Good Thursday morning.
With the legislative budget process doing its annual dance toward resolution, lawmakers have a unique opportunity to save lives and tax dollars in a single positive move. Best of all for legislators, at a time when almost nothing can bridge the political divide, 89% of Florida voters support the idea, according to a recent survey.
The Mary Brogan Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program have been saving lives for over 20 years by providing early detection of these potentially fatal diseases. The five-year survival rate for breast cancers diagnosed early is 99%. However, during the pandemic, screenings have fallen by 87%.
The Mary Brogan Program has been incredibly effective at reaching women whose circumstances make them less likely to get screened, including low-income residents and minority communities. Still, the program can reach only 8% of eligible Floridians at its current funding level.
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network is pushing the Legislature to increase that funding to $3 million — a fairly small amount by legislative standards, but enough to meaningfully expand the program’s capacity to save lives.
An analysis of the Mary Brogan Program found that every dollar spent on breast and cervical cancer screenings and diagnostic tests results in twice that in cost savings. Lawmakers are now being reminded that every cancer among low-income residents that’s detected and treated early means one less patient who avoids costly later-stage treatments, which are often paid for by taxpayers.
These benefits are not lost on Florida voters. A recent survey found that 89% of them — including more than 4 out of 5 Republicans — support expanding funding for a program that provides free breast and cervical cancer screenings to low-income women.
The program’s patients love it. The voters love it. We’ll find out whether the Legislature shares the feeling in the next week or so.
Americans for Prosperity-Florida announced Thursday that longtime deputy director is leaving the Sunshine State to run its Mississippi chapter.
Starla Brown has been a part of the AFP-FL team for over eight years, serving as its operations manager and grassroots director before being promoted to the No. 2 spot at the libertarian-conservative advocacy group three years ago.
The promotion sets up a homecoming for Brown, who hails from the Magnolia State. She is set to begin her new job after Florida’s Legislative Session ends.
“In each of her roles, Starla has served our organization and the people of Florida with tireless dedication,” AFP-FL State Director Skylar Zander said. “I’m confident she’ll lead the Mississippi chapter of AFP toward tremendous success, ultimately empowering residents across the state.”
In a news release announcing Brown’s departure, AFP-FL said she “has demonstrated her commitment to advancing policies aimed at breaking down barriers to individual success.”
Zander lauded Brown for her dedication to advancing AFP-FL’s priorities, especially during the numerous Legislative Sessions on the team.
AFP-FL has not yet selected a replacement for Brown and is encouraging persons “interested in advocating for long-term solutions to our state’s and country’s most pressing issues” to apply for the position online.
Newly rebranded HCA Florida Healthcare shows up ‘every day’ — HCA Florida is launching a statewide advertising campaign to introduce its new branding to patients and communities statewide. The campaign appears across TV, digital, social, radio, print and unique “out of home” placements, and celebrates how HCA Florida colleagues show up for patients every day so they can live life to the fullest. HCA Florida is uniting more than 450 affiliated care sites — including hospitals, physician practices, and other facilities across the state — to create a connected and collaborative health care experience. HCA doctors and colleagues are here when and where you need them throughout Florida — from their family to yours.
For more info, visit the new website here.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@DKThomp: Reviewing the military and economic updates, my biggest concern right now is that (Vladimir) Putin has been so utterly destroyed in the economic/cultural/geopolitical arena that he feels his only means of face-saving redemption is decisive military victory.
—@RyanStyruk: New COVID-19 statistics via @CNN: Omicron peak: 807,849 cases/day Right now: 62,331 cases/day; Omicron peak: 160,113 hospitalizations Right now: 41,944 hospitalizations
—@OKnox: Holy ever-lovin’ …”Data for January was revised higher to show 509,000 jobs were added instead of 301,000 lost as initially reported” ??? That’s not a mild “miss.”
—@JoshuaKarp: Bizarre: Ron DeSantis just attacked France as too weak to fight Putin. Let’s be clear: French weapons are fighting Putin right now in Ukraine. Why does DeSantis take every chance to undermine our allies? Why is it so hard to support Ukraine?
—@NateMonroeTU: people who know DeSantis from his North Florida days understand this well, and it hasn’t changed despite a concerted PR effort to convince people otherwise: he is icy, dour, has zero charisma, makes no effort to form meaningful relationships, and is a wooden public speaker.
—@GovGoneWild: My take: @ > @ on Ukraine
—@LMower3: The Florida Senate is honoring Sen. @, who is term-limited. A fighter for prison and criminal justice reform, property insurance, and common sense, he’s one of the few Republicans in the Legislature to buck his party up here. An example of the cost of term limits.
—@MDixon55: Spencer Roach on the House floor going to bat for the rights of Alachua County voters one year after passing a bill that overturned Key West voter’s vote, it seems?
—@JakeFlaherty: Seeing as the Florida Legislature is in budget conferencing, do you think maybe there’s some sprinkle money available to fix the god-awful sound that the @ makes when the mics aren’t in use? I think everyone in the process can get behind this one!
Vision becomes reality! Congratulations @BillGalvano on the completion of this critical new state infrastructure. https://t.co/qZEWjOCazk
— Rob Bradley (@Rob_Bradley) March 2, 2022
—@BernieSanders: The 30 Major League Baseball owners are worth over $100 billion. The value of their teams increased by more than $41 billion since they bought them. Mr. Manfred: End the lockout. Negotiate in good faith. Don’t let the greed of baseball owners take away our national pastime.
—@ProfNarcoossee: My prediction is Starcruiser will be visiting Batuu in off-hours in the near future because these guests look SO ANNOYED they have to interact with us in regular clothes. Totally kills the LARPING vibe when you’re at the milk stand with a dude in LA RAMS SUPERBOWL CHAMPS gear
— DAYS UNTIL —
‘The Batman’ premieres — 1; Miami Film Festival begins — 1; the 2022 Players begins — 5; Sarasota County votes to renew the special 1-mill property tax for the school district — 5; House GOP retreat in Ponte Vedra Beach — 20; the third season of ‘Atlanta’ begins — 20; season two of ‘Bridgerton’ begins — 22; The Oscars — 24; ‘Macbeth’ with Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga begin performances on Broadway — 26; Florida Chamber’s 2nd Annual Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health + Sustainability begins — 27; Grammys rescheduled in Las Vegas — 31; ‘Better Call Saul’ final season begins — 46; Magic Johnson’s Apple TV+ docuseries ‘They Call Me Magic’ begins — 50; 2022 Florida Chamber Transportation, Growth & Infrastructure Solution Summit — 56; ‘The Godfather’ TV series ‘The Offer’ premieres — 56; 2nd half of ‘Ozark’ final season begins — 57; federal student loan payments will resume — 59; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 64; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 69; ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ starts on Disney+ — 83; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 85; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 91; California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota hold midterm Primaries — 96; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 128; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 141; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 159; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 183; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 218; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 254; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 257; ‘Avatar 2′ premieres — 289; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 3512; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ premieres — 386; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 512; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 596; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 876.
—TOP STORY —
“Marco Rubio is tweeting through the Russia-Ukraine war — for a reason” via Andrew Desiderio of POLITICO — As Russian troops invaded Ukraine last week, Rubio was live-tweeting what looked like detailed intelligence. The Florida Senator and outspoken national-security hawk is part of the “Gang of Eight”: members of Congress who get access to the most sensitive classified intelligence information. That elite status often prompts lawmakers in the group to clam up during moments of global conflict out of a desire to safeguard sources, methods, and U.S. personnel. Rubio — one of only a few lawmakers who personally tweet from their own accounts — has done precisely the opposite.
“Rubio says to ‘support’ Ukraine ‘as long as they are willing to fight’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Sen. Rubio addressed the war in Ukraine again Tuesday, just minutes after that country’s leader announced a productive conversation with the American President. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy tweeted about a back-and-forth Tuesday with Biden. Asked about what assistance the United States should provide, Rubio urged a continued relationship with a “real, legitimate Ukrainian state,” saying America should “support them” as long as the battle takes. That support can’t amount to an “armed engagement” between the U.S. and Russia, however, as “that would be World War III.” Instead, the U.S. should continue to “supply and equip” Ukraine, Rubio added.
“Ron DeSantis: France probably wouldn’t resist Russian invasion” via Gordon Byrd of WFLA — DeSantis took a swipe at another European country while talking about Ukraine’s resistance to the Russian invasion. Speaking at a news event in Tampa, DeSantis praised the Ukrainians’ fighting spirit and wondered whether other nations could mount the same resistance to the invasion ordered by Putin, and added, “Can you imagine if (Putin) went into France? Would they do anything to put up a fight? Probably not.” French volunteers, including soldiers and doctors, are heading to Ukraine, and France has pledged more than $100 Million in humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
“‘Reprehensible and indefensible’: Florida House approves resolution condemning Russia invasion of Ukraine” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — The House, led by Speaker Chris Sprowls, unanimously approved a resolution Wednesday morning condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and declaring support for those impacted. Rep. Ardian Zika sponsored the resolution (HR 1597). The measure holds that the Florida House “formally condemns the invasion of Ukraine by President Putin and the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and stands in solidarity with the Ukrainian people in their right to freedom, democracy, and the ability to defend themselves against baseless and tyrannical hostility.” Zika, an immigrant from Kosovo, spoke from personal experience about the threat Ukrainians face against Putin.
