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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.13.22


Good Friday morning.

On Thursday, the Florida Chamber of Commerce endorsed Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis for re-election.

“Jimmy fought side by side with the Florida Chamber of Commerce to help local businesses reopen quickly,” said Florida Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Wilson. “Through his leadership, he helped champion COVID-19 liability protections to protect businesses and health care providers when personal injury trial lawyers sought to use the pandemic for their own personal gain. Jimmy is committed to fiscal accountability as well as protecting Floridians from fraudulent activities that have contributed to rising home insurance rates.”

The Chamber noted that during Patronis’ time in the state House, he consistently earned “A” grades in its annual Legislative Report Cards. The endorsement also highlighted that the Panama City Republican has first-hand knowledge of business as a partner in his family’s restaurant, Captain Anderson’s.

Jimmy Patronis gets a nice boost in his bid for re-election. Image via CFO’s Office.

“I’ve had the privilege of working alongside the Chamber as CFO and before that when I served in the Florida House. Together, we have implemented policies to protect consumers and grow the economy — even when other states’ businesses were shut down, and their people were locked down,” Patronis said.

“While other states froze in fear, we worked hand in hand to fight for common-sense COVID-19 liability protections and rallied throughout the state at local restaurants to open back up Florida’s small business. I am grateful for their endorsement and look forward to continuing to work with them to keep our taxes low, our state’s credit rating high and the job opportunities booming.”

—“CFO Patronis calls on lawmakers to pass anti-fraud initiatives during special session on insurance” via Kellie Cowan of Fox News

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A new political action committee has launched to support Democratic Broward County Commissioner Jared Moskowitz’s run to succeed U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch in Congress.

Moving Broward Forward PAC is helmed by board members Elizabeth Rosenstein, Shirley Sharon and Jennifer May, while seasoned political operative Ashley Walker will serve as a general consultant.

A new PAC will help Jared Moskowitz move forward with his congressional campaign. Image via AP.

“Jared Moskowitz is a champion for Broward County, who is fighting to guarantee access to the ballot box, to protect Social Security and Medicare, for real gun safety measures, and to defend our allies abroad,” Walker said. “He is the leader we need in Congress to move Broward forward.”

Moskowitz was first elected to public office at age 25 to the Parkland City Commission and became a state Representative before being appointed as the Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, a job that earned him the nickname of “Florida’s Master of Disaster.”

Since launching his campaign in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District, Moskowitz has received piles of endorsements from current and former elected officials. The latest wave included former CFO Alex Sink, Rep. Robin Bartleman, Palm Beach County Tax Collector Anne Gannon, and Palm Beach County School Board member Alexandria Ayala.

___

The Coronavirus War Room, a project from Protect Our Care, took to the skies to blast Gov. Ron DeSantis’ pandemic policies.

The organization hired a plane to fly over Amelie Arena ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s playoff game against the Toronto Maple Leafs Thursday evening. The flyover comes as the national death toll from COVID-19 approaches 1 million.

“As DeSantis is busy campaigning for re-election and what many think are his higher ambitions — the U.S. recently hit the awful milestone of over 1 million lives lost due to COVID-19,” a Coronavirus War Room news release reads.

According to The Associated Press, as of Thursday, the death toll stood at just under 1 million. In Florida, the virus has killed more than 74,000 people.

“The banner will remind Floridians of Gov. DeSantis’ reckless behavior, which contributed to the many lives lost in our state due to COVID-19,” the group wrote in the release.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

Tweet, tweet:

@SenShelby: Today, I voted no on the reconfirmation of Jay Powell to be Chairman of the @federalreserve. American families are facing rampant inflation and historically high prices. Powell and the rest of the Fed have failed the American people. We should not reward failure.

Tweet, tweet:

@BenjySarlin: There’s been a pretty rapid (Donald) Trump-era evolution from “Scandals won’t bring down candidates like they used to” to “If I run for office, I can move past my old scandal” to “My scandal is a positive thing that shows that I’ve been unfairly victimized by the right enemies.”

@StephenM: There’d of course be no formula shortage if 45 were in office. But pretending there was: he’d have instantly issued EO, brought formula CEOs to Oval Office for public mtg, held Cab Mtg to break all logjams, told FDA head fix or be fired, made all staff work overtime till SOLVED.

@ElonMusk: Even though I think a less divisive candidate would be better in 2024, I still think Trump should be restored to Twitter

@AGAshleyMoody: I am proud to call Secretary Laurel Lee a dear friend, and I am grateful for her dedication to preserving and promoting our beautiful state as @FLSecofState. Job well done!

@chris_minor10: Thank you, @GovRonDeSantis, for signing HB 195 – Juvenile Diversion Program Expunction into law! This is a big step for workforce development & public safety in affording over 26,000 kids a 2nd chance at success. Bittersweet moment today. Thank you to everyone on this journey🙌🏻

@MDixon55: In doing unrelated research, am reminded how much money was poured into gaming ballot measures. This is list of top 30 biggest expenditures in Florida for the entire 2022 cycle. Nearly all of them are related to the gaming petition drives, neither of which will be on 2022 ballot.

