Sunburn — The morning read of what's hot in Florida politics — 3.8.22 – Florida Politics

Good Tuesday morning
Don’t forget about Election Day
It may be the last week of the 2022 Legislative Session, but keep an eye out for election results tonight as voters head to the polls across the state.
Two state legislative seats will be filled in South Florida just days before Sine Die. Democrat Rosalind Osgood is the favorite to succeed former Democratic Sen. Perry Thurston in Senate District 33. She faces off against Republican Joseph Carter in a heavily Democratic district.
Democrat Jervonte “Tae” Edmonds is likewise favored against Republican Guarina Torres in the left-leaning House District 88. The winner will succeed former Democratic Rep. Omari Hardy. Both Thurston and Hardy ran unsuccessfully for the chance to succeed the late U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings in the seat in Florida’s 20th Congressional District.
Broward County’s Hillsboro Beach, Pembroke Pines (two City Commission districts), Lauderdale-by-the-Sea and Lighthouse Point will also hold municipal elections.
In Palm Beach County, regular municipal elections are happening in Boynton Beach, Greenacres, Haverhill, Highland Beach, Juno Beach, Jupiter, Jupiter Inlet Colony, Lake Clarke Shores, Lake Park, Lake Worth Beach, Lantana, Loxahatchee Groves, North Palm Beach, Pahokee, Riviera Beach, Royal Palm Beach, South Palm Beach, Wellington and West Palm Beach.
Over in Sarasota County, voters will weigh in on two referendums. One, if passed, would renew a one-mill school tax supporting the Sarasota County School District. The other could return Sarasota County Commission elections to countywide votes instead of single-member district races. The latter race has turned into a bit of a tête-à-tête in Republican circles.
In Central Florida, Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson — a former Representative and former Orange County Commissioner — is in a fierce battle to stay in office in the county’s second-largest city, facing two-term City Commissioner Kyle Becker.
The Apopka mayoral election Tuesday is among four municipal elections throughout Orange County that will feature a Belle Isle mayoral race, and City Council or Commission contests in Apopka, Winter Park, Maitland, and Oakland. Other highly-contested municipal battles include incumbent Commissioner Todd Weaver versus Elijah Noel, and Anjali Vaya versus Kristopher Cruzada in Winter Park, and Mayor Nicholas Fouraker versus Holly Bobrowski in Belle Isle.
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There are clear winners and losers in every Session, while others prove more elusive to pin down.
Once again, Florida Politics is assembling an (arguably) comprehensive look at who walked away from Sine Die 2022 victorious, who tanked, and who landed somewhere between. Of course, lawmakers must pass the one bill: Florida’s upcoming state budget.
Like last year, the 2022-2023 budget is stuffed with billions of dollars in federal aid and weighs in at more than $100 billion. It will undoubtedly create a lot of winners, but with that much funny money at lawmakers’ disposal, a snub is nothing short of a loss.
That said, we are asking you — our loyal Sunburn readers — for your input.
From lawmakers, newsmakers, state workers, and budget writers to lobbyists, advocates, and staff (and maybe a reporter or two), which person, group, or issue earned a coveted spot on the list of “Winners and Losers for the 2022 Legislative Session?”
We’ll have the obvious ones covered, so don’t worry about grading the Governor, House Speaker, Senate President, or other top officials. A few off-the-beaten-path choices are certainly welcome.
Send your suggestions to [email protected] for consideration.
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It’s the last week of the Session, which means it’s time to play Cate Sine Die.
If you need a refresher, here’s how the annual contest works: Guess the date and time of the hankie drop that marks the end of Session and tweet it out with the hashtag #CateSineDie and the name of the charity of your choice. That’s it.
Per “Price is Right” rules, the closest guess wins $500 for their favored charity.
Kevin Cate, who has run the contest for a decade now, put out the call for submissions early Monday, and set a deadline of 1 p.m.
It seems players think Session will end in time for those in The Process to enjoy their Friday night, with the median guess being Friday at 8:15 p.m.
The mode — that means the most frequent guess in statistical jargon — is Friday at 9:43 p.m. While a little late, the bulk of contestants don’t believe Session will go into overtime as it has in many recent years.
Session was extended in 2020, 2019 and 2018, when lawmakers didn’t pass a budget until two days after the 60-day Session was scheduled to end. Lawmakers adjourned on time last year, breaking the streak.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
@RyanStruyk: The United States is now reporting 46,229 new coronavirus cases per day, the lowest seven-day average since July 22, 2021, according to data from @CNN and Johns Hopkins University.
@Zeynep: It’s now a talking point, but it is *absolutely false* that vaccines don’t help lower infection and transmission rates — they do both, just not 100%. Of course, vaccinated people also have much better outcomes, if ever infected. Plus, vaccination clobbers MIS-C rates in kids.
@Annette_Taddeo: If U.S. was down to its last barrel & VZLA was giving away free oil, we still shouldn’t go to the Maduro regime for help. There are ways to reduce gas prices that don’t involve putting US/FL at the mercy of murderous dictators. Cutting deals w/ dictators will cost > $5/gallon
@thee_snek: Every American policy poll is like? Would you like *outcome*? Yes — 78% No — 22% Would you like to do the stuff necessary to achieve *outcome*? Yes — 16% No — 84%
Tweet, tweet:
Can’t think of a more powerful set of images to illustrate our pain.
Left: 2018 Hurricane Michael aftermath. Photo by Christon Anderson.
Right: 2022 Bay County Wildfires. Photo by @BayCountyEM pic.twitter.com/e3carVfpJH
— Andrea Gainey (@AndreaGainey) March 6, 2022

Tweet, tweet:
Who's a good boy?
Showing our #HeadsetHeroes some love today. Their job is HARD.@BOCCPIO pic.twitter.com/kAesSZEk6I
— Bay County FL EM (@BayCountyEM) March 7, 2022

@NikkiFried: Nobody should have to work an hour to afford 2 gallons of gas. We need bold actions now, including suspending our state gas tax, accelerating renewables, and demanding oil companies reduce profits during the war in Ukraine.
Tweet, tweet:
Brave is an understatement; strong is what these students are. Students from across the State traveled to Tallahassee to raise their voices. The LGBTQ community are not political pawns – they are your brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, & friends – they are watching too! pic.twitter.com/dXSwh65qF8
— Shevrin “Shev” Jones (@ShevrinJones) March 7, 2022

