The Perfect Enemy | Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.12.22
February 23, 2024

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.12.22

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.12.22  Florida Politics

Good Monday morning.

The University of Florida cracked the Top 5 in U.S. News and World Report’s public university rankings last year, and it held on to the spot in the 2023 list.

Additionally, UF is recognized as a top performer on student outcomes, ranking No. 4 in the nation for all universities — tied with UC Berkeley, UCLA and MIT — with an overall six-year graduation rate of 91% and 89% for Pell grant recipients.

“UF’s position in the rankings is reflective of our continual, rapid strengthening in teaching, learning and research performance — smaller class sizes, consistently high graduation and retention rates, and the increased value of each student’s degree after graduation — all of which in turn helps Florida be viewed as a national leader,” said Mori Hosseini, chair of UF’s Board of Trustees.

Welcome back to the Top 5, Gators!

While UF is the top-ranked school in Florida, many other state universities held on to their or climbed up in the influential rankings list.

Florida State University, which entered the Top 20 four years ago, reaffirmed its No. 19 ranking on the U.S. News list and is also ranked as the No. 8 Best Value College among public institutions.

“These rankings reflect total excellence across the university,” FSU President Richard McCullough. “We’re competing at the highest levels with the best universities in the world, and our goal is to continue to rise to the Top 15 and beyond.”

The University of South Florida holds on to its Top-50 status in the new list, ranking No. 42 among all public universities nationwide. Notably, no other university in the United has rocketed up the list more than USF has over the past decade. It’s climbed a whopping 52 spots among public universities, from No. 94 to No. 42, and 73 spots among all universities, from No. 170 to No. 97.

“USF’s standing in the rankings is a testament to the hard work and success of our faculty, staff and students, who make an impact in our communities every day. We will continue to help shape the future for our society as we pursue our goal of becoming a top-25 public university,” USF President Rhea Law said.

The University of Central Florida, meanwhile, climbed three spots in the public university rankings to No. 64 — also its highest ever ranking.

Though relatively young compared to UF and FSU, it managed to outshine its older brothers with a Top-20 ranking in “Most Innovative Schools,” which is the highest in the state. Its nursing and engineering programs are also on the rise, hitting No. 51 and No. 75, respectively.

Finally, Florida International University climbed six rungs to the No. 72 spot on the public universities list. In addition, FIU is among the Top 50 best-value public universities and among the Top 15 most innovative public universities.

Some of its degree programs also tout impressive rankings, none more than international business, which held on to its No. 2 spot in the 2023 list.

The full U.S. News Best Colleges list goes live at noon.


Samantha Ferrin is taking on the lead lobbyist role at Simply Healthcare, an affiliate of Elevance Health.

“Samantha Ferrin brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in government, politics and policy to the Simply team,” said Holly Prince, the plan president of Simply. “Her experience leading state agencies, working in the Legislature and advocating across industries brings great value to our leadership team and positions her well to be a bold advocate for Simply Healthcare and the members we serve.”

Congrats to Samantha Ferrin on her new leadership role at Simply Healthcare.

Ferrin joins Simply from Greenberg Traurig, where she served as director and advocated on a wide range of issues, including health care, technology and procurement. She previously worked at the Florida Lottery, serving as Interim Secretary and Chief of Staff.

Ferrin spent two terms working in the state House in the Office of Majority Leader and Office of the Majority Whip for Rep. Dana Young under the leadership of House Speakers Will Weatherford and Steve Crisafulli. Her first job in The Process was a position on former Attorney General Pam Bondi’s legislative affairs team.

“Samantha Ferrin is an asset to any team,” said Sen. Jim Boyd. “Her relationships across the branches of government combined with her keen understanding of policy enable her to navigate the process effectively. And she does so with such great professionalism and poise.”

At Simply, Ferrin will oversee government relations and policy issues in Florida involving Medicare, Medicaid and Florida Healthy Kids programs.


Personnel note: Fátima Perez promoted at Koch CompaniesPerez, who oversees state government affairs for Koch Companies Public Sector in Florida, will now be overseeing seven other states. The new additions to her portfolio include Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, North Carolina and South Carolina. Perez joined Koch Companies Public Sector in 2015 and previously served as Chief of Staff to former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, as a senior adviser to former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, and as a senior legislative aide in the Florida Legislature, working for members of both chambers, including former Sen. Walter “Skip” Campbell and former Rep. Annie Betancourt.


This week, the Florida Trucking Association is joining the rest of the trucking industry in celebrating “National Truck Driver Appreciation Week.”

“About 85% of Florida communities depend exclusively on trucks to move their goods; nearly everything we depend on for daily life is made possible by our nation’s professional truck drivers,” FTA President and CEO Alix Miller said. “National Truck Driver Appreciation Week is an important time to thank professional truck drivers for their hard work and dedication in undertaking one of our economy’s most critical jobs.”

The annual week of recognition runs Sept. 11-17 and is meant to recognize professional truck drivers who safely and securely deliver freight every day. FTA praised truck drivers, saying they “always step up when they were needed most and have kept the economy moving despite facing unprecedented obstacles.”

This week, make sure you thank truckers for keeping the economy moving.

There are more than 3.6 million professional truck drivers nationwide and more than 500,000 CDL holders in Florida. Those drivers deliver the essential goods that people across the country rely on, including food, fuel, medicine, and clothing. In all, they deliver 10 billion tons per year, or 70% of all freight delivered in the U.S.

FTA is encouraging everyone to join them in recognizing the important work professional truck drivers perform and the significant impact it has on our quality of life.


Here are a few other thoughts:

📈 — Americans have been down on the economy for months, but they’re starting to shake the doom-and-gloom mentality, writes Abha Bhattarai of The Washington Post. The first signal of an improving outlook comes via consumer sentiment, which has started inching up after hitting rock bottom in June.

