Good Tuesday morning.
The State of the Union address draws together the major branches of government into the same chamber each year. It also offers the opportunity for members of Congress to bring special guests. While many provide the ticket to their spouse, the guest list also offers a chance to spotlight hometown heroes and make political statements.
The most notable guest this year will appear in U.S. Rep. Greg Steube’s stead. Darrell Woodie, a staffer for U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, found Steube at his Sarasota home after he fell 25 feet from a ladder while trimming tree branches. “Mr. Woodie called 911 after witnessing my accident and is the epitome of a good Samaritan!” the Sarasota Republican posted on Twitter last week.
Joe Biden’s State of The Union address will be a chance to spotlight hometown heroes. Image via AP.
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor announced that Army Col. D.J. Reyes will be her special guest. Reyes worked closely with Castor’s office on passage of the PACT Act to expand benefits for veterans with health conditions potentially tied to burn pits. The Tampa Democrat credited Reyes at the time for raising awareness of 3.5 million veterans who suffered from toxic exposure.
U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, a Stuart Republican, also invited a veteran, Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller. The former Marine published a book after being drummed out of the service for criticizing the Afghanistan pullout and has shared a stage with Mast at GOP events in South Florida.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel will bring Janet Zweiback, a retired nurse from Delray Beach. Frankel. A West Palm Beach Democrat, said she’s bringing the Social Security recipient to draw attention to the hundreds of thousands of constituents who rely on the federal program.
During his first State of the Union, U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost will bring Parkland father Manuel Oliver, whose 17-year-old son Joaquin was killed in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in 2018. Frost has been active for years in the March for Our Lives movement born of the shooting. “I got involved in the fight against gun violence because I didn’t want to get shot at school, but five years later, we’re still mourning the loss of life at Parkland and new painful wounds from places like Uvalde,” Frost said.
U.S. Sen. Rick Scott will draw attention to the fentanyl crisis by inviting Miami Shores Police Chief David Golt. The law enforcement leader fights the drug trade, but also felt the tragic touch of the opioid crisis when his son Zachary died from an overdose. “While we cannot reverse the damage fentanyl has done, we can and must keep working to tell these stories, make sure families like Chief Golt’s know they are not alone and finally end this devastating epidemic,” Scott said.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Weston Democrat, will host Anabely Lopes, a Hallandale Beach woman who ended a pregnancy after her fetus was diagnosed with Edwards’ syndrome. She was turned away from an abortion in Tamarac because she was more than 15 weeks pregnant when test results verified the fatal condition.
Florida-based education consulting firm Strategos Group has hired Jes Fowler as a Government Advocacy Advisor.
“Jes’ experience in early learning and K-12 education coupled with her legislative expertise, makes her ideal as our Government Advocacy Advisor. Jes is sharp, thoughtful, and a determined leader willing to balance two jobs at once, but that’s who Jes is — never one to say ‘no’ to a challenge. I could not be prouder to have her on our growing team at Strategos,” said Strategos Partner Tara Reid-Cherry, who leads the firm’s Government Advocacy practice.
Jes Fowler never says ‘no’ to a challenge.
Fowler’s career in education began in 2014 at the Florida Department of Education, where she served as a program coordinator, spearheading special projects across early learning programs within the Division of Early Learning.
Most recently, Fowler served as the deputy director of Legislative Affairs for the Florida Department of Education, successfully advocating for Florida’s students and educators on significant policies and historical investments in education over three Legislative Sessions.
In her current role as deputy director of the Association of Early Learning Coalitions (AELC), Fowler advocates for funding early childhood education programs. AELC supports 30 early learning coalitions across the state and their efforts to ensure quality learning experiences for all children.
Fowler earned a bachelor’s in interdisciplinary social sciences from Florida State University.
“Jes’ commitment to education paired with her incredible acumen furthers our mission of providing unmistakable client value,” Strategos Group Managing Partner Adam Giery said.
Florida’s Old Capitol will be showered with purple light this evening to recognize the fight against Alzheimer’s disease in Florida.
The Old Capitol lighting coincides with the Alzheimer’s Association’s state advocacy efforts today and Wednesday when advocates from across the state will meet in Tallahassee to lobby lawmakers ahead of the 2023 Legislative Session.
A day to remember those who struggle with Alzheimer’s.
“We are honored to have so many advocates travel from the furthest parts of the state to come to Tallahassee to share their personal stories. It is because of their dedication, we have achieved great policy victories for the more than 580,000 Floridians living with Alzheimer’s. We look forward to having them advocate for our new policy priorities and funding requests that will continue to advance Alzheimer’s policy here in Florida,” said Alexander Anderson, vice president of public policy in Florida for the Alzheimer’s Association.
The annual lighting ceremony will begin at 6 p.m. and will be livestreamed by the Association’s Florida chapters on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
The association will use the event to outline its priorities for Session, and Department of Elder Affairs Secretary Michelle Branham and Rep. Michelle Salzman are scheduled to speak. The association’s “Brain Bus” will also be in the Capitol Courtyard today from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The American Alzheimer’s Association initially chose purple as its signature color because it combines “the calm stability of blue and the passionate energy of red … purple makes a statement about our Association and our supporters: we are strong and unrelenting in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.”
With Democrats usually identifying as “blue” and Republicans as “red” purple also has become a symbol of bipartisanship. The association is playing on the theme with a webpage that notes ending Alzheimer’s disease is something “both sides can agree on.”
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
Getting ready. pic.twitter.com/UhERyDuxTO
— President Biden (@POTUS) February 6, 2023
—@GrayRohrer: Old and busted: Reedy Creek Improvement District. New hotness: Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.
—@Jason_Garcia: A city government created just for one giant corporation that is completely controlled by that one giant corporation is bad. A city government created just for one giant corporation that is completely controlled by just one politician is ALSO bad.
—@JeffreyBrandes: A reinsurance tsunami is about to hit Florida. The state has worked to fix the broken insurance market but is now facing an existential threat of companies not being able to purchase adequate reinsurance.
—@FieldYates: One of the first questions at Super Bowl opening night to Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni: “Is Sunday a must-win game?” He confirmed that yes it is indeed a must-win game.
