Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 6.13.22
Good Monday morning.
Congratulations to our friend Charlie Crist on his engagement to Chelsea Grimes. When Michelle and I first met them as a couple, we just knew there was something special there.
The qualifying period for offices from state Representative to Governor begins today and ends at noon Friday.
That means candidates will be zooming to the nearest notary to fill out their candidate oath forms and possibly a trek to Tallahassee to hand-deliver a check for the qualifying fee — those range from $1,781.82 for state legislative candidates up to $10,440 for U.S. Senate candidates.
If 2022 follows recent history, it’s likely we’ll see more than a few curveballs and costly mistakes before the week is through.
Perhaps a candidate will rely on USPS to get their paperwork to the R.A. Gray building on time, only to be disappointed. Or maybe they’ll draft a check from the wrong account.
There are slip-ups every election year that leads to unexpected results — Rep. Anika Omphroy, for instance, won by default four years ago after the incumbent in her district failed to deliver all his required paperwork.
Then there’s the chance a candidate will appear out of left field. It seems to happen every year the Governor or U.S. Senator is on the ballot.
In 2018, the surprise entry was Jeff Greene, who spent millions of his own money running for the Democratic nomination for Governor only to muster 10% of the vote … and muck up the odds for Gwen Graham and Philip Levine.
Last-second entrants, failures and switcheroos are especially likely in this year’s slate of congressional races. While some races will certainly be jam-packed à la the 2020 races for Florida’s 3rd and 19th Congressional Districts, not every seat will draw 10-plus candidates.
Either way, come Friday afternoon, we’ll know who will have their name on the ballot for every office up for election in the fall.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce unveiled its 2022 Florida Chamber Legislative Report Card, showcasing grades earned by all 160 lawmakers in the state House and Senate based on their votes during the 2022 Legislative Session and Special Session.
“Working together as a unified business community is how we will keep Florida’s economy growing and competitive,” said Florida Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Wilson. “As Florida continues to pace the nation’s economic recovery out of the pandemic, Florida’s business climate must remain a priority if we are going to continue on the path to grow private-sector jobs, diversify our economy, and create additional economic opportunities for all Floridians.”
The Florida Chamber said its 2022 Legislative Report Card “is an annual opportunity to recognize Florida Legislature members who made Florida more competitive through nonpartisan private-sector job creation above special interests and attempts to protect the status quo. The Report Card also informs the public on which lawmakers voted in favor of private-sector job creation and a stronger, more diversified economy.
The 2022 report card is based on over 3,100 votes cast during the 2022 Legislative Session and Special Session D. Results show the average GPA was 78% in the Senate and 65% in the House. The combined average was 68%. Overall, 32 lawmakers earned As, 48 earned Bs, 21 earned Cs, nine earned Ds and 50 failed.
A list of the grades received by each lawmaker is available on the Florida Chamber’s website.
Lawmakers with the highest grades voted in favor of Chamber priorities, such as COVID-19 liability protections for health care providers, infrastructure funding, student assessments, the Local Business Protection Act, property insurance reform, and extending VISIT FLORIDA’s authorization.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@RealStanVG: I can’t believe this would be a controversial statement, but it will be — inflation is not as big a problem as a U.S. President trying to overthrow the results of an election and inciting an attack on the U.S. Capitol.
—@JimmyPatronis:.@GovRonDeSantis & the Legislature passed a $200 MILLION gas tax cut to combat inflation. With all the tourists Florida receives, this cut is specifically for Florida residents by putting it in the 4th quarter when tourism is at its lowest.
—@SteveBousquet: On same weekend as March for Our Lives rallies in Fla. and across U.S., Florida GOP’s Second Amendment committee passes resolution urging Legislature to pass open-carry gun law
—@JaredEMoskowitz: Almost 2 years before #Parkland, I stood at the memorial at #Pulse. I pray for the victims’ families. My community and families suffered and were broken because of the inaction after Pulse. I think about that all the time.
—@StanleyCup: Hoping for a third date, eh? Things are getting serious @TBLightning …
— DAYS UNTIL —
Pixar’s ‘Lightyear’ premieres — 4; 2022 Florida Chamber Learners to Earners Workforce Solution Summit — 15; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 24; 36th Annual Environmental Permitting School — 36; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 40; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 58; FRLA’s Operations and Marketing Summit — 66; ‘House of the Dragon’ premieres on HBO — 69; 2022 Florida Chamber Technology & Innovation Solution Summit — 79; ‘Andor’ premieres on Disney+ — 79; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 81; NFL Opening Night: LA Rams vs. Buffalo Bills — 87; 2022 Emmys — 91; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 116; Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 133; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 134; Jon Meacham’s ‘And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle’ releases — 134; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 150; FITCon 2022 begins — 157; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 157; The World Cup kicks off in Qatar — 161; The U.S. World Cup Soccer Team begins play — 161; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 162; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 170; ‘Willow’ premieres on Disney+ — 170; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 184; ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 248; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 266; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 284; 2023 Session Sine Die — 326; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 326; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 354; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 410; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 494; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 655; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 774.
