Here’s your AM rundown of people, politics and policy in the Sunshine State.
Good Wednesday morning.
Mind if we start with a couple of policy issues?
First, kudos to Sen. Jason Brodeur and Rep. Sam Garrison.
Crafting a good Medicaid bill isn’t easy, and the lawmakers who manage to do it won’t see the accomplishment heralded in positive TV ads, direct mail pieces or endorsements.
But Medicaid legislation is important. There’s a lot at stake for the 5 million Floridians who depend on the federally funded program, and the current system has failed thousands of them.
Just look at Sunshine Health. As a result of a technology meltdown, tens of thousands of health care claims for the sickest Floridians went unpaid for three months.
But those contracts are coming to an end because the plans that offer Medicaid have to rebid for a state contract every six years. This is the state’s opportunity to fix the system and fix it right. Simply put, if it isn’t fixed now, it won’t be until 2028.
In its current, House-amended form, the Legislature’s major Medicaid package (SB 1950) places a cap on automatic enrollment, which assigns families at random if they have not selected their plan.
Under the current system, big plans get bigger. But under the bill, plans with 50% or more of the market share in any region would not be able to accept automatic enrollment clients, lest they become too big to fail.
The bill also strengthens guardrails around negotiations between hospitals and Medicaid plans and allows plans to reinvest revenue surpluses in workforce development and career training, which addresses one of the major challenges facing the health care system.
Now the question is whether the Senate will stomach thoughtful additions to a bill they already passed. With 5 million Floridians depending on Medicaid, there’s a lot at stake and the time to act is now.
The House continues to drag its feet on addressing property insurance reforms by refusing to act on the Senate’s property insurance reform package (SB 1728), effectively killing it.
This inaction comes as the end-of-year financials roll in showing homeowner insurance companies lost another $1.5 billion in 2021. Notably, the overall total doesn’t include losses from St. Johns Insurance and Avatar Insurance, both of which went belly up last month.
For consumers, mounting losses mean one thing: rate increases.
Those have become the norm as the property insurance market continues its downward spiral. Earlier this month, the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association approved a $190 million assessment that will be paid by homeowners through their property insurance bills. Less than six months ago, FIGA approved a separate, $168 million assessment.
Despite the dire circumstances, the House has maintained that reforms passed in the 2021 Legislative Session need more time to fully take root and that it will not consider further attempts to stabilize the market until then.
Time, however, is not on the homeowners’ side. The state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. passed 800,000 policyholders this week and litigation spiked by 17% last month after rising 37% in January.
The 2021 reforms have had little if any effect. With a few weeks left in the first quarter of this year, litigation volume has already surpassed levels recorded in the second quarter of 2021, the last quarter before the reforms went into place.
Carriers say roof claims, in particular, are behind the explosion of lawsuits. Without action, homeowners will continue to bear the consequences, with many being dropped by their insurer once their roofs are 10 years old because they are seen as uninsurable.
The Florida Hospital Association is adding veteran lobbyist Danielle Scoggins as vice president of Policy and Strategic Initiatives, directing policy research, issue development, and strategic initiatives.
Before joining the FHA, Scoggins served as vice president of Public Policy and Corporate Affairs at the Florida Realtors. In her more than six years with the Realtors, she served as the chief lobbyist for the Realtors Association and managed its government affairs team.
For nearly a decade before joining the Realtors, Scoggins worked in various capacities in state government, including as director of Legislative Affairs and Health and Human Services Policy Chief for then-Gov. Rick Scott.
Yes, yes, we are keenly aware there are only 72 hours left — give or take — in the 2022 Legislative Session.
But did you know that in localities across the state, last night was Election Day?
So, how’d that turn out?
First, expect two new South Florida lawmakers to be sworn in very soon.
In Broward County’s Senate District 33, Rosalind Osgood will replace former Sen. Perry Thurston, who resigned months ago for a congressional run.
Democrat Jervonte “Tae” Edmonds will also be representing Palm Beach County House District 88, winning a Special General Election to replace former Rep. Omari Hardy, who also resigned to run (unsuccessfully) for an open seat in the U.S. House.
Next, Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson is getting a second term by defeating City Commissioner Kyle Becker in a hotly contested municipal election.
Belle Isle Mayor Nicholas Fouraker also won another term.
In Apopka City Commission races, voters are having Nick Nesta replace Becker in Apopka’s City Commission Seat 4. Commissioner Diane Velazquez was also re-elected to Apopka’s Seat 2.
Over in Winter Park, Seat 4 Commissioner Todd Weaver won re-election; Kristopher Cruzada was elected to an open Seat 3 seat. And a half dozen charter amendments were approved.
In Maitland, Colleen Lori Wurtzel won an open City Council seat. In Oakland, Town Council Member Rick Pollard gets another term.
Down in Sarasota County, voters gave the thumbs-up to one countywide referendum, nixing another.
A one-mill tax supporting the Sarasota County School District overwhelmingly passed with more than 84% of the vote — a new high mark for the popular levy.
Nevertheless, voters rejected a charter amendment that sought to return Sarasota County Commission elections to countywide elections. This vote comes just a few short years after switching to single-member district races.
Voters in Broward County’s Hillsboro Beach re-elected Commissioners Jane Reiser and Irene Kirdahy.
In Pembroke Pines, Tom Good won the District 1 City Commission race while Angelo Castillo won in District 4.
Randy Strauss snagged a Seat 2 Commission seat in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea.
Lighthouse Point voters elected Patty Petrone in a City Commission Seat 1 race, Michael S. Long narrowly in Seat 2, and Jason Joffe in Seat 3.
Then in Palm Beach County, a host of regular municipal elections unfolded.
Winners include City Commissioner Ty Penserga for Boynton Beach Mayor and Angela Cruz for City Commission, with Thomas Turkin and Marit Hedeen headed to a runoff in District 3.
Peter Noble, Judith Dugo and Susy Diaz Piesco won for Greenacres City Council in Districts 2, 3 and 4, respectively. Alexander Cooke won a seat in Juno Beach.
Ilan Kaufer and Jim Kuretski advance to a runoff for Jupiter Mayor, while Cheryl Schneider won a District 1 race. Malise Sundstrom and Linda McDermott head to a runoff in the 2nd District.
There’s more in PBC.
Cynthia B. Keim won a race in Jupiter Inlet Colony.
In Lantana, there’s a runoff between Lynn J. Moorhouse and John Raymer in Town Council Group 1, but that’s just outside recount range, and one between Kem Mason and Media O. Beverly in Group 2. Robert Shalhoub and Bobby Gonzalez won in Lake Clarke Shores.
Lake Park Commission seats go to Roger Michaud, Kimberly Glas-Castro and John L. Linden.
Reinaldo Diaz and Craig Frost head to a runoff in Lake Worth Beach.
Laura J. Danowski and Robert Shorr won Seat 2 and 4 elections, respectively, in Loxahatchee Groves.
Deborah Searcy, Darryl C. Aubrey and Mark Mullinix all prevailed in North Palm Beach.
Keith Babb won a Pahokee mayoral race; Clara “Tasha” Murvin and Derrick Boldin earned Commission spots.
Ronnie Felder and Billie Brooks head to a runoff for Riviera Beach Mayor. Tradrick McCoy and Douglas Lawson won Commission races there, but Shirley D. Lanier and Marvelous Washington will face a runoff.
Jeff Hmara won a Royal Palm Beach election and C.W. “Bill” LeRoy and Monte Berendes snagged seats in South Palm Beach.
Tanya Siskind and John T. McGovern were each victorious in Wellington.
Lastly, Cathleen Ward gets a seat on the West Palm Beach Commission.
Congrats to everyone for their service.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@AndrewFeinberg: At this point, @Poland is going to have to get rid of their MiGs by having their pilots land at some Baltic airfield, leave the engine running while they use the bathroom, and act shocked when their planes get “stolen.”