“Sarasota Commissioner wants Sarasota to end relationship with Russian sister city” via Athina Morris of WFLA — A City Commissioner is calling on Sarasota to break off its nearly 30-year relationship with its sister city in Russia amid a growing wave of solidarity with Ukraine. Commissioner Hagen Brody said he intends to seek the City Commission’s approval to terminate Sarasota’s relationship with Vladimir, Russia, its sister city since 1994. Vladimir lies on the Klyazma River, about 111 miles northeast of Moscow. It’s one of Russia’s oldest communities, with buildings surviving from the 12th century. It has a population of 346,922. “At some point, a relationship becomes so tortured that blindly continuing those relations is tantamount to condoning the conduct of the government that represents them. I feel we have passed that point,” Brody wrote.
“‘A frightening situation’: South Florida sends supplies, support to Ukrainians” via Julia Bagg of NBC Miami — More supplies were leaving South Florida by air and by sea Monday as support for the war-torn nation continued to grow. Another round of supplies was being boxed up and sent out from the Global Empowerment Mission in Doral. The organization, which responds to global disasters, is still seeking supplies to send. “Vital necessity kits, so anything that you might need, from socks, non-perishable items,” GEM’s Kimberley Bentley said. “Anything that you might need, like when you’ve been walking, and you leave your house with the shirt on your back.” Last week, GEM founder Michael Capponi traveled to Poland, which borders Ukraine to the west, to help distribute supplies on the ground.
“Ukrainian expatriates pray, and on Ash Wednesday Southwest Florida prays with them” via Harriet Howard Heithaus of the Naples Daily News — Peasant shirts threaded with regional embroidery. Hair ribbons in the sky-blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag. T-shirts announcing, “I stand with Ukraine.” The loyalties in the hearts of Ukrainian Americans were visible in their dress Saturday at the St. Nicholas Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Mission service in Golden Gate. Some people carried in full-size flags. One young woman arrived displaying a parade banner that exhorted “Victory for Ukraine.”
“USF students hold ‘protest for peace’ in solidarity with Ukraine” via Melissa Marino of WFLA — All across the country, people are rallying to show their support for Ukraine. On Wednesday, students gathered on the University of South Florida campus with blue and yellow flags and signs to protest for peace. Many of the students have family in Ukraine right now enduring the Russian attack. “We’re strong and we’re united, and we’re going to stand for our country, for our freedom, and for our rights to be an independent country,” said Daria Konovalova. Konovalova’s parents live right outside of Kyiv. She said she is consumed with worry. She has been watching the news nonstop to inform her family about what is happening.
“Where did the Russian vodka go? Publix removes it from shelves to support Ukraine” via Michelle Marchante of the Miami Herald — Looking for Russian vodka? You won’t find it at Publix. The Florida-based supermarket chain has removed Russian-made vodka from its liquor store shelves in support of Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion. Publix spokeswoman Maria Brous confirmed the decision Wednesday, saying the vodka was no longer on its liquor store shelves. However, not every vodka with a Russian name is made in Russia. For example, Stolichnaya (Stoli), Romanov and Smirnoff are not Russian-made vodkas and will continue to be sold.
— DATELINE TALLY —
“DeSantis says State of the Union illustrated Joe Biden’s ‘problems’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis reserved comment during Biden’s debut State of the Union address, except for tweeting a graphic with an albino alligator and a three-word message: “Let us alone.” But Wednesday, the Governor turned his attention to the Biden oration. Noting he had trouble staying awake at times, DeSantis nonetheless offered a fairly comprehensive and mostly negative review. “The really striking thing is we’ve got a lot of problems in this country,” DeSantis said. The Governor went through a familiar laundry list of critiques, including one about gas prices, in which he described “people chafing at the pump” amid increased costs. DeSantis described Biden’s “misguided” petroleum policies as “bad for consumers” and “also bad for national security.”
DeSantis bemoans inaction on Canadian drug imports — The Governor bashed Biden Wednesday for blocking Florida’s plan to import prescription drugs from Canada. As reported by Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida, the state applied to implement the plan in November 2020 and has so far shelled out $12 million on a contract for warehouses and processing operations. “We’ve gone through this Byzantine process, and we’ve basically sat, and the federal government has done nothing,” DeSantis said. “If they just signed on the dotted line, we have the warehouse ready, and we can start bringing it in.” The Governor’s comments came a day after Biden said in his State of the Union address that he wanted to lower the cost of prescription drugs.
“Despite attempts to block it, Senate prepares abortion ban for final vote this week” via James Call of USA Today Network — Florida Senate Democrats couldn’t stop a proposed ban on abortions in Florida after 15 weeks, but they could make the Republican majority who want one to listen to hours of arguments on why they think it’s a bad idea. On Wednesday, as the Senate prepared the bill (HB 5) for its final legislative vote, Democrats submitted 13 amendments and then spent 4 hours and 25 minutes to explain each one in an exchange that sometimes got personal and testy. All failed. Two hours into debate on those amendments, Senate bill sponsor Kelli Stargel took exception to Democrats’ repeated references to “a fetus.” Stargel told Democrats that, after 15 weeks, the discussion was about “a baby.”
“Annette Taddeo recounts having to end her wanted pregnancy during abortion bill debate” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — The debate in the Florida Senate over an abortion bill included Sen. Taddeo describing her own “tough situation” that required a procedure to save her life: an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg implants itself outside the uterus. Left untreated, it can cause a life-threatening rupture. “It’s a fetus growing, but it’s not ever going to be a baby that’s going to be born,” Taddeo said, as Sen. Lori Berman held her hand, and she seemed to hesitate to find the words. “I did have to go through the excruciating pain of having to go to the hospital, having to get a procedure, having to get all the things in order,” Taddeo said. During debate, Sen. Tina Polsky noted that she too had suffered the same experience.
“Democrats back House tax cut plan, but wary of Senate talks” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — The House on Wednesday passed HB 7071, a grab-bag of tax cut provisions, including time-limited sales tax exemptions for sports events, back-to-school items, hand tools, diapers and other items. That sets the stage for talks with the Senate on the Legislature’s final tax measure. Although tax cut plans from the GOP-controlled House usually feature large corporate tax cuts that typically draw opposition from some Democrats, this year’s version also included enough measures aimed at consumers to win over all Democrats as the bill passed unanimously. The bill, for example, has a one-year moratorium on sales taxes on diapers.
“House passes data privacy bill for second year amid lobbying ‘onslaught’” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — For the second year in a row, the House voted to strengthen consumer data privacy in Florida despite the business community’s fears the bill could be financially crippling. The proposal (HB 9) passed via a 103-8 vote Wednesday. It would give consumers the right to determine what information is collected, delete or correct the data, and opt out of selling or sharing that personal information. But the House version, filed by Rep. Fiona McFarland, has drawn resistance from business interests who fear complying with the measure will significantly raise costs on companies, which will trickle down to consumers.
AIF seeks major changes to data privacy bill as it heads to Senate — The House on Wednesday passed a bill (HB 9) that would give consumers more control over how their personal data is shared and sold online. Business groups such as the Associated Industries of Florida have lobbied against the bill, arguing compliance costs would reach the billions. Following the House vote, AIF President and CEO Brewster Bevis said the organization supports “regulatory safeguards” but that the bill, as written, “targets legitimate businesses who responsibly use consumer data to the benefit of those consumers.” He added, “This would put a significant financial burden on businesses who are already grappling with the ongoing challenges of COVID-19, the implementation of an increase in minimum wage, a broken supply chain, hyperinflation, rising gas prices, and a staffing shortage crisis.”
“VISIT FLORIDA to be extended five years — not eight” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s public-private tourism marketing arm, will get a five-year lease on life after the House on Wednesday passed a bill to extend its authorization in law to Oct. 1, 2028. It’s currently slated to expire on Oct. 1, 2023. The Senate, which had preferred an extension until 2031, will accept that version of the bill when it returns to that chamber, Sen. Ed Hooper said late Wednesday. “Yes, when it comes over, we will take the five years and pass it out,” Hooper said. “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.”
“House votes to establish state officer on sea level rise, shuns toxic politics” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — A year after lawmakers passed legislation to mitigate rising sea levels, the House has voted to formalize the state’s lead agency and top official on sea-level rise. The House voted 114-1 Wednesday to pass a bill (HB 7053) filed by Coral Gables Republican Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera and backed by House Speaker Sprowls. The measure would codify a Statewide Office of Resiliency within the Governor’s Office and place the Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) as the head of the office. During his first week in office in 2019, DeSantis signed an executive order on the environment that established the Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection within the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
“Leon superintendent asks lawmakers to reconsider slashing $200M from districts that defied mask order” via Ana Goñi-Lessan of the Tallahassee Democrat — On Tuesday evenings, Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna is usually the one listening to public comment during school board meetings. But this week at the Florida Capitol, he was on the other side of the dais. At a PreK-12 state budget conference meeting, Hanna told lawmakers to reconsider the House’s “Putting Parents First Adjustment,” which would pull $200 million from a dozen counties where school boards defied DeSantis by requiring students and staff to wear masks. “This does nothing but add to the divisiveness that we face, not only in our country but in the state of Florida,” Hanna said.
— BUDGET NOTES —
“Florida hospitals serving poor patients may lose millions in state budget” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — Some of the state hospitals that serve the poorest and sickest patients are likely to see millions in cuts, the Florida senator in charge of crafting the state’s health care budget said Wednesday. Hospitals that take on the largest number of Medicaid patients have received hundreds of millions in extra taxpayer funding for years. For instance, in 2021, the state distributed $309 million to support 28 of those facilities as part of what hospital administrators call the “critical care fund.” Some of the biggest beneficiaries have included Jackson Memorial Hospital, two Broward Health facilities, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg and Tampa General.
