Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 3.14.23

Gun Rights

Good Tuesday morning.

David Altmaier, perhaps one of the most high-profile appointees to recently depart the Ron DeSantis administration, has found a new home at The Southern Group.

The former Florida Insurance Commissioner will lead a new national insurance advisory practice to serve clients in both Florida and nationwide.

“I spent the last 14 years of my career working on these issues,” Altmaier said. “The Southern Group has been a pillar in Florida politics and a leader in advocating on behalf of their clients for good policy. I am proud to join such a prestigious team.”

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David Altmaier is the latest blockbuster hire at The Southern Group.

Before joining The Southern Group, Altmaier served 14 years in the state’s Office of Insurance Regulation — the last six as Commissioner. After guiding the state through the passage of a sweeping reform bill aimed at stabilizing the insurance market, Altmaier is arguably one of the most respected and well-known insurance industry experts.

“Whether it’s his technical mastery of a very complex subject, the trust that Florida’s most powerful elected officials place in his opinion, or his skill and confidence in articulating a position, David will be an extraordinarily effective advocate at a time when insurance companies most need those skills,” said Southern Group founder and Chair Paul Bradshaw.

Altmaier said Florida is at a “pivotal moment” in the property insurance market. “We’ve done incredible work but there is more work to be done,” he said. In addition to property insurance, Altmaier led OIR through pivotal discussions on the auto insurance framework in Florida, navigating the complex health insurance environment, and participated nationally and globally on regulatory policy, chiefly the design and implementation of the U.S. Group Capital Calculation and the design of international insurance capital standards.

“The Southern Group has once again found the pre-eminent expert in a key industry segment,” said Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis, of his former colleague. “He will undoubtedly find tremendous success and I wish him nothing but the best.”

Along with assisting clients in Florida, Altmaier will be utilizing his network of contacts to build a national insurance advisory practice. Throughout his tenure as Commissioner, Altmaier was also heavily involved in national and international insurance regulatory policy. He served as the president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) in 2021, after serving as the president-elect in 2020 and vice president in 2019.

Altmaier’s first day at TSG is Monday, March 13.


Vivian Myrtetus, a national leader in technology and mobility public affairs, has joined Converge Public Strategies as a partner.

“As Converge continues to grow our talented leadership to provide world-class public affairs services to innovative clients, I can think of no one more well-respected than Vivian,” said Jonathan Kilman, Chair of Converge Public Strategies.

“With her energy and track record of success, especially in the mobility innovation sector, Vivian is an instant asset in Florida and across the United States for our current and future clients.”

Technology and mobility pro Vivian Myrtetus lands at Converge Public Strategies.

Myrtetus brings more than two decades of public affairs and policy experience in government and the private sector. She most recently served as the Head of Partnerships and Policy for Helbiz, a global leader in micromobility services. She previously worked in policy and public affairs at shared mobility companies Lime and Spin.

Myrtetus has also held multiple senior roles in state government, including as CEO and Executive Director of Volunteer Florida during the Gov. Rick Scott administration.

“While leading efforts across the United States in my in-house roles, I watched Converge Public Strategies rise to be among the most sought-after public affairs professionals in the country. Their relationships, policy depth, culture of collaboration and client service are well-known. I am excited to be a part of the firm and support its commitment to excellence,” she said.


House Republican Majority has hired Alex Barrera as its next Finance Director, future House Speaker Danny Perez announced.

“Alex has been a fixture in Florida politics — in Tallahassee, as well as his hometown of Miami — since graduating from Florida State University in 2015. From public policy strategy and campaign expertise to grassroots coordination and fundraising implementation, Alex brings tremendous experience to House Campaigns, and we know he will be a valuable addition,” Perez wrote in an email.

As Finance Director, Barrera will be responsible for setting and achieving fundraising goals for the campaign arm backing Republican state House candidates. He replaces Danny Leon, who is leaving the job to accept a “new and exciting position” in Miami.

New finance reports show the House GOP is off to a strong start in the money race, with Perez announcing that the Florida House Republican Campaign Committee and its affiliates pulled in more than $6 million in the first quarter before the Legislative Session paused legislative campaign fundraising.

“While this is a strong showing that builds our war chest significantly ahead of the critical 2024 election cycle, we are not done,” Perez wrote. “First, we will do the work of the people who elected us to office to serve the great state of Florida during the 2023 Session. Then, it is time for you to carry our message to your constituents and regain our strong fundraising momentum.”

He concluded, “We will be tireless in our pursuit of an overwhelming majority, defending all 85 seats we currently hold and identifying where we can gain even more ground.”


The Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) is launching an ad campaign that highlights the business community’s support for legislation that would make sweeping changes to the way lawsuits are filed and litigated in Florida.

The bills (SB 236/HB 837) contain many provisions that have long been sought by businesses and insurers, such as changing Florida’s comparative negligence system from a “pure” to a “modified” one. The legislation also eliminates Florida’s one-way attorney fee provisions for insurance cases and modifies policyholders’ ability to sue insurers under bad faith laws.

In the run-up to the Legislative Session, AIF and numerous other business groups stressed that the changes were needed for Florida to shake its litigious reputation and prevent further increases in insurance premiums, especially for homeowners’ policies.

AIF President and CEO Brewster Bevis reiterated the bill’s importance in a news release announcing the ad campaign, which will include TV and radio spots as well as billboard ads.

“Tort reform is the No. 1 issue for the business community this Session, and AIF wants lawmakers to know that our members fully support and appreciate their efforts to rebalance the legal system in our state,” he said.

The 30-second TV spot states that “under Gov. Ron DeSantis our economy is booming,” but that “billboard trial lawyers still have too much money and power.”

“Their frivolous lawsuits cost Floridians over five grand a year. it’s why Florida’s been called a ‘judicial hellhole.’ Republican leaders have a bold plan to stop the lawsuit abuse and make Florida’s economy even stronger. Tell your lawmakers to end the billboard trial lawyer greed,” it concludes.

The minute-long radio ad hits the same notes, while the billboard ads feature anti-trial lawyer catchphrases such as “For their pockets, not the people.”

To watch the ad, please click on the image below:


With one week to go, Red Dog Blue Dog 2023 is announcing its largest-ever bartending teams.

Bartending for the Red Team: Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera, Rep. Tom Leek, Rep. Jim Mooney, Sen. Alexis Calatayud and Sen. Jennifer Bradley.

Slinging for the Blue Team: Rep. Kristen Arrington, Rep. Dan Daley, Sen. Lauren Book, Sen. Tracie Davis and Sen. Jason Pizzo.

This year’s Red Dog, Blue Dog is set for March 21 — also Humane Lobby Day at the Capitol — and will once again be held in CollegeTown at Township Bar, located at 619 S. Woodward Ave., starting at 6 p.m.

Red Dog, Blue Dog is the key event for Humane Lobby Day at The Capitol.

At the event, the two bartending teams will be pouring drinks and soliciting tips that will be used to support animal causes including the Animal Shelter Foundation, Leon County Humane Society and Last Hope Rescue.

Last year the Red Team came out on top, but by a much slimmer margin than the Florida Red Tsunami of the 2022 General Election. So, there might be hope for the Blue Team this year.

Organizers have also compiled a roster of sponsors, including Presenting Sponsor Lisa Miller & Associates and Bar Sponsor Rubin Turnbull.


Florida TaxWatch is hosting its annual State of the Taxpayer Dinner tonight at 6 p.m.

Held at the Augustus B. Turnbull III Conference Center in Tallahassee, the agenda features numerous elected leaders and policymakers who will speak on issues relevant to Florida taxpayers that are being addressed in this Legislative Session.

