Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 7.14.22
Good Thursday morning.
Vice President Kamala Harris will be in Orlando today for a roundtable focused on abortion rights.
First Harris will attend the 70th Boule of Alpha Kappa Alpha, a sorority that Harris joined while attending Howard University.
Kamala Harris heads to Orlando to talk about the future of reproductive rights.
Following her remarks at the sorority convention, she will host the roundtable alongside U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and state lawmakers.
The White House did not specify which lawmakers would be in attendance, but the White House said Harris will encourage them to “continue fighting to protect reproductive rights.”
The roundtable comes two weeks after Florida’s 15-week abortion ban went into effect. That law is currently being challenged in court.
After the event, Harris will head west to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, where she will meet with service members and receive a briefing from Gens. Michael Kurilla and Richard Clarke, who lead USCENTCOM and USSOCOM, respectively.
The briefing will include an update on the country’s partnerships in the Middle East and on how USCENTCOM and USSOCOM are supporting Ukraine, among other topics.
The White House said more details on the Vice President’s visit will be made available today.
Charlie Crist’s gubernatorial campaign is releasing a new ad blasting Gov. Ron DeSantis over his positions on abortion rights and guns.
“Think about what’s at stake in Florida,” Crist says in the ad. “Gov. Ron DeSantis bullies school children. He wants to outlaw abortion, even for victims of rape and incest. He opposes any background checks on guns, even for violent criminals. And he cares more about running for the White House than your house.”
“Well, I’m fighting back,” Crist adds. “We must defend a woman’s right to choose and protect kids with common sense gun laws. Ron DeSantis has a radical agenda. Together we can stop it for a brighter Florida.”
The ad, titled “Fighting Back,” marks the first from any candidate for Governor. Crist’s campaign said it will be backed by a six-figure TV buy in key media markets across the state and will also run on streaming platforms.
To watch the ad, click on the image below:
The Cook Political Report has released its 2022 Partisan Voting Index, finding that Republicans nationwide will “continue to benefit from an electoral map tilted in their favor on nearly all levels.”
That’s as true in Florida as anywhere.
According to the 2022 PVI, Florida’s new district maps include 20 seats that lean toward the GOP and eight that lean toward the Democrats, which is the same balance that FiveThirtyEight predicted when it released its updated forecast last week.
The Cook PVI makes it clear that few of Florida’s congressional districts will be truly competitive this cycle. Only three districts in the state meet the definition of a “swing seat” — between R+5 and D+5 — and two do so only barely.
The PVI estimates that the closest contest will be in Florida’s 15th Congressional District. The Tampa Bay-area seat is considered Florida’s “new” district as no incumbent lives there. The race features five Republicans — including former Secretary of State Laurel Lee, Rep. Jackie Toledo and Sen. Kelli Stargel. Democrat Alan Cohn, the 2020 nominee in the old CD 15, appears to be the front-runner for his party’s nomination. Cook rates the seat at R+4.
One is Florida’s 7th Congressional District where eight Republicans and four Democrats are running to succeed exiting U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy. The index gives Republicans a 5-point advantage in the Central Florida district.
Finally, Cook says Democrats have just a 5-point advantage in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District, where 14 candidates are vying to replace U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch. Broward County Commissioner Jared Moskowitz is seen as the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, but if the Republican wave hits, the General Election could be a close fight for what was previously a very blue seat.
PVI ratings for all of Florida’s congressional districts — and the other 407 across the country — are available on Cook’s website.
Continental Strategy has acquired technology-focused governmental consulting firm Kaleo Partners.
Kaleo Partners has more than 20 years of combined experience advising and consulting for technology companies on market strategy and business development within the public sector. The firm represents many technology companies, from startups to Fortune 500 companies such as Dell, Google, Intel and Verizon.
As part of the acquisition, Kaleo Partners co-founders Glenn Kirkland Jr. and Jon Menendez will join Continental Strategy as Strategic Advisors.
“Glenn and Jon have been the leading catalyst in the IT consulting space for years. They have been very successful in not only offering but delivering unique services to their clients in an ever-evolving technological environment,” said Carlos Trujillo, the president of Continental Strategy.
“Over the last few months, both parties quickly realized that this strategic acquisition makes sense, and Kaleo Partners’ expertise in the tech industry and IT consulting services will only elevate Continental Strategy’s offerings at the federal and state levels.”
Kirkland and Menendez added, “It remains paramount to us that we are aligned with individuals that share our same personal and professional values to ensure continued success for our clients. Having known Carlos and the principals at Continental for many years, we know they are a perfect fit for not only continued but elevated success for our clients in the future.
“The depth and strength of Continental’s relationships within government, as well as their knowledge of the process, is unrivaled and will significantly impact the business value to our clients.”
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@JeffreyBrandes: Florida should bring back parole, conservative policy study says. The @FLSheriffs own study points out that “The extant literature on the effects of Truth in Sentencing is mixed.” When it comes to justice one size does not fit all. #wecandobetter
In his first four years in office, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has presided over an historic shift of the tax burden *off* of businesses — and *on* to Floridians. pic.twitter.com/lLUo8x44gT
— Jason Garcia (@Jason_Garcia) July 13, 2022
—@EvanDonovan: Worth noting — during public hearings for Florida’s new 15-week abortion ban, a doctor testified about 11-year-old ‘Lizzie’ “She was raped by a family member shortly after her 1st period. When her stomach began to show, her mother took her to a physician” — 23 weeks pregnant.