“Medicaid rates aren’t the only thing separating chambers on hospital issues” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — The House and Senate have differences when it comes to which hospitals should get additional funding outside of Medicaid payments. These are not the only differences between the House and Senate spending plans for the 2022-23 state fiscal year, but they are some of the biggest battles on hospitals outside of Medicaid reimbursement. The Senate wants to spend $20 million in recurring general revenue on the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute for the next 30 years. The money is for the construction and development of Moffitt’s Pasco County life sciences park, a top priority for Senate President Wilton Simpson. However, there is no funding in the House’s proposed budget.
“Budget conference: Lawmakers patch funds for Chris Sprowls-backed workforce grants” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Lawmakers have agreed to continue funding the Open Door Grant Program, a piece of House Speaker Sprowls’ workforce package. The Legislature created the grant program as part of a broader workforce package last year with the intent to develop and sustain a demand-driven supply of credentialed workers for high-demand occupations. Career and technical education programs at career centers and schools in the Florida College System may apply for the funds to cover tuition, fees, examination, books, and materials. Students in eligible programs who don’t receive state or federal financial aid can apply for a grant. On Wednesday, Senate education budget negotiators matched the House plan on that and other workforce programs.
“Budget conference: House, Senate lock-in police scholarship funding” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The House and Senate agreed Wednesday to provide $6 million toward scholarships designed to attract candidates into Florida’s law enforcement community. The funding will be split into two scholarships, $1 million to attract out-of-state cops and $5 million to cover the training expenses of select police cadets. DeSantis floated the law enforcement recruitment package in September in rebuke of progressive calls to “defund the police.” “We think that that’s a way to draw good talent from within our own state.” DeSantis explained.
“Budget conference: House, Senate agree on $12.8M for SLERS” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The first budget offer from Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment and General Government match the House with nearly $12.8 million in payments for the Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System. According to the offer, released Wednesday morning, the chambers will set aside $6.64 million for the relocation and reconstruction of radio towers, $2.2 million for First Net subscriptions and $1.5 million for staffing and independent verification and validation services, and $1 million for tower repair and replacement. The chambers have also agreed on a handful of smaller items related to SLERS. Notably, the $2.2 million chunk for First Net subscriptions would not go to L3Harris, the company in charge of the rebuild, but instead to AT&T.
“Budget conference: Jacksonville Fire and Rescue ‘wellness center’ finds funding” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Senate and House budget negotiators agreed on an appropriation for the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department’s Health and Wellness Center. Sen. Aaron Bean and Rep. Wyman Duggan sought $2.5 million in their respective funding requests. In the end, $1.25 million was the number agreed to by the House State Administration and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government. A local match was contemplated in the funding request of $2.5 million. According to Bean’s funding request, the money will facilitate consolidation and expansion of the health and wellness services needed by these 1,600 first responders.
“Budget conference: House, Senate inch closer on FDACS aircraft replacement” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The House and Senate remain in fiscal negations over a plan to replenish the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ (FDACS) aircraft fleet. The Senate is seeking $26.5 million to replace the department’s four aging helicopters and an airplane used to fight wildfires. The House on Wednesday countered with $16.1 million, a sizable difference of roughly $10 million. The two chambers were previously more than $21.4 million apart. The Agriculture Department has long sought to replace the Vietnam-era fleet, but has struggled to secure funding for it. In years past, the Legislature has instead funded upgrades. Some of the planes date back to the 1960s and 1970s.
“Budget conference: UMiami’s Firefighter Cancer Initiative gets $2 million” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Sylvester Cancer Center’s fight against firefighter cancer is likely to get a $2 million boost from the state. Sylvester’s Firefighter Cancer Initiative was launched in 2015 to address the increased incidence of cancer among those who rush into burning buildings. Research from the CDC shows firefighters are 9% more likely to get cancer than the general population and 14% more likely to die from it. Both the Senate and the House appear to agree it’s worth the cost of trying to put out that malignant conflagration. Sen. Vance Aloupis Jr.’s request for $2 million in nonrecurring funds for the Sylvester Cancer Center will be funded at 100% next year.
“Budget conference: House negates Tampa Bay education program on erased Black cemeteries” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — The House has continued to hold out on an appropriation that would kick-start an education program on local abandoned African American cemeteries in Tampa Bay. In the House’s latest PreK-12 Education budget offer to the Senate, House negotiators excluded the item, despite its presence in the original Senate proposal. Sen. Janet Cruz and Rep. Fentrice Driskell, who championed legislation to address abandoned African American cemeteries, filed the appropriation requests (SF 1469, HB 1134). The pair initially requested $1.2 million for the program, which the Senate halved for $750,000 in its initial budget. The appropriation would establish an education program in Tampa Bay on African American cemeteries.
“There’s money for ‘Casey DeSantis’ cancer research in latest budget offer’ via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — A bid by Casey DeSantis and Gov. DeSantis to boost spending on cancer research is on the verge of getting approved by House and Senate budget negotiators. But there’s a slight catch. Sen. Bean, the head health care budget writer in the Senate, told his House counterparts on Wednesday that the decision to bump funding on research to $100 million, a $37 million increase over this year, is contingent on naming the overall fund after Casey DeSantis. Casey DeSantis was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, and she wrapped up chemotherapy in January.
“Budget conference: Moffitt Cancer Center Partnership School faces $7M funding gap” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — A $7 million state appropriation for the Moffitt Cancer Center Campus in Pasco County is in limbo, with the latest House PreK-12 budget offer excluding the item despite support from the Senate in its original budget. Funding requests (SF 1185, HB 2591) filed by Hooper and Zika seek $7,115,181 from the state for “building a high-tech/innovative public education training facility” on the Moffitt Cancer Center Campus in Pasco County. The state funding would account for the entirety of the project so far.
“Budget conference: House insists on $2.5M for Straz Center and Patel Conservatory expansions” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — The House is insisting on providing $2.5 million to Tampa Bay’s Straz Center and Patel Conservatory, presented in its latest PreK-12 budget offer, despite exclusion from the Senate’s original budget. The appropriation would be used for the conservatory’s master plan expansion, detailed in funding requests (SF 2161, HB 2463) filed by Sen. Danny Burgess and Rep. Jackie Toledo. The requests initially ask for $5 million, an amount halved by the Senate proposal. The funding would be used to support the nonprofit’s master plan expansion that would create new indoor and outdoor spaces for growing programs and attendance, as well as increased economic impact.
“Budget conference: Shark research funds shake out” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — On Wednesday night, the House Infrastructure & Tourism Appropriations and Senate Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development Appropriations committees found accord on money going to shark research in Northeast Florida. The House agreed with the most recent Senate offer for $1 million for the OCEARCH Mayport Research and Operations Center project, somewhat short of the $7 million that sponsor Burgess requested. The multipurpose facility for OCEARCH is to include a new quick-response vessel for marine research and animal rescue. Private and municipal sources are expected to backfill the shortfall in the state request.
—TALLY 2 —
“House passes anti-human trafficking legislation, sending measure to Senate” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The House has passed the “Human Trafficking Reduction Act,” an effort to crack down on prostitution and human trafficking in Florida. The legislation bans hourly rates at hotels, motels and vacation rentals and raises the first-time penalty for those paying for sex from a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony. Lawmakers intend the changes to decrease the market for human trafficking by lessening the number of people looking to purchase that type of sex work. Rep. Jackie Toledo and the House amended her proposal (HB 1439) onto a separate bill (SB 772) from Sen. Keith Perry that senators passed earlier this month. On Wednesday, the House voted 114-1 to pass the Senate bill, which must return to the Senate next.
“House passes ‘free kill’ bill that revamps state’s wrongful death laws” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — In a show of bipartisan support, the House passed a bill that would allow, for the first time in 30 years, the parents of single, childless adult children to recover noneconomic damages in medical malpractice claims. Sponsored by Rep. Spencer Roach, HB 6011 passed by a 102-13 vote and was sent to the Senate for consideration. The legislation would attempt to change a complex and complicated portion of Florida law regarding wrongful death that Roach alleges sets up a “Kevorkian-like” incentive for physicians who have committed malpractice to allow a patient to die during surgery rather than to save them.
“House passes foreign contribution ban, other ballot initiative changes” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The House has voted to limit donations around ballot initiatives, including banning foreign contributions. Federal law already prohibits donations from foreigners and foreign entities to elections. However, the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) issued a decision in November that opened the door to foreign donations for state ballot initiatives. The bill (HB 921), passed 77-39 on Wednesday, would ban contributions from foreign governments, foreign political parties, foreign businesses, and foreign citizens, as well as people who aren’t U.S. citizens and not granted permanent residence. That doesn’t include dual citizens. That provision received the support of Democrats. But many in the minority party opposed the restrictions on out-of-state entities within the bill.
“House passes residential picketing bill despite warnings of racial implications” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The House passed a bill Wednesday that would prohibit residential protests, despite Democratic lawmakers warning the bill will disproportionately impact minority communities. The bill (HB 1571) seeks to ban residential protests that “harass” or “disturb” a person within their home. It also aims to amplify penalties against violators. Under the bill, a violation is a second-degree misdemeanor and carries penalties including 60 days in jail, a $500 fine and six months’ probation. Police, though, must first warn an individual of a potential violation. The House passed the bill on a 76-41 vote. Rep. Randy Maggard is the bill sponsor.