Florida TaxWatch Chair Piyush Patel will present the “State of the Taxpayer” outlook, and Florida TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic M. Calabro will provide the “Taxpayer Priorities” update. Florida TaxWatch Treasurer Marva Johnson and Immediate Past Chair and former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux will emcee the event.

The speaker list also includes Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Paul Renner, as well as state Sens. Blaise Ingoglia and Ana Maria Rodriguez, state Reps. Chuck Clemons, Randy Fine, Stan McClain, Bobby Payne and Daniel Perez and Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey.

Florida TaxWatch will also air pre-recorded remarks from Attorney General Ashley Moody, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Senate President Kathleen Passidomo.

More information on the State of the Taxpayer Dinner is available on Florida TaxWatch’s website.


@POTUS: Thanks to actions we’ve taken over the past few days to protect depositors from Silicon Valley and Signature Banks, Americans can have confidence that our system is safe. People’s deposits will be there when they need them — at no cost to the taxpayer.

@WesWolfeFP: Fox News appears to be going hard to make this SVB collapse appear as a major threat to … Etsy.

@DianeHartFL: We should take every opportunity to celebrate our diversity, not condemn it. The various cultures and experiences that are present in this State and Nation are what make it great; without it who are we?

@LMower3: @GovRonDeSantis and the Cabinet confirmed FL’s new Insurance Commissioner, Mike Yaworsky, this morning. But a bit of a weird sight: No one was there for it. DeSantis and Cabinet did it over the phone, although it was held one floor below their offices. No questions were asked.

Tweet, tweet:


Premiere date for Season 3 of ‘Ted Lasso’ — 1; World Baseball Classic finals begin in Miami — 3; annual Red Dog Blue Dog fundraiser — 7; ’John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 10; ‘Succession’ Season 4 begins — 12; MLB Opening Day 2023 — 16; Tron Lightcycle/Run debuts in Walt Disney World — 21; Suits for Session — 22; ‘Air’ starring Ben Affleck and Matt Damon premieres — 23; NBA Play-In Tournament begins — 28; Taylor Swift ‘Eras’ Tour in Tampa — 31; NBA playoffs begin — 33; final performance of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ on Broadway — 33; American Association of Political Consultants Pollies ’23 conference begins — 35; 2023 Session Sine Die — 52; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 52; Florida Chamber 2023 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 56; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 65; ‘Fast X’ premieres — 65; Florida Chamber 2023 Florida Prosperity & Economic Opportunity Solution Summit — 73; NBA Finals begin — 79; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 80; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 94; Florida Chamber 2023 Florida Learners to Earners Workforce Solution Summit — 105; ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ premieres — 107; ‘Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning — Part One’ premieres — 122; Florida Chamber 37th Annual Environmental Permitting Summer School — 129; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 131; ’Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 138; 2023 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 223; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 235; South Carolina Democratic Primary — 316; New Hampshire and Nevada Democratic Primaries — 330; Georgia Democratic Primary — 337; Michigan Democratic Primary — 350; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 382; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 437; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 500; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 500; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 542; ‘Deadpool 3’ premieres — 607; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 753; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 780; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 969.


Florida has a new Insurance Commissioner” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Yaworsky, who was Interim Insurance Commissioner for the past month, is getting the job permanently.

DeSantis and members of the Cabinet — acting as the Financial Services Commission — voted unanimously to place Yaworsky in charge of the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR).

“I’m honored to have the opportunity to serve Florida as Insurance Commissioner, and I want to thank Gov. DeSantis and the Financial Services Commission for their support,” Yaworsky said in a statement following the vote.

Mike Yaworsky can now drop the ‘interim’ from his title.

“Florida’s insurance market is one of the largest in the world and plays a vital role in our state. As Insurance Commissioner, I look forward to ensuring OIR remains steadfast in our commitment to promote a stable and competitive insurance market for all Floridians.”

Under state law, both DeSantis and Patronis must agree on who to hire for the Insurance Commissioner post, meaning either of them could veto a choice they did not support.

Yaworsky previously served as Vice Chair of the Florida Gaming Control Commission and as Chief of Staff for OIR from 2017 to 2021.

Before joining OIR, Yaworsky had been working as legal counsel for the Georgia Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner. In that position, he advised the Georgia Commissioner and senior staff. Yaworsky also held jobs in Florida state government before he left the state to work for the Georgia Legislature.

According to the most recent annual report, there were more than 4,800 insurance-related entities operating in Florida in 2021 and more than $209 billion in premiums.


Ron DeSantis eyes hiring Iowa staff in step toward possible 2024 bid” via Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg — Advisers to DeSantis are talking to Republican operatives about joining his team to work in Iowa, the latest sign of preparation for his expected presidential bid. DeSantis wasn’t personally involved in the interviews and no formal job offers have been made. But the news coincided with DeSantis’s debut swing through Iowa, just days before Donald Trump makes his first trip to the state as a declared 2024 candidate. On his much-scrutinized Iowa swing, DeSantis had in-person meetings Friday with pastors and congressional and state lawmakers, some of whom have gotten calls from Trump seeking to lock in early support and stave off signs of cracks in his appeal.

Is Ron DeSantis staffing up for 2024?

DeSantis committee has raised almost $10M since re-election. But how can it be used?” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — After winning two terms, DeSantis can’t run for a third straight term as Florida’s chief executive. But his political committee keeps hauling in dough, as if donors think he’s not done campaigning. Friends of Ron DeSantis, the state political committee opened in early 2018, continues to bring in big checks. The committee reported more than $9.98 million in February alone. That’s actually one of the biggest hauls in a single period ever reported by the committee, which is saying something. The committee raised nearly $171 million for DeSantis’ re-election campaign before his 19-percentage-point landslide win over Democrat Charlie Crist in November.

DeSantis plans April trip to ‘first in the nation’ New Hampshire” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis will be in New Hampshire on April 14 to headline the New Hampshire GOP’s Amos Tuck Dinner. DeSantis has already been to Iowa this month, making what appears to be an early pitch to caucus voters. The April address will allow him to test the waters in New Hampshire, home of the first-in-the-nation Primary that has historically been a testing ground for White House hopefuls. Polling of the 2024 Republican field has been all over the place. A poll of 384 likely GOP Primary voters conducted between March 3 and March 5 by Emerson College finds former President Trump taking 58% support, 41 points over DeSantis, in a distant second place with 17%.

DeSantis heading to New Hampshire following stops in Iowa, Nevada, fueling more 2024 buzz” via Paul Steinhauser of Fox News — DeSantis will travel next month to New Hampshire, the state that holds the first primary and second contest overall in the GOP presidential nominating calendar. DeSantis will headline the New Hampshire GOP’s annual Amos Tuck Dinner on April 14, in Manchester, the Granite State’s largest city. The dinner is the state Republican Party’s largest annual fundraising gala. Tuck is considered by many to have founded the Republican Party in the 1850s in Exeter, New Hampshire.

DeSantis slams DEI efforts in universities ahead of debate to rework system” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Hours before lawmakers are poised to consider a bill to eliminate funding for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs at Florida’s 12 public universities, DeSantis held a discussion with college system administrators denouncing them as “left-wing ideology.” “Instead of inclusion, the people that dissent from this orthodoxy are marginalized,” DeSantis said. “It’s using the administrative apparatus of the university to impose an ideological agenda.” The House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Subcommittee is scheduled to vote on HB 999 Monday afternoon. The bill would ban universities from using state money on DEI programs or activities.