Yo Yo Ma performing this morning with his cello at 2650 Wisconsin Ave, NW, Washington, the Russian Embassy. “I felt I just had to do something to express my sorrow about the plight of Ukraine,” he said. pic.twitter.com/M9zWT8AsfO
— Cheri Jacobus (@CheriJacobus) March 8, 2022
—@ShaneGoldmacher: “McDonald’s Establishes No-Fry Zone” is a very strong headline contender that I don’t yet see on the internet
—@Redistrict: This ruling ensures the 2022 House map will be much less skewed toward Republicans than the current one (and perhaps not skewed toward Rs at all).
—@GallagherLaw: Perhaps the time is now for a medical board/DOH grievance against Ladapo’s medical license. Advocating demonstrably false information cannot be ignored.
—@Weinsteinlaw: A sad and shameful day for Florida.
—@SecCardona: Leaders in Florida have decided that bills based on hate & discrimination take priority over our students’ pandemic recovery. My team & I stand with our LGBTQ+ students in Florida & across the country & urge Florida leaders to protect & support all students.
—@OrlandoMayor: I cannot imagine the frustration and disappointment that members of our LGBTQ+ community feel today. But please know your city has your back and together we will continue the work to make Orlando a welcoming, inclusive place for all residents of all ages.
—@HamillHimself: gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay
Tallahassee split screen: Sen. Manny Diaz, R-Miami, explains why he voted for the parental rights/ “don’t say gay” bill as a protester holds a sign that reads, “If you voted for the bill, you voted against the children.” pic.twitter.com/mdvfUwM7Zt
— Skyler Swisher (@SkylerSwisher) March 8, 2022
—@WhereisSabatini: The House should include Rep #Absentini’s basement office in their negotiations with the Senate: House trades a closet, Senate accepts and is delighted for more storage space, the two groups come together and everyone goes home Friday.
—@MDixon55: We have reached the piano playing, cocaine-addicted monkey portion of Legislative Session
— Jared Rosenstein (@JaredRosenstein) March 8, 2022
— DAYS UNTIL —
The 2022 Players begins — 1; House GOP retreat in Ponte Vedra Beach — 14; the third season of ‘Atlanta’ begins — 14; season two of ‘Bridgerton’ begins — 16; The Oscars — 18; ‘Macbeth’ with Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga begin performances on Broadway — 22; Florida Chamber’s 2nd Annual Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health + Sustainability begins — 20; Grammys rescheduled in Las Vegas — 25; ‘Better Call Saul’ final season begins — 40; Magic Johnson’s Apple TV+ docuseries ‘They Call Me Magic’ begins — 44; 2022 Florida Chamber Transportation, Growth & Infrastructure Solution Summit — 50; ‘The Godfather’ TV series ‘The Offer’ premieres — 51; 2nd half of ‘Ozark’ final season begins — 51; federal student loan payments will resume — 53; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 58; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 63; ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ starts on Disney+ — 77; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 79; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 85; California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota hold midterm Primaries — 90; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 122; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 135; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 153; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 177; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 212; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 248; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 251; ‘Avatar 2′ premieres — 283; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 347; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ premieres — 380; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 506; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 590; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 870.
“State worker pay raises topping 5% approved in 2022-23 budget deal” via John Kennedy of USA Today Network — Racing to meet a late Tuesday deadline to finalize a 2022-23 state budget, House and Senate negotiators approved a 5.38% pay raise for all state employees, along with setting a new, $15-an-hour minimum wage for these workers. House budget chair Jay Trumbull and his Senate counterpart, Kelli Stargel agreed to the pay raise while still facing a host of big-ticket items outstanding in education, the environment, and other areas as they work to button up a proposed budget topping $100 billion for only the second time in state history. The Legislature has to complete the spending plan Tuesday to allow a constitutionally required 72-hour waiting period to expire before lawmakers can vote on the budget Friday, the last scheduled day of the 2022 Session.
“‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill passes in Florida, goes to Governor” via Anthony Izaguirre of The Associated Press — Florida’s Republican-dominated legislature passed a bill Tuesday to forbid instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, rejecting a wave of criticism from Democrats that it marginalizes LGBTQ people. The proposal, which opponents have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, now moves to the desk of Ron DeSantis, who is expected to sign it into law. Since its inception, the measure has drawn intense opposition from LGBTQ advocates, students, national Democrats, the White House and the entertainment industry, amid increased attention on Florida as Republicans push culture war legislation and DeSantis ascends in the GOP as a potential 2024 Presidential candidate.
“Student voices are loud, but Florida Republicans are clear. ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill passes” via Ana Ceballos and Kirby Wilson of the Miami Herald — The chants of dozens of students from across Florida could be heard through the walls of the Senate chamber on Monday as lawmakers debated a contentious proposal to bar lessons about sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten to third grade. “We say gay!” A day later, an emotionally divided Senate voted 22 to 17 to pass the measure, dubbed the “don’t say gay” bill by opponents and the “parental rights in education” bill by Republican backers. “It’s upsetting that we are failing [younger kids],” said Elizabeth Klamer, a senior at Leon County High School who attended the student-led protests in Tallahassee. Republican lawmakers say critics are mischaracterizing what the bill would do.
“Equality Florida preps for legal action” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Equality Florida has announced it will look to pursue legal action against the state’s controversial parental rights legislation governing classroom instruction on LGBTQ matters following its passage Tuesday morning in the Florida Legislature. Dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics, the bill is on its way to the Governor’s desk, where DeSantis is expected to sign the proposal into law. “Let us be clear: should its vague language be interpreted in any way that causes harm to a single child, teacher or family, we will lead legal action against the State of Florida to challenge this bigoted legislation,” Equality Florida said in a statement. Equality Florida cited a post from DeSantis’ press secretary Christina Pushaw, who called opponents of the legislation “groomers” in a tweet.
“‘Leverage your influence’: Anna Eskamani calls on Disney to speak out against LGBTQ instruction bill” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Disney has earned a reputation as one of the most LGBTQ-friendly mega-companies in the world. But if the “House of the Mouse” wants to keep that designation, Rep. Eskamani said company officials need to speak up louder against a Florida measure dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics. The bill (HB 1557), which heads to a final Senate vote Tuesday after passing in the House on Feb. 24, could already be on its way to DeSantis’ desk by the time Disney holds a shareholder meeting Wednesday. But it’s not too late for Disney to leverage its sizable economic impact on the state and the elected officials to whom it donates campaign funds in opposition of the proposed new law, said Eskamani, whose father and brother worked at Walt Disney World and who fundraised last year with help from a prominent Star Wars icon.
“Fatherhood initiative to boost mentorship programs clears Legislature; heads to Ron 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 quarrel over bill’s impact on migrant children — Lawmakers debated whether unaccompanied migrant children transported to Florida have protected status ahead of an expected vote on a controversial immigration bill in the House, Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida reports. The bill would ban companies that transport immigrants from the southern border to Florida from receiving state contracts and is one of DeSantis’ priorities. Democrats say the bill’s language would be harmful to children who are transported by Republicans say that the use of the federal definition of “unauthorized alien” would allow them to remain protected. Democrats said that only applies when a child is in custody, and the protections would end when they are transferred to the care of a social welfare agency.
“Will the Senate take up the House Medicaid managed care rewrite?” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — A bid to overhaul Florida’s Medicaid managed care process ahead of a mammoth multibillion-dollar bidding process cleared the House on Tuesday and heads back to the Senate with an uncertain fate with just four days left in the Session. The House voted 77-38 for the bill (SB 1950) as amended largely along party lines as Democrats said they were fearful the legislation would wind up harming public hospitals. “It feels like the punishment isn’t worth the crime,” said Rep. Kelly Skidmore. More than 5 million Floridians are enrolled in Medicaid, with many of them receiving health care through managed care plans.