If you’re someone who is into bad news, now is the time to turn into the Citizens Property Insurance meeting pic.twitter.com/hP6q89iwQE
— Matt Dixon (@Mdixon55) July 13, 2022
—@AGGancarski: “Honey?” “Yes, dear?” “What do you want to do tonight? Watch a little TV” “No, baby, listen, I got some great new political mailers we should vibe to. Here’s one from a guy who says (Donald) Trump won the 2020 election.” “Wow. I’ll take that over Better Call Saul any day!”
—@MarcACaputo: Once in a while you write something and then you step back and say, “whoa, what will the history books say?” It’s like that so often in writing about all the signal and noise surrounding Trump — even when it comes to golf.
The Florida crew is strong – celebrating Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune pic.twitter.com/vB1ifoXLZF
— Dan Daley (@DanDaley) July 14, 2022
— DAYS UNTIL —
36th Annual Environmental Permitting School — 5; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 6; Vote-by-mail mailing deadline for 2022 Primary — 7; 2022 Sunshine Summit begins — 8; Deadline to register for 2022 Primary — 11; Beyoncé rolls-out seventh solo studio album ’Renaissance’ — 15; MLB trade deadline — 19; The 10-day Florida Python Challenge kicks off — 22; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 26; Early voting begins for Primaries — 30; FBHA’s annual conference, BHCon2022, begins — 34; FRLA’s Operations and Marketing Summit — five; ‘House of the Dragon’ premieres on HBO — 38; 2022 Florida Primary — 40; 2022 Florida Chamber Technology & Innovation Solution Summit — 48; ‘Andor’ premieres on Disney+ — 48; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 50; NFL Opening Night: LA Rams vs. Buffalo Bills — 56; 2022 Emmys — 60; JMI’s 2022 Tech & Innovation Summit begins — 63; Vote-by-mail mailing deadline for General Election — for; Deadline to register for General Election — 89; 22-23 NHL season begins — 89; Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 103; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 103; Jon Meacham’s ‘And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle’ releases — 103; Early voting begins for General Election — 107; 2022 General Election — 117; ‘Black Panther 2′ premieres — 120; ‘Captain Marvel 2’ premieres — 122; FITCon 2022 begins — 126; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 126; The World Cup kicks off in Qatar — 130; The U.S. World Cup Soccer Team begins play — 130; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 131; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 139; ‘Willow’ premieres on Disney+ — 139; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 155; ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 218; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 236; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 253; 2023 Session Sine Die — 295; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 295; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 323; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 491; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 624; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 743.
— TOP STORY —
“In his first term as Governor, Ron DeSantis raised taxes on Floridians by more than $1 billion” via Jason Garcia of Seeking Rents — The Republican Governor — and aspiring GOP presidential contender — has cut taxes by more than $4 billion overall, the analysis shows.
But that’s because DeSantis has cut taxes for businesses by approximately $5.6 billion. That more than offsets the roughly $1.5 billion in higher taxes DeSantis has imposed on Florida consumers.
This analysis is based on the combined and cumulative effects of the six major pieces of tax legislation that DeSantis signed during his first term. The six bills included four omnibus “tax packages” that contained dozens of different tax breaks for both business and consumers; a corporate tax cut for the top 1% of businesses; and an unprecedented tax shift that forced Floridians to pay more sales taxes when shopping online — and then used that new money to cut a pair of taxes paid only by businesses.
In his first term, Ron DeSantis cost Florida taxpayers more than $1 billion.
For my analysis, I added up the annual cash impacts of every provision in those six big tax bills for each of the four budget years that DeSantis has presided over as Governor: Fiscal years 2019-20, 2020-21, 2021-22 and 2022-23.
Another crucial point about DeSantis’ record on taxes: While the Governor has cut taxes for businesses by more than $5 billion, most of those savings have gone to the very biggest businesses in the state.
For instance, nearly half of all the Governor’s business tax cuts came from the giant corporate-income tax cut imposed by HB 7127.
— 2022 —
“Donald Trump, DeSantis both would beat Joe Biden in Nevada: poll” via Caroline Vakil of The Hill — Both Trump and DeSantis would beat Biden among Nevada voters in hypothetical matchups. When respondents were asked who they would vote for between Biden and Trump if the presidential election were held today, 43% said they’d pick Trump, while 40% said Biden, the poll found. Roughly 13% said they would vote for someone else. When respondents were asked the same question with regards to DeSantis and Biden, DeSantis received around 43% while Biden received 38%. Roughly 11% said they would vote for someone else.
Both Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump fare well in Nevada. Image via AP.
Broward School Board member endorses Charlie Crist for Governor — Broward County School Board Member Sarah Leonardi is endorsing Crist in the Democratic Primary for Governor. “Our children deserve a Governor who will always stand by them. That Governor is Charlie Crist. Charlie has fought for our teachers and support staff, he’s fought for funding for our students, and he’s led with a servant’s heart. I am proud to endorse Charlie to be our next Governor,” Leonardi said in a news release. Crist is currently leading his main Primary foe, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, in fundraising and in most polls. The winner of the Aug. 23 contest will face DeSantis in November.
“Nikki Fried says she’s divesting medical marijuana holdings, promises ‘Day One’ action on abortion” via Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel and Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Fried says she is liquidating her financial interest in the state’s biggest medical marijuana operator as she faces questions about potential conflicts of interest if she’s elected Governor. The Democratic Agriculture Commissioner has made weed her signature issue, vowing to legalize it for recreational use. But she also has a personal stake in the industry, one that could be a source of attack and a potential political liability as she seeks to defeat DeSantis. Fried is vying with former Florida Governor and current U.S. Rep. Crist for the Democratic nomination.