🤑 — Inflation hit a 40-year high of 9.1% in June before easing up in July. Data for August shows that it is continuing to tick down, Jon Hilsenrath writes for The Wall Street Journal. What does that mean for the average consumer? Well, lower prices, and potentially a “bloodbath” of discounting and markdowns at retail stores.

🪦 — COVID-19 hasn’t been an above-the-fold story for months, but it’s still kicking — and it’s still killing many Americans. As Jon Kamp of The Wall Street Journal writes, the virus has claimed the lives of more than 200,000 Americans so far this year and has killed an average of 320 every day in recent weeks.

🗳 — Voter registration trends could make for close races in 23 state House districts this fall, including 14 where Republican incumbents are running for re-election. Scott Powers, the dean of Florida political journalists, has all the details — and it’s his last piece for Florida Politics, so swing by and give it a read.

🏆 — Florida State University is hosting Doris Kearns Goodwin, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Presidential historian, for an on-campus talk this evening. The public event begins at 7:30 p.m. in FSU’s Ruby Diamond Concert Hall, situated at 222 S. Copeland St.


@POTUS: Twenty-one years later, we keep alive the memory of all the precious lives stolen from us at Ground Zero, in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon. To the families and loved ones who still feel the ache, Jill and I hold you close in our hearts. We will never forget.

Tweet, tweet:

@MarcACaputo: Peter Thiel at @NatConTalk conference in Miami just gave a talk dissing CA & singles out (Ron) DeSantis: “I do think DeSantis in Florida is probably the best, the best of the Governors in terms of offering a real alternative to California, of trying to tackle California in some ways”

Tweet, tweet:

@MikeGrieco: When encountering a bear, I’m told you’re supposed to play dead. Apparently, the @49ers are taking that advisory literally.

@JeffDuncan_: Leading 26-24 with 1:40 left and facing a third-and-1 at the Saints’ 42, the Falcons had a 99.9 percent win probability. And lost.


JMI’s 2022 Tech & Innovation Summit begins — 3; final season of ‘Atlanta’ begins — 3; Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, a national day off in Britain — 7; ‘Andor’ premieres on Disney+ — 9; vote-by-mail mailing deadline for General Election — 20; deadline to register for General Election — 32; 22-23 NHL season begins — 29; ‘Before You Vote’ TV debates (Senate) — 36; ‘Before You Vote’ TV debates (Governor) — 38; Taylor Swift’s ‘Midnights’ release — 39; Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 42; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 43; Jon Meacham’s ‘And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle’ releases — 43; Early voting begins for General Election — 47; 2022 General Election — 77; ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ premieres — 60; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 60; FITCon 2022 begins — 66; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 66; The World Cup kicks off in Qatar — 70; The U.S. World Cup Soccer Team begins play — 70; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 79; ‘Willow’ premieres on Disney+ — 79; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 85; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 95; Bruce Springsteen launches his 2023 tour in Tampa — 142; ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 158; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 176; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 193; American Association of Political Consultants Pollies’ 23 conference begins — 218; 2023 Session Sine Die — 235; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 235; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 263; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 312; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 417; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 431; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 564; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 683; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 683; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 788; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 966.


Florida’s tough COVID-19 summer. Now what?” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Florida recently passed 80,000 COVID-19 deaths. The number reminds us that for more than 2½ years, through lockdowns and mask disputes, vaccine rollouts and omicron outbreaks, the virus has taken a wearying toll.

We want COVID-19 to be over, but the virus has other ideas.

Given the morbid milestone, just how is Florida doing in preventing COVID-19 deaths? The answer likely depends on your political and moral perspective. But try a thought experiment. On March 1, 2020, when DeSantis announced the first two cases of “novel coronavirus” in Florida, what — if anything — would you have been willing to do differently if you knew that COVID-19 was going to kill 80,000 Floridians? There are studies that suggest the state could have prevented thousands of those deaths.

Through everything, COVID-19 still marches on.

That said, Florida isn’t alone in its less-than-stellar record of keeping residents alive during the pandemic.

Why the recent uptick in Florida’s COVID-19 deaths? One often cited hypothesis is that Florida is hot in the summer, so residents take relief in air-conditioned indoor spaces where the virus spreads more easily. The idea of a “seasonal effect” may yet be proven true, though Florida isn’t the only hot state. The Sunshine State has the third-highest average temperature in the summer. What about the other sweltering states?

Did they see similar increases in COVID-19 deaths this summer? Not really.

One thing we know works: vaccines. They aren’t perfect and they won’t prevent everyone from getting the virus, but they keep large swaths of people out of the hospital and the morgue. Unfortunately, Florida lags in nearly every age group when it comes to getting a first booster, let alone a second.

Florida records 67,673 new COVID-19 cases, 813 deaths in 2 weeks” via Caroline Catherman of the Orlando Sentinel — There were 67,673 new coronavirus cases recorded over the last two weeks among Florida residents, bringing the cumulative total to 7,066,234. With 813 more fatalities on record, 80,386 Florida residents have died. The death total over the last two weeks reflects a decrease from the 1,014 reported in the two weeks prior, but deaths can take several days or weeks to be reported. Many newly reported deaths are of people who died before the last two weeks.

‘Centaurus’ COVID-19 subvariant seeps into Florida while sister mutation spreads in Southeast” via Chris Persaud of The Palm Beach Post — Florida’s official coronavirus case counts continued to fall for the sixth straight week, but some of its biggest urban areas report signs of another uptick of infections as more viral mutations enter the state. Viral loads are once again rising in the Miami, Orlando and Tampa Bay areas. And recent COVID-19 tests reveal that another potentially contagious subvariant, BA.2.75, nicknamed “centaurus,” has been in Florida since at least mid-August. Plus, the BA.4.6 subvariant continues to gain ground across the southeastern United States.