— BUDGET NOTES —
“Budget conference: Lawmakers agree to $1B inflation fund” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Top state budget negotiators have agreed to set aside $1 billion in a fund to address rising inflation. The House had initially asked for $2 billion when they passed the inflation fund (HB 5011) last month to cover increased costs for state contracts due to the current high level of inflation. However, the Senate insisted lawmakers allocate the funds during the standard budget negotiations process, ultimately halving the House’s ask. Additionally, lawmakers look as if they will settle on naming the pot of dollars the “Inflation Fund.” House leadership had initially named it the Budgeting for Inflation that Drives Elevated Needs Fund, or “BIDEN Fund.” The Senate version of the bill establishing the Inflation Fund still contains language blaming inflation on “unwieldy federal spending during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Senate Budget Chief says federal money will go toward land buys — Stargel said Tuesday that federal coronavirus relief money could be used to pay for conservation land buys and resiliency grants, Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida reports. The comments came as the chambers came closer to alignment on environmental spending. “There also is another list coming out with regards to the American Rescue Plan funds,” Stargel told reporters on Tuesday. “You could see that as well.” The House has put aside $570 million for Resilient Florida grants, while the Senate has allocated $271 million. The Senate has also eliminated $300 million it had previously included for land buys and lowered funding for water storage wells north of Lake Okeechobee to $350 million from $550 million.
“Lawmakers agree on $100 million to help nurses, cops, firefighters, teachers buy homes” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — State lawmakers are looking to divert $100 million in affordable housing money to help “hometown heroes” like nurses, police officers and teachers pay closing costs and down payments on new homes. Under a plan agreed to by House and Senate budget negotiators, the money would come out of $209 million assigned to the State Housing Initiatives Partnership program, known as SHIP. That program goes to cities and counties to establish affordable housing policies, including funding low-income homeowners’ emergency repairs, down payments and closing cost assistance, as well as construction and acquisition of property for affordable housing.
House, Senate agree to $212M boost for nursing homes — Budget negotiators on Tuesday agreed to send another $212 million to Florida nursing homes, Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida reports. The funding comes by way of a 7% increase in Medicaid reimbursement rates and is meant to help nursing homes address staffing shortages. The Senate had pitched $300 million in additional funding, but came down during negotiations. Florida Health Care Association CEO Emmett Reed called the final amount a fair compromise. “I am happy with 7%,” he said. Budget writers also agreed to allocate $53 million for Tampa Bay and Broward County hospitals that cannot take part in the state’s new Medicaid Directed Payment Program.
“Lawmakers want a $50 million courthouse and more judges. Are they needed?” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — State lawmakers are preparing to carve out a new appellate court district based in the hometown of the Senate’s powerful appropriations chairperson, giving DeSantis the chance to appoint seven new conservative judges. Although the number of appeals court cases in Florida is at the lowest point in years, lawmakers have agreed to spend $50 million on a new courthouse and at least $4 million more each year on judges and support staff. Appellate judges themselves say a new district is not needed. But proponents of the plan argue that adding a district will increase public confidence and provide Jacksonville better representation on the bench.
“Budget conference: House scales back plan to punish mask-mandate school districts” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — House budget negotiators have scrapped their original plan for holding school districts accountable for flouting state law regarding mask mandates. In an offer submitted Tuesday afternoon, House negotiators under Trumbull outlined $200 million for the Florida School Recognition Program, which this year will only be available only to the 55 districts that followed orders from the DeSantis’ administration and state law banning mask mandates. The Putting Parents First Adjustment would have redirected the funds for high-paid administrators from the 12 offending districts to benefit the remaining 55 districts.
“Budget conference: Lawmakers wrap justice budget talks, including $645M for new prison” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Budget negotiators have reached a deal on how to spend state dollars on criminal and civil justice, including a plan to set aside $645 million for a new correctional institution. In a budget offer submitted and accepted Tuesday morning, lawmakers agreed to a one-time installment for architectural and engineering services, land purchase, site preparation, construction and construction management. The funds would be placed in reserve until the Department of Corrections (DOC) submits a plan for the spending. Lawmakers would give DOC until Jan. 6, 2023, to submit their design proposal and construction plan to the Legislative Budget Commission to unlock the funds.
“Budget conference: House, Senate agree on cybersecurity funding” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The House and Senate agreed Tuesday to provide more than $87 million to fortify cybersecurity in Florida. The latest agreement will provide $50 million to “Enterprise Cybersecurity Resiliency,” a broad agenda item that will roll out a slew of recommended projects, audits and software procurements. The item is a product of the Florida Cybersecurity Task Force, which in 2021 delivered a detailed cybersecurity report to lawmakers. Of the $50 million pot, $25 million is a one-time appropriation. The funding “will continue to improve upon the state’s cyber defense system, endpoint protection, cybersecurity training, vulnerability protection and monitoring, cyber threat tracking and creating the Security Operations Center,” explained DeSantis’ Freedom First Budget proposal.
“Budget conference: Local fire stations set to receive millions for vital infrastructure projects” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — The Legislature has agreed on funding the renovation and construction of several local fire stations across the state, including $4 million in appropriations for Sprowls’ home district in Tampa Bay. The funding, agreed to in the latest bump offer from the Senate, sets aside more than $10 million spread among local stations, addressing the need for infrastructure improvements across the localities. St. Pete Beach Fire Station 22 is set to receive $2 million to complete a full demolition and reconstruction of the station, which serves St. Pete Beach’s historic Pass-a-Grille beach district and surrounding locations, according to appropriation requests. The Legislature also agreed to provide $2 million for Palm Harbor Fire Station 68 so the department can construct a new station. The project is already receiving $3.5 million from local government and another $500,000 from a private donor.
“Budget conference: Moffitt Cancer Center, nursing homes come out on top in health care budget” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Florida’s nursing homes would see a 7% bump in reimbursement rates while Moffitt Cancer Center will get a $20 million recurring pot of money to help with its major expansion project in Pasco County. Those were some key parts of an agreement on health care spending reached by House and Senate budget negotiators on Tuesday. Lawmakers are racing to wrap all work on the budget by the end of the day in order to be able to take a final vote on Friday, the last day of the Regular Session. The push to help Moffit was a major priority for Senate President Wilton Simpson. But Stargel and Trumbull said that while the funding has been agreed to, they are still working out details of a final bill addressing the project.
“Budget conference: House, Senate sign off on state plane purchase” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The Senate and House agreed Tuesday to provide $20 million toward the purchase of two new airplanes. Under the agreement, the Department of Management Services will use the dollars to buy two Embraer Phenom 300E. The executive jets, among the bestselling, boasts capacity seating for 11 occupants and top speeds over 500 mph. The agreement comes after a long negation between both Chambers. The Senate originally pitched $20 million for the purchase, while the House held firm on their initial offer, $0. The buy will fill a void left by former Gov. Scott. Scott in 2011 sold off two state planes as part of a campaign promise to limit abuses by government officials. A multimillionaire, he instead traveled aboard his private jet.
“Budget conference: Budget chiefs OK millions to rescue manatees” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — More help is on the way to Florida’s starving manatee population. Budget writers agreed Tuesday to provide $5.3 million to Florida’s Manatee Rescue and Mortality Response initiative. The funding will float 12 full-time employees and various rescue equipment, two boats, trailers, tow vehicles and a specialized manatee rescue truck. Manatees, meanwhile, are dying at record pace in Florida, mostly of starvation. Seagrass, the meal of choice for sea cows, is disappearing. Biologists say water pollution is largely to blame. In response, state officials have begun feeding manatees 20,000 pounds of lettuce a week. The prayer-turned-plan, they say, is working. On average, upward of 350 manatees are flocking daily to the feed site, a Florida Power & Light plant on the East Coast.
Love this — “Budget conference: Chambers agree to $2.15M for Benacquisto Scholarship Program” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — It looks like the Benacquisto Scholarship Program has made the grade with appropriations leaders in the Legislature. The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee and the Senate Education Appropriations Committee both included $2,153,995 from general revenue in the education silo for the program. That will fund merit scholarships for National Merit Scholars, and cover attendance costs at in-state postsecondary institutions that are not covered by Bright Futures or the National Merit Scholar program itself. To be eligible for the scholarship program, students named as National Merit Scholars in 2021 must be enrolled for at least 12 credit hours in the 2021-22 academic term at a Florida institution and must live in Florida.