State troopers endorse Wilton Simpson for Agriculture Commissioner — The Florida Association of State Troopers is endorsing Simpson in the Agriculture Commissioner race. “Your foresight and efforts on behalf of troopers, police officers and other first responders during your time as Senate President has led to an unprecedented increase in funding that rewards and supports the brave men and women of Florida’s law enforcement community and will ensure that agencies are able to equip and properly compensate the fine men and women who dedicate their lives in the service and protection of others,” FAST Chair Mike Kirby said in a prepared statement. Simpson is the only prominent Republican running for Agriculture Commissioner. He will face the winner of a three-way Democratic Primary in the General Election.
“Florida GOP, DeSantis announce Sunshine Summit debate lineups” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Republican candidates from Florida’s 4th, 7th, 13th and 15th Congressional Districts will take the stage next week to debate leading issues in the GOP Primary. The debates, which will take place July 23 during the 2022 Sunshine Summit at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood. Political pundits and Republican leaders are predicting Republicans to perform well in the Midterms, with Biden’s approval ratings underwater across the nation and Florida. DeSantis and RPOF announced the debates for the four Primaries last month. However, the latest announcement marks the first details since leadership announced the criteria that debate candidates must have polled at least 5% in the RPOF poll of each respective Primary or raised and publicly reported at least $100,000 in monetary contributions by Wednesday.
Scott Franklin makes $9K ad buy in CD 18 — U.S. Rep. Franklin made a $9,268 ad buy in his campaign for Florida’s 18th Congressional District. According to AdImpact, the buy covers cable ads that will air today through Wednesday on ESPN, Fox News, HGTV and a handful of other networks. The flight was split 50-50 between the Ft. Myers and Tampa media markets. Franklin is one of five Republicans running in the CD 18 Primary. Though no Democrats are running for the seat, a write-in and third-party candidate qualified for the ballot, so the Primary contest will be closed to non-GOP voters.
— MORE 2022 —
“Will Ed Brodsky actually charge Jonathan Martin with a crime?” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — An assault complaint against a likely incoming state Senator will be handled by State Attorney Brodsky. But what would it take for the state to press charges against Martin? Brodsky promised a thorough investigation into circumstances that led Martin at a Lee County Republican Executive Committee meeting to yank a cellphone from a man’s hands. “First and foremost, we have to make a determination whether criminal charges are warranted, and we haven’t reached that point yet,” he said.
“Shevrin Jones ramps up SD 35 campaign for second-highest month of spending this cycle” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Sen. Jones notched his second-highest month of spending this election cycle in June when he exhausted nearly $64,000 on costs mostly tied to campaign mailers and fundraising efforts. He also collected more than $122,000 between his campaign account and political committee, Florida Strong Finish. By the end of the month, however, had about $90,000 remaining for the Senate District 34 race. That’s still almost four times what his two Primary challengers, consultant Pitchie “Peachy” Escarment and former Miami Gardens City Council member Erhabor Ighodaro, held at the end of the month.
Shev Jones spends serious bank.
“Former judge files elections complaints against HD 15 candidate Emily Nunez” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Jacksonville attorney and former Duval County Judge Jerilynn O’Hara has filed elections complaints against House District 15 candidate Nunez for not filing forms to disclose her relationship to a political committee and not including the proper disclosure in her campaign advertisements. “I believe in the rule of law and Emily Nunez has — now on multiple occasions — chosen to ignore Florida Statutes,” O’Hara said. “I hope the Elections Commission will investigate these serious allegations and come to the conclusion that is best for the voters of House District 15. Potential lawmakers shouldn’t break the law.” Nunez, a Yulee Republican, is running for House District 15 against Dean Black, the Chair of the Duval County Republican Party.
“Christina Meredith scores Florida Family Action nod for HD 17 bid” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — “Meredith is an amazing candidate and person with a powerful personal story of overcoming incredible odds and making a difference in her world,” said John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Action Council, in a statement. “Despite facing abuse as a child, being abandoned in the foster care system, and experiencing homelessness shortly after, she persevered and refused to allow her circumstances to define her, becoming an inspiration for many others. Christina will be a fierce fighter for life, family, and parental rights and will firmly fight the attempts to sexualize Florida’s children,” Stemberger added. Meredith is up against Jessica Baker in the Republican Primary for the new southern Duval County seat that includes the University of North Florida.
“Trump-appointed former Ambassador Robin Bernstein endorses Carolina Amesty for House District 45” via the Carolina Amesty campaign — The Amesty campaign is touting the endorsement of former Ambassador Bernstein, appointed by Trump as the United States Ambassador to the Dominican Republic in 2018. Bernstein’s career in government, business, and humanitarian work has spanned many decades, including entrepreneurship, insurance, real estate, and disaster relief. She completed her diplomatic assignment to the Dominican Republic in January 2021.
“Chip LaMarca winning money race, turning on spending in June for re-election” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — The Lighthouse Point businessman, who is the only Republican lawmaker whose district is entirely contained within blue Broward County, raised a total of $49,000 in June, boosted chiefly by real estate interests. And he spent $18,211 last month — more than double the expenditures of his previous highest-spending month when he disbursed $8,118 in November. Campaign records also show his repeat rival for the General Election, Democrat, Linda Thompson Gonzalez, is ramping up her campaign. Still, LaMarca’s campaign war chest dwarfs Thompson Gonzalez’s. Between his personal account and his political committee, Citizens Helping Improve Policy, the two-term Representative has $371,322 to defend his seat, compared to the $11,212 Thompson Gonzalez has in her campaign account, including a $5,000 loan she made for her campaign.
“False ads against Jim Mooney pulled off the air. Again connected to Democrats helping Rhonda Rebman Lopez.” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — More ads attacking Republican Rep. Mooney appear to be connected to a Democratic operative, this time on television. Yolanda Brown is the treasurer of Andrew Gillum’s political committee, Forward Florida, and has worked for several other Democratic candidates and political committees. As previously reported, campaign finance records show a political committee chaired by Brown known as Floridians for Truth Now has been funding direct-mail ads attacking Mooney in the Republican Primary for House District 120.
