Here’s your AM rundown of people, politics and policy in the Sunshine State.
Good Monday morning.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@MULawPoll: Since July 2021, (Joe) Biden job approval among whites has gone from 50% to 40%. Among Blacks, it has gone from 88% to 56%. Among Hispanics, it’s gone from 56% to 51%. @pollsandvotes points to the decline among Blacks as particularly striking.
—@JBouie: I have been thinking about this as well. The mouse is powerful enough that if it wants regime change in Florida, it could probably get it.
—@EsotericCD: There seems to be this fascinating belief among Twitter progressives that all Disney has to do is snap its fingers, and somehow Ron DeSantis will lose re-election. I cannot emphasize how out-of-touch these people are on the cultural valence of the fights he (intelligently) picks.
—@ChrisLatvala: I don’t remember any of my Elementary School Teachers talking about their marriage or love life. They taught us math, how to read, write, etc.
—@AJWTheology: One of the things that has struck me in my last two U.S. visits has been how very painful the culture wars have become for many, many people. Online, you see combatants appearing to enjoy the fight (or even monetize it). But on the ground, you see the hurt, confusion and fatigue.
A friend saw this and sent it to me this afternoon. Someone scuffed “Say Gay” on the Florida Capitol sign. They said they could rub it off when they touched it, it’s not marker or spray paint. #hb1557 #parentalrightsineducation #DontSayGay @TDOnline pic.twitter.com/iaRcznKBgq
— Ana Goñi-Lessan (@goni_lessan) April 3, 2022
—@DanRather: A game for the ages. You couldn’t write a more gripping script. A coaching legend in his final act. A storied rivalry has another improbable chapter. Congratulations to both teams. UNC continues its improbable run. But Duke should feel great pride. They did Coach K proud.
Washington Post photographer Ricky Carioti captured this “once in a lifetime photo” in Myersville, Md. (northwest of Frederick) late Thursday after a thunderstorm passed through. Double rainbow and lightning! Amazing. pic.twitter.com/1qL1OehJIw
— Capital Weather Gang (@capitalweather) April 1, 2022
— DAYS UNTIL —
John Dingfelder to be replaced on Tampa City Council 一 3; MLB Opening Day — 4; ‘Better Call Saul’ final season begins — 15; Magic Johnson’s Apple TV+ docuseries ‘They Call Me Magic’ begins — 19; 2022 Florida Chamber Transportation, Growth & Infrastructure Solution Summit — 25; ‘The Godfather’ T.V. series ‘The Offer’ premieres — 26; 2nd half of ‘Ozark’ final season begins — 26; federal student loan payments will resume — 28; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 33; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 38; ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ starts on Disney+ — 53; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 54; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 60; California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota hold midterm Primaries — 65; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 97; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 109; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 128; ‘House of the Dragon’ premieres on HBO — 139; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 152; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 186; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 204; Jon Meacham’s ‘And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle’ releases — 204; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 223; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 226; The World Cup kicks off in Qatar — 231; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 233; ‘Avatar 2′ premieres — 258; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 322; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 338; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ premieres — 355; 2023 Session Sine Die — 398; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 481; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 565; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 845.
“Florida lawmakers raid $100M from affordable housing for program that doesn’t exist” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Orlando Sentinel — Affordable housing advocates say the Legislature broke a promise made only a year ago that it would never again raid the Sadowski Affordable Housing Act fund, created in 1992 as a dedicated source of revenue to finance affordable housing programs.
Language was slipped into the back of the budget bill during the last week of the Session, transferring $100 million from Sadowski into the Hometown Hero Housing Program for down payment assistance and closing costs, to be established and run by the Florida Housing Finance Corporation. The bill creating the program was sponsored by Sen. Ed Hooper, who also co-chaired the Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development appropriations conference committee that made the change.
The budget doesn’t provide any guidance on setting up the program, criteria for who can qualify for assistance, or even how much money each individual or family can receive. That’s because the bill (SB 788) that would have created the program died in committee. Where the Senate came up with $100 million is a mystery because the original bill had no funding at all, basically leaving it up to the Florida Housing Finance Corporation to figure out where the funds would come from.
— STATEWIDE —
“A judge calls out racial discrimination in Florida” via Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post — DeSantis proclaimed himself unfazed by a federal judge’s opinion declaring provisions of the state’s new voting law unconstitutional and racially discriminatory. As a matter of raw judicial vote-counting, DeSantis is probably right. “It’s just a matter of how quickly it’s going to get reversed,” DeSantis said of the ruling Thursday by U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, an Obama appointee. The numbers back up DeSantis’ bluster. Seven of the 11 active judges on the 11th Circuit, where Walker’s decision will be appealed, are Republican nominees, including a solid phalanx of six Donald Trump appointees. The Supreme Court, if the dispute gets that far, isn’t apt to be any more attentive to voting rights claims.
