Good Wednesday morning.
Gino Casanova is joining Shumaker Advisors Florida as Chief of Staff, the firm announced Wednesday.
Casanova most recently worked as vice president of business development at CopyPress. He previously led government affairs for AdventHealth, a Florida-based nonprofit health care system with facilities in nine states.
“It is an exciting time to join Shumaker Advisors, as the firm continues to recruit top leaders in Tampa Bay and beyond who are committed to making a difference in their communities,” Casanova said. “I am honored to join this elite team and look forward to using my experience in business and government relations to continue this exponential growth at Shumaker.”
Before entering the private sector, Casanova served as a legislative aide to former state Sen. Mike Fasano. In that role, he helped research, write and pass more than 100 bills.
“Gino is a game-changer and is respected for his ability to achieve the most challenging goals through strong team-building and dedication,” said Ron Christaldi, the president and CEO of Shumaker Advisors Florida. “We are thrilled to have his leadership at Shumaker and know he will bring tremendous value to our clients.”
Shumaker Advisors’ latest addition follows the hire of former DBPR Deputy Secretary MJ Johnston the team at Suskey Consulting, which merged into Shumaker Advisors Florida late last year.
Spotted — Taylor Budowich on the MxM’s founders list, alongside Donald Trump Jr. Before he went from Donald Trump spox to news app founder, the GOP operative organized hundreds of rallies in support of Republican politicians such as U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and also served in the upper levels of Tea Party Express and Richard Corcoran’s political committee, Watchdog PAC.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@EllieVHall: Hard to think of a better indictment of the state of media in 2022 than a reporter calling into a newsroom meeting from a literal war zone to find out if he’ll have a job when he gets back.
—@EllieNYC: Imagine spending 9 years on the bench and writing almost 600 opinions and then having your law school enemy pick 5 of them to suggest that you are a supporter of pedophile.
—@AndrewSolender: “I’m completely over mask mandates,” DCCC Chair Sean Maloney tells @Axios. “I don’t think they make any sense anymore. I’m for whatever gets rid of mask mandates as quickly as possible.”
—@GovRonDeSantis: By allowing men to compete in women’s sports, the NCAA is destroying opportunities for women, making a mockery of its championships, and perpetuating a fraud. In Florida, we reject these lies and recognize Sarasota’s Emma Weyant as the best women’s swimmer in the 500y freestyle.
—@SWalker_7: No. Lia Thomas is the Women’s 500 Freestyle champion. No amount of transphobia in this tweet will change that.
—@ESPN: ESPN believes in inclusivity and denounces legislation and actions across the United States that infringe on any human rights. We stand with our LGBTQIA+ colleagues, friends, families, and fans.
— DAYS UNTIL —
Season two of ‘Bridgerton’ begins — 2; The Oscars — 4; ‘Macbeth’ with Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga preview performances on Broadway — 6; Florida Chamber’s 2nd Annual Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health + Sustainability begins — 6; Grammys rescheduled in Las Vegas — 11; John Dingfelder to be replaced on Tampa City Council 一 14; MLB Opening Day — 15; ‘Better Call Saul’ final season begins — 26; Magic Johnson’s Apple TV+ docuseries ‘They Call Me Magic’ begins — 30; 2022 Florida Chamber Transportation, Growth & Infrastructure Solution Summit — 36; ‘The Godfather’ TV series ‘The Offer’ premieres — 37; 2nd half of ‘Ozark’ final season begins — 37; federal student loan payments will resume — 39; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 44; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 49; ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ starts on Disney+ — 63; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 65; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 71; California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota hold midterm Primaries — 76; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 108; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 121; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 139; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 163; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 197; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 215; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 234; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 237; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 244; ‘Avatar 2′ premieres — 269; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 333; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 349; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ premieres — 366; 2023 Session Sine Die — 409; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 492; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 576; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 856.