“In Miami-Dade District 2 election, candidates running on prosperity and public safety” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — The election to replace Jean Monestime as Miami-Dade County’s District 2 Commissioner centers around narrowing the prosperity gap in an area on the northern end of Miami with some of the lowest incomes in the county. Six candidates are running to succeed Monestime in the Aug. 23 election as term limits force his exit from office in November: Wallace Aristide, 65, a high school principal; Monique Barley-Mayo, 39, a business consultant; Marleine Bastien, 63, a nonprofit organization executive; Philippe Bien-Aime, 57, Mayor of North Miami; Joe Celestin, 65, former Mayor of North Miami; and William Clark, 65, a retired paramedic. Bien-Aime leads in fundraising, with nearly $700,000 for his campaign and allied political committee, Progressive Advocates for Change.
— STATEWIDE —
Jimmy Patronis blasts White House on inflation — CFO Patronis issued a statement criticizing the Biden administration after a recent U.S. Labor Department report showed that inflation hit a new high in June. “A 9.1% inflation rate is horrible for our country. This is a tax on the poor and middle class. It’s a tax on the elderly, living on fixed incomes. Biden is simply incapable of dealing with the biggest problems our country is facing. All he can do is finger point. It’s also hurting our international standing,” Patronis said. “He’s supposed to be this great global leader, but now everyone is having to turn to dictatorships for fuel and food. As the saying goes, ‘When America sneezes, the world catches a cold.’”
Jimmy Patronis launches a fusillade at Joe Biden.
Happening today — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission meets. On the agenda is a program to deal with derelict vessels, without penalties or costs to the owners, 8:30 a.m., University of North Florida, Adam W. Herbert University Center, 12000 Alumni Dr., Jacksonville.
“Citizens Property Insurance leaders grouse over rate decision, eye next Legislative Session” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Citizens Property Insurance Corporation Chair Carlos Beruff isn’t pleased with some aspects of regulators’ decision to grant the company a partial rate increase, and he wants the Legislature to change the law to allow it to charge some homeowners more next year. “One of the things that makes no sense that we approached (the Office of Insurance Regulation) about was the ability to not go below zero,” Beruff said. He was referring to OIR’s decision on Citizens’ rates, which allowed for a statewide average 6.4% increase on a typical homeowner policy, but also required a reduction in premiums for about 55,000 homeowners because costs related to lawsuits have fallen since the start of the year. Citizens had asked for a statewide rate increase of 10.7%.
“Florida Power & Light backs down, freezes extreme winter weather plan” via Hannah Morse of the Palm Beach Post — The state’s largest utility has backed down from a plan to prepare for extreme winter weather after it received a frosty reception last month from critics concerned that the proposal would lead to “unnecessary” costs for customers. “The winterization approach we filed … was created to protect our customers from these potential scenarios, but the feedback offered by the Florida Public Service Commission staff, the Office of Public Counsel and other organizations indicates that they don’t share our concerns,” Florida Power & Light said in a statement emailed Monday after notifying the PSC of its intentions. Through a spokesperson, the utility previously said it would not be “confident we could continuously meet customer demand in an extreme winter event.”
“Bill Truex named president-elect of Florida Association of Counties” via the Port Charlotte Sun — Charlotte County Commission Chair Truex was appointed as the Florida Association of Counties president-elect Friday at the association’s annual business meeting in Orange County, according to a county news release. Truex previously served as the association’s first vice president. “I am honored to continue serving the association by advancing my position on the executive committee,” Truex said in a statement. “The board is comprised of such talented public servants, and I am extremely humbled to work alongside them as we represent our communities on many levels.” As president-elect, Truex also will serve as chair of the finance and audit committees and help oversee policy and advocacy efforts, the association said in a statement.
Congratulations to Bill Truex, the new president of the Florida Association of Counties.
“FWC Chair on invasive species: ‘We’re going on the offensive’” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — Invasive species typically don’t wander into Florida on their own — they usually have significant human help. Florida’s culture of private possession of exotic animals is one of the factors driving invasive species problems in the state. Florida Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Rodney Barreto said the agency is committed to containing invasive species, no matter how much some people may care about possessing, buying and selling creatures that can cause havoc in the wild. “Let’s be clear — and I want the industry to be clear — I as the Chair am one vote,” Barreto said.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Biden administration says pharmacists cannot deny contraceptives” via Ariel Cohen, Sandhya Raman and Jesse Hellmann of Roll Call — The Department of Health and Human Services sent guidance to roughly 60,000 retail pharmacies reminding them of their legal obligation under federal civil rights laws to dispense medication as prescribed, including contraceptives and medication for women experiencing pregnancy loss or needing a medication abortion. Under the nondiscrimination clause of the 2010 health care law, recipients of federal financial assistance, such as Medicare and Medicaid, are prohibited from denying health care based on sex, race or disability. This applies to pharmacies distributing medication and making determinations regarding the suitability of prescribed medication for a patient. Federal laws preempt state laws that limit abortion care or contraception, a senior HHS official told reporters.
Joe Biden has a stern warning for pharmacists who refuse to dispense contraceptives.
“Fed’s top banking regulator Michael Barr confirmed by Senate” via Andrew Ackerman of The Wall Street Journal — Barr’s confirmation Wednesday as the Federal Reserve’s vice chairman for supervision provides the central bank with a full seven-member board for the first time in nearly a decade and adds to a group of Biden-appointed bank overseers who may revisit financial regulations that were eased during the Trump administration. Barr won bipartisan support for the regulatory role, which has a four-year term. The vote was 66-to-28, surpassing the 50 votes needed for confirmation. Earlier on Wednesday, senators confirmed Barr to a 10-year term on the Fed’s governing board. A dean of public policy at the University of Michigan, Barr is the last of Biden’s slate of five appointees to the central bank. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell and three other appointments were confirmed in recent months.