“Ron DeSantis’ Ed Board appointee deems ‘Protect Trans Kids’ shirt ‘unacceptable’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — A recent appointee to Florida’s Board of Education stoked controversy this week when she made comments applauding a move against a teacher wearing a ‘Protect Trans Kids’ shirt in the classroom. Esther Byrd of Neptune Beach posted to Facebook in support of a whistle-blowing parent who flagged a teacher at St. Johns County’s Tocoi Creek High School who was wearing the shirt. “Unacceptable teacher attire + Parent Complaint to School = Shirt is Gone,” Byrd wrote, lauding a “mama bear Jen” for complaining about the garment. “Many times, the district is not aware and needs a heads up,” Byrd added.
“DeSantis says he’s ‘receptive’ to Legislature changing Disney’s Reedy Creek District” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — DeSantis said he would be “receptive” to the Legislature making changes to Disney’s unique self-governing district for Walt Disney World, clarifying comments he made Thursday calling for an end to the company’s “special privileges.” “As the Governor, I could be presented with changes to that,” DeSantis said in Titusville. “And I think I’ve said I’d be receptive to that. But ultimately, the Legislature would have to move forward. So, I know that there’s a lot of discussion about that. And we’ll just see how that shakes out.” But he also said that the many state tax breaks awarded to Disney, such as the $570 million in incentives for its new regional hub in Orlando’s Lake Nona community, applied to all businesses equally and he was not looking to end them.
—”Apple wields its lobbying might against LGBTQ laws” via Emily Birnbaum of POLITICO
“‘The problem is poverty’: Florida removing more kids from poor families over alleged ‘neglect’” via Suzanne Hirt of the Naples Daily News — Families l are increasingly in the crosshairs of a child welfare agency that shifted its focus eight years ago from family preservation to protecting kids at all costs. The move, sparked by news headlines about children who died when DCF left them in abusive homes, was supposed to rescue more kids from abuse. Instead, it triggered a flurry of removals for reasons the department classifies as neglect, but experts say they are often just symptoms of poverty. Neglect is a catchall category that includes allegations of insufficient food, clothing, care or shelter, in addition to domestic violence. Along with inadequate housing, these allegations factored into 50% of removals in 2020, up from 25% before the policy change in 2014. The surge is the highest in the nation during that period.
“New cases up nearly 16% in Florida over last seven days, but hospitalizations remain low” via Cindy Krischer Goodman and David Schutz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — As Florida moves toward a new normal, the state is seeing an uptick in new COVID-19 cases, just as the subvariant known as “stealth omicron” takes over. The CDC shows Florida recorded 10,137 new cases for the seven days ending March 31, a 15.9% increase from the 8,746 new cases it reported during the seven days prior. The uptick comes after Florida saw its lowest level of new cases during the seven days ending March 11. The BA.2 subvariant of omicron, considered more contagious than the original omicron strain, now represents 40% of cases in Florida’s Southeast region. It appears to be triggering an uptick in the Sunshine State, particularly in South Florida.
—”Here’s what experts say to expect as BA.2 omicron subvariant spreads across Florida” via Chris Persaud of The Palm Beach Post
—”COVID-19 hospitalizations increase in Brevard County, though cases show a decline” via Amira Sweilem of Florida Today
— DATELINE TALLY —
“Disney was silent on parental-rights bill until public pressure campaign began, House Speaker says” via Isaac Schorr of National Review — The suddenly fractious relationship between The Walt Disney Co. and Florida Republicans only grows more so by the day. Adopting the language of its progressive critics, Disney dubbed the bill “the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill,” said that it “should never have passed,” and reaffirmed the company’s commitment to seeing it repealed. CEO Bob Chapek explained that Disney “thought we could be more effective working behind-the-scenes, engaging directly with lawmakers — on both sides of the aisle.” DeSantis cast doubt on Chapek’s version of events, remarking that Chris Sprowls never even heard from Disney while the bill was making its way through the legislative process.
“DeSantis slams special legislation for Disney. But his staff helped write it” via Emily L. Mahoney of the Miami Herald — DeSantis continued escalating his battle against The Walt Disney Co. this week, calling for a new era in Florida where the company no longer gets to wield its mighty influence and “dictate policy” to state leaders. He singled out a special carveout that legislators approved for Disney in a 2021 bill that aimed to crack down on what DeSantis said was too many conservatives having their accounts banned by “Big Tech” social media companies. Emails between staff working for the Governor’s Office and the House Commerce Committee show that DeSantis’ legislative affairs director, Stephanie Kopelousos, communicated with Disney to propose bill language written by the company.
