Good Friday morning.
Congrats! — Today, Eric Carr, the Director of Legislative Affairs, Florida Commission on Offender Review, will graduate with a perfect 4.0 GPA in the Florida State University Masters of Applied American Politics and Program (FSU MAAPP).
💰 — 2022 Midterm ad spending reached *checks notes* $7.8B: That’s not a typo. If $7.8 billion seems like a lot, it’s because it is. That’s nearly twice as much cash as what was shelled out on ads in the 2018 Midterms. The price tag includes television, radio and digital ads, according to AdImpact and an NBC News report on the numbers. While it was record spending for a Midterm, this year’s monied ad blitz wasn’t quite as much as the 2020 presidential race, when more than $9 billion was dropped on advertisements. Democrats spent a bit more than Republicans, with $3.4 billion in spending compared to $3.1 billion. Independent groups dropped another $1.3 billion, money spent largely on ballot initiatives. Georgia’s U.S. Senate race, which was just decided this week, was the most expensive in the nation, at $338 million. Read more here.
🗳 — Republican turnout in the Midterms was great, but a lot didn’t vote their party: Finger-pointing ensued almost immediately after Republicans failed to capitalize on what they thought would be a national red wave, with many blaming the GOP’s failure to turn out early voters. But as New York Times Chief Political Analyst Nate Cohn points out, data is beginning to show turnout wasn’t the problem. Final turnout, he writes, showed Republicans turned out at a higher rate, in some places a much higher rate, than Democrats. Instead, in some places like Georgia and Arizona where far-right candidates were at or near the top of the ballot, Republican-leaning voters cast their votes for Democrats, even as they voted GOP down-ballot. Nowhere is that clearer than in Georgia, where U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker received 200,000 fewer votes than Gov. Brian Kemp, and then went on to narrowly lose a runoff against Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock this week. Read more here.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
Moments ago I spoke to Brittney Griner.
She is safe.
She is on a plane.
She is on her way home. pic.twitter.com/FmHgfzrcDT
— President Biden (@POTUS) December 8, 2022
—@DougJBalloon: Did (Joe) Biden free the wrong Brittney? Singer Spears’ conservatorship could have been ended much earlier with the simple swipe of a presidential pen.
—@GOPLeader: “Merchant of Death” — That’s the nickname of the prisoner Biden returned to Putin. He was convicted of conspiring to kill American law enforcement. This is a gift to Vladimir Putin, and it endangers American lives. Leaving Paul Whelan behind for this is unconscionable.
—@MaxwellFrostFL: Just applied to an apartment in DC where I told the guy that my credit was really bad. He said I’d be fine. Got denied, lost the apartment, and the application fee. This ain’t meant for people who don’t already have money.
—@AGGancarski: Did not know until today that Viktor Bout speaks six languages and learned Esperanto at 12 years of age. Wow. I barely handle English.
—@fineout: Rep. @MaElviraSalazar voted up on 1st bill, but no today. “I voted for the first version of the bill because I believe in human dignity and respect for all individuals. However, we cannot pass laws that advance one interest and bypass long-held legal protections for others.”
—@MarcCaputo: If you’re crying about how gay marriage threatens your marriage, it’s a leading indicator that your marriage is threatened by something else
Just came across this incredible c. 1915 photo of the first Supreme Court building. The view is southwest from the Old Capitol. The road in the distance is MLK Jr. Blvd. running up the hill to the FAMU campus.
(modern view in the comments) #tallahasseehistory #famu pic.twitter.com/aafjpwsKXH
— Tallahassee History (@TLH_History) December 8, 2022
— DAYS UNTIL —
‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 7; Military Bowl with UCF Knights against Duke — 19; Cheez-It Bowl with FSU against Oklahoma — 20; final Broadway performance of ‘The Music Man’ with Hugh Jackman — 23; last day to ride Splash Mountain before remodeling — 44; The James Madison Institute’s Annual Dinner — 47; 2023 FAC Access 67 Broadband Summit — Florida Association of Counties begins — 48; Bruce Springsteen launches 2023 tour in Tampa — 54; ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 70; final performance of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ on Broadway — 71; city of Tampa Municipal Election early voting begins — 80; Ron DeSantis’ ‘The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival’ released — 81; ‘The Mandalorian’ returns — 82; Tampa Municipal Election — 87; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 88; World Baseball Classic finals begin in Miami — 92; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 105; Taylor Swift ‘Eras’ Tour in Tampa — 125; American Association of Political Consultants Pollies ’23 conference begins — 140; 2023 Session Sine Die — 147; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 147; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 175; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 224; ‘‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 231; Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 329; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 476; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 532; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 595; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 595; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 637; ‘Deadpool 3’ premieres — 700; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 798; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 875. ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,064.
— TOP STORY —
“House passes landmark legislation to protect same-sex, interracial marriages” via Amy Wang, Marianna Sotomayor and Cara McGoogan of The Washington Post — The House passed landmark legislation that would enshrine marriage equality in federal law, granting protections to same-sex and interracial couples and clearing the way for Biden’s signature.
“Today, Congress sends the Respect for Marriage Act to the President’s desk, a glorious triumph of love and freedom,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, quoting the gay-rights activist Edith Windsor in comparing marriage to magic. “This legislation honors that magic, protecting it from bigoted extremism, defending the inviolability of the same-sex and interracial marriages.”