Nikki Fried mocks ‘insane’ DeSantis claim that ‘DEI’ caused bank failure” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The new Chair of the Florida Democrats dragged DeSantis for claiming diversity, equity, and inclusion caused a bank to fail this weekend. “That’s insane. That’s absolutely insane,” Fried said in Jacksonville, where she was rallying Duval Democrats ahead of next Tuesday’s Municipal Elections when asked about DeSantis’ claim that “DEI” brought Silicon Valley Bank down. Fried urged DeSantis to get down to the “business of our state and talking about the economy that is here in our state, and the fact that so many people are still suffering, and he’s out traveling the country on his ego tour. He isn’t focusing on the issues that are impacting our state.”

Florida book bans are not a hoax” via Judd Legum of Popular Information — Last week, DeSantis held a media event where he complained about the “leftist activists’ hoax of empty library bookshelves.” DeSantis claimed it was all a “false political narrative.” DeSantis falsely claimed that a video of empty bookshelves recorded by former Duval County substitute teacher Brian Covey was a “hoax,” noting that Covey was fired. It’s true that Covey lost his job for recording the video, but the video was not a hoax. The Florida Department of Education issued a regulation saying the new law required all books in classroom libraries to be reviewed by media specialists, the term Florida schools use for librarians. Since classroom libraries are created by teachers, not librarians, this required every book in classroom libraries to be reviewed.

Ron DeSantis calls book bans a hoax; some disagree.

This week in chancery court: Florida’s LGBTQ fight with Disney” via Jennifer Kay of Bloomberg — Florida’s retaliation against The Walt Disney Co. for its public opposition of the state’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law is at the center of a books-and-records trial this week in Delaware’s Chancery Court. At issue: A Disney investor claims the company created “far-reaching” financial risks by opposing Florida’s 2022 law limiting instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in elementary schools. Kenneth Simeone wants the court to order Disney to turn over internal records about the decision that he says led to Disney losing control over tax and improvement issues at its Orlando-area theme park.

College Board isn’t all bad: DeSantis cites SAT, standardized testing to dis DEI” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — After a highly publicized back and forth with the College Board, DeSantis is citing a standardized test from the same vendor to bash so-called diversity, equity and inclusion concepts. DeSantis, who squabbled with the vendor due to purportedly problematic content in an African American Studies Advanced Placement course, is singing a different tune when it comes to the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and admissions for one ethnic cohort. “When you have a situation, like you’re Asian American, you get 1580 on your SAT and perfect grades and like, you have no chance to get into like MIT or Harvard almost because it’s just like they’re messing with it because of their ethnic background,” DeSantis said.


Bill restructuring higher ed, eliminating DEI programs, advances in House” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Legislation significantly reforming activities on Florida college campuses is advancing in the House. But the bill sponsor is stressing that the proposed changes will not limit student activities. “I believe that state universities should be focused on teaching students how to think, not what to think,” said Rep. Alex Andrade. The Pensacola Republican this year is carrying a higher ed bill (HB 999) that covers a wide range of checks on curriculum. The House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Subcommittee advanced the bill on a party-line 12-5 vote. The legislation would eliminate any diversity, equity and inclusion programs at schools.

Alex Andrade is calling for sweeping changes in college student’s activities.

Bill criminalizing gender-affirming treatment advances” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — A Senate bill is advancing that would criminalize child sex reassignment treatments and make the treatments a reason for the state to seize a child from parental custody. Sen. Clay Yarborough’s bill (SB 254) would put such treatment on the level of abandonment and abuse as reasons for the state’s emergency intervention in a child’s life. It’s one of a number of bills this Session that targets transgender health care and gender identity. It drew emotional opposition during testimony, including one person who injected himself in front of the Senate Health Policy Committee and another who peeled off a shirt to reveal a message, “blood on your hands,” in violation of rules against clothing with written messages.

Senate panel approves proposed ban on transgender treatments for kids” via Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO — The Senate Committee on Health Policy has advanced a bill on party lines that seeks to outlaw gender-affirming medications and surgeries for children while also tightening restrictions on similar procedures for adults and doctors. The bill, SB 254, introduced by state Sen. Clay Yarborough would bar doctors from prescribing hormone-blocking drugs and conducting gender-affirming surgeries on people under the age of 18. The measure also would require that adults seeking those treatments sign a written consent form. “All of the procedures can’t change the spirit of the heart,” Yarborough said. “As lawmakers, we do have to draw the line when drastic treatments are being prescribed for children, particularly young children.”

Bill preempting local governments on delivery drone restrictions zips through first Senate stop” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Legislation that would ease the construction of drone ports and limit local government oversight and restriction flew through the first of three Senate stops. Drone ports — fixed or mobile locations for the housing, maintenance, fueling and piloting of commercial drone fleets — began facilitating deliveries in December across Florida at Walmart stores in Brandon, Clermont, New Port Richey, Tampa and Valrico. Bills (SB 1068, HB 1071) by four Republican lawmakers — Sen. Jay Collins and Reps. Wyman Duggan, Juan Fernandez-Barquin and Spencer Roach — would ease the expansion of those and similar operations. The House measure advanced through its first panel Friday. Its analog did the same Monday, clearing the Senate Committee on Commerce and Tourism by an 8-1 vote.

Geraldine Thompson wants to make amusement rides safer, add public record exemption after teen’s death” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Sen. Geraldine Thompson sponsored SB 902 that adds sweeping changes to rules governing smaller amusement park attractions. The beefed-up safety measures include allowing inspectors to show up unannounced to make sure employees are properly trained and rides are operating safely. The Committee also supported Thompson’s amendment to require two forms of restraints. Thompson also sponsored a second bill, SB 904, that would let the Florida Department of Agriculture delay the release of investigation records for ride accidents until after the investigation is finished, a process that might take weeks or months. The Committee unanimously supported the bill.

Geraldine Thompson is working to make amusement rides safer.

Gas Stove protections clear first House Committee — The House Energy, Communications and Cybersecurity Subcommittee cleared a measure (HB 1281) that would preserve and enhance Floridians’ access to natural gas stoves. The bill prevents local governments from enacting or enforcing resolutions, ordinances, rules, codes, or policies that would restrict or prohibit the use of any major appliances, including those that run on natural gas. “Hurricane Ian hit a lot of our communities pretty hard,” said Rep. James Buchanan, the bill sponsor. “We used natural gas for our stove and our grill to cook food for our family. People love their natural gas. They love their stoves. I’ve talked to many businesses around the state, and they said they would not have enjoyed success without access to gas appliances. So, for me, it was important to protect our access.”


Florida Republicans may roll back gun law passed after Parkland” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — Florida Republicans are pushing to undo a key provision of the sweeping gun law passed in the aftermath of the Parkland massacre that left 17 people dead. A Florida House panel voted to let those aged 18 to 20 years old purchase a rifle, a restriction that lawmakers put in place five years ago after the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, was able to legally purchase the AR-15-styled rifle he used to kill and wound people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The vote comes just days after a federal appeals court rejected a lawsuit filed by the National Rifle Association that had challenged Florida’s current law.

Democrats pan Republican plans to loosen gun laws, crack down on higher ed, limit abortion” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — House Democrats are painting a bleak picture of the state’s future if Republicans’ legislative agenda is allowed to pass unchecked as it’s largely expected to. Democratic leaders held a wide-ranging news conference largely criticizing the GOP’s efforts to ban abortion (HB 7) before most know they are pregnant, ending all diversity, equity and inclusion programs at the state’s higher education institutions (HB 999), and allowing people to carry concealed weapons without a license (HB 543). Culture wars are becoming a distraction, said House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell.

Fentrice Driskell calls GOP culture wars a ‘distraction.’

— LEG. SKED. —

Assignment editors — The Florida Developmental Disabilities Council is hosting the annual Awareness Day, kicking off with a virtual rally, followed by opportunities for in-person meetings with vendors and legislators.: 8:30 a.m., Capitol Complex. Visit here for more info.

