Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics
Good Wednesday morning.
After 42 years of a “legendary” lobbying career with U.S. Sugar, RobertCoker is announcing he will retire at the end of this year.
Coker made his mark on Tallahassee and Washington while serving as U.S. Sugar’s Senior Vice President of Public Affairs. He famously helped defeat the 1996 Penny-A-Pound sugar tax and shaped policies like the Everglades Forever Act and the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.
“By all measures, Robert Coker has done an outstanding job in managing U.S. Sugar’s public affairs efforts over the last 42 years as well as always looking out for the best interests of our employees and our community,” U.S. Sugar President and CEO Kenneth W. McDuffie said.
Eric Edwards, U.S. Sugar’s Vice President of Governmental Affairs, will succeed Coker. The Clewiston native has worked alongside Coker for the last seven years. Coker’s last day will be Dec. 31.
Coker began his U.S. Sugar career in 1982 in the Community Affairs Department. In 1993, he made the leap to Vice President of Community Affairs. Coker rose to his current role as Senior Vice President of Public Affairs in 2000.
“As a corporate officer and a valued member of our senior leadership team, Robert has been actively engaged in strategic corporate decisions from environmental regulation to real estate for more than two decades,” McDuffie said. “His advice and counsel has been greatly appreciated by the senior management team, CEO and our Board of Directors.”
Coker has earned many accolades over the years, including as a “Legend” in Florida Politics by INFLUENCE Magazine.
“Robert Coker has been called a legend in the political arena, and that’s a pretty good summation of his career,” McDuffie said.
Speaking of agriculture, the Florida Ag Coalition has some drive-time listening for you.
The organization representing Florida’s farmers, growers and ranchers has launched a new podcast, “HERD It Here: A Florida Agriculture Podcast,” to engage Florida’s ag community and beyond.
The host, Michelle Miller, is better known as “The Farm Babe,” an international influencer who champions American agriculture. Miller brings a unique perspective as a “big city globe-trotter turned farm girl.” Her goal is to educate the public about modern agriculture and help them understand the importance of science to production.
The podcast debuted earlier this month with an episode featuring Florida Farm Bureau President Jeb Smith, who talks with Miller about some of the biggest issues affecting Florida agriculture and what the Florida Farm Bureau is doing to address them.
The Florida Ag Coalition says listeners can expect the second episode to drop on Tuesday, just in time for your Thanksgiving drive. HERD It Here is available here and on all major podcast platforms.
Betty Miranda and Alex Kernan are joining the team at full-service business law firm Gunster.
Miranda will work out of Gunster’s Tampa office in the firm’s Labor & Employment Law practice. There, she will represent clients in litigation and assist them in managing employment relationships.
Miranda, who earned her law degree from the University of Florida, previously served as a federal judicial law clerk for U.S. District Judge Anthony E. Porcelli and held a clerkship under Judge Jonathan D. Gerber in Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeal. She also has experience working at a boutique law firm where she represented public and private sector employers, helping them conduct investigations into claims of harassment or discrimination and handling disputes involving noncompete agreements, collective actions and labor arbitrations.
Kernan, meanwhile, is joining Gunster’s Tallahassee lobbying team as a Government Affairs Consultant.
She brings more than a decade of legislative, executive and political experience to her new role, which will see her focus on client support in legislative and public policy and provide clients with guidance on integrating government relations, communications and issue management.
Before joining Gunster, Kernan worked as the Director of Legislative and Government Affairs at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which required her to work closely with the Governor’s Office and leadership team to pass Florida’s top environmental priorities, including the landmark “Clean Waterways Act.” She also helped DEP secure record funding from the Legislature, including over $3 billion for water quality and nearly $1 billion for land acquisition.
Kernan holds an undergraduate degree in political science from UF and previously served as the Deputy Communications Director at the Florida Department of Revenue and as legislative assistant and Communications Director for Ocala Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@AmbJohnBolton: Huge support for Israel today on the National Mall. Hamas and Iran aim is to exploit Western weakness and irresolution. All Americans must remain committed to Israel’s defense and their inherent right to eliminate the threat of terrorism. No more excuses, Mr. President — Israel requires full U.S. support
—@VictorShi2020: Holy shit. Univision, the nation’s largest Spanish-language network, has decided to cancel ad-buys by the (Joe) Biden campaign in Nevada, Arizona, Pennsylvania, & Florida after (Donald) Trump met with their executives last week. Our media continues to fail us. This is how our democracy dies.
—@jayobtv: AND NOW THIS — @RepMattGaetz, no friend of (Kevin) McCarthy, just filed an ethics complaint against McCarthy over the alleged shoving of (Tim) Burchett.
—@JaxAlemany: An all-around very angry Congress today: “You look like a smurf here,” @JamesComer yells at @JaredEMoskowitz at GSA hearing after he’s asked about reporting that Comer paid his brother $200,000.
—@LoriBerman: Ohio’s triumph in safeguarding abortion rights is a clarion call for action in Florida. We must unite to bring this measure to our ballot and fiercely defend our reproductive freedoms. The time to act is now — for autonomy, for choice, for Florida.
—@WaltDisneyCo: Walt Disney World Resort — one of the world’s most popular vacation destinations — generated $40 billion in economic impact across the state of Florida and more than a quarter of a million total jobs in fiscal year 2022
—@Jason_Garcia: Another bill has been filed in the Florida Legislature that loosens the state’s child-labor laws. This one (Senate Bill 460) would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to work on top of roofs, scaffoldings and building superstructures
—@RobertBluey: Excited to welcome @ErikaDonalds to the @Heritage team as a new visiting fellow in our Center for Education Policy.