The House had already passed an earlier version of the Respect for Marriage Act in July, but the Senate delayed its vote on the bill until after the Midterm Elections. Late last month, the Senate passed the bill with a bipartisan amendment to allay some Republicans’ concerns about religious liberty.
The amended bill passed the Senate in a 61-36 vote, with 12 Republican Senators joining Democrats in favor of it.
In a 258-169 vote, the House on Thursday passed the bill with the amendment, which clarifies that the federal government would not be authorized to recognize polygamous marriages and confirms that nonprofit religious organizations would not be required to provide “any services, facilities, or goods for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage.”
Thirty-nine Republicans joined all Democrats in supporting the measure.
— DESANTISY LAND —
“Another Florida voter fraud case dismissed. Miami judge rejects statewide prosecutor” via Lawrence Mower and David Ovalle of the Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau — A Miami judge has tossed out another voter fraud case brought by DeSantis’ elections police, the third case to fall apart since the Governor announced the arrests. On Wednesday, Circuit Judge Laura Anne Stuzin reached the same conclusion as another Miami judge did in a different voter’s case, saying that statewide prosecutors didn’t have the ability to bring charges against Ronald Lee Miller. Because he was convicted of second-degree murder in 1990, Miller, 58, was ineligible to vote. But after his voter registration application was cleared by the Florida Department of State, Miami-Dade’s supervisor of elections issued him a voter ID card, and he voted in November 2020.
“Ron DeSantis urged to release plan for Florida’s looming Medicaid crisis” via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — Hundreds of thousands of Florida’s poorest children could lose health insurance next year when the federal government is expected to end expanded Medicaid coverage put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. The looming crisis has prompted a coalition of 40 Florida nonprofits, health organizations and child advocacy groups to sign a letter to DeSantis, urging the state to release its plans for managing the transition. The number of Floridians relying on the federal program that provides medical coverage for individuals with disabilities and very low-income families and children rose by 1.7 million during the public health emergency to 5.5 million, roughly one-quarter of the state’s population.
“Despite Hurricane Ian, Florida’s October revenues beat expectations by $140M” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Florida received $3.23 billion in revenues in October, about $141.4 million above state economists’ projections, a monthly revenue report released by the Office of Economic and Demographic Research shows. The numbers come despite losses of economic activity due to Hurricane Ian. The monthly revenue reports typically reflect the economic activity of the previous month, so this report stems from September’s economic yield. Despite hitting at the end of the month, Ian put a $67 million dent in the state’s revenues for that period.
“Mobile-home owners struggle to find insurance in Florida’s ‘dysfunctional’ market” via Trevor Fraser of the Orlando Sentinel — The problems at Peggy Childress’ mobile home started in May when a tree from the vacant lot next door crashed through their carport, the first damage she or her husband, Mike, could recall in 15 years of living there. Having the tree removed cost $600, all the money they had in savings. “It wiped us out,” said Childress, 61. Then Hurricane Ian tore off their roof. “It was like it was raining inside,” Childress said. Rooms filled with water, then mold. Childress said she’s gotten estimates of more than $22,000 for repairs, “more than this place is worth.”
“Joe Harding resigns after wire fraud, money laundering indictment” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Rep. Harding is resigning his House District 24 seat following an indictment Wednesday on wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements. His resignation is effective immediately. “To my many colleagues that have reached out to me, including many I have deep policy disagreements with, thank you. It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve alongside you for the past two years,” Harding wrote in an extended statement announcing his decision. Harding wrote that he cannot comment on the details of his case.
“Christopher Benjamin refiles bill barring most citizen’s arrests” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Democratic Rep. Benjamin of Miami Gardens is taking another swing at passing legislation to keep the duty of law enforcement mostly in the hands of trained police. Benjamin has filed HB 25, which would remove most legal allowances for citizen’s arrest in Florida. “In a modern world where we have modern law enforcement, there’s just no need for citizens trying to arrest one another,” he told Florida Politics. HB 25 builds on a measure (HB 1083) Benjamin introduced in January, which sought to ban citizen’s arrests with exceptions for police officers acting outside their jurisdictions. Miami Sen. Jason Pizzo filed its companion.
“Fred Hawkins elected as Chair of Osceola County legislative delegation” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Osceola County legislative delegation has chosen Rep. Hawkins, a St. Cloud Republican, as its new Chair. He takes over the role from Rep. Kristen Arrington. Hawkins stressed to the crowd at the delegation’s meeting, which typically happens locally once a year, to stay connected with state lawmakers year-round. “If you look at the last Sessions, we were in Tallahassee I believe 25 or 26 weeks out of the year, with Special Sessions and everything,” Hawkins said. “I think that’s important for the citizens to know that we are still open to meet with you. Our staffs are excellent. They are there for a reason. So, take advantage of that. I think some of the best ideas and policies come out of the public.”