“Ron DeSantis: NCAA runner-up who lost to trans athlete ‘best female swimmer’” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — The Governor spoke about the issue during an unrelated news conference Tuesday in Wesley Chapel. Unprompted, DeSantis poured fuel on the raging national controversy over who should be allowed to participate in women’s sports. The runner-up, Emma Weyant, is a native of Sarasota who swam for the University of Virginia. DeSantis published the official proclamation. “A male identifying as a woman was allowed to compete in and was declared the winner of the race,” it read in part. “It is my determination that men should not be competing against women such as Emma Weyant.” Since Lia Thomas won the race Thursday, she’s been the subject of criticism from conservatives and some of her swimming colleagues. Angela Morabito, a former press secretary in the Department of Education during Trump’s administration, went viral on Twitter over the weekend for similarly declaring Weyant the winner by saying “second is the new first.”
“DeSantis: Disney walkout protesters favor ‘injecting sexual instruction’ in children” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — As Disney cast members and employees staged a walkout over how the company handled Florida’s controversial parental rights in education bill, DeSantis took another jab at the company, but also protesters. Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek took a public stand against the bill (HB 1557) earlier this month after internal pressure forced his hand. However, employees still planned a walkout Tuesday morning, saying the company should have acted sooner. When asked about the planned walkout, which has received national media attention this week, DeSantis said protesters weren’t on the same side of the issue as parents.
“Democrats blast Party for Disney fundraiser amid fight over LGBT education bill” via Marc Caputo of NBC News — Florida’s Democratic Party is under fire from its own LGBTQ caucus and members who want it to cancel its annual fundraiser at Disney World because they believe the company did too little to stop legislation to prohibit schools from teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity. Adding to the conflict: The party sent out on Monday night just as Disneyland workers in California were announcing a walkout in solidarity with the gay community and in opposition to the Florida legislation and the company’s response to it. The Leadership Blue Gala is slated for June 18, in the middle of Pride Month.
—@BethMatuga: Everyone would be happier if this entire thing was just one night in the Diplomat lobby bar and an open tab We’d probably also get more done
“Disney walkout spurs in-person action in Burbank, social media response from Disney stars” via Abbey White of The Hollywood Reporter — Employees across Disney’s various divisions participated in physical and virtual walkouts on Tuesday in a show of solidarity with Florida-based Disney workers, particularly cast members and other parks employees. On social media, workers at the Walt Disney Studios complex in Burbank, California have shared their own participation in the in-person protests. The voluntary walkout was organized by @DisneyWalkout and is running between the local hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Tuesday. Some Disney workers have seen support within their studios, with employees allowed to take the day “no questions asked” to participate.
“Florida Democrats pull conference from Disney World in light of ‘Don’t Say Gay’ pushback” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — The Party received fierce pushback from its LGBTQ+ Caucus in light of The Walt Disney Co. financial contributions to supporters of the controversial bill, HB 1557, known as the “Don’t Say Gay,” bill. “We have heard the feedback regarding our Leadership Blue weekend, including conflicts with Pride Month, Juneteenth and Father’s Day events, all of which we intended to honor,” Party Chair Manny Diaz said in a release. “Our timing was not ideal. We also acknowledge that in our fight for freedom and fairness, we can always do more. In that spirit, the Florida Democratic Party will choose new dates and venues to hold Leadership Blue. We will share information about new arrangements once we have explored available options.” The annual conference was scheduled to be held at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort from June 17-19.
“Teachers will get pay raises July 1. But how much and who can expect them?” via Ana Ceballos of the Miami Herald — Florida will be setting aside hundreds of millions of dollars to boost the pay of thousands of Florida teachers, including veteran educators, as part of a multiyear effort. The pay increases will benefit teachers in more than a dozen school districts that are still trying to bring the minimum base salary for teachers to $47,500 — a top priority for DeSantis for the last three years. Starting July 1 with the new fiscal year, there will be more offered to veteran teachers, who already make above the base salary and who have not benefited from earlier initiatives. The money is included in a $112 billion budget that Florida lawmakers approved earlier this month. While DeSantis has not officially signed it, he announced on Monday that the teacher pay initiatives are a done deal.