— DAYS UNTIL —
‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 10; 2023 Florida Chamber Legislative Fly-In — 14; ‘Snowfall’ final season premieres on FX — 15; city of Tampa Municipal Election early voting begins — 20; Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ‘The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival’ released — 21; ‘The Mandalorian’ returns — 22; ‘Creed III’ premieres — 24; The Oscars — 25; Tampa Municipal Election — 28; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 28; Florida TaxWatch’s State of the Taxpayer Dinner — 35; World Baseball Classic finals begin in Miami — 40; Annual Red Dog Blue fundraiser — 42; ’John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 45; ‘Succession’ Season 4 begins — 49; Tron Lightcycle/Run debuts in Walt Disney World — 56; ‘Air’ starring Ben Affleck and Matt Damon premieres — 58; Taylor Swift ‘Eras’ Tour in Tampa — 68; final performance of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ on Broadway — 68; American Association of Political Consultants Pollies ’23 conference begins — 70; 2023 Session Sine Die — 87; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 87; Florida Chamber 2023 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 91; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 99; ‘Fast X’ premieres — 100; Florida Chamber 2023 Florida Prosperity & Economic Opportunity Solution Summit — 108; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 115; Florida Chamber 2023 Florida Learners to Earners Workforce Solution Summit — 140; ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ premieres — 143; ‘Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning — Part One’ premieres — 157; Florida Chamber 37th Annual Environmental Permitting Summer School — 163; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 165; ’Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 172; 2023 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 258; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 270; South Carolina Democratic Primary — 351; New Hampshire and Nevada Democratic Primaries — 364; Georgia Democratic Primary — 371; Michigan Democratic Primary — 385; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 417; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 472; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 535; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 535; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 577; ‘Deadpool 3’ premieres — 640; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 718; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 815; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,004.
— TOP STORY —
“Legislature’s changes to Disney special district: New name, board picked by Ron DeSantis” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — After trying to dissolve Disney’s special taxing district last year, Republican lawmakers Monday released a new plan: Rename the district and let DeSantis choose the people in charge.
Under House Bill 9B, the Reedy Creek Improvement District will become the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District within two years.
And instead of Disney controlling the district, the Governor will appoint (and the state Senate will approve) the district’s five board members.
The shake-up is real for Reedy Creek. Image via AP.
The legislation is the latest twist in DeSantis’ clash with The Walt Disney Co. after the company opposed Florida’s Parental Rights in Education legislation last year, called the “don’t say gay” bill by critics.
To retaliate, DeSantis turned his ire on Reedy Creek, the unusual Disney-controlled special taxing district that has served as the governing body for the Walt Disney World Resort since 1967.
It did not say how the state would handle Disney’s nearly $1 billion in bond debt, which would fall on the residents of Orange and Osceola counties if Disney’s ability to tax itself was removed from the law.
The legislation also broke the law by violating the “pledge” the state made to the company when it created the district, Reedy Creek told its investors last year.
Under this week’s bill, “the Reedy Creek Improvement District is not dissolved as of June 1, 2023, but continues in full force and effect under its new name.”
Walt Disney World Resort’s President, Jeff Vahle, said in a statement that the company was monitoring the legislation, “which is complex given the long history of the Reedy Creek Improvement District.”
“DeSantis allies are launching a ’24 super PAC” via Peter Hamby of Puck — A new outside group is taking shape. And given the consultants involved in the planning, it’s all but certain to be the official super PAC of the DeSantis campaign. A pair of respected Republican consultants — Phil Cox, a veteran adviser to Republican Governors, and Liesl Hickey, the former executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee — have been recruiting staffers for a super PAC that would support a DeSantis bid. Both Cox and Hickey are experienced, high-level strategists who helped steer DeSantis’ 2020 re-election bid and his attention-grabbing fights on education and COVID. Their involvement is one of the strongest signals yet that DeSantis is moving toward a national campaign. Generra Peck, who now works for DeSantis, has been making similar recruiting calls to Republican operatives about possibly working on an official campaign.
Phil Cox consulted on DeSantis’ 2022 re-election campaign. Image via AP.
“Florida is trying to roll back a century of gains for academic freedom” via Glenn C. Altschuler and David Wippman of The Washington Post — Academic freedom is under attack across the United States, but nowhere more so than in Florida. In January, DeSantis announced six new appointees to the board of New College of Florida, a small liberal arts institution in Sarasota. The team’s apparent mandate, which conservative activist Christopher Rufo, one of the new board members, described as a “hostage-rescue operation,” is “to change everything from the school’s curriculum to its departments and its faculty.” Later that month, the Florida Department of Education announced it would not permit a new Advanced Placement course on African American studies to be offered in the state’s public schools because it violates Florida’s “Stop WOKE Act” enacted last year.
“Meet the man in charge of DeSantis’ voter fraud cases” via Dan Sullivan of the Tampa Bay Times — Nick Cox sat in a Tampa courtroom last month, watching quietly as a public defender argued, in essence, that he had no business being there. The case was that of Tony Patterson. He’s one of 17 people that DeSantis accused of voter fraud because he’s a felon who still managed to cast a ballot in the 2020 election. He worked as an assistant state attorney in Hillsborough County from 1988 to 1997. He later spent time in the attorney generals’ office and as a professor at Stetson University College of Law. Outside of law, he worked about four years as a regional director for the Department of Children and Families.
“Fred Hawkins says Disney district replacement won’t shift debt burden” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Legislation to replace the Reedy Creek Improvement District creates a new governing board appointed entirely by DeSantis. It also forbids anyone recently employed by Disney from serving. But Rep. Fred Hawkins, the bill’s sponsor, said the most important thing is what it does not do. He said the bill (HB 9B) wouldn’t shift any debt onto Orange or Osceola County taxpayers. “People say why wouldn’t this be voter-approved? Why wouldn’t you allow the voters of Osceola and Orange to do this?” the St. Cloud Republican said. “Well, then that would make them responsible for the debt if we allowed a voter referendum.”
Fred Hawkins promises the end of Reedy Creek will not burden taxpayers.
“House advances Hurricane Ian aid, immigrant removal bills in Special Session” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Bills to provide $700 million in aid for Hurricane Ian victims and continue a program started last year to remove undocumented immigrants from Florida passed through their first House committee as part of a Special Session convened by the Legislature. Prodded by DeSantis, House Speaker Paul Renner and Senate President Kathleen Passidomo called the Special Session on Friday. Lawmakers got to work Monday, passing HB 1B and HB 5B out of the House Appropriations Committee. The first bill replenishes an emergency relief fund used by DeSantis’ office and the Division of Emergency Management to respond to natural disasters.