— TALLY 2 —
“Five-year VISIT FLORIDA extension headed to DeSantis” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Legislature has voted to extend the state’s tourism marketing arm five years, completing an agreement reached between the House and Senate. Senators initially had voted to extend VISIT FLORIDA until Oct. 1, 2031. However, after the House on Wednesday approved a five-year extension, the Senate voted 36-3 Tuesday to carry the embattled agency to Oct. 1, 2028. Sen. Ed Hooper, sponsor of the bill (SB 434), late Wednesday said the Senate would accept the House version, drafted by Rep. Linda Chaney. “I checked with (VISIT FLORIDA CEO Dana) Young, and while, obviously, she would’ve preferred eight years, as would I, five is better than one,” said Wednesday.
“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,” 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 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 retail theft crackdown despite objections to felony penalties” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Legislature has passed a bill to crack down on organized retail theft, a move House Democrats say would penalize low-income Floridians. The bill (SB 1534), which passed the House 80-36 on Tuesday, stiffens penalties against thieves who steal multiple items from multiple stores in a short period of time. Sen. Jim Boyd and Rep. Chuck Clemons filed the legislation following a rise of organized retail theft across the country last year. A study from the National Retail Federation shows 69% of retailers have seen increased organized crime within the last year. In December, Florida garnered national news when more than $1 million in goods were stolen from a small business in Palm Beach.
“Senate blesses juvenile expunction bill” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — A bipartisan bill that would broaden a juvenile’s ability to expunge their arrest record in Florida is on its way to DeSantis‘ desk. State law currently limits expungement to minors who complete a diversion program after a first-time misdemeanor arrest. The bill (HB 195), however, would significantly expand expunction opportunities. Under the proposal, a minor may expunge felonies, except for forcible felonies, and multiple arrests. Forcible felonies include crimes such as murder, rape and kidnapping, among others. The Senate passed the bill unanimously and without debate. Sen. Keith Perry and Rep. David Smith are the bill sponsors.
“Bill helping cover vet costs for retired law enforcement dog clears Legislature” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — A bill allowing the owners of retired law enforcement dogs to recoup some of their pet’s vet costs passed its final chamber of the Legislature Tuesday. SB 226, which passed the Senate last week, was approved by the House 117-0. The legislation allows former handlers or adopters of retired law enforcement dogs that served for five years or more to get up to $1,500 annually for veterinary costs. The bill provides $300,000 in recurring funding from the general fund to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to finance the program. The bill requires FDLE to contract with a nonprofit corporation selected through a competitive grant award process to manage the grant program.
“Senate panel takes up, passes public notice overhaul” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Senate Rules Committee took up and passed a controversial bill to eliminate requiring public notices in newspapers. If passed, the bill (HB 7049) would undo a compromise passed by the Legislature last year that allowed notices to appear online and in newspapers. Instead, this would allow governments the option to publish on a county-maintained public website. Sen. Jason Brodeur argued this would actually further the goal of public notice requirements. “When you have the ability for people to access as much as you can access for free, and the goal of it all is to get legal notices to the most people, this really enhances anything we’ve ever done before,” he said.
“Senate committee breathes life into doctor-supported nametag bill” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Florida health care providers could be disciplined if they do not correctly identify their name and profession under a bill headed to the full Senate. The Senate Rules Committee approved the bill (HB 861) as amended Tuesday in a late-Session meeting that wasn’t scheduled until the final week of Session, a move that drew criticism. The committee, which approved the bill on a 12-3 vote, agreed to make a major revision to the legislation at the urging of Sen. Ben Albritton. The underlying bill opened up health care providers to disciplinary action by state regulators if they misrepresented that they were a certain type of specialist.
Tree removal law fix heads to Governor — The House on Tuesday passed a bill (SB 518) that would clarify state law regulating local residential tree removal ordinances. As reported by Ritchie of POLITICO Florida, the bill provides definitions for terms used in a 2019 law that blocked local permit requirements if a tree poses a “danger” to people or property, as determined by an arborist. The Florida League of Cities, which fought against the 2019 bill, said it has been abused by some since going into effect. FLC deputy general counsel Rebecca O’Hara said the 2022 bill, which now heads to the Governor, provides “necessary clarity to a law that has led to serious abuses and clear-cutting of healthy trees.”
“‘Transportation facility’ honorees include Democratic operative, felled deputy” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — The Legislature has given its final approval to a bill that honors several Floridians names by bestowing their names on state roads. On Tuesday, the House unanimously approved a bill (SB 160) introduced by Sen. Gayle Harrell. Rep. Jayer Williamson explained the bill in the House. The 3-mile stretch of University Drive from the Sawgrass Expressway to State Road 827 will be renamed Michael Moskowitz Drive, after the prominent Florida Democratic Party operative, influential lawyer and lobbyist who entertained Presidents at his Parkland home. Michael Moskowitz died in January at age 68 from pancreatic cancer. Martin Luther King Jr. is among the honorees in the bill.
— MORE TALLY —
“Controversial, twice vetoed alimony reform bill rears its ugly head again” via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist — Over the last decade, an extremely controversial alimony reform bill passed by Florida lawmakers was shot down not once, but twice by then-Governor Scott. Scott cited the fact that the proposed reform law would have been retroactive, with far-reaching ramifications for families and children who depend on alimony agreements for a measure of stability in their lives. Scott’s vetoes are still relevant today, because that same onerous, retroactive provision has surfaced again in yet another attempt to pass the same contentious bill. State Sen. Jason Pizzo admirably attempted to make the latest bill more palatable by filing a simple amendment so that the alleged “reforms” would only apply to new alimony agreements after the bill goes into effect. His amendment was shot down by Republicans.
“Legislature approves updates to Baker Act, Marchman Act” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Legislature unanimously approved a number of changes to Florida laws regarding the involuntarily institutionalized. The House on Tuesday unanimously approved the mental health and substance abuse legislation (SB 1262) that updates statutes regarding Baker Act and Marchman Act patients. These laws allow family and loved ones to force individuals into facilities to care for mental health issues or drug abuse. The bill, if signed by DeSantis, will make it a first-degree misdemeanor for someone to furnish false information to get someone institutionalized, or to conspire to get the Baker or Marchman Acts implemented under false pretenses.
“Lawmakers OK bill to require Medicaid coverage of donated human milk” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Florida could soon be allowed to offer donated human milk to infants as part of the Medicaid program under a bill headed to DeSantis’ desk. The House on Tuesday voted unanimously to pass the bill (SB 1770) sponsored by Sen. Lauren Book that would allow the state’s safety net health care program to purchase human milk that could be used for low-weight and high-risk infants. The Senate already voted unanimously to pass the measure on March 1. “Protecting small babies is something that should have all of our hearts,” said Rep. Fiona McFarland, who sponsored the House version.
“Bill cementing tax benefits for farms engaged in agritourism ready for Governor’s signature” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — The Florida Legislature Tuesday passed a bill that would make clear agriculture-related property tax benefits include farms engaged in the state’s growing agritourism industry. The bill (SB 1186) sponsored by Albritton is now ready for the Governor’s signature. It received bipartisan support in the House and Senate and would go into effect July 1. Albritton’s bill updates current state law dictating how agricultural lands are taxed to include nontraditional practices. As it stands, agricultural lands used for a “bona fide” purpose are taxed at a lower “assessed” value. Other properties are taxed based on their “just” value, the land’s highest value. Agritourism, or the practice of educating the public by using agricultural land for tourism opportunities, is a growing business across Florida and the country. Adding agritourism experiences to lands can help supplement revenue on a struggling farm.
