POLITICO Florida reported

Gun Rights

Good morning and welcome to Thursday.

Senate President Kathleen Passidomo sent a clear message to Florida Republicans as yesterday’s business wrapped up: She’s the boss.

Passidomo, herself a Republican, was responding to a widely circulated list of 10 policy priorities from the Republican Party of Florida which focused heavily on social versus economic issues. It was first reported here.

“Our bill process is not the Republican Party of Florida,” Passidomo said when POLITICO’s Gary Fineout asked for her reaction to the GOP list and whether she’d faced any outside pressure to act. “We are the Legislature. We make the laws. We review the laws.”

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The party’s list contained several agenda items that Passidomo had already shut down or that have languished in the upper chamber, including prohibiting the removal of monuments, regulating pronoun use in workplaces, lowering the rifle purchasing age from 21 to 18 and — as the party put it — “ending rainbow flags on government buildings.”

“I’m not going to, because the Republican Party of Florida has a platform, take it out of a committee or violate our rules,” Passidomo said.

Evan Power, Republican Party of Florida chair, took a conciliatory tone when asked about Passidomo’s comments. “President Passidomo is right: The legislature passes laws and our Legislature has delivered for our voters,” he said via text, adding that the party’s job was “to let the Legislature know how our grassroots feel about issues.”

Here’s what happened: The Republican Party of Florida’s legislative affairs committee first approved the list, then it went before 261 state committee members, where it passed almost unanimously. “A lot of the grassroots leaders have been pushing for it for months,” Lake County GOP Chair Anthony Sabatini said.

While some state committee members are also state lawmakers, by and large they’re passionate, ideologically driven volunteers who are dedicated to expanding conservative influence in Florida.

The priorities drew outcry from Florida Democrats who called it divisive, a “joke” and off the mark of the affordability issues voters care about. “The days of winning on a culture-war agenda are over,” Nikki Fried, who chairs the party, told Playbook. “Voters want leaders who will fight for them on the issues that matter — reproductive rights, lowering the cost of living and protecting our rights and freedoms — and that’s what Democrats stand for.”

Power said a key reason the party highlighted the positions it did was because of “some of the radical policies” Democrats supported. “The people of Florida have rejected the Democrats and their desire to inject sexuality in everyday life and eliminate constitutional rights,” he said.

Sen. Joe Gruters, who was just elected GOP national committeeman, told Playbook over the weekend that he was supportive of the “overall concept” but that he thought the party “is best at registering voters” and turning out people who don’t vote often.

“I think policy largely should be left up to the elected leaders, that’s what they campaign on,” he said. “However, I think as guiding principle what we did today is say, ‘Here are issues that are important to the party.’”

WHERE’S RON? Gov. Ron DeSantis is doing a press event in Orlando at 10 a.m. with Education Commissioner Manny Diaz.

Have a tip, story, suggestion, birthday, anniversary, new job, or any other nugget for Playbook? Get in touch at: [email protected]

… DATELINE TALLAHASSEE …

CONSERVATION SPENDING — A state appeals court panel on Wednesday dealt another blow to environmentalists who sued the Legislature over conservation spending under a 2014 state ballot measure, reports POLITICO’s Bruce Ritchie. The First District Court of Appeal upheld a lower court decision in 2022 dismissing the case because it was moot. The case involves more than $20 billion designated for conservation spending over 20 years. The three-judge appeals court panel said Wednesday that it agreed with Circuit Judge Smith in Tallahassee who in 2022 ruled that environmentalists waited too long and the money in the 2015-16 state budget already was spent.

WATER WATCH — Federal water managers announced Wednesday they will discharge water from Lake Okeechobee to Atlantic and Gulf coast estuaries, touching off complaints from U.S. Rep Brian Mast (R-Fla.), reports POLITICO’s Bruce Ritchie. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the discharges are needed because of abnormally high lake levels resulting from El Nino rain storms. Releasing water now, the agency said in an announcement, will prevent releases later in the spring that could interfere with fish spawning and cause algae blooms. Discharges in the spring of 2019 closed coastal beaches and were blamed for fish kills.

IMMIGRATION POLICY — “A federal appeals court has ordered a district judge to reconsider rulings that backed DeSantis’ challenges to Biden administration immigration policies, citing a U.S. Supreme Court opinion last year against Texas and Louisiana in a separate case,” reports News Service of Florida’s Jim Saunders. “The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday ordered Pensacola U.S. District Judge T. Kent Wetherell to determine whether he had jurisdiction in the Florida case in light of the U.S. Supreme Court opinion.’”

POWER OF PRAYER — “Florida may copy a Texas law bringing chaplains to public schools, despite First Amendment concerns,” reports Florida Phoenix’s Jackie Llanos. “Florida is one of about a dozen states considering allowing chaplains to provide support services to students in public schools. The trend stems from a first-of-its-kind law the Texas Legislature passed last year authorizing schools to pay for religious figures to work in mental health roles.”

WORKPLACE WRATH — “Hundreds of Adobe employees protest the company moving its MAX conference to Florida. DeSantis thinks it’s a ‘stunt,’” reports Eugene Kim of Business Insider. “A group of Adobe employees are upset over the company’s decision to host its MAX annual conference in Florida, citing the state’s ‘hostile’ laws against marginalized groups. The company won’t budge, leaving many frustrated. Earlier this month, more than 500 Adobe employees signed an internal petition demanding the company reconsider the location of the annual conference, scheduled to take place in Miami later this year. The petition, obtained by Business Insider, says Florida has a history of “egregious policies and hostility towards many of our communities and allies.” The demands include moving MAX to a more ‘inclusive’ state and reviewing the company’s internal event planning process. It also asks for better event security and proactive responses to employee concerns.”