— TOP STORY —
“Bipartisan group of Senators announce agreement on gun control” via Dana Bash, Manu Raju and Donald Judd of CNN — An agreement on principles for gun safety legislation includes “needed mental health resources, improves school safety and support for students, and helps ensure dangerous criminals and those who are adjudicated as mentally ill can’t purchase weapons,” Senators said in a statement.
Notably, the announcement includes the support of 10 Republican Senators, which would give the proposal enough support to overcome the Senate filibuster. The agreement is significant given how divided lawmakers have been over the gun issue, but the actual legislative text is not yet written.
The proposal includes support for state crisis intervention orders, funding for school safety resources, an enhanced review process for buyers under the age of 21, and penalties for straw purchasing.
Critically, the legislation includes a so-called red flag provision, with the government providing “resources to states and tribes to create and administer laws that help ensure deadly weapons are kept out of the hands of individuals whom a court has determined to be a significant danger to themselves or others,” according to the release. The proposal would also include “major investments to increase access to mental health and suicide prevention programs; and other support services available in the community, including crisis and trauma intervention and recovery.”
Lauren Book applauds framework deal on bipartisan gun package — Senate Democratic Leader Book on Sunday praised lawmakers in the U.S. Senate for coming to an agreement on a package of gun control measures crafted in the wake of the Uvalde, Texas. mass shooting. “Today, on the sixth anniversary of the Pulse massacre, I applaud this bipartisan group of Senators for leading the way with common-sense gun safety measures to reduce the threat of gun violence in America,” she said. “We must continue to put partisanship aside and listen to the will of the people to keep our communities, our streets, and our children safe. As Broward, Orlando, Uvalde, Buffalo, and families across the country know all too well, gun violence has reached a fever pitch and more MUST be done. For those whose names we know, and for those whose names are not reported in the news, we must honor their lives — and deaths — with action.”
— STATEWIDE —
“Conservative warrior Ron DeSantis not as aggressive on guns or abortion” via Zac Anderson of the Tallahassee Democrat — DeSantis has drawn national attention for putting himself at the forefront of the GOP’s renewed focus on social issues, particularly how race and gender identity are discussed in schools. DeSantis signed bills into law that have been replicated in other states, such as the Parental Rights in Education Act, blasted by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Yet on two of the biggest social issues animating the GOP in recent decades, guns and abortion, DeSantis has been less outspoken and less aggressive legislatively than many red-state Governors.
“LGBTQ groups protest DeSantis speech at Chelsea Piers” via Sam Raskin of the New York Post — Protesters, including LGBTQ advocates and several Democratic New York politicians, railed against Chelsea Piers over its “dangerous” decision to host a conference Sunday that features DeSantis. Video posted on Twitter shows dozens of demonstrators, including veteran LGBTQ rights activist Allen Roskoff, in front of Pier 60 chanting “Shame!” and “Boycott Chelsea Piers” and hoisting signs that read “Say Gay” and “Not during pride month” as people entered the facility Sunday morning. Critics say the Republican shouldn’t be allowed to speak at the event, organized by the Jewish group Tikvah Fund, over a law he signed banning school instruction related to sexual orientation or gender identity for children in kindergarten through the fourth grade.
”COVID-19 hospitalizations rise in Florida as contagious omicron subvariants spread” via David Schutz and Cindy Krischer Goodman of the Orlando Sentinel — COVID-19 hospitalizations are rising to levels last experienced during Florida’s winter surge as overlapping waves of omicron sub-variants sweep through the state. As of Friday, more than 3,200 patients were in Florida hospitals for COVID-19, a big jump from about 1,000 COVID-19 patients in early April but nowhere near the more than 17,000 people hospitalized during the delta wave in August 2021.
—“Florida leads nation in COVID-19 deaths, CDC data shows” via Chris Persaud of The Palm Beach Post
Happening today — Democratic Reps. Susan Valdes, Fentrice Driskell and Dianne Hart are hosting a virtual town hall meeting on the Property Insurance Special Session, noon. Zoom link here.
“‘Our lives are on the ballot’: March for Our Lives Parkland rally calls for gun law reform” via Stephany Matat and Mike Diamond of The Palm Beach Post — Vote them out. That was the refrain at a March for Our Lives rally in Parkland on Saturday, and it was directed toward lawmakers who refuse to support efforts to reduce gun violence. Organizers said about 1,500 people attended the rally, expressing frustration and anger over the failure to adopt what they called common-sense reforms that include a ban on the sale of assault weapons, adoption of red-flag laws, stronger background checks and an increase in age from 18 to 21 to possess guns.