— The House Ethics, Elections & Open Government Subcommittee meets: 8 a.m., Room 102, House Office Building.

— The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee meets: 8 a.m., Room 17, House Office Building.

— The House Water Quality, Supply & Treatment Subcommittee meets: 8 a.m., Room 404, House Office Building.

— Florida Retail Federation’s “Retail Days 2023″: 8 a.m., Capitol Complex.

— The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Subcommittee meets: 8:30 a.m., Room 37, Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Education Pre-K — 12 Subcommittee: 8:30 a.m., Room 412, Knott Building.

— The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Subcommittee meets: 8:30 a.m., Room 301, Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Transportation Committee meets: 8:30 a.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.

— Florida Goodwill Day: 9 a.m., Capitol Complex. Area representatives from the nine Goodwill territories will be in Tallahassee meeting with legislators and agency representatives. For more information, contact Keyna Cory, Executive Director — Florida Goodwill Association @ (850) 566.9575.

— Junior Leagues of Florida State Public Affairs Tallahassee Committee Advocacy Days: 10 a.m., Capitol Complex. The Junior Leagues of Florida State Public Affairs Committee (SPAC) has monitored legislation and advocated for issues of importance for 44 years. Together, these organizations represent 24 Leagues and over 11,000 women from across the state. A Legislative Reception is from 5:30 — 7 p.m., Governors Club, 202 S. Adams Street, Tallahassee. For more information, please contact [email protected]

— The Senate Appropriations Committee on Health and Human Services meets: 11 a.m., Room 412, Knott Meeting Room.

— The Senate Appropriations Committee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development meets: 11 a.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Finance and Tax Subcommittee meets: 11: a.m., Room 37, Senate Office Building.

—The House Choice & Innovation Subcommittee meets: 11:30 a.m., Room 102, House Office Building.

— The House Civil Justice Subcommittee meets: 11:30 a.m., Room 404, House Office Building.

— The House Infrastructure & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee meets: 11:30 a.m., Room 314, House Office Building.

— The House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee meets: 11:30 a.m., Room 17, House Office Building.

— The Senate Appropriations Committee on Agriculture, Environment and General Government: 1:30 p.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Appropriations Committee on Criminal and Civil Justice meets: 1:30 p.m., Room 37, Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Appropriations Committee on Education: 1:30 p.m., meets Room 412, Knott Building.

— The House Education & Employment Committee: 3 p.m., Room 17, House Office Building.

— The House Judiciary Committee: 3 p.m., Room 404, House Office Building.

— The House State Affairs Committee meets: 4 p.m., Room 212, Knott Building.

— The Senate Ethics and Elections Subcommittee meets: 4 p.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Judiciary Committee meets: 4 p.m., Room 412, Knott Building.

— The Senate Military and Veterans Affairs, Space and Domestic Security Subcommittee meets: 4 p.m., Room 301, Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Regulated Industries Subcommittee meets: 4 p.m., Room 401, Senate Office Building.

— Greenberg Traurig Legislative Reception; LeadingAge Florida and Greenberg Traurig invite you to a reception honoring the Legislature: 5:30 p.m., The DoubleTree Hilton 101 South Adams Street, Oasis Pool Deck — 4th Floor, Tallahassee. RSVP to Tracy Hernandez at 850.425.8502 or [email protected]


Dianne Hart blasts university DEI crackdown — Tampa Democratic Rep. Hart issued a statement criticizing a GOP-backed measure (HB 999) that would prohibit state funds from being used on university diversity, equity and inclusion programs. “This latest attack from the Florida Legislature shows us the lack of respect for the cultures and stories of others. When HB 999 passes, we as a state will lose the very thing that makes our education institutions preeminent: its diversity,” she said. “Programs such as CARE at Florida State University, Black Student Unions around the State, and organizations that empower our Hispanic and Jewish brothers and sisters will no longer be allowed to operate. We have allowed the misplaced and unreasonable fear of things and people who are different cripple our State. If you are afraid of those who are different, stop running for positions to represent them.”

Dianne Hart says the state’s crackdown on diversity, equity and inclusion programs shows a ‘lack of respect.’

Democrats, advocates castigate GOP over LGBTQ-related bills” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — A group of about 50 LGBTQ rights advocates and Democrats convened in the Capitol to condemn efforts by Republican lawmakers to restrict access to care for transgender children and expand the ban on teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom. “Free states don’t throw parents in jail for caring about their children,” said Brandon Wolf, a spokesman for Equality Florida. He was referring to a bill (SB 254) that would require courts to intervene in custody battles between parents over children who seek out medical treatments that would lead to a gender transition.

Democrat Anthony Yantz of Palm Bay to again run for HD 33” via Tyler Vazquez of Florida Today — For the second time, Yantz will try to win the House District 33 seat after filing to run in the 2024 election. He becomes the first Democrat to file in the open race for the spot being vacated by Palm Bay Republican Rep. Randy Fine, a brash conservative known for his incendiary style with the media, political adversaries and even other Republicans. Fine, who will have served eight years in the state House and cannot run for re-election, has already announced his intention to run for the Senate District 19 seat. Republicans Logan Luse and Chandler Langevin have filed for the HD 33 race.


Joseph Ladapo fires back at CDC, FDA on COVID-19 policy letter” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — Florida’s Surgeon General is flat-wrong on COVID-19 vaccines and moreover the misinformation he’s giving is dangerous to the health of Floridians. Senators questioned Surgeon General Ladapo about the letter sent to him and the Florida Department of Health last week by the CDC and the FDA, as part of Ladapo’s confirmation hearing in the Senate Committee on Health Policy. “We’ll be responding to those in detail, and my office will be happy to share that response with you,” Ladapo told the Committee. “But I want to communicate with you, that literally, they actually reflected one of the problems we’ve had in this pandemic and one of the issues with trust with the CDC and FDA.

Joseph Ladapo pushes back on federal criticism of his vaccine stance.

A Florida-sized roadblock for the League of Women Voters” via Megan O’Matz of ProPublica — The nonpartisan League of Women Voters has been facing a nationwide backlash after decades of going about its business of surveying candidates, registering voters, hosting debates and lobbying for its causes with little fuss. This week, the group found itself in the middle of a political controversy. The league revealed that it had been denied permission by the Florida Department of Management Services to hold an outdoor rally on the steps of the Old Capitol in Tallahassee under a new DeSantis administration rule requiring groups to first get sponsorship from a sympathetic state agency.

How red states are fighting their blue cities” via Monica Potts of FiveThirtyEight — Cynthia Laurent, a housing justice coordinator for the political advocacy group Florida Rising, said she heard from people struggling all over Florida. In response, her organization worked with others to launch a campaign for rent-stabilization laws in the most affected cities. In Orange County, which includes Orlando, voters passed a referendum to establish rent stabilization for certain apartments for one year. But Orange County’s rent-stabilization ordinance will likely never go into effect, thanks to preemption, a type of law that lets states stop cities from setting their own agendas.

Can Florida survive climate change? Here’s what the Aspen Ideas: Climate conference had to say” via Bill Kearney of the South Florida Sun Sentinel — Florida took center stage during the second annual Aspen Ideas: Climate conference, where science and design leaders called attention to some of the latest advancements: Wind and wave simulators that help make crucial findings about storms. Weird concrete hexagonal tubes that might actually save South Florida cities from storm surge. A new solar housing development that withstands hurricanes — without losing power or internet. The four-day event, which ended Thursday, gathered 300 speakers, including Vice President Kamala Harris, to the Miami Beach Convention Center and the New World Center along with business leaders, conservationists and journalists.

Kamala Harris puts a spotlight on climate change.