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Jack Anderson, Lisa Miller and Associates: Cabrillo Coastal General Insurance Agency
Michael Cantens, Flagler Strategies: FloridaWest Economic Development Alliance
Ken Granger, Dean Izzo, Joseph Mongiovi, Capital City Consulting: Geographic Solutions
Tanya Jackson, PinPoint Results: Health and Hope Clinic
Rob Johnson, The Mayernick Group: Tri-County Foundation
Fred Karlinsky, Greenberg Traurig: First Community Insurance Company
Henry Mahler: Department of Management Services
David Ramba, Ramba Consulting Group: Fort Myers Beach Public Library District
Bryan Wood: BlackRock
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Joe Biden approval, views of economy steady, sour in poll” via Hannah Fingerhut of The Associated Press — Fresh off his party’s better-than-anticipated performance in the Midterm Elections, President Biden is facing consistent but critical assessments of his leadership and the national economy. A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds 43% of U.S. adults say they approve of the way Biden is handling his job as President, while 55% disapprove. That’s similar to October, just weeks before the Nov. 8 elections that most Americans considered pivotal for the country’s future. Only about a quarter say the nation is headed in the right direction or the economy is in good condition. Both measures have been largely negative over the course of the year.
“Marco Rubio says time is not on Ukraine’s side” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — U.S. Sen. Rubio is suggesting there may be a time limit on the thus far robust support for Ukraine in its war against Russia. The Florida Republican described a conflict that has become a war of attrition, one that may ultimately be a tough sell not just for the world, but for the new Congress. “I think every time politicians go to the well on that, it’s going to get harder and harder and harder to get the votes. And we may see the first sort of indication of that in the new Congress. I’m sure (the new members) have heard from their constituents a lot, ‘Why are we spending all this money on someone else’s war?’”
“3 South Florida Republicans flip to vote ‘no’ on protection for same-sex and interracial marriages” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Three Republican members of Congress from South Florida who voted for the Respect for Marriage Act in July switched their votes less than five months later, voting “no” Thursday on final passage. The Respect for Marriage Act, which would put protections for same-sex and interracial marriages in federal law, passed the House 258 to 169 and now goes to President Biden, who has said he would sign it. The “no” votes came from Republican U.S. Reps. Mario Díaz-Balart, Brian Mast, and María Salazar, all voting “yes” in July. All four South Florida Democrats — U.S. Reps. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, Lois Frankel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson — voted “yes.”
“Vern Buchanan calls possibility he will resign ‘laughable and ridiculous’” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Buchanan is pushing back hard on a report he might resign from Congress if he loses a leadership race. Buchanan will be the senior-most Republican on the Ways and Means Committee when a new Congress opens on Jan. 3. He appears to be the front-runner for Chair of the powerful panel, but still is in a heated race with U.S. Reps. Adrian Smith of Nebraska and Jason Smith of Missouri. “I’m committed to helping elect Kevin McCarthy Speaker and continue to work every day to earn the support of the Steering Committee to become the next Ways and Means Chairman,” Buchanan said.
“America’s first Gen Z Congressman can’t find an apartment in Washington” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Maxwell Alejandro Frost just landed a job with a $174,000 annual salary. But America’s first Generation Z Congressman still can’t find an apartment in Washington. The Orlando Democrat tweeted he doesn’t have a place to live in America’s Capital City. “Just applied to an apartment in D.C. where I told the guy that my credit was really bad,” Frost posted. “He said I’d be fine. Got denied, lost the apartment, and the application fee. This ain’t meant for people who don’t already have money.” The young political activist now famously drove Uber by night and campaigned during the day.
“Jared Moskowitz eyes Foreign Affairs, Judiciary committees” via Marc Rod of Jewish Insider — Democratic U.S. Rep.-elect Moskowitz, who recently won election to replace former Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch in Congress, told Jewish Insider in a sit-down interview last week that he’s aiming to fill Deutch’s seats on both the House Foreign Affairs and Judiciary Committees. Moskowitz, a former Florida Emergency Management Director and member of the Florida House, pledged to follow closely in his predecessor’s footsteps as a vocal supporter of the U.S.-Israel relationship. He said he’s hoping to join the Foreign Affairs committee to continue that support for Israel. “We have one of the highest Jewish populations of any district in the country,” Moskowitz said.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“Donald Trump’s isolation deepens as Georgia loss adds to 2024 bid’s rocky start” via Isaac Arnsdorf of The Washington Post — Since announcing his 2024 presidential bid three weeks ago at Mar-a-Lago, Trump has barely left his private South Florida club, except to play golf at his course across Lake Worth Lagoon. He spoke at a friendly think tank conference held at Mar-a-Lago and a for-profit gala, also at Mar-a-Lago. He had dinner at Mar-a-Lago with two prominent antisemites, drawing widespread criticism, including from top Republicans.
“Trump hosts event featuring QAnon, ‘Pizzagate’ conspiracy theorist at Mar-a-Lago” via Olivia Rubin, Will Steakin, and Katherine Faulders of ABC News — A prominent adherent of the QAnon and “Pizzagate” conspiracy theories posed for photos with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort Tuesday night after speaking at an event hosted at the club, according to photos and videos posted to social media. The event came two weeks after Trump had dinner at Mar-a Lago with rapper Ye and far-right YouTuber Nick Fuentes, who the Department of Justice has labeled a White supremacist. The meeting sparked outrage despite Trump’s claim he did not know who Fuentes was.