“Lawmakers propose $50 million bridge loan for storm-ravaged localities” via Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO — Lawmakers this week will consider a proposal that would create an emergency bridge loan for localities hit by Florida’s last two major storms and throw in another $650 million into DeSantis’ state emergency fund. The bill, HB 1B in the House and SB 2B in the Senate, would create the Local Government Emergency Response Bridge Loan program with a one-time $50 million allocation from the state’s general revenue fund. The program is only available to local governments that were affected by Hurricane Ian in September and Hurricane Nicole in November. The loans can only be used to continue government operations “or modify such operations to meet disaster-related needs,” according to the bill.
“Long shot bid to consider Medicaid expansion during Special Session shot down” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — House Republicans quickly rejected a long shot bid to consider a Medicaid expansion in a Special Session being held this week on several topics including a proposed state takeover of Walt Disney World’s self-governing district and proposals on immigration and election crimes. An attempt by House Democrats to have the Special Session call expanded to include access to health care was shot down on a voice vote. House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell told Florida Politics that the Democrats tried to expand the Special Session agenda in part to draw a contrast between the Republican majority and the Democratic minority in the House of Representatives.
“Bills take aim at ‘protest judges’ who overrule juries in death penalty cases” via Mike Wright of Florida Politics — A week after filing bills making it easier for juries to sentence murderers to death, a pair of lawmakers want judges to abide by the jury’s decision or explain themselves. The legislation (SB 520/HB 609) would require judges who ignore a jury’s recommended death sentence to explain their decision in writing. “If any judge deviates from a jury recommendation of death to impose a life sentence instead, he or she should explain, in writing, the reasoning to the victim’s families and the community they serve,” Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, sponsor of SB 520, said.
— The House Appropriations Committee meets for an update on DeSantis’ proposed budget for fiscal year 2023-2024: 9 a.m., Room 212, Knott Building.
— The Senate Education Pre-K-12 Committee meets to consider SB 52, from Sen. Danny Burgess, to require the state Department of Education to make “social media safety” instructional materials available online: 9:30 a.m. Room 412, Knott Building.
—The Senate Transportation Committee meets to consider SB 106, from Sen. Jason Brodeur, to provide $200 million for the Shared-Use Nonmotorized (SUN) Trail Network: 9:30 a.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.
— The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee meets to receive an update about DeSantis’ proposed budget for fiscal year 2023-2024: 11:30 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
— The House Water Quality, Supply & Treatment Subcommittee meets for an update on efforts to protect and restore springs: 11:30 a.m., Room 404, House Office Building.
— The Senate Appropriations Committee meets to receive an update about DeSantis’ budget proposal for fiscal year 2023-2024: 1 p.m., Room 412, Knott Building.
— The Senate Fiscal Policy Committee meets to consider bills filed for the Special Legislative Session that deal with undocumented immigrants, hurricane recovery and the statewide prosecutor: 1 p.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.
— The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee meets for an update on the state’s school-voucher programs: 2 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
— The House Regulatory Reform & Economic Development Subcommittee meets to consider HB 85, from Rep. John Snyder, to shorten the time for residents to file lawsuits about “latent” construction defects in their homes: 2 p.m., Room 404, House Office Building.
— The House Constitutional Rights, Rule of Law & Government Operations Subcommittee meets to consider HB 543, from Reps. Chuck Brannan and Bobby Payne, to allow people to carry concealed weapons without licenses — commonly known as “constitutional carry”: 2 p.m., Room 212, Knott Building.
— The Senate Judiciary Committee meets to consider SB 144, from Sen. Lori Berman, D-Delray Beach, to require county courthouses to offer dedicated lactation spaces: 3:30 p.m., Room 412, Knott Building.
— The Senate Military and Veterans Affairs, Space and Domestic Security Committee meets to receive an update about the United States Space Force: 3:30 p.m., Room 301, Senate Office Building.
— The Senate Regulated Industries Committee meets to consider SB 4-D, which passed during a May Special Legislative Session to bolster the safety of condominium buildings in the wake of the Surfside condominium collapse: 3:30 p.m. Room 401, Senate Office Building.
Fifteen minutes after other Senate meetings conclude. — The Senate Special Order Calendar Group will set a special-order calendar that will list bills to be heard on the Senate floor. Room 401, Senate Office Building.
Senate to workshop ‘Surfside Bill’ — The Senate Regulated Industries Committee will hold a workshop on the 2022 bill (SB 4D) addressing building regulations in the wake of the Surfside condo collapse. During the meeting, members will hear a presentation from Debbie Reinhardt, the president of CEOMC which represents about 6 million managed homes and condos with homeowners’ associations. Reinhardt’s presentation is expected to recommend five years to fully fund all Reserve Study components, not just the “structural” items currently listed; conform the statute to DBPR’s authorization for pooled reserves; require more frequent reserve studies by qualified individuals; allow insurance premiums to be excluded from the budget increase threshold; allow Capital Contribution options on resale of units for reserve funding purposes; and provide better lending options from banks and financial institutions when loans are requested for inspections, reserve studies, and building maintenance. The committee meets at 3:30 p.m. in Room 401 of the Senate Office Building.
A ‘Surfside bill’ is getting the Senate once-over.
Assignment editors — Tom Gaitens, executive director of the Florida chapter of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse will host a news conference Joined by Rep. Bob Rommel, Bill Herrle, executive director of NFIB Florida, and Sal Nuzzo, senior vice president for The James Madison Institute: 11 a.m., Fourth Floor.
Assignment editors — Former Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, joined by advocates, faith, and community leaders, will hold a news conference on the Special Session and Executive Order 23-03, where the Governor and the state of Florida can further delve into the trafficking of migrants seeking refuge: 11 a.m., Farmworkers Association of Florida, 1264 Apopka Blvd., Apopka; also livestreaming on the Florida Immigrant Coalition’s Facebook page.
Assignment editors — American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, AFT Secretary-Treasurer Fedrick Ingram, and Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar will hold a news conference joined by Leon Classroom Teachers Association to announce $500,000 in nationwide grants to recruit and retain educators and boost schools: Noon, Florida Education Association Building, Third Floor Conference Room, 213 S Adams St., Tallahassee.