“SALT’s absence in Joe Manchin, Chuck Schumer talks signals new hurdles” via Laura Davison and Laura Litvan of Bloomberg — Majority Leader Schumer and Sen. Manchin are negotiating a slimmed-down tax and spending plan. But Manchin says the federal state and local tax deduction popular in high-tax states like New York, New Jersey and California, known as SALT, hasn’t been in the mix. Failing to include a SALT-break expansion in the long-stalled legislation is a risky proposition for Democrats, whose slim control of both chambers leaves little room for defections. Democrats representing high-tax districts — many of whom are in competitive races — have already pledged to withhold support for a tax-increase bill that doesn’t address SALT. Manchin and Schumer have yet to release a comprehensive plan with specifics about new spending on climate and health, offset by tax increases and prescription-drug savings.
“Black educator Mary McLeod Bethune honored in Statuary Hall” via The Associated Press — Bethune, a civil rights leader and trailblazing educator, on Wednesday became the first Black person elevated by a state for recognition in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall. Florida commissioned the project after a grassroots campaign succeeded last year in removing a statue of Edmund Kirby Smith, among the last Confederate generals to surrender after the Civil War. Bethune joins John Gorrie, a pioneer in air conditioning and refrigeration, in representing Florida. Bethune was born in South Carolina in 1875, seven years after the ratification of the 14th Amendment, with its guarantee of equal protection under the law for all in the United States. She died in 1955, having helped to lay the groundwork for the civil rights movement.
Mary McLeod Bethune makes a grand entrance to Statuary Hall. Image via AP.
— JAN. 6 —
“The significance of the new Steve Bannon tape” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — Mother Jones is out with a new Bannon tape from Oct. 31, 2020, in which Bannon talks in detail — presciently, it turns out — about how Trump would claim victory on Election Night regardless of where the vote count stood. To be clear, this is hardly the first indication that Trump’s false victory declaration was preplanned, nor is it news that Bannon was predicting as much. But what the new comments add to the record is what Bannon might have viewed as the ends. And just as his prescience about Trump’s premature victory declaration and about “all hell” breaking loose on Jan. 6 invite all kinds of questions about just what he knew about Trump’s plans, so too does how he described the potential impact of Trump declaring victory.
What did Steve Bannon know, and when did he know it? Image via AP.
“Former Oath Keeper: ‘We came very, very close to having a civil war kick off on Jan. 6’” via Brad Dress of The Hill — Former Oath Keepers spokesperson Jason Van Tatenhove on Wednesday said America came “very, very close” to a civil war when pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Van Tatenhove, who testified Tuesday to the House committee, told CNN’s Brianna Keilar that far-right militias like the Oath Keepers and other rioters had a “military mindset” on Jan. 6. On Tuesday, Van Tatenhove provided a historical overview of the Oath Keepers to the House panel, including saying that the Oath Keepers are a violent militia that dreamed of an insurrection. He added the American public was failing to see the full picture of the Jan. 6 attack and that citizens should start “having hard conversations” about what happened on that day.
“‘It’s just been hell’: life as the victim of a Jan. 6 conspiracy theory” via Alan Feuer of The New York Times — Ray Epps has suffered enormously in the past 10 months as right-wing media figures and Republican politicians have baselessly described him as a covert government agent who helped to instigate the attack on the Capitol last year. Almost from the moment that a violent mob stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, Trump’s allies have sought to shift the blame for the attack away from the people who were in the pro-Trump crowd. Epps traveled to Washington on Jan. 6 to back Trump, was taped urging people to go to the Capitol and was there himself on the day of the assault. But through a series of events that twisted his role, he became the face of this conspiracy theory about the FBI as it spread from the fringes to the mainstream.
— MORE LOCAL: S. FL —
“Surfside will recognize Pride month after sparking outrage for not flying LGBTQ flag” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — After the town of Surfside sparked outrage for choosing not to display the LGBTQ Pride flag last month, Commissioners voted this week to recognize June as Pride month in the future but could not agree on a flag policy. The Commission, which was deadlocked 2-2 with one member on vacation, failed to get a majority vote on different proposals to craft a flag policy at a meeting Tuesday. The town, which displayed the Pride flag at the Community Center in June 2021, decided not to fly the rainbow-colored banner last month, citing the lack of a formal flag policy. The decision led to a resident protest outside Town Hall.
Surfside gets to show its Pride, after all. Image via AP.
“Pre-trial hearings end in Marjory Stoneman Douglas mass shooting case. Trial starts Monday.” via Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The courtroom is closed. Pre-trial hearings in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting case came to an anti-climactic end Wednesday. The next time the room is opened to the public, confessed murderer Nikolas Cruz, 23, will be facing a jury that has the power to spare his life or recommend his execution. Wednesday’s hearing before Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer was expected to be a lengthy analysis of mental health evidence that the jury may or may not be allowed to hear. But a key witness wasn’t available, leaving the judge, prosecutors and defense lawyers with nothing left to debate before Monday’s scheduled opening statements.