“Financial literacy requirement bill graduates Legislature” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — Legislation requiring high school students to take a financial literacy and management class was approved by the House Tuesday. SB 1054, sponsored by Sen. Travis Hutson and Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera, passed with unanimous bipartisan support. The outcome was expected, as the bill passed the Senate unanimously. The bill requires all students to take a half-credit financial literacy class before graduating, starting with students who begin high school in the 2023-24 school year. The class will teach students about banking practices, money management, credit scores, managing debt, loan applications, insurance policies and local tax assessments.
“House signs off on online security training bill” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — A bill that would allow online security officer training and certification now awaits DeSantis’ signature. The House on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve the proposal (SB 1474) with a 112-0 vote. Rep. Randy Fine and Sen. Jennifer Bradley are the bill sponsors. State law currently requires aspiring security officers, armed and unarmed, to undergo an in-person training course. The proposal, though, would shift unarmed training entirely online. Armed courses, meanwhile, may feature 21 hours (at most) of online instruction. The rest of the training would remain in-person, including the firearm portion.
“Lawmakers approve $5 million Miami-Dade health trust payment for boy rendered quadriplegic” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — More than four years after a young boy lost the use of his limbs while under treatment at a Miami-Dade County public health care facility, Florida lawmakers have approved a $5 million settlement for the boy’s family. The House voted unanimously Tuesday for a bill (SB 74) by Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez authorizing the group that oversees the county’s public health care provider, Jackson Health System, to pay the family of Harry Augustin Shumow. “This is a six-year-old boy who went into the hospital. About two weeks later, he left a quadriplegic with no control over his bodily functions,” Rep. Patt Maney said on behalf of the bill to which he filed a House companion (HB 6521). That version was laid on the table Monday.
“Legislature clears $3.2M payment to Monticello woman harmed in grisly crash with state employee” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Nearly three years after a head-on collision with a Florida governmental employee changed the trajectory of her life, a Monticello woman is set to receive a $3.2 million payment from the state. The House voted unanimously Tuesday for legislation (SB 70) by Sen. Darryl Rouson clearing the balance of a $3.375 million settlement to which Donna Catalano and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services agreed in 2020. The House approved the measure on March 1. DeSantis can choose to sign the bill or allow it to become law without his signature. The bill is classified as a “claims bill” or “relief act,” as it is intended to compensate a person or entity for injury or loss caused by the negligence or error of a public officer or error.
“Mother of three boys maimed in trooper crash cleared for $7.5M state settlement” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Florida lawmakers cast the final necessary vote Tuesday to approve a $7.5 million payment to the mother of three young boys who suffered permanent injuries in a gruesome 2014 crash with a state trooper. The House voted 116-1 to approve the long-sought settlement for Orlando woman Christeia Jones, whose children were no older than 7 at the time of the crash. Rep. Kamia Brown cast the sole “no” vote. The Senate OK’d the measure (SB 80), sponsored by Sen. Dennis Baxley, on March 1.
—TALLY ETC. —
Get to know House members — The House video team chatted with Representatives throughout the 2022 Legislative Session to create a three-part Twitter series called “Meet the Members.” Then they got sleep-deprived. And members did, too, apparently. The end product is a nine-minute video titled “Best of Meet the Members,” which was shown on the House floor and is now available online for all to see. It features lawmakers from both sides of the aisle answering the tough questions, such as how they take their coffee, who’s the funniest member and who has the best laugh. The most important nugget of all? Whether they like pineapple on pizza.
Florida Chamber cheers VISIT FLORIDA extension — The Florida Chamber of Commerce lauded lawmakers for passing a bill (SB 434) that would push back the sunset date for VISIT FLORIDA from 2023 to 2028. The pro-business group said the bill would allow VISIT FLORIDA to plan long-term, and recruit and retain top talent. “Florida’s tourism industry is a key driver of the state’s $1.23 trillion economy, and VISIT FLORIDA is a natural partner as we work to become the 10th largest economy in the world by 2030,” said Florida Chamber President and CEO Mark Wilson. “The Florida Chamber and Florida’s business community commends the Florida legislature and bill sponsors Rep. Chaney and Sen. Hooper for their leadership in supporting marketing our tourism industry and the thousands of local jobs it supports.”
FBHA praises passage of Baker Act, Marchman Act update — The Florida Behavioral Health Association lauded the Legislature after the passage of bills (SB 1262/SB 1844) updating state laws on involuntary commitments for mental health and substance abuse. “By sponsoring and supporting SB 1262, Sen. Danny Burgess and Rep. Ralph Massullo have made Floridians who struggle with mental health and substance use disorders a priority. … “Thanks to Sen. Bean and Rep. Chaney for their leadership by sponsoring SB 1844, which guarantees that a child being treated for a mental health condition is no longer subjected to the court process,” said FBHA President and CEO Melanie Brown-Woofter.
ABIC Action slams DeSantis ‘immigrant removal fund’ — After being silent on the immigration all Session, the Senate’s latest budget offer included $12 million for the Department of Transportation to remove “unauthorized aliens” from Florida “consistent with federal law.” The money is one of DeSantis’ priorities, but ABIC Action Fund described it as a shameless move to advance the Governor’s political career at the expense of families. “The bullying and cruelty toward Florida’s children and immigrant families by Gov. DeSantis knows no bounds. One out of four Floridians is an immigrant. Florida employers are facing extreme labor shortages from tourism to agriculture. Governor DeSantis will go down in history as one of the most abusive toward businesses and immigrants including children,” said Action Co-Chair Mike Fernandez, who also is chair of MBF Healthcare.
— BILLS ARE DYING —
“Senate again snubs bill tightening union strictures” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Legislation requiring public employees to annually reaffirm their membership to employee organizations is likely dead again after failing to receive a single hearing in the Senate. The proposal (HB 1197) by Rep. Scott Plakon and Rep. Cord Byrd would have made it compulsory for public employees, including teachers and many other government workers, to sign membership authorization forms every year. Failing to do so would purge them from the organization’s rolls. The bill would also have removed the option for union members to have their dues automatically deducted from paychecks. Further, unions with fewer than 50% of eligible members in their ranks would have had to recertify with the state as a collective bargaining agent.
— The Budget Conference is expected to meet to issue final budget offers.
— The Senate convenes for a floor Session to consider measures including a bill carried by Rep. Bryan Ávila to combat “woke” school instructions and corporate training (HB 7), 10 a.m., Senate Chamber.
— The House convenes for a floor Session, including to pass bills on alimony (SB 1796), carried by Sen. Joe Gruters; immigration (SB 1808), carried by Bean; and elections (SB 524), carried by Sen. Travis Hutson, 10:30 a.m., House Chamber.
— The Senate Special-Order Calendar Group meets 15 minutes after floor Session, Room 401 of the Senate Office Building.
— GOV CLUB MENU —
Italian minestrone soup; mixed garden salad; broccoli salad; cucumber, mango salad; turkey club wraps; chicken Marsala; meat and cheese lasagna; Roasted red bliss potatoes; green beans almandine; cakes for dessert.
“Some residents allowed to go home as Florida Panhandle wildfires grow” via The Associated Press — Hundreds of residents forced to evacuate as blazes in the Florida Panhandle threatened their homes have been allowed to return to their homes, even as three wildfires in the region have grown to more than 29,000 acres. Over the weekend, 1,100 residents were evacuated from homes in Bay County, Florida. But officials gave the approval Monday for about 600 residents to return after one of the fires, the 875-acre Adkins Avenue Fire, was 50% contained.
Jimmy Patronis highlights consumer protection bills — In recognition of “Consumer Protection Week,” CFO Patronis highlighted a recently passed bill (HB 749) that includes a swath of anti-fraud measures, such as increased penalties on unlicensed public adjusters, more regulation for warranty telemarketing calls and a requirement that companies make it easier for Floridians to cancel subscriptions. Patronis also touted a Department of Financial Services package that would require insurance agencies to proactively disclose to policyholders that they’re closing their business and force public adjusters to notify consumers if they want to capture additional living expenses. “As your CFO, I have been laser-focused on protecting consumers, and this year is no different,” he said.