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

— DAYS UNTIL —

Property insurance Special Session begins — 10; 2022 Florida Chamber Prosperity & Economic Opportunity Solution Summit — 12; ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ starts on Disney+ — 12; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 14; Hyundai Air and Sea Show National Salute to America’s Heroes, sponsored by the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association — 15; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 20; California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota hold midterm Primaries — 25; ‘Jurassic World Dominion’ premieres — 28; Pixar’s ‘Lightyear’ premieres — 35; 2022 Florida Chamber Learners to Earners Workforce Solution Summit — 46; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 56; 36th Annual Environmental Permitting School — 67; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 69; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 88; FRLA’s Operations and Marketing Summit — 96; ‘House of the Dragon’ premieres on HBO — 100; 2022 Florida Chamber Technology & Innovation Solution Summit — 110; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 112; 2022 Emmys — 122; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 146; Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 164; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 165; Jon Meacham’s ‘And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle’ releases — 165; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 182; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 188; The World Cup kicks off in Qatar — 192; The U.S. World Cup Soccer Team begins play — 192; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 193; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 215; ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 279; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 297; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 315; 2023 Session Sine Die — 357; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 357; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 385; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 441; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 525; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 686; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 805.
— TOP STORY —

Florida’s top election official steps down while state is mired in legal disputes” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida — Lee’s resignation comes as her office is caught in major legal battles over the state’s new congressional map and laws that placed new restrictions on mail-in voting. On Wednesday, a Florida judge said he planned to block a map that DeSantis had pressured the GOP-controlled Legislature in place.

Laurel Lee leaves her position at a very serendipitous time.

“We are grateful to Secretary Lee for her service to the state of Florida,” Taryn Fenske, a spokesperson for DeSantis, said. “Over the past 20 years, Florida has become one of the best states in the nation at administering elections, and Secretary Lee built on that tradition. As Secretary of State, she helped ensure Florida had an efficient election in 2020, with accurate results.”

While Lee generally had a good relationship with local election supervisors, her agency was often forced to deal with frustrated officials responding to measures that focused on everything from felons’ voting rights to regulating drop boxes. Lee’s departure comes just weeks before her agency will start up a new “Office of Election Crimes and Security” to investigate allegations of voter fraud and violations of election law.

Tweet, tweet:

>>>Also in the mix to replace Lee are Chris Anderson, Pete Antonacci, James O’Keefe, and Nick Primrose.

— 2022 —

Marco Rubio vs. Val Demings is set to test whether Democrats should just give up on red-shifting Florida” via Kimberly Leonard and Warren Rojas of Business Insider — Sen. Rubio‘s 2016 presidential run gave him national name recognition. Then Rubio threw himself into his Senate work. He can now tick off a list of accomplishments. In Demings, Democrats see a star, a Black woman trailblazer who spent 27 years in law enforcement. At a recent campaign event with union members in Miami, Demings appeared confident as she wove stories about her life into a narrative about the need to raise wages, increase voting access, and make health care more affordable. Demings could be Democrats’ last, best shot at winning statewide office in Florida not only in 2022 but for the foreseeable future.

Florida Democrats target Rubio over abortion rightsOn Thursday, the Florida Democratic Party released a video montage of U.S. Sen. Rubio’s statements opposing abortion rights and highlighting his opposition to exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. The 45-second video, posted on FDP’s social media pages, includes moments from presidential debates and interviews over the years featuring Florida’s senior Senator talking about the need to overturn Roe v. Wade. It shows him discussing his view of when a fetus is entitled to the protection of U.S. laws, which would mean abortion is not allowed at any time during a pregnancy. “Life begins at conception,” Rubio says at the video’s opening.

Tweet, tweet:

Happening tomorrow — Ruth’s List Florida is hosting “She’s the Change,” an event featuring several Democratic women candidates. Scheduled speakers include Demings, gubernatorial candidates Nikki Fried and Annette Taddeo, Attorney General hopeful Aramis Ayala, and state Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book, 9 a.m., Rosen Plaza Hotel, 9700 International Dr., Orlando.

Judge issues formal order to replace Ron DeSantis’ map with different North Florida lines” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A judge formally issued an order calling for a new congressional map to replace one signed by DeSantis, but the state has already said an appeal is coming. In a court hearing Wednesday, Leon Circuit Judge Layne Smith agreed with those challenging the map, who say the cartography violates Florida’s Fair Districts amendment. “Plaintiffs have shown a clear likelihood that the Enacted Plan violates their fundamental right to vote and ‘enjoining the enforcement of a law that encroaches on a fundamental constitutional right’ presumptively ‘would serve the public interest,’” Smith wrote. With the limited period, attorneys argued for Smith to issue an injunction this week but asked only to act in North Florida.

Communications worker union backs Maxwell Alejandro Frost for CD 10 — The Communications Workers of America on Thursday endorsed Democratic candidate Frost in the race for Florida’s Congressional District 10, calling him the “clear cut candidate for labor” in the crowded Primary for the Central Florida seat. “Maxwell has dedicated his life to organizing our community. Maxwell is from the working class; he understands working people’s issues because he lives it and has a proven track record of fighting alongside us for economic justice,” said Steve Wisniewski, President of CWA Local 3108. CD 10 covers a large portion of northern Orange County and is expected to strongly favor Democrats in the fall. Frost faces Sen. Randolph Bracy, the Rev. Terence Gray, civil rights lawyer Natalie Jackson and others in the Democratic Primary.