“Florida wants to ban kid-friendly drag shows. But the shows will go on, LGBTQ+ groups say” via Brooke Baitinger of the Orlando Sentinel — In the latest assault on the LGBTQ+ community, drag shows aimed at children could be banned in Florida after a lawmaker and DeSantis followed the lead of an idea in Texas. After a Texas lawmaker proposed banning drag shows where children are present, Rep. Anthony Sabatini jumped on the bandwagon. He proposed banning drag shows aimed at children, charging parents who bring their children to drag shows, and taking away their parental rights. Shortly after that, DeSantis indicated his support. DeSantis said he asked his administration to consider whether a parent taking their child to a kid-friendly drag show would count as child endangerment.
“Six years and counting: Advocates wait for Capitol Holocaust and slavery memorials” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — The Florida Legislature’s penchant for pre-emption has further delayed construction of two memorials whose sponsors say are meant to recognize the “evils of discrimination.” Six years ago, the Legislature directed the Department of Management Services to build a Holocaust Memorial on the Senate side of the Capitol courtyard in “a prominent, public space that will receive many statewide, national and international visitors.” Two years later, lawmakers approved a second memorial to acknowledge the “inhumanity of slavery in the United States,” also to be erected on the courtyard’s southside. But no ground has been broken to install the monuments.
— 2022 —
“DeSantis raises another $10.2 million in May, bringing total to $124 million” via Zac Anderson of the Tallahassee Democrat — DeSantis‘ fundraising continued at a torrid pace in May, allowing the Governor to put more distance between himself and his Democratic rivals. DeSantis raised another $10.2 million, bringing the total raised for his reelection bid to $124 million. Democrats Crist and Nikki Fried are the leading candidates battling in the primary for the right to take on DeSantis in the general election. They are raising far less money than DeSantis, with Crist hauling in another $1 million in May and Fried collecting $302,528. Crist is now up to $10.2 million total raised for his campaign, while Fried has collected $6.9 million.
Happening today — The qualifying period begins for candidates in 2022 races for numerous offices, including Governor, Cabinet, U.S. Senate, congressional and legislative seats, noon.
“Will DeSantis re-elect boost him in shadow race for GOP presidential nomination?” via Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey and Isaac Stanley-Becker of The Washington Post — Advisers and allies of DeSantis have discussed the margins for his 2022 reelection that would help put him in position to run for President in 2024. Beating Donald Trump’s 2020 margin of three percentage points in Florida has become a key campaign goal, according to three people familiar with the conversations. They said DeSantis’s wife, Casey, a former television host and among a small circle of confidants, wants him to run for President. The couple believes that the Governor’s skills are uniquely matched to the current political climate, and are wary of waiting six years, by which time the tides may have shifted. DeSantis has not indicated if he would defer a campaign if Trump runs. Behind the scenes, DeSantis and his team think they’ve overtaken Trump with the party’s major donors, according to an ally in touch with the Governor.
“DeSantis proposed delaying a tax break for Florida drivers until it was most helpful to his reelection campaign” via Jason Garcia of Seeking Rents — A few days before Thanksgiving, DeSantis announced that he was going to ask the Legislature to cut the state’s gas tax for roughly five months — a 27-cents-a-gallon tax break. Just nine days later, emails show that DeSantis actually asked the Legislature to cut the gas tax for just one month — and not to do it until October 2022, the same month that Florida voters will begin heading to the polls in this year’s Governor’s race, and when a sudden blitz of news stories about a gas-tax “holiday” would be most politically advantageous to DeSantis’ reelection campaign. It’s easy to forget because so much has happened since, but DeSantis’ public campaign for a giant gas-tax cut was one of the more interesting dramas of this year’s Session. And now it looks like it was all just Kabuki theater.
“‘Top Gov’ DeSantis drops new ‘freedom zone’ merch” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Top Gun Tom Cruise, meet “Top Gov” DeSantis. That’s the message from a new line of merchandise from the Florida Governor, paying homage to “Top Gun: Maverick,” which already has over $600 million in global receipts. Black-and-white tees ($30), posters ($25) and koozies (two for $15) from the Governor’s reelection campaign are the latest in a series of creative marketing gimmicks. “Our Freedom First Agenda is at full throttle. Governor Ron DeSantis is on a mission to defend Florida from the Brandon administration’s unending failures,” the copy reads. “In Florida, we have a Top Gov — and we plan to keep it that way. Join us in Freedomtown, USA … Go Mach 10 for FREEDOM.”