“House votes to address ‘invasion’ of pop-up events” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The House passed a bill Wednesday that would crack down on the rise of rowdy pop-up events in Florida. The proposal (HB 1435) would empower local sheriffs and leaders to respond more effectively to large, unpermitted gatherings. Rep. Tom Leek is the bill sponsor. The House passed the bill on a 90-26 vote without debate. “We need modern laws to deal with a modern problem and how pop-up events and these invasions are coming in and shutting down our towns,” Leek said. Under the bill, a Sheriff may designate a “special event zone” if a gathering is promoted on social media, attended by more than 50 individuals and disrupting street traffic.
House OKs bill extending juvenile lockup limit — The House passed a bill (HB 7029) that would allow judges to keep juveniles in jail longer while they await trial. Stephany Matat of POLITICO Florida reported that the measure would require judges to sign off every 21 days for youths who have not yet been convicted of crimes to remain in custody. Currently, juveniles may be held for up to 21 days pre-trial, and judges can sign off a nine-day extension. The bill passed along party lines, with Democrats blasting the bill and characterizing it as opening the door to “jailing children in perpetuity.” The bill now heads to the Senate.
“Bill creating harassment-free zone around police dies for second consecutive year” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — For the second consecutive year, a bill to create a harassment-free zone around law enforcement officers has died. The bill (HB 11) aimed to target those who approach police with the intent to disrupt an officer’s duties after being warned to remain at a distance. A person would risk being arrested if he or she approached an officer to harass or provoke a physical response. Rep. Alex Rizo filed the measure on July 19. Senate President Pro Tempore Aaron Bean, carried the bill’s Senate companion (SB 1872). Despite Bean’s pull in the Senate and the fact that HB 11 was the first bill filed in the 2022 Legislative Session, neither version received a single committee hearing in either chamber.
“Legislature passes beach smoking bill, but critics say cigar carveout makes future hazy” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Will Florida communities finally get to snuff out beach smoking? The Florida Legislature on Wednesday passed a bill (HB 105) to empower cities and counties to regulate cigarettes in parks, including beaches. But a dust-up over cigars ignited controversy on the Senate floor and nearly snuffed the bill out. Sen. Joe Gruters presented the legislation and has run into resistance through the years from colleagues who represent communities with identities closely associated with cigars. Gruters agreed to an amendment that said beaches could restrict cigarettes, which leave behind plastic cigarette filters, as well as plastic-tipped cigars, which do the same. But it made clear governments could not restrict tobacco products that do not leave behind any nonbiodegradable remnants.
— MORE TALLY —
“Church and state come together as faithful line up for Ash Wednesday at Florida Capitol” via the Tallahassee Democrat — During the yearly legislative session, church and state briefly mix in the Florida Capitol as people stop in the rotunda to receive ashes on their foreheads for Ash Wednesday. Lawmakers, lobbyists and visitors paused to receive ashes from clergy members, including the Rev. Abi Moon, Interim Rector for St. John’s Episcopal Church in Tallahassee.
“Bill permitting development on manatees’ food source stalls in Legislature” via Fresh Take Florida — Environmental advocates are encouraged that a bill to open Florida’s seagrass beds to development, which could be devastating for the dwindling manatee population, has only a slim chance of passing the Legislature this Session. “We would be destroying what little seagrass we have left in the state,” said David Cullen, a lobbyist for Sierra Club Florida. The original version of a bill by Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez would have permitted development on the beds, while also allowing seagrass mitigation banks. Environmentalists oppose development because they argue it will further deplete the manatees’ food source, while some experts believe that mitigation of seagrass works only under limited conditions. Lawmakers recently removed both the development and mitigation provisions from the proposal.
“Legislature finalizes increased penalties for evidence tampering” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The decision was made to pass the House version of the legislation, approved last week by a 111-1 vote. That was substituted for SB 796, the identical Sen. Jennifer Bradley bill. After the substitution, the Senate passed the House bill by a 39-0 vote. HB 287, introduced by Rep. Sam Garrison, would make tampering with or fabricating evidence a second-degree felony if done in a criminal trial, proceeding, or investigation relating to capital felonies. If the bill is signed into law, it will take effect on Oct. 1. This legislation could bring a significant change to criminal investigations in capital felony cases.
‘Miya’s Law’ unanimously passes Senate — The Senate voted unanimously in favor of a bill to improve tenant safety in apartment buildings by requiring background screenings for employees. The bill (SB 898) would require background checks to include a national screening of criminal history records and sexual predator and sexual offender registries. It would also allow a landlord to disqualify individuals with criminal records from employment. The bill is named “Miya’s Law” after Miya Marcano, who was killed last year. Investigators suspect a maintenance worker committed the murder. “I am looking forward to seeing a similar outcome on the bill from my colleagues in the House. The passage of this bill would represent a major win for the safety of all tenants. We should all feel safe and secure in our homes,” said Sen. Linda Stewart, the bill’s sponsor.
And with a unanimous @FLSenate vote, @DuranForFlorida & Sen Ileana Garcia epilepsy in schools bill now goes to the Governor! #FlaPol pic.twitter.com/uIrVYY0Cy3
— Steve Schale 🇺🇸🇺🇦 (@steveschale) March 2, 2022
“Mandatory lessons on Communism’s tragedies earn unanimous Senate approval” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — A bill that proposes public school students learn about the suffering inflicted by communism received unanimous approval from the Senate Wednesday. The legislation (CS/HB 395) will next head to the desk of DeSantis to await his signature. Sen. Manny Diaz introduced the Senate version (SB 268) but switched to Wednesday’s “identical” House version. If the Governor approves, he and succeeding Governors will declare Nov. 7 “Victims of Communism Day.” That is the anniversary of when Vladimir Lenin stormed the Russian capital to overthrow the government, thus igniting a worldwide movement. Diaz said it would “honor the more than 100 million victims of communist regimes across the world.”
“Bill undoing last year’s public notices deal passes House” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — The House passed a bill Wednesday that would roll back last year’s deal on legal notices, sending the matter to the Senate. HB 7049, sponsored by Rep. Randy Fine, passed the House 78-39. The legislation would give governmental agencies the option to publish legal notices on a publicly accessible website of a county the notice takes place in instead of in a print newspaper. The bill alters legislation passed last year. Last year’s bill removed a long-standing rule requiring notices to exclusively appear in subscription-rich newspapers and allowed notices to be published online in addition to a local newspaper. The 2021 bill sought to remove the newspaper requirement altogether.
“Bill letting voters change Alachua County Commission format passes House” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — Legislation allowing voters to decide whether to amend Alachua County’s charter to change who their county commissioners represent passed the House floor Wednesday. HB 1493, sponsored by Rep. Chuck Clemons, passed 80-35 largely along party lines. The bill places a ballot initiative in front of Alachua County voters in 2022 to change the county’s five commissioners from at-large seats to single-member districts. Instead of representing the whole district, each Commissioner would only represent voters within the boundaries of their district. If the bill passes the Senate and voters back the change, Republicans could have a shot at getting representation on the Commission, which hasn’t happened in decades.
— EVEN MORE TALLY —
“Why Disney won’t say much about Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill” via Kim Masters of The Hollywood Reporter — On Feb. 25, the day that the Florida House of Representatives passed the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, former Disney chair and CEO Bob Iger tweeted his support of Biden’s statement labeling it a “hateful bill.” CEO Bob Chapek is busy putting his own stamp on Disney company culture, and clearly, he will be less willing to wade into advocacy than Iger. For example, a knowledgeable source says Chapek balked at a proposal to weigh in on voting rights. Chapek appears to want to handle specific controversial topics through internal dialogue.
“House GOP leadership turns to familiar think tank to justify new election fraud force” via Jeffrey Schweers of USA Today Network — When the future Speaker of the House needed to justify a new statewide election-crimes squad, he turned to the work of a Washington based conservative think tank. A list of voter fraud cases in Florida used by Rep. Daniel Perez to argue his case to spend $3.7 million on the new squad came from the Heritage Foundation, which promotes stricter voting regulations, among other conservative priorities. The same data was used by former President Donald Trump’s “Advisory Commission on Election Integrity” to back up claims of widespread voter fraud and push for restrictions on voting access.
“South Florida prosecutors push Legislature for attorney pay. Call it ‘public safety’ issue” via Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — South Florida prosecutors in Miami tried applying some last-minute pressure on state lawmakers to increase the pay of staff attorneys, saying Wednesday that they were woefully underpaid, leaving in droves and that shortages and turnover were “endangering the public safety.” In the past year, the Monroe County State Attorney’s Office has lost nine of its 15 assistant state attorneys, forcing remaining staff to double caseloads. Palm Beach County has lost about 80% of its applicants. And in Miami-Dade County, the largest office in South Florida, 80 employees have resigned. The Miami-Dade Public Defender’s Office, where lawyers tend to represent the neediest of clients, has lost 62 attorneys in the past year.
“As nursing home staffing bill advances through Legislature, AARP Florida considers veto campaign” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — A compromise between the nursing home industry and the state’s trial attorneys over nursing home legislation is inching closer to passage after a Senate panel on Tuesday gave the green light to SB 804. But a statewide advocacy group is gearing up to have DeSantis veto the measure. Before passing the bill by a 12-4 vote, the Senate Rules Committee added amendments offered by bill sponsor Sen. Ben Albritton that brought the bill closer in line to its House companion (HB 1239). As amended, SB 804 now precludes nursing homes that don’t meet minimum staffing hours from accepting new residents.
