Good Wednesday morning.
If you’ve gained a few pounds, lost weight, or just want to make room for a new spring wardrobe, today is the day to clean out your closet.
“Suits for Session” returns Wednesday for its seventh year. The event, sponsored by Volunteer Florida, collects new and gently worn business attire to help prepare job seekers in need.
Men’s and women’s items accepted include full suits, blazers/jackets, blouses/shirts, pants/trousers, dresses and skirts, ties, belts, shoes and handbags. They can be dropped off on the second floor of the Capitol Rotunda. Another curbside drop-off location will be available in front of Tallahassee City Hall.
“Suits for Session is our way of uniting lawmakers, agency partners, and local change-makers to make a tangible difference in the lives of job-seekers statewide,” said Volunteer Florida CEO Corey Simon. “It’s our honor to serve and lead by that example each year with this service project.”
Since its inception, Suits for Session has collected tens of thousands of items for distribution to organizations in Tallahassee and throughout the state. Recipient organizations this year include AMIkids Panama City Marine Institute, Bridges International, and CareerSource Gulf Coast.
“It’s a local project with a statewide impact,” said Volunteer Florida External Affairs Director Kim Hawkes. “It’s a big effort … and it will be on full display in the Rotunda.”
Hawkes said she and other staffers are already sorting donations from “agency folks and state employees” from 22 state departments and agencies.
Also continuing support for this drive is Simply Healthcare Plans, a managed health care plan serving Medicare Advantage and Medicaid members in Florida.
“This service project invigorates everyone’s sprits each Legislative Session as we assemble from every corner of Florida to make a positive impact,” said Simply President Holly Prince. “In a very real way, we’re helping Floridians gain meaningful employment and get back on their feet with this donation initiative.”
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@Igorbobic: (Joe) Biden walks out at 2:22 p.m. on 2/22/2022
—@McFaul: When you describe Russian soldiers invading Ukraine right now as “peacekeepers,” even when you use quotation marks, you are using language that (Vladimir) Putin wants you to use. Call it what it is — an invasion.
—@MeredithMcGraw: (Donald) Trump: “I said this is genius, Putin declares a big portion of Ukraine independent. the response from Biden? There was no response. I knew he always wanted Ukraine. I used to talk to him about it. I said, ‘you can’t do it, you’re not going to do it’ but I could tell he wanted it.”
—@ChristinaPushaw: Pre 2020, I was an idealist who truly wanted to help Ukraine become a strong democracy. I spent a lot of time in Ukraine, still have friends there I worry about now. But the sad fact is the USA is in no position to “promote democracy” abroad while our own country is falling apart
—@MikeBloomberg: I’m concerned that, without an immediate course correction, Democrats are headed for a wipeout in November up-and-down the ballot.
—@JBarro: (Mitch) McConnell was politically wise to not put out a GOP platform. Now you have the head of the NRSC promising to raise income taxes on over a hundred million Americans, opening the GOP up to attacks Trump did a pretty good job of neutralizing by abandoning unpopular GOP econ ideas.
—@PressSec: @ and Senate Republicans just released an economic plan that doesn’t include a single proposal to lower prices for the middle class. Instead, he wants to raise taxes on half of Americans — including on seniors and working families. Seriously, that’s their plan.
The Biden-Fauci Admin. thinks a margarita will solve all the problems they’ve created for the American people.
— Ron DeSantis (@RonDeSantisFL) February 22, 2022
—@JasonSalemi: With today’s update frm @ through the @, the seven-day avg daily deaths peak during # (208) is now > last winter’s peak (199) This is AFTER vax rollout, many prior infections, & 403 deaths per day during #. Public health impact of this wave!= mild.
# A B S E N T I N I
— Where is Sabatini? (@WhereIsSabatini) February 22, 2022
—@mPinoe: When we win, everyone wins!
— DAYS UNTIL —
CPAC begins — 1; St. Pete Grand Prix — 2; Biden to give the State of the Union address — 6; ‘The Batman’ premieres — 9; Miami Film Festival begins — 9; the 2022 Players begins — 13; Sarasota County votes to renew the special 1-mill property tax for the school district — 13; House GOP retreat in Ponte Vedra Beach — 28; the third season of ‘Atlanta’ begins — 28; season two of ‘Bridgerton’ begins — 30; The Oscars — 32; ‘Macbeth’ with Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga begin performances on Broadway — 34; Florida Chamber’s 2nd Annual Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health + Sustainability begins — 35; Grammys rescheduled in Las Vegas — 39; ‘Better Call Saul’ final season begins — 54; Magic Johnson’s Apple TV+ docuseries ‘They Call Me Magic’ begins — 58; 2022 Florida Chamber Transportation, Growth & Infrastructure Solution Summit — 64; ‘The Godfather’ TV series ‘The Offer’ premieres — 64; federal student loan payments will resume — 67; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 72; ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ starts on Disney+ — 91; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 93; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 99; California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota hold midterm Primaries — 104; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 136; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 149; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 167; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 191; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 226; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 262; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 265; ‘Avatar 2′ premieres — 297; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 359; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ premieres — 394; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 520; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 604; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 884.
—TOP STORY —
“Republican Nick Howland beats Democrat Tracye Polson for Jacksonville City Council seat” via Andrew Pantazi of The Tributary — Howland bested Polson in the special election Tuesday for an at-large Jacksonville City Council seat. The two candidates initially faced each other in December before heading to Tuesday’s runoff. The special election was called to replace the late Tommy Hazouri, a former Mayor, legislator, School Board member and, most recently, City Councilman. Howland can take office once the election results are certified, which likely means he will be able to participate in the next City Council meeting March 8. His election further cemented a Republican supermajority on the 19-member City Council, which will now have 14 Republicans and five Democrats.
—“Election Day turnout drives GOP flip of Jacksonville City Council seat” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics
—@MDixon55: Dems leading headed into Election Day, then Republican 4/4s just turning out in waves the day of is the story of Florida elections right now
— DATELINE TALLY —
“House tax cut plan — with added kick for soccer fans — heads to floor” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — A large bill stuffed with a grab-bag of tax cuts passed through the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, and will now head to the floor for a full vote in that chamber. The package now contains cuts for consumers, property owners, developers, and even Formula 1 racing and international soccer fans. The bill (HB 7071) already included many tax cuts, several of them are the popular sales tax holidays for back-to-school items, hurricane preparedness and another “Freedom Week” with sales taxes on recreational items and tickets to select events. But the panel inserted a new item through an amendment Tuesday, adding an exemption from taxes on tickets to FIFA World Cup soccer matches. The 2026 World Cup will be hosted by the U.S., Mexico and Canada, and Miami and Orlando are hoping to be named as host cities for matches.
“House community-based care proposal could sap $17M from Southeast Florida to boost funding elsewhere” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The House budget plan could send more than $127 million in new funding to community-based care agencies. But while most of the state would see a boost in funding from that plan, providers in Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Broward counties could see their funding cut. Multiple foster care providers in Southwest Florida ahead of Session sought a change in state funding formulas to address inequities. And the House might wipe out any problems for those providers. But with the increase in funding comes a change in how dollars are allocated. That change could see more than $17 million in cuts from the budget of Citrus Health Network, which serves as the provider in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. Citrus’ budget sits at around $77.5 million for the Fiscal Year 2021-22. That $17 million figure represents a 22% cut and could result in significant services being scaled back.
“House Democrats, Republicans clash over ‘CRT,’ ‘don’t say gay’ bills” via Ana Ceballos and Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — With culture wars heating up in an election year, the Florida House on Tuesday split along bitter partisan lines as members considered two Republican-sponsored education bills that target discussions of race and sexual orientation in public schools. The proposals, backed by Republican legislative leadership and Ron DeSantis, have provoked heated debate in the state Capitol and around the country in recent months, with Democrats and critics worried they could have a chilling effect on what can be taught in the classroom and could harm LGBTQ students.
—“Joe Harding amendment axed, but LGBTQ advocates say ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill hurts student privacy” via Ana Goñi-Lessan of the Tallahassee Democrat
—“‘Slowly being erased’: House preps for vote on LGBTQ instruction bill without controversial amendment” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics
“Poll: Florida voters don’t support prohibiting teacher conversations about gender identity or sexual orientation” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — The Legislature’s effort to prohibit teachers from encouraging discussions about sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade does not have the support of most voters, according to a new poll. The Public Opinion Research Lab found 49% of respondents oppose the legislation and 40% support it, either somewhat or strongly. Opponents are calling it the “Don’t Say Gay,” bill. Republicans frame the bill (HB 1557), sponsored by Rep. Joe Harding, and a similar Senate version (SB 1834), as a parental rights issue. The numbers who support and those who oppose fall into sharper contrast when separating the results according to whether respondents were Democrats or Republicans.