“Nikki Fried raises another $300,000 in May” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — With a shrinking Democratic field, Fried raised some $300,000 in May for her campaign. It allows her to continue spending upward of six figures from her official account and a connected committee. Fried’s official campaign collected $194,862 in May, the bulk of that from individuals giving to her campaign. Five individuals gave her a maximum donation of $3,000, including Miami developer Jeffrey Berkowitz and his wife Yolanda. Another major donation came from California donor Susan Lord and Maryland attorney Paul Rosenthal also gave a maximum amount. Susan Robins of Miami gave $3,000 as well. Fried’s political committee, Florida Consumers First, also raised $107,667 in May, with $43,750 of that coming from four sources.
—”Fried draws sparse crowd for Jacksonville seniors’ roundtable” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics
“Why a Dem dream candidate can’t touch Marco Rubio in Florida” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida — On paper, Rep. Val Demings should be the ideal Democratic candidate to challenge Sen. Rubio. Demings served as Orlando police chief before winning a congressional seat in 2016, was shortlisted to serve as President Joe Biden’s running mate, has outpaced Rubio in campaign donations and is regularly greeted enthusiastically by voters on the trail. But she’s been forced to campaign while Biden’s numbers have sunk in Florida, his administration has pushed policies that have alienated South Florida voters vital to her campaign and the electoral landscape in the state now favors Republicans.
“Daniel Uhlfelder leads fundraising field in AG Democratic Primary” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Uhlfelder continues to lead fundraising among Democratic Attorney General candidates. The winner of the Democratic Primary will run against Ashley Moody in the November General Election. Uhlfelder collected $34,245 in May between his campaign account and affiliated political committee, Hold Tallahassee Accountable. Since he entered the race in March, Uhlfelder has raised $155,902 between his two funding sources. Uhlfelder’s campaign raised $31,104 from 600 donors in May, primarily consisting of individual donations under $250.
“Conservative Republican Joe Budd hopes to capture South Florida congressional seat” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Budd is running for Congress, hoping to pick up a Broward-Palm Beach County district held for decades by Democrats. Budd hasn’t yet made a splashy public announcement, but his intentions are clear. “I’m Joe Budd. I’m going to be your next Congressman in District 23,” Budd said Saturday in a video posted to his Joe Budd for Congress Facebook page. His Facebook posts have been teasing a candidacy in recent days. He’s used hashtags #comingsoon and #gearingup, and wrote Thursday night that he was “tying up loose ends.”
To watch the video, click on the image below:
— MORE 2022 —
“Nick DiCeglie surpasses $900K raised in Senate bid” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — DiCeglie collected $76,200 during May between his campaign account and affiliated political committee, Economic Freedom Committee. May’s haul brings DiCeglie’s total to $906,824. “We are laser-focused on our message of delivering results for Pinellas families and putting our economy back on track through responsible spending and meaningful tax cuts,” DiCeglie said. “I look forward to talking to more voters and spreading our campaign message throughout this district in the coming months.” DiCeglie’s campaign provided the latest fundraising numbers.
—”Ileana Garcia raises $62K for SD 36 defense in May, plus $42K in GOP campaign aid” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics
—“Chet Stokes stretches cash lead in HD 16” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics
—“Bruno Portigliatti adds $39K to HD 45 campaign” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics
—”Fiona McFarland holds nearly $100K in campaign, another $100K with her committee” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics
—”Chip LaMarca armed with $339K for rematch to represent coastal Broward County” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics
—”Anthony Rodriguez war chest for Miami-Dade County Commission nears $1M” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Should Joe Biden run in 2024? Democratic whispers of ‘no’ start to rise.” via Reid J. Epstein and Jennifer Medina of The New York Times — Midway through the 2022 Primary Season, many Democratic lawmakers and Party officials are venting their frustrations with Biden’s struggle to advance the bulk of his agenda, doubting his ability to rescue the Party from a predicted midterm trouncing and increasingly viewing him as an anchor that should be cut loose in 2024. As the challenges facing the nation mount and fatigued base voters show low enthusiasm, Democrats in union meetings, the backrooms of Capitol Hill, and Party gatherings from coast to coast are quietly worrying about Biden’s leadership, his age and his capability to take the fight to Trump a second time.
“Biden juggles principles, pragmatism in stance on autocrats” via Aamer Madhani of The Associated Press — As a candidate for President, Biden was not shy about calling out dictators and authoritarian leaders as he anchored his foreign policy on the idea that the world is in a battle between democracy and autocracy. But Biden’s governing approach as President has been far less black and white as he tries to balance such high-minded principles with the tug toward pragmatism in a world scrambled by the economic fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and concerns about China’s global ambitions. Those crosscurrents were evident this past week when Biden played host at the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles. His decision to exclude leaders he considers dictators generated considerable drama and prompted several other world leaders to boycott the event.