“GOP Guv knocks DeSantis for ‘crazy’ Disney fight over ‘absurd’ Don’t Say Gay bill” via Justin Baragona of The Daily Beast — Larry Hogan took a swing at a fellow GOP Governor on Sunday morning when he called out DeSantis for picking a “crazy fight” with Disney over Florida’s “absurd” Parental Rights in Education bill, which critics have labeled the “Don’t Say Gay” law. While right-wing media has launched a self-serving moral panic against Disney for pushing a “progressive LGBT agenda” and “grooming” kids based on a deceptive smear campaign, DeSantis has essentially declared war against the Mouse House for condemning his bill, which bars classroom discussion about LGBTQ issues. “Disney has alienated a lot of people now,” the MAGA governor said last week.
“Nursing homes end Legislative Session with wins. But will patients lose?” via Kate Santich of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida’s nursing home lobbyists came away from the just-concluded Legislative Session with nearly everything they wanted, which worries some advocates for the elderly, including AARP Florida, that patient care will take a back seat to profits. The state’s lawmakers gave nursing homes a “historic” increase in Medicaid funds, extended a law shielding them from COVID-19-related lawsuits, and passed a controversial bill that cuts the minimum number of hours nursing assistants must spend at patients’ bedsides. The bill will become law unless the Governor vetoes it, as advocates urge. They see it as part of a decadeslong effort by the nursing home industry to undo staffing regulations adopted in 2001 under Gov. Jeb Bush.
“Nikki Fried says stronger laws may be needed after Tyre Sampson’s death on Orlando Free Fall” via Katie Rice of the Orlando Sentinel — As the state’s investigation into the death of 14-year-old Sampson on the Orlando Free Fall drop tower last week continues, Fried said Friday her department will look into changing Florida laws to ensure amusement rides are safe. Appearing in Orlando at a news conference with Fried, State Rep. Geraldine Thompson said she would help initiate any applicable “legislative action” needed to expand the division’s authority after the accident investigation concludes. Under Florida’s current statutes, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services gives ride operators and manufacturers a lot of autonomy to oversee ride safety and operation themselves.
Campus intellectual diversity survey moves forward — Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker denied a request that would have blocked a controversial “intellectual diversity” survey from heading to university faculty and students, Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida reports. Attorneys for the faculty and students asserted that the survey was an effort by Florida Republicans to censor liberal ideologies and potentially punish left-of-center institutions. The survey was included in a 2021 bill (HB 233) and required all state colleges and universities to conduct a survey of students, faculty and staff on their political beliefs. The survey is anonymous, and participation is voluntary, which Walker said countered accusations it would have a chilling effect on campuses.
“The ‘Voice of Florida Business’ is the voice of six Florida businesses” via Jason Garcia of Seeking Rents — Since 2019, Associated Industries of Florida has spent about $26 million on Florida elections through five political committees controlled by AIF executives. More than 80% come from just six companies. You really see the influence on AIF’s agenda on issues that pit one of them against some other big-business interest. Take SB 1878, which would have created a big new corporate tax break for television and streaming-video productions. Though the sponsor — Sen. Joe Gruters — publicly framed the legislation as an attempt to lure more television productions to Florida, it was really a tax break for Disney (and possibly Universal, too). The legislation was written in such a way that only a very small number of companies would have been able to claim the tax break.
“How big is the House playing field?” via Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report — RealClear Politics shows Republicans ahead by 3.6 points in the generic ballot tracker. If that holds up through Election Day, it will represent a 6.6% positive shift to Republicans from 2020. So, what would a 6.6-point shift to the right look like? We could say that it would shift the 2020 vote margin in every CD, about 7 points more Republican. Any district that Biden carried by less than 7 points would be in danger of flipping to the GOP. The good news for Democrats is there were only 21 districts where Biden’s margin was fewer than seven points. However, the good news for Republicans is that they currently hold eight of those 21 seats that Biden carried by less than seven points.
Will it? — “The House map’s Republican bias will plummet in 2022 — because of gerrymandering” via Nathaniel Rakich and Elena Mejía of FiveThirtyEight
“Latest Val Demings ad smacks Marco Rubio over Rick Scott’s campaign plan” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Making the case that Florida’s senior Senator can be expected to follow the national Republican Senate campaign proposals written by Florida’s junior Senator, Demings released a new ad Friday ripping Rubio over Scott’s 11-point “Rescue America” plan. U.S. Rep. Demings, the leading Democratic candidate for a November General Election showdown with Rubio, seeks to tie him to Republicans’ controversial midterm elections plan for Senate candidates. Scott, as chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), unveiled the plan in February and has been vigorously defending it against waves of criticism, not just from Democrats but from Republicans who are uncomfortable with the plan.