Eddie Geller gets celebrity boost in CD 15 race from star of West Wing, Psych” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — Geller released a video featuring an endorsement in the race for Florida’s 15th Congressional District from actor Dulé Hill. Hill is best known for his roles as Burton Guster in the series Psych and his years as an aide to (fictional) President Josiah Bartlet on the political drama “The West Wing” for all its seven seasons. But someone seemingly forgot to tell Geller. The video begins with Geller mistaking the West Wing for the hit HBO show Westworld, while Hill refers to Geller as the “guy who wrote a jingle for his launch video.” Geller launched his campaign with a 90s-sitcom-themed campaign video. The two run the faux-pas bit for a few laughs before getting serious about the campaign.

To watch the endorsement video, click on the image below:

Poll shows Ken Russell in ‘dead heat’ with María Elvira Salazar for CD 27 seat” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A new survey of voters in Florida’s 27th Congressional District shows Russell within striking distance of Rep. Salazar. Pollsters found Salazar, who unseated Democratic former Rep. Donna Shalala by a 2-percentage-point margin in November 2020, held a 47% favorable rating and a 34% unfavorable rating. She was most popular with men, voters over 65, Cuban voters and Republicans. The margin of error was +/- 5.2 percentage points.

— MORE 2022 —

Mayors endorse Shevrin Jones for re-election — Sen. Jones’ campaign for SD 34 picked up endorsements from Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, Miami Gardens Mayor Rodney Harris, and Opa-Locka Mayor Veronica Williams. “He embodies public service and takes on critical issues that improve people’s lives. I am grateful to have Shevrin on our team as we expand economic opportunity for our families and small businesses, address the housing affordability crisis, and take on resiliency efforts robustly. That’s how we’ll continue leading the way and build a brighter future for everyone who calls our vibrant county home,” Levine Cava said. The mayoral endorsements follow a recent nod from SEIU Florida.

Shev Jones gets a solid round of South Florida mayoral endorsements.

—”Lauren Book submits 2.6K petitions to qualify in SD 35” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

—“Newly challenged for re-election, Book posts strongest fundraising month of career” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics

Taylor Yarkosky picks up endorsements from Steve Crisafulli, Mike Haridopolos — Former House Speaker Crisafulli and former Senate President Haridopolos endorsed Republican Yarkosky in the race for HD 25. “Taylor’s well-rounded and accomplished life experience has prepared him to be an effective legislative leader on Day One,” Haridopolos said in a news release. Crisafulli added, “Taylor Yarkosky has the vision, passion, and energy that it takes to effectively lead.” The former lawmakers, both of whom now work as lobbyists, join Sens. Jason Brodeur and Danny Burgess and Reps. Chip LaMarca and Keith Truenow, as well as several Lake County officials in backing Yarkosky. He is one of four Republicans running for the seat, which has a decidedly Republican lean.

Orange County Republican Chair Charles Hart files in HD 39” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Hart has filed to run for the new House District 39 seat representing northwestern Orange County and western Seminole County. Hart, a lawyer, was first elected as Orange County Republican Chair four years ago and has twice been re-elected, staving off faction challenges. His Seminole County-based law firm offers general practice. Redistricting carved out an all-new district as HD 39, based around Apopka and the Wekiva Springs region of northwestern Orange and western Seminole. There is no incumbent. It has drawn two other Republican candidates and two Democrats. Hart, a longtime player in Orange County politics, filed Thursday.

Ben Diamond backs Lindsay Cross as successor in House” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — State Rep. Diamond announced his support for Cross in the race to fill the House seat Diamond is vacating. Diamond has served in House District 68 for six years. Cross is running in the new House District 60, which encompasses much of Diamond’s HD 68. “I could not be more excited to endorse Lindsay Cross for the Florida State House and for her to represent me in Tallahassee,” Diamond said.

Lindsey Cross gets the nod from the man she hopes to succeed.

—“Republicans pour support into Susan Plasencia’s challenge of Carlos Guillermo Smith” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

—”Robyn Hattaway post $17K in April in Republican contest for HD 30” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

—”Fred Hawkins pours $38K into his re-election bid in HD 35” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

—“Chip LaMarca raises nearly $60K to defend coastal Broward House District” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics

—“Dan Daley raises more than $20K to defend his seat representing western Broward” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics

—”Young Democrats back Dan Horton-Diaz in HD 120” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics

Happening tonight:

Save the date:

— DATELINE TALLY —

Ramon Alexander, expected House Dem Leader, drops re-election bid after harassment allegations” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Rep. Alexander, who was expected to lead the House Democratic Caucus next term, won’t run for re-election after sexual harassment allegations surfaced against him. Florida Politics was the first to report Alexander’s inappropriate behavior. Alexander was accused of sexting and groping by a former Florida A&M University athletics employee who left the school in January after what the Tallahassee Democrat reported was an ugly staff shakeup. Alexander announced his decision to forgo a fourth term on Facebook.