“Why Rick Scott just blinked on his proposal to raise taxes on low-income Americans” via Chris Cillizza of CNN — Of the many controversial proposals in Sen. Scott‘s “Rescue America” plan, none was more politically problematic than his insistence that every American should pay income taxes. “All Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game, even if a small amount,” Scott wrote as part of his plan. Now, um, not so much. On Thursday, Scott, who chairs the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, removed that proposal from his plan. In its place was this language: “Able-bodied Americans under 60, who do not have young children or incapacitated dependents, should work. We need them pulling the wagon and paying taxes, not sitting at home taking money from the government.”
“Scott backtracks, but his plan is still ultra-MAGA madness” via Ed Kilgore of New York Magazine — Back in February, for unclear reasons, National Republican Senate Committee Chair Sen. Scott released an “11 Point Plan to Rescue America.” He claimed he wasn’t trying to associate the NRSC’s candidates with this “agenda,” but at the same time he insisted Republicans needed one, telling Politico, “We ought to have a plan and what we’re trying to get done when we get the majority.” Go figure. Scott’s minimum-tax “idea” made it easy for Democrats, including Biden, to charge Republicans with plotting a tax increase affecting over half the population. Eventually, Scott was pressured by other Republicans into backtracking, though he did so via a highly disingenuous video.
— MORE LOCAL: S. FL —
“Parkland district chief ‘removed from his assignment,’ Broward Sheriff’s Office says” via Lisa. J. Huriash and Angie DiMichele of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The chief of the Parkland district of the Broward Sheriff’s Office was “relieved of duties” Friday, the city’s Mayor Rich Walker said. The Broward Sheriff’s Office confirmed in an email late Friday that Capt. Craig Calavetta was “removed from his assignment as district chief in Parkland.” It is unclear why Calavetta, who has worked as the executive officer in Parkland since 2021, was removed from the post. The removal comes a week after someone reported finding two guns at Somerset Parkland Academy to a school resource deputy on June 2. The Sheriff’s Office said last week that deputies took the firearms for safekeeping as they investigated how the weapons got into the school.
“How the Radio Mambí sale escalated the fight over Miami’s Spanish-language airwaves” via Bianca Padró Ocasio and Lesley Cosme Torres of the Miami Herald — Following months of increasingly polarized debate over the veracity of content in Miami’s Spanish-language media, the deal threw Mambí into an emotional firestorm tinged with references to communist Cuba, claims of censorship and threats of boycotts and strikes. Critics have noted that an investment firm tied to Democratic megadonor George Soros is helping to finance the deal and called the new ownership group “Radio Granma” in an allusion to Cuba’s state-run media. Callers flooded Mambí programs with messages of solidarity. The opposition to the sale has grown so widespread that Cuban exiles, along with Lt. Gov. Jeannette Nuñez, have promised boycotts and denounced the sale as the silencing of Cubans in exile that would prevent access to news about human rights violations in Cuba.
“The buyers of this talk radio station promise ‘journalistic integrity.’ Conservatives are scared.” via Julio Ricardo Varela of NBC News — At a time when Latino representation in media is still lacking and the power of Latino outlets owned by Latinos barely even registers, it was exciting to hear in early June that two Latinas with ties to former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raised $80 million to form a new national network of radio stations. The Latino Media Network, as it’s called, is acquiring 18 existing radio stations. The pressure on LMN will be the pressure to succeed. The question remains whether it can succeed and, if so, how it will: as an outlet for just Democratic voices or as a network where the conversation will include everyone in the community?
“What’s the matter, Florida GOP? Scared of losing radio outlets that repeat your lies?” via Fabiola Santiago of the Miami Herald — An informed community, one that not only flaunts the word “freedom” but actually practices its most basic component, free speech, shouldn’t be a threat to anyone. Yet, Florida’s GOP and Cuban American supporters are in a tizzy over the prospect that the sale of two iconic Miami news radio stations will open to debate the Republican-monopolized political conversation on the county’s Spanish-language airwaves. With the announced sale of legacy stations Radio Mambi and WQBA to the newly formed Latino Media Network, Republicans in Florida seem to be losing the most important mouthpieces they’ve used to spread misinformation among Miami-Dade’s faithful Cuban American and other Hispanic voters.
“‘We have ruled out nothing’: In Surfside condo collapse probe, findings still far away” via Aaron Leibowitz of the Miami Herald — A federal investigation into the Champlain Towers South building collapse likely won’t conclude until 2024, about three years after the Surfside disaster in which investigators say they have “ruled out nothing.” But the process could take even longer, said Judith Mitrani-Reiser, an engineer who grew up in Miami and is overseeing the investigation by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. “To get this right requires a comprehensive approach and a commitment to investigating every failure hypothesis thoroughly,” Mitrani-Reiser said.
