-acre housing project called “Sunbridge” — is one of Demings’ biggest campaign contributors.

—“Split Oak: Florida plans to plow a toll road through a nature preserve” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel

Joel Greenberg’s wife seeks to finalize divorce, says crypto account could be worth millions” via Martin E. Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — Greenberg’s estranged wife claims the former Seminole County tax collector has not paid “a penny” in child support or alimony, despite having a cryptocurrency account worth as much as $3 million, as she seeks to finalize the couple’s divorce. “We don’t know where that crypto account is,” said attorney Clayton Simmons, representing Abby Greenberg since she filed for divorce last October. “But she would have a claim to a share of that.” Though he and his client listed the account’s “possible value” at $3 million in a financial affidavit filed last week, Simmons said information about the account, including how much it’s worth, is in the possession of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and he does not have access to it.

Orlando airport passengers go mask free after court ruling” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — For the first time in nearly two years, Orlando airport passengers were strolling to their flights Tuesday without wearing masks, following a federal judge ruling that nullified the requirement. “Each individual can proceed to wear a face mask if they feel it is important for their health and the health of their family,” said airport spokesperson Carolyn Fennell in a statement. Central Florida’s public bus system, Lynx, announced at 10 a.m. Tuesday that masks are now optional for riders. Lynx has equipped its buses with air-sanitizing systems.

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Orlando wastes no time in ditching the masks.

Latest theme park injury report includes incident on new SeaWorld roller coaster” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — A child was injured on SeaWorld’s new roller coaster before the ride officially opened to the public in February. The 12-year-old boy hurt his left leg on Ice Breaker, which the park calls a family-friendly thrill ride. The state report doesn’t say how severe the boy’s injuries were and provides few details other than his injury occurred on Feb. 7, which places the injury during the park’s pass previews before the ride’s Feb. 18 official grand opening. Under state reporting requirements, the boy would have been hospitalized for at least 24 hours for SeaWorld to disclose the incident.

Assignment editors — Simply Healthcare Plans hosts a discussion on health equity through housing, featuring NBA legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson, noon, Holden Heights Community Center, 1201 20th Street, Orlando.

St. Pete-Clearwater airport to embark on $106M terminal expansion” via Veronica Brezina of St. Pete Catalyst — As the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport ramps up its nonstop flights and continues to break passenger records, it will soon embark on a $106 million expansion to meet the growing demands. “It’s really the traffic that is driving this expansion,” PIE Director Tom Jewsbury said. “We have low-cost carriers that provide point-to-point service and award-winning beaches that everyone wants to visit.” Over the past five years, PIE has experienced double-digit passenger growth in serving Allegiant Air, Sun Country Airlines and Swoop Airlines, offering nonstop connections to Canada. The airlines have created nonstop connections to over 60 cities through PIE.

Ex-Citrus County Commissioner Dennis Damato dies after cancer battle” via Mike Wright of Florida Politics — Damato, who spearheaded numerous projects for the county and city of Crystal River over a 12-year public career, died this past Monday. In an early Thursday morning Facebook post, Danielle Damato Doty announced her father’s April 11 death. “After a courageous battle with cancer that had returned a few months ago, I am devastated to share that my beloved father, Dennis Damato, has passed away at age 69,” it reads. Word of Damato’s death spread quickly in the Citrus County political and business community, with many recalling Damato as a visionary who helped spur some of the county’s most significant government projects of the last 20 years.



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— MORE LOCAL: S. FL —

‘[Bleep] that wall,’ contractor said when vibrations near Surfside condo got ‘too high’” via Sarah Blaskey, Nicholas Nehamas, Ben Conarck and Aaron Leibowitz of the Miami Herald — Work on the Eighty Seven Park condo development project was temporarily halted one morning in March 2016 by the developer’s seismologist, who worried vibration levels from sheet pile driving were “too high” and could damage the neighboring structure, Champlain Towers South, newly filed court documents show. But within a half-hour, at the instruction of site superintendent Frank Wiza, the crew resumed using heavy equipment to vibrate long sheets of steel deep into the earth less than 15 feet south of Champlain South’s underground structural perimeter wall. The reason Wiza gave for continuing? “F*** that wall,” he told the pile-driving crew, according to a handwritten work log from March 10, 2016. “We have money in the budget to replace it.”