—@MarcACaputo: As long as Mario Cristobal continues as head coach this year, I’m not going to a home game unless you pay for my ticket, transportation and food. Who wants to watch a team of talented athletes mis-coached into uninspired play? I say this as a UM grad and city resident
— DAYS UNTIL —
Formula 1 will take over the Las Vegas Strip — 1; Miami Beach mayoral runoff — 6; Ridley Scott’s ‘Napoleon’ premieres — 7; 2023 Florida Transportation, Growth & Infrastructure Solution Summit — 7; ‘Squid Game: The Challenge’ premieres — 7; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 15; Florida TaxWatch’s 2023 Government Productivity Awards Ceremony — 21; in-person sports betting begins at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa — 23; 2023 Florida Chamber Annual Insurance Summit — 29; Zack Snyder’s ‘Rebel Moon’ premieres — 37; Michael Mann’s ‘Ferrari’ premieres — 40; Matt Dixon’s ‘Swamp Monsters: Trump vs. DeSantis ― the Greatest Show on Earth (or at Least in Florida)’ released — 55; 2024 Florida Chamber Legislative Fly-In and reception — 55; Florida’s 2024 Regular Session begins — 55; 2024 Primetime Emmy Awards — 61; Florida TaxWatch’s State of the Taxpayer Dinner — 62; House District 35 Special Election — 62; Red Dog Blue Dog 2024 — 70; South Carolina Democratic Primary — 80; New Hampshire and Nevada Democratic Primaries — 83; South Carolina GOP holds first-in-the-South Primary — 101; Michigan Democratic Primary — 103; Trump’s D.C. trial on charges related to trying to reverse his 2020 Election loss — 109; Super Tuesday — 110; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 113; 2024 Oscars — 117; Georgia Democratic Primary — 118; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 122; 2024 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 177; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 186; Republican National Convention begins — 240; New ‘Alien’ premieres — 244; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 253; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 254; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 284; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 328; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 340; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 401; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 457; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 536; ‘Moana’ premieres — 592; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 766; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 897; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 920; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 1,133; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,272; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,228; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,591.
The study by Oxford Economics estimated the Mouse’s state economic impact at $40.3 billion.
Disney’s workforce was 82,000 in Florida in 2022, but the company also hired 2,500 small businesses in the state and other companies benefited from the giant tourism-driven economy. The report said Disney indirectly or directly created 263,000 jobs in Florida last year — or 1 out of every 32 jobs.
“The numbers speak for themselves on why Disney is so important to fueling jobs, the economy and tourism throughout our region, and the future investments we’re looking to make will continue to provide even more opportunities for Floridians,” said Walt Disney World Resort President Jeff Vahle in a statement.
Disney also paid $3.1 billion in local and state taxes, the report said.
“I can confidently say that Disney’s contributions have resulted in the progress and prosperity of Florida and all who call it home,” said Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings in a news release.
Disney released the economic study findings during a week when theme parks are celebrated at Orlando’s IAAPA Expo.
Oh yeah, there’s also Disney’s whole longtime fight with state Republicans.
— THE TRAIL —
“Ron DeSantis touts 18 new endorsements in New Hampshire” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — DeSantis is touting a new slate of endorsers in the Granite State made up of 18 current and former elected officials and community leaders. The endorsements include three New Hampshire state Representatives, four former elected officials, most from local offices, four former local GOP Chairs, five elected local officials, an activist and a small-business owner. Among the state Representatives backing DeSantis are Joe Guthrie, Travis O’Hara and Walter Spilsbury. “Ron DeSantis is a tested fiscal conservative, exactly what our country needs at this critical time,” Spilsbury said.
“Nikki Haley unveils dozens of Iowa endorsers after another post-Presidential debate boost” via Brianne Pfannenstiel of the Des Moines Register — Fresh off a third well-received debate performance, Haley is unveiling dozens of endorsements in Iowa as she fights to distinguish herself as the top alternative to Trump ahead of the Jan. 15 Republican caucuses. Trump leads the field with 43% of likely Republican Caucus goers naming him as their first choice for President. Haley is tied in a distant second place with DeSantis at 16%, though she is the only candidate showing substantial upward momentum. She gained 10 percentage points over her August Iowa Poll showing.
“DeSantis dispatches 3 top aides to Iowa” via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO — Deputy campaign manager David Polyansky, national political director Sam Cooper and communications director Andrew Romeo are among the DeSantis aides who will now work from Iowa through the Caucus, according to a person familiar with the plan. The campaign is sending roughly 20 people — or one-third — of its Tallahassee-based national staff to the state. Additional aides could be deployed to Iowa in December. As part of the wave, the DeSantis campaign has set up headquarters in Urbandale (the campaign had one other office up to this point). The Governor is expected to visit the office this coming weekend, the person said.
“DeSantis now says his pitch for Iowa caucus in Florida was a joke” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Florida may be the “Iowa of the Southeast,” but DeSantis is now framing his pitch for satellite Iowa caucuses in the Sunshine State as a joke. “I’ve joked to the folks that we should figure out if we can get some satellite caucus locations in Southwest Florida because I think there’s quite a bit of Iowans who come down there and, you know, they haven’t had a Caucus for, since 2016, on the Republican side. So, what I’ve been telling people is, you know, anyone coming to Florida, just make sure you caucus first and then come down and get that done,” he said on AM 600 WMT. DeSantis floated the remote events during a meet and greet event in Muscadine.
“DeSantis says Tim Scott couldn’t ‘compete’ in GOP presidential race” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis offered more commentary on U.S. Sen. Scott’s exit from the race. “I think the more consolidation, the better. I mean, Tim Scott had a following. I don’t think he was in a position to really compete to win or to show very well, but he was a good guy,” DeSantis said, lauding the South Carolinian’s “good, good, good, solid record.” “I think having those people (previously supporting Scott) up for grabs will help me for sure,” the 2024 presidential candidate told listeners of AM 600 WMT. Previously, DeSantis bid the “strong conservative” from South Carolina farewell in the wake of his snap decision to exit the race.
“DeSantis lumps Mitt Romney in with GOP ‘surrender caucus’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — During an interview with WORD’s “The Tara Show,” DeSantis lashed out at Romney for leaning toward Haley in the 2024 Republican Primary. “Well, look, Romney, you know, he’s attacked me as saying, I mean, I don’t even know. He uses, like, the left-wing clichés to do that. I don’t really know Mitt Romney. But clearly, he views Nikki as more in line with the direction he wants to go, which to me is just a surrender caucus of Republicans who are never going to fight for anybody, who are going to go to D.C. and just let business as usual take hold. We cannot afford that. This country is declining,” DeSantis said. “We have to reverse the decline. And we need a new birth of freedom here. But it’s not going to happen with kind of the same old, same old Republicans who’ve never fought for us in the beginning.”
— MORE 2024 —
“Citadel chief Ken Griffin weighs backing Haley in Republican Primary” via Brian Schwartz of CNBC — “That’s a decision that we’re actively contemplating. I mean, we are at the finish line on that choice. Yes or no,” Griffin said in an interview with Bloomberg TV, when asked whether he planned to financially support Haley. Griffin, who has an estimated net worth of $34 billion, also hinted to Bloomberg that he wanted to see Haley debate Trump. The current Republican front-runner has so far refused to participate in any of the Primary debates, but he continues to lead by double digits in national polling. Griffin is the latest of several wealthy Republican donors who recently said that they plan to support Haley over Trump and the rest of the Primary field.