“Teachers union poll shows support for letting educators handle controversial subjects in school” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A new poll shows most Floridians support America’s racial history being taught in school. But there is less support for teaching on topics like gender identity. A survey conducted by Clearview Research for the Florida Education Association found the public ultimately wants to give teachers leeway in how to handle sensitive subjects. While respondents “generally believe parents should have a say in the curriculum, they overwhelmingly oppose allowing parents to sue if they disagree,” a polling memo reads, “and the public strongly opposes allowing a small group to intervene in the process.” Asked about teaching subjects related to racism, more than 60% believe it has a place in the curriculum.
“Amendment striking ID number requirement, adding fines for fraudulent party registration filed for Senate elections bill” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — An amendment filed for the Senate’s main elections bill would strike language requiring identification numbers on vote-by-mail ballots and add fines for those that fraudulently change someone’s party affiliation. SB 524 would create a new office in the Department of State to investigate election fraud, increase penalties for election and voting-related offenses, change the vote-by-mail process and ban ranked choice voting. Sen. Travis Hutson, the bill’s sponsor, filed an amendment that would remove from the bill a section requiring the last four digits of a voter’s Social Security number, driver’s license or photo ID on vote-by-mail ballots.
—”Election conspiracy group amps up Florida lobbying effort” via Matt Dixon and Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida
“Legislature remains convinced Jacksonville Black voters need a protected district” via Andrew Pantazi of The Tributary — The House congressional redistricting panel voted to send its proposed map to the overall redistricting committee, but not before representatives sparred with redistricting lawyer Robert Popper, who testified at the Governor’s request. Popper, a senior attorney with Judicial Watch and a former U.S. Department of Justice voting-rights attorney, argued that a district that stretches from Jacksonville to Tallahassee and Gadsden County is “going to have a problem in federal court.” Republicans and Democrats alike grilled DeSantis’ expert. Still, Democrats requested further changes to how the map treats Black voters in Orlando and demanded the committee publish a secret analysis of racially polarized voting. Both the House and Senate said the Jacksonville-to-Tallahassee district is a protected Black district, but they differ on whether Orlando Black voters similarly qualify for protections.
—TALLY 2 —
“House ready for final vote on school safety bill updating MSD Public Safety Act” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — The Florida House advanced an update to school safety rules to a third reading Tuesday, with acknowledgment the state’s school districts haven’t met the rules passed four years ago in the wake of Florida’s worst school shooting. “The goal of this bill is to bring all 67 school districts into compliance” with state school safety rules, said Rep. Fred Hawkins, sponsor of the bill (HB 1421). After third reading, the bill will go to a final vote in the full House. It updates the law named for Florida’s worst school shooting, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. Similar legislation (SB 802) that Sen. Joe Gruters sponsored is moving through the Senate.
“Fatherhood initiative draws concern: Black kids labeled in state law as ‘special needs’ children” via Issac Morgan of Florida Phoenix — House Speaker Chris Sprowls’ initiative to address Florida’s “fatherhood” crisis includes boosting mentorship programs for at-risk youth and pushing for tens of millions for resources to help fathers be better dads. Last week, the state House approved the policy initiative called HB 7065, entitled, “An act relating to child welfare.” But what happened on the House floor that day sparked questions and concerns by lawmakers from the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, about language in existing state law that defines a “special needs child” as a child “of Black or racially mixed parentage.” That particular language doesn’t specify the race of other children.
Full Senate set to vote on Surgeon General nominee — The Senate will consider whether to confirm Joseph Ladapo as the state’s Surgeon General on Wednesday, Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida reports. Ladapo has been a lightning rod in the Senate, especially among Democrats in the chamber. Ladapo also drew the ire of Senate President Wilton Simpson, a Republican, after he refused to wear a mask in the presence of Sen. Tina Polsky, who had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. The confirmation vote also comes after a former supervisor of Ladapo’s at UCLA’s medical school told a background check investigator that he would not recommend the Senate confirm him for the job.
Sovereign immunity system bill set for major changes — Legislation to make changes to Florida’s sovereign immunity system is set to undergo major changes in both the House and Senate on Wednesday. In the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Mike Beltran is expected to amend his bill (HB 985) by lowering his proposed threshold for sovereign immunity in some cases. Meanwhile, Sen. Hutson has an amendment to his bill (SB 974) for the Senate floor that would undo changes to the sovereign immunity threshold in most cases, except for cities and counties with 50,000 or more residents and the state or state agencies.
“‘Hello, how are you?’ Telephone line not acceptable for telehealth in the House” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Should phone calls be an acceptable way to deliver health care services? It depends on who you ask. The Florida Senate thinks so, unanimously passing SB 312, sponsored by Sen. Manny Diaz, which eliminates an exclusion on telehealth by audio-only. The House’s version of the bill (HB 17) does not make that change. Instead, the House measure focuses only on using telehealth to prescribe controlled substances. That change also is included in the Senate bill. That portion of the House bill is identical to the Senate bill.
Senate panel advances DFS priority — The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment & General Government advanced a bill (SB 1874) on Tuesday that includes a series of provisions requested by the Department of Financial Services. The bill would require insurance agencies to proactively disclose to policyholders that they’re closing their business; will force public adjusters to notify consumers if they want to capture additional living expenses, and reduces workers’ comp penalties for small businesses. After it earned the committee’s approval, CFO Jimmy Patronis praised the committee and said the bill “aims to protect policyholders by ensuring insurance agencies and public adjusters are upfront and transparent with consumers.” Patronis also extended a “special thank you” to Sen. Jim Boyd and Rep. Chip LaMarca for carrying the measure.
“Bill creating a ‘Domestic Violence Task Force’ advances, but the clock is ticking” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Florida’s policies for handling domestic violence cases could come under scrutiny through a bill now moving through the Legislature, but time is not on the measure’s side. On Tuesday, the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee unanimously OK’d a proposal (SB 1598) by Sen. Ileana Garcia that would establish a state “Domestic Violence Task Force” under the Department of Children and Families (DCF). Its purpose, Garcia said, would be to “evaluate domestic violence investigations and cases in the child welfare system and make recommended changes to existing laws, rules and practices.”
“Baker Act law gets one step closer to its first major reforms in 50 years” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — Florida’s Baker Act law, which allows voluntary and involuntary institutionalization during a mental health crisis, might be about to see its first big reform in 50 years. Rep. Pat Maney saw his bill (HB 1143) clear its penultimate committee stop Tuesday before a final floor vote. The bill received bipartisan praise in the House Appropriations Committee. “It’s so disheartening to me. We’re not doing enough with regard to funding for mental health in this state,” Rep. Ben Diamond said. “It’s changing the thinking that these are criminal situations into thinking about them as mental health situations, particularly with regard to children.” Florida’s Baker Act has come under fire for further traumatizing children or being used as a first resort instead of last when handling people, especially children, experiencing a crisis.
“House bill on beach smoking will only impact cigarettes, filtered cigars” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A House bill allowing counties and cities to regulate cigarette smoking won’t impact those who want to vape or smoke cigars. Representatives on Tuesday changed a bill (HB 105) aiming to restore local governments’ ability to regulate smoking on public lands. An amendment passed without objection would make clear that unfiltered cigars still cannot be regulated by anyone but the state government, and will remain legal. “This change is being made to bring it in line with the Senate,” said Rep. Randy Fine. While the House typically proves more reticent to regulation, the Senate this year has taken a more conservative approach as far as what smoke it snuffs out.
“House ready to vote on new drug overdose law” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The House took up a sweeping bill Tuesday that would revamp Florida’s drugs laws. Primarily, the bill (HB 95) would broaden a prosecutor’s ability to pursue a first-degree murder charge if a drug overdose leads to a person’s death. Under current law, a drug dealer may face the death penalty, or life in prison, if they sell a controlled substance that verifiably caused the death of a consumer. Prosecutors, however, often struggle with cases involving multiple controlled substances or alcohol. Sponsored by Sen. Scott Plakon, the bill would allow authorities to levy a life sentence if a controlled substance is instead considered a “substantial factor” in a person’s death.