“‘Rape loophole’: Bill raising penalty for sexual assault against intoxicated victims dying in Legislature” via Fresh Take Florida — A bill with bipartisan support aimed at protecting college students by increasing penalties against those who sexually assault intoxicated victims is dying as Florida’s Legislative Session begins to wind down. The measure would have raised the penalty for raping a woman who had become drunk at a bar while celebrating with friends, for example, to the same level as the punishment for someone who secretly slipped a drug into a victim’s drink and then attacked her: a first-degree felony with up to a 30-year prison sentence. Currently, assaulting someone who is intoxicated of their own accord is considered a lesser offense, a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Supporters of changing the bill say the fact that the two crimes are treated differently is a “rape loophole” in Florida law.
“Three Surfside-inspired bills die after scant committee engagement” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — In the aftermath of the Champlain Towers South condo collapse in Surfside last summer that left 98 dead, Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez set her sights on sponsoring 2022 legislation that would safeguard residents from ever enduring another similar tragedy. Now 51 days into Session, when most committees can’t meet without special approval from Senate President Simpson, Rodriguez likely will have to wait until 2023 to see through three Surfside-inspired bills she backed this year. Only one of the bills reached a committee hearing in the Senate: SB 394, which would have changed the process through which people can become condo association board directors.
“Eleven Democrat gun control bills die without a committee hearing” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — Eleven pieces of gun control-related legislation backed by Democratic lawmakers have not been taken up by a single committee this Legislative Session. With committee meetings concluded except for special meetings permitted by chamber leadership, the bills are officially dead in the water. This Session, all of the bills looking to tighten existing restrictions or ban certain products and practices were filed by Democrats. They needed approval from Republican committee chairs and leadership who have signaled support for relaxing gun control regulation, not strengthening it. Sen. Gary Farmer Jr., who has backed gun control legislation since he joined the Senate six years ago, was a sponsor on four of the 11 bills. Sen. Tina Polsky also backed four bills.
“Legislature again ignores proposal to delete dead law banning same-sex marriage” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — The Legislature has again refused to consider measures that would erase from state statutes an unusable law barring recognition of marriage between people of the same sex. This Session, Sen. Tina Polksy and Rep. Michele Rayner carried bills this year (SB 168; HB 6015) calling for such action, with co-sponsorship support from Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book and Rep. Anna Eskamani. Democratic lawmakers have sought for years to overturn the law, which has existed a defunct totem of discrimination since 2015, when the Florida Supreme Court, and then the U.S. Supreme Court, legalized same-sex marriage.
“Legislation permanently allowing medical marijuana telehealth consultation goes up in smoke” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Twin bills making permanent pandemic-era rules that made it easier for medical marijuana patients to renew their use registry cards have gone to pot, to put it bluntly. Joint legislation (SB 164 and HB 333) by Sen. Jeff Brandes and Rep. Jayer Williamson, both Republicans, aimed to change current statutes governing Florida’s medical marijuana program. Under the proposed change, patients would still have to receive an in-person consultation with a physician before receiving their medical marijuana certification. From then on, keeping it would be anything but high maintenance.
“Florida Dental Association has Session worth smiling about” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — The Florida Dental Association is having a good Session. Lawmakers have agreed to spend $1.773 million for the dental loan repayment program and an initiative called Florida’s Donated Dental Services, which is $1 million more than what the organization originally asked for. The decision to fund the loan repayment program comes on the heels of the apparent agreement to keep Medicaid dental services in a separately procured Medicaid managed care program. The association initially requested $773,000 for the loan repayment program that aims to bring dentists to medically underserved and designated rural areas.
— The Senate convenes for a floor Session, 10 a.m., Senate Chamber.
— The House convenes for a floor Session, 10 a.m., House Chamber.
— The Senate Special Order Calendar Group meets 15 minutes after the floor Session, Room 401 of the Senate Office Building.
Assignment editors — Abortion advocates and community members, including speakers from Planned Parenthood, the League of Women Voters, and the National Organization for Women will hold a candlelight vigil to mark and reflect upon the passage of H.B. 5, a 15-week abortion ban, 7 p.m., in front of the Old Capitol Building. RSVP with Damien Filer, [email protected], (850) 212-1858.
—GOV CLUB MENU —
Cauliflower and herbed goat cheese soup with Brussels sprouts; garden salad with dressings; marinated artichokes and hearts of palm salad; corn and black bean salad; Caprese wraps; beef tips with green peppercorn sauce; baked spaghetti squash casserole; broccoli; blend of wild rice; bread pudding with bourbon sauce for dessert.
— STATEWIDE —
“DeSantis announces $20M funding for cybersecurity education in Florida” via Sam Sachs of WFLA — DeSantis spoke at USF’s Sam and Martha Gibbons Alumni Center, discussing cybersecurity. The event began with signage for a “Workforce Education Cybersecurity.” The Governor announced a $20 million program to create cybersecurity opportunities through the Florida Center for Cybersecurity at the University of South Florida. “One of the things we’ve tried to do since I became Governor was increase Florida’s competitiveness in terms of workforce education,” DeSantis said. The Governor said there were a lot of opportunities for students in Florida, particularly with cybersecurity, and core technical programs. DeSantis said the state has worked on getting more cyber-IT computer science educational opportunities in K through 12 schools.
“Urban search and rescue task forces honored for Surfside condo collapse response” via NBC Miami — Members of Florida’s Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 1 and 2 were recognized Tuesday for their dedication and bravery while responding to last year’s condominium collapse in Surfside. Each member received a challenge coin at a ceremony at the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Training Facility in Doral to commemorate the work they did following the June 24 collapse of the 12-story Champlain Towers South condo. “I know that I saw the work of God when hundreds of urban search and rescue teams showed up, working on this mound of rubble, fighting to ensure there were any signs of life,” State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis said. Since the collapse, which killed 98 people, task force members like Frank Garcia said they still struggle with what they saw.
“Judge in ‘ghost’ candidate case to decide whether to release bank records” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — The judge overseeing the criminal case against former state lawmaker Frank Artiles said Wednesday she plans to privately review bank records from one of the dark money nonprofits at the center of Florida’s “ghost” candidate scandal before deciding if they should be made public. The records would identify donors to Let’s Preserve the American Dream, which provided funding used for ads promoting Artiles’ friend, Alex Rodriguez, and two other candidates who ran as independents for highly contested Florida Senate seats but did no campaigning of their own.
“First students outside Florida to save thousands with in-state tuition under new grandparents law” via Fresh Take Florida — For the first time, out-of-state applicants to universities across Florida are finding out whether they will be among 350 students who will save tens of thousands of dollars with in-state tuition under a new law rewarding them as grandchildren of residents here. The tuition discounts are the result of a law DeSantis signed last summer. Waiving out-of-state tuition at some universities for grandchildren could save families tens of thousands of dollars over four years. At the University of Florida, the difference between out-of-state and in-state tuition is $22,278 each year.
“Florida approves 24-hour-a-day alligator hunting” via David Fleshler of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A 24-hour-a-day alligator hunt won preliminary approval from the Florida wildlife commission Wednesday, in the latest expansion of hunting on an animal that used to be on the endangered species list. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted to extend the hours during hunting season on public lands from 17 to 24 hours. Although airboat tour operators and meat processors had previously expressed concerns about the proposal, no one spoke against it at Wednesday’s meeting. Several hunters said they supported it, saying they welcomed the flexibility to hunt during the day that the additional hours would give them.
“Florida man believed to be violent fugitive from Costa Rica resigns City Council seat after shoplifting accusation” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — Victor Barbosa announced his resignation in a cryptic letter posted the day after he was accused of shoplifting from, and trespassed in, a local Walmart. He will also withdraw from his re-election bid. “I, Victor Barbosa fear for my life. I repeat I fear for my life. All I wanted to do was help small businesses, fight corruption, and be the voice of the people of the community. I now understand why Council Member Howell resigned,” Barbosa wrote. Barbosa did not elaborate on why he feared for his life and declined an opportunity to comment Wednesday. He did, however, deny he shoplifted to the Daytona Beach News-Journal.
“Kat Cammack wants investigation of Val Demings mail sent far outside CD 10” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Cammack said Congress should take a closer look where U.S. Rep. Demings sends her official mail. Cammack, who serves as the ranking Republican on the House Communications Standards Commission, sent a letter seeking an investigation. Cammack notes that violates House rules. The complaint from Americans For Public Trust included a piece of mail that went to an address in Stuart, far south of Demings’ Orlando area constituency. That the mail went out after Demings filed to challenge Rubio, marking her first run for statewide office, makes any publicity outside her House constituency all the more suspicious, the complaint suggests.
“Aramis Ayala files for Attorney General race, ends stalled congressional campaign” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Ayala has filed to run for Attorney General, the first big-name Democrat to enter that race. In doing so, Ayala is bailing on a congressional campaign that has stalled for her in Florida’s 10th Congressional District. Her once high-profile congressional bid had slipped into also-ran status, when three other Democrats grabbed more spotlight, money and momentum for that open seat in Orange County. Before she began her congressional run last spring, Ayala explored a possible run for the U.S. Senate. Now the once-controversial State Attorney wants to take on Ashley Moody. There is another Democrat running, Fort Lauderdale lawyer Jim Lewis, but his campaign hasn’t shown much activity since he filed in October.