Post-Primary poll aggregate gives Ron DeSantis 4 point lead over Charlie Crist” via Eric Daugherty of Florida’s Voice — DeSantis’ lead has diminished since Primary season but remains larger than Donald Trump’s win margin in 2020. From Aug. 24, the day after the Primary, to Sep. 6, the latest aggregate gives DeSantis an average four-point lead over Crist, considerably lower than pre-Primary polls found. Trump won the Sunshine State by just over three points, and DeSantis won in 2018 by 0.4%. Crist also received a post-Primary fundraising boost after winning the nomination, but still sags far behind DeSantis overall.

Is the gap between Charlie Crist and Ron DeSantis closing?

Crist agrees to ‘Before You Vote’ debate — Crist is agreeing to take part in the “Before You Vote” gubernatorial General Election debate against DeSantis. The debate is set for Oct. 20, telecast from WPEC CBS 12 in West Palm Beach; hosts include Spectrum News, Tampa Bay Times, Orlando Sentinel, and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “I look forward to debating Ron DeSantis and holding him accountable for his extremist, anti-choice, billionaire donor agenda,” Crist said in a statement. “If Ron DeSantis wants to take away more of our freedoms and rights, the least he can do is show up and tell Florida voters and why.”

DeSantis office slams Joe Biden admin’s mask mandate for Head Start toddlers” via Jessica Chasmar of Fox News — DeSantis’ office on Wednesday slammed the Biden administration’s ongoing mask mandate for low-income toddlers, calling it “unacceptable” harm to children that even contradicts current guidelines by the CDC. Head Start preschools and child care centers for low-income families, which are overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), are still requiring children as young as 2 years old to wear masks, despite current CDC guidelines that recommend universal masking only in areas with high COVID-19 community levels. Head Start staff members are also required to be vaccinated.

Tech and finance moguls are putting money and weight behind ‘Donald Trump with a brain’ DeSantis” via Anne Sraders of Fortune — It’s DeSantis’s unabashed pro-business, anti-political correctness stances, combined with just enough of Trump’s pugnaciousness, that earned him admiration among some of Florida’s increasingly powerful tech and finance set, some of whom wager he could ride the wave all the way to the White House in 2024.

Crist’s campaign hits ‘vile’ RPOF ad hitting Crist on immigration policy” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Crist’s campaign is slamming a new ad from the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) that the Crist campaign calls “disgusting” and says equates immigrants who came here as children with “criminals and drug dealers.” Immigration is just one subject in the 30-second ad released on Thursday that draws a direct line from Biden to Crist’s votes in Congress. Against pulsing music worthy of a perilous action movie scene, the narrator touches on inflation, open borders and Crist’s going “soft on crime.”

Crist vows he won’t impose a state income tax and says 6% sales tax is ‘too high’” via Kimberly Leonard of Business Insider — “You’ll never have a state income tax if Charlie Crist is Governor,” Crist said during an appearance on ABC’s The View. Crist will face off on Nov. 8 against DeSantis, one of the most famous Republicans in the U.S. Crist’s comment about taxes came after The View host Joy Behar asked him whether hordes of people were moving to Florida because of its low taxes. Crist said the state primarily paid its bills through a state sales tax, saying it was “too high,” and through property taxes.

Charlie Crist promises The View that Florida will not impose an income tax.

Crist’s running mate compared Florida under DeSantis to ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’” via Kimberly Leonard of Business Insider — Karla Hernández, the Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor in Florida, said Friday that living in the state is beginning to feel like “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the dystopian novel from 1985 that rocketed to the bestseller list during Trump’s presidency. During a speech at a fundraiser known as the Miami-Dade Democratic Party Blue Gala. Hernández swiped at DeSantis and Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez by comparing them to characters in the Margaret Atwood novel. “We can’t allow Commander DeSantis and Aunt Jeanette to continue down the path of turning Florida into a mini-Gilead,” she said.

Assignment editors — Crist will join former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Miami for a bus tour to discuss gun violence prevention: 1:45 p.m., stop at a locally Hispanic-owned restaurant; 3:15 p.m., major announcement with Crist and Giffords. Locations upon RSVP at [email protected].

Meanwhile …. Casey DeSantis campaigns with longtime friend Nevada candidate Adam Laxalt” via Lydia Nusbaum of Florida’s Voice — DeSantis campaigned with Nevada U.S. Sen. Laxalt at an event with the “Ladies for Laxalt” Coalition Friday. DeSantis and Laxalt held a fireside chat with hundreds of people to talk about the issues facing Nevadans. “Nevada needs my good friend, Adam Laxalt, in the U.S. Senate. Adam is a fighter who will ensure parents’ rights, protect communities, and preserve freedoms,” DeSantis said. “My husband, Gov. Ron DeSantis, led the way for a bold agenda in Florida, and I know Nevada can count on Adam to do the same.”

— 2022 —

Another poll shows Marco Rubio with a slight edge over Val Demings” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Polling continues to show U.S. Sen. Rubio clinging to a lead over Demings but remaining short of majority support. An Insider Advantage poll, commissioned for Fox 35 Orlando, shows the incumbent winning over 46% of respondents while Demings takes 44% of the vote. That leaves the Senator in a winning position, but barely. “As usual in Florida, the race will be decided by voter turnout,” Insider Advantage founder Matt Towery said in an interview on the network.

Rubio ad highlights role in crafting PPPRubio’s re-election campaign released a new ad focusing on the Senator’s role in creating the Paycheck Protection Program to keep businesses afloat early in the pandemic. In a news release announcing the ad, the campaign noted that PPP was called “the single most effective fiscal policy ever undertaken by the United States Government” by former Congressional Budget Office director Douglas Holtz-Eakin. The ad features the employees of PPP recipients crediting the program for keeping them employed. “If it weren’t for Sen. Rubio, I might not even have a job,” one says.