“Miami-Dade Mayor ready to propose cut in 2023 property-tax rates. Critics want more” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Daniella Levine Cava prepared a 2023 budget with a 1% cut in property-tax rates, less than the 3% cut called on by County Commissioners and other officials as property values boom and inflation puts pressure on tax bills. “We owe it to residents struggling with the rising costs of living to provide immediate relief,” Levine Cava said in an introductory message of the 2023 budget that’s available on the county’s website. “That’s why our proposed budget is offering relief to homeowners by reducing the millage rate for the first time in a decade.” Levine Cava’s $10.3 billion spending plan for the budget year that starts Oct. 1 has a countywide property tax rate of $462 per $100,000 of taxable value. That’s compared to the current rate of $467. The Levine Cava 2023 proposal shows a house assessed at the county average of $150,000 both years would save $7 on the countywide tax.
“The Florida Keys reports first confirmed case of monkeypox” via David Goodhue and Gwen Filosa of the Miami Herald — The Florida Keys has its first confirmed case of monkeypox, state Health Department officials said Wednesday. Alison Kerr, a spokeswoman with the Florida Department of Health in Monroe County, said “transmission is primarily” happening with “men who have sex with men,” but officials are urging those who clean hotel rooms in the tourism-dependent Florida Keys to use caution. “Even those who have exposure to the fabrics — clothing, bedding — of people who have had the infection, are susceptible to contracting the disease,” Kerr said. “So, we’re trying to get the word out to those who change linens or bedding in the hospitality industry.”
“Martin County School Board could reallocate tax money, trim teacher stipends from property tax” via Lina Ruiz of Treasure Coast Newspapers — As the School Board considers moving around property tax money, teachers say they’ll bear the financial brunt during a time of rising rents and gas prices. An existing four-year property tax — which funds teacher and staff stipends, school safety, mental-health programs, professional development and academic initiatives — is set to expire this year. Of the $12.6 million generated in the past budget year, 77%, or $9.7 million, is going toward the stipends, officials said. Now, with voters being asked to renew the tax at the Aug. 23 Primary Election, the School Board is eyeing reallocation of the money for the 2022-23 school year.
— MORE LOCAL: C. FL —
“There’s a $3M mystery behind University of Florida’s brand-new academic unit” via Ana Ceballos of the Miami Herald — The University of Florida has received $3 million in taxpayer funds to establish a new academic center focused on civics courses. But the university did not ask for it, a secretive group did. The group is so obscure that even the Florida lawmaker who asked the Legislature for the funding on the organization’s behalf does not know who is behind the group. “I don’t know really much about that group at all,” Sen. Keith Perry, a Gainesville Republican, said in an interview. “I don’t know who they are.” The university also did not interact with the group — the Council on Public University Reform — or the man who represents it: Joshua Holdenried.
Keith Perry is mystified by a group asking for $3M to create a new UF academic center.
“UCF departments remove anti-racism statements” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — Several University of Central Florida academic departments have removed the anti-racism statements from their websites without explanation, less than a week after the school’s English department briefly “suspended” its statement, claiming it violated new state law. The English department, which later took down the note saying the statement had been suspended, is one of at least a handful of academic departments, including anthropology, philosophy and physics, which wiped their anti-racism statements from department websites this week.
“Deltona settles lawsuit against former interim City Manager” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — The city of Deltona has paid $45,000 to settle a lawsuit against its former interim City Manager who sued when he said he didn’t get the permanent job because he is Black. With no discussion, the City Commission unanimously approved the settlement, which gives $26,000 to former interim City Manager Marc-Antonie Cooper and the rest to Cooper’s attorney, the City Attorney said at a recent meeting. For the Volusia County city, the City Manager position has been a thorn in its side. The city has dealt with a revolving door of leaders, multiple lawsuits and complaints. “The amount of City Managers we’ve had over the years and the amount of turnover we’ve had … Deltona is not an easy place for a Manager,” said Mayor Heidi Herzberg.
“7 people hospitalized in Tampa after taking ‘bad drugs,’ police say” via Chris Tisch of the Tampa Bay Times — Tampa police responded to an emergency call Tuesday night in which they found six people either unresponsive or in respiratory distress because they took a dose of “bad drugs,” the department said. The drugs the people took contained the powerful painkiller fentanyl, which has been in the spotlight recently after the drug killed nine people over the Fourth of July weekend in rural Gadsden County in the Florida Panhandle. Police said they were summoned at about 9:51 p.m. Tuesday to the area of Jackson’s Meat Market at Osborne Avenue and N 34th Street. Officers deployed Narcan, which is used to revive people overdosing on drugs, and Tampa Fire Rescue took the people to a nearby hospital, the department said.
“Tampa Bay lawyer sues Parler, alleges illegal text solicitation” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — An Apollo Beach lawyer has filed a class-action lawsuit against the social media platform Parler after receiving unsolicited texts promoting the app. Dale Golden filed a complaint against Parler with the 13th Judicial Circuit near the end of June. In the complaint, Golden alleges the Delaware-based social media platform violated Florida’s Telephone Solicitation Act (FTSA) when it texted Golden, and likely other Florida residents, promoting new features on the app. “New at Parler: Reply to comments, emoji responses, notifications fixes & more. Check out @Parler for all the latest,” the text provided in the complaint states. The message appears to be from an automated texting service.
— MORE LOCAL: N. FL —
“Prosecutor calls former JEA CEO, CFO defense strategy a ‘quantum leap’” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — The lead federal prosecutor who built the fraud and conspiracy case against JEA’s former CEO and CFO said defense lawyers are making a “quantum leap” by suggesting the government violated their civil rights. The dispute revolves around sworn statements former CEO Aaron Zahn and CFO Ryan Wannemacher provided to City Hall attorneys during a workplace investigation into various controversies swirling around the utility in late 2019. The two men were compelled to sit for those interviews or be fired, triggering legal protections called Garrity rights that prohibit state and federal prosecutors from using any incriminating statements the men provided as evidence in a future criminal case.