“Juvenile expunction bill ready for House vote” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — A bill that would broaden a juvenile’s ability to expunge their arrest record in Florida appeared Tuesday on the House floor. State law limits expungement opportunities to minors who complete a diversion program after a first-time misdemeanor arrest. The bill (HB 195), however, would broaden eligibility in Florida to include most felonies. Rep. David Smith is the bill sponsor. No lawmaker has voted against the bill to date, he noted. “This is a one-time chance … Should they ever get into trouble with the law again, that record can be uncovered and used against them,” Smith explained.
“Mandating high school instruction about Communism’s victims goes to final House vote” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — A bill that proposes public school students observe “Victims of Communism Day” and learn about the suffering inflicted by Communism is now heading for a final vote in the full House. Rep. David Borrero is sponsoring (HB 395) to “memorialize the many millions of victims of communism who have suffered … since Nov. 7, 1917,” he said. That’s the date that Vladimir Lenin attacked the Russian Parliament, leading to the Bolshevik Revolution. That event is widely considered the birth of a political movement that’s spread suffering to Cuba, Venezuela, China, Cambodia, and a host of others that high school students in American government class should learn about, he said.
“Senator pushes for cameras in school zones” via Malcolm Harvey of the Famuan — School speed zones may soon have an upgraded way of letting law enforcement know whether someone is exceeding the speed limit. Florida Senate Bill 410 would allow the installation of speed detecting systems. Some of the bill’s content includes a $158 fine that won’t impact insurance, fines starting at 10 mph over the speed limit, with enforcement beginning an hour before the start of school until one hour after. Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez and one of the sponsors of the bill, explained why Florida should allow private companies to enforce speed limits with cameras to generate speeding tickets, despite skepticism from opposing Senators. “Florida ranked No. 50 of all states in terms of unsafe driving in school zones,” Rodriguez said.
Miya’s Law clears second Senate hurdle — The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment & General Government unanimously passed a bill (SB 898), known as “Miya’s Law,” aimed at improving tenant safety in apartment buildings by requiring background screenings for employees. The background screening must include a national screening of criminal history records and sexual predator and sexual offender registries. The screening would specifically include criminal offenses involving violence or a disregard for the safety of others, and allow a landlord to disqualify individuals with criminal records from employment. “I am thrilled with the committee’s decision. Everyone deserves to feel safe in their homes, and today’s unanimous vote brings us a step closer to establishing important protections for all renters,” said Sen. Linda Stewart, who is sponsoring the bill.
As the clock runs down, sponsor of House rooftop solar bill remains ‘hopeful’ — Despite the lack of solid agreement with the solar industry, Rep. Lawrence McClure holds out hope for HB 741, a bill requested by Florida Power and Light that would reduce payments or credits to owners of rooftop solar for the energy they produce. Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida reports that McClure filed a proposed committee substitute ahead of the House Commerce Committee meeting Wednesday. Commerce is the final committee stop. McClure told a House committee earlier that there was a “conceptual agreement” with solar industry supporters on the amendment — but stakeholders were still talking. “No agreement yet but brother, I’m hopeful,” McClure told POLITICO.
Email I didn’t open — “VIDEO: State Rep. Chuck Brannan’s office was caught destroying public records” via Matt Collins of Florida Gun Rights
— MORE TALLY —
Jimmy Patronis highlights need for $10M in US&R funding — CFO Patronis on Tuesday called attention to a budget priority that would direct $10 million to urban search and rescue teams for equipment and training. Patronis tweeted a video of DeSantis advocating for the funding and praising US&R teams for their work following the Surfside condo collapse. “These men and women rushed into a dangerous situation to do everything they could in order to save lives,” Patronis said during an appearance alongside Surfside collapse US&R team members earlier this month. “This $10 million that we’re asking for, it’s because equipment wears out, trucks wear out, training wears out.” US&R funding was included in the Senate budget proposal, but it didn’t make the cut in the House.
“‘Ban off our Bodies’: A rallying cry for reproductive freedom as 15-week abortion ban appears imminent” via Imani Thomas of Florida Phoenix — Lawmakers and hundreds of activists on Tuesday rallied to raise their voices in the fight for reproductive freedom, chanting “Ban off our Bodies” as the Legislature gets closer to a final vote on a 15-week abortion ban. The group carried signs and the speakers crowded into the Capitol complex area, near the Florida Senate building. The group was heavily supportive of abortion rights and there didn’t appear to be any anti-abortion groups at the Capitol on Tuesday. The state House has already passed the legislation to prohibit abortions after 15 weeks, and the Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday approved the bill as well, leading to a full vote in the Senate as soon as Wednesday. If the Senate approves the legislation unamended, it will go to DeSantis for his consideration.
Alimony bill critics outline opposition ahead of House vote — The Family Law Section of The Florida Bar laid out its opposition to a bill (HB 1395) that would end permanent alimony after divorces in Florida. The group is particularly critical of a retroactivity clause in the bill that could lead to reductions or terminations of existing alimony agreements between divorced Floridians. “This would unnecessarily upend agreed upon contracts, result in more litigation, not less, in the state, and put countless alimony recipients at risk of having the rug pulled out from under them even when circumstances for the former spouses remain unchanged,” said Beth Luna, co-chair of the Legislation Committee of The Family Law Section. The group also says a presumption of 50-50 timesharing “is in the best interest” of children of divorced couples. A similar effort to end permanent alimony made it to then-Gov. Rick Scott’s desk in 2016, but was vetoed over the retroactivity clause.
“Palm Beach County Superintendent, School Board members may denounce ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill” via Matt Papaycik of WPTV — Top Palm Beach County public school officials could soon formally denounce the controversial so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill that’s working its way through the Florida Legislature. The Palm Beach County School Board on Wednesday will vote to send a letter to state legislators, voicing their “displeasure” with HB 1557 and SB 1834, both officially called the “Parental Rights In Education” measure. If the bills are passed, public school districts in Florida would not be allowed to “encourage classroom instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”
“Appears a certainty: Bill for fall referendum on Commission structure clears committee” via John Henderson of The Gainesville Sun — A bill that would give voters in November the option to redraw how Alachua County Commissioners are elected passed a final legislative committee in Tallahassee on Monday. House Bill 1493 was approved by the State Affairs Committee, the final committee stop, after legislators heard from Alachua County officials and residents who had traveled to Tallahassee to oppose it. The next stop is the full House. Both Chuck Clemons and the bill’s detractors, which include the Alachua County legislative delegation, say they believe it is inevitable that the bill will now pass.
“Lobbyists for Jacksonville developer wrote controversial affordable housing bill, records show” via Nate Monroe for the Florida Times-Union — Lobbyists working for a politically connected Jacksonville developer exerted remarkable behind-the-scenes influence to shape proposed legislation before the Florida Senate that could make it easier to flip taxpayer-subsidized affordable housing projects into higher-priced apartments or condos. John Rood, the chair of Jacksonville-based Vestcor, a major Republican financier and advocate of the legislative changes, said a new version of the proposal would publish in the coming days that rectifies language affordable-housing advocates have said would blow open a loophole that allows developers to abandon affordable-housing projects in 15 years. Such projects, subsidized by taxpayers, are generally supposed to remain as affordable housing for 30 to 50 years.
“Appropriations request would expand culinary workforce training program” via Cindy Barth of the Orlando Business Journal — Like many business people throughout the state of Florida, Nancy Brumbaugh is keeping a close eye on any legislative action that might help address the workforce shortages many industries around the state are facing as we begin to come out the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Spotted — At the NFIB Small-Business Day Opening Night Dinner: Patronis, Kathleen Passidomo, Doug Bell, Scott Dick, Jennifer Green, Kari Hebrink, Bill Herrle, Natalie Kato, Eli Nortelus, Tim Nungesser, Tim Parsons, Adam Potts, Dave Roberts, Alli Schoonover, Eddie Thompson and Erin Van Sickle.
— The Education Estimating Conference meets to examine public-school enrollment and then determines the economic impact, 8:30 a.m., Room 117 of the Knott Building.
— The Senate Rules Committee meets to consider several bills, including SB 804, from Sen. Ben Albritton, to update nursing-home staffing standards, 9 a.m., Room 412 of the Knott Building.
— House Commerce Committee meets, 9 a.m., Room 212 of the Knott Building.
— The House Health & Human Services Committee takes up the House version of the nursing-home staffing standards bill (HB 1239), from Rep. Lauren Melo, 9 a.m., Room 17 of the House Office Building.