Florida unemployment lower than national average for 27th month” via Florida Politics — At 2.6%, Florida’s unemployment rate was lower than the national average in January for the 27th consecutive month, DeSantis announced. Economic data from January also shows Florida’s job growth outperformed the nation for the 22nd consecutive month. The state’s private sector employment grew 5.3% over the year, 1.7 percentage points higher than the 3.6% national rate over the same period. Private sector employment increased by nearly 30,000 jobs over January, a 0.3-percentage-point increase.

Florida gas prices surge 11 cents before tapering off over weekend” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — After a month of decline, Florida gas prices shot up last week as industry experts predicted, thanks to higher demand and renewed production of costlier “summer blend” gasoline. The state average rose 11 cents to $3.33 per gallon on Thursday, before dropping by 2 cents by Sunday. That price point remained steady on the first day of the workweek. While Florida motorists are now paying more than they did the prior week, they’re still enjoying gas 27 cents cheaper per gallon than this year’s high in January.


Delivering ‘tort reform’: Five questions with Alix Miller of the Florida Trucking Association” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Who makes up the trucking industry in Florida?

97% of trucking companies have 20 trucks or less; 90% with six trucks or less — out of more than 131,000 trucking companies in Florida, only 255 of those companies have more than 100 trucks. These men and women proudly step into that cab every day to deliver what you need.

The reality is, lawsuit abuse puts small trucking companies out of business in an instant.

Alix Miller talks trucking and ‘tort reform.’

How does the judicial system hurt Trucking right now?

Florida is the worst state in the nation for nuclear verdicts, where damage awards exceed $10 million — largely due to the trial attorneys who prey on the trucking industry. In the past decade, trucking verdicts have increased 335%, with the average size of verdicts increasing from $2.31 million to $22.3 million. Minor incidents (fender benders) lead to settlements five times greater than true medical costs, regardless of fault.

How does this broken judicial system hurt the trucking industry and everyday Floridians?

Litigation, outlandish settlements, and verdicts cut into an already narrow profit margin. Abuse of the court system takes money out of the pockets of hardworking Floridians through these inflated costs while stuffing the wallets of greedy trial attorneys. In fact, Florida families pay an additional $5,065 a year in increased costs on everything.

Bottom line, the cost of lawsuit abuse, the tort tax, gets passed on to every Floridian.


Joe Biden calls legislation targeting transgender people in Florida ‘close to sinful’” via Judy Kurtz of The Hill — Biden is calling legislation targeting transgender people in Florida “close to sinful.” “It’s just terrible what they’re doing,” in Florida, Biden said. Biden sat down for an “in-depth” interview at the White House with Kal Penn. The actor asked Biden about his “evolution” on marriage equality and what the federal government can do “to protect LGBTQ Americans, especially trans kids who are dealing with all these regressive state laws right now.” Biden recalled being a senior in high school being dropped off by his father and witnessing “two well-dressed men in suits” kissing one another. “I’ll never forget; I turn and looked at my dad. He said, ‘Joey, it’s simple. They love each other.’” “Transgender kids is a really harder thing,” Biden said. “What’s going on in Florida is, as my mother would say, close to sinful.”

Joe Biden says the treatment of transgender people in Florida ‘close to sinful.’

Biden says ‘our banking system is safe’ amid Silicon Valley Bank fallout” via Brett Samuels of The Hill — Biden expressed confidence that the U.S. banking system is safe and Americans can access their deposits after regulators closed two banks in recent days. “The bottom line is this: Americans can rest assured that our banking system is safe. Your deposits are safe. Let me also assure you, we will not stop at this. We’ll do whatever is needed,” Biden said in remarks before departing for California. The President said the government would pursue a “full accounting” of how Silicon Valley Bank collapsed and why, adding that lawmakers must act to prevent it from happening again. The Treasury Department on Sunday announced it would backstop all deposits at those banks.

Collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, Signature Bank calls fed interest rate path into question” via Nick Timiraos of The Wall Street Journal — There is a saying that the Federal Reserve raises interest rates until something breaks. A big surprise over the past year had been that nothing broke. No more. A sharp sell-off in regional bank stocks following the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank risks pushing the Fed uncomfortably close to the one place it wanted to avoid over the past year: resolving a financial-stability trauma at the same time it fights high inflation. The situation could force Fed Chair Jerome Powell and his colleagues into choosing what problem demands the central bank’s top focus.

The Fed’s fight against inflation just got downgraded” via Abha Bhattarai of The Washington Post — The Federal Reserve’s aggressive yearlong fight against inflation has hit its first major roadblock with the collapse of two large banks that have cast a pall over the U.S. financial system. The crisis, which has already prompted a large response from the Fed and other regulators in the form of a new special lending facility and measures to make depositors of the failed banks whole, is raising questions about whether the central bank can continue to hiking interest rates in the face of an increasingly fragile financial system.

Kamala Harris slams Florida’s proposed six-week abortion ban” via Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — Vice President Harris blasted Florida’s proposed six-week abortion ban on Monday, calling it an “extreme” attack that will put the government in charge of health care decisions and effectively wipe out abortion access throughout the South. The White House’s criticism foreshadows a clash over an issue that likely will be at the forefront of the 2024 Presidential Election. “A six-week ban would function as a regional ban,” Harris said. “This issue is about women’s autonomy, their freedom to decide whether and when to have children. These laws also endanger women’s health, putting their lives in jeopardy.”

GOP takes up arms against Biden’s energy, climate spending plan” via Benjamin J. Hulac of Roll Call — Biden’s budget request would allocate billions of dollars for climate and low-carbon energy programs just as Republicans press for less environmental protection and more fossil fuel production, muddying the outlook for potential areas of agreement. In a broad proposal for fiscal 2024 released Thursday, Biden administration officials cast climate change as a global destabilizing threat and fossil energy as an economic yoke to the public and a collective boon to strongmen, like Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Biden, in a challenge to China, announces major submarine deal” via Matt Viser and Ellen Nakashima of The Washington Post — Biden appeared at a Naval shipyard in San Diego with his British and Australian counterparts to announce a major new plan to supply Australia with nuclear-powered submarines in what amounts to a direct counter to China’s growing influence in the region. Standing with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Biden unveiled details of the arrangement at a time of rising tensions with China and amid a global realignment that is triggering dramatic increases in military spending in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Joe Biden is making a major international submarine deal.

Tucker Carlson, Byron Donalds headline JMI event — Fox News personality Carlson and Southwest Florida U.S. Rep. Donalds spoke to a sold-out room during the 2023 James Madison Institute Annual Naples event. Carlson, who delivered the keynote address, spoke for about 30 minutes on topics including why he lives in Florida, his outlook on the current Congress, the Jan. 6 tape release, his position on Ukraine, as well as his thoughts on life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and what sets DeSantis apart as a politician.


Donald Trump says he ‘probably’ regrets endorsing DeSantis” via Brett Samuels of The Hill — Trump unloaded on DeSantis, his potential Presidential Primary opponent, telling reporters he “probably” regrets endorsing the former congressman in a gubernatorial Primary in 2018. “He was dead as a dog; he was a dead politician. He would have been working perhaps for a law firm or doing something else,” Trump told a group of reporters traveling with him to Iowa aboard his personal plane. The former President was asked if he regretted endorsing DeSantis, who in 2018 was facing a difficult Primary race against then-Florida Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.

Donald Trump has second thoughts about endorsing Ron DeSantis.

Gavel to pass to new chief judge overseeing grand jury in Trump inquiry” via Charlie Savage of The New York Times — Chief judge Beryl A. Howell, has spent considerable time ruminating on what happened outside her windows, including crafting a series of secret rulings that have shaped the pace and trajectory of the inquiry into Trump’s efforts to cling to power. But her term ends this week as a new chief judge, James E. Boasberg, takes over the second-floor offices at the courthouse — and a key behind-the-scenes role overseeing the grand jury that is hearing testimony in the investigation.