Under a cloud of controversy, Ramon Alexander calls it quits.

Double jeopardy: DeSantis approves juvenile expunction bill after last year’s veto” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — One year after DeSantis vetoed a measure allowing juveniles to have arrest records for felony charges expunged from their record, the Republican Governor gave his approval to this past Session’s version of the legislation. The proposal (HB 195), signed Thursday, would broaden minors’ abilities to expunge their arrest records in Florida, opening the door to removing lesser felonies and multiple misdemeanors from their records. Under the proposal, a juvenile may expunge felony arrests, except for forcible felonies, and multiple arrests from their record for completing a diversion program. Forcible felonies include crimes such as murder, rape and kidnapping, among others.

DeSantis signs law defining, deregulating cryptocurrency” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — DeSantis signed legislation defining the term “virtual currency” to clarify state law on cryptocurrency and ease state financial regulations. The measure defines “virtual currency” as a “medium of exchange in electronic or digital format which is not currency.” Upon taking effect on Jan. 1, 2023, it will upend a 2019 court ruling preventing people who own bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies from selling them without a license. Rep. Vance Aloupis sponsored the legislation in the House (HB 273), where it passed unanimously. The 2022 Legislative Session marked the second consecutive year Aloupis carried the bill. Sen. Jason Brodeur sponsored its companion bill (SB 486), which cleared the Legislature’s upper chamber.

—“DeSantis signs firefighter workers’ compensation eligibility bill” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics

—“DeSantis dispatches signature on bill reinforcing legal protections for firefighters” via Florida Politics

DeSantis signs bill fortifying rights for crime victims” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis has signed a multi-prong measure to bolster crime victims’ rights. The proposal (SB 1012), signed Thursday, would require law enforcement to inform crime victims of their right to counsel. It would also encourage the Florida Bar to develop a list of attorneys willing to work pro bono for crime victims. The measure, set to take effect July 1, passed the House and Senate unanimously this Session. Sen. Danny Burgess sponsored the bill, and Rep. Colleen Burton sponsored the House version. The bill contains a slew of secondary provisions. Among others, it would clarify state law by saying crime victims may “upon request” attend or be heard at a criminal proceeding.

DeSantis signs bill cracking down on ‘traveling criminals’” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis signed legislation expanding law enforcement’s ability to bolster charges against thieves described as “traveling criminals.” State law currently allows authorities to enhance burglary charges if the offender crosses county lines to commit the crime. However, the same law also requires authorities to prove a burglar moved across county lines to thwart law enforcement and counter property recovery efforts. With the change, officials will be able to increment the degree of a charge without proving that a person traveled across jurisdictions to thwart law enforcement’s attempts to track items stolen in a burglary.

National Association of Attorneys General ripped by parade of Republicans, but Ashley Moody staying quiet for now” via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist — Last week, four Republican Attorneys General publicly ripped the nation’s leading Attorneys General association, claiming that it has become too partisan, while also alleging that the organization’s financial management practices have “fallen short” of their expectations. The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) is open to membership to state Attorneys General from across the country, regardless of political party. The group has historically helped coordinate state legal actions and lawsuits on the national level, including lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and other multi-state lawsuits and legal actions that have occasionally led to large settlements. Moody has not voiced any concerns about the group’s partisanship or financial management.

Ashley Moody stays silent about partisanship in the Attorneys General national association. Image via Colin Hackley.

Florida’s insurance crisis spreads to condos” via Christopher Heath of the Miami Herald — Up and down the Florida coast, condo owners are waking up to a new reality as insurance rates rise and coverage declines. The change in rates comes in the wake of last June’s collapse at the Champlain Towers South in Surfside, a collapse that killed almost 100 people. “We received a new quote, and the quote was 50% more than what we were paying,” said attorney Mitch Goldman, whose office is in a Cocoa condo. “We’ve had no claims in the last year and more deductibles, in essence, 50% less coverage.” Goldman not only works in a condo, but he also lives in one too, and part of his practice is representing condo associations. “Insurance is getting more expensive and harder to come by,” says Goldman.

— STATEWIDE —

Florida teachers, school staff caught by ‘gotcha police’ as DeSantis culture wars heat up” via James Call of USA Today Network — A Tallahassee middle school principal became ensnarled in Florida’s election-year culture war when she landed in a social-media feedback loop created by a state Representative who wants her fired for Facebook comments about the challenges of working in public schools. Educators, academics, Democratic lawmakers, and labor union leaders say the politically motivated threat to Sarah Hembree’s 15-year career is the latest incident in an ongoing conservative-led attack on public education powered by a social media patrol. Superintendent Rocky Hanna said he believed Hembree’s comments were taken out of context.

Sarah Hembree is the latest target for conservative culture warriors. Image via Tallahassee Democrat.