“Bob Buckhorn goes from Tampa’s Mayor to ‘sherpa’ for big urban projects” via Sue Carlton of the Tampa Bay Times — When they run into him over lunch at Ybor City’s Casa Santo Stefano, people still call Buckhorn “Mayor.” But these days, Buckhorn is busy getting ensconced in his new private-sector role as an economic and urban development adviser with a 28th floor downtown view of the city. Along with former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and other ex-office holders before them, Buckhorn recently joined the firm of Shumaker Advisors Florida, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Shumaker law firm. The new job focuses on urban development strategies and economic development opportunities, topics familiar from his previous place of employment.
“F. Scott Westheimer voted president-elect designate of The Florida Bar” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — The Florida Bar has elected Westheimer, a Sarasota attorney, as the organization’s next president-elect. Westheimer, a managing partner at Syprett Meshad who joined The Bar in 1996 and has been a member of its Board of Governors since 2013, clinched the win after a 21-day voting period. By the time voting closed on March 21, 59.5% of 20,161 ballots cast in the two-way race between him and fellow Board member Lorna Brown-Burton of Fort Lauderdale were in his favor. He will be sworn in as president-elect on June 25 at the annual Florida Bar Convention. Westheimer will assume The Bar presidency for the 2023-24 Bar year.
— DATELINE TALLY —
Happening today — Aides to Gov. DeSantis and the state Cabinet — Attorney General Ashley Moody, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis — meet ahead of a March 29 meeting, 9 a.m., Cabinet meeting room.
“DeSantis signs bill requiring financial literacy courses for new high schoolers” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Students entering 9th grade in the 2023-24 school year will be required to take a financial literacy course to graduate, now that DeSantis signed SB 1054 on Tuesday. Under the new law, which takes effect July 1, schools must develop a curriculum for personal literacy and money management as an elective class. The course must include instruction on opening bank accounts, balancing a checkbook, money management, credit scores, personal debt, loan applications, federal income taxes, and different types of investments.
“Legislation imposing School Board term limits, content review process hits DeSantis’ desk” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — DeSantis has received legislation (CS/HB 1467) that would impose statewide term limits on local school board members. DeSantis received the bill Tuesday and has until April 6 to sign it into law. DeSantis offered a qualified endorsement of the proposal last week but emphasized his belief that the bill didn’t go far enough on term limits, however, he “wouldn’t veto the bill just over that.” The amended legislation limits School Board members to terms of 12 years, a step up from the original eight-year restriction. A more controversial portion of the bill requires school districts to list all library and instructional materials in use in an online database.
“Bill allowing ‘seizure action plans’ for students lands on DeSantis’ desk” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — A bill allowing parents to draft “individualized seizure action plans” that school staff could follow in the event their child has a seizure landed Tuesday on DeSantis’ desk. The plans would provide school staff with a student’s medical and personal information. It would also include the contact information of parents and health care providers. Rep. Nick Duran and Rep. Mike Gottlieb are the bill sponsors (HB 173). Sen. Ileana Garcia carried the Senate companion bill. Both bills garnered bipartisan support in the 2022 Legislative Session. Speaking to Florida Politics in January, Garcia said the bill is “close to home” for her “as someone who suffered” from seizures for a “very long time.”
—”Move over March Madness, it’s Veto Season” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics
“Medicaid medical advisory committee meets, state shares no post-pandemic details” via Christine Jordan Sexton — Florida’s top Medicaid official met Tuesday morning with the state’s 15-member advisory committee, but there was no talk about how the state plans to determine Medicaid eligibility for 5.1 million people once the nation’s public health emergency expires. Instead, Florida Medicaid Director Tom Wallace briefly discussed staff changes at the Agency for Health Care Administration since the Medicaid Medical Care Advisory Committee last met in June 2021. The public health emergency associated with the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to be lifted in July. That means Florida would continue to receive an additional 6.2% bump in federal Medicaid funds through September. Once the emergency is lifted, the state can more easily remove people from the Medicaid rolls.