“Trump allies aim to capture his philosophy in policy book’” via The Associated Press — Trump arrived in Washington with a hodgepodge of ideas developed over decades in business and television that were far outside the Republican mainstream. After his party’s military invasions and embrace of multilateral trade deals that moved jobs overseas, Trump ran on an isolationist foreign policy platform, a populist economic message, and an instinctive drive to worsen societal divides. Now, allies have translated that often loosely defined philosophy into a 246-page policy plan, the “America First Agenda,” that they hope will codify what has already become the party’s dominant ideology and serve as a blueprint for lawmakers at the state and federal level, whether Trump wins another term.
“‘Trump would prevail’: Dems alarmed by 2024 bipartisan spoilers” via Alexi McCammond of Axios — Democrats are trying to stop outside groups from forming a bipartisan presidential ticket in 2024, warning voters that the effort is political malpractice. A third party could hand the presidency to Trump, warns a new report from Third Way, shared first with Axios. The report details epic failures from past political efforts and warns about the unique dangers of an emerging outsider candidate. “If a third-party candidate blew past historic precedent and managed to win enough electoral votes to keep any candidate from getting to 270, then the outcome would be decided in the House of Representatives, which is controlled by Republicans and where Donald Trump would prevail,” the report says.
“Trump Organization conviction unlikely to impact West Palm Beach golf club lease” via Alexandra Clough of the Palm Beach Post — The tax fraud conviction in New York will not have any effect on Palm Beach County’s lease with the Trump Organization for Trump International Golf Club in suburban West Palm Beach, a top county lawyer said. The response followed news Tuesday that a jury in Manhattan found the Trump Organization and an affiliated family enterprise, Trump Payroll Corp., guilty of a collective 17 criminal charges. The companies now face criminal penalties of up to $1.6 million. The Trump Organization pays $88,338 a month in rent for more than 214 acres of county land just south of Palm Beach International Airport. Trump International Golf Club is next to the Palm Beach County Jail.
— LOCAL: S. FL —
“Everglades Foundation seeks criminal contempt finding against its former top scientist after settlement deal implodes” via Dan Christensen of Florida Bulldog — The Everglades Foundation is once again going after its former top scientist and has asked a Miami-Dade judge to hold him in criminal contempt of court, a finding that could hit Thomas Van Lent in the wallet and put him behind bars for up to a year. The fight between the foundation and Van Lent began quietly in early April when the foundation sued its longtime director of science and policy, alleging that in the weeks before he quit at the end of February, he mounted a “secret campaign of theft and destruction of sensitive Foundation materials in preparation for his departure.”
“New party leadership coming for Republicans in Miami-Dade, Democrats in Palm Beach County” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Rep. Alex Rizo is the new Chair of the Miami-Dade County Republican Party, charged with sustaining a red wave in the county that proved one for the history books this past election. Before last month’s Midterms, only Miami’s own Gov. Jeb Bush had ever convinced Miami-Dade County voters to go in for a Republican Governor. But the Miami-Dade Republican Party, led by Miami-Dade County Commissioner René Garcia, also a former state Senator, oversaw turning the county’s once decidedly blue hue into a deep red. Miami-Dade County voters favored DeSantis by 11 points, helping to propel him to a jaw-dropping 19-point victory statewide.
“Downtown business group asks West Palm Beach to impose moratorium on marijuana dispensaries” via Wayne Washington of the Palm Beach Post — An influential business group has asked West Palm Beach to impose a six-month moratorium on the approval of more medical marijuana dispensaries in the downtown area. The Downtown Development Authority, a 55-year-old independent taxing group that represents downtown business owners, said in a letter to city officials that “the proliferation of this type of business has a deleterious effect on the area by sending the wrong message about our community, creates a negative perception of our place, and prevents other, more beneficial types of businesses from opening.”
“Indian River County rejects proposal for permanent off-leash dog beach” via Thomas Weber of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Sorry, Fido. Indian River County Commissioners have killed a short-lived proposal to open one of its beaches as a full-time, off-leash dog beach. The County Commission Tuesday was split, voting 3-2 against the idea, which former Commissioner Peter O’Bryan first suggested in October. Had he still been on the Commission, the tables likely would have been turned. This week, Commissioner Deryl Loar, who was sworn in on Nov. 22 to O’Bryan’s former seat, voted “no.” The proposal was to convert one of the county’s few dog-friendly beaches into a permanent off-leash dog beach, but opponents had safety concerns. “We can’t predict them. We can’t prevent them from acting on instinct,” Commissioner Joe Flescher said Tuesday.
“Vero Beach City Council rejects appeal from citizens group to halt expansion of city marina” via Thomas Weber of Treasure Coast Newspapers — The City Council Tuesday shut down yet another attempt to halt a planned expansion of the city marina. The appeal was the latest effort by the citizens group Vero Beach Preservation Alliance, led by beachside residents, to stop the expansion of the marina. The group successfully petitioned to put a referendum on the Nov. 8 ballot which would have stopped certain sized expansions at the marina — and other city park properties — without voter approval. The city sued the alliance, claiming there were ambiguities in the referendum’s language, and a judge struck the referendum from the ballot after polls closed. But, records showed, 55% of voters rejected the referendum, even before the judge gave her ruling.