— MORE LEGISLATIVE —
“Lawmakers will again weigh paying $10M to Broward deputy who survived avoidable shooting” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — More than 15 years after former Broward County Deputy Maury Hernandez suffered permanent injuries in an entirely preventable shooting, state lawmakers will again be asked to consider paying him damages. Port Orange Rep. Tom Wright and Hialeah Rep. Alex Rizo are sponsoring twin bills (SB 20, HB 6003) that would clear $10 million to Hernandez, who in August 2007 suffered life-altering gunshot-inflicted brain injuries. A subsequent Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) investigation determined that the man who shot Hernandez should have already been behind bars. Instead, he was out on the street, thanks to the negligence of his parole officer and the Florida Department of Corrections.
Tom Wright champions an officer unnecessarily shot in the line of duty.
“Will Robinson considers bill to preempt Holmes Beach parking controls” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A yearslong fight over parking on Holmes Beach could threaten the authority the city holds on the island. Rep. Robinson said he’s crafting legislation that would preempt the municipality’s ability to regulate parking garages. “I’m still working on the bill,” the Bradenton Republican said, “but it would allow the county, without approval from Holmes Beach, to build a garage, and Manatee County could issue that permit itself.” The county and the island city have wrestled for almost three years about access to publicly owned beaches on the barrier islands. Near the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Manatee County closed its beaches.
“Poll: Florida renters want security deposit alternatives” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Pollster 3W Insights asked 600 Florida renters who are likely voters about broad challenges in the rental market. The majority of those polled said security deposits had been a hurdle in the search for their current or future home. Respondents said that being unable to afford a security deposit has led them to rent housing that was smaller (42%), located in a less safe area (42%), farther from work (33%) or in a lower-rated school district (18%). The vast majority (86%) said they could have spent the money on “more important things.” The poll, commissioned by Florida Politics, drops as lawmakers consider a proposal that would create consumer protections for tenants who choose to pay a monthly fee instead of a security deposit.
“Raemi Eagle-Glenn launches bid to succeed Chuck Clemons in HD 22” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Eagle-Glenn, a Gainesville Republican, briefly served on the Commission after DeSantis selected her to replace Mary Alford, who resigned her seat after it was discovered she did not live within the Commission district she was elected to represent. Alford reclaimed the Commission seat after defeating Eagle-Glenn by 17 points in November. Eagle-Glenn is now running for an office that is considerably more favorable for Republicans and where the incumbent, GOP Rep. Clemons, is termed out. “Florida’s success is a testament to conservative principles in action. After Gov. DeSantis appointed me to the Alachua County Commission, I fought for those same conservative principles to make my community a better place. Now, I’m ready to take that fight to Tallahassee to keep our state a beacon of freedom, liberty, and opportunity,” she said in a news release.
Raemi Eagle-Glenn takes a stab at elected office.
“Donald Trump defense lawyer Lazaro Fields files to run for HD 23, vows to fight ‘leftist-woke ideology’” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Fields announced his bid to succeed Lecanto Rep. Ralph Massullo, a fellow Republican, in House District 23. In a statement, he vowed to fight for conservative causes such as cutting taxes, cracking down on illegal immigration and protecting gun rights while fighting to curtail abortion rights and so-called “woke” influences. A graduate of the Florida State University College of Law, Fields worked as a law clerk to Judge Federico Moreno of the U.S. District Court in Miami before becoming an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida. After federal agents found hundreds of missing classified documents at Trump’s Palm Beach resort home last year, Fields joined former Florida Solicitor General and fellow Continental lawyer Chris Kise on the former President’s defense team.
“Top House GOP leadership, future leadership to host annual Mardi Gras fundraiser” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — With a new year comes new fundraising for 2023. Top Republican lawmakers are already lining up to ensure the Republican House Majority, the Florida GOP’s campaign arm, is flush with cash. House Speaker Paul Renner, along with Speakers-to-be Danny Perez and Sam Garrison, will continue the tradition of holding a pre-Legislative Session fundraiser at Universal Studios in Orlando. This year’s event will be Feb. 10-12. The inclusion of Perez and Garrison as hosts continues a tradition of boasting future legislative leadership at the annual Mardi Gras-style fundraiser. Perez is in line to become the next Speaker, while Garrison is likely to succeed Perez.
— STATEWIDE —
“Jimmy Patronis predicts Florida will soon have a new Insurance Commissioner” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Patronis said he expects Florida to have an Insurance Commissioner next month. At a Monday news conference, Patronis predicted that “something will happen” either at the March 21 Cabinet meeting or perhaps earlier if DeSantis calls a “special meeting.” “I am excited about what is going to happen over there. We have to have the right person for the job,” Patronis said. The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) has been without a leader since the start of 2023. David Altmaier, who headed the OIR for six years, resigned his post in late December. He has not publicly announced his plans.
Jimmy Patronis says a new Insurance Commissioner is forthcoming.
“Florida’s struggle to teach Black history has become a battle over who controls the past” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — For 71 years, the survivors of Rosewood controlled their history. They guardedly discussed their stories only at family gatherings, haunted by the threat of retaliation in their rural Central Florida communities. But in 1994, after the death of the last surviving witness, the families decided to speak up about the angry white mob that torched and destroyed the Black town in Levy County in 1923. The painful details of the unpunished lynchings and vigilante violence went from being family secrets to the foundation for legislation awarding the first reparations paid by a state in the nation’s history to survivors of racial violence. They also became the catalyst for the 1994 law requiring the teaching of Florida’s Black history in K-12 schools.
“Federalist Society notebook: Consistency of judicial views a bonus for Florida Supreme Court, says Chief Justice Carlos Muniz” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — Florida’s Supreme Court is in a unique, and arguably better position, than some other courts because of a “supermajority” of justices who have similar judicial philosophies. So says Chief Justice Muniz of the Supreme Court of Florida, who spoke during a discussion of the courts and policy with Chief Judge William Pryor of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at The Federalist Society’s Florida Chapters Conference at Walt Disney World in Orlando. “In our court, I think, over the last several years, I think it’s become clear we have a supermajority of justices who have, kind of through our work, committed to a judicial philosophy,” Muniz said.