“EMILY’s List endorses Michele Rayner for CD 13” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — EMILY’s List, the largest national resource for women in politics, is backing state Rep. Rayner in her campaign for Florida’s 13th Congressional District. The organization works to elect Democratic women who support abortion rights, offering support with more than 5 million members. EMILY’s List applauded Rayner for her service as a public defender and her work in her own law firm, where she advocates for civil rights. The group also noted Rayner’s vocal opposition to Florida’s controversial parental rights legislation governing schools, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by opponents.
Olysha Magruder files for HD 22 — Gainesville Democrat Magruder filed to run for the new House District 22 on Tuesday. Her campaign was launched with a one-minute video focused on her upbringing and personal experiences. It also touches on Magruder’s 2018 run for Senate District 8, when her campaign was boosted by a GOP-backed dark money scheme similar to the efforts undertaken in the 2020 election that led to the arrest of former Sen. Artiles. “I have suffered the consequences of corruption,” she said while showing a headline that reads “GOP tied to ‘dark money’ in Senate D-8 race.” Magruder’s campaign said it is “focused on stopping Republicans’ attacks on democracy, on improving the public school system, and getting rid of political corruption.”
To watch the video, click on the image below:
“Apopka Commissioner Doug Bankson files to run in new HD 39” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Bankson has filed to run in the new House District 39, making him the first Republican in the race. Bankson, who has spent six years on the Apopka City Council including a term as Vice Mayor, is the founder and senior pastor of Victory Church World Outreach Center. He filed Thursday for a district that would be Apopka-centered, as based on the redistricting map approved by the House. The new HD 39 also includes other parts of northwestern Orange County and western Seminole County, with parts of the cities of Winter Garden, Altamonte Springs and Longwood, plus the agricultural-rich Zellwood area and the parks and nature preserves clustered around Wekiva Springs.
“Tiffany Esposito launches campaign in open HD 77” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A prominent Lee County Chamber leader will run for state House in a newly drawn open district. Esposito, president and CEO of SWFL Inc., will run in proposed House District 77. The San Carlos Park Republican has been active in South Lee business groups for years, regularly appearing on “40 under 40” lists for local media and the Association of Chamber Executives. She launched her campaign on Thursday. Esposito aligned her political platform closely with that of Ron DeSantis, who is seeking re-election this year. “Florida has become the beacon of freedom in America, and I intend to build upon that foundation,” she said.
“Palm Beach House candidate switching from House District 86 to newly redrawn district” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Katherine Waldron was the first Democrat to file to run for the House seat Democrat Rep. Matt Willhite is vacating and now the current Port of Palm Beach Commissioner is announcing a move to represent the newly drawn House District 93. She announced her intention to represent HD 93 instead of Willhite’s House District 86 on Wednesday. Willhite is running for a seat on the Palm Beach County Commission. The new district is an open seat, the news release says. Voters in that district went for Biden over Trump in 2020 by more than 10 points.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Calling it ‘COVID theater’ DeSantis asks high school students to remove masks at event” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Irked by the sight of high school students wearing masks at his news conference, DeSantis encouraged them to remove the facial coverings, calling their use “COVID theater.” “You do not have to wear those masks,” DeSantis said in video. “Please take them off. Honestly, it’s not doing anything. We’ve gotta stop with this COVID theater. So, if you wanna wear it, fine, but this is ridiculous.” The Hillsborough County School District said the students were from Middleton High School. “As always, our students should be valued and celebrated,” Hillsborough Schools Superintendent Addison Davis said.
Desantis to students: "You do not have to wear those masks. Please take them off. Honestly, it's not doing anything. We've gotta stop with this Covid theater. So if you wanna wear it, fine, but this is ridiculous."
— Seth Dillon (@SethDillon) March 2, 2022
"I would tell (the governor) to stop bullying kids."
Kevin Brown says Gov. DeSantis had no right to tell his son and the other high school students to take off their masks.
His son decided to keep his mask on during the press conference at USF. https://t.co/JNYeA9dYci @WFLA pic.twitter.com/nnBTJNmfQF
— Justin Schecker (@WFLAJustin) March 3, 2022
“Florida could soon allow nursing home visits — even during a pandemic.” via Hannah Critchfield and Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — House Bill 987 and Senate Bill 988, backed by DeSantis, establish broad protections for nursing home and hospital visitors. The bills would prohibit the facilities from requiring any vaccinations for visitors, a move that is consistent with federal guidelines related to the current pandemic. They would require facilities to establish policies that allow family members to touch the loved ones they’re visiting. The House version would make providers recognize an “essential caregiver” for a patient or resident, who would be eligible to visit for at least two hours every day. That’s not in the Senate bill. Some differences are yet to be worked out between the bills. Under both measures, family members would be allowed to visit their loved ones in the following circumstances.
“School superintendent who defied DeSantis on COVID-19 masks is ousted” via The Associated Press — A Florida school superintendent who defied DeSantis on pandemic masks for students has been fired by the local school board. The 3-2 vote to terminate the contract of Carlee Simon came late Tuesday night by the Alachua County School Board. A key vote for termination was that of board member Mildred Russell, who was appointed in August by DeSantis to replace a member who did not live within her district. In a statement before the vote, Simon called it retribution for her stance against DeSantis and his opposition to mask mandates in Florida schools.
“Florida and New York share an interstate, but their COVID-19 cultures are worlds apart” via Florida Trend — Faced with the same pandemic — with remarkably similar but no less tragic death tolls (as of Feb. 21, Florida at 68,955; New York at 66,466, out of total populations of 21.78 million in Florida and 20.21 million in New York) — the two states have chosen strikingly different paths forward. Our contrasting COVID-19 cultures impact everything from whether we don masks to how — or even if — we dine out.
— CORONA NATION —
“COVID-19 still threatens millions of Americans. Why are we so eager to move on?” via Victoria Knight of Kaiser Health News — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a strict definition of who is considered moderately or severely immunocompromised, such as cancer patients undergoing active treatment and organ transplant recipients. Still, millions of other people are living with chronic illnesses or disabilities that also make them especially susceptible to the disease. Though vulnerability differs based on each person and their health condition — and can depend on circumstances — catching COVID-19 is a risk they cannot take.
“Free COVID-19 tests, on-the-spot treatment coming to pharmacies, Biden says” via Francesca Chambers of the Miami Herald — Americans will soon be able to get tested and treated for COVID-19 in the same location, Biden said Tuesday, as he previewed new steps his administration is taking to end the global coronavirus pandemic. Later this month, individuals who test positive at participating pharmacies and community health centers across the country will be eligible for free antiviral pills. “People can get tested in the pharmacy, and if they prove positive, receive the antiviral pills on the spot at no cost,” Biden announced at his State of the Union speech. The administration also plans to send antiviral pills to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
“In symbolic vote, Senate rejects vaccine mandate for health workers” via Emily Cochrane of The New York Times — The Senate voted on Wednesday to roll back Biden’s vaccine mandate for health care workers at federally funded facilities, in a symbolic move orchestrated by Republicans who are pushing to weaponize pandemic precautions against Democrats in this year’s midterm congressional elections. In a vote forced by Republicans, the measure passed 49 to 44 along party lines, after six Democratic absences left the majority party short of the votes needed to defeat it. The measure is all but certain to die in the Democratic-controlled House; even if it cleared that chamber, the White House said on Wednesday that Biden would veto it.
“U.S. government agencies start dropping mask requirements” via David Shepardson and Idrees Ali of Reuters — The U.S. Defense and Justice departments are no longer requiring masks be worn indoors at Washington-area facilities, they said on Wednesday, following the latest COVID-19 guidance from the CDC. Other agencies are expected to follow suit this week. The change affects about 20,000 military and civilian employees at the Pentagon. The Justice Department said masks are no longer required at its operated buildings in Washington and will implement new workplace policies, “including a phased increase in on-site presence, over the next two months.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“February consumer sentiment slides to lowest reading in a decade” via Perry Leibovitz of UF News — Consumer sentiment in Florida slipped for a second consecutive month in February to 68.4, down 1.1 points from a revised figure of 69.5 in January and reached its lowest level in the last 10 years. Among the five components that make up the index, one increased and four decreased. Floridians’ opinions about their personal finances now compared with a year ago decreased 1.5 points from 65.1 to 63.6. Similarly, opinions as to whether this is a good time to buy a major household item like an appliance dropped 3 points from 57.3 to 54.3, the largest decline in this month’s reading.
— MORE CORONA —
“COVID-19 cases, deaths continue to fall globally, WHO reports” via The Associated Press — The number of new coronavirus cases reported globally dropped by 16% last week, marking a monthlong decline in COVID-19 infections. In its weekly report, the U.N. health agency also said that deaths fell by 10%, continuing a drop in fatalities first seen last week. WHO said there were more than 10 million new cases and about 60,000 deaths globally. The Western Pacific was the only region where COVID-19 increased, with about a third more infections than the previous week. Deaths rose by 22% in the Western Pacific and about 4% in the Middle East, while declining everywhere else. WHO said the omicron variant remains overwhelmingly dominant worldwide; among virus sequences shared with the world’s largest publicly accessible database, more than 99.5% were omicron while only 0.3% were delta.