Facebook status of the Day:
First on #FlaPol — “Daniel Uhlfelder — aka the ‘Grim Reaper’ — running for Attorney General” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Uhlfelder, the merry-prankster thorn to Republican policies who may be best known by his “Grim Reaper” shtick, is running for Attorney General. Uhlfelder is the third Democrat in and the second big name, following former State Attorney Aramis Ayala, who filed last week, to run for a chance to take on Ashley Moody. Uhlfelder kicked off his campaign with a two-minute, 40-second video released Tuesday on Twitter. “Activism is kind of in my blood,” he says. In the video, Uhlfelder rips into both DeSantis and Moody, calling the Attorney General “the Governor’s personal attorney.”
“Jared Moskowitz cements front-runner status in Congress race with dozens of endorsements — including people who’d considered running themselves” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Cementing his position as the dominant candidate for a suddenly open congressional seat, Moskowitz said Tuesday he has secured the endorsements of 50 current and former elected officials. Several people on the list had been considering running themselves. The Democratic candidate’s endorsers include people from the mainstream establishment wing of the Democratic Party and its progressive wing. The show of support for Moskowitz came together quickly. On Feb. 28, U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch announced he wouldn’t seek re-election to his Broward-Palm Beach County seat.
“Alen Tomczak withdraws from HD 66 race” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Tomczak has announced he is ending his campaign for Florida House District 66 after being called to active duty with the Florida National Guard. As an active member of the Florida National Guard, Tomczak will be deployed overseas to ensure the safety of all Floridians beginning in May, his campaign said. Tomczak, a St. Petersburg Republican, was a front-runner in the race to succeed Rep. Nick DiCeglie in the HD 66 seat. DiCeglie even endorsed Tomczak as his successor. In a statement about his withdrawal, Tomczak said he hopes one day to run again. Tomczak’s withdrawal leaves one candidate in the race for HD 66: Berny Jacques, a Seminole Republican.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Florida officially issues guidance against COVID-19 vaccines for kids without underlying conditions” via Caroline Catherman of the Orlando Sentinel — Children ages 5-17 without underlying health conditions can forego COVID-19 vaccinations, the Florida Department of Health said in new guidance released Tuesday. The announcement was promised by Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo at a Monday roundtable in West Palm Beach with DeSantis. “It is essential for health care practitioners to analyze existing data on the COVID-19 vaccine alongside parents when deciding to vaccinate children,” said Ladapo. The announcement cited healthy children’s low risk of developing severe COVID-19 and the potential risk of myocarditis as a side effect of the vaccine, among other arguments.
“Legislature approves bill protecting businesses from lawsuits brought during states of emergency” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — The Senate passed a bill Tuesday giving more protection to businesses if they are sued by employees during a state of emergency. The bill (SB 542) passed the House last week with a single amendment and is now ready for the Governor’s signature. If signed, it would go into effect July 1. SB 542 is among bills hoping to codify lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez, a Republican from South Florida, is the bill’s sponsor. She said the bill would allow business owners to support nonpayroll workers, often called gig workers, during states of emergency. She said during the pandemic, businesses wished to provide things like personal protective equipment (PPE) to workers, but feared they could suffer legal consequences.
“South Florida moves to low-risk levels for community transmission” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — In the past seven days, the state has added 1,671 cases and 154 deaths per day, on average. Over the past three weeks, on average, 269 fewer new cases were logged each day in Florida, showing a decrease in trends. As of Tuesday, March 8, more than 14,190,000 people are fully vaccinated in Florida. The state has logged at least 5,820,320 cases and 71,326 deaths since the pandemic began in March 2020. The number of cases is likely an undercount due to positive results from at-home COVID-19 testing. The state also only tracks resident cases and deaths, excluding nonresidents.
— CORONA NATION —
“How did this many deaths become normal?” via Ed Yong of The Atlantic — The United States reported more deaths from COVID-19 last Friday than deaths from Hurricane Katrina, more on any two recent weekdays than deaths during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. At least 953,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, and the true toll is likely even higher because many deaths went uncounted. Many countries have been pummeled by the coronavirus, but few have fared as poorly as the U.S. Dying from COVID-19 robbed each American of about a decade of life on average. As a whole, U.S. life expectancy fell by two years — the largest such decline in almost a century. Neither World War II nor any of the flu pandemics that followed it dented American longevity so badly.
“The pandemic crime paradox might have a rational explanation after all” via Megan McArdle of The Washington Post — People were convinced in 2020 crime was getting worse. But when you asked them if they themselves were more likely to be victimized, they weren’t noticeably more alarmed. Now a new working paper from Maxim Massenkoff of the Naval Postgraduate School and Aaron Chalfin of the University of Pennsylvania suggests another explanation: Americans were becoming more anxious about crime because, by one important metric, it actually was increasing more broadly. That’s arguably what we should have assumed all along since crime rates often rise and fall together. But there was always another possibility: Maybe the propensity to commit all sorts of crimes was rising, but the pandemic made it harder for most ordinary criminals to find victims.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“‘They went down hard’: IRS’ tax season woes rooted in pandemic, long funding slide” via Aaron Lorenzo of POLITICO — Missing refunds. Angry members of Congress. Thousands of unanswered phone calls. Welcome to the 2022 tax filing season. The IRS is a huge mess this year, thanks to a pandemic that is entering its third year, a decade of budget cuts and out-of-date technology. Millions of taxpayers are still awaiting refunds from last year, part of a paperwork pileup that the agency is struggling to get a handle on. Veteran IRS workers have been reassigned to mail duty and the agency is about to go on a hiring binge to reduce the backlog. Even deficit hawks are calling for an infusion of money for the agency to deal with its near-term problems, though congressional Republicans have shown little willingness to go along.
— MORE CORONA —
“Moderna signals it may enforce COVID-19 vaccine patents in wealthy nations” via Peter Loftus of The Wall Street Journal — Moderna said it will never use its COVID-19 vaccine-related patents to stop others from manufacturing its vaccine in more than 90 low- and middle-income countries, but signaled it was prepared to begin enforcing patents in wealthier countries. The drugmaker said Monday it now expects anyone in higher-income countries that want to use its patented technologies to respect the company’s intellectual property. It also said it is willing to license its patents to others in those countries on “commercially reasonable terms.” Such terms usually involve royalties on the sales of products using licensed technology. The new stance opens up the possibility of Moderna filing patent-infringement suits against companies in wealthier countries that don’t reach agreements on using Moderna’s technology.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“Joe Biden administration seeks to promote unions, underrepresented workers in infrastructure spending” via David Harrison of The Wall Street Journal — The Biden administration is planning to give preference to infrastructure projects that encourage workers to unionize or that hire from underrepresented groups as it prepares to spend billions of dollars from last year’s infrastructure law, administration officials said. The guidelines are the latest of several attempts by the Biden administration to promote labor unions. Biden, a longtime labor advocate, has frequently hailed the infrastructure law by saying it will create union jobs. Administration officials say the guidelines will also help companies diversify their workforce in the midst of a labor shortage. The Department of Transportation and the Department of Labor have been working together to write the funding guidelines.
“Biden’s pick to lead ICE was probed over domestic violence complaint” via Stephen Dinan of The Washington Times — Biden’s nominee to lead the country’s deportation agency faced a domestic violence accusation from his wife, according to documents filed in a tangentially related sexual harassment lawsuit. Police were called to investigate Ed Gonzalez, currently the sheriff of Harris County, Texas, after his wife, Melissa, said he became “physical or violent” because she was having an affair with a supervisor at her job, according to an affidavit from one of the officers who responded to investigate. The affidavit does not say what the officer concluded about the accusation. The accusation came to light just as Senate Democrats planned to vote as early as Tuesday to confirm Sheriff Gonzalez to be the next director at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“Biden set to issue sweeping order on regulating crypto” via Tory Newmyer of The Washington Post — Biden is set to sign an executive order this week ordering a sweeping review of the federal government’s approach to cryptocurrencies, according to two people briefed on the matter. The measure, in the works for months, aims to impose some structure on what has been a fractured response from various regulators to the rise of digital assets. It comes as the Russian invasion of Ukraine has sharpened Washington’s focus on both the promise and peril of the technology. The Ukrainian government and affiliated causes have collected tens of millions of dollars in cryptocurrency donations since the conflict began. Meanwhile, some U.S. policymakers have raised concerns about the potential for Russians to use crypto to dodge sanctions.