“Liberal Super PAC is turning its focus entirely digital” via Rebecca Davis O’Brien of The New York Times — Priorities USA, one of the biggest liberal super PACs, will not run a single television advertisement in the 2024 Election cycle. Instead, the group announced Tuesday, Priorities USA is reshaping itself as a digital political strategy operation, the culmination of a yearslong transition from its supporting role in presidential campaigns to a full-service communications, research and training behemoth for Democrats up and down the ballot. The move reflects a broad shift in media consumption over the past decade, away from traditional broadcast outlets and toward a fragmented online world. It also shows the growing role played by big-money groups in shaping campaigns and American political life: Priorities USA says it will spend $75 million on digital “communications, research and infrastructure” in the next year.
— DESANTISY LAND —
“DeSantis greets anti-‘woke’ U.K. Business Secretary at JAXPORT for MOU signing” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Among the figures DeSantis hosted during a presser to roll out a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Florida and Great Britain: Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch, who DeSantis credited with supporting his “war on woke” in comments to the British press this Spring, with a tweet lauding her as a “strong, outspoken leader.” The conversation largely focused on the more conventional trade and commercial ties between the state of Florida and the United Kingdom. That said, political ideology did pop up in the DeSantis preamble remarks. “The Secretary and I have also done work in our own spheres on making sure that our institutions and our society are governed by sound and not some of the outlandish ideology that we’re seeing,” DeSantis said.
“DeSantis’ moves on Israel and the border draining emergency fund” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — DeSantis spent nearly $140 million of a state-created emergency fund on signature programs he has touted repeatedly on the presidential campaign trail. The money was used for flights to evacuate Americans out of Israel, deploy Florida law enforcement agents and highway troopers to the Texas-Mexico border and a much-publicized flight of migrants to Sacramento this past Summer. The disclosure came as part of a presentation to state legislators by Chris Spencer, the Governor’s budget director, about a looming shortfall in the multibillion-dollar emergency fund which was primarily set up to respond quickly to natural disasters such as hurricanes. The Governor is allowed to spend money out of the trust fund without having to get legislative approval ahead of time.
— D. C. MATTERS —
“House passes Mike Johnson’s plan to avert shutdown in bipartisan vote” via Catie Edmondson of The New York Times — Johnson was forced on Tuesday to rely on Democratic votes as the House passed legislation to keep federal funding flowing into early 2024 after scores of Republicans opposed his plan to avert a government shutdown at the end of the week. Almost all Democrats and a majority of Republicans overcame the opposition of GOP conservatives to approve the bill under special expedited procedures that required a supermajority. That approach, hatched by Johnson in his first weeks as Speaker, amounted to a gamble that a substantial number of Democrats would rally to help pass a package that Johnson’s own members were unwilling to back. The vote was 336 to 95, easily clearing the two-thirds threshold required for passage.
“Matt Gaetz files ethics complaint against Kevin McCarthy for elbowing Tim Burchett” via Mallory Wilson of The Washington Times — Rep. Gaetz filed a formal ethics complaint Tuesday against Rep. McCarthy for his altercation with Rep. Burchett, stoking the tension between the former speaker and those who voted to remove him. Burchett said Tuesday that McCarthy elbowed him in what he called “a clean shot to the kidneys” while being interviewed by NPR. Gaetz, in a letter to the House Ethics Committee, said the incident deserved “immediate and swift investigation.”
“Jared Moskowitz warns menthol ban could boost Hamas” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — According to U.S. Rep. Moskowitz, the Biden administration’s potential ban on menthol cigarettes could have some very un-Kool consequences. The South Florida Democrat and New York Republican U.S. Rep. Andrew Gabarino recently co-signed a letter to Biden urging him to pump the brakes on the proposal from the FDA, which was forwarded to the White House for final review late last month. The Congressmen say pulling menthol cigarettes from convenience store shelves could be a boon for the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah and, by extension, a danger to Israel, which is currently at war with Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist organization supported by Hezbollah.
“‘You look like a Smurf’: James Comer gets into heated exchange with Moskowitz during hearing” via Sudiksha Kochi of USA Today — Rep. Comer got into a heated exchange with Rep. Moskowitz calling him a “Smurf” during a Tuesday hearing on oversight of the General Services Administration. During the hearing, Moskowitz referred to a loan Biden gave his brother when he wasn’t in office. Comer, the House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chair, had previously raised questions about the loan as he leads the impeachment inquiry into the Biden family’s business dealings. “It has come out in the public that you also do business with your brother with potential loans,” Moskowitz continued.
— STATEWIDE —
“Florida may stop requiring daily school recess. Moms group says no way.” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Twenty minutes of daily recess has been a way of life for children in Florida’s public elementary schools for the past six years. Now “recess moms” are sounding the alarm that their hard-fought gain could soon be gone. As part of a proposal to deregulate school districts, Senators have included a change in physical education laws that would end the requirement that schools provide 20 consecutive minutes of unstructured free play per day. “Obviously it’s disappointing that, of all the things they choose to deregulate, the opportunity for kids to get free play is what they are choosing,” said Stephanie Cox of St. Petersburg, who traveled to Tallahassee several times to fight for recess. “It’s one of the few moments of the day that students are given the choice of what they can do.”
“State’s top economist says wages are up for Florida workers — but so is inflation” via Mitch Perry of Florida Phoenix — Florida historically has been a low-wage state. But, according to state economist Amy Baker, wages have consistently grown in the Sunshine State since we emerged from the pandemic over the past two years, particularly in the leisure and hospitality sector. Florida workers have made approximately 88.5% of the U.S. annual wage on average, Baker told the members of the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday. But preliminary data for 2022 says that ratio has increased to 91.1% of the U.S. average, “something that we haven’t seen since the turn of the century,” she said. “So, Florida, which has thought of itself as a low-wage state because of the mix of jobs we have, is now seeing a lot of pressure on wages that we haven’t seen before,” added Baker, coordinator of the Florida Legislature’s Office of Economic & Demographic Research.
“Joel Rudman refiles ‘Cassie Carli Law’ to protect parents during child custody exchanges” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Rep. Rudman has refiled legislation to better protect parents during child custody exchanges less than a year after a similar measure fell just short of passage. The bill (HB 385) would require all court-approved plans for shared parental custody to include, unless otherwise agreed to by both parents, a list of “designated authorized locations” to hand off their children. In cases where a parent provides “competent substantial evidence” that they or their child are at risk of harm, a court may require parents to make the exchange in the parking lot of a county Sheriff’s Office.