— House Pandemics & Public Emergencies Committee meets, 9 a.m., Room 404 of the House Office Building.
— The House Education and Employment Committee meets to consider HB 1193, by Rep. Rene Plasencia, to replace standardized testing with a “progress monitoring program,” 1 p.m., Room 17 of the House Office Building.
— The House Judiciary Committee has a full agenda, including a consumer data privacy bill (HB 9), by Rep. Fiona McFarland. Additionally, the committee will take up a proposal (HB 1355), by Rep. John Snyder, to crack down on illegal immigration, 1 p.m., Room 404 of the House Office Building.
— The House State Affairs Committee will take up a bill (HB 1215), by Rep. Fentrice Driskell, to create the Historic Cemeteries Program within the Division of Historical Resources to research and maintain historic cemeteries, 1 p.m., Room 212 of the Knott Building.
Happening today — The Senate Democratic Caucus will meet to discuss Wednesday’s Special Order Calendar, 2:30 p.m., Room 200 of the Senate Office Building.
— The Senate convenes for a floor Session; among the bills is SB 224, from Sen. Gruters, to allow local governments to ban smoking on beaches and in public parks, and SB 1054, from Sen. Hutson, to add financial literacy requirements in public schools, 3 p.m., Senate Chamber.
— GOV. CLUB MENU —
Tortilla soup; Latin chop salad; papaya and avocado salad; mango slaw; chicken salad wraps; Mexican pot roast with grilled corn tortillas on the side; chili rellenos casserole; sauteed street corn; vegetarian rice; s’mores for dessert.
“FPL supports customers paying subsidies but not when it comes to rooftop solar” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — In a new television ad, Florida Power & Light argues that “outdated Florida laws are forcing FPL customers who don’t have rooftop solar to pay extra every month for the few who do.” The argument, that some customers subsidize other customers, is at the heart of the utility industry’s push to change the “net metering” financial terms that have helped expand the solar power industry. The bill, written by FPL for two legislative sponsors, would slash financial incentives for rooftop solar installation and impose new fees on users. Opponents argue that there is no data to justify the claim that non-solar customers subsidize solar users, and they argue instead that rooftop solar provides a net benefit, not a net cost. But they also point to another reason to oppose the net metering legislation in Florida: the utility industry’s own contradictions over subsidies.
To watch the ad, click on the image below:
“State Attorney declines to press charges against Randy Fine over Jennifer Jenkins feud” via Eric Rogers of Florida Today — State Attorney Phil Archer declined to pursue charges against Florida Rep. Fine for allegations stemming from Fine’s public feuds with Brevard County School Board member Jenkins and political consultant Robert Burns. A review of a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation into the allegations determined Fine’s actions in the case were either permitted under state law or did not rise to the level of a crime, Archer said. Archer issued a personal statement expressing concern about the “heated use of rhetoric … on both sides” that he warned could lead to a “volatile and dangerous escalation.”
“U.S. appeals court reconsiders Florida transgender rights case” via Elise Elder of Fresh Take Florida — Andrew Adams, the plaintiff in a landmark civil rights case from Florida, challenged a decision by the St. Johns County School Board in St. Augustine not to allow Adams to use the boys’ bathroom when he attended high school. Adams was born a biological female and originally enrolled in the district as one, but he transitioned starting in eighth grade. Oral arguments in Atlanta were the third time the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was considering his case. A decision in the case, which could come later this spring, could affirm transgender rights rulings by other federal appeals circuits — or could propel the case to the U.S. Supreme Court for a showdown over transgender civil rights.
“Despite ‘startling’ racial statistics, controversial ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws withstand scrutiny” via Tom McLaughlin of the Northwest Florida Daily News — Six days after a jury said George Zimmerman was justified in approaching an unarmed Black teen and shooting him to death when a scuffle erupted, President Barack Obama asked America a difficult question. “If Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman, who had followed him in a car because he felt threatened?” Several years later, in a report published in 2020 called “Stand Your Ground Kills,” the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence offered a response. “Statistically speaking, the answer is no,” it said.
“10 officers on leave, one resigned, after Dade Correctional inmate dies in prison van” via Ben Conarck of the Miami Herald — Ten corrections officers were placed on leave and one resigned after the mysterious, unannounced death of a Dade Correctional Institution inmate during a transfer to another facility. The Florida Department of Corrections refused to say whether the prisoner’s injuries were sustained before being placed in the transfer vehicle, in which prisoners are typically shackled and restrained, or during the ride itself. But he died 345 miles away from Dade Correctional, outside the Florida Women’s Reception Center in Ocala. For nearly five days, the department’s public information staff made no mention of the death or related disciplinary actions.
“Sticker shocked: Florida gasoline prices hit new high for 2022” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Gasoline prices in Florida hit another high mark over the last week, increasing by 6 cents and setting a record for the year at $3.51 a gallon. The increase, nearly a dollar more than last year’s high price, comes after a slight dip in crude oil prices — a determining factor for the cost to consumers at the pump. Oil prices ended last week at about $93 a barrel, the first time in eight weeks they have dropped. Experts are still watching what effect tensions between Russia, Ukraine and the rest of the world could have on global energy markets.
“The federal ‘protector’ of endangered Florida panthers was willing to kill one” via Craig Pittman of Florida Phoenix — In the 1950s, hunters killed so many panthers that state officials banned shooting them. In the 1970s, their primary habitat, the Big Cypress Swamp, was nearly turned into the world’s largest airport. By 1995, there were so few left that inbreeding was producing major genetic defects. Yet they have hung on like that kitten in the 1970s inspirational poster, and now there are about 200 slinking around what’s left of Florida’s wilderness. That’s still not a lot. And now a federal agency has decided it’s OK to kill one. Yes, you read that right. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. government agency in charge of protecting panthers and the one doing such a bang-up job protecting manatees, has imposed the death penalty on one of these rare cats.
“Avian influenza confirmed in several Florida wild bird species, state says” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — Federal scientists have confirmed cases of an infectious avian flu strain in several species of Florida birds, the state announced Tuesday. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said it is investigating bird mortalities in Brevard, Indian River and Volusia counties that are believed to be caused by “Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza.” The agency was notified of the presence of the disease by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory. The species impacted include the lesser scaup, black vulture “and other species,” the FWC said. The agency said there is a low risk of transmission to humans “and, to date, there have been no known human infections in North America.”
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Number of hospital patients with COVID-19 drops to lowest since Christmas” via David Schutz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The number of patients with coronavirus in Florida hospitals dropped to its lowest level in nearly two months and the seven-day average for new cases fell below 5,000 for the first time since Dec. 17. The state reported 3,698 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the seven-day average to 4,743, data from the CDC shows. There were 3,806 patients infected with COVID-19 in hospitals across the state on Monday and 644 in intensive care units.
“Orange County COVID-19 positivity rates hit single digits for first time since December” via Caroline Catherman of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange County’s seven-day test positivity rates for new COVID-19 cases are down to single digits 9.4%. It is the first time in more than a month the county has seen a rate this low. Orange County last had a seven-day positivity rate in the single digits from Dec. 14-20, at 8.8%, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. By the department’s next report, for Dec. 18-24, the seven-day positivity rate had jumped to over 18% as omicron quickly overwhelmed the community.
“Has COVID-19 reached endemic levels in Florida?” via Michelle Quesada and Scott Sutton for WPTV — By now, everyone has heard of the terms epidemic and pandemic. Now some would say we are transitioning into a COVID-19 endemic. But medical experts say there are many factors that determine the future of this virus. Florida has seen new COVID-19 cases drop 90% since the beginning of January, but medical experts say we are not smooth sailing into an endemic just yet. Infectious disease specialist Dr. Larry Bush shared his thoughts on where Florida is headed as we navigate COVID-19 after two years. “Endemic means a disease that’s in the community that’s always prevalent to some low number,” Bush said. “For instance, there’s always influenza in the world and our country at some low number that may increase.”
“Judge in Tampa grants 2 military officers religious exemption from vaccine” via Dennis Joyce of the Tampa Bay Times — A federal judge has ruled that a Navy commander and a Marine lieutenant colonel who have refused the COVID-19 vaccination on religious grounds can continue serving for now, saying the military has failed to show a compelling government interest in denying the exemptions. The 48-page ruling was issued in Tampa on Friday by U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday in a lawsuit brought against defendants including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. The pair have been identified only by rank and testified anonymously, with the judge’s consent, in Tampa earlier this month. They described themselves as practicing Christians who believe vaccines would introduce impurities into their bodies. Each also expressed concern about fetal cell lines, used in the research and development of various vaccines and many common medicines.