“DeSantis stars in music video dedicated to Florida, himself” via Kai Davis of WEAR-TV — DeSantis was the center of attention in a new music video dedicated to the state and himself that premiered on Friday. In collaboration with DeSantis, Donnie Van Zant and Johnny Van Zant premiered a music video for their song “Sweet Florida.” The song contains lyrics promoting the Governor’s efforts during his tenure, including his stance on COVID-19 and criticism of Dr. Anthony Fauci. “He’s the only one that’ll fight for you and me,” says one of the song’s lyrics. The 4-minute-11-second song dedicated to DeSantis and the state of Florida is now streaming on Apple Music and Spotify.
To watch the video, click on the image below:
“Nikki Fried announces new hires, promotions on gubernatorial campaign team” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Fried has announced several new hires and promotions within her gubernatorial campaign. “This campaign is about building connections across Florida, about the people of Florida. The depth and breadth of the experience of these leaders is proof of our commitment to building those connections,” said Fried. “These leaders are a critical part of our campaign, and key to keeping the momentum of our campaign going. Join me in welcoming them to the fight.” Changes include promoting Marissa Tully to deputy campaign manager and finance director. Abi Yisrael, meanwhile, will now serve as director of voter engagement and outreach.
Assignment editors — Fried will host a news conference urging the Senate to confirm Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson at the High School alma mater of both Jackson and Fried, 4 p.m., Miami Palmetto Senior High School, 7431 S.W. 120th St., Pinecrest. RSVP at [email protected] or (908) 752-1795.
Mike Waltz endorses Wilton Simpson for Ag Commissioner — U.S. Rep. Waltz, the first Green Beret elected to Congress and a recipient of four Bronze Stars, currently represents Florida’s 6th Congressional District. “Now more than ever, Floridians need an Agriculture Commissioner who fully understands how our food supply chain works to provide safe and abundant food to the American people,” Waltz said in a statement Monday. “At the height of the pandemic, Florida farmers like Wilton Simpson worked overtime to fill the gaps created by the crisis and ensure grocery store shelves were stocked. Gov. DeSantis leaned on that expertise and tapped Wilton to serve on his Reopen Florida Task Force to help get Floridians back to work.” Waltz continued: “Wilton Simpson is … fully equipped to do his part to ensure our most basic needs are met as our freedom and quality of life are challenged here at home and abroad.”
“Anna Paulina Luna announces $400K in Q1 fundraising for CD 13 race” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — Luna, a GOP candidate for the race in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, announced Friday that her campaign raised more than $400,000 in the first quarter of 2022. That means she has raised nearly $1.5 million in the race to replace outgoing U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist. Quarterly campaign fundraising in congressional races closed Thursday. Friday afternoon, Luna was the first CD 13 candidate to release fundraising numbers. Luna closed out 2021 leading both sides of the field with just over a million dollars raised. Democrat Ben Diamond ended 2021 just under a million but announced in January he’d hit seven figures.
“Jared Moskowitz pulls in $400K in first 25 days of CD 22 campaign” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — National Republicans may have put a target on the congressional seat he’s campaigning for, but Broward County Commissioner Moskowitz says he’s assembled more than $650,000 to claim it for the Democrats. In 25 days of campaigning for the seat Rep. Ted Deutch is vacating, he’s raised more than $400,000. He said he’d added $250,000 of his own money to the effort as well. Moskowitz, who came to national prominence as Florida’s “Master of Disaster,” leading the state’s Emergency Management Division, said he’s been humbled by the outpouring of support he’s received, both in donations and endorsements from local leaders.
— MORE 2022 —
Ruth’s List Florida endorses Joy Goff-Marcil for SD 10 — Ruth’s List Florida endorsed Rep. Goff-Marcil in the race for the newly redrawn Senate District 10. “Ruth’s List is excited to see Goff-Marcil running for higher office in the race for SD 10, and we’re thrilled to lend our early support to her campaign,” said Kayla vanWieringen, vice president of political and programs. “Joy is a proven leader and has repeatedly shown she can run in competitive districts and win.” The new SD 10 encompasses parts of Seminole and Orange counties and largely resembles the old SD 9, a competitive seat held by Republican Sen. Jason Brodeur.