“Florida agencies ‘toothless’ in handling condo complaints, enforcers tell lawmakers” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — If you own one of Florida’s more than 1.5 million condo units and are having issues with a potentially malfeasant condo Board, “good luck” getting help from the government. That’s the refrain that Spencer Hennings, who served as the state’s condominium ombudsman from July 2020 to April 2023. He said it with frustration, not delight. The way Florida statutes are now written, he said, wrongdoers on the Boards of condo towers and homeowner associations (HOAs) have wide loopholes through which to evade punishment or removal, rendering his former office as something of a “toothless tiger” along with other agencies under whose purview residential collectives fall as well. “The current system is very good if the Board are good actors, but if the Board is corrupt and if the Board are bad actors, it is my opinion that the current system is not (effective),” he said.
“Portia Sapp of FDACS details impact of recent storms on Florida’s aquaculture industry” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Florida’s farmland is central to the state’s identity, but Florida’s waters are home to a growing farming industry as well. Sapp is the Director of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) Division of Aquaculture and Chair of the FDACS Science Advisory Workgroup. She spoke to Senators about the state’s aquaculture industry, explaining its impact and several hurdles the still-developing sector faces. According to Sapp, about 1,000 aquaculture producers in Florida are raising more than 1,500 species. Of licensed operators, 40% produce shellfish, 28% grow ornamental fish or tropical fish and 17% focus on food fish, such as tilapia and shrimp.
“School choice advocate Erika Donalds joins Heritage Foundation” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Heritage Foundation announced that former Collier County School Board member Donalds has joined as a visiting fellow. Donalds, the founder and CEO of OptimaEd and the Optima Foundation, will focus on the economics of School Choice in this role. “Erika has seen firsthand how families thrive when they are given options beyond those assigned to them based on where they live and has played a major role herself in providing more options to families through her own education entrepreneurship,” said Lindsey Burke, Director of Heritage’s Center for Education Policy.
— 8:30 a.m. The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee meets for an update on a new law creating a pilot program to provide Medicaid managed-care services to people with developmental disabilities. Room 412. Knott Building.
— 10 a.m. The House Energy, Communications & Cybersecurity Subcommittee meets to consider HB 229 from Rep. Bobby Payne to revise rules for the Public Service Commission. Reed Hall, House Office Building.
— 10 a.m. The House Postsecondary Education & Workforce Subcommittee meets for an update on the implementation of a workforce plan known as the REACH Act. Morris Hall, House Office Building.
— 11 a.m. The Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Committee meets for an update on a Department of Corrections “master plan.” Room 37, Senate Office Building.
— 1 p.m. The House Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee meets for updates on behavioral health in the workplace. Reed Hall, House Office Building.
— 1 p.m. The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee meets for an update on the Effective Access to Student Education (EASE) grant program for students at private colleges and universities. Room 314, House Office Building.
— 1 p.m. The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee meets for an update from the Department of Corrections about issues such as staffing. Morris Hall, House Office Building.
— 2 p.m. The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee meets for updates on prevention services. Room 37, Senate Office Building.
— 2 p.m. The Senate Education Pre-K-12 Committee meets to consider SPB 7000, SPB 7002 and SPB 7004 regarding public-school deregulation. Room 412, Knott Building.
— 2 p.m. The Senate Transportation Committee meets for updates from the Department of Transportation on a new law that could help link hiking and biking trails, part of the Shared-Use Nonmotorized Trail Network, to a statewide wildlife corridor. Room 401, Senate Office Building.
— 3 p.m. The House Education Quality Subcommittee meets for an update from the Department of Education about “pathways to teacher certification.” Reed Hall, House Office Building.
— 3 p.m. The House Local Administration, Federal Affairs & Special Districts Subcommittee meets for an update on mosquito control districts. Morris Hall, House Office Building.
— DOWN BALLOT —
“Stanley Campbell says FlaPol report on abuse allegations trivializes the story of his ‘thriving Black family’” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Ahead of a formal U.S. Senate campaign launch, businessman Campbell addressed a Florida Politics report on prior domestic abuse allegations. In an email blast to supporters, the Palm City Democrat dismissed the reporting, based on allegations made by ex-wife Ethel Rowlett when she filed for divorce in 1986, as a distortion of the truth. “I refuse to remain silent while attempts are made to rewrite the story of two divorced parents who came together to raise two incredible African American men,” Campbell wrote. Maryland court records show a warrant was served on Campbell in December 1985 for two counts of misdemeanor battery. While Campbell said no one reached out to him about the story, Florida Politics contacted his Senate campaign and received no response.
“Ed Montanari to kick off legislative campaign after Thanksgiving” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Montanari, a current St. Pete City Council member running for a House seat, will kick off his campaign for House District 60 on Thursday, Nov. 30. The 5:30 p.m. event will be held at Bascom’s Chop House on Ulmerton Road. In all, Montanari’s host committee includes more than 45 people. The campaign is soliciting contributions up to $1,000. For contributions greater than that, the campaign is asking donors to cut a check to Montanari’s affiliated political committee, Friends of Ed Montanari.
— LOCAL: S. FL —
“Francis Suarez’s secret side gigs included advising associates of Kremlin-linked oligarch” via Shirsho Dasgupta of the Miami Herald — Miami Mayor Suarez earned payments totaling six figures advising two financial firms run by close associates of a Russian oligarch, two of several side jobs he refused to reveal to the public until he ran for President, with its more rigorous disclosure requirements. Suarez received between $160,000 and $220,000 combined working for Dreamer Capital and Legacy Wealth Advisors, which share a Brickell office with a business and charity connected to Igor Makarov, an oil tycoon worth more than $2 billion. Dreamer and Legacy are led by Lazar Finker and his son, Eugene Frenkel. Both have longtime financial and personal ties to Makarov, who holds a spot on the Vladimir Putin List.
“Hacker gang claims St. Lucie County breach, Tax Collector says sensitive info not at risk” via Wicker Perlis of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Hackers claimed responsibility for an attack that took down St. Lucie County computer networks late last month, promising from their dark-web blog to soon post sensitive information. The county Tax Collector, however, is assuring residents their personal information is safe. Amid ongoing forensic investigations at the county and at the Tax Collector’s Office, a notorious cyber gang has listed the Tax Collector’s Office on the dark web, according to multiple social media accounts that track ransomware activity. The Tax Collector’s Office and county first began experiencing what spokespeople called “network issues” late last month after noticing suspicious activity within their systems. They took devices and servers offline and investigated.