@Robyn_Disney79: I have been saying this … if I could indoctrinate my students, it would be for them to be respectful, do their work, and follow directions the first time. If I can’t do that, there is no way I can make them gay.
@JKennedyReport: .@WiltonSimpson given a George Strait-signed guitar by @FLSenate. Last presiding officer given a guitar as parting gift was 2004 House Speaker Johnnie Bird. He ran for U.S. Senate that year, lost. Simpson’s running for state Ag Commissioner. Stay tuned.
@NewWorldsFL: It was our team’s pleasure this morning to visit our friends in the #Florida House of Representatives, where House Speaker @ChrisSprowls announced that New Worlds #Reading has sent free #books and #literacy resources to 100,000 students so far!
@MDixon55: “You need to call the chicken farmer in Trilby” is a uniquely Florida political line
@AdamSchefter: NFL’s 2022 salary cap will be $208.2 million.
— DAYS UNTIL —
The 2022 Players begins — 2; House GOP retreat in Ponte Vedra Beach — 15; the third season of ‘Atlanta’ begins — 15; season two of ‘Bridgerton’ begins — 17; The Oscars — 19; ‘Macbeth’ with Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga begin performances on Broadway — 23; Florida Chamber’s 2nd Annual Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health + Sustainability begins — 21; Grammys rescheduled in Las Vegas — 26; ‘Better Call Saul’ final season begins — 41; Magic Johnson’s Apple TV+ docuseries ‘They Call Me Magic’ begins — 45; 2022 Florida Chamber Transportation, Growth & Infrastructure Solution Summit — 51; ‘The Godfather’ TV series ‘The Offer’ premieres — 52; 2nd half of ‘Ozark’ final season begins — 52; federal student loan payments will resume — 54; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 59; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 64; ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ starts on Disney+ — 78; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 80; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 86; California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota hold midterm Primaries — 91; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 123; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 136; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 154; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 178; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 213; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 249; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 252; ‘Avatar 2′ premieres — 284; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 348; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ premieres — 381; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 507; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 591; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 871.

— TOP STORY —
Florida to be the first state to recommend healthy kids not get COVID-19 vaccine, contradicting CDC” via Zac Anderson, James Rosica, Lindsey Leake, Liz Freeman, Emily Bloch, Antonio Fins of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo announced it at the end of a roundtable discussion in West Palm Beach that Gov. Ron DeSantis convened to discuss “failures” in response to COVID-19. Florida “is going to be the first state to officially recommend against the COVID-19 vaccines for healthy children,” Ladapo said, without elaborating on the details or rationale for the forthcoming guidance from the state Department of Health. The announcement came after multiple health experts picked by DeSantis to participate in the roundtable downplayed the importance of the vaccine for children, with some saying the benefits of vaccination do not outweigh the risks. “Individuals can make their own decision … but I think the data is in line with what the Surgeon General recommended,” the Governor added.
Tweet, tweet:
Scooplet: Florida Department of Health staff & some officials in Gov. DeSantis' Office were NOT aware of FL Surgeon General's planned announcement today, recommending healthy kids NOT get COVID vaccine, according to 3 state sources.
Gov. DeSantis was aware, per another source.
— Jay O'Brien (@jayobtv) March 8, 2022