— 2022 —
“Democrats are engaged in a ‘new politics of evasion’ that could cost them in 2024, new study says” via Dan Balz of The Washington Post — Three decades ago, Democratic policy analysts William Galston and Elaine Kamarck published a bracing critique of their party, warning against a “politics of evasion” that they said ignored electoral reality and hindered changes needed to reverse the results of three losing presidential races. Now the authors are back, with a fresh analysis of their party. “A Democratic loss in the 2024 presidential election may well have catastrophic consequences for the country,” they write. The Democrats’ first duty, they argue, should be to protect democracy by winning in 2024; everything else should be subordinated to that objective. The party is “in the grip of myths that block progress toward victory” and that too many Democrats are engaged in a “new politics of evasion, the refusal to confront the unyielding arithmetic of electoral success.”
“Charlie Crist joins state-level Democrats to blast GOP, DeSantis on minority issues” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — Three Democratic legislators and two gubernatorial candidates attacked DeSantis and Republican legislators during what they dubbed the “State of Black & Brown Florida” news conference Tuesday. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and state Sen. Annette Taddeo, both gubernatorial candidates, joined state Sens. Shevrin Jones and Bobby Powell and state Rep. Anna Eskamani during the news conference on Capitol grounds. The elected officials accused DeSantis and Republican legislators of engaging in radical culture war tactics while ignoring the issues facing minority Floridians. Powell criticized DeSantis’ characterization that Florida is the freest state in the country following the progression of HB 7 and HB 1557, which he said will limit how racism and sexuality are discussed in schools.
“Nikki Fried says it’s a ‘dark day’ as House readies to pass bill limiting discussion of LGBTQ issues in schools” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — As the House prepared for a full-floor vote on the measures limiting discussion of LGBTQ issues in classrooms, Fried held a news conference in a last-ditch plea for the Republican-held lower chamber to vote the bills down. Critics call them the “Don’t Say Gay” bills. “It’s OK to say ‘gay.’ It’s OK to say ‘trans.’ It’s OK to say ‘LGBTQ,’ and know that we will never stop fighting for you,” Fried said. “You are not alone. You are loved. While today may be a dark day here in the state of Florida, I promise that there will be brighter days ahead, and remember that love always conquers hate.”
“Democrat Maxwell Frost rolls out new endorsements in CD 10” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Much of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party continues to line up behind Gen Z activist Maxwell Alejandro Frost’s campaign for Florida’s 10th Congressional District. On Tuesday, his team announced new endorsements from several groups and 10 individuals. The endorsements include those from the national group Progressive Change Campaign Committee, the Central Florida Progressive Democrats of America, and the Florida group Ban Assault Weapons Now. “Maxwell Frost represents the next generation of leadership,” PCCC co-founder Stephanie Taylor said in a news release.
“CD 10 Republican Willie Montague hosting ‘Uncensored America’ roundtable” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Seeking to draw attention in tandem with CPAC in Orlando, Republican congressional candidate Montague is hosting a fundraiser featuring a national roundtable of Black conservatives dubbed “Uncensored America.” The fundraiser is being arranged Saturday night at a downtown Orlando restaurant by Montague’s campaign for the open seat in Florida’s 10th Congressional District. The fundraiser, featuring a 14-speaker roundtable, will run concurrently with the CPAC Florida 2022 conference at the Rosen Shingle Creek. Tickets to Montague’s event range from $35 for livestream access to $2,000 for headline sponsors. “As conservatives, we support CPAC but also want to create a platform for Black conservatives to speak their minds in order to define for ourselves,” Montague said in a statement.
Indian River County Tax Collector backs Robert Brackett for HD 54 — Indian River Tax Collector and former Republican Party of Florida Chair Carole Jean Jordan on Tuesday endorsed Brackett in the race for House District 54. “Robert Brackett is a strong fiscal conservative that fights for the taxpayers of Indian River County,” she said. “I am looking forward to seeing him take that same energy and leadership to our state Legislature.” Jordan’s endorsement of Brackett, a Republican, follows a nod from 19th Circuit Public Defender Diamond Litty. HD 54 is the seat held by GOP Rep. Erin Grall, who announced earlier this year that she would not run for re-election and would instead run for state Senate.
— CORONA NATION —
“Got a COVID-19 booster? You probably won’t need another for a long time” via Apoorva Mandavilli of The New York Times — As people across the world grapple with the prospect of living with the coronavirus for the foreseeable future, one question looms large: How soon before they need yet another shot? Not for many months, and perhaps not for years. Three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, or even just two, are enough to protect most people from serious illness and death for a long time, the studies suggest. Federal health officials have said they are not planning to recommend fourth doses anytime soon.
“COVID-19 won’t end up like the flu. It will be like smoking.” via Benjamin Mazer of The Atlantic — It’s suddenly become acceptable to say that COVID-19 is or will soon be like the flu. Such analogies have long been the preserve of pandemic minimizers, but lately, they’ve been creeping into more enlightened circles. Last month the dean of a medical school wrote an open letter to his students suggesting that for a vaccinated person, the risk of death from COVID-19 is “in the same realm, or even lower, as the average American’s risk from flu.” Choosing not to get vaccinated against COVID-19 is, right now, a modifiable health risk on par with smoking. An unvaccinated adult is an astonishing 68 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than a boosted one.
“Private firms are taking over functions of some public health agencies” via Vignesh Ramachandran of Kaiser Health News — For some counties and cities that share a public health agency with other local governments, differences over mask mandates, business restrictions, and other COVID-19 preventive measures have strained those partnerships. At least two have been pushed past the breaking point. It is contracting things like COVID-19 case investigation, contact tracing, and isolation and quarantine guidance to a private consultant, Jogan Health Solutions, founded in early 2021. The contract is reportedly worth $1.5 million. “We believe the greatest challenges are behind us … those associated with being one of three counties with differing and competing public health demands, on a limited budget,” Douglas County spokesperson Wendy Manitta Holmes said in a statement.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Why this economic boom can’t lift America’s spirits” via Josh Mitchell of The Wall Street Journal — Americans normally are happiest when the economy is growing rapidly. The unusual nature of today’s recovery has upended that pattern. Last year was the best year for job growth on record. Workers are commanding solid wage gains. Booming home and stock-market values have lifted household wealth to records. But the record job growth followed record job losses in 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns. Inflation at 7.5% is eating up those wage gains for many Americans. And the unsettling effects of the pandemic, such as product shortages, are still playing out. That explains why consumers say they feel as bad as they did in the financial crisis year of 2009, a recent Gallup Poll showed. For the first time, Americans who say they are “not too happy” outnumber those who say they’re “very happy.”
“Florida TaxWatch looks at wage growth during the COVID-19 pandemic” via Florida Daily — At the end of last week, Florida TaxWatch (FTW) released an economic commentary entitled “Wage Growth and Talent Attraction in the Pandemic Labor Market.” The report presents wage growth as a result of companies’ recent efforts to attract and retain talent and analyzes the economic complexities surrounding this economic trend. Florida TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro weighed in on the report on Friday. “Here in Florida, where there’s a greater demand for restaurants, bars, and lodging, the Accommodation and Food Services sector alone has experienced wage growth of 28.4% since early 2020. While these pay gains have been eroded by inflation somewhat, they are a pronounced feature of today’s economy, and can be expected to maintain that status in 2022,” he said.
— MORE CORONA —
OFFS — “You can catch the omicron virus twice, study finds” via Morten Buttler of Bloomberg — A study from Denmark, one of the countries where omicron has spread the fastest, suggests that in rare cases people can be infected by the virus variant twice. Samples from 1.8 million positive tests showed that 47 people had both the BA.1., and the BA.2. sub-variant of omicron with a 20- to 60-day interval, Denmark’s institute for infectious diseases said in a statement on Tuesday. Those who had both variants were predominantly young and unvaccinated and they only suffered mild symptoms, according to the data, which hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed. Another 20 people have likely been infected with the same omicron variant twice.
“Houses of worship face clergy shortage as many resign during pandemic” via Ian Lovett of The Wall Street Journal — In religious groups across the country, clergy members are stepping down from the pulpit. They say the job, always demanding, has become almost impossible during the pandemic: Relationships with and among parishioners have frayed while meeting only over video, and political divisions have deepened, fueled by fights over COVID-19 protocols. Though no national data about clergy resignations exists, an October study from the Barna Group, which studies faith in the U.S., found that 38% of pastors were seriously considering leaving the full-time ministry, up from 29% in January 2021. Among pastors under age 45, nearly half were considering quitting.