“Sewall’s Point residents to elect new Town Commissioner as James Campo steps down in December” via Keith Burbank of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Voters will get the chance in the Spring to elect a new Town Commissioner following the coming departure of Campo. Campo announced last month that he is stepping down. His last day is Dec. 30, and the new Commissioner will serve the remainder of Campo’s term, which ends in November 2026. The seat is nonpartisan, and the new Commissioner will represent all Sewall’s Point residents. Campo stepped down to serve as a newly elected officer of the Florida Republican Party and to travel to spend time with his children. He owns Campo Insurance and Investment Services in Stuart.
“Miami-Dade School Board again elects Chair, Vice Chair aligned with DeSantis” via Sommer Brugal of the Miami Herald — In less than 20 minutes and with no discussion, the Miami-Dade County School Board elected Maria Teresa Rojas and Monica Colucci to serve as the Chair and Vice Chair, respectively — once again securing a conservative majority on the Board and reinforcing a dynamic that was reflected in the votes. Both Rojas, who joined the Board in 2016 and was elected Chair last year, and Colucci, who joined the Board in 2022, were elected in a 5-4 vote. Board members Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, Luisa Santos and Lucia Baez-Geller voted for Steve Gallon III, who voted for himself, to serve as Chair.
“The women and minority business assistance program is failing. Will the county bring it back?” via Mike Diamond of the Palm Beach Post — Palm Beach County Commissioners are demanding more information before deciding whether to renew a program designed to help minority-owned businesses obtain work on county contracts. The Small/Minority/Women Business Enterprise program was created in 2019 after a review showed that firms owned by women and minorities may not be getting their fair share of county work. At issue was how to overcome barriers that were keeping them out of the market. The goals were to increase the number of women- and minority-owned firms that are certified to do county contract work, boost the amount of that work and create an environment where the firms “graduate” beyond the revenue limits that qualify them for participation in the program.
“FAU trustees extend contract of interim president. Why didn’t she get the permanent job?” via Andrew Marra of the Palm Beach Post — With their search for a new president in limbo, Florida Atlantic University’s Board of Trustees extended the contract of the school’s interim leader but rejected a proposal to give her the permanent job. Under a contract extension, Interim President Stacy Volnick would serve until a permanent president is appointed or until the end of 2024, whichever comes first. Volnick’s new contract, approved moments after she received an “exceptional” job evaluation from the trustees’ Chair, came with a $75,000 bonus and a 5% raise, increasing her base salary to $525,000.
“Broward will build a new county government building at an estimated $322M” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Broward County Commissioners voted to build a new government center in downtown Fort Lauderdale, replacing the site they’ve had for decades, the former home of a Burdines store. The choice means they could be moved into their new location by 2026, at an estimated $322 million to demolish and rebuild the building that’s there now. In June, the county purchased the Robert Hayes Gore State Office Building, 201 W. Broward Blvd., a five-story structure, for $65.5 million, not including closing costs and other fees. It is informally known as the “Gore Property,” named for the family that once owned the site.
“On bus tour, Broward schools chief to consider ‘re-purposing’ under-enrolled schools” via Jimena Tavel of the Miami Herald — Broward Schools Superintendent Peter Licata announced that the process of “re-purposing” some schools due to low student enrollment — or closing them if needed — will start as early as next week with a tour of under-enrolled campuses across the county. At a news conference held in the school district’s headquarters in Downtown Fort Lauderdale, the Superintendent said that he and members of his executive cabinet will ride a school bus in the next week or two to visit campuses with declining enrollment. He said the planned eight-hour tour is a direct response to the dramatic exit of about 25,000 students from traditional public schools during the past decade, a drop of more than 10%.
— LOCAL: C. FL —
Appointed — Joseph LeDonne of Port Orange and Katherine Miller of Daytona Beach to the Volusia County Court.
“Casey Anthony is ‘painfully aware’ of what life could have been if slain daughter Caylee survived” via Steve Helling of The Messenger — “Caylee would have been 18 this year,” a longtime friend tells The Messenger. “She’d be going off to college now, and Casey’s job as a mother would essentially be done at 37 years old. But none of that happened.” Fifteen years later, Anthony lives a solitary life in South Florida. She rarely goes out. Her attempts to launch businesses have failed. She is completely estranged from her parents. “People hate her, and she knows it,” a friend previously told The Messenger. Although she occasionally dates, Anthony is currently single and thinks about what could have been, according to the friend. “She is really aware of what she missed out on,” says the pal. “Painfully aware.”
“Seminole Commissioners select Jay Zembower as new Chair” via Martin E. Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — Seminole County Commissioners selected Zembower to serve as the county’s new Chair, an annual process conducted by the Board on the second Tuesday every November. “Thank you very much; I appreciate the confidence of the vote from all of you,” said Zembower after the unanimous vote by his fellow Board members. He replaces Commissioner Amy Lockhart. The County Chair presides over County Commission meetings, signs legal documents on behalf of the Commission and appoints fellow Commissioners to Committees. The Commission Chair selection, however, brings a level of political interest not seen in recent years, as Lockhart and other county officials clashed with Supervisor of Elections Chris Anderson.
“Visit Orlando defends work, $100M budget but Orange County plans ‘haircut’” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange County Commissioners reached a consensus Tuesday that Visit Orlando’s $100 million, hotel-tax-funded budget should get a “haircut,” but they didn’t decide on a trim or a buzz for the region’s tourism-marketing agency. After staff discussions, Orange County Administrator Byron W. Brooks said that will come later. Commissioners said some of Visit Orlando’s 30% share of every tourist-tax dollar could be better spent addressing more pressing county needs like the scarcity of affordable housing or funding other worthwhile projects. “What we’re talking about is balance,” said Commissioner Mayra Uribe, who first used the “haircut” term.
“At Disney district, another no-bid contract pays political pal $495 an hour” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Two weeks ago, we learned members of the Governor’s new Disney district awarded a $240,000 contract to a political insider without letting other companies even bid on the job. The fact that this no-bid contract went to one of the state’s top ethics officials was vintage Florida. But it turns out that was the tip of the insider-dealing iceberg at the former Reedy Creek district. As the Sentinel revealed Sunday, another political pal scored a no-bid deal under even more suspect conditions when the district’s Board Chair helped award a $495-an-hour legal contract to a lawyer who helped the Chair get his powerful post overseeing Disney in the first place.
“Legacy Lake County citrus grove near Disney hits the market” via Laura Kinsler in the Orlando Sentinel — Orlando real estate broker Daryl Carter has closed some massive land deals over his career, and this next one looks to be a blockbuster. Carter’s Maury L. Carter & Associates has the exclusive listing for the Arnold Groves & Ranch, a 1,750-acre property in Lake County’s Wellness Way area. The site is home to the family-operated orange groves and cattle ranch and abuts the family’s tourist attraction on U.S. 27 known as the Showcase of Citrus, which is not a part of the sale. And it’s 5 miles west of Walt Disney World. “It’s a smokin’ piece of real estate,” Carter told GrowthSpotter.