“A new Seven Mile Bridge is in the works for the Florida Keys. What the state has planned” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — The Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys was considered an engineering marvel when it opened in 1982. That bridge, which connects Marathon in the Middle Keys to Little Duck Key in the Lower Keys, replaced the original Seven Mile Bridge, built in 1912. That was another marvel, too, and originally part of pioneer Henry Flagler’s train service and serving as the longest — and most iconic — link of his Florida East Coast Railway. Now, another bridge could be in the works. This week, Monroe County leaders said a replacement for the 40-year-old Seven Mile Bridge could be coming by early next decade.
“Cats were seen flying from a car in the Florida Keys. A driver is now in trouble” via David Goodhue of FL Keys News — A Florida Keys man was arrested Thursday on felony animal cruelty charges after Monroe County sheriff’s deputies say he threw two kittens from a moving car late last month. One of the cats survived the ordeal and has now been adopted from a local pet rescue. The other, however, was struck and killed by a car, according to the sheriff’s office. Diego Torres Ruiz, 29, from Islamorada, was in county jail on $50,000 bond Thursday afternoon, facing two animal cruelty charges.
— LOCAL: C. FL —
“Not ‘enough money to save them all.’ Volusia grapples with double hurricane whammy” via Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — Kate Rose stays awake at night thinking about her family’s oceanfront home perched perilously on the edge of the eroded shoreline. The next storm could send it crashing into the ocean, just like some of her neighbors’ homes in Wilbur-by-the-Sea. The small community suffered some of the worst damage from back-to-back hurricanes that tore through Volusia County this year. “You open up the door now, and it’s a 25-foot drop straight down,” Rose said, adding that the first repair bill came in at almost $1 million. “I mean we’re teetering on the edge.” Everyone has their eyes on the vanishing sand. The pounding surf wiped out protective dunes, leaving coastal homes sitting ducks for Mother Nature’s wrath as seawalls crumbled.
“‘Operation Young Guns’ aims to catch juveniles linked to gun violence in Volusia, Flagler” via Patricio G. Balona of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — “Operation Young Guns” is an initiative involving six law enforcement agencies, including four Sheriff’s Offices from the Seventh Judicial Circuit, targeting juveniles who use stolen guns to commit violent crimes. Sheriff’s Offices from St. Johns, Putnam, Flagler and Volusia counties have teamed up with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and are test-firing seized guns. They are collecting shell casings information to put in a database — the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) — that will be used by law enforcement to match guns with crimes and offenders.
“UCF Student Government calls for lobbying transparency, pro-democracy reforms” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Members of the University of Central Florida (UCF) Student Body Senate passed three bills this week aimed at increasing student representation on campus, encouraging civic participation and calling for transparency within the university’s $2.6 million in lobbying spending since 1998. The bills align with the Youth Power Reforms students are trying to pass on campus led by UCF’s Un-PAC, a nonpartisan group of students mobilizing to get big money out of politics. Those reforms include expanding voter registration opportunities for new students, canceling classes on Election Day to promote voting, and requiring transparency and student input on political lobbying decisions.
— LOCAL: TB —
Nothingburger — “Jack and Chris Latvala: a money trail and continued influence in Pinellas politics” via Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times
“Florida Justices skeptical of Pinellas County’s immunity from taxation” via Perry Cooper of Blomberg Tax — Pinellas County didn’t seem to convince the Florida Supreme Court at arguments Wednesday that it should be immune from taxes on property it owns in neighboring Pasco County. In 2019, a state appeals court ruled Pinellas County was obligated to pay property taxes on 12,400 acres of farmland it owns in Pasco County because Pinellas’s sovereign immunity doesn’t extend beyond its boundaries. The justices seemed inclined to adopt that reasoning. Justice Jamie R. Grosshans offered an example at the state level.
“Pasco County is sued by its sports campus operator over default claim” via Barbara Behrendt of the Tampa Bay Times — The management company hired to operate the Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus has filed a lawsuit against Pasco County saying it was wrongly found in default on its operating agreement. The 551-page complaint claims that Pasco officials “engaged in a series of bad-faith actions” even before RADDSports took over the campus. It says those actions were “designed ultimately to strip from RADDSports and take over for itself, the right to operate the Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus for the next 20 years.” The county’s default letter to RADDSports claimed that the company did not live up to its obligations to promote sports tourism, but instead focused on organizing local sporting events.
“Respiratory problems from Red Tide possible at some Pinellas beaches, officials warn” via Max Chesnes of the Tampa Bay Times — As Red Tide has exploded across Southwest Florida in recent weeks — particularly near the counties hardest hit by Hurricane Ian — many in the Tampa Bay area who keep track of the harmful algal blooms have watched as they ebbed and flowed northward. It’s not like last year when crews cleared thousands of pounds of dead fish from Pinellas County shorelines, but as the scenes here in recent days have suggested, Red Tide is back. Federal ocean scientists warned the public Thursday morning that some beaches in Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota counties may have a moderate-to-high risk of respiratory irritation through Friday night. The advisory, issued by the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science at 9 a.m., said the risk of respiratory irritation was possible for the next 36 hours.