Bruno Portigliatti enters race for HD 45 — Republican Portigliatti announced he is seeking the Republican nomination for the newly drawn House District 45. Portigliatti is the president of Florida Christian University and the CEO of Excellence Senior Living. A news release announcing his candidacy said he plans to focus his efforts on expanding on the DeSantis Doctrine of Freedom First. “Central Florida is ground zero in Gov. DeSantis’ fight against woke corporate America. As a bold conservative leader, businessman, and education advocate, I have been and will continue to lead from the front on that fight,” Portigliatti said. Portigliatti joins Carolina Amesty and Vennia Francois in the Republican Primary. Democrat Allie Braswell is also running for the seat.
“Joe Harding endorses Carolina Amesty’s bid for HD 45” via Florida Politics — Amesty has picked up an endorsement from Williston Rep. Harding in the crowded Republican Primary for House District 45. “I wholeheartedly endorse Carolina Amesty for State House in District 45 because she is a strong conservative who will govern with integrity,” said Harding, the lawmaker who sponsored the controversial parental rights legislation that critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. “Carolina is a proven champion for school choice, and she knows that parents must be in the driver’s seat when it comes to their children’s education.” Amesty, the vice president of Central Christian University, is one of four Republicans running in HD 45, which covers Windermere and much of southwestern Orange County. She faces Portigliatti, Francois and Mike Zhao in the Primary.
“Jackie Toledo endorses Karen Gonzalez Pittman as successor” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Rep. Toledo has endorsed Gonzalez Pittman, a Tampa business owner, as her successor. Gonzalez Pittman’s campaign has also announced raising over $80,000 since launching her campaign for House District 65 at the start of March. Pittman is running to succeed Toledo, who herself is vacating the seat to run for Congress. Gonzalez Pittman’s raised most of her contributions from constituents of the Tampa Bay seat she is running in from 130 individual donors, her campaign announced. The newly crafted Hillsborough County seat closely resembles the current House District 60. Before entering the race, Gonzalez Pittman was running for a seat on the Hillsborough County School Board.
Andy Thomson lands endorsements for HD 91 bid — Democratic candidate Thomson announced a volley of endorsements for his campaign in House District 91. Thomson’s backers include Rep. Emily Slosberg, who currently represents the pre-redistricting HD 91 but has announced she would not run for another term. “I have worked closely with Andy Thomson over the years to help tackle some of our District’s most pressing issues. Andy knows this District, has served it well on the Boca Raton City Council, and will be a staunch advocate for our seniors, families and residents,” she said. Other endorsements came from State Attorney Dave Aronberg and Palm Beach County Mayor Robert Weinroth. The new HD 91 leans toward Democrats, with 52% of voters in the district voting for Biden in 2020 compared to 47% who voted for Trump.
“Juan Carlos Porras enters GOP-filled fray for HD 119” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Porras, a lifelong Republican and resident of House District 119, has entered an increasingly crowded race to determine who will next represent the district later this year. The son of Cuban exiles and a self-described “principled conservative,” Porras most recently worked as a legislative aide for Rep. Alex Rizo. According to a press note from his campaign, he’s also a small-business owner. Porras kicked off his political career early — he was only 18 when he was elected to a local Republican Executive Committee. During his four-year tenure there, he worked with conservative activists and elected officials to enhance the local Republican Party and ensure the election of qualified GOP candidates.
“Elections office workers cleared of wrongdoing in voter fraud probe; nine former inmates face felonies” via Fresh Take Florida — An eight-month-long Florida criminal voter fraud investigation into jailhouse registration drives has cleared all current and former employees at the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Office, prosecutors said. The only people being charged in these cases are one-time inmates who registered to vote while ineligible, said Darry Lloyd, chief of investigations at the state attorney’s office. “Nobody from the supervisor‘s office will be charged,” he said Thursday. The number of those charged now stands at nine after four more indictments were revealed late Wednesday. The four include a Democrat, a Republican, and two not affiliated with a political party.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Joe Biden gets a strong jobs report, but a sour mood still prevails” via Dan Balz of The Washington Post — Friday’s robust jobs report from the Labor Department offered a welcome, if temporary, respite for the White House in a season of otherwise tough economic news. But Democrats know better than to see the employment gains as the beginning of a change in their fortunes. The Labor Department said the economy added 431,000 jobs last month, with the unemployment rate dropping to 3.6%. The economy has now added 400,000 or more jobs in each of the past 11 months, which the Wall Street Journal reported is the longest such stretch dating back in records to 1939.
“Vulnerable Democrats warn Biden about reopening asylum” via Jonathan J. Cooper and Anita Snow of The Associated Press — The Biden administration’s decision to end sweeping asylum limits at the border this May satisfied demands by prominent Democrats eagerly awaiting the end of a program created by Trump in the name of public health. But it creates thorny political challenges for border-region Democrats, who face the likely prospect of an increase in migrants who have for two years been denied the chance to seek asylum in the United States. In unusually harsh critiques of a President from their own Party, some of the congressional Democrats with the toughest re-election prospects are warning that the administration is woefully unprepared to handle the situation. Previous rises in migration have strained law enforcement agencies and nonprofits on the border trying to provide security and shelter.