Florida rejected dozens of math textbooks. But only 3 reviewers found CRT violations” via Ana Ceballos and Sommer Brugal of the Miami Herald — When the Florida Department of Education announced it was rejecting 54 math textbooks, it pointed to a “thorough review” process that found more than half of those books included ‘prohibited topics,’ including critical race theory and social-emotional learning. A Miami Herald review of nearly 6,000 pages of textbook examinations, however, shows just three state reviewers — including a sophomore studying politics at a conservative college in Michigan — said four math books violated a state rule that prohibits the teaching of critical race theory.

Florida Citizens Alliance, other groups were ‘pulling the oars’ as state rejected math books” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — In most Florida counties, school board hearings earlier this year on proposed math book purchases attracted little attention. In fact, across Central Florida, no one spoke against them. But in some places, there were critics, among them a man who urged the Collier County School Board to use caution and make sure the publisher it selected did not include “critical race theory” or other topics banned by the state. That was Keith Flaugh, founder of the Florida Citizens Alliance. The group has been railing against school textbooks, claiming they wrongly taught evolution, “revisionist U.S. history,” and “political and religious indoctrination” for the past five years.

‘A silent surge’: While the newest omicron subvariant drives up COVID-19 cases in Florida, effects are mild” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A subvariant of omicron is spreading rapidly in Florida, and health experts say it will likely become the dominant strain of the virus in the state before the summer. The subvariant, named B.A.2.12.1, is a new mutation of the omicron COVID-19 variant and is even more contagious. Some experts believe it may be the most infectious strain thus far. CDC director Rochelle Walensky said while B.A.2.12.1 is highly contagious; it does not seem to cause a more severe case of COVID-19.

Citizens Property Insurance withdraws lawsuit in exchange for $1M settlement agreement” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A trio of Florida companies accused of working together to artificially inflate the severity of insured damage, and the costs to fix the alleged damage, agreed to pay Citizens Property Insurance Corporation $1 million. In return, Citizens has agreed to withdraw a lawsuit filed in 2020 against the Strems Law Firm, Contender Claims Consultants, and All Insurance Restoration Services. Four individuals were also named defendants in the lawsuit. There has been no concession from the defendants that fraud occurred. The Florida Supreme Court suspended Strems from practicing for two years.

Laura Branker, former health official in Jeb Bush administration, dies” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Branker, a former Secretary at the Agency for Healthcare Care Administration in the Jeb Bush administration who later served as the health care director of corporate affairs for Walmart, has died of cancer. Bush sent an email to the alumni who served in his administration announcing her death. “After a valiant fight with cancer, she is now residing in eternal peace,” Bush wrote. Bush spoke with Branker’s mother earlier in the day and she asked him to share the news. Bush appointed Branker interim Secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration in 2001 after the departure of former Secretary Ruben King-Shaw, who left the job for a position in the administration of President George W. Bush.

RIP Laura Branker, a former health official in the Jeb Bush administration.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Feud between Joe Biden and Rick Scott turns personal” via Seung Min Kim of The Washington Post — The first time Sen. Scott tried to reach out to Biden after he became President, the White House hung up on him. Now Scott is calling Biden “incoherent” and “incapacitated” and demanding his resignation while the President responded to Scott’s insults by saying, “I think the man has a problem.” It’s the story of a political battle turning personal. In recent weeks, Biden and a panoply of White House officials have systematically elevated the first-term Senator from Florida as a central GOP boogeyman.

This time, it’s personal.

Rubio, Scott want baby formula action from Biden” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Both Sen. Scott and Rubio implored Biden to boost America’s sagging stock of baby formula, with Scott openly wondering how such a shortage could happen in this country. “I’m hearing from young mothers, they’re spending their weekend, their whole weekend just driving around, trying to find formula, and just hoping to God that there’s enough formula until their child doesn’t need formula anymore,” the Senator said. “It’s a real problem across this country. And think about this: How could we have a problem like this in the United States of America?” Biden is talking to companies that produce baby formula and, according to CNN, will announce a corrective plan.

Matt Gaetz wants Congress to decide if U.S. should go to war with Russia” via Jon Jackson of Newsweek — While speaking on the House floor, Gaetz warned of a “dangerous bipartisan consensus that is walking us into war with Russia.” The Congressman, among the 57 House Republicans who voted against a new $40 billion aid package for Ukraine, said the government should prioritize domestic issues. He also called on Congress to vote on an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) resolution to show which members would go on record about their support for whether the U.S. should be involved in the Ukraine war. A group known as the Republican Accountability Project recently published a list of “pro-Putin Republicans and conservatives.”

Gaetz asks Navy to provide documents in lawsuit against Saudi Arabia over terror attack” via WEAR — Rep. Gaetz says the Chief of Naval Operations “offered his full cooperation” to provide critical documents related to a lawsuit against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia regarding the NAS Pensacola terror attack. On Wednesday, the Northwest Florida Congressman questioned Admiral Michael Gilday “in an effort to get answers for local Northwest Florida heroes regarding the 2019 terrorist attack” on NAS Pensacola. Authorities determined a Saudi military exchange student perpetrated the attack.