To watch the ad, please click on the image below:

[embedded content]

She didn’t —Challenger accuses Kathy Castor of seeking to defund police” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — Did U.S. Rep. Castor vote for and co-sponsor a measure to “defund the police?” Her Republican challenger, James Judge, says so in several Facebook posts and a campaign news release. In an emailed statement asking for his backup for the charge, he added, “I firmly stand by what I said.” But the evidence he cited is open to interpretation. It’s based on Castor’s support for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a law enforcement reform bill proposed after the May 2020 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

Tina Polsky dominating in her bid for re-election in new Broward-Palm Beach district” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Sen. Polsky is vying to represent some new territory and she’s well on her way to dominating fundraising in her race with Republican candidate William “Bill” Reicherter. Redistricting put Polsky in the same district as her friend and ally Sen. Lori Berman, so Polsky moved to Senate District 30. It has less Palm Beach County territory and a lot more northwest Broward County. Even on new ground, though, Polsky appears well-equipped to take on Reicherter, a Parkland businessman on the hunt for his first elected office. Polsky has $250,479 to spend on her campaign, between her personal account and her political committee, Americans for Progress.

Democrats have fundraising lead in two Hillsborough state House contests” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — Democrats lead in campaign funding in two competitive Hillsborough County state House races: East Hillsborough’s District 69 where Democratic Rep. Andrew Learned faces a challenge from Republican Danny Alvarez in a GOP-leaning swing seat, and the South Tampa-based District 65, where Democrat Jen McDonald and Republican Karen Gonzalez Pittman are battling for an open seat. McDonald, with no Primary opponent, had raised $150,191 and spent only $23,177, and has about $12,500 in an independent committee. In District 69, Learned raised $257,586 and spent $70,870 as of Aug. 26 and had about $43,000 in an independent committee.

Juan Carlos Porras posts best fundraising month this cycle with big check from Florida GOP” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — August was a busy month for Porras, who trounced four opponents to clinch a win in a Republican Primary while also stacking $85,000 to further fund his campaign for House District 119. That included a $49,000 check from the Florida House Republican Campaign Committee on Aug. 26, three days after Porras captured 48% of the vote for HD 119, more than double the support his closest Primary competitor received. Since he filed to run for state office in late March, the GOP staffer turned business owner and political candidate amassed nearly $180,000 through his campaign account and political committee, Conservatives for a Better Miami-Dade.

Happening today:


Happening Thursday:

Epilogue — Sham 2020 Florida Senate candidate faces fine by state ethics panel” via Ana Ceballos of the Tampa Bay Times — A state ethics panel recommended that a no-party candidate be fined $250 for financial disclosure violations, marking the third ghost candidate state authorities have reprimanded in connection to key state Senate races in the 2020 election. Celso Alfonso, an 81-year-old with a high school education, ran as a no-party candidate in Senate District 39 and failed to disclose he had $1,672 in his bank account when he filed paperwork to run as a no-party candidate because he “misunderstood the instructions,” the Florida Commission on Ethics determined. There was no mention of the role played by former Miami state Sen. Frank Artiles, a Republican who walked Alfonso through the entire election process.

Giffords Florida bus tour comes to the Tampa Bay area” via Mitch Perry of Spectrum News — Some are asking if gun safety can be an issue that benefits Florida Democrats at the ballot box in November. Officials with the gun safety group Giffords Florida said it’s an issue that voters in the Sunshine State, particularly Hispanic voters, care deeply about, as the group’s bus tour made stops in St. Petersburg and Tampa on Friday morning.


Florida officials withhold records, dodge questions about toll surveillance system” via Dan Glaun of the Fort Myers News-Press — Over the course of a six-month investigation by USA Today into Florida’s tolling surveillance system, the state Department of Transportation has refused to answer basic questions about its operations. And it has withheld public records of the system’s use in ways that conflict with open government laws, experts say. This news organization asked the agency to explain how the criminal intelligence exemption could apply to older blacklist entries that are not part of active investigations; they refused to elaborate. We said we would accept a version of the list redacted of all personal identifying information; they refused to provide one.

Stage set for arguments in Andrew Warren vs. DeSantis lawsuit” via Dan Sullivan of the Tampa Bay Times — The legal battle between the ousted Tampa prosecutor who wants his job back and the Governor who removed him is poised to roll into a Tallahassee courtroom. Attorneys for suspended Warren late Friday filed a reply to DeSantis’ request for the judge to dismiss Warren’s lawsuit. The filing was the last round of written pleadings before a federal judge hears in-person arguments, which are set to occur on Sept. 19.

Andrew Warren will soon get his day in court.

No. 1 spot: Heritage Foundation gives DeSantis’ Florida top marks in K-12 education” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — “In this inaugural 2022 edition of the Education Freedom Report Card, Florida is the top-ranked state across the board. Families looking for a state that embraces education freedom, respects parents’ rights, and provides a decent (return on investment) for taxpayers should look no further than The Sunshine State,” raved the conservative think tank. This honorific “gives other states something to strive for,” DeSantis said, and indeed it is mostly resoundingly positive. “Florida is #1 in overall education freedom. Florida is the only state with top-10 ranks in every category, including first in Transparency, second in Regulation, and third in School Choice,” Heritage’s report card asserted. The state demonstrated its commitment to transparency through ferreting out unwelcome ideologies, in part.

DeSantis patches prison guard shortages with National Guard members” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Following legislative approval for a plan to temporarily alleviate the shortage of correctional officers in state prisons, DeSantis has ordered the National Guard to immediately activate members who have stepped forward to fill the gap. DeSantis issued the order Friday, hours after the Joint Legislative Budget Commission approved a plan to place 300 members of the Florida National Guard in state prisons for nine months. While the $31.3 million measure received near-unanimous bipartisan support, Republicans and Democrats alike emphasized the need for Florida to reverse course on correctional officer recruitment and retention.