“Merrick Garland faces growing pressure as Jan. 6 investigation widens” via Katie Benner, Katie Rogers and Michael S. Schmidt of The New York Times — Immediately after Garland was sworn in as Attorney General in March of last year, he wanted a detailed briefing on the case that will, in all likelihood, come to define his legacy: the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. Garland’s deliberative approach has come to frustrate Democratic allies of the White House and, at times, Biden himself. As recently as late last year, Biden confided to his inner circle that he believed Trump was a threat to democracy and should be prosecuted. Democrats’ increasingly urgent calls for the Justice Department to take more aggressive action highlight the tension between the frenetic demands of politics and the methodical pace of one of the biggest prosecutions in the department’s history.
Assignment editors — U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor will announce $1 million in new federal funding for the University of South Florida College of Education to develop hands-on training for STEM teachers, noon, Stewart Middle STEM Magnet School, 1125 W Spruce St., Tampa.
Failing upward — Former Florida Democratic Party executive director Scott Arceneaux is joining the White House as a senior adviser in the Presidential Personnel Office, Daniel Lippman of POLITICO reports. A one-time director of the Louisiana Democratic Party, Arceneaux most recently served as White House liaison at the Defense Department.
— LOCAL NOTES: N. FL —
“Tensions flare, Blueprint meeting ends abruptly amid questioning about management structure” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — The Blueprint 2020 board saw tensions flare again as two of its members, City Commissioners Jack Porter and Jeremy Matlow, grilled staff about the management of the agency and hiring of its top executive. At one point, City Commissioner Curtis Richardson packed up and left chambers, later remarking that the meeting had “devolved.” County Commissioner Bill Proctor worried whether the board was “eating ourselves internally.” The meeting on Thursday was the first time the board gathered since their bitter, final vote to give $27 million in sales tax proceeds to fund repairs at Florida State’s Doak Campbell Stadium.
“Warnings sounded on Nassau growth, school needs” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — It’s the sort of vocal tension you hear when people discuss rising water and are not sure if they’re properly prepared. Nassau District Schools officials again voiced concerns this week about what the school system can do within its means to handle the county’s explosive growth. “Essentially, what I found was we have several problems we have to address,” said Brett Steger, attorney for the district, at its latest meeting. “We’ve got an influx of people, obviously, to the county, but specifically coming into the Yulee area. It’s noted in the report that I believe it’s about 2,200 students that are expected to be generated by the growth of the new developments that are coming in.”
“St. Johns County teacher wears ‘Protect Trans Kids’ shirt, is asked to remove it” via Sheldon Gardner of the St. Augustine Record — After a parent complained, a teacher at Tocoi Creek High School in St. Johns County was asked to remove a T-shirt that read, “Protect Trans Kids,” according to school district spokeswoman Christina H. Upchurch. The teacher wore the shirt to school on Tuesday, and a parent sent a picture to Principal Jay Willets “expressing concern,” according to Upchurch. According to Upchurch, Willets “immediately” spoke with the teacher about it and provided another shirt, and the teacher changed shirts. No disciplinary action was taken. While on duty, at school, or on district property, employees are not allowed to wear buttons or apparel “that display a written message of any kind, except for names, logos, and slogans related to a District school, the District, or school or District related organizations, events or activities.
— MORE LOCAL: C. FL —
“Higher tax bills around Tampa Bay could spur wallet pain and political heat” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — Local property appraisers say the recent surge in Tampa Bay real estate values could cause sticker shock when residents get their property tax notices later this summer, a development that could put political pressure on County Commissioners and threaten planned Hillsborough tax referendums for schools and transportation. But advocates for the transportation and education measures say they still intend to make arguments for those measures. The increase in taxable property values that will show up in millage notices in August “is likely to exceed any in the past 10 years,” even though that’s been a decade of unusually steady increases, said Pinellas Appraiser Mike Twitty.
“Chad Choate files for full term on Manatee Co. School Board” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Choate has filed for re-election this year. That comes almost eight months after DeSantis appointed him to a vacancy on the School Board. “As a parent, I’ve been involved in my children’s education, and I want to make sure more parents can and want to be involved in their child’s education,” Choate said. “Keeping parents in the driver’s seat should be paramount concern to everyone in this school district.” Choate replaced Scott Hopes on the School Board after Hopes took over as Manatee County Administrator. He was appointed to fill out Hopes’ term and is now seeking his first full four-year term.