The Lincoln Project asks voters to ‘Think Different’ — The Lincoln Project is resurrecting a Steve Jobs-era Apple ad campaign, but it’s not looking to sell computers or smartphones. The anti-Trump and anti-Trumpism group’s new ad channels Apple’s “Think Different” campaign to sway voters away from the “Ultra MAGA” wing of the Republican Party. “No one mistakes today’s congressional Republicans for geniuses,” said Lincoln Group co-founder Reed Galen. “But voters shouldn’t dismiss their plans to roll back individual rights as just crazy talk. … Americans must stand up and fight for the future of the nation before it is too late.” The Lincoln Project said the ad would run in New York City and Washington and expand to other markets later.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

— LOCAL NOTES: N. FL —

John Dailey leads April fundraising, ramps up spending in Tallahassee Mayor race” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — Dailey outraised his 2022 challengers in April, adding over $14,000. Dailey has brought in $212,000, the second-largest amount in a local Leon race so far. His highest-funded challenger, Leon County Commissioner Kristin Dozier, has brought in $62,000 in the two months of her campaign after a $9,000 April. The Mayor’s campaign has received 581 contributions so far, setting his average donation at about $360. He has also taken home the lion’s share of support from Tallahassee businesses, with 70 of his donations from companies. Dozier’s campaign has received 231 contributions, averaging $268 a donation. Eight firms have given to Dozier to date.

John Dailey kicks it up a notch.

Fernandina Port Authority agrees to new Executive Director contract terms” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — David Kaufman hasn’t started quite yet, but the Port of Fernandina’s Ocean Highway and Port Authority (OHPA) agreed to terms on his contract, bringing oversight to the Port Executive Director job some officials felt was lacking in the past. “I’ve been pushing for this for years, and we just never had the funding, no way to finance it,” OHPA Chair Danny Fullwood said at the Authority’s meeting Wednesday night.

GOP strategists aim for Alachua County school board seats with PAC money” via Andrew Caplan of the Gainesville Sun — Republican operatives are eying a pair of Alachua County school board seats in the primary election, campaign filing reports show. Though school board seats are intended to remain nonpartisan, debates over COVID-19 restrictions, mask mandates, critical race theory and sexual orientation have increasingly pushed schools into the political sphere. In 2022, a total of 10 local seats are up for grabs between the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners, Alachua County School Board and Gainesville City Commission.

— MORE LOCAL: C. FL —

Biden to meet with Tampa’s Mayor, police chief on Friday” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and Police Chief Mary O’Connor will be among local elected officials who will meet with Biden at the White House on Friday to discuss how cities have benefited from increased federal spending during the pandemic. The meeting will focus on the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion relief plan that congressional Democrats passed in 2021. Specifically, Castor and O’Connor will be among those discussing how the plan increased spending on community policing and public safety programs.

Jane Castor gets face time with Joe Biden.

Hillsborough, Pinellas report best-ever tourism numbers” via C.T. Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times — Spring Break meant spring bucks for the region’s hospitality industry. The tourism promotion agencies for both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties reported record-setting tourist tax collections for March. In Hillsborough, it marked a third consecutive month of new benchmarks. Since Hillsborough County began assessing the state-allowed maximum tourist tax rate of 6% in fall 2019, its peak month had been $4.9 million for the receipts collected in February 2020, just before the full onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Expressway authority vote clears path for Split Oak Forest toll road” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — A toll road proposed to cross through Split Oak Forest now appears to face few hurdles as the Central Florida Expressway Authority adopted on Thursday a list of new environmental enhancements that include an estimated $13 million for restoring wildlife habitat. The authority voted unanimously to approve a resolution from one of its board members, Seminole County Commissioner Lee Constantine, specifying that the road’s footprint can never be widened from its initial 330-foot corridor, that extra precautions must be taken for prescribed burning, and that the road must be elevated extensively if not entirely on bridges within the forest for wildlife.

Next on Moms for Liberty library challenge list: The Kite Runner, Slaughterhouse-Five” via Bailey Gallion of Florida Today — The Brevard chapter of Moms for Liberty has submitted the fourth list of library books deemed inappropriate for minors, this time calling out instances of “racially divisive” rhetoric, LGBTQ themes, references to abortion and criticism of Christianity in addition to the explicit sex scenes that dominated the first lists. The latest list includes a book that sometimes appears in late high school reading lists “Slaughterhouse-Five.” Slaughterhouse-Five contains graphic violence (including animal abuse), explicit sexual content, and a passage Moms for Liberty termed “inflammatory religious commentary” that mocked the New Testament in a satirical manner.

— MORE LOCAL: S. FL —

Surfside families still want answers despite settlement” via The Associated Press — Gathered at a ceremony Thursday to honor the 98 people who died in a Florida condominium collapse last summer, some of the victims’ family members said they are too deep in mourning to contemplate the nearly $1 billion settlement their attorneys negotiated on their behalf. Families and local officials gathered at the chain-link fence surrounding the vacant lot where Champlain Towers South once stood to unveil temporary banners adorned with the victims’ names and ages under the heading “Fathers, Mothers, Sons, Daughters, Brothers, Sisters.” The ceremony occurred a day after the surprise announcement that a $997 million settlement had been reached in the families’ lawsuit.

A settlement is great; answers would be even better.