“Dry cleaners are beginning to close as the pandemic drags on” via Teo Armus of The Washington Post — In the D.C. region and other large metro areas, dry cleaning has long been seen as a vehicle to the middle class for immigrant families, many of them Korean Americans who settled here in the 1970s through 1990s, industry experts say. But even before the pandemic, many of those independent stores were bracing for change: Their U.S.-born children were choosing not to take over the family business, opting instead for white-collar fields. Even in buttoned-up Washington, offices were loosening their norms for professional attire and lessening the need for professional cleaning. “At one point, you had casual Friday, and then you went to casual every day,” said Mary Scalco, the chief executive of the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute.
“After unexplained absence, Fox News’s Neil Cavuto tells viewers his second bout with COVID-19 landed him in ICU” via Andrea Salcedo of The Washington Post — For weeks, Fox News host Cavuto was off-screen, and his viewers didn’t really know why. Until Monday, when Cavuto, who was back in the studio, revealed the cause of his absence: He had tested positive for the coronavirus again. Only this time, the virus had sent him to the intensive care unit and nearly killed him, Cavuto told his Fox Business audience. Cavuto has said he is fully vaccinated. “I did get COVID-19 again — but a far, far more serious strand, what doctors call COVID-19 pneumonia,” the “Your World” host said. “It landed me in intensive care for quite a while, and it really was touch and go.” Cavuto, who is immunocompromised, has publicly advocated for vaccines ever since he was infected with the virus in the fall.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“Joe Biden’s full plate: Ukraine, inflation, low public approval” via Josh Boak of The Associated Press — On the same day that Biden called out Russia and issued harsh sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine, his only other public appearance was an event focused on the need to unkink the supply chain for minerals used in batteries, electronics and other technologies. The back-to-back events on Tuesday highlighted the competing claims for Biden’s attention entering the spring of a midterm election year: the prospect of a calamitous European land war that will only add to inflation and other problems at home while also managing a vexing set of domestic challenges and must-do tasks.
“Wooing allies, publicizing Vladimir Putin’s plans: Inside Biden’s race to prevent war” via Michael D. Shear, Julian E. Barnes and Eric Schmitt of The New York Times — In a series of top-secret meetings last October, Biden’s national security team presented grim intelligence that would soon trigger a fierce effort to prevent what could become the largest armed conflict in Europe since World War II. Putin was preparing to invade Ukraine, top intelligence and military officials told Biden. The White House acknowledged from the start that its campaign to stop Putin might not actually prevent Russia from invading Ukraine. But at the very least, White House officials say, Biden exposed Putin and his true intentions, which helped unite, at least for now, the at-times fractious NATO alliance.
“Biden agency vacancies to drag on White House priorities” via Fatima Hussein, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Hope Yen, and Colleen Long of The Associated Press — For more than a year, the FDA lacked a permanent head when the agency was central in the battle against COVID-19. Once Biden nominated Dr. Robert Califf to head the agency, it took the Senate three months to confirm him. The political battles over Califf’s nomination highlight the difficulties that Biden faces in filling key positions throughout his administration. The vacancies in high-ranking positions across the executive branch could put a drag on Biden’s ability to fight the pandemic, implement the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law and boost the economy with inflation levels at a 40-year high.
“Biden administration signals continued commitment to home care after Build Back Better stall” via Sara Luterman of 19th News — Secretary Xavier Becerra, America’s top health official, met with leaders in aging, labor and disability to discuss the future of home care funding on Thursday. This meeting was the first of its kind since negotiations over Biden’s $1.8 trillion Build Back Better economic plan stalled in December, indicating that the administration has not given up work on the big promises it made to disabled people, seniors and the people who care for them. The majority of paid and unpaid home care is provided by women, and paid caregiving is overwhelmingly provided by women of color, something both Becerra and attendees highlighted during the meeting.
“Dems, GOP at odds over Biden’s proposed science agency” via Sarah Owermohle of POLITICO — Bipartisan support for one of Biden’s pet health projects is crumbling as Republicans home in on spending and Democrats split over its structure. Emerging resistance to Biden’s idea of a multibillion-dollar new agency to tackle some of health care’s biggest challenges reflects a widening gap over what used to be a cross-party island in a divisive sea, funding medical research. And an already adversarial tone among many Republicans critical of top federal scientists like Anthony Fauci was amplified by the sudden recent departure of Biden’s close science adviser, Eric Lander, a champion of the President’s research initiative.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Marco Rubio warns Putin isn’t stopping in Ukraine anytime soon” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Rubio, on Fox and Friends, said Russia had no intention of stopping with the two breakaway republics currently subject to Russian incursion, but intended instead to press on to Kyiv. Rubio didn’t listen to or read the entire Putin speech, but he got the gist. “I read the English translation of the speech,” Rubio said. “It was long, so I took excerpts. I’m not going to read that whole thing, he went through these long, ridiculous history lessons.” What was clearer was the present tense. “He’s not going to stop with these two little areas along the border,” Rubio said, referring to the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of the country that seek to break away from Kyiv.
“Rick Scott pushes own GOP agenda as Mitch McConnell holds off” via Burgess Everett of POLITICO — Senate Republican leaders have no plans to release an alternative agenda as they try to win back the majority this fall. So, Scott is pursuing his own plan. The Florida Republican Senator is devising a conservative blueprint for Republicans to enact should they win Senate and House majorities this fall. Among Scott’s priorities: completing the border wall and naming it after Trump, declaring “there are two genders,” ending any reference to ethnicity on government forms and limiting most federal government workers — including members of Congress — to 12 years of service.
—”Scott’s bonkers GOP agenda shows why McConnell doesn’t want one” via Ed Kilgore of POLITICO
—”Scott’s plan to save America is an unhinged, right-wing fever dream” via Inae Oh of Mother Jones
—”Scott thrusts the GOP back into Mitt Romney-‘47%’ territory” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post
—”This is exactly what McConnell didn’t want” via Jim Newell of Slate
Assignment editors — U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor joins Rob Kriete, president of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association, and Damaris Allen, former Hillsborough County PTA president and education advocate for a news conference to decry the $14.2 million in cuts to Hillsborough schools as part of the proposed state budget, 10 a.m., Tampa Bay Blvd. Elementary, 3111 W. Tampa Bay Blvd., Tampa. RSVP to [email protected]
— CRISIS —
“Supreme Court ends Donald Trump bid to shield records from Jan. 6 panel” via Oriana Gonzalez of Axios — The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected Trump‘s latest request to block the National Archives and Record Administration from releasing records to the House Jan. 6 select committee. The court’s rejection marks a formal end to Trump’s efforts to prevent lawmakers from obtaining records that contained White House visitor logs and other documents that the former President attempted to keep hidden. The move came in an unsigned order issued without comment. The order left intact a lower court’s decision that said while Trump can invoke executive privilege, the sitting President does not need to honor it.
“Pentagon weighs request for D.C. National Guard help ahead of trucker protests” via Connor O’Brien and Nicholas Wu of POLITICO — The Pentagon said Tuesday it is considering a request to deploy the National Guard to provide assistance ahead of trucker protests that could halt traffic around the nation’s capital as soon as this week. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the department received a request for Guard support from the U.S. Capitol Police and the D.C. government but had not yet decided to approve the request. Several trucker convoys protesting coronavirus restrictions are slated to begin arriving in the D.C. area this week and continue into early March. The protests come after truckers in Canada occupied the capital city of Ottawa for three weeks to oppose vaccine mandates.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“Trump’s Mar-a-Lago ‘Magapalooza’: Boost allies, settle scores” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — Trump’s super PAC kicks off its first candidates’ forum at his Mar-a-Lago club on Wednesday, a fundraising event designed to both celebrate the former President and elevate the congressional hopefuls he’s promoting against Republicans he’s deemed disloyal. The event, closed to the press and called the “Take Back Congress Candidate Forum,” promises to be different from the traditional format of candidates giving speeches one after another from a lectern, according to sources familiar with the agenda. Instead, 10 sitting members of Congress and four Trump super PAC members will host panels or conduct one-on-one interviews with the 13 congressional candidates scheduled to attend.