— MORE LOCAL: S. FL —
“How a fight over cruise ships visiting Key West has changed tourism in a tourist city” via Gwen Filosa of the Miami Herald — Key West couldn’t be a more idyllic spot for a cruise ship pulling into port. A tropical island with lots of bars. An endless party on the main street. A small town steeped in the history of shipwrecks and pirates. Then there are the Conch Tour Trains chugging along narrow streets. Sailboats bobbing in the ocean. And, of course, souvenir shops galore. But behind the images and the advertising campaigns, this small island is torn over tourism. The Key West economy gets a boost from visitors, about 2 million a year. Yet more and more residents are wary of the crowds. And they have turned their attention to a source that drops thousands of people at a time onto the narrow streets: cruise ships.
—”Do cruise passengers boost business in Key West or just use the toilet? That depends” via Gwen Filosa of the Miami Herald
“Palm Beach gets a younger groove” via Bob Morris of The New York Times — The narrow island of Palm Beach has drawn young arrivistes from New York City and elsewhere, who fled during the pandemic. Places like the Colony Hotel have become an influencer-friendly destination for the younger set, offering something different from the local clubs, which traditionally revolve around golf, tennis, bridge and cocktails. A new English-style social club, Carriage House, designed to appeal to a younger demographic, is expected to open later this year. It is modeled after Annabel’s in London, with bars, dining and game rooms — but no dance floor to bother the neighbors. Some longtime locals are rankled by the younger social set demanding instant entry into clubs or suddenly packed private schools.
“Madrid rivals Miami as a haven for Latin Americans and their money” via Raphael Minder of The New York Times — The Spanish capital is rivaling Miami as a haven for Latin Americans and often for their money, too. Many Latin Americans, particularly the rich, are applying for or have received Spanish citizenship. Some received a so-called golden visa that Spain has been granting in return for spending at least 500,000 euros, or about $550,000, on a property. Madrid has also recently offered better investment opportunities than Miami. There are now about 200,000 Venezuelans officially registered in Spain, but experts say that the real number is significantly higher.
— TOP OPINION —
“Democrats only have themselves to blame for the rise of DeSantis” via Charles C.W. Cook of the New York Post — The mercurial rise of Ron DeSantis is the Democrats’ fault. Had the Party nominated a credible centrist in Florida’s toss-up gubernatorial race — Gwen Graham, for example — that candidate would not only have won the Governor’s Mansion for the Democrats, but she’d also have ended DeSantis’ career. But the Democrats didn’t choose a credible centrist. If the Party understands this, it has a peculiar way of showing it. Instead of calmly rebuilding, it has allowed itself to become so crazy in its opposition to DeSantis, it has elevated him to national status, provided him with all the incentives he needs to play Churchill at the gates, and, by confirming that any Republican (not just Trump) will be treated terribly in the press, turned him into a rock-ribbed conservative hero.
— OPINIONS —
“A migrant surge is coming at the border, and Biden is not ready” via The Washington Post editorial board — For two years, the U.S. government has used an increasingly shaky finger in the dike to halt a tsunami of undocumented migrants at the Mexican border. That recourse is crumbling under judicial scrutiny and political pressure from Democrats and is about to be voided. The Biden administration, bracing for the fallout, has done too little to prepare. It has been increasingly clear that the policy is political damage control masquerading as a public health imperative. Administration officials say migrant apprehensions, already around 7,000 daily, could spike to 18,000 and overwhelm the system. That could go on for a few weeks or much longer — a politically toxic scenario for the administration.
“DeSantis is the Fox News candidate for President” via Chris Cillizza of CNN — DeSantis is going to war with Disney. On Thursday, he signaled a willingness to rescind a more than 5-decade-old provision that allows the entertainment giant to operate as an independent government around its massive park in Orlando. “Disney has alienated a lot of people now,” DeSantis said. It’s just the latest example of DeSantis taking cues — and marching orders — from Fox News. On everything from COVID-19 mitigation measures to critical race theory to the mental acuity of Biden, DeSantis has used Fox as both a guidepost and an amplifier of where to stand on these issues.
“The right’s Disney freakout” via Michelle Goldberg of The New York Times — I don’t know Latoya Raveneau, but I feel terrible for her. An executive producer at Disney, she was a speaker at a recent virtual all-hands company meeting about Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Inside Disney, there had been considerable anger that the company, one of the state’s largest employers, had donated to politicians behind the bill and hadn’t done more to fight it. Raveneau stepped up to defend the company’s queer friendliness, only to become a national object of right-wing fury and disgust. Everyone she’s worked with has welcomed her “not at all secret gay agenda,” letting her add “queerness” to the animated show she directs. The story has blown up on the right, where Raveneau’s arch reference to a gay agenda is being treated as an admission that she has a plan to corrupt kids.