“Laura DiBella tapped as new head of Enterprise Florida” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Florida’s main economic development agency has a new leader, after the Enterprise Florida (EFI) board voted unanimously to install DiBella as its new president and CEO. Along with that role, DiBella also takes the title of Florida Secretary of Commerce, becoming the first woman to hold that position. “I’m beyond humbled and grateful to both the Governor and EFI Board for what truly is the opportunity of a lifetime,” DiBella said in a released statement. DiBella has served as Deputy Secretary of Commerce and EFI’s leader since July 2022, when Marc Adler, the agency’s interim president and CEO, stepped aside to take the helm at the Florida Development Finance Corporation.
Laura DiBella takes the reins at EFI.
“New Medicaid hire is a former top adviser to the Conference for Catholic Bishops” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — A former top employee who worked for Catholic bishops in the state has been hired by the administration of DeSantis to help run Medicaid, the safety net program designed to provide health care to the poor, elderly and disabled. Ken Kniepmann was brought on as the Assistant Deputy Secretary for Medicaid Policy and Quality on Jan 30. He earns $131,725. Before being hired at the agency, Kniepmann was the Associate Director for Health at the Florida Conference for Catholic Bishops for the past four years. He was the executive director of the John Paul II Healing Center in Tallahassee before joining the Conference for Catholic Bishops. Kniepmann was hired after DeSantis appointed Jason Weida as AHCA Secretary on Jan. 26.
What Jeff Brandes is reading — “Property insurance rates to keep surging in 2023” via Claire Wilkinson of Business Insurance — Commercial property insurance buyers can expect further rate hikes this year due to a confluence of factors, with catastrophe-exposed and loss-hit accounts bearing the brunt of tightening capacity and increases of 25% and higher. A difficult Jan. 1 reinsurance renewal season, in which property insurers faced capacity limitations and significant rate hikes, has added uncertainty in a market already hit by Hurricane Ian and other catastrophe losses and inflation, market experts say. Property catastrophe reinsurance rates for loss-hit U.S. accounts jumped between 45% and 100% at Jan. 1 renewals. What the knock-on effect will be for property insurance policyholders this year still is unclear, brokers said.
“Florida gas prices sink 7 cents after sharp drop in oil futures markets” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Florida motorists paid 7 cents less at the pump last week as fuel prices fell for the first time in nearly a month. Gas costs $3.50 per gallon on average across the Sunshine State, a price point 8 cents cheaper than the 2023 high and just 3 cents more than the same time last year. The drop is due to a combination of domestic and global factors. Contributors to the dip, the group said, include a $100-per-barrel cap the European Union placed on Russian oil Friday and speculation the U.S. Federal Reserve could further raise interest rates following an unexpected surge in jobs, a move that could lower fuel demand.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Joe Biden economy keeps defying predictions. Will it last?” via David J. Lynch of The Washington Post — As President Biden prepares to deliver the State of the Union address Tuesday night, he finds himself presiding over an economic puzzle. The Federal Reserve has raised interest rates by 4½ percentage points over the past 11 months, one of its sharpest moves in several decades, in a bid to cool off the economy and ease rising prices. Whether the U.S. can keep defying the recession odds may depend on what happens in industries such as leisure and hospitality, health care and entertainment. These service businesses are enjoying a boomlet as consumers return to their pre-pandemic lifestyles.
The economy gives Joe Biden some wind in his sails. Will it be enough to cruise to victory? Image via AP.
“U.S. plans 200% tariff on Russia aluminum as soon as this week” via Jenny Leonard of Bloomberg — The U.S. is preparing to slap a 200% tariff on Russian-made aluminum as soon as this week to keep pressure on Moscow as the anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine nears, according to people familiar with the situation. Biden has yet to give the official go-ahead, and there have been concerns in the administration about collateral damage on U.S. industries, including aerospace and automobiles, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing internal deliberations.
“Kamala Harris is trying to define her Vice Presidency. Even her allies are tired of waiting.” via Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Katie Rogers and Peter Baker of The New York Times — Harris has already made history as the first woman, the first African American and the first Asian American ever to serve as Vice President, but she has still struggled to define her role much beyond that legacy. Dozens of Democrats in the White House, on Capitol Hill and around the nation, including some who helped put her on the party’s 2020 ticket, said she had not risen to the challenge of proving herself as a future leader of the party, much less the country. Even some Democrats whom her own advisers referred reporters to for supportive quotes confided privately that they had lost hope in her.
“Top GOP tax legislator says he’ll boost workers, probe companies” via Richard Rubin of The Wall Street Journal — Rep. Jason Smith, the House’s new top tax writer, is promoting an approach he says would favor working-class Americans over large corporations, a shift in tone from his predecessors that raises questions about companies’ ability to push tax cuts through Congress. In speeches, interviews and a 10-year voting record in Congress, Smith has been a steady supporter of Republican tax cuts, and he says that basic approach isn’t changing. As Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, he says the needs of farmers, small businesses and working-class Americans should come first when setting policy.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“Trump is the latest Republican to avoid his most notable success” via Steve Benen of MSNBC — The first sign of trouble began, oddly enough, in Alabama. In August 2021, Trump headlined an event in the ruby red state he won by 25 points, and Trump briefly encouraged attendees to get COVID-19 vaccines. As regular readers might recall, the booing was audible and immediate. During a rally in Alaska, Trump described vaccines as “that I’m not allowed to mention.” He clearly wanted to brag about his record, telling the crowd that “nobody else could have done” what he did, but the Republican nevertheless grudgingly concluded, “I’m not mentioning it in front of my people.” Trump clearly wanted to brag about the development of the lifesaving vaccines. But he was also scared of getting booed by his own acolytes, so he avoided any explicit references to the “v” word.
Donald Trump refuses to say the ‘v’ word. Image via AP.
“National Enquirer, scandal-plagued tabloid, is sold” via Katie Robertson of The New York Times — The National Enquirer, the celebrity tabloid behind the “catch and kill” suppression of damaging stories about Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, has finally been sold by its parent company. A360 Media has agreed to sell the publication in a cash deal to VVIP Ventures, a joint venture of the digital media company Vinco Ventures and a new company set up for the purchase, Icon Publishing. The price was not disclosed. Two of the National Enquirer’s stablemates, the National Examiner and Globe, will also be acquired as part of the deal, along with the British edition of the Enquirer.