Happening today — The Florida Public Service Commission examines setting up a new Northeast Florida area code, 11 a.m. Online link here.
Happening today — The Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Board of Governors meets, 8:30 a.m., Orlando Marriott Lake Mary, 1501 International Parkway, Lake Mary. Zoom link here. Call-in number: 1-786-635-1003. Dial-in code: 95637927111.
— 2022 —
Assignment editors — Charlie Crist will be touring Central Florida, starting with a roundtable with Orlando labor leaders at 11:30 a.m. (all times Eastern) followed by a “Women for Crist” event, 1 p.m.; “Say Gay” panel with LGBTQ+ advocate Jim Obergefell, Reps. Anna Eskamani and Carlos Guillermo Smith, 3 p.m. (livestreamed on Crist’s Facebook page @CharlieCristFL) and an evening reception with Chris King, 6:30 p.m. RSVP for locations at [email protected]
“Poll shows Charlie Crist maintaining lead in Democratic primary for Governor” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — New polling shows U.S. Rep. Crist continues to hold a double-digit lead in the Democratic Primary for Governor. But all candidates appear vulnerable to negative campaign messaging. A survey shows 43% of likely Democratic Primary voters favor Crist, with 33% picking Fried, and 15% liking state Sen. Annette Taddeo. Only about 8% of respondents started out unsure. Results show significant growth for all candidates since the last time the committee polled the race in February. Participants in the poll were read flat biographies of each of the three major Democratic candidates for Governor.
—“Double-digit deficit in another new poll doesn’t concern Nikki Fried” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics
“Fried defends campaigning with GOP’s Manny Díaz as way to ‘get things accomplished’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — In 2016, Fried made calls for and campaigned with Republican Díaz Jr. as he ran for re-election to the House. The issue has been revived in anonymous text messages this month. Díaz, now a Senator, sponsored legislation in 2022 to ban “critical race theory” concepts from classrooms. Yet despite Díaz’s prominent role backing a major culture war issue, Fried defended cross-party affiliations. “You know what? I have been and I continue to stand behind my record as a Democrat, my entire life since I was 17 years old,” Fried said. “And you know what? Here in the state of Florida and across the country, we should be looking for more bipartisan support on issues. That’s what’s wrong with politics today.”
Florida Forestry Association backs Wilton Simpson for Agriculture Commissioner — The Florida Forestry Association, a statewide trade association that promotes responsible and sustainable use of Florida’s forest resources, on Tuesday endorsed Simpson for Agriculture Commissioner. “Wilton Simpson has a proven track record of strong leadership grounded in common sense,” said FFA Executive Vice President Alan Shelby. “By combining sound policies with political acumen, he clearly presents Florida’s best choice for growing our economy while protecting our environment.” Simpson, a Republican and the current Senate President, is the front-runner to succeed current Agriculture Commissioner Fried, who is running for Governor. FFA’s nod follows endorsements from dozens of Florida’s sheriffs announced on Monday. Simpson has also picked up endorsements from the Florida Farm Bureau, National Rifle Association and Trump.
“Frederica Wilson gets primary challenge from former Miami-Dade chair Audrey Edmonson” via Douglas Hanks and Bianca Padró Ocasio of the Miami Herald — Rep. Wilson faces a primary challenge this year from a well-known Miami politician in Florida’s heavily Democratic 24th District after former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Edmonson joined the race Tuesday. “The fact of the matter is, our District 24 congresswoman has failed her constituents, the needs of the district, and of our state,” she said of Edmonson. “I take no pleasure in challenging her, as we agree on most issues.” Edmonson made the announcement at the one-story home of El Portal’s village government, where she launched her political career in the 1990s as mayor and went on to serve 14 years on the county commission before a term-limit law forced her to leave in 2020.