— LOCAL: SW. FL —
“Hurricane Ian recovery: Pine Island, Matlacha residents get updates on needed services” via Samantha Neely of the Fort Myers News-Press — Since Hurricane Ian’s hit on Sept. 28, Pine Island and Matlacha residents have banded together to help restore their tiny but mighty community. However, many have voiced that they still feel in the dark about critical resources and who to go to in times of crisis, even two months after the storm. To answer questions and address the needs of residents, the Greater Pine Island Civic Association held a post-Ian recovery meeting with local and state recovery organizations. Residents packed the pews at the Pine Island United Methodist Church Tuesday evening, eagerly awaiting updates from leaders on the next steps, debris pickup, temporary housing and more.
“Charlotte County: Land-clearing debris is not storm debris” via the Port Charlotte Sun — Authorities in Charlotte County are reminding residents that debris cleared from vacant land for the purpose of land clearing is not eligible for storm debris collection. “All land-clearing debris is the responsibility of the property owner and is required to be disposed of privately by being brought to the county landfill or other proper disposal locations and should not be brought to the roadway for collection,” it said. For storm-related information, call the Charlotte County Call Center from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday at 941-833-4000 or 941-743-1320.
“Red tide spreads north around Anna Maria Island and Tampa Bay, continues near Sarasota” via Ryan Ballogg of the Bradenton Herald — A bloom of the toxic algae known as “red tide” continues to plague parts of Southwest Florida’s coastline this week with fish kills and respiratory irritation. Red tide has persisted since October when elevated levels of algae reached the coast shortly after Hurricane Ian stirred up the Gulf of Mexico. As the densest part of the bloom has drifted north in recent days, algae levels have lessened somewhat around Sarasota County, but reports of dead fish and breathing irritation continue to come in from the county’s public beaches, including Siesta Key. The bloom’s presence is also stronger around Anna Maria Island and Tampa Bay, water samples and local reports show.
“City Council gives approval to rebuild Naples Pier” via Laura Layden of the Naples Daily News — Naples City Council has chosen to rebuild the iconic Naples Pier, rather than repair it. Council gave the green light to continue with the rebuilding on Wednesday, which would keep the fishing pier in its current footprint, with improvements to its structural design. Hurricane Ian dealt the pier a heavy blow, with more than 30 pilings and about 140 feet of it wiped out by the powerful storm. Within a few weeks of the storm, the city had about 100 feet of the landmark attraction repaired and reopened, along with the beach stairs and public restrooms. “That took a lot of work,” said Chad Merritt, the city’s director of parks, recreation and facilities.
— LOCAL: N. FL —
“Gun violence, politics, and Jacksonville’s terrible truth” via Nate Monroe of the Florida Times-Union — Unimaginable, unthinkable: a 13-year-old boy — a child, Prince Holland; what a gorgeous name — shot dead Saturday on the way home from football practice. Caught in a drive-by. A senseless, crushing death. Except it’s all quite imaginable, utterly thinkable, senseless in its rendering but clinically sensible in its construction, crushing in its finality for this young life and crushing because it will surely happen again in this city. Holland is the 11th kid 17 or younger killed this year. And remember Kearria Addison? Tashawn Gallon? Heidy Rivas Villanueva? Aiden McClendon? They are the tragedies of recent years past filed away in the record books like our city’s own haunting Advent calendar. The news conference Monday felt almost perfunctory.
“DeSantis-endorsed Duval School Board member backs Leanna Cumber for Jax Mayor” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Duval County School Board member April Carney is endorsing Jacksonville City Council member LeAnna Gutierrez Cumber for Mayor. Carney, who won election to the School Board after landing an endorsement from DeSantis, is also a business owner and nutrition coach. She ran a campaign centered on parental rights in schools and ending unnecessary mandates. “As a former public-school teacher, LeAnna understands the important connection between educating our youth, a thriving economy, and a reduction in crime rates,” Carney said.
“Fernandina Beach Commissioners make plea for tree protections” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — Fernandina Beach City Commissioners are looking to the Legislature to repeal a law seen as a giveaway to developers and a direct attack on the Florida environment. Vice Mayor Len Kreger pointed out, at the beginning of a discussion with Commissioners, that the resolution on legislative requests didn’t include one to repeal Florida Statute 163.045, which inhibits tree protections, nor another law that specifically bans Fernandina Beach from donating property. He said Commissioners agreed to these requests at earlier workshops. “We spent three workshops dealing with that,” Kreger said at the Commission’s meeting this week. “Those are the guys who come in and butcher the trees.”
“Group looks to launch incorporation effort for Perdido Key area” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — A new group is organizing an effort to incorporate southwest Escambia County into a new city called Perdido. Steven Brendtro with We Are Perdido announced at the Escambia County Legislative Delegation meeting Wednesday that his group was organizing an effort to incorporate the Perdido Key area into a city. “We’re proud to be a hidden slice of paradise but being 30 minutes to 45 minutes from everything has challenges,” Brendtro said. “Our isolation makes us an inconvenient location for the delivery of county services. We’re usually last on the list, and if somebody jumps in the truck, they’ve got an hour round trip at least to get out to us to do anything.”
“Breeze Airways adding new flights from Jacksonville” via Gary T. Mills of the Florida Times-Union — Seven months after its inaugural flight from Jacksonville, low-fare airline Breeze Airways is adding new destinations and returning others to its flight schedule at JIA. Beginning Thursday, May 18, Breeze will offer four weekly nonstop flights from Jacksonville International Airport to Raleigh-Durham (North Carolina) International Airport, the airline announced Wednesday. The flights will depart Jacksonville on Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays and Mondays. Also, that week, Breeze will begin offering its one-stop “BreezeThru” service to two added cities: Providence, Rhode Island, and Islip/Long Island, New York. Passengers on those flights from Jacksonville will not have a plane change at the intermediate stop.