State lawmakers approve $175M in federal dollars on local projects” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — A state budget panel has approved $175 million through a new local spending initiative that will fund 238 projects, including some similar to those vetoed by DeSantis. DeSantis and the Legislature approved the Local Support Grants Program this year to allow lawmakers another avenue to secure grants for local projects using federal dollars. Lawmakers on the Joint Legislative Budget Commission approved the list of projects Friday, which included items as large as $15 million. That $15 million project, which will go to USF’s St. Petersburg campus for a flood hub and applied research facility, is one of many projects that were similar to projects DeSantis vetoed in June when he signed the state’s $109.9 billion budget.

Lawmakers eye spending an additional $270M on services for refugees” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Florida legislators are poised to sign off on spending close to $270 million to provide services to immigrants, including money that would be used to help 51,000 refugees who have resettled in the state obtain health assessments and immunizations. The DeSantis administration has asked the Legislative Budget Commission to approve the spending, with most of the funding coming from the federal government. Most of those in line to receive health assessments and immunizations are living in Miami-Dade County. Without additional funding, the refugees won’t be able to get those immunizations within their eight-month window of eligibility.

—”Pasco’s Academy at the Farm wins $13.5M in support grants” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics

Happening today — The Revenue Estimating Conference holds an “impact” conference: 10 a.m., 117 Knott Building.

Wilton Simpson says he supports ‘constitutional carry’: ‘Reasonable chance’ of passing next Session” via Amber Cooper of Florida’s Voice — When asked about his thoughts about “constitutional carry” legislation on Florida’s Voice Patriot Talk Show, Simpson says it’s something he would support. Simpson, who has DeSantis’ endorsement for Florida Agriculture Commissioner, will be facing Democrat Naomi Esther Blemur in November’s election. DeSantis said in May he did not know when lawmakers would consider constitutional carry legislation but promised his signature on legislation of the sort before he is finished as Governor.

Wilton Simpson goes all-in on ‘constitutional carry.’

As Florida’s top universities rise, many low-income students are left out” via Ian Hodgson and Divya Kumar of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida’s top public universities are on a roll. The University of Florida remains tied for No. 5 among the nation’s public universities, with hopes for another good showing. Florida State University has risen 46 spots over the last decade in a separate ranking of all schools, public or private. And the University of South Florida is up 78 spots over the same period, making it the fastest-rising school in the country. The surge has helped make Florida the No. 1 state for higher education based on graduation rates, lower tuition and other factors. But prestige comes at a cost. The higher these schools strive, the less accessible they’ve become.


Rubio asks Tampa Bay Rays to rethink donation supporting ‘radical left’s agenda’” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Rubio is warning the Tampa Bay Rays that the team has donated to a health care provider that’s engaged in “extremely harmful and irreversible practices” because of puberty-blocking medications it’s providing to young people. The issue of transgender youth has become a rallying issue for the Right. But Metro Inclusive Health (MIH), the recipients of the Rays’ $20,000 donation last June, said that the Senator is misinformed about the services that the federally qualified health center look-alike is providing. “We do not, nor have we ever provided puberty blockers to any patient,” Lorraine Langlois, CEO of MIH, based in Tampa Bay, wrote.

Marco Rubio gives the Tampa Bay Rays a warning.

Rubio leads bipartisan push to probe Mexican produce ‘flood’” via Eric Martin of Bloomberg — A bipartisan group of lawmakers from Florida asked the U.S. trade agency to investigate what they called a “flood” of fruit and vegetable imports from Mexico, saying it poses a direct threat to the state’s agricultural industry. Republican Sens. Rubio and Rick Scott, together with more than 20 representatives, filed a petition to open an investigation using the same law that Trump used to impose tariffs on billions of dollars of imports from China. Rubio, who has held his seat since 2011, is looking to shore up support in the state’s agricultural community.

Happening todayRubio is scheduled to speak at the National Conservatism Conference, a venture of the Edmund Burke Foundation: Conference starts at 9 a.m.; Rubio to speak at 9:30 a.m., JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort, 1999 West Country Club Dr., Aventura.

Rick Scott flounders in face of tough questioning about IRS attacks” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Scott’s frequent denunciations of the Internal Revenue Service’s addition of 87,000 new agents via the Inflation Reduction Act hit a roadblock Friday. During an appearance on CNBC’s Squawk Box, Scott was short on real details when asked follow-up questions, doubling down on broad assertions about what the new employees would do, and casting aspersions on tax enforcement writ large. After he said it was pointless to go after “rich people” because “they’ve hired all their lawyers and are trying to follow the rules already,” Scott was pressed on the incongruity of taking “law-and-order” positions on other issues, but not on tax enforcement.


Biden jabs Trump at Midterms events as some Democrats express enthusiasm for 2024” via Ken Thomas and Catherine Lucey of The Wall Street Journal — As Biden rallies Democrats ahead of the midterm elections, he is drawing a sharp contrast with Republicans and citing polling of a potential 2024 rematch against Trump as some allies say recent legislative victories have eased their questions about the President’s political future. At a Democratic National Committee meeting, Biden listed his recent legislative success, which includes passing a law aimed at lowering prescription drug prices and boosting renewable energy. While Biden in the past has stressed the bipartisan passage of the roughly $1 trillion infrastructure law he signed last year, this time he characterized it as only “a little help” from the GOP.

Joe Biden hints that he will beat Donald Trump again in 2024. Image via Reuters.

If Trump endorsed GOP nominees lose in November, does the former President take a 2024 hit?” via Paul Steinhauser of Fox News — There’s no debating that Trump remains the most popular, influential, and powerful politician in the Republican Party. Nearly two years after his 2020 election defeat, Trump continues to play a kingmaker’s role in GOP primaries as he moves toward launching another White House bid in 2024. And while a handful of his endorsed candidates suffered high-profile defeats early this election cycle, the vast majority of candidates he’s backed in competitive Republican primaries won their nomination races. But with less than two months to go until November’s midterms, Trump-endorsed GOP nominees running in much-watched races are trailing their Democratic rivals in the polls or fundraising, or in both crucial campaign metrics.