“Volusia, Stetson land $25M USDA grant for conservation easements, better land management” via Mark Harper of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — Volusia County and Stetson University are among the partners in a regional conservation effort that has just landed a $25 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to, among other things, keep farms farms. The Alachua Conservation Trust, Inc., which worked with the county to apply for the matching funds, announced that the federal funding had been approved and will be used starting in 2024 to purchase conservation easements and improve land management practices in the “Lake to Lagoon” area covering all of Volusia and smaller parts of Flagler and Lake counties.
“Manatee County cuts roundabout after Lakewood Ranch developer and residents speak out” via Ryan Callihan of the Bradenton Herald — Manatee County reversed course on plans to build a roundabout after several neighbors — and a local developer — spoke out against the decision. During Tuesday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting, a sea of residents in red shirts voiced opposition to the roundabout. Lakewood Ranch developer Rex Jensen also penned an opinion article in the East County Observer criticizing the idea. “A signal is more favorable at this location due to unique community/intersection dynamics,” wrote Jensen, president and CEO of Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, the development company behind the master-planned Lakewood Ranch community.
“Orlando Museum of Art, defendants negotiating lawsuit settlement” via Matthew J. Palm of the Orlando Sentinel — Orlando Museum of Art is negotiating a potential settlement in the lawsuit it filed against its ex-Director and owners of the art displayed in the ill-fated “Heroes & Monsters: Jean-Michel Basquiat” exhibit, new court documents show. In August, the museum sued former Director Aaron De Groft and the consortium of individuals who owned the art attributed to Jean-Michel Basquiat, an acclaimed artist who died in 1988. The nearly century-old Loch Haven Park institution alleged a conspiracy in which the defendants planned to use the museum show to give the art credibility so it could later be sold for personal profit — despite not knowing for certain if the works were authentic.
“Holiday forecast: Shoppers to pull back from pandemic’s torrid pace” via Austin Fuller of the Orlando Sentinel — The holiday shopping season is usually strong at Park Ave. CDs in Orlando’s Audubon Park neighborhood, but the past few years since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic have been especially hot. It happened because people who avoided restaurants, concerts and travel had more money to spend at stores, and vinyl albums grew in popularity, said owner Sandy Bitman. Inflation has also meant more is being spent by shoppers, too. “We’ve always had a good holiday season,” Bitman said. “It is not surprising to see holiday sales growth returning to pre-pandemic levels,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Overall household finances remain in good shape and will continue to support the consumer’s ability to spend.” Record holiday spending follows consumers also going big on Halloween this year. Halloween purchases were expected to reach a record $12.2 billion.
— LOCAL: TB —
“Hillsborough School Board elects new Chair, approves 4 principals” via Marlene Sokol of the Tampa Bay Times — Karen Perez was elected Chair of the Hillsborough County School Board on Tuesday, replacing two-term Chair Nadia Combs. Perez, a clinical social worker, represents District 6, which is countywide. She has served on the Board since 2018, with an emphasis on mental health issues. The new Vice Chair is Jessica Vaughn, who represents District 3 in northern Hillsborough. Vaughn, 46, is completing her first term and has filed to run for re-election in 2024. The Board also approved new principals at four schools. Scott Weaver, now at Roland Park K-8, will become the principal of Adum K-8 Magnet School when it opens in February in South Tampa. Weaver joined the school district in 1997.
“Pinellas School Board member Carol Cook says she will not seek 7th term” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Cook has made no secret of her readiness to retire from the Pinellas County School Board after 24 years representing the north-central county. However, Cook has been coy about whether she would seek a seventh term. During Tuesday’s Board meeting, Cook announced she would not run again for the District 5 seat. “The word is out,” she said. “The secret is loose.” Four candidates have already filed paperwork declaring their intention to pursue the seat. They are Katie Blaxberg, Brad DeCorte, Stacy Geier and Bronson Oudshoff. The race for the nonpartisan position has become political.
“Tampa Bay lawn-watering restrictions approved amid drought” via Jack Evans of the Tampa Bay Times — Southwest Florida water officials voted Tuesday to issue a water shortage order limiting outdoor watering to one day per week in Tampa Bay beginning next month. The Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board vote came after the driest rainy season in Tampa Bay in more than two decades. The order covers the entirety of the Water Management District but has extra restrictions for Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties. In those three counties, residents will have one day a week to irrigate their lawns. In the rest of the district, the usual twice-per-week watering schedules will remain, except where local governments have imposed stricter measures, but “wasteful and unnecessary” watering, such as hosing down a driveway, will be prohibited.
“A fraud, a fake Donald Trump pardon and a ‘hit man’: Pinellas beaches man to serve 35 years in prison” via Chris Tisch of the Tampa Bay Times — A Pinellas Beaches man who federal authorities say tried to steal millions in various fraud schemes, then created a fake pardon from Trump and tried to hire a “hit man” to kill witnesses, has been ordered to spend more than 35 years in federal prison. Alexander Leszczynski was charged in April 2022 with wire fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering. Leszczynski was accused of using fictitious charitable entities to participate in several schemes. One fraud included applying for and receiving two Payroll Protection Plan loans totaling about $196,000. The government said he also participated in a check-kiting scheme and tried to deposit $2.7 million in worthless checks into the Love & Bliss business account.
“‘Year of Health Care’ to focus on innovation and access” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — They say it’s the year of health care, and the Florida Senate kicked off the much-anticipated conversation Tuesday during the Senate Health Policy Committee meeting. Chair Colleen Burton outlined the challenges that plague the health care system in the state, including Emergency Department overutilization, limited access in rural areas and workforce shortages, and invited a series of speakers to “discuss some of their innovative approaches to meeting the challenges.” On the agenda was Dr. Pete Chang, senior vice president and chief transformation officer at Tampa General Hospital. He briefed members of the Committee on multiple approaches implemented at Tampa General to increase access to world-class care in the communities they serve.
— LOCAL: N. FL —
“Youth, health and housing drive priorities in Donna Deegan’s latest budget request” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — Mayor Deegan is putting her stamp on this year’s budget by rolling out about $26 million in proposed spending that concentrates most heavily on youth, housing and health programs. Deegan took office July 1 and presented her 2023-24 budget two weeks later, a tight turnaround time for new Mayors when it comes to fleshing out their own visions. The City Council kept $25 million in the $1.75 billion budget for Deegan to return with specific recommendations that she’s drawn from citizen task forces that met for several months over the Summer.