“Santa Rosa’s public school for Black students opened 114 years ago. They were honored Tuesday.” via Kamal Morgan of the Pensacola News Journal — More than a century after Santa Rosa County opened its first public school for Black students, the city of Milton honored the legacy of J.B. Turner School. J.B. Turner School served students from grades one through nine, later adding a high school that would open the door for its students to enter college for the first time. “It’s very important that children know where they came from and the evolutionary line of the educational system so they can see where they are now to go back and study and to look at personalities and (know) they are somebody,” said LEAP Committee Chair Mary Johnson.
— TOP OPINION —
“Congress protects all marriages, without Rubio and Rick Scott” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Final passage Thursday of the Respect for Marriage Act, which protects same-sex and interracial marriages, takes its place in history as a triumph for human rights, for the beleaguered American political system and for the best of human nature.
On this issue, only one correct side exists. In the Senate, Florida’s Rubio and Scott were again on the wrong side. Both opposed the bill after having supported unsuccessful amendments to weaken it.
For their excuse, Florida’s Senators relied on the flimsy pretext that it exposes religious charities like adoption services to lawsuits for shunning same-sex couples. It does not. If anything, it amplifies the protections they can assert under the Constitution and existing federal law.
Rubio took the wrong side despite having just won another six-year term. If he still looks in the mirror and sees a future President, this vote might help him in the primaries, but it would be a serious liability in a November general election.
Scott, who says he’ll run for re-election rather than for President in 2024, is one of the most partisan naysayers on Capitol Hill. According to the nonpartisan website GovTrack.us, he was the 12th most politically right-wing Senator during the 2019-2021 term, putting him well to the right of most Floridians.
— OPINIONS —
“Georgia exposed the Trumpist scam” via David French of The Dispatch — Ever since the GOP’s profound November disappointment, I’ve been asked countless versions of the same question: “After everything that’s happened before, why only now are Republicans breaking with Trump? Did one election matter that much?” My answer is simple: “This one election impacted how people view everything that happened before.” Let’s put it this way — Trump’s surprise 2016 victory understandably imprinted on the Republican mind the idea that Trump was a winner. He was the “only” GOP candidate who could’ve vanquished the hated Clinton dynasty. This was, of course, an unfalsifiable assertion, because he was the only GOP candidate who did in fact run against Hillary. But the perception was there. But when Republicans couldn’t take the Senate and barely took the House in 2022 — and the disappointing outcome so clearly turned on specific MAGA candidates for Senate — I watched in real-time as the scales dropped from people’s eyes.
“Who has the courage to take on Trump and Biden?” via John F. Harris of POLITICO — Last month’s Midterm Elections jostled but did not dislodge the consensus view in political and media circles that the most likely scenario for the 2024 presidential election remains a rematch of the 2020 presidential election. So, the year is closing with a paradox. There is abundant evidence of the infirmities of the leading figures in both major parties. Yet for the moment the outward indications are that it will be hard to thwart either one for nominations they both want.
“Kevin McCarthy is not the right leader for the moment” via Matt Gaetz for Real Clear Politics — The administration is aiding and abetting an invasion of the Southern border. Our rights are being stripped away. We are at war and the enemy is within. In response to this existential threat, we’re told that we need to entrust a congressman previously recognized as the “tech industry’s best friend” as our leader. That’s boneheaded. McCarthy is not the right leader for the moment. Fortunately, enough Republicans recognize that to stop him from being the next Speaker of the House. Five House Republicans, including myself, have announced that we will not vote for McCarthy during the Jan. 3 speaker election. Many have privately also informed McCarthy of their plans to vote for someone else.
“Investing in Florida’s communities is investing in our future” via Jennifer Sweet for Florida Politics — In my role as the leader of Aetna Better Health of Florida, a CVS Health company, I get to channel energy to improve the well-being of our communities, and I’m particularly excited about the investments we’ve been making to address housing needs and food insecurity. For example, since 2020, CVS Health has invested $24.8 million in affordable housing, across eight Florida counties, creating or restoring more than 1,000 units. We invested in Fairlawn Village in Orlando, which includes 116 family units, 20 of which are PSH units for people experiencing homelessness, survivors of domestic violence, persons with a disability, or youth aging out of foster care.
— WEEKEND TV —
ABC Action News Full Circle with Paul LaGrone on Channel 10 WFTS: Former Sen. Jeff Brandes; Ryan Gorman, host of the Ryan Gorman Show on WFLA; Vincent Arcuri, LPT Realty.
Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues affecting the region.
In Focus with Allison Walker on Bay News 9/CF 13: A look at efforts to keep toys safe for children, and what parents need to know when it comes to hazards and toxins. Joining Walker are Michelle Sterling, Kids Wellness and Safety Specialist, BayCare Health System and Gary Schmidt, Toymakers of East Lake.
Political Connections on Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A one-on-one interview with incoming Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson on his goals for the first year in office; and a preview of the upcoming Special Session on property insurance.
Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Rep. Carolina Amesty will discuss her agenda as an incoming member of the Florida Legislature, and as a Republican serving in a traditionally Democratic region.
The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Gary Yordon, pollster Steve Vancore and News Service of Florida political reporter Dara Kam.
This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Duval County Schools Board Chair Dr. Kelly Coker and government law attorney Chris Hand.
— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —
— ALOE —
“Splashdown! Here’s how NASA will recover the Artemis I Orion capsule in the Pacific Ocean” via Rick Neale of Florida Today — After pedaling his bicycle to the barrier-island dunes in Melbourne Beach, Florida Institute of Technology professor J. Travis Hunsucker watched NASA’s mighty Artemis I moon rocket arc a fiery path across the post-midnight sky last month, twinkling into a tiny dot over the Atlantic Ocean. Now, the ocean engineering and marine sciences assistant professor has reported to the Navy amphibious transport ship USS Portland in San Diego. On Sunday, he’ll help forecast and analyze wave dynamics to guide NASA officials as they retrieve the rocket’s bobbing Orion capsule after it splashes down into the Pacific Ocean.
“Dunedin woman inspired to found nonprofit to support single moms” via D’Ann Lawrence White of Patch — Chantala Davis is the founder and president of A Mother’s Arms Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides empowerment, educational training and respite care for parents to prevent child abuse and neglect of children. It’s dedicated to Jordan Belliveau, a 2-year-old toddler who was killed by his young mother in Largo in 2018. Davis was born and raised in Clearwater and is the mother of three and grandmother of four. A Dunedin High School graduate, she attended Eckerd College and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in human services. For years, she has been employed as an outreach worker, program facilitator and youth support worker.
“What do I do if I find a shipwreck? Who owns them?” via C.A. Bridges of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — After Tropical Storm Nicole wiped away a large chunk of the beach in Daytona Beach Shores, residents spotted a mysterious object poking up through the remaining sand. Experts uncovering the structure say it’s likely that the storm revealed remains of a shipwreck from the 1800s. “This is definitely a ship,” said Chuck Meide, director of the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. “And that’s just because of the construction of it. You can see these timbers sticking up, those are massive, and the way they’re arranged, that’s how you build a ship.” If there are no artifacts or obvious markings, it can be difficult for the layman to tell.
“New Minions attraction and land coming to Universal Studios” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Universal Studios Florida is opening a new family-friendly Minions attraction in summer 2023 that’s going to be part of a new land at the park based off the popular movies. The experience, called the Illumination’s Villain-Con Minion Blast, is an interactive game where visitors use blasters to compete against each other. “Villain-Con Minion Blast combines innovative screen technology, state-of-the-art gaming interactivity and elaborate physical sets to create a one-of-a-kind, game-based adventure where guests encounter immersive environments, nefarious villains and tons of mischievous Minions from Illumination’s films in a whole new way,” Universal said.
What John Lux is reading — “‘Road House’ remake set in Keys, filmed elsewhere” via Richard Tamborrino of the Florida Keys Free Press — A remake of “Road House,” a 1989 film featuring Patrick Swayze as a bouncer who saves a troubled small town in Missouri, will be set in the Florida Keys, but not filmed here. The film is due to stream on Amazon Prime in 2023, with Oscar-nominee Jake Gyllenhaal playing the late Swayze’s lead role of Dalton. Social media has been abuzz of late because one of the few scenes actually filmed in the Keys, on the Old Seven Mile Bridge, features Fred the Tree, which Middle Keys locals fondly follow for its annual Christmas lighting and its quasi-celebrity status for rooting and somehow thriving on concrete. Fred has a Facebook page with more than 25,000 followers and was the first to break the news of its inclusion in the film.
— HOLIDAYS —
“Get a Christmas tree, help the earth” via Deirdra Funcheon and Martin Vassolo of Axios Miami — A Miami nonprofit has a win-win idea this holiday season: get a free Christmas tree and help the environment by cutting down invasive species. Urban Paradise Guild (UPG), which works to restore natural habitat around Miami, is inviting families this Sunday to saw down invasive Australian pines at Arch Creek East Environmental Preserve in North Miami and use them as Christmas trees. Australian pines spread aggressively and drop needlelike leaves that smother native plants. The invasive trees also release “sap that can kill native plants or prevent seeds from germinating,” UPG founder Sam Van Leer told Axios. Without native plants to feed on, much of our wildlife cannot survive.
“Norfolk Island pine tops list of Floridians’ favorite Christmas plants” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Floridians’ favorite Christmas plant is the Norfolk Island pine, according to a study from Cinch Home Services, which analyzed data from all 50 states to find the most popular in each. To find each state’s favorite, Cinch created a list of the most popular Christmas plants in 2022 overall. They then used Google data to analyze each plant’s search volume in the past year. Florida’s favorite holiday plant is not actually a pine, as its name suggests. The Norfolk Island pine, native to the external territory of Australia, Norfolk Island, is a relative of the monkey puzzle tree. It is a common landscaping tree in subtropical climates, such as Florida.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to our friend Richard Reeves, as well as state Reps. Webster Barnaby and former Rep. Rene Plasencia, Garrett Blanton, Beth Lerner, Kim Siomkos, and Ben Weaver. Celebrating this Sunday is Florida TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Renzo Downey, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.