“Spring Break travel is back, and so are high prices: ‘Like bears coming out of hibernation’” via Hugo Martín of The Los Angeles Times — As COVID-19 cases drop, mask protocols ease and more Americans venture out to beaches, theme parks and other tourist destinations, travel is bouncing back to levels not seen since the pandemic took hold, industry experts say. The bad news: Airfares and gasoline prices are also reaching highs not seen in years. Eric Oh, a freelance writer, is already feeling the pinch. He’s paying about $600 for a round-trip flight to Orlando, about $200 more than he paid a few months ago for a similar flight. “It both surprised me and made me a little upset,” Oh said of the increase.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“Biden seizes the center” via David A. Graham of The Atlantic — If it’s not quite morning in America, Biden tried to persuade Americans during his first State of the Union address, we might be starting to see glimmers of the dawn. “There’s something happening in America,” Biden said tonight. “Just look around and you’ll see an amazing story.” That message is a tough sell. To make the case, he tacked toward the middle, with a few pointed detours, delivering a speech that hews closer to the “popularist” movement in the Democratic Party than to its more progressive contingent. Biden didn’t embrace Republican positions, but he emphasized areas where bipartisanship already exists.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Rick Scott dodges questions about Mitch McConnell, DeSantis” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Scott walked out of a news conference Tuesday as McConnell denounced his “11-point plan to “rescue America.” Scott didn’t clear matters up Wednesday, despite having an opportunity to do so on national television. On the Fox Business Channel, Scott sidestepped numerous questions about “splitting the party,” including whether he fronted the plan at the behest of Trump. “We’ve got to turn around this country,” Scott said, not responding to the McConnell critique, preferring instead to attack the “woke left” for having “taken over this country.” Stuart Varney asked why Scott put out the plan when McConnell didn’t want it out, wondering if Scott was siding with Trump over McConnell. Again, Scott dodged. “I’m with the voters on this,” he said.
“Democrats introduce bill to restart Cuban family reunification program” via Syra Ortiz-Blanes and Nora Gámez Torres of the Miami Herald — A bill filed by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and New Jersey Rep. Albio Sires would resume the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program, which allows eligible Cuban Americans to bring loved ones to the United States while they wait for their visas. “The Cuban people live under a brutal authoritarian regime, with little control over their fate,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement, “so we must do all we can to offer them a path to expeditiously and legally immigrate to the United States.” The Democrats’ initiative comes as the U.S. is expected to announce as soon as Thursday an increase in consular staffing at its embassy in Havana to help address the yearslong visa backlog.
“Matt Gaetz casts lone GOP vote against opening oil production, including in Gulf of Mexico” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — As the U.S. seeks alternative sources to Russian oil, congressional Republicans on Tuesday pushed legislation aimed at boosting domestic drilling. Every Republican in the House on Tuesday voted for the American Energy Independence from Russia Act, except one. Rep. Gaetz cast the sole GOP vote against the bill, which would have reauthorized construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and ratcheted up allowable natural gas production. While Gaetz said he supports many of those steps, he could not vote for legislation that also could open the Gulf of Mexico to more drilling. The bill failed in a 221-202 vote.
— CRISIS —
“Jan. 6 committee says Donald Trump violated multiple laws in effort to overturn election” via Kyle Cheney and Nicholas Wu of POLITICO — The Jan. 6 select committee says its evidence has shown that then-President Trump and his campaign tried to illegally obstruct Congress’ counting of electoral votes and “engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States.” In a major release of its findings, filed in federal court late Wednesday, the committee suggested that its evidence supported findings that Trump himself violated multiple laws by attempting to prevent Congress from certifying his defeat. “The Select Committee also has a good-faith basis for concluding that the President and members of his Campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States,” the committee wrote in a filing submitted in U.S. District Court in the Central District of California.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“John Bolton says Trump ‘barely knew where Ukraine was’ and complained about his own administration’s sanctions against Russia” via Jake Lahut and John Haltiwanger of Business Insider — Bolton, the U.S.’s former national security adviser, criticized Trump, his old boss, over his administration’s legacy in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. When the host depicted the Trump administration’s approach as “pretty tough on Russia, in a lot of ways,” Bolton disagreed. The former Trump national security adviser said the 45th president “did not” handle Russia better than Biden, as Schmitt said, and listed a series of qualms he had about how Trump dealt with Putin.
“Trump’s Truth Social bomb” via Dan Primack of Axios — Trump is blowing the launch of his new social media company, via a series of unforced errors. The SPAC that agreed to take Truth Social public is valued at over $3.5 billion. At some point, investors will begin paying attention. Truth Social spent much of February in private beta with invited users, saying its public unveil would be Feb. 21 (Presidents Day, natch). The launch itself was buzzy, with Truth Social shooting to the top of Apple’s App Store (there isn’t yet an Android or web version).
— LOCAL NOTES —
“Doug Underhill loses last attempt to block release of public records” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Underhill lost another attempt to block the release of additional public records from his Facebook account after a federal judge upheld a ruling that his messages about county issues are public record. U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers issued an order on Tuesday upholding a magistrate judge’s recommendation from October that Underhill must turn over all remaining Facebook messages. Underhill had sought to block additional releases of more messages after the court forced him to turn over 12,000 pages last year. Rodgers gave Underhill seven days to turn over the remaining public records.
“Duval School Board approves taking property tax increase to voters. Here’s what you need to know” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — Duval County voters will get to decide on a property tax increase later this year. Tuesday evening, the School Board voted 6-1 in favor of a resolution asking voters to approve a 1 mill property tax increase that would fund higher teacher salaries and improved athletics and arts programs at schools. “The vote tonight does not raise anybody’s taxes,” Board member Lori Hershey said. “It allows us to ask City Hall to put it on the ballot for the voters to decide. I believe the community deserves to answer that question.”
“How do you spell election success? N-P-A” via Chris Hand on Medium — No Party Affiliation (NPA) voters and other voters who have declined to affiliate with the Democratic or Republican parties comprise a major segment of the electorate. Registered NPA and other non-major party voters made up 29% of the Florida voting population. The City of Jacksonville voting system maximizes opportunities for NPA participation. In our unitary model, all candidates appear on the same ballot regardless of party affiliation. Unless any candidate receives a majority in the first election, the top two finishers advance to a second election. This system means NPA voters have the right to cast ballots in every election for Mayor, City Council, Sheriff, Supervisor of Elections, Property Appraiser, Tax Collector, and Clerk of Courts.
“Contract spat leads Miami Downtown Development Authority’s longtime PR firm to walk” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — After 13 years together, the public agency created to promote Downtown Miami and the public relations firm paid to promote its efforts are breaking up. And the split isn’t exactly amicable. Once the firm’s current contract expires on April 30, Schwartz Media Strategies will walk away from a bid to win a six-figure contract to represent the tax-funded Downtown Development Authority. Principals Tadd Schwartz and Aaron Gordon confirmed the split in a letter sent Tuesday to Miami Commissioner Manolo Reyes, who serves as DDA chair.
“Mark Rosenberg told FIU staffer he harassed she was a ‘princess’ and would divorce his wife, report says” via Jimena Tavel of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — More than a month after Rosenberg abruptly resigned as president of Florida International University after allegations surfaced that he had made unwanted advances to a woman in his office, an investigation concluded he “acted in a manner that was unprofessional and that he crossed appropriate boundaries in his behavior toward and interactions with a female subordinate.” Rosenberg asked the female staffer, whom the report didn’t name because she asked to remain anonymous, to discuss a “life update” in October 2021, according to the report.
“Group of five foreign nationals released after entering Key West Navy base” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — A group of five “foreign nationals” was briefly detained after entering the Truman Annex of Naval Air Station Key West early Wednesday morning. Federal agents initially suspected they were trespassing on the base, but they released them by noon after being unable to reach that conclusion, Navy spokeswoman Danette Baso Silvers said. They were interviewed by agents with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and each of them was issued a federal magistrate summons, which means they either pay a $250 fine or argue their case in court, Baso Silvers said. The government is not releasing their nationalities, but Silvers said everyone in the group is in the country legally. They do not live in Key West.
“Senior ‘skip day’ turns trashy as students leave garbage behind at South Pointe Beach” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — Red plastic cups, liquor bottles and heaps of garbage were dumped across three blocks of shoreline Tuesday in South Beach after high school students said their classmates made a mess during an annual senior “skip day.” Videos and photos posted on social media showed garbage being swept into the ocean and covering a large stretch of sand at South Pointe Beach. Volunteers spent hours cleaning up the garbage, and some students who attended chastised their classmates for trashing the environment and their high school tradition. “Every tide that came in was taking out the trash,” said Sophie Ringel, founder of Clean Miami Beach, a group that organizes beach cleanups.
“Florida family sues SeaWorld, saying security didn’t help after assault at Orlando park” via Katie Rice of the Orlando Sentinel — A Nassau County, Florida, family is suing SeaWorld for more than $100,000 after claiming they were assaulted by another group of guests last May and that security staff at the Orlando park did not help prevent it or assist them properly afterward. In a lawsuit filed in Orange County circuit court on Feb. 1, Aimee, Michael and Connor Johnson, along with Holly Witt on behalf of a child, allege they were seriously injured because SeaWorld security was lacking. The plaintiffs say they were followed by a group of teenagers after confronting them for acting aggressively in line for a ride, and they could not find security staff before the youth attacked them.