As Fox News panicked in 2020, leaders warned of featuring Pete Buttigieg, Christopher Coons” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — In a little-noticed Nov. 8 email revealed this week in Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit, Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott forwarded a message from Fox Corp. Chair Rupert Murdoch lamenting Fox’s ratings. She informed Fox News President Jay Wallace that Murdoch and his son Lachlan were “expecting” a few things. Among them: “audiences don’t want to see too much of the Mayor Pete’s and Coons etc. in the news hours. Need to be careful about bookings next 2 months-especially in news hours.”

Michael Cohen at Manhattan courthouse before expected Trump grand jury testimony: ‘This is not revenge’” via Zach Schonfeld of The Hill — Cohen, Trump’s longtime fixer, arrived at a Manhattan courthouse on Monday ahead of his appearance before a grand jury investigating the former President. Cohen’s appearance marks a critical moment for the grand jury proceedings, with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s (D) office appearing to near a decision on whether to seek charges against Trump.

House Republicans quietly halt inquiry into Trump’s finances” via Luke Broadwater and Jonathan Swan of The New York Times — House Republicans have quietly halted a congressional investigation into whether Trump profited improperly from the presidency, declining to enforce a court-supervised settlement agreement that demanded that Mazars USA, his former accounting firm, produce his financial records to Congress. Rep. James R. Comer made clear he had abandoned any investigation into the former president’s financial dealings, professing ignorance about the inquiry Democrats opened when they controlled the House and was instead focusing on whether Biden and members of his family were involved in an influence-peddling scheme.

Trump suggests Mike Pence to blame for Jan. 6 violence after former VP’s criticism” via Brett Samuels of The Hill — Trump claimed former Vice President Pence was responsible for the violence on Jan. 6, 2021, two days after Pence took aim at his old boss for his conduct around the riots at the Capitol that day. Trump, speaking to a group of reporters aboard his personal plane en route to a campaign event in Iowa, responded to comments Pence made, in which the former Vice President said “history will hold Donald Trump accountable” for the events of Jan. 6. “Had he sent the votes back to the legislatures, they wouldn’t have had a problem with Jan. 6, so in many ways, you can blame him for Jan. 6,” Trump said.

Donald Trump says maybe Mike Pence is to blame for Jan. 6.

Boca Raton man charged with civil disorder in connection to Jan. 6 Capitol breach” via Kathy Laskowski of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A Boca Raton man has been charged with civil disorder for his actions during the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. On that day, a joint session of the U.S. Congress was disrupted while it was convened to count electoral votes related to the 2020 Presidential Election. Richard Cook, 37, was arrested under a criminal complaint out of the District of Columbia. The civil disorder charge is a felony; he also faces other misdemeanor charges. He appeared in federal court in West Palm Beach the same day and will be extradited to the District of Columbia.

— 2024 —

2024 campaign intensifies; field could be smallest in 30 years” via Joe St. George of Scripps News — Trump is set to make his first 2024 campaign stop in Iowa Monday. Meanwhile, Biden will be fundraising on the West Coast this week ahead of an expected campaign launch. While the presidential campaign is starting to get very active, it may not be as crowded as in recent years. In 2020, around 30 Democrats sought the nomination. The field was so big many debates had to be split up. In 2016, 17 Republican candidates battled for the nomination. But 2024 looks like it won’t be that crowded.

Trump returns to Iowa aiming for more disciplined campaign” via Thomas Beaumont of The Associated Press — A month before Iowa’s 2016 presidential caucuses, mountains of so-called pledge cards sat in the corner of Trump’s suburban Des Moines state headquarters. They contained the names and contact information of roughly 10,000 Iowans who attended Trump campaign events and responded by returning the cards suggesting they were open to backing the reality television star who was now seeking the White House. In what’s considered political malpractice by Iowa standards, those who returned the cards received no follow-up contact from the campaign. “None of that data was used. None of it was entered,” said Alex Latcham, the former political director for the Iowa Republican Party and now Trump’s early-voting state director.

Donald Trump takes a stab at a more disciplined campaign.

Trump to campaign in same Iowa city DeSantis visited Friday” via Isabella Murray of ABC News — Trump is holding a campaign event in Davenport, Iowa, just three days after DeSantis, filled a 300-person casino room in the same eastern river town. It’s Trump’s first visit to the Hawkeye State since he announced his 2024 White House bid in November, but it’s hardly his first time in the critical early-nominating state. Now embarking on his third presidential bid, Trump has over the past eight years hosted a number of rallies and takes credit for moving the formerly reliable purple state to a “reliable MAGA stronghold.”

Trump heads to Iowa under shadow of possible New York indictment” via Max Greenwood of The Hill — Trump is set to return to Iowa Monday evening, signaling a determination to trudge forward with his 2024 White House campaign in the face of a possible criminal indictment. Trump will deliver an address on education policy in Davenport just days after his would-be rival for the Republican presidential nomination, DeSantis, made an inaugural swing through the first-in-the-nation caucus state. The Monday appearance will mark Trump’s first trip to Iowa since announcing his 2024 presidential campaign nearly four months ago.

Trump, DeSantis focus on education in race for GOP voters” via Alex Leary and John McCormick of The Wall Street Journal — For someone who never cared much about politics, Teri Patrick is suddenly eager to hear from visiting politicians. She will drive three hours Monday to see former Trump here, just days after catching DeSantis. The draw for Patrick and the topic of Trump’s address is education. “Our kids are our future and if we’re not teaching them to have pride in America, then we really aren’t going to have much of a future,” said Patrick. She became politically active about two years ago after objecting to the material on race her son was exposed to and is now part of a conservative movement around education policy.

Senate GOP’s 2024 land mines” via Josh Kraushaar of Axios — Senate Republicans have been gifted a historically favorable map for 2024, but they are again facing the risk of problematic candidates emerging in must-win races. Newly minted National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Steve Daines has taken an active role in recruiting strong candidates to run in battleground races, in contrast to his hands-off predecessor, Scott. That strategy is already paying dividends, with popular West Virginia GOP Gov. Jim Justice likely to announce his run against Sen. Joe Manchin in the coming weeks, according to sources familiar with his thinking.

Steve Daines is going to be more proactive as NRSC Chair.

GOPers, led by Florida men Trump, DeSantis, mining Palm Beach County for dollars, votes” via Stephany Matat of the Palm Beach Post — Presidential potentials courted GOP donors in visits to Palm Beach County within the last month in early low- and high-profile efforts to jump-start campaigns. Those include former South Carolina Governor and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who formally entered the Republican field in February, and so far, non-candidate and Florida Gov. DeSantis. In doing so, they tread through the backyard and neighborhoods of the first candidate to enter the 2024 race for the White House, former President Trump. Trump routinely hosts conservative groups in Mar-a-Lago for fundraising events. In mid-November, he announced his third presidential run from his Palm Beach private club.

It’s looking more and more like South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott is headed for a White House run” via BET — The likelihood of Sen. Scott running for President in 2024 seems to be growing, with Republicans saying he might bring unity to a party divided by grievance politics. Scott hasn’t announced if he will run in 2024, but he’s already making the necessary preparations. After headlining the closing dinner at the Club for Growth’s annual donor event in Palm Beach, last weekend, he has begun hiring staff and pursuing potential donors. Until now, Scott has put forth a message of unity and encouragement. Although criticizing the Democrats for what he calls their “victimhood” and “despair” politics, he has presented a plan for “a new American sunrise.”