—”Rusty Roberts: I know the community, I know Washington” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics
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“DeSantis tipped balance in Tampa Bay state Senate race. Is it a trend?” via Romy Ellenbogen and Emily L. Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis may be bucking Tallahassee tradition again. Last week, he waded into a Tampa Bay-area state Senate race that promised to be a tough primary between two sitting lawmakers. On March 14, DeSantis in a tweet endorsed Rep. Blaise Ingoglia for the newly drawn Senate District 11. Two days later, he announced Rep. Ralph Massullo, Ingoglia’s competitor, would be stepping out of the Senate race to run for reelection to the House. DeSantis’ endorsement of Massullo in the House race came before Massullo had announced he was switching races.
—”House candidates play musical chairs in redrawn Central Florida contests” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics
“Orlando-area ‘Queen of Versailles’ will fundraise for Rachel Plakon” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — With the Discovery Channel documentary sequel to her “Queen Of Versailles” movie premiering next week, Orlando-area mansion matron Jackie Siegel is turning her attention to political fundraising for Plakon. Siegel is the star of the 2012 full-length documentary feature “The Queen of Versailles” — about her and timeshare mogul David Siegel’s efforts to build an 85,000-square-foot mega-mansion called “Versailles” in Windermere. On March 30, the Discovery Channel’s Discover+ streaming service is launching a new series called “Queen of Versailles Reigns Again,” updating the story about the still-unfinished house, and the Siegels’ life since the first movie, including their responses to the tragic loss of their 18-year-old daughter, Victoria Siegel, to an opioid overdose in 2015.
“Eric Engelhart files as a Democratic candidate in HD 77” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Engelhart has filed for an open state House seat in the new House District 77. The Democrat said with new maps in place, he sees an opportunity for the Lehigh community to have a dedicated voice in Tallahassee for the first time. “We are the largest unincorporated community in the state of Florida,” he said, “and we have been an ATM for the county and state.” Engelhart has been involved in local politics for years but never as a candidate. He was involved in publicizing emails from a County Commission candidate in 2020 who had used the n-word in emails, and he lobbied locally for increases in deputies patrolling Lehigh. More recently, he has argued for the need to double the number of fire stations serving the unincorporated area. The Lehigh area currently falls in House District 79, represented by Rep. Spencer Roach.
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If it’s Tuesday … “Three incumbents survive, one ousted as Palm Beach municipalities hold nine elections” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — In Boynton Beach, voters chose Thomas Turkin over Marit Hedeen to represent them in the District 3 seat on the City Commission. In Jupiter, three mayoral candidates were whittled down to two Council member rivals; voters chose its longtime Town Councilor over its newer arrival. Jim Kuretski, a Jupiter Town Councilor for 21 years, defeated Councilman Ilan Kaufer, first elected to the Town Council in 2014. In Jupiter Inlet Colony, incumbent Commissioner Cynthia Keim lost by 10 votes Marie Rosner in the race for Town Commission Group 4 seat. In Lantana Group 1, incumbent Lynn Moorhouse defeated John Raymer winning 59% of the vote. Moorhouse won 595 votes; Raymer, 409, according to unofficial results. In Lantana’s Group 2 race, voters chose Kem Mason over Media Beverly. Mason won 59% of the vote, with the unofficial total 607-421. Seeking his second three-year term, Riviera Beach Mayor Ronnie Felder bested Billie Brooks, a former City Council member.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Joe Biden warns of possible Russian cyberattacks against Americans.” via Cassandre Coyer of the Miami Herald — Biden said it’s a “critical moment” to improve domestic cybersecurity after new evidence shows Russia is considering options for cyberattacks against the United States. While Biden said he had previously warned about “the potential that Russia could conduct malicious cyber activity against the United States,” he reiterated these warnings on March 21 “based on evolving intelligence that the Russian government is exploring options for potential cyberattacks.” Russia has been blamed for undermining the country’s cybersecurity, CNBC reported. The reported cyberattacks included malware that can wipe clean data from any targeted organization and a DDoS attack on Wednesday, Feb. 23, which crippled the websites of Ukrainian government agencies and financial institutions.