A heated fight over plan to leave the Broward Sheriff’s Office: Town’s projected cost soars to $5 million amid turmoil” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The cost for Pembroke Park to create its own police department is more than double initial projections, rising to $5 million, a report shows. The long-awaited report, intended to spell out what the tiny town needs to break free from its Sheriff’s Office contract, shows the town has underestimated both how much money it would take, and how many cops on the street would be needed to staff it.

Fired Hialeah cop who sexually abused young women gets three years in prison” via Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald — U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams pronounced former Hialeah police Sgt. Jesús Menocal Jr.’s crimes “a betrayal of the badge” and sentenced him to a maximum of three years in prison, saying the 13-year Hialeah police veteran who had pleaded guilty to three civil-rights charges “did not follow the right path.” Menocal’s punishment capped a seven-year investigation that seemed to lose track until the FBI arrested the sergeant in late 2019.

Prosecutors leave Keys offices” via Timothy O’Hara of Keys News — Several state prosecutors have left the Monroe County State Attorney’s office recently or are leaving later this week, and the office has brought in prosecutors from the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution to cover misdemeanor and felony cases. Chief Assistant State Attorney Val Winter retired in April and has been replaced by former Miami Judge Joe Mansfield. Prosecutor Nick Travato left the office this month, and his wife and fellow prosecutor Christine Poist’s last day is Friday. Prosecutor Samantha Grizzle’s last day is also Friday. Also, the office recently lost two prosecutors in the Upper Keys because of the housing crisis in the Florida Keys.

Miami drops years of opposition to medical marijuana dispensaries inside city limits” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — After years of stonewalling, Miami on Thursday paved the way for the first medical marijuana dispensary to open in the city. It was a significant policy shift for a city that has spent years insisting that dispensaries were illegal even though Florida legalized medical cannabis in 2016. The 3-2 vote by the City Commission effectively ended Miami’s total rejection of medical marijuana dispensaries, allowing the business that had been pressing the issue to get permits to open a dispensary. The action may lead to others applying to do the same.

Personnel note: Gunster adds veteran import/export attorney Peter Quinter — The Gunster law firm is adding Peter Quinter as a shareholder in its Miami and Boca Raton offices, to establish and lead its new U.S. Customs and International Trade team. Quinter brings nearly 30 years of experience working on complex import, export, international trade, and international transportation Federal regulatory and litigation matters. He counseled clients in international supply chain matters, regulatory compliance, and enforcement by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Department of State’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls. Quinter specializes in navigating unique legal issues involving detained or refused merchandise.

— TOP OPINION —

America’s crisis of self-doubt” via the National Review — There is no doubt that the country faces severe challenges, many the result of shortsightedness and wishful thinking, but we still have an enormous capacity for renewal. It is because our ancestor patriots rejected despair and kept faith with America that we are here to fight another day.

The ultimate answer to the illiberalism ascendant on college campuses and elsewhere and to the rampaging anti-Americanism of our elite culture will have to be found in the common sense and decency of the American people. The rule of law, federalism, and the protections of the U.S. Constitution continue to be bulwarks against the most ambitious designs of ideological fanatics. Families, churches and synagogues, neighborhoods, and voluntary associations — all under pressure — remain the foundations of society, more relevant to the lives of individuals and communities than social media or edicts from Washington.

In protecting and revitalizing America, there is no substitute for the hard work of public persuasion.

— OPINIONS —

Sorry, Democrats. It’s not going to be the Rick Scott midterms.” via Rich Lowry of POLITICO —Sen. Scott included a maladroit two-sentence item in a sprawling 59-page document outlining his view of what might eventually become a Republican policy agenda. This is the scenario Democrats seem to think will help save them in November, in one of the most ludicrous stratagems ever adopted by an embattled majority desperate to find a way — any way — to escape a nearly inevitable midterm shellacking. The relevant bullet point in the 128-item Scott agenda says, “All Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game.” The White House is hoping this is the fulcrum upon which the midterm elections will turn.

A flawed system for choosing Florida justices” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — The select group that nominates Florida Supreme Court justices is back at work. The panel is taking applications for the third time since DeSantis became Governor. As usual, the outcome is predictable. The finalists to succeed Justice Alan Lawson will tilt heavily to the right and the creed of the Federalist Society, whose textualist legal philosophy is more suited to the 19th century than the 21st. The nine nominating commissioners know what he wants, and they know he could replace all nine of them as their staggered terms expire. The 26 nominating panels, one for each judicial jurisdiction, were never supposed to be political arms of the Governor’s office.

DeSantis is crushing Josh Hawley in the culture war primary” via Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent of The Washington Post — The most important primary in the GOP today may be the one to decide which potential 2024 candidate is the most furious culture warrior. Sen. Hawley has introduced a bill making changes to U.S. copyright law, reducing the time large companies can hold copyright on, say, a cartoon mouse. Hawley’s news release does not conceal the target of his ire, calling it a “bill to strip woke corporations like Disney of special copyright protections.” It’s hardly an accident that this comes after DeSantis of Florida won gushing praise from the national right for his own anti-Disney crusade. What this highlights is that in the culture war primary, a Senator is at a serious disadvantage against a Governor. Hawley has a lot of catching up to do.