— MORE LOCAL: C. FL —
“Top Seminole Republicans urge county GOP head to resign after election law charge” via Martin E. Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — Top Republicans in Seminole, including all five Commissioners and three constitutional officers, are urging state party officials to force Ben Paris to step down as chair of the county Republican Party after he was charged with an election law violation. “Let’s do the right thing and get rid of the guy,” Commissioner Lee Constantine said on Friday. “Election fraud is a big deal.” Property Appraiser David Johnson noted that “it’s not a great look” for the county that the head of Seminole’s GOP faces a criminal charge.
“Orlando teams with voting rights champion Desmond Meade to reduce gun violence” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Orlando is moving closer to launching its gun violence prevention initiative and is turning to one of the region’s most influential residents to run it. The city has contracted the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition to manage the program, which will hire so-called neighborhood change agents to mentor people deemed the most likely to be shot at or shoot others. Meade runs the FRRC and is the group that led the campaign to pass Amendment 4 in 2018, restoring voting rights to people with felony convictions who completed their sentences. The city funded the program using $1.5 million from its American Rescue Plan allotment, and the contract to FRRC is for $535,000.
“St. Petersburg knew about ‘health and safety hazard’ in Childs Park since 2007” via Colleen Wright and Jack Evans of the Tampa Bay Times — Mayor Ken Welch wants to do something about the mysterious smell that has lingered over the Childs Park neighborhood for decades. Welch, born and raised in southern St. Petersburg, said he always thought it was odd that there was an industrial hub in the middle of a predominantly Black and low-income neighborhood along the Pinellas Trail. Residents believe that the gas-like smell originates there. “It’s obviously an issue we need to get to the bottom of,” Welch said. Welch was given a memo that shows the city has been aware of residents’ concerns since at least 2007. In April, 15 years since that report came out, the neighborhood association launched a “Smell Something, Say Something” campaign to encourage residents to report foul odors as they happen.
“DeSantis appoints Donald Wiley to the Sumter Commission” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — DeSantis has appointed Wiley to the Sumter County Board of County Commissioners, which encompasses famed Florida retirement paradise, The Villages. Wiley, who lives in The Villages, owns Gold Wingnut Productions, a photography, and video production company. He previously served as the district supervisor of the Villages Community Development District 10. Wiley is a U.S. Navy veteran honorably discharged after 20 years of service. Wiley will replace Diane Spencer in the District 5 seat on the board.
— LOCAL NOTES: N. FL —
“‘DeSantis Flotilla’ parades up St. Johns River in support of DeSantis” via Francine Frazier of News4Jax — The Republican Party of Duval County organized a flotilla on the St. Johns River Saturday to honor DeSantis. Boat after Boat paraded toward the Main Street Bridge, starting around noon, as some state party leaders watched from the deck of the USS Orleck. GOP leaders said it was the first big, organized flotilla for the Governor. More than 1,300 boats registered for the event, coinciding with Jacksonville’s Bicentennial and a quarterly gathering of The Republican Party of Florida in the River City. Many boats flew American and DeSantis flags, with some passengers dressing like the American flag themselves.
“Pat Ivey sworn in as Jacksonville Sheriff after retirement of Mike Williams” via News4Jax — One day after Williams ended his decadeslong career amid ongoing controversy over his move to Nassau County, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office found itself under new leadership. In a private ceremony, Ivey was sworn in Saturday as the sixth sheriff to serve Jacksonville since consolidation. Ivey was appointed to the post by DeSantis and will fill the role until an August special election when voters choose a sheriff who will fulfill the remainder of Williams’ second term. The Special Election is expected on Aug. 23, with a runoff election, if needed, in November.
“Critics fear new Duval Schools LGBTQ+ guide strips student protections” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — It may be Pride month, but LGBTQ+ advocates say that at a time when visibility and acceptance should be highlighted, they fear queer youth may instead be facing scrutiny and erasure. In Duval Schools, an LGBTQ+ Guide that was once praised by other counties as among the golden standard could now be stripped to comply with state direction that follows the Parental Rights in Education Law, known by critics as “Don’t Say Gay.” That issue, coupled with other statewide actions that affect the LGBTQ+ community, has advocates worried about their safety. Duval Schools’ previous LGBTQ+ Guide was 37 pages long. Duval Schools’ new draft guide is eight pages — even smaller than Leon County’s 19-page document.
“Nassau School Board backs proposed tax increase amid teacher shortage” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — Nassau County residents will likely have a chance to decide whether to levy a 1 mill property tax increase to augment revenue to the county’s underfunded and understaffed school district. The Nassau County School Board voted Thursday night unanimously to put the question on the ballot. It now goes to the County Commission before moving into the hands of the Supervisor of Elections. “I’ve had the pleasure of sitting here for the past two terms, and I’ve watched this district save, cut, do more with less, and it’s everywhere,” Board member Jamie Deonas said. “It not just affects teachers, it affects everybody for our district.”