“Trump appeals nearly $1 million in sanctions for ‘frivolous’ suit he filed against Hillary Clinton” via Dan Mangan of MSNBC — Trump and one of his lawyers said they are appealing nearly $1 million in sanctions imposed on them for what a federal judge called their “frivolous” lawsuit against Hillary Clinton and more than two dozen other defendants. The court filing about the appeal came days after a lawyer for Trump and his attorney Alina Habba told the judge in the case they were willing to put up a bond of $1,031,788 to cover the costs of the sanctions while the federal Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit considered the matter. The appeal will join another one at that court of appeals, which seeks both to reverse the dismissal of Trump’s lawsuit and to overturn an earlier, $50,000 sanctions order imposed against only Trump’s lawyers.
“Trump’s ‘24 game plan: Be the dove among the hawks” via Meridith McGraw of POLITICO — Trump is settling on a simple foreign policy pitch in his second bid for the White House: Want World War 3? Vote for the other guy. Over the past week, Trump has assailed Biden’s handling of Afghanistan. He has said he could end the almost yearlong conflict in Ukraine within “24 hours,” but without any indication how, and suggested sending tanks to the country could spark nuclear war. He has railed against China and called DeSantis a “globalist.”
“Ex-Manhattan prosecutor describes internal clash over charging Trump” via Zach Schonfeld of The Hill — The Manhattan district attorney possessed sufficient evidence to convict Trump last year and was wrong not to seek charges, an ex-prosecutor in the case contends in his forthcoming book. Mark Pomerantz argued his team built a “solid case” for securing Trump’s conviction on financial crimes, and he offered a searing criticism of how Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg oversaw the probe upon taking office.
— LOCAL: S. FL —
“State goes after Orlando venue that hosted drag show. Will Fort Lauderdale be next?” via Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The state filed a six-count legal complaint against the Orlando Philharmonic Foundation last week for hosting “A Drag Queen Christmas” and accusing it of “exposing minor children to lewd sexual acts.” The penalty: The venue might lose its state-issued liquor license. Unresolved is whether the Broward Center of the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale might also be subjected to the same potential fate, jeopardizing alcoholic beverage sales. The drag show stopped in Fort Lauderdale on Dec. 26, triggering an investigation the very next day after state officials fielded complaints that the “sexually explicit” performance was marketed to children. The show, on a national tour, stopped in Orlando on Dec. 28.
Will Florida drag down another ‘Drag Queen Christmas?’
“Palm Beach County schools propose axing policy references to barriers based on race, LBGTQ” via Katherine Kokal of the Palm Beach Post — The Palm Beach County School Board has agreed to remove references to “inequities and institutional racism” in its equity policy after pressure from the state to fall in line with legislation that Gov. DeSantis has championed combating what he calls “wokeness” in Florida schools. The School Board reviewed the policy Wednesday, developed through collaboration with community groups in 2021, and the charter for its diversity, equity and inclusion committee. Equity policies, intended by districts to formalize commitments to supporting LGBTQ+ students and acknowledge systemic inequities and racism, have become targets of the state Department of Education looking to implement DeSantis’ parental-rights-in-education laws.
“Broward’s $2.9B transportation overhaul, explained” via Spencer Norris of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A workshop at the Broward County Commission provided a hyper-modern vision for Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, and a comparatively fuzzy one for solving the county’s issues with east-west traffic. Commissioners discussed a roster of five projects totaling $2.9 billion to overhaul the county’s public transportation. Plans include a new rail service connecting Downtown Fort Lauderdale to Miami-Dade, a sophisticated new transit nexus at the airport, and services for moving commuters from Broward’s suburbs to the busier coastline. If successful, the plans would radically transform the county’s infrastructure, reducing congestion by supplying more rail and bus service. But some fear that projects connecting west Broward to the coast could backfire, snarling traffic for years.
“Brightline testing trains up to 79 mph this week through Vero Beach, Gifford” via Thomas Weber of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Brightline is testing trains up to 79 mph along its rail corridor through the county. The test stretch is about 6 miles of track between Vero Beach and Winter Beach. Drivers should expect longer wait times at affected crossings as the trains pass. Tests will be conducted 7 a.m. through 7 p.m. through Friday. Brightline will have flaggers stationed at affected crossings, according to a news release.
“South Florida resort sold for $835M, the biggest deal for a U.S. hotel since COVID-19” via Rebecca San Juan of the Miami Herald — Hollywood has made history, drawing the biggest hospitality deal in the country since the start of the pandemic. The oceanfront Diplomat Beach Resort sold for $835 million on Monday. The Zurich-based Credit Suisse Group and the Honolulu-headquartered Trinity Investments, both investment firms, bought the hotel from Brookfield Asset Management, the same co-owner of the high-end outdoor shopping mall in the Miami Design District. The Diplomat closing is one of the largest in U.S. history, with the most recent being the sale of the Boca Raton Resort & Club for $875 million in 2019.
— LOCAL: C. FL —
“Sanford pushes state to investigate Seminole water well contamination” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — A decade after a toxic, industrial chemical appeared in three of Sanford’s drinking water wells, the city is redoubling its calls for the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to finally and officially determine the source and devise a solution. “The key for us is what is DEP doing to protect our water supply,” Mayor Art Woodruff said Monday. “We are trying to push DEP to make sure we can keep a safe water supply for our residents.” The city’s utility discovered a chemical called 1,4-dioxane, which is often just called dioxane, in its wells beginning in 2013. At about the same time, Lake Mary and Seminole County also detected the chemical in their wells.
There’s something in the water in Seminole.
“Osceola County seeks citizen input to redesign website” via Natalia Jaramillo of the Orlando Sentinel — Osceola County is seeking citizen input for a website redesign that aims to improve the accuracy and timeliness of information, according to a release. Those looking to take part can fill out a 13-question survey in English or Spanish until Feb. 21 when it closes, the release said. The county wants residents to tell it what types of information they find most important and evaluate “how easy it is to find information and use online services, as well as how the website looks and functions.” In the decade since the last website redesign, updates on important county projects and new permits have been changed, according to the release.
“Volusia County Schools, teachers’ union reach agreement. What’s in the proposed contract?” via Mark Harper of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — Volusia County Schools announced Monday a settlement on a contract with teachers. Under the deal, in all, instructional personnel will receive a total package of $11.7 million. The contract will have to be ratified by teachers and then the Volusia County School Board. The School District, in a news release, announced some specifics of the package. $5 million in Teacher Salary Allocation (TSIA) increases all teacher salaries, as dictated by legislation.