But are they? — “Trump and DeSantis are on the brink of war” via Daniel Strauss of The Hill — For Trump and DeSantis, this week’s Conservative Political Action Conference has an outsize level of importance. That’s because the annual CPAC straw poll will almost certainly more closely pit the two would-be 2024 presidential candidates against each other, offering the most direct comparison yet of which Republican is favored by some of the most active Republicans in the Party. But what’s interesting is that in a party whose devotion to Trump has been nothing short of slavish, DeSantis has been the only figure willing to step forward to challenge Trump’s positions. It’s a given that the two will poll at the top. The bigger question is how close they are and what the ripple effect of that will be.
“House impeachment managers, a year later, are still searching for ways to hold Trump accountable for Jan. 6” via Paul Kane of The Washington Post — Last month, Rep. David N. Cicilline sent eight colleagues a gift to mark the bonds they forged in the impeachment trial of Trump after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. A year later, the nine impeachment managers have remained in close contact. They’re part of the “strange club,” as Rep. Madeleine Dean described it, one of just four sets of House members to ever try a Presidential impeachment case in the Senate. This group has largely returned to rank-and-file status, going back to their normal committee work and providing constituent services back in their districts. They suffer from a bit of political whiplash because while they recorded the most bipartisan conviction vote ever for presidential impeachment, Trump has not shrunk from the limelight.
“Whatever became of the anti-Trump prophets?” via Ben Terris of The Washington Post — There was Tom Arnold, the fast-talking comic actor. There was the low-level Bill Clinton staffer and former photography shop owner and his Twitter running buddy, the novelist and former member of British Parliament. There was the mysterious insider who reassured anxious Americans, in the pages of The New York Times, that there were Good Four years ago, these figures formed a kind of Little Rascals version of the Justice League, and convinced many liberals that they were on the brink of something huge. One claims to hardly ever think back on their days in the fray, while another frets that, with another Trump run looming, we are on the precipice of a new era of wishful thinking about what and who might intervene to keep Trump out of the White House.
— LOCAL NOTES —
“‘A very sad, sad case’: How a system designed to protect children kept a 13-year-old girl in detention for a crime she didn’t commit” via Chris Perkins of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Two months after being arrested and spending nearly two weeks in a juvenile detention center, charges were dropped against 13-year-old Nia Whims. Whims, a seventh grader, was accused of using Instagram to make a written threat to kill a teacher and a 12-year-old classmate, and blow up their school. After Pembroke Pines police investigated further, they discovered the 12-year-old girl impersonated Whims by creating fake Instagram and email accounts in her name. Now, charges have been filed against the 12-year-old. But the big question is how a justice system designed to protect children failed to protect a child who consistently maintained her innocence.
“Did buyers reach their limit? House prices fall in Miami-Dade for the first time in months” via Michael Butler and Rebecca San Juan of the Miami Herald — It would seem the sky’s the limit when it comes to pricing for South Florida’s high-rise living with sales prices reaching new heights in January. Median sales prices increased for condos for the fifth month in a row in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, according to new housing data from the Miami Association of Realtors. In Miami-Dade, prices grew to $360,000 in January, up from $355,000 in December. Prices rose in Broward to $240,000 in January, slightly higher than $236,000 the month before. The month-to-month growth mirrors a year-over-year jump in condo sales prices. Miami-Dade experienced a 27% rise in condo prices to $360,000 in January 2022 from $280,000 in January 2021. Prices rose by 15% in Broward, to $240,000 in January from $209,000 a year ago.
“Why Duval School leaders believe a property tax increase is necessary” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — In the last five years, Duval County Public Schools saw enrollment in their traditional schools shrink by about 8%. At the same time, the number of students enrolling in existing and new charter schools increased by about 46%. And sparked in part by the pandemic, low pay and burnout, more and more teachers are leaving the classroom, leaving the district with an unprecedented vacancy rate of about 400 teachers. All of that combined leaves the district fighting to stay competitive. Superintendent Diana Greene says a property tax could help.
“Ken Jefferson enters crowded field to be Jacksonville’s next Sheriff” via Dan Scanlan of The Florida Times-Union — The field of candidates aiming to be Jacksonville’s next sheriff has grown to six as Jefferson joins two Republicans and three other Democrats in the 2023 race to lead the department. It is the 64-year-old retired police officer’s third run for the top cop spot, his announcement coming only days after leaving News4Jax as its crime and safety analyst after 11 years. Jefferson wants to take over from the man who beat him in the 2015 election, now term-limited Sheriff Mike Williams. Calling himself a “servant leader,” Jefferson said he is making his third bid for all of the people of Jacksonville, many he met before deciding to run again urging him to do so to help bring the city together.
“Florida State University pledges $5.6 million to North Florida Innovation Labs” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — Florida State University announced Tuesday it has pledged $5.6 million in capital commitments to bring North Florida Innovation Labs, a research-centric business incubator, to Leon County’s Innovation Park. The funding comes from the FSU Research Foundation and includes a $2.6 million gift and $3 million in loans. The lab is also receiving a $12.4 million federal grant and $2.8 million from the Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency’s Office of Economic Vitality. NFIL is a 40,000-square-foot incubator designed to assist developing companies by co-locating them in an established research park with other companies to develop products that are vital to new and expanding businesses.
“Ex-Lake City State Attorney Jeff Siegmeister takes plea in corruption case” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — Siegmeister pleaded guilty Tuesday to crimes involving conspiracy, extortion, fraud and tax-cheating while he was the elected prosecutor for a seven-county area. In his plea deal, Siegmeister admitted crimes both in his post at Florida’s 3rd Judicial Circuit and in his private life, where he took money from accounts of a man a court had made him guardian over. The 53-year-old Republican, who held office from 2013 to 2019, entered his plea in return for prosecutors dropping other parts of an indictment involving bribery and extorting people awaiting prosecution in his circuit, which reached from Lake City to the Georgia border and the Gulf of Mexico.
“DeSantis won’t fill Indian River Hospital District seat, leaving board short-handed another 8½ months” via Janet Begley for TC Palm — DeSantis won’t fill the vacancy on the Hospital District board, leaving the seven-member body short-handed for another 8½ months. It’s already been operating with six members since the Dec. 31 resignation of Michael Weiss. Under state law, the governor had 45 days to fill the vacancy after he was notified of the opening. That deadline passed last week without DeSantis naming Weiss’ successor, so Weiss’ seat will remain vacant until the Nov. 8 election. Now, five of the seven Hospital District board seats will be up for election in November.
“Panama City Beach to temporarily close portion of sandy beach to discourage rowdiness” via Nathan Cobb of the Panama City News-Herald — A portion of sandy beaches in Panama City Beach will be temporarily closed at night from March 1 until April 30. The decision came during a recent City Council meeting when officials approved the closure, which begins at 10 p.m. and lasts until 5 a.m., for the portion of the Gulf of Mexico that spans from the Ocean Ritz Condominiums to Public Beach Access 25. “It’s what we’ve done in the past and it’s what we should continue (to do) with the manpower that we have,” Mayor Mark Sheldon said during the meeting. According to information in the meeting’s agenda, local leaders are given the authority to make such closures through Article VIII, Section 2 of the Florida Constitution.
“Venice City Council votes to allow alcoholic beverages on public beaches” via Nathaniel Rodriguez of WFLA — Venice beachgoers will now be able to take alcoholic drinks on the city’s public beaches after a vote by the Venice City Council Tuesday. The city announced on Twitter that a new ordinance will allow for people to drink alcohol on public beaches during daylight hours only, which ends a half-hour after sunset. The new ordinance covers Humphris Park, South Jetty and Venice Fishing Pier. It also allows for beer and wine to be sold at the Jetty Jacks concession at the South Jetty and the Pilot House concession at Venice Beach.
“World Equestrian Center — Ocala breaks ground on second hotel” via Florida Politics — The five-story, 400-room hotel will be located on WEC — Ocala’s equestrian and multipurpose facility park — expected to open in June 2024. The new pet-friendly hotel is designed for extended-stay customers and will feature larger suite-like rooms. Plans also include an 80,000-square-foot restaurant complex adjacent to the hotel. The World Equestrian Center — Ocala is the largest equestrian complex in the United States. In addition to the 378 acres the park currently occupies, WEC has set aside 300 acres for future development. The facility aims to bring the “ultimate horse show experience to exhibitors and vendors, combining quality facilities with exceptional service.” Ocala is known as the “Horse Capital of the World.”