“Historic White, Black cemeteries only blocks apart in Panama City tell very different stories” via Fresh Take Florida — In the early 1900s, two cemeteries were established in Panama City, one for White residents, the other for African Americans. While the White cemetery is well maintained to this day, the Black burial ground is under a Goodyear tire shop. Oakland Cemetery and its counterpart, locally known informally as the Balboa Cemetery or the Panama City Colored Cemetery, are about a half-mile apart. After more than a century, the African American cemetery, established on the southwest corner of Balboa Avenue and 15th Street, has nearly faded from history. “This isn’t an isolated story,” said Robert Cvornyek, a history professor at Florida State University’s regional campus in Panama City, researching the Balboa Cemetery.
“Driver in fatal hit-and-run of UF student sentenced to six years in prison, loses license for decade” via Fresh Take Florida — A judge on Friday sentenced the driver in a hit-and-run that killed a University of Florida student to six years in prison with 15 years of felony probation and took away his driver’s license for the next decade. Alachua County Sheriff’s deputies immediately took Joshua Alexander Figueroa into custody. Figueroa had missed a sentencing hearing earlier this week because his lawyer said he had been mysteriously hospitalized since Sunday. His hospital stay wasn’t discussed Friday in court except when the judge asked for assurances that no procedures or medication were affecting his willingness to enter a plea to a charge of leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in a death.
Rest in peace — “Patrick Phillip Keefe, son of former federal prosecutor Larry Keefe, dies at 25” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Patrick Keefe, son of Larry Keefe, the former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Florida, and his wife Lynn, died of cancer on June 6. He was 25. Patrick Keefe was born, raised, and lived on Choctawhatchee Bay for 25 years. He devoured life and immersed himself in every moment. His joy overflowed to anyone in his presence. And he spent his most joyful moments in and around the Bay.
— TOP OPINION —
“Floridians funding tweeters, not leaders” via Andy Marlette of the Pensacola News Journal — How about this wacky Florida news item: “Florida woman living off taxpayer money outed as secret foreign agent.”
In reality, that woman is someone you’ve probably never heard of named Christina Pushaw, a Twitter-dwelling “spokesperson” who Gov. DeSantis pays a six-figure taxpayer-funded salary in exchange for sending tweets all day long. But hey, what’s the use of controlling all our hard-earned tax dollars if big government bureaucrats can’t suck cushy salaries and benefits from them?
In the Tallahassee Democrat, Zac Anderson wrote that Pushaw belatedly registered as a foreign agent after being notified by the Department of Justice that she had failed to do so after working for a former President of Georgia (the nation, not the Bulldogs) between 2018 to 2020. (Hidden loyalties to the University of Georgia would be an immediate fireable offense, if not a crime in some parts of Florida.)
You’re telling me that of all the hundreds of thousands of talented people from the great state of Florida, DeSantis couldn’t have found one single qualified spokesperson who didn’t ever get paid as a secret foreign agent for a former Soviet republic? Not one veteran? Not one graduate of a Florida university? Not one honest Floridian whose ultimate motivation is to serve the people of their home state?
— OPINIONS —
“The boiling over of America” via Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal — Congressional Republicans argue, compellingly, that there is a mental-health crisis in America, especially among young men. But do they listen to themselves when they say this? Because at the same time many are suggesting they will refuse to ban 18-year-olds, with their unsturdy emotions and unformed brains, from buying assault weapons such as AR-15s. Does that make any sense? It’s as if they’re saying, “We know you’ve been rendered mentally ill by the society and culture in which you’ve been raised. Therefore, we’re going to make sure you can legally obtain super weapons to kill people.” Don’t they know what time it is? This is a nation in all kinds of crises. You can’t let your theories and abstractions have sway at such a moment; you have to let common sense step in.
“No, red-flag gun laws don’t violate due process rights” via Joseph Blocher and Jake Charles for The Washington Post — Red-flag laws, which allow guns to be temporarily taken from people who pose a risk of harm to themselves or others, are one of the few gun-control regulations that have bipartisan support. “I’m generally inclined to think some kind of red-flag law is a good idea,” Sen. Roy Blunt said shortly after the May 24 school shooting in Uvalde, Tex. Key Senators have told reporters that an agreement could be reached soon on legislation that would include incentives for more states to pass such laws. There is strong popular support for red-flag laws, also known as extreme-risk laws, in both parties.
“No, Republicans, prairie dogs don’t matter more than murdered children” via Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post — When he was Governor of Florida, Sen. Scott responded to the Parkland school massacre with action: He proudly signed legislation raising the state’s age to buy any firearm to 21, recognizing that the rules for buying weapons such as the AR-15-style assault rifle used by the then-19-year-old Parkland shooter and for purchasing handguns should be the same. Surely, then, Scott would support federal legislation to do the same thing. Right? Scott said he would prefer the states act, ignoring the obvious problem with that solution. Those who want to skirt such rules can simply buy their weapons in some other state with more lenient rules.