“Biden goes home a lot — but not as much as Donald Trump went to Trump properties” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — On many Friday afternoons, the White House press pool releases a similar message: Biden is on his way to Delaware. Biden’s predecessor was regularly criticized for how often he was away from the White House, a criticism that doesn’t seem to bother Biden much. But of course, there are significant differences between Biden’s time away from the White House and Trump’s. When Trump left the White House, he wasn’t going to his house but, almost always, to one of the properties owned by his private company. His travel was a de facto advertisement for his private business, and the regularity with which he traveled to those quasi-public spaces afforded those seeking access to know where he might be found.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“‘People’s Convoy’ organizers meet with Senators amid pandemic-related demonstrations” via Ellie Silverman, Karina Elwood and Lori Aratani of The Washington Post — On the group’s third day of circling the Beltway to protest the government’s handling of the pandemic, leaders of the “People’s Convoy” met with lawmakers Tuesday to voice frustrations with workplace vaccine mandates and other measures designed to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Brian Brase, a 37-year-old truck driver from northwest Ohio who is leading the effort, joined other members in meeting with Sens. Ron Johnson and Ted Cruz on Capitol Hill. Brase vowed to continue the fight until vaccine mandates are ended. “We’re going to keep looping the Beltway until we’re heard,” Brase told reporters Tuesday after members of the group met with Cruz and Johnson. “We’re not going anywhere.”
“‘Defcon 1 moment’: New Spanish-language conservative network fuels fresh Dem fears over disinfo, Latino outreach” via Marc Caputo of NBC News — The nation’s first Spanish-language conservative network launches Tuesday morning on satellite radio, opening a new front in the political information wars targeting Latinos in the United States and beyond. The network, called Americano, arrives during a crucial inflection point in U.S. politics, as more Hispanic voters show signs of drifting right and Democrats continue to sound the alarm about Spanish-language right-wing disinformation on social media and local radio, particularly in Miami, which is also Americano’s home base. It’s scheduled to launch first on SiriusXM radio, then on streaming TV this summer. The network has close ties to Trump‘s campaign, as well as to Jeb Bush.
— CRISIS —
“Longtime Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio charged with conspiracy in Jan. 6 attack on Capitol” via Spencer S. Hsu and Devlin Barrett of The Washington Post — Tarrio, a longtime leader of the Proud Boys, has been indicted on a conspiracy charge in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack, the second high-profile arrest of an extremist leader accused of fueling political violence around the 2020 election results. Tarrio joins Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes as the two most well-known individuals charged by the Justice Department in connection with the Jan. 6 attack. In recent months, Tarrio has described himself as a former leader of the Proud Boys, a radical group that was formed in 2016 and has become a fixture at political demonstrations around the country.
“U.S. judge dismisses most serious federal charge against Jan. 6 Capitol riot defendant” via Spencer S. Hsu of The Washington Post — A federal judge ruled late Monday that the Justice Department cannot charge Jan. 6 defendants with obstructing Congress’s certification of Biden’s 2020 election victory unless they tampered with official documents or records in the attack on the U.S. Capitol. In striking down the lead charge brought in the government’s Jan. 6 investigation, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols broke with all other U.S. trial judges in Washington who have ruled on the question in Capitol riot cases. The decision throws a wrench pending appeal into the felony prosecutions of as many as 275 arrested individuals.
Ya think? — “GAO: Jan. 6 shows need for better Capitol Police training and information-sharing” via Devlin Barrett of The Washington Post — The U.S. Capitol Police should better train officers to deal with the kind of large violent crowds that attacked Congress on Jan. 6, when the agency’s response was hampered by poor information-sharing and officers’ hesitancy to use force, according to a new report. The report by the Government Accountability Office, based on a survey of Capitol Police officers, recommends more crowd control training, noting that many officers said there was a hesitancy to use force or make arrests during the 2021 melee. Most of the officers who answered the GAO’s questions reported that there should have been more guidance and intelligence shared with officers ahead of time.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“Inside the Jan. 6 committee’s effort to trace every dollar raised and spent based on Trump’s false election claims” via Josh Dawsey, Jacqueline Alemany and Tom Hamburger of The Washington Post — The House Jan. 6 committee has waged high-profile legal battles with Trump and his closest allies as it tries to uncover every detail of what happened that day. But it has also been focused on another part of its inquiry that panel members said is of equal importance to the success of the investigation, tracing every dollar that was raised and spent on false claims that the election was stolen. The questioning is part of an effort by the committee’s “green team” to scrutinize whether the Trump campaign and protest organizers knowingly used false claims that the election was stolen to dupe donors and raise large sums of cash.
“Mike Pence meets with Miriam Adelson in Israel amid speculation over 2024 election” via Matthew Kassel of Jewish Insider — Amid speculation over the 2024 Republican Presidential primary field, former Vice President Pence met for dinner with Dr. Miriam Adelson, the influential GOP megadonor, at her home in Jerusalem on Monday night, just hours after he had touched down in Israel for a multiday trip through the Middle East. The former Vice President’s meeting represents what is at least his second audience with the billionaire Republican benefactor in about four months. Pence was among a small group of potential presidential candidates who spoke with Adelson during the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual leadership conference last November in Las Vegas.
— LOCAL NOTES —
“Sarasota County voters renew school tax” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A schools tax in Sarasota County will be in place for another four years. With 95 of 99 precincts counted, unofficial results from the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections indicated strong enough levels of support to appear insurmountable. About 84.2% of votes counted so far favored extended the tax, with 15.8% of ballots counted so far showing no votes. No Election Day precinct votes have been counted at this publishing. The one-mill tax is expected to generate $71 million in the coming year. That’s money that will ensure extra classroom hours, competitive teacher salaries and support for extracurricular programs, supporters say. “We need the money, and it goes to a good effort,” said School Board Member Jane Goodwin.
“Former JEA CEO Aaron Zahn, CFO Ryan Wannemacher plead not guilty to conspiracy, wire fraud” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — Former JEA chief executive Zahn and finance chief Wannemacher pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to federal conspiracy and wire fraud charges stemming from an investigation into their time leading a campaign to sell the city-owned utility in 2019. The two were released on $100,000 bonds. Neither Zahn nor Wannemacher, who were led into the courtroom in handcuffs by federal agents, had any comment as they left the courthouse. Their attorneys also had no comment, though during court proceedings both indicated they were weighing whether to ask U.S. District Judge Brian Davis for a change of venue.
“A TLH tale: A divisive Doak vote, a plane trip by top officials and a commissioner’s photo” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — It was a Tallahassee airport bump-in for the ages though few if any of the people involved are laughing. On Feb. 25 Tallahassee City Commissioner Jack Porter ended up on the same Delta flight to Atlanta as a group of public officials who aren’t exactly among her best friends. There were County Administrator Vince Long and City Manager Reese Goad, who collectively oversee Blueprint, city/county PLACE Director Ben Pingree, who is jointly managed by the two, and State Attorney Jack Campbell, all sitting in near proximity to one another. She and the others engaged in minimal chitchat in the terminal.
“Lawsuit settlement by law firm, engineers to pay Surfside victims $55.55 million” via Nicholas Nehamas of the Miami Herald — Three major defendants in the Champlain Towers South collapse class-action lawsuit have agreed to settle with victims for a total of $55.55 million, all paid by their insurance firms. The law firm Becker, which represented Champlain South’s condo association before the deadly June 24 collapse, will pay $31 million, the filing states. Engineering firm Morabito Consultants, hired to inspect Champlain South for its 40-year recertification, will pay $16 million. And DeSimone Consulting Engineers, which served as the structural engineer for a luxury condo built just feet away from Champlain South called Eighty Seven Park, will pay $8.55 million. The settlements with Becker and Morabito were announced in court last month, although the dollar amount was not disclosed.