— DATELINE TALLY —
Ron DeSantis baits another reporter over Parental Rights/’Don’t Say Gay’ bill semantics” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — For the second time in less than a week, Florida’s Governor baited a reporter over a piece of sex education legislation currently being debated in the Senate. Addressing reporters at the Strawberry Festival in Plant City, DeSantis took a reporter to task for a question on the Parental Rights in Education bill being debated on the Senate floor Monday. HB 1557 passed the House on party lines and made ready for the Senate’s Special-Order Calendar Monday. The reporter noted critics called the legislation, which prohibits discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in lower grades, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. This observation led DeSantis to drag the questioner.
Teachers, students, LGBTQ advocates make final push against ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill” via Ana Goñi-Lessan of the Tallahassee Democrat — Middle school teacher Dwayne Shepherd on Monday held up a sign that one of his trans students made for his trip to the Florida Capitol: It said “It’s OK to say GAY!!!!” with the word “gay” in rainbow marker. Shepherd, a member of the LGBTQ community and the sponsor of his Pinellas County middle school’s gay-straight alliance club, said another one of his trans students said she would have died by suicide if it weren’t for the club. “They don’t want special rights. They just want equality,” Shepherd said. “They want to be treated fairly, and they want to feel safe. And they will not feel safe if this bill passes.”
‘No one understands this bill’: Senators grapple with defining ‘parental rights’ proposal as vote approaches” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — The Senate is prepped for a vote on parental rights legislation governing classroom instruction on LGBTQ matters, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by opponents. Senators heard the bill, setting up for a vote on the proposal in the final days of Session. Democratic Senators attempted to amend the bill during its second hearing on the floor, unsuccessfully putting forward amendments that would add protections for LGBTQ students as well as clarify the vague language of the bill. The proposal (HB 1557) would limit classroom instruction of sexual orientation and gender identity, a move Republican leadership says would bolster parental rights. Under the leadership of President Simpson, the bill was slated for only one committee stop — the Senate Appropriations Committee — where the legislation was approved last week.
Fatherhood initiative to boost mentorship programs clears Legislature; heads to Gov. DeSantis’ desk” via Issac Morgan of the Florida Phoenix — The vote was 38-0, with one member not voting. “As we all know, fatherhood rocks,” Sen. Aaron Bean said when the piece of legislation came up for a vote. “This is the fatherhood bill that every single senator stood behind me.” The initiative – led by Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls – had received bipartisan support throughout the 2022 legislative session to address a “fatherhood” crisis in Florida, including boosting mentorship programs for at-risk youth and pushing for tens of millions for resources to support fathers.
Lawmakers approve path to end net metering for solar energy” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Legislature has passed a bill to set a timeline to end net metering in Florida, a move critics argue would be devastating to the rooftop solar industry. The measure (HB 741) aims to end subsidies its sponsors said would overburden non-solar customers through a process known as net metering. Under net metering, Florida’s electric utilities are mandated to buy back “banked” energy stored by homes that gather more energy than they produce at the retail rate. That energy is added to the utility’s grid and can be redistributed to non-solar customers. The Senate approved the legislation 24-15 on Monday after the House passed it 83-31 on Wednesday. The Legislature established the current system in 2008 to subsidize the nascent solar industry.
Bill addressing higher ed accreditation clears Senate accompanied by controversial amendment” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — A bill that would alter accreditation requirements for Florida’s public universities and colleges cleared the Senate in a 22-15 vote Monday morning, sending it to the House. The measure (SPB 7044), sponsored by Sen. Manny Diaz, would restrict state colleges and universities from being accredited by the same agency for consecutive accreditation cycles. It also would require additional information about textbooks and instructional materials from state universities and colleges, mandating such information be posted at least 45 days before the start of class and kept public for five years. The proposal passed the upper chamber on a near-Party-line vote, with support from Republican lawmakers and disapproval from Democratic legislators despite a silent debate.
Amid nursing home staffing crisis, Legislature approves industry-backed bill changing care requirements” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — The Legislature passed a compromise between the long-term care industry and trial attorneys that reduces the number of mandated nursing hours that nursing homes must provide, but at the same time could allow for more lawsuits against providers. The Senate approved HB 1239 by a 28-9 vote, following up on earlier approval from the House. However, AARP Florida continues to oppose the legislation and will ask DeSantis to veto the bill, said Associate State Director of Advocacy Zayne Smith. HB 1239 requires nursing homes to conduct facility assessments to determine the staff needed to provide the necessary care for the facility’s resident population. The facilities will consider the types of diseases, conditions, and physical and cognitive disabilities as required by federal rule.
House amends Senate Medicaid bill — The House OK’d an amendment to a Senate bill (SB 1950) that would overhaul the state’s Medicaid managed care system. As Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida reported, the strike-all amendment brings the bill in line with the House companion sponsored by Fleming Island Republican Rep. Sam Garrison. The changes include a provision blocking AHCA from automatically signing up Medicaid recipients for plans that cover more than half of enrollees in their region. The bill now must earn approval from the full House, after which it would head back to the Senate for final passage.
Senate passes citizen initiative limits on out-of-state influence, awaits House answer” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — A bill to curb out-of-state influence in the ballot initiative process is on its way back to the House as lawmakers revisit the proposal after it was struck down last year. The Senate voted 22-16 Monday to pass the bill (HB 921), along near party lines. Because Senators approved changes, they hoped would avoid a second injunction in the courts, the bill must next return to the House. The proposal, filed by Rep. Brad Drake, would limit non-Floridians from donating more than $3,000, and out-of-state political committees from receiving donations worth more than $3,000, when it comes to ballot initiatives in the petition-gathering process. The provision comes after a federal judge ruled against the state in July regarding similar legislation to limit money’s influence in the petition-gathering process, saying it violated the First Amendment. — BUDGET NOTES —
With Session ending soon, state workers still don’t know what their pay increases will be” via Issac Morgan of Florida Phoenix — With the 2022 Legislative Session coming to an end, lawmakers still haven’t come to an agreement on pay hikes for state workers and particular health care and school personnel. At issue is a minimum-wage increase of $15-an-hour pushed by the Senate compared to a 5.38% salary increase in the House, to address rising inflation. Those increases would be for the 2022-23 fiscal year. State lawmakers are continuing negotiations on the state budget for Floridians, and there’s only a few more days to wrap up the final figures. The Legislative Session is scheduled to end on March 11. Lawmakers are “still in conference” negotiating on pay issues. It’s unclear if the 5.38% initiative will still be in the state budget by the end of Session.
Budget conference: SRQ Airport lands $21.5 million in state funding in latest offers” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — It looks like Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (SRQ) just brought $21.5 million in for a landing. The latest budget offers from the House and Senate set aside that appropriation for a terminal expansion. That’s a number greater than three times what the airport even asked for ahead of Session. “We are extremely grateful to the Florida Legislature,” said SRQ Airport CEO Fred Piccolo. An expansion is planned to help the suburban airport expand and better handle growth in passenger flights. “The two projects are about $120 million to complete,” Piccolo said.
Budget conference: Legislature removes funding earmarked for Miami Military Museum” via Florida Politics — After failing to reach a consensus in committee negotiations last week, the Senate on Sunday removed a $150,000 funding request for the Miami Military Museum and Memorial in the 2022-23 state budget. The move came after the House repeatedly refused last week to fund the relatively minuscule line item, which was for far less than the $650,000 originally requested in appropriations bills (LFIR 1263 and HB 2031) filed by Sen. Manny Diaz Jr. and Rep. Anthony Rodriguez in September. The museum received at least $1 million in state funding set-asides through the 2020-21 budget, as well as $800,000 in local funding from Miami-Dade County and $45,000 in COVID-19 assistance. The museum will have to subsist on local government funds and donations this year.
—TALLY 2 —
Bill separating teacher evaluations from collective bargaining passes House” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — A bill that would allow school districts to keep teacher evaluations out of collective bargaining talks with teachers passed the House Monday. HB 1203, sponsored by Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff, passed the House 76-37 along party lines. The bill specifies that instructional evaluation procedures are not subject to mandatory collective bargaining, leaving School Districts to decide whether terms about the evaluation process could be used during collective bargaining. The legislation comes as Florida faces a statewide teacher shortage that is expected to worsen. The Florida Board of Education reported recently there are currently about 4,500 teacher vacancies, with that number expected to double by the end of the academic year.
Senate passes bill prohibiting residential picketing” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — A bill that would prohibit residential picketing in Florida is now ready to head to DeSantis’ desk. The Senate on Monday passed the proposal (HB 1571) on a 28-3 vote, without debate. Sen. Keith Perry is the companion bill sponsor. “This bill recognizes the right of privacy, safety and peace that we all deserve in our own home,” Perry said. The bill would ban residential protests that “harass” or “disturb” a person within their home if signed into law. It also would amplify penalties against violators. A violation under the bill is a second-degree misdemeanor and levies penalties, including 60 days in jail, a $500 fine, and six months’ probation. Police, though, must first warn an individual of a potential violation.
Senate OK’s bill broadening death penalty record exemptions” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The Senate OK’d a bill Monday that would withhold the information of nearly all parties involved in Florida’s execution process from public record. The bill (HB 873) seeks to broaden the state’s long-standing public record exemption by shielding “any person or entity” involved in the state’s execution process. Rep. Patt Maney is the bill sponsor. The Senate passed the proposal on a 28-10 vote. The bill, which required a two-thirds majority, now awaitsDeSantis’ consideration. If signed into law, the bill will significantly expand the long-standing exemption. State law currently shields various details, including the executioner’s name, a private citizen paid $150 per execution and the state’s lethal injection drug prescribers.
Legislature adopts bill that keeps homeless individuals’ personal info private despite federal database” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — The House approved legislation Monday keeping homeless individuals’ information out of the public record if those individuals seek help at a homeless shelter. Rep. Fiona McFarland filed the bill (HB 699) to add a new exemption to Florida’s Sunshine Law. McFarland substituted a similar Senate version sponsored by Sen. Joe Gruters (SB 934) for her bill. The Senate bill was adopted on Feb. 10, meaning the legislation now awaits the Governor’s signature. McFarland said the time has come for this exemption to the public records law, considering the number of people who experienced instability during the last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cyberterror, deepfake bill close to Legislature approval” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — A bill that would beef up Florida’s criminal penalties for stealing an individual’s sexually explicit pictures and other sexual image-related crimes is set to clear its final hurdle Tuesday. SB 1798, which passed the Senate unanimously last week, was substituted for its House companion (HB 1453) during its second reading Monday, setting the stage for the legislation to receive House approval Tuesday. The legislation is sponsored by Sen. Lauren Book and Rep. Joe Harding. No roadblocks have emerged in the way of the bipartisan sponsored and supported bill, as it cleared all of its committee stops without a single dissenting vote. The legislation targets deepfakes, which are images or videos that make it look like a person said or did something they did not. The measure also stiffens penalties for revenge porn and other sex-related crimes.
Organized retail crime bill teed up for House vote — The House is ready to vote on a bill that would upgrade charges for people accused of stealing from five or more stores in 30 days, Stephany Matat of POLITICO Florida reports. The bill (SB 1534) would make it a third-degree felony for stealing from five or more stores or stealing 10 or more items and a second-degree felony for 20 or more items within 30 days. It also deletes the $750 threshold for felony theft charges. The bill passed the Senate last month.
Bill to modernize boating safety sails through Legislature, now ready for Governor’s desk” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A bill that would update rules for boat charters is ready for DeSantis’ desk after sailing past its final stop in the Legislature Monday. Dubbed the “Boating Safety Act of 2022,” the bill (SB 606) is meant to improve the safe rental and use of maritime vessels following a surge in boating accidents in recent years. It would do that by requiring, among other things, additional pre-charter safety regulations. A boat renter would have to acquire a no-cost livery permit from the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). To qualify for a permit, the business must show proof of valid insurance and that all vessels are sufficiently outfitted with Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices.
To the moon: House passes bill to deregulate crypto trading” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The House has unanimously voted to clarify state law and financial regulations regarding cryptocurrency, which lawmakers are calling a long-term investment. The bill (HB 273), sponsored for the second year in a row by Rep. Vance Aloupis, would undo a 2019 court ruling preventing individuals who own bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies from selling them without a license. In Florida v. Espinoza, a state appeals court bucked guidance from the Office of Financial Regulation (OFR) and found that individuals who own bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies need a license to sell them. The case sprung up when the Miami Beach Police Department arrested a man for selling bitcoin in exchange for cash.
Strawberry Ron: DeSantis approves strawberry shortcake as state dessert” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — In a nod to Florida’s growers in Central Florida, DeSantis has signed a bill naming the strawberry shortcake as the state dessert. The legislation (SB 1006), sponsored by Sen. Danny Burgess and Rep. Lawrence McClure, designates strawberry shortcake, with natural Florida dairy topping, as the state dessert. Before growers, reporters and strawberry queens on the fifth day of the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City, DeSantis signed the bill Monday, still smacking his lips from the shortcake and natural Florida dairy topping he sampled before giving his thumbs-up. Plant City and the surrounding area is home to more than 10,000 acres of strawberries, which make up 75% of the nation’s winter strawberry crop.