“Tampa Bay’s Christopher Hill confirmed as U.S. ambassador to Serbia” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — A career diplomat with Tampa Bay ties will soon call Belgrade, Serbia, his home after being appointed and confirmed as the U.S. ambassador to Serbia. Christopher Hill was announced as the nominee by Biden in October and was confirmed by the Senate in March. He has a home on Treasure Island and has previously spoken at USF events about diplomacy. Hill previously served under multiple presidents as an ambassador in the Republic of Korea, Poland, North Macedonia and, most recently, Iraq, before retiring from foreign service in 2010. From 2005 to 2009, Hill led the U.S. delegation in talks over nuclear weapons in North Korea.
“White House officials say U.S. has exhausted funds to buy potential fourth vaccine dose for all Americans” via Dan Diamond, Rachel Roubein and Yasmeen Abutaleb of The Washington Post — The Biden administration lacks the funds to purchase a potential fourth coronavirus vaccine dose for everyone, even as other countries place their own orders and potentially move ahead of the United States in line. Federal officials have secured enough doses to cover the fourth shot for Americans aged 65 and older as well as the initial regimen for children under age 5, should regulators determine those shots are necessary, said three officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to detail funding decisions. But the officials say they cannot place advance orders for additional vaccine doses for those in other age groups unless lawmakers pass a stalled $15 billion funding package.
“John Rutherford bought Raytheon stock the same day Russia invaded Ukraine” via Kimberly Leonard of Business Insider — Rep. Rutherford purchased up to $15,000 in stock in a major defense contractor on the same day that Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Rutherford purchased between $1,000 and $15,000 worth of stock in Raytheon corporation on Feb. 24. The stock purchase happened the same day that Rutherford tweeted the US should “leave nothing off the table” in countering Russia. Rutherford joins at least 18 other members of Congress who since 2020 have either held shares in Raytheon or Lockheed Martin or recently traded stock in these companies. The lawmakers stand to personally profit from the Russia-launched war at a time when Biden just signed into law a spending bill with $6.5 billion in military assistance to help Ukraine during the crisis.
“Kathy Castor, locals celebrate $2M in funding for Tampa’s University Area Cultural Campus” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — Castor highlighted $2 million she helped secure in funding through the omnibus funding package President Joe Biden signed into law last week. The money will go toward the construction of a sprawling cultural campus just off Fletcher Avenue in the heart of Tampa’s University Area. The University Area CDC Cultural Campus recently finished its first phase, converting two apartments into offices for the Caribbean American National Development Organization (CANDO) and Casa Chiapas. Both are organizations that provide educational opportunities for underserved migrant communities.
“Debbie Wasserman Schultz highlights South Florida innovation fueled by federal budget” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Wasserman Schultz came to Nova Southeastern University (NSU) Tuesday to highlight what impacts the newly signed federal budget will have on South Florida. She helped secure some $14 million in federal funding for area community projects. That includes $1.95 million to fuel tech innovations at NSU. The package that Wasserman Schultz helped secure for Florida’s 23rd Congressional District shows that nearly $6 million will be going to South Florida’s higher learning institutions. There’s also $2 million to expand workforce training at Broward College and $2 million for Florida International University’s imaging center.
“Ballard Partners signs $900K lobbying contract with Democratic Republic of the Congo” via Florida Politics — Another foreign nation has signed a lobbying deal with Ballard Partners. The firm this week closed a one-year, $900,000 deal with the Democratic Republic of the Congo to manage its lobbying efforts in the nation’s capital. Ballard Partners will pitch the African nation as “an international leader on climate change, with equitable compensation for its carbon credits, and allow it to position itself more effectively on the path of the protection of forest resources and national socio-economic development.” The firm will help the DRC enhance its relationship with the United States and further its economic growth. Firm founder Brian Ballard will lead the effort.