Did the government violate Aaron Zahn’s civil rights? Seems like a stretch.
“‘Nothin but garbage?’: Walton Commissioners call credit card audit ‘political hit job’” via Tom McLaughlin of the Northwest Florida Daily News — If the citizens of Walton County who filled the Board of Commissioners meeting room Tuesday arrived expecting apologies from a group of elected officials caught wastefully spending taxpayer dollars, they left sorely disappointed. Instead, what they encountered was a defiant band of five, seemingly united along with their County Attorney in the belief that the county’s Clerk of Court had, for some reason, targeted them by publishing an off-base audit report citing all of them for indiscriminate, even illegal, abuse of county-issued credit cards.
“What we know about Tallahassee Airport’s ‘Project Alpha’: 985 jobs, $450M in economic impact” via TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Two proposed projects at Tallahassee International Airport are poised to generate hundreds of new jobs and signal private sector interest in the airport’s land — a long-discussed objective now showing promise. The identity of the company involved in what’s called Project Alpha, which may become one of the airport’s largest job generators in recent history, is hidden due to confidentiality restraints during the negotiation phase for possible taxpayer-funded incentives. However, plans call for a minimum land lease of 57 acres and the construction of three buildings that represent a $110 million capital investment and $30 million in new revenue at the airport.
“FAMU board of trustees agree on budget requests” via Aimee Sachs of Florida Politics — Less than one month into the new state fiscal year Florida A&M University is setting its sights on the future. The FAMU board of trustees on Tuesday agreed to ask lawmakers to increase funding in the state Fiscal Year 2023-24 budget by $33.5 million. That’s just under half the nearly $70 million appropriated to the historically Black college by the Legislature for the 2022-23 fiscal year. “We count that as quite a success,” said FAMU’s Director of Government Relations Danielle McBeth. “And $5 million in recurring operational enhancement, which we hadn’t seen over the last couple of years, so we want to build upon the success from last fiscal year.”
“Try to guess: What’s the most popular specialty Florida license plate in Escambia County?” via Colin Warren-Hicks of the Pensacola News Journal — Blue Angels specialty license plates have been flying off the shelves. The license plates featuring an image of soaring blue jets have been available for about a year, but in that relatively short stretch of time, they’ve been a hit. At the Blue Angels Pensacola Beach Air Show this weekend, Escambia County Tax Collector Scott Lunsford said that as of Saturday, 5,947 Blue Angels license plates had been sold statewide since their release, making them the 74th most popular of the approximately 130 specialty plates in Florida.
— MORE LOCAL: SW. FL —
“Former Lehigh Acres couple get prison in COVID-19 fraud case; wife to give birth before reporting” via Michael Braun of the Fort Myers News-Press — A judge labeled a former Lehigh Acres married couple’s COVID-19 fraud case as “greed” while sentencing them Wednesday to federal prison despite the woman being newly pregnant. A federal indictment filed Aug. 25 against Amber Rewis Bruey, 35, and Anthony James Bruey, 36, charged the couple with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and illegal monetary transactions. The couple lived in Lehigh Acres when the fraud was taking place and moved to North Carolina shortly before the indictment was issued. U.S. District Judge Thomas Barber on Wednesday admonished the couple for the theft of more than $885,000 in COVID-19 relief funds.
“Punta Gorda residents to see small property tax hike?” via Daniel Sutphin of the Punta Gorda Sun — Punta Gorda residents are looking at a 3% increase in property taxes in 2023 despite no change in the city’s homestead property tax rate. For a $300,000 homestead residency, a homeowner would be looking at an increase for the upcoming fiscal year, Oct. 1 of the present year through Sept. 30 of the following year, from $988 to $1,023. For a $600,000 homestead residency, a homeowner would see about a $71 annual increase. For a $1 million homestead residency, a homeowner would see a $119 increase. “The 3% (increase) is related to the state homestead statute that says, ‘Homesteaded properties are limited to the Consumer Price Index increase or 3%,’ whichever is lower in regard to the property appraiser’s assessment,” Assistant City Manager Melissa Reichert said.
“North Port rejects highway housing project, urges more commercial” via Craig Garrett of the North Port Sun — The North Port City Commission rejected a developer’s request to rezone 15 acres at Interstate 75 and Toledo Blade on Tuesday night. Rezoning from commercial to planned community development would allow a higher density of housing, in this case, a 224-unit three-story apartment complex. The Commissioners voted 5-0 to reject that idea, however. The developer is listed as a Port Charlotte firm, state records showed. Venice attorneys Jeff Boone and Jackson Boone represented those developers at Tuesday’s hearing. About 25 neighbors of the Toledo Blade/I-75 area came to oppose the project. Six homeowners listed as “aggrieved parties” spoke against the rezoning.
“The Great Wolf Lodge resort, with an indoor water park, is coming to Florida” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The Great Wolf Lodge indoor water park and hotel plans to open its first location in Florida by summertime 2024, setting its sights on Naples. It’s the company’s 21st resort in the U.S. and Canada, with 500 suites and the popular 100,000-square-foot indoor water park. The Naples location will open across 20 acres on the eastern end of Collier County, or about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from South Florida. “The key audience” for each resort are those who are within a four-hour drive, said Jason Lasecki, a Great Wolf Lodge spokesperson. Currently, the closest lodge to South Florida is in LaGrange, Georgia, south of Atlanta.
Who needs Florida beaches when a Great Wolf Lodge is in town?
— TOP OPINION —
“Fascism is on our doorstep” via Leonard Pitts Jr. of the Tampa Bay Times — Many observers fear, as election deniers run to become election officials all over the country, that 2024 could be the last time Americans cast a meaningful ballot. Fascism is on our doorstep.