— MORE TALLY —
Disney CEO Bob Chapek addresses company’s response to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill” via Alex Weprin of The Hollywood Reporter — Chapek told staff that the company “unequivocally” stands with its LGBTQ+ employees in the wake of Florida passing its so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, but he also acknowledged that there is more the company needs to do. “I want to be crystal clear: I and the entire leadership team unequivocally stand in support of our LGBTQ+ employees, their families, and their communities. And we are committed to creating a more inclusive company — and world,” Chapek wrote. In recent weeks, Disney has been taking heat for declining to release a statement about the bill and for donating money to statewide elected officials who supported the bill.
FHCA thanks lawmakers for ‘modernizing’ nursing home staff rules — The Florida Health Care Association thanked the Legislature for passing a bill (HB 1239) that would change nursing center staffing requirements to allow non-nursing staff to fulfill a portion of direct care hours. FHCA was a primary supporter of the bill and says it brings needed modernizations to state rules and would additionally help alleviate the current staffing crunch at nursing centers. FHCA CEO Emmett Reed said the organization was “so thankful” that lawmakers recognized “the urgent need for this critical legislation, which will help ensure that Florida’s nursing center residents can receive the best quality care possible. We know Gov. DeSantis understands this need, and we strongly encourage him to make this issue a priority by signing this legislation.”
West Palm Beach Mayor urges lawmakers to pass water measure” via Matt Papaycik of WPTV — The West Palm Beach Mayor and other local officials on Monday called on Florida lawmakers to pass a bill that will continue to provide drinking water from Lake Okeechobee to residents. Mayor Keith James said SB 2508, officially called the “Environmental Resources” measure, will help ensure that Lake O operations meet the needs of South Floridians, including those who are dependent upon it for their water supply. On Monday, James and other local leaders said SB 2508 would take decisions about Lake O water levels out of the hands of bureaucrats in Washington and keep them on the local level.
Democrats, advocates: Affordable housing funds not enough to stem rent crisis” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Florida’s housing issues have reached crisis levels, and the funding lawmakers are preparing to put into affordable housing programs aren’t matching the size of the problem, Democrats and housing advocates said Monday during a rally in front of the Capitol. “This is to send a message to our people in the Governor’s Office and the House and the Senate that we can’t just do nothing,” said Rep. Dianne Hart. In the latest budget talks between the House and Senate, the chambers have agreed to spend $318.7 million on housing programs. That’s about $50 million more than the original House plan but $36.8 million short of DeSantis’ recommendation.
Progressive group condemns elections bill — Stand Up America blasted a bill (SB 524) passed by the Senate last week that would create an election fraud police unit, more frequently purge voter rolls, and criminalize ballot harvesting. “After touting Florida’s elections as the ‘gold standard,’ Florida Republicans have done an about-face to appeal to the most extreme factions of their party and to boost Gov. DeSantis’ 2024 hopes. Voters and taxpayers will suffer as a result,” Executive Director Christina Harvey said. “This Anti-Voter Freedom Act is a waste of taxpayer dollars that puts one man’s political aspirations above the needs of everyday Floridians. Members of the Florida House must do everything in their power to keep Gov. DeSantis and his cronies from ramming this bill through the lower chamber. Floridians’ freedom to vote depends on it.”



— BILLS ARE DYING —
Legislature shortchanges ban on no-cash businesses” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A measure barring many brick-and-mortar businesses in Florida from refusing cash payments is dead after going ignored for months in both chambers of the Legislature. Neither the Senate version of the bill (SB 408) filed Oct. 6 by Sen. Shevrin Jones nor its House twin (HB 233) that Rep. Matt Willhite filed the same day saw a single hearing. That’s because Sen. Ed Hooper and Rep. Nick DiCeglie declined to take up the proposal in the committees they run, effectively killing the bill before Jones or Willhite could advocate for it. In the first year of the pandemic, digital point-of-sale company Square reported seeing the share of cashless businesses more than double in the U.S.
Legislature gives cold shoulder to bill requiring landlords to provide air conditioning” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A measure mandating landlords in Florida provide tenants with functional air conditioning systems, an accommodation to match current requirements for heating, has died without receiving a single hearing during the 2022 Legislative Session. The legislation (SB 1134, HB 819), which Sen. Jason Pizzo and Rep. Michael Grieco filed in early December, would have added just one hyphenated word, “air-conditioning,” to existing state statutes. That would have fixed a bizarre oversight in the appropriately named “Sunshine State,” which can sometimes get chilly in winter but where it gets fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk sweltering in the steamiest months of the year. Grieco and Pizzo will have to wait until next year to see through the measure.
— SKED —

— The Senate convenes for a floor Session to pass a bill on parental rights in education (HB 1557), filed by Rep. Joe Harding, 9 a.m., Senate Chamber.
— The House convenes for a floor Session to consider bills on immigration (SB 1808), election (SB 524), and alimony reform (SB 1796), 10:30 a.m., House Chamber.
— The Senate Rules Committee will meet to hear a bill revising requirements for newspapers publishing legal notices (HB 7049), carried by Rep. Randy Fine, 2 p.m., Room 412 of the Knott Building.
— `GOV CLUB MENU —
Tortilla soup; Latin chop salad; southwest black bean and corn salad; mango slaw; chicken salad wraps; beef tacos with grilled corn tortillas; chili Rellenos casserole; sautéed street corn; cilantro and lime rice; sliced array of cakes for dessert.