— LOCAL NOTES —
“‘Only emergency is that Black people are on the Beach.’ Critics blast Spring Break curfew” via David Ovalle and Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — The decision to elevate Spring Break crowd control into a community emergency has earned quick backlash from critics who charged that city leaders are overreacting, again, to large — mostly Black — crowds that have mostly been peaceful so far during this year’s gathering. “The only emergency is that Black people are on the Beach,” said Stephen Hunter Johnson, a member of Miami-Dade’s Black Advisory Board, adding: “I don’t understand how this town has been doing spring break for at least 25 years and can’t figure it out.” Michael Grieco, a state lawmaker and former Miami Beach Commissioner, also said the step was heavy-handed: “The state of emergency is an abuse of governmental power, and it scares the crap out of me.”
“Moms for Liberty contests more ‘pornographic’ books in Brevard County school libraries” via Bailey Gallion of Florida Today — The Brevard chapter of Moms for Liberty has sent Brevard Public Schools a second list of books the group has deemed pornographic. Two weeks ago, the group sent a list of 10 books to the School Board with excerpts of what their members identified as controversial passages. The chapter has been reading books from high school and middle school libraries to find materials that members believe violate pornography laws. The group is arguing that the sexually explicit scenes in the books constitute pornography and that school officials have committed a felony crime by allowing minors to access the books through school libraries.
“‘The system’s not broken’: Leon foregoes decriminalizing marijuana, supports diversion efforts” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Leon County commissioners moved away Tuesday from an ordinance symbolizing their wish to decriminalize marijuana. Instead, they unanimously approved a resolution supporting law enforcement and prosecutors utilizing a civil citation program for first-time offenders caught with 20 grams or less, a misdemeanor charge. Law enforcement already taps into a number of diversionary programs for people charged only with possession of a small amount of marijuana, including pre- and post-arrest programs designed to keep defendants clear of the judicial system by paying a $100 fine and completing various requirements.
“‘The problem is the process’: City Hall lobbying could become a 2022 campaign issue” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — A longtime push to put tighter restrictions on lobbyists trying to influence City Hall may have been nixed by a majority of City Commissioners. Citizens for Ethics Reform, which successfully backed the creation of the city’s Independent Ethics Board nearly a decade ago, is criticizing the move by commissioners and vowing to make it a campaign issue. Meanwhile, several candidates running for City Commission seats said they support some of the expanded restrictions on lobbying that got voted down. Peter Butzin, a member of the citizens’ group, said the issue deserves as much attention as the controversial vote by city and county commissioners to give Doak Campbell Stadium $27 million in Blueprint funds.
“Fernandina port authority sued over property taxes” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — Entities involved in the Port of Fernandina are no strangers to litigation, making the Nassau County property appraiser’s decision last week to sue the Ocean Highway and Port Authority (OHPA) one more headache in a metaphorical shipping container full of them. Property Appraiser Michael Hickox previously tried to get local ad valorem taxes on the property before. While it’s owned by the OHPA, which is a public special district, it’s used by Nassau Terminals, the for-profit company that runs the port. Nassau Terminals’ deal with the OHPA is a lease, according to the property appraiser, which means the company needs to pay those taxes.
— MORE LOCAL —
“Sophia Lacayo enters Miami-Dade Commission race with mostly self-funded $187K haul” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — After months as the lone candidate in the Miami-Dade County Commission District 12 race, Doral Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez has an opponent: Lacayo, who entered the contest last month adding more than $187,000. Most of that money came from Lacayo’s own bank account or companies to which she is linked. In addition to lending herself $169,000, Lacayo received a $1,000 donation from her campaign treasurer, Thanya Lacayo, who works at Doral-based tax services company Solasi. The company is registered under the Lacayo Trade Group Inc., which lists Sophia Lacayo as its CEO.
“‘I would love to be their Mayor again’: Jose ‘Pepe’ Diaz signals plan to run for Sweetwater Mayor” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — It’s been one of the worst-kept secrets in South Florida politics for a while, but the man at its center has edged closer than ever to removing all doubt: Diaz is keen on running to again become the Mayor of Sweetwater next year. Diaz, a former member of the U.S. Marine Corps who served as Sweetwater Mayor from 1999 to 2002, told Florida Politics that while he hasn’t officially filed for the race, he hopes to seek election once more to the top office of the city he’s long called home.