A long-shot push to bar Trump in 2024 as an ‘Insurrectionist’” via Luke Broadwater and Michael S. Schmidt of The New York Times — Democrats and liberal groups, determined to find a way to bar Trump from returning to office, are preparing a variety of ways to disqualify him, including drafting new legislation and readying a flurry of lawsuits seeking to use an obscure clause in the Constitution to brand him an insurrectionist. The plans amount to an extraordinarily long-shot effort to accomplish what multiple investigations of Trump have failed to do: foreclose any chance that Trump could regain power, whether voters want him to or not.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Ousted School Board members battled to keep grand jury details secret, and it’s costing taxpayers” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Two former Broward School Board members have spent $120,000 in taxpayer dollars for legal fees to try to quash a statewide grand jury report that called for their removal from office. Ann Murray and Donna Korn were unsuccessful in their goal of keeping details secret from the scathing grand jury report and finishing out their terms. DeSantis agreed with the grand jury’s recommendation and suspended them, along with board members Patti Good and Laurie Rich Levinson.

Suspended School Board member Donna Korn is fighting to keep the grand jury’s findings secret — at taxpayer cost.

Miami’s $1.5 billion spending plan passes first vote with $296,000 boost for Liberty City” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — A long-standing Liberty City community group stands to get about $300,000 in new funding after Miami Commissioners gave initial approval to a $1.5 billion spending plan on Saturday. The bump, along with increased spending on the police and fire departments, marked a budget proposal fueled by growth in property tax revenues. Commissioners spent little time debating spending priorities Saturday, the first time in recent memory the city held a budget hearing on a weekend. Officials said they wanted to give the public a better chance to speak on the budget. A few dozen people showed, which is more than a typical budget hearing.

Miami-Dade Commissioners quietly endorse a big compensation hike for themselves in budget” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade County Commissioners are weeks away from doubling their compensation under a new pay plan that won preliminary board approval late Thursday night. A pay plan the administration provided Friday shows compensation and retirement benefits for the 13 County Commissioners rising from about $60,000 a year to $138,000. The new pay rates were not listed in Mayor Daniella Levine Cava’s 2023 budget proposal or in the Commission’s published budget reviews.

@Daniel_Perez: In a time when people throughout Miami Dade are struggling to keep up with the skyrocketing prices at the pump and the grocery store, the idea that politicians would endow themselves with a permanent paycheck for no work is ridiculous and unconscionable

Miami-Dade Commission District 10 runner-up Martha Bueno stakes claim at possible District 11 appointment” via Anna Wilder of Florida Politics — Bueno tweeted on Thursday that she wants to be appointed to fill the seat representing District 11 just a day after DeSantis said he plans to suspend or replace the current Commissioner, Joe Martinez. Bueno, a Miami native and Libertarian, lost to Anthony Rodriguez by 34% of the votes in the District 10 Commission race. Bueno is a hemp farmer and cryptocurrency advocate and said after taking the time to run for District 10 and advocate for the community, she is the most qualified to be appointed to the position.

Martha Bueno wants to convince Ron DeSantis that she is ready to serve.

Omicron-targeting COVID-19 vaccines now available in Miami-Dade County” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Miami-Dade County is now offering “updated doses” from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna designed to provide better protection against COVID-19 infections caused by the omicron variant. Beginning Friday, eligible residents can visit any of 13 sites throughout the county to receive the new shots as either boosters or a first shot. The new shots are bivalent, meaning they contain two messenger RNA components of the SARS-CoV-2 virus: one of the original strains of the virus and another common between the two dominant lineages of the omicron variant. Omicron accounts for nearly all new COVID-19 cases nationwide.

These hackers are the good guys. Miami-Dade’s new cyber cops hunt high-tech crooks” via Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — Tucked away in a corner of Northwest Miami-Dade is a sprawling office built by the federal government with special copper interior walls to block electronic snooping. It’s filled with dozens of savvy techies monitoring blinking high-tech computer systems in search of targets. Their boss affectionately refers to them as “hackers” and “monsters.” But the targets in this place are actually the bad guys fueling the booming industry of internet crime. In the past year, the work of the recently formed but little-known South Florida Cyber Crimes Task Force has led to the recovery of millions of dollars of laundered money. “We’re like the sexiest unit right now,” said Miami-Dade Sgt. Bridget Doyle. “Joining this unit was very much a no-brainer for me.”

— LOCAL: C. FL —

USF St. Petersburg secures $15M for Florida Flood Hub research site” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus is receiving the largest cut of millions of federal dollars state lawmakers approved Friday. The Joint Legislative Budget Commission approved $15 million for an ocean science center at USF through the Local Support Grants Program, a new state mechanism for lawmakers to secure $175 million in federal funds for local projects. The $15 million project will cover the planning and initial construction costs for the Florida Flood Hub for Applied Research and Innovation. USF notes it will request millions more for the project in future years.

Exclusive — “Fired State Attorney spox faced performance scrutiny before Andrew Warren’s suspension” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A fired spokesperson for the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office claimed to be the victim of an “illegal firing.” The move made headlines days after the controversial suspension of State Attorney Warren. But files in her personnel folder suggest Melanie Snow-Waxler’s performance had come under scrutiny months before Warren’s departure. A memo by Warren’s Chief of Staff, Gary Weisman, details concerns dating back to June, just a month after her hiring, and had resulted in the State Attorney’s Office relying on outside communications consultants during her tenure.

Melanie Snow Waxler has had performance issues.