“Orlando neo-Nazi arrested after planned attack on Baltimore power grid, feds say” via Christopher Cann of the Orlando Sentinel — An Orlando man who founded a neo-Nazi group and a Maryland woman were arrested for their alleged plans to wreck the Baltimore power grid through a coordinated attack on multiple substations, authorities say. Brandon Clint Russell and Sarah Beth Clendaniel have been charged with conspiracy to destroy an energy facility. Russell planned attacks against “critical infrastructure,” specifically electrical substations in Baltimore, Maryland, beginning last June. Russell’s “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist beliefs” drove the plot, court records said.
— LOCAL: TB —
“DeSantis to Hillsborough: Refund sales tax. No spending on transit” via C.T. Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis wants the state to refund the voided Hillsborough County transportation sales tax to people who paid it and spend the rest on roads and bridges, but not mass transit. The directive is included in the Governor’s proposed budget, released last week, and calls for the Department of Revenue to work with a third-party claims administrator to set up the refund procedures for nearly $570 million. If the Legislature agrees, public requests for refunds would be due by Feb. 29, 2024, and paid by April 1, 2024.
“Mayor Jane Castor expresses interest in Tampa taking over Hillsborough-owned roads’” via Henry Queen of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — The city of Tampa has inquired about the possibility of taking over roads owned by Hillsborough County that run through the city, Tampa Mayor Castor. Both governments have historically underinvested in their infrastructure but received almost $40 million combined last week from the federal government in a new Safe Streets and Roads for All grant funded by the Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act. The county is also looking at ways to lobby the Florida Legislature on how nearly $570 million in taxes collected from the invalidated 2018 All for Transportation referendum should be spent.
Jane Castor floats the idea of a Tampa takeover of county roads.
“Looming fiscal woes and an ongoing external probe at Hillsborough transit agency” via Olivia George of the Tampa Bay Times — When the board of Hillsborough County’s transit agency unanimously authorized an external investigation into the workplace practices of its chief executive, they were firm in their deadline: 60 days. At the board meeting Monday morning, 69 days later, there was little mention of the investigation. There was, however, a detailed discussion of the agency’s uncertain financial future and a nod from the CEO that she is exploring “outsourcing opportunities” to reduce operating costs. The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority is facing a fiscal cliff in 2024, two years sooner than earlier predictions.
— LOCAL: SW. FL —
“DUI trial for Manatee County Commissioner George Kruse postponed” via Gabriela Szymanowska of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — A trial scheduled this week for a DUI charge against Manatee County Commissioner Kruse has been postponed after the state prosecutor filed a motion to pause proceedings to appeal the judge’s decision to suppress certain evidence. Just days before jury selection was scheduled to begin on Wednesday, prosecutor Darlene Ragoonanan filed the motion to pause proceedings on Feb. 2, court records show. The motion to pause moving forward with the trial was accepted Monday, as was mandatory under Florida statutes, and both sides are to inform Circuit Judge Erika Quartermaine when a resolution has been decided on the appeal, according to court documents.
George Kruse gets a reprieve — sort of. Image via the Observer.
“Fentanyl continues to kill in Sarasota-Manatee as Florida deaths rise” via Melissa Pérez-Carrillo of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — As deaths involving fentanyl continue to rise in Florida, the Sarasota-Manatee region saw more than 250 deaths with ties to the drug in 2021, according to state figures. The medical examiners district that serves Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties, District 12, reported 263 total deaths involving fentanyl in 2021, most of them including fentanyl in combination with other drugs. Florida saw a 10% increase in those who died from accidental drug intoxication from 7,575 in 2020 to 8,257 in 2021, according to data from the Florida Medical Examiners Commission. In the Sarasota district, 19 deaths were from fentanyl only and 244 deaths were from fentanyl in combination with other substances.
“Fort Myers Water Taxi owner uncertain if business will resume” via Mark H. Bickel of the Fort Myers News-Press — It was one year ago when Brian Corrion was patiently waiting to hear from the U.S. Coast Guard if the vessel he intended to use for his water taxi service based in downtown Fort Myers made it through the inspection process. Not only did Corrion’s 24-seat, 26-foot long boat “More Appropriate” pass inspection, but when his new business was finally operating and transporting customers to three stops along the Caloosahatchee River — Pinchers Crab Shack at The Marina at Edison Ford, Marinatown Yacht Harbour (including Sea-Craft Waterfront Tiki and Nauti Parrot Tiki Hut) and the North Fort Myers Best Western hotel (including nearby Three Fishermen Seafood Restaurant) — the early success led to talk of expansion.
“Is it illegal to sell cats and dogs in Manatee County? Here’s what officials decided” via Ryan Callihan of the Bradenton Herald — The revamped Manatee County Commission last week voted to end a ban on the retail sale of cats and dogs, dismantling a policy decision set by previous board members. Following years of debate on the emotional subject of alleged puppy mills and animal abuse, county officials voted in August 2021 to ban the sale of certain pets in Manatee County. Supporters of the move said the law would protect animals sold by commercial breeders. But during Tuesday’s public meeting, the Manatee Board of County Commissioners, which is now made up of seven conservative Republicans, put an end to that policy. They argued that the law would cause damage to local businesses while not going far enough to protect animals.
“Cape Manager hospitalized as City Council votes to reject contract extension” via Bill Smith of the Fort Myers News-Press — A majority of the Cape Coral City Council voted to notify City Manager Rob Hernandez that it does not intend to renew his contract when it expires next August. The decision makes it highly improbable that Hernandez will remain in the post after the contract expires. The city had to decide six months before the contract expired or it would automatically renew. Mayor John Gunter said the meeting Monday night was the last scheduled Council meeting before the Manager would be within the six-month window. If not acted on, a contract extension would be automatic. Hernandez was hospitalized for a surgical procedure and was not at the meeting where the Council voted to not renew his agreement.
— LOCAL: N. FL —
First on #FlaPol — “Weeks before Jacksonville election, mayoral candidate LeAnna Cumber’s campaign manager resigns” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Florida Politics learned last week that Carlo Fassi left the campaign of Republican Cumber, but confirmation of Fassi’s exit proved elusive until Monday morning. His replacement will not be local. “Kendyl Parker is coming in to manage. Previously a senior associate at FP1 Strategies and a veteran of Zach Nunn’s campaign in Iowa as well as several state Senate races. She brings expertise on organization and logistics as her extensive field background,” said Melissa Stone, spokesperson for the campaign. The shake-up is the latest wrinkle in a campaign that has been increasingly challenging for Cumber, a first-term member of the Jacksonville City Council who is competing with Jacksonville Chamber CEO Daniel Davis and Council colleague Al Ferraro for the ‘conservative/Republican’ lane ahead of the March 21 First Election.