“Sad days for democracy in Fort Lauderdale” via Leann Barber of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The Fort Lauderdale City Commission voted 4-1 on March 15 to transfer 3.5 acres of city-owned downtown property known as the One Stop Shop to a private company. The reason given was that the city could not provide a safe open space for its citizens at that location due to the restrictions placed by a federal court on controlling homelessness. Two recent court rulings overturned the city’s trespass and panhandling laws for violating the First Amendment rights of private citizens. The Commission’s response was to move the land outside the court’s jurisdiction. In exchange for maintaining a private green space, the city allowed a private company, Damn Good Hospitality Group, exclusive rights to the site for 100 years.
—TOP OPINION —
“The future of solar in Florida will get much darker unless DeSantis vetoes bill” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Utilities companies wanted to make it more costly for homeowners who choose solar energy. So, they wrote a bill that does just that. They then give that bill to state lawmakers, who they’d also blessed with fat campaign donations. And the bill passed. Rarely do we see lawmaking that appears so nakedly transactional. Yes, at a time when most Americans are pushing for energy independence, Florida legislators took action to make this state more dependent upon fossil fuels. And upon the power companies that fund their campaigns. The new law was written by Florida Power & Light lobbyists and then given to Senate sponsor Jennifer Bradley along with a $10,000 check.
— OPINIONS —
“Actually, earmarks are good” via Jim Swift of The Bulwark — A long time ago in a Washington far, far away, congressional Republicans were against earmarks. The earmark ban was a way to own the libs while Republicans controlled Congress. But now it’s 2022 and we’re pretty much all Keynesians now. So, Republicans are hip to bringing back the logrolling and horse-trading. Earmarks are back, baby! In the old days, a member could be against a spending bill in theory, but for it in practice — if it contained earmarks to help his voters. Sure, grease can be dirty. But the machine doesn’t run so well without it.
“Jeff Brandes is right to push for Special Session on insurance rates” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — Brandes’ time as a Senator is ending, but he remains a voice of reason on how Tallahassee should work. He gave his usual good advice about what lawmakers should do to fix a problem they should have dealt with in the recently concluded Legislative Session. Brandes said DeSantis should finally call a Special Session to address the state’s property insurance crisis. Hurricane season starts in about 2 ½ months. Meanwhile, Florida insurance rates climb faster than a SpaceX rocket. Counties along both Florida coasts are especially vulnerable to these spikes. Brandes said many people see increases of “sometimes 30%, sometimes 100%.”
“Miami and Miami-Dade College team up to create the tech talent of the future” via Francis X. Suarez and Jeb Bush for the Miami Herald — Two years ago, our nation faced the greatest education crisis in the modern era. As the pandemic upended the lives of teachers, students and families, millions of children missed out on learning, falling months behind especially in reading and mathematics. There were even greater learning losses for minority or low-income students. Such enormous setbacks demand bold solutions, which is why we’re excited about a new education partnership between the city of Miami and Miami Dade College. These partners are preparing to launch Miami Tech Charter School, featuring career-focused programs that will accelerate students into in-demand jobs. South Florida is the fastest-growing tech hub in the nation.
— ALOE —
“Norwegian Getaway ship drops planned Russian itinerary, to move to Port Canaveral in June” via Dave Berman of Florida Today — With the Russia-Ukraine war continuing, Norwegian Cruise Line is redeploying ships scheduled to sail this year to St. Petersburg, Russia, including the Norwegian Getaway, which instead will be sailing from Port Canaveral starting in late-June. Separately, the cruise line on Tuesday canceled a second seven-night sailing of the Norwegian Escape out of Port Canaveral that was scheduled to depart on Saturday. Norwegian told passengers in an email that repairs to the ship, after it ran aground on March 14 while leaving a port in the Dominican Republic and was damaged, “will take longer than expected.”
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to Sen. Kelli Stargel, Florida Supreme Court Justice John Couriel, and Jenna Kotas.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Renzo Downey, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.