— TOP OPINION —
“In rant against students wearing masks, DeSantis channels his inner Karen” via the Miami Herald editorial board — DeSantis had a Karen moment. The Governor on Wednesday was supposed to make a run-of-the-mill announcement at the University of South Florida about state investments in cybersecurity workforce education. A group of high school students stood in the back wearing masks. The Governor was triggered. As he walked to the podium, DeSantis stopped, faced the students — and ranted. He did everything but demand to “speak to the manager.” How dare those youngsters ruin the Governor’s photo opp by wearing pieces of cloth or surgical fabric over their noses and mouths? After DeSantis’ outburst, some of the students obliged and removed their masks with embarrassed smiles.
— OPINIONS —
“Florida politicians fond of berating China, Venezuela are softer spoken on Russia” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — We’ve got a lot of ground to cover today, including legislators trying to give more money to tourism, the state offering a new sky-high-priced lottery ticket and what Orange County should look for in its new school superintendent. Two years ago, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Patronis viewed China as such a threat to the world, he launched an investigation into 100,000 Florida businesses to see if any were owned by the “Communist Party of China.” In a written statement, Patronis said: “I think war is different. People dying is different.” He then went on to blame Biden. The logic there was … interesting. When the stakes are more serious, you take less action.
“Ukraine vs. Russia — Here’s how Volodymyr Zelenskiy and his country win” via Michael Waltz for Florida Politics — America is on the verge of losing a second democratic partner to the iron fist of authoritarianism, just six months after the fall of Kabul. The strong resolve and resistance of the Ukrainian people have thus far withstood the onslaught of Putin’s armed battalions. We must unite our NATO and other European partners around the policy of continuing to support Ukraine’s defenders. We must continue the flow of food, medical supplies, small armaments, stinger missiles, night vision, secure communications, body armor, and deployable radar systems to stall Russian armor in the cities and cut off their supply lines.
“Senators, it’s time to add some 305 to the U.S. Supreme Court” via David Oscar Markus of the Miami Herald — No Floridian has ever been appointed to the Supreme Court. Even though Florida has the third most electoral votes in the country, we have been shut out on the highest court in the land. It’s time to change that. This is a wonderful opportunity for Florida’s two Senators to get behind the first Florida-reared nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson. Miami is absolutely bursting with pride, and U.S. Sens. Rubio and Scott should embrace this nominee. Jackson went to Miami Palmetto High School, where she was a rock-star national debate champion. Her parents started their careers as public-school teachers. While Jackson was in preschool, her father went to law school.
“The confidence of Scott” via Michael McKenna of The Washington Times — Representative government is pretty simple. Candidates explain to voters what they will try to do once in office. Voters decide whether they think those things are good or bad and proceed accordingly. It has been pretty much the same since the Romans first came up with the crazy notion that political power draws its legitimacy from the informed consent of citizens. Therefore, Sen. Scott must have been surprised when his relatively short, straightforward and fairly anodyne set of ideas about what he might try to accomplish if the Senate Republicans wound up in the majority drew immediate hostility from various Republicans in the Senate.
“DeSantis blames Biden for just about everything” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — The free world’s support of Ukraine in the immediate face of a Russian onslaught has been nothing short of inspiring and historic. In only days since Russia attacked, the West has authorized more than $850 million in military assistance to Ukraine. Poland and other border states have rushed to welcome more than a half-million refugees. The U.S., Europe and its allies have imposed the worst financial sanctions Russia has ever seen. DeSantis couldn’t get through a half-hour news conference about sidewalks and sewers Monday without detouring through a spiel on the crisis in Ukraine, which he (predictably) traced to Biden’s “weakness” and “lack of leadership.”
“‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill is just the GOP’s latest attack on teachers” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — While the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill inexorably moves through the Legislature, there’s one big thing the Republican Thought Police still don’t get. People don’t choose to be gay. They are gay because they’re born that way. A teacher can’t talk them into it, and their parents can’t talk them out of it. Yet, HB 1557 would allow parents to sue their school system if the son or daughter hears something in class their parents decide is not “age or developmentally appropriate.” Rep. Joe Harding, who sponsored the bill, told the Tallahassee Democrat it “empowers parents to be engaged in their children’s lives.”
“Legislature violates First Amendment with its proposed picketing ban” via Francesca Menes for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — All Floridians want to live in healthy and safe communities, no matter what we look like or where we come from. But on the heels of America’s summer of reckoning with racial justice, DeSantis and his enablers in the Florida Legislature passed a law, known as HB 1, silencing Black-led protests rather than listening to the anger and frustration of our communities. This slate of legislation continues to chip away at our rights and our freedoms. HB 11 intimidates witnesses who document incidents of police use of excessive force. Two other bills are moving quickly and would take another sledgehammer to our right to assemble.
“Helping the helpers: Behavioral health providers need more from state budget” via Melanie Brown-Woofter for the Tallahassee Democrat — Families, including children and adults of all ages, are struggling with anxiety, depression and drug use. Community mental health and substance use providers are experiencing daily pressure to provide more services and must receive an increase in Medicaid funding to meet this new demand. Behavioral health providers received minimal COVID-19 relief as they were only able to access 3% of the $500 million in federal Health and Human Services provider relief funds that came into Florida. Of the other COVID-19-related Medicaid funding opportunities, behavioral health providers had limited or no eligibility to participate.
“Robin Safley: Helping Florida’s farmers helps all of us” via Florida Politics — By making a strategic investment in Feeding Florida — the state’s largest network of food banks — we not only ensure that Floridians in need will continue to receive high-quality fresh-from-Florida food, but that our state remains a leading producer of local fruits and vegetables. Here’s how the budget request, if granted, will work … Our funding request — now in both budgets — will be used to support our state’s local farmers by offsetting what is known as “pick and pack out” fees. These costs are needed to pick, pack and transport grown produce that might otherwise remain unharvested. If ever an investment was a win-win-win, this is it.
“Stephen Shelley: Farm Share needs support from Legislature to continue serving Florida’s hardworking families” via Florida Politics — Currently, one-third of employed Florida households live below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) and are considered Asset Limited, Income Constrained, and Employed (ALICE) households. A typical family of four can no longer survive on an annual household income of $50,000 to $60,000, especially in Florida’s major metropolitan areas. Farm Share has become the lifeline for these ALICE households, helping to put life-sustaining food on their tables free of charge so that they can instead focus on paying rent, utilities, child care and transportation expenses. Without proper nutrition, these households’ health, ability to work, and their children’s ability to learn will be stunted resulting in an inability to break the cycle of poverty and escape being food insecure.
— TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Gov. DeSantis scolds some high schoolers for wearing masks at his news conference. The mic was on. Twitter and TikTok ran with it.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— The Governor also went on record against Putin on the invasion of Ukraine. But blamed Biden for emboldening Putin. And, the Governor dissed France?
— Democratic amendments to the 15-week abortion bill go nowhere.
— The AARP plans to lobby the Governor for a veto of nursing home bills that cut Certified Nursing Assistant hours.
And, farewells from departing Reps. and Senators give a glimpse into the minds of legislators.
To listen, click on the image below:
— ALOE —
“Robert Pattinson’s Batman is wonderfully grim” via David Sims of The Atlantic — The best on-screen Batmen have always understood the value of a good frown. Over the many cinematic iterations of the comic-book hero, one thing has remained consistent in his portrayal: His menacing cowl leaves the bottom half of his face exposed. The actors who did the most with the role in years past (think Michael Keaton and Christian Bale) made full use of their mouths, pouting with all their might. But the quivering lips of Pattinson, the latest star to don the mask for Matt Reeves’s The Batman, might have them beat — never have I seen the Dark Knight grimace with such fervent intensity.
“Zoë Kravitz gets ‘Batman’ support from Jason Momoa and Channing Tatum” via Lisa Respers France of CNN — Kravitz got some support from two important men in her life. On Monday, her stepfather, Momoa, posted photos of him and her reported boyfriend, Tatum, as they headed to the premiere of her new film, “The Batman,” on his verified Instagram account. “Finally @thebatman premiere.” Momoa, who in January announced that he and Kravitz’s mother Lisa Bonet were splitting after 16 years together, wrote that he was “beyond proud” of his stepdaughter. Kravitz portrays Selina Kyle aka Catwoman in the new film. She and Tatum, who is playing a tech billionaire in her forthcoming directorial debut, sparked speculation that they were a couple last year.
“Why it’ll cost extra to see ‘The Batman’ at AMC theaters” via Ryan Faughnder of The Los Angeles Times — AMC Theatres has started to charge higher prices for Hollywood’s most popular films, including this weekend’s release of Warner Bros.’ “The Batman,” as the world’s largest cinema chain looks to get more bang from the biggest blockbusters. Chief Executive Adam Aron told investors that the company is bringing variable pricing to its theaters, an idea that U.S. movie houses have long resisted other than with matinees and other exceptions. Aron said during a conference call that prices for “The Batman” this weekend is “slightly higher” than the prices the company is charging for other movies playing in the same theaters at the same time. This comes after the company previously raised prices at some of its theaters for weekend showtimes above weekday screenings, which tend to get lower traffic.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Celebrating today is Rep. Fentrice Driskell, Bradley Bean, Dan Conston, president of Congressional Leadership Fund and American Action Network, Lisa Kauffman, and Sean Stafford.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Renzo Downey, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.
Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of FloridaPolitics.com, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.
Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.
Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL
Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jason Delgado, Renzo Downey, Daniel Figueroa, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Joe Henderson, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, Mike Wright, and Tristan Wood.
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