Ruth’s List Florida again backs Danielle Cohen Higgins for Miami-Dade County Commission” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — As it did more than two years ago when she successfully sought a seat on the Miami-Dade Commission, Ruth’s List Florida has again thrown its support behind Cohen Higgins. She is seeking election to the seat representing District 8. She has held the seat since December 2020, when the County Commission appointed her to replace Daniella Levine Cava, who was elected Mayor. “Danielle has been deeply committed to serving the community,” Ruth’s List Florida Vice President of Political and Programs Kayla vanWieringen said in a news release that noted Cohen Higgins is the first person of Jamaican descent to serve on the Commission and its only current member who is a Black woman.

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Danielle Cohen Higgins gets a big thumbs-up. Image via Facebook.

Matt Willhite taps firefighter union cash to haul in $54K in March for Palm Beach Commission bid” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — With a $54,000 haul consisting mainly of firefighter union dollars, Rep. Willhite edged closer last month to retaking first place in a four-way fundraising push for the Palm Beach County Commission seat representing District 6. Willhite held $275,000 between his campaign account and political committee, Floridians for Public Safety, as of March 31. About $70,000 of that is money left over from the previous fundraising pushes for the House seat he’s vacating in November.

Boynton will pick among five candidates for vacant City Commission seat” via Jorge Milian of the Palm Beach Post — Election season is over, but a vacancy remains on the Boynton Beach City Commission. Five candidates are in contention to replace Ty Penserga, who resigned as District 4 Commissioner last month to run for Mayor. The quintet of hopefuls applied for the position before an April 12 deadline and will be interviewed by the four-person Commission during Tuesday’s City Commission meeting. If one of the five gets three votes, they will be sworn in immediately and seated on the dais. Penserga, who beat three opponents on March 8 to replace Steven Grant as Mayor, and Commissioners Angela Cruz, Woodrow Hay and Thomas Turkin will decide on the new Commissioner.

Environmental scientist accused of stealing secret documents from powerful foundation” via Kimberly Miller of the Palm Beach Post — A prominent environmental scientist stands accused of stealing secret documents and destroying research before quitting his more than a decadelong job at the powerful Everglades Foundation, citing concerns about the nonprofit group’s emphasis on politics. Thomas Van Lent, a respected engineer whose water modeling helped create the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, was sued earlier this month by the foundation after it said he took, among other confidential items, “internal modeling and analysis of a government project” before he left. The lawsuit has shaken the normally collaborative environmental community in South Florida, known more for its plaintive advocacy on behalf of the River of Grass and its animals than bare-knuckle litigation.

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—TOP OPINION —

DeSantis saves Florida kids from being indoctrinated with math” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — It’s easy to laugh at Florida’s claim that it rejected 28 math textbooks over “publishers’ attempts to indoctrinate students” with such “special topics” as CRT, “culturally responsive teaching,” “social justice” and “social-emotional learning.” But then I opened one of the banned textbooks, Cengage’s “Precalculus With Limits” — and was horrified by the “indoctrinating concepts” I saw. If this is Precalculus With Limits, I’d hate to see the kind without limits. “Precalculus With Limits” has endless references to “sin” and “polynomials” — even “multiplying polynomials.” On Page 318, it tells children to believe that “sin x takes on its full range of values.” Valuing sin! On Page 734, incredibly, it orders children to “sketch the graph of the degenerate conic.” Disgusting.

— OPINIONS —

Bidenism is failing. The question is how badly.” via Perry Bacon Jr. of The Washington Post — Bidenism is failing. But we don’t know exactly why or what it portends for the future. To a large degree, Biden’s successful 2020 campaign and his approach to the presidency were premised on the idea that an older, White, male and moderate politician who focuses on things such as the economy and COVID-19, and who generally avoids issues such as abortion and transgender rights, could ease the country’s partisan divisions. What is most tightly correlated with Biden’s decline, however, is not COVID-19 deaths or rising prices but the messy withdrawal from Afghanistan. Biden basically became more unpopular then and never recovered.