LeAnna Cumber’s campaign gets a shakeup close to the election. Image via Facebook.
“UF President Ben Sasse to announce university’s new plans in Jacksonville’” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — University of Florida leaders will join Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry for an announcement Tuesday about a planned collaboration between the expanding university system and the city. The partnership could involve the creation of a campus in Jacksonville that would encompass the technology side of two of the city’s most dynamic economic sectors: health care and financial services. A media release from the city said Curry would be joined by UF Board of Trustees Chair Mori Hosseini and UF President Sasse for a “special announcement.” Curry’s office and UF declined to comment further.
“FBI working with TMH to ‘assess the situation;’ computers still offline after cyber incident’” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare leadership told medical staff that “great progress” has been made in the investigation into a computer security issue that severely disrupted operations over the past few days. However, hospital officials remained silent on the exact nature of what they have described as an information-technology security issue that was discovered by staff on Thursday. The hospital notified law enforcement, though it hasn’t provided details. The Tallahassee Police Department is not involved in the investigation. The FBI confirmed Monday it is working with TMH but didn’t elaborate.
“Developer unveils planned community vision for 900 acres in Welaunee ‘Heel’ in Tallahassee” via TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat — A 900-acre, master-planned community is primed to be part of the next big wave of growth for northeast Tallahassee. Early on, new owners GreenPointe Developers are calling it “The Heel,” a literal reference to the segment of the sprawling Welaunee Plantation property that’s sliced into three geographic areas: the Toe, the Heel and the Arch. It’s located just north of the intersection of Interstate 10 and Mahan Drive. The name will likely change in time. The vision calls for a mixed-use development made up of single-family homes at various price points, apartments and commercial property for retail and restaurants.
“CivicCon 2023 kicks off with deep dive into Pensacola’s future by Mayor D.C. Reeves” via Kevin Robinson of the Pensacola News Journal — CivicCon is kicking off its sixth year with a topic that’s near and dear to all our hearts: the future of Pensacola. Pensacola Mayor Reeves will take the stage at CivicCon on Tuesday to discuss what projects are in the works for the short-term and what plans his administration would like to put into place for the long-term. The free event will be 6-7:30 p.m. at The REX Theatre in downtown Pensacola. Reeves was sworn into office in November and hit the ground running.
— TOP OPINION —
“School choice is sweeping the nation from Florida to Utah” via Jeb Bush for The Wall Street Journal — Since I signed Florida’s first statewide school choice bill into law 25 years ago, we’ve largely led the nation in education freedom. Since then, 31 states, as well as Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico have enacted school choice policies, dramatically expanding the power of parents to exercise control over how their child’s education is provided.
Yet despite having the nation’s largest school choice program, we’re beginning to trail other states in offering the most innovative solutions to students.
First, Arizona and West Virginia started nipping at Florida’s heels. Even as Florida made important improvements and expansions to its programs, both of these states enacted universal education savings account programs, or ESAs, surpassing Florida’s reach by delivering education freedom to all families.
ESAs are a game changer. They empower families to personalize their children’s education.
With these flexible and powerful accounts, education dollars are no longer exclusively used to fund systems. Instead, ESAs enable education funding to focus on helping to individualize each student’s learning experience, giving every child his best shot at a great education and lifelong success.
There’s a bona fide movement for educational choice and flexibility sweeping the nation.
Today, the U.S. economy is far more advanced and new options for education abound. So rather than accepting an education system designed to teach to the average, parents are rightfully demanding a system that is individualized and empowers students to achieve their full potential.
This benefits everyone by finally making public education work for the students and families it exists to serve.
— OPINIONS —
“Florida politics needs Marc Caputo’s journalism, now more than ever” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Last week, Caputo announced he was exiting NBC News. We need Caputo’s reporting about Florida politics now more than ever. Political reporting, particularly on insider baseball, close-to-home stuff outside the realm of flagrant national headlines, is becoming harder and harder to come by. Newsrooms are shrinking, leaving those of us in the business struggling to find creative ways to stay afloat. Caputo IS the Florida political world storyteller we need, and even if he hates my guts, I hope he finds a way to keep being the Florida Man reporter we all want in the game.
“Biden’s a great President. He should not run again.” via Michelle Goldberg of The New York Times — He’s made good on an uncommon number of campaign promises. He should be celebrated on Tuesday. But he should not run again. It’s hard to ignore the toll of Biden’s years, no matter how hard elected Democrats try. Democrats have a deep bench, including politicians who’ve won in important purple states, like Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia. Biden said he wanted to be a bridge to the next generation of Democrats. There are quite a few promising people qualified to cross it. A Primary will give Democrats the chance to find the one who is suited for this moment.
“Trump’s lawsuit against Bob Woodward is absurd — and dangerous” via The Washington Post editorial board — A President is entitled to private deliberations and to write his own memoirs. But in speaking on the record to a journalist, Trump was engaging in the well-worn practice of defending his record, using the interview to communicate and govern. If such activity was proprietary, then every interview might require payment to the President for his words. It would privatize what is a very public responsibility. Then again, Trump has long failed to respect the distinction between public service and private gain. “Everything is mine,” he said in one interview in a near-whisper to Woodward. The President should serve the interests of the people, not his own pocket.
— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —
— ALOE —
“Recent UF graduates break into space industry with innovative, low-cost business model” via Ron Cunningham of The Gainesville Sun — A pair of recent graduates from the University of Florida have found themselves in uncharted territory now working in tandem with the country’s newest military branch and it somehow started with a bottle of hot sauce. Working with the U.S. Space Force was never something Logan Ritten and Austin Keatley ever dreamed of. After all, the branch didn’t even exist until December 2019. But their work could one day save lives. With the help of a couple of grants, the young rocket scientists spend most days hidden away in an Alachua warehouse working on a mini-satellite prototype that may one day orbit Earth. Its purpose: Prevent space debris from entering the planet’s atmosphere and falling onto land or the ocean.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Celebrating today are two North Florida politicos: former state Rep. Brad Drake and Dr. Rachel Pienta. Happy birthday to our friend Josh Burgin.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.
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