— LOCAL: S. FL —

City-by-city: Everything you need to know about Tuesday’s municipal elections” via James Coleman and Hannah Morse of the Palm Beach Post — The town halls, campaigns and yard signs have all been promoted, publicized and posted. And yes, the animosity and accusations that often accompany lead-ups to elections have come forth. All the paths lead to Election Day on Tuesday in Palm Beach County. This year, more than a dozen municipal races across the county have automatically been decided because of lack of challengers. But nearly 220,000 voters in 17 towns, cities and villages will make important choices on Tuesday. Some ballots will contain just one Town Council race, while others will see as many as seven ballot questions.

Steve Losner adds bipartisan support to final re-election bid for Homestead Mayor” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Less than a week into his final re-election bid, Homestead Mayor Losner is amassing support from both sides of the political aisle. On Monday, six days after he filed to run, Losner’s campaign announced 13 endorsements. Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez, Chair of the Miami-Dade legislative delegation whose district, along with Alexis Calatayud’s, covers all of Homestead, noted the incumbent Mayor’s deep roots in the city as a major asset.

Steve Losner gets backing from both sides of the aisle.

‘We’re not going to tolerate hate’: West Palm reacts to swastika projected onto building” via Wayne Washington of the Palm Beach Post — In response to an incident in which a swastika was projected onto the side of a downtown West Palm Beach building, the city has given preliminary approval to a new ordinance that would criminalize projecting images onto a building without the owner’s permission. Mayor Keith James and City Commission members are expected to give final approval to the new ordinance later this month, and it would go into effect 10 days after that vote. Those who violate the ordinance could be jailed for up to 60 days and face a fine of up to $500. The ordinance voted on March 6 is West Palm Beach’s response to the incident that occurred in January.

Spring Breakers seen throwing punches and partying as thousands enjoy wild weekend on Fort Lauderdale beach” via Steve Brenner of The Sun — Packed beaches, plenty of booze flowing, parties raging and everyone really going for it like there’s no tomorrow. But boxing matches on the edge of the ocean? That’s definitely a new one yet it was kicking off in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday — big time. A group of YouTubers from nearby West Palm Beach had the ingenious idea to bring down some gloves and tempt easily led partygoers to let their fists do the talking. That’s probably for the best considering how much alcohol was being consumed.

Broward Democratic leader steps down after 10 years. He says party can make Florida comeback.” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Ken Evans has stepped down as one of the top leaders of the Broward Democratic Party, after serving as the party’s state committeeman since 2012. Democrats in Florida are at a low point — behind Republicans in voter registration, shut out of statewide elected offices by voters, and vastly outnumbered in the state’s congressional delegation and in the state Legislature after the disastrous 2022 Midterm Elections. But Evans said in an interview that the party’s new state Chair — Fried, whom he voted for last month in a close contest — would be able to put Democrats on an upward trajectory. “The biggest thing we need to do is knock on every door,” Evans said.

3 pipe breaks in Florida Keys depletes water reserves, utility says in asking for help” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — Three underground pipe breaks last week depleted the Florida Keys water utility’s reserves, and it’s asking customers to cut back on showers, avoid watering the grass and hold off on washing cars and boats. “No conservation is too small,” Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority (FKAA) Executive Director Greg Veliz said in an email to customers. “Any and all efforts are greatly appreciated during this time, as we attempt to rebuild our water supply.” The FKAA also issued a precautionary boil-water notice in effect until Wednesday evening. Between Thursday and Saturday, workers scurried to fix three water main breaks in the same area in the Village of Islamorada in the Upper Keys.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Maitland incumbent decries ‘ugly rhetoric’ in ad ahead of Tuesday’s municipal elections” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Maitland voters will decide five charter amendments and the race for City Council Seat 4, in which incumbent Lindsay Hall Harrison decried “ugly rhetoric” in political mailers from her opponent, the city’s former Mayor, Dale McDonald. Bearing the disclaimer “paid for and approved by Dale McDonald for Maitland City Council,” one of the postcards featured an image of a man in a trenchcoat and no pants flashing children sitting on a blanket in a field and alleges that Hall Harrison voted to “allow deviants to expose themselves to our children in our parks and to prevent the police department from arresting them.”

Lindsay Hall Harrison blasts the ‘ugly rhetoric’ in the Maitland municipal elections.

Orange County-funded English classes touted as an EPIC success in tourist district” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — A pilot program to teach English to workers in Orange County’s tourist district has proved successful partly because students don’t have to choose between learning or earning, according to teachers and directors of a partnership which organized the classes. Students enrolled in the English Program for workers in the International Drive Corridor, or EPIC for short, attend two-hour classes twice weekly in conference rooms at their workplace, Rosen Hotels & Resorts, which pays them for class time as if they are on the job. The 70 hospitality workers who signed up are fluent in Spanish or French-based Creole, the predominant language in Haiti.

Court rules in favor of Brevard County Commission, Sheriff over critical needs charter cap” via Tyler Vazquez and Dave Berman of Florida Today — Brevard County will not have to cut some $25 million from its budget next year, because of a court ruling. Then-Brevard County Clerk of Courts and Comptroller Scott Ellis sued the County Commission in 2019, contending the county increased property tax rates targeted for the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office by more than it should have because the county misinterpreted a provision of the County Charter. The charter provision ― which was approved by county voters in 2008 with 73.12% support ― generally limits the amount the county can increase property tax revenues to the lesser of 3% or the rate of inflation.

Seminole teachers, district reach salary agreement after long impasse” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — Seminole County’s public schoolteachers reached a salary agreement with the school district that gives instructors raises of about $2,000 to $2,400, ending a monthslong labor dispute. The agreement for the current 2022-23 school year is what the teacher’s union and the district agreed to previously, but it does not guarantee the same raises will be provided next school year as the union wanted. Special Magistrate James Mastriani said in his ruling that it was not reasonable for the district to agree on a pay plan for next year when it would be made in the “absence of credible evidence as to state funding” and other budgetary information.

Disney Legend Rolly Crump, attractions designer and artist, dies at 93” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Crump, longtime Imagineer and one of the creative minds behind attractions at Walt Disney World, died in Carlsbad, California, on Sunday. He was 93. Crump contributed to classic theme park attractions, including The Enchanted Tiki Room, Haunted Mansion and “it’s a small world,” at Disneyland and Magic Kingdom and other Disney attractions at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. He did early design work for Disney World before leaving the company to create projects at parks such as Busch Gardens, Circus World in Polk County and Knott’s Berry Farm in California. He returned to Walt Disney Co. and designed Epcot’s Land and Wonders of Life pavilions.


Tampa Bay rents continue to rise above national average” via Devonta Davis of the Tampa Bay Times — Rents nationwide are starting to level out. Still, Tampa Bay residents won’t catch that break as rents continue to rise locally. The national median rent is up just under 2%, the smallest increase since May 2021. High housing costs, inflation, recession fears and a slowdown in household formation have made people less likely to move, hindering the demand for new leases. The report shows that rent, while higher than pre-pandemic numbers, is nearly 10 times lower year-over-year. In Tampa Bay, rents are averaging $2,189 monthly, a 4% increase compared to the national median of $1,937.

What does the failure of Silicon Valley Bank mean for Tampa Bay startups?” via Lauren Coffey of Tampa Bay Inno — The failure of Silicon Valley Bank, the second biggest bank collapse in history, has sent shock waves through the Tampa Bay startup scene. The bank, a longtime champion and often the sole lifeline for startups, was taken over by regulators on Friday after its stock crashed nearly 70% following rumors of a sale. Silicon Valley Bank had far-reaching ties in Tampa Bay despite its California headquarters. The bank provided PPP loans to 10 Tampa Bay businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, including fast-growing companies HOMEE, Qure4U and Venuetize.

How will the SVB failure affect Tampa Bay?