“Tampa Bay Rays strike out with DeSantis” via Brian Knight for The Wall Street Journal — Your editorial criticizes DeSantis for justifying, at least in part, his veto of a $35 million subsidy for the Tampa Bay Rays because of the team’s advocacy for gun control. While it’s legitimate to be concerned about Republicans abusing their power and adopting the tactics of the “woke left,” this is a complex case. The provider of the $35 million would be the Florida taxpayer. Unlike a customer, who can decide whether the Rays’ politics is sufficiently noxious to outweigh the value of buying a ticket, the taxpayer must pay. It isn’t crazy for DeSantis to be concerned about forcing the people he represents to subsidize political advocacy. It’s another example of the harm from over-entanglement of business and government.
“My concern for Florida’s public universities, state colleges” via Cynthia Jackson-Hammond for the Tallahassee Democrat — Recent Florida legislation, SPB 7044, should be viewed with much concern and with skepticism as to its consequences. The bill requires state colleges and universities to seek reaffirmation from different accrediting organizations at the end of each review cycle. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the U.S. Department of Education have identified major problems that could result from this action. Some members of the Florida legislature who supported this bill cited “transparency” as a reason to change agencies.
— ALOE —
“After a political storm, gay days return to Disney” via Brooks Barnes of The New York Times — Last Friday evening, about 6,000 people, almost all gay men, poured into a Walt Disney World water park near Orlando. Each had spent $100 or more on tickets for a private, adults-only Pride bacchanal called Riptide. “For one night, Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park becomes entirely yours for the party of the year,” online ads had promised. “Be part of the magic!” An actual rainbow arched over the park’s thunder-shower-soaked parking lot as the sun set, prompting several attendees to joke that Disney had outdone itself with Pride-theming this year. But the party was not a Disney-orchestrated event, not by a long shot.
“How Disney World added fun foods to 50th-anniversary menu” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Like many good parties, Walt Disney World set out a nice spread of food for its ongoing 50th-anniversary celebration. A culinary team developed more than 100 menu items, including drinks, snacks and novelties tied to theme park attractions. That included a Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride burger and a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea beverage, complete with tentacles. So, in association with Magic Kingdom’s Haunted Mansion ride, visitors could buy a Happy Haunts milkshake, a Doom Berry beverage, and pushup cake pops inspired by its stretching room.
“SeaWorld focuses on rides instead of whales, and revenues soar” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — SeaWorld is experiencing something it hasn’t in nearly a decade, a run of good news. The park is debuting new coasters, bringing back free beer and earning boatloads of praise for its rescue efforts. Oh, and one other thing: Its financial prospects are soaring. The company recently reported record earnings and passholder purchases and has become such a Wall Street darling that one recent headline blared that analysts had reached a “Consensus Rating of ‘Buy’” on company stock. It’s too early to proclaim SeaWorld’s turnaround complete. The company still faces challenges. But it certainly seems to have righted the ship — largely because it finally acknowledged a need to evolve.
Publix driver takes top awards in 2022 Florida Truck Driving Championships — David Guinn, a professional truck driver for Publix Super Markets, is the Grand Champion of the 2022 Florida Truck Driving Championships. More than 900 people gathered for an awards banquet celebrating Florida’s professional truck drivers on June 11, the final day of the competition in Daytona Beach. Florida Trucking Association hosted the three-day event; approximately 230 of the top drivers in the state competed to display skills and knowledge of the industry. Drivers in 10 different vehicle classes — such as tank truck, 5-axle, and step van — convened at the Ocean Center to compete. They evaluated each driver based on a written test, a pre-trip inspection, and a skills course. Jose Ramos, a driver for Oakley Transport, based in Lake Wales, is Driver of the Year.
“Miami Herald Food Editor wins second James Beard Award for connecting to community with food” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — Longtime Food Editor Carlos Frías wasn’t expecting to win his second James Beard Foundation award Saturday night but was thrilled to be honored for the type of reporting he loves, connecting with and sharing community stories. “For me, there is nothing more important than telling the stories of Miami,” Frías said. “That really is the reason that I love doing the work, and through food, I can tell so many stories.” Frías won the Jonathan Gold Local Voice Award in the journalism category, which recognizes reporters who engage with the community through food and dining coverage. The James Beard Award is among the highest honors in the culinary world.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Belated happy birthday to INFLUENCE alums Sally Bradshaw, Husein Cumber, Rich Heffley, and Rick Minor. Best wishes to former Sen. David Simmons, Ron Brise, our dear friend Allison Carvajal, and Margie Menzel.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Renzo Downey, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.