—STATEWIDE —
DeSantis returns to Bay Co. for wildfire updates” via Jenna Maddox of My Panhandle — DeSantis made his way back to Bay County on Sunday to give more updates for the Adkins Avenue and Bertha Swamp Road wildfires. The Bertha Swamp Road wildfire grew to 9,000 acres on Sunday. “That’s a big boy, and it’s raging very quickly… It’s moving,” DeSantis said. “If you look where it’s moving, the smoke is way ahead of it, so it creates a lot of challenges in a number of different respects.” DeSantis said many agencies around the state are in the Panhandle to help with the effort, including the Florida National Guard.
Heavy rain chances expected to bring potential relief to Panhandle wildfires, but it’s temporary” via Ebonee Burrell of The Panama City News-Herald — Heavy rain rolling in and strong winds dying down later in the week could be good news for those fighting Bay County’s wildfires, though it likely will be only a temporary reprieve. Multiple wildfires covered more than 14,000 acres across Bay and northern Gulf counties as of Monday afternoon, proving difficult for local resources to control as dry conditions make the fire easy to spread. National Weather Service meteorologist Cameron Young said that by Wednesday, a cold front will begin moving through the Panama City area, which will significantly increase the chances of rain to as high as 90% chance by Thursday.
‘Kumbaya’ to ‘don’t say gay’: How Florida GOP outreach to LGBTQ community fell apart” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Just four years ago, Republican officeholders from across Central Florida gathered in Orlando to back Conservatives on the Right Side of Equality, a new group dedicated to building bridges between Republicans and the LGBTQ community. A “new generation” of Republicans was coming to the fore, said then-Longwood Mayor Ben Paris, who were focused on moving toward equality and away from “the Republican Party of the past.” Four years later, however, gay rights groups are in an uproar over the Republican-backed “don’t say gay” bill that’s expected to pass this week and head to DeSantis’ desk for his signature. The schism between the GOP and the LGTBQ community has been at its highest levels since the same-sex marriage battles of the 2000s.
Florida gas prices reach ‘highest levels in a decade,’ AAA says” via USA Today Network — Prices at Florida pumps ballooned to an average price of $3.97 this Sunday, or a 44 cent per gallon jump in the last five days, their “highest levels in a decade,” according to the AAA — The Auto Club Group. “Drivers may soon begin to see record-high prices,” said Mark Jenkins, AAA spokesman. Sunday’s average was the highest since April 2012, with the average cost for a tank fill-up hovering at $59. To compare, that figure was $41 this time last year. Also Sunday, the average gasoline price nationwide reached $4 a gallon for the first time since July 2008, according to AAA.
While baseball argues about billions, small Florida towns lose their meager spring windfall” via John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times — The Florida Sports Foundation says spring training has an annual economic impact of $687.1 million in this state. While the money sounds exaggerated, the actual passion for spring training is immeasurable. It is northerners escaping the cold, and students escaping class. It is retirees sitting in the sun alongside business execs sneaking in a lunchtime beer. It is an unhurried pace, uncommon proximity, and unnatural optimism before the inevitable heartbreak of a 162-game season. The last time baseball had a work stoppage in 1995, Spring Training was a 10-to-12-game sprint that ended in April. Attendance in 1994 had averaged more than 31,000 per game, and it would be another dozen years before MLB crowds got back to that level.
Personnel note: Lauren Cassedy, aide to Ashley Moody, joins AT&T” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Cassedy is off on a new adventure. After three years serving as Moody’s Public Affairs Director, the communications vet joins the AT&T corporate public relations shop. Cassedy will help lead communications in AT&T’s Southern States region, which includes Florida and stretches from Texas to North Carolina. She started the new gig Monday and will remain based in Tallahassee. “AT&T has a great track record of working in communities across the country, which I’m really excited to now be a part of and help further,” Cassedy said. “I enjoyed so much of my time working in state government, but I’m really excited about this opportunity and new challenge.”

Advertisement— 2022 —
FDP partners with DSCC on ‘One Future Florida’ — The Florida Democratic Party is starting a coordinated election campaign earlier than in the past few election cycles, cutting the ribbon Tuesday on “One Future Florida,” a partnership with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Ferguson Yacyshyn, a Sarasota native and veteran of Democratic campaigns in Florida, Iowa and Virginia, has been hired as One Future Florida’s coordinated campaign director. The campaign will house Florida Democrats’ organizing, voter registration, voter protection and data infrastructure for local, state, statewide, and U.S. Senate election campaigns in 2022. Democrats say they’ll be opening up bilingual field offices and focusing on “engaging and mobilizing constituencies across the state that have long been instrumental to Democratic victories.”
Aramis Ayala to formally launch Attorney General campaign Tuesday — Former State Attorney Ayala will hold a 9 a.m. news conference at the Capitol Tuesday alongside state Senators and local elected officials to formally announce her candidacy for Attorney General. At 5:30 p.m., she will hold a fundraiser with Tallahassee Commissioners Jack Porter and Jeremy Matlow, Soil & Water Commissioner Tabitha Frazier and attorneys Mutaqee Akbar, Louis Jean-Baptiste, Stephen Knight and Chuck Hobbs at Warhorse Whiskey Bar. Ayala, a Democrat, filed paperwork to challenge Attorney General Ashley Moody last week. She is the only prominent Democrat seeking the Cabinet post.
Progress Pinellas sends more ad support to Eric Lynn in CD 13 — Super PAC Progress Pinellas made another ad buy backing Lynn’s campaign for Florida’s 13th Congressional District. The new ad touts Lynn, a Democrat, as a “hometown kid from St. Pete” and plays up his connection to former President Barack Obama, whom he served as an adviser. “Now Eric is running for Congress to fight Republicans’ attacks on us — protecting women’s reproductive rights, defending the rights of Floridians, and taking a stand for good jobs and a $15 minimum wage, ”the ad says. Progress Florida said the $584K ad buy includes a broadcast and cable flight and digital ads. It will run through March 28.
To watch the ad, click on the image below:

Fred Guttenberg endorses Jared Moskowitz for CD 22 seat” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Former DEM Director Moskowitz is the only major name to officially announce he’s running to succeed Rep. Ted Deutch in Florida’s 22nd Congressional District, and one prominent gun rights advocate can’t imagine anyone better. Deutch upended the South Florida political world last week, announcing that his seventh congressional term would be his last. And lots of names have come out as possible replacements for the Boca Raton Congressman. But Guttenberg, whose daughter, Jaime, died in Florida’s worst school shooting, said he thinks the district that straddles Broward-Palm Beach counties should go with the first one to get in the race.
Moskowitz rolls out 50 endorsements for CD 22 bidMoskowitz announced a list of 50 current and former elected officials who have endorsed his campaign for Florida’s 22nd Congressional District. The list includes Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book, Sen. Jones and House Democratic Leader Evan Jenne alongside several other lawmakers and local elected officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties. “I’m honored to receive support from so many elected leaders, many of whom I’ve worked alongside to fight for our Democratic priorities. I look forward to continuing that fight with their help, and I appreciate their faith in my ability to advance our values in Washington,” said Moskowitz, who last week entered the race to succeed exiting U.S. Rep. Deutch.
Dean Black crosses $350K mark for HD 15 campaign” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Black, the Duval County Republican Party Chair, has collected more than $350,000 for his campaign in House District 15. The fundraising total includes $164,910 raised through his official campaign account, including $100,000 in candidate loans, as well as $185,201 raised through his political committee, True Conservatives. The campaign cash came in February, his first month as a candidate. The committee total includes $11,000 raised last month and $174,000 raised in the previous year when he considered a run in the old House District 11.
Elijah Manley seeks to avenge loss in central Broward House race” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — A Democratic House candidate who lost in a four-way Special Democratic Primary race to represent Broward County in Tallahassee is back as a candidate in 2022. Manley was third in last January’s Special Democratic Primary to choose the successor to Rep. Bobby DuBose, who resigned from House District 94 to run for Congress. Now, it looks like Manley is up for a rematch. The decennial redistricting process means that Broward County’s HD 94 has been renumbered House District 99, and its boundaries have shifted westward. But Manley will have to get by the incumbent who bested him in January: Rep. Daryl Campbell. Campbell already has filed for re-election to the seat he won on Jan. 12, state papers show.


— CORONA FLORIDA —
Florida adds 14,148 COVID-19 cases, 1,207 deaths in past week” via Jamal Thalji of the Tampa Bay Times — There were 14,148 new cases in Florida, according to the latest state report. There was an average of 2,021 patients a day, a 45% drop compared to the previous week. Florida saw 5,814,517 cases.
CDC OKs gathering without masks in Leon; February was deadliest COVID-19 month since October” via Mike Stucka of the Tallahassee Democrat — As predicted by local health experts, the CDC now lists Leon County as low risk for transmission of COVID-19, a label that comes with the approval of maskless gatherings in indoor, public spaces. The CDC data meant to guide decision-making considers current hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients and capacity in addition to the case numbers, which previously dominated its metrics. On Monday, HCA Florida Capital Hospital, formerly Capital Regional Medical Center, reported 12 COVID-19-positive patients.
Pasco schools spent $11M on COVID health care for unvaccinated employees” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — According to data provided by Blue Cross, which manages the district plan, 97% of $11.3 million in COVID-related claims during 2021 were incurred by plan participants who identified themselves to their health providers as being unvaccinated. The information, delivered to School Board members, came as the district’s insurance committee has been reviewing policy needs for the coming fiscal year, which begins in July. Committee members and other district officials are discussing how to keep the plan in positive financial shape, and whether any policy changes will be needed.
— CORONA NATION —
White House must go further on new pandemic response, say former Joe Biden advisers, outside experts” via Ben Diamond of The Washington Post — Vaccinate 85% of Americans against the coronavirus. Ensure that people experiencing long COVID-19 can get disability benefits. Develop a plan to restore trust in the CDC. Those are among the more than 250 discrete recommendations issued by a team of former Biden COVID-19 advisers and dozens of other outside experts on Monday, arguing that the White House must take additional steps to combat the virus and reduce the risk of other infectious diseases, to avoid the societal disruptions that have characterized the past two years.
Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine moves closer to FDA authorization decision” via Joseph Walker of The Wall Street Journal — Novavax Inc.’s long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine is moving toward U.S. authorization after the company said it resolved manufacturing problems that had held up its application. Clearance in the U.S. isn’t imminent because the FDA must sort through a large amount of study data from several countries, a person familiar with the matter said. However, a decision is getting closer since Novavax formally submitted an authorization request in late January. If the shot is rolled out in the U.S., it could boost vaccination efforts flagged among the hesitant.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
As lab owners buy luxury cars, Biden tightens oversight of $5 trillion in COVID-19 relief” via Ken Alltucker of USA Today — When patients came to the South Florida testing lab owned by Christopher Licata, they got the COVID-19 tests they requested, plus more lucrative but medically unnecessary genetic and respiratory tests, allowing Licata to bill $6.9 million to Medicare, federal prosecutors say. Licata got caught, the Delray Beach man pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud Medicare and is scheduled to be sentenced March 24, but federal officials are scrambling to tighten oversight of more than $5 trillion in pandemic relief funding passed by Congress over the past two years.
Restaurants debate masks as COVID-19 rules rapidly disappear” via Heather Haddon and Stephen Council of The Wall Street Journal — COVID-19 restrictions are easing. Restaurants are deciding whether to keep masks on the menu. In recent weeks, California, New York, Connecticut, Illinois, and other local governments have ended mask requirements for dining inside and working at restaurants. Some businesses believe that there is a benefit for business and their workers when mask mandates are removed. The facial coverings are hot and uncomfortable to work in, and not having to put them on between bites and sips makes customers more motivated to dine out, Applebee’s President John Cywinski said Wednesday. Some restaurant owners are still struggling to recruit enough staff to entirely run their operations and worry that relaxing rules could scare off employees fearful about their health.
— MORE CORONA —
Even a mild case of COVID-19 can cause brain changes. It’s too soon to know if the damage lasts” via Karen Weintraub of USA Today — A new study provides the most conclusive evidence yet that COVID-19 can damage the brain, even in people who weren’t severely ill. The study, published Monday in Nature, used before-and-after brain images of 785 British people, ages 51 to 81, to look for any changes. About half the participants contracted COVID-19 between the scans, mostly when the alpha variant was circulating, leaving many people at least temporarily without a sense of smell. Analysis of the “before” and “after” images from the U.K. Biobank showed that people infected with COVID-19 had a greater reduction in their brain volumes overall and performed worse on cognitive tests than those who had not been infected.
How the COVID-19 test was won” via Brianna Abbott and Peter Loftus of The Wall Street Journal — Inside a factory that is the size of five football fields, thousands of workers from Abbott Laboratories race to meet the demand for America’s dominant COVID-19 at-home test. Some place test strips inside white, rectangular cards of paper that feature a pink stripe before sealing them into a pouch. In other rooms, workers pack pouches, swabs and solution into bluish-purple boxes labeled BinaxNow. Trucks roll in to pick up new supplies every day between 3 a.m. and midnight. Starting in March, the company expects to make 100 million of them, and in just the last five weeks, it added about 1,300 employees at its Gurnee plant to help make that happen. How BinaxNow became one of the standout products of the pandemic comes down to a mix of research and manufacturing horsepower, industry connections, and some good fortune.
Bail amounts lowered for COVID-19, and crime didn’t rise. Officials debate making it permanent.” via Mike Diamond of The Palm Beach Post — Lower bail amounts for a certain level of criminal offenses designed to lower the jail population during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic did not harm public safety in Palm Beach County, a Florida State University study has concluded. In fact, the study stated that rates of people being put back in jail or defendants not showing up for court declined during the period in which the lower bail amounts were in place. But a recommendation that the lower bail amounts be made permanent has generated pushback from law enforcement and bail agents. When the pandemic was ravaging in the Palm Beach County jail system, then-Chief Judge Krista Marx issued an order in April 2020 to reduce bail to $1,000 from $3,000 for primarily nonviolent third-degree felonies.