So, does it matter that Biden is old?
It is worth noting that Biden was elected for one reason above all: to not be Trump. In that, he has succeeded. Decency, predictability, stability and maturity have all returned to the White House after a four-year exile.
None of which, unfortunately, puts gas in your tank or baby formula on your shelves. And Biden has had the profound misfortune of reaching office only to find, hemmed in by the usual Republican obstructionism and kneecapped by the mulish intransigence of putative Democrats Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, that there is little he can do with it. Nor is it at all clear that things would be different if he were 40 years younger.
These are not normal times. And if, as the saying goes, you don’t change horses in the middle of a stream, you sure as heck shouldn’t do it in the middle of a tsunami.
Stuart Stevens, a veteran Republican operative, took to Twitter begging Democrats to understand this. “As a former R. consultant,” he wrote, “I bear responsibility for the democracy-eating monster the party became, so I get Dems don’t want to hear this from me. But I’d plead with Dems to rally around (Biden). He’s your guy. You’re going to win with him or lose with him. Make the choice to win.”
It is advice Republicans would never need to hear and Democrats can’t hear often enough.
— OPINIONS —
“How DeSantis could become a new game piece in a bitter Illinois war” via the Chicago Tribune editorial board — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is acting more and more like a presidential candidate, albeit a cautious one, and his bitter enemy, Citadel LLC founder and CEO Ken Griffin ― a likely big financial supporter of DeSantis, the boss of Griffin’s new home state after the billionaire financier’s very public exit from Illinois. There are a lot of variables: For obvious reasons, Pritzker has not even tacitly revealed his interest as transparently as DeSantis. And, of course, other qualified names have already surfaced on both sides. But another Pritzker-Griffin standoff, with DeSantis as the proxy for the latter, feels far from out of the question. Should Pritzker run, history suggests that Griffin will only be energized in his support of DeSantis, in whom he now has a clear, vested interest.
“Florida Constitution privacy clause protects abortion, unless Ashley Moody wins” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — The Florida Supreme Court will rule eventually on the state’s new 15-week abortion ban, so it might as well be sooner than later. Attorney General Moody has asked the 1st District Court of Appeal to send it to the state’s highest court straightaway rather than take time to issue a decision that would be appealed either way. That makes sense, but what’s dubious is Moody’s motive. She failed to persuade Tallahassee Circuit Judge John Cooper that there are compelling medical reasons for a near-total ban on abortions after 15 weeks. Now she’s arguing not just that Cooper was wrong, but that the facts shouldn’t matter. In seeking to overturn a 33-year-old precedent, Moody may assume she has more votes to gain than lose by destroying abortion rights. If so, she’s wrong.
“Select Committee puts the spotlight on Florida extremism” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — Cable news hosts have to give round-the-clock attention to the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, but most Americans prefer the abridged version. So, as a public service to those with actual lives to live and families to feed, here goes: Florida is turning into a cauldron of crazy. You may believe that’s not news, but as the Palm Beach Post and Sarasota Herald-Tribune combined to report, right-wing Florida groups have raised the stakes. They said that Florida leaders of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys strategized together before the Capitol attack. They kept in touch with Florida men Roger Stone and Michael Flynn, who are close buddies of disgraced former President what’s-his-name from Mar-a-Lago.
“Orlando’s bungled July 4 announcement holds holiday lesson” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — I was out of town last week for the 4th of July, when Orlando set off an explosive public-relations controversy that made the fireworks look tame. And even though I was eating shrimp, catching fish and drinking beer on a beach four states away, I still heard about Orlando’s star-spangled scandal. One Nigerian news outlet carried a report so detailed that it noted that, despite the controversy, Orlando’s fireworks were still scheduled to go off at 4 p.m. West Africa Standard Time. The statement fired up America’s outrage machine. Suddenly people who had never visited Orlando were vowing to never visit Orlando again and demanding pounds of patriotic flesh.
— ALOE —
“Experts: Be thoughtful to hatching sea turtles” via Steve Reilly of The Arcadian — The eggs of sea turtles are incubating in nests along beaches on local barrier islands — with many eggs beginning to hatch. Experts urge people to keep lights near beaches during nesting season, so they are dark and safe for nesting females and hatching turtles emerging from nests. Special care is needed when turtles emerge from their nests. “Over 4,400 nests have been laid and they are now hatching by the hundreds,” the Coastal Wildlife Club posted on its social media page. Coastal Wildlife Club volunteers patrol and document sea turtle nests for Manasota Key. They also mark them with wooden stakes and brightly colored plastic ribbon, to keep people off.
Florida beachgoers, give these little guys a break.
“45 years ago, a last-minute Star Wars change unlocked the greatest Jedi power” via Ryan Britt of Inverse — George Lucas didn’t invent force ghosts. In fact, midway through filming the original Star Wars, Lucas hadn’t even considered that a Jedi might survive beyond their physical bodies. His then-wife, film editor Marcia Lucas, suggested the idea that Obi-Wan Kenobi becomes a spirit guide to Luke Skywalker very late in production. On VICE TV, a new six-part documentary series called Icons Unearthed boasts the first on-camera interview with Marcia Lucas about Star Wars … ever. (Most official documentaries and behind-the-scenes extras barely even mention her.) And in the first episode, she makes it clear that this major plot pivot in Star Wars: A New Hope was very much her idea.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Belated best wishes to Samantha Padgett, FRLA VP of Government Relations & General Counsel. Happy birthday to top fundraiser, Samantha Blair, Melanie Bostick of Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, Allison Chavez, FRLA Public Affairs Manager, Justin Homburg, Holly Tomlin, and Mike Vasilinda.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Renzo Downey, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.