Retired judge concludes no further action needed by city of Tampa on John Dingfelder” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — Right after Dingfelder resigned his City Council seat in March, then-City Attorney Gina Grimes asked a retired Hillsborough judge to review allegations that he had violated state and city ethics and public records laws and to determine if any further action was warranted. After four months and a $23,800 bill to the city, former Circuit Judge Gregory Holder concluded nothing more needed to be done. But Holder lambasted Dingfelder for approaching city officials on behalf of a friend shortly after his resignation. The city’s ethics code bars former council members from doing business or representing people with issues before the city for two years after they’ve served.

Clearwater housing project had a green light. Then Scientology stepped in.” via Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times — Shawn Wilson said he killed the project at 601 Franklin St. because rising costs made it financially unfeasible. Scientology “did not pressure us in any way,” he said. But city emails obtained by the Times show that in the months before the deal fell apart, the developer, Scientology and Clearwater City Manager Jon Jennings were attempting to relocate the housing to a different site so the fire station could be used in a land swap between the city and church. The church has long coveted the fire station property, which is just east of its seven-story Flag Building and just north of a lot where Scientology plans to build a 4,000-seat auditorium.

How Orlando guardian’s scandal shaped new oversight process for DNRs” via Monivette Cordeiro of the Orlando Sentinel — When DeSantis signed a bill in 2020 requiring guardians to seek a judge’s approval before signing “do not resuscitate” orders on behalf of incapacitated clients, the new law did not give much guidance on how to make those life-or-death decisions, Circuit Judge Margaret Hudson said. Hudson said she and several other judges came up with requirements by looking at the notorious case that spurred legislators to change the law in the first place. Former Orlando guardian Rebecca Fierle, whose Tampa trial in the death of an elderly man begins this week, resigned from hundreds of cases in 2019 after she was accused of misusing DNRs by routinely filing them on behalf of vulnerable clients against their wishes or without their families’ knowledge.


Michael Flynn and Proud Boy join Sarasota GOP executive committee in far-right shift” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Former National Security Adviser Flynn, a Proud Boy and other far-right individuals were sworn in Thursday as members of the Sarasota GOP’s executive committee, giving them votes in party matters and setting the stage for a possible shift in local GOP leadership toward a more extreme approach. Flynn served in Trump’s administration. He is a high-profile figure in conservative politics and a controversial one. Flynn was convicted of lying to the FBI during the investigation into connections between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia.

Michael Flynn is the point man for Sarasota’s hard-right shift. Image via AP.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Lawmakers add $2.8M to FSU Panama City health research center planning” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Lawmakers have approved an additional $2.8 million to help build a Florida State University health research center in Panama City. The Joint Legislative Budget Commission approved the funds Friday through the Local Support Grants Program, a new state mechanism for lawmakers to secure federal dollars for local projects. The funding is a fraction of the $175 million paid out statewide under the program. The project will benefit the planning phase for the FSU Health Academic Research Center, otherwise known as the FSU Health ARC.

Lawyer jailed for bribery scheme involving former Lake City State Attorney Jeff Siegmeister” via Steve Patterson of the Florida Times-Union — A former defense attorney in rural North Florida will serve a six-month term behind bars for being part of a bribery scheme prosecutors said involved Siegmeister. Ernest Maloney Page IV took a plea deal in September 2020 and agreed to help prosecutors, who asked U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard to show lenience when he was sentenced this week. Page had been hired by the manager of a Live Oak tractor dealership facing two DUI cases when he set up a 2017 meeting with “a high-ranking agent of the State Attorney’s Office” named J.S. Prosecutors later said J.S. was Siegmeister.

Jeff Siegmeister’s troubles have snared another lawyer. Image via News4Jax.

—”Jim Springfield seeks to bring solutions, diverse experience to St. Augustine City Commission” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics


The heat keeps rising on Seminole-based campaign scandal” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — Even though everyone from the Governor on down seems to be obsessed with the idea of election integrity, many of the state’s most powerful leaders are ignoring what’s radiating from Seminole County.

That’s a lot to overlook. Over the past two years, Central Florida has been rocked by revelation after revelation — a sprawling web of unearthed connections and paper trails linking stories that at first glance, appeared to be almost wholly unrelated. Those boundaries are melting away, revealing a political system riddled with corruption, controlled by a malevolent network of bad actors who regard the law as little more than a stumbling block. They aren’t seeking power; they take it for granted.

The Orlando Sentinel has carried the brunt of reporting on this thorny tangle of corruption, conspiracy and pervasive contempt for Florida voters because it’s important. Subterranean rivers of secretive money are corrupting the roots of Florida’s political system. Voters are treated like patsies to be horse-traded and tricked. Public trust is casually undermined at the behest of private avarice and entitlement.

When is enough? Don’t voters deserve to hear Jason Brodeur (who thanks to redistricting will be on the 2022 ballot) speak openly about the increasing cloud that’s building around his name? Don’t they deserve to see Florida’s Governor express concern about real voter fraud — the kind that shifts outcomes of elections?

And how much more, Lord help us, is yet to be excavated and dragged into the light?


ESG Threatens our pocketbook, our national security, and our democracy” via Rep. Paul Renner for the Tallahassee Democrat — Earlier this summer, I joined DeSantis to stand up against the Wall Street titans who want to impose Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) goals on America’s economy. I did so because ESG is threatening our pocketbooks, our national security, and even democracy itself. Here’s how: Our retirement and non-retirement investments are managed by giant financial entities called asset managers, such as BlackRock and Vanguard. Collectively, they control tens of trillions of dollars of global assets, more than the entire economy of the United States, and they represent the biggest shareholder among 90 % of S&P 500 companies. As the saying goes: “He who holds the gold makes the rules.”

Stop WOKE lawsuits make a good case against DeSantis” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — DeSantis’ “Stop WOKE Act” has now drawn at least four lawsuits contending that its strictures violate the First Amendment, not to mention individual rights and freedom. An organization called FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, last week filed a federal lawsuit along with a University of South Florida student and professor. They argue that the law unconstitutionally curtails free discussion of history, law, current events, and many other ideas. And if some instructors take virtue-signaling too far, when they go from teaching to preaching, they should be argued with. We don’t need a law to protect us from hurt feelings about history.