“The right’s cancel culture comes for Disney” via Charlie Sykes of Bulwark — You can be forgiven if you didn’t have “Right-Wing Jihad Against Disney” on your bingo card for 2022. But I regret to tell you that the entrepreneurs of culture war have grown tired of ginning up indignation about “Drag Queen Story Hour,” CRT, and the cancellation of Dr. Seuss. And so, they have found a bright new shiny object of outrage, that bastion of moral decadence and wokeness, The Walt Disney Co.. But the company has now spoken out against Florida’s new law regulating instruction about sexuality (read gayness), and, since clickbait doesn’t click itself, the new hotness is canceling Disney.
“Stop blaming families seeking the best school for their children” via David Struhs for the Tallahassee Democrat — For almost everyone, from teachers to families to policymakers, the premise of education is simple: Help prepare all students for success in life by providing them a quality education. The education system begins and ends with what is best for students. For many students, that means attending a school other than their zoned traditional public school. And for many of those children, it’s a public charter school, a public school beyond their zoned school, home school, or a private school. Leon County Superintendent Rocky Hanna said parents choosing other learning options could lead to the “dismantling of the public education system as we know it.” While Hanna claims parents are bankrupting the Leon County school system, he neglects to mention that Florida has made massive investments in education.
“Republican House members vote against own bill over ‘school prayer’ red herring” via Frank Cerabino of The Palm Beach Post — Ten congressional Republicans from Florida who had been among the 25 bipartisan House co-sponsors of a bill to rename the federal courthouse in Tallahassee after the first Black justice on the Florida Supreme Court voted against their own bill this past week, thereby dooming their own effort. By any measure, naming the courthouse after Joseph Woodrow Hatchett, who died last year at age 88, should have been a lock. In the U.S. Senate, both Florida U.S. Sens. Scott and Rubio co-sponsored the Senate version of the bill to name the “Joseph Woodrow Hatchett United States Courthouse and Federal Building” in the state’s capital.
“Andrea Reid: Ill-conceived alimony bill deals major blow to Florida first responders” via Florida Politics — Senate Bill 1796 boasted an end to permanent alimony, a guideline for spouses to follow when determining the amount and duration of alimony, and retirement with dignity. SB 1796 will prohibit Florida’s first responders from modifying their alimony at the ages at which they typically retire. Instead, they must now wait until they are at least 65 years of age before they can ask the court to reduce or terminate their existing alimony awards. For example, a first responder who began service at 20-25 years of age who puts in 20-30 years of service, will be considerably younger than 65-years-old when they retire. Under the terms of this bill, a retired first responder will be statutorily prohibited from reducing or terminating their alimony at the time of their reasonable retirement and will be required to pay their alimony obligation, no matter how unaffordable, until they reach the age of 65.
— ALOE —
“Genre-spanning artist Jon Batiste wins four early Grammys” via Lisa Richwine of Reuters — The Grammy Awards kicked off with leading nominee Batiste winning four trophies as the music industry rolled out the red carpet for a pandemic-delayed celebration in Las Vegas. The honors for Batiste, a multigenre artist who went into the ceremony with 11 nominations, included best music video for “Freedom,” a vibrantly colored tribute to New Orleans. Batiste’s “Cry” won best American roots performance and American roots song. He also shared in the award for best score soundtrack for visual media for composing and arranging some of the music in the Pixar movie “Soul.”
“Bobcats with a taste for python eggs might be the guardians of Florida’s swamp” via Matt Kaplan of The New York Times — The voracious appetite of the invasive Burmese python is causing Florida’s mammal and bird populations to plummet. With little natural competition to control the big snake’s numbers, the situation looks desperate. But new observations suggest that the bobcat, a wildcat native to Florida, might be able to help. A team of ecologists collected evidence recently of a bobcat devouring python eggs in the Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida, and last month reported their findings in the journal Ecology and Evolution. It’s hard to say whether this individual cat was more adventurous than the average bobcat, but it suggests one potential way the python’s proliferation could be limited by other animals eating their unhatched young.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to St. Augustine Beach Commissioner Beth Sweeny, as well as Dave DeCamp, attorney (and our fraternity brother) Jorge Gutierrez, Dan Pollock, Bridget Spurlock, Director of Scheduling and Operations for U.S. Sen. Rubio, Mike Synan, and Mike Watkins. Belated happy birthday wishes to Brad Ashwell, Alex Heckler of LSN Partners, our old friend Danny Kanner and Kyle Lamb, an analyst in Gov. DeSantis’ office, and Ivette Arango O’Doski.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Renzo Downey, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.
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