— PRESIDENTIAL —
Why Biden is getting some praise from Republicans on his handling of Ukraine” via Amber Phillips of The Washington Post — The one constant of the American reaction to the war in Ukraine so far has been bipartisanship. Democratic and Republican politicians as distant politically as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sens. Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio agree on not sending troops into Ukraine, refusing Ukrainian requests to police a no-fly zone there and banning Russian oil even if it raises prices for Americans. A number of Republican lawmakers also have been giving Biden small doses of praise for how he’s handled sanctions, at least since the invasion began. Yet some Republicans are trying to tease apart a relatively minor aspect of Biden’s response, the United States’ reliance on Russian oil, to see if he could be politically vulnerable there.
— D.C. MATTERS —
Florida Republicans pursue new sanctions after Russia invades Ukraine” via Bryan Lowry of the Miami Herald — Florida lawmakers have proposed a slew of new sanctions and other measures in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Rep. Carlos Giménez and Sen. Rubio, two Republicans from Florida, last week introduced the Preventing Usurpation of Power and Privileges by Extralegal Territories’ Sedition Act, or PUPPETS Act, to target the pro-Russian separatist groups in eastern Ukraine whose conflict with the Ukrainian government in Kyiv was used by Russian President Vladimir Putin as a pretext for the invasion. The bill would designate the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic as foreign terrorist organizations and sanction any individuals that assist in establishing puppet governments in Ukraine.
U.S. engages with Nicolás Maduro as oil prices soar. Venezuela’s opposition sees it as ‘foolish’” via Antonio Maria Delgado and Michael Wilner of the Miami Herald — A surprising effort by the Biden administration to forge a deal with Maduro and restore the flow of Venezuelan oil into U.S. ports might be welcomed by many U.S. motorists struggling with soaring gas prices amid the invasion of Ukraine. But Venezuela’s opposition was both caught off guard and angered as details emerged of a meeting. Top administration officials traveled to Caracas on Saturday to gauge what Maduro might be willing to offer in exchange for U.S. sanctions relief on its oil sector, as Biden debates whether to ban Russian oil imports over the invasion of Ukraine.
— CRISIS —
John Eastman says ‘conflicting’ advice to Trump negates Jan. 6 committee’s claims of criminal intent” via Kyle Cheney of POLITICO — Eastman, who is seeking to shield key emails from the House select committee by claiming attorney-client privilege, said the panel’s explosive arguments would criminalize “good-faith” legal advice. Trump’s decision to heed it, amid conflicting counsel from his advisers, can’t be construed as criminal, Eastman argues. In a late-Monday court filing, Eastman’s argument is his first formal rebuttal to the select committee’s effort to persuade a federal judge to overturn Eastman’s privilege claims and unlock thousands of pages of emails between Eastman and members of Trump’s inner circle.
Op-ed —Every Jan. 6 case matters” via James Comey for The Washington Post — I keep hearing that some FBI special agents, scattered around the country, don’t understand why it’s so important that everyone is held accountable who committed any crime at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, even if that crime was “only” trespassing inside the building. Here’s what I would say to them. We are a nation of laws, and the FBI is dedicated to the rule of law. All of you learned that at Quantico and took an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Despite all the division, passion and anger, we have never had something like Jan. 6. No Americans, whatever their politics, whatever their personal grievances, can ever again try to interfere in the operation of laws governing the election of a President.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
Alex Jones and Trump: A fateful alliance draws scrutiny” via Elizabeth Williamson of The New York Times — The day Trump urged his supporters to “be there, will be wild!” at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Jones spread the message to millions. A little more than two weeks later, Jones joined his followers at the Capitol as a behind-the-scenes organizer. It is part of a reckoning Jones faces on multiple fronts. He is still fighting a half-dozen defamation lawsuits filed by the targets of his false claims, including the relatives of 10 Sandy Hook victims. The House committee has subpoenaed Jones, and included a three-page list seeking his related communications and financial records. Questioned by the panel this year, Jones invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination more than 100 times, and is trying to block the committee’s demand for records in court.