Gasparilla Film Fest brings celebrities and movies to Tampa” via Paul Guzzo of the Tampa Bay Times — The Gasparilla International Film Festival is back for its 16th year with nearly 75 independent movies being screened throughout Tampa from March 23-26. And there will be celebrities and filmmakers in attendance. Lots of them. In all, over 50 filmmakers from around the world will attend the festival.


Did Scott Hopes delete public records? Manatee Sheriff is investigating” via Ryan Callihan of the Bradenton Herald — The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office has opened an investigation to determine whether former County Administrator Hopes violated public records laws in his final days of employment. In an email to the Bradenton Herald, Randy Warren, a Sheriff’s Office representative, confirmed the ongoing investigation. Investigators are looking to determine whether Hopes deleted public records before he parted ways as the county’s top executive. “That complaint is currently being investigated. We aren’t able to release additional details of the investigation right now,” Warren said. Reached for comment, Hopes denied any wrongdoing. He said all the public records on the devices in question had already been backed up to a cloud service, preserving them for any future requests.

Did Scott Hopes delete public records?

New College President Richard Corcoran fires diversity dean, hires former GOP operative” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — New College of Florida Interim President Corcoran recently fired the school’s dean for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, removing a prominent campus leader despite a report suggesting the dean could be moved into an open position rather than being terminated as part of a plan to abolish the school’s DEI office. A few days after firing the dean, Corcoran hired to oversee admissions a former Republican Party operative who belongs to the National Rifle Association and the conservative Heritage Foundation and once worked for an organization deemed an “anti-LGBTQ” hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Lee Health responding to growth in Cape Coral with slate of projects” via Liz Freeman of the Naples Daily News — Lee Health has numerous projects in the works to address health care needs in fast-growing Cape Coral. They range from adding physician offices so more specialty services are closer to home for residents, including pediatric care, to expansions at Cape Coral Hospital, according to Dave Kistel, vice president and chief facilities executive. The board for the publicly operated hospital system recently approved a contract amendment to expand the Surfside Medical Facility at Veterans Parkway and Surfside Boulevard. The total project cost is $10.4 million and is targeted for completion in January 2024. The phase-two project involves adding 15,000 square feet of space to the two-story outpatient complex.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Closed Pensacola abortion clinic owners banned from ever operating in Florida” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — The owners of Northwest Florida’s sole abortion clinic, which was permanently closed last year, have been banned from operating another clinic in Florida. The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration issued a final order against American Family Planning on Tuesday that included a settlement agreement between the agency and the clinic that was forced to shut down last year. American Family Planning’s license was permanently revoked as part of the agreement, and the clinic’s operators admitted no wrongdoing in the case while agreeing to pay a $343,200 fine.

With temperatures dropping, Gainesville ready to activate Cold Night Shelter Program” via The Gainesville Sun — With low temperatures in the forecast, the City of Gainesville on Monday was ready to activate its Cold Night Shelter Program. Temperatures below 45 degrees were expected between Monday evening and Wednesday. The program will remain activated until overnight lows are above 45 degrees, the city said. “St. Francis House and GRACE Marketplace at the Empowerment Center will provide Cold Night Shelter services to people in need of shelter as long as overnight temperatures remain below 45 F,” the release says.

Cold weather shelters are being activated in the Gainesville region.

Possible rate hikes on the horizon? PCB approves water, sewer rate study to find out” via Nathan Cobb of the Panama City News-Herald — Local officials approved a water and sewer rate study on Thursday that might lead to rate hikes. The Panama City Beach City Council on Thursday voted to pay Raftelis Financial Consultants, a consulting firm with offices across the U.S., up to $37,400 to conduct the study, which will determine if rate adjustments are needed for the city to properly maintain its utility services. “This is an annual review to make sure we have the funds needed to do all that we need to do for our city,” Mayor Mark Sheldon wrote.


Don’t let the culture war degrade the Constitution” via David French of The New York Times — The Constitution, properly interpreted, provides a marvelous method for handling social conflict. It empowers an elected government to enact even contentious new rules while protecting the most fundamental human rights of dissenting citizens. Political defeat is never total defeat. Losers of a given election still possess their basic civil liberties, and the combination of the right to speak and the right to vote provides concrete hope for their preferred political outcomes.

But if a government both enacts contentious policies and diminishes the civil liberties of its current ideological opponents, then it sharply increases the stakes of political conflict. It breaks the social compact by rendering political losers, in effect, second-class citizens.

That’s exactly what’s happening now. The culture war is coming for American liberty — in red states and blue alike.

A federal court has already blocked enforcement of Florida’s so-called Stop WOKE Act to the extent that it limits free expression on public campuses and in private boardrooms.

Florida is one of the hot spots of right-wing censorship and punitive government. It passed an unconstitutional law to control social media moderation in the state, and DeSantis took direct action against Disney after the company objected to Florida House Bill 1557, which tightly regulated “classroom instruction” on “sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The much better course for our democracy is to uphold a legal corollary to the golden rule: Defend the rights of others that you would like to exercise yourself. It doesn’t end the culture war. We’ll still clash over contentious issues. But maintaining a bedrock defense of civil liberties lowers the stakes.


The story of DeSantis’ amazing, awesome, heroic life” via Diane Roberts of Florida Phoenix — This is the book wrote by me, Ronald Dion DeSantis, aged 44-½. I wanted to call it “My Struggle,” but Casey said that wasn’t a good idea. So, we gave it the title “The Courage to be Free.” Because it’s all about courage. My courage. It’s about freedom, too: my freedom to make everybody do whatever I want. And it’s the story of my amazing, awesome, heroic life, which is endorsed by the Almighty, who made me on the Eighth Day, which I guess was a Monday. If you’re a drag queen, trans, an actual woman with, like, a uterus, a scientist, a woke college professor, a librarian, an Ivy League lawyer, one of those climate doomsayers, a vaccine promoter, hydroxychloroquine-hater, 1619-lover, Founding Father-disser or Democrat, you are in need of some discipline. From me. You’re welcome.


— ALOE —

12 sweet and savory pie recipes for Pi Day festivities” via Aaron Hutcherson of The Washington Post — “Secant, tangent, cosine, sine! Three point one four one five nine!” That was the cheer used at the math and science high school I attended during sports games. The chant did two things: Expressed pride in our nerd-dom — I legitimately love math — and taught me the first five decimal places of pi. Taking into account the mathematical constant’s relation to circles and it being homonym to pie, one of the best ways to honor the holiday is to bake and eat pies.

What else should you do for Pi Day?

Pasco won’t get that expanded scalloping season after all” via Barbara Behrendt of the Tampa Bay Times — Despite a push from Pasco County and tourism officials, there will not be a longer scallop season this summer and that doesn’t sit well with everyone. But state officials say it’s for the long-term good of the scallop population. Last year Pasco officials enthusiastically reported that the haul of succulent mollusks during Pasco’s 10-day season hit record highs. They said the catch was even better than in the waters north of Pasco, which have long been premier destinations for scalloping and where the state allows a much longer scalloping season.

Clearwater plans weeklong celebration to open Imagine Clearwater in June” via Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times — The long-anticipated opening of Imagine Clearwater, the city’s $84 million renovation of the downtown waterfront, will kick off on June 28 with a week of events. The City Council on Monday informally agreed to allocate $482,000 of general fund reserves to pay for the celebration that will end with the annual July 4 fireworks show. The Council is scheduled to vote on the expenditure on Thursday. Interim parks and recreation director Art Kader said staff wanted to plan a “grand celebration” after about two years of construction, seven years of planning and “20-plus years of dreaming what can happen in the downtown area.”


Celebrating today are Wilbur Brewton, Drew Heffley, Seth Platt, and Jeremy Susac.


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

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