“In setback for ex-JEA execs, judge says grand jury indictment should stand” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — In a major setback for the defense teams representing ex-JEA executives Aaron Zahn and Ryan Wannemacher, a United States magistrate judge on Monday said the grand jury indictment against the former utility leaders can stand despite complaints that federal prosecutors violated their constitutional rights. Those complaints represent the most substantial outstanding controversy ahead of the planned February trial of Zahn and Wannemacher on fraud and conspiracy charges stemming from their time leading Jacksonville’s city-owned utility. The magistrate judge’s 103-page report will likely influence how U.S. District Judge Brian Davis, who is overseeing the case, will decide the issue — a topic that has generated hundreds of pages of motions from the defense and prosecutors since Zahn and Wannemacher’s indictment in March 2022.
“‘Generational impact’: Triumph Gulf Coast supports $98.4 million FSU project in Bay County” via Nathan Cobb of the Panama City News-Herald — Bay County has landed a massive Florida State University project that officials say could have a “generational impact.” According to a news release from the university, the Triumph Gulf Coast Board on Nov. 7 unanimously voted to support a $98.4 million FSU project to establish two aerospace and advanced manufacturing facilities in the Panama City Beach area. Dubbed the Institute for Strategic Partnerships, Innovation, Research and Education (InSPIRE), the facilities will be built near the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP) and Venture Crossings Enterprise Centre. Both locations sit north of Panama City Beach in unincorporated Bay County.
“Okaloosa School District seeks $8.35 million for new campus of Okaloosa Technical College” via Collin Bestor of the Northwest Florida Daily News — The Okaloosa County School District has applied for a Triumph Gulf Coast grant of $8.35 million to build a north campus of Okaloosa Technical College. “The proposed Okaloosa Technical College north campus stands to have a monumental impact on higher wage job creation in northern Okaloosa County for years to come,” Nathan Spark, executive director of One Okaloosa Economic Development Council, said in the application. “Located in the Okaloosa Industrial Air Park directly adjacent to Bob Sikes Airport, the proposed location will provide for high-impact partnerships with existing aerospace and manufacturing employers located in the immediate vicinity.”
“As clock ticks for closure of Perry mill, supporters hoping for a Hail Mary” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — For a group of workers and businesses tied to a Perry mill, hope has become a waiting game as talk about their economic future goes on behind closed doors. Bob Cate, a former plant manager at the Foley Cellulose Mill, said Monday its closure was big news last week during “Dissolving Pulp Day” at the London Pulp Week Symposium 2023. The mill is one of seven in the world capable of extracting cellulose, the basic structural component of a plant’s cell walls, from pine and dissolving it into a chemical used to manufacture electronics and as a food additive. In September, Mill owner Georgia-Pacific announced it would close the facility by the end of November. Cate was among a group of retired mill executives and workers who immediately formed a Citizens Action Task Force to find a buyer.
“Alachua County officials locate plane that went missing over Paynes Prairie” via Nora O’Neill of The Gainesville Sun — Officials have located a missing plane in Paynes Prairie hours after it lost contact with control towers over. The plane lost contact with control towers Tuesday shortly after 2 p.m., according to Alachua County Fire Rescue Deputy Chief Jeff Taylor. There were a couple of citizen calls to 911 reporting sounds of plane trouble and a possible plane crash near Micanopy and Paynes Prairie. The department also got word from the Gainesville Regional Airport and an airport in Jacksonville that they had lost contact with a small plane. Search crews from Alachua and Marion County were able to locate the plane shortly before 6 p.m., ACSO representative Art Forgey said. He said the investigation has been turned over to the Federal Aviation Association.
“First Tee hosts golf tournament in memory of David Swafford” via Sydney Wicker of WCTV — First Tee of Tallahassee (FTT) hosted their second annual tournament on Monday, but it was the group’s first time hosting it in memory of Swafford. Swafford was the father of PGA golfer Hudson Swafford, who has won three PGA tours in his career. “He would be so proud of this,” Hudson Swafford said. “Any kid that would listen to any of his tips on the range, he would. He just gave him a big smile and seeing what I’ve done in golf, I mean it. It means the world to him. So now that I can give back to some kids, that’d be great.” First Tee is a 501 nonprofit organization that helps empower kids to build strength and character through the game of golf.
— LOCAL: SW. FL —
“Sarasota School District, teachers union reach salary settlement, approve teacher raises” via Steven Walker of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The Sarasota County School District and the Sarasota Classified/Teachers Association reached a tentative contract agreement for the 2023-24 school year. The proposed collective bargaining agreement would maintain the district’s status of having among the highest-paid teachers in Florida with a starting salary of $55,000 for teachers with a bachelor’s degree and $60,000 for those with a master’s degree, according to the release. The total package, which exceeds $37 million, also includes an immediate 2% one-time supplement to be paid to teachers and classified staff before next month’s winter break. Sarasota Schools employs about 5,000 staff, of which 3,000 are teachers, according to estimates from the start of the 2023-24 school year.
“Lee County lawmakers to consider strong Mayor referendum” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Lee County voters in November approved a switch to electing a Superintendent. An effort is afoot to put a strong Mayor referendum on the ballot there. Rep. Mike Giallombardo informed County Commissioners that he will present a local bill to put the question to voters. The Lee County legislative delegation will meet on Nov. 30 to consider this and other local bills. “Lee County is one of the fastest growing counties in the country,” Giallombardo said. “This referendum simply gives the voters the ability to decide on how they want their county government structured. It may pass, or it may fail. It is ultimately decided by the voters.”
“State Attorney charges Cape Coral Council member Patty Cummings with 3 felonies” via Luis Zambrano of the Fort Myers News-Press — The State Attorney charged Cape Coral City Council member Cummings with three third-degree felonies related to the 2022 election. She is charged with fraudulent application for a driver’s license and two counts of false swearing in connection with or arising out of voting or elections. Cummings didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Cape Coral officials and the State Attorney’s office would not comment on the charges, and it’s unknown if Cummings will face any censure from the Council. The State Attorney’s Office, 20th Judicial Circuit, said it filed the charges Monday, and she turned herself in Tuesday.
“Sarasota, Manatee experts highlight efforts to curb red tide by bolstering water quality” via Jesse Mendoza of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Efforts to bolster the health of Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico against the effects of red tide came to the forefront at a forum comprised of local experts hosted by the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee campus. Red tide blooms have had a significant impact on Southwest Florida’s Gulf Coast nearly every year since 2007, according to information presented by the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program. One of the most significant blooms in the region came between late 2017 and early 2019, wreaking havoc on the local economy. The area has also experienced red tide blooms since then, including one after Hurricane Elsa.