Wait until students figure out that DeSantis’ Florida and communism are bedfellows!” via Fabiola Santiago of the Miami Herald — What do Cuba and Florida have in common? Book-banning, censorship and state-mandated school indoctrination for political purposes. They’re hallmark practices of the Communist Party-led regime in Cuba, tools used for six decades to keep Cubans isolated and in the dark about information that falls outside of what the ruling party’s ideology commands people to believe. Ironically, after this year’s GOP-dominated Legislative Session, the same manipulative tactics are now pillars of DeSantis’ public education system. It all reminds me of the atmosphere of repression during my elementary school education in Cuba.

Seminole yearbook dispute reveals pain to come” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — DeSantis and ideologues in the Legislature are using public school, and they’re targeting racial and sexual minorities, people who disagree with DeSantis’ dictates and books that challenge their far-right dogma. Worst of all, they’ll be shoving local officials, communities and students into the line of fire. At issue: A spread in the Lyman High School 2022 yearbook depicting a student-led walkout in protest of a bill that restricts discussion of LGBTQ+ issues in classrooms. The text in the yearbook does not take a stance on the bill. For more than two hours, Seminole board members heard from students, teachers and community members, pleading with them to stop the defacement of the yearbook.

New algae blooms expose DeSantis’ failure to fix pollution” via Craig Pittman of Florida Phoenix — To me, the biggest threat to DeSantis’ re-election isn’t one of the Democratic candidates. It’s not even human. And it’s tiny. But the last time anyone checked, it had multiplied so much that it covered 60 square miles of Lake Okeechobee. I’m talking about toxic blue-green algae, aka cyanobacteria. It’s spreading across Lake Okeechobee like a scandalous celebrity rumor on social media. “Health alerts have been issued for blue-green algal toxins found in Florida waterways,” WPBF-TV reported on Monday, noting that they’d been located in two sections of the lake. The alerts say to steer clear of the bloom and avoid swimming or fishing there.

A message from Black male Florida lawmakers: Black men must step up on abortion rights” via Shevrin Jones, Kevin Chambliss, Daryl Campbell, and Travaris McCurdy for the Miami Herald — Last week, we learned that the U.S Supreme Court is likely to overturn Roe v. Wade. As Florida legislators, we knew this was coming. Too many men see this as a woman’s issue, so we stand on the sidelines rather than being active allies involved in the movement for reproductive freedom. As Black male legislators, we strongly encourage Black men to work side by side with the women leading this movement, and we will stand with them every step of the way.

— WEEKEND TV —

Battleground Florida with Evan Donovan on News Channel 8 WFLA (NBC): Rep. Diamond and Tampa Mayor Castor.

ABC Action News Full Circle with Paul LaGrone on Channel 10 WFTS: Rep. Daniel Perez, ABC News Political Director Rick Klein, University of Tampa economics professor Thomas Stockwell, and USF Political Science Professor Emeritus Dr. Susan MacManus.

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at South Florida politics and other issues affecting the region.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Steve Vancore speaks with POLITICO Florida reporter Matt Dixon.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Democrat Tony Hill, a former State Senator who is running Florida’s (new) 4th Congressional District; Robert LeCount, CEO of Quench The Violence; community activist Dwight Brisbane; David Isaacks, U.S. Marine Corps Veteran and Executive Health System Director at the North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System; and Michael Fleming, Brigadier General (ret), Outreach Director, Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinics at Centerstone.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): New Broward School Board member Daniel Foganholi.

— ALOE —

Surviving a day of doom at a Florida prepper convention” via Christopher Spata of the Tampa Bay Times — Someday, when your commute or supermarket run gets interrupted by the collapse of society, there will be certain considerations to make. Jeff Smith seemed to know them all. “Everyone prepares to hunker down at home,” Smith told them. But when there’s an event, he said, odds are you’ll be somewhere else. “Getting Home,” as the day’s first seminar was titled, might require negotiation. “In case you wind up in a neighborhood where the armed residents have set up a barricade,” Smith said. He recommends honing such skills at yard sales. Smith proposed stowing a folding bike in the car and memorizing where local train tracks can guide you.

University of Florida scientists grow plants in lunar dirt, next stop moon” via The Associated Press — For the first time, scientists have grown plants in soil from the moon collected by NASA’s Apollo astronauts. Researchers had no idea if anything would sprout in the harsh moon dirt and wanted to see if it could be used to grow food by the next generation of lunar explorers. The results stunned them. “Holy cow. Plants actually grow in lunar stuff. Are you kidding me?” said Robert Ferl of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Ferl and his colleagues planted Thale cress in moon soil returned by Apollo 11′s Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, and other moonwalkers. The good news: All the seeds sprouted.

UF makes history by growing plants in lunar soil. Image via AP.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to Tampa City Councilman Bill CarlsonCraig Fugate, former FEMA Director and former state Emergency Management Director, Audrey Henson, Todd Reid of Firehouse Strategies, Abbie Vail, and Susie Wiles. Early happy birthday wishes to Phil Musser, VP of Government Affairs at NextEra.

___

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


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