Democrats have found a line of attack against the GOP. It’s a start.” via Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post — Sen. Scott, the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and author of the much-criticized “11-Point Plan to Rescue America,” is the gift that keeps on giving for Democrats. The more he doubles down on his plans to raise taxes on as many as 100 million Americans; to sunset all federal legislation after five years (presumably including Medicare and Social Security); to build a useless border wall named after the former President; and to enact a theocratic vision on the country, the more Democrats lick their chops. Democrats would be smart to make a larger argument against a party masquerading as populist but aimed to protect themselves and their wealthy donors.

The Trumpified RNC strikes another blow against democracy” via Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post — As long as there has been a Commission on Presidential Debates, candidates have groused about its rules and tried to find ways around them. But not until now, with the Republican National Committee acting at Trump’s behest, have we seen a party try to kill the entire exercise that brings major party contenders to a stage where they stand side-by-side and make their cases to a nationwide audience. The RNC isn’t operating on principle here. It is, once again, channeling the grievances of Trump. His demands of fealty have required that Republicans knock over institutions that protect the integrity of our elections, one after another.

Disney didn’t leave the GOP behind — culture did” via Derek Robertson of POLITICO — Whether it was the company’s perceived stale, Cold War-era morality, its stranglehold on global pop culture, or simply its role as one of America’s pre-eminent corporate monoliths, the company was a reliable punching bag for pugilistic left-of-center activists and cultural critics. Conservatives now simply disapprove of the corporation’s chosen morality, which includes commonly accepted progressive ideas about multiculturalism and personal identity. The conservative critique of Disney today is premised on the idea that by aligning with liberal social causes, it’s left that mainstream behind.

Communication is the best tool for natural disaster preparation” via Marissa Gamache of Transport Topics — Florida is another state where trucking companies have found themselves in the middle of natural disasters. “It’s an unwieldy state in a lot of different respects and a difficult state for trucking,” said Alix Miller, Florida Trucking Association (FTA) president. “When you are dealing with a natural disaster coming, like a hurricane, it becomes very problematic.” According to Miller, getting gas stations restocked poses one of the biggest challenges for fuel-hauling companies in and around the state. Jorge Mora, owner and CEO of Southern Companies, says his company piggybacks off recommendations from the port authorities when it comes to operating during disasters. “We don’t have any specific guidelines [for extreme weather], but we will send out a blast advising of the more difficult areas to go by slowly or avoid,” Mora said.

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— ALOE —

Disney World lifts mask requirement for fully vaccinated guests across the resort” via Katie Rice of the Orlando Sentinel — Walt Disney World has lifted its rule requiring masks on enclosed transportation at the resort, making face coverings optional for vaccinated visitors at all locations on Disney property for the first time in more than two years of shifting mask rules. The change was posted to Disney’s website Tuesday, a day after a federal judge in Tampa struck down a national mask mandate that required people to wear face coverings on airplanes and mass transit. After the ruling, major airlines immediately changed their policies to make masks optional.

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Disney says enough with the masks.

New podcast gives inside scoop on Florida theme parks” via Florida Politics — Spectrum News announced the launch of a new podcast covering the latest news on Central Florida attractions. The podcast, “Attractions Insider,” will inform listeners about new rides, special events and helpful tips when visiting local theme parks. Spectrum News 13 digital journalist Ashley Carter will host the weekly series with contributions from anchor/reporter Allison Walker. Spectrum News said the show will feature topical discussions on the happenings in the theme park capital of the world and provide perspective on one of the most important industries in the Central Florida region, which includes Tampa Bay.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to Madeline Pumariega, former U.S. Rep. Trey Radel, our friend Bill Rufty, and Justin Thames, Director of Government Affairs for the Florida Institute of CPAs. Belated best wishes to Jennifer Motsinger of the Tampa Bay Builders Association.

It’s also Randy Fine‘s birthday.

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

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