STATE PENSIONS — “Florida lawmakers look to scrap China-linked investments,” reports News Service of Florida. “The Florida House on Wednesday rolled out a proposal to divest an estimated $277 million in state pension fund investments in Chinese state-owned companies. The proposal, approved by the House State Affairs Committee, would require the State Board of Administration to develop a plan for selling holdings tied to Chinese companies by Sept. 1 and complete divestment within one year.”

LIVE HEALTHY — “Florida Senate advances bill to designate behavioral health teaching hospitals,” reports Jim Saunders of News Service of Florida. “The bill would designate four pilot behavioral health teaching hospitals linked to medical schools. They would be Tampa General Hospital and the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine; UF Health Shands in Gainesville and the University of Florida Medical School; UF Health Jacksonville and the University of Florida Medical School; and Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami and the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.”

HATE SPEECH — “Bill defining antisemitism in Florida Statutes heads to Senate floor,” reports Florida Politics’ Jesse Scheckner. “The bill includes 11 examples of antisemitism, from justifying or aiding in the killing or harming of Jewish individuals and making ‘mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jewish individuals’ to denying the Holocaust happened and accusing Jewish people for ‘real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group or for acts committed by non-Jewish individuals.’”

AI — “Bill mandating disclosure for artificial intelligence in political ads headed to House floor,” reports Florida Politics’ Gray Rohrer. “The bill (HB 919) from Rep. Alex Rizo, a Hialeah Republican, was amended to add a criminal penalty. Any candidate or political committee that puts out an ad using AI without disclosing it would commit a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by a prison sentence of one year and a fine of $1,000.”

PENINSULA AND BEYOND

IN MOURNING — “Families come together six years after tragic Parkland shooting,” reports the Miami Herald’s Jimena Tavel. “About 200 people attended a ‘Forever in Our Hearts’ ceremony at Eagles’ Haven, a wellness center opened in March 2019 to foster healing. The event, an annual tradition, featured the release of 17 doves and the lighting of 17 candles, and other activities that reflected each of the victims’ individual passions, like watching an Irish dance in honor of Cara Loughran’s love of culture, and exercising in honor of Scott Beigel’s love of fitness.”

CREATING CONFUSION — Miami schools under fire over Black history permission slip flap, reports POLITICO’s Andrew Atterbury. Miami-Dade County Public Schools for months has compelled classrooms to send out parental permission slips ahead of any guests coming to campus to address students in response to a recent Florida parental rights law. But in recent weeks, this policy has faced intense scrutiny from parents — and even the state education commissioner — as it was applied to guests visiting campuses to share their experiences surrounding Black history and the Holocaust.

— “Political consultant could be witness in investigation of former Miami commissioner,” reports the Miami Herald’s Joey Flechas

CAMPAIGN MODE

— Former Florida Senate President Don Gaetz endorsed U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn’s re-election campaign for Florida’s Second Congressional District. Gaetz himself is also running for the state Senate again.

— Democratic state Rep. Lindsay Cross of House District 60 endorsed Whitney Fox, Democratic candidate for Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

— Jess Szymanski is now director of strategic communications at Venture Global LNG. She most recently was deputy communications director for Never Back Down PAC and is an API, Dave McCormick and DOE alum.

DATELINE D.C.

SALT FREE GOP — Three Florida Republicans helped kill a state and local tax deduction bill last night, after voting against a procedural vote to advance the bill. The vote failed 195-225.

Reps. Matt Gaetz, Cory Mills and Greg Stuebe were three of 18 Republicans who voted against advancing the SALT bill that would double the amount married couples could write off on their taxes.

The rest of the delegation voted along party lines, with Democrats voting against the procedural vote and Republicans voting for it. The SALT procedural vote was also tied to a separate vote condemning the energy policies of the Biden administration.

The Florida Republicans argued it would subsidize New Yorkers at the expense of Floridians.

“FLORIDA MAN won’t go back to subsidizing New Yorkers,” Gaetz wrote in a post on X a few weeks ago. “Or as we call them: Future Floridians.”

“I’m not supporting subsidies for blue states by taxing Floridians,” Mills wrote in response on X. “I ask all my Florida colleagues to join in shooting down this bill.”

— Mia McCarthy

STARTED ON PARKLAND ANNIVERSARY — The families of six people killed with guns “are using artificial intelligence to create messages in their loved ones’ voices and robocalling them to senators and House members who support the National Rifle Association and oppose tougher gun laws,” reports the Associated Press. “The protest is being run through The Shotline website, where visitors select which offices receive calls.”

POLICY RESPONSE — “Maxwell Frost, Jared Moskowitz on Parkland anniversary push credit card companies to flag unusual gun sales,” reports Florida Politics’ Jacob Ogles. “The legislation filed by Frost and Moskowitz would specifically preempt states from outlawing specific merchant codes for firearm sales. But some states have done just that, including Florida. Such a ban was part of a digital currency ban DeSantis signed in May. At the time, the governor suggested using special merchant codes for firearms could lead to controls on legal purchases of guns.”

CONGRESSIONAL CLASH — Gaetz vs. Mullin: Why two conservatives are feuding over the foreign aid bill, by POLITICO’s Anthony Adragna. There’s no love lost between Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), to put it mildly. Mullin made a series of X-rated accusations to CNN about the Florida Republican after Gaetz helped spearhead the ouster of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in October.

TRANSITION TIME

— Bryan Griffin will be returning to the governor’s office as his communication director, starting Monday. Griffin had worked for DeSantis’ presidential campaign.

— Jason Mahon, who has been working as the governor’s communications director, is heading to the Florida Department of Commerce as the new Deputy Secretary for Economic Development, also starting Monday.

ODDS, ENDS AND FLORIDA MEN

BIRTHDAY: Former state Rep. Bobby DuBose

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