“Surfside collapse victims sue Eighty Seven Park condo association and construction firms” via Nicholas Nehamas of the Miami Herald — The victims of the Champlain Towers South collapse are suing the condo association of Eighty Seven Park, a neighboring luxury tower they partly blame for the disaster, as well as three firms involved in Eighty Seven Park’s construction. In a new filing that’s part of a complex class-action lawsuit, the plaintiffs allege that architects Stantec, engineers Florida Civil and a drilling vibration monitoring firm called Geosonics acted negligently during construction of the 18-story tower built just feet away from Champlain South, an aging building suffering from poor design and construction flaws. The lawsuit also says that the 8701 Collins Condominium Association should be held accountable because it assumed the liabilities and responsibilities of the developers who built the tower.
“Citrus County Commission denies Administrator’s separation offer” via Mike Wright of Florida Politics — County Administrator Randy Oliver is still on the job after County Commissioners on Tuesday rejected his resign-for-severance offer. Commissioners voted 4-1 against Oliver’s offer to resign immediately in return for a payout of pending personal time and 20 weeks of severance, a package worth about $100,000, board Chairman Ron Kitchen Jr. said. Commissioner Holly Davis, whom Kitchen accused of interfering with the administrator’s job, voted “no.” Davis suggested Oliver leave with severance and the county ask the Florida Association of Counties for administrative help while searching for a replacement. Oliver, who has been on the job for seven years and earns $157,850 annually, told commissioners in January he planned to retire by November at the latest and would help the county transition in his replacement.
“Florida mom left 27-day-old baby in car while gambling, deputies say” via Nathaniel Rodriguez of WFLA — A Florida woman was arrested Friday after leaving her 27-day-old baby in a car while she played in an arcade, according to deputies. The Indian River County Sheriff’s Office said Bionca Kimyata Lockett, 32, of Sebastian left the infant in the car for around an hour and 45 minutes while she gambled at the Sebastian Square Plaza. The baby was found to be malnourished, dehydrated, had visibly dry skin and chapped lips. According to deputies at the scene, the baby was also poorly cleaned. The Sheriff’s Office said the mother did not have any formula for the child, so a responding deputy had to buy formula for the child.
— TOP OPINION —
“Say ‘gay’ as loud as you want, Florida kids! We love and support you 100%” via Fabiola Santiago of the Miami Herald — Shame on you, Republican Florida legislators for having absolutely no backbone and ramming through all kinds of unnecessary and ruinous bills this session, the most egregious of which gratuitously aids and abets hate and rejection of Florida’s gay children by banning any discussion of sexual orientation in schools from kindergarten through third grade, when medical experts say children are forming their identity. For some of these children, especially those who come from unenlightened homes and/or parents who have communications issues, schools are the only safe setting they know.
— OPINIONS —
“Too many Floridians have gone all whiny — but not our intrepid governor!” via Diane Roberts of Florida Phoenix — If young people can’t take a little character-building abuse, how are they going to handle it in 2025 when DeSantis declares himself president-for-life, reinstates the draft, and we invade Canada? Canada is not a real country. As DeSantis said in his CPAC speech the other day, Canada, with its universal health care, its good manners, and its good-looking prime minister, is an authoritarian regime, up there with Communist China. Opponents of the new abortion bill say, “My body, my choice,” but as sponsor Rep. Erin Grall eloquently put it, those sluts need to think twice before they do the nasty. These libs misunderstand our governor. He’s not a bully. He just cares deeply about white, straight children. And white, straight Florida. Is that so bad? He sticks up for our values, values like insulting our NATO allies.
“‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill sponsor is baffled by LGBTQ ‘trend’ among kids? Oh, please” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Just listen to the rhetorical gymnastics Republicans in the Florida Legislature have employed to defend what opponents call the “Don’t say Gay” bill. We have nothing against LGBTQ kids, they argued. We’re just protecting parental rights, they said, trying and failing to defend themselves against charges that they are homophobic. But it took a debate on the Florida Senate floor on Monday for the true views of at least one of the politicians behind House Bill 1557 to emerge: There are just too many gay kids nowadays. That, apparently, is why bill sponsor Baxley thought it was appropriate to legislate against his discomfort with what he called a “real trend change” in society. Blame those deviant teachers for turning our kids gay through what Baxley called “social engineering.”
“Florida politicians take millions in out-of-state donations, but want to ban them for citizen campaigns” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — If I told you that lawmakers in Tallahassee were considering a ban on big, out-of-state contributions to political campaigns in this state, you might be impressed. Maybe you’d also be impressed by Sprowls, who has taken $25,000 and $50,000 checks from special interests in Utah and California. Simpson, who has taken $100,000 from construction and contracting firms in Tennessee and Missouri. Except that’s not what they’re trying to do. They’re advancing a bill (HB 921) that would make it illegal for out-of-state companies to donate more than $3,000 to causes you might want while preserving their right to keep rolling around in out-of-state money like pigs in slop.
“His name isn’t in it, but unsealing of JEA indictment seals Lenny Curry’s legacy” via Mark Woods of The Florida Times-Union — In his nearly seven years as the mayor of Jacksonville, Curry has devoted quite a bit of time to dismantling and demolishing things. Buildings, bridge ramps, political rivals, private citizens and, yes, a public utility. In some cases, he succeeded and that was for the best. But when it came to the seventh-largest municipally owned utility company in the country, he failed spectacularly. It’s still standing, still owned by the city, largely because Curry underestimated the public pushback to a process that began as a sham and devolved into what federal prosecutors say was a scam, one of the largest ever attempted in this city, which is saying something.
— TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill is on its way to DeSantis. Opponents say it’s grist for a lawsuit. Supporters say it’s all about parents.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— Equality Florida says it will be ready to file suit if anyone is harmed by the Don’t Say Gay bill. Sunrise has an interview.
— Both DeSantis and Ag Secretary Nikki Fried were in the Panhandle to talk about wildfire.
— And, this is a real economic sanction. McDonald’s is shutting down, temporarily, in Russia.
To listen, click on the image below:
— ALOE —
“A human touch: Disney CFO promises character experiences will return soon” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — As restrictions are being lifted at the theme parks, those deeper character interactions could return soon, The Walt Disney Co.’s Chief Financial Officer Christine McCarthy said this week. She didn’t provide a deadlined timeline in her remarks other than “soon” or “this year.” “The other thing that has not yet come back, but should be coming back soon is character meet and greets. And for any of you with children or grandchildren … little kids love being around those beloved Disney characters,” McCarthy said. Also helping Disney control the crowds are the Magic Kingdom parades and the nighttime spectaculars at the parks, the CFO said. Disney has operated a scaled-back version of entertainment since reopening during the pandemic, but McCarthy promised changes will happen later this year.
Amazing — “Dashcam shows Florida trooper hit car headed for Skyway Bridge full of 10K runners” via Ryan Ballogg of the Bradenton Herald — A Florida Highway Patrol trooper is home and recovering after she used her vehicle to block a rogue driver that was speeding toward a pedestrian event taking place on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, the agency said in a news release. The driver, 52-year-old Kristen Kay Watts of Sarasota, bypassed an Interstate 275 closure and failed to stop for multiple law enforcement officers before the crash took place just after 8:45 a.m. Sunday. Watts was later arrested on charges of DUI, two counts of DUI with property damage and two counts of reckless driving involving injury and property damage.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Happy birthday to Kristy Campbell, Melissa Akeson of The Rubin Group, David Bennett, former state House candidate J.B. Bensmihen, my friend Adam Smith of Mercury Public Affairs, Vanessa Thompson, and Jamie Van Pelt.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Renzo Downey, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.
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