Democrats in race for Governor don’t realize school choice is a winning issue” via Valeria Gurr of the Miami Herald — A one-size-fits-all education system does not work for every child, and parents appreciate having educational options. Someone should remind candidates Crist and Hernández of that. For two decades, Florida has led the nation in educational options for students and families. The state has worked to ensure that funding follows Florida students, not institutions. And it has strengthened policies to aid children’s unique abilities. As a result, students in the Sunshine State are currently doing better academically than their counterparts across the country.

Some schools refuse to let gay students attend. Your tax dollars fund them.” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida lawmakers have been on a school-censorship tear lately, trying to ban books, scrub history lessons and muzzle teachers. The highest-profile controversy involves the state’s “Parental Rights” bill, which critics have nicknamed “Don’t Say Gay” and say is really just an effort to divide, distract, demonize and discriminate. That debate will probably rage on. Voucher schools all over Florida refuse to serve gay students and sometimes even the children of gay parents. There’s no debate about that. Many have written policies that spell out their discriminatory practices. Students who merely utter the phrase “I am gay” can be thrown out of school.

Is a fetus a ‘person’? A fringe idea could be the next post-Roe v. Wade chapter” via the Miami Herald editorial board — A pregnant woman walks into an emergency room experiencing a miscarriage, or she gives birth to a stillborn. Someone becomes suspicious and notifies the police. They want to know: Is the woman at fault? Everything she’s done during her pregnancy comes under scrutiny. Did she take any drugs or medication? Did she research abortions on the internet? A “pro-life” prosecutor decides to make her a pariah. She might face criminal charges, child endangerment, or, worst-case scenario, manslaughter or murder if prosecutors believe she intended to end her pregnancy. This is a dystopian scenario, which could happen if anti-abortion zealots take their positions to an extreme. And it’s not out of the realm of possibility.


— D23 —

Disney’s Bob Chapek on Scar-Jo aftermath and ‘Don’t Say Gay’ impact” via Kim Masters of The Hollywood Reporter — In the midst of Disney’s D23 presentation of upcoming material from Lucasfilm and Marvel, as well as Avatar, Disney CEO Chapek made himself available for a 15-minute interview with The Hollywood Reporter. The conversation touched on issues ranging from the handling of the Scarlett Johansson conflict and the “Don’t Say Gay” controversy in Florida as well as ticket pricing and more.

‘Andor’ drops final trailer at D23” via Aaron Couch and Borys Kit of The Hollywood Report — Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy promised new reveals from the Star Wars galaxy during her D23 panel and kicked things off with the final trailer for Andor. This series is gearing up for production on season two ahead of season one premiering Sept. 21. Andor stars Diego Luna as Cassian Andor, one of the key figures who helped steal the plans for the Death Star in the events of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Kennedy noted the series will be 24 episodes in all, describing it as a spy-thriller, and praised showrunner Tony Gilroy, known for the Bourne franchise, for bringing his trademark “Bourne tension” to the proceedings.

To watch the trailer, please click on the image below:

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‘The Mandalorian’ brings first season 3 trailer to D23” via Aaron Couch, Borys Kit and Sydney Odman of The Hollywood Reporter — The Mandalorian made a splash at D23 Saturday, with star Pedro Pascal and the rest of his cast getting big cheers for the first Season Three trailer. The season bows in February 2023. Giancarlo Esposito, who plays the villain Moff Gideon, commanded the audience with a rousing, take-no-breath monologue about the greatness of Star Wars, while filmmaker Rick Famuyiwa, who has been with the show since Season One, called it a lifelong aspiration to work in Star Wars.

To watch the trailer, click on the image below:

‘Star Wars’ series ‘Ahsoka’ teased at D23” via Aaron Couch, Sydney Odman and Borys Kit of The Hollywood Reporter — Ahsoka got a close-up at D23 Saturday, with Star Wars steward Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni talking about the new series. Rosario Dawson’s character first appeared in the live-action Season Two of The Mandalorian and showed up in The Book of Boba Fett. Before that, she’d been a favorite in animation, and Favreau and Filoni saw Mandalorian as a testing ground for the character to see if audiences wanted more of her in live action. “The character has found new legs with the work we’ve been doing, and a show called The Mandalorian really set that up beautifully,” said Filoni, who created the series.

Emotional Harrison Ford brings ‘Indiana Jones 5’ first-look to D23” via Aaron Couch, Sydney Odman and Borys Kit of The Hollywood Reporter — Ford brought the first look for Indiana Jones 5 to D23, choking up at times as he addressed the ravenous crowd. “Thank you for making these films such an incredible experience for all of us, giving us the opportunity to make these films for you,” said Ford. Star Phoebe Waller-Bridge and director James Mangold were on hand for the event, where Ford obliquely alluded to the fact that the previous installment, 2008’s The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, was not a high note to the franchise.

— ALOE —

Universal hopes Epic Universe will lure tourists for a week” via Katie Rice of the Orlando Sentinel — Comcast’s leadership is optimistic the opening of the Epic Universe theme park at Universal Orlando in 2025 will make the resort a “week-long destination.” Jason Armstrong, Comcast’s executive vice president, deputy CFO and treasurer, said the new theme park will increase profits at Universal Orlando as it adds to the two existing theme parks and the Volcano Bay water park. Universal’s domestic theme parks have returned to “business as usual,” according to Armstrong, and visitors are showing no signs of slowing their in-park spending.

Universal expects Epic Universe to make its theme park a week-long attraction.


Celebrating today is top lobbyist Jeff Hartley of Smith Bryan & Myers, Jonathan Tallman, and Elizabeth Wester. Belated best wishes to Daniel Diaz Leyva.


Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Renzo Downey, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.

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