— TOP OPINION —
“San Francisco parents issue a warning to school leaders across the country” via Jeb Bush for the Miami Herald — As a proud Miamian, you won’t hear me say this often, but there’s a lesson to be learned from San Francisco. Last week, voters recalled three school board members by a 3:1 margin, and the reason was quite simple: They ignored parents. Thankfully, Miami has leaders who don’t fear education innovations that help serve families. Unfortunately, not every student in Florida or across the country is blessed with such leadership, and it’s a big reason why I hope the San Francisco recall election makes a national impact. It should serve as a wake-up call to those charged with overseeing local schools and a valuable reminder that families and students in their community are their constituencies, not the special interest groups that write checks.
— OPINIONS —
“Why does Florida have so many Oath Keepers and Proud Boys?” via the Miami Herald editorial board — More residents from Florida have been charged in the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol than from any other state. The state now has 68 hate groups, the second-highest number in the nation after California. Last month, neo-Nazi groups demonstrated openly in Orlando. Florida has an extremist problem, and we need to confront it head-on. Florida’s role in the attack of Jan. 6, 2021, should put us all on notice about what’s brewing in this state. So far, 79 out of 734 federal Jan. 6 cases involve Florida residents, according to stories in the Miami Herald that focused on far-right groups, including the Oath Keepers. Based on population, that means the state is overrepresented, as are other states, such as Pennsylvania.
“Senators’ anti-democracy stance troubling” via Robert H. Monz for The Palm Beach Post — Florida’s two Republican Senators, Rubio and Scott, do not support democracy. Both opposed voting rights legislation. Both senators vote against anything that is positive for the American people. They only support their own party, which Trump has control over. Sens. Rubio and Scott did not support the Jan. 6 investigation into insurrection against the United States Government. It’s time for both to be replaced. Rubio must be replaced this November with someone who stands up for democracy, and Scott must be replaced when his time comes for re-election.
“Scott just laid out a Republican agenda. He has done his party no favors.” via Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post — McConnell might be ruthless, cynical and power-hungry, but he is not dumb. There is a reason he declared late last year that the GOP would not put out an agenda for the midterms. Scott, chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, had other plans. He put out his own agenda and it’s a doozy. Let’s start with what is not in there: any proposal to bring down inflation; to increase wages or reduce income inequality; or to prepare workers for the 21st-century economy. What it does include is embarrassing. Start with this: “We will secure our border, finish building the wall, and name it after President Donald Trump.”
“On DeSantis’ warpath to the White House, Black Floridians are the targets” via the Miami Herald editorial board — During the 2018 gubernatorial race, DeSantis told FOX News Floridians shouldn’t “monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda” and electing Black Democratic opponent Andrew Gillum. It’s hard to believe the Ivy League-educated DeSantis didn’t understand the racially charged context of his statement, but faced with national backlash, he said at the time that his comment had “zero to do with race.” After getting elected, DeSantis appeared to offer Black Floridians an olive branch by approving a long overdue posthumous pardon for the Groveland Four. Over the past year, DeSantis has, with seemingly no hesitation, used African Americans as scapegoats in his quest to become the next standard-bearer for Trumpism.
What Kathy Mears is reading — “Unanimity in redistricting will gain voters’ trust” via Carlos Lopez-Cantera for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The Florida Legislature is in the midst of one of its most important tasks: redistricting the state’s legislative and congressional districts. This process often attracts a high level of attention because it occurs once every decade, following the nation’s census counts. It can also become highly politicized as we’ve seen in states across the nation. Though deep divisions are often byproducts of redistricting, the Florida Senate saw a bipartisan approach that led to a 34-3 for their state legislative maps and a 31-4 vote on their congressional maps. This is truly remarkable given the highly polarized political landscape we face in our nation.
“Let Florida’s migrant shelters care for children” via Rev. Jose Rodriguez and other Latino community leaders for the Orlando Sentinel — Suspending the renewals of state licenses for shelters that give the grace of protection to unaccompanied children is denying the most vulnerable among us the charisma of hospitality that have made Florida world-renowned. Sheltering children fleeing chaos, danger and other traumas is a means of grace more powerful than allowing visiting children multiple opportunities to escape reality to visit fantasy worlds. Operation Peter Pan offered children real hope, not in an imaginary adventure, but to a land where they were safe to grow up. The hope of their escape was realized in that they were sheltered in a land of real opportunity that allowed them to achieve great things. This hope is a promised land where they could be audacious enough to believe they could grow up and achieve a dream.
“Florida has a responsibility to protect at-risk children” via Dominic M. Calabro of the Orlando Sentinel — Vulnerable children and Florida families in need are facing added challenges today. The struggles that threaten their stability are running headlong into workforce shortages and regulatory shifts plaguing the entities designed to help them. The state has an obligation to protect them, and Florida TaxWatch believes that immediate attention is needed to sustain the organizations, case managers and professionals providing that critical care. The vast majority of human services in Florida are provided by community-based organizations under contract with state agencies. The services they provide cannot be ignored. Dollars for prevention and protection provide a real return on investment for us all.
—TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Republicans flip a Democratic City Council seat in Jacksonville. Tea leaf readers say that’s good news for DeSantis.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— Rep. Michele Rayner has a pointed message for the Governor about culture war legislation.
— Just what is the “fatherhood crisis” and how will legislation aimed at addressing it help? Sunrise talks to the head of “Man Up and Go.”
— And the organization dedicated to protecting panthers now want to kill one.
To listen, click on the image below:
— ALOE —
Florida is the ‘most social’ state for St. Patrick’s Day — A new survey published by Time2Play found Florida was No. 1 on the list of states whose residents drink with friends or co-workers on St. Patrick’s Day. The survey of 1,500 Americans found 72.1% of Floridians enjoy a drink or two with friends on the holiday, putting it a couple of points above No. 2 Illinois. Massachusetts ranked third. Meanwhile, the poll found Florida was the No. 9 state for alcohol spending on St. Patrick’s Day, with the average reveler spending $49.52. The biggest spenders are New Jersey residents, who shell out $57.76 on average for green beer, Irish whiskey, and whatever other spirits their hearts desire. Check out the full survey.
“This Hialeah KFC made famous flan for 45 years. Here’s why it’s now off the menu” via Carlos Frías of the Miami Herald — Dan Yagoda was proud to own the only Kentucky Fried Chicken in the world to bake its own flan. That it was in Hialeah was a specific source of pride — a reflection of the Cuban community that embraced the city in the 1960s, when Cubans fled the revolution and made this blue-collar town their home. Even after KFC stopped using those pots, this KFC at 811 W. 49th St. got special dispensation from its corporate office to keep making a flan silky and luscious enough to make any home cook jealous. You can blame a supply chain that made the key ingredients hard for KFC’s supplier to get, particularly because they weren’t used at other stores. You can blame a small staff that was overburdened.
“Welcome to Batman’s hometown. Wait, is that Glasgow?” via James Hookway of The Wall Street Journal — There is a dingy, narrow alleyway around the back of the Horseshoe Bar here that looks like a place where something unpleasant could happen. It is also one of the reasons Scotland’s biggest city has landed a recurring role as Batman’s hometown. With its mix of neoclassical buildings and grimy back streets, location scouts have discovered Glasgow is an ideal match for Gotham City. Robert Pattinson, who plays Bruce Wayne, praised the city and its brooding architecture in the local Daily Record newspaper, calling Glasgow a brilliant Gotham. The coming “Flash” movie, this time featuring Ben Affleck as Batman, was shot in part here. City chiefs are thrilled that the bat-signal is shining over their town. Movie and television productions spent a record $57 million on hotels, restaurants and support last year, the Glasgow City Council said, providing a boost after the slump from the COVID-19 pandemic.
What Ella Joyce Schorsch is reading — “From rendering to reality: Disney Cruise Line’s Rapunzel stern character on Disney Wish” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Each ship in the Disney Cruise Line fleet has a unique stern character ornately interacting with paintbrushes as if they’re putting the finishing touches on each of the vessel’s names. For Disney Magic it’s Goofy. For Disney Wonder, it’s Donald Duck and his nephews. For Disney Dream, it’s Fantasia Mickey directing some mops. For Disney Fantasy, it’s Dumbo. The announcement of Rapunzel from “Tangled” along with sidekick Pascal the chameleon came in 2019 with a rendering showing the long blonde hair of the princess supporting her while holding a brush to hull and Pascal holding her palette.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Happiest of birthday wishes to one of our besties, Amanda Taylor Houston.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Renzo Downey, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.