“Sarasota County Commission votes to end memberships in state, national library groups” via Earle Kimel of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The Sarasota County Commission voted to stop funding the county public library system’s membership in the American Library Association (ALA) and Florida Library Association, despite the urging of almost 60 speakers who spoke for roughly two hours. In doing so, Board members decried public comments that linked the prospect of book banning to the decision and sidestepped social justice issues related to ALA President Emily Drabinski while keying in on her self-professed Marxist leanings. After Drabinski was elected as ALA president in June 2022, she described herself as a “Marxist lesbian” in a Tweet that she later deleted but, according to NBC News, that tweet became fodder for conservative Republican legislators to call for defunding the American Library Association.
“Water shortage declared in Sarasota, Manatee counties. What does this mean for lawns?” via Melissa Pérez-Carrillo of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The Southwest Florida Water Management District has declared a water shortage in Sarasota and Manatee counties, along with nine other counties. The Governing Board for the district has voted to declare a Modified Phase 1 Water Shortage Order because of dry conditions and water supply concerns. The order will prohibit wasteful or unnecessary water use. The restrictions will apply to all of Citrus, DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota and Sumter counties. Portions of Charlotte, Highlands, Marion, Lee and Lake counties will also be included. The district reported a lower-than-normal rainfall during its Summer rainy season with a 9.2-inch districtwide rainfall deficit compared to the average 12-month total.
— TOP OPINION —
“I’m starting to think Trump is sounding like Hitler on purpose” via Alexandra Petri of The Washington Post — I don’t mean to worry you, but people are running around with their hair on fire, saying they are suffering from intense, nauseating levels of déjà vu, and those people are historians. I don’t like seeing historians this stressed out. If something in my house has to emit an ominous beeping, I want it to be the alarm clock, not the smoke detector.
“We pledge to you that we will root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country that lie and steal and cheat on elections,” Trump announced on Veterans Day. And when people complained that sounded like something Hitler would say, a spokesperson responded that “their entire existence will be crushed when President Trump returns to the White House.” Which, to be fair, also sounds like something Hitler would say.
When you say, “What you just said sounds very much like Hitler’s rhetoric,” you don’t want that to be taken as a challenge. The response you are hoping for is something more like: “Oh no! That was not how we meant to sound, and we are going to leave political life and rethink everything about ourselves and hope that by our final day, we can say we atoned a little bit.”
But even more ominous is the fact that they are not saying anything like, “What a horrible mistake! We’d better go rethink our lives!” They are saying, “We will crush you for suggesting such a thing!” Trump’s spokesperson later clarified that he meant to say, “their sad, miserable existence” rather than critics’ “entire existence.” Which is, again, not making this better!
Frankly, I am worried.
— OPINIONS —
“Colleges and universities must get off the fence in Israel’s war against Hamas” via Ted Deutch for the Miami Herald — Understandably, Jewish students feel isolated and unsafe amid their trauma and grief. Worse, as they turned to university administrators for help, some were met with silence or halfhearted statements about how we should mourn the loss of all life with nary a mention of the barbaric Hamas terrorists. Let’s be clear: You either stand with Israel and the thousands who have been murdered, wounded, raped and kidnapped by Hamas or you stand on the side of terrorists. You either support the right to live in peace or stand with murderers who carried out a pogrom. The climate on campus starts at the top, and targeting Jewish students must never be tolerated. Hamas’ terror attack on Oct. 7 sparked a tsunami of anti-Israel protests and antisemitic support for Hamas’ slaughter of Jews. Organizations openly campaign for the end of Zionism and focus their anger on Jewish students.
“A Senator’s lucrative but questionable insurance sideline” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — To people in public office, the difference between “doing good” and “doing well” can be the difference between doing right and doing wrong. Florida legislators said they were doing good for the public when they made it harder for policyholders to sue their insurance company over denied claims. Now, at least one legislator who voted for that bill aims to do well by cashing in. Sen. Joe Gruters approached colleagues about investing in a startup company, Village Protection Insurance. A solicitation he forwarded described a “unique and lucrative opportunity for investors.” The Senator reported a net worth of $2.8 million last year.
“Florida Republicans are a hot mess right now, yet may still win” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — After covering politics in Florida for more than a quarter century, I’ve watched Democrats fumble races, fight among themselves and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory more times than I can count. Lately, however, we seem to be living in a Bizzaro World where Florida Republicans are the ones acting like guests on a chair-throwing episode of the Jerry Springer Show. The Governor is feuding with former allies like Randy Fine. Fine says DeSantis emboldens neo-Nazis. DeSantis says Fine is a joke of a petty politician. The most palpable evidence was here in Central Florida in the state’s most-watched legislative race — a Special Election in House District 35 where Democrats actually have a slight voter-registration advantage. Basically, if Democrats can’t win a race like this, they’re doomed.
— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —
— ALOE —
“Chief of Cheer: This company will pay you $2,500 to watch 25 holiday movies in 25 days” via Amaris Encinas of USA Today — Who said watching holiday movies couldn’t be a real job? One company is willing to pay you to watch 25 movies in 25 days. CableTV.com is looking to hire someone to fill their “Chief of Cheer” position, a dream job that pays you $2,500 and a one-year membership to a handful of streaming services if you can commit to the ask. “One of our favorite holiday traditions is breaking out the bin of old VHS tapes (or, more realistically, the ‘holiday’ sections of our favorite streaming services) and watching some classic seasonal movies. If you feel the same, we have good news for you: you could get paid $2,500 just for keeping up this festive tradition,” according to the website.
“YouTube to crack down on AI-generated deepfakes and sound-alikes, as it sets guardrails on tech” via Alex Weprin of The Hollywood Reporter — As the video platform YouTube is rolling out generative AI technology to its creators, it is also placing new guardrails on the technology’s use. The company on Tuesday set new rules on content created with the help of generative AI, including rules that crack down on videos that use someone else’s likeness and give music labels the ability to remove videos that feature the voice of a well-known musician or performer created without their permission. “Generative AI has the potential to unlock creativity on YouTube and transform the experience for viewers and creators on our platform,” write YouTube VPs Jennifer Flannery O’Connor and Emily Moxley in a blog post.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Celebrating today are state Reps. Michael Gottlieb and Will Robinson; Rodney Barreto of Capital City Consulting; Wayne Bertsch, Trimmel Gomes, Kirk Pepper of GrayRobinson; Evan Power, Angela Rouson and Max Steele.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.