— LOCAL NOTES —
‘It’s like we are all Ukraine’: South Florida shows solidarity with Ukraine” via NBC 6 Miami — Dozens gathered in front of the Cuban Memorial at Tamiami Park Sunday for a rally in support of Ukraine amid the ongoing invasion by Russian forces. The Assembly of Cuban Resistance organized the rally. “We gathered here today in a community rally to support Ukraine’s right to self-rule,” one attendee said. “Ukraine’s right to have their democratic sovereignty because their individual freedom depends on that.” The plight in Ukraine feels familiar to many exiles who attended the rally. “The Ukrainians are fighting for the same thing that Cubans, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans. For the right to rule themselves, the right to be free, the right to decide in their own nation,” another attendee said.
Venezuelans in Miami torn by ‘risky’ U.S. talks with Maduro about oil, sanctions, Russia” via Bianca Padró Ocasio of the Miami Herald — As Russia’s war on Ukraine rages on, leaders in the Venezuelan community in Miami are watching in suspense, and low expectations, the ongoing talks between the Biden administration and the government of Maduro to potentially ease sanctions on Venezuelan oil. A U.S. delegation traveled to Caracas last week in the U.S. government’s first approach to the regime since it broke diplomatic ties in 2019. With the price of oil skyrocketing, the U.S. seeks alternative sources of oil and renewed engagement with one of Putin’s closest allies in Latin America. “As a Venezuelan, I wish they wouldn’t, because it’s going to benefit Maduro,” said Beatriz Olavarria, a local Venezuelan activist who organized a voter drive for Venezuelans living abroad in 2012.
Federal grand jury indicts former JEA executives on conspiracy, wire fraud” via Nate Monroe and David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — Federal prosecutors on Monday unsealed a grand jury indictment charging former JEA chief executive officer Aaron Zahn and finance chief Ryan Wannemacher with conspiracy and wire fraud, casting the two men as the architects of a brazen scheme to secretly extract tens of millions of dollars of personal profit out of the city-owned utility before selling it off to a private operator. The 30-page indictment accuses the agency’s former top executives of devising a plot to enrich themselves by disguising it as a good-faith exploration of JEA’s financial future. Prosecutors allege almost every aspect of the failed effort to privatize one of Jacksonville’s largest and most important public agencies was a fraud.
Federal prosecutors say former JEA CEO met with potential buyer before board vote. Who was it?” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — Federal prosecutors said in court papers that were unsealed Monday they have evidence that former JEA CEO Zahn, who faces conspiracy and wire fraud charges, met in South Florida with the chief executive officer of an unnamed potential buyer in the days leading up to a crucial board of directors vote on the fate of the city-owned utility in the summer of 2019. The meeting, which has never before been reported, likely would have generated controversy all on its own had it been publicly disclosed in real time. Zahn, the indictment alleges, told the CEO of the unnamed company and others at the meeting that JEA was set to explore privatization.
Miami Beach Mayor announces push for $60M revamp of Lincoln Road mall” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber on Monday rattled off a list of new projects coming online this year, including a new cancer center, a 3-acre public park and a push to renovate Lincoln Road, during his annual State of the City speech. Gelber, speaking from the stage at the New World Center, announced the development of the $250 million Irma and Norman Braman Cancer Center at Mount Sinai Medical Center. With Norman Braman, the billionaire philanthropist, and his family in attendance, Gelber showed a rendering of the sleek new building that he said would be an “ultramodern” facility overlooking Biscayne Bay.
Broward schools may crackdown on unruly behavior — of adults” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Parents and visitors may soon have to be on their best behavior when they visit schools or School Board property or else face such actions as a “public admonition” or a trespassing charge. The School Board plans to discuss a proposed new “respect and civility” policy during a Tuesday workshop, tentatively set for 2:30 p.m. Although the policy includes students, the focus appears to be on unruly behavior by adults. “The policy is one that communicates how employees and non-employees will interact with one another in a respectful manner,” the office of Chief Communications Officer Kathy Koch said in a statement. “We are sharing that we are seeking civil dialogue and interactions in a positive atmosphere.”
Fort Lauderdale’s fired biracial chief was not part of ‘good old boys club,’ NAACP leader says” via Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Larry Scirotto, Fort Lauderdale’s top cop fired amid allegations of reverse discrimination last week after just six months on the job, was firing back on Monday. Scirotto said city leadership hired him, in part, to bring change to a department whose leaders usually came from inside the agency. His boss, City Manager Chris Lagerbloom, warned him his efforts to diversify the agency would be “met with great resistance,” he said. Lagerbloom fired Scirotto on Thursday, six days after receiving an investigative report by an outside attorney hand-picked by the city to look into claims that Scirotto made promotions based on race and gender. Lagerbloom fired Scirotto on Thursday, six days after receiving an investigative report by an outside attorney hand-picked by the city to look into claims that Scirotto made promotions based on race and gender.
Alachua County voters will be asked whether they support sales tax increase for 10 years” via John Henderson of The Gainesville Sun — Voters in Alachua County will be asked to support a local sales tax that would last for 10 years under ballot language that has been proposed for the Nov. 8 election. Alachua County commissioners earlier this week endorsed the wording of the ballot question, with a final vote on the referendum question scheduled for March 22. The sales tax, on average, would cost each Alachua County resident about $1,234 over 10 years, or $123 per person annually. The infrastructure tax over 10 years would generate more than $174 million for the city of Gainesville and more than $491 million countywide, with all of the cities getting funding from the pot.
‘We should all be enraged’: Ocala’s vulnerable children go months without medication, care” via Danielle Johnson of the Ocala Star-Banner — When Heather’s 14-year-old son Isaac, who has severe autoimmune encephalitis, a disease in which his immune system attacks the brain, suddenly stopped receiving his infusions last August, the whole family felt the effects. Exactus told her it hadn’t received the prescription and referred her to AcariaHealth, the pharmacy for individuals on Sunshine Health insurance plans. AcariaHealth told her it hadn’t received it, either, and directed her back to Exactus. Three months after the problem began, the prescription was suddenly filled with no explanation, but Heather fears that long-term damage has been done to her son’s health.


— TOP OPINION —
DeSantis sacrifices Floridians for his personal ambition” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Although he doesn’t admit it, DeSantis’ craving for the White House is the most transparent ambition since Julius Caesar theatrically declined a crown, and it’s already dreadfully clear what kind of public health President he would be. Consider what happened Monday. DeSantis’ Surgeon General, Ladapo, announced that the Department of Health would not recommend healthy children get COVID-19 vaccinations and will, in fact, recommend against it. That was another irresponsible act in DeSantis’ full-bore campaign to undercut common-sense health measures as invasions of “freedom.”
— OPINIONS —
How Palm Beach County candidates can win hearts, minds” via the Palm Beach Post editorial board — We look for a candidate who knows the ins and outs of every important issue in a town, well enough to have informed opinions. It’s hard for someone other than an incumbent to come to this education, as many issues require more sophisticated knowledge than one might expect, whether of taxation, zoning, code enforcement or public safety. It’s not that complicated: We look for a candidate who’s smart, who does the right thing rather than play political games, who has spent time with and cares about town residents and businesses and who would position the town for greater social equity, livability and commercial success. Even more unsavory: the intrusion of anonymous money into local races. Beware shadowy candidates supported by secret givers.



—TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Call it what you may — Parental Rights in Education or Don’t Say Gay — the Senate is poised to vote on it on the last stop before heading to the Governor’s desk.
Also on today’s Sunrise:
— Some of the more emotional testimony yet on the Don’t Say Gay bill came from Democratic Sen. Jones.
— House Democratic leadership lashes out at the tweets of the Governor’s press secretary.
— Gov. DeSantis holds a big roundtable to bash the establishment’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
— Gas prices are way up … and still going. Sunrise talks with the Florida AAA.
To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —
Don’t feed the bears: FWC cites Seminole residents ‘afraid the bears would starve’” via Garfield Hylton of the Orlando Sentinel — A Florida Fish and Wildlife officer found four large black bears in the backyard of a Central Florida home eating what appeared to be food left out for them. FWC received numerous complaints regarding residents feeding bears in Seminole County. FWC Officer Dominique Infante noticed four bears were eating food from a resident’s backyard, with food that seemed to have been placed out for the bears. Two people were also watching the bears eat from about 50 yards away. They admitted to the officer they had fed the bears daily over the last couple of months “because they were afraid the bears would starve,” according to the FWC report.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to former Rep. Michael Bileca, Lance Block, former St. Pete mayoral candidate Pete Boland, Meagan Moser, and our friend, the supersmart Ryan Smith.
___
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Renzo Downey, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.
Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of FloridaPolitics.com, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.
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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.
Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL
Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Ron Brackett, Jason Delgado, Renzo Downey, Daniel Figueroa, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Joe Henderson, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, Mike